Beginnings in Ritual Studies is a book that is made up of fifteen essays. These essays look into the various approaches to the study of ritual in order to find method and theory to define the field of ritual studies. The essays are influenced strongly by symbolic anthropology, hermeneutics, and dramatic sociology.
The author out right tells you that he has not covered everything and that he is trying to invite criticism and conversation of the field.
Part one of the book is about the interpretation of ritual action. There are four chapters in this section and each chapter presents basic assumptions and methods in ritual studies. Pat two looks at different ritual process, from masking to sitting and eating to the ritual systems surrounding Zen. Part three discusses theories of ritual. The first chapter talks about the theories of Gotthard Booth, a psychiatrist and a physician and the second chapter is mainly about Theodor Gaster and Victory Turner. Part four is all about understanding ritual by looking at theater. They are distinct domains but share many of the same features.
I really enjoyed reading the book because of the case studies it provided they were all examples that I could relate too and understand. Some parts of course were of special interest to me; especially the parts dealing with the components of ritual and a very interesting chapter on parashamanism (what we call Neo-Shamanism).
This is a great book to start the studies in to ritual mainly because it is a non-intimidating book that is easy to read.