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Symbolism in Religion and Rituals

Symbolism is seen more in the ritual behavior of religion. Ritual can be seen as a symbolic intercom between the level of cultural thought and complex cultural meanings on the one hand and that of social action and immediate event on the other. The basis for a social theory of symbolic action was laid by N.D Fustel de Coulanges in his study of La Cita antique which first appeared in 1864.For him certain rituals of ancient Greece and Rome functioned as boundary maintaining mechanisms. They expressed and sustained the corporate identity of social groups.

There is recognition that concern material forms and modes of organizing physical space carry messages relating to the organization of social space;regulation of behavior in the concrete sphere of social ritual action can express and regulate relationships in the sphereof social structure.

In Fustel's theory rules of behavior involving ancestral symbols form the intersection of the social and religious systems; religion did not create the family but it gave in its rules.

The implication of his theory is that social bonds and the structure of social units have to be perpetually reinstated in individual experience within a social process that symbolizes these bonds.

The ritual maintenance of social bonds requires a particular mode of individual orientation toward society one where the individual conscience is in effect lodged within external social forms that govern it, compelling it from without almost like a material bond. Only when these bonds are loosened is the individual conscience detached from ritual forms. These traditional societies developed a mode of social control involving the projection of the individual conscience into external symbolic forms that in turn functioned to express socio-political relationship.

Durkheim's model conveyed the picture of social groups defined through concrete ritual acts regulating their internal solidarity and their external identity vis a vis other parallel groups on the other hand it depicted ritual as societal action through which the individual directly engaged in behavior expressive of social relationship entailed in groups organization. For Durkheim society is as it was primary process and the omnipotent background to conscious and overt mental life and behavior. It corresponds broadly to cultural code and the symbols of the ritual message system.

Radcliff Brown's proposal concerning the relation between ritual symbols and social relations hinges on his concept of social value and its social sentiments. The latter are emotional tendencies that come to be focused in those objects of social activity affecting social well being or forming the nexus of intensive social interaction. Such objects than become vehicles of social value in that they reflect coordinated social activity or bonds of social relation. Ritual symbolism fixes this social value by creating a language like form that celebrates it.

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