The relationship between religious ritual and social power is very complex in its nature. In each society examined thus far religious ritual is intertwined into almost every aspect of life from social taboos to rites in hunting, marriage and an innumerable amount of other cultural aspects. Religious ritual is so interwoven into the fabric of society that separating ritual from the act is often times impossible. In researching this topic I have become aware of two forms of connection that must be addressed to fully cover the idea governing the connection of these principles.
Firstly anthropologists studied here have given us the over arching structural importance of religious ritual to social power in unity and cohesion of ideas provided by such rituals. TO do this though they had to examine the actual rituals in society and the purpose they also serve within the temporal space they occupy.
As a means for unity religious ritual serves to create a workable and functioning society. Religious ritual not only establishes social structure it also reinforces it by serving a political and structural force. Political power and social relationship are strengthened through rituals and in doing so serve to preserve the social order. This is achieved by religious ritual through influence over, and even total control over the politics of a community. Religious ritual also serves as a function to restore peace and harmony and alleviate tension that build up in often changing and imperfect social structures.
Religious ritual and social power can also be evidenced by studying the more intimate aspects on the level of the person rather than of the societal function as a whole. This notion of individual influence and social power obtained by religious ritual can best be described by the idea mentioned by Boas, that existence of a magic power that can influence the life of man can also be influenced by man (259). It is this belief, that through religious ritual one can benefit directly or indirectly in their society that makes religious ritual and social power to intimately connected.
To expand upon the idea that religious ritual reinforces and establishes social structure I first examined Leach’s work with the political systems of highland Burma. The Kachin society places a strong belief in ancestral nats that can be persuaded to help or hurt members within the community (page number me). Within each village resides a number of lineage lines and each lineal group has an individual ancestral nat they make observances to. The Kachin community ideal is one of a stressed hierarchical group and likewise the ancestral beings are also class stratified. Power and prestige are obtained through lineal relations and the chief has access to the highest ancestral nat as a result he may access more powerful deities than lower lineage classes and because of this certain privileges and duties are ascribed to the chief. The chief is also the only one who may provide the...