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Concept: Ritual


Despite intensive studies on cerebral activity during trances involving tranquil arousal states, there are little data on physiological basis of naturally induced possession trances involving hyperarousal active states because of the difficulty of gathering data from participants within a natural cultural context in the field. We investigated the characteristics of electroencephalograms (EEGs) that were specific for naturally induced possession trances involving hyperarousal states in actual rituals. We measured the EEG signals of 12 healthy participants, seven with trance and five without trance, before, during, and after a dedicatory ritual drama in Bali, Indonesia, using a custom-modified field telemetry system. During trance, θ (4-7.5 Hz), α-1 (8-9.5 Hz), α-2 (10-12.5 Hz), and β (13-30 Hz) signals were significantly increased compared with those during the control phases. Such findings were not observed in participants without trance when they performed similar movements in the rituals. The α-1 and α-2 signals tended to remain elevated for several minutes postritual compared with those recorded during the preritual resting state. These results suggest that spontaneous EEG patterns during possession trances may be related, at least in part, to the activation of the reward-generating neuronal system situated in deep-lying brain structures and deactivation of the cerebral cortex.This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.

Concepts: Brain, Electroencephalography, The Work, Telemetry, Trance, Creative Commons, Ritual, Lawrence Lessig


Four experiments tested the novel hypothesis that ritualistic behavior potentiates and enhances ensuing consumption-an effect found for chocolates, lemonade, and even carrots. Experiment 1 showed that participants who engaged in ritualized behavior, compared with those who did not, evaluated chocolate as more flavorful, valuable, and deserving of behavioral savoring. Experiment 2 demonstrated that random gestures do not boost consumption as much as ritualistic gestures do. It further showed that a delay between a ritual and the opportunity to consume heightens enjoyment, which attests to the idea that ritual behavior stimulates goal-directed action (to consume). Experiment 3 found that performing a ritual oneself enhances consumption more than watching someone else perform the same ritual, suggesting that personal involvement is crucial for the benefits of rituals to emerge. Finally, Experiment 4 provided direct evidence of the underlying process: Rituals enhance the enjoyment of consumption because of the greater involvement in the experience that they prompt.

Concepts: Human behavior, Religion, Dance, Ritual, Ritualization, Anthropology of religion, Myth and ritual, Ritualism


Our archaeological investigations at Ceibal, a lowland Maya site located in the Pasión region, documented that a formal ceremonial complex was built around 950 B.C. at the onset of the Middle Preclassic period, when ceramics began to be used in the Maya lowlands. Our refined chronology allowed us to trace the subsequent social changes in a resolution that had not been possible before. Many residents of Ceibal appear to have remained relatively mobile during the following centuries, living in ephemeral post-in-ground structures and frequently changing their residential localities. In other parts of the Pasión region, there may have existed more mobile populations who maintained the traditional lifestyle of the preceramic period. Although the emerging elite of Ceibal began to live in a substantial residential complex by 700 B.C., advanced sedentism with durable residences rebuilt in the same locations and burials placed under house floors was not adopted in most residential areas until 500 B.C., and did not become common until 300 B.C. or the Late Preclassic period. During the Middle Preclassic period, substantial formal ceremonial complexes appear to have been built only at a small number of important communities in the Maya lowlands, and groups with different levels of sedentism probably gathered for their constructions and for public rituals held in them. These collaborative activities likely played a central role in socially integrating diverse groups with different lifestyles and, eventually, in developing fully established sedentary communities.

Concepts: Maya peoples, Complex, The Onset, Lifestyle, Ritual, Ceremony, Residential area, Maya


This paper explains the Sufi shrines which hold great importance in Pakistani society. The Shrines inhabit a vital position in the cultural and social as well as religious and culture life of rituals, Saints, traditional belief, sounds, trance, dance, music in ethnic healing, and spiritual illness/disease. It is not only a place of belief and devotion based on Sufi shrines but a place where Muslims and non-Muslim take part in happiness activities together. The design and architecture of the Sufi Shrines have local as well as worldwide influences, representative spiritual, belief systems, economic, and esthetic dimensions of Muslim social institute. Therefore, Muslims' association with the Sufi Shrines has much importance from traditional, political, social and economic perspectives. Centered on an ethnographic illustration, this research aims to highlight the use of Sufi Shrines space and Peoples' Perceptions about Visiting Sufi shrines in the ethnic perspective of rural and urban Sindh. In addition to discuss the socio spatial interactions about the Sufi shrines, this study has discovered that majority of the people and visitors have strong belief systems upon the blessings of Sufis and they visit shrines to fulfill their social, economic, physical, mental and spiritual wishes.

Concepts: Politics, Sociology, Religion, Islam, Meditation, Ritual, Mysticism, Al-Ghazali


Extreme rituals (body-piercing, fire-walking, etc.) are anecdotally associated with altered states of consciousness-subjective alterations of ordinary mental functioning (Ward, 1984)-but empirical evidence of altered states using both direct and indirect measures during extreme rituals in naturalistic settings is limited. Participants in the “Dance of Souls”, a 3.5-hour event during which participants received temporary piercings with hooks or weights attached to the piercings and danced to music provided by drummers, responded to measures of two altered states of consciousness. Participants also completed measures of positive and negative affect, salivary cortisol (a hormone associated with stress), self-reported stress, sexual arousal, and intimacy. Both pierced participants (pierced dancers) and non-pierced participants (piercers, piercing assistants, observers, drummers, and event leaders) showed evidence of altered states aligned with transient hypofrontality (Dietrich, 2003; measured with a Stroop test) and flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; measured with the Flow State Scale). Both pierced and non-pierced participants also reported decreases in negative affect and psychological stress and increases in intimacy from before to after the ritual. Pierced and non-pierced participants showed different physiological reactions, however, with pierced participants showing increases in cortisol and non-pierced participants showing decreases from before to during the ritual. Overall, the ritual appeared to induce different physiological effects but similar psychological effects in focal ritual participants (i.e., pierced dancers) and in participants adopting other roles.

Concepts: Metabolic syndrome, Mind, Positive psychology, Stress, Dance, Ritual, Body piercing, Altered state of consciousness


Environmental uncertainty and uncontrollability cause psycho-physiological distress to organisms [1-3], often impeding normal functioning [4, 5]. A common response involves ritualization, that is, the limitation of behavioral expressions to predictable stereotypic and repetitive motor patterns [6-8]. In humans, such behaviors are also symptomatic of psychopathologies like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) [8, 9] and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) [10, 11]. Although these reactions might be mediated by different neural pathways, they serve to regain a sense of control over an uncertain situation [12-15] by engaging in behavioral patterns characterized by redundancy (superfluous actions that exceed the functional requirements of a goal), repetitiveness (recurrent behaviors or utterances), and rigidity (emphasis on fidelity and invariance) [8, 9, 16, 17]. We examined whether ritualized behavior will manifest spontaneously as a dominant behavioral strategy in anxiogenic situations. Manipulating anxiety, we used motion-capture technology to quantify various characteristics of hand movements. We found that induced anxiety led to an increase in repetitiveness and rigidity, but not redundancy. However, examination of both psychological and physiological pathways revealed that repetitiveness and rigidity were predicted by an increase in heart rate, while self-perceived anxiety was a marginally significant predictor of redundancy. We suggest that these findings are in accordance with an entropy model of uncertainty [18], in which anxiety motivates organisms to return to familiar low-entropy states in order to regain a sense of control. Our results might inform a better understanding of ritual behavior and psychiatric disorders whose symptoms include over-ritualization.

Concepts: Psychology, Behavior, Motivation, Human behavior, Body dysmorphic disorder, Normality, Evolutionary physiology, Ritual


Rituals are a pervasive and ubiquitous aspect of human culture, but when we naïvely observe an opaque set of ritual actions, how do we come to understand its significance? To investigate this, across two experiments we manipulated the degree to which actions were ritualistic or ordinary, and whether or not they were accompanied with context. In Experiment 1, 474 adult participants were presented with videos of novel rituals (causally opaque actions) or control actions (causally transparent) performed on a set of objects accompanied with neutral-valance written context. Experiment 2 presented the same video stimuli but with negative and aversive written context. In both experiments ritualized objects were rated as physically unchanged, but more ‘special’ and more ‘desirable’ than objects subjected to control actions, with context amplifying this effect. Results are discussed with reference to the Ritual Stance and the Social-Action hypothesis. Implications for both theories are discussed, as are methodological concerns regarding the empirical investigation of ritual cognition. We argue that causally opaque ritual actions guide the behavior of naïve viewers because such actions are perceived as socially normative, rather than with reference to supernatural intervention or causation.

Concepts: Scientific method, Science, Culture, Empiricism, Hypothesis, Theory, Ritual, Anthropology of religion


Recent archaeological research on the south coast of Peru discovered a Late Paracas (ca. 400-100 BCE) mound and geoglyph complex in the middle Chincha Valley. This complex consists of linear geoglyphs, circular rock features, ceremonial mounds, and settlements spread over a 40-km(2) area. A striking feature of this culturally modified landscape is that the geoglyph lines converge on mounds and habitation sites to form discrete clusters. Likewise, these clusters contain a number of paired line segments and at least two U-shaped structures that marked the setting sun of the June solstice in antiquity. Excavations in three mounds confirm that they were built in Late Paracas times. The Chincha complex therefore predates the better-known Nasca lines to the south by several centuries and provides insight into the development and use of geoglyphs and platform mounds in Paracas society. The data presented here indicate that Paracas peoples engineered a carefully structured, ritualized landscape to demarcate areas and times for key ritual and social activities.

Concepts: Archaeology, Ritual, Solstice, Nazca culture, Geoglyph, Nazca Lines, Mound, Geoglyphs


Chemical analyses of organic residues in fragments of pottery from the large site of Cahokia and surrounding smaller sites in Illinois reveal theobromine, caffeine, and ursolic acid, biomarkers for species of Ilex (holly) used to prepare the ritually important Black Drink. As recorded during the historic period, men consumed Black Drink in portions of the American Southeast for ritual purification. This first demonstrated discovery of biomarkers for Ilex occurs in beaker vessels dating between A.D. 1050 and 1250 from Cahokia, located far north of the known range of the holly species used to prepare Black Drink during historic times. The association of Ilex and beaker vessels indicates a sustained ritual consumption of a caffeine-laced drink made from the leaves of plants grown in the southern United States.

Concepts: Florida, North Carolina, Southern United States, Kentucky, Tennessee, Southeastern United States, Ilex vomitoria, Ritual


It is a big challenge to diagnose the motives behind trepanations in prehistoric crania. Surgical-therapeutic attempts may be apparent by the presence of fractures, however, ritual or nonmedical motives are rarely supported by visible evidence in the bones. This article presents data on the trepanations of several individuals from South Russia dating to the Eneolitic and Bronze Age that may indicate a ritual procedure. In these crania an operation was performed in the identical location, the midline, furthermore in one of the most dangerous places, on the obelion. No evidence for traumatic or other pathological reasons for performing the operations was observable.

Concepts: Performance, Dance, Russia, Prehistory, Bronze Age, Ritual, Synoptic table of the principal old world prehistoric cultures, Three-age system