RITUALS: ARE WE REALLY THAT DIFFERENT FROM OUR FORBEARERS?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, culture can be simply defined as, 'a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, arts, etc'. If you consider all the different civilizations that have habituated this Earth throughout history, it's quite easy to see how these aspects made them unique.
The ancient Greeks believed that Zeus, along with his army of Gods, was responsible for the world and it's inner workings. Their lives were greatly influenced by what lay ahead of them in the afterlife, and can be seen in how they prepared their dead (cleansing the deceased and placing a coin inside the mouth of their loved ones for them to pay the ferryman that would escort them through underworld).
Pagan was a term coined for individuals that had beliefs differing to those of ancient Greeks and Romans. The wild boar was a highly regarded animal in many of the Pagan communities. The Anglo-Saxons, during the midwinter feast, after making their yearly pledge, would sacrifice this animal for their fertility and warrior gods and goddess. After performing this ritual, and donning the animal's skin into the battle, they believed that the Mother of the Gods would protect them from harm.
To our modern brains these notions are regarded as absurd and barbaric, but these beliefs and traditions served a purpose. They created opportunities for people to bond with one another and find order in an unpredictable world. You could even argue that rituals are what helped lay the foundations for any prosperous culture. A notable example would be the Spanish Inquisition, which used religion to justify persecuting and murdering thousands of Jewish people whose social prominence and wealth threatened the stability of the Spanish Crown. Not that I condone it, but this dark period of Spanish history did strengthen the Christian belief system at the time (by offering the choice of conversion or death), and greatly contribute to the country's depleted treasury (After all, dead men have no need for money).
Times have certainly changed since then. Advancements in technology have allowed mass migrations to take place and now, multicultural is the best descriptor for most societies. Religion is no longer the driving force that unifies a society and its subject. This is fantastic as it encourages learning and questioning of people's different views and understanding of life (provided you're not a narrow-minded prick, of course).
Some might argue that the loss of a dominate faith has also caused a lack of community. I disagree with this statement. For one, people of like-minds tend to always find each other and form a relationship (that's why our friends tend to have similar senses of humor, same temperament, etc).
Secondly, the rituals and traditions that began with religious undertones and bonded us together, haven't vanished, they've simply evolved.
Think about it.
Instead of coming together to sacrifice a pig for the Gods, a hoard of lads will gather for a CoD LAN party to curb their blood lust.
Sunday services have been replaced by weekly catch ups with mates.
Money isn't wasted by sending it with a loved one into the ground, but is instead used for giving the deceased a massive send off.
Even courtship, which once entailed two families of the same background, being present at all times as the lovebirds became acquainted with one another, has now evolved to just a private party of two of Netflix and Chill.
Although times have changed, it's interesting that we've still kept some of the fundamentals that helped our ancestors survive in rotation. However, with the increasing levels of people that seem to have a basic lack of manners (is it really that hard to say please, thank you, or just wait your fucking turn?), it's obvious that we still have some work to do on the modern day equivalent.