Ritual Invention : A Play Perspective on Existential Ritual and Mental Health in Late Modern Sweden
Abstract: Is it possible to create rituals for meaning and belonging in a late modern context? Can the existential ritual become a place in which people today can develop a sense of being alive and real? In this thesis, four ritual contexts are identified in late modern Sweden, representing different ritual needs and possibilities. The two ritual contexts of change are focused, and thus people that are characterized as “ritually homeless”. The study focuses the issue of how the health promoting function of play, that Winnicott describes, can be sustained in adult ritual life. The thesis works out of a critical analysis of Winnicott’s object relations perspective and Turner’s theory about the liminal ritual, and describes their possible use within a psychology of religion applied to ritual studies in late modern contexts. This leads to a psychological perspective focused on different modes of relating. The thesis points to the transitional mode of relating, which balances distance and absorption, as that mode which can be related to a liminal ritual process and to the promotion of mental health. The health promoting ritual process is described as offering a moment in which the boundaries between self and other, between bodily experience and cultural communication are resolved. The liminal ritual process thus represents a possibility to simultaneously experience and express one’s relation to existence. The thesis also presents two theoretical models: the first to picture the relation between ritual and mental health in the contexts of change and the second to describe the process of ritual evaluation. The ritual perspective developed is illustrated by an empirical case study of a Swedish ritual experiment project. This contributes to a more vivid understanding of the specific ritual contexts referred to as well as to the concepts developed.
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