• Question: Why are rituals and culture so important to people and where do they all stem from?

    Asked by avril levine to Rohan on 21 Sep 2017.
    • Photo: Rohan Kapitany

      Rohan Kapitany answered on 21 Sep 2017:

      Why are rituals so important is a good question. There are many reason – lots of people (especially religious people) say that rituals make them feel good, make them feel safe, or loved, or comforted. Even non-religious people perform rituals to make them feel good (like if you have a lucky coin or t-shirt).

      But we also perform rituals for reasons that we’re not aware of – rituals seem to be very, very, good at forming relationships. Your sports teams, or social groups (like girl guides or scouts) often perform rituals that make a group *into* a group. It’s not just that you wear the same uniform, or do the same sport together – rituals can make you even closer and more co-operative.

      And where did they come from? Well, no-one really knows. My personal opinion is that often a ritual was an historical ‘accident’ that worked. A group did something strange one day, and people liked it, or they noticed something good happen afterwards. Then they do it again the next week, and the week afterwards (or maybe a year later). It changes over time, perhaps becoming a little more extreme or different, and it evolves. But the honest answer is, no-one really knows.