The Lure or Relief of Ritualized Behavior: Cognitive and Cultural Readings of Scrolls

Jutta M. Jokiranta (Helsinki)


When does everyday practice change into ritual practice? Why do we need the category of “ritual”? Using ritual studies, I highlight how ritualized behavior can be approached in different ways, as a strategic way of acting to manage power relations, or as a compulsive reaction to ambiguous threats, for example. Not only are these different perspectives but they function at different levels of analysis.

This paper seeks to offer a preliminary integrative analysis of the relation of ritual life to societal changes, here in light of select Dead Sea Scrolls evidence. Ritual is not something extra to everyday life nor is it a decoration without which societies can live. Rituals and ritualized behavior are set in interaction with both individual (cognitive) and social processes. I take as a model Verkuyten’s model of social identity formation and maintenance process where the individual and societal levels are in interaction. Since every look into the past is partial and fragmentary because our sources are partial and fragmentary, I hope to be explicit in where we fill the gaps and bold in using the theoretical constructs available to be in dialogue with our data.