Monday, November 02, 2015

Where does the power lie?

Some features appear to be basic to systems of ritual specialists with or without literacy. Most obvious, of course, is how their authority rests on the intrinsic importance of ritual as a means of mediating the relations between humans and nonhuman powers. Yet correct performance of the ritual tends to be critical to its efficacy. An emphasis on the correctness of performance promotes and maintains expertise, but it is not uncommon that other groups, such as the general audience or another lineage of experts, have the right to pass judgment on the performance's correctness. Moreover, the power to do the ritual correctly resides in the specialist's officially recognized or appointed status (office), not in the personhood or personality of the specialist. In this way, the institutionalized office can control, constrain, and pass judgment on a specialist. The separation of the person and the office not only stabilizes the specialist's power and legitimizes it through the social sanctions by which the office is given and recognized; it also controls that power by requiring its conformity to establish models. Indeed, various studies have suggested that the emergence of a priesthood—religious specialists by virtue of holding an office—provides a stabilization and control of religious power not possible with shamanic or mediumistic mediators.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 134

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