Pt 1 The Difference Between Rite and Ritual

The debut of this presentation is scheduled for Saturday, April 14th at the League of Utah Writers 2018 Spring Conference.

This is the first part in a three-part series. If you missed the first two parts, go back and check them out.


Every culture, every family, every person on earth participates in some sort form of ritualistic behavior. This behavior might be as simple as the specific way one prepares his coffee in the morning to formally greet the day, or as complicated as initiation rites of the indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest.

The purpose of ritual is to elevate the ordinary. Anyone can get dressed, but when a Geisha dresses, it transforms the activity into an art form, creating wonder and fascination.

Yōshū_Chikanobu_Cha_no_yu.jpgTake for instance the ritual of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, or “The Way of Tea.” The goal of the ceremony is to create a relaxed communication between a host and his guests. This communication consists of more than words, it is displayed through exact choreographed action, impeccable appearance, delicate tastes, and suitable sounds. It includes the disciplines of flower arranging, calligraphy, selection of an appropriate kimono and ceramics as determined by who is being served and for what occasion, and ritualistic meal preparation. The tea philosophy incorporates the ideals of “Harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility” and every action taken serves to bring focus to these ideals.

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a ritual because it elevates the act of serving a guest tea into a performance worthy of special attention. It is not considered a rite because the participants are not passing a milestone or entering into a different phase of life.

Satere Mawe.jpgIn the Satere-Mawe tribe young men who wish to be known as Mawé warriors must pass through a grueling initiation. This is a Rite of Passage ceremony. The gloves on their hands have bullet ants woven into the grasses. When worn, these ants bite the hands of the wearer over and over, injecting a toxin. The bullet ant earned its name because the pain is said to rival that of being shot. The effects of a single bite can last for days. These boys must wear the gloves for 5 minutes at a time and to be truly considered a Mawé warrior, must complete the ritual 20 times. They must prove their worth by remaining calm and expressionless while experiencing excruciating pain.

To review –

A ritual is the performing of a task in such a way that elevates it for the participants involved.

A rite consists of a ritual, or several rituals, that mark an important milestone in a participants life.


Loving this discussion? Stay tuned for the next installment where we discuss the specific elements of ritual.

Want to see other presentation notes, look no further!

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About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, was published in November 2018 and rereleased in Jan 2020. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.
This entry was posted in Concept Creation, Emotional Impact, Presentation Notes, Writng Conferences and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Pt 1 The Difference Between Rite and Ritual

  1. Pingback: Pt 2 Elements and Levels of Ritual | My Literary Quest

  2. Pingback: Pt 3 Creating Fictional Rites and Rituals | My Literary Quest

  3. Thanks Much! says:

    Are you kidding?! Please review your About section!
    “can be found folding children and feeding the laundry”, rofl

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