The goal of this research project is to visit a religious site in order to describe a religious ritual from a religion other than your own. The description should incorporate concepts that we’ve learned about in class (symbols, myths, world view, ritual specialists and so forth.)


The paper should be typed, double-spaced, with one-inch margins. It MUST be written with proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Your paper should be 7-9 pages long.


The paper should be divided into two parts:

1. Background Information:

The first part should cover information on the religion you have chosen to focus on. Though this is not a research paper per se, you do need some background information on the religion you are observing. This will make you an educated observer and you can incorporate some of this background into the description of what you saw on your visit. Please include information on the origin of the religion, some background on the deities, and something about the beliefs and rituals in the religion. This information needs to be presented in your own words, and sources must be listed in the bibliography. This section should be about 3-4 pages.

2. Ritual/Religious Description:

The third part of the paper should be a descriptive account of the religious/ritual activity that is taking place. Your report should be a first hand anthropological investigation. You can also get some background information on your visit by interviewing religious practitioners at the site. You should document the information you obtain via interview including the source of the information in your paper (who did you talk to and when.) In addition to the information you may get from interviews, the third part of your paper should include the following:

  1. Your Observation

Field Information. Give the full name, exact address, and religious affiliation of the group. Include the exact date and time of the visit, the type of gathering you attended (e.g. regular Sunday or Sabbath service, a funeral, wedding, prayer meeting.)

2. Preliminary Information:

What are you observing? Who is participating? Who is witnessing the event? Who is leading the ritual? Does the architecture and art say something about the structure or composition of the group? As mentioned, include a diagram of the physical nature of the space where the religious event took place and divide the space into sections for specialists, congregants.

3. Activity Description:

Describe what happened. Use the detailed description to provide a step-by-step narrative of the events. Try to give a sense of the emotional tone and spiritual meaning of the service. Was the tone dramatic, mundane? Were the congregants emotional, reserved? Was the “message” more emotional or intellectual? Did the event seem ritualized (scripted) or more spontaneous?

4. Your Analysis

What is going on? Relate what you have learned about rituals, symbols, and myths of the religion. Answer the following questions:

  • What kind of ritual did you observe?

Make sure to address all three classifications (i.e., periodic/nonperiodic, prescriptive/situational, technological/therapy/ ideological/etc.)? Explain why you classified the ritual the way you did.

Analyze what you have observed in terms of the worldview of the religious community.

  • Symbols Involved

What were the important symbols in this ritual/setting (make sure to include symbolic elements of time and space if appropriate)? Make sure to include both the symbol and its meaning.

  • Ritual Specialists

How would you classify the ritual specialist? What characteristics led you to this classification?

  • Altered States of Consciousness

Was there any evidence of altered states of consciousness? If yes, what characterized the altered state? How was the altered state achieved?

  • Worldview

What is the worldview of this religion? How was this worldview reflected in the ritual?

  • Conclusion

Write a paragraph or two on your own thoughts and responses to what you observed. How did you feel as you observed this religious event? Have you ever experienced a similar religious event?

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