Why there are rituals:
There are many people who, like me, have taken an interest in the many ancient enormous stone constructions that dot the earth.  Most of the ones I know of are in Eurasia, but they are certainly not limited to that area, large though it is.  I was very young when I began to read about the work of William Stukeley.  Some time in the seventeen twenties he did a lot of the first published studying of Avebury.  I was enthralled and was very happy when I finally got to visit the place.

It is a complex consisting largely of circles of enormous stones.  It is very old, about as old as Stonehenge.  While the great stones of the better known Stonehenge are neatly trimmed and fitted, the stones of Avebury look as if someone had got about identifying suitable stones in the fields and then dragged them in and stood them up.  I have even seen that written in the most matter of fact way.  The problem with that idea is that on the bottom of every stone there is a projecting square peg that slots into a hole in the chalk beneath.  That means the stones were carefully crafted to look like they had been found lying about while the unseen pegs below held them secure.  By now I understand that the original quarry has been identified.

Extending from the circle complex is what is left of a double row of stones, tall alternating with short.  I fancy it is an early example of egg and dart design much loved by the ancient Greeks.  The parallel rows lead to an ancient pyramid about a mile and a half away.  I remember when there was debate as to whether it was natural or artificial.  Some wise person pointed out that it had to be very old because there is a Roman road that leads straight at it and may have been sighted on it.  Others have said that many Roman roads followed straight tracks that had been established long before.

Stukeley was much enamored of the stones and declared that stones leading to the pyramid, Silbury hill, had been a beautiful promenade.  Somebody writing a couple of centuries later said Stukeley was soft in the head and any fool could see that they had been set up for ritual purposes.  I wondered exactly what a promenade was if not a ritual. 

Eventually I noticed that the anthropologists and archeologists who studied such things called things “ritual” so often that it was a ritual.  If you said the magic word, then you were part of the club.  I felt very smug about that for years.  I thought they ought simply to say that they had no idea why such things are done, but now I do believe there is more to it. 

People who make serous studies of cultures can be very logical and systematic in examining and explaining things that move through a human community.  It is possible to trace the transfer of information, be it fireside tales or the internet.  It is possible to trace the passage of energy though a community, some of it in the form of firewood and raw meat or the form of electricity and prepared food.  It is possible to trace the movement of materials though the culture, be it building materials or the raw materials that become tools.

Then there are the rituals. 

We all spend a lot of time on rituals.  Cause a distraction during a church service or the raising of the flag at a sporting event, and somebody is likely to object. 

The others make excellent sense.  Ritual is not considered a puzzle.  It is simply recognized as very important, and there is an end. 

By now I trust you know what I am about to say.  The ritual is a way of binding the community together.  It is a way of encouraging people to identify with the group.  A smile or a nod as one passes a stranger on the sidewalk is obviously such a ritual.  Well and good.  But turn the issue around the other way.  Ritual is a way excluding outsiders.

Many years ago, when the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians were the dominant religions in the United States, it was possible for a Methodist to go to a Presbyterian church and participate for a service lasting one solid hour without anyone having the slightest suspicion … except for one word.  There was a single word in the course of the service that was always spoken aloud.  And in that word the two religions differed.  Everyone around knew instantly that they had a Methodist with them. 

Not that it mattered.  The two religions have always got along quite well.  There are subtle theological differences, but most of the members don’t even know what they are.  For all practical purposes, the two are simply two clubs, and one can be a member of either without offending the other. 

But they know. 

So why this enormous commitment of study, energy and construction to establish these rituals and exclude otherwise indistinguishable people?

Well if a community is too large the members of the community will on average be too distantly related for adequate fertility.  Nobody knows it, but the observance of ritual is vital to the community for the one thing it needs the most, without which no amount of information, energy or material is worth anything at all.

Rituals let you have babies.

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