A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value, which is prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. Rituals have formed a part of human culture for tens of thousands of years. The earliest known evidence of burial rituals dates from around 20,000 years ago. (Older skeletons show no signs of deliberate 'burial', and as such lack clear evidence of having been ritually treated.)
Alongside the personal dimensions of worship and reverence, rituals can have a more basic social function in expressing, fixing and reinforcing the shared values and beliefs of a society. This function can be exploited for political ends, though it lies at the heart of most sociological understandings of religious ritual. Rituals can aid in creating a firm sense of group identity. Humans have used rituals to create social bonds and even to nourish interpersonal relationships.
In the context of Mysticism, a ritual is a tool used to focus the mind on a desired result. Using a system of symbols and tools in a repetitive and symbolic manner not only reminds the mystic what the true meaning of the practice is, but also clears the mind of clutter in order to allow the mystic to do focused work. Rituals are a harnessed way of releasing an energetic intent and in many cases conduct rehearsed acts of visualization in order to achieve a specific result. This result may be as mundane as a clean mind for meditation or as complex as initiating a person into a lifelong commitment. This category contains rituals for a variety of purposes and from many different disciplines.
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