Anthropology / Everything Human

The Perennial Power of Ritual

Decoded

  • A Maya shaman in Guatemala performs a ritual to ward off evil spirits. Our world is a stressful and unpredictable place, and ritual offers a sense of structure and stability. My colleagues and I used motion detectors to examine how anxiety affects ritualized behavior. We found that when participants engaged in a stressful task, their hand movements became more repetitive and patterned. This hints that ritualization might be a coping strategy against stress.

    The Perennial Power of Ritual

    Rituals soothe, excite, and unite people throughout the world. But how exactly do they work, and what makes them so meaningful?

  • Rules of the Underworld

    We often think of gangs, mafias, and drug cartels as chaotic and lawless. But rational rules govern the underworld to create a dark order.

  • Talking Hands

    Five women elders from remote Western Australia share the joys and meanings of Aboriginal sign language.