Dec 15

Impromptu Religion

Enough. You all know what has happened in the last two weeks. I know what has happened. I'm not talking about it here, not because it doesn't need to be talked about, but I have said enough on the matter. Not today.

No, instead today we are going to talk about what I call Impromptu Religion. These are practices that people have that are ritualistic in nature, mystical even in significance, but on which they place no theological frame work.

Sports fandom, and other fandoms but sports are by far the biggest in the world, have obvious ritualized behavior, dress, and speech but they are hardly the only ones.

Others have their origins, perhaps, in ancient lost belief systems. Money trees, for example, are found all over the world.

Money tree - geograph.org.uk - 536430
David Baird [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

These are thought of as "wishing trees", where an offering is left in the tree for good luck or to make a wish - like coins in a fountain- but no one discusses the mechanisms by which these things are supposed to happen. Who is accepting these sacrifices?

Some are a little more closely tied to a faith system, but have different explinations. The "clootie wells" of Scotland probably date back to faerie lore, but are also associated with Christian saints.

One writer said this of the Black Isle well:
"The recommended ritual is as follows.
Walk round the well three times going sunwise.
Drink some of the well water or splash some on the ground.
Make a silent wish or prayer.
Leave a gift or offering. Make sure it's an environmentally friendly one. Celtic Spirits might not know what to do with nylon, polyester and plastic!
In 1581 an Act of Parliament made pilgrimage to wells illegal, but it hasn't stopped people yet!"

Here are but two interesting examples of the phenomenon, I suspect that as the holidays approach you will find many more.

Do these things speak to a human need for faith? for ritual? for feeling a part of history? Or just a deep seeded kind of compulsive disorder?

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