Rituals and Myths in World Religions

Religion 300W­Spring 2002


Mon. and Wed. 2:15 to 4:05pm

318 Chapman Hall

Office Hours: Mon. 4:05-5:00pm,
Tues. 2-4pm, Fri. 1:30-2:30

  David R. Bains
Religion and Philosophy
319 Chapman Hall
email: drbains@samford.edu
phone: 726-2879

Images to Study for Mid-term

Purpose of Course:

This thematic introduction to world religions focuses on rituals and myths in order to explore both how various religious traditions seek to order human life and how modern scholars have attempted to understand religions. This semester the course will focus on Hinduism, Islam, a variety of indigenous religions, and quasi-religious aspects of modern secular life.


Students will be able to:

1.) explain the beliefs and practices of different religious traditions

2.) analyze the similarities and differences between religious traditions

3.) interpret religious myths and rituals in light of various theoretical perspectives

4.) evaluate the usefulness of different theoretical perspectives through comparison

Required Texts:

Bell, Catherine. Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0195110528

Dimmit, Cornelia, and J.A.B. Van Buitenen, eds. Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978. ISBN 0877221227

Eck, Diana. Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. ISBN 0231112653

Eliade, Mircea. The Myth of the Eternal Return, or Cosmos and History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954. ISBN 0691017778

Turner, Victor W. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure: Aldine de Gruyter, 1969. ISBN 0202011909

Wolfe, Michael, ed. One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing about the Muslim Pilgrimage: Grove/Atlantic, 1999. ISBN 0802135994

Zimmer, Heinrich. Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972. ISBN 0691017786

Reserve Texts: Holm, Jean, and John Bowker, eds. Myth and History. New York: Pinter Publishers, 1994.

John J. MacAloon, "Olympic Games and the Theory of Spectacle in Modern Societies," in Rite, Drama, Festival, Spectacle: Rehearsals Toward a Theory of Cultural Performance (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1984), 241-80.


Late papers will not be accepted without prior permission of the instructor. All extensions are at the sole discretion of the instructor.

The attendance policy of the Department of Religion and Philosophy will be enforced. Roll will be taken each day. In a MW class a student may miss four classes without penalty. After the fifth absence your final grade will be reduced one letter grade. After the seventh absence the student will receive an FA for the course. Three tardies count as one absence. If you come in after your name is called, you will need to notify your professor at the end of the class period, or else the tardy will become an absence

The Department of Religion grading scale is: A = 95-100%, A- = 92-94%, B+ = 88-91%, B = 85-87%, B- = 82-84%, B- = 82-84%, C = 74-77%, C- = 70-73%, D+ = 66-69%, D = 63-65%, D- = 60-63%

Course Requirements:

Course Outline:

Dates, some readings, some assignments, and tests will be announced as we proceed.

  1. Introduction

  2. Assignment: You must attend the University Convocation, 10am, Thursday, January 31, Wright Center.
    Answer the following questions in one to two pages:
    1. What myths (i.e., sacred or fundamental narratives) were drawn upon in this convocation?

    2. What role did space play in the convocation?--the arrangement of the different participants, the visual decorations, the overall architectural environment

    3. Outline the "official" structure of the convocation--what were its parts, what were their purpose, what do you think you were "supposed" to experience.

    4. Discuss any ways in which this ritual seemed to be subverted from the experience or those around you. How did this experience differ from the intended experience? Why was it subverted (e.g., poor sound-system, personal concerns about other things, willful rebellion)?

  3. Ritual and Myth in Quasi-Religions: The Case of the Olympics

  4. Assignment: View the opening ceremony of the XIX Olympic Games. Friday, February 8, 7-10:30pm on NBC. You may tape the ceremony and watch it later that weekend. But be sure to assess the whole ceremony. Questions for written responses will be distributed.

    Readings: Turner, 94-132
    MacAloon RR
    Turner, 131-203

  5. Creation Myths: Comparative Approach

  6. Readings: Near Eastern and Biblical Myths: To be announced and assigned.

    Zimmer, 3-58
    Dimmitt and J.A.B. van Buitenen, 3-58

  7. Myth and Image in Hinduism

  8. Readings: Eck,
    Zimmer, 59-222
    Dimmitt and van Buitenen, 59-349

  9. The Muslim Hajj

  10. Readings: F.E. Peters, The Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), selections TBA, RR

    Wolfe, TBA

  11. Critical Perspectives on the Study of Ritual
Readings: Bell