Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here


Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this chapter

+ Tax (if applicable)

Chapter Summary

The idea that rituals can 'fail' is not new in anthropology or liturgical studies, but it is also a subject that has been very little explored in the literature. Clifford Geertz published what is probably the pioneering article concerning a failed ritual in 1957, entitled: Ritual and Social Change, a Javanese Example". Geertz's interest, however, was not in exploring or explaining ritual failure per se but in launching a critique of functional analysis, the principle anthropological approach of the time. Vedic rituals are thought to be products of the Gods and hence they are perfect. Any mistakes, or failure to follow the prescribed procedures to the letter, are thought to 'break the ritual' bringing harmful consequences to the world and to the ritualist and his family. Punctilious ritual practice is also part of Hindu ritual ideology and there are likewise numerous rites for atoning for ritual errors in Hindu liturgy.

Keywords: Clifford Geertz; god; hindu liturgy; ritual failure



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    When Rituals go Wrong: Mistakes, Failure, and the Dynamics of Ritual — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation