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Ritual Gone WrongWhat We Learn from Ritual Disruption$
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Kathryn T. McClymond

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199790913

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199790913.001.0001

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Negotiating Ritual Repair

Negotiating Ritual Repair

The prāyaścitta Material in the Baudhāyana śrauta Sūtra

(p.16) 1 Negotiating Ritual Repair
Ritual Gone Wrong

Kathryn T. McClymond

Oxford University Press

The Vedic śrauta sacrificial tradition includes extensive discussion of the ways that Vedic rituals can go wrong and the procedures established to correct those wrongs. This chapter reviews Vedic priestly texts discussing ritual errors and reparations/expiations. It concludes that ritual theorists can learn several general lessons about the nature of ritual from the Vedic ritual correction (prāyaścitta) tradition. First, it challenges widespread notions that ritual exists in sharp contrast to mundane activity; instead, ritual and ordinary activity are closely intertwined. Second, Vedic assumptions that rituals can go wrong imply that external standards exist beyond the ritual sphere, standards that establish ritual “right” and “wrong.” Third, discussions of ritual repair and expiation point to the elasticity and adaptability of ritual systems. Fourth, discussions of ritual correction act to safeguard against the routinization of ritual mistakes. Finally, robust discussions of ritual mistakes reflect a fundamentally optimistic attitude toward the vitality of ritual.

Keywords:   sacrifice, Vedic, prāyaścitta, śrauta sūtra, Frits Staal, brahmans/brahmanical, soma, substitution, purity, sabotage

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