Jonathan Thumas explores the Japanese conch shell trumpet associated with practitioners of Shugendo. By studying some different trumpets in museum collections, he argues that their sonic and apotropaic power in rituals and their status in the popular imagination reinforces their use as talismans.
Jacqueline Cieslak artfully describes the complicated relationships between sanitation, reverence, and political contrivance in contemporary India. Cieslak focuses on the phenomenon of ‘The Toilet’ and its objectification as artefact and cultural institution. She argues that officials have not simply recruited religious imagery but that sanitation itself has become an object of worship.
Dimitris Xygalatas suggests here, in the final section of his book, The Burning Saints, that rituals can be deeply transformative. In this case, a person suffering from a mood disorder is cured by virtue of her participation in a traditional fire-walking ritual in the town of Agia Eleni in Northern Greece. Agia Eleni is one of five villages that celebrate the tradition of the Anastenaria, a group of Orthodox Christians who practice a fire-walking ritual. These rituals are performed at a konaki, a place where icons and other religious objects are stored and venerated. This passage is evocative of an important excerpt from Durkheim’s classic, The Elementary Forms of Religious Ideas, where he wrote: “the real function of religion is not to make us think, to enrich our knowledge…but rather, it is to make us act, to aid us to live. The believer who has communicated with his god is not merely a man who sees new truths of which the unbeliever is ignorant; he is a man who is stronger. He feels within him more force, either to endure the trials of existence, or to conquer them.”