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Boundary Bound

Once, when I thought my days were numbered, I had a peculiar desire. Before I die, I want to walk around New Mexico, exactly on the boundary. Circumambulating my home state would be an inane ritual. Maybe I would put on whiteface and wear a clown suit. I didn’t die and the ritual didn’t happen….


Where Is Here?

A block away there is a plaque tucked away in a front yard filled with so much greenery that the house is almost hidden. Each time I pass, I stop to read, “We would like to acknowledge that we are on the Haldimand Tract, land promised to Six Nations in 1784, traditional territory of the…


Sacred Space and the Southwest

Sacrality is, above, all a category of emplacement. –Jonathan Z. Smith A few years I saw a map of Christendom put forth by a Protestant Reformation Society in which the catholic countries were painted black, and the protestant countries in a light color. The black was the Kingdom of the Beast where the children of…


Ritual and Nature

By some accounts ritual behavior is utterly natural, “hard-wired” into the structure of the brain and nervous system, a function of our biological or animal “hardware” rather than our cultural “software.” Even if we try to escape explicit rites, tacit ritualization nevertheless emerges unbidden. If we do not initiate youth into adulthood, they will, perversely…


Sitting in a Sandbox

As a kid I spent hours, days, and years exiled to a sandbox a few miles south of Clovis, New Mexico. A drought eventually forced us off the land because we didn’t have the money for an irrigation well. Indoors, Mom was baking chocolate-chip cookies. I wanted to be indoors, but she said I had…


The Lord & His Woman

  The Gospel according to C. J. Jung   I’ve written a series of articles that transform scholarly articles into the stories they imply. This is an example.  No person owns a sacred story, because a story is sacred only if it is the story of Everyperson. Though the story of Lord Yahweh, the Holy Antinomy, sounds…


Bruce Springsteen’s Christian Jeep

Dear Jeep, Christian nationalism cannot unite us


Composting Human Bodies

Nation’s first human-composting funeral home is now open in the state of Washington


Why the “White Man” Can’t Dance

When I was turning 50, I signed up for an African dance course in Boulder, Colorado. Some of the dances, the teacher said, were “social,” some “sacred” or “ritualistic.” One afternoon during class I shorted out. The feet and hips couldn’t remember their assigned movements. The ass wouldn’t shake, and the drummer’s fine rhythms refused…


Rockin’ the Coffin

How does creativity help us cope? What role does the imagination play in allaying our age-old fears of loss and separation?  Filmmaker Cailleah Scott-Grimes leans into these questions in the short doc she’s made in collaboration with her father. Rockin’ the Coffin, a contrarian’s guide to the good death, was made possible by the CBC’s Creative Relief…


The Man Who Gave Himself Away

When I retired in 2008, I began giving away stuff. It’s 2020 and I’m still giving things away. What seemed like treasure back then is crap now. At first I resented giving things away, because I enjoyed collecting. Hang around me now, and I’ll be loading you with stuff. Check my front yard, more stuff…


Scouting the Horizon

I’m always scouting. I have a propensity to watch the horizon. What is it you do when you “scout?” It’s hard to shake grade-B cowboy movies out of my imagination. Scouts rode ahead, over horizons, then back to the wagon train—usually with bad news unless San Francisco was just over the mountain. White Cavalry Scout…


Death by the Book

In 2013 I almost died. Same thing in 2016. I’m 77. My Dear Companion says, “Those events made me a widow twelve-times over.” During COVID I built a coffin that spooked my daughter. Fighting off fear, she built a mini-coffin, “My little coffin can checkmate your big coffin.” CBC, the Canadian public broadcaster, then commissioned…


Intimacy and Exposure

Friendship in the Covid Era Amigos por siempre The year is 1970. I’ve just finished a PhD. This is my first academic position. Hugo and I are teaching at the same university. He is teaching Spanish. I am teaching religious studies. One morning I hear an articulate stream of Spanish swearing echoing down the hall….


Coronavirus Rituals

A Japanese Shinto-based ritual. An allegorical healing performance about defeating the plague, reframed as coronavirus. Links to articles about ritual and coronavirus rituals The last anointing [RG: This is a brilliant instance of journalism and photo-journalism]: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/06/us/coronavirus-priests-last-rites.html How to get through the loss of rituals: https://www.everydayhealth.com/coronavirus/how-to-get-through-the-loss-of-rituals-during-the-pandemic/ Coronavirus is changing the rituals of death for many…


Endings in Ritual Studies

Click here to order from Amazon Endings in Ritual Studies was published in January of 2020, just in time to hit the Covid wall. I couldn’t get an author’s copy of my own book across the Canadian-US border. Endings is a bookend to Beginnings in Ritual Studies. Now in its 3rd edition, Beginnings wears a…


Cápsula del Tiempo (Time Capsule)

Earlier I wrote a post about coffins: Before the pandemic arrived, I had begun building a coffin with my friend Ted not because I’m dying but because, as my daughter put it, Dad’s not afraid of dying. Truthfully, Dad is a bit afraid, but he displays his fear by defying death. Dad is self-inoculating, staving…


Troubling the Waters

Preface The United Nations declared 1981 as the International Year of Disabled Persons. “Troubling the Waters” is a play I wrote to mark the occasion and enable students to study ritual and performance by exploring a story in the Gospel of John. Since the characters are caricatures of students in the course, I have removed…


Ritual in a Pandemic World: Coffins

April 5, 2020, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams announced, “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives…. This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized. It’s going to be happening all over the country.” What a…


Climate Strikes: Rites of Mourning the Future

by Sarah Pike author of For the Wild: Ritual and Commitment in Radical Eco-Activism Originally published by The Immanent Frame, SSRC On Friday, December 6, 2019, a day of national climate strikes, I heard drums outside my monthly morning meeting at California State University, Chico. Climate strikers from our university and local high schools were…


Ritualizing in the Time of Coronavirus

by Barry Stephenson Dating from the 4th century, Rome’s San Marcello al Corso houses a crucifix that began its famed career by surviving a devastating fire in May of 1519. Three years later, during the height of a plague, friars of the Servant of Mary, disregarding the prohibitions imposed by the civil authorities, carried the…


Mardi Gras: A Virological Accelerant

The first epicenter of Covid-19 was Wuhan Province, China; then northern Italy, then Spain. The US is likely to become the next epicenter. And the epicenter of the epicenter will likely be New York City or New Orleans. New York City has a population of 8.6 million people crowded into in 302 square miles. New…


Astrobiologist Breaks Down Apocalypse Scenes from Movies

It’s no longer necessary to watch post-apocalyptic movies since we are living in the middle of the apocalypse now. The apocalypse: all fiction, all faith. But it’s happening right now. Here astrobiologist David Grinspoon breaks down apocalyptic scenes from movies, including ‘I Am Legend,’ ‘Interstellar,’ ‘WALL-E,’ ‘The Day After,’ ‘Ad Astra,’ ‘Waterworld,’ ’12 Monkeys,’ ‘The…


Ritualizing in a Pandemic World: Masking

On this day, March 11, in the year of 1988, my daughter was born 2011, a tsunami hit Japan disrupting Fukushima Daiichi 2020, Covid-19 was declared a pandemic On other days, in other years, people survived and thrived, died and were memorialized. From 1347-1352, the Black Death (bubonic plague), killed 25 million people, 1/3 of…


Ritualizing in a Pandemic World: Handwashing

Dad’s advice: “Wash your hands, damn it, I told you twice, wash your hands.” Mom’s advice: “Please, please, dear children, wash your hands.” The parents chime in perfect harmony, “You’re not kids anymore.” Mom and dad are busy as winter bees, dozing and doing research on wills, getting their affairs in order, not due to…


More Wisdom from the Walk of Wisdom

A Dialogue with Damiaan Messing and Ron Grimes

Ron: Damiaan, the story you tell in a previous post is hopeful, but usually there is a backstory, sometimes, not so hopeful. Is there a backstory?

Damiaan: Although we have a working pilgrimage around Nijmegen, it has not matched my expectations: to inspire to sustainability. My sense is that most people in pilgrimages such as the Walk of Wisdom or the Santiago pilgrimage are preoccupied with their own stories, for which the foundational story is just a foil….


Playing for Change

Maybe you know about Playing for Change. “PFC is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music. The idea for this project came from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. Creating Songs Around the World inspired us to unite many of…


Walk of Wisdom

A Pilgrimage to a Sustainable Lifestyle by Damiaan Messing In a special issue about pilgrimage and sustainability Jacob’s Staff, the Dutch Santiago Pilgrims Association magazine, published an article about the creation of the Walk of Wisdom. This is a translation and revision of the original article. De Kleine Aarde My brother Martijn and I were on…


Making It Up As We…Go

This video was first published in 2011, before Cailleah Scott-Grimes went to Japan for the first time. Here it is re-published with questions by Fabiana Fondevila, an Argentine journalist, and responses by Cailleah. Fabiana (by email): Tue, 10 May 2011. Hello Cailleah, Its nice to meet you. I am a journalist from Argentina and I’ve…


Are you watching ____ on Netflix?

Almost every week my two brothers and I exchange the query: Are you watching _______ on Netflix? Are you watching Messiah? Are you watching The First Temptation of Christ? As kids we watched The Ten Commandments, but after Mel Gibson bled on the silver screen, we avoided Jesus movies like the plague. There were a…


bull

The ten ox-herding pictures represent stages of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism. Below is my idiosyncratic rendition and interpretation of the pictures. The art is Japanese ink-brush on paper towel. Follow this link to Tricycle  to see more traditional ox-herding pictures.   searching bitching the while away, i sniff pasture and sky for what i do…


Doctored, Honorarily

Ronald L. Grimes The picture shows how the day looked. Here’s how the day began: Five minutes before the procession, I rush to a basement bathroom with explosive diarrhea. The procession is starting. A marshal comes to rescue me as I am washing spots off my robe. I try to orient myself. It’s 2014. This…


Why Endangered Species Need Saints

by Sarah Pike Link to the original. This article was published by Counterpoint Navigating Knowledge on 7 August 2019. With some of my students, I bent down to fill a cup and drink from Saint Gobnait’s holy well in the woods near Ballyvourney, a small town in southern Ireland. We had approached the site by passing through…


What Color is Ecology?

I’m interviewing my daughter. She’s seven, her top front teeth have been snatched by a fairy, and this is a Big Questions video, a tradition our family has carried on for twenty-five years. I ask what kind of person she is, prompting her with a few options. I tease her by asking if she is…


Trudeau in Blackface

Snippets from a dialogue about Trudeau, blackface, brownface: Steve: Just wondering what you thought of the Trudeau affair [wearing blackface]? I was disturbed by what he did, the age he did it at and where he did it. It laid open so much of what is in all of us. What bothers me the most…


Ritual4Return

From a letter written by Kevin Bott, founder of Rites4Return: “As I dug into the literature, and then into the literature on rites of passage — from van Gennep to Eliade to Turner to… well… you — I knew that I possessed, in both practical skill and spiritual/emotional calling, the tools to create something real….


Talking with Plants

I’ve just returned from Union Theological Seminary in New York, where I was working with Claudio Carvales, a professor of worship, and his students in a course called Creating Rituals in Community: The Work of Mourning The Earth. Together they design rituals in class, then enact them publicly in James Chapel. Recently, they confessed to…


Performance is Currency in the Deep World’s Gift Economy

An Incantatory Riff for a Global Medicine Show Prior to publication, this was a script for oral performance. Publication required the decorum, the civilizing influence, of those speed bumps we call paragraph breaks. Even though the original script was not written as poetry, it looked like poetry on the page. It looked that way to…


Disarming Boys

Originally published in The Canopy Review 01 (2019): 10-26. Excerpts read at the Langston Hughes House, Harlem, September 23, 2019. World War II rages as my parents rivet B-24 bombers at Consolidated Aircraft. Home from the graveyard shift, Dad’s teaching me to box. Knees knocked, I’m punching back. Later, he’s equipped me with a toy…


Reading Gestures

From left, Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. raise their hands to answer a question Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) If you read gestures, as ritual…


Liturgical Supinity, Liturgical Erectitude

On the Embodiment of Liturgical Authority This article was published quite some time ago, in 1993. Buried in an important but obscure journal, Studia Liturgica,  it was rarely read. After the recent papal council on clergy sexual abuse, debates about gender, celibacy, and the priesthood are emerging in the media. It seemed the right time…


Rit Bits: An Unconventional Look at Ritual

A CBC interview about secular and personal ritual.


Body & Soul: Stories for Skeptics and Seekers

Readings at Red Sandcastle Theatre in Toronto by authors in Body & Soul: Stories for Skeptics and Seekers, edited by Susan Scott.


Reimagining guns

Partnering with Irian Fast-Sittler, a blacksmith, to transform a shotgun into a rosebush, Ron Grimes makes a case for reimagining weapons by using popular images to show that the current wave of gun violence is both a religious and imaginative crisis. For a shorter version, focused on the blacksmithing-artistic process, see “MaidenForge.”


Responses to “The backsides of white souls”

Below are responses, edited slightly for clarity, to “The Backsides of White Souls.” There’s nothing like a story told by the Keeper of the House of the Dead!–You cut through life’s rawness and seduce the reader into realizing there’s a moment in each paragraph where they can think to themselves, “I know what he’s talking…


The backsides of white souls

The backsides of white souls Ronald L. Grimes Black History month starts on February 1, so I am re-posting this essay from its original publication in Canadian Notes and Queries (CNQ). A selection of films for Black History Month: National Film Board of Canada. For background on the writing of this essay see “Sleeping with…


Questioning “MaidenForge”

“MaidenForge” is now public. We presented both the sculpture and film in a nearby Mennonite Church. These are prompt, questions we might ask or that people might ask us. What is “Gun Shy?” If you described it to a friend, you’d call it a _________.What do you see? …if you stand back at a distance?…


MaidenForge

An interpretation of Bryn’s soundtrack for “MaidenForge” by Cailleah Scott-Grimes: It’s worth comparing “MaidenForge” to “Thak Sword Forging,” both made in Floradale’s blacksmith shop. Then try an experiment. Don’t watch the video. Just listen to the two musical scores. Then put into words your feelings about each piece of music. An interpretation of Bryn’s soundtrack


Question-sets

When I first published The Craft of Ritual Studies, my son, as a joke, counted the number of questions in the book. I was a curious kid who became an academic, so I’ve made a virtue out of what many consider a vice, asking way too many questions. Now that question-asking has become a “thing,” I…


Questioning Artists

I often interview artists about their stories, practices, and values. Here’s a question-set use. What’s your story as an artist? What drew you to your art? What are the big turns in the story?Who are your primary artistic relationships, influences, compatriots, or mentors?Where are you in your arts career (emerging, established, mid-career, etc.)? What is…