Lesson 2: Considering the Senses in Ritual

Rituals often engage all five of a participant’s senses although one or two may be more prevalent. This lesson connects the participant to all the senses in a specific ritual.


All communities have rituals that revolve around visual art, food, music, and movement. Sometimes one of our senses is engaged more than the others, as is true when you go to a religious space to hear music on a special day. But other senses are also engaged in this experience and in other ritualistic events. Constance Classen, who writes about the cultural life of the senses, explains, “Navajo sand paintings are meant to be felt as well as seen [and] Amazonian basketry conveys meanings through textures and odors as well as through visual design.” View the film on the Sister Meal Festival, which includes members of the ChinaVine team. Notice how all five senses were engaged in the event. Because the film is visual and has some audio, you are only able to see and hear the ritual; you can’t smell, touch, or taste what is going on even though you have visual and audio clues. Explore the ways in which you think things smell, taste, and feel in the Sister Meal Festival by visually comparing something from your own life. For example you might compare the feel of the drum or the taste of the meal to something you understand from your own life. Do three artworks exploring each of three more invisible senses in the film. Post your images with a caption that relates to the experience in the film.

Quote is from page 155 of: Classen, Constance. The Color of Angels: Cosmology, Gender and the Aesthetic Imagination. New York: Routledge, 1998.

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