Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pilgrimage and Household in the Ancient Near East

Just read an enlightening book that showed how ancient Semitic cultures understood the significance of the pilgrimage rite and also the household--especially the idea of a supra-household known as the "House of the Father."  In a nutshell, the author, McCorriston, says that the pilgrimage rite worked in tandem with the society-as-household idea and thus functioned to enhance socio-political ties.

I think that this Ancient Near East context of pilgrimages is also helpful in appreciating the socio-political significance of the three pilgrimage festivals in the Israelite faith---all of which are incumbent upon Jews and non-Jews in the Messianic Era.  They symbolically merge all the world into one single family (Household of the Father)!

Here are a few excerpts if you're interested in ancient ethnography:

pg. 19  "Pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place to participate in a system of sacred beliefs."

pgs 21,22  "If ritual practices 'function to strengthen the bonds attaching a believer to his god, i.e., to his society, since god is only a figurative representation of society'...then pilgrimage reflects and strengthens social bonds.  In Arabian societies organized and maintained through the metaphor of segmentary kin-based lineages (as 'tribes'), ritual practices, including pilgrimage, would therefore serve to reify and express community of tribe and clan...such allegiances are contextual and, like pilgrimages, can coalesce a large social group into a common identity....
....Pilgrimage can manifest and strengthen close association between the political order (kings) and divine order, thereby shoring up political authority....Pilgrimage can serve as an integrating force for national identity...the enactment of national ideology."

pg. 23 "Turner argued that pilgrimage was a social process in which the actors leave their secular social contexts and conjoin in a new 'communitas,' an antisociety that breaks with society and that is at once simple, egalitarian, and transitional..."

pg. 50  "Why pilgrimage?  Why does this particular practice, attendant with sanctuary, sacrifice, and feast, out of so many other Arabian cultural traits serve to distinguish and differentiate Arabian society?  Pilgrimage constitutes society, and it does so both during the actual season and action of pilgrimage and throughout individuals' lives, whether or not one actually ever makes a pilgrimage.  By belonging to this pilgrimage-making society--as a Muslim, as a bedouin tribes person, as the devotees of a particular saint--an individual is invested with the potential experience of a wider social body within which he or she experiences all the rights and obligations of participation."

pg. 51  [One of the essential attributes of pilgrimage is that it affirms] social identity.  Social identity is of course highly contingent and contextual, and pilgrimage can play an important role in the constitution and dissolution of identity in a wider context, embracing social groups not otherwise linked through social relations.  For example, segmentary tribal groups may affirm kinship at the supraclan level through common acknowledgement of supreme deity and practicing common tribal rites..."

pg. 54 [Schloen argued that] a native perception of father-son relationship structured all society from small households to the authority of the king.  The universal metaphor for Bronze Age social and economic interactions was the 'House of the Father' symbolically and dramatically reproduced...throughout...the ancient world."

pg. "[Super-households] became the house of the god, a transformation that confederated individual households into an urban matrix..."

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