Ritual Worlding. Exploring the Self-and-world-making Efficacy of Rituals




Ritual efficacy, worlding, death, stillbirth, cremation


Despite extensive research on the functions and meanings of ritual, the question of ritual efficacy remains a topic of debate. This paper explores how the concept of worlding can contribute to the study of ritual efficacy. Based on theoretical literature and qualitative research into cremation and perinatal loss, it proposes that rituals can be understood as worlding practices characterized by an entanglement of virtuality and actuality. In rituals, individuals frame a subjunctive time-space, playfully speculating with multiple experiential realities (what could be) while being anchored in the present (what is). The paper demonstrates that this intricate entanglement is key to the self-and-world-making quality of rituals and is crucial to understanding their efficacy. Furthermore, it shows that the value of the concept of worlding lies in its emphasis on embodied experiences, the active nature of our being in the world, and the recognition of power dynamics. Ritual worlding enables individuals to navigate the ambiguities that accompany life and death.

Author Biography

Brenda Mathijssen

Brenda Mathijssen is Associate Professor of Geography and Psychology of Religion at the University of Groningen.