Accepted paper:

Ritual creativity: why and what for? Examples from Quebec


Deirdre Meintel (Université de Montréal)

Paper short abstract:

Ritual creativity is observable in many contemporary religious currents in Quebec, including Catholicism, Neo-shamanic groups and Spiritualism. I examine Spiritualist healing rituals and how they are seen to benefit healers and recipients. I also look at why ritual creativity is important in many religious groups today.

Paper long abstract:

A team study I direct on contemporary religious currents in Quebec, Canada, shows much evidence of ritual creativity in very different types of religions. I will give some examples of these from a) a Catholic parish whose members are mostly gay studied by David Koussens; 2) Neo-shamanic groups, including Wiccans, studied by Amélie Normandin and by Rosemary Roberts; 3) a Spiritualist congregation that I have followed for many years. This last case will be discussed in greater depth, with particular attention to creativity in healing rituals. This congregation is composed mainly of Francophone Québécois socialized as Catholics, and who retain varying degrees of contact with the Catholic Church. While there is a general normative framework for healing rituals as practiced in this group, they are carried out differently from one healer to another and often show syncretism with other spiritual currents. Both healers and recipients find important physical, spiritual and emotional benefits in healing rituals. I then look at why ritual creativity is so important in many contemporary religions, as we have found in our team study. It engages the body-mind unity that many seek to experience through spirituality. Moreover, such creativity, often syncretic, is often deliberately sought by individuals, who see it as necessary for keeping their spirituality constantly renewed. In short, such creativity reveals another facet of the "individualization" of religion today noted by McGuire, Hervieux - Léger and others; i.e., the felt necessity to take responsibility for the quality of one's own religious experience.

panel P210
Ritual creativity, emotions and the body