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Home arrow Religion arrow The Ritual Practice of Time: Philosophy and Sociopolitics of Mesoamerican Calendars

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The Organisation and Structure of (Ritual) Calendar Time

Every time interval and calendar has its own character, consequently each ritual practice of time has a proper identity. The nature or quality of the time period or calendar system is decisive to the meaning of the ritual practice of time. The temporal structure and organisation of the 260-day calendar, the 365-day calendar, the 52-year calendar and the Long Count calendar inform about the perception, purpose and the character of the respective ritual practices. Fundamentally, the structure of time is either cyclical or linear. Cyclical time can be perceived of as a conception of repetition. This means that time is infinite and recurring, organised in a determined repetitive sequence. Conversely, linear time is progressive, chronological and non-repetitive. These two basic conceptions or principles of time (cyclic vs. linear) outline a culture’s perception of the past, the present and the future.

Cosmogony and Ritual Practice of Time

Rituals can be authorised and be given meaning through stories about past events, which can be ceremonially imitated and/or commemorated (Dumezil 1935-1936: 242-243). The ritual practices of time might therefore be associated with actions of the remote past when the time of the calendar was initiated and also when the world and human beings were created.

The meaning of the ritual practice of time can accordingly be perceived in relation to the story of the cosmogony. Primarily, in order to determine whether the ritual practice of time constitutes a re-enactment of the original acts of the deities at the cosmogony as a symbolic rebuilding or recreating of the cosmos (space) and/or a renewal of time.

 
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