One thing that was constantly on my mind while we were at Pine Ridge was the role and function of religious life for the Lakota community. While in the sweat lodge, I was thinking about how instrumental ceremonies like this are in bringing the community under one roof and having them share a collective experience. The cohesive effects of this experience are truly a necessity for the community today and for the community in the past. The Lakota people seem to survive due to a great deal more reciprocity and collectivity than our culture. The energy to live in this way needs to be refueled by ceremonies that highlight and support community cohesion so that people continue to be inspired to help one another.
I began doing the readings for Monday with all of this on my mind and a lot of it seemed very applicable to this theme. First of all, Segal stated that it is important to not reduce religious ritual to only serving a social function (as I seemingly did in the previous paragraph). He also brought up Durkheim, who was someone I was already using to try to place my experience in a context. In Durkheim, we can find support for the idea of religious ritual serving the role of solidifying community ties. One important part of Durkheim that Segal didn’t bring up is the idea of collective effervescence. This concept deals with the transcendent feelings the group rituals can evoke. In other words, the idea that collectively the community can produce an experience far greater than individuals could produce on their own. This is glue that solidifies the community.
In thinking about my experience at Pine Ridge in this academic context, I feel that their needs to be some fusion between these ideas. I do not agree with Segal when he says we must let religious ritual be exclusively religious. Rather I would respond by saying that their is an exclusively relgious element of it, but there are also social elements and psychological elements. In other words, a religious ritual is more multi-layered than Segal argues and my experience at Pine Ridge seems to support this complexity.