The journal comprises two components:

  • a short discussion on one of the set weekly readings on ritual;
  • a short description of a rite or ritual action based on observation or invention (i.e., your design).


  1. If you have followed the weekly readings, participated in the seminars (live or online) and completed the weekly class exercises you will have the means to complete this assessment task. You will have also work-shopped the task with your fellow students and your tutor. If, however, you have been derelict in any of these areas, you may feel that the unit has not provided enough information on the assessment task. That’s your fault, not the unit’s fault.
  2. For those of you who fall into the derelict or low participation category, a simple hint on how to complete this exercise is to go to the study guide and read the section on initiation, then read the set weekly reading by Victor Turner and discuss it in relation to a rite like a Christian baptism. Identify the three-part structure in your rite and describe the parts in your example. Job done.
  3. Please note, though, that while such a job done will definitely pass, it will not achieve the highest possible marks, because these will be reserved for those students who engaged in the unit more thoroughly and more effectively. They will choose a reading other than Turner and a rite other than a baptism, because they will want to demonstrate their effort and the thought they have invested in the unit.
  4. Note too that the manner by which you structure your journal and its two components is up to you. There is an easy way and a hard way. The easy way is to write the journal in two parts. Part A = description & Part B = discussion of reading. You can even choose to reverse the order. The harder way is to weave the components together. Weavers will be rewarded because they are showing evidence of thought.
  5. A journal contains descriptive content based on the student’s observation/invention. It has no citations in itself. This journal does, however, require you to discuss a set reading. You must, therefore, include a reference to that reading as well as any other published work you may have cited.
  6. For many of you, this is the first time you have written something based on your own observations. You may struggle with the word length because you’re unsure about what details to include. For example, you might be describing a church rite. Do we really need to know when the church was built or how many seats it has or what the walls are made of? In other words, restrict your description to what’s relevant. And here, what’s relevant is that the rite took place in a church.
  7. The set readings for the second half of the unit provide many descriptions of rites. Turner describes Ndembu initiation. Friedson describes Brekete. Bastin describes a Hindu temple rite. Houseman describes a rite he made up and called the Red and the Black. Each example gives you an idea of how much you need to describe.
  8. Don’t panic if you are exceeding the word length. The stipulated length is 1,000 words. That’s the minimum. Slippage is +10% (not -10%). If, however, you start edging towards 1,500 words (+50%) don’t worry. But that’s the top limit and if it includes unnecessary details, you’ll lose marks.
  9. Choose to observe something in the public domain. Do not become a ‘wedding-crasher’ or some other kind of uninvited guest. Do not provide names or other details. Apart from the ethics of respecting people’s privacy, such details are irrelevant to the assessment task.
  10. Given the lock-down caused by COVID-19, the opportunities to get out and observe something are limited. At the same time, though, the lock-down has generated multiple examples of ritual invention. The internet and social media are filled with examples. Feel free to think outside the box of what you would normally consider to be a rite.
  11. Finally, choose anything. You don’t lose marks describing something your marker might think isn’t a rite. You lose marks for a weak description and poor discussion of a reading.


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