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As well as giving rise to hundreds of new bands captained (or perhaps "pirated" would be a better term) by hungry young Turks fueled by the D.I.Y. lessons of punk rock, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal of the early '80s also provided a tolerant platform for numerous groups that had been struggling to launch their careers for much of the previous decade. And as history would record, these ranged from eventual superstars (Iron Maiden, formed in 1975) to middle of the pack favorites (Raven, 1974) and, of course, plenty of utterly obscure relics like Ritual (1973). The latter hailed from the city of London and were led by vocalist and guitarist Gypsy Re Bethe throughout their largely undocumented existence. This was largely consumed with numerous club gigs and cassette demos, before a proper debut single matching a ragged heavy rocker named "Into the Night" with an instrumental B-side called "Burning" was finally pressed in 1981. But with little in the way of marketing support from the band's label, Romany Records, the single was quickly buried amid the surrounding NWOBHM cacophony, and Ritual had to wait another two years before getting a chance to record their first album, Widow. Ironically, this only confused matters even further for the band, when their name was erroneously omitted from the cover art on three out of four copies printed, leading most of those who actually obtained one to believe that both album and group were named Widow.
Notwithstanding this comedy of errors, the trio of Bethe, bassist Phil Mason, and drummer Rex Duvall gamely supported the LP as best they could, both on-stage and on the airwaves, as guests on Alan Freeman's popular Friday Night Rock Show. At the end of the day, though, Widow's production standards left something to be desired, and its songs' predominantly gothic/doom qualities -- akin to Witchfinder General and Pagan Altar -- were largely at odds with prevailing NWOBHM trends, which prized energy and aggression above all else. So as the decade wore on, Ritual's profile remained deeply underground and their very survival was ever in doubt; yet they repeatedly conquered adversity and anonymity by playing at any venue that would have them, and recording the odd single when they could -- including 1986's "Never Look Back" and 1988's "Cry in the Night." And, ultimately, Bethe's persistence paid off when he was able to record a second Ritual album entitled Valley of the Kings in 1993, with the help of long-serving bassist Mason and newer member John Gaster on drums.
Unfortunately, once again there was little financial or promotional support to be had, and, at any rate, the market for the band's style of traditional heavy metal (well, any sort of heavy metal!) had grown selective, at best, in the flannel-flying '90s. As a result, Ritual would remain confined to the heavy metal underground thereafter, continuing to work when possible and enjoy cult favor among the heavy metal cognoscenti, while weathering additional setbacks like Gaster's death from pancreatic cancer in 2001 (he was duly replaced by new drummer Zak Bartok). Then, in 2008, their legacy was unearthed and finally given some manner of belated recognition when both albums were reissued with a smattering of bonus cuts and revealing liner notes by Shadow King Records. What's more, Gypsy Re Bethe maintains that Ritual will be heard from again, whether the mainstream ever starts paying attention or not.
A ritual "is a form of prescribed and elaborated behavior and occurs both as the spontaneous inventions of the individual especially of the compulsion neurotic, and as a culture trait." Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized by formalism, traditionalism, invariance, rule-governance, sacral symbolism and performance.
Rituals of various kinds are a feature of almost all known human societies, past or present. They include not only the various worship rites and sacraments of organized religions and cults, but also the rites of passage of certain societies, atonement and purification rites, oaths of allegiance, dedication ceremonies, coronations and presidential inaugurations, marriages and funerals, school "rush" traditions and graduations, club meetings, sports events, Halloween parties, veterans parades, Christmas shopping and more. Many activities that are ostensibly performed for concrete purposes, such as jury trials, execution of criminals, and scientific symposia, are loaded with purely symbolic actions prescribed by regulations or tradition, and thus partly ritualistic in nature. Even common actions like hand-shaking and saying hello may be termed rituals.
The field of ritual studies has seen a number of conflicting definitions of the term. One given by Kyriakidis (2007) is that a ritual is an outsider's or "etic" category for a set activity (or set of actions) which to the outsider seems irrational, non-contiguous, or illogical. The term can be used also by the insider or "emic" performer as an acknowledgement that this activity can be seen as such by the uninitiated onlooker.
In psychology, the term ritual is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety; it is a symptom of obsessive–compulsive disorder.
The English word "ritual" derives from the Latin ritualis, "that which pertains to rite (ritus)". In Roman juridical and religious usage, ritus was the proven way (mos) of doing something, or "correct performance, custom". The original concept of ritus may be related to the Sanskrit ṛtá ("visible order)" in Vedic religion, "the lawful and regular order of the normal, and therefore proper, natural and true structure of cosmic, worldly, human and ritual events". The word "ritual" is first recorded in English in 1570, and came into use in the 1600s to mean "the prescribed order of performing religious services" or more particularly a book of these prescriptions.
Characteristics of ritual 
Ritualistic behavior in animal kingdom and early human prehistory 
Ritual actions are not characteristic of human cultures only. Many animal species use ritualized actions to court or to greet each other, or to fight. At least some ritualized actions have very strong selective purpose in animals. For example, ritualized fights are extremely important to avoid unnecessary strong physical violence between the conflicting animals.
According to Joseph Jordania, the initial function of ritualistic behaviors in human evolutionary prehistory was to achieve the altered state of consciousness in hominid brain, in order to transform individual hominids into a group of dedicated individuals with a single collective identity. In this state (which Jordania calls battle trance) hominids did not feel fear and pain, they were religiously dedicated to group interests, were not questioning orders, and could sacrifice their lives for the common goal. This state was induced by ritualistic actions: loud rhythmic singing, clapping and drumming on external objects, dancing, body and face painting, and the use of specific cloths and masks. The same kind of ritualistic actions are still widely used in order to achieve the psychological unity of participants in various religious practices, as well in military forces to prepare soldiers for the combat situations
Sacral symbolism 
Ritual and ritualization 
Genres of ritual 
Rites of passage 
A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person's transition from one status to another.
Coming of AgeConfirmationDebutante ballBar or Bat MitzvahRumspringaSeclusionShinbyu
Calendrical and commemorative rites 
Rites of exchange and communion 
Rites of affliction 
Rites of feasting, fasting and festivals 
Political rituals 
Anthropological theories 
Victor Turner defined a ritual more thoroughly thus:
Of particular interest to anthropologists has been the role of ritual in structuring life crises, human development, religious enactment and entertainment.
Among anthropologists, and other ethnographers, who have contributed to ritual theory are Victor Turner, Ronald Grimes, Mary Douglas, and the biogenetic structuralists. Anthropologists from Émile Durkheim through Turner and contemporary theorists like Michael Silverstein (2004) treat ritual as social action aimed at particular transformations often conceived in cosmic terms. Though the transformations can also be thought of as personal (e.g. the fertility and healing rituals Turner describes), they become a sort of cosmic event, one stretching into "eternity."
Ritual actions 
There are hardly any limits to the kind of actions that may be incorporated into a ritual. The rites of past and present societies have typically involved special gestures and words, recitation of fixed texts, performance of special music, songs or dances, processions, manipulation of certain objects, use of special dresses, consumption of special food, drink, or drugs, and much more. Religious rituals have also included animal sacrifice, human sacrifice, and ritual suicide. Ritual lamentation—song performed with weeping—in many societies was regarded as required to ritually carry the departed soul to a safe afterlife.
Religious rituals 
In religion, a ritual can comprise the prescribed outward forms of performing the cultus, or cult, of a particular observation within a religion or religious denomination. Although ritual is often used in context with worship performed in a church, the actual relationship between any religion's doctrine and its ritual(s) can vary considerably from organized religion to non-institutionalized spirituality, such as ayahuasca shamanism as practiced by the Urarina of the upper Amazon. Rituals often have a close connection with reverence, thus a ritual in many cases expresses reverence for a deity or idealized state of humanity.
Social functions Kowtowing in a court, China, before 1889
The social function of rituals has often been exploited for political ends. Alongside the personal dimensions of worship and reverence, rituals can have a more basic social function in expressing, fixing and reinforcing the shared values and beliefs of a society.
Social rituals have formed a part of human culture for tens of thousands of years. The earliest known undisputed evidence of burial rituals dates from the Upper Paleolithic. Older skeletons show no signs of deliberate "burial," and as such lack clear evidence of having been ritually treated. Anthropologists see social rituals as one of many cultural universals.
Rituals can aid in creating a firm sense of group identity. Humans have used rituals to create social bonds and even to nourish interpersonal relationships. For example, nearly all fraternities and sororities have rituals incorporated into their structure, from elaborate and sometimes "secret" initiation rites, to the formalized structure of convening a meeting. Thus, numerous aspects of ritual and ritualistic proceedings are engrained into the workings of those societies.