Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Thomas J. Rickert

Committee Chair

Thomas J. Rickert

Committee Member 1

Jennifer L. Bay

Committee Member 2

Patricia A. Sullivan


I examine ritual transmission through three practices: Sacred Harp hymnody, Montessori Sunday School, and Celtic thin place, all practices meant to provide the participant with a tangible sense of transcendence. Ritual transmission in not linear exchange, but is instead a complex system involving pedagogy, praxis, and persuasion: an ecology. Ritual ecology provides a way to think about rituals as both preserving practices and as consistently evolving. The composition of a ritual – that which makes it possible to transmit – requires the development of technical praxis. Ritual praxis is a blend of procedural and exegetical knowledge; it is the link between the actions/words of the ritual and its theory: the significance and symbolic meaning behind the actions and words. To teach a ritual to a new participant, and ultimately to fold that new participant into the community that practices the ritual, requires negotiation with an environment that contains signs and symbols. The individual must read and incorporate these signs and symbols into his or her exegetical knowledge. Transmission is not exclusively the province of live community, but happens also through web technology. Technology is taken up into this ritual ecology, shifting and expanding the mechanisms of transmission and fundamentally changing how participants imagine and construct the “face of God”-type moments.