Ritual may be at times as “trivial and inconsequential” a matter as the passing of a coin under a child’s pillow in the guise of the Tooth Fairy, but at times it marks the passage of an heir into the position of monarch.
But then, what on earth is trivial and inconsequential about a Tooth Fairy ritual?
The loss of a tooth, we ought to remember, is no easy thing. There have been rites of major life passage that are marked merely by a tooth being filed down to a distinguishing shape, rather than it being taken completely out.
Teeth are the most enduring parts of our bodies, all that is left to identify us when when we perish by fire. How can it be a small thing, then, for a tooth to drop out of our heads?
A child’s first loss of a tooth is not inconsequential to the child who experiences it, nor is it trivial to the parents who take it away, and put it in a special box for safekeeping as a memento.
If we are going to be serious about studying the role of ritual in our commercial-industrial culture, we need to abandon the classic anthropological fancy that culture is something only exhibited by people in other lands in other times. Ritual is embedded in our lives, not only in dramatic public gestures, but also in the private moments that propel our lives forward, though they may never be noted by anyone else.
The secret of ritual in our commercial-industrial culture is that every day of our lives contains moments of significant passage. We can only notice this significance, however, if we are willing to slow ourselves down, and look beyond the veneer of familiarity.
At the oldest spot in the universe there is something, and from this something came everything. (So far most people are generally able to agree.) However some see this as old women weaving, some as a spider spinning a web, others as a bearded omnipotent man, while still others view it as merely personifications of the incomprehensible. There are hundreds of thousands of faces and thousands of thousands of names. None of these are correct of course, yet all contain gleams of truths within them. Though real, things of this sort are the slippery kind of real that most people don’t like to think about.
For instance if we were to grind up the entirety of everything—known and unknown—and sift through every molecule (which I would have to say would greatly upset the ilgrots and qberhds as they generally frown on that sort of behavior) nowhere would you find a grain of things such as justice, peace, beauty, death, or even truth itself. However we know quite well that these things are real—despite our too often effort to ignore them. (I imagine most people would also be quite surprised about what they would find as well; for example the vast numbers of atoms from things like elves who—believe in them or not—have quite an established presence in our material world.)
What we think, and whether we think, of hir as benevolent, cruel, thoughtless, intentional, or even at all, makes absolutely no difference whatsoever—except to us (to which it makes all the difference)—as, like most things, s/h/it just is.
Peru’s treasured Manu National Park is the world’s top biodiversity hotspot for reptiles and amphibians, according to a new survey published last week by biologists from the University of California, Berkeley, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale (SIU-Carbondale) and Illinois Wesleyan University.
The park, which encompasses lowland Amazonian rain forest, high-altitude cloud forest and Andean grassland east of Cuzco, is well known for its huge variety of bird life, which attracts ecotourists from around the globe. More than 1,000 species of birds, about 10 percent of the world’s bird species; more than 1,200 species of butterflies; and now 287 reptiles and amphibians have been recorded in the park.
"For reptiles and amphibians, Manu and its buffer zone now stands out as the most diverse protected area anywhere," said study coauthor Rudolf von May, a post-doctoral researcher in UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.
Despite the park’s abundant and diverse animal life, von May said, not all is well in the preserve. The devastating chytrid fungus has caused a decline in the number of frogs there, as it has elsewhere around the world, while deforestation for subsistence living, gold mining and oil and gas drilling are encroaching on the buffer zone around the park.
"All of this is threatening the biodiversity in the park and the native peoples who live in settlements in the park," von May said. At least four Amazonian tribes and a nomadic group of hunter-gatherers known as Mashco-Piro live within the confines of Manu National Park and its buffer zone.