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The Essay: The Meaning of Ritual


BBC Radio 3

TX Date

20th Dec 2021

Writer and Presenter

Madeleine Bunting


Kristine Pommert

The writer Madeleine Bunting was eight years old when her godmother took her final vows as a nun. After sitting through the interminable church service, the little girl was baffled and very bored. Yet her fascination with religious and secular ritual began at this point.

In this series of Essays, Madeleine asks why ritual has been such a pervasive feature of human societies and whether the 21st century may see much of it disappear. Or, she wonders, are we witnessing the creation of new forms of ritual which are both personal and meaningful?

The series explores aspects including public and private Christmas rituals, and asks what the Covid pandemic has taught us about their significance.