Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Ritual

A formal procedure of, usually, Magic or Religion. A common religious ritual in fantasy is Exorcism; the major ritual of Satanism is the Black Mass, a Parody of the Catholic service. In Black Magic the purpose is generally conjuration of Devils; the slightest deviation from protocol will be deadly, as in E R Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros (1922), James Blish's Black Easter (1968) and John Whitbourn's A Dangerous Energy (1992). Other rituals may be Spells involving the cooperation of several Wizards, like the Rite of AshkEnte in Terry Pratchett's Discworld sequence (which summons Death), or simple gestures of respect, like the ritual of purification required before reading the sacred Book in William Morris's The Well at the World's End (1896). Initiation often takes a ritual form, as imposed on groups of would-be wizards in Roger Zelazny's Madwand (1981) or on individuals who must walk the Pattern (> Labyrinth) in Zelazny's Amber sequence. Seemingly meaningless secular rituals are likely to be Plot Devices encoding information in Riddle form, like the Musgrave Ritual deciphered by Sherlock Holmes or the significant rote-games of Children in Barry Hughart's Master Li books. Lost rituals, which must be rediscovered to save the Land or enthrone the true monarch, occasionally feature as Plot Coupons. [DRL]

see also: Human Sacrifice; Rite of Passage; Rituals of Desecration.

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.