From a Cherokee medicine man smoking a pipe to Sufi mystics whirling in ecstasy or Pope Francis celebrating mass – different as they may seem, all of these people engage in a form of religious ritual. There are even secular rituals, such as the chanting on football terraces. Wherever you go in the world, you will find people engaging in some form of ritual.
But what is it that makes rituals so universally meaningful and compelling? To find out, Jane Little talks to Nicholas Taylor, a shaman who’s undergone a ritualistic live burial; Peter Williams, a traditional Catholic; and Isabel Clarke, a clinical psychologist.