Marietta Schürholz: Reinventing Ritual (E14)

This interview with the filmmaker Marietta Schürholz is on ritual -- a topic about which I've thought a lot and written very little. We tend to think rituals are vestiges of an earlier, more superstitious time, or perhaps elements of indigenous cultures that we need to learn from. We think we live in a society bereft of meaningful rituals. But in fact, we are immersed in rituals that are invisible to us. Medicine, law, and even technology can be understood as a highly elaborated system of ritual, whose legitimacy and efficacy are based on an underlying mythology that tells us what is real and how the world works. As we transition into a new mythology, our old rituals become unsatisfying, and impotent to address the crises of our time.

This podcast episode originated as an interview for Marietta's film, Reinventing Rituals. You can watch a short clip from this film and our conversation below.


  1. Thanks for this!

    I hope you’ll post to iTunes. That’s where I usually look for new episodes from you (and others).

  2. This was wonderful, Charles. Wonderful coincidence too as I have been thinking and working with rituals for a little while now. I found it very helpful and resonating with my experiences of ritual. Coming from a Catholic background, I think this is what the sacraments were really about or supposed to be about. Now, for all the reasons you mention, they have become empty shells, devoid of all power.
    Most of my rituals are based in nature and I find that it is never devoid of a message for me.
    The condition of being receptive, open, listening feels great, especially for me, who likes to come up with answers.

    Many, many thanks.

  3. Very wonderful and meaningful Charles.It speaks to that desire in me to allow myself to be available for that which is new yet at the same time has always been.

  4. When I was a young woman about to go far away to college I went to my church’s youth camp for the last time. I had already made a conscious decision not to attend church and I’m not really sure why I gave it one more try in going to this youth camp. I remember a particular experience from that week of being with others who were very engaged with the religion I’d rejected already. One morning, after a long service the night before, someone remarked at how strongly they “felt the spirit” in the service. Others agreed that the spirit was strong. I knew I had felt nothing of the kind–that for me, the rituals attendent to this kind of worship were empty to me.

    Your conversation made me think about this experience. I predict that if you asked people to share their impression of the very same rituals, you would find a wide array of reactions. Some people would find something that feels “fake” to many people to be real a powerful. Some people would find a ritual that communicated power to you as fake.

    This circumstance is some kind of roadblock to creating a collective set of rituals. I wonder what others think about this.

  5. Hi! I’m searching for the film Reinventing Rituals, or Renaissance der Rituale, but can’t find it! Was this project completed? Is the film available? Thanks!

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