No culture in human history has existed without some semblance of religion. It’s the cornerstone of humanity’s values, morality, ethics, and principles.
Religion is an organized set of beliefs and practices that revolve around and lead to a spiritual, transcendental experience. Practicing a religion involves performing rituals, adhering to certain beliefs, and upholding traditions that have probably survived for thousands of years.
Religions all over the world have existed since time immemorial, making them ancient, on account of the current time. While this is true, 84% of the world’s population is a member of a religious group, a startling contrast to the current rise in modern and individualistic values.
Connecting With Gods Through Rites
Rituals and traditions are common in any religion. Religion may only be one facet of humanity’s life, but it’s undoubtedly a huge part of it. That’s why most of the time, celebrating the deities and gods of these religions takes center-stage. Performing and observing them are considered stark proof of faith and belief in a higher being that’s all-encompassing and transcendent.
These rites, according to ancient sacred texts from around the world, serve as humanity’s common cord with the gods: a connection deepened by years of gathering and strict observation, like the pilgrimage to Mecca done by the followers of Islam as a profession of their faith.
Some of these rites may appear bizarre or kooky to the non-believer, but one should always remember to respect and honor these traditions and rites as part of the rich history of the world. And that is something that should be appreciated instead of frowned upon.
This article celebrates these religious traditions and lists which ones are still being practiced globally today.
Christianity: Breaking of the Bread
Known as the most widely practiced religion in the world, Christianity puts Jesus as the main figurehead of its teachings. This belief is centered on the New Testament of the Bible—the religion’s sacred text—which recounts the life, death, and suffering of Jesus Christ.
Christians exist all around the globe and practice a great deal of rituals and traditions. An example is the breaking of the bread in which Jesus spends His last days with his disciples, where they break bread together. In Christian texts, the act is known as Jesus’ last supper with His beloved followers.
The last supper is still being observed today, almost every day, in churches around the globe during the Holy Mass. Here, the priest takes on a makeshift ‘bread,’ prays to God accordingly, and breaks bread with the rest of the churchgoers near the end of the mass.
Hinduism: Sacrificial Offerings
Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion, with roots and customs going back 4,000 years ago. It’s also the third largest religion next to Christianity and Islam. Those who practice this religion are called Hindus, usually from India, and make up about 80% of the country’s population.
Hinduism encompasses different religious ideals. This is why it’s commonly called ‘a way of life’ instead of a rigid and organized religious structure. They recognize the existence of one Supreme Being called a ‘Brahman,’ but they recognize other gods and goddesses and that there are multiple paths to reaching these specific deities.
The religious lives of Hindus revolve around honoring their gods and goddesses by offering sacrifices to their altars, especially Vedic fire sacrifices. More elaborate rituals with longstanding traditions are still being performed today.
Shamanism is a religious practice associated with communicating with deities and spirits to hear a plea, bring a good harvest, and heal sickness, among many others. It requires calling on spirits from the non-physical realm to fulfill a request in the material world.
Shamanism has existed since human ancestors learned to sharpen rocks and make tools with them. In fact, it’s known as one of the oldest practices of religious rites in the history of humanity. Although not entirely an organized religion where people gather to worship while observing a certain degree of decorum, shamanistic tribal rites are more flexible.
Shamans perform their rituals at a tribe or indigenous gathering. The spirits are called upon with the use of psychoactive (sometimes poisonous) plants. In the gathering, the shamans take on the role of a high priest who performs the rites and calls upon deities to bring forth the tribe’s pleas.
These rituals are still alive today, with overlapping similarities, as proven by existing indigenous cultures in North America, South America, and Siberia.
The practice of Buddhism is evident in many Asian countries today. More of a combination of religious beliefs and philosophical teachings, it has spread to the Western world at the start of the 20th century. However, it emerged around the 6th and 4th centuries BCE and is traced back to the teachings of Buddha, who is said to have attained enlightenment and self-awareness that led to the release of suffering. One way of achieving such states is the practice of meditation.
Since this combined religion and philosophy has spread throughout the majority of the Asian region, several forms of meditative practices have emerged that espouse various aims. Some practice meditation for the purification of their intellectual or moral capacities. Some meditative practices aim to provide deep insight to the follower, enough to release them of suffering.
Regardless of the kind of meditation each Buddhist form espouses, the goal is still to help the follower achieve a higher form of enlightenment. In a way, it’s their way of connecting to the Buddha—and a way to have ‘Buddha-like’ qualities.
Influence Of Ancient Traditions On New Age Spirituality
These are only a few of the traditions practiced by ancient religions. It’s important to know that in certain areas of the world, some of these traditions are still being practiced. Some of them are also being preserved by newer generations and even appreciated and shared extensively, thanks to the internet. Being global and modern isn’t so bad, after all.
In fact, new age spirituality has stemmed from these ancient religious rituals. Like how Buddhism and Hinduism defined the yoga movement sweeping the globe, spiritualities continue to shift and transform accordingly. It’s a personal journey, after all, and humanity is always in control of which path they should take and which traditions to follow.