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Cult or cult (from Latin cultus [ deorum ]; "worship of gods", from colere "to cultivate, cultivate") comprises the entirety of religious acts. The derived adjective cultic differs from the colloquial cultig , the adjective of cult status . Although cult is primarily used to denote religious or spiritual practice, the meaning in everyday language is broader and includes other types of ritualized acts. A cult is determined by three aspects: a cult object , a group of people performing the cult and a number of more or less ritualized cult acts.

Cult acts

In cult, the person enters a sphere that is clearly different from everyday life. People gather for ritual acts in order to get in contact with a concrete or abstract supernatural being, with the aim of getting them to be balanced or to motivate them to take a certain action. The practice of the cult requires appropriate preparation and quality, it is tied to certain places and limited to certain times. Most of the time, a cult act - such as worship or a service - follows a traditional and ritualized process, a rite .

Rites often include the worship of objects: ancestor worship , worship of images , cargo cult , demon cult , Dionysus cult, field cult , veneration of saints , crisis cult , cult of the dead .

Content of cults

Cult can consist of rituals , sacrifices , prayers , meals , recitation or staging of myths , sacred music and cultic dance .

Cult also includes the maintenance of the secular symbols of the cult object: its place ( sacred building , altar ), its image ( icon ) and the observance of sacred times in the form of festivals and fasts . Usually special people are entrusted with the role of maintaining tradition (e.g. priests ).

In addition to more or less ritualized and sometimes rigidly prescribed actions, the cult can include a certain spontaneity, ecstasy , obsession , renewal ( Reformation ) and awakening .

Religious function of cults

The aim of the cult is originally to increase the strength of both the cult object and its admirers. If the presence of a divine will is presupposed, then the cult on the part of man is a means of influencing this will in order to ward off impending disaster, to eliminate offenses, to turn to blessings and, moreover, to cultivate the inner connection with the divinity. Although the cult is basically the conservative element in religion, it is also the subject of efforts for a more deeply understood and more spiritually permeated piety.

Social function of cults

Cult acts have an important task for the religious community , especially for the social cohesion of religious groups , as well as for the sacral legitimation of secular rule , as it was done in the ancient oriental kingdoms. Cults such as the Dionysia and the Panathenaia were also of great importance for the self-representation of ancient Athens and other city-states .

Cult activities such as processions and dances, sporting competitions, communicative ceremonies (hugging), cultic food and drink, symbolic objects (candles etc.) create a basis for community. An intellectual ritual such as a sermon or a panegyric (a ceremonial speech or an artistic lecture) can also be added.

Religious rites of passage (birth, admission into the adult community, marriage, motherhood, death) serve to confirm and assure belonging to the community.

The practice of a cult is subject to widely accepted norms. Conventions governing the proper clothing , food , holiday rules, the membership and acceptance, etc. The presence of foreign worship communities through migration can lead to conflicts that on the one hand due to large differences in religious practices tolerance challenge, on the other hand weld together the cults.

Economic aspects of cults

In antiquity, ritual festivals were often combined with pilgrimages and trade fair-like events, and were of great economic importance comparable to that of today's tourism . The Ionian Panegyris took place annually on the island of Delos and attracted large crowds of pilgrims. The consecration gifts were hoarded there in the treasure house of Apollo . This temple treasure evolved into a bank that lent money at interest. The relatively insignificant island thus became a duty-free hub for goods traffic in the Aegean Sea . The Sanctuary of Apollo ensured the invulnerability of the treasure and the stream of pilgrims ensured the island's relative independence in the Hellenistic era.

Considerable local economic importance were z. B. also the Panhellenic Games in Olympia and the Pythian Games in Delphi .

Cults (though also in connection with central, norm-setting authorities and with the state tax collection) were of great importance for the implementation of the money economy . Initially, money is only trusted if it is cultic. As in the efficiency of the gods, one also trusts in that of money without being able to fully understand it. According to Bernhard Laum , the money economy has its origin less in the general ceremonial meaning and sacralization of money, but in the concrete act of reward within the framework of the temple cults through the obolòs .


Web links

Wiktionary: Kult  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Kultus  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Michael Rostovtzeff : Social and economic history of the Hellenistic world. Volume 1. Reprographic reprint of the 1955 edition. Darmstadt 1998, p. 178.
  2. Christoph Deutschmann : Capitalism, Religion and Entrepreneurship: An Unorthodox View. In the S. (Ed.): The social power of money. Leviathan special issue 21, 2002, pp. 85–108, here: p. 85.
  3. Felix Brandl: From the emergence of money to secure the currency: The theories of Bernhard Laum and Wilhelm Gerloff on the genesis of money. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden 2015.