A Study in Social Morphology
Marcel Mauss 1904/5
I recall being sufficiently fascinated by this Durkheimian piece of Sociology as to elect to write an undergraduate essay about it. The phenomenon that Mauss was examining was that of the people living in large communal houses during the Winter and then dispersing into nuclear family units for the Summer. The details of what he discovered are beyond the scope of this current piece, but ‘A recent study of 183 societies supports the hypothesis ‘that different types of rites and the elaborateness of public rituals are determined by social density’ http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119434122/abstract
What I’m pondering at this moment are possible/probable Norse origins of ‘seasonal transhumance’ in the Western Isles (the use of summer shielings) and possible links to patterns of ritual behaviour that exist to this day.
Is the traditional pattern of biannual Communion services on the isles vestigial evidence of pre-christian rituals, one at the end of Winter and the other at the end of Summer, that were originally ‘determined by social density’ which varied during the year?
These ‘Communion Seasons’ are spread out over several days and are literally a ‘coming-together’ of families from all over the world to participate in a manner reminiscent of Mauss’s study.
That study of 183 societies suggests that we would expect to see some sign of seasonal variations in rituals on the isles, whether or not the communion practices are truly an example remains to be shown.