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For some years my photographer friend and I have been traveling together, hoping to study the cultural significance of rituals from around the world. As an anthropologist, the deep meaning behind practiced movement has always been a source of intrinsic fascination. And while ritual can be associated with a wide variety of emotions - mourning, celebration, rites of passage - in this article we are interested in exploring the ways in which it gives expression to love.

Ritualized love is a unique form of emotion, not to mention an ancient one. In many different parts of the world, in provinces of every ethnicity, we see signs of vast ritual activity. Sometimes rituals manifest themselves as part of our day to day routine - a morning ritual or an family gathering. At other times they are an essential part of a religious, spiritual or cultic belief system. In this case only those who are part of the group, the chosen, possess the keys that unlock the significance behind the ritual. Only they will catch the subtle shift in melodic tone as their shaman chants a sacred song, only they will understand the intention behind it.

Whereas one must look closely at Western culture to see lingering aspects of tribal ritual, in traditional societies rituals were - and remain - an essential part of everyday existence. They govern unwritten social laws that determine what can and cannot be done. In this way, rituals have the power to influence choices and affect futures. They even give someone the ability to prove their devotion to the cult or religion through demonstration. As you will see in our gallery - composed of photographs that have captured ritual moments - ritualized love is not just the giving of oneself to a mate, or to the family. It is handing over your identity, it is communing with the ancestors. Love becomes a sacred sense of respect for tradition, and even a collective expression of faith in the invisible divine.

Nicola Okin Frioli is a photographer and traveler interested in human culture. He is especially fascinated by Native American culture and as a result his studies have evolved into an avid interest in anthropology.

You can visit him online at www.okinreport.net

Agnese Sartori is an anthropologist living in Italy. In this picture by Nicola Okin she is shown in Ichcateopan, Mexico.

© All photos and articles retain the copyright of the contributing artist. Everything else is copyright Bending Light Magazine 2006. No text or image from Bending Light Magazine may be used without written permission.