Ritualization of early Christian meal practices

Vojtěch Kaše‘s project focuses on the processes of cultural selection and transmission of particular behavioral patterns linked with the meal practices of early Christian communities and aims to explain the gradual ritualization of these patterns.

In contrast to the recent scholarship on early Christian meal practices, Kaše’s interest lies not in the social identity formation of these behavioral patterns, but in the particular cognitive mechanisms underlying their mental processing. Drawing on recent cognitive theories of ritual and ritualized behavior, Kaše argues that the processes of cultural selection and transmission of these behavioral patterns have been substantially affected by the general functioning of human mind.

Data are derived predominantly from texts interpreted by using standard philological and historical methods with regard to the seven particular topics: (1) goal-demotion in meals (2) magical transformation of meal elements, (3) ritual meal frequency, (4) time of meal during day, (5) restrictions of meal elements, (6) restrictions of participating and presiding, (7) fixation of prayers before and after meal. Special attention is given to differentiation between textual evidence, its representational content and its relation to possible practice.

Interconnecting the textual evidence with the elaborated theoretical framework enables to formulate falsifiable models representing the developmental trajectories of the behavioral patterns in early Christian meal practices, and these models will be finally tested by computational agent-based simulations.