World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Cult (religion)

Article Id: WHEBN0005576392
Reproduction Date:

Title: Cult (religion)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Damocles, Hemera, Dryas, Impiety, Paphos, Walter Burkert, Taurobolium, Saint Faith, Heraion of Samos, Hittite mythology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Cult (religion)

This article does not discuss "cults" in the sociology of religion, new religious movements referred to as "cults", political cults or head-of-state cults of personality, therapeutic or business cults, or popular cult followings. See also: Cult (disambiguation).

Outward religious practice in worship is expressed through religious rituals. Cult in this sense is literally the "care" (Latin cultus) owed to the God or gods and the temples, shrines, or churches. In the specific context of Greek hero cult, Carla Antonaccio has written, "The term cult identifies a pattern of ritual behavior in connection with specific objects, within a framework of spatial and temporal coordinates. Rituals would include (but not necessarily be limited to) prayer, sacrifice, votive offerings, competitions, processions and construction of monuments. Some degree of recurrence in place and repetition over time of ritual action is necessary for a cult to be enacted, to be practiced"[1] Cult is embodied in ritual and ceremony. Its present or former presence is made concrete in temples, shrines and churches, and cult images (denigrated by Christians as "idols") and votive deposits at votive sites.


Cicero defined religio as cultus deorum, "the cultivation of the gods."[2] The "cultivation" necessary to maintain a specific deity was that god's cultus, "cult," and required "the knowledge of giving the gods their due" (scientia colendorum deorum).[3] The noun cultus originates from the past participle of the verb colo, colere, colui, cultus, "to tend, take care of, cultivate," originally meaning "to dwell in, inhabit" and thus "to tend, cultivate land (ager); to practice agriculture," an activity fundamental to Roman identity even when Rome as a political center had become fully urbanized. Cultus is often translated as "cult", without the negative connotations the word may have in English, or with the Anglo-Saxon word "worship", but it implies the necessity of active maintenance beyond passive adoration. Cultus was expected to matter to the gods as a demonstration of respect, honor, and reverence; it was an aspect of the contractual nature of Roman religion (see do ut des).[4] St. Augustine echoes Cicero's formulation when he declares that "religio is nothing other than the cultus of God."[5]

The term "cult" first appeared in English in 1617, derived from the French culte, meaning "worship" which in turn originated from the Latin word cultus meaning "care, cultivation, worship". The meaning "devotion to a person or thing" is from 1829. Starting about 1920, "cult" acquired an additional six or more positive and negative definitions.

In French, for example, sections in newspapers giving the schedule of worship at Catholic churches are headed Culte Catholique; the section giving the schedule of Protestant churches is headed culte réformé.

In Christianity

In Roman Catholicism, outward religious practice in cultus is the technical term for devotions or veneration extended to a particular saint, not to the worship of God. Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy make a major distinction between latria, which is the worship that is offered to God alone, and Dulia, which is the veneration offered to the saints, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose veneration is often referred to as hyperdulia.

Outwards religious practice

Outward religious practice in worship are rituals, ceremonies, liturgy or audits, which may involve spoken or sung words, and often involve personal sacrifice. Other outward manifestations of the cult of a deity are the preservation of relics or the creation of images, such as icons (usually connoting a flat painted image) or three-dimensional cultic images, denigrated as "idols", and the specification of sacred places, hilltops and mountains, fissures and caves, springs, pools and groves, or even individual trees or stones, which may be the seat of an oracle or the venerated site of a vision, apparition, miracle or other occurrence commemorated or recreated in outward religious practice. Sacred places may be identified and elaborated by construction of shrines, temples, and churches, on which are centered public attention at religious festivals and which may become the center for pilgrimages.

See also


Further reading

  • Adolf E. Jensen, Myth and Cult among Primitive Peoples, University of Chicago Press, 1963
  • Larson, Jennifer, Greek Heroine Cults (1995)
  • Larson, Jennifer, Ancient Greek Cults: A Guide (2007). Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-32448-9
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.