In an examination of the interdependent relationship between narrative and ritual, this article discusses a ritual dilemma solved through narrative to explore how narrative sustains authority usually enacted, validated, and supported by ritual practice. In the Tamil village of Nagamalai Pudukkottai, Jeyakumar, the pañcāyat president, must perform as a cāmiyāti possessed by the village’s most powerful form of divinity, Taṭātakai Ammaṉ, to substantiate his family’s long lineage of traditional authority. For seventeen years, however, Jeyakumar was unable to substantiate his authoritative claim through ritual; instead, he and his constituents relied on narratives, including a migration myth. Narrative did not replace the importance of ritual in Nagamalai Pudukkottai, but rather, the usually obligatory tie to the goddess was deferred and his legitimacy was maintained through narrative. Village claims to authority depend upon negotiating the connections among the village migration myth, the local goddess temple myth, personal experience narratives, and everyday conversational narratives and stories. Each of these narrative genres claims authority differently but works as part of an interdependent folklore system to confirm the village’s sacrality and leadership. Jeyakumar’s authority is further strengthened by local folk mythologies that integrate nearby Madurai’s more formalized Mīnākṣī tradition into local religiosity surrounding Taṭātakai Ammaṉ.
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DOI 10.1007/s11407-019-09265-0
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Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience.Erving Goffman - 1979 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 39 (4):601-602.
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