By Kristina Wirtz
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I found the ritual process of making cowrie shells speak or reading divine responses into coconut shell pieces compelling in the way such divinations provided a direct and personal message, as if calling up God on the phone. The messages received were, I noticed, sometimes cryptic, demanding interpretation, and sometimes simple and direct, demanding action. As I eagerly participated in rituals and willed myself to let go and believe, I wondered whether Cuban participants felt the same visceral response to ritual Introduction: Telling Moments 9 speech and song that I did.
However, rituals often provoke participants to reflect upon and discuss them, and those ritual participants who also take part in persistent circuits of reflective discourse, I argue, do tangibly coalesce as a community. The metaphor of an atomic nucleus and orbitals provides one image of the relationship I propose between these different categories of discourse events: rituals comprise a nucleus of religious activity around which swirls all of the surrounding discourse about rituals and religious life, like a cloud of electrons.
Chapter 7 analyzes several cases that reveal how even apparently divisive conflicts actually serve to reinforce the boundaries of the Introduction: Telling Moments 21 local moral community. My conclusions challenge the received notion in anthropology of community as an entity best characterized by homogeneity and consensus. What if internal conflict and controversy actually serve to reinforce a local moral community? Chapter 8 considers how the dialectic between ritual performances and the reflective, critical discourse they provoke promotes an ever-wider circulation of discourses about Santería rituals, even beyond the bounds of the local moral community.