Scary or Sacred: Unmasking the Rites and Rituals of the Season

Scary or Sacred: Unmasking the Rites and Rituals of the Season (Originally broadcast in October 2021)

This week’s episode explores how people find meaning in rituals we may not understand.  First, we learn about a two-year study looking at the spirituality people find in the horror genre of pop culture. Then we hear how Dia de los Muertos festivals have grown into mainstream pop culture events, attracting new celebrants drawn to indigenous practices and the power of celebrating the living and the dead.

Reporter Kimberly Winston explores the links and intersections between religion and horror with Dr. Jonathan Greenaway from the University of Chester in Manchester, England.  Greenaway is halfway through his two-year research investigation supported by the Templeton Religion Trust.  In this segment, Greenaway describes the ways the horror genre can explore the same questions religion grapples with, like why evil exists and where is God when people suffer.

Reporter Kimberly Winston’s conversation with Dr. Jonathan Greenaway continues. Dr. Greenaway recommends films, television shows, and books where religion and horror meet in meaningful ways.

Dr. Mathew Sandoval’s scholarship and research into the history and evolution of the festival known as Dias de los Muertos was fueled by two pivotal events: as a young man traveling to Guatemala and observing the festival for the first time in a country that was not Mexico and, the death of his father.  Both inspired his research as an ethnographer seeking to map the evolution of an obscure syncretic holiday into a pop culture mainstay.   Traveling around the country gathering stories and observations Sandoval is witnessing how the syncretic holiday ritual offers a healing practice for the broader community and discovers along the way that the history of the holiday’s survival is intimately connected to commerce.

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