Conventional wisdom has held that rituals communicate meaning. Emile Durkheim launched sociology as a discipline based on the ideas that religion consists of rituals and beliefs, or ‘states of opinion,’ and that the sanctity of ritual objects comes from the objects’ representation of these ‘states of opinion.’ Beliefs, in this thinking, provide a premise for ritual, the acts of which mean the content of beliefs (Durkheim 2001, 36). The study of ritual that followed from Durkheim operated on structuralist principles, casting ritual as a sort of literature to be read as symbolically expressive of beliefs, so that, under analysis, the symbolic actions that comprise a ritual would reveal psychological pretexts shared across a culture. Descending through Mircea Eliade and Claude Levi-Strauss, this intellectual tradition exemplified the structuralist divorce of phenomenon from value: the thing itself that is here, in the moment, for our experience, does not matter so much as the way that the thing that is here points to something that is absent. One thing this approach did was excuse scholars of their own absence from the rituals about which they wrote. As long as the value of a ritual resides in the meaning it signifies, a scholar can assess the ritual’s value through someone else’s written description. Durkheim could literally read a ritual and tease out the meanings in Aboriginal totemism without visiting Australia. Similarly, Eliade could interpret shamanism without interacting with any shamans in Siberia, Belize or Arizona.