A cult is a ritualistic group of followers of specific subjects, be they a person, object, religion, etc.
In traditional usage, the cult of a religion, quite apart from its sacred writings ("scriptures"), its theology or myths, or the personal faith of its believers, is the totality of external religious practice and observance, the neglect of which is the definition of impiety. Cult in this primary sense is literally the "care" (Latin cultus) owed to the god and the shrine. 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. Ritual behavior 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 cult to be enacted, to be practiced"
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. Many rituals of cults include initiations, branding mutilations, derivative philosophies rife with word salad, and recruitment of members in civilians. A common schematic of cults are either developing a hierarchy with the founders and leaders at the top or no concise leaders and more of a pack mentality. Actions of cults are characteristic from isolating members into hive minds to planning and committing acts of felony, abuse, extortion, violence, and even terrorism.
By extension, "cult" has come to connote the total cultural aspects of a religion, as they are distinguished from others through change and individualization. More recently, the term "cult" has also extended to criteria fitting groups in social culture, politics, family lines, etc.
On Criminal Minds
Criminal cults featured in Criminal Minds:
- Cally's Tribe ("The Tribe") - A group of people in New Mexico led by Jackson Cally, which killed several people through the use of several Native American rituals. Their intention for the murders was to start a race war between Caucasians and Native Americans. Cally and five other members were eventually arrested by the BAU, while two others were shot dead during an attempted school shooting.
- Separatarian Sect ("Minimal Loss") - A large community of people in Colorado led by Benjamin Cyrus, who molested the young girls of said community. When Prentiss and Reid infiltrated the cult to investigate the molestation victims, several loyal followers held them hostage after a police raid was botched and five people were subsequently killed. The siege ended violently after an attempted second raid by the U.S. military, during which Benjamin and numerous other members are killed in a gunfight and subsequent explosion.
- Las Vegas Sewer Vagrants ("Persuasion") - A community of homeless people living in the sewer system of Las Vegas, Nevada, led by Marvin Caul and his second-in-command Cesar Jones. They were all manipulated by Marvin to commit numerous pick-pocketing crimes around the city and bring some of the stolen items to him. The community presumably went back to their regular ways after Marvin and Cesar were arrested by the BAU.
- The Forever People ("The Forever People") - A Nevada-based, secluded community led by Colton Grant, who convinced his followers that the world was going to end and they would survive by freezing themselves. However, in reality, Colton was a con artist who had his followers slowly donate all of their money to a fake charity he created. The BAU started investigating it when two of the cult's members were found frozen to death in Lake Mead but eventually found that only one member, Jon Kanak, was independently killing members who wanted to leave the cult. It is unknown whether or not the cult is still active, but Colton was most likely prosecuted after it was found that he had been illegally harboring a child.
- The Doomsday Preppers ("The Bunker") - Lawrence Coleman and Irene Jacobs abducted over a dozen women and brainwashed them into believing that the world had ended. Several children were born in captivity and were taught the same beliefs.
- The Believers ("Believer") - A religous group that believed the world would be end soon. After they were proven wrong, the cult was taken over by Benjamin David Merva. He converted their practices from pacifism to violence, and began commiting ritualistic murders. The cult then began attracting psychopaths, such as Jerry and Donna Holston.
Some noteworthy real life cult leaders include:
- Charles Manson, leader of the Manson Family
- Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple
- Shoko Asahara, leader of Aum Shinrikyo
- Marshall Applewhite, leader of Heaven's Gate
- David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidians
- Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo, leader of the Narcosatanists
- Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, leader of the Rajneesh Movement
- Luc Jouret and Joseph di Mambro, leaders of the Order of the Solar Temple
- Roch Thériault, leader of the Ant Hill Kids
- Credonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibweteere, leaders of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
- Kim Miller, leader of the Concerned Christians
- Clemente Domínguez, leader of the Palmarian Catholic Church
- Dwight York, leader of the Nuwaubian Nation
- Wallace Fard Muhammad and Louis Farrakhad, leaders of the Nation of Islam
- Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han, leaders of the Unification Church
- Elbert "Gene" Spriggs, founder of the Twelve Tribes
- David Berg and Karen Zerby, leaders of The Family International
- Claude Vorilhorn, leader of the Raëlian movement
- Li Hongzhi, leader of Falun Gong
- Donald Trump
- Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party
- Ku Klux Klan