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.
By extension, "cult" has come to connote the total cultural aspects of a religion, as they are distinguished from others through change and individualization.
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.
Some noteworthy real life cult leaders include: