home / congresses / SIEF2011

SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P204)

Ritual places through the ritual year I

Location Block 1, Piso 0, Room 36
Date and Start Time 19 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Irina Sedakova (Institute of Slavic Studies, Moscow) email
Laurent Fournier (University of Aix-Marseille) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel would like to question the ways in which individual life-cycle or collective rituals and calendric festivals contribute to the emotional making of places. Case studies concerning different ritual shapes and places are welcome, together with more theoretical or methodological presentations.

Long Abstract

Since 2004, yearly conferences in the SIEF Ritual Year Working Group have focused on issues such as rituals in general, ritual diversity, the ritual year and history, gender in rituals, masking and mumming, and ritual performances. However, no special attention has yet been devoted to the spatial shapes of rituals or to the places where they are performed.

This panel would like to question the ways in which individual life-cycle or collective rituals and calendric festivals contribute to the emotional making of places. How do the spatial shapes of rituals contribute to reinforcing their emotional meaning in the eyes of the people performing them? Are there any differences between religious and secular rituals regarding their relations to space? What changes can be observed regarding ritual places when comparing the pre-modern, modern and post-modern eras? Why and how does a specific ritual correlate or not with a specific place? In short, what part do rituals and their values play in the making of places?

Case studies concerning different ritual shapes and places are welcome, together with more theoretical or methodological presentations. First, contributors can describe the different ways of using places in rituals such as processions, ritual perambulations or circumambulations, dual or multiple oppositions, ritual scrums, ritual crowd gatherings, etc. Second, they are encouraged to report on the ways in which the accepted knowledge in folklore and/or anthropology has dealt with these data in the past. Third, they are invited to propose new tools and theoretical models to address the ritual making of places.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Ritual spatial shapes and their cultural significance

Author: Laurent Fournier (University of Aix-Marseille)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

This contribution would like to present a few significant spatial shapes which can be observed among contemporary European rituals. The contribution will describe different ways of using local places in rituals, bringing together anthropology, cultural geography and performance studies.

Long Abstract

As an introduction to panel P204 "Ritual Shapes through the Ritual Year", this contribution would like to present a few significant spatial shapes which can be observed among contemporary European rituals, such rituals being traditional, revitalized or invented. First the contribution will use ethnographical fieldwork data to describe different ways of using local places in rituals (processions, ritual perambulations or circumambulations, dual or multiple oppositions, ritual scrums, ritual crowd gatherings, etc.). The examples will show how the different ritual shapes can be represented through simple drawings and maps, using various scales of analysis. Second, the description will lead to a structural analysis of the different ritual spatial schemes. The contribution will show how the rituals manage to combine a limited number of primary shapes and to build their cultural meaning through the social uses of space. Third the different rituals will be interpreted as possible contributions to the emotional making of places. It will be suggested that the spatial shapes of rituals contribute to reinforce their emotional meaning in the eyes of the people performing them. The demonstration will eventually try to promote a new theoretical perspective on rituals which would bring together the accepted anthropological knowledge on rituals, geographical methodology and the study of performance.

The reverse way of organizing space in Bulgarian funerary rites

Author: Katya Mihaylova (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

The paper describes the reverse way of using places and directions in Bulgarian funeral rituals. It analyzes dual oppositions, such as left-right; up-down; forward-backward; east-west.

Long Abstract

The paper sheds light on the issue of the reverse order, mostly with regard to the organization of space in Bulgarian funerary rites - the one which is in opposition to the other rituals of the individual life-cycle. The reverse use of the directions left-right is analyzed, i.e. what was placed or done to the right during the life-time, in the funerary rituals is placed or done to the left (the bunch of flowers on the head of a dead woman; the gifts placed on the shoulders of people who attend a commemorative rite; the burning of incense at the grave and during the commemorative meal). The analysis is also focused on the same reverse logic in the oppositions up-down (placing the deceased or the ritual commemorative meal on the ground); forward-backward (prohibition of turning one's head back during a commemorative procession); east-west (placing the deceased with the head pointing to the west), etc. The paper is based on fieldwork materials collected from archival and published sources from the end of the 19th century till 1980s.

Danish places for Christmas mumming: the island milieu, closeness and security

Author: Carsten Bregenhøj  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

The investigation of Christmas mumming related to Epiphany was initiated in 1967 and in 2011 should result in a book on Danish masks. Four islands making a portrait of the potentially optimal place for masking traditions have been investigated for this purpose.

Long Abstract

This paper is based on modern investigation of Christmas mumming related to Epiphany since 1967. The author has visited all major places in Denmark where this tradition still exists. Around 1999 Terry Gunnell formed a research group, the results of its work were published in Uppsala, 2007: Masks and Mumming. A new effort should in 2011 result in an anthology of Danish masks. Four islands making a portrait of the potentially optimal place for masking traditions have been investigated for this purpose. Each of the islands has specific features but in general the inhabitants are conservative, legislative and any change reaches them with a considerable delay. The sea communications to and from islands constitute a check point adding to the security of the society. In recent time the narrative of the authentic culture, the quite surroundings and the friendly population have given traditions a boost. Closeness is part of the island image and the Epiphany tradition is an exponent of that image.

Appropriating haunted places: narrative maps and processing trajectories in a southeast Aegean island, Greece

Author: Marilena Papachristophorou (University of Ioannina )  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

This paper examines how oral narratives can be associated with processing worship trajectories and to what degree can both constitute emotional collective practices for the appropriation of space.

Long Abstract

Appropriating space through religious constructions constitutes a rather common and well studied social strategy, while place names highly contribute in the same direction. Based on long term fieldwork, this paper presents a case study that deals with two distinct practices of emotional appropriation of space in a small insular community, in southeast Aegean, Greece.

First, we examine oral narratives, especially legends and belief/life stories, which are associated with a "mental" landscape dominating the countryside of the island: encounters with either evil supernatural beings or miraculous apparitions of holy beings are regarded as lived experience and make part of personal, family and collective memory. The landscape is thus shaped and memorized according to the specific narrative repertoires, which slightly vary from individual to individual.

Second, we describe ritual processions that constitute a rather common worship practice at several moments of the year: either at Easter or in summer, processing and free marches offer festival occasions for mass gatherings and holy venerations.

Further questions are thus raised: To what extent can these trajectories follow the specific narrative maps? Can narratives be complementary to processing practices? Can initially haunted, and then sacred places make an alternative for "homeland"?

Ritual places and the ritual self: individual and collective performance at holy wells in Ireland

Author: Attracta Brownlee (National University of Ireland Maynooth)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

This study explores the individual and collective rituals performed at holy wells. The individual life cycle of pilgrims is examined in relation to both the personal and church sanctioned official rituals performed in the sacred space. An ethnographic account of the rituals performed at a particular holy well in the west of Ireland will be presented.

Long Abstract

The aim of this study is to explore ritual action during the year through an ethnographic analysis of the relationships, both individual and collective, with the ritual space of the holy well in Ireland.

Healing is a central feature of the holy well, but ritual actions such as processions, prescribed circumambulations of the sacred space, ingesting water from the well, bathing in the holy water, the leaving of votive offerings, and the removal of certain objects such as stones all underscore the deep relationship between memory, emotion and performance in the making of this sacred space.

This paper will explore how the individual life cycle of pilgrims is bound up with the rituals performed at the holy well. These ritual actions vary from the placing, on a tree beside a well, an item of clothing worn by a sick infant in order to obtain a cure to the leaving of a deceased relative's temporary grave marker at a well to signal the final stage in the grieving process.

Individual and collective devotions at holy wells were, in the past, often discouraged and sometimes banned outright by the church hierarchy. However, the transformation in devotional practices since Vatican II, and the revelations of clerical abuse are some of the factors that have combined to diminish the Catholic Church's political and moral authority in Irish society. Today, in many local communities the church is actively promoting and organising official ceremonies at holy wells as a means of reconnecting with local religious sentiments.

The boundaries of faith: Tibetan migrant youths, circumambulation, and the encirclement of Lhasa as ritual territory

Author: Ivan Costantino (Oxford University)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

This paper looks at the resilience of traditional ritual activities – including prostrations and ritual circumambulation – among Tibetan rural migrants to the city and how this perpetuates Lhasa as a sacred place. Especially on auspicious days, practitioners circle the old city as ‘ritual territory’ and set it apart from the sinicized suburban sprawl.

Long Abstract

For centuries a veritable power place attracting pilgrims from all corners of the Tibetan cultural world, Lhasa has undergone dramatic changes since Communist 'liberation' in 1959. Today a heavily built-up, sinicized city, one may argue that Lhasa is slowly losing its role as sacred centre (Tibetan chos 'khor) and that in Tibet, one of China's ultimate frontier zones, faith is relegated to the margins.

Based on 14 months of fieldwork in the Tibetan capital, this paper looks at the resilience of traditional ritual activities - especially prostrations (Tib. phyag 'tshal) and ritual circumambulations (Tib. skor ba) - among Tibetan rural migrants to the city and the effect that this has on the perpetuation of Lhasa as a power place. Specifically, I wish to examine what role ritual can still play in the making of place in contemporary Lhasa, how the circumambulation routes can mark a spatial distinction between different notions of 'Tibetanness', and why Tibetans may be more or less interested in ritual activities. Using ethnography and photography, this paper will give an account of the spatial practices of young migrants to the city and contrast them with those of their more 'urbanite' counterparts.

I believe that the performance of prostrations and ritual circumambulations - particularly on auspicious days (Tib. dus bzang) throughout the year - represents an attempt to draw the boundaries of identity and physically encircle the old quarter of Lhasa as ritual territory, thus setting it apart from sinicized West Lhasa (Chinese xijiao) and the suburban sprawl.

I opi op mil - We, who are in(side) these mountains: places and paths in ritual narrative and performance in a Bunak domain, East Timor

Author: Lúcio Sousa (Universidade Aberta)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

An ethnographic analysis of the relations between particular spaces and the emotions attached to them through individual and collective rituals among a Bunak speaking community in Bobonaro mountains, East Timor.

Long Abstract

I opi op mil is a collective noun used to describe the community, when depicted by their members in public context. The phrase reveals a geographical fact as this is a mountain village. It also reflects sociopolitical, religious and ritual reality: opi op is the altar located in the center of the village sacred plaza, representing the nearby mountains which are considered the place of origin of the world. This place is an essential "ritual attractor" (Fox, 1993), for both individual life-cycle and collective rituals that occur during the year. It cannot though be seen as an isolated ritual space but as a part of the path that links the living and the collective ancestors with each person's sacred house in time and space. It also divides the home domain and the mountains (in fact a world vision that locates persons and political-emotional obligations along the island of Timor and the world).

This presentation will discuss the ways which this place produces and reproduces by ritual as a metaphor of relations between the living and the other beings (Friedberg, 2009), but also as a powerful emotional and political argument for claiming possession of places and memories. The presentation is connected with the ethnographic research done for PhD in August 2003, 2004 and August 2005- August 2006, in a Bunak village in the mountains of Bobonaro, East Timor.

Where old gods meet their new believers: neo-pagan sacred space in post-Soviet Armenia

Author: Konrad Siekierski (Academy of Sciences of Armenia)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

The aim of the proposed paper is to present the emerging sacred space of neo-pagan movement in post-Soviet Armenia, as well as to analyze the set of beliefs and ritual practices that change certain archeological sites and elements of landscape into religiously meaningful places.

Long Abstract

Since the Armenian neo-pagan movement has been created twenty years ago, its leaders and adherents have elaborated a set of beliefs which is a compilation of pre-Christian elements, nationalistic doctrine of early 20th century by the philosopher Garegin Nzhdeh, and today's Armenian Christian culture. Simultaneously, neo-pagan ritual system and relevant sacred space have been conceived and are constantly reshaped by new spirituality that requires fixation and embodiment. As a result, celebrations of annual feasts, pilgrimages as well as the ites of passage in the life-cycle change certain archeological sites and elements of landscape into religiously meaningful places. Central role among them plays the ancient temple of Garni, where most of rituals take place, and surroundings of which have been adapted to neo-pagans' needs in the most significant way.

In the proposed paper, firstly I am going to present the "sacral geography" of Armenian neo-paganism, and then to concentrate on analyzing how rituals conducted in Garni influence the particular space both in a temporary and in a perpetual way. For this purpose, I will use data from interviews as well as visual materials collected during main neo-pagan feasts.

Making the ritual space and place

Author: Mare Kõiva (Estonian Literary Museum)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

This paper investigates the rediscovering of old ritual sites as well as the creation of new ones. It is based on ritual year celebrations in three locations, demonstrating different explanations, emotions and values.

Long Abstract

Referring to Rodmann's theory concerning socially constructed places and the ritual theory of McCauley, etc., I will be examining the late twentieth-century rediscovery of old ritual sites and sacred locations as well as the creation of new ones. New ritual sites have been created based on historical sources, the locations chosen near historical and archaeological memorials or natural holy sites, places related to churches and abbeys. The locations are often suggested by a medium, but could also simply hold personal appeal. The rites and the places where they are conducted are attributed emotional value by the rites' participants, neighbours, and ethnographers/folklorists. This paper (connected with project ESF 8137) is based on ritual year celebrations in three locations and the answers to a questionnaire.

Sacred space in everyday places: Day of the Dead celebrations in northern California

Author: Molly Carter (University of Sheffield, England)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

The Meso-American Day of the Dead (November 2) has become increasingly popular in California. Celebrations include altar displays, educational events, and processions, using spaces ranging from city streets and parks to college campuses and museums to create an ephemeral, yet embodied play-world.

Long Abstract

In the greater San Francisco Bay Area of northern California, the Meso-American Day of the Dead (el Día de los Muertos, November 2) has become increasingly popular. In practice sometimes spanning October 31 to November 2, this festival has partially fused with the American Halloween (October 31), a secular holiday marked by costumed revelry and candy-gathering. Halloween emphasizes the horrific and grotesque rather than honoring the dead, but shares with the Day of the Dead a playful, carnivalesque spirit in which humor, inversions, parody and costumed role-play permit participants to tread (or even reset) the boundaries between fear and laughter, transgression and respect, the sacred and the profane.

The Day of the Dead, which emphasizes community participation and inclusivity, is a multivocal festival, and as such there are multiple uses of (and claims upon) public spaces in evidence. In addition to private family ofrendas (offerings), the Day of the Dead is celebrated with public altar exhibits, child-friendly educational events, lecture-demonstrations of traditional crafts, and theatrical processions. These constitute temporary 'sacred spaces' where public areas ranging from city streets and parks to college campuses and museums are appropriated to create an liminal play-world which is ephemeral, yet embodied. Examination of these uses of indoor and outdoor spaces reveals the ways in which this calendar-custom complex facilitates symbolic integration of the private and public, individual and collective, culturally-specific and universal.

Reshaping of the modern Russian ritual space through the ritual year

Author: Irina Sedakova (Institute of Slavic Studies, Moscow)  email
Mail All Authors

Short Abstract

During the last twenty years, the Russian ritual year has undergone many transformations and re-evaluations, resulting in a total change of the entire ritual map of modern Russia. The aim of this paper is to scrutinize this process and to illustrate it with several case studies.

Long Abstract

During the last twenty years, the Russian ritual year has undergone many transformations and re-evaluations. These changes have impacted on the division between sacred and profane space and have given rise in turn to new loci for ritual performance. Thus the Ritual Year has modified the whole ritual and festival map of Russia, the very towns as well as their internal space. The aim of this paper is to scrutinize this complicated and manifold process and to illustrate it with several case studies. I will analyze the semantic and semiotic rules governing the making of new images for previously ideologically marked settlements, which with the decline of Soviet festivities have lost their ritual significance. The relative proportions of authentic and invented folk knowledge in this process are interpreted in terms of old and new social values. I will discuss the mechanisms used to turn a local festival known in one place into a national one celebrated all over Russia (the case of Murom and the Day of the Family, Love and Fidelity). Other ritual spatio-temporal changes in modern Russia (new tragic dates and commemoration of the dead at the site of recent terrorist attacks and in other places, etc) will be also investigated.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.