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

(P219)

Sacred places

Location Tower A, Piso -1, Aud. 2
Date and Start Time 19 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Gábor Barna (University of Szeged) email
Marion Bowman (The Open University) email
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Short Abstract

We pursue the ethnological analysis of the meaning of sacred places, past and present, investigating new as well as traditional sacred places, and places that are regarded by some but not others as sacred.

We tackle a wide variety of topics over four sessions broadly headed: 1) Sacred Places of Memory and Memorialisation 2) Sacred Places and Identity 3) Sacred Places and Vernacular Practice 4) Creating and Negotiating Sacred Places with a fifth panel for discussion.

Long Abstract

In our panel we are pursuing the ethnological analysis of the meaning of sacred places, past and present, investigating new as well as traditional sacred places, and places that are regarded by some but not others as sacred.

How can historical accounts of sacred places be analyzed with the help of new methods and theories? What or who makes a place sacred? Can we improve our understanding of this process with the help of modern theories of consumerism or media studies? Why does a place become sacred? What emotions are aroused in a sacred place? What roles do sacred places play in personal, local, national and transnational identity formation, and renegotiations of and with the sacred?

Over five panel sessions, we are tackling a wide variety topics under four broad headings:1) Sacred Places of Memory and Memorialisation 2) Sacred Places and Identity 3) Sacred Places and Vernacular Practice 4) Creating and Negotiating Sacred Places with a final panel for open discussion of the theme. (Papers 4/4/4/4 and discussion).

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The Hungarian Golgotha: sacralising memorial place(s) of national sorrow

Author: Gábor Barna (University of Szeged)  email
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Short Abstract

Called the Hungarian Golgotha, Arad is where 13 generals of the Hungarian liberation war against the Habsburgs in 1848/1949 were executed. The paper analyses the sacralising process, sacred memorial place(s) and symbolic expressions of hurt national (and Christian) sentiments in the 20th century.

Long Abstract

The Hungarian (popular) interpretation of national history finds some parallels between Hungarian history and the events of the Bible, the suffering of Jesus, Virgin Mary and the chosen people.

The fortification of Arad was the prison and place of execution of 13 generals of the Hungarian liberation war against the Habsburgs in 1848/1949. After the Hungarian-Austrian Compromise (1867) a monument was erected at the scaffold (1881) then a Liberty-statue was built on the main square of the city (1892). Arad was and is called the Hungarian Golgotha. The Liberty statue uses religious and national symbols for expressing patriotic and religious sentiments.

Since the Trianon Peace Dictate (1920), the city is part of Romania. The memorial was pulled down by the Romanian authorities in 1925. A memorial to the Romanian Soldier was built on the place of the Liberty-statue. After negotiations between Hungary and Romania, the figures of the Liberty statue were restored and rebuilt on the Square of Reconciliation together with a Romanian triumphal arch.

The figures of the Liberty statue express different human, patriotic, and religious values. The figure of Hungaria coincides with the figure of the Virgin Mary.

Together with the so called Hungarian Calvarias in different settlements of Hungary, Arad is one of the most susceptible places of Hungarian national, civil religion, expressing not only the thirst for liberty and justice in general, but the liberty of the Hungarian minority living in Romania, belonging together with the Hungarian nation, Christian values, and mercifulness of Christ.

Local history reflected in the fate of sacred memorials

Author: Krisztina Frauhammer (MTA-SZTE Research GRoup for the Study of Religious Culture)  email
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Short Abstract

The topic of my presentation is the intriguing alterations in the in the functions of sacred memorials in a village in Northern Hungary. Recently, the few remaining German families alongside with the relocated population have regained the right to cherish and present its history so the religious memorials became an integral part of their historical memory.

Long Abstract

The topic of my presentation is the intriguing alterations in the in the functions of sacred memorials in a village in Northern Hungary. Máriakálnok, a settlement once nearly exclusively inhabited by German families, as a popular shrine, has numerous religious memorials. The roadside crosses, images on pedestals or the former hermit's hut are parts of the cult around the shrine as well as have their own religious significance.

Historical events have, however, made grave changes in the life of this small settlement. After the Second World War, the German population was relocated and was replaced by Hungarian families from various regions of the country. They had their own traditions and their own customs. This resulted in the decrease in the importance of the shrine and left the sacred memorials abandoned and gradually destroyed. Recently, the few remaining German families alongside with the relocated population have regained the right to cherish and present its history so the religious memorials reinterpreted their importance. They became an integral part of the historical memory of the former German population.

The tomb of the unknown priest: narratives and ritual practices of the Supreme Soviet's supporters after the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993

Author: Mikhail Alekseevskiy (State Republican Centre of Russian Folklore)  email
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Short Abstract

This report is devoted to narratives and ritual practices associated with the so-called Tomb of the Father Victor, a priest who is believed to have been killed during the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993. The place of his death became a sacred place for the Supreme Soviet's Supporters

Long Abstract

The Russian constitutional crisis of 1993 began in earnest on September 21, when President Boris Yeltsin tried to dissolve parliament (The Supreme Soviet of Russia and The Congress of People's Deputies of Russia). At the beginning of October street fighting between Supreme Soviet supporters and special police took place in Moscow. The army, by Yeltsin's orders, stormed the Supreme Soviet building in the early morning hours of October 4, and arrested the leaders of the resistance. According to government estimates, 187 people were killed during the conflict.

The place of this street fighting of 1993 became sacred for the Supreme Soviet's supporters. After the crisis they organized near the Supreme Soviet building an unofficial shrine with monuments, fragments of barricades, signs, flags and graffiti. One of the most unusual parts of the shrine is the so-called "Tomb of Father Viktor." It is thought that priest Viktor Zaika, one of the Supreme Soviet's supporters, was crushed by an army tank during the storm. However, priest Viktor was not killed in 1993, and he lives in Ukraine to this day, but the legends about the death of the martyr Viktor are still popular among the Supreme Soviet's supporters. The Requiem Mass for Father Viktor takes place every anniversary of his "death." The report is devoted to narratives and ritual practices associated with Father Viktor and his "tomb".

Remembering death? Graves, monuments and memorials in Serbia from the 19th to 21st century

Author: Aleksandra Pavicevic (Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts)  email
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Short Abstract

Graves and monuments are suppose to have similar basic function: to remind the living of the dead. In public space, their function is modified; although they are often based on the event of death, they testify more about ideas and deeds, pushing the notion of death to the margins of memory patterns.

Long Abstract

Monuments have always served as means to create memories. They are markers of time, spatial separators, reflections of political ideas, teachers of morality and the highest value of a given epoch, instrumental artistic forms. This research is limited to so-called monumental sculpture, that is, to monuments dedicated to persons and events on the territory of Belgrade, capital of Serbia.

Two issues are of special interest: first issue revolves around ways in which a given time/epoch determines monuments, while the other revolves around ways in which monuments testify to the latent contents of a given time/epoch. This is because monuments do not testify only about what is being made but also on people who ordered them.

The displacement of death from collective memory patterns is presented as a process which corresponds with the development of modern society in Serbia. This multi-layered process speaks about secularization of collective memory and place, and the role that the phenomena of death had in construction of desirable and mobilizing identity of the nation.

The "mother of place": highland shrines, traditional narratives and ritual practices in North-Eastern Georgia (Caucasus)

Author: Valentina Simeoni (Università degli Studi di Bergamo)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper explores the relationships between Georgian highland sacred places and the mythological narratives associated to them, trying to analyze the local cultural landscape as it emerges from the interweaving of traditional stories, emic perceptions and ritual practices.

Long Abstract

Georgian Eastern Highlands (Pshavi, Khevsureti, Tusheti) constitute a peculiar cultural landscape characterized by the presence of specific types of sacred sites: shrines (salocavi), icons (khati/jvari), wishing trees (nat'vris kheebi), old churches and the so called "Mother of the Place" (adgilis deda), which protects the village in which it is situated and is particularly worshipped by its inhabitants.

Georgian highlanders tell many stories (andrezi) about the foundation and life of the shrines: in these mythological narratives, as well as in their spatialized symbology, pagan and Christian cosmologies interwine in complex representations and practices, producing a very interesting sacred geography.

Despite an evident problem of depopulation, the local communities (temi) still exhibit a strong connection to their land and sanctuaries: during an intense summer cycle, each of them celebrates its own patron by joining his shrine and performing a day-long ritual (dgheoba) guided by the khevisberi, a man who mediates between villagers and deities and is the most authoritative storyteller of the community.

Taking cue from the ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Georgia during 2010, this paper explores the relationships between andrezi, ritual practices and the local sense of place: how is the sacredness of places constructed through storytelling as well as trough spatialized ceremonies? How do narratives interact with symbols and practices? What do these myths reveal about some local historical experiences (e.g. the feudalization and the christianization of the region)? What is the intepretive potential of a narrative approach to the sense of place? How do people "make places" through stories?

Ramjanmabhoomi: the construction of a sacred Hindu place in Ayodhya

Author: Harald Schmiderer (University of Vienna)  email
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Short Abstract

Since the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 Hindu radicals continue to claim that the Hindu god Ram was born on the site of the demolished mosque and demand the construction of a temple for Ram in Ayodhya. The Ramjanmabhoomi campaign was launched in the 1980s by Hindu nationalists belonging to the Sangh Parivar whose intention it was to mobilize the Hindu population for Hindu nationalist interests. The campaign propagated a hegemonic articulation of Hindu values and a moral order which opposes the secular project of the Indian nation state, legitimates existing hierarchies and oppression and represents the interests of the dominant power-holders and majorities.

Long Abstract

Since the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 Hindu radicals continue to claim that the Hindu god Ram was born on the site of the demolished mosque and demand the construction of a temple for Ram in Ayodhya. The Ramjanmabhoomi campaign was launched in the 1980s by Hindu nationalists belonging to the Sangh Parivar whose intention it was to mobilize the Hindu population for Hindu nationalist interests. The campaign propagated a hegemonic articulation of Hindu values and a moral order which opposes the secular project of the Indian nation state, legitimates existing hierarchies and oppression and represents the interests of the dominant power-holders and majorities.

This paper examines how Ayodhya was constructed as a sacred Hindu site during the RSS-Ramjanmabhoomi campaign in the 1980s which tried to ideologically build on and to politically exploit several religious values and traditions. The Hindu epic Ramayana turned out to be the most readily available narrative through which the envisioned moral order could be articulated and propagated. The social and cultural forces involved in the sometimes violent agitations discriminating all non-Hindus and aimed towards the installation of a divine Hindu rashtra have to be analysed within the specific historical constellations of the 1980s. These included fundamental social and cultural changes such as the contestation of social hierarchies as well as gender and family norms. The construction of a new sacred place devoted to Ram also intended to integrate an Indian nation seemingly threatened by globalization and separatism.

The sacred places of the Chuvashs-Pagans in the Tatarstan

Author: Guzel Stolyarova (Kazan Federal University)  email
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Short Abstract

The report is dedicated to the sacred places of the Chuvashs-Pagans, amongst which there are the graveyard, the grave of the landlady of graveyard, the glade for funeral repasts, the sacred water source. History of the shaping of the sacred places and their modern operation are shown.

Long Abstract

Tatarstan is one of the subjects of modern Russia. The Ethnic majorities of population are presented by the Tatars and the Russians; except them, the representatives of ethnic minorities live there.

Republic is multiconfessional as well. Islam and Orthodoxy are the earliest religions in region and the most wide-spread.

Pagans are small, but very racy group; in Tatarstan they are presented by the Chuvashs. They live in several villages, formed in ХVΙΙΙ century by people, run from forcible christening. Living for a long time in interethnic encirclement, they have saved their own religion and rites. Polytheism, honoring of the land, immolate of animals, faith in local spirits are the main peculiarities of the Pagans.

The Chuvashs-Pagans have not special temples. All rites are made at home or near the sacred places. A graveyard is one of the main of the sacred places in the village Old Surkino. The grave of the landlady of graveyard (she was the daughter of the founder of the village) is situated near the entrance to the graveyard. The Pagans worships to her every time, when visit the graveyard. Besides, there is special glade, where they make the main memorial rite "jupa".

The sacred water source is a place for public rites and holidays. Here they immolate of animals and make the public foods to call the rain in drought and on other reasons.

The Chuvashs-Pagans of Tatarstan live in modern world of globalization, but due to traditions, they save its identity and do not assimilated.

Medjugorje: harmony and conflict of symbols, narratives and rituals

Author: Marijana Belaj (University of Zagreb)  email
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Short Abstract

The topic of this paper is the pilgrimage centre Medjugorje. Examining the construction of topoi of Medjugorje through symbols, narratives and (ritual) practices, the paper explores how those topoi influence renegotiation of identity of those using them

Long Abstract

The topic of this paper is the pilgrimage centre Medjugorje, observed through the mutually constituting relations of people and space. The author will examine the construction of topoi of Medjugorje through symbols, narratives and (ritual) practices, and how those topoi influence renegotiation of identity of those using them. Those constituting processes turn Međugorje into a place of simultaneous harmony and conflict, the freedom of its creation being one of its prominent features.

'My Church': how do people relate to proprietary points in sacred space?

Author: Orsolya Gyöngyössy (Hungarian Academy of Sciences/University of Szeged)  email
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Short Abstract

The Church building, with its material culture marked by individual/ family/ confraternal/ church communal memories, emotions and aesthetic decisions, is not homogenous to the individual. The Church thus marks an interesting transition between individual and common space.

Long Abstract

Theologically, the church building is a place where Heaven and Earth connect, where the important turning points of life become consecrated and socially legitimated, where the sacred dynamism of the year is marked at every feast and mass. For art historians, non-believers and tourists, the church is a memento of the bygone past, basically an interesting, mystical spectacle and historical-aesthetical factum. For local communities, 'Our Church' is the source of collective identity and pride. 'Our Church/Churches' represent the unbroken link with the ancestors, even for those who are not members of the church community but live in the same settlement.

The sacred space with its objects (pictures, statues, altars, candles,etc.) is not homogenous from the individual's point of view. There are significant points marked by the individual/ family/ confraternal/ church communal memories, emotions and aesthetic decisions.

These hardly-outlined, invisible proportions shape the individual's mental map. The religious self also tries to expropriate and shape the the space with visible signs, for example offerings, votive pictures and plates, hand-made altar-cloths, candles lit for intentions, or prayers books left on the bench. These points in the sacred space can also be reserved by profane objects (for example one's own cushion on the bench). This phenomenon is rooted in the need for "feeling at home", seeking intimacy. Ultimately, the Church becomes an interesting transition between individual and common space.

Marian apparitions, visionary technology, and the creation of sacred space

Author: Daniel Wojcik (University of Oregon )  email
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Short Abstract

At Marian apparition sites throughout the world today, cameras are widely used by devotees to document divine phenomena and ritually engage the sacra of their faith. This presentation analyzes the vernacular practice of miracle photography and its role in sacred place-making.

Long Abstract

Throughout the world today, cameras are widely used by the Roman Catholic faithful to document miraculous and apocalyptic phenomena associated with apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Local traditions of miracle photography currently exist at a majority of active Marian apparition sites and the practice is now an important feature of an international Catholic visionary culture, embraced by believers as an authentic way to verify religious experience and ritually engage the sacra of one's faith. As a technological innovation on previous folk traditions of miraculous images, the vernacular practice of miracle photography offers insights into the dynamics of sacred place-making, the communication between divine and human realities, the photographic evocation of religious emotion, and the desire for visual "proofs" of the numinous features that sanctify a shrine or apparition site. Like sacred space itself, cameras act as a "focusing lens" to make religious ideals and images visible, confirming religious identities and providing experiences of the transcendent in a tangible manner. Based in fieldwork and illustrated with visual examples, this presentation analyzes miraculous photography in terms of personal meanings, folk hermeneutics, and the construction of religious space, drawing upon previous research on folk and vernacular religion (Barna, Bowman, Primiano); Marian apparitions, pilgrimage, and visionary experiences (Apolito, Christian, Margry, Turner); and notions of sacred space, hierophany, and simulacra (Eliade, Baudrillard, Knott, Smith, Tuan), among others.

Ritual devotion and public access to the sacred in Portuguese popular religiosity

Author: Laura Stark (University of Jyväskylä)  email
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Short Abstract

Focusing on the growing cult surrounding a doctor famous for helping the poor who died over a century ago in Lisbon, I explore how religious devotion is shaped by the public spaces available for performing rituals aimed at sacred figures.

Long Abstract

This paper explores, based on observations and interviews, how religious devotion is shaped by the public spaces available for performing rituals aimed at sacred figures. I focus on popular religiosity in Portugal and the vibrant and growing cult surrounding a medical doctor famous for helping the poor, Dr. Sousa Martins, who died over a century ago in Lisbon. Because Dr. Sousa Martins is rumored to have been a Freemason and possibly committed suicide, he is unlikely to ever be canonized within the Catholic Church, and the cult of devotion surrounding him exists completely outside of its authority. What organizes the cult instead are three public spaces where it is allowed to 'communicate' with the doctor and ask for his help (especially cures), to bring him offerings, and leave gifts of thanks for miracles performed. The fact that the cult has no organizing institution also means there is room for active individuals to guide the cult in particular directions. Such individuals include a charismatic female medium, a seer-turned-writer who has written numerous popular books on Dr. Sousa Martins, and the owner of kiosk selling cult objects, who has invented rites for communicating with the doctor which have spread to her customers. For comparison, I examine the cult surrounding another male friend of the poor in the Portuguese Azores, Santo Cristo. Here, access to the sacred figure is tightly controlled by the Church, which may explain why people communicate with Santo Cristo through the Internet, including via Facebook.

The Divine Mercy shrine in Poland: a new shrine for new times?

Author: Anna Niedźwiedź (Jagiellonian University)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper analyzes the symbolical space of the Divine Mercy shrine in Poland. The newly designed shrine promotes a new pattern of popular trans-national Catholicism. The main issue discussed will be how this modern space is perceived and lived within the frames of traditionally national Polish religiosity.

Long Abstract

During the whole communist period Polish popular Catholicism has been very strongly connected with national symbolism, and religious spaces were shaped as national-religious sanctuaries. Shrines were perceived as oases of freedom and places of resistance. In post-communist Poland, the national dimension of Catholic shrines continues to dominate and can be traced in the way sacred spaces are shaped and lived by pilgrims. However, the appearance and development of the Divine Mercy shrine in Kraków-Łagiewniki has complicated the image. I will analyze the sacred space of this relatively new shrine comparing it with and contrasting it to other "typical" Polish Catholic shrines.

The Divine Mercy shrine, in today's form, has been created in post-communist Poland. It was designed as "a new shrine for new times". This shrine is decidedly Christ-centric, while the prevailing number of Polish shrines is Marian centered. Its mythology - built around a visionary figure of Sister Faustina - accentuates mystical and private devotion, and not only the mass and social dimension typical for Polish Catholicism. Finally, the space of the Divine Mercy shrine, instead of focusing on national-religious discourse, emphasizes trans-national dimension of Catholicism, and the shrine itself is called a "global capital" of Divine Mercy.

I will discuss how the space of the shrine is lived and experienced by its visitors. Is the new pattern of popular Polish Catholicism being shaped by the space of the "new shrine for new times", or is the new space of the shrine being rather re-shaped and adopted to "traditional" religiosity?

Lithuanian sacred places "Hills of Crosses": from religiosity to tourism

Author: Skaidre Urboniene (Lithuanian Culture Research Institute)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper presents specific Lithuanian sacred places - hills of crosses. The research focuses on impressions and emotions of visitors of sacred places as well as the contemporary rituals and their differences from traditional rituals there.

Long Abstract

The paper presents specific Lithuanian sacred places - so called hills of crosses or places of vows. Some of these places are rather old, related to pre-Christian sacred places, others emerge today. In Lithuania such places are marked by particular symbols connected with Christian faith - crosses. Crosses in such places usually are offerings in the hope of God's grace or thanks-offerings.

One sacred place in northern Lithuania - Hill of Crosses - is well-known in Lithuania and abroad as well. But most of sacred places are known only within Lithuania.

This paper is based on historical sources and ethnographic fieldwork. People having various intentions visit these places. Among them there are religious persons hoping for God's grace, inquisitive ones, who look for exotica and eccentric experience, and tourists visiting famous places of Lithuania. The research focuses on impressions, emotions and interpretations of stories and legends which arise in person's mind visiting sacred places. What they expected before visiting such place and what they experience there? The contemporary rituals in the sacred places, their differences from traditional rituals as well as sacrificial objects are highlighted in the paper too. Also the impact of entering such places into the sightseeing points is examined. Therefore the influence of media, popular culture, consumerism and globalization on visitors' intentions and selection of sacred objects and on the evolution of the place itself is discussed as well.

Protestant pilgrimage, pragmatism and the promotion of sacred place

Author: Marion Bowman (The Open University)  email
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Short Abstract

Since 2002, the small village of Luss on Loch Lomondside has self consciously developed 'faith tourism.' This paper explores what the necessary ingredients for the promotion of sacred place and creation of sacred space are considered to be in 21st century Scotland.

Long Abstract

Celebrating its Celtic saint Kessog, its Robert the Bruce connection, its pre-Reformation status as a pilgrimage site, and its contemporary popularity as a tourist destination and wedding venue, since 2002 the small village of Luss on Loch Lomond, Scotland, has self consciously developed 'faith tourism' to aid the local economy.

Tapping into a variety of sources of funding and manpower, a sacred space has been created that transcends denominational boundaries, is self-consciously internationalist, that simultaneously celebrates natural beauty and Christian heritage, and juxtaposes Celtic spirituality and commercialism.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.