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

(P231)

Ritual and emotions in contemporary religions

Location Tower B, Piso 3, Room T13
Date and Start Time 19 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenor

Carlos Almeida (Centro de História da Universidade de Lisboa) email
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Short Abstract

This panel focuses on the role of emotional expressions as a central element of the ritual experiences. The authors analyze the feelings' capacity to give sense to individual experiences of the sacred, as their contribution to the collective memories and identities, in different cultural contexts.

Long Abstract

In the recent religious experiences, rituals have been reinvested to fashion a renewed way of communicate with the divine. Due to the revisit of old traditions or to the invention of new modalities, the individual and its intimate experience have taken a central place in this kind of rituals systems. This panel focuses on the role of emotional expressions as a central element of the ritual experiences. The authors analyze the capacity to give sense to individual experiences of the sacred, and their contribution to the creation of collective memories and identities. On the other hand, they explore the way in which rituals can appear as a specific and adequate tool to make possible the contact with the other world.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Shared space: to cry in a church

Author: Christos Varvantakis (Goldsmiths )  email
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Short Abstract

The expression of grief within the context of a death ritual in Mani (Greece) is in the core of this paper. By examining a case study of a two fold ritual we will discuss emotion regulation and the dynamic of grief within death ritual.

Long Abstract

In Inner Mani, right above the gates of Hades in Southern Peloponnese, there is a particular co-existence of two quite different death ritual traditions: the archaic tradition of Klama, in which female mourners lament the deceased in 8-syllable improvised verses and the Orthodox Christian funeral ceremonial practice. Those two traditions, practised one next to the other, while they assimilate aspects of one another, they also often contradict one another, as they substantially differ in their cosmologies. In the past two years I have been carrying out an ethnography on how emotional expression is prompted or regulated under those two traditions, as well as in the particular case of their coexistence. In this paper, a singular case of a death ritual is presented, in which the deceased person was mourned by female lamenters into a church, in absence of a private space suitable to accommodate his Klama, and right after his Klama was over, the Christian orthodox ceremony was undertook by the local priest. By presenting the power struggles and conflicts which occurred in the shared space of the church in this distinct case, we will be examining the dynamics of emotion expression within Death Ritual.

Ritual embodiment and crisis in neo-shamanism: a converging system

Author: Denise Lombardi (GSRL )  email
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Short Abstract

This paper aims to analyze neo-shamanic rituals developed for Europeans in search of new forms of spirituality. In this context I have observed the role of body and crisis as the point of convergence between contemporary neo-shamanic practices and the contingent world of participants.

Long Abstract

During the last four years I have been involved in participant observation in practices held by European and Mexican neo-shamans (Otomi ethnic group) whose offer is addressed to Europeans. These practices concern the use of shamanic knowledge to reconnect people with a "lost" state of nature, and healing personal and universal troubles. The concept of Shamanism in this context becomes a synonym of "ancestral" and "original" cosmologies.

Neo-shamanic rituals are based upon acting that creatively works out religions, philosophic traditions, fictitious ethnicisms and exotic imageries with the purpose of weaving bonds amongst participants.

I often witnessed during these neo-shamanic activities (seminars, stages, pilgrimages) the creation of small and ephemeral communities sharing the same time and space, which give life to a whole of close, and egalitarian relationships where people drop masks used during daily life and reveal themselves.

In such environment, I observed participants taking actively part in the rituals and manifesting their presence through physical crises (with trance, cries, paroxysm of tears). Under these circumstances the body ends up being a genuine protagonist of the ritual through the upcoming participants' mental and physical crisis; furthermore, in a ritual context founded on relationships, embodiment and crisis represent the medium which drives the neo-shamanic construction.

I observed that neo-shamanic practices are intrinsically founded on vagueness and are in search of credibility, and the body with his crises becomes the point of convergence between the alleged neo-shamanic world and contingent world.

Charging oneself from the Bible positively: emotions, brotherly community, and congregation rituals

Author: Malgorzata Rajtar (Polish Academy of Sciences)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper argues that despite both common and scholarly views that identify the Jehovah’s Witnesses with rationality and lack of emotions, congregational meetings provide them with a bodily experienced feeling of closeness to God and of joyful communion with co-brothers.

Long Abstract

In most scholarly writings on the Jehovah Witnesses, emotions seldom receive much attention. At best, they are mentioned in passing and contrasted with the rationality and reason that underpins the doctrine of the Watchtower Society. Scholarly findings may be partly responsible for a popular view of the Witnesses as unemotional or even "cold" people concerned with a rational way of finding truth. Yet, the Witnesses I got to know seem to be interested in passions and feelings as much as in truth and rationality. Drawing from an extensive ethnographical fieldwork among the Jehovah's Witnesses in Saxony, eastern Germany, I argue in this paper that despite both aforementioned views positive emotions required of and felt by members of this religious group nurture not only attachment to morality promoted by the organization, the Watchtower Society . Although congregational meetings are meant to provide Witnesses with "spiritual food", they were not described in cognitive terms, as moments of intellectual stimulation and education. What seemed really important to the eastern German Witnesses were both an immediate feeling of closeness to God and of joyful communion with co-brothers, as well as the fact that this family-like feeling continued after the meeting proper was over. Moreover it was the body that was the focus of my informants' attention: in the course of a meeting a body that during the day experienced stress, annoyance, tiredness and headache became one again: filled with joy, peace and a sense of wholeness.

Patron saint feast: a Serbian family ritual in a sacral and profane context

Author: Vesna Marjanovic (Ethnographic museum in Belgrade)  email
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Short Abstract

The patron saint feast is a micro ritual, a family festivity celebrated as a religious holiday by the Orthodox population in Serbia in the form of the gathering of family and guests, coupled with appropriate rituals and a feast. Every family has their own patron saint, a guardian of the family and home, who is handed down from father to son. It is believed that the annual dedication to a single saint has contributed to preservation of the Serbian and Orthodox identity.

Long Abstract

Although it is rooted in Christianity and Orthodoxy, in the late 20th and early 21st century, the patron saint feast became identified with national affiliation under the slogan "to be a Serb means to belong to the Orthodox faith and celebrate a patron saint feast", in belief that only the Serbian entity celebrates patron saint feasts.

The origin of patron saint feasts in the Serbian population has never been scientifically explained. In time, the Orthodox Church established a church code of conduct during the celebration, but despite this, numerous rituals have been preserved more on an emotional level that are characteristic of the celebration and that offer a series of different elements in the structure of the celebration (presence of agrarian cults, numerous beliefs pertaining to a specific patron saint, etc.) The Orthodox Church views the patron saint feast as a prayer to God through a patron saint. All this implies that along with the Church code of conduct, the Serbian people created its own dimension of celebrating a family saint as a patron, where it is increasingly expressed that if a family leaves their homeland, they continue to celebrate their patron saint feast abroad as well.

Key words: patron saint feast, identity, agrarian rituals, family, rituals, emotional connection.

Latvian masked processions: formation of ritual space

Author: Gatis Ozoliņš (University of Daugavpils)  email
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Short Abstract

The present paper provides an analysis and interpretation of the tradition of Latvian masked processions as a kind of Latvian folklore ritual practice, paying special attention to the evidence and explanations of their participants, religious and sacred elements, social aspects of masking.

Long Abstract

The first historical records of Latvian masked processions date back to the 17th - 18th centuries and provide general characteristics of this tradition as a component of Latvian peasant primitive culture. In the context of the formation of Latvian folklore studies in ethnographical descriptions of the 2nd half of the 19th century, masked processions are valued as a part of traditional folk culture. Descriptions of masked processions, along with other folklore and ethnographical materials, constitute a part of the formation of national collective identity. The present paper provides an analysis and interpretation of the tradition of Latvian masked processions as a kind of Latvian folklore ritual practice, paying special attention to the evidence and explanations of their participants, religious and sacred elements, social aspects of masking (educating role of masks, constructing social roles of gender).

P. Bourdieu's social theory concept habitus is used that makes it possible to locate and describe a certain discourse of practice that provides an opportunity to interpret social practice from the standpoint of those who implement it. The notion habitus denotes the segment of theoretical reality based on narratives of the investigated group members about the practical sense of the events; its object of interpretation is memories and narratives of participants of the events or habitus about the sense (most often - a ritual one), aims and tasks of the practice, feelings and motivation, impact and resonance towards the surrounding environment (nature, cosmos) and social environment.

Peoples' emotional connection with their deceased relatives and how it shapes their lives

Author: Hrefna Sigríður Bjartmarsdóttir  email
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Short Abstract

A supernatural being named "fylgja" (follower) has a vital role in the Icelandic folk belief. I will consider the meaning of this folk belief in the daily life of people and the significance the "fylgja" has as a guardian spirit providing well-being and strength during difficult times.

Long Abstract

In contemporary Icelandic folk belief there are supernatural beings called "fylgja" (follower, accompanying spirit, co-walker). One type of these beings is prevalent in modern folk belief, namely deceased relatives. This belief has old roots since in old Icelandic sagas there is known a theme of ancestral homage, the belief that the dead may influence the fortune of the living. Modern times Icelanders have a strong belief in spiritualism and life after death and aren't shy to seek the assistance of mediums to get in contact with deceased loved ones.

This paper is based on my current MA assertation, based on interviews being conducted with at least 15 individuals of both genders and various ages. It is clear that mentioned "fylgja", the deceased relatives, were very dear to my interviewees and it is of great importance to them to keep their remembrance alive. Also, it is worth considering the meaning of this belief in the daily life of people. The reasearch centers on what the belief means: what is the main role of the "fylgja", how do people define their experience with such beings and what are the circumstances surrounding the encounters. According to modern belief, these "fylgja" seems to have an important function, they accompany people, protect against danger and provide well-being and strength during difficult times.

They speak different from us: interrogating reverse mission among an Edinburgh Christian fellowship

Author: Elijah Obinna (The University of Edinburgh)  email
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Short Abstract

The concept of Christianity moving towards the south is not unfamiliar, at least to religious studies and mission scholars. As far back as the 1970s, this global change was discussed in well-known works by some scholars. The current state of Christianity in several Western countries and what could be perceived as its rapid growth among the non-western countries has over the years made the discourse on reverse mission a topical issue. With the historical trajectory of the African Diaspora in Europe and the founding of several branches of African International Churches the debate on reverse mission has gained greater momentum. This shift occurring in Europe raises interesting questions. What happens when the roles are reversed - when the missionary is not the “white man” and the “native” is a white westerner in a developed and historically ‘Christian’ country? What kind of religious communities do the new immigrant community build? What do the relationships among the immigrant Christian community tell us about the dynamics of relations within the Christian community and the de-westernization of the Christian faith? These questions are addressed through field research conducted among the African and Caribbean Christian Fellowship (ACCF), Edinburgh. The paper teases out how contestations of power, space and Othering - public and media representations - mirror the paradox of the debate and practice.

Long Abstract

'Reverse mission' or 'reverse flow of mission' or 'receiving mission' is increasingly becoming a buzz phrase in academia and mission circles. However, until recently, the bourgeoning literature on contemporary immigrant religions in Europe seems to have undermined the rich dynamic of African immigrant religiosity that contributes to the diversification of the European landscape. This phenomenon termed 'reverse mission' aims at re-evangelizing Europe or the Northern Hemisphere, the former heartlands of the 19th and 20th century Christian mission. The phenomenon hinges on the notion that European churches, especially the established ones, are experiencing a rapid decline in membership and social relevance. Thus Christianity has to be revitalized or even reintroduced into its former heartland. 'Reverse mission' as a process has significant religious, social, political and missiological import, especially given that Africa was at the receiving end of the 19th and 20th century Christian mission. This study examines the de-Europeanization and globalization of Christianity through case studies of the African and Caribbean Christian Fellowship (ACCF), Edinburgh who see their mission as that of re-establishing Christianity in the former Christian heartland.

"Be praised and adored": sacred emotions within the Jesus Freaks movement

Author: Veronika Zink (FU Berlin)  email
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Short Abstract

The presentation will focus on the emotional bond between the faithful and the sacred within contemporary religious movements. In order to shed more light on ritual forms constituting the social sphere of the sacred, the affective composition of sacred experiences will be reconstructed.

Long Abstract

The sacred is a social sphere. Ritual forms of interaction serve as a cornerstone in explaining its construction. This notion has constantly been underscored by a wide array of scholars from different disciplines. In order to understand the dynamics arousing from the engagement with the sacred, one has to take a closer look at the emotions people experience while getting in contact with the sacred. Sacred emotions are marking expressive and cultic action tendencies in order to praise majesty and (re-)constitute a bond between the faithful and the sacred. But it is far from clear which distinct emotions shape and sustain this bond. Which emotions emerge within those sacred spaces and how are they expressed? Therefore, the devotion to the sacred with its underlying affective dynamics is the initial point for my analysis. Especially other-praising emotions (such as adoration, reverence, and awe) serve a key function in explaining this phenomenon.

Within the presentation, sociological theories concerning the sacred and recent psychological approaches regarding religious emotions will be used in order to set up a theoretical framework. Empirically, I will focus on sacred emotions regarding a postmodern form of religiosity: the Jesus Freaks. Data has been collected within a Jesus Freaks community in Germany. Participatory observations (divine services, Jesus Festival) and interviews with the participants of those events serve as a basis for the development of a Grounded Theory.

Constructing the sacred: relics as museum exhibits and the role of space in the formation of the pilgrimage experience

Author: Evgenia Mesaritou (University of Toronto, University of Cyprus)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper proposes to examine the role of relics and space in the formation of the pilgrimage experience, through an analysis of the museum-like spaces of the Santa Maria delle Grazie sanctuary, located in San Giovanni Rotondo (S. Italy) and associated with San Pio, universally known as Padre Pio.

Long Abstract

The death of the recently canonized Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, in 1968, was met with the intensification of a 'charisma spatialization' process (Eade and Sallnow 1991b) at the shrine where his tomb is located. Part of this process, which transformed the previously person-centered sacredness into a space-centered sacredness (ibid), was the conversion of the old friary of Santa Maria delle Grazie where Padre Pio lived, into a sort of museum displaying and exhibiting his relics and pictures. In this museum, the way spaces, photographs and objects are arranged produce not only an official narrative about Padre Pio and ultimately the sacred but also a new ontological reality in which shrine visitors are invited to enter. Making use of ethnographic data gathered during fieldwork at the shrine in the year 2004-2005, in this paper, I propose to examine the old friary's museum-like spaces, in order to illustrate the role of space and materiality in the construction of the sacred and the formation of the pilgrimage experience. Drawing on pilgrimage and materiality theories, I will look, on the one hand, at how the structuring and arrangement of space and objects within it, triggers and guides the shrine visitors' imagination, confining their readings of the saint's meaning and biography and producing an official discourse about the sacred, and how on the other, the visitors' appropriation practices signify both space and the sacred, at times contesting official definitions and borders. Both space and the sacred will thus be seen as dialectically constructed.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.