Peasants, Pilgrims, and Sacred Promises
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Peasants, Pilgrims, and Sacred Promises

By Laura Stark
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Book Description

Lying on the border between eastern and western Christendom, Orthodox Karelia preserved its unique religious culture into the 19th and 20th centuries, when it was described and recorded by Finnish and Karelian folklore collectors. This colorful array of ritulas and beliefs involving nature spirits, saints, the dead, and pilgrimage to monasteries represented a unigue fusion of official Church ritual and doctrine and pre-Christian ethnic folk belief. This book undertakes a fascinating exploration into many aspects of Orthodox Karelian ritual life: beliefs in supernatural forces, folk models of illness, body concepts, divination, holy icons, the role of the ritual specialist and healer, the divide between nature and culture, images of forest, the cult of the dead, and the popular image of monasteries and holy hermits. It will appeal to anyone interested in popular religion, the cognitive study of religion, ritual studies, medical anthropology, and the folk traditions and symbolism of the Balto-Finnic peoples.

This book is part of the Studia Fennica Folkloristica series.

Table of Contents
  • Peasants, Pilgrims, and Sacred Promises
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Contents
  • Preface and acknowledgments
  • Notes on translation and referencing of texts
  • Introduction
    • Background of this study
    • Source materials and themes
    • Syncretism in Orthodox Karelian folk religion
    • Comparing different modes of ritual activity
    • Structure, agency and voice
    • Remarks on the demarcation of the research focus
  • Folk religion and the sacred
    • The concept of the sacred
    • The nature of ritual
    • Folk religion – some defining characteristics
  • Folk religion in Orthodox Karelia
    • Prior research and historical overview
    • Reciprocity and exchange in Orthodox Karelian folk religion
    • Pre-Christian beliefs: other worlds and väki-force
    • Sacred agents
    • Pilgrimage and monasteries
    • Types of ritual examined in this study
    • The problem of folk religion’s fuzzy taxonomies
    • Two ritual complexes: sacred boundaries and sacred centers
  • I. SACRED BOUNDARIES – NATURE SPIRITS, SAINTS AND THE DEAD IN THE MAINTENANCE OF CULTURAL ORDER
    • Boundaries against disorder
    • Illness: disorder in the human body
      • Nenä illness and proškenja rites
      • Moral orientations and the tietäjä’s authority: aggressive versus conciliatory healing rites
      • Divination: the role of the ritual specialist in the production of knowledge
      • Proškenja rituals and the ‘open’ body
      • Falling down and “standing up straight”
      • The role of ‘thinking’ in nenä infection
    • Farm versus forest: disorder in the resource zone shared by humans and the forest
      • Cattle and the forest spirit
      • Offerings to saints in the village chapel
      • Summer: a time of temporary truce with the forest
      • Christianized nature spirits and forest saints in boundary maintenance
      • The complex society of the “other side”: forest as mirror for the human community
    • The poor and the dead: communal cohesion and disorder in the margins
      • Incorporating the dead into the community of the living
      • Memorial rites and the maintenance of socio-economic equilibrium
    • The nature/culture dichotomy in communal self-definition
  • II. SACRED CENTERS – CULTURAL IDEALS AND PILGRIMAGE TO MONASTERIES
    • The pilgrimage vow and sacred ideals
      • A cult of traces
      • Magnificent wealth versus ascetic poverty
  • III. THE DUAL SACRED – COMPARING THE TWO SACRED COMPLEXES
    • Competition, renunciation and territoriality: two complexes, different ethics
      • Icons, illness and healing
      • Sacred agents and access to strategic information
      • Sacred time, place, and bodily movement
    • Conclusion: the sacred divided
      • Appendix 1: Calendar of most common praasniekka festivals in traditional Orthodox Karelia
      • Appendix 2: Map of Historical Comprising Orthodox Karelia 200
  • Notes
  • Abbreviations for archival source materials
  • Literature cited
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