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THE CONCEPT OF DEATH IN THE FOLK CULTURE OF MACEDONIANS Ljupčo S. Risteski 87 IZVLEČEK Koncept smrti v makedonski ljudski kulturi To proučevanje bo dopolnilo vedenje o smrti v ljudski kulturi. Smrt člana
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THE CONCEPT OF DEATH IN THE FOLK CULTURE OF MACEDONIANS Ljupčo S. Risteski 87 IZVLEČEK Koncept smrti v makedonski ljudski kulturi To proučevanje bo dopolnilo vedenje o smrti v ljudski kulturi. Smrt člana skupnosti pomeni nevarnost in krizo za družino in širšo socialno in obredno skupnost vas. Je tudi vzrok dejanskih in temeljnih sprememb v družinski strukturi in v odnosih vaške skupnosti, zato lahko katastrofalno vpliva na njuno integriteto. V tem primeru smo obravnavali smrt kot najpomembnejši vzrok za prekinitev obstoječe harmonije in strukture odnosov v svetu. Obredne dejavnosti dajejo možnost realizacije novega kozmosa ali pa uveljavitev novih odnosov. Če upoštevamo, da smrt in umiranje ne pomenita le biološkega konca živih dejavnosti za tradicionalno skupnost, temveč sta tudi kulturna fenomena, nam analiza obeh ne omogoča le ugotavljanja in odkrivanja individualne psihologije, temveč še mnogo pomembnejših socialnih, religioznih in mitičnih vsebin, ki so bistveni segmenti strukture legendarnega koncepta sveta v tradicionalnih strukturah. Ključne besede: posmrtne šege, Makedonija, ljudska kultura, ljudske uprizoritve in verovanja o smrti in umiranju, sumljiva umrla oseba, nečista umrla oseba, čista umrla oseba Key-words: Posthumous ceremonial complex, Macedonia, traditional culture, folk presentations and beliefs about death and dying, suspicious deceased person, impure deceased person, pure deceased person The exceptionally rich empirical materials of the traditional cultures, especially those from the Balkans, indicate existence of a constructed system which presents a model of the World on which all variations and ways of people s behaviour have been based. For the researchers of these, the so-called, folk-traditional cultures, a primary task is to discover that conception, which is a unique possibility for its adequate understanding and interpretation of human activities connected with its mythic past, its religious idea and its ritual activities. Human activities consist of permanent repetition of mythic archetypes, which have in their basis always brought the myth about the prime creation of the World. 1 Living space, according to the traditional understanding of the 1 Mirča Elijade, Sveto i profano, Književna zajednica Novog Sada, Novi Sad, 1986, 66. M. Elijade, Mitut za večnoto zavrčane : Arhetipi i povtorenie, Hristo Botev, Sofija 1994, 48. 88 Ljupčo S. Risteski conception, has been the centre of the Cosmos. Traditional views of Macedonians about the conception of the World indicate presentations of three cosmic worlds: our world settled by human beings, called The Middle Land ; beyond the our world lies The Upper Land and bellow our The Under Land. 2 According to that tradition, people s World is an archetype or projection of God s World and the World of Deities. Everything that happens in the Middle Land presents only a projection or pattern of the World of Deities, and all people s activities are a projection of deities activities. Human activities in our World present the eternal aspires through the ritual repetition of archetype beginnings to simulate the primordial act of the World creation. According to the folk tradition, these three Worlds have been arranged vertically and divided among themselves by strong boundaries. Characteristics of the Upper and the Under Land are very similar and, very often, mutually connected, making an eternal circle in the Cosmos. The Structure of the Mythic World and Possibilities for its Disturbing According to the mythic rules of the World s arrangement in the traditional culture, everything functions very good up to the moment when, for some reasons the World order and the patterns of all forms of behaviour are disturbed. Generally, this happens when some factors, in the frame of social and ritual community, cause a situation which leads to replacement or elimination of the established boundaries among the mythic Worlds, putting that way the whole social community in a very dangerous situation. In such a situation, the community reacts immediately, organising intensive magic and ritual activities in order to restore the World, its harmony and to mark again the boundaries among the Worlds. Death - the Appearance of the Chaos According to traditional beliefs, the process of existence is eternal but every alive being is subjected to the process of dying. The process of dying is comprehended as a moment or a process of transformation of energy and its transferring from one to the other cosmic world. According to the people s beliefs, the energy - the essence - the soul is never lost, but it passes over into other levels. People s leaving from the world of the alive has been considered as the most frightful and, at the same time, the most important act for the community of the alive, because death of a member of the community means irreparable loss - his leaving into the other World. 2 Ljupčo S. Risteski, Posmrtni obredni kompleks u tradicijskoj kulturi Marijova, Belgrade University, 1997 (manuscript). The Concept of Death in the Folk Culture of Macedonians This means that death has been the most important cause of Cosmos disturbance. Death causes radical changes into the structure of cosmic organisation, making a state of Chaos in the relations of the community, which can reflect catastrophically on its future integrity and development. In that sense, the social and ritual community takes on very rich and complex magic and ritual activities in order to restore the harmony. From an aspect of the Macedonian folk, there are more polysignificant comprehensions of death as a demonic being, or it is imagined as a state or more precisely, as a phase in which the essential principle - the soul - finally leaves the human body. Death and Diseases as Demonic Beings Death and its numerous variants - diseases, according to the folk beliefs, are the basic causes of the soul leaving the human body. There are many ideas about death as a demonic being, which is very thirsty for people s life. The most frequent are presentations in which death has been presented as a woman, a black woman or metamorphosed as the demonic being, disease: plague (chuma) - as a woman with her chthonic attributes: distaff (furka), her deadly voice, her note book and presentations of demonic beings: fairy (samovila), (senishte), fever (treska) etc my dear sister, very bad disease caught you, (milna sestra shto loshi bolki te vatija) or five years, my brother, with disease you were fighting... (pet godini, brate so bolka se boreshe) 4... In Christian forms of beliefs and folk genres as stories, legends etc. - St. Archangel Michael has a role of guide of people s souls. Death as a Particular State or Phase of Final Soul Separation from the Human Body An important part of the survived information recorded during our field research point out to the people s idea about death as a dream, a great, long and eternal dream. These kinds of presentations of death, according to the opinions of many ethnologists, are related to the traditional understanding of sleeping, or more precisely, the process of dreaming as a situation very close to death and very dangerous for living people. While the body of the sleeper is resting, his soul in dream, remains active and liberates itself moving out of the human body. 3 Narodna demonologija na Makedoncite, T. Vražinovski, collaborators V. Karadžoski, L. Risteski, L. Simoska, MM-ISK, Skopje-Prilep 1996, Archive of Institute of Old Slavic Culture - Prilep (AIOSC), Inv. No. K - 56/1996. Inform. Petkana Rimcheva, born in 1943 in the village of Vitolishta, region of Mariovo. Recorded on February 17, 1996 in the village of Vitolishta, Mariovo. 90 Ljupčo S. Risteski But, duration of this free movement is limited, because the prolonged soul wandering can be very dangerous and causes death. According to the above mentioned information, the numerous prohibitions and system of taboos connected with the sleeping people and their surrounding become very clear. The soul can wander somewhere without coming back, failing to find the body in which it has been settled or to find some other body or other subject. Dreaming is a state in which human body stays quiet, with apparently low intensity of the signs of life, with liberated soul in a process of movement, causing a situation in which the body is very close to death. Comparing these situations, people connect actual dying with a state of sleeping, but sleeping as a kind of eternal and great dream from which nobody has ever awoke. The Process of Cosmisation of the Chaos Community as an autonomous entity has a tendency, in a shortest possible time, to eliminate the cases of destruction, to protect the rest of its members and to reestablish the previous relations and harmony. 1. Rituals for Liberation of the Community from the Dead Member In the case of death, the most important task of the community is to neutralize the effects of the dead person or to minimize them as much as possible. This can be achieved by a complete isolation of the dead person and of those who had direct contacts with him. People who have an intermediary contact with the dead person, always take many preventive actions which do not allow expansion of death. They visit the dead person with garlic on the hands and ancles with a piece of stone or some thorn in their mouths, defending themselves and other members of the community. Considering that this kind of isolation can not be effective for a long period, the community buries the dead person. 2. The Magic Separation of Good from Bad and Protection from Danger The status of a dead person in the community, especially to the moment of his burial, has a variety of meanings and implicates many activities which clearly determine relations of the alive to the dead person of the community. At the beginning, the most important thing is to set clear boundaries between the contaminated zone in which the dead person lived and is still present, and the space of the alive. After that, the community starts with the process of separation of two very important principles: good and bad, life and death, fruitfulness and sterility. Everything that was used in the funeral ceremony, or found in the surrounding of a dead person is contaminated and dangerous for the alive. Because of that, all requisites containing the magic infection ought to be separated and thrown out of the reach of the alive. Mostly, these requisites have been buried together with the dead person or they pass through a range of lustrative phases in order to bring them into a normal situation for everyday use. This approach can be noticed through all the ritual activities: The Concept of Death in the Folk Culture of Macedonians separation of the clothes of the dead person; water in which the dead person was bathed, his comb, razor, measure for his grave, etc. Biers on which the dead person was carried to the cemetery are either buried or left near the grave, marked as something which can not be returned back into the community. The rope with which the deceased was buried was at first thrown on the ground in order to neutralise its magic effects, and even after it had been dragged by legs along the ground, some members of the house-hold would have taken it. Objects with a great importance for life and existence of the community must be separated completely and never be put in use among the alive. (The sickle put over the stomach of the dead person and used in the rituals of magic cutting, was never again used by the community in its original purpose: as a basic tool in harvest.) Some things, tools and parts from the deceased, however, are left among the alive, to be used for the aims of black magic (kerchiefs with which the mouth, arms or legs were tied; ritual small breads through which someone could be seen, etc.) There are many ritual activities for further protection from the dead. The dead water in which the dead person was bathed, is poured out on places where the alive can not make a direct contact with it. Water from jugs in the whole village must be poured out, too, and replaced by fresh water. In these ritual actions, people must be very careful not to disturb the purity of water. For this reason, all woman from the village go to the water source together, being afraid to meet the others who go to the water after them, and who might intercept and contaminate the fresh water again. The most important separations between life and death, between good and bad, are realised at home, before the burial of the dead person. These ritual activities of separation are usually carried out by the so called mesaria (a woman who is the most important ritual actor during the funeral ceremony and after). In these moments, she stands in the space signed as domestic, near the breads, and because of that all her activities are aimed to protect the fruitful power of the bread, the grain, and the live stock. In that occasion, the mesaria kneads the ritual breads called bulinja, which should sign the new boundaries at the level of fruitfulness between the two opposite categories: life and death. In kneading the ritual breads on the dead person s right hand, the first bread symbolises the principle of death, the evil and mesaria puts it into the dead person s armpit. The other bread remains at home as a symbol of the principle of bread fertility and welfare of the house. In order to preserve the welfare of the house, from the breads devoted for the funeral ceremony, mesaria takes one bread back to the house and one is sent to the shepherds and live stock. Once the breads were taken out of the house, there is a ritual prohibition for their returning into the house since they are considered as possible agents of death. Cutting the linen by which the dead was covered, the mesaria leaves a part of it tied on the right leg of the box for kneading bread, in order to preserve the fruitful power of the dead and transmit it to the household. In a case the fire was burning in the moment when somebody died, people take care of it not to extinguish it, it is a symbol of life and welfare. In the same time, the relatives of the dead take care that noone of the visitors takes the fire for himself. 91 92 Ljupčo S. Risteski When the people come back from the funeral, they use different roads, believing that the dead s soul or his mortal influence does not know how to come back to the living. In some cases, people cross the river, connotating passing into the space of the alive. After coming back, the participants of the funeral procession pass across the water and fire. After funeral ceremony, the participants come back in the house of the deceased, passing through a process of individual lustration prevents from the eventual magic infection of death. They lustrate themselves by washing and throwing embers on their hands. During the funeral ceremony, close relatives of the dead person remain under some green and fruitful tree in the cemetery, preserving the life and fertility. That place, the housewife ungirding her apron or the belt, takes the alive members of her family under her magic protection. The ritual activities, however, show that not every object connected with the deceased has the meaning of danger and harmfulness. The deceased person who was, until recently, alive member of the community, especially if he was known as a good host, keeps his characteristics even after death. The positive and good attributes have a special importance for the community of alive. Because of that, the community makes efforts to keep and use these attributes for itself. 3. The Black Hen in the Grave If two persons of the same family die in a short period, the traditional community takes another very important magic and ritual activity. Believing that the two died persons will drawl the third person, during the funeral of the second one people bury black hen - let it be the third. People believe that this action will influence the establishing of the magic completeness of number - three. Actions related to the selection and killing or, more exactly, suffocating the hen, point out to the archaic motive of sacrificing to the cause of death or as an act of calling deities - protectors of the community, to show mercy on them. The hen should be black or dark coloured and should not be slaughtered but suffocated, covered in some vessel. In traditional conception of the community, a decisive importance has the categorical separation of deceased persons according to their features: pure, suspicious and impure deceased person. 5 It s according to these ideas that the whole ritual and magic activity of the community was structured. The community ritual and social activities have always been directed to making a successful and complete distance from the dead person, separating his good values from the bad ones, and his sending off into the community of dead ancestors wherefrom he can successfully and fruitfully act upon the community of living persons. Only the category pure deceased person (persons who passed through a complete ritual complex and were successfully included into the community of dead), has a great importance for the community. It can only be achieved if the community completed the whole ritual complex needed by the dead person in passing, or by the suspicious deceased person and provided all necessities for their transfer into the category of 5 Valentina Vaseva, Zadušnicata kato obredna dejavnost, Etnografski problemi na narodnata duhovna kultura, tom 3, Sofija 1994, The Concept of Death in the Folk Culture of Macedonians pure deceased person. And the opposite, the suspicious deceased person becomes impure deceased person, very harmful for the community. All community s efforts have been directed to preserve the complete integrity of the dead person and to prevent some bad ghosts or evil spirit to settle in its body. These demonic beings can make the dead person very harmful for the community and stop his final passing into the World of death. Then, there are many situations which permanently cause Chaos, destruction and disturbing of the harmonic relations in the Nature. In such situation the suspicious dead person appears dead person whose soul has been metamorphosed in the evil spirit, permanently staying among the living and doing many harmful actions to them. According to the above mentioned, we shall precise which categories of dead persons can become suspicious or impure dead persons : - Dead persons predisposed by boring to become vampires and karakondozols. - Dead persons with undefined social status: bachelors, maidens and unnamed new born child. - Dead persons who died and were buried out of the usual patterns of ritual behaviour. After somebody s death, the community undertakes a lot of magic and ritual activities that, at first, should prevent the suspicious deceased person to pass successfully into impure deceased person. The most important protective measures against becoming a vampire are: keeping the animals not to jump across the dead body; watching that something not given across the deceased and complete realisation of the ritual process. In some regions of Macedonia, in Mariovo, for example, the most important protection against becoming a vampire is the so called magic hacking of the dead person (zasekuvanje). After the body of the dead person would be dressed, the most important ritual actor - mesaria - would realise the magic hatching. Through the ritual threading, the mesaria hits beside the dead person s head and legs from right to the left with a sickle or an axe, pronouncing the magic formula with a very strong symbolic meaning: Prefer thou an outlaw or a cut? Go thee with health. ( Odmet sakash ali odsek sakash. Odi mi so zdravje ) 6 or Go after God and Virgin Mary and not after Satan and Sataness ( Da odish po Boga i Bogorodica, a ne po Soton i Sa
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