Religious traditions and community religious ceremonies in the 1st half of the 20th century

Jonas Mardosa

The paper deals with the religious traditions and community religious ceremonies in the 1st half of the 20th century in the area of Ramygala. A great consideration is shown for two main aspects: (1) traditions of religious type practiced in the home environment, and (2) religious ceremonies performed by village community, their forms and contents. The paper is based on the material collected by the author and field investigations done according to the available questionnaires. In total, more than 30 elderly people have been questioned in the Ramygala area. To distinguish a liturgical context, a theological literature has been used. Some data had been detected in the works of ethnological type and books of reminiscences. Therefore, the basic goal of the present paper was to discuss religious symbols in home environment and their meaning in individual life of people. While the village community ceremonies were used in making an attempt to determine the meaning of religious ceremonies performed by people alone or together with a priest on religious life of a village community.

Various sacramentals were found to be most effective on religious life of people within their home environment and to make an important aspect in the content of religious traditions, determining, moreover, the variety of their expression types. The sign of cross and the cross itself were the main sacramentals the attention was paid in daily life. Making the sign of cross, prayers, and respectful attitude to the holy pictures make the base for the religious actions. The blessed candles, bread, water, plants and herbs, were important in liturgical practice, while held at peasant's home, not only had the sacramental meaning, but also reflected various magic strivings. As a rule, people used to give the sacramentals protective role, and by sacralising their home, even its space, people hoped getting aid from the God in case of disasters or in the face of evils. The use of sacramentals in the daily life of individuals took place without direct involvement of church into the people life. However, village people notable for high religiosity used the sacralised things in their actions on certain occasions or at the face of threats for their life and/or their farm, hoping to get aid from the God.

There were several forms of the religious life in a village community during the 1st half of the 20th century. The ceremonies performed by people themselves as well as those with the participation of a priest were most significant in the community. The main factor that stimulated the course of the ceremonies was the religiosity of people, and it determined the intensity of religious life in general. Some villagers used to arrange the ceremonies more often, while others did it more rarely. This depended on a size of the village, position of a homestead, and relations among the people. The attending of people by priests before Christmas was the most widely practiced way to hold relations of Church with people; moreover it expressed the duty of population to support the Church and the goal to reach blessing of people and their homes. The influence of the Church on religious life of village community is seen to be higher. In general, the religion and the Church, using the deep religiosity of village people even as far as the middle of the 20th century, had an exceptional significance in daily economic and family life of people.