Journal of Ethnology 2/2019 deals with the theme “Tradition and Religion”. Jan Horský analyses the treatment of the category “tradition” in connection with the study on religion (Tradition, Experience, Innovation: a sketch of the possible specification of terms (not only) in relation to the study on European Christianity). Zdeněk R. Nešpor deals with modern Protestant churches and the development in their allegiance to the tradition of Bohemian reformation (Tradition and Construction of the Tradition of Bohemian Reformation in Modern Protestant Churches). Barbora Navrátilová focusses on the relationship of funerary rituals and religious tradition in the Balkans (Orthodox Church and Folk Religiosity in Bulgaria and Macedonia, an Example of Present-Day Funerary Rituals). Anna Grůzová explains individual adherence to church regulations focussing on believers’ nutrition and fast in the Czech Republic (Believers’ Approaches to Dietary Recommendations in Christian Churches and Religious Communities /an example of Three South-Moravian cities/). Olga Nešporová writes about present-day burying and its transformations in comparison with traditional customs (Religious Traditions and Their Absence in Present-Day Czech Funerary Practice). Peter Salner focusses on the Slovak environment and Passover – the Jewish festival (Passover – a Festival of Matzos, Memory and Identity: Transformation of a Religious Tradition in the Bratislava Jewish Community).
The Transforming Tradition column publishes a contribution devoted to the symbiosis of religion and folk magic on an example of folk female healers from the Moravian-Slovak borderland. Social Chronicle remembers the life anniversaries of the ethnologist Jiřina Langhammerová (born 1939), the ethnologist and the ethmusicologist Eva Krekovičová (born 1949), the ethnologist Pavel Popelka (born 1949), and the composer Jaroslav Krček (born 1939); it also publishes an obituary for the ethno-musicologist Jiří Traxler (1946–2019). Further regular columns publish reports on conferences, exhibitions, and new publications.
Tradition, Experience, Innovation: a sketch of the possible specification of terms (not only) in relation to the study on European Christianity
The study analyses, from the perspective of the theory of historical sciences, the way of working with the category “tradition”. It differs between the tradition at the noetic level (interpretative tradition) and the tradition at the ontic level (dogmatic, doctrinal, and cultural tradition on the example of European reformation). The “tradition” is analysed in relation to the “innovation” and “experience”. The idea of tradition’s “continuity” was subjected to criticism. It is not the wording or the form of tradition, but the kerygma, the understanding of the “substance” that are really valuable. However, this can be addressed solely by patient questioning while observing the critically tolerant respect for traditions. And also with the awareness that the struggle for innovations is legitimate and it can be even more beneficial when connected with the humbleness towards traditions, which we try to maintain, and with the respect for experience. Of course, both traditions and innovations can come into conflict with the experience. In ontic culture, the constitutive tension exists between the tradition and the innovation, while in researcher’s culture the constitutive tensions exists between moving within the tradition and the effort to break it.
Tradition and Construction of the Tradition of Bohemian Reformation in Modern Protestant Churches
Modern Protestant churches, approved by the Patent of Toleration issued by Joseph II, could not (and in many respects they did not want to) continue the heritage of Bohemian Reformation. However, such legacy appeared thorough the “long” 19th century, and at its end it was emphasized by national movement and political programmes of several political parties. At the beginning of the 20th century, the importance of the above legacy grew significantly, and culminated after the formation of Czechoslovakia: most Czech Protestant churches claimed their allegiance, explicitly and even confirmed by the change of their names, to the tradition of Bohemian Reformation. Besides the largest Protestant Church of Czech Brethren, these were: the Unity of Brethren, the Church of Czech Brethren, the Chelčický’s Unity of Brethren, as well as the Czechoslovak (Hussite) Church, the United Methodist Church, the Salvation Army, the Religious Society of Czechoslovak Unitarians, the Orthodox Church and some other communities. The aim of this article is to analyse historical and theological justification of that self-declaration, its importance for the work of each community, and its development in the 20th century to date.
Orthodox Church and Folk Religiosity in Bulgaria and Macedonia, an Example of Present-Day Funerary Rituals
Orthodoxy is the majority religion in Bulgaria and Macedonia. While the influence of the Orthodox Church fades away in the present-day society, the religion’s importance grows, among other things, as a symbol of ethno-identification. The current expressions of belief of Bulgarians and Macedonians can be understood as a kind of individual syncretism – the expressions of belief include, in everyday life, the canonical acts (lighting of candles at icons, prayers, making the sign of the cross, fasting) as well as acts which could be identified as being magic (use of a red thread against bewitching, belief in sorcery, and relating prophylactic rituals. etc.). As one of the contemporary belief’s expressions, the article depicts a memory feast forty days after death in the village of Bitovo in western Macedonia, which it puts in the context of funerary rituals. This micro-probe shows, using a real material, the symbiosis of religious and magic practices, and it points out the current functions of the ritual (the stabilization, integration, and religious ones) and the positions of the Orthodox Church representatives in these rituals.
Believers’ Approaches to Dietary Recommendations in Christian Churches and Religious Communities (an example of South-Moravian cities)
The study monitors individual approaches to dietary recommendations (consumption, addictive substances etc.) in various Christian churches and religious communities in the Czech Republic. Some religious groups define the dietary rules and recommendations officially, others do not – some churches adhere to the traditionalist concept (especially the Roman-Catholic church), some build on their own dogmatic principles (especially the non-conform churches) and some leave their believers more free to take their personal decision (especially traditional non-Catholic churches). The diversity in the features of these restrictions (terms, form, etc.) is also important, i.e. whether the church representatives and co-believers consider the recommendations to be binding, recommended, or expected. With regards to the nature thereof, the believers are offered a larger or smaller space for their own adaptations. Based on her interviews with particular believers, the author comes to a conclusion that despite obvious perception of circumscribed limits, the crucial aspect consists in an individual approach in dependence on personal piousness as well as every-day situations. However, it emerges that most believers understand a form of self-denial as an important part of religiosity (in the case that no restrictions are defined, or these restrictions are insufficient from the believer’s point of view). The demands for own discomfort or modesty are, however, very different in dependence on subjective limits (individual adaptations and believers’ approaches).
Religious Traditions and Their Absence in Present-Day Czech Funerary Practice
Funerary practices in the present-day Czech Republic are a very specific field that is worthy of special attention. High rate of cremations and especially the fifty-percent and still growing rate of cremations without a funerary ceremony are unique in the world. The article presents specific features of funerary practices, and tries to point out the reasons that gave rise to them. It uses data from several field researches conducted by the author in funeral services in 2003–2018, as well as historical and ethnological data and studies. The author refers to the interconnection between religious and secular traditions (cremation movement and civil funerals) and the present-day burials, cremations and funerary ceremonies in the Czech Republic. Cremations without ceremonies (direct cremations) are most usual in Prague, and central, northern and western Bohemia. The text interprets this phenomenon as a consequence of the absence of religious traditions and the massive spread of civil funerals during the reign of the Communist party in the second half of the 20th century.
Passover – a Festival of Matzos, Memory and Identity: Transformation of a Religious Tradition in the Bratislava Jewish Community
Based on the field and archival research into the Bratislava Jewish community, the author explains the transformation of the Passover (Pesach) traditional religious festival in the 20th and 21st centuries. The Festival commemorates the liberation of Israelites from Egyptian slavery and their forty-year long journey through the desert, during which Moses presented Torah to them. On Passover the Jewish believers have to pass down a message about these events to next generations. Passover is celebrated at two nights by Seder (ritual dinner) accompanied by reading of Haggadah. Beside this, the observing Jews are not allowed to possess and eat any leavened foods for the eight days of the Festival. They can eat only matzos which is a symbol of Passover and which has an identity-shaping meaning. The Jewish origin was a life-threatening factor during the Holocaust time. However, many members of the Bratislava Jewish community continued observing the religious rules, while some others gave up their faith, and chose various compromises. During the Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, Atheist ideology and repressions conducted by the regime dominated the country; this was strengthened by the fact that after 1948 there remained only one rabbi who decided to emigrate after August 1968 when the Soviet army occupied Czechoslovakia. Since November 1989 the Bratislava Jews have shown a selective attitude to Jewish holidays (including Passover). From a variety of options, they have chosen only a few traditional elements, namely those that are suitable to them. Some of Slovak Jews observe only a few regulations and bans of the Passover, and some others ignore this Festival entirely.