Stories of the Unquiet Dead: Ukrainian Graveyards as the Place of Change

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  • Once seen as survivals of paganism, those aspects of folk belief that differ from canonical religion are now called vernacular religion. They are seen as expressions of the lived faith of parishioners. Previous studies of vernacular religion have examined how people adapt religious canon to their needs, how they make sense of religious faith, and how they can use sacred objects for what the church would call magical purposes. Fieldwork conducted in the Canadian prairies under the auspices of the Sanctuary Project shows that vernacular religion can do more that make sense of religious canon: it can impact church practice. As parishioners change their definition of personhood and see stillborn babies as human, as they come to see suicide as illness rather than sin, their new beliefs can affect the burial practices of their church, forcing it to include previously excluded persons in the sanctified ground of the cemetery. Change comes easier to cemeteries than to the church building and objects donated in memory of deceased young people cannot be reclaimed by their donors once a church is closed and deconsecrated. The fate of these objects is currently being contested.

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    Conference/Workshop Presentation
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    Public Domain Mark 1.0