Slovenski etnografski muzej

Številka revije 
Etnolog 9/1 (1999)
Članek v pdf obliki 
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Šege ob smrti na slovenskem podeželju

Every passage toward the unknown is a natural cause of uncertainty, uneasiness, and fear. All the periods of the life cycle, from birth to death (i.e. the passage from a safe home to kindergarten or school, later to a high school and college, especially when leaving a home place, or joining the army) are such passages. Every period of life starts with joining a new group of people. Traditional communities took those passages from one way of life to another as areas of uncertainty, risk and treats. Marriage, for example, was a passage from bachelordom to the married state, death was considered as a passage from earthy life to the life on the other side, "eternal life".Such notions were followed by various apotropeic rites. Every passage in one's lifetime affects the environment (family, peer groups, village community…). Therefore, every "rite de passage" of apotropeic character intertwines with farewell and reception rites.
In the Slovenian countryside, funeral rites and customs, connected with death, preserved their ancient form for a long time. The reason may be (sub)conscious belief in something supernatural, in the divine power, God, who has the power over life and death. Considering the only thing that no one can avoid, fear and farewell take hand in hand. On the one side, there is a fear of the corpse and its possible return with devastating consequences for his/her dearest. On the other side, the living respect him/her, because he/she is supposed to have power over them. Elements of death customs and funeral rites come from the deep past and their purpose is either forgotten or explained differently. Some of these elements survived as a firmly grounded habit. There are many old written reports of them, information also come from interlocutors in the field, we can still observe many such elements in contemporary life, in everyday communications, etc. And we are again and again surprised when we realise how alive and well are the phenomena of what we usually call "superstition". We can be sure that people sincerely believe - maybe because death is something ultimate and fuzzy.
Modern times with new legislation (communal, hygienic) firstly provoked changes in towns and larger rural centres. Many fixed habits, connected with neighbourhood and village community (washing of the deceased, arrangement of a catafalque, digging of a grave, funeral), were substituted with routine work by professional funerary workers employed in public or private funeral homes. Mortuaries, where they were built, brought to an end a habit of night-time waking with the deceased. They cut the belief that the deceased should not be left alone, that someone should be with him/her all the time. However, in Slovenia there are still many villages without mortuaries and communally settled cemeteries, so at least in some places old habits survived. In her paper, the author shall describe some cases and take into consideration future destiny of one of the essential components, which in the past tied or re-connected relatives, neighbours, and village community.