Slovenski etnografski muzej

The Concept of Death in the Folk Culture of Macedonians

Investigations of posthumous ceremonial complexes in Macedonia are based on ethnographic field material. Hopefully, these investigations will contribute the supplementation of some important segments of the present knowledge and achievements in the problem of death in traditional cultures.Death of a member of a community is a danger and a crisis both for the family and for the wider social and ceremonial community, for the village. That is the reason for actual and deep changes in the family structure, in the relationships among the village community. It can even catastrophically influence its integrity.
Trying to remove the reasons for the condition of crisis and destruction, the community tries to eliminate, both actually and formally, the moral impact of death and the magic transmitter - the deceased.
In that sense, some complex ceremonial activities are done and the most important of them are:
1. The community is made free of the body of the deceased member and it is very important to go to magic distinction between the opposite principles, namely life from death, good from evil, and useful from dangerous, so that the first principle could be kept among the living and the other one could be sent to the dead.
2. The ceremonial cycle of a year which includes masses for the dead, the period of mourning and other ceremonies which ought to supply the dubious deceased person with complete conditions for undisturbed transition in the community of the ancestors - patrons of the alive.
3. The third phase begins after a year when the community, considering that the deceased person has already become a member of the community of the dead, tries to provide everything he/she needs, as well as everything his/her ancestors need in a continued and cyclic way.
The materials discover numerous cultural, ethnic or regional features which closely illuminate the local opinion and points of view. Collected data show traditional organisational structure of Macedonia people. Typically, local characteristics give nuances of specific opinions and attitudes which have a direct influence on people's behaviour and acting of the whole community in the case of death.
The analysis of this ceremonial complex has helped to ascertain the principle of building the general and global picture of the traditional "man and world" model and its functioning.
In this case death was treated as the most important reason for interrupting the existing Harmony. The structure of relationship in the world ceremonial activity provides conditions for realisation of a new established "Cosmic order" or to establish new relationships.
Taking into consideration that death (or the act of dying) is not only a biological act of ceasing the living activities, but also a cultural phenomenon. Its analyses shall reveal and discover not only individual psychology, but a lot more important social, religious and mythological contents. Those are the essential structural segments of the traditional concept of "the world" in oral narratives.