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Old faith in Slovenia between religion and science


Ljubljana: ZRC Publishing House, 2022

In the last ten years, the issue of Old Religion in Slovenia has been in the forefront of the public’s attention several times – after the books by Boris Čok In the moonlight and Pavel Medvešček From the invisible side of the sky and after a large exhibition in the Goriška museum.

Proceedings Old faith in Slovenia between religion and science already in the title suggests that the disagreements are far from resolved. Not even at the most basic level: is it a matter of confronting the remnants of a secret belief on the western edge of Slovenian territory, or of otherwise interesting findings that still require thorough scientific study, or perhaps just a construct based on unverified or even falsified and fabricated testimonies and evidence.

Among ethnologists, anthropologists, archaeologists and researchers from other fields of humanities and social sciences who have paid attention to these issues, two currents have emerged: one believes in the authenticity of the material and wants to evaluate the knowledge and practices of the Old Believers, while the other thinks more about discourses, communities and identities that are created by – in their opinion – unreliable material.

A targeted research project was devoted to these dilemmas in the last two years Inventory, analysis and evaluation of primary and secondary sources of Slovene researchers on the “Old Religion of Poso”. The in many ways conflicting findings of the participants are now collected in a book edited by Saša Babič and Mateja Belak. The aim of the authors Katja Hrobat Virloget, Matjaž Bizjak, Cirila Toplak, Lenart Škof, Miha Mihelič and Andrej Pleterski was not to confirm or deny in advance the authenticity of sources, stories, knowledge and sanctuaries, but rather their critical evaluation and placement in a historical, spatial and social context. In addition, as the editors note, they looked for the potential that such material has and, through positive affection, set insights and predictions about faith in nature and its power. In order not to remain only with their scientific judgments and doubts, they also left room in the appendix for the publication of material in which Rudi Čop and Franc Šturm try to apply the knowledge of the Old Faithful society based on measurements and thereby explicitly demonstrate their complete belief in this Old Faithful system. Ethnologist Katja Hrobat Virloget, who is reserved about the credibility of Medvešček’s sources, debates with individual researchers from both sides. He emphasizes that any ethnographic material must be taken with a critical distance, and notes that it is precisely the division among ethnologists, who do not offer the general public acceptable guidelines for accepting material about the Old Believers, that has led to lay research and thus to detours. Among other things, she cites a series of analogies between Medvešček’s writings about the Old Believers and traditional beliefs – especially about the worship of Baba, an archaic mythical creature – which she herself encountered in the Karst and elsewhere.

Historian Matjaž Bizjak adds an outline of the settlement history of middle Posočje, the main area of ​​research into the Old Religion in Slovenia. Political scientist Cirila Toplak, who trusts the credibility of Medvešček’s statements, then specifically defines the phrases “Posoška Old Faith” or “Western Slavic naturalism”.

Philosopher Lenart Škof in an essay Elements of Slovenian original religion compares Medvešček’s report and the interpretation of the Old Faith in the book From the invisible side of the sky with modern theories of indigenous religions. The specific religious environment of the Slovenian autochthonous religion – which in the historical narrative The dying god Triglav France Bevk also portrays it in his own way – and then presents it as elementary religion and theology of nature.

In the following, archaeologist Miha Mihelič devotes himself to the belief in the god Belin, related to Belen from the Celtic pantheon, and in the magical healing power of the key of St. Whiteness. He sees in it a medieval-modern fusion of Christian and Old Faith elements originating from prehistoric times, which were still alive in the oral tradition of western Slovenia at least at the beginning of the 20th century.

Most of the space – with the introductory note A brief summary of the book and the concluding discussion Host Belief as part of the Old Faith in Slovenia and the beliefs of the ancient Slavs – went to the archaeologist, ethnologist and historian Andrej Pleterski, the author of the accompanying study in Medvešček’s key book from 2015. Here he supplements some of the then findings. He again draws attention to the often contradictory statements of Medvešček’s interlocutors and, among other things, specifically explains the importance of hosts, political communities with their own social order, which includes the exercise of hostar authority, including coercion, as establishing and maintaining cooperation internally and independence externally. He also draws attention to the importance of trochans, most often triangles of holy places built with stones, the effect of which the Old Believers could not explain, but they knew it.

This is how it becomes clear, writes Pleterski, why people so persistently drove those Christian priests to despair, who could not understand what the holy cities meant to the people, and were convinced that it was a trick of the devil. “If we understand the old faith,” concludes, “we understand a time and a way of life in which religion and science were one and the same.”

From the show From the book market.

Source: Rtvslo



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