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Attitudes towards Death in Romanian Culture and Civilization

Publicația: Philologica Jassyensia, VIII (2), p. 151-157
Editura:Institutul de Filologie Română „A. Philippide”
Rezumat:The paper explores the Romanian rituals of death, from a diachronic perspective, focalized on the interferences between the old Thraco-Dacian element, the Latin strata, and the Slavic vicinities, in order to emphasize the phenomena of evolution and to attempt to explain a totally unique phenomenon: The Merry Cemetery of Săpânţa.
Dacians’ ritual joy, who were laughing each time one of them went to Salmoxis, was profoundly altered by the overlapping of the Latin funeral rites, which imposed public exteriorization of grief and activation of a theatrical component in order to advertize the importance of the deceased’s family. Romanian funeral rites gradually integrated the compulsory wailing of the deceased, sometimes performed by paid professional dirgesingers, and his/her symbolic projection into a state of perfection (the pure white traveler) which imposed idealization of his/her life, careful preparation for the great journey, and the whole ritual complex talking about the great loss that the deceased produces into society.
Nevertheless, at Săpânţa, in a region inhabited by the Free Dacians during Antiquity, an ingenious wood sculptor and painter succeeded to bring back the smile into the funeral rites, at the so-called Merry Cemetery. In 1935, into the interwar Romania, firmly engaged into modernization and synchronization with Western Europe, the old Dacian attitude is spontaneously revived, transforming death into a perfectly integrated fact of life. The vibrant colors of the crosses, where representative scenes from the deceased’s life are painted, sometimes ironically referring to his/her vices, and the cruelly realistic epitaphs which resume the life and activity of each villager attracted its apparently oxymoronic name of merry cemetery and transformed it into an attractive subject for the research of the anthropology of death.
Cuvinte-cheie:death, funeral rites, traditions, Merry Cemetery, Romania
Limba: engleză

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