Calabrese - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefe. Calabrians are Roman Catholic, but their religious beliefs depart, sometimes quite radically, from the formal tenets of Catholicism in particular and Christianity in general. There is a strong faith in a distant, all-powerful God, but this deity is seen to have little interest in or concern for humanity. The focus of religious expression is, therefore, upon a mediator—some saint or supernatural entity that can be importuned to intercede on behalf of humans. In Calabrian beliefs, the Madonna is the most important intercessionary figure among a myriad of saints—but within the term "Madonna" are implicit a great variety of entities, not all (or perhaps any) having much to do with traditional Christian beliefs. Her intercession is sought for help in all sorts of matters, from finding a husband to ensuring the fertility of one's fields or livestock. The retention of superstition and pre-Christian beliefs is evident also in the still strongly held belief in both good and bad (but usually bad) magic—particularly the concept of the "evil eye."

Religious Practitioners. Formal religious practice, through the church, is led by priests. Magicoreligious practice outside the formal structure of the church is the province mainly of women. However, this status is attributed—not achieved or inherited. Essentially, a witch is a witch because people say she is one, and such accusations tend to be Reserved for the anomalous or marginal people in the community—people who are, for example, possessed of greater-than-usual economic success, or who fail to live up to local expectations of behavior.

Ceremonies. The most important ceremonial occasions are the feasts of local patron saints and the feasts of the liturgical calendar devoted to the Madonna. Bonfires, processions, and fireworks all form characteristic parts of such celebrations. The seven sacraments of the Church (baptism, confirmation, confession, Communion, marriage, ordination, extreme unction) are honored, and both Christmas and Easter are important religious holiday periods.

Medicine. Calabria is a poor and unhealthy region. Malaria is common in many areas, particularly along the coast. Modern medical care is not well distributed throughout the population, and a strong reliance on traditional curing techniques that combine the use of poultices and infusions and beliefs in magical interventions remains. Prayer, or the lighting of votive candles, is one frequently tried avenue to healing.

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