Dalmatians - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. Catholicism is the primary religion of Dalmatia, followed by Eastern Orthodoxy, and a small minority of Muslims who are mostly immigrants from other Balkan regions. Religious beliefs and practices are representations of syncretism between Christian and pagan forms. Religious beliefs and practices were not commonly expressed in this part of the world for many years because open expression of religious beliefs was not completely sanctioned in the Yugoslav communist context. However, in 1992 the newly independent Croatian government restored freedom of religious expression. Dalmatians staunchly believe in various supernatural beings. These include witches, fairies, and most commonly vampires ( vukodlak ). Women commonly tell fortunes by reading the patterns in the grounds remaining in the cups after drinking Turkish coffee.

Ceremonies. There are specific rituals exhibiting male chivalry that are exclusively found in Dalmatia. The most famous is a game called alka. Various rituals are related to the Christian church calendar. Both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians observe ( služe ) a patron saint's day ( sfava ) or a name day ( imendan ).

Arts. In Dalmatia there are several musical instruments; however, the most famous is a one-stringed viol ( gusle ), which accompanies epic or heroic singing done by men. Another is the mandolinlike lira, which is more prevalent on the islands. Both men and women, traditionally gender-segregated, sing ganga and ojkavica. Both of these pieces are composed by women or men in a decameter and are sung a cappella. Circle dances ( kola ) are common throughout Dalmatia; however, their steps and costumes vary regionally. Various forms of carving on both wood and rock date back several centuries and can be found throughout the region. Dalmatia also has one of the richest representations of Different architectural types in the world.

Medicine. In the folk system, illness is commonly attributed to hot/cold imbalance, generally believed to be caused by cold drafts. For most ailments folk practitioners recommend that patients "sweat out the evil" ( da iznoje zlo ) by covering themselves up with several heavy layers of blankets. Western medicine is widespread.

Death and Afterlife. Death is considered a transitory period between life on earth and the everlasting life in heaven. After death the soul can either go to hell, purgatory, or heaven, depending on one's earthly sins. After death, the body is kept overnight in the house and in an elaborate procession carried to the church the following day. A form of chanting ( naricanje, nabrajanje ) commonly starts immediately after the person dies and lasts through the next day when the person is buried. After the church ceremony the body is buried in an elaborately built grave that generally stands above the ground. Widowed women wear black until their death. If they happen to remarry, which is very unlikely, they abandon this custom.

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