Kashubians - Religion and Expressive Culture

Although Kashubians have long been Christians—and both Catholic and Protestant denominations are found in the region—a tradition of far older beliefs is still strong as well. A now-vanished race of giants was traditionally believed to have created the physical landscape. Dwarfs or goblins, thought usually to be helpful but often moved to malice if slighted or spied upon, are blamed for most misfortune. The Devil, or devils, are treated as active, personalized presences in the world. Death and disease, too, are believed to assume personified forms. Individuals are thought to have a number of Supernatural capabilities, the most benign being the gift of "second sight." Less benign are those, usually women, who possess the "evil eye" and work spells against their neighbors. Mora, or succuba, are usually women who, unintentionally, become the host of a vindictive spirit that slips out of the body while it sleeps, assuming the form of a familiar animal, and sucks the blood of others. To protect against the depredations of the mora, pentagrams are drawn, and windows and doors are kept locked at night. In some villages there is also the belief in werewolves, which can only be men.

Important ceremonial occasions for the Kashubians, other than life-cycle rituals, derive from the liturgical calendar and from the agricultural cycle. Midsummer's Eve is one such occasion, involving processions, bonfires, musicians, and the performance of a village drama. At the end of May, a solemn procession is made to secure blessings for the fields and crops. Christmas is a time for family feasting, but Twelfth Night (Epiphany) is a much larger celebratory event, involving processions, and may have its origins in pre-Christian Carnaval.

Kashubian beliefs in life after death diverge somewhat from the strict teachings of Christianity. After death, the deceased is thought to undergo a formal trial before God and to depart to a heaven or hell that is construed to mean a physical place. Souls are thought to remain in the area known to them in life if there are sins that must be expiated. The relationship between a farmer and his property is considered to be highly personalized; therefore, the eldest son is required to go out and announce the death of the head of household to all the deceased's animals and to the fields. In the house of the deceased, all windows are opened to encourage the soul to escape, and the mirror is covered and the clock is stopped. The funeral ceremony at the church is solemn, as is the burial procession, but these are followed by a lively funeral feast in the village.

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