Montenegrins - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. Traditionally, Montenegrin beliefs are a syncretic blend of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and pre-Christian practices. Although most people consider themselves Orthodox, there are significant Catholic and Muslim minorities. God (Bog), Saint Elijah, and the one or two patron saints associated with each clan are the most prominent supernatural figures. Other supernatural beings such as vampires, ghosts, and nature spirits often figure prominently in folk epics and stories.

Religious Practitioners. In addition to Eastern Orthodox priests, there were historically large numbers of local "popes," lay priests frequently ignorant of written doctrine and tradition.

Ceremonies. The religious calendar includes all the normal Christian holidays, with Easter being the most important church holiday. Life-cycle ceremonies, particularly those marking birth and death, are also important events. However, two other ceremonies also figure prominently in people's lives. The first is the ceremony establishing godfatherhood or kumstvo. The second is the slava, or the feast of the clan's ( bratstvo's ) patron saint. Today the slava has lost much of its former functions in promoting kin-group solidarity and reinforcing kin-group boundaries.

Arts. As for the Serbs, the Montenegrin national instrument is the gusle —a single-horsehair wooden instrument stroked with a horsehair bow. The most important function of the instrument is to provide accompaniment for the singing of oral epic poetry. This tradition is wholly oral in the sense that, while the formula uses ten-syllable lines, each performance is a unique creation. Texts are not memorized. Common story themes include battles with the Turks, encounters with supernatural beings, the exploits of culture heroes, and the recounting of lineage ancestry.

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