Slovenes - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The main religious beliefs of the Slovenes are those of the Roman Catholic church. While legends relate activities of witches and magical forces, such themes are intermixed with Christian dogma.

Religious Practitioners and Ceremonies. In the prewar period the parish was supported by a church tax administered by the village council and the priest was paid by the state and received remuneration from parishioners for his services, which included: hearing confessions; religious education for children; and officiation at masses, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and funerals. The religious calendar was full and well observed, including pilgrimages to large churches with stops at wayside shrines and general celebrations on religious holidays. In the postwar period the activities and power of the Catholic church were seriously curtailed, although the priests attempted to continue to offer their services and the Catholic religion remained a strong moral force. In the post-Communist period, of course, the church has considerably greater latitude.

Arts. Traditional arts included decorative motifs on buildings such as barns, gravestone decorations, and religious carvings and paintings in churches following central European styles. In peasant houses one saw colorful tile stoves, wall stippling giving the impression of wallpaper, woven cloths, wooden carvings on boxes and other items, and hand-carved simple furniture. Local folk art declined during the Communist period, becoming commercialized and standardized and being sold primarily in tourist-orientated state-controlled stores, but there has been a rich growth of modern architecture and painting in urban centers.

Medicine. Modern medicine has penetrated the rural area. Children receive inoculations, chest X rays are available to everyone, and most children are born in hospitals. Peasants receive health insurance, although coverage has been limited as compared to that available to workers. While local cures and traditional herbs are still used, the primary curer is the medical doctor.

Death and Afterlife. Funerals follow traditional Catholic customs. The body is placed in an open coffin in the house for forty-eight hours while friends and relatives pay a last call and sprinkle the body with holy water or salt. After the coffin is closed, it is placed in the open door, and the priest invokes a benediction and leads prayer. There follows the funeral mass at the church, a graveside benediction, the burial, and then the funeral feast. For eight days thereafter friends visit the family of the deceased and pray, eat, and drink together. Finally, there are additional requiem masses thirteen and eighteen days later.

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