Vlachs - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. Generally, Vlachs accepted the same religion as the other populations in the Region in which they lived. Today, the majority of Vlachs belong to the Orthodox church, characteristic for the eastern Balkans; Vlachs in the western Balkans are Catholics; and only a small number are Muslims. Nonetheless, they also persistently preserve their ancient practices and beliefs, which are respected and maintained as ethnic, cultural, and moral traits. This belief system clearly defines the relationship of the individual self with the material and spiritual world. Everything related to human beings and existence usually is attributed to fate. Although they celebrate all the main holidays of the formal church calendar, they rarely attend church for these occasions, celebrating instead among themselves; they do not call the priest for requiem masses and they do not marry in church. Even if they come to church, they disturb prayers by dancing and singing. The Orthodox Vlachs celebrate the important Orthodox holiday slava, feast of the patron saint, but for them it is primarily a cult dedicated to land fertility. Fortune-telling and sorcery are a common part of all aspects of social and religious life.

Arts. Vlachs developed all types of oral folk literature, epic and lyric songs, ballads, proverbs, and riddles. However, their creative work lacks fantastic beings and events. Tattooing as body decoration has been preserved up to the present in some Vlach groups.

Medicine. Traditional ways of healing still play an Important role, particularly with mountain herders who live far from medical institutions. Vlachs cure the majority of illnesses with simple devices, mostly plants and their infusions, by themselves or with the help of a folk practitioner.

Death and Afterlife. Vlachs have a deeply rooted belief in life after death and very elaborate funeral rites. The dead are highly respected and imaginary contact with them is held on many occasions and in different ways, are to ensure the afterlife of the soul. In northeast Serbia, requiem masses are held for both the living and the dead in the same way, in the form of feasts that often develop into real orgies. Twice a day, three times a week for forty days, prayers are held to forty-four dead and forty-four live kin, and everything is accompanied by abundant food, music, and dances for the souls. The custom of disinterment forty days after death is still present there, although prohibited by law.

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