Ozarks - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Religion occupies a central place in Ozark life. Protestantism is the major religion, with traditionalists generally belonging to the more fundamentalist denominations such as the Church of Christ or Baptist church and progressives belonging to the Presbyterian, Episcopal, or Methodist denominations. For traditionalists church attendance and church-sponsored events are of considerable importance. Beyond the services that often involve group singing and emotional displays, camp meetings, outdoor baptisms, Community suppers, picnics, and other church events provide an opportunity for social interaction and the reinforcement of Ozark beliefs and customs.

Arts. Music and dancing are central features of Ozark life. Children routinely attend singing classes, singing is a basic component of church services, dulcimer making and playing have undergone a recent revival, and bluegrass music and square dancing are common entertainments. Some utilitarian crafts such as rug making and quilting have been reborn as art forms for personal enjoyment and the craft trade.

Medicine. Although most Ozarkers have access to and use modern medical care, there was a rich folk pharmacopeia of herbal and vegetable oils, tonics, and potions to treat most ailments. Traditionally, the midwife was a person of considerable importance in the community.

Death and Afterlife. In the past, all activities concerning death and preparation for burial took place in the home of the deceased. Today, these matters are left to funeral homes and their directors, though the tradition of neighbors cooking a midday meal for the relatives on the day of the burial continues. In the past, widows were forbidden to remarry for one year.

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