The Distinctive Features of Belarusian Traditional Funeral Repasts

  • Tadevush A. Navahrodski

Abstract

I

n Belarusian traditional culture, the funeral repast was an important part of the structure of funeral rites. Its meaning had as much to do with ethics as with sustenance and it was a required or normative part of funerary behaviour in the Belarusian social milieu. The memorial repast fulfilled many functions in Belarusian traditional culture. It served to commemorate ancestors and to link the living with their past. The meal performed a sacred or religious function, expressing faith in the afterlife. It performed an educational function and helped create family solidarity and promote willingness to learn about the family’s genealogy (radavod).
The article, based on folkloric and ethnographic materials from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and on the results of field work conducted by the author, discusses two types of funeral repasts. One type is conducted on the day of internment and the other type includes the meals that correspond to the folk calendar and commemorate the dead. The article examines the distinctive features of funeral repasts in traditional Belarusian culture and explicates the function and meaning of specific funeral meals.

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