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EAST-WEST Report Summary

Project ID: 324214
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Hungary

Mid-Term Report Summary - EAST-WEST (Vernacular religion on the boundary of Eastern and Western Christianity: continuity, changes and interactions)

The aim of our research according to the objectives set in our work plan was to investigate the characteristics of and changes in vernacular religion, and the regulating role of religion in micro-societies from the Middle Ages to the present time in the contact zone between Eastern and Central Europe. The project examined the divisive cultural-linguistic-religious manifestations in vernacular religion and their representations in religious folklore genres in the cultural and religious contact zone between the Latin and Byzantine Christian domains characterised by varying parallels and antagonisms. Our research was carried out with a fundamentally interdisciplinary approach: our research group of anthropologists, folklorists and historians conducted parallel investigations in historical and present dimensions. On the basis of archival sources our research project examined religious cults and conflicts of historical urban and rural communities and compared and contrasted them with the findings of anthropological fieldwork in Hungarian, Romanian, Croatian, Serbian, Bulgarian and in ethnically mixed communities of different denominations. Our investigations entailed an exploration of the entire religious field, as well as the investigation of certain key topics (such as the cult of saints, cult of the dead, sacred communication, witchcraft, demonology and medicine, new religious movements, New Age spiritualism) and some selected folklore genres, with regard to the past and the present alike, on different time planes and in varying social environments.
Every focal topic of our research has been completed according to the objectives set in the work plan, the members of the group have successfully carried out the fieldworks planned for the first half of the project (spending 581 days in total in the field); they have written the foreseen essays (73 articles and books in total) partly in English. The results obtained in the field of contemporary studies: 10 papers have been completed in the topics of cult of saints, demonology, witchcraft and religious specialists; 6 studies were written on new religious movements. Bea Vidacs finished her research and has written her first articles about a modern seer and her community; Judit Balatonyi concluded her investigations and wrote her book on the Hungarian and Romanian Roman Catholic and Orthodox variants of wedding representations in the Gyimes (Ghimeș) region; two essay collections were edited by Éva Pócs and by Ágnes Hesz of the studies written by our colleagues. (‘Body, Soul, Spirits and Supernatural Communication’ and ‘From Healer Deities to Horticultural Utopias. Essays in Religious Anthropology from the Carpathian Basin’. As regards our historical-anthropological investigations of the past: The data of nearly four thousand Hungarian witch trials have been processed in the digitalised database of Hungarian witch-hunting. By using the database and other early modern sources 17 studies were written about early modern demonology, witchcraft, and witch persecution, Dániel Bárth completed his book about a 18th century Franciscan exorcist in Sombor. From these topics Éva Pócs and Gábor Klaniczay have edited and published an essay collection entitled Boszorkányok, varázslók és démonok [Witches, sorcerers and demons]; plans for publication of this volume in English have been approved by the publisher Palgrave Macmillan. Péter Tóth G. has edited with the help of external archivist colleagues the volumes of records of the witchcraft trials of Kolozsvár and of Szeged; the former has already been published and the latter is under publication. In the topics of late ancient and late medieval religious festivals and the medieval cult of healing saints Anna Tóth has accomplished a monumental work in translating into Hungarian the Byzantine source material; both her and Ildikó Csepregi have published several essays. Two of our colleagues have been working on the systematic arrangement and digitalisation of the folk belief archive; Emese Ilyefalvi is working on creating an extensive digital archive of incantations. Using these databases several essays were written by Ilona Nagy about apokryphal Biblical legends, Éva Pócs and Emese Ilyefalvi produced papers on verbal charms and made a large-scale typology and reader of Hungarian incantations amounting to two volumes. We published two textbooks on contemporary belief legends and verbal charms.
Our researches participate regularly at Hungarian and international conferences in their respective fields of research; we have also organised several large international conferences with numerous international guests in order to build external connections to our research topics. Moreover, the activities serving common objectives of our researchers of various professional backgrounds who conduct historical and present investigations using various methodologies have been coordinated by regular project meetings and debates.

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