Accepted Paper:

Nationalism and Catholicism: The cult of Mary as a mass movement and private piety in Poland  


Anna Niedźwiedź (Jagiellonian University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will focus on contemporary, post-communist Polish society and a position of a so-called 'popular piety' in it. Historical, social, and cultural aspects of 'popularization' of religion in Poland will be analyzed as well as a mutual relationship between 'great' and 'little' traditions.

Paper long abstract:

Popular piety, folk or folk-like religiosity, lived religion, popular Catholicism, mass religiosity are all terms appearing in contemporary anthropological discourse concerning the state of religion in post-Communist Poland. What does it mean that 'religiosity is popular', how 'popular religion' reveals and manifests itself within a contemporary, transnational, global, and post-socialist society? I am proposing to analyze this concept in the context of Polish historical and cultural background revealing complicated and multi-leveled aspects which have made Polish Catholicism 'popular'. I will focus on two levels: 1connection between 'popular religion' and national mythology 2power of emotional private religious piety and practice.

In the Polish case it happened that a so-called 'great' tradition was historically strictly correlated with a 'little' religious tradition. During the period of Communism this mutual reinforcement developed leading toward symbiosis between 'religious' and 'national', 'private' and 'popular'. Mass religious events, which appeared at this time, started to be related with the anti-Communist resistance movement. It is important to note that their powerful influence was based not only on 'national dimension' and mythology, but also on an intensive religious practice and private emotional piety. Usage of religious symbols, objects and rituals, infused with both religious and national (ethnic) dimension, 'popularized' religion and elevated 'folk piety' on a national level. It is essential to ask how those patterns are still present in contemporary Polish post-Communist society, what kind of re-evaluation appeared after 1989, how the society re-defines itself in the context of 'religious' and 'national', 'private' and 'public', 'popular' and 'marginalized'

Panel W008
What makes popular piety popular?