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Accepted Paper:

Do not fry sausages on the holy fire! The problem of constructing the sacrum in the age of digital technologies  

Author:

Piotr Grochowski (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will analyze how the Internet affects functioning of small neo-pagan groups and how they deal with the problem of shaping holy space and keeping religious taboos during rituals. The presented conclusions come from the field work I conducted among Polish followers of the Rodzimowierstwo.

Paper long abstract:

Polish Rodzimowierstwo is a small movement, which refers to the pre-Christian religion of the Slavs and has been dynamically developing in recent years. Electronic devices are willingly and effectively used by the followers of the Rodzimowierstwo to augment visibility and discuss religious topics.

The limited amount of source materials on the religion of the Slavs and the lack of worship places, make ritual practices and the way of understanding the sacrum subject to continuous negotiations and change. On one hand, we can observe in this process a strong sense of individualism which leads some believers to look for the determinants of the sacred reality on their own. In ritual practices, they are interested in the individual experience of the sacrum, allowing a far-reaching flexibility in the approach to specific beliefs. On the other hand, there is a strong need for building a community. This results in the necessity to construct models of ritual activities, and define principles of behavior towards the sacred reality. The coexistence of these tendencies often leads to conflicting situations.

This paper will analyze the process of shaping religious boundaries in Polish Rodzimowierstwo which take place both online (discussions on Facebook, videos published on YouTube, instructions for ritual activities published on websites) and offline (requests addressed to participants during the rites). I will focus on some paradoxes associated with the use of electronic devices and show that digital technologies could both help in constructing the boundaries of sacred reality, as well as harm their reproduction and maintenance.

Panel P064
Ethnography of Sacred Communities: Shifting Horizons of Online Religiosity