Censing in the funeral and memorial rites (vernacular religiosity of the Russian-Komi-Permyak borderland) 

Korolyova S.Yu., Brukhanova M.A., Kolegova O.A.




              page 167179




Church censing ritual — fumigation with incense or its substitutes — is widespread in folk culture. It plays a particularly important role in funeral and memorial rites, where the fumigation is usually carried out in order to ritually purify people, space and objects that have been in contact with the deceased. However, the significance of this ritual is not equal in different local ethnical traditions: in some communities, it is simply recommended, while in others it is of a prime importance. The accessibility of this ritual action for people also varies. In some traditions, only religious specialists (the priest and his assistants) can perform this ritual, in other traditions, anyone can do it. The article is concerned with vernacular forms of censing. The culture of Yurlians — Russians living in a different ethnic (Komi-Permyak) environment, and the culture of the northern (Kochevsky) Komi-Permyaks neighboring them, are among the traditions with a developed mythological semantics of censing. The main research data are materials collected during the fieldwork carried out in 2013–2017 and 2022 in the Northern Prikamye, in the Russian-Komi-Permyak borderland. The study is based on the structural and functional analysis of the rituals. It has been revealed that the locations of censing in the structure of traditional funeral and memorial rites partially coincides with church prescriptions, however, vernacular fumigation with incense is of more intense character; around it, a kind of “mythology of censing” develops, and dialectal ritual terminology is formed. Ñensing fulfills not only typical cleansing and apotropaic functions, but it also acts as a way of mediation between the living and the dead — it “wakes up” the souls, invites them to a ritual meal, guarantees the availability of food, etc. Special folklore formulas addressed to beings-intermediaries between the living and the dead (angels, wind, etc.) provide the realization of this function. Individualized versions may arise from the ritual, which adapts to the new life realities.

Keywords: Ural, Slavic-non-Slavic borderlands, vernacular practices, mytho-ritual tradition, ritual terminology, folklore formulas.


Funding. Contribution by S.Yu. Korolyova to the paper is financially supported by grant of the Russian Science Foundation, project No. 22-18-00484 “Slavic-non-Slavic borderlands: funeral and memorial rite in ethnolinguistic coverage” (https://rscf.ru/project/22-18-00484/).


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 27.02.2023

Article is published: 15.06.2023


Korolyova S.Yu., Perm State University, Bukireva st., 15, Perm, 614068, Russian Federation, E-mail: petel@yandex.ru, https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4246-907X


Brukhanova M.A., Perm State University, Bukireva st., 15, Perm, 614068, Russian Federation, E-mail: bruhanova94@yandex.ru, https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9489-5172


Kolegova O.A., ITMO University, Kronverksky prospect, 49, St. Petersburg, 197101, Russian Federation, E-mail: oakolegova@itmo.ru, https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6908-0940