Simēk in Modern Chuvash Ritual Culture
AbstractThe paper describes the features of the Simēk ritual (compare semik in Russian) in different ethnic and religious (Orthodox Christian, ‘pagan’, Muslim) and ethnic and territorial groups of Chuvash. The author shows the key role of Simēk in the structure of rituals of the semik and Trinity block and reveals its links with funerary, commemorative and wedding rites. Simēk is one of the main rituals on the Chuvash ritual calendar. Traditionally, it is associated with commemoration customs of the people and is one of the three compulsory days of commemoration of family ancestors. It corresponds to semik in the Russian ritual calendar and is held either on Thursday (for unbaptised Chuvash) or on the Saturday before Trinity (for the majority of Orthodox Chuvash). Today Simēk is performed in the villages as a commemoration ritual with a visit to the cemetery, which involves both villagers and those family members who live in cities. After visiting the cemetery family members conduct visits, turning a commemoration ceremony into a festival. Thus, Simēk strengthens family links between villagers and city dwellers. With increasing levels of religiosity in society the importance of Simēk as a means of preserving and spreading ethnic traditions has also increased. In modern rituals there is some structural transformation of Simēk among the Orthodox community, but at the same time it is possible to trace the actualisation and expansion of the ritual together with the general trends in unification of the Chuvash ritual complex.
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