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Key words
funeral, obit, sacrifi ce, soul, house, death, house construction, body, genius loci
About the Author
E-mail: Tel.: +7 (495) 938-08-51
32a, Leninskiy av., Moscow, 119991, Russian Federation
PhD (Philology), researcher, N. N. Miklukho-Maklay Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences

The article discusses anthropomorphic symbolism of house in diff erent stages of Slavic funeral and obit rites and corresponding mythology. In fact, the house and its inhabitant’s body and soul construct an integral system, which refl ects the concept of living place for human soul. Correspondingly the destruction of one member of this integrity causes the annihilation of the other. Indeed, ritual practices during agony and funerals are underlying these notions: in order to sooth pain of an agonizing person the upper layer of house was broken. Universally doors and windows were opened, holes were made in roof and ceiling in order to facilitate advent of the death into the house and fl ying of the soul outward. Dead cadavers in coffins were oft en brought outside through such casual openings. Ancient practice pertaining all people in past remains nowadays related only to unholy dead, outlaws for Church — suicidal, witches etc. Aft er the death of a family member the house is considered to be still broken, its sacred boundaries are annihilated, it can be haunted by the unsettled soul of dead which makes it dangerous for the living.

Later on and aft er accomplishing necessary obit rituals and customs the soul gradually departs from house into otherworld, funeral taboos are retracted and the house turns to be a safe “guarded” locus again. The pair “body / house” is actualized for beliefs and practices connected with house construction. Newly built house is considered to be still incomplete until the fi rst death within it occurs. That’s why a lot of actions take place to delay the fi nish of building process, in order to prevent inevitable death or substitute the sacrifi ced victim by an animal or a symbol. Th e soul of fi rst departed one transfers into building as its keeper, providing its solidity, strength and wellbeing. Such a mystical keeper originates from the sacrifi ce performed during house construction or from the person buried in the confi nes of estate according own personal wish. In this practice the last stage of this house / body / soul metaphor is present as the loose human soul regains new body in form of the house and transforms to be its keeper which sometimes is believed to take appearance of the latest or even living house owner.


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