BETWEEN AGAPE AND BLOOD SACRIFICE. KURBAN IN THE RELIGIOUS LIFE OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN (WESTERN RHODOPES, BULGARIA) (Miedzy agape a krwawa ofiara. Kurban w zyciu religijnym wyznawców prawoslawia (Rodopy Zachodnie, Bulgaria))
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The article is an excerpt of the dissertation 'Religious syncretism and anti-syncretism in the light of the coexistence between Muslims (Pomaks) and Orthodox Christians in the Western Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria'. Dissertation is based on field research I did in 2005-2009 in the area of Gotse Delchev, a town in Blagoevgrad Province. I have interviewed community members invested with considerable symbolic potential, such as the mayor and the mufti, Orthodox clerics, hodjas, teachers and quack doctors. I conducted a total of 63 in-depth interviews with 76 people. My findings show that the local Orthodox population is more susceptible to the influence of Islam than vice versa. What is quite striking in this context is that examples of deep syncretism can actually be found among the Christians. This includes the practice of kurban or blood sacrifice, which they regard as a replication of Abraham's sacrifice and invest with a level of importance that makes it a central aspect of their religious life (possibly more important than the Eucharist). Although Balkan Slavs had practiced blood sacrifice even before the arrival of Islam in the region, the Christian interpretations of the practice evince deep parallels with the Muslim practice of kurban. Both religious groups identify Abraham's sacrifice as the origin of the practice, and treat the sacrificial lamb as a substitute for a specific human life. Although the scholar Florentina Badalanova has interestingly suggested that the narrative of Abraham's sacrifice, which is popular in Bulgarian folklore, may have persisted in an unchanged form ever since it originally emerged in ancient Ur and became transmitted orally to the Balkans, her thesis must remain purely conjectural. Where it comes to the Western Rhodopes, I suppose that the motif of Abraham's sacrifice filtered into Christian religious symbols and narratives via the traditions of adat Islam, many of which had retained close links with Judaism. By adopting the Ottoman Turkish term (kurban) rather than its Semitic variant (qorban), the Christians also adopted the related set of ideas about the sacrifice and its sacred aetiology. The precise ramifications of this example of deep syncretism for the religious experience of Orthodox Christians, though interesting, would require additional in-depth research.
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