Burials with Buckets in Early Medieval Poland: A Pagan or Christian Custom?
Chowanie zmarłych z wiadrami we wczesnym średniowieczu na ziemiach polskich. Zwyczaj pogański czy chrześcijański?
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This paper examines the custom of burying the dead with buckets in the context of ideological and religious changes in early medieval Poland. The corpus of sources for this study includes around 350 vessels discovered at over 100 cemeteries. Because Christianization of funerary practices was a multifaceted and long-term process, in which the gradual introduction of Christian motifs led to elimination or adaptation of pagan rites, it is difficult to determine whether a particular object deposited in the grave was regarded as purely “Christian” or “pagan”. This problem also relates to buckets. It seems that buckets were placed in graves as part of the so-called cult of the dead, a practice which was expressed through feasts that involved both the living and the dead. Buckets were filled with liquids and food with the intention to facilitate the journey to the Otherworld and to protect the living against the undesired return of the deceased. Burials with buckets, therefore, may have aroused concerns among the clergy and could have been regarded as practices associated with pagan traditions that deviated considerably from Christian norms and newly introduced funerary customs.
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