Archaeology of Folk Religion?

What is archaeology of folk religion? Basically, folk religion means beliefs and practices that are not part of an institutionalized religion’s theology. Often folk religion is contrasted with such institutionalized religion, so if the latter is lacking in a society, other terms are used (for example indigenous or ethnic religion). The connection between folk religion and institutionalized religion is complex and intriguing, and deserves a discussion of its own.

Archaeology of folk religion focuses on how folk religion manifests materially. Thus it studies practices that leave material traces, such as burial of offerings, concealed charms in buildings, and use of amulets and other ritual objects. It is interested in burial practices that do not follow official regulations, such as use of grave goods in Christian times and cemeteries outside of churchyards.

These are some of the themes that will be covered in this blog, mainly from Finland’s perspective. However, the main focus is on magic objects in Finnish museum collections. This three-year project funded by the Academy of Finland started in September 2018. Already, some very interesting details have been revealed when studying objects in the museum storage! Updates will follow.

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Objects connected to folk religion in the Satakunta museum. Photo by Eino Nikkilä 1932. National Board of Antiquities. CC BY 4.0

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