Negotiating Marian Apparitions: The Politics of Religion in Transcarpathian Ukraine

Negotiating Marian Apparitions: The Politics of Religion in Transcarpathian Ukraine

Negotiating Marian Apparitions: The Politics of Religion in Transcarpathian Ukraine

Negotiating Marian Apparitions: The Politics of Religion in Transcarpathian Ukraine

Synopsis

This book concerns the politics of religion as expressed through apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Dzhublyk in Transcarpathian Ukraine. The analysis provides insights into the present position of Transcarpathia in regional, Ukrainewide, and European struggles for identity and political belonging. The way in which the apparitions site has been conceived and managed raises questions concerning the fate of religious communities during and after socialism, the significance of national projects for religious organizations, and the politics of religious management in a situation in which local religious commitments are relatively strong and religious organizations are relatively weak. The analysis contributes to the ethnography and history of this particular region and of the post-socialist world in general. The changing status of the apparition site over the years allows investigation of the questions concerning authority, legitimacy, and power in religious organizations, especially in relation to management of religious experiences.

Excerpt

On August 27, 2002, Marianka and Olenka, nine and ten years old at the time, went to fetch water from a spring in a meadow called Dzhublyk, located between two Transcarpathian villages, Nyzhnie Bolotne and Vil’khivka. the first edition of a booklet officially published by the pilgrimage site that emerged shortly after this event described the first sighting as follows:

When one of them bent to scoop out some water, the second one cried with
wonderment, “Look, is there someone behind you?” There, for the first time,
they saw the most beautiful white Lady. She was standing on a cloud,
embellished with wonderful blossoms, that did not touch the ground.
The children got scared. They even had an eerie suspicion that it might have
been some kind of sorceress (vorozhka). They hastily went home, but the Lady
was floating behind them on the cloud all the way to their yards.

At home the children spoke about the meeting, but their parents did not
believe them and rebuked them, saying that they read too many strange books
and, because of that, were deluded and could imagine anything. Even so, the
father of one of the girls, a [Greek Catholic] priest, Father Petro, a serious and
demanding person, told them, “If you see this person on the cloud again, make
the sign of the cross on yourself and on her.” (Tsyipesh 2002: 6–7)

The booklet continues with a description of the next meeting with the “person on the cloud,” that happened the same evening. the Lady followed the girls to the kindergarten, where they went to pick up Olenka’s little sister. Following the priest’s advice, the girls made the sign of the cross, but the Lady just smiled in response and returned the same sign. This openness and friendliness encouraged the girls to ask the Lady what her name was. They received two answers that supplemented each other: one girl was told that the Lady was the . . .

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