Religious Weeping as Ritual in the Medieval West

in Social Analysis
Author:
Piroska Nagy University of Rouen npmediumaevum@gmail.com

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This essay focuses on a strange medieval phenomenon, the so-called gift of tears—religious weeping that brings beatitude. This internal purifying process, which was embedded in the specific conditions of historical Christianity, was described and understood as a procedure in which God himself acts and, therefore, as a process that human-kind cannot learn, formalize, or ritualize. However, the author analyzes religious weeping as a peculiar, `intimate ritual' in which the formalized process took place in the soul or spirituality of the weeping person. This essay aims to describe and analyze this practice while examining the historical conditions that enabled such a cultural elaboration to develop.

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Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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