Object structure

Old age and death. The perception of old age in the context of death in the Polish countryside at the turn of 20th century and the interwar period (1918–1939)

Subject and Keywords:

the history of old age   folk thanatology   folk culture


The goal of the article is to analyze the attitude and perception of the old facing death (the way the old behaved towards the inevitable) in the Polish countryside at the turn of 20th century and in the interwar period (1918–1939). The analysis is based on ethnographic material and diaries of peasants, and corresponds to (mainly ethnological) literature on the subject. It is shown that the elderly were preparing themselves for death, and that the rural community believed that because of old people’s proximity to death, they could mediate between the sacred and the profane, especially while dying and during the burial rite. In the rural community the idea of “tamed death” (as used by Phillipe Aries) was dominant. The idea was present not only at the turn of 20th century but also during the interwar period. In traditional culture, death was an omnipresent phenomenon encountered in rural communities, work rhythm and perception of nature. Death was, first and foremost, a communal event within conservative folk culture. However, during the interwar period a gradual decline could already be observed, with the disappearance of folk concepts and simplification of ceremonies. These changes happened very slowly, however.

Place of publishing:



Instytut Socjologii Uniwersytet Wrocławski   click here to follow the link

Date issued:





ISBN 978-83-63322-24-3



Is version of:

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Rights holder:

Copyright by Bartłomiej Gapiński