Lithuanian team

The Lithuanian research team represents Folk Narrative Department of the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore. The team includes: a full time postdoc researcher Dr Lina Leparskienė (Sokolovaitė), a part time research assistant PhD student Andrius Kaniava, and part time researchers Dr Radvilė Racėnaitė and Dr Lina Būgienė, who coordinates the Lithuanian part of the project.

Project page at the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore (in Lithuanian).

Lina Leparskienė

Researcher at the Department of Folk Narrative, Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore

Dr Lina Leparskienė has been exploring Trakai (one of the most popular touristic sites in Lithuania) for many years, focusing of place lore, life stories and imagination of the multinational, multilingual and highly diverse community of this historical town. In the project she will make research on catholic site in this town – the Basilica of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary with the miraculous picture of Our Lady. The meaning-making of the cult of Our Lady of Trakai as well as the route is still in process,  historical pilgrimage route from Vilnius to Trakai is currently being re-discovered both by tourists and pilgrims. Anthropological observations were conducted by L. Leparskienė on 2018, when 300th anniversary since the image of Our Lady was crowned by the Pope Clement XI was celebrated – it was a year, when the picture was finally brought to the believers from historical and cultural oblivion. The research will focus on the impact of vernacular and religious storytelling, expressions of grace and piety among different groups of believers and the changing identity of the Trakai from secular to a religious site. Ethnic aspects are highly relevant to this study, as local Poles and Lithuanians have different cultural memories and devotion traditions, with both clergy and art historians becoming mediators. In addition vernacular holy site near Trakai – the Hill of Angels – will be investigated. The the creators of this object were inspired by the picture of Our Lady of Trakai and famous Hill of Crosses (near Šiauliai town), hoping it will grow to the site of Christian piety. However Catholic Church authorities started attribute Hill of Angels to New Spiritualism and paganism.

Lina Būgienė

Senior researcher at the Department of Folk Narrative, Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore 

Dr Lina Būgienė has focused her research mainly on folk narratives, especially life stories, and their meaning in creating identity of the communities and place making. Working from this perspective in the framework of this project, she plans concentrating on personal place-lore in life stories: what places, how and why become meaningful to people? While telling their life stories, people usually describe places that they have been born in, lived in, or visited. Sometimes these are localities charged with religious or ritual meaning, or those endowed with certain exceptional quality by folk tradition; however, personally important places may be those that gain meaning only for the narrator and only in the context of the actual life story. Remembered childhood experiences, charged with nostalgia or other emotions – both positive and negative, or even traumatic, affect formation of such personal landscape. Places thus become not only the background, but also the active agent and even the source of the narratives. The goal of the planned research is to investigate the actual ways and mechanisms engaged in accumulating this personal place-lore, and to establish the possibilities and prerequisites for it to gain some broader, social importance.

Radvilė Racėnaitė

Senior researcher at the Department of Folk Narrative, Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore 

Dr Radvilė Racėnaitė is going to examines how history, memory and emotions interact in a process of transformation of Vilnius religious topography and its perception. During the WWII and with the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union for fifty years, the natural development of Vilnius was interrupted most brutally resulting in a profound shift in the city’s political, social, cultural, and religious life. After the restoration of independent Lithuania in 1990, interest towards religion has increased significantly. Religious sites and practices of piety that were neglected during the Soviet times reclaimed their symbolic importance. It also affected the religious topography of Vilnius as the old pilgrim routes were restored and the new ones were launched. Racėnaitė plans to concentrate on the revival of the cult of Divine Mercy that was inspired by Saint Maria Faustyna Kowalska. Kowalska (1905–1938) was a Polish Roman Catholic nun and a mystic who lived in Vilnius in 1933-1936. Starting from 1931 on she reported having visions and conversations with Jesus Christ. While staying in Vilnius she wrote a diary, where she described her mystical experiences. As well, in Vilnius the painting of the image of the Merciful Jesus, executed by artist E. Kazimirowski under the guidance of Sister Faustyna, was completed. At the beginning of 21st century the new pilgrim route in memory of sister Faustyna was established and the Shrine of Divine Mercy housing the miraculous painting was opened in the old town of the city. Ever since Vilnius has been referred to as the sacred place – the City of Mercy – thus enriching the everyday landscape of the modern city with the layers of symbolic meaning.

Andrius Kaniava

Junior research associate at the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore

Andrius Kaniava in his doctoral research focuses on phenomenology and human relationship with a place in forms of folklore, mythology and literature. In the project he will focus on pre-Christian sacred sites in Lithuania based on phenomenological approach. A new term story-place is introduced, as a different definition for places that we usually call sacred sites. This allows temporarily set aside the religious meaning of these places and apprehend them as objects of consciousness. Research shifts from sacredness to human experience and relationship with a place and is based on separate case studies on different places. (1) Šatrija hill – one of the most famous places in Lithuanian mythological landscape. It was a hill-fort during Iron Age. After Christianization of Lithuania became focal point of folk tales and stories about witches. (2) Šarnelė is a small village in Western Lithuania, homeland of Lithuanian poet Vytautas Mačernis (1921–1944). His works represents unique, always changing relationship with a place. This relationship and different meanings of same place is further explored in a field of phenomenological approach to literature. (3) Lopaičiai hill-fort was populated sometime between beginning of 1 st millennium and 13th century AD. It is one of the most famous places in Samogitia (western Lithuania) known for its sudden inclusion in historical narrative, sacred stones, healing stream, energetic fields and much more. All of this lore was generated in 21st century, but it’s made up in a folk fashion.