Thesis supervisor: Professor Ülo Valk, University of Tartu
Dr Marion Bowman, The Open University, UK
Dr Madis Arukask, University of Tartu
This dissertation is based on the author's extensive fieldwork conducted in two important destinations in the spiritual landscape of European vernacular religion - the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain and Glastonbury in southwest England. One of the aims of this dissertation is to provide insight into the phenomenon of contemporary pilgrimage while reflecting upon fieldwork experiences. One of the recurrent themes is the construction of the image of the 'authentic' pilgrim.
The research has been carried out in the broad framework of vernacular religion, i.e. religion as it is experienced and practiced rather than as it is prescribed. By looking at the wide range of belief narratives expressed by pilgrims, Tiina Sepp studies pilgrimage as a narrated journey, including miracles and supernatural encounters. The co-existence of the different belief systems of Christianity and New Age and the conflicts and tension between them are explored.
Throughout her fieldwork Tiina Sepp has observed people's attitudes towards pilgrimage and their fellow pilgrims. By looking at different, competing narratives about the Camino de Santiago and Glastonbury, she looks into the power relationships that exist on the pilgrimage, describes how hierarchies of pilgrims are created and maintained, and reflects on the meaning of the words pilgrim and pilgrimage. With her markedly self-reflexive methodology, the author attempts to give voice to as many different people as possible: many primary narratives have been reproduced.
The dissertation consists of an introduction and four articles that have been published in the international publications the Journal of Indian Folkloristics and the Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics, as well as in Vernacular Religion in Everyday Life (a collection of articles published by Equinox). In addition to these four articles, Tiina Sepp has published two books in Estonian that deal with her fieldwork experiences.