EOR2.tpgsV7 11/10/04 10:46 AM Page 1
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F
RELIGION
S E C O N D E D I T I O N


EOR2.tpgsV7 11/10/04 10:46 AM Page 3
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F
RELIGION
S E C O N D E D I T I O N
7
ICONOGRAPHY
LINDSAY JONES

EDITOR IN CHIEF
JUSTIN MARTYR

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page iv
Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition
Lindsay Jones, Editor in Chief
© 2005 Thomson Gale, a part of The
For permission to use material from this
Since this page cannot legibly accommodate
Thomson Corporation.
product, submit your request via Web at
all copyright notices, the acknowledgments
http://www.gale-edit.com/permissions, or you
constitute an extension of the copyright
Thomson, Star Logo and Macmillan Reference
may download our Permissions Request form
notice.
USA are trademarks and Gale is a registered
and submit your request by fax or mail to:
trademark used herein under license.
While every effort has been made to
Permissions
ensure the reliability of the information pre-
For more information, contact
Thomson Gale
sented in this publication, Thomson Gale
Macmillan Reference USA
27500 Drake Rd.
does not guarantee the accuracy of the data
An imprint of Thomson Gale
Farmington Hills, MI 48331-3535
contained herein. Thomson Gale accepts no
27500 Drake Rd.
Permissions Hotline:
payment for listing; and inclusion in the pub-
Farmington, Hills, MI 48331-3535
248-699-8006 or 800-877-4253 ext. 8006
lication of any organization, agency, institu-
Or you can visit our Internet site at
Fax: 248-699-8074 or 800-762-4058
tion, publication, service, or individual does
http://www.gale.com
not imply endorsement of the editors or pub-
lisher. Errors brought to the attention of the
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
publisher and verified to the satisfaction of
No part of this work covered by the copyright
the publisher will be corrected in future
hereon may be reproduced or used in any
editions.
form or by any means—graphic, electronic, or
mechanical, including photocopying, record-
ing, taping, Web distribution, or information
storage retrieval systems—without the writ-
ten permission of the publisher.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Encyclopedia of religion / Lindsay Jones, editor in chief.— 2nd ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-02-865733-0 (SET HARDCOVER : ALK. PAPER) —
ISBN 0-02-865734-9 (V. 1) — ISBN 0-02-865735-7 (v. 2) —
ISBN 0-02-865736-5 (v. 3) — ISBN 0-02-865737-3 (v. 4) —
ISBN 0-02-865738-1 (v. 5) — ISBN 0-02-865739-X (v. 6) —
ISBN 0-02-865740-3 (v. 7) — ISBN 0-02-865741-1 (v. 8) —
ISBN 0-02-865742-X (v. 9) — ISBN 0-02-865743-8 (v. 10)
— ISBN 0-02-865980-5 (v. 11) — ISBN 0-02-865981-3 (v.
12) — ISBN 0-02-865982-1 (v. 13) — ISBN 0-02-865983-X
(v. 14) — ISBN 0-02-865984-8 (v. 15)
1. RELIGION—ENCYCLOPEDIAS. I. JONES, LINDSAY,
1954-
BL31.E46 2005
200’.3—dc22
2004017052
This title is also available as an e-book.
ISBN 0-02-865997-X
Contact your Thomson Gale representative for ordering information.
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page v
E D I T O R S A N D C O N S U L T A N T S
EDITOR IN CHIEF
Program in Religious Studies,
SIGMA ANKRAVA
LINDSAY JONES
University of Wisconsin—Madison
Professor, Department of Literary and
Associate Professor, Department of
C
Cultural Studies, Faculty of Modern
HARLES H. LONG
Comparative Studies, Ohio State
Professor of History of Religions,
Languages, University of Latvia
University
Baltic Religion and Slavic Religion
Emeritus, and Former Director of
Research Center for Black Studies,

DIANE APOSTOLOS-CAPPADONA
BOARD MEMBERS
University of California, Santa Barbara
Center for Muslim–Christian
DAVÍD CARRASCO
Understanding and Liberal Studies
MARY N. MACDONALD
Neil Rudenstine Professor of Study of
Program, Georgetown University
Professor, History of Religions, Le
Latin America, Divinity School and
Art and Religion
Moyne College (Syracuse, New York)
Department of Anthropology, Harvard
DIANE BELL
DALE B. MARTIN
University
Professor of Anthropology and Women’s
Professor of Religious Studies, and
Studies, George Washington University
GIOVANNI CASADIO
Chair, Department of Religious
Australian Indigenous Religions
Professor of History of Religions,
Studies, Yale University
Dipartimento di Scienze
KEES W. BOLLE
AZIM NANJI
Professor Emeritus of History,
dell’Antichità, Università degli Studi
Professor and Director, The Institute
University of California, Los Angeles,
di Salerno
of Ismaili Studies, London
and Fellow, Netherlands Institute for
WENDY DONIGER
JACOB OLUPONA
Advanced Studies in the Humanities
Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service
Professor, African American and
and Social Sciences
Professor of the History of Religions,
African Studies Program, University
History of Religions
University of Chicago
of California, Davis
MARK CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
GARY L. EBERSOLE
MICHAEL SWARTZ
Associate Professor in the Department
Professor of History and Religious
Professor of Hebrew and Religious
of East Asian Languages and
Studies, and Director, UMKC Center
Studies, Ohio State University
Literature and the Program in
for Religious Studies, University of
Religious Studies, University of
INÉS TALAMANTEZ
Missouri—Kansas City
Wisconsin—Madison
Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Chinese Religions
JANET GYATSO
Department, University of California,
RICHARD A. GARDNER
Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies,
Santa Barbara
Faculty of Comparative Culture,
The Divinity School, Harvard
Sophia University
University
CONSULTANTS
Humor and Religion
GREGORY D. ALLES
CHARLES HALLISEY
Associate Professor of Religious Studies,
JOHN A. GRIM
Associate Professor, Department of
McDaniel College
Professor of Religion, Bucknell
Languages and Cultures of Asia and
Study of Religion
University and Co-Coordinator,
v

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page vi
vi
EDITORS AND CONSULTANTS
Harvard Forum on Religion and
TED PETERS
Religion, University of Chicago
Ecology
Professor of Systematic Theology,
Law and Religion
Ecology and Religion
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
TOD SWANSON
JOSEPH HARRIS
and the Center for Theology and the
Associate Professor of Religious Studies,
Francis Lee Higginson Professor of
Natural Sciences at the Graduate
and Director, Center for Latin
English Literature and Professor of
Theological Union, Berkeley,
American Studies, Arizona State
Folklore, Harvard University
California
University
Germanic Religions
Science and Religion
South American Religions
URSULA KING
FRANK E. REYNOLDS
MARY EVELYN TUCKER
Professor Emerita, Senior Research
Professor of the History of Religions
Professor of Religion, Bucknell
Fellow and Associate Member of the
and Buddhist Studies in the Divinity
University, Founder and Coordinator,
Institute for Advanced Studies,
School and the Department of South
University of Bristol, England, and
Asian Languages and Civilizations,
Harvard Forum on Religion and
Professorial Research Associate, Centre
Emeritus, University of Chicago
Ecology, Research Fellow, Harvard
for Gender and Religions Research,
History of Religions
Yenching Institute, Research Associate,
School of Oriental and African
GONZALO RUBIO
Harvard Reischauer Institute of
Studies, University of London
Assistant Professor, Department of
Japanese Studies
Gender and Religion
Classics and Ancient Mediterranean
Ecology and Religion
DAVID MORGAN
Studies and Department of History
HUGH B. URBAN
Duesenberg Professor of Christianity
and Religious Studies, Pennsylvania
Associate Professor, Department of
and the Arts, and
State University
Comparative Studies, Ohio State
Professor of Humanities and Art
Ancient Near Eastern Religions
University
History, Valparaiso University
SUSAN SERED
Politics and Religion
Color Inserts and Essays
Director of Research, Religion, Health
CATHERINE WESSINGER
JOSEPH F. NAGY
and Healing Initiative, Center for the
Professor of the History of Religions
Professor, Department of English,
Study of World Religions, Harvard
and Women’s Studies, Loyola
University of California, Los Angeles
University, and Senior Research
University New Orleans
Celtic Religion
Associate, Center for Women’s Health
New Religious Movements
M
and Human Rights, Suffolk University
ATTHEW OJO
Healing, Medicine, and Religion
R
Obafemi Awolowo University
OBERT A. YELLE
African Religions
LAWRENCE E. SULLIVAN
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, University
of Toronto

J
Professor, Department of Theology,
UHA PENTIKÄINEN
Law and Religion
Professor of Comparative Religion, The
University of Notre Dame
History of Religions
University of Helsinki, Member of
ERIC ZIOLKOWSKI
Academia Scientiarum Fennica,
WINNIFRED FALLERS SULLIVAN
Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious
Finland
Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer
Studies, Lafayette College
Arctic Religions and Uralic Religions
in the Anthropology and Sociology of
Literature and Religion
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page vii
A B B R E V I A T I O N S A N D S Y M B O L S
U S E D I N T H I S W O R K
abbr. abbreviated; abbreviation
3 Bar. 3 Baruch
2 Chr. 2 Chronicles
abr. abridged; abridgment
4 Bar. 4 Baruch
Ch. Slav. Church Slavic
AD anno Domini, in the year of the
B.B. BavaD batraD
cm centimeters
(our) Lord
BBC British Broadcasting
col. column (pl., cols.)
Afrik. Afrikaans
Corporation
Col. Colossians
AH anno Hegirae, in the year of the
BC before Christ
Colo. Colorado
Hijrah
BCE before the common era
comp. compiler (pl., comps.)
Akk. Akkadian
B.D. Bachelor of Divinity
Conn. Connecticut
Ala. Alabama
Beits. Beitsah
cont. continued
Alb. Albanian
Bekh. Bekhorot
Copt. Coptic
Am. Amos
Beng. Bengali
1 Cor. 1 Corinthians
AM ante meridiem, before noon
Ber. Berakhot
2 Cor. 2 Corinthians
amend. amended; amendment
Berb. Berber
corr. corrected
annot. annotated; annotation
Bik. Bikkurim
C.S.P. Congregatio Sancti Pauli,
Ap. Apocalypse
bk. book (pl., bks.)
Congregation of Saint Paul
Apn. Apocryphon
B.M. BavaD metsiEaD
(Paulists)
app. appendix
BP before the present
d. died
Arab. Arabic
B.Q. BavaD qammaD
D Deuteronomic (source of the
EArakh. EArakhin
Bra¯h. Bra¯hman.a
Pentateuch)
Aram. Aramaic
Bret. Breton
Dan. Danish
Ariz. Arizona
B.T. Babylonian Talmud
D.B. Divinitatis Baccalaureus,
Ark. Arkansas
Bulg. Bulgarian
Bachelor of Divinity
Arm. Armenian
Burm. Burmese
D.C. District of Columbia
art. article (pl., arts.)
c. circa, about, approximately
D.D. Divinitatis Doctor, Doctor of
AS Anglo-Saxon
Calif. California
Divinity
Asm. Mos. Assumption of Moses
Can. Canaanite
Del. Delaware
Assyr. Assyrian
Catal. Catalan
Dem. DemaDi
A.S.S.R. Autonomous Soviet Socialist
CE of the common era
dim. diminutive
Republic
Celt. Celtic
diss. dissertation
Av. Avestan
cf. confer, compare
Dn. Daniel
EA.Z. EAvodah zarah
Chald. Chaldean
D.Phil. Doctor of Philosophy
b. born
chap. chapter (pl., chaps.)
Dt. Deuteronomy
Bab. Babylonian
Chin. Chinese
Du. Dutch
Ban. Bantu
C.H.M. Community of the Holy
E Elohist (source of the Pentateuch)
1 Bar. 1 Baruch
Myrrhbearers
Eccl. Ecclesiastes
2 Bar. 2 Baruch
1 Chr. 1 Chronicles
ed. editor (pl., eds.); edition; edited by
vii

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page viii
viii
ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS
EEduy. EEduyyot
Hung. Hungarian
Lith. Lithuanian
e.g. exempli gratia, for example
ibid. ibidem, in the same place (as the
Lk. Luke
Egyp. Egyptian
one immediately preceding)
LL Late Latin
1 En. 1 Enoch
Icel. Icelandic
LL.D. Legum Doctor, Doctor of Laws
2 En. 2 Enoch
i.e. id est, that is
Lv. Leviticus
3 En. 3 Enoch
IE Indo-European
m meters
Eng. English
Ill. Illinois
m. masculine
enl. enlarged
Ind. Indiana
M.A. Master of Arts
Eph. Ephesians
intro. introduction
Ma Eas. MaEaserot
EEruv. EEruvin
Ir. Gael. Irish Gaelic
Ma Eas. Sh. MaE aser sheni
1 Esd. 1 Esdras
Iran. Iranian
Mak. Makkot
2 Esd. 2 Esdras
Is. Isaiah
Makh. Makhshirin
3 Esd. 3 Esdras
Ital. Italian
Mal. Malachi
4 Esd. 4 Esdras
J Yahvist (source of the Pentateuch)
Mar. Marathi
esp. especially
Jas. James
Mass. Massachusetts
Est. Estonian
Jav. Javanese
1 Mc. 1 Maccabees
Est. Esther
Jb. Job
2 Mc. 2 Maccabees
et al. et alii, and others
Jdt. Judith
3 Mc. 3 Maccabees
etc. et cetera, and so forth
Jer. Jeremiah
4 Mc. 4 Maccabees
Eth. Ethiopic
Jgs. Judges
Md. Maryland
EV English version
Jl. Joel
M.D. Medicinae Doctor, Doctor of
Ex. Exodus
Jn. John
Medicine
exp. expanded
1 Jn. 1 John
ME Middle English
Ez. Ezekiel
2 Jn. 2 John
Meg. Megillah
Ezr. Ezra
3 Jn. 3 John
Me Eil. MeEilah
2 Ezr. 2 Ezra
Jon. Jonah
Men. Menah.ot
4 Ezr. 4 Ezra
Jos. Joshua
MHG Middle High German
f. feminine; and following (pl., ff.)
Jpn. Japanese
mi. miles
fasc. fascicle (pl., fascs.)
JPS Jewish Publication Society trans-
Mi. Micah
fig. figure (pl., figs.)
lation (1985) of the Hebrew Bible
Mich. Michigan
Finn. Finnish
J.T. Jerusalem Talmud
Mid. Middot
fl. floruit, flourished
Jub. Jubilees
Minn. Minnesota
Fla. Florida
Kans. Kansas
Miq. MiqvaDot
Fr. French
Kel. Kelim
MIran. Middle Iranian
frag. fragment
Ker. Keritot
Miss. Mississippi
ft. feet
Ket. Ketubbot
Mk. Mark
Ga. Georgia
1 Kgs. 1 Kings
Mo. Missouri
Gal. Galatians
2 Kgs. 2 Kings
MoEed Q. MoEed qat.an
Gaul. Gaulish
Khois. Khoisan
Mont. Montana
Ger. German
Kil. Kil Dayim
MPers. Middle Persian
Git.. Git.t.in
km kilometers
MS. manuscriptum, manuscript (pl.,
Gn. Genesis
Kor. Korean
MSS)
Gr. Greek
Ky. Kentucky
Mt. Matthew
H
. ag. H
. agigah
l. line (pl., ll.)
MT Masoretic text
H
. al. H
. allah
La. Louisiana
n. note
Hau. Hausa
Lam. Lamentations
Na. Nahum
Hb. Habakkuk
Lat. Latin
Nah. Nahuatl
Heb. Hebrew
Latv. Latvian
Naz. Nazir
Heb. Hebrews
L. en Th. Licencié en Théologie,
N.B. nota bene, take careful note
Hg. Haggai
Licentiate in Theology
N.C. North Carolina
Hitt. Hittite
L. ès L. Licencié ès Lettres, Licentiate
n.d. no date
Hor. Horayot
in Literature
N.Dak. North Dakota
Hos. Hosea
Let. Jer. Letter of Jeremiah
NEB New English Bible
H
. ul. H
. ullin
lit. literally
Nebr. Nebraska
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page ix
ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS
ix
Ned. Nedarim
pop. population
sp. species (pl., spp.)
Neg. Nega Eim
Port. Portuguese
Span. Spanish
Neh. Nehemiah
Prv. Proverbs
sq. square
Nev. Nevada
Ps. Psalms
S.S.R. Soviet Socialist Republic
N.H. New Hampshire
Ps. 151 Psalm 151
st. stanza (pl., ss.)
Nid. Niddah
Ps. Sol. Psalms of Solomon
S.T.M. Sacrae Theologiae Magister,
N.J. New Jersey
pt. part (pl., pts.)
Master of Sacred Theology
Nm. Numbers
1Pt. 1 Peter
Suk. Sukkah
N.Mex. New Mexico
2 Pt. 2 Peter
Sum. Sumerian
no. number (pl., nos.)
Pth. Parthian
supp. supplement; supplementary
Nor. Norwegian
Q hypothetical source of the synoptic
Sus. Susanna
n.p. no place
Gospels
s.v. sub verbo, under the word (pl.,
n.s. new series
Qid. Qiddushin
s.v.v.)
N.Y. New York
Qin. Qinnim
Swed. Swedish
Ob. Obadiah
r. reigned; ruled
Syr. Syriac
O.Cist. Ordo Cisterciencium, Order
Rab. Rabbah
Syr. Men. Syriac Menander
of Cîteaux (Cistercians)
rev. revised
TaE an. TaEanit
OCS Old Church Slavonic
R. ha-Sh. RoDsh ha-shanah
Tam. Tamil
OE Old English
R.I. Rhode Island
Tam. Tamid
O.F.M. Ordo Fratrum Minorum,
Rom. Romanian
Tb. Tobit
Order of Friars Minor
Rom. Romans
T.D. Taisho¯ shinshu¯ daizo¯kyo¯, edited
(Franciscans)
R.S.C.J. Societas Sacratissimi Cordis
by Takakusu Junjiro¯ et al.
OFr. Old French
Jesu, Religious of the Sacred Heart
(Tokyo,1922–1934)
Ohal. Ohalot
RSV Revised Standard Version of the
Tem. Temurah
OHG Old High German
Bible
Tenn. Tennessee
OIr. Old Irish
Ru. Ruth
Ter. Terumot
OIran. Old Iranian
Rus. Russian
T
. ev. Y. T
. evul yom
Okla. Oklahoma
Rv. Revelation
Tex. Texas
ON Old Norse
Rv. Ezr. Revelation of Ezra
Th.D. Theologicae Doctor, Doctor of
O.P. Ordo Praedicatorum, Order of
San. Sanhedrin
Theology
Preachers (Dominicans)
S.C. South Carolina
1 Thes. 1 Thessalonians
OPers. Old Persian
Scot. Gael. Scottish Gaelic
2 Thes. 2 Thessalonians
op. cit. opere citato, in the work cited
S.Dak. South Dakota
Thrac. Thracian
OPrus. Old Prussian
sec. section (pl., secs.)
Ti. Titus
Oreg. Oregon
Sem. Semitic
Tib. Tibetan
EOrl. EOrlah
ser. series
1 Tm. 1 Timothy
O.S.B. Ordo Sancti Benedicti, Order
sg. singular
2 Tm. 2 Timothy
of Saint Benedict (Benedictines)
Sg. Song of Songs
T. of 12 Testaments of the Twelve
p. page (pl., pp.)
Sg. of 3 Prayer of Azariah and the
Patriarchs
P Priestly (source of the Pentateuch)
Song of the Three Young Men
T
. oh. t.ohorot
Pa. Pennsylvania
Shab. Shabbat
Tong. Tongan
Pahl. Pahlavi
Shav. ShavuEot
trans. translator, translators; translated
Par. Parah
Sheq. Sheqalim
by; translation
para. paragraph (pl., paras.)
Sib. Or. Sibylline Oracles
Turk. Turkish
Pers. Persian
Sind. Sindhi
Ukr. Ukrainian
Pes. Pesahim
Sinh. Sinhala
Upan. Upanis.ad
Ph.D. Philosophiae Doctor, Doctor
Sir. Ben Sira
U.S. United States
of Philosophy
S.J. Societas Jesu, Society of Jesus
U.S.S.R. Union of Soviet Socialist
Phil. Philippians
(Jesuits)
Republics
Phlm. Philemon
Skt. Sanskrit
Uqts. Uqtsin
Phoen. Phoenician
1 Sm. 1 Samuel
v. verse (pl., vv.)
pl. plural; plate (pl., pls.)
2 Sm. 2 Samuel
Va. Virginia
PM post meridiem, after noon
Sogd. Sogdian
var. variant; variation
Pol. Polish
Sot.. Sot.ah
Viet. Vietnamese
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page x
x
ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS
viz. videlicet, namely
Yad. Yadayim
* hypothetical
vol. volume (pl., vols.)
Yev. Yevamot
? uncertain; possibly; perhaps
Vt. Vermont
Yi. Yiddish
° degrees
Wash. Washington
Yor. Yoruba
+ plus
Wel. Welsh
Zav. Zavim
minus
Wis. Wisconsin
Zec. Zechariah
= equals; is equivalent to
Wis. Wisdom of Solomon
Zep. Zephaniah
× by; multiplied by
W.Va. West Virginia
Zev. Zevah.im
→ yields
Wyo. Wyoming
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N



v o l u m e s e v e n
o m m e r c
c
C O e
M
M o
E R CfE
O F I M A G E S
i m a g e s
Although certain definitions of religion would like to portray
worship and the contemplative life as devoid of anything so
profane or secular as commerce, in fact, work, trade, and religion are often insepa-
rable, and can even be indistinguishable. And no religion is without fundamental
economic aspects. If commerce is broadly understood as any system of exchange in
which goods, services, or capital act as a medium of human relations, it is not dif-
ficult to see how commerce also characterizes much religious behavior. Human traffic
with the divine may be described as a commerce of sorts, and often precisely as a
system of exchange in which human beings barter for goods and services that will
enhance their lives. Images are often the coin by which the metaphysical economy of
exchange is conducted with the gods or divine forces whose benefits may be acquired
by the expenditure of moral or spiritual capital betokened by the image. In other
cases, images promote or facilitate consumption that is
infused with religious meaning.
The food and incense offered to earth gods by a
Chicago Chinatown grocer in the small shrine repro-
duced here (a) are propitiations, that is, inducements
to blessing or favorable action. The food is not simply
a form of literal sustenance, though the practice of
offering food to ancestors and the dead is common
in many religions. But in such cases, as with the earth
gods of the Chinese American grocery store owner, the
food symbolizes the giver’s mindfulness and plea. The
offering, in other words, betokens a desired relation-
ship, not a mere material dependency. The gods, like
the dead, do not wish to be forgotten. Remembering
them curries their favor because it engages them in a
deliberate relationship with the living. They respond
benevolently not because they are paid to do so, but
(a) A small shrine with offerings of food and incense at a
grocery store in Chicago’s Chinatown in 1999. [Photograph by
David Morgan]

E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V7.indd 1
V7.indd 1
10/29/04 1:10:12 PM
10/29/04 1:10:12 PM



COMMERCE OF IMAGES
out of their sense of gratitude to the human recognition of
their needs or because of the respect they are due. Such an
economy humanizes the otherwise unpredictable power
of the divine. A world in which the devout can engage
the divine in acts of civility is a world less hostile and
inhumane. The earth gods invoked by the grocer’s shrine
respond by promoting the sale of food in a way that par-
allels their propitiation in rural China, where they could
assist good harvests.

The practice of displaying thanks for healings and
deliverance or posting petitions for such blessings is
familiar in Roman Catholicism and Shintō. Small paint-
ings (b) are commissioned and displayed in cathedrals
by those who wish to thank the Mother of God for her
intervention in difficult circumstances. Public displays of
this visual form of thanks are an essential part of the ritual
since they are a kind of reciprocation that recognizes the
Virgin’s benevolence. Catholic women often post their
petitions and thanks to Saint Jude at his shrines or in
shrine publications as part of seeking his assistance in
overcoming obstacles. Shintō pilgrims who visit shrines
and holy places, such as mountains in Japan, display their
petitions on pieces of wood purchased and then deposited
at the shrines (c).
(b) ABOVE. Nineteenth-century ex-votos for the Virgin
Mary on a church wall in Vilsbiburg, Germany. [©José F.
Poblete/Corbis] (c) RIGHT. Wooden prayer tablets with requests
for favors from the gods for sale at a Shintō shrine in Kyoto,
Japan. [©Catherine Karnow/Corbis]
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V7.indd 2
V7.indd 2
10/29/04 1:10:15 PM
10/29/04 1:10:15 PM



COMMERCE OF IMAGES

In the later Middle Ages in Europe, Christians were
able to procure time off from extended stays in purga-
tory for themselves or dead loved ones by purchasing
indulgences, which were delivered as tokens on paper
(d). Letters of indulgence were drawn up by ecclesiastical
authorities and awarded to particular churches or religious
orders, authorizing the sale of indulgences to those who
visited shrines or churches where they might venerate
relics or images and offer prayers. Indulgences were often
associated with pilgrimage churches and offered lucrative
benefits to the towns, orders, bishoprics, and the Vatican.
Images and medallions were sold at pilgrimage sites as
tokens of pilgrimage and as devotional items that were
used in prayer and even enshrined for devotion afterward.
Sales at religious festivals helped ensure local artisans of
income and boosted local economies, as well as church
coffers (e).
(d) RIGHT. A sixteenth-century woodcut flyer advertises indul-
gences to be purchased from John Tetzel, an indulgence seller.
[©Bettmann/Corbis] (e) BELOW. Jörg Breu the Elder, Sale of
Indulgences, c. 1530, woodcut. [©Art Resource, N.Y.]
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V7.indd 3
V7.indd 3
10/29/04 1:10:20 PM
10/29/04 1:10:20 PM


COMMERCE OF IMAGES
Festivals
such
as
Ramad.ān, Ro’sh ha-Shanah, Christ-
mas, and Easter are commonly celebrated the world over
by the sale of all manner of decorations (f ). Muslims, like
their Christian and Jewish counterparts, purchase inex-
pensive, brightly decorated items for domestic display (g).
These objects are often mass-produced, but typically recall
premodern forms of craft and handmade production.
Highly decorative, they incorporate explicitly religious
symbols and motifs that will encourage ritual mindful-
ness during the festival and support rituals of gifting that
(f ) TOP. Ramad.ān decorations for sale in 2003 in Beirut, Leba-
non. [AP/Wide World Photos]
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V7.indd 4
V7.indd 4
10/29/04 1:10:23 PM
10/29/04 1:10:23 PM



COMMERCE OF IMAGES
are common on the occasions of such holy days. Even
daily devotional life finds a hearty place for artistic goods,
as seen in two different African religious marketplaces,
which show an Ethiopian Orthodox priest and lay persons
patronizing image peddlers outside of a temple in Addis
Ababa (h) and two Muslim men in front of a vendor’s
glass painting display in Dakar, Senegal (i). Consump-
tion, therefore, is a familiar form of religious observance.
Religious practices such as Vodou, which are perhaps most
commonly experienced as forms of problem-solving by
practitioners, rely on proprietors who create the material
(h) TOP. Religious images for sale near an Ethiopian Orthodox
Church compound in Addis Ababa in 1999. [Photograph by David
Morgan] (i) RIGHT. Senegalese men view images of S.ūfī lead-
ers and tourist themes for sale in 2001 in Dakar. [UCLA Fowler
Museum of Cultural History; photograph by Lynne K. Brodhead]
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V7.indd 5
V7.indd 5
10/29/04 1:10:27 PM
10/29/04 1:10:27 PM



COMMERCE OF IMAGES
culture of liturgy, ritual action, and petition that priests
and laity purchase in commercial shops for later use (j).

Religion is market-friendly even among those tradi-
tions that criticize and seek to reform certain econom-
ic practices. By challenging and ultimately subverting
the metaphysical economy of indulgences used among
Roman Catholics, the renegade monk Martin Luther and
the Reformation he led and inspired replaced it with an
alternative economic system of belief. Arguing that God
himself provided the means of redemption in a theology
of substitutionary atonement, in which the debt of sin
was paid for by the sacrificial blood of Christ’s death,
Luther rejected the believer’s dependence on an economic
relationship with the divine that was mediated by the
ecclesiastical hierarchy.

Inspired by the success of Luther’s use of print and
the commercial viability of print production, Protestants
formed tract and bible societies that published and dis-
tributed materials domestically and internationally, often
as the cornerstone of their mission outreach (k). In effect,
Protestantism tended to transform faith into the affirma-
(j) TOP. Two Haitian merchants display Vodou items for sale
tion of a message that was inexpensively circulated on a
in the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince in 1994. [Photograph by
vast scale as mass-produced information or “news.” These
Doran Ross] (k) ABOVE. The Colporteur on his Rounds, an
illustration from The Sunday at Home (vol. 8, no. 345,
printed items were often illustrated, since images both
December 6, 1860, page 776). [Courtesy of the Billy Graham
attracted consumers and effectively condensed informa-
Center Museum, Wheaton, Ill.]
tion into economically viable forms of advertisement.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V7.indd 6
V7.indd 6
10/29/04 1:10:29 PM
10/29/04 1:10:29 PM



COMMERCE OF IMAGES
Advertisement was understood as a form of evangelism,
as the mural painted by an evangelical sign painter in Los
Angeles (l) clearly shows. The pithy, attention-grabbing
image was accompanied by the richly visual language of
the Bible to deliver its urgent message in a direct way.

The very efficacy of Protestantism’s use of imagery in
mass-produced media during the nineteenth and twen-
tieth centuries encouraged the exploitation of biblical
narrative as a form of mass entertainment. Cecil B. De
Mille’s sensational portrayal of the life of Moses in The Ten
Commandments
(1956) was not only a box office hit in the
United States, but in several countries. The promotional
poster reproduced here (m) advertised the film to Japa-
nese viewers in a way that capitalized on the star power
and charisma of the Hollywood commodities of celebrity
and extravaganza.

Making work and religion indistinguishable is not
a peculiarly Protestant habit. Islam anticipated the inte-
gration of work and belief by centuries. This is perhaps
most assiduously practiced by the Mourides, a Senegalese
S.ūfī ethnic group that regards work as a spiritual practice
par excellence. This attitude is strongly conveyed by the
(l) ABOVE. Mire of Sin, a mural by John B. D. at the
Emmanuel Baptist Rescue Mission in Los Angeles.
[©Camilo José Vergara, reproduced by permission.] (m) LEFT. A
Japanese poster advertising Cecil B. De Mille’s 1956 film
The Ten Commandments. [Courtesy of the Billy Graham Center
Museum, Wheaton, Ill.]

E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V7.indd 7
V7.indd 7
10/29/04 1:10:32 PM
10/29/04 1:10:32 PM


COMMERCE OF IMAGES
(n) An image of Amadou Bamba, a Mouride saint, on the wall
intermingling of the portrait of the Mouride saint, Ama-
of a hubcap shop in Dakar, Senegal, in 1994. [Photograph by Mary
dou Bamba, on a wall of a hubcap shop in Dakar (n).
N. Roberts and Allen F. Roberts]
Buying hubcaps at this store promises a special blessing to
devout consumers. For Muslims and Christians, business
is an ideal medium for religious practice because it carries
belief into the heart of the daily world, infusing the most
mundane acts with a transcendent significance.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Andersson, Christiane, and Charles Talbot, eds. From a Mighty
Fortress: Prints, Drawings, and Books in the Age of Luther,
1483–1546
. Detroit, 1983.
Cosentino, Donald J. Vodou Things: The Art of Pierrot Barra and
Marie Cassaise. Jackson, Miss., 1998.
Morgan, David. Protestants and Pictures: Religion, Visual Culture,
and the Age of American Mass Production. New York, 1999.
Orsi, Robert A. Thank You, St. Jude: Women’s Devotion to the
Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes. New Haven, 1996.
Roberts, Allen F., and Mary Nooter Roberts. A Saint in the City:
S.ūfī Arts of Urban Senegal. Los Angeles, 2003.
Zarur, Elizabeth Netto Calil, and Charles Muir Lovell, eds. Art
and Faith in Mexico: The Nineteenth-Century Retablo Tradition.
Albuquerque, N. Mex., 2001.
David Morgan ()
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V7.indd 8
V7.indd 8
10/29/04 1:10:37 PM
10/29/04 1:10:37 PM



C O N T I I
N U E D
ICONOGRAPHY
This entry consists of the following articles:
ICONOGRAPHY AS VISIBLE RELIGION [FIRST EDITION]
ICONOGRAPHY AS VISIBLE RELIGION [FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS]
TRADITIONAL AFRICAN ICONOGRAPHY
AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL ICONOGRAPHY
NATIVE NORTH AMERICAN ICONOGRAPHY
MESOAMERICAN ICONOGRAPHY
MESOPOTAMIAN ICONOGRAPHY
EGYPTIAN ICONOGRAPHY
GRECO-ROMAN ICONOGRAPHY
HINDU ICONOGRAPHY
BUDDHIST ICONOGRAPHY
DAOIST ICONOGRAPHY
CONFUCIAN ICONOGRAPHY
JEWISH ICONOGRAPHY [FIRST EDITION]
JEWISH ICONOGRAPHY [FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS]
CHRISTIAN ICONOGRAPHY
ISLAMIC ICONOGRAPHY
ICONOGRAPHY: ICONOGRAPHY AS VISIBLE RELIGION [FIRST
EDITION]
Iconography literally means “description of images,” but it also refers to a research program
in art history that exposes the different meanings of images vis-à-vis the beholder.
WORDS AND IMAGES. Religious iconography defines a relationship between word and pic-
torial scheme, each of which follows its own logic. Visual forms are not discursive: they
do not represent their message sequentially but simultaneously. While the meanings given
through verbal language are understood successively, those given through visual forms are
understood only by perceiving the whole at once. Susanne Langer, who argues for such
a distinction in her Philosophy in a New Key (1951, pp. 79–102), calls this kind of seman-
tics “presentational symbolism,” indicating that we grasp it not by reasoning but by feel-
ing. From this basic difference it follows that word and image sometimes compete against
each other and sometimes supplement each other. There is no universal law for this rela-
C LOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT CORNER. Relief of the ancient Egyptian deities Horus and Isis with
Euergetes II at Kom Ombo in Aswan, Egypt. [©Roger Wood/Corbis]; Twelfth-century
Byzantine mosaic of Christ with the Virgin Mary in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.
[©Charles & Josette Lenars/Corbis]; Colossal stone Buddha (destroyed in 2001) in Bamiyan,
Afghanistan. [The Art Archive]; Fifteenth-century Inca ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru.
[©Alison Wright/Corbis]; The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. [©Scala/Art Resource, N.Y.] .
4295

4296
ICONOGRAPHY: ICONOGRAPHY AS VISIBLE RELIGION [FIRST EDITION]
tionship; I shall illustrate some of the possibilities with exam-
citizens’ demands on the other. Yet, these materials have
ples from the history of ancient religions.
scarcely begun to be used for the study of political and civil
conceptions of religion apart from the well-known priestly
In ancient societies, the artist who shaped statues or
one.
carved stamps and seals was included among the artisans, a
disparate group of producers who came to form a rank of
Another factor should be noted: the scarcity of pictorial
their own. In Iran, as elsewhere, the three age-old social
schemes. As there existed only a limited number of well-
groups of priests, warriors, and peasants were joined in Par-
known stereotypes suitable for representing gods, we often
thian times (third century BCE–second century CE) by that
find a certain break between image and inscription. A partic-
of the artisans. But this new group was unable to elevate its
ularly dramatic example appears on a jar from Palestine
status, as confirmed by the Book of Ben Sira (second century
(about 800 BCE), decorated with two figures similar to the
BCE). This text, which enumerates a list of craftsmen, ac-
Egyptian Bes (with feather crown, phallus, and crooked legs).
knowledges that without such skilled workers as the engrav-
An inscription declares: “I will bless you by Yahveh my [our]
ers of seals, the smith, or the potter, a city would have no
protector and his Ashera” (Monotheismus im Alten Israel und
inhabitants and no settlers or travelers would come to it. Yet,
seiner Umwelt, edited by Othmar Keel, Fribourg, 1980,
the writer points out, the artisans “are not in demand at pub-
pp. 168–170). The pictorial representation of God of course
lic discussions or prominent in the assembly,” since the as-
violates the ban on images (Ex. 20:4), though this prohibi-
sembly needs the wise men who are engaged in study rather
tion originally concerned cult statues (pesel) alone and was
than manual labor (Ben Sira 38:24–39:5).
extended only later to a comprehensive ban on pictorial rep-
resentation (Robert P. Carroll in Studia theologica 31, 1977,
The low reputation of the artisans is also reflected in the
pp. 51–64). Nor does the chosen pictorial scheme fit the offi-
anonymity of their work. Artists working on behalf of a tem-
cial literary conceptions of Yahveh. But this incongruency
ple, a palace, or a private customer became alienated from
does not prove that inscription and image are disconnected.
their work. Although Greek vases were presumably signed by
There were only a small number of pictorial schemes appro-
their painters for the first time about 700 BCE, the majority
priate for the representation of sky gods. In the second and
of artists were still unknown in later times and remained de-
first millennia BCE, three main schemes were used: the figure
pendent on their patrons. The carvers of the Achaemenid
of a seated old man with a beard, dressed in a long garment
rock reliefs (Iran, sixth–fifth century BCE), for example, relied
with a horn-crown on his head; the figure of a standing
completely on the political visions and models of the imperi-
young man with a club in his right hand; and the figure of
al court and were obliged to create a visual legitimation of
a wild bull (Peter Welten in Biblisches Reallexikon, 2d ed.,
Achaemenid kingship. (See Margaret Root’s The King and
Tübingen, 1977, pp. 99–111).
Kingship in Achaemenid Art, Leiden, 1979).
Here we obviously touch on a characteristic of all tradi-
Other trends of patronage can be observed with seals,
tional imagery: it tends toward the most simple schemes,
stamps, amulets, and pottery. In Hellenistic Egypt, for exam-
which will be evident to almost all beholders. We know that
ple, the god Bes is represented in clay figures more often than
ancient Jewish literature was aware of these schemes. The
the official and well-known Egyptian gods. The artisans in
psalms refer to Yahveh as a smiting god (Ps. 29, for example;
the provincial workshops obviously had to take into account
see Othmar Keel’s Die Welt der altorientalischen Bildsymbolik
the taste of private customers, who were looking for a deity
und das Alte Testament, 2d ed., Zurich, 1977, pp. 184–197),
able to avert evil powers and to protect men and women. The
while Daniel 7:9 refers to Yahveh as the old god. These
frightening appearance of Bes that the artisans shaped served
schemes were welcome as textual symbols, but for visual
as protection against such perils and met the demands of the
form they were rejected by the priests and prophets. None-
laity (see Françoise Dunand in Visible Religion 3, 1985). The
theless, images such as Yahveh as Bes may well have been a
history of Greek vase paintings provides us with similar phe-
pictorial representation not admitted by priests and proph-
nomena. While some paintings represent typically heroic at-
ets, and in fact, the ban on images so poorly argued in the
titudes toward dying, others display an unheroic, plebeian
Hebrew scriptures should be carefully reviewed in this con-
fear of death (see H. Hoffmann in Visible Religion 4, 1985–
text of pictorial schemes.
1986). Here the dependency on the court has been replaced
by a dependency on citizens: the artisans were obviously serv-
Further examples will suggest other aspects of the rela-
ing civil demands and had to respond to changing social val-
tionship between word and image. In India the concretiza-
ues. But in Egypt and Greece alike, the priests were scarcely
tion of gods in images reduced their geographical universality
able to control the artisans’ relations with their customers.
and emphasized their local function (Heinrich von Stie-
If there existed a market for religious objects and if there were
tencron in Central Asiatic Journal 21, 1977, pp. 126–138).
influential lay employers, then priests could be expected to
In Greco-Roman religions, gods that originally belonged to
lose control of this part of religion. To make the point in pos-
the same tradition could be split by different representations
itive terms: craft products sometimes reflect a popular com-
(Hendrik Simon Versnel in Visible Religion 4, 1985–1986).
prehension of religion and thus can be used to trace the rul-
These are only two instances where images have had an im-
ers’ demands for political legitimation, on the one hand, and
pact on the conceptual tradition. But we can also observe the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: ICONOGRAPHY AS VISIBLE RELIGION [FIRST EDITION]
4297
contrary: a ban on images in the literary tradition can deeply
own culture. Once the viewer’s role is seen to be greater than
affect the pictorial representation. Medieval and modern
Panofsky allowed, new problems are raised. How can we de-
Sh¯ıE¯ı Muslim artists usually paint their holy imams as men
scribe the way other people see their images? How do we dis-
without faces; the incomplete and mutilated human figures
tinguish between subjective association and objective percep-
testify to an image-critical tradition. In other cases, as in Mu-
tion? Where do we draw the line between true and false
nich in 1534–1535, a ban on images could result in full-
inference?
fledged iconoclasm (Bildersturm, edited by Martin Warnke,
Munich, 1973). Yet a thorough analysis of iconoclasm must
A second criticism of Panofsky’s original scheme has
pay close attention to the different functions these images
been advanced by George Kubler, who reproaches the seem-
have had: a political one in the case of state art, a civic one
ing preference for words over images in The Shape of Time
in the case of objects created by artisans for their fellow citi-
(1962). Separating forms and meanings, he argues that arti-
zens, and finally, a sacerdotal one in the case of temple art.
facts have to be studied as forms of their own; their develop-
The destruction of rulers’ emblems, the smashing of amulets,
ment must be traced regardless of the meanings connected
or the cleansing of the temple can all be justified by the same
with them. By including architecture and sculpture along
ban on images. But in fact each of these actions has its own
with painting, Kubler has also conclusively extended the
rationale and must be described in separate terms.
field. He reminds us that images and symbols are not free-
floating but regularly connected with particular art forms
APPROACHES TO ICONOGRAPHY AND ICONOLOGY. The
and that, conversely, art forms have an affinal relationship
study of iconography within the discipline of art history ex-
with images and symbols. This phenomenon can be de-
plores the symbolic references of pictorial representations.
scribed in terms of iconological genres: images and symbols,
The first modern scholar to address such issues was Aby War-
like literary concepts, became institutionalized in genres (see
burg (1866–1929), who specialized in the art of the Europe-
Gombrich’s introduction to Symbolic Images, 1972). The art
an Renaissance. Erwin Panofsky (1892–1968) proceeded to
form (a coin, for example, or a vase) is the place where an
develop a comprehensive model for the description of picto-
artisan combines a functional object with symbolic values.
rial arts based on three strata of meaning, each entailing par-
The study of continuity and variety in the designs of these
ticular analytical and terminological tools. According to
art forms, therefore, yields insights into symbolic values. This
Panofsky, the first level resides in the world of natural objects
analysis of iconological genres seems to offer a much more
and events and is evident to every beholder. The second level,
controlled approach to iconology than the intuition that
that of conventional meanings, can be detected in the motifs
Panofsky had in mind, since it allows us to discern between
of works of art; it is the domain of iconography in the narrow
true and false implications.
sense of the word to identify these conventional meanings.
Finally, there are underlying principles of symbolic values, in
It is evident that no verbal description can enter into de-
the sense defined by Ernst Cassirer, and he described the in-
tails as much as a visual depiction. This means that each text
tuitive process of detecting them as iconology (see Studies in
leaves a certain free play to the imagination of the artist, and
Iconology, pp. 3–31).
the manner in which artists have used this freedom is in no
way accidental. To cite one example, the first Christian art-
While Panofsky’s design for reading images has been
ists working in the Roman catacombs depicted Jesus as the
widely accepted, it has also been refined over time. Besides
Good Shepherd with a lamb on his shoulders, a motif obvi-
the Gestalt psychologists, the influence that Ludwig Witt-
ously inspired by Matthew 18:12–14 and Luke 15:4–7. But
genstein (1889–1951) has exerted on the general theory of
there was a change in meaning: while the parables emphasize
symbols has been felt in the field of iconology. In his Philo-
the concerns of the shepherd for the individual gone astray,
sophical Investigations (1953), for example, Wittgenstein
the artists of the third century depicted Jesus with a lamb on
presents a figure that can be read as either a duck or a rabbit.
his shoulders to emphasize the value of protection in the “age
What we see, he demonstrates, depends on our interpreta-
of anxiety.” Later on, as social values changed, other motifs
tion. In other words, there is no innocent eye; seeing is an
were demanded (see Moshe Barasch in Visible Religion 2,
active process, not a passive one. As recent research into pic-
1983). This episode neatly illustrates the subject of Panof-
torial representation emphasizes, the share of the beholder
sky’s iconology: an image—in itself an illustration of a
is decisive; the likeness between drawing and object is of
story—can be explained as a reflection of the symbolic value
minor importance. What might be called a critical rational-
of an age, and therefore changes in the representation indi-
ism of viewing dictates that when we read a drawing we are
cate changes in basic attitudes.
looking for stereotypes we have in mind already. This view,
promoted most influentially by Ernst H. Gombrich (1977),
Panofsky himself perceived the risks connected with his
implies that there is no clear-cut division between natural
approach. There is always the danger, he observed, that ico-
and conventional meanings as Panofsky maintained; reading
nology, which should relate to iconography as ethnology re-
images mainly involves the recognition of conventional
lates to ethnography, will instead parallel the relationship be-
schemes. Different cultures develop different schemes for
tween astrology and astrography (Meaning in the Visual Arts,
identical objects; thus, we believe that we recognize likeness,
p. 32). This danger of excessive interpretation is due to the
but in fact we only recognize stereotypes well known in our
very ambiguity of images and to the difficulty of comparing
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4298
ICONOGRAPHY: ICONOGRAPHY AS VISIBLE RELIGION [FIRST EDITION]
them. Every iconological statement must therefore be care-
rum. Free-floating symbols can be assigned various mean-
fully argued and submitted to certain control. In the case of
ings, but this variety will become more limited if symbols are
the history of Mediterranean religions and arts, two ap-
regularly associated with specific art forms. The use of an ob-
proaches appear to meet this fundamental demand, one fo-
ject clearly influences the beholder’s perceptions and associa-
cusing on styles, the other on the institutional function of
tions: function guides the projection that the beholder
images.
makes. This phenomenon is also familiar from literature,
where the reader’s expectations are shaped by literary genre.
Changes of style. A comparison of art from early Egyp-
The same holds true for visual representations: an image of
tian and late Roman times immediately reveals certain
a god on a coin evokes other associations than those sum-
changes in the means of depiction. The Egyptian mode,
moned by the same image on an amulet: whereas the coin
which Gerhard Krahmer has described as paratactical or pre-
conveys political legitimacy, the amulet is associated with
perspective (Figur und Raum in der ägyptischen und gr-
personal feelings of veneration. Thus, only by studying
iechisch-archaischen Kunst, The Hague, 1931), can be seen on
genres are we able to specify meanings, and only by studying
the famous Narmer Palette of about 2800 BCE. The details
institutional contexts can we discern between the true and
of the image are disconnected. Even the body is not a whole,
false implications of images.
for every part of it is depicted as an independent unit: head
and legs are shown from the sides, eye and trunk from the
There are basically two theoretical models that can be
front. The picture does not presuppose a spectator who per-
invoked to explain the meaning of pictures: images can be
ceives the depiction as a whole; rather, it tells a story by
read as elements of a structure, and they can be read as mod-
means of signs and symbols that are not interrelated. The vi-
els of social reality. The two main theories of symbols, name-
sual and discursive systems of representation have not yet
ly those of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Ernst Cassirer, are also
been separated: the visual does not evoke illusion, while the
used in the field of iconography. For Lévi-Strauss, the mean-
Egyptian system of writing represents discursive speech with
ings of symbols are based on their own logical interrelation-
pictorial symbols (see Herman te Velde in Visible Religion 4,
ships, while for Cassirer, symbols provide a conceptual
1985–1986). Only with classical Greek art does the depic-
means to grasp reality.
tion come to rely on an ideal beholder and deliberately evoke
what we call illusion. These differences, of course, have noth-
These approaches can be illustrated with recent scholar-
ing to do with skill or lack of it. More aptly, we should ex-
ship on Greek material. Herbert Hoffmann has studied the
plain them in terms of a different Kunstwollen—a word used
paintings on Greek vases as structural codes. The scenes on
by Alois Riegl and only inadequately translated by “artistic
the vases illustrate myths, but these illustrations can be read
intention” (Otto J. Brendel, Prolegomena to the Study of
as paradigms referring to social values. Death, for example,
Roman Art, New Haven, 1979, p. 31). If one accepts the no-
is sometimes represented as the monster Gorgon whom the
tion of Kunstwollen, however, the different artistic intentions
hero courageously encounters, and sometimes it is represent-
remain to be explained.
ed as an ugly demon pursuing human beings. Behind the
choice of different mythological themes hide two distinct
At this point Panofsky again becomes useful because he
conceptions of death, one heroic and the other plebeian (Vis-
looked for the symbolic values underlying artistic products.
ible Religion 4, 1985–1986).
In this case, the change from paratactical to hypotactical (or
perspectival) art can be analyzed as a change in worldview.
An approach more in the line of Cassirer is used in
By the fifth century
Wiltrud Neumer-Pfau’s study of possible links between Hel-
BCE in Greece, an archaic conception of
person and nature lacking the notion of organic coherence
lenistic Aphrodite statues and the social position of women.
had been replaced by one stressing the organic interrelation-
Such links are not unlikely, because ancient physiognomic
ship of different parts. Later on, in Hellenistic and Roman
literature postulated a connection between body posture and
times, this organic conception of person and nature was re-
the moral qualities of the person depicted. In fact, the pos-
placed by yet another one stressing mechanical order. The
ture of the Aphrodite statues changed in the course of time.
individual object (a statue, for instance) then became part of
In the early Hellenistic period the nude Aphrodite is shown
a spatial scheme submitting different constructions and ob-
reacting to an unseen beholder who has disturbed her; thus
jects to a superior artificial order. The arrangements of space
the spectator looking at the beautiful nude woman is freed
in late Roman art not only evoke military order but also re-
from feeling any guilt. Later statues portray the nude goddess
flect the values of a bureaucratic society that succeeded in
as less shy and modest: she allows the invisible beholder to
crushing the civil structure of the polis (Hans Peter L’Orange,
admire her. Finally there are statues showing the goddess
Art Forms, Princeton, 1965). There exist only a few of such
frankly exposing her nude beauty to the spectator. The moral
large-scale comparisons of styles, but they are sufficient to
qualities ascribed to the subject have gradually changed, and
prove the value of such an approach, and similar cases could
this change cannot be isolated from the fundamental impact
be made for other cultures.
that ancient Near Eastern culture had on the social and legal
position of women in the Greek world. While women were
Genres. A second iconological approach describes and
under male tutelage in ancient Greek society, they enjoyed
compares images as reflections of certain principles of deco-
a certain independence in Egypt and the Near East. Thus the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: ICONOGRAPHY AS VISIBLE RELIGION [FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS]
4299
change of visual representation reflects the change of social
Panofsky, Erwin. Meaning in the Visual Arts (1955). Reprint, Chi-
reality. (See Neumer-Pfau, Studien zur Ikonographie und ge-
cago, 1982. Further studies based on his methodological ap-
sellschaftlichen Funktion hellenistischer Aphrodite-Statuen,
proach.
Bonn, 1982).
Riegl, Alois. Spätrömische Kunstindustrie. 2d ed. (1927). Reprint,
These two theoretical models are valuable tools for en-
Darmstadt, 1973. The well-known book of Riegl describes
the history of art from early Egyptian to late Roman times
larging scientific knowledge about past and foreign cultures.
as stages of ancient worldview; many descriptive terms.
Iconography as a description of how other cultures read their
images enables us to reconstruct hitherto undiscovered as-
Visible Religion: Annual for Religious Iconography. Edited by H. G.
pects of ethos and worldview.
Kippenberg. Leiden, 1982–. An annual reconstructing how
visual representations have been read by other cultures. Pub-
S
lished to date: vol. 1, Commemorative Figures (1982); vol. 2,
EE ALSO Aesthetics, article on Visual Aesthetics; Arche-
types; Architecture; Cassirer, Ernst; Colors; Human Body,
Representations of Gods (1983); vol. 3, Popular Religions
(1984); vol. 4, Approaches to Iconology (1985–1986).
article on Human Bodies, Religion, and Art; Images; Sym-
bol and Symbolism.
H. G. KIPPENBERG (1987)
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Gail, Adalbert J., ed. Künstler und Werkstatt in den orientalischen
Gesellschaften. Graz, 1982. A collection of essays dealing with
ICONOGRAPHY: ICONOGRAPHY AS VISIBLE
the social status of artists and artisans in different ancient and
RELIGION [FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS]
modern societies of the East; a valuable survey.
Since 1988, discussions related to the topic of iconography
Gombrich, Ernst H. “Aims and Limits of Iconology.” In Symbolic
as a form of visible religion have expanded the boundaries
Images: Studies in the Arts of the Renaissance. London, 1972.
previously established by Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945), Ernst
An introductory essay expounding the idea of genres and the
Gombrich (1909–2001), Suzanne Langer (1895–1985),
institutional function of images.
Erwin Panofsky (1892–1968), and Aby Warburg (1866–
Gombrich, Ernst H. Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of
1929). The forms and directions of research questions have
Pictorial Representation. 5th ed. Oxford, 1977. An excellently
been re-shaped and re-formulated as the study of religion has
written book with many interesting examples; the main the-
been effected by the widening boundaries of gender studies,
sis is that reading images means recognizing mental stereo-
investigations of the body, and the study of economic, eth-
types.
nic, engendered, and/or racial minorities. The study of art,
Hermerén, Göran. Representation and Meaning in the Visual Arts:
ranging from art history through theories of appreciation,
A Study in the Methodology of Iconography and Iconology.
aesthetics, and art criticism has been expanded similarly to
Stockholm, 1969. A sagacious analysis of the conceptual
incorporate material culture, popular culture, and visual cul-
framework of iconography and iconology; the main thesis is
ture. The growing recognition among religious scholars of
similar to that of Gombrich—seeing is an active process, not
the significance and meaning of the iconographic elements
a passive one—but the author elaborates this idea more sys-
in film, television, video, photography, and the mass media
tematically than Gombrich along the lines of philosophical
was prompted by the studies of Lynn Schofield Clark, Gre-
theories of symbols.
gor Goethals, Stewart M. Hoover, Nissan N. Perez, and S.
Kaemmerling, Ekkehard, ed. Ikonographie und Ikonologie: Theo-
Brent Plate. New scholarship has extended the study of art
rien, Entwicklung, Probleme. Cologne, 1979. A collection of
and religion into geographic areas previously investigated to
first-class essays, including the basic texts of Panofsky that
a lesser extent, such as Pre-Columbia, Latin America, Africa,
discuss the program of Warburg and Panofsky.
and Oceania, as for example in the work of Carol Damian,
Keel, Othmar. Die Welt der altorientalischen Bildsymbolik und das
Rosalind I. J. Hackett, and Albert C. Moore.
Alte Testament. 2d ed. Zurich, 1977. A book full of pictorial
schemes; it analyzes the imagery of Old Testament texts with
Interest in response theory (especially in relation to the
regard to these schemes.
arts) has affected the attitude toward and methodologies for
Kubler, George. The Shape of Time. New Haven, 1962. A contri-
the study of iconography. Attention in the last ten years has
bution to a theory of iconological genres; he criticizes Panof-
been placed on the religious valuing and influence of popular
sky for emphasizing meaning derived from texts and argues
culture, and more recently, visual culture. These appear in
in favor of art forms that can be studied independently of
the work of art historians such as Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Sally
meanings.
Promey, and Gary Vikan, and among religion scholars such
Langer, Susanne K. Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Sym-
as Erika Doss, Colleen McDannell, David Morgan, and Ste-
bolism of Reason, Rite, and Art. 3d ed. Cambridge, Mass.,
phen Prothero. They have begun a transfer of interest from
1951. Especially important for iconography is the distinction
the traditional focus of iconographic analysis to new catego-
she makes between discursive and presentational forms.
ries of engagement. Simultaneous to these renovations, re-
Panofsky, Erwin. Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the
appraisals of the theories and methods developed by Cassirer,
Art of the Renaissance (1939). Reprint, Oxford, 1972. The in-
Gombrich, Langer, and most especially Panofsky, have re-
troductory chapter expounds his basic program.
framed the fundamental starting points for analysis.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4300
ICONOGRAPHY: TRADITIONAL AFRICAN ICONOGRAPHY
NEW PERSPECTIVES. As linguistic analyses and technology
Ferretti, Silvia. Il demone della memoria: simbolo e tempo storico in
advance our understanding of the epistemological and aes-
Warburg, Cassirer, Panofsky. Cassale Monferrato, Italy, 1984.
thetic processes, future directions for the study of iconogra-
Freedberg, David. The Power of Images: A History of Response Theo-
phy as a form of visible religion will emerge in coordination
ry. Chicago, 1989.
with a growing recognition of global and multicultural dis-
Frese, Pamela R., and John M. Coggeshall, eds. Transcending
courses as pioneered in the comparative studies of traditional
Boundaries: Multi-Disciplinary Approaches to the Study of
iconographic motifs by Helene E. Roberts. New modes of
Gender. New York 1991.
analyses will incorporate nonlinear patterns of thinking as
Goethals, Gregor. The Electronic Golden Calf: Images, Religion,
initiated in the “visual thinking” of the philosopher Rudolf
and the Making of Meaning. Cambridge, Mass., 1990.
Arnheim and the creative linguistics of physician Leonard
Hackett, Rosalind I. J. Art and Religion in Africa. New York,
Shlain. Further, the studies of the significance of optics and
1996.
vision as communicators of cultural values and ideas in the
Hamburger, Jeffrey F. Nuns as Artists: The Visual Culture of a Me-
recent work of art historians James Elkins and Martin Kemp
dieval Convent. Berkeley, Calif., 1997.
will impact the study of iconography as a form of visible
Holly, Michael Ann. Panofsky and the Foundation of Art History.
religion.
Ithaca, N.Y., 1984.
The rapid transfer of information via visual global
Hoover, Stewart M. Mass Media Religion: The Social Sources of the
media raises new questions regarding the communication of
Electronic Church. Newbury Park, Calif., 1988.
information, knowledge, and ideas beyond the traditional
Hourihane, Colum, ed. Image and Belief: Studies in Celebration of
boundaries of cultural and religious frames. The need for de-
the Eightieth Anniversary of the Index of Christian Art. Prince-
veloping a methodology that incorporates globalism, mul-
ton, N.J., 1999.
ticulturalism, and modern technology will become more ap-
Kemp, Martin. Visualizations: The Nature Book of Art and Science.
parent, and hopefully filled in conjunction with the
New York, 2001.
development of a language to discuss the visual. Similarly,
Kvaerne, Per. The Bön Religion of Tibet: The Iconography of a Liv-
the continuing study of the visual codes of traditional cul-
ing Tradition. Boston, 1995.
tures, especially among indigenous peoples, provides the nec-
Lavin, Irvin, ed. Meaning in the Visual Arts: Views from the Out-
essary foundation for current and future study significantly
side: A Centennial Commemoration of Erwin Panofsky (1892–
expanding the field of religious studies.
1968). Princeton, N.J., 1995.
McDannell, Colleen. Material Christianity: Religion and Popular
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Culture in America. New Haven, Conn., 1998.
Almeida-Topor, H. d,’ Michel Sève, and Anne-Elisabeth Spica,
eds. L’historien et l’image: de l’illustration?á la preuve: actes du
Moore, Albert C. Arts in the Religions of the Pacific: Symbols of Life.
Colloque tenu á l’Université de Metz, 11–12-mars 1994. Metz,
London, 1997.
France, 1998.
Morgan, David. Visual Piety: A History and Theory of Popular Reli-
Arnheim, Rudolf. Visual Thinking. Berkeley, Calif., 1997.
gious Images. Berkeley, Calif., 1999.
Berlo, Janet Catherine, ed. Art, Ideology, and the City of Teotihua-
Perez, Nissan N. Revelation: Representations of Christ in Photogra-
can: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks, 8th and 9th October
phy. London, 2003.
1988. Washington, D.C., 1992.
Plate, S. Brent, ed. Religion, Art, and Visual Culture: A Cross-
Bolvig, Axel, and Phillip Lindley. History and Images: Towards a
Cultural Reader. New York, 2002.
New Iconology. Turnhout, Belgium, 2003.
Promey, Sally. Painting Religion in Public: John Singer Sargent’s
Burke, Peter. Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evi-
Triumph of Religion at the Boston Public Library. Princeton,
dence. Ithaca, N.Y., 2001.
N.J., 2001.
Bynum, Caroline Walker. The Resurrection of the Body in Western
Prothero, Stephen. American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a
Christianity, 200–1336. New York, 1995.
National Icon. New York, 2003.
Cassidy, Brendan, ed. Iconography at the Crossroads: Papers from
Roberts, Helene E., ed. Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography.
the Colloquium Sponsored by the Index of Christian Art,
2 volumes. Chicago, 1998.
Princeton University, 23–24 March 1990. Princeton, N.J.,
Shlain, Leonard. The Alphabet Goddess: The Conflict between Word
1993.
and Image. New York, 1999.
Clark, Lynn Schofield. From Angels to Aliens: Teenagers, the Media,
Vikan, Gary S. Sacred Images and Sacred Power in Byzantium. Bur-
and the Supernatural. New York, 2003.
lington, Vt., 2003.
Dalle Vacche, Angela, ed. The Visual Turn: Classical Film Theory
and Art History. New Brunswick, N.J., 2003.
DIANE APOSTOLOS-CAPPADONA (2005)
Damian, Carol. The Virgin of the Andes: Art and Ritual in Colonial
Cuzco. Miami Beach, Fla., 1995.
Doss, Erika. Elvis Culture: Fans, Faith, and Image. Lawrence,
ICONOGRAPHY: TRADITIONAL AFRICAN
Kan., 2004.
ICONOGRAPHY
Elkins, James. Visual Studies: A Skeptical Introduction. New York,
Africa is enormous, and the diversity of peoples and com-
2003.
plexities of cultures in sub-Saharan black Africa warn against
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: TRADITIONAL AFRICAN ICONOGRAPHY
4301
generalizations, especially when discussing visual images, the
“signs” on shrine walls, which refer to the basic ontological
significance of which is inextricably linked to local religious
properties of the world; funerary masquerades and dances
and aesthetic sensibilities. Hence, in order to understand the
through which the deceased is transformed into a venerated
iconography of traditional African religions, one must use a
ancestor; and secret languages through which the incanta-
comparative approach. Only by examining the religious ico-
tions and texts describing the creation of the world and the
nography of a variety of cultures can one fully understand
appearance of death are conveyed from one generation to an-
how visual images represent distinctive ways of experiencing
other. These are the means by which the Dogon can act ef-
the world for the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa.
fectively in their world, strengthen the creative process, and
ANCESTORS AND KINGS: TWO CASE STUDIES. On the grana-
at the very least provide a momentary stay against confusion.
ry doors of the Dogon people of Mali, rows of paired ances-
Among the Edo people along the coastal forest of south-
tor figures called nommo stand watch over the precious millet
east Nigeria, the iconography of the Benin kingdom reflects
stored within. Similar figures, at times androgynous, are
a culture with a very different spirituality, one shaped by a
placed next to the funeral pottery on ancestral shrines of fam-
monarchical tradition. The present dynasty traces its origins
ilies and on the shrine in the house of the hogon, the religious
to the fourteenth century, beginning with Oba Eweka I, who
and temporal leader of a clan. Their elongated, ascetic bodies
was fathered by Òran`míyan´, son of Odùduwà (Odua), the
and proud, dispassionate faces image the Dogon’s myths of
Yoruba creator-god and first king of Ife (although, according
origin, as well as their perception of themselves when life is
to oral tradition, even before Eweka, the Benin kingdom was
filled with spiritual vitality, nyama.
said to have been ruled by the Ogosi kings). Thus, for centu-
Oral traditions recall a great drought in the fifteenth
ries the political and religious life of the Edo people has fo-
century that occasioned the migration of the Dogon in two
cused upon the person and powers of the oba, or king.
successive waves from southwestern regions to the area of the
The magnificently carved ivory tusks projecting from
Bandiagara cliffs and plateau. There they displaced the Tel-
the top of the bronze memorial heads on the royal ancestral
lem people, whose shrine sculpture they retained and used,
shrines (until the British punitive expedition of 1897) sym-
and established themselves in small villages, often situated in
bolized the powers of the king—his political authority and
pairs. In an environment largely devoid of permanent water-
his supernatural gifts. While his authority depended upon
courses, the Dogon dug wells to great depths, cultivated sub-
statecraft and military conquest, it was by virtue of his de-
sistence crops of millet, and fashioned houses, shrines, and
scent from obas who had become gods and his possession of
granaries of a mud-masonry architecture using the geometri-
the coral beads, said to have been taken from the kingdom
cal forms, such as cylinders, cones, and cubes, that can also
of Olokun, god of the sea, that the oba had ase, “the power
be seen in Dogon wood sculpture.
to bring to pass,” the power over life and death.
The Dogon trace their descent to the “four families”
Over the centuries the royal guild of blacksmiths created
who made the legendary migration, but this history of ori-
more than 146 memorial bronze heads of deceased obas,
gins is inextricably intertwined with an elaborate creation
queen mothers, and conquered kings and chiefs; and the
mythology which profoundly informs their social and reli-
royal guild of carvers portrayed on 133 ivory tusks the king,
gious life. The variations in the myth, as in the sculptured
his wives, chiefs, and retainers, as well as leopards and mud-
forms expressing it, reflect the strong sense of individuality
fish, emblems of his power over forest and water and of his
that each Dogon village possesses. It also permits the free
ability to move across boundaries distinguishing disparate
play of the sculptor’s imagination, whose work then gener-
realms. Although the memorial heads and the carved tusks
ates new mythological interpretations.
were created in honor of particular obas, and the rites that
are performed before them are always in the name of an indi-
Dogon myth, ritual, and iconography express a view of
vidual oba, the bronze heads and carved figures do not por-
life in which, through a process of differentiation and pairing
tray the individuality of past obas in either form or expres-
of related beings (nommo), an ordered, fruitful world is to
sion. It is an aesthetic and a religious principle in Benin
be created. But the creative process of complementarity, or
culture that the particular is subordinated to the general. The
twinness, contains within it the potential of opposition and
reigning oba depends upon the collective royal ancestors and
conflict. The primordial being, or nommo, who was a black-
yields to their commands, and the same is true of the iconog-
smith, stole iron and embers from the sun and descended to
raphy of the ancestral shrines and ritual artifacts of the Edo
earth within a well-stocked granary. It was he who led the
people generally. Thus, the ancestral shrines and their sculp-
descendants of the eighth nommo in civilizing the earth.
tures are not merely memorials but also serve as a means of
Thus creation involves human participation through ritual
communication with the living dead.
actions that restore life and maintain an ordered world.
Among the materials of the ritual process are village shrines
As in most other African religious traditions, the Edo
representing a set of twins; shrine sculpture, as well as grana-
distinguish between a high god, Osanobua, and a pantheon
ry doors with their bas-relief of paired figures, snakes and liz-
of deities that includes Olokun, god of the sea and bestower
ards, zigzag patterns, and female breasts, all symbolically as-
of wealth, Ogun, god of iron, and Osun, god of herbal leaves,
sociated with the creation myth; geometric patterns or
whose shrines and rituals articulate the religious life for king
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4302
ICONOGRAPHY: TRADITIONAL AFRICAN ICONOGRAPHY
and commoner as one of response to the powers upon which
A similar observation may be made about the reliquary
individuals are dependent but over which they have relatively
figures of the Kota people of Gabon. Referred to as mbulu-
little control. However, in a monarchical society, with its di-
ngulu, “image of the dead,” the two-dimensional figures con-
visions of labor among craftsmen, hunters, farmers, warriors,
sist of large ovoid heads above simple, diamond-shaped
and traders (with the Portuguese, Dutch, and British) and
wooden bases. On a shrine, the sculptured form is seated in
its high regard for individual enterprise and prowess, the
a bark container holding the bones of several generations of
Cult of the Hand, ikegobo, also known as ikega, provides a
ancestors. The ovoid face and coiffure are created by apply-
means for celebrating the ability of the individual to accom-
ing thin sheets or strips of brass and copper to a wooden form
plish things and, within limits, to achieve new status. Con-
in a variety of interrelated geometric patterns. In every case,
tainers for offerings to the Hand, crafted in bronze for kings
it is the power of the eyes that holds and penetrates the be-
and in wood for titled persons, bear images of power such
holder, expressing the bond between the living and the de-
as an oba sacrificing leopards, a warrior holding the severed
ceased and the protective power of the ancestors in and for
head of an enemy, Portuguese soldiers with guns, or the tools
the life of the extended family.
and emblems of office for the blacksmith, carver, or trader.
All shrines for the Hand bear the image of the clenched fist,
It is not only the reality of the ancestral presence that
showing the ventral side, with the thumb pointing upward
Africa’s religious art presents. Among the È:gbá, È:gbádò, and
and outward. The directness with which the ritual symbol-
Kétu it is the power of “our mothers” that is celebrated in
ism is expressed is unusual in African religious art but quite
the spectacle of the È:fè:/Ge:le:de: festival of masquerade, dance,
consistent with a ritual of self-esteem.
and song at the time of the spring rains. “Our mothers,”
àwo:n ìyá wa, is a collective term for female power, possessed
FORM AND MEANING. Notwithstanding the particularity of
by all women, but most fully by female ancestors and deities
traditional African iconography, it is, in general, essentially
and by elderly women in the community who are thus able
conceptual and evocative. It is not representational and illus-
to sustain or inhibit the procreative process and all other
trative, and it is not abstract.
human activities upon which the entire society depends. Bal-
Although the principal subject of African art is the
anced on the heads of the dancers—for they always appear
human figure, there is rarely any concern to portray individ-
in pairs—are sculptures depicting the composed face of a
ual likeness, even where a sculpture has been commissioned
beautiful woman, above which there may be a dramatic scene
to commemorate a particular person, as in Akan funerary
of conflict between snakes and a quadruped, or scenes depict-
pottery, Yoruba twin figures, or, as noted above, the Benin
ing domestic activities or social roles. The total sculpted
bronze heads on royal ancestral shrines. And there is rarely
image is perceived as a visual metaphor, often understood as
any attempt to visualize in material form spiritual powers,
having multiple levels of significance. Likewise, in the delib-
although an elaborately constructed masquerade of cloth,
erate pairing of the delicate face masks and the massive forms
wood, and raffia or a sculpted figure on a shrine may “locate”
and aggressive imagery of zoomorphic helmet masks of the
for ritual purposes the ancestral presence, the god, or the
Poro society among the Senufo people of the Ivory Coast one
spirit. Rather, African iconography is primarily concerned
also observes images that refer to the complementary roles
with expressing the essential nature and status of those pow-
of female and male, both human and spiritual, by which life
ers to which one must respond and with providing models
is sustained. In these masquerades, as in Kuba helmet masks
of appropriate response to such powers.
worn by the king, African artists are not concerned with the
representational illusion entailed in copying nature. Rather,
Presence of power. Among the Ìgbómìnà Yoruba of
they concentrate on that which they know and believe about
southwestern Nigeria the costumes of the masquerades for
their subjects, and they seek to construct images to which the
the patrilineal ancestors, egun´gun´ paaka, combine materials
distinctive spirituality of a people can react.
of the forest with those of human manufacture, such as layers
of richly colored cloths, bits of mirror, and beaded panels.
This is also true of emblems of office, such as the beauti-
The carved headdress portion often melds animal and
fully carved bow stands owned by Luba chiefs. The bow
human features. Packets of magical substances are secreted
stands are considered sacred and are usually kept with ances-
within the costume. It is the peculiar state of being of the
tral relics, where only the chief and special caretakers are per-
living dead, who cross boundaries and move between two
mitted to see them. The work images Luba political and spir-
realms, who dwell in heaven yet profoundly affect the well-
itual power. It is through the maternal line that chiefs inherit
being of the living, that is materialized, for masquerades are
their office. In the sculpted female figure at the top, woman
created to reveal a reality not otherwise observable and to
as genetrix is conveyed in the lifting of the maternal breasts,
evoke an appropriate response, such as awe and dependency,
the elaborately scarified abdomen, and the exposed genitals.
on the part of the observer. Thus, among the Pende the con-
The closed eyes of the serene face convey the inner, cerebral
cept of mahamba signifies an object, such as a mask, or a ritu-
power that contrasts with the reproductive and nurturing
al given by the ancestors to the living for the common good
power of her body. And the soaring three-pronged coiffure,
and through which the ancestors periodically manifest them-
expressing her status and beauty, repeats as an inverted pat-
selves and communicate with their descendants.
tern the sculptural treatment of the breasts and the legs, each
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: TRADITIONAL AFRICAN ICONOGRAPHY
4303
of which frames a central vertical element. On ritual occa-
RITUAL ACTIVITY. It is evident that the iconography of Afri-
sions, the chief’s bow and arrows, signs of his political au-
can peoples must be understood in the context of ritual activ-
thority, would rest in her elaborate coiffure at the top of the
ity, where the world as lived and the world as imaged become
staff. Below her, the metal tip of the staff is thrust into the
fused together and transformed into one reality. There are
earth, the realm of the ancestors. It is maternal power that
essentially two types of rituals—those in which a person or
provides the link with the ancestral power on which a Luba
group undergoes a change in status, usually referred to as
chief’s power depends.
rites of passage, and rituals of world maintenance, through
Models of response. Ritual sculpture provides not only
which a person or group affirms and seeks to secure in the
images of the powers on which the living depend but also
words and actions of sacrifice a worldview.
models for appropriate response to gods and spirits. The
Rites of passage. Among many African peoples the
naked male or female with arms at their sides or touching
masquerade is associated with rites of passage, as, for exam-
their abdomens which appear on Lobi shrines in Burkina
ple, the seasonal rituals of sowing, tilling, and harvesting
Faso, as well as the figure of a kneeling woman with a thun-
among the Bwa and Bamana, the funeral rites of the Dogon
der-ax balanced upon her head and holding a dance-wand
and the Yoruba, and the rituals of initiation of youth into
for the Yoruba god San`gó, are images of man and woman
the societies of the Dan and Mende peoples of West Africa.
as devotees, as inspirited and powerful. They are images
through which persons see their spirituality and by which
Among the Mende people of Sierra Leone, Nowo, a fe-
their spirituality is deepened.
male spirit, appears in dance and masquerade to girls being
initiated into the Sande (also known as Bundu) ceremonial
The distinction between imaging the nature and status
society. As far as is known, it is the only female mask danced
of spiritual powers and imaging the religious self in the pos-
by a woman in Africa. Although primarily associated with
ture of devotion and power cannot in most instances be
the Sande society and thought of as the Sande spirit, Nowo
clearly drawn: much African iconography combines the two
also appears in other ritual contexts. Her image is carved on
processes, less so perhaps where there are ancestral associa-
the finals of the rhythm pounders used in the boys’ initiation
tions and more often where the reference is to gods and spir-
rites, on the staff carried by the leader of the men’s Poro soci-
its. On the shrines of the Baule people of the Ivory Coast,
ety, and on the carved mace of the Mende king, as well as
men and women place figures representing the spouse that
on divination implements, women’s ritual spoon handles,
they had in the other world before they were born. The fig-
and on weaving-loom pulleys. But it is only to the female ini-
ure is thus the locus for one’s spirit-spouse and the place
tiates into Sande that Nowo appears in the fullness of the
where one attends to the claims of that other. But at the same
masquerade and the movements of the dance.
time the sculptures—many of them carved with great skill—
present idealized images of male and female, often in the ma-
In the rituals, Nowo is a spiritual presence and images
turity of life, the hair or beard carefully groomed, the body
the beauty and power, the nobility, of woman. Thick, dyed-
decorated with scarification patterns and adorned with
black fiber strands, suspended from a wooden helmet mask,
beads, the face composed, the stance well-balanced. Like-
cover the dancer’s body. The carved headdress depicts a com-
wise, among the Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria, the tu-
posed face with faintly opened eyes that see but may not be
telary gods of a town are imaged in wooden figures based
seen. The head is crowned with an elaborate coiffure into
upon an idealized human model, for the gods not only have
which are woven cowrie shells and seed pods, symbols of
life-giving powers but are also the guardians of morality. The
wealth and fertility. Black is said to be woman’s color, the
sculptures—for they are often in groups—are looked upon
color of civilized life. The glistening black surface suggests
as the “children” of the deity honored. Hence, in their pres-
the lustrous, well-oiled skin with which the initiates will re-
ence the devotee is confronted with conceptions of the self
enter the world. Nowo thus provides an image of the physi-
that constrain him or her in thought and action to a deep-
cal beauty and the spiritual power of woman to those about
ened awareness of the self that that person is and is not.
to take their place as adults in Mende society.
Perhaps the most extraordinary images of self and of
World maintenance rituals. The role of iconography
personal power are carvings that incorporate magical sub-
in Africa’s rituals of world maintenance is no less important
stances (in or on images) to the extent that they alter the
than in rites of passage. Among the Yoruba, to cite only one
human form of the image. They are found for the most part
example, paired bronze castings of male and female figures
among the Songye and Congo peoples of the lower Congo
joined at the top by a chain, e:dan, are presented to an initiate
basin. Some figures have an antelope horn filled with “medi-
into the higher ranks of the secret society that worships
cines” projecting from the head, others have nails and small
Onílè:, “the owner of the earth.” The society is known as Òg-
knives pounded into the body, or a magic-holding resin box
bóni in Ò:yó: and the region once under the influence of the
embedded in the belly. They are visualizations in the extreme
Ò:yó: Empire in the eighteenth century. In this instance Onílè:
of ritual action as manipulative power. Using such carvings
has feminine connotations and exists in a complementary re-
in conjunction with words of invocation, the priest or owner
lationship to Olódùmarè, the high god, who is usually
of the image engages with the evil in the world, either to
thought of in masculine terms. Among the southern Yoruba,
project or deflect its aggressive power.
the same society is called Òs:ùgbó, who also worship Onílè:.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4304
ICONOGRAPHY: AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL ICONOGRAPHY
However, the pronunciation of Onílè: requires that the term
Fernandez, James. Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagina-
be translated as “owner of the house.” The house is the cult
tion in Africa. Princeton, N.J., 1982.
house, which is thought of as a microcosm of the universe.
Fischer, Eberhard, and Hans Himmelheber. Die Kunst der Dan.
(Yoruba is a tonal language. The word ilè: with a high tone
Zurich, 1976.
on the concluding letter means “house,” and with a low tone
Glaze, Anita J. Art and Death in a Senufo Village. Bloomington,
and shortened vowel refers to the “earth.”) The secret, visual-
Ind., 1981.
ized in the linking of male and female, appears to refer to
Horton, Robin. Kalabari Sculpture. Lagos, Nigeria, 1965.
a vision of life in terms of its completion and transcendence
Karp, Ivan, and C. Bird, eds. African Systems of Thought. Washing-
of time.
ton, D.C., 1979.
The titled members of the Ògbóni/Òs:ùgbó society are
LaGamma, Alisa. Art and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divi-
the elders of the community. They are beyond the time of
nation. New York, 2000.
procreative concerns. For them, sexual differentiation is no
LaGamma, Alisa. Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture.
longer as important as it once was. Furthermore, kinship dis-
New York, 2002.
tinctions are secondary to the worship of Onílè:, because
Lamp, Frederick. African Art of the West Atlantic Coast: Transition
identification of person by patrilineage is replaced by the al-
in Form and Content. New York, 1979.
legiance to the unity of all life in Onílè:. Thus, the
Ògbóni/Òs:ùgbó elders participate in the settling of conflicts
Laude, Jean. Les arts de l’Afrique noire. Paris, 1966. Translated by
that divide the body politic. The sacred emblems of the soci-
Jean Decock as The Arts of Black Africa. Berkeley, Calif.,
1971.
ety, the e:dan, are placed on those spots where the relation-
ships among persons have been broken and blood spilled.
MacGaffey, Wyatt. “Complexity, Astonishment, and Power: The
Expressing the unity of male and female, they possess the
Visual Vocabulary of Kongo Minkisi.” Journal of Southern
African Studies
14, no. 2 (1988): 188–203.
power of reconciling and adjudicating differences and aton-
ing through sacrifice for the violation of the essential whole-
Meyer, Piet. Kunst und Religion der Lobi. Zurich, 1981.
ness of life, whether imaged in “earth” or “house.”
Pemberton, John, III, ed. Insight and Artistry in African Divina-
tion. Washington, D.C., 2000.
The seated male and female figures present to the viewer
the signs of their power and authority, às:e:. The female holds
Rattray, R. S. Religion and Art in Ashanti. Oxford, 1927.
a pair of e:dan, as she would twin children. The male figure,
Roberts, Mary Nooter, and Allen F. Roberts, eds. Luba Art and
with clenched fists, makes the sign of greeting Onílè:. Four
the Making of History. New York, 1996.
chains with tiny bells are suspended from the sides of each
Schildkrout, Enid, and Curtis Keim, eds. African Reflections: Art
figure’s head. The number four, as well as multiples of four,
from Northeastern Zaire. New York, 1990.
are important in Ifa divination; Ò:run´mìlà (also called Ifá),
Siroto, Leon. African Spirit Images and Identities. New York, 1976.
the divination god, knows the secret of creation and the sac-
Strother, Z. S. Inventing Masks: Agency and History in the Art of
rifices that will make one’s way propitious. Above the spare,
the Central Pende. Chicago, 1998.
ascetic bodies, the heads of the paired figures radiate with
Thompson, Robert Farris. African Art in Motion. Los Angeles,
their às:e:. Twelve chains are suspended from the plate below
1974.
each figure. Twelve is a multiple of three and four, also num-
bers associated with Ògbóni/Òs:ùgbó and Ifá ritual symbol-
Thompson, Robert Farris. The Four Movements of the Sun: Kongo
ism. In their combination, there is completion and whole-
Art in Two Worlds. Washington, D.C., 1981.
ness born of the secret knowledge of Ògbóni/Òs:ùgbó and
Vogel, Susan M. Baule: African Art, Western Eyes. New Haven,
Ifá, a secret readily revealed to the informed eye.
Conn., 1997.
Vogel, Susan M., ed. For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the
SEE ALSO Dogon Religion; Edo Religion.
Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection. New York, 1981.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
JOHN PEMBERTON III (1987 AND 2005)
Biebuyck, Daniel. The Arts of Zaire, vol.1: Southwestern Zaire.
Berkeley, Calif., 1985.
Ben-Amos, Paula. The Art of Benin. Revised edition. London,
ICONOGRAPHY: AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL
1995.
ICONOGRAPHY
Drewal, Henry John, and Margaret T. Drewal. Gelede: Art and Fe-
Art has a central place in Australian Aboriginal religion. The
male Power among the Yorùbá. Bloomington, Ind., 1983.
substance of Aboriginal ceremonies and rituals consists of en-
Drewal, Henry John, John Pemberton III, and Rowland Abiodun.
actments of events from the Dreaming, or ancestral past,
Yorùbá: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought. New
events that are conserved in the form of the songs, dances,
York, 1989.
designs, and sacred objects that belong to a particular clan
Ezra, Kate. Art of the Dogon. New York, 1988.
or totemic cult group. Such forms are referred to collectively
Fagg, William B., and John Pemberton III. Yorùbá Sculpture of
by a word that can be translated as “sacred law,” and it is as
West Africa, edited by Bryce Holcombe. New York, 1982.
“sacred law” that art mediates between the ancestral past and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL ICONOGRAPHY
4305
the world of living human beings. Designs that were created
used in different contexts for different purposes. The same
in the Dreaming as part of the process of world creation are
basic design may be used as a sand sculpture in a curing cere-
handed down from generation to generation as a means of
mony, painted on the bodies of initiates to associate them
maintaining the continuity of existence with the ancestral
with particular ancestral forces or signify membership in a
past.
social group, or painted on a coffin to guide a dead person’s
soul back to the clan lands for reincorporation within the an-
Designs can be referred to then as “Dreamings,” and
cestral domain.
they are manifestations of the ancestral past in a number of
senses. Each originated as a motif painted on an ancestral
SYSTEMS OF REPRESENTATION. Meaning in Aboriginal art is
being’s body, as an impression left in the ground by that
encoded in two distinct systems of representation, one iconic
being, or as a form associated in some other way with ances-
and figurative, the other aniconic and geometric. The ico-
tral creativity. In many regions myths relate how ancestral
nography of Aboriginal religious art arises out of the inter-
beings gave birth to or created out of their bodies the sacred
play between these two complementary systems. This dis-
objects associated with particular social groups and land
tinction extends outside the area of the visual arts to dance
areas. The meaning of the designs on the objects often refers
and ceremonial action, which involve some components and
to the acts of ancestral creativity that gave rise to the shape
actions that are essentially mimetic and represent the behav-
of the landscape; in this respect, the designs can be said to
ior and characteristics of natural species, as well as other com-
encode Dreaming events. Finally, designs can be a source of
ponents that are abstract and have a conventional and non-
ancestral power. Paintings on the bodies of initiates are
representational meaning. The balance between the
thought to bring the individuals closer to the spiritual do-
figurative and the geometric varies from one region to anoth-
main; sacred objects rubbed against their bodies can have a
er. The art of central Australia, of groups such as the Warl-
similar effect. Upon a person’s death in eastern Arnhem
piri, the Aranda, the Pintubi, and the Pitjantjatjara, is charac-
Land, designs painted on his or her chest or on the coffin
terized by geometric motifs, whereas western Arnhem Land
or bone disposal receptacle help to transfer the soul back to
is associated with a highly developed figurative tradition.
the ancestral world for reincorporation within the reservoirs
Nonetheless, there is a figurative component in central Aus-
of spiritual power associated with a particular place. Art is
tralian art, and the marayin designs, clan-owned body paint-
linked with the concept of the cycling of spiritual power
ing designs used in certain western Arnhem Land initiation
through the generations from the ancestral past to the pres-
ceremonies, are largely geometric.
ent, a concept that characterizes Aboriginal religious
The forms of Aboriginal art are systematically linked to
thought. The same design may later be painted on an initi-
its various functions. The figurative art presents images of the
ate’s chest, signifying what Nancy Munn refers to in Walbiri
Dreaming that at one level can be readily interpreted as rep-
Iconography (1973) as the intergenerational transfer of ances-
resentations of totemic species and the forms of ancestral be-
tral power, which conceptually integrates the Dreaming with
ings. The X-ray art of western Arnhem Land, for example,
present-day experience.
is a figurative tradition that creates images of totemic ances-
Aboriginal art varies widely across the continent. Any
tors associated with particular places, thus linking them di-
similarities that exist tend to reside in the properties of the
rectly to the natural world.
representational systems that are employed—the kinds of
meanings that are encoded in the designs and the way in
The title of Luke Taylor’s book, Seeing the Inside, aptly
which they are encoded—rather than in the use of particular
expresses the capacity of X-ray art to look beyond the surface
motifs. One notable exception appears to be what Munn re-
form of things. The figures are in part accurate representa-
fers to as the circle-line or site-path motif (0 = 0 = 0), which
tions of kangaroos, fish, snakes, and so on. However, they
forms a component of designs throughout Australia. In such
are more than that. The X-ray component, representing the
designs, the circles usually refer to places where some signifi-
heart, lungs, and other internal organs of the animal, adds
cant event occurred on the journey of a Dreaming ancestral
an element of mystery to the figures and differentiates the
being, and the lines refer to the pathways that connect the
representations from those of ordinary animals. Moreover,
places.
the art includes representations that combine features of a
number of different animals in a single figure. For example,
Likewise, designs in Aboriginal art exist independent of
the figure of the Rainbow Snake, an important mythical
particular media. The same design in Arnhem Land may
being throughout Arnhem Land, may combine features of
occur as a body painting, a sand sculpture, an emblem on
a snake, a kangaroo, a buffalo, an emu, and a crocodile. Such
a hollow log coffin, or an engraving on a sacred object (rang-
figures in X-ray art, together with songs and dances associat-
ga). In central Australia the same design may be incised on
ed with them, are part of a system of symbolism that decom-
a stone disc (tjurunga), painted on the body of a dancer in
poses the natural world into its elements, breaks the bounda-
blood and down, or made into a sand sculpture. Further, it
ries between different species of animals, and alludes to the
is the design that gives the object its particular ancestral con-
underlying transforming power of the Dreaming. The west-
nection: the designs are extensions of ancestral beings and are
ern Arnhem Land X-ray figures are public representations of
sometimes referred to as their “shadows.” Thus, they can be
the ancestral world and, painted on cave walls, are projec-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4306
ICONOGRAPHY: AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL ICONOGRAPHY
tions of the ancestral past into the present in a fairly literal
complex diamond pattern representing the cells of the hive.
form. Their presence on rock surfaces acts as a sign of the
The diamonds are cross-hatched in different colors to signify
ancestral transformations that created the form of the land-
different components of the hive: grubs, honey, pollen, and
scape and a reminder of the creative forces inherent in the
bees. The bars across some of the segments represent sticks
land.
in the structure of the hive, and the dots within the circles
represent bees at its entrance. On another level, elements of
Much of the ceremonial art and most of the secret art
the design signify smoke, flames, and ash from the hunter’s
of Australia is, however, geometric in form. The geometric
fire, and on still another level, the diamond pattern repre-
art encodes meaning in a more elusive way, well suited to a
sents the rippling of floodwater as it passes beneath the
system of esoteric knowledge in which some of the meanings
paperbark trees. The Wild Honey ancestor is all of those
of art are restricted to the initiated. Without some assistance,
things and more.
its meaning will remain a mystery: in order to be understood
it has to be interpreted and its meanings have to be revealed.
SYSTEMS OF INTERPRETATION. As people go through life
Geometric art gives priority to no single interpretation, and
they learn the meanings of designs such as the Wild Honey
as a person grows older he or she learns increasingly more
pattern; they associate it with places created by the ancestral
about the meaning of particular designs. Thus, geometric art
being and with ceremonies that celebrate that being’s creative
is potentially multivalent, and different meanings and inter-
power. For the individual, the design is no longer an abstract
pretations can be condensed into the same symbol or design.
sign but a manifestation of the ancestral being concerned.
Aesthetic aspects of the design reinforce this understanding,
This property of geometric art enables it to encode the
as Howard Morphy has shown in Ancestral Connections, his
relationship between different phenomena or orders of reali-
book on the aesthetics and iconography of Yolngu ritual art.
ty. On one level, a circle in a design may represent a water
In northeastern Arnhem Land, Yolngu body paintings con-
hole, and the line joining it may represent a creek flowing
vey a sense of light and movement through the layering of
into the water hole. On another level, the circle may be said
finely cross-hatched lines across the skin surface. Similar ef-
to represent a hole dug in the ground and the line a digging
fects are created in central Australian painting through the
stick. On yet another level, the circle may be interpreted as
use of white down and the glistening effect of blood, fat, and
the vagina of a female ancestral being and the line as the
red ocher. These attributes of paintings are interpreted by
penis of a male ancestor. All three interpretations are related,
Aboriginal people as attributes of the ancestral being: the
for digging in the sand is an analogue for sexual intercourse,
light from the ancestral being shines from the painting as
and the water hole was created through sexual intercourse be-
symbol or evidence of the power of the design.
tween two ancestral beings in the Dreaming. The design of
which the circle is a part may belong to a particular clan and
Throughout much of Australia, rights to designs and
be identified as such. The design as a whole thus represents
other components of “sacred law” are vested in social groups
ancestral beings creating features of the landscape in territory
that exercise some control over their use and have the respon-
associated with a particular social group. It is this set of asso-
sibility to ensure that they continue to be passed down
ciations that characterizes the iconography of Aboriginal art:
through the generations. Such rights are of considerable im-
the designs mediate between the present and the ancestral
portance, as “sacred law” provides the charter for ownership
past by encoding the relationship between ancestral being,
and control of land. Hence, designs not only represent
people, and place. Aboriginal religion firmly locates the iden-
sources of ancestral power but are politically significant in
tity of people in the spirituality of place, and designs infused
demonstrating rights over land and providing a focal point
with the power of ancestral beings provide an important
for group solidarity and identity. This dimension is reflected
transportable medium of connection.
in the iconography insofar as designs often vary on the basis
of group ownership, each group holding rights to a unique
The geometric art represents the ancestral world both
set of designs.
semiotically and aesthetically, by expressing ancestral power
in an artistic form. The Dreaming beings are often complex
There is enormous regional variation in Australian Ab-
concepts, and their encoding in abstract representations pro-
original art, and the specific symbolism of the designs can
vides one of the ways by which people develop shared under-
only be understood in their regional context. However, the
standings that help to order their collective experience of the
underlying principles of the art have much in common ev-
ancestral past. For example, in the case of the Yolngu people
erywhere. Moreover, belief in the spiritual power and medi-
of northeastern Arnhem Land, the Wild Honey ancestor
ating functions of the designs is to an extent independent of
consists of the whole set of things associated with the collec-
knowledge of their meaning. For both these reasons, designs
tion of wild honey: the hive, the bees, the honey; pollen and
and other components of ritual can be passed on to other
grubs; the paperbark tree where the hives are found and the
groups—from neighboring or even quite distant places—and
swamps where the trees grow; the hunter, his baskets, and
become part of those groups’ ancestral inheritance. In this
the smoke made by the fires he lights. All things associated
respect, religious iconography is integral to the process of re-
with wild honey are attributes of the Wild Honey ancestor.
ligious change, enabling religious ideas to be exchanged with
In painting, the Wild Honey ancestor is represented by a
other groups and diffused across the continent. Changes also
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: NATIVE NORTH AMERICAN ICONOGRAPHY
4307
can occur internally through the Dreaming of new designs.
Morphy, Howard. Ancestral Connections: Art and an Aboriginal
This allows the iconographic system to adjust to sociopoliti-
System of Knowledge. Chicago, 1991. A detailed account of
cal reality or to the creation of new groups and the demise
the iconography of the paintings of the Yolngu people of
of existing ones. However, from the Aboriginal viewpoint,
northeast Arnhem Land, including their meanings and ritual
such changes are always revelatory: they ultimately have a
context.
Dreaming reference and will always be credited to the past.
Morphy, Howard. Aboriginal Art. London, 1998. A comprehen-
The designs not only encode meanings that help endow ev-
sive and richly illustrated introduction to Aboriginal art with
eryday events and features of the landscape with cosmic sig-
broad regional and historic coverage.
nificance, but are themselves extensions of those Dreaming
Mountford, Charles Pearcy. Records of the American-Australian
ancestors into the present.
Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land. Vol. 1: Art, Myth and
Symbolism.
Melbourne, Australia, 1956. A comprehensive
Since the 1970s, through the popularity of Aboriginal
collection of paintings from western and eastern Arnhem
bark and acrylic paintings, art has become an increasingly
Land and Groote Eylandt. The collection is extensively doc-
important means by which Aboriginal people communicate
umented with accounts of Aboriginal myths. The documen-
religious ideas to a wider audience. While non-Aboriginal
tation is somewhat general and not always accurate, but its
audiences have been attracted by the aesthetic dimension of
coverage is excellent.
the works, they also have been exposed to the religious ideas
Munn, Nancy D. Walbiri Iconography. Ithaca, N.Y., 1973. A de-
and values that are integral to them. Exhibitions of Aborigi-
tailed account of the representational systems of the Warlpiri
nal art emphasize the religious values that the works embody:
of central Australia and the religious symbolism of the de-
the idea of the Dreaming, the immanence of the sacred in
signs. This is a classic work on the geometric art of central
Australia.
the form of the landscape, and the emergent nature of spiri-
tuality.
Myers, Fred R. Painting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal
High Art. Durham, N.C., 2002. A detailed account of the
Aboriginal people also have responded to and accom-
central Australian acrylic art movement that provides in-
modated religious ideas through their art. Yolngu artists
sights into its cultural context and religious significance in
from Arnhem Land carried on a dialogue with Christianity
addition to its developing global market.
from the arrival of the first missionaries in 1935. This dia-
Taylor, Luke. Seeing the Inside: Bark Painting in Western Arnhem
logue resulted in the placing of painted panels of Yolngu reli-
Land. Oxford, 1996. A rich account of western Arnhem
gious art on either side of the altar of the new church built
Land X-ray and ceremonial art covering equally the social
in 1962. Subsequently, as Fred Myers has shown, the Pintubi
and conceptual dimensions of artistic practice.
artist Linda Syddick’s paintings combine Christian themes
Watson, Christine. Piercing the Ground: Balgo Women’s Image
concerning crucifixion with reflections on separation and
Making and Relationship to Country. Freemantle, Australia,
identity stimulated by the science fiction character E.T., all
2003. A rich account of the iconography of desert paintings
represented through central Australian iconography. This
from Balgo with a particular emphasis on the tactile dimen-
dynamic aspect of Australian Aboriginal art and its capacity
sion of their cultural aesthetics.
to reach diverse audiences within and outside the society is
HOWARD MORPHY (1987 AND 2005)
one of the factors that has enabled Aboriginal religion to con-
tinue to make a contribution to global religious discourse.
S
ICONOGRAPHY: NATIVE NORTH AMERICAN
EE ALSO Dreaming, The; Tjurungas; Wandjina.
ICONOGRAPHY
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Iconography is a living force in North American Indian reli-
Berndt, Ronald M., ed. Australian Aboriginal Art. New York,
gious life, past and present. Rooted in mythical imagery, it
1964. A pioneering volume, with essays by Ted Strehlow,
informs the content of individual dreams and nourishes the
Charles Mountford, and Adolphus Peter Elkin, that provides
themes of contemporary Indian art. A study of the iconogra-
a broad coverage of Aboriginal art and its religious signifi-
phy of a people provides a unique opportunity to gain insight
cance.
into what Werner Müller calls the “pictorial world of the
Elkin, A. P., Ronald M. Berndt, and Catherine H. Berndt. Art in
soul” (Die Religionen der Waldlandindianer Nordamerikas,
Arnhem Land. Melbourne, Australia, 1950. The pioneering
Berlin, 1956, p. 57).
work on Australian Aboriginal art, placing the art of Arnhem
The following exposition of the major themes of reli-
Land in its social and mythological context.
gious iconography in North America is restricted to the evi-
Groger-Wurm, Helen M. Australian Aboriginal Bark Paintings
dence of the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries of eth-
and Their Mythological Interpretation. Canberra, Australia,
nographic research. As a result, the beautiful pottery and
1973. A good account of northeastern Arnhem bark paint-
stone remains of the prehistoric peoples of the Southwest and
ings, with detailed interpretations of their meanings.
Southeast are not represented here, nor are the remains of
Kleinert, Sylvia, and Margo Neale, ed. The Oxford Companion to
the Mound Builder cultures of the river regions.
Aboriginal Art and Culture. Melbourne, Australia, 2000.
A comprehensive reference work on Aboriginal art and
The iconographical themes follow the general lines of
religion.
myth and religious beliefs. As such, they can be cataloged in
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4308
ICONOGRAPHY: NATIVE NORTH AMERICAN ICONOGRAPHY
the following manner: the cosmos, supreme beings, trick-
path is called the Good White Path, the symbol of the
sters/culture heroes, guardian beings, other mythic beings,
human life. It corresponds to the Milky Way, which is the
astronomical beings, weather beings, animal beings, vegeta-
path of the souls of the dead. The Ojibwa bark charts of
tion beings, human beings, geological beings, and abstract
the Midewiwin ceremony consist of illustrations of the de-
symbols. But it is not always the case that the verbal images
grees of initiation into the Mide secret society. All of the de-
of the myths are equivalent to iconographical images: one
grees are represented as connected by the path of the initiate’s
notorious example of divergence is the Ojibwa trickster, Rab-
life, starting in the image of the primordial world and ending
bit, who, when pictured, is actually human in form.
upon the island of direct communication with the supreme
being. This path is pictured with many detours and dramatic
Concerning the wide variety of media used, the follow-
occurrences.
ing general distribution can be observed: in the Far North—
ivory, bone, and stone; the Northeast and Southeast Wood-
SUPREME BEINGS. Among the myriad images found in
lands—wood, bark, skin, quillwork, and beadwork; the
North American Indian iconography are certain divine be-
Plains—skin, beadwork, pipestone, quillwork, and painting
ings whose representations cut across taxonomic groups;
of bodies and horses; the Northwest Coast—cedar, ivory, ar-
these include supreme beings, tricksters/culture heroes,
gillite, blankets, and copper; California—baskets and some
guardian beings, and other mythical beings. Since the majes-
stone; the Southwest—sand painting, wood, stone, baskets,
tic, all-encompassing supreme being is difficult to visualize,
pottery, jewelry, and dolls.
its morphology is relatively simple. When not visualized as
some object or animal intimately associated with the su-
THE COSMOS. Cosmologies vary from tribe to tribe in both
preme being, its form tends to be anthropomorphic. For ex-
content and imagery. But whereas the mythical image of the
ample, the Ojibwa song charts visualize the supreme being,
universe (its cosmography) may be highly detailed, the
Kitsi Manitu, with a pictograph of a human head, belonging
iconographical rendering is necessarily restricted. The cos-
to an initiate in the Mide secret society.
mos is most often graphically limited to those elements that
characterize its basic nature and structure, including its non-
On the other hand, the all-pervasiveness of the supreme
visual aspects.
being among the Plains Indians can result in the use of sym-
bols of lesser deities to represent it. Thus Wakantanka, of the
The most widespread symbol of the whole cosmos is the
Oglala Lakota, has various manifestations such as the Sun,
ceremonial lodge, house, or tent. The fundamental idea of
the Moon, Buffalo, and so on, all of which are pictured on
the ceremonial lodge, such as the Delaware xingwikáon (“big
hides or, as with Buffalo, represented by a buffalo skull.
house”), is that all of its parts symbolize, and in ritual con-
texts actually are, the cosmos. Usually the realms of this cos-
TRICKSTERS/CULTURE HEROES. The most widespread
mos are interconnected with a central post, which is con-
iconographic trickster type is theriomorphic: Raven, Coyote,
ceived of as extending itself like a world tree up to the
or Rabbit. The most well-known image is that of Raven
heavens. Renewing such a house constitutes the actual re-
among the Northwest Coast tribes, a character who encom-
newal of the cosmos.
passes all of the classical features of the trickster. He is pic-
tured in raven-form on virtually every object throughout the
Similar ideas are found among the Plains Indians, for
Northwest, usually in the context of a mythical event that
whom the sacred camp circle constitutes an image of the
somehow affected the ancestor of the house in which the ob-
world, and the central pole of the Sun Dance tipi, the whole
ject is found, be it house pole, settee, or some other form.
cosmos. In fact the Crow call this tent the “imitation” or
As part of shamanic paraphernalia, his image imparts one of
“miniature” lodge, a replica of the Sun’s lodge.
his main characteristics: that of transformation. Even though
Representations of the cosmos can refer to the more
the trickster is an animal, in mythical thought he can change
subtle manifestations of the world, as in the sand paintings
to human form, and this process is often reflected icono-
of the Luiseño of California, but they can also approach the
graphically, as with the Navajo Coyote and the Delaware and
reality of topographical maps, as in the sand paintings of the
Ojibwa Rabbit.
neighboring Diegueño. In a completely different approach
The culture hero is a divine or semidivine mythic figure
to the visualization of the cosmos, the well-known Navajo
who, through a series of heroic deeds—especially the theft
sand painting of Father Sky and Mother Earth illustrates the
of such an important item as fire or light—starts humanity
anthropomorphic representation of the cosmos.
upon its cultural road. When he is not the theriomorphic
Concerning nonvisual aspects of the cosmos, it is not
trickster, he is often simply visualized as a human being.
uncommon that ethical ideals or holistic images of proper
GUARDIAN BEINGS. Guardian beings associate themselves
human life, which are extensions of the theological bases of
most often on a personal level with single individuals, and
many cosmologies, are also visualized iconographically. The
they function as guardians who bring blessings to their
most common image of this type is that of the right, or the
human partners. In the Plains and Northern Woodlands cul-
beautiful, path. The Delaware big house has a circular path
tures, to seek and receive a personal vision of just such a
on its floor, which the visionary singers and other partici-
guardian is necessary in order to secure an individual’s sta-
pants in the big house ceremony walk and dance upon. This
tion in life. These guardians can appear in just about any
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: NATIVE NORTH AMERICAN ICONOGRAPHY
4309
form taken from the natural or the mythological world.
stars most often pictured are the Morning Star (Venus), the
Among the Oglala it may be necessary to paint a version of
Pleiades, Orion, Altair, the constellation Ursa Major (which
one’s vision on the tipi in order to secure its validity, al-
is invariably pictured as a heavenly bear), and the Milky
though generally images of the guardian are painted on
Way. Stars are shown with four, five, and six points and are
shields.
often associated with human figures.
In the cultures of the Far North and Arctic areas, the
METEOROLOGICAL BEINGS. This group consists of Thunder,
shaman and his guardians are a constant iconographic
Wind, Rain, and Lightning. Thunder is often pictured as the
theme. His guardians are portrayed in several general ways:
Thunderbird, but other birds can also be used. Wind, on the
as diminutive human beings clustered near the shaman or as
other hand, is generally associated with the cardinal regions
human faces clustered together, as a human visage under an
and therefore not visualized directly. Cultures with anthro-
animal visage such as seen in Alaskan masks, as an animal
pocentric morphology, however, such as the Navajo and the
form reduced in size and resting on the head or shoulders
Ojibwa, picture even this being in human shape.
of the shaman, as birdlike shamans or shamans in transfor-
Rain is usually illustrated as lines falling from cloud
mation, as flying spirits being ridden by shamans, as an ani-
symbols or as a being from which rain is falling. Lightning
mal or human being with skeletal markings, or as flying bears
is always shown as zigzag lines regardless of the tribe in ques-
or other usually flightless beasts. These images are portrayed
tion. The lines usually end in arrowheads, for there is a con-
in contemporary drawings, ivory sculpture, masks, stone
ceptual link between lightning and arrows. Lightning and
sculpture, bone sculpture, drumsticks, shaman staff, and so
thunder are usually considered to be the weapons of the
on. Throughout North America the shaman also uses organ-
widely known Warrior Twins.
ic parts of his guardians in his ritual paraphernalia, or else
he can use the entire skin of his guardian animal to transform
ANIMAL BEINGS. There are a number of animals which are
himself.
known and visualized throughout North America, such as
the bear, the deer, and the buffalo. However, other animals
Guardians appear in nonvisionary and nonshamanistic
peculiar to a particular region are the more common icono-
cultures as well. The Pueblo deities of the six world regions
graphical subjects, such as the whales and seals of the north-
are considered to be guardians of humanity. Another type of
ern coasts, or the lizards and snakes of the desert regions. The
guardian is Rainbow Serpent, pictured on almost all Navajo
general rule is that the animal is depicted in its natural form.
sand paintings. This figure encircles the entire painting but
remains open toward the east. Its function is to keep the evil
Representations of animals may signify the spirit or
spirits out of the reinstated cosmic region.
master of their species or the form of some deity, guardian
being, or primordial creature, or they may indicate the totem
OTHER MYTHICAL BEINGS. Among the mythological figures
animal. All animal images used in ritual contexts have reli-
who are pictured iconographically, one important group is
gious significance. But the most common use of animal im-
that of monsters. The most common monster motif is an
ages occurs in heraldry, which casts some doubt on the exclu-
image of the primordial horned, flying serpent, the cause of
sively religious significance of its use and meaning.
floods and earthquakes. He is known all over the Americas
and is generally pictured in exactly the form described. An-
The Northwest Coast Indians are the most conspicuous
other monster known all over North America is Thunder-
users of totem symbols. These symbols are represented in lit-
bird, usually pictured on shields, shirts, and beadwork as an
erally every conceivable medium: poles, house fronts, hats,
eaglelike creature.
aprons, spoons, bowls, settees, boat prows, spearheads, fish-
hooks, dagger handles, facial painting, masks, speaker staffs,
There is also a whole group of evil beings who, in one
paddles, drums, rattles, floats, bracelets, leggings, pipes, and
form or another, are believed to exercise a malignant and
gambling sticks. The question of religious significance may
dangerous influence on humanity. Such creatures are usually
be resolved by the fact that the totem animal is considered
theriomorphic but not necessarily so.
either a direct ancestor of the clan or somehow associated
ASTRONOMICAL BEINGS. The sun, the moon, and the stars
with an ancient human ancestor. Thus the symbol at least,
are pictured as beings throughout North America. The sun
if not its use, has religious meaning.
is portrayed most intensely where it is strongest, in southeast-
VEGETATION BEINGS. Corn is the plant most commonly vi-
ern and southwestern North America. The Hopi portray the
sualized. The representation can simply refer to the plant it-
Sun, Taawa, anthropomorphically but, in keeping with
self, but frequently a maize deity is being invoked. The latter
Hopi iconography, he wears a mask that consists of a circular
is the case throughout the Southwest, whether among the
disk fringed with radiating feathers and horsehair. This radial
Pueblo or the Athapascan peoples. The maize deity is usually
representation of the sun is the most common image known.
clearly anthropomorphized. Hallucinogenic plants such as
The Ojibwa, on the other hand, have a completely different
peyote, jimsonweed, or the strong wild tobaccos are more or
image, which is horned, winged, and legged.
less realistically pictured; such images refer to the deities of
The moon is usually represented in its quarter phase, al-
these potent plants. Others beings who somehow influence
though images of the full moon are sometimes found. The
plant growth are also visualized iconographically; these in-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4310
ICONOGRAPHY: NATIVE NORTH AMERICAN ICONOGRAPHY
clude the Yuki impersonations of the dead, who have a de-
sent categories already discussed (such as clouds, rain, light-
cided influence on the abundance of acorns, or the Hopi im-
ning, the sun, and so on), also belong to the category of
personations of cultic heros and heroines whose rituals
abstract symbols. Cultures with highly developed artistic ico-
influence crop growth.
nographies, such as those of the Northwest Coast, the South-
H
west, and the Woodlands peoples with their birchbark illus-
UMAN BEINGS. This category concerns not only human an-
trations, also develop series of signs referring to abstractions
cestors but also a miscellaneous collection of beings that have
inherent to their systems. On the Ojibwa Midewiwin scrolls,
human form. The first type are effigies of once-living human
for example, the symbol of bear tracks in a particular context
beings. These are most commonly figured on Northwest
represents a priest’s four false attempts to enter the Mide
Coast mortuary poles, but they are also found elsewhere: the
lodge. These four false attempts can also be symbolized by
Californian Maidu, Yokuts, Luiseño, and Tubatulabal, for
four bars.
example, all burn effigies of prominent people two years after
their deaths.
SEE ALSO North American Indians; Shamanism, article on
Human images can also be material expressions of the
North American Shamanism; Tricksters, article on North
ineffable. During the Sun Dance the Shoshoni and the Crow
American Tricksters.
each bring out a stone image in diminutive human shape,
which is then attached to a staff or the center pole of the tent.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
It is said to represent the spirit of the Sun Dance. Human
There is unfortunately no comprehensive work on the religious
images, such as dolls, can symbolize or are actually consid-
iconography of the North American Indians. Information
about iconography is found in the original ethnographic data
ered to be small spritelike creatures who can have an array
on various peoples published in the annual reports and the
of functions and duties and who play a part in ceremonial
bulletins of the Bureau of American Ethnology. An ethno-
contexts as well. Human representations can also signify the
graphic approach to art in North America, with emphasis on
heroes or founders of cults; such is the case with many images
prehistoric art, can be found in Wolfgang Haberland’s The
on Pueblo altars and other representations on Northwest
Art of North America, translated by Wayne Dynes (New
Coast poles.
York, 1964). General works on the art of American Indians
are numerous; the most comprehensive is Norman Feder’s
GEOLOGICAL BEINGS. This category of images is based on
American Indian Art (New York, 1971). Another useful
a type of religious geomorphology. It is not a numerically
study is Frederick J. Dockstader’s Indian Art of the Americas
dominant theme, but it is nonetheless of singular impor-
(New York, 1973).
tance. The most prominent geological being envisioned is
For the Indians of the Far North, see Jean Blodgett’s The Coming
Mother Earth, although it is seldom that direct representa-
and Going of the Shaman: Eskimo Shamanism and Art (Win-
tions of it occur. In such anthropocentric iconographies as
nipeg, 1979) and Inge Kleivan and Birgitte Sonne’s Eskimos:
that of the Navajo, it is no problem to illustrate Mother
Greenland and Canada, “Iconography of Religions,” sec. 8,
Earth as a somewhat enlarged female human being. Usually,
fasc. 1 (Leiden, 1984). Concerning the Northeast and South-
however, Mother Earth is symbolized by some fertility
east Woodlands tribes, see Frank G. Speck’s Montagnais Art
image, such as an ear of corn, or by a circle. Among the Dela-
in Birch-bark, a Circumpolar Trait, “Museum of the Ameri-
ware, the earth is symbolized by the giant tortoise who saved
can Indian, Heye Foundation, Indian Notes and Mono-
humankind from the flood and upon whose back the new
graphs,” vol. 11, no. 2 (New York, 1937), and Concerning
earth was created by Nanabush. Sods of earth can also be
Iconology and the Masking Complex in Eastern North America,
used to represent Mother Earth, as in the Cheyenne buffalo-
“University Museum Bulletin,” vol. 15, no. 1 (Philadelphia,
1950). For the Plains Indians, see A˚ke Hultkrantz’s Prairie
skull altar in the medicine lodge.
and Plains Indians, “Iconography of Religions,” sec. 10, fasc.
Another group of geological beings consists of images
2 (Leiden, 1973), and Peter J. Powell’s Sweet Medicine: The
of mountains. Except for isolated pockets of flatlands and de-
Continuing Role of the Sacred Arrows, the Sun Dance, and the
sert basins, most of North America is covered with moun-
Sacred Buffalo Hat in Northern Cheyenne History, 2 vols.
(Norman, Okla., 1969). For Indians of the Northwest
tains, and these are usually believed to be alive or at least
Coast, see Charles Marius Barbeau’s Totem Poles, 2 vols. (Ot-
filled with life, that is, they are the abodes of the gods. This
tawa, 1950–1951), and Franz Boas’s Primitive Art (1927;
feature of mountains is highly important and is also recog-
new ed., New York, 1955). Concerning the Pueblo Indians
nized iconographically.
of the Southwest, see my Hopi Indian Altar Iconography,
Finally, some mention should be made of stones and
“Iconography of Religions,” sec. 10, fasc. 4a (Leiden, 1986),
and Barton Wright’s Pueblo Cultures, “Iconography of Reli-
prehistoric implements. Animacy or power is attributed to
gions,” sec. 10, fasc. 4 (Leiden, 1985). For the Navajo Indi-
implements such as ancient pipe bowls, mortars, and blades,
ans of the Southwest, see Sam D. Gill’s Songs of Life: An In-
any odd-shaped stones, and stones resembling animal, vege-
troduction to Navajo Religious Culture, “Iconography of
table, or human outlines. Such stones symbolize whatever
Religions,” sec. 10, fasc. 3 (Leiden, 1979), and Gladys A. Re-
they resemble.
ichard’s Navajo Medicine Man: Sandpaintings and Legends of
A
Miguelito (New York, 1939).
BSTRACT SYMBOLS. The dynamic and highly stylized geo-
metric patterns on Southwest Indian pottery, which repre-
ARMIN W. GEERTZ (1987)
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: MESOAMERICAN ICONOGRAPHY
4311
ICONOGRAPHY: MESOAMERICAN
intricate Olmec symbol system presents formidable difficul-
ICONOGRAPHY
ties, and interpretations of prominent students often differ
Each major Mesoamerican culture developed its religious
radically.
imagery in a distinctive fashion, although all were historically
A major characteristic of Olmec iconography is the
interlinked and drew from the common pool of Mesoameri-
blending of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic features.
can stylistic-iconographic tradition. This type of pictorializa-
Much of the controversy surrounding the interpretation of
tion was especially important in an area cotradition that
Olmec iconography has focused on these fused images,
lacked fully evolved phonetic scripts. It constituted an effec-
which often exhibit additional overtones of infantilism and
tive technique of visually communicating in a standardized,
dwarfism. The most popular interpretation has been that
codified manner the basic concepts of the religious-ritual sys-
they merge feline with human characteristics, and the term
tems that played such a crucial sociocultural role in pre-
were-jaguar has become fashionable to refer to them. Fre-
Hispanic Mesoamerica.
quently cited in support of this interpretation are two well-
ISSUES OF INTERPRETATION. The Mesoamerican icono-
known Olmec monumental sculptures from two small sites
graphic systems that were functioning at the time of the
near the great Olmec center of San Lorenzo, Veracruz, that
Spanish conquest in the early sixteenth century can be inter-
supposedly represent a jaguar copulating with a human fe-
preted with the aid of a broad range of data, including writ-
male, thus producing a hybrid feline-human race, the “jag-
ten sources compiled in Spanish and in the native languages.
uar’s children.” In this view, the composite creature, connot-
The iconographies of the earlier cultures must be studied
ing rain and terrestrial fertility, constituted the fundamental
without the assistance of texts of this type and pose much
Olmec deity, the archetypical ancestor of all later Me-
greater interpretative difficulties. The technique most often
soamerican rain-and-fertility gods. However, another inter-
employed has been to invoke similarities between the Con-
pretation would give preeminence to crocodilian rather than
quest period images, whose connotations are reasonably well
feline imagery; the rattlesnake and the toad also have their
understood from ethnohistorical information, and those of
vigorous proponents.
the earlier traditions, assigning to the latter generally similar
meanings. This procedure, employing the elementary logic
Other Olmec composite beings are recognized, but
of working from the known to the unknown, is often
opinions differ concerning the precise zoological identifica-
referred to as the “direct historical approach” or “up-
tion of their constituent elements. A considerable case has
streaming.”
been presented for the importance of a polymorphic, essen-
tially saurian creature with various aspects. Called the Olmec
This technique has been criticized, particularly when
Dragon, it has been postulated as the ancestor of a variegated
long temporal spans are involved. Disjunctions between
family of celestial and terrestrial monsters prominent in later
form and meaning in religious imagery, it has been pointed
Mesoamerican iconography.
out, have been common in iconographic history (above all
in the Western tradition with the sharp ideological breaks
To what extent Olmec religious imagery indicates the
that accompanied the rise of Christianity and Islam). How-
existence of discrete, individualized deities has also elicited
ever, those who sustain the validity of the direct historical ap-
considerable debate. Some scholars argue for a fairly sizable
proach argue that no major disjunctions of the type that oc-
Olmec pantheon, often linking its members with prominent
curred in the West took place in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica.
contact-period gods. Others view Olmec symbolism as con-
They cite various examples of imagic continuity from Olmec
noting various generalized supernaturalistic concepts but not
to Aztec and suggest that Mesoamerica can be more fitly
recognizable deities—which, in their opinion, did not
compared to pre-Christian Egypt or to India and China,
emerge in Mesoamerica until much later. However, it
areas well known for their long-term iconographic continui-
seems likely that at least prototypical versions of various later
ties of form and meaning. These disagreements among lead-
deities were already being propitiated in “America’s first civi-
ing scholars indicate that considerable caution is advisable
lization.”
when appraising the accuracy of interpretations of religious
IZAPA. A series of closely interrelated stylistic and icono-
images and symbols of the more ancient Mesoamerican
graphic traditions known as “Izapan,” after the major site of
cultures.
Izapa, Chiapas, Mexico, flourished between about 500 BCE
OLMEC. Most archaeologists agree that the earliest sophisti-
and 250 CE (Late Preclassic-Protoclassic) in the area flanking
cated religious iconographic system in Mesoamerica was that
the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, concentrated in the Pacific
of the Olmec, which flourished between about 1200 and 400
slope region of Chiapas, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Izapan
BCE (Middle Preclassic), and was centered in the Gulf Coast
iconography bears a close relationship to Olmec, from which
region of eastern Veracruz and western Tabasco. Olmec
it partly derives, but its formats are generally somewhat more
style, which conveyed religious concepts imaginatively and
complex. The style is most typically expressed by low-relief
effectively, was one of the most striking and original esthetic
carving, commonly on the perpendicular stone monuments
expressions ever achieved in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica. Un-
known as stelae, which are sometimes fronted by plain or ef-
fortunately, accurately ascertaining the connotations of the
figy “altars.”
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4312
ICONOGRAPHY: MESOAMERICAN ICONOGRAPHY
Izapan iconography frequently displays a narrative qual-
some notion of the magnitude and importance of this lost
ity in its compositions, depicting a variety of ritual-mythic
Classic Maya “iconographic archive.” The recent progress
scenes, some of considerable complexity. These scenes are
that has been made in the decipherment of Lowland Maya
often framed by highly stylized celestial and terrestrial regis-
hieroglyphic writing has resulted in a considerably improved
ters, interpreted as monster masks. As in Olmec, polymor-
understanding of the meaning of the religious imagery so
phic creatures, ostensibly merging feline, saurian, and avian
richly developed in this most spectacular of ancient New
elements, are common. Even more than in the case of
World cultures.
Olmec, identifying recognizable deities is difficult, but
M
prominently featured in Izapan iconography is the profile
ONTE ALBÁN. Another major Mesoamerican cultural tra-
dition, connected in its origins with Olmec and having some
mask of the “long-lipped dragon,” depicted in numerous
Izapan ties, was that of Monte Albán, so named from the
variants including the “scroll-eyed demon.” Another signifi-
huge site near the modern city of Oaxaca. Already well devel-
cant Izapan composite creature was the “bi- and tricephalous
oped in Late Preclassic times (Monte Albán I-II, c. 600
monster,” apparently with both celestial and terrestrial con-
BCE–
100
notations. Also prominent on Izapan monuments are down-
CE), its full flowering occurred during the Classic period
(Monte Albán IIIa–b, c. 100–700
ward-flying, winged, anthropomorphic beings, downward-
CE). Monte Albán iconog-
raphy is one of the richest and most structured in pre-
peering celestial faces, combat scenes (humanoid figures ver-
Hispanic Mesoamerica. There is general agreement that a
sus double-headed serpentine creatures), polymorphic bird
numerous pantheon of individualized deities was portrayed,
monsters, cosmic trees with “dragon-head roots,” and dimin-
especially in the famous funerary urns, theomorphic ceramic
utive human ritual celebrants accompanied by various ritual
vessels placed in tombs. Many deities are identified by their
paraphernalia. This region during the Late Preclassic and
“calendric names,” the day in the 260-day divinatory cycle
Protoclassic periods produced some of the most iconographi-
on which they were believed to have been born. Some can
cally intriguing sculptures of Mesoamerica.
be tentatively connected with deities known to have been
CLASSIC LOWLAND MAYA. The Izapan tradition led directly
propitiated by the Zapotec-speakers who occupied most of
into the most sophisticated of all Mesoamerican iconograph-
the area around Monte Albán at the time of the Conquest,
ic and stylistic traditions, that of the Classic Lowland Maya
including the basic rain-and-fertility god, Cocijo. The walls
(c. 25–900 CE) As in the case of Izapan, which lies in its back-
of a few tombs at Monte Albán display painted images of dei-
ground, Maya art in general is essentially two-dimensional
ties or deity impersonators, some of them identical to those
and painterly but is also more structured and mature in its
depicted on the ceramic urns. The hieroglyphic writing of
expressive power than the earlier tradition. Nearly all of the
Monte Albán is still poorly understood, but it has been of
most common Izapan iconographic themes were retained
some aid in interpreting the iconography of one of the great-
and often further elaborated. These included the bi- and
est of the Mesoamerican Classic civilizations.
tricephalous polymorphic celestial-terrestrial creature now
frequently conceived as the “ceremonial bar” held by the rul-
TEOTIHUACAN. Dominating the Classic period (c. 100–750
ers, the long-lipped dragon in numerous manifestations that
CE) in central Mexico—and spreading its influence through-
eventually evolved into the long-nosed god of rain (Chac),
out Mesoamerica—was the dynamic civilization of Teoti-
celestial and terrestrial enclosing frames, cosmic trees, and
huacan, centered in the urban metropolis known by that
avian composite creatures (serpent birds). Some deities that
name at the time of the Conquest and located about twenty-
were clearly prototypical to those represented in the iconog-
five miles northeast of Mexico City. Teotihuacan iconogra-
raphy of Postclassic Yucatán can be discerned in Maya reli-
phy, evidenced by a plethora of ceramic and stone pieces and
gious art of the Classic period. Classic Maya stelae—
numerous mural paintings, was one of the most intricate and
accurately dated, erected at fixed intervals, and containing
variegated of ancient Mesoamerica. Symmetry and repeti-
long hieroglyphic texts—display profile and frontal portraits
tiveness were hallmarks of Teotihuacan formats, which, par-
of the great Maya dynasts. Their elaborate costumes are re-
ticularly in the murals, include processions of ritual cele-
plete with religious symbols that invested them with the aura
brants, frontal anthropomorphic and zoomorphic images
of divinity.
flanked by profile figures, and complex scenes involving nu-
merous personages engaged in a variety of activities. The
A particularly complex Lowland Maya iconography is
dominant theme was clearly the promotion of fertility, fea-
portrayed on Late Classic painted ceramic vessels usually en-
turing what appear to have been at least two major aspects
countered in burials. An extensive pantheon of underworld
of the preeminent rain-and-fertility deity that was prototypi-
supernaturals is featured in these scenes. It has been suggest-
cal to the Aztec Tlaloc. Aquatic and vegetational motifs are
ed that they frequently display connections with the Hero
ubiquitous.
Twins of the Popol Vuh, the cosmogonical epic of the Quiché
Maya of Highland Guatemala. The representations on these
To what extent clear-cut deity representations are pres-
vessels were probably derived at least in part from painted
ent in Teotihuacan iconography, as in the case of the earlier
screenfold paper books. Although no Classic period examples
Mesoamerican traditions already discussed, has generated
have been found, the surviving Postclassic specimens (known
considerable differences of opinion. Various motif clusters
as Codex Dresden, Codex Paris, and Codex Madrid) provide
have been defined, which some have suggested might have
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: MESOAMERICAN ICONOGRAPHY
4313
connoted distinct cults. Certain images have also been iden-
and gave rise to another distinctive stylistic and iconographic
tified as discrete deities of the Aztec type, and they have often
tradition, mainly expressed in relief sculpture. The greatest
been labeled with Nahuatl names. They include Tlaloc, the
amount of sculpture decorated one remarkable structure, the
rain-and-earth god; a female fertility deity who may be the
Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent. Aside from huge, undu-
prototype of various Aztec goddesses (Chalchiuhtlicue,
lating representations of the feathered serpent, various cross-
Xochiquetzal, Teteoinnan, and others); an old fire god
legged seated personages, reflecting Lowland Maya stylistic
(Aztec Huehueteotl or Xiuhtecuhtli); the flayed god (Xipe
influence, are depicted, many identified with their name
Totec); a butterfly deity, the Fat God (possibly prototypical
signs and in some cases, seemingly, place signs as well. Calen-
to Xochipilli/Macuilxochitl, the Aztec god of sensuality);
dric inscriptions are also present, and some scholars have sug-
and, perhaps, prototypes of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered ser-
gested that the carvings may commemorate a major gather-
pent creator-and-fertility god; Xolotl, god of monsters and
ing of priests to discuss calendric reform and other ritual-
twins; and Tecciztecatl, the male lunar deity. As in earlier
religious matters. Another possibility is that this conclave
and contemporary Mesoamerican traditions, composite zoo-
involved some important dynastic event, perhaps a royal cor-
morphic images are another hallmark of Teotihuacán ico-
onation. Other Xochicalco monuments, such as three elabo-
nography. Some, such as the feathered serpent, may have
rate stelae now in the Museo Nacional de Antropología, fea-
served as the “disguises” or avatars of various deities, as in
ture hieroglyphic inscriptions and different deities, including
the Aztec system.
a version of the rain god, Tlaloc, and a fertility goddess.
C
TOLTEC. At the outset of the Postclassic period a new politi-
LASSIC VERACRUZ. During the Early Classic period (c.
100–600
cal and cultural power arose north of the Basin of Mexico,
CE), after the fade-out of the Olmec tradition in
the Gulf Coast region, a distinct regional stylistic and icono-
at Tollan, modern Tula, in the state of Hidalgo. Flourishing
graphic tradition emerged, climaxing during the Late Classic
between about 900 and 1200, Tollan was a major metropo-
and Epiclassic periods (c. 600–900
lis, capital of an extensive empire. Its stylistic and icono-
CE). It was best expressed
at the major site of El Tajín, in northwest Veracruz, where
graphic tradition was quite eclectic and represented an amal-
a sophisticated style of relief carving, featuring double-
gam of various earlier traditions (Teotihuacan, Xochicalco,
outlined, interlocking scroll motifs, decorates a number of
El Tajín, and others).
structures; these include the famous Pyramid of the Niches,
Toltec iconography is known primarily from relief
two ball courts with friezes portraying complex sacrificial rit-
sculpture, decorated ceramics, figurines, and some remark-
uals connected with the ball game, and even more complicat-
able cliff paintings at Ixtapantongo, southwest of Tula in the
ed ceremonial scenes on a series of column drums in the
Toluca Basin. The relief carvings frequently depict armed,
Building of the Columns.
elaborately attired personages on quadrangular pillars and,
in processional files, on bench friezes. Some of these figures
The most famous exemplars of Classic Veracruz iconog-
are identified with their name (or title) signs and seem to de-
raphy are the handsomely carved stone objects worn by the
pict actual individuals. The militaristic flavor of Toltec imag-
ball players or replicas thereof: yokes (ballgame belts); hachas,
ery was also expressed by alternating representations of pred-
thin stone heads; and palmas, paddle-shaped stones, the lat-
atory animals and birds: jaguars, pumas, coyotes, eagles, and
ter two objects attached to the yokes worn by the players.
vultures. Recognizable deity depictions are rare in the reliefs
Sculptured on these pieces are various anthropomorphic and
but can be more readily identified in the ceramic figures and
zoomorphic beings, especially a monstrous creature probably
especially in the Ixtapantongo cliff paintings. Many appear
symbolizing the earth. A major tradition of ceramic sculpture
to be prototypical forms of Aztec deities: Tlaloc, Quetzal-
also flouished in this region during the Classic period. Some
coatl, Xipe Totec, various fertility goddesses, pulque deities,
examples appear to represent deities that were prototypical
solar and Venus gods, and others. Toltec iconography was
to those of Postclassic times. They include the Old Fire God;
particularly haunted by the feathered-serpent icon symboliz-
versions of Tlaloc and long-lipped beings probably related
ing Quetzalcoatl; the related “man-bird-jaguar-serpent”
to the iconographically similar Izapan and Maya rain-and-
motif was also important.
fertility deities; male and female figures wearing human
M
skins, evidencing rituals similar to those of the Aztec fertility
IXTECA-PUEBLA AND AZTEC. During the Toltec period a
new stylistic and iconographic tradition was apparently
deities Xipe Totec and Tlazolteotl/Teteoinnan; the Fat God;
emerging to the southeast, centered in southern Puebla, Ve-
perhaps a proto-Ehécatl (wind god); and a whole complex
racruz, and western Oaxaca (the Mixteca), which has been
of smiling figures seemingly expressing aspects of a cult of
labeled “Mixteca-Puebla.” During the Postclassic period its
sensuality—possibly involving the ritual ingestion of halluci-
pervasive influence was felt throughout Mesoamerica, as a
nogens—similar to that of Xochipilli/Macuilxochitl of later
kind of final iconographic synthesis of the earlier traditions
times. Complex ceremonial scenes are also represented on
already described. In contrast to its predecessors, it was char-
mold-pressed, relief-decorated ceramic bowls.
acterized by a greater depictive literalness, plus a particular
XOCHICALCO. With its apparent floruit during the Epiclassic
emphasis on symbolic polychromy. An extensive pantheon
period (c. 750–900 CE), the extensive hilltop site of Xochical-
of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic supernaturals was rep-
co flourished in what is now the state of Morelos, Mexico,
resented with relatively standardized identificatory insignia.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4314
ICONOGRAPHY: MESOAMERICAN ICONOGRAPHY
The Aztec sytlistic and iconographic tradition, which
study of Olmec iconography, profusely illustrated by line
flourished in central Mexico during the last century or so be-
drawings. Includes “A Dictionary of Olmec Motifs and
fore the Conquest, can be considered, from one aspect, a re-
Symbols.”
gional variant of Mixteca-Puebla. It differs principally in dis-
Kampen, Michael Edwin. The Sculptures of El Tajín, Veracruz,
playing an even greater naturalism in human and animal
Mexico. Gainesville, Fla., 1972. An important monograph
imagery. It also was expressed much more frequently in mon-
describing and analyzing the sculptural art of the greatest of
umental three-dimensional stone sculpture, particularly
the Classic Veracruz sites. Includes a catalog of all known
deity images. Because of the wealth of available ethnohistori-
Tajín carvings, illustrated with excellent line drawings.
cal documentation, the Aztec iconographic tradition can be
Kubler, George. The Iconography of the Art of Teotihaucan. Dum-
interpreted with considerably more success than any other
barton Oaks Studies in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology,
Mesoamerican system. Virtually all of its principal symbols
no. 4. Washington, D.C., 1967. Significant pioneer discus-
have been correctly identified as well as the great majority
sion and analysis of Teotihuacan iconography, utilizing a lin-
of the numerous deity depictions, which include almost
guistic model requiring that “each form be examined for its
grammatical function, whether noun, adjective, or verb.” In-
every member of the crowded pantheon mentioned in the
cludes a table of approximately one hundred Teotihuacan
primary sources. Those who advocate maximum utilization
motifs and themes.
of the direct historical approach in the analysis of pre-
Kubler, George. Studies in Classic Maya Iconography. Memoirs of
Hispanic Mesoamerican iconography stress the importance
the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, vol. 18. New
of this extensive corpus of information concerning the Aztec
Haven, 1969. Preliminary but broad-ranging consideration
system as a key point of departure for interpreting the much
of Classic Lowland Maya iconography, with special attention
less well-documented pre-Aztec traditions.
to dynastic ceremonies, ritual images, and the “triadic sign.”
S
Nicholson, H. B. “The Mixteca-Puebla Concept in Mesoameri-
EE ALSO Aztec Religion; Maya Religion; Mesoamerican
Religions, article on Mythic Themes; Olmec Religion; Tem-
can Archaeology: A Re-Examination.” In Men and Cultures,
ple, article on Mesoamerican Temples; Toltec Religion.
edited by Anthony F. C. Wallace, pp. 612–617. Philadel-
phia, 1960. Discusses and defines the Postclassic Mesoameri-
can Mixteca-Puebla stylistic and iconographic tradition con-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
ceptualized as a “horizon style,” with some consideration of
Acosta, Jorge R. “Interpretación de algunos de los datos obtenidos
its origins and the mechanism of its diffusion.
en Tula relativos a la epoca Tolteca.” Revista mexicana de es-
tudios antropológicos
14, pt. 2 (1956–1957): 75–110. A use-
Nicholson, H. B. “The Iconography of Classic Central Veracruz
ful, well-illustrated summary of the archaeological aspect of
Ceramic Sculptures.” In Ancient Art of Veracruz: An Exhibit
Toltec culture by the principal excavator of Tula. Includes
Sponsored by the Ethnic Arts Council of Los Angeles,
some discussion of the iconography.
pp. 13–17. Los Angeles, 1971. A concise discussion of the
iconography of Classic Veracruz ceramic figures, with sug-
Caso, Alfonso. “Calendario y escritura en Xochicalco.” Revista
gestions that some of them probably represent specific
mexicana de estudios antropológicos 18 (1962): 49–79. An im-
deities.
portant study of Xochicalco iconography, focusing on the hi-
eroglyphic writing system and calendric inscriptions.
Nicholson, H. B. “The Late Pre-Hispanic Central Mexican
(Aztec) Iconographic System.” In The Iconography of Middle
Caso, Alfonso. “Sculpture and Mural Painting of Oaxaca.” In
American Sculpture, pp. 72–97. New York, 1973. Summary
Handbook of Middle American Indians, edited by Robert
discussion of the iconographic system of Late Postclassic cen-
Wauchope and Gordon R. Willey, vol. 3, pp. 849–870. Aus-
tral Mexico, with specification of its leading diagnostics.
tin, Tex., 1965. Well-illustrated discussion of Monte Albán
iconography through sculpture and wall paintings.
Parsons, Lee A. “Post-Olmec Stone Sculpture: The Olmec-Izapan
Transition of the Southern Pacific Coast and Highlands.” In
Caso, Alfonso. “Dioses y signos teotihuacanos.” In Teotihuacan:
The Olmec and Their Neighbors, edited by Elizabeth P. Ben-
Onceava Mesa Redonda, Sociedad Mexicana de Antropología,
son, pp. 257–288. Washington, D.C., 1981. Perceptive,
pp. 249–279. Mexico City, 1966. A broad survey of Teoti-
well-illustrated discussion of the Izapan and related stylistic
huacan iconography, extensively illustrated.
and iconographic traditions as manifested in the Pacific
Caso, Alfonso, and Ignacio Bernal. Urnas de Oaxaca. Memorias
Slope region of Chiapas-Guatemala and adjacent highlands.
del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, no. 2.
Quirarte, Jacinto. Izapan-Style Art: A Study of Its Form and Mean-
Mexico City, 1952. The classic study of the effigy funerary
ing. Dumbarton Oaks Studies in Pre-Columbian Art and Ar-
urns of the Monte Albán tradition, illustrated with hundreds
chaeology, no. 10. Washington, D.C., 1973. A significant
of photographs and drawings.
pioneering attempt to define the leading formal and icono-
Coe, Michael D. The Maya Scribe and His World. New York,
graphic features of the Izapan stylistic and iconographic tra-
1973. A beautifully illustrated catalog featuring principally
dition; well illustrated with numerous line drawings.
Late Classic Lowland Maya painted ceramic vessels, with
Robicsek, Francis, and Donald M. Hales. The Maya Book of the
perceptive analyses of their complex iconographic formats
Dead: The Ceramic Codex; The Corpus of Codex Style Ceramics
and accompanying hieroglyphic texts.
of the Late Classic Period. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. Exten-
Joralemon, Peter David. A Study of Olmec Iconography. Dumbar-
sive album of photographs (including full-surface rollouts
ton Oaks Studies in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology,
and color) of Late Classic Lowland Maya ceramic vessels
no. 7. Washington, D.C., 1971. The most comprehensive
with scenes and hieroglyphic texts related to the surviving rit-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: MESOPOTAMIAN ICONOGRAPHY
4315
ual-divinatory paper screenfolds. Includes iconographic anal-
EARLY IMAGERY. Nude female figurines are among the earli-
ysis and preliminary decipherment of the texts.
est artifacts to which a religious significance can be attached.
H. B. N
Among the prehistoric figurines of Mesopotamia are the tall,
ICHOLSON (1987)
thin, clay “lizard” figures with elongated heads, coffee-bean
eyes, slit mouths, and clay pellets decorating the shoulders.
“Lizard” figurines have been found at southern sites in both
ICONOGRAPHY: MESOPOTAMIAN
male and female versions though the latter is dominant. Far-
ICONOGRAPHY
ther north, at Tell al-Sawwan, female figurines and male sex-
Any discussion of the religious iconography of ancient Meso-
ual organs were carved from alabaster. These figurines also
potamia is hampered by the fact that we have, on the one
have elongated heads and prominent eyes but are more
hand, religious texts for which we possess no visual counter-
rounded in shape. In the north, clay figurines often have ab-
parts and, on the other, representations—sometimes ex-
breviated heads, and the emphasis is on a well-rounded, full-
tremely elaborate ones—for which we lack all written docu-
breasted body. An opposite trend is attested, however, at Tell
mentation. Mesopotamia lacked raw materials such as stone,
Brak, where “spectacle” or “eye idols” were found in a late
metal, and wood, and these had to be imported. As a result
fourth-millennium temple. Here the eyes are emphasized to
stone was often recut and metal was melted down; nor has
the exclusion of everything else, and there has even been de-
wood survived. In time of war, temple treasures were carried
bate as to whether they might not, in fact, represent huts.
off as booty, and divine statues were mutilated or taken into
Although there is always a risk in attributing a religious sig-
captivity, so that virtually none remains. Indeed we should
nificance to a figurine when there is no written evidence to
know very little of Mesopotamian sculpture of the third and
corroborate this, it does seem likely that these figures had fer-
second millennia BCE were it not for the objects looted by
tility connotations.
the Elamites in the late second millennium BCE and found
by the French in their excavations at Susa in southwestern
Animal combats. One motif that seems to have had a
Iran from 1897 onward. In time of peace the temples them-
special significance throughout Mesopotamian prehistory
selves frequently melted down metal votive objects in order
and history shows a heroic male figure in conflict with wild
to produce others. Occasionally a hoard of consecrated ob-
animals. A pot of the Halaf period (c. 4500 BCE) shows an
jects was buried near the temple, however, presumably to
archer aiming at a bull and a feline. A figure traditionally
make room for others. The Tell Asmar and Al-EUbaid hoards
known as the priest-king appears on a relief and a seal of the
dating to the second quarter of the third millennium
Uruk period (late fourth millennium) shooting or spearing
BCE are
two examples of this practice. In only a few cases has frag-
lions and bulls, and the same theme reappears in the Assyrian
mentary evidence survived to indicate how temples were dec-
reliefs of the ninth and seventh centuries BCE and forms the
orated (the leopard paintings at Tell EUqair, for instance),
subject of the Assyrian royal seal. After the hunt the king is
but their elevations are often depicted on monuments and
shown pouring a libation over the corpses, thus fulfilling his
seals, and facades decorated with date-palm pilasters or water
age-old function as representative of the god and protector
deities have been found. The decoration of secular buildings,
of the country against wild cattle and lions. This function
among them the painted murals from the palace at Mari and
must have been particularly important when animal hus-
the limestone reliefs that ornamented the palaces of the
bandry and agriculture were in their infancy but would have
Assyrian kings, provide some evidence for religious iconogra-
lost some of that immediacy in Assyrian times, when animals
phy.
had become scarce and were specially trapped and released
from cages for the hunt.
Our best sources for religious iconography are therefore
the small objects that are more likely to have survived.
At certain periods the theme of animal combat became
Plaques and figurines made of local clay often illustrate a
dominant in the iconographic repertoire. For several centu-
more popular type of religion. At certain periods painted
ries during the third millennium, and at various times later
pottery is the vehicle for representations that have religious
on, heroes are shown protecting sheep, goats, and cattle from
significance. Decorated votive metal vessels, stone maces,
the attack of lions and other predators. Generally the heroes
and small bronze figures also occasionally survive. Without
are either naked except for a belt, with their shoulder-length
seals, however, our knowledge would be extremely scant.
hair falling in six curls, or they are kilted and wear a decorat-
Prehistoric stamp seals were replaced during the second half
ed headdress. They are often assisted by a mythic creature
of the fourth millennium by small stone cylinders that were
who has the legs and horns of a bull and a human head and
used as marks of administrative or personal identification
torso. Attempts have been made to equate the figures with
until the end of the first millennium BCE. These cylinder
the legendary king Gilgamesh and his wild companion En-
seals were carved with designs in intaglio and could be rolled
kidu, but the evidence is lacking. We probably have here an
across clay jar-sealings, door-sealings, bullae, tablets, or their
extension of the theme already discussed, with the emphasis
clay envelopes so as to leave a design in relief. Such miniature
on the protection of domesticated animals from their aggres-
reliefs are the vehicle for the most complex and tantalizing
sors. Prehistoric stamp seals showing figures who often wear
iconographic representations.
animal masks and who are involved with snakes, ibex, and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4316
ICONOGRAPHY: MESOPOTAMIAN ICONOGRAPHY
other animals probably reflect a more primitive animistic re-
riage feasts in others. They are to be distinguished from later
ligious tradition.
neo-Hittite funerary meals, but the preparation of food for
the gods is a favorite iconographic motif in the second half
Early urban imagery. The advent of an organized
of the second and early first millennia
urban society in the second half of the fourth millennium
BCE.
led to the development of more varied vehicles for the trans-
Deities and their attributes. The representation of dei-
mission of iconographic concepts. Some examples of monu-
ties developed slowly, though by the middle of the third mil-
mental sculpture have survived, among them an almost life-
lennium they were wearing horned headdresses as a means
size female head which was probably part of a cult statue.
of identification. In Akkadian times (2340–2180 BCE) dis-
The wig and the inlay that once filled the eye sockets and
tinct iconographies were established for the more prominent
eyebrows have vanished and make this sculpture particularly
deities, and their position facing left became fixed, though
attractive to modern Western aesthetic taste. Uruk, where
the detailed representations of myths on seals of this period
the head was found, was the center of worship of the fertility
are generally incomprehensible to us. The role of some dei-
goddess Inanna, and a tall vase is decorated with a scene
ties can be identified by the attributes they hold, others by
where the robed goddess in anthropomorphic form, accom-
the sprigs of vegetation, streams of water, rays, or weapons
panied by her symbol, the reed bundle, receives offerings
which issue from their shoulders. Often these serve only to
from a naked priest and a (damaged) figure who wears a
establish that the deity is, for instance, a vegetation or a war-
crosshatched skirt; this latter is probably the priest-king men-
rior god without being more specific.
tioned above. In his role as en (“lord”) he is depicted feeding
flocks and cattle, engaging in ritual hunts, or taking part in
In fact, it is only a very few representations which can
religious ceremonies; in his role as lugal (“owner”) he tri-
actually be identified with any degree of certainty. Plows are
umphs over prisoners. He too has survived in sculpture in
frequently depicted, especially on Akkadian seals, but this is
the round, on reliefs, and on cylinder seals.
not always a shorthand for Ninurta (who is, however, depict-
Other significant motifs are known only from their im-
ed in a chariot on the famous Stela of the Vultures). Warrior
pression on clay sealings. It seems that certain types of seals
gods on Old Babylonian seals are probably also to be equated
were used by particular branches of temple administration:
with him in many cases, and he appears on Assyrian reliefs.
boating scenes used by those connected with fishing and wa-
The temple of Ninhursaga at Al-EUbaid was decorated with
terways, animal file seals for those dealing with herds. Cer-
friezes showing dairy scenes. There are clear representations
tain designs, for instance those showing variations on a pat-
of the water god Enki/Ea in his watery house or with water
tern of entwined snakes and birds, are more difficult to fit
flowing from his shoulders on Akkadian seals. His Janus-
into this scheme of things. Other seals are squat, often con-
faced attendant, Usmu, is also shown, as is the Zu bird who
cave-sided, and cut with excessive use of the drill to form pat-
stole the tablets of destiny. Later the water god fades from
terns. These might have been used by an administration deal-
the iconography and comes to be represented by a turtle. A
ing in manufactured goods since potters and weavers are
neo-Assyrian seal showing a divine figure running along the
depicted. Some show a spider pattern, and it is tempting to
back of a dragon is often taken to represent the Babylonian
associate these with the temple weavers, whose patron deity
god Marduk with the primeval monster Tiamat, but there
was the spider-goddess Uttu. Some more abstract patterns
is no proof that this is so.
are difficult to interpret.
The moon god Nanna/Sin was a major deity, but there
If we have dealt at some length with this early period
are surprisingly few representations of him. A stele from Ur
it is because many of the iconographic concepts found later
and one of the wall paintings from the palace of Mari are per-
have their roots in the late fourth-millennium repertoire, in-
haps the most convincing representations of this god, but
cluding depictions of both the physiomorphic and the an-
where gods in boats can be identified with any certainty, they
thropomorphic form of deities, cult scenes with naked
seem to be the sun god. The moon’s crescent below the sun
priests, the attitude of worship with hands clasped and large,
disk is also extremely common. The iconography of the sun
inlaid eyes to attract the deity’s attention, as well as the royal
god Utu/Shamash is, however, well attested. He is frequently
hunt, the sacred marriage, and banquet scenes. Even such
shown with rays rising from his shoulders, placing his foot
quasi-abstract concepts as the rain cloud received its icono-
on a mountain and holding the saw-toothed knife with
graphic shape during this period, as testified by seal impres-
which he has just cut his way through the mountains of the
sions showing the lion-headed eagle. Later he is shown on
east. Often he is accompanied by his animal attribute, the
seals, vessels, reliefs, and particularly on a huge copper relief
human-headed bull (probably a bison), or by attendants who
that adorned the temple at Al-EUbaid.
hold open the gates of dawn. Scorpions likewise can be asso-
LATER DEVELOPMENTS. Banquet scenes were especially pop-
ciated with the sun god, but they are also symbols of fertility
ular in Early Dynastic times (mid-third millennium) and are
and attributes of the goddess of oaths, Ishara. A famous
often associated with scenes of war: seals, plaques, and mosa-
plaque shows the sun god seated in his temple in Sippar; he
ic panels depict these ritual banquets, which are probably to
also appears as the god of justice, holding a symbolic rod and
be interpreted as victory feasts in some contexts and as mar-
ring, on the law code of Hammurabi of Babylon.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: EGYPTIAN ICONOGRAPHY
4317
From Old Babylonian times onward the storm god
evangelists as we know them, combining human intelligence
Adad occurs frequently, often standing on a bull and holding
with the wings of the eagle and the strength of the bull or
a lightning fork. His consort Shala may appear briefly, on
lion, the most powerful creatures in heaven and on earth.
seals and in the form of mass-produced clay figurines of the
Old Babylonian period, as a nude goddess, shown frontally.
SEE ALSO Mesopotamian Religions, overview articles.
Ishtar (Inanna), the Uruk fertility goddess, appears on Akka-
dian seals holding a date cluster, calling down rain, and often
BIBLIOGRAPHY
winged with weapons rising from her shoulders as goddess
There is no recent study of Mesopotamian religious iconography.
of war. It is this last aspect that becomes predominant, and
An early attempt at bringing order out of chaos is Elizabeth
the Old Babylonian representations are so standardized that
Douglas Van Buren’s Symbols of the Gods in Mesopotamian
it is tempting to see in them the depiction of a well-known
Art (Rome, 1945). This is still a useful book but has been
cult statue. It may be her aspect as “mistress owl” which is
superseded to a large extent by Ursula Seidl’s detailed study
of the Babylonian boundary stones, Die babylonischen
shown on the famous Burney relief (on loan to the British
Kudurru-Reliefs (Berlin, 1968). The symbols which appear
Museum). Her earlier symbol, the reed bundle, is later re-
on these stones are analyzed, the various possible interpreta-
placed by a star. One early seal may show her consort Du-
tions and identifications are discussed, and examples from all
muzi (Tammuz) as a prisoner in the dock, but otherwise he
periods are listed.
is difficult to identify. Ningirsu is often identified as a lion-
Most studies on religious iconography have appeared in catalogs
headed eagle or thunderbird. There are several representa-
of cylinder seals, beginning with Henri Frankfort’s pioneer-
tions of what is probably Nergal as a warrior god. The god
ing attempt to relate the seal designs to the texts in his Cylin-
in the winged disk on Assyrian reliefs has generally been
der Seals (London, 1939). Edith Porada’s Corpus of Ancient
identified as Ashur but is more likely the sun god Shamash.
Near Eastern Seals in North American Collections, vol. 1, The
Amurru, the god of the Amorites, appears on Old Babylo-
Pierpont Morgan Library Collection (Washington, D.C.,
nian seals accompanied by a gazelle and holding a crook.
1948), is also a mine of information. The same author has
more recently edited Ancient Art in Seals (Princeton, 1980),
Unidentifiable figures. From the wealth of symbols
which includes an essay by Pierre Amiet relating the iconog-
which represent deities, many can only be tentatively identi-
raphy of Akkadian seals to a seasonal cycle. In her introduc-
fied. The Babylonian boundary stones show these symbols
tion Porada summarizes the advances in glyptic studies
on podia and list names of deities, but there is often no corre-
which have taken place since Frankfort wrote. Many of the
lation between image and text. This is also the case on Old
objects referred to here are illustrated in André Parrot’s
Babylonian seals of the earlier part of the second millennium
Sumer (London, 1960) and Nineveh and Babylon (New York,
1961) or in J. B. Pritchard’s The Ancient Near East in Pictures
BCE where we have frequent representations of unidentifiable
relating to the Old Testament (Princeton, 1969).
figures and a large number of inscribed seals mentioning di-
vine protectors: the names do not generally have any bearing
DOMINIQUE COLLON (1987)
on the representation. It seems that the owners of the seals
were “hedging their bets” and invoking some deities in picto-
rial form, others in written form, and still others by their
symbols.
ICONOGRAPHY: EGYPTIAN ICONOGRAPHY
The principal iconographic sources for ancient Egyptian reli-
It has also been suggested that the deities invoked most
gion are the representations of scenes, both ritual and mytho-
frequently were those most likely to be depicted; again this
logical, carved in relief or painted on the walls of Egyptian
cannot be so since Ishtar, for instance, is frequently depicted
temples and tombs, as well as the numerous images and stat-
and is almost never mentioned in the inscriptions. It is likely
ues of gods and pharaohs. Additionally, there are many ob-
that certain deities had a well-established iconography (like
jects of ritual or practical function decorated with carved or
the popular saints of medieval Christianity), probably based
painted religious motifs, and finally, numerous hieroglyphic
on a commonly known cult statue or wall painting, while
signs belonging to the Egyptian writing system are represen-
others were invoked by name because their iconography was
tations of gods, religious symbols, and ritual objects. These
not as immediately recognizable. The picture becomes even
types of sources remain constant throughout the more than
more complex in neo-Assyrian times when demons played
three thousand years of ancient Egyptian history from the
an ever-increasing part in religion: we have descriptions of
Old Kingdom to the Roman period (c. 3000 BCE–395 CE).
the demons, but these are difficult to reconcile with the rep-
resentations.
Egyptian gods were depicted both as human beings and
as animals; a composite form combining a zoomorphic head
The rich and tantalizing iconography of Mesopotamia
with a human body enjoyed special popularity in relief and
is also responsible for key images in the Judeo-Christian tra-
statuary alike. Anthropomorphic representations of Egyptian
dition. To cite only one example, the huge, winged, human-
gods relate to their mythological functions and reveal narra-
headed lions and bulls which decorated and protected the
tive aspects of their relationships, whereas other forms may
Assyrian palace entrances are the basis for Ezekiel’s vision
be defined as their “metamorphoses” or symbols, emphasiz-
(Ez. 1:4–13) and by extension for the symbols of the four
ing one particular feature or event. In this symbolic realm
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4318
ICONOGRAPHY: EGYPTIAN ICONOGRAPHY
one divinity could be represented by various animals or ob-
front of the temple to symbolize the monarch’s identity as
jects—for example, the cow, the lioness, the snake, and the
solar god. Rows of sphinxes lined both sides of processional
sistrum (a musical instrument) are all manifestations of the
ways leading to the principal temple entrances.
goddess Hathor. Conversely, one animal could embody vari-
FUNERARY ART. Another important part of our knowledge
ous gods; thus, the protective cobra that appears on the fore-
about ancient Egyptian iconography comes from the decora-
head of each pharaoh could be identified with almost all god-
tion of Egyptian tombs and coffins that comprises the great
desses. The divine identity of an animal may differ in various
Egyptian religious “books”—literary compositions that com-
local pantheons. Particularly numerous were iconographic
bine spells of magical, mythological, and ritual character
variations of the sun god, which illustrate various phases of
with pictures illustrating Egyptian visions of the nether-
the sun’s perpetuum mobile. Some male gods associated with
world. The most ancient of these “books” are the Pyramid
generative powers (Min, Amun-Re, Kamutef) are depicted
Texts carved on the walls of some of the rooms inside the
ithyphallically. A particular shape, that of a mummified
royal pyramids (Old Kingdom, c. 3000–2200 BCE). The il-
human body, was attributed to Osiris, the god of the dead.
lustrations accompanying this sort of text appear for the first
This form also occurs in some representations of other gods,
time in the Book of Two Ways, which is part of the Coffin
especially when they appear in the realm of the dead. Diads
Texts (Middle Kingdom, 2134–1600 BCE) painted on the
and triads of gods, frequent in Egyptian statuary, as well as
sides of wooden coffins.
larger groups of divine beings represented in reliefs and
paintings, are visual expressions of various relationships
Subsequent literary compositions of religious character
among numerous divinities. Syncretistic tendencies in Egyp-
are generally accompanied by elaborate tableaux, often in the
tian religion, popular after the Amarna period, take concrete
form of vignettes drawn above a column of text written on
form in the composite features that combine the iconograph-
papyrus. From the New Kingdom (1569–1085 BCE) on, the
ic features of different gods.
most popular of these “books” was the Book of Going Forth
by Day
(the so-called Book of the Dead), a copy of which was
Scenes carved on the walls of tombs and temples as well
a necessary element of the funerary offerings of every noble.
as on furniture and ritual objects most frequently show the
The visual aspects of royal eschatology are best known from
gods in the company of a king making offerings or perform-
a composition called Amduat (That Which Is in the Nether-
ing other ritual acts (such as censing, purifying with water,
world), which was painted or carved on the walls of royal
or embracing the god). All representations of the king facing
tombs. Illustrations show the nightly wandering of the sun
a divinity illustrate the ongoing relationship of reciprocity
god through the netherworld. Beginning with the New
between them. In return for the precious object that he pres-
Kingdom and continuing into the Roman period, fragments
ents to the god, the pharaoh receives symbols of life,
of these “books” also decorate many tombs, coffins, and ritu-
strength, stability, many years of kingship, and the like.
al objects belonging to the nobles.
STATUARY. Numerous Egyptian statues made of all possible
TEMPLES. As the abode of the gods, Egyptian temples were
materials, such as stone, wood, gold, bronze, and faience,
accessible only to the kings and priests. The king, considered
represent one, two, or three gods often accompanied by a
the mediator between the gods and the people, is usually
king. Both gods and king wear crowns and hold characteris-
shown in front of the gods in the ritual scenes that decorate
tic insignia, among which the most frequent are the sign of
the temple walls, although in reality it must have been the
life (ankh) and various types of scepters. Many elements of
priests who performed the rituals in the king’s name.
the king’s dress are identical with those of the gods, thus vi-
sualizing the divine aspects of the monarch’s nature. The
The sanctuary, usually situated at the far end of the tem-
shape of their artificial beards is distinctive, however: the
ple along its axis, contained the sacred image of the god to
beard of the god is bent forward at the end, while that of
whom the temple was dedicated. The statue of Amun-Re,
the king is cut straight in its lower part.
the chief divinity of Thebes and the state divinity since the
time of the New Kingdom, stood inside a shrine on a porta-
The size of the statues varies according to their function.
ble bark placed upon a sled. In Theban temples this effigy
Small bronze statuettes of votive character were common, es-
is often represented in connection with the Opet Feast or the
pecially in the first millennium BCE. Many represent animals
Beautiful Feast of the Valley, during which it was transported
sacred to Egyptian gods; sometimes these figures are set on
along or across the Nile on a huge ceremonial boat adorned
boxes containing mummies of the animals represented. The
with reliefs and statues.
mummified bodies of larger animals, such as bulls, ibis, croc-
Narrative cycles. Many temple scenes form standard-
odiles, and cats, have been found buried within special ne-
ized sequences of pictures showing summarily, sometimes al-
cropolises near places connected with the cults of various
most symbolically, successive episodes of mythicized rituals
gods.
that often refer to important historical events, such as the mi-
Large stone statues served as cult objects in Egyptian
raculous birth of the king, his coronation, his victories over
temples. Pairs of colossal effigies of the seated king usually
enemies, his jubilee, and the founding of the temple. These
stood in front of the temple pylons. The sphinx, with its
representations appear in the inner parts of the temple, to-
body of a lion and head of the king, was often placed in the
gether with tableaux depicting the daily ritual performed be-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: EGYPTIAN ICONOGRAPHY
4319
fore the statue of the temple’s principal deity and scenes
found in the first room of the tomb, refers to various episodes
showing various offerings being made. Often the icono-
in the earthly life of the deceased, including such religious
graphic repertory of the decoration of the pillared hall—the
ceremonies or feasts as the Beautiful Feast of the Valley, the
central part of many temples—constitutes something of a
royal jubilee, the New Year festival, or the harvest feast. In-
“showcase,” reviewing in abbreviated form all the important
cluded in all these scenes are processions, offerings (including
elements of the temple’s relief decoration.
burnt offerings), incense burning, and performances with
playing, singing, and dancing. Of special importance among
The interior of the walls enclosing the courts are often
Egyptian musicians was the harpist, who came to be repre-
decorated with episodes of the most important feasts, while
sented by the squatting figure of a blind man shown in
the grandiose tableaux found on the exterior of the walls and
profile.
on the gates (frequently in the form of pylons) commonly
illustrate the king’s military achievements. Standard scenes
The other group of scenes, found in the inner room, il-
on the pylon faces show the king smiting foreign captives,
lustrates various episodes of the funeral rites, such as the em-
presenting them to a god, and images of the king offering
balming ritual, the symbolic “pilgrimage to Abydos” by boat,
a figure of the goddess Maat—the personification of truth,
and various processions with the mummy being dragged on
justice, and order—to the main divinity of the temple. An-
sledges. The ritual of “opening the mouth” was one of the
other iconographic pattern frequently occurring on the py-
most important ceremonies of the long funeral cycle. Per-
lons and on the socle of royal thrones is the symbolic repre-
formed on the statue of the deceased or on his mummy, it
sentation of subjugated peoples, the so-called ring-names,
was composed of episodes including censing, pouring liba-
showing legless human figures, with hands bound, behind
tions, purifying, and “opening the mouth” with special in-
an oval ring containing the name of the foreign province.
struments, all of which were intended to revive the spirit of
The facial features of these figures were meant to characterize
the deceased.
the physiognomy of each particular people.
Cult of the dead. Of particular importance in every
Symbolic motifs. In addition to these scenes referring
tomb were the places intended for the cult of the deceased.
to particular events, the temple walls are also decorated with
These featured niches with statues of the dead person (and
numerous motifs of a more symbolic nature, which give visu-
sometimes of members of his family), stelae often depicting
al form to religious, political, or geographical ideas. The so-
the deceased adoring and making offerings to various gods
called geographical processions, for instance, symbolize the
or royal personages, and lastly, false-door stelae constituting
provinces of Egypt in the form of hefty divinities personify-
a symbolic passage between the realm of the dead and the
ing the Nile, each bearing offerings in their hands.
world of the living.
Various iconographic patterns invented by the Egyp-
Enabling the deceased to enjoy the sight of the shining
tians give shape to the idea of the unification of Lower and
sun is another idea that predominates in the eschatological
Upper Egypt. The central motif of a great number of them
visions depicted and described on the walls of royal tombs.
is the heraldic symbol called sma-tawy, which is composed
Such great religious compositions as the Amduat, the Book
of two plants, papyrus (for Lower Egypt) and a kind of bul-
of Gates, and the Book of Caverns depict, among other things,
rush (for Upper Egypt), bound together around the spinal
the nightly journey of the sun god, who is often identified
cord and the lungs of an animal. Two divine personifications
with the king. The monarch is thus endowed with the ability
of the Nile—the motive power of this unification—are often
to reappear in the morning as a form of the solar divinity.
shown holding and binding together the two plants
Most important in each tomb, however, was the burial
chamber, commonly situated underneath the accessible
Geographical and religious at the same time, the con-
rooms at the bottom of a deep vertical shaft. Here were con-
cepts of the country’s division into two parts—either north
tained the sarcophagus with the mummy of the deceased and
and south or east and west—belong to the most important
all the funerary offerings, including the four Canopic jars for
principles prevailing in Egyptian iconography. They find ex-
the viscera of the deceased, the mummiform figures known
pression in symmetrical or antithetical compositions of
as shawabtis (ushabtis), a copy of the Book of Going Forth by
scenes placed in the axial rooms of temples and tombs, as in
Day written on papyrus, and various ritual objects. The sar-
the disposition of the various gods representing north and
cophagi and coffins, made of wood or stone, took the form
south or east and west, especially on the decoration of lintels,
of cubical or body-shaped cases decorated with painted or
doorposts, and rear walls.
carved religious motifs. The four Canopic jars were associat-
The netherworld. The Egyptian realm of the dead lay
ed with the four sons of the royal deity Horus, with the four
in the west. The best illustration of ancient Egyptian visual
cardinal directions, and with the four protective goddesses;
concepts of the netherworld appears in the decoration of
they each had distinctive stoppers, often representing the
New Kingdom royal and noble tombs situated in west
heads of the four sons of Horus or simply anthropomorphic
Thebes; these iconographic patterns remained a favorite and
heads. Numerous shawabtis holding various objects, such as
repeated subject right up to the Roman period. Of the two
hoes, baskets, or religious symbols, and most frequently
principal groups of scenes depicted there, the first, usually
made of faience or stone, accompanied the deceased in his
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4320
ICONOGRAPHY: GRECO-ROMAN ICONOGRAPHY
tomb in order to help him in the netherworld. In some
among the Indo-European peoples. Most notable of these is
tombs the number of these figures were considerable: more
an organized pantheon of deities related by birth or marriage
than one thousand were recovered in the tomb of King Ta-
and presided over by a god of the sky who is both ruler and
harqa (r. 689–664 BCE). Particularly rich were the grave
father (e.g., Zeus Pater and Jupiter). Nevertheless, although
goods of the royal tombs; the most complete version of such
it is clear that such gods accompanied the movement of the
a funeral outfit has been found in the tomb of Tutankhamen
Indo-Europeans into Greece and Italy, it is impossible to
(r. 1361–1352 BCE) located in the Valley of the Kings, the
state with certainty what iconographic representation, if any,
New Kingdom necropolis in west Thebes.
was used to worship them during this earliest period. The
The evolution of iconographic patterns in the three-
attempt to discern early iconographic patterns is further
thousand-year course of ancient Egyptian history parallels
hampered by the fact that both peoples were invaders whose
general changes in religious concepts, which are themselves
later religious outlook was influenced by older, settled cul-
a function of political and social changes. A “democratiza-
tures. When the Greeks arrived at the beginning of the sec-
tion” of religious beliefs during the Middle Kingdom and the
ond millennium BCE, they found not only an indigenous
Second Intermediate period resulted, on the one hand, in the
population on the mainland (whom they called the Pelas-
depiction of direct relations between gods and human beings
gians) but also the flourishing civilization of nearby Crete,
and, on the other hand, in identifying the dead with the god
whose art and architecture show evidence of Egyptian and
Osiris. Religious conflicts during the eighteenth dynasty,
Near Eastern influences. Thus, not only all the gods who
probably reflecting political struggles and culminating in the
constituted the classical Greek pantheon but also their ico-
“heresy” of Amenhotep IV-Akhenaton, led first to a dispro-
nography must be considered the products of a long process
portionate emphasis on solar cults and then to a develop-
of syncretism and synthesis of Indo-European, pre-Hellenic,
ment of religious concepts concerning the realm of the dead,
Cretan, and Near Eastern concepts of divinity. Similarly, the
with a dual focus on Osiris and the solar god. The union of
Indo-European settlers in Italy mixed with a variety of peo-
these two once-competing deities occurs frequently after the
ples already well established on the peninsula. Therefore, any
Amarna period and contributes to a development of theolog-
attempt to understand the development of the form and con-
ical concepts as well as their iconographic renderings. This
tent of Greco-Roman iconography must necessarily entail a
syncretism increases during the Third Intermediate period
consideration of the often disparate parts of the traditions.
and generates an unparalleled variety of forms during the
MINOAN-MYCENAEAN ICONOGRAPHY (2000–1200 BCE).
Ptolemaic period.
The study of Cretan (Minoan) religion may be compared to
S
a picture book without a text. The two symbols of Minoan
EE ALSO Pyramids, article on Egyptian Pyramids; Temple,
article on Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean
civilization, the double ax and the horns of consecration,
Temples.
clearly had religious significance, perhaps as tools of worship,
but their function is not understood. From the archaeologi-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
cal evidence, however, which includes frescoes, seals, and fig-
The most complete and up-to-date compendium of information
urines, one may conclude that the representation of the di-
concerning the iconography of ancient Egyptian religion is
vine was both anthropomorphic and theriomorphic. Found
Egypt, volume 16 in the series “Iconography of Religions,”
are depictions of female deities encoiled by snakes or with
edited by the Institute of Religious Iconography, Groningen.
birds perched upon their heads; these figures may explain the
Each of the thirteen fascicles of this volume, arranged in
prominence of snakes in later Greek religion as well as the
chronological sequence, contains rich photographic materials
association of Greek deities with specific birds. In addition,
and a detailed bibliography. Encyclopedic information on
particular subjects can be found in Hans Bonnet’s Reallex-
animal-headed figures reminiscent of contemporaneous
ikon der ägyptischen Religionsgeschichte, 2d ed. (Munich,
Egyptian material have been uncovered. One such type, a
1971), and in Lexikon der Ägyptologie, 6 vols., edited by Hans
bull-headed male, may be the source for the Greek myth of
Wolfgang Helck, Eberhard Otto, and Wolfhart Westendorf
the Minotaur. Also found are representations of demonlike
(Wiesbaden, 1972–). Bonnet’s Ägyptische Religion (Leipzig,
creatures who appear to be performing various ritual acts;
1924) may be consulted as a valuable complement to these
these have been cited as evidence of Mesopotamian influ-
publications. There is an amazing scarcity of scientific litera-
ence. A number of seals portray the figures both of a hunt-
ture in English, but see Manfred Lurker’s The Gods and Sym-
ress, who is called “mistress of the beasts” and whom the
bols of Ancient Egypt, revised by Peter A. Clayton (London,
Greeks associated with Artemis, and of a male deity, who
1980).
stands grasping an animal by the throat in each hand. Final-
KAROL MYSLIWIEC (1987)
ly, the seals present strong evidence for the existence of tree
cults and pillar cults, the survival of which perhaps may be
seen in the Greek myths about dryads, the woodland spirits
ICONOGRAPHY: GRECO-ROMAN
of nature who inhabit trees. To what extent the traditions
ICONOGRAPHY
of Minoan iconography immediately influenced the Greeks
The religious structures of both Greeks and Romans con-
can be explored through a consideration of Mycenaean re-
form to the typical patterns of divinity and belief found
mains. Indeed, although the Linear B tablets from Pylos have
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: GRECO-ROMAN ICONOGRAPHY
4321
provided valuable linguistic evidence about the names of the
rather cynically that “mortals consider that the gods are born
earliest Greek deities, most of our information, as in the case
and that they have clothes and speech and bodies like their
of Crete, comes from archaeological sources. From the exca-
own,” or Plato, who banned poets from his ideal state be-
vations at Mycenae have come a number of clay snakes, and
cause they told lies about the gods, the Greeks persisted in
at Tiryns a fresco depicts a crocodile-headed creature remi-
depicting their gods as human in form and action. Neverthe-
niscent of those seen on Crete. Persistence of the Minoan tra-
less, there is a great deal of evidence to indicate that, in the
ditions may also be found in the Lion Gate of Mycenae, over
conservative ritual of Greek religion, the older forms of rep-
which two lions, carved in relief and leaning on a central pil-
resentation of the divine persisted. Aniconic images of the
lar, stand guard. Providing further evidence for the continu-
divine, such as the omphalos at Delphi, provide proof of its
ing influence of Minoan iconography are a number of Myce-
survival. This stone, which in Greek myth was described as
naean seals, rings, and ornaments that display
the one that Rhea gave to Kronos to swallow when he wished
representations of sacred trees, bird-decorated shrines, and
to devour his infant son Zeus, and that the ruler of the
demons carrying libations. To what extent, however, the
Olympians then placed at the center of the world, is clearly
continuity of form indicates a continuity of content is diffi-
a baetyl, a sacred stone that contains the power of the divine.
cult to determine. In 1969, further excavations at Mycenae
Similarly, the widespread appearance of the herm, a pillar on
uncovered the Room of the Idols, which contained a quanti-
which was carved an erect phallus and that acted as an agent
ty of clay statues with arms either raised or outstretched. Al-
of fertility and apotropaic magic, points to the survival of ear-
though possessing only an approximation of human form,
lier conceptions of the divine. Myth also provides a clear illu-
each has a distinctive individuality; it has been suggested they
mination of the remnants of a theriomorphic iconography:
may be the earliest representations of those Olympian gods
Zeus changes himself into a bull in order to rape Europa and
later described by Homer. However, perhaps most character-
into a swan in order to seduce Leda; Athena and Apollo
istic of Mycenaean religious iconography are the thousands
metamorphose themselves into vultures to watch the battle
of clay statuettes called phi and psi figurines (after their dis-
between Hector and Ajax. The amalgamation of a number
tinctive shapes). Although most are rendered recognizably fe-
of functional deities during the Archaic and Classical periods
male by the accentuation of the breasts, they do not necessar-
can be seen in the great variety of epithets by which each god
ily portend future anthropomorphic representation. They
was addressed. In the use of such epithets, we see once again
are often found in graves, but there is no general agreement
the particularism of Greek religion. The disparate types,
as to their function. It is possible that they once served as vo-
which link seemingly unconnected functions from both the
tive offerings but that, like much of later Greek art originally
world of nature and the world of humans in a single deity,
sacred in nature and function, they became separated from
are probably a result of the continuing processes of synthesis
their original purpose.
and syncretism described above. Owing to the conservative
ARCHAIC AND CLASSICAL ICONOGRAPHY. The difficulty of
nature of Greek religion, no epithet was ever discarded.
establishing the continuity of the iconographical tradition
Thus, the most primitive expression of the power of nature
from the Mycenaean into the later periods of Greek history
embodied in the god as well as the most sophisticated con-
is illustrated by a comment of the historian Herodotus (fifth
ceptions of divine political power can be found in the ico-
century BCE), who credits Homer and Hesiod with describ-
nography, but it is clear that not all aspects of a deity can
ing the gods and “assigning to them their appropriate titles,
be equally well expressed through the various cultic epithets.
offices, and powers,” but who concedes that the two poets
Nevertheless, many of the epithets of the Olympians can be
had lived not more than four hundred years before him.
considered as proof of older iconographic substrata that re-
Homer and Hesiod are in fact our earliest sources for the ico-
veal functions closely linked to the world of nature: horselike
nography of the Greek gods after the Mycenaean age. But
Poseidon, owl-eyed Athena, cow-eyed Hera, cloud-gathering
another four hundred years separate the destruction of Myce-
Zeus. Although deities were often portrayed with their attri-
nae and the life of Homer, and the poet’s descriptions of the
butes of nature—the thunderbolt of Zeus, the trident of Po-
Olympian gods bear little resemblance to the representations
seidon—the connection between iconography and function
of the divine found at Mycenaean sites. Hesiod’s account of
may at times be difficult to establish because it is clear that
the birth of the gods in his Theogony indicates that, while ear-
many of the earlier “nature” functions of individual deities
lier generations of deities were often monstrous in appear-
could not be expressed with clarity in the monuments. The
ance as well as behavior, the victorious Olympian gods, with
frequent dichotomy between mythic meaning and ritual
Zeus as their ruler, were clearly anthropomorphic. Homer
function also presents one with difficulties in understanding
elaborates upon this concept, describing not only their very
the iconography of a particular god. In Greek myth, Posei-
obviously human physical appearance but also their often all-
don is clearly the god of the sea, who appears in sculpture
too-human behavior. It has been suggested that the source
and vase painting brandishing his trident or rising from the
for the relentlessly anthropomorphic quality of the Greek
sea in his chariot. Yet, Poseidon was also worshiped as a god
gods in both literature and art is a general rejection of the
of horses, and he is depicted on coins in the form of a horse.
concept of an abstract deity. Despite criticism by philoso-
Likewise, the Artemis of myth is the eternal virgin, yet it is
phers such as the pre-Socratic Xenophanes, who commented
clear from both cult and iconography that she was worshiped
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4322
ICONOGRAPHY: GRECO-ROMAN ICONOGRAPHY
as a goddess of fertility. It would seem that myth often serves
fane—flows. The temple itself was also an expression of the
to create a coherent portrait while religious ritual and prac-
all-encompassing might of Zeus: twenty-eight meters wide,
tice see no such need. The medium, too, often shapes icono-
sixty-nine meters long, and twenty meters high, its colossal
graphic conceptualization: the narrative of myth can be more
size emphasized those attributes of power and universality
readily portrayed in vase painting and reliefs than through
that Phidias had sought to convey in his sculpture.
freestanding sculpture. The evolution of the form and con-
HELLENISTIC AND ROMAN ICONOGRAPHY. The declining
tent of Greek iconography as a means of expressing spiritual
political fortunes of the Greek states after the Peloponnesian
ideals generally parallels that of Greek art, especially in sculp-
War paved the way for the rise of Macedon and the magnifi-
ture. The earliest religious sculpture and architecture were
cent career of Alexander the Great. His military conquests
executed in wood and have vanished; but in the seventh cen-
produced a new cultural synthesis of East and West that radi-
tury BCE we see the development of monumental stone archi-
cally altered the perception and portrayal of the divine; for
tecture and sculpture. The most representative forms of
although the Classical understanding of the nature of deity
sculpture are the kouros and the kour¯e (female) figures that
survived, it was now informed by new religious, social, and
stand rigidly with stylized features and dress. Perhaps votive
political ideals. Absolute monarchy, an altered concept of the
offerings, they have been variously identified as divine or
divine as embodied in Eastern mystery cults, and the rise of
human but may represent something in between: an ideal-
a middle class eager to display its wealth all contributed to
ized existence shared by gods and mortals alike. One cannot
the development of different iconographic sensibilities. Reli-
divorce iconography from the history of Greek art and archi-
gious iconography in the Hellenistic period presents a curi-
tecture, for there is no such concept as purely hieratic art:
ous admixture of Eastern and Western values, of monumen-
the Classical Apollo, for example, is not only presented as the
talism and individualism, of divine rationality and pathos,
youthful god, naked and beardless, but comes to embody the
amalgams that expressed themselves in the formal magnifi-
idealization of youth. Similarly, a bronze statue of a muscu-
cence of the tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus as well as
lar, bearded god with his left arm stretched out in front of
in the representations of Aphrodite that emphasize her naked
him and his right arm extended behind as if to hurl some-
human beauty, in sleeping satyrs and playful cupids as well
thing is identified as either Zeus or Poseidon; without light-
as in the struggling Laocoön doomed by the gods. The Great
ning bolt or trident, it is impossible to distinguish between
Altar of Zeus at Pergamum, with its wide monumental stair-
the spheres of sky and sea. Increasing emphasis on the beauty
way, was encompassed by a frieze that, in depicting the an-
of the human form in repose and in action informs both
cient Greek myth of the war between the Olympians and the
Greek sculpture and the understanding of the divine. Fur-
Giants, displays a remarkable range and intensity of human
thermore, iconography is linked not only with the develop-
emotions. In a world where kings were hailed as living gods
ment of the artistic ideal but with that of the political as well.
and apotheosis was a constant possibility, and where gods
As the institutions of the state evolved, the original gods of
suffered and died, the division between sacred and profane
nature were made citizens of the polis and given civic func-
iconography became even less distinct. With the conquest of
tions as protectors and benefactors of the city. Thus, the gold
the Hellenistic kingdoms the Romans acquired the values
and ivory statue of Athena in the Parthenon portrayed the
that had informed later Greek religious art and architecture.
armed goddess in full regalia as the protector and patron of
Although the earlier Etruscan culture of Italy had been
Athenian civilization, the goddess who had led her people to
strongly influenced by Greek and Oriental ideologies, it
victory against the Persians. The Parthenon itself is a symbol
shows evidence of a religious outlook distinct from both.
of the bond between Athena and her city, for the temple
Tomb paintings from the Archaic period, for example, por-
frieze depicts the procession of the Panathenaea, a festival
tray lively Dionysian revels and rowdy funeral games that,
held in honor of both the goddess and the powerful city that
while drawing on Greek sources, perhaps indicate a more op-
worshiped her, the pediment portrays scenes from the life of
timistic view of the afterlife than that of the Greeks. Roman
Athena, and the metopes record various victories of Greeks
iconography, on the other hand, reflects the conscious choice
over barbarians. Similarly at Olympia, which served as the
of the Greek ideal. Roman religion seems to have remained
religious and political center of Greece during the Classical
rooted in nature to a much greater extent than civic Greek
period, the Phidian Zeus sat enthroned in the inner sanctu-
religion had; the early anthropomorphic representations of
ary of the great temple, the concrete expression of the god’s
Mars and Jupiter are exceptions, perhaps occasioned by their
power and majesty. Crafted of gold and ivory, nearly twelve
clear identification with the political rather than the agricul-
meters high, the Lord of the Universe held in one hand a
tural life of the Roman people. Mars was the father of Romu-
statue of Victory and in the other a golden scepter on which
lus and Remus and thus the ancestor of the Roman people;
sat an eagle. Behind the throne were the Graces and Hours,
but even so it was the she-wolf, nurse of the twin boys, who
goddesses of the seasons and regulators of nature. The worlds
became the emblem of Rome’s auspicious origins. Only
of nature and culture become one. Phidias himself reportedly
when old Italic spirits of nature became identified with their
said that he had meant to portray the king in his supremacy
anthropomorphic Greek counterparts did the Romans build
as well as in his magnanimity and nobility. The god may be
temples as houses for their gods and represent them in
seen as the source out of which all reality—sacred and pro-
human form. The conservative values of Roman religion not
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: HINDU ICONOGRAPHY
4323
only inhibited the development of a distinctive iconography
ICONOGRAPHY: HINDU ICONOGRAPHY
but at the same time led to the adoption of those elements
Vis:n:u, S´iva, and Dev¯ı are the basic visual images of Hindu-
in Hellenistic art that seemed best to reflect those values. Al-
ism. Each of these deities is worshiped in a concrete image
though Augustus’s attempt to recreate the old Roman reli-
(mu¯rti) that can be seen and touched. The image is conceived
gious values through the resurrection of archaic rituals and
in anthropomorphic terms but at the same time transcends
priesthoods and the rebuilding of ancient temples and
human appearance. With certain exceptions, Hindu images
shrines was ultimately unsuccessful, his Altar of Augustan
have more than two arms. Their hands, posed in definite ges-
Peace (Ara Pacis) illustrates the Roman understanding of the
tures, hold the attributes that connote the deity’s power and
connection between traditional expressions of piety and po-
establish its identity. While the images are concrete in their
litical success. One of its panels depicts Augustus offering
substantiality, they are but a means of conjuring up the pres-
solemn sacrifice; another reveals Mother Earth holding on
ence of deity: this is their essential function. The image serves
her lap her fruitful gifts. The peace and prosperity of mortals
as a yantra, an “instrument” that allows the beholder to catch
and gods are attributed to Augustus’s piety and devotion.
a reflection of the deity whose effulgence transcends what the
More than three hundred years later, the Arch of Constan-
physical eye can see. The divine effulgence is beheld in inner
tine was to reflect the same themes: celebrating the victory
vision. As a reflection of this transcendental vision, the image
of the emperor over his enemies, its inscription attributes his
is called bimba. This reflection is caught and given shape also
triumph to the intervention of an unnamed divine power
by the yantra, a polygon in which the presence of deity dur-
and his own greatness of spirit. Over three millennia, the ico-
ing worship is laid out diagrammatically. The yantra is con-
nography of Greek and Roman religion became increasingly
structed with such precision that the “image” emerges in its
unmistakable identity.
concrete, locating the divine first in nature, then in objects,
and finally within the human realm.
Deity, beheld by the inner eye, by an act of “imagina-
tion,” is translated in terms of the image. In this respect the
SEE ALSO Temple, article on Ancient Near Eastern and
image is called pratima¯—“measured against” the original vi-
Mediterranean Temples.
sion of the deity as it arose before the inner eye of the seer.
Iconometry in the case of the anthropomorphic three-
dimensional image corresponds to the geometry of a linear
BIBLIOGRAPHY
yantra. Thus the anthropomorphic image is at the same time
Boardman, John. Greek Art. Rev. ed. New York, 1973. A useful
a reflection of a transcendental vision and a precise instru-
and thorough survey of the development of Greek art forms
ment for invoking the divine presence during worship in the
from the Mycenaean age through the Hellenistic peri-
manmade and manlike figure of the image. It has its place
od.Dumézil, Georges. Archaic Roman Religion. 2 vols. Trans-
in the temple, where it is worshiped not only as a stone stela
lated by Philip Krapp. Chicago, 1970. An analysis of early
in high relief in the innermost sanctuary but also on the out-
Roman religion that depends primarily on a structural analy-
side of the walls. There, a special niche or facet of the wall
sis of Indo-European religious institutions and mytholo-
gies.Farnell, Lewis R. The Cults of the Greek States (1896–
is allotted to each of the images embodying aspects of the
1909). 5 vols. New Rochelle, N. Y., 1977. Although lacking
image in the innermost sanctuary.
recent archaeological and linguistic evidence, this work re-
Vis:n:u, S´iva, and Dev¯ı (the Goddess) are represented in
mains the standard reference for ancient sources on Greek re-
many types of images, for each of these main deities has mul-
ligion in all its forms.Guthrie, W. K. C. The Greeks and Their
tiple forms or aspects. These are carved in relief in niches on
Gods. London, 1950. A well-balanced view of the origins of
the outer side of the temple walls, each niche suggesting a
each of the Greek gods, with detailed discussion of the multi-
sanctuary correlated in the main directions of space to the
dimensional roles of the divine in Greek society.Hauser, Ar-
central image—or symbol—in the innermost sanctuary.
nold. The Social History of Art, vol. 1. New York, 1951. A
combination of art criticism and social analysis, Hauser’s
While the images of Vis:n:u and Dev¯ı are anthropomorphic
work attempts to define the cultural forces that determine ar-
and partly also theriomorphic, the essential form in which
tistic sensibilities.Nilsson, Martin P. A History of Greek Reli-
S´iva is worshiped is in principle without any such likeness.
gion (1925). Translated by F. J. Fielden. 2d ed. Oxford,
S´IVA. The main object of S´iva worship is the lin˙ga. The word
1949. Emphasizes the continuity of tradition between Mino-
lin˙ga means “sign,” here a sign in the shape of a cylinder with
an and Mycenaean ritual and practice.Nilsson, Martin P.
a rounded top. The word lin˙ga also means “phallus” howev-
Greek Piety. Translated by Herbert Jennings Rose. Oxford,
er; some of the earliest S´iva lin˙gas are explicitly phallus
1948. This short work presents a thoughtful study of the var-
shaped. However, this sign is not worshiped in its mere an-
ious social, historical, and political forces that shaped Greek
thropomorphic reference. It stands for creativity on every
attitudes about the nature of the divine.Peters, F. E. The
Harvest of Hellenism
. New York, 1970. A historical, cultural,
level—biological, psychological, and cosmic—as a symbol of
and religious survey of the Greek and Roman world after Al-
the creative seed that will flow into creation or be restrained,
exander.
transmuted, and absorbed within the body of the yogin and
of S´iva, the lord of yogins. In its polyvalence the lin˙ga is
TAMARA M. GREEN (1987)
S´iva’s most essential symbol, while the images of S´iva, each
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4324
ICONOGRAPHY: HINDU ICONOGRAPHY
in its own niche on the outside of the temple wall, are a man-
pentads—is visualized in the iconic-aniconic, five-faced
ifestation of S´iva in a particular role offering an aspect of his
lin˙ga. This concept underlies the image in the innermost
totality.
sanctuary of the Caturmukha Maha¯deva Temple in Nachna
Kuthara, near Allahabad (sixth century), and that of Sada¯´siva
The images of S´iva visualize the god’s two complemen-
in the cave temple of Elephanta, near Bombay (mid-sixth
tary natures: his grace and his terror. Like all Hindu divine
century). These are ultimate realizations and constructs em-
images, that of S´iva has multiple arms; their basic number,
bodied in sculptural perfection.
four, implies the four cosmic directions over which extends
the power of deity in manifestation. S´iva’s image of peace
The facial physiognomy of the image reflects the nature
and serenity in one of its forms, Daks:in:a¯u¯murti, is that of
of the particular aspect or manifestation of the god. His
the teacher. Seated at ease under the cosmic tree, he teaches
calm, inscrutable mien as well as Bhairava’s distorted counte-
the sages yoga, gnosis, music, and all the sciences. In another
nance are shown with many nuances of expression that con-
image, standing as Pa´supati, “lord of animals,” S´iva protects
vey the significance of each particular manifestation, defined
all the “animals,” including the human soul.
as it is by specific attributes and cognizances. The ornaments,
He is also the celestial bridegroom, Sundaramu¯rti, em-
however, the necklaces, belts, earrings, and so on, are not es-
bracing his consort (A¯lin˙ganamu¯rti) or enthroned with her
sentially affected by the specific manifestation. Likewise
(Uma¯mahe´svara), while as Soma¯skanda the seated image of
some of S´iva’s attributes, particularly the trident, serpent,
the god includes his consort, also seated, and their dancing
crescent moon, rosary, and antelope, are part of the god’s
child. These images assure happiness within the human con-
image in more than one manifestation. Invariably, however,
dition, whereas Ardhanarisvara, the “lord whose half is
S´iva’s crown is his own hair. He is the ascetic god, and his
woman,” the androgyne god, his right half male and left half
crown shows the long strands of the ascetic’s uncut hair piled
female, is an image of superhuman wholeness.
high on his head in an infinite variety of patterns, adorned
by serpents, the crescent moon, and the miniature figure of
Myths and legends in which S´iva annihilates or pardons
the celestial river Gan˙ga¯ (Ganges) personified. Lavish presen-
demons of world-threatening ambition are condensed in im-
tation here nonetheless constitutes iconographic economy,
ages of him as victor over destructive forces and death
for each of the various symbols implies an entire myth, such
(Tripura¯ntaka, Ka¯la¯ri). Another class of images visualizes the
as that of the descent from heaven of the river goddess
god as a young, seductively naked beggar (Bhiks:a¯tan:a) and,
Gan˙ga¯, whose impact would have wrought havoc on earth
in a later phase of the selfsame myth, as an image of terror,
had not S´iva offered his hair as a temporary station for her.
an emaciated, skeletal—or, as Bhairava, bloated—god who
is sinner and penitent on his way to salvation. Bhairava is an
An essential cognizance particular to S´iva among gods—
image of the lord’s passion on his way to release. There he
though not present in every S´iva image—is the god’s third
dances as he danced on the battlefield in his triumph over
eye (which also graces deities derived from the S´iva concept,
fiends. S´iva’s dance is the preeminent mode of the god’s op-
such as Dev¯ı and Gan:e´sa). Vertically set in the middle of
eration in the cosmos and within the microcosm, in the heart
S´iva’s forehead above sun and moon, his two other eyes, the
of man. The image of S´iva Na¯t:ara¯ja dancing his fierce dance
third eye connotes the fire of the ascetic god. It broke out
of bliss subsumes ongoing movement and stasis in the rhyth-
when Pa¯rvat¯ı, his consort, playfully covered the god’s other
mic disposition of limbs and body as if the dance were ever-
eyes with her hands: darkness spread all over the cosmos.
lasting: in his upper hands are the drum and flame, the drum
This fire also blazed forth to destroy the god Ka¯ma, “desire,”
symbolizing sound and the beginning of creation, the flame
in his attempt to wound S´iva with his arrow.
symbolizing the end of creation; one arm crosses over the
Whether distinguished by one symbol only or by a com-
body and points to the opposite, while his raised foot signals
bination of symbols, the identity of S´iva is unmistakable in
release from gravity and every other contingency in the
his images. There is also no inconsistency if, for example, the
world. The whole cycle of the eternal return is laid out in
crown of S´iva, lovingly enthroned with Pa¯rvat¯ı, is wreathed
the yantra of S´iva’s dancing image. In another image, that
with skulls (Uma¯-Mahe´svara from Belgavi, Karnataka,
of the cosmic pillar, S´iva reveals himself to the gods Brahma¯
twelfth century). The total being of S´iva is present in the par-
and Vis:n:u; an endless flaming pillar of light arises from the
ticular aspect.
netherworld. The image of Lingodbhava shows the anthro-
pomorphic figure of S´iva within the lin˙ga pillar bursting
Facing the lin˙ga, the image of Nandin, the zebu bull
open.
carved in the round and stationed in front of the entrance
of the temple or in its hall, is at the same time the animal
The lin˙ga as both abstract symbol and partly anthropo-
form of S´iva, his attendant, and conveyance (va¯hana). In
morphic shape is the main Saiva cult object. In some of the
more than one respect, Nandin, the “gladdener,” conveys
sculptures, a human head adheres to the cylinder of the lin˙ga,
S´iva.
or four heads are positioned in the cardinal directions, imply-
ing a fifth head (rarely represented) on top. Five is S´iva’s sa-
VIS:N:U. The pervader and maintainer of the universe is repre-
cred number, and the entire Saiva ontology—the five senses,
sented by his anthropomorphic image in the innermost sanc-
five elements, five directions of space, and further hierarchic
tuary. Invariably the image stands straight like a pillar, and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: HINDU ICONOGRAPHY
4325
its four arms symmetrically hold the god’s main attributes:
Each avata¯ra is assumed by the supreme Vis:n:u for a par-
conch, wheel, mace, and lotus. The conch—born from the
ticular end, as the situation demands. Yet each avata¯ra or di-
primordial ocean—with its structure spiraling from a single
vine descent, though known to have come about at a definite
point, is a symbol of the origin of existence. The wheel repre-
time, remains valid for all times. The number of avata¯ras or
sents the cycle of the seasons, of time. The mace stands for
incarnations (vibhavas) is generally accepted as ten, but
the power of knowledge, while the lotus flower symbolizes
twelve further vibhavs are also described. The ten shapes are
the unfolded universe risen from the ocean of creation. Ac-
those of the (1) fish (Matsya); (2) tortoise (Ku¯rma); (3) boar
cording to their respective placement in the four hands of the
(Vara¯ha); (4) man-lion (Narasim:ha); (5) dwarf and “[god
Vis:n:u image, these four attributes define the particular aspect
who took] three strides” (Va¯mana and Trivikrama); (6)
under which the god is worshiped according to the needs of
Ra¯ma with the ax (Para´sura¯ma), who reestablished the lead-
the worshiper. Each of the twenty-four images—the total
ing position of the brahmans; (7) Ra¯ma, the ideal king; (8)
permutations of the four symbols in the four hands—has a
Kr:s:n:a; (9) Buddha; and (10) Kalkin, the redeemer yet to
name. The supreme god, Vis:n:u has a thousand names in
come. In niches of the temple wall, the avata¯ras are imaged
which those of the twenty-four images are included.
in anthropomorphic, theriomorphic, or combined anthropo-
theriomorphic shapes.
In addition to the standing image in the innermost sanc-
tuary—an anthropomorphic version of the concept of the
The Matsya avata¯ra incorporates a deluge myth, telling
cosmic pillar—Vis:n:u may assume two other positions, seated
how a grateful small fish saved by Manu in turn saved Manu,
and recumbent. Indeed, no other Hindu god—except a
who became the founder of present-day mankind. The tor-
Vis:n:u-derived allegory, Yoganidra¯—is shown recumbent,
toise myth tells of the cosmic tortoise that lent its body as
and together, these three positions render the mode of the
the firm support for the world mountain, which served as a
god’s pervasive presence in the cosmos and during its dissolu-
churning stick at the churning of the primeval ocean. The
tion, when in yoga slumber Vis:n:u reclines on S´es:a, the ser-
third of Vis:n:u’s descents similarly illustrates a creation myth
pent whose name means “remainder,” floating on the waters
out of the cosmic waters. While the Matsya avata¯ra establish-
of the cosmic ocean. In South India each of the three types
es the existence of mankind on earth and the Ku¯rma avata¯ra
of images occupies its own innermost sanctuary, on three le-
guarantees the firmness of its support, the boar incarnation
vels in three-storied temples. According to the needs of the
shows Vis:n:u as the savior who lifted the earth from the depth
worshiper, each of these three types of images fulfills four
of the ocean waters to the light of the sun. In the man-lion
goals: total identification with the god, desire for wish fulfill-
incarnation, Vis:n:u assumes this combined shape, bursting
ment in worldly matters, desire for power, and desire for suc-
out of a pillar in the demon king’s palace in order to disem-
cess by magic. According to their desired efficacy on these
bowel this fiend who had questioned Vis:n:u’s omnipresence.
four levels, the images are more or less elaborate in the num-
The fifth incarnation, the dwarf, gained from the demon
ber of attendant divinities, with the images granting wish ful-
king Bali a foothold on which to stand and took the three-
fillment on the worldly plane the most elaborate.
fold stride by which he traversed the cosmos. The four fol-
lowing avata¯ras appeared in the shape of man as hero or god.
The twenty-four varieties of the four-armed, standing
The images of Kr:s:n:a as the child of superhuman powers
Vis:n:u image are emanations (vyu¯has) of the supreme Vis:n:u.
(Balakr:s:n:a) and as flute-playing young god have their own
Four of the emanations, Sam:kars:an:a, Va¯sudeva, Pradyuma,
visual iconography, particularly in metalwork. Two forms of
and Aniruddha, are considered primary, though their names
Kr:s:n:a are unlike other images of Hindu gods. The one is
occur as the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth
Jaganna¯tha, “lord of the world,” whose center of worship is
in the list of twenty-four.
in Pur¯ı, Orissa; the other is S´r¯ı Na¯thj¯ı, whose center of wor-
ship is Na¯thadva¯ra in Mewar, Rajasthan. Both these images
Theological doctrine and its supporting imagery each
are roughly hewn and painted wooden chunks only remotely
follow an inherent logic. The vyu¯ha or emanation doctrine
anthropomorphic. From the sixteenth century on, Kr:s:n:a ap-
is as relevant to the twenty-four types of the Vis:n:u image as
pears in miniature paintings incomparably more frequently
the avata¯ra or incarnation doctrine, according to which the
than any other Hindu god. In front of Vis:n:u temples, the
supreme Vis:n:u was fully embodied in a specific shape, be it
image in the round of Vis:n:u’s partly anthropomorphic vehi-
that of fish or boar or man or god. One or the other of these
cle, the bird Garud:a, is supported by a high pillar.
incarnate forms, however, including that of the dwarf
(Va¯mana) or of Kr:s:n:a, also figures among the twenty-four
DEV¯I. The Great Goddess, Dev¯ı, represents the creative
varieties of the main cult image of Vis:n:u.
principle worshiped as female. She is S´akti, the all-pervading
energy, the power to be, the power of causation, cognition,
Vis:n:u is also conceived in his fivefold aspect: as ulti-
will, and experience. She is the power of all the gods; she
mate, transcendental reality (para); in his emanation (vyu¯ha);
wields all their weapons in her main manifestations or im-
in his incarnation (vibhava); as innermost within man
ages. She is the origin of the world, the conscious plan of cre-
(antarya¯min), the inner controller; and as arca¯ or consecrated
ation, the mother; she is the goddess Knowledge. Her main
image, this fifth instance being an avata¯ra, a “descent” into
image is that of Durga¯ in the act of beheading the buffalo
matter.
demon, the mightiest of the demons whom she defeats. This
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4326
ICONOGRAPHY: HINDU ICONOGRAPHY
huge, dark, demonic animal, an embodiment of stupidity,
goddesses,” though of lower hierarchical standing, is wor-
is her archenemy. In her image as killer of the buffalo demon,
shiped in hypaethral temples, which allow their total of sixty-
the young and lovely goddess is accompanied by her mount,
four images to be worshiped separately. The iconography of
the lion.
the Goddess has its counterpoint in the (originally imageless)
diagrams. Both these instruments of contemplation of the
In certain traditions the buffalo demon while still in
goddess—her image and the geometrical diagram—are man-
human shape adored the goddess. In some of the sculptures
made. The Goddess is also worshiped as a stone in its natural
of the goddess as slayer of the demon—his body that of a
shape.
man, his head that of a buffalo—he ecstatically surrenders
to her as she slays him. When not depicted in action but
Stones in themselves are sacred. A ´sa¯lagra¯ma stone, a
standing straight in hieratic stance, the goddess is supported
fossilized ammonite embedded in dark stone, represents
by a lotus or a buffalo head.
Vis:n:u, with the spiral of the fossil structure evoking Vis:n:u’s
The Great Goddess has many forms. Like S´iva she has
wheel. The ´sa¯lagra¯ma is worshiped in domestic rituals. Simi-
three eyes; like Vis:n:u, in her form as Yoganidra¯, “yoga slum-
larly another stone, the ba¯n:alin:ga, washed by the water of the
ber,” she is represented lying, an embodiment of Vis:n:u’s
river where it is found into lin˙ga shape, is sacred to S´iva.
slumber. Yoganidra¯ is most beautiful and has only two arms,
Among lin˙gas, which can be made of any material, whether
whereas the Goddess displays from four to sixteen arms in
clay or precious stone, the svayambhu¯ lin˙ga, a natural outcrop
her other images. Although the lion is the va¯hana or vehicle
of rock like a menhir, has special sanctity.
of the Great Goddess, as Rambha¯ she rides an elephant; as
Today most of the preserved images are made of stone
Gaur¯ı, the White Goddess—the aspect under which the
or metal. The few paintings that have survived over the last
gods contemplate her—she stands on an alligator. In her hor-
four centuries are in watercolor on paper, as a rule small in
rific, emaciated aspects, the owl is her vehicle. Like S´iva, the
size, and narrative rather than iconic. To this day the gods
Goddess is seen in divine beauty or in a shape of horror as
are painted in their iconographic identity on walls of houses
Ka¯l¯ı or Ca¯mun:da¯.
and on portable paper scrolls. Color, according to ancient
¯
When worshiped in her own image, the Goddess is the
texts, was essential to the image: its use was primarily sym-
center of the composition, but as the ´sakti or creative power
bolic and expressive of the nature of the respective deities.
of a god she is figured by his side, smaller in stature, and with
However, different colors in different texts are prescribed for
only two arms, for she is the god’s consort. Pa¯rvat¯ı is S´iva’s
the same deity.
consort, whereas Bhu¯dev¯ı and S´r¯ıdev¯ı—the goddess Earth
GAN:ES´A. Gan:apati or Gan:e´sa, the lord of hosts and god of
(Bhu¯) whom Vis:n:u rescued in his boar incarnation, and the
wisdom, who is also called Vighne´svara (“the lord presiding
goddess Splendor (S´r¯ı)—are shown by Vis:n:u’s side.
over obstacles”), has an obese human body topped by the
head of an elephant. Worshiped throughout Hinduism, he
If the images of these gods are cast in bronze, they are
is invoked at the beginning of any enterprise, for his is the
modeled in the round. These are processional images, meant
power to remove obstacles but also to place them in the way
to be visible from all sides, in contrast to the stone images
of success. His shape is a symbol charged with meaning on
in the innermost sanctuary or on the temple walls, where
many levels. His huge belly, containing the world, is sur-
they confront the devotee as he or she approaches them.
mounted by his elephant head, signifying the world beyond,
However, where the image of Dev¯ı is represented as the su-
the metaphysical reality. The head is maimed; it has only one
preme goddess, she may be flanked or surrounded by smaller
tusk, thus signifying the power of the number one, whence
figures of gods and demons who play a role in the particular
all numbers have their beginning. Every part of Gan:e´sa’s
myth represented. Attendant divinities may further enrich
shape is a conglomerate symbol, and each is accounted for
the scene.
by more than one myth. According to one tradition, the di-
Dev¯ı is not only represented in her own right as su-
chotomy of Gan:e´sa’s body resulted from S´iva’s beheading of
preme goddess or as the consort of one of the main gods, she
Vighne´svara, Pa¯rvat¯ı’s son, in a fit of anger. S´iva then or-
is also embodied as a group, particularly that of the “Seven
dered the gods to replace Vighne´svara’s head with that of the
Mothers” (saptama¯tr:ka¯s) where, as Mother Goddess, she is
first living being they met. This was an elephant; they cut
shown as the ´sakti of seven gods, including Brahma¯, Vis:n:u,
off its head and put it on Vighne´svara’s body. According to
and S´iva. Brahma¯, although the creator in ancient times, is
another source, Gan:e´sa was the child Kr:s:n:a whose head was
rarely figured in the present-day Hindu pantheon and has
severed by S´ani (Saturn) and replaced by that of the son of
but few temples of his own. In South India his image figures
Aira¯vata, elephant of the god Indra.
on the south wall of a Vis:n:u temple opposite that of S´iva
In the R:gveda (2.23.1) Gan:apati is a name of Br:haspati,
Daks:in:a¯mu¯rti on the north wall.
the lord of prayer, the lord of hosts. From the fifth century
Brahma¯’s consort Sarasvat¯ı, the goddess of knowledge
CE, images of Gan:e´sa are numerous. An elephant-headed
and speech, is worshiped in her own image to this day. The
deity is shown on an Indo-Greek coin of the mid-first centu-
image of the “Seven Mothers” arrayed in one row are wor-
ry CE. Today, Gan:e´sa is invoked at the beginning of all liter-
shiped in their own sanctuary. Another assemblage of “group
ary compositions and all undertakings. Every village, every
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: BUDDHIST ICONOGRAPHY
4327
house has an image of Gan:e´sa, seated, standing, or danc-
varied over the course of Buddhist history, but also according
ing—like S´iva. Some of his images have a third eye. In one
to the particular ritual, devotional, and decorative context in
of his (generally) four hands he holds the broken-off tusk.
which they are situated. Although there has been consider-
His vehicle is the mouse or the lion. In his form as Heramba,
able scholarly debate about the matter, it seems clear that
Gan:apati has five heads; as Ucchis:t:a Gan:e´sa, he is accompa-
Buddhists began to depict the Buddha very early on, perhaps
nied by a young goddess. He is red, yellow, or white in differ-
even before he died, although no such images survive. The
ent varieties of his image.
Buddha himself is recorded in some commentaries on the
Pali suttas to have said that images of him would be permissi-
SEE ALSO Avata¯ra; Durga¯ Hinduism; Gan:e´sa; Goddess
ble only if they were not worshiped; rather, such images
Worship, article on The Hindu Goddess; Man:d:alas, article
should provide an opportunity for reflection and meditation.
on Hindu Man:d:alas; Mu¯rti; S´iva; Temple, article on Hindu
However, in other commentarial texts images also are dis-
Temples; Vis:n:u; Yantra; Yoni.
cussed as viable substitutes for the absent Buddha. In any
case, virtually all Buddhist temples and monasteries through-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
out the world contain sculptural images—of the Buddha, bo-
Banerjea, Jitendra. The Development of Hindu Iconography. 2d ed.
dhisattvas, minor divinities, yaks:as, and significant monks
Calcutta, 1956. A handbook particularly dealing with the be-
and saints. These images range from very simple early Indian
ginnings and historical typology of Hindu images.
stone sculptures of the Buddha, standing alone delivering a
Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. The Dance of Shiva (1918). Rev. ed.
dharma talk, to incredibly intricate medieval Japanese depic-
New York, 1957. Interpretation of an iconographic theme
tions of a bodhisattva like Kannon with a thousand heads,
based on original sources.
elaborate hand gestures, and iconographic details.
Courtright, Paul B. Gan:e´sa. New York, 1985. The first compre-
IMAGES OF S´A¯KYAMUNI (THE “HISTORICAL BUDDHA”).
hensive and insightful presentation of Gan:e´sa.
The earliest surviving Buddhist sculpture dates to roughly
Eck, Diana L. Banaras, City of Light. New York, 1982. A topical
the third century BCE, and the images that were produced
study in depth, relating the icon to its setting.
contextually functioned as decorations and visual “texts” in
Gopinatha Rao, T. A. Elements of Hindu Iconography (1914–
monasteries. Significantly, however, the Buddha himself is
1916). 2 vols. in 4. 2d ed. New York, 1968. The standard
absent from these very early images. Instead of his physical
survey of Hindu iconography.
form, early Buddhist artisans employed a range of visual sym-
Kosambi, D. D. Myth and Reality. Bombay, 1962. An exposition
bols to communicate aspects of the Buddha’s teachings and
of the roots of iconic and aniconic traditions.
life story:
Kramrisch, Stella. The Hindu Temple (1946). Reprint, Delhi,
1. The wheel of dharma, denoting the preaching or “turn-
1976. An exposition of architectural form in relation to the
ing” of his first sermon, and also, with its eight spokes,
iconography of its images.
the eight-fold Buddhist path.
O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythol-
2. The bodhi tree, which represents the place of his en-
ogy. Berkeley, 1976. A study in depth of the interrelation of
gods and demons in Hindu mythology.
lightenment (under the tree) and comes to symbolize
the enlightenment experience itself.
Shah, Priyabala, ed. Vis:n:udharmottara Pura˜n:a. 2 vols. Gaekwad’s
Oriental Studies, vols. 130 and 137. Baroda, 1958 and 1961.
3. The throne, symbolizing his status as “ruler” of the reli-
The most complete and ancient treatise (c. eighth century
gious realm, and through its emptiness, his passage into
CE) of Hindu iconography.
final nirva¯n:a.
Shulman, David D. Tamil Temple Myths. Princeton, 1980. An in-
4. The deer, evoking both the place of his first sermon, the
dispensable background study for South Indian iconography.
Deer Park at Sa¯rna¯th, and also the protective qualities
S´ivaramamurti, Calambur. The Art of India. New York, 1977.
of the dharma.
The best-illustrated and best-documented presentation of In-
dian sculpture.
5. The footprint, which denotes both his former physical
presence on earth and his temporal absence.
Zimmer, Heinrich. Artistic Form and Yoga in the Sacred Images of
India. Translated and edited by Gerald Chapple and James
6. The lotus, symbolic of the individual’s journey up
B. Lawson. Princeton, 1984. A clarification of the function
through the “mud” of existence to bloom, with the aid
and relation of iconic, sculptural form and abstract, linear
of the dharma, into pure enlightenment.
diagram.
7. The stupa, the reliquary in which the Buddha’s physical
STELLA KRAMRISCH (1987)
remains are contained—a powerful symbol of both his
physical death and continued presence in the world.
Later Buddhism added countless other symbols to this icono-
ICONOGRAPHY: BUDDHIST ICONOGRAPHY
graphic repertoire. In the Maha¯ya¯na, for instance, the sword
In Buddhism, the very nature of a sculptural image is com-
becomes a common symbol of the incisive nature of the Bud-
plex. Not only have the conception and function of images
dha’s teachings. In the Vajraya¯na, the vajra, or diamond (or
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4328
ICONOGRAPHY: BUDDHIST ICONOGRAPHY
thunderbolt), is a ubiquitous symbol of the pure and un-
protuberance atop the head, elongated earlobes, webbed fin-
changing nature of the dharma.
gers, and dharmacakra on the palms. In the Gandhara region,
the Buddha typically was depicted in what appears to be a
Much of the very early art produced in India is narrative
Greek style of representation, wearing a robe that resembles
in both form and function, presenting episodes from the
a toga, and with distinctly Western facial features. These de-
Buddha’s life and, particularly, scenes from his prior lives.
tails may be evidence that an iconographic exchange took
At sites such as Bha¯rhut and Sa¯ñc¯ı in modern Madhya Pra-
place with the Greeks who inhabited the region at the time
desh, Bodh Gaya¯ in modern Bihar, and Amara¯vat¯ı in mod-
of Alexander the Great. Many of the Gandharan Buddha im-
ern Andhra Pradesh, huge stupas were erected as part of the
ages depict him seated, forming the dharmacakra
large monastic complexes that were built in these locations
mudra¯—literally the “turning of the wheel of dharma ges-
beginning in the third century BCE. In addition, elaborate
ture”—with his hands. In other images he is presented in a
carvings were made on and around these stupas, particularly
meditative posture, his body withered by the years of extreme
on the railings that encircled the monuments themselves.
asceticism that preceded his enlightenment. These different
Many of these were scenes from the Buddha’s prior lives,
iconic forms were employed by Buddhist artisans (and their
which also were verbally recorded in the Ja¯taka and Avada¯na
royal, monastic, and lay patrons) to emphasize different mo-
literature. These included representations of prior Buddhas,
ments in the Buddha’s life story, and to convey visually dif-
as well as depictions of key events in the Buddha’s life such
ferent aspects of the dharma.
as miraculous conception, his birth, and his departure from
the palace in search of enlightenment.
By the fifth century CE, the Buddha was represented in
a large array of forms and sizes. Some of these representations
Typically, it has been assumed that because the earliest
were truly colossal, cut from cliffs and reaching upward of
Buddhist artistic images did not depict the Buddha, there
100 feet—a practice that would continue throughout the
must have been a doctrinally-based prohibition against such
Buddhist world for the next millennium. The sheer size of
depictions. First articulated by the French art historian Al-
these images seems to have been intended to convey an un-
fred Foucher in 1917, this idea—generally referred to as the
derstanding of the superhuman qualities of the Buddha,
“aniconic thesis”—has deeply influenced our understanding
many of which were also expressed in contemporary bio-
of early Buddhist art. The basic assumption has been that
graphical stories contained in various Nika¯yas, the Lalitavi-
there must have been a prohibition against representing the
stara, Buddhacarita, and several other well-known texts. Fur-
Buddha in the early centuries after his death. Perhaps this
thermore, such massive images would have served as a potent
was because the Buddha had, at the time of his parinirva¯n:a,
means of attracting new followers.
passed forever out of existence, and therefore could only be
represented by his absence.
Stone and metal sculptures of the Buddha were pro-
duced in abundance throughout India. These were in addi-
In the late twentieth century scholars began to rethink
tion to painted images, many of which were in caves, such
this basic assumption, arguing that perhaps these early sculp-
as those that form the massive monastic complexes at Ajanta¯
tures are not reflective of a theological position, but instead
and Ellora. Many of these images presented the Buddha in
frequently represent scenes after the Buddha’s death, scenes
a single pose, representing a particularly significant moment
of worship at prominent places of pilgrimage linked to key
in his life. Among these, the giving of his first sermon was
events in his life—such as Bodh Gaya¯, Lumbin¯ı, and
especially common. The Buddha typically is seated in such
Ra¯jagaha—and are thus intended to serve as ritual records
images, forming the dharmacakra mudra¯. Oftentimes, he is
and blueprints, and visual prompters for correct veneration.
flanked by several smaller figures: the five monks who first
In any case, what seems clear is that early Buddhists had a
heard the sermon, the laywoman Sujata¯ who offered him the
complex understanding of both the form and function of the
modest gift of food that gave him strength to attain enlight-
Buddha’s representations, and that any attempt to articulate
enment, two deer, and an image of the wheel.
a univocal theory of early Buddhist art is probably misguid-
Another common form is the Buddha at the moment
ed, precisely because of the complex interactions of original
of defeating the evil Ma¯ra—the embodiment of temptation,
intent, ritual and aesthetic context, and individual disposi-
illusion, and death in Buddhism. In these images, the Bud-
tion. Fundamentally, then, Buddhist images project an open
dha is seated in what is sometimes called the bhu¯mispar´sa
potential.
mudra¯, or “earth-touching gesture,” visually evoking the mo-
Actual images of the historical Buddha began to appear
ment when the Buddha calls the earth goddess as witness to
sometime around the turn of the first millennium, promi-
his enlightenment, and marking the final defeat of Ma¯ra.
nently in two regions: in Mathura, near modern Agra, and
This iconographic form, sometimes presenting the Buddha
in Gandhara, in what is now modern Afghanistan. In Ma-
as a crowned figure and including the seven jewels (saptarat-
thura, large standing images of the Buddha were made in red
na) of the ideal king, became extremely popular in medieval
sandstone. The Buddha in these images is depicted as broad
north India, where it seems to have been complexly involved
shouldered, wearing a robe, and marked by various laks:anas,
in royal support of Buddhism by the Pa¯las, the last line of
the thirty-two auspicious marks with which he was born. De-
Buddhist kings in India, evoking as it does the image of the
scribed in several early texts, these included the us:n:¯ıs:a, or
Dharmara¯ja, the righteous ruler.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: BUDDHIST ICONOGRAPHY
4329
By the eighth century, a fairly common means of repre-
heads, and as Kuan-yin he is manifested as a female figure.
senting the Buddha—especially in the monastic stronghold
Maitreya, the Buddha of the future, is often depicted as a
of northeastern India—was a standardized set of eight scenes
crowned, royal figure (often with a Buddha image or stupa
known as the as:t:amahapratiharya. This presented a kind of
in his forehead). He typically displays the dharmacakra
condensed version of the Buddha’s life—birth, enlighten-
mudra¯, the gesture of religious discourse, since it is he who
ment, first sermon, various miraculous events in his biogra-
will deliver the final version of the dharma that will release
phy, and death—that enabled the viewer of the image to par-
all beings from sam:sa¯ra. In medieval China, after the Tang
ticipate ritually and imaginatively in the entire life of the
period, Maitreya is sometimes iconographically transformed
Buddha by looking at and venerating a single image. In this
into Budai, a jovial, pot-bellied figure who spreads good
sense, then, such images were more than visual texts or narra-
cheer and is the special friend of children.
tives; they served as means to embark upon visual pilgrim-
T
ages. As such, they not only recorded past events in the Bud-
RANSCENDENT BUDDHAS. The various Maha¯ya¯na schools
articulated complex understandings of the continued pres-
dha’s life and ongoing ritual activity, but also allowed the
ence and power of the Buddha in the world, understood
viewer to participate in the Buddha’s life. In short, they
broadly as buddhata¯, or “buddhaness.” One particularly
evoke a sense of the Buddha’s continued presence in the
common manifestation of buddhata¯ was the five celestial
world despite his physical absence.
Buddhas, sometimes called Jina or Dhya¯ni Buddhas. More
BODHISATTVAS. As the various Maha¯ya¯na schools emerged
properly deemed the pancatatha¯ga¯tas, this set represents the
and developed in India, Tibet, and later in East Asia, the
manifestation of different aspects of the Buddha’s teaching
Buddhist pantheon expanded tremendously and was reflect-
and salvific power, and is depicted in both sculpture and
ed in both art and iconography. In India, particularly in the
painting (particularly man:d:ala paintings in the Vajraya¯na).
northeast, there was a virtual iconographic explosion after
The five celestial Buddhas are Vairocana, Aks:obhya, Ratna-
the eighth century. Although images of various bodhisattvas
sambhava, Amita¯bha, and Amoghasiddhi.
had been produced in the early art of Gandhara and Mathu-
ra, they became particularly prominent in the Maha¯ya¯na.
Iconographically, each of five Buddhas bears specific
Images of Mañju´sr¯ı were quite common in India after about
symbols and a specific color (when painted in a man:d:ala, for
the fifth century, and he is sculpturally depicted in dozens
example), as well as specific mudra¯s. For instance, Aks:obhya
of forms. Typically, he is depicted as a handsome young man
(the “unshakable one”) occupies the eastern quadrant of the
holding aloft a sword—the incisive sword of wisdom, with
man:d:ala and displays the bhu¯mispar´sa mudra¯, since he is the
which he cuts through delusion and ignorance—in one hand
manifestation of the Buddha’s steadfastness and unshakable
and a lotus in the other. A consistent element in his iconogra-
calm, even in the face of Ma¯ra, or the embodiment of death.
phy is the representation of the book—sometimes he holds
Vairocana, the “radiant one,” is the manifestation of the
the text aloft, sometimes it rises out of a lotus to one of his
Buddha’s supreme dharma, and thus his standard icono-
sides. In contemporary iconographic manuals, this is de-
graphic form displays the dharmacakra mudra¯. In the Pure
scribed as the Perfection of Wisdom text, of which he is the
Land schools that developed in China and later took root in
manifestation. In the Vajraya¯na context, Mañju´sr¯ı frequent-
Korea and Japan, Amita¯bha, the Buddha of the West, be-
ly is depicted in a wrathful form, as Ya¯mantaka, a buffalo-
came particularly important. In a wide variety of images—
headed demon who does battle with Ya¯ma, the god of death.
stone and metal sculptures, bas-reliefs, cave temples, and
Avalokite´svara, the embodiment of compassion and the bo-
paintings—Amita¯bha frequently is depicted at the center of
dhisattva who sees all suffering and comes to the aid of his
a large entourage of bodhisattvas and buddhas, or more com-
devotees, is perhaps the single most popular figure in the
monly is presented in a standard triad, flanked by
Buddhist world after the Buddha himself. He is depicted in
Avalokite´svara and Maitreya. As Amida, Amita¯bha continues
a vast range of forms. Avalokite´svara frequently is shown
to be very popular in contemporary Japan, and is depicted
with several eyes, denoting his compassionate omniscience,
in a variety of modern images including metal and plastic
and sometimes with multiple heads, as in the das’amukha
sculptural forms, paintings, and even animated comic books.
(ten-faced) iconographic form prevalent particularly in
WRATHFUL FIGURES. With the rise of the Vajraya¯na in
Nepal.
northeastern India around the ninth century, and its later de-
In addition, Avalokite´svara almost always has multiple
velopment in Tibet, the divine pantheon expanded to a
hands, in which he holds various implements that aid him
seemingly limitless degree, with a vast range of Buddha fami-
in his salvific endeavors. In the Saddharmapun:d:ar¯ıka Su¯tra
lies, bodhisattvas, goddesses, yogin¯ıs, and all manner of fierce
and several other Maha¯ya¯na texts, he is described as a great
divinities. There are numerous categories of wrathful beings
protector whom one invokes against a standardized set of
in the Vajraya¯na pantheon, including vajradha¯ras, herukas,
perils (snakes, beasts, robbers, poisons, storms, and so forth),
lokapa¯las, and dharmapa¯las. These beings are projections of
which are sometimes iconographically depicted with him.
the base aspects of human nature: lust, anger, delusion,
Avalokite´svara becomes extremely popular in East Asia,
greed, and so on. However, when propitiated these figures
where he is known as Kannon (in Japan) and Kuan-yin (in
are transformed into saviors who destroy the passions of the
China); as Kannon, he sometimes is depicted with 1,000
mind and protect the faithful. Their faces are depicted with
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4330
ICONOGRAPHY: BUDDHIST ICONOGRAPHY
strikingly wrathful expressions, their mouths contorted into
portant patriarchs were common. Most prominent was Bod-
angry smiles, from which protrude long fangs, sometimes
hidharma, who typically is depicted as an aged monk deep
dripping with blood.
in mediation. Sometimes, he is depicted floating in the ocean
atop a reed, representing his voyage from India to China.
Particularly in Tibet, man:d:alas frequently depict vastly
Bodhidharma also is represented in a kind of aniconic form,
complex Buddha families and their associated divinities.
as an abstract face painted on papier-mâché or wooden balls,
Meditation and rituals focused on such divinities typically
and occasionally as a lascivious old man, often in the compa-
are intended to bring the divinity to life. For instance, in the
ny of courtesans. This conveys Chan’s understanding that
practice of deity yoga the meditator can bring the divinity
enlightenment can be found in the most mundane, and even
to life in him or herself by realizing the inseparability of the
the most conventionally polluting, of activities. In Tibet, im-
self and the divinity. In the esoteric schools that developed
ages of Padmasambhava, who is said to have introduced Bud-
in Japan, the lokapa¯las often flank a central bodhisattva and
dhism and tamed the demons who inhabited the region, are
are depicted as sometimes fierce and menacing dark-skinned
common. He frequently is depicted as a robed monk with
foreigners. Consistent with the early literature that lays out
a crown, often holding an alms bowl and vajra. Prominent
Buddhism’s basic cosmological view, in a relative sense, such
monks such as At¯ı´sa and Xuanzang are common in both the
beings are very real and very active in the world. However,
sculpture and painting of China and Japan. Particularly in
in an absolute sense they ultimately are creations of our
Japan, individual monks, often specific to a particular mon-
minds, and therefore, like everything else, are empty. There-
astery, are presented in remarkably realistic images, some-
fore, the iconographic presentation of these divinities is in-
times life-size, three-dimensional sculptures. As with images
tended to provide an opportunity for meditation on the very
of S´a¯kyamuni, such sculptures function as meditational aids
nature of reality.
to be emulated, pedagogical prompters, and outright objects
WISDOM GODDESSES. A range of divine and semidivine fe-
of devotion.
male figures also is depicted in Buddhist iconography, many
IMAGES AND RITUAL. The Sa¯dhanama¯la¯ and Nis:pannayo-
of which are elaborately described in medieval texts such as
ga¯val¯ı are two medieval Indian iconographic manuals, writ-
the Sa¯dhanama¯la¯ and Nis:pannayoga¯val¯ı. The female divinity
ten in Sanskrit and still used in the early twenty-first century.
Ta¯ra¯ emerges in the Maha¯ya¯na as a divine savior who pro-
These texts—and the countless other lesser-known manuals
tects and nurtures her devotees. Her name literally means
that deal with three-dimensional icons, paintings, and
“star,” and she was perhaps originally associated, in particu-
man:d:alas—describe in sometimes minute detail the proper
lar, with guiding sailors. Ta¯ra¯ is sometimes referred to as
way to construct an image. They cover the purifying rituals
jagat tarin¯ı, the “deliverer of the world.” She is depicted in
to be performed prior to the start of work, the materials to
numerous forms—sometimes seated with a book, sometimes
be used, the iconographic details, the specific proportion, as
standing displaying variations of the abha¯ya mudra¯ (the ges-
well as detailed instructions for the ritual practices that are
ture of no fear) or making a hand gesture of giving—and is
associated with the image.
intimately associated with the lotus, denoting her character-
From the moment they appeared in the Buddhist world,
istic purity. In addition to her very common benevolent
visual images were intended to narrate aspects of the Bud-
forms, in the Vajraya¯na Ta¯ra¯ is sometimes depicted as wrath-
dha’s life and teachings, and therefore function on the
ful figure who transforms into the benign savior for her devo-
ground as visual texts to be read. In addition, they were very
tees when properly worshiped. Ta¯ra¯ was and continues to be
much intended to be objects of ritual worship. A wide range
extremely popular throughout the Maha¯ya¯na and Vajraya¯na
of texts are available for making and consecrating Buddhist
worlds, particularly in Nepal and Tibet, and she is frequently
images, from locally-produced manuals in the vernacular to
associated with Avalokite´svara. Sometime around the sev-
pan-Buddhist iconographic manuals. Perhaps the most com-
enth century, the Perfection of Wisdom texts (Prajña¯pa¯ramita¯
mon form of worship in the Buddhist world is buddha pu¯ja¯,
su¯tras) became personified in the figure of prajña¯pa¯ramita¯,
literally “honoring the Buddha.” This is a ritual that typically
wisdom incarnate, the divine “mother” of all enlightened be-
involves making some sort of offering to a Buddha image (or
ings. She typically is seated, legs crossed, and has either two
to a relic or a stupa), such as a flower, a small lamp, food,
or four arms. Prajña¯pa¯ramita¯ almost always forms the dhar-
or even money. Many images, particularly the stelae that
macakra mudra¯, holding both a lotus (emblematic of the
were abundantly produced in the medieval Indian milieu—
purity of her teachings) and the text of which she is the em-
although this also is an iconographic theme on some of the
bodiment.
very earliest Buddhist images—actually depict such worship
SAINTS, ARHATS, AND MONKS. As Buddhism spread beyond
as part of the sculpture. These depictions usually are found
India, an elaborate iconographic lexicon related to arhats,
along the base of the image, at what would in a ritual context
monks, and saints emerged. In China, the veneration and
be eye-level for the worshiper. The iconography in such
representation of important patriarchs became prominent;
cases, then, serves as a kind of visual guide to proper ritual
arhats were frequently represented, occasionally individually
action.
but more commonly in groups. In the Chan schools in par-
Across the Buddhist world, image construction and
ticular, where monastic lineage was central, portraits of im-
consecration are embedded in elaborate ritual structures. Im-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: DAOIST ICONOGRAPHY
4331
ages are made by specially trained and sanctified artisans,
Marie-Thérèse Mallmann’s Introduction à l’iconographie du
who follow extremely precise iconographic guidelines that
tântrisme bouddhique (Paris, 1975). Two of the most com-
dictate the proportions and specific details of a particular
prehensive studies of Buddhist iconography are Lokesh
image. In northern Thailand, for instance, images are con-
Chandra’s Buddhist Iconography (New Delhi, 1991), which
structed using local ritual texts that include iconographic
focuses particularly on the Tibetan pantheon, and his Dictio-
proportions, recitation of special protective chants (paritta),
nary of Buddhist Iconography (New Delhi, 2004). For an ex-
cellent study of the particular iconography of Eastern India,
and elaborate consecration rituals, which “enliven” the
and especially the later esoteric schools that were prevalent,
image. Of particular interest in this regard is a clearly articu-
Thomas Donaldson’s Iconography of the Buddhist Sculpture of
lated correlation between the various parts of the image—
Orissa, two volumes (New Delhi, 2001), is a treasure trove
which in the ritual becomes the “form body” (rupaka¯ya) of
of information. In Imaging Wisdom: Seeing and Knowing in
the Buddha—and the dhammaka¯ya, or “teaching body” of
the Art of Indian Buddhism (London, 1999), Jacob Kinnard
the Buddha. According to these Thai texts—and there are
examines medieval Indian Buddhist sculpture specifically re-
similar manuals in other ritual contexts in Tibet, China,
lated to the important faculty of prajna. For a useful foray
Japan, Sri Lanka, and other Asian countries—a properly con-
into the medieval iconographic manuals, see Benoytosh
structed and consecrated Buddha image is one that makes
Bhattacharyya’s Indian Buddhist Iconography: Mainly Based
the ritual participant feel as though he or she is in the pres-
on the Sadhanamala and Other Cognate Tantric Texts of Ritu-
als
(Calcutta, 1958). Tucci’s Theory and Practice of the Man-
ence of the Buddha himself.
dala (London, 1961) remains a useful study. For the recent
For the laypeople and monks who participate in such
debate about the aniconic thesis, see Susan Huntington’s
rituals, the Buddha image has a special apotropaic power,
“Early Buddhist Art and the Theory of Aniconism” (Art
often heightened by the accompanying recitation of paritta
Journal, 1990); Vidya Dehejia’s “Aniconism and the Multiv-
texts and various mantras. In some instances, part of the con-
alence of Emblems” (Ars Orientalis, 1992); and Susan Hun-
secration ritual involves the “instructing” of the image in the
tington’s response, “Aniconism and the Multivalence of Em-
blems: Another Look,” (Ars Orientalis, 1993). Donald
life story and teachings of the Buddha, which provides, also,
Swearer’s Becoming the Buddha: The Ritual of Image Conse-
the opportunity for the laity to receive this same instruction.
cration in Thailand (Princeton, 2004) presents a richly de-
Finally, the construction, consecration, and ritual veneration
tailed examination of the ritual construction and use of bud-
of images in virtually all Buddhist contexts provide an oppor-
dha images in northern Thailand as well as a useful
tunity for laypersons to generate merit by way of donations
comparative survey of ritual praxis associated with images.
made to the image—food, money, material objects—and by
For an important postmodern-oriented essay, see Bernard
sponsoring such rituals.
Faure’s “The Buddhist Icon and the Modern Gaze” (Critical
Inquiry
, 1998). Finally, for a fascinating collection of essays,
Frequently, Buddhist iconography is intended to focus
see Living Images Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context (Stan-
the mind of the worshiper on the Buddha and his teachings,
ford, 2002), edited by Robert H. Sharf and Elizabeth Horton
serving as a visual aid and helping the practitioner to engage
Sharf.
in buddha anusmr:ti, or “recollection of the Buddha.” This
important form of meditation involves contemplating the
JACOB N. KINNARD (2005)
Buddha’s magnificent qualities and internalizing them, very
often with the use of a sculpture or painting. The iconogra-
phy of such images, then, serves a mimetic function in that
ICONOGRAPHY: DAOIST ICONOGRAPHY
the meditator is to emulate the iconographically presented
Buddha. In the process, the practitioner creates a mental
Like Daoism, Daoist iconography is not easily described as
image by internalizing the external iconographic form, there-
a unity. The focus in this entry will be on the visual expres-
by becoming like the image, and like the Buddha himself.
sions of the organized religion whose origins can be traced
to the second century CE, but this religion and its iconogra-
SEE ALSO Bodhidharma; Buddha; Buddhism, overview arti-
phy cannot be understood without reference to the intellec-
cle; Buddhist Meditation, articles on East Asian Buddhist
tual and religious developments that formed its background.
Meditation, Therava¯da Buddhist Meditation, and Tibetan
BACKGROUND. Many of the tenets that the Daoist religion
Buddhist Meditation; Buddhist Philosophy; Lotus; Mudra¯;
came to embrace evolved during the last four centuries BCE,
Stupa Worship; Temple, articles on Buddhist Temple Com-
the period that forged the worldview of imperial China. A
pounds.
chief concern for the competing rulers of the late Warring
States period (403–221 BCE) and the founders of the suc-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
ceeding Qin (221–206 BCE) and Han (206 BCE–220 CE)
For a broad-ranging orientation to Buddhist iconography, see Fre-
dynasties was the sanction of political power, based on the
drick W. Bunce’s Encyclopedia of Buddhist Demigods, God-
lings, Saints and Demons
, two volumes (New Delhi, 1994).
previous conception of a mandate (ming, also meaning “des-
The Image of the Buddha (Paris, 1978), edited by David L.
tiny” and “life”) bestowed by heaven (tian) on one who pos-
Snellgrove, focuses on the development and function of Bud-
sessed perfect virtue or “inner power” (De). From the fourth
dha images across the tradition. A good initiation into the
century BCE on, Chinese thinkers speculated about the rela-
Tantric pantheon and its complex iconography is found in
tionships between this inner power, the concept of an ineffa-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4332
ICONOGRAPHY: DAOIST ICONOGRAPHY
ble way (Dao) underlying the functions of the cosmos as a
Demonstrative of the experience that for ordinary hu-
whole, and the notion of ming in its double sense as heaven’s
mans immortality is attainable only in an afterlife, most arti-
mandate to rule and as the mandate of life granted by heaven
facts testifying to ancient Chinese beliefs about the cultiva-
to each individual. To many of these philosophers, de or
tion of life have been discovered in tombs. A second-century
inner power, believed to derive from the ability of aligning
BCE Han tomb in Mawangdui contained the almost perfectly
oneself with the Dao, was the prerequisite quality of both the
preserved body of a woman belonging to the high aristocra-
sage ruler and the saint capable of preserving his life. In the
cy. A painted silk banner presenting the lady’s ascent from
Dao de jing (Scripture on the way and inner power), attribut-
the tomb to the immortal realms covered the innermost of
ed to the paradigmatic figure of the “Old Master,” Laozi, the
four coffins encasing her. Other finds in tombs of Han
saint and sage ruler are equivalent. This also holds for the
dynasty elites include Boshan (Universal Mountain) censers,
texts Guanzi (compiled between the fourth and the second
incense burners with perforated, mountain-shaped lids de-
centuries BCE) and Huainanzi (submitted to the Han emper-
picting the marvelous world of the immortals; bronze mir-
or Wu in 139 BCE). The book Zhuangzi (the earliest parts
rors, whose backsides show the Queen Mother of the West,
are attributed to the fourth-century BCE philosopher Zhuang
often along with her male counterpart, the King Father of
Zhou), however, envisages the ideal, “fully realized person”
the East; and so-called money-trees, stylized tree-sculptures
(zhenren)—whether female or male—gaining boundless free-
in bronze with coin-shaped leaves, their branches carrying di-
dom by forsaking all political aspirations.
vinities such as the Queen Mother of the West, immortals,
and fabulous beasts.
While some Warring States rulers quickly caught on to
the idea of a direct connection between heaven-endowed
The Queen Mother, a deity of ancient origin, became
power and longevity or immortality, a dialogue between vari-
one of the foremost idols of the Han immortality cult. By
ous court professionals (astrologers, calendarologists, and
the second century CE, she was believed to rule over a para-
health specialists) and philosophers led to the systematization
dise of immortals on the mythic Kunlun Mountain located
of a theoretical framework by which the cosmic functions of
at the far western rim of the Han empire. Her picture—
the great Dao could at least approximately be understood
identified by her phoenix-patterned headdress, her throne
and controlled. Modern Western scholars have termed the
flanked by a tiger and dragon, and animals such as a bird,
resulting system—based on the theories of yin and yang, of
hare, toad, and fox—frequently adorns Han dynasty stone
qi (the vital pneuma and material basis of the universe), and
sarcophagi and mortuary architecture. As Wu Hung has
of the five cosmic driving forces (wuxing; also rendered five
demonstrated, her increasingly iconic representation—
elements, phases, or agents)—Chinese correlative cosmology.
showing her frontally, seated, and centered—derives from
Its symbolic expressions included animal figures (e.g., the
images of the Buddha, which became known in China
tiger and the dragon standing for yin and yang), color
around the same time. Indeed, in the second century CE, the
schemes, and trigrams derived from the ancient Yi jing (Book
Buddha (recognizable by the us:n:¯ıs:a protuberance on his
of changes). The system, which united the divine, natural,
head, his halo, Ghandaran-style gown, and hand gestures or
social, and moral orders into one interconnected whole,
mudra¯s) began to appear in Chinese funerary art as an equiv-
henceforth became the mainstay not only of traditional Chi-
alent of the Queen Mother of the West, promising, like her,
nese cosmo-political thought, but also of the gamut of Chi-
immortality beyond the tomb.
nese sciences, including medicine and the immortality arts,
Evidently, the hope for postmortem immortality in
and of Chinese religion in general.
some paradisiacal region was counterpoised by fears of an af-
Just as, according to correlative cosmology, the order of
terlife in the drab realms of death. Texts excavated from
the cosmos was manifest in the human realm in the form of
graves of commoners reveal that the netherworld was already
administrative structures, the universe as a whole came to be
in the late fourth century BCE imagined as a bureaucratic in-
viewed as administered by a bureaucracy of divine forces.
stitution. By the second century CE, this administration was
believed to be headquartered in China’s Five Sacred Moun-
The figure of the Yellow Emperor took the central position,
tains and ruled by the Celestial Emperor or Yellow God. The
analogous to the elemental force of “yellow” earth, among
texts usually express people’s trepidation at the possibility of
a group of five celestial thearchs correlated with the wuxing.
untimely death, either on account of an error in the nether-
By the early Han dynasty, the Yellow Emperor was the para-
world bookkeeping, or because the deceased might have suf-
digm for the sage ruler. Believed to have not only civilized
fered or committed severe wrongs during life. Surviving fam-
the world, but also succeeded in the cultivation of life, he be-
ily members buried human figurines of ginseng and lead
came the model for Emperor Wu’s (r. 140–87 BCE) quest for
with the bodies of the deceased to redeem their guilt and
universal rule and immortality. But some two hundred years
serve as surrogates for the living, lest they might fall ill and
later, the emperors of the declining Han dynasty pleaded
die by implication.
their hopes for longevity, male posterity, and the dynasty’s
survival before a far more powerful divinity: Laozi, who by
EARLY DAOIST RELIGION. Early Daoists shared and refined
then was seen as the very embodiment of the eternal Dao
this broader worldview as they constructed their tradition be-
itself.
tween the second and fifth centuries CE. Among several polit-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: DAOIST ICONOGRAPHY
4333
ico-religious movements in the second century, the Way of
DAOIST SCULPTURE. Concrete material images, however,
the Celestial Master alone survived and established the fun-
constituted in Daoist eyes only crude attempts to give fixed
damental liturgical and organizational structures of the Dao-
shape to the ever-changing modalities of the Dao and its hy-
ist religion. Celestial Master followers worshiped Laozi as the
postases. Fully sculpted icons of durable materials presented
supreme embodiment of the Dao, whose limitless pneumata
the bottom rank on that scale, and were considered danger-
(qi) could, however, take the shape of innumerable other di-
ous, because their coarse materiality might easily invite im-
vinities. Originally more concerned about death and its har-
pure and potentially malevolent spirits instead of the deities
binger, disease, than the pursuit of immortality, Celestial
whose likeness they purportedly produced. Even in late im-
Master priests sent petitions to the Three Bureaus, the other
perial times, Daoist texts frequently mention demons pos-
world’s legal institution, to relieve parishioners from the con-
sessing such icons as causes of disease, but already a fifth-
sequences of the crimes of deceased family members. Subor-
century source, attributed to the famous southern Chinese
dinated to the Three Bureaus were twelve hundred officials,
Daoist Lu Xiujing (406–477), complains that lay believers
including their civil and military staffs, whose divine inter-
installed sculpted images in their ritual chambers like the fol-
vention could be invited depending on the specific circum-
lowers of vulgar cults. Curiously, despite all Daoist claims of
stances of each case.
the formlessness of the Dao, a seventh-century Buddhist au-
thor accuses precisely Lu Xiujing of plagiarizing Buddhist
These were fairly concrete notions about a bureaucrati-
icons in sculptures of Daoist Heavenly Worthies (an epithet
cally functioning spirit world, wholly inscribed in Laozi’s di-
of the Dao’s embodiment as supreme deity in three different
vine body of the Dao, but, in accord with the Dao de jing’s
aeons).
assertion that the Dao ultimately has no concrete forms, early
Daoists hesitated to give outside visual form to any of these
Archaeologically, the earliest examples of Daoist sculp-
ideas. A second-century commentary to that scripture, whose
ture date indeed to the fifth and sixth centuries CE; but they
author stood at least close to the Celestial Master religion,
come from north China, where the Daoist Kou Qianzhi
even warns against picturing the Dao in the form of inner-
(d. 488) supposedly first promoted such icons. These images,
corporeal divinities. This evidently marked an extreme, since
carved on stelae and dedicated by private donors to the weal
anthropomorphic visualizations of the numinous forces in-
of the government and the happiness of their ancestors, os-
dwelling the body—a microcosm of Laozi’s cosmic body—
tensibly relate to a well-known Buddhist practice of merit-
quickly became central to the Daoist work of regulating uni-
transfer. Indeed, there are indications that religious differ-
versal flows through meditation. The fourth-century
ences barely mattered to followers of the custom. Several of
Shangqing (Higher Purity) scriptures contain the most de-
the stone monuments combine images of both Buddhist and
tailed instructions for such visualizations, although there are
Daoist divinities, which are distinguished only by minor fea-
prior guidelines for actualizing microcosmic deities—even
tures. While the figures of buddhas and bodhisattvas feature
Laozi himself—through mentally created images of their ap-
us:n:¯ıs:as or crowns and monastic garb, Daoist deities, often
pearances, including their size, garb, headgear, coloring, and
bearded and holding fans, wear hats and belted Chinese gar-
accoutrements.
ments. Otherwise, the posture and grouping of the Daoist
gods, with the chief divinity flanked by two attendants, con-
Apart from this eidetic technique of imaging, however,
form entirely to Buddhist iconography. Nor are there differ-
Daoists presented the forces of the divine preferably in ab-
ences in the appearance of Daoist deities identified by dis-
stract, symbolic ways. Diagrams, sacred maps, and various
tinct titles; whether a figure is referred to as Lord Lao
forms of secret script early on played important roles. The
(specifically Laozi as the body of the Dao) or Heavenly Wor-
yin-yang symbol (taiji tu) with its two comma-shaped fields
thy (a general appellation for hypostases of the Dao), their
inscribed in a circle, which became so prominent from the
images are the same. Only late in Daoist history, the Three
Song dynasty (960–1279) on, may not just be traced to a
Purities, or main hypostases of the Dao, developed their indi-
Tang dynasty (618–907) Buddhist antecedent, as Isabelle
vidualized iconographies with Yuanshi tianzun (Heavenly
Robinet has shown, but to even earlier Daoist, albeit non-
Worthy of Prime Origin) holding a pearl, Lingbao tianzun
transmitted, diagrams. Maps of the interior of the Five Sa-
(Heavenly Worthy of the Numinous Treasure) carrying a
cred Mountains existed already in early medieval times, even
scepter, and Daode tianzun (Heavenly Worthy of Dao and
though the extant diagrams only replace the long-lost origi-
De) retaining the features of the white-haired, bearded Lord
nals. But the chief key to access divine forces was writing.
Lao (Laozi).
This accounts for the centrality of Daoist fu, secret tallies (or
talismans), which Daoists drew in order to tap particular nu-
While Six Dynasties (220–589) Daoist sculpture was
minous sources. Moreover, from the fourth and fifth centu-
predominantly a matter of private devotion, the situation
ries on, Daoist scriptures were held to incorporate the blue-
changed dramatically under the Tang dynasty, which traced
print of the cosmos itself in their original celestial-script
its ancestral line to Laozi and therefore strongly supported
versions. That is why so much weight was put even on the
Daoism in its official cult. Tang emperors established a na-
calligraphic quality of the transcripts of such scriptures in
tionwide network of Daoist temples in which large freestand-
human hands.
ing statues of the holy ancestor were set up. Empress Wu (r.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4334
ICONOGRAPHY: DAOIST ICONOGRAPHY
684–705), before she founded her own interim dynasty and
nues, all turning towards the Dao, which in its threefold as-
turned to Buddhism for legitimization, decreed that sculp-
pect was represented by statues of the Three Purities (now
tures of Laozi’s mother should accompany those of Laozi;
lost).
and Xuanzong (r. 712–756), the most powerful of the em-
perors of the re-established Tang, even had his own likeness
Depictions of the Daoist pantheon at audience with the
installed in temples along with images of Laozi.
Dao’s higher hypostases may go back to the tenth century.
Other examples of narrative religious painting in China, such
If statuary began to play a role in state-endorsed Daoist
as the tableaus related to the “Water and Land” ritual of uni-
temples in connection with the imperial cult, the rules for
versal salvation (shuilu zhai) and the earlier “transformation
the production and worship of these images followed Bud-
pictures” (bianxiang) of hell (which existed already by the
dhist models. A relatively early Daoist source (ascribed a pre-
seventh century and of which Wu Daozi reportedly also was
Tang date by many scholars, but more probably compiled
a master) are associated with Buddhism; and Buddhism is
in the early Tang) determines a code of “auspicious marks”
considered to have inspired Daoist painting in general. But
(Skt., laks:an:a) for different types of icons and, prescribing
such paintings on Buddhist themes were early on connected
monthly vegetarian offerings and ritual cleansings for them,
with popular performances and rituals in China and likely
ascertains their sacrality. In the early tenth-century, a promi-
received indigenous Chinese and Daoist influence from the
nent court Daoist welcomed all ideological efforts at demon-
beginning. Surviving “Water and Land” frescoes, hell fres-
strating the miraculous powers of Daoist over Buddhist
coes, and scrolls of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries
icons.
and beyond, at least, clearly manifest the impact of Daoism
(which then had incorporated them in its liturgy) in their hi-
Still, Daoists remained reluctant about attributing stat-
erarchic-bureaucratic vision of the numinous realms and the
uary a central place in their innermost ritual practice. Even
inclusion of Daoist gods.
today, effigies are generally eschewed in the inner sanctum
of the enclosed temporary altar constructions, where the es-
Nonetheless, Buddhist iconography unquestionably
sential rites of Daoist services take place. As a rule, only
shaped the appearance of Daoist deities. One example is the
painted images of the Daoist high divinities are allowed here,
Great Monad Heavenly Worthy Saving from Suffering
while sculpted icons from community temples and house-
(Taiyi jiuku tianzun), who, already by the tenth century, had
hold altars are relegated to the outer areas of the sacred space
assumed features of the bodhisattvas Avalokite´svara (Guany-
as onlookers. If statues have any immediate ritual functions,
in), Ks:itigarbha (Dizang), and Mañju´sri (Wenzhu). Central
such as the figures of altar guardians, messengers, or the
to Daoist funerary rituals, Taiyi jiuku tianzun is still repre-
newly deceased in funeral services, they are made of paper.
sented on painted scrolls next to the Three Purities in mortu-
These images are animated at the beginning of the ritual
ary altar settings. Particularly influential was the submerged
through the so-called eye-opening rite (kaiguang), and
Tantric Buddhist tradition in China. As Daoist liturgical
burned as soon as the spirits legitimately possessing them
texts of the twelfth through fourteenth centuries show, eso-
during the ritual have fulfilled their tasks.
teric Buddhist rituals and popular spirit possession practices
DAOIST PAINTING. Court support was also a chief factor in
greatly enriched the Daoist exorcistic tradition and its pan-
the development of Daoist painting. Wu Daozi (fl. 710–
theon of star deities, thunder gods, and divine marshals or
760), reportedly a Daoist priest, created his famous murals
generals. As a result, some Daoist deities, such as the multi-
and scroll paintings on both Buddhist and Daoist themes
handed Mother of the Seven Dipper Stars (Doumu), became
under Emperor Xuanzong’s sponsorship. None of his origi-
directly modeled on Tantric divinities. In others, the multi-
nals has survived, but textual references and transmitted
ple eyes, heads, and arms of Tantric spirits were combined
works of later artists, most of whom placed themselves in Wu
with traditional Daoist symbols and the names and features
Daozi’s tradition, bespeak the main features of his style:
of popular gods; in the chief thunder gods, iconographic syn-
movement, dramatic facial expressions, individualized fig-
thesis produced new chimerical shapes. Daoist sources none-
ures, and narrative composition.
theless understand these composite divinities in quintessen-
tially Daoist terms as manifestations of pure cosmic forces,
Beautiful examples of the illustrative art that the Daoist
re-created through the cycling and blending of corporeal qi
pictorial tradition eventually produced survive in the four-
in visual meditations. As in earlier Daoist texts, these visual-
teenth-century murals of the Eternal Joy Temple (Yongle
izations follow exact descriptions of the deities’ semblance
gong in Shanxi province) depicting the lives of the Immortals
and attributes and their cosmological significance; only the
(xian) Lü Dongbin and Wang Chongyang. But more expres-
iconographic vocabulary has become far more diverse. Even
sive of what inspired Daoist painting at its core is the brilliant
the fu tallies, originally abstract graphs designed to contract
rendition of the theme known as the “Audience with the Or-
divine powers, take in these late ritual manuals, often the
igin” in the temple’s main hall. The frescoes show the various
form of calligraphic pictures of the deities and their symbols.
monarchs of the Daoist universe, including the Jade Emper-
or; the Purple Tenuity Emperor of the North Pole; the
The general agreement between such liturgical sources
Queen Mother of the West; her spouse, Lord of the Dao in
and depictions of Daoist divinities in late imperial and mod-
the East; Houtu, the royal matriarch of earth; and their reti-
ern religious paintings suggests a connection between ritual
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: DAOIST ICONOGRAPHY
4335
performance and pictorial representation. Indeed, just as the
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Audience with the Origin was not merely an iconographic
Bokenkamp, Stephen R., with Peter Nickerson. Early Daoist
theme, but originally denoted the culmination of Daoist
Scriptures. Berkeley, 1997. Contains several important early
meditation (when the divinities of an adept’s or priest’s bodi-
Daoist texts in English translation, including individual in-
ly microcosm are brought face to face and merged with the
troductions and thorough annotations. Peter Nickerson’s
contribution is of special interest in context with early Celes-
original oneness of the Dao), authentic artworks, and partic-
tial Master liturgy and its connection with previous mortuary
ularly paintings, were to reflect the internal visions of Daoist
rituals.
priests and the iconographic codes thereby established. That
Davis, Edward L. Society and the Supernatural in Song China. Ho-
this continuity between liturgy and the visual arts always re-
nolulu, 2001. The most comprehensive analytical study of
mained an ideal and never led to the iconographic standard-
Daoist ritual in the Song dynasty and later.
ization achieved in the Buddhist tradition is partly due to
Harper, Donald. “Resurrection in Warring States Popular Reli-
Daoism’s internal diversity and comparatively loose organi-
gion.” Taoist Resources 5, no. 2 (1994): 13–29. An important
zation, partly to difficulties in institutionalizing links be-
article on popular afterlife beliefs in the Warring States
tween clerical and art traditions, and, of course, also to the
period.
disruptions of modern times.
Kamitsuka Yoshiko. “Lao-tzu in Six Dynasties Taoist Sculpture.”
In Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching, edited by Livia Kohn and
While already in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries,
Michael LaFargue, pp. 63–87. Albany, N.Y., 1998. A con-
scrolls portraying the Three Purities, the Jade Emperor, the
cise and highly informative essay on early Daoist sculpture.
Purple Tenuity Emperor, the Heavenly Worthy Saving from
Katz, Paul R. Images of the Immortal: The Cult of Lü Dongbin at
Suffering, and other Daoist high divinities surrounded the
the Palace of Eternal Joy. Honolulu, 1999.
inner, most sacred area of Daoist altars, these paintings, sur-
prisingly, were not accorded full sacred status. Even today,
Lemoine, Jaques. Yao Ceremonial Paintings. Bangkok, 1982. A
richly illustrated, exceedingly interesting introduction to the
the actual seat of Daoist divinities during rituals is in the
ritual paintings of the Yao minority people living in the
shenwei, small tablets inscribed with their names, not in
mountainous regions in south and southwestern China, who,
the paintings. An exception here is the Daoist tradition of
by the thirteenth century at the latest, were collectively con-
the Yao minority, which clearly emphasizes the sacrality of
verted to Daoism.
altar paintings through special rites of consecration and de-
Little, Stephen, and Shawn Eichman. Taoism and the Arts of
consecration (once they have outlived their ritual life spans).
China. Chicago and Berkeley, 2000. This catalog of an un-
precedented exhibition in Chicago and San Francisco is a
DAOIST ICONOGRAPHY IN POPULAR CHINESE ART AND RE-
treasure trove of stunning illustrations, including both dis-
LIGION. Daoist visions of gods and immortals, as well as de-
tinctly Daoist works and others that are more widely related
monic beings and their realms, have had a tremendous influ-
to Daoist concepts and themes. The authors have made ef-
ence on popular religious iconography. Temple murals and
forts at contextualizing their examples with Daoist history,
altar hangings evidently played important roles, but Daoists
thought, and liturgy. With five essays on particular topics by
also propagated their views through narrative and perfor-
different experts, this is the most up-to-date book-length
mance arts. The most eloquent proof of this exists perhaps
publication on Daoist arts and iconography.
in some of the great vernacular novels of the sixteenth
Loewe, Michael. Ways to Paradise: The Chinese Quest for Immortal-
through eighteenth centuries that feature the eminently hy-
ity. London, 1979. A classic on immortality and afterlife be-
brid pantheon of popular Chinese religion, including im-
liefs in early China.
mortals, Daoist and Buddhist divinities, and entirely com-
Reiter, Florian C. “The Visible Divinity: The Sacred Image in Re-
posite and often even renegade gods, all under the Jade
ligious Taoism.” Nachrichten der deutschen Gesellschaft für
Emperor’s rule. Even contemporary Chinese cite these novels
Natur-und Völkerkunde Ostasiens 144 (1988): 51–70. The
as sources of information about the backgrounds, functions,
article studies the guidelines concerning Daoist temple imag-
symbolism, and iconography of the deities worshiped by
ery in an early (pre-Tang/beginning of Tang) Daoists liturgi-
cal code.
them, whether in statues and murals in community temples,
or in wood-block book illustrations and New Year’s pictures
Robinet, Isabelle. Taoism: Growth of a Religion. Translated by
at home. As these explanations again are frequently traced
Phyllis Brooks. Stanford, Calif., 1997. A lucid introduction
to the history of Daoist thought up to the mid-fourteenth
to Daoist liturgical literature, they point—in line with the
century by one of the foremost scholars in the field. Includes
motto favored by late imperial Daoists, that all religious
an illuminating discussion of the importance of script and
paths eventually run into the Great Way—to Daoism as the
scripture in Daoism, and provides information on the evolu-
most important factor in the formation of popular Chinese
tion of the yin-yang symbol.
religion and iconography.
Seidel, Anna. “Traces of Han Religion in Funeral Texts Found in
Tombs.” In Dokyo to shukyo bunka, edited by Akizuki Kan’ei,
SEE ALSO Afterlife, article on Chinese Concepts; Calligra-
pp. 21–57. Tokyo, 1987. One of the famous late author’s pi-
phy, article on Chinese and Japanese Calligraphy; Dao and
oneering studies of the mortuary cult of the Han dynasty in
De; Daoism; Temple, article on Daoist Temple Com-
connection with the early Daoist religion of the Celestial
pounds; Xian; Yinyang Wuxing.
Master movement.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4336
ICONOGRAPHY: CONFUCIAN ICONOGRAPHY
Stevens, Keith. Chinese Gods: The Unseen Worlds of Spirits and De-
More specifically, using painted or sculpted figural im-
mons. London, 1997. An introduction to the icons of popu-
ages as objects of reverence to depict these beings is not clear-
lar Chinese religion, richly illustrated and with copious
ly attested in early texts. Later Confucian historiography, be-
ethnographic commentaries that help readers see the inter-
ginning at least as early as the Song dynasty (960–1279),
connections between Chinese everyday religion and Daoist
insisted that anthropomorphic images of deceased human
and Buddhist imagery.
beings, or of nonhuman divinities, were not used in ritual
Teiser, Stephen. “‘Having Once Died and Returned to Life’: Rep-
contexts in Warring States times or earlier. Both written re-
resentations of Hell in Medieval China.” Harvard Journal of
cords and the archaeological record as it was then known
Asiatic Studies 48, no. 2 (1988): 433–464. An outstanding
iconological study on Chinese Buddhist representations of
support this notion.
hell in medieval times.
For example, according to the Book of Rites, ancestors
Verellen, Franciscus. “‘Evidential Miracles in Support of Taoism’:
were instead “imaged” (xiang, a term used as both noun and
The Inversion of a Buddhist Apologetic Tradition in Late
verb) or represented by a personator (or impersonator) of the
T’ang Dynasty China.” T’oung Pao 77/78 (1991–1992):
dead. The personator (shi) was a living descendant of the de-
217–263. An exceedingly interesting account of how a late
ceased who temporarily took upon the identity of the depart-
medieval court Daoist turned the tables on Buddhist polem-
ed ancestor, whose laid-out body was simultaneously called
ics against Daoist liturgical and iconographic plagiarism.
a shi, during commemorative rites that feted the personator/
Wu Hung. The Wu Liang Shrine: The Ideology of Early Chinese Pic-
deceased with food and liquor. The consanguineous relation-
torial Art. Berkeley, 1989. An authoritative in-depth study
ship between the dead and the personator (the bodies of de-
of Han dynasty tomb art and iconography with focus on an
offering shrine of 151
scendants were moreover considered consubstantial with
CE.
those of their forebears) often ensured a close physical resem-
URSULA-ANGELIKA CEDZICH (2005)
blance between the personator and his or her ancestral “pro-
totype.”
ICONOGRAPHY: CONFUCIAN ICONOGRAPHY
Personators were not widely used after the Warring
Over the centuries, the terms “Confucian” and “Confucian-
States era, but the notion that an image should resemble its
ism” have been constructed in different ways, both in China
prototype became crucial in later times, when validity of an
and in the West. The adjective “Confucian” here is used
image was determined by its perceived similitude to its pro-
loosely, referring not only to the writings of Confucius (551–
totype. Some Chinese scholars of the Song and Ming (1368–
479
1644 CE) dynasties believed that the custom of using person-
BCE) but also to that larger body of learning and praxis
transmitted in other (often older) ancient classical texts and
ators to image the deceased was in fact the origin of the later
their later commentaries (which are being compiled to this
use of anthropomorphic images in sacrificial offerings. Ac-
day). This collection of works is very diverse and its bounda-
cording to this historiographic interpretation, after Warring
ries are difficult to determine. The more important titles,
States times the living descendant was replaced with painted
which date to Warring States times (403–221
or sculpted images of the deceased, which were held to high
BCE) or earlier,
are the Book of Odes (Shijing), Book of Documents (Shangshu),
standards of semblance.
Book of Rites (Liji), Master Zuo’s Commentary on the Spring
Such ancestral portraits were widely used by the Song
and Autumn Annals (Chunqiu Zuozhuan), and the Analects
dynasty, and were called ying, or “shades.” Conceptually, the
of Confucius. Somewhat later is the Han dynasty (206 BCE–
term ying incorporates the meanings of both “shadow” and
220 CE) Book of Filial Piety (Xiaojing). The term “iconogra-
“reflection,” and can be understood as an emanated projec-
phy” is used here in a very general sense to refer to visual de-
tion from the human body that is visible in sunlight and re-
pictions of the phenomena recorded in such classical texts,
flected in mirrors and other clear or flat surfaces, such as the
and it also refers to later products of the visual culture that
surface of an ancestral painting used in rites to commemorate
was based in some fashion upon that written legacy.
the deceased. In folk tales such as the Ming dynasty Peony
CONFUCIAN DIVINITIES AND MYTHIC BEINGS. Early texts
Pavilion, shades sometimes become doppelgängers of the
describe an expansive pantheon of divinities, numinous pow-
original body and take on lives of their own—even after the
ers, ideal beings, and culture heroes. These include the Lord
prototype body is deceased. Ancestral portraits are still wide-
on High; heaven and earth; spirits of mountains and rivers;
ly used in modern times, although they have been largely re-
powers of cold, heat, and celestial bodies; mythic supra-
placed by photographs, which ensure greater verisimilitude
human beings; sage rulers; and ancestral spirits, to name a
than paintings. In fact, the modern expression “to photo-
few.
graph” is literally she ying, “absorb the shade.”
Historiographic issues. The ways in which these be-
Images in early China. Confucian images often emerge
ings were visually understood in pre-Han times, however, is
from or appear in mortuary, visionary, or other liminal con-
unclear. The pre-Han archaeological record preserves depic-
texts. One of the earliest known textual descriptions of an
tions of a wide range of mythic beings. However, they are
image in a Confucian text is of an image (xiang) created to
neither readily identifiable nor easily associated with figures
depict a man seen in a vision. The Book of History records
from “Confucian” written works.
how a bereft ruler went into mourning and underwent the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: CONFUCIAN ICONOGRAPHY
4337
usual austerities of isolation, fasting, silence, and occlusion
depict their subjects in the very act of performing virtuous
of the senses. This typically led to visionary experiences, and
deeds: a wife allows herself to be murdered in order to save
not unexpectedly the ruler saw in a dream a man whom he
her husband and father; the culture hero Yu digs the water-
understood was to be his helpmate or body-substitute. This
ways that preserved the world from floods; a mother rescues
helpmate would replace the ruler while he remained secluded
a nephew at the expense of her own child.
in mourning. The ruler ordered an image created of the man
Early medieval images. These Han images are murals
he saw and sent it about the kingdom until someone was lo-
in shrines, but during the Tang dynasty (618–907), spirits
cated who resembled it. This person was then established as
of all kinds also were represented at their “spirit places” (shen-
the ruler’s prime minister. Visions of the deceased, as well
wei) on temple altars by spirit tablets (zhu), which were verti-
as the living, were commonplace in the pre-sacrificial vigils
cal planks that recorded the name and title of the divinities
of commemorative offerings presented by pious descendants
they represented. Written records indicate that by this time
to their ancestors. It was here that one could see them again,
period, Confucius and other famous literati also were repre-
even though they were now in the realm of spirits, which
sented by two- or three-dimensional anthropomorphic im-
were otherwise formless, invisible, and ineffable.
ages on altars where they were given state-sponsored food of-
PHYSICAL APPEARANCE OF CONFUCIAN FIGURES. Virtually
ferings. Debates ensued over how certain figures should be
nothing is known of the actual physical appearance of partic-
represented; being depicted sitting rather than standing was
ular figures from Confucian lore, or even of Confucius him-
considered a mark of honor. These arguments paralleled de-
self.
bates over which textual or spiritual traditions should be
Han dynasty iconography. By Han times, thinkers and
granted greater authority: personal disciples of Confucius, or
artists began to create their own visual interpretations of im-
later scholars who transmitted the learning of a particular
portant figures. Extant sculpted stone bas-reliefs on shrines,
classic. Because few Tang images exist, their actual appear-
tombs, and steles from the Han and early medieval periods
ance is unknown.
(to 618 CE) depict narrative representations of daily life, his-
One of the most widely known depictions of Confucius
toric figures, mythic beings, and prognosticatory omens.
is traditionally attributed to the famous Tang painter Wu
These reliefs were didactic in nature and, when located in
Daozi (fl. 710–760), although the image’s authenticity is
tombs or shrines, were the backdrop for the mortuary rites
questionable. This rendering depicts Confucius as a solitary
convened there.
standing figure, hands held at his chest. A long beard attests
Confucius appears frequently in these early depictions,
to his age and seniority; he is no longer a pupil who bows
never alone and sometimes accompanied by a retinue of dis-
politely to seek wisdom from others, but is an autonomous,
ciples and even by half-human, half-animal hybrid creatures.
iconic figure presented visually as a model of authoritative
He is yet far from being depicted as the premier sage of the
gravitas. It is this Confucius who is the subject of modern
Analects—or even as the “uncrowned king” that contempo-
sculptures in Chinatowns throughout the world.
rary philosophical texts claim him to be—but is more com-
In other Tang and Song renderings, Confucius is no
monly shown to be a pedant instructed by recluses, farmers,
longer accompanied by his “teacher,” Xiang Tuo, who has
or even children. He frequently appears in conversation with
instead been replaced by Confucius’s favorite disciple, Yan
the legendary Laozi and the child prodigy Xiang Tuo. The
Hui. In contrast to the child prodigy, Yan Hui was noted
assemblage of these three figures constitutes an admixture of
for his humility. Elsewhere, Confucius is found in poses sim-
mythic accounts from several textual sources, some of which
ilar to those of the Buddhist layman Vimalak¯ırti: he sits on
are not “Confucian.” In this grouping, Confucius is under-
a raised platform and holds a fan. However, instead of an en-
stood to be a middle-aged man who is the pupil of both the
tourage of monks and bodhisattvas, he is accompanied by his
older master (“Lao” means simply “old” or “elderly”) and the
disciples. These images exist as narrative scrolls on paper and
precocious child. Tales of Confucius’s apocryphal conversa-
silk, and also as stone carvings displayed in temples.
tions with Xiang Tuo appear in Dunhuang literature (a trove
of documents dating to Tang times discovered in the Dun-
POLITICAL AND SOCIETAL ACCEPTANCE. Some Song schol-
huang caves of Central Asia), and both texts and illustrations
ars began to express discomfort with anthropomorphic ren-
of the encounter are still commonly included in yearly alma-
derings of both historic figures and spirits of natural phe-
nacs distributed among Chinese populations worldwide.
nomena, particularly when they were used in ritual contexts.
Other bas-reliefs from Han and early medieval times de-
Images in the Song dynasty. The brothers Cheng Hao
pict culture heroes and heroines from antiquity: the model
(1032–1085) and Cheng Yi (1033–1107) questioned the use
rulers Yao, Shun, and Yu; exemplars of filial piety; paragons
of ancestral portraits, especially those wanting in verisimili-
of female courage; and men of remarkable character. The
tude. In addition, Chen Chun (1159–1223) ridiculed the
medium does not allow for “realistic” renderings, and the fig-
practice of depicting the spirit of sacred Mount Tai as a
ures are highly stylized and sometimes only identifiable by
human king. Taking anthropomorphizing to its logical con-
virtue of their insignia or textual cartouches. Didactic repre-
clusion, Chen wondered where such a geographically isolated
sentations, such as those of the Wu clan shrines in Shandong,
mountain range was likely to find a queen. Distaste for per-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4338
ICONOGRAPHY: CONFUCIAN ICONOGRAPHY
ceived Buddhist influences on Chinese practices, and for the
lets that bore only the names and titles of the deceased. In
charlatanry that passed for Buddhism, was not far below the
officially sponsored temples, images remain largely absent
surface. Zhu Xi (1130–1200) was troubled that images of
from temple altars to this day, although during the late Ming
Confucius were depicted in ahistorical Buddhist poses, and
dynasty the ban was occasionally circumvented by hiding im-
Cheng Hao ordered the decapitation of a Buddhist statue
ages inside temple walls.
that gained notoriety by purportedly emitting rays of light.
Paradoxically, even as sculpted images were being
Elsewhere, artists of the Song dynasty found their sub-
cleansed from the altars of officially sponsored temples, other
jects in classical texts. Such famous artists as Li Gonglin (c.
kinds of images flourished. The expansion of the publishing
1041–1106) created illustrations for the Book of Filial Piety,
industry resulted in an unprecedented variety of woodblock
and others illustrated the Women’s Book of Filial Piety. These
illustrations. Many illustrated collections that depicted im-
works were created in the hand scroll format: a long scroll
portant events (largely apocryphal) in the life of Confucius
of paper or silk about one foot in height and several yards
were printed, as were illustrated books of filial piety and ritu-
in length was illustrated alternately with text passages and ac-
al paraphernalia. Another popular genre was collected vol-
companying illustrations. Intended for the moral edification
umes of portraits of famous people: historical figures, rulers
and aesthetic appreciation of the viewer, the scroll would be
and ministers, sages and worthies, local heroes, filial children,
unfurled slowly and the images viewed one at a time, perhaps
and exemplars of women’s virtues.
with the help of an instructor. The twelfth-century painter
Ma Hezhi and his calligraphic collaborator, Song emperor
In late imperial times Confucius also was popularly de-
Gaozong (1107–1187; r. 1127–1162) chose as their subject
picted in “Three Teachings” images that illustrated how the
the verses of the ancient Book of Odes. The cryptic verses and
Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions (represented by
liturgical hymns of the Odes were believed to embody the
Confucius, Laozi, and S´a¯kyamuni Buddha, respectively)
epitome of human sensibility, and were thus a fitting subject
were deeply interrelated. Not everyone believed that Bud-
for the ruler himself.
dhism was a heterodox religion that profaned the teachings
of the sages of ancient China. To make the philosophical
For millennia, vessels of bronze and objects of jade have
point that the three traditions were different manifestations
been the vehicles for presenting food offerings and displaying
of a common substratum, the three figures are sometimes
pious sentiments to spiritual beings, and even illustrations of
shown schematically as intertwining shapes that form one
those objects bear iconic status. Several compilations of
body, or ti (a term that can be applied to a human body as
woodblock illustrations, depicting ritual objects, were creat-
well as a canonical corpus). Other depictions recall the Han
ed during the Song dynasty. Thereafter, this genre remained
representation of Confucius, Laozi, and the child Xiang Tuo.
popular for centuries. Some of these texts were created for
However, in the late imperial images Xiang Tuo is replaced
an audience of connoisseurs and antiquarians. However, oth-
by an infant named S´a¯kyamuni, who is held in Laozi’s arms.
ers were intended as handbooks for those who officiated at
rites or were used as visual inventories of sacred objects ap-
During the Qing dynasty, images of Confucius were
preciated for their own sake. The display, arrangement, di-
largely proscribed from official temples and shrines to Con-
rectionality, and number of particular objects used in ritual
fucian sages and worthies, but they were not eliminated at
performances was of great concern, and Ming (1368–1644
the Kong (the Chinese family name of Confucius) ancestral
CE) and Qing (1644–1911 CE) dynastic records provide line
temples in Qufu in Shandong province, which also main-
illustrations that document the placement of each goblet and
tained a collection of family portraits of “the Sage’s” descen-
saucer for spiritual beings of all ranks.
dants. During the early twentieth century, there was a revival
of interest in visual depictions of Confucius. At this time,
Images in later imperial times. In the Ming, scholars
Confucian associations from around the world returned to
began to question more fundamentally the use of anthropo-
Qufu to locate “real” images of Confucius that could be du-
morphic images in sacrificial offerings. To some thinkers,
plicated and distributed in large quantities to promote the
human-shaped images of clay or paint created by mere arti-
values of the Analects. The search for verisimilitude was par-
sans blasphemed the subtle formlessness of spirits. Images
tially fueled by the development of photography.
that did not look like their prototypes were considered inval-
id. Images of Confucius, for example, could not possibly
Twentieth-century trends. During the first half of the
look like Confucius, for none of them even looked like one
twentieth century, political regimes employed images of
another. Others presented xenophobic arguments against
Confucius or of the Kong family temples to promote their
Buddhist customs imported from India and against Mongo-
own agendas. In China, the facade of a temple also is under-
lian Buddhist tendencies (China had been ruled by Mongol
stood as a mian, or face. Several governments featured Con-
people in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries) to-
fucius’s visage, or that of his temple at Qufu, on their curren-
ward iconophilia. By the 1530s, sentiment against anthropo-
cy. By doing so, they attempted to fortify their own cultural
morphic images in temples to Confucius and other literati
legitimacy and establish a cultural symbol that was palatable
was so strong that they were ordered eliminated by imperial
to the hundreds of diverse cultural and ethnic groups within
decree. Sculpted images of clay were replaced by wooden tab-
China. Even the Japanese puppet government of Manchuria
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: CONFUCIAN ICONOGRAPHY
4339
adopted Confucius on its currency, thus claiming sovereign-
article; Confucius; Temple, article on Confucian Temple
ty over the cultural homeland of Shandong.
Compounds.
With the establishment of the avowedly iconoclastic
People’s Republic of China in 1949, however, religious and
BIBLIOGRAPHY
cultural symbols of all kinds (other than those promoted by
the Communist Party) were erased in the name of revolu-
For early depictions of the human body in Chinese art, see Hel-
tion. Even though thinkers such as Kuang Yaming tried to
mut Brinker’s “The Concept of the Human Body in Chinese
depict Confucius as a “man of the people,” “Confucianism”
Art,” in Symbolik des menschlichen Leibes, edited by Paul Mi-
became synonymous with cultural stagnation and economic
chel (Bern, Switzerland, 1995), pp. 49–81. Bas-reliefs of the
Wu clan shrine are explored in Wu Hung’s The Wu Liang
backwardness. In the civil strife of the Cultural Revolution,
Shrine: The Ideology of Early Chinese Pictorial Art (Stanford,
the Confucian images at Qufu were disemboweled and pa-
Calif., 1989). For ancestral portraits, see Worshipping the An-
raded around the town in dunce caps, much as if they were
cestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits by Jan Stuart and
living entities. Communist propaganda distributed to adults
Evelyn S. Rawski (Washington, D.C., 2001) and Patricia
and children depicted Confucius as a hideous, deceitful, and
Ebrey’s “Portrait Sculptures in Imperial Ancestral Rites in
decrepit old man who was deservedly punished for his reac-
Song China,” in T’oung Pao 83 (1997), pp. 42–92. Song de-
tionary ways by muscular young peasants and laborers.
pictions of Confucian sages and texts are discussed in Julia
CONTEMPORARY DEVELOPMENTS. By the end of the twenti-
K. Murray’s “The Hangzhou Portraits of Confucius and Sev-
eth century, revolutionary zeal was supplanted by financial
enty-two Disciples (Sheng xian tu): Art in the Service of Poli-
ambition as China became a larger force in the world econo-
tics” (Art Bulletin 74, 1992, pp. 7–18), as well as her Ma
my. As China reshaped its image of itself as a nation among
Hezhi and the Illustration of the Book of Odes (Cambridge,
equals, it rehabilitated its own culture heroes. Municipal
U.K., 1993). For the Classic of Filial Piety, see Richard M.
governments and schools refashioned their own civic monu-
Barnhart’s Li Kung-lin’s Classic of Filial Piety (New York,
ments and replaced statues of Mao with public sculptures of
1993). For late-imperial narrative scenes in the life of Confu-
famous world figures from the sciences, the arts, and philoso-
cius, see Julia K. Murray’s “Varied Views of the Sage: Illus-
phy. In addition to Newton, Copernicus, Einstein, and Bee-
trated Narratives of the Life of Confucius” in Thomas A.
thoven, these included representations of Confucius. In cine-
Wilson, ed., On Sacred Grounds: Culture, Society, Politics, and
the Formation of the Cult of Confucius
(Cambridge, Mass.,
ma, the mythic life of Confucius has been featured in several
2002), pp. 222–264. For Chinese pictorial collections of
lengthy television series and feature films, where he is often
sculptures, paintings, and architectural monuments related
depicted as a virtuous man who successfully withstands ad-
to the Confucian tradition see the Rujia tuzhi (A collection
versity.
of Confucian images) compiled by Xu Lingyun et al. (Shan-
Confucian temples in Taiwan continue to preserve the
dong province, China, 1994) and Dazai Kongzi (O Great
Ming tradition of using tablets instead of images, and their
Confucius), edited by Zhang Zuoyao (Hong Kong, 1991).
walls are dominated by textual and calligraphic icons, when
The art and architecture of the temple of Confucius in Qufu
decorated by anything at all. Blood-red tablets mark the
is documented in Qufu Kongmiao Jianzhu (Architecture of
names of hundreds of famous literati and invoke their bodies
the Confucian temple in Qufu), edited by the Qufu Cultural
of written work. Inside shrines, altars stand before oversized
Administration (Beijing, 1987). For the religious and philo-
calligraphed renditions of the Great Learning, clearly mark-
sophical significance of images of Confucius, see Deborah
ing the text as an object of reverence.
Sommer, “Destroying Confucius: Iconoclasm in the Confu-
cian Temple,” in Thomas A. Wilson, ed., On Sacred
In Beijing, which has been an imperial capital since the
Grounds: Culture, Society, Politics, and the Formation of the
fifteenth century, the presence of numinous powers also is
Cult of Confucius (Cambridge, Mass., 2002), pp. 95–133.
marked by simple tablets, as well as extensive architectural
Revivals of Confucius as a subject matter for artists is docu-
structures and sacred spaces. The late-imperial Temple of
mented in the Jinian Kongzi danchen 2550 zhounian quanguo
Heaven complex at the southern end of the north-south axis
meishu zuopin Zhongguohua zuopin ji (Collection of Chinese
of the city marks the sacrality of the earth with a large open-
paintings from the national art exhibition to commemorate
air circular altar; of heaven, with a smaller, closed structure
the 2,550th birthday anniversary of Confucius), edited by
roofed in blue tiles. The larger Hall of Yearly Harvests archi-
the editorial committee of the national art exhibition to com-
tecturally represents the intersection of time and space: the
memorate the 2,550th birthday anniversary of Confucius
numerical arrangement of columns and shrines marks the
(Beijing, 1999). For a European exhibition featuring works
four seasons, twelve months, and calendrical days of the year.
related to Confucius and time, see Confucius: a l’aube de hu-
This complex is oriented with additional temples to the sun
manisme chinois, edited by Jean-Paul Desroches (Paris,
and moon in other quadrants of the city’s cosmography,
2003). For more theoretical studies of visuality in China, see
making all of Beijing a sacred space shared by humans and
Craig Clunas’s Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China
spiritual powers.
(Princeton, N.J., 1997).
SEE ALSO Chinese Religion, overview article; Confucianism
DEBORAH SOMMER (2005)
in Japan; Confucianism in Korea; Confucianism, overview
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4340
ICONOGRAPHY: JEWISH ICONOGRAPHY [FIRST EDITION]
ICONOGRAPHY: JEWISH ICONOGRAPHY
modern scholars tend to see these motifs as “decoration” de-
[FIRST EDITION]
void of articulate symbolic meanings; others, especially
Jewish iconography, whether actually represented in works
Goodenough, attribute established symbolic meanings to
of art or existing only as traditional imagery (and occasionally
them.
referred to in literature), was determined from the first by
M
the biblical “prohibition of images.” This prohibition, trans-
IDDLE AGES. In the European Middle Ages, especially be-
tween the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, Jewish religious
mitted in the Bible in several versions, could be understood
imagery developed further. The illumination of manuscripts
(1) as forbidding, in a religious context, all images, regardless
of their subject matter (Ex. 20:4, Dt. 4:15–18), or (2) specifi-
is the central aesthetic medium of the period; of particular
cally forbidding the depiction of God and the ritual use of
significance are the manuscripts produced in Spain, Italy,
such a depiction as an idol (Dt. 27:15). While the first inter-
and Germany. All these manuscripts are of a ritual nature,
pretation of the prohibition did not prevail (the Bible itself
the most important groups being the Haggadah for Passover
provides evidence of this in 1 Kgs. 6:23–29, Ez. 8:5–12), the
and prayer books for the holidays, the mah:zor. The illumina-
other was consistently implemented. Possibly the most strik-
tions (and later, printed illustrations) represent many ritual
ing feature of Jewish iconography throughout the ages is the
utensils, but they also include, more often than in Jewish art
systematic avoidance of any depiction of the figure of God.
of other periods and media, human figures, especially in bib-
To a large extent this is also true for saintly personages:
lical scenes. The iconographic repertoire is enlarged by myth-
though hagiographical literature emerged in Judaism, it was
ical motifs, attesting to messianic beliefs. Among these motifs
not accompanied by any visual imagery of saints. From the
are the legendary beasts (such as the shor ha-bar, a kind of
beginning, then, Jewish religious iconography developed in
wild ox), on which the just will feast on the day of redemp-
marked contrast to the traditions predominant in the Chris-
tion; these are particularly prominent in manuscripts pro-
tian West. Since the loss of political independence in 71 CE,
duced in Germany. The future Temple that, according to
Jewish imagery could not be formed within the framework
common belief, is to be built after the redemption, is another
of a state art and did not enjoy any official support for its
frequent mythical motif, especially in Spanish and German
symbols. As the art and imagery of a religious minority, how-
manuscripts; it is sometimes patterned after contemporary
ever, it flourished in the Diaspora throughout the ages. The
Christian models. Both the temple building and the ritual
iconography that emerged within these limitations devel-
utensils (the latter sometimes rendered on the opening folios
oped mainly in a few periods and thematic cycles.
of Bible manuscripts produced in Spain) may be taken as ex-
H
pressions of “the ardent hope and belief” to see the “restored
ELLENISM. The meeting between Judaism and the Greek
world—a process that lasted from early Hellenism to late an-
Temple in the messianic future.” In countries under Islamic
tiquity (roughly, second century
rule, Jewish art readily adapted the aniconic attitude and the
BCE to fifth century CE)—
resulted in a body of religious images. While the Mishnah
repertoire of decorative motifs common among the Muslims,
and Talmud were being compiled (roughly second to sixth
although in literature, visual imagery continued to thrive in
centuries
the form of metaphors and descriptions.
CE) Jewish communities produced a large number
of representations, which have been uncovered in Jewish re-
QABBALISTIC SYMBOLISM. The qabbalistic tradition is a spe-
mains (mainly synagogues and burial places) from Tunisia
cial field of iconographic creation. Qabbalistic literature
to Italy and eastward to the Euphrates; sites in Israel are par-
abounds in visual metaphors, since the authors often tend to
ticularly rich. Occasionally this imagery includes human fig-
express (or to hide) their thoughts and mysteries in visual im-
ures, either in biblical scenes or in pagan myths (frequently
ages and descriptions of supposed optical experiences. Since
the image of Helios, the Greek sun god).
the beginnings of Jewish mysticism in late antiquity, a con-
More often, however, these survivals show objects with
tinuous tradition of visual symbols has persisted. Considera-
definite ritual connotations. Most prominent are the seven-
bly enriched in the Middle Ages, and in the seventeenth cen-
branched menorah (candelabrum), Aron ha-Qodesh (the Ark
tury, this tradition remained unbroken up to, and including,
of the Covenant), lulav and etrog (palm branch and citron),
Hasidic literature. The central image of qabbalistic symbol-
and shofar (ceremonial animal horn). These objects (which
ism is the Tree of Sefirot. The godhead is imagined as struc-
reflect the crystallization of Jewish ritual) have no strict hier-
tured in ten spheres, each of them representing a “divine
archy, but the menorah, and the Ark of the Covenant, repre-
quality” (Heb., sefirah). The shape and place of the spheres,
senting the law itself, are more important than the others.
and the spatial relationships between them, are firmly estab-
When both are shown together, they always occupy the cen-
lished in the qabbalistic imagination. The overall pattern
tral place. Besides such explicitly ritual objects, Jewish re-
vaguely resembles a tree (hence the name), but the basic char-
mains abound in artistic motifs, taken over from Hellenistic
acter of the image is abstract rather than figurative. Though
art, whose symbolic character is obscure. A good example is
the Tree of Sefirot has frequently been depicted (mainly in
the vine, most likely derived from contemporary Dionysian
simple form, primarily in popular printed editions) and has
imagery and often found in Jewish cemeteries. But whether
exerted some influence on contemporary Jewish painters, the
in Jewish communities it carried the meaning of salvation
image is not primarily an artistic one; rather, it is still widely
that it had in the pagan world is a matter of dispute. Some
known from the literary sources.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: JEWISH ICONOGRAPHY [FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS]
4341
Qabbalistic literature produced other visual symbols,
covery, scholarly publication, and the public exhibition of
among them the images of broken vessels, scattered sparks,
Jewish art (often in museums established by Jewish commu-
Adam Qadmon (primordial man) as a figure of God, and so
nities for the purpose). Early scholarship was carried out
forth. Scholem has also shown that an elaborate color sym-
mainly by non-Jewish scholars, generally with Jewish finan-
bolism emerged in the qabbalistic literature. In modern civil
cial backing. This was thought to afford this research with
societies, Jewish iconography is still in the process of forma-
greater veracity. Notable among scholarly writings of this
tion and has not yet been properly studied.
early period was art historian J. von Schlosser’s pathbreaking
work on Hebrew manuscripts, Die Haggadah von Sarajevo:
SEE ALSO Biblical Temple; Qabbalah; Synagogue.
Eine spanisch-judische Bilderhandschrift des Mittelalters
(1898), with Jewish scholar D. H. Müller and a contribution
BIBLIOGRAPHY
by David Kaufmann; classicists Heinrich Kohl and Carl
For the imagery of the Hebrew Bible (though not necessarily in
Watzinger’s Antike Synagogen in Galilaea (1916); and Hein-
art only) still useful is Maurice H. Farbridge’s Studies in Bib-
rich Frauberger’s revolutionary work on Jewish ceremonial
lical and Semitic Symbolism (1923; reprint, New York, 1970).
art, Üeber Alte Kuntusgegenstände in Synagoge und Haus
Erwin R. Goodenough’s Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman
Period
, 13 vols. (New York, 1953–1968), has a rich collec-
(1903).
tion of photographs; the text is stimulating, albeit sometimes
Since World War I the majority of scholarship has been
arguable. Mainly for the Middle Ages, see Jacob Leveen’s The
carried out by Jews, usually within the contexts of Judaic
Hebrew Bible in Art (1944; reprint, New York, 1974). For
early modern times, see Beauty in Holiness: Studies in Jewish
studies. The prominent exceptions all focused on the Greco-
Customs and Ceremonial Art, edited by Joseph Gutmann
Roman period: Carl Kraeling’s exceptional final report of the
(New York, 1970), a catalog of Jewish artifacts from the
Dura Europos synagogue, Kurt Weitzmann’s interest in this
Prague Museum shown at the Jewish Museum in New York.
material for the study of early Christian art, and Erwin R.
Much can be learned from the discussion of single problems. See,
Goodenough’s provocative Jewish Symbols in the Greco-
for example, The Temple of Solomon, edited by Joseph Gut-
Roman Period (1953–1967). Zionist and Israeli scholarship
mann (Missoula, Mont., 1976). Another individual problem
has been particularly prominent as Jewish art scholarship was
is discussed by Zofia Ameisenowa in “The Tree of Life in
formulated in nationalist terms. E. L. Sukenik’s studies of
Jewish Iconography,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld
Jewish archaeology—particularly his discovery of ancient
Institutes 2 (1938–1939): 326–345. Qabbalistic imagery is
synagogues and Second Temple (536 BCE–70 CE) period
best discussed in Gershom Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish
tombs—and Mordecai Narkiss’s studies of ceremonial art
Mysticism, 3d rev. ed. (New York, 1954), esp. pp. 205–243.
A highly interesting study of a particular subject in qabbalis-
and his project of building the Bezalel National Museum
tic symbolism is Scholem’s “Farben und ihre Symbolik in der
(now part of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem) are notable,
jüdischen Überlieferung und Mystik,” Eranos Yearbook 41
particularly Narkiss’s The Hanukkah Lamp (1939, in He-
(1974): 1–49, The Realms of Colour (with English and
brew). His son Bezalel Narkiss’s work during the second half
French summaries).
of the century focused on medieval manuscripts and the as-
M
sembly of an Index of Jewish Art to serve as an adjunct to the
OSHE BARASCH (1987)
Princeton Index of Christian Art, which is the main project
of his Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Je-
rusalem. Narkiss founded The Journal of Jewish Art (now
ICONOGRAPHY: JEWISH ICONOGRAPHY
Jewish Art) in 1974 as an annual, although for the last decade
[FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS]
it has appeared less frequently. At midcentury important
In his 1987 Encyclopedia of Religion article, Israeli art histori-
contributions were made, particularly by expatriate Ger-
an Moshe Barasch surveyed some of the important issues and
manophones in America and Israel—most prominently by
artistic genres in the history of Jewish art as they were under-
Rachel Wischnitzer, Franz Landsberger, Michael Avi-Yonah,
stood by historians of Jewish art of his generation. Within
and Stephen S. Kayser. More recently, Isaiah Shachar, Joseph
that community, scholars were often reacting against a deep
Gutmann, Rachel Hachlili, Abraham Kampf, Carole Krin-
prejudice against Jewish art—and even the possibility of Jew-
sky, Shalom Sabar, Vivian Mann and others have made Jew-
ish art—that was deeply ingrained in the Western discourses
ish art from antiquity to the modern period widely available
on art and on the relation of art and Judaism. This reaction
and known. Much of this scholarship has focused on primary
against prevalent notions that Judaism was aniconic (without
publication of artifacts (and in Mann’s case, also primary
symbols or icons), iconophobic, or otherwise antithetical to
texts) and building the corpus of Jewish art. The varied audi-
art resulted in the discovery, publication, and exhibition of
ences for whom scholars wrote are significant. Some focused
artifacts of Jewish art and archaeology.
on academic Jewish studies contexts (e.g., M. Narkiss,
APOLOGETICS AND EARLY RESEARCH. With few exceptions,
Wischnitzer, Kayser, Kraeling, Shachar, Gutmann, Sabar,
late nineteenth- and twentieth-century scholarship did not
and Mann), others located their work within general art his-
face the prevailing prejudice against Jewish artistic produc-
tory and archaeology (e.g., Avi-Yonah, Kraeling, Weitz-
tion head on. Rather, it was refuted indirectly through dis-
mann, B. Narkiss, Gutmann, Krinsky, and Hachlili), and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4342
ICONOGRAPHY: JEWISH ICONOGRAPHY [FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS]
still others sought to integrate it within the history of reli-
ish: Challenging Traditional Identities, a major traveling exhi-
gions approach (e.g., Goodenough).
bition of contemporary art with Jewish themes organized by
More recently social historians with less of an object-
the Jewish Museum in New York in 1996. Annabelle Whar-
focus have developed interests in Jewish art. Most prominent
ton (1994) was the first to address these issues in an Ameri-
among these are Richard I. Cohen and Ezra Mendelsohn.
can academic context, focusing on the colonialist ways that
Explicit reflection on the study of Jewish art has been rare.
the Dura Europos synagogue has been studied since its dis-
Perhaps the most interesting conceptualization developed
covery in 1932 and the ways that these approaches have col-
during the first half of the twentieth century was presented
ored interpretation. The academic watershed, however, was
by German/Israeli art historian Heinrich Strauss, who,
Catherine Soussloff’s edited volume, Jewish Identity in Mod-
against the tide, referred to Jewish art as a “minority art.”
ern Art History, published in 1999. The assembled studies,
Most reflection tended to be apologetic, as in Cecil Roth’s
composed by historians and art historians (although signifi-
introduction to his seminal widely influential edited volume,
cantly, no specialists in Jewish art) suggest the absolute am-
Jewish Art, first published in 1956 and still in print in He-
bivalence (if not contempt) that art historical scholarship,
brew. Roth’s anthology, which begins with the Biblical peri-
often carried out by Jews, has shown toward Judaism and
od and concludes with then-contemporary art and architec-
Jewish art. The importance of this volume is in the fact that
ture, was intended to serve as an introduction to Jewish art
it brought together scholars working in diverse areas of art
through the ages. He begins this monumental project with
history to shine a focusing lens on the issue of art historical
the apology that “the conception of Jewish art may appear
constructs of Jewish visual culture. This early statement of
to some to be a contradiction in terms: for there is a wide-
the problem was the harbinger of the first monographs to ap-
spread impression that in the past visual art was made impos-
proach Western conceptions of Jewish art.
sible among the Jews by the uncompromising prohibition in
Kalman Bland, a contributor to Soussloff’s volume and
the Ten Commandments. . .” (Roth, 1961, p. 11).
a colleague of Wharton’s at Duke University produced the
As late as 1988 archaeologist Rachel Hachlili introduced
first monograph on Jews and art. Bland discussed the nine-
her important study, Ancient Jewish Art and Archaeology in
teenth century philosophical roots of this phenomenon in his
the Land of Israel with the confession: “For some time now
The Artless Jew: Medieval and Modern Affirmations and Deni-
I have felt the need for a comprehensive study, which would
als of the Visual (2000). Still schematic in its approach, Bland
support my thesis for the existence of an ancient Jewish art.”
succeeds in tracing the denial of Jewish visuality to the
(Hachlili, 1988, p. xxi). For most of the twentieth century
thought of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), who praised Jews
the backdrop for Jewish study of this material was often the
for being aniconic like German Protestants, and G. W. F.
need to prove and legitimize its very existence. This project
Hegel (1770–1831), who damned them for the same sup-
has been intertwined with the opening and expansion of Jew-
posed aniconicism. Bland also began to show ways that Jews
ish museums (of which there are now around fifty in the
of different allegiances responded to these approaches. In
United States alone), the Center for Jewish Art, excavation
general, classical Reform Jews, who denied Jewish people-
of archaeological sites, the publication of popular books, and
hood also denied the existence of Jewish art, a national art
the use of Jewish art as a source of symbols by the State of
being impossible for a nonpeople. This conception brought
Israel. Ideology has generally not impinged on the quality of
Judaism close to Protestant ideals. The stakes in Jewish ani-
scholarship. During the closing decades of the century the
conism were large for Protestants, who believed that the ear-
apologetic impulse was in steep decline both in the public
liest Christians were aniconic—like the ancient Jews, their
sphere and in scholarship.
religion corrupted by pagan influences, resulted in Christian
Beginning during the mid-1990s and continuing into
art, and the “idolatry” of the Catholic church. Jews commit-
the twenty-first century, a major reevaluation of the place of
ted to Jewish peoplehood (both Zionist and non-Zionists),
Jewish art in Western culture has been undertaken by Anna-
however, reacted strongly to the notion that Judaism was art-
belle Wharton, Catherine Soussloff, Kalman Bland, Marga-
less and set out to prove this paradigm wrong. These Jews
ret Olin, Yaakov Shavit, Avner Holtzman and other scholars.
found support in Catholic praise of ancient Jewish art, which
This reassessment is very much in motion, although it has
Catholic scholars saw as the predecessor to their own artistic
already begun to receive some critical response. Writing in
tradition. It is not surprising that the earliest Jewish art schol-
the postmodern mode, each of these scholars has focused on
arship was centered in Catholic Budapest, where Kaufmann
the historiography of Jewish art, setting scholarship of the
and his students worked within a generally supportive intel-
late nineteenth and twentieth centuries within the general
lectual environment—and not in Protestant lands.
discourses on art and Judaism during this period. This schol-
Margaret Olin, a contributor to both Kleebatt’s and
arship follows a general trend in history writing during this
Souseloff’s volumes, published The Nation Without Art: Ex-
period, in which reevaluation of humanities scholarship
amining Modern Discourses on Jewish Art in 2002. This
across the spectrum has been a major preoccupation.
monograph presents case studies in the historiography of art
The contemporary art world’s ambivalent attitude to-
history regarding Jews. Olin’s discussions of nineteenth and
ward Judaism was addressed in Norman Kleebatt’s Too Jew-
twentieth century conceptions in the German academy and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: JEWISH ICONOGRAPHY [FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS]
4343
Jewish responses to this artlessness are particularly relevant.
Recent developments in the historiography of Jewish art
Olin’s main focus is the notion that each nation has a unique
have changed the conceptual frame within which this disci-
and distinctive national art (with its own style and iconogra-
pline functions. By exposing the often anti-Semitic (and
phy), and the problems created by such classifications. For
sometimes anti-rabbinic) roots of many of these conceptions,
Judaism in particular, notions of Jewish peoplehood and na-
scholars of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century
tionality were basic to the construction of Jewish identity
have created a level playing field in which the study of Jewish
during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and hence the
material culture may be pursued without engaging in the
existence or nonexistence of Jewish art was an important
types of implicit and overt apologetics that were so often ne-
statement of Jewish self-understanding and the ways that
cessitated during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Jews were viewed by the majority Western cultures. Olin fo-
cuses on Zionist responses to Jewish artlessness, David Kauf-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
mann’s early scholarship on Jewish art, and art historical ap-
Bland, Kalman P. The Artless Jew: Medieval and Modern Affirma-
proaches to the Dura Europos synagogue, as well as attitudes
tions and Denials of the Visual. Princeton, N.J., 2000. The
toward more contemporary art by Jews. Her study of Dura
first monograph on Western discourse on Jewish art, Bland
is particularly insightful, exposing a deeply anti-Semitic
also briefly surveys Jewish attitudes toward the visual, as well
strain in European scholarship (associated with proto-Nazi
as selected issues of aesthetics in Jewish thought.
scholar Josef Strzygowski, who placed the origins of Chris-
Cohen, Richard I. Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe.
tian art firmly in the East, in a Jewish context) and ways that
Berkeley, Calif., 1998. Cohen presents historical case studies
of the reception of Jewish art during the nineteenth century.
it influenced scholarship on Jewish art at midcentury (partic-
ularly by the philo-Semitic German expatriate art historian,
Elsner, Ja´s. Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph: The Art of the
Kurt Weitzmann). Her discussions of more contemporary
Roman Empire AD 100–450. Oxford, 1998.
manifestations, as expressed in studies of Clement Green-
Elsner, Ja´s. “Cultural Resistance and the Visual Image: The Case
berg, George Segal, and others point to the continuation of
of Dura Europos.” Classical Philology 96, no. 3 (2001):
this phenomenon through the second half of the century.
269–304.
Elsner, Ja´s. “The Birth of Late Antiquity: Riegl and Strzygowski
Parallel to the development of this corpus, Yaakov
in 1901.” Art History 25, no. 3 (2002): 358–379.
Shavit (1992; 1997) followed by Avner Holtzman (1999)
Elsner, Ja´s. “Archaelogies and Agendas: Reflections on Late An-
has focused on ways that Zionists conceptualized art against
cient Jewish Art and Early Christian Art.” Journal of Roman
the background of Eastern European Jewish ambivalence to-
Studies 93 (2003): 114–128. Influenced by Olin and others,
ward non-Jewish art forms and the place of art in Jewish-
Elsner’s discussion of ancient Jewish art reflects a marked
Palestinian culture of the pre-State era before 1948.
shift from the traditional anti-Jewish bias of art history to a
S
far more reflective stance.
ECOND WAVE. The second wave of studies dealing with
these issues is being written by historians who are applying
Fine, Steven. Art and Judaism During the Greco-Roman Period: To-
the insights of previous studies directly to the study of an-
ward a New “Jewish Archaeology.” Cambridge, U.K., 2005.
cient art and religion. In a series of articles influenced by
Fine provides a thorough analysis of the ways that Jewish art
Olin and others, British classicist and art historian Ja´s Elsner
and Jewish archaeology relation has been constructed in
America, Palestine/Israel, and Europe against the backdrop
has moved from a rather negative position vis-à-vis Jewish
of Western thought. The work of Sukenik and Goodenough
art and its relation with Christian art during late antiquity
are contextualized.
to a position that subsumes Jewish, Christian, and pagan art
Frauberger, Heinrich. Üeber Alte Kuntusgegenstände in Synagoge
together under a broader category of Late Antique art. Ac-
und Haus. Frankfürt, Germany, 1903.
cording to Elsner’s new approach, Jewish art is not merely
a backdrop to Christian art but an equal. Steven Fine’s Art
Goodenough, Erwin R. Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period.
New York, 1953–1968. Goodenough’s assemblage of Jewish
and Judaism During the Greco-Roman Period (2005) discusses
archaeological remains from antiquity was important for the
ways that the “artless Jew” trope affected historiography of
development of interest in this material beyond Jewish
ancient Judaism, particularly the work of E. R. Goodenough,
studies circles. His theory, that this material bespeaks an an-
M. Smith, and Smith’s students (among them Jacob Neus-
cient nonrabbinic “mystical Judaism” that created this art,
ner, S. J. D. Cohen, and Lee Levine). The assumption that
while widely refuted, occasioned a profound reevaluation of
Jews are artless was transformed by Goodenough into the no-
previous paradigms for the interpretation of ancient Judaism.
tion that whereas Jews created art, the Talmudic rabbis were
Hachlili, Rachel. Ancient Jewish Art and Archaeology in the Land
anti-art. Extant Jewish art was therefore often conceived as
of Israel. Leiden, 1988.
nonrabbinic. Reevaluating ancient Jewish attitudes toward
Holtzman, Avner. Aesthetics and National Revival—Hebrew Liter-
art as reflected in both literary and archeological sources,
ature Against the Visual Arts [in Hebrew]. Tel Aviv, 1999.
Fine demonstrates coalescence between Jewish and general
Holtzman, focusing mainly on literary sources, nuances and
Greco-Roman art except in areas in which Jewish values
expands on Yaakov Shavit’s discussion of art within early
(which were scripture-based, but open to varying interpreta-
Zionism.
tions and circumstances) were at variance with general
Kohl, Heinrich, and Carl Watzinger. Antike Synagogen in
attitudes.
Galilaea. Leipzig, 1916.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4344
ICONOGRAPHY: CHRISTIAN ICONOGRAPHY
Mann, Vivian, ed. Jewish Texts on the Visual Arts. Cambridge,
agogy, and they have been rendered in the styles of the par-
U.K., 2000. Mann translates and comments on important
ticular age and place the images served. In modern times, the
Jewish texts that exemplify academic reflection on the place
sources for Christian iconography have expanded to include
of art in Judaism.
psychological, sociopolitical, and nontraditional elements.
Mendelsohn, Ezra. Painting a People: Maurycy Gottlieb and Jewish
Art. Hanover, N.H., 2002. A historical study of an impor-
The most distinctive characteristic of Christian iconog-
tant late-nineteenth-century Jewish painter.
raphy is its preoccupation with the person and role of Jesus
Narkiss, Mordecai. The Hanukkah Lamp [in Hebrew]. Jerusalem,
Christ (and his followers). The image of Christ as earthly
1939.
founder and heavenly savior is central to the religion, espe-
cially insofar as the church defines itself as the body of Christ
Olin, Margaret. The Nation Without Art: Examining Modern Dis-
courses on Jewish Art. Omaha, Neb., 2001. Olin focuses on
on earth. Thus the changing repertoire of images of Jesus and
the art historical discourse on art and Judaism, showing how
his followers reveals the nature of the religion in its many cul-
this discipline encouraged and developed the notion that the
tural and historical manifestations.
Jews are “the nation without art. ”
EARLY CHRISTIANITY. Early Christian art surviving from the
Roth, Cecil, and Z. Ephron. Jewish Art [in Hebrew]. Tel Aviv,
first half of the third century reflects the diversity of the
1956/57.
Greco-Roman context from which it emerged. The earliest
Roth, Cecil, ed. Jewish Art. Revised by B. Narkiss. 2d ed. London,
iconographic figures, borrowed directly from late antique
1971. A compendium of eighteen articles on Jewish art from
conventions, were placed in new compositional and environ-
Biblical times to the mid-twentieth century, this volume is
mental settings on jewelry and other minor arts. For exam-
still the standard reference work for the study of Jewish art.
ple, the common pose of the shepherd Endymion, a reclining
Sabar, Shalom. “The Study of Jewish Art and Its Development”
male nude resting on one elbow with ankles crossed, was the
[in Hebrew]. Mahanayim 11 (1995): 264–275. Sabar surveys
type borrowed by artists to depict the Old Testament figure
the history of scholarship on Jewish art from the nineteenth
of Jonah resting under an arbor. For Christians, Jonah repre-
century to the 1990s, and is particularly strong in his descrip-
sented an image of resurrection and, as such, was used in fu-
tion of Germanophone scholars.
nerary paintings and low-relief carvings on sarcophagi. Old
Shavit, Yaakov. Athens in Jerusalem: Classical Antiquity and Helle-
Testament figures used in early Christian iconography ap-
nism in the Making of the Modern Secular Jew. Tel Aviv,
peared almost exclusively as typologies of Christ and his fol-
1992; reprint, Portland, Ore., 1997. Shavit’s work was the
lowers.
first monograph to approach the place of art in Zionist
culture.
The earliest images of Christ were concerned with his
Sousloff, Catherine, ed. Jewish Identity in Modern Art History.
person and role on earth and were borrowed from classical
Berkeley, Calif., 1999. A watershed in the study of attitudes
types of teaching figures, miracle workers, and heroes. Con-
toward art and Judaism in art history, Sousloff’s volume pres-
ventions for depicting divine attributes were missing, and
ents a broad discussion of the place of Jews and of Judaism
there was no attempt at historical accuracy. Jesus did not
in the historiography of art.
look like an early-first-century Jewish man from Palestine,
Von Schlosser, J., and D. H. Müller. Die Haggadah von Sarajevo:
but like a Roman teacher-philosopher or like an Apollo-type
Eine spanisch-judische Bilderhandschrift des Mittelalters. With
mythic hero such as the Christos-Helios mosaic figure in the
a contribution by David Kauffmann. Vienna, 1898.
necropolis of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Frustration with
Weitzmann, Kurt, and Herbert L. Kessler. The Frescoes of the Dura
the limitations of these typologies seems to have led to sym-
Synagogue and Christian Art. Washington, D.C., 1990.
bolic representations, such as the ubiquitous Christ as Good
Weitzmann, and his student, Kessler, treat the Dura syna-
Shepherd and the emblematic cross and wreath symbolizing
gogue within the context of Christian art, postulating that
the Trophy of Victory on sarcophagi. The Good Shepherd
this building is a missing link between a hypothesized Jewish
tradition of manuscript illumination and early Christian art.
image was adapted from pagan culture, while the Trophy was
the earliest representation of the Christian cross.
Wharton, Annabel Jane. “Good and Bad Images from the Syna-
gogue of Dura Europos: Contexts, Subtexts, Intertexts.” Art
IMPERIAL CHRISTIANITY. Following the adoption of Chris-
History 17, no. 1 (1994): 1–25.
tianity as a state religion by the Roman emperor Constantine
Wharton, Annabel Jane. Refiguring the Post Classical City: Dura
in the early fourth century, the figure of Christ as the imperi-
Europos, Jerash, Jerusalem, and Ravenna. Cambridge, U.K.,
al reigning Lord emerged. Jesus enthroned as the leader of
1995. Wharton was the first American scholar to discuss
the church, or in the heavens as an imperial judge, reflected
problematic Western views of Jewish art, focusing on the
the power the church had gained in that era. Within a hierar-
Dura Europos synagogue.
chically structured society, Jesus was depicted as a reigning
STEVEN FINE (2005)
philosopher-emperor who dispensed grace and judgment
above all earthly power (see, for instance, the enthroned
Christ in the apse mosaic of Santa Pudenziana in Rome).
ICONOGRAPHY: CHRISTIAN ICONOGRAPHY
Theological teachings and conciliar rulings are reflected
For the greater part of Christian history, the church’s images
in the Christian iconography that followed. From the fourth
have been drawn from its liturgical texts, scriptures, and ped-
through the sixth century the figure of Jesus, elevated to a
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: CHRISTIAN ICONOGRAPHY
4345
ruler over all, came to represent the power of the church over
namic use of iconography in worship among all Christian
state and society. Christ seated in majesty above the heavens
traditions.
in the apse mosaic of the mausoleum of Santa Constanza in
Over the centuries, rules for iconographers in the East
Rome (c. 350) or in the apse mosaic of the Church of San
were formalized, and copy books determined the style and
Vitale in Ravenna, Italy (c. 550), reflects Christological for-
subject matter of iconography. Paintings of the crucifixion
mulations. Mary appears as an enthroned queen in the mosa-
in the Byzantine tradition, for example, often include the fig-
ics of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, after the Council of
ures of Mary and Saint John at the foot of the cross in atti-
Ephesus in 431, which declared her theotokos, Mother of
tudes of grief, and the corpus traditionally hangs in a limp
God. Two types of Christ figures occupy the twenty-six mo-
curve against the rigidity of the cross. This form then became
saic panels of the Christ cycle in San Apollinare Nuovo in
popular in the West, especially in medieval Italy, and influ-
Ravenna (c. 520). The figure in the scenes of Christ’s minis-
enced painters such as Cimabue (d. 1302?).
try and miracles is an Apollo type—young, beardless, and
dressed in royal purple—while the figure in the scenes of
Icons of the Madonna as the Blessed Virgin, Mother of
Christ’s last days on earth is a philosopher type—older,
God, emphasizing her role as mediator and eternal spirit of
bearded, also dressed in purple. These two figure types reflect
consolation and blessing, are numerous in Eastern iconogra-
Pope Leo the Great’s late-fifth-century theological treatise on
phy, but the single most imposing and austere composition
the two natures of Christ.
in Byzantine iconography is the Pantocrator icon of Christ.
The frontal presentation of this image emphasizes the pres-
Explicit representation of the crucifixion of Jesus is con-
ence of Christ as coeternal and coexistent with God the Fa-
spicuously absent from early Christian iconography prior to
ther. Theologically, the Pantocrator gave visible form to the
the fifth century. The visual representation of Jesus’ crucifix-
church’s teachings on the consubstantiation of Father and
ion and resurrection was reserved to be seen only for those
Son, just as the Transfiguration icon visualized its teachings
who have been baptized. By the early fifth century, on rare
on the incarnation of God in Christ. The religious and social
occasions, crucifixion scenes appeared on liturgical objects
power of icons in society is reflected in the Iconoclastic Con-
and other church furnishings, such as the wooden doors of
troversy of the eighth and ninth centuries, which produced
the Church of Santa Sabina in Rome. Nonetheless, the cruci-
a body of writings on the theology of iconography never
fixion is missing as an episode in the Christ cycle of the nave
again matched in Christian history.
mosaics in the early-sixth-century Church of San Apollinare
Nuovo in Ravenna. Once the crucifixion came to be widely
MIDDLE AGES. While saints, heroes, and narrative episodes
depicted, the preferred type in both East and West through
from scripture dominated medieval iconography, rich pat-
the ninth century was a robed, open-eyed, victorious Christ
terns of decoration and reference to everyday contemporary
hanging on the cross, such as the ones in the illuminations
life worked their way into the art of the church in the West.
of the Rabula Gospels from Mesopotamia (dated 586) or on
Sculptural programs on church buildings and marginalia in
the wall decorations of the Church of Santa Maria Antiqua
illuminated manuscripts introduced genre scenes such as the
in Rome.
symbols for the labors of the months and images for the
seven liberal arts.
From early Christian times to the ninth century, themes
of rescue, delivery, and victory were dominant. Figures intro-
Christian iconography produced in the eighth and
duced as graced believers eventually became regal symbols of
ninth centuries became regionally acculturated as its Roman
transcending powers. Mary, for instance, in third-century
origins disappeared in the face of indigenous expression.
Roman fresco painting, was a Roman citizen; in the fourth
Elaborate decorated surfaces enclosed Christian symbols and
century she acquired the dress of an aristocratic lady, and in
figures, where, in the service of beautiful patterns, iconogra-
the fifth, she was the queen of heaven. By the ninth century
phy became abstract and emblematic, especially on painted
she was a reigning personification of the church.
vellum in books.
BYZANTINE ART. Within the art of the Eastern Orthodox
During the ninth and tenth centuries a shift in emphasis
Church, the image (as icon) relates to the liturgy in a manner
from Christ the victor to Christ the victim took place in the
distinguished from that of its Western counterparts. An icon
thinking of the church; accordingly, images of the crucifix-
can appear in a variety of media: painting, mosaic, sculpture,
ion with the victorious reigning Lord on the cross were re-
or illuminated manuscript. Its subject matter includes bibli-
placed by those of the suffering human victim. The Gero
cal figures, lives of the saints, and scenes and narrative cycles
Crucifix in the Cathedral of Cologne, Germany (c. 960), is
that relate specifically to the liturgical calendar. To the pres-
one of the earliest representations of Christ as a suffering,
ent day, Byzantine tradition relies heavily on iconography in
dying figure. Under the influence of Anselm (d. 1109) the
its worship. On the iconostasis—the screen extending across
emphasis on the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice shifted from the
the front of the worship space in the Byzantine tradition—
act necessary to defeat the devil to the act necessary to satisfy
icons of Christ, Mary, and the saints appear as physical repre-
God on behalf of the world. Christian iconography of the
sentations of the real spiritual presence of these figures for
crucifixion reflected that shift. Simultaneously, the role of
the worshipers, thereby creating the most integral and dy-
Christ as a stern and eternal judge was emphasized in sculp-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4346
ICONOGRAPHY: CHRISTIAN ICONOGRAPHY
tural programs on the exterior of monastic churches such as
view of a room centered on Christ renders the moment as
those at Moissac and Autun in France. Images of Mary as
one of self-conscious and anxious questioning among the
mediator, together with the lives of the saints as models of
twelve apostles. This painting has become the most popular
virtue and fidelity, presented an array of images for instruc-
and most often reproduced object of Christian iconography.
tion and contemplation.
In an age in which “man was the measure of all things,”
By the twelfth century the decorative, narrative, and di-
the types of human figures ranged between idealized and
dactic role of the arts gave way to an explicitly sacramental
ethereal images, such as Raphael’s Madonna del Granduca
function, one in which the imagery appeared in a context be-
(1505) and the anxious and suffering figures in Michelange-
lieved to be a model of the kingdom of heaven, the church
lo’s Sistine Chapel Last Judgment (1536–1541). In the latter,
building. Iconography in the church was believed capable of
terror lurks in the consciousness of the sinful, and the blessed
building a bridge that reached from the mundane world to
rise passively to a severe and enigmatic Lord.
the threshold of the divine spirit. Described in twelfth-
In northern Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centu-
century Christian literature as anagogical art, iconography
ries, exaggerated realism in the treatment of subject matter
served as an extension of the meaning of the Mass. Visual
and pre-Reformation currents of thought shaped Christian
images led believers from the material to the immaterial (see
iconography. Matthias Grünewald’s famous crucifixion
Suger, 1979). In a Gothic cathedral the sculptural programs
panel in the Isenheim Altarpiece (1510–1512) presents
(statue columns, tympana, archivolts, capitals, screens) and
Christ as a victim whose physical appearance betrays mutila-
painted glass included figural compositions that narrated
tion and disease; the panel emphasizes divine participation
scripture, historical events, literature, and daily life, and all
on behalf of human suffering.
were considered to have an anagogical function.
Specifically Reformation iconography illustrated bibli-
In the Gothic era a proliferation of Old Testament im-
cal teaching and liturgical practices by the reformers. Lucas
agery reflected renewed theological and political interests in
Cranach the Elder, a painter and a friend of Martin Luther,
manifestations of God working within and through royal hi-
presented the subject matter of one of Luther’s sermons in
erarchies. During this period the suffering Christ of the Ro-
the figure of the crucified Christ in the Wittenberg Altar-
manesque style became a more benign savior. More types of
piece of 1545. Here, Christ appears classically proportioned,
Christ figures appear in the sculptural program and stained
alive, and without signs of maltreatment. Albrecht Dürer’s
glass of Chartres Cathedral from the twelfth and thirteenth
engravings and woodcuts, known to a wide-ranging public,
centuries than in the most elaborate Romanesque icono-
in some instances reflected contemporary religious thought
graphic schemes. The quantity of figures was more impor-
as well. Whereas the old Andachtsbild (image for contempla-
tant to the Gothic planners than to any of their predecessors,
tion) tradition in medieval Christian iconography served
owing to the twelfth-century belief in the anagogical func-
prayer and meditation, many of Dürer’s engravings engaged
tion of art.
the intellect and gave focus to religious thought and theologi-
In the late Gothic period (approximately the fourteenth
cal propositions.
and fifteenth centuries) across northern Europe, the iconog-
Reacting against “papist” imagery, Reformation icono-
raphy of Christianity was populated with aesthetically ap-
clasts destroyed vast amounts of iconographic imagery and
pealing, elegant figures and decorative surfaces known in
liturgical furnishings. For its part, the Roman Catholic
modern scholarship as the International Style. Attitudes,
Church consciously appropriated iconographic programs in
dress, and colors emphasized soft, flowing lines, gentle ex-
their churches in order to counteract the reforming move-
pressions, and rich textures.
ments. The Council of Trent, held in the middle of the six-
RENAISSANCE AND REFORMATION. Christian iconography of
teenth century, formulated instructions on the uses of ico-
the Renaissance in Italy acquired classically human charac-
nography on behalf of the church. If the Reformation in
teristics as interest in Greco-Roman literature and art was re-
some areas limited or forbade the use of images in the
vived. Jesus and his followers appeared in a human guise
church, the Counter-Reformation encouraged a proliferation
heretofore unknown. Scenes of biblical episodes and histori-
of them, thereby stimulating the introduction and expansion
cally religious significance were given the illusion of three-
of the Baroque style of art. Eventually the church’s use of Ba-
dimensional settings that emphasized their reality in the nat-
roque forms extended beyond traditional sculptural pro-
ural world. Fifteenth-century Renaissance art reflected re-
grams and painted panels to wall-surface decor, ceiling plas-
newed interest in pagan mythology and Christian subject
ter, frescoes, elaboration of vestments and liturgical vessels,
matter alike; therefore, pagan iconography competed with
and extensive programmatic designs for altars and chapels.
traditional Christian iconography. Proportion, perspective,
Dramatic highlighting, theatrical effects, and atmospheric il-
and human experience were new ingredients in the iconogra-
lusions were used with iconographic programs to convince
phy of the Renaissance. For example, between 1495 and
believers that the authentic home of spirituality and the true
1498 Leonardo da Vinci completed the Last Supper on the
seat of the church’s authority was in the Roman Church.
wall of the refectory of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan,
SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES. Protestant
Italy. Leonardo’s painting of the figures within a perspectival
iconography in the seventeenth century emphasized individ-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: CHRISTIAN ICONOGRAPHY
4347
ual experience, and images of Jesus stressed his humanity and
destruction of institutional hierarchies and the great Chris-
participation in the human condition. Rembrandt’s portraits
tian monuments associated with them. In France, for in-
of Jesus, for example, show a thirty-year-old Jewish man; his
stance, the dismantling of the medieval monastery at Cluny
Deposition from the Cross (1634) emphasizes a Christ broken
and the destruction of royal imagery on Gothic churches at
and dead. Roman Catholic iconography, by contrast,
Notre-Dame and St.-Denis in Paris demonstrated the nega-
stressed the sacramental presence of a heroic Christ in pro-
tive power of Christian iconography that appeared to be
grammatic sequences, such as Peter Paul Rubens’s early altar-
royalist.
pieces and Nicolas Poussin’s two series of paintings entitled
Nonetheless, during this period the private vision of art-
The Seven Sacraments from the 1640s.
ists dealing with Christian themes added an enigmatic di-
Eventually, architects created iconographic environ-
mension to religious iconography. For instance, William
ments in church interiors that approximated a heavenly
Blake’s figures from the late eighteenth century combined
realm, decorated with ethereal figures of saints. As the Ger-
traditional Christian subject matter with his own imaginative
man Rococo churches attest (see, for example, the Bavarian
intuition. Whereas the human condition had always im-
pilgrimage churches of Balthazar Neumann at Vierzehnheili-
pinged upon and shaped the priorities of traditional Chris-
gen and Dominikus Zimmermann at Wies), the setting for
tian iconography, personal insight shaped primary subject
the sacrament was an integration of iconography and archi-
matter in the latter half of the eighteenth century.
tecture that established a place separate from the natural
NINETEENTH CENTURY. Prior to the Enlightenment, the life
world.
of the Christian church, theologically and liturgically, influ-
THE NEW WORLD. While the excesses of Rococo icono-
enced the images and forms of art directly: Christian iconog-
graphic decoration engulfed worship spaces in eighteenth-
raphy reflected the “mind” of the church. In the nineteenth
century Europe, the New World seemed austere by contrast.
century, Christian iconography served more private and ar-
Late-seventeenth-century Christian iconography in North
tistically formal purposes. The recovery of historical styles in
America consisted primarily of small, colorful panel paint-
nineteenth-century art and architecture carried with it re-
ings for the Spanish-American communities of the South-
newed interest in Christian iconographic themes. The En-
west and of a conservative form of monochromatic portrai-
glish Pre-Raphaelites, for example, sought to recover the ar-
ture on the East Coast. The art of the Southwest reflected
tistic values and qualities of the high Middle Ages. (See, for
a Spanish Roman Catholic culture with its indigenously
example, the Edward Burne-Jones mosaic decoration for
adapted Baroque forms. By contrast, the arts introduced by
Saint Paul’s Within-the-Walls in Rome, begun in 1881.)
the Puritans in New England were understated to the point
Generally speaking, nineteenth-century Christian iconogra-
of asceticism and iconoclasm. The elimination of imagery
phy was created to celebrate a popular style—whereas in the
and decoration left a Christian iconography of simple ab-
past, style had been shaped by its ecclesiastical settings and
stract elements created by natural materials and excellent
patrons.
craftsmanship. Early American meetinghouse architecture
symbolized a community’s place of contact with itself and
Claims about the sublime as perceived in nature or in
with God, specifically the word of God. Shaker communi-
the depths of human consciousness created new aspects of
ties, for instance, made a virtue of functional beauty and cre-
religious iconography in the eighteenth and nineteenth cen-
ated a repertoire of objects that were revered for their clarity
turies. After the Enlightenment, the canon of iconographic
of form and usefulness. Cemetery art in eighteenth-century
subject matter became open-ended. As the formal aspects of
New England relied on simple abstract symbols reduced to
artistic production became foremost for artists who in previ-
line drawings in stone, representing angels’ heads or skulls
ous centuries would have been concerned with narrative
with wings.
force and meaning, iconographic expression became more
independent and individual. For instance, Vincent van Gogh
The earliest Christian imagery in North America, as
(d. 1890), who in his early life had been a Christian mission-
found in Western Hispanic communities and the Puritan
ary, created a personal iconography that eschewed, for the
centers in the East, drew on separate European traditions and
most part, any specifically Christian subject. Paul Gauguin’s
enjoyed no cross-fertilization. In the Southwest, images of
(d. 1903) paintings of Old Testament subjects, the crucifix-
Christ’s crucifixion served Roman Catholic liturgical tradi-
ion, or religious imagery from life in Tahiti created a recog-
tions, public and private. In New England any iconography
nizable but private iconography that reflected individual in-
that suggested a Roman Catholic influence was considered
terests and goals. The institutional church, for the most part,
“papist” and inappropriate. Not only were images of the cru-
disengaged itself from major artists and movements. Under
cifixion rare, but many churches refused to display the sym-
these circumstances, by the late nineteenth century a great
bol of the cross in order to avoid appearing idolatrous.
part of Christian iconography had become copy work, senti-
By the late eighteenth century, the major trends in
mental and remote from the society at large.
Christian iconography were competing with the seculariza-
TWENTIETH CENTURY. A highly individualized Christian
tion of Western culture and the impact of the Enlighten-
iconography was shaped in the twentieth century by the reli-
ment. The American and French revolutions witnessed the
gious consciousness of individual artists. The German ex-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4348
ICONOGRAPHY: CHRISTIAN ICONOGRAPHY
pressionists, for example, insisted upon interpreting and re-
arena of religious art. In France, Henri Matisse’s windows
vealing their individuality. When Wassily Kandinsky
and wall drawings at Vence, from the late 1940s; Le Corbu-
(d. 1944) wrote Concerning the Spiritual in Art, what was re-
sier’s chapel at Ronchamp (1950–1955); and the stained
vealed in the art included the feelings of the artist and the
glass, tapestries, and altar cloth of Fernand Léger at Audin-
expressive properties of color. Emil Nolde’s nine-part Life of
court (1951) all present Christian iconography in specifically
Christ altarpiece (1911–1912) combines Nolde’s interest in
twentieth-century forms.
the impact of color with a traditional Christian format.
In the United States, the work of the abstract expres-
George Rouault, more than any other recognized twentieth-
sionists from the early 1950s to the 1970s summarized much
century artist, sought to create compelling Christian imag-
of the religious consciousness that had been expressed in
ery. His 1926 Miserere series compares Christ’s suffering
modern art during the first half of the century by various ab-
with twentieth-century experiences of human sufferings in
stract and expressionist movements. In works such as Robert
war. The work of Max Beckmann (d. 1950) equates the fall
Motherwell’s Reconciliation Elegy (1962), Mark Rothko’s
of Adam and Eve with the grotesque dimensions of the
chapel in Houston, Texas (1970), or Barnett Newman’s Sta-
human condition under fascism. In contrast, the most popu-
tions of the Cross (1958–1962), religious subject matter seems
lar and most often reproduced image of Jesus in the United
identical with expressions of radical individuality.
States in the first half of the twentieth century was W. H.
Sallmon’s Head of Christ (1940), a sentimental, idealized fig-
The twentieth century also saw the emergence of Chris-
ure with widespread influence.
tian iconography in new media, notably film and electronic
communications. Biblical stories presented in films with
Fantasy painters such as Salvador Dali and Marc Cha-
such titles as The Bible, The Ten Commandments, The King
gall used Christian subject matter in a unique manner in
of Kings, and The Gospel according to St. Matthew engaged
order to suggest visions of the mind or vistas of a dreamworld
a public separate from the church. The mass media, which
fashioned out of the subconscious. Paintings such as Dali’s
now included home video, offered traditional Christian sub-
Sacrament of the Last Supper (1955) and Chagall’s White Cru-
ject matter in extended narrative form as dramatic entertain-
cifixion (1938) identify a private vision in which traditional
ment. In 2004 the film entitled The Passion of the Christ drew
Christian iconography is reinterpreted. Pablo Picasso’s Guer-
worldwide attention. Such presentations of Christian stories
nica (1937) has been interpreted as Christian iconography
are a form of Christian iconography, but in their cultural
because some traditional imagery appears to enhance its ref-
context they appear to be no more than stories from one lit-
erence to human terror and death, and because it suggests
erary source among many, iconography for entertainment
religious meanings. Abstract art in the twentieth century cre-
rather than worship.
ated the possibility for a broadly Christian iconography with-
out recognizable subject matter. For instance, the purely ab-
CONCLUSION. The function of Christian iconography has
stract compositions of Piet Mondrian (d. 1944) were
varied in each generation. It has always been a living lan-
intended to provide an image of universal truths, religious
guage of images invented by the religious consciousness of
in nature, that reflected theosophical beliefs.
communities and individuals. Until the modern era, the fig-
ures of Jesus and his followers were always central to icono-
Radical individuality and sociopolitical realities influ-
graphic programs, but during the twentieth century the focus
enced the content of Christian iconography in the twentieth
shifted to the individual iconographer on the one hand and
century. Revolutionary movements produced Christian ico-
to major cultural presentations of the stories on the other.
nography that placed traditional religious figures in advocacy
At the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the
relationships with human beings suffering social and political
twenty-first century, individual parishes, independent reli-
injustice. In predominantly Communist countries, socialist
gious communities, and various national responses have in-
realism that emphasized the heroic stature of the worker or
troduced their own Christian themes to the iconographic vo-
the revolutionary fighter replaced Christian iconography. In
cabulary. For instance, the so-called African experience or
other cultures, indigenous forms were integrated into Chris-
Asian experience have been given renewed attention through
tian imagery. African sculpture, South American painting,
their arts.
and Asian graphics, for example, often provided indigenous
twentieth-century iconography. One aspect of the Christian
Religious art continues to be affected to some extent by
ecumenical movement around the world was to encourage
political and social forces. Censorship efforts on the part of
the diverse international community to reclaim and clarify
religious communities have attracted headlines, but these ef-
their cultural heritages. Liturgical arts and iconography in
forts have not been effective in the general public. Pornogra-
non-Western cultures emphasized their individual locales
phy has been attacked for religious reasons but remains a
and traditions.
major media industry. Antireligious attitudes have caused
small episodes of outrage, but in the end the art world has
Following the lead of religious leaders such as the Do-
not been seriously affected.
minican artist-priest M. A. Couturier (1905–1957) from
France, who encouraged abstract and modern artistic treat-
Within the large variety of Christian communities
ment of Christian themes, various modern artists entered the
around the world, expanded interest in iconographic imagery
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: ISLAMIC ICONOGRAPHY
4349
has produced a wealth of artistic activity. Nevertheless, the
Kirschbaum, Englebert, and Wolfgang Braunfels, eds. Lexikon der
proliferation of art in the Christian church has not become
christlichen Ikonographie. 8 vols. Rome, 1968–1976. Vols.
a major factor in the art markets of the world. Leading collec-
1–4, Allgemeine Ikonographie, edited by Kirschbaum, present
tors of Christian art, for instance, have not been identified,
general articles on Christian iconography, alphabetically ar-
and museums do not offer major collections of Christian art
ranged; vols. 5–8, Ikonographie der Heiligen, edited by
Braunfels, present the legends of the saints and their imagery
unless it has some other value than just being religious.
in a separate alphabetical sequence. Both series of volumes
However, interest in religions, generally, has risen in the
include excellent bibliographies and summaries. Illustrations
twenty-first century for political reasons, and interest in reli-
are relatively few in number and small in size.
gious art and architecture has increased accordingly. It may
Réau, Louis. Iconographie de l’art crétien. 3 vols. in 6. Paris, 1955–
be that the academy and the general public will become more
1959. Includes a historical overview (vol. 1), Old and New
interested in the arts of world religions in the near future be-
Testament iconography (vol. 2), and an iconography of the
cause religion has become a central theme. Other factors
saints with legends and cult status (vol. 3). Very few illus-
leading toward a larger role for religious art are the expanding
trations.
place of museums in society and the relaxation of the tradi-
Schiller, Gertrud. Ikonographie der christlichen Kunst. 4 vols. in 5.
tional split, in the United States at least, between church and
Gütersloh, Germany, 1966–1976. Offers excellent essay in-
state.
troductions to Christian themes in art and their sources, cov-
ering presentations of Christ (vols. 1–3), the church (vol. 4,
Another tendency that is emerging in the twenty-first
pt. 1), and Mary (vol. 4, pt. 2). An exemplary study with
century has to do with the way various distinctive cultures
many well-selected and clearly printed illustrations. The first
in the world have artists who are reinterpreting the Christian
two volumes have been translated by Janet Seligman as The
biblical stories in their own cultural vernacular. Earlier efforts
Iconography of Christian Art, vol. 1, The Incarnation and Life
that translated the biblical story into the major languages of
of Christ (Boston, 1971); and vol. 2, The Passion of Christ
the world have led artists to apply traditional Christian
(Boston, 1972).
iconographic themes to a variety of modern cultural settings.
Suger, Abbot. On the Abbey Church of St. Denis and Its Art Trea-
Such works of art also remind observers that the same was
sures. Edited and translated by Erwin Panofsky. 2d ed.
true when Christian iconography was first invented and
Princeton, N.J., 1979.
emerged within the context of the Roman Empire. Cultural
JOHN W. COOK (1987 AND 2005)
settings have always shaped Christian iconography and will
continue to do so.
SEE ALSO Aesthetics, article on Visual Aesthetics; Basilica,
ICONOGRAPHY: ISLAMIC ICONOGRAPHY
Cathedral, and Church; Iconoclasm; Icons; Images, article
Islam is generally considered an iconoclastic religion in
on Veneration of Images; Monastery.
which the representation of living things has been prohibited
from its very beginning. However, the QurDa¯n nowhere deals
BIBLIOGRAPHY
with this problem or explicitly speaks against representation.
Bottari, Stefano. Tesori d’arte cristiana. 5 vols. Bologna, Italy,
Rather, the prohibition of pictorial activities was derived
1956–1968. Excellent photo-essays on major architectural
from certain h:ad¯ıth, the traditions attributed to the prophet
monuments and their contents from early Christian times to
Muh:ammad and his followers. It has often been argued that
the twentieth century. The principles of selection, however,
the development of figural painting in Iran was due to Iran’s
are not clear, and the views printed are sometimes eccentric.
Sh¯ıE¯ı persuasion, which would have taken these h:ad¯ıth less
Many color illustrations and ground plans.
seriously, but this idea likewise is not in keeping with histori-
Cabrol, Fernand, et al., eds. Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne
cal fact, because the Sh¯ıE¯ıs follow the tradition as strictly as
et de liturgie. 15 vols. Paris, 1909–1953. Essential material
the Sunn¯ıs, and furthermore, Shiism was declared Iran’s
for the history of Christian iconography, architecture, and
state religion only in 1501.
worship. Illustrations, although small in size and few in num-
ber, include good ground plans. A classic research and refer-
Islam’s attitude toward representation is basically in
ence source.
tune with the stark monotheistic doctrine that there is no
Didron, Adolphe Napoléon. Christian Iconography, or, The History
creator but God: To produce a likeness of anything might
of Christian Art in the Middle Ages (18511886). 2 vols.
be interpreted as an illicit arrogation of the divine creative
Translated by Ellen J. Millington. New York, 1965. Orga-
power by humans. Such an attitude may have hardened at
nized thematically, with each essay treating historical sources
the time of the Byzantine Iconoclastic Controversy; thus, in
in depth. Limited illustrations but valuable for theories con-
Persian poetical parlance, “pictures” are often connected
cerning iconography.
with (Christian) “convents.” Furthermore, the Islamic prohi-
Ferguson, George. Signs and Symbols in Christian Art (1954). New
bition may have first been concerned primarily with sculp-
York, 1961. Remains the most reliable single-volume hand-
ture, for sculptures—as they existed in the KaEbah in Mecca
book on the subject.
in pre-Islamic times—could lead humankind again into idol-
Hall, James. Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art (1974). Rev.
atry, and, indeed, hardly any sculptural art developed in
ed. New York, 1979. Includes Christian subject matter.
Islam until recently.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4350
ICONOGRAPHY: ISLAMIC ICONOGRAPHY
EMERGING IMAGERY. The feeling that representation was
become visible in the pictorial and calligraphic decorations
alien to the original spirit of Islam resulted in the develop-
of their vehicles. Similarly telling are wall paintings in Turk-
ment of abstract ornamental design, both geometric and veg-
ish or Afghan coffee- or teahouses, where one may find realis-
etal, notably the arabesque as the endless continuation of
tic scenes from the Qis:as: al-anbiya¯D (Stories of the prophets)
leaves, palmettes, and sometimes animal-like motifs growing
or allusions to folk romances.
out of each other; it also gave calligraphy its central place in
There was and is apparently no aversion to representing
Islamic art. However, it would be wrong to claim that early
angels in MiEra¯j scenes, romances, or works on cosmology,
Islam was without any pictures. In secular buildings such as
or else as single figures, even in relief on walls. Their faces
palaces, there was no lack of representations of kings, musi-
are always uncovered. Gabriel with his many enormous
cians, dancers, and the like, and expressions in Persian poetry
wings and Isra¯f¯ıl with the trumpet of resurrection are most
such as “like a lion painted in the bathhouse” point to the
prominent.
existence of wall painting (albeit with the additional, nega-
tive meaning of “something lifeless”). Decorative painting on
Islamic painting reached its zenith in Iran and India in
ceramics includes not only more or less stylized animal or
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when, partly under
human figures as individual motifs but also scenes from
the influence of European prints, naturalistic portraiture was
(often unidentified) tales and romances. Although the Arabic
developed to perfection. The Mughal emperor Jaha¯mg¯ır
and Persian texts scribbled around the rims of the vessels
(r. 1605–1627) inspired the court painters to express his
sometimes give a clue to the scene, little is known about such
dreams of spiritual world-rule in his portraits by using the
pictorial programs, which are found on metalwork as well.
motif of the lion and the lamb lying together, or by showing
Theories about pre-Islamic (Sassanid or Turkic) or astro-
him in the company of S:u¯f¯ıs.
nomical symbolism have been proposed. In the early Middle
Ages, certain Arabic books were illustrated either for practical
THE SHAPE OF SPIRITUALITY. Portraits of S:u¯f¯ıs and dervish-
purposes, namely medical and scientific manuscripts, or for
es are frequent in the later Middle Ages: Many drawings cap-
entertainment, as in the Maqa¯ma¯t (Assemblies) of al-H:ar¯ır¯ı
ture the spiritual power or the refinement of a solitary Mus-
or the animal fables known as Kal¯ılah wa-Dimnah.
lim holy man or illustrate the “sessions of the mystical lovers”
(maja¯lis al- Eushsha¯q). S:u¯f¯ıs are also shown as teachers or in
New stylistic features came with the growing Chinese
their whirling dance. However, little has been done to identi-
influence during the Mongol occupation of Iran in the late
fy them, although the color of their garments (or the shape
thirteenth century. (Persian literature speaks of China as the
of their headgear) sometimes betrays their affiliation with a
“picture house,” where Mani, the founder of Manichaeism,
certain S:u¯f¯ı order (thus, a cinnamon- or rose-colored frock
acts as the master painter.) Henceforward, illustrative paint-
is typical of the S:a¯bir¯ı branch of the Chisht¯ıyah). Colors are
ing developed predominantly in Iran, where the great epic
also used to indicate the spiritual state the mystic has
poems (an art form unknown to the Arabs) inspired minia-
reached.
turists through the centuries to the extent that the iconogra-
phy of Firdaws¯ı’s Sha¯h-na¯mah (Book of kings) and Niz:a¯m¯ı’s
Manuscripts of the QurDa¯n and h:ad¯ıths were never illus-
Khamsah (Quintet) became almost standardized. Early his-
trated but were written in beautiful calligraphy that some-
torical works, such as the world history of Rash¯ıd al-D¯ın
times assumes an almost “iconic” quality, as Martin Lings
(d. 1317), were rather realistically illustrated. Human faces
has pointed out. QurDanic themes, however, as retold in the
are clearly shown (and later sometimes mutilated by ortho-
stories of the prophets or in poetry such as the Yu¯suf and
dox critics), and even the prophet Muh:ammad appears with
Zulaykha¯ by Ja¯m¯ı (d. 1492), have developed a pictorial tradi-
his face uncovered.
tion of their own. Some mystical epics, especially EAt:t:a¯r’s
The same originally held true for a branch of painting
Mant:iq al-t:ayr (The conversation of the birds), have inspired
that has continued from the fourteenth century to the pres-
painters, but the few examples of Ru¯m¯ı’s Mathnav¯ı with pic-
ent day, namely, pictures of the Prophet’s night journey
tures, which date from fourteenth-century India to nine-
(isra¯D, mi Era¯j) through the heavens on the mysterious steed
teenth-century Iran, lack any trace of S:u¯f¯ı spirituality.
Bura¯q. In the course of time, Muh:ammad’s face was covered
Sometimes seemingly simple motifs are interpreted
partly, then completely; at present, no representation of the
mystically; this author’s Turkish S:u¯f¯ı friends explain the fre-
Prophet is permitted at all: In the numerous popular pictures
quent use of tulips on the tiles in Turkish mosques with the
of the MiEra¯j, he is represented by a white rose or a cloud.
fact that the word la¯lah (“tulip”) has the same letters and thus
Bura¯q, meanwhile, has become a centerpiece of popular ico-
the same numerical value as the word Alla¯h, that is, sixty-six.
nography: Pictures of this winged, donkey-shaped creature
This is also true for the word hila¯l, “crescent,” and the hila¯l
with a woman’s head and a peacock’s tail not only appear
has come to be regarded as the typical sign of Islam although
today on cheap prints but are also painted on trucks and
its first appearance on early Islamic coins, metalwork, and
buses, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as a kind of
ceramics had no religious connotations. It seems that in the
protective charm.
eleventh century, when some churches (such as Ani in Arme-
Truck painting in these areas has developed into a new
nia) were converted into mosques, their cross-shaped finials
art form, and the religious and political ideals of the owners
were replaced with crescent-shaped ones. A h:a¯jj
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONOGRAPHY: ISLAMIC ICONOGRAPHY
4351
(“pilgrimage”) certificate of 1432 shows drawings of the sa-
is calligraphy. The walls of Persian mosques are covered with
cred buildings in Mecca with such crescent finials. The Otto-
radiant tiles on which the names of God, Muh:ammad, and
man sultan Selim I (r. 1512–1520) used the hila¯l on his flag,
EAl¯ı in the square Kufic script give witness to the Sh¯ıE¯ı form
but only in the early nineteenth century was it made the offi-
of faith; Turkish mosques are decorated with QurDanic quo-
cial Turkish emblem, which appeared on postage stamps in
tations or with an enormous Alla¯h. In Turkey, various calli-
1863. Other Muslim countries followed the Turkish exam-
grams are based on the letter w, and the central statements
ple, and now it is generally seen as the Islamic equivalent of
of the faith are written in mirrored form.
the Christian cross (thus, the Red Crescent parallels the Red
Lately, under European influence, a very colorful popu-
Cross).
lar iconography has developed in some parts of the Muslim
There was no inhibition in representing pilgrimage sites
world. On posters, religious motifs from various traditions
in medieval guidebooks for pilgrims. In the late nineteenth
are strung together in highly surprising form: Raphael’s little
century, photographs of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina
angels appear along with the Lourdes Madonna around a de-
became prized possessions of pilgrims and of those who were
ceased Muslim leader in a lush Paradise, or an apotheosis of
unable to perform the h:a¯jj, just as many Muslim homes now
Ayatollah Khomeini is coupled with the earthbound figure
contain prints, posters, or wall hangings with representations
from Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. (Here one is re-
of the KaEbah and/or the Prophet’s mausoleum.
minded of some pictures in the Indian Isma¯E¯ıl¯ı tradition that
While naturalistic representation of the Prophet and his
show EAl¯ı as the tenth avata¯ra in the blue color of Kr:s:n:a,
family was increasingly objected to, other ways of presenting
with Hanuman the “monkey-chief” carrying the royal um-
him developed. One might put a h:ad¯ıth in superb calligra-
brella over EAl¯ı’s white mule, Duldul.) Such syncretistic pic-
phy on a single page or write his h:ilyah, an elaboration of the
tures are certainly not acceptable to the large majority of
classical Arabic description of his outward and inward beau-
pious Muslims. On the other hand, the calligraphic tradi-
ty, in a special calligraphic style, as was done in Turkey from
tions are gaining new importance from Morocco to Indone-
about 1600. The Prophet’s footprints on stone, or represen-
sia, and some attempts at producing a kind of QurDanic scrip-
tations of them, along with more or less elaborate drawings
torial picture (thus Sadiqain and Aslam Kamal in Pakistan)
of his sandals, still belong to the generally accepted items in
are remarkably successful and deserve the attention of the
the religious tradition. One could also produce “pictures” of
historian of religion and the art lover.
saintly persons such as EAl¯ı ibn Ab¯ı T:a¯lib from pious sen-
SEE ALSO Calligraphy, article on Islamic Calligraphy;
tences written in minute script (although in Iran quite realis-
Mosque.
tic battle scenes showing the bravery and suffering of H:usayn
and other members of the Prophet’s family are also found
in more recent times).
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Most histories of Islamic art deal with the topic of so-called icono-
Calligraphic images have become more and more popu-
clasm in Islam. One of the latest publications is Mazhar
lar: The letters of the word bismilla¯h (“in the name of God”)
S:evket Ip¸sirog˘lu’s Das Bild im Islam: Ein Verbot und seine
can be shaped into birds and beasts; QurDanic passages of par-
Folgen (Vienna, 1971), which stresses the S:u¯f¯ı influence on
ticular protective importance, such as the “throne verse”
Islamic painting but is not completely convincing. The only
(su¯rah 2:256), appear in animal shape; and whenever a calli-
scholar who has devoted a good number of studies to Islamic
graphic lion is found, it usually consists of a formula con-
iconography is Richard Ettinghausen; out of his many valu-
nected with EAl¯ı, who is called the “Lion of God” (Asad
able works I shall mention especially “Hila¯l in Islamic Art,”
Alla¯h, H:aydar, Shir, and so forth). Most frequently used is
in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed. (Leiden, 1960–), with
a thorough historical survey; “Persian Ascension Miniatures
the invocation “Na¯di EAl¯ıyan . . .” (“Call EAl¯ı, who mani-
of the Fourteenth Century,” in Oriente ed occidente nel medio
fests wondrous things . . .”), which appears on many objects
evo (Rome, 1957), which treats the early pictorial develop-
from Safavid Iran and Sh¯ıE¯ı India, as do the names of the
ment of the ascension theme; and his religious interpretation
twelve Sh¯ıE¯ı ima¯ms. The names of the Panjtan (Muh:ammad,
of a Mughal painting of Jaha¯mg¯ır preferring a S:u¯f¯ı to world-
EAl¯ı, Fa¯t:imah, H:asan, and H:usayn) combined with the word
ly rulers, “The Emperor’s Choice,” in De Artibus Opuscula
Alla¯h are used to form human faces, as in the Bekta¯sh¯ı tradi-
XL: Essays in Honor of Erwin Panofsky, edited by Millard
tion in Turkey. The names of protective saints such as the
Meiss (New York, 1961), vol. 1. See also Ettinghausen’s Is-
Seven Sleepers (su¯rah 18) are also used as a calligraphic de-
lamic Art and Archaeology: Collected Papers, prepared and ed-
sign (but their figures appear as well in Persian and Turkish
ited by Myriam Rosen-Ayalon (Berlin, 1984). The volume
painting, with their faithful dog Qit:m¯ır or his name always
dedicated to Ettinghausen, Studies in Art and Literature of the
Near East,
edited by Peter Chelkowski (Salt Lake City,
in the center). Invocations of S:u¯f¯ı saints may be written in
1974), lists more of his relevant works and contains some ar-
the shape of a dervish cap (typical is that of Mawla¯na¯ Ru¯m¯ı);
ticles pertinent to the problem of iconography.
other pious exclamations appear as flowers or are arranged
in circular form.
The best pictorial introduction to the mi Era¯j miniatures is The
Miraculous Journey of Mahomet, edited by Marie-Rose Séguy
Indeed, the most typical and certainly the most widely
(London, 1977), based on a Uighur manuscript from the Ti-
used means of conveying the Islamic message was and still
murid court at Herat. Popular painting has been dealt with
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4352
ICONS
in Malik Aksel’s Türklerde dinï resimler (Istanbul, 1967), a
out the touch of the human hand. According to tradition,
delightful book with many examples of folk painting and cal-
the representation of Christ relied on a portrait Jesus had
ligraphic pictures from the Bekta¯sh¯ı tradition. A very useful
sent to the king of Edessa, Abgar Ukkama, “the black”
introduction into Islamic iconography in Africa (a much ne-
(d. 50 CE), and on the veil of Veronica, said to bear the im-
glected topic) is René A. Bravmann’s African Islam (London,
print of the Savior’s face (recent research suggests that the
1983). The calligraphic and iconographic aspects of the
name Veronica derives from the Latin vera icona, “true
QurDa¯n are lucidly explained in Martin Ling’s The Quranic
face”).
Art of Calligraphy and Illumination (London, 1976). A gener-
al survey of the calligraphic tradition in connection with the
As Christian icon painting developed after the fourth
mystical and poetical expressions can be found in my Callig-
century, themes relating to the historical cycles of Christ’s
raphy and Islamic Culture (New York, 1984).
mission (miracles, scenes from his life) and then events from
ANNEMARIE SCHIMMEL (1987)
the lives of saints and from the history of the Christian
church were introduced. In the sixth century icon worship
spread throughout the Byzantine Empire. Icons were dis-
ICONS.
played to the faithful in churches or during processions, and
The term icon (from the Greek eiko¯n, “image”)
they were also to be found in private homes. They were ei-
is applied in a broad sense to all sacred images worshiped by
ther in one piece or were combined from two or three pieces,
Christians in eastern Europe and the Middle East regardless
forming, respectively, diptychs and triptychs. The strength
of the image’s media; thus icons may be mosaics, frescoes,
of the development of icon worship, the miraculous powers
engravings on marble or metal, or prints on paper. In its cur-
attributed to certain icons, and the fact that in the minds of
rent use the term describes portable sacred images painted
the faithful icons were identified with the character they rep-
on wood, canvas, or glass.
resented, aroused, even from the beginning, opposition and
BEGINNING AND GROWTH OF THE VENERATION OF ICONS.
hostility from some of the fathers of the church. This led in
Portable icons first appeared in Egypt in the third century.
the eighth century to the iconoclastic crisis, which resulted
The oldest works that have been preserved to this day bear
in the destruction of a large number of icons, especially in
a striking resemblance to the funeral portraits that replaced
areas under the direct authority of the Byzantine emperors.
the masks on the anthropoid coffins of the Hellenistic peri-
Nevertheless iconoclasm was unable to prevent the further
od. The Judaic tradition, which relied on the biblical prohi-
development of icon worship at the periphery of the empire;
bition of the use of images in religious worship, was con-
hence the oldest icons, dating from the fifth and sixth centu-
fronted in the eastern Mediterranean area with the Greek
ries, were preserved in Georgia (Transcaucasia), on Mount
tradition, theoretically substantiated by Neoplatonism, ac-
Sinai, and in Cyprus. With the official restoration of the ven-
cording to which the material symbol is an expression of spir-
eration of icons in 843, the practice of veneration became
itual reality and the image has a didactic function. This latter
generalized not only in the Byzantine Empire but also in
tradition gained ground even in some Jewish communities;
other regions where the Eastern Orthodox church had be-
for example, frescoes based on biblical subjects were painted
come predominant, such as the Balkan Peninsula and Russia.
on the walls of the synagogue at Dura-Europos (present-day
Salahiyeh, Syria) in the third century. It was the Greek tradi-
Following the triumph of the doctrine claiming the le-
tion that caused the emergence as early as the second and
gitimacy of icon worship many more wall icons were dis-
third centuries of sacred imagery in the Christian church,
played in sanctuaries, and the iconostasis (Gr., eikonostasis,
which had originally used only symbols (e.g., the cross, lamb,
“support for icons”) was introduced, a screen of icons that
fish, and dove). The didactic function of images was general-
separated the altar from the nave of the church. The iconos-
ly accepted throughout the Christian world, but the venera-
tasis apparently developed from the templon, a barrier made
tion of images did not spread to all areas: It remained a spe-
of stone, marble, or ivory that enclosed the main apse or
cific cult of Christianity in the Greco-Byzantine tradition.
chancel, where the sacred table was contained.
The earliest icons, like the Hellenistic funeral portraits,
THEOLOGY OF ICONS. The final elaboration of the theology
originally had a commemorative value: They were represen-
of icons resulted from the disputes caused by iconoclasm and
tations of martyrs, apostles, the Virgin, and Jesus Christ. As
the rules formulated by the Second Council of Nicaea (787).
early as the fourth century a typology of characters took
The earliest elements of the doctrine had already been enun-
shape, and their sacred nature was marked by a nimbus. The
ciated in the second to the fourth centuries. Arguing against
authenticity of portraits was an essential concern: The images
the Christian apologists who condemned idols as “devilish,”
of Christ and the Virgin were believed to be of miraculous
such Neoplatonic thinkers as Celsus (latter half of the second
origin, “made without hands” (Gr., acheiropoi¯etos); those of
century), Porphyry (c. 234–c. 305), and Emperor Julian the
the saints were rendered according to descriptions preserved
Apostate (d. 363) attempted to give a metaphysical justifica-
by traditional—oral or written—sources. The oldest icon
tion of sacred images and statues as material symbols express-
representing the Virgin originated in Palestine and, with the
ing external and spiritual realities and fulfilling at the same
exception of the visage, was attributed to the apostle Luke;
time a significant didactic function. According to Neoplato-
the visage was said to have been painted miraculously, with-
nists the relationship between image and prototype is not
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ICONS
4353
one of sameness: Images serve only as vehicles by which to
According to Theodore of Studios, “the fact that God
approach the divine prototype, which is hidden from hu-
made man after his likeness showed that icon painting was
mans because of the limitations of their corporeality. The ar-
an act of God.” The theology of icons confers upon icons
guments adduced by the Neoplatonists are to be found in
an almost sacramental role. As the early painters saw it, their
subsequent developments of Christian theology. Thus, the
art did not belong to aesthetics but rather to liturgy. The per-
concept according to which “sensible images are vehicles
fection of form was no more than an adequate expression of
whereby we accede, as far as possible, to divine contempla-
the doctrine. The painter was not an artist in the modern
tion” was clearly stated by Dionysius the Areopagite (c. 500)
sense of the word but a priest: His talent was a necessary, but
in his treatise Ecclesiastical Hierarchy (1.2). The relationship
not sufficient, condition. He was chosen and guided by a
between image and its divine prototype would be later clari-
master; the beginning of his apprenticeship was marked by
fied in the same vein in the writings of John of Damascus
a ritual (e.g., prayer and benediction) quite similar to that
(c. 679–749) and other authors of the Eastern church.
of an initiation.
The earliest painters of icons never signed their works
The Christian authors of the eighth and ninth centuries
because their individuality was believed to be of no conse-
who formulated the theology of icons relied on a belief that
quence. (The first icons to be signed, in the fifteenth and six-
icon worship was a consequence of the incarnation of the
teenth centuries, signaled the beginning of decadence in the
Son of God. According to Germanus I, patriarch of Constan-
art of icon making.) Seen as mere interpreters of the truth,
tinople (r. 715–730), the Son could be portrayed because he
the painters of old had to follow strict rules: The subjects of
“consented to become a man.” An icon representing Christ
their paintings could only be previously established models,
is not an image of the “incomprehensible and immortal
scenes from the holy books, or, more rarely, acknowledged
Deity” but rather that of the “human character” of the Logos
visions; they did their work after having fasted and received
(the Word) and serves as proof that “indeed he became a man
the Eucharist; and some even mixed holy water with their
in all respects, except for sin.” Christ could be represented
colors.
only “in his human form, in his visible theophany.” John of
DIFFUSION OF THE CULT OF ICONS. After the conclusion of
Damascus, who wrote three treatises in defense of “sacred
the iconoclastic crisis, icon painting in Byzantium, under the
icons,” gave the following definition of the painted image of
Palaeologus dynasty (1261–1453), witnessed a remarkable
the Deity: “I represent God the Invisible not as invisible but
period in which artistic perfection was reached; that style fur-
to the extent he became visible to us by partaking of flesh
ther influenced the art of icon making down to the present
and blood.”
time. In the Greek territories the main icon-producing cen-
John of Damascus and, especially, Theodore of Studios
ters were Mount Athos and the imperial workshops in Con-
(759–826) and Nikephoros, patriarch of Constantinople (r.
stantinople, Thessalonica, and, after the fall of Byzantium,
806–815), further clarified the relationship between the sa-
Crete. Cretan painters, having remained outside the area of
cred image, or icon, and its divine prototype. To them image
Ottoman domination between 1453 and 1669, produced a
is essentially distinct from the original: It is an object of rela-
great many works that were disseminated throughout the
tive veneration (Gr., proskun¯esis skhetik¯e). Through the medi-
Orthodox world. Their icons displayed a certain lavishness,
to be explained by the comfortable conditions in which they
ation of the icon the faithful actually address the prototype
were produced; they were increasingly influenced by the con-
it represents, and so the relative veneration of the image be-
temporary Italian painting not only in the rendering of
comes adoration (Gr., latreia) that is exclusively offered to
human visages and bodies, and of space, but even in iconog-
the Deity. This distinction between adoration of the model
raphy.
and relative veneration of its image removed the danger of
turning icons into fetishes, a danger that was inherent in
In eastern and southeastern Europe the cult of icons was
their worship. Theodore of Studios emphasized that “venera-
disseminated by the early missionaries and through contacts
tion was not due to the essence of the image but rather to
with Byzantium. At first icons were brought from the Byzan-
the form of the Prototype represented by the image . . .
tine territories, but later they began to be produced in local
since matter cannot be subject to veneration.”
workshops: at Preslav and Veliko Tu˘rnovo in Bulgaria; at the
courts of Serbian kings and Romanian princes; in Walachia
These clarifications stressed the intimate connection be-
and Moldavia; and in major monasteries in all these coun-
tween the theology of icons and the Christological question
tries. They were characterized by their faithfulness to the By-
posed by the heresy of docetism, which questioned the real
zantine prototypes, but starting in the eighteenth century,
humanity of Christ and claimed that Christ’s body was only
popular local tastes made an impact on the choice of colors,
apparent. In contradistinction, the icon was claimed to rep-
the design of costumes, and the decoration of space. The
resent the image of an incarnation of the Son of God, thus,
union of a part of the Eastern Orthodox Romanians in Tran-
according to Germanus, “proving that he invested our nature
sylvania with the church of Rome gave rise to a unique phe-
by means other than imagination.” Indescribable by his di-
nomenon in Eastern Christian art: Icons were painted on
vine nature, Christ is describable by the complete reality of
glass by peasant artists, producing works that strongly resem-
his historical humanity.
bled naive folk painting.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4354
IDEALISM
Of the oldest icons imported to Russia after the baptiz-
Timothy Ware’s The Orthodox Church, rev. ed. (Baltimore,
ing of the Russians in 988, only works of Byzantine origin
1964); Paul Evdokimoff’s L’orthodoxie (Paris, 1959); and
dating from the eleventh century have been preserved. In the
John Meyendorff’s Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and
same century the earliest local icon-making centers began to
Doctrinal Themes (New York, 1979). Photographs of the old-
emerge, first in Kiev and then in Novgorod and Vladimir-
est, fifth- to sixth-century, icons have been published in
Suzdal. The earliest masters were from Byzantium, but soon
Georgios A. Sotiriou and Maria Sotiriou’s Icones du Mont
Sinai/Eikonec the Monha Cina
(in Greek and French), vols.
a specific Russian style took shape; it developed from a spiri-
1 and 2 (Athens, 1956–1958). New information about the
tualized and ascetic attitude to a search for artistic and didac-
role of icons during the posticonoclastic period is to be found
tic effects, a taste for minute detail, and naturalism. The
in Manoles Chatzedakes’s “L’évolution de l’icone aux on-
Council of the Hundred Chapters held in Moscow in 1551
zième à treizième siècles et la transformation du templon,”
reacted against the penetration of Western elements into the
and Tania Velmans’s “Rayonnement de l’icone à l’onzième
art of icon painting and put down rigid, mandatory rules to
siècle,” in Actes du quinzième Congrès international d’études
be followed by painters. This led to a proliferation of hand-
byzantines, vol. 1 (Athens, 1979), pp. 333–366, 375–419.
books that provided authorized versions (Ch. Slav., podliniki,
For icons of the Middle East, see Sylvia Agémian’s important
“outlines”) of the holy images; these guides were equivalent
study in my collection titled Les icones melkites (Beirut,
to the ones used in the Byzantine Empire beginning in the
1969).
eleventh century. The reforms enacted by Peter the Great (r.
New Sources
1682–1725) inhibited the further development of icon
Barasch, Moshe, Jan Assmann, and Albert Baumgarten. Represen-
painting, and the art subsequently lapsed into conservatism.
tation in Religion: Studies in Honor of Moshe Barasch. Leiden,
2001.
In the East after the Council of Chalcedon (451), the
Belting, Hans. Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before
church (under the patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem)
the Era of Art. Chicago, 1994.
followed the orthodox doctrine upheld against Monophysit-
ism. In the seventeenth century the style of icon painting
Comack, Robin. Painting the Soul: Icons, Death Masks, and
known as Melchite developed under new influences—
Shrouds. London, 1997.
Arabic, in terms of decoration; western European, in terms
Damian, Theodor. Theological and Spiritual Dimensions of Icons
of subject matter.
According to St. Theodore of Studion. Lewiston, N.Y., 2002.
Eastmond, Antony, Liz James, and Robin Cormack. Icon and
SEE ALSO Docetism; Iconoclasm; Images, article on Venera-
Word: The Power of Images in Byzantium. Aldershot, U.K.,
tion of Images.
2003.
Jeffreys, Elizabeth, and Robin Cormack. Through the Looking
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Glass: Byzantium through British Eyes. Aldershot, U.K., 2000.
The scientific study of icons began in the latter half of the nine-
Nelson, Robert S. Visuality Before and Beyond the Renaissance: See-
teenth century as part of the new discipline of Byzantology
ing as Others Saw. Cambridge, U.K., 2000.
and enlisted especially Russian contributions; an essential
bibliography is to be found in Oskar Wulff and Michael Al-
Temple, Richard. Icons and the Mystical Origins of Christianity.
patoff’s Denkmäler der Ikonenmalerei (Leipzig, 1925),
Rockport, Mass., 1992.
pp. 298–299. Earlier research included icons, described as
Velmans, Tania, and Elka Bakalova. Le grand livre des icônes des
“panel paintings” or “portable images,” in studies on Eastern
origines à la chute de Byzance. Paris, 2002.
Christian iconography, among which the fundamental work
remains Gabriel Millet’s Recherches sur l’iconographie de
VIRGIL CÂNDEA (1987)
Translated from Romanian by Sergiu Celac
l’Évangile aux quator-zième, quinzième, et seizième siècles
Revised Bibliography
(Paris, 1916). In western Europe and America icons were
“discovered” as works of art and spiritual creations only after
World War I, when the Christian Orthodox tradition was re-
assessed by Catholic and Protestant scholars; see David Tal-
IDEALISM. Idealism is the metaphysical view that reality
bot Rice’s Byzantine Art, 2d ed., rev. & enl. (Baltimore,
is of the nature of mind. It stands in contrast with scientific
1968). Most experts approach icons as works of art within
the general framework of Byzantine or, particularly, Russian
philosophies, such as naturalism, realism, and pragmatism
art—for example, André Grabar’s Byzantine Painting, trans-
that assume that natural life in the natural world is philoso-
lated by Stuart Gilbert (New York, 1953), and Tamara Tal-
phy’s appropriate point of departure. Idealism is not ground-
bot Rice’s Icons, rev. ed. (London, 1960). The theology of
ed in an empirical evaluation of fact. It is grounded in an in-
icons has been systematically studied and clarified mainly by
tuitive evaluation of meaning. Because all philosophy
Western Orthodox authors since the 1950s; the most pro-
presupposes that things have a meaning and that something,
found works are Leonid Ouspensky and Vladimir Lossky’s
at least, of that meaning can be known, all philosophy has
The Meaning of Icons, translated by G. E. H. Palmer and Eu-
an idealistic element.
génie Kadloubovsky, rev. ed. (Crestwood, N.Y., 1982); and
Leonid Ouspensky’s Essai sur la théologie de l’icone dans
Idealism does not deny the reality of the physical world.
l’église orthodoxe (Paris, 1960). Most writings about Eastern
It insists only that the apparent self-sufficiency of the natural
Orthodox Christianity contain pertinent chapters on icons:
world is deceptive. Nature seems to go its own way, to be
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IDEALISM
4355
self-sufficient, eternal, and operating on the basis of its own
Here subjective idealism runs afoul of the “ego-centric
laws without need of a creator or outside force to initiate and
predicament.” Confined to his or her own ideas, the self-
sustain its motions, but idealism maintains that it relies on
confessed solipsist nevertheless assumes that he or she knows
mind or spirit or idea for its forcefulness, purposiveness, and
what it might be like not to be so confined; otherwise the as-
inherent meaning. Idealism therefore always distinguishes
sertion has no significance. Each self is conscious, necessarily,
between appearance and reality, but its emphasis can either
of what it is not, in order to know itself as a distinct and sepa-
be objective or subjective. Subjective idealism sees the physi-
rate entity. Solipsism, therefore, is self-refuting.
cal world as metaphysically insubstantial. Objective idealism
O
regards physical substance as a necessary counterpart of
BJECTIVE IDEALISM. Objective idealism, mindful of this
pitfall, grants to naturalism that the physical world is given
mind.
from “outside” one’s self, and must be received passively, but
SUBJECTIVE IDEALISM. The doctrine of the world as ma¯ya¯
agrees with subjective idealism that one’s experience of this
or illusion in S´an˙ka¯ra’s Advaita Veda¯nta philosophy in India
given world is, in large part, an interpretation shaped by
is the most systematic statement of subjective idealism, al-
one’s own mind. Both subjective and objective idealism are
though George Berkeley’s philosophy is the best-known
rooted in the intuition that reality is essentially mind. Objec-
statement of subjective idealism in the West. Berkeley ob-
tive idealism is distinguished by a nondual view in which the
served that one’s visual perception of the physical world is
physical world shares metaphysical reality.
that of shapes and colors, not of any substantial “thing.” Peo-
The historic relation between idealistic philosophy and
ple project “physical substance” into the picture because they
religious reflection stems from this common concern for
assume that there must be some “thing” that “has” these per-
showing how an immaterial power gives the material world
ceived qualities.
its reality and true being. The idealistic commitment to mind
All one ever knows, however, are the perceived qualities.
as ultimately real expresses, in the language of experience, a
Reality, therefore, is a perception on the part of a perceiver.
view that overlaps the religious commitment to spirit as the
Hence Berkeley’s principle esse est percipi (“to be is to be per-
enabling power of being. This tradition in Western philoso-
ceived”). He pointed out that one seems to see distance; in
phy was first explored systematically by Plato, for whom real-
fact, however, three-dimensional depth perception is a
ity lay in the eternal forms, or ideas, that were the meaning
learned projection of the mind, not a physical reality that im-
of any particular thing. These particulars, however, were al-
pinges directly on one’s senses. He added that the physical
ways imperfect because they were necessarily material. Mat-
sciences are not concerned with some “substantial” reality of
ter, for Plato, is an admittedly indispensable context for exis-
a physical object, but rather with those perceptions known
tence. More significantly, however, it is a hindrance to
to mind. To test a yellow metal to see if it is gold, for exam-
realization of the true meaning of things, which is their ideal
ple, the chemist does not test “substance,” but properties—
form. Plato is unclear as to why nature should exist, and mat-
solubility in different acids, combining proportions, and
ter remains a dark and unresolved dilemma in his philoso-
weight. The “substance” of gold is only a fact of experience
phy. Aristotle gave matter greater status by making it the
that these properties bring together. Berkeley concluded that
counterpart of form or idea in any particular. Matter is there-
the distinction between what Locke had called primary qual-
fore the possibility of a new form. Mind or spirit or form
ities and secondary qualities—real “substance” as opposed to
shapes matter, as the idea of a pot in the mind of a potter
“appearances” (of color, shape, etc.)—was mistaken. Nature
transforms a lump of clay into a utensil for human use.
is, he insisted, whole. If space is mental, then all the other
Plato and Aristotle incline toward idealism but remain
qualities of the natural object must also be mental. Reality
dualists. It was only after Immanuel Kant that idealism of-
is entirely an observer’s perception.
fered an integrated view of reality that did justice to natural
But what of objects that are alone and unobserved by
fact. Beginning with the radical distinction between mind
any human knower, like the tree in the deserted forest or the
and matter with which René Descartes had first fashioned
living-room furniture in the dead of night? Berkeley argued
the modern mind, idealists argued that mind and matter are
that natural laws hold for events past as well as future because
different but interdependent. J. G. Fichte argued that will
there is an eternal mind to think them. The living-room sofa
is the essence of mind, and will requires the recalcitrant op-
exists as an object in the eternal perception of the mind of
position of material stuff in order for work to teach the moral
God. God alone guarantees the eternal endurance and order
lessons of industry, perseverance, and devotion to factual
of nature.
truth. For Fichte, nature is “the material for our duty, made
sensible.” For Friedrich Schelling and G. W. F. Hegel, na-
The most consistent subjective idealist in modern West-
ture is necessary in order that mind attain full self-awareness.
ern philosophy was G. W. Leibniz, who held that each self
Hegel argued that useful knowledge is always acquired
is a “monad” of self-enclosed experience. He accepted a plu-
through a double movement: first one gains an intimate
rality of worlds—my world must be different from yours—
knowledge of the particular thing, and then one learns some-
and solipsism, the view that each person is solus ipse, a “win-
thing of what it is not. To know one’s own language for what
dowless monad.”
it truly is, for example, one must know something of a differ-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4356
IDOLATRY
ent language. So, to generalize from that experience, mind
ence in which to articulate the dramatic, poetic, and mytho-
must know something that is not mind. It must wander in
logical convictions of the great religions with their message
an alien world before it can return home to know itself truly
of a divine Logos that assures the ultimate fulfillment of a di-
for the first time. Nature, therefore, is the “otherness of spir-
vine purpose, that language is inescapably some form of ide-
it,” the alien land in which the mind wanders in order to gain
alism.
full possession of itself. Or, to put it less metaphorically, nat-
ural objects are the necessary content of mind. There is no
SEE ALSO Metaphysics; Naturalism; Nature, article on Reli-
thought without an object; one must think something.
gious and Philosophical Speculations.
Whereas subjective idealism, in both the monadology of
Leibniz and the Advaita Veda¯nta of S´an˙kara, argues that
BIBLIOGRAPHY
mind alone is the really real, objective idealism argues that
Plato’s dialogues all focus on the idealist issue, and Plotinus’s
objective nature is a necessary condition for the reality of
third-century Enneads bears resemblance to the Advaita
mind. Reality is therefore not a univocal state; it is a dialecti-
Veda¯nta philosophy in India, which S´an˙kara articulates in
cal process.
his ninth-century Commentary on the Brahma Sutra. Kant’s
Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793), translated
IDEALIST ETHICS. Idealism also proposes an ethics, devel-
by Theodore M. Greene et al. (New York, 1960), identifies
oped from its metaphysical view that mind or spirit consti-
mind and spirit in idealistic fashion, and Hegel’s Lectures on
tutes an eternal and purposive transcendent order. As the
the Philosophy of Religion (1832), 3 vols., translated by E. B.
metaphysical reality of any particular is derived from the idea
Speirs and J. B. Sanderson (London, 1895), is the first sys-
that is its ultimate meaning, so the norms and values of
tematic statement of idealistic philosophy of religion in the
human behavior are derived from the transcendent idea of
West. Josiah Royce’s The Problem of Christianity, 2 vols.
love, power, justice, or so forth.
(New York, 1913), and William Ernest Hocking’s The
Meaning of God in Human Experience
(New Haven, Conn.,
Unlike modern naturalisms, which regard ethical values
1912) are the best-known systematic statements in the Amer-
as entirely relative to the social and psychological needs of
ican philosophical tradition.
natural groups, idealism holds that there are what Kant called
The best secondary sources on idealism are in the major histories
categorical imperatives, or moral absolutes. Kant stated the
of Western philosophy. For a technical discussion of philo-
foundational principle of all idealistic ethics, people always
sophical ideas and their development, Wilhelm Windel-
should be treated as ends in themselves and never as a means
band’s History of Philosophy, translated by James H. Tufts
to some end; but his dogmatic categorical imperative lacks
(New York, 1893), is still unsurpassed. For idealism as an in-
fluential strand of modern intellectual culture, see John Her-
metaphysical justification. It was his successors who devel-
man Randall, Jr.’s The Making of the Modern Mind (New
oped an independent metaphysics that could flesh out Kant’s
York, 1976) and Randall’s two-volume The Career of Philoso-
intuitive insight with a rational argument. Hegel supple-
phy (New York, 1962–1965), especially volume 2, From the
mented the Kantian view with a dialectical interpretation of
German Enlightenment to the Age of Darwin. The most recent
concrete freedom that seeks to ally itself with whatever is ob-
significant interpretation of a major religious tradition in the
jectively rational and universal in the laws and institutions
light of an idealistic philosophy is Paul Tillich’s three-volume
of one’s community. This view turned idealism toward social
Systematic Theology (Chicago, 1951–1963).
realism. Josiah Royce later argued that the objective reason
New Sources
that Hegel sought in institutions could not be found there
Beiser, Frederick. German Idealism: The Struggle against Subjectiv-
if, as Hegel himself noted, institutions rise and fall. Rejecting
ism, 1781–1801. Cambridge, Mass., 2002.
Hegel’s conservatism, Royce argued that one’s loyalty is not
Henrich, Dieter, Between Kant and Hegel: Lectures on German Ide-
just to the institutionalized rationality of the past but to the
alism. Edited by David Pacini. Cambridge, Mass., 2003.
hoped-for rationality of the future. For Royce, therefore,
McCumber, John. “The Temporal Turn in German Idealism:
one’s primary loyalty is not to institutions but to those cre-
Hegel and After.” Research in Phenomenology 32 (2002):
ative causes that some institutions sometimes serve. There
44–60.
will be different interpretations as to what these causes
Pinkard, Terry. German Philosophy 1760–1860: The Legacy of Ide-
should be, but the authentic common spirit of cause-servers
alism. New York, 2002.
everywhere will always be one of loyalty. Royce’s categorical
imperative is therefore that one should be loyal to loyalty
Pippin, Robert. Idealism as Modernism: Hegelian Variations. New
York, 1997.
wherever it is found.
LEROY S. ROUNER (1987)
Various forms of idealism were influential during the
Revised Bibliography
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when there was
confidence in reason and hope for the future. The prevailing
spirit since the late twentieth century has become skeptical
of rationalization and pessimistic about the future, so idealis-
IDOLATRY. The word idolatry is formed from two
tic philosophy is less influential. However, when religious
Greek words, eido¯lon, “image,” and latreia, “adoration.” Ety-
thinkers look for a rational and universal language of experi-
mologically, idolatry means “adoration of images.” Authors
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IDOLATRY
4357
have given idolatry and idol widely differing definitions
idolatry, which it will approach on two levels: On the one
thereby revealing the complexity of the problem. Eugène
hand, the historico-religious fact that the three great mono-
Goblet d’Alviella uses the term idol to mean images or statues
theisms censured the worship of idols; and, on the other
“that are considered to be conscious and animate” and sees
hand, the phenomenon of humankind’s attitude of worship
idolatry in the act of “regarding an image as a superhuman
in the presence of a visible representation of divinity. The
personality” (Goblet d’Alviella, 1911, p. 126). In a relatively
study of these two aspects is made with reference to the his-
recent article, J. Goetz (1962), trying to get a better grip on
torical documentation left by the homo religiosus concerned.
the problem, establishes, first, that in the wake of etymology
HISTORICAL SEMANTICS. In ancient Greek texts since
idolatry “designates the adoration of images by emphasizing
Homer one rarely finds the word eido¯lon. Formed from eidos
the specific nature of the cult surrounding the objects, a cult
(n.), “aspect, shape,” the word eido¯lon has diverse meanings:
of adoration, which strictly speaking expresses a feeling of ab-
“phantom, undetermined form, image reflected in a mirror
solute dependence, especially through sacrifice.” He then
or in water.” It also means an image formed in the human
states that the terms idolatry and idol remain inaccurate, and
mind. Thus in the ancient Greek world, eido¯lon did not have
that “the authors who have tackled the problem of idolatry
a religious meaning.
most often defined the idol as an object in anthromorphic
form, intended to represent a spirit, the object of worship.”
One must therefore turn to the biblical Greek world,
Finally, venturing onto the terrain of religious phenomenol-
where eido¯lon is found in the Septuagint. Used 70 times in
ogy, he risks a definition of idol: “any material object that
the protocanonical texts, it translates 16 different Hebrew
receives a form of worship more or less structured,” idolatry
words, as for example aven, vanity; elil, nothing; gillulim, ex-
being this form of worship.
crement; pesel, carved statue; tselim, image. For these proto-
canonical texts the Vulgate uses idolum 112 times and simu-
The concept of idolatry originated in a very specific hi-
lacrum 32 times in order to translate 15 Hebrew words.
storico-religious context: the monotheism of Israel. Conse-
Eido¯lon also appears many times in the apocryphal writings.
quently, an authentic approach to the concept must refer to
The Hebrew Bible uses 30 different nouns in order to talk
the Hebrew scriptures. In his research on the prophetic reac-
about idols and mentions 44 pagan divinities. Thus eido¯lon
tion to pagan religious concepts, Christopher R. North pres-
designates the false gods and does so with a scornful nuance,
ents two ideas taken directly from the prophets. First, “Idola-
for they are vanity, lies, nothingness, vain images, molded
try is the worship of the creature instead of the Creator and,
metal, carved wood. It is therefore through choices made by
to make matters worse, the creature is made by man, who
Greek translators of the Bible that eido¯lon acquired the reli-
is himself a creature” (North, 1958, p. 158). He then states:
gious sense of representing a pagan divinity considered to be
“Idolatry is the worship of what in modern terms we should
a false god. Thus the Septuagint gave eido¯lon a new pejorative
call process, the ‘life-force,’ the élan vital, or what we will,
and polemical meaning. (By extension, eidoleio¯n means a
instead of the Creator who transcends and is in some sort ex-
temple in which idols are found.)
ternal to creation” (ibid., p. 159). Finally, here is another,
more recently formulated definition: “Idolatry may be de-
Eido¯lon passed into the Greek New Testament. The
fined as the worship of an idol (eido¯lon, image, portrait) con-
word does not occur in the Gospels, but it appears elsewhere
sidered as a substitute for the divine” (M. Delahoutre,
(Acts 7:41, 15:20; Rom. 2:22; 1 Cor. 8:4, 8:7, 10:9, 12:2; 2
“Idolâtrie,” Dictionnaire des religions, Paris, 1984).
Cor. 6:16; 1 Thes. 1:9; 1 Jn. 5:21; Rev. 9:20). The Vulgate
sometimes translates it as idolum and sometimes as simula-
This brief survey should help situate this article’s discus-
crum. One passage (1 Cor. 7:10) has the word eidoleion,
sion. The concept of idolatry originated in the application
“temple of idols,” which the Vulgate preserves, Latinizing it
of the second commandment. It acquired definitive formula-
as idolium. The New Testament passages show that in the
tion in censure by the prophets of Israel of the pagan cults
eyes of the compilers, the pagan gods have no substance (Gal.
and their influence on the chosen people. This biblical heri-
4:8). Behind their worship hides the work of demons (1 Cor.
tage passed into the New Testament and early Christianity,
10:19).
blazing its way through the forest of pagan cults. The mono-
theism of Islam adopted this Judeo-Christian concept and
The word eido¯lon passed into patristic terminology. Its
made it one of the foundations of its beliefs and its faith.
usage is common from the second century on. In the Epistle
of Barnabas,
the eido¯la are the pagan gods to which the He-
Beginning with these notions formed with the help of
brews turned in the desert. Justin Martyr (1 Apology 64.1)
the dogmatic thought as well as the polemic stance of the
designates as an eido¯lon a statue of Kore, who was considered
three great monotheisms, the historian of religions enlarges
to be the daughter of Zeus. In speaking of pagan gods, Clem-
his vision of idolatry by studying this religious phenomenon
ent of Alexandria made use of all the richness of Greek vo-
through the behavior of homo religiosus in relation to the rep-
cabulary of his time. Evidence of this can be found in chapter
resentation of divinity. However, this study becomes vast
4 of the Exhortation to the Heathen, devoted to statues of
and includes other very important aspects: images for wor-
gods, agalmata. He calls them idols (4.53.1) and includes
ship, symbolism in religions and cults, religious art, venera-
them among the demons (4.55.1), which are impure and
tion of images, iconoclasm. The present study is limited to
base spirits. He invites his readers to approach these statues
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4358
IDOLATRY
(agalmata) in order to uncover the error that they conceal:
ble aspect: the idolatrous worship of Yahveh as well as the
“Their exterior clearly shows the mark of your demons’ inner
worship of false gods.
dispositions” (4.57.1). Later he reproaches the Greeks for
The Mosaic prohibition. The second commandment
having given themselves models of sensuality in these idols
forbids the making of representations of the divinity (Ex.
(4.61.1). Justin proclaims that Christ came to liberate people
20:4–6; Dt. 4:15–19 and 5:6–9; Lv. 26:1). A rigorous ten-
from the domination of idols (Dialogue with Trypho 113.6).
dency took this Mosaic prohibition literally by banishing all
These pagan gods are only phantoms that take possession of
ornamentation of religious buildings. This tendency, which
the human spirit and give the pagans the illusion of divine
became widespread among the Pharisees, insisted on the spir-
worship (Athenagoras, Libellus 23). These few samples, taken
itualization of God and radically opposed the danger of idol-
from the arsenal of the polemic of the apologists and the
atry. A more liberal tendency has always existed, however,
Greek fathers, show how the meaning of eido¯lon expanded
as attested by the animal and human decoration of certain
in the Greek world during the first centuries of the common
synagogues discovered by archaeologists.
era.
The Latin fathers adopt the same vocabulary and an
Idolatrous worship of YHVH. Biblical texts refer to
identical stance. Tertullian shows that the pagan gods have
this worship on various occasions. The Hebrew tribes under-
no substance (Apologetics 10.2); then he attacks the statues
went the influence of Canaanite culture (Jgs. 3:5–6, Dt.
as inert matter, simulacra made of material related to that of
7:1–5). Micah of the tribe of Ephraim made a pesel and a
vases and ordinary utensils (12.2). In a similar fashion, Fir-
massekhah, a carved image and idol of cast metal (Jgs. 17:1–
micus Maternus speaks of the imagines consecratas of public
13), perhaps an image of God. After his victory over Midian,
pagan worship (Octavius 24.5). Augustine gives a definitive
Gideon made use of the gold taken from the enemy to make
structure to this criticism of idolatry made by the Latin apol-
and set up an efod (Jgs. 8:22–27). Moreover, there is evidence
ogists. Speaking of the pagan gods, he shows the semantic
of the tauriform cult of YHVH in the northern kingdom of
relationship between simulacrum and idolum:simulacra,
Israel after the schism of 935 (1 Kgs. 12:26–32, 2 Kgs. 15:24).
which in Greek are called idols” (Expositions on the Psalms
In 1 Kings 12:28, Jeroboam presents God, symbolized by the
135.3). In his eyes, the idol worshipers are daemonicolae. The
bull (Hadad and Teshub, fertility gods), as the liberator of
idol lets the demon make his own revelation (Mandouze,
Israel at the time of the flight from Egypt. The writer of 2
1958).
Kings 15:24 speaks of the erection of statues of divine bulls.
This is the religious tradition of the golden calf.
The words eido¯lolatria and eido¯lolatr¯es are found neither
in secular Greek texts nor in the Septuagint nor in the writ-
The prophets fought the use of images because they rep-
ings of Philo Judaeus. They are a specific contribution of the
resented the danger of superstitition. Hosea 3:4 assails the ste-
New Testament and Christian literature of the first Christian
lae (matstsebot) erected next to the altars, the efod, which are
centuries. Paul considers idolatry a grave sin and puts it on
either images or instruments for interrogating Yahveh, and
the list of sins that Christians must avoid (1 Cor. 5:10–11,
the terafim, which closely resemble the efod. Thus, the
6:9, 10:7, 10:14; Gal. 5:20; Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:5). The writer
prophet aims at the elimination of even the accessories to
of 1 Peter 4:3 speaks in analogous fashion of the worship of
worship. Jeremiah went even further, proclaiming around
idols that ought to be rejected by Christians. The same idea
587 BCE that he would no longer speak of the Ark of the Cov-
appears in Revelation 21:8 and 22:15.
enant of Yahveh, which would be neither remembered nor
missed, and which would never be built again (Jer. 3:16).
The use of the two words becomes constant in Greek
patristic literature. Clement of Alexandria even leaves a defi-
The prophetic argument is simple. It rejects all tangible
nition of idolatry: “the extension to numerous divinities of
representation of God as dangerous because the image is dis-
what is reserved for the one true God” (Miscellanies 3.12).
tinct from God. Hosea, moreover, refers to the past, to the
The Christian church opposed idols and condemned their
youth of Israel, and to the flight from Egypt (Hos. 2:17).
manufacture. The second-century apologists left a veritable
Thus, prophetic polemics find support in the Mosaic tradi-
arsenal of arguments on which Christian polemicists would
tion. It is in this context that the incident of the golden calf
draw until the age of Augustine.
(Ex. 32) must be understood and seen in terms of a protest
against the worship of the tauriform Yahveh. Clearly, one is
IDOLATRY AND THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES. The formal con-
confronted here with a total rejection of the symbolism of
demnation of idolatry is found in Exodus 20:3–5. The bibli-
the idol.
cal God (whose unvocalized name is YHVH) simultaneously
forbids the worship of foreign gods and the making of images
Idolatry as worship of false gods. The second aspect
that claim to represent him, because it is impossible to repre-
of idolatry holds a much larger place in the Bible; to under-
sent the God of Israel. A confirmation and amplification of
stand it is necessary to review the history of idolatry in Israel.
this commandment are found in Deuteronomy 4:12–19. The
The ancestors of the chosen people practiced polytheism.
interdiction pertains to both theriomorphic and anthropo-
Joshua recalled this in his address to the assembly at She-
morphic images. It pertains also to symbolic animal repre-
chem: The father of Abraham and Nahor served other gods
sentations of the divinity. Thus idolatry is vested with a dou-
(Jos. 24:2, 24:14), and even in Egypt some Hebrews wor-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IDOLATRY
4359
shiped pagan divinities. Upon their return from Egypt, the
remaining completely faithful to the biblical tradition, he re-
seminomadic Hebrew tribes who settled in Canaan came
flects his time by paying homage to the beauty of nature and
under the influence of the surrounding pagan culture and
works of art. He attacks the Stoic conception of gods accord-
were always tempted to adopt their gods (Jgs. 10:6; 1 Sm. 7:4,
ing to which Zeus was the ether, Poseidon the ocean, and
12:10). Furthermore, kings often advanced polytheism by
Demeter the earth (Wis. 13:1–19). He attacks the dynastic
the introduction of foreign wives who kept their gods (1 Kgs.
cult of the Ptolemies (14:17–20) and the mystery religions
11:7, 11:33). Amos accuses his contemporaries of worship-
(14:23). In his view, the adherents of zoolatry have complete-
ing Sakkuth and Kaiwan (Am. 5:26), two astral divinities.
ly lost their reason (15:18–19). It is in terms of an authentic
The prestige of the Assyrian pantheon exercised a profound
Yahvism that he judges pagan religions. He considers idola-
influence on the populations of Israel. During the reign of
try a fundamental disorder because it gives the name of God
Manasseh (688–642 BCE) a serious religious crisis broke out.
to that which is not God (13:2, 14:15, 14:20). Furthermore,
Shaken by the triumphs of the Assyrians and the Chaldeans,
the faithful adore dead idols that are incompetent and pow-
the faithful turned to the gods of the conquerors (2 Kgs.
erless. This disorder, which comes from seduction, leads to
21:1–9, 23:4–14). They worshiped the sun, the moon, the
a mental aberration that in the end produces a moral defi-
baals, and the Astartes (Jer. 2:8, 7:9). Nergal and other divin-
ciency among the faithful, who fall into error if not into lech-
ities reigned in the sanctuaries (2 Kgs. 17:30–31). After 587
ery. Yet even while condemning these mistaken ideas from
came the trial of exile, followed by a spiritual reform. The
which Abraham and the chosen people escaped, the author
prophets’ orations were beneficial for the piety of Israel,
speaks of his admiration for art. The Wisdom of Solomon has
which regained consciousness of its monotheistic faith.
left a veritable synthesis of biblical polemics against idols, a
Upon returning from exile, they were vigilant about keeping
synthesis into which certain ideas from the contemporary
their distance from idolatry, which continued to threaten the
Greek world have already entered.
people because of the populations that remained in Palestine,
I
especially in Samaria. The reaction against idolatrous cults
DOLATRY AND CHRISTIANITY. The study of idolatry from
the point of view of early Christianity is linked to problems
was especially characteristic of the syncretic attempts under
of the birth of Christian art and the question of images, their
Antiochus IV Epiphanes (2 Mc. 6:2). The entire Jewish na-
worship, and the refusal to worship them. The attitude to
tion drew tightly together around the faith in Yahveh.
adopt toward idols had been prescribed to the Christians
The most formidable opponents of idolatry were the
from the first decades of the church. The Christians coming
prophets and their prophecies. At the solemn unveiling of
from Judaism had very strong traditions. Christians who
the golden calf at Bethel, a prophet appeared before Jerobo-
converted from paganism radically separated themselves
am and announced Yahveh’s threat (1 Kgs. 13:1–32). Elijah
from idols and their worship. They all lived in the midst of
and Elisha fought against the worship of Baal and his priests
pagan populations who had proliferated temples, altars, stat-
(1 Kgs. 18:22–40). Amos reproached his Judean compatriots
ues, sacrifices, processions, and festivals in Egypt, Greece,
for letting themselves be seduced by idols (Am. 2:4). Hosea
Rome, and the Middle East. The rapid expansion of Chris-
spoke harshly also, because in his eyes the worship of Israel
tianity into the provinces of the empire obliged the church
had become idolatry (Hos. 4:12–13). Isaiah attacked the
to take very clear positions in regard to pagan cults.
idols and announced their fall (Is. 2:20, 17:7–8, 30:22).
The biblical heritage. Traces of the Old Testament op-
One of the important themes of the prophetic polemic
position to idols are found in the New Testament, where
is the emptiness of false gods. Idols are nothing but stone and
eido¯lon appears several times in the Pauline epistles. Galatians
wood (Jer. 16:20). Hosea does not hesitate to liken idolatry
4:8 takes up the common theme of pagan gods who have no
to fetishism, for in his eyes the image is set up in place of
substance. In 1 Corinthians 10:19, Paul states that when one
God (Hos. 8:4–6). Isaiah writes veritable satires of the Baby-
venerates idols, one is appealing to demons. This idea had
lonian gods, whom he compares to nothingness (Is. 44:14–
already appeared in Deuteronomy 32:17 and was developed
17). These mindless gods are carried about by beasts of bur-
after the exile as a result of the success of demonology. The
den (Is. 46:1–2). The theme of the idol as vacuous will con-
Pauline polemic revives the notion that the pagans offer sac-
tinue its march, to be exploited by subsequent prophets (Bar.
rifices to demons. Demonolatry is also denounced in Revela-
6, Dn. 13:65–14:42). Moreover, it will crystallize into an im-
tion 9:20. The double biblical theme of the emptiness of
posing number of ironic and scornful terms: nothingness, in-
idols and the demonic character of idolatry will be taken up
substantial puff of wind, lie, corpse. Ezekiel’s favorite word is
later by the apologists and the church fathers.
gillutim (“dunghill”). Derision of false gods is a biblical tradi-
tion antedating the prophets and continuing after the exile
The biblical heritage concerning idols also reached
(Preuss, 1971).
Christians by a second route, namely that of Philo Judaeus.
In Allegory of the Law Philo tries to differentiate the divinity
The Wisdom of Solomon, written in Greek on the eve of
from any human likeness, because “anthropomorphism is an
the common era, holds a veritable trial of idolatry, especially
impiety greater than the ocean” (On the Confusion of Tongues
in chapters 13–15. The author rejects the worship of nature,
27). In On the Decalogue (52–80) and Of the Contemplative
idolatry, and zoolatry (worship of animals). However, while
Life (3–9), he writes two accounts of the pagan gods. Both
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4360
IDOLATRY
follow the same five-point outline: (1) a critique of the deifi-
mons as divine. The corruption of morals is a consequence
cation of the elements (earth, water, air, fire); (2) a critique
of error: Idols excite lust and sensuality, which were invented
of the deification of the sun, the moon, and the cosmos; (3)
by demons. To idolatry, Clement opposes the adoration of
a critique of the gods considered as actors in mythology; (4)
the true God, who shows humanity its proper dignity. Clem-
an attack against idolatry; and finally (5) a critique of zoola-
ent indicates this path of happiness by invoking Deuteronomy
try. J. Schwartz (1971) has called this “the Philonian sche-
(5:8), Exodus (20:4), the Sybilline Oracles (4:4–7, 24:27–30),
ma.” It influenced the critique of idolatry by Greek and Latin
and Christian doctrine (1 Pt. 2:9; Rom. 6:4; Jn. 8:23). Chap-
apologists, who drew on it for part of their own polemical
ter 4 of the Protrepticus is a veritable synthesis of the Chris-
material. On the subject of the worship of statues and divine
tian concept of idolatry at the end of the second century.
images, Philo writes, “Their substance is of rock and wood,
The Latin apologists. The position taken by the Latin
which was completely formless just a little while before. . . .
apologists in regard to the pagan gods constitutes a final
Fragments which were their brothers or their family have be-
stage. Here one again finds the Philonian schema of the De
come vessels for bath water or foot-washing basins” (On the
vita contemplativa (3–9). Yet, this schema is not a dead
Contemplative Life 7).
weight that condemns the argumentation of the Fathers to
The Greek apologists and fathers. In his first Apology
die-hard conservatism. Two facts emerge from the study of
(9.1–5), Justin Martyr collects the principal themes of sec-
these documents: On the one hand, the researcher is witness-
ond-century polemics against idols: The human form is not
ing a permanent renewal of the antipolytheistic argument;
suitable to divinity; idols have no soul and are made from
on the other hand, the authors take into account changes in
a base substance; they are works of depraved artisans and bait
the pagan cults, especially the rise of the mystery cults with
for thieves; they bear the names of maleficent demons in
their new religiosity. The documents appear at intervals from
whose appearance they are clothed. In his Apology Aristides
the late second to the fourth century: To the Nations, Apology,
of Athens has no sympathy for the idols of the Greeks. He
and On Idolatry by Tertullian; Octavius by Minucius Felix;
severely condemns the sin of worshiping created things but
To Donatus, To Quirinius, To Demetrianus, Quod idola di
is even harsher toward the barbarians, who revere earth,
non sint by Cyprian; Divinae institutiones and Epitome by
water, the sun, and the moon, and create idols they present
Lactantius Firmianus; and De errore profanorum religionum
as divinities. In his Libellus, another Athenian, Athenagoras,
by Firmicus Maternus.
attempts to show that making statues of divinities is recent.
The pagan gods are not idols, states Tertullian: “We
All such statues are the works of people whose names are
stopped worshiping your gods once we realized they do not
known. The artists have therefore made gods who are youn-
exist” (Apology 10.2). He first substantiates his statement
ger than their creators. In short, all these idols are no more
through history, for it is known where these gods were born
than fragments of creation that the faithful adore in place of
and where their tombs are. He reproaches the pagans for
the creator. After this interpretation of idolatry in the sense
claiming that their gods became gods after death because of
of fetishism, Athenagoras explains the manipulation of idols
their merits in the service of humans. After these consider-
by demons. The demons urge the faithful to block around
ations inspired by euhemerism, Tertullian tackles the ques-
the idols, then during the sacrifices they lick the blood of the
tion of simulacra. The statues are only inert matter, just like
victims. But all these gods had once been humans. A heritage
vases, dishes, and furniture. Insensitive to outrage or hom-
of the secularized Greek age of the centuries just prior to the
age, these statues are given over to commerce if not to de-
Christian era, this theme of euhemerism was to be a weighty
struction. Tertullian treats these questions at greater length
argument, one the Fathers would use continuously.
in On Idolatry, which undertakes to show that idolatry is the
gravest sin, encompassing all others. He condemns painting,
Clement of Alexandria wrote his Protrepticus in order to
modeling, sculpture, and participation in public festivals, be-
convince the worshipers of the gods of what he held to be
cause idolatry hides beneath seemingly innocent actions.
the stupidity and baseness of pagan myths. He first tries to
Furthermore, he forbids Christians to teach or to conduct
determine the origin and nature of idols. Blocks of wood and
business, for both pursuits require contact with idols. In
pillars of rock in ancient times, they became human repre-
short, all the powers and dignities of this world are alien to
sentations thanks to the progress of art, of which the author
God; for this reason, Christians must likewise be forbidden
gives a well-documented survey. Then Clement poses the
the military life.
fundamental question: Where did the gods represented by
idols come from? The historical response to this question, in-
The Latin apologists also developed the idea that pagan
spired by euhemerism, is the deification of human beings,
gods are demons. Demonology held a place of honor at the
of kings who have declared themselves divine, and of kings
beginning of the common era. Both Greek and Latin apolo-
by their successors. Clement then gives a theological answer,
gists transformed the false gods into demons. The fathers
partly inspired by Plato: The pagan gods are demons, shad-
seized the opportunity to turn these demons, intermediary
ows, infamous and impure spirits. Consequently,the error
beings between humanity and divinity, into characters lurk-
and moral corruption of idolatry becomes clear. The error
ing in the shadows of idols. Minucius Felix explains that “the
is serious, for it leads the faithful to worship matter and de-
demons hide behind statues and sacred images and, by exhal-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IDOLATRY
4361
ing their breath,” exercise their mysterious effects—spells,
Thus, an essential aspect of Augustine’s criticism of
dreams, prodigies (Octavius 27.1–3). In To the Nations Ter-
idolatry is his study of demonology. After having reviewed
tullian speaks of the pagan gods represented by idols that the
some of the major themes of his predecessors, he virtually
demons use as masks to deceive men, and in On Idolatry, he
psychoanalyzes the work of demons in the life of idol wor-
curses artists and workers who fashion these bodies for the
shipers. Evoked by humans, demons take possession of idols.
demons. Minucius Felix does not hesitate to make the de-
The simulacra become animate, and the work of demons can
mons the beneficiaries of sacrifice. Taking up Tertullian’s
be achieved because the idol is no longer inert: An invisible
notion that the devil, in the mysteries of Mithra, mimics the
numen is present. The idol serves as body for the demon. It
Christian faith, Minucius Felix accuses the devil of having
receives life from the demon, to whom it lends itself. By this
plagiarized Christian ritual in the religions of Mithra and
means, the demon accomplishes his revelation. For this rea-
Isis. Firmicus Maternus develops this theory further and dis-
son, Augustine repeats incessantly, “The gods are demons,
covers the devil everywhere in paganism—in idolatry, zoola-
and worshipers of idols are worshipers of demons.” Yet in
try, the deification of sovereigns, and astrology. Thus a shak-
book 8 of City of God, he diminishes the power of demons
en paganism faces a decisive condemnation of idolatry and
somewhat, because they are not gods. For Augustine, these
idols.
false gods are lying angels who continue their struggle against
the true God. The malice of the sin of idolatry is thus ex-
Augustine. In his Against the Pagans, completed in 311,
posed.
the convert Arnobius attacked paganism, denounced the an-
Christianity since Augustine. Ever since the conver-
thropomorphism of the pagan cult, ridiculed the pagans’
sion of the empire to Catholicism, paganism had been in re-
conception of the gods, censured their myths, and attacked
treat. After one last revival under the emperor Julian, it
the mystery cults. His disciple Lactantius, converted, like
found a tough opponent in Theodosius the Great (r. 379–
him, under the persecution of Diocletian, and began his
395), who forbade idolatry as a crime of lèse-majesté. The
Divinae institutiones in 304. Lactantius demonstrates that
fifth century witnessed the demolition of temples and idols;
monotheism is the only form of belief in God consistent with
Augustine gave the final blow to pagan theology. But the
truth and reason. Speaking of the general evil of polytheism,
church remained vigilant in order to uproot the last implan-
he explains it by euhemerism and by the ruse of demons who
tations of paganism and squelch its influence among the peo-
get themselves adored under divine names first in families
ple. This preoccupation would be translated in three ways:
and then in cities.
penitential discipline enacted against the sin of idolatry; the
On August 24, 410, the hordes of Alaric entered Rome
teaching of morality, beginning with the writings of Tertul-
and subjected the city to pillage. The pagans accused the
lian; and the constant purification of Christian worship and
Christians of having destroyed the worship of the gods and
vigilance regarding the veneration of saints. Several great
thus chased away the city’s protectors. Augustine’s answer
controversies, especially iconoclasm and the Reformation,
was the City of God, written between 413 and 426, whose
show that idolatry remained a preoccupation. In the six-
twenty-two books constitute the last great apologetic work
teenth and seventeenth centuries, Protestants often accused
against ancient paganism.
the Catholic church of maintaining ceremonies and tradi-
tions tainted by idolatry. Recent discussions about the cult
The pagan gods were a prime target, but Augustine
of the saints, the worship of images, and the origin of Chris-
found himself confronting a paganism with multiple and
tian worship show the historical and theological importance
contradictory aspects. Besides the divine populace of country
of the problem.
rituals, there were the gods of the classical pantheon, deified
IDOLATRY AND ISLAM. An Arab proverb recorded by
men, and a Stoic pantheism that turned Jupiter into a world
al-Mayda¯n¯ı says, “When you enter a village, swear by its
soul. Throughout the first ten books of City of God, Augus-
god.” On the eve of the Hijrah, Arab tribes venerated many
tine launches a critique, in turn acerbic and ironic, of the
gods. In his work Kita¯b al-as:na¯m (Cairo, 1914), Ibn al-Kalb¯ı
Roman gods, polytheism, and mythology. To strike a fatal
described the prosperity of the cult of idols in the pre-Islamic
blow at the idols, he brings in Varro, Cicero, Seneca, Eu-
age (Ja¯hil¯ıyah). These idols were ans:a¯b, or raised stones;
hemerus, Apuleius, and Plato. He tries to fight Varro’s theol-
garis, or stones upon which the blood of sacrifice was poured;
ogy with its false gnosis of etymologies of divine names and
sacred trees; and statuettes that were bought and sold at fairs
its tripartition of gods introduced by poets, philosophers,
and markets. Another word used by al-Kalb¯ı, which is also
and heads of state. But Augustine knows that idols are not
found in the commentators of the QurDa¯n, is s:anam (pl.,
mere beings without substance, invented during the course
as:na¯m), “an object venerated next to God.” The word has
of history. These idols are also in the hearts of worshipers,
a Semitic origin and seems close to the Hebrew semel, “repre-
for idolatry consists of worshiping creation or a part of it as
sentation.” The word is found five times in the QurDa¯n (6:74,
God. This theme is developed in On Christian Doctrine and
7:134, 14:38, 21:58, 26:1), designating the “idol” rejected
On True Religion, in which Augustine, not content with a
by Muslims. In the pre-Islamic age s:anam designated diverse
critique of the idol, launches a critique of the idol’s worship-
objects: statues sculpted like the god Hubal, statues around
er, whom he considers a devil worshiper.
the KaEbah in Mecca, and sacred trees and stones. These
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4362
IDOLATRY
stones, which received libations and became objects of wor-
grave one because they have no faith in God (12:106), to
ship, were ans:a¯b (sg., nus:ub); the Arabs carried them in their
whom they compare mere creatures (30:30). A terrible pun-
migrations. Therefore s:anam does not mean “divinity.”
ishment awaits them: They will be treated like their idols
(10:29/28), who will abandon them to their sad fate when
Al-Azraq¯ı says that in Mecca there was an idol in every
they stand before the fire (6:23–29). Because of the serious-
house. Through this proliferation of idols, the Arab invoked
ness of this error, the law of the QurDa¯n demands that Mus-
divinity. The gods of this vast pantheon brought the divine
lims neither marry a woman idolator nor give their daughters
into the everyday realities of existence. The distinctions be-
to idolators in marriage (2:220–221). The QurDa¯n makes a
tween various epiphanies resided in the names given them
and the numerous sanctuaries. Onomastic documentation
distinction between idolators (associators) on the one hand,
takes one back to a distant age where these idols existed,
and possessors of scripture on the other, that is to say, Jews
epiphanies of the divine. In addition, Hellenism introduced
and Christians. However, the two categories of non-Muslims
into Arab paganism heroes, ancestors, and genies from Petra,
are guilty of infidelity in respect to God, as emphasized in
Palmyra, and other Hellenistic cities.
surah 98. In su¯rah 22:17 (evidently a later text), is found the
opposition between Muslims on the one hand, and Jews,
Another word is shirk (mushriku¯n), which designates the
Christians, Sabaeans, and Zoroastrians on the other. The
act of associating a person with divinity; it is the word for
QurDa¯n demands that Muslims fight idolators (9:36).
polytheism. In the QurDa¯n the word appears in the Medina
su¯rahs, where its use is frequent in Muh:ammad’s attacks on
Idolatry consists of associating a god or gods with God
the associators, the mushriku¯n (su¯rah 6:94, 10:19, 30:12,
(51:51, 50:25–26). This idea keeps recurring; it is the
39:4). Such persons are to be avoided by believers. One must
QurDa¯n’s definition of idolatry, whence the word for associa-
not pray for them, even if they are relatives (9:114). Their
tors. Idolatry is an insult to God, because honors reserved for
sin will not be pardoned. The word ka¯fir, “unbeliever,” is
him alone are bestowed on false gods. Su¯rah 17:111 shows
more general and includes both the associators and the pos-
that there are three degrees of association: children, associates
sessors of scripture (Jews and Christians). In the QurDa¯n
in kingship, and protectors (sg., wal¯ı). The idea of the pro-
shirk, “associator,” is the opposite of muslim, “worshiper of
tector is found several times in the QurDa¯n. In su¯rah 39:4/3,
God.” Shirk retains this meaning in the h:ad¯ıth.
saints are divinities that the faithful worship because they
consider them intermediaries who will bring them closer to
Muh:ammad’s opposition to idolatry is a Judeo-
God. From the beginning, in Islam, fear of idolatry led to
Christian inheritance. Abraham becomes the prototype of
the suppression of all mediation between the faithful and
the monotheistic faith that Muh:ammad espouses. Abraham
God. Association in kingship consists of putting false gods
is to the prophets what the Arabs are to other Muslim peo-
on an equal footing with the one and only God (14:35/30,
ples. Beginning with Abraham’s revelation, Muh:ammad
26:92, 26:98). It involves an actual insult to God, for the
goes on to see in Islam not only the true monotheism but
power of the Creator is given to beings who have no sub-
primordial hanifism (from h:an¯ıf, one who follows the origi-
stance (32:3/4, 40:69/67, 29:41/42). These idols are only
nal and true monotheistic religion; a Muslim), which was
names (12:40); God is the sole master of the world and peo-
transmitted by Abraham’s son Ishmael, following in his fa-
ple. A third means of association consists of attributing chil-
ther’s footsteps. It is in this original path that one discovers
dren to God (43:81), an idea that appears repeatedly in di-
the QurDa¯n’s opposition to idolatry.
verse forms. The QurDa¯n is undoubtedly alluding to
Idols are the enemies of God and his worshipers. Refer-
polytheistic myths and statues of divinities in temples. Su¯rah
ring again to Abraham, the QurDa¯n condemns them along
23:93/91 tells of the quarrels of the gods who claim to be
with the whole Semitic ancestral tradition, which is the ori-
superior to each other. There is also mention of goddesses,
gin of their worship, a worship radically opposed to the wor-
daughters of God (43.15, 52:39). The most famous passage
ship of the one true God (26:69–83). The same idea is found
is su¯rah 53:19–21, satanic verses about the three goddesses
in the text of su¯rah 21:53/52 to 70, which tells how Abraham
of the KaEbah. These goddesses were highly honored in
smashed the idols worshiped by his countrymen. These idols
the pre-Islamic Arab world, with great financial returns for
had no substance and were incapable of creating anything
the tribe of Quraysh. At the beginning of his preaching, the
(25:3–5/4). Moses had to intervene against the sons of Israel
Prophet did not dare touch them. After the seizure of Mecca
who, after their flight from Egypt, began to worship the idols
in 630, however, he had all the idols of the KaEbah destroyed
that they made for themselves (7:134/138). Thus
in his presence.
Muh:ammad orders his followers to avoid the stain of idolatry
The essence of idolatry resides in the insult to God by
and to serve God in complete fidelity (22:31/30).
the associators, who confer on mere creatures the honors and
Throughout the whole QurDa¯n is found opposition to
worship reserved for the Unique, the Creator, the Master of
idols and idolatry. One must turn away from them (15:94)
the World. Like the apologists and the Fathers of the church,
for they bring unhappiness to their worshipers (41:5/6), who
the QurDa¯n insists on the work of the demon who impels
are nothing but liars upon whom God will inflict torment
men toward idols. Abraham asks his father not to worship
after torment (16:88/86–90/88). The idolators’ error is a
Satan (19:45/44), who turns men away from the worship of
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IDOLATRY
4363
God (27:24). The demon is the patron of idolators (16:65/
The context here remains one of worship, but one in which
63) and as such is opposed to God (4:118/119). Conse-
ritual receives the greatest emphasis.
quently, idolatry becomes the demon’s auxiliary (25:57/55).
This parallel between two phenomena of worship, idol-
In su¯rah 4:117, the QurDa¯n says that idolators pray only to
atry and fetishism, will allow one to better situate idolatry
females, or to a rebellious demon.
as a religious phenomenon perceived by the historian of reli-
Alla¯h is the creator God, judge, dealer of retribution,
gions. In this view, idolatry is the worship of a divinity repre-
unique and one in himself, all-powerful, and merciful. He
sented by a substitute for the divine, called an idol. To grasp
reveals himself through his prophets. He does not show him-
the different dimensions of this worship, the historians of re-
self, but is recognized in the signs of the universe, in the signs
ligions center their research on homo religiosus at work in the
of God, a¯ya¯t Alla¯h. He can be known only by his word, his
exercise of this worship. They seek to understand human be-
names, his attributes, and his deeds. In any case, he cannot
havior through human rites and in the implementation of
be represented by an image or a representation. Islam is a reli-
the human symbolic system.
gion without icons.
In the Greco-Roman world, voices were raised against
IDOLATRY AND HOMO RELIGIOSUS. Idolatry is a historical-
the adoration of divinity in human form by Heraclitus, Xe-
religious concept that finds expression in the response and
nophanes, Pythagoras, Euripides, Diogenes and the Cynics,
behavior of the three great monotheisms when confronted
and Stoics such as Zeno and Seneca. Reflecting on the divini-
with the beliefs and the practices of the polytheistic religions
ty, these thinkers tried to establish themselves as intermedi-
they encountered along their way. This concept was devel-
aries between the philosophers’ religion and that of the peo-
oped in the course of discussions and confrontations with
ple. In this area, Plutarch’s thought becomes apparent.
these monotheisms: three religions of the Book, depositories
Seeking to avoid the two extremes of superstition and athe-
of a revelation, animated by prophecy and doctrines of salva-
ism, he emphasizes that divine life and intelligence are not
tion—religions that join humanity to a personal God who
subordinate to humans. Likewise, he refuses the application
appears in history. Idolatry means divine worship of beings
of gods’ names to insensate natures or inanimate objects (De
who are not God in the eyes of those who have defined wor-
Iside 66–67). In Egypt, he confronts zoolatry, which may
ship as idolatrous. The word has a negative and pejorative
lead to repugnant aberrations because of the worship of sa-
connotation because to the faithful of a monotheistic reli-
cred animals. However, observing that the Egyptians were
gion, attitudes, behaviors, and rites that should be strictly re-
extraordinary inventors of symbols and emblems, Plutarch
served for the true God are turned by the idolator toward
accepts the symbolism of the divine manifested in the life of
false gods. Thus, idolatry is a fundamental religious disequi-
beings. Consequently, he approves of those for whom these
librium due to two paradoxical facts: on the one hand a di-
beings are an occasion to worship the divine.
vine cultus, on the other a substitute for the divine that is
not God.
During the first century of the common era, Dio Coc-
ceianus (Chrysostomos) of Prusa, writing an apology for
Fetishism is a historical-religious concept developed in
Greek art, affirmed: “We invest God with the human body
the modern age by ethnologists and historians of religions,
since it is the vessel of thought and reason. In the complete
with a view to explaining the creeds of primal black peoples
absence of a primitive model we seek to reveal the incompa-
of western Africa. In Du culte des dieux fétiches (1760),
rable and the invisible by means of the visible and the compa-
Charles de Brosses tried to apprehend humankind in its ar-
rable, in a higher manner than certain barbarians who, in
chaic state of raw nature. He observed that ancient peoples
their ignorance and absurdity, liken the divinity to animal
worshiped animals, trees, plants, fountains, lakes, seas, stars,
shapes.” For Dio, plastic beauty expresses the divine. A cen-
and rivers as contemporary primitives still do. To this wor-
tury later the eclectic Platonist Maxim of Tyre treated the
ship, de Brosses gave the name fetishism, a term formed from
question of the legitimacy of portraying the gods. He notes
the Portuguese feitiço (“witchcraft, bewitched subject”). Hu-
that the Persians adored the divinity in the ephemeral image
manity sees an active presence in the fetish, which provokes
of fire; that the Egyptians contemplated their gods in objects
fear and the need for protection. Humankind obtains protec-
and beings worthy of scorn; and that though the images may
tion through the observance of rites. Thus, the fetishist wor-
vary, the essential thing is to worship divinity: “God, the fa-
ships the object directly, unlike in polytheism, which de
ther of all things and their creator, existed before the sun and
Brosses viewed as a more structured religion in which sym-
is older than the sky. . . . Since we cannot grasp his essence,
bols are characterized above all by the image and the statue.
we seek help in words, names, animal shapes, figures of gold,
ivory, and silver” (Philosophumena 2.10).
Research has made the notion of fetishism more precise.
Fetishism is the belief in the existence of a power, concentrat-
Augustine leaves numerous allusions to the allegorical
ed in beings or objects, that humanity must harness for its
interpretation of idolatry by pagan authors. In Expositions on
own well-being. This power is obtained by means of individ-
the Psalms 113 he speaks of certain people who claim that
ual or collective rites. The beneficial result will be a function
their worship does not really address itself to the elements
of the force obtained; therefore humankind uses a whole web
themselves but to the divinities who are their masters. The
of rituals in order to increase the force and then capture it.
same idea is found elsewhere in the same work (96), where
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4364
IDOLATRY
the idolator declares that he worships the statue he sees, but
troduces a new significance into the life of individuals and
submits to the god he does not see; the statue is only a substi-
society. In the celebration of worship, such sacred symbol-
tute for the divinity. The pagan authors targeted by Augus-
ism, myths, and rites help humankind to penetrate the mys-
tine are perhaps the emperor Julian, Porphyry, and Varro.
tery of salvation, a mystery that is represented by the holy
history of human religion and culture.
The history of religions approaches idolatry in terms of
those four fundamental aspects of religious belief and prac-
SEE ALSO Anthropomorphism; Demons; Devils; Fetishism;
tice that homo religiosus has been evolving from prehistoric
Hierophany; Iconoclasm; Iconography, article on Jewish
times down to the present: the sacred, myth, rite, and sym-
Iconography; Images; Synagogue.
bol. The idol represents a hierophany in which humans per-
ceive a manifestation of the sacred that clothes the object in
BIBLIOGRAPHY
a new dimension. This dimension is obtained by means of
Barthélémy, Dominique. God and His Image. New York, 1966.
rites consecrating the objects of worship, altars, divine stat-
Baumer, Iso, Hildegard Christoffels, and Gonsalv Mainberger.
ues, and temples: Sacral presence and sacred space are indis-
Das Heilige im Licht und Zwielicht. Einsiedeln, Switzerland,
pensable. Through consecration, the image or object now be-
1966.
longs to the divinity and can no longer serve a secular use.
Baynes, Norman H. “Idolatry and the Early Church.” In Byzan-
The Egyptian rituals for opening the mouth, eyes, nose, and
tine Studies and Other Essays, pp. 116–143. London, 1955.
ears of a statue made to represent a divinity attest to a theolo-
Bevan, Edwyn Robert. Holy Images: An Inquiry in Idolatry and
gy of the sacred in which the idol is an incarnation of power
Image-Worship in Ancient Paganism and in Christianity. Lon-
and life, a personification; it evokes the greatness of the god.
don, 1940.
Greek art tried to render this sacral dimension through the
Campenhausen, Hans von. “Die Bilderfrage als theologisches
whiteness of marble or through protective coatings applied
Problem der alten Kirche.” In Tradition und Leben, edited
to the idols. Worship reactualizes myths that put the wor-
by Campenhausen, pp. 216–252. Tübingen, 1960.
shiper in contact with primordial time and furnish him mod-
Clerc, Charly. Les théories relatives au culte des images chez les
els for his life. Thanks to this celebration, humanity again
auteurs grecs du deuxième siècle après J.-C. Paris, 1915.
becomes contemporary with the primordial event, which
Dubarle, A. M. La manifestation naturelle de Dieu d’après l’écriture.
awakens and maintains its awareness of a world distinct from
Paris, 1976.
the secular world.
Duesberg, Hilaire. “Le procès de l’idolâtrie.” In Les scribes inspirés,
This mythical behavior of homo religiosus is likewise
vol. 2. Paris, 1939. Second edition (1966) written in collabo-
found in Christian worship, but with an essential difference:
ration with Irénée Fransen.
The return to a primordial event is not a return to mythical
Gelin, Albert. “Idoles, idolâtrie.” In Dictionnaire de la Bible, sup-
time, but to the historical time of the life of Christ. The In-
plément, vol. 4. Paris, 1949.
carnation is effected in a historical time: The Christians who
Gilbert, Maurice. La critique des dieux dans le Livre de la Sagesse.
celebrate the mysteries of Christ know that they are simulta-
Rome, 1973.
neously attaining the historical time of Jesus and the trans-
Goblet d’Alviella, Eugène. “Les origines de l’idolâtrie.” In Croy-
historic time of the Word of God.
ances, rites, institutions, vol. 2, pp. 125–147. Paris, 1911.
Goetz, J. “Idolâtrie.” In Catholicisme hier, aujourd’hui, demain,
Idolatry is the area in which rites and symbols are multi-
vol. 5. Paris, 1962.
plied. For humankind, it is a matter of transcending the
human condition through contact with the sacred. The
Mandouze, André. “Saint Augustin et la religion romaine.” In Re-
cherches augustiniennes, vol. 1, pp. 187–223. Paris, 1958.
human reference point remains the archetype. This is the
role of ritual. Religions have left extraordinary documenta-
Marion, Jean-Luc. L’idole et la distance: Cinq études. Paris, 1977.
tion on the rites of celebration, as for instance the sacrificial
Michel, A. “Idolâtrie, idole.” In Dictionnaire de théologie
rites of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as sacred meals
catholique, vol. 7. Paris, 1921.
with mystical participation of the gods through statues led
North, Christopher P. “The Essence of Idolatry.” In Von Ugarit
in procession; rituals of sacrifice with three fires in the Indo-
nach Qumran, edited by Johannes Hempel and Leonhard
European world; rites of soma in India and of haoma in Iran;
Rost, pp. 151–160. Berlin, 1958.
the symbolism of the cults of Cybele and Mithra; the rites
Prat, Ferdinand. “Idolâtrie, idole.” In Dictionnaire de la Bible, vol.
of daily worship in Egyptian temples; the power of the rite
3. Paris, 1912.
and of the word in the imitation of the primordial gesture
Preuss, Horst Dietrich. Verspottung fremder Religionen im Alten
of the god Thoth, creator of the cosmos; funeral rituals of
Testament. Stuttgart, 1971.
embalming in ancient Egypt, linked to the Osiris myth; and
Sauser, Ekkart. “Das Gottesbild: Eine Geschichte der Spannung
the symbolism of the altar and of gestures in Hindu temples.
von Vergegenwärtigung und Erinnerung.” Trierer Theologis-
Incorporated in the life and existence of homo religiosus, the
che Zeitschrift 84 (1975): 164–173.
symbolism of worship has the function of revelation, for it
Schwartz, J. “Philon et l’apologétique chrétienne du second siè-
is the language of hierophany. It reveals a dimension that
cle.” In Hommages à André Dupont-Sommer, edited by André
transcends the natural dimension of life. Consequently, it in-
Caquot and M. Philonenko, pp. 497–507. Paris, 1971.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IGBO RELIGION
4365
Vermander, Jean-Marie. “La polémique des Apologistes latins
known in different parts of Igboland as Chukwu, Chineke,
contre les Dieux du paganisme.” Recherches augustiniennes 17
Ezechitoke, Osebuluwa or Obasi di n’elu. Each name privi-
(1982): 3–128.
leges certain attributes. He created the world and sustains it
Will, Robert. Le culte: Étude d’histoire et de philosophie religieuses.
from above, and one of his praise names is “the one who is
3 vols. Paris, 1925–1935.
known but never fully known.” Igbo parents honor Chukwu
New Sources
by naming their children in praise of his power: Chuk-
Bernand, Carmen, and Serge Gruzinski. De l’idolâtrie: une ar-
wudi (“God lives”), Chukwu nyelu (“God gave”), Chuk-
chéologie des sciences religieuses. Paris, 1988.
wuneke (“God creates”), Chukwuma (“God knows”),
Deacon, Richard. Image and Idol: Medieval Sculpture. London,
Chukwuka (“God is greater”), Ifeanyichukwu (“nothing im-
2001. Exhibition catalog.
possible with God”), Chukwuemeka (“God has been very
kind”), Kenechukwu (“thank God”), Ngozichukwu
Flynn, Tom. The Body in Three Dimensions. New York, 1998.
(“blessing of God”), Chukwumailo (“God knows my ene-
Gombrich, E. H., and John Onians. Sight and Insight: Essays on
mies”), and Chukwujioke (“God is the sharer”).
Art and Culture in Honour of E. H. Gombrich at 85. London,
1994.
Chukwu is seen as a powerful, munificent God, the one
Guillou, André, and Janice Durand. Byzance et les images: cycle de
who holds the knife and the yam and provides people with
conférence organisé au musée du Louvre par le Service culturel
wealth, rain, and children, and who is merciful toward rich
du 5 octobre au 7 décembre 1992. Paris, 1994.
and poor, male and female, child and aged. Every morning
Hawting, G. R. The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam:
the father of the family offers prayers to the supreme being.
From Polemic to History. Cambridge, U.K., 1999.
Chukwu does not intervene in the minor details of human
existence, however; such matters he leaves to the spirits and
Julius, Anthony. Idolizing Pictures: Idolatry, Iconoclasm, and Jewish
Art. New York, 2001.
ancestors, who are often described as his messengers.
Kamerick, Kathleen. Popular Piety and Art in the Late Middle Ages:
The spirits (alusi) are powerful beings who inhabit the
Image Worship and Idolatry in England, 1350–1500. New
three dimensions of space—sky, earth (land and water), and
York, 2002.
ancestral world. There are several categories of spirits. Power-
Mazur, Eric Michael. Art and the Religious Impulse. Lewisburg,
ful sky deities manifest through thunder, lightning, sun, and
Pa., 2002.
moon; nature spirits inhabit rocks, hills, caves, trees, and
Mills, Kenneth. Idolatry and Its Enemies: Colonial Andean Religion
land or farms. The guardian spirit of the earth is Ani/Ala, the
and Extirpation, 1640–1750. Princeton, 1997.
earth mother. There is also a spirit associated with each day
of the Igbo four-day week: Eke, Orie, Afor, and Nkwo. Pa-
JULIEN RIES (1987)
Translated from French by Kristine Anderson
tron spirits serve as guardians of hunters, farmers, fishermen,
Revised Bibliography
medicine men, and other professional guilds; the matron
spirit is called Nne Miri or Mami Wata. Marine spirits in-
habit rivers and streams. Human spirits, called chi, determine
each individual’s destiny. Spirit forces energize medicine that
IGBO RELIGION. The Igbo are the largest ethnic
individuals can conjure and deploy for strength, protection,
group of southeastern Nigeria, numbering about fifteen mil-
or to harm enemies. Ancestral spirits are the living dead who
lion people in 2000. Until the mid-twentieth century the
inhabit the spirit world but are involved in the lives of proge-
overwhelming majority of Igbo were farmers, raising yams
nies in the human world. During festivals, they visit the
as their staple crop. Traditionally, the Igbo lived in villages
human world as guests in form of masquerades. Evil spirits
or village-groups surrounded by their farms. The village-
live in both human and spirit worlds. Only those who lived
group was the primary unit of political authority; there was
honest lives, did not die from inexplicable diseases, and had
no sustained tradition of centralized states within Igbo soci-
full burial rites can be ancestors or reincarnate. The spirits
ety. Rather, there were strong ties of the village community,
of evil people wander as akalogolu who appear on lonely farm
the extended family system, age-group associations, and the
roads to frighten people. Among the most dreaded evil spirits
various religious organizations that were important to com-
are ogbanje—spirits who manifest as children, covenanted to
munity life. The Igbo have been exposed to Christian mis-
return to the marine world after a brief sojourn among
sionary activity since 1841; in 1857 an Anglican mission was
human families. Their mission is to participate exuberantly
opened at the important town of Onitsha along the Niger
in life events, tantalizing parents with their excessive beauty,
River. The Roman Catholics came in 1885. By the mid-
friendliness, joy of living, and precocious habits. Near the ap-
twentieth century most Igbo had adopted Christianity,
pointed time of return, they develop unusual illnesses and
though the tensile strength of Igbo traditional religion sus-
die very suddenly. Ogbanje spirits tend to possess females.
tained millions of devotees.
Parents consult dibia afa (divining healers, as opposed to
Igbo religion distinguishes between three types of super-
dibia ogwu, who are adept with herbs), make sacrifices to ma-
natural beings: God, the spirits, and the ancestors. Ndigbo
rine spirits, and use facial scarifications on the children to
believe that there is only one supreme being, who is variously
discourage their return to the human world. Body marks at
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4366
IGBO RELIGION
birth may betray an ogbanje child (modern medicine suspects
lowed this with four other four raids between 1912 and 1925
sickle cell anemia).
against the oracle, still to no avail.
Benevolent spirits have shrines, priests, and religious fes-
Healing is central to Igbo religion. Ndi dibia ogwu
tivals as part of their worship. The wicked spirits receive no
(herbalists) employ a variety of techniques to discern the spir-
regular cultic activity except the occasional offering made
itual cause of a particular malady or misfortune: a violation
with the left hand as the supplicant asks to be left alone.
of taboos/prohibitions, moral failure, an offense against a
Major ancestors have statues, which recall their spiritual
spirit, or a bad personal fate (chi). A spirit, agwu, possesses
power, located at a family shrine. Before drinking palm wine,
the herbalist after he recites incantations, and it identifies the
the Igbo pour out a few drops in honor of the ancestors. The
herb and the location in the forest for the cure.
ancestors are believed to help the living reap a good harvest,
Social control models include socialization into accept-
have many children, and protect the family from misfor-
able values (omenali), restriction through satires and peer
tunes. Ancestors may also be reincarnated among the chil-
joking relationships, punishment for those who flout the sa-
dren of their descendants.
lient values, and reward for those who uphold them. Each
Acts of religious worship permeate daily life and are
control is legitimized with religion. For instance, theft from
often conducted on behalf of family or village groups. A fa-
a farm threatens the food security of the community, so the
ther’s morning prayer to Chukwu is offered on behalf of his
elders invoke the spirits of Ahiajioku (the god of the yam
entire family. Individuals invoke the name of a spirit or even
who also guards farms), Ani/Ala (the earth mother), or ances-
that of Chukwu when they sense danger, have cause to re-
tors to detect and punish the thief. The earth spirit and an-
joice, when they sneeze, or when they approach a spirit’s
cestors serve as guardians of morality. The most serious
shrine. Prayers also accompany ritual sacrifice. They are of-
crimes are abominations committed against the earth spirit,
fered to God, the spirits, and the ancestors, and can be
such as patricide, suicide, incest, theft of crops or livestock,
prayers of petition, praise, or thanksgiving. The Igbo per-
giving birth to twins, and killing sacred animals. Itinerant
ceive time as cyclical, from birth to death and reincarnation.
priests from Nri conduct the expiation of such abomina-
Rites of passage are celebrated: naming ceremonies, puberty
tions. Ndigbo employ covenants with the gods of their fa-
rites, marriage rites, membership in secret and open societies,
thers to preserve social order, enhance the well-being of indi-
adult roles in communal governance, and funerary rites.
viduals and communities, and preserve the highest values,
Both the poor, ogbenye, and the rich, ogalanya, are judged
nka na nzere—long life and prosperity. They sacralize the
after this life by their honest commitment to communal
whole of life.
values.
SEE ALSO God, article on African Supreme Beings.
Sacrifice is central in Igbo religious life. Sacrifices are of-
fered for the expiation of sins, for protection from misfor-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
tune, to petition for assistance, and to offer thanks. Most are
Afigbo, A. E. The Image of the Igbo. Lagos, Nigeria, 1992.
offered to spirits and ancestors, but in certain cases sacrifices
Agbasiere, Joseph Thésèse. Women in Igbo Life and Thought. Lon-
of white chickens are offered directly to Chukwu. Sacrifices
don and New York, 2000.
at family shrines are performed by the senior man of the fam-
Aguwa, Jude C. U. The Agwu Deity in Igbo Religion: A Study of
ily. Each spirit has its own priests who perform sacrifices at
the Patron Spirit of Divination and Medicine in an African So-
the shrine. Offerings include eggs, chickens, fruits, goats,
ciety. Enugu, Nigeria, 1995.
cows, and (in a few rare cases of community sacrifices)
Amu, Boniface-Peter. Religion and Religious Experience in Igbo
human beings. Sometimes the victim—animal or human—
Culture and Christian Faith Experience. Bonn, Germany,
is offered to a spirit and a little of its blood is shed as a sign
1998.
of an offering, but the victim is allowed to live as a devotee
Arinze, Francis A. Sacrifice in Igbo Religion. Ibadan, Nigeria, 1970.
who is consecrated to the spirit. Human sacrifices are some-
Egwu, Raphael Amobi. Igbo Idea of the Supreme Being and the Tri-
times connected with adjudication of disputes at oracular
une God. Würzburg, Germany, 1998.
shrines. Oracles are graded according to purview. The three
with the widest geographical patronage that extended be-
Henderson, Richard N. The King in Every Man: Evolutionary
yond Igboland were Ogbunorie, Igwe-ka-Ala, and Ibin Uk-
Trends in Onitsha Ibo Society and Culture. New Haven,
Conn., 1972.
pabi. The last acquired notoriety because the Arochukwu,
who served as middlemen in the transatlantic slave trade ma-
Ikenga-Metuh, Emefie. God and Man in African Religion: A Case
nipulated the oracle by soaking the stream near the ravine
Study of the Igbo of Nigeria. 2d ed. Enugu, Nigeria, 1999.
that housed the oracle with red ochre wood and declaring
Ilogu, Edmund. Christianity and Igbo Culture. New York, 1974.
that Ibin Ukpabi had eaten the guilty party in the arbitra-
Ilogu, Edmund. Igbo Life and Thought. Onitsha, Nigeria. 1985.
tion. Meanwhile, they sneaked the hapless victim through
Kalu, Ogbu U., ed. Embattled Gods: Christianization of Igboland,
the forest to a waiting slave boat. The colonial government
1841–1991. London and Lagos, Nigeria, 1996; Trenton,
conducted a raid on the Arochukwu community between
N.J., 2003. See especially chapter 2, “Enduring Covenants:
1901 and 1902, but could not wipe out the oracle. They fol-
The Igbo and Their Gods.”
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IGNATIUS LOYOLA
4367
Ogbuene, Chigekwu. The Concept of Man in Igbo Myths. Frank-
nival at Azpeitia. They escaped sentence by appealing to an
furt am Main, Germany, and New York, 1999.
ecclesiastical court, whose judgment remains unknown. An-
F
other revealing incident took place a few years later in Pam-
RANCIS A. ARINZE (1987)
OGBU KALU (2005)
plona. While Iñigo was walking along a street, a group of
men headed in the opposite direction shoved him against a
wall. Drawing his sword, he chased them and would have
run them through had he not been restrained.
IGNATIUS LOYOLA (c. 1491–1556) was the author
of Spiritual Exercises, founder and first superior general of the
When Velázquez died in 1517, his page promptly en-
Jesuits, and a Christian saint. Iñigo López de Loyola was
tered the service of the duke of Nájera, viceroy of Navarre,
born to noble, wealthy Basque parents in the castle at Loyola,
as a courtier, with obligations to military duty if needed.
near Azpeitia, Guipúzcoa province, in northernmost Spain.
During the revolt of the Comuneros, Iñigo fought in the
Beginning in the mid-1530s he more and more frequently
forefront of the duke’s forces in the victorious storming of
called himself Ignatius, although he also used his baptismal
Nájera (September 1520), but he refused to participate in the
name Iñigo (Enecus in Latin). Up to 1521 his career gave
customary sack of the town as an act unworthy of a Christian
no premonition of his subsequent development into one of
or a gentleman. When the French invaded Navarre in 1521
the most influential religious figures of the sixteenth and
and attacked Pamplona, its capital, the townsfolk surren-
later centuries.
dered without a struggle. Almost alone at a council of war,
Iñigo advocated resistance to death in the fortress above the
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION. In the patriarchal family in
city. In the absence of a priest, he prepared for the end by
which Iñigo spent his boyhood, loyalty to Roman Catholic
following a medieval custom of confessing his sins nonsacra-
doctrines was unquestioning, and observance of religious
mentally to a comrade-in-arms. During the six-hour bom-
practices and moral standards was about average for its social
bardment of the citadel on May 21, a cannonball struck
class. At about the age of twelve Iñigo received the tonsure;
Iñigo, injuring his left leg and breaking his right one below
but his father may well have intended this not to mark the
the knee. This calamity moved the small garrison to surren-
start of a clerical vocation, but merely to be the means of pro-
der; it also effected a metamorphosis in the wounded man’s
curing the income from a local benefice at his disposal.
life.
A momentous change in the youngster’s life occurred
when he was between twelve and sixteen years of age. His
Chivalrously but inexpertly, the French tended Iñigo’s
father (who died in 1507, long after his wife) accepted the
injuries and then permitted their vanquished enemy to be
invitation of Juan Velázquez de Cuéllar to receive the boy
carried back to his family home on a litter. In resetting the
into his home at Arévalo in Castile, and there raise him as
limb there, the surgeon shortened the broken leg and left a
if he were his own son, while preparing him for a career in
large, unsightly protrusion on the kneecap. Impelled by vani-
politics, public administration, and arms. The wealthy and
ty, by a determination to return to his former lifestyle, and
famous Velázquez would act as the boy’s patron at the royal
by romantic notions about impressing a lady of very high,
court, while utilizing his services as a page. Velázquez was the
perhaps royal, lineage, whose name is still the subject of con-
master of the royal treasury and a confidant of King Ferdi-
jectures and who may have been an imaginary figure, Iñigo
nand the Catholic; his wife was an intimate friend of the
insisted on further surgery. The lump was sawed off and the
queen. Baldassare Castiglione’s famous Book of the Courtier
leg was stretched almost to normal length. During all these
(1528), a manual for the training of the polished gentleman
excruciatingly painful operations, performed without anes-
and model courtier, details the type of education furnished
thesia, the iron-willed patient voiced no complaint.
to the young page, with emphasis on courtly manners and
To while away the tedium of convalescence, the sick
conversation, proficiency in music and dancing, fastidious-
man turned to reading. Because the meager family library
ness about dress and personal appearance, devotion to the
lacked his preferred tales of chivalry, he accepted Spanish
ruler, and skill in arms. Iñigo’s literary schooling proved su-
versions of Ludolph of Saxony’s life of Christ and Jacobus
perficial, consisting mainly of avid reading of tales of chival-
de Voragine’s Golden Legend, a collection of saints’ lives. As
ry, then very popular. As he later admitted, his mind was
he kept rereading and reflecting on these two famous works
filled with the military and amorous adventures of Amadis
of edification, Iñigo developed an aversion for his worldly
of Gaul and other fictional heroes. These novels proved an
ideals and ways. He resolved to serve and imitate Christ
important formative influence, however, for they fired an
alone and to emulate the deeds of the saints, although in a
ambition to gain fame by great feats of arms.
manner as yet undetermined.
As Iñigo developed into manhood—short (about five
SPIRITUAL LIFE AND LEADERSHIP. Early in 1522 Iñigo left
feet, two inches tall) but robust, well-formed, fair-haired
home and started on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Soon
with long locks—his activities included gaming, dueling, and
he took a vow of perpetual chastity, dismissed his two ser-
amorous affairs. In 1515 he and his brother Pero, a priest,
vants, and disposed of all his money. At the Benedictine
were hailed before a secular court for some unspecified deeds
monastery of Montserrat on March 22–25, he gave away his
of premeditated violence perpetrated at night during the car-
mule and his fine clothes, donning a coarse pilgrim’s garb
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4368
IGNATIUS LOYOLA
of sackcloth. Then he made a knightly vigil of arms, praying
set sail for Venice on October 3, 1523, and arrived in Barce-
all night before the altar of Our Lady, where he discarded
lona in February 1524.
his sword and dagger. From Montserrat he proceeded to the
Study, motivated by a desire to help souls, preoccupied
nearby town of Manresa, where his stay, originally intended
the next eleven years. After applying himself to Latin in Bar-
to last only a few days, extended to eleven fateful months.
celona (1524–1526), Iñigo undertook university courses in
At Manresa, the pilgrim, as he now termed himself, refused
philosophy at Alcalá (March 1525–June 1527) and Salaman-
to divulge his true identity. He led a life of great austerity
ca (July–September 1527). Extracurricular apostolic activi-
and underwent bodily penances so severe that they perma-
ties won the student a number of followers, mostly women,
nently impaired his rugged constitution. Unkempt in ap-
and aroused official suspicions regarding his apparent adher-
pearance, he obtained food and lodging by begging, a prac-
ence to the heretical Alumbrados. During their investiga-
tice he was to follow for years. At times he dwelt in a cave.
tions, diocesan officials at Alcalá imprisoned the uncom-
Besides devoting seven hours daily to prayer on his knees, he
plaining suspect for forty-two days and those at Salamanca
read pious books, especially the Imitation of Christ, and per-
for an additional twenty-two, but in both cases Iñigo was ex-
formed works of charity.
onerated. To escape the restrictions attached to his freedom,
At Manresa Iñigo also composed the substance of Spiri-
he migrated to the University of Paris (1528–1535), where
tual Exercises, although he continued revising and expanding
he gained a master of arts degree in philosophy in 1534 and
the text until 1541. In its opening paragraph the slender
then studied philosophy for a year and a half.
book describes spiritual exercises as “every method of exami-
In Paris, new followers were attracted by Iñigo’s spiritu-
nation of conscience, of vocal and mental prayer, and of
al exercises. On August 15, 1534, in a chapel on Montmar-
other spiritual activities that will be mentioned later . . . to
tre, he and six companions vowed to dedicate their lives to
prepare and dispose the soul to rid itself of all inordinate at-
the good of their neighbors, while observing strict poverty,
tachments; and after their removal, to seek and find God’s
and to journey to Jerusalem on pilgrimage or, if this proved
will concerning the disposition of one’s life for the salvation
impossible (as it did because of war), to place themselves at
of the soul.” Along with a number of annotations, rules, and
the disposal of the pope. Three others joined in the renewal
notes, the text proposes points for methodical meditations
of this vow a year later, bringing to ten the original member-
and contemplations on various Christian doctrines and on
ship of the as yet unforeseen Society of Jesus.
some key topics original to the author, but mostly on inci-
dents in the life of Christ.
Heading for Jerusalem, Ignatius traveled in December
1535 to Venice, where his nine companions joined him in
Divided into four stages, called weeks, the exercises in
January 1537. He and six of the nine were ordained priests
their fullness are meant to occupy the memory, imagination,
there the following June. After long deliberations with the
understanding, and will of a retreatant, under a director and
whole group, Ignatius resolved to make their association a
secluded from temporal affairs, for thirty days, although con-
permanent, structured one, to be called the Society of Jesus.
siderable elasticity in length is permitted. Primarily the book
His First Formula of the Institute, a brief draft of a constitu-
is a manual of practical directives for a retreat director. High-
tion, received solemn confirmation from Paul III on Septem-
ly compressed and lacking in literary embellishments, the
ber 27, 1540, canonically establishing it as a religious order.
text is not designed for continued pious reading in the usual
The new order aimed at the salvation and perfection of its
sense. The book was mainly the product of the author’s own
members, popularly known as Jesuits, and of all humankind.
experiences within himself and with others. It soon won ac-
To this end it incorporated a number of innovations in its
claim as a spiritual masterpiece, original, unified, outstand-
organization, manner of life, and scope of ministries.
ing for its sound religious psychology and pedagogy, and re-
markably well organized. Its contents manifest the essence
In 1541 the other nine cofounders of the Society of
of Ignatian and Jesuit spirituality, and it has exerted an enor-
Jesus unanimously elected Ignatius superior general for life.
mous influence throughout the Catholic world down to the
Under his leadership, membership increased rapidly, reach-
present day. As early as 1548, Paul III’s Pastoralis officii gave
ing about 940 at the time of his death, on July 31, 1556.
what has been termed the most explicit and honorable papal
Members dispersed throughout Europe and penetrated Afri-
approval ever accorded a book. A long list of popes have
ca, Asia, and the Western Hemisphere. They engaged in nu-
added their own commendations, culminating with Pius XI,
merous pastoral, educational, and missionary labors, while
who in 1922 officially designated Ignatius as the patron saint
moving to the forefront of the work of the Catholic revival
of spiritual exercises.
and Counter-Reformation. As head of the highly centralized
society, Ignatius played the key role in all this activity, as well
From Manresa the pilgrim traveled by foot and by ship
as in the internal development of the order. He it was who
to Jerusalem, arriving on September 4, 1523, by way of Bar-
devised, organized, supervised, or at least approved all these
celona, Gaeta, and Rome and Venice. Only because he was
ministries, keeping in close contact with them through an
denied permission to reside permanently in the Holy City,
enormous correspondence; some seven thousand of his let-
where he had hoped to spend his days visiting the sacred
ters have since been published. Besides admitting new mem-
places and evangelizing, did he decide to return to Spain. He
bers, choosing superiors, and regulating the spiritual life of
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH
4369
his fellow religious, he composed the Jesuit Constitutions,
may be derived from the Latin ignis, which means “fire,” but
along with other religious instructions and rules. In Rome
nothing is known of his origins. Origen relates that Ignatius
he founded the tuition-free Roman College (now the Grego-
was the second bishop of Antioch after Peter, but Eusebius
rian University) and the German College to train priests for
of Caesarea writes that he was the third bishop of Antioch
Germany. In addition he founded and won support for sev-
after succeeding Peter and Euodius (d. around 69) and thus
eral charitable institutions.
the predecessor of Heron of Antioch (70–107). He may have
Because of his rare combination of talents, Ignatius in-
met the apostles and most probably John and Paul, but there
fluenced modern religious life as few have done. He was at
is no confirmation of this. In his letter to the Ephesians (9.2),
once a man of prayer, a contemplative, a mystic who report-
he calls himself theophoros, that is, “God-bearer,” a man who
ed many visions, a man of action, and a born leader not only
bears in himself God and Christ. Indeed, his letters show
in individual spiritual direction but also in practical projects
him to be an exceptional man with an exceptional faith in
of great magnitude. He was zealous in promoting the greater
Christ.
glory of God, and he was a sharp judge of persons and events:
Although Ignatius lacked formal education, his rule as
reflective, imperturbable, prudent, decisive, and wise in ad-
bishop was an illustrious one. During the persecutions of
justing means to ends. His mode of government, while
Emperor Trajan he was arrested, condemned, and ordered
stressing obedience, was paternal, not at all military, as is
to be executed at Rome. Because of his high reputation, his
sometimes argued. In personal contacts he was inevitably
execution in Rome would provide an example to the growing
courteous, tactful, grave but pleasant and genial. He was be-
numbers of Christians in the East and at the same time an
atified in 1609 and canonized in 1622.
entertainment for the Romans, who delighted in witnessing
S
the execution of prominent Christians. On his way to Rome,
EE ALSO Jesuits.
Ignatius was taken under the guard of ten soldiers to Smyrna,
B
whence he wrote letters to the Christians of Ephesus, Magne-
IBLIOGRAPHY
For editions of the writings by Ignatius in their original languages
sia Tralles, and Rome. From Troas he wrote letters to the
and in translations, as well as for the enormous secondary lit-
churches in Philadelphia and Smyrna and to Polycarp, bish-
erature about him, see Bibliographie ignatienne (1894–1957),
op of Smyrna. Apparently, throughout the long and exhaust-
edited by Jean-François Gilmont, S.J., and Paul Daman, S.J.
ing journey, he was received by the Christian communities
(Paris, 1958), containing 2,872 entries; Orientaciones biblio-
with great respect and reverence. Finally he was executed in
gráficas sobre San Ignacio de Loyola, edited by Ignacio Ipar-
the Colosseum of Rome. Another tradition, originating in
raguirre, S.J., vol. 1, 2d ed. (Rome, 1965), with 651 items;
Antioch and recorded in the sixth century by John Malalas,
and Orientaciones bibliográficas sobre San Ignacio de Loyola,
holds that Ignatius suffered martyrdom in Antioch, but such
edited by Manuel Ruiz Jurado, S.J., vol. 2 (Rome, 1977), ad-
ding another 580 items (both volumes contain evaluative
information is without any historical foundation. The East-
comments and references to important book reviews). Com-
ern church commemorates Ignatius’s name on December 20
plete annual bibliographies appear in Archivum Historicum
and the Western church on February 1.
Societatis Iesu, published since 1932 in Rome. An important
Most patrologists today accept the authenticity of seven
source, although incomplete, brief, and ending in 1538, is
The Autobiography of St. Ignatius Loyola, with Related Docu-
letters of Ignatius. Because of Ignatius’s emphasis on the im-
ments, translated by Joseph F. O’Callaghan and edited with
portance of the office of bishop, a dispute arose among pa-
an introduction and notes by John C. Olin (New York,
tristic scholars during the fifteenth and then during the six-
1974). Ignatius’s best-known work is available in several En-
teenth centuries concerning the authenticity of the letters.
glish translations; a particularly good version is The Spiritual
Although there are four versions of these letters, the dispute
Exercises of St. Ignatius by Louis J. Puhl, S.J. (Westminster,
has settled on the authenticity of the so-called long recension
Md., 1952), reprinted many times. The Constitutions of the
and short recension. The first contains thirteen letters and
Society of Jesus has been translated, with an introduction and
the second only three (those to the Ephesians, Romans, and
commentary by George E. Ganss, S.J. (Saint Louis, Mo.,
Polycarp). Through vigorous discussion and debate by John
1970). The best biography available in English is by Paul
Dudon, S.J.: St. Ignatius of Loyola (Milwaukee, 1949). Saint
Pearson (1672), Joseph B. Lightfoot (1885), and others, the
Ignatius Loyola: The Pilgrim Years (London, 1956), by James
authenticity of the seven letters has been accepted. Most re-
Brodrick, S.J., covers the years 1491–1538 only and is writ-
cently, J. Rius-Camps (1980) advanced the theory that a
ten by a superior stylist. The Jesuits, Their Spiritual Doctrine
forger, availing himself of the genuine ending of the letter
and Practice: A Historical Study (Chicago, 1964), by Joseph
to the Ephesians, and through a process of interpolation and
de Guibert, S.J., is an authoritative study.
plagiarism, composed three spurious letters to the churches
J
of Philadelphia and Smyrna, and to Polycarp. The chief mo-
OHN F. BRODERICK (1987)
tive of the alleged forger, according to Rius-Camps, was to
emphasize church unity and absolute obedience to the bish-
op. Such an elaborate hoax cannot be proved beyond dis-
IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH (c. 35–c. 107) was a
pute. The seven letters of Ignatius can still claim credibility
bishop and Christian saint, martyred in Rome. His name
and acceptance.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4370
IGNORANCE
Although not a man of secular erudition, Ignatius, with
one altar just as there is one bishop along with the presbytery
his simplicity of style, his biblical language and idioms, and
and the deacons, my fellow slaves” (4.1). The message is
his emotional and passionate devotion to Jesus Christ, is one
clear: one God the Father, one Jesus Christ, one Holy Spirit,
of the most attractive of the early church fathers. His great
one church, one Eucharist, one altar, one bishop. Only
faith, humility, and willingness to suffer martyrdom for
through this kind of unity will the Christians prove them-
Christ are reflected movingly in his letters, which emphasize
selves real disciples of Christ and will Christ dwell in them.
three central themes: Christ, the unity of the church under
The impact of Ignatius’s letters was great. He dispelled
the bishop, and the Eucharist. He is probably the first father
the notion that the new religion offered a magical way of sal-
of the church to emphasize in clear terms both the divinity
vation and propagated the teaching that only through real
and the humanity of Christ: “There is only one physician—
unity in the life of the church and in the sharing of the corpo-
of flesh yet spiritual, born yet unbegotten, God incarnate,
rate eucharistic life will Christians taste the joy of salvation
genuine life in the midst of death, sprung from Mary as well
and become members of the kingdom of God.
as God, first subject to suffering then beyond it—Jesus
Christ our Lord” (Letter to the Ephesians 7.2). He is ready to
BIBLIOGRAPHY
die for Christ and only for him. “Of no use to me will be
A complete bibliography is available in Johannes Quasten’s
the farthest reaches of the universe or the kingdoms of this
Patrology, vol. 1 (Utrecht, 1950), pp. 63ff. Texts of the letters
world. I would rather die and come to Jesus Christ than be
can be found in The Apostolic Fathers, edited and translated
king over the entire earth” (Letter to the Romans 6.1).
by Joseph B. Lightfoot (1956; reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.,
1973); The Epistles of Saint Clement of Rome and Saint Igna-
Ignatius is the first Christian writer to use the term cath-
tius of Antioch, edited and translated by James A. Kleist, S.J.,
olic for the church, and he insists on the unity of the church
“Ancient Christian Writers,” no. 1 (Westminster, Md.,
under the auspices of the bishop. In his letter to the church
1946); and Early Christian Fathers, edited by Cyril C. Rich-
at Smyrna he says
ardson, “The Library of Christian Classics,” vol. 1 (Philadel-
phia, 1953). Especially valuable discussions of the letters are
You should all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the
found in John Romanides’s “The Ecclesiology of Saint Igna-
Father. Follow, too, the presbytery as you would the
tius of Antioch,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 7 (Sum-
apostles; and respect the deacons as you would God’s
mer 1961–Winter 1962): 53–77; and in J. Rius-Camps’s
law. Nobody must do anything that has to do with the
The Four Authentic Letters of Ignatius, the Martyr, “Orientalia
Church without the bishop’s approval. You should re-
Christiana Analecta,” no. 213 (Rome, 1980).
gard that Eucharist as valid which is celebrated either
by the bishop or by someone he authorizes. Where the
GEORGE S. BEBIS (1987)
bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just
as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.
(8.1–8.2)
IGNORANCE SEE KNOWLEDGE AND
Other letters declare the bishop to be tupos, or likeness, of
IGNORANCE
God the Father and charge that nothing should be done
“without the bishop.” This unity under the bishop must have
practical applications. To the Magnesians he writes, “Hence
IEJA¯Z is the concept of the “miraculousness of the QurDa¯n.”
you must have one prayer, one petition, one mind, one hope,
That the QurDa¯n is the miracle of Muh:ammad is an Islamic
dominated by love and unsullied joy—that means you must
doctrine of the utmost importance because it is held to prove
have Jesus Christ. . . . Run off—all of you—to one temple
the divine source of the holy Book, and hence its authority,
of God, as it were, to one altar, to one Jesus Christ, who came
as well as the authenticity of the Prophet to whom it was re-
forth from one Father, while still remaining one with him,
vealed. But what constitutes this miracle is a subject that has
and returning to him” (7.1–2).
engaged Muslim thinkers for many generations. By the early
Ecclesiastical unity should be expressed most especially
part of the third century AH (ninth century CE), the word
during the Eucharist. Ignatius admonishes the Ephesians to
i Eja¯z had come to mean that quality of the QurDa¯n that ren-
dered people incapable of imitating the Book or any part
assemble yourselves together in common, every one of
thereof in content and form. By the latter part of that centu-
you severally, man by man, in grace, in one faith and
one Jesus Christ, who after the flesh was of David’s race,
ry, the word had become a technical term, and the numerous
who is Son of Man and Son of God, to the end that you
definitions applied to it after the tenth century have shown
may obey the bishop and the presbytery without dis-
little divergence from the key concepts of the inimitability
traction of mind; breaking one bread, which is the medi-
of the QurDa¯n and the inability of human beings to match
cine of immortality and the antidote that we should not
it even when challenged.
die but live for ever in Jesus Christ. (20.2)
The idea of the challenge is based on several verses of
To the Philadelphians, he writes: “Be careful, then, to ob-
the QurDa¯n: in su¯rah 52:33–34 there is a challenge to pro-
serve a single eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord,
duce a discourse resembling it; in su¯rah 17:88, to bring forth
Jesus Christ, and one cup of his blood that makes us one, and
a like of it; in su¯rah 11:13, to contrive ten su¯rahs similar to
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

¯
IJ¯I, EAD:UD AL-D¯IN AL-
4371
it; in su¯rahs 10:38 and 2:23–24, to compose only one su¯rah
The author who best elaborated and systematized the
matching it, the latter su¯rah adding, “and you will not.” The
theory of naz:m in his analysis of the i Eja¯z is EAbd al-Qa¯hir
QurDa¯n declares also that even if men and jinn were to com-
al-Jurja¯n¯ı (d. 1078) in his Dala¯ Dil al-i Eja¯z (Indicators of in-
bine their efforts, they would be incapable of producing any-
imitability). His material was further organized by Fakhr
thing like it (17:88) or even like one surah of it (10:38).
al-D¯ın al-Ra¯z¯ı (d. 1209) in his Niha¯yat al-¯ıja¯s f¯ı dira¯yat
The argument, as in H:ujaj al-nubu¯wah (Proofs of pro-
al-i Eja¯z (Extreme concision in the comprehension of inimita-
phethood) of al-Ja¯h:iz: (d. AH 255/869 CE), that Muh:ammad’s
bility) and put to practical purposes by al-Zamakhshar¯ı
pagan Arab contemporaries failed to take up the challenge
(d. 1144) in his exegesis of the QurDa¯n entitled Al-kashsha¯f
to discredit him, although they were masters of rhetoric and
(The elucidator), rich in rhetorical analysis of the QurDanic
strongly motivated by opposition to Islam and by tribal
style.
pride, led some Muslim thinkers to associate the miracle with
Hardly anything new has been added by later writers on
the QurDa¯n’s sublime style. Others supported this argument
i Eja¯z. In modern times, Mus:t:afa¯ S:a¯diq al-Ra¯fiE¯ı (d. 1937)
by reference to the contents of the QurDa¯n, highlighting its
emphasized two points in explaining the sources of i Eja¯z in
information about the distant past, its prophecies of future
his I Eja¯z al-QurDa¯n wa-al-bala¯ghah al-nabaw¯ı-yah (Cairo,
and eschatological events, its statements about God, the uni-
1926), namely, the insufficiency of human capabilities to at-
verse, and society—all of which were beyond an unlettered
tempt an imitation and the persistence of this inability
man like Muh:ammad.
throughout the ages. A more recent writer, EAbd al-Kar¯ım
Early in the theological discussion, al-Naz:z:a¯m (d. 846)
al-Khat:¯ıb, offers four points in the same vein in his two-
introduced the concept of the s:arfah (“turning away”) and
volume study I Eja¯z al-QurDa¯n: Dira¯sah ka¯shifah li-khas:a¯Dis:
argued that the miracle consisted in God’s turning the com-
al-bala¯ghah al- Earab¯ıyah wa-ma Ea¯y¯ıriha¯ (An elucidating
petent away from taking up the challenge of imitating the
study of the characteristics of Arabic rhetoric and its criteria;
QurDa¯n, the implication being that otherwise the QurDa¯n
2d ed., Beirut, 1975), namely, the absolute truth of the
could be imitated. This notion was acceptable only to a few,
QurDa¯n; its authoritative, all-knowing tone of speech; its
such as Hisha¯m al-Fuwat:¯ı (d. 833?), EAbba¯d ibn Sulayma¯n
beautiful naz:m; and its spirituality, which derives from the
(ninth century), and al-Rumma¯n¯ı (d. 996). On the whole,
spirit of God.
the Muslim consensus continued to hold to the stylistic su-
premacy of the QurDa¯n. In his systematic and comprehensive
SEE ALSO QurDa¯n; Tafs¯ır.
study entitled I Eja¯z al-QurDa¯n, al-Ba¯qilla¯n¯ı (d. 1013) upheld
the rhetorically unsurpassable style of the QurDa¯n, but he did
BIBLIOGRAPHY
not consider this to be a necessary argument in favor of the
Abdul Aleem’s article “EIjazuDl-QurDa¯n [sic],” Islamic Culture 7
(1933): 64–82, 215–233, surveys the development of the
QurDa¯n’s uniqueness and emphasized instead the content of
i Eja¯z doctrine and the major works on the subject. A shorter
revelation. On the other hand, al-Qa¯d¯ı EAbd al-Jabba¯r
survey can be found in the introduction to A Tenth-Century
(d. 1025) insisted on the unmatchable quality of the
Document of Arabic Literary Theory and Criticism, edited by
QurDa¯n’s extraordinary eloquence and unique stylistic perfec-
G. E. Von Grunebaum (Chicago, 1950), which also contains
tion. In volume 16 of his extensive Al-mughn¯ı (The sufficient
a well-annotated English translation of the sections on poetry
book), he argued that eloquence (fas:a¯h:ah) resulted from the
of Muh:ammad ibn al-Tayyib al-Ba¯qilla¯n¯ı’s I Eja¯z al-QurDa¯n.
excellence of both meaning and wording, and he explained
J. Bouman’s Le conflit autour du Coran et la solution
that there were degrees of excellence depending on the man-
d’al-Ba¯qilla¯n¯ı (Amsterdam, 1959) analyzes the theological
ner in which words were chosen and arranged in any literary
discussions on i Eja¯z in their historical background and pres-
text, the QurDa¯n being the highest type.
ents al-Ba¯qilla¯n¯ı’s in detail. John Wansbrough argues in his
Quranic Studies: Sources and Methods of Scriptural Interpreta-
The choice and arrangement of words, referred to as
tion (Oxford, 1977), pp. 77–83 and 231–232, that the
naz:m, have been treated in several books entitled Naz:m
dogma of i Eja¯z developed more as an assertion of the
al-Qur Da¯n, such as those by al-Ja¯h:iz:, now lost, al-Sijista¯n¯ı
QurDa¯n’s canonical status within the Muslim community
(d. 928), al-Balkh¯ı (d. 933), and Ibn al-Ikhsh¯ıd (d. 937).
than as evidence of Muh:ammad’s prophethood.
Al-Rumma¯n¯ı offered a detailed analysis of QurDa¯nic style in
ISSA J. BOULLATA (1987)
his Al-nukat f¯ı i Eja¯z al-QurDa¯n (Subtleties of the QurDa¯n’s in-
imitability) and emphasized the psychological effect of the
particular naz:m of the QurDa¯n without, however, disregard-
ing other elements of content that render the QurDa¯n inimi-
¯
IJ¯I,
EAD:UD AL-D¯IN AL- (AH 680?–756/1281?–1356
table. His contemporary al-Khat:t:a¯b¯ı (d. 998) argued in his
CE) was a Muslim theologian and jurist of the Il-khanid peri-
Baya¯n i Eja¯z al-QurDa¯n (Clarification of the QurDa¯n’s inimita-
od. He originated from a well-to-do family of notables and
bility) that the source of i Eja¯z the insuperable manner in
judges living in the town of ¯Ig in the province of
which QurDanic discourse binds meaning and wording, using
Sha¯banka¯rah, near the strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.
various styles that combine literary qualities characteristic of
As a young man, he tried to make a career at the court of
the QurDa¯n alone and that are conducive to a special psycho-
the Mongol dynasty reigning in Iran, the Il-khanids in Ta-
logical effect.
briz, and succeeded in winning the favor of the powerful vi-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4372
IJMA¯E
zier Rash¯ıd al-D¯ın Fad:l Alla¯h, a Jew who had converted to
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Islam when the Mongols themselves finally gave up their in-
Further biographical information can be found in my article
herited shamanist or Buddhist convictions. Rash¯ıd al-D¯ın
“Neue Materialien zur Biographie des EAd:udadd¯ın al-¯Ig¯ı,”
gave him a teaching post at a mobile “university” that accom-
Die Welt des Orients 9 (1978): 270–283. The Kita¯b
al-mawa¯qif
was first analyzed in Louis Gardet and Georges
panied the Il-khanid ruler Öljeitu during his campaigns, but
C. Anawati’s Introduction à la théologie musulmane (Paris,
because al-¯Ij¯ı was a Sunn¯ı, his position may have become
1948). I have translated and commented upon the first chap-
precarious when Öljeitu turned to Shiism in 1310. In the
ter of the Kita¯b al-mawa¯qif, on epistemology, in my Die
long run, he seems to have returned to Sha¯banka¯rah, where,
Erkenntnislehre des EAd:udadd¯ın al-¯Ic¯ı (Wiesbaden, 1966).
after the death of his father in 1317, he had to administer
JOSEF VAN ESS (1987)
large estates that secured the wealth of his family in the form
of a charitable trust (waqf). When Rash¯ıd al-D¯ın was execut-
ed in 1318, al-¯Ij¯ı severed his relations with the court and re-
turned only when Rash¯ıd al-D¯ın’s son Ghiya¯th al-D¯ın man-
IJMA¯E. The Arabic term ijma E, which means “agreement”
aged to take over the vizierate in 1327; he then became chief
or “consensus,” becomes in Islamic jurisprudence the desig-
judge of the empire. However, with the end of the Il-khanid
nation for one of the four sources of law posited by classical
dynasty in 1335, he moved to Shiraz where he found the pro-
Sunn¯ı theory, namely the consensus of the Muslim commu-
tection of the provincial ruler Abu¯ Ish:a¯q Injü and became
nity. This consensus ranks as the third of the four sources,
chief judge of the town. His salary was much lower than be-
the first, second, and fourth of which are the QurDa¯n, the
fore, but he enjoyed the atmosphere of an art-loving court
sunnah (custom) of the prophet Muh:ammad, and analogical
and the company of poets such as H:a¯fiz: Shirazi (d. 1390?).
reasoning (qiya¯s). For the majority of Sunn¯ı legal theorists,
This phase of quiet life lasted for almost twenty years until,
the work of constructing legal rules is carried on by qualified
in 1354, al-¯Ij¯ı’s patron was driven out of Shiraz by Muba¯riz
scholars, called mujtahids, on behalf of the community as a
al-D¯ın, a rival ruler whose sphere of influence also included
whole. Whatever these scholars agree upon is therefore con-
Sha¯banka¯rah. Al-¯Ij¯ı therefore prudently knotted secret con-
stitutive of the consensus of the community, and it is not
nections with the new man and escaped to his native town
necessary for them to take into account the views of an un-
shortly before Shiraz was captured. His treason did not, how-
qualified laity. The majority of theorists further hold that an
ever, go unnoticed. Apparently at the initiative of a former
authoritative consensus is fully constituted at the very mo-
adherent of Abu¯ Ish:a¯q Injü, he was imprisoned in a fortress
ment when the community’s living scholars agree unani-
near ¯Ig and died there in 1356.
mously on a rule of law; it is not necessary to allow additional
time for individual scholars to reconsider their decisions or
Al-¯Ij¯ı was a prolific writer. Many of his works are dedi-
to wait until the entire body of scholars involved in the con-
cated to Ghiya¯th al-D¯ın or Abu¯ Ish:a¯q. Intended as systemat-
sensus has passed away, thus eliminating any possibility of
ic handbooks for teaching in high schools, they have no
reconsideration. Once constituted, a consensus is irrevoca-
claims to originality, but they are well structured and reflect
ble. It represents, in the view of all Sunn¯ıs, an infallible and
the long scholarly tradition of the Muslim East, which had
immutable statement of the divine law, or shar¯ı Eah. As such,
never been completely interrupted by the Mongol invasion.
it is worthy to be made the basis of further legal constructions
They cover the disciplines of scholastic theology, jurispru-
by individual scholars through either interpretation or ana-
dence (according to the Sha¯fiE¯ı school), QurDanic exegesis,
logical deduction. It is for this reason that ijma¯ E is included
rhetoric and dialectics, ethics, and, to a certain extent, histo-
among the sources of law.
riography. Their popularity is attested by the great number
Sunn¯ı theorists agree that the authority of consensus
of commentaries on them. Some of them are still used in reli-
must rest upon revealed declaration and that all attempts to
gious universities such as al-Azhar in Cairo. They have, how-
base that authority upon purely rational considerations are
ever, been almost completely neglected in Western scholar-
futile. The only self-constituted authority is that of the Cre-
ship. The most important work among them is the Kita¯b
ator-Lord; the authority of consensus can be nothing more
al-mawa¯qif (Book of stations), a concise summa theologica
than its derivative. However, the search for a clear-cut divine
that, after the example of Fakhr al-D¯ın al-Ra¯z¯ı, explains tra-
endorsement for the authority of consensus has been one of
ditional AshEar¯ı doctrine in philosophical terms borrowed
the most arduous tasks undertaken by classical Islamic juris-
from Ibn S¯ına¯ (Avicenna). It consists of six books, of which
prudence. The various loci classici employed in this search
only the last two deal strictly with theological problems,
have all proved to be in some degree problematic: The rele-
which are subdivided into matters depending on reason (the
vant QurDanic passages allow diverse interpretations, and the
essence of God and his attributes) and on revelation (escha-
relevant dicta of the Prophet (as recorded in h:ad¯ıth, the liter-
tology, belief and sin, and so forth). The first four books are
ary embodiment of the sunnah) are not only open to differing
concerned with the general conceptual framework of theo-
interpretation (despite their being in some cases more precise
logical discourse: epistemology, philosophical principles
than the QurDa¯n in their support of the authority of consen-
(such as necessity, possibility, eternity, and contingence), ac-
sus, as in the case of the well-known dictum, “My communi-
cidents, and substances.
ty will never agree upon an error”) but are also fraught with
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IJTIHA¯D
4373
text-critical uncertainties. Scholarly opinion has therefore
In Sh¯ıE¯ı theory, consensus is reckoned among the
been divided as to whether or not the textual evidence for
sources of law, but it cannot, according to that theory, be re-
the authority of consensus is entirely conclusive. Among
garded as properly constituted unless the divinely appointed
those who acknowledge that it is not, compensation for the
leader, the imam, is present within the community. Because
resulting element of uncertainty is found in the principle that
the word of the imam is considered infallible apart from the
on issues relating to human conduct, an authority need not
consensus, the consensus is deprived of the role it occupies
be conclusively grounded in the texts in order to acquire va-
in Sunn¯ı theory as the infallible finalizer of rules of law and
lidity, so long as there is sufficient textual evidence to make
becomes, in effect, the community’s affirmation of solidarity
the legitimacy of that authority more likely than its nonlegi-
with the imam, such that its teaching and his are one and
timacy. In this view, the case for the authority of consensus
the same. Thus, from the Sh¯ıE¯ı point of view, the consensus
thus rests upon the principle of the sufficiency of probable
may be deemed a source of law only by special license, and
textual evidence.
this status is granted only insofar as the consensus is pre-
sumed identical with the doctrine of the imam.
While a few Sunn¯ı theorists have conceded to the con-
sensus the privilege of engendering rules that have no de-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
monstrable textual basis, the great majority have restricted
There is as yet no monograph in a Western language devoted spe-
its role to granting finality to rules constructed on the basis
cifically to ijma E. For a more extensive survey of the subject
of the texts. Accordingly, the consensus must emerge from
than the above, see the article “Idjma¯E” by Marie Bernand in
the exegetical deliberations of individual scholars. Individu-
The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed. (Leiden, 1960–). On the
als qua individuals can at best, according to the general view,
controversies over the authority of consensus, see George F.
produce only probable constructions of the law; their exege-
Hourani’s “The Basis of Authority of Consensus in Sunnite
sis can never be more than tentative. This exegesis is in fact
Islam,” Studia Islamica 21 (1964): 13–60. The standard Is-
called ijtiha¯d (“exertion,” whence the term mujtahid) precise-
lamicist view of ijma E and its historical development can be
ly because of its tentative character. The exegetes, as fallible
found within the pages of Joseph Schacht’s An Introduction
mediators of the divine law, exert themselves in the effort to
to Islamic Law (Oxford, 1964). For a French translation of
the writing of an important classical author, AbuDl H:usayn
achieve, through philological procedures and analogical rea-
al-Bas:r¯ı, on ijma E, see Marie Bernand’s L’accord unanime de
soning, the most accurate construction of that law possible
la communauté comme fondement des statuts légaux de l’Islam
for them. When the results of their efforts are confirmed by
(Paris, 1970).
the consensus of their contemporaries, then, and only then,
do these results acquire the stature of an infallible and immu-
BERNARD G. WEISS (1987)
table pronouncement. This confirmation may take the form
of either explicit espousal or silent consent. The theorists dif-
fer, however, as to the value of the latter. The confirmation
IJTIHA¯D. The Arabic word ijtiha¯d, which in ordinary
must, furthermore, be unanimous; a consensus cannot be
usage means “strenuous endeavor,” has become in the Mus-
constituted by a mere majority.
lim scholarly tradition a technical term for the endeavor of
Because the Islamic tradition does not provide for the
an individual scholar to derive a rule of divine law (shar¯ı Eah)
public certification or official convening of legal scholars and
directly from the recognized sources of that law without any
because unanimity on a scale vast enough to embrace the en-
reliance upon the views of other scholars. Since these sources
tire Muslim world would be difficult to achieve in the best
consist preeminently of texts, namely the QurDa¯n, the h:ad¯ıth
of circumstances, the consensus, as conceived in the classical
(narratives recording the divinely sanctioned custom of the
theory, has been virtually unrealizable throughout the greater
Prophet), and dicta expressing the consensus of Muslim
part of Islamic history. While few theorists have accepted the
scholars, ijtiha¯d is a fundamentally text-related activity em-
view of Da¯Du¯d al-Z:a¯hir¯ı (d. AH 270/884 CE) and his follow-
bracing two principal tasks: the authentication of texts and
ers, which restricted the prerogative of consensus making to
the interpretation of texts. These entail not only deliberation
the first generation of Muslims who were still alive after the
upon actual texts but also the working out of appropriate
Prophet’s death, it is not surprising that the classical theorists
methodological principles. In carrying on ijtiha¯d, a scholar,
have generally drawn their examples of consensus from that
while not relying for final answers upon other scholars, does
generation. In so doing, they have implied that only in the
interact with scholars holding contrary opinions in a setting
earliest period of Islam, when those Muslims who had been
of a highly formalized process of disputation. The rules of
in sufficient contact with the Prophet to be deemed authori-
law that the great scholars of the past have arrived at through
ties (“Companions of the Prophet”) were still concentrated
ijtiha¯d are recorded in the literature of fiqh, whereas the
in one locality, did the circumstances required for the consti-
methodological principles of ijtiha¯d are set forth in the litera-
tution of a true consensus exist and that thereafter the con-
ture of us:u¯l al-fiqh.
sensus has remained more a theoretical possibility than a his-
THE TASKS OF IJTIHA¯D. The text-critical tasks entailed in
torical actuality. The notion that the consensus is identifiable
ijtiha¯d relate mainly to h:ad¯ıth and, to some extent, to histori-
with Muslim public opinion is distinctly modern.
cal material used to determine the existence of a consensus
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4374
IJTIHA¯D
in an earlier generation. The QurDa¯n itself is considered by
The use of analogical reasoning (qiya¯s) to deduce further
Muslim scholars to be of incontestable authenticity and
rules from rules established through exegesis of the texts has
therefore not in need of attestation through formal text-
been a matter of considerable controversy among Muslims.
critical procedures. The focus of attention in all Muslim text
The main living adversaries of this method are the Twelver
criticism is upon the “chain of transmitters” (isna¯d), rather
Sh¯ıE¯ı scholars. Among Sunn¯ıs of all four surviving schools
than upon the contents of the texts themselves. The exami-
of law, the method is universally accepted, although an earli-
nation of these chains itself entails a complex methodology,
er school, namely that of Da¯Du¯d al-Z:a¯hir¯ı (d. 884), rejected
which is explored at length in the us:u¯l al-fiqh literature. Con-
it, and there is some evidence of its having been rejected by
sidered as a purely individual scholarly activity, this transmis-
some scholars within earlier “traditionist” circles out of
sion-criticism claims to be able to establish, at the very most,
which the H:anbal¯ı school arose. In any case, ijtiha¯d is clearly
the probable authenticity of a text, although the degree of
not to be identified solely with qiya¯s, as some Western writ-
probability may—as in the case of “sound” (sah:¯ıh:)
ers have been wont to do, since ijtiha¯d has been as vigorously
h:ad¯ıth—be very high. Once the degree of probability of a
undertaken by opponents of analogical reasoning as by its
text’s authenticity has been determined, the scholar faces yet
partisans. In place of analogical reasoning, some Twelver
another task before he may proceed to interpret the text: He
Sh¯ıE¯ı scholars have espoused certain more strictly rational
must determine whether or not, during the course of the
operations as valid methods of legal inquiry, which they have
Prophet’s lifetime, the text was abrogated by some other text,
subsumed under the heading of Eaql (“reason”).
for only if it was not may he endeavor to derive a rule from
In consideration of the enormity of the text-critical, in-
it.
terpretive, and deductive tasks just described, the Sunn¯ı
The process of deriving rules from the texts entails two
scholarly tradition acknowledges that certainty about rules
distinct activities: (1) the determination of rules that lie with-
of divine law is rarely possible and that the formulations of
in the meaning of the text, and (2) the determination of any
rules that emerge out of ijtiha¯d represent the opinions (z:ann)
additional rules that may be deemed analogous to these rules.
of scholars, not hard knowledge ( Eilm). That this is so is espe-
The first of these activities constitutes a derivation of rules
cially evident in the face of differences of opinion that arise
from the texts in the sense that it brings to light rules that
among scholars. On the other hand, the exegetical tentative-
are not immediately obvious from any particular text taken
ness of the rules constructed by scholars is deemed among
in isolation. One seldom encounters in the texts legally pre-
Sunn¯ıs to be no barrier to the validity and binding character
cise statements of rules, that is to say, statements having a
of these rules. If the ijtiha¯d of a scholar is truly representative
form such as “x is obligatory upon all Muslims without ex-
of his very best efforts, then the opinions emerging from it
ception” (x representing an unambiguous reference to a
are binding upon the scholar himself and upon all less quali-
human act considered as a class or category). Such state-
fied persons (muqallids, lit., “imitators”) who choose to fol-
ments, which are necessary to the development of law in
low his teaching.
Islam, must therefore be extrapolated from the texts by schol-
The practice of following the opinion of a scholar in
ars. In carrying on this task, scholars must deal with a host
preference to engaging in ijtiha¯d on one’s own is called, in
of problems relating to the language of the texts. A good ex-
Arabic, taql¯ıd (“imitation”). Through the taql¯ıd of the ma-
ample of these problems is the imperative form of the verb,
jority of Muslims, the ijtiha¯d of scholars, whose number
which appears frequently in the sorts of texts that Muslim
must necessarily be relatively small, is able to acquire authori-
legal scholars tend to focus upon. One may not assume from
ty within society at large and thus to engender law as a social
the presence of an imperative in a text such as aq¯ımu¯ al-s:ala¯t
force. The Sh¯ıE¯ı tradition recognizes both ijtiha¯d and taql¯ıd
(“Perform the prayer,” su¯rah 2:43 and elsewhere) that an ob-
but allows less scope for variation of opinion, emphasizing
ligation is intended, for imperatives are used not only to im-
its preference for knowledge over opinion.
pose obligations but also to invite, exhort, warn, permit, and
so on. If, therefore, an obligation is intended, this can be
MUJTAHIDS. Since the law of God comprehends, in princi-
known, according to the majority of Muslim scholars, only
ple, the whole of life, it must be continually expounded as
from the context. This context need not consist of the larger
novel life situations present themselves. Consequently, the
passage immediately surrounding the text in question, since
exercise of ijtiha¯d is not a right but a responsibility, one that
any text within the corpus of recognized texts may shed light
rests in every age upon the community as a whole. As with
on any other text. This being the case, each text must be in-
all communal responsibilities, it is discharged by the few
terpreted in the light of the entire corpus of texts, since virtu-
(that is, the appropriately qualified scholars) on behalf of the
ally no text is free of some degree of ambiguity, vagueness,
many and could in principle be discharged by a single schol-
or generality. As the corpus of texts is vast and the greater
ar. Those who engage in ijtiha¯d bear the title of mujtahid,
part of it—namely, the h:ad¯ıth—is subject, in greater or lesser
which, though in form a participle, becomes thus denotative
degree, to text-critical problems, the work of Muslim legal
of a status. While the claim to this status is theoretically a
scholars is perceived by the scholars themselves to be ex-
matter of individual conscience, any such claim becomes ef-
tremely demanding, and one can thus readily appreciate why
fective only after it has been validated by a substantial num-
they chose to call it ijtiha¯d.
ber of scholars. The validity of such a claim is considered to
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IKHWA¯N AL-S:AFA¯D
4375
be contingent upon the satisfaction of certain requirements,
Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii and H:anbal¯ı Schools (1911; reprint,
which are discussed at length in the us:u¯l al-fiqh literature.
Westport, Conn., 1981), pp. 69–115, 137–192.
These fall into two general categories: (1) mastery of the be-
BERNARD G. WEISS (1987)
lief system of Islam and of its rational basis and (2) mastery
of the rules of legal interpretation, text criticism, and (among
Sunn¯ıs) analogical deduction.
IKHWA¯N AL-MUSLIMU
¯ N, AL- SEE MUSLIM
Eventually Muslim scholarship drew distinctions be-
BROTHERHOOD
tween different ranks within the general status of mujtahid,
the highest being that of the “unrestricted mujtahid” (mu-
jtahid
mut:laq), whose holders are free to engage in ijtiha¯d
IKHWA¯N AL-S:AFA¯D (Brethren of Purity) is a pseud-
within any field of law and to disregard the established doc-
onym assumed by the authors of a well-known encyclopedia
trine of any school. Mujtahids in the various subordinate
of the philosophical sciences who described themselves as a
ranks, on the other hand, were bound to the general doctrine
group of fellow-seekers after truth. Members of a religio-
of a particular school and permitted to explore only those
political movement, they deliberately concealed their identi-
questions that had not been fully resolved within that school
ty so that their treatises, entitled Rasa¯ Dil Ikhwa¯n al-S:afa¯D
or were restricted to certain fields of law. The rigor of the
(Epistles of the Brethren of Purity), would gain wider circu-
scholarly qualifications varied from rank to rank.
lation and would appeal to a broad cross-section of society.
AUTHORSHIP AND DATING. Over the centuries, the author-
Muslim jurisprudents debated the issue of whether it
ship of the Epistles has been ascribed to the MuEtazilah, to
was possible for the Muslim community to exist in any age
the S:u¯f¯ıs, to Imam JaEfar al-S:a¯diq, and to the great astrono-
without the presence of at least one mujtahid (a situation
mer and mathematician al-Majr¯ıt:¯ı. The assertion of Abu¯
commonly referred to in later Muslim literature as “the clos-
H:ayya¯n al-Tawh:¯ıd¯ı (d. 1023) that the treatises were com-
ing of the door of ijtiha¯d”), but a consensus seems never to
posed by a group of learned men in Basra during the middle
have been reached on this matter. The general presumption
of the tenth century was widely accepted. Al-Qift:¯ı
of Muslim scholarship down to the modern age seems, in any
(d. 1248), the famous biographer of physicians and philoso-
case, to have been that ijtiha¯d is, at least in its restricted
phers, expressed his skepticism of al-Tawh:¯ıd¯ı’s attribution
forms, an ongoing process, even if it be on occasion tempo-
by acknowledging the prevalence of the belief that the trea-
rarily interrupted. The requirements for the rank of mujtahid
tises were composed by an EAlid imam. In 1932 Husayn
mut:laq, however, were regarded as so demanding as to render
Hamdani stated that the Isma¯E¯ıl¯ı MustaEl¯ı-T:ayyib¯ı tradition
the claim to this high rank extremely rare. Muslim jurispru-
attributes the Epistles to the hidden imam Ah:mad. He also
dence has generally shown great deference for the great mu-
pointed out marked features of the treatises that are mani-
jtahids of the early centuries of Islam, especially the founders
festly Isma¯E¯ıl¯ı in character.
of the schools of law. In Sh¯ıE¯ı Islam, this deference is intensi-
fied by the fact that the founders of Sh¯ıE¯ı law were none
The Isma¯E¯ıl¯ı character of the Epistles is therefore no lon-
other than the infallible imams.
ger in dispute. What is yet to be determined is the precise
identity of their authors within the Isma¯E¯ıl¯ı movement.
In the modern age, the concept of ijtiha¯d has sometimes
Za¯hid EAl¯ı and Wilferd Madelung consider the authors to
been applied, in an entirely unprecedented manner, to re-
have been Qara¯mit:ah from Basra. On the basis of
formist legislation introduced by, or at least subject to the
al-Tawh:¯ıd¯ı’s comments and certain information provided
ratification of, elected parliamentary bodies. It has also been
by another contemporary MuEtazil¯ı author, al-Qa¯d:¯ı EAbd
adopted by a variety of reform-minded Muslim thinkers,
al-Jabba¯r (d. 1025), S. M. Stern also implies that the authors
both “modernist” and “fundamentalist,” as a rationale for
were Qara¯mit:ah from Basra. Yves Marquet affirms the
programs calling for fundamental social change or intellectu-
Isma¯E¯ıl¯ı authorship of the Epistles and suggests that the com-
al reorientation.
position might have begun under the hidden imams and that
the authors mentioned by al-Tawh:¯ıd¯ı might have been later
SEE ALSO Qiya¯s; Us:u¯l al-Fiqh.
editors.
Abbas Hamdani has pointed out the weaknesses in
BIBLIOGRAPHY
al-Tawh:¯ıd¯ı’s assertion and the untrustworthiness of his re-
While virtually every general work on Islam or Islamic law—for
port and has published the earliest reference to the Epistles
example, Joseph Schacht’s An Introduction to Islamic Law
found in the Isma¯E¯ıl¯ı literature. He therefore rejects the Qar-
(Oxford, 1964)—deals to some extent with the subject of
mati authorship of the Epistles and argues that they were
ijtiha¯d, there is as yet no major scholarly monograph in a
compiled by the Isma¯E¯ıl¯ıyah as an ideological spearhead be-
Western language on the scholarly activities that constitute
fore the establishment of the Fatimid state in North Africa
ijtiha¯d. For a cursory discussion, see my “Interpretation in
in 909.
Islamic Law: The Theory of Ijtihad,American Journal of
Comparative Law
26 (1978): 199–212, and Abdur Rahim’s
CONTENTS OF THE EPISTLES. Rasa¯ Dil Ikhwa¯n al-S:afa¯D con-
The Principles of Muhammadan Jurisprudence according to the
sists of fifty-two philosophical treatises arranged in four
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4376
IKHWA¯N AL-S:AFA¯D
groups, a compendium (Al-risa¯lah al-ja¯mi Eah, ed. Jam¯ıl
Their Kinds Are Formed”) is an allegorical story in which
S:al¯ıba¯, Damascus, 1949), and a compendium of the com-
the animals complain to the just king of the jinn about the
pendium (Risa¯lat ja¯mi Eat al-ja¯mi Eah, ed. EA¯rif Ta¯mir, Beirut,
cruel treatment meted out to them by human beings. In the
1959). The four sections are (1) “The Mathematical Sci-
course of the debate, the animals refute humanity’s claim of
ences,” fourteen treatises on numbers, geometry, astronomy,
superiority over them by denouncing the rampant injustice
music, geography, theoretical and practical arts, morals, and
and immorality of human society. This fable is a good exam-
logic; (2) “The Physical and Natural Sciences,” seventeen
ple of the Brethren’s sociopolitical criticism of Islamic society
treatises on physics, generation and corruption, mineralogy,
couched in animal characters. The most severe criticism is
botany, the nature of life and death, the nature of pleasure
leveled against the wealthy (who go on amassing fortunes
and pain, and the limits of human beings’ cognitive ability;
without caring for the needy), the privileged, and the ruling
(3) “The Psychological-Intellectual Sciences,” ten treatises
classes. The point is rendered more explicitly in the compen-
on the metaphysics of the Pythagoreans and of the Brethren
dium (Al-risa¯lah al-ja¯mi Eah), wherein it is stated that the ani-
themselves, the intellect, the cycles and epochs, the nature
mals in the story symbolize the masses who blindly follow
of love, and the nature of resurrection; and (4) “The Divine
their rulers, and the humans represent “the advocates of rea-
Religious Sciences,” eleven treatises on beliefs and creeds, the
soning by analogy” (those who deduce legal prescriptions
nature of communion with God, the creed of the Brethren,
from the QurDa¯n and the sunnah by reasoning and by analo-
prophecy and its conditions, actions of the spiritual entities,
gy), the disciples of Satan, the adversaries of the prophets,
types of political constitutions, providence, magic, and talis-
and the enemies of the imams.
mans.
The story enjoyed wide popularity among the masses.
The Brethren attempted to popularize learning and phi-
It was translated into Hebrew during the fourteenth century
losophy among the masses. Appealing to a multiplicity of
and was rendered into Urdu-Hindustani by Mawlav¯ı Ikra¯m
races and religions, they developed a strong strain of inter-
EAl¯ı (Calcutta, 1811). In modern times it was translated into
confessionalism. Their attitude toward other religions is
English by L. E. Goodman as The Case of the Animals versus
therefore strikingly liberal. They argued that religious differ-
Man before the King of the Jinn (Boston, 1978).
ences stem from accidental factors such as race, habitat, and
PHILOSOPHICAL SYSTEM. The philosophical system of the
time and do not affect the unity and universality of truth.
Epistles is a synthesis of reason and revelation wherein the
The complete text of the Epistles was first published in
cosmos is viewed as a unified, organic whole. The philosoph-
1305–1306/1887–1889 in Bombay, then in 1928 in Cairo
ical structure and the cosmology are derived from Neoplato-
(ed. Zirikl¯ı), and most recently in 1957 in Beirut. However,
nism and Neo-Pythagoreanism. Eclectic in nature, the sys-
a critical, reliable edition based on the widely scattered origi-
tem draws on various faiths and philosophies, with a strong
nal manuscripts of the treatises has yet to be compiled.
undercurrent of rationalism. The Brethren offered a new po-
S
litical program under the aegis of an EAlid imam, and their
OURCES OF THE EPISTLES. The Epistles draw on a variety of
sources. The Greek element has been dominant throughout;
utopia, referred to as al-mad¯ınah al-fa¯d:ilah al-ru¯h:a¯n¯ıyah
for example, Ptolemy in astronomy, Euclid in geometry,
(“the spiritual, virtuous city”) or dawlat ahl al-khayr (“the
Hermes Trismegistos in magic and astrology, Aristotle in
government of virtuous people”), was to be governed by a
logic and physics, Plato and Neoplatonists in metaphysics.
lawgiving philosopher-prophet. The organization and ar-
Another pervading influence is that of the Pythagoreans, es-
rangement of the Epistles and their classification of the sci-
pecially in arithmetic and music. Of the Neoplatonists, Plo-
ences reflect this ultimate objective.
tinus and Porphyry exercised the strongest influence. In as-
God is described as absolutely transcendent, beyond all
trology there are traces of Babylonian and Indian elements.
thought and all being. He is the One, the originator and the
There are also stories of Indian (Buddhist) and Persian (Zo-
cause of all being. He is unique in every respect, and nothing
roastrian and Manichaean) origin, and quotations from the
can be predicated of him. The universe, which is quite dis-
Bible. Despite these diverse sources the authors have
tinct from the divine unity, is related to God by its existence
achieved a remarkable overall synthesis.
(wuju¯d), permanence (baqa¯ D), wholeness (tama¯m), and per-
PARABLES AND THE ANIMAL STORY. The Brethren employ
fection (kama¯l). The universe is derived by emanation (fayd:),
fables, parables, and allegories to illustrate and prove their
whereas creation, when it is spoken of, is understood as a
doctrine while concealing their own identities; as a result,
form of adaptation to theological language.
much of their doctrine remains hidden from the careless
The superstructure of the hierarchy of beings originates
reader. The reason they give for hiding their secrets from the
with the intellect emanating from God. The intellect, there-
people is not their fear of earthly rulers, but a desire to pro-
fore, is described as the first existent being that emanates
tect their God-given gifts. To support their contention they
from God’s munificence (ju¯d). It is a simple spiritual sub-
invoke Christ’s dictum not to squander the wisdom by giv-
stance with the qualities of permanence, wholeness, and per-
ing it to those unworthy of it.
fection. It contains the forms of all things and is in fact the
The dispute between humans and animals (part of the
cause of all causes. Second in the hierarchy is the soul, which
twenty-second epistle, entitled “On How the Animals and
emanates from the intellect. It is a simple spiritual substance
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IKKYU
¯ SO¯JUN
4377
with the qualities of permanence and wholeness but lacking
noblest of all creation, and the rest of the three kingdoms
the quality of perfection. Third in the hierarchy is prime
have been made subservient to it. The unity and complexity
matter, which emanates from the soul. It is a simple spiritual
of the human being’s soul and body make him or her a mi-
substance that has permanence but lacks wholeness and per-
crocosm. Humans, by virtue of their position, are the central
fection. It is also susceptible to form.
link in the long chain of beings; below them is the animal
kingdom and above them is the world of angels, and they
The cause of the intellect’s existence is God’s munifi-
are connected to both. In the Perfect Human Being, who has
cence, which emanates from him. The intellect accepts God’s
realized his divine origin, the process of generation in de-
munificence and virtues (permanence, wholeness, and per-
scending order comes to an end and the reverse journey in
fection) instantaneously, without motion, time, or exertion,
ascending order starts. The human being, therefore, fulfills
on account of its proximity to God and its utmost spirituali-
the purpose of creation.
ty. Because of its perfection it overflows with munificence
and virtues into the soul. But as its existence is through the
The Epistles occupy a unique position in the history of
intermediacy of the intellect, the soul is deficient in receiving
Islamic thought and exercised a great influence on the Mus-
the virtues, and thus its status is below that of intellect. To
lim elite. The existence of a large number of manuscript cop-
procure goodness and virtue, it turns sometimes to intellect
ies of the text scattered throughout the Muslim countries is
and at other times to matter. Consequently, when it turns
an eloquent witness to their popularity and influence.
to intellect for goodness, it is distracted from doing good to
matter, and vice versa. Being imperfect, the soul becomes at-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
tached to matter, which lacks not only the virtues but also
To the extensive bibliography provided by Yves Marquet in his ar-
the desire to receive them. The soul, therefore, turning to
ticle “Ikhwa¯n al-S:afa¯D,” in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new
matter, takes special care in its advancement by acting on the
ed. (Leiden, 1960–), the following studies should be added:
Abbas Hamdani’s “Abu¯ H:ayya¯n al-Tawh:¯ıd¯ı and the
matter and by making manifest the virtues inherent in it.
Brethren of Purity,” International Journal of Middle East
Hence the soul is afflicted with exertion, hardship, and mis-
Studies 9 (1978): 345–353, and “An Early Fatimid Source
ery in reforming and perfecting matter. When matter accepts
on the Time and Authorship of the Rasa Dil Ikhwa¯n al-
the virtues, it attains wholeness, while the soul achieves its
S:afa¯ D,” Arabica 26 (February 1979): 62–75; Hamid Enayat’s
own perfection. When the soul turns to the intellect, is at-
“The Political Philosophy of the Rasa¯ Dil Ikhwa¯n al-S:afa¯ D,” in
tached to it and united with it, it attains tranquillity.
Ismaili Contributions to Islamic Culture, edited by Seyyed
Hossein Nasr (Tehran, 1977); and Ian R. Netton’s Muslim
The process of emanation terminates with matter. As
Neoplatonists (London, 1982).
the soul acts on matter, the matter receives its first form—the
three dimensions (length, breadth, and depth)—and thereby
ISMAIL K. POONAWALA (1987)
becomes absolute body (al-jism al-mut:laq) or universal mat-
ter (hayu¯la¯ al-kull). Thenceforth begins the realm of the
composite ( Ea¯lam al-murakkaba¯t). Next, absolute body takes
IKKYU
¯ SO¯JUN (1394–1481) was a poet, calligrapher,
its first form, which is circular because that is the best form.
Zen eccentric, and revitalizer of the Daitokuji line of Rinzai
Thus, the spheres and the stars are formed from absolute
Zen. Ikkyu¯ was likely, as legend suggests, the unrecognized
body. Subsequently come the nine spheres beginning with
son of the hundredth emperor of Japan, Gokomatsu (1377–
the outermost sphere, which encompasses all spheres. Next
1433; r. 1392–1412), by a rather low-ranking court lady. At
to it is the sphere of fixed stars, followed by the spheres of
an early age, perhaps for lack of any other option, his mother
Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the sun, Venus, Mercury, and the
placed him in the Gozan temple of Ankokuji, in Kyoto. He
moon. The higher the position of the sphere, the purer and
spent the rest of his childhood in Ankokuji and in Tenryu¯ji,
finer its matter. The spiritual force that directs and manages
yet another Gozan establishment. A quick student, Ikkyu¯
each sphere is called the particular soul of that sphere.
was precocious in both scriptural studies and in the literary
Under the sublunar world comes the physical matter
arts that had become a focus of the aesthetically oriented
(hayu¯la¯ al-t:ab¯ı Eah) of the four elements, fire, air, water, and
Gozan movement.
earth. The earth, being farthest from the One, is the coarsest
In 1410 Ikkyu¯ left Tenryu¯ji to live in the streetside her-
and darkest kind of physical matter. The active force of the
mitage of the eremetic monk KenDo¯ So¯i (d. 1414). KenDo¯ be-
soul that operates on the four elements through heat, cold,
longed to the Daitokuji-Myo¯shinji lineage of Rinzai. Because
dryness, and wetness is known as “the nature of generation
these two temples had long been out of the Gozan orbit pa-
and corruption.” It moreover produces the generated beings
tronized by the shoguns, and because KenDo¯ lacked formal
that form the three kingdoms of minerals, plants, and ani-
certification of enlightenment from his own master, Ikkyu¯’s
mals. The active force operating on each of these generated
decision to take him as spiritual master left the young monk
beings is called the particular soul. Thus, the process wherein
doubly removed from the orthodox Zen establishment and
the soul mixes the elements to various degrees and thereby
clearly illustrates his desire to reach the substance of the Zen
produces the generated beings terminates with man, who is
tradition rather than grasping for the formal honors offered
the culmination of that process. Humanity is therefore the
by the power brokers of his day.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4378
ILLUMINATIONISM
Ikkyu¯’s devotion to the rigors of meditative life in pref-
ed collection the Jikaishu¯ (Self-admonitions). He was also the
erence to the aesthetic glory and institutional pomp of estab-
author of six prose works on Buddhist themes: the prose
lishment Zen led him, after KenDo¯’s death in 1414, to leave
poem Gaikotsu (Skeletons); Amida hadaka (Amida laid bare);
Kyoto to join the circle of the demanding master Kaso¯ So¯don
Bukkigun (The war of the buddhas and demons); Mizu-
(1352–1428), twenty-second abbot of Daitokuji, at his small
kagami me-nashi gusa (Mirror for the sightless), which in-
hermitage at Katada on the shores of Lake Biwa. There, in
cludes the sometimes separated Futari bikuni (Two nuns);
1420, Ikkyu¯ attained satori but following the example of his
Kana ho¯go (A vernacular sermon); and Maka hannya hara-
early master, KenDo¯, refused to accept Kaso¯’s certification.
mitta shingyo¯ kai (Explication of the Heart Su¯tra). Two no¯
librettos, Yamamba (Old woman of the mountains) and
Shortly thereafter, apparently following an extended
Eguchi, are also ascribed to Ikkyu¯, but these attributions are
squabble with Kaso¯, Ikkyu¯ left Katada to spend several years
doubtful. A fair number of examples of his extraordinary cal-
in Sakai, a booming port town on the Inland Sea. There he
ligraphy survive, as do a number of forgeries.
gained a reputation for wild eccentricity, in part due to his
repeated bouts of tavern and brothel hopping. These estab-
SEE ALSO Calligraphy; Gozan Zen.
lishments, he claimed, were far better sources of enlighten-
ment than the corrupt temples of Kyoto and Kamakura.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Even Daitokuji came under his criticism, and although he
The fullest, though by no means either complete or perfect, treat-
was briefly appointed abbot of Daitokuji’s Nyoi-an subtem-
ment of Ikkyu¯ in English is my own Zen-Man Ikkyu¯ (Chico,
ple in 1440, he soon stormed out in disgust at the temple’s
Calif., 1981). Also useful are Donald Keene’s biographical
general pretentiousness and in particular at the role taken
sketch, “The Portrait of Ikkyu¯,” most easily available in his
there by Kaso¯’s chief disciple, Yo¯so¯ So¯i (1376–1458).
Landscapes and Portraits (Tokyo and Palo Alto, Calif., 1971),
Sonja Arntzen’s annotated translations of several dozen
By the 1440s Ikkyu¯ had once again taken up practice
poems from the Kyo¯unshu¯, Ikkyu¯ So¯jun: A Zen Monk and His
of the arts. He was eventually to become known for his un-
Poetry (Bellingham, Wash., 1973), and her Ikkyu¯ and the
conventional poetry and his powerful, at times even unset-
Crazy Cloud Anthology (New York, 1986). The best study of
tling, calligraphy. He was, as well, the confidant and friend
Bokusai’s critical biography of Ikkyu¯ is Hirano So¯jo¯’s “Ikkyu¯
of a number of key figures in the development of the new
osho¯ nempu” no kenkyu (Kyoto, 1977), which includes the
urban middle-class arts—the no¯ playwright Komparu
whole of Bokusai’s original text. The best, though still in-
Zenchiku (1405–1468); the early tea master Murata Shuko¯
complete, study of Ikkyu¯’s poetry is Hirano’s Kyo¯unshu¯ zen-
(1427–1502); the painters Bokkei Saiyo (dates unknown)
shaku, 2 vols. (Tokyo, 1976–). Ikkyu¯’s prose pieces can be
and Motsurin Sho¯to¯, also known as Bokusai (d. 1492), who
found in Ikkyu¯ osho¯ zenshu¯, edited by Mori Taikyo (Tokyo,
1913). The fullest representation of his calligraphy is Taya-
wrote the earliest biography of Ikkyu¯; and the renga poet
ma Ho¯nan’s Zenrin bokuseki kaisetsu (Kamakura, 1965) and
So¯cho¯ (1448–1532)—and was thus an important conduit
Zoku Zenrin bokuseki kaisetsu (Kamakura, 1965). Serviceable
for Zen ideas and attitudes geographically outward from
modern biographies on Ikkyu¯ in Japanese include Furuta
Kyoto and socially downward to the largely nouveau riche
Sho¯kin’s Ikkyu¯ (Tokyo, 1946), Ichikawa Hakugen’s Ikkyu¯:
audience for these emerging arts.
Ransei ni ikita zenja (Tokyo, 1971), and Murata Taihei’s
Ningen Ikkyu¯ (Tokyo, 1963). For general background on the
In his later years, Ikkyu¯ made peace with the hierarchy
age in which Ikkyu¯ lived, Japan in the Muromachi Age, edited
of Daitokuji and was appointed abbot of the temple in 1474,
by John Whitney Hall and Toyoda Takeshi (Berkeley,
at a time when the temple was but a shell, its buildings hav-
Calif.,1977), and Martin Collcutt’s fine Five Mountains: The
ing been almost entirely destroyed in the early battles of the
Rinzai Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan (Cam-
O
¯ nin War (1467–1477). It was, indeed, in no small part
bridge, Mass., 1981) are especially valuable.
Ikkyu¯’s connections with the upwardly mobile merchant
New Sources
class of Sakai that provided the funds for the rebuilding and
Ikkyu. Wild Ways: Zen Poems of Ikkyu. Translated by John Ste-
revitalization of Daitokuji and laid the foundation for it and
vens. Boston, 1995.
its sister temple, Myo¯shinji, to fill the spiritual vacuum left
Stevens, John. Three Zen Masters: Ikkyu, Hakuin, Ryokan. Tokyo,
by the intertwined collapse of the Ashikaga shogunate and
1993.
the Gozan establishment. Ikkyu¯’s final years were also
marked by his famous autumnal affair with a blind woman
JAMES HUGH SANFORD (1987)
singer called Mori. He died in 1481 at the age of eighty-
Revised Bibliography
seven. Popular fiction of the Tokugawa period made much
of Ikkyu¯’s eccentricities and transformed him from a serious
historical figure into an amusing, but stereotypical, folk
ILLUMINATIONISM SEE ISHRA¯Q¯IYAH
image, an image whose most recent manifestation was as the
hero of a cartoon show on Japanese television.
Several literary works are attributed to Ikkyu¯. The most
ILMARINEN. According to the list of pagan Finnic gods
important of these are his collection of more than a thousand
compiled in 1551 by Michael Agricola, who introduced the
poems, the Kyo¯unshu¯ (Crazy-cloud anthology), and the relat-
Reformation to Finland and established the Finnish literary
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IMAGES: VENERATION OF IMAGES
4379
language, Ilmarinen was the creator of both wind and calm
Krohn, Kaarle. Kalevalastudien, vol. 3, Ilmarinen, and vol. 4,
weather and controlled travel on water. There is no evidence
Sampo. Folklore Fellows Communications, nos. 71–72. Hel-
that Ilmarinen was ever worshiped, but what is probably the
sinki, 1927. Krohn’s six-volume work, although partially
oldest stratum of Kalevala-type poetry concerning the ex-
outdated, still gives the most thorough summary of the
ploits of Ilmarinen connects him with various cosmogonic
sources of the Kalevala.
acts. Elias Lönnrot’s redaction of the Kalevala includes mate-
New Sources
rial from this ancient folk tradition but increases the number
DuBois, Thomas A. Finnish Folk Poetry and the Kalevala. New
of his appearances, featuring him in twenty-seven out of the
York, 1995.
fifty divisions of the epic. Lönnrot also enhances Ilmarinen’s
MATTI KUUSI (1987)
personality with a human dimension.
Revised Bibliography
The name Ilmarinen is probably derived from the
Finno-Ugric word ilma, meaning “air,” and, by extension,
“weather” and “world.” The Udmurts (Votiaks), distant rela-
IMAGES
tives of the Finns and inhabitants of the region northeast of
This entry consists of the following articles:
Moscow between the Kama and Vyatka Rivers, called their
VENERATION OF IMAGES
sky god Ilmar or Inmar. A famous Saami (Lapp) witch drum,
IMAGES, ICONS, AND IDOLS
presented in 1692 as an exhibit in court, depicts a god named
Ilmaris as having the power to raise and calm storms at sea.
IMAGES: VENERATION OF IMAGES
Among the epithets applied to Ilmarinen in the epic tra-
The veneration of images involves humans or other subjects
dition is “shaper of the mysterious, luck-bringing sampo.
showing respect and homage to objects that visually repre-
Sampo is a difficult term, and scholarly research has produced
sent, point to, or embody sacred beings or realities held to
more than sixty definitions for it, but according to the most
be especially worthy of honor. While such practices have
widely held view, the sampo is a support of the world. A close
been disputed in many religious traditions and decisively re-
derivative of the term is sammas, meaning “statue.” A fre-
jected by a few, the veneration of images has been a remark-
quent substitute or parallel for the term is kirjokansi, mean-
ably widespread form of ritual practice throughout history
ing “brightly worked cover,” which in other contexts stands
in many parts of the world.
for the sky. Certain Saami cult images in stone and wood are
The English terms used here, veneration and image, both
believed to be late representations of the sampo.
derive from Latin, but they may be adequately used to trans-
One folk poem places the forging of the sampo shortly
late such indigenous terms as the Indic mu¯rtipu¯ja¯. Deriving
after the genesis of the sky, earth, sun, moon, and stars, all
from the same etymological root as Venus, goddess of beauty
of which, the poem claims, were formed by the breaking of
and love, veneration refers both to feelings of deep respect
an eagle’s (in some versions, a waterfowl’s) egg. The poem,
and reverence toward some person or thing and to practices
which goes on to relate how Ilmarinen and his brother Väi-
by which that respect and reverence are demonstrated or en-
nämöinen steal the sampo, resembles the ancient Nordic
acted. These practices may be bodily gestures, physical offer-
sagas. But the epithet “shaper of the mysterious, luck-
ings, verbal expressions, emotional dispositions, or mental
bringing sampo” refers to the tradition in which Ilmarinen
presentations. The subjects making these acts of veneration
creates the sampo himself, as in the episode in which, as a re-
are most often humans but may also include animals, semidi-
sult of this act, he wins a competition against his brother for
vine beings, divinities, other images, or even nature itself. Re-
the beautiful maid of Pohjola. Together, Väinämöinen and
cipients may be venerable living persons like kings or reli-
Ilmarinen strike the primeval spark in the upper aerial
gious teachers, remains or relics of venerable persons, images
regions.
of divine or human beings, other objects considered particu-
larly sacred such as holy books, or invisible presences. The
Ilmarinen is also credited with forging a golden maid,
range of religious practices of veneration then is very broad,
who eventually proves no match for a real women. Ilmarinen
and the veneration of images is only one part of this larger
as smith-god later developed into a culture hero who makes
category.
useful objects for people and takes part in various adventures,
including love-quests.
The term image comes from Latin imago, which denotes
an imitation, a copy, a likeness, among several other mean-
SEE ALSO Finnish Religions; Lemminkäinen; Väinämöinen.
ings. In its earliest English usage, image referred to a fabricat-
ed imitation or representation of the external form of an ob-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
ject and applied particularly to sculpted figures of saints and
Fromm, Hans. Kalevala. Munich, 1967. See the index, s.v. Ilma-
divinities that were treated as objects of religious devotion.
rinen.
As an ideal type, the veneration of images may be taken as
Honko, Lauri. “Ilmarinen.” In Wörterbuch der Mythologie, edited
venerative acts directed toward physical icons that represent
by H. W. Haussig, vol. 1, Gotter und Mythen im Vorderen
divinities or other sacred beings anthropomorphically. How-
Orient, pp. 309–311. Stuttgart, 1965.
ever, divine beings are notoriously multiform, and they are
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4380
IMAGES: VENERATION OF IMAGES
promiscuous in making themselves present in a great variety
ured lower on an evolutionary scale than aniconic forms of
of objects. Not just sculpted images but paintings and draw-
religiosity. Others developed what Peter Brown calls “two-
ings, abstract forms, diagrams, stones, trees, and other physi-
tiered” models, where intellectual elites allegedly detach
cal objects as well as mentally projected visualizations may
themselves from such popular practices as the worship of im-
serve as objects of veneration. More than simply signifying
ages. More subtly, as Leo Oppenheim noted in 1964, a
those beings, icons are often considered and honored as liv-
scholarly ambivalence toward “idols” has often led scholars
ing beings, animated by the actual presence of the beings
away from the serious investigation of image veneration in
they represent.
other religious traditions and toward the study of religious
practices considered more comprehensible and acceptable in
In every ritual culture that engages with images, venera-
Western terms.
tive practices take on a distinctive pattern in accord with the
broader practices and premises of that tradition. Some ritual
Only in the last two decades of the twentieth century,
cultures may specify, for example, who is eligible to perform
with calls to “rematerialize” the study of religion, did the ex-
image worship according to criteria of birth, gender, age, ini-
ploration of the veneration of images, in its great historical
tiatory status, or special training, whereas others leave the
and ethnographic variety as well as its history of dispute, be-
practice open to all devotees. Some may require that the wor-
come a more central topic in the history of religions and re-
shiper undertake special preparations, such as physical purifi-
lated disciplines. In his wide-ranging study The Power of Im-
cations or mental concentration, before entering into wor-
ages (1989), the art historian David Freedberg seeks to
ship, or that one wear special clothing. So too ritual cultures
identify and substantiate an innate human responsiveness to
may prescribe how the image is to be prepared: its concep-
the image. At the other pole, the intellectual historian Alain
tion, fabrication, consecration, and regular maintenance as
Besançon, in The Forbidden Image (2000), traces a common
a venerated object. Ritual cultures may differ from one an-
philosophical disposition toward the absolute underlying the
other as to the specific vocabulary of actions one should em-
history of Western opposition to images from the Greeks up
ploy in venerating images and in the degree to which they
to twentieth-century Russian painters. In between the
formalize a prescribed etiquette of veneration. Religious tra-
iconophilic and the iconoclastic, many scholars working in
ditions may develop distinctive theological understandings
particular religious traditions have begun to explore more
of the relationship of the image to the deity it represents, in-
deeply the multiplicity of image-venerating ritual cultures.
stantiates, or embodies. They may ascribe agency—moving,
Drawing on this scholarship, this article outlines several ex-
talking, miracle working—to the image or to the deity acting
amples of historical traditions that have practiced the venera-
through it. Finally, different ritual cultures understand the
tion of images. It is not intended as comprehensive, but
efficacy of venerative practices in varied ways.
it does aim to illustrate some of the variety this practice
takes in different settings and some of the ways it has been
Widespread and varied as it is, the veneration of images
disputed.
has been a fiercely disputed practice. Even within ritual cul-
MESOPOTAMIANS. Among the earliest known religious im-
tures strongly attached to the worship of images, adherents
ages are numerous female figurines, commonly called Ve-
debate not only proper methods and understandings of such
nuses, found in European, Asian, and Middle Eastern archae-
practices but also their ultimate value. Greek philosophers
ological sites and dating to the late Paleolithic and Neolithic
like Xenophanes and Heraclitus and Hindu ones like
periods. Some scholars have seen these as icons in a wide-
S´an˙kara sought to deprecate or delegitimate the venerative
spread cult of the “Great Goddess” linked to fertility and the
practices of their own societies. In some cases religious tradi-
emergence of agriculture. While they are intriguing as possi-
tions have defined themselves through a shared opposition
ble evidence for the ancient veneration of images, indications
to the worship of images. Around the sixth century BCE Isra-
of how or even if these objects were employed ritually re-
elite prophets began to articulate a critique of the image-
mains sketchy.
related practices of their Near Eastern neighbors, and this de-
cisive break with image veneration subsequently became a
The earliest full evidence for image veneration comes
defining feature of Judaism. Similar critiques were later de-
from the early urban civilizations of Mesopotamia. Archaeo-
ployed by the other Abrahamic monotheisms, Christianity
logical evidence, inscriptional records, and later texts all
and Islam, in their own moments of self-definition. Among
point to a ritual culture centered around images starting as
all religions, Christians have shown perhaps the most com-
early as the Sumerian period of circa 2500 BCE and continu-
plex historical ambivalence toward images, and this has led
ing for nearly two thousand years. Within the Mesopota-
to several episodes of intense internal controversy and icono-
mian ritual culture, images that represented the gods were
clastic destruction.
consecrated through a rite of “mouth opening,” then were
maintained inside temples with regular offerings, and were
Critiques of image worship originating with the Greeks
processed outside their temples for annual festival celebra-
and the Israelites have also had a decisive impact on the
tions. The best documented of these involve deities closely
scholarly study of religion, as many scholars have observed.
associated with city-states, such as Marduk in Babylonia and
Earlier generations of comparative religionists constructed
Anu in Uruk. Cults of these palladial deities were highly in-
teleological schemes in which the veneration of images fig-
stitutionalized and closely related to the political order.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IMAGES: VENERATION OF IMAGES
4381
In Mesopotamia the key ritual by which a human-made
Theano takes Hekabe’s robe and places it on the seated
wooden statue was transformed into an animate divine icon
image’s knees. The priestess petitions Athena. If the goddess
was known as “opening the mouth” (m¯ıs p¯ı). As cited by
favors the Trojans by “breaking the spear” of their fierce op-
Christopher Walker and Michael B. Dick in “The Mesopo-
ponent Diomedes, she prays, they will sacrifice twelve young
tamian m¯ıs p¯ı Ritual,” “The statue cannot smell incense,
heifers on her altar. Athena evidently does not agree to the
drink water, or eat food without Opening the Mouth.” Mo-
terms, for as Homer relates, she turns away her head. Deities
tifs of gestation and birth appear throughout the mouth-
may be swayed by offerings but remain ultimately autono-
opening rites, for the ritual sought to give birth to the living
mous in their powers.
presence of the deity. Moreover the ritual distances the image
itself from any suggestion of human fabrication. Artisans
From Homer’s time through the classical period (rough-
would have their hands symbolically cut off with a wooden
ly 800–300 BCE), the Greek gods and goddesses were present
sword, and they were required to swear that they had not cre-
in anthropomorphic forms in myriad temples throughout
ated the image. Rather, they averred, the patron deities of
the Greek world. Some ancient icons, like the famous olive
their guild had done so.
wood Athena Polias in Athens, were said to have “fallen from
the sky,” whereas others were explicitly associated with their
Once consecrated, the image took its place on a pedestal
human sculptors, such as the Athena Parthenos, also on the
in the temple, often located in an elevated part of the city.
Acropolis in Athens, made by the celebrated Pheidias (be-
The wooden image would be plated with gold, dressed in
tween 447 and 438 BCE). The purpose of images was to make
sumptuous clothing, and adorned with jewelry. It would be
the gods visible to humans and to facilitate interactions be-
surrounded by other images that composed the god’s family
tween them. As Pythagoras is supposed to have said, “People
and court, much as a king would sit in state surrounded by
who enter a temple and see the images of the god close up
attendants. The daily services for such divine rulers were car-
get a different mind” (Burkert, 1988). Greeks interacted
ried out by ritual specialists and consisted chiefly of elaborate
with their gods in three ritual ways: sacrifice, votive offerings,
feasts. At Uruk the god Anu ate twice a day. His meals, speci-
and prayer.
fied in detailed texts, included milk, beer, and other drinks;
meat; bread; cake; fruit; and sweets. Musicians played during
Of these, animal sacrifice was preeminent in Greek ritu-
the repast, and priests burned incense to perfume the sanc-
al culture. Sacrificial altars were placed before the images in
tum. After the god had eaten his fill of the offerings, the re-
their temples. However, sacrifice does not require image or
mainders were taken to the king as particularly potent nour-
temple. A sacrifice offered on an altar in the open air could
ishment. Receiving god’s leftovers was a definite marker of
just as easily reach the gods dwelling on Mount Olympus.
royal status.
Greeks also made offerings of more permanent objects in as-
sociation with vows. As Hekabe presented her brocaded
Kings were also present in the temples in the form of
gown to Athena, petitioners offered all sorts of valuable items
royal images. Starting around 2100 to 2000 BCE, consecrated
to the gods in their temples: garments, vessels, weapons ac-
images of ruling kings were introduced as both venerators of
quired as war booty, bronze tripods, gold bricks, statuettes,
the gods and recipients of veneration. A standing figure of
and votive tablets. Votive offerings (anathema) were show-
the king might offer worship to the seated image of the god,
pieces meant to delight the recipient deity as well as to im-
while a seated image of the king could receive worship from
press other human visitors to the temple. The gods and god-
his human acolytes.
desses evidently enjoyed seeing themselves, for many of the
In addition to the regular patterns of daily worship, the
tablets featured their representations along with the donor
divine images celebrated special festivals. Central to many of
in the act of prayer or sacrifice. Greek temples often filled
these were public processions. If cultic practices within the
up with these showpieces, so much so that it might become
temple were restricted to the religious and political elite, pro-
difficult to see the deity. The sumptuous wealth deposited
cessions were occasions for much broader participation. The
in the temples also made it necessary to protect them from
image-deities would leave their private temple-palaces and
thieves and looters. A common depiction of the temple
journey through the streets of the city to a festival temple in
priestess shows her holding a large key.
the countryside. On such occasions the more general public
Beyond these special acts of worship, scholars know
veneration reasserted the special relationship between deity
something about the ordinary etiquette of the Greek cult of
and city-state.
images. Water basins near the temple entry indicate that
GREEKS. In the Iliad, Homer describes Hekabe’s veneration
physical purification was a prerequisite to entering. Once in-
of an image. The Trojan warrior Hector, Hekabe’s son,
side, worshipers greeted the divine image by falling to their
leaves the battle to ask the women and elders of the city to
knees and sought physical contact by touching or kissing it.
solicit the aid of the gods. Hekabe calls together the women
Bodily acts of bathing and dressing the image were common
and then selects her most beautiful brocaded robe as a pre-
venerative practices. Ritual specialists mediated these acts of
sentation. The women process to the temple of the goddess
worship between humans and the gods, as the priestess
Athena, on the Troy acropolis. The temple priestess Theano
Theano did with Hekabe’s exchange with Athena. Unfortu-
allows them to enter, and while the women cry out aloud,
nately, however, Greek ritual specialists did not leave behind
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4382
IMAGES: VENERATION OF IMAGES
records of their priest craft. Scholars do not know exactly
Among Jains, the dominant understanding of these ven-
how they performed the ritual of installation for new images
erative practices is reflexive. Because the Jain T¯ırtham:karas
or the daily liturgical routines for maintaining deities in their
are fully liberated beings who do not engage in the world
livelihood. And while Greek authors copiously recorded the
after liberation, Jain worshipers do not expect them to inhab-
mythological deeds of their gods and goddesses, they wrote
it their icons, and they do not expect them actually to con-
little about the theological conception of the divine image.
sume food or fruit. Nor do they seek direct aid from the
Much of what is written moreover is the work of critics.
T¯ırtham:karas in their lives. Jains view the veneration of im-
ages as an act of renunciation that is valuable for a worshiper
To subvert the image worship of their fellow Greeks, the
in the shedding of karmic bondage. During each offering,
pre-Socratic philosophers Xenophanes (c. 560–478 BCE) and
worshipers recite verses that interpret the actions in terms of
Heraclitus (c. 540–480 BCE) presented two primary argu-
key Jain values and the worshipers’ own states. While offer-
ments. According to Xenophanes, humans project their own
ing food, worshipers identify the Jina as the “noneating one”
attributes, with all their human flaws, onto the gods. If
and express a wish that through renunciation they might also
horses had hands and could create images of the gods, he ar-
reach this state.
gued, gods would appear as horses. Images are projections
of humanity, not true representations of the divine. Heracli-
This austere conception of image veneration did not
tus focuses on the materiality of images. To pray to a sculpt-
prevent Jains from developing an opulent temple culture,
ed image is like trying to hold a conversation with a house;
which reached its apogee in the image-filled hilltop temple
the image does not hear and does not give. Later Greek sati-
cities of Shatrunjay and Mount Abu. Nor did it preclude
lively devotional practices, such as the Jain laywomen who
rists picked up on the theme of an image’s inanimate help-
sing hymns of praise to accompany rituals of worship.
lessness. So in parodies like “The Battle of the Frogs and
Mice,” Athena complains that mice are nibbling away at her
However, the issue of image worship was central to the
garments and fouling up her garlands. It is not possible to
primary sectarian split among the S´veta¯mbara Jains. Starting
say how broadly these critical views were shared among
from the critique of the fifteenth-century monk Lonka, the
Greeks of the classical period, though it is certain that many
faction that came to be called the Stha¯nakva¯sins argued that
continued to address prayers to images and to present new
image worship is a feature of a corrupt world age and advo-
robes to Athena.
cated instead mental worship and the veneration of living
ascetics. The majority group remaining loyal to their
JAINS. The earliest Indic inscription to refer to a venerative
image practices came to be called Murtipujakas, the image
icon, dating to the first century BCE, concerns an image of
worshipers.
Maha¯v¯ıra called the “Kalinga Jina.” The inscription reports
how this icon, evidently of political import, had previously
BUDDHISTS. Buddhist traditions often ascribe the first im-
been taken away by the Mauryan ruler and was now recov-
ages of the S´a¯kyamuni Buddha to the founder’s own lifetime.
ered and ritually installed by Kharavela, ruler of the Kalinga
When the Buddha left Kausambi to teach elsewhere, the
territory. In addition to inscriptional evidence, archeological
story goes, King Udayana requested that the monk
finds and early Jain texts indicate that the Jains developed
Maudgalya¯yana supervise the fabrication of a stand-in image
and maintained a flourishing culture centering around the
so that the king might continue to pay respects to the teacher
worship of Jina images in the early centuries CE.
during his absence. Thus was made the “Udayana Buddha.”
When S´a¯kyamuni returned to Kausambi, the animated
Early Jain texts prescribe worship practices similar to
image rose to honor its prototype. But the Buddha under-
those later classified as the eightfold pu¯ja¯, which is still the
stood the pedagogic value of the image, for he honored it in
central form of worship among the majority S´veta¯mbara Jain
return and predicted that it would play a great role in dis-
community. The eightfold pu¯ja¯ is an individual form of
seminating his teachings.
image veneration. After first purifying himself or herself, a
Modern historians of Buddhism have usually discount-
Jain worshiper enters the temple, approaches the image of
ed such claims. While the question of the “origin of the Bud-
worship, honors it with mantras, and circumambulates it in
dha image” has long been a topic of vigorous scholarly de-
a clockwise direction. Worshipers mark their foreheads with
bate, a general consensus ascribes the earliest three-
sandalwood paste and then offer the eight components of
dimensional images of the Buddha to the period of the
worship. The first three offerings are applied directly to the
Kushans, who ruled during the first through the third centu-
body of the image: worshipers pour bathing water over it,
ries CE. The innovative step of fabricating physical icons of
smear marks of sandalwood paste on its limbs, and adorn it
the Buddha was taken, more or less simultaneously, in two
with flowers. The following five offerings are made in front
centers of the Kushan dominion, the Gandhara region of
of the image, not onto it. Worshipers offer incense, lamps,
northern Pakistan and the city of Mathura.
broken rice grains, food, and fruit before the image. After
these physical offerings (dravya-pu¯ja¯) have been given, wor-
Whenever the Buddha image did appear historically, the
shipers should perform mental veneration (bha¯va-pu¯ja¯), an
etiquette of veneration was already well established within
inward contemplation of the exemplary qualities of the Jina.
Buddhist ritual culture. The earliest recipient of such honor
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IMAGES: VENERATION OF IMAGES
4383
was the S´a¯kyamuni Buddha himself. Early Buddhist texts are
ritual cultures of China, including Daoists and Confucians,
replete with accounts of humans, animals, semidivine Na¯gas
to integrate some aspects of image veneration.
andYaks:as, divinities like Indra and Bra¯hman:, and even na-
H
ture itself demonstrating veneration to the body (´sar¯ıra) of
INDUS. Modern Hinduism may well feature more venerat-
ed images per capita that any other religious tradition. This
the Buddha through acts of prostration, circumambulation,
was not always the case, though. In early India the primary
flower garlanding, gift giving, and reciting of verbal praises.
forms of public religion receiving elite patronage were ani-
With the Buddha’s parinirva¯n:a and cremation, Buddhist
conic. The Vedas (composed roughly 1500–300
venerative practices shifted to the Buddha’s physical remains
BCE) pre-
scribed an elaborate program of fire sacrifices to deities who
(also called ´sar¯ıra) and other objects or places associated with
remained invisible. The earliest images of recognizable
this life. His relics were interred in moundlike stupas. These
Hindu deities date from the Kushan period, contemporary
became flourishing cult centers of Buddhist veneration at
with the early Jain and Buddhist images, and the earliest texts
least by the time of the Mauryan emperor A´soka (r. 260–230
describing protocols for image worship appeared still later,
BCE). Worshipers honored the stupas, enlivened by the pres-
around the fifth and sixth centuries
ence of Buddha’s remains, much the same way they had once
CE. By the early medieval
period (700–1200
honored the teacher: with prostrations and circumambula-
CE), however, Hindu elites and ritual spe-
cialists had positively embraced the icon as an instrument of
tions, flowers and incense, banners and parasols, and food
religious practice, and the veneration of images became the
offerings. More ambitious donors might arrange to have the
normative ritual culture of the public sphere.
entire stupa decorated with lamps or to have musicians sere-
nade it. These appear to have remained relatively spontane-
In the early medieval period Hindu priests articulated
ous and unstructured practices, because there are few liturgi-
new theologies and elaborate ritual programs for their divine
cal prescriptions within the early Buddhist literature.
images, and their formulations have continued to be influen-
tial over many centuries. For these Hindus, images are un-
The introduction of the Buddha image offered another
derstood as one of the means by which a deity who is both
way of making the Buddha present. But there were debates
transcendent and immanent makes himself or herself present
over the degree of this presence. Worshipers might address
and accessible to human votaries. Vais:n:ava theologians speak
the image as if it were the living Buddha, but as with the
of Vis:n:u’s “incarnation as an image,” parallel to his other in-
Jains, they generally understood the efficacy of veneration to
carnations (avata¯ra). Just as Vis:n:u manifests himself in
reside not in the recipient but in the karmic benefits of the
human and animal bodies, so he can also enter into fabricat-
pious act itself. The image of the Buddha was a particularly
ed physical representations of himself.
fertile “field of merit” in which to sow the seeds of generous
acts, but the Buddha did not directly reward such acts.
Hindu image veneration places much emphasis on the
act of seeing, known as dar´sana. A physical representation
On the other hand, by the Gupta period in the fourth
enables worshipers to see their god, who might otherwise re-
and fifth centuries CE, inscriptions point to a greatly en-
main beyond their ken, and the beauty of the divine body
hanced sense of the Buddha’s presence. During this period
attracts their gaze and awakens their devotion. But the gaze
Indian monastic layouts regularly set aside a special cell, fac-
is reciprocal; the god looks back. The key moment in conse-
ing the entrance, where the Buddha image resided. Monks
crating a new Hindu image is not opening the mouth, as the
were assigned to tend to the needs of the Buddha, and en-
Mesopotamians would have it, but opening the eyes. So Hin-
dowments provided for the regular supply of flowers, in-
dus often refer to the act of worship as “taking dar´sana,” see-
cense, oil lamps, and other requisites to the Buddha. More-
ing and being seen by the deity present in the icon.
over the inscriptions speak of the Buddha as the owner of
the monastic property. Clearly the Buddha image became
Hindu image veneration is offered daily, both by devout
more fully established as a real living presence in the institu-
worshipers in private home shrines on their own behalf and
tional life of the monastery. This significant change in Bud-
by priests in public temples on behalf of the entire communi-
dhist ritual culture may correspond to the introduction of
ty. Prescriptions in medieval S´aiva priestly guides, for exam-
new, more expansive philosophical ideas about the nature of
ple, call for elaborate preparatory purifications. The worship-
Buddha’s personhood.
er, the place of worship, the icon, the substances to be
offered, and even the mantras to be used in worship must all
Buddhist image practices figured prominently in the
be purified. The priest approaches the primary icon, the ab-
spread of Buddhism from India to other parts of Asia. Ac-
stract S´iva linga. Though S´iva is considered to be already
cording to tradition, Emperor Ming (r. 58–75 CE) of the
present in the linga, the priest performs a detailed invocation,
Han dynasty had a dream of a radiant golden Buddha flying
such that S´iva becomes “specially present” there for the dura-
through the air and promptly sent emissaries to India to
tion of worship. At this point the offerings or services
bring back Buddhist Scriptures and the famous Udayana
(upaca¯ras) that are the core of Hindu image veneration may
Buddha. Images were so central to the early implantation of
begin.
Buddhism that the Chinese referred to Buddhism as the “re-
ligion of images.” The wealth of Buddhist imagery and ven-
Through these services, the worshiper treats the divine
erative practices appear to have stimulated other competing
person present in the icon as an especially esteemed guest or
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4384
IMAGES: VENERATION OF IMAGES
as the sovereign lord of the cosmos. Priestly guides suggest
Andean Highlands. Within this newly established empire the
that one may offer five, eight, sixteen, or as many as twenty-
Incas promoted a central state religion. They recognized a
five services, depending on one’s resources and ambitions.
hierarchy of gods, in which the highest were Viracocha, the
Among these services are many of the same offerings em-
creator, and the Sun, first descendent of Viracocha. This im-
ployed in Jain and Buddhist worship, such as flowers, in-
perial cult, however, coexisted uneasily with the ritual tradi-
cense, lights, prostrations, hymns, and food. If they share
tions of the conquered cultures, who had their own divine
some of the venerative vocabulary, though, Indic ritual cul-
figures and practices. Both the Incas and their subjects vener-
tures have different ideas about many details, such as food
ated images.
offerings. According to Vis:n:u worshipers, that god partakes
of the subtle portion of the food, and the substantive remains
In the center of Cuzco the Incas constructed a massive
of Vis:n:u’s meal, transfigured by contact with the divine, are
temple for the Sun, whom the Incas took as their own ances-
then distributed to the community of worshipers as a physi-
tor. Within the temple the Sun appeared in the form of a
cal manifestation of Vis:n:u’s grace, called prasa¯da. S´aiva
young boy made of pure gold. The image was put to bed at
Siddha¯ntins also believe S´iva eats the subtle portion of food
night and awakened in the morning. At noon women
offerings, but they consider food that has come into contact
brought him his meal: a dish of maize, a serving of meat, and
with S´iva too powerful for human consumption. In S´aiva
a cup of maize beer. After the Sun had consumed what he
temples leftovers are passed on to another image, one of
would of his meal, the remainders were burned in a silver
S´iva’s semidivine followers, who is better able to handle
cauldron, and the beer was poured into a drain through
them.
which it nourished the earth. Officiants then raised their
hands to the Sun and proclaimed their gratitude. Normally
In medieval India, with its great temples, image venera-
access to the inner sanctum was highly restricted, and ritual
tion became the most visible manifestation of Hindu religi-
officiants observed high degrees of personal purification be-
osity but not without opposition from other Hindus. Those
fore entering. On special occasions, however, the Sun image
loyal to the earlier Vedic practices of aniconic sacrifice fought
was brought out into the central square of the city and re-
a long discursive battle against the veneration of images.
ceived his meal in a more public setting.
Others, like the devotional V¯ıra´saivas, satirized the cult of
images in favor of more spontaneous and unmediated expres-
The Incas constructed new Sun temples in areas they
sions of devotion (bhakti). Still others, like the nondualist
brought under control, and they required their subjects to
philosopher S´an˙kara (c. 700–750 CE), advocated more “sub-
show veneration to the Sun. Often these Sun temples com-
tle” forms of practice as superior, such as “mental pu¯ja¯” of-
peted directly with the shrines of local deities, called huacas.
fered through meditation to a nonsubstantive and impercep-
In Cajamarca on the coast, for instance, one of the most
tible Supreme.
powerful of the huacas, named Pachacámac, occupied a mas-
sive pyramid temple. The Incas built a still taller temple to
Hindus have selectively adapted new technologies to
the Sun next to it. Local stories reflected the tension that sub-
their practices of image veneration. New print technologies
sisted between these two cult deities in which Pachacámac
were adopted in the late nineteenth century and the twenti-
reluctantly ceded his preeminent status.
eth century to enable the mass reproduction of inexpensive
lithographic “God pictures,” which pilgrims can purchase
Huacas had once been superhuman beings walking the
and incorporate into their home shrines. Large temples em-
earth, and they were responsible for creating the landscape.
ploy monitors to televise the venerated image so that a larger
But after completing their creative deeds or through conflict
audience may partake of dar´sana. And with the development
with another deity, the huacas turned into stone, sometimes
of the Internet, prominent Hindu temples in India have de-
in icon form and other times simply as prominent parts of
veloped websites so that far-flung worshipers can offer cyber
the natural landscape. In such physical forms they lived on
veneration.
and continued to play a role in human affairs. Huacas were
unpredictable. They were benevolently responsible for the
Over the centuries, despite internal and external cri-
health and prosperity of the community, but they might also
tiques, Hindus have maintained their practices of image ven-
bring disease, earthquakes, and crop failure. Therefore it was
eration, modifying and transforming them along the way.
wise to attend to their needs assiduously.
When Hindus emigrated from India in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, images traveled with them. The multi-
Pachacámac resided in his pyramid in the form of a
tude of new temples that Hindus constructed throughout the
wooden pole whose top was carved in the figure of a man.
United States and the United Kingdom in the late twentieth
Here too access was strictly limited. Priests fasted for a year
century demonstrate the flexibility and vitality of Hindu ven-
before they could enter the inner sanctum. Properly attended
erative practices.
and solicited, this deity, like many other huacas, could speak.
INCAS AND ANDEANS. In the fifteenth century and the early
Pilgrims from throughout the area brought him gifts of gold
sixteenth century the Incas of Cuzco (Peru) built a large em-
and textiles, conveyed their messages to Pachacámac through
pire, subordinating more than one hundred different ethnic
the priests, and hoped to receive an answer. In addition to
groups over an area along the Pacific Coast and through the
the local huacas, Andeans also venerated special lineage gods
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IMAGES: VENERATION OF IMAGES
4385
in icon form and household deities who appeared as small
God.” In Paul’s view this unrepresented divinity is the one
animal-shaped stones.
the Christians worship. God does not reside in human-made
shrines or images, because God is not dependent in any way
The Inca Sun, the more localized huacas and other dei-
on human hands. Following Paul, the early Christian writers
ties, and their icons were all part of the complex ritual culture
of the second and third centuries CE attacked image venera-
of the Andean region that the Spanish conquistadores en-
tion from several different angles. Justin Martyr (c. 100–165
countered in 1532. As Catholics, the Spaniards brought with
CE) argued that images are without souls and cannot repre-
them a different attitude toward images.
sent God. As essentially demonic forms, they constitute an
CRITICS OF THE IMAGE: JEWS, CHRISTIANS, AND MUSLIMS.
insult to God. Tertullian (c. 155–220 CE) focused on the so-
Most image-venerating ritual cultures coexist with their crit-
cial dangers of idolatry and held that image veneration could
ics, as shown, for the public worship of images seldom ap-
unleash unwelcome emotional outbursts. Moreover in Ter-
pears as an uncontested practice. It is possible also to trace
tullian’s view idolatry was an index of pagan culture, and it
a more sustained critique of images and their veneration in
was crucial for Christians to distinguish themselves from the
the West, deriving from both Greek and Israelite sources.
dominant Roman culture.
Early Christian critics of the image drew on Greek writings
A more complex attitude began to develop in the fourth
as well as the Hebrew Bible in formulating their positions,
century CE, as Christianity itself became the dominant cul-
and later the Islamic founders adapted them to their own
ture. With Emperor Constantine’s conversion around 313
theological vision.
CE, the Christian movement became an imperial religion.
Scholarship suggests that the strong monotheism and
Whereas early Christians had been criticized for their impov-
vigorous prohibition of image veneration in the Hebrew
erished ritual culture, with no altars and no temples, now
Bible may reflect the triumph of one group of “Yahweh-
Christians began to develop their own architecture and art.
alone” partisans among the Israelites in the wake of the disas-
They also destroyed competing pagan images, such as those
trous events of the sixth century BCE. After the destruction
of Zeus. The introduction of a Christian representational art
of Jerusalem in 586 BCE and the debilitating exile, this group
was also criticized from within. Augustine (354–430 CE) dis-
advanced its own vision of the Israelite past and its notion
approved of those who would look for Christ on painted
of a proper Israelite ritual culture by exercising a dominant
walls rather than in his written word. Other Christians
role in editing the Bible.
looked for ways to accommodate the didactic value of Chris-
tian institutional imagery with the negative attitude toward
The Hebrew Bible opposes the veneration of images in
images. Most influential was the distinction articulated by
two main ways. One is through direct prohibition. The Isra-
Pope Gregory I (r. 590–604 CE). Images are placed in
elites were surrounded by ritual cultures, such as those of
churches, he ruled, not for worship, but solely for instructing
Mesopotamia and Egypt, that represented their gods in
the minds of the ignorant. Christian images would be offi-
image form. In the second commandment Yahweh distin-
cially educational and not venerative in purpose.
guishes himself as the God who refuses to be so represented.
An insistence on Yahweh’s exclusive divinity in the first com-
Gregory’s distinction provided one important legitima-
mandment coupled with the prohibition of images defines
tion but did not finally resolve the issue for Christians. The
a distinctive identity for the Israelites and helps insure that
greatest debate, usually known as the Iconoclastic Controver-
they will not assimilate the cults of their neighbors. The sec-
sy, began in the next century. By the eighth century the ven-
ond method of articulating opposition was through prophet-
eration of icons—painted images of holy persons regarded
ic parody, such as those of Jeremiah and Isaiah. Jeremiah
as particularly powerful and efficacious—had become wide-
carefully describes all the steps in fabricating an icon: the cut-
spread throughout churches and monasteries. Worshipers
ting of the tree in the forest, carving the wood into an image,
prostrated before the images, kissed them, and solicited their
decorating it with silver and gold, and nailing it into place.
aid. During the same period the Byzantine Empire suffered
However, he asserts, these practices are false. With its materi-
political reversals at the hands of an expanding Ummayad
al roots, the image is “only wood.” There is no breath of life
Islamic polity, and this sense of threat from a more
in it. Like Heraclitus, the Hebrew prophets argued that an
iconophobic religious community contributed to the vigor
image of wood or stone, fashioned by human hands, neces-
of the debate. Some argued that God was using Islam to pun-
sarily remained inanimate and could not serve as a vehicle
ish Christians for having fallen into idolatry.
for a god like Yahweh.
Similar to the Israelites, early Muslims insisted first on
Early Christians, true to their Jewish legacy, maintained
the principle of tauhid, the exclusive divinity of Alla¯h. Im-
a critical attitude toward the use of images. Paul’s encounter
ages pose a threat to that divine hegemony, for there is always
with the Greek images of Athens, recorded in the Acts of the
a danger that humans may come to venerate those images
Apostles, serves as a paradigm. In Athens, Paul was revolted
rather than Alla¯h. Moreover Muslims identified Allah as sole
by the sight of “a city given over to idolatry.” However, in
creator. The h:ad¯ıth traditions therefore especially condemn
his speech to the Areopagus council, he did find one monu-
those who make images, because they seem to be laying claim
ment to praise: an empty altar inscribed “To an Unknown
to the creative prerogative of Allah. Later Muslims in some
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4386
IMAGES: VENERATION OF IMAGES
settings adopted more relaxed attitudes toward representa-
In the Andes region, when the Incas conquered their
tional art, but the Islamic prohibition on the veneration of
neighbors, they extended their state cult into the region, but
images remained firm.
this did not entail the suppression of local huaca cults. Both
groups of icons could live side by side, albeit in a hierarchical
Against this political background, Emperor Leo III ini-
relationship. When the Spanish arrived in 1532, however,
tiated the controversy in 726 CE with an effort to purge from
they proceeded along different lines. The public extinction
the church “the idolatry of image worship.” The iconodules,
of all prominent sites of indigenous idolatry was a key ele-
notably John of Damascus (675-749), responded by defend-
ment in the policy of conquest. In Cuzco they systematically
ing the “relative worship” of images without idolatry. As rep-
looted the Temple of the Sun, desecrated it, and converted
resentations of the material appearances of Jesus, Mary, and
it into a monastery. In Cajamarca, they broke down the door
saints in the flesh, their images could suggest or evoke for
that kept Pachacámac sequestered and erected a tall cross on
viewers spiritual realities that lay beyond. Leo’s next move
his shrine.
was more forceful. In 730 CE he ordered all holy images re-
moved from churches and all recalcitrant bishops removed
The Spanish victory in the Andes was rapid, and the
from their positions. This put Christians in a new position
Inca Sun images in their highly visible temples quickly suc-
altogether, for it required that they destroy not only pagan
cumbed. Many of the more deeply rooted local huacas were
images but also statues and paintings of Jesus Christ and re-
not so easy to conquer. By the seventeenth century the vener-
ation of huacas was still widely practiced, though now their
vered saints. The battle was joined for several decades, with
rites were performed in secret. Believing the process of Chris-
repeated episodes of iconoclasm and persecution. Finally, in
tianization incomplete, church authorities initiated a series
787 CE the iconodule Irene (acting as regent for her son Con-
of inquisitions to extirpate idolatry. Their task had become
stantine and later as empress) convened a council at Nice
complex, however, for the boundaries of what were initially
with monks sympathetic to her cause and issued a new de-
distinct ritual cultures had become permeable. Many Andean
cree. Holy images of Christ, Mary, and the saints may be set
peoples viewed Christianity not as an exclusive salvific mes-
up in churches and honored with relative worship, though
sage but as one new source of spiritual powers among many.
the highest form of veneration would be reserved for the im-
They incorporated Catholic practices with older local ones,
ageless divine nature alone.
even as the old ways were adapted to fit new circumstances.
The unstable position of “relative worship” did not pre-
Ritual healing specialists might maintain icons of Jesus
vent further debates among the Christians. However, it did
Christ and Mary along with those of huacas and lineage gods
provide a reasonable legitimation for the icon-veneration
to employ their powers in curing the sick. Christian cele-
practices as they developed in the Eastern Church, and it also
brants might venerate the local huacas with offerings of guin-
laid the groundwork for the main institutional position of
ea pig and llama blood at the start of the feast of Saint Peter.
Western Christianity during the medieval period. With the
To the inquisitors all this appeared as idolatry. They col-
Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth
lected the idols and publicly destroyed them. But even as
centuries, the battle of images surfaced once again. Starting
they did so, other churchmen recognized that the links their
in the 1520s Christians in many parts of Europe acted to re-
parishioners made between Catholic statuary and their long-
form their ritual culture by entering churches and cleansing
standing deities enhanced religious devotion. Statues of the
them of images and other sacerdotal objects.
Virgin Mary might take on characteristics of Pachacámac,
Andean goddess of the earth, and the Inca Sun might lend
CONQUEST, CENTRALIZATION, AND ACCOMMODATION. Im-
its rays to Jesus’ halo. Devotees believed that notable images
ages and the ritual practices of veneration do not exist in iso-
like the Virgin of Copacabana performed miracles and made
lation. They enter into larger religious debates about divinity
pilgrimages to solicit their help. The new venerative practices
and the world and into political struggles as well. In Kings
might not meet Pope Gregory’s principle concerning peda-
and Councillors (1936), the anthropologist A. M. Hocart ob-
gogic imagery only nor qualify with John of Damascus as rel-
served that religious iconoclasm and political centralization
ative worship. Yet out of these mutual accommodations
have gone hand in hand throughout history. In Hocart’s
Catholic churchmen and local Andean converts constructed
genealogy of iconoclasm, the Egyptian king Akhenaton
a new ritual culture in which the veneration of significant
(fourteenth century BCE) is the earliest recorded opponent of
Christian images played an important role.
image veneration and the first to seek a single unified divine
V
cult. This went with Akhenaton’s attempts to unite Egypt
ENERATION IN THE SECULAR WORLD. At first glance mod-
ern secular cultures might not seem hospitable to the reli-
politically. Hocart followed his observation into the twenti-
gious veneration of images. Yet scholars have persuasively ar-
eth century and British-ruled Fiji, where the centralizing
gued that venerative practices of a ritual character may be
agenda of the Colonial Office sought to suppress the dis-
found in many secular locations.
persed icons of the local spirit cults. Powers committed to
colonial control have often—though by no means always—
In the context of national struggle, a religious image like
opposed the image venerating ritual cultures of the
the Virgin of Copacabana in Bolivia may come to be revered
colonized.
as a popular icon of nationhood without leaving her cathe-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IMAGES: VENERATION OF IMAGES
4387
dral. Political elites in many secular polities generate their
mian m¯ıs p¯ı Ritual,” pp. 55–121. Also important are two es-
own iconographies of the nation in the form of flags, statues,
says by Irene J. Winter, “‘Idols of the King’: Royal Images
and monuments intended to symbolize or embody founders,
as Recipients of Ritual Action in Ancient Mesopotamia,”
leaders, and national ideals. Examples range from the ubiqui-
Journal of Ritual Studies 6 (1992): 13–42, and “Opening the
tous personal imagery and the extraordinary Victory Arch
Eyes and Opening the Mouth: The Utility of Comparing
erected by S:adda¯m H:usayn in Iraq to public monuments like
Images in Worship in India and the Ancient Near East,” in
Ethnography and Personhood, edited by Michael W. Meister
the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore in the United
(Jaipur, India, 2000), pp. 129–162.
States. Such national icons have their own venerative rites:
ceremonial dedications, pilgrimage itineraries, and on-site
An excellent brief introduction to Greek temple culture is Walter
guides who enforce proper decorum and instruct viewers on
Burkert, “The Meaning and Function of the Temple in Clas-
their meaning. Likewise acts of iconoclasm directed at these
sical Greece,” in Temple in Society, edited by Michael V. Fox
(Winona Lake, Ind., 1988), pp. 27–47. Burkert’s Greek Reli-
instantiations of the nation, from flag burning to the top-
gion, Archaic and Classical (Oxford, 1985), remains the stan-
pling of H:usayn’s statue during the U.S. invasion of 2003,
dard overview; whereas Jan N. Bremmer, Greek Religion (Ox-
take on an iconic significance of resistance or conquest.
ford, 1994), provides a valuable supplement to Burkert based
Visitors to modern art museums may also recognize that
on continuing research. For a detailed treatment of votive of-
they are entering settings for secular ritual. In these temples
ferings, see F. T. van Straten, “Gifts for the Gods,” in H. S.
Versnal, Faith, Hope, and Worship (Leiden, Netherlands,
viewers are asked to observe respectful conduct and to pay
1981), pp. 65–151.
close, contemplative visual attention to the images they en-
counter there. Indeed many of the objects—particularly
Earlier scholarship on the Jains most often viewed the worship of
those in the Mesopotamian, classical, medieval, and non-
Jina images as a borrowed and nonessential practice within
Western sections—formerly resided in religious institutions,
the Jain tradition. John E. Cort’s article, “Bhakti in Early
Jain Tradition,” History of Religions 42 (2002): 59–86, pro-
where some of them received their proper ritual offerings.
vides an important revision, demonstrating that venerative
Now relocated to the comprehensive institutions of the
practices were an integral part of the Jain tradition from an
West, these same images are understood by new audiences
early period. Valuable studies of Jain ritual culture utilizing
to embody the collective artistic accomplishment of their
both ethnographic and textual materials are those of Babb,
cultures and of humanity as a whole. Museum viewers may
cited above, and John E. Cort, Jains in the World: Religious
hope for a transformative experience not through the inter-
Values and Ideology in India (Oxford, 2001). Also notewor-
vention of Athena or S´iva but through a kind of communion
thy for its treatment of devotional practices among Jain
with the artists and cultures of the collective human past.
women is M. Whitney Kelting, Singing to the Jinas: Jain Lay-
women, Mandal Singing, and the Negotiations of Jain Devotion

SEE ALSO Icons; Idolatry.
(Oxford, 2001). For an overview of Jain disputes over image
worship, see Paul Dundas, The Jains (London, 1992).
BIBLIOGRAPHY
For Buddhist traditions concerning the earliest Buddha image, see
General comprehensive studies of image veneration are rare.
Martha L. Carter, The Mystery of the Udayana Buddha (Na-
David Freedberg, The Power of Images: Studies in the History
ples, Italy, 1990). The scholarly literature on the origins of
and Theory of Response (Chicago, 1989), is an ambitious at-
the Buddha image is vast. Works of John S. Strong are partic-
tempt to explore a broad panorama of image-related prac-
ularly valuable for their description of the ritual culture of
tices. Alain Besançon, The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual
early Indian Buddhism. See especially Strong’s “Gandakuti:
History of Iconoclasm (Chicago, 2000), represents an erudite
The Perfumed Chamber of the Buddha,” History of Religions
attempt to trace a Western genealogy for the critique of im-
16 (1977): 390–406. On the Buddhist cult of relics, a useful
ages. Among calls for the rematerializing of religious studies,
starting point is Kevin Trainor, Relics, Ritual, and Representa-
Joanne Punzo Waghorne, The Raja’s Magic Clothes: Re-
tion in Buddhism: Rematerializing the Sri Lankan Therava¯da
Visioning Kingship and Divinity in England’s India (Universi-
Tradition (Cambridge, U.K., 1997). Donald K. Swearer, Be-
ty Park, Pa., 1994), is broad and persuasive. Peter Brown,
coming the Buddha: The Ritual of Image Consecration in Thai-
The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Chris-
land (Princeton, N.J., 2004), considers many issues sur-
tianity (Chicago, 1982) presents the notion of “two-tiered”
rounding the veneration of the Buddha image in the
models in the study of religion. The term ritual culture as
Therava¯da school and provides a detailed ethnographic ac-
used in this article is drawn from Lawrence Alan Babb, Ab-
count of an image consecration. The essays of Gregory Sch-
sent Lord: Ascetics and Kings in a Jain Ritual Culture (Berke-
open have significantly altered the study of Indian Buddhism
ley, Calif., 1996).
and its material practices. Many of these essays are in Sch-
open’s collection Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks: Collect-
A fine overview of image-veneration practices in Mesopotamia is
ed Papers on the Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Texts of Monastic
A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead
Buddhism in India (Honolulu, 1997). On the role of images
Civilization (Chicago, 1964), pp. 183–198. The volume ed-
in East Asian Buddhism, see the volume edited by Robert H.
ited by Michael B. Dick, Born in Heaven, Made on Earth:
Sharf and Elizabeth Horton Sharf, Living Images: Japanese
The Making of the Cult Image in the Ancient Near East (Wi-
Buddhist Icons in Context (Stanford, Calif., 2001).
nona Lake, Ind., 1999), contains valuable articles, including
a detailed study of the mouth-opening consecration, by
A good point of entry into the ritual cultures of Hindu image ven-
Christopher Walker and Michael B. Dick, “The Mesopota-
erators is the collection edited by Joanne Punzo Waghorne
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4388
IMAGES: IMAGES, ICONS, AND IDOLS
and Norman Cutler, Gods of Flesh/Gods of Stone: The Embod-
the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, the Marine Corps
iment of Divinity in India (Chambersburg, Pa., 1985). Diana
Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial. In Civilizing Rituals:
L. Eck, Dar´san: Seeing the Divine Image in India (Chambers-
Inside Public Art Museums (London, 1995), Carol Duncan
burg, Pa., 1985), explicates this important underlying con-
analyzes art museums as ritual settings for the visual contem-
cept in Hinduism. For a more detailed explication of Hindu
plation of art objects. Richard H. Davis, Lives of Indian Im-
worship as practiced by the S´aiva Siddha¯nta school, see Rich-
ages (Princeton, N.J., 1997), follows Hindu religious objects
ard H. Davis, Ritual in an Oscillating Universe: Worshiping
as they are relocated and reinterpreted in Western museums
S´iva in Medieval India (Princeton, N.J., 1991). Among
and other settings.
many valuable ethnographic accounts of image worship in
RICHARD H. DAVIS (2005)
Hindu temples, one of the most comprehensive is Françoise
L’Hernault and Marie-Louise Reiniche, Tiruvannamalai: Un
lieu saint ´sivaïte du Sud de l’Inde
, vol. 3, Rites et fêtes (Paris,
1999). On Hindu disputes over the veneration of images, see
IMAGES: IMAGES, ICONS, AND IDOLS
Richard H. Davis, “Indian Image-Worship and Its Discon-
One way to categorize religious traditions is whether or not
tents,” in Representation in Religion: Studies in Honor of
they accept or advocate the use of two- and/or three-
Moshe Barasch, edited by Jan Assmann and Albert I. Baum-
dimensional objects to symbolize or embody the divine.
garten (Leiden, Netherlands, 2001), pp. 107–132.
Some traditions, such as temple Hinduism, Buddhism, and
For the Andes, Kenneth J. Andrien, Andean Worlds: Indigenous
Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, see the use of such im-
History, Culture, and Consciousness under Spanish Rule, 1532–
ages as central to their theologies and rituals. In these tradi-
1825 (Albuquerque, N.Mex., 2001), offers a good starting
tions images can serve three functions. They can be under-
point. Sabine MacCormack, Religion in the Andes: Vision and
stood to be representations or likenesses of deities, symbols
Imagination in Early Colonial Peru (Princeton, N.J., 1991),
of deities, or the deities themselves. Other traditions, such
reconstructs Andean religion at the time of Spanish conquest
as some schools of Islam, Judaism, and Reformed Protestant
and offers a nuanced portrait of Spanish perceptions of in-
digenous ritual culture. Verónica Salles-Reese, From Vira-
Christianity, are iconoclastic or otherwise oppose the use of
cocha to the Virgin of Copacabana: Representation of the Sacred
images. Still others, such as Lutheran Christianity and the
at Lake Titicaca (Austin, Tex., 1997), stresses continuity in
Advaita Veda¯nta school of Hinduism, are ambivalent or in-
the complex interactions of the huacas and the inquisitors in
different to the use of images.
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. See also Kenneth
Scholars of art and religion generally prefer the use of
Mills, Idolatry and Its Enemies: Colonial Andean Religion and
the terms image and icon to idol, as they argue that the former
Extirpation, 1640–1750 (Princeton, N.J., 1997).
terms are more objective and less judgmental. For most En-
Moshe Barasch, Icon: Studies in the History of an Idea (New York,
glish speakers the word idol is inevitably associated with idol-
1992), provides an excellent brief account of Western cri-
atry or heathen idolatry, and so brings with it theological im-
tiques of the image, ranging from Greeks and Israelites
plications of the biblical and Protestant critiques of images.
through the iconoclastic controversy. For a more detailed ex-
Idolatry in this theological usage is just one of a number of
ploration of the biblical view, see Michael B. Dick, “Prophet-
ic Parodies of Making the Cult Image,” in Born in Heaven,
forms of false religion, so one finds actions, beliefs, and ideol-
Made on Earth, edited by Michael B. Dick (Winona Lake,
ogies as varied as market capitalism, warfare, violence, the
Ind., 1999), pp. 1–53. Two works reconsider early Christian
contemporary U.S. military and its budget, nuclear weapons,
art in light of disputes over the image, Thomas F. Mathews,
undue reliance on technology, an individualistic focus on self
The Clash of Gods: A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art
rather than community, slavery, racism, apartheid, patriar-
(Princeton, N.J., 1993); and Paul Corby Finney, The Invisi-
chy, adulation of cultural heroes, contemporary mass media,
ble God: The Earliest Christians on Art (New York, 1997).
National Socialism, Communism, nationalism, and even sci-
Works on the iconoclastic controversy are too numerous to
entific objectivity decried by their critics as forms of idolatry.
mention. Among several works that explore iconoclastic
practices of the Protestant Reformation, a noteworthy study
Anthropologists, on the other hand, tend to be comfort-
is Lee Palmer Wandel, Voracious Idols and Violent Hands:
able using the word idol and argue that it more accurately
Iconoclasm in Reformation Zurich, Strasbourg, and Basel (New
reflects the theological and ritual understanding of Hindus,
York, 1995). David Morgan addresses the Christian ambiva-
Buddhists, and Jains who themselves use idol in English. Fur-
lence toward images in Visual Piety: A History and Theory of
thermore, they say not to use the term is to disrespect those
Popular Religious Images (Berkeley, Calif., 1998). A. M. Ho-
who in good faith do use it, by implying that their use of the
cart, Kings and Councillors: An Essay in the Comparative Anat-
term betrays an ignorance of the negative connotations of
omy of Human Society (Cairo, 1936, Chicago, 1970) discuss-
idolatry in Abrahamic theologies. Still other scholars of reli-
es iconoclasm and political centralization.
gion prefer to use idol on the grounds that image is too neu-
Among studies of secular iconography of the nation, Samir al-
tral a term. These scholars argue that image does not convey
Khalil, The Monument: Art, Vulgarity, and Responsibility in
adequately the depth of feelings aroused by idols in both dev-
Iraq (Berkeley, Calif., 1991), explores the significance of
otees and critics. Notwithstanding the good arguments in
S:adda¯m H:usayn’s Victory Arch; whereas Albert Boime, The
favor of using idol, this essay will use image.
Unveiling of National Icons: A Plea for Patriotic Iconoclasm in
a Nationalistic Era
(Cambridge, U.K., 1998), traces the his-
TYPES OF IMAGES. The difference between an image and an
tory and interpretations of five key American icons: the flag,
icon is in many cases an arbitrary one. In Christian usage,
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IMAGES: IMAGES, ICONS, AND IDOLS
4389
icon refers only to two-dimensional representations of Jesus
long-standing and heated ideological disagreements. Images
Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a saint, and so for many English-
and relics in particular have been the focus of extended cri-
speakers icon calls to mind a two-dimensional object. Many
tiques and defenses, since they are most clearly tied to theo-
scholars follow this theological distinction and use the term
logical understandings of the relationships among divinity
icon to refer only to two-dimensional objects. Most histori-
and humanity, and spirit and matter.
ans of art and religion use image to refer to any of many ma-
Images serve different functions in religious life. Some
terial objects, both of two and three dimensions, and restrict
of them are visual symbols. They can be visual tools in the
the use of icon to an image that is ritually consecrated and/or
meditation of specially trained religious practitioners, who
in some way participates in the divine substance of that
use two- or three-dimensional forms as props for visualiza-
which it represents.
tion of deities. Images, especially two-dimensional ones with
Three-dimensional images can be of stone, metal, wood,
narrative themes, serve to educate people concerning essen-
lacquer, or clay. An image can be a figurative likeness (iconic)
tial religious truths or the history of a religious community.
or abstract (aniconic). In India, the original image at a shrine
The Catholic pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century
is oftentimes an aniconic natural feature, understood to be
thus termed images “books of the illiterate.” This equation
a manifestation of divine power. As its popularity grows, pa-
of images with books is often found in elite criticisms of im-
trons build increasingly elaborate shrines around the image
ages as being suitable only for commoners or other more
and replace the original natural image with a humanly
childlike and less-educated members of a religious com-
crafted iconic one.
munity.
Two-dimensional images generally are iconic. They can
Images often appear on the outside of temples and
be on paper, wood, or cloth, and the figure can be painted,
shrines. Here they can serve as markers of sectarian identity.
woven, or embroidered.
On the outside and inside of temples images can also serve
an ornamental function, as they add to the grandeur of a
Some traditions, such as Buddhism and Catholic Chris-
building.
tianity, employ both two- and three-dimensional images.
Others, such as Hinduism and Jainism, exhibit a preference
CONSECRATION. When images function as visual markers,
for three-dimensional images over two-dimensional ones. In
there is usually no need to prepare the image through special
Eastern Orthodox Christianity only two-dimensional images
consecratory rituals. But many other functions do require
function as formal liturgical icons. Some objects, such as
such rituals. In particular, the Mesopotamian, Egyptian,
Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain man:d:alas and yantras, are low-
Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions developed complex rit-
relief carvings and castings that at the same time share visual
uals whereby images are infused with divine presence or oth-
features with two-dimensional icons.
erwise consecrated for ritual use.
Mesopotamian texts from the first half of the first mil-
Iconic images can be anthropomorphic and so represent
lennium
a human form. Other iconic images depict animals, divine
BCE describe in detail a two-day ritual sequence for
consecration that involved multiple mouth-washings (Baby-
beings that combine human and nonhuman traits, or inani-
lonian m¯ıs pî), each of which involved mouth-opening rites
mate symbols such as a cross, a book, or a throne. The multi-
(Babylonian p¯ıt pî). References to these rituals are found in
plication of images leads to issues of identity, as different
texts from as early as the twenty-second century
forms are used to depict the same deity. Traditions with
BCE. Egyp-
tian texts from the first half of the first millennium
iconic images therefore develop an iconography, a detailed
BCE de-
scribe a consecration ritual also known as the opening of the
formal canon of distinguishing features of anatomy, color,
mouth; some texts also describe these rituals as involving the
clothing, ornamentation, and attributes held in the hands
opening of the eyes, nose, and ears of the image. Hindu im-
that allow the viewer to identify which deity or saint is de-
ages are consecrated in multiday-festivals that both install
picted. The multiplication of images can also contribute to
vital breath in the image (Sanskrit pra¯n:a pratis:t:ha¯) and
understandings of divinity as plural and diverse. Complex
anoint the image with pure water and many other liquids
iconographies contribute to explicit polytheisms, with many
(abhis:eka). Jain consecration rituals distinguish between the
deities, such as we find in the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Shinto¯,
enlivening of the image through opening its eyes in a rite
Daoist, Egyptian, and Greco-Roman traditions. They also
called literally the “eye-needle” (Sanskrit añjana-´sala¯ka¯), and
contribute to implicit polytheisms of minor deities and/or
the establishment (Sanskrit pratis:t:ha¯) of the image on an altar
saints, such as we find in Catholic and Orthodox Christiani-
for worship. Buddhist rituals throughout Asia employ the
ty. In contrast, explicit monotheisms tend to employ a sim-
two ritual paradigms of opening the eye of the image
plified iconography or be iconoclastic.
(Sanskrit
netra-pratis:t:ha¯pana) and anointing it
The physical nature of images connects them to many
(Buddha-abhis:eka). In Tibetan Buddhist consecrations the
other objects in the material culture of religions, such as rel-
focus is on the establishment (Tibetan rab gnas) of the Bud-
ics, shrines, altars, clothing, staffs, scepters, ritual imple-
dha-nature (Tibetan ye shes sems dpa’, Sanskrit jña¯nasattva)
ments, and books. Only some of these objects, such as im-
in the image. Tantric Buddhist consecrations involve placing
ages, relics, books, and in some cases clothing, engender
consecrated objects such as scriptures and relics inside the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4390
IMAGES: IMAGES, ICONS, AND IDOLS
image. In East Asia, some images are consecrated by placing
sense. These traditions engage in more complicated explana-
the cremated ashes and other relics of a deceased Buddhist
tions of what, if anything, is present in the image, and tie
master in a cavity in the image. The periodic reconsecration
the presence to the intentions and actions of the Buddha or
of the wooden image of the Hindu deity Jaganna¯tha in Oris-
Jina several thousand years ago. Christian theology also de-
sa also involves transferring a sacred object from the old
nies the possibility of real presence in an icon or image, reserv-
image into a cavity in the back of the new one. These rituals
ing this (according to the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and
show the overlap between icons and relics.
some Protestant traditions) to the sanctified bread and wine
I
in the Eucharist. A careful analysis of rituals and stories in
MAGES AS DIVINE PRESENCE. All these rituals effect the
transformation of the image from a humanly manufactured
traditions that theoretically deny presence, however, shows
object into a receptacle or real presence of divinity. In the
that many people act as if there were a divine presence in the
Mesopotamian case the image is understood to have been
image, so scholars must beware placing too much emphasis
produced by the cooperation of humans and gods. In many
on theological arguments of absence.
traditions there are stories of images that either were created
Images and miracles. Stories of images frequently re-
by divine beings, or else were spontaneously material incar-
count miracles. Some miracle stories account for the exis-
nations of the deity him- or herself.
tence of the image itself, as the image or deity arranges for
This dual character of the image, as at once humanly
a person, animal, or deity to find or receive the image and
created and a body for the divine, is reflected in various ways
install it for worship in a shrine. For example, in the early
in the rituals. In the Mesopotamian ritual priests use a wood-
sixteenth century the image of S´r¯ına¯thj¯ı that had earlier ap-
en sword symbolically to cut off the hands of the artisans,
peared from within the sacred Mount Govardhan sum-
whereas the artisans themselves swear an oath that the image
moned the Vais:n:ava saint Vallabha¯ca¯rya (Vallabha, 1479–
was made not by them but by their craft deities. In the Bud-
1531) and revealed its true identity, and in 1672 the image,
dhist ritual in Sri Lanka the act of painting in the eye of the
which had been removed from the danger of spoilage by the
image to open it is considered so dangerous that no one can
Mughal rulers, indicated its eventual home in Nathdwara by
look at the image during this process, and even the craftsman
preventing the bullock cart carrying it from leaving that site.
who performs the act must do it with a mirror. This would
In 1531 in Guadalupe the Virgin Mary appeared to the
appear to indicate a powerful presence in the image, greater
Mayan Indian peasant Juan Diego and left an image of her-
than anything within normal human experience.
self on a cloth. In circumstances where there is extensive
iconoclastic opposition to and destruction of images, many
It is often not clear whether the image is a representation
miracle stories relate how images saved themselves from de-
of a particular deity, or is the deity itself. The language of
struction and thereby verified the theological correctness of
hymns and rituals, as well as stories concerning images, allow
the cult of images. Miracle stories also recount ways that im-
for both interpretations. Some paintings of images clearly de-
ages have saved cities and towns from hostile armies. The
pict an image in a temple. In others it is unclear if the painter
Hodegetria icon of the Virgin Mary was displayed by the em-
has depicted the deity or an image of the deity.
perors of Constantinople to help protect the city from invad-
A further ambiguity seen in consecration rituals is
ers. Politically and socially important images also become the
whether the image is the sole abode of a particular deity, or
source of attention for the state’s enemies. The Hodegetria
the abode of a deity who equally resides in other images.
was sought by the Venetian conquerors of Constantinople
While the language and actions of the consecration ritual
in 1204, and later cut into four pieces by the Turkish con-
usually indicate that the image has now become a permanent
querors of the city in 1453. While the Venetians were unable
abode of the divine, the language and actions of some daily
to locate and seize the Hodegetria icon, they did seize another
rituals simultaneously indicate an understanding that the rit-
icon of Mary, the Nicopeia, which had been on the chariot
ual practitioner invokes the deity into the image and then
of the defeated commander of the Greek army, and trans-
dismisses the deity at the conclusion of the ritual. Most im-
ported it and many other images back to Venice for installa-
ages are the subject of annual or periodic rituals of purifica-
tion in the cathedral of San Marco.
tion and renewal. In some cases these rituals consist of a set
Most miracle images come to have a distinct personality
of purifications; in others the image itself is repaired, reorna-
that is indicated by its name. Examples of these are the Emer-
mented, or even, as in the case of the Jaganna¯tha, entirely
ald Buddha in Thailand, the Zenko¯ji icon of Amida, Japan,
refabricated.
the Jain S´an˙khe´svara Pa¯r´svana¯tha in Gujarat, India, the In-
In some traditions, such as the Mesopotamian, Egyp-
fant Jesus of Prague, the Hodegetria icon of the Virgin Mary,
tian, Hindu, and Maha¯ya¯na Buddhist, there is little or no
and the Vladimir Mother of God icon now in Saint Peters-
theological problem caused by positing the presence of the
burg, Russia. These images are readily identifiable to mem-
deity, either in whole or as a partial incarnation, in the image.
bers of the religious community. Replicas of these images are
But other traditions deny this possibility. In Therava¯da Bud-
known by the same name, and the spread of such images
dhism and Jainism the Buddha and the Jina, respectively, are
creates a replication cult. Replication cults appear to be most
understood no longer to be present in this world in a tangible
prominent in Buddhism, Jainism, and Christianity. As Hin-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IMAGES: IMAGES, ICONS, AND IDOLS
4391
duism has spread outside of India in recent decades, many
directed toward a saint, and worship (Greek latreia, Latin la-
temples built in Europe and the United States represent a
tria), which is appropriate only toward Jesus as God. This
replication cult, such as the temple outside of Pittsburgh,
distinction was adopted by Catholic theologians, who added
Pennsylvania, that replicates the temple of Ven˙kate´svara in
an intermediate rite of special veneration (hyperdulia) in
Tirupati in southern India. Related to replication cults is the
which the Virgin Mary was named the Mother of God.
widespread practice of pilgrims obtaining inexpensive repli-
Image cults often involve processions, in which an im-
cas of icons to take home and place in a household shrine.
portant image is periodically taken out of the shrine and pro-
These reproductions tend to be two dimensional more often
cessed around the village or neighborhood. In some cases it
than three dimensional, and rarely undergo formal consecra-
is the central image of a shrine that is processed. In other
tion rites. Just as consecrated images exhibit an ambiguity
cases the main image remains permanently in the shrine, and
concerning whether they are the sole and unique abodes of
a portable image stands in for it in the procession. Proces-
particular deities, so also replication images at once share in
sions spread the power and blessings of the image throughout
the presence of the original and point away from themselves
the geographical area encompassed by the procession. In tra-
to that unique and easily identifiable original.
ditions such as Hinduism before Indian independence, in
Images and religious conversions. Images often play
which entry to many temples was prohibited to some lower
an important role in the spread of religions and in conver-
castes, the procession also allows access to the image on the
sions. Chinese texts call Buddhism “the teaching of the
part of the total population.
[Buddha] images” (xiangjiao). The introduction of Bud-
Vows taken before an image may have the same binding
dhism into the Korean kingdom of Silla in the early sixth
significance as those taken before the deity or a religious lead-
century was effected by a miracle, as the severed head of a
er. In the Jain tradition, for example, a person should be ini-
pro-image martyr spouted a fountain of pure white blood.
tiated into monkhood by another monk, but several twenti-
The introduction of Buddhism into Japan later in the same
eth-century Digambara monks initiated themselves in front
century was also effected by a miracle, as an image that oppo-
of Jina images. Shingon Buddhist monks in medieval Japan
nents had thrown into a canal arranged for a commoner to
also performed self-ordinations in front of Buddha images
rescue it and in return revived his dead son. Images have also
to start new monastic lineages. Buddhist monks in many tra-
proved to be bridges between different religious communi-
ditions perform rites of confession in front of Buddha
ties, such as the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe in Mexico, of
images.
whom there were different but overlapping understandings
by the indigenous Mayans and the conquering Spaniards.
COMMISSIONING AND MAKING OF IMAGES. The most obvi-
ous reason people commission images for installation in
RITUAL USES OF IMAGES. Consecrated images are the foci of
shrines is devotion to and faith in the deity represented by
many rituals. Viewing an image is itself an efficacious ritual
the image, although in the case of replication cults this devo-
in many traditions, which leads to the elaborate ornamenta-
tion may be directed to the particular icon as much as to the
tion of images. In many cases, such as Hindu, Jain, and
deity. This devotion may be a generalized response to the
Christian images, the ornamentation is so extensive that it
deity on the part of the donor, or it may be motivated by
almost totally covers the image, so the image’s identity is es-
a request from the deity or other miraculous event. In many
tablished more by the ornamentation than by the underlying
traditions the donation of images earns religious merit for the
“original” image. In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism im-
donor. Images are donated as the result of vows, in which
ages are offered flowers, incense, lamps, edibles, and other
a person pledges to donate an image in response to the fulfill-
physical substances. In Hindu Vais:n:ava traditions the deity
ment of a particular desire for health, success, or other form
is understood to consume the subtle essence of the offerings
of well-being. Images can be donated to enhance the social
that are then returned to the person as prasa¯da, literally “di-
prestige of the donor. This intention is often underscored by
vine grace.” In contrast, Jain and Hindu S´aiva traditions ex-
an inscription or other testimonial, such as inclusion of a
plicitly restrict such transactions. Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain
portrait of the donor in the painting or sculpture, that pub-
rituals also involve the anointing of images with water, milk,
licly links the image to the donor’s name.
and other liquids in a ritual idiom that shares much with the
consecration of kings. In Christianity devotion to an image
In many cultures images are made by hereditary crafts-
is usually expressed through kissing it and praying in front
men. In India there is no requirement that the craftsmen be
of it.
of the same religious tradition, so the Vais:n:ava stone carvers
of Jaipur also make images for S´aivas, goddess worshipers,
Rituals can differ according to the deity symbolized or
and Jains, and in some places in India nonconsecrated images
embodied by the image. In Jainism, the eight-part ritual of-
are even made by Muslims. In other traditions there is an ex-
fering (Sanskrit as:t:apraka¯r¯ı pu¯ja¯) is done only to images of
pectation that the craftsman be within the same tradition,
the enlightened and liberated Jinas, whereas images of unlib-
for the making of a religious image, especially one to be con-
erated deities receive a different number of offerings. The
secrated, requires a higher degree of moral purity or spiritual
Eastern Orthodox theologian Saint John of Damascus distin-
insight than making a nonreligious image. In some Tibetan
guished between veneration (Greek proskinesis, Latin dulia)
Tantric esoteric traditions the painters of thangkas are expect-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4392
IMAGES: IMAGES, ICONS, AND IDOLS
ed to have taken formal initiation in the cult of the deity.
Bentor, Yael. Consecration of Images and Stu¯pas in Indo-Tibetan
Old Believers of the Russian Orthodox Church said that the
Tantric Buddhism. Leiden, 1996.
only way to be sure that an icon was not actually an icon of
Besançon, Alain. The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual History of
the antichrist was to insist that icon painters live in a state
Iconoclasm. Translated by Jane Marie Todd. Chicago, 2000.
of near-monastic spirituality and simplicity. Painters of
Camille, Michael. The Gothic Idol: Ideology and Image-Making in
Greek Orthodox icons are also expected to be in a condition
Medieval Art. Cambridge, U.K., 1989.
of heightened reverence, for icon painting is understood not
Cormack, Robin. Painting the Soul: Icons, Death Masks, and
as a form of artistic self-expression, but as an act in imitation
Shrouds. London, 1997.
of the first image of Christ, the icon “made without hands”
Cort, John E. Jains in the World: Religious Values and Ideology in
(Greek acheiropoietos) or cloth true portrait (Greek mandy-
India. New York, 2001.
lion) made when Christ imprinted the features of his face on
Davis, Richard H. Lives of Indian Images. Princeton, N.J., 1997.
a cloth.
Davis, Richard H., ed. Images, Miracles, and Authority in Asian
ICONOCLASM AND JUSTIFICATIONS OF IMAGES. Traditions
Traditions. Boulder, Colo., 1998.
that devote extensive theological and ritual attention to im-
Dick, Michael B., ed. Born in Heaven, Made on Earth: The Making
ages almost always generate countermovements in criticism
of the Cult Image in the Ancient Near East. Winona Lake,
or opposition to images. The destruction of images (icono-
Ind., 1999.
clasm) is oftentimes accompanied by criticisms of other as-
Eck, Diana L. Dar´san: Seeing the Divine Image in India. 3d ed.
pects of the material culture of the religion, of priestly hierar-
New York, 1998.
chies with special prerogatives and extensive powers, and of
theological decentralizing through either polytheism or the
Eckel, Malcolm David. To See the Buddha: A Philosopher’s Quest
for the Meaning of Emptiness. Princeton, N.J., 1992.
development of cults of multiple subsidiary deities or saints.
In some cases, as in the critiques of the A¯rya Sama¯j in Hindu-
Eire, Carlos M. N. War against the Idols: The Reformation of Wor-
ism, the Stha¯nakava¯s¯ıs and Tera¯panth¯ıs in Jainism, and Lu-
ship from Erasmus to Calvin. Cambridge, U.K., 1986.
therans in Christianity, iconoclasm is nonviolent and aims
Faure, Bernard. Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese
at convincing people to ignore and eventually reject images.
Buddhism. Translated by Phyllis Brooks. Princeton, N.J.,
In other cases, such as the Christian Iconoclastic Controversy
1996.
of the eighth and ninth centuries and the Calvinist Reforma-
Freedberg, D. The Power of Images: Studies in the History and The-
tion, the iconoclasm was more violent, with extensive de-
ory of Response. Chicago, 1989.
struction of images. Iconoclastic movements also lead to the
Gombrich, Richard. “The Consecration of the Buddhist Image.”
development of self-conscious defenses of images and the
Journal of Asian Studies 26 (1966): 23–36.
cult of images. Saint John of Damascus and Saint Theodore
Halbertal, Moshe, and Avishai Margalit. Idolatry. Translated by
of Studion articulated the Orthodox Christian theology of
Naomi Goldblum. Cambridge, Mass., 1992.
the image during the Iconoclastic Controversy, the Council
Hiromitsu, Washizuka, and Roger Goepper. Enlightenment Em-
of Trent confirmed the Catholic theology of images in re-
bodied: The Art of the Japanese Buddhist Sculptor (7th–14th
sponse to the Protestant Reformation, and Mu¯rtipu¯jaka Jain
Centuries). Translated and edited by Reiko Tomii and Kath-
thinkers developed their philosophy of images in response to
leen M. Friello. New York, 1997.
the Stha¯nakava¯s¯ı critiques. Iconoclastic opposition to images
Humphrey, Caroline, and James Laidlaw. The Archetypal Actions
can also come from outside a tradition. It can be physically
of Ritual: A Theory of Ritual Illustrated by the Jain Rite of Wor-
nonviolent, as in the case of the Christian polemics against
ship. Oxford, 1994.
Hindu idols in nineteenth- and twentieth-century India, or
Image and Ritual in Buddhism. Thematic issue of History of Reli-
it can result in the violent overthrow of images as witnessed
gions 34, no. 3 (February 1995).
most recently in 2001 by the destruction of the Buddha im-
Kailasam, Bala, dir. Vaastu Marabu. Watertown, Mass., 1992.
ages at Bamiyan in Afghanistan by the Taliban.
Kieschnick, John. The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material
Culture. Princeton, N.J., 2003.
SEE ALSO Iconography; Icons; Idolatry.
Kinnard, Jacob N. Imaging Wisdom: Seeing and Knowing in the Art
of Indian Buddhism. Richmond, U.K., 1999.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
The literature on images and icons is extensive, with significant
McCallum, Donald F. Zenko¯ji and Its Icon: A Study in Medieval
contributions from historians of religion, art historians, and
Japanese Religious Art. Princeton, N.J., 1994.
anthropologists. The following bibliography includes the
Miles, Margaret. Image as Insight: Visual Understanding in Western
most recent and authoritative sources, each of which con-
Christianity and Secular Culture. Boston, 1985.
tains further extensive bibliographies.
Morse, Anne Nishimura, and Samuel Crowell Morse, eds. Object
Barasch, Moshe. Icon: Studies in the History of an Idea. New York,
as Insight: Japanese Buddhist Art and Ritual. Katonah, N.Y.
1992.
1995.
Belting, Hans. Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before
Ouspensky, Léonid, and Vladimir Lossky. The Meaning of Icons.
the Era of Art. Translated by Edmund Jephcott. Chicago,
Translated by G. E. H. Palmer and E. Kadloubovsky. 2d ed.
1994.
Crestwood, N.Y., 1982.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IMAMATE
4393
Padoux, André, ed. L’Image Divine: Culte et Méditation dans
preserving the unity and solidarity of the Muslim communi-
l’Hindouisme. Paris, 1990.
ty under a single imam and were prepared to compromise
Pelikan, Jaroslav. Imago Dei: The Byzantine Apologia for Icons.
on the ideal of his legitimacy and justice. Sunn¯ı theory gen-
Princeton, N.J., 1990.
erally held that the true and exemplary caliphate, meaning
Schopen, Gregory. Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks: Collected
the vicegerency of prophecy (khila¯fat al-nubu¯wah) was re-
Papers on the Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Texts of Monastic
stricted to the first four, or “Rightly Guided” (Ra¯shidu¯n) ca-
Buddhism. Honolulu, 1997.
liphs, Abu¯ Bakr, EUmar, EUthma¯n, and EAl¯ı. This view was
Sharf, Robert H., and Elizabeth Horton Sharf, eds. Living Images:
embodied in a well-known h:ad¯ıth attributed to Muh:ammad,
Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context. Stanford, Calif., 2001.
according to which the caliphate was to last for only thirty
years after his death and to be followed by mere autocratic
Shepherd, Rupert, and Robert Maniura, eds. Depicted Bodies and
Present Souls. London, 2004.
kingship (mulk). Sunn¯ıs considered the first four caliphs to
be the most excellent of humankind after Muh:ammad and
Strickmann, Michel. Mantras et Mandarins: Le Bouddhisme Tan-
thus entitled to his succession as leaders of the community.
trique en Chine. Paris, 1996.
Swearer, Donald K. Becoming the Buddha: The Ritual of Image
This judgment did not apply, however, to the later ca-
Consecration in Thailand. Princeton, N.J., 2004.
liphs, many of whom were seen as unjust and impious. While
Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and
the later caliphate was thus recognized to be imperfect,
the Cult of Amulets. Cambridge, U.K., 1984.
Sunn¯ı doctrine viewed it still as a divinely sanctioned and
Tarasov, Oleg. Icon and Devotion: Sacred Spaces in Imperial Russia.
indispensable institution and stressed the obligation of every
Translated and edited by Robin Milner-Gulland. London,
Muslim to obey and actively support the established imam,
2002.
be he just or oppressive, pious or immoral, except in viola-
Tripathi, G. C. “Navakalevara: The Unique Ceremony of the
tion of the religious law. Conservative traditionalist opinion,
‘Birth’ and the ‘Death’ of the ‘Lord of the World.’” In The
especially that of H:anbal¯ı jurists, virtually equated power
Cult of Jaganna¯tha and the Regional Traditions of Orissa, ed-
and legitimacy, affirming the validity of the imamate gained
ited by Anncharlott Eschmann, Hermann Kulke, and Gaya
by usurpation. In their view, the imamate could become
Charan Tripathi, pp. 223–264. New Delhi, 1978.
binding without any act of recognition by the Muslim com-
Waghorne, Joanne Punzo, and Norman Cutler, eds. Gods of Flesh/
munity. The only prerequisite for the rightful imam was that
Gods of Stone: The Embodiment of Divinity in India. Cham-
he be a Muslim of the Quraysh, the tribe of Muh:ammad.
bersburg, Pa., 1985.
A less radical view of the caliphate was taken by another
JOHN E. CORT (2005)
current of Sunn¯ı thought, represented in particular in the
legal school of al-Sha¯fiE¯ı. The Sha¯fiE¯ı jurists did not confine
the legitimate imamate to the most excellent of the commu-
IMAGINATION SEE AESTHETICS; ART AND
nity and allowed that a less excellent candidate might be cho-
RELIGION
sen, especially in order to avoid discord. They considered the
late caliphate essentially as a legitimate continuation of the
ideal rule of the four Rightly Guided caliphs, to be judged
by the standards they had set. On this basis they elaborated
IMAMATE. The Arabic term imam means in general
a comprehensive legal doctrine concerning the qualifications,
“leader” or “master.” In nontechnical usage it is often applied
election, rights, and duties of the imam. Their activity
to a leading authority in a field of scholarship or to the leader
reached its peak with al-Ma¯ward¯ı (d. 1058), whose book
of a community. As a technical term in Islamic law and the-
Al-ah:ka¯m al-sult:a¯n¯ıyah (The statutes of government) came
ology, it refers to the legitimate supreme leader of the Mus-
to be widely regarded as an authoritative statement of classi-
lim community and also to the leader of the ritual prayer
cal Sunn¯ı teaching on the imamate.
(s:ala¯t). The imamate, as the office of imam, will be dealt with
here in these two technical senses.
Classical theory. Classical Sunn¯ı theory considered the
imamate as an institution necessary for the legitimacy of all
SUPREME LEADERSHIP OF THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY. The
acts of government. Thus it held that the Muslim communi-
question of leadership, in theory and practice, has historically
ty was under the obligation to set up an imam as its supreme
evoked different responses within the different branches of
head at all times. It allowed for only a single imam at any
Islam.
time and considered rival caliphs, even if they were in clear
The Sunn¯ıs. Representing the great majority of Mus-
control of part of the Islamic world, to be illegitimate. The
lims, the Sunn¯ıs have generally viewed the historical caliph-
imam was to be of Quraysh¯ı descent, male, major, free, phys-
ate as the legitimate leadership of Islam after the prophet
ically fit, and capable to execute the political and military du-
Muh:ammad. For them, the imam is thus identical with the
ties of the office. He was to have the knowledge of the reli-
ruling caliph. Actual rule, even if reduced to a minimum, is
gious law required for the judgeship and probity as required
indispensable for the legitimacy of the imam. Throughout
for legal testimony. The imam could be either appointed by
history, however, the Sunn¯ıs were primarily concerned with
his predecessor or elected. These alternative modes of invest-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4394
IMAMATE
ment were based on the fact that the second caliph, EUmar,
principle of rule by consultation (shu¯ra¯), often seen to imply
was appointed by his predecessor, Abu¯ Bakr, but, before his
the need for an elected parliamentary council to advise the
death, set up an electoral council (shu¯ra¯) of six prominent
supreme ruler, and the principle of election rather than ap-
companions of the Prophet to choose his successor. The later
pointment by the imam’s predecessor.
caliphs in most instances appointed their successors, com-
The Sh¯ıEah. While Sunn¯ı Muslims were essentially mo-
monly their sons.
tivated to back the actual holder of supreme power as the
In the case of election, the law considered any Muslim
guarantor of the unity of the Muslim community, the Sh¯ıEah
of probity, discernment, and with knowledge about the na-
have primarily emphasized the principle of legitimacy of the
ture of the office qualified to act as an elector. The number
imam, which they see vested in the family of the prophet
of electors required to make the election binding on the
Muh:ammad. The majority of Sh¯ıE¯ı imams, except among
whole Muslim community was generally held to be small,
the Zayd¯ıyah, never held political power, though the Sh¯ıEah
and a common view considered a single elector sufficient.
considered them solely entitled to the supreme leadership of
The legal doctrine here reflected the fact that in the absence
the Muslim community and viewed the historical caliphs,
of an appointed successor a handful of powerful men were
with the exception of EAl¯ı, as illegitimate usurpers. Partly as
usually able to impose a successor of their choice. The elec-
a result of their lack of political power, the Sh¯ıEah have tend-
tion was not intended to be a free choice between candidates,
ed to endow their imams with great religious authority and
but a selection of the “most excellent” in religious terms. The
to place the imamate at the center of religion.
election of the “less excellent” was viewed as permissible only
Twelvers. Twelver Sh¯ıE¯ı doctrine bases the imamate on
for proper cause.
the permanent need for a divinely guided, infallible ruler and
The imamate became legally invalid through loss of lib-
teacher of religion. This need was recognized through human
erty and of mental or physical fitness. Many Sha¯fiE¯ı authori-
reason rather than revelation. After the age of the prophets
ties also held it to be forfeited by loss of probity through im-
had come to a close with Muh:ammad, these divinely guided
moral conduct, injustice, or heterodoxy; this view was
leaders were the imams, beginning with Muh:ammad’s cou-
denied, however, by others and by H:anbal¯ı and H:anaf¯ı
sin and son-in-law, EAl¯ı. They were, like the prophets, fully
opinion in general. In practice there was no way to apply this
immune from sin and error and shared the same function
rule. Sunn¯ı law defined the duties of the imam as: guarding
and authority, though they would not bring a new divine
the faith against heresy, protecting the peace in the territory
scripture because the QurDa¯n was final. The imamate thus as-
of Islam, defending it against external enemies, conducting
sumed the same religious significance as prophecy. Ignorance
jiha¯d against those outside the territory of Islam resisting its
or disobedience of any of the imams constituted infidelity
supremacy, enforcing law and justice between disputants, ad-
equal to ignorance or disobedience of the Prophet. For the
ministering punishments (h:udu¯d) under the religious law,
Twelvers, the imamate is handed down by divinely directed
collecting legal alms and other taxes and the fifth of war
designation (nas:s:) of the successor. Thus the great majority
booty due to the imam, spending revenue according to the
of the companions of Muh:ammad and the Muslim commu-
provisions of the law, and appointing trustworthy and quali-
nity at large had become apostates when they recognized Abu¯
fied officials in delegating his authority.
Bakr as the imam in place of EAl¯ı, who had been publicly des-
ignated by Muh:ammad as his successor. After H:asan and
Subsequent developments. The overthrow of the Abbas-
H:usayn, the grandsons of Muh:ammad, the imamate was to
id caliphate in Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 confronted
be transferred only from father to son among the descen-
Sunn¯ı legal theory with a new situation. The Abbasid shad-
dants of H:usayn.
ow caliphate set up by the Mamluk sultans in Cairo was gen-
In 874 the death of the eleventh imam without apparent
erally ignored. After the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in
son caused a crisis that was eventually resolved by the affir-
1516, the claims of the Ottoman sultans to the caliphate
mation that a son had been born to him and continued to
gained some popular support. Sunn¯ı jurists, however, mostly
live on earth, though in concealment (ghaybah) from human-
considered the imamate to be in abeyance. Relying on the
kind. The twelfth imam was identified with the eschatologi-
legal principle of necessity (d:aru¯rah), they maintained that
cal Mahdi or Qa¯Dim who is expected to appear before the end
because the actual exercise of power was essential to the
of the world and to rule it in glory. Because the twelfth imam
imamate, its functions had devolved upon the rulers of the
is present on earth and may show himself to some of the
Muslim world, whoever they were. The formal abolition of
faithful in person or in a dream, he is held to be essentially
the Ottoman sultanate (1922) and caliphate (1924) by the
still able to fulfill his supreme function of conveying infalli-
Turkish National Assembly has led to a renewed interest in
ble divine guidance. His more practical legal duties and
the question of a supreme and universal leader of Islam. Al-
rights have either been assumed gradually by the Sh¯ıE¯ı
though some modernists have denied the need for the imam-
Eulama¯D (religious scholars), who claim a general deputyship
ate, others among them, as well as fundamentalists, have ad-
of the imam during his concealment, or remain in abeyance.
vocated its restoration. Here the ideal model is the caliphate
of the four Rightly Guided caliphs rather than the later dy-
Twelver Sh¯ıE¯ı tradition ascribes to the imams numerous
nastic caliphate. Modernists have stressed in particular the
miracles and supernatural powers. They are described as hav-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IMAMATE
4395
ing complete command of all crafts and languages, including
however, these eschatological expectations receded, and the
those of animals. Though they are not endowed with a natu-
Fatimid caliphs were viewed as a continuous line of imams
ral knowledge of the hidden, God gives them knowledge of
within the era of Islam.
anything they wish to know: “what has been and what will
be.” Because they inherit the knowledge of the prophet
After the fall of the Fatimid dynasty, the Isma¯E¯ıl¯ıyah
Muh:ammad, they are perfectly informed of both the outer
survived mainly in two branches. The T:ayyib¯ıyah recognized
(exoteric) and the inner (esoteric) meaning of the QurDa¯n.
al-T:ayyib, an infant son of the Fatimid caliph al-A¯mir about
They are in possession of all revealed scriptures as well as
whose fate nothing is known, as their imam and denied his
books containing secret knowledge, including the Sah:¯ıfah,
death. They hold that al-T:ayyib, though in concealment, re-
Jafr, Ja¯mi Eah, and the Mus:h:af of Fa¯t:imah. They receive di-
mains in touch with his community and will return. He is
vine guidance from an angel who speaks to them and informs
not identified, however, with the eschatological Qa¯Dim. In
them, though unlike the messenger prophets, they do not see
later T:ayyibi gnostic thought, the imam is described as hav-
him.
ing both a human nature (na¯su¯t) and a divine nature (la¯hu¯t).
His human, physical nature, also called the “camphoric fig-
The imams are endowed with the Holy Spirit. In nu-
ure,” is composed of the vapors that arise from the souls of
merous passages of the QurDa¯n they are evoked by terms such
the faithful three days after their death. The divine nature
as “the light of God,” his “witnesses,” his “signs,” those “firm
is described as a light temple formed by the assembly of light
in knowledge.” They are the “vicegerents” of God on earth
points of the souls of the faithful and the teaching hierarchy.
and the “gates” through which he may be approached. In
This light temple will, after the death of the imam, rise to
popular piety the privilege of the imams to intercede with
the horizon of the Tenth Intellect, the demiurge, where it
God for the sinners of their community has always loomed
will assemble with the temples of the other imams to form
large and has inspired the frequent pilgrimages of the faithful
the immense light temple of the Qa¯Dim.
to their tombs. Later esoteric Twelver Sh¯ıE¯ı teaching, influ-
enced by S:u¯f¯ı and Isma¯E¯ıl¯ı thought, defined the permanent
The Niza¯r¯ı branch recognized Niza¯r, a son of the Fati-
essence of the imamate as wala¯yah, the quality of a wal¯ı,
mid caliph al-Mustans:ir, as their imam and has continued
“friend of God,” and as the esoteric aspect of prophecy. The
to adhere to a line of present imams leading, for the great
imam was viewed as the initiator to the mystical truths.
majority, to the Aga Khans. The proclamation of the resur-
rection (qiya¯mah) in 1164 and the subsequent return to an
Isma¯E¯ıl¯ıyah. When, after the sixth imam, JaEfar
age of concealment brought major reforms of the esoteric
al-S:a¯diq, the Isma¯E¯ıl¯ıyah separated from the group develop-
doctrine of the imamate. The imams were now raised in rank
ing into the Twelver Sh¯ıEah, they retained the idea of a per-
above the prophets. As a potential Qa¯Dim, each imam was
manent need for a divinely guided, infallible leader and
held to have the authority to suspend or apply the religious
teacher but developed from it a cyclical view of the history
law as the circumstances required. The imam was in his spiri-
of the true religion. For the Isma¯E¯ıl¯ıyah, prophetic revelation
tual essence defined as a manifestation of the divine word or
progresses through seven eras. Each of the first six is inaugu-
command, the cause of the spiritual world. The faithful at-
rated by a “speaker prophet,” who brings a scripture with a
tain spiritual birth, or resurrection, through recognition of
law and is followed by a “silent fundament.” The fundament
the essence of the imam. In the era of concealment, spiritual
reveals the esoteric truth concealed in the scripture and is fol-
union with the imam was restricted to his h:ujjah, who was
lowed by seven imams in sequence, the seventh of whom
his gate for the faithful and the sole dispenser of spiritual
rises in rank to become the speaker of the following era. The
truth.
imam takes the place of the speaker prophet in guarding and
applying the literal aspect of the revealed law, while his
Zayd¯ıyah. Unlike other Sh¯ıE¯ı Muslims, the Zayd¯ıyah
h:ujjah (“proof”), representing the rank below the imam in
do not consider their imams divinely protected from error
the hierarchy, succeeds the fundament in revealing the eso-
and sin and do not recognize a hereditary line of imams.
teric truths to the initiate.
They hold that after the first Sh¯ıE¯ı imams, EAl¯ı, H:asan, and
H:usayn, who were appointed by the prophet Muh:ammad
In the sixth era, that of Muh:ammad and Islam, EAl¯ı was
through a descriptive designation, the imamate belongs to
the fundament and JaEfar al-S:a¯diqEs grandson Muh:ammad
any qualified descendant of H:asan or H:usayn who rises
ibn Isma¯E¯ıl the seventh imam from H:asan. As such he was
against the illegitimate rulers. Apart from his descent, the
expected, after his imminent advent from concealment, to
legal qualifications of the imam are substantially the same as
rise in rank to become the seventh speaker prophet, who was
in Sunn¯ı law. Special emphasis is placed, however, on reli-
identified with the Mahdi and Qa¯Dim. This early Isma¯E¯ıl¯ı ex-
gious learning, competence to render legal judgment, moral
pectation was modified in the tenth century by the rise of
integrity, and courage. Zayd¯ı imams have generally been
the Fatimid caliphs, who claimed to be imams. Some
scholars of rank and authors of the most authoritative Zayd¯ı
Isma¯E¯ıl¯ı backers of the Fatimid caliphate recognized the first
religious works. The imamate becomes legally binding upon
Fatimid caliph as the Mahdi, while others continued to ex-
the issuance of a formal call to allegiance (da Ewah) and rising
pect the early return of Muh:ammad ibn Isma¯E¯ıl and consid-
against illegitimate rule, not through election or appoint-
ered the Fatimids his lieutenants. As Fatimid rule continued,
ment by a previous imam. After his call to allegiance, recog-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4396
IMAMATE
nition and active backing of the imam is incumbent upon
live under the rule of the opponent and to practice dissimula-
every believer. The imamate is forfeited by loss of any of the
tion. Only the imam of the state of manifestation was enti-
qualifications, in particular by moral offenses. According to
tled to exercise all the functions of the imamate.
the prevalent doctrine, only the most excellent claimant is
L
entitled to the imamate, and if a more excellent candidate
EADERSHIP OF THE RITUAL PRAYER. The ritual prayer,
which is obligatory for every Muslim five times daily, may
arises to claim it, the excelled imam must surrender it to him.
be performed individually or in group with a leader who is
This has been disputed, however, by some later authorities.
called the imam. The same applies to several special prayers,
In practice rival claims to the imamate have often divided the
which are merely recommended, on the occasion of festivals
allegiance of the Zayd¯ı communities, both in Yemen and in
and solar or lunar eclipses, prayers for rain, and supererogato-
the coastal regions south of the Caspian Sea.
ry and funeral prayers. In most of these cases group prayer,
Although in Zayd¯ı legal theory there must always be a
preferably in a mosque, is the recommended form whenever
qualified candidate for the imamate, the Zayd¯ı imamate has
possible. The congregational Friday prayer, which is general-
often been in abeyance for prolonged periods. The list of rec-
ly obligatory for those in easy reach of a congregational
ognized imams has never been definitely fixed, though there
mosque (ja¯mi E), can only be performed in group with an
is consensus on many of them. Many Zayd¯ı EAl¯ıd rulers did
imam.
not claim the imamate or were not recognized as imams by
The imam must face the qiblah, the direction toward
later Zayd¯ı opinion because they did not fulfill the require-
Mecca. In the mosque he stands in front of the mih:ra¯b, or
ments, especially that of religious learning. These were often
prayer niche, which indicates this direction. In the early time
considered as “restricted” imams, or “summoners” (du Ea¯t),
of Islam a staff or lance was placed in the ground before him.
with limited authority.
The congregation stands in rows behind the imam; no one
Kha¯rij¯ıs. Whereas the Sh¯ıEah historically based their re-
is permitted to be in front of him. If there is only a single
pudiation of the Sunn¯ı caliphate on the principle of legitima-
worshiper following the prayer, he may stand at the imam’s
cy, the Kha¯rij¯ıs founded their opposition on an uncompro-
right, and a second one may stand at his left. The members
mising concept of the justice and moral integrity of the
of the congregation must strictly follow the imam in every
imam. In Kha¯rij¯ı doctrine the imam loses his legitimacy by
movement and recitation. While the imam recites in a loud
any violation of religious law and must be removed, by force
voice, however, they should generally not be heard. If the
if necessary. The unjust or immoral imam and his supporters
congregation is too large for everyone to see and hear the
are to be treated as infidels unless they repent. EUthma¯n and
imam, special “conveyors” (sg., muballigh) may be employed
EAl¯ı are viewed as initially legitimate imams who became in-
to repeat his takb¯ırs, marking the transition to the next phase
fidels by their illicit acts and thus were rightfully murdered.
of the prayer, for the worshipers in the back rows or outside
Any Muslim who does not dissociate himself or herself from
the mosque.
them and their supporters shares their state of infidelity.
The obligation to imitate strictly the movements of the
Likewise any Muslim who does not affirm solidarity with
imam applies even if a worshiper belongs to another legal
just imams such as Abu¯ Bakr and EUmar is an infidel. The
school prescribing different prayer rituals. While this rule has
Kha¯rij¯ıs also unanimously rejected the elitist Sunn¯ı doctrine
been generally accepted among the four Sunn¯ı schools, there
restricting the imamate to the Quraysh. They held that any
have at times been problems. Some H:anaf¯ı authorities held
qualified Muslim, even of non-Arab and slave origin, was eli-
that raising the hands during the bowing (ruku¯ E) and lifting
gible. An exceptional view extended this egalitarian principle
the head, as practiced by the Sha¯fiE¯ıyah and others, invali-
to women as well. The other qualifications and functions of
dates the prayer and ruled that a H:anaf¯ı must not pray be-
the imam were similar to Sunn¯ı doctrine, with special em-
hind a Sha¯fiE¯ı imam. This matter provoked friction between
phasis on the QurDanic duty of “commanding what is proper
the two schools for centuries.
and prohibiting what is reprehensible” and on the imam’s
leadership of the jiha¯d against non-Kha¯rij¯ı Muslims.
A group praying outside a mosque may generally choose
its own imam. Preferably he should be the most worthy
Only the most moderate sect of the Kha¯rij¯ıs, the
among them, with particular consideration given to probity,
Iba¯d:¯ıyah, survived the first centuries of Islam. The Iba¯d:¯ıyah
knowledge of QurDanic texts for recitation during prayer,
took a more accommodating view toward non-Kha¯rij¯ı Islam
knowledge of the ritual, and freedom from speech defects.
at large, and their doctrine came to recognize different types
While a woman may act as prayer leader only for other
of imams corresponding to the four states in which the com-
women, the imam may be a minor boy, a slave, or a moral
munity of the faithful could face its enemies. These include
offender among men and women alike. Prayer led by an
the state of manifestation, when the community was strong
imam with a speech defect is invalid. In a private home, the
enough to overcome the opponent; the state of defense,
owner is most entitled to lead the prayer even if otherwise
when it could merely hope to ward off the enemy; the state
more worthy men are present.
of self-sacrifice, when a small group of the faithful seeking
martyrdom would choose to attack a powerful enemy; and
Mosques have generally appointed official imams.
the state of concealment, when the faithful were forced to
Whenever the official imam or a substitute appointed by him
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

¯
IMA¯N AND ISLA¯M
4397
is present, he is entitled to lead the prayer. In the congrega-
Twelver Sh¯ıE¯ı doctrine is described by Dwight M. Donaldson in
tional mosques or others maintained by the caliph, his gover-
The Shi Eite Religion (London, 1933), and later esoteric teach-
nors, or, in modern times, the government, the imam is ap-
ing by Henry Corbin in Histoire de la philosophie islamique,
pointed by them. In private mosques maintained by
vol. 1 (Paris, 1964), pp. 53–109. For T:ayyibi esoteric doc-
individuals or local communities, the imam is chosen by the
trine, see the analysis and annotated translation of a typical
T:ayyibi treatise on the subject in chapter 4 of Henry Cor-
neighborhood. Once chosen he cannot be removed except
bin’s Trilogie ismaelienne (Tehran, 1961). Niza¯r¯ı doctrine
for cause. The imam has usually the right to choose and di-
after the qiya¯mah is described by Marshall G. S. Hodgson in
rect the muezzin, who makes the call to prayer.
The Order of Assassins (1955; reprint, New York, 1980),
pp. 160–175. Rudolf Strothmann’s Das Staatsrecht der
The imam of the Friday congregational worship may be
Zaiditen (Strasbourg, 1912) discusses Zayd¯ı legal doctrine
appointed separately from the imam of the daily prayers. He
and practice. Kha¯rij¯ı doctrine is analyzed by Elie Adib Salem
is normally also the preacher (khat:¯ıb), who delivers the offi-
in Political Theory and Institutions of the Khawa¯rij (Balti-
cial sermon (khut:bah) with the prayer for the ruler before the
more, 1956), especially in chapter 4. For details of the legal
Friday prayer. In early Islam the Friday congregational
rules concerning the imamate of the ritual prayer, see chapter
prayer in particular was led by the caliph himself in the capi-
9 of al-Ma¯ward¯ı’s work cited above and Nawaw¯ı, Minhaj et
tal and by his governors in the provincial capitals. Later they
Talibin: A Manual of Muh:ammadan Law according to the
generally deputed imams. The Friday prayer remained close-
School of Shaf¯ı, translated by E. C. Howard (1914; reprint,
ly associated with government authority, however, and some
Lahore, 1977), pp. 42–69.
of the legal schools held it to be invalid without the presence
WILFERD MADELUNG (1987)
of the supreme imam (caliph) or his appointed representa-
tive. In Twelver Shiism, for instance, the Friday worship has
been generally held to be in abeyance in the absence of the
rightful supreme imam. Only when the Safavids established
¯
IMA¯N AND ISLA¯M.
Isla¯m, a noun derived from the
a Sh¯ıE¯ı regime in sixteenth-century Iran did the matter be-
verb aslama (“to submit or surrender [to God]”), designates
come controversial, and some Sh¯ıE¯ı jurists maintained that
the act by which an individual recognizes his or her relation-
Friday worship was obligatory in the presence of a qualified
ship to the divine and, at the same time, the community of
legal scholar. Today the Friday prayer is performed among
all of those who respond in submission. It describes, there-
the Twelver Sh¯ıEah, though not as widely as among Sunn¯ıs.
fore, both the singular, vertical relationship between the
Sunn¯ı concern for maintaining the unity of Islam by backing
human being and God and the collective, horizontal re-
the established rulers, whatever their moral failings, found
lationship of all who join together in common faith and
expression in the affirmation contained in many Sunn¯ı
practice.
creeds that every Muslim must “pray behind every imam, be
he righteous or immoral.” The Sh¯ıEah and Kha¯rij¯ıs generally
In its communal aspect isla¯m has come to be the com-
reject this attitude and prohibit prayer behind an imam who
monly accepted term for the religion of the followers of the
is known to be either immoral or heterodox.
prophet Muh:ammad and today claims many millions of ad-
herents. As the personal act of response to the oneness of
God and his commands isla¯m often has been viewed as coor-
SEE ALSO Aga Khan; Caliphate; Ghaybah; EIsmah;
Nubu¯wah; Wala¯yah.
dinate with another term basic to Muslim theology. This is
¯ıma¯n, most commonly understood as faith, from the verb
amana (“to be secure, to place one’s trust [in God]”). While
BIBLIOGRAPHY
isla¯m as a verbal noun appears only eight times in the
There is no comprehensive study of the imamate. The institution-
QurDa¯n, ¯ıma¯n is found over five times as often in the sacred
al development of the caliphate is analyzed by Thomas W.
scripture.
Arnold in his The Caliphate (Oxford, 1924); the second edi-
tion contains a chapter on the abolition of the caliphate and
QURDANIC CONTEXT. The QurDa¯n as understood by Muslims
its aftermath by Sylvia G. Haim (New York, 1965). See also
is not a theological document per se, although it does reveal
Emile Tyan’s Institutions du droit public musulman (Paris,
something of the being and will of God. It is rather a record
1954–1957), volume 1, Le califat, and volume 2, Califat et
of the revelations to the prophet Muh:ammad that details the
sultanat. The most authoritative medieval treatise on the
ways in which men and women of faith are to respond to
Sunn¯ı (Sha¯fiE¯ı) legal doctrine of the imamate, al-Ma¯ward¯ı’s
the fact of divine oneness. It also sets forth the specific ways
Kita¯b al-ah:ka¯m al-sult:a¯n¯ıyah, has been translated into
in which they are to conduct their daily lives in preparation
French by Edmond Fagnan, as Les statuts gouvernementaux
for the reality of the final day of judgment and recompense.
(Algiers, 1915). Modernist views are discussed by Malcolm
Terms such as isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n therefore are not defined and
H. Kerr in his Islamic Reform: The Political and Legal Theories
of Muh
:ammad EAbduh and Rash¯ıd Rid:(Berkeley, Calif.,
analyzed in the QurDa¯n. In some instances they are apparent-
1966) and by Henri Laoust in the introduction to his Le cali-
ly interchangeable in meaning, and in others QurDanic usage
fat dans la doctrine de Raˇs¯ıd Rid:(Beirut, 1938), which con-
seems to suggest that the two have different emphases, partic-
tains the translation of a major work on the subject by a con-
ularly as they relate to works. In one place only (sura 49:14)
servative modernist.
is a clear discrimination between isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n implied.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

¯
4398
IMA¯N AND ISLA¯M
Here a distinction is drawn between the verbal acknowledg-
Prophet says is the state of being perfected and serving God
ment of isla¯m by the tongue and the ¯ıma¯n that has entered
as if he were always before your eyes. From the structure of
the heart. The suggestion that isla¯m is the outward sign and
the narrative it is clear that the discussion was intended to
¯ıma¯n the inward, however, runs counter to the general un-
suggest degrees of religious response, with isla¯m as the first
derstanding of the QurDa¯n that they are essentially synony-
and most basic and ih:s:a¯n as the last and highest. This kind
mous and that they both designate the religious response by
of ranking is supported by another commonly cited narrative
which one heeds the message of God’s oneness and thereby
in which the Messenger of God says that isla¯m is external
escapes the eternal retribution of the Day of Resurrection.
while ¯ıma¯n belongs to the heart. For reasons that are not en-
H:AD¯ITH. Many kinds of references to isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n are to
tirely clear, scholastic theology (kala¯m) did not generally de-
be found in the collections of h:ad¯ıth, the narratives or “tradi-
velop the concept of ih:s:a¯n but centered its subsequent discus-
tions” that record the community’s memory of the sayings
sions primarily on the first two terms.
and actions of the prophet Muh:ammad and his companions.
Other h:ad¯ıths seem to suggest that faith is a component
Individual traditions often fail to suggest a distinction be-
element of isla¯m. When asked about isla¯m on one occasion
tween isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n. The Prophet is sometimes quoted as
the Prophet is said to have replied, “Witness that there is no
having indicated that the essentials of isla¯m are the
god but God and that I am the Messenger of God, and have
Shaha¯dah, the twin testimonies to the oneness of God and
faith in all foreordinations, their good and evil, their sweet-
the prophethood of Muh:ammad, as well as the other duties
ness and bitterness.” On another occasion, the Prophet says
constitutive of formal isla¯m, with no specification of the
that the more virtuous isla¯m is ¯ıma¯n, which consists of faith
components of faith. More often, however, the reports seem
in God, his angels, his books, his messengers, and the resur-
to imply that the terms connote at least different aspects of
rection. Here ¯ıma¯n becomes a kind of subdivision of isla¯m,
the same response, if not two separate kinds of responses.
with the most virtuous ¯ıma¯n said to be the emigration (Hij-
One particularly interesting narrative found in a range
rah) and so on through a series of subcategories. In several
of renditions presents the Prophet defining isla¯m as clearly
traditions isla¯m seems to consist of ¯ıma¯n plus works, as when
distinct from ¯ıma¯n. In the best-known version the story is
the Prophet says that one should say “I have faith” and walk
told about a stranger with a beautiful face, black hair, and
the straight path.
a white robe (usually understood to be the angel Gabriel)
THEOLOGY. The respective definitions of isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n be-
who joins the Prophet and a group of his companions and
came increasingly important in the early Muslim community
asks “What is isla¯m?” (or, in other versions, “Tell me about
as the nation of Isla¯m grew through great numbers of conver-
isla¯m”). The Prophet answers that isla¯m is the performance
sions, and its members early on began to struggle with the
of certain duties. The specifics of these duties differ in the
question of who was or was not a Muslim. In a variety of
various renditions of this h:ad¯ıth, but the most commonly
ways, and for political as well as theological reasons, sects,
cited are witnessing that there is no god but God and that
schismatic groups, individual thinkers, and schools of theol-
Muh:ammad is his Messenger (shaha¯dah), submitting to God
ogy adopted positions by which they tried to determine
with no association of anything else, performing the prayer
membership in the Islamic community. To this end clearer
ritual (s:ala¯t), paying the alms tax (zaka¯t), observing the
and firmer distinctions came to be drawn between isla¯m and
Ramad:a¯n fast (s:awm), and making the pilgrimage (h:a¯jj). If
¯ıma¯n, and the various groups in the young Muslim commu-
the first two of these are combined, the list then reflects the
nity often defined their positions according to those distinc-
elements that commonly have been accepted in Isla¯m as the
tions.
five duties that constitute the “pillars” (arka¯n) of the individ-
ual Muslim’s religious responsibilities.
Kha¯rij¯ıs. Theological speculation is often said to have
begun with the political movement of the Kha¯rij¯ıs, the earli-
After this enumeration the stranger assures the Prophet
est of the Muslim sects. It was, however, a movement not
that the definition is correct. He then goes on to ask about
of passive reflection but of active involvement in the effort
¯ıma¯n and is told that it consists of faith in the following
to purify Islam. As decades passed after the death of the
(again differing somewhat according to the several versions):
Prophet, some began to feel that those in power were betray-
God, his angels, his books (or book), his messengers (or mes-
ing the basic understanding of the faith. All the members of
senger), the resurrection, the garden and the fire, and other
the community were being called mu Dminu¯n (“persons of
eschatological realities. Though less commonly classified
faith”) regardless of the degree of their piety and their adher-
than the arka¯n, the elements in this list generally are identi-
ence to the essentials of Islam. The Kha¯rij¯ıs, in their zeal to
fied as the key components of the creeds that have been de-
ensure that the Muslim community was led by those most
veloped by members of the Muslim community. Several ver-
qualified in matters of faith and obedience, focused attention
sions indicate that after thus defining isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n the
on the question of who is a true muslim/mu Dmin and who is
stranger asks the Prophet, “If I do that am I a muslim and
a ka¯fir (best defined not as unbeliever or infidel but as one
a mu Dmin?” to which the Prophet responds “Yes.”
who actively rejects the will of God). ¯Ima¯n and isla¯m were
The continuation of the story includes commentary on
seen by the Kha¯rij¯ıs as essentially synonymous: Both include
ih:s:a¯n, a third element beyond isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n, which the
verbal and intellectual assent as well as works and are in abso-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

¯
IMA¯N AND ISLA¯M
4399
lute opposition to kufr (“rejection”). Rather than trying to
er, and the community began to stabilize after its initial
define the muslim/mu Dmin the Kha¯rij¯ıs concentrated on the
growth, a stage was reached in which these kinds of questions
ka¯fir and adopted often ruthless means of condemning
were seen less as issues requiring decisive action and more as
and in fact excommunicating such a person from the com-
matters of intellectual engagement and decision. Thus the
munity.
nature of isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n continued to be discussed by the
leading thinkers of the community.
MurjiDah. The sect known as the MurjiDah (lit., “those
who postpone”) was politically and, on this issue, theologi-
One way of treating the relationship of, or distinction
cally opposed to the Kha¯rij¯ıs. This group felt that it is wrong
between, submission and faith is to consider which is the
to condemn a member of the community as a ka¯fir, no mat-
broader category under which the other is subsumed. Not
ter what his or her actions. Judgment of human conduct and
surprisingly, different Muslim interpreters and schools of
final determination of one’s state of punishment or felicity
theology have reached different conclusions, often based on
must be left in the hands of God, they said, postponed until
traditions from the Prophet such as those cited above.
the Day of Resurrection.
If one understands isla¯m as consisting of the five pillars
Gradually, however, this doctrine came to mean for
or duties (the testimony, prayer, fast, alms tax, and pilgrim-
them not simply the postponement of judgment. In addi-
age) it is possible to argue that the first of these, witnessing
tion, they gave works a place of secondary importance be-
to God’s oneness and the prophethood of Muh:ammad, can
hind faith by saying that good works are not a necessary indi-
be considered an act of faith. In that way ¯ıma¯n is part of the
cation of faith. This was in distinction to the Kha¯rij¯ıs, who
larger category of isla¯m. Thus AshEar¯ı theologians such as
stressed the importance of outward acts of piety in conformi-
al-Ba¯qilla¯n¯ı (d. 1013), for example, concluded that all ¯ıma¯n
ty with God’s laws. The MurjiDah thus became the first in
is part of isla¯m, but not all isla¯m is part of ¯ıma¯n. Al-AshEar¯ı
the Muslim community specifically to address the question
(d. 935) himself said that isla¯m is wider than ¯ıma¯n and that
of the internal structure of ¯ıma¯n. While there clearly were
therefore not all the former is part of the latter.
different schools of MurjiDah (al-Khat:¯ıb al-Baghda¯d¯ı breaks
The later H:anbal¯ı thinker Ibn Taym¯ıyah (d. 1328)
them into three main groups, and al-AshEar¯ı identifies twelve
carefully developed another way of seeing this relationship
different strands), their overall contribution to Islamic theol-
in his analysis of the h:ad¯ıth in which the Prophet seems to
ogy was in their identification of the nature of faith as sepa-
rank isla¯m, ¯ıma¯n, and ih:s:a¯n. Because of the very ranking, he
rate from works and in their assurance for the mu Dmin of a
said, ih:s:a¯n, while characteristic of the most select number of
place in paradise despite his or her failure to observe the laws
the faithful, in fact connotes the most inclusive definition.
of God.
That is, the person of faith (mu Dmin) must by definition be
Virtually all of the succeeding theoretical discussions
a submitter (muslim), and the person of perfection (muh:s:in)
about the nature of faith took as their starting point the is-
must therefore be both of the former. ¯Ima¯n, therefore, con-
sues and problems raised by the various schools of the Mur-
tains isla¯m. Ibn Taym¯ıyah’s conclusion was more than aca-
jiDah. There was general acceptance of the MurjiD¯ı thesis that
demic. It is clear, he felt, that isla¯m is an external act while
the main elements to be considered in the understanding of
¯ıma¯n is a matter of the heart. For Ibn Taym¯ıyah the AshEar¯ı
¯ıma¯n are affirmation (tas:d¯ıq) and verbal acknowledgment
conclusion that isla¯m is wider than ¯ıma¯n implies that while
(iqra¯r) of that affirmation. (While most later thinkers
all those who submit are persons of faith, not all who profess
stressed the primary significance of tas:d¯ıq as heartfelt affir-
faith are muslims, a conclusion with which he totally dis-
mation, however, the MurjiDah rather understood affirma-
agreed. And in fact the majority AshEar¯ı view was that al-
tion as intellectual assent or knowledge.) While they assented
though faith can exist without isla¯m, failure to do the works
to the importance of tas:d¯ıq and iqra¯r as necessary constitu-
characteristic of isla¯m is a grave sin. For Ibn Taym¯ıyah, to
ents of ¯ıma¯n, the MurjiDah clearly rejected works.
have faith but not to do works of obedience is an impossible
contradiction.
As a consequence of this doctrine the MurjiDah, in clear
While some in the Muslim community continued to
opposition to the Kha¯rij¯ıs, did not believe that the quality
debate these and other theological issues, others turned to the
of one’s faith could be determined by the commission of sins,
task of systematizing the conclusions reached by thinkers
even major or grave sins. One school of the MurjiDah, the
within the various schools into creedal formulations. One of
Karra¯m¯ıyah, went so far as to maintain that ¯ıma¯n consists
the most popular of the creeds over the centuries has been
strictly of the saying of the two shaha¯dahs, the testimony of
the Sharh: al- Eaqa¯Did of the H:anaf¯ı jurist al-Nasaf¯ı
the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muh:ammad,
(d. 1143). The creed was later commented on by the AshEar¯ı
and involves neither affirmation nor works.
scholar al-Tafta¯za¯n¯ı (d. 1389). ¯Ima¯n, said al-Nasaf¯ı, is affir-
Later discussion. The debates between sects such as the
mation (tas:d¯ıq) of that which the Prophet brought from God
Kha¯rij¯ıs and the MurjiDah were based on crucial questions
and confession (iqra¯r) of it. While acts of obedience may in-
of membership in the Muslim community and were there-
crease, faith neither increases nor decreases. Then, in a very
fore far from strictly intellectual issues. They were, in fact,
interesting conclusion, he declares that ¯ıma¯n and isla¯m are
quite often matters of life and death. As time passed, howev-
one; they are so, al-Tafta¯za¯n¯ı explains, because obedience
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4400
IMMANENCE
(idh Ea¯n) is the essence of both isla¯m and tas:d¯ıq, which, in
Musnad, 6 vols. (1895; reprint, Beirut, 1969). The earliest
al-Nasaf¯ı’s definition, is ¯ıma¯n.
extensive QurDa¯n commentary that analyzes the relation of
the terms in their scriptural usage is Abu¯ JaEfar Muh:ammad
Despite the common element of obedience, al-
al-T:abar¯ı’s Ja¯mi E a-baya¯n Ean taDw¯ıl a¯y al-QurDa¯n, 30 vols.
Tafta¯za¯n¯ı did not completely identify the terms but rather
in 12 (Cairo, 1954–1968). Of the several creedal formula-
said that one cannot exist without the other. In the H:anaf¯ı
tions dealing the juxtaposition of faith and submission in the
creed Fiqh akbar II (Greater understanding II), attributed to
thinking of the early Muslim community, one of the most
Abu¯ H:an¯ıfah (d. 767) but probably written in the tenth cen-
popular is EUmar ibn Muh:ammad al-Nasaf¯ıyah’s Sharh:
tury, ¯ıma¯n and isla¯m share the common ingredient of sub-
al- Eaqa¯ Did, with commentary by SaEd al-D¯ın al-Tafta¯za¯n¯ı
mission and overlap so much that they are essentially inter-
(Cairo, 1974). A rich treatment of the meaning of faith and
changeable.
its relation to submission is found in the Kita¯b al-¯ıma¯n of
the fourteenth-century theologian Ibn Taym¯ıyah (Damas-
QurDa¯n commentators analyzing the eight verses in
cus, 1961).
which isla¯m is mentioned all have stressed the essential com-
Works in Western Languages
ponent of submission, usually in relation to God’s initiative.
Such basic works as A. J. Wensinck’s The Muslim Creed (1932;
To the extent to which they have dealt with faith in relation
reprint, New York, 1965) and Louis Gardet and M. M. An-
to submission they have made it clear that ¯ıma¯n (most com-
awati’s Introduction à la théologie musulmane, 2d ed. (Paris,
monly defined as tas:d¯ıq and iqra¯r) is identified in some clear
1970), are helpful for a general understanding of the signifi-
ways with isla¯m. The degree to which they have equated the
cance of the ¯ıma¯n/isla¯m discussions in the development of
terms, however, has varied considerably. In his monumental
Isla¯mic theology. More specific treatments such as Helmer
commentary on the QurDa¯n, Ja¯mi E al-baya¯n Ean taDw¯ıl a¯y
Ringgren’s Isla¯m, Daslama, and muslim, “Horae Soederblomi-
al-Qur Da¯n, al-T:abar¯ı (d. 923) suggests a kind of bipartite
anae,” vol. 2 (Uppsala, 1949), and “The Conception of Faith
in the Koran,” Oriens 4 (1951): 1–20, analyze QurDanic
isla¯m. On one level is the verbal acknowledgment of submis-
usage of the terms. Toshihiko Izutsu provides an extensive
sion by which one becomes part of the community of Islam,
study of the interpretation of ¯ıma¯n in the history of Islamic
and on a deeper level is that isla¯m that is in fact coordinate
thought, with a chapter on its relation to isla¯m, in The Con-
with the act of faith (¯ıma¯n) and that involves the complete
cept of Belief in Islamic Theology (Tokyo, 1965).
surrender of the body, the mind, and the heart. Fakhr al-D¯ın
al-Ra¯z¯ı (d. 1209), in the Mafa¯t¯ıh: al-ghayb (Keys to the mys-
JANE I. SMITH (1987)
tery), insists that while the two are different in generality they
are one in existence. If isla¯m is not of the heart, he said, it
cannot be called isla¯m. Muh:ammad Rash¯ıd Rid:a¯, the twenti-
IMMANENCE SEE TRANSCENDENCE AND
eth-century Egyptian author of the Mana¯r commentary, sug-
IMMANENCE
gested a similar interpretation when he said that the true
meaning of both isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n is what he calls ¯ıma¯n kha¯s:s:,
interiorized faith, which is the only means of salvation. In
IMMERSION SEE BAPTISM
this understanding isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n converge in a single reali-
ty (h:aq¯ıqah).
Most QurDa¯n commentators through the centuries,
IMMOLATION SEE SACRIFICE
however, have seen isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n as more distinct than
al-T:abar¯ı, al-Ra¯z¯ı, or Rash¯ıd Rid:a¯ have. They admit that
isla¯m can have a purely external meaning, while ¯ıma¯n always
involves confirmation of the heart. Although they differ in
IMPLICIT RELIGION. In the age of secularization
their attempts to interpret the distinctions between the
and debate within the social sciences on how to approach the
terms, in no instance have they seen them as irreconcilable.
religious factor, two trends have intersected. One proclaims
And despite the variety of responses reflected in the works
a progressive disenchantment with a decline of the religious
of theology, general usage of the terms isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n has
factor’s role and plausibility; within a wide range of social at-
revealed some common understanding both of their respec-
titudes, religion seems destined to social irrelevance or to oc-
tive definitions and of the ways in which these terms together
cupying a purely personal dimension. The second trend of
express the totality of the Muslim’s response to the being and
thought sees a recovery and renewal of the role of religion
will of God.
in contemporary society, after a period of neglect, with par-
ticular reference to ancient religions.
SEE ALSO Ummah.
The concept and problem of implicit religion is situated
within a different perspective. Beyond the oppositions that
BIBLIOGRAPHY
locate the religious factor amongst those “religious” institu-
Works in Arabic
tions balanced between death and resurrection, this concept
For a full collection of traditions from the prophet Muh:ammad
initiates the observation that there is a widespread separation
in which the terms isla¯m and ¯ıma¯n are used, see Ibn H:anbal’s
between believing and belonging, and in particular between
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

IMPLICIT RELIGION
4401
the numerous paths of existentialism within a culture and the
Through the discussion of these relationships a number of
dimensions of daily life with specific intentionality and
questions relating to the meaning and application of the term
therefore specific dimensions of ultimate meaning.
implicit religion are raised. Wilhelm Dupré discusses various
areas in which the critical potential of implicit religion be-
The concept of implicit religion is recent, and arose as
comes obvious (Dupré, 1991). These areas appear in situa-
a result of semantic difficulties related to reflection on the
tions in which developments in implicit religion account for
meaning and value of religiousness itself. Dietrich Bonhoef-
considerable modifications in both the explicit religion and
fer, during his imprisonment, proposed that a supernatural
the cultural environment, and they extend as far as the many
deviation of the spiritualistic tendencies of Catholicism and
instances in which the concept of implicit religion has a criti-
Protestantism usually results in a tendency to make sacred
cal impact on the perception of reality. Through a consider-
the world. Both Catholicism and Protestantism achieve the
ation of the main criteria used to define such concepts, a sys-
same result, that is, conceiving Christian life as based on the
tematic but tentative typology is suggested.
idea of a separation from the world. Bonhoeffer’s proposal
becomes dramatic when he reaches the conviction that there
In attempting to locate implicit religion within this ty-
exists an insurmountable incompatibility between faith and
pology, it has been found that it might be equivalent to: (1)
religion.
a nonreligious meaning system; or (2) Thomas Luckmann’s
invisible religion; or it may include (3) generically both a
The evocation of implicit religion is therefore not mere-
nonreligious meaning system and invisible religion; or (4)
ly an academic expedient or a pleonastic concept. It is rather
even more generically nonreligious meaning systems, invisi-
an analytical occasion, an instrument of the less visible and
ble religion, para-religion, and quasi-religion. Some scholars
differentiated layers of the radical demand for meaning that
have appealed for a more appropriate conceptual tool kit and
exists in human life. Nor can it be interpreted as an indirect
terminology to deal with this range of phenomena (Hamil-
proof within the line of the resurgence of the religious factor.
ton, 2001, pp. 5–13). To this end, the 1980s saw the appear-
The term implicit religion is one among a number of
ance of sociologist Arnaldo Nesti’s Il religioso implicito
terms that have become familiar in the literature of sociology
(1985) and the first issue of the journal Religioni e Società,
of religion, including invisible religion (Luckmann, 1967)
both focusing on issues of implicit religion in society.
common religion (Towler, 1974, pp. 145–162), surrogate reli-
Although the notion of implicit religion is recent, one
gion (Robertson, 1970), quasi-religion, and para-religion
can find traces of it within the traditional social sciences.
(Greil, 1993). These terms have been introduced to help
Even though the term itself and its exact references are not
scholars deal with that which appears to be like religion, but
used in the socioreligious sphere, the problem and the dy-
is not actually religion, as well as that which does not appear
namics from which its meaning and form derive are perceiv-
to be religion, but actually is religion. Another such concept
able (Weber, 1920–1921; Schutz, 1932).
is civil religion, which refers primarily to a more integrated
set of values and symbols that is, to some degree, actually
Max Weber’s contributions, particularly regarding the
held in common by a group of people (Bellah, 1970).
polytheism of values, include the topic of intentionality in
Edmund Husserl, the social character of Lebenswelt in Alfred
The concept of implicit religion, according to Edward
Schutz (1932), and lessons connected to the dark side of per-
Bailey, refers to people’s commitments, whether or not they
sonality in C. G. Jung. As an example, it is advisable to re-
take a religious form. The study of implicit religion began
member that the “polytheism of values” implies that the an-
in earnest in 1968, in the context of debate about seculariza-
tagonism between different divinities has become “an
tion, and concentrated upon the spirituality and ethos of sec-
everyday reality,” depriving itself from any residual fascina-
ular expression. This focus was determined because religious
tion coming from the myth. “To know how to face such an
studies already generally concentrated on organized forms of
everyday life” is the difficult duty of modern humans, in op-
religious belief, ritual, and community. In his conclusion to
position between the ethics of conviction and the ethics of
three studies on implicit religion in contemporary society,
responsibility. For Weber, the meaning of the polytheistic
Bailey wrote:
experience marks the descending course of Jewish-Christian
monotheism and implies a viewpoint including the subject’s
Implicit religion which largely includes the empirical
Christianity as well as the secular face of contemporary
act, whose meaning cannot be traced back to an exclusive
society, unlike archaic religion, is neither ecstatic nor
theodicy (Weber, 1920–1921, pp. 264–265).
corporate; and unlike historical religion, it is neither
According to Nesti, implicit religion is a phenomenon,
segmented nor visionary. So for most men, religion in
an analytical cipher of the difficulties of existential indepen-
general, and implicit in particular, is, and is likely to re-
dence and of the symbolic-prescriptive transignification in
main, dimensional in character, with extensive influ-
ence, rather than relational, with specific power. Yet
progress in contemporary society, particularly in Western
moderation, or even inertia, can be held to as doggedly
Christianity. The extent of such religiousness involves three
as apocalyptic or eschatology is preached or conversions
factors. The first factor is connected to symbols and beliefs
are pursued. Belief may be fanatical, although still im-
and rules and practices characteristic of the explicit “religious
plicit (Bailey, 1983, p. 81).
factor.” Between the explicit morphology and the meaning
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4402
IMPURITY
dimension correlated to it, a level that is in itself ambivalent
nomena.” In The Handbook on Cults and Sects in America,
is wedged in: consider silence and voice phenomenology, as
edited by David G. Bromley and Jeffrey K. Hadden. Green-
well as the symbolicity of ritual dynamics.
wich, Conn., 1993.
The second factor must be traced among the “topoi”
Hamilton, Malcolm. “Implicit Religion and Related Concepts:
Seeing Precisions.” Implicit Religion 4 (2001): 5–13.
critical to the Christian “religious system” as a source of plau-
sibility. Thus, an implicit religiousness can be traced in: (1)
Luckmann, Thomas. The Invisible Religion: The Problem of Reli-
Christianity without faith; (2) Christianity without church;
gion in Modern Society. New York, 1967.
and (3) Christianity from an esoteric approach. A third fac-
Nesti, Arnaldo. Il religioso implicito. Rome, 1985.
tor must be reconstructed outside and in contrast to the “reli-
Nesti, Arnaldo. “Lo religioso hoy: Arquitectura de un Labirinto.
gious system” itself. There is, thus, an implicit hidden reli-
Primeros Apuntes.” Universidad de Mexico no. 610 (2002):
giousness outside the “sacred fence.” In particular, such an
11–22.
implicitness is acquired in: (1) agnosticism; (2) skepticism
Nesti, Arnaldo, ed. La religione implicita: Sociologi e teologi a con-
characterized by the art of living in the uncertainty of the
fronto. Bologna, Italy, 1994.
present; and (3) atheism as metaphor provided with a radical
Robertson, Roland. The Sociological Interpretation of Religion. Ox-
meaning.
ford, 1970.
The specific nature of implicit religion lies in the at-
Schutz, Alfred. Der Sinnhafte Aufbau der sozialen Welt: Eine Ein-
tempt to override prejudices and stereotypes with the mecha-
leitung in die Verstehende Sociologie. Vienna, 1932.
nism of forced repetition, so as to understand life and the
Towler, Robert. Homo Religiosus: Sociological Problems in the Study
world as experienced by people in the process of living. It is
of Religion. London, 1974.
necessary to go beyond such common schemes as the identi-
Weber, Max. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religions-soziologie. Tübing-
fication of the religious with churches, sects, and institutions,
en, Germany, 1920–1921.
or the dichotomy of secular and sacred, as well the antonyms
A
visible and invisible, sacred and profane.
RNALDO NESTI (2005)
The outlined survey, in all its diversity, refers to a pres-
ence, to a unifying principle. Even if the word and the exact
IMPURITY SEE PURIFICATION
reference is missing within the socioreligious tradition, the
perception of its issues and of the dynamic from which its
meaning derives, is not absent. By applying the concept of
implicit religion, we are induced to pass beyond convention-
INANNA. Inanna, the Sumerian astral deity representing
al representations of religion to a concept of religion that be-
the planet Venus, was known throughout the Mesopotamian
gins with the experience of the subject, and thus to a new
world. The Akkadians (and later the Assyro-Babylonians)
reading of the religious within the objective religious plu-
called her Ishtar. For both the Sumerians and the Akkadians
riverse.
she was the principal goddess in their respective pantheons.
Inanna-Ishtar’s closest counterparts to the west are the Ca-
SEE ALSO Invisible Religion; Popular Religion; Seculariza-
naanite Astarte and the later goddesses of Greece and Rome,
tion; Society and Religion.
Aphrodite and Venus.
When the Semitic Akkadians settled in the lower Tigris-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Euphrates Basin, they assimilated the preexisting, predomi-
Bailey, Edward. “The Implicit Religion of Contemporary Society:
nantly Sumerian culture. Comparative Semitic evidence sug-
An Orientation and Plea for Its Study.” Religion 13 (1983):
69–83.
gests that the Akkadian Venus deity was originally masculine
but became completely feminized when identified with the
Bailey, Edward. “The Implicit Religion of Contemporary Society:
female Sumerian deity Inanna. Because of the eventual syn-
Some Studies and Reflections.” Social Compass 37, no. 4
cretism of the Sumerian and Akkadian pantheons, the tradi-
(1990): 483–498.
tions concerning Inanna-Ishtar are extremely complicated.
Bailey, Edward. Implicit Religion in Contemporary Society. Kam-
By one such tradition she is the daughter of the sky god An,
pen, Netherlands, 1997.
by another the daughter of the moon god Nanna-Sin (and
Bellah, Robert N. Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post-
thereby the sister of the sun god Utu-Shamash), and by still
Traditional World. New York, 1970.
another the daughter of Enlil or Ashur. Similarly, Inanna-
Cipriani, Roberto, and Arnaldo Nesti. “Due interventi sul religio-
Ishtar was associated with more than one consort, alternately
so implicito.” Religioni e Società 14 (1992): 77–92.
Zababa of Kish, Ashur, An, and Dumuzi (called Tammuz
Dupré, Wilhelm. “Implicit Religion and the Meaning of the Reli-
by the Akkadians). Although her main cult center was Uruk,
gious Dialogue.” Studies in Interreligious Dialogue I, no. 2
she was worshiped in many other localities, each of which
(1991): 129–145.
gave her rather diverse epithets and characteristics.
Greil, Arthur L. “Exploration along the Sacred Frontier: Notes on
INANNA IN SUMERIAN AND AKKADIAN MYTHOLOGY. The
Para-Religions, Quasi-Religions, and Other Boundary Phe-
myth entitled “Inanna Takes Command of Heaven” tells the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INANNA
4403
story of how Inanna managed to bring down the Eanna, “the
Ereshkigal apparently agrees but orders that Inanna should
house of An,” from heaven and thus become “mistress of
observe all the rituals customary in the Kur. No one may
heaven.” Unfortunately the text has many lacunae, missing
enter her realm dressed in finery, as the mistress of heaven
many passages of this remarkable adventure. The narrative
had intended to do. So Inanna is allowed to enter, but at
begins with the decision of Inanna to take control of the
every gate she has to take off part of her clothing. When she
Eanna and her appeal to her brother Utu for help in this task.
comes before Ereshkigal, she is completely naked. Ereshkigal
The inner motives of the goddess, if her words are accurate,
has a fit of uncontrolled rage when she sees her sister and
are the result of her wounded pride at being raped and a
turns her into a “corpse.”
vague promise by An. However, no one knows where on
“Three days and three nights have passed,” and Ninshu-
earth the house of An is. Consequently, Inanna asks the assis-
bur carries out the orders Inanna gave her. Ninshubur goes
tance of a fisherman who has experience in sailing in the
to Nippur first and then to Ur, where she begs the gods of
marsh. He willingly agrees, and after repeated attempts Inan-
the two towns to save Inanna, who is being held in the Kur.
na finally finds the Eanna in the marsh. It is impossible to
But the two gods are unyielding. Ninshubur must go to
know what defenses An had set up so the house would not
Eridu. There the god Enki feels sorry for Inanna, although
be robbed, but certainly the scorpion with which Inanna
he criticizes the way she has behaved. Enki creates two sprites
fights must have been one. The text resumes with An’s hurt
and gives them the job of saving Inanna by bringing her “the
and regret for the theft that has occurred, but at the same
food of life and the water of life.” Galatur and Kurgarra, the
time he makes the prudent decision to leave things as they
two sprites, go down to the underworld, and after a detailed
are. The Eanna will from now on be the “most splendid tem-
discussion with Ereshkigal, they are allowed to take away the
ple in Sumeria.” A summary of the myth is given in lines
corpse of Inanna, which they bring back to life. But no one
159–163, where the theft that has taken place and the new
may break the unbending rules of the underworld, so Inanna
reality are once more emphasized. The Eanna will be the
must provide a substitute in her place. When she leaves the
abode of the rule of Inanna, who is praised as “the greatest
Kur, she is accompanied by demons ready to seize and take
of all the heavenly gods.”
back the one who is to replace her. On her return Inanna
Completely different in tone is the narrative better
meets Ninshubur first, then Shara her son, then Lulal, but
known as the “The Descent of Inanna to the Underworld.”
she refuses to allow the demons to take any of them because
It could be renamed “The Ascent of Inanna to the Land of
they had mourned the disappearance of the goddess. Contin-
No Return” because, on the basis of continuing scholarship
uing the journey, the group arrives in Uruk, where Inanna’s
and the recovery of less ambiguous epigraphic evidence, the
husband Dumuzi, instead of weeping, is amusing himself.
country to which the goddess goes is once again the Kur, “the
The goddess becomes angry and lets the demons take Du-
mythical mountain” located east of Sumer, in modern Iran.
muzi. However, Dumuzi asks the god Utu to transform him
As Silvia Chiodi (1994) has shown, there is no mention in
into a serpent to escape from the demons trying to capture
the Sumerian texts that the mythical Kur—from which life
him.
arose, including the gods and plants, and to which the spirits
In the variant from Ur, the demons are tired of the god-
of the dead return, as it were to return to the life-giving ele-
dess’s outbursts and ask her to return to the Kur, so Inanna
ment from which they originated—is located beneath the
hurries to have her husband seized. At this point the appeal
earth. Besides, the ambiguous verb e// (to go up and to go
to Utu and the request to be transformed into a serpent are
down) used in this myth has been greatly clarified in the
repeated, and Dumuzi takes refuge in the house of his sister
myth of Inanna and Shukalletuda by the variant verb íla,
Geshtinanna. The demons arrive at Geshtinanna’s house and
which can mean nothing except “to go up.” The myth,
ask for her brother, but she does not reveal that he has taken
which is written in an expansive, grandiose style and in high-
refuge with her. The demons nevertheless find Dumuzi in
ly poetic language, describes the attempt, on this occasion
the sheepfold, where they capture him. When the main text
unsuccessful, made by Inanna to expand her sphere of influ-
resumes, the fate of the fly is decided, for reasons that elude
ence by taking control of the Kur, the undisputed realm of
the reader, and Inanna decides that Dumuzi’s sister should
Queen Ereshkigal.
share his fate: “six months for him, six months for her.” The
concluding doxology sweetly praises the queen of the under-
After Inanna has decided upon this action, she leaves
world. Similar descriptions of the land of the dead are in the
earth and the sanctuaries dedicated to her, dresses in an ap-
myth of Nergal and Ereshkigal and the classic Epic of
propriate fashion with clothes and jewels that symbolize her
Gilgamesh.
divine power, and sets off on her journey. Before she leaves
she tells her faithful ambassador Ninshubur that if things go
Of the two Akkadian recensions of the myth, the Mid-
wrong she must go to Nippur, Ur, and Eridu to plead for
dle Assyrian version, because of its shortness (a mere eleven
the assistance of the gods on her behalf. Inanna presents her-
lines), does not provide new information of any importance.
self at the gates of the great palace, which is defended by
The New Assyrian recension is 138 lines long and is com-
seven walls, and asks Neti to allow her to come in. Neti asks
plete, but a comparison with the Sumerian version of the so-
her to wait so he can obtain permission from the queen.
called “descent” of Inanna to the underworld, over 400 lines
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4404
INANNA
long, is required despite their clearly different cultural mi-
combat with the Kur. She sends a torrent of water and a
lieus. The main events and divine characters are certainly
burning fire to subdue the lively spirits of the Kur, and she
similar if not identical. The queen of the underworld in both
reduces the mountain, previously an earthly paradise, to a si-
myths is the same, Ereshkigal, the Sumerian goddess who
lent desert. At this point the goddess describes the outcome
rules the realm of the dead. The heavenly goddess who goes
of the war and sets out the fate of the vanquished. She follows
to the other world is Inanna in the Sumerian myth, whereas
with a new, haughty auto-eulogy, in which she praises her
in the New Assyrian myth it is Ishtar. The two goddesses had
memorable victory over the Kur. The concluding doxology
been amalgamated by Mesopotamian religious tradition.
is addressed to Nisaba, the goddess of academia, from where
The other gods who become involved are mostly the same,
this text definitely originated.
starting with Dumuzi and ending with Sin and Ea (Nanna
and Enki, respectively). The herald is different, Ninshubur
In Sumerian literature the following myth is often called
in the Sumerian recension, Papsukkal in the New Assyrian
“Theft of the Divine Powers by Inanna from Enki.” In fact,
version.
nothing could be more inaccurate and inconsistent. On this
occasion Inanna has done nothing wrong to anyone, and
The New Assyrian account, though more condensed
what has been considered “theft” is in fact a completely vol-
and concise than the Sumerian version, still provides sub-
untary gift from the god of wisdom. As the myth begins the
stantial new elements. For example, the scribe stresses the di-
goddess of Uruk is standing in front of a mirror admiring
sastrous consequences for humanity and livestock caused by
her beauty, including her private parts. Inanna is not con-
Ishtar’s departure from the earth, described by Papsukkal
tent, however; she needs something further to complete her
when he tries to get first Sin and then Ea to secure the release
portrait. So she decides to go to Enki and ask him for some-
of the goddess from the underworld. He also describes the
thing related to sex. The god of wisdom foresees her visit and
far from pleasant nature of life in the underworld, not only
gives orders for Inanna to be received with full honors. When
for the dead but also for the queen of the underworld. In
Inanna arrives, Enki’s herald Isimud extends full hospitality
place of the two sprites, Galatur and Kurgarra, created by
and lays on a banquet for the guest, which Enki attends. But
Enki to save Inanna, here Ea creates “Asushunammir, the
Enki drinks too much and becomes drunk. At this point
court jester,” who is assigned the task of moving Ereshkigal.
Enki volunteers to give Inanna divine powers or the essence
The ending of the story is also different. In the New Assyrian
of all things, and she accepts them happily. She makes a list
version the return of Dumuzi from the underworld altogeth-
of all the good things she has received, loads the gifts on her
er with the dead is mentioned, albeit optatively, something
ship and sets off back to Uruk.
which is quite incomprehensible, as Wolfram von Soden
(1967) points out in his commentary on the passage.
When Inanna has left port, Enki becomes himself again
and, aware that he has been thoughtless, wants to recover the
Once again the Kur is the main focus of Inanna’s atten-
divine powers now heading to Uruk. After an interlude
tion in the following myth, which illustrates the fundamental
about a frog, whose fate is determined by Enki, the god sends
point that the Sumerians considered the “mythical moun-
Isimud on a mission to ask Inanna to return the gifts she has
tain” the source of life and all good things. Inanna turns to
been given. Six times Inanna, with the aid of Ninshubur’s
her brother Utu, the sun god, and asks if she can sail with
magic, manages to prevent the monsters sent by Enki from
him in his daily journey across the vault of heaven toward
taking control of her ship, which is sailing the arc of heaven.
the Kur to enjoy the wonderful plants there. She is particu-
The ship finally reaches Uruk, where it is welcomed joyfully.
larly interested in discovering the secret of female charms and
Enki still cannot take in what has happened and sends his
the techniques of love with man. Only after she has experi-
herald to Uruk with a list of the goods taken by Inanna.
enced what love may mean is she prepared to go back to the
Meanwhile, the joyous atmosphere at Uruk affects everyone.
city of her birth and resume her family role as mother, moth-
Inanna renames all the city districts and assures her people
er-in-law, and sister-in-law. The text concludes with a new
of all the benefits that will result from the arrival of the divine
hymn to the sun god that emphasizes his assistance to all
powers. At this point Enki has no choice but to accept the
those in trouble, from travelers to widows and orphans. The
loss and forecast the undoubted future greatness of Uruk.
final sentence expresses the joy and relief of all those who can
L
travel in his light.
OVE STORIES. Among the accounts of the lovers and love
stories of the goddess is the myth of “Inanna and Shukalletu-
Another interesting Sumerian text begins with a descrip-
da.” The main theme is the misfortune of Inanna when she
tion and a hymn to the goddess with clear warlike qualities.
is raped by a mortal man, who must be punished with death.
An auto-eulogy describes the activities of Inanna and ob-
The story begins with a description of the goddess Inanna
serves that only the Kur has refused to submit. The goddess
and her journey to the Kur, where she aims to enhance her
dresses suitably and appears before her father An, seeking jus-
divine powers. After the first break comes the story of the cre-
tice. She virtually asks him to agree to her interfering in the
ation of the palm tree by Enki and the raven. Now the sec-
Kur, but An strongly advises his daughter against such action
ond main character Shukalletuda is introduced, seen trying
because he is convinced that this is another of Inanna’s tan-
desperately to water a flowerbed. Then follows the key mo-
trums. Inanna remains implacable and engages in deadly
ment in the myth, the rape of the virgin Inanna while she
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INANNA
4405
is resting under the shade of the only poplar in the garden.
tainty to the Old Babylonian period, more accurately during
When Inanna realizes what has happened to her, she intends
the reign of Hammurabi, who is mentioned by name. At the
to punish the perpetrator. She sends plagues to the earth, first
beginning the goddess and all her qualities are described, es-
putting blood in the wells of the country, then she sends a
pecially the strength that makes her so cut out for war. But
hurricane and a sandstorm, in the end completely sealing off
the goddess certainly overdoes matters, because all the gods,
every road in the land.
particularly the god of wisdom Ea, find her behavior com-
pletely unacceptable. Ea decides to check the goddess’s reck-
Shukalletuda has been able to escape the anger of the
less behavior by creating a match for her. The new creature
goddess by hiding among his own people, so the goddess
is formed from the dirt underneath the nails of the god of
turns to Enki for help. Enki allows her to find Shukalletuda,
wisdom, and she is aggressive as well as beautiful. The god
who is condemned to death. The wrongdoer tries to excuse
Ea gives her the task of defeating Ishtar, along with useful
himself, explaining to the goddess that he was not really to
advice. Ishtar has learned of the changed situation, however,
blame, but this only angers her even more. Her only promise
and sends her herald Ninshubur to find out what Saltu
is that the name of Shukalletuda will be remembered in song
(meaning “strife”) is like and how powerful she is. The con-
after his death. After Shukalletuda’s fate has been settled
test between the two goddesses is fierce, but because they are
there is a hymn of praise for the holy Inanna.
evenly matched, neither wins or loses. Ishtar, at this point
The myth concerning the death of Dumuzi, the beloved
in the story, has a new name, Agushaya. She is unable to bear
husband of Inanna, on the other hand, is part of a series of
the shame of defeat, so she turns to Ea, asking him for an
stories about the strained relationship between Inanna, the
explanation of the changed situation and to eliminate her op-
mistress of heaven and of Uruk, and Dumuzi, the shepherd
ponent. Ea willingly agrees to what Ishtar asks, reconfirming
whom she loves, at least according to the love poems that
the function of the goddess on earth and inviting humanity
have survived. A completely negative view of the lovers of In-
to celebrate a feast to mark the creation of Saltu and the ulti-
anna is presented in the three redactions of the Epic of Gil-
mate victory of Ishtar. In the doxology Ishtar and her patron
gamesh that recount the episode when Ishtar falls in love with
Ea are praised for the defeat of Saltu.
the hero. The passage in which Gilgamesh rejects Ishtar’s
offer that he become her husband, completely enraging the
SEE ALSO Dumuzi; Gilgamesh; Goddess Worship, overview
goddess, who at once sets about punishing him for this insult
article; Hierodouleia; Hieros Gamos; Mesopotamian Reli-
by sending down to earth the Bull of Heaven, has no equiva-
gions, overview article.
lent in the Sumerian story of the same episode, where the rea-
son for the quarrel seems to be political rather than emotion-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
al. To find anything like what is described here, it is
Abusch, Tzvi. “Ishtar’s Proposal and Gilgamesh’s Refusal: An In-
necessary to resort to Sumerian literary texts on love concern-
terpretation of the Gilgamesh Epic, Tablet 6, Lines 1–79.”
ing the goddess Inanna.
History of Religions 26 (1986): 143–178.
The detailed list of the jilted lovers of Ishtar spans the
Abusch, Tzvi. “Ishtar.” In Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the
Bible, edited by Karel van der Toom, Bob Becking, and
human and divine worlds and even includes the beasts of
Pieter W. van der Horst, pp. 847–855. Leiden, 1995.
the earth, who have all received scant reward for their love
of the goddess. Following is a list of the lovers and their re-
Attinger, Pascal. “Inana et Ebiæ.” Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 88
wards:
(1998): 164–195.
Chiodi, Silvia Maria. Le concezioni dell’Oltretomba presso i Sumeri.
Dumuzi year after year of mourning
Memorie dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Classe di
the bird Alallu broken wings
Scienze Morali, Storiche e Filologiche, ser. 9, vol. 4, fasc. 5.
Rome, 1994.
lion ditches dug
Farber-Flügge, Gertrud. Der Mythos Inanna und Enki unter be-
horse bridle, whip, and reins
sonderer Berücksichtigung der Liste der me. Studia Pohl 10.
Rome, 1973.
shepherd changed into a wolf
Frymer-Kensky, Tikva. In the Wake of the Goddesses. New York,
Ishullanu the gardener turned into a mole
1992.
It can be understood why Gilgamesh refuses her enticing
Groneberg, Brigitte. “Philologische Bearbeitung des Agushaya-
offer, especially when it becomes clear that the goddess is of-
hymnus.” Revue d’Assyriologie 75 (1981): 107–134.
fering the king of Uruk a kingdom in the underworld.
Harris, R. “Inanna-Ishtar as Paradox and a Coincidence of Oppo-
sites.” History of Religions 31 (1991): 261–278.
The myth of “Ishtar and Saltu” was intended to be sung
and includes notes on how it should be sung, as well as evi-
Heimpel, Wolfgang. “A Catalog of Near Eastern Venus Deities.”
dence of a refrain. It is reasonable to conclude that it was di-
Syro-Mesopotamian Studies 4 (1982): 9–22.
vided into more than ten songs that tell of the occasion when
Lambert, W. G. “The Cult of Ishtar of Babylon.” In Le temple et
the gods were forced to take strong measures to curb the high
le culte, pp. 104–106. Istanbul, 1975.
spirits of the goddess. Its composition can be dated with cer-
Pettinato, Giovanni. Mitologia Sumerica. Turin, Italy, 2001.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4406
INCANTATION
Sefati, Yitschak. Love-Songs in Sumerian Literature: Critical Edi-
of incantation, it must be remembered that, to the people
tion of the Dumuzi-Inanna Songs. Bar-Ilan Studies in Near
involved, the proper chanting of the formula itself has perfor-
Eastern Languages and Culture. Ramat Gan, Israel, 1998.
mative power. To them it does not express or symbolize
Soden, Wolfram von. “Kleine Beiträge zu Text und Erklärung ba-
some other action—it does it. When, for example, the incan-
bylonischer Epen.” Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 58 (1967):
tation experts of the Trobriand Islanders chant over the
189–193.
newly planted yam vines, “Raise thy stalk, O taytu. Make it
Van Dijk, J. J. A. “Inanna raubt den ‘grossen Himmel’: Ein My-
flare up, make it lie across!” (Malinowski, 1935, vol. 1,
thos.” In Festschrift für Rykle Borger zu seinem 65. Geburtstag
p. 146), the people know that the “hearing” of these com-
am 24. Mai 1994. Tikip santakki mala baˇsmu, edited by Ste-
mands by the tubers is what makes them sprout and grow.
fan M. Maul, pp. 9–38. Groningen, Netherlands, 1998.
It is not, however, just any words that have such power.
Volk, Konrad. Inanna und Sˇukalletuda: Zur historisch-politischen
Incantations are special verbal formulas that in a variety of
Deutung eines sumerischen Literaturwerkes. Wiesbaden, Ger-
ways, depending upon the particular cultural tradition, tap
many, 1995.
into sacred power. They may, for example, contain powerful
GIOVANNI PETTINATO (2005)
scriptural expressions, mantras, or sacred names. They are
Translated from Italian by Paul Ellis
usually rhythmically organized and chanted repeatedly. They
may use special devices such as foreign or unintelligible
words, “abracadabra” nonsense phrases. The Anglo-Saxon
INCANTATION.
medical-incantation treatise Lacnunga provides an example,
The practice of incantation (Lat., in-
using powerful names and impressive nonsense words:
cantatio, from incantare, “to chant a religious formula”) dif-
fers considerably from culture to culture. For the purposes
Sing this prayer over the black blains nine times: first,
of this cross-cultural overview, however, incantation can be
Paternoster. “Tigath tigath tigath calicet aclu cluel sedes
understood as the authorized use of rhythmically organized
adclocles acre earcre arnem nonabiuth aer aernem ni-
words of power that are chanted, spoken, or written to ac-
dren arcum cunath arcum arctua fligara uflen binchi
cutern nicuparam raf afth egal uflen arta arta arta
complish a desired goal by binding spiritual powers to act in
trauncula trauncula. [In Latin:] Seek and you shall find.
a favorable way.
I adjure you by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that
Since incantation uses words to move spiritual powers
you grow no larger but that you dry up. . . . Cross
and accomplish a desired result, this practice is related to
Matthew, cross Mark, cross Luke, cross John.” (Grattan
other uses of sacred language such as prayer, invocation,
and Singer, 1952, p. 107; my trans.)
blessing, and cursing. Verbal formulas associated with prayer
It should be noted that, although the primary power of an
beseech the spiritual powers for certain actions or maintain
incantation resides in its oral presentation, once these formu-
communication by praise and submission. However, verbal
las could be written down, the chirographic (handwritten)
formulas associated with incantation are designed to perform
text itself contributed to the potency of the incantation.
the desired result by “obliging” (Lat., obligare, “to bind”)
From before 600 CE come Jewish-related Aramaic incanta-
spiritual powers. Invocation, blessing, and cursing are used
tion texts written by experts on bowls and designed to ward
with both prayer and incantation.
off various sorts of evil. Such power could now be extended
THE POWER OF INCANTATION. Even though practices of in-
even into the realm of the dead, as in the case of Middle
cantation differ widely from culture to culture, its validity
Kingdom Egyptian incantations inscribed on the inside wall
or efficacy appears to depend on cultural consensus about a
of coffins, by which the various gods and demons encoun-
number of primary factors, namely, the power of the chanted
tered by the soul would be bound to act beneficially.
verbal formula, the authority of the incantor, the receptivity
The chanter’s authority. Closely connected to the
of spiritual forces both good and evil, the connection with
power of the verbal formula is the authority of the incantors.
the religious or mythological tradition, and the power of the
These may be experts in terms of learning or ecclesiastical au-
accompanying ritual.
thority, like Daoist priests or Christian monks; they may be
The power of the formula. Societies that use incanta-
people who have been specially initiated into the use of such
tions understand them to be performative, that is, they ac-
power, like various kinds of shamans; they may be charismat-
complish what they say. The act of chanting the verbal for-
ic holy ones who keep certain special observances or practices
mula itself has power. Scholars have put forth a variety of
that sanction their authority. In the incantation itself, the
explanations concerning the effect incantations have for peo-
chanter often clothes himself in the aura of divine authority
ple. Older theories considered incantation to be a form of
and power. A Malay shaman, drawing authority from both
magic, an attempt to control and manipulate the forces of
Hinduism and Islam, outroars a thunderstorm:
nature. More recent theories have suggested that incanta-
Om! Virgin goddess, Mahadewi! Om!
tions are expressive of needs and wishes or symbolize a de-
Cub am I of mighty tiger!
sired result, or that they have the psychological effect of re-
EAli’s line through me descends!
structuring reality in the minds of people. Although these
My voice is the rumble of thunder, . . .
explanations may provide certain insights into the meaning
By virtue of my charm got from EAli
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INCANTATION
4407
And of Islam’s confession of faith. (Winstedt, 1925, p. 59)
The accompanying ritual actions. While incantations
can be used alone without any accompanying actions, in
Receptivity of the spiritual forces. The power of the
most cultures the chanting of incantations is usually associat-
incantation further derives from the people’s shared under-
ed with the power of other ritual actions. The incantation
standing of the nature and receptivity of the spiritual powers
may be related to a ritual object that it empowers with sacred
to be moved and bound by the powerful words. That spiritu-
force. For treating a child with worms, the Javanese doctor
al entity may be simply an object or person that is to perform
chants over a special herb: “In the name of God, the Merci-
in a certain way. At other times, the incantation invokes,
ful, the Compassionate! Grandmother spirit, Grandfather
with careful mention of names, spirits, or gods who control
spirit. . . . The harmful worms—may they all die. The
aspects of nature and life, empowering or binding them to
good worms—may they stay for the whole length of the
act beneficially. Ritual specialists of Java, when burying the
child’s life” (Geertz, 1960, p. 93). Cherokee specialists al-
umbilical cord of a newborn baby, intone the following
most always chant their incantations over tobacco, “remak-
words: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassion-
ing” or empowering the tobacco to perform the desired bene-
ate! Father Earth, Mother Earth, I am about to leave in your
fit. A Daoist priest chants this incantation over a small
care the birthcord of the baby. . . . Don’t bother the baby.
puppet as he rubs it over a patient: “Substitute, be thou in
This is necessary because of Allah. If you do bother him, you
place of the fore part of the body, . . . be thou in place of
will by punished by God” (Geertz, 1960, p. 46).
the back parts, . . . be thou in place of the left side, that
health may be ensured to him for year upon year” (de Groot,
A great many incantations are addressed to evil spirits
1967, vol. 6, p. 1260). Incantation texts are often accompa-
or demons, conjuring them to leave or stay away. It is ex-
nied by directions for ritual actions. For example, an ancient
tremely important that the incantor name and identify the
Mesopotamian incantation for potency commands: “Let the
origin and characteristics of the evil power in order to bind
ass swell up! Let him mount the jenny! Let the buck get an
it. Pre-Spanish Maya incantations, for example, list detailed
erection! Let him again and again mount the young she-
knowledge about the evil spirit of the disease, recounting its
goat!”; then the ritual directions follow: “Pulverized magnet-
parentage, its lustful impulses that inspired its shameful
ic iron ore you put [into] puru oil; you recite the incantation
birth, and all its characteristics; they then proceed to consign
over it seven times; the man rubs his penis, the woman her
the spirit to the foul-smelling underworld or to cast it into
vagina with the oil, then he can have intercourse” (Biggs,
the wind to fall behind the sky. An Aramaic incantation be-
1967, p. 33). Incantation and ritual together accomplish the
comes very specific in naming one of the many demons: “I
desired result.
adjure you, Lilith H:ablas, granddaughter of Lilith Zarnai,
FORMS OF ADDRESS. Within the great diversity of forms
. . . the one who fills deep places, strikes, smites, casts down,
taken by the incantation formulas in different cultures and
strangles, kills, and casts down boys and girls, male and fe-
even within the same culture, a number of standard types can
male foetuses,” while another text conjures by name nearly
be discerned in the way spiritual powers are addressed. Many
eighty demons and spirits of evils or sicknesses (Isbell, 1975,
operate with the command form, using imperatives or state-
pp. 61, 121–122), showing that, occasionally, an incantation
ments of obligation to bind the spiritual powers to the de-
will name a whole series of evil spirits and demons—just to
sired action. Other incantations use the declaratory mode to
be sure that the right one is included.
establish the hoped-for result. And there are other incanta-
Connection of the chant with tradition. The success-
tions that approach the prayer mode, beseeching or charm-
ful operation of the incantation depends on its connection
ing the spiritual powers to take the beneficial action. Many
with the religious or mythological tradition of the people. In
times, of course, incantations use a combination of these
one way or another, the incantation fits the specific human
three forms.
circumstance into the larger pattern of sacred existence and
The command form, at its simplest, consists in naming
power as known in the religion of the people. Incantations
the spiritual power and binding it to the desired action with
in which such patterns are made explicit can be called narra-
an imperative. The High German “Pro Nessia” incantation
tive incantations. For example, Scottish incantations are reg-
from the ninth century CE, driving out the worm spirit that
ularly grounded in stories or legends about Christ and his
causes disease, is pure command:
disciples, as in this example: “Christ went on an ass, / She
sprained her foot, / He came down / And healed her foot;
Go out, nesso,
with the nine little ones,
/ As He healed that / May He heal this, / And greater than
out from the marrow into the veins,
this, / If it be His will to do” (Carmichael, 1928, vol. 2,
from the veins into the flesh,
p. 17). An ancient Egyptian narrative incantation, relating
from the flesh into the hide,
at great length how Isis rescued her son Horus from a scorpi-
from the hide into this arrow.
on’s bite, concludes with the main point: “It means that
Three paternosters. (Hampp, 1961, p. 118; my trans.)
Horus lives for his mother—and that the sufferer lives for
his mother likewise; the poison is powerless!” (Borghouts,
In Burma, an exorcist addresses many powers of the super-
1978, pp. 62–69).
natural world in a general incantation in order to focus his
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4408
INCANTATION
powerful command on the ouktazaun (minor spirit) that is
I ask you to go and enter the body of this girl,
possessing his client: “To all the samma and brahma devas
Burning her heart as this sand burns,
of the sky heavens; to all the ghosts, monsters, and other evil
Fired with love for me. (Winstedt, 1925, p. 165)
creatures; to the ogres of the earth; to the master witches and
PURPOSES OF INCANTATION. Purposes for the use of incanta-
the wizards; to the evil nats and the ouktazauns: I command
tion differ widely and cover the whole gamut of life needs
you to leave. I command you by the glory of the Triple Gems
of individuals and societies. It is possible, however, to classify
[Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha]” (Spiro, 1967, p. 177).
incantations, according to their purpose, into three broad
Very often incantations use a declaratory mode to per-
categories: defensive, productive, and malevolent.
form the intended result of binding evil forces or compelling
Defensive incantations. Among defensive incanta-
the good, declaring the desired state to be a reality in the
tions, a major purpose is prophylactic or apotropaic, that is,
present or the future. A Cherokee incantation designed to
warding off evil spirits and their troubles, especially in the
break up a happily married couple, for the benefit of a forgot-
critical passages of life. Classic among apotropaic incanta-
ten lover, simply declares the result to be so:
tions are those widespread in the ancient Near East, directed
Now! Very quickly pillow your head upon the Soul of
against demonic powers called liliths—ghostly paramours of
the Dog, outside, where there is loneliness!
men, who attack women during their periods and at child-
birth and who devour children. An incantation bowl binds
Your name is ______.
these demons:
In the very middle of your two bodies loneliness has
I adjure you, every species of lilith, in the name of your
just come to think.
offspring which demons and liliths bore. . . . Woe,
You are to be broken in the Pathway.
tramplers, scourgers, mutilaters, breakers, disturbers,
squeezers, muzzlers, and dissolvers like water. . . . You
Now! Where the joining is has just come to be divided.
are fearful, terrified, and bound to my exorcism, you
Your two souls have just come to be divided somewhere
who appear to the sons of men—to men in the likeness
in the Valley.
of women and to women in the likeness of men—you
who lie with people during the night and during the
Without breaking your soul, I have just come to stupefy
day. (Isbell, 1975, pp. 17–18)
you with the Smoke of the Blue Tobacco. (Kilpatrick and
Kilpatrick, 1965, pp. 139–140)
Vedic incantation from ancient India is directed against the
fiends who cause pregnant women to abort: “The blood-
When the Trobriand sorcerer tours the gardens with their
sucking demon, and him that tries to rob health, Kanva, the
budding leaves, he intones, “The yam rises and swells like a
devourer of our offspring, destroy, O Prisniparni [medicinal
bush-hen’s nest. The yam rises and swells like a baking-
plant], and overcome!” (Atharvaveda 2.25.4, as cited in
mound. . . . For these are my yams, and my kinsmen will
Bloomfield, 1964, p. 22). The Egyptian Coffin Texts testify
eat them up. My mother will die of surfeit, I myself will die
to the need for incantations to ward off the evil powers who
of repletion” (Malinowski, 1935, vol. 1, p. 146). It is in this
feast on the soul in the passage of death.
declaratory mode that blessings and curses are often formu-
lated, focusing on the person or thing to be involved and de-
The other major use of defensive incantations is for the
claring the favorable or unfavorable state to be a reality.
expulsion of evil powers that have taken up abode. A Malay
Muslim shaman exorcises the demon of disease, reciting first
A third mode of expression in many incantations is that
the creation story and then chanting,
of beseeching or charming the sacred powers to act benevo-
lently. This form approaches that of prayer and, at times, is
Where is this genie lodging and taking shelter?. . .
indistinguishable from it. Yet the typical expressions, “May
Genie! if thou art in the feet of this patient,
you,” “Let God,” “I ask you,” and the like, can also be under-
Know that these feet are moved by Allah and His prophet;
stood as compelling or binding the spiritual powers, not just
If thou are in the belly of this patient,
beseeching them. A Burmese doctor chants a prayer-spell
His belly is God’s sea, the sea, too, of Muhammad. . . .
over a sick girl, repeating it three times as he empowers many
(Winstedt, 1925, pp. 62–63)
spiritual beings for action: “May the five Buddhas, the nats,
Sickness can also be seen as the result of attack by rival hu-
and the Brahmas rest on the forehead [of the patient]; may
mans, and then the appropriate measure is a counterincanta-
Sakka rest on the eyes and ears, Thurasandi Devi on the
tion. The Atharva priest of ancient India chants over a special
mouth, and Matali on the hands, feet, and body, . . . and
ritual plant: “The spell which they skillfully prepare . . . we
may they guard and protect me” (Spiro, 1967, p. 152). And
drive it away! . . . With this herb have I destroyed all
the Malay incantor turns even to Iblis (Satan) and the other
spells. . . . Evil be to him that prepares evil, the curse shall
spirits and devils and firmly requests direct action on behalf
recoil upon him that utters curses: back do we hurl it against
of his lovesick client:
him, that it may slay him that fashions the spell” (Atharvave-
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate!
da 10.1.1, 4–5, as cited in Bloomfield, 1964, p. 72).
Friend of mine, Iblis!
Productive incantations. A second purpose of incanta-
And all ye spirits and devils that love to trouble man!
tion is beneficial, that is, it promotes growth, health, and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INCANTATION
4409
happiness either by urging on the responsible inherent pow-
CONCLUSION. Incantations, as rhythmic or formulaic words
ers or by causing beneficial interference by divine powers. A
of power used to accomplish a desired goal by binding spiri-
curer in Java uses a massage and a spitting ritual with this
tual powers, have sometimes been considered as magic rather
incantation:
than religion, or as a form of religious practice lower than
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate!
prayer. It is true that incantations oblige the powers to per-
May the Prophet Adam repair [the person],
form the action rather than prayerfully request them for it.
May Eve order [the person].
And it is also true that incantations have to do with self-
Untangle the tangled veins,
interest, sometimes at the expense of others. Yet they do rep-
Right the dislocated bones,
resent a religious mode of being in the world, albeit a mode
Make the fluids of the body feel pleasant, . . .
of aggression rather than simple submission to spiritual pow-
Health falls with my white spittle,
ers. The power of chanted words fits the events of human
Well, well, well, by the will of God. (Geertz, 1960, p. 94)
life into the pattern of the sacred realities that underlie and
support human existence. Far from being trivial, incanta-
A great many incantations of the productive type have to do
tions provide help for whatever deeply troubles or concerns
with love and sexual attraction, marriage, home and family,
humans: health, birth, love, marriage, family, prosperity,
potency, successful birth, and the like. The Cherokee, for ex-
death. Human existence is understood as a drama involving
ample, have a large variety of love incantations, for creating
the interaction of many spiritual powers, and, through the
loneliness in the desired person, for retaining affection of a
power of the chanted formula, a restructuring of these pow-
wandering mate, for acclimatizing a newlywed wife, or com-
ers is performed so that life can become more healthy, secure,
pelling a runaway spouse to return. Cherokee men and
prosperous, and happy.
women can use incantations to “rebeautify” themselves and
thus become attractive to a potential mate:
SEE ALSO Magic; Mantra; Names and Naming; Spells.
Now! I am as beautiful as the very blossoms themselves!
I am a man, you lovely ones, you women of the Seven
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Clans! . . .
Among the many works that include incantations from all over
the world, the following provide a representative survey from
All of you have just come to gaze upon me alone, the
ancient, medieval, and modern cultures.
most beautiful.
Biggs, Robert D. . zi. ga: Ancient Mesopotamian Potency Incanta-
Now! You lovely women, already I just took your souls! I
tions. Locust Valley, N.Y., 1967. Translations and textual
am a man!
studies of incantations used in Mesopotamian society for this
You women will live in the very middle of my soul.
universal sexual problem.
Forever I will be as beautiful as the bright red blossoms!
Bloomfield, Maurice, trans. and ed. Hymns of the Atharva-Veda.
(Kilpatrick and Kilpatrick, 1965, pp. 86–87)
Delhi, 1964. Reprint of “Sacred Books of the East,” vol. 42
(Oxford, 1897). Translations and interpretations of the most
At times, productive incantations are needed to bring about
important incantations and hymns of the fourth Veda from
pregnancy, as this one from ancient India: “Into thy womb
ancient India by one of the outstanding American Sanskrit-
shall enter a male germ, as an arrow into a quiver! May a man
ists of the nineteenth century.
be born there, a son ten months old!” (Atharvaveda 3.23.2,
Borghouts, J. F., trans. Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts. Leiden,
as cited in Bloomfield, 1964, p. 97).
1978. Translations of a representative range of incantations
Malevolent incantations. A third purpose of incanta-
from ancient Egypt, dealing with concerns of everyday life,
tion is related to the need to harm, punish, or take revenge
mostly from the Middle Kingdom and later.
on enemies or rivals. A jilted woman can target her erstwhile
Carmichael, Alexander. Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and Incanta-
lover with this fierce imprecation:
tions, vol. 2. Edinburgh, 1928. Various incantations collect-
ed orally in the highlands and islands of Scotland and trans-
As the best of the plants thou art reputed, O herb; turn
lated into English.
this man for me today into a eunuch that wears his hair
Geertz, Clifford. The Religion of Java. Glencoe, Ill., 1960. Exten-
dressed! . . . Then Indra with a pair of stones shall
sive information about incantations in this important study
break his testicles both! O eunuch, into a eunuch thee
of the Javanese religious system, which combines Islam and
I have turned; O castrate, into a castrate thee I have
native spirit beliefs.
turned! (Atharvaveda 6.138.1–3, as cited in Bloomfield,
1964, p. 108)
Grattan, J. H. G., and Charles Singer. Anglo-Saxon Magic and
Medicine. Oxford, 1952. Some incantations and healing ritu-
The Cherokee bent on revenge learns from the shaman to
als especially from the semipagan text Lacnunga, translated
recite the name of his adversary, repeating the following in-
into modern English.
cantation four times and blowing his breath toward him after
Groot, J. J. M. de. The Religious System of China (1892–1910). 6
each rendition: “Your Pathways are Black: it was wood, not
vols. Reprint, Taipei, 1967. Especially volume 6 of this mul-
a human being! Dog excrement will cling nastily to you. You
tivolumed work contains traditional Chinese rituals and in-
will be living intermittently. . . . Your Black Viscera will be
cantations against specters.
lying all about. . . . Your Pathway lies toward the Night-
Hampp, Irmgard. Beschwörung, Segen, Gebet: Untersuchung zum
land!” (Kilpatrick and Kilpatrick, 1967, p. 127).
Zauberspruch aus dem Bereich der Volksheilkunde. Stuttgart,
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4410
INCA RELIGION
1961. A rich sourcebook for incantations from German cul-
the ancient Andean peoples may one day be shown to com-
tures, providing also a study of types and purposes.
prise a system of ideograms.) Aside from scattered archaeo-
Isbell, Charles D. Corpus of the Aramaic Incantation Bowls. Mis-
logical evidence—including figurative and abstract images
soula, Mont., 1975. Texts and translations of all the pub-
on stone and wood, funerary pieces, and some fresco frag-
lished Aramaic texts inscribed on incantation bowls, from
ments—we possess documents (written in Spanish and, less
Jewish-related societies in Babylon.
frequently, in Quechua) that were composed during the
Kilpatrick, Jack Frederick, and Anna Gritts Kilpatrick. Walk in
years following the Conquest and that detail the religious
Your Soul: Love Incantations of the Oklahoma Cherokees. Dal-
practices of indigenous Andean peoples. (The Inca were re-
las, 1965. Incantations used in situations of love and mar-
ported to have painted mythological scenes on canvas and
riage among the Cherokee.
wood, but these are now lost.)
Kilpatrick, Jack Frederick, and Anna Gritts Kilpatrick. Run to-
ward the Nightland: Magic of the Oklahoma Cherokees. Dallas,
Despite their separation in time and the contrasts be-
1967. Incantations of the Cherokee for use in various situa-
tween their ecological milieus, the Andes high cultures and
tions.
their religious systems manifested a common spirit. Religious
practices permeated all aspects of public and private life.
Malinowski, Bronislaw. Coral Gardens and Their Magic. 2 vols.
London, 1935. Texts of many incantations interspersed with
These religions for the most part included cults of the dead,
descriptions of the Trobriand Islanders to the east of New
of ancestors, of a founding culture hero, and of a divine king.
Guinea, with important interpretations by this famous an-
Offerings and sacrifices (often human) were performed, and
thropologist.
reflected beliefs in the needs of the “living corpse” and in the
Roys, Ralph L., trans. and ed. Ritual of the Bacabs. Norman,
exigencies of the cosmic powers on which the cycles of nature
Okla., 1965. Translations of healing incantations from the
depended. These deified powers were portrayed as mon-
pre-Spanish Maya culture.
strous beings that combined human, animal, and vegetable
Spiro, Melford E. Burmese Supernaturalism: A Study in the Expla-
traits. The images of the principal deity throughout these
nation and Reduction of Suffering. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,
cultures were basically variations on constant themes. This
1967. A careful study of the Burmese spiritual world, includ-
deity, which in images is variously characterized as an an-
ing translations of incantations used in this Buddhist culture.
thropomorphized feline (a puma or jaguar), a one- or two-
Winstedt, R. O. Shaman, Saiva and Sufi: A Study of the Evolution
headed serpent, a condor, or an ear of maize, is often por-
of Malay Magic. London, 1925. Includes translations of
trayed brandishing weapons or other instruments.
many incantations in a study of religious practices in Malay
The temples of the urban centers of these civilizations
culture, which mixes Islamic, Hindu, and indigenous reli-
gious influences.
were built either in the form of truncated, stepped pyramids
or as series of enclosures. Some possessed underground
THEODORE M. LUDWIG (1987)
vaults, with or without labyrinths. In some locations, temple
architecture is suggestive of the structure of the cosmos, com-
prising three vertical levels. Elsewhere, rows or circles of
INCA RELIGION. The pre-Columbian Andean cul-
stones testify to astral observations and to cults connected to
tures, of which the Inca empire was the final heir, extended
the organization of sacred time and space, in which the
over a geographical area that the Inca believed corresponded
movements of the sun, moon, and stars, the alternations of
to the four quarters (tahuantinsuyu) of the world. At the time
day and night and dry and rainy seasons, the cycles of the
of the Inca empire’s fall to Spanish forces under Francisco
earth and sea, and human, animal, and vegetable fecundity
Pizarro in 1532, the Inca occupied large portions of present-
all seem to play a role. Calendars were based on the cycles—
day Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The great Andean civ-
individually or in combinations—of the sun, the moon, the
ilizations flourished in this setting of contrasting ecosystems
planet Venus, and the Pleiades. The Sun and Moon pair of
(coastal desert ribbed with fertile valleys, arable highlands at
deities and the pair composed of this couple’s sons (often
altitudes of more than four kilometers, Amazonian and mon-
seen as enemy twins) were important pan-Andean deities.
tane rain forests) that offered resources for pursuing a variety
Among coastal groups, the Moon, represented in bird form
of means of subsistence, including fishing, hunting and gath-
and associated with the sea and the dead, was the preeminent
ering, agriculture, and the herding of llamas, guanacos, and
deity. Divine symbols and religious rites were not, however,
alpacas.
always directly related to the ecosystem within which the par-
ticular culture flourished, as is evident when one compares
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND. The great pre-Inca civilizations
pre-Inca iconography with Inca mythology and with the
that flourished in what is now Peru were the Chavín (after
myths of present-day Amazonian peoples.
about 800 BCE), the Nazca and Moche (c. 100–800 CE), the
Tiahuanaco (c. 200–1000), the Huari (c. 800–1200), and
INCA COSMOLOGY. The Inca religious system is usually attri-
the Chimu (c. 1200–1400). None of these cultures, the Inca
buted to either the Inca Tupac Yupanqui or his predecessor,
included, appears to have possessed a written language,
the Inca Pachacuti, and dates to at most one hundred years
though this function was filled, to some extent, by the use
before the European conquest. The expansion of Cuzco, the
of quipus, or knotted strings. (The geometric plastic arts of
Inca capital, was carried out in the name of the superiority
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INCA RELIGION
4411
of its gods over those of other peoples who, once they were
(e.g., man-woman, the head and the two arms), biological
assimilated into the empire, left their principal idol (or its
and parental, or cultural (conqueror-conquered, interior-
replica) in the Inca capital. The colonization, or federation,
exterior, etc.)—expressed in the representation of cosmic
was founded on a system of reciprocity overseen by Cuzco.
forces. Similarly, certain numbers, probably the results of as-
Certain cults and temples were richly endowed by the Inca
tronomical calculations, gave order to the sacred.
(the title given the head of the empire); others were sup-
INCA GODS. The kings of Cuzco, reputed to be sons of the
pressed. The great social and religious leaders of the empire
Sun, formed a religious, cosmic, and territorial imperial
went regularly to the capital city, and the Inca brought colo-
structure in which the Sun reigned over the Andean high-
nies of collaborators (mitima) to the temples of the empire
lands and the heavens and the god Pachacámac ruled over
and sometimes had himself named priest of honor. The sanc-
the lowlands and the underworld.
tuaries of the provinces paid tribute in kind to Cuzco, con-
tributing, for example, young children to be sacrificed during
The Coricancha, the great Temple of the Sun in Cuzco,
the Capacocha ceremony, which was held to ensure the
was flanked by two golden pumas and its walls were covered
Inca’s health and prosperity. Rites of communion were held
with gold and silver plaques. The halls contained statues and
periodically to ensure the political and religious cohesion of
cosmic representations, and the mummies—or their repli-
the empire. Generally, these rites took place at the Temple
cas—of earlier kings and queens. There were three sculptural
of the Sun, in the center of the tahuantinsuyu, which center
triads of the Sun; each included a father and two sons, each
was located at the junction of the two rivers of Cuzco. Slow
triad symbolizing, respectively, the heavenly body, its light,
and its vital warmth. One of these statues, Punchao, depicts
processions or rapid messengers departed from and returned
two pumas between whom is seated a man with serpents at
to this center, traveling along the roads that divided the em-
his waist and rays emanating from his shoulders. It contained
pire into four regions (chinchaysuyu to the northwest, anti-
a reliquary filled with a powder made from the entrails of
suyu to the northeast, contisuyu to the southwest, and colla-
dead kings. The temple sheltered a large number of priests
suyu to the southeast) or along the forty-one ceque
(the first priest was a close relative of the Inca) and the “vir-
(theoretical lines radiating from the center, on which 428
gins of the Sun” (aclla), who dedicated themselves to making
shrines were placed), and returned. Although the Inca autho-
cloth and corn beer for the cult of the Sun, and who also
rized the conservation of certain regional religious structures
served as concubines to the Inca (who was himself the mani-
in the cities of the empire, they also reproduced Cuzco’s geo-
festation of the Sun) or to dignitaries.
metrical organization of sacred space and built replicas of the
capital’s principal temples in all the ceremonial centers. The
From the dark bowels of the cosmos, Pachacámac
bipartition of villages and adjacent territories—the distribu-
caused earthquakes and sent pestilence. With his wife Pacha-
tion in halves—was common throughout the Andes. In
mama (“mother of the earth”), he ruled the waters of the un-
Cuzco these halves were called hanan (which roughly means
derworld, and, with his daughters, he controlled the depths
“high, superior, right, masculine”) and hurin (“low, inferior,
of the sea. His temple was located at the seacoast. Although
left, feminine”). Other categories of opposition and comple-
represented by a golden fox, he was also worshiped in the
mentarity could intersect or be superimposed over this base,
form of a wooden pillar, which was sculpted in a dark cham-
determining various socioreligious complexes. Such halves
ber atop a truncated adobe pyramid.
(or moieties) were linked respectively with the cosmic powers
Illapa, who represented thunderbolts, lightning, rain,
of the lower and upper worlds, and with two cardinal points.
hail, snow, and frost, was venerated by a large cult in the
The inhabitants of the Andean region worshiped a great
highlands. He was conceived of as a triad (father, brother,
number of gods, idols, and spirits, which were designated by
and son). One of the three was represented by a man holding
the generic name huaca, a term that was also applied to the
a club in one hand and a sling in the other. It was said that
shrines. The oral traditions frequently related the adventures
the huacas, sons of Illapa from whom various tribes were de-
of the great huacas (gods or parents of gods), their births and
scended, had been thrown off a mountaintop and were raised
metamorphoses; the magical creation of wells, lakes, and irri-
by humans. They were identified with the mountain and be-
gation canals; hunts, rivalries, wars, and conquests of lands,
came masters of its animals and plants. The mountains were
waters, and women who were captured by force or trickery;
personified and arranged hierarchically and were the object
and the powers of the huacas over men and men’s duties to-
of a cult.
ward them. All this took place “in the time when the huacas
The serpent Amaru represented the striking thunderbolt
were men . . . afterward they were turned into stone.” Each
and also the animal or monster who, according to the myths,
family—and, at the higher level, each village and province—
rose from the lake and moved toward the upper world. With
claimed to descend from a given huaca (a particular man-
one head at each of his extremities, Amaru symbolized com-
god, conquering ancestor, founder, or civilizer), who repre-
munication between the upper and lower parts of the
sented a cosmic power and whom they venerated in the form
cosmos.
of a mummy, a stone, an animal, or a constellation of stars.
The codification of these beliefs was founded on the opposi-
Women were the principal participants in the cult of
tions and complementaries of nature—binary or ternary
Quilla, the Moon, who was the sister and wife of the Sun.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4412
INCA RELIGION
The Coya (“queen”) was believed to be the daughter of the
ated him with the rainy season, and others made him the rep-
Moon, just as the Inca was believed to be the son of the Sun.
resentative of the fire of the heavens and of the triumphant
The anthropomorphic statues of Quilla were silver, while
Sun. Under the name of Huari Viracocha (an androgynous
those of the Sun were gold. A lunar calendar was used along
being) he was able to draw to himself all the cosmic functions
with a solar calendar. Quilla was associated with the earth
of the upper and lower worlds. He had created the sun, the
and the dead. Traditionally, she pursued dead thieves into
moon, the stars, and the prototypes of the Andean tribes—
the underworld at night. One month of the year was especial-
including the Inca—thus separating night from day and ush-
ly sacred to her. Men also worshiped her, in Cuzco and else-
ering in the solar cosmic cycle, which he entrusted to the Inca
where, particularly in the temple of Nusta, which was located
Manco Capac. The latter, accompanied by his brothers and
on an island in Lake Titicaca.
sisters (the Ayars), was plunged into the earth by Viracocha
and reemerged from the central window of Pacaritambo, to
When they were not visible, the stars, like the sun and
the south of Cuzco, at dawn, in order to reflect the first ap-
the moon, were believed to go under the earth. The Milky
pearance of the sun. Viracocha’s sons, Imaymana and To-
Way—thought of as two rivers—may have inspired the con-
capu, taught the Andeans the names and virtues of the flora
struction of the Coricancha at the junction of the two rivers
and fauna. Their travels, like Viracocha’s, may have corre-
of Cuzco. Among the constellations, that of the llama, visible
sponded to astronomical observations.
during the dry season, was of special importance to cattle
raisers. The Pleiades were associated with the rainy season.
Some prayers to Viracocha have been preserved. Around
If they appeared clearly at the end of May, a good harvest
1575, a number of prayers were recorded by Fray Cristóbal
was augured.
de Molina (collected in Las crónicas de los Molinas, Lima,
1943). The first of these may be rendered in English as
After death, one of the two souls that were attributed
follows:
to a man returned to its place of origin, either before or after
a journey strewn with obstacles, and dwelt in the land of the
O Creator, you who are at the ends of the earth, peer-
souls, which was not unlike the world of the living. The kind
less, who has given being and force to men, who has
of afterlife enjoyed by this soul was conditional on the type
said, “Let this one be man and that one be woman.”
of death, social rank, and virtues of the dead. The other soul
You made them, you gave them shape, you gave them
remained in the body, which had to be preserved intact, and
being. Let them live in health, free from danger, in
which had the same needs as the living person. The bodies
peace. Wherever you may be, whether up in the heav-
ens, below with Thunder, or with the clouds of the
of nobles, kings, and queens were mummified, kept by their
storm, listen to me, answer me, grant me my prayer,
families, and often moved about. The mummies of ancient
give us eternal life. Keep us forever in your hand. This
kings—or their replicas—were set out hierarchically in paral-
offering, receive it, wherever you are, O Creator.
lel series (hanan and hurin) of four. At the head was the com-
INCA RITES. The Inca was considered to be the son of the
mon founding ancestor, theoretically androgynous, of whom
Sun and the Earth, Viracocha’s chosen one and equal. In this
the first was Manco Capac. The ancestors, associated with
world, between the two vertical halves of the cosmos, he was
the netherworld and germination, were considered oracles of
the synthesis of their opposition, acting as center and media-
the past, the future, and distant events, and they were con-
tor. A huaca himself, he had ambiguous powers over the hua-
sulted by expert priests.
cas, with whom he either negotiated or made war. He con-
Viracocha was the supreme god of the Inca. The Span-
tributed to the upkeep and vigor of the cosmic cycle in which
ish missionaries—monotheists and monogenists—would
he lived by seeing that the order of Pachayachachic was re-
have liked to make him or perhaps Pachacámac into a creator
spected. Specialized priests (for such matters as divination,
god who was unique, abstract, and infinite. But in Andean
interpreting oracles, making sacrifices, hearing confessions,
thought, each tribe had been transformed (rather than creat-
etc.) conducted the rites that measured the cycles of agricul-
ed) from water, earth, animals, and so forth, by a particular
ture and husbandry, which were spread throughout the year,
god at the beginning of a cosmic cycle, and the role of all
and which corresponded to the solstices and equinoxes, the
deities was to have given, and to continue to give, the breath
alternation of rainy (October to March) and dry seasons, and
of life and strength (cama) to humankind and to nature.
the alternation of day and night. Each month a particular
segment of Cuzco society dedicated itself to the prevailing
Viracocha was one of these personified gods. He was
cult. One of the most important festivals was Hanan Raymi
also a complex deity and was thought of as both one and
(held at seedtime in December), during which the initiation
many, the principle of transformation. Two others of his
rites of the young nobility took place, and after which the
names were Con-Ticsi-Viracocha and Pachayachachic (“he
Citua was celebrated to expel the illnesses brought on by the
who gives order to the world”) and he had a large family with
rains. Another important ceremony was Inti Raymi, which
several sanctuaries. Viracocha was associated with water and
took place at harvest time in June.
the foam of Lake Titicaca, whence he had come, and with
the foam of rivers and the surface of the ocean, where, ac-
The great religious ceremonies were publicly celebrated
cording to some myths, he (in human form) disappeared to
in Cuzco. The sacrifices were designed to nourish and placate
the northwest, walking on the waves. These attributes associ-
the gods, and offerings were selected from the great comple-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INCA RELIGION
4413
mentary ecosystems of nature (plants, birds, shells, the blood
to talk about theology in connection with Inca religion. One
of animals—particularly llamas—and humans) and culture
can, however, speak of a complex metaphysic in connection
(maize, coca, pepper, corn beer, cloth, statuettes). At the cen-
with the major god Viracocha, the conception of whom was
ter of the ceremonial place was the usnu, a small edifice on
forced to enrich and complexify itself during the final days
which the Inca sat enthroned and that was pierced at its base
of the empire.
by underground canals leading to the temples of Viracocha,
The religious spirit of the Andeans revealed its full in-
the Sun, and Illapa. Here the Sun was given “drink,” which
tensity after the Spanish conquest, especially in the cruel but
acted to placate and balance the powers of the lower and
vain attempts to make the indigenous priests confess the lo-
upper worlds. The usnu may also have served as an astronom-
cations of hidden treasures. After the official religion had
ical observatory. The golden statues of Viracocha, the Sun,
been forbidden and destroyed by the invaders, after it had
and Illapa, the silver statue of the Moon, and the mummies
disappeared with the empire, the rural religions, which in
of dead sovereigns—or their replicas—were set out on cere-
general antedated the Inca conquest, continued to be prac-
monial occasions.
ticed secretly despite the fierce assaults of the itinerant Inqui-
The performance of these ritual duties was also intended
sition upon the Indians. During the colonial centuries, the
to ward off cataclysms (pachacuti), especially those caused by
indigenous religions formed the core around that crystallized
excessive heat (“suns of fire”) or water (floods). Such cata-
the spirit of resistance and the preservation of the cultural
clysms were believed to result from the dissatisfaction of the
identity of the Andeans.
cosmic powers of the upper and lower worlds. They were be-
SEE ALSO Calendars, article on South American Calendars;
lieved to have occurred before, ushering in new cycles, and
Knots.
it was thought that they could happen again. These ideas,
which were based on the observation of the movements of
BIBLIOGRAPHY
the sun and moon and the oppositions of day and night, dry
Duviols, Pierre. La lutte contre les religions autochtones dans le Pérou
and rainy seasons, and fire and water, were projected through
colonial: “L’extirpation de l’idolâtrie” entre 1532 et 1660.
time to construct an explanation of the history of the world.
Lima, 1971. A history of the itinerant Inquisition (called
In any case, the important Quechua word pacha means both
“the extirpation of idolatry”) against the Indians, its methods
“time” and “space.”
and the reactions of the indigenous peoples.
CONCLUSION. It is impossible to show in this short essay the
Duviols, Pierre. “Punchao, ídolo mayor del Coricancha: Historia
wealth and the complexity of the official Inca religion, which
y tipología.” Antropología andina 1 (1976): 156–182. Shows
was itself superimposed over the no less rich religions of the
the continuity in one of the representations of the Andean
solar god.
conquered provinces. Religion imbued and governed all pri-
vate and public activities of the Andean people. Daily tasks
Duviols, Pierre. La destrucción de las religiones andinas: Conquista
y colonia. Mexico City, 1977. Studies the means used to sup-
and major undertakings alike were performed with equal pas-
press the Andean religions and the efforts to replace them
sion and competitive spirit, for the dualism of the religion
with Christianity.
imparted its dynamism to society. The great ritual festivals
Lumbreras, Luis G. The Peoples and Cultures of Ancient Peru.
of participation and communion involved the population
Washington, D.C., 1974.
from the capital as well as that from the countryside, thus
Mariscotti de Görlitz, Ana María. Pachamama Santa Tierra. Ber-
assuring the cohesion of the social and ethnic groups of the
lin, 1978. Monograph on this topic.
empire. The deification of power guaranteed its intangibility
Murra, John V. The Economic Organization of the Inca State.
and the stability of the social order. Finally, it is known that
Greenwich, Conn., 1980. Numerous references to the eco-
piety was general, and that members of the elite did not hesi-
nomics of religion.
tate to offer their children for sacrifice.
Pease, Franklin. El pensamiento mítico. Lima, 1982. Anthology of
To be sure, no Andean religious books exist. But there
ancient Andean myth, preceded by a study.
is much to discover in the colonial documents. Recent years
Platt, Tristan. “Symétries en miroir: Le concept de yanantin chez
have seen considerable progress, especially in scholarly
les Macha de Bolivia.” Annales, economies, sociétés, civilisa-
knowledge of Andean astronomy. Religion, culture, and phi-
tions 33 (1978): 1081–1107. Analysis of the concepts of re-
losophy were built around several fundamental ideas: the op-
flection and the double among the Macha of Bolivia.
position of contraries, the search for their conciliation in a
Rostworowski de Diez Canseco, María. Estructuras andinas del
harmonious equilibrium, and concern for the natural and
poder: Ideología religiosa y política. Lima, 1983. Study of a
human laws, which religion had as its object to predict and
large number of current works, focusing on the theme of du-
to regulate.
alism.
Rowe, John Howland. “The Origins of Creator Worship among
But this religion also had its failings in regard to the so-
the Incas.” In Culture in History: Essays in Honor of Paul
cial order, owing especially to the importance attributed to
Radin, edited by Stanley Diamond, pp. 408–429. New York,
the oracles and to the divinization of the Inca, factors that
1960.
certainly facilitated the conquest of the empire by the Span-
Taylor, Gerald. “Camay, Camac, et camasca dans le manuscrit
iards. Given the present state of Andean studies, it is difficult
Quechua de Huarochiri.” Journal de la Société des American-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4414
INCARNATION
istes 63 (1974–1976): 231–244. Analyzes an important con-
according to which the union of the soul, the spirit, or the
cept in Andean thought.
self with the world of matter, hence with the physical body,
Urbano, Henrique. Wiracocha y Ayar: Héroes y funciones en las so-
is interpreted as a fall from its proper place into an alien
ciedades andinas. Cuzco, Peru, 1981. Anthology of ancient
abode, an imprisonment, or an enslavement. Salvation con-
Andean myths, preceded by an attempt at interpretation
sists, according to this view, in the soul’s escape from the
using the trifunctional model of Georges Dumézil.
world into which it has fallen by dissociating and liberating
Urton, Gary. At the Crossroads of the Earth and Sky: An Andean
itself through purifications, rites of initiation, or meditation,
Cosmology. Austin, 1981. Analysis of contemporary Andean
from the chains of its captivity. There is, on the other hand,
astrological beliefs in terms of pre-Columbian Andean as-
a positive interpretation of incarnation, which sees the as-
tronomy.
sumption of a bodily form by the soul, the spirit, or the di-
Zuidema, R. Tom. The Ceque System of Cuzco: The Social Organi-
vine being as occurring for the purpose of saving or sanctify-
zation of the Capital of the Inca. Leiden, 1962. Analyzes the
ing the phenomenal world. This type of bodily manifestation
geometrical and arithmetical organization of the sacred space
is seen, for example, in the leaders of small tribal communi-
of Cuzco.
ties, the founders of religions, and the heads of theocratic
Zuidema, R. Tom. “Mito e historia en el antiguo Perú.” Allpanchis
states. In a certain sense, the history of religions has been the
(Cuzco) 10 (1977): 15–52.
history of persistent battles fought between these two distinc-
Zuidema, R. Tom. “Hierarchy and Space in Incaic Social Organi-
tive visions of the incarnation.
zation.” Ethnohistory 30 (1983): 49–75.
THE “PRIMITIVE” TRADITION. The belief in the divine in-
New Sources
carnate can be attested as early as the late Paleolithic period,
Bauer, Brian S. The Sacred Language of the Inca: The Cusco Ceque
in a considerable number of pictures of human beings in ani-
System. Austin, Tex., 1998.
mal forms, often in dancing posture. Among the best known
Dean, Carolyn. Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ: Corpus Christi
is a figure of the “great sorcerer” in a Trois Frères cave, sport-
in Colonial Cuzco, Peru. Durham, N.C., 1999.
ing a deer’s head crowned with huge antlers. The same cave
Drasat, Penny. Elemental Meanings: Symbolic Expression in Inka
has also preserved the portrayal of a dancer disguised as a
Miniature Figurines. London, 1995.
bison, playing a bow-shaped instrument, possibly a kind of
MacCormack, Sabine. Religion of the Andes: Vision and Imagina-
flute. It is certain that the early hunters wore masks and skins
tion in Early Colonial Peru. Princeton, N.J., 1991.
of animals for the celebration of their magico-religious cere-
monies. These masked figures and many parallel examples
Salles-Reese, Veronica. From Viracocha to the Virgin of Copaca-
bana: Representation of the Sacred at Lake Titicaca. Austin,
were probably believed to be the incarnations of spirits or di-
Tex., 1997.
vine beings akin to the Lord of the Animals.
Sullivan, William. Secret of the Incas: Myth, Astronomy and the War
Wearing masks has been one technique for incarnating
against Time. New York, 1996.
souls or spirits in premodern societies. In Inner Asia, for ex-
Urton, Gary. The History of a Myth: Pacariqtamba and the Origin
ample, a shaman’s mask symbolizes the incarnation of a
of the Inkas. Austin, Tex., 1990.
mythical personage (ancestor, mythical animal, or god). For
Villoldo, Alberto, and Erik Jenresen. Journey to the Island of the
its part, the costume transforms the shaman into a spiritual
Sun: The Return to the Lost City of Gold. San Francisco, 1992.
being. In Polynesia and Melanesia, the souls or spirits of dead
ancestors are believed to come from the land of the dead at
PIERRE DUVIOLS (1987)
Translated from French by Erica Meltzer
certain fixed times, especially when the old year passes into
Revised Bibliography
the new year. They appear in disguise, wearing terrifying
masks and strange costumes; the “dead” call on villagers,
praising them for their good conduct and rebuking them se-
verely for any wrongdoing they have committed. The “dead”
INCARNATION. The concept of incarnation (Lat., in-
also perform the rites of initiation for young novices. Finally,
carnatio, “being in flesh”) has been applied in the Christian
they give blessings for a good crop in the coming months
community to the mystery of union between divinity and
and, after receiving hospitality from the villagers, return to
humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. More generally, the
their homeland far across the sea. In fact, the spirits of the
concept has been extended to take into account a variety of
dead are impersonated by members of secret societies (e.g.,
forms of incarnation that the history of religions has de-
the Dukduk of the Bismarck Archipelago, the Arioi of the
scribed in various lands and among different peoples. The
Marquesas Islands), but these awe-inspiring “sacred visitors”
term incarnation is broadly defined here as the act or state
wield such terror over the noninitiated that they are truly be-
of assuming a physical body (as a person, an animal, a plant,
lieved to be the incarnations of the ancestral spirits. Signifi-
or even an entire cosmos) by a nonphysical entity such as the
cantly, the arrival of the spirits from the world beyond an-
soul, the spirit, the self, or the divine being.
nounces the renewal of time, the advent of the new year, and
Typologically speaking, there are two sharply contrast-
the renovation of the entire universe. A similar belief in the
ing evaluations of incarnation. One of them is a tragic view,
sacred visitors (marebito) is also attested in Japan.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INCARNATION
4415
The belief in the preexistence and incarnation of souls
This Greek mythology of the soul, more or less hostile
is abundantly documented in the “primitive” world. Accord-
to the world of matter and the physical body, was incorporat-
ing to the Caribou Inuit (Eskimo), for example, the immor-
ed into Gnosticism, a set of doctrines characterized by anti-
tal soul of a dead person leaves his body, ascending to the
cosmic dualism. Humankind, as viewed by the Gnostics, is
supreme being Pinga in heaven who receives it. If the person
constituted by three components: the self, the soul, and the
lived properly according to the rules of life, Pinga lets the
body. The physical body belongs to the deficient world of
soul assume a bodily form, human or animal. Such a belief
nature (phusis), but the soul is also part of this evil world.
is also widespread among the North American Indians. Espe-
Psychic human activities arise from and are limited by the
cially noteworthy is the belief found among the Aranda in
continual flux of natural events. It is only the self that tran-
central Australia, according to which every human being has
scends the evil world. It is divine in nature, hence not subject
two souls: the mortal soul, which comes into being with the
to time and change; it is indestructible. Where is the original
fetus as a result of intercourse between the parents, and the
home of the divine self, the spiritual part of humanity? The
immortal soul, which predates and really creates the entire
Gnostic myth narrates, with manifold variations, the fate of
human personality. More concretely, the immoral soul is a
the self, its origin in the world of light, its tragic fall into the
particle of life of the totemic ancestor who unfolded his sa-
alien world, and its imprisonment in the physical body. Sal-
cred history in the beginning of mythical time; every individ-
vation consists, in the last analysis, in the emancipation of
ual is what he is today because of the incarnation in him of
the self from the dark world of matter and the physical body
the immortal soul, a spark of his primeval ancestor’s life. The
and its return to its genuine home, the world of light.
Aranda becomes aware of this mystery of life as he undergoes
India presents a doctrine similar to gnosticism, namely,
the rites of initiation, in which he learns the sacred history
Sa¯m:khya-Yoga, whose central message may be summed up
of his ancestors. It is a sort of anamnesis, a remembering of
as follows: (1) humanity’s destiny in the world is conditioned
the preexistence of his immortal soul in the mythical sacred
by the mysterious interplay between the self (purus:a), which
history—a recollection accompanied by the acute realization
is indestructible, eternal, and not subject to change, and mat-
of the immortal soul’s involvement in temporary, phenome-
ter (prakr:ti), which is subject to time and transformation and
nal existence.
which constitutes humankind’s psychophysiological com-
G
plex; (2) the self is essentially a stranger to the world of mat-
REECE, INDIA, IRAN. The ancient Greek doctrine of me-
tempsychosis presupposes the incarnation of preexistent and
ter, into which for unknown reasons it has fallen and been
immortal souls in successive bodies, human and animal, and
enslaved, resulting in the oblivion of its original, true identi-
even in inanimate substances. Pythagoras certainly believed
ty; and (3) deliverance (moks:a) begins when the self remem-
in the transmigration of souls (Xenophanes, frag. 7); accord-
bers its eternal freedom and tries to dissociate itself through
ing to him, the human soul, despite its immortality, has been
the practice of yoga from the world of matter.
imprisoned in the body and condemned to a cycle of reincar-
However, in India the tragic view of the incarnation co-
nation due to the fall from its original state of bliss. A similar
exists peacefully with another, more positive view. The
idea was held by Empedocles: The immortal human soul has
Hindu god Vis:n:u, out of his profound concern for the wel-
fallen from its proper abode into the world, into the physical
fare of the universe, has frequently embodied himself wholly
body, due to its primal sin. Condemned to the physical
or partially in the phenomenal world. According to one of
world, the fallen soul is destined to wander through a series
the earliest versions of the doctrine contained in the
of incarnations until it is restored to the primeval state of
Bhagavadg¯ıta¯, he incarnates himself in the person of Kr:s:n:a,
bliss from which it has fallen. Plato contrasts the immortal
but he is also able to manifest himself in other bodily forms,
part of the soul, which the Demiurge has created, with the
human and animal. “Whenever the law of righteousness
mortal part, including perception, which is added by the cre-
withers away,” Vis:n:u declares, “I come into being age after
ated deities at the moment of union with the body (e.g., Ti-
age for the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil-
maeus 69c–d). Immediately before incarnation, the immortal
doers, and for the setting up of the law of righteousness”
soul drinks from the waters of Lethe (“forgetfulness”); “bur-
(Bhagavadg¯ıta¯ 4.7–8). While Hindu myths and rituals have
dened with a load of forgetfulness and wrongdoing,” the soul
concentrated attention on Vis:n:u’s ten primary incarnations,
“sheds her wings and falls to the earth” (Phaedrus 248c), that
in some formulations four saviors appear as his avata¯ras, or
is, it falls into the physical world, into the body that is a
incarnations, each ushering in one of the four cosmic ages
“tomb” (Gorgias 493c), imprisoned by the cycle of becoming
constituting a maha¯yuga, a complete cosmic cycle. In the
and incarnation. But, it is still possible for the immortal soul
kr:tayuga, which lasts 4,800 divine years (with one divine year
to learn, to recall its extraterrestrial experience of the perfect
corresponding to 360 human years), Vis:n:u makes his ap-
condition that existed prior to the fall (cf. especially Meno
pearance as the sage Kapila, while in the treta¯yuga, lasting
81c–d). For Plato, to live fully and meaningfully is, after all,
3,600 divine years, he appears as the universal monarch
to remember a discarnate, purely spiritual existence; it is an
Cakravartin. In the third cosmic age, dva¯parayuga, of 2,400
anamnesis of the soul’s true identity, that is, a recognition
divine years, the supreme being incarnates himself as the sage
of its heavenly origin.
Vya¯sa, and in the final cosmic age, kaliyuga, lasting 1,200 di-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4416
INCARNATION
vine years, he will manifest himself as Kalki, a sort of messi-
the belief in the emperor’s heavenly origin, and this belief
anic figure who will come in glory to establish the golden
was clearly expressed in the myths of Ninigi, the grandson
age, judging the wicked, rewarding the virtuous, and ruling
of the sun goddess Amaterasu. Ninigi is born in the heavenly
over the entire universe in peace and prosperity.
world and then descends onto the summit of Mount
Takachiho, carrying the three items of the sacred regalia as
The ancient Iranians of the Parthian period had an ar-
well as the heavenly mandate guaranteeing his eternal sover-
dent hope or expectation for Mithra incarnate, who would
eignty on earth. The emperor was identified with this mythic
come at the end of the world as the great universal monarch
figure at the annual harvest festival as well as on the occasion
and savior. This king and savior will descend on the Mount
of his enthronement festival.
of Victories in the form of a column of light or a shining star
to be born in a cave. He will be given birth by a human
In Islam, more particularly among the Sh¯ıEah, the imam
mother, but in truth he is of heavenly origin; he descends
enjoyed a truly exalted and significant status; while among
from above with the light, that is, he is the child of light.
the Sunn¯ıs an imam is no more than a leader of congrega-
There were, in fact, magi who lived near the Mount of Victo-
tional prayer at a local mosque, among the Sh¯ıEah the imam
ries; every year, at a certain fixed date, they climbed the
was endowed with a power at once political and religious.
mountain in which there was a cave, and quietly prayed to
Like the caliph, he was one who ruled the community in
the heavenly god for three days, waiting for the appearance
mercy and justice, but unlike the caliph, who had no legal
of the star.
authority, the imam was empowered to interpret the
h:aq¯ıqah, or esoteric meanings of the QurDa¯n and Islamic law.
KINGS, EMPERORS, IMAMS. The status of kings was often de-
This power was based on the Sh¯ıEah conviction that
fined in terms of God incarnate. In ancient Egypt, for exam-
Muh:ammad’s charisma, or spiritual gift, which he received
ple, the king was believed to be divine in essence. His corona-
from God, would be transmitted genealogically only within
tion, usually celebrated at the beginning of the new year,
his household. It was natural that the imam became the cen-
signified not an apotheosis but an epiphany, a self-
tral focus of Sh¯ıEah faith to such an extent that he was be-
manifestation of the god. As long as he ruled, the king was
lieved to be the embodiment of the divine light. Some ex-
identified with the god Horus; in fact, he was Horus incar-
treme sects of the IsmaE¯ıl¯ı movement went even further in
nate in his early existence, but upon his death he was mysti-
believing that the imam was the incarnation of the godhead
cally assimilated to Osiris, the god of rebirth and immor-
itself. The Druze of the Lebanon Mountains hold the Caliph
tality.
H:a¯kim (r. 996–1021) of the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt to be
The Greco-Roman world generally dissociated itself
the incarnation of the godhead, now in concealment but
from the notion that the king was the incarnation of a certain
with the promise of a return.
god, despite the fact that royal titles such as The Young
BUDDHISM. Buddhism was founded by Siddha¯rtha Gautama
Dionysos and Epiphanes were often used by kings in the Hel-
of the S´a¯kya clan in India, who left his home in quest of
lenistic period. According to Arthur Darby Nock, the only
truth, devoted himself to the practice of meditation, and fi-
exception was Ptolemy XIII of the mid-first century BCE,
nally attained enlightenment. Hence he is also called the
who demonstrably considered himself to be Dionysos incar-
Buddha, the Enlightened One. During the early centuries of
nate, probably under the influence of the pharaonic concep-
the history of Buddhism, this historical Buddha commanded
tion of the king as Horus incarnate.
the primary attention of Buddhists.
While the Chinese emperor was generally called Son of
However, as a new trend of the Buddhist movement
Heaven (tianzi) and as such was considered the earthly repre-
called the Maha¯ya¯na developed in the course of the second
sentative of Heaven or heavenly will, some emperors were re-
century BCE, a shift occurred in Buddhology; emphasis was
garded as incarnations of the Buddha. For example, the
now placed less on the historical Buddha than on the Eternal
founder of the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534), Taizi, was
Buddha. This Eternal Buddha is transcendent, absolute, and
regarded by the eminent monk Faguo as the Tatha¯gata in
infinite, embodying the universal and cosmic truth. Hence
person, an incarnation of the Buddha. This idea was icono-
he is called the dharmaka¯ya (“body of the law”), the essential
graphically represented in the caves of Yungang to the west
Buddha who is the ultimate reality as viewed by Maha¯ya¯na
of Datong, the capital of the empire until 494. Moreover,
Buddhism. The Eternal Buddha does not wish, however, to
toward the end of the seventh century the Empress Wu
hold himself aloof from the phenomenal world; out of his
Zhao, who was a strong supporter of Buddhism, was consid-
deep compassion for humanity in pain and suffering he has
ered to be the incarnation of Maitreya, the future Buddha.
incarnated himself in the person of Siddha¯rtha Gautama, as
Among the Tibetans, the Dalai Lama has been accepted as
the nirma¯n:akaya (“body of transformation”).
an incarnation of the bodhisattva Avalokite´svara.
This doctrine is elaborated, for example, in the
In ancient Japan, the emperor was explicitly called the
Saddharmapun:d:ar¯ıka Su¯tra, also known as the Lotus Su¯tra.
akitsumi kami (“manifest kami”), that is, the god who mani-
The scripture presents the Buddha in two aspects: his abso-
fested himself in human form in the phenomenal world. The
lute aspect in the form of the Eternal Buddha, which is dealt
essential part of the Japanese conception of sovereignty was
with in the section following chapter 15, while the section
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INCARNATION
4417
preceding this chapter is concerned with his relative aspect
humans. However, they rejected the idea that the Logos took
in the person of the historical S´a¯kyamuni Buddha, who as-
on human flesh, because to them the flesh was both evil and
sumed human form for the sake of benefiting all sentient be-
insubstantial. Characteristically, they denied the reality or
ings. According to the doctrine of the “Tendai school” in
historicity of the incarnation: The human life of Christ was
medieval Japan, the absolute and the relative are in essence
spiritual but not material; Christ hovered over mortal life,
qualitatively equal; they represent the two different aspects
never really participating in the birth, suffering, and death
of the Buddha but, in reality, are one and the same.
of the historical Jesus. The Christian church set itself against
Japanese Buddhism, more particularly, the Shingon
this docetic view in such affirmation of the Apostles’ Creed
school of Buddhism, has also unfolded what may be called
as “God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
a cosmotheism, a fascinating conception of the cosmos as the
By implication this was an affirmation of the goodness of all
embodiment of the Buddha Maha¯vairocana. The place of
God’s creation, material as well as spiritual. Similar affirma-
central importance in Shingon Buddhism is occupied no
tions concerning Jesus’ birth, suffering, and death were di-
longer by the historical Buddha but rather by the Cosmic
rected against the Gnostic denial of the incarnation of Jesus
Buddha Maha¯vairocana (Jpn., Dainichi, “great sun”); just as
Christ. Moreover, the assertion in the Apostles’ Creed of the
the sun is the source of light, illuminating the whole universe
resurrection of the dead affirmed the salvation of the whole
and giving life to all forms of existence, so Maha¯vairocana
person and not merely the discarnate soul, spirit, or self. It
is the Great Illuminator of all existence, both animate and
is thus significant that Christian orthodoxy affirmed the hu-
inanimate. He is transcendent, absolute, and eternal because
manity of Christ and the goodness and reality of the cosmos
he is identified with the dharmaka¯ya. However,
against Gnosticism and any form of the Gnostic view of man
Maha¯vairocana is not only transcendent but also immanent
and the universe. “After the Incarnation,” Mircea Eliade
in the universe. This Buddha is cosmic in nature because, ac-
states in his Myth and Reality (p. 172), “the World has been
cording to Shingon Buddhism, he embodies himself in the
reestablished in its original glory.” The phenomenal world,
six great elements constituting every form of existence in the
humanity’s world, the world as it is, is a sanctified cosmos be-
universe: earth, water, fire, wind, space, and mind. These six
cause Jesus Christ the Savior has dwelt in it.
elements are interfused and in a state of eternal harmony. In
The Christian church attempted to articulate the nature
fact, the whole universe is viewed as the “samaya (symbolic)
of the person of Jesus Christ as God incarnate at the First
body” of the Buddha Maha¯vairocana. When the universe is
Council of Nicaea (325). It adopted a creed that included
referred to as the Buddha’s samaya body, it means two things
such phrases to define Christ as “begotten not made,” “be-
at the same time: First, the cosmos symbolizes and points to
gotten before all ages,” and “of one essence with the Father.”
the ultimate reality, Maha¯vairocana identified with the
Thus Christ was declared to be homo-ousios, “consubstan-
dharmaka¯ya; and second, while the ultimate reality embodies
tial,” with God the Father, a doctrine that was to be formu-
itself in the cosmos, for its part the cosmos participates sub-
lated later by Augustine as una substantia tres personae (“one
stantially in the ultimate reality itself. Accordingly, the cos-
substance in three persons”); Christ was essentially divine
mos is a sanctified world endowed with the quality of the sa-
without being a kind of “second God.” Once this result was
cred, assuming profound soteriological value.
generally accepted, a further question arose: How are the di-
CHRISTIANITY. That God was incarnated in the person of
vine and human elements related to each other in the person
Jesus of Nazareth in order to save humankind is a basic tenet
of the historical Jesus? After apparently endless debates and
of Christianity. One of the earliest confessions of faith pro-
anathemas, the orthodox view was formulated at the Council
nounced by the primitive church (Phil. 2:6–2:11) speaks of
of Chalcedon (451): Two natures of Christ, divine and
the preexistent divine figure Christ Jesus, who condescended
human, are perfectly blended in one person; Jesus Christ is
to take on human form, won victory in his death over the
vere Deus vere homo (“truly God and truly man”).
cosmic forces of evil, and reigns now with God in heaven.
TWENTIETH-CENTURY VIEWS. While the affirmative view of
In the Gospel of John, dating from the end of the first century,
incarnation has apparently won the victory, the tragic view
Christ Jesus is presented as the incarnate Word (Logos) of
of the destiny of the soul, as it was classically expressed by
God (Jn. 1:1–1:14). In sharp contrast to the portrait of the
Plato, Gnosticism, and Sa¯m:khya-Yoga, is far from dead; on
life of Jesus in the synoptic Gospels, John identifies him as
the contrary, it has often asserted itself ever since. In fact, as
the preexistent divine being who, descending from heaven,
Martin Buber has aptly stated, human self-understanding has
moves mysteriously through human life, proclaiming heav-
gained “depth” in those crisis periods in history when hu-
enly messages and working miracles, and who even foretells
mankind has felt homeless in the physical world in which it
his ascension to heaven following his impending suffering
lives, becoming aware of its acute alienation from the world.
and death. John’s language may sound preeminently Gnos-
The twentieth century, one such crisis period, demonstrated
tic, but the content of his central message, namely, that the
a keen interest in the Gnostic outlook on life and the uni-
divine Logos had become human flesh, was certainly anti-
verse, as it is reflected in the writings of C. G. Jung, Her-
Gnostic.
mann Hesse, and Martin Heidegger. For Heidegger, for ex-
Christian Gnostics accepted the belief that Christ was
ample, the world is no longer a home for modern
the divine Logos, the chief intermediary between God and
humankind but an alien realm; humanity is homeless in the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4418
INCENSE
world. Moreover, humankind lives in a period of cosmic
in this connection, a brief but illuminating account of the
night, and the darkness of this cosmic night is to continue
doctrine of the “three bodies” (trika¯ya) of the Buddha by T.
for some time. According to him, the soul is not in its proper
R. V. Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, 2d ed.
place in this evil world; here, it is a stranger, imprisoned in
(London, 1970), pp. 284–287. On the conception of the
the physical body. The soul is destined to leave this world
cosmos as the embodiment of the Buddha Maha¯vairocana,
behind and, becoming “a blue soul,” to set out for the dark
see Ku¯kai: Major Works, translated, with an account of
Ku¯kai’s life and a study of his thought, by Yoshito S. Hakeda
wandering, journeying toward the land of the evening.
(New York, 1972), pp. 76ff.
SEE ALSO Avata¯ra; Docetism; Kingship; Masks; Reincarna-
On the history of the Christian doctrines of the incarnation, there
tion; Soul.
is an admirable account by Jaroslav Pelikan in The Emergence
of the Catholic Tradition, 100–600,
volume 1 of his The
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Christian Tradition (Chicago, 1971).
There is no single book dealing with the problem of incarnation
New Sources
in the general history of religions. On masks and their reli-
Bassuk, Daniel. Incarnation in Hinduism and Christianity: The
gious meaning in prehistory, see Johannes Maringer’s Vor-
Myth of the God-Man. Basingstoke, U.K., 1987.
geschichtliche Religion: Religionen im steinzeitlichen Europa
(Einsiedeln, Switzerland, 1956), pp. 184ff., edited and trans-
Cross, Richard. The Metaphysics of the Incarnation: Thomas Aqui-
lated by Mary Ilford as The God of Prehistoric Man (New
nas to Duns Scotus. New York, 2002.
York, 1960), pp. 146ff.
Davies, Oliver, and Denys Turner, eds. Silence and the Word: Neg-
Hutton Webster offers basic information on the periodic return
ative Theology and Incarnation. New York, 2002.
of the ancestral spirits in Polynesia and Melanesia in his
Kingston, Richard. God and One Person: The Case for Non-
Primitive Secret Societies (New York, 1980). On the Aranda
Incarnational Christianity. Basingstoke, U.K., 1993.
conception of the immortal soul, there is a fascinating ac-
count in Mircea Eliade’s Australian Religions: An Introduction
Luoma, Tapio. Incarnation and Physics: Natural Science in the The-
(Ithaca, N.Y., 1973), pp. 44–59.
ology of Thomas F. Torrance. New York, 2002.
The incarnation of the soul in the Greek philosophical tradition
Sheth, Noel. “Hindu Avatara and Christian Incarnation: A Com-
has been competently discussed by W. K. C. Guthrie in The
parison.” Philosophy East and West 52 (January 2002): 98–
Earlier Presocratics and Pythagoreans (pp. 306ff.) and The Pre-
126.
socratic Tradition from Parmenides to Democritus
Smith, James K. A. Speech and Theology: Language and the Logic
(pp. 249ff.), volumes 1 and 2 of his A History of Greek Philos-
of Incarnation. New York, 2002.
ophy (Cambridge, U.K., 1962 and 1965). The best single
book on the Gnostic view of the destiny of humankind and
MANABU WAIDA (1987)
Revised Bibliography
its immortal soul in the world remains Hans Jonas’s The
Gnostic Religion,
2d ed., rev. (Boston, 1963). On
Sa¯m:khya-Yoga, there is a concise account in Robert C. Zaeh-
ner’s Hinduism (London, 1962), pp. 67ff. Focusing his at-
INCENSE. The term incense (from Latin incendere, to
tention on the fate of the immortal self in the world, Mircea
burn or kindle) has the same meaning as the word perfume,
Eliade has compared Gnosticism with Sa¯m:khya-Yoga in his
essay “Mythologies of Memory and Forgetting,” now includ-
i.e., the aroma given off with the smoke (per fumar) of an
ed in his Myth and Reality (New York, 1963), pp. 114–138.
odoriferous substance when burned. Incense may then be as-
There is a fine comparative study of the avatar beliefs of India
sociated with the perfume arising from the burning of sub-
and the Christian doctrine of the incarnation in Geoffrey
stances that produce a pleasant odor. Aloe, camphor, cloves,
Parrinder’s Avatar and Incarnation (New York, 1970).
sandalwood, myrrh, frankincense, cedar, juniper, balsam,
The eschatological expectation of the birth of the savior Mithra
galbanum, and turpentine have been used as incense. Since
in ancient Iran has been elucidated by Geo Widengren in his
ancient times incense has been an important part of religious
Iranisch-semitische Kulturbegegnung in parthischer Zeit (Co-
rites and practices in various regions of the world. Incense
logne, 1960), pp. 62–86. See also Mircea Eliade’s Méphis-
has been used to appease the gods, sanctify a place or an ob-
tophélès et l’androgyne (Paris, 1962), pp. 60ff., translated by
ject, display reverence and respect, honor commitments, tie
J. M. Cohen as The Two and the One (Chicago, 1965),
bonds, and seal promises and friendships. Valued as a pre-
pp. 51–55.
cious commodity, it was offered as a gift to honored person-
Major problems of Greco-Roman kingship have been discussed
ages: Frankincense and myrrh were two of the gifts the wise
authoritatively by Arthur Darby Nock in volume 1
men of the East brought to the infant Jesus.
(pp. 134ff.) and volume 2 (pp. 928ff.) of his Essays on Reli-
gion and the Ancient World
(Cambridge, Mass., 1972), with
In association with concepts of purity and pollution, in-
an introduction by Zeph Stewart. On the conception of
cense plays a major role in purification rites and customs. In-
kingship in ancient Japan, see my article “Sacred Kingship
cense smoke is used for these purposes because of the trans-
in Early Japan: A Historical Introduction,” History of Reli-
forming powers of fire, as well as the seemingly purificatory
gions 15 (1976): 319–342.
powers of sweet smells. Because its fragrance is thought to
Maha¯ya¯na Buddhism has attempted to explain the historical Bud-
be pleasing to the gods, incense has played an important role
dha S´a¯kyamuni as an incarnation of the Eternal Buddha. See,
in worship and is used in ceremonies of offering, prayer, in-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INCENSE
4419
tercession, or purification. It is used to attract the attention
used in ancestor worship as well; tablets containing the
of, or establish a connection with, a deity and is also used
names of the departed written in gilt and black characters are
to exorcise evil or harmful forces.
placed on every household altar, where sacrifices are offered
and incense burned.
THE FAR EAST AND INDIA. In Chinese, the word xiang can
mean both “aromatic” and “incense.” In China incense was
At least until the late nineteenth century, incense time-
sometimes burned in conjunction with aesthetic enjoyments
keepers were used in Japanese Buddhist temples to mark the
like reading, writing compositions, or performing music; in
intervals at which the priest struck the great bell to call the
Japan it was an important part of the tea ceremony. In Chi-
people to prayer. The use of incense to measure time was an
nese Daoism, incense was used to disperse evil and to appease
idea borrowed from China, and so in Japan these sticks were
the gods; it was also employed in rituals for the cure of dis-
called “Chinese matches.” In China the first literary mention
ease. Considered a punishment for evil deeds committed by
of incense being used as a time indicator appears in the sixth
the sufferer himself or by an ancestor, illness was regarded
century, although it may have been used much earlier. It was
as a punishment by the San Guan (Three Officials), the judg-
widely used from the tenth century on. To make the time-
es and officials of the dead. During the rituals for curing sick-
keepers, hardened-paste incense was prepared in sticks or spi-
ness, a formal appeal was made to mitigate and revoke the
ral coils and marked into hourly intervals. Depending on the
officials’ judicial severity. Using the rising flame and smoke
season, the burning time of the sticks was usually between
from the incense burner in the center of the oratory to trans-
seven to eleven ke, one ke being equivalent to about a half
mit a message borne by spirits exteriorized from within his
an hour of modern time. Sometimes a continuous trail of
own body, the Daoist libationer submitted petitions (zhang)
powdered incense was marked off into equal lengths and
to the appropriate bureau of the Three Heavens (San Tian),
burned to indicate how much time had passed. The legacy
where officials pronounced judgment on the appeal and mar-
of using incense sticks as timekeepers has been transferred to
shaled celestial forces against the offending demons responsi-
Hawai’i, where many Japanese and Chinese have migrated.
ble for the illness. Incense played a major role in another
In India, incense is used in both Hindu and Buddhist
Daoist ritual for fending off disease, the Mud and Soot Re-
rituals. In Hindu rites it is offered in temples as an act of
treat or Retreat of Misery. The ritual was usually performed
homage before the statue of the devity; in the a¯rat¯ı ceremo-
outdoors at a specially delimited sacred area, or altar (tan).
ny, for instance, the increase censer or stick is rotated before
It was a ceremony of collective contrition where the com-
the image of the deity in order to make an offering and evoke
bined effects of clouds of incense, the light of many lamps,
blessings. Fragrant incense was also used to waft prayers to
and the sound of the chanted liturgy produced a cathartic
the gods and to drive off foul-smelling demons.
experience in the participants.
THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST. In ancient Egypt, incense was fre-
Incense is also central to the Daoist Jiao liturgy, which
quently used in cultic rituals. According to Plutarch, the
renews the community through communication with the
Egyptians burned incense to the sun three times a day; Hero-
gods. Jiao rites may be held for the ordination of priests or
dotos recounts that incense was daily burned before an image
the birthdays of gods or may be held to ward off calamities.
of a cow. Sacrifices were offered to the pharaoh, and incense
For the Jiao ritual, a village feast is held outside the temple,
was burned before him in the coronation procession. The
and an esoteric liturgy is performed inside the closed temple.
importance of offering incense is evident from the title of a
In the temple ritual the main incense burner, the central ob-
courtly official, the “Chief of the House of Incense.” It was
ject in the temple, is the focus of the rite. A symbolic incense
also an important element of funerary practices, because the
burner is “lighted” inside the body of the main priest, whose
soul of the dead was considered to ascend to heaven by the
meditation transforms him into a mediator with the divine
smoke of the burning incense.
and makes possible the efficacy of the rite. Incense is em-
Incense also figures in Mesopotamian mythology. In the
ployed for the ecstatic symbolic journey to heaven performed
Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh’s mother Nin-
inside a sacred area demarcated by five buckets of rice. To-
suna supplicated the gods, asking them to protect and be-
gether with the burning incense, a document is burned (“sent
friend her son. She burned incense and offered it to the god
off to heaven”) as a “memorial to the throne” (zhang), which
of creation, Shamash, to show her reverence and receive his
announces to Heaven the performance of the liturgy.
blessings. As Gilgamesh embarked on his mission to kill the
Incense also forms an important part of the Buddhist
Evil One, Huwawa, he heard the words of his mother and
ritual ceremonies in Korea. When taking the vows of Bud-
remembered the fragrant aroma of the incense.
dhist priesthood, young initiates undergo a rite called Pul-
JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM. According to the Hebrew
tatta, or “receiving the fire.” In this ceremony a moxa, or
scriptures, in ancient Israel incense was considered a holy
cone of burning incense, is laid upon the arm of the novice
substance and was reserved for Yahveh; it was included with
after the hair has been shaved off; the ignited cone is then
the bread offered to him on the Sabbath (Lv. 24:7). Incense
allowed to burn slowly and painfully into the flesh. The re-
was placed in the Tent of Meeting (Ex. 30:34) and was used
maining scar is considered a mark of dedication and holiness
in the offerings of the first fruits (Lv. 2:15–16); it was offered
and commemorates the ceremony of initiation. Incense is
in censers on the Day of Atonement when the high priest
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4420
INCUBATION
appeared before the mercy seat (Lv. 16:12ff.). Its use as a per-
Thus, contemporary scholarship in Indian philosophy
fume is indicated in Song of Songs 3:6, which states that it
is divided between, on the one hand, Indological enquiry en-
was used to scent Solomon’s couch. In Psalm 141 incense
gaged in the clarification and preservation of an “authentic”
is likened to prayer.
classical Indian philosophy, in all its details, and, on the
Until the time of Constantine, incense was not used in
other hand, an orientalist interest in appropriating the tradi-
public worship ceremonies of the Christian church. Its use
tion to compare and compete with Western philosophy ac-
as an offering was severely condemned by the early Fathers
cepting the latter’s standards and parameters of philosophical
(e.g., Cyril of Alexandria and John Chrysostom) because of
discussion. For a thorough and comprehensive history of In-
its association with pagan practices. Christians were identi-
dian philosophy S. N. Dasgupta’s five volumes titled History
fied by their refusal to burn incense before a statue of the em-
of Indian Philosophy (1922–1955) still represent the most
peror; Saturninus and Sisinnius were martyred for their re-
systematic attempt. J. N. Mohanty’s Classical Indian Philoso-
fusal to do so. Those Christians who capitulated in order to
phy (2000) is a lucid and independent exposition based on
escape death were known as turificati, or burners of incense.
a classification according to issues in epistemology, ethics, or
However, by the ninth century incense was used in some
politics and religion. In Presuppositions of India’s Philosophies
churches for the dedication and consecration of the altar. In-
(1991) by Karl Potter, the reader will find a serious attempt
cense was later incorporated into the liturgical services of
to consider and articulate the technical aspects of Indian phi-
both the Eastern Orthodox and Western churches.
losophy in a manner in which they can address fundamental
issues in philosophy and not be restricted to discussions
In the Islamic tradition, incense is burned to create a
within the tradition itself. Nevertheless, since a discussion of
pleasant aroma in places of worship, although it does not
method and structure is lacking in these studies, even Pot-
have any specific religious significance. The Muslims of India
ter’s analysis does not ultimately succeed in bringing to bear
burn incense sticks on auspicious occasions such as wed-
the implications of what he himself characterizes as the spec-
dings, births, or religious festivals. Incense is frequently of-
ulative orientation of Indian philosophy towards the realiza-
fered at the tombs of saints, which people visit in order to
tion of freedom.
obtain blessings. In the S:u¯f¯ı sama¯ E incense is often burned
as the dhikr is chanted.
According to the Sangarva Su¯tra, the Buddha classified
his discussants into four categories—traditionalists, rational-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
ists, metaphysicians, and experimentalists—and regarded
Atchley, E. G. C. F. A History of the Use of Incense in Divine Wor-
himself as an example of the class of experimentalists (see
ship. London, 1909.
Mohanty, 2000). It is this epistemological space for experi-
Lucas, A. “Cosmetics, Perfumes and Incense in Ancient Egypt.”
ment within the framework of tradition that this article will
Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 16 (May 1930): 41–53.
attempt to trace.
Schoff, Wilfred H. “Aloes.” Journal of the American Oriental Soci-
ety 42 (1922): 171–185.
THE STRUCTURE OF ORTHODOX AND HETERODOX SYS-
Smith, G. Elliot. “Incense and Libations.” Bulletin of John Rylands
TEMS. Indian philosophy is generally thought to be com-
Library 4 (September 1917–January 1918): 191–262.
prised of six orthodox systems of thought—Nya¯ya,
Van Beek, Gus W. “Frankincense and Myrrh.” Biblical Archaeolo-
Vai´ses:ika, Sa¯m:khya, Yoga, M¯ıma¯m:sa¯, and Veda¯nta—and
gist 23 (September 1960): 70–95.
three so-called heterodox systems: Ca¯rva¯ka, Jainism, and
H
Buddhism. The orthodox schools are so described because
ABIBEH RAHIM (1987)
they accept the authority of the Vedas, whereas the hetero-
dox do not. However, the development of the schools is not
INCUBATION S
linear and is characterized by a dialectical relationship entail-
EE ASKLEPIOS; DREAMS
ing contradiction, correspondence, and complementarity,
for which reason they are better approached as mutual eluci-
dations rather than as a series of attempted improvements or
INDIAN PHILOSOPHIES. Over the past four hun-
revisions. Perhaps this is why they are called dar´sanas. Show-
dred years India has witnessed a break in its sociocultural and
ing and seeing are both a part of the meaning of the term
intellectual life with which it is still in the process of coming
dar´sana; therefore, the term revelation appropriately defines
to terms. It is not, contrary to general belief, the legacy of
it, implying the possibility of a plurality of revelations of the
colonialism that Indian philosophy and culture has had to
One.
contend with, but rather the compelling influence of the
structure, rationality, and method of the European Enlight-
Thus one may argue that the unity in plurality and plu-
enment and its modernity. Since the eighteenth century, aca-
rality in unity of all religious tradtions—Hindu, Muslim,
demic attempts at recovery of the classical tradition, efforts
Sikh, and Christian, vernacular and classical, and not merely
at translation, and philosophical analyses have all been main-
of the six orthodox and three heterodox schools—defines the
ly in the shadow of this modernity which separates as well
limit of Indian philosophy. The basis for this unity lies in
as differentiates the study of science, politics and religion/
the fact that they represent experiments with the method of
metaphysics or jña¯ a, karma and bhakti.
non-dualism of knowledge, praxis, and faith. Gandhi was
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INDIAN PHILOSOPHIES
4421
not the first nor the last of the martyrs to testify to this in
The Ca¯rva¯kas are materialists representing the lay point
his writing and in his life. Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of
of view. Knowledge of their perspective is mainly derived
Shahajahan, the Mogul emperor of India, held guilty of
from representations made by philosophers who opposed
apostasy and martyred in 1609, wrote in the preface to his
them. They are characterized as infidels or sophists, or as pro-
Sirri-i-Akbar (1067; a translation of the Upanis:ads) that it
ponents of a form of nature lore. This last description sug-
was his conviction that “the utterances of God elucidate and
gests that Ca¯rva¯ka could be seen as representing a kind of
explain one another.”
metaphysical materialism that bridges the classical and ver-
The different systems represent attempts to understand
nacular traditions. Though Ca¯rva¯ka rejects moks:a (libera-
the epistemological, cosmological, and metaphysical presup-
tion) as a goal to be achieved outside and beyond this world,
positions that underlie the relation between the Origin and
it asserts its possibility in this world, without the usual associ-
the universe, the Unmanifest and the manifest, and the
ations of pain and penance, associating it with pleasure in-
Unity and the plurality. It may be argued that there is a divi-
stead. It is significant that the four elements—earth, water,
sion of focus between the schools: Nya¯ya and Vai´ses:ika ad-
air, and fire—are held to be eternal. The soul or conscious-
dress epistemological questions, the first from the point of
ness does not exist independently of the body. It springs
view of the subject or knower and the other from the point
from a mixing of the elements that is characterized by their
of view of the object of knowledge. Sa¯m:khya and Yoga are
individual potencies, and that forms a fifth element, as it
cosmological schools, the first addressing the question of the
were. Formulated this way, Ca¯rva¯ka philosophy can be seen
macrocosm and plurality, and the second, unity, the micro-
as presenting a counter-Advaitic point of view. If Advaita ar-
cosm, and humankind as witness. M¯ıma¯m:sa¯ and Veda¯nta
gues the ultimate identity of the individual soul with brah-
are primarily metaphysical systems, the former focusing on
man, the Unmanifest and transcendent principle of the uni-
praxis or means and the latter on the nature of the end. The
verse, the Ca¯rva¯kas argue the ultimate identity of the soul
three sets can be seen as different modes of understanding
and the body, in this world, thus presenting the other limit
the relation between God, man, and nature through jña¯na
of the spectrum. If the M¯ıma¯m:sa¯kas defend the potency of
(knowledge), karma (praxis), and bhakti (faith).
the Word, the Ca¯rva¯kas defend the potency of matter. They
The Ca¯rva¯ka school (founded prior to first millennium
together define the limits of the relationship between spirit
BCE), Jainism (founded in the sixth century BCE), and Bud-
and matter, the Word and the flesh, mantra (invocation) and
dhism (dating to the sixth century BCE) present vernacular
prasa¯da (consecrated offering/partaking).
critiques of the Vedic tradition. They consider the epistemo-
Thus Jainism, Buddhism, and the Ca¯rva¯kas represent
logical, cosmological, and metaphysical presuppositions of
principles of civil society in their respective engagements
civil society and material culture, and do so with an emphasis
with continence, the love of all creation being its positive
on the vernacular,which is seen as capable of expressing not
force, suffering and its overcoming, and pleasure and its pos-
merely the lay but also the sacred, on custom, and on the
crafts, as opposed to orthodox Hinduism’s focus on Sanskrit,
sibility in this world. All three schools are strongly critical of
tradition, and the sciences. Thus they lay the foundations for
the ritualism of Hindu society and its making a travesty of
the tradition of the saints and the modern religions of
the varna¯´srama classification of society, resulting in a rigid
V¯ıra´saivism (also known as Lin˙ga¯yatism; founded in the
social hierarchy between brahmans, ks:atriyas, vai´syas and
twelfth century
´su¯dras. The a¯´sramas refer to the different roles or stages that
CE; in using the term Lin
˙ga¯yatism we are
avoiding the usual orientalist opposition of Saivism versus
members of each of the varn:as pass through in life. Classical
Vaisnavism and drawing attention to the self description of
Hinduism talks of four a¯´sramas: brahmacha¯rya (of the nov-
the follower of this religion as the the wearer of the
ice), gr:hastha (of the householder), vanaprastha (of the re-
lin˙ga—which is the sign of the union of S´iva and S´akti),
cluse), and sannya¯sa (of the renouncer of society).
Sikhism (originating in the sixteenth century
Sam:nya¯sa¯´srama frees man from the laws that govern varn:a:
CE); and Gand-
hism (developed in the twentieth century CE). It may then
For the social system of caste was always surrounded in
perhaps be more apt to classify Indian philosophies accord-
India by a penumbral region, as it were, of non-caste,
ing to their relationship to either the S´ravan:a tradition (of
where flourished the renunciatory religious orders
the hearers of the Word) or the S´raman:a tradition (of the “la-
whose principles abrogated those of caste, lineage, and
boring” devotee), rather than on the basis of orthodoxy or
birth: and the fourth a¯´srama (sam:nya¯sa) constituted a
heterodoxy.
door through which the individual was recommended
The focal point of Jainism’s critique is the recognition
to pass from the world of caste to that of its denial. The
mutual relation of the two worlds, and I have no doubt
that the Truth is always relative to a point of view, even if
that it was mutual, is of the greatest significance to a full
it seems absolute from a particular perspective. The hegemo-
understanding of either of them. (Uberoi, 1996, p. 14)
ny of a single tradition as custodian of the Truth is thus bro-
ken. Buddhism characterizes reality as suffering, and thus
It may be argued that with the rejection of varn:a, Jainism
finds it essential to demonstrate the impermanence or mo-
and Buddhism followed a classification of society into only
mentariness (ks:an:abhan˙gava¯da) of this reality, as the condi-
two classes, the monastic (bhiks:u) and the householder
tion for the possibility of liberation (nirva¯n:a) from it.
(gr:hastha), mediated by the congregation or sam:gha. Signifi-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4422
INDIAN PHILOSOPHIES
cantly, the tantric tradition also holds that only these two
the universe. In Swami Gambhirananda’s translation of
a¯´sramas characterize society in kaliyuga (Ka¯l¯ı age).
S´an˙kara’s Brahma-Su¯tra Bha¯s:ya, S´an˙kara writes:
UNITY, PLURALITY, AND THE TRINITY. The term referring
Nothing but Brahman can be different from name and
to the Unity or the One is Brahman. The conceptualization
form, since the whole of creation consists of a manifes-
of its nature and role and the theological issues that surround
tation of name and form. And the manifestation of
it make Brahman in many ways analogous to Yahveh in the
name and form in an absolute sense is not possible for
Judaic tradition, God in the Christian tradition, and Alla¯h
anything but Brahman; for the Upanishad mentions
that Brahman is the agent of their revelation: “Let me
in the Islamic tradition. Just as with these three traditions,
manifest name and form by Myself entering as the indi-
a central concern of Indian philosophies has been to relate
vidual soul.” (1972, p. 239)
the one to the plurality that characterizes the manifest world.
As with Christianity, Trinity mediates between Unity and
And S´an˙kara goes on to explain this further:
plurality. In place of the trinity of the Father, the Son, and
the intention here is to declare the identity of the indi-
the Holy Ghost, the Vedic tradition posits the trinity of
vidual soul and Brahman (and not agentship). From
Brahma¯, the Creator; Vis:n:u, the All Pervading (Spirit); and
this very declaration of the manifestation of name and
Mahe´svara/S´iva, the Destroyer. Brahma¯ is the eternal con-
form, creatorship etc., as the indicatory signs of Brah-
ceiver of name and form that constitute the very essence of
man become stated ipso facto. (1972, p. 239)
plurality in the universe. Vis:n:u is the breath of God, as it
It may be argued then that to know name and form is to
were, the Holy Spirit that pervades the universe and enables
know them in their relation to the Unity/Brahman, which
nature to reflect the attributes of its maker. Finally, S´iva is
is to say to know them as a sign, symptom, or symbol (lin˙ga)
the destroyer not of the plurality of the universe as is general-
of the relation between Unity and plurality. The name is a
ly believed, but of the duality of unity and plurality. Thus
sign of the covenant between God, humans, and nature.
he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last, mark-
ing at once the destruction of plurality and the realization
Depending on which type of relationship between the
of Unity—as well as the destruction of Unity and its mani-
Unity and the plurality is assumed, names may refer either
festation in the plurality. This is the theological role envis-
to substance, attribute, or relation. When plurality is seen to
aged for Christ and Muh:ammad who are in their respective
emerge from the Unity, names primarily refer to substance
religions mediator and intercessor, between God, humans,
and there can be no real separation of substance and attri-
and nature.
bute. S´an˙kara thus posits that the essential nature of Brah-
man is such that a distinction cannot be made between sub-
Three possible relations between the Unity and the plu-
stance and attribute, and for him the ultimate goal is the
rality emerge from this understanding of the Trinity, and
identity of the individual soul with Brahman. For those for
these three positions are reflected in the points of view of the
whom Unity and duality are conceived of as separate reali-
three major thinkers of the metaphysical schools of Veda¯nta,
ties, name and form may refer either to substance, to attri-
namely: (1) of the plurality emerging or being carved out of
butes of substance, or to relations between substance and at-
the Unity (the position held by S´an˙kara, of the Advaita
tributes. Thus Madhva sees the possibility of attaining to
school); (2) of the Unity and the plurality being independent
three types of goals—of gods, seers, and humans, according
realities, as it were, though bound by the Holy Spirit/pra¯n:a
to the merit of one’s actions. These correspond respectively
(the position held by Madhva, of the Dvaita school); and (3)
to the names of substance, of relations, and of attributes. For
of the Unity in the plurality (the position held by Ra¯ma¯nuja,
those for whom Unity exists in the plurality, all names and
of the Vi´sis:t:a¯dvaita school).
forms refer to a relation of the two. According to Ra¯ma¯nuja,
Brahman therefore has only auspicious attributes while the
The common reading of the Advaitic school is that it
name and form of other objects in the universe may refer
regards the universe constituted by name and form as a mere
both to good or evil attributes.
illusion (ma¯ya¯). This leads to the misconception by contem-
porary scholars that the reality of this world must be forsaken
Sa¯m:khya, which means “number,” characterizes the
to achieve identity of the individual soul (a¯tman) with Brah-
plurality of the universe as being constituted of lin˙gas (specif-
man. In fact S´an˙kara’s position is that Brahman projects
ic combinations of the constituents of matter—sattva, rajas,
himself in the universe only in name and form. This of
and tamas) that in their turn individually associate with
course implies that in reality He does not change or project
purus:a, the spirit that is witness, enjoyer, and seeker of libera-
himself but the statement has the added significance that
tion, thus giving rise to a plurality of purus:as/persons. The
Brahman, if he may be known in this universe, can be known
Sa¯m:khyaka¯rika¯ characterizes their relation thus: “From their
only through name and form. To consider the universe of
association, the non-intelligent lin˙ga becomes intelligent as
name and form as independent of Brahman is the illusion.
it were; and so too, though agency is of the constituents, the
Name and form are then neither real nor unreal, neither self
indifferent One (Purus:a) becomes agent as it were”(¯I´svara
nor not-self. Thus S´an˙kara effectively demonstrates the con-
Kr:s:n:a [¯I´svarakr:s:n:a], 1948, ch. 20, pp. 43–44). Prakr:ti and
tradiction and complementarity, the difference and corre-
purus:a come together so that prakr:ti (“nature”) may be con-
spondence, that exist in the relation between Brahman and
templated on through lin˙ga by purus:a and so that purus:a in
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INDIAN PHILOSOPHIES
4423
turn may be released from the three-fold misery that consti-
a unity of method amongst the different systems. They all
tutes the universe; this is the necessary condition for the pos-
attempt, with varying emphasis, a non-dualism which pre-
sibility of creation. Here the use of the term lin˙ga, indicating
supposes a necessary and systematic relation between jña¯na,
a particular form of the specific person evolving from this as-
karma, and bhakti. It is significant that etymologically bhakti
sociation, is significant since it points to the fact that it is
means “partaking,” referring to humanity’s share in Cre-
only through purus:a seeing himself in name and form that
ation, through labor in production and reproduction. Thus
liberation is possible. According to Yoga, then, it is lin˙ga that
humanity’s participation in this universe, in jña¯na, karma,
is the object of meditation. Unlike knowledge by inference
and bhakti, involves the principle of compassion for all crea-
or testimony, lin˙ga refers to the determinate object and the
tures. One may note therefore that according to the
individual soul, and not to something general. Such knowl-
Nya¯yasu¯tra, compassion is a necessary requirement for the
edge arising from the meditation upon the lin˙ga is “truth/
person who may bear witness—that is, for the speaker of
reality-bearing.”
truth (a¯pta). By inference, then, truth must itself be such that
it embodies this principle of compassion. If the trinity of
From this, one can argue that though it is a topic not
Brahma¯, Vis:n:u, and S´iva represents the conditions for the
given much attention in the secondary literature, the media-
possibility of the Unity translating itself into the plurality,
tion between Brahman and the universe—or between tran-
jña¯na, karma, and bhakti represent the means or conditions
scendence and empirical existence—is the crux of the issue,
for the possibility of the realization of the Unity in the plural-
and not the nature and reality or unreality of one or the
ity by humankind.
other. Such mediation is achieved through the specific exam-
ple (of lin˙ga) and its contemplation. Thus, knowledge of
TEXTS: S´RUTI, SMR:TI, AND ITIHA¯SA. Texts of the Vedic tra-
name and form as signs of this mediation is the basis of
dition are classified into three categories: (1) ´sruti, or revela-
knowledge (jña¯na), vocation (karma), and invocation (bhak-
tion, comprising a compendium of hymns found in the four
ti). It is not by accident then that the saints of the Bhakti
Vedas (R:k, Sa¯ma, Yajur, and Atharva), rituals in the
and tantric traditions, the new religions of Lin˙ga¯yatism
Bra¯hman:as, and interpretations of vedic sacrifice in the
(Virasairism) and Sikhism, and Mohandas Gandhi’s experi-
A¯ran:yakas, which include the Upanis:ads; (2) smr:ti, meaning
ments with Truth, share a recognition of the potency of the
remembrance; and (3) itiha¯sa, meaning history or proof.
name. Bhakti does not, as is generally believed, have its basis
merely in experience, or simple faith, but in an understand-
Etymologically, ´sruti refers to “that which is heard.” As
ing of the theory of names as the quintessence of the classical
has been said already, the orthodox systems of philosophy ac-
tradition and as crucial to the mediation between God, hu-
cept the authority of the Vedas, which are ´sruti texts. S´ruti
mankind, and nature—in other words, to the mediation of
is eternal and impersonal (apaurus:eya). Some interpret
religion, politics, and science. This mode of prayer is consid-
apaurus:eya to mean nonhuman and infer a transcendental
ered to be available to men and women of all varn:as.
author of ´sruti. As the etymology of the term ´sruti suggests
however, what is indicated is a “hearer” and not a transcen-
JÑA¯NA, KARMA, AND BHAKTI. Philosophers like Karl H. Pot-
dent speaker. Thus it is an eternal and universal revelation
ter and Jitendra Nath Mohanty have attempted to find unity
that may be heard by one who is chosen (or, that is, has the
in the variety of systems that comprise Indian philosophy by
capacity to “hear”), and the ones who hear may speak in dif-
claiming that they are all, with the possible exception of
ferent tongues (va¯n:i). Thus ´sruti and va¯n:i make a pair, the
Ca¯rva¯ka, metaphysical schools with the goal of achieving lib-
one ineffective without the other. This is demonstrated by
eration or moks:a. However, not all schools articulate such an
the fact that the M¯ıma¯m:saka, who believe in the eternalness
engagement with moks:a explicitly, nor are they all necessarily
of the Word, deny the possible contradiction to this assump-
theistic. Other scholars attempt to make a distinction be-
tion posed by the fact that a variety of sounds may associated
tween the schools on the basis of whether a particular system
with a single letter, by explaining that the modification of
follows the path (ma¯rga) of jña¯na, karma, or bhakti. Here the
letter sounds is only in the hearing.
specific meaning these terms take on in a particular system
is of importance. For instance, it is often said that S´an:kara
The philosophical systems and treatises in science, poli-
Veda¯nta accepts jña¯na ma¯rga and is of the view that all karma
tics, medicine, art, architecture, and so on are classified as
ceases when the identity of Brahman and a¯tman is achieved.
smr:ti. Smr:ti etymologically means remembrance (of ´sruti),
It is only a sense of agency that assumes the distinction of
and refers to the invocation of the name, which, as has been
subject and object that is denied here and not action. So,
said, is the sign of the covenant between God, humankind,
there may be action but it is as if there is none. Thus the di-
and nature. Thus smr:ti in conjunction with ´sruti refers to the
chotomization of the question of jña¯na, karma, and bhakti
law that governs religion, politics, and science and identifies
in contemporary readings is a forced one. Failure to under-
the law of God as the law of nature. Each discipline works
stand their unity and method arises from an incomplete real-
out the laws in their specific determination in that specific
ization of the implications of the fact that Indian philoso-
science in such a way that the application of the law is at once
phies do not separate the scientific or cognitive from the
the invocation of God/Unity by that specific name and the
spiritual, nor do they separate theory from practice or means
means to the realization of Unity through that calling and
from ends. Furthermore, it may be argued that there exists
discipline. This presumes therefore the love of the All (cre-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4424
INDIAN PHILOSOPHIES
ation) and makes necessary the principle of nonviolence in
The V¯ıra´saiva initiate wears a lin˙ga around his neck as
the constitution and application of all laws whether in sci-
a sign of being in a constant state of worship; the an˙ga being
ence, religion, or politics.
incomplete without the lin˙ga, they are witness, each to the
other. Ka¯yaka, the orderly conduct of life in this world, is
Itiha¯sa, or “history,” includes the Pura¯n:as and the two
itself “heaven” (kaila¯´sa). The Lin˙ga¯yat is at once household-
great Indian epics, the Ra¯ma¯yan:a and the Maha¯bha¯rata.
er and renouncer, as S´iva himself is. Thus the division of so-
They embody the dialogic and dramatic defense of and at-
ciety into the monastic and householder’s way of life estab-
tack on the truth of the ´sruti and smr:ti in the history and
lished by Jainism and Buddhism is overcome. The potency
living experience of man in his relation to God, society, and
(S´akti) of the One (S´iva) has two modes—S´akti and bhakti.
nature.
Though bhakti is a modification of S´akti, paradoxically it is
EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH: RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY, AND
the former that is considered superior since the latter is the
CIVIL SOCIETY. This section will deal with Lin˙ga¯yatism
impulse towards separation and plurality, veiling herself and
(Virasaivism), Sikhism, and Gandhism as examples of re-
her Lord, while bhakti is the impulse towards unity with the
ligio-philosophical schools that experiment with truth, and
Lord. Men and women, high and low, all without exception
thus herald the modern period of Indian philosophy and his-
have equal access to salvation in and through their respective
tory. Like Jainism, Buddhism, and Ca¯rva¯ka philosophy, they
vocation and station in society.
also represent the vernacular tradition and the strength of
civil society with regard to religion and the state. They cri-
Sikhism carries further the experiment to bridge the di-
tique Hindu dogma and ritualism, and its rigid and alienat-
chotomy between religion and civil society and between the
ing social stratification. Without denying the essential truth
householder and the renouncer by taking into account their
of the Vedas, they emphasize the importance of experiment
relation with a third category, the political, represented by
and of a living faith. Their example serves as proof of the ex-
the state. As J. P. S. Uberoi comments:
istence of a principle of motion within Indian philosophy,
The new departure of Sikhism, in my structural inter-
society, and history.
pretation, was that it set out to annihilate the categori-
It is not often noticed that the critique of varn:a¯-
cal partitions, intellectual and social, of the medieval
world. It rejected the opposition of the common citizen
´sramadharma, in whatever form, is accompanied by a realiza-
or householder versus the renouncer, and of the ruler
tion of the necessary relation between the theory of the name
versus these two, refusing to acknowledge them as sepa-
and bhakti. This is significant because the social stratification
rate and distinct modes of existence. It acknowledged
along lines of varn:a was based on a division of labor and of-
the powers of the three spheres of ra¯jya, sannya¯s
fice. The theory of the name and bhakti together bring into
[sam:nya¯sa], and gr:ihasta [gr:hastha], but sought to invest
focus the relation between vocation and invocation, labor
their virtues conjointly in a single body of faith and
and sacrifice, and service and office in the “partaking” of the
conduct, religion-in-society-and-history, inserted by
creative and reproductive aspect of the universe. It may be
grace and effort as mediation between heaven and the
said, then, that they announce for the modern age a theory
world, or the a¯tma and Parama¯tma, the individual and
and method of following one’s calling and conscience,
the All, as the modern Indian form of non-dualism of
self, the world and the other. (1996, p.16)
which, while breaking away from medieval class hierarchy
and rigidity, does not lapse into dichotomies of opportunism
Uberoi argues that the five, along with an unstated sixth,
and idealism, or of individualism and communism.
symbols of Sikhism—the k¯e´s (unshorn hair) and kan˙ga
(comb) of Sam:nya¯sa yoga, the uncircumcised state which is
Lingayatism was founded by Basava (also known as
not stated but structurally indicated and the kachh (tailored
Basavan:n:a or Basave´swara) in South India in the twelfth cen-
loin garment) of gr:hastha yoga, and the kirpan (sword) and
tury CE. It proposed a system of thought called
kar:a (band of ritual constraint) of ra¯jya yoga—signify the as-
S´akti-vi´sis:t:a¯dvaita, which argues that the principles of Unity
sumption of the offices of these three spheres, by an “ordered
(S´iva) and the potency (S´akti) to become plurality are in-
renunciation of renunciation,” and not as opposed to one an-
alienably and necessarily united in the lin˙ga (sign). The trini-
other
ty that forms the conditions for the possibility of the transfig-
uration of the plurality through the realization of the Unity
The five symbols of Sikhism may be fruitfully compared
consists of sthala (substance/substratum), lin˙ga (sign/
with the eight a¯varn:as (“sheaths”) of the V¯ıra´saiva, which
relation), and an˙ga (part/attribute of the body of S´iva). Lin˙ga
form four pairs of symbols—guru¯ (example) and lin˙ga (sign
and an˙ga are in a relation of complementarity and correspon-
of the unity of S´iva and S´akti), jan:gama (the j¯ıvanamukta
dence, as the object of service or worship is to the one who
“moving”/living in this world) and vibhu¯ti (“ashes,” symbol-
offers service or worship, as the macrocosm is to the micro-
izing renunciation), rudra¯ks:a (S´iva’s eye, indicating the status
cosm, and as the whole is to the part. One may read Lingaya-
of being witness) and pa¯dodaka (the water that has cleansed
tism as referring to a theory of signs and the trinity above
the feet of guru¯, lin˙ga, and jan:gama, indicating service), and
as referring to the names of substance, relation, and attribute.
prasa¯da (“grace”; the potency of that which we partake of
Since the sign itself mediates between Unity and plurality,
through one’s vocation in the presence of the congregation)
it refers to the category of relation.
and mantra (invocation/potency of the name). These pairs
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INDIAN PHILOSOPHIES
4425
reflect the juxtaposition of form and name, being in the
of life with the self as the subject and the object of study in
world and renunciation, through self-restraint and self-
its relation of service to God, humankind and nature; it is
denial with respect to the world and the other, the inner and
new as much to the idea of the Indian tradition as it is to
outer aspects of worship, and grace and potency in the world
the modernity of the Enlightenment. Without deferring to
and the word respectively. Though it is perhaps right to
either, it establishes the conditions for the possibility of true
argue that V¯ıra´saivism, unlike Sikhism, does not oppose reli-
swaraj (svara¯j) or self-rule of individual, society, and nation
gion and society to the state, the two traditions are nonethe-
through labor, service, self-denial, and self-sacrifice in reli-
less united in assigning primacy to the worship of the name,
gion, politics, and science. The satya¯grahi, the nonviolent
the life of renunciation in (and not “of”) this world, and wor-
seeker after truth, equipped with fearlessness and a spirit of
ship through sacrifice and service.
self-sacrifice, and invoking the name of God (Ra¯mana¯ma),
is at once devotee, community/political worker, and scien-
With Sikhism is introduced the notion of the sam:gha
tist, combining service and experiment in faith, experiment
(or congregation) as a society of the saved, membership of
and faith in service, and faith and service in experiment.
which is the condition for the reception of service and wor-
ship. This may be compared with Lin˙ga¯yatism, which em-
Denying that varn:a and a¯´srama had anything to do
phasizes the service and worship of the Ishtalinga (a personal
with caste, Gandhi drew attention to the fact that
deity) and the union of S´iva and S´akti symbolizing the possi-
varn:a¯´srama asserts the law governing one’s being in in soci-
bility of creation, production, and reproduction of the spe-
ety, refers to the calling by which we earn our bread, defines
cies as the condition for the possibility of its reception The
one’s duty not right, and emphasizes that all callings must
notion of the congregation also plays a significant role in
necessarily be conducive to the welfare of all humanity. From
Gandhi’s philosophy.
this he concludes: “It follows that there is no calling too low
and none too high. All are good, lawful and absolutely equal
The trinity that forms the foundation of Gandhian phi-
in status. The callings of a Brahmanaspiritual teacher—
losophy is comprised of truth, nonviolence, and experiment.
and a scavenger are equal, and their due performance carries
Gandhi demonstrates through example and experiment that
equal merit before God and at one time seems to have carried
the study of the self cannot be separated from the study of
identical reward before man” (1987, pp. 12–13).
the other and the world, in religion, politics, and science, and
therefore that the truth of the one can not be independent
According to Gandhi individual prayer is only a prelude
of that of the other. According to him the adherence in spirit
to collective prayer and is ineffective without the latter. It is
and practice to the principle of nonviolence, based on a love
a necessary means to the realization of the brotherhood of
that embraces the meanest of God’s creatures, alone can be
man and the fatherhood of God, and to the realization of
the method of investigation by which one may arrive at the
membership in society, and is necessary training for the use
truth. Thus he was as much against vivisection as a means
of the “weapon” of satya¯graha (“soul force”). Congregational
of scientific study and progress as he was against the evil of
prayer lays the foundation for the unity in plurality and the
untouchability as a social institution:
plurality in unity of religions, which is achieved through
equality and difference, and complementarity and competi-
I abhor vivisection with my whole soul. I detest the un-
pardonable slaughter of innocent life in the name of sci-
tion between them:
ence and society so-called, and all the scientists’ discov-
It becomes man to remember his Maker all the twenty-
eries stained with innocent blood I count as of no
four hours. If that cannot be done we should at least
consequence. If the circulation of blood theory could
congregate at prayer time to renew our covenant with
not have been discovered without vivisection then hu-
God. Whether we are Hindus or Musalmans, Parsis,
mankind could well have done without it. And I see the
Christians or Sikhs, we all worship the same God. Con-
day clearly dawning when the honest scientist of the
gregational worship is a means for establishing the es-
West will put limitations upon the present methods of
sential human unity through common worship. (1987,
pursuing knowledge. Future measurements will take
pp. 194–195)
note not only of the human family but of all that lives
and even as we are slowly but surely discovering that it
CONCLUSION. The method of the non-dualism of jña¯na,
is an error to suppose that Hindus can thrive upon the
karma, and bhakti, in Indian philosophy, is based on a pre-
degradation of a fifth of themselves or that people of the
supposition of the necessary relation between theory and
West can rise or live upon the exploitation and degrada-
practice, fact and value, means and ends, and the individual
tion of the Eastern and African nations, so shall we real-
and the collective. This method therefore defines the nature
ize in the fullness of time, that our dominion over the
and scope of both the dialectic within the scriptural tradi-
lower order of creation is not for their slaughter, but for
tions and between them and the vernacular traditions. The
their benefit equally with ours. For I am as certain that
specific examples of issues and of religions discussed above
they are endowed with a soul as that I am. (Collected
demonstrate, albeit not exhaustively, the existence of a prin-
Works, vol. 29, pp. 325–326)
ciple of motion within Indian philosophy that inspires the
Thus Gandhi presents a new theory of experiment as the dis-
direction and development of its problematic in history and
covery of nonviolent means of realizing truth in every aspect
society.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4426
INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
In method, spirit, and project Indian philosophies pres-
patterns, and by a great diversity in mental character and so-
ent a species of modernity diametrically opposed to the mo-
cioreligious customs, cults, beliefs, practices, and ways of life
dernity that derives from the European Enlightenment. The
varying widely both regionally and, within the same region,
former presents a systematic working out of experiments to
from class to class. Indian culture gives free scope to the emo-
consider the necessary relation between religion, politics, and
tional and imaginative sides of human nature, to speculative,
science in philosophy, history, and society, whereas, the proj-
more or less visionary thinking and modes of apprehension,
ect of the latter is to separate, systematically, their study in
and it has long preserved the cohesion of its provinces: reli-
theory and practice.
gion, art, literature, and social organization.
VEDISM. The religious life reflected in the oldest Indian liter-
SEE ALSO Buddhist Philosophy; Ca¯rva¯ka; Jainism;
ature in preclassic Sanskrit, the Veda (from about the thir-
M¯ıma¯m:sa¯; Nya¯ya; Sa¯m:khya; Vai´ses:ika; Veda¯nta; Yoga.
teenth century BCE), is that of a predominantly ritual and
sacrificial system (Vedism) developing, almost in seclusion,
BIBLIOGRAPHY
at first in the Punjab, later in the Ganges Plain, among the
Dasgupta, Surendranath. A History of Indian Philosophy. 5 vols.
Cambridge, U.K., 1922–1955.
immigrant Aryans (Indo-Europeans), whose ideas and repre-
sentations of the divine constitute an almost unified synthe-
Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand. The Essence of Hinduism. Ah-
sis embodied in an elaborate mythology partly paralleled by
madabad, India, 1987.
ritual equivalences. Vedic thought was based on the belief in
Gandhi, Mahatma [Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi]. Collected
an inextricable coordination of nature, human society, ritual,
Works. 100 vols. New Delhi, 1956–1994. A CD-ROM ver-
and the sphere of myth and the divine; it was also founded
sion has also been released in 98 volumes (New Delhi, 1999).
on the belief that these spheres influence one another contin-
¯
I´svara Kr:s:n:a [¯I´svarakr:s:n:a]. The Sa¯m:khyaka¯rika¯. Edited and trans-
uously and that men have, by means of ritual, an obligatory
lated by S. S. Suryanarayana Sastri. Madras, India, 1948.
part to play in the maintenance of universal order and the
Mohanty, Jitendra Nath. Classical Indian Philosophy. Lanham,
furtherance of their common interests. In later times also, In-
Md., 2000.
dians have constantly sought correspondences between ob-
Potter, Karl H. Presuppositions of India’s Philosophies. Delhi, 1991.
jects and phenomena belonging to distinct spheres of nature
Sakhare, M. R. History and Philosophy of Lin˙ga¯yat Religion. Bel-
and conceptual systems. Many hymns and individual stanzas
gaum, 1942. Includes an introduction to and translation of
of the oldest literary corpus (the R:gveda Sam:hita¯, an antholo-
Lin˙gadha¯ranachandrika¯ by Nandikesvara.
gy drawn from family traditions) were intended for the cult
S´an˙kara¯ca¯rya [S´an˙kara]. Brahma¯-Su¯tra Bha¯s:ya. Translated by
and used in the liturgy of spectacular solemn (´srauta) cere-
Swami Gambhirananda. Calcutta, 1972.
monies, which gradually increased in number, length, and
complexity. These ceremonies were to ensure the orderly
Uberoi, Jitendra Pal Singh. Religion, Civil Society, and the State:
A Study of Sikhism. Delhi and New York, 1996. A compara-
functioning of the world for the benefit of noble or wealthy
tive study of the traditions of Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam
patrons. The rites were performed in the open on a specially
from the point of view of what he identifies as Sikhism’s as
prepared plot—there were no temples or idols—by special-
well as Gandhi’s problematic—that of forging an Indian mo-
ized officiants. Part of this literature was employed, along
dernity out of medievalism based on pluralism and principles
with texts from the Atharvaveda Sam:hita¯, in the domestic or
of contradiction, correspondence and complimentarity.
magic ritual performed by a householder or single priest to
A
ensure an individual’s health, safety, success, prosperity, and
NURADHA VEERAVALLI (2005)
longevity. These texts and the ritual formulas of the Yajurve-
da,
which invariably fulfill some ritual function, are collec-
tively called mantras. They are believed to be revelations of
INDIAN RELIGIONS
aspects of the divine, the product of the exalted experiences
This entry consists of the following articles:
of sages (r:s:is) and hence constitute sacred and inherently
AN OVERVIEW
powerful verbal formulas for producing a desired result.
RURAL TRADITIONS
MYTHIC THEMES
Some Vedic mantras remained in Hinduist rites, which,
HISTORY OF STUDY
however, generally require other ones.
No definite chronology can be established for Vedic lit-
INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
erature or the development of religious ideas and ritual prac-
The Indians, anthropologically a mixture of immigrant Ary-
tices. It is known that the collections of hymns were suc-
ans and partly autochthonous peoples, gradually elaborated
ceeded by the Bra¯hman:as, texts that discuss rites and rituals
a many-sided, highly developed culture rooted in the archaic
and explain their origin, meaning, and validity. These sacral
structure of the human mind. This culture is characterized
acts, being the counterpart of the cosmic drama, are in fact
by an often almost complete integration of heterogeneous el-
also the symbolic expression of speculations about the origin
ements, by unity in diversity, by homogeneity despite the ut-
and functioning of the universe and the significance, activity,
most variety and complexity of its ethnic and social composi-
and operation of the powers, personal and impersonal, pre-
tion, by a multitude of languages and different cultural
siding over its provinces and manifesting their presence and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
4427
influence. Thus the ceremonious construction of a special
may have been amulets or votive offerings should prevent
place for the ritual fire is believed to reintegrate the creator
one from hastily regarding their occurrence in Hinduist reli-
god, enabling him to continue his creative activity and to
gions as an uninterrupted continuance of a function suppos-
bring about a transformation and higher existence of the pa-
edly attributed to certain Indus objects.
tron of the sacrifice, who in and through this ritual is identi-
fied with the creator and delivered from death. Mainly based
General characteristics. The main current of Hindu-
on the Bra¯hman:as are the S´rauta-su¯tras, manuals in which
ism, the so-called great tradition, is a remarkably continuous
the rites are for practical purposes systematically and au-
whole. The tendency to maintain continuity has always been
thoritatively described. No information is given on the earli-
deep-rooted but did not exclude the constant accretion and
er, prehistoric cult, which cannot be reconstructed. These
integration of further elements derived from non-Aryan peo-
works arrange the solemn rites in three classes: the partly in-
ples, extraneous sources (invaders on the northwestern fron-
herited bloodless sacrifices, the more elaborate animal sacri-
tier may have contributed to the custom of sat¯ı, the self-
fices, and the typically Indian soma ceremonies. In the course
immolation practiced by widows, for example), and the ac-
of time these elite ´srauta rituals fell largely into disuse and
tivities of individual religious leaders. While continuity and
were superseded by Hinduist rites performed at the expense
change have been the prevailing patterns, incorporation and
of and for the benefit of much larger parts of the population.
synthesis between the new and the traditional usually were
more obvious than the often almost imperceptible elimina-
HINDUISM. Some prehistoric forms of Hinduism—the civi-
tion of those elements that no longer had a useful and recog-
lization of the Hindus, consisting of their beliefs, practices,
nizable function. Nevertheless, it is more common to draw
and socioreligious institutions—must have existed at the
upon the past than to invent anew, and apparently original
Vedic period, especially in the unrecorded religion of the
ideas may be foreshadowed by concepts apparent centuries
lower classes, and probably earlier. Domestic ritual, which
earlier. Thus many features of Hinduism have their roots in
is entirely different from the solemn rites, consists of many
the Vedic past, and some characteristic ideas inherited from
rites that, though described and systematized by brahman au-
that past and developed in a few main currents—primarily
thorities in the Vedic Gr:hyasu¯tras, are in essence not typical-
doctrines of salvation—have up to the present largely deter-
ly Vedic, or rather constitute Vedic varieties of widespread
mined the Indian view of life and the world.
rites of passage, rites of appeasement, cult of the dead, and
so on. Later chapters of this literature show markedly non-
The older Upanis:ads are the first recorded attempts at
Vedic and post-Vedic influences, such as strong leanings to-
systematizing Indian philosophical thought. They are esoter-
ward Vais:n:ava ritualism, which attest to the gradual incorpo-
ic supplements to the Bra¯hman:as, intended for advanced pu-
ration of non-Vedic rites and substitution of extra-Vedic ele-
pils with a bent for reflection, abstract speculation, and
ments for those recognized by the original compilers of
philosophical discussion rather than ritual theory, and there-
Hindu rites and practices. Gradually these elements became
fore answering the needs of ascetics and anchorites. Few In-
more prominent.
dians are inclined to reject the contents of these Upanis:ads,
with which every subsequent philosophy had to show itself
Non-Aryan influences. How much influence was ex-
in accord. While emphasizing the philosophical value of the
erted by the religions of the non-Aryan inhabitants of India
Vedic tradition, they are essentially concerned with describ-
on the formation and development of Hinduism is a matter
ing the nature of what is alternately called brahman (the Ab-
of dispute. Although aborigines may have contributed some
solute) or a¯tman (universal soul), and its relation with the in-
elements, their religion is generally different in many respects
dividual soul (often called j¯ıva). The realization of the
(e.g., they do not venerate the cow, and they allow their wid-
identity of the latter with the former came to be substituted
ows to remarry). The Vedic religion had no demonstrable re-
for the ritual method of conquering death and attaining inte-
lation with the great civilizations of Harappa, Mohenjo-
gral life, the ultimate goal of all speculation. Being compila-
Daro, and vast regions to the east of the Indus Valley
tions, the Upanis:ads do not present a homogeneous philo-
(c. 2500–1500 BCE). As long as the graphic symbols on seals
sophical theory, but there was a move to reconcile the
from these sites are not convincingly deciphered and the lan-
references to the dualistic and evolutionistic doctrines of
guage is not identified (that it was Dravidian—the name of
what was to become the influential Sa¯m:khya school of phi-
non-Aryan languages of southern India—is still unproved
losophy with the prevailing monistic doctrines. Hinduism,
conjecture), most of the conclusions drawn from archaeolog-
directed by these works toward monism, has largely sought
ical material and argumentation regarding links with ele-
its inspiration in them.
ments or characteristics of older and even contemporary
Hinduism remain as speculative as the hypothesis of a pre-
There are a number of more or less constant elements
dominantly influential Dravidian substratum. Do the clay
of Hinduism. The central focus of India’s spiritual life is the
figurines of women really attest to some form of worship of
belief in and search for an uncreated eternal, fundamental
a mother goddess that continued in the historical period, or
principle (brahman), the ultimate source and goal of all exis-
to the existence of a prehistoric S´aiva ´sakti cult? Is the figure
tence. Brahman is the One that is the All and the sole reality,
of a male dancer identical with the dancing S´iva? The wide
which transforms itself into the universe, or causes all exis-
distribution in various countries of, for instance, objects that
tence and all beings to emanate from itself, and which is the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4428
INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
self (a¯tman) of all living beings. Brahman may also be con-
fy the various representatives of the Highest Person with the
ceived of as a personal “high god” (usually as Vis:n:u or S´iva),
Primeval Person (Purus:a), whose self-limitation, according
characterized by sublime and adorable qualities. Further ele-
to a R:gvedic hymn, inaugurated the era of creation. Prefer-
ments are the confidence that one’s own existence and the
ence for an avata¯ra is mainly traditional; in the North, Kr:s:n:a
culture of one’s community are founded on an eternal and
is more often worshiped; in the South, it is Ra¯ma, Vis:n:u
infallible basis, and the craving for building one’s life and
himself, or Vis:n:u’s consort, S´r¯ı. In many myths the versatile
ideals on this firm foundation; the recognition of a pristine
Vis:n:u performs, often in well-known Indian places, great
body of religious literature (the Veda) as an eternal and abso-
and miraculous deeds to confirm the dharma, protect hu-
lute authority considered to be brahman appearing as words,
manity, and preserve the world. The Bhagavadg¯ıta¯, an epi-
however unknown its contents; and acknowledgment of the
sode of the Maha¯bha¯rata and the most seminal of all
spiritual supremacy by birth of the brahmans, another mani-
Vais:n:ava works, founded Vais:n:ava ethics: Fulfilling their du-
festation of brahman, who are regarded as representing the
ties disinterestedly, humans should realize God’s presence in
norm of ritual purity and who enjoy social prestige. The key-
themselves, love him and their fellow beings devotedly, and
stone of Hinduist ethics is the belief in the unity of all life
dedicate all their actions to him so as to earn the prospect
and its corollary respect for life and fellow feeling with all liv-
of final emancipation.
ing beings (ahim:sa¯); the doctrine of transmigration and re-
The Hinduist worship, in many different groups and
birth (sam:sa¯ra, a post-Vedic term), first adumbrated in one
currents, of S´iva in his various manifestations results from
of the oldest Upanis:ads (c. 600 BCE), and its complement,
a complex development to which the often malevolent out-
the belief in karman (previous acts) as the factor determining
sider god Rudra of the Vedas has contributed much. (There
the condition into which a being is reborn, a consequence
may also have been Dravidian influences.) Rudra, primarily
of a cyclic view of all worldly processes and existence. These
representing the untamed aspects of uncultivated nature, was
doctrines encourage the opinion that mundane life is not
called S´iva (“the mild one”) when the benevolent and auspi-
true existence (the so-called Indian pessimism) and hence re-
cious aspects of his nature were emphasized. S´aivism is an
late to the conviction that human endeavor should be direct-
unsystematic amalgam of pan-Indian S´aiva philosophy, local
ed toward final emancipation (moks:a) from the mechanism
or folk religion, mythological thought, and popular imagery.
of karman and transmigration, the only goal of this effort
S´iva’s many-sided character, to which accreted features of
being the One (brahman) that is beyond all phenomenal ex-
great gods as well as demoniac powers, is split up into many
istence. In view of the above, Hinduism exhibits a natural
partial manifestations representing aspects of his ambivalent
tendency to speculation hand in hand with religion as well
nature. As ¯I´svara he is the unique and almighty Supreme Per-
as to a monistic philosophy and mysticism that has left intact
son, representing an abstract, sole principle above change
traditional mythology and common beliefs. Finally, it is
and variation, less human than Vis:n:u, and much less active,
characterized by a complex polytheism subsumed in a funda-
although elsewhere, in his role as Na¯t:ara¯ja the dancer, he
mental monotheism and by a propensity to ascribe the attri-
originates the eternal rhythm of the universe. He is both mild
butes of other gods to the deity one is worshiping.
and terrible, a creator and destroyer, an ascetic and a sexual-
Early history. The history proper of Hinduism begins
ist. Thus S´iva represents a composite god who is a unity to
with the emergence of the great works on dharma, the totali-
his devotees, and he plays many apparently contradictory
ty of traditional custom and behavior that, agreeing with
roles in myths, which, on various levels, resolve logically ir-
standards considered to derive their authority from the
reconcilable contradictions.
Vedas, manifests and maintains order and stability. This is
BUDDHISM AND JAINISM. The same period saw the spread
also the age of the epics, especially the Maha¯bha¯rata (c. 300
of two heterodox soteriologies, heterodox because they reject
BCE–300 CE), that “encyclopedia of Hinduism” that shows,
the authority of the Veda and the social prejudices of the
even then, what appears to be a varied and confused con-
brahmans, although they scarcely attack the fundamentals of
glomerate of beliefs and practices. However, there are two
Hindu belief and practices. The way in which the early Bud-
main currents, soteriologies when viewed from their doctri-
dhists presented their doctrines has much in common with
nal aspect and religions from the viewpoint of their adher-
the oldest Upanis:ads, which must antedate the spread of the
ents: Vais:n:avism and S´aivism. Neither current is in itself a
Aryan culture to the south and the activity of Gautama
unity. Yet all Vais:n:avas are essentially monotheistic, believ-
(c. 560–480 BCE). Gautama, the Buddha, first gave an expo-
ing in Vis:n:u as their immanent high god (¯I´svara), although
sition of his basic doctrine in Banaras. He taught that those
in many contexts he appears as one of the divine polytheistic
who wish to be delivered from sam:sa¯ra and the automatism
figures (devas). In the Vedas, Vis:n:u represents universal per-
of karman, which does not rely upon a permanent transmi-
vasiveness; his beneficent energy, in which all beings abide,
grating soul (whose existence the Buddha denied), should re-
reaches the world through the axis mundi, the central pillar
alize four basic truths: (1) earthly existence is pain; (2) the
of the universe. Vais:n:avas often worship him through his
cause of pain is craving for existence, leading to rebirth; (3)
manifestations or incarnations (avata¯ras), such as Ra¯ma or
cessation of that craving is cessation of pain; (4) an eightfold
Kr:s:n:a. These and other originally independent figures had
path leads to that cessation. Final deliverance is realized only
fused with Vis:n:u mainly as a result of the tendency to identi-
in an ascetic and monastic life by those who, after having suc-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
4429
cessfully observed definite rules of life and reached complete
altar”), always the material expression of the doctrine of rein-
meditation (sama¯dhi), experience the undefinable state of
tegration. At the temple the god is worshiped through his
nirva¯n:a, the cessation of all becoming. The daily activities
image (mu¯rti), whose beauty contributes to its force as a sa-
of Buddhist monks were recitation, meditation, instruction,
cred instrument. In elaborate ceremonies the god, as an exalt-
and collecting alms from the laity (who largely continued ad-
ed personage and royal guest, is offered food, flowers, and
hering to Hindu belief and observing Hindu practices). As
incense. His iconography, consecration (introduction of the
the number of adherents increased, the Buddhist order re-
god’s spirit), and installation, as well as the mantras used, the
ceived large gifts that led to the establishment of monasteries.
significance of the material and requisites, and the spirit ani-
The multiplying order spread to different parts of India, in-
mating the execution of temple and images, are all meticu-
cluding the south and Sri Lanka (third century BCE). In the
lously described. This daily worship (pu¯ja¯) probably contin-
beginning of the fourth century BCE the community began
ues many non-Aryan elements that were gradually received
to be split by successive schisms, each of which made its own
by the higher classes and incorporated into the Brahmanical
collection of canonical texts. After about 500 CE, Indian
literature. Pu¯ja¯ is also performed at home by the household-
Buddhism began to decline.
er. As far as the uncomplicated older private cult survived,
The Buddha was not the only illuminated teacher who,
it was supplemented by the traditional (sma¯rta) cults of
after renouncing the world, organized his initiates into a
Vis:n:u, S´iva, and other gods, morning and evening rites,
community. In Bihar one of his contemporaries,
oblations in the consecrated fire, recitation, and mental
Vardhama¯na Maha¯v¯ıra, reformed an existing community
adoration.
and founded the predominantly monastic Jainism, which
During many centuries after about 300
spread to northern and central India, Gujarat, and the Dec-
CE there arose
can, and in the last few centuries
an enormous body of mainly Vais:n:ava and S´aiva literature.
BCE split into two groups,
not on philosophic disagreement but on points of rules for
The Puran:as, stemming from various circles and regions, but
the monks. Jainism is systematic and has never changed in
significantly all attributed to the redactor of the Vedas and
its basic ideology. Its philosophy is dualistic: It posits nonliv-
the Maha¯bha¯rata and claiming to be inspired, deal with cos-
ing entities (including space and time) pervaded by (partly
mogony, cosmology (the universe exists cyclically, its eternal
transmigrating, partly emancipated) immaterial and eternal
return implying the eternal return of souls to bondage and
souls; the world, eternal and changeless, is not governed by
suffering), mythology and legends, principles and philoso-
a supreme being; the system is characterized by the absence
phy, religious practices and ceremonies, local cults and sanc-
of gods (devas); karman is the central power that determines
tuaries, sacred rivers and places of pilgrimage. The many,
the destiny of unemancipated souls. Humans have to perfect
still-influential A¯gamas, also in Sanskrit, mainly teach the
their souls and those of their fellow creatures; ahim:sa¯ and
practical realization of religious truths, while largely govern-
universal tolerance are the main duties and cardinal virtues.
ing temple and household ritual and the traditional religious
Whereas the adherents of Buddhism were from a variety of
life and behavior of Hindus. Their subject matter is theoreti-
social classes, Jainism attracted the wealthy and influential.
cally divisible into four categories: higher knowledge, which
The Jains erected beautiful temples with statues of their per-
gives access to final emancipation; physical, mental, and psy-
fect souls (siddhas) and produced an enormous body of
chic concentration, that is, complete control of all corporeal
moral and narrative literature. Nowadays they often tend to
and mental functions, leading to the same goal (yoga); meri-
return to Hinduism, against whose social order they have
torious works; and rites, including the many socially and reli-
never revolted.
giously important festivals that are believed to stimulate and
H
resuscitate the vital powers of nature. The A¯gamas favor vari-
INDUISM AFTER ABOUT 300 BCE. When Buddhism and
Jainism enjoyed royal protection, they could extend their in-
ous philosophical doctrines. A feature of the Vais:n:ava¯gamas,
fluence. However, the masses doubtless always remained
usually called Sam:hita¯s, is bhakti, “participation (of the soul
Hinduist, even under the Maurya dynasty (c. 326–c. 187
in the divine),” devout and emotional worship and adoration
BCE), from which time the epigraphical records left by kings
of a personal deity in a spirit of deep affection, amounting
create the impression of a Buddhist supremacy, and in the
to surrender to God. Because these works also teach non-
first and second centuries of the common era, when foreign
Vedic tenets, they are often considered heterodox, in that
rulers accorded Buddhists protection. Until the fourth cen-
they deviate from the Hindu dharma. Some religions, such
tury, inscriptional and numismatic evidence of Vais:n:avism
as the northern S´aiva Pa¯´supatas, have propagated consciously
and S´aivism is scanty, but the period of the Gupta dynasty
divergent rites and practices. Most Vais:n:avas, among them
(320–c. 500 CE), which patronized the brahmans and the
the Pa¯ñcara¯tras, however, deny that they deviate from the
Hinduist communities, saw the full development of classical
generally accepted tradition; many southern S´aivas regard
Sanskrit and the rise of a non-Buddhist architectural style.
their A¯gamas (although with no certain proof) as the san-
The construction of a temple, a rite based on mythical reali-
skritization of an originally Dravidian tradition; some as-
ty, a sacrifice leading to a higher level of self-realization for
sume the influence of oral esoteric doctrines. In fact, numer-
the builder, is, like the construction of the great Vedic sacrifi-
ous elements are, notwithstanding argumentation to the
cial fire-place (usually, though inaccurately, called “fire
contrary, non-Brahmanical in origin.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4430
INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
S´AIVA RELIGIONS AND TANTRISM. Some religions of India
ments that still have many adherents. The tradition known
do deviate from common Hinduist traditions and institu-
as the S´r¯ı Vais:n:avas was inaugurated between about 900 and
tions. In contrast to the S´aiva Siddha¯ntins of the Tamil-
1130 by Ya¯muna, the first apologist of Vais:n:ava theology,
speaking South—who, basing themselves also on the mysti-
and consolidated by the great philosopher Ra¯ma¯nuja
cism of the S´aiva Tamil saint-poets (Na¯yana¯rs), teach that
(c. 1017–1137). The S´r¯ı Vais:n:avas introduced into their
¯
God in the shape of a spiritual guide, or guru, graciously per-
temple ceremonies the recitation of Tamil hymns of the
mits himself to be realized by the purified soul—the
A¯lva¯rs, which evince a passionate belief in and love of God.
V¯ıra´saivas, or Lin˙ga¯yats, in southwestern India (not men-
¯
Considering these poets and their great teachers (a¯ca¯ryas) in-
tioned before the twelfth century) abandon many traditional
tegral parts (am:´sas) of God’s nature, they often worship im-
elements (e.g., caste, image worship). Doctrinal dissent is al-
ages of them in their temples. According to Ra¯ma¯nuja, brah-
ways possible. The religio-philosophic idealist and monist
man is as a “person” (purus:a) the sole cause of his own
Kashmir school of S´aivism disagrees in certain important re-
modifications (emanation, existence, and absorption of the
spects with the teaching of S´an:kara (eighth century), the
universe), immaterial, perfect, omnipotent, the soul of all
founder of Advaita monism, derived from the Upanis:adic
being, the ultimate goal of all religious effort, to which God
Veda¯nta as a system of absolute idealism that is mainly fol-
induces the devotee who wishes to please him. The purifica-
lowed by the intellectual elite. S´an:kara, a native of Malabar
tory significance of the ritual, meritorious works, disinterest-
who resided in Banaras and traveled throughout India, was
ed discharge of duties, and bhakti are emphasized.
a superb organizer; he established a monastic order and
monasteries (mat:has), which, like the many hermitages
The influential Bha¯gavata Pura¯n:a (c. 900?), also com-
(a¯´sramas) and the great shrines, became centers of religious
posed in Tamil Nadu, teaches that God through his incom-
activity and contributed to the realization of his ideal of
prehensible creative ability (ma¯ya¯) expands himself into the
Hindu unity.
universe, which is his outward appearance. On the basis of
this teaching, Bengal Vais:n:avism developed the theory of a
From about 500 CE, Tantric ritual and doctrines mani-
relation of inconceivable difference in identity and identity
fest themselves more or less frequently in Buddhism, S´aiva
in difference between God and the world, as well as the belief
Siddha¯nta, and Pa¯ñcara¯tra. Tantrism, primarily meant for
that God’s creative activity is his sport (l¯ıla¯). The emotional
esoteric circles, yet still an important aspect of Hinduism, is
and erotic description of young Kr:s:n:a’s sport with the milk-
a systematic quest for spiritual excellence or emancipation
maids (gop¯ıs), who represent souls pervaded by bhakti who
through realization of the highest principle, the bipolar, bi-
yearn for God, enjoys lasting popularity. In this Pura¯n:a,
sexual deity, in one’s own body. The possibilities of this
bhakti religiosity was expanded, deepened, and stimulated by
microcosmos should be activated, sublimated, and made to
singing, meditation, and looking at Kr:s:n:a’s image. As the saf-
exert influence on the macrocosmos, with which it is closely
est way to God, bhakti, a mystical attitude of mind involving
connected (physiological processes are thus described with
an intuitive, immediate apprehension and loving contempla-
cosmological terminology). Means to this end, partly magi-
tion of God, often overshadows the devotee’s aspirations to
cal, partly orgiastic, include recitation of mantras, contem-
final emancipation and assumes a character of uncontroll-
plation of geometrical cosmic symbols (man:d:alas), leading
able enthusiasm and ecstasy, marked by tears, hysteria, and
the performer of the rites to the reintegration of conscious-
fainting.
ness; appropriate gestures (mudra¯s), and meditation. Tantric
pu¯ja¯ is complicated and in many respects differs from con-
In northern and central India the bhakti movement
ventional ceremonies. Especially in Bengal, Tantrism has
flourished from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century,
tended to merge with the S´a¯kta cult. The term Tantra com-
producing a vast and varied literature in vernacular lan-
monly applies to S´aiva or S´a¯kta works of the Tantric tradi-
guages. Even today these areas feel the influence of a long
tion. S´a¯ktism, not always clearly distinguishable from
succession of saint-poets, passionate itinerant preachers
S´aivism, is the worship of the Supreme as divine creative en-
(among them Caitanya, in Bengal, 1485–1533), and gurus.
ergy (´sakti), a female force that creates, regulates, and de-
These mystics and religious (rather than social) reformers
stroys the cosmos; when regarded as a person, she usually is
propagated public singing of their devotional songs and
S´iva’s spouse, often the dreadful goddess Durga¯ or Ka¯l¯ı. In
k¯ırtana (the praise of God’s name and glory), and preached
contrast to the so-called right-hand Tantrists, who emphasize
a nonextremist way of life. While so addressing the masses,
yoga and bhakti, the left-hand Tantrists seek to realize the
bhakti influenced almost all religious communities and
union of the male and female principles in the One by com-
contributed as a unifying force considerably to a revival of
bining control of the senses with the sexual act; in addition,
Hinduism.
they make sacramental use of what is forbidden (e.g., meat)
REACTION TO FOREIGN RELIGIONS. The revival of Hindu-
to the brahmans.
ism in the south and the spread of the bhakti movement also
VAIS:N:AVA RELIGIONS AND BHAKTI. Although Vais:n:avism,
prepared the Indians to withstand the proselytizing of exter-
less coherent than S´aivism, had, in the sixth century, spread
nal religions, particularly Islam. From 1000 CE onward, the
all over India, it reached predominance in Tamil Nadu,
Muslims conquered the Northwest, made Delhi their capital,
which became the cradle of important schools and move-
and extended their influence to Bengal, the Deccan, and the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INDIAN RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
4431
South, destroying temples and idols and making many con-
cated absolute adherence to the religion of the Vedic hymns,
verts, particularly among the untouchables. But Islam scarce-
which he regarded as a continually misinterpreted source of
ly affected the Hindu way of life; rather, it provoked a coun-
pure monotheism, moral and social reform, and guidance to-
terreaction in the form of increased adherence to the Hindu
ward the right way to salvation; however, most of the doc-
dharma and the Hindu religions and stricter observance of
trines Sarasvati accepted (e.g., karman) were post-Vedic. Op-
rites and ceremonies. Nevertheless, the presence of Islam in
posed to foreign religions, the A¯rya Sama¯j propagates a
India involved an age-long conflict between strict monothe-
refined nationalist and democratic Hinduism without sym-
ism and the various manifestations of Hinduism. In one
bols and local cults but including the worship of God with
field, however, Islam and Hinduism could draw near to each
praise, prayer, meditation, and daily ceremonies. The main
other: Muslim and Hindu mystics have in common the idea
object of Ramakrishna (1836–1886), perhaps the best-
of an all-embracing unity. To be sure, the S:u¯f¯ıs made this
known modern Hindu saint, was the propagation of the
idea a channel of Islamization, but some Indian spiritual
Veda¯nta as a superior and comprehensive view of life that
leaders tried to bridge the gulf between Islam and Hinduism.
synthesizes all faiths on a higher level of spiritual conscious-
Kab¯ır (c. 1450–1525), an itinerant ascetic, mystic, and
ness. A devotee of Ra¯ma and later of Kr:s:n:a, he practiced the
strictly monotheist poet and eclectic teacher and preacher,
Vais:n:ava form of love; convinced that Hinduism, Islam, and
rejected traditional ritual and Brahmanical speculation but
Christianity all lead to the same God, he also adopted Chris-
retained the belief in basic concepts such as karman and
tian methods. Under his disciple Vivekananda (1862–1902),
sam:sa¯ra. In the course of time his syncretistic religion became
who turned the trend of Veda¯nta philosophy toward new
largely Hinduized. Na¯nak (1469–1539) was likewise a strict
values, the Ramakrishna Mission (founded 1897) became, in
monotheist who stated that any pluralistic and anthropo-
India, an important force for spiritual regeneration and uni-
morphous idea of the Supreme should dissolve in God’s only
fication.
form, the really existent. An opponent of caste and idolatry,
SEE ALSO A¯j¯ıvikas; Bengali Religions; Bra¯hman:as and
he organized his followers, the Sikhs, in an exclusive commu-
A¯ran:yakas; Buddhism; Ca¯rva¯ka; Durga Hinduism;
nity, an amalgam of Islam and Hinduism, which gradually
Ga¯n:apatyas; Hindi Religious Traditions; Hinduism; Indo-
was transformed into an armed brotherhood hostile to Islam
European Religions, overview article; Indus Valley Religion;
but separated from the Hindus. Supreme authority resides
Jainism; Kr:s:n:aism; Marathi Religions; Parsis; S´aivism; Saura
in their holy scripture (Granth), the reading of which is their
Hinduism; Sikhism; Sinhala Religion; Tamil Religions;
main form of worship.
Vaisnavism; Vedas; Vedism and Brahmanism.
India’s contact with the West, Christianity, and modern
BIBLIOGRAPHY
life since the early nineteenth century has led to the emer-
Carman, John Braisted. The Theology of Ra¯ma¯nuja: An Essay in In-
gence of many new religious movements and spiritual
terreligious Understanding. New Haven, Conn., and London,
groups, as diverse in their principles, ideals, and reactions to
1974.
foreign influences as the personalities of their founders; most
Eliot, Charles. Hinduism and Buddhism: A Historical Sketch
distinguish themselves from traditional devotional move-
(1921). 3d ed. 3 vols. London, 1957.
ments by a more pronounced interest in ethical, social, and
Embree, Ainslie T., ed. The Hindu Tradition: Readings in Oriental
national issues. The extent of their influence in India has,
Thought. New York, 1966.
however, often been exaggerated in the West, for the beliefs
Gonda, Jan. Aspects of Early Vis:n:uism (1954). 2d ed. Delhi, 1969.
and customs of the Indian masses are still largely traditional.
Gonda, Jan. Change and Continuity in Indian Religion. The
The first product of this cultural encounter, the Bra¯hmo
Hague, 1965. A series of essays and monographs aiming at
a fuller appreciation of the many difficulties with which the
Sama¯j, a partly social, partly religious organization, was
historian of the Indian religions is confronted.
founded by the Bengali brahman Ram Mohan Roy (1772–
Gonda, Jan. Vis:n:uism and S´ivaism: A Comparison. London, 1970.
1833), who, using modern vehicles of propaganda such as
The Jordan Lectures for 1969.
the press, advocated social reform and a reformation of Hin-
Gonda, Jan. Medieval Religious Literature in Sanskrit. Wiesbaden,
duism, which, if purged of abuses and with its monotheistic
1977.
features underscored, might become the foundation of a uni-
Gonda, Jan. Die Religionen Indiens. 2 vols. Vol. 1, Veda und älterer
versal religion. Schisms resulting mainly from the activities
Hinduismus, 2d rev. ed. Vol. 2, Der jüngere Hinduismus.
of the bhakti mystic Keshab Chandra Sen (1838–1884) led
Stuttgart, 1963, 1978. Comprehensive, detailed, and well-
to the coexistence of various small groups of differing aims
documented histories of all aspects of Vedism and Hindu-
and ideals. In the second half of the nineteenth century, anti-
ism. Translated into French as Les religions de l’Inde, 2 vols.
Muslim and anti-Western ideas as well as religious national-
(Paris, 1962–1965) and into Italian as Le religioni dell’India,
ism led to movements of reformation and modernization or
2 vols. (Milan, 1981).
to the propagation of what was considered the essence of tra-
Gonda, Jan. Vedic Ritual: The Non-Solemn Rites. Leiden and Co-
ditional Hinduism. One such reformation movement repre-
logne, 1980.
senting the former tendency is the A¯rya Sama¯j, founded in
Gupta, Sanjukta, Dirk Jan Hoens, and Teun Goudriaan. Hindu
1875 by Dayananda Sarasvati (1824–1883). Sarasvati advo-
Tantrism. Leiden, 1979.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4432
INDIAN RELIGIONS: RURAL TRADITIONS
Keith, Arthur Berriedale. The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda
ages—although a variety of icons, figurines, and magical
and Upanishads (1925). 2 vols. Reprint, Westport, Conn.,
geometric drawings painted on home floors and walls also
1971.
reveal a pervasive worship of the sun, water, grain, and other
Moore, Charles A., ed. The Indian Mind: Essentials of Indian Phi-
natural phenomena. Possessed of an archaic knowledge of
losophy and Culture. Honolulu, 1967.
tools and agricultural methods, these people were India’s first
O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. S´iva: The Erotic Ascetic. London,
inventors and creators and have given as their cultural inheri-
1981. Reprint of Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of
tance to India agrarian technologies that until recently re-
S´iva (1973). An original discussion of various aspects of
mained unchanged for five thousand years.
S´aivism and Indian mythology in general.
A second general cultural stream arose from the archaic
Renou, Louis. Religions of Ancient India. London, 1953. The Jor-
food-gatherers living in India’s forests and mountain regions
dan Lectures for 1951.
and whose myths reflect the notion that they are the firstborn
Renou, Louis, and Jean Filliozat. L’Inde classique: Manuel des
of the earth. Made up mostly of tribal societies with a remote
études indiennes. 2 vols. Paris, 1947–1953.
past and no recorded history, these groups established king-
Zaehner, R. C. Hinduism. London, 1962.
doms and ruled large areas of the vast interior of India, but
then disappeared again into the wilderness, where they lived
New Sources
in caves, hunted animals, and collected wild foodstuffs from
Aleaz, K. P. Dimensions of Indian Religion: Study, Experience, and
the dark and pathless forests. These peoples, too, experienced
Interaction. Calcutta, 1995.
life as power and developed magical and sacerdotal means by
Baird, Robert D., ed. Religion in Modern India. New Delhi, 1998.
which they could please or combat the intensely felt but un-
Heehs, Peter, ed. Indian Religions: A Historical Reader of Spiritual
seen and terrible potencies of the natural world. Like the an-
Expression and Experience. New York, 2002.
cient agriculturalists, they also felt kinship with the earth but
Larson, Gerald James. India’s Agony over Religion. Albany, N.Y.,
in their case revered the animals and wild plants of the forest
1995.
rather than of the domestic arena. They, too, knew the earth
Lopez, Donald S., Jr., ed. Religions of India in Practice. Princeton,
intimately and understood her to whisper her secrets to them
N.J., 1995.
as long as they did not wound her breasts with the plough.
Madan, T. N., ed. Religion in India. Delhi and New York, 1992.
The third cultural stream was comprised of nomadic
Perrett, Roy, ed. Indian Philosophy of Religion. Dordrecht and Bos-
peoples, wanderers across the lands who have bequeathed to
ton, 1989.
their descendants a racial memory of ancient migrations
across wild deserts, over rugged mountains, and through lush
Sharma, Arvind, ed.Women in Indian Religions. New Delhi and
valleys. These were cattle herders and horse riders who first
New York, 2002.
entered India, the land of rivers, seeking water for their stock.
Young, Katherine K., ed. Hermeneutical Paths to the Sacred Worlds
They had a penetrating visual vocabulary based on an astute
of India: Essays in Honour of Robert W. Stevenson. Atlanta,
appreciation of color and light. Their rituals and art forms
1994.
share in this vibrant experience of the world. Their bards and
JAN GONDA (1987)
dancers were vigorous drinkers who lived a free and sponta-
Revised Bibliography
neous life full of the passion of war and love.
India’s rural religious traditions arose from the conflu-
ence of these three cultural streams. These ancient societies
INDIAN RELIGIONS: RURAL TRADITIONS
are the predecessors of the rural people today whose farming
The religious beliefs and practices of rural India reflect the
techniques, arts, and rituals give form to primordial tribal
influence of three general cultural traditions that throughout
myths. When women today paint ceremonial drawings,
history have mingled and mixed in varying degrees. Grouped
when artisans create fecundative images, when singers and
generally, these traditions are those of agricultural cultures,
performers tell of epic conquests, they concretize the legends
food-gathering communities, and nomadic societies.
and mysteries of these ancient groups. From this archaic un-
conscious come rural myths of cosmic power, of cyclical de-
Since the third millennium BCE the most stable groups
struction and creation, of natural processes in which human
within these three traditions have been those of the agricul-
beings live their lives.
tural cultures, which are typified by their development of
written script and by their emergent sophistication in the
Women of today’s higher castes in northern Mithila re-
production of artifacts reflecting a pervasive consciousness of
count a myth that is identical both in form and meaning to
the earth and its vegetation. The myth-bound lives of people
a legend sung by autochthonous women of the deep south
in these cultures have long been linked to the cycles of time
who worship the goddess Pedamma¯. The long history of the
experienced in the circular movement of the seasons and in
myth indicates a substratum of powerful and energetic fe-
the resulting change in the earth’s character. The fundamen-
male memories, the unconscious source of which is transmit-
tal energy that gave life to sprouting seeds was commonly un-
ted through feminine culture and given form in the act of
derstood to be feminine and was represented in female im-
communication between mother and daughter. In this myth
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INDIAN RELIGIONS: RURAL TRADITIONS
4433
are to be found remnants of ancient wisdom regarding cre-
Candraka¯la¯ Dev¯ı molds images of A¯di S´akti out of clay
ative power that carries the germ of its own destruction. Out
and paper pulp to which has been added methi (cumin seed),
of this tradition arises values that are deeply understood by
ground to a paste. The image of the goddess has many arms,
the women of Mithila, who say with great simplicity that
an elongated body, and hollow eyes. She is reminiscent of
“these insights come from a time without beginning; we
the ancient and universal Ma¯talas, the earth mothers. Their
carry this wisdom in our wombs.”
gaunt, passionless, masklike faces have crater-deep eyes, stark
with the secrets of death and life.
Candraka¯la¯ Dev¯ı, a traditional artist of Mithila, narrates
the following myth:
Images of A¯di S´akti, the primeval mother, are made at
harvest time. Also known as As:t:abhuja (“eight armed”), she
First there was A¯di S´akti (“primordial power”), another
holds in her hands the cosmic egg as well as a cup that holds
name for whom was Maha¯ma¯ya¯ (“great creator”). She
the seed or blood to fertilize the fields; she also holds the sun
was the one, alone. She desired [a partner] and, display-
and moon, the earth (depicted as a flat plate and covered
ing her ma¯ya¯, created the manifest world out of the
with grass and sprouts of other plants), two bullocks pulling
void. A cosmic egg appeared and the new male gods
a plow, a plowshare, a flower, and a sword.
Brahma¯, Vis:n:u, and S´iva emerged when it hatched. As
these gods grew to young manhood, A¯di S´akti turned
By the beginning of the second millennium (no one
with fiery passion to Brahma¯ and sought to marry him.
knows exactly how early), groups of peoples migrated into
Brahma¯ recoiled, saying, “You are our mother!” The
India from the Northwest. They were not of one tribe, nor
goddess laughed at him and reduced him to ashes. The
had they all reached the same levels of cultural development
same thing happened to Vis:n:u: He, too, retreated, filled
or of artistic abilities. The best-known of these migrating
with horror and he, too, was consumed by fire. The lu-
minous goddess then approached S´iva, the young,
groups were the Vedic Aryans. Strong, heroic, and proud of
beautiful, long-limbed youth who, hearing her de-
their identity, these people had wandered the steppes for gen-
mands, smiled and accepted her as his bride.
erations, never settling long enough to establish any cities.
The story’s versions as told in the South and the North are
The Vedic Aryans were warriors who brought with
the same to this point. But now they diverge. In the legend
them into the river valleys of northern India the songs and
as told in Mithila (in the North), S´iva responds to the god-
poems that came to be included in the mantras (hymns) of
dess A¯di S´akti by asking her to accept him as her disciple.
the Vedic religious textual tradition. Their songs were ro-
She agrees to his request, and S´iva learns from her the secrets
bust, loud, and full of life: hymns to the awesome processes
of life and various incantations for raising the dead. Having
of nature; invocations to Aditya, the sun god; praises to
mastered these mysteries and ancient secrets of power, S´iva
Va¯yu, the wind, and to Us:as, the maiden of the dawn. Mov-
then destroys the primordial A¯di S´akti by engulfing her with
ing into the decaying or destroyed Harappan urban areas, the
flame and reducing her to ashes, promising to her as he does
Vedic Aryans introduced to those agricultural peoples the in-
so that he will marry her again after many aeons when she
struments of war, new dimensions of language, new volumes
is reborn as Sat¯ı, the daughter of Daksa. The story acknowl-
of sound, new relationships with nature, and pulsing vitality.
edges that this second marriage did, indeed, eventually take
In successive waves through the centuries the Vedic Ary-
place.
ans moved on their horse-driven chariots along the densely
The Dravidian variant—one in which passionate youth
forested banks of the Indus, Ganges, and Yamuna¯ rivers. It
is said to lead irrevocably to old age and decrepitude—is
took a thousand years for them to reach the Narmada River
darker and more archaic. As in the northern version, S´iva
in central India (in modern Madhya Pradesh), by which time
agrees to marry A¯di S´akti after the goddess has reduced
they had merged into the cultures of the vast hinterland
through intermarriage and by adopting local customs, skills,
Brahma¯ and Vis:n:u to ashes for refusing to do so. In the
and tools.
southern account S´iva is then said to ask A¯di S´akti if he may
have as a gift from her the brilliant jewel that shines as bright-
It is likely that the Vedic Aryans found the original in-
ly as ten thousand suns and that rests on her forehead. Infat-
habitants of India living at various levels of technological cul-
uated, she agrees to the request and hands the jewel to her
ture, those groups living within the walled cities of Mohenjo-
young lover. As he takes it from her hand the goddess ages
Daro and Harappa contrasting vividly with the Paleolithic
frightfully, as if centuries had just elapsed in the moment’s
societies living in the dense forests along the banks of the
duration. Formerly a beautiful goddess who lived unhin-
Ganges or in the caves of the Vindhya Mountains. Five-
dered by time, she is now suddenly a bent and undesirable
thousand-year-old ruins scattered throughout the Harappan
old woman. Time, the devourer of all things, has entered the
sites indicate that the people of the Indus Valley had estab-
world. S´iva merely smiles; for he is Ka¯la¯, the lord of time.
lished a highly developed society: They had discovered the
With this action, the new gods have taken over. The primor-
wheel, with which they transformed their methods of trans-
dial primacy of female power is reduced to ashes, its bril-
portation and increased the sophistication with which they
liance usurped. The female takes second place in the Puranic
molded their clay pots; they had developed simple tools with
pantheon to the male.
which they could measure angles and with which they could
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4434
INDIAN RELIGIONS: RURAL TRADITIONS
build structures with precision and accuracy; they had
searched for the couple, only to be killed by Lorik when he
learned to grow and spin cotton, to weave and dye cloth, to
found them. The young couple then approached the master
mold clay, and to cast bronze into figurines.
gambler Maha¯patra Dusadh and engaged him in a game of
dice. Lorik lost Chan:d:a and all his wealth to Maha¯patra Du-
Intense intellectual and psychological activity accompa-
sadh. But Chan:d:a argued with Dusadh that the stakes in-
nied the tremendous revolution in technology and the pro-
volved in the game did not include her clothing and de-
duction of tools brought about by these early city dwellers.
manded that the gambling continue. On resumption of the
They had developed a script to illumine their pictographs,
game she sat down in front of Dusadh and exposed her beau-
and they practiced yoga and other meditative techniques to
tiful body. Intoxicated by the sight of Chan:d:a’s nakedness,
expand their minds.
Dusadh lost control of the game and was defeated by Lorik,
With the fall of the cities to natural and martial forces,
who later killed him. This legend finds expression in paint-
large numbers of people took refuge in the wilds of central
ings, theater, and song.
India, traveling all the way to the banks of the Narmada and
The tribal kings of central India also had an ancient
Tapti rivers and even farther south. They carried with them
bardic tradition. The Gond ra¯jas included in their courts of-
into the inner lands of the subcontinent their knowledge of
ficial tribal genealogists and musicians known as Pardhans,
agriculture, technology, ritual, and magic. The influence of
who recounted to the royal household the ancient stories of
these urban skills and perceptions appear in their symbols,
the Gond hero-kings and warriors. Serving also as priests and
worship, and magical practices.
diviners, in time the Pardhans absorbed Hindu legends,
The migrations of nomadic peoples onto the fertile
gods, and even ethics into their tribal epics, ballads, and
plains of India were to continue through the centuries. One
other expressions of folklore.
of the most important of these tribes to the development of
A Pardhan today worships his musical instrument, the
Indian culture and its rural traditions were the Ahirs, who
bana, as the god Bara Pen. “As his sacred books [are] to a
came to be known in the epic Maha¯bha¯rata as the “snake-
Brahmin, as his scales [are] to a Bania, as his plough [is] to
loving” Abhiras.
a Gond, so is the bana to the Pardhan” (Hivale, 1946,
The figure of Kr:s:n:a also was known as Ma¯yo¯n or
p. 66).
¯
Ma¯yavan in ancient Tamil samgam literature; the dark-
It is said that the original Pardhan was timid when he
skinned, non-Aryan god emerged in the culture of Mathura¯
first played his wonderful new music in the house of the
and reflects a mixture of elements from Ahir and tribal back-
Gond brothers. But he played so divinely that all those resid-
grounds. The name itself, Kr:s:n:a (“dark one”), is pregnant
ing in the heavenly as well as earthly worlds were enchanted.
with early Aryan scorn; but it was Kr:s:n:a who was to supply
Even the supreme god, Na¯ya¯yan: Deo, stood watching in
the generative vitality that transformed Indian arts and
amazement. Then the Pardhan forgot his shyness and com-
culture.
pletely lost himself in his music. He danced ecstatically with
Stories about the personalities and affairs of Kr:s:n:a, of
his bana, with which he produced sounds the world had
the Goddess, and of other local heroes were collected by the
never heard before. On that day, it is said, three new pars
compilers of the epic poems the Maha¯bha¯rata and the
(sounds or combination of sounds) known as Sarset¯ı Par,
Ra¯ma¯yan:a. These tales, as well as myths and legends recount-
Na¯ya¯yan: Par, and Pujan Par were first created.
ed in the various Pura¯n:as, traveled by word of mouth
Pa¯buj¯ı is a folk hero who is especially popular among
through the vast lands of India. Transmission of these stories
the Bhils, a tribal group living in Rajasthan. According to
was enhanced by their widespread multifaceted use of song,
legend, Pa¯buj¯ı was suckled as an infant by a lioness and grew
dance, mime, drama, and iconography. These various media
to be a brave warrior. He was given a powerful black mare
allowed all kinds of people, particularly members of those
named Ka¯lm¯ı by Deval:, a ca¯ran: woman of a pastoral com-
tribal groups living outside the mainstream of society, to ex-
¯
munity. In return for this gift Pa¯buj¯ı promised to protect
perience the sensory nature of the divine presence and to ex-
Deval:’s life and cattle, and he eventually died in the attempt
press the immediacy of that presence through an active, per-
to keep his promise. Among the Bhils are a group of bardic
sonal, and contemporaneous participation.
musicians (bhopa¯s) who travel through the countryside with
Rural painters and balladeers drew their inspiration and
a fifteen-foot long painted scroll known as the Pa¯buj¯ı-ka-Pad
source material from Ahir love songs, accounts of brave and
(Pa¯buj¯ı’s scroll). In its center lies the main figure, a portrait
victorious heroes, and tales of the Puranic gods and their
of Pa¯buj¯ı himself, painted in vibrant red, black, olive, and
erotic adventures. The most famous of these ballads was the
yellow ocher. Surrounding this main figure are depictions of
Lorikagan, which was composed in Avadhi (a dialect of
warriors engaged in battle, images of horses, lions, and tigers,
Hindi) and which recounts the love held by Lorik, an Ahir
and scenes of heroic incidents that serve to illustrate the leg-
from the Mithila country, for Chan:d:a, the wife of S´r¯ıdhara.
end of Pa¯buj¯ı. Performers reenact stories based on that leg-
According to the tale, S´r¯ıdhara had become impotent as a
end at night. The scroll is stretched out, oil lamps are lit, and
result of a curse placed on him by the goddess Pa¯rvat¯ı.
the bhopa¯ sings his story. As he sings, a woman lifts the lamp
Chan:d:a then fell in love and eloped with Lorik. S´r¯ıdhara
to the cloth in order to illumine for the crowd the figures
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INDIAN RELIGIONS: RURAL TRADITIONS
4435
of warriors on horseback, animals, birds, and other elements
known as the ks:etrapal (guardian of the field and womb),
of the tales. She joins with the bhopa¯ in singing the refrain
Thakur Dev. The ks:etrapal protected and fecundated the
and, at times, dances.
earth and field, the body of the goddess. In the religious rites
the people expressed their search for cosmic transformation,
The bards of the Santa¯ls in Bengal and Bihar are known
embodied in the act of sexual union between the God and
as ja¯du pat:ua¯ (“magic-painters”), who carry from village to
Goddess. Agricultural magic fused with alchemical and Tan-
village their painted pat:s depicting scenes from the Puran:as
tric practices.
as well as their own tribal cosmogonic and anthropogonic
myths.
Either the aboriginal magician-priest known as the baiga
or a priest from the potter, the barber, or the cama¯r commu-
The fundamental assumptions of male supremacy in
nity presided at ceremonies worshiping trees and river-
Brahmanic culture were established by the time of the classi-
washed stones held at the village or forest shrines honoring
cal law books such as the Manusmr:ti (c. 200 BCE–100 CE)
the primeval mother, the Goddess, various deities, or the
and the various Dharma´sa¯stras. According to these and other
tribal hero. The potency of his magic was recognized and ac-
texts, a girl was dependent on her father and then, as a
cepted by the villagers and householders living in the shel-
woman, was inferior to her husbands and sons. Such ideals
tered rural societies. The Tantric doctrines outlined in the
of Indian womanhood as obedience and faithfulness to the
A¯gama and Nigama textual traditions, the frenzied ecstatic
male were embodied in the images of the goddesses S¯ıta¯ and
worship of S´akti through ritual performance and mantra-
Savitr¯ı.
recitation, had pervaded the Indian psyche to the depths of
Vedic learning was closed to women by the time of the
the cultural subconscious. In prosperous villages the Puranic
smr:ti (“remembered”) literatures. However, in the vast and
gods were worshiped; but along with this praise, and at a
flat countryside that encircled the cities and in the rural life
deeper level, a worship of the pre-Vedic deities continued
of the village and fields surged a powerful, flexible, ancient,
and the practice of Tantric rituals remained.
and secret undercurrent among women, wandering yogins,
One of the attributes of the Goddess was ja¯garitr: (wake-
Tantric adepts, and magician-priests, who focused their reli-
fulness). Through practicing such vrata (“vow”) rites as fast-
gious sensibilities on the primeval female, S´akti, and on S´iva,
ing, meditative concentration, and other observances, the
the mysterious god of the autochthonous tribes.
woman votary directly invoked the power of the goddess by
The earliest, almost primordial, images of the earth
awakening her power (´sakti) inherent in various symbols,
mother glorified a feminine creative principle made manifest
stones, trees, and water pots. She drew geometric shapes
by the image itself, which often celebrated the secrets of birth
(man:d:alas) on the ground and on the wall of houses, wor-
and death. The dark earth-bound goddess was a mother, yet
shiped the interlocking triangle known as the yantra dedicat-
a virgin, for “no father seemed necessary to the society in
ed to the Goddess, and performed in the darkness various
which she originated” (Kosambi, 1962, p. 90). Originally
rituals accompanying the sprouting of corn. Songs, dance,
represented aniconically through hieroglyphs and vegetation
and image-making flourished as part of the ceremonies. The
symbols, through the centuries the primeval mother came to
worshiper hoped through creative expression, vrata, and ritu-
be represented in animal and finally in anthropomorphic im-
al song and dance to awaken S´akti and to ensure that, once
ages of S´akti, who had a thousand names and forms. Potent
awakened, that primal energy was not dissipated or
with the energy of life itself, and holding within herself the
dispersed.
essence of her earlier incarnations, she had the capacity to
Unlike the temporary clay images of the gra¯ma ma¯tr:ka¯s
heal and transform. Such earlier forms find expression in the
(“village mothers”), which have mysterious links with the
hieroglyphic triangle resting on her heart or generative or-
earth and its cyclical patterns of creation and destruction, the
gans. Her vegetal nature appeared in the plants she held in
images of the v¯ıras (deified “heroes”) and the ks:etrapals are
her hands. Her animal incarnations were transformed into
shafts embodying virility and power carved in stone and
the various beasts on which she rode. As the primary physical
wood. Rising as pillars to the sky and toward the sun and
and spiritual essence of the universe, S´akti was alive in the
yet rooted in the earth, the harsh simplicity of the flat visual
experience of color, form, taste, and fragrance. In her final
planes thus gives to the images a heroic dimension represent-
form she was Durga¯—the holder of all life, brighter than a
ing the sanctity of the immovable and the eternal divine
thousand suns.
presence.
Tantric texts describe Durga¯’s symbols: “The Goddess
The term v¯ıra (“hero”) is often used to refer to the val-
of renowned form assumes in times of protection the form
iant ancestors killed in battle while protecting women, fields,
of a straight line. In times of dissolution, she takes the form
and cattle. It also is used to describe the alchemists, yogins,
of a circle. Similarly for creation she takes the brilliant ap-
magicians, and enlightened ones who gained control over
pearance of a triangle” (Sastry, 1906, p. 280).
and conquered the ways of their bodies and minds. Both
A new priesthood and new relationships with the gods
types of v¯ıras were deified and worshiped in the form of the
became inevitable with the rise of the male godhead into the
v¯ıraka¯l and pa¯lia¯ stones. The v¯ıra cult itself is an ancient
Puranic pantheon. The emergent potent male deity was
¯
¯
one that centers on an admixture of ancestor worship, vener-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

4436
INDIAN RELIGIONS: RURAL TRADITIONS
ation of the heroic protectors and guardians as well as of ma-
At the Nila¯ Gajan or Gambhira festivals S´iva is wor-
gicians and seers, and praise of such figures as the Hura¯ Pura¯
shiped as Nila¯kan:t:ha (nila¯ is an indigo cloth worn by low-
(deified heroes) or the A¯yi Vad:il (deified ancestors) of the
caste devotees of S´iva who worship the planets and for whom
Bhil tribes. The cult also includes the worship of a wonder-
the Gambhira is a key harvest ritual). Singing abounds in
fully rich symbolic complex associated with the yaks:as, spirits
these rites. One song describes S´iva as a cultivator of cotton
of the forests and rivers known by the compilers of the Athar-
and as one who loves Koch tribal girls:
vaveda and the Pura¯n:as. Depicted as having tall male bodies
(which they are mysteriously able to transform), the yaks:as
The month of Baisakh came,
were regarded at first as malevolent beings, but underwent
The farmer ploughed the field;
a significant change at some point when they became associ-
The month of A¯s:a¯d:h came,
ated and identified with the ks:etrapals and the v¯ıra¯s, with
God S´iva planted cotton seeds,
whom they protected and watched over the welfare of the
As the planting was over,
earth and the Goddess.
S´iva went to the quarter of the Koch women.
He stayed and stayed on there,
India’s most powerful symbol of the hero is a rider on
Until he knew that cotton had grown.
a horse. Carved in memorial stones or cast in metal icons and
S´iva returned to gather cotton,
amulets, the image displays the vitality and energy of the he-
He placed the stuff in the hands of Gan˙ga¯,
roic male.
She spun yarn out of it.
Elements of the v¯ıra cult evolved through time into the
S´iva wove a piece of cloth,
worship of S´iva, the supreme god of rural India. S´iva is de-
The washerwoman Neta¯ washed it clean,
scribed as late as the third century CE as a yaks:a who is to
She washed it by water from the ocean of milk.
be propitiated in the wild regions beyond the village walls.
(Bhattacharya, 1977, pp. 60–61)
Rural customs still exist in India that reflect S´iva’s autoch-
Having become the central deity in rural areas, S´iva then be-
thonous origins. In the Punjab and in Himachal Pradesh, for
came the figure from which all of the minor rural gods
example, women are not permitted the worship of S´iva.
emerged. The elephant-headed Gan:e´sa (“lord of the folk”),
Women in Uttar Pradesh can worship S´iva in the form of
for example, is regarded as the son of S´iva, though no legend
the lin˙ga, but they must carry their offerings to the god in
specifically relates the nature of his birth. Originally wor-
the corner of their sa¯r¯ıs and must never allow their hand to
shiped as a malevolent spirit and the creator of obstacles,
touch the phallic form as they circumambulate it.
Gan:e´sa underwent a transformation during the time of the
The tribal Bhils worship S´iva as their first ancestor. The
composition of the Pura¯n:as and assumed the role of protec-
Gonds of Bastar sing an epic, Lingo pen, in which they de-
tor of the people and the remover of obstacles. Hanuma¯n (or
scribe the appearance of S´iva in human form:
Ma¯ruti), the devotee of Ra¯ma, is also known to be an incar-
nation of Maha¯bhairav, who, in turn, is one of S´iva’s many
There the God Maha¯dev was ruling from the upper sea
to the lower sea. What was Maha¯dev doing? He was
manifestations. No forest or village masculine deity is free of
swimming like a rolling stone, he had no hands, no feet.
an intimate association with S´iva, the central personality of
He remained like the trunk [of a tree]. Then Maha¯dev
the cosmos and locus of the processes of creation and de-
performed austerities for twelve months. And Bhagava¯n
struction.
[i.e., S´iva] came and stood close to Maha¯dev and called
to him. “Thy devotion is finished, emerge out of the
Deep within the religious practices and ideologies of
water.” He said, “How shall I emerge? I have no hands,
rural India lie the recognition of cosmic transformation
no feet, no eyes.” Then Maha¯dev received man’s form.
marked by the flexive flow of creation and destruction, the
Thus man’s form complete was made in the luminous
appreciation of the vital forces of life, and the longing to be
world. (Hislop, 1866, pp. 2–3)
protected from the powers of the physical and spiritual
Next to their drawings of the corn goddess the Warlis of Ma-
worlds. The gods fuse and merge, or they are transformed,
harashtra often display an image known as Pa¯ñc Sirya¯ Dev,
or they vanish with the receding forests and disappearing
a headless male figure with five sheaves of sprouting corn
tribes. New gods come into being and new rituals emerge,
emerging from his body. Among the Bhils of Gujarat a five-
bringing with them changes in the form and content of reli-
headed figure with an erect penis is cast in metal and is called
gious expressions. But the sacredness and the mystical power
Pa¯ñc Mukhi Dev. Both images are linked to S´iva and to cul-
of rural religious sensibilities survive the many changes in de-
tic fertility rites.
ities and rituals throughout history.
In some regions of West Bengal the roles and personali-
SEE ALSO Alchemy, article on Indian Alchemy; Bengali Re-
ties of S´iva and the sun god fuse into the worship of Dharma
ligions; Goddess Worship, article on the Hindu Goddess;
Tha¯kur. The man:d:ala (village headman) performs rituals
Hindi Religious Traditions; Horses; Indus Valley Religion;
centered on the marriage of S´iva and Gaur¯ı at which
Kr:s:n:a; Maha¯bha¯rata; Man:d:alas, article on Hindu Man:d:alas;
Kalighat painters used to congregate in order to sell their
Marathi Religions; Pura¯n:as; Ra¯ma¯yan:a; S´a¯stra Literature;
paintings to pilgrims.
S´iva; Tamil Religions; Tantrism; Yantra.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

INDIAN RELIGIONS: MYTHIC THEMES
4437
BIBLIOGRAPHY
or on themes that simply do not exist outside of India. One
Archer, William G. The Vertical Man: A Study in Primitive Indian
can go further in laying out this spectrum of the general and
Sculpture. London, 1947.
the particular, beginning with the universals and moving
Bhattacharya, Asutosh. The Sun and the Serpent Lore of Bengal.
through large shared cultures (such as the Indo-European)
Calcutta, 1977.
down through India as a whole until one reaches the many
Dasgupta, Sashibhushan. Obscure Religious Cults. Calcutta, 1962.
particular, local traditions within India. This approach views
Elmore. W. T. Dravidian Gods in Modern Hinduism. Lincoln,
myths on the analogy of languages (as F. Max Müller
Neb., 1915.
taught), which can be broken down into language families
(again, the Indo-European), languages, dialects, and regional
Elwin, Verrier. The Baiga. London, 1939.
dialects. Indeed, if one wishes, one can go still further, until
Hislop, Stephen. Papers relating to the Aboriginal Tribes of the Cen-
one reaches, in India, at least a single language (or dialect)
tral Provinces. Nagpur, 1866.
that is said to be spoken by a single person. So, too, at the
Hivale, Shamrao. The Pardhans of the Upper Narbada Valley. Ox-
end of the line (and perhaps at the beginning of the line too,
ford, 1946.
in illo tempore), each myth exists in a unique version in the
Jayakar, Pupul. The Earthen Drum: An Introduction to the Ritual
mind of the individual who knows it.
Arts of Rural India. New Delhi, 1980.
Kane, P. V. History of Dharma´sa¯stra. 2d ed., rev. & enl. 5 vols.
In attempting to present an overview of Indian mythic
in 7. Poona, 1968–1975.
themes, the author of this article has chosen to begin with
the great universal themes as they appear in their Indian in-
Kosambi, D. D. Myth and Reality. Bombay, 1962.
carnations (primarily Hindu forms, though with some pass-
Kramrisch, Stella. Unknown India: Ritual Art in Tribe and Village.
ing references to the Buddhist variants of the pan-Indian
Philadelphia, 1968.
themes) and to move through the narrower Indo-European
Oppert, Gustav. On the Original Inhabitants of Bharatavars:a or
functions of the myths in India to variants that are uniquely
India (1893). Reprint, Delhi, 1972.
Indian. There the article shall perforce stop; it would be im-
Reeves, Ruth. Cire Perdue Casting in India. New Delhi, 1962.
possible to trace the regional subvariations in an essay of lim-
Shamasastry, R. The Origin of the Devanagari Alphabets. Varanasi,
ited size and wide range, and of course the subsubvariations
1973.
in the minds of all the individual myth-knowers are infinite.
New Sources
But it must never be forgotten that these subvariations do
Durrans, Brian, and T. Richard Blurton, eds. The Cultural Heri-
exist (and have been recorded in some of the books listed in
tage of the Indian Village. London, 1991.
the bibliography attached to this article) and that, moreover,
Epstein, T. Scarlett, A. P. Suryanrayana, and T. Thimmegowda,
they flow not only downstream (from the pan-Indian to the
eds. Village Voices: Forty Years of Rural Transformation in
local) but upstream, from the local to the pan-Indian, in a
South India. Thousand Oaks, Calif., 1998.
cybernetic process that lends the great myths much of their
Kapur, Tribhuwan. Religion and Ritual in Rural India: A Case
particular flavor, texture, and vivid detail.
Study in Kumaoon. New Delhi, 1989.
ANIMALS. Although it is no longer believed, as it once was,
McMullen, Clarence O. Religious Beliefs and Practices of the Sikhs
that all mythology is somehow connected with totemism, it
in Rural Punjab. New Delhi, 1989.
is certainly still true that you cannot have a mythology with-
Sharma, Kanhaiyalal. Rural Society in India. Jaipur, 1997.
out animals. Animals and gods are the two communities
Vishnu, Asha. Material Life of Northern India: Based on an Archae-
poised on the frontiers of the human community, the two
ological Study: (3rd Century B.C. to 1st Century B.C.) New
“others” by which humans define themselves. And though
Delhi, 1993.
all animals can be mythical, certain animals tend to be more
Wiser, William H., and Charlotte Viall Wiser. Behind Mud Walls:
mythical than others, more archetypal, if the reader will.
Seventy-Five Years in a North Indian Village. Berkeley, 2000.
Birds and snakes recur throughout the mythologies of the
world, both individually and as a matched pair. Individually,
PUPUL JAYAKAR (1987)
Revised Bibliography
birds (and eggs) are symbols of creation; their wings make
them part of the kingdom of heaven, where they come to
function as symbols of God (in Christianity) or of the magic
woman from the other world (the swan-maiden of European
INDIAN RELIGIONS: MYTHIC THEMES
folklore). Snakes slough their skin to become symbols of re-
India, like other civilizations, has myths that deal with
birth, or bite their tails to become symbols of infinity (the
themes shared by all human beings—the great themes of life
Uroboros); they bring about the loss of innocence (as in the
and death, of this world and the world beyond—which she
Book of Genesis) or the loss of immortality (as in the Epic of
inflects with her own personal colorations and thus makes
Gilgamesh). Together, birds and snakes symbolize the ele-
different from the myths of other civilizations. Moreover, In-
ments of air and subterranean water, spirit and matter, good
dians have been inspired to create myths on themes that have