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Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition
Lindsay Jones, Editor in Chief
© 2005 Thomson Gale, a part of The
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Program in Religious Studies,
University of Wisconsin—Madison
Professor, Department of Literary and
Associate Professor, Department of
Cultural Studies, Faculty of Modern
Comparative Studies, Ohio State
Professor of History of Religions,
Languages, University of Latvia
Baltic Religion and Slavic Religion
Emeritus, and Former Director of
Research Center for Black Studies,

University of California, Santa Barbara
Center for Muslim–Christian
Understanding and Liberal Studies
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
Professor of Anthropology and Women’s
Professor of Religious Studies, and
Studies, George Washington University
Chair, Department of Religious
Australian Indigenous Religions
Professor of History of Religions,
Studies, Yale University
Dipartimento di Scienze
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
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
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
Missouri—Kansas City
Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Chinese Religions
Department, University of California,
Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies,
Santa Barbara
Faculty of Comparative Culture,
The Divinity School, Harvard
Sophia University
Humor and Religion
Associate Professor of Religious Studies,
Associate Professor, Department of
McDaniel College
Professor of Religion, Bucknell
Languages and Cultures of Asia and
Study of Religion
University and Co-Coordinator,

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page vi
Harvard Forum on Religion and
Religion, University of Chicago
Professor of Systematic Theology,
Law and Religion
Ecology and Religion
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
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
Germanic Religions
Science and Religion
South American Religions
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
Harvard Reischauer Institute of
Studies, University of London
Assistant Professor, Department of
Japanese Studies
Gender and Religion
Classics and Ancient Mediterranean
Ecology and Religion
Studies and Department of History
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
History, Valparaiso University
Politics and Religion
Color Inserts and Essays
Director of Research, Religion, Health
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
and Human Rights, Suffolk University
Healing, Medicine, and Religion
Obafemi Awolowo University
African Religions
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, University
of Toronto

Professor, Department of Theology,
Law and Religion
Professor of Comparative Religion, The
University of Notre Dame
History of Religions
University of Helsinki, Member of
Academia Scientiarum Fennica,
Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious
Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer
Studies, Lafayette College
Arctic Religions and Uralic Religions
in the Anthropology and Sociology of
Literature and Religion
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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
Col. Colossians
AH anno Hegirae, in the year of the
BC before Christ
Colo. Colorado
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
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
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
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
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
Eccl. Ecclesiastes
2 Bar. 2 Baruch
1 Chr. 1 Chronicles
ed. editor (pl., eds.); edition; edited by

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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
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
Gr. Greek
Ky. Kentucky
Mt. Matthew
. ag. H
. agigah
l. line (pl., ll.)
MT Masoretic text
. 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
. ul. H
. ullin
lit. literally
Nebr. Nebraska
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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
s.v. sub verbo, under the word (pl.,
n.s. new series
Qid. Qiddushin
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
R.S.C.J. Societas Sacratissimi Cordis
by Takakusu Junjiro¯ et al.
OFr. Old French
Jesu, Religious of the Sacred Heart
Ohal. Ohalot
RSV Revised Standard Version of the
Tem. Temurah
OHG Old High German
Tenn. Tennessee
OIr. Old Irish
Ru. Ruth
Ter. Terumot
OIran. Old Iranian
Rus. Russian
. 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
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
P Priestly (source of the Pentateuch)
Song of the Three Young Men
. 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
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
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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
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 t w e l v e
h e t r u e i m
T H E a
T g
R Ue
Many religious traditions cherish images surrounded by narra-
tives that tell of the image’s origins and its long history as an
object of devotion in court and ecclesia. Often these images are acheiropoetic, that is,
not made by human hands. Their origins are divine. Fashioned by angels or deities,
these images descend from heaven and are found by the faithful. They are enshrined
and typically prove their peculiar merit by moving, speaking, bleeding, weeping, or
performing miracles. In Thai Buddhism, for instance, the Sinhala Buddha floated on
a plank when the ship carrying it from Sri Lanka to Thailand was
wrecked in a gale. Copies were made of the image and envious
rulers were inspired to acquire the original. The statue boasts a
long history of migration through theft and conquest. There are
different stories about its origin. One says that the image was
created by twenty arhats (enlightened followers of the Buddha)
in order to show the king of Sri Lanka what the Buddha looked
like. The likeness proved so authentic that the king spent a week
paying homage to the figure and then asked that a replica be
made. The resulting sculpture miraculously took on the visual
qualities of the Buddha and commanded veneration. Another
version states that a dragon turned himself into an apparition
of the Buddha to serve as a model for fashioning an authentic
likeness. In both accounts the image’s production involved a
supernatural intervention that served to authorize it and ensure
its power to convert the unbelieving. Not surprisingly, these
narratives are closely associated with the political identities and
ambitions of monasteries, courts, and kings, as well as the spread
of Buddhism in new lands or its renewal in Buddhist regions.

The search for the true image is a quest in religious tradi-
tions for which cult imagery serves as a means of authorizing sect
and court, for focusing and authenticating the power of images
to heal, and for devotional practices that center around the cha-
(a) Michael Ostendorfer, Pilgrimage to the New Church at Regensburg,
1519, woodcut. [©Foto Marburg/Art Resource, N.Y.]
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risma of the cult figure. True images are
a kind of evidence for the devout, proof
of the authenticity of the image’s power,
and vindication of those who claim it as
their own.
Christianity is deeply invested in the
practice of the true image. In the eighth
and ninth centuries the Eastern Chris-
tian world was wracked by violent dis-
agreement over the propriety of images.
Successive Eastern emperors forbade the
use of icons while many monasteries
insisted on their importance. During
this time it became common to claim
that the image of the Mother and Child
had been painted by Saint Luke. The
story, which predated the Iconoclastic
Controversy, but certainly anticipated
anxieties about the status and authority
of images in Christianity, strengthened
the position of those who argued for
icons. The icon associated with this
tradition, which first appeared around
600 ce in Rome, showed the Theoto-
kos, or Mother of God, holding the
Christ child in one arm and pointing to
him with the other. During the Renais-
sance in Europe, artists produced many
examples of the motif, in part because
it underwrote their vocation, but no
less because the subject enjoyed great
popular enthusiasm, sometimes ecstatic.
In 1519, the German city of Regensburg
was suddenly visited by thousands of pilgrims seeking
(b) ABOVE. Jan Gossaert, Saint Luke Painting the Virgin,
healing and blessing from an image of the Madonna and
1520, oil on panel. [Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien oder
Child, which was associated with the miraculous healing
KHM, Wien] (c) OPPOSITE. Mandylion of Edessa with Scenes
of a local man who had been injured during the demoli-
of the Legend of King Abgar, unknown artist, eighteenth
tion of a Jewish synagogue. Michael Ostendorfer captured
century, egg tempera and resin glazes on panel. [The Royal
the frenzied tone of the pilgrims in a contemporary print
Collection ©2004, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II]
(a). Although medieval artists had depicted Luke paint-
ing the Virgin and Child since the twelfth century, none
matched the theatrical spectacle of Jan Gossaert’s portrayal
of the scene (b). The Madonna and Child hover before
the artist in a cloud as the artist’s hand is guided by an
angel. Luke’s Gospel appears as a bound volume in the
lectern he uses as a drawing table, deftly equating book
and image as authorized versions of one another.

The intervention of the angel recalls the legend of the
origin of the mandylion (c), the cloth on which Christ’s
image miraculously appeared when, according to one ver-
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sion, an artist attempted to paint his portrait from life at
the behest of the king of Edessa. When the artist failed
to capture a likeness, angels completed the portrait, thus
ensuring its authenticity. Another version states that
Christ himself made the image by placing the cloth on
his face. Related versions of the story tell of Veronica,
a woman who met Christ on his path to Calvary and
offered him a cloth to wipe his bloody, soiled face. The
result was an image that became especially important
among European Christians in the thirteenth century
when a papal indulgence was promised to those who
uttered a prayer in the presence of a Veronica (a corrup-
tion of vera icon, or “true image”) in Rome. Veronica’s
Veil multiplied as mementos for pilgrims and as works of
fine art by artists during the Baroque period, who seized
on the illusionistic possibilities of painting an image of an
image of an image (d and e).
(d) TOP. Francisco de Zurbarán, The Holy Face (Veil of Veronica),
1630s, oil on canvas. [©Art Resource, N.Y.] (e) RIGHT. Philippe
de Champaigne, La Sainte Face, seventeenth century. [Courtesy of
the Royal Pavilion, Libraries and Museums, Brighton and Hore]
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One of the most striking features of the “true image”
(f ) The Shroud of Turin, housed at the Cathedral of Turin in
is its capacity for replication and the power of copies (of
Italy. [©Gaudenti Sergio/Corbis KIPA]
copies of copies) to retain the vitality of the distant, even
lost original. In the visual piety of the true image, there
is no limit to multiplication. Every copy retains the aura
and authenticity of the original. The image of the Virgin
and Child appears no less than four times in the print
by Ostendorfer (a): in the foreground as a sculpture,
on the banner waving from the steeple of the church,
from a standard fluttering above the crowd on the left of
the print, and on the altar inside the church, glimpsed
through the open door. Moreover, the image appeared
yet again on well over 100,000 clay and silver badges
that were produced and avidly acquired by pilgrims to
Regensburg during 1520 alone. Images of the Veronica
and mandylion were commonly copied and revered across
Europe and wherever Catholic missionaries took the faith
in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The pattern
is recognizable in many kinds of images in Christian
practice. The Shroud of Turin (f ) remains a powerful
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image to this day. Another persistent
example is the image of the Virgin of
Guadalupe (g), whose origins are like-
wise miraculous. Images made without
human hands may be endlessly copied
because the original is devoid of human
fabrication. Copies refer to it as faith-
ful relays perhaps because no human is thought to have
(g) Imagen de la Virgen Maria, Madre de Dios de Guadalupe, an
invented the concept of the image. Seeing the image or
engraving by Miguel Sánchez depicting an image of Our Lady of
a copy of the image connects the devout viewer to the
Guadalupe on the cloak of Juan Diego, 1648. [Courtesy of the John
original person—the Virgin or Jesus—with a reliability
Carter Brown Library at Brown University]
and a directness that match the viewer’s devotion to the
person who can satisfy his longing. Acheiropoetic images
are representations whose power consists in their promise
to destroy the image as artifice and replace it with the very
thing to which the image refers. This power of the portrait
image is discernible in pre-Christian visual practices that
may have informed the earliest conceptions of the Chris-
tian icon.
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The cult of the saints today remains grounded in the
visual piety of selecting an “official” image of the person
whom supporters wish to see beatified and then canon-
ized by the church. Supporters of the cause of Mother
Teresa have already proffered such an image (h). Since
it is based on photographs of the historical person, the
image can lay claim to literal accuracy. But the idea of the
“true image” does not require the empirical verity of the
photograph. Nor is it an idea observed only by Orthodox
and Roman Catholic Christians. Warner Sallman, the
Protestant painter of the twentieth century’s most widely
disseminated picture of Jesus (i), stated that this image
came to him in a dream or vision, which he quickly
(h) ABOVE. Members of the Sisters of Charity display an image
of Mother Teresa in support of her canonization, 2003. [AP/Wide
World Photos] (i) RIGHT. Warner Sallman, Head of Christ, oil on
canvas. [©Warner Press, Inc., Anderson, Indiana. Image may not be
reproduced without written permission from Warner Press]
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transcribed and later painted in a way that suggests the
vignette lighting and head-and-shoulders format of por-
trait photography. And the evocative work of artist Daniel
Goldstein (j) recalls the mummified figures of Egyptians
and the Shroud of Turin (f ). Whether fine art or popular
devotional imagery, the power of images to endow repli-
cas, even mass-produced replicas, with the presence of the
original makes seeing the “true image” a compelling part
of religious practice. The search for the original happens
by means of the copy.
Belting, Hans. Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before
the Era of Art. Translated by Edmund Jephcott. Chicago,
Freedberg, David. The Power of Images: Studies in the History and
Theory of Response. Chicago, 1989.
Kuryluk, Ewa. Veronica and Her Cloth: History, Symbolism, and
Structure of a “True” Image. Cambridge, Mass., 1991.
MacGregor, Neil, with Erika Langmuir. Seeing Salvation: Images of
Christ in Art. New Haven, 2000.
Swearer, Donald K. Becoming the Buddha: The Ritual of Image
Consecration in Thailand. Princeton, 2004.
Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the
Cult of Amulets: A Study in Charisma, Hagiography, Sectarian-
ism, and Millennial Buddhism
. Cambridge, U.K., 1984.
David Morgan ()
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RNYING MA PA (NYINGMAPA) SCHOOL. The expression “Rnying ma
(Nyingma) pa school” may be used to refer to the Rnying ma (Nyingma) pa order of Ti-
betan Buddhism, as well as to the broad range of lineages claiming to derive their authori-
ty from the early transmission of Buddhism in Tibet during the seventh through ninth
centuries. A common mytho-historical view of the origins of their tradition, as well as
adherence to similar doctrinal and ritual foundations, serve to distinguish the Rnying ma
pa from the other major trends in Tibetan Buddhism. At the same time, elements of Rny-
ing ma pa ritual and contemplative practice play a role, sometimes an important one,
within the non-Rnying ma pa orders.
The Rnying ma pa stand in a distinctive relationship to all other traditions of Tibetan
religion. As their name, which literally means the “ancients,” suggests, the school main-
tains that it uniquely represents the ancient Buddhism of Tibet, introduced during the
reigns of the great kings of Tibet’s imperial age. Fundamental to the distinctions inform-
ing Tibetan views of religious adherence is a broad division between the “ancient transla-
tion tradition” (snga ’gyur rnying ma) and the “new mantra traditions” (gsang sngags gsar
), where mantra refers to Buddhist esotericism, or Tantrism, as it is called in the West,
in general. The former includes all of those lines of teaching that eventually came to be
grouped together under the rubric Rnying ma pa. Their identity, however, was formed
only after the tenth century, when the proponents of the newly introduced esoteric sys-
tems began to attack the older traditions as corrupt, or as outright Tibetan fabrications.
In response, the adherents of the earlier traditions argued that their esoteric teachings and
practices were derived from the texts and instructions transmitted during the time of the
Tibetan monarchs of the seventh through ninth centuries, Khri Srong lde btsan (Trisong
detsen, r. 755–c. 797) above all. The post tenth-century Rnying ma pa came to hold that
the Buddhist cultural heroes of that age—in particular, the Indian masters Padmasamb-
hava and Vimalamitra and the Tibetan translator Vairocana, but many others as well—
had introduced a purer, more refined and elevated form of esotericism than that which
C LOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT CORNER. QurDa¯n written in Nashki script. [The Art Archive/Private
Collection/Eileen Tweedy]
; Pre-Toltec Quetzalcoatl in the form of the morning star.
Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. [©Werner Forman/Art Resource, N.Y.];
Etruscan bronze capitoline she-wolf, c. fifth century BCE, with twins added later by Antonio
Pollaiuolo. Musei Capitolini, Rome. [©Timothy McCarthy/Art Resource, N.Y.]; Cathedral of
Saint Basil in Moscow. [©Corbis]; Fifteenth-century illustration by Marco dell’Avogadro of
Ruth at work during the harvest, from the Bible of Borso d’Este. Biblioteca Estense, Modena.
[©Scala/Art Resource, N.Y.] .

characterized the teaching transmitted in Tibet from the late-
(rgyal ba dgongs brgyud); the “symbolic lineage of the aware-
tenth century on. During this period in which a distinctive
ness-holders” (rig ’dzin brda brgyud); and the “aural lineage
Rnying ma pa identity took form, the lineages involved were
of human individuals” (gang zag snyan brgyud). The first of
often familial lines of lay priests, not monks, and it is impos-
the “three lineages” is related to the primordial origination
sible to think of them as yet forming a cohesive order. In later
and disclosure, in the domain of the Buddha’s enlighten-
times, the Rnying ma pa tended to rely on the renewed reve-
ment, of the doctrine, especially that of the Great Perfection.
lation of texts and teachings that were held to be spiritual
The third concerns the successive transmission of that doc-
“treasures” (gter ma) inspired by, but not derived in a direct
trine through a line of human individuals, related each to the
line from, the traditions of the early masters. The prolifera-
next as master to disciple, and always thought to be place-
tion of large numbers of new gter ma lineages further under-
able, datable persons, though the specifics may be sometimes
cut the unity of the Rnying ma pa.
debated. The second lineage explains the beginnings of the
transmission in the human world, the stages whereby a doc-
In contradistinction to the organized Bon religion, the
trine belonging to the timeless inexpressible realm of awak-
Rnying ma pa identify themselves as purely Buddhist, where-
ening came to be expressed in time.
as, over and against the other Tibetan Buddhist schools and
in harmony with the Bon, they insist upon the value of an
HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT. Although a clear Rnying ma pa
autochthonous Tibetan religious tradition, expressed and ex-
identity was formed only in reaction to the criticisms of early
alted within a unique and continuing revelation of the Bud-
Tibetan Tantrism that became current from the late tenth
dha’s doctrine in Tibet in the form of “treasures” (gter). The
century on, certain of the characteristic features of later Rny-
following features of Rnying ma pa Buddhism are particular-
ing ma pa teaching are already evident in documents from
ly noteworthy: The primordial Buddha Samantabhadra
Dunhuang dating to the ninth to tenth centuries, as well as
(Tib., Kun tu bzang po [Küntuzangpo], the “Omnibenefi-
in the works of relatively early writers such as Bsnubs chen
cent”), iconographically most often depicted as a naked Bud-
Sangs rgyas ye shes (Nupchen Sangye Yeshe, late ninth to
dha of celestial blue-color in embrace with his consort, is re-
early tenth centuries). These works make it clear that two of
garded as the supreme embodiment of buddhahood (shared
the key elements of the Rnying ma pa ritual and contempla-
with Bon). The highest expression of and vehicle for attain-
tive tradition were already emerging: the Maha¯yoga (Great
ing that Buddha’s enlightenment (which is equivalent to the
Yoga) system of Tantric ritual, and the Rdzogs chen (Great
enlightenment of all buddhas) is the teaching of the “Great
Perfection) approach to meditation, emphasizing abstract
Perfection” (Rdzogs chen [Dzogchen], also shared with
contemplation. By the eleventh century some adherents of
Bon). The paradigmatic exponent of this teaching, and in-
the old lineages began to defend their tradition against its de-
deed of all matters bearing on the spiritual and temporal
tractors and at the same time to elaborate its doctrine and
well-being of the Tibetan people, is the immortal Guru Pad-
codify its ritual. The prolific scholar and translator Rong
masambhava, the apotheosis of the Indian Tantric master re-
zom Chos kyi bzang po (Rongzom Chözang) and the ritual
membered for playing a leading role in Tibet’s conversion
masters of the Zur lineage exemplify these trends.
to Buddhism during the eighth century, and who is always
In 1159 the monastery of Kah: thog was founded in far
present to intercede on behalf of his devotees. Moreover, the
Eastern Tibet by Dam pa Bde gshegs (Dampa Deshek,
teachings of the latter are continually renewed in forms suit-
1122–1192). This soon emerged as an important center of
able to the devotee’s time, place, and circumstances, the
scholarship, where a distinctively Rnying ma pa exegetical
agents for such renewal being “discoverers of spiritual trea-
tradition based on the system of nine progressive vehicles
sure” (gter ston/ bton), thought to be embodiments of, or re-
(theg pa rim pa dgu) was elaborated. The influence of Kah:
gents acting on behalf of, Padmasambhava.
thog was widely felt throughout southeastern Tibet, pene-
While the Rnying ma pa adhere, as do other Tibetan
trating even neighboring areas in Yunnan. During the same
Buddhists, to Tantric forms of ritual and contemplative
period, Rnying ma pa traditions were reinvigorated by the
practice, their Tantric canon is altogether distinctive, incor-
discoveries of treasure-doctrines (gter chos). Some of the fore-
porating a great quantity of literature whose “authenticity”
most promulgators of the newly revealed teachings included
is challenged by some adherents of the other Tibetan Bud-
Nyang ral Nyi ma ’od zer (Nyangrel Nyima Özer, 1124–
dhist schools, as is the authenticity of their special teaching
1192) and Guru Chos dbang (Guru Chöwang, 1212–1270),
of the Great Perfection. Hence, from relatively early times,
and, sometime later, the discoverer of the so-called Tibetan
their unique standpoint created for the Rnying ma pa a re-
Book of the Dead, Karma gling pa (Karma Lingpa, fourteenth
markable justificatory problem, which has generated an elab-
century), as well as Rig ’dzin Rgod ldem can (Rikdzin
orate apologetical literature, much of which is historical in
Gödemcen, 1337–1408), whose Northern Treasure (Byang
gter) spread throughout the Tibetan world.
In their thinking about the history of their own tradi-
The contemplative teachings of the Great Perfection,
tion, the Rnying ma pa have come to identify three phases
too, were greatly refined, syncretically absorbing and reinter-
in the lineage through which their special doctrines have
preting elements of the new Tantric traditions. The Seminal
been transmitted: the “lineage of the conquerors’ intention”
Essence (Snying thig) system, in particular, which placed
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great emphasis on visionary experience, developed through
his incarnation, was a particularly prominent exponent of the
a series of revelations spanning some two centuries and came
nonpartisan perspective and encouraged one of his most tal-
to be regarded as the culminating synthesis of Rnying ma pa
ented disciples, Mi pham rgya mtsho (Mipham Gyatso,
teaching. Klong chen pa Rab ’byams pa (Longcen Rabjampa,
1846–1912) to extend the insights of characteristically Rny-
1308–1363), a poet and philosopher of unusual depth and
ing ma pa teaching to the interpretation of Buddhist doctrine
refinement, codified the textual corpus of the Seminal Es-
generally. The copious commentarial writings of Mi pham
sence in four parts (snying thig ya bzhi), and in his own ex-
on all aspects of Buddhist thought and practice have enjoyed
pansive writings—the Mdzod bdun (Seven treasuries), Ngal
considerable prestige and are regarded as second only to the
gso skor gsum (Trilogy of rest), and Mun sel skor gsum (Trilogy
writings of Klong chen Rab ’byams pa as definitive expres-
removing darkness), among others—he set forth an encyclo-
sions of Rnying ma pa thought. During the twentieth centu-
pedic summation of the entire Buddhist path, which has re-
ry the leading exponents of the Rnying ma pa order have
mained the definitive Rnying ma pa doctrinal formulation.
mostly represented Mi pham’s outlook, though some dis-
He was later believed to have been reborn as Padma gling
senters have criticized him for laying too much stress on the
pa (Pema Lingpa, 1450–1521), a treasure-discoverer whose
cataphatic doctrines of buddha-nature and pure awareness,
revelations played a special role in the emergence of the Hi-
and so perhaps compromising the radical emptiness associat-
malayan kingdom of Bhutan.
ed with Madhyamaka thought.
During the seventeenth century, a period of intensive
Following the exile of large numbers of Tibetans in
civil war and sectarian conflict, the Rnying ma pa were fortu-
1959, a number of leading Rnying ma pa teachers became
nate to find a patron in the person of the fifth Dalai Lama
established in South Asia and began to attract Western stu-
(1617–1682), himself a revealer of treasures. With the en-
dents. Two heads of the order, Bdud ’joms Rin po che ’Jigs
couragement of the “Great Fifth,” a renewed monastic move-
bral ye shes rdo rje (Dudjom Rinpoche, 1904–1987) and Dil
ment emerged among the Rnying ma pa, which had formerly
mgo Mkhyen brtse Rin po che (Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche,
been situated primarily in lay lineages, local temples, and in-
1910–1991), particularly inspired the spread of Rnying ma
dividual adepts. Six preeminent monastic centers eventually
pa instruction in the West.
came to be recognized: Rdo rje brag (representing the North-
CHARACTERISTIC DOCTRINES. The Rnying ma pa adhere to
ern Treasure tradition) and Smin grol gling in Central Tibet;
the same canon of Kanjur and Tanjur as do other Tibetan
and Kah: thog, Dpal yul, Rdzogs chen and, somewhat later,
Buddhists, but they supplement these with uniquely Rnying
Zhe chen, all in far Eastern Tibet. Smin grol gling, in partic-
ma pa textual collections to which they accord a similar ca-
ular, enjoyed very close ties with the fifth Dalai Lama, so that
nonical status. Foremost in this regard is the Rnying ma rgyud
its hierarchs were recognized as the official heads of Rnying
’bum (Collection of the ancient Tantras), which exists in
ma pa order. The writings of its two great luminaries, the
many differing versions, but is always held to represent the
brothers Gter bdag gling pa (Terdak Lingpa, 1646–1714)
body of Tantras translated into Tibetan prior to the tenth
and Lo chen Dharma´sr¯ı (1654–1717), offer a uniquely in-
century. The Tantric rites of the Rnying ma pa, those for
fluential synthesis of Rnying ma pa ritual traditions. Their
which a continuous lineage extending back to the imperial
efforts, however, were impeded by the 1717 invasion of Cen-
period is claimed, are gathered in the Rnying ma bka’ ma
tral Tibet by the Dzungar Mongols, which was accompanied
(Oral tradition of the ancients). Though each particular lin-
by grievous sectarian persecution. Rnying ma pa establish-
eage among the Rnying ma pa adheres to its own favored
ments and adherents were among the Dzungar’s victims, and
treasure-doctrines, during the nineteenth century a master of
Dharma´sr¯ı and many other leading teachers perished in the
the universalist movement, ’Jam mgon Kong sprul Blo gros
onslaught. Smin grol gling was later revived by the efforts of
mtha’ yas (Jamgön Kongtrül, 1813–1899), assembled a
Gter bdag gling pa’s daughter, Mi ’gyur dpal sgron (Mingyur
grand anthology of treasure-texts in over sixty large volumes,
Paldrön, 1699–1769), whose career marks the beginning of
which has been widely promulgated since.
a notable succession of female teachers.
The Rnying ma pa teaching is generally organized ac-
Rnying ma pa resurgence in Central Tibet continued
cording to the progression of nine sequential vehicles (theg
with the revelation by ’Jigs med gling pa (Jikme Lingpa,
pa rim pa dgu): those of (1) ´sra¯vakas, (2) pratyekabuddhas,
1730–1798) of a new cycle of treasures, the Seminal Essence
and (3) bodhisattvas, which are the three “causal vehicles”
of the Great Expanse (Klong chen snying thig), inspired in
(rgyu’i theg pa); followed by (4) Kriya¯ Tantra, (5) Carya¯ Tan-
part by the writings of Klong chen Rab ’byams pa. These
tra, and (6) Yoga Tantra, which are the three outer vehicles
teachings enjoyed a remarkable success and were soon stud-
among the “fruitional vehicles” of mantra (’bras bu’i theg pa
ied and practiced throughout Tibet. They remain perhaps
sngags phyi pa); and culminating with (7) Maha¯yoga, (8) An-
the most widely practiced Rnying ma pa Tantric ritual sys-
uyoga, and (9) Atiyoga, which are the inner mantras (sngags
tem at the present time. His successors came to play a notable
nang pa). Atiyoga is also called Rdzogs chen, the Great Per-
role in the eclectic or universalist movement (ris med) in
fection. The first six vehicles are shared with the other tradi-
nineteenth-century Khams. ’Jam dbyangs Mkhyen brtse’i
tions of Tibetan Buddhism and so require no special treat-
dbang po (Jamyang Khyentse, 1820–1892), thought to be
ment here. The last three, though finding parallels in the
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Tantric teachings of the “new” schools, are, in their precise
phenomena—ground, path, and result—is the indivisi-
formulation, distinctively Rnying ma pa.
ble union of primordial purity and spontaneous pres-
ence. . . .So it is that the objects adhered to in the
Maha¯yoga (“Great Yoga”) emphasizes the creative visu-
su¯tras and in the inner and outer mantras, up to and in-
alization of the divine man:d:ala and the elaborate rites, in-
cluding Anuyoga, are all merely tenets grasped by the
cluding collective feast assemblies (tshogs ’khor; Skt.
intellect. For this reason, [the Great Perfection] clearly
gan:acakra) and ritual dance-drama (’cham), that are associat-
teaches the particular ways whereby one falls into the
ed with it. The feast assembly, in particular, plays an impor-
error of not seeing the original abiding nature of reality
tant role in Rnying ma pa ritual life, and in most communi-
just as it is. The pristine cognition of the Great Perfec-
ties, whether monastic or lay, assemblies are held on the
tion transcends the eight aggregates of consciousness,
tenth day of the lunar month, consecrated to the guru (i.e.,
including thought and speech, cause and result. It is
that great freedom from elaboration, in which all mind
Padmasambhava), and on the twenty-fifth, consecrated to
and mental events attain to peace in the expanse of real-
the D:a¯kin¯ı (Tib., Mkha’ ’gro ma), the goddess embodying
ity. Because the naturally emergent reality of awareness,
enlightenment. As a subject of study and reflection, the focal
free from activity, the natural disposition of the great
point of the Maha¯yoga is the Guhyagarbha Tantra, which has
transcendence of intellect, itself abides in its self-
generated an enormous commentarial literature.
possession and is otherwise uncontrived, the appearance
of its expressive power as ephemeral taint passes away,
Anuyoga (“Subsequent Yoga”) is explained generally as
naturally dissolving into the natural expanse. For these
emphasizing the internal manipulation of the energies (rlung;
reasons, this way is particularly superior to all of the
Skt., va¯yu) and seminal essences (thig le; Skt., bindu) that
lower philosophical and spiritual systems.
flow through the channels (rtsa; Skt., na¯d:¯ı) of the subtle
The adepts who have mastered this path, realizing its highest
body. However, it is at the same time a complete system,
goals in the progressive disclosure of visions emerging from
which in its most elaborate forms embraces the entire teach-
the revelation of the innermost nature of mind, are believed
ing of the nine vehicles. In this respect, it is primarily associ-
to transcend the boundaries of ordinary human mortality,
ated with a vast Tantric compendium, the Mdo dgongs pa ’dus
and so pass away by vanishing into light in the attainment
pa (The su¯tra that gathers the [Buddha’s] intentions), said
of a rainbow body (’ja’ lus).
to have been translated into Tibetan from the Burushaski
language during the tenth century. It is possible that this
SEE ALSO Buddhism, article on Buddhism in Tibet; Bud-
work reflects developments in the S´aiva traditions of Kash-
dhism, Schools of, article on Tibetan and Mongolian Bud-
mir during the period of its composition.
The highest pinnacle among the nine vehicles is the Ati-
yoga (“Highest Yoga”), or Rdzogs chen (Great Perfection).
Achard, Jean-Luc. L’essence perlée du secret: Recherches philologiques
Kong sprul explains it as follows:
et historiques sur l’origine de la Grande Perfection dans la tradi-
“Great Perfection” is derived from the term maha¯-
tion rNying ma pa. Turnhout, Belgium, 1999. On the devel-
sandhi: it is “great concentration,” [maha¯sama¯dhi], or
opment of the Great Perfection during the early second mil-
“great absorption” [maha¯dhya¯na]. It therefore has the
significance of “unsurpassed pristine cognition,” in
Blezer, Henk. Kar gliæ z´i khro: A Tantric Buddhist Concept. Lei-
which all the phenomena of sam:sa¯ra and nirva¯n:a natu-
den, 1997. Study of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
rally arise in the expanse of the unique abiding nature
Boord, Martin J. The Cult of the Deity Vajrak¯ıla. Tring, U.K.,
of reality, surpassing the intellectualized doctrinal sys-
1993. On the “vajra-spike,” a principle divinity of the Rny-
tems of the eight lower vehicles. . . .The Great Perfec-
ing ma pa tradition.
tion has three classes according to their relative degrees
Cuevas, Bryan J. The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the
of profundity whereby the naturally emergent pristine
Dead. New York, 2003. On the spread and reception in
cognition itself functions as the path. Among them, the
Tibet of the famous book.
exoteric Mental Class [sems sde] is liberated from the ex-
treme of renunciation, for one has realized that all phe-
Dudjom Rinpoche, Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje. The Nyingma School of
nomena have transcended causal and conditional effort
Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History. Translated
and attainment in the play of mind-as-such
by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein. 2 vols. Boston,
alone. . . .The esoteric Spatial Class [klong sde], free
1991. Compendium of Rnying ma pa historical and doctri-
from activity, is liberated from the extreme of antidotes,
nal traditions.
for one has realized that, because all phenomenal mani-
Ehrhard, Franz-Karl. “Flügelschäge des Garud:a”: Literar- und id-
festations neither arrive in nor depart from the space of
eengeschichtliche Bemerkungen zu einer Liedersammlung des
Omnibeneficent Mother [Kun tu bzang mo], there is
rDzogs chen. Stuttgart, Germany, 1990. Study and transla-
no getting away from the expanse of the naturally pres-
tion of a popular Great Perfection manual by Zhabs dkar, a
ent three bodies [sku gsum; Skt., trika¯ya]. . . .The se-
major nineteenth-century master.
cret and profound esoteric Instructional Class [man
Germano, David. “Architecture and Absence in the Secret Tantric
ngag sde] is free from the extremes of both renunciation
History of rDzogs Chen.” Journal of the International Associa-
and antidote, for one has realized that particularly char-
tion for Buddhist Studies 17, no. 2 (1994): 203–335. On the
acterized mode of being wherein the significance of all
evolution of the Great Perfection systems of teaching.
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

Guenther, Herbert V. Kindly Bent to Ease Us: From the Trilogy of
tion (1900), prepared by Fritz Scholl, contains as an appen-
Finding Comfort and Ease. 3 vols. Emeryville, Calif., 1975–
dix an address given by Rohde in 1875, in which he suggests
1976. Translation of Klong chen pa’s Trilogy of Rest.
the desirability of further study of the book’s tentative thesis:
Gyatso, Janet. Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of
that the animal fables and many other tales from India and
a Tibetan Visionary. Princeton, 1998. Study of ’Jigs med
other parts of Asia originated in Greece and, much later,
gling pa’s autobiographies, and of the Rnying ma pa tradi-
found their way back to the West, where speculations about
tion of “treasures.”
their Asian origin began. A third edition of this work was
Kapstein, Matthew T. The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Con-
published in 1914, prepared by Wilhelm Schmidt, and a
version, Contestation, and Memory. New York, 2000. In-
fourth was released in 1961, reflecting an ongoing interest
cludes studies of some key Rnying ma pa myths.
in the study.
Kapstein, Matthew T. “The Strange Death of Pema the Demon-
Tamer.” In The Presence of Light: Divine Radiance and Reli-
Rohde’s name, however, is associated primarily with
gious Experience, edited by Matthew T. Kapstein. Chicago,
Psyche, Seelencult und Unsterblichkeitsglaube der Griechen
2004. On the “rainbow body.”
(1890–1894). In 1897 the author completed his prepara-
Karmay, Samten Gyaltsen. The Great Perfection: A Philosophical
tions for the second edition of this work, which went
and Meditative Teaching of Tibetan Buddhism. Leiden and
through several later editions and was translated into English
New York, 1988. Provides the early documents of the Great
as Psyche: The Cult of Souls and Belief in Immortality among
Perfection as known from Dunhuang.
the Greeks (1925). The author stresses that the cult of the
Karmay, Samten Gyaltsen. Secret Visions of the Fifth Dalai Lama:
souls, discussed in part 1 of the book, is a notion clearly dis-
The Gold Manuscript in the Fournier Collection. London,
tinct from and to some extent in contrast with belief in im-
1988. The revealed treasures of the fifth Dalai Lama.
mortality, to which the second part is devoted. The most suc-
Kohn, Richard. Lord of the Dance: The Mani Rimdu Festival in
cinct formulation of this distinction is found in chapter 8:
Nepal and Tibet. Albany, N.Y., 2001. Detailed documenta-
“The continued life of the soul, such as was implied in and
tion of a major Rnying ma pa ritual dance-drama.
guaranteed by the cult of souls, was entirely bound up with
the remembrance of the survivors upon earth, and upon the
Padmakara Translation Committee. The Words of My Perfect
Teacher. San Francisco, 1994; 2d ed., Boston, 1998. Lucid
care, the cult, which they might offer to the soul of their de-
translation of the most widely studied introductory manual
parted ancestors.” Belief in the immortality of the soul, in
of Rnying ma pa practice.
contrast, sees the soul as “in its essential nature like God,”
Pettit, John. Mipham’s Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View
a notion in radical conflict with “the first principle of the
of Dzogehen, the Great Perfection. Boston, 1999. On Mi
Greek people,” namely that of an absolute gulf between hu-
pham’s approach to Madhyamaka philosophy.
manity and divinity (pp. 253–254).
Ricard, Matthieu, et al., trans. The Life of Shabkar: The Autobiog-
Tracing the belief in the divinity and immortality of the
raphy of a Tibetan Yogin. Albany, N.Y., 1994. Memoirs of
soul back to its Thracian context, Rohde elaborates his thesis
a leading nineteenth-century Rnying ma pa master.
of the formative impact on Greek life and thought of, on the
Thondup Rinpoche, Tulku. Hidden Teachings of Tibet: An Expla-
one hand, the religion of paramount gods of the Homeric
nation of the Terma Tradition of the Nyingma School of Bud-
poems and, on the other hand, the worship of Dionysos, a
dhism, edited by Harold Talbott. London, 1986. A Rnying
Thracian deity whose cult was “thoroughly orgiastic in na-
ma pa view of the “treasure” traditions.
ture.” These two forces explain the two opposing features of
Williams, Paul. The Reflexive Nature of Awareness: A Tibetan Mad-
the Greeks, an “extravagance of emotion combined with a
hyamaka Defence. Surrey, U.K., 1998. Focuses on Mi pham’s
fast-bound and regulated equilibrium.” (p. 255). His de-
reflections on reflexivity.
scription of “the awe-inspiring darkness of the night, the
music of the Phrygian flute . . . , the vertiginous whirl of
the dance,” which could lead people to a state of possessed-
ness, conveys vividly his own vision of the cult. “Hellenized
and humanized,” the Thracian Dionysos found his place be-
side the other Olympian gods, and continued to inspire, not
least in the field of the arts: “the drama, that supreme
achievement of Greek poetry, arose out of the choruses of
ROHDE, ERWIN (1845–1898) was German philolo-
the Dionysiac festival” (p. 285).
gist. Rohde served as professor of classical philology at several
Much of Rohde’s language has been adopted by later re-
universities; appointed to a chair at Kiel in 1872, he moved
searchers. At the scholarly level, his thesis of the Dionysian
to Jena four years later and to Tübingen in 1878, followed
origin of the Greek belief in immortality is now widely re-
by a very short stay in Leipzig in 1886, from where he went
jected, following the criticism of, among others, Martin P.
to Heidelberg.
Nilsson, and his interpretation of psuche was largely aban-
Rohde’s major study on the Greek novel, Der griechische
doned after Walter F. Otto’s study of 1923. But whatever
Roman und seine Vorläufer, appeared in 1876. Its second edi-
criticisms have been raised, there is still widespread agree-
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

ment that Rohde’s Psyche is one of the most significant books
books and papers having their primary focus on religion,
in the field because of its remarkable erudition, the clarity
magic, and folklore.
of its methodology, and the tremendous impact it has had
in circles beyond those professionally engaged in the study
In 1925 Róheim published Australian Totemism, a large
of the classical Greek world. The work is in its own right a
volume that scoured the ethnographic literature on Austra-
“classical” expression of the belief in “the imperishable spirit
lian Aborigines for evidence to support and extend Freud’s
of Hellas.”
primal horde theory of the origins of religion and morality,
put forward in Totem and Taboo (1913). Like Freud, Ró-
heim understood Australian Aborigines to be “stone age sav-
In addition to works cited in the text of the article, Rohde’s Kleine
ages” and thus a suitable testing ground for an evolutionist
Schriften, 2 vols. (Tübingen, 1901), bears mention. Bio-
explanation of totemism as the primal religious form. Hence
graphical resources on Rohde include Otto Crusius’s Ein bio-
Australian Totemism followed Freud’s lead in being a form
graphischer Versuch (Tübingen, 1902) and Friedrich Nietz-
of psychohistory, taking the vast array of Aboriginal myths,
sche’s posthumously published Friedrich Nietzsches
rituals, and related phenomena to be so many complex sym-
Briefwechsel mit Erwin Rohde, edited by Elizabeth Forster-
bolic transformations that, through analysis, could be used
Nietzsche and Fritz Scholl (Leipzig, 1923).
to reconstruct the prehistoric transition from nature to cul-
New Sources
ture. It fundamentally confirmed Freud’s idea that totemism,
Cancik, Hubert. “Erwin Rohde—ein Philologe der Bismarckzeit.”
as the primal religion, took a properly human form through
In Semper Apertus, Sechshundert Jahre Ruprecht-Karl-
the projection of “the father” into totemic species but also
Universität Heidelberg, edited by Wilhelm Doerr, vol. 2,
suggested that it had a prior, protohuman form that re-
pp. 436–505. Berlin, 1985.
lied on the projection of maternal symbolism into the envi-
Hofmiller, Josef. “Nietzsche und Rohde.” In Versuche. Munich,
Seillière, Ernest. Nietzsches Waffenbruder Erwin Rohde. Berlin,
Róheim’s appreciation of “primitive” life and religion
altered somewhat as a result of his fieldwork experiences. Be-
Vogt-Spira, Gregor. “Erwin Rohdes Psyche: eine verpaßte Chance
tween 1932 and the end of his life he produced a number
der Altertumswissenschaften?” In Mehr Dionysos als Apoll.
of works that were ethnographically rich and theoretically in-
Antiklassizistische Antike-Rezeption um 1900, edited by
novative. In particular he began to pay less attention to
Achim Aurnhammer and Thomas Pittrof, pp. 159–180.
Freud’s primal horde story and more openly interrogated its
Frankfurt am Main, 2002.
assumption that phylogenetic memory underlay the symbol-
ic resolution of the Oedipus complex. While he never gave
Revised Bibliography
up his interest in psychohistory, Róheim devoted much of
his attention to functionalist explanations, formulating what
he called “the ontogenetic interpretation of culture.” He ar-
gued that human societies differed culturally to the extent
Géza Róheim (1891–1953) was
that they had evolved different “type traumata” giving rise
born in Budapest and died in New York City. He immigrat-
to peculiarly distinctive adult character types (later known
ed to the United States from Hungary in 1938. Of Jewish
as “modal personalities”), together with systemically repro-
descent, he was the only child of prosperous bourgeois par-
ents. At an early age he developed an abiding interest in folk-
duced forms of defense mechanism and sublimation.
lore, and he later chose to study ethnology in Leipzig and
Whereas this theory was an account of culture in gener-
Berlin. It was during his time in Germany that he discovered
al, a specific interpretation of religion lay within its ambit.
the works of Sigmund Freud and his followers, which he em-
The totemic gods of Aboriginal Australia, for example, were
braced with great enthusiasm. Róheim is mainly remem-
said to have their origins in the demonic projections that
bered as a pioneer of psychoanalytic anthropology.
arise in children as a result of anxieties prompted by the pri-
In 1915 and 1916 Róheim was analyzed by his compa-
mal scene, demons being “bad” parents projected into the
triot and a member of Freud’s inner circle, Sándor Ferenczi.
environment in the name of ego integrity. But these very de-
With his wife Ilonka Róheim, he undertook fieldwork in var-
mons are the basis of totemic religion, in the sense that they
ious locations around the world between 1928 and 1931, in-
are transformed into authentic gods (totemic heroes) in the
cluding Somaliland, Normanby Island (now part of Papua
passage into adult life. Initiation into the male cult reverses
New Guinea), and Arizona. However, Róheim’s most signif-
the earlier trends of ego protection and fosters development
icant ethnographic work was done with Arrernte, Luritja,
of the superego. Concomitantly the demons that once gave
and Pitjantjatjara Aborigines in central Australia, where he
rise to anxiety are transmuted, introjected, and dutifully re-
stayed for nine months in 1929. Róheim was the first proper-
vered as ancestral protectors of the law. Róheim believed that
ly psychoanalytically trained ethnographer and the first an-
the religious emblems of this law (sacred objects representing
thropologist to apply rigorous Freudian methods in his re-
the ancestors) took symbolic forms organically related to the
search and writing. He was a prolific writer, with his many
demonic projections of childhood.
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

Róheim never wavered in his allegiance to Freud and
The main post-fieldwork update of Róheim’s original views
rarely explicitly challenged any of the fundamentals of the
on Australian totemism.
primal horde theory of religious origins. Even as he rejected
Róheim, Géza. The Gates of the Dream. New York, 1952. Consid-
the Freudian idea of a “group mind,” his originality lay more
ers the role of dreaming and regression in connection with
in the manner in which he extended the insights of Totem
animism, shamanism, folklore, and mythology.
and Taboo and brought new emphases to bear on its scope.
Róheim, Géza. The Panic of the Gods and Other Essays. Edited by
Like Freud, Róheim believed that religion had its origins in
Werner Muensterberger. New York, 1972. A collection of
ancestor worship and that the psychoanalytic problem of
papers from the Psychoanalytic Quarterly on religion. Also in-
“the father” was central to the symbolic creation of deities.
cludes an introductory essay by the editor reappraising Ró-
Also like Freud, he understood the deification of ancestors
heim’s theory of the origins of religion.
to be symptomatic of the very process of cultural transmis-
Róheim, Géza. Children of the Desert, vol. 1: The Western Tribes
sion itself. But unlike Freud, Róheim maintained an abiding
of Central Australia. Edited by Werner Muensterberger. New
interest in pre-oedipal development and hence with the
York, 1974. First part of a major ethnographic manuscript
problem of “the mother.” His genius lay in giving due atten-
prepared before Róheim’s death. Carries an introductory
tion to feminine principles in the origin and function of reli-
essay by the editor on Róheim’s pioneering fieldwork.
gion and wedding this broader psychoanalytic program to an
Róheim, Géza. Children of the Desert, vol. 2: Myths and Dreams
up-to-date anthropological methodology based on fieldwork
of the Aborigines of Central Australia. Edited by John Morton
and cultural relativism. Freud never directly encountered
and Werner Muensterberger. Sydney, Australia, 1988. Sec-
“primitive religion,” but Róheim witnessed it in the flesh.
ond part of a major ethnographic manuscript prepared
This may be one reason why Róheim was not, like his mas-
before Róheim’s death. Carries an introductory essay by
John Morton on Róheim’s contribution to Australian
ter, quick to patronize “the primitive” or dismiss religion per
se as a neurotic illusion.
Voigt, Vilmos, ed. “Psychoanalytic Studies in Honor of Géza Ró-
SEE ALSO Australian Indigenous Religions; Psychology, arti-
heim.” Acta Ethnographica Hungarica 38, nos. 1–3 (1993):
cle on Psychotherapy and Religion; Totemism.
1–67. A collection of essays in English and French about or
inspired by Róheim’s work.
Dadoun, Roger. Géza Róheim et l’essor de l’anthropologie psychana-
lytique. Paris, 1972. A non-Hungarian book exclusively
about Róheim’s life and work.
Róheim, Géza. Australian Totemism: A Psycho-Analytic Study in
Anthropology. London, 1925. Róheim’s first major anthropo-
TION]. The first question in defining the scope of Roman
logical study. An encyclopedic account of the Australian eth-
Catholicism has to do with the term itself. There are Catho-
nographic literature confirming Freud’s psychohistory of the
lics who object to the adjective Roman because the communi-
primal horde. Also develops a sequence of phases in Aborigi-
ty encompassed by the designation “Roman Catholicism” in-
nal religious development.
cludes those who do not regard themselves as Roman. These
Róheim, Géza. Animism, Magic, and the Divine King. London,
are the so-called Uniate Catholics, the name given to former
1930. A psychoanalytic meditation on anthropological ques-
Eastern Christian or Orthodox churches that have been re-
tions originally framed by Edward Burnett Tylor and James
ceived under the jurisdiction of the church of Rome and re-
tain their own ritual, practice, and canon law. They are the
Róheim, Géza. “Psycho-Analysis of Primitive Cultural Types.” In-
Melchite Catholics, the Maronites, the Ruthenians, the
ternational Journal of Psycho-Analysis 13, nos. 1–2 (1932): 1–
Copts, and the Malabars, among which there are six liturgi-
224. Róheim’s main published field report covering his find-
cal rites: Chaldean, Syrian, Maronite, Coptic, Armenian, and
ings from Australia, Normanby Island, and Somaliland. In-
cludes a chapter on totemic ritual in central Australia.
Róheim, Géza. The Riddle of the Sphinx; or, Human Origins.
There are, on the other hand, Christians who consider
Translated by R. Money-Kyrle. London, 1934; reprint, New
themselves Catholic but who do not accept the primatial au-
York, 1974. Róheim’s first major post-fieldwork book. Dis-
thority of the bishop of Rome. This group insists that the
cusses the idea of “the primal religion” in relation to central
churches in communion with the see of Rome should call
Australian totemism and interprets the material in terms of
themselves Roman Catholic to distinguish them from those
“the ontogenetic interpretation of culture.” Reprint includes
Catholic churches (Anglican, Orthodox, Oriental, and some
an introductory essay, “Róheim and the Beginnings of Psy-
Protestant) not in communion with Rome. For some Protes-
choanalytic Anthropology,” by Werner Muensterberger and
tants in this group, the Roman Catholic church did not
Christopher Nichols.
begin as a church until the time of the Reformation. Indeed,
Róheim, Géza. The Origin and Function of Culture. New York,
in their eyes, Roman Catholicism is no less a denomination
1943. The most succinct summation of Róheim’s mature
than Presbyterianism or Methodism, for example.
theoretical position.
Róheim, Géza. The Eternal Ones of the Dream: A Psychoanalytic In-
Protestantism is usually defined negatively, as the form
terpretation of Australian Myth and Ritual. New York, 1945.
of Western Christianity that rejects obedience to the Roman
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

papacy. But this definition encounters the same difficulty de-
munal dimension of salvation and of every religious relation-
scribed above. There are also non-Roman Christians who re-
ship with God, because God has created us a people, because
ject the papacy but who consider themselves Catholic rather
we have fallen as a people, because we have been redeemed
than Protestant. For that reason alone it would be inadequate
as a people, and because we are destined for eternal glory as
to define Catholicism by its adherence to papal authority.
a people.
Roman Catholicism refers both to a church (or, more
The very word catholic means “universal.” What is most
accurately, a college of churches that together constitute the
directly opposed to Catholicism, therefore, is not Protestant-
universal Catholic church) and to a tradition. If one under-
ism (which, in any case, has many Catholic elements within
stands the body of Christ as the whole collectivity of Chris-
it) but sectarianism, the movement within Christianity that
tian churches, then the Roman Catholic church is a church
holds that the church is a community of true believers, a pre-
within the universal church. And if one understands Chris-
cinct of righteousness within and over against the unre-
tian tradition to embrace the full range and pluralism of doc-
deemed world of sin, pronouncing judgment upon it and
trinal, liturgical, theological, canonical, and spiritual tradi-
calling it to repentance but never entering into dialogue with
tions, then the Roman Catholic tradition is a tradition
it, much less collaboration on matters of common social, po-
within the one Christian tradition. For Roman Catholicism,
litical, or religious concern. For the sectarian, dialogue and
however, the Catholic church and the Catholic tradition are
collaboration are invitations to compromise.
normative for other Christian churches and traditions (as ex-
The contrast between Catholicism and sectarianism is
pressed in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, no.
nowhere more sharply defined than in their respective ap-
14, issued by the Second Vatican Council).
proaches to the so-called social question. Catholic social doc-
As a church, Roman Catholicism exists at both the local
trine acknowledges the presence and power of sin in the
level and the universal level. In the canon law of the Roman
world, but insists that grace is stronger. Catholic social doc-
Catholic church, the term “local church” (more often ren-
trine underlines the doctrines of creation, providence, the in-
dered as “particular church”) applies primarily to a diocese
carnation, redemption, and sanctification through the Holy
and secondarily to a parish. The term “local church” has a
Spirit. Christians are called to collaborate with God in
wider meaning in Catholic theology than in canon law. It
Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring the
may apply to provinces (regional clusters of dioceses within
entire fallen and redeemed world to the perfection of the
a country) and to national churches (all the dioceses within
kingdom of God, “a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness
a country), as well as to parishes and individual dioceses. A
and grace, of justice, love and peace” (Vatican Council II,
diocese is a local church constituted by a union, or college,
Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,
of other local churches known as parishes. Each diocese is
no. 39).
presided over by a bishop, and each parish by a pastor. The
HISTORY. What are the origins of Roman Catholicism?
universal Roman Catholic church, on the other hand, is con-
What events and personalities have shaped it? How is it pres-
stituted by a union, or college, of all the local Catholic
ently being transformed?
churches throughout the world. There are more than one-
Peter and the Petrine ministry. If one insists that
half billion Catholics worldwide, by far the largest body of
Roman Catholicism is not a denomination within Christian-
Christians. Apart from other important doctrinal, liturgical,
ity but is its original expression, one faces at the outset the
theological, canonical, and spiritual links, what holds these
historical fact that the earliest community of disciples gath-
various churches and individual members in solidarity is the
ered in Jerusalem and therefore was Palestinian rather than
bond each has with the diocese of Rome and with its bishop,
Roman. Indeed, the see, or diocese, of Rome did not exist
the pope.
at the very beginning, nor did the Roman primacy.
As a tradition Roman Catholicism is marked by several
If, on the other hand, one holds that the adjective
different doctrinal and theological emphases. These are its
Roman obscures rather than defines the reality of Catholi-
radically positive estimation of the created order, because ev-
cism, Catholicism does begin at the beginning, that is, with
erything comes from the hand of God, is providentially sus-
Jesus’ gathering of his disciples and with his eventual com-
tained by God, and is continually transformed and elevated
missioning, probably following the resurrection, of Peter to
by God’s active presence within it; its concern for history,
be the chief shepherd and foundation of the church. There-
because God acts within history and is continually revealed
fore, it is not the Roman primacy that gives Catholicism its
through it; its respect for rationality, because faith must be
distinctive identity within the community of Christian
consonant with reason and reason itself, fallen and re-
churches but the Petrine primacy.
deemed, is a gift of God; its stress on mediation, because
God, who is at once the First Cause and totally spiritual, can
Peter is listed first among the Twelve (Mk. 3:16–19, Mt.
have an effect on us only by working through secondary
10:1–4, Lk. 6:12–16) and is frequently their spokesman
causes and material instruments, for example, the humanity
(Mk. 8:29, Mt. 18:21, Lk. 12:41, Jn. 6:67–69); he is the first
of Jesus Christ, the church, the sacraments, the things of the
apostolic witness of the risen Christ (1 Cor. 15:5, Lk. 24:34);
earth, other people; and, finally, its affirmation of the com-
he is prominent in the original Jerusalem community and is
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

well known to many other churches (Acts 1:15–26, 2:14–40,
In the controversy with Gnosticism, defenders of ortho-
3:1–26, 4:8, 5:1–11, 5:29, 8:18–25, 9:32–43, 10:5, 12:17,
doxy appealed to the faith of sees (local churches) founded
1 Pt. 2:11, 5:13). Peter’s activities after the council of Jerusa-
by the apostles, and especially to the faith of the Roman
lem are not reported, but there is increasing agreement that
church, which was so clearly associated with Peter and Paul.
he did go to Rome and was martyred there. Whether he actu-
During the first five centuries, the church of Rome gradually
ally served the church of Rome as bishop cannot be known
assumed preeminence among all the churches. It intervened
with certainty from the evidence at hand.
in the life of distant churches, took sides in theological con-
troversies, was consulted by other bishops on doctrinal and
For the Catholic tradition, the classic primacy texts are
moral questions, and sent delegates to distant councils. The
Matthew 16:13–19, Luke 22:31–32, and John 21:15–19.
see of Rome came to be regarded as a kind of final court of
The fact that Jesus’ naming of Peter as the Rock occurs in
appeal as well as a focus of unity for the worldwide commu-
different contexts in these three gospels does raise a question
nion of churches. The correlation between Peter and the
about the original setting of the incident. Did it occur before
bishop of Rome became fully explicit during the pontificate
the resurrection, or was it a postresurrection event, subse-
of Leo I (440–461), who claimed that Peter continued to
quently “retrojected” into the accounts of Jesus’ earthly min-
speak to the whole church through the bishop of Rome.
istry? In any case, the conferral of the power of the keys clear-
ly suggests an imposing measure of authority, given the
Constantine and Constantinian Catholicism. One of
symbolism of the keys as instruments for opening and shut-
the major events during this early period was the conversion
ting the gates of the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand,
of the Roman emperor Constantine I (306–337) in the year
special authority over others is not clearly attested, and in-
312. Constantine subsequently pursued a vigorous campaign
deed Peter is presented in the Acts of the Apostles as consulting
against pagan practices and lavished money and monuments
with the other apostles and even being sent by them (8:14),
upon the church. Roman law was modified to reflect Chris-
and he and John act almost as a team (3:1–11, 4:1–22, 8:14).
tian values more faithfully, and the clergy were accorded
privileged status. For some, the conversion of Constantine
But there seems to be a trajectory of images relating to
provided the church with extraordinary opportunities for
Peter and his ministry that sets him apart within the original
proclaiming the gospel to all nations and for bringing neces-
company of disciples and explains his ascendancy and that
sary order into the church’s doctrinal and liturgical life. It
of his successors throughout the early history of the church.
also allowed the church to be less defensive about pagan cul-
He is portrayed as the fisherman (Lk. 5:10, Jn. 21:1–14), as
ture and to learn from it and be enriched by it. For others,
the shepherd of the sheep of Christ (Jn. 21:15–17), as an
however, the event marked a dangerous turning point in the
elder who addresses other elders (1 Pt. 5:1), as proclaimer of
history of the church. For the first time, the church enjoyed
faith in Jesus, the Son of God (Mt. 16:16–17), as receiver
a favored place in society. Christian commitment would no
of a special revelation (Acts 1:9–16), as one who can correct
others for doctrinal misunderstanding (2 Pt. 3:15–16), and
longer be tested by persecution, much less by death. The
as the rock on which the church is to be built (Mt. 16:18).
community of disciples was on the verge of being swallowed
up by the secular, and therefore anti-Christian, values of the
The question to be posed on the basis of recent investi-
state and the society, which now embraced the church. In-
gations of the New Testament is therefore whether the subse-
deed, there is no word of greater opprobrium laid upon
quent, postbiblical development of the Petrine office is con-
Catholic Christians by sectarian Christians than “Constan-
sistent with the thrust of the New Testament. The Catholic
church says “Yes.” Some other Christian churches are begin-
Monasticism. The first protest against Constantinian-
ning to say “Perhaps.”
ism, however, came not from sectarians but from Catholic
The biblical images concerning Peter continued in the
monks. The new monastic movement had an almost imme-
life of the early church and were enriched by additional ones:
diate impact upon the church. Bishops were recruited from
missionary preacher, great visionary, destroyer of heretics, re-
among those with some monastic training. For example,
ceiver of the new law, gatekeeper of heaven, helmsman of the
Athanasius (d. 373) was a disciple of Antony of Egypt
ship of the church, co-teacher and co-martyr with Paul. By
(d. 355), generally regarded as the founder of monasticism.
the latter half of the second century, the church had accom-
One historian has argued that the strong missionary impetus,
modated itself to the culture of the Greco-Roman world,
the remarkable development of pastoral care, the effort to
particularly the organizational and administrative patterns
christianize the Roman state, and above all the theological
that prevailed in areas of its missionary activity. Accordingly,
work of the great councils of the fourth and fifth centuries
the church adopted the organizational grid of the Roman
would have been inconceivable without monasticism. On
empire: localities, dioceses, provinces. It also identified its
the other hand, when monks were appointed bishops they
own center with that of the empire, Rome. Moreover, there
tended to bring with them some of their monastic mores,
was attached to this city the tradition that Peter had founded
particularly celibacy and a certain reserve toward ordinary
the church there and that he and Paul were martyred and
human experiences. As a result, there developed a separation
buried there.
between pastoral leaders and the laity, based not only upon
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

the exercise of power and jurisdiction but also upon a diversi-
Structure and law. By the beginning of the fifth centu-
ty in spiritualities.
ry, German tribes began migrating through Europe without
Imported into the West from the East, monasticism
effective control. This movement has been called, somewhat
reached its high point in the middle of the sixth century with
inaccurately, the barbarian invasions. It was to last some six
the founding of Monte Cassino by Benedict of Nursia
hundred years and was to change the institutional character
(d. 547). Monks were directly involved in the missionary ex-
of Catholicism from a largely Greco-Roman religion to a
pansion of the church in Ireland, Scotland, Gaul, and En-
broader European religion. The strongly militaristic and feu-
gland between the fifth and the seventh century. This mis-
dal character of Germanic culture influenced Catholic devo-
sionary enterprise was so successful that, in the eighth
tion, spirituality, and organizational structure. Christ was
century, English missionaries had a prominent role in evan-
portrayed as the most powerful of kings. The place of wor-
gelizing the more pagan parts of Europe.
ship was described as God’s fortress. Monks were perceived
as warriors of Christ. The profession of faith was understood
In spite of its simple purposes of work and prayer, West-
as an oath of fidelity to a kind of feudal lord. Church office
ern monasticism would serve as the principal carrier of West-
became more political than pastoral. Eventually a dispute
ern civilization during the Middle Ages. No other movement
arose about the appointment of such officers. Should they
or institution had such social or intellectual influence. With
be appointed by the church or by the state? This led to the
the restoration of some political stability to Europe by the
so-called investiture struggle, which was resolved in favor of
middle of the eleventh century, monks tended to withdraw
the church through the leadership of Gregory VII (d. 1085).
from temporal and ecclesiastical affairs to return to their
monasteries, and a renewal of monasticism followed. The
When, at the beginning of the eighth century, the East-
foundings of the Franciscans, Dominicans, Cistercians, and
ern emperor proved incapable of aiding the papacy against
Jesuits were among the major effects of this renewal, as were
the Lombards in northern Italy, the pope turned for help to
the rich theological and spiritual writings that emerged from
the Franks. This new alliance led eventually to the creation
these communities by, for example, Thomas Aquinas
of the Holy Roman Empire, climaxed in 800 with the
(d. 1274) and Bonaventure (d. 1274).
crowning of Charlemagne (d. 814). The line between church
Doctrinal controversies. At the heart of the Catholic
and state, already blurred by Constantine’s Edict of Milan
faith, as at the heart of every orthodox expression of Chris-
some five hundred years earlier, was now practically erased.
tian faith, is Jesus Christ. In the fourth and fifth centuries
When the Carolingian empire collapsed, however, the papa-
there was a preoccupation with dogmatic controversies about
cy was left at the mercy of an essentially corrupt Roman no-
the relationship between the one God, the creator of all
bility. The tenth and part of the eleventh centuries were its
things, and Jesus Christ, the Son of God and redeemer of
dark ages. Only with the reform of Gregory VII was the pa-
humankind, and then about the relationship of the Holy
pacy’s luster restored. Gregory attacked three major abuses:
Spirit to both. Arianism (Christ was only a creature, greater
simony (the selling of spiritual goods), the alienation of
than humans but less than God) was opposed by the Council
church property (allowing it to pass from ecclesiastical hands
of Nicaea (325); Apollinarianism (Christ had no human
to private hands), and lay investiture (granting the power of
soul), by the First Council of Constantinople (381); Nestori-
church appointment to secular authorities). Papal prestige
anism (the man Jesus was separate from the divine Word, or
was even more firmly enhanced during the pontificate of In-
Logos; the two were not united in one person), by the Coun-
nocent III (1198–1216), who fully exploited the Gregorian
cil of Ephesus (431); and monophysitism (Christ’s human
teaching that the pope has supreme, even absolute, power
nature was completely absorbed by the one divine person),
over the whole church.
by the Council of Chalcedon (451). Jesus is at once divine
Canon law was codified to support the new network of
and human. The divine and the human are united in one
papal authority. The church became increasingly legalistic in
person, “without confusion or change, without division or
its theology, moral life, and administration of the sacra-
separation” (the definition of the Council of Chalcedon).
ments, especially marriage, which was regarded more as a
This stress on theological and doctrinal balance has been an
contract than as a covenant based on mutual love. By the
abiding feature of the Catholic tradition.
middle of the thirteenth century the classical papal-
The same balance was preserved in the great Western
hierarchical concept of the church had been securely estab-
debate about nature and grace. Pelagianism had argued that
lished. Newly elected popes were crowned like emperors, a
salvation is achieved through human effort alone. Augustine
practice observed for centuries until suddenly discontinued
of Hippo (d. 430) insisted on the priority of grace, without
by John Paul I (d. 1978). Emphasis on the juridical aspects
prejudice to human responsibility. Indeed, the church would
of the church did not subside until the Second Vatican
later condemn quietism, Pelagianism’s opposite, in the con-
Council (1962–1965), which declared that the church is first
stitution Caelestis pastor of Innocent XI (d. 1689). Moral ef-
and foremost the people of God and a mystery (i. e., a reality
fort is essential to the spiritual life, although such effort is al-
imbued with the hidden presence of God) before it is a hier-
ways prompted and sustained by grace. Grace, in turn, builds
archical institution. Indeed, that principle must be kept firm-
on nature, as the Scholastics would put it.
ly in mind, lest this historical overview be read only from the
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top down. The story of the Catholic church always remains
The Council of Trent and post-Tridentine Catholi-
the story of Catholic people.
cism. The Catholic response was belated but vigorous.
Divisions in the church. Through a series of unfortu-
Known as the Counter-Reformation, it began at the Council
nate and complicated political and diplomatic maneuvers,
of Trent (1545–1563) and was conducted especially under
the historical bond between the church of Rome and the
the leadership of Paul III (1534–1549). The council, which
church of Constantinople came apart. In 1054 the patriarch
was perhaps the single most important factor in the shaping
of Constantinople, Michael Cerularios (d. 1058), was ex-
of Catholicism from the time of the Reformation until the
communicated by papal legates, but it was the Fourth Cru-
Second Vatican Council, a period of some four centuries, ar-
sade (1202–1204) and the sack of Constantinople by West-
ticulated Catholic doctrine on nature and grace, following
ern knights that dealt the crucial blow to East-West unity.
a middle course concerning doctrines of salvation between
Pelagianism, which emphasizes human effort, and Protes-
By the beginning of the fourteenth century, other events
tantism, which emphasizes God’s initiative. The council also
had introduced a period of further disintegration, reaching
defined the seven sacraments, created the Index of Forbidden
a climax in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth cen-
Books, and established seminaries for the education and for-
tury. First, there was the confrontation between Boniface
mation of future priests. At the heart of the Catholic Count-
VIII (d. 1303) and Philip the Fair (d. 1314) over the latter’s
er-Reformation was the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the strong-
power to tax the church. The pope issued two bulls asserting
est single force in helping the church regain its lost initiative
his own final authority: Clericis laicos (1296) and Unam sanc-
on the missionary, educational, and pastoral fronts.
tam (1302), the latter having been described as the most
theocratic doctrine ever formulated. But Philip arrested Bon-
By and large, the post-Tridentine Catholic church con-
iface, and the pope died a prisoner.
tinued to emphasize those doctrines, devotions, and institu-
tions that were most vehemently attacked by the Protestants:
Then there was the proliferation of financial abuses dur-
veneration of the saints, Marian piety, eucharistic adoration,
ing the subsequent “Babylonian Captivity” of the papacy at
the authority of the hierarchy, and the essential role of priests
Avignon, France (1309–1378). There followed a rise in na-
in the sacramental life of the church. Other important ele-
tionalism and anticlericalism in reaction to papal taxes.
ments received less emphasis, perhaps because they were per-
Theological challenges mounted against the recent canonical
ceived as part of the Protestant agenda: the centrality of
justifications of papal power, especially in the advocacy by
Christ in theology and spirituality, the communal nature of
Marsilius of Padua (d. 1343) of a conciliar rather than a mo-
the Eucharist, and the responsibility of the laity in the life
narchical concept of the church. The Western schism of
and mission of the church.
1378–1417—not to be confused with the East-West schism
involving Rome and Constantinople—saw at one point
With the Reformation, Catholic missionary activity was
three different claimants to the papal throne. Finally, the
reduced in those countries where Protestant churches began
Council of Constance (1414) turned to the principle of con-
to flourish, but Catholicism was carried abroad by Spain and
ciliarism (i. e., a general council of the church, not the pope,
Portugal, who ruled the seas. New gains were sought to offset
is the highest ecclesiastical authority) and brought the schism
losses in Europe. Dominicans, Franciscans, and the newly
to an end. The three claimants were set aside (one was de-
formed Jesuits brought the Catholic faith to India, China,
posed, a second resigned, and a third eventually died), and
Japan, Africa, and the Americas. The Congregation for the
Martin V (d. 1431) was elected on Saint Martin’s Day, 11
Propagation of the Faith was founded in 1622 to supervise
November 1417.
these new missionary enterprises.
There were, of course, more immediate causes of the
By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Catho-
Reformation: the corruption of the Renaissance papacy of
lic church faced yet another challenge from within: Jansen-
the fifteenth century; the divorce of piety from theology, and
ism, a movement in France that drew much of its inspiration
of theology from its biblical and patristic roots; the debilitat-
from Augustine. Augustine had always stressed the priority
ing effects of the Western schism; the rise of the national
of grace over nature, but Jansenism seemed to take his em-
state; the too-close connection between Western Catholicism
phasis many steps further, portraying nature as totally cor-
and Western civilization; and the vision, experiences, and
rupt and promoting a theory of predestination. From such
personalities of Luther (d. 1546), Zwingli (d. 1531), and
principles there emerged a form of Catholic life that was ex-
Calvin (d. 1564).
ceedingly rigorous and even puritanical. When Rome moved
The Reformation itself took different forms: on the
against Jansenism, many in the French church saw Rome’s
right, it retained essential Catholic doctrine but changed cer-
action as a threat to the independence of French Catholi-
tain canonical and structural forms (Lutheranism and Angli-
cism. Gallicanism thus emerged as an essentially nationalistic
canism); on the left, it repudiated much Catholic doctrine
rather than theological movement, asserting that a general
and sacramental life (Zwinglianism and the Anabaptist
council, not the pope, has supreme authority in the church.
movement); nearer to the center, it modified both Catholic
Consequently, all papal decrees would be subject to the con-
doctrine and practice but retained much of the old (Cal-
sent of the entire church, as represented in a general council.
Gallicanism was condemned by the First Vatican Council
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(1869–1870), which declared that infallible teachings of the
than in Pius’s Syllabus of Errors (1864), which proclaimed
pope are irreformable, that is, not subject to the consent of
that the pope “cannot and should not be reconciled
any higher ecclesiastical body or authority.
and come to terms with progress, liberalism, and modern
The Enlightenment. One cannot easily underestimate
the impact of the Enlightenment on modern Catholicism,
Although Pius IX successfully persuaded the First Vati-
although it influenced Protestantism sooner and much more
can Council to define papal primacy and papal infallibility,
profoundly. Characterized by a supreme confidence in the
he lost the Papal States (September 1870) and with them his
power of reason, an optimistic view of human nature, and
remaining political power. Not until the Lateran Treaty of
an almost inordinate reverence for freedom, the Enlighten-
1929 (renegotiated in 1983) were the pope’s temporal rights
ment exhibited a correspondingly hostile attitude toward the
to the Vatican territory acknowledged.
supernatural, the notion of revelation, and authority of every
Catholic social doctrine. The nineteenth century also
kind, except that of reason itself. The Enlightenment affect-
witnessed the rapid development of industrialism, and with
ed Catholicism primarily in the Catholic states of Germany,
it a host of new social problems, not least of which was the
where it stimulated advances in historical and exegetical
worsening condition of workers. Marxism stepped into the
methods, improvements in the education of the clergy, the
gap. The workers found themselves alienated not only from
struggle against superstition, liturgical and catechetical re-
the fruits of their labor but from their Catholic heritage as
form, and the promotion of popular education. However,
well. The Catholic church responded, albeit belatedly, in
much Catholic theology before the Second Vatican Council
1891 with Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum novarum, which de-
remained largely untouched by the Enlightenment.
fended the right of workers to unionize and to enjoy humane
The French Revolution. If the Enlightenment marked
working conditions and a just wage.
the beginning of the end of unhistorical, classicist Catholic
Catholic social doctrine was further refined by Pius XI
theology, the French Revolution (1789) marked the defini-
(d. 1939) in his Quadragesimo anno (1931); by Pius XII
tive end of medieval Catholicism. The feudal, hierarchical
(d. 1958) in his various Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost
society that had been so much a part of medieval Catholicism
messages; by John XXIII (d. 1963), in his Mater et magistra
disappeared, but the French Revolution had other effects as
(1961) and Pacem in terris (1963); by the Second Vatican
well. It was so extreme that it provoked counterreaction
Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Mod-
among some European intellectuals, who returned with new
ern World, known also as Gaudium et spes (1965); by Paul
enthusiasm to the basic principles of Catholicism (see “Ro-
VI (d. 1978), in his Populorum progressio (1967) and Octage-
manticism,” below). The Revolution also destroyed Galli-
sima adveniens (1971); by the Iustitia in mundo (1971) of the
canism by uprooting the clerical system upon which it had
Third International Synod of Bishops; and by John Paul II’s
been based. The clergy were compelled to look to Rome and
Redemptor ho-minis (1979) and Laborem exercens (1981).
the papacy for support and direction. Finally, the French
The twin pillars of Catholic social doctrine, as articulated in
Revolution gave the Catholic church the “grace of destitu-
these documents, are the infinite dignity of each and every
tion.” It no longer had much to lose, and so it was free once
human person, and the responsibilities all persons, agencies,
again to pursue the mission for which it was originally
and nations have to the common good.
Modernism. Just as the Catholic church could not ig-
Romanticism. In France and Germany the French Rev-
nore various social, economic, and political developments
olution generated an opposite phenomenon, romanticism,
initiated in the nineteenth century, neither could it ignore
which extolled Catholicism as the mother of art and the
corresponding intellectual developments. As these develop-
guardian of patriotism. Thousands who had been alienated
ments began to make some impact on Catholic scholars,
from the Catholic church returned. With the notable excep-
there emerged a new ecclesiastical phenomenon known as
tion of Cardinal John Henry Newman (d. 1890), theology
modernism. Modernism was not a single movement but a
at this time was restorative rather than progressive. What was
complex of movements. It assumed many different forms,
restored, however, was not the witness and wisdom of sacred
some orthodox and some unorthodox. But distinctions were
scripture and the ancient Christian writers but the literal
rarely made, and the term modernist was usually employed
content of a renewed scholastic philosophy and theology.
in early-twentieth-century discussions as one of opprobrium.
There developed in France a rigid traditionalism, character-
ized by integralism and fideism, which was distrustful of all
Modernists were those who refused to adopt a safely
rational speculation and critical thinking in theology. The
conservative standpoint on all debatable matters pertaining
practitioners of such theology looked “beyond the moun-
to doctrine and theology. Modernism was condemned by
tains,” the Alps, to Rome for papal direction (thus, the move-
Pius X (d. 1914) through the Holy Office decree Lamentabili
ment’s name, ultramontanism). The popes of this day, Greg-
(1907) and the encyclical Pascendi (1907). Much of pre-
ory XVI (d. 1846) and Pius IX (d. 1878), set themselves
Vatican II twentieth-century Catholic theology was written
stubbornly against the winds of change and modernity. No-
under the shadow of modernism. Deviations from the main
where was their defiant attitude more sharply formulated
lines of neoscholastic theology during this period were re-
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garded as reductively modernist. Theologians, pastors, and
ceremonially took possession of the Lateran Basilica in
others were required to swear to an antimodernist oath.
Rome, he reminded the congregation, which included cardi-
nals, archbishops, bishops, and assorted ecclesiastical digni-
Some of the positions once denounced as modernist,
taries, that he was not a prince surrounded by the outward
however, were later reflected in the teachings of Vatican II
signs of power but “a priest, a father, a shepherd.” He visited
and even in certain decrees of the Curia Romana, for exam-
the sick in the Roman hospitals, the elderly in old-age
ple, regarding the historical truth of sacred scripture and the
homes, the convicts at Regina Coeli prison.
development of dogma. The modernists had argued that
dogmatic truths, as well as truths contained in sacred scrip-
John XXIII first announced his council on January 25,
ture, are not absolute and unchanging but are affected by his-
1959 and officially convoked it on December 25, 1961. In
torical conditions and circumstances. Official Catholic
his address at the council’s solemn opening on October 11,
teaching at first condemned this view but gradually accom-
1962, he revealed again his spirit of fundamental hope. He
modated itself to it, particularly in the Congregation for the
complained openly about some of his closest advisers, who
Doctrine of the Faith’s Mysterium ecclesiae (1973), which
“though burning with zeal, are not endowed with much
noted that “even though the truths which the Church in-
sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times they
tends to teach through her dogmatic formulas are distinct
can see nothing but prevarication and ruin.” He called them
from the changeable conceptions of a given epoch and can
“prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as
be expressed without them, nevertheless it can sometimes
though the end of the world were at hand.” He believed in-
happen that these truths may be enunciated by the Sacred
stead that “Divine Providence is leading us to a new order
Magisterium in terms that bear traces of such conceptions.”
of human relations.” He had not called the council to pre-
serve doctrine. “The substance of the ancient doctrine . . .
Between the World Wars (1918–1939). The period
is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another.”
before Vatican II was not without its progressive movements
This was not the time for negativism. The most effective way
(otherwise Vatican II itself would be inexplicable). The litur-
for the church to combat error would be by “demonstrating
gical movement bridged the gap between altar and congrega-
the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations.”
tion by emphasizing the nature of worship and by stressing
The purpose of the council, therefore, would be the promo-
the Thomistic principle that sacraments are signs of grace as
tion of “concord, just peace and the brotherly unity of all.”
well as causes of grace. As signs, sacraments must be under-
standable, in terms of both language and ritual. The biblical
Although John XXIII died between the first two sessions
movement carried forward the work of critical interpretation
of the council, his successor, Paul VI, carried his program to
without provoking additional papal condemnations. But
Catholic biblical scholars labored under a cloud until Pius
1. Vatican II taught that the church is the people of God,
XII issued the so-called Magna Carta of Catholic biblical
a community of disciples. The hierarchy is part of the
scholarship, Divino afflante Spiritu (1943). The social action
people of God, not separate from it. Authority is for ser-
movement continued to apply the teachings of the social en-
vice, not for domination. Bishops are not merely the
cyclicals, particularly in support of the labor union move-
delegates of the pope, and laity are not merely instru-
ment. The lay apostolate movement under Pius XI and Pius
ments of their bishops. (See the Dogmatic Constitution
XII sought to involve larger numbers of laity in the work of
on the Church.)
the church (a movement also known as Catholic Action).
2. The church must read the signs of the times and inter-
The ecumenical movement had a more difficult path, given
pret them in the light of the gospel. The church is part
the negative tone of Pius XI’s encyclical Mortalium animos
of the world, and its mission is to serve the whole
(1927), but pioneers like Yves Congar were preparing the
human family in order to make the history of the
way for Vatican II. Meanwhile, the missionary movement,
human race more human. (See the Pastoral Constitu-
which had experienced a major revival in the nineteenth cen-
tion on the Church in the Modern World.)
tury, with as many as 8 million converts, was increasingly lib-
erated from undue colonial and European influence. Both
3. Christian unity requires renewal and reform. Both sides
Pius XI and Pius XII stressed the importance of establishing
were to blame for the divisions of the Reformation;
native clergies and native hierarchies in mission lands.
therefore both sides have to be open to change. The
body of Christ embraces more than Catholics (Roman
Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council.
or otherwise). (See the Decree on Ecumenism.)
No other persons or events have had so profound an impact
on modern Catholicism as John XXIII and the Second Vati-
4. The word of God is communicated through sacred
can Council he convoked. When elected in 1958, John in-
scripture, sacred tradition, and the teaching authority of
sisted that his was “a very humble office of shepherd” and
the church, all linked together and guided by the Holy
that he intended to pattern his ministry after that of Joseph
Spirit. The sacred realities are always open in principle
in the Old Testament story, who greeted the brothers who
to a growth in understanding. (See the Dogmatic Con-
had sold him into slavery with the compassionate and forgiv-
stitution on Divine Revelation.)
ing words, “I am Joseph, your brother.” When the new pope
5. The church proclaims the gospel not only in word but
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also in sacrament. Since the whole people of God must
that there is a ground of all being which is being itself. With
actively participate in this worship, the signs, that is,
Thomas Aquinas, Catholicism affirms that all reality is root-
language and rituals, must be intelligible. (See the Con-
ed in the creative, loving power of that which is most real
stitution on the Sacred Liturgy.)
(ens realissimum). Catholicism answers the question of mean-
ing in terms of the reality of God. In brief, Catholicism is
6. No one is to be forced in any way to embrace the Chris-
a religious perspective, and not simply a philosophical or an-
tian or the Catholic faith. This principle is rooted in
thropological one.
human dignity and the freedom of the act of faith. (See
the Declaration on Religious Freedom.)
But Catholicism is not some undifferentiated religious
view. Catholicism’s view of and commitment to God is radi-
7. God speaks also through other religions. The church
cally shaped by its view of and commitment to Jesus Christ.
should engage in dialogue and other collaborative ef-
For the Christian, the ultimate dimension of human experi-
forts with them. The Jews have a special relationship to
ence is a triune God: a God who creates and sustains, a God
the church. They cannot be blamed as a people for the
who draws near to and identifies with the human historical
death of Jesus. (See the Declaration on the Relationship
condition, and a God who empowers people to live accord-
of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.)
ing to the vocation to which they have been called. More spe-
After four sessions the Second Vatican Council adjourned in
cifically, the God of Christians is the God of Jesus Christ.
December 1965. The story of Catholicism since the coun-
But just as Jesus Christ gives access to God, so, for the
cil—through the pontificates of Paul VI (1963–1978), John
Catholic, the church gives access to Jesus Christ. However,
Paul I (1978), and John Paul II (1978–)—has been shaped
the church itself is composed of many churches, as noted
largely, if not entirely, by the church’s efforts to come to
above. The church universal is the communion of local
terms with the various challenges and opportunities which
churches, and the body of Christ is composed of denomina-
that council presented: specifically, how can the church re-
tions (for want of a better term). Thus the noun “church”
main faithful to its distinctively Catholic heritage even as it
is always modified: the Catholic church, the Methodist
continues to affirm and assimilate such modern values as
church, the Orthodox church, the Lutheran church, and so
ecumenism, pluralism, and secularity?
forth. Moreover, even those modifiers can themselves be
modified: the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Luther-
not an isolated reality. The word Catholic is not only a noun
an Church of America, the American Lutheran Church, and
but also an adjective. As an adjective, it modifies the noun
so forth.
Christian. The word Christian, too, is both a noun and an
There are many churches, but one body of Christ.
adjective. As an adjective, it modifies religious. The word reli-
Within the community of churches, however, there is one
gious also functions as an adjective and a noun. As an adjec-
church that alone embodies and manifests all the institution-
tive, it modifies the word human. Thus the Catholic church
al elements necessary for the integrity of the whole body. In
is a community of persons (the fundamentally human foun-
Catholic doctrine and theology, that one church is the Cath-
dation of Catholic identity) who believe in and are commit-
olic church. As ecumenical as the Second Vatican Council
ted to the reality of God and who shape their lives according
certainly was, it did not retreat from this fundamental Cath-
to that belief and in fidelity to that commitment (the religious
olic conviction:
component of Catholicism). The church’s belief in and com-
mitment to the reality of God is focused in its fundamental
They are fully incorporated into the society of the
attitude toward Jesus Christ (the Christian core). For Catho-
Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept her
lics, as for every Christian, the old order has passed away, and
entire system and all the means of salvation given to
her, and through union with her visible structure are
they are a “new creation” in Christ, for God has “reconciled
joined to Christ, who rules her through the Supreme
us to himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17, 5:19). “Catho-
Pontiff and the Bishops. This joining is effected by the
lic,” therefore, is a qualification of “Christian,” of “religious,”
bonds of professed faith, of the sacraments, of ecclesias-
and of the human. To be Catholic is to be a kind of human
tical government, and of communion. (Dogmatic Con-
being, a kind of religious person, and a kind of Christian.
stitution on the Church, no. 14)
To be Catholic is, before all else, to be human. Catholi-
Since Vatican II, however, much has happened to suggest
cism is an understanding and affirmation of human existence
that the traditional lines of distinction have been blurred. It
before it is a corporate conviction about the pope, or the
is more evident now that, in spite of the distinctiveness of
seven sacraments, or even about Jesus Christ. But Catholi-
the Catholic claims for the papal office, Catholic identity is
cism is also more than a corporate understanding and affir-
rooted in much broader and richer theological values. Specif-
mation of what it means to be human. Catholicism answers
ically, there is a configuration of characteristics within Ca-
the question of meaning in terms of ultimacy. With Dietrich
tholicism that is not duplicated anywhere else in the commu-
Bonhoeffer (d. 1945), Catholicism confirms that there is
nity of Christian churches. This configuration of
more to life than meets the eye, that there is “a beyond in
characteristics is expressed in Catholicism’s systematic theol-
our midst.” With Paul Tillich (d. 1975), Catholicism affirms
ogy; its body of doctrines; its liturgical life, especially its Eu-
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charist; its variety of spiritualities; its religious congregations
Leo XIII in 1891 to John Paul II a century later, is as charac-
and lay apostolates; its official teachings on justice, peace,
teristic of Catholic Christianity as any element can be. In vir-
and human rights; its exercise of collegiality; and, to be sure,
tue of the sacramental principle, Catholics affirm that God
its Petrine ministry.
is indeed present to all human life and to history. To be in-
volved in the transformation of the world is to be collabora-
Roman Catholicism is distinguished from other Chris-
tively involved in God’s own revolutionary and transforming
tian traditions and churches in its understanding of, commit-
ment to, and exercise of the principles of sacramentality, me-
diation, and communion. Differences between Catholic and
For the Catholic, the world is essentially good, though
non-Catholic (especially Protestant) approaches become
fallen, because it comes from the creative hand of God. And
clearer when measured according to these three principles.
for the Catholic, the world, although fallen, is redeemable
because of the redemptive work of God in Jesus Christ. And
Sacramentality. In its classical (Augustinian) meaning,
for the Catholic, the world, although fractured and frag-
a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible grace. Paul VI pro-
mented, is capable of ultimate unity because of the abiding
vided a more contemporary definition: “a reality imbued
presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the “first fruits” of the
with the hidden presence of God.” A sacramental perspective
final kingdom of God.
is one that “sees” the divine in the human, the infinite in the
finite, the spiritual in the material, the transcendent in the
Mediation. A kind of corollary of the principle of sacra-
immanent, the eternal in the historical. Over against this sac-
mentality is the principle of mediation. A sacrament not only
ramental vision is the view, strengthened by memories of past
signifies; it also causes what it signifies. Indeed, as the Coun-
excesses in the sacramental vision, that God is so “totally
cil of Trent officially taught, sacraments cause grace precisely
other” that the divine reality can never be identified with the
insofar as they signify it. If the church, therefore, is not a
human, the transcendent with the immanent, the eternal
credible sign of God’s and Christ’s presence in the world, if
with the historical, and so forth. The abiding Protestant fear
the church is not obviously the “temple of the Holy Spirit,”
is that Catholics take the sacramental principle to a point just
it cannot achieve its missionary purposes. It “causes” grace
short of, if not fully immersed in, idolatry.
(i. e., effectively moves the world toward its final destiny in
the kingdom of God) to the extent that it signifies the reality
The Catholic sacramental vision “sees” God in and
toward which it presumes to direct the world.
through all things: other people, communities, movements,
events, places, objects, the world at large, the whole cosmos.
On the other hand, sacraments are not only signs of
The visible, the tangible, the finite, the historical—all these
faith, as Protestants affirmed at the time of the Reformation.
are actual or potential carriers of the divine presence. Indeed,
For the Catholic, God is not only present in the sacramental
for the Catholic, it is only in and through these material real-
action; God actually achieves something in and through that
ities that we can even encounter the invisible God. The great
action. Thus, created realities not only contain, reflect, or
sacrament of our encounter with God, and of God’s encoun-
embody the presence of God, they also make that presence
ter with us, is Jesus Christ. The church, in turn, is the key
effective for those who avail themselves of these realities. En-
sacrament of our encounter with Christ, and of Christ with
counter with God does not occur solely in the inwardness
us; and the sacraments, in turn, are the signs and instruments
of conscience or in the inner recesses of consciousness. Ca-
by which that ecclesial encounter with Christ is expressed,
tholicism holds, on the contrary, that the encounter with
celebrated, and made effective for the glory of God and the
God is a mediated experience, rooted in the historical and
salvation of men and women.
affirmed as real by the critical judgment that God is truly
present and active here or there, in this event or that, in this
The Catholic, therefore, insists that grace (the divine
person or that, in this object or that.
presence) actually enters into and transforms nature (human
life in its fullest context). The dichotomy between nature and
Again, the Protestant raises a word of caution. Just as
grace is eliminated. Human existence is already graced exis-
the principle of sacramentality edges close to the brink of
tence. There is no merely natural end of human existence,
idolatry, so the principle of mediation moves one along the
with a supernatural end imposed from above. Human exis-
path toward magic. Just as there has been evidence of idolatry
tence in its natural, historical condition is radically oriented
in some Roman Catholic piety, so there has been evidence
toward God. The history of the world is, at the same time,
of a magical view of the divine-human encounter in certain
the history of salvation.
forms of Catholic devotional life. Some Catholics have as-
sumed that if a certain practice were performed a given num-
This means, for the Catholic, that authentic human
ber of times in an unbroken sequence, their salvation would
progress and the struggle for justice, peace, freedom, human
be guaranteed. A magical worldview, of course, is not a solely
rights, and so forth, is part of the movement of and toward
Catholic problem, but it is an inherent risk in Catholicism’s
the kingdom of God (Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitu-
constant stress on the principle of mediation.
tion on the Church in the Modern World, no. 39). The
Catholic, unlike Luther, espouses no doctrine of the two
Catholicism’s commitment to the principle of media-
kingdoms. The vast body of Catholic social doctrine, from
tion is evident, for example, in the importance it has always
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placed on the ordained ministry of the priest. God’s dealings
lead to idolatry, and mediation to magic, the principle of
with us are not arbitrary or haphazard. God is present to all
communion can lead to a collectivism that suppresses indi-
and works on behalf of all, but there are also moments and
viduality, and an authoritarianism that suppresses freedom
actions wherein God’s presence is specially focused. The
of thought.
function of the priest, as mediator, is not to limit the encoun-
But stress on the individual also has its inherent weak-
ter between God and the human person but to focus it more
ness, just as there are inherent weaknesses in the historic
clearly for the sake of the person, and ultimately for the com-
Protestant insistences on the otherness of God (over against
munity at large.
the Catholic sacramental principle) and on the immediacy
The principle of mediation also explains Catholicism’s
of the divine-human encounter (over against the Catholic
historic emphasis on the place of Mary, the mother of Jesus
principle of mediation). Some important Protestant theolo-
Christ. The Catholic accepts the role of Mary in salvation
gians like Paul Tillich and Langdon Gilkey have come to ac-
on the same ground that the Catholic accepts the role of
knowledge these inherent problems in Protestantism and the
Jesus Christ. God is present in, and redemptively works
corresponding truth of the Catholic sacramental vision. Ac-
through, the humanity of Jesus. This is the principle of me-
cording to Gilkey, the Catholic principle of symbol or sacra-
diation in its classic expression. The Catholic understands
mentality “may provide the best entrance into a new synthe-
that the invisible, spiritual God is present and available to
sis of the Christian tradition with the vitalities as well as the
us through the visible and the material, and that these are
relativities of contemporary existence” (Gilkey, 1975,
made holy by reason of that divine presence. The Catholic,
p. 22).
therefore, readily engages in the veneration (not worship) of
Mary, not because Catholicism perceives Mary as some kind
THEOLOGY AND DOCTRINE. The principles of sacramentali-
of goddess or supercreature or rival of the Lord himself, but
ty, mediation, and communion frame Catholic thinking and
because she is a symbol or image of God. It is the God who
teaching about every significant theological question. The
is present in her and who fills her whole being that the Cath-
following is not an exhaustive list, and some overlapping
olic grasps in the act of venerating yet another “sacrament”
with the above discussion is inevitable.
of the divine.
Revelation and faith. Catholics share with other Chris-
Communion. Finally, Catholicism affirms the princi-
tians the conviction that God has somehow communicated
ple of communion: the human way to God, and God’s way
with humankind in the history of Israel; supremely in Jesus
to humankind, is not only a mediated but a communal way.
Christ, the Son of God; then through the apostles and evan-
Even when the divine-human encounter is most personal
gelists; and, in a different way, through nature, human
and individual, it is still communal, in that the encounter is
events, and personal relationships. Some Roman Catholics
made possible by the mediation of a community of faith.
have tended to restrict revelation to the teachings of the
Thus there is not simply an individual personal relationship
church, just as some Protestants have tended to limit revela-
with God or Jesus Christ that is established and sustained by
tion to the Bible. But fundamentally, all Christians, conser-
meditative reflection on sacred scripture, for the Bible itself
vative and liberal alike, are united in the belief that Jesus
is the church’s book and the testimony of the church’s origi-
Christ, as both person and event, provides the fullest disclo-
nal faith. There is no relationship with God, however in-
sure of God. Christian faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ
tense, profound, or unique, that dispenses entirely with the
as the Lord and Savior of the world and as the great sacra-
communal context of every relationship with God.
ment of God’s presence among us.
And this is why, for Catholicism, the mystery of the
Roman Catholics, however, have always been insistent
church has always had so significant a place in its theology,
that such faith is reasonable, not arbitrary or blind. The First
doctrine, pastoral practice, moral vision, and devotion. Cath-
Vatican Council (1869–1870) taught that faith is “conso-
olics have always emphasized the place of the church as the
nant with reason.” Roman Catholics, therefore, exclude fide-
sacrament of Christ, which mediates salvation through sacra-
ism, on the one hand, and rationalism, on the other. Faith
ments, ministries, and other institutional elements and
is neither beyond intellectual support nor fully open to intel-
forms, and as the communion of saints and the people of
lectual scrutiny. It is neither rational nor irrational. It is rea-
God. It is here, at the point of Catholicism’s understanding
sonable. That is, we can identify solid motives for believing,
of itself as church, that one comes to the heart of the distinc-
and we can show that one need not surrender intellectual in-
tively Catholic understanding and practice of Christian faith.
tegrity in order to be a Christian.
For here, in Catholic ecclesiology, one finds the convergence
The most celebrated Roman Catholic exponent and
of those three principles that have always been so characteris-
practitioner of this view has been Thomas Aquinas. For cen-
tic of Catholicism: sacramentality, mediation, and com-
turies Thomism and Catholicism have been identified in
many minds. Accordingly, some Protestants have thought
The Protestant again raises a word of caution. If one em-
that Catholics are too analytical and too rational about their
phasizes too much the principle of communion, do we not
faith. And some Catholics have assumed that the “truth” of
endanger the freedom of individuals? If sacramentality can
Roman Catholic claims is so demonstrably clear that any
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open-minded person would have to accept them once he or
nous colors, several examples to the contrary notwithstand-
she examined the “evidence.”
ing. Humankind is redeemable because men and women are
radically good.
While Roman Catholic apologetics has moved away
from its earlier rational, almost rationalistic, orientation, it
Nature and grace. The question of grace raises one of
remains committed to the notion that Christian faith does
the sharpest issues that have historically divided Protestant
have a “content,” that it is, for example, more than the per-
from Roman Catholic. How is humankind justified and
sonal acceptance of Jesus Christ or a feeling of absolute de-
eventually saved? By our own efforts? By God’s alone? Or by
pendence upon God.
a combination of both? Appearances to the contrary, Roman
Creation and original sin. Roman Catholics adhere to
Catholics have never endorsed the view that people are saved
the ancient Christian creeds, which professed their belief in
by their own power. That position, known as Pelagianism,
one God, the Almighty Creator, who made the heavens and
has been condemned consistently by the councils of the
the earth, and all things visible and invisible. And they ad-
church, especially by Trent, and by Augustine in particular.
here as well to the later councils of the church, which added
Catholics, however, regard the second view as equally objec-
that God freely created the world from nothing at the begin-
tionable, namely, that human beings contribute nothing at
ning of time in order to share his own goodness, to manifest
all to salvation, because it is so totally the work of God. Such
his own glory, and to sanctify humankind. Jesus Christ is not
a belief, Catholics have always argued, undermines human
only the head of the whole human race but also is himself
freedom and human responsibility and encourages a passive,
the summit of all creation. He is the Second Adam through
quietist approach to the Christian life. We are saved neither
whom all else came into being (Col. 1:15). Because of their
by faith alone nor by works alone, but by a living faith that
understanding of creation, Roman Catholics have always had
overflows in works befitting a “new creature” in Christ (Gal.
an essentially positive attitude toward the world.
But the specific origins of men and women have posed
To be in the state of grace means to be open to the pres-
a more thorny problem. The councils of the church (specifi-
ence of God, and of the Holy Spirit in particular. This in-
cally Lateran IV in 1215 and Vatican I in 1869–1870) had
dwelling of the Spirit really transforms us. Our sins are not
taught that all people owe their existence to the creative ac-
merely “covered over.” They are obliterated by an act of di-
tion of God. Although humankind was specially favored by
vine forgiveness and generosity, on the sole condition that
God in the beginning, we sinned and thereby suffered both
we are truly sorry for having offended God in the first place.
physical and spiritual losses (Council of Trent, 1545–1563).
The graced person is still liable to sin, of course, and so in
But how exactly did this original sin occur, and who “com-
this sense he or she may be said to be both just and sinful
mitted” it? Present Catholic scholarship, both biblical and
(simul iustus et peccator). But that gives a different meaning
theological, argues that there is no necessary connection be-
to the expression than some of the reformers assigned it.
tween monogenism (the theory that the whole human race
They would have been less prepared than Catholics to stress
sprang from one set of parents) and the integrity of Catholic
the internal transformation by grace.
doctrine. What is clearly maintained is that humankind
Jesus Christ and redemption. Roman Catholics share
comes from the creative hand of God. This creative action,
with other Christians the central conviction of Christian
however, could have been an evolutionary process just as
faith that Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord of history (Phil. 2:5–
likely as a one-time event. And so, too, the entrance of
11), that he was crucified for our sins, was raised from the
human sin could have been evolutionary in character. Some
dead on the third day, was exalted as Lord of all, is present
would argue, therefore, that sin gradually spread through the
to history now in and through the church.
human race until it became truly universal in the sin that was
the rejection of Christ. But there are problems with this view,
Jesus Christ is both human and divine in nature, yet one
and many Catholic theologians continue to insist that the
person. “Born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), he is like us in all
original sin be traced to a primal fault that immediately af-
things save sin (Heb. 4:15). At the same time, he is of the
fected the entire race.
very being of God, Son of the Father, the light of God in
the world. He is, in the words of the Second Vatican Coun-
Nonetheless, original sin has a meaning that goes be-
cil, “the key, the focal point, and the goal of all human histo-
yond the personal decisions of Adam and Eve. It is the state
ry” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern
in which all people are born precisely because they are mem-
World, no. 10).
bers of the human race. As such, we are situated in a sinful
history that affects our capacity to love God above all and
While Roman Catholic piety has often emphasized the
to become the kind of people God destined us to be. What
divinity of Christ at the expense of the humanity (“God”
is important to remember, Catholics insist, is that we came
died on the cross; “God” dwells in the tabernacle, etc.),
forth from the hand of God essentially good, not essentially
Roman Catholics have sometimes suspected some Protes-
evil. Sin has rendered our condition ambiguous, at best and
tants of reversing the emphasis in favor of Jesus’ humanity.
at worst. Unlike some Protestants, Roman Catholics have
Whatever the exaggerations on either side of the Reforma-
been less inclined to paint the human scene in dark and omi-
tion divide, official Roman Catholic doctrine has always
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maintained a balance, without confusion, between the
tery and doctrine of the Trinity is the beginning, the end,
human and divine natures.
and the center of all Christian and, therefore, all Catholic
Roman Catholics believe, of course, in the centrality
and absolute necessity of Jesus Christ for personal salvation
Mary. Whatever the popular exaggerations in the past,
and the salvation of all the world, but they do not believe
Roman Catholic doctrine does not say that Mary is coequal
that one must be an explicit Christian, confessing the lord-
with Christ. However, she is the mother of Jesus, and her
ship of Jesus, before one can be saved. People of good will
motherhood is what roots Christ in our humanity. Indeed,
who lead exemplary lives are just as likely to enter the heav-
Mary’s name was involved in the earliest christological con-
enly banquet as professed Christians. Catholics have called
troversies. If Jesus was not divine, then of course it would
this “baptism by desire.” Conversely, Roman Catholics also
have been wrong to call her the Mother of God. But the
acknowledge that professed Christians can be damned, their
Council of Ephesus condemned the Nestorians in 431, and
fervent appeal to the lordship of Jesus notwithstanding. “Not
Mary was proclaimed theotokos (Mother of God)—which ef-
everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the king-
fectively meant that Jesus was proclaimed as true God as well
dom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who
as true man.
is in heaven” (Mt. 7:21).
Controversy has continued to surround Mary, especially
Neither do Roman Catholics readily identify with the
since the middle of the nineteenth century: first in 1854 with
evangelical Protestant stress on the propitiatory nature of the
the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Concep-
crucifixion of Jesus, even though this view has durable roots
tion (that she was conceived without original sin), then in
in history, particularly in the writings of Anselm of Canter-
1950 with the dogma of the Assumption (that she was taken
bury (d. 1109). Jesus did not die in order to pay off a debt
up bodily into heaven after her death). Mary has also been
coldly demanded by his Father. He was executed because his
called the Mediatrix of all graces (i. e., by the will of Christ,
person and his message were threatening to the political and
all the grace he earned for us is channeled through her), co-
religious establishments of his day. By accepting death, he
Redemptrix (i. e., she shares somehow in the redemptive
demonstrated that love and freedom are more powerful than
work of her Son, without prejudice to the supreme saving
apathy and fear. The crucifixion was the will of God in the
power of his own death and resurrection), and Mother of the
sense that God wills the personal fulfillment of every man
church (i. e., she has a certain priority in the church, as chief
and woman, and specifically God willed that Jesus should
among the saints, and is the prototype of the church, a sign
confront and challenge the network of sin in human society
of the church’s call to obedience and fidelity to God’s word).
even though such a confrontation and challenge would sure-
Controversy has been rekindled, too, in the matter of the
ly polarize all the forces of sin against him.
Virgin Birth (i. e., Mary conceived Jesus by the power of the
In any case, for Catholics the redemption was accom-
Holy Spirit alone, without benefit of a human partner),
plished by the whole paschal mystery, that is, Christ’s passing
while reports of Marian appearances in Guadalupe (1531),
over to his Father through a life of suffering servanthood, his
Lourdes (1858), and Fatima (1917) have generated both
obedient death on the cross, and his resurrection, ascension,
skepticism and fervor.
and exaltation at the right hand of God. The redemptive act
Devotion to Mary is a characteristically Catholic phe-
is not limited to the crucifixion alone.
nomenon in that it expresses the three fundamental princi-
Holy Spirit and Trinity. The Holy Spirit is God’s self-
ples of Catholic theology and practice:
communication as love and as the power of healing, reconcil-
1. The principle of sacramentality, which affirms that the
iation, and new life. The divinity of the Holy Spirit was de-
invisible and spiritual God is present through the visible
fined by the First Council of Constantinople in 381. The
and the material, and that these are in turn made holy
Spirit has the same divine essence as the Father and the Son
by that presence. This includes Mary, in whom God is
and yet is distinct from them both. Within the Trinity, the
very specially present.
Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. Despite the
2. The principle of mediation, which affirms that grace is
bitter East-West dispute on this point, the Council of Ferra-
a mediated reality, first through Christ and secondarily
ra-Florence (1438–1440) did allow for the preposition
through the church and other human instruments, in-
“through” as a legitimate alternative to the preferred con-
cluding Mary.
junction “and.” The God who created us, who sustains us,
who will judge us, and who will give us eternal life is not a
3. The principle of communion, which affirms that the
God infinitely removed from us (i. e., God the Father). On
saving encounter with God occurs not only personally
the contrary, God is a God of absolute proximity: a God who
and individually but also corporately and ecclesially. To
is communicated truly in the flesh, in history, within the
be in the church, that is, to be in communion with other
human family (i. e., God the Son), and a God who is present
Christians, is to be in and with Christ. Mary is the pre-
in the spiritual depths of human existence as well as in the
eminent member of this communion of saints. Our
core of unfolding human history, as the source of enlighten-
unity with her is an expression of our unity in and with
ment and community (i. e., God the Holy Spirit). The mys-
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Church, kingdom of God, and sacraments. For the
ments can be validly celebrated only by certain authorized
Catholic, the church is the whole body, or congregation, of
ministers (bishops in the case of holy orders; bishops and del-
persons who are called by God the Father to acknowledge
egated priests in the case of confirmation; priests in the case
the lordship of Jesus, the Son, in word, in sacrament, in wit-
of the Eucharist, the anointing of the sick, and penance;
ness, and in service, and, through the power of the Holy
priests and deacons in the case of the sacrament of marriage,
Spirit, to collaborate with Jesus’ historic mission for the sake
which the couple themselves administer to each other; and
of the kingdom of God. The mission of the church, as also
a priest or deacon in the case of baptism, although in princi-
Jesus’ mission, is focused on the kingdom of God. By king-
ple anyone can administer baptism.
dom of God is meant the redemptive presence of God actual-
Catholic morality. For Catholicism, morality is a mat-
ized through the power of God’s reconciling Spirit. Literally,
ter of thinking and acting in accordance with the person and
the kingdom of God is the reign, or rule, of God. The king-
the community one has become in Christ. It is therefore a
dom happens whenever and wherever the will of God is ful-
matter not only of obeying the rules but also of being faithful
filled, for God rules where God’s will is at work. And since
to the spirit as well as to the letter of the gospel. Since human
God’s will is applicable to the cosmos, to nature, to objects,
agents are free to accept or reject Christ and his gospel, Ca-
to history, to institutions, to groups as well as overarching
tholicism contends with the reality of sin. But the church’s
as the claims and scope of the divine will itself.
moral vision and its approach to the moral demands of
The mission of the church is unintelligible apart from
Christian life are qualified always by its confidence in the
the kingdom of God. The church is called, first, to proclaim
power of grace and by its readiness to expect and understand
in word and in sacrament the definitive arrival of the king-
the weaknesses and failures rooted in original sin. And so Ca-
dom of God in Jesus of Nazareth; second, to offer itself as
tholicism is a moral universe of laws but also dispensations,
a test case or sign of its own proclamation, that is, to be a
of rules but also exceptions, of respect for authority but also
people transformed by the Holy Spirit into a community of
freedom of conscience, of high ideals but also minimal re-
faith, hope, love, freedom, and truthfulness; and third, to en-
quirements, of penalties but also indulgences, of censures
able and facilitate the coming of the reign of God through
and excommunications but also absolution and recon-
service within the community of faith and in the world at
Catholic morality, therefore, is characterized by a both/
For the Catholic, the church does God’s work because
and rather than an either/or approach. It is not nature or
God is present and at work within it. To speak of the church
grace, but graced nature; not reason or faith, but reason illu-
as the presence and instrument of God is to speak of it sacra-
mined by faith; not law or gospel, but law inspired by the
mentally. Just as Christ is the sacrament of God, so the
gospel; not scripture or tradition, but normative tradition
church is the sacrament of Christ. Because the church is a
within scripture; not faith or works, but faith issuing in
sacrament, it acts sacramentally. In the course of its history,
works and works as expressions of faith; not authority or free-
the Catholic church has identified seven specific acts as sacra-
dom, but authority in the service of freedom; not the past
ments in the strictest sense of the term: baptism, confirma-
versus the present, but the present in continuity with the past;
tion, and Eucharist (which together constitute the rite of
not stability or change, but change in fidelity to stable princi-
Christian initiation), and marriage, holy orders, reconcilia-
ple, and principle fashioned and refined in response to
tion (or penance), and the anointing of the sick. The sacra-
change; not unity or diversity, but unity in diversity, and di-
ments, individually and collectively, are signs of faith, causes
versity that prevents uniformity, the antithesis of unity.
of grace, acts of worship, and signs and instruments of the
This both/and approach to morality also explains the so-
unity of the church and of Christ’s presence in the world.
called seamless-garment approach of U. S. Catholic bishops
to contemporary issues such as nuclear warfare, capital pun-
The relationship between sign and cause, however, has
ishment, aid to the handicapped, abortion, human rights,
provoked the most serious sacramental controversy, particu-
and the like. And the Catholic church’s beliefs about the uni-
larly at the time of the Reformation. The Council of Trent
versality of grace and the capacity of all persons, Catholic or
rejected two extreme notions of causality: the one that re-
not, to come to an understanding of the law of God written
duced sacraments to magical actions, and the other that
in every human heart (Rom. 2:15) explains its conviction that
robbed sacraments of their inner spiritual reality and efficacy.
Catholic moral teachings about such matters as nuclear war-
The sacraments cause grace, not because of the faith of the
fare and abortion are also universally applicable, and not re-
recipient but because of the working of God within the sacra-
stricted to Catholics alone.
ments themselves (ex opere operato). On the other hand, God
does not force the human will. Faithfully reflecting the teach-
The last things. Catholic teaching and belief about life
ing of Thomas Aquinas, the Council of Trent recognized
after death applies to individuals, the church, and the human
that the recipient must have the right disposition if the sacra-
community as a whole. Everyone and everything is destined
ment is to be spiritually fruitful: interior conversion, faith,
for the kingdom of God, but there is no guarantee of univer-
and devotion. Finally, the validity of a sacrament does not
sal salvation. The separation of the sheep and the goats (Mt.
depend on the holiness of the minister, although some sacra-
25) will occur at both the general judgment (i. e., at the end
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of human history) and at the particular judgment (i. e., at
Therefore, there is “neither appeal nor recourse against a de-
the end of each individual’s life). Some will join God forever
cision or decree of the Roman Pontiff” (canon 333, no. 3).
in heaven; some may be separated eternally from God in hell;
The only way a pope can lose such authority is through death
others may find themselves in a state of merely natural happi-
or resignation.
ness in limbo; and others will suffer in purgatory some tem-
porary “punishment” still required of sins that have already
Just as the universal church is composed of an interna-
been forgiven. Such “punishments” can be partially or fully
tional college of local churches, so the universality of the
remitted through the application of indulgences.
church is expressed through the collegial relationship of the
bishops, one to another. The bishop of Rome serves as the
Each individual is destined for the beatific vision (heav-
head and center of this collegial network. Even the Code of
en, eternal life) and the resurrection of the body. Purgatory
Canon Law of the Roman Catholic church acknowledges
is an intermediate state between heaven and hell, reserved for
that the church is not a strict monarchy, for the college of
those who, at the moment of death, are not yet ready to see
bishops, which always includes the pope, “is also the subject
God “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). Catholic tradition holds
of supreme and full power over the universal Church” (canon
that it is possible for the living (the church militant) spiritu-
336), a power that it exercises solemnly in an ecumenical
ally to aid “the souls in purgatory” (the church suffering). All
council. Bishops also participate in the governance of the
members of the church, living and dead, are bound together
church through synods. A synod of bishops is a group of
as a communion of saints. Just as the prayers of the living
bishops who have been chosen from the different regions of
may benefit those in purgatory, so the prayers of the saints
the world to discuss matters of general interest to the church
in heaven (the church triumphant) may benefit those on
and to make recommendations for pastoral action. Since the
earth who make intercession to them.
Second Vatican Council, international synods of bishops
have met in Rome every two, and then every three, years. An
Although the church has defined that certain persons
extraordinary synod of bishops was called by John Paul II in
are in heaven (canonized saints), it has never defined that
anyone is actually in hell. Thus, a Catholic is required to be-
lieve in hell as a real possibility for those who utterly reject
The college of cardinals constitutes a special college of
the grace of God, but the Catholic is not required to believe
bishops within the larger episcopal college. There were lay
that anyone has actually been consigned to hell. The destiny
cardinals until 1918, when the Code of Canon Law specified
of the unbaptized infant or young child, on the other hand,
that all cardinals must be priests. Pope John XXIII decreed
has, since the Middle Ages, been linked with a state called
in 1962 that all cardinals must be bishops. The responsibility
limbo, a condition of “natural happiness,” where the individ-
of the college of cardinals is to provide for the election of a
ual is free of punishment but deprived of the vision of God.
new pope and to advise the pope when and if he seeks its
However, belief in limbo and teaching about limbo has de-
counsel on matters pertaining to the governance of the uni-
clined as the hope of universal salvation has gradually in-
versal church. In its present form, the college of cardinals
creased since the Second Vatican Council.
dates from the twelfth century. Earlier the title had been be-
POLITY. According to its own official teachings, the Roman
stowed on deacons and priests of the leading churches of
Catholic church is neither a monarchy nor an oligarchy nor
Rome and on bishops of neighboring dioceses. The title was
a democracy. Its governance is of a unique kind because the
limited, however, to members of the college in 1567. The
church has a “unique essence” (Rahner and Ratzinger, The
number of cardinals was set at seventy in 1586 by Sixtus V,
Episcopate and the Primacy, 1962, p. 33). The universal
and that limit remained in force until the pontificate of John
church is a college of local churches. The supreme jurisdic-
XXIII, who gradually increased it. Paul VI limited the num-
tional power of this universal church is vested at one and the
ber of cardinals eligible to vote in papal elections to 120.
same time in the pope and in an ecumenical council, over
The Curia Romana is the administrative arm of the pa-
which the pope presides and of which he too is a member.
pacy. It consists of the Secretariat of State, the Council for
Indeed, the universal church is itself a kind of ecumenical
the Public Affairs of the Church, and various congregations,
council convoked by some human agent (today the pope, in
tribunals, and other institutions, whose structure and com-
the past popes and emperors alike). The papacy is the highest
petency are defined in special law. There are ten congrega-
pastoral office in the Roman Catholic church because of the
tions (Doctrine of the Faith, Oriental Churches, Bishops,
pope’s status as bishop of the diocese of Rome. As such, he
Discipline of the Sacraments, Divine Worship, Causes of
is head of the college of bishops, and is called the Vicar of
Saints, Clergy, Religious and Secular Institutes, Catholic Ed-
Christ (more accurately, the Vicar of Peter) and pastor of the
ucation, and the Evangelization of Peoples, or Propagation
universal church on earth.
of the Faith); three tribunals (Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary,
According to the legal tradition of the Roman Catholic
Apostolic Signatura, and the Sacred Roman Rota); three sec-
church, however, the church seems closer to an absolute
retariats (one for Christian Unity, one for Non-Christians,
monarchy. The Code of Canon Law accords the pope “su-
and one for Non-Believers); and a complex of commissions,
preme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the
councils, and offices, which administer church affairs at the
Church, which he can always freely exercise” (canon 331).
central executive level (e.g., Theological Commission, Coun-
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

cil of the Laity, and Central Statistics Office). The terms ap-
Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius
ostolic see or holy see apply not only to the pope but also to
and Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzus and Augustine
the Secretariat of State, the Council for the Public Affairs of
of Hippo, Anselm of Canterbury and Bernard of Clairvaux,
the Church, and other institutions of the Curia.
Abelard and Hugh of Saint Victor, Thomas Aquinas and
Bonaventure, Roberto Bellarmino and Johann Adam Mö-
The Code of Canon Law also stipulates that the pope
hler, Karl Rahner and Charles Journet, as well as John and
“possesses the innate and independent right to nominate,
Luke, Peter and Paul. Nor are there spiritualities that Cathol-
send, transfer and recall his own legates to particular church-
icism excludes. It is open to The Cloud of Unknowing and
es in various nations or regions, to states and to public au-
the Introduction to the Devout Life, to the way of Francis of
thorities; the norms of international law are to be observed
Assisi and that of Antony of Egypt, to Ignatius Loyola and
concerning the sending and the recalling of legates appointed
John of the Cross, to Abbott Marmion and Thomas Merton,
to states” (canon 362). These legates are usually called nun-
to Catherine of Siena and Dorothy Day, to Teresa of Ávila
cios and have ambassadorial rank. Those without full ambas-
and Mother Teresa.
sadorial rank are called apostolic delegates.
Catholicism is not just a collection of beliefs and prac-
The polity of the Roman Catholic church is not limited
tices but a community of persons. Catholicism is, and has
to the organizational structure and operation of its Rome
been, composed of martyrs and ascetics, pilgrims and war-
base. In Eastern-rite churches that are in union with the
riors, mystics and theologians, artists and humanists, activists
Holy See, there are patriarchs and patriarchates that have
and outsiders, pastors and saints. Catholicism is in Dante Al-
“existed in the Church from the earliest times and [were] rec-
ighieri, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Blaise Pascal, Erasmus,
ognized by the first ecumenical synods” (Vatican Council II,
Joan of Arc, Julian of Norwich, Thomas More, Thérèse of
Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches, no. 7). A patriarch is
Lisieux, and many others. “The splendour of saints, the glory
a bishop who has jurisdiction over all bishops, clergy, and
of cathedrals, the courage of reformers, the strangeness of
people of his own territory or rite. “The Patriarchs with their
myth and marvel, the soaring ecstasies of mystics and the sor-
synods constitute the superior authority for all affairs of the
rows of the poor—all these are the home of the Catholic en-
patriarchate, including the right to establish new eparchies
terprise” (Haughton, 1979, p. 249).
[dioceses] and to nominate bishops of their rite within the
territorial bounds of the patriarchate, without prejudice to
SEE ALSO Apostles; Atonement; Baptism; Biblical Literature,
the inalienable right of the Roman Pontiff to intervene in in-
article on New Testament; Basilica, Cathedral, and Church;
dividual cases” (no. 9).
Canon; Christian Ethics; Christianity; Christian Liturgical
Year; Church, article on Church Polity; Cistercians; Con-
At the diocesan level there are bishops, auxiliary bish-
stantinianism; Councils, article on Christian Councils;
ops, vicars general, chancellors, marriage courts, diocesan
Creeds, article on Christian Creeds; Cult of Saints; Death;
pastoral councils, and the like. At the parish level there are
Dominicans; Eucharist; Evil; Fall, The; Franciscans; Galli-
pastors, associate pastors, pastoral ministers, extraordinary
canism; Grace; Heresy, article on Christian Concepts; Hu-
ministers of the Eucharist, parish councils, and the like. The
manism; Iconography, article on Christian Iconography; In-
Second Vatican Council substantially expanded the partici-
carnation; Jesuits; Jesus; Kingdom of God; Mary; Merit,
pation of the laity in the governance of the church, particu-
article on Christian Concepts; Ministry; Missions, article on
larly through its teaching that the church is the people of
Christian Missions; Modernism, article on Christian Mod-
God (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, nos. 30–33).
ernism; Monasticism, article on Christian Monasticism;
Music, article on Religious Music in the West; Papacy;
SPIRITUALITY AND ETHOS. As the name itself suggests, Ca-
Peter the Apostle; Pilgrimage, articles on Roman Catholic
tholicism is characterized by a radical openness to all truth
Pilgrimage in Europe and Roman Catholic Pilgrimage in
and to every authentic human and spiritual value. One finds
the New World; Priesthood, article on Christian Priesthood;
in it, in varying degrees, all the theological, doctrinal, spiritu-
Redemption; Reformation; Religious Communities, article
al, liturgical, canonical, structural, and social diversity and
on Christian Religious Orders; Sacrament, article on Chris-
richness that are constitutive of Christianity as a whole. Ca-
tian Sacraments; Schism, article on Christian Schism; Scho-
tholicism is the very antithesis of a sect, and it is not inextri-
lasticism; Sin and Guilt; Trent, Council of; Trinity; Ultra-
cably linked with the culture of a particular nation or region
montanism; Vatican Councils, article on Vatican II;
of the world. It is in principle as Asian as it is European, as
Worship and Devotional Life, article on Christian Worship.
Slavic as it is Latin, as Mexican as it is Nigerian, as Irish as
it is Polish.
Adam, Karl. Das Wesen des Katholizismus. Tübingen, 1924. Trans-
There is no list of Catholic fathers or mothers that does
lated by Justin McCann as The Spirit of Catholicism (New
not include the great figures of the period before as well as
York, 1954). Translated into many languages, including
after the division of East and West and the divisions within
Chinese and Japanese, this work represents the best of pre-
the West. Gregory of Nyssa is as much a Catholic father as
Vatican II Catholic theology, formulated in reaction to a pre-
is Augustine or Thomas Aquinas. Nor are there schools of
vailing neoscholasticism that tended to reduce Catholicism
theology that Catholicism excludes. Catholicism embraces
to a system of doctrines and laws. On the other hand, the text
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

does reflect the exegetical, ecumenical, and ecclesiological
Catholic studies at the turn of the twenty-first century: be-
limitations of its time.
fore nominally indicating a church or adjectivally describing
Cunningham, Lawrence S. The Catholic Heritage. New York,
a belief, Roman Catholicism denotes action. It is what peo-
1983. Conveys the heart of Catholicism through certain
ple do with spiritual sensibilities redolent of the Christian
ideal types, for example, martyrs, mystics, and humanists, in-
God and tutored in traditions of Roman Catholic memory.
cluding “outsiders” like James Joyce and Simone Weil.
Terrence Tilley’s 2000 study of Roman Catholicism as a reli-
Delaney, John, ed. Why Catholic? Garden City, N. Y., 1979. A
gious tradition is representative, illustrating Roman Catholi-
collection of essays by various American Catholic figures on
cism as the act of handing something on (traditio) as much
their understanding of the meaning of Catholicism and on
as the things (tradita) passed down.
their own personal appropriation of that meaning. Contribu-
tors include Andrew Greeley, Abigail McCarthy, and Arch-
This focus on human action belies the oversimplified
bishop Fulton Sheen.
image of Roman Catholicism as a hierarchical, authoritarian
Gilkey, Langdon. Catholicism Confronts Modernity: A Protestant
church of immutable beliefs and acquiescent believers. It re-
View. New York, 1975. Chapter 1, “The Nature of the Cri-
veals a much more complex phenomenon: a church hierar-
sis,” is particularly useful because it identifies what the author
chical in form, yet materially diverse in its religious actions
regards as the essentially positive characteristics of Catholi-
and insights. Roman Catholics variably control and contest
cism: sacramentality, rationality, tradition, and peoplehood.
the practice of their religious sensibilities; practices formed
Happel, Stephen, and David Tracy. A Catholic Vision. Philadel-
as much by aesthetic sensibilities as by dogmatic pronounce-
phia, 1984. The approach is historical and the thesis is that
ment. What emerges from this scholarship is a Christianity
Catholicism emerges progressively and processively as it en-
not reckoned by a plurality, but expressive of a surprising
counters new forms of life that it constantly attempts to un-
pluralism. Sociologists of religion such as Kevin Christiano
derstand and transform. Jointly authored, the book may lack
strike a common note: “many people—not excluding Catho-
the necessary clarity and coherence that a less sophisticated
lics themselves—think that the Catholic Church is unitary
inquirer would require.
in addition to universal, monolithic as well as monumental,
Haughton, Rosemary. The Catholic Thing. Springfield, Ill., 1979.
and immutable as much as it is inimitable. Nothing could
An original approach that portrays Catholicism as a reality
be farther [sic] from the truth (2002).”
shaped by an enduring conflict between what the author calls
“Mother Church” (the more traditional, institutional side)
Attending to what Roman Catholics do, contemporary
and “Sophia” (the more unpredictable, communal side). In
research mines the everyday world of time and space. Uncov-
this regard, the book is similar to Cunningham’s (above).
ered in such work are previously unrecognized changes in
Hellwig, Monika K. Understanding Catholicism. New York, 1981.
Roman Catholicism over time, as well as locally distinct reli-
Covers some of the doctrinal and theological territory treated
gious practices shaped by the geographic and social spaces
in my more comprehensive Catholicism (below), but without
within which Roman Catholics find themselves. Eamon
so much attention to historical and documentary detail.
Duffy’s 1992 work The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional
Lubac, Henri de. Catholicisme. Paris, 1938. Translated by Lance-
Religion in England c.1400–c.1580 illustrates this trend.
lot C. Sheppard as Catholicism: A Study of the Corporate Des-
Duffy scrutinizes daily life in late medieval England and dis-
tiny of Mankind (New York, 1958). As its English subtitle
covers lay Roman Catholic religious practices that are sur-
suggests, the book underlines the essentially social nature of
prisingly vibrant and changing. Overturning the standard
Catholicism—in its creeds and doctrines, in its sacramental
view of the period, Duffy unearths a popular religiosity that
life, and in its vision of history. It draws heavily on patristic
seems scarcely moribund or decadent enough to seed an En-
and medieval sources, excerpts of which are provided in an
glish Reformation.
McBrien, Richard P. Catholicism. Rev. ed. 2 vols. in 1. Minneapo-
Other historical investigations apply this method to
lis, 1981. The most comprehensive, up-to-date exposition of
spaces beyond the Eurocentric limits of earlier Roman Cath-
Catholic history, theology, and doctrine available. Its main
olic scholarship. Gauvin Bailey (1999), for example, analyzes
lines are reflected in this article.
art on the Jesuit missions in Asia and South America from
Rahner, Karl, and Joseph Ratzinger. Episkopat und Primat. Frei-
the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.
burg im Bresgau, 1962. Translated by Kenneth Barker and
others as The Episcopate and the Primacy (New York, 1962).
Kathleen Myers and Amanda Powell (1999) edit and
An important corrective to exaggerated notions of papal au-
translate the seventeenth-century journal of Mexican nun
thority, and at the same time a significant contribution to the
Madre María de San Jose. Austen Ivereigh (2000) edits essays
literature on the meaning of collegiality. Its ideas, written be-
on Roman Catholic religious politics in nineteenth-century
fore Vatican II, were essentially adopted by the council.
Central and South America. These and more examinations
outside Europe further disclose the variable impact of time
and space on lived Roman Catholicism.
Regard for historicity and contextuality also marks pres-
ent Roman Catholic theology. Ethnically and regionally fo-
SIDERATIONS] A significant theme recurs in Roman
cused theologies have proliferated, drawing on Roman Cath-
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

olic behaviors and convictions particular to nearly every
Bryk observes another irony in the operation of Roman
region of the world. There are African and Asian Catholic
Catholic high schools. Teachers and students still grant the
theologies, European-American, Hispanic-American, and
(typically lay) Roman Catholic school principal a greater de-
African American Catholic theologies, as well as theologies
gree of power and deference than is generally given principals
differentiating many national cultures of Central and South
in public schools. But today, this vestige of religious order,
America. Robert Schreiter summarizes this development in
authoritarian empowerment, is used as much for encourag-
his 1985 book Constructing Local Theologies: “there is now
ing parental involvement and local, decentralized school con-
a realization that all theologies have contexts, interests, rela-
trol as for maintaining discipline. From an international per-
tionships of power, special concerns—and to pretend that
spective, Grace (2003) explains how schools employ this
this is not the case is to be blind.”
power in relation to church authority, from those that are
Allied to this fascination with action in time and space
largely compliant (e.g., in Australia and Ireland), through
is scholarly concentration on Roman Catholic group activity.
moderately challenging (e.g., in England, Scotland, and the
Between the microscopic level of personal religious practice
United States), to boldly resistive (e.g., in Brazil, Chile, and
and the macroscopic level of hierarchical church authority
South Africa).
lies a “mesoscopic” layer of group and organizational action.
Research on women religious orders and Catholic
From parish ladies’ guilds and food-drive committees,
schools parallels the new scholarly concentration on the par-
through regional ethnic associations and right-to-life groups,
ish, the place where the micro-, meso-, and macroscopic le-
across diocesan social justice offices and marriage preparation
vels of religious life intersect for most Roman Catholics. An-
conferences, to national lay organizations and Marian devo-
drew Greeley captures this reality when he writes that “it is
tion assemblies, Roman Catholicism is replete with mesos-
the parish where people do their living and dying, their lov-
copic religious action. In his historical-analytical investiga-
ing and their quarreling, their doubting and their believing,
tion of this fact, Ad Leys (1995) observes both the practical
their mourning and their rejoicing, their worrying and their
ubiquity of Roman Catholic group life and the theoretical
praying” (1990). James Davidson, et al., communicate the
expression it is given in the social-moral principle of subsid-
point statistically: 78 percent of parish-affiliated Roman
Catholics in the United States consider parishes “very impor-
Recent explorations attend to important, but previously
tant” organizations, as do 50 percent of those no longer affili-
unexamined, groups and organizations. Especially poignant
ated with a parish (1997).
are studies of women’s religious orders, the unheralded cre-
While a Roman Catholic’s sacramental life cycle surely
ators of vast school, orphanage, poorhouse, hospital, and so-
accounts for much of this affiliation, Mark Kowalewski’s re-
cial service networks around the world since the early nine-
search offers an additional reason. As a member of a church
teenth century. Like the African American Oblate Sisters of
with largely distant, ostensibly unchanging authority, a lay
Providence described by Diane Batts Morrow (2002), many
Roman Catholic’s typical contact with approachable and
of these heroic women’s groups struggled against not only
flexible religious leadership is the parish priest. When such
social discrimination, but also the disregard of their own
person-to-person leadership is effective, Roman Catholics re-
church leadership. To this day, a push-pull relationship with
ceive help not only in managing their sacramental lives
church authority persists for some women’s religious orders.
through the upheavals of contemporary economic, familial,
Characteristic of Roman Catholicism, two national organiza-
and cultural existence, but also in coping with these hard re-
tions of women religious, representing contrasting responses
alities on a day-to-day basis. Parish priests, says Kowalewski,
to this relationship, evolved in the United States after the
are “not simply bearers of the official directives of the organi-
Second Vatican Council (1961–1965): the Leadership Con-
zation, they also exercise their ministry in the context of indi-
ference of Women Religious and the Council of Major Supe-
vidual pastoral experience—an experience which often calls
riors of Women Religious.
for compromise and negotiation” (1993).
Heightened strain on the quality and funding of public
As they do with school principals, Roman Catholics fre-
schools at the end of the twentieth century has called atten-
quently defer to their parish priests. The common result is
tion to another previously neglected mesoscopic organiza-
a parish milieu mirroring the priest’s style of response toward
tion: the Catholic school. Though many schools have closed
church authority. Today, Roman Catholics worldwide pop-
and enrollment has declined over the past twenty-five years,
ularly categorize parishes as conservative, liberal, or radical.
the remaining 120,000 Roman Catholic elementary and sec-
ondary schools and their fifty million students around the
In the United States, however, the prerogatives granted
world still play a vital role in many societies. Analysts Antho-
to parish priests have come under intense scrutiny, ever since
ny Bryk, et al. (1993) and Gerald Grace (2002) are particu-
numerous disclosures of clerical sexual abuse of children oc-
larly fascinated with the loose federation, relative autonomy,
curred in the 1980s and subsequent decades. This priest-
and commitment to inner-city, non-Catholic children that
pedophilia tragedy has been compounded immeasurably by
is emblematic of many Roman Catholic schools—
the delinquency of church authority. Schooled in habits of
organizations ironically nested within their church’s central-
hierarchical, authoritarian arrogance, few bishops initially
ized, authoritarian structure.
felt compelled to respond compassionately to the victims 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

past abuse or to safeguard potential future victims. Instead,
Ozanam’s St. Vincent de Paul societies on the right and Féli-
their first instincts were to protect predator priests, by reas-
cité Lamennais’ L’Avenir republicanism on the left. Similar-
signing them to other parishes without notice or simply by
ly, some radical-right Catholics support communitarian ex-
denying that the abuse ever took place. Not surprisingly, lay
periments inspired by the earlier Jesuit reductions in
Roman Catholics have reacted by creating multiple protest
Paraguay, while other radical-left Catholics embrace Philippe
groups. The Voice of the Faithful collaborates with bishops
Buchez’s Christian socialism.
on church reform, while the Survivors’ Network of those
Frank recognition of Roman Catholic pluralism, past
Abused by Priests (SNAP) is less inclined to participate in
and present, invites assessment of how this compound Chris-
such collaboration.
tian religiosity sustains itself over time. Drawing on the
These examples display the plural, mesoscopic ways in
thought of Félix Guattari, Renée de la Torre offers a “trans-
which Roman Catholics practice and perceive their everyday
versalized institution” model. In such institutions, multiple
religiosity, and how they relate this religiosity to the power
horizontal axes of popular practice intersect a single vertical
and instruction issued from hierarchical church authority.
axis of hierarchical authority. As in Roman Catholicism, this
Scholars regularly model this relationship on a conservative,
vertical axis of objective law meets multiple, horizontal
liberal, and radical scale. Mary Jo Weaver and Scott Appleby
“group aspirations and strategies which cross it from differ-
(1995) add further complexities to this scale. At each point,
ent points—within and without, above and below.” As these
a Roman Catholic congregation may articulate comparative-
lateral activities crisscross the axis of the hierarchical authori-
ly “right” and “left” orientations, approaches that are often
ty, “spaces of conflict that traverse and penetrate the institu-
additionally nuanced by a group’s unique regional history.
tion” are produced (2002).
This complex combination affects the many Roman
In transversalized institutions, therefore, vertical and
Catholic groups in the Americas that are devoted to improv-
horizontal axes operate in tensive, but mutually beneficial,
ing society. Responding to prevailing public policies, as well
ways. This model suggests that Roman Catholicism persists
as to church authority, groups on the conservative-right,
in its formal religious structure and dizzying array of material
such as Catholics United for the Faith, exist alongside those
religiosity by “the continuance, rather than the dissolution,
on the conservative-left, such as the North American neo-
of contradictions” (2002). For de la Torre, Roman Catholi-
conservative movement. Simultaneously, liberal-right groups
cism not only is, but also must be, a site of religious contesta-
like the St. Egidio communities work differently from liber-
al-left organizations such as the social-justice lobby, Net-
work. Added to this mix are radical-right groups, such as
The functionality of this control-contest interaction can
those sustaining Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker legacy, and
be further elucidated using Paul Connerton’s (1989) and
radical-left groups, such as those inspired by the earlier Latin
Ann Swidler’s (2001) investigations of social memory. With
American comunidades eclesiales de base movement.
its protracted and geographically diffuse history, Roman Ca-
tholicism possesses more religious memory than it can ex-
Some Roman Catholics deride this variety as the unde-
press at any given time. By selecting and communicating a
sirable byproduct of “cafeteria Catholics”—people who se-
manageable portion of this memory, church authorities per-
lect only those items in Roman Catholicism they like and
form an important control function for a Roman Catholic’s
pass over items they dislike. If this phenomenon did not
religious identity.
exist, critics argue, Roman Catholic thought and action
would more uniformly replicate the instruction of hierarchi-
But Roman Catholic lay people contribute to corporate
cal church authority. But as Dean Hoge points out, “Cathol-
identity formation as well. They also select and communicate
icism includes an amazing collection of teachings, symbols,
religious memory, primarily to meet the practical challenges
rituals, devotions, and practices, which has grown up over
of day-to-day economic, familial, and cultural life. Church
the centuries.” Accordingly, it is not transparently obvious
authority tutors most, but not all, of this lay religious memo-
to Roman Catholics which elements are core and which are
ry. Some religious memories may include personally and lo-
peripheral. “Catholics today are faced with the question,”
cally cherished practices and perceptions that were never
says Hoge, “of sorting out core and periphery in their rich,
known, long forgotten, or once silenced by church authority.
many-stranded tradition.” Hence, “everyone is, to some de-
Other memories may recall searing family crises resolved by
gree, a cafeteria Catholic” (2002).
untutored, customized religious insights unavailable or even
contrary to the letter of formal church teaching.
This is not a new phenomenon. Thomas Bokenkotter
(1998), Marvin Krier Mich (1998), Paul Misner (1991), and
Sometimes, the institutionally unknown, novel, and
others map an analogous range of Roman Catholic disposi-
contested religious memories alive in 98 percent of the
tions dating as far back as the French Revolution. Eigh-
Roman Catholic population rejuvenate the 2 percent of
teenth- and early nineteenth- century conservative Catholics
Catholics who exercise church authority. Though such
include the autocratic caudillos in South America on the right
memories may first appear divisive to church leaders, often
and German romantic traditionalists like Adam Müller on
their long-term effect is to lessen, if not prevent, arthritis in
the left. Liberal Catholics can be found supporting Frédéric
the vertical axis.
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Thomas Reese’s (1989, 1992, 1996) in-depth research
from priestly ordination and are largely prevented from hold-
on the structures and processes of Roman Catholic church
ing positions of decision-making power in parishes and dio-
authority indicates that religious ressourcement may also orig-
inate within the vertical axis itself. Reese tracks the often co-
The glue Dillon finds securing women—whether con-
vert interplay of control and contest among popes, cardinals,
servative, liberal, or radical—to Roman Catholicism is the
and bishops. Though infrequent, inside reform may some-
rich melange of symbols, stories, devotions, and rituals they
times be overt, as in Pope John XXIII’s 1959 call for an ecu-
claim as their own. When linked to memory, says Dillon in
menical council.
a 1998 book, these traditions remind most women that
Michael McCallion and David Maines (1999) explore
“their genealogy is entwined with a historically continuous
intra-institutional transformation in Roman Catholicism by
church rather than a history of sectlike divisions. There is a
taking up sociological “frame analysis” and social movement
disposition therefore to stay, rather than to leave, and to
research. In particular, they look at change in religious litur-
work towards transformation from within the tradition.”
gy. Since the Second Vatican Council, a class of professional
Dillon’s observation touches on a growing theme in
liturgists has appeared; these practitioners are committed to
contemporary Roman Catholic research: the centrality of
a relatively egalitarian “People of God” theology inspired by
aesthetic resources for the understanding and exercise of
conciliar documents. Through variously inserting this ideo-
Roman Catholic religiosity. Important to this renewed theo-
logical “frame” into patterns of worship, these “oppositional
logical interest in beauty has been the English translations
insiders” press against the formally asymmetric relationship
of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s five-volume theological aesthet-
between priest and people.
ics, The Glory of the Lord. Critical too has been increased
The seemingly impressive power of adaptation detailed
theological focus on culture. Works such as Roberto S.
in these examinations has not sheltered Roman Catholicism
Goizueta’s Caminemos Con Jesús: Toward a Hispanic/Latino
from defection of worshippers, however. Statistical surveys
Theology of Accompaniment (1995) show how attention to
in Europe and the Americas demonstrate that Mass atten-
aesthetics discloses heretofore hidden theological resources in
dance has not noticeably rebounded from the precipitous de-
the cultural practices of the Roman Catholic laity.
cline during the 1960s and 1970s. More Roman Catholics
Greeley points this out in terms of narrative when he
have converted to evangelical forms of Protestant Christiani-
insists that “religion is story before it is anything else and
ty. Fewer young people get married in the Roman Catholic
after it is everything else” (2000). Writtings such as John
Church, and an even smaller number become priests or
Shea’s popular Stories of Faith (1980) have highlighted the
nuns. The large population of divorced Roman Catholics
role narrative plays in Roman Catholic religiosity.
typically leaves the church, alienated by what they perceive
to be an arcane, duplicitous annulment process.
Greeley signals another topic of current exploration
when he observes that “religious sensibility is passed on by
Disaffection with church authority also registers high in
storytellers, most of whom are not aware that they are telling
survey research. As more and more people around the world
stories because their narratives reside more in who they are
expect and demand operational transparency from the insti-
and what they do than in what they say” (2000). Several
tutions that affect their lives, the procedures of the Roman
Roman Catholic investigations today probe the transmission
Catholic hierarchy remain shrouded in secrecy. At a time
of religiosity through such aesthetic embodiment, correcting
when official church teaching encourages democratic forms
for an earlier overemphasis on religious faith as a predomi-
of participation and oversight in worldwide political and cul-
nantly cognitive matter. Characteristically, Aidan Nichols
tural institutions, no formal structure allows lay people to
comments that “nothing is in the intellect that is not first in
check and balance the hierarchical, authoritarian power of
the senses” (1996).
their leadership. Coincidentally, these same church leaders
use secular rational-legal systems to protect their own cler-
Interest in aesthetics and bodily senses has likewise cre-
gy—and themselves—from civil lawsuits.
ated interest in the role of affectivity in the play of Roman
Catholic Christianity. Important advances have been made,
Despite all this, most Roman Catholics stay in their
for example, in understanding how affections influence the
church. Michele Dillon (1999) cites this seeming anomaly
moral life, as William C. Spohn explains in Go and Do Like-
in her discussion of women. As profound as the work of
wise: Jesus and Ethics (2000). This focus has also added novel
women’s religious orders has been, nothing matches the con-
twists to the much-explored field of Roman Catholic sacra-
tribution women have made to the practical, day-to-day sur-
mentality. In Extravagant Affections: A Feminist Sacramental
vival of Roman Catholic Christianity. From quietly praying
Theology (1998), Susan Ross creatively enjoins these dynam-
with newborns and herding families to Mass, through orga-
ics, inviting one to consider the sacramentality of such ac-
nizing liturgies and planning parish fund-raisers, from hand-
tions as giving birth, cooking meals, mediating conflicts, and
ing out food baskets and editing church bulletins, to launder-
tending to the sick.
ing altar linens and making coffee after Mass, women
perform most of the practices which preserve everyday, local
With this attention to Roman Catholicism as action,
Roman Catholicism. Yet women continue to be excluded
this overview of Roman Catholic studies returns to where it
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

began. The focus on action in Roman Catholic research has
Mich, Marvin L. Krier. Catholic Social Teaching and Movements.
lead scholars in many fresh directions, only a few of which
Mystic, Conn., 1998.
have been outlined here. The overall effect of this quarter
Misner, Paul. Social Catholicism in Europe: From the Onset of In-
century of research has been to heighten appreciation for the
dustrialization to the First World War. New York, 1991.
rich complexity of Roman Catholicism. As its population
Morris, Charles. American Catholic: The Saints and Sinners Who
center continues to shift from the Northern to the Southern
Built America’s Most Powerful Church. New York, 1997.
Hemisphere, away from the comforts of middle-class exis-
Morrow, Diane Batts. Persons of Color and Religion at the Same
tence to the soul-testing conditions of hunger and disease,
Time: The Oblate Sisters of Providence, 1828–1860. Chapel
the challenges confronting this multifaceted religious com-
Hill, N.C., 2002.
munity will continue to be great indeed.
Myers, Kathleen A., and Amanda Powell, eds. and trans. A Wild
Country Out in the Garden: The Spiritual Journals of a Colo-
nial Mexican Nun. Bloomington, Ind., 1999.
Bailey, Gauvin Alexander. Art on the Jesuit Missions in Asia and
Nichols, Aidan. Epiphany: A Theological Introduction to Catholi-
Latin America 1542–1773. Toronto, 1999.
cism. Collegeville, Minn., 1996.
Bokenkotter, Thomas. Church and Revolution: Catholics in the
Struggle for Democracy. New York, 1998.
Reese, Thomas J. Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the
American Church. San Francisco, 1989.
Bryk, Anthony S., Valerie E. Lee, and Peter B. Holland. Catholic
Schools and the Common Good. Cambridge, Mass., 1993.
Reese, Thomas J. A Flock of Shepherds: The National Conference
of Catholic Bishops. Kansas City, Mo., 1992.
Christiano, Kevin J., William H. Swatos, Jr., and Peter Kivisto.
Sociology of Religion: Contemporary Developments. Walnut
Reese, Thomas J. Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization
Creek, Calif., 2002.
of the Catholic Church. Cambridge, Mass., 1996.
Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember. Cambridge, U.K.,
Ross, Susan A. Extravagent Affections: A Feminist Sacramental The-
ology. New York, 1998.
Davidson, James D., Andrea S. Williams, Richard A. Lamanna,
Schreiter, Robert J. Constructing Local Theologies. Maryknoll,
Jan Stenfenftenagel,
N.Y., 1985.
De la Torre, Renée. “The Catholic Diocese: A Transversalized In-
Schreiter, Robert J. The New Catholicity: Theology between the
stitution.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 17 (2002): 303–
Global and the Local. Maryknoll, N.Y., 1997.
Schuck, Michael J. That They Be One: The Social Teaching of the
Dillon, Michele. Catholic Identity: Balancing Reason, Faith, and
Papal Encyclicals 1740–1989. Washington, D.C., 1991.
Power. New York, 1999.
Shea, John. Stories of Faith. Chicago, 1980.
Driskel, Paul Michael. Representing Belief: Religion, Art and Society
Spohn, William C. Go and Do Likewise: Jesus and Ethics. New
in Nineteenth- Century France. University Park, Pa., 1992.
York, 2000.
Duffy, Eamon. The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in
Swidler, Ann. Talk of Love: How Culture Matters. Chicago, 2001.
England c. 1400–c. 1580. New Haven, Conn., 1992.
Tilley, Terrance W. Inventing Catholic Tradition. Maryknoll,
Goizueta, Roberto S. Caminemos con Jesús: Toward a Hispanic/
N.Y., 2000.
Latino Theology of Accompaniment. Maryknoll, N.Y., 1995.
Weaver, Mary Jo, and R. Scott Appleby, eds. Being Right: Conser-
Grace, Gerald. Catholic Schools: Mission, Markets, and Morality.
vative Catholics in America. Bloomington, Ind., 1995.
London, 2002.
Greeley, Andrew M. The Catholic Myth: The Behavior and Beliefs
Weigert, Kathleen Maas, William J. Whalen, and Patricia Witt-
of American Catholics. New York, 1990.
berg. The Search for Common Ground: What Unites and Di-
vides Catholic Americans.
Huntington, Ind., 1997.
Greeley, Andrew M. The Catholic Imagination. Berkeley, Calif.,
Hoge, Dean R. “Core and Periphery in American Catholic Identi-
ty.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 17 (2002): 293–302.
Ivereigh, Austin, ed. The Politics of Religion in the Age of Revival:
Studies in Nineteenth Century Europe and Latin America.
This entry consists of the following articles:
London, 2000.
Kowalewski, Mark R. “Firmness and Accommodation: Impres-
sion Management in Institutional Roman Catholicism.” So-
ciology of Religion
54 (1993): 207–217.
Leys, Ad. Ecclesiological Impacts of the Principle of Subsidiarity.
Kampen, Netherlands, 1995.
HISTORY OF SCHOLARSHIP. Although Roman religious insti-
McCallion, Michael J., and David R. Maines. “The Liturgical So-
tutions had been studied earlier (by, for example, Barnabé
cial Movement in the Vatican II Catholic Church.” Research
Brissonius, 1583), the differentiation between Greek and
in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change 21 (1999):
Roman religion within antique “heathendom” or “polythe-
ism” was the work of nineteenth-century scholars. Concen-
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

trating on literary sources and on origins as described by an-
tiquity (Augustine, Servius) only. Although the calendar, in-
cient historiographers and critically reviewed by
cluding information on many temple foundation days, is
contemporary historians, the studies by J. A. Hartung
known from a wall painting from shortly before the Julian
(1836), Rudolph H. Klausen (1839), and J. A. Ambrosch
calendar reform in 45 BCE, an extended epigraphical culture
(1839) marked the beginning of a scientific reconstruction
did not begin until the reign of Augustus (r. 27 BCE–14 CE).
of the religion of the city of Rome (and, marginally, of the
Temple structures and fragments of architectural decor have
religions of Italy). Under the impact of the extensive collec-
been excavated, but the archaeological record of altars, re-
tion of inscriptions and the systematization of Roman law
liefs, and statues is entirely dominated by the imperial re-
and the Roman “constitution” assembled by Theodor
building of Rome. However, a unique coinage features indi-
Mommsen (1817–1903), German scholars, especially Georg
vidual religious motifs from the late second century BCE
Wissowa (1859–1931), reconstructed authentic Roman reli-
gion as a body of sacral law and conservative ritualism in-
Major advances have been made in locating, document-
formed by legal conceptions of deities. The Roman calendar,
ing, and interpreting new archaeological and epigraphic
projected into the regal period as a document of early system-
sources outside Rome. Major findings of votive objects at
atization, and the lost “books of the priests” (libri sacerdo-
different sites in Italy allow the reconstruction of the produc-
tum), transmitted in occasional antiquarian quotations only,
tion, usage, local variations, and overarching trends, and help
formed the basis of the reconstruction.
put the Roman material (mostly recovered from the Tiber)
Wissowa’s handbook (1902/1912), with its detailed ac-
into context. Local archaeological research in the Roman col-
count of deities, temples, and rituals, dominated factual re-
onies and a new edition and commentary on republican laws
search in the twentieth century. Less successful were the
and statues (Crawford, 1996) have clarified the processes of
more experiential or expressive interpretations of Roman rit-
expansion and Romanization. In addition, new archaeologi-
uals (e.g., Fowler, 1899 and 1911) and the attempts of Her-
cal methods used at excavations at Osteria dell’Osa (Bietti
mann Usener’s school and James George Frazer to elucidate
Sestieri, 1992) and other sites have added to the collections
these rituals by ethnographic comparison, opening classical
of funerary ware and provided insights into the formation
material to late-nineteenth-century evolutionary schemes
and changes of early Italian pre-urban societies.
(late resonances in Bailey [1932] and Wagenvoort [1947]).
A history of Roman religion is impossible for any period
Drawing on comparative linguistics and mythology, Georges
before the fifth century BCE, even though the archaeological
Dumézil interpreted Roman deities within an Indo-
record attests important religious sites and enables a recon-
European framework of three basic “functions” (sovereignty,
struction of the history of the early Forum Romanum (an
warfare, and agriculture). Dumézil’s impact remained limit-
unhesitatingly optimistic stance is taken by Carandini,
ed, but his attention to a mythology present in the guise of
1997). Structurally, Rome has to be seen as a Latin city
Roman historiography re-enlarged the objects of studies.
under Etruscan domination, increasingly establishing direct
commercial and cultural relationships with (Italian) Greek
The quest for origins and “Wesen” (spiritiual substance)
and Punic cities.
led to a neglect of the interaction with Hellenic culture (an
ROMAN AND ITALIAN RELIGION. “Roman religion” is an an-
important exception was Altheim, 1930), visible already in
alytical concept that is used to describe religious phenomena
the archaeology of early Rome (Foro Boario), and with Ital-
in the ancient city of Rome and to relate the growing variety
ian religions that were increasingly subjected to Roman dom-
of cults to the political and social structure of the city. Al-
ination and increasingly present in Rome. Thus the reinter-
though Rome gradually became the dominant power in Italy
pretation of public Roman religion within the framework of
during the third century
a more skeptical and more sociological image of the history
BCE, as well as the capital of an em-
pire during the second century
of Roman political institutions (see Beard et al., 1998) must
BCE, its religious institutions
and their administrative scope only occasionally extended be-
be supplemented by intensified research in Italian imagery
yond the city and its nearby surroundings (ager Romanus).
and architecture (e.g., Wiseman, 1995, 2000; Coarelli,
Nothing is known about the religious structure of the early
1987), as well as a new look at late republican literature (e.g.,
Roman colonies in Italy. The establishment of towering
Feeney, 1998; Barchiesi, Rüpke, and Stevens, 2004) and
Capitolia (replicas of the threefold temple on the Roman
extra-urban inscriptions.
Capitoline hill, dedicated to Jupiter [Iuppiter], Juno [Iuno],
SOURCES. Any attempt at a historical reconstruction of re-
and Minerva) had no structural necessity, but represented in-
publican Roman religion has to rely on a critical reading of
frequent individual efforts to acquire prestige and demon-
early Augustan historiography (late first century BCE). With
strate loyalty. Intense contacts led to manifold processes of
a few exceptions (e.g., Plautus’s comedies from the early sec-
exchange, the direction of which could hardly be ascertained.
ond century BCE, Cato the Elder, some inscriptions), con-
From the second century BCE onward, intense urbanization
temporary literary evidence is lacking before the intensively
led municipal elites to the reception of Roman models of ad-
documented first century. The most important antiquarian
ministration and representation. The most visible effect of
source, Marcus Terentius Varro (116–27 BCE), is mostly
this process was the parallel Hellenization of the cities and
known through quotations from imperial times and late an-
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

The resulting similarities were due to competition
in complete rhythm with the disfavor or favor evinced by the
among the cities, as well as adaptation from the cultural cen-
gods. A revealing example is furnished in the Romans’ des-
ters, including Rome, Athens, and Alexandria. The resulting
peration following the sack of Rome by the Gauls (in 390
Mediterranean koiné remains an object for further research.
BCE by Varronian chronology, but probably, according to a
The process itself intensified in imperial times. The religious
Polybian synchronism, to be dated to 387/6). Overwhelmed,
profile of Pompeii during the first centuries BCE and CE is
they were nearly resolved to abandon the ruins of their city,
neither Oscan nor Roman, but rather a local variant of Medi-
at the instigation of their tribunes, in order to emigrate to
terranean polis religion. The pantheon of the Umbrian town
Veii. It was then that M. Furius Camillus, the predestined
of Iguvium contained a grouping of three gods parallel to the
leader (dux fatalis) and dictator who conquered Veii in 396,
Roman Capitoline triad: Iou, Mart, and Vofiono, all bearing
and now the restorer of the situation in Rome, lit upon the
the common epithet Grabovio (its meaning is obscure). This
decisive argument that inspired the mood reversal of the as-
similarity between the two pantheons is all the more appar-
sembly: to abandon Rome, many times endowed with heav-
ent since Vofiono is the exact linguistic equivalent of
enly blessings since its origins, would be to commit sacrilege.
Quirinus, even to its adjectival form -no-, derived from a
In the course of his address, Camillus called to mind this per-
nominal root. Yet the tabulae Iguvinae, the Iguvine tablets
manent lesson for the benefit of his listeners: “Consider the
from the second and first centuries BCE, are not an indepen-
events of these last years, whether successes or reversals. You
dent attestation of an Indo-European structure, but rather
will find that everything succeeded when we followed the
the religious product of a city with confederate status from
gods, and everything failed when we scorned them” (Livy,
the first half of the third century BCE onward. That is not
to deny the importance of local and translocal cultures inde-
pendent of or even superior or opposed to Rome (e.g., the
Ideas as religio were not reflected upon before the very
religious conceptions and symbols of the Etruscan elites and
end of the Republic. It was under the influence of Greek phi-
the Greeks of Magna Graecia, located to the south of the
losophy that some Roman authors (usually at the end of their
Volturno River). The Roman solar calendar did not even re-
political career) started to systematically reflect upon their
place middle Italian and Etruscan lunisolar calendars until
own religious tradition in order to clarify concepts. Cicero
the first century
is the foremost exponent, realizing in his books On the Na-
BCE. And yet the Iguvine documents in
Oscan language use Latin letters in their later section, and
ture of the Gods, On Divination, and On Fate a multivolume
they attest an interest in documenting rituals that cannot be
theological project. However, his reflections on religion did
separated from the cultural developments of the whole pen-
not arrive at a unified concept: religio was a feeling of obliga-
insula, subjected to Roman rule.
tion; pietas (piety), a corresponding attitude; and sacra (ritu-
als) and caerimonia (forms of veneration), were the way to
Basic concepts. The idea of obligation lies at the very
put religio and pietas into practice.
root of the Romans’ attitude toward the gods, and it is ex-
pressed in the word religio. If the modern languages of the
Because a general concept of religion as a system of ac-
Western world (both Romance and Germanic) have failed
tions and ideas was lacking, no corresponding concept of “sa-
to translate this word and have settled on a simple copy
cred law” could exist. There were rules to be followed in mat-
thereof (religion, religione), the reason lies in the fact that this
ters of divine property, divination, and priests, but they did
idiom is untranslatable. Indeed, in the ancient world there
not add up to a ius sacrum, a phrase that did not exist in an-
was no Greek equivalent. All the expressions that one can
tiquity. And even these rules were flexible, matters of debate,
bring to mind by analogy—sebas (respect for the gods),
traditions frequently fixed only under the impact of the en-
proskunesis (adoration), eulabeia (reverential fear), threskeia
counter with Greek critical thought. The term Roman reli-
(cult)—fall far short of filling the semantic range of religio.
gion, therefore, encompasses what belongs to our modern
Careful examination shows that the Latins, who were not
concept of religion.
concerned with philological rigor, connected religio more
Early Iron Age Latium. It is not before the beginning
with the verb religare (to tie), alluding to the bonds between
of the first millennium BCE (between the end of the Bronze
gods and humans, than with the verb relegere (to take up
Age and the beginning of the Iron Age) that it becomes possi-
again with care). Such as it is, religio expresses a fundamental
ble to identify traits of a Latin material culture attesting to
preoccupation manifested in two complementary ways: the
an ethnogenesis in the plain south of the lower course of the
care taken to avoid divine wrath, and the desire to win the
Tiber, a territory that was bordered on the northwest by
benevolence and favor of the gods. It was the Romans’ inner
the Tiber and the hills north of it, and on the northeast by
conviction that without the accord of the gods they could
the (later) Sabine mountainous area. On the east this area
not succeed in their endeavors. This explains the solemn dec-
was bound by the Alban chain from the mountains of Pa-
laration of Cicero (106–43 BCE) proclaiming the Roman
lombara, Tivoli (Tibur), Palestrina (Praeneste), and Cori
people to be “the most religious in the world” (De natura de-
(Cora) as far as Terracina (Anxur) and Circeo (Circei), and
orum 2.3).
to the west was the shore of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Small settle-
This preoccupation is evident throughout the history of
ments formed in this area within a population that was melt-
Livy (59 BCE–17 CE). Roman accomplishments rise and fall
ed together from (probably) local people and immigrants
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

from the north and northeast. Scholars know nothing of
building project of the Capitoline temple of Jupiter Optimus
their religion apart from the tombs attesting inhumation, as
Maximus (Jove [Iove] the Best and Greatest), Juno, and Mi-
well as cremation. At Rome traces of earlier presences of hu-
nerva, dateable to the latter part of the sixth century. By its
mans have been found, but continuous settlements on places
sheer size the temple competes with the largest Greek sanctu-
like the Palatine started around the tenth century. From
aries, and the grouping of deities suggests that that was in-
around 830 BCE onward, smaller settlements took shape at
tended. The investment in the quality of the terracotta statu-
privileged places of the plain, a proto-urban phase.
ary (Varro in Pliny the Elder, Historia naturalis 35.157)
It is possible to give some detail of the conditions of life
points to the same intention. The actual size of the late-sixth-
in these population centers. They drew their sustenance
century city remains debated, but even as a larger city with
mainly from animal husbandry and from the exploitation of
international contacts, as shown by the treaty with Carthage,
natural resources (salt, fruit, and game). Their inhabitants
Rome was but one of the Latium townships. The conquests
progressively took up agriculture in pace with the clearing
attributed to regal Rome in the Roman annalistic tradition
of the woods and the draining of the marshes, at the same
were made up from a painful series of conflicts that ended
time making pottery and iron tools. Their language belonged
with the Latin wars in 340 to 338 BCE. The Latin league was
to the Indo-European family. The first document in the
dissolved and the Latins were incorporated into the Roman
Latin language may be an inscription on a golden brooch
from Praeneste, dated to the end of the seventh century:
Parallel to the central investment of resources, the luxu-
“manios med fhefhaked numasioi” (in classical Latin: “Mani-
ry of individual tombs—unlike in Etruscan centers—
us me fecit Numerio” [“Manius made me for Numerius”]).
receded. Yet it would be erroneous to assume a highly cen-
However, the authenticity of this inscription is doubtful.
tralized state. During republican times, even warfare was an
The placing and the contents of tombs attest to growing
enterprise frequently organized on a gentilician basis, as the
social differentiation and the formation of gentilician groups;
institutions of the fetiales (legates that established the in-
urns in the form of oblong huts are characteristic. At Osteria
volvement or disinvolvement of the community as a whole
dell’Osa of the ninth century, cremation served as a social
into predatory conflicts) and the lapis Satricanus demon-
marker that separated outstanding male warriors—
strate. This dedicatory inscription from around 500 BCE,
recognizable by miniature weapons—from the rest of the
found at Satricum (northeast of Antium), accompanied a
dedication to the warrior god Mars by followers (sodales) of
a certain Poplios Valesius.
Social differentiation was certainly furthered by the
presence of Greeks in Italy from 770 BCE onward who could
Religion of the early period. Our image of the early
serve as traders and agents in long-distance contacts with the
period is far drier than the colorful narratives of late republi-
southern and eastern part of the Mediterranean. The Orien-
can and Augustan times, transmitted especially by the histo-
talizing period (c. 730–630 BCE) is present in the form of lux-
rians Livy and Dionys of Halikarnassos. The earliest phase
ury tombs, princely burials with highly valuable and presti-
was organized narratively in the form of a diptych: the “prov-
gious objects in sites around Rome (Praeneste, Ficana, Castel
idential” passage from the “savage” state to the “civilized”
di Decima [= Politorium?]), though not in Rome itself. So-
state. The narrative by Cicero follows this form (De republica
cial power offered the possibility of acquiring wealth and
2.4). He first evokes the divine origin of the twins Romulus
long-distance contacts; such contacts and goods served to
and Remus, born of the god Mars and the Vestal Virgin Rhea
further prestige.
Silvia. Romulus and Remus were left exposed on the banks
of the Tiber by their granduncle Amulius, king of Alba
Early Rome. The urbanization of Rome could be in-
Longa, but were then miraculously saved by the intervention
ferred from the paving of the Forum and the removal of pre-
of a nursing wolf. The author draws a contrast between the
ceding huts around 650 BCE to form a central and common
pastoral phase, which saw the assertion of the authority of
space soon to be enlarged and surrounded by a growing
Romulus (the elimination of Remus is passed over in si-
number of stone buildings from 600 onward. A site adjacent
lence), and the civilizing phase of the city’s founder.
to the Comitium paved with black stones (lapis niger) proba-
bly marked an open sanctuary to the god Vulcan. Another
Within the succession of seven kings, Romulus, the
building that at least later on served as a cultic center, the
founder, and Numa, the second king, shared in the establish-
Regia (king’s palace), was built during the sixth century. It
ment of important institutions like central cults and priest-
should be noted that Greek influence is visible in the ar-
hoods. Yet the picture of the net of traditions is complex:
rangement of the central “political” space, as it is in archaeo-
Numa is said to be a pupil of the southern Italian philoso-
logical details. The archaeological remnants of the earliest
pher Pythagoras; King Tullius was killed in his attempts to
temples of the Forum Boarium (San Omobono), the cattle
manipulate flashes in secret rites.
market on the border of the Tiber, are decorations by Greek
As stated above, the archaeological record of temples re-
mains meager. Nevertheless the statues of the temples of San
The most impressive testimony to early Rome’s relation
Omobono belie later reconstructions of pure origins. A re-
to the Mediterranean world dominated by the Greeks is the
mark by Varro (Antiquitates rerum divinarum frg. 18, Car-
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

dauns, quoted by Augustine, De civitate Dei 4.31) deserves
dence is lacking and the possibility of archaizing construc-
attention: “For more than 170 years, the Romans worshiped
tions of rituals cannot be ruled out. The latter is illustrated
their gods without statues. If this custom had prevailed, the
by the ritual of the declaration of war that is described by
gods would be honored in a purer fashion.” This reference
Livy (1.32) and was performed by Octavianus before the war
to a lost state of purity (castitas) is an indirect criticism of the
against Cleopatra and Antonius. The antiquarian account
Hellenic anthropomorphism that attributed human passions
supposes a fetial priest throwing a spear across the border of
and vices to the gods, as in Homer’s Iliad or in Hesiod’s
the hostile territory. The spear is made of cornel wood har-
dened by fire, without an iron point. This account forms the
backdrop of the same rite being performed by Octavian in
Rituals can be hypothetically reconstructed only on the
basis of much larger attestations that try to account for social
BCE in the city of Rome (Dio, Roman history 50.4.4–5),
allegedly on “hostile” territory ritually set apart for that pur-
changes and external influences. Despite the probable short
pose (Servius, Ad Aeneidum 9.52). The new ritual made the
presence of Etruscan rule in the sixth century, symbols of
observers forget that they were witnessing the opening of a
power and some public rituals seem to have been heavily in-
major civil war, turning a ritual gesture, earlier attested
fluenced by Etruscan models, perhaps indicating “self-
for the general leading his army, into an archaized priestly
Etruscanization” rather than conscious implantation by
activity: the late use of iron was part of Roman historical
Etruscan tyrants. Etruscan influence is evident in the central
position of the monthly festival of the full moon, the ides
(eidus), dedicated to Jupiter (Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.15.14–
The Lupercalia, celebrated on February 15, delimited
16). Etruscan influence is also probable for the processional
the very cradle of the city. On that date “the old Palatine
ritual and the chariot races of such old games as the Equirria.
stronghold ringed by a human flock” (Varro, De lingua La-
Chariots had been aristocratic prestige objects since the
tina) was purified by naked Luperci (a variety of wolf-men,
Orientalizing period, and they were no longer in use in mid-
dressed in loincloths), who, armed with whips, would flog
dle Italian warfare by the end of the sixth century BCE.
the public. Everything about this ceremony—the “savage”
Religion and topography. Late republican tradition
rite (see Cicero, Pro Caelio 26) and the territorial circum-
and religious practice included festivals related to topograph-
scription—demonstrates its extreme archaism.
ical situations that might date back to regal or early republi-
The feast of Septimontium on December 11 designated,
can times. The topographical grid that corresponds to the
as its name suggested, a more extended territory. It involved
feast of the Septimontium, celebrated on December 11, re-
no one except the inhabitants of the montes (mountains).
flects already an extended township. The three knolls of the
These seven mountains (which are not to be confused with
Palatine region (Palatium, Cermalus, Velia) are joined with
the seven hills of the future Rome) are the following: the
the three knolls of the Esquiline group (Fagutal, Oppius,
knolls of the Palatium, the Germalus, the Velia (which to-
Cispius), along with the Subura (the Caelius was added later
gether would make up the Palatine), the Fagutal, the Oppius,
to this list of seven names). These are the stages of the proces-
the Cespius (which three would be absorbed by the Esqui-
sion that the abridger Sextus Pompeius Festus outlines for
line), and the Caelius (Sextus Pompeius Festus, while still as-
this feast, but in a different order, probably in line with the
serting the number of seven montes, adds the Subura to this
liturgical itinerary. The list is borrowed, as is known, from
list). This amounted, then, to an intermediary stage between
the scholar M. Verrius Flaccus: Palatium, Velia, Fagutal,
the primitive nucleus and the organized city. One will note
Subura, Cermalus, Oppius, Caelius, Cispius.
the use of the word mons to designate these knolls, as op-
At a later stage of topographical development the city
posed to collis, which would be reserved for referring to the
was divided into four regions: Palatina, Esquilina, Suburana,
northern hills.
and Collina, the last comprising the Quirinal and the Vimi-
The feast of the Argei, which required two separate ritu-
nal. Surrounding walls were constructed. Tradition attri-
als at two different times (on March 16 and 17, and on May
butes these initiatives to the next-to-last king, Servius Tulli-
14), marks the last stage. It involved a procession in March
us. Recent archaeological discoveries have verified a notable
in which mannequins made of rushes (Ovid, Fasti 5.621)
territorial extension of the city during the sixth century. As
were carried to the twenty-seven chapels prepared for this
for the ramparts, if the date of the wall made by Servius in
purpose. On May 14 they were taken out of the chapels and
opus quadratum should be advanced to the fourth century,
cast into the Tiber from the top of a bridge, the Pons Sublici-
after the burning of Rome by the Gauls, the existence of
us, in the presence of the pontiff and the Vestal Virgins.
walls in the sixth century is nonetheless established by the
There are different opinions on the meaning of the ceremo-
vestiges of an agger found on the Quirinal. The discovery at
ny. Wissowa saw in it a ritual of substitution taking the place
Lavinium of a rampart in opus quadratum dating from the
of human sacrifices. (A note by Varro, De lingua Latina 7.44,
sixth century leads, analogously to the Roman situation, to
specifies that these mannequins were human in shape.) How-
the same conclusion.
ever, Kurt Latte prefers to compare these mannequins of
A comparison of different cults gives profile to the de-
rushes to oscilla (figurines or small masks that were hung
velopment—again hypothetically, for contemporary evi-
from trees), which absorbed the impurities that were to be
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purged from the city. The itinerary of the procession shows
bution of the sanctuaries. Vesta, the goddess of the public
that it corresponds to the final stage of the city’s develop-
hearth, could only be situated at the heart of the city within
ment, the Rome of the quattuor regiones (four regions). Varro
the pomerium, whereas a new arrival, such as Juno Regina,
outlined the procession as follows: it proceeded through the
originating in Veii, was received, as an outsider, in a temple
heights of the Caelius, the Esquiline, the Viminal, the Quiri-
built on the Aventine (in 392 BCE).
nal, and the Palatine, and encircled the Forum—henceforth
Early festivals and priests. The calendar of festivals re-
located in the heart of the city.
flected and conventionalized temporal rhythms. The prepa-
An important line, at least legitimated by religious argu-
ration for warfare finds ritual reflection in some festivals and
ments in later times, was the pomerium, separating the area
in the ritual activities of the priesthood of the Salii in the
of domi (at home, at peace) and militiae (the area of warfare
month of March, the opening month of the year. Mars is the
and the unlimited power of the war leader). What was this
god presiding over warfare; the Salians performed dances
pomerium? According to Varro (De lingua Latina 5.143), it
clad in archaic warrior dress and cared for archaically formed
was a circle within the surrounding wall marked by stones
shields in the shape of an eight. Agricultural and pastoral fes-
and describing the limit inside of which urban auspices had
tivals could be found in the month of April, the Parilia with
to be taken. Rome included sectors outside the pomerial
their lustration of cattle being probably the oldest one (April
zone that were still part of the city: the Aventine Hill, which
21). Fordicidia, the killing of pregnant cows (April 15); the
had been outside the city of the four regions (its incorpora-
Cerialia (April 19), named after the goddess of cereals; the
tion into the city was attributed by tradition sometimes to
Vinalia, a wine festival (April 23); and the Robigalia, featur-
Romulus and sometimes to Ancus Marcius), remained out-
ing the sacrifice of a dog to further the growing of the grain
side the pomerial zone until the time of Claudius (first centu-
(April 25), might denote old rituals, too. Series of festivals
ry CE), even though it was surrounded by what was called
in August and December, addressed to gods related to the
“Servius’s wall.”
securing of the harvest and abundance, might have produced
other foci of communal and urban ritualizing of the econom-
The same extrapomerial status held true for the Field of
ic activities of farmsteads. The subordination of the festival
Mars, which owed its name to the military exercises that were
listed to the monthly—originally empirical, later fictitious—
conducted on its esplanade. Yet here there occurs a further
lunar phases of the developed calendar warns of the assump-
practice that lies at the root of Roman law. On this emplace-
tion of complex festival cycles, too easily postulated by schol-
ment there was an altar consecrated to Mars from time im-
ars like Dumézil. The same warning holds true for the postu-
memorial. It is mentioned by the “royal” law of Numa in re-
lation of complex cycles of initiation rites (Torelli, 1984).
lation to the distribution of the spolia opima (spoils taken
Sociologically, Rome was not a tribal society, but a precari-
from an enemy’s general slain by one’s own army command-
ous public of gentilician leaders and their followers and an
er) and was completed later by the erection of a temple in
increasingly incoherent urban population. What looks like
138 BCE. The assemblies of military centuries (comitia cen-
initiatory phenomena are rites reserved mostly for young
turiata) were also held there. In addition, every five years the
aristocrats organized as representative priesthoods.
purification of the people (lustrum) was celebrated on the
Field of Mars by the sacrifice of the suovetaurilia, the set of
The concept of priesthood, however, is far from clear
three victims—boar, ram, and bull—that had been paraded
for the early period. At least from the late fourth century BCE
beforehand around the assembly of citizens. The presence of
onward, the public priesthoods underwent a process of poli-
the old Mars outside the pomerium (similarly, another tem-
ticization, adapting these lifelong roles and the modes of ac-
ple of Mars, constructed in 338 BCE to the south of Rome
cession to the model of annual magistracies. The preceding
outside the Porta Capena, was also outside the pomerial
phase might have been one of a sacralization of ousted politi-
zone) was in strict conformity with the distinction estab-
cal positions that once combined political and religious au-
lished between the imperium domi, the jurisdiction of civil
thority. Such an interpretation is particularly plausible for
power circumscribed by the pomerial zone, and the imperi-
the figures of the rex and the regina sacrorum (king and queen
um militiae that could not show itself except outside this
of the rites), who took care of important routine rites in the
zone. This is why it was necessary to take other auspices
course of the month and year, but did not have any signifi-
when one wanted to go from one zone to another. If one
cant political or even religious competence in historical
failed to do so, every official act was nullified. This misfor-
times. The Regia on the Forum Romanum formed one of
tune befell the father of the Gracchi, T. Sempronius Grac-
the centers of their cult activities; it must have been part of
chus, during his presidency of the comitia centuriata. While
a complex that embraced the atrium and aedes Vestae as well.
going back and forth between the Senate and the Field of
Here, the Vestal Virgins, six in number, resided and per-
Mars, he forgot to take the military auspices again; as a result,
formed. Under the direction of a virgo maxima, their essen-
the election of consuls that took place in the midst of the as-
tial mission was to maintain the public hearth in the aedes
semblies when he returned was rejected by the Senate (see
Vestae. Their service lasted thirty years and enjoyed great
Cicero, De divinatione 1.33 and 2.11). The delimitation of
prestige (Cicero, Pro Fonteio 48). Their liturgical importance
Roman sacral space by the pomerial line explains the distri-
is confirmed by two significant points. Once a year, they
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would make their way to the king in order to ask him: “Are
Feriae Latinae (Latin holidays) were celebrated at the summit
you vigilant, king? Be vigilant!” On another solemn occasion,
of the Alban Hills in honor of Jupiter Latiaris. In earlier
the virgo maxima mounted the Capitolium in the company
times, the Latins had been granted an equal share of the sacri-
of the pontifex maximus (Horace, Carmina 3.30.8).
fice, which consisted of a white bull (this detail, coming from
Arnobius in Adversus nationes 2.68, would show that the or-
Drawing on the legendary figure of the seer Attus Navi-
dinary rule, which provided a castrated victim for Jupiter,
us, it might be asked whether a slow integration of charis-
did not apply here). Once the consecrated entrails (exta) were
matic religious figures into an organized public college of au-
offered to the god, all in attendance would share the meat,
gurs would also be a possible line of development. In either
thus demonstrating their bonds of community. After the de-
case, the shift from regal to consular rule, from kingdom to
struction of Alba Longa, Rome quite naturally picked up the
Republic, would have been of the utmost importance.
thread of this tradition by incorporating the Feriae Latinae
Private worship is attested by votives from early on;
as a movable feast into its liturgical calendar. Still, the atti-
Lavinium features dedications from the seventh century BCE.
tude of the Romans was selective: even though they trans-
Like several larger sanctuaries in the surroundings, it might
ferred the entire Alban population to Rome itself, they kept
have drawn clients from the city. Migrant artisans offered
the Alban celebrations in their usual locations. They simply
their services at the sanctuaries on a temporal basis; mass pro-
built a temple to Jupiter Latiaris where previously there was
duction, not individual expression, forms the economic basis
only a lucus, a sacred grove. During the historical epoch, the
of this form of material documentation of piety, even in
Roman consuls, accompanied by representatives of the state,
lower social strata.
would make their way to the federal sanctuary shortly after
The regional context. Latium Vetus, or Latium Antiqu-
assuming their responsibilities and would preside there over
um, was augmented later on by the Latium Adiectum, or La-
the ceremonies. The Feriae Latinae had come under Roman
tium Novum (New Latium), formed by the territories won
from the Volsci, the Aequi, the Hernici, and the Aurunci by
The conduct of the Romans was very different with re-
conquests or federations (see Pliny the Elder, Historia natur-
gard to the federal cult of Diana. Tradition places this cult
alis 3.68–70). Traditionally, the Latins are called populi La-
at Aricia near Lake Nemi, which is known as the speculum
tini (Latin peoples) or by the collective noun nomen Latinum
Dianae, “mirror of Diana” (Servius, Ad Aeneidem 7.515). An
(Latin nation). In the historical epoch, older structures, in-
archaic rite determined that the priest of Diana’s sacred
cluding those around the sanctuary of Jupiter Latiaris on
grove, called the rex nemorensis, could hold office there until
Mons Albanus and those surrounding the sanctuary of Diana
he was killed by his successor in single combat (the point of
Aricina located in “the sacred grove” of Aricia (Nemus
departure of J. G. Frazer’s Golden Bough). During the histori-
Dianae), were preserved by religious federations based on
cal period, this odd priesthood attracted only fugitive slaves.
common cults.
The federal altar had been consecrated to Diana by the Latin
dictator Egerius Laevius, a native of Tusculum. Tusculum
Another federal cult would play an important role in
was the center of a federation of Latin towns, established per-
history because it held privileged ties with the Romans. This
haps after the disappearance of Alba Longa. When the cult
cult was centered at Lavinium, which Varro (De lingua La-
came under Roman authority, it was transferred into the city
tina 5.144) identifies as the religious metropolis of Rome:
on the extrapomerial hill of the Aventine. It had nothing
“Lavinium:. . .ibi di Penates nostri” (“Lavinium:. . . there
there at first except an altar, then a temple that Varro ac-
are our household gods”). Excavations have uncovered the
knowledges as having federal status: commune Latinorum
site, which includes a necropolis dating back to the tenth
templum. Yet this status was only one of appearance, since
century BCE. There are also ruins of ramparts dating from the
no assembly of Latin cities is recorded as ever having oc-
sixth century, the vestiges of a house of worship flanked by
curred on the Aventine during the Roman period, any more
thirteen altars, and a mausoleum (it could be a heroion in
than at Aricia. Another point is significant: the anniversary
memory of Aeneas) that houses an archaic tomb from the
of the temple fell on the ides of August and bore the name
seventh century BCE. Thousands of votives attest the appeal
Dies Servorum (slaves’ day). Whatever interpretation one
of a healing sanctuary for several centuries. In the imperial
gives to this designation, the fact remains that the cult of
period, the religious existence of the city was preserved in the
Diana was not of concern either on the Aventine or in Aricia.
form of a symbolic community, whose offices were assigned
This time Rome had reduced a federal cult to a suitable level.
like priesthoods to members of the Roman equestrian class.
In contrast with Jupiter Latiaris, Diana, whose name is a se-
The integration of federal cults into Roman dominance
mantic homologue of Jupiter (since both names were formed
could follow different routes. The Romans’ capacity for ad-
from the root *diu; she signified nocturnal light, just as he
aptation to different circumstances is evident here in an espe-
signified the light of day), was doomed to fade gradually
cially remarkable way, as illustrated by the following three
away. Identified with Artemis, she would be invoked in Hor-
ace’s Carmen saeculare as the sister of Apollo.
One of the most ancient federal cults presupposes the
The relations that Rome held with Lavinium were very
original preeminence of the ancient city of Alba Longa: the
different. In the Roman mind, Lavinium had the same reso-
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

nance as the Alban Hills, judging from the discourse that
of the supreme god: Iuppiter (*Iou-pater, with *Iou- deriving
Livy attributes to the dictator Camillus. Camillus did not
from *dyeu-) and Zeus (*dyeus) both go back to the same
hesitate to put these two high places on the same level: “Our
Indo-European root. It also follows that the Latins represent-
ancestors entrusted to us the celebration of religious ceremo-
ed the divinity as an individual and personal being. This lin-
nies on Mount Alban and in Lavinium.” In reality, the latter
guistic fact at once discredits the “animist” or pre-animist
ranked higher than the former. Varro (De lingua Latina
notion that would postulate a pre-deist phase in Rome which
5.144) specifies it as the source of Roman lineage and the
would have preceded the advent of the personal divinity.
cradle of the Roman penates. Lavinium benefited from a con-
And yet, compared to the gods of Homer’s Greek pan-
tinual deference on the part of the Romans after the treaty
theon, the Roman gods lack in personality. They lack the
that tradition traced back to the time of T. Tatius (Livy,
embellishments of a mythology that is more or less abundant
1.14.2). This deference was evident in the ritual processions
with picturesque variations. They were mainly defined by
of higher magistrates to the penates and to Vesta as they en-
their specific competence, far from any tie with the human
tered their office and as they left it. The deference was like-
condition. Wissowa (1912) observed that there was no mar-
wise evident in the annual pilgrimages by the pontiffs and
riage or union between gods and goddesses at Rome. This
the consuls to the sanctuary of Aeneas Indiges, which Ascani-
fact is particularly verified by the existence of many divinized
us is reputed to have built for his divinized father. If one con-
abstractions, such as Fides, the goddess of good faith, who
siders that Lavinium was also the cradle of the religion of
received each year the common homage of three major
Venus, who was understood according to Trojan legend to
priests. They would come in an open chariot to her chapel
be the Aeneadum genetrix (“mother of the descendants of Ae-
to ask her to preserve harmonious relations within the city.
neas”), one can imagine that this exceptional site exerted in
Also, Ceres, the etymology of whose name places her in
every way a great attraction for the Romans.
charge of growth (especially of grains), appears as the back-
ground to the feast of the Cerialia, which was celebrated an-
Archaeology has recently made an important contribu-
nually on April 19. These, then, are not minor divinities, nor
tion concerning the territory of Lavinium by bringing to
is Consus, the god of grain storage (condere, “to store”), who
light, among other things, a heroion (temple) from the fourth
was celebrated at the time of the Consualia on August 21,
century BCE, constructed upon an archaic tomb (which its
as well as at the time of the Opiconsiva on August 25, when
discoverer, Paolo Sommella, identifies as the mausoleum of
he was in association with Ops, the goddess who watched
Aeneas) and a set of thirteen altars, of which twelve were in
over abundance. As for Janus (Ianus), god of beginnings and
use in the middle of the fourth century. They may have
of passages, and Vesta, the goddess of the sacred fire, their
served a new Latin federation presided over by Rome. In-
importance in the Roman liturgy was such, as reported by
deed, Rome did not stop at destroying the Latin confedera-
Cicero (De natura deorum 2.67), that the former shared in
tion in 338 BCE, but also reinforced the privileges of Lavini-
the beginning of every religious ceremony, while the latter
um. For Lavinium, as Livy points out (8.11.15), had added
was invoked at the end.
to its titles the merit of loyalty by refusing to join the Latin
Did this tendency toward divinized abstraction lend it-
revolt. It brought even more renown upon itself as a pilgrim-
self to excesses? One readily cites the example of the minor
age center. Thus Rome’s attitude toward federal cults was de-
specialist gods that assisted Ceres in her functions, according
finitively shown under three very different aspects: some-
to Fabius Pictor (quoted by Servius Danielis, Ad Georgica
times Rome assumed them (Alba Longa), sometimes Rome
1.21): Vervactor (for the plowing of fallow land), Reparator
restricted them (Aricia), and sometimes Rome exalted them
(for the renewal of cultivation), Imporcitor (for marking out
the furrows), Insitor (for sowing), Obarator (for plowing the
Conceptions of the divine. The Latin word designat-
surface), Occator (for harrowing), Sarritor (for weeding),
ing divinity has an Indo-European origin. Deus, which pho-
Subruncinator (for hoeing), Messor (for harvesting), Con-
netically comes from the ancient deivos (just as dea comes
vector (for carting the harvest), Conditor (for storage), and
from deiva), means “heavenly being.” In line with this ety-
Promitor (for distribution). Another group of minor divini-
mology, deus and dea represent for the Latins powers in rela-
ties gave Augustine of Hippo occasion for sarcastic com-
tion to the luminous sky (divum), in opposition to humans
ments in detailing its list. This group included lesser divine
(homo), who are bound to the earth (humus), homo itself
entities who were regarded as aiding the husband on his wed-
being a derivative of an Indo-European word meaning
ding night: Virginensis (to loosen the belt of the young vir-
“earth.” One immediate consequence of this is the fact that
gin), Subigus (to subdue her), and Prema (to embrace her).
the Latin noun is distinguished from its Greek homologue
“And what is the goddess Pertunda [from pertundere, “to
theos, which takes its meaning from a different etymology:
penetrate”] doing here? Let her blush, let her flee! Let her
theos probably is connected with the prototype *thesos, which
leave the husband something to do! It is really a disgrace that
refers to the sphere of the sacred (Émile Benveniste), though
someone else besides himself is fulfilling the duty that this
no one has been able to specify the limits of its meaning. We
goddess’s name embodies” (De civitate dei 6.9.264–265).
note, however, that this difference of vocabulary between the
What can be said about all this? Whatever the merit of
Latin and the Greek in naming the divinity fades at the level
these lists of specialized divinities (the first one, transmitted
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by Servius, is guaranteed by the quality of the source: Fabius
in the form of address when pruning a lucus, where he does
Pictor, the author of books on pontifical law, contemporary
not know the protective divinity, envisions the two possibili-
with Cato the Elder), one can observe that they name only
ties: he thus invokes either a god or a goddess.
secondary entities that are served by no particular priest
The same prudence is evident in the precautionary for-
(even though the Roman institution recognized the flamines
mula inserted by the pontiffs, cited by Servius (Ad Aeneidem
minores, the “lesser priests”). Nor did they appear in the litur-
2.351): “Et pontifices ita precabantur: Iupiter Optime Max-
gical calendar. Moreover, these entities moved in the wake
ime, sive quo alio nomine te appellari volueris” (“And the
of top-level divinities. This trait is expressly brought out by
pontiffs uttered this prayer: Jupiter, Best and Greatest, or
the list of lesser specialists who gravitate toward Ceres: the
whatever be the name by which you choose to be called”).
flamen (priest) of this goddess invokes them when he offers,
This formula is all the more instructive in that it provides
during the Cerialia, the sacrifice to Tellus (earth) and to
for the case in which Jupiter, while well identified by his
Ceres. Everything indicates that the same applies to the list
Capitoline titles, might by chance desire some other name.
drawn up by Augustine: all those names fit easily within the
circle of Juno Pronuba, protector of marriages. They demon-
Since a Roman divinity is essentially defined by its ac-
strate the analytic abilities of pontifical experts and their con-
tion, even a single manifestation of this action suffices for the
cern for accompanying each phase of an activity with a reli-
existence of the divinity to be acknowledged. Such would be
gious factor. Finally, this tendency to divine miniaturization
an exceptional, but significant, case. In vain a voice once
corresponds to a kind of luxuriant manifestation of the incli-
called out on the Via Nova in the silence of the night to an-
nation of Roman pontiffs toward abstract analysis. At the
nounce the approach of the Gauls. The Romans later re-
same time it should not be forgotten that the Romans started
proached themselves for their culpable negligence and erect-
to put their religion into writing from the third century BCE
ed a sanctuary to the voice under the name of Aius Locutius
onward. It is difficult to ascertain which degree of systemati-
(“he who talks, he who tells”; Livy, 5.32.6; 50.5; 52.11).
zation had been reached before the writing process began.
Similarly, a fanum (shrine) was constructed outside of the
Porta Capena to the god Rediculus. This was because Hanni-
These divine abstractions exist in both masculine and
bal in his march on Rome had retreated, overcome by appari-
feminine forms, without any interference between the two.
tions, from that place.
The apparent exceptions are only illusory. Thus it is that
Faunus has no feminine counterpart. (His name’s meaning
Changes in hierarchy. As noted above, the Capitoline
is uncertain; it has sometimes been compared by the ancients
triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva dominated the republi-
with fari, “to talk,” as in Varro, De lingua Latina 7.36, and
can self-image of the city’s pantheon. Wissowa (1912) point-
sometimes with favere, “to be favorable,” as in Servius Dan-
ed to the importance in Roman religion of another configu-
ielis, Ad Georgica 1.10; this god had been assimilated to the
ration, the triad of Jupiter-Mars-Quirinus, which appears at
Greek Pan, as is confirmed by the location of his temple,
the point of convergence of several factors and proceeds from
erected in 194
the ancient priestly hierarchy as transmitted by Festus, who
BCE on the Isle of the Tiber, in the extra-
pomerial zone.) Indeed, Fauna seems to be an artificial con-
set down the following hierarchy: the king, the flamen Dialis,
struction of syncretic casuistry that attempted to associate
the flamen Martialis, the flamen Quirinalis, and the pontifex
her with Faunus as either wife or sister or daughter (Wis-
maximus. Framed by the king and the grand pontiff, the
sowa, 1912). Her name was later confused with Fatua and
three major flamines (the flamines maiores) bring into relief
with Bona Dea (an appellation also used in turn by Damia,
the gods to which they are respectively attached: Jupiter,
a goddess originating in Tarentum).
Mars, and Quirinus. Their close union is emphasized by the
ritual in which, once a year, they would go together to the
The same holds true for Pales, the goddess whose feast,
chapel of Fides, to venerate the goddess of good faith.
the Parilia, occurred on April 21, the anniversary of the foun-
dation of Rome. (In contrast, two Pales appear on the date
The same triad is manifest in the interior arrangement
of July 7 on the pre-Julian calendar of the town of Antium.
of the Regia, which under the Republic became the official
Nothing prevents us from considering these as two goddesses
seat of the pontifical college. Indeed, this building housed
liable for distinct tasks, the protection of different categories
three different cults in addition to the cults of Janus and
of animals: small and large livestock.) The god Pales, men-
Juno, who were honored respectively as ushers of the year
tioned by Varro (quoted by Servius, Ad Georgica 3.1), be-
and of the month: the routine cult of Jupiter, associated with
longs to the Etruscan pantheon and has no liturgical place
all the nundinae (market days); that of Mars, in the sacrarium
in Rome.
Martis; and, in another room, the cult of Ops Consiva
(abundance personified) in conjunction with Consus, the
How then is one to understand the expression “sive deus
god of the storage (condere) of grains. This last goddess be-
sive dea” (“whether god or goddess”), which is found in
longs to the group of agrarian divinities headed by Quirinus
many prayers? It does not reflect uncertainty about the gen-
(whose flamen could act in related cults, too: thus, in Ovid’s
der of a possibly epicene divinity but rather uncertainty
Fasti 4.910 we learn that the flamen Quirinalis officiated in
about the identity of the divinity that one is addressing. In
the ceremonies of Robigus, or Robigo, the divinity invoked
Cato’s example the peasant, careful not to make a mistake
against mildew in grains). These deities are involved in what
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has been described as a group of festivals accentuating the
Given this background, the establishment of the Capi-
rhythm of agrarian activities in the city of Rome.
toline triad by dedicating a temple to Jupiter, Juno, and Mi-
The same triad of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus is found
nerva at the end of the sixth century BCE was no revolution.
after Janus, the god of passage, and before the divinities in-
The project being associated with an unclear form of tempo-
voked by reason of particular circumstances in the old hymn
rary Etruscan dominance toward the end of the sixth century
of the devotio (Livy, 8.9.6) that a Roman general uttered in
(tradition named three kings who were of Etruscan origin:
order to consecrate himself, at the same time as the enemy
Tarquin the Elder, Servius Tullius, and Tarquin the Proud)
army, to the di manes. The triad also appears in the regula-
transformed the masculine triad into a new triad in which
tions provided by the ancient royal law of Numa Pompilius
Jupiter’s masculine associates were replaced by two goddess-
for the distribution of the spolia opima. The first of these
es. That these goddesses were none other than Juno and Mi-
spoils were offered to Jupiter Feretrius, the second to Mars,
nerva can be explained not only by the fact that their Etrus-
the third to Janus Quirinus (Plutarch, Life of Marcellus 8.5;
can homologues, Uni and Mernva, held respectable places
Servius, Ad Aeneidum 6.859). The ternary scheme is clearly
in their pantheon, but by reference to important Greek cultic
supported by the document, despite some difficulties of in-
centers as well. Schilling offered an even larger sociological
terpretation. The meaning of Feretrius (derived from ferire,
interpretation. Juno, the patroness of iuniores (especially of
“to smite,” or from ferre, “to carry”) is not certain. As for the
youth available for battle), succeeded Mars, the god of war;
expression Ianus Quirinus, Robert Schilling has offered the
Minerva, the protector of artisans and crafts, succeeded
explanation that the presence of Janus comes from his role
Quirinus, the god overseeing economic activity. The key-
as the initiator of the peacemaking function of Quirinus in
stone of the triad remained immovable, even though Jupiter
opposition to the fury of Mars Gradivus. The tertiary scheme
took on the traits of Tinia, as illustrated by the Etruscan art-
appears finally in the threefold patronage of the college of
ist Vulca of Veii, who produced the cult statue.
Salian priests (“who are under the protection of Jupiter, Mars
Tradition associated the temple built on the Capitoline
and Quirinus”; Servius, Ad Aeneidum 8.663).
Hill in honor of the new triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva
This archaic triad had been interpreted by Dumézil as
with the transition from the royal to the republican period.
corresponding, in an Indo-European world, to three diversi-
According to tradition, the construction of the Capitoline
fied functions. Jupiter embodies sovereignty in its magical
temple was begun under the Tarquins, while the dedication
and juridical aspects, which in Vedic India belong respective-
was performed by the consul M. Horatius Pulvillus in the
ly to Varun:a and Mithra; Mars embodies power (his physical
first year of the Republic (509 BCE, a constructed synchro-
and military attributes are similar to Indra in India);
Quirinus (*Couirio-no, the god of the community of citizens
Yet, it has to be stressed again: the political change from
in time of peace) is connected with fruitfulness and with
lifelong monarchs to an annual consul (the collegiality of two
prosperity in its pastoral and agrarian forms. This triad
consuls might be a later development) did not provoke any
would show the survival of the characteristic tripartite ideol-
religious upheaval. The Capitoline triad was not called into
ogy of the Indo-European world, which considered the hier-
question, in spite of its strong Etruscan connotation. Instead,
archical structuring of these three complementary functions
Jupiter more and more dominated the representation of the
to be indispensable for the prosperity of society. Despite a
res publica, the “common affair,” of the family leaders. If
later evolution that would progressively fossilize their offices
there was a conscious demythologization of the Roman pan-
as the pantheon was opened to new gods, the three major
theon, it was, as Carl Koch has demonstrated, focused on the
flamines would remain the unimpeachable witnesses of this
figure of this god. None of the competing aristocrats could
Indo-European heritage in Rome. However, such an inter-
claim descent from this god (and hence superiority); even
pretation is highly problematical with regard to the postula-
references to divine offspring—although present in nearby
tion of a historical Indo-European society that would be at-
sanctuaries—were removed from Roman cults. At the end
tested in but a few words and conceptual configurations. For
of the Republic, it was the second-rank families that claimed
Rome, it supposes a hierarchical structuring of the pantheon,
divine ancestors, as they were not able to claim a sufficient
which is visible only in an antiquarian attempt at systemati-
number of consular forefathers, Caesar and the gens Iulia of-
zation (the Augustan scholar Verrius Flaccus as quoted by
fering a splendid example. The attempt of Scipio Africanus
Festus). The dedication of the calends to Juno and the ides
to associate himself with Jupiter by frequent presence and
to Jupiter, and the acting of the rex and regina sacrorum as
prayer in his temple was highly suspicious.
priests to these two, suggest an early importance of Juno. The
pantheon of Roman gods was never fully hierarchized, but
The title of king was maintained on the religious level.
is characterized by different, incoherent, and very partial in-
On that account, the official designation from then on was
ternal configurations. When the Romans presented for the
rex sacrorum or rex sacrificulus—in other words, a king limit-
first time several gods and goddesses in the necessarily hierar-
ed to his liturgical functions but stripped of his political priv-
chical order of a banquet within the ritual of lectisternium
ileges. This point of prudence is explained by observing the
(see below), they fall back on undeniably Greek principles
care that the Romans took to avoid irritating their gods with
of grouping.
untimely interventions in the realm of the sacred.
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Mythology. Throughout its history, Rome was a city
This rivalry between the two classes explains diverse cult
on the margin of Greek culture. Influence was both indirect
initiatives that are nonetheless not necessarily mutually ex-
and direct. It was indirectly influenced by the Etruscans, to
clusive. In the critical phases of the city’s history, they were
the extent that Etruscan culture, its script as well as its mate-
able to coexist in a way that was satisfactory to both parties.
rial culture and pantheon, was itself Hellenized. It was direct-
A particularly convincing example comes to us from the be-
ly influence by the nearness of Magna Graecia. All the parties
ginning of the fifth century, when one individual strove to
involved took it for granted that, within a horizon of benevo-
balance the two tendencies. It was the time when, according
lent ethnography, deities of the other culture could be inter-
to Livy (2.18.3), “a coalition of thirty tribes” was formed
preted as the deities known to one’s own society. Interpretatio
against Rome. The situation induced the Romans to name
graeca or romana was practiced by travelers, diplomats, and
a dictator, Aulus Postumius, who was vested with full pow-
ethnographers, and put to use by artisans and storytellers.
ers, in place of the two consuls.
Thus, the large body of Greek mythology and imagery (itself
already enriched by even more ancient Middle Eastern tradi-
Aulus Postumius had two problems to resolve: stabiliz-
tions) was available and attractive for middle Italian, Etrus-
ing the food supply, which had been disrupted by war, and
can, and Roman reception and consumption.
confronting the enemy in decisive combat. He successfully
accomplished his twofold mission. The victory he won over
A Greek ceramic fragment, showing Hephaistos, under
the Latins (in 499 BCE) near Lake Regillus is celebrated in
the earliest layer of the Volcanal, the sanctuary for the Italian
the annals. This battle entered a critical phase when the in-
god Vulcan, offers an early example for equations. The sanc-
fantry failed to hold its ground. On that account, the dictator
tuary at San Omobono featured a statue group of Athena and
decided to send in the Roman cavalry and, at the same time,
Herakles (Minerva and Hercules), thus attesting the presence
made a vow to build a temple dedicated to Castor. He thus
of whole narratives; the grouping would probably show the
combined, according to Livy’s expression, “human and di-
story of the apotheosis of the hero-god. The archaic sanctu-
vine” means. He did so because this god, of Greek origin,
ary of Anna Perenna, a new year and fluvial deity venerated
was the patron of horsemen. Before going into the campaign,
on the shore of the Tiber to the north of the city, contained
the dictator took another step toward easing the difficulties
a tile decoration of the Greek fluvial deity Achelous. If a con-
surrounding the food supply: he made a vow to build a tem-
tinuity of the cult at that place (down to late antiquity) is
ple to the Roman triad of Ceres-Liber-Libera, the names of
admitted, the seemingly abstract and popular (rather than
which barely disguised the Greek divinities Demeter-
public) deity Anna Perenna was inserted into narrative pat-
terns from Greek mythology. Instead of remaining an ab-
stract concept of “creative” force (creare), Ceres was more or
The victory enabled Castor to become a Roman god and
less identified with a Demeter in human form and enhanced
to acquire a temple above the Forum: the aedes Castoris (ded-
by a moving legend (Demeter in search of her daughter Kore,
icated in 484 by the dictator’s son; Pollux was not to join
abducted by Pluto). This “new” Ceres was made into a statue
his brother until the beginning of the Empire, and even then
which, according to Pliny the Elder, was “the first bronze
the name aedes Castorum recalled the original primacy of
statue made in Rome.” Consequently, she gained a “house,”
Castor). Since the harvests were abundant, Aulus Postumius
the temple built in 493 BCE to the triad near the Circus Max-
also fulfilled his vow to the triad of Ceres-Liber-Libera by
imus. The temple was decorated with the paintings and
dedicating a sanctuary. This was a source of great satisfaction
sculptures of Damophilos and Gorgasos, two celebrated
for the plebeians, for the sanctuary was entrusted to their
Greek artists.
charge and served as a meeting place for aediles (plebeian offi-
cials). Thus, circumstances had moved Aulus Postumius to
Patricians and plebeians. Other cults reflect, so to
achieve a skillful balance by the concomitant foundation of
speak, the specific aspirations of the two classes that formed
a patrician cult and a plebeian cult. Only the placement of
the basis of Roman society, the patricians and the plebeians.
the sanctuaries revealed a difference of status: Castor was in-
One observes an antagonism between the two classes that is
stalled inside the pomerium, in the heart of the Forum, while
evident not only on economic, social, and political levels, but
Ceres and her associates had to be located outside of the
also on the religious level. Until 300 BCE only the patricians
pomerium, near the Circus Maximus.
were allowed to discharge as an official function the great tra-
ditional priesthoods, such as the pontificate and the augury.
The codification of law of the Twelve Tables, which
At that date a kind of religious equality was established by
made law an (ever more) important instrument in dealing
a law (the Lex Ogulnia), which, in providing members for
with social conflicts, is said to have entailed regulation of the
these two colleges, reserved half of the seats for plebeians.
calendar. Whereas such an exact dating remains question-
Nevertheless, the patricians kept for themselves the privilege
able, it is certain that during the fifth century the commonly
of admittance to the archaic priesthoods: the rex sacrorum,
used lunisolar calendar was replaced by a purely solar calen-
the three major flamines, and the Salii. The question of the
dar with fixed lengths of month, a civil calendar without par-
origin of the differentiation of the two “orders” remains a
allel in the Mediterranean world. Thereafter, the lunar cult
matter of debate and has been dated to the regal, as well as
was kept but became fossilized, and observation of the lunar
early republican, period.
phases were declamatory only. It is perhaps a consequence
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of this change that astronomical deities did not gain in im-
use of divination in politics. Despite the usually distanced re-
portance until the Italian reception of astrological practices
lationship to their gods, every important act of the higher
beginning in the late second century BCE.
magistrates was subjected to the prior assent of the gods, in
particular Jupiter. Religious legitimation of the elected mag-
It is not before the fourth century BCE that we reach surer
istrates was not given once and for all, but in a piecemeal
ground for historical reconstruction. Even then, the process-
manner. To this end, there existed an indigenous institution
es leading to the formation of a new patricio-plebeian elite
especially charged with this mission: auspicy. On the morn-
in the second half of the century remain obscure in their de-
ing of the action planned, the magistrate had to observe the
tails and sequence. The closing of the mainly religiously de-
cries and the flight of birds, checking them against the rule
fined patriciate, marked by the interdict on intermarriage in
specified by himself concerning what would count as divine
the law of the Twelve Tables (around 450 BCE), and their
assent. A large number of forms eventually became standard.
monopolization of political roles gave way to a balance be-
At least from the third century BCE onward, the tripudium,
tween patrician and plebeian office holders (the leges Liciniae
the observation of the hens picking fodder in cages, was the
Sextia are traditionally assigned to 367 BCE). The result was
usual form. Such a technique was open to manipulation, but
the formation of a new elite that channeled their competition
the lack of empirical input did not devaluate the system in
into office holding and military success as public Roman
the eyes of contemporaries. The duty to read auspices was
at some points of the political process an opportunity to
Rituals were important in giving profile to achieve-
question the validity of the legitimation, or to announce the
ments. The pompa imaginum, the funerary procession that
observation of adverse signs (obnuntiatio). Augurs were spe-
paraded living statues—actors wearing masks representing
cialists of the techniques; they had an individual right to ob-
the ancestors—to give a summary of all the achievements of
serve contrary signs in the context of popular assemblies, but
the deceased’s family in terms of higher offices held, was per-
the normal right to the observation (spectio) was held by the
haps the most characteristic expression of the new culture.
Ancestors who had not performed any higher magistracy did
Other techniques, borrowed from Rome’s neighbors in
not participate and were not commemorated in the speech
Etruria or Magna Graecia and employed collectively or indi-
(laudatio funebris) that explained the file of ancestors on dis-
vidually included haruspicinae disciplina (lore of the harus-
play in the Forum, the pinnacle of the procession (Polybios,
pex) and the consultation of the Sibylline Books. This accu-
6.53). As Harriet Flower has shown, this ritual must have
mulation of divination methods is explained by the desire to
originated in the latter part of the fourth century.
benefit from new techniques, which were all the more seduc-
Wealth was not eliminated as an instrument to gain
tive when they appeared to offer independent access to the
prestige, but its legitimate spending depended on electoral
will of the gods. Whereas auspicia indicated Jupiter’s assent
success and the attainment of offices that offered the oppor-
for the very day of the procedure only, Etruscan soothsayers
tunity to stage attractive rituals. Praetorships and especially
boasted of being able to foretell the future, either by examin-
consulates provided opportunities to greatly enlarge one’s
ing the entrails of sacrificed animals (libri haruspicini), by ob-
wealth through successful warfare and the acquisition of
serving lightning (libri fulgurales), or by interpreting marvels
booty. The contribution of such gains into the public fund
(libri rituales). The first method, divining by examination of
was expected, but the share was never regulated. A victory
entrails, was especially popular. It featured, among the exta
enlarged the general’s clientela by adding the legionaries who
(entrails) used, the liver, which was considered a microcosm
had sworn on his name. The festival of return consisted of
of the world. Every lesion detected in some part of the former
impressive processions (the triumph), ever more attractive
allowed an inference on the fate of the latter.
games, and occasionally temple dedications.
The Sibylline Books, which had been introduced, ac-
The proliferation of games was the most important reli-
cording to tradition, in regal times under Tarquin the Proud,
gious innovation of the period. The combination of proces-
purported to contain prophetic verses. These books, kept in
sional rituals parading gods and actors through the city of
the temple of Capitoline Jupiter (they would later be trans-
Rome and the competitions in circuses or the presentation
ferred by Augustus to the sanctuary of Apollo Palatine),
of dramas on temporary stages brought religion into the cen-
could be consulted, upon order of the Senate, by persons spe-
tral public space and enabled the participation of larger
cialized in that office, the X, later XV viri sacris faciundis.
shares of the populace as spectators. Thus, the rituals gave
Usually, the announcement of bad signs (monstra, prodigia)
information about foreign affairs and culture, they offered
instigated an examination of their significance and measures
space for communication between the various social groups
to placate the gods. The measures advocated (often the intro-
seated in an orderly arrangement in the theater or circus, and
duction of new divinities) were evaluated by the Senate,
they produced a feeling of common identity—a victorious
which would make the final decision. The sibyl did not enjoy
Roman identity.
a liberty comparable to that of the oracle of Delphi: Her re-
Divination. The checks and balances developed in the
sponses were always subject to senatorial censorship. There
formation of the new political elite entailed an exceptional
is no need to stress further the benefit that the Romans
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hoped to gain from these divination techniques of foreign or-
For the third century before the start of the second
igin. This cluster of methods is instructive, moreover, to the
Punic War (218), the following temples were established:
extent that it reveals a fundamental trait of Roman polythe-
Bellona (296), Venus Obsequens (295), Iuppiter Victor
ism. Founded upon a conservative tradition, it was always
(295), Iuppiter Stator (294), Fors Fortuna (293), Aesculapi-
open to enrichment and renewal.
us (292), Hercules Invictus (292), Portunus (292), Sum-
manus (276), Consus (272), Tellus (268), Pales (267), Vor-
New divinities and temples. The Senate controlled
tumnus (264), Minerva (263/2), Ianus (260), Tempestates
claims to triumph and the selection of sites for new temples,
(Storms, 259), Spes and Fides (258/7), Volcanus (252), Ops
and probably also the date of their dedication. The erection
Opifera (250), Neptunus (257), Iuturna (242/1), Iuno Cur-
of permanent theaters was delayed until the very end of the
ritis (241), Fortuna Publica (241), Flora (240), Honos (233),
Republic when Pompey built a theater on the Campus Mar-
Fons (231), Feronia (225), Hercules Magnus custos (223),
tius. Initiative, however, rested with individuals, and the in-
and Honos et Virtus (222). Further temples to Flora, Hercu-
troduction of a new god into the pantheon of Rome generat-
les, Honos, Hora Quirini, Lares, Luna, Penates, Sol et Luna,
ed more attention than, for example, the restoration of an
Sol Indiges, Tiberinus, Vica Pota, Iuppiter Fulgur, and Ops
old temple. Rome’s loosely organized polytheism lent itself
cannot be dated with certainty (Ziolkowski, 1992,
to this sort of openness when the traditional gods proved to
pp. 187–188).
be inadequate in critical situations. Circumstances, perhaps
family practices or local practices of significant places, in-
The list is remarkable in its incoherency. In the long
spired the Romans’ attitude. An early example is demonstrat-
run, the popularity of the gods invoked was very divergent.
ed by the entry of Castor into Rome, described above.
The temple of Asklepios, for example, introduced as a filia-
tion of the great healing sanctuary of Epidaurus, flourished
There were other ways for foreign gods to be introduced
as a center of private devotion, a healing cult in the Greek
into Rome. When the Romans had trouble with an enemy
manner. Thus, the specter of shrines that could be addressed
city, they resorted to the evocatio, which consisted of a kind
for personal needs (as Minerva Medica) was significantly en-
of abduction of divine power at the adversary’s expense and
larged. It should not be forgotten that the importance of
to Rome’s benefit. A famous case (and also unique in the an-
public religion did not stop or diminish private cult activities
nals) occurred in the siege of Veii in 396 BCE. The war
and traditional ways of dealing with personal crises. Individ-
against that Etruscan city seemed endless (it was to last ten
ual religion was taken seriously: one could legitimately, for
years, as long as the Trojan war). Finally, the dictator M.
example, temporarily defer the military draft if one had to
Furius Camillus directly addressed the city’s protective divin-
care for private cults and auspices (Cincius in Gellius, Attic
ity, Uni (the Etruscan homologue of Juno): “Juno Regina,
Nights 16.4.4–5).
who resides now in Veii, I pray that you will follow us after
Influences of Hellenism. The military expansion grad-
our victory into our city, which will soon be yours; you will
ually intensified cultural contacts. As discussed earlier, Rome
there have a temple worthy of your majesty” (Livy, 5.21.3).
was from its beginning within reach of direct and indirect
In this way Juno Regina acquired a temple on the Aventine,
Greek influence. The Dionysian cult that was fought in 186
as a divinity of outside origin, while continuing to sit, as a
BCE (see below), was, despite perhaps some recent organiza-
national divinity, on the Capitolium at the side of Jupiter.
tional changes, a long-established private cult in Italy. Dur-
The practice is still attested in the late Republic, even if the
ing the third century, Rome came in direct contact with the
cult offered to the tutelary deity of Isaura vetus in Asia minor
southern Italian Magna Graecia, and during the second cen-
was realized on the spot (Année épigraphique 1977, 816).
tury the Romans installed themselves in continental Greece
and Asia Minor. The speed of imports and the quality of the
There was another procedure for introducing foreign
reaction changed.
gods into Rome: the capture, pure and simple, of a foreign
divinity. This arrogant approach may seem strange on the
Some gods of the Greek world had particularly attrac-
part of a people imbued with “religious” respect toward the
tive features. Aesculapius has already been mentioned, and
supernatural world. By way of explaining the evocatio,
Apollo, whose introduction was due to an epidemic, was
Macrobius (in Saturnalia 3.9.2) advanced precisely this rea-
equally appealing to the Romans. Indeed it was not the god
son: “Quod. . .nefas aestimarent deos habere captivos”
of the Muses, nor the sun god, nor the prophet god who
(“they regarded it as sacrilege to make prisoners of the gods”).
would later become the patron of the Sibylline Books (these
However, the seizure of Falerii in 241 BCE resulted in captivi-
titles would appear in the Carmen saeculare by Horace during
ty for its goddess, who was then given a small shrine in Rome
the time of Augustus) and to whom the Romans had ap-
at the foot of the slope of Caelius, under the name of Miner-
pealed for aid at the beginning of the fifth century; rather,
va Capta (Ovid, Fasti 3.837). During the campaigns of the
this Apollo was the healing god. His temple, voted “pro vale-
second century, most gods from the eastern part of the Medi-
tudine populi” (“for the people’s health”) in 433, was dedi-
terranean entered Rome only as artistic valuables, and, as
cated in 431 in the Flaminian Meadows at the southwest of
such, they were not offered cults but were given a place in
the Capitol, within a sector that already bore the name Apol-
a villa or a public colonnade.
linare (“Apollo’s enclosure”; Livy, 4.25.3, 40.51.4). The old-
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est invocation used in the prayers of the Vestals was directed
Athena; Ares-Aphrodite, Apollo-Artemis. It could suggest a
to the “physician”: Apollo Medice, Apollo Paean (Macrobi-
conjugal meaning for Jupiter and Juno and an erotic mean-
us, Saturnalia 1.17.15).
ing for Mars and Venus, but nothing of the kind would
New rituals. The introduction of the lectisternia ritual
apply to the association of Neptune and Minerva (which
had been recommended by the Sibylline Books, which were
evokes the rivalry of Poseidon and Athena in giving a name
consulted upon orders of the Senate by the II viri sacris faci-
to Athens), nor for Apollo and Diana/Artemis, who were
undis in the face of an alarming pestilence. This ritual would
brother and sister. One can also wonder if the Romans were
be used more and more, and, as a result, the Romans became
not still more heedful of the representative value of these di-
very familiar with this new form of devotion, which had
vine pairs. Only a functional bond makes sense for the two
more significance on the emotional level than was usual in
last couples, in Rome as well as in Greece: fire for Vulcan
Roman worship. The standard Roman sacrificial ritual con-
and Vesta, economic activity (commerce and grain) for Mer-
sisted essentially of a canonical prayer followed by the slaugh-
cury and Ceres. As for the couples that seemed most to bear
tering of an animal and the offering of consecrated entrails
the stamp of Hellenism, they were explained perfectly in ac-
(the exta) to the divinity (the distinction between exta
cord with Roman norms. Thus Jupiter and Juno were associ-
comprising the lungs, heart, liver, gall bladder, and peritone-
ated here, just as they had been in the Capitoline cult since
um—and the viscera, flesh given over for profane consump-
the sixth century. Nor did Venus and Mars form a couple
tion, is fundamental in Roman ritual). The sacrificial cere-
in Rome in the strict sense of the term. Mars, father of Rom-
mony was celebrated by qualified magistrates or priests on
ulus, is the old Italic god, while Venus, mother of Aeneas,
private initiative around an altar placed in front of the tem-
appeared as the protector of the Romans-Aeneades. In a
ple. In the new ritual, however, statues of the deities reposing
word, Rome knew how to utilize the Greek plan to its own
on cushions (pulvinaria) were displayed within the temples
ends without in turn submitting to it. Rome joined together
on ceremonial beds (lectisternia). Men, women, and children
the two essential personages of its history: Aeneas, founder
could approach them and offer them food and prayers in fer-
of the nation, and Romulus, founder of the city.
vent supplication (see Livy, 24.10.13; 32.1.14), often presid-
Putting the Mediterranean to use. The example de-
ed over by the II or X viri sacris faciundis (cf. Livy, 4.21.5).
scribed above makes manifest a constant attitude. Nothing
The first lectisternium, which was allegedly celebrated in
is more significant in this connection than the introduction
399 BCE, joined in heterogeneous pairs Apollo and Latona,
of the cult of Venus Erycina. Once again the circumstantial
Hercules and Diana, and Mercury and Neptune (Livy,
cause was the imperative need for supplementary divine aid,
5.13.4–6). Outwardly, half of the names were of purely
this time during the Second Punic War (218–210) after the
Greek origin (Apollo, Latona, Hercules), and the other half
disaster of Trasimene in 217 BCE. Named as dictator, Q. Fa-
of Latin origin. In fact, even these Latin names applied to
bius Maximus (who would bear the surname Cunctator, or
Hellenic divinities: Diana/Artemis, Mercury/Hermes, Nep-
“delayer”) obtained from the Senate a consultation with the
tune/Poseidon. The healing god Apollo, accompanied by his
Sibylline Books, which prescribed, among other measures,
mother Latona, was at the head of the list during this period
a promise to provide a temple dedicated to Venus Erycina
of epidemic.
(Livy, 22.9.7–11). This choice becomes clear when one re-
Much more dramatic circumstances—Hannibal at the
calls that, at the time of the First Punic War, the consul Lu-
walls of Rome—instigated in 217
cius Junius had “recognized” Venus, the mother of Aeneas,
BCE the last and most cele-
brated lectisternium in the history of the Republic (Livy,
in the Aphrodite of Mount Eryx, which he had succeeded
22.10.9). On this occasion, the Romans for the first time
in occupying from the start (248 BCE) till the victorious fin-
adopted the Greek plan of a set of twelve deities divided into
ish. Thus Q. Fabius Maximus, who was struggling with the
six couples in the following order: Jupiter and Juno, Neptune
same enemy (the Carthaginians), vowed to give the same
and Minerva, Mars and Venus, Apollo and Diana, Vulcan
goddess—as a pledge of victory—a temple, which was dedi-
and Vesta, and Mercury and Ceres. This ceremony would
cated in 215 on the Capitolium. It was the “Trojan light”
remain unique (one cannot regard as a parallel the merry par-
that earned for Venus Erycina, “mother of the Aeneades,”
ody organized by Augustus during a cena where the twelve
this majestic entry to the summit of the Capitolium, which
dinner companions disguised themselves as gods and god-
was included at that date within the pomerial zone.
desses; see Suetonius, Life of Augustus 70). Without a doubt,
Some ten years later, the Oriental goddess Cybele was
the Greek inspiration is evident in this list in the presentation
introduced on the same basis, and marvels impressed reli-
of pairs of gods and goddesses (the idea of grouping twelve
gious awareness: “two suns were seen; intermittent flashes
principal deities would be repeated later by the installation
had streaked through the night; etc.” (Livy, 29.14.3). An or-
of gilded bronze statues of the di consentes in the niches locat-
acle drawn from the Sibylline Books had predicted “the day
ed below the Portico at the foot of the Capitolium).
when an enemy of foreign race would bring war to Italian
Yet it is necessary to avoid misunderstanding the mean-
soil, he could be defeated and banished from Italy, if the
ing of the coupling here. The Greek model appeared in out-
Mater Idaea were carried from Pessinus to Rome” (Livy,
line after the first four couples: Zeus-Hera, Poseidon-
29.10.5). In this way the Magna Mater (alias Cybele), hon-
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

ored as a “Trojan” ancestor, was solemnly received in Rome
To that end, the calendar days were divided into profane
in 204 BCE and was installed on the Palatine. Until the build-
days (dies profesti) and days reserved for the gods (dies festi
ing of her own temple, which was dedicated in 191 BCE, she
or feriae), and thus for liturgical celebrations. However, if
was provisionally lodged in the temple of Victoria.
one looks at a Roman calendar, one observes that the list of
The entry of these two goddesses, understood in terms
days contains other signs. When the days are profane, they
of the “Trojan light,” is instructive on another account as
are marked by the letter F (fasti); when they pertain to the
well. In spite of the considerable honors that Rome accorded
gods, by N (nefasti). This presentation does not call into
them (far from treating them as outsiders, they were installed
question the division of “profane” and “sacred” times. It sim-
on the prestigious hills of the Capitoline and the Palatine),
ply changes the perspective as to when “divine” becomes
Rome did not neglect to subject their cults to discreet censor-
“human.” Indeed, for the Romans, the day is fastus when it
ship. Venus Erycina was treated in two ways. In the temple
is fas (religiously licit) to engage in profane occupations, ne-
on the Capitoline (dedicated in 215) Rome venerated her as
fastus when it is nefas (religiously prohibited) to do so, since
a Roman goddess. However, in the extrapomerial temple,
the day belongs to the gods. In reality, the analytical spirit
built later outside of the Porta Collina and dedicated in 181,
of the pontiffs came up with yet a third category of C days
Rome considered her to be a foreign goddess, covered by the
(comitiales), which, while profane, lent themselves in addi-
statute of the peregrina sacra (foreign rites), which allowed
tion to the comitia, or “assemblies.” Furthermore, there are
for tolerance of certain original customs. The temple of
other rarely used letters, such as the three dies fissi (half nefas-
Venus Erycina outside the Porta Collina admitted, as an ex-
ti, half fasti). The dies religiosi (or atri) are outside these cate-
tension of the one on Mount Eryx, the presence of prosti-
gories: they are dates that commemorate public misfortunes,
tutes in imitation of the sacred courtesans on the Sicilian
such as July 18, the Dies Alliensis (commemorating the disas-
mountain. The restraints were even stricter for the Mater
ter of the battle of Allia in 390 BCE).
deum Magna Idaea. Her routine cult could be practiced only
The republican calendar (called fasti) divided the ferial
by the Galli, the eunuch-priests, positions from which
days over the course of twelve months. Each month was
Roman citizens were excluded, and the cult was placed under
marked by the calendae (the first day), the nonae, and the idus
the surveillance of the urban praetor. Still, the aristocrats did
(the last two fell respectively on the fifth or seventh, and the
not hesitate to institute mutual visits and banquets during
thirteenth or the fifteenth, according to whether they were
the goddess’s festival. Her games were among the most
ordinary months or March, May, July, or October). The
splendid public rituals in the Roman festival list of the late
feasts were fixed (stativae) or movable (conceptivae) or orga-
nized around some particular circumstance.
The supplicatio (organized in 207 BCE, following a mira-
The Roman liturgy developed in line with an order of
cle) in honor of Juno Regina of the Aventine make a particu-
feasts consecrated to particular deities. An overlap was there-
larly memorable impression with an innovation: twenty-
fore possible: since the ides, “days of full light,” were always
seven girls sang a hymn composed especially for the occasion
dedicated to Jupiter. The sacrifice of the Equus October
by the poet Livius Andronicus (Livy, 27.37.7–15)
(horse of October) on October 15 coincided with the ides.
Public worship. The aim of public worship (the sacra
This ritual sequence was punctuated by the rhythm of
publica) was to assure or to restore the “benevolence and
seasons for the agrarian celebrations (especially in April and
grace of the gods,” which the Romans considered indispens-
in July and August) and by the schedule of training for mili-
able for the state’s well-being. Annually returning rituals
tary campaigns. Thus it is interesting to note that the month
dominated public cultic activity. The feasts were fixed (sta-
of March contained several feasts marking the opening of
tivae) or movable (conceptivae) or organized around some
martial activities. There was registered on the calendars a sac-
particular circumstance (imperativae). The feriae, a special
rifice to the god Mars; the blessing of horses on the Equirria
class of days given to the gods as property (and hence free
on February 27 and March 14; and the blessing of arms on
from every mundane activity) were marked as a special class
the Quinquatrus and of trumpets on the Tubilustrium on
of dies nefasti (days not to be used), namely as a group of days
March 19. In addition, there was the Agonium Martiale
whose violation made piacular sacrifices necessary (hence
on March 17. The Salii, carrying lances (hastae) and shields
marked by the letters NP and abbreviations of the festival
(ancilia), roamed the city performing martial dances. Apart
names). Many of these festivals go back to the early Republic
from the feriae and connected ritual sequences, many com-
or an even earlier period. Usually, they were coordinated
memoration days of the dedication of temples filled the cal-
with the days that structured each month. The calendae,
endar. The annual sacrifice in front of the temple sometimes
often marked by festivals to Juno, were the first day of the
gave rise to very popular festivals.
month, the nonae, were the ninth day before the ides (ac-
cordingly the fifth or seventh day) and the idus fell on the
Besides the liturgical feasts, it is also necessary to cite the
thirteenth or the fifteenth, respectively, according to whether
ludi, games consisting essentially of chariot races. They went
they were ordinary months or March, May, July, or October.
back to an old tradition represented by the Equirria. The
The idus were usually dedicated to Jupiter, but the same day
new ludi replaced the bigae, teams of two horses, with the
staged other important festivals, too.
quadrigae, teams of four, for the races in the Circus Maximus
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

and included various performances: riders leaping from one
The only exception to the latter characterization were
horse to another, fights with wrestlers and boxers. (The glad-
the six Vestal Virgins, who had to live in celibacy in the atri-
iator fights, which were Etruscan in origin, appeared in 264
um Vestae on the Forum Romanum, adjacent to the Regia
BCE for private funeral feasts, but they did not become part
and the aedes Vestae, a circular sanctuary accessible to nobody
of the public games until the end of the second century BCE.)
else. “Caught,” as the technical expression was, by the ponti-
These competitions were soon complemented by other spec-
fex maximus at a minimum age of six years, their period of
tacles: pantomimes and dances accompanied by the flute.
service was said to last for thirty years, although no case of
The principal ones were the Ludi Magni or Ludi Romani, cel-
a Vestal who left after that period is known. Instead, the role
ebrated from the fifteenth through the eighteenth of Septem-
of the Vestalis maxima, the eldest one, was one of utmost au-
ber after the ides that coincided with the anniversary of the
thority and sanctity in the eyes of the public.
temple of Jupiter Capitoline. Considered to have been insti-
The predominant priests from perhaps the fourth cen-
tuted by Tarquin the Elder (Livy, 1.35.9), they became an-
tury BCE onward were those organized as collegia sacerdotum.
nual events starting in 367 BCE, which is the date that saw
They were responsible for certain procedures and areas of re-
the creation of the curule magistracy (aediles curules). The
ligious regulation, but were—as a rule—not dedicated to the
Ludi Plebei, a kind of plebeian reply to preceding games,
cult of specific deities. The mode of their recruitment and
were instituted later: they are mentioned for the first time
the persons recruited were increasingly adapted to the rules
in 216 BCE (Livy, 23.30.17). They took place in the Circus
and personal reservoirs of the political magistrates. Although
Flaminius, involved the same kind of games as the Ludi Ro-
election was not implemented for most of them before 104
mani, and were celebrated around the ides of November. It
BCE (Lex Domitia), they came from the leading families only,
is also noteworthy that the Ludi Romani and the Ludi Plebei
being appointed shortly before the consulate or even after-
were both held around the ides (of September or November)
ward in the case of “new men” risen from nonconsular fami-
and dedicated to Jupiter, to whom a sacrificial meal, the
lies. These colleges had no special building for their meet-
Epulum Iovis, was offered.
ings, but regularly (probably monthly) met at their private
The priesthood. Priests were not necessary for private
homes. Holding their offices as lifetime appointments, they
cult. An aedituus, a guardian of a temple, would have to open
formed powerful networks within the political elite.
a temple that was normally closed or provide items necessary
The most important and most politicized position was
for the cult (water, for example). However, much of private
held by the pontifex maximus. He presided over the pontifical
ritual was performed on private ground. Neither prayer nor
college, to which the flamines and Vestales (both “caught” by
animal sacrifice was in need of a cultic specialist other than
him), as well as the rex sacrorum, were attached. Jurisdiction-
the pater familias, the head of the family, a person in charge
al competence and participation in large public rituals led to
of a farm, or the president of an association. The same holds
an enlargement or, even better, differentiation of the college.
true for public rituals. Many were led by the chosen magis-
Its scribes were given the title “minor pontiffs” and the status
trates, who gave the order to kill an oxen or start a horse race.
of priests; a second college, the three (later seven) “men for
A pontiff might assist in reciting a prayer that the magistrate
Jupiter’s banquets” (Septemviri epulonum), was split off in
uttered aloud, but it was the magistrate who performed, for
196 BCE and ascended to nearly equal dignity under the Em-
example, the dedication of a new temple.
pire. In particular, it was their duty to organize the sacrificial
supper, the Epulum Iovis, at the Ludi Romani and the Ludi
By the late Republic, certain priests who were dedicated
Plebei, the Roman and Plebeian games on the ides of Sep-
to special cults—functioning, perhaps, but one or two times
tember and November. They numbered three at first, then
a year—were hardly important or prestigious. Few of these
seven, and finally (without a change of name) ten. The pon-
twelve flamines minores are known by name. The same type
tiffs were early specialists of Roman public and private law;
of specialized priesthood, but more to the fore, was repre-
the realm of religious property rights—divine property,
sented by the rex sacrorum and the three major flamines of
tombs (locus religiosus), the juridical and religious quality of
Jupiter (Dialis), Mars (Martialis) and—already a lesser fig-
the time, and intercalation were in their hands. The college,
ure—Quirinus (Quirinalis). The flamines minores oversaw a
originally recruited from patricians only, grew—always in
number of central, but routine, rituals that probably took
parallel to the augural college—to nine members by the Lex
place without a large public audience, and their priestly role
Ogulnia of 300 BCE, then to fifteen by the Lex Cornelia of
was not more than a part-time job. They were, however, sub-
82 BCE (opening prestigious positions for Sulla’s supporters
jected to rules that limited their opportunities for entering
in the Civil war), and finally to sixteen by Caesar’s Lex Julia
a political career—a subject frequently leading to conflict.
of 46 BCE.
On the other hand, they were recruited at a comparatively
young age, in their early twenties during the late Republic
The augurs made up the second college. Their compe-
(and later), which is more than fifteen years before a consul-
tence encompassed divination and the change of sacral sta-
ate would take office. The wives of the rex and the flamines
tus. Thus, it fell upon them to inaugurate both persons (the
minores supplemented their ritual tasks as regina sacrorum
rex sacrorum and the three flamines maiores) and space (tem-
(with a separate range of cults) or flaminica.
pla); in the ritual of the augurium maximum they even
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

checked for the status of a ritual; that is, they asked for Jupi-
publica—offered a space for religious activities for the aris-
ter’s consent to have the ritual performed. As a college, and
tocracy and the framework for various collective or individu-
in certain functions as individuals, they served as experts for
al activities on the part of ordinary citizens or simply inhabi-
everything concerning the auspicia, the divination by means
tants of Rome. The sacra publica, publicly financed ritual,
of the observation of birds regularly performed by magis-
were not restricted to activities of the city as a whole. Territo-
trates. Being able to question or invalidate auspicial legitima-
rial subdivisions, such as the curiae or the neighborhoods of
tion, they were highly political figures, and the regulations
the compitalia (crossroad sanctuaries), offered space for ritual
concerning the college were at pains to ensure the indepen-
interaction and communication. The curio maximus was the
dence of its members, who would not loose their priesthood
second priesthood to be included into the procedure of pop-
even if they were condemned or exiled.
ular election, more than one hundred years before the augurs
and the other pontiffs. In imperial times, the vicomagistri
The Duo viri sacris faciundis (men in charge of the cele-
who presided over compitalician cult were given the right to
bration of sacrifices) were responsible for safeguarding and
wear the toga praetexta, togas with a purple strip distinguish-
for consulting the Sibylline Books by order of the Senate.
ing Roman magistrates, during their services.
There were at first two of them, then ten (Decemviri, begin-
ning in 367 BCE), and finally—equating them to the other
We do not know much about gentilician cult, but much
colleges—fifteen (quindecimviri).
is known about family and household cult from literary and
The electoral procedures for the members of these
archaeological sources,which serve as a helpful corrective
priestly colleges, probably enacted for the first time in the
against poetic or antiquarian idealization. Rented Roman
second half of the third century, show how carefully Roman
flats lacked built-in altars, and the ancestor cult of deceased
procedures regulated the religious realm. Only a minority
relatives simply dumped into the extra-urban pits might have
(seventeen chosen by lot) of the thirty-five “tribes,” originally
been limited.
regional voting units, selected among the candidates nomi-
The cult within the familia, the extended Roman family
nated by the surviving priests. The successful candidate was
placed under the unrestricted authority of the pater familias,
than formally adrogated by the college, thus continuing the
may be regarded in a biographical perspective. The day of
practice of cooptatio (cooptation) that remained the rule for
birth (dies natalis) and the day of purification (dies lustricus:
all the other, politically less important priestly groups. Even
the ninth day for boys, the eighth for girls, when the infant
priests elected in a popular assembly were not installed by
received its name) were family feasts. In the atrium of the
majority vote.
family home, the infant would acquire the habit of honoring
In addition to the four collegia, it is worth mentioning
the household gods (the lar familiaris and the di penates).
the fraternities that confirm the preference in Rome for
The allusion made in the Aulularia (v. 24s) by Plautus to a
priestly specialization and the division of religious authority.
young daughter who every day would bring “some gift such
The twenty Fetiales saw to the protection of Rome in foreign
as incense, wine, or garlands” to the lar familiaris shows that
relations, especially with regard to declarations of war and
personal devotion was not unknown in Rome. Livy
conclusion of peace treaties. The twenty-four Salii (twelve
(26.19.5) cites a more illustrious example of this kind about
Salii Palatini and twelve Salii Collini, from Augustus on-
P. Cornelius Scipio, the future conqueror of Hannibal.
ward) were dancer-priests who opened the season of war in
“After he received the toga virilis, he undertook no action,
March and who were the youngest aristocratic priests; female
whether public or private, without going right away to the
Salians are mentioned only once (Servius, Ad Aeneiden
Capitolium. Once he reached the sanctuary, he remained
8.285). The twenty-four Luperci (twelve Fabiani and twelve
there in contemplation, normally all alone in private for
Quinctiales) acted only in the rites of the Lupercalia on Feb-
some time.” (It is true that a rumor attributed divine ancestry
ruary 15. The twelve Arval Brethren were in charge of the
to Scipio, something he very carefully neither confirmed nor
cult of the agrarian deity Dea Dia, whose sanctuary was lo-
denied; see above).
cated outside the city in the fields (arva). The function of
The taking of the toga virilis, or pura (as opposed to the
the Sodales Titii (perhaps likewise twelve men) remains un-
toga praetexta, bordered with a purple ribbon and worn by
known; perhaps they continued a regal heroic cult. It is char-
children), generally took place at age seventeen during the
acteristic of the reduced political importance of these priest-
feast of the Liberalia on March 17. Before this point, the puer
hoods that hardly any member is known, or rather the
(boy) offered his bulla (a golden amulet) to the lar familiaris.
membership of those who are known was rarely made explic-
From then on, he was a iuvenis, and he would go to the Capi-
it. In contrast, between one- and two-thirds of the members
tolium to offer a sacrifice and leave an offering in the sanctu-
of the major colleges are known for most years from the Sec-
ary of the goddess Juventus (Iuventas). Girls would offer dolls
ond Punic War onward. By way of a unique ensemble of
and clothing on the day of their wedding. Another family
marble inscriptions from their sanctuary, the fratres Arvales
feast honored the father of the family on his birthday; for rea-
are the best documented priesthood of the Empire.
sons of convenience the commemoration and party seems to
Private worship. Religion as organized by the nobility,
have frequently been moved to the next calends or ides. A
the political elite, and paid for by state funds—hence religio
warm atmosphere brought together the whole family, 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

cluding the servants, at least twice a year. On March 1, the
tury BCE onward, were regarded as political troublemakers
feast of the Matronalia, mothers of families would make their
and organizers of popular unrest in the last decennium of the
way up the Esquiline to the temple of Juno Lucina, whose
Republic. Even the territorially organized groups of the com-
anniversary it was. Together with their husbands they prayed
pitalia were subject to suspicion, and they eventually dis-
“for the safeguarding of their union” and received presents.
solved. The most famous and best documented conflict be-
They then prepared dinner for their slaves. Macrobius (Sat-
tween a religious organization and Roman officials is the
urnalia 1.12.7), who mentions this custom, adds that on De-
persecution of the Italian Bacchanalia in 186 BCE.
cember 17, the feast of the Saturnalia, it was the masters’ turn
to serve their slaves, unless they preferred to share dinner
The affair is known from Livy’s extensive narrative
with them (Saturnalia 1.7.37). It is characteristic of the gen-
(39.8–18) and from a bronze copy of the final decree of the
dered perspective of the Romans that the “male” Saturnalia
Senate, which enforced the Roman sanctions of the cult
developed into a carnival lasting for several days, character-
within the whole of Italy, or at least the Roman territories
ized by an exchange of gifts, as well as excessive drinking.
(Senatusconsultum de Bacchanalibus). The cult of Dionysos
had a long history and was widespread throughout Italy. Ac-
At the end of life, the Feriae Denecales (denecales or
cordingly, the Senate’s action was not directed against the
deni-, perhaps from de nece, “following death”) took place.
god Bacchus or his cult in principle. Following a denuncia-
The purpose was to purify the family in mourning, for the
tion, alarm had been created by the secret gatherings (Livy,
deceased was regarded as having defiled his or her family,
39.8.3) that reeked of scandals involving both men and
which thus became funesta (defiled by death). To this end,
women. The bacchants were accused of taking part in crimi-
a novemdiale sacrum was offered on the ninth day after burial.
nal orgies in a milieu marked by “the groans of victims amid
As for the deceased, the body, or a finger thereof kept aside
debaucheries and murders.” The prohibition was dictated
(os resectum) in the case of cremation, was buried in a place
out of a concern for public order. The reaction involved dra-
that become inviolable (religiosus). The burial was indispens-
conian sanctions, including the death penalty for some lead-
able in order to assure the repose of the deceased, who from
ing figures. The cult however, was not suppressed. If restrict-
then on was venerated among the di parentes (later the di
ed to five persons or fewer and to female priests and a
manes). If there were no burial, the deceased risked becoming
majority of female members, and with the renunciation of
one of the mischievous spirits, the lemures, which the father
a associative framework (money, officers), the cult could
of the family would expel at midnight on the Lemuria of
continue—everything else had to be explicitly requested and
May 9, 11, and 13.
permitted by the Senate.
During the Dies Parentales, from February 13 to 21, the
family would go to the tombs of their dead in order to bring
The Bacchanalian affair illustrates the Roman approach
them gifts. Since the period ended on February 21 with a
of honoring the religious obligations of subjects as the city
public feast called the Feralia, the following day, February
itself fulfilled the religious obligations that had arisen in the
22, reverted to a private feast, the Caristia or Cara Cognatio,
long course of history (religiones). The gods would be helpful
in which the members of the family gathered and comforted
and would not interfere, if they were given their due. In this
one another around a banquet. This explains the compelling
process there was an acceptable range of behavior, but any
need in an old family for legitimate offspring (either by
excess would be superstitious (superstitio). In founding new
bloodline or by adoption). In their turn, the duty of the de-
colonies and regulating their affairs, Roman officials were
scendants was to carry on the family worship and to calm the
forced to address the religious basics and put them into legal
souls of their ancestors. Foundations or donations to associa-
terms: that was part of the ius publicum. With regard to such
tions could serve the same purpose.
decisions, the most important source is the Lex Coloniae
Iuliae Genetivae Ursonensis,
a law written in 44 BCE for a
Religious associations. The sacrifice and banquet
Spanish colony founded by C. Julius Caesar, which survived
framed family festivals and organized social space for second-
in fragmentary form in a copy from the end of the first centu-
ary groups as well. The Romans believed that their associa-
ry CE (Crawford, 1996). The basics are few: a college of au-
tions dated back to the early regal period. Common econom-
gurs and pontiffs had to be installed (without specifying their
ic interest and sociability usually went together, formally
tasks); their succession was to be regulated; and the (low) pay
united by the cult of a suitable deity. Bakers, for example,
of the haruspices was specified. Games had to be held for the
venerated Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. In addition, slaves
Capitoline triad and Venus, the tutelary deities. The intro-
of large households were known to have organized them-
duction of every other cult was left to the city council, as was
selves into associations during imperial times. Given the
probably the calendar. It was made certain that the colony
weak economic position of many individuals and families,
was able to pay for the cults and the religious obligation it
associations might provide funeral services as well.
had taken up: the coordination of contracts with suppliers
The multifunctional form of the association (collegium)
of victims and organizers of games was the first topic in the
often opened them to criticism and suspicion. For example,
city council every year.
associations of venerators of the goddess Isis, originally stem-
ming from Egypt but present at Rome from the second cen-
SEE ALSO Indo-European Religions, overview article.
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

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Wissowa, Georg. Religion und Kultus der Römer. 2d ed. Munich,
means systematic, identification of Punic, Iberian, and Celtic
gods with Roman gods. This, in turn, is connected with two
Ziolkowski, Adam. The Temples of Mid-Republican Rome and
opposite aspects of the Roman conquest of the West. On the
Their Historical and Topographical Context. Rome, 1992.
one hand, the Romans had little sympathy and understand-
ing for the religion of their Western subjects. Although occa-
sionally guilty of human sacrifice, they found the various
forms of human sacrifices that were practiced more frequent-
ly in Africa, Spain, and Gaul repugnant (hence their later ef-
forts to eliminate the Druids in Gaul and in Britain). On the
The Roman state’s extraordinary and unexpected transfor-
other hand, northern Africa (outside Egypt) and western Eu-
mation from one that had hegemony over the greater part
rope were deeply Latinized in language and Romanized in
of Italy into a world state in the second and first centuries
institutions, thereby creating the conditions for the assimila-
BCE had implications for Roman religion that are not easy
tion of native gods to Roman gods.
to grasp. After all, Christianity, a religion wholly “foreign”
in its origins, arose from this period of Roman ascendancy.
Yet the Mars, the Mercurius, and even the Jupiter and
To begin, then, to understand the religious system of imperi-
the Diana seen so frequently in Gaul under the Romans are
al Rome, it is best to confine the discussion to some elemen-
not exactly the same as in Rome. The individuality of the
tary and obviously related facts.
Celtic equivalent of Mercurius has already been neatly noted
by Caesar (Gallic War 6.17). Some Roman gods, such as
First, the old Roman practice of inviting the chief gods
Janus and Quirinus, do not seem to have penetrated Gaul.
of their enemies to become gods of Rome (evocatio) played
Similarly, in Africa, Saturnus preserved much of the Baal
little part in the new stage of imperialism. Evocatio played
Hammon with whom he was identified. There, Juno Caeles-
some role in Rome’s conquests in the middle Republic, but
tis (or simply Caelestis, destined to considerable veneration
the practice had been transformed. The last temple to be
outside Africa) is Tanit (Tinnit), the female companion of
built in Rome to house a deity “evoked” from an enemy of
Baal Hammon. The assimilation of the native god is often
Rome was that of Vortumnus (264 BCE). A version of the
revealed by an accompanying adjective (in Gaul, for exam-
ritual was probably used to “evoke” the Juno of Carthage in
ple, Mars Lenus and Mercurius Dumiatis). An analogous
the 140s BCE, but no temple was built to her in Rome. The
phenomenon had occurred in the East under the Hellenistic
extent of the transformation is shown by the fact that in 75
monarchies: native, especially Semitic, gods were assimilated
BCE a Roman conqueror of Isaura Vetus (in Asia Minor) took
to Greek gods, especially to Zeus and Apollo. The Eastern
a vow (in language reminiscent of the evocatio), which seems
assimilation went on under Roman rule (as seen, for exam-
to have resulted in the foundation of a new local cult of the
ple, with Zeus Panamaros in Caria).
patron deity of Isaura Vetus. The old procedures of evocatio
are not found in the imperial period. Instead, the cults of
Roman soldiers, who became increasingly professional
Rome’s subjects continued to form the basis for their local
and lived among natives for long periods of time, played a
religious system.
part in these syncretic tendencies. A further consequence of
Second, while it was conquering the Hellenistic world,
imperialism was the emphasis on Victory and on certain gods
Rome was involved in a massive absorption of Greek lan-
of Greek origin (such as Herakles and Apollo) as gods of vic-
guage, literature, and religion, with the consequence that the
tory. Victoria was already recognized as a goddess during the
Roman gods became victorious over those of Greece while
Samnite Wars; she was later associated with various leaders,
their old identification with Greek gods became more firmly
from Scipio Africanus to Sulla and Pompey. Roman emper-
established. Because the gods were expected to take sides and
ors used an elaborate religious language in their discussions
to favor their own worshipers, this could have created some
of Victory. Among Christians, Augustine of Hippo depicted
problems. In fact, from the middle Republic onward, the Ro-
Victory as God’s angel (City of God 4.17).
mans respected the gods of the Greeks. As early as 193 BCE
These transformations are part of the changing relation-
the Romans replied to the city of Teos (in Asia Minor) that
ship between the center (Rome) and the periphery (the Em-
they would “seek to improve both honors towards the god
pire). By the early Empire, Italy fell wholly under the author-
[Dionysos, the patron deity of Teos] and privileges towards
ity of Rome: in 22 CE the senate decided that “all rituals,
you,” on the grounds that Roman success was due to her
temples, and images of the gods in Italian towns fall under
well-known reverence towards the gods (Sherk, 1969,
Roman law and jurisdiction” (Tacitus, Annals 3.71). The
pp. 214–216). In other words, the Romans accepted that the
provinces were different and not subject to Roman jurisdic-
Greek god Dionysos was included among the gods that fa-
tion in the same way. However, Roman governors of the im-
vored Rome. In consequence, the Greeks felt no pressure to
perial period were required to watch over religious life in
modify their ancestral cults, and traditional Greek cults re-
their province. They were concerned that religious life pro-
mained vibrant throughout the imperial period.
ceed in an orderly and acceptable manner, and the governors’
Third, the conquest of Africa, Spain, and Gaul pro-
official instructions included the order to preserve sacred
duced the opposite phenomenon of a large, though by no
places. They also ensured that the provincials took part 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

the annual performance on January 3 of the Roman ritual
processions in honor of the Roman emperor passed by. This
vows of allegiance to the emperor and the Empire.
is not to say that piety towards the gods existed only in public
contexts or indeed was constituted primarily through civic
Roman practices were celebrated in certain specific con-
channels. Individuals formed private religious associations,
texts throughout the Empire. Roman coloniae, settlements
either simply to worship a particular deity or to form a soci-
consisting of Roman citizens (ex-soldiers and landless poor
ety that would ensure the proper burial of its members. They
from Rome), were established in the provinces in the late Re-
also made private prayers and vows to the appropriate god
public and early Empire. Such settlements were privileged
and set up votive offerings to the god in his or her sanctuary.
clones of Rome in a sea of mere subjects of Rome. Their pub-
lic religious life had a strongly Roman cast, despite much
variation from place to place. Many coloniae had their own
Augustus and his contemporaries thought, or perhaps in
Capitolium, priesthoods (pontifices and augures), and rituals
some cases wanted other people to think, that the preceding
based on those of Rome.
age (roughly the period from the Gracchi to Caesar) had seen
The Roman army also followed overtly Roman rules.
a decline in the ancient Roman care for gods. Augustus him-
Military camps had at their center a building that housed the
self stated in the public record known as the Res gestae that
legionary standards and imperial and divine images (some-
he had restored eighty-two temples and shrines (in one year,
times including images of Romulus and Remus). The impor-
28 BCE). He revived cults and religious associations, such as
tance of the building is reflected in the fact that in 208 CE
the Arval Brothers and the fraternity of the Titii, and ap-
it is even called a Capitolium (Année épigraphique,1989, no.
pointed a flamen dialis, a priestly office that had been left va-
581, from Aalen in Germany). From the early Empire all le-
cant since 87 BCE. This revivalist feeling was not entirely
gionary soldiers (who were Roman citizens) and later all aux-
new: it was behind the enormous collection of evidence con-
iliary soldiers (who were originally not Roman citizens) cele-
cerning ancient Roman cults, the “divine antiquities,” that
brated religious festivals modeled on those of Rome. They
Varro had dedicated to Caesar about 47 BCE in his Antiquita-
celebrated festivals on the Roman cycle (e.g. Vestalia or Nep-
tum rerum humanarum et divinarum libri; the rest of the
tunalia); they performed imperial vows to the Capitoline
work, the “human antiquities,” was devoted to Roman polit-
triad on January 3; and they celebrated imperial birthdays
ical institutions and customs. Varro’s work codified Roman
and other events.
religion for succeeding generations, and as such it was used
for polemical purposes by Christian apologists.
Towns with the status of municipia (where local citizens
had the so-called Latin right and some even full Roman citi-
The Romans also turned certain gods of Greek origin
zenship) shared some of the Roman religious features of
into gods of victory. As early as 145 BCE, L. Mummius dedi-
coloniae; their principal priesthoods, for example, were
cated a temple to Hercules Victor after his triumph over
named after and modeled on Roman institutions—pontifices,
Greece. After a victory, generals often offered 10 percent of
augures, and haruspices. And from the second century CE on-
their booty to Hercules, and Hercules Invictus was a favorite
ward, municipia in North Africa also began to build their
god of Pompey. Apollo was connected with Victory as early
own Capitolia. Overtly Roman practices served as part of the
as 212 BCE. Caesar boosted her ancestress Venus in the form
process of competitive emulation that marked civic life in
of Venus Victrix. But it was Apollo who helped Octavian,
many parts of the Empire. The original Caesarian regulations
the future Augustus, to win the Battle of Actium in Septem-
for the colonia of Urso in southern Spain, which constitute
ber of 31 BCE.
our fullest single document of this process, remained suffi-
ciently important to Urso for them to be reinscribed a hun-
It is difficult to do justice both to the mood of the Au-
dred years later, at a time when other Spanish communities
gustan restoration and to the unquestionable seriousness
had just received the (lesser) status of the Latin right (Craw-
with which the political and military leaders of the previous
ford, 1996, pp. 393-454). Throughout the Empire, whatever
century tried to support their unusual adventures by unusual
the technical status of the community, there were publicly
religious attitudes. Marius, a devotee of the Mater Magna
organized and celebrated religious rites. For example, the
(Cybele), was accompanied in his campaigns by a Syrian
Greek city of Ephesus (Gr., Ephesos) proudly commemorat-
prophetess. Sulla apparently brought from Cappadocia the
ed the fact that Artemis was born at Ephesus and voted to
goddess Ma, soon identified with Bellona, whose orgiastic
extend the period of her festival “since the god Artemis, pa-
and prophetic cult had wide appeal. Furthermore, he devel-
tron of our city, is honored not only in her native city, which
oped a personal devotion to Venus and Fortuna and set an
she has made more famous than all other cities through her
example for Caesar, who claimed Venus as the ancestress of
own divinity, but also by Greeks and barbarians, so that ev-
the gens Julia. As pontifex maximus for twenty years, Caesar
erywhere sanctuaries and precincts are consecrated for her,
reformed not only individual cults but also the calendar,
temples are dedicated and altars set up for her, on account
which had great religious significance. He tried to support
of her manifest epiphanies” (Die Inschriften von Ephesos no.
his claim to dictatorial powers by collecting religious honors
24, c. 163 CE). Individuals took part in such festivals and also
that, though obscure in detail and debated by modern schol-
sacrificed incense on small altars outside their houses when
ars, anticipate later imperial cults.
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

Unusual religious attitudes were not confined to leaders.
emperor who had not misbehaved in his lifetime. Diviniza-
A Roman senator, Nigidius Figulus, made religious combi-
tion also reinforced the trend toward the cult of the living
nations of his own both in his writings and in his practice:
emperor, which had been most obvious during Augustus’s
magic, astrology, and Pythagoreanism were some of the in-
life. With the Flavian dynasty and later with the Antonines,
gredients. Cicero, above all, epitomized the search of educat-
it was normal for the head of the Roman state to be both
ed men of the first century BCE for the right balance between
the head of the state religion and a potential, or even actual,
respect for the ancestral cults and the requirements of philos-
ophy. Cicero could no longer believe in traditional divina-
tion. When his daughter died in 45
As the head of Roman religion, the Roman emperor was
BCE, he embarked briefly
on a project for making her divine. This was no less typical
therefore in the paradoxical situation of being responsible
of the age than the attempt by Clodius in 62
not only for relations between the Roman state and the gods
BCE to desecrate
the festival of Bona Dea, reserved for women, in order to
but also for a fair assessment of his own qualifications to be
contact Caesar’s wife (he escaped punishment).
considered a god, if not after his life, at least while he was
alive. This situation, however, must not be assumed to have
The imperial age inclined toward distinctions and com-
applied universally. Much of the religious life in individual
promises. The Roman pontifex maximus Q. Mucius Scaevola
towns was in the hands of local authorities or simply left to
(early first century BCE) is credited with the popularization
private initiative. The financial support for public cults was
of the distinction, originally Greek, between the gods of the
in any case very complex, but many sanctuaries (especially
poets as represented in myths, the gods of ordinary people
in the Greek world) had their own sources of revenue. It will
to be found in cults and sacred laws, and finally the gods of
be enough to mention that the Roman state granted or con-
the philosophers, confined to books and private discussion.
firmed to certain gods in certain sanctuaries the right to re-
It was the distinction underlying the thought of Varro and
ceive legacies (Ulpian, Regulae 22.6). In providing a local
Cicero. No wonder, therefore, that in that atmosphere of
shrine with special access to money, an emperor implied no
civil wars and personal hatreds, cultic rules and practices
more than benevolence toward the city or group involved.
were exploited ruthlessly to embarrass enemies, and no one
could publicly challenge the ultimate validity of traditional
Within the city of Rome, however, the emperor was in
virtual control of the public cults. As a Greek god, Apollo
had been kept outside of the pomerium since his introduction
The Augustan restoration discouraged philosophical
into Rome: his temple was in the Campus Martius. Under
speculation about the nature of the gods: Lucretius’s De
Augustus, however, Apollo received a temple inside the
rerum natura remains characteristic of the age of Caesar. Au-
pomerium on the Palatine in recognition of the special pro-
gustan poets (Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, and Ovid)
tection he had offered to Octavian. The Sibylline Books, an
evoked obsolescent rites and emphasized piety. Vergil inter-
ancient collection of prophecies that previously had been
preted the Roman past in religious terms. Nevertheless, the
preserved on the Capitol, were now transferred to the new
combined effect of the initiatives of Caesar and Augustus
temple. Later, Augustus demonstrated his preference for
amounted to a new religious situation.
Mars as a family god, and a temple to Mars Ultor (the aveng-
er of Caesar’s murder) was built. It was no doubt on the di-
For centuries the aristocracy in Rome had controlled
rect initiative of Hadrian that the cult of Rome as a goddess
what was called ius sacrum (sacred law), the religious aspect
(in association with Venus) was finally introduced into the
of Roman life, but the association of priesthood with politi-
city centuries after the cult had spread outside of Italy. A
cal magistracy, though frequent and obviously convenient,
temple to the Sun (Sol), a cult popular in the Empire at large
had never been institutionalized. In 27 BCE the assumption
and not without some roots in the archaic religion of Rome,
by Octavian of the name Augustus implied, though not very
had to wait until Emperor Aurelian in 274 CE, if one dis-
clearly, permanent approval of the gods (augustus may con-
counts the cult of the Ba’al of Emesa, a sun god, which came
note a holder of permanent favorable auspices). In 12 BCE
and went with the emperor Elagabalus in 220–221 CE. An-
Augustus assumed the position of pontifex maximus, which
other example of these changes inside Rome is that Emperor
became permanently associated with the figure of the emper-
Claudius found the popularity of these alien cults partially
or (imperator), the new head for life of the Roman state. Au-
responsible for the neglect of the art of haruspicy among the
gustus’s new role resulted in an identification of religious
great Etruscan families, and he took steps to revive the art
with political power, which had not existed in Rome since
(Tacitus, Annals 11.15, 47 CE).
at least the end of the monarchy. Furthermore, the diviniza-
tion of Caesar after his death had made Augustus, as his
A further step in the admission of “Oriental gods” to
adopted son, the son of a divus. In turn, Augustus was offi-
the official religion of Rome was the building of a temple to
cially divinized (apotheosis) after his death by the Roman Sen-
Isis. In the late Republic, the cult was formally suppressed,
ate. Divinization after death did not become automatic for
only for the triumvirs to vow a shrine to the goddess in 43
his successors (Tiberius, Gaius, and Nero were not divi-
BCE, and official action was taken once more against the cult
nized); nevertheless, Augustus’s divinization created a pre-
under Augustus and Tiberius. At some point between then
sumption that there was a divine component in an ordinary
and the fourth century CE, festivals of Isis entered the official
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

Roman calendar, possibly under the emperor Gaius Caligula.
were purely instrumental, believed to have a direct causal ef-
From at least the second century CE, the main Roman sanc-
fect on the world; or, in an alternative formulation, the magi-
tuary of Isis on the Campus Martius was architecturally relat-
cian coerced the deities, whereas the priest of religion en-
ed to the east side of the Saepta, or official voting area, and
treated them in prayer and sacrifice. Such theories still
to other public monuments in this area, which suggests its
underlie widely held conceptions of magic. But this grand
integration into the official landscape of Rome. It was, how-
developmental scheme, in which magic is seen as the precur-
ever, the only new foreign sanctuary, so far as can be discov-
sor of “true religion,” has become increasingly discredited,
ered from the surviving fragments, to be represented on the
along with the nineteenth-century evolutionary views of
third-century CE official map of the city of Rome. Jupiter
human society and development of which it is a part. Be-
Dolichenus, a god from northern Syria popular among sol-
sides, the definition of magic as coercive and instrumental
diers, was probably given a temple on the Aventine in the
as against the (essentially Christian and partisan) view of
second century CE.
“real” religion as noninstrumental and noncoercive does not
There is some evidence that the Roman priestly colleges
often match (or help us to classify) the varieties of ritual, wor-
intervened in the cults of municipia and coloniae (in relation
ship, or religious officials in the ancient world. A better start-
to the cult of Mater Magna), but on the whole it is unreason-
ing point is the discussions of magic (and its relation to reli-
able expect the cults of Rome herself to remain exemplary
gion) in the writings of the Romans themselves. For example,
for Roman citizens living elsewhere. For example, Vitruvius,
according to the encyclopedia of Pliny the Elder, magic,
who dedicated his work on architecture to Octavian before
which originated in Persia, was a heady combination of med-
the latter became Augustus in 27
icine, religion, and astrology that met human desires for
BCE, assumes that in an Ital-
ian city there should be a temple to Isis and Sarapis (De ar-
health, control of the gods, and knowledge of the future. The
chitectura 1.7.1), but Isis was kept out of Rome in those
system was, in his view, totally fraudulent (Natural History
years. Emperor Caracalla, however, presented his grant of
30.1-18; cf. Lucan’s Pharsalia 6.413-830). Such views of
Roman citizenship to the provincials in 212
magic as a form of deviant religious behavior should also be
CE in hope of
contributing to religious unification: “So I think I can in this
related to the developing concepts and practices of Roman
way perform a [magnificent and pious] act, worthy of their
law in the imperial period. The speech by Apuleius (De
majesty, by gathering to their rites [as Romans] all the multi-
magia) defending himself against a charge of bewitching a
tude that joins my people” (Papyrus Giessen 40). Although
wealthy heiress in a North African town is particularly im-
the cult of Zeus Kapetolios appears three years later at the
Greek city of Ptolemais Euergetis in Egypt, the general re-
The relationship of this stereotype to the reality of magi-
sults of Caracalla’s grant were modest in religious terms.
cal practice is, however, complex. Magic was an important
Coins and medals, insofar as they were issued under the
part of the fictional repertoire of Roman writers, but it was
control of the central government, provide some indication
not only a figment of the imagination of the elite; and its
of imperial preferences in the matter of gods and cults, as
practice may have become more prominent through the
well as when and how certain Oriental cults (such as that of
principate—a consequence perhaps of it too (like other
Isis, as reflected on coins of Vespasian) or certain attributes
forms of knowledge) becoming partially professionalized in
of a specific god were considered helpful to the Empire and
the hands of literate experts in the imperial period. So, for
altogether suitable for ordinary people who used coins. But
example, the surviving Latin curses (often scratched on lead
because as a rule it avoided references to cults of rulers, coin-
tablets, and so preserved) increase greatly in number under
age can be misleading if considered alone. Imperial cult and
the Empire, and the Greek magical papyri from Egypt are
Oriental cults are, in fact, two of the most important features
most common in the third and fourth centuries CE. Roman
of Roman religion in the imperial period. But it is crucial to
anxieties about magic may, in part, have been triggered by
take into consideration popular, not easily definable trends;
changes in its practices and prominence, as well as by the in-
the religious beliefs or disbeliefs of the intellectuals; the great-
ternal logic of their own worldview.
er participation of women in religious and in intellectual life
Divination had been central to republican politics and
generally; and, finally, the peculiar problems presented by
to the traditional religion of the Roman state. For example,
the persecution of Christianity.
before engagement in battle or before any meeting of an as-
MAGIC AND DIVINATION. A striking development of the im-
sembly the “auspices” were taken—in other words, the heav-
perial period was that the concept of magic emerged as the
ens were observed for any signs (such as the particular pattern
ultimate superstitio, a system whose principles were parodic
of a flight of birds) that the gods gave or withheld their assent
of and in opposition to true religio. The definition of magic
to the project in hand. These forms of divination changed
is contentious and hotly debated. In the nineteenth and earli-
in Rome under the principate. The traditional systematic re-
er part of the twentieth century, many theorists (especially
porting of prodigies, for example, disappeared in the Augus-
Sir James Frazer, the author of The Golden Bough) defined
tan period: these seemingly random intrusions of divine dis-
“magic” as an inferior and prior form of religion: whereas re-
pleasure must have appeared incongruous in a system where
ligion had a complex cognitive significance, magical actions
divine favor flowed through the emperor; such prodigies as
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

were noted generally centered on the births and deaths of
The cult of Roman provincial governors disappeared
emperors. There were many other forms of divination. Some
with Augustus, to the exclusive benefit of the emperor and
of them (such as astrology) involved specific foretelling of the
his family. When he did not directly encourage the ruler cult,
future. Some (such as dream interpretation) were a private,
the emperor still had to approve, limit, and occasionally re-
rather than a public, affair. Some could even be practiced as
fuse it. Although he had to be worshiped, he also had to re-
a weapon against the current political order—as when cast-
main a man in order to live on social terms with the Roman
ing an emperor’s horoscope foretold his imminent death.
aristocracy, of which he was supposed to be the princeps. It
was a delicate balancing act. It is probably fair to say that dur-
The practitioners of divination were as varied as its
ing his lifetime the emperor was a god more in proportion
functions. They ranged from the senior magistrates (who ob-
to his remoteness than his proximity, and that the success
served the heavens before an assembly) and the state priests
(for success it was) of the imperial cult in the provinces was
(such as the augures who advised the magistrates on heavenly
due to the presence it endowed to an absent and alien sover-
signs) to the potentially dangerous astrologers and soothsay-
eign. His statues, his temples, and his priests, as well as the
ers. These people were periodically expelled from the city of
games, sacrifices, and other ceremonial acts, helped make the
Rome and under the principate were subject to control by
emperor present; they also helped people to express their in-
provincial governors. The jurist Ulpian included in his trea-
terest in the preservation of the world in which they lived.
tise on the duties of provincial governors a section explaining
the regulation of astrologers and soothsayers; a papyrus docu-
The imperial cult was not universally accepted and
ment survives from Roman Egypt, with a copy of a general
liked. Seneca ridiculed the cult of Claudius, and Tacitus
ban on divination issued by a governor of the province in the
spoke of the cult in general as Greek adulation. In the third
late second century
century the historian Dio Cassius attributed to Augustus’s
CE (on the grounds that it led people
friend Maecenas a total condemnation of the imperial cult.
astray and brought danger); and at the end of the third cen-
Jews and Christians objected to it on principle, and the acts
tury CE the emperor Diocletian issued a general ban on as-
of the Christian martyrs remind us that there was an element
trology. Consultation of diviners that threatened the stability
of brutal imposition in the imperial cult. But its controversial
of private families or the life of the emperor himself were ob-
nature in certain circles may well have been another factor
vious targets for punishment.
in the cult’s success (conflicts help any cause). There is even
THE IMPERIAL CULT. The imperial cult was many things to
evidence that some groups treated the imperial cult as a mys-
many people. Indeed, it can be said that there was no “impe-
tery religion in which priests displayed imperial images or
rial cult;” instead, there were many “imperial cults,” as ap-
propriate in many different contexts. The emperor never be-
Schematically, it can be said that in Rome Augustus fa-
came a complete god, even if he was considered a god,
vored the association of the cult of his life spirit (genius) with
because he was not requested to produce miracles, even for
the old cult of the public lares of the crossroads (lares compi-
supposed deliverance from peril. Vespasian performed mira-
tales). Such a combined cult was in the hands of humble peo-
cles in Alexandria soon after his proclamation as emperor,
ple (especially ex-slaves). Similar associations developed
but these had no precise connection to his potential divine
along various lines in Italy and the West and gave respectabil-
status; he remained an exception in any case. Hadrian never
ity to the ex-slaves who ran them. Augustus’s birthday was
performed miracles, but his young lover Antinous, who was
considered a public holiday. His genius was included in pub-
divinized after death, is known to have performed some
lic oaths between Jupiter Optimus Maximus and the penates.
(Dörner, 1952, p. 40, no. 78).
In Augustus’s last years Tiberius dedicated an altar to the
numen Augusti in Rome; the four great priestly colleges had
Apotheosis, decided by the Senate, was the only official
to make yearly sacrifices at it. Numen, in an obscure way, im-
form of deification valid for everyone in the Empire and was
plied divine will.
occasionally extended to female members of the imperial
family (Drusilla, the sister of Gaius, who received apotheosis
In the West, central initiative created the altar of Roma
in 38 CE, was the first such honorand.) It had its precedent,
and Augustus outside Lyons, to be administered by the
of course, in the apotheosis of Romulus. Ultimately, the cult
Council of the Three Gauls (12 BCE). A similar altar was
of the living emperor mattered more. It was the result of a
built at Oppidum Ubiorum (Cologne). Later temples to Au-
mixture of spontaneous initiative by provincial and local
gustus (by then officially divinized) were erected in Western
councils (and even by private individuals) and promptings
provinces. The key episode occurred in 15 CE, the year after
from provincial governors and the emperor himself. It had
the official deification of Augustus in Rome, when permis-
precedents not only in the Hellenistic ruler cult but also in
sion was given to the province of Hispania Tarraconensis for
the more or less spontaneous worship of Roman generals and
a temple to Divus Augustus in the colonia of Tarraco. Its
governors, especially in the Hellenized East. Though it is un-
priests were drawn not just from Tarraco but from the whole
likely that temples were built to provincial governors, Cicero
province, and Tacitus (Annals 1.78), reporting the decision
had to decline such worship when he was governor of Cilicia
of 15 CE, notes that the temple set a precedent for other prov-
(Ad Atticum 5.21.7).
inces. In the East, temples to Roma and Divus Julius (for
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

Roman citizens) and to Roma and Augustus (for Greeks)
the West, ex-slaves with Roman citizenship (who formed a
were erected as early as 29 BCE. There, as in the West, provin-
significant upwardly mobile group) could aspire to a public
cial assemblies took a leading part in the establishment of the
status that articulated their position in the framework of the
cult. Individual cities were also active: priests of Augustus are
Roman Empire.
found in thirty-four different cities of Asia Minor. The orga-
nization of the cult varied locally. There was no collective
RIENTAL” INFLUENCES. It has long been standard to em-
ploy the category “Oriental religions” in discussing the new
provincial cult of the emperor in Egypt, though there was
religious options in imperial Rome. This category was first
a cult in Alexandria. And any poet, indeed any person, could
widely used, if not invented, by the Belgian scholar Franz
have his or her own idea about the divine nature of the em-
Cumont in the early years of the twentieth century in his pio-
peror. Horace, for example, suggested that Augustus might
neering studies of Roman religion. For Cumont, the key to
be Mercurius (Odes 1.2).
understanding the religious history of the period lay in the
Augustus’s successors tended to be worshiped either in-
influx into Rome of a group of Eastern religions that shared
dividually, without the addition of Roma, or collectively
a number of common characteristics setting them apart from
with past emperors. In Asia Minor the last individual emper-
traditional civic cults—and paving the way, eventually, for
or known to have received a personal priesthood or temple
the rise of Christianity. However, these religions cannot be
is Caracalla. In this province—though not necessarily else-
neatly pigeonholed as “Oriental.” Several of the cults did
where—the imperial cult petered out at the end of the third
proclaim an Eastern “origin” for their wisdom, but it is often
century. Nevertheless, Constantine, in the fourth century,
clear that a Roman version of the cult differed substantially
authorized the building of a temple for the gens Flavia (his
from its (notional) Eastern ancestor. Above all, the “Orient”
own family) in Italy at Hispellum, but he warned that it
itself was hardly the homogeneous category that modern
“should not be polluted by the deceits of any contagious su-
scholars (and the Romans, no doubt) often try to make it:
perstitio”—whatever he may have meant by this (Hermann
different cults came from quite different religious back-
Dessau, Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 705, lines 46-48,
grounds—the religious traditions of the home of Mithras in
337 CE).
Persia, for example, had little in common with the Egyptian
traditions in the worship of Isis and Sarapis.
It is difficult to say how much the ceremonies of the im-
perial court reflected divinization of the emperors. Domitian
The issue of whom the new cults attracted is difficult.
wanted to be called dominus et deus (Suetonius, Domitian
Did the different “messages” appeal more to some sections
13.2), but this is anomalous and broke the normal conven-
of the inhabitants of Rome than to others? Were the poor
tion that the emperor should present himself to the Roman
more commonly to be found among the adherents than the
elite as primus inter pares (first among equals). In the third
rich? Women more commonly than men? Did these alterna-
century a specific identification of the living emperor with
tive religions attract those who had only a small role to play
a known god seems to be more frequent (for instance, Sep-
in the traditional civic cults and the political order that those
timius Severus and his wife, Julia Domna, with Jupiter and
cults sustained? Were they, in other words, “religions of dis-
Juno). When the imperial cult died out, the emperor had to
advantage?” There is no simple answer to those questions.
be justified as the choice of god; he became emperor by the
There was enormous variety within the population of Rome,
grace of god. Thus Diocletian and Maximian, persecutors of
which had no single axis between privilege and disadvantage.
Christianity, present themselves not as Jupiter and Hercules
In a society where some of the richest and most educated
but as Jovius and Herculius, that is, the protégés of Jupiter
members were to be found outside (and indeed ineligible for)
and Hercules. It must be added that during the first centuries
the ranks of the elite, it makes no sense to imagine a single
of the Empire the divinization of the emperor was accompa-
category of “the disadvantaged.” Besides, it is very hard now
nied by a multiplication of divinizations of private individu-
(and no doubt always was for most outside observers) to re-
als, in the West often of humble origin. Such divinization
construct accurately the membership of any particular cult;
took the form of identifying the dead, and occasionally the
for apparently casual references to a cult’s adherents in the
living, with a known hero or god. Sometimes the diviniza-
writing of the period are often part and parcel of an attack
tion was nothing more than an expression of affection by rel-
on that cult—deriding a religion as being, for example, the
atives or friends. But it indicated a tendency to reduce the
business of women and slaves. But it is clear that male mem-
distance between men and gods, which helped the fortunes
bers of the senatorial order were conspicuously absent from
of the imperial cult (Wrede, 1981).
the new cults. No senators are attested as initiates of Jupiter
Dolichenus, Jupiter Optimus Maximus Heliopolitanus, Isis,
In at least the “civilized” parts of both East and West,
Mithras, or (probably) Christianity before the mid-third cen-
the principal social change that accompanied these religious
tury CE.
changes was the role of local elites in the service of Rome.
Holders of the local offices of the imperial cult received pres-
New cults claiming an “Oriental” origin penetrated the
tige in their local communities, as they did for holding other
Roman Empire at various dates, in different circumstances,
offices or priesthoods, and they might be able to use such of-
and with varying appeal, although on the whole they seem
fices to further the status of themselves or their families. In
to have supplemented religious needs in the Latin West more
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

than in the Hellenized East. They tended, though not in
to have become the object of a mystery cult in the first centu-
equal measure, to present themselves as mystery cults: they
ry CE; she appears as such in Apuleius’s Metamorphoses.
often required initiation and, perhaps more often, some reli-
Late in the first century CE, Mithraism began to spread
gious instruction.
throughout the Roman Empire, especially in the Danubian
Cybele, the first Oriental divinity to be found accept-
countries and in Italy (in particular, as far as can be known,
able in Rome since the end of the third century BCE, was long
in Ostia and Rome). A developed mystery cult, it had ranks
an oddity in the city. As the Mater Magna (Great Mother),
of initiation and leadership and was—though this has been
she had been imported by governmental decision, she had
disputed—reserved for men, a clear difference from the cult
a temple within the pomerium, and she was under the protec-
of Isis. It was practiced in subterranean shrines rather than
tion of members of the highest Roman aristocracy. Yet her
in temples; the rooms were ritual versions of the cave in Per-
professional priests, singing in Greek and living by their tem-
sia where Mithra had once slain a bull. The environment of
ple, were considered alien fanatics even in imperial times.
the Mithraic cult, as revealed in numerous extant shrines,
What is worse, the goddess also had servants, the Galli, who
was one of darkness, secrecy, and dramatic lighting effects.
had castrated themselves to express their devotion to her.
What promise Mithra held for his devotees cannot be
Under the emperor Claudius, Roman citizens were
known for certain. The cult seems to have encouraged sol-
probably allowed some priestly functions, though the matter
dierly qualities, including sexual abstinence. It certainly pres-
is very obscure. Even more obscure is how Attis became Cyb-
ented some correspondence between the degrees of initiation
ele’s major partner. He is so poorly attested in the republican
and the levels of the celestial spheres, which probably implies
written evidence for the cult of Cybele that scholars used to
an ascent of the soul to these spheres. The killing of the bull
believe that he was introduced to the cult only in the first
(different from the taurobolium and perhaps without any
implication of baptism) was apparently felt to be a sacrifice
CE (they saw Catullus 63 as a purely “literary” text).
However, excavations at the Palatine temple of Mater Magna
performed not for the god but by the god. The initiates reen-
discovered a major cache of statuettes of Attis dating to the
acted this sacrifice and shared sacred meals in a sort of com-
second and first centuries
munal life. The progressive transformation of the soul of the
BCE. The find hints that religious
life in republican Rome was more varied than the written re-
initiate in this life, on which much of the cult focused, was
cord suggests. A new festival, from March 15 to 27, appar-
probably conceived to continue after death. Tertullian con-
ently put special emphasis on the rebirth of Attis. Concur-
sidered Mithraism a devilish imitation of Christianity, but
rently, the cult of Cybele became associated with the ritual
the Neoplatonist Porphyry found in it allegorical depths.
of the slaying of the sacred bull (taurobolium), which the
The cult of Sabazios may have been originally Phrygian,
Christian poet Prudentius (Peristephanon 10.1006–1050) in-
but later was known also as an “ancestral” deity of Thrace.
terpreted as a baptism of blood (though his depiction of the
Sabazios appears in Athens in the fifth century BCE as an orgi-
ritual is deeply suspect, forming part of a fierce and late anti-
astic god. He was known to Aristophanes, and later the ora-
pagan polemic). The taurobolium was performed for the
tor Aeschines may have become his priest. There is evidence
prosperity of the emperor or of the Empire and, more fre-
of mysteries of Sabazios in Lydia dating from the fourth cen-
quently, for the benefit of private individuals. Normally it
tury BCE. In Rome the cult was already known in 139 BCE.
was considered valid for twenty years, which makes it highly
It may at that time have been confused with Judaism, but
questionable whether it was meant to confer immortality on
Sabazios was often identified with Jupiter or Zeus, and there
the baptized.
seems to be no clear evidence of syncretism between Sabazios
and Yahweh. Sabazios was most popular in the second centu-
Although Isis appealed to men as well as to women—
and indeed her priests were male—it seems clear that her
CE, especially in the Danubian region. In Rome his cult
left a particularly curious document in the tomb of Vincenti-
prestige as a goddess was due to the unusual powers she was
us, located in the catacomb of Praetextatus. The document
supposed to have as a female deity. The so-called aretalogies
includes scenes of banquets and of judgment after death.
(description of the powers) of Isis insist on this. Thus the ear-
Whether this is evidence of mystery ceremonies or of Chris-
liest aretalogy, found at Maroneia in Thrace, tells of Isis as
tian influence remains uncertain (Hermann Dessau, Inscrip-
legislator and as protector of the respect of children for their
tiones Latinae Selectae 3961; see Goodenough, 1953, p. 45
parents (Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 26, no. 821).
for a description) The tomb of Vincentius appears to belong
The text from Kyme (in West Turkey) declares that she com-
to the third century, when, judging by the epigraphic evi-
pelled husbands to love their wives (H. Engelmann, ed., In-
dence, there seems to have been a decline of the cult of Sabaz-
schriften von Kyme 41, 1.97), and the hymn from Oxyrhyn-
ios and, indeed, of all mystery cults. Although a shortage of
chus (Egypt) in her honor explicitly states that she made the
inscriptions does not necessarily imply a shortage of adepts,
power of women equal to that of men (Oxyrhynchus Papyri
it leaves the impression that by then Christianity was serious-
11.1380). No god or goddess of Greece and Rome had
ly interfering with the popularity of Oriental cults.
achievements comparable with those of Isis. The girlfriends
of the Augustan poets Tibullus and Propertius were captivat-
Another popular Oriental god occupies a place by him-
ed by her. In association with Osiris or Sarapis, Isis seems
self. This is Jupiter Dolichenus, who emerged from Doliche
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in northern Syria in the first century CE and who has over
eralized practices of this kind. People who tell us something
six hundred monuments. His cult is known mostly in Rome
about their own education, such as Cicero, Horace, and
and along the Rhine-Danube border zone. Of the Oriental
Ovid, do not imply that it included a religious side. The situ-
gods, he seems to have been the least sophisticated and to
ation does not seem to have changed in later times, as illus-
have disappeared earliest (in the third century). Christian po-
trated, for instance, in Tacitus’s life of Agricola. Children at
lemicists ignored him. While he circulated in the Empire, he
school no doubt absorbed a great deal from classical authors,
preserved his native attributes: he is depicted as a warrior
but, whether they read Homer or Vergil, they did not absorb
with Phrygian cap, double ax, and lightning bolt, standing
the religion of their own city. Temples carried inscriptions
erect over a bull. In the Roman interpretation, the goddess
explaining what was expected from worshipers as well as the
Juno Regina often accompanied him. Twins, identified with
qualities of the relevant god. Cultic performances, often in
the Castores, followed him; their lower parts were unshaped,
a theater adjoining the temple, helped to explain what the
and they were probably demons. Soldiers seem to have loved
god was capable of. However, a distinct line cannot be drawn
the cult of Jupiter Dolichenus. Its priests were not profes-
between cultic performances, perhaps with an element of ini-
sional, and the adepts called each other brother. Admission
tiation, and simple entertainment. More puzzling still is the
to the cult presupposed instruction, if not initiation.
question of what general idea of “Roman religion” (if, by
RELIGIOUS PLURALISM? There is a constant danger of either
that, is meant the religious institutions and practices of the
overrating or underrating the influence of these Oriental
capital) the population of towns in Italy and coloniae in the
cults on the fabric of the Roman Empire. If, for instance,
provinces would have had. One possible channel is Varro’s
Mithraists knew of the Zoroastrian deity Angra Mainyu,
Divine Antiquities. This treatise remained even under the
what did he mean to them? How did this knowledge affect
Empire the only general work on the Roman religious sys-
the larger society? At a superficial level these cults can be seen
tem. That provincials did turn to it for inspiration is suggest-
as an antidote to the imperial cult, an attempt to retreat from
ed by the effective (polemical) use made of it by the Christian
the public sphere of political allegiance to the private sphere
Tertullian, writing in North Africa. But even Varro’s book
of small, free associations. The need for small loyalties was
is difficult to apply to particular local issues.
widely felt during the imperial peace. Distinctions between
social, charitable, and religious purposes in these multiform
Another element difficult to evaluate is the continuous,
associations are impossible. Tavern keepers devoted to their
and perhaps increased, appeal of impersonal gods within
wine god and poor people meeting regularly in burial clubs
Roman religion. There is no indication that Faith (Fides)
are examples of such associations (collegia). Ritualization of
and Hope (Spes) increased their appeal (they came to play
ordinary life emerged from their activities. Nor is it surpris-
a different part in Christianity by combining with Jewish and
ing that what to one was religion was superstition to another
Greek ideas). At best, Fides gained prestige as a symbol of
(to use two Latin terms that ordinary Latin speakers would
return to loyalty and good faith during the reign of Augustus.
have been hard-pressed to define). Although allegiance to the
But Fortuna and Virtus were popular; the typology of Virtus
local gods (and respect for them, if one happened to be a visi-
on coins seems to be identical with that of Roma. Genius was
tor) was deeply rooted, people were experimenting with new
generalized to indicate the spirit of a place or of a corpora-
private gods and finding satisfaction in them. Concern with
tion. Strangely, an old Latin god of the woods, Silvanus,
magic and astrology, with dreams and demons, seems ubiq-
whose name does not appear in the Roman calendar, became
uitous. Conviviality was part of religion. Aelius Aristides has
important, partly because of his identification with the
good things to say about Sarapis as patron of the symposium.
Greek Pan and with a Pannonian god, but above all because
Pilgrimages to sanctuaries were made easier by relative social
of his equation with Genius. The god as protector of Roman
stability. Several gods, not only Asclepius (Gr., Asklepios),
barracks was called Genius Castrorum, Silvanus Castrorum,
offered healing to the sick. (Here again, Aelius Aristides is
or Fortuna Castrorum. Victoria, too, was often connected
chief witness for the second century.) Hence miracles, duly
with individual emperors and individual victories (Victoria
registered in inscriptions; hence also single individuals, per-
Augusti and Ludi Victoriae Claudi, for example).
haps cranks, attaching themselves to temples and living in
A third complication is syncretism, which means two
their precincts.
different things. One is the positive identification of two or
The real difficulties in understanding the atmosphere of
more gods; the other is the tendency to mix different cults
paganism in the Roman Empire perhaps lie elsewhere. It re-
by using symbols of other gods in the sanctuary of one god,
mains a puzzle how, and how much, ordinary people were
with the result that the presence of Sarapis, Juno, and even
supposed to know about official Roman religion. The same
Isis was implied in the shrine of Jupiter Dolichenus on the
problem exists concerning the Greeks in relation to the reli-
Aventine in Rome. In either form, syncretism may have en-
gions of individual Greek cities. But in Greek cities the col-
couraged the idea that all gods are aspects, or manifestations,
lective education of adolescents, as epheboi, implied partici-
of one god. In most cases of identification of two or more
pation in religious activities (for instance, singing hymns in
gods, there is only the record of a mixed divine name, so it
festivals) that were a form of religious education. In the
is left to guesswork what that name meant, which deity
Latin-speaking world, however, there is no indication of gen-
(Roman or native) was uppermost in the minds of the wor-
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shippers, or whether the two had merged into a new compos-
educated people in late antiquity who liked to collect priest-
ite whole (a process often now referred to as syncretism).
hoods and initiations to several gods, in pointed contrast
There is no way to know, in other words, how much of the
with Christianity, evidently did so because they did not look
process was an aspect of Roman take-over (and ultimately
upon the gods concerned as one god only. The monuments
obliteration) of native deities, how much it was a mutually
of the leading pagan senator Vettius Agorius Praetextatus are
respectful union of two divine powers, or how much it was
an example of this tendency. In the face of a Christianity that
a minimal, resistant, and token incorporation of Roman im-
was gaining the upper hand, he and those like him sought
perial paraphernalia on the part of the provincials. Signs of
to gather together all that could be saved from the traditional
syncretism, then, always need to be interpreted. For example,
cults (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, Berlin, 1863, vol. 6,
to understand why most deities in the eastern part of the Em-
no. 1778, 387 CE; Hermann Dessau, Inscriptione Latinae Se-
pire did not merge with Roman counterparts but retained
lectae 1259, tombstone).
their individual personalities and characteristics, whereas in
This is not to deny the convergence of (or at least strik-
the western part pre-Roman gods acquired Roman names,
ing parallels between) certain beliefs and experiences. For ex-
or non-Roman and Roman divine names were linked, it is
ample, the mystical experience of ascension to heaven was
necessary to investigate the nature of Roman religion outside
shared by Paul, Jewish rabbis, Gnostics such as the author
Rome and attend to the agenda of all those groups involved
of the Gospel of Truth, Plotinus, and the author of the
in developing a new Roman imperial worldview.
“Mithras liturgy” (preserved in the Great Magical Papyrus
A related issue is monotheism. According to a Christian
of Paris).
writer of the second century CE, the Greeks had 365 gods.
ROLE OF WOMEN. Gender had always been a factor in the
For the proponent of one (Christian) god this alleged fact
organization of cults. It is important to consider how the ap-
demonstrated the absurdity of Greek religion. Modern schol-
peal of the various cults to different genders determined the
ars also sometimes assume the nobility and superiority of one
membership of new religions. The official civic cults of
supreme god (monotheism) as against the proliferation of lit-
Rome were principally in the control of men—though there
tle gods (polytheism). But the number of the Greek gods
were some exceptions (e.g. Vestal Virgins). Some cults and
(not as great as 365) does not mean that those gods lacked
festivals demanded the participation of women. According
significance any more than does the multiplicity of gods in
to tradition, The temple of Fortuna Muliebris, “the Fortune
the Hindu tradition. In addition, proponents of monotheism
of Women,” was dedicated by senatorial wives in 493 BCE
(whether Jewish, Christian, or Islamic) are often not ready
and served as the focus for their religious activities. In the
to note the disruptive consequences of monotheistic intoler-
imperial period, the temple was restored by Augustus’s wife,
ance or the extent to which alleged monotheisms contain
Livia (and again by Emperor Septimius Severus, along with
plural elements. Within Christianity, what about the Trini-
his two sons and his wife, Julia Domna). Formal involve-
ty, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the saints? In fact the catego-
ment of women in the official cults of Rome was largely re-
ries monotheism and polytheism do not promote historical un-
stricted to women of senatorial families.
derstanding. Some scholars have sought to “rescue”
In general, although the attendance of women at most
polytheism by arguing for an element of monolatry (or heno-
religious occasions (including games) was not prohibited,
theism), in which the power of one god in the pantheon is
women had little opportunity to take an active religious role
proclaimed as supreme. But this maneuver is conditioned by
in state cults. Even occupational or burial associations gener-
a Judaeo-Christian evaluation of monotheism, and the ten-
ally did not include women; only in the purely domestic as-
dency to monolatry in antiquity is much overstated. The
sociations of the great households were women normally
terms polytheism and monotheism are best left to the theolo-
members. Much more fundamentally, women may have
been banned—in theory, at any rate—from carrying out ani-
Interest in an abstract deity was encouraged by philo-
mal sacrifice; and so prohibited from any officiating role in
sophical reflection, quite apart from suggestions coming
the central defining ritual of civic religious activity.
from Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism. Some have
These limited roles may have been satisfying to some
therefore thought it legitimate to consider the cult of Sol In-
women, but almost certainly not to all. How far then did
victus, patronized by the emperor Aurelian, as a monotheis-
women find in the new cults a part to play that was not avail-
tic or henotheistic predecessor of Christianity. But believers
able to them in civic religions? Some women no doubt found
would have had to visualize the relation between the one and
an opportunity within these cults for all kinds of religious
the many. This relation was complicated by the admission
expression not available within the civic cults of Rome. For
of intermediate demons, either occupying zones between god
some women, it may even have been precisely that opportu-
(or gods) and men or going about the earth and perhaps
nity which first attracted them to an alternative cult. On the
more capable of evil than of good. Even those (such as Plu-
other hand, there is no evidence to suggest that women were
tarch) who could think through, in some depth, the idea of
particularly powerful within these cults in general or that
one god were still interested in Zeus or Isis or Dionysos,
they dominated the membership in the way suggested by the
whatever their relation to the god beyond the gods. Those
conventional stereotype of the literature of the period. 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

cult of Isis, men held the principal offices, and the names of
Dedications of religious and philosophical books by
cult members recorded in inscriptions do not suggest that
men to women appear in the imperial period. Plutarch dedi-
women predominated numerically.
cated his treatise on Isis and Osiris to Clea, a priestess of Del-
phi. Diogenes Laertius dedicated his book on Greek philoso-
The literary stereotype, in other words, almost certainly
phers (which has anti-Christian implications) to a female
exaggerates the number and importance of women in the
Platonist. Philostratus claims that Julia Domna encouraged
cults by representing them effectively as “women’s cults.”
him to write the life of Apollonius of Tyana. What is more,
Why is this? In part the explanation may lie in the exclusively
according to the Christian writer Eusebius, Julia Mamaea
elite vision of most of the literary sources. Even if women
(mother of the emperor Alexander Severus) invited Origen
did not dominate the new religions, it seems certain that
to visit her in Antioch, allegedly to discuss Christianity.
upper-class women were involved in these cults before their
male counterparts. Wives of senators, that is, were participat-
EVIDENCE. Epigraphy and archaeology are the starting point
ing in the worship of Isis at a period when no senator was
for analysis of the religious history of the Roman Empire.
involved in the cult; and wives of senators are attested as
Both types of evidence are the actual products of religious
Christians from the late second century
adherents of the period, designed to promote or support
CE, before any Chris-
tian senator. Thus, the literary stereotype may reflect a (tem-
their religious actions and beliefs. The interpretation of the
porary) difference between the involvement of elite men and
iconography of objects, the design of buildings, and the for-
women that did not necessarily apply at other levels of soci-
mulation of dedications is absolutely critical. This evidence
ety. Much more fundamentally, however, the claims of fe-
does, however, need to be used with care. Inscriptions have
male fascination with foreign religion are embedded in the
to be treated not simply as texts (which is how they are often
vast literary and cultural traditions of Greco-Roman misogy-
presented in modern books), but as texts with particular rela-
ny. And, at the same time, foreign peoples and places were
tionships to the objects on which they were written. In addi-
denigrated in specifically female terms. In traditional Roman
tion, texts painted on walls (dipinti) or written on material
ideology, “Oriental” cults would inevitably raise questions of
other than stone or bronze rarely survive. But the sheer num-
ber of religious dedications tempts one to treat the variations
in their numbers over time as an index of the varying popu-
Women’s participation in new cults is one aspect of the
larity of the deity concerned. This is a mistake, as the varia-
active part they played in the religious life of the imperial pe-
tion in the number of religious dedications parallels the vari-
riod. Women, especially wealthy women, experienced con-
ations in the number of inscriptions in general. In other
siderable freedom of movement and could administer their
words, religious inscriptions share in the variations in the
own estates. Roman empresses of Eastern origin (Julia
“epigraphic habit.”
Domna, wife of Septimius Severus, and Julia Mamaea,
A further point to note is that not all religious groups
mother of Severus Alexander) contributed to the diffusion
embedded their practices in material form. Jewish and Chris-
outside Africa of the cult of Caelestis, who received a temple
tian groups in the early Empire are largely invisible from ei-
on the Capitol in Rome. The wife of a Roman consul, Pom-
ther archaeological or epigraphical evidence (in Rome, for
peia Agrippinilla, was priestess of an association of about four
example, there are no remains of synagogues and no secure
hundred devotees (all members of her household) of Liber-
evidence of churches before Constantine).
Dionysos in the Roman Campagna in the middle of the sec-
ond century CE (Moretti, 1968, no. 160). In the Greek
In addition to epigraphy and archaeology, the religions
world, women served as priestesses (as they had always done)
of the Roman Empire survive mainly through writings in
but received new public honors. In the city of Thasos in the
Latin, Greek, Syriac, and Coptic (not to speak of other lan-
third century CE, a woman, Flavia Vibia Sabina, was honored
guages), such as biographies, philosophical disputations, epic
by the local council “as a most noteworthy high priestess
poems, antiquarian books, exchanges of letters, novels, and
. . . the only woman, first in all times to have honors equal
specific religious books. Most of the authors speak only for
to those of the councilors” (Pleket, 1969, no. 29). Women
themselves. But taken together, they convey an atmosphere
could be asked to act as theologoi, that is, to preach about
of sophisticated cross-questioning that would have prevented
gods in ceremonies even of a mystery nature. It is revealing
minds from shutting out alternatives. For example, the Stoic
that the emperor Marcus Aurelius declared himself grateful
Lucan in his Pharsalia, a poem on the civil wars, excludes the
to his mother for teaching him veneration of the gods.
gods but admits fate and fortune, magic and divination. Two
generations later, Silius Italicus wrote an optimistic poem de-
The intellectual and religious achievements of women
scribing Scipio as a Roman Heracles supported by his father,
become more conspicuous in the fourth century CE. Women
Jupiter. More or less at the same time, Plutarch was reflecting
such as Sosipatra, described in Eunapius’s account of the
on new and old cults, on the delays in divine justice, and (if
lives of the Sophists, and Hypatia of Alexandria are the coun-
the work in question is indeed his) on superstition.
terparts (though apparently more broadly educated and more
independent in their social actions) of Christian women such
In the second part of the second century Lucian passed
as Macrina, sister of Gregory of Nyssa (who wrote her biog-
from the caricature of an assembly of gods and from attacks
raphy), and the followers of Jerome.
against oracles to a sympathetic description of the cult of Dea
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

Syria; he abused such religious fanatics as Peregrinus, as well
extent. Such texts present themselves as revealed: they speak
as Alexander of Abonuteichos, the author of a new cult,
of the human soul imprisoned in the body, of fate, and of
whom he considered to be an impostor. Perhaps what Lucian
demonic power with only a minimum of coherence. They
wanted to give is, in fact, what readers get from him—the
are distantly related to what modern scholars call Gnosti-
impression of a mind that refuses to be imposed upon. Fron-
cism, a creed with many variants that was supposed to be a
to’s correspondence with Marcus Aurelius confirms what can
deviation from Christianity and, as such, was fought by early
be deduced from other texts (such as Aelius Aristides’s
Christian apologists. Today, much more is known about the
speeches): preoccupation with one’s own health was a source
Gnostics, thanks to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi li-
of intense religious experience in the second century CE. In
brary, which supplemented, indeed dwarfed, previous dis-
his Metamorphoses, also known as The Golden Ass, Apuleius
coveries of Coptic Gnostic texts. Assembled in the fourth
offers a (partially satirical) account of the mysteries of Isis
century from books mainly translated from Greek, the Nag
that may be based on personal experience. But Apuleius’s
Hammadi library represents an isolated survival. It points to
Golden Ass is only one of the many novels that were fashion-
a previous, more central movement thriving in the exchange
able in the Roman Empire. The appeal of such works proba-
of ideas. What was the impact of the Gnostic sects when they
bly resided in their ability to offer readers vicarious experi-
placed themselves between pagans and Christians (and Jews)
ences of love, magic, and mystery ritual.
in the first centuries of the Empire?
The variety of moods and experiences conveyed by these
texts, from the skeptical to the mystical, from the egotistic
had always interfered with the freedom to teach and worship.
to the political in the old Greek sense, gives us an approxi-
In republican times, astrologers, magicians, philosophers,
mate notion of the thoughts of educated people on religious
and even rhetoricians, not to speak of adepts of certain reli-
subjects. These books provide the background for an under-
gious groups, had been victims of such intrusion. Under
standing of the Christian apologists who wrote for the pagan
which precise legal category this interference was exercised
upper class. How much of pagan religious thinking was con-
remains a question, except perhaps in cases of sacrilege. Taci-
ditioned by the presence of Jews and, even more, of Chris-
tus writes that Augustus considered adultery in his own fami-
tians in the neighborhood? The anti-Jewish attitudes of a
ly a crime against religio (Annals 3.24). Whatever the legal
Tacitus or of a Juvenal offer no special problem; they are ex-
details, Druid cults and circles were persecuted in Gaul and
plicit. The same can be said about the anti-Christian polem-
Britain in the first century. Augustus prohibited Roman citi-
ics of Celsus. The problem, if any, is that the text is lost and
zens from participating in Druid cults, and Claudius prohib-
inferences have to be made from the reply given in changed
ited the cult of the Druids altogether. Though it is not clear
circumstances by the Christian Origen. But there are far
what the consequences were for participating, there is little
more writers who seldom or never refer to Christianity yet
recorded of the Druids from this time on. Abhorrence of
who can hardly have formulated their thoughts without im-
their human sacrifices no doubt counted for much. But Au-
plicit reference to it.
gustus also did not like the practice of foretelling the future,
for which the Druids were conspicuous, and he is credited
How much Lucian or Philostratus (in his life of Apollo-
with the destruction of two thousand prophetic books (Sue-
nius of Tyana) was trying to put across pagan points of view
tonius, Augustus 31). The Druids were also known to be ma-
in answer to the Christian message is an old question. Nico-
gicians, and Claudius condemned to death a Roman knight
machus Flavianus, a pagan leader, translated the biography
who had brought to court a Druidic magic egg (Pliny, Natu-
of Philostratus into Latin in the late fourth century. Another
ral History 29.54).
author who may know more about Christianity than his si-
lence about it would indicate is Diogenes Laertius. In his
Roman action against the Druids is an example of
lives of philosophers, he pointedly refuses to admit non-
Roman action against practices deemed to be noxious supers-
Greek wisdom and enumerates all the Greek schools, from
titio. It is often said that the Roman government only excep-
Plato to Epicurus, as worthy of study and admiration. With
tionally acted in this way: existing cults might or might not
the renascence of Neoplatonic thought in the third and
be encouraged, but they were seldom persecuted; even Jews
fourth centuries and the combination of Platonism with
and Egyptians were ordinarily protected in their cults. This
mystical and magical practices (the so-called theurgy) in the
view of a general liberal Roman state is false. The Romans
circles to which Julian the Apostate belonged, the attempt
acted whenever need arose against superstitio. In 19 CE two
to erect a barrier to Christianity is patent but, even then, not
scandals in Rome brought the cults of Isis and Judaism to
necessarily explicit.
the attention of emperor and Senate. The outcome, accord-
ing to Tacitus, was that the Senate banished four thousand
The most problematic texts are perhaps those that try
ex-slaves to a labor camp in Sardinia and expelled those of
to formulate explicit religious beliefs. Books such as the
higher status from Italy “unless they gave up their profane
Chaldaean Oracles (late second century, or third century CE)
rites before an appointed day” (Annals 2.85; cf. Josephus,
or the Hermetic texts, composed in Greek at various dates
Jewish Antiquities 18.65–84). The principles of religious co-
in Egypt (and clearly showing the influence of Jewish ideas),
ercion were firmly in place before the emergence of Chris-
make it difficult to decide who believed in them and to what
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

The long-standing conflict between the Christians and
Theodosianus 16.10.4), and pagan temples in the country
the Roman state has to be set against this background. As
(not in towns) were ordered to be destroyed in 399 (Codex
with actions against other troublesome people, persecution
Theodosianus 16.10.16)—though in the same year, festivals
was desultory and instigated from below, until the mid-third
that appear to have been pagan were allowed (Codex Theodo-
century. However, there are some unique aspects, mostly as
sianus 16.10.17).
a result of Christian rather than of imperial behavior. First,
Rome in the fourth century CE remained for some peo-
the Christians obviously did not yield or retreat, as did the
ple a city characterized by the worship of the ancient gods.
Druids. Indeed they were believed actively to seek conver-
The pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus, when describ-
sions, even without the knowledge or approval of the head
ing the visit of the emperor Constantius II to Rome in 357
of the household. Second, the Christians hardly ever became
CE, depicted the (Christian) emperor admiring the temples
outright enemies of, or rebels against, the Roman state. The
and other ancient ornaments of the city (16.10.13–17). This
providential character of the Roman state was a basic as-
account tendentiously suppresses any mention of Christiani-
sumption of Christianity. The workings of providence were
ty or Judaism in Rome.
shown, for Christians, by the fact that Jesus was born under
The traditional monuments of the city were duly re-
Roman rule, while the Roman state had destroyed the Tem-
stored in the course of the fourth century CE by the prefectus
ple of Jerusalem and dispersed the Jews, thus making the
urbi (prefect of the city). Even after the reforms of Gratian,
church the heiress to the Temple. Third, the Christians were
when the responsibility of the prefect of the city was redirect-
interested in what can be called “classical culture.” Their de-
ed toward the Christian buildings instead of the traditional
bate with the pagans became, increasingly, a debate within
temples, the imperial authorities did not entirely neglect the
the terms of reference of classical culture; the Jews, in con-
monuments of pagan religion. Under Emperor Eugenius
trast, soon lost their contact with classical thought and even
(392–394 CE) some temples were again restored, and as late
with such men as Philo, who had represented them in the
as the 470s a prefect of the city restored an image of Minerva.
dialogue with classical culture. Fourth, Christianity and its
ecclesiastical organization provided what could alternatively
The traditional religious practices of Rome were not
be either a rival or a subsidiary structure to the imperial gov-
mere fossilized survivals. They did not incorporate elements
ernment. The Roman government under Constantine chose
of Christianity or Judaism, but there were continuing
the Church as a subsidiary institution (without quite know-
changes and restructuring through the fourth century. For
ing on what conditions).
example, in the Calendar of 354 CE, games in honor of the
emperor continued to be remodeled and adjusted to the new
The novelty of the conflict explains the novelty of the
rulers, and the cycle of festivals in honor of the gods was also
solution—not tolerance but conversion. The emperor had to
become Christian and to accept the implications of his con-
The process of change is also visible in cults long estab-
version. It took about eighty years to turn the pagan state
lished in Rome, which sometimes received new and heady
into a Christian state. The process took the form of a series
interpretations. In the fourth century the cult of Mater
of decisions about public non-Christian acts of worship. The
Magna placed a new emphasis on the practice of the tauro-
first prohibition of pagan sacrifices seems to have been enact-
bolium. Inscriptions from the sanctuary in the Vatican area
ed in 341 (Codex Theodosianus 16.10.2). Closing of the
record that some worshippers repeated the ritual after a lapse
pagan temples and prohibition of sacrifices in public places
of twenty years—one claimed that he had been thereby “re-
under penalty of death was stated or restated at an uncertain
born to eternity,” which seems to have been a radically new
date between 346 and 354 (Codex Theodosianus 16.10.4).
significance. The reinterpretation of the taurobolium in what
Even leaving aside the reaction of Julian, these measures
was by now an ancient cult of Rome shows clearly how even
cannot have been effective. The emperor remained pontifex
such ancestral religions could still generate new meanings—
maximus until Gratian gave up the position in 379 (Zosimus,
in this case, a new intensity of personal relationship with the
4.36.5). Gratian was the emperor who removed the altar of
Victoria from the Roman Senate and provoked the contro-
The process of incorporation of once foreign cults into
versy between Symmachus and Bishop Ambrose, the most
the “official” religion is most visible in the priesthoods held
important controversy about the relative merits of tolerance
by members of the senatorial class. Until the end of the
and conversion in late antiquity. Then, in 391, Theodosius
fourth century, senators continued to be members of the four
forbade even private pagan cults (Codex Theodosianus
main priestly colleges, but there were, in addition, priests of
16.10.12). In the same year, following riots provoked by a
Hecate, Mithras, and Isis. For senators to associate them-
special law against pagan cults in Egypt, the Serapeum of Al-
selves with these cults in Rome was an innovation of the
exandria was destroyed. The significance of this act was felt
fourth century. The change should be seen as a trend toward
worldwide. The brief pagan revival of 393, initiated by the
assimilating into “traditional” paganism cults in Rome that
usurper Eugenius, a nominal Christian who sympathized
had not previously received senatorial patronage. Faced with
with the pagans, was soon followed by other antipagan laws.
the new threat posed by imperial patronage of Christianity,
Pagan priests were deprived of their privileges in 396 (Codex
senators redefined (and expanded) their ancestral heritage.
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

After the fall of Eugenius, Theodosius’s ban on sacrifices
SEE ALSO Apotheosis; Constantinianism; Druids; Emperor’s
was more effectively applied, and the implications of the old
Cult; Gnosticism, article on Gnosticism from Its Origins to
calendar for public life were revised. Traditional public festi-
the Middle Ages; Hellenistic Religions; Hermetism; Isis;
vals were not banned, but they were officially marginalized
Mithra; Mithraism; Mystery Religions; Sabazios.
in favor of Christian festivals. The last pagan senatorial
priests are attested in the 390s, the series of dedicatory in-
scriptions from the sanctuary of Mater Magna in the Vatican
area runs from 295 to 390
Georg Wissowa, Religion und Kultus der Römer, 2d ed. (Munich,
CE, and the last dated Mithraic
1912) and Kurt Latte, Römische Religionsgeschichte (Munich,
inscription from Rome is from 391 CE (slightly later than
1960) are basic works of reference. They are supplemented
from elsewhere in the Empire). Some Christians went on the
by Martin P. Nilsson, Geschichte der griechischen Religion,
offensive, destroying pagan sanctuaries, including sanctuaries
vol. 2, 3d. ed. (Munich, 1974), for the Eastern side of the
of Mithras. The sanctuary of the Arval Brothers was disman-
Roman Empire. Mary Beard, John North, and Simon Price,
tled from the late fourth century onward.
Religions of Rome, 2 vols. (Cambridge, U.K., 1998) offer a
synthesis of newer approaches (vol. 1 is an analytic history,
But traditional religious rites were very tenacious, and
vol. 2 a sourcebook of texts in translation and monuments,
their demise cannot be assumed from the ending of dedicato-
with commentary; a full bibliography appears in both vol-
ry inscriptions. Emperors through the fifth and into the sixth
umes). See also Arthur Darby Nock, Conversion: The Old
century elaborated Theodosius’s ban on sacrifices—
and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine
presumably in the face of the continuing practice of tradi-
of Hippo (Oxford, 1933) and Essays on Religion and the An-
cient World
, 2 vols., edited by Zeph Stewart (Oxford, 1972).
tional sacrifice, for a pagan writer traveling up from Rome
Current research is surveyed in Archiv für Religionsgeschichte
through Italy in the early fifth century observed with pleasure
2 (2000): 283–345 and 5 (2003): 297–371.
a rural festival of Osiris. At around the same time the old
Other useful general books include Jean Beaujeu, La religion ro-
ways were revived during the siege of Rome by the Goths
maine à l’apogée de l’empire, vol. 1, La politique religieuse des
(408–409 CE). When Christianity was not obviously help-
Antonins, 96–192 (Paris, 1955); Jean Bayet, Histoire politique
ing, the prefect of the city, after meeting diviners from Etru-
et psychologique de la religion romaine (Paris, 1969); E. R.
ria, attempted to save the city by publicly celebrating the an-
Dodds, Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety (Cam-
cestral rituals with the Senate on the Capitol. The economic
bridge, U.K., 1965); Clara Gallini, Protesta e integrazione
independence and traditional prestige of local pagan aristo-
nella Roma antica (Bari, 1970); J. H. W. G. Liebeschuetz,
crats, especially in Rome, allowed them to survive for a time
Continuity and Change in Roman Religion (Oxford, 1979);
and to go on elaborating pagan thought. Around 430
Martin Goodman, Mission and Conversion: Proselytizing in
CE the
the Religious History of the Roman Empire (Oxford, 1994);
Roman writer Macrobius sought to recreate in his Saturnalia
Denis C. Feeney, Literature and Religion at Rome: Cultures,
the religious learning and debate of the age of Symmachus,
Contexts, and Beliefs (Cambridge, UK, 1998); John North,
a generation before. Most striking (given the date of its com-
Roman Religion. Greece and Rome New Survey 30 (Oxford,
position) is the complete exclusion of Christianity—an ex-
2000); and John Scheid, An Introduction to Roman Religion
clusion that sought (in vain) to align classical culture and tra-
(Edinburgh, 2003). Clifford Ando, ed., Roman Religion
ditional religion. The Neoplatonists of Athens had to be
(Edinburgh, 2003) republishes some useful articles.
expelled by Justinian in 529.
Roman Temples
See Amanda Claridge, Rome (Oxford, 1998). For a full analyses,
Even at the end of the fifth century CE, the Lupercalia
consult E. Margareta Steinby, ed., Lexicon Topographicum
was still being celebrated in Rome. The bishop of Rome
Urbis Romae, 6 vols. (Rome, 1993–1999).
found it necessary both to argue against the efficacy of the
Roman Images
cult and to ban Christian participation. Hopes that the
See Inez Scott Ryberg, Rites of the State Religion in Roman Art
pagan gods would come back excited the Eastern provinces
(Memoirs of the American Academy at Rome 23; New
during the rebellion against the emperor Zeno in about 483,
Haven, 1955); Robert Turcan, Religion romaine, 2 vols, (Ico-
in which the pagan rhetorician and poet Pampremius had a
nography of Religions 17; Leiden, 1988).
prominent part (Zacharias of Mytilene, Vita Severi, in
Rituals and Calendar
Patrologia Orient. 2.1.40; M.-A. Kugener, ed., Paris, 1903,
On Roman sacrifice see Le sacrifice dans l’antiquité (Entretiens
repr. Turnhout 1993). The peasants (rustici), about whom
Fondation Hardt 27; Geneva, 1981) and John Scheid, Rom-
Bishop Martin of Bracara in Spain had so many complaints,
ulus et ses frères. Le collège des frères Arvales, modèle du culte
public romain dans la Rome des empereurs
(Rome, 1990). For
gave more trouble to the ecclesiastical authorities than did
information about the calendar, see Jörg Rüpke, Kalender
the philosophers and the aristocrats of the cities. Sacrifices,
und Öffentlichkeit. Die Geschichte der Repräsentation und re-
because they were generally recognized as efficient ways of
ligiösen Qualifikation von Zeit in Rom. (Berlin and New York,
persuading the gods to act, were at the center of Christian
suspicion. According to a widespread opinion shared by the
Epigraphic Texts
apostle Paul (but not by all the church fathers) pagan gods
Epigraphic texts cited in the text include Michael H. Crawford,
existed—as demons.
ed., Roman Statutes, vol. 1 (London, 1996), pp. 393–454;
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

F. K. Dörner, Denkschriften der Wiener Akademie 75 (Vien-
struction of a Crime,” Classical Antiquity 22 (2003):
na, 1952) p. 40, no. 78; Luigi Moretti, Inscriptiones Graecae
313–339; and S. R. F. Price, “The Future of Dreams: from
Urbis Romae I (Rome, 1968), no. 160; H. W. Pleket, Texts
Freud to Artemidorus,” in Studies in Ancient Greek and
on the Social History of the Greek World (Leiden, 1969), no.
Roman Society, edited by Robin Osborne, pp. 226–59 (Cam-
29; Robert K. Sherk, Roman Documents from the Greek East
bridge, U.K., 2004).
(Baltimore, 1969), pp. 214–216.
The Imperial Cult
Cults outside Rome
See Louis Robert, “Le culte de Caligula à Milet et la province
On cults outside of Rome see Marcel Leglay, Saturne africaine
d’Asie.” Hellenica 7 (Paris, 1949): 206–238; Louis Robert,
(Paris, 1966); Javier Teixidor, The Pagan God: Popular Reli-
“Recherches épigraphiques V–VI,” REA 62 (1960),
gion in the Greco-Roman Near East (Princeton, 1977); Ram-
pp. 285–324 (repr. in his Opera Minora Selecta [Amsterdam,
say MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire (New
1969–1990]), 2: 801–840); Louis Robert, “Théophane de
Haven, 1981); and Martin Henig, Religion in Roman Britain
Mytilène à Constantinople.” Comptes Rendus de l’Académie
(London, 1984). See also the following articles by Louis
des Inscriptions (repr. in his Opera Minora Selecta 5: 561–83);
Robert: “De Cilicie à Messine et à Plymouth avec deux in-
Stefan Weinstock, Divus Julius (Oxford, 1971); Willem den
scriptions grecques errantes,” Journal des Savants 1973,
Boer, ed., Le culte des souverains dans l’empire romain (Gene-
pp. 161–211 (repr. in his Opera Minora Selecta [OMS] 7:
va, 1973); J. Rufus Fears, Princeps a diis electus: The Divine
225–275); “Trois oracles de la Théosophie et un prophète
Election of the Emperor as a Political Concept at Rome (Rome,
d’Apollon,” CRAI 1968: pp. 568–599 (repr. in OMS 5: 584–
1977); Simon R. F. Price, Rituals and Power: The Roman Im-
615); “Un oracle gravé à Oenoanda,” CRAI 1971:
perial Cult in Asia Minor (Cambridge, U.K., 1984); Simon
pp. 597–619 (repr. in OMS 5: 617–639); “Le serpent Gly-
R. F. Price, “Gods and Emperors: The Greek Language of
con d’Abônouteichos à Athènes et Artémis d’Ephèse à
the Roman Imperial Cult,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 94
Rome,” CRAI 1981: 513–535 (repr. in his OMS 5:
(1984): 79–95; Simon R. F. Price, “From Noble Funerals to
749–769); and “Une vision de Perpétue martyre à Carthage
Divine Cult: The Consecration of Roman Emperors,” in Rit-
en 203,” CRAI 1982: 229–276 (repr. in his OMS 5: 791–
uals of Royalty: Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies,
839). See Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians (Harmond-
edited by David Cannadine and Simon R. F. Price,
sworth and New York, 1986), on Greek civic cults of the
pp. 56–105 (Cambridge, U.K., 1987); Duncan Fishwick,
imperial period. Also of interest are Paul Veyne, Did the
The Imperial Cult in the Latin West, 3 vols. (Leiden, 1987–
Greeks Believe in their Myths? (Chicago and London, 1988);
2004); Alastair Small, ed., “Subject and Ruler: The Cult of
James B. Rives, Religion and Authority in Roman Carthage
the Ruling Power in Classical Antiquity,” Journal of Roman
(Oxford, 1995); Hubert Cancik and Jörg Rüpke, eds.,
Archaeology, Supp. 17 (1996); and Ittai Gradel, Emperor
Römische Reichsreligion und Provinzialreligion (Tübingen,
Worship and Roman Religion (Oxford, 2002). See also Lellia
1997); chapter 7 of Mary Beard, John North, and Simon
Cracco Ruggini, “Apoteosi e politica senatoria nel IV sec. d.
Price, Religions of Rome, 2 vols. (Cambridge, U.K., 1998);
C.,” Rivista storica italiana (1977): 425–489; and Keith
Ton Derks, Gods, Temples, and Ritual Practices: the Transfor-
Hopkins, Conquerors and Slaves (Cambridge, U.K., 1978),
mation of Religious Ideas and Values in Roman Gaul (Amster-
pp. 197–242. Henning Wrede, Consecratio in formam de-
dam, 1998); David Frankfurter, Religion in Roman Egypt: As-
orum (Mainz, 1981) examines “private” deifications.
similation and Resistance (Princeton, 1998); Simon Price,
Oriental Cults
Religions of the Ancient Greeks (Cambridge, U.K., 1999);
On Oriental cults, the publications by Franz Cumont remain in-
William van Andringa, La religion en Gaule romaine (Paris,
fluential. See, for instance, Astrology and Religion among the
2002); Ted Kaizer, The Religious Life of Palmyra (Stuttgart,
Greeks and Romans (New York, 1912); After Life in Roman
2002); and Simon Price, “Local Mythologies in the Roman
Paganism (New Haven, 1922); Les religions orientales dans le
East,” in Chistopher Howgego, Volcker Heuchert and An-
paganisme romain, 4th ed. (Paris, 1929); Recherches sur le sym-
drew Burnett (eds), Coinage and Identity in the Roman Prov-
bolisme funéraire des Romains (Paris, 1942); and Lux Perpetua
inces (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005),
(Paris, 1949). Robert Turcan’s The Cults of the Roman Em-
pp. 115–124. Volumes 2.16 (Rome and Imperial Cults) and
pire (Oxford, 1996) is a synthesis on Oriental cults. For more
2.17 (Rome and Oriental Cults), 2.18 (Provinces), 2.19–21
recent approaches see Ugo Bianchi and Maarten J. Ver-
(Judaism), and 2.23–27 (Christianity) of Aufstieg und
maseren, ed., La soteriologia dei culti orientali nell’impero ro-
Niedergang der römischen Welt (Berlin and New York,
mano (EPRO 92; Leiden, 1982); Walter Burkert, Ancient
1978–) vary in quality but include some useful studies. A
Mystery Cults (Cambridge, Mass., 1987) and chapter 6 of
searchable index is available from http://www.uky.edu/AS/
Mary Beard, John North and Simon Price, Religions of Rome,
2 vols. (Cambridge, U.K., 1998). On Mater Magna (Cybele)
Magic and Divination
see Maarten J. Vermaseren, Cybele and Attis (London, 1977);
See Frederick H. Cramer, Astrology in Roman Law and Politics
Philippe Borgeaud, La mère des dieux: de Cybèle à la vierge
(Philadelphia, 1954); David S. Potter, Prophets and Emper-
Marie (Paris, 1996). On Isis see: Friedrich Solmsen, Isis
ors: Human and Divine Authority from Augustus to Theodosius
among the Greeks and Romans (Cambridge, Mass., 1979); F.
(Oxford, 1994); Fritz Graf, Magic in the Ancient World
Dunand, Le culte d’Isis dans le bassin oriental de la Méditer-
(Cambridge, Mass., 1997); chapter 5 of Mary Beard, John
ranée, 3 vols. (EPRO 26; Leiden, 1973); Henk S. Versnel,
North and Simon Price, Religions of Rome, 2 vols. (Cam-
Inconsistencies in Greek and Roman Religion I: Ter Unus (Lei-
bridge, U.K., 1998); Daniel Ogden, Magic, Witchcraft, and
den, 1990), pp. 39–95 and chapter six of Stephen J. Harri-
Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: a Sourcebook (Oxford,
son, Apuleius, A Latin Sophist (Oxford, 2000) for a discussion
2002); James B. Rives, “Magic in Roman Law: the Recon-
of the problems of reading Metamorphoses 11. On Mithras
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

see Reinhold Merkelbach, Mithras (Königstein, 1984); Rich-
Michelle Salzmann, On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of
ard L. Gordon, Image and Value in the Graeco-Roman World
354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity (Berke-
(Aldsershot, U.K., and Brookfield, Vt., 1996); and Manfred
ley, 1990); Averil Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of
Clauss, The Roman Cult of Mithras (Edinburgh, 2000).
Empire: The Development of Christian Discourse (Berkeley,
1991); Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the
Fourth to Eighth Centuries (New Haven, 1997); chapter 8 of
Giovanni Filoramo, A History of Gnosticism (Oxford and Cam-
Mary Beard, John North, and Simon Price, Religions of
bridge, Mass., 1990); Christoph Markschies, Gnosis: An In-
Rome, 2 vols. (Cambridge, U.K., 1998); John Curran, Pagan
troduction (London, 2003); and Karen L. King, What Is
City and Christian Capital: Rome in the Fourth Century (Ox-
Gnosticism? (Cambridge, Mass., 2003) are the best introduc-
ford, 2000); Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom:
tions. An examination of revelation can be found in James
Triumph and Diversity, AD 200–1000. 2d ed. (Oxford,
D. Tabor, Things Unutterable: Paul’s Ascent to Paradise in Its
Greco-Roman, Judaic and Early Christian Contexts (Lanham,
Md., and London, 1986); and also see Simon Price, “The
Mithras Liturgy,” in Andreas Bendlin, ed., Religion and Soci-
ety: Aspects of Religious Life in the Eastern Mediterranean under
Roman Rule
(Tübingen, 2005).
Relations between Pagans, Jews, and Christians in the
ROSENZWEIG, FRANZ (1886–1929), German-
First Three Centuries
Jewish philosophical theologian, writer, translator of Jewish
See Erwin R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Graeco-Roman
classical literature, and influential Jewish educational activist.
Period, 13 vols. (New York, 1953–1968); Ramsay MacMul-
Generally regarded as the most important Jewish philosophi-
len, Christianizing the Roman Empire, A. D. 100–400 (New
cal theologian of this century, Rosenzweig also became a
Haven, 1984); Jonathan Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine: On the
Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late

model of what the Jewish personality in the twentieth-
Antiquity (London and Chicago, 1990); L. Michael White,
century West might be.
Building God’s House in the Roman World (Baltimore and
He was born into an old, affluent, and highly accultur-
London, 1990); Paul R. Trebilco, Jewish Communities in
ated German-Jewish family in Kassel, in which the sense of
Asia Minor (Cambridge, U.K., 1991); Judith Lieu, John
Jewishness, though lively, had shrunk to a matter of upper
North, and Tessa Rajak, eds., The Jews among Pagans and
middle-class formalities. He studied at several German uni-
Christians (London and New York, 1992); Leonard V. Rut-
gers, The Jews in Late Antique Rome (Leiden, 1995); Judith
versities, ranging over multiple disciplines, and finished as a
Lieu, Image and Reality: The Jews in the World of the Chris-
student of Friedrich Meinecke, the important German polit-
tians in the Second Century (Edinburgh, 1996); Martin
ical and cultural historian. During those years he also had in-
Goodman, ed., Jews in a Graeco-Roman World (Oxford,
tense conversations on religion in the modern world, espe-
1998); Mark Edwards, Martin Goodman, and Simon Price,
cially with close relatives and friends, several of whom had
eds., Apologetics in the Roman Empire (Oxford, 1999); Erich
converted to Christianity. Having already adopted a strong
S. Gruen, Diaspora: Jews amidst Greeks and Romans (Cam-
German nationalist outlook, Rosenzweig also tried to sort
bridge, Mass., 2002). See also Morton Smith’s article “Prole-
out his own religious convictions at the very time that he was
gomena to a Discussion of Aretalogies, Divine Men, the
writing his Ph.D. dissertation (on Schelling and Hegel) and
Gospels and Jesus,” Journal of Biblical Literature 90 (June
his first important book (Hegel und der Staat, 2 vols., 1920).
1971): 174–199.
In a night-long conversation on July 7, 1913 with his cousin,
Transition to Christianity
the physiologist Rudolf Ehrenberg (who had become a
See Bernhard Kötting, Peregrinatio religiosa: Wallfahrten in der
Christian theologian), and his distant relative Eugen Rosens-
Antike und das Pilgerwesen in der alten Kirche (Münster,
tock-Huessy (later the influential Protestant theologian, also
1950); Arnaldo Momigliano, ed., The Conflict between Pa-
a convert), Rosenzweig decided that he, too, ought to be-
ganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century (Oxford,
come a Christian; however, he would take this step “as a
1963); Peter Brown, Religion and Society in the Age of Saint
Jew,” not “as a pagan,” and he would, therefore, briefly re-
Augustine (London, 1972); Lellia Cracco Ruggini, “Simboli
turn to the synagogue. His experience there during the High
di battaglia ideologica nel tardo ellenismo,” in Studi storici
in onore di Ottorino Bertolini
, pp. 117–300 (Pisa, 1972); Lel-
Holy Days that year, however, changed Rosenzweig’s mind
lia Cracco Ruggini, “Il paganesimo romano tra religione e
completely: he would instead turn himself from a nominal
politica, 384–394 d. C.,” Memorie della classe di scienze mor-
into a substantial Jew, and he would devote his life to Jewish
ali, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, 8.23.1 (Rome, 1979),
values. He studied with and became a close friend to the
3–141; Lellia Cracco Ruggini, “Pagani, ebrei e cristiani:
Neo-Kantian philosopher Hermann Cohen, who was then
Odio sociologico e odio teologico nel mondo antico,” in Gli
living in Berlin in retirement but was still very active with
ebrei nell’Alto Medioevo, Settimane di studio del Centro itali-
Jewish writing and teaching. Rosenzweig immediately began
ano di studi sull’alto Medioevo 26 (Spoleto, 1980): 13–101;
to write on Jewish subjects.
Sabine G. MacCormack, Art and Ceremony in Late Antiquity
(Berkeley, 1981); Peter Brown, Society and the Holy in Late
During World War I, Rosenzweig served in various,
Antiquity (Berkeley and London, 1982); Robert A. Markus,
mainly military, capacities. He continued, however, to corre-
The End of Ancient Christianity (Cambridge, U.K., 1990);
spond with Rosenstock-Huessy on theological matters
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

(Rosenstock-Huessy, Judaism despite Christianity, Alabama,
tled in Frankfurt, where he entered into close relationships
1968) and with Cohen and others on Jewish matters. He also
with Nehemiah Nobel, the Orthodox rabbi of the communi-
wrote and published essays on historical, political, military,
ty; with Martin Buber; with a younger generation of German
and educational subjects. Assigned to eastern Europe and the
Jews; and with eastern European Jews on their way west. He
Balkans, he experienced some of the full-blooded life of the
founded what became famous as the Free Jewish House of
Jewish communities there. Above all, he began on postcards
Learning (Lehrhaus), in which teachers and students togeth-
to his mother the composition that he finished on returning
er sought out classic Jewish sources and, translating and pub-
home from the war—his magnum opus, Der Stern der Erlö-
lishing them, tried them out on the modern world. Rosenz-
sung (Frankfurt, 1921; translated as The Star of Redemption).
weig and Buber were joined as teachers by well-known
An injury he sustained during the war may have been the
chemists, physicians, sociologists, and activists, and such in-
cause of his severe and eventually fatal postwar illness.
fluential contemporary Jewish scholars as S. D. Goitein,
The Star of Redemption is a complex, difficult, and ambi-
Ernst Simon, Gershom Scholem, Hans Kohn, Erich Fromm,
tious work, in some ways comparable to Hegel’s Phenomenol-
and Nahum N. Glatzer.
ogy of Spirit. The introduction to the first part argues that
Rosenzweig married in 1920 and fathered a son just be-
the fundamental and ineluctably individualistic fact of
fore coming down with a disease so grave that he was expect-
human death breaks up all philosophy qua monism, idealis-
ed to die within months. Instead he lived for six years, so par-
tic or materialistic, into the three realities of human experi-
alyzed, however, that ultimately he could communicate only
ence: man, God, and the world. (Metaphysical empiricism
by blinking an eyelid to the recitation of the alphabet. Never-
is thus an apt name for what Rosenzweig also calls “the new
theless his associates flocked to his side and spread his influ-
thinking.”) In the first part, he philosophically “constructs”
ence. Rosenzweig continued to write philosophical and reli-
these three realities very much in the manner of the later
gious essays and conducted a large correspondence. He
Schelling, as logico-mathematical and metaphysical entities.
edited the Jüdische Schriften (Jewish Writings) of Hermann
In this condition man, God, and the world constitute the
Cohen (3 vols., Berlin, 1924) and, in an extensive introduc-
“pagan” universe: they exist without interrelationships, as
tion, reinterpreted Cohen’s posthumous philosophical theol-
three unconnected points.
ogy as having laid the basis for a proto-existentialist doctrine.
In the second part, the three realities enter into relation-
He continued to study Jewish sources. He translated, among
ships with one another through “revelation,” that is, by con-
other things, the Hebrew poetry of Yehudah ha-Levi and
tinuously revealing themselves to each other. God reveals his
supplied it with extensive commentaries. In 1924 he joined
love to man and thus becomes available to human prayer,
with Martin Buber to produce a new German translation of
and the world is revealed as divine creation, available to
the Hebrew Bible, and in the process the two also developed
human transformation. Speech is the operative force in this
a sophisticated theory of translation, language, and textuali-
dimension of the world. Three points have formed a triangle.
ty. Their position was that the full meaning of a text develops
The final part of the book establishes the second triangle of
through what has since come to be called “reception history.”
the “star of redemption” when the individual relations be-
Thus the Bible is divinely revealed not as a matter of Ortho-
tween man, God, and the world are transformed into collec-
dox dogma or in opposition to Bible-critical history but in
tive, historical forces, specifically, Judaism and Christianity.
terms of its effects over time. Translation must not adjust the
(Two interlocking triangles form the hexagram that is the
text to a new culture but must confront the new culture with
Magen David, the Star of David, symbol of redemption.) Ju-
the text’s own authenticity. This confrontation takes place
daism is “the fire in the star”; that is, Israel is “with God/the
on the ground of the universal, Adamite human speech em-
truth,” outside of history, in eternity. Christianity is the rays
bedded in the literary forms of both languages. When Rosen-
from the star on pilgrimage through the world and history
zweig died at the age of forty-three, the Bible translation had
toward God/the truth, in order to conquer the kingdom of
progressed to Isaiah. (Buber finished it in the 1950s.)
God’s eventual universal realm. In this dimension of the
Rosenzweig’s basic tenets led to some new and promis-
world, collective speech—liturgy and hymn—is the opera-
ing positions in modern Jewish life. Between the Orthodox
tive force. Judaism and Christianity are the two valid cove-
belief in the Sinaitic revelation and the Liberal critical histor-
nants—Sinai for Jews and Calvary for the rest of mankind,
icism regarding the Bible, his “postmodernist” view made it
to be unified only when the road to truth has brought the
possible to take all of Torah with revelatory seriousness and
Christian world to the Jewish domicile in truth. In the mean-
punctiliousness, while neither rejecting modern scholarship
time loving acts of believers are to “verify” the love of revela-
nor committing oneself to a fideistic view. This coincided
tion and prepare the eschatological verity of God as “the all
with and influenced the biblical work of such scholars as
in all.” (Truth is thus Hegelian-existentialist “subjectivity,”
Buber, Benno Jacob, Yeh:ezkel Kaufmann, and Umberto
and the three parts of The Star explicate the basic theological
Cassuto. It also laid the basis for much subsequent renewed
triad of creation, revelation, and redemption.)
Jewish traditionalism among the acculturated in Germany
After the war Rosenzweig wanted to translate his beliefs
and elsewhere. Rosenzweig’s outlook, beyond the established
and his pronounced educational interests into action. He set-
fronts of Orthodoxy and Liberalism, also offered help 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

respect to Jewish law (halakhah). In opposition to Buber’s
Cohen, Richard A. Elevations: The Height of the Good in Rosenz-
subjectivistic, pietistic antinomianism, Rosenzweig called for
weig and Levinas. Chicago, 1994.
an open-minded, receptive confrontation with Jewish law to
Gibbs, Robert. Correlations in Rosenzweig and Levinas. Princeton,
embrace it “as much as I can” in terms of one’s own prepara-
N. J., 1992.
tion and honesty. His “two-covenant doctrine” serves as a
Hollander, Dana. “On the Significance of the Messianic Idea in
strong foundation for Jewish-Christian dialogue, although it
Rosenzweig.” Cross Currents 53 (Winter 2004): 555–566.
can easily be abused in an “indifferentist” spirit and although
Mack, Michael. “Franz Rosenweig’s and Emmanuel Levinas’s Cri-
it suffers inherently from Rosenzweig’s pervasive europocen-
tique of German Idealism’s Pseudotheology.” Journal of Reli-
trism (e.g., his total blindness to Islam) and his antihistori-
gion 83 (January 2003): 56–79.
cism (cf. Hegel’s “absolute spirit” after “the end of history”).
Unlike his friend Buber, Rosenzweig rejected the notion of
Revised Bibliography
a Jewish state (which would bring Israel back into history);
on the other hand, he naturally preferred Jewish self-
reauthentification in language, ethnicity, culture, and reli-
gion to liberalistic acculturation in gentile societies. With the
rise of Nazism, Rosenzweig’s educational ideology, along
holy days prominent in the Jewish religious calendar, mark
with that of Buber, spoke to German Jewry so aptly and
the beginning of the new year and set off the special period
powerfully that the Lehrhaus pattern of highly cultured and
traditionally designated for self-scrutiny and repentance.
acculturated teachers and students in community spread
They are referred to as Yamim NoraDim (“days of awe”), the
throughout the country and produced an “Indian summer”
time when the numinous aspect of Judaism comes into its
of German-Jewish creativity of a high order in the 1930s.
The impact of Rosenzweig’s thought continues to be
RODSH HA-SHANAH. RoDsh ha-Shanah (“head of the year,” i.
strong, philosophically and religiously. The interconnections
e., New Year) is the name given in postbiblical times to the
between him and Martin Heidegger, whom Rosenzweig
biblical festival of the first day of the seventh month (count-
praises in his last essay (“Vertauschte Fronte,” 1929; in Ge-
ing from the spring month of the Exodus from Egypt) and
sammelte Schriften, vol. 3, pp. 235–237), are increasingly
described (Lv. 23:23–25, Nm. 19:1–6) as a day of blowing
being crystallized. Heideggerian existentialist phenomenolo-
the horn. The postbiblical name is based on Talmudic teach-
gism, with Jewish-Rosenzweigian modifications, has further
ings that on this day all humanity is judged for its fortunes
left its significant marks on diverse movements of thought—
in the coming year. For this reason RoDsh ha-Shanah is also
the Frankfurt School (of Hegelian neo-Marxists) on the one
called Yom ha-Din (“day of judgment”). Biblical scholars,
hand, and Emmanuel Levinas, who goes beyond Heidegger
exploring the origins of the festival, have noted the parallels
and Husserl in philosophy and takes Buberian-
with ancient Near Eastern agricultural festivities in the au-
Rosenzweigian dialogism yet closer to historical Judaism, on
tumn and the enthronement ceremonies of the king as the
the other. Rosenzweig’s sophisticated traditionalism com-
representative of the god Baal or Marduk. According to
prises ethnicity, language, and religion (though still without
the critical view, references to the festival occur in sections
“land”) and shows the way back from European high culture
of the Pentateuch known as the Priestly code, which is post-
to Jewish self-definition.
exilic and hence could well have been influenced by Babylo-
nian practices. Such theories remain, however, conjectural.
In Nehemiah 8:1–8 there is a vivid description of the dramat-
The most extensive collection of Rosenzweig’s writing and study
ic occasion when the Israelites who had returned from Baby-
of his life is Franz Rosenzweig, der Mensch und sein Werk: Ge-
lonian captivity renewed their covenant with God. Ezra read
sammelte Schriften, 6 vols. (Dordrecht, 1976–1984). In En-
from the Torah on this first day of the seventh month; the
glish, see Franz Rosenzweig: His Life and Thought, 2d rev. ed.,
people, conscious of their shortcomings, were distressed at
edited by Nahum N. Glatzer (New York, 1961), and my
hearing the demands of the Law, but Nehemiah reassured
Franz Rosenzweig, 1886–1929: Guide of Reversioners (Lon-
them: “Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet and
don, 1961).
send portions unto him for whom nothing is prepared; for
Rosenzweig’s magnum opus, The Star of Redemption, has been
this day is holy unto our Lord; neither be ye grieved, for the
translated by William W. Hallo (New York, 1971). It is dis-
joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). These are
cussed in Else-Rahel Freund’s Franz Rosenzweig’s Philosophy
the antecedents of the festival as it later developed (held on
of Existence: An Analysis of The Star of Redemption, translated
the first and second days of the autumnal month of Tishri),
by Stephen L. Weinstein and Robert Israel and edited by
a day of both joy and solemnity. The day also became known
Paul R. Mendes-Flohr (The Hague and Boston, 1979); it is
also the subject of my book review in The Thomist (October
as Yom ha-Zikkaron (“day of remembrance”) because on it
1971): 728–737.
God remembers his creatures.
New Sources
The themes of God as king and judge of the universe
Batnitzky, Leora. Idolatry and Representation: The Philosophy of
and the need for repentance all feature prominently in the
Franz Rosenzweig Reconsidered. Princeton, N. J., 2000.
RoDsh ha-Shanah liturgy. The special additional prayer con-
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

sists of three groups of verses and prayers: (1) malkhuyyot
At the festive meal on RoDsh ha-Shanah it is customary
(“sovereignties,” in which God is hailed as king), (2) zikhro-
to dip bread in honey and to eat other sweet things while
not (“remembrances,” in which God is said to remember his
praying for “a good and sweet year.” In some places the cele-
creatures), (3) shofarot (“trumpet sounds,” which refer to the
brants eat fish to symbolize the good deeds they hope will
blowing of the horn). A popular medieval interpretation of
proliferate like fish in the sea in the year ahead. An ancient
these three is that they represent the three cardinal principles
custom is to go to the seaside or riverside on the afternoon
of the Jewish faith: belief in God, in reward and punishment
of the first day of RoDsh ha-Shanah, there to cast away the
(God “remembers” humankind’s deeds), and in revelation
sins of the previous year. This is based on Micah 7:19, a verse
(the horn was sounded when the Law was given at Sinai, as
that speaks of God casting away the sins of the people into
stated in Exodus 19:16). Another prayer of the day looks for-
the depths of the sea.
ward to the messianic age, when the kingdom of heaven will
YOM KIPPUR. Yom Kippur (“day of atonement”) is the cul-
be established and all wickedness will vanish from the earth.
mination of the penitential season, the day of repentance and
In a hymn recited on both RoDsh ha-Shanah and Yom Kip-
reconciliation between humanity and God and between peo-
pur, continuing with the judgment theme, God is spoken of
ple and their neighbors. It is the most hallowed day in the
as the great shepherd tending his flock. He decides on RoDsh
Jewish year and is still observed by the majority of Jews, even
ha-Shanah, and sets the seal on Yom Kippur, “who shall live
those who are otherwise lax in religious practices. In Temple
and who shall die; who shall suffer and who shall be tranquil;
times, elaborate sacrificial and purgatory rites, described in
who shall be rich and who poor; who shall be cast down and
Leviticus 16, were carried out. The high priest entered the
who elevated.” At various stages in the liturgy of RoDsh ha-
Holy of Holies in the Temple, where no other person was
Shanah and Yom Kippur there are prayers to be inscribed in
allowed to enter under pain of death, to make atonement for
the Book of Life, based on a Talmudic passage stating that
his people. A whole tractate of the Mishnah (Yoma D) de-
the average person whose fate is in the balance has the oppor-
scribes in greater detail the Temple service on Yom Kippur.
tunity during the period from RoDsh ha-Shanah to Yom Kip-
The Mishnah was compiled over one hundred and fifty years
pur to avert the “evil decree” by repentance, prayer, and char-
after the destruction of the Second Temple, but at least some
ity. These days, including RoDsh ha-Shanah and Yom
of the material does represent the actual practice in the Sec-
Kippur, are consequently known as the Ten Days of Peni-
ond Temple period. After the destruction of the Temple in
tence, the period for turning to God and for special strictness
70 CE, the day became one of prayer and worship. The refer-
in religious observances. The verse “Seek ye the Lord while
ence to “afflicting the soul” (Lv. 16:29) on this day is under-
he may be found” (Is. 55:6) is applied especially to this time
stood as an injunction to fast. No food or drink is taken from
of the year.
sunset on the ninth of Tishri until nightfall on the tenth.
The central ritual of the RoDsh ha-Shanah festival is the
Other “afflictions” practiced are abstaining from marital rela-
ceremony of blowing the shofar. Although the shofar may
tions, from wearing leather shoes, and from bathing.
be fashioned from the horn of several kosher animals, a ram’s
The ninth of Tishri, the day before Yom Kippur, is de-
horn, reminiscent of the ram sacrificed by Abraham in place
voted to preparation for the fast. On this day, festive meals
of Isaac, is preferred. Many attempts have been made to ex-
are eaten both for the purpose of gaining strength for the fast
plain the significance of the rite; MaimonidesE is typical:
and to celebrate the pardon Yom Kippur brings. In Talmud-
ic teaching, Yom Kippur does not bring atonement for of-
Although it is a divine decree that we blow the shofar
fenses against other human beings unless the victims have
on RoDsh ha-Shanah, a hint of the following idea is con-
pardoned the offenders. It is the practice, consequently, for
tained in the command. It is as if to say: “Awake from
your slumbers, you who have fallen asleep in life, and
people to ask forgiveness of one another on the day before
reflect on your deeds. Remember your Creator. Be not
the fast. The custom of kapparot (“atonements”) is carried
of those who miss reality in the pursuit of shadows, who
out in the morning. The procedure is to take a cockerel, wave
waste their years seeking vain things that neither profit
it around the head three times, and recite “This shall be in-
nor deliver. Look well to your souls, and improve your
stead of me,” after which the cockerel is slaughtered and
actions. Let each of you forsake his evil ways and
eaten. Many medieval authorities disapproved of the practice
thoughts.” (Code of Law, Repentance 3.4)
as a pagan superstition, but it is still followed by some Jews.
The shofar is sounded a number of times during the syna-
Others prefer to use money instead of a cockerel, and then
gogue service. The three basic notes are teqi Eah (a long,
to distribute it to the poor. Another custom still observed by
drawn-out note, signifying hope and triumph), shevarim (a
some is that of malqot (“flagellation”), in which the beadle
broken set of short notes), and teru Eah (a set of even shorter
in the synagogue administers a token beating with a strap as
notes that, like shevarim, represents weeping). First, the
atonement for sin. Many pious Jews, in preparation for the
teqi Eah suggesting firm commitment to God’s laws is sound-
fast, immerse themselves in a miqveh (ritual bath) as a purifi-
ed followed by the two weeping sounds as humanity reflects
cation rite. Before leaving for the synagogue, as the fast be-
on his sins and failings, and finally a second teqi Eah is blown
gins, parents bless their children.
signifying confidence in God’s pardon where there is sincere
In the majority of synagogues, services are several hours
long on Yom Kippur night, and continue without pause dur-
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

ing the day from early morning until the termination of the
ROSICRUCIANS. Although the secrecy pledged by
fast. The evening service begins with the Kol Nidrei (“all
members necessarily limits knowledge of Rosicrucian frater-
vows”), a declaration in Aramaic to the effect that all reli-
nities and their legendary founder, Christian Rosencreutz
gious promises that will be undertaken in the year ahead are
(whose surname means “rose cross”), documents published
hereby declared null and void. This was introduced as a
in the early seventeenth century and specific historical allu-
means of discouraging such vows since a promise made to
sions to the Rosicrucians from that time on both provide
God had dire consequences if broken. Throughout the day
basic information on these fraternities and adumbrate their
hymns and religious poems composed over many centuries
significance within the esoteric traditions that arose in early
are chanted. These consist of praises, supplications, martyr-
modern Europe. The story of Christian Rosencreutz was
ologies, and, especially, confessions of sin. A prominent fea-
promulgated through the publications Fama Fraternitatis
ture of the additional service (Musaf) is the remembering of
(1614) and Confessio Fraternitatis (1615), which recounted
the Temple service on Yom Kippur. At the stage that relates
his life and teachings and described the fraternity he
how the high priest would utter the divine name and the peo-
founded. A third document, the Chymische Hochzeit Chris-
ple would then fall on their faces, the members of the congre-
tiani Rosencreutz (Chemical Wedding; 1616), portrayed an
gation kneel and then prostrate themselves. This is the only
alchemistic initiatory process, the representation of which
occasion nowadays when there is prostration in the syna-
was based in part on the actual wedding of Frederick V, Elec-
gogue. At the late-afternoon service, Jonah is read as a lesson
tor Palatine, and Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I of
that none can escape God’s call and that he has mercy even
on the most wicked if they sincerely repent. The day ends
HISTORY. According to the story recounted in these docu-
with NeEilah (“closing”), a special service signifying that the
ments, Christian Rosencreutz was a German scholar born in
gates of heaven, open to prayer all day, are about to close.
1378. He lived to be 106. One hundred and twenty years
At this particularly solemn time of the day, the worshipers
after his death, his followers, obeying his instructions,
make an urgent effort to be close to God, many standing up-
opened his tomb; they heralded this event as the “opening”
right for the hour or so of this service. As the sun sets, the
of a new era in Europe. The tomb purportedly contained
congregation cries out aloud seven times: “The Lord he is
Rosencreutz’s uncorrupted body, various artifacts, and texts
God.” Then the shofar is sounded to mark the termination
summarizing his teachings. In his quest for wisdom,
of the fast.
Rosencreutz had traveled to the Holy Land, Egypt, Morocco,
White, the color of purity and mercy, is used on Yom
and Spain; his teachings reflected the influences of alchemy,
Kippur for the vestments of the scrolls of the Torah and the
Alexandrian Hermetism, Christian gnosticism, Jewish mysti-
ark in which the scrolls are kept as well as for the coverings
cism (Qabbalah), and the Paracelsian medical tradition. Fol-
in the synagogue. Traditional Jews wear white robes; in fact,
lowing his own preparation and study, Rosencreutz, with
these are shrouds to remind humanity of its mortality. This
three companions, established the Society of the Rose Cross.
tradition serves a main theme of Yom Kippur: human life
This fraternity was to have no other profession than (in the
is frail and uncertain, but one can place trust in God and
manner of Paracelsus) to attend to the sick for free. Members
share in God’s goodness forever. Since the festival of Sukkot
were also required to travel in order to gain and to dissemi-
falls a few days after Yom Kippur, it is advised that as soon
nate knowledge, to report yearly by letter or in person to the
as the worshipers return home from the synagogue and be-
center Rosencreutz had founded (called the Home of the
fore breaking the fast, they should make some small prepara-
Holy Spirit), to wear no distinctive garb, to seek worldly suc-
tion for the erection of the Sukkot booths and so proceed
cessors, and to employ the rose cross as their seal and symbol.
immediately after the day of pardon to do a good deed.
Significantly, both the publication of the aforemen-
SEE ALSO Atonement, article on Jewish Concepts.
tioned Rosicrucian documents and the purported opening
of Rosencreutz’s tomb occured in the early seventeenth cen-
tury, thus placing Rosicrucianism directly in the context of
Norman H. Snaith’s The Jewish New Year Festival (London, 1947)
Reformation and Counter-Reformation currents. Further,
considers the views of the myth and ritual school that RoDsh
the documents originally appeared in Bohemia, which at the
ha-Shanah had its origin in enthronement ceremonies. Two
time was a haven for alchemists, freethinkers, millenarians,
useful little books of my own are A Guide to Rosh Ha-Shanah
and adherents of diverse religious traditions. The authorship
(London, 1959) and A Guide to Yom Kippur (London,
1957). A good survey of the liturgical themes of RoDsh ha-
of the three key texts has been attributed to Johann Valentin
Shanah and Yom Kippur is Max Arzt’s Justice and Mercy
Andreae (1586–1654), a Lutheran theologian and mystic.
(New York, 1963). The anthology by S. Y. Agnon has been
Andreae later described the history of the Rosicrucians up to
translated into English as Days of Awe (New York, 1948).
his time as pure fabrication; at their publication, however,
Two anthologies with comprehensive bibliographies are
his texts met with a receptive and enthusiastic audience.
Philip Goodman’s The Rosh Hashanah Anthology (Philadel-
With the collapse in 1620 of the brief reign in Bohemia of
phia, 1970) and The Yom Kippur Anthology (Philadelphia,
Frederick and Elizabeth and the onset of the Thirty Years
War, Rosicrucianism became associated with Protestantism
and “heretical teachings.” As part of their campaign 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

Rosicrucianism, the Jesuits even penned their own Rosicru-
crucian “science” comprised a system of mathematics and
cian-style document, the Rosa Jesuitica (c. 1620).
mechanics for the lower world, celestial mathematics for the
higher world, and angelic conjuration for the supercelestial
During the seventeenth century, Rosicrucian figures
world. In principle, the angelic sphere could be penetrated
such as the “Great Hermeticist” Michael Maier (1568–1622)
by the use of Rosicrucian technique, and, thus, the essence
and the physician Robert Fludd (1574–1637) were instru-
of all reality was graspable. The initiates were offered insight
mental in the spread of Rosicrucian thought and influence
into the nature of all life. The Hermetic axiom “As above,
on the European continent and in England, respectively. The
so below,” typical of Rosicrucian teaching, had a profound
antiquarian Elias Ashmole (1617–1692) is believed to have
effect on early modern scientific thought, and Rosicrucian-
brought the Rosicrucian current into speculative Freemason-
ism—like other occult paths—has been credited with having
ry. What linked these writers, as well as numerous minor fig-
helped to prepare the way for the rise of modern science.
ures, was less an identifiable Rosicrucian brotherhood than
an adherence to Rosicrucian beliefs. The claims of Descartes
The Chymische Hochzeit depicts the initiatory aspects of
and Leibniz—that, the secrecy of the Rosicrucian order not-
Rosicrucianism. Echoing themes of the Fama and the Confes-
withstanding, their efforts to meet a live Rosicrucian were in
sio, its story recounts Christian Rosencreutz’s participation
vain—support the contention that Rosicrucianism existed
in the celebration of a royal wedding. Called on the eve of
mainly as a religious and intellectual approach to life rather
Easter from his preparation for Communion, Rosencreutz
than as an actual association. In this connection, the question
journeys to a magical castle full of treasures. There he joins
of whether Francis Bacon was a Rosicrucian is unimportant,
the wedding party, and over the course of the Christian Holy
for he certainly was influenced by, and a participant in, the
Week he views many marvels and becomes initiated into chi-
Rosicrucian trends affecting European intellectual life.
valric orders. This romance stands as a spiritual allegory both
of Rosencreutz’s inner transformation and of the transforma-
Following a period of relative quiescence in the eigh-
tion of the Rosicrucian elect.
teenth and early nineteenth centuries, Rosicrucianism was
revived. The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, founded in the
The esoteric dimension of the transformation is ren-
latter part of the nineteenth century by Robert Wentworth
dered in alchemical symbols. Union of bride and bridegroom
Little (d. 1878), played an important role in the renewal and
represents a mystical marriage of the soul, and this spiritual
spread of Rosicrucianism. This was not, however, the only
image is bound to an alchemic metaphor of elemental fusion.
strain. Here, polemic concerns of divers Rosicrucian groups
Likewise, the theme of spiritual death and rebirth is tied to
obscure the already uncertain history of interactions among
the alchemy of elemental transmutation. The symbolic com-
European currents and the introduction of Rosicrucianism
ponents of the rose cross may further evidence the impor-
into America. In the mid-1980s, two major Rosicrucian so-
tance of the alchemical tradition to Rosicrucian spiritual dis-
cieties exist in the United States: the Society of Rosicrucians,
cipline: Within the alchemical lexicon, ros, or dew, is the
or Societas Rosicruciana in America, founded in New York
solvent of gold, and crux, the cross, is the equivalent of light.
City and presently located in Kingston, New York, and the
The emblem, however, clearly draws on other symbolic
Ancient and Mystical Order of Rosae Crucis, based in San
traditions as well. Rosicrucianism’s roots in chivalric tradi-
Jose, California. The Societas Rosicruciana publishes the
tions are revealed in certain aspects of the rose cross. The
Mercury quarterly; the first issue appeared in 1916. The An-
“chemical wedding” leads to Christian Rosencreutz’s initia-
cient and Mystical Order issues the Rosicrucian Digest, which
tion as a Red Cross knight, and the initiation he experiences
began publication as the Triangle in 1921.
in the allegorical tale is similar to that actually undergone by
In addition to the establishment of Rosicrucian organi-
Frederick V (at the time of his marriage) into the English
zations, the late nineteenth century witnessed Rosicrucian-
Order of the Garter, whose heraldric symbol is the Red Cross
ism’s strong influence upon Western esotericism. Rosicru-
of Saint George.
cian traditions took form in the Order of the Golden Dawn,
The symbol of the rose and the cross also evokes mysti-
a Hermetic society whose initiates practiced a spiritual disci-
cal images of the rose of the Virgin and the death of Christ.
pline that they claimed was based upon principles of occult
(Coincidentally, the rose cross was one of Luther’s emblems.)
science and the magic of Hermes Trismegistos. At various
For contemporary Rosicrucians, the interpretation of the
times, the order numbered William Butler Yeats and Aleister
rose cross centers in the maxim “No cross, no crown,” that
Crowley among its members. Rosicrucianism’s influence was
is, the belief that one comes to the rose (signifying the divine)
also felt in the artworks of an idealist renaissance fostered by
through mortal suffering.
the occult aestheticism of Joséphin Peladan’s Salons de la
Rose + Croix in Paris and in the work of Rudolf Steiner and
SEE ALSO Anthroposophy; Freemasons; Paracelsus; Steiner,
the Anthroposophical Society.
DOCTRINES. From its beginnings, Rosicrucianism spread a
message of general reformation, preached a new enlighten-
ment, promised a new Paradise, and taught a combination
Arthur E. Waite’s Real History of the Rosicrucians (London, 1887)
of religious illumination, evangelical piety, and magic. Rosi-
is the standard account of Rosicrucianism. The Secret Doc-
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

trine of the Rosicrucians (Chicago, 1918), by Magus Incogni-
The vicar’s views are unquestionably Rousseau’s own.
to (pseudonym for Clifford Edward Brooksmith), is a parti-
Of equal importance with his positive beliefs is his rejection
san study of teachings and symbols. The best recent account,
of, as unanswerable and, practically speaking, unimportant,
particularly of the cultural, intellectual, and political milieu
many of the traditional central questions of metaphysics and
in which Rosicrucianism emerged, is Frances A. Yates’s The
theology, such as the meaning of “creation,” the alleged eter-
Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London, 1972). This book draws
nal punishment of the wicked, and the status of “revelation.”
upon the full range of recent scholarship. A Christian
Although Rousseau, an admirer of the scriptural Jesus, con-
Rosenkreutz Anthology, edited by Paul M. Allen and Carlo
Pietzner (Blauvelt, N.Y., 1968), offers a useful compilation
sidered himself a Christian, he refused, consistently with his
of traditional texts as well as essays by Rudolf Steiner and
natural religion, to endorse claims that Jesus’ alleged miracles
others associated with Anthroposophy. Francis King’s Magic
were proof of his divinity.
(London, 1975) explores Rosicrucian influences on Western
These religious views were central to Rousseau’s entire
outlook. In his autobiographical Confessions (completed in
New Sources
1770 but published posthumously, in two parts, in 1782 and
A˚kerman, Susanna. Rose Cross over the Baltic: The Spread of Rosi-
1789) and elsewhere, he speaks rather positively of his early
crucianism in Northern Europe. Boston, Mass, 1998.
moral upbringing in Calvinist Geneva, although he had left
Melton, J. Gordon, ed. Rosicrucianism in America. New York,
there at the age of sixteen in search of wider horizons. Within
a brief time, he had declared himself a convert to Catholi-
Mulvey Roberts, Marie. Gothic Immortals: The Fiction of the
cism in Turin. He next established some reputation as a
Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross. New York, 1990.
music teacher and theorist, traveling to various Swiss and
McKintosh, Christopher. The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason:
French cities before settling in Paris. There he made the ac-
Eighteenth-Century Rosicrucianism in Central Europe and Its
quaintance of Thérèse Levasseur, a working-class woman
Relationship to the Enlightenment. New York, 1992.
who became his lifelong companion, and of the social circle
McKintosh, Christopher. The Rosicrucians: The History, Mytholo-
surrounding the philosophes, notably Diderot. He eventually
gy, and Rituals of an Esoteric Order. York Beach, Me., 1997.
contributed to their Encyclopedia.
An incident in the autumn of 1749, known as “the illu-
Revised Bibliography
mination of Vincennes,” shaped Rousseau’s subsequent ca-
reer. Stopping along the road to rest, he glanced at a journal
announcement of a prize essay contest on the question of
ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES (1712–1778) was a
whether the renaissance of the sciences and arts had contrib-
Geneva-born author, social and educational theorist, and ad-
uted to the purification of morals. The insight that, on the
vocate of a nondogmatic religion of nature. Rousseau was a
contrary, civilization and progress had brought about degen-
prolific writer; however, his mature religious thought is en-
eration from the more natural earlier state of humanity
capsulated in a comparatively short section, “The Profession
struck him forcefully. His Discourse on the Sciences and Arts
of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar,” of Émile (1762), his treatise
(1750), which elaborates on the consequences of this degen-
in support of experientially based educational methods. The
eration, won the prize. In his Discourse on the Origins of In-
straightforward, somewhat serene tone of this famous state-
equality (1755), he imaginatively reconstructs humanity’s de-
ment stands in marked contrast to the complex, turbulent
velopment from a happy but unenlightened early state of
pattern of its author’s life history.
nature through successive stages leading to the establishment
of private property, government, and ultimately despotism.
Amid the natural beauties of the Alps, Rousseau’s vicar,
But he also insists that an attempt to return to the primitive
a simple, unpretentious country priest, recounts his efforts
state would be unrealistic. His Social Contract, published in
to resolve his doubts, stemming from the diversity of com-
the same year (1762) as Émile, aims to show how a free com-
peting beliefs. Dissatisfied with the philosophers, of whom
munity structured in accordance with the general will of its
he says he is not one, he has found a basis for certitude and
citizens could claim moral legitimacy. It concludes with the
optimism in his own experience. This has convinced him,
chapter “On Civil Religion,” in which Rousseau proposes to
ultimately, of the presence of order in the universe, which
combine the principles of natural religion with the state’s
is only explicable by the existence of a powerful, intelligent,
need for religious reinforcement: a new doctrine affirming
and beneficent God. He further asserts the immortality of
the “sacredness of the social contract and the laws” is the
the immaterial soul and the natural goodness of human be-
ings. Evil stems from ignoring the “heavenly voice” of con-
science, which teaches a sociable sympathy for others and re-
Rousseau’s work of 1762, particularly the “Profession
jects self-interest as the basis of right conduct. The vicar
of Faith,” was attacked by Catholics, Protestants, and philo-
concludes that the adherent of natural religion may in good
sophes alike. He was forced to flee France to avoid arrest and
conscience follow the prescribed religious customs of the ju-
was also condemned by the authorities of Geneva, whose cit-
risdiction in which he or she happens to live, as he himself
izenship and religion he had proudly readopted eight years
does in Roman Catholic Savoy.
earlier. Subsequent forced displacements and isolation led
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

him to suspect the existence of a large conspiracy against
at that time. At Patna, Roy became acquainted with Islamic
him. But by the time of his death, Rousseau’s ideas—
thought, particularly Islamic monotheism and views on
especially, perhaps, as popularized in his romantic novel, The
Hindu image worship, which was to have a lasting influence
New Heloise (1761)—had won many adherents. His name
on his own religious beliefs. His new ideas and subsequent
later came to be associated with the French Revolution;
criticism of Hinduism caused such conflict with his parents
Robespierre was a great admirer of Rousseau’s, as was Kant,
that he left their home to travel around northern India, per-
who took Rousseau’s ideal of societal self-government—
haps venturing as far as Tibet, to study the religions of those
obedience to a law that one has prescribed for oneself—as
areas firsthand. Encouraged by his mother, he then settled
his formula for moral autonomy.
down in Banaras (Varanasi) for a few years to study Sanskrit
and the Hindu scriptures. At this time he also began to study
Subsequent uses and interpretations of Rousseau’s
English, which eventually enabled him to secure an appoint-
thought have been equally disparate. Was he a rationalist or
ment in Bengal under the East India Company in 1803.
a proponent of the purest sentimentality? A totalitarian or
a democrat? A conservative or a protosocialist? A sympathetic
Success as an administrator and an assured income from
portrayer of female heroines or a blatant sexist? A Pelagian,
landed estates permitted Roy to retire at the age of forty-two
a Deist in spite of himself, or a consistent exponent of the
and settle permanently in Calcutta, then the political and in-
fundamental ideas of the Reformation? Textual evidence ex-
tellectual capital of India. There he launched an active career
ists for these and many other incompatible, ardently defend-
calling for reforms in Indian religion and society. There too
ed interpretations of Rousseau. What is correct in any case
he began to develop close ties with the Unitarian missionaries
is that Rousseau had a keen sense for dialectical paradoxes
of Calcutta. Roy was attracted to the Unitarian doctrine of
in the human condition, and that he was a pioneer in explor-
divine unity, and for a time (1824–1828) he regularly at-
ing the complex tensions and ambivalences of the human
tended Unitarian services and considered himself a “Hindu
psyche, beginning with his own.
Unitarian.” Later, he and his followers rejected Unitarianism
as unsuited to their views and principles; in 1828 they
founded their own movement, which came to be known as
One complete English translation of Émile in current circulation
the Bra¯hmo Sama¯j, a society organized to provide for the
is Barbara Foxley’s (1903; reprint, London, 1966), and there
proper worship of brahman, whom Roy considered to be the
is another of the Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar,
one true God of the Hindu scriptures. In 1830 he set sail for
translated by Arthur H. Beattie as Creed of a Priest of Savoy
England to realize a long-held dream of visiting Europe, the
(New York, 1956). Multiple translations of other major
land of the scientific rationalism to which he had become so
Rousseauean writings exist, the most numerous being those
attracted. He was, unfortunately, never to return to India,
of The Social Contract. Particularly distinguished, in terms of
for his life was cut short by a serious illness; he died at Bristol
scholarship, is Roger D. Masters and Judith R. Masters edi-
on 22 September 1833.
tion of The First and Second Discourses (New York, 1964).
Ronald Grimsley has edited a collection entitled Religious
Roy’s first work of major importance was the Tuh:fat
Writings (Oxford, 1970). Among the numerous secondary
al-muwa¯h:h:id¯ın (A gift for the monotheists). This work, writ-
works, Grimsley’s Rousseau and the Religious Quest (Oxford,
ten in Persian and Arabic at an early date but not published
1968) is perhaps the most useful introduction to this topic
until 1804, argues that, by natural reason, all human beings
in English, although it cannot compare in comprehensive-
ness to Pierre Maurice Masson’s La Religion de Jean-Jacques
believe in one being who is the source and governor of cre-
Rousseau, 3 vols. in 1 (1916; reprint, Geneva, 1970). Among
ation, but by habit and training at the hands of deceitful reli-
more general English-language studies, Charles Hendel’s
gious leaders, they stray from this virtuous belief. In 1815
two-volume Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Moralist (1934; reprint,
Roy published a major study of Hindu Vedanta,
New York, 1962), remains an especially lively and readable
Veda¯ntagrantha (also abridged as Veda¯ntasa¯ra), and from
1816 to 1819 he published translations of five major
Upanis:ads in both Bengali and English. He hoped to show
by these efforts that the belief in and worship of the one
brahman was the only sensible religious practice for Hindus.
Roy published The Precepts of Jesus in 1820, which presented
ROY, RAM MOHAN (1772–1833), important early
Christianity as a simple, virtuous moral code, avoiding men-
nineteenth-century reformer of Indian religion and society,
tion of miracles and opposing the doctrine of the Trinity in
founder of the Bra¯hmo Sama¯j. Roy’s lasting influence has
favor of the unity of God. This publication upset both the
earned him the epithet “father of modern India.”
orthodox Hindu community and the Baptist missionaries of
Ram Mohan Roy was born into an orthodox Hindu
brahman family on May 22, 1772, in Radhanagar, a small
The two primary tenets of Roy’s religious reform were
town in modern West Bengal. He was sent at an early age
the establishment of a Hindu monotheism and the abolish-
to Patna, then a center of Islamic learning, to study Persian
ment of what he called Hindu “idolatry.” He wrote in his
and Arabic, the languages of social and political advancement
English introduction to the Veda¯ntasa¯ra:
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

My constant reflections on the inconvenient or, rather,
cutta, 1974). Two recent biographies are B. N. Dasgupta’s
injurious rites introduced by the peculiar practice of
The Life and Times of Rajah Rammohun Roy (New Delhi,
Hindoo idolatry, which, more than any other pagan
1980) and M. C. Kotnala’s Raja Ram Mohun Roy and Indian
worship destroys the texture of society, together with
Awakening (New Delhi, 1975). The English Works of Raja
compassion for my countrymen, have compelled me to
Rammohun Roy, 6 vols., edited by Kalidas Nag and Debajyoti
use every possible effort to awaken them from their
Burman (Calcutta, 1945–1951), is the sourcebook of Roy’s
dream of error; and by making them acquainted with
works for the English reader. A good study of Roy’s religious
their scriptures, enable them to contemplate, with true
ideas is Ajit Kumar Ray’s The Religious Ideas of Rammohun
devotion, the unity and omnipresence of nature’s God.
Roy (New Delhi, 1976). For the lasting influence of Ram
(de Bary, 1958, p. 575)
Mohan Roy and the Bra¯hmo Sama¯j, see David Kopf’s The
Roy believed that the pure Hinduism of an earlier age had
Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind
become encrusted with degrading customs, of which it had
(Princeton, 1979).
to be purged. Although his appreciation of monotheism
Extracts from Roy’s introduction to the Veda¯ntasa¯ra, including
began with his exposure to Islamic thought and was strength-
the quotation that appears above, can be found in Sources of
ened by Christian Unitarianism, Roy was born a Hindu and
the Indian Tradition, edited by Wm. Theodore de Bary (New
York, 1958), pp. 573–575.
would not be satisfied until he had found approval for his
monotheistic ideas in the Hindu scriptures. He found this
New Sources
confirmation in his study of Vedantic thought, particularly
Datta, Bhabatosha. Resurgent Bengal: Rammohun, Bankimchandra,
that of the Upanis:ads. The Upanis:adic brahman, according
Rabindranath. Calcutta, 2000.
to Roy, is not a static absolute but rather the sole “author
Mazumder, Durga Prasad. Dimensions of Political Culture in Ben-
and governor of the universe.” As for Hindu image worship,
gal, 1814–1857: With Special Reference to Raja Rammohun
he contended that the scriptures recommend it only for the
Roy. Calcutta, 1993.
feebleminded and he therefore declared it inferior and un-
Mitra, Saroj Mohan, ed. The Golden Book of Rammohun Roy. Cal-
worthy of practice.
cutta, 1997.
Much of what Roy criticized in Hinduism was precisely
Robertson, Bruce Carlisle. Raja Rammohan Ray: The Father of
what was condemned by the Christian missionaries in Cal-
Modern India. Delhi, 1995.
cutta. His reform program had two essential purposes: to
convince the Hindus that many of their beliefs and practices
Revised Bibliography
were not sanctioned by their own scriptures and to demon-
strate both to the adherents of other religions and to the Brit-
ish rulers that, contrary to common understanding, the
Hindu scriptures did not advocate polytheism and idolatry
(Skt., “cosmic order”) represents the Vedic notion of
but in fact contained a lofty and rational message. These ef-
an impersonal and powerful force upon which the ethical
forts, of course, caused deep resentment and outrage among
and physical worlds are based, through which they are inex-
many orthodox Hindus.
tricably united, and by which they are maintained. R:ta is the
universal truth that gives effective strength to Vedic ritual
Roy also campaigned vigorously for certain social re-
practices, that serves as the foundation for proper social orga-
forms. He promoted modern education and struggled cease-
nization, and that preexists even the Vedic gods themselves,
lessly for women’s rights. Roy’s influence was particularly
who find in it the very source and essence of their power. In
conspicuous in the official British proscription of sat¯ı (the
many ways, r:ta stands as the Vedic antecedent for the notion
self-immolation of a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre)
of dharma (the established order of things, proper behavior,
in 1829.
fitting truth), a concept of central importance not only to
Many scholars place Roy at the head of a reformation
the various forms of Hinduism but also to the teachings of
of Indian religion and society that was to change Indian cul-
Buddhism, Jainism, and other South Asian religious systems.
ture significantly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The term r:ta is based on the Sanskrit verbal root r: (“go,
The most important and lasting event in his career was the
move”), which itself reflects the Indo-European verbal root
establishment of the Bra¯hmo Sama¯j. Through this religious
*ar (“fit together properly”). Thus r:ta signifies the cosmic
society, which nurtured such figures as Rabindranath Tagore
law that allows the universe to run smoothly, the dynamic
and Keshab Chandra Sen, Roy’s continuing influence was as-
structure in which every object and all actions have their
sured. Roy shaped the Bra¯hmo Sama¯j with his ideas, and
proper place and in which all parts support and strengthen
many scholars will argue that it was the Bra¯hmo Sama¯j that
the whole in a flowing symbiosis. The word is related
shaped modern Indian culture.
through *ar to the Greek harmos, from which the English
harmony derives, and to the Latin ars (“skill, craft”), the
EE ALSO Bra¯hmo Sama¯j.
source of the English art and artist. Accordingly, the term r:ta
connotes the experience of a “finely tuned” universe whose
A reliable source for the life of Ram Mohan Roy is the first chapter
laws can give creative power to those gods and cultic special-
of Sivanath Sastri’s History of the Bra¯hmo Sama¯j, 2d ed. (Cal-
ists who understand its structures.
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

The R:gveda (c. 1200 BCE) commonly assigns to the gods
howler.” The root rud also connotes “red” (as in English
such epithets as “he who possesses r:ta,” “he who grows ac-
ruddy), suggesting that the earliest concept of the divinity
cording to r:ta,” or “he who is born of r:ta,” descriptions rep-
was inspired by red storm clouds or the sound of thunder.
resenting the Vedic notion that the gods derive their strength
Rudra has no correlates in other Indo-European myth-
from their adherence to cosmic law. If they—or humans, for
that matter—were to go against the structures of r:ta, they
would then be said to be anr:ta, a common synonym for
Some scholars believe that the earliest prototype of
vr:jina (“crooked, wrong”) and even asatya (“untrue”). Thus
Rudra may be traced to an Indus Valley seal in which four
even the gods must obey the laws of r:ta. The principles of
animals surround a seated figure. This seal, and some Vedic
r:ta (like those of the Zand Avestan asha, a Zoroastrian notion
texts, suggest Rudra’s connection with animals. As the Lord
to which r:ta is linguistically and conceptually related) func-
of Animals (Pa´supati), he is their protector as well as their
tion in eternal opposition to any principle of disjunctive or
destroyer, an ambivalence common in many mythologies.
disintegrative power (druh; Av., druj) as well as to those per-
The animal most frequently associated with Rudra is the
sonal demons and humans who seek to disrupt impersonal
bull, a symbol of rain and fertility. Typically, the figure in
cosmic order by means of harmful magical practices (ya¯tu).
the Indus Valley seals is seated in a posture later associated
with yogic meditation, leading some to postulate a non-
Throughout the Vedic period r:ta was understood to be
Aryan origin of his post-Vedic role as the ascetic mendicant
an impersonal law and was never personified or hypostatized
par excellence.
into a deity. Characteristically, the primary agent or guardian
of the laws of r:ta is the god Varuna, who—in Vedic times
Rudra’s wife is Pr:´sni, whose name denotes a leather
at least—was an ethical sky god whose omniscient judgment
water bag, clearly an association with rainwater. This associa-
the Vedic cult admired and feared.
tion is strengthened by references in the R:gveda to Rudra as
the bringer of fertilizing rain. Rudra is invoked in only four
As the impersonal source of cosmic and ethical order,
hymns of the R:gveda, although he also figures in the later
r:ta includes important creative aspects. The gods find their
Sam:hita¯s and in the Bra¯hman:as. The R:gvedic hymns de-
ability to create the world precisely in their ability to recog-
scribe him as a well-dressed god riding in a chariot, carrying
nize the principles of r:ta. These creative dimensions appear
a bow and arrows. These hymns seek to avert the wrath of
frequently in Vedic salutatory depictions of natural process-
a fearsome and destructive god who hurls his lethal arrows
es. Thus the wonderful facts that the sun rises in the east
at random upon men and beasts. In addition to the wind
every morning and that water runs downhill are trustworthy
gods, Va¯yu-Va¯ta¯h:, Rudra’s Vedic associates are the Rudras
cosmic events because they reflect the truth of cosmic harmo-
and the Maruts, who share his benign and chthonic traits re-
ny (see R:gveda 1.105.12). Furthermore, Vedic tradition held
spectively. The word marut, derived from the root mr: (“to
that the very structures of r:ta allow the human community
die”), seems to signify a spirit of the dead. Cultic worship
access to the powers that drive the universe itself. This is
of Rudra also confirms his close connection with Yama, the
most apparent in the performance of the ritual: since proper
god of death, with spirits of the dead, and with the dark god-
cultic activity embodies the structures and processes of cos-
dess Nirr:ti. His oblations and the venue and manner of offer-
mic law, the incorrect performance of the ritual would signal
ing them are characteristic of a chthonic god. Rudra’s later
the collapse of cosmic order and would be as devastating to
Vedic consort was Rudra¯n:¯ı, or M¯ıdhus:¯ı. The latter, like
the Vedic community as it would be if the sun were not to
Pr:´sni, signifies Rudra’s function as the “pourer,” and indi-
rise or rivers not to flow.
rectly connects him with fertility, a trait incipient from the
Indus Valley period. This perhaps explains the worship of
SEE ALSO Dharma, article on Hindu Dharma.
Rudra in the phallic emblem, which later almost completely
replaced his anthropomorphic representation.
The most complete study of r:ta continues to be Heinrich Lüders’s
In the Vedic literature Rudra is intimately connected
Varun:a, vol. 2, Varun:a und das R:ta (Göttingen, 1959).
with Agni and Soma. Indeed, in his power, brilliance, and
Shorter discussions may be found in Hermann Oldenberg’s
destructive capacity he is almost an alter ego of Agni. Like
Die Religion des Veda (Berlin, 1894), pp. 195–221; Edward
Soma, he dwells on a mountaintop, especially Mount
Washburn Hopkins’s Ethics of India (New Haven, 1924),
Mu¯javat, the abode of Soma in later literature. But from the
pp. 2ff., 40–44; and F. Max Müller’s Lectures on the Origin
Yajurveda onward, a syncretism begins in which the R:gvedic
and Growth of Religion (London, 1879), pp. 237–250.
Rudra merges with other gods evidently of indigenous ori-
gin, reflecting the fusion of Aryan and non-Aryan peoples.
In that text Rudra is invoked as the god of burglars, highway-
men, night rovers, and cheats. His benign characteristics per-
sist, but dark and malevolent traits now appear, and his
RUDRA is a Vedic god and precursor of the great Hindu
chthonic character is henceforth established. In later Vedic
divinity S´iva. The name Rudra derives from the verbal root
literature Rudra assumes such new names as Bhava, S´arva,
rud (“to howl, to roar”), from which he takes the epithet “the
Ugra, Maha¯deva, and S´iva. Some of these figures are clearly
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

of regional origin, while others are still unspecified but may
not “Ru¯m¯ı,” as he became known after settling in Anatolia,
be indigenous gods of non-Vedic origin. Both the Yajurveda
or Ru¯m. Although the date of his birth seems well estab-
and the Bra¯hman:as record the progress of Rudra’s syncretism
lished, he may have been born some years earlier. His father,
with other gods until he finally merges into S´iva, his mytho-
BahaD al-D¯ın Walad, a noted mystical theologian, left the
logical successor. The complex “Rudra-Siva” is thus often
city some time before the Mongol invasion of 1220 and took
used by students of the tradition to designate the mythologi-
his family via Iran to Syria, where Jala¯l al-D¯ın studied Arabic
cal and cultic fusion of S´iva and his Vedic precursor.
history and literature. They then proceeded to Anatolia, an
Because of the fairly early syncretism with other indige-
area that had not yet been reached by the Mongol hordes and
nous regional and tribal gods, Rudra becomes a conglomer-
thus offered shelter to numerous mystics and scholars from
ate of disparate traits. His evident ambivalence toward the
the eastern lands of Islam. They enjoyed the liberal patronage
sacrifice bears testimony to this. In the subsequent S´aiva
of the Seljuk Sult:a¯n EAla¯D al-D¯ın Kayko¯ba¯d. After Baha¯D
mythological cycle, the sacrifice flees from him, or he is de-
al-D¯ın’s family settled in Laranda (now Karaman), Jala¯l
nied a share in Daks:a’s sacrifice. Infuriated, he destroys the
al-D¯ın married, and in 1226 his first son, Sult:a¯n Walad, was
sacrifice, killing men and injuring gods. These anti-Vedic
born. The aged BahaD al-D¯ın was invited to Konya (ancient
traits continue to multiply until the R:gvedic god who grant-
Iconium), the capital of the Anatolian Seljuks, to teach in
ed boons, forgave sins, and blessed his devotees assumes a
one of the city’s numerous theological colleges. After his
dual personality combining benign and malevolent traits.
death in early 1231, Jala¯l al-D¯ın succeeded him in the chair.
A disciple of Ru¯m¯ı’s father, Burha¯n al-D¯ın Muh:aiqqiq,
reached Konya in the early 1230s and introduced Jala¯l
al-D¯ın into the mystical life and to the ideas of his father,
Agarwala, Vasudeva S. S´iva Maha¯deva, the Great God. Varanasi,
whose Ma Ea¯rif, a collection of sermons and a spiritual diary,
were later to form an important source of inspiration for
Bhandari, V. S. “Rudra as the Supreme God in the Yajurveda.”
Ru¯m¯ı. He also studied the Persian poetry of H:akim Sana¯D¯ı
Nagpur University Journal 16 (October 1965): 37–42.
of Ghazna (d. 1131), the first poet to use the form of
mathnav¯ı, “rhyming couplets,” for mystical instruction.
Bhattacharji, Sukumari. Indian Theogony: A Comparative Study of
Indian Mythology from the Vedas to the Puranas. Cambridge
Ru¯m¯ı may have visited Syria in the 1230s, but nothing defi-
and New York, 1970. Includes chapters on Rudra-S´iva.
nite is known. His teacher later left Konya for Kayseri (Cae-
sarea), where he died about 1242.
Dange, Sadashiv Ambadas. “Tryambaka.” Journal of the Oriental
Institute (University of Baroda) 19 (1969): 223–227.
Shams al-D¯ın. After EAla¯D al-D¯ın’s death in 1236, the
Machek, Václav. “Origin of the Gods Rudra and Pu¯s:an.” Archiv
Mongols invaded Anatolia, and the internal situation deteri-
orientalni 22 (1954): 544–562. A perceptive article.
orated owing to the incompetence of his successors. In the
Mayrhofer, Manfred. “Der Gottesname Rudra.” Zeitschrift der
midst of the upheavals and troubles in eastern and central
Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 103 (1953): 140–
Anatolia Jala¯l al-D¯ın underwent an experience that trans-
150. An original article on the import of the god’s name.
formed him into a mystical poet. In October 1244 he met
O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Ascetism and Eroticism in the Mythol-
the wandering dervish Shams al-D¯ın, “Sun of Religion,” of
ogy of S´iva. London, 1973.
Tabriz, and, if the sources are to be believed, the two mystics
Pisani, Vittore. “Und dennoch Rudra ‘Der Rote.’” Zeitschrift der
spent days and weeks together without eating, drinking, or
Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 104 (1954): 136–
experiencing any bodily needs. The discussions of Ru¯m¯ı and
139. Seeks to trace the god’s identity from the derivation of
Shams, who must have been about the same age, led Jala¯l
his name.
al-D¯ın into the depths of mystical love but also caused anger
and jealousy among his students and his family. Shams left
Konya, and in the pangs of separation, Mawla¯na¯ suddenly
turned into a poet who sang of his love and longing while
whirling around to the sound of music. He himself could not
¯ M¯I, JALA¯L AL-D¯IN (AH 604–672/1207–1273
understand the secret of this transformation and expressed
CE), Muslim mystic and poet. No S:u¯f¯ı poet has exerted a
his feelings in ever-new verses, declaring that it was the spirit
vaster influence on Muslim East and Christian West than
of the beloved that made him sing, not his own will. There
Jala¯l al-D¯ın, called Mawla¯na¯, or Mawlaw¯ı, “our master.” His
was no question of seeking a fitting rhyme or meter—they
Persian works are considered the most eloquent expression
came to him spontaneously, triggered by a casual sound, a
of Islamic mystical thought, and his long mystico-didactic
word, or a sight. The poems of this early period, which excel
poem, the Mathnav¯ı, has been called “the QurDa¯n in the Per-
in their daring paradoxes and sometimes eccentric imagery,
sian tongue” by the great fifteenth-century poet Ja¯m¯ı of
do not mention the name of the beloved but allude to it with
frequent mention of the sun, which became Ru¯m¯ı’s favorite
LIFE. Muh:ammad Jala¯l al-D¯ın was born in Balkh, now Af-
symbol to express the beautiful and destructive but always
ghanistan; the Afghans therefore prefer to call him “Balkh¯ı,”
transforming power of love. In addition to classical Persian,
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

he sometimes used the Turkish or Greek vernacular as it was
1262, when H:usa¯m al-D¯ın was designated as Ru¯m¯ı’s spiri-
spoken in Konya.
tual successor (khal¯ıfah), and continued almost to the mas-
ter’s death on December 17, 1273. His death was lamented
When news reached Konya that Shams al-D¯ın had been
not only by the Muslims but also by the numerous Chris-
seen in Damascus, Mawla¯na¯’s elder son, Sult:a¯n Walad, trav-
tians and Jews of Konya, for he had friendly relations with
eled there and succeeded in bringing his father’s friend back.
all of them (and his verse at times shows a remarkable aware-
As Sult:a¯n Walad says in his poetical account of his father’s
ness of Christian thought and ritual).
life, “They fell at each other’s feet, and no one knew who was
the lover and who the beloved.” This time, Shams stayed in
H:usa¯m al-D¯ın, his first successor, died in 1284; then
Mawla¯na¯’s home, married to one of the young women there,
Sult:a¯n Walad, the obedient son, assumed the leadership of
and the intense spiritual conversation between the two mys-
the disciples and shaped them into a S:u¯f¯ı fraternity proper.
tics continued. Again jealousy built up, and Shams disap-
He institutionalized the mystical dance, sama¯ E, in the form
peared in December 1248. It seems certain that he was assas-
that has remained current through the centuries. By the time
sinated with the connivance of Mawla¯na¯’s younger son.
he died in 1312, the Mevlevi order (called Whirling Dervish-
Ru¯m¯ı knew what had happened but refused to believe it; his
es in the West) was firmly established and continued to exert
poetry expressed the certitude that “the sun cannot die,” and
great influence on Turkish culture, particularly music and
he even went to Syria to seek the lost friend. But eventually
poetry. The order was abolished, like all mystical fraternities,
he “found him in himself, radiant as the moon,” as Sult:a¯n
in 1925 by Kemal Atatürk; but since 1954 the anniversary
Walad says, and most of his lyrical poetry came to be written
of Ru¯m¯ı’s death is again being celebrated in Konya, and the
in the name of Shams al-D¯ın.
performers of the sama¯ E have toured Western countries
Friends and disciples. After reaching complete annihi-
under the label of a “tourist attraction.”
lation (fana¯ D) in Shams, who had claimed to have attained
WORKS. Mawla¯na¯’s writings can be divided into two distinct
the stage of being “the Beloved” and who appeared as the
parts: the lyrical poetry that was born out of his encounter
true interpreter of the secrets of the Prophet, Mawla¯na¯ found
with Shams and is collected in the more than thirty-six thou-
spiritual peace in his friendship with S:ala¯h: al-D¯ın, an illiter-
sand verses of the so-called D¯ıva¯ni Shams-i Tabr¯ız, and the
ate goldsmith with whom he had long-standing relations
didactic Mathnav¯ı-yi ma Enav¯ı with about twenty-six thou-
through his own spiritual teacher, Burha¯n al-D¯ın. S:ala¯h:
sand verses, written in a simple meter that had already been
al-D¯ın became, as it were, Ru¯m¯ı’s mirror; in his pure sim-
used for similar purposes by EAt:t:ar. Mawla¯na¯’s “table talks”
plicity he understood the friend without questioning. To ce-
have been collected under the title F¯ıhi ma¯ f¯ıhi; these prose
ment the relationship, Mawla¯na¯ married Sult:a¯n Walad to
pieces sometimes supplement the poetry, since the same sto-
S:ala¯h: al-D¯ın’s daughter, and his letters to his beloved daugh-
ries are used at times in both works. More than a hundred
ter-in-law are beautiful proofs of his humanity.
letters, written to dignitaries and family members, have also
survived; they show that Mawla¯na¯ was also practically-
The number of disciples that gathered around Ru¯m¯ı
minded and looked well after those who entrusted them-
grew steadily. They came from different layers of society, for
selves to him.
he was a friend of some of the powerful ministers who, for
all practical purposes, ruled the country; but there were also
D¯ıva¯n-i Shams. The D¯ıva¯n is a remarkable piece of lit-
greengrocers and craftsmen among them. A number of
erature in that it translates the author’s ecstatic experiences
women belonged to his circle, some of whom arranged musi-
directly into poetry. The form is the traditional ghazal with
cal sessions for him in their homes. Outstanding in piety and
its monorhyme. The rhythm is strong, and often the verses
obedience among his disciples was the youthful H:usa¯m
invite scanning by stress rather than by the rules of quantita-
al-D¯ın Cheleb¯ı, who now became Ru¯m¯ı’s third source of in-
tive classical Persian prosody, although Ru¯m¯ı uses the tradi-
tional meters most skillfully. He is also a master of rhetorical
plays, puns, and unexpected ambiguities, and his allusions
A poem dated November 1256 reveals the moment
show that he had mastered Arabic and Persian classical litera-
when H:usa¯m al-D¯ın first assumed his new role. About that
tures and history as well as religious writings completely. In
time, he had asked the master to compose a mystical
some poems one can almost follow the flow of inspiration:
mathnav¯ı for the benefit of his students so that they would
Beginning from a seemingly trivial event, such as a strange
no longer need to go back to the epics of Sana¯D¯ı and EAt:t:ar.
sight in the street, the mystic is carried away by the music
Ru¯m¯ı began by reciting the famous “Song of the Reed,” the
of the words and the strength of his rapture until, at least in
eighteen introductory verses of the Mathnav¯ı, which express
some longish poems, the inspiration tapers off even though
the soul’s longing for home, and from that time H:usa¯m
the rhyme continues to carry him through some more (not
al-D¯ın wrote down whatever inspirational teaching came
too good) verses.
from the master. The composition of the Mathnav¯ı was in-
terrupted in 1258 when S:ala¯h: al-D¯ın died after a protracted
Mathnav¯ı. As the D¯ıva¯n was largely born out of an ec-
illness and H:usa¯m al-D¯ın lost his wife; the poems attributed
static experience that was expressed in unusual and extremely
to the next four years are usually didactic in character though
rich imagery, it is difficult to analyze. The Mathnav¯ı is some-
lyrical in form. The dictation of the Mathnav¯ı resumed in
what more accessible, and it has been a source for mystical
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

instruction ever since it was written. For the Western reader,
ingenious systematization. To explain everything in the
the book is still not easy to understand, for stories grow out
Mathnav¯ı in the light of wah:dat al-wuju¯d, “unity of being,”
of stories to lead to a mystical adage or a highly lyrical pas-
as systematized by Ibn al-EArab¯ı, would be wrong. Of course,
sage, and after long digressions the poet may return to the
Ru¯m¯ı was deeply convinced, as is every true Muslim, that
original anecdote only to be carried away by a verbal associa-
the multiplicity of phenomena is a veil before the absolute
tion or, as we may surmise, by the interruption of a listener
Divine Unity: God’s creative command, “Kun!” (“Be!”),
who set him on a different train of thought. The Mathnav¯ı
with its two letters (kn), is like a two-colored rope that makes
is a storehouse not only of S:u¯f¯ı lore but also of folklore, prov-
people forget the unity of God who created it. The end of
erbs, and sometimes very crude, even obscene stories that,
the ascending ladder of manifestations through which the
again, turn into surprising symbols of spiritual experiences.
creatures have to pass in their constant attempt to return to
The book contains so little technical terminology of the S:u¯f¯ıs
their beginning (symbolized by the reed bed out of which the
and so few theoretical discussions of “stages,” “states,” and
complaining flute was once cut) lies in Eadam, “positive
so forth that some listeners objected to the master’s simple
nothingness,” the divine essence that is absolutely hidden
“storytelling,” as becomes evident from scattered remarks in
and beyond any qualifications. But Ru¯m¯ı’s experience of
the Mathnav¯ı itself.
unity is not based on mere speculations of a gnostic approach
to life; rather, it develops out of the experience of love, for
Content. The subject of Mawla¯na¯’s work is always love,
the lover believes that everything he sees, hears, or feels mere-
the true moving power in life. Those verses in the D¯ıva¯n that
ly points to the one Beloved with whom he experiences an
can be assigned with some certainty to the early years (c.
ever-growing proximity until his own “I” has been burned
1245–1250) use especially strong images to describe the
away in the fire of separation, and he feels that only the
mystery of love, the encounter between lover and beloved,
Friend exists, who has taught him that “there is no room for
the secrets of seeking and finding, of happiness in despair.
two I’s in the house.”
They carry the reader away even though the logical sequence
is not always very clear. Love is personified under different
This loving relationship is also expressed in prayer.
guises—Ru¯m¯ı sees it as a police officer who enacts confisca-
Among all Muslim mystics, Ru¯m¯ı has expressed the mystery
tion of humanity’s goods or as a carpenter who builds a lad-
of prayer most eloquently: Prayer is the language of the soul,
der to heaven, as a ragpicker who carries away everything old
and the poor shepherd’s prayer in which he offers his beloved
from the house of the heart, or as a loving mother, as a drag-
God “to sweep his little room, to comb his hair, to pick his
on or a unicorn, as an ocean of fire or a white falcon, to men-
lice, and to bring him a little bit of milk” is more acceptable
tion only a few of the images of this strongest power of life.
to God than learned words uttered without feeling or with
God’s preeternal address to the not-yet-created souls, “Alastu
pride, for it is the expression of true love. More importantly,
bi-rabbikum” (“Am I not your Lord?” QurDa¯n 7:171), is in-
prayer is a gift of God: The man who called “God” ever so
terpreted as the first music, which caused creation to dance
long and was finally seduced by Satan to refrain from calling
out of not-being and to unfold in flowers, trees, and stars.
is informed by God himself that “in every ‘O God’ of yours
Everything created participates in the eternal dance, of which
there are a hundred ‘Here am I’ of mine.” Without divine
the Mevlevi ritual is only a “branch.” In this ritual, the true
grace, people would not be able to pray—how could a rose
mystery of love, namely “to die before dying,” of sacrificing
grow out of mere dust?
oneself in order to acquire a new spiritual life, is symbolized
It was out of this life of constant prayer that Mawla¯na¯
by the dervishes casting off their black gowns to emerge in
was able to teach and to inspire later generations. But one
their white dancing dresses, symbols of the luminous “body
must not forget that he was well aware of this world, even
of resurrection.” For the idea of suffering and dying for the
though he considered it “like the dream of a sleeping per-
sake of transformation permeates all of Ru¯m¯ı’s work, and he
son.” Yet, the actions that occur in this dreaming life will be
expresses it in ever-new images: not only the moth that casts
interpreted in the “morning light of eternity,” and Mawla¯na¯
itself into the candle, or the snow that melts when the sun
never tired of teaching his disciples that, as the Prophet had
enters the sign of Aries, but even the chickpeas that are boiled
stated, “this world is the seedbed of the other world,” for
in order to be eaten, and thus to reach a higher level of exis-
each action—rather, each thought—brings its fruits for spiri-
tence in becoming part of the human body, speak of this
tual development. Death, therefore, is the true mirror that
mystery of transformation, as does the image of the treasure
will show everyone his real face.
that can only be found in ruins; for the heart must be broken
in order to find in itself the “hidden treasure,” which is God.
This awareness of the world makes Ru¯m¯ı’s poetry espe-
cially powerful. There is nothing abstract in his verse, and
Most interpreters, including the leading European ex-
he does not shun to mention the lowliest manifestations of
pert, Reynold A. Nicholson, have understood Ru¯m¯ı’s work
life, since for him everything turns into a symbol of some
almost exclusively in the light of Ibn al-EArab¯ı’s theosophy.
higher reality. Spring is the time of resurrection, when the
Although on friendly terms with Ibn al-EArab¯ı’s stepson and
frozen material world suddenly becomes a paradise thanks
foremost interpreter, S:adr al-D¯ın Qunaw¯ı, Mawla¯na¯ was
to the thunder’s “trumpet of Isra¯f¯ıl,” and the trees, donning
not fond of the “great master’s” theoretical approach and his
green paradisical garments, dance in the spring breeze of eter-
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

nal love. Animals and plants, the arts and crafts of the citizens
of Konya (sewing, weaving, calligraphy, pottery, and the
The most important Ru¯m¯ı scholarship in the West has been car-
like), and the skills of gypsy rope dancers inspired him as
ried out by Reynold A. Nicholson, whose Selected Poems from
much as the legends of the S:u¯f¯ı saints of yore, or the tradi-
the D¯ıva¯n-i Shams-i Tabriz (1898; reprint, Cambridge,
tions of the Prophet. Allusions to and quotations from the
1952) is the first major study of the D¯ıva¯n with useful notes,
even though the tendency toward a Neoplatonic interpreta-
QurDa¯n form the warp and woof of his work. Just as the sun,
tion is somewhat too strong. Nicholson edited and translated
according to Eastern folklore, is able to transform pebbles
The Mathnawi of Jalalu Dddin Ru¯m¯ı (London, 1925–1940) in
into rubies, so too Ru¯m¯ı, touched by the “Sun of Tabr¯ız,”
six volumes with two additional volumes of a most welcome
who was for him the locus of manifestation of the divine sun
of love, was able to transform everything into a poetical sym-
The D¯ıva¯n, which has been published often in the East, was criti-
bol. It goes without saying that not all his verse is on the same
cally edited in ten volumes by BadiE al-Zaman Furuzanfar
level, but the spirit is the same everywhere. Even though
(1957; reprint, Tehran, 1977). Fihi ma fihi, Mawla¯na¯’s prose
Ru¯m¯ı, in a moment of anger, claimed that he thoroughly
work, is likewise available in several Eastern editions and in
disliked poetry, he knew that he was forced by the mystical
a translation by A. J. Arberry as Discourses of Ru¯m¯ı (London,
1961). Arberry has published other translations of Ru¯m¯ı’s
work, including Tales from the Masnavi (London, 1961) and
I think of rhymes, but my Beloved says: “Don’t think
Mystical Poems of Ru¯m¯ı (Chicago, 1968, selections 1–200;
of anything but of my face!”
Boulder, 1975, selections 201–400). Earlier translations of
parts of the Mathnav¯ı by James W. Redhouse, The Mesnevi
The allusions to philosophical problems in some of the later
(London, 1881), and E. H. Whinfield, Masnavi i ma Dnavi
lyrics, and especially in the fourth book of the Mathnav¯ı,
(1887; reprint, London, 1973), may be used for reference.
show that during the mid-1260s Ru¯m¯ı developed some in-
Afzal Iqbal’s The Life and Thought of Mohammad Jala¯lud-D¯ın
terest in more theoretical aspects of Sufism, but this period
Ru¯m¯ı (Lahore, 1956), enlarged in later editions, provides an
apparently did not last long.
introduction to Ru¯m¯ı’s life and work, as does William Chitt-
ick’s excellent book The Sufi Path of Love (Albany, N.Y.,
Mawla¯na¯’s life can be seen as the ideal model of the mys-
1983). Most valuable are the studies of the Turkish scholar
tic’s progress: After the experience of the love of Shams,
Abdülbâki Gölpinarli, who has not only written a fine biog-
which, like a high-rising flame, burned him to complete an-
raphy of Ru¯m¯ı, Mevlânâ Celâlettin, hayati, felsefesi, eserlerin-
nihilation, there followed a period of comparative quietude
den seçmeleri (Istanbul, 1952), and a history of the Mevlevi
order, Mevlânâ’dan sonra Mevelivïlik (Istanbul, 1953), but
in his relationship with the goldsmith, a time of finding his
has also translated the D¯ıva¯n (Divan-i kebir, 7 vols., Istan-
transformed self. Finally, in the descending semicircle of his
bul, 1957–1960) and the letters (Mevlânâ Dnin mektuplari, Is-
life, he returned to the world and its creatures by teaching
tanbul, 1963) into Turkish. For a general survey, with em-
H:usa¯m al-D¯ın the mysteries he had experienced through the
phasis on the poetical aspects of Ru¯m¯ı’s work, see my study
medium of the Mathnav¯ı. This sequence explains the stylistic
The Triumphal Sun (London and The Hague, 1978), with
differences between the D¯ıva¯n and the Mathnav¯ı; it also ex-
extensive bibliography.
plains why the Mathnav¯ı became the centerpiece of mystical
One of the oldest biographies of Mawla¯na¯, his friends, and his
education wherever Persian was understood, from Ottoman
family, Shams al-D¯ın Ah:mad Afla¯k¯ı’s two-volume Mana¯qib
Turkey to the borders of Bengal.
al- Ea¯rifin, was published in the Persian original by Tahsin
Yazici (Ankara, 1959–1961) and translated by him into
LEGACY. In the East, the Mathnav¯ı has been translated into
Turkish (Âriflerin menkibeleri, Ankara, 1964). The French
many languages, and hundreds of commentaries have been
version by Clément Huart, Les saints des derviches tourneurs
composed; it has been a source of inspiration for mystics and
(Paris, 1918–1922), is not very reliable.
kings alike. In the West, Ru¯m¯ı’s work was studied from
There is a considerable literature on Ru¯m¯ı, and (partly very free)
about 1800 onward and inspired poets such as Rückert in
translations of his poems, in German, the latest ones being
Germany, whose free adaptations of some ghazals are still the
Aus dem Diwan (Stuttgart, 1963) and Rumi: Ich bin Wind
best introduction to Ru¯m¯ı’s style and thought. Through
und du bist Feuer (Cologne, 1982) by me and Licht und Rei-
(Bern, 1974) by J. Christoph Bürgel. Important for the
Rückert, Hegel learned of “the excellent Ru¯m¯ı,” in whom
serious scholar are Helmut Ritter’s numerous studies, includ-
he saw a distant forerunner of his own thought. Numerous
ing “Philologika XI: Maula¯na¯ G
˘ ala¯ladd¯ın Ru¯m¯ı und sein
partial translations of Mawla¯na¯’s lyrics exist, but to do full
Kreis,” Der Islam 26 (1942): 116–158, 221–249, and
justice to him is next to impossible because of the multicol-
“Neuere Literatur über Maula¯na¯ Cala¯ludd¯ın Ru¯m¯ı und
ored imagery of his verse, and the innumerable allusions
seinen Orden,” Oriens 13–14 (1960–1961).
would require a running commentary. Simple prose transla-
tions, again, cannot convey the delight that the reader feels
when carried away by the rhythmical flow of these poems,
which mark the high point of mystical verse in Islam.
RUNES [FIRST EDITION]. The modern English
SEE ALSO Sufism.
word rune (Dan., rune; Swed., runa; Icel. pl., rúnar; Ger.,
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

Rune) signifies any character in the ancient Germanic, and
“[I, Go-]dagastiz painted the rune” (i.e., carved the inscrip-
especially Scandinavian, alphabet. The word is seemingly de-
tion). The longest inscription (720 runes) is that of Rök,
rived from a hypothetical Germanic form, *runo-, meaning
which is partly versified and is filled with mythological and
“secret” (cf. modern Ger. raunen, “whisper”; Icel. ry´na,
semihistorical allusions. The westernmost, and northern-
“speak confidentially”; Goth. rûna, “secret”; AS rún, “rune,
most, inscription is the fourteenth-century carving from
secret whispering”). The Finnish word runo, meaning
Kingiktorsoaq, Greenland, far above the Arctic circle.
“song,” is an early borrowing from Germanic.
Of five thousand known inscriptions, more than three
Comprising the earliest known form of writing in any
thousand are Swedish, most of which were carved before
Germanic tongue, runic inscriptions can be documented for
1100. Lacking a cursive form and hence unhandy for manu-
as early as 200 CE. What is known of cultural, and especially
script use, and imperiled after 1100 by the spread of Latin
linguistic, development in general leads to the supposition
letters, the runes nevertheless persisted, especially in Sweden,
that runes must have been in existence for some generations
for several centuries. Ultimately, they fell into disuse save as
by the time the earliest preserved inscriptions were carved.
an occasional pastime or for such limited purposes as mark-
Numerous theories concern the date of their creation, the
ing the calendar or, recapitulating their earliest use, indicat-
tribal identity of their inventors, and the models by which
ing ownership. In Sweden a form of runic shorthand enjoyed
they were inspired. Much discussed also is the original pur-
a limited vogue.
pose or purposes of the runes: were they invented and used
Conflicting theories derive the runes, via some early
initially to serve religious (and magical) ends or were they
Germanic-speaking tribe, from the Greek alphabet, the
primarily conceived of as a mode of communication? It is at-
Roman alphabet, or from North Italic (Etruscan); even Celt-
tested that during the period of their employment—for a
ic influence has been posited. Suggested intermediaries are
millennium and longer—they served both these purposes.
the Goths around the Black Sea and the Marcomanni, who
The geographical distribution of the earliest brief in-
were resident in Bohemia until their destruction at Vercellae
scriptions points strongly to early Denmark as the primary
in 18 CE. But the Gothic alphabet of Bishop Ulfilas (fourth
center for the first important use of runes. From Denmark
century) itself shows runic influence, and the Marcomanni
the loci of early Germanic inscriptions radiate outward to
or their fellow Germans would simply have adopted the
southern Norway and Sweden, to northern Germany, Po-
Latin alphabet entirely. The greatest number of similarities
land (Rozwadów), and the Ukraine (Kowel), and ultimately
is between runic and Latin, and that accords well with the
to Hungary (Szabadbattyán) and Romania (Pietroassa).
intense early relations between Rome and (pre-Danish) Jut-
Later the runes spread to England, undergoing in time char-
land, “the long-time heartland of Germania” (Haugen,
acteristic modifications and additions and eventually awak-
ening the interest of monks and bishops.
Some early rune masters, however, had no doubt of the
The geographical evidence for a centralized origin of the
origin of the runes. It is explicitly stated on the Noleby Stone
runes is reinforced by a linguistic consideration. From the
(Sweden, 450 CE), on the Sparlösa Stone (Sweden, 800), and
outset, as evidenced by all known examples, there was no fal-
in the Old Norse Hávamál (st. 80; cf. ss. 138–144) that the
tering or sign of experimentation: whether created by an in-
runes derived from the gods. Whether or not the runes were
dividual genius or by a group, the runes were made full-
originally created for religio-magical purposes, they were cer-
blown, not only in their graphic and phonetic values but in
tainly no less adaptable to such use than were the classical
their unique order and arrangement. Made up of twenty-
alphabets that preceded and coexisted with them. Early in-
four characters divided into three groups of eight, the runic
scriptions repeatedly contain the word alu, meaning “protec-
“alphabet” is now known, after its first six characters, as the
tion, magic, taboo”; on the Stone of Nordhuglo (Norway,
futhark. During the Viking age, commencing around 800,
425) the rune master proudly refers to himself as the gudija
and through a second act of decisive linguistic creativeness,
(priest) “protected against magic.”
the Scandinavian futhark was shortened to sixteen characters,
In time, Christian notions succeeded traditional Ger-
still arranged in three groups. This took place first in Den-
manic conceptions. Inscriptions in the younger futhark,
mark, then in Norway and Sweden.
often carved within traditional serpentine patterns, came to
The earliest inscriptions, from 200 CE or so, appear on
be decorated with Christian crosses as well; the serpents were
small objects such as spearheads, buckles, amulets, and
retained partly out of tradition and convenience as line
horns, apparently as marks of ownership. Their angular
markers and occasionally out of residual resentment or defi-
shape indicates the practice of carving onto wooden tablets.
ance of the “new faith.” But as Christianity gained sway in
By the fourth century they were being chiseled into stone,
the north, runic incantations, maledictions, and appeals to
particularly in Norway where rocks are plentiful. With that
the Germanic gods yielded to such phrases as “So-and-so
step, the runes acquired additional scope and permanence,
made this thing (e.g., built this bridge) for his soul.” Late in-
chiefly as memorial inscriptions, which frequently have his-
scriptions are sometimes mixed with Latin phrases; the ham-
torical value of note. The oldest of this new type, dating from
mer of Þórr (Thor) is paired with a Christian cross; the Vir-
350–400, is the brief inscription of Einang, Norway, reading
gin Mary is mentioned.
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

In the British Isles runes were adroitly drawn into the
is now believed to be from c. 600 CE. Second, the word alu,
service of the church. One of the finest examples of this is
found frequently in runic inscriptions from the third to the
the splendid Ruthwell Cross (Dumfriesshire, c. 800),
eighth centuries, is no longer interpreted as “amulet” (cf.
adorned with evangelical pictures and containing portions of
Gothic alhs, “temple”). Instead, a connection with Hethitic
The Dream of the Rood. The tenth-century Jelling Stone (No.
alwanzahh (to charm) and Greek alúein (to be beside oneself)
2), that huge royal Danish monument erected by King Ha-
suggests a meaning of “ecstasy” or “magic.” Third, the con-
rald Bluetooth in honor of his parents and himself, is aggres-
tinued use in the Christian era of serpentine patterns to con-
sively Christian; on it, Harald claims credit for having chris-
tain a series of runes is now considered to be due to tradition
tianized the Danes. Many rune stones have been transported
rather than as signalling pagan defiance. Finally, it should be
to churchyards and even immured in church walls, as a rule
pointed out that the Ruthwell Cross inscription (now dated
with the inscribed face obscured, a practice that points rather
c. 627–725 CE) quotes an Old English poem that in the mid-
to economic than to religious considerations.
ninth century was reworked into another Old English poem
In the sixteenth century the study of runes became a
called The Dream of the Rood.
learned preoccupation in Sweden, whence it spread to Den-
Early scholarship on runes assumed that this system of
mark, and by the nineteenth century the subject was being
writing was essentially magical, and despite considerable
pursued to some effect in Germany and Great Britain. In the
skepticism about that view, many early inscriptions (second–
twentieth century much energy has been devoted to such
eighth centuries CE) do appear magical in nature. But wheth-
topics as runic cryptography, speculative theories of Ger-
er magical, religious, or secular, runic inscriptions provide
manic uniqueness, and efforts to derive the runes from early
much contemporary evidence regarding Germanic pagan-
conceptual signs (Begriffszeichen). Little of this has borne
ism. The Glavendrup (c. 900–925 CE) and Snoldelev (early
fruit, but the systematic study of runology during the past
ninth century) inscriptions on stone monuments refer to
hundred years or so has brought forth works of great
priests. Their formula “Þórr consecrate these runes” attests
to a belief in this god, and the monuments themselves show
the importance of commemoration of the dead. The Rök in-
scription (early ninth century) contains riddling allusions to
The important task of photographing, systematizing, and inter-
preting the great corpus of inscriptions is going forward in
obscure legends. The rune-master raised the stone in memo-
several countries. Notable names in modern runological re-
ry of his dead son, but evidently the father was a priest, and
search are, for Denmark, Ludvig Wimmer, Lis Jacobsen,
the stone appears to have a second purpose of testing a per-
Erik Moltke, and Karl-Martin Nielsen; for Iceland, (the
son’s knowledge of ancient lore. Runes also appear on cult
Dane) Anders Baeksted; for Norway, Sophus Bugge, Magnus
objects such as bracteates (medal-like gold jewelry) and
Olsen, Carl J. S. Marstrander, and Aslak Liesto⁄l; for Sweden,
drinking horns. An inscription on a secular item of jewelry,
Sven Söderberg, Erik Brate, Otto von Friesen, Elias Wessén,
the south German “Nordendorf fibula” (c. 600–650 CE), re-
Elisabeth Svärdström, and Sven B. F. Jansson; for Finland,
fers to Wodan and Wigiþonar (Hallowing-Thor), making it
Magnus Hammarström; for Germany, Wilhelm Krause,
one of the few sources that record the south Germanic belief
Helmut Arntz, Hans Zeiss, and Hertha Marquardt; and for
in the Germanic pantheon.
Great Britain, R. W. V. Elliott and R. I. Page. Excellent ori-
entations and bibliographies can be found in the following
Another aspect of Germanic paganism was the belief in
the magical properties of runes. Each rune represented not
Derolez, R. Runica Manuscripta: The English Tradition. Ghent,
only a sound but also the word that was its name. For exam-
ple, the f-rune was named (cattle, or wealth), and the t-
Düwel, Klaus. Runenkunde. Stuttgart, 1968.
rune was named for Ty´r, god of victory, and was often carved
Elliott, R. W. V. Runes: An Introduction. New York, 1959.
on weapons. A rune could be repeated in an inscription to
Haugen, Einar. The Scandinavian Languages. Cambridge, Mass.,
emphasize its concepts, as could magical words. Migration
Age bracteates were inscribed with the words laukaR laukaR
(leek, leek, leek) to invoke the particularly effective
Jansson, Sven B. F. The Runes of Sweden. Stockholm, 1962.
medicinal and magical powers of this plant. The healing
Musset, Lucien. Introduction à la runologie. Paris, 1965.
power of runes is explained in the eddic poem Sigrdrífumál,
Page, R. I. An Introduction to English Runes. London and New
and another eddic poem calls runes the antidote for misfor-
York, 1973.
tune (Hávamál, sts. 138–141). The þ-rune was sometimes
called þurs (giant) and could be used in black magic; the
eddic poem Skírnismál (st. 6) says that carving it three times
will bring disgrace, madness, and restlessness to its victim.
Yet another eddic poem (Rígsþula, st. 41) includes runic lore
among the cultural gifts divinely transmitted to the nobility,
The first edition’s article on “Runes” has held up well, al-
along with the aristocratic pastimes of swimming and the
though some updates are necessary. First, the Noleby stone
chess-like game of “tables.”
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

After the demise of paganism, runes were widely used
Herteig, Asbjo⁄rn, ed. The Bryggen Papers. Supplementary Series 2.
in Christian contexts. On the Isle of Man, which developed
Oslo, 1988.
Christianity from Irish sources but was later settled by Scan-
Lönnroth, Lars. “The Riddles of the Rök-Stone: A Structural Ap-
dinavians, Celtic high crosses were carved with runic inscrip-
proach.” Arkiv för Nordisk Filologi 92 (1977): 1–57.
tions and dedications like those on continental Scandinavian
Page, R. I. Runes. Reading the Past 4. London and Berkeley,
monuments. That Manx Scandinavians assimilated the
Calif., 1987.
Cross as a warrior standard and implement of power—akin
to the weapons of the pagan gods—is seen from the tenth-
Page, R. I. Runes and Runic Inscriptions: Collected Essays on Anglo-
century slate cross fragment at Kirk Andreas. On the right
Saxon and Viking Runes. Woodbridge, U.K., 1995.
side of the cross, Óðinn with his spear and raven treads on
the jaw of a wolf; on the left, Jesus or a saint, armed with
cross and book, treads on a serpent, flanked by a fish (cf. Gen.
3:15). To either side of the upper member of the cross are
runic inscriptions. The Danish Jelling Stone (c. 965–987
CE), raised by a king to commemorate his role in the conver-
grand prince of Kiev (960–1015) was the first Christian ruler
sion of Denmark, displays a simple cross surrounded by in-
of Russia. Having sent ambassadors to investigate the reli-
terlace and a serpentine runic inscription. A fashion for
gions of his day, Vladimir was persuaded to embrace Greek
somewhat similar memorials left thousands of eleventh-
Christianity when, according to the Russian Primary Chroni-
century rune stones in Sweden, where memorial stones with
cle, his envoys reported that at the liturgy in Constantinople
runic inscriptions continued to be erected until around
they did not know whether they were in heaven or on earth.
1100. The custom died out not due to the introduction of
Vladimir’s marriage to the Byzantine princess Anna and his
Christianity per se (many of the later stones are definitely
economic dealings with the empire also played a significant
Christian), but perhaps due to the new custom of burying
part in his decision to align his principality with the imperial
the dead in churchyards. Pieces of wood with runic inscrip-
Church of Byzantium. Vladimir was baptized in 988.
tions of mythological poetry, found in the Bryggen section
KIEVAN CHRISTIANITY. After the baptism of the Kievan peo-
of Bergen, Norway, show that this medium as well as this
ples by prince Vladimir, Orthodox Christianity flourished in
material had an enduring life in an Christian, urban, non-
the lands of Rus’. Before the Tatar devastations in the thir-
clerical environment as late as the twelfth to fourteenth cen-
teenth century, Kiev was a cosmopolitan city with commer-
turies. Runes in Bergen could be used for magical pur-
cial and cultural ties with Europe and the East. Its spiritual
poses—in love charms, for example, or as something like a
center was the Kievan Monastery of the Caves founded by
curse (“Ími heated the stone so that the hearth would smoke!
Anthony of Kiev (d. 1072) and Theodosius (d. 1074). The
Never shall the food be cooked! Out with heat! In with cold!
monastery provided the first literary and historical as well as
Ími heated the stone!”)—but usually they had secular pur-
religious writings in the Russian lands; for centuries it served
poses, acting as ownership tags for merchandise, accounting
as the theological and spiritual center of Russian church life.
records, packing slips, and other kinds of ordinary, everyday
In the early years of Christian Kiev, several remarkable
communication. The knowledge of runic writing was evi-
churches were constructed, such as the Cathedral of Holy
dently widespread from the eleventh century on, and some
Wisdom (Hagia Sophia, 1037); these churches conformed
10 percent of all medieval (c. 1050–1500) runic inscriptions
to Byzantine patterns of architecture, iconography, and mo-
are in Latin and have religious content. Some are prayers;
saic decoration. The leader of church life was the bishop of
others are charms. Churches and ecclesiastical furniture such
Kiev, often a Greek by nationality, who had the title metro-
as baptismal fonts, bells, and censers were inscribed with
The city-republics of Novgorod and Pskov to the north
also developed vibrant Christian societies after their conver-
EE ALSO Eddas; Germanic Religion, overview article.
sions, boasting wonderful architectural and iconographic
achievements that early began to show independence and
originality. Spared attacks by the Tatars, these areas were
Blandade runstudier. Runrön: Runologiska bidrag utgivna av Ins-
threatened by crusading Christians from the West who de-
titutionen för nordiska spra˚k vid Uppsala universitet. 2 vols.
sired to enforce Latin Christianity in the region. Grand
Uppsala, Sweden, 1992 and 1997.
Prince Aleksandr Nevskiy (d. 1263) led the Russians in their
DuBois, Thomas A. Nordic Religions in the Viking Age. Philadel-
defeat of the invading Swedes (1240) and the Teutonic
phia, 1999.
Knights (1242), thus preserving the Orthodox faith. He also
Düwel, Klaus. Runenkunde. 2d ed. Stuttgart, Germany, 1983.
managed to maintain peace with the Tatars through skillful
diplomacy accomplished by extensive visits to the khans, to
Düwel, Klaus, ed. Runeninschriften als Quellen interdisziplinärer
whom he paid homage and tribute.
Forschung: Abhandlungen des Vierten Internationalen Sympo-
siums über Runen und Runeninschriften in Göttingen vom

MUSCOVITE CHRISTIANITY. After the devastation of Kiev by
4.–9. August 1995. Berlin, 1998.
the Tatars in 1240, the center of Russian political and eccle-
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

siastical life shifted to Moscow. The Muscovite princes suc-
During the time of the westernization of Russia under
ceeded in bringing the rival cities of the region into submis-
Peter the Great and subsequent czars, the Russian Church
sion, and with the final defeat of the Tatars by Grand Prince
became the virtual captive of the state. The patriarchate was
Dmitri Donskoi in 1380, their city reigned supreme among
abolished and replaced by the Holy Synod, consisting of
the Russians. The ascendancy of Moscow could not have oc-
bishops, presbyters, and laypeople. Church councils were
curred without the efforts of church leaders, particularly the
forbidden, ecclesiastical properties were appropriated and
metropolitans, such as Alexis (d. 1378), who for a time
secularized, and church schools began to teach in Latin. The
served as governing regent, and the abbot Sergiy of Radonezh
clergy were alienated from the people, particularly the intel-
(d. 1392).
lectuals, and the church structure was bureaucratized, with
the lay government official for ecclesiastical affairs, the Ober-
Sergiy is considered by many to be Russia’s greatest saint
procuror of the Holy Synod, at its head.
and the “builder” of the nation. A simple monk who became
famous for his ascetic labors and mystical gifts, he was ap-
LATINIZATION IN THE UKRAINE. From the end of the fif-
pointed abbot of the Saint Sergius Trinity Monastery, which
teenth century the church in the Kievan area, by now a part
he founded in the wilderness north of Moscow. The monas-
of the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom, was canonically attached
tery soon became the center of social and economic as well
to the patriarchate of Constantinople and not to Moscow.
as religious and spiritual life in the region. Its members and
In 1596 in Brest-Litovsk, the metropolitan of Kiev signed an
their disciples provided Russia over the centuries with hun-
act of union with the Church of Rome, a move opposed by
dreds of bishops, abbots, missionaries, thinkers, artists, and
some bishops and most leading laypeople. Great numbers of
secular leaders, many of whom were canonized saints of the
believers in the territories of these bishops became Uniates
church. One such figure was the monk-iconographer Andrei
at this time and, over the centuries, developed into strongly
Rublev (c. 1360–1430), whose painting of the Trinity in the
committed members of the Catholic Church. In the early
form of three angels who visited Abraham is among the great
twenty-first century the Ukrainian and Ruthenian Eastern
masterpieces of Russian art. Closed after the 1917 revolu-
Rite Churches remain staunchly anti-Russian and anti-
tion, the monastery was reopened after World War II; it at-
tracts thousands of pilgrims annually and houses the Mos-
The defense of Eastern Orthodoxy during this period
cow Theological Academy and Seminary.
was led by the Orthodox metropolitan of Kiev, Petr Moghila
THE IMPERIAL PERIOD. In the fifteenth century, with the fall
(d. 1647). Though violently anti-Catholic, Petr was himself
of Constantinople to the Turks (1453), the theory developed
trained in the West and became responsible for bringing
that Moscow was the “third Rome,” the last center of true
many Latin doctrines and liturgical practices into the Ortho-
Christianity on earth. Job, the metropolitan of Moscow, was
dox Church through his publications and the school he
elected patriarch. This election was confirmed by Jeremias
founded in Kiev, which influenced not only the whole Rus-
II of Constantinople in 1589, thus giving the Russian
sian Church but the entire Orthodox world. In addition to
Church a status of self-governance and honor equal to that
the theological school in Kiev, higher faculties of theological
of the ancient patriarchates of the Christian empire: Rome,
study specializing in preparing missionaries for the Eastern
Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The
regions were established in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and
patriarchate existed in Russia de facto until 1700, de jure
until 1721, when Peter the Great (1672–1725) issued the
RUSSIAN MISSIONARY ACTIVITY. In the eighteenth and nine-
Ecclesiastical Regulation, which created a synodical form of
teenth centuries the missionary efforts of the Russian Church
church government patterned after that of the Protestant
were extensive. The Scriptures and services of the church
Churches of Europe. The patriarchate was restored to the
were translated into many Siberian languages and Alaskan di-
Russian Church only in 1918, when the All-Russian Church
alects as the eastern regions of the empire were settled and
Council, the first such assembly allowed since before Peter’s
evangelized. Russian missionaries reached the Aleutian Is-
rule, elected Tikhon Belavin (d. 1925), a former archbishop
lands in Alaska in 1794, thus beginning the history of Rus-
of the North American mission, to the office.
sian Orthodoxy in the New World. The monk Herman
(d. 1830), a member of the original missionary party, was
In the seventeenth century Patriarch Nikon (d. 1681)
canonized a saint of the church in 1970 by both the Russian
attempted to reform the Russian Church according to the
Church and the Orthodox Church in America. The latter,
practices of the Church of Constantinople. He corrected the
formerly the Russian missionary diocese in North America,
liturgical service books and instituted Greek forms of ritual,
was recognized in the same year by the Russian Church as
such as the practice of making the sign of the cross with three
the fifteenth autocephalous (self-governing) Orthodox
fingers instead of two, as was the practice among the Rus-
Church in the world.
sians. Nikon’s reform was taken as an assault on the “third
Rome” theory because it radically questioned any special call-
Joining Herman in the Orthodox calendar of saints
ing of the Russian Church and nation. Its result was not only
were two other great missionaries. Innokentiy Veniaminov
the resignation of the unyielding patriarch but the schism of
(d. 1879) was a young married priest who traveled extensive-
great numbers of “old ritualists” from the established church.
ly through Siberia and North America, reaching as far as San
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

Francisco. He created several Alaskan alphabets, translated
The beginning of the twentieth century also saw a reviv-
many texts, wrote many books, and converted countless peo-
al of patristic studies and a recapturing of the authentic Or-
ple before becoming head of the Russian Church as metro-
thodox theological and liturgical tradition in the ecclesiasti-
politan of Moscow, which post he occupied until his death.
cal schools as well as a religious renaissance on the part of
Nikolai Kasatkin (d. 1912) was the first Orthodox archbish-
a significant number of Russian intellectuals, many of whom
op of Tokyo and the founder of the now autonomous Ortho-
either perished in Joseph Stalin’s prison camps, like Pavel
dox Church of Japan. In addition to contributing to the con-
Florenskiy (d. 1937), or who were exiled to the West.
version of thousands, he translated Scriptures and services
Among the latter group were the philosopher Nikolai
into Japanese and built the cathedral of Nikolai-Do in
Berdiaev (d. 1948) and the theologian Sergei Bulgakov
(d. 1944), who served as dean of the émigré Russian Ortho-
dox Theological Institute of Saint Serge in Paris. The insti-
tute educated scores of pastors and church workers and sent
CENTURIES. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries also
scholars, such as George Fedotov (d. 1951), Georges
saw a revival of traditional Orthodox ascetical and mystical
Florovsky (d. 1979), Alexander Schmemann (d. 1983), and
life, uninfluenced by the westernizing tendencies of the ec-
John Meyendorff (d. 1992), to Saint Vladimir’s Seminary in
clesiastical institutions. Paisiy Velichkovskiy (d. 1794)
New York.
brought the hesychast method of mystical prayer, rooted in
the invocation of the name of Jesus, into the Ukraine and
THE ERA OF PERSECUTIONS. When the Bolsheviks came to
Russia from Mount Athos, an important monastic center in
power in Russia in October 1917, one of the main points
northern Greece. He translated into Church Slavonic many
on their ideological program was the war against all manifes-
ancient texts, including the anthology of writings on the spir-
tations of religion. This battle turned into full-fledged geno-
itual life by the church fathers titled the Philokalia (Dobro-
cide in the 1920s and 1930s: the repressive wave of militant
toliubie). (Church Slavonic, the language created for the
atheism spared nobody—neither bishops, priests, monks,
Slavs by the Greek brothers Cyril and Methodius in the
nuns, nor laypeople. The bitter fate of persecuted clergy was
ninth century, is still used liturgically in the Russian
shared by their wives and their children, who were declared
Church.) Bishop Feofan Govorov (d. 1894) translated into
“children of the enemies of the people” and placed in special
modern Russian many of the same works, including several
boarding schools, where they were raised in an antireligious
contemporary Greek and Latin spiritual classics. Feofan also
spirit. People from all religions—Christians (Orthodox,
wrote many treatises on the spiritual life that continue to ex-
Catholics, Protestants), Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists—
ercise wide influence in the Orthodox Church. He accom-
suffered equally from the persecutions. All of this took place
plished this task after retiring as bishop and spending twenty-
while slogans of the struggle for freedom, equality, and fra-
five years as a monastic recluse. Another retired bishop can-
ternity, inherited from the French Revolution, were pro-
onized for his ascetic life and spiritual writings was Tikhon
of Zadonsk (d. 1783), who inspired the Russian novelist
Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881) to name after him a char-
The notion of freedom had a limited meaning when it
acter in The Possessed.
came to religion. The Stalinist constitution of 1929 allowed
the freedom to exercise a religious cult and to propagate athe-
During this same period there emerged in Russia a tra-
ism. It was therefore possible to promote only atheism, be-
dition of spiritual eldership (starchestvo), the most famous
cause the preaching of religion was officially forbidden. In
center of which was the hermitage of Optina, where such el-
practice mere membership in a church was seen as a threat
ders (startsy) as Leonid, Macarius, and Ambrose spent several
to the entire Soviet society and almost inevitably led to dis-
hours each day instructing and counseling people of all class-
missal from one’s job and the loss of social status. In many
es, including many philosophers, intellectuals, and statespeo-
cases, especially during the bloody 1920s and 1930s, to be
ple, among whom were Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910), Dos-
a believer meant risking one’s life and the lives of one’s loved
toevsky, Vladimir Soloviev (1853–1900), and Konstantine
Leontiev (1831–1891).
During the twenty years of revolutionary terror that
The most famous saint of the time, however, was an
began during Vladimir Lenin’s (1870–1924) time and con-
elder from the Sarov monastery, the priest-monk Serafim
tinued during the rule of Joseph Stalin (1879–1953), the
(d. 1833), whose teachings on the Christian life understood
church was almost totally annihilated. By 1939 all monaste-
as the “acquisition of the Holy Spirit” still have great influ-
ries and theological schools were closed, and tens of thou-
ence among the Orthodox. Ioann of Kronstadt (d. 1908), a
sands of churches were either blown up or shut down. Of
parish priest from the port town of Kronstadt near Saint Pe-
the more than 60,000 prerevolutionary churches, only about
tersburg, also was acclaimed at this time throughout the na-
a hundred remained open; of the more than 150 bishops
tion as an “all-Russian pastor.” He is glorified in the church
serving before the revolution only 4 remained free. The over-
as a man of prayer and preaching who called the people to
whelming majority of the clergy and monastics (whose num-
spiritual and sacramental renewal on the eve of the Russian
ber before the revolution exceeded 200,000) were either shot
revolution, which both he and Serafim had predicted.
to death or tortured in concentration camps.
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

The catastrophic course of combat at the beginning of
Leninist doctrines with accompanying antireligious propa-
World War II forced Stalin to mobilize all the national re-
ganda that was legally supported and officially enacted by the
sources for defense, including the Russian Orthodox Church
as the people’s moral force. Some churches were opened for
services, and some bishops and priests were released from
prisons. The Russian Church did not limit itself to giving
TURY. The situation changed drastically after the collapse of
the Soviet regime. In the 1990s millions of people returned
spiritual and moral support to the country in danger. It also
to their faith and were baptized, and thousands of churches,
rendered material aid by providing funds for all kinds of
hundreds of monasteries, and dozens of theological schools
things, including army uniforms. This process, which can be
were opened. The number of bishops more than doubled
described as a rapprochement between church and state in
and by 2004 was approximately 150, and the number of
a “patriotic union,” culminated in Stalin’s receiving Patriar-
priests and deacons and their parishes more than quadrupled
chal Locum Tenens Metropolitan Sergiy (Stragorodsky) and
and in 2004 stood at about 30,000. The growth statistics of
Metropolitans Alexy (Simansky) and Nikolay (Yarushevich)
monasteries and church educational institutions was particu-
at a meeting on September 4, 1943.
larly impressive: in 1988 there were eighteen monasteries in
From that historic moment a thaw began in relations
the jurisdiction of the Russian Church, and by 2004 there
between church and state. Later in September 1943 in Mos-
were over six hundred; and the number of theological schools
cow, with the permission of state authorities, a Bishops’
during this period grew from three to approximately one
Council convened and elected Metropolitan Sergiy (Strago-
rodsky) patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. His successor
was Metropolitan Alexy (Simansky), elected patriarch in
According to 2003 statistics, about 70 percent of Rus-
1945. During and after World War II some theological
sians think of themselves as belonging to the Russian Ortho-
schools and monasteries were reopened, and some churches
dox Church. The majority of believers in the Ukraine, Be-
were restored. The church, however, remained always under
larus, and Moldova belong to the Russian Church, and most
state control, and any attempts to spread its work outside its
Orthodox Christians in the Baltic (Estonia, Latvia, Lithua-
walls were met with strong rebuffs, including administrative
nia) and Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tadzhikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) count themselves
members of the Russian Church. The total number of faith-
The 1960s, when Nikita Khruschev (1894–1971) was
ful of the Russian Orthodox Church living in Russia, the
in power, brought a new wave of repressions, when thou-
above-mentioned countries, and elsewhere (particularly in
sands of churches throughout the Soviet Union were closed
western Europe) comprises over 150 million.
“for ideological reasons.” State control over the church affairs
continued under Leonid Brezhnev (1906–1982), when Pa-
This unprecedented quantitative growth in the 1990s
triarch Pimen (1971–1990) was the primate of the church.
was accompanied by radical changes in the church’s sociopo-
One of the leading hierarchs of that time was Metropolitan
litical situation. After more than seventy years the church
Nikodim of Leningrad (d. 1978), who invested great efforts
once again became an integral part of society in all the coun-
into the struggle for better understanding between the
treis of the former Soviet Union and was recognized as a
church and the state and greater independence of the former
highly authoritative spiritual and moral power. And after
from the latter.
many centuries the church acquired the right to define inde-
pendently its place in society and its relations with the state
Until the end of the 1980s it was impossible to confess
without any interference from secular authorities.
one’s faith openly and at the same time occupy any more or
less significant position in society. The entire activity of the
This change in the church’s status required from it tre-
church was under the strictest control of the authorities, the
mendous efforts in overcoming the “ghetto mentality” that
number of churches and clergy was severely regulated, and
had formed during the many years of forced isolation. Previ-
missionary, educational, and charitable work was forbidden.
ously clergy had associated only with their parishioners, but
now they had to confront a great number of people unfamil-
In the last years of the Soviet era the Russian Orthodox
iar with the church’s teaching and practices and whose
Church in the U.S.S.R. had the legal right to hold church
knowledge of religion was either rudimentary or nonexistent.
services in buildings authorized by the state for such pur-
Previously priests did not preach outside the walls of their
poses. A council of twenty laypeople was needed to petition
churches, but now they had opportunities to appear on tele-
for the use of a church. Because few churches and monaste-
vision, on radio, and in print. Previously society and the
ries were functioning at that time, church services were nor-
church had followed their own separate courses, but now the
mally crowded. The church had no right to teach, preach,
church was drawn into society’s discussions of the funda-
or pray outside of these buildings, because “religious propa-
mental questions of human existence.
ganda” was still expressly forbidden by Soviet law. Admission
to the three operating theological schools was strictly moni-
Ten years of intensive work in understanding and ana-
tored by the state. There were no church schools for children
lyzing the contemporary issues were crowned with the adop-
and laypeople, who received daily instruction in Marxist-
tion of a document titled The Bases of the Social Concept 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

the Russian Orthodox Church at the Bishops’ Council of
ests, such as peacemaking at the international, interethnic,
2000. The significance of this document is conditioned by
and civil levels, fostering mutual understanding and coopera-
the fact that it reflects the church’s position on questions in-
tion among peoples, nations, and states; concern for the
volving church-state relations and contemporary society in
moral state of society; spiritual, cultural, moral, and patriotic
general. The document is intended to serve as a spiritual and
education; works of mercy and charity and the development
moral guide for the entire Russian Orthodox Church—not
of joint social programs; the protection, restoration, and de-
just for the clergy but in no lesser way for the laity as well.
velopment of the historical and cultural legacy, including the
CHURCH AND STATE RELATIONS. Orthodoxy was the state
care of historical and cultural monuments; dialogue with or-
religion of Russia for many centuries, which meant the
gans of state government of any kind and at all levels on
church not only enjoyed a respected position in society and
questions significant to the church and society, including
a substantial income but also was totally dependent on the
those involving the creation of relevant legislation, decrees,
government. During the synodal period (1700–1917) the
and decisions; pastoral care for soldiers and law-enforcement
church was essentially part of the bureaucratic system; conse-
personnel and their spiritual and moral education; crime pre-
quently its freedom was violated, and its activities were limit-
vention and pastoral care for prisoners; scholarship, includ-
ed. During Soviet times it was even more enslaved to the
ing research in the area of humanities; health; culture and
state, and although the principle of separation of church and
creative activities; the work of church and secular mass
state had been proclaimed, it worked only in favor of the au-
media; activities for the conservation of the environment;
thorities: the church received nothing from the government,
economic activity for the benefit of the church, state,and so-
whereas the latter interfered in the affairs of the church and
ciety; supporting the institution of the family, motherhood,
controlled its workings.
and childhood; and opposing the activities of pseudo-
religious organizations harmful for the individual and
On account of the persecutions in the twentieth centu-
ry, the Russian Orthodox Church, when it became free from
government control, categorically declined to be associated
HURCH GOVERNANCE. The Russian Orthodox Church
(which is also known officially as the Moscow Patriarchate)
with the government and to become a state church. In 2000
has a hierarchical structure of governance. The supreme bo-
in the Bases of the Social Concept the church declared both
dies of church authority and governance are the Local Coun-
its loyalty to and its independence from the state and re-
cil, the Bishops’ Council, and the Holy Synod, which is
served for itself the right, if necessary, of civil disobedience.
chaired by the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
Cases of such civil disobedience can be of either a personal
or a general nature:
The Local Council consists of the bishops and represen-
The Christian, following the will of his conscience, can
tatives of the clergy, monastics, and laity. It interprets the
refuse to fulfil the commands of state forcing him into
teaching of the Orthodox Church, preserving the doctrinal
grave sin. If the church and her holy authorities find it
and canonical unity with the local Orthodox Churches. It
impossible to obey state laws and orders, after a due
also deals with internal matters of church life, canonizes
consideration of the problem, they may take the follow-
saints, elects the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, and es-
ing action: enter into direct dialogue with the authori-
tablishes the procedure of such elections.
ties on the problem, call upon the people to use demo-
cratic mechanisms to change the legislation or review
The Bishops’ Council, which is convened every four
the authority’s decision, apply to international bodies
years, consists of the diocesan bishops and those assistant
and world public opinion and appeal to her faithful for
bishops who direct synodal departments and theological
peaceful civil disobedience.
academies, or have canonical jurisdiction over parishes in
The Bases of the Social Concept is the first document in the
their charge. The Bishops’ Council is responsible for, among
history of world Orthodox Christianity that includes an offi-
other things, preparation for convening a Local Council and
cial statement on the possibility of disobedience to the state.
monitoring the implementation of its decisions. It also
The document also maintains that
adopts and amends the Statute of the Russian Orthodox
Church; resolves basic theological, canonical, liturgical, and
the state should not interfere in the life of the church
pastoral issues; canonizes saints; adopts liturgical offices;
or her government, doctrine, liturgical life, spiritual
gives competent interpretation to church regulations; ex-
guidance of her flock, etc., or the work of canonical
presses pastoral concern for contemporary problems; defines
church institutions in general, except for those aspects
the nature of relations with governmental bodies; maintains
where the church is supposed to operate as a legal entity
obliged to enter into certain relations with the state, its
relations with local Orthodox Churches; establishes, reorga-
legislation and governmental agencies. The church ex-
nizes, and dissolves self-governed churches, exarchates, dio-
pects that the state will respect her canonical norms and
ceses, and synodal institutions; and approves ecclesiastical
other internal statutes.
According to the Bases of the Social Concept, the Russian Or-
The Holy Synod, chaired by the patriarch of Moscow
thodox Church can effect its participation in state affairs by
and All Russia, is the governing body of the Russian Ortho-
cooperating in those areas that touch upon its sphere of inter-
dox Church between Bishops’ Councils. It is convened sever-
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

al times a year. Apart from the patriarch, it includes seven
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a self-governed
permanent and five temporary members. The permanent
church with the right of broad autonomy. Its primate is the
members of the synod are the metropolitans of Kiev and All
metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.
Ukraine, of Minsk and All Belorussia, of Kisineu and All
The three Russian Orthodox dioceses in the Republic
Moldova, of Krutitsy and Kolomna, and of Saint Petersburg
of Kazakhstan are united into one metropolia headed by the
and Ladoga as well as the chancellor of the Moscow Patri-
metropolitan of Astana and Alma-Ata. The parishes in Kyr-
archate and the chairman of the Department for External
gyzstan, Tadzhikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan be-
Church Relations. Temporary members of the Holy Synod
long to the diocese of Tashkent and Central Asia headed by
are invited by rotation from among diocesan bishops to each
the metropolitan of Tashkent and Central Asia.
The Russian Orthodox Church has eight dioceses “in
The patriarch of Moscow and All Russia is the first in
the distant abroad”: Argentine and South America, Berlin
honor among the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church.
and Germany, Brussels and Belgium, Budapest and Hunga-
He governs the Russian Orthodox Church together with the
ry, the Hague and the Netherlands, Korsun (in France,
Holy Synod, which he chairs. The patriarch is elected by the
Spain, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland), Sourozh (in the United
Local Council from among those bishops who are at least
Kingdom and Ireland), and Vienna and Austria. The patriar-
forty years old; enjoy a good reputation and confidence
chal parishes in the United States and Canada are consolidat-
among the bishops, clergy, and people; are higher theological
ed into deaneries governed by assistant bishops.
school graduates; have sufficient experience of diocesan gov-
The Russian Orthodox Church has representations to
ernance; are distinguished by their commitment to the ca-
the European Institutions in Brussels, to the World Council
nonical order; and “have a good report of them which are
of Churches in Geneva, to the United Nations in New York,
without” (1 Tm. 3:7). The patriarch is elected for life. In
to the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Cairo, to the Patriarchate
2004 the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church was His
of Antioch in Damascus, to the Patriarchate of Serbia in Bel-
Holiness Alexy II (Ridiger), patriarch of Moscow and All
grade, to the Patriarchate of Bulgaria in Sofia, and to the
Russia, who in 1990 succeded Patriarch Pimen.
Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia in Prague. The Russian
Orthodox Church also has representations in Dusseldorff,
The synodal institutions are executive bodies under the
Strasbourg, Bari, Dublin, and in some other cities as well as
patriarch and the Holy Synod. There are a Department for
the ecclesiastical mission in Jerusalem.
External Church Relations, a Publishing Board, an Educa-
tion Committee, a Department for Catechism and Religious
The Japanese Autonomous Orthodox Church and the
Education, a Department for Charity and Social Service, a
Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church are independent
Mission Department, a Department for the Co-Operation
churches free in their internal affairs and linked with Univer-
with the Armed Forces and Law-Enforcement Bodies, and
sal Orthodoxy through the Russian Orthodox Church. The
a Youth Department. The chancellery is also part of the
primate of the Japanese Autonomous Orthodox Church is
Moscow Patriarchate with the status of synodal institution.
the archbishop of Tokyo, metropolitan of All Japan. The pri-
mate is elected by the Local Council of the Japanese Autono-
INTERNAL ORGANIZATION. The Russian Orthodox Church
mous Orthodox Church, and his nomination is approved by
is divided into dioceses, which are local churches headed by
the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. In the early twenty-
a bishop and uniting diocesan institutions, deaneries, parish-
first century the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church
es, monasteries, church representations, theological educa-
consists of several communities of believers who because of
tional institutions, brotherhoods, sisterhoods, and missions.
political circumstances are deprived from permanent pastoral
Some dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church are consoli-
dated in exarchates. This consolidation is based on the na-
The so-called Russian Orthodox Church Outside of
tional-regional principle. In 2004 the Russian Orthodox
Russia is a self-governed metropolia headed by its first hier-
Church had the Byelorussian exarchate located in the Re-
arch, the metropolitan of New York and Eastern America.
public of Belarus and headed by the metropolitan of Minsk
It separated from the Moscow Patriarchate in the 1920s for
and Slutsk, patriarchal exarch for All Belarus.
political reasons. In the early twenty-first century it is not
recognized as canonical either by the Moscow Patriarchate
The Moscow patriarchate incorporates autonomous and
or by any other local Orthodox Church. However, the pro-
self-governed churches. Self-governed churches function on
cess of its rapprochement with the Moscow Patriarchate is
the basis of and within the limits provided by the patriarchal
underway, which may eventually lead to restoration of full
tomos issued by the decision of the Local Council or the
communion between it and the world Orthodoxy.
Bishops’ Council. In the early twenty-first century the self-
governed are the Latvian Orthodox Church (primate—the
SEE ALSO Uniate Churches.
metropolitan of Riga and All Latvia), the Orthodox Church
of Moldova (primate—the metropolitan of Kishinev and All
Moldova), and the Estonian Orthodox Church (primate—
Arseniev, Nicholas. Russian Piety. 2d ed. Crestwood, N.Y., 1975.
the metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia).
Bolshakoff, Serge. Russian Mystics. Kalamazoo, Mich., 1980.
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

Bulgakov, Sergei. The Orthodox Church. Revised translation by L.
Elimelech’s unexplained death, the two sons marry Orpah
Kesich. Crestwood, N.Y., 1988.
and Ruth (both Moabite). Ten years pass. Mahlon and Chi-
Ellis, Jane. The Russian Orthodox Church: A Contemporary History.
lion die, leaving the three women alone. Naomi begins a
London and Sydney, Australia, 1986.
journey back to Bethlehem and instructs her daughters-in-
Fedotov, George P. The Russian Religious Mind, vol. 1: Kievan
law to return to their mothers’ houses. Orpah departs with
Christianity: The Tenth to the Thirteenth Centuries, vol. 2:
a kiss, but Ruth clings to Naomi with a pledge. The two ar-
The Middle Ages: The Thirteenth to the Fifteenth Centuries
rive in Bethlehem at harvest. Naomi publicly laments her
(1946–1966). Belmont, Mass., 1975.
Fedotov, George P. A Treasury of Russian Spirituality. Belmont,
In chapter 2, at her own initiative, Ruth obtains food
Mass., 1975.
and protection by gleaning in the fields of Boaz, a relative
Kovalevsky, Pierre. Saint Sergius and Russian Spirituality. Crest-
of Elimelech. Boaz, an upstanding citizen, is generous with
wood, N.Y., 1976.
the women, and Naomi blesses him in her words to Ruth.
Lossky, Vladimir. The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.
In chapter 3, Ruth seeks out a satiated, sleeping Boaz
Cambridge, U.K., 1957.
on the threshing floor one night. Adapting Naomi’s scheme,
Meyendorff, John. The Orthodox Church. Crestwood, N.Y., 1981.
Ruth uncovers his “legs” and lies beside him. When Boaz
Pospielovsky, Dimitri. The Russian Church under the Soviet Re-
awakes, Ruth asks him to claim her and to act as redeemer
gime, 1917–1982. 2 vols. Crestwood, N.Y., 1984.
of Naomi and Elimelech’s land. Boaz praises Ruth’s charac-
ter and agrees to her requests, but acknowledges the existence
Ramet, Petra, ed. Eastern Christianity and Politics in the Twentieth
Century. Durham, N.C., and London, 1988.
of a closer relative/redeemer. Ruth returns secretly with food
to Naomi.
Ramet, Sabrina. Nihil Obstat: Religion, Politics, and Social Change
in East-Central Europe and Russia. Durham, N.C., and Lon-
In chapter 4, Boaz publicly approaches the closer rela-
don, 1998.
tive and manipulates him into waiving his right of redemp-
Schmemann, Alexander. The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy.
tion. Boaz receives a blessing from the elders and claims Ruth
Crestwood, N.Y., 1977.
as his wife. Together, they produce an heir to Elimelech’s es-
tate. Neighbor women bless the Lord, praise the boy’s moth-
Struve, Nikita. Christians in Contemporary Russia. New York,
er, and ascribe him to Naomi. They name the child Obed,
the future grandfather of King David.
Ware, Bishop Kallistos. The Orthodox Church. New York, 1993.
The Book of Ruth concludes with a genealogy that may
Zernov, Nicolas. The Russian Religious Renaissance of the Twentieth
Century. New York, 1963.
be read either as integral to the story or as an external addi-
tion. The genealogy makes Ruth an ancestress of David and,
Zernov, Nicolas. The Russians and Their Church. New York, 1964.
therefore, of a Davidic messiah. The Christian Gospel of Mat-
thew includes Ruth in a genealogy of Jesus (Mt. 1:5).
ORIGINS AND IMPLICATIONS. Some scholars have concluded
from the Obed genealogy that the Book of Ruth was written
to foster support for the Davidic dynasty. Others have em-
RUTH AND NAOMI have long enjoyed favored status
phasized Ruth’s Moabite heritage (reiterated frequently in
in Jewish and Christian tradition. Ruth is often portrayed as
the text) and have suggested Ruth was written in opposition
a paragon of virtue and a model for religious conversion.
to Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s post-exilic policy forbidding mar-
However, feminist scholars have tended to replace idyllic in-
riage to outsiders. Both claims are speculative.
terpretations with more complex understandings of the
The story itself, based on a folk-tale model, offers sparse
scriptural narrative that bears Ruth’s name.
evidence about historical matters such as date and circum-
THE BOOK OF RUTH. Ruth, one of two Hebrew Bible books
stance of origin. This tale (or separate Ruth and Naomi tradi-
titled after women, is a beautifully crafted tale consisting of
tions) may have circulated orally before becoming written
eighty-five verses divided into four chapters. More than half
text. The most scholars have said with certainty is that the
the verses feature dialogue among main characters. Naomi,
Book of Ruth achieved its final form no earlier than the time
Ruth, and Boaz are leading figures in Ruth. Orpah and an
of David. Name etymologies attributed to the characters in
unnamed relative/redeemer play key roles near the beginning
Ruth are historically suspect at best. Ruth also provides little
and end. Bethlehem’s women and (male) elders also figure
reliable information about actual Israelite practices concern-
importantly in the story. The narrative is framed by the
ing levirate marriage (which this technically is not), redemp-
death of three men and the birth of one child. The basic plot
tion of land, legal procedures, or religious acts.
is as follows:
God is mentioned as the agent of blessing and the source
In chapter 1, Elimelech and Naomi, with sons Mahlon
of Naomi’s complaint. Many readers understand God to be
and Chilion, journey from famine-stricken Bethlehem
a silent but active character in the story. The Book of Ruth
(meaning “house of food”) to Moab for survival. After
portrays ordinary people bringing about extraordinary
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

events. The Ruth scroll is read and celebrated annually dur-
Folklorist Interpretation (Baltimore, 1979) and Edward F.
ing the Jewish festival of Shavu’ot (Pentecost).
Campbell Jr.’s Ruth, vol. 7 of the Anchor Bible (Garden
City, N.Y., 1975). A commentary that takes feminist critique
The authorship of the Book of Ruth is unknown. Some
into account is Katharine Doob Sakenfeld’s Ruth, in the In-
scholars have proposed that, unlike most Hebrew scriptures,
terpretation Series (Louisville, Ky., 1999). Danna Nolan Fe-
this narrative speaks with a “woman’s voice.” The author
well and David Miller Gunn offer a self-described subversive
could be a woman, a community of women, or a man or men
reading in Compromising Redemption: Relating Characters in
sensitive to and influenced by women’s experience. But this
the Book of Ruth (Louisville, Ky., 1990). Feminist readings
is pure speculation and is more relevant to reading and inter-
are also available in works edited by Athalya Brenner: A Fem-
preting than to making historical or literary claims.
inist Companion to Ruth (Sheffield, U.K., 1993) and Ruth
and Esther: A Feminist Companion to the Bible
, second series
The pledge of Ruth to Naomi is commonly recited at
(Sheffield, U.K., 1999). Visual images linked to feminist
weddings, even though the original context is not marriage,
commentary on Ruth are available at http://
but two women whose fates are joined by an oath that re-
mains intact even when one of them marries someone else:
“Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following
you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the
RUUSBROEC, JAN VAN (1293–1381) was a Flem-
LORD do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death
ish Christian mystic, known as “the Admirable.” Born in Ru-
parts me from you!” (Ru. 1:16–17). Naomi responds to Ruth
usbroec, near (or in) Brussels, he was educated for the priest-
with silence, which leads some commentators to suggest that
hood in both lower and higher studies under the care of his
the pledge is more of a threat (or at least an expression of de-
kinsman Jan Hinckaert, canon of Saint Gudule collegial
termination) than a promise.
church in Brussels. He was ordained a priest at age twenty-
Feminist scholars have pondered the implications of the
four and became influential in the theological and spiritual
Book of Ruth. On the one hand, it may be read as a positive
currents of the church and of the tradition of Middle Nether-
story of strong women who work together to obtain security
landic (Netherlandic-Rhenish) mysticism. He led a devout
in a man’s world. Scholars who have taken this view have
life in the circle of friends around Hinckaert and Vrank van
compared Ruth to Tamar in Genesis 38. Tamar is also a
Coudenberch. Aware of the need to bring doctrinal teaching
strong woman who obtains justice and security from her fa-
to the people in their own language, Ruusbroec wrote in the
ther-in-law (Judah) through extraordinary means. On the
Brabant vernacular.
other hand, Ruth may be read as a story of assimilation where
In 1343, impelled by a longing for silence and a richer
the title character gains then loses her individual identity.
spiritual life, Ruusbroec and his companions withdrew to the
When Naomi arrives in Bethlehem, she speaks to the women
solitude of Groenendael, near Brussels. A few years later their
of “emptiness,” although Ruth, having pledged her presence,
association developed into a monastery of canons regular
presumably stands nearby. Ruth gains an identity (in
under the Augustinian rule of order. His gentleness gained
Naomi’s eyes as well as the reader’s) while interacting with
him the epithet “the good prior,” and his spiritual wisdom
Boaz. Yet in the end, Ruth’s child becomes Naomi’s, and
earned him the title “Doctor Admirabilis.” He wrote four ex-
neither woman is named in Obed’s genealogy, where the
tensive treatises and seven shorter works; only seven of his
child is attributed to Boaz. According to this reading, Ruth
letters have been preserved. His reputation for holiness was
the independent Moabite woman is transformed into a ser-
ratified when the church declared him “blessed” on Decem-
vant of patriarchal interests concerning land and lineage.
ber 2, 1908.
Some feminist scholars have dismissed Ruth and found
In Ruusbroec’s doctrine, human being is fundamentally
in Orpah the better role model. As Naomi’s words reveal,
oriented toward the triune God. He sees God as at once indi-
both daughters-in-law have shown chesed, meaning “kind-
visibly one and threefold, in constant tension between activi-
ness” or “loyalty” (Ru. 1:8). Orpah loves Naomi and honors
ty and essence. Essence enjoys itself quietly in modelessness.
her by following instructions. In returning to her mother’s
Activity is fecund. The Father, in knowing himself, creates
house, Orpah remains loyal to her own family, her own na-
relationships; he brings forth and expresses himself in his
tional identity (Moabite), and her own gods. Whether read
Son, the Word of God. In the reciprocal beholding of Father
traditionally or nontraditionally, the Book of Ruth and its
and Son, the Holy Spirit flows forth as the mutual bond of
characters are rich with meaning.
active love. Turning inward in essential love, they enjoy the
unity of essence, which drives them afresh toward activity.
SEE ALSO Shavu’ot.
In turning outward, God creates according to the image
of his Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit. The human
Influential commentaries include Jack M. Sasson’s Ruth: A New
creature in its selfhood is irrevocably distinct from the tran-
Translation with a Philological Commentary and a Formalist-
scendent God. At the same time, however, the creature is 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

relation with and directed toward God because human being
flowing transcendent love and of humankind’s potentiality
is created in the unity of God’s likeness and image.
for harmonious ascent to union with God.
Ruusbroec sees humanity as structured in a threefold
way, according to three interacting unities. The body and the
Works by Ruusbroec
lower faculties of the soul are under the heart and form the
Ruusbroec, Jan van. Werken. 2d ed. 4 vols. Antwerp, 1944–1948.
unity of the heart. The higher faculties of the soul, oriented
In original Dutch.
to the highest human powers, form the unity of spirit, which
Wiseman, J. A., ed. John Ruusbroec: The Spiritual Espousals and
in activity is receptive to God’s essence. In these two lower
Other Works. New York, 1985.
unities, by the grace of God, the creature attains likeness to
Works about Ruusbroec
God in active (outer) life and in inner life (“unity by
Ampe, Albert. Kernproblemen uit de leer van Ruusbroec. 4 vols.
means”). According to the third unity, the creature attains
Tielt, 1950–1957.
its oneness with God’s image in the contemplative life
Ampe, Albert. “Jean Ruusbroec.” In Dictionnaire de spiritualité,
(“unity without means,” or “unity without difference”).
vol. 8. Paris, 1974.
Dupré, Louis. The Common Life: The Origins of Trinitarian Mysti-
In Christ (the God-man) humanness is realized in the
cism and Its Development by Jan Ruusbroec. New York, 1984.
fullness of likeness and unity-of-image in himself, and this
Mommaers, Paul. The Land Within: The Process of Possessing and
fullness is communicated to and in humankind. The ascent
Being Possessed by God according to the Mystic Jan van Ruysbr-
in likeness and unity is realized in Christ and in human be-
oeck. Chicago, 1975.
ings: on earth, characterized by mortality, in the likeness of
Mommaers, Paul, and Norbert de Paepe, eds. Jan van Ruusbroec:
grace; in heaven, characterized by immortality and irradiated
The Sources, Content and Sequels of His Mysticism. Louvain,
by the lumen gloriae, in the likeness of glory. Ruusbroec’s
grandiose view provides a balanced synthesis of God’s out-
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

SAEADYAH GAON (882–942), properly SaEadyah ben Yosef al-Fayyum¯ı, was a Jew-
ish theologian, jurist, scholar, and gaon (“head, eminence”) of the rabbinic academy at
Sura, Babylonia. SaEadyah was born in Dilaz: (modern Abu Suwayr) in the Faiyu¯m district
of Upper Egypt. Virtually nothing is known about his family and early education. By age
twenty-three, however, he had corresponded with the noted Jewish Neoplatonist Yitsh:aq
Israeli (c. 855–955), published the first Hebrew dictionary (Sefer ha-agron), and com-
posed a polemic against the Karaite schismatic EAnan ben David (fl. 760). After leaving
Egypt, SaEadyah spent time in both Palestine and Syria but eventually, in 921 or 922,
settled in Babylonia. There he championed the cause of the Babylonian rabbis in a dispute
with Palestinian authorities over fixing the religious calendar and published his views in
two treatises, Sefer ha-zikkaron and Sefer ha-mo Eadim. Recognizing his ability, the exilar-
ch, or hereditary leader of the Jewish community, awarded SaEadyah with an academic
appointment in 922 and subsequently elevated him to the gaonate of Sura. Soon after-
ward, in 930, a legal dispute between the two developed into a bitter political struggle
in which each deposed the other from office. SaEadyah was driven into formal retirement
in Baghdad, but, ultimately, reconciliation led to his reinstatement in 937.
A versatile and prolific author, SaEadyah pioneered in many areas of Jewish scholar-
ship. He translated the Hebrew Bible into Arabic, wrote commentaries on most of its
books, assembled the first authorized siddur, or Jewish prayerbook, and composed numer-
ous other works in the fields of jurisprudence, grammar, lexicography, liturgical poetry,
and theology. His most famous work, Sefer emunot ve-de Eot (933; The Book of Beliefs and
1948), was the first systematic exposition and defense of the tenets of Judaism
and contains a detailed account of his views.
The Book of Beliefs and Opinions reflects both the cosmopolitanism and the sectarian
rivalries characteristic of tenth-century Baghdad. SaEadyah indicates that the intense com-
petition between adherents of the various religious and philosophical creeds had produced
an atmosphere of spiritual confusion in which believers were either mistaken or in doubt
about the inherited doctrines of their religion, whereas unbelievers boasted of their unbe-
lief. Seeking to dispel such doubt and establish a common basis for achieving religious
C LOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT CORNER. Sixteenth-century illuminated miniature of dancing dervishes,
from the “Sessions of the Lovers.” [©Bodlein Library, University of Oxford]; South torana at the
Great Stupa at Sa¯ñc¯ı, India. [©Adam Woolfitt/Corbis]; Eleventh-century S´iva Nat:ara¯ja from
Southern India. Musée Guimet, Paris. [©Giraudon/Art Resource, N.Y.]; The “Wedded Rocks”
at Futamigaura in Ise, Japan. [©Werner Forman/Art Resource, N.Y.]; Angkor Vatt, Cambodia.
[Dave G. Houser/Corbis].

certainty, SaEadyah adopted the methods of kala¯m (Islamic
simple in nature. Moreover, the essential attributes of life,
speculative theology) current in his day. He aimed to defend
power, and wisdom should not be understood as separate
the doctrines of his faith and to refute errors by using rational
features of God’s nature but as identical with it. Only a defi-
arguments that could convince any reasonable person. Thus,
ciency of language necessitates speaking about distinct attri-
from mere acceptance of traditional doctrines, itself always
butes. Similarly, reason dictates that whenever scripture de-
open to doubt, the reader would arrive at rationally estab-
picts God with creaturely characteristics, these terms should
lished beliefs or convictions, just as the book’s title suggests.
be understood metaphorically.
To facilitate this transition, SaEadyah begins by identify-
In accounting for God’s relation to his creatures,
ing the causes of error and doubt. He then analyzes three
SaEadyah takes up various questions about divine justice. By
sources of truth and certainty and illustrates their proper use:
creating the world out of nothing, God wished to endow
(1) sense perception, (2) rational intuition of self-evident
creatures with the gift of existence. He further sought to pro-
principles, and (3) valid inference. To these he adds a fourth
vide them with the means for attaining perfect bliss by giving
source based on the other three, reliable tradition, which is
them the commandments of the Torah. By thus requiring
both indispensable to civilized life and the medium in which
human effort to attain happiness rather than bestowing it by
God’s revelation to the prophets is transmitted. While
grace, God assured that such happiness would be all the
SaEadyah confidently believes human speculation can arrive
greater. The commandments themselves fall into two classes:
at the truth of everything disclosed in prophecy, revelation
rational commandments, such as the prohibitions against
is still necessary to teach the truth to those incapable of spec-
murder and theft, and traditional commandments, such as
ulation and to guide the fallible inquiries of those who are
the dietary and Sabbath laws. The authority of the former
capable, since only God’s knowledge is complete. Because
lies in reason itself, while that of the latter lies in the will of
verification of revealed truths confirms faith, SaEadyah con-
the commander. God revealed both types of law, because
siders such verification a religious obligation.
without revelation not even perfectly rational men would
agree on the precise application of the rational laws, much
SaEadyah’s organization of the rest of the treatise like-
less discover the traditional laws, on both of which their sal-
wise reflects kala¯m, especially the preoccupation of the
vation depends.
MuEtazil¯ı school with establishing God’s unity and justice.
To prove the existence of the one God, SaEadyah employs
For SaEadyah, the fact of revelation is confirmed by the
four standard kala¯m arguments showing that the world was
occurrence of publicly witnessed miracles, announced in ad-
created and must therefore have a creator.
vance, that could have been performed only by God’s om-
nipotence. They are to be accepted as proof of the authentici-
(1) Since the world is spatially finite, the power within it
ty of the revelation, unless the revealed teaching is contrary
that maintains it in existence must also be finite. But
to reason.
then the world’s existence over time must likewise be fi-
nite, indicating that it was created.
Once God holds humanity responsible for fulfilling his
commandments, justice requires that people be able to
(2) Everything composite is created by some cause. Since
choose to obey or disobey. SaEadyah argues that sense experi-
the whole world displays skillful composition, it must
ence attests to this ability in us and that reason shows that
have been created.
God does not interfere with its exercise. While God fore-
(3) All bodies in the world are inseparably linked to acci-
knows exactly what one shall choose, his knowledge in no
dental characteristics that are created in time. But what-
way causes one’s choices. One can always choose otherwise,
ever is inseparably linked to something created is itself
although he would foreknow that choice too.
Rewards and punishments are determined according to
(4) If the world were eternal, an infinite period of time
the majority of one’s actions, and for SaEadyah the suffering
would have to have elapsed for the present to be
of the righteous and the prosperity of the wicked also con-
reached. But since an infinity cannot be traversed and
form to this rule. For either such experiences represent im-
the present has been reached, the world must have exist-
mediate retribution in this world for the minority of one’s
ed for only a finite period after being created.
evil or good actions (with eternal reward or punishment for
the rest to follow in the world to come), or they are tempo-
SaEadyah offers further arguments to show that the world
rary trials whereby God may increase one’s reward in the
could only have been created out of nothing and by a single
hereafter. These latter are “sufferings of love,” and bearing
them bravely counts as a righteous act deserving reward. In-
SaEadyah’s discussion of God’s nature and attributes
deed, SaEadyah’s commentary on Job interprets it as a debate
traces the implications of his being a creator. For God to
designed to show that undeserved suffering really is a trial.
have created a world such as ours at a point in the past, he
For Job erroneously thought that God’s justice consists sim-
must be alive, powerful, and wise. But insofar as God is cre-
ply in doing as he wishes, a position reminiscent of the rival
ator and not creature, he cannot possess the characteristics
AshEar¯ı school of kala¯m, while the friends mistakenly sup-
of creatures. Hence, he must be incorporeal and absolutely
posed all suffering is a penalty. Only Elihu claims that Job’s
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

afflictions are a trial that divine justice will repay, and God
ume, edited by Boaz Cohen for the American Academy for
confirms this by reasserting his providence over all creation
Jewish Research (New York, 1943); Abraham Neuman and
and restoring Job’s material fortunes prior to rewarding his
Solomon Zeitlin’s Saadia Studies (Philadelphia, 1943); and
soul in the hereafter.
Steven T. Katz’s Saadiah Gaon (New York, 1980).
New Sources
SaEadyah defines the soul as a pure, luminous substance
Aizenberg, Yehudah. Ha-Derekh li-shelemut: e-mishnato shel Rav
that can act only through the body. Because the body and
Se Eadyah GaDon. Jerusalem, 1985.
the soul are jointly responsible for one’s behavior, God’s jus-
Eisen, Robert. “Job as a Symbol of Israel in the Thought of
tice requires that retribution affect both together. According-
Saadiah Gaon.” Daat 41 (1998): 5–25.
ly, he will resurrect the bodies of Israel’s righteous from the
Simon, Uriel. Four Approaches to the Book of Psalms: From Saadiah
dust with the same power he used to create them ex nihilo.
Gaon to Abraham Ibn Ezra. Translated by Lenn J. Schramm.
This event heralds Israel’s messianic age and universal peace.
Albany, N.Y., 1991.
It occurs either when all Israel repents or when God’s foreor-
Weiss, Roslyn. “Saadiah on Divine Grace and Human Suffering.”
dained end arrives, whichever is first. However, when God
Journal of Jewish Thought & Philosophy 9 (2000): 155–171.
finishes creating the appointed number of souls, there will
Zewi, Tamar. “Biblical Hebrew Word Order and Saadya Gaon’s
be a general resurrection and judgment, and a new heaven
Translation of the Pentateuch.” Ancient Near Eastern Studies
and earth. In this final retribution, the righteous will bask,
38 (2001): 42–57.
and the wicked will burn, in the light of a miraculous divine
Revised Bibliography
SaEadyah concludes the treatise by describing the kind
of conduct worthy of reward. Since humans are composite
creatures with many conflicting tendencies, they should not
SABAZIOS, a god of the Thracians and the Phrygians,
devote themselves to one above all others. Rather, they
is also known from Greek and Latin sources as Sabadios,
should strive for a balance and blending of preoccupations
Sauazios, Saazios, Sabos, Sebazios, Sabadius, and Sebadius.
determined by reason and Torah.
His name is related to the Macedonian word sauâdai, or saû-
Aside from offering the first systematic exposition of Ju-
doi, meaning “satyrs” (Detschew, 1957, p. 427). According
daism in rational terms, SaEadyah laid the foundation for all
to some scholars (e.g., Lozovan, 1968), he was a Thracian
later medieval Jewish philosophy by asserting the complete
mountain god whose cult was carried by Phrygian emigrants
accord of reason and revelation. Although SaEadyah was far
from Thrace to Anatolia.
more confident than his successors about what reason could
Greek sources from the fifth century BCE onward men-
prove, his commitment to investigation and proof in all areas
tion Sabazios as a Thracian or Phrygian god. In Athens, his
of Jewish scholarship gave rationalism a legitimacy in Juda-
cult’s initiation ceremonies took place by night, and the
ism that it might not otherwise have enjoyed. He is rightly
adepts were purified by being rubbed with mud. A sacramen-
recalled as “the first of those who speak reason in every area.”
tal drink was also involved. The identification of Sabazios
with Dionysos, which occurs regularly in Hellenistic sources,
is unquestionable. However, Phrygian inscriptions relate
Still the best general survey of SaEadyah’s life and oeuvre is Henry
him to Zeus, and in North Africa, where his cult is attested
Malter’s Saadia Gaon: His Life and Works (1921; reprint,
as early as the fourth century BCE, he might have had the fea-
Philadelphia, 1978). The only complete English translation
tures of a heavenly god; hence he was later identified with
of SaEadyah’s main theological work is Samuel Rosenblatt’s
the Semitic god Baal, both of them receiving the Greek epi-
Saadia Gaon: The Book of Beliefs and Opinions (New Haven,
thet hupsistos (“highest, supreme”). He was probably wor-
1948), with an analytical table of contents and a useful index.
shiped in Thrace under other local names, such as Athy-
An abridged translation of the same work with an excellent
parenos, Arsilenos, Batalde Ouenos, Eleneites, Mytorgenos,
introduction and notes is Alexander Altmann’s Saadia Gaon:
Ouerzel(enos), and Tasibastenus.
Book of Doctrines and Beliefs, available in Three Jewish Philos-
edited by Hans Lewy et al. (New York, 1960). The
Sabazios’s name has been connected with the Indo-
most comprehensive discussion in English of SaEadyah’s en-
European *swo-, meaning “[his] own,” and with the idea of
tire worldview is Israel I. Efros’s “The Philosophy of Saadia
freedom, which occurs frequently among the epithets of
Gaon,” in his Studies in Medieval Jewish Philosophy (New
Dionysos. Franz Cumont has suggested a relationship with
York, 1974), since it draws from a variety of SaEadyah’s
the Illyrian sabaia, or sabaium, identifying a beer extracted
works. A shorter but still valuable discussion remains Julius
from cereals (see Russu, 1969, p. 241). More recently, Ghe-
Guttmann’s “Saadia Gaon,” in Philosophies of Judaism (New
orghe Mu¸su has translated Sabazios as “sap god,” from the
York, 1964). A basic resource for understanding SaEadyah’s
relation to kala¯m is Harry A. Wolfson’s The Repercussions of
Indo-European roots *sap- (“taste, perceive”) and *sab-
the Kalam in Jewish Philosophy (Cambridge, Mass., 1979).
(“juice, fluid”). This translation corresponds well to the pat-
Useful individual studies of SaEadyah’s communal activities
tern of Dionysos/ Sabazios, who was the divinity of humidity
as well as different aspects of his literary, scholarly, and theo-
and as such was connected with both vegetation and intoxi-
logical work may still be found in the Saadia Anniversary Vol-
cation (see Mu¸su, in Vulpe, 1980, pp. 333–336).
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

The Jews of Syria and Anatolia identified Sabazios with
Lane, Eugene. “Towards a Definition of the Iconography of Sa-
Sabaoth. Under the Roman rulers Sabazios was worshiped
bazius.” Numen 27 (1980): 9–33.
in Thrace, where he was more often known as Sebazios or,
Taceva-Hitova, Margarita. “Wesenzüge des Sabatioskultes in
in Latin, Sabazius, Sabadius, or Sebadius and where he re-
Moesia Inferior und Thracia.” In Hommages à Maarten J.
ceived such epithets as epekoos (“benevolent”), kurios
Vermaseren, edited by M. B. de Boer and T. A. Edridge, vol.
(“lord”), megistos (“greatest”), and so forth. In Crimea, prob-
III, pp. 1217–1230. Leiden, 1978.
ably under Jewish-Anatolian influence, he was called hupsis-
Tassignon, Isabelle. “Sabazios dans les pantheons des cités d’Asie
tos. He was constantly identified with both Zeus and the sun.
Mineure.” Kernos 11 (1998): 189–208.
Motifs of hands making the votive gesture of benedictio La-
tina are among the distinctive features of his cult. According
to several Christian writers (Clement of Alexandria, Arnobi-
Revised Bibliography
us, and Firmicus Maternus), the most impressive rite of initi-
ation into the mysteries of Sabazios consisted of the adept’s
contact with a snake (aureus coluber) that was first put over
his breast (per sinum ducunt) and then pulled down to his
No less enigmatic than Zalmoxis, Sabazios was wor-
shiped as early as the fourth century BCE both as a chthonic
and as a heavenly god. Scholars have too often tried to solve
this riddle by supposing a borrowing from Jewish religion,
This entry consists of the following articles:
but Jewish influence was not relevant in Anatolia before the
third century BCE. One should rather consider that chthonic
features determined the character of the Thracian Sabazios,
whereas the Phrygian Sabazios was probably connected with
the sky.
The meaning of the term sacrament is heavily determined by
Christian usage. This circumstance presents both important
opportunities and certain difficulties for the scientific study
Bianchi, Ugo, and Maarten J. Vermaseren, eds. La soteriologia dei
culti orientali nell’impero romano. Leiden, 1982. See the
of religion. On the one hand, the familiarity of the term and
index, s. v. Sabazios.
of the rituals to which it refers in Christianity makes possible,
at least for the Western student of religion, progression from
Detschew, Dimiter. Die thrakischen Sprachreste. Vienna, 1957.
the known to the less known with the aid of developed cate-
Lozovan, Eugen. “Dacia Sacra.” History of Religions 7 (February
gories used for comparative purposes. On the other hand,
1968): 209–243.
there is the danger that the derivation of the category of sac-
Russu, I. I. Ilirii istoria, limba ¸si onomastica romanizarea. Bucha-
rament from Christianity will result in a distortion of other
rest, 1969.
religions, unduly emphasizing cognates or analogies while ig-
Vulpe, Radu, ed. Actes du Deuxième Congrès International de Thra-
noring or dismissing distinctive features of other traditions.
cologie, vol. 3, Linguistique, ethnologie, anthropologie. Bucha-
In order to both make good on the comparative oppor-
rest, 1980.
tunities provided by the term and to overcome the limita-
New Sources
tions of too heavy a reliance upon the perspective that has
Bodinger, Martin. “Le dieu Sabazios et le Judaisme.” Archaeus 6
determined its customary meaning, this article will first indi-
(2002): 121–139.
cate some of the antecedents to the standard Christian view
Corpus Cultus Iovis Sabazii (CCIS). Vol. I: The Hands. Vol. II: The
of sacrament. A consideration of parallels or cognates to
Other Monuments and Literary Evidence. Vol. III: Conclu-
Christian sacraments will be followed by a brief consider-
sions, edited by Maarten J. Vermaseren and Eugene N. Lane.
ation of the possibility of a more strictly formal definition
Leiden, 1983–89.
of the category.
Giuffré Scibona, Concetta. “Aspetti soteriologici del culto di Sa-
HELLENISTIC SACRAMENTS. While classical Christian usage
bazio.” In La soteriologia dei culti orientali nell’impero romano.
has largely determined the understanding of sacrament that
Atti del Colloquio Internazionale (Roma 24–28 Settembre
edited by Ugo Bianchi e Maarten J. Vermaseren,
the student of comparative religion employs in the study of
pp. 552–561. Leiden, 1982.
religion, it is important to have some awareness of the pre-
Christian understanding of sacrament and its Greek anteced-
Johnson, Sherman E. “The Present State of Sabazios Research.”
In Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt 2.17.3,
ent, must¯erion. Three antecedents to the classical use of the
pp. 1583–1613. Berlin and New York, 1984.
term will be considered: the mystery cults, the apocalyptic
mystery, and the mystical, or gnostic, tradition.
Lane, Eugene. “Sabazius and the Jews in Valerius Maximus: A Re-
examination.” Journal of Roman Studies 69 (1979):
The mystery cults. The Greek must¯erion is of uncertain
etymology but is most probably associated with muein,
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

meaning “to close” (the mouth), and thus “to keep secret.”
“noetic” significance, other reform movements—most nota-
Certainly it was this connotation of secrecy that dominated
bly Buddhism—reject this connection to the Vedic rites in
the technical usage of the term to designate the Hellenistic
the quest for ultimate insight. In the Western Christian tra-
cults, especially those associated with Eleusis, which are ac-
dition examples of sacramental mysticism often approximate
cordingly known as “mystery cults” or simply as “mysteries”
the pattern of the yogic or gnostic transformation of external
(musteria). The term must¯erion designates the sharp dividing
ritual into interior discipline. While these parallel phenome-
line between initiates, for whom the secret history of the god
na demonstrate the way in which the bodily action of ritual
(his birth, marriage, or death and rebirth, depending on the
may become paradigms for an interior praxis, it is with sacra-
cult) is dramatically reenacted, thus binding their fate to the
ment as a species of bodily action that the phenomenology
god’s, and noninitiates, who cannot participate in this kind
of religion must be most concerned.
of salvation.
If the term were to be employed in this, its earliest tech-
sacramentum was generally employed as a technical term for
nical religious sense, for phenomenological and comparative
a military oath, the vow of a soldier. The initiatory function
purposes, its application would necessarily be restricted to es-
of this vow understood in relation to the vow of secrecy asso-
oteric initiation rites of cult societies such as those found
ciated with the Greek mysteries made possible the appropria-
among the indigenous peoples of the Americas (for example,
tion of the term sacramentum for those activities (especially
the Snake and Antelope societies of the Hopi). A somewhat
baptism) in which the Christian confession of faith (which,
more flexible usage might include those rites of passage that
like the vow of soldiers, placed one in mortal danger) played
stress the esoteric character of the knowledge imparted.
an important role. Thus, despite the typically exoteric char-
acter of Christian doctrine and practice, ideas and practice
Such usage, however, would be unwieldy for two rea-
associated with the Greek mysteries were used to interpret
sons: (1) it would exclude many rituals for which the term
Christian rituals. Sacramentum gradually lost its wider, apoc-
sacrament has become standard—Christian and Hindu ritu-
alyptic meaning, was increasingly used to refer to baptism
als in particular—and (2) it would duplicate existing termi-
and eucharist, and then was extended by analogy to apply
nology of initiatory rituals and rites of passage.
to related ritual actions including confession and penance,
confirmation, marriage, ordination, and unction. The earlier
Apocalyptic usage. In the New Testament, must¯erion
Latin sense of “vow” can still be discerned in baptism, confir-
is used in a way that is grounded in apocalyptic rather than
mation, marriage, and ordination, but the oldest Greek asso-
cultic sensibility. Here must¯erion refers to the disclosure of
ciations with cultic participation in salvation predominate.
God’s ultimate, or eschatological, intention. The term is
Thus sacrament comes to be exclusively identified with a set
used quite widely to designate anything that prefigures the
of ritual actions that are understood to be both necessary to
final consummation of the divine will or plan. Thus Chris-
and efficacious for salvation.
tian proclamation, biblical typology, and the inclusion of Jew
and gentile in divine election could all be referred to as
COGNATE SACRAMENTS. Since the scientific study of religion
must¯erion (which becomes sacramentum in Latin). Signifi-
is a discipline that has arisen within the culture most heavily
cantly, the term was not used in a specifically cultic sense at
influenced by Christianity, it is natural that much of its ter-
all in this period.
minology is borrowed from Christianity. (Just as, mutatis
Christianity has borrowed its terminology from
If this sense of the term, derived from late Jewish and
the cultures in which it has taken root.)
early Christian apocalyptic writings, were to be decisive for
phenomenological or comparative approaches to the study
If sacrament is defined ostensively, by reference to the
of religion, then the term’s application would be restricted
set of rituals that bear that name in Christianity, then one
to those groups that have a strong orientation to future ful-
is confronted with the question of whether to restrict this dis-
fillment. The Ghost Dance of the indigenous peoples of the
cussion to the two sacraments accepted by most Protestants
North American Plains and the elaborate baptismal rites of
(baptism and eucharist) or to include the additional five sac-
the African independent churches are illustrations of ritual
raments (confirmation, penance, marriage, ordination, and
enactments of such eschatological expectations.
extreme unction) accepted by Catholics. Clearly, eucharist
and baptism have a place of singular importance in all Chris-
Gnostic usage. Deriving from the theory and practice
tian traditions; a phenomenological approach, however, will
of the mystery cults, certain mystical and especially gnostic
seek the widest possible range of data and so provisionally
philosophical traditions of the Hellenistic world used
accept the more inclusive enumeration.
must¯erion to apply to the quest for transcendental insight.
There are two sorts of such sacraments, those that deal
While they dispensed with outward forms of ritual or cult,
with transitional moments and so are not repeated and those
they nevertheless sought by knowledge a saving union with
that are regularly repeated.
the divine.The religious tradition that best exemplifies this
sense of must¯erion/sacrament is the Hinduism of the
Sacraments of transition. The earliest and most impor-
Upanis:ads and of yoga. While these movements do not reject
tant of the transitional sacraments is baptism. In early Chris-
the ritual or cult but seek to give it a more pure, interior, and
tianity this ritual signified the movement from the worldly
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

to the eschatological reality, or, under influence from the
raments of transition, ordination and marriage (traditionally
Greek mysteries, from the profane to the cultic sphere of par-
thought of as mutually exclusive), have developed. Rites of
ticipation in the fate of the god. This type of transitional rite
ordination are found in virtually all societies in which a
is analogous to the initiation into cult societies of, for exam-
priestly caste is drawn from the society as a whole. (In a num-
ple, the indigenous peoples of the North American Plains.
ber of societies the priesthood is hereditary, and rites associ-
It is also characteristic of the African independent churches
ated with accession to cultic authority may be coterminous
of central and southern Africa.
with accession to adulthood. This appears to be largely true
of the brahmanic class of Hinduism, for example.) Marriage
As Christianity became more or less coextensive with
rites are obviously quite widespread although only those that
culture and society, the transition came more and more to
have a clearly sacred or religious character are directly compa-
be identified with birth or early infancy (a development con-
rable. Often these have the added dimension of rites to en-
tingent upon the understanding of penance and eucharist as
sure fertility.
supplementing the forgiveness of sins and transformation of
life originally associated with baptism). As a ritual associated
Perhaps the most highly developed system of sacraments
with infancy, it took the place of the Jewish rite of circumci-
of transition is to be found in Hinduism. The term sam:ska¯ra,
sion, except that it applied equally to female infants. It is thus
which generally translated as “sacrament,” refers to any rite
similar in function to the Hindu sacrament of Namakarana,
of transition, of which several hundred may have been per-
in which the child receives a name.
formed. In modern Hinduism the number of reduced (to be-
As baptism became “infant baptism,” the catechetical
tween ten and eighteen). These sacraments begin with con-
aspect of the ritual that inaugurated persons into full mem-
ception (Garbha¯dha¯na) and continue through pregnancy
bership in the cult society became fixed in the form of confir-
(Pum:savana, Simanta, Ja¯takarman). In addition to the nam-
mation. Insofar as confirmation is associated with adoles-
ing ceremony (Na¯makaran:a), which occurs a few days after
cence, it could enter into homology with rites of tribal
birth, there are sacraments to mark the first appearance of
initiation—a species of ritual that is exceedingly widespread
the infant outside the home, the child’s first solid food, the
and well developed among the indigenous peoples of the
tonsure, and the piercing of the child’s ears. Sacraments that
Americas, Africa, and Australia. In Africa and Australia the
mark the progress of the male child’s education include Up-
sacrament of initiation takes the form of segregating a cohort
anayana and Veda¯rambha. The completion of these studies
of adolescent males and placing them under great stress
requires a further sacrament (Sama¯vartana). Marriage
(often including circumcision) so that distinctions among
(Viva¯ha) is the only sacrament permitted to ´su¯dras or lower
them are erased. The loss of social identity and the violation
castes. The final transition of death is marked by the sacra-
of bodily integrity is accompanied by esoteric instruction and
mental rites of Antyes:t:i.
rites of great emotional force that frequently involve symbol-
These sacraments generally involve sacrifices, ceremo-
ism of death and birth. A significant number of groups, for
nies of fire and water, ritual washings, recitation of appropri-
example, the Bemba of Africa, have initiation rites (Chi-
ate mantras and prayers, and so on. Both individually and
sungu) of similar intensity for adolescent females. Among
collectively these Hindu sacraments are far more elaborate
North American aboriginal peoples, the young males (and,
than the comparable set of Christian rituals and so may pro-
rarely, females) undertake the highly individualized dream or
vide the student of religion with a more adequate set of cate-
vision quest, which may entail a rigorous journey, fasting,
gories for studying sacraments of transition.
and other ordeals. This individualized initiation contrasts
sharply with the corporate initiation of African and other
Repeatable sacraments. While sacraments of transition
are in principle nonrepeatable (with the possible and limited
exceptions of marriage and extreme unction), two sacra-
A further extension of transitional sacrament occurs
ments of great importance in traditional Christianity, pen-
with the development of extreme unction, the anointing of
ance and eucharist, do require repeated performance.
the sick. This sacrament may assume the form of a viaticum,
by means of which the recipient is enabled to make the tran-
In the Christian tradition penance is related to baptism
sition from this life to the world beyond. Insofar as the
as the restoration of baptismal purity and to the Eucharist
Christian sacrament of unction has the intention of healing
as the necessary preparation for participation. The confession
(as in the anointing of the sick), it becomes repeatable and
of sin has a place of central importance in the religion of
homologous to the healing rites found in virtually all reli-
Handsome Lake practiced by contemporary Iroquois in the
gious traditions. Collections of incantations for this same
United States and Canada. Individual confession to a priest
purpose constitute the Egyptian Book of Going Forth by Day,
was of great importance in Central and South America,
and in ancient Iran the whispering of formulas to the dying
among the Inca and Maya, as is confession to a shaman
person was accompanied by the administration of haoma, the
among, for example, the Inuit (Eskimo).
sacred beverage.
The ritual that is most often associated with sacramen-
Unlike baptism, confirmation, and unction, which tra-
tality is the Eucharist, Mass, or Communion of the Christian
ditionally have been required of all Christians, two other sac-
community. The selection of comparable rituals from 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

history of religions will depend upon the degree of emphasis
such an ad hoc nature that they devolve to disguised ostensive
placed upon one of three aspects: thanks giving or offering,
definitions or are so broad as to identify virtually any ritual
communal meal, or sacrifice of the divine victim.
action. If, for example, sacrament is defined in accordance
with the principle of ex opere operatum (“what the action sig-
Certainly for much of Western history the last aspect
nifies it also accomplishes”), any ritual thought by its practi-
has been especially emphasized. The most dramatic instances
tioners to be efficacious (including, of course, all forms of
are the human sacrifices, which include the Greek phar-
magic) will be covered. If, on the other hand, only those ritu-
makos, a number of African rites, and practices belonging to
al actions positively commanded by Jesus are said to be sacra-
the high civilizations of the Americas, especially the Aztec.
ments, this proves to be an ostensive definition (which,
Among the latter the sun god, Tezcatlipoca, was impersonat-
moreover, is usually applied in an arbitrary manner—so as
ed by the prisoner of war most honored for beauty and brav-
to exclude ritual foot washing, for example). The same is true
ery, who received homage for a full year before being sacri-
of definitions of sacrament that insist on the conjunction of
ficed. Many of the human sacrifices, including those to
matter and form. According to this view, form designates the
Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, were subsequently eaten as
crucial pronouncement whereas matter may refer, for exam-
a form of ritual cannibalism.
ple, to the water of baptism, the oil of unction, or the bread
Substitutions for the flesh of the divine victim are also
and wine of the Eucharist. Moreover, this notion of matter
found, including the eating of a dough image of Huitz-
may be arbitrarily extended to apply also to the sacraments
ilopochtli, which first was shot with an arrow, and a similar
of penance (the sin of the believer) and marriage (the love
ritual involving the dough image of the tree god, Xocotl.
between spouses).
The communal meal is a common feature of many sacri-
If a formal definition is required, it appears that theolo-
fices. A vegetable, animal, or cereal offering is presented to
gy will not be of much help. It does seem possible, however,
the god and is subsequently shared by all participants, much
to propose a more strictly phenomenological definition. On
as in the Christian Communion the bread and wine is first
this basis sacrament may be defined as “a ritual that enacts,
offered in thanksgiving and then shared by the participants.
focuses, and concentrates the distinctive beliefs, attitudes,
Where these rites are associated with first-fruits festivals or
and actions of any religious tradition.” While any ritual may
with harvest, the element of thanksgiving (eucharist) is espe-
perform this function to some degree, it will usually be possi-
cially pronounced. These rites are found not only in agrarian
ble to discriminate within the ritual complex of a tradition
societies. Common among hunters and gatherers are rituals
as a whole that ritual (or group of rituals) that functions as
involving a communal meal in which the sacralized game an-
a paradigm for other ritual action and so may be said to have
imal is both praised and eaten. An example from the Pacific
a privileged and normative relationship to the articulated sys-
coast of North America is the ritual surrounding the first
tem as a whole. Usually these sacraments will be found with-
salmon catch. Among circumpolar peoples such rites are per-
in the prescribed corporate ritual or liturgy.
formed after successful bear hunts.
In this definition the initiation rites of the mystery reli-
Here too should be mentioned the preparation of sacred
gions, the Christian Eucharist, the Ghost Dance and peyote
substances whose consumption makes for unity with the di-
ritual of the North American Indians, and many other rituals
vine. The haoma of Iran, the soma of India, and the halluci-
already mentioned would be included. But the principle of
nogenic substances so important to the indigenous peoples
inclusion is not their resemblance to specific Christian rituals
of the Americas are illustrations. Members of the Native
but their location and function within the religious tradition
American Church, which includes many of the aboriginal
of which they are a part.
peoples of North America, use peyote as a sacramental ele-
ment within a liturgical setting in order to acquire union
In addition, rituals that are not material cognates to
with the divine.
Christian sacraments and so are necessarily overlooked on
the basis of an ostensive definition of sacrament now acquire
a sacramental character. Thus the Shalako ceremony of the
has just been illustrated, of finding material cognates to the
Zuni Indians of New Mexico, which displays the vigor and
sacraments of the Christian tradition in the field of religious
values of the Zuni while inviting the participation and bless-
studies, while illuminating in certain respects, may tie the
ings of the gods, is a sacrament in the form of a dance (to
term too closely to the Christian tradition to be genuinely
which there are no Christian but many other religious cog-
serviceable for phenomenological purposes. Accordingly, one
nates). While regular occasions for prayer do not have a sac-
may attempt to acquire a more formal definition of sacra-
ramental character in Christianity, they may well have this
ment, a definition that can be employed for comparative
character in Islam, which is generally suspicious of ritual and
of Christian sacraments in particular. Finally, the Buddhist
Since Christian theology has devoted considerable ener-
practice of zazen, which consists of periods of sitting and
gy to the development of such a formal definition, one may
breathing punctuated by periods of walking, may have a
look first to the theological definitions. When this is at-
place of importance and function similar to the Christian
tempted, however, it becomes clear that these are either 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

The further refinement of a phenomenological defini-
church. The Eastern Christian and Roman Catholic church-
tion of sacrament in tandem with its use in the analysis of
es enumerate these rituals as seven: baptism, confirmation (or
the place and function of particular rituals within the wider
chrismation), eucharist, penance (sacrament of reconcilia-
ritual complex of which they are a part is an important agen-
tion), matrimony, ordination (or holy orders), and the
da for the study of religion.
anointing of the sick (extreme unction). Protestant churches
usually enumerate the sacraments (in the narrower sense of
SEE ALSO Gnosticism; Human Sacrifice; Initiation; Mystery
the term) as only two, namely, baptism and eucharist, be-
cause these two are clearly identified in the New Testament.
The word sacrament derives from Latin sacramentum,
For concise historical background, see the article on musterion by
meaning “oath,” “pledge,” or “bond.” As a Christian term
Günther Bornkaum in Theological Dictionary of the New Tes-
applied to rituals of worship, it is found no earlier than the
tament, edited by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich
third century, when it came into use in Western churches as
(Grand Rapids, 1964–1976), and the article “Mystery,” in
a translation of the Greek term must¯erion, which had the reli-
the Encyclopedia of Theology, edited by Karl Rahner (New
gious connotation of effecting union with the divine, even
York, 1975).
before Christians used the term in that sense. When the word
The classic treatment of rites analogous to sacraments of transition
sacrament is used in the singular without contextual specifica-
is Arnold van Gennep’s Les rites de passage (Paris, 1909),
tion, it may be assumed to mean the Eucharist.
translated by Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee as
JEWISH ROOTS. At the time of Jesus of Nazareth the people
The Rites of Passage (Chicago, 1960). Victor Turner’s The
Ritual Process
(Chicago, 1969) is a major contribution to the
of Israel, the Jewish community, enjoyed a rich accumula-
understanding of these rituals. A useful source for the Hindu
tion of symbolism and ritual. Jesus and his early followers
sacraments is Raj Bali Pandey’s Hindu Samskaras: A Socio-
participated in that heritage and followed the observances.
Religious Study of the Hindu Sacraments, 2d rev. ed. (Delhi,
Characteristically, Christian rituals were shaped not only out
1969). Ake Hultkrantz’s Religions of the American Indians,
of the immediate experience of the early Christian communi-
translated by Monica Setterwall (Los Angeles, 1979), con-
ty but also out of the stories, imagery, and ritual observances
tains important information and an excellent bibliography.
of their Jewish tradition. This influence can be seen in Chris-
Ronald L. Grimes’s Beginnings in Ritual Studies (Washing-
tian perceptions of sacred space and sacred time, and it also
ton, D. C., 1982) suggests the relationship between zazen
appears in the configuration of sacred actions.
and the Eucharist.
The core of the Christian sacramental system is the Eu-
New Sources
Davis, Richard H. Ritual in an Oscillating Universe: Worshiping
charist, also known as the Divine Liturgy, the Lord’s Supper,
Siva in Medieval India. Princeton, N.J., 1991.
the Communion service, and the Mass. The ritual is based
directly on the table grace of Jewish observance as solemnized
Vahanian, Gabriel. “Word and Sacrament: The Religious Dialec-
tic of Nature and Culture.” In Natural Theology Versus Theol-
in the Passover Seder. There are several common elements:
ogy of Nature, pp. 140–149. Berlin; New York, 1994.
the community is gathered to respond to God’s call and to
fulfill a commandment; the gathering is at a ritual meal at
which prescribed foods are blessed, shared, and consumed;
Revised Bibliography
the accompanying prayers and ceremonies ritually reenact a
past saving event so that the present worshipers become part
of that past event and it becomes present in their experience;
the doing of this anticipates a fulfillment that still lies in the
In the Christian community sacraments are acts of worship
future; the ritual (though not it alone) constitutes the partici-
that are understood by the worshipers to give access to an
pants as God’s holy people. In the Jewish understanding and
intimate union with the divine and to be efficacious for salva-
also in the Christian, the ritual is not effective in isolation
tion. The term sacraments is sometimes used in a very broad
from the community’s daily life; on the contrary, it is effec-
sense for places, persons, things, ceremonies, and events that
tive precisely in its reshaping of the imagination and sense
mediate, or are intended to mediate, the presence and power
of identity of the worshipers, bringing about a transforma-
of the divine. In this broad sense, Christians acknowledge
tion of individual and social life.
sacraments in other religious traditions and also in the partic-
Other sacramental rites that have clear antecedents in
ular circumstances of the lives of individuals and groups. A
Jewish observances are baptism in water as a ritual of spiritual
simple illustrative story in the Hebrew scriptures (the Old
regeneration, the imposition of hands in blessing, and the ac-
Testament of Christians) is that of Jacob setting up a stone
tion of anointing to confer an office or mission. Beyond the
in the desert and calling the place Bethel, house of God (Gn.
direct influence of ritual actions of Jewish life, there is the
much more extensive and pervasive indirect influence of sto-
More usually the term sacraments refers to a limited
ries, prayers, and symbols from the Hebrew scriptures. Thus,
number of ancient rituals understood to be the acts of Jesus
baptism is not easily understood without knowledge of the
Christ carried out through the continuing ministry of the
Hebrew stories of creation and sin, of the Deluge, and of 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

passing through the waters of the Red Sea at the Exodus and
The custom was established in the early centuries of the
through the waters of the Jordan River as Israel took posses-
laying on of hands not only in confirmation but also in
sion of the Promised Land. Similarly, confirmation (chris-
the designation of persons to certain ministries or offices in
mation) is not readily understood without reference to the
the life and worship of the community. Such laying on of
theme of the breath of God, which runs through the Hebrew
hands symbolized the passing on of authorization under-
stood to come in a continuous line from Jesus and his earliest
EARLY HISTORY. Although there are references to sacramen-
followers. It was performed in the context of a worship as-
tal activity in the New Testament, and these are accompa-
sembly and was accompanied by prayers and solemnity.
nied by a sacramental theology (e.g., 1 Cor.), little is known
From the fourth century onward there is evidence of the
about the form of early Christian ritual except through late
blessing of marriages, at least in certain cases, by bishops, al-
second-century sources. By the fourth century most of the
though the ritual of marriage was otherwise performed ac-
rituals were elaborate and well established in the patterns that
cording to local civil custom. Of the anointing of the sick
were to endure, though they were not numbered explicitly
there is, despite the injunction found in the New Testament
as seven until the twelfth century in the West and the seven-
(Jas. 5:14), no clear evidence from the early centuries of the
teenth century in the East.
Early Christian rites. The central sacrament has always
Theology of the rites. Christian sacraments are based
been the Eucharist. From early times it has consisted of a rit-
on the understanding that human existence in the world as
ual meal of small amounts of bread and wine, commemorat-
human beings experience it is not as it is intended by God,
ing the farewell supper of Jesus before his death and extend-
its creator; hence they stand in need of salvation (redemp-
ing the presence and friendship of Jesus to his followers
tion, rescue, healing). If all were in the harmony of God’s
through the ages. The celebration begins with readings from
creation, all things would speak to humanity of God and
the Bible, prayers, usually a sermon on the biblical texts read,
would serve its communion with God. However, because of
and sometimes, hymns. Then follows a great prayer of praise
a complex legacy of the misuse of human freedom (a legacy
and thanksgiving, recited by the one who presides over the
known as original sin), the things of creation and the struc-
ritual; in this context the story of the farewell supper is recit-
tures of human society tend to betray humans, turning them
ed and reenacted. The bread and wine are consecrated, the
away from their own true good. Jesus Christ is seen as the
bread is broken and distributed to the worshipers, who con-
savior (redeemer and healer) in his life, actions, teachings,
sume it immediately, and the wine is likewise consumed.
death, and resurrection. The sacraments are understood as
This eating and drinking is known as “communion.”
continuing his presence and redeeming power.
Admission to the community formed around the Eu-
In the New Testament and the other writings extant
charist is by baptism and confirmation. In the early centuries
from the earliest period of Christian history, known as the
baptism was by total immersion of the candidate, preferably
patristic period, the community dimension of the sacraments
in running water, accompanied by a formula of profession
is inseparable from the communion with God that they offer.
of faith. This going through the water symbolizes a death and
Sacraments are redemptive because they draw people into the
a spiritual rebirth. Baptism was surrounded by lesser ritual
fellowship in which salvation is found. Baptism is the out-
elements: a divesting of old clothes and donning of a new
reach of God through Jesus in his community whereby it is
white robe (which was worn for about one week), an anoint-
possible for a person to turn (convert) from the ways and so-
ing, and the receiving of a lighted candle. The ritual was gen-
ciety of a world gone astray to the ways and society of the
erally preceded by a fast of some days and an all-night vigil.
community of the faithful. That this is the meaning of bap-
A further step of the initiation into the community was a
tism is evident in the New Testament in the early chapters
confirmation of the baptism by the bishop (the leader of the
of the Acts of the Apostles and in the instructions given in the
local church) with a laying on of hands, a further anointing,
early community, for instance, in the Didache. Similarly, the
and a prayer that the Holy Spirit (the breath of God that was
Eucharist is seen as fashioning worshipers into “one body”
in Jesus) might descend upon the candidate.
with Jesus Christ, which has far-reaching consequences for
their lives and their relationships (as the apostle Paul explains
In the early centuries, there were also many reconcilia-
in 1 Corinthians, chapters 11–13).
tion (penance, repentance) rituals: the recitation of the
Lord’s Prayer was one. However, there was also a more for-
In the patristic period, the theology of the sacraments
mal ritual of reconciliation, later modified radically, that ap-
was more inclusive and less specific than it later became, be-
plied to those excommunicated from the Eucharist and the
cause the terms musterion, among Greek writers, and sacra-
company of the faithful for some grave offense. A period of
mentum, among Latin writers, were being used rather gener-
exclusion, accompanied by the wearing of a special garb and
ally for all Christian rituals, symbols, and elements of
the performance of prescribed works of repentance that were
worship. But the emphasis is clearly on the Eucharist and the
supported by the prayers of the community, was concluded
initiation into the fellowship of the Eucharist, with the un-
by a ceremony in which the bishop led the penitents back
derstanding that it constitutes a dynamic in history. Not only
into the worship assembly to readmit them to the Eucharist.
does it commemorate the past event of the death and resur-
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

rection of Jesus, and put the worshiper in intimate commu-
are ill, whether or not they are in danger of death. Anointing
nion with that event, but it anticipates a glorious fulfillment
of the sick has the double purpose of prayer for healing from
of all the biblical promises and hopes in the future, and puts
illness and forgiveness of sin.
the worshiper into intimate communion with that future,
The Orthodox churches ordain men only to their minis-
thereby transforming the quality of life and action within the
tries, as bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, and readers.
historical present.
Ordinations are performed by a bishop during the Liturgy,
and the consecration of a bishop is normally performed by
The sacramental practice and theology of the Orthodox
three bishops. Essentially the rite is that of imposition of
churches is in direct continuity with the Greek patristic writ-
hands, but this is preceded by an acclamation of the congre-
ings, emphasizing wonder and reverence in the presence of
gation in which the faithful approve the candidate and con-
the holy.
sent to his ordination. The candidate is then brought to the
altar to kiss its four corners and the hands of the bishop. The
Orthodox rites. Besides the seven sacraments enumer-
bishop lays hands on the candidate with a prayer invoking
ated above, Eastern Christianity recognizes a wide range of
God’s blessing.
ritual considered sacramental in a broader sense: the anoint-
ing of a king; the rite of monastic profession; burial rites;
The Orthodox marriage ceremony, celebrated by a
blessing of water on the feast of the Epiphany; and blessings
priest, has two parts, the Office of Betrothal and the Office
of homes, fields, harvested crops, and artifacts. These are not,
of Crowning, and includes the blessing and exchange of
however, all of equal importance.
rings, the crowning of the bride and groom, and the sharing
of a cup of wine by the couple.
Although, since the seventeenth century, the Orthodox
churches have accepted the Western enumeration of seven
Theology of the rites. Orthodox liturgy is concerned
rites, the manner of celebration of Orthodox sacraments does
with making the beauty of the spiritual an element of experi-
not correspond closely to the Western celebrations. The first
ence, even a haunting element of experience. Liturgy is
sacramental participation of an Orthodox Christian is that
“heaven on earth,” an anticipation of the glorious future.
of initiation, usually in infancy. The children are baptized
The fundamental sacramental principle is that in Jesus Christ
by total triple immersion with an accompanying formula in-
a process of divinization has begun that continues in the sac-
voking the triune God. This is followed immediately by the
ramental mysteries and draws the worshipers in. Christ him-
chrismation (anointing) of forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth,
self is the first sacramental mystery, continuing to live in the
ears, breast, hands, and feet, with words proclaiming the seal
church, whose sacred actions reach forward to a glorious ful-
of the gift of the Holy Spirit. As soon as possible thereafter,
fillment in the future. The sacramental actions are the real-
the infant is given Communion (either a small taste of the
ization or becoming of the church as heavenly and earthly
wine, or both bread and wine). This initiation is performed
community. Therefore, they establish communion with the
by a bishop or a priest.
redemptive events of the past, communion among persons,
and communion with the heavenly realm.
The Eucharist, also known as the Divine Liturgy, is or-
dinarily celebrated daily, though the community as a whole
In the theology of the Orthodox church there is a strong
is more likely to participate on Sundays, special feasts, and
sense of the organic wholeness, continuity, and pervasive
weekdays of Lent. It is performed in a highly elaborated way
presence of the redemption in the world, and therefore an
with processions, candles and incense, congregational sing-
unwillingness to draw some of the sharp distinctions that the
ing, and the wearing of special vestments by the celebrating
West has been willing to draw concerning the sacramental
The ordinary ritual of repentance and reconciliation is
RY. In the West, the sacraments underwent more change
not a public ceremony as in the early church but a private
than in the East. This was caused by many factors, such as
conversation between a Christian and a priest who acts in the
the large-scale conversions of European peoples, the cultural
name of the church. The penitent, the person seeking for-
discontinuity resulting from the dissolution of the Roman
giveness and reconciliation through the ministry of the
empire, the problem of the difference in languages, a poorly
church, ordinarily stands or sits before a cross, an icon (sa-
educated clergy in the medieval period, and some other char-
cred image) of Jesus Christ, or the book of the Gospels. The
acteristics of Western traditions in church organization and
priest, who stands to one side, admonishes the penitent to
confess his or her sins to Christ, because he, the priest, is only
a witness. Having heard the confession, and having perhaps
Western rites. In the practice of the sacraments as re-
given advice, the priest lays his stole (a type of scarf used as
ceived from the early church, there were some modifications.
a ritual vestment) on the head of the penitent, lays his hand
In the initiation, which was almost always conferred on chil-
on it and pronounces a prayer of forgiveness. Besides this rit-
dren in the medieval period, baptism, confirmation, and first
ual of repentance, which can be repeated many times by the
participation in the Eucharist were separated. The custom
same person, the anointing of the sick is available to all who
grew up of baptizing not by immersion but by pouring water
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

over the forehead of the child. Confirmation, being the pre-
East. Sacraments are valid if the rite is duly performed by a
rogative of the bishop, might be considerably delayed, and
duly authorized minister, quite independently of the spiritu-
Communion was delayed out of a sense that infants might
al goodness or worthiness of that minister, because essentially
“desecrate” the holy.
they are the acts of Christ performed through the mediation
of his church. Therefore a Eucharist correctly celebrated by
The Eucharist became something that the priest did; the
someone who has gone into schism from the church or who
people had little part in it and little understanding of it. Its
is wicked would nevertheless be a true Eucharist.
symbolism had become rather obscure and overlaid with ad-
ditions and the Latin language, which had been adopted be-
According to the Scholastics, the necessity of baptism,
cause it was the vernacular in the West in earlier centuries,
and of sacraments in general, for salvation is grounded in the
was retained long after ordinary people no longer understood
universal involvement of the human race in the heritage of
it. Communion by the laity became rare at this time, and
sinfulness and disorientation. This led to much speculation
even then it was restricted to the bread alone, the priest being
in medieval times concerning the fate of people who were not
the only one who received from the cup. Many ordinary
baptized because the opportunity had not been presented to
Christians sought their real inspiration and forms of worship
them. The Scholastics found an acceptable compromise in
outside the liturgy of the Eucharist and the sacraments, and
postulating, besides the “baptism of blood” of martyred con-
thus a great variety of other devotional practices arose.
verts who had not yet been initiated, a “baptism of desire”
granted to those who lived in good faith by the light that
As in the East, the old solemn and public form of recon-
God had given them.
ciliation gave way to a far more private one embodied in a
conversation between penitent and priest. This had originat-
There was strong emphasis in this theology on the effi-
ed in a tradition of voluntary individual spiritual guidance
cacy of the sacraments because they were the acts of Christ.
given by a wise and spiritual person who was not necessarily
Their efficacy is to bestow grace, that is, an elevation of
a priest. However, by the thirteenth century it had become
human existence to a privileged intimacy with God leading
obligatory for all people to confess, at least once a year, “all
to salvation. Augustine’s teaching tended to emphasize the
their grave sins” to their own parish priest, and the ceremony
gratuity of God’s gifts so strongly that it gave the impression
was constructed rather like a judicial procedure. By a subtle
to some that the human response of faith and surrender was
shift of usage in the twelfth century, the prayer that God
not a constituent of the sacramental encounter. Augustine
might forgive had become a declaration that the priest for-
and the medieval theologians taught that the salvific effect
gave by the power the church had vested in him. There were
of (or the grace bestowed by) a sacrament was not dependent
also some changes in the other sacraments. The anointing of
on the virtue of the one who administered the sacrament.
the sick became, in effect, the sacrament of the dying. Ordi-
Unfortunately, this was sometimes popularly understood as
nation was restricted not only to men, but to celibate men,
meaning that sacraments are also not dependent for their ef-
and the consent of the faithful was not sought, even as a ritu-
ficacy on finding faith in the recipient.
al formality. Effectively, the ranks of the clergy were reduced
to two: bishop and priest. Men were ordained to the other
ranks (deacon, subdeacon, minor orders) only as an interme-
RADITION. The Council of Trent (1545–1563), while cor-
recting many abuses, substantially reaffirmed both the prac-
diate step to the priesthood.
tice and the theology of the sacraments as they had been re-
There seems to have been no obligatory religious ritual
ceived from the medieval period. It was not until the
for a marriage until the eleventh century, although there was
twentieth century, and particularly until the Second Vatican
a custom of celebrating a Eucharist at which a canopy was
Council (1962–1965), that substantive developments oc-
placed over the bride and groom and a special blessing
was pronounced. After the eleventh century, weddings were
Roman Catholic rites. The most significant and perva-
performed at the church door with the priest as witness and
sive changes in the sacramental rites following Vatican II
were followed by a Eucharist at which the marriage was
were the restoration of a more extensive and careful use of
blessed. Essential to the ceremony was the exchange of con-
scripture and of preaching on the biblical readings; a recon-
sent by the couple. A ring was blessed and given to the bride.
struction of rites to emphasize the communal character of the
Theology of the sacraments. The Western theology of
sacraments and the full and active participation of the laity;
the sacraments is heavily indebted to Augustine, bishop of
and a simplification and clarification of the symbolism of the
Hippo (d. 430), though the Scholastic theology of the West
rites, effected by stripping away accretions and rediscovering
in the Middle Ages elaborated Augustine’s teachings much
the classic forms from the heritage of the early church, and
more. Key ideas in Scholastic teaching are concerned with
also by introducing some cautious and modest contemporary
the validity, the necessity, and the efficacy or causality of the
In the case of adults, initiation has been restored to its
Validity is a legal concept, and this gave a different di-
ancient form with some adaptations. As in the primitive
rection to Western sacramental theology from that of the
church, the culminating ceremonies are placed at the conclu-
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

sion of a leisurely time of preparation known as catechume-
A distinct but related aspect of the renewed theology of
nate. In the case of infants, baptism has been simplified and
the sacraments after Vatican II is the rediscovery of the link
made more clearly a community action and commitment.
that was seen so clearly in the early church between Christian
sacraments and social justice. The very ceremonies and sym-
The Eucharist, like the other sacraments, is now cele-
bols of the sacraments are seen as presenting a radical chal-
brated in the vernacular. Even in large congregations, the
lenge to many of the existing structures of the world. Under
presiding priest now faces the community across the altar
the influence of biblical renewal and patristic scholarship,
rather than facing away from the people. More people now
there is a consistent effort in contemporary Catholic sacra-
have active roles in the ceremony. It is usual, not exceptional,
mental theology to correct a former bias by constant remem-
for all to communicate, that is, to partake of the bread, and,
brance that the sacraments are not simply acts of Christ but
on special occasions, also of the wine. The whole community
also of the community, are not only channels of grace but
at every Eucharist, not only the clergy on certain solemn oc-
also acts of faith and worship.
casions, exchanges a ritual “kiss of peace” (which is actually
more usually a handshake).
Protestant churches cannot simply be taken as a unity when
The anointing has been reinstated as a sacrament of the
discussing the sacraments, they do have one factor in com-
sick rather than the dying. But perhaps the greatest changes
mon: They define themselves by their discontinuity with the
have occurred in the structures for the sacrament of reconcili-
medieval church tradition. Positively they also define them-
ation, which now has not only an individual rite, but also
selves by a special emphasis on scripture and on personal
a communal one and a mixed one. The individual form re-
mains much as before but is enriched by scripture readings,
while the focus of the rite has shifted from the judicial func-
Protestant rites. In general, the Protestant churches ac-
tion to spiritual guidance in a progressive Christian conver-
knowledge as sacraments, in the strict sense of the term, only
sion. The communal form consists of an assembly in which
baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Although other rites are cele-
scripture is read; a sermon is preached; there are hymns and
brated, they are ordinarily not called sacraments because
prayers including a common, generic confession of sin and
Protestants generally find no evidence of their institution by
repentance; and a general absolution, given in the name of
Jesus Christ. Some Christian groups of the Western church
the church. In the mixed form a similar service is held, but
that are traditionally grouped with Protestants do not ac-
a pause is made during which individuals can go aside to
knowledge sacraments at all; examples are the Society of
make a personal and specific confession of sins to a priest out
Friends (Quakers), Unitarians, and Christian Scientists.
of earshot of the congregation, and an individual absolution
is given.
Among those Protestant churches that practice baptism,
some insist on the “believer’s baptism” and therefore will not
The significant change in holy orders is not in the cere-
baptize infants because they are not capable of a response of
mony but in the fact that the Catholic church once again or-
faith. Such, for instance, are the Baptists, the Disciples of
dains permanent deacons (thereby restoring a third rank of
Christ, and the Mennonites. These groups practice baptism
clergy), who, moreover, may be married men. Marriages are
by immersion. Most Protestant groups, however, do baptize
more usually celebrated with an exchange of rings, rather
infants and consider the pouring (sometimes the sprinkling)
than a ring for the bride only, and both partners receive the
of water over the head as sufficient, accompanied by the re-
nuptial blessing. It is still understood that the partners them-
cital of a formula usually invoking the triune God.
selves confer the sacrament on each other; the priest serves
as witness.
Protestant churches in general do not celebrate the Eu-
charist (Lord’s Supper) as frequently as do the Catholic and
Theology of the sacraments. The Catholic theology of
Orthodox churches. Even a weekly celebration is not cus-
the sacraments after Vatican II has returned to closer affinity
tomary in most cases, though a monthly Communion service
with the patristic and Eastern understanding. The funda-
is quite usual. Although there is a variety of rites in the vari-
mental sacrament is Jesus Christ, who is made present in the
ous churches, the central elements remain: the blessing and
sacrament of the church, which in turn is realized as a sacra-
breaking of bread and its distribution to the worshipers to
ment in its own sacramental actions and assemblies. But
eat, accompanied by the biblical words of and about Jesus
sacramentality is pervasive in Christian experience and not
at his farewell supper; the blessing and distribution of the cup
restricted to the seven special moments. The liturgy (espe-
of wine (in some cases nonalcoholic grape juice) to be drunk
cially that of the Eucharist) is the peak or summit of Chris-
by the worshipers, also accompanied by the appropriate bib-
tian life in that everything should lead to it and everything
lical formula; biblical readings and meditation; and some ex-
should flow from it. That is to say, life for the Christian com-
pression of fellowship in the community. In general the Eu-
munity should be progressively transformed in the grace of
charist as celebrated by the Protestant churches is marked by
Christ, in lifestyle, in relationships, and in community struc-
a certain austerity of ritual expression and elaboration when
tures and values by the repeated immersion of the communi-
compared with the celebrations of the Catholic and Ortho-
ty in the eucharistic moment.
dox churches.
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

Most Protestant churches celebrate some or all of the
Christian Priesthood; Repentance; Rites of Passage, article
other rites that the Catholic and Orthodox churches enu-
on Jewish Rites; Water; Worship and Devotional Life, arti-
merate as sacraments, although Protestants do not accord the
cle on Jewish Worship.
rites that designation. There is a variety of rites of reconcilia-
tion, ranging from private confession of specific sins to an
ordained minister, through such other forms as mutual con-
The most inclusive single-volume introduction to sacraments in
fession between laypersons or stylized, generic formulas in
the Western tradition is Joseph Martos’s Doors to the Sacred
which the whole congregation acknowledges sinfulness and
(New York, 1981). The biblical themes that underlie the
symbolism of the sacraments are discussed briefly in my book
need of forgiveness, to the characteristic Mennonite rite of
The Meaning of the Sacraments (Dayton, Ohio, 1972). A de-
foot washing (commemorating the action of Jesus related in
tailed account of the historical development of the symbol-
the Gospel of John 13:2–10).
ism is given in Jean Daniélou’s The Bible and the Liturgy
Anointing of the sick and other anointings have tradi-
(Notre Dame, Ind., 1966). What is known of the origins of
tionally been practiced in some churches and have become
the Christian rites in apostolic times is summarized in Ferdi-
nand Hahn’s The Worship of the Early Church (Philadelphia,
far more common under the influence of the charismatic and
1973). The development of the rites through the patristic pe-
Pentecostal movements. Marriages are commonly celebrated
riod is described in Josef A. Jungmann’s The Early Liturgy to
with some religious ceremony that includes bestowal of a
the Time of Gregory the Great (Notre Dame, Ind., 1959). The
ring or exchange of rings, exchange of marriage vows, and
rites of the Orthodox tradition and their theological explana-
an exhortation in the context of community worship. Al-
tions are described in part 2 of Timothy Ware’s The Ortho-
though most Protestant churches have some type of ordina-
dox Church (Baltimore, 1963). A further presentation of con-
tion of ministers, the ceremonies for such conferral reflect
temporary Orthodox sacramental theology is available in
the different ways in which ministry and the role and status
Alexander Schmemann’s Sacraments and Orthodoxy (New
of the minister are understood.
York, 1965). A Protestant discussion of the rites and their
theology, written from a Reform perspective but discussing
Theology of the rites. Common to the Protestant
the Lutheran tradition also, is G. C. Berkouwer’s The Sacra-
churches is the insistence on the primacy of the Bible and
ments, translated from the Dutch by Hugo Bekker (Grand
on faith in salvation. Generally the efficacy of sacraments is
Rapids, Mich., 1969). Another Protestant account, written
not emphasized, while the role of the faith of the individual
from the perspective of the Disciples of Christ, is J. Daniel
participant is stressed. This emphasis, combined with a
Joyce’s The Place of the Sacraments in Worship (Saint Louis,
strong sense of the priesthood of all believers, means that
1967). A detailed history of the rites from the point of view
of the Episcopal church is Marion J. Hatchett’s Sanctifying
there is less concern over the “validity” of sacraments, and
Life, Time and Space: An Introduction to Liturgical Study
especially over the “validity of orders” of presiding ministers
(New York, 1976). The Catholic theological understanding
than in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.
of the sacraments prior to Vatican II is succinctly presented
A major concern in celebrating the two great sacraments
in Bernard Piault’s What Is a Sacrament? (New York, 1963).
The Catholic understanding of the sacraments in the light
is obedience to the command of Jesus to do so, as that com-
of Vatican II is very clearly presented in Bernard Cooke’s
mand is read in the New Testament. However, a significant
Sacraments and Sacramentality (Mystic, Conn., 1983). Karl
difference exists between the Lutheran and the Calvinist un-
Rahner’s The Church and the Sacraments (London, 1963) is
derstanding. In the former an act of God in the sacrament
a short but highly technical reformulation of the older
is effective when it encounters faith in the participant. In the
Roman Catholic sacramental theology in the light of a re-
latter a sacrament is a sign of God’s grace but does not confer
newed ecclesiology. Edward Schillebeeckx’s Christ: The Sac-
that grace.
rament of the Encounter with God (Mission, Kans., 1963), an
epoch-making book in its time, is a similar reformulation
ECUMENICAL ISSUES. The sacraments raise some ecumenical
linking traditional sacramental theology to a renewed Chris-
questions among Christians of different churches. One of
tology. Bernard Cooke’s Ministry to Word and Sacraments:
these is the question of “intercommunion,” that is, whether
History and Theology (Philadelphia, 1976) is a lengthy study
Christians of one church may receive communion at the Eu-
showing the historical development of the sacraments in rela-
charist of another. Most churches allow this practice, at least
tion to changing perceptions of priesthood. A series of essays
in some circumstances. Another question is whether Chris-
on the ecumenical questions relating to the sacraments is col-
tians transferring from one church tradition to another
lected in The Sacraments: An Ecumenical Dilemma, edited by
should be baptized again. With some exceptions, the church-
Hans Küng (New York, 1967), and The Sacraments in Gener-
es do not confer baptism a second time, because they consid-
al: A New Perspective, edited by Edward Schillebeeckx and
Boniface Willems (New York, 1968). Technical and detailed
er the first baptism valid. The question of accepting the ordi-
bibliographies are given in each of these volumes.
nation to ministry of other churches has proved far more
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SEE ALSO Ablutions; Atonement; Baptism; Confession of
Sins; Eucharist; Grace; Hands; Initiation; Justification; Mar-
Fahey, Michael. A., ed. Catholic Perspective on Baptism, Eucharist
riage; Ministry; Ordination; Passover; Priesthood, article on
and Ministry. Lanham, Md., 1986.
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

Gorringe, Timothy J. The Sign of Love: Reflections on the Eucharist.
sacred as a special category of religion in the way that the cor-
London, 1997.
rect or the true has been made a category of cognition theory,
Guernsey, Daniel P., ed. Eucharistic Texts and Prayers throughout
the good a category of ethics, and the beautiful a category
Church History. San Francisco, 1999.
of aesthetics. The sacred is then what gives birth to religion,
Limouris, Gennadios, and N. M. Vaporis, eds. Orthodox Perspec-
in that humanity “encounters” it; or it functions as the es-
tives on Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry. Brookline, Mass.,
sence, the focus, the all-important element in religion. Of
course it is possible to define the sacred in such a way if one
Mitchell, Nathan. Eucharist as Sacrament of Initiation. Chicago,
determines that a single attribute is sufficient for an all-
encompassing statement about religion. But when one is
forced to find attributes that suggest religion’s links to alto-
O’Malley, William J. Sacraments: Rites of Passage. Allen, Tex.,
gether different concepts, aside from those having to do with
the quality of lying beyond a specific boundary, one discov-
Primavesi, Anne. Our God Has No Favorites: A Liberation Theology
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of the Eucharist. Tunbridge Wells, U.K., and San Jose, Calif.,
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metaphysical one. And today, confronted with definitions
Reumann, John Henry Paul. The Supper of the Lord: The New Tes-
advanced by critics of ideology, sociologists, psychoanalysts,
tament, Ecumenical Dialogues, and Faith and Order on Eucha-
and others, it indeed necessary to find such attributes. Any
rist. Philadelphia, 1985.
definitions, even simple descriptions of the sacred and the
Shurden, Walter B. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Macon, Ga.,
profane, are affected by these as well; they also depend, in
turn, on the manifold factors one has to muster when identi-
White, James F. The Sacraments in Protestant Practice and Faith.
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exist side by side represents a fundamental paradigm for
making distinctions in general. It therefore has a certain heu-
ristic value, though admittedly only that and nothing more.
referring to the sacred and the profane and distinguishing be-
The relationship between the sacred and the profane can
tween them, the languages of modern scholarship are indebt-
be understood either abstractly, as a mutual exclusion of
ed to Latin, even though they may have equivalent or synon-
spheres of reality, or cognitively, as a way of distinguishing
ymous terms for both that have been derived from their own
between two aspects of that reality. The former approach
linguistic traditions. To the Roman, sacrum meant what be-
necessarily presupposes that such exclusion is recognizable;
longed to the gods or was in their power; yet when referring
the latter, that one is dealing with ontic factuality. Even if
to sacrum one was not obliged to mention a god’s name, for
one assumes a transsubjective reality, the boundary between
it was clear that one was thinking of cult ritual and its loca-
the two spheres may prove to be movable or even fictitious,
tion, or was primarily concerned with the temple and the
and even if one confines oneself to the fact of subjectivity,
rites performed in and around it. Profanum was what was “in
one may at times conclude that transcendence conditions the
front of the temple precinct”; in its earlier usage, the term
individual psychologically. Thus, when asking whether the
was always applied solely to places. Originally, profanare
sacred and the profane “exist,” and how humans “experi-
meant “to bring out” the offering “before the temple precinct
ence” them, one encounters even greater difficulties than
(the fanum),” in which a sacrifice was performed. Sacer and
when inquiring after being and its various modes. Even
profanus were therefore linked to specific and quite distinct
though this article contains primarily the most important in-
locations; one of these, a spot referred to as sacer, was either
formation about the various ways in which the sacred has
walled off or otherwise set apart—that is to say, sanctum
been perceived in the history of religions, these difficulties
within the other, surrounding space available for profane use.
of meaning must be borne in mind. It is necessary to suppress
This purely spatial connotation adheres to the two terms to
one’s own conclusions about how and in what dimensions
this day, and implies that it represents a definition of them,
the sacred might exist, and about what it “is,” in favor of the
or at least of their more important features. It makes sense
numerous theories that have been advanced on the question;
wherever the church still stands next to the town hall, the
according to these, conclusions may only be drawn case by
cult site alongside the village council chamber, and wherever
case, in the light of the data and the theoretical arguments
an assembly of Buddhists or Muslims is something other
presented, and may well come out differently in every in-
than an assembly of professional economists or athletes.
stance. Only with such reservations in mind can one consider
the nature of the sacred and the profane.
If one clings to the spatial aspect of these terms, howev-
er, and attempts to use it as a means of distinguishing not
MEANS OF IDENTIFICATION. In selecting evidence of the sa-
only between the two of them but also between religion and
cred and its relationship to the profane one must be limited
nonreligion, one is led astray. This occurs if one posits the
to two approaches: Either it is tacitly perceived as something
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real, or it assumes some kind of symbolic form. In order to
profane (upon which the terminology of the medieval precur-
establish tacit perception, one requires proofs that silence is
sors of modern scholarly languages was based) was the Latin
maintained for the sake of the sacred. These proofs suffice
of the Roman classical writers and church fathers, including,
not only for the mystic, for example, who could speak but
among the texts of the latter, the Vulgate and the harmony
prefers to maintain silence, but also for persons who have
of its gospel texts represented by Tatian’s Diatessaron in the
spoken, but whose language is unknown: namely, the people
Codex Fuldensis. Equating words resulted in the double pre-
of prehistory and early historical times.
sentation of terms in the vernacular, as can still be seen from
Symbolic forms may be specifically linguistic or of a
various contextual, interlinear, and marginal glosses, and in
broader cultural nature. If they are linguistic, the historian
the translations of the Abrogans, an alphabetical dictionary
of religions must distinguish between the language spoken
of synonyms, and the Vocabularius Sancti Galli, in which the
by the people who are the objects of study (“object lan-
terms are arranged by subject. Bilingualism, resulting from
guage”) and the one spoken by the scholar, though naturally
the rechristianization of Spain, was also responsible for the
the two will have shadings and terms in common. One can
earliest translation of the QurDa¯n by Robertus Ketenensis and
best make this distinction by keeping one’s own definition
Hermannus Dalmata, for the unfinished Glossarium Latino-
of what is sacred or profane separate from the definition that
Arabicum, and for some important translations from He-
is given by the culture under scrutiny itself (“self-
brew, which not only reflect the Jews’ skill as translators
definition”). Each definition naturally identifies the sacred
throughout the Diaspora, but also represent active endeavors
and profane in a different way. The self-definition is part of
on the part of the medieval mission among the Jews. Terms
those languages in which religious and nonreligious docu-
for the sacred and its opposites could thus be translated into
ments have come down to us; in terms of methodology, these
the vernaculars directly out of Hebrew, Latin, and Catalan,
are the same as object languages. The definitions the histori-
and out of the Arabic by way of Latin. They also became
an develops must arise not only out of the categories of lan-
available from Greek, once the early humanists, the forerun-
guage, but also out of those of modern sociology, psycholo-
ners of the modern scholars, had rediscovered the Greek clas-
gy, aesthetics, and possibly other disciplines as well,
sics through the Latin ones, and the original text of the New
categories employed in an attempt to understand the sacred
Testament and the Septuagint by way of the Vulgate. At the
and profane without resorting to the concepts one customar-
Council of Vienne, in 1311–1312, it was decided to appoint
ily translates with sacred and profane; in terms of methodolo-
two teachers each of Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, and Chaldean
gy, this amounts to a metalanguage.
at each of five universities; thenceforth Latin emerged once
and for all as a metalanguage with respect to the terminolo-
If the symbolic forms are not of a linguistic nature, there
gies of these languages (including Latin itself, now consid-
is no self-definition at all. The definitions given from outside
ered as an object language), and in so doing came to stand
to which one must restrict oneself, in this case to relate to
fundamentally on the same footing as the European ver-
language, are not metalinguistic in nature, for the object area
is not expressed merely in language, but rather through social
behavior, anthropological data, or works of art.
In order to avoid short-circuiting self-confirmations
within the terminology of sacredness, it is best to consider
Whether considered a linguistic or a nonlinguistic ex-
this complex as an independent one transmitted to modern
pression, the definition given from outside can assume an af-
scholarship not from the Middle Arabic of the Islamic tradi-
firmative character, and in so doing turn into the self-
tionalists, nor from the Middle Hebrew of the Talmudists,
definition of the scholar who identifies himself with a given
but solely from the Middle Latin of the Christian scholars.
artifact, be it in a text, a specific event, a psychic configura-
It must be distinguished from a later complex that resulted
tion, or a work of art. The researcher compiling a definition
from the use of the European vernaculars in missionary work
can thus identify himself with both its sacredness and pro-
and in colonization. These were able to reproduce certain
word meanings from the native languages, but more often
As a rule, one should give neither of these means of
led to interpretations dependent on the terminology of sa-
identification precedence over the other. It is for purely prac-
credness from the former complex, rather than congenial
tical reasons that this article now turns its attention first to
translation. Moreover, true bilingualism was only present in
those methods relying on linguistic evidence.
the work of a few explorers and missionaries. More recently,
Philological methods. It is an axiom in the logic of
of course, translation has been accomplished increasingly in
criticism that one can declare the use of a concept of sacred-
accordance with methods taken from the study of the early
ness in a source to be false. However, the conclusions of the
oriental languages, of Indo-European, and of comparative
modern scholar, no matter how subtly they might not only
philology, as well as from linguistic ethnology; only in the
deny phenomena of sacredness within religions but also
twentieth century did all of these achieve independence from
manage to demonstrate them outside of religions, are con-
interpretations provided by classical antiquity and by Judeo-
stantly in need of correction by object-language traditions.
Christian-Islamic tradition.
Seen in terms of the history of scholarship, the first ob-
Philologia classica sive sacra. The relationship between
ject-language tradition to contain the terms for sacred and
sacer and profanus can be called a contradictory opposition,
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if one understands sacer as the object-language expression of
ted by the religious institutions; dies nefasti were those on
something true and profanus as its logical negation. In the
which such activities were nefas, that is, not permitted, or
rich cultic vocabulary of Latin sacer is of prime importance.
Rites such as those of the ver sacrum—the sacrifice of all ani-
The meaning of fas does not accord with that of fanum,
mals born in the spring and the expulsion from the commu-
then—nor are they related etymologically; fas is related to
nity and cult congregation of all grown people about to es-
fatum—as though fas is “what is appropriate to the fanum.
tablish their own domestic state (for the purpose of securing
Here it is rather the profane sphere that is the positive start-
the support of Mars, who worked outside communal bound-
ing point. Fas is the utterance (from fari, “speak”) of the re-
aries)—or the devotio—the offering of an individual life as
sponsible secular praetor who permits something; nefas is
a stand-in for an enemy army, so that Mars will destroy it
that which the priest responsible in the fanum finds unutter-
as well—serve as prime examples of the characteristic rela-
able, which constitutes sacrilege on those days over which his
tionship between the sacrum’s liability and certain kinds of
institution has control. When one recognizes that what is
human behavior. It follows that all cult objects and sites in-
here accepted as natural and immutable passes over into what
cluded in ritual acts can also be sacra. This meaning gives rise
has been fixed by humans and is therefore subject to change,
to derivations such as sacrare, sacrificare, sancire, sacramen-
and which can be objectively false just as its opposite can,
tum, sacerdos. Of these, sancire (“to set aside as sacer”; later
then one can speak of the opposition between fanum/sacer
also “to designate as being sacer,” or, even more generally,
and fas as a contrary one.
“to establish with ceremony”) is the most fertile, for its parti-
ciple sanctus would ultimately come to characterize every-
Sacer thus has a contradictory opposite (profanus) and
thing appropriate to the sacrum. Sanctus could thus assume
a contrary one (fas). In addition, finally, there is a dialectical
a multitude of meanings, including those of cult infallibility
opposition contained within the concept of sacer itself. This
and moral purity. Accordingly, it was an ideal translation for
comes from the ambivalence produced when, as with fas, the
the Greek hagios of the New Testament and the Septuagint,
extrasacral sphere is assumed as the positive starting point in
and, by way of the latter, for the Hebrew qadosh as well.
one’s appraisal. Sacer is thus what is venerated, to be sure,
When used in such a Judeo-Christian context, sacer was then
but also something sinister; or, to put it another way, it is
restricted in meaning to “consecrated,” and this tended to
both holy and accursed. Consecration to a god is perceived
fix a change in meaning that had begun already in the Latin
by humans as a blessing, whereas being possessed by a god
of the writers of the Silver Age, as sacrum ceased to have an
is perceived as a misfortune. One must not make this dialec-
almost innate quality and came to depend on the act of con-
tical contrast into an actual one by construing possession and
secration to a deity. A new formation such as sacrosanctus
misfortune as a fatal consecration to an underworld deity in-
(“rendered sanctum by way of a sacrum”) attests to this differ-
imical to humans, for in so doing one destroys an ambiguity
ence, as well as to the continuing similarity between the two
that is part of the basic structure of every religious experience.
Positively, sacer esto simply means that a person is handed
over to a deity; negatively, it implies that he is excluded from
The basic meaning of profanus may also be discovered
the community. The negative side of the dialectic may ex-
within the context of human actions, for the spatial connota-
tend as far as demonization. If damnation or demonization
tion, which is always at its root, doubtless first derived from
is manifest on the historical level, then one is dealing with
the use made of the area outside the sacrum. Originally, per-
something other than profanation, and, outside the holy, still
haps, this space may even have been used for rites, for the
another sphere is revealed in addition to the profane. The di-
fact that even here one is dealing not with banal functions
alectical relationship with this sphere comes about only
but with special ones is shown by legal arguments about how
through humanity’s limited capacity for experience, and
assets owned by a god or in the estate of a deceased citizen
must not be enhanced by philologically setting up some find-
can be used “profanely.”
ing related to sacer; that is, it must not be turned into an es-
sential contrary working inside the nature of a numen or a
Along with profanus, there is also another concept that
is the opposite of sacer, namely that of fas. This designates,
in a purely negative way, the sphere in which human affairs
The types of contrasts between the terms designating
may take place. Fas est means that one may do something
the sacred and the profane are less fundamental in Greek
without any religious scruples, but not that one must do so.
than in Latin, even though elements of ambivalent back-
It first appears as a qualifier for a permitted act, then for a
ground experience may also be recognized in hagios and hi-
condition as well, and accordingly was used through all of
eros. For the most part, the expressions have the character of
the literature of the Roman republic only as a predicate con-
a primary positing dependent on premises other than those
cept. Livy, who also used the term sacrosanctus with some fre-
relating to the differences between inclusion in or exclusion
quency, was the first to employ the concept as a subject as
from a given precinct, or between ritual and nonritual behav-
well. Specific times came to be distinguished by the activities
ior. As a rule, the antithesis was only created belatedly,
appropriate to them. Dies fasti were days on which civil, po-
through the use of the alpha privative, as in anhieros, anosios,
litical, commercial, or forensic activities were fas, or permit-
amuetos, or asebes; the only term that appears to relate to an
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original negative concept, namely the opposite of hieros, is
From the root hag-, from which hagnos derives, the ad-
bebelos, which can be translated as “profane,” while koinos
jective hagios was also created. This does not limit, but rather
can function as the opposite of practically all the concepts
emphasizes (hence, too, its superlative hagiotatos), and is used
of sacredness. In a survey of the latter, then, the contrary con-
especially of temples, festivals, and rites, though only rarely
cepts may be easily imagined, even though not specifically
of the reverent attitudes of men. In classical Greek and the
pagan Greek of Hellenistic times it is used only relatively
rarely. Precisely for this reason its clear religious connotation
From Mycenaean times on, the decisive concept is that
was preserved, and this is what recommended the term to
designated as hieros. Behind it, most likely, is a sense of force
Hellenistic Jewry as a virtually equivalent translation for the
altogether lacking in the early Roman term. Hieros functions
Hebrew qadosh, whereas from the hieros group of words one
almost exclusively as a predicate, both of things and of per-
finds only hiereus as a possible rendering of the Hebrew
sons: offerings, sacrificial animals, temples, altars, votive gifts
kohen (“priest”), and hieron to designate a pagan shrine. The
(even including money), the road leading to Eleusis, the wars
New Testament develops even further the sense given to
engaged in by the Delphic amphictyony, and priests, initiates
hagios in the Septuagint—though unlike the Septuagint it
in the mysteries, and temple slaves. Only very rarely did any-
can also use hieron when referring to the Temple in Jerusa-
one go so far as to call a god or a goddess hieros; Greek-
lem—and thereby transmits this sense to the Greek of the
speaking Jews and Christians were forced to resort to the
church fathers and the Byzantine church. Secular modern
term hagios. Traces of some experiential ambivalence are ap-
Greek continues to use hagios as the standard term for “sa-
parent when a hieros logos, or cult legend, is regarded as arre-
cred” to this day.
ton (“unspeakable”) and a shrine as aduton or abaton
(“unapproachable”). It is nonetheless striking that in Homer
The word hosios designates behavior that conforms to
and the older Greek literature a whole range of things may
the demands of the gods. Accordingly, it can be applied to
be called hieros: cities, walls, hecatombs, altars, temples, pal-
human justice just as properly as to a correctly performed
aces, valleys, rivers, the day and the night, the threshing
cult ritual. Both are carried out on the profane level. Though
floor, bread and the olive tree, barley and olives, chariots,
one cannot translate hosios with “profane,” one must think
guard and army units, individual personality traits, moun-
of it as a contrary opposite of hieros: If money belonging to
tains, letters, bones, stones used in board games. Here it is
the gods is hieron, that means one cannot touch it, but the
rare to find hieros used with any connection to the gods, as
rest, which is hosion, may be freely used. The Septuagint
when grain and the threshing floor, for example, are spoken
never uses hosios as a translation for qadosh but generally does
of as the gifts of Demeter. On the whole it is tempting to
for h:asid (“pious”). The Vulgate, however, renders hosios un-
speak of a certain profanation due to literary redundancy,
affectedly with sanctus, whether applied to humans or to
though in fact a complete reversal of meaning is never pro-
Sebesthai (“to shrink back from a thing, to be awe-
Hagnos, which also encompasses what is pure in the cul-
struck”) has no parallel in the Semitic languages, and hence
tic sense, is even more profound in its meaning than hieros;
the word is important solely in the classical Greek tradition.
it relates to hazesthai (“to avoid in awe, to fear, to venerate”)
The related adjective semnos implies exaltedness or sublimity
in the same way that semnos (“solemn, sublime, holy”—i. e.,
when used of gods; when applied to speeches, actions, or ob-
jects (a royal throne, for example) it suggests that they com-
lacking the component of purity) relates to sebesthai (“to be
mand respect. It appears only infrequently in the Greek Bible
afraid, to perceive as holy”). Hagnos is more frequently used
for various terms, just as does the important classical concept
than hieros when referring to the gods (Demeter, Kore, Per-
euseb¯es, which is chosen in a few instances to render tsaddiq
sephone, Zeus, Apollo, Artemis), but in that they are ele-
(“the just one”), which in turn may also be translated with
ments that can purify, water and fire can also be hagnos, as
dikaios. The Vulgate has difficulty with both adjectives, and
can sky, light, and ether. Because of this connotation, hagnos
makes do with approximations or circumlocutions.
can be used not only for things and persons in the same way
as hieros, but may also designate rites and festivals or the con-
In the Hebrew Bible the all-important concept is qa-
ditions of sexual purity and of freedom from the contamina-
dosh. If its root is in fact qd (“to set apart”), its fundamental
tion of blood and death, as, for example, when applied to
meaning is not unlike the Roman sacer. But it is also possible
bloodless offerings (hagna thumata). Hagnos can even extend
that its root is qdsh, as in the Akkadian qadashu (“to become
to the whole conduct of one’s life outside the cult, though
pure”), which would point to a cultic connection. Nothing
the connotation “sacred” never entirely disappears; it is only
is qadosh by nature, however; things only become qadosh by
in Hellenistic Greek that it comes to mean “purity of charac-
being declared so for, or by, Yahveh Elohim. All of creation
ter.” Whether one is justified in calling this a profane use or
is potentially eligible: persons, especially priests; places, espe-
not depends upon one’s judgment of the nature of post-
cially the city of Jerusalem; festivals, especially the Sabbath;
classical religiosity in general. In any case, the only clearly
buildings, especially the Temple; adornments, especially the
contradictory opposite of hagnos is miaros (“polluted, dis-
priest’s crown and robe; bodies of water; plants; and animals,
especially sacrificial ones. The prophets—assisted by a trend
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that emerged from the reading of God’s law at the Israelite
qdsh and its derivatives have in Hebrew. At the same time,
feast of covenantal renewal and culminated in the establish-
the Arabic qds and its offshoots (muqaddas, “holy”) continue
ment of the Holiness Code (Lv. 17–26)—managed to trans-
to survive with more general meaning. This switch in the rel-
fer the attribute “holy” almost exclusively to Yahveh Elohim.
ative values of the two may have occurred simply because all
As a result, only a very few of the above-mentioned categories
of the concepts of sacredness having to do with rites and sac-
of objects and activities continued to be accorded the attri-
rifices were concentrated on a specific precinct. It is as
bute of holiness in the actual target language of Hebrew. In
though the Israelite concept of holiness, bound as it was to
large part, reference to holy places, times, actions, and objects
the ideas of sacrifice and consecration, were multiplied by the
is metalanguage interpretation. It is not factually wrong, for
Roman concept, with its original link to a well-defined loca-
even a holiness accorded by God on the basis of his own holi-
tion. The city of Mecca is a h:ar¯ım, a circumscribed, inviola-
ness is deserving of the name. Nevertheless, one must be
ble spot. The strip of land that surrounds and protects it is
aware of the special quality of having been created by him
known as al-h:ara¯m. In the city’s center lies al-masjid
that is typical of such holiness; this is in distinct contrast, for
al-h:ara¯m, the “forbidden mosque,” so named because it may
example, to the Greek concept of nature. And it affects the
not be entered by those who have not performed an ih:ra¯m,
designation of what is profane in Israel. An important thesis
or consecrated themselves. In the center of its inner court-
of secularization theory asserts that the desacralization of the
yard, al- h:ara¯m al-shar¯ıf (the “noble precinct”), lies the
world, especially of nature and its wonders as it was accom-
aedes sacra, the KaEbah, al-bayt al-h:ara¯m (the “forbidden
plished in the Israelite theology of holiness, and later trans-
house”). Everything outside this complex is known as h:ill,
mitted by Christianity, was one of the fundamental precon-
where, just as in the profanum, except during a period of
ditions for the worldliness of the modern era. If one does not
three months, everything is h:ala¯l (“permitted”) that is pro-
regard this basic precondition as a conditio sine qua non, it
hibited in the sacred sites. The Arabic h:ala¯l is thus close in
is doubtless correctly identified. It would be possible to view
meaning to the Hebrew h:ol, but quite different from h:ala¯l.
the realm of created things in the Israelite concept of the
world as profane, just as one might view secularity as a legiti-
Linguistica externa. Regarding the problem of “the
mizing criterion for what constitutes the modern era, but
holy,” a number of groups of terminologies have to be locat-
that profaneness would be altogether different in kind from
ed between the Latin/Greek/Hebrew/Arabic ensemble and
that of Rome or Greece. Given this situation, it is under-
the modern scholarly languages influenced by them, termi-
standable that in the Old Testament languages (Hebrew and
nologies that can suggest things similar to those existing in
Septuagint/Vulgate translations) the “profanity” of the world
the gap between those object languages and these metalangu-
is expressed in quite dissimilar fashion and only fragmentari-
ages. Semantic antinomies that can remain unrecognized in
ly, depending upon whether it is mentioned in the cult con-
the latter should certainly not influence this terminology.
text of pure and impure or in prophetic preaching about obe-
There are three ways of attempting to establish meanings
dience and sin. As a clear contradiction to qadosh is thus
here: through etymological “translation,” through syno-
found, in only a few instances, the adjective h:ol, which is ren-
nyms, and through analysis of the context and its cultural
dered by the Septuagint with beb¯elos and by the Vulgate with
background. The first of these, especially favored in the case
profanus (t:ameD, “impure,” becomes akathartos and pollutus,
of the Indo-European and Semitic languages, is altogether
respectively; t:aher, “pure,” becomes katharos and mundus).
worthless. Reliable checks are only provided by context anal-
H:ol designates only something that is accessible and usable
ysis. In this way one can discover “synonyms”—though not
without ritual, while the verb h:alal suggests a genuine dese-
always synonyms in the strict sense—which more or less ap-
cration by means of an abomination.
proximate what the meta-languages define as sacred/holy and
The grateful use of created things, which God makes
holy, by people who are likewise holy because God is, is not
The Sanskrit term is:ira has the same root as the Greek
the same thing as the Greeks’ and Romans’ removal of things
hieros, but contextually it means “strong, robust, impetu-
from profane use. The closest parallel to the latter in Israel
ous.” Sanskrit does not even have a separate word for “holy,”
is the practice of bans. Translated etymologically, h:erem
though there are numerous adjectives applied to objects and
(“the banned object”) means what has been set apart. The
persons in the religious sphere, such as pun:ya for a geographi-
difference not only between this practice and profane use of
cal location, t¯ırthaka for a ford, or the crossing or passageway
a holy object but also between it and the sacrifice of an object
to a pilgrimage shrine, or substantives such as muni for a seer
lies in the fact that the purpose for the setting apart is the
or an ascetic. Related etymologically to the Greek hazesthai/
object’s destruction. The Septuagint quite correctly expresses
hagios are the Sanskrit yaj and Avestan yaz. These two also
the term’s identity with the idea of damnation by using ana-
mean “to hold in awe,” but their usage is limited to the sense
(te)thema(tismenos), while the Vulgate makes do with con-
of “bestow, present,” as when one brings a gift to a deity (Skt.
secratum or votum.
ijya¯, Av. yasna, “the offering”), and there is no connotation,
as in the Greek hagios, of an otherworldly essence from which
In Arabic, at least since the appearance of the QurDa¯n,
the earthly is thought to have derived. For this latter sense
words with the root h:rm take on the central importance that
Avestan has the word spenta, to which are related the Slavic
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sv˛etu and Lithuanian ˇsventas. These latter two are used in
realize it in the world. There are numerous adjectival terms
Christian contexts for sacer, but their root meaning originally
corresponding to this concept, the most important being
lay somewhere between “supernaturally powerful” and “espe-
kug, mah, and zid. In Babylonian, kug is translated with ellu
cially favorable, extremely useful.” Pahlavi translations ren-
(“[ritually] pure, bright, free”), mah with siru (“first-rank, ex-
der spenta with abzo¯nig (“overflowing, bursting with
alted”), and zid with imnu (“right-hand”) or kanu (“to be
power”). The cultural background is the world of plants and
firm”). Alternatives to ellu in Babylonian spells are the terms
animals, which in its abundant energy has the miraculous
namru (“clear, radiant”) and quddushu (“purified, [made]
ability to bring forth new life and set it to work in its own
perfect”), the latter having the same root as the Hebrew qdsh.
Moreover, the Babylonian creation epic Enuma elish attests
to a primordial cosmogony in a preexistent world. For the
The Germans have translated spenta with heilwirkend
(“producing well-being” or “prosperity”) employing a root
relationship between what the metalanguages call the sacred
that means “whole, sound, intact,” and that gave rise to the
and the profane one finds analogies in the relationship be-
German heilig (“holy”). Gothic hails meant “healthy”; Old
tween human and animal forms of deities, as well as between
Icelandic and Old High German heil is “a good omen” or
their constructive activity (including Marduk’s creation of
“good fortune.” Runic hailag means roughly “gifted with
the world) and the social organization of gods and human
good fortune [by a god],” but also, conversely, “consecrated
[to a god].” This becomes equal to the Gothic adjective weihs
In Egypt, whose language became accessible by way of
and its related active verb weihan, medial verb weihnan, and
Greek (through the Rosetta Stone), temples and necropolises
abstract noun weihitha, which appear in the Gothic transla-
especially were set apart from the everyday world, and, in
tion of the Bible in place of the Greek hagios, hagiazein,
connection with them, so were gods and specific objects.
hagiazesthai, and hagiasmos, respectively. All in all, the Ger-
This sense of being separate did not have to be concentrated
man heil- words connote a physical integrity with distinct re-
in a specific term, but from the first to twentieth dynasties
ligious significance. Possession of such integrity is a boon
this was frequently done with the word dsr. Dsr means, first
that can be given. The god who bestows it thereby becomes
of all, a kind of vibrating motion, but it can also designate
one to whom one gives veneration (Ger., weiht). According-
a defense against a rush of attackers or, more generally, a
ly, even in Gothic the two concepts weihs and hails (which
clearing resulting from the settling of a whirlwind. These
can also develop to hailigs) are interchangeable, and the situa-
have in common a sense of thrusting away that amounts to
tion in other Germanic languages is similar.
the establishment of distance. The word came to be used, in
In general the synonyms in the Indo-European lan-
an increasingly abstract sense, for such distance when an ap-
guages for what the metalanguages imply with their contrast
propriate attribute was required to describe the location of
between profane and sacred boil down to a qualitative exag-
a cult statue in a necropolis, a shrine, the eternal body of the
geration, intensification, or concentration of aspects of
god Re, the space in which bulls were sacrificed, the realm
of the gods, and the underworld paths reserved for the dead
once they had become Osiris. It is simplest to conceive of
Among the ancient peoples of Asia Minor, to whose
the relationship of such places and objects to the everyday
ideas the mythology of the Hittites in part attests, there ap-
world as the subsequent removal of the distance at which
pears to have been no special word for mysteries, such as the
they have been placed. Something of this sort happens when
amazing magnetic force of stones or the destruction of cre-
texts used in the context of religious institutions become the
ation by the creator himself. Yet a Hittite adjective, parkui,
models for secular literature; the most important ancient
refers to the state of purity required in preparation for con-
Egyptian narrative, the Story of Sinuhe, for example, poses as
tact with the gods, and another, shuppi, designates such con-
a copy of an autobiographical tomb inscription.
tact itself. Among the Sumerians, for reasons whose elabora-
tion would go beyond the scope of this article, one must
Western knowledge of the Chinese and Japanese lan-
assume from earliest times a well-defined pantheon that pre-
guages is due in general to the presence of Jesuit missionaries
dated all ritual. The basic polytheistic structure is of a more
in China and Japan in the sixteenth century. Deeper under-
general character than anything that has been defined to
standing of the vocabulary of East Asian religions comes
demonstrate a consistent background world beyond the dif-
most of all from Chinese translations of Buddhist texts origi-
ferentiations into socially and functionally limited deities.
nally written in Indian dialects, and already known through
Yet even the world of the gods is permeated by a single, uni-
other channels; and, later, from the study of Japanese render-
fying element that one can only call “the divine.” This is the
ings of the better-known Chinese. The first bilingual (i. e.,
me, which is met with in compounds like melam (“divine ra-
Chinese- or Japanese-European) dictionaries finally appeared
diance, divine majesty”). Mythical people and kings can also
in the nineteenth century. Whether or not there are precise
exhibit it, in which case they are god-men. The gods pro-
equivalents for sacred and profane is largely a matter of each
nounce me and exclude it from the framework of fate, which
individual lexicographer’s interpretation. The Chinese shen-
they in fact subordinate to the me. Humanity is required to
sheng, which some gloss as meaning “holy,” is held by others
bring itself into conformity with this me so as to be able to
to mean, roughly, “extremely right,” “highly exalted,” 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

“doubtless as it must be.” Of course, it is possible to interpret
relatively early, sacer existed alongside sanctus, which, confus-
an ecstatic act such as submersion into the totality of the Tao
ingly enough, could also be used to refer to this mode of
as the attainment of holiness; however, the foundation in
transformation. Sacer could be exchanged for the clearer
physical nature that is discovered to be a basic principle of
form sacratus, and it is from this that the French (con)sacré,
the mystical experience is so much more magical here than
the Italian sacro (synonym: benedetto), and the Spanish
in other religions that a difference in quality results. The rela-
(con)sagrado derive. For this meaning English employs the
tionship between the sacred and the profane would thus be
Romance word sacred, while German and Dutch make use
roughly the same as that between alchemy and hygiene, both
of the ancient root *ueik- (possibly a homonym; “to set
of which are practiced within Taoism as a means of attaining
apart” or “to oppose oneself to someone”) with the forms
geweiht and gewijd. In addition, German also substitutes for
this a form from the former word group, using geheiligt in
The Shinto¯ concept of nature is doubtless both more
the sense of geweiht, a situation that gives rise to constant
spiritual and more mythological. The kami, or nature and
misunderstanding. This misunderstanding had been pre-
ancestral deities, are profane or sacred to the precise degree
pared for by the double direction of Gothic weihs/hailigs, and
in which they do or do not belong organically to the everyday
it was strengthened by imitating the biblical wording. For
world of the living. The monks (shidoso¯) and wandering hijiri
the sake of clarity, some careful speakers therefore prefer the
who carried the rites and concepts of the popular and even
form dargeheiligt to mean “consecrated.” This substitution
more magical esoteric Buddhism out into the provinces, and
also occurs in Swedish, which uses only vigd and helgad. In
thereby contributed greatly to its fusion with Shinto¯, can
the scholarly Slavic language ambiguity is avoided through
rightly be called “holy men”—whatever that may imply
incorporation of the simple form into a composite, as in the
about the charismatic leaders of new religions in the present
case of the Russian sviaschchennyi and the Polish ´swia˛tobliwy.
day, who take them as their models.
In Latin, profanus had continued to be the opposite of
The metalanguage expressions sacred and profane and
both sanctus and sacer, the latter in its broader, classical
their equivalents are only synonyms for all of the views de-
Roman sense as well as its more limited Judeo-Christian
rived from the various terminologies discussed here. If one
meaning. Accordingly, the Romance languages and Ro-
proceeds from the roots of their subject matter and not from
mance-influenced English still use the term, while the strictly
an all-inclusive hermeneutics, they are not complete syno-
Germanic languages have it only as a loan word. In all of
nyms but only partial ones, of a conceptual rather than a sty-
them there are synonyms with the meaning “secular,” or
listic nature.
something similar. Synonyms of this type have completely
Metalanguage meanings. The modern scholarly lan-
replaced the Latin form in the Slavic languages; Russian has
guages for the most part presuppose the changes of meaning
svetskii or zemnoi, Polish ´swiecki or ´swiatowy.
that the classical vocabulary ultimately experienced as a result
It is most important to notice the metalanguage nature
of being put to Christian use, in part after certain non-
of these terms as they are used to translate expressions from
Christian usages that prepared the way. These changes of
the linguistic complex Latin/Greek/Hebrew/Arabic, as well
meaning are characterized by the fact that a clear distinction
as from other languages. Scholars have frequently failed to
exists between the quality of God in the beyond and the
do so, and this has led to a great number of semantic antino-
quality of creation in the here and now; and the terms are
mies that were not recognized as such and therefore became,
distributed accordingly. This distinction must not be
often enough, the cause of premature or totally false identifi-
thought of as static, however, for it can be suspended in ei-
ther direction, that is to say, both by God’s communication
with humans and by humans’ consecration of things to God.
Sociological methods. For the examination of symbol-
ic forms of a nonlinguistic nature, the methods of sociology
In the first sense, the Latin term sanctus had ultimately
are the most effective. Of such nonlinguistic forms, the most
come to mean a primarily divine quality; and consequently
important are, of course, rites. Much would suggest that rites
there is now the French saint and the Italian and Spanish
were in fact the very earliest forms of religious expression.
santo. The Germanic languages, on the other hand, perpetu-
This article shall here assume stereotypings to be next in im-
ate the root that in the language’s earliest stages had meant
portance, forms that are even more hypothetical and that
“intact, healthy, whole,” represented by the English holy (re-
serve, among other things, as the rationale for institutional-
lated to whole; synonyms: godly, divine), by the German and
izations. The two scholars who have analyzed these forms
Dutch heilig, and by the Swedish helig. And the Slavic lan-
most profoundly are Émile Durkheim and Max Weber, and
guages preserve a root that had meant “efficacious” in the
this article shall draw on their findings. In so doing their
early stage of the language: the Russian sviatoi, for example,
identifications are accepted, by and large, though not their
or Polish ´swi˛ety.
theories regarding the ultimate origin of religion(s).
In the second sense, that is, for the quality attained by
Neither Durkheim’s nor Weber’s method is correct in
dedication to God, Latin had preserved the term sacer, which
itself, but together they may well be so. Durkheim’s idea
was linked to places, objects, and situations. Later, though
that, in contrast to individual reality, society is of the nature
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

of a thing, and Weber’s idea that social reality is made up
that continuously creates sacred things. The things in which
of continuous human action, inclusive of theorizing, are
it chooses to discover its principal aspirations, by which it
complementary. It is true of both, as for most of the other
is moved, and the means employed to satisfy such aspira-
sociological approaches, that they strive to work with pure
tions—these it sets apart and deifies, be they men, objects,
designations, but that these are also more or less stamped by
or ideas. If an idea is unanimously shared by a people, it can-
metalanguage usage and by concepts from classical and
not be negated or disputed. This very prohibition proves that
church tradition. This often tends to compromise the accura-
one stands in the presence of something sacred. With prohi-
cy of translation from native languages; but, on the other
bitions of this kind, cast in the form of negative rites, human-
hand, this is what permits at least an approximate under-
ity rids itself of certain things that thereby become profane,
standing of unfamiliar terms.
and approaches the sacred. By means of ritual deprivations
The nature of the sacred and profane in the objectivity
such as fasts, wakes, seclusion, and silence, one attains the
of social reality. In The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life
same results as those brought about through anointings, pro-
(New York, 1915), Émile Durkheim points out that all reli-
pitiatory sacrifice, and consecrations. The moment the sa-
gious beliefs share one characteristic in common. They pre-
cred detaches itself from the profane in this way, religion is
suppose, he notes,
born. The most primitive system of sacred things is totem-
ism. But the totem is not the only thing that is sacred; all
a classification of all things, real and ideal, of which
things that are classified in the clan have the same quality,
men think, into two classes or opposed groups, general-
inasmuch as they belong to the same type. The classifications
ly designated by two distinct terms which are translated
that link them to other things in the universe allot them their
well enough by the words profane and sacred (profane,
place in the religious system. The idea of class is construed
sacré). . . . By sacred things one must not understand
by men themselves as an instrument of thought; for again
simply those personal beings which are called gods or
spirits; a rock, a tree, a spring, a pebble, a piece of wood,
it was society that furnished the basic pattern logical thought
a house, in a word, anything can be sacred. A rite can
has employed. Nonetheless, totemism is not merely some
have this character; in fact, the rite does not exist which
crude, mistaken pre-religious science, as James G. Frazer sup-
does not have it to a certain degree. . . . The circle of
posed; for the basic distinction that is of supreme importance
sacred objects cannot be determined, then, once for all.
is that between sacred and profane, and it is accomplished
Its extent varies infinitely, according to the different re-
with the aid of the totem, which is a collective symbol of a
ligions. . . . We must now show by what general char-
religious nature, as well as a sacred thing in itself. Nor does
acteristics they are to be distinguished from profane
a thing become sacred by virtue of its links through classifica-
things. One might be tempted, first of all, to define
tion to the universe; a world of profane things is still profane
them by the place they are generally assigned in the hi-
even though it is spatially and temporally infinite. A thing
erarchy of things. They are naturally considered superi-
or in dignity and power to profane things. . . . It is
becomes sacred when humans remove it from ordinary use;
not enough that one thing be subordinated to another
the negative cult in which this happens leads to taboo. A per-
for the second to be sacred in regard to the first. . . .
son becomes sacred through initiation. Certain foodstuffs
On the other hand, it must not be lost to view that there
can be forbidden to the person who is still profane because
are sacred things of every degree. . . . But if a purely
they are sacred, and others can be forbidden to the holy per-
hierarchic distinction is a criterium at once too general
son because they are profane. Violation of such taboos
and too imprecise, there is nothing left with which to
amounts to desecration, or profanation, of the foodstuffs in
characterize the sacred in its relation to the profane ex-
the one case, of the person in the other, and profanation of
cept their heterogeneity. However, this heterogeneity is
this kind can result in sickness and death. In the holy ones—
sufficient to characterize this classification of things and
that is to say, both the creatures of the totem species and the
to distinguish it from all others, because it is very partic-
members of the clan—a society venerates itself.
ular: it is absolute. In all the history of human thought
there exists no other example of two categories of things
The meaning of sacred and profane in the context of
so profoundly differentiated or so radically opposed to
subjective religious action. Max Weber states in Wirtschaft
one another. The traditional opposition of good and
bad is nothing beside this. . . . In different religions,
und Gesellschaft (Tübingen, 1922) that the focus for sociolo-
this opposition has been conceived in different ways.
gy is the “meaning context” of an act. In order to interpret
Here, to separate these two sorts of things, it has seemed
an act with understanding, the sociologist
sufficient to localize them in different parts of the physi-
cal universe; there, the first have been put into an ideal
has to view [social] structures as simply the conse-
and transcendental world, while the material world is
quences and connections of specific action on the part
left in possession of the others. But howsoever much the
of individual persons, since for us these are the only rep-
forms of the contrast may vary, the fact of contrast is
resentatives of meaningful action we can compre-
universal. (pp. 52–54)
hend. . . . Interpretation of any action has to take no-
tice of the fundamentally important fact that [the]
These words express the most strictly sociological theory of
collective structures . . . belonging to everyday
all those that have been advanced regarding the concept of
thought are conceptions of something in part existing, in
the sacred and the profane. Durkheim argues that it is society
part desired to be true in the minds of actual persons
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

. . . conceptions on which they base their actions; and
that one could physically step out of one’s normal state; and
that as such they have a most powerful, often virtually
from the first century BCE, that one’s essential being, the soul,
dominating causal significance for the manner in which
the self or perceiving organ, could take leave of the body. The
actual persons conduct themselves. (pp. 6–7)
notion of ecstasy is found throughout the history of the
The same also applies to religiously (or magically) motivated
human psyche and human culture. It may seize a person for
communal action, which can only be comprehended from
no apparent reason or be induced through meditation, auto-
the point of view of the subjective experiences, conceptions,
hypnosis, fasting, drugs, fixing the eyes on specific objects,
and goals of the individual, that is, from the point of view
or extended ritual repetition of certain words or motions. Ec-
of its meaning. According to Weber, such action is at bottom
stasy is not necessarily sacred; it can also be profane, though
oriented to the here and now. It gradually attains a wealth
quite often specific manifestations, such as intoxication, glos-
of meanings, ultimately even symbolic ones. Trial and adher-
solalia, receptivity to visions and voices, hyperesthesia, anes-
ence to what has been tried are of particular importance,
thesia, or paresthesia, are identical. In technologically poor
since deviation can render an action ineffective. For this rea-
cultures, profane ecstasies may accompany initiations, rites
son, religions are more tolerant of opposing dogmatic con-
of passage, and preparation for war, or may be reactions to
cepts than they are of innovations in their symbolism, which
specific defeats or social setbacks. Examples of profane ecsta-
could endanger the magical effect of their actions or rouse
sies in literary cultures are those of the Corybantes and Mae-
the anger of the ancestral soul or the god. Hence there is en-
nads of Greece, of the dancers and flagellants who appeared
countered in all cultures religious stereotyping, in rites, in
in the wake of the Black Death in the fourteenth century,
art, in gestures, dance, music, and writing, in exorcism and
of Shakers and Quakers, of individual psychopaths, and of
medicine. The sacred thus becomes specifically what is un-
social outcasts. Ecstasy is only sacred in the context of histori-
changeable. By virtue of it, religious concepts also tend to
cal religion and is never the primal germ of any religion.
force stereotypes upon behavior and economics. Any actions
Nevertheless, ecstasy can be experienced within a religion as
intended to introduce change have to be correspondingly
the basic source of its particular variety of mysticism.
binding. The ones most likely to fulfill this requirement are
It then passes over into trance, of which possession has
specific contracts. The Roman civil marriage in the form of
already been recognized as the hyperkinetic primal form.
coemtio was, for example, a profanation of the sacramental
When the being by which one is possessed, or—to put it
more mildly—inspired, is held to be a god who has replaced
the extinguished consciousness, classical Greek already spoke
Anthropological methods. At times humans reveal
of enthousiasmos. By definition, such possession is sacred.
themselves in situations that appear to be of a different quali-
Profane trances, on the other hand, are those accompanied
ty than ordinary ones. The latter form the basis for compari-
by visions of distant events, or past or future ones.
son either as the sum of their normal behavior or as a social
cross section. For the moment, comparisons demonstrating
Sexuality and asceticism. Sex, especially female sexuali-
the specific differences between a possibly sacred condition
ty, is considered sacred. It stands as the positive condition
and a profane one, or showing social appraisal of a specific
contrary to both infertility and asexuality. If a woman was
human type as sacred in contrast to the profane average per-
infertile, it probably meant above all that she was malnour-
son, are best relegated to categories of a historical anthropol-
ished, and starvation is always profane when not undertaken
ogy, for as yet no historical psychology exists that might pen-
in deliberate fasts as a means of conquering the physical self.
etrate still further. A culture may choose to identify any
(The sacredness of the mother must certainly have been en-
number of unusual individual conditions or situations as sa-
hanced when, in the Neolithic period, agriculture was first
cred or profane. The most important of these warrant closer
developed—a new science made possible by Mother Earth.)
Sexuality, especially active sex, is also held to be the con-
trary of asexuality, the profane sign either of the normal con-
Ecstasy and trance. Even in terms of ethology, one could
dition of both sexes as the result of danger, cold, or constant
probably establish a similarity between humans and animals
labor, or of the lesser capacity for frequent orgasm on the
in the way they concentrate on an opponent, holding their
part of the male.
breath in silence and maintaining a tense calm from which
they can instantly switch into motion. Presumably this has
The importance in archaic societies of dominant god-
its roots in the moment when the first hunter found himself
desses, especially mother goddesses, is solely dependent on
confronting his prey. As far as humans are concerned, the
the sacredness of their sexuality and is not a result of their
perpetuation and further development of this primeval be-
given character as either the otherworldly representatives of
havior is a history of self-interpretations that presuppose con-
matriarchal societies or the polar referents in patriarchal
tinuously changing social contexts. This was probably first
ones. From the role of a great goddess alone it is impossible
apparent in shamanism, and continues to be so wherever it
to draw any conclusions about a given social order. Such
persists. Contributing to the Greek concept of ekstasis was
goddesses are frequently of a dual nature, both helpful and
the idea that man is capable of “standing outside himself.”
cruel, both givers and destroyers of life, and this ambiguity
Specifically, from the fifth century BCE on, it was believed
is altogether a part of their sacredness.
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Asceticism is not the profanation of sexuality but rather
control of cities or towns in which the elected administration
a transcendence over the normal human condition into a
or leading landholders had been rendered powerless by social
perfection that lies in the opposite direction. The ascetic
or religious upheavals (see Brown, 1982). Similarly, magic
practices self-denial with regard to all aspects of life, includ-
can be either sacred or profane, as can seen if it is examined
ing eating and drinking. In suppressing his sexuality, he is
from the perspective of history.
to a certain extent both acknowledging its sacred dimension
and claiming that sacredness for himself.
SACRED AND PROFANE HISTORY. Related to the anthropo-
logical approach is the historical. In terms of history, quali-
Innocence and wisdom. Since Vergil’s fourth Eclogue,
ties of objects, modes of conduct, events, relationships, and
perhaps since the prophecies of Isaiah, or even earlier, the in-
persons in part define themselves as sacred or profane, and
nocence of the messianic child has been seen as sacred. Mere
insofar as they do one may either accept them or criticize
babbling childishness, on the other hand, is profane. Yet one
them. In part, however, it is up to the scholar to establish
can hardly conclude from the innocence of the messianic
and define them. In either case it is quite possible that the
child how sinful or jaded the society that hopes for him actu-
sacred is truly metaphysical, eternal, and transhistorical and
ally considers itself.
manifests itself only fragmentarily and partially in a continu-
Wisdom can be the sacredness of old age, as in the case
ing succession of historical objects. It is equally possible in
of the Hindu guru, the mystagogue of late antiquity, or the
either case that the sacred is constantly forming itself anew
tsaddiq in Jewish Hasidism, who only after long experience
out of certain symbol-making forces inherent in the histori-
is able, through their own example, to help their fellow peo-
cal processes, by transcending even the objectifications of
ple find communion with God. Feebleness on the part of the
such forces.
elderly is widely considered to be profane, and when it poses
In the history of religions there are numerous examples
a burden on the young they tend to segregate themselves
of belated creation of the sacred out of the profane. The sa-
from it socially. In extreme cases the old are sent off into the
cred may initially have been only a catchall concept for spe-
wilderness, as in some cultures of ancient India, or are left
cific desires and may have later become genuine; or it may
behind in an abandoned campsite, a practice of some no-
have come into being by means of true consecration, or sanc-
madic peoples. The aged exile only avoids being profane by
tification, in both senses of the term, as have been identified
seeking his own salvation, and that of the others, through a
above. One thinks, for example, of the sanctification of ac-
curse, rather than through wisdom.
tions that were originally only ethical, of the evolution of the
Charismatic and magical gifts. The relationship be-
gift (Marcel Mauss’s term) into the offering, of the emer-
tween these is complex, especially since subsequent explana-
gence of gods from humans by way of the intermediate stage
tion of a magical or miraculous act frequently shifts the ac-
of the hero, and so forth.
cent or undertakes to reevaluate it, and since modern
interpretation is bound to suspect an element of trickery in
Related to this is the problem of whether the sacred and
the majority of miracles.
profane should be viewed as having come into being simulta-
neously, or one before the other. All three possible theories
A miracle worker was often thought of as a sacred per-
have been advanced. Unfortunately, however, the findings
son, as were Origen’s pupil Gregory Theodoros of Sykeon
of religious phenomenology and the history of religions per-
and others who were given the epithet Thaumaturgus. But
mit no sure pronouncements about the very earliest religious
not all of the figures canonized as saints by the Catholic
manifestations. Even the basic assumption that religion came
Church, for example, were miracle workers—unless, of
into being along with the appearance of man, though most
course, one considers it miraculous that anyone could have
likely correct, provides no solution to the problem of priori-
fulfilled absolutely the commandment to love God, his
ty. For even if one makes such an assumption, one still can-
neighbor, and his enemy. Conversely, it is also possible for
not know whether religion once encompassed the whole of
a miracle worker not to be recognized as a saint or be held
life, or whether there was not from the very beginning a pro-
to have been so according to religious scholarship—as were
fane worldview alongside the religious one, with its knowl-
Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney and Giovanni Melchior
edge of the sacred.
Bosco—and still not count as a charlatan like Cagliostro or
Rasputin (who were, in fact, probably neither totally profane
Origins. The sacred may be an integral part of religion,
nor demonic). Here profaneness is easier to define: That per-
but when studying its history it is necessary to treat it as quite
son is profane who is simply incapable of controlling sick-
independent. According to one possible view, the sacred and
nesses, natural forces, or his or her own feelings of animosity.
the profane came into being simultaneously. Another theory
One also hears of “false prophets,” as, for example, in ancient
has it that the sacred was a later elevation of the profane. Still
Israel or in Lucian’s satire on the pseudoprophet Alexan-
a third presupposes a kind of primal pansacrality, claiming
der—though it cannot be discerned whether these were sim-
that the sacred was once a totality that encompassed or uni-
ply instances of certain holy people winning out over others.
fied the entire world. Even the magical was not yet detached
In late antiquity it was possible for charismatic persons to rise
from it. And the profane, whether magical or not, only grad-
to “sainthood,” for better or for worse, by taking over the
ually developed through a kind of primal secularization.
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

The primal polarity and homogeneity of the sacred and
lie the pure and the ordinary—now seen as profane, that is,
profane. For this thesis one can point to caves and grottoes
as the realm of what is permissible.
from the middle Paleolithic (the Drachenloch and the Wil-
In Freud’s view, the central taboo is the one against in-
denmannlisloch in the Swiss canton of Saint Gall; Petershö-
cest; it derives from the will of the primal father. After he
hle in Middle Franconia, in Germany), others from the late
has been killed, one’s relationship to him becomes ambiva-
Paleolithic (Altamira, Lascaux, Trois Frères, Rouffignac),
lent and finds its synthesis in the idea of sacredness. The rea-
and numerous Neolithic ones. Their special nature fulfills
son behind his murder is the primal father’s castration of his
only the two criteria for holiness: (a) spatial detachment from
sons, which is replaced symbolically by circumcision. It is the
the settings of everyday life and (b) unusualness; but these
circumcision performed on the male progeny of Israel, for
are sufficient to justify calling them sanctuaries. These caves
example, that represents the actual sanctification of that
are difficult to reach, they are located either at a great height
or far below the surface, access to them is either narrow or
hard to find, and they are too low or too dark for everyday
René Girard argues that the sacred arose out of sacrifice,
activities. They contain artworks sequestered away from day-
which, as the ultimate form of killing and bloodletting,
to-day viewing as well as deposits of bones and skulls that
brings to an end the chain of force and counterforce that
cannot be merely the remains of meals. These facts indicate
constitutes the profane history of humankind. Since the ulti-
that here, in addition to the profane area (namely, the sitting,
mate use of force that cancels out everything can no longer
sleeping, and eating space near the cave entrance), there was
be arbitrary, it comes to be circumscribed and restrained
also a sacred room. The question of whether the deposits
through rituals. Once the resultant sacred act is correctly
were offerings or not, and whether they were meant for a sin-
identified as such and distinguished from profane action, the
gle god or several, remains unanswered. But it is virtually cer-
roles of the sacred and profane in society are truly segregated.
tain that the caves were used for sacred activities, in many
If the sacred and the profane come to be indistinguishable,
cases for initiation rites. Entering them, one proceeded out
a sacrificial crisis ensues; this is at the same time a confusion
of the profanum into the sacrum. It is not known what other
of roles and brings on a social crisis. The force required to
relationships may have been maintained between these two,
restore stability is applied both by individuals and by the col-
but it is clear that they did exist side by side. It is then alto-
lective: by individuals in the form of asceticism, self-
gether probable that each had come into being as distinct
discipline, and other actions against the self, through which
from the other, and that at no earlier date did the two occupy
they attain sacredness; and by the collective, through deflec-
a single space that was predominantly only one or the other.
tion onto a scapegoat, which protects society from the threat
that groups within it will destroy each other. (See Girard,
The priority and homogeneity of the profane and subse-
[1972] 1977.)
quent appearance and heterogeneity of the sacred. This thesis
accords with the one that supposes that there was once a time
Some of these theses can point to changes that have ac-
when humankind was as yet without religion. It is based pri-
tually occurred in the relationship between the sacred and
marily on ethnological theories, and in part also on psycho-
profane through the course of history, and even Freud’s theo-
analytical ones. It claims, with James G. Frazer, that magic
ry, though otherwise impossible, contains an element of
as a prescientific science proved wanting, and humans there-
truth in the fact that the exercise of religion can actually be-
fore had to seek refuge in religion.
come a compulsive act. Girard’s thesis is doubtless the most
realistic in its incorporation of the nature of man, and the
In the formula of dogmatic Marxism, the primeval
nature of his socialization, within the primary constitution
human’s social existence was so primitive that his or her con-
of sacrifice (to the extent to which the latter exists at all). But
sciousness was wholly absorbed with practical matters and
none of this is of any use toward a valid reconstruction of
was incapable of giving birth to religious abstractions. Only
when magic became necessary to assist in the attainment of
food through hunting and agriculture did religion evolve
The priority and homogeneity of the sacred and hetero-
along with it, and its function was then further bolstered by
geneity of the profane. All of the things now distinguished
the appearance of hierarchical social structures.
as religion, magic, and science; as religious worship, sorcery,
and medicine; as prophecy, law-giving, and ethics; and as
According to Wilhelm Wundt and others, the sacred
priests, kings, and shamans, were once united in a sacral
had its origins in notions of impurity. Taboo, the instilling
unity. Such is the widespread, fundamental view derived
of a reluctance to touch, was common to both (and still con-
from the thesis of a primal monotheism, as propounded by
tinues to be so), whereas the everyday sphere is profane and
thinkers from Andrew Lang to Wilhelm Schmidt; derived,
pure. At some point this reluctance entered the religious
too, from the theologoumena of a primal revelation ad-
sphere and split into awe in the presence of the sacred and
vanced by Johann Tobias Beck and Adolf Schlatter, the ele-
loathing for the demonic; everything that was displeasing to
ments of E. B. Tylor’s animism theory, the mana-orenda
the sacred deity was now held to be impure, that is, profane,
identification from the period between R. H. Codrington
and the sacred was pure. Gradually, the impure has come to
and Gerardus van der Leeuw, and the preanimism or dyna-
function as the opposite of the sacred, and between the two
mism theory promulgated from R. R. Marett to Konrad T.
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

Preuss. One can say that the profane becoming independent
such intercourse becomes wholly profane. Nevertheless, its
is the result of a process of differentiation out of primal sa-
archetype persists in the human spirit, and is always capable
crality only if one ignores the synonymity between the very
of restoring the religious feeling to consciousness, if condi-
definition of the sacred and the naming of the phenomena
tions are favorable.
on which these theories are based.
Just what sort of conditions these have to be, no one can
Temporal existence. Since it is impossible to verify any
say. It may be that they are altogether unfavorable when a
theory of origins or development, it is advisable to do with-
civil religion is established of the type envisioned by Jean-
out one altogether, and to adopt the approach of Mircea
Jacques Rousseau at the end of his Social Contract; it may also
Eliade, who for historical consideration sees the sacred as an
be that they are indeed favorable when no organized religion
element in the structure of consciousness, rather than as a
continues to play any role.
stage in the history of its development. Regardless of the sim-
ilarity of religious phenomena throughout cultures, it is the
Restoration. It is possible to try to secure once more the
cultural-historical context that at the same time lends an im-
place for the sacred in society that it lost thanks to the disap-
measurable novelty to their various manifestations. As for the
pearance of the distinction between it and the profane that
phenomena of the sacred and the profane, the following tem-
once existed. This is what motivates the scholarship of the
poral aspects are of fundamental importance.
Collège de Sociologie. Every community that is intact and
wishes to remain so requires a notion of the sacred as a priori.
Unchangeableness. The sacred is absolutely unchange-
Archaic societies that provided sufficient room for the sacred
able only if one has extrahistorical reasons for treating it as
kept it socially viable in secret fraternities or through magi-
a metaphysical, eternal, or transhistorical reality. As under-
cians or shamans. Modern societies can achieve the same by
stood by Max Weber, it is not unchangeable. On the histori-
means of public events such as festivals, which generate social
cal plane, unchangeableness and constancy are evident to the
strength, or by the establishment of monastic, elitist orders,
degree that in everything that the religious phenomenologies
or the creation of new centers of authority.
identify as sacred—persons, communities, actions, writings,
manifestations of nature, manufactured objects, periods,
places, numbers, and formulas—not only are situations, mo-
tween the sacred and the profane occur both on the level of
tive, and conditions expressed, but an ancient type remains
their expression in language and on a (or the) level of exis-
operative, or makes a reappearance. Once delineated, such
tence that is characterized by various different ontological
types can reappear at any moment, and they persist through
qualities. The relationships between these two levels them-
great periods of time. Notwithstanding, genuine changes also
selves are of a more fundamental nature. Since only the homo
take place.
religiosus is capable of bearing witness to the manner of such
existence, and not the scholar, one can speak of it only in for-
Metamorphoses. These appear as either transcendence
mal categories that reveal both the conditions of one’s possi-
over the profane or secularization—now no longer consid-
ble perception of the sacred and the transcendental prerequi-
ered primary, as it was above—of the sacred. The former oc-
sites of its mode of being.
curs in initiations, sacraments, and baptisms, in the use of
stones for shrines or of animals as offerings, in the blessing
The epistemological approach. Non-Kantian religious
of an object, an act, or a person. The latter is evident on a
thinkers and scholars have always restricted themselves to
large scale in world-historical processes. On a small scale it
their inner experience. What they have found there could
is present whenever a sacred function is simulated, when a
easily be rediscovered in history. The experiential method,
myth is transformed from the fact that it is into a reporting
which tends toward psychology, was therefore always superb-
of facts, when a sacred text is read for entertainment, or
ly compatible with the historical-genetic method. On the
whenever someone’s behavior swerves from his vows to God,
other hand, it is also possible to apply a logical, analytical,
without his actually sinning. The ultimate form of seculariza-
transcendental method, and in fact this can be used in inves-
tion is the destruction of the sacred while the profane contin-
tigating the possibilities of both inner experience and histori-
ues to exist; the greatest possible transcendence is the restitu-
cal perception. Heretofore, discussion of these alternatives
tion of the sacred together with a fundamental skepticism
has been most productive toward determining the position
regarding the profane.
of the philosophy of religion, and therefore religion itself,
within the overall scheme of culture and scholarship. At the
Destruction. The destruction of religion is not the same
same time, it has tended to curtail any elucidation of the reli-
thing as the destruction of the sacred. The destruction of a
gious phenomenon in general and the phenomenon of the
religion occurs most clearly when it is confined to institu-
sacred and its relation to the profane in particular. Perhaps
tions, as these can simply be abolished. It is less apparent
one could take it further.
when a religion ceases to have its original function, but this
too can finally be ascertained. The sacred, on the other hand,
A priori and a posteriori. In his book Kantisch-Fries’sche
increasingly tends, in industrial society, to be transformed
Religionsphilosophie und ihre Anwendung auf die Theologie
from the active element it once was into a kind of unex-
(Tübingen, 1909), Rudolf Otto took a rational approach to
pressed potentiality. It then decays in social intercourse and
the a priori concept and applied it to the idea of God. God
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

is not an object alongside or superior to other objects, and
bivalence that truly exists and is not to be confused with the
he cannot be placed in one of the various standard relation-
dialectic of the hierophanies. However, Otto was referring
ships. He is able to transcend space and time as well as every
primarily to the essence of the sacred in itself. Such an ap-
particular relationship. Accordingly, it must be possible to
proach is logically possible only if one begins consistently
imagine the sacred as standing in a transcendental primal re-
and exclusively from “above.” Since Otto declares both as-
lationship to things. One way or the other, the a priori con-
pects to be factors of the same numinousness, his method-
cept is rational.
ological starting point becomes, de facto, if not intentionally,
Judeo-Christian theocentricity. This is certainly extremely
Rationality and irrationality. When writing Das Heilige
productive, but it also exhibits one of the limits of scholarly
(1917), Otto abandoned his transcendental philosophical
study of religion: namely its continual orientation, only
position. He did not give up the a priori concept, however,
seeming to overcome the theological a priori, at the starting
but rather reinterpreted it with a psychological slant. In this
point of historical scholarship, namely recognition of the am-
way, the transcendentality of the rational applied to the a pri-
bivalence in the ancient Roman notion of the sacrum.
ori concept becomes the capacity of thought to be rational.
This capacity can then be opposed to the irrational. The ra-
Dialectics. Eliade has concentrated the links between
tional concepts of absoluteness, necessity, and essential quali-
the complexes of the sacred and the profane on the plane of
ty, as well as the idea of the good, which expresses an objec-
appearances, introducing the inspired concept of hiero-
tive and binding value, have to be traced back to whatever
phany. A hierophany exposes the sacred in the profane. Since
lies in pure reason, independent of experience, whereas the
there are numerous hierophanies (though the same ones do
irrational element of the sacred must be traced back to
not always appear everywhere), he sets up a dialectic of
the pure ideas of the divine or the numinous. Here, from the
hierophanies to explain why an object or an occurrence may
point of view of irrationality, “pure” becomes the attribute
be sacred at one moment but not at another. Such an ap-
of something psychically given, and the a priori becomes
proach makes it possible to examine every historical datum
and identify it as sacred or profane—and in so doing to write
On the other hand, as Anders Nygren argues, just as one
a new history of religions within profane history. In addition,
questions the validity of perception, using the a priori of cog-
one can draw conclusions about the objectivity of the sacred,
nition theory, it becomes necessary to question the validity
which is satiated with being and therefore has the power,
of religion, using the religious a priori concept. Further, Ny-
functioning through the hierophanies (including even their
gren and Friedrich Karl Feigel suggest, it becomes necessary
profane element), to become apparent. Eliade does both.
to comprehend the sacred as a complex category a priori, not
The former demonstrates a historical phenomenology, and
so as to be able to experience it in itself, but rather so as to
points toward an as yet unrealized historical psychology of
identify the sacred in experience and cognition, even in the
religion. The latter is subject to the same criticism as the on-
course of history.
tological proof of God.
The ontological approach. Links exist not only be-
tween the sacred and the profane, each of which has its own
closely bound to the modalities of its names. One cannot do
complexity, but also between the sacred and the demonic,
without the testimony revealed in language, but one must
the profane and the evil, the profane and the demonic, and
not restrict the sacred to the terms language provides. In ad-
the sacred and the evil. The first and second links have onto-
dition to such testimony, one has to discover the sacred in
logical implications, the third and fourth have ethical ones,
experience. The sum of linguistic testimony and descriptions
and the fifth has both. One obscures the demonic aspect
of such experience can serve both as a check on each other
when one asks the question whether one can have an ethic
and as mutual confirmation.
that can deal with the awesome potential powers at modern
Deciphering the sacred. Using this approach, one can
humanity’s disposal without restoring the category of the sa-
only speak of the sacred ideogrammatically. Classical phe-
cred, which was thoroughly destroyed by the Enlightenment.
nomenology of religion is content to present the sacred as
In Hans Jonas’s view, these powers continue to accumulate
revealed in so-called phenomena that corroborate each other
in secret and impel humankind to use them, and only re-
within a larger context. However, this kind of evidence ob-
spectful awe in the face of the sacred can transcend calcula-
scures the ambivalence that permits one to experience a sa-
tions of earthly terror. But it is not the task of this article to
cred phenomenon simultaneously with a profane one.
enter into a discussion of ethical implications; the reader
Therefore, one can only understand the phenomenon of the
must be content to consider the ontological ones.
sacred, whether evidenced with the aid of language or writing
Ambivalence. Otto described the positive aspect of the
or not, as something like the Greek idea, and accordingly re-
sacred by using the numinous factor fascinans and various
gard the forms of the sacred accessible to description and in-
subordinate factors of the numinous factor tremendum. He
vestigation as its ideograms. However, these can also be un-
characterized its negative aspect by way of a subordinate fac-
derstood as “tautograms,” that is, as designations that
tor of the latter that he called “the awesome.” In so doing
withhold immanence, but at the same time one cannot call
he provided countless studies with the suggestion of an am-
them profane merely because they lack the connotation 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

transcendence into the sacred. Otto’s book on the holy was
Theorie Rudolf Ottos (Leiden, 1966) and by Georg Schmid
already in large part an ideogrammatics of the sacred.
in Interessant und Heilig: Auf dem Wege zur integralen Reli-
(Zurich, 1971). Important sociological in-
Understanding the sacred. At the heart of the findings
vestigation of ritual is found in Jean Cazeneuve’s Sociologie
from the study of synonyms that have provided reasons for
du rite (Paris, 1971) and of the history of force, counterforce,
speaking of both the sacred and the profane in the singular
and sacrifice in René Girard’s La violence et le sacré (Paris,
are certain basic attributes, such as separateness, power, in-
1972), translated by Patrick Gregory as Violence and the Sa-
tensity, remoteness, and otherness. Cognition theory has less
cred (Baltimore, 1977). Additional ethical implications are
difficulty identifying the sacred when it examines larger sys-
considered by Bernhard Häring in Das Heilige und das Gute,
tems, within which such fundamental attributes are mutually
Religion und Sittlichkeit in ihrem gegenseitigen Bezug (Krail-
complementary. In doing so, one cannot only recognize the
ling vor München, 1950). On the disappearance of the sa-
ideograms of the sacred in texts but also treat the sacred as
cred through secularization and its reappearance in times of
crisis, see Enrico Castelli’s Il tempo inqualificabile: Contributi
though it were explained. Eliade’s work represents just such
all’ermeneutica della secolarizzazione (Padua, 1975) and Fran-
a hermeneutics of the sacred as distinguished from the
co Ferrarotti and others’ Forme del sacro in un’epoca di crisi
(Naples, 1978). Summaries from various points of view in-
clude Roger Caillois’s L’homme et le sacré (1939; 3d ed.,
SEE ALSO Hierophany; Holy, Idea of the; Purification; Sa-
Paris, 1963), translated by Meyer Barash as Man and the Sa-
cred Space; Sacred Time; Secularization.
cred (Glencoe, Ill., 1959); Jacques Grand’Maison’s Le monde
et le sacré,
2 vols. (Paris, 1966–1968); and Enrico Castelli
and others’ Il sacro (Padua, 1974).
The most influential modern book on the subject is Rudolf Otto’s
New Sources
Das Heilige (Breslau, 1917; often reprinted), translated by
Anttonen, Veikko. “Sacred.” In Guide to the Study of Religions
John W. Harvey as The Idea of the Holy (Oxford, 1923). The
edited by Willi Braun and Russell T. McCutcheon,
most important earlier contributions (Wilhelm Windelband,
pp. 271–282. London and New York, 2000. An attempt to
Wilhelm Wundt, Nathan Söderblom), subsequent ones (Jo-
connect the cognitive and the cultural.
seph Geyser, Friedrich Karl Feigel, Walter Baetke, et al.), and
various specific philological studies are collected in Die Dis-
Borgeaud, Philippe. “Le couple sacré/prophane. Genèse et fortune
kussion um das Heilige, edited by Carsten Colpe (Darmstadt,
d’un concept ’opératoire’ en histoire des religions.” Revue de
1977). A new epoch began with the work of Mircea Eliade,
l’histoire des religions 211, no. 4 (1994): 387–418. Important
and one could cite a great number of monographs by him.
novel assessment by an historian of religions.
As the most relevant, one might single out his Traité
Cazelles, Henri. “Sacré et sainteté dans l’Ancien Testament.” In
d’histoire des religions (Paris, 1949), translated by Rosemary
Dictionnaire de la Bible. Supplément 10, pp. 1393–1432.
Sheed as Patterns in Comparative Religion (New York, 1958),
Paris, 1985.
and Das Heilige und das Profane (Hamburg, 1957), translat-
Colpe, Carsten. Über das Heilige. Frankfurt am Main, 1990. The
ed by Willard R. Trask as The Sacred and the Profane (New
idea of holy in philosophy and in today’s world.
York, 1959).
Colpe, Carsten. “Heilig (sprachlich)” and “Das Heiliege.” In
Hans Joachim Greschat has provided a study of the classical late
Handbuch religionswissenschaftlicher Grundbefriffe, vol. 3, ed-
nineteenth-century theme in his Mana und Tapu (Berlin,
ited by H. Cancik, B. Gladigow and K.-H. Kohl. Stuttgart,
1980). Examples from an African people are provided by
1993. The definitive synthetic appraisal by the foremost
Peter Fuchs in Kult und Autorität: Die Religion der Hadjerai
scholar of the sacred.
(Berlin, 1970) and by Jeanne-Françoise Vincent in Le pou-
voir et le sacré chez les Hadjeray du Tchad
(Paris, 1975). Ex-
Courtas R., and F. A. Isambert. “La notion de ‘sacré’. Bibliogra-
emplary philological investigation of linguistic usage and
phie thématique.” Archives de sciences sociales des religions 22
concepts among the Greeks, Romans, Jews, and early Chris-
(1977): 119–138.
tians is found in the article “Heilig” by Albrecht Dihle in the
Idinopulos, Thomas A., and Eward A. Yonan. The Sacred and its
Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, vol. 13 (Stuttgart,
Scholars: Comparative Methodologies for the Study of Primary
1987); similar study of late antiquity appears in Peter
Religious Data. Leiden, 1996. Historiographical, method-
Brown’s Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity (London,
ological and idiographic studies in a cross-disciplinary per-
1982). The same subject matter, expanded to include the an-
spective. Select bibliography.
cient Orient and India, is found in the important work ed-
Mol, Hans J. Identity and the Sacred. Oxford, 1976. The sacred
ited by Julien Ries et al., L’expression du sacré dans les grandes
in social scientific perspective.
religions, 3 vols., (Louvain, 1978–1986), for which there is
a separate introduction by Julien Ries, Le sacré comme appro-
Morani, Moreno. “Lat. sacer e il rapporto uomo-dio nel lessico re-
che de Dieu et comme ressource de l’homme (Louvain, 1983).
ligioso latino.” Aevum 55 (1981): 30–46.
Supplementing this with respect to Egypt is James Karl Hoff-
Morani, Moreno. “Le parole del ‘sacro in Grecia.” In Atti del se-
meier’s “Sacred” in the Vocabulary of Ancient Egypt: The Term
condo incontro internazionale di linguistica greca, edited by
DSR, with Special Reference to Dynasties I–XX (Freiburg,
Emanuele Banfi, pp. 175–193. Trento, Italy, 1997.
Morani, Moreno. “La terminologia del ‘sacro’ in lingue in-
Theoretical implications are investigated by Ansgar Paus in Re-
doeuropee antiche: riflessioni e problemi.” In Pensiero e isti-
ligiöser Erkenntnisgrund: Herkunft und Wesen der Apriori-
tuzioni del mondo classico nelle culture del Vicino Oriente, ed-
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

ited by R. Bianca Finazzi and A. Valvo, pp. 165–196.
or the rites within it, it may be endowed with religious mean-
Alessandria, Italy, 2001. A novel assessment of this issue in
ing. A shrine that is the focus of religious activity on certain
historical-linguistic perspective.
occasions may be ignored at other times. In short, a sacred
Ries, Julien. “Sacré.” In Dictionnaire des religions, 3d ed., Paris,
place comes into being when it is interpreted as a sacred
1993. A remarkable synthesis with an account of the histo-
riographical debate.
This view of sacred space as a lens for meaning implies
Santi, Claudia. Alle radici del sacro. Lessico e formule di Roma anti-
that places are sacred because they perform a religious func-
ca. Rome, 2004. A refreshingly novel approach to the issue
tion, not because they have peculiar physical or aesthetic
of the relationship sacer / sanctus in its ancient Roman back-
qualities. The tradition articulated by Friedrich Schleierma-
ground. Extensive bibliography.
cher and developed by Rudolf Otto links the perception of
Schilling, Robert. “Sacrum et profanum. Essay d’ interprétation.”
holiness to religious emotion. Originally or authentically,
Latomus 30 (1971): 953–969. A classical study by a distin-
therefore, sacred places ought to have had the power to evoke
guished scholar of Roman religion.
an affective response. And many sacred places do precisely
Segal, Robert A., et al. “Symposium on the Sacred.” Method and
that: The sacred mountains of China, the Gothic cathedrals
Theory in the Study of Religion 3 (1991): 1–46. Methodologi-
of Europe, and the sources and the estuaries of India’s holy
rivers have a beauty and a power that are elements of their
Webb, Eugene. The Dark Dove: The Sacred and Secular in Modern
religious dimension. But such qualities of place are not inevi-
Literature. Seattle, 1975. The author is an expert in both
table. Many sacred places, even places that are central in the
comparative literature and comparative religion.
religious life of the community, are unimpressive to someone
York, Michael. “Toward a Proto-Indo-European Vocabulary of
outside the tradition. The form of the place, without a
the Sacred.” Word 44 (1993): 235–254.
knowledge of what and how it signifies, may not convey any
religious sense whatever. R:ddhipur, for example, is the prin-
Translated from German by Russell M. Stockman
cipal pilgrimage place of the Mha¯nubha¯vs, a Kr:s:n:aite Ma-
Revised Bibliography
harashtrian sect. It is the place where God lived in the incar-
nate form of Gun:d:am Ra¯ül, where he deposited divine
power, and where he performed acts that revealed his divine
nature. It is the place visited by another divine incarnation,
SACRED SPACE. A sacred place is first of all a defined
Cakradhar, who founded the Mha¯nubha¯v community. But
place, a space distinguished from other spaces. The rituals
R:ddhipur itself is completely unexceptional, and the places
that a people either practice at a place or direct toward it
where Gun:d:am Ra¯ül performed his deeds are indicated only
mark its sacredness and differentiate it from other defined
by small stone markers. There is nothing there that gives rise
spaces. To understand the character of such places, Jonathan
to a sense of awe or mystery, and yet the village is revered
Z. Smith has suggested the helpful metaphor of sacred space
and protected by religious restrictions. The place is not
as a “focusing lens.” A sacred place focuses attention on the
aesthetically profound, but it is nonetheless religiously pow-
forms, objects, and actions in it and reveals them as bearers
of religious meaning. These symbols describe the fundamen-
tal constituents of reality as a religious community perceives
ESTABLISHMENT OF SACRED SPACE. Both the distinctiveness
them, defines a life in accordance with that view, and pro-
of sacred space and its reference to the ultimate context of
vides a means of access between the human world and divine
a culture are often expressed in the conviction that sacred
space is not arbitrary. Objectively, and not only subjectively,
a sacred place is different from the surrounding area, for it
As meaningful space, sacred space encompasses a wide
is not a place of wholly human creation or choice. Rather,
variety of very different kinds of places. It includes places that
its significance is grounded in its unique character, a charac-
are constructed for religious purposes, such as temples or te-
ter that no purely human action can confer on it.
menoi, and places that are religiously interpreted, such as
mountains or rivers. It includes spaces that can be entered
In traditional societies, the whole land of a culture is
physically, as the outer geography of a holy land, imagina-
normally sacred, and this sacredness is often communicated
tively, as the inner geography of the body in Tantric yoga,
in the narratives of its foundation. Sometimes the land is
or visually, as the space of a man:d:ala. Sacred space does not
uniquely created. The Kojiki and Nihongi record the tradi-
even exclude nonsacred space, for the same place may be
tions of the age of the kami when Japan and its way of life
both sacred and nonsacred in different respects or circum-
were established. According to these texts, the divine pair,
stances. In traditional Maori culture, for example, the latrine
Izanagi and Izanami, looked down upon the waters of the
marks the boundary between the world of the living and that
yet unformed earth and dipped a jeweled spear into the
of the dead. As such, it is the ritual place at which an unwant-
ocean. From the brine that dripped from the spear the first
ed spirit can be expelled or the help of the spirits obtained.
island of Japan was formed. The divine couple later gave
Therefore, it is sacred. And it is still a latrine. Similarly, a
birth to other deities, among them the sun goddess, Ama-
house is a functional space, but in its construction, its design,
terasu, whose descendants rule over Japan. Thus, Japan is
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

different from all other places: It is the first land, and the
dle, and even the place where the angel Gabriel flattened the
land whose way of life is established by the gods. Or a land
rock before the Prophet’s ascent. And it was further intensi-
may become sacred because it is given by a god, like the land
fied by bringing other religiously significant events into con-
of Israel. Or again, a land may be established by ritual. Ac-
nection with it. The stories of Abraham and Isaac, of Mel-
cording to an early Indian tradition in the S´atapatha
chizedek, king of Salem, and of Jacob’s ladder were among
Bra¯hman:a, the land lying to the east of the Sadanira River
the other biblical and nonbiblical narratives set there. As this
was unfit for habitation by brahmans. It became fit when the
example illustrates, a sacred place can draw a variety of tradi-
sacrificial fire was carried across the river and established in
tions to itself and thereby become even more powerfully
the land.
Similarly, a sacred structure or place within a holy land
Places may also be made sacred through the relics of
possesses something—a character, a significance, or an ob-
holy beings. A grave may sanctify a place, for the tomb marks
ject—that sets it apart. The traditions of the greater Hindu
not only the separation of the living from the dead but also
temples and pilgrimage places declare that they are intrinsi-
the point of contact between them. In early Christianity, for
cally, not ascriptively, sacred. The holiest images of the S´aiva
example, tombs of martyrs became places of communion
tradition are the svayambhu¯lin
¯ gas, images of S´iva that are not
with the holiness of the deceased. Later, beginning about the
human creations but self-manifestations of the god. Similar-
sixth century, the deposition of relics became the center of
ly, the holiest places of the goddess are the p¯ıt:has, the places
rites for the consecration of a church. These sanctified the
where the parts of her body fell after her suicide and dismem-
church and, within the church, the sanctuary where they
berment. In other cases, not an object but the very ground
were installed.
itself fixes the worship of a divinity to a particular spot. Ac-
cording to the traditions of the temple at S´r¯ıran˙gam, the
Finally, the form of a place may give it meaning and ho-
shrine originated in heaven. From there it was brought to
liness. In different cultures, various kinds of places suggest
earth, to the city of Ra¯ma. Ra¯ma then gave it to a pious
the presence of deities. As has been seen, the land of Japan
demon, who wished to take it with him to his home in Sri
is holy because it is created and protected by the kami. With-
Lanka. On the way, however, he put it down near a ford on
in Japan there are particular places where the kami are mani-
the Ka¯ver¯ı (Cauvery) River, and when he tried to pick it up
festly present: Mountains, from Mount Fuji to the hills of
again he could not move it. The god of the temple then ap-
local shrines, for example, may be tokens of the presence of
peared to him and told him that the river had performed aus-
the kami. In India, rivers and confluences are sacred, for pu-
terities to keep the shrine within her bounds and that the god
rifying waters and meeting streams suggest places where gods
intended to stay there (Shulman, 1980, p. 49). The current
are present and approachable. In these cases, the shape of the
location of the temple is therefore where the god, not any
land suggests meanings to which the sacredness of the place
demon or human, chose it to be.
draws attention.
The gods may also communicate the special sanctity of
At the beginning of this section, it was stated that sacred
a place through signs. Animals often serve as messengers of
places are typically not arbitrary. But there are places of reli-
divine choice. So, for example, the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán
gious activity that are meaningful precisely because they are
was founded at the place where an eagle landed on a bloom-
arbitrary. If the tendency to institute sacred places is univer-
ing cactus, and Aeneas followed a pregnant sow to the place
sal, so also is the tendency to deny the localization of divinity.
where it farrowed and there founded Alba Longa. The search
The Indian devotional tradition, like other religious tradi-
for such signs could develop into a science of divination.
tions, is pulled in two directions: one toward divinities locat-
Chinese geomancy is just such an attempt to sort out the ob-
ed in specific places, the other toward the denial that divinity
jective qualities of a place by studying the contours of the
should be sought in any place other than within. “Why bow
land and the balance of waters, winds, and other elements.
and bow in the mosque, and trudge to Mecca to see God?
Does Khuda live in the mosque? Is Ram in idols and holy
In other cases, a location becomes holy because of reli-
ground?” asks Kab¯ır (Hess and Singh, 1983, p. 74).
giously significant events that have occurred there. From the
time of Muh:ammad, Jerusalem has been a holy place for
Mosque architecture shows the tension between the
Islam. Although various traditions were attached to the city,
sanctification of a place and the denial of any localization of
it was above all the Prophet’s journey there that established
divine presence. The mosque carries values typical of other
its sanctity. One night Muh:ammad was brought to Jerusa-
sacred places. The interior is oriented toward a holy center:
lem and to the rock on the Temple mount, and from there
The mih:ra¯b (prayer niche) directs worship toward the sacred
he ascended through the heavens to the very presence of
city of Mecca. The space of the mosque is differentiated from
God. The mosque of the Dome of the Rock and the estab-
other kinds of spaces: Persons must leave their shoes at the
lishment of Jerusalem as a place of pilgrimage both expressed
entrance. Within the area of the mosque, the holiest area, the
and intensified the sanctity of the city. That sanctity was
sanctuary (h:aram), is clearly marked from the courtyard
heightened by the discovery of tokens of Muh:ammad’s jour-
(s:ah:n). Some mosques are pilgrimage places because they are
ney: his footprints on the rock, the imprint made by his sad-
burial sites of holy men or women who endow them with
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spiritual power. The most prominent of these is the mosque
Places of communication. First, sacred spaces are
at Medina built over the tomb of the Prophet.
places of communication with divinity, places where people
At the same time, the architecture can be read quite dif-
go to meet the gods. This function is often indicated by sym-
ferently as the meaningful negation of sacred space. The pri-
bols that represent a link between the world of humans and
mary function of the mosque is to serve as a space for com-
transcendent realms. Such symbols might be vertical objects
mon prayer. It has significance in Islam because the
that reach from earth toward heaven, such as mountains,
community gathers and worships there, not because of the
trees, ropes, pillars, and poles. North Indian temples, for ex-
character of the place. “All the world is a masjid,” a place of
ample, connect the realm of heaven, symbolized by the
prayer, says one tradition (cf. Kuban, 1974, p. 1). In Islamic
amr:takala´sa (“jar of the elixir of deathlessness”) atop the
lands the mosque often does not stand out from secondary
temple, with the plane of earth. The spires of these temples
buildings or call attention to itself as a holy place. Even the
are also architectural recapitulations of mountains, which are
dome, which typically surmounts it and which recalls the
the dwelling places of the gods. The Kaila¯sa temple, for ex-
arch of heaven, has a generalized meaning of power or place
ample, bears not only the name of the mountain on which
of assembly and does not necessarily designate a sacred place.
S´iva dwells, but even its profile. But symbols that express the
Neither is that symbolism of the sky pursued within the
intersection of realms can be of other forms as well. In By-
mosque, nor does it have liturgical significance. While the
zantine churches, to walk from the entrance toward the altar
sanctuary is oriented toward Mecca, the remaining parts of
is to move from the world of humans toward that of divinity.
the building do not have any inherent directional or axial
The doorway between these realms is the iconostasis, the
structure. Even the mih:ra¯b, which might be a place of partic-
screen between the chancel and sanctuary. As they pass
ular holiness, is kept empty, emphasizing that the deity wor-
through the doors of the iconostasis, priests become angels
shiped is not to be located there or anywhere. All this accords
moving between realms. The icons themselves provide visual
with the Islamic view that while God is the creator of the
access to heaven. In general, “the iconostasis is not a ‘symbol’
world, he is above it, not within it. The mosque is sacred
or an ‘object of devotion’; it is the gate through which this
space according to the definition of sacred space as a place
world is bound to the other” (Galavaris, 1981, p. 7).
of ritual and a place of meaning. But it is expressive, mean-
ingful space because it denies the typical values of sacred
Another way of joining gods and humans is through
symbols of the gods. A sacred place may include images of
the gods or other tokens that make their presence manifest.
Similar negations of localization occur in Protestant ar-
A Hindu temple is a place of meeting because it contains a
chitecture, particularly in the Protestant “plain style.” Dur-
form in which the god has graciously consented to dwell.
ing the Reformation in Holland, for example, larger Gothic
The Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies of the Tem-
churches were not destroyed but were re-created into places
ple in Jerusalem was the throne of Yahveh, a visible sign of
of community prayer and preaching. Sculptural ornament
his presence or of the presence of his name. Shinto¯ shrines
was removed, clear glass was substituted for stained glass, the
are dwelling places for the kami, whose material form is a sa-
high altar was removed, and the chancel was filled with seats.
cred object called a “divine body” or “august-spirit substi-
In short, all the visible signs of the sacredness of a specific
tute.” It is housed within the innermost chamber of the
location were eliminated. The architecture made positive
shrine, kept from sight by doors or a bamboo curtain, but
statements as well, but statements that again located sanctity
its presence invests the shrine with the presence of divinity.
elsewhere than in place. A high pulpit was centrally situated
Similarly, a Japanese home becomes a sacred place when it
and became a focal point, but the pulpit was not itself a place
has a kamidana, which enshrines symbols of the kami, and
of divine power or presence. Rather it pointed to the holiness
a butsudan, an altar that holds both Buddha images and an-
of the word of God, which was read and preached there.
cestor tablets.
Again, these churches are sacred places by being visible deni-
als that the holiness of divinity is mediated through the sym-
Even without explicit symbols of communication or to-
bolism of space.
kens of the gods, a place may be understood as a point of
FUNCTIONS OF SACRED SPACE. The symbols that give a
contact between gods and humans. Islam strongly resists lo-
place meaning typically refer to the religious context in
calization or visible symbols of divinity. Although the KaEbah
which a people lives. This section examines the ways in
is the center toward which worship is directed, it does not
which sacred space acts to fix this context and to create inter-
house an image of God, nor is it the dwelling place of God.
action between the divine and human worlds. Three roles of
Nonetheless, Islamic interpretation occasionally character-
sacred space are especially significant, for they are widely at-
izes it as a place of particular access to divinity. A medieval
tested in religious systems and fundamental to their pur-
tradition describes the Black Stone embedded in the KaEbah
poses. First, sacred space is a means of communication with
as God’s right hand, “which he extends to his servants (who
the gods and about the gods. Second, it is a place of divine
kiss it), as a man shakes hands with his neighbors,” and a
power. And third, it serves as a visible icon of the world
1971 newspaper article urges: “When you touch the black
and thereby imparts a form to it and an organization to its
stone and kiss it—you place your love and your yearnings
in it and turn it into a mailbox from which your love is deliv-
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ered to the creator of this world whom eyes cannot see” (Laz-
(“benefit”) and mukti (“salvation”). Typically, one benefit is
arus-Yafeh, 1981, pp. 120, 123). As these cases suggest, the
healing. In medieval Christianity, for example, many pil-
deity is not exactly present, yet the KaEbah does become the
grimages were inspired by a desire to witness or to experience
point of communication between God and humanity.
miraculous cures. Pilgrimage was so closely associated with
healing, in fact, that a young man of Warbleton refused to
As a place of communication with divinity, a sacred
go to Canterbury, “for I am neither dumb nor lame and my
space is typically a place of purity because purity enables peo-
health is perfectly sound.” Another person argued, “I am in
ple to come in contact with the gods. There, the imperfec-
excellent health. What need have I of St. Thomas?” (Sump-
tions and deficiencies, the “messiness” of normal life, are re-
tion, 1972, p. 78). Lourdes remains a place of pilgrimage for
duced. The sacred place reveals the ideal order of things,
millions seeking miraculous cures, though the Catholic
which is associated with the perfect realm of divinity, with
life and vitality among humans, or with the values to which
church has certified few healings as true miracles. A place
people should aspire. The Shinto¯ shrine is a place of purity,
may even specialize in its cures. As the location of a manifes-
for it is a place of the kami and it is a place that excludes pol-
tation of the god S´iva, the mountain Aruna¯cala heals espe-
lution, for pollution is decay and death. The shrine’s purity
cially lung disease and barrenness, and two S:u¯f¯ı shrines in
is expressed in the rites of approach to it. Traditionally, an
the Punjab help leprosy and leukoderma (Bharati, 1963).
open pavilion with a stone basin provides water for rinsing
The power of divinity encountered at sacred places may also
the hands and mouth, and three streams spanned by bridges
secure more general goals of physical and material well-
lead to a shrine, so that worshipers purify themselves as they
being. Success in business or in school, the birth of children,
cross these streams. Its purity also is expressed in clarity of
or simply the blessing of the deity may all be reasons to visit
definition. Torii (Shinto¯ gateways), fences, enclosed spaces,
a sacred place.
and bridges mark distinct areas and signal the approach to
Salvation can also be attained at sacred places. Accord-
the deity. Other sacred places mark the movement from a
ing to various Hindu traditions, to die at Banaras, to be cre-
zone of impurity to one of purity by defining an intermediate
mated there, or to disperse the ashes of the dead in the Gan-
space for rites of purification. Some churches, synagogues,
ges at Banaras assures salvation for the deceased. Often
and mosques have such an area at the entrance to the princi-
salvation is directly related to the purity of a sacred place and
pal space of the sacred precincts.
its ability to purify those within it. An English reformer,
A sacred place can be a place of communication not
Hugh Latimer, lamented that the sight of the blood of Christ
only with divinity but also about divinity. For example, a
at Hailes was convincing pilgrims that “they be in clean life
central paradox of religion is that if divinity is everywhere,
and in state of salvation without spot of sin” (Sumption,
then it must be somewhere. Even if the whole world is “full
1972, p. 289). The sacred place as an access to divinity thus
of God’s glory,” that glory must be manifest in some place.
also becomes a way to the perfection of human life.
This paradox is reflected in the Temple at Jerusalem, which
Places as icons of the world. Sacred space is often a vi-
contained the Ark of the Covenant, symbolizing the throne
sual metaphor for a religious world. The connection between
of Yahveh, but which enshrined no image of Yahveh. Simi-
the ordering of space and the ordering of human life is a nat-
larly, in Deuteronomic theology, Yahveh has made his name
ural one. A life without purpose or meaning is often ex-
but not his person to be present at the Temple. In their dif-
pressed in spatial metaphors: It is to be “lost,” “disoriented,”
ferent ways, therefore, both the Temple and the text sought
and “without direction.” Because they are defined spaces, sa-
to mediate the paradox of the simultaneous localization and
cred places are natural maps that provide direction to life and
universality of Yahveh. Larger Hindu temples, on the other
a shape to the world. They order space—often geographic
hand, normally have a variety of images of deities. Typically,
space, always existential space—and by ordering space, they
worshipers will see other gods and goddesses or other forms
order all that exists within it. The Lakota sweat lodge pro-
of the central divinity of the shrine, or they will worship at
vides a good example of the ordering of space in the image
shrines to other divinities in preparation for their approach
of a sacred place. The outer perimeter of the lodge is a circle.
to the central deity. A Hindu temple thus reflects Indian
Its frame is created by bending twelve to sixteen young wil-
views of a divine hierarchy, which culminates in a particular
lows from one quadrant of the circle across to the opposite
divine being. Or, again, in Renaissance churches architectur-
quadrant. According to Black Elk, “the willows are set up in
al balance and harmony reflect divine beauty and perfection.
such a way that they mark the four quarters of the universe;
In all these instances, the form of the place expresses the na-
thus the whole lodge is the universe in an image, and the
ture of the deity worshiped there.
two-legged, four-legged, and winged peoples, and all the
Places of divine power. Because it is a place of commu-
things of the world are contained in it.” A round hole, which
nication with divine beings, the sacred place is also a locus
will hold heated rocks for making steam, is dug in the center
for divine power, which can transform human life. The na-
of the lodge. This center “is the center of the universe, in
ture of this transformation varies according to the religious
which dwells Wakantanka [the Great Spirit], with his power
tradition and reputation of the sacred space. According
which is the fire” (Brown, 1971, p. 32). The center belongs
to a Hindu tradition, pilgrimage places provide bhukti
to Wakantanka, for he is the summation of all divine powers.
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The sweat lodge, therefore, encompasses physical space and
palities outside the Ping River valley defined the second com-
draws the other realities of the Lakota world into its form.
munity, that of the Lanna Thai people. The third communi-
Its center becomes an ultimate point of reference in which
ty included all adherents of northern Thai and Lao
space, all beings, and all powers finally converge.
Buddhism, which were perceived as closely related. This
community was defined through the addition of a shrine in
Another spatial metaphor closely connected with sacred
northeastern Thailand sacred to the Lao peoples of Thailand
places is orientation. The sacred place focuses attention on
and Laos. Fourth, the addition of the Shwe Dagon shrine in
a symbolically significant region by being itself turned, or
Rangoon, Burma, identified Thai Buddhism with that of the
turning those within it, toward that region. Sacred places
peoples of lower Burma, to whom the Shwe Dagon shrine
show a variety of orientations and values of direction. First
was especially sacred. Fifth, the shrine at Bodh Gaya¯, where
Coptic and Eastern churches, and later Western churches,
the Buddha gained enlightenment, joined Northern Thai
were oriented toward the rising sun, which was the symbol
and Burmese Buddhism to the community of all Buddhists.
of the resurrected Christ. Hindu temples face various direc-
The last shrine was in the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods.
tions for various reasons. For example, the temple of
This location is still within the sphere of the worlds governed
Taraknatha at Tarakeswar faces north. The head of the mo-
by karman, and thus it defines the community of all sentient
nastic community at the temple has explained that north is
beings in heaven and earth who are subject to death and re-
particularly auspicious, first, because it is the opposite of
birth. In this way, the sacred shrines both distinguished and
south, the direction of the world of the dead; second, because
integrated the various spaces and beings of the world to
it is the direction of Mount Kailash, the home of S´iva; and
which the people of the Ping River valley were related.
third, because by beginning in the north, circumambulation
of the inner shrine first proceeds east, the direction of the sun
Similarly, in South Asia the traditional pattern of city
and of the light of knowledge (Morinis, 1984, p. 291). The
planning created a series of concentric spaces around a cen-
abbot’s explanations show the restless logic of sacred space,
tral temple in the urban heart of a region. This pattern oc-
which finds significance in its every facet. In other traditions,
curs, for example, in Kathmandu. The city is surrounded by
the cardinal directions are not the basis for orientation: Syna-
twenty-four shrines of the Ma¯tr:ka¯s, the eight mother god-
gogues traditionally are oriented toward Jerusalem, and
desses. A ritual of sequential worship at these shrines arranges
mosques toward Mecca. These places are similar not because
them into three sets of eight, which form three concentric
they express similar systems of orientation but because they
circles around Kathmandu. The widest circle encompasses
all make direction meaningful.
the area traditionally under the kings of Kathmandu. The
second encloses the valley of Kathmandu, which includes
Sacred places also create actual and functional divisions
surrounding villages and areas familiar to the urban popula-
of geographic space, divisions that are at the same time meta-
tion. The third defines the city itself. The central part of the
phors for different ways of life. In ordering the world, they
city was laid out in twelve rectangular wards centered on the
may be not only centers on which the world converges but
temple to Taleju, a goddess closely connected with the Malla
they may also mark boundaries between realms. These may
kings. The geometric clarity of the city distinguished it from
include both boundaries between visible and invisible reali-
the surrounding areas and marked it as the most sacred area
ties and geographic boundaries. The Maori latrine men-
in which the realization of divine order was most perfectly
tioned above formed the border between the world of hu-
articulated. In this way, the shrines define different levels of
mans and that of the dead, which was associated with
sanctity extending from the sacred center of the city to the
excrement. But the world of the dead was also the world of
entire kingdom.
the gods. A ritual of biting the latrine beam opened up com-
munication across this boundary. Those who wished to expel
ENCODING OF SACRED SPACE. The functions of sacred space
an unfriendly spirit bit the beam to send the spirit back to
are, in their different ways, aspects of its essential function:
its realm. Those who wished to obtain the help of the gods
to identify the fundamental symbols that create the patterns
bit it in order to establish contact with the gods. The border
of life in a culture. This section will sketch some of the sym-
formed by the latrine was thus open in both directions.
bolic systems that make sacred space meaningful. These sys-
tems are superimposed on the structure of a place and there-
Boundaries created by sacred spaces can also define the
by joined to one another and to the manifest form of that
limits of the visible world or create distinctive spaces within
place. A space can encompass, among many other things, the
it. In a northern Thai tradition, for example, a series of
human body, the cosmos, the stages in the creation of the
twelve pilgrimage shrines created a system of nested spaces.
cosmos, the divisions of time, the sacred narratives of a tradi-
Beginning from the innermost and smallest area, this system
tion, and the various spheres of human life. The more central
encompassed successively larger concentric areas and defined
a place is in the religious life of a culture, the more numerous
the successively broader communities to which the people at
the systems to which it refers.
the center belonged. These communities were seen from the
perspective of the Ping River valley, in which four of the
Body. The human body is a primary system—if not the
twelve shrines were located. These four shrines and four
primary system—through which people order and interpret
other shrines associated with the major northern Thai princi-
the world. It is itself a space, sometimes even a sacred space—
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as in forms of Tantric yoga, in which the body becomes the
world: the sensuous, the formed, and the formless. The ceitya
field for the transformations effected by yoga. It also can be
not only represents these different spheres but also the possi-
a correlate of external spaces, to which it imparts a shape and
bility of ascent to full enlightenment.
character. In many instances that correlation between body
Sacred places may represent not only the vertical realms
and place is explicit. The horizontal plan of Gothic churches
of the world but one or another of its layers. As noted, the
represented not only Christ on the cross but the human form
sacred place is often the place where humans enter the realm
more generally. In the symbolism of the Byzantine church,
of the gods or, conversely, the place where the gods are
the nave represented the human body, the chancel the soul,
among humans. In either case, it becomes the place of the
and the altar the spirit. In South Asian culture areas, body
presence of divinity and therefore an image of the realm of
symbolism of sacred places is pervasive. Hindu temples, for
divinity. Through its use of simple geometric forms, propor-
example, are explicitly recapitulations of the body. The sym-
tionality, and light, for example, the Gothic cathedral was
bolic blueprint of a temple is the Va¯stupurus:a Man:d:ala, a
imagined as the image of the heavenly city. The holy cities
diagram drawn on its future site. This diagram incorporates
of Jerusalem and Banaras have heavenly prototypes, accord-
the directions, the lunar mansions, the planets, the gods,
ing to Christian and Hindu traditions, and hence they are
and the human body and symbolically transmits their forms
the forms of heaven.
to the temple rising above it. Indian architectural manuals
explicitly liken the temple to the body: The door is the
Heaven may be not only the realm of the gods but also
mouth; the dome above the spire is the head. Just as the
the exemplar of divine order and regular progression. The sa-
human skull has a suture, from which the soul at death de-
cred place may be a heaven on earth, which transposes the
parts to heaven, so also the dome is pierced with a finial; and
eternal and sanctified order of heaven onto the plane of
the inner sanctum of the temple is the place of the soul with-
earth. At the founding of cities within the Roman world, for
in the human body. “The temple,” summarizes the
instance, the augur drew a circle quartered by lines running
S´ilparatna, “should be worshiped as the cosmic man” (cf.
east-west and north-south. This diagram replicated the heav-
Kramrisch 1946, vol. 2, p. 359).
enly order and thereby established it on earth. Through ritual
formulas, the diagram was then projected onto the whole
A variety of meanings is invested in such correspon-
tract of land to be encompassed by the city, so that the pe-
dence of place and body. Both the Gothic church and the
riphery of the city reproduced the boundary of the universe.
Hindu temple are images of the cosmos as well as the body,
The east-west line represented the course of the sun; the
and thereby both portray the sympathy and parallelism be-
north-south line, the axis of the sky. The augur and the city
tween microcosm and macrocosm. The Gothic church signi-
thus stood at the crossing point of these two lines and hence
fies the body of Christ, who is the whole Christian church,
immovably and harmoniously at the center of the universe.
who is the incarnate deity, and upon whom the world and
history center. The correspondence of the church and the
Cosmogony. Sacred space may also reproduce the suc-
body of Christ thus gives visible expression to the centrality
cessive steps through which the world came into being.
of Christ in the world and his presence in the life of the com-
Again, according to Eliade’s paradigm, because the sacred
munity. Because the Hindu temple represents a human
place is the center around which the world is ordered and
body, the journey into the temple is also a journey within
the point of intersection with the realm of the divine, it is
oneself. Contact with the image of divinity in the heart of
also the point of origin. Creation began there and from there
the temple is the symbolic replication of the meeting of di-
it extended. That symbolism is apparent in the architecture
vinity within the center of one’s being. Thus, while the shape
of the Hindu temple. In the innermost shrine of the temple
of the body generally imparts meaning to space, the specific
is the dark center from which emerge the forms of the world,
meaning is developed in the context of individual religious
portrayed on the walls or gateways of larger temples. The
naturalness of this symbolism can be illustrated by its second-
ary attachment to places whose primary meaning lies else-
Cosmos. Sacred space often imparts form to the world
where. According to Midrash Tanh:umaD, Qedoshim 10, for
by taking the form of the world. According to Mircea
example, Jerusalem and the Temple are holy because the
Eliade’s paradigm of sacred space, the major vertical divisions
Holy Land is the center of space and the Temple is the center
of the world intersect at the sacred place and are represented
of the Holy Land: “Just as the navel is found at the cen-
in it. These divisions are frequently the upperworld, the
ter of a human being, so the Land of Israel is found at the
earth, and the underworld. David D. Shulman has found
center of the world . . . and it is the foundation of the
this pattern in the temples of Tamil Nadu, which contain
world. Jerusalem is at the center of the Land of Israel. The
not only symbols that rise from earth upward but also sym-
Temple is at the center of Jerusalem. The Holy of Holies is
bols of a bila¯dvara, a doorway to the underworld. Other
at the center of the Temple. The ark is at the center of the
structures express more unique cosmological conceptions. At
Holy of Holies, and the Foundation Stone is in front of the
Wat Haripuñjaya in Thailand, for example, the ceitya, which
ark, which spot is the foundation of the world.” Such sym-
is the central structure of the sacred complex, vertically en-
bolism conveys the primacy of the place, for what is first in
compasses the three fundamental realms of the Buddhist
time is naturally first in significance.
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

Time. The divisions of time may also be represented in
Four Quarters. In it, Wheatley discusses the ceremonial com-
the sacred space, especially when time is ordered or governed
plexes that were the seed and integrating center of ancient
by the rites performed there. For example, the sides of the
urbanism. These ceremonial centers “were instruments for
mingtang, the Chinese calendar house, represented the sea-
the creation of political, social, economic, and sacred space,
sons. Each side was further divided into three positions rep-
at the same time they were symbols of cosmic, social, and
resenting the months of one season. The rituals enacted at
moral order” (Wheatley, 1971, p. 225).
the place guaranteed the orderly progression of these cycles
In Wheatley’s description, the ancient Chinese city
of time. They also guaranteed that the movement of time,
functioned in just this way to anchor the human order in the
and thus the fate of all living beings, depended upon the em-
divine. The city was laid out as an image of the universe: It
peror, who carried out these rites. A different kind of tempo-
possessed cardinal orientation and a major north-south axis
ral symbolism was connected with the brick altars created in
corresponding to the celestial meridian. The center of the
particular Vedic rites. The layers and bricks of the altar repre-
city was the most sacred spot, corresponding to the polestar,
sented the seasons, the months, the days and nights, and fi-
the axis around which the sky turned. And in the center was
nally the year, which was the symbol of the totality of time.
the royal palace. The city, therefore, re-created the celestial
The completion of the rite was the consolidation of time and
order on earth and its pivot in the ruler. As the heavens eter-
ultimately the attainment of immortality for the sacrificer.
nally moved around the polestar, so the state revolved around
Sacred narratives. Sacred space may not only bear the
the emperor. The political order was firmly established in the
imprint of the natural world but also of sacred narratives. A
objective order of the universe, which was made plain in the
particular place may be a reminder of events said to have oc-
sacred images of space.
curred there, or it may contain tokens or depictions of sacred
The ceremonial complex as cosmic center also helped
narratives which recall them to memory and reflection. At
make it an economic center. In Mesopotamia, for example,
Wat Haripuñjaya in Thailand, the walls of the viha¯ra (mo-
agricultural labor was apparently under the centralized con-
nastic compound) are adorned with illustrations that tell the
trol of the temple officials. The preeminent economic func-
lives of the Buddha in his earlier incarnations and express the
tion of the ceremonial center lay in its role as an instrument
basic moral values of Buddhism. Similarly, Christian church-
of redistribution. This could imply either storage and reap-
es of both the East and the West contain paintings and sculp-
portionment of goods or merely rights of disposal. The an-
tures depicting the history of salvation. In Eastern churches,
cient cities of Sumer, the temple cities of Cambodia, and Te-
for example, the upper part of the iconostasis contains depic-
nochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire, are all examples
tions of the twelve great events in the life of Jesus, which are
of cities whose sacredness confirmed the economic control
celebrated in the great feasts of the Christian year. Other
they exercised.
icons might depict scenes from the Bible or from the lives
of saints and martyrs, all of which recall the history of God’s
A sacred area may also project the image of the social
work in the world. Or again, the rites of the h:a¯jj move within
order. The villages of the Boróro of Mato Grosso, Brazil, for
a space that reminds the pilgrim of two critical moments in
example, were laid out in a cosmological image. The houses
Islamic sacred history: the time of Abraham, who built the
formed a rough circle around the men’s house, and this circle
KaEbah and who established monotheistic worship there; and
was divided into quarters by axes running north-south and
the time of the Prophet, whose final pilgrimage is recalled
east-west. But these divisions also governed the social life of
in rites at the plain of Arafat. In this last instance, the sacred
the village and its systems of kinship and intermarriage (cf.
place not only recalls an event but is also the location of the
Lévi-Strauss, 1973, pp. 227ff.). A sacred space may be the
event, for the Prophet gave his last sermon during his farewell
center of a system of social prestige that divides and struc-
pilgrimage at Arafat. The place removes the physical distance
tures society. In the South Indian temple town of Srirangam,
between the worshiper and the event, and in doing so, it also
the two innermost ring roads closest to the temple are inhab-
mitigates the temporal distance between the time of the
ited almost exclusively by brahmans. Other, less prestigious,
Prophet and the present. By thus collapsing space and time,
castes live farther toward the periphery.
it endows the event with an imposing reality.
In one way or another, sacred space orders space in a
Spheres of human life. In their form or function, sa-
socially meaningful way. Because a sacred place is both visi-
cred places organize human life and activity. Grounding the
ble and comprehensible, it lends concreteness to the less visi-
precarious and fluid structures of social organization in these
ble systems of human relationships and creates an identifi-
places imparts to them a sense of conformity to a system that
able center of social and political organization.
is not arbitrary but intrinsic to the very nature of things. The
sacred place often creates a vivid parallelism between the ob-
CONCLUSION. This article began with the assumption that
jective order of the universe, the eternal realm of the gods,
if a place is the location of ritual activity or its object, then
and the constructs of human relationships.
it is sacred. To designate a place as sacred imposes no limit
on its form or its meaning. It implies no particular aesthetic
This aspect of the sacred place has been investigated in
or religious response. But if sacred places lack a common
an extraordinary work by Paul Wheatley, The Pivot of the
content, they have a common role. To call a place sacred as-
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

serts that a place, its structure, and its symbols express funda-
Study of West Bengal (Oxford, 1984); Jonathan Sumption’s
mental cultural values and principles. By giving these visible
Pilgrimage: An Image of Mediaeval Religion (London, 1972);
form, the sacred place makes tangible the corporate identity
Charles F. Keyes’s “Buddhist Pilgrimage Centers and the
of a people and their world.
Twelve-Year Cycle: Northern Thai Moral Orders in Space
and Time,” History of Religions 15 (1975): 71–89; Agehanan-
SEE ALSO Architecture; Basilica, Cathedral, and Church;
da Bharati’s “Pilgrimage in the Indian Tradition,” History of
Caves; Center of the World; Cosmology; Geography; Geo-
Religions 3 (Summer 1963): 135–167; Anne Feldhaus’s The
mancy; Human Body; Mosque, article on Architectural As-
Deeds of God in R:ddhipur (Oxford, 1984); and Hava Lazarus-
pects; Mountains; Orientation; Relics; Rivers; Sacred Time;
Yafeh’s Some Religious Aspects of Islam: A Collection of Articles
(Leiden, 1981). The last has three excellent essays on both
popular and classical traditions concering Jerusalem, the h:ajj,
and the KaEbah.
For recent scholarship, the agenda for the study of sacred space
Study of the places of worship is an engaging entry into the subject
has been largely set by Mircea Eliade. His paradigm of the
of sacred space and into history of religions generally. For
form and meaning of sacred space is presented in a number
Hinduism, the fundamental work has long been Stella Kram-
of his works, especially The Sacred and the Profane: The Na-
risch’s The Hindu Temple, 2 vols. (Calcutta, 1946). The tem-
ture of Religion (New York, 1959), pp. 20–67; Patterns in
ple is analyzed from the ground up and placed within the tra-
Comparative Religion (New York, 1958), pp. 367–387; and
dition of Brahmanic thought. David D. Shulman’s Tamil
“Centre du monde, temple, maison,” in Le symbolisme
Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South In-
cosmique des monuments religieux, edited by Giuseppe Tucci
dian S´aiva Tradition (Princeton, 1980) draws on localized
(Rome, 1957), pp. 57–82.
traditions that explain the origins and power of shrines.
A number of scholars have made significant contributions to the
In Buddhism, one of the most richly symbolic structures is Boro-
discussion of the symbolism of space by opening up or re-
budur in central Java, and the classic study is Paul Mus’s
fashioning elements of Eliade’s paradigm. Among the most
Barabudur: Esquisse d’une histoire du bouddhisme fondée sur
thoughtful are Jonathan Z. Smith’s Map Is Not Territory:
la critique archéologique des textes, 2 vols. (Hanoi, 1935). For
Studies in the History of Religions (Leiden, 1978), esp.
more recent interpretation, see Barabud:ur: History and Sig-
pp. 88–146, and Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jones-
nificance of a Buddhist Monument, edited by Luis O. Gómez
town (Chicago, 1982), esp. pp. 53–65. The final chapter in
and Hiram W. Woodward, Jr. (Berkeley, 1981). Borobudur
Paul Wheatley’s The Pivot of the Four Quarters: A Preliminary
is both a man:d:ala and a stupa. For the former, see Giuseppe
Enquiry into the Origins and Character of the Ancient Chinese
Tucci’s The Theory and Practice of the Man:d:ala, translated by
City (Chicago, 1971), titled “The Ancient Chinese City as
Alan H. Brodrick (London, 1969), and for the latter, The
a Cosmomagical Symbol,” pp. 411–476; Davíd Carrasco’s
Stupa: Its Religious, Historical and Architectural Significance,
“Templo Mayor: The Aztec Vision of Place,” Religion 11
edited by Anna Libera Dallapiccola, Beiträge zur Südasien-
(July 1981): 275–297; Benjamin Ray’s “Sacred Space and
forschung Südasien-Institut Universität Heidelberg, vol. 55
Royal Shrines in Buganda,” History of Religions 16 (May
(Wiesbaden, 1980). Donald K. Swearer’s Wat Haripuñjaya:
1977): 363–373; and Kees W. Bolle’s “Speaking of a Place,”
A Study of the Royal Temple of the Buddha’s Relic, Lamphun,
in Myths and Symbols: Studies in Honor of Mircea Eliade, ed-
Thailand (Missoula, Mont., 1976) shows the expression of
ited by Joseph M. Kitagawa and Charles H. Long (Chicago,
the moral, spiritual, cosmic, and social orders in the symbol
1969), pp. 127–139, are case studies that also advance the
systems of a Buddhist religious complex.
discussion of sacred space in this general line.
For the interpretation of Islamic architecture, Dogan Kuban’s
For other approaches to the meaning of architectural space, see the
Muslim Religious Architecture: The Mosque and Its Early De-
essays in Traditional Concepts of Ritual Space in India: Studies
velopment (Leiden, 1974) provides a brief introduction and
in Architectural Anthropology, edited by Jan Pieper, “Art and
a useful bibliography. See also Architecture of the Islamic
Archaeology Research Papers,” no. 17 (London, 1980), and
World: Its History and Social Meaning, edited by George Mi-
Shelter, Sign, and Symbol, edited by Paul Oliver (London,
chell (London, 1978).
1975). Kent C. Bloomer and Charles W. Moore’s Body,
The Gothic cathedral illustrates one expression of Christianity in
Memory, and Architecture (New Haven, 1977) is an especially
architecture, and its symbolism has been luminously ex-
clear introduction to meaning in architecture and the role of
plored in Otto von Simson’s The Gothic Cathedral: Origins
the body in establishing meaning.
of Gothic Architecture and the Medieval Concept of Order
Studies of the religious significance of urban space include Joseph
(New York, 1956). Harold W. Turner’s From Temple to
Rykwert’s The Idea of a Town: The Anthropology of Urban
Meeting House: The Phenomenology and Theology of Places of
Form in Rome, Italy and the Ancient World (Princeton, 1976);
Worship (The Hague, 1979) interprets the history of church
Diana L. Eck’s Banaras: City of Light (New York, 1982); and
architecture as the tension between buildings that localize the
the previously cited work by Wheatley. This essay also uti-
presence of divinity and those that serve for congregational
lized Niels Gutschow’s “Ritual as Mediator of Space: Kath-
worship. The sanctity of Eastern Christian churches is com-
mandu,” Ekistics 44 (December 1977): 309–312, and Jan
municated largely through its icons. See, for example,
Pieper’s “Three Cities of Nepal,” in Paul Oliver’s Shelter,
George Galavaris’s The Icon in the Life of the Church: Doc-
Sign, and Symbol (cited above), pp. 52–69.
trine, Liturgy, Devotion (Leiden, 1981).
For pilgrimage places and the religious definition of space, see E.
The interpretation of the Maori latrine presented in this essay fol-
Alan Morinis’s Pilgrimage in the Hindu Tradition: A Case
lows F. Allan Hanson’s “Method in Semiotic Anthropology,
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

or How the Maori Latrine Means,” in his edited volume,
the lifting up of the infant from the cold earth to the warmth
Studies in Symbolism and Cultural Communication, Universi-
of a human breast. Walking into the Paraguayan forest,
ty of Kansas Publications in Anthropology, no. 14 (Law-
Chachugi knew that he had to recompose his own life in the
rence, Kans., 1982), pp. 74–89. For Black Elk’s description
wake of the birth of another. “In reality,” observed the an-
of Lakota rites and places, see The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Ac-
thropologist Pierre Clastres in his Chronicle of the Guayaki
count of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux, edited by Joseph
Indians (1998, p. 37), Chachugi was “walking ahead of him-
Epes Brown (1953; Baltimore, 1971). The analysis of the
self, in quest of his own self, his own substance.”
Boróro village is found in Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes
translated by John Weightman and Doreen
In 1881, a man wrote to the Christian Neighbor of
Weightman (New York, 1973).
South Carolina in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of
Kab¯ır is only one of the many saints of various traditions who had
his silver watch, a watch so thick some called it a turnip. The
little use for the sacred places. For Kab¯ır as iconoclast, see
turnip had been faithful to him, and he in turn was faithful
The B¯ıjak of Kab¯ır, translated by Linda Hess and Shukdev
to the turnip, which he would never exchange for some thin
Singh, edited by Linda Hess (San Francisco, 1983).
modern gold watch. “When I do, you may set me down for
New Sources
a barbarian! Not the best gold and jewelled ‘Hunter’ in exis-
Alcock, Susan E., and Robin Osborne. Placing the Gods: Sanctu-
tence would tempt me to swap. That watch marked the time
aries and Sacred Space in Ancient Greece. Oxford, 1994.
when my children were born, and the record is set down in
Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane. “Religion and Sacred Space.” In
the family Bible.” The ticking turnip had taken his family
The Religion Factor: An Introduction to How Religion Matters,
through births and illnesses, had “marked the time when the
edited by William Scott Green and Jacob Neusner;
doctor’s medicines were to be given,” and had intimated at
pp. 213–226. Louisville, Ky., 1996.
what lay beyond death and the “many records that are fast
Brockman, Norbert C. Encyclopedia of Sacred Places. Santa Barba-
sealed up, to be opened only when another time comes.”
ra, 1997.
Mark M. Smith, who happened upon this letter while writ-
Chidester, David, and Edward Tabor Linenthal, eds. American
ing Mastered by the Clock (1997, p. 51), adds that African
Sacred Space. Bloomington, Ind., 1995.
Americans of the same era placed clocks in their burial
grounds, clocks that had been stopped at death, as former
Eckel, Malcolm David. Buddhism: Origins, Beliefs, Holy Texts, Sa-
slave Elizabeth Bunts explained (p. 147): “I would not stay
cred Place. New York, 2002.
in a house that would not stop the clock the minute the per-
Gordon, Matthew. Islam: Origins, Practices, Holy Texts, Sacred
son dies, for every minute that clock runs takes the soul that
Persons, Sacred Places. New York, 2002.
much longer to cross the valley of the shadow of death alone,
Kelly, Klara B., and Harris Francis. Navajo Sacred Places. Bloom-
and if the clock is stopped he makes the crossing swiftly and
ington, 1994.
Littleton, C. Scott. Shinto: Origins, Rituals, Festivals, Spirits, Sa-
When Jesuit missionaries brought European clocks to
cred Places. New York, 2002.
China in the seventeenth century, the mandarins were im-
Oldstone-Moore, Jennifer. Confucianism: Origins, Beliefs, Prac-
pressed by the intricate mechanisms but unmoved by the
tices, Holy Texts, Sacred Places. New York, 2002.
tightly wound chronology that came attached. As Erik Zür-
Prawer, Joshua, B. Z. Kedar, and R. J. Zwi Werblowsky. Sacred
cher notes in Time and Space in Chinese Culture (1995,
Space: Shrine, City, Land. New York, 1998.
pp. 148–149), the Christian arithmetic of time seemed un-
warrantably narrow to the more expansive Chinese. “Saying
Revised Bibliography
that 7000 years ago there was no world amounts to saying
that there is a today but not a yesterday,” argued the lay Bud-
dhist scholar Hsü Ta-shou, skeptical of a Creation dated no
farther back than biblical genealogies would allow, while his
SACRED TIME. Pichugi having just given birth,
fellow Buddhists operated comfortably within a cosmology
Chachugi prepared his bow for the hunt. Like all Guayaki
that extended across millions of years. “They only [use such
men, Chachugi was a hunter, but that was not why he head-
a story] to intimidate the ignorant rabble, calling [the act of
ed into the forest on this cold morning in 1963. As father
Creation] something ‘beyond human imagination’—but this
of the child, he had to go hunting because Pichugi, “letting
is like telling young children that there is a ghost in a dark
fall” this new life, had made him bayja, one who attracts liv-
ing creatures. It was a dangerous state, bayja, but a propitious
and sacred time. Dangerous, because if he failed to return
A ghost in a dark room: Not only is time differently ex-
today with the prey for which man and jaguar always com-
perienced within and across religious traditions, it is also dif-
peted, he was most at risk of becoming the prey of jaguar.
ferently conceived and formatted. These differences, debated
Propitious, because animals would be drawn to him despite
openly within traditions and operating tacitly at crossroads
the cold, leaping into the arc of his arrows. Sacred, because
between traditions, reflect the richness of the human archi-
bayja and the hunt were as much a part of the ritual of birth
tecture of time. If by sacred is meant that which marks or se-
as the taking of a bamboo knife to the umbilical cord and
cures a connection with what lasts beyond an individual life
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

and manifests powers beyond human agency, there is no
everywhere on the globe, and with it a conviction of
equally brief synopsis of time, a subject that engages physi-
times of transcendence. Sacred time must be that time dur-
cists and philosophers, novelists and neurobiologists, histori-
ing which people experience their lives as unbounded: during
ans and theologians, economists and environmentalists,
which they commune with ancestors or other worlds; during
poets and prophets. The conjoining of time with the sacred
which they are alert to voices and figures that call and dance
is especially contested because much about being human—
beyond our human confines; during which they learn how
possibility and purpose, faithfulness and forgetting, nostalgia
they too can escape those confines.
and regret, mortality and immortality—is at stake. In order
So, in the throes of divine possession among the Dan-
to make clear the salience and liveliness of a topic that could
hom of West Africa, Brazilian Candomblé, and Caribbean
seem forbiddingly abstruse, it is best to begin with a review
vodou, worshippers petition Legba, spirit of the open and
of different senses of sacred time, breaking from encyclope-
unforeseeable, to refrain from interrupting, but Legba’s help
dic formality into a style that embodies the heat and heart
must also be solicited as translator of messages from other
of those differences.
gods, for transcendence is as tricky as it is thrilling; so English
SHARING IN THE CONVERSATION. Here then are a dozen def-
Quakers of the late seventeenth century, German Pietists of
initions, in the colloquial, with brief examples.
the eighteenth century, and North American Swedenbor-
1. Time itself is sacred. All time is sacred time, there’s
gians and Spiritualists of the nineteenth century developed
not a minute to waste, make the seconds count. Each mo-
rules of discernment by which to know what voices were
ment must be cherished, for life is a precarious gift.
speaking to or through them, what was inspiration and what
was aspiration.
So medieval Roman Catholic bishops decried the lend-
ing of money at daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly interest
4. Sacred time is ritual time. We’re all mortal and vul-
rates, since those who profited from loans were poaching on
nerable, and unless we’re saints we can’t go around all day
God’s gift, the time of our lives; so the early Muslim scholar
feeling transcendent. If the sacred has to do only with the
and ascetic Hasan al-Basri wrote, “There is not a single day
unbounded, then it’s sheer escapism. Most days are going to
which is ushered in by its morning twilight except it calls out,
be humdrum, that’s just how it is. The sacred is the ordinary
‘O son of Adam! I am a new creature, and I am a witness
lifted into the extraordinary, which makes for a democracy
over your deeds. Therefore take your provision out of me,
of inspiration. Birth, puberty, coupling, death, those are the
for if I pass away, I shall not recur to the Day of Resur-
transfiguring times that everyone shares, and each society
creates rituals around them, and also for such significant re-
curring events as new moons, solstices, first rains, first fruits.
2. The sacred must be timeless. Since what’s sacred
must be what’s true and what’s true must be unchanging,
So, in the uncreated, vast but finite universe contem-
only what stands apart from time can be truly sacred. There’s
plated by the Jaina community of mendicant teacher-ascetics
no such thing as sacred time. There’s a sacred timelessness
and lay followers, for whom the soul is reborn in a succession
of which we all have inklings, but time drags everyone into
of bodies bound by the karma of past deeds and the state of
the muck of the profane: age, accidents, illness, nightmares,
mind at the instant of death, Jains perform a funeral ritual
loss, death, decay. Don’t confuse the hours you spend at
in which a new body is shaped out of symbolic balls of rice
prayer, meditation, or confession with sacred time; those are
that stand as guarantors of a swift and positive reincarnation
just hours spent in pursuit, honor, or awe of something eter-
for the departing soul, lest it be stuck in a sacred limbo.
nal that’s never within reach. Eternal is what we aren’t; you
5. Sacred time is epiphanous. It seems oxymoronic to
and I, we’re bastards of time, and time, to be blunt, is
rely upon a regular series of rituals to invite the extraordi-
nary. Rather than exalting repetition, shouldn’t sacred time
So the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty
be the time that I hold dear precisely because it surprises me,
(1908–1961) backed into a discussion of time in his Phenom-
yielding sudden revelations? Sacred time should be like a bolt
enology of Perception through the experience of the phantom
of lightning, a moment that I keep holy through an ongoing
limb, an amputee’s continuing trauma of presence-in-
archive of those rare and astonishing insights by which I have
absence; so early Daoists struggled with the paradox of a cos-
come to know myself more acutely in this world.
mos whose origins lay in chaos, hun-tun, and whose nature
So the ninth-century Persian S:u¯f¯ı, Sahl At-Tustar¯ı, had
was infinitely chaotic, but which amounted at last to some-
theophanies, pre-visions of Allah, consistent with a theology
thing more revealing than confusion, so long as, according
that saw life unfolding as an unbroken series of instanta-
to the Zhuangzi, “The sage steers by the touch of chaos and
neous, divinely-sustained events; so among the Campa of
doubt”; so the Christian theologian Origen (c.185–c.245),
Peru and the Waiwai of the Brazilian Amazon, it is through
calling time a natural reality, resisted any imputation of sa-
song and music, at once ephemeral and memorable, that the
credness to time.
sacred enters the world of mortals.
3. Sacred time is the experience of the transcendent.
6. Time becomes sacred through neural patterning.
A belief in some sort of soulfulness can be found nearly
If the sacred is worth its salt, it has to be about more than
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

suddenness and the self. Listen instead to cognitive scientists,
and personalize fortune, which leads to mystifying and per-
who tell us that humans are hard-wired to notice quantity,
sonalizing everything unique and inexplicable. But the
periodicity, and causality. Time as before/after and time as
unique and inexplicable, that’s the divine, and the divine,
repetition are built into our brains, hence into philosophy
though manifested as miracle or marvel, is hardly mystifying
and theology. Is the sacred built in too? Well, we are also
and never exclusive to an individual. Ditto for sacred time:
wired to locate patterns in our environment. Let’s hypothe-
it’s simply the time instituted for us all by the divine, inter-
size that the sacred is basically an antique expression of the
vals during which we are enabled and inspired. It’s forgivable
inborn conviction that everything we encounter is ultimately
that people confuse the time they make for the sacred with
assimilable to an overarching pattern. Sacred time, then, may
the time the divine has made for them; it’s reprehensible to
simply be the moment of the discovery or confirmation of
forget that our lives and times are always at the pleasure of
such a pattern, when opiates are released in our brains and
the divine.
we enjoy what we call an “otherworldly” satisfaction.
So after six days of offering tributes at the temples, “On
So, argued the neurophilosopher Paul Churchland in
the Seventh day as the sun declines the day is desacralized;
The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul (1995, pp. 17–18),
at sunset the king is desacralized,” according to Ugaritic In-
the doctrine that human cognition resides in an immaterial
structions for the Ritual Calendar of the Month of Vintage
soul or mind looks, “to put if frankly, like just another myth,
(1500–1200 BCE), as translated by Nick Wyatt (1998,
false not just at the edges, but to the core,” but in the crafting
p. 354). “Seven times, with all his heart, the king shall speak:
of “a proper theory of brain function” he hoped for a concep-
As the sun declines the day is desacralized, at sunset the king
tual revolution that would “allow us to achieve a still higher
is desacralized. Then they shall array him in fine clothes and
level of moral insight and mutual care.”
shall wash his face. They shall return him to his palace, and
when he is there, he shall raise his hands to heaven.”
7. Sacred time is sacred because unique and inexpli-
cable. What hubris, to think that sacred time is just a field
9. Sacred time is cosmic. Beware turning sacred time
of synapses sparkling with chemically bonded ecstasy! It has
into stultifying obligation or authoritarian imposition, in
to be clear to the most bleary-eyed neuroanatomist that expe-
much the same fashion as secular society, making time ma-
riences of sacred time are triggered by what is not assimilable
chinable and merchandisable, poisons the gift of time by
to, or which exceeds our capacity for, pattern. Even should
turning it into chores and stock futures. There has to be an
we accept the materialist slant of neurobiology, there is little
appreciable gravity to sacred time that makes it worthy, com-
evidence that our opiate receptors are more indulged by per-
prehensible, and memorable. Sacred time must be that time
ceptions of pattern than by delightful encounters with the
during which people individually and collectively bear the
new and unique. Scientists themselves relish anomaly; grand
weight and fate of the cosmos. Neither that weight nor that
patterns are usually the projects of paranoiacs and megaloma-
fate can be long sustained by any one person; it must there-
niacs. The sacred need be neither surprising nor instanta-
fore be presented within a sacred theater of sacrifice and re-
neous; it must, like the best art, be irreproducible. Sacred
newal, atonement and attunement, that is undeniably mo-
time is misunderstood because by nature it’s indefinable and,
mentous. Each of us, for the well-being of the planet and our
like any unique event, can be approached only by way of in-
posterity, needs to bear the weight and fate of the cosmos,
adequate analogy. Trying to explain sacred time head-on is
if only for the briefest moment, for in that moment we learn
liking trying to explain to inveterate gamblers why odds of
what the universe requires of us lifelong.
a trillion-to-one make it unlikely that they will be the one.
So Hindi men and women throughout northern India
So in Chinese and Japanese Chan (Zen) Buddhism,
at the end of the rainy season move back and forth between
masters and students approach revelation obliquely, their sa-
participation and spectatorship in the epic play cycle of the
cred time spent “sitting straight, without any thought of ac-
Ramlila, lasting some places as long as thirty days, reenacting
quisition, without any sense of achieving enlightenment”
the life of the god Ra¯ma, his victory over the demon king
(from the thirteenth-century conversations of Do¯gen, re-
Ra¯van:a and his shattering of the great cosmic bow of S´iva,
corded by his disciple Ejo¯ in the Sho¯bu¯ genzo¯ zuimonki,
the god of devouring time; so the Mayan ball games with
pp. 98–99). In this way they prepare for the puzzle of a koan
their deadly ritual replay of the motions of the heavens, and
which liberates the mind from time-bound logic, as in this
so the human sacrifices on the Mexica (Aztec) pyramids,
eleventh-century verse appended to The Recorded Sayings of
where the years were bound together in spirals of death and
Layman P’ang by Master Fo-Jih Ta-Hui:
rebirth that encompassed people, plants, cities, kings, and
the gods themselves, eaten up by time.
The Birthless is basically wordless;
10. Sacred time is time out. Must we resort to grandil-
To speak is to fall into words.
oquence or terror to prevent sacred time from being cheap-
Kindred gather in a happy family circle;
ened? If we all had to wait upon a cosmic connection to claim
A tiger watches the water-mill turn.
sacred time, this entire entry might as well be blank. That’s
8. Sacred time is divine time. The problem with gam-
not a bad idea. . . . What’s sacred about sacred time is that
blers and riddlers is that they mystify the accidents of chance
it’s set aside from our usual course. It can be a time of rest
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

or ecstasy, of silence or drumming, of solitude or commu-
GETTING SERIOUS. There’s a deadline for this essay, and
nion, as long as its rhythm is unusual and it alludes to forces
that’s no illusion, so I’d better get cracking. But that very
that ride above everyday turmoil. Other definitions suffer
“get cracking” has been at the crux of the debate over sacred
from a subtle arrogance with regard to the sacred or to time,
time between Aristotle and Augustine, the former certain of
as if we humans had a hand in running the universe. All we
the reality of time as a measure of motion and substrate of
have it in our hands to do, now and then, is to pause, dedi-
potentiality, the latter uncertain of its reality, given the flick-
cating those pauses to something beyond the immediate.
ering of human horizons and the frailty of human compre-
So Plato in his Laws called a religious holiday an ana-
hension. For both of them, though, sacred time is the bot-
paula, a breathing space, and whether as a Sabbath, a carni-
tom line.
val, a festival, a jubilee, or days added at the end of the year
LEARNING WHAT’S AT STAKE. Drama inheres in beginnings
to keep a calendar aligned with the seasons, most cultures
and endings. What lies between is as much the province of
recognize a time out; so, warned Gary Eberle more than two
Sacred Time as creation or conclusion, and what is thought
millennia later in Sacred Time and the Search for Meaning
to lie before or beyond (the Uncreated, the Prime Mover,
(2003, p. xiii), when we don’t do justice to a sabbatical, we
Eternity, the Infinite) works in tandem with each calculus
end up in an impermanent world, “untouched by anything
of the quotidian. How religions handle the less climactic in-
we might call eternity.” Whoso would know sacred time, let
tervals is key to the spiritual framing of that ongoing dailiness
them stop counting the hours.
by which human life is ordinarily lived.
11. Sacred time is spiritually receptive time. An apho-
If time has to do with instantiation, duration, sequence,
rism whose latitude erodes its attitude. Leisure time should
causality, and change, then sacred time has to do with the
not be mistaken for sacred time, lest the supramundane be-
implicit issues that make time of particular moment: pres-
come another species of the mundane. Those who take time
ence, continuity, consequence, story, and transformation.
out to meditate, to go on pilgrimage, to fast and contem-
Variably fraught and freighted, these issues may be expressed
plate, or to study scripture put themselves in a receptive
at a personal level in terms of self-identity, trust, generational
frame of mind, a heightened attention that has nothing in
bonds, memory, and hope. Either way, time is fully implicat-
common with idle relaxation. Released from the daily grind,
ed in notions and experiences of the sacred, whether time is
one ignores the pricklings of the personal in order to support
depicted as the primal ground of being or as the presiding
profound insights.
force that sustains and destroys each world; as that which is
So the Jewish qabbalist Moses ben Jacob Cordovero of
set in motion through a cosmic act of sacrifice or as that
sixteenth-century Safed wrote in his Or Ne Derav: “the time
which must be overcome on the path to enlightenment; as
that is most conducive to understand matters in depth is dur-
the slow revealer of truth, which must withstand all storms,
ing the long nights, after midnight; or on the Sabbath, for
or as the swiftness of revelation, which proves itself by the
the Sabbath itself lends predisposition to it; and similarly on
very storm of its truth; as the implacable enemy of all illu-
the eve of the Sabbath, commencing after midnight”; so
sions, eroding all disguises, or as the archetypal illusion.
Shinto¯ ceremonies incorporate the Japanese principle of ma,
Without time in its manifold senses, the experience of
interval, which opens up time as well as space, allowing for
the sacred would lack a sense of occasion (timing), urgency
the entrance of spirits on which the worshipper waits with
(timeliness), momentum (time-after-time), resolution (time-
expectant stillness.
fullness) or relief (timelessness). The secular world, of course,
12. Experiencing the sacred, time is discovered to be
may also be driven by time to such an extent that people of
an illusion. You have to realize that the closer you come to
no avowed faith upbraid themselves for “worshipping the
the sacred, the weaker is time’s grip on you, until at last time
clock” and efficiency experts, bankers, taxi dispatchers, jour-
is totally unhinged, since it is a vise of your own making with
nalists, and air traffic controllers unite in a secular priesthood
nothing absolute about it. A better aphorism might be: Sa-
of timekeepers, but these are customs and clerisies of the im-
cred time is what you make of time when time is made out
mediate, where time “saved” is hardly, in the long run, re-
to be none of your own. Once you get beyond your attach-
demptive. Those who deal in the long run—astronomers,
ments to this world, time no longer has any attachment to
mythographers, folksingers, tombstone carvers—owe their
you, and the illusion drops away.
professions rather to religion, to stories of cosmic origin and
evolution by which time is installed in the sacred and the sa-
So in the Yoga Va¯sis:t:ha, one Hindu philosophical
cred instilled with time.
school argues from the relativity of time—how, according to
one’s mental state, an instant may feel like an eon or vice
Folded into cosmology, rituals of renewal, calendars of
versa—that the object of yogic practices is to get beyond the
festivals, images of a future state heavenly or hellish, time be-
conceit of time, at best a vehicle for reincarnation, at worst
comes sacred. This at least would be the weak explanation,
a self-deception; so Buddhists of the S´a¯nyava¯da school insist
granting time and the sacred separate tracks with culturally
that time is merely a set of subjective conventions, and the
variable crossings. A stronger claim would be that time
wheel of time, the ka¯lachakra, at best a teaching tool, at worst
makes the sacred possible, since without it believers would
a prison.
be at a loss to embrace the holy in past, present, future, mem-
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ory or dream. The counterclaim here would be that the sa-
logical and psychological inconsistencies—inconsistencies
cred is time’s contractor, and that it is the first job of every
that, theoretically and experientially, are in turn projected
religion and spiritual tradition to enable time. The strongest
onto time, which is then seen as imbued with conundrum
claim would be that time and the sacred are congenital, given
and felt as happily contradictory, neutrally brutal, or fatally
that humans are temporal beings whose humanity is mani-
enigmatic. The nature of time may be as passionately disput-
fested through an intrinsic awareness of mortality and an in-
ed within as between traditions, giving rise to schools of
trinsic desire to bridge each mortal span. The strongest coun-
thought (most forcefully in Neoplatonic, Hindu, Chinese
terclaim would be that time and the sacred are accidental
Buddhist, and Protestant circles) at odds over ostensibly
categories that obscure the ultimate insignificance of human
minor points that actually feed major divergences in ap-
life, the realization of which can be the only respite from suf-
proaches to the role of ancestors, the virtue of sociopolitical
action, the chronology of grace or redemption. If, as in the
The stronger claims, speculative though they may seem,
Sikh tradition in India, time began with the divine creation
have exercised many a theologian and religious philosopher,
of an existential reality that leads through an irreversible, dy-
since agreement on sacred time appears to be vital to the con-
namically evolutionary process to the spiritual union of
duct of ceremonies and refinement of liturgies that hold
human beings with God, then history, and a believer’s place
communities together through the years. Even for those who
in history, may be active and sometimes revolutionary. If, as
do not bundle time into neat parcels of past, present, and fu-
in the Qumran community near the Dead Sea, all events
ture, or whose sagas swallow the eons in great gulps, sacred
have been prepared by God as the “master of time,” then
time must still be reckoned, and reckoned with. Although
one’s responsibility is to honor God’s decrees with the ut-
the Ainu off the coast of Northeast Asia told no tales of the
most purity and ceremonial precision, isolated from the dis-
future and counted their present not by years or months but
ruptions of larger society, “for your mighty deeds we will
by two irregular seasons and the daily barking of sled dogs
extol your splendor at every moment, and at the times indi-
at dawn, noon, and dusk, yet (through at least the 1960s)
cated by your eternal edicts, at the onset of day and at night
they understood the winter, the morning, and the first half
at the fall of evening and at dawn. For great is the plan of
of each lunar period as times for prayer, contact with good
your glory” (War Scroll, 1QM xiv 13–14).
spirits, ceremonies for the bear, and mediations with the god-
Given that time would, prima facie, make origins imag-
dess of the moon.
inable, and given that many cultures consider the original
EXPLORING POSSIBILITIES. In general, each religious group
ipso facto sacred, the sacredness of time might seem over-
determines the borders and meanings of night and day, the
determined, especially where primitivist strains (as in Ana-
seasons, childhood and adulthood, life and death. Each
baptist, Puritan, Methodist, and Iroquois revitalization
group then establishes nodes of tension and relaxation along
movements) strongly encourage a return to an earlier and un-
these divides, such that the quotidian round is structured
corrupt or incorruptible era. However, the origin of time can
through periods of preparation, consummation, and relax-
be untwinned from its essence in those traditions where time
ation whose coincidence with cycles fixed by human and ce-
is solicited primarily to initialize aging and mortality (as with
lestial bodies is notable but distinct. That is, the universals
the Iraqw of Tanzania, who have no origin or creation
of breath and digestion, of sex and death, of sunset and
myths) or to stand as guarantor for an inherent immortality
moonfall, are differently incorporated into each society and
(modern Theosophy). Time may even be circumscribed at
differently experienced through its set of observances ac-
both ends, serving primarily as a measure for the precise exe-
knowledging, praising, appraising, or acceding to sacred
cution of rituals geared fiercely to the present or to the imme-
diate presence of ancestors (Ruist Confucianism, Shinto¯). In
Specifically, sacred time is shaped by five acts of defini-
cases where a culture has constructed a tight nexus between
tion that, separately or in complex conjunction, engage the
space and time (Incan cult, Tibetan Buddhist man:d:ala, Ice-
supernal. These five acts define the nature, origin, spectrum,
landic saga, the longhouses of the Pira¯-parana¯ Indians of the
power, and rhythm of time in relation to the sacred.
northwest Amazon), the origin of time and of the universe
may be so entwined that each act of memory is a sacred em-
Where, at one extreme, time is understood as an inde-
pendent ordering principle, time may be deified (Brahmanic
Hinduism, Iranian Zurvanism, Aztec and Mayan cosmolo-
The spectrum of time refers to the variety of phenomena
gy) and the five acts of definition may together constitute a
scaled by time. For some cultures, and for industrial society,
theology; where, at the other extreme, moments are experi-
maturity, adulthood, legal rights, social rank, economic
enced as parts of an indeterminate flux (early Daoism, mod-
standing, and attributed wisdom are all etched by year
ern pantheism), the five acts of definition may together con-
counts, which also guide such religious ceremonies as bap-
stitute a radical phenomenology in which the sacred becomes
tism, conversion, confirmation, circumcision, and weddings;
that alone which survives from moment to moment. Most
here the spectrum of time is short, dense, and finely
spiritual traditions plot time between the extremes of para-
notched—and would be further inflected with arrows of up-
mount coherence and particular incoherence, risking thereby
swing and downswing. For other cultures (as with the Komo
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of Zaire), time as age or clock-count has little to do with
the upper case to emphasize that in this Case abstraction si-
rank, rights, or respect, but time as seasonality does demand
multaneously hypostatizes. That is to say, it is hard to write
attention for plantings or migrations and may track some
about Time without ascribing to Time an independent exis-
rites of passage; here the spectrum of time is thin and marked
tence. Not all groups welcome or understand the abstracting
at relatively long intervals—and the very notion of a spec-
of Time (indeed, degrees of abstraction or concretion are at
trum of time would be alien. For many cultures, beyond the
the nub of a controversy about notions of Time among Afri-
obvious biological, climatic, agricultural, and riverine cycles
cans and Native Americans); few societies have hypostatized
that act upon human beings, acts of prophecy, witch-
Time as thoroughly as have the countries of the industrial-
detection, mediumship, healing, and clairvoyance demon-
ized North Atlantic ecumene. The problem of abstraction
strate one’s intimacy with, if not also mastery of, time; here
should have become evident through the initial quicktime of
the spectrum of time is long and complexly indexed—and
competing definitions, some of which deny Time substance
would be reconceived in non-Euclidean intersecting parallel
or independent action, but Time has moved paragraph by
paragraph to reclaim that autonomy which often is its pre-
Power is a tortured subject. The question is, what can
eminent claim upon the Sacred.
time do? Of course, time’s nature provides part of the an-
So now the Sacred demands the upper case, as if the Sa-
swer: if time is a god, it may have diverse powers; if time is
cred were a book. Among religions that rely upon scripture,
a force, it may have one sphere of influence; if time is an illu-
Sacred time seems bound up with language and efforts to-
sion, it deceives. But the question is at root comparative:
ward the permanent inscription of truths. For religions in
What can time do that cannot be done elsewise or undone?
which the word, oral or written, is held to be creative and
What are its unique powers? Is time the sole prompter of
instrumental, the syntax of expression would seem to define
change, or is change what prompts a sensitivity to time? Does
both the scope and processes of time, even as it makes strenu-
time devour all, or do human beings fear time as a devourer
ous any clarification of time aside from language. Sociolin-
because they are flawed and fall short on their promises? Is
guists and anthropologists have sought to infer from a lan-
fate another face of time and are human fortunes inscribed
guage’s tenses, aspects, and moods that language-group’s
between time’s eyes, or is time in its expansiveness the best
experience of time. A highly conjugated matrix of predicates
assurance of free will, for otherwise an awareness of time
that finely parses the past, the progressive, the habitual, the
would be nothing but torture for all those shunted along a
punctual, the perfective, the future, the optative, and the
predestined path toward hell, karmic demotion, or the
conclusive would indicate a culture whose concept of time
wrong kind of oblivion. Is time itself a master, a mistress, or
is highly articulated and important enough to keep company
a liberator?
with the Sacred, which must inevitably address difficult is-
Everywhere, people dance to the rhythm of day and
sues of persistence and loss, order and disorder, origin and
night, lunations and tides, equinoxes and solstices. These
end. A meager inventory of temporal markers would indicate
may be celestial phenomena, but rarely are they merely astro-
a culture in which time is not key to the consideration of
nomical, considering how much they are seen to influence
those elements of life that are believed to give it depth or en-
living things through their powerfully regular rhythms. Their
during significance. At least two perilous assumptions come
repetitions and syncopations, widely taken as intimations of
into play here: assuming what (for most South American and
the divine, are refracted in human arts of time: storytelling,
many Asian traditions) remains to be proven, that time is a
fortune-telling, music-making, star-tracing, trance-dancing.
human construct rooted in language; assuming that concepts
The rhythms are captured with more subtlety in the exten-
of time, especially Sacred time, cannot be fully developed
sions and compressions of sacred calendars and their punctu-
through nonlinguistic processes such as painting, sculpture,
ation by solemn Sabbaths or mortal games, in the accordion
music, and dance (as in the “dreaming” and paintings of Aus-
of swift and slow motions throughout a complex ritual, in
tralian aborigines, the Lion Mask dances of Korean animism,
the staccato or fluid discourse of the bewitched or inspired,
the rock art of the San of southern Africa, or the gamelan
in all of the rhythms that build beyond the thumping of the
music accompanying Javanese Hindu-Buddhist plays).
This second problem has had a graphic companion in
CALL AND RESPONSE. Nature, origin, spectrum, power,
a third and more widespread problem: the frisking of reli-
rhythm: these are analytic categories that no tradition would
gions for signs of linear as opposed to cyclical time. Like the
acknowledge in this particular pen-tangle, but they do assist
desire to differentiate a tribal god of judgment from a catho-
in the unpacking of “sacred time,” a phrase with much bag-
lic god of love, the desire to differentiate the “cyclical” time
gage. They do not, unfortunately, keep the study of sacred
of archaic hunter-gatherer or agrarian societies from the “lin-
time from being knocked for a loop by a number of method-
ear” time of urban or industrial societies stemmed from Prot-
ological problems common to international baggage-
estant historians desperate to give a universal footing to their
sense of civilization’s moral advance. Denizens of “cyclical”
First, perhaps foremost, among the problems is the ab-
time were supposedly caught in a maze of their own making,
straction of Time, which for this paragraph appears alone in
resilient but condemned to traditionalist pieties and a perva-
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sive fatalism, anxious for each year to be renewed in the
in analyses of Orphism, Mithraism, and Siberian shaman-
image of the old and reluctant to plan a better world. Deni-
ism, kairos in Christian soteriology, and chronos in ancient
zens of linear time, in contrast, were supposedly politically
Egyptian royal cults and modern secularization, none of the
engaged, driven by a past that betokens a brilliant, if often
terms insists upon the subservience of the others. Rather, one
apocalyptic, future, which explains why they become reform-
can see how, as in sixteenth-century Andean syntheses of
ers, looking ever for improvement. That binary set, whether
local cults and colonial Catholicism or in the South African
in the blatant stereotype sketched here or in more sinuously
Xhosa cattle-killing movement of 1856–1857, communities
seductive versions, still rules public conversation, although
handle crises through a complex manipulation of aion,
it has been shown to be historically groundless by Jonathan
kairos, and chronos.
Z. Smith for the ancient Near East, Pierre Vidal-Naquet for
A fourth methodological problem in the study of sacred
ancient Greece, Sacha Stern for ancient Judaism, and Nancy
time (back to the lower case) derives from a misplaced devo-
Farriss for the Mayan world.
tion to chronos. Much of the scholarly corpus makes the
The same binary set, with value signs reversed, was
“time before” sacred to investigations of sacred time, seeking
adopted in the 1990s by cultural critics deploring a frenzied
intact cores of religious belief that have resisted the influence
busyness that was “bleeding meaningful time out of our
of foreign raiders and invaders, colonial powers with their
lives,” as the American philosopher Jacob Needleman had it
resident armies and missionaries, tourists, journalists, and
in his Time and the Soul (2003, p. 2). People need some of
anthropologists. Why expect sacred times to be unswerving
that old-time cycling, he wrote, to catch their breaths and
or uncontested? As the anthropologist Johannes Fabian and
find their true selves. But nearly every religious system gam-
ethnographer Nicolas Thomas have pointed out, Western re-
bols between the cyclical and the linear, because human be-
searchers have tended to regard non-Western societies (read:
ings, familiar with recurrence and adept at repetition, are also
non-white, or tribal, nomadic, primitive, even “stone age”)
fascinated by novelty and blessed with inventiveness. The
as relics. Whereas all peoples going about their business on
best one can do with the mountain of words on cyclical and
any given day are effectively coevals, once regarded as relics
linear time is to note that priestly forms of religion lean to-
they become reliquaries, appearing to hold up to the world
ward the cyclic just enough to protect the temple and its ser-
valuable remnants of ancient truths. Because sacred times
vitors from violent shifts of direction, while demotic forms
and their train of ceremonies and rites of passage are pre-
lean toward the linear just enough to keep possibilities open,
sumed to be at the core of religious life, researchers have
to make for immediate second chances, to rescue the down-
looked as much to fragments of sacred times as to ruins of
trodden from persecution, forced conversion, slavery.
sacred spaces to establish what that tradition had in mind be-
fore the incursions of strangers.
There may be more advantage to a complementary set
of terms that has been applied to Sacred Time (both now
Within and without, of course, sacred times have long
momentarily in the upper case) in cultures far removed from
been subject to renegotiation, as in the shift of Manichaean
their roots in Greece and the eastern reaches of Neoplato-
cosmology and ecclesiology under the impact of Buddhism
nism and early Christianity: aion, kairos, and chronos. Aion
in northwestern China, or the mixed discourse of Cree heav-
is time understood as a principle, and principal, of infinite,
en and Methodist Sabbath in the program of the Cree proph-
undifferentiable, unceasing time, sometimes pictured as an
et Abishabis in Ontario (Canada) in the 1840s. To expect
of any religion a resolute invariance and coherence in its con-
ouroboros, a serpent swallowing its own tail, an Egyptian
struct of sacred time is to make two idealizing mistakes, im-
symbol of renewal. Kairos is time felt and depicted as the
posing both a system and a stasis that would have turned
knife’s edge, a pregnant moment on which all hangs in sus-
such a religion into a museum piece from the start, in the
pense or, as Tukanoan tribes of the northwest Amazon mean
name of an anthropological “eternal” that has proven as diffi-
by their verb ~su? husé, that instant in which all conditions
cult to shake as the Ptolemaic astronomy of beautifully eter-
are propitious for conception. Chronos is time enumerated,
nal epicycles.
the sequence of event following event, from which proceed
schedules, chronologies, chronometers, and the raw data of
Which unearths the archeological eternal. Digging
history, but which may also mount up to a long-anticipated
through “layers of time” and walking the stone circles of
total, the Aztec calendar round of 52 years, the Qumran
Neolithic peoples or tunneling through underground burial
cycle of 294 years, the Mayan long count of 1,872,000 days,
chambers, archaeologists have found not only prehistoric
the allotted 6,000 years of Jewish messianism and Western
time-keeping but prehistoric ritual, and through prehistoric
Christian apocalyptics, the 7,000 years of Eastern Orthodox
ritual, prehistoric sacred time. Or is it vice versa: from sacred
eschatology, or the 432,000 years of the Hindu kaliyuga, last
time, ritual? Their arguments are themselves elegantly circu-
and least of the four ages of the 28th of 71 mah(yugas (four-
lar, implying that there is something irretrievably human and
age cycles) in the 7th of 14 overarching manvantaras in the
visceral to the keeping of time which, because it is inexplica-
first kalpa or eon of the second half of the life of Brahman.
bly human and visceral, must be numinous. Rather than
The virtue of the three terms is that they are neither cultural-
couching sacred time in a culture’s myths of origin, archeolo-
ly nor mutually exclusive; although aion has special potency
gists and archaeo-astronomers have often devised their own
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origin myths of sacred time for Iron and Bronze Age cultures
gued that time, belonging to no one, cannot possibly be
in England and Israel, for Old Kingdom Egypt, for Shang
given but is always the object of human desires to give of—
China, for the prehistoric Mayans—origin myths that are
and beyond—oneself, a cogent postmodern reformulation of
then embraced and elaborated by resurgent spiritual groups
sacred time. Clearly in this mode, Alfred L. Roca of the Lab-
(Druids, Hermeticists, Wiccans, Neopagans) strongly invest-
oratory of Genomic Diversity at the National Cancer Insti-
ed in the sacredness of an elemental or “natural” time.
tute in Maryland, together with seven collaborators around
the world, meant in 2004 to give a small animal, the highly-
The flip side of the archaeological eternal is “real time.”
endangered solenodon, the gift of time literally and twice
A mischievous phrase, “real time” has come to be associated
over. Demonstrating the origins of this shrew-like mammal
as much with unmanipulated media as with the honestly ex-
in a genetic divergence that occurred seventy-six million
istential. “Real time” is what is happening “as we speak”;
years ago, they hoped thereby to persuade Cuban and Hi-
what has not been edited, prerecorded, or reenacted; what,
spaniolan authorities to act to prevent the extinction of a spe-
in short, has not been tampered with. It is easy to see how
cies whose lineage, older than most mammalian orders, is an-
the premise of “real time” can result in an implicit promise
cestral to, and perhaps coterminous with, our own.
of sacred time, if one takes sacred time to be inviolate time,
a pure time “delivering the goods,” the good, the gods. Elec-
SEE ALSO Aion; Apocalypse, overview article; Birth; Calen-
tronically infused with event, contemporary society further
dars, overview article; Chronology; Consciousness, States of;
conflates aion, kairos, and chronos, identifying the eternally
Cosmology, overview article; Death; Eschatology, overview
valid with the constant repercussions of breaking news. “Real
article; Eternity; Funeral Rites, overview article; Heaven and
time” is integral to utopian premises that those who live rela-
Hell; Initiation, overview article; Inspiration; Meditation;
tively unalarmed lives (i.e., those in preindustrial, “pre-
Memorization; Millenarianism, overview article; Miracles,
contact” or monastic societies) enjoy greater access to the sa-
overview article; Morality and Religion; Phenomenology of
cred. “Real time” is prominent in dystopian premises that
Religion; Prophecy, overview article; Rites of Passage, over-
those not “in touch” with what is going on “under their own
view article; Sacred Space; Seasonal Ceremonies; Seculariza-
eyes” (because isolated, illiterate, impoverished, disabled, or
senile) cannot appreciate the meanings of their actions and
are, to put it cruelly, cut off from the sacred. “Real time” in-
forms the documentarist premise that taking cognizance of
A full-fledged bibliography on sacred time might begin with a
any segment of life automatically unveils the sacred, as if a
quotation from the first volume of Remembrance of Things
“respectful” approach to the passage of time is all that one
Past (1913–1927), where Marcel Proust, as he is leaving
needs to access “the holy.”
church, genuflects before the altar and suddenly feels the fra-
grance of almonds steal toward him through the blossoms of
a hawthorn bush. “Despite the heavy, motionless silence of
bristling quotation marks of the paragraph above are signs
the hawthorns,” (C. K. Scott Moncrieff’s translation, New
of overprotectiveness regarding “time” and “the sacred.”
York, 1924, p. 87), “these gusts of fragrance came to me like
With or without seven thousand seven hundred words that
the murmuring of an intense vitality, with which the whole
less than one-thousandth of one percent of the billions of hu-
altar was quivering like a roadside hedge explored by living
mankind will ever read, people will surely conceive, experi-
antennae, of which I was reminded by seeing some stamens,
ence, and reconceive sacred time in their own fashion.
almost red in color, which seemed to have kept the spring-
time virulence, the irritant power of stinging insects now
AFFIRMATION AND DEPARTURE. What then is the point of
transmuted into flowers.” That intensity of sensation so
an article on sacred time? Why am I still writing? Why are
common to sacred time, that flow of memory into presence
you still reading? Wouldn’t everyone’s time be more valuably
and presence into passion, resonated with the work of
spent in working to eliminate poverty, feed the starving,
Proust’s cousin-in-law Henri Bergson, son of a Jewish musi-
comfort the suicidal?
cian and himself a philosopher alive to issues of tempo and
temporality, beginning with his first book, Essai sur les donnés
These are not rhetorical questions. Whether in the form
immédiates de la conscience (Time and Free Will, Paris, 1889),
of a liturgical calendar through which a people’s traumatic
which made of time a rich, indivisible flow. The task of reli-
memories of persecution, enslavement, and devastation are
gion, wrote Henri Hubert in 1905, using Bergson as a
at once condensed and transmuted (Jewish, Sikh, Cuban
springboard, was to endow such uncut time with a definite
Santería, the Nation of Islam); or as a formal period of wait-
rhythm of interruptions by which the sacred could be told
ing (in exile, hospital, asylum, prison) through which fanta-
from the profane. In his Étude sommaire de la représentation
sies and frustrations may merge and emerge in spiritual trans-
du temps dans la religion (Paris, 1905), available as Essay on
, translated by Robert Parkin and Jacqueline Redding
formation; or as an active pursuit of the holy through fasting,
(Oxford, 1999). The young Hubert was also an obvious dis-
initiation, hallucinogenic retreat, vision quest, pilgrimage, or
ciple of the sociologist Émile Durkheim, whose Les formes
prolonged mourning, sacred time is that time during which
élémentaires de la vie religieuse (The Elementary Forms of the
the contingency of human life is confronted and one must
Religious Life, Paris, 1912) informed most subsequent Euro-
decide, again and again, how to spend one’s life and give of
pean analyses of the sacred. After the First World War and
one’s time. A philosopher of language, Jacques Derrida, ar-
its killing time in the trenches, sacred time itself suffered
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

from a kind of shellshock to which Rudolf Otto’s war-
mounted special issues on time; among those most focused
stricken Das Heilige (The idea of the holy, Breslau, 1917) was
on sacred time were the American Historical Review 104, no.
incomplete antidote. It was left to Martin Heidegger, a disci-
5 (1999), Ethnohistory 47, no. 1 (2000), and International
ple of the German philosopher Edmund Husserl (an exact
Review of Sociology 11, no. 3 (2001).
contemporary of Bergson’s), to put sacred time into phe-
By the late twentieth century, time had been so enlarged as a field
nomenological perspective in his short lecture, Begriff der
of study that methodological critiques began to seem urgent.
Zeit (1924), translated by William McNeill as The Concept
Time had already been problematized in physics, vividly in
of Time (Oxford, 1992). Writing in Parisian exile in 1945
Thomas Gold, ed., The Nature of Time (Ithaca, N.Y., 1967),
with the ruins of the Second World War splayed before him,
recording the rambunctious speculations of physicists toying
the Romanian erotic novelist and scholar of Indian religions
with a phrase coined by the English physicist Arthur Edding-
Mircea Eliade chose history over fiction as a vehicle for re-
ton in 1928, the “arrow of time”—a phrase further proble-
viewing and renewing the options of sacred time in Le mythe
matized by Stephen Jay Gould in Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle:
de l’éternel retour: archétypes et répétition (Paris, 1949), trans-
Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time (Cam-
lated by Willard R. Trask as Cosmos and History: The Myth
bridge, Mass., 1987) and by Huw Price in Time’s Arrow and
of the Eternal Return (Princeton, 1954).
Archimedes’ Point: New Directions for the Physics of Time
Since then, many of the central works have not been monographs
(New York, 1996). In this context, respected models for the
but wide-ranging anthologies of essays, drawn often from
investigation of sacred time, such as E. E. Evans-Pritchard’s
conferences on the topic of time in religion or the broader
Nuer Religion (Oxford, 1956) and Clifford Geertz’s The Reli-
topic of time across cultures. These began with Henry Cor-
gion of Java (New York, 1960), were taken to task by other
bin and others, Man and Time, vol. 3 of Papers from the
anthropologists: Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How
Eranos Yearbooks (Princeton, N.J., 1957), but it was J. T.
Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York, 1983); Nancy
Fraser, founder of the International Society for the Study of
Munn, “The Cultural Anthropology of Time: A Critical
Time in 1966 and organizer of The Voices of Time: A Cooper-
Essay,” Annual Review of Anthropology 21 (1992): 93–123;
ative Survey of Man’s Views of Time as Expressed by the Sciences
and Nicholas Thomas, Out of Time: History and Evolution
and by the Humanities (New York, 1966), who etched the
in Anthropological Discourse, 2d ed. (Ann Arbor, 1996). Rul-
template with The Study of Time (1972–), a series of confer-
ing assumptions about cyclical and linear time were also un-
ence volumes on which he collaborated over two decades
dermined, as anticipated by Edmund R. Leach in two brief
with a number of co-editors, eventually relinquishing the se-
essays, “Cronus and Chronos,” Explorations 1 (1953): 15–
ries to other hands, as with vol. 11, Time and Uncertainty,
23, and “Time and False Noses” Explorations 5 (1955): 30–
edited by Paul Harris and Michael Crawford (Leiden, the
35, reprinted with revisions in his Rethinking Anthropology
Netherlands, 2004). Publication of similar collections accel-
(London, 1961), pp. 124–136. The critique was deepened
erated in the years leading up to 2001: Paul Ricoeur and oth-
by Pierre Vidal-Naquet, “Divine Time and Human Time,”
ers, Les cultures et le temps: études préparées pour l’UNESCO
in The Black Hunter: Forms of Thought and Forms of Society
(Paris, 1975); Tommy Carlstein and others, eds., Timing
in the Greek World, translated by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak
Space and Spacing Time, 3 vols. (London, 1978); Dorian Tif-
(Baltimore, Md., 1986), pp. 39–60; Nancy M. Farriss, “Re-
feneau, ed., Mythes et représentations du temps (Paris, 1985);
membering the Future, Anticipating the Past: History, Time
Dorothea M. Dooling, ed., “Time and Presence,” Parabola
and Cosmology among the Maya of the Yucatan,” Compara-
15 (spring, 1990), entire issue; John Bender and David E.
tive Studies in Society and History 29, 3 (1987): 566–593;
Wellbery, eds., Chronotypes: The Construction of Time (Stan-
Jonathan Z. Smith, To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual
ford, Calif., 1991); Anindita N. Balslev and J. N. Mohanty,
(Chicago, 1987); Anthony Aveni, Empires of Time: Calen-
eds., Religion and Time (Leiden, the Netherlands, 1993);
dars, Clocks, and Cultures (New York, 1989); and Alfred Gell,
Etienne Klein and Michel Spiro, eds., Le temps et sa flèche
The Anthropology of Time: Cultural Constructions of Temporal
(Luisant, France, 1994); Diane Owen Hughes and Thomas
Maps and Images (Oxford, 1992).
R. Trautman, eds., Time: Histories and Ethnologies (Ann
Given such momentum, challenges were issued as well to domi-
Arbor, Mich., 1995); Kurt Weis, ed., Was Ist Zeit?, 2 vols.
nant theories about particular religious systems—Sassanid
(Munich, 1996); Yasuhiko Nagano, ed., Time, Language and
Persia’s worship of Zurvan, originary god of time (according
Cognition (Osaka, 1998); Jeremy Butterfield, ed., The Argu-
to R. C. Zaehner), Africa’s futurelessness (according to John
ments of Time (Oxford, 1999); John B. Brough and Lester
S. Mbiti), Hopi ritual atemporality (according to Benjamin
Embree, eds., The Many Faces of Time (Dordrecht, the Neth-
Lee Whorf), the ultimate unsustainability of Hindu cosmol-
erlands, 2000); Deutschen Religionsgeschichtlichen Stu-
ogy (according to G. W. von Hegel)—by such scholars as
diengesellschaft, Zeit in der Religionsgeschichte (Münster,
Shaul Shaked, “The Myth of Zurvan: Cosmogony and Es-
Germany, 2001); and Vincianne Pirenne-Delforge and
chatology,” in Messiah and Christos, edited by Ithamar
˝ hnan Tunca, eds., Représentations du temps dans les religions
Gruenwald and others (Tübingen, Germany, 1992),
(Geneva, 2003, essays solicited in 2001). Meanwhile, Samuel
pp. 219–240; Peter R. McKenzie, “Sacred Time,” in his Hail
Macey, who had published at length on time and mythology,
Orisha! A Phenomenology of a West African Religion in the
enlisted a growing community of scholars in the creation of
Mid-Nineteenth Century (Leiden, 1997), pp. 154–208; Ekke-
an Encyclopedia of Time (New York, 1994), many of whose
hart Malotki, Hopi Time: A Linguistic Analysis of the Tempo-
articles set a bead on the sacred. Two new journals were also
ral Concepts in the Hopi Language (Berlin, 1983); and Gayatri
launched: Time and Society (London, 1992–) and KronoS-
Chakravorty Spivak, “Time and Timing: Law and History,”
cope: Journal for the Study of Time (Leiden, 2001–). During
in Chronotypes: The Construction of Time, edited by Bender
the centurial years 1999–2001, academic journals often
and Wellbery (Stanford, Calif., 1991), pp. 99–117.
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

Debate continues, with a vehemence equal to that of Hubert (who
South Asia: Jasabir Singh Ahluwalia, “Time, Reality, and Reli-
with Durkheim’s nephew Marcel Mauss published in 1899
gion,” in his The Doctrine and Dynamics of Sikhism (Patiala,
a seminal study of sacrificial rites), concerning the degree to
India, 1999), pp. 29–50; Maitreyee R. Deshpande, The Con-
which sacred time originates in, or is primitively defined by,
cept of Time in Vedic Ritual (Delhi, 2001); Werner Herzog’s
blood sacrifice as a psychic strategy of re-creation or as a
film, Rad der Zeit (Wheel of Time) (Germany, 2003, eighty
means of collective renewal. On this, see Georges Bataille,
minutes); Padmanath S. Jaini, Collected Papers on Jaina
Theory of Religion, translated by Robert Hurley (New York,
Studies (Delhi, 2000); Hari Shankar Prasad, ed., Time in In-
1992); Raimundo Panikkar, “Time and Sacrifice: The Sacri-
dian Philosophy (Delhi, 1992); Alexander von Rospatt, The
fice of Time and the Ritual of Modernity,” The Study of Time
Buddhist Doctrine of Momentariness (Stuttgart, 1995); Geshe
III, edited by J. T. Fraser (New York, 1978), pp. 683–727;
Lhundub Sopa and others, The Wheel of Time: The
Kay A. Read, whose Time and Sacrifice in the Aztec Cosmos
Ka¯lachakra in Context, edited by Beth Simon (Ithaca, 1991);
(Bloomington, Ind., 1998) is also sensitive to the gendered
Thomas R. Trautman, “Indian Time, European Time,” in
aspects of sacred time, as is Johan Normark, Genderized Time
Time: Histories and Ethnologies, edited by Hughes and Traut-
and Space in Late Classic Maya Calendars, Museion Occa-
man (Ann Arbor, 1995), pp. 167–197; Peter Van Der Veer,
sional Paper No. 1 (Göteborg, Sweden, 2000). Elsewhere
“Ayodhya and Somnath: Eternal Shrines, Contested Histo-
too, attention has been called to gender: Warren L.
ries,” Social Research 59, no. 1 (1992): 85–109.
d’Azavedo, “Gola Womanhood and the Limits of Masculine
Central Asia: Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism: I. The Early
Omnipotence,” in Religion in Africa, edited by Thomas D.
Period (Leiden, the Netherlands, 1996); Hans-Joachim
Blakely and others (London, 1994), pp. 342–362; Fatima
Klimkeit, trans. and comp., Gnosis on the Silk Road (San
Mernissi, “The Muslim and Time,” in The Veil and the Male
Francisco, 1993); Samuel N. C. Lieu, Manichaeism in Cen-
Elite, translated by Mary Jo Lakeland (Reading, Mass.,
tral Asia and China (Leiden, the Netherlands, 1998); John
1991), pp. 15–24; Susan Starr Sered, “Gender, Immanence
Walbridge, Sacred Acts, Sacred Space, Sacred Time (Oxford,
and Transcendence: The Candle-Lighting Repertoire of
1996) on Baha’i.
Middle-Eastern Jews,” Metaphor and Symbolic Activity 6, no.
4 (1991): 293–304; Sarah Lund Skar, “Andean Women and
Western Asia and the Mediterranean Littoral: Petro B. T. Bilani-
the Concept of Space/Time,” in Women and Space, Ground
uk, “Chronos and Kairos: Secular and Sacred Time in Rela-
Rules and Social Maps, edited by Shirley Ardener, revised edi-
tion to the History of Salvation and Eternity,” Studies in
tion (Oxford, 1993), pp. 31–45; and numerous contributors
Eastern Christianity 5 (Munich, 1998) pp. 3–7; Gerhard
to Nature Religion Today: Paganism in the Modern World, ed-
Böwering, The Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical Islam
ited by Joanne Pearson and others (Edinburgh, 1998). For
(Berlin, 1980); Paul F. Bradshaw and Lawrence A. Hoffman,
a woman theologian’s perspective, see Carol Ochs, The Noah
eds., Passover and Easter: The Symbolic Structuring of Sacred
Paradox: Time as Burden, Time as Blessing (Notre Dame,
Seasons (Notre Dame, Ind., 1999); Gershon Brin, The Con-
Ind., 1991).
cept of Time in the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Leiden, the
Netherlands, 2001); Barry M. Gittlen, ed., Sacred Time, Sa-
In addition to the works already mentioned, see the following for
cred Place: Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Winona
specific geohistorical settings:
Lake, Ind., 2002); Sylvie Anne Goldberg, La clepsydre: essai
sur la pluralité des temps dans le juda(sme
(Paris, 2000); L. E.
East Asia: Robert Eno, The Confucian Creation of Heaven: Philoso-
Goodman, “Time in Islam,” in Religion and Time, edited by
phy and the Defense of Ritual Mastery (Albany, N.Y.,1990);
Balslev and Mohanty (Leiden, the Netherlands, 1993),
N. J. Girardot, Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism: The
pp. 138–162; Richard D. Hecht, “The Construction and
Theme of Chaos (hun-tun) (Berkeley, Calif., 1983); Chun-
Management of Sacred Time and Space: Sabta Nur in the
Chieh Huang and Erik Zürcher, eds., Time and Space in Chi-
Church of the Holy Sepulcher,” in NowHere: Space, Time,
nese Culture (Leiden, the Netherlands, 1995); David N.
and Modernity, edited by Roger Friedland and Deirdre
Keightley, The Ancestral Landscape: Time, Space, and Com-
Boden (Berkeley, Calif., 1994), pp. 181–235; Yu¯suf
munity in Late Shang China (ca. 1200–1045 BC) (Berkeley,
al-Qarada¯w¯ı, Time in the Life of a Muslim, translated by Abu
Calif., 2000); Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, “Sakhalin Ainu Time
Maimounah Ahmad ad bin Muhammad Bello (London,
Reckoning,” Man 8 (1973): 285–299; Richard Pilgrim, “In-
2000); Samuel Sambursky and Shlomo Pines, The Concept
tervals (Ma) in Space and Time: Foundations for a Religio-
of Time in Late Neoplatonism (Jerusalem, 1971); Sacha Stern,
Aesthetic Paradigm in Japan,” History of Religions 25, no. 3
Time and Process in Ancient Judaism (Oxford, 2003); Robert
(1986): 255–277; and Ruth Fuller Sasaki and others, trans.,
Taft, “A Tale of Two Cities: The Byzantine Holy Week
A Man of Zen: The Recorded Sayings of Layman P’ang (New
Triduum as a Paradigm of Liturgical History,” in Time and
York, 1971).
Community, edited by J. Neil Alexander (Washington, D.C.,
Southeast Asia: Janet Hoskins, The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives
1990), pp. 21–42; Panagio¯te¯s Tzamalikos, The Concept of
on Calendars, History and Exchange (Berkeley, Calif., 1993);
Time in Origen (New York, 1991); James C. VanderKam,
Robert McKinley, “Zaman dan Masa, Eras and Periods: Rev-
Calendars in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Measuring Time (London,
olutions and the Permanence of Epistemological Ages in
1998); Nick Wyatt, Religious Texts from Ugarit (Sheffield,
Malay Culture,” in The Imagination of Reality in Southeast
U.K., 1998); Nick Wyatt, Space and Time in the Religious
Asian Coherence Systems, edited by A. L. Becker and Aram A.
Life of the Near East (Sheffield, U.K., 2001).
Yengoyam (Norwood, N.J., 1979), pp. 303–324; Geoffrey
Europe: Guido Alliney and Luciano Cova, eds., Tempus Aevum
Samuel, “The Religious Meaning of Space and Time in
Aeternitas: La concettualizzazione del tempo nel pensiero tar-
South and Southeast Asia and Modern Paganism,” Interna-
domedievale (Florence, Italy, 2000); Eamon Duffy, The
tional Review of Sociology 11, no. 3 (2001): 395–418.
Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c.
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

1400–c.1580 (New Haven, Conn., 1992); Alex Gibson and
David Carrasco, Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire: Myths
Derek Simpson, eds., Prehistoric Ritual and Religion
and Prophecies of the Aztec Tradition, revised edition (Boul-
(Thrupp, U.K., 1998); Jacques Le Goff, Your Money or Your
der, Colo., 2000); Barbara Tedlock, Time and the Highland
Life: Economy and Religion in the Middle Ages, translated by
Maya, revised edition (Albuquerque, N. Mex., 1992); E. Mi-
Patricia Ranum (New York, 1988); Paul Ricoeur, Time and
chael Whittington, ed., The Sport of Life and Death: The Me-
Narrative, translated by Kathleen McLaughlin and David
soamerican Ballgame (New York, 2001).
Pellauer, 3 volumes (Chicago, 1984–1988), with much on
Aristotle and St. Augustine; David G. Roskies, Against the
North America: Melissa Axelrod, The Semantics of Time: Aspectual
Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture
Categorization in Koyukon Athabaskan (Lincoln, Nebr.,
(Cambridge, Mass., 1984); Tamar M. Rudavsky, Time Mat-
1993); Edmund S. Carpenter, “The Timeless Present in the
ters: Time, Creation, and Cosmology in Medieval Jewish Philos-
Mythology of the Aivilik Eskimos” in Eskimos of the Canadi-
ophy (Albany, N.Y., 2000); Richard Sorabji, Time, Creation,
an Arctic, edited by Victor F. Valentine and Frank G. Vallee
and the Continuum: Themes in Antiquity and the Early Middle
(Toronto, 1968), pp. 39–42; Richard T. Hughes and C.
Ages (Ithaca, N.Y., 1983); and Yosef H. Yerushalmi, Zakhor:
Leonard Allen, Illusions of Innocence: Protestant Primitivism
Jewish History and Jewish Memory (New York, 1989).
in America, 1630–1875 (Chicago, 1988); Randall A. Lake,
Africa: Thomas O. Beidelman, Moral Imagination in Kaguru
“Between Myth and History: Enacting Time in Native
Modes of Thought (Washington, D.C., 1993); Thomas D.
American Protest Rhetoric,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 77,
Blakely and others, eds., Religion in Africa (London, 1994);
no. 2 (1991): 123–151; Mark M. Smith, Mastered by the
Pierre Bourdieu, “The Attitude of the Algerian Peasant to-
Clock: Time, Slavery, and Freedom in the American South
ward Time,” in Mediterranean Countrymen, edited by Julian
(Chapel Hill, N.C., 1997); Stanley Walens, “The Weight of
Pitt-Rivers (Paris, 1973), pp. 55–72; James W. Fernandez,
My Name Is a Mountain of Blankets: Potlatch Ceremonies,”
Bwiti: An Ethnography of Religious Imagination in Africa
in Celebration: Studies in Festivity and Ritual, edited by Vic-
(Princeton, N. J., 1982); David Frankfurter, ed., Pilgrimage
tor Turner (Washington, D.C., 1982), pp. 178–189.
and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt (Leiden, the Nether-
lands, 1998); Steven Kaplan, “TeDezza Sanbat: A Beta Israel
Oceania and Australia: Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines (New York,
Work Reconsidered,” in Gilgul: Essays on Transformation,
1987); Frederick H. Damon, “Time and Values,” in From
Revolution, and Permanence in the History of Religions, edited
Muyuw to the Trobriands: Transformations along the Northern
by Shaul Shaked and others (Leiden, 1987) on the Ethiopian
Side of Kula Ring (Tucson, Ariz., 1990), pp. 16–53; Hans
Sabbath; Wauthier de Mahieu, “Le temps dans la culture
Peter Duerr, Dreamtime, translated by Felicitas D. Goodman
komo,” Africa 43 (1973): 2–17; John S. Mbiti, African Reli-
(Oxford, 1985); Barbara Glowczewski, Du rêve à la loi chez
gions and Philosophy, 2d revised edition (Oxford, 1990); J. B.
les aborigines (Paris, 1991); Lynne Hume, Ancestral Power:
Peires, The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa
The Dreaming, Consciousness, and Aboriginal Australians
Cattle-Killing Movement of 1856-7 (Johannesburg and
(Carlton South, Victoria, Australia, 2002); Karen Sinclair,
Bloomington, Ind., 1989); John Parratt, “Time in Tradi-
Maori Times, Maori Places (Lanham, Md., 2003); Marilyn
tional African Thought,” Religion 7 (autumn, 1977): 117–
Strathern, “Artefacts of History: Events and the Interpreta-
126; Robert J. Thornton, Space Time and Culture among the
tion of Images,” in Culture and History in the Pacific, edited
Iraqw of Tanzania (New York, 1980).
by Jukka Siikala (Helsinki, 1990), pp. 25–44; Tony Swain
Africans in the Americas: Joseph N. Murphy, Working the Spirit:
and Garry Trompf, The Religions of Oceania (London,
Ceremonies of the African Diaspora (Boston, 1994); Anthony
B. Pinn, Varieties of African American Religious Experience
For social-theoretical contributions, see Barbara Adam, Time and
(Minneapolis, Minn., 1998); Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Reli-
Social Theory (Philadelphia, 1990); Sylviane Agacinski, Time
gion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South (New
Passing: Modernity and Nostalgia, translated by Jody Glad-
York, 1978).
ding (New York, 2003); Éric Alliez, Capital Times: Tales
South America: Brian S. Bauer and Charles Stanish, Ritual and
from the Conquest of Time, translated by Georges Van Den
Pilgrimage in the Ancient Andes (Austin, Tex., 2001); Pierre
Abbeele (Minneapolis, Minn., 1996); James A. Beckford,
Clastres, Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians, translated by Paul
“Doing Time: Space, Time, Religious Diversity, and the Sa-
Auster (New York, 1998); Christine Hugh-Jones, From the
cred in Prisons,” International Review of Sociology 11, no. 2
Milk River: Spatial and Temporal Processes in Northwest Ama-
(2001): 371–382; Lawrence W. Fagg, The Becoming of Time:
zonia (Cambridge, 1979); Sabine MacCormack, Religion in
Integrating Physical and Religious Time (Durham, N.C.,
the Andes: Vision and Imagination in Early Colonial Peru
2003); Richard K. Fenn, Time Exposure: The Personal Experi-
(Princeton, 1991); Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff, Yuruparí:
ence of Time in Secular Societies (Oxford, 2001); Krzysztof
Studies of an Amazonian Foundation Myth (Cambridge,
Pomian, L’ordre du temps (Paris, 1984); Barry Schwartz,
Mass., 1996); Frank Salomon and George L. Urioste, eds.
Queueing and Waiting: Studies in the Social Organization of
and trans., Huarochirí Manuscript (Austin, Tex., 1991); Law-
Access and Delay (Chicago, 1975).
rence E. Sullivan, “Sacred Music and Sacred Time,” World
of Music
26, no. 3 (1984): 33–51, examples primarily from
For philosophical works cited, see Paul Churchland, The Engine
South America; William Sullivan, The Secret of the Incas:
of Reason, the Seat of the Soul (Cambridge, Mass., 1995);
Myth, Astronomy, and the War Against Time (New York,
Jacques Derrida, Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money, translat-
ed by Peggy Kamuf (Chicago, 1992); Gary Eberle, Sacred
Mesoamerica: Anthony Aveni, “Time, Number, and History in
Time and the Search for Meaning (Boston, 2003); Jacob
the Maya World,” KronoScope 1, nos. 1–2 (2001): 29–62;
Needleman, Time and the Soul (San Francisco, Calif., 2003).
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

For more on the solenodon, see Alfred L. Roca and others, “Meso-
According to some theories, the conception of sacrifice
zoic Origin for West Indian Insectivores,” Nature 429 (June
as gift-giving is the result of a secondary development or even
10, 2004): 649–651.
of a misunderstanding of rites that originally had a different
meaning. (On this point, see “Theories of the Origin of Sac-
rifice,” below.)
forms of sacrifice show some common elements that respond
to the following questions: (1) Who offers the sacrifice? (2)
fice, from the Latin sacrificium (sacer, “holy”; facere, “to
What is offered? (3) What external forms belong to the act
make”), carries the connotation of the religious act in the
of offering? (4) In what places and at what times are sacrifices
highest, or fullest sense; it can also be understood as the act
offered? (5) Who is the recipient of the sacrifice? (6) For what
of sanctifying or consecrating an object. Offering is used as
reasons are sacrifices offered? The classifications implied by
a synonym (or as a more inclusive category of which sacrifice
these questions often overlap (e.g., the type of material used
is a subdivision) and means the presentation of a gift. (The
for the sacrifice may determine the rite).
word offering is from the Latin offerre, “to offer, present”; the
verb yields the noun oblatio.) The Romance languages con-
The sacrificer. Most religions allow not only sacrifices
tain words derived from both the Latin words. The German
offered by a group or community but also individual sacri-
Opfer is generally taken as derived from offerre, but some de-
fices for entirely personal reasons; in unstratified societies,
rive it from the Latin operari (“to perform, accomplish”),
therefore, everyone is in principle able to offer sacrifices. In
thus evoking once again the idea of sacred action.
fact, however, such purely personal sacrifices are rare, and as
soon as sacrifices become connected with a group, however
Distinctions between sacrifice and offering are variously
small, not every member of the group but only a representa-
drawn, as for example, that of Jan van Baal: “I call an offering
tive may offer them. The sacrificer may be the head of a fami-
every act of presenting something to a supernatural being,
ly or clan, an elder, or the leader of a band of hunters; in
a sacrifice an offering accompanied by the ritual killing of the
matrilinear societies, the sacrificer may be a woman. This is
object of the offering” (van Baal, 1976, p. 161). The latter
true especially of hunting and food-gathering cultures as well
definition is too narrow, however, since “killing” can be ap-
as nomadic pastoral cultures; even when these include indi-
plied only to living beings, human or animal, and thus does
viduals with specific ritual functions (medicine men, sorcer-
not cover the whole range of objects used in sacrifice as at-
ers, soothsayers, shamans), the function of offering sacrifice
tested by the history of religions. A truly essential element,
is not reserved to them. (In pastoral cultures we can some-
on the other hand, is that the recipient of the gift be a super-
times see that only at a secondary stage do shamans replace
natural being (that is, one endowed with supernatural
family heads for certain sacrifices.) Food-planting cultures,
power), with whom the giver seeks to enter into or remain
on the other hand, commonly have cultic functionaries to
in communion. Destruction, which can apply even to inani-
whom the offering of sacrifice is reserved (e.g., the “earth-
mate objects, is also regarded as essential by some authors but
chiefs” in West African cultures). In sacrifices occasioned by
not by all; thus, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
some public endeavor or concern (e.g., an epidemic, or be-
a sacrifice is “a cultic act in which objects were set apart or
fore or after a military campaign) the head of the tribe or
consecrated and offered to a god or some other supernatural
larger group is the natural offerer of sacrifice. In archaic high
power” (1977, vol. 16, p. 128b). On the other hand, it is in-
cultures the function often goes with the kingly office; fre-
deed essential to the concept that the human offerer remove
quently, however, it decreases in importance in the course
something from his own disposal and transfer it to a super-
of further development and is then discernible only in vesti-
natural recipient. The difference between the broad concept
gial form.
of offering and the narrower concept of sacrifice may be said
to reside in the fact that a rite, a more or less solemn external
The more fully articulated the divisions in a society, the
form, is part of sacrifice.
more often there is a class of cultic ministers to whom the
offering of sacrifice is reserved. In this situation, tensions and
Sacrifice differs from other cultic actions. The external
changing relations of power can arise between king and
elements of prayer are simply words and gestures (bodily atti-
priests, as in ancient Egypt. When a special priestly class ex-
tudes), not external objects comparable to the gifts of sacri-
ists, membership is either hereditary or must be earned
fice. Eliminatory rites, though they may include the slaying
through a consecration that is often preceded by lengthy
of a living being or the destruction of an inanimate object,
training, or both may be required: descent from a certain
are not directed to a personal recipient and thus should not
family, class, or caste and training that leads to consecration.
be described as sacrifices. The same is true of ritual slayings
The consecrated functionary who is an offerer of sacrifice
in which there is no supernatural being as recipient, as in
often must then submit to further special preparation
slayings by which companions are provided for the dead
(through purificatory rites, etc.) before exercising his office.
(joint burials) or that are part of the dramatic representation
A priest may have other cultic or magical functions in addi-
of an event in primordial time.
tion to that of offering sacrifice; he may, for example, act as
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oracle, exorcist, healer, or rainmaker, he may be a source of
deliverance from illnesses by depositing likenesses of the dis-
tradition and knowledge, and he may have noncultic func-
eased organs.
tions as well.
Blood offerings. When animals or human beings serve
Myths sometimes speak of the gods themselves as offer-
as the sacrificial gift, the shedding of blood may become an
ing sacrifice. Sacrifice by human beings is then simply an im-
essential part of the sacrificial action. Thus ritual slaying
itation of the primal sacrifice that played a role in the estab-
makes its appearance among cultivators and herders. (The
lishment of the cosmic order.
practice is generally not found in hunting cultures, where a
Material of the oblation. Scholars often generalize, as
small but symbolically important part of the animal slain
for example: “If we look about in the history of religion, we
during the hunt is offered; thus the slaying is not part of the
find there are very few things that have not, at some time or
sacrificial action but precedes it. The slaying by the Ainu of
in some place, served as offering” (van Baaren, 1964, p. 7).
a bear raised for the purpose is perhaps not really a sacrifice
Others will say that everything which has a value for human
but a “dismissal” rite.)
beings can be the material of sacrifice; the value may be sym-
The most extensive development of ritual slaying is
bolic and not necessarily inherent (as seen, for example, in
found among cultivators. Here blood plays a significant role
the firstlings sacrifices of food-gatherers). Perhaps we may say
as a power-laden substance that brings fertility; it is sprinkled
that originally what was sacrificed was either something liv-
on the fields in order to promote crop yield. Head-hunting,
ing or an element or symbol of life; in other words, it was
cannibalism, and human sacrifice belong to the same com-
not primarily food that was surrendered, but life itself. Yet
plex of ideas and rites; human sacrifice is also seen as a means
inanimate things were also included in the material for sacri-
of maintaining the cosmic order. The combination of blood
fice. (But do not archaic cultures regard a great deal as living
rites with magical conceptions of fertility is found more
that to the modern scientific mind is inanimate? Some schol-
among tuber cultivators than among grain cultivators (but
ars emphasize not the life but the power of the object.) Only
it is also found among maize growers, as in Mesoamerica).
by including inanimate objects is it possible to establish a cer-
The assumption that all blood sacrifices originated among
tain classification of sacrificial objects, as for example, on the
food cultivators and then were adopted at a later stage by no-
one hand, plants and inanimate objects (bloodless offerings),
madic herders is one-sided; ritual slaying probably made its
and, on the other, human beings and animals (blood offer-
appearance independently among the latter.
ings). But such a division is not exhaustive, since a compre-
hensive concept of sacrifice must include, for example, a
Blood sacrifices consist primarily of domesticated ani-
bloodless consecration of human beings and animals.
mals: among cultivators, sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, fowl;
among nomads, also reindeer, horses, and camels (whereas
Bloodless offerings. Bloodless offerings include, in the
pigs are regarded as unclean animals and not used, while fowl
first place, vegetative materials. Thus food-gatherers offer a
would not usually be kept). Dogs too may serve as sacrificial
(symbolic) portion of the foodstuffs they have collected. Cul-
animals; they are especially sacrificed to provide companions
tivators offer to higher beings (whom they may regard as in
for the dead. The offering of fish, birds other than domesti-
need of nourishment) sacrifices of food and drink: fruits, tu-
cated fowl or doves, and wild animals is rarer. The character-
bers, grains, and the foods that are made from these plants
istics of the sacrificial animal are often determined by the re-
(meal, baked goods, oil), along with drinks, especially beer
cipient; thus brightly colored animals are offered to the
and other alcoholic beverages, that are poured out as liba-
divinities of the sky, black animals to the divinities of the un-
tions. Among herders milk and milk products (e.g., koumiss,
derworld and the dead or to feared demonic beings.
a drink derived from milk and slightly fermented, used in
Inner Asia) play a similar role, especially in firstlings sacrifices
Sacrificial animals are not always killed by the shedding
(see below). In the ritual pouring (and especially in other rit-
of their blood; they are sometimes throttled (especially in
ual uses) of water, the intention is often not sacrifice but ei-
Inner Asia) or drowned in water or a bog. Furthermore, there
ther some other type of rite (lustration, purification, or expi-
is also the bloodless consecration of an animal, in which the
ation) or sympathetic magic (e.g., pouring water in order to
animal is not killed but transferred alive into the possession
bring on rain). The offering of flowers or of a sweet fragrance
of the divinity or other higher being, after which it often lives
otherwise produced (as in the widespread use of incense, or,
out its life in a sacred enclosure. Such animals can best be
among the American Indians, of tobacco smoke) also serves
described as offerings, not as victims.
to please the gods or other higher beings.
Substitutes. Blood sacrifices, especially those in which
Inanimate objects used in sacrifice include clothing,
human beings were offered, were often replaced at a later
jewelry, weapons, precious stones and precious metals, sacri-
stage by other sacrificial gifts, as, for example, “part-for-the-
ficial vessels made of metal, and, in more advanced civiliza-
whole” sacrifices, like the offering of fingers, hair, or blood
tions, coins (especially as substitutes). Also used in sacrifice
drawn through self-inflicted wounds. Some authors would
are all sorts of objects that are offered as votive gifts and are
thus classify so-called chastity sacrifices and include under
kept in a sanctuary, though it is possible that sympathetic
this heading very disparate and sometimes even opposed
magic also plays a role here, as for instance when one seeks
practices such as, on the one hand, sexual abandon (sacral
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

prostitution) and, on the other, sexual renunciation, castra-
or a lifting up of the gift, without any change being effected
tion, and circumcision.
in the object. The external form of the offering is already de-
termined in many cases by the material of sacrifice; in the
Animal sacrifices can replace human sacrifices, as seen
case of fluids, for example, the natural manner of offering
in well-known examples from Greek myth, epic, and history
them is to pour them out (libation), which is a kind of de-
and in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament; Gn. 22:1–
struction. If the gift is a living being (animal or human), the
19). This shift may also be due to the suppression of an older
destruction takes the form of killing. It is doubtful, however,
religion (e.g., of the Bon religion of Tibet by Buddhism) or
whether destruction can be regarded as an essential element
to measures taken by a colonial regime (e.g., the British rule
of any and every sacrificial rite. It is true that in many sacri-
in India) against human sacrifice. Substitute gifts for human
fices the offering is in the form of slaughter or ritual killing;
beings or animals may also be of a vegetative kind (e.g., sacri-
in others, however, the slaughter is only a necessary presup-
ficial cakes) or may consist of payments of money. Another
position or technical requirement for the act of offering as
form of substitution is that by representations, such as the
such. Thus, among the Israelites, Levitical law prescribed
clay figure substitutes for human beings that were buried
that the slaughtering not be done by the priest; the latter’s
with a high-ranking dead person and sent into the next world
role began only after the slaughtering and included the pour-
with him. Such figurines accompanying the dead are known
ing of sacrificial blood on the altar.
from ancient Egypt and China; however, it is not certain that
the practice was preceded by actual human sacrifices in these
When food as such is in principle the real object offered,
countries or that these practices are best described as sacri-
slaughter is a necessary first step if the animal sacrificed is to
fices. Other kinds of pictorial representations have also been
be in a form in which it can be eaten. When it is thought
used, including objects cut from paper. Many votive offer-
that the divinity (or, more generally, the recipient) does not
ings should probably be listed under this heading.
eat material food but simply receives the soul or life of the
That human sacrifices were replaced by other kinds of
sacrificial animal, burning may be used as a way of letting
sacrifices is certain in many instances, as in the late stage of
the soul rise up in the form of smoke (“the odor of sacrifice”;
Punic religion, when under Roman rule human sacrifices
see also, on the burning of incense, below). When blood in
were replaced by other gifts (for example, lambs), as is attest-
particular is regarded as the vehicle of life, the pouring out
ed by votive inscriptions; in other instances it is simply a hy-
of the blood, or the lifting up of bleeding parts of the victim,
pothesis that certain rites replaced human sacrifice. Thus the
or even the flow of blood in the slaughtering may be the real
so-called hair sacrifice is often a rite of initiation, sacraliza-
act of offering. Another category of blood rites serves to apply
tion, or desacralization (a rite of passage) in which the hair
the power in the blood to the offerers, their relatives, and the
is not really a sacrificial gift and need not have replaced any
sphere in which they live their life (dwelling, property); this
human sacrifice. Sacral prostitution may also be understood
application may take the form of, for example, smearing.
as a magical rite of fertility or as a symbolic act of union with
The conception that the offerers have of the recipient
a divinity, rather than as a substitute for human sacrifice.
and of his or her location also helps determine the form of
Divine offerings. In the examples given under the previ-
the rite. If the recipient is thought to dwell in heaven, then
ous heading, a sacrificial gift is replaced by another of lesser
the smoke that rises from a burning object becomes an espe-
value. The opposite occurs when the sacrificial gift itself is
cially appropriate symbol. The offerers will prefer the open
regarded as divine. This divine status may result from the
air and will choose high places, whether natural (mountains,
idea that the sacrificial action repeats a mythical primordial
hills) or artificial (roofs, temple towers), or else they will hang
sacrifice in which a god sacrificed either himself or some
the sacrificial gift on a tree or stake. Sacrifices to chthonic
other god to yet a third god. In other cases the sacrificial ob-
or underworld beings are buried, or the blood is allowed to
ject becomes divinized in the sacrificial action itself or in the
flow into a hole. For water divinities or spirits the sacrifice
preparation of the gifts. Thus among the Aztec the prisoner
is lowered into springs, wells, streams, or other bodies of
of war who was sacrificed was identified with the recipient
water (although the interpretation of prehistoric burials in
of the sacrifice, the god Tezcatlipoca; moreover images of
bogs as “immersion sacrifices” is not undisputed), or the of-
dough, kneaded with the blood of the sacrificed human, were
ferers fill miniature boats with sacrificial gifts. Sacrifices
identified with the sun god Huitzilopochtli and ritually
offered to the dead are placed on the graves of the latter, or
eaten. In the Vedic religion divinity was assigned to the in-
the blood of the victims is poured onto these graves.
toxicating drink soma, and in Iranian religion to the corre-
Finally, the intention of the offerers or the function of
sponding drink haoma or to the plant from which it was de-
the sacrifice also influences the form of the rite. If the sacri-
rived. For Christians who regard the celebration of the
fice establishes or renews a covenant or, more generally, if
Eucharist as a rendering present of Christ’s death on the
it promotes the communion or community of recipient and
cross, Christ himself is both offerer and sacrificial gift.
offerer, then a sacrificial meal is usually an indispensable part
Rite (manner and method) of sacrifice. Sacrifice in-
of the rite. This meal can be understood as sharing a meal
volves not only a visible gift but an action or gesture that ex-
with the god or, the recipient, or more rarely, as ingesting
presses the offering. This may consist of a simple deposition
the god; in this second case, the communion has a mystical
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

character. In the first case, acceptance by the recipient re-
Place and time of sacrifice. The place of offering is not
moves the sacrificial gift from the profane sphere and sancti-
always an altar set aside for the purpose. Thus sacrifices to
fies it; the recipient now becomes a host and celebrates a ban-
the dead are often offered at their graves, and sacrifices to the
quet with the offerer, who thereby receives back the
spirits of nature are made beside trees or bushes, in caves, at
sacrificial gift (or at least a part of it) as a vehicle now laden
springs, and so on. Artificial altars in the form of tables are
with higher powers. Thus understood, the sacrificial meal
relatively rare; they become the normal site of sacrifice only
can be called a sacrament. The meal also establishes or
in the higher civilizations, where they are usually located in
strengthens the communion of the offerers with one another
a temple or its forecourt and are sometimes specially outfit-
when it is a group that makes the offering. More rarely, peo-
ted, as for example with channels to carry away the sacrificial
ple have believed that they eat the god himself in the flesh
blood. Far more frequently, natural stones or heaps of stones
of the sacrificial animal (as in some Greek mysteries) or in
or earthen mounds serve as altars. A perpendicular stone is
images of dough (which were sometimes mixed with the
often regarded as the seat of a divinity, and sacrifice is then
blood of sacrificed human beings, as among the Aztec). (For
offered in front of the stone, not on it. Flat roofs and thresh-
the Christian conception of the Eucharist as a sacrificial
olds can also be preferred locations for sacrifice.
meal, see below.)
With regard to time, a distinction must be made be-
Other rituals also express communion. For example,
tween regular and extraordinary (occasional or special) sacri-
part of the sacrificial blood is poured on the altar, while the
fices. The time for regular sacrifices is determined by the as-
participants are sprinkled with the rest (as in the making of
tronomical or vegetative year; thus there will be daily,
the covenant at Sinai, according to Ex. 24: 3-8). Or a person
weekly, and monthly sacrifices (especially in higher cultures
walks between the pieces of a sacrificial animal that has been
in which service in the temple is organized like service at a
cut in half.
royal court). Sowing and harvest and the transition from one
season to the next are widely recognized occasions for sacri-
In other cases the victim is completely destroyed, as in
fice; in nomadic cultures this is true especially of spring, the
a burnt offering, or holocaust, which may express homage
season of birth among animals and of abundance of milk.
or complete submission to the divinity on which the offerers
The harvest season is often marked by first-fruits sacrifices
consider themselves dependent. Total destruction often also
that are conceived as a necessary condition for the desacral-
characterizes an expiatory sacrifice, in which a sacrificial meal
ization of the new harvest, which may only then be put to
is antecedently excluded by the fact that the sacrificial animal
profane use. The date of the New Year feast is often estab-
becomes the vehicle of sin or other uncleanness and must
lished not astronomically but in terms of the vegetative year.
therefore be eliminated or destroyed (e.g., by being burned
In the life of the individual, birth, puberty, marriage, and
outside the camp).
death are frequently occasions for sacrifices. The annual
The ritual of sacrifice can take very complicated forms,
commemoration of a historical event may also become a set
especially when professionals (priests) do the offering; part
part of the calendar and thus an occasion for sacrifice.
of their training is then the acquisition of a precise knowl-
Extraordinary occasions for sacrifice are provided by
edge of the ritual. The sacrificial action is in stages: the sacri-
special occurrences in the life of the community or the indi-
ficial animal is often chosen some time in advance, marked,
vidual. These occurrences may be joyous, as, for example, the
and set aside; before the sacrificial act proper, it is ritually pu-
erection of a building (especially a temple), the accession of
rified and adorned; next comes the slaughter of the animal,
a new ruler, the successful termination of a military cam-
then the offering proper or consecration or transfer from the
paign or other undertaking, or any event that is interpreted
profane to the sacred sphere or condition. At times, signs are
as a manifestation of divine favor. Even more frequently,
heeded that are thought to show acceptance of the gift by
however, it is critical situations that occasion extraordinary
the recipient. The division of the sacrificed animal can take
sacrifices: illnesses (especially epidemics or livestock diseases)
various forms: an uncontrolled tearing apart of the victim by
and droughts or other natural disasters. Many expiatory sac-
the participants, in imitation of a dismemberment reported
rifices also have their place in this context, whether offered
in myth, or a careful dissection, as when the condition of spe-
for individuals or the community (see below).
cific organs yields omens (divination). In some sacrifices the
Van Baal (1976, pp. 168–178) distinguishes between
bones may not be broken. A special form of division is cut-
low-intensity and high-intensity rites; the former occur in
ting in two, which is practiced not only in sacrifices proper
normal situations, the latter in disasters and misfortunes,
but also in rites of purification and expiation. (See Hen-
which are taken as signs that relations with higher beings
ninger, 1981, pp. 275–285.) A sacrificial meal may conclude
have been disturbed. This division is to a great extent the
the sacrifice, but there may also be special concluding rites
same as that between regular and extraordinary sacrifices, but
for releasing the participants from the realm of the sacred.
it pays insufficient heed to the fact that joyous occasions may
It is sometimes also prescribed that nothing is to be left of
also lead to extraordinary sacrifices.
the sacrificial gift and nothing carried away from the sphere
of the sacred; any remnants must be buried or burned
Recipient of sacrifice. Many definitions of sacrifice
(though this last action is not the same as a burnt offering).
specify divine beings (in either a monotheistic or a polytheis-
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

tic context) as the recipients of sacrifice, but this is too nar-
tended to appease or placate. These come close to being expi-
row a view. All the many kinds of beings to whom humans
atory sacrifices (in the broadest sense of the term), insofar as
pay religious veneration, or even those whom they fear, can
the offerers intend to forestall the anger of these higher be-
be recipients of sacrifice. Such recipients can thus be spirits,
ings by a preventive, apotropaic action (protective sacrifices).
demonic beings, and even humans, although sacrifice in the
Sacrifices are also offered for highly specialized pur-
proper sense is offered to humans only when they have died
poses, for example, in order to foretell the future by examin-
and are considered to possess a superhuman power. The dead
ing the entrails of the sacrificial animal.
to whom sacrifice is offered include especially the ancestors
to whom is attributed (as in Africa and Oceania) a decisive
Expiation. In the narrow sense, expiatory sacrifices pre-
influence on human beings. Care for the dead (e.g., by gifts
suppose consciousness of a moral fault that can be punished
of food and drink) need not always indicate a cult of the
by a higher being who must therefore be placated by suitable
dead; a cult exists only when the dead are regarded not as
acts on the part of the human beings involved. But the con-
helpless and in need (as they were in ancient Mesopotamia),
cept of expiation (purification, lustration) is often used in a
but rather as possessing superhuman power.
broader sense to mean the removal or prevention of every
kind of evil and misfortune. Many authors assume that the
Intentions of sacrifice. Theologians usually distinguish
ethical concept of sin was a late development and therefore
four intentions of sacrifice: praise (acknowledgment, hom-
consider rites of purification and elimination for the removal
age), thanksgiving, supplication, and expiation; but several
of all evils (in which no relation to higher personal beings
or even all four of these intentions may be combined in a sin-
plays a part) to be the earliest form of expiation. Further-
gle sacrifice. From the standpoint of the history of religions
more, when there is a human relationship to personal beings,
this schema must be expanded somewhat, especially with re-
a distinction must be made. These beings (spirits, demons,
gard to the third and fourth categories.
etc.) may be regarded as indifferent to ethical considerations,
Praise (homage). Pure sacrifices of praise that express
unpredictable, and capricious, or even malicious, envious,
nothing but homage and veneration and involve no other in-
cruel, and bloodthirsty. In this case expiation means simply
tention are rarely found. They occur chiefly where a regular
the removal of what has roused (or might rouse) the anger
sacrificial cult is practiced that resembles in large measure the
of these beings, so that they will leave humans in peace; no
ceremonial of a royal court.
relationship of goodwill or friendship is created or sought.
On the other hand, the higher beings may be regarded as in-
Thanksgiving. Sacrifices of thanksgiving are more fre-
herently benevolent, so that any disturbance of a good rela-
quent. According to the best explanation of firstlings sacri-
tionship with them is attributed to a human fault; the nor-
fices, these, in the diverse forms they have taken in various
mal good relationship must therefore be restored by an
cultures, belong to this category. (For divergent interpreta-
expiatory sacrifice or other human action; in these cases we
tions, see “Theories of the Origin of Sacrifice,” below.) Vo-
speak of atonement, conciliation, or propitiation. The
tive sacrifices likewise belong here, insofar as the fulfillment
human fault in question may be moral, but it may also be
of the vow is an act of thanksgiving for the favor granted.
purely ritual, unintentional, or even unconscious.
Supplication. Yet more commonly found are sacrifices
Certain facts, however, render questionable the overly
of supplication. The object of the petition can range from
schematic idea of a unilinear development from a non-ethical
purely material goods to the highest spiritual blessings (for-
to an ethical conception that is connected with general theo-
giveness of sins, divine grace). The line of demarcation be-
ries on the evolution of religion. Even very “primitive” peo-
tween these sacrifices and sacrifices of expiation and propitia-
ples have ideas of higher beings that approve and keep watch
tion is often blurred.
over moral behavior. Furthermore, not only in the high cul-
Sacrifices of supplication include all those sacrifices that,
tures but in primitive religions as well, expiatory sacrifice is
in addition to establishing or consolidating the link with the
often accompanied by a confession of sins. A more highly de-
world of the sacred (which is a function of every sacrifice),
veloped form of the ideas underlying expiatory sacrifice may
are intended to have some special effect. Such effects include
be linked to the concept of representation or substitution,
the maintenance of the cosmic order; the strengthening of
especially when the role of substitute is freely accepted (self-
the powers on which this order depends (e.g., by the gift of
sacrifice). This, however, is not the proper context for specu-
blood, as in the human sacrifices of the Aztec); and the sa-
lative theories (developed especially by James G. Frazer and
cralization or consecration of places, objects, and buildings
those inspired by him) on the ritual slaying of the king, who
(construction sacrifices, dedication of boundary stones, idols,
may be replaced by a substitute; Frazer is speaking of the
temples), of individual human beings, and of human com-
magical influence of the king in his prime on the general wel-
munities and their relationships (ratification of treaties).
fare of the community, and not of disturbances of the com-
Construction activities are often thought to be an intrusion
munal order by faults for which amends must be made.
into the sphere of superhuman beings (spirits of earth and
water, or divinities of earth and water) who may resent them;
swers have been given to the question of which of the various
for this reason, scholars speak in this context of sacrifices in-
forms of sacrifice presented above is to be regarded as the old-
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est and the one out of which the others emerged either by
appropriate for themselves through hunting and gathering.
development to a higher level or by degeneration. In each
These sacrifices consist in the offering of a portion of food
case, theories of sacrifice have been heavily influenced by
that is often quantitatively small but symbolically important.
their authors’ conceptions of the origin and development of
In nomadic herding cultures this sacrifice of homage and
religion. Scholars today generally approach all these explana-
thanksgiving takes the form of an offering of the firstlings
tions with some skepticism. A brief review of the various the-
of the flocks (young animals) or of the products of the flocks
ories is nonetheless appropriate, since each emphasizes cer-
(e.g., milk). In food-growing cultures the fertility of the soil
tain aspects of the phenomenon and thus contributes to an
is often attributed to the dead, especially the ancestors; they,
understanding of it.
therefore, become the recipients of the first-fruits sacrifice.
When this happens, however, the character of the sacrifice
Sacrifice as gift. Before the history of religions became
is altered, since the recipients now have need of the gifts (as
an independent discipline, the conception of sacrifice as gift
food) and can therefore be influenced. According to Anton
was already current among theologians; it was therefore nat-
Vorbichler (1956), what is offered in firstlings sacrifices is
ural that the history of religions should initially make use of
not food but life itself, but since life is seen as deriving from
this concept. In this discipline, however, the conception ac-
the supreme being as creator, the basic attitude of homage
quired two completely different applications: the sacrificial
and thanksgiving remains unchanged.
gift as bribe and the sacrificial gift as act of homage.
The gift as bribe. The gift theory proposed by E. B.
Schmidt’s historical reconstruction, according to which
Tylor (1871) supposes that higher forms of religion, includ-
firstlings sacrifices are the earliest form of sacrifice, has not
ing monotheism, gradually developed out of animism as the
been sufficiently demonstrated. From the phenomenological
earliest form. Since the spirits resident in nature are indiffer-
standpoint, however, this kind of sacrifice, in which the gift
ent to moral considerations and have but a limited sphere of
has symbolic rather than real value and is inspired by a con-
power, they can be enriched by gifts and thereby influenced;
sciousness of dependence and thanksgiving, does exist and
in other words, they can be bribed. Sacrifice was therefore
must therefore be taken into account in any general defini-
originally a simple business transaction of do ut des (“I give
tion of sacrifice.
so that you will give in return”), an activity without moral
Sacrifice as a (totemic) communal meal. W. Robert-
significance. Sacrifice as homage and as abnegation or renun-
son Smith (1889) developed a theory of sacrifice for the Se-
ciation developed only gradually out of sacrifice as bribe; but
mitic world that he regarded as universally applicable. He
even when it did, the do ut des idea continued to be operative
saw the weakness of Tylor’s theory, which paid insufficient
for a long time in the later stages of religion, especially wher-
heed to the sacral element and to the function of establishing
ever sacrifice was conceived as supplying the recipient with
or maintaining a community. Under the influence of J. F.
McLennan, who had done pioneer work in the study of to-
Critics of this view have stressed that in archaic cultures
temism, Smith proposed a theory of sacrifice whereby the
the giving of a gift, even between human beings, is not a
earliest form of religion (among the Semites and elsewhere)
purely external transaction but at the same time establishes
was belief in a theriomorphic tribal divinity with which the
a personal relation between giver and recipient. According
tribe had a blood relationship. Under ordinary circum-
to some scholars, the giving of a gift also involves a transfer
stances, this totem animal was not to be killed, but there were
of magical power for which, in a very generalized sense, they
rituals in which it was slain and eaten in order to renew the
often use the term mana. This personal relation is even more
community. In this rite, recipient, offerer, and victim were
important when a gift is presented to superhuman beings.
all of the same nature; sacrifice was thus originally a meal in
Thus it is understandable that sacrificial gifts of little material
which the offerers entered into communion with the totem.
value can be quite acceptable; such gifts need not be inter-
As a vivid example of such a ceremony, Smith cites a story
preted as efforts to circumvent the higher beings and their
told by Nilus of a camel sacrifice offered by the bedouin of
influence. In light of this consideration, later theories of sac-
the Sinai. It was the transition to a sedentary way of life and
rifice gave the do ut des formula a deeper meaning and re-
the social changes effected by this transition that gave rise
garded the commercial understanding of it as a degenerate
to the conception of sacrifice as a gift comparable to the trib-
ute paid to a sovereign, the latter relationship being taken as
model for the relation to the divinity. The burnt offering,
The gift as homage. Wilhelm Schmidt (1912–1955,
or holocaust, was likewise a late development.
1922) understood the sacrificial gift in a way completely dif-
ferent from Tylor. He took as his point of departure the prin-
Smith’s theory is valuable for its criticism of the grossly
ciple that the original meaning of sacrifice can be seen most
mechanistic theory of Tylor and for its emphasis on the com-
clearly in the firstlings sacrifices of primitive hunters and
munion (community) aspect of sacrifice; as a whole, howev-
food-gatherers. These are sacrifices of homage and thanksgiv-
er, it is unacceptable for a number of reasons. First, the idea
ing to the supreme being to whom everything belongs and
of sacrifice as gift is already present in the firstlings sacrifices
who therefore cannot be enriched by gifts—sacrifices to the
offered in the egalitarian societies of primitive hunters and
giver of foods that human beings do not produce but simply
food-gatherers; it does not, therefore, presuppose the model
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of the offering of tribute to a sovereign. Second, it is doubtful
ed on a brilliant analysis of the mechanism of sacrifice, or
that totemism existed among the Semites; furthermore, to-
perhaps one should say of its logical structure, or even of its
temism does not occur universally as a stage in the history
grammar” (Evans-Pritchard, 1965, pp. 70–71).
of human development, as was initially supposed in the nine-
Sacrifice as magic. Hubert and Mauss considered the
teenth century when the phenomenon was first discovered,
recipient of sacrifice to be simply a hypostatization of society
but is rather a specialized development. Third, the intichiu-
itself. Other authors have gone even further, regarding the
ma ceremonies (increase ceremonies) of central Australian
idea of a recipient as not essential to the concept of sacrifice.
tribes are magical rites aimed at multiplying the totem ani-
They more or less explicitly presuppose that the idea of an
mal species. They were used by early theorists of totemism,
impersonal force or power, to which the name mana is given
but they do not in fact match the original model of sacrifice
more frequently than any other, is older than the idea of soul
postulated by Smith. Finally, the supposed account by Nilus
or spirit as understood in animism. For this reason, the idea
is not a reliable report from a hermit living in the Sinai Pen-
insula but a fiction whose author is unknown; it shares with
of sacrifice as a purely objective magical action (the triggering
the late Greek novel certain clichés used in depicting barbar-
of a magical force that is thought to be concentrated especial-
ians and cannot be regarded as a reliable historical source (see
ly in the blood), accomplished by destruction of a sacrificial
Henninger, 1955). Smith’s theory of sacrifice also contribut-
gift (e.g., the slaying of an animal), must be the basic form,
ed to Freud’s conception of the slaying of the primal father,
or at least one of the basic forms, of sacrifice. Sacrifices of
which Freud saw as the origin of sacrifice and other institu-
this kind are said to be “predeistic.” Expressions such as this,
tions, especially the incest taboo; this conception is therefore
which imply a temporal succession, are also used by phenom-
subject to the same criticisms.
enologists, who claim in principle to be simply describing
phenomena and not asserting any kind of development. In
A link between the profane and sacral worlds. Henri
this view the concept of sacrifice as gift is a secondary devel-
Hubert and Marcel Mauss (1899) rejected Tylor’s theory be-
opment in which gifts to the dead played an important role
cause of its mechanistic character. They also rejected Smith’s
(Loisy, 1920). According to Gerardus van der Leeuw (1920–
theory because it arbitrarily chose totemism as a universally
1921), sacrifice conceived as gift constitutes a transfer of
applicable point of departure and reconstructed the develop-
magical force; the do ut des formula describes not a commer-
ment of the forms of sacrifice solely by analogy and without
cial transaction but the release of a current of force (do ut pos-
adequate historical basis and, further, because offering is an
sis dare, “I give power to you so that you can give it back to
essential element in the concept of sacrifice. Hubert and
me”). The recipient is strengthened by the gift; the two par-
Mauss themselves begin with an analysis of the Vedic and
ticipants, deity and human beings, are simultaneously givers
Hebraic rituals of sacrifice and, in light of this, define sacri-
and receivers, but the central role belongs to the gift itself and
fice as “a religious act which, by the consecration of a victim,
to the current of force that it sets in motion. This theory,
modifies the condition of the moral person who accomplish-
then, combines to some extent the gift theory and the com-
es it, or that of certain objects with which he is concerned”
munion theory, but it does so from the standpoint of magic.
(Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1977, vol. 16, p. 129a). The vic-
tim is not holy by nature (as it is in Smith’s theory); the con-
There do in fact exist rituals of slaying and destruction
secration is effected by destruction, and the connection with
in which no personal recipient is involved and that are re-
the sacral world is completed by a sacred meal. Implied here
garded as operating automatically; there is no evidence, how-
is the view (which goes back to Émile Durkheim) of the
ever, that such rituals are older than sacrifice in the sense de-
French sociological school that the sacral world is simply a
scribed earlier. The examples constantly adduced come to a
projection of society. “Gods are representations of communi-
very great extent from high cultures (e.g., Roman religion).
ties, they are societies thought of ideally and imaginative-
An especially typical form occurs in Brahmanic speculation,
ly. . . . Sacrifice is an act of abnegation by which the indi-
where sacrifice is looked upon as a force that ensures the con-
vidual recognizes society; it recalls to particular consciences
tinuation of a cosmic process to which even the gods are sub-
the presence of collective forces, represented by their gods”
ject. Other examples come from food-growing peoples.
(Evans-Pritchard, 1965, p. 70).
When human beings contribute by their own activity to the
production of food, their consciousness of dependence on
The objection was raised against this explanation that
higher powers is less than in an economy based on the appro-
conclusions universally valid for the understanding of sacri-
priation of goods not produced by humans. Thus it is easier
fice as such, especially in “primitive” societies, cannot be
to adopt the idea that the higher powers can be influenced
drawn from an analysis of two highly developed forms of sac-
and even coerced by sacrifices and other rites. For this reason,
rifice, even if the two differ among themselves. Thus E. E.
the firstlings sacrifices of hunters and food-gatherers do not
Evans-Pritchard, having called the work of Hubert and
fit in with speculations that give priority to magic, nor do
Mauss “a masterly analysis of Vedic and Hebrew sacrifice,”
such speculations take account of such sacrifices, and thus
immediately adds: “But masterly though it was, its conclu-
the full extent of the phenomenon of sacrifice is lost from
sions are an unconvincing piece of sociologistic metaphys-
view. Sacrifice and magic should rather be considered as phe-
ics. . . . They are conclusions not deriving from, but posit-
nomena that differ in nature; they have indeed influenced
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each other in many ways, but neither can be derived from
sacrilege, which explains the rites of Siberian peoples that
the other. The personal relation that is established by a gift
seek a reconciliation with the slain animal and a repudiation
is fully intelligible without bringing in an element of magic
of the killing. For cultivators the sacrilege consists in the vio-
(see van Baal, 1976, pp. 163–164, 167, 177–178).
lation of the earth, which is the dwelling of the dead, by the
cultivation of the soil; they feel anxiety at the thought of the
Sacrifice as reenactment of primordial events. Ac-
dead and worry about future fertility, even if the harvest is
cording to Adolf E. Jensen (1951), sacrifice cannot be under-
a good one. It is a secondary matter whether the symbolic
stood as gift; its original meaning is rather to be derived from
destruction of the gain is accomplished by offering food to
certain myths found in the cultures of cultivators, especially
a higher being or by simply doing away with a portion of it.
in Indonesia and Oceania. These myths maintain that in pri-
mordial time there were as yet no mortal human beings but
Critics of the psychopathological explanation have
only divine or semi-divine beings (dema beings); this state
pointed out the essential differences between the behavior of
ended with the killing of a dema divinity from whose body
neurotics and the religious behavior exhibited in firstlings
came the plants useful to humans. The ritual slaying of hu-
sacrifices. In the psychically ill (those who are defeated by
mans and animals, headhunting, cannibalism, and other
success), efforts at liberation are purely individual; they are
blood rites are ceremonial repetitions of that killing in pri-
not part of a historical tradition, are not organically integrat-
mordial time; they affirm and guarantee the present world
ed into a cultural setting, and do not lead to inner deliver-
order, with its continuous destruction and recreation, which
ance. In religious life, on the contrary, efforts to surmount
would otherwise be unable to function. Once the myth had
a crisis are organically inserted into tradition and culture,
been largely forgotten or was no longer seen to be connected
tend to restore psychic balance, and in fact achieve such a
with ritual, rites involving slaying were reinterpreted as a giv-
balance. For this reason the “primitive” peoples in question
ing of a gift to divinities (who originally played no role in
are not defeated by life, as neurotics are; on the contrary,
these rites, because the primordial divine being had been
their way of life has stood the test of ages. Whatever judg-
slain); blood sacrifices thus became “meaningless survivals”
ment one may pass on the value or nonvalue of the underly-
of the “meaningful rituals of killing” of the earlier food-
ing religious views and modes of behavior of these peoples,
growing cultures. Magical actions are likewise degenerate
one cannot characterize them as pathological; for this reason
fragments of the originally meaningful whole formed by the
a psychopathological explanation of sacrifice must also be re-
mythically based rituals of killing.
jected. This is not to deny that fear or anxiety plays a signifi-
This theory has some points in common with Freud’s
cant part in certain forms of sacrifice; such feelings result pri-
theory of the murder of the primal father and with the theory
marily from the ideas of the offerers about the character of
according to which sacrifice originated in the self-sacrifice of
the recipient in question (see Henninger, 1968, pp.
a divine being in the primordial time of myth. The common
weakness of all these theories is that they take account only
Sacrifice as a mechanism for diverting violence.
of blood sacrifices. These, however, developed only in food-
Whereas Jensen derived rituals involving killing, which were
growing and even later cultures, whereas in the firstlings sac-
subsequently reinterpreted as “sacrifices,” from certain myths
rifices of hunters and food-gatherers there is no ritual killing,
of food-growing cultures, René Girard (1977, 1978) has pro-
and bloodless offerings are widespread in many other cul-
posed a more comprehensive theory that explains not only
tures as well.
sacrifice but the sacred itself as resulting from a focusing of
Sacrifice as anxiety reaction. In the theories discussed
violent impulses upon a substitute object, a scapegoat. Ac-
thus far, except for the theory of sacrifice as a gift in homage,
cording to Girard, the peaceful coexistence of human beings
firstlings sacrifices receive either inadequate attention or
cannot be taken for granted; when the desires of humans fas-
none at all. Vittorio Lanternari (1976), on the other hand,
ten upon the same object, rivalries arise and with them a ten-
provides a formal discussion of these, but gives an interpreta-
dency toward violence that endangers the existing order and
tion of them that is completely different from that of
its norms. This tendency can be neutralized, however, if the
Schmidt. Lanternari’s point of departure is the analysis of a
reciprocal aggressions are focused on a marginal object, a
certain form of neurosis provided by some psychologists; ac-
scapegoat. The scapegoat is thereby rendered sacred: it is seen
cording to this analysis, this kind of neurosis finds expression
as accursed but also as bringing salvation. Thus the focusing
in the undoing of successes earlier achieved and is at the basis
of violence on an object gives rise to the sacred and all that
of certain religious delusions. Lanternari maintains that a
results from it (taboos, a new social order). Whereas the vio-
similar psychic crisis occurs among “primitives” when they
lence was originally focused on a randomly chosen object,
are confronted with success (hunters after a successful hunt,
in sacrifice the concentration takes a strict ritual form; as a
food cultivators after the harvest) and that this crisis leads
result, internecine aggressions are constantly being diverted
them to undertake an at least symbolic destruction of what
to the outside and cannot operate destructively within the
they had gained. For Lanternari, then, a firstlings sacrifice is
community. At bottom, therefore, sacrifice lacks any moral
the result of anxiety, whereas for Schmidt it is an expression
character. Eventually it was eliminated by the critique of sac-
of gratitude. Hunters feel the slaying of the animal to be a
rifice that began in the Hebrew scriptures and, most fully,
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by the fact that Jesus freely made himself a “scapegoat” and
1968, pp. 334–348; see also pp. 348–371 on the treatment
in so doing transcended the whole realm of sacrifice. Girard
of the dead).
supports his thesis by appealing to the phenomenon of blood
Sacrifice is also found in all the types of nonliterate cul-
sacrifice, which (especially in the form of human sacrifice)
tures made known to us by ethnologists. It is not detectable,
is a constant in the history of religions, and by citing the evi-
however, among some primitive hunters and food-gatherers,
dence of rivalry and violence, leading even to fratricide, that
for example, in Australia; whether it was present there at an
is supplied by the mythical traditions (especially myths of the
earlier time is uncertain. On the other hand, it is amply at-
origin of things) and also by history (persecution of minori-
tested among nomadic shepherds in both Asia and Africa,
ties as scapegoats, etc.).
and among food-growing peoples, from primitive tuber cul-
A critique of this theory can in part repeat the argu-
tivators down to the most highly developed grain growers,
ments already advanced against Jensen. Apart from the fact
who themselves mark a transition to the high cultures (as for
that it does not distinguish between sacrifice and eliminatory
instance the ancient rice-growing cultures of Japan and
rites, Girard’s concept of sacrifice is too narrow, for he sup-
China). It is typical of many food-growing cultures (e.g., in
ports it by reference solely to stratified societies and high cul-
Africa) that, while they believe in a supreme creator god, they
tures. It could at most explain blood sacrifices involving kill-
assign him hardly any role in cult. Sacrifices are offered pri-
ing, but not sacrifice as such and certainly not the sacred as
marily or even exclusively to lesser divinities, spirits of na-
such, since the idea of the sacred exists even among peoples
ture, and ancestors who in some instances are regarded as
(e.g., in Australia) who do not practice sacrifice. As was
mediators and intercessors with the supreme creator god.
pointed out earlier, firstlings sacrifices (of which Girard does
Historical high cultures. In Shinto¯, the ancient nature
not speak) have intellectual and emotional presuppositions
religion of Japan, sacrifices were offered to the divinities of
far removed from Girard’s key concepts of “primal murder”
nature and to the dead; these were in part regularly recurring
and “scapegoat mechanism.”
sacrifices determined by the rhythm of the agricultural year
and in part sacrifices of supplication or sacrifices in fulfill-
The value of the theories here reviewed is that each of
ment of vows made under extraordinary circumstances.
them highlights a certain aspect of sacrifice. It is unlikely that
While originally offered simply by individuals, sacrifice even-
we will ever have a sure answer to the question of whether
tually became the concern of the community and was there-
there was a single original form of sacrifice or whether, on
fore offered by the emperor or by priests commissioned by
the contrary, various forms developed independently.
him. Human sacrifices also occurred.
SACRIFICE IN HISTORY. It will never be possible to write a
In China the sacrifice that the emperor offered to heav-
complete history of sacrifice. In any case, sacrifice is found
en and earth at the time of the winter solstice had an impor-
in most of the religions known to us. The extent to which
tant function. In addition to sacrifices determined by the ag-
the human mind has taken the phenomenon of sacrifice for
ricultural year, sacrifices especially to the ancestors played a
granted is clear, for example, from the role it plays in many
large part in the life of the people. These were offered at the
myths dealing with primordial time. Probably to be grouped
graves of the dead, in the clan’s hall of the ancestors, or be-
with these sacrifices is the sacrifice that Utanapishtim, the
fore the family’s ancestral tablets. The emperor sacrificed to
hero of the Mesopotamian flood story, offers after the flood,
his ancestors in temples erected especially in their honor.
as well as the one that Noah offers in the biblical flood story
For ancient Egypt, the archaeological, epigraphical, and
(Gn. 9:20–21). Even earlier, the Bible tells of the sacrifices
literary evidence points to a strictly ritualized sacrificial cult,
offered by Cain the farmer and Abel the shepherd (Gn.
administered by a highly organized priesthood and including
4:3–5); these are expressly said to be firstlings sacrifices. Aris-
daily sacrifices in the temples, where the divinity was treated
totle, too, was of the opinion that the sacrifice of firstlings
like a sovereign in his palace.
(of field and flock) is the oldest form of sacrifice. As we know
today, these sacrifices were also performed by peoples—
The same was true of ancient Mesopotamia, where the
hunters and food-gatherers—whose economy was of a purely
Sumerians already had a professional priesthood and a rather
appropriative kind.
full calendar of feasts with accompanying obligatory sacri-
fices. Both priesthood and calendar were to a very large ex-
Archaic cultures. Scholars disagree on whether there
tent taken over and developed still further by the invading
are unambiguous indications of sacrifice in the Paleolithic
Semites. The ritual and therefore the sacrificial cult of the
period. On the basis of a comparison with the practices of
Hittites were strongly influenced by the pre-Indo-European
more recent hunting peoples, various authors have interpret-
population of Anatolia (whose language also continued to be
ed the burial of the skulls and long bones of cave bears as
largely used in ritual), but were also influenced by Mesopota-
part of firstling sacrifices; this view, however, has met with
mia. Mythological and ritual texts from Ugarit give evidence
strong criticism. Nonetheless, Hermann Müller-Karpe
of a sacrificial cult that in part was influenced by Mesopota-
(1966, pp. 224–229) insists that there is clear evidence of
mia and in part showed peculiarly Canaanite characteristics;
sacrifice in the early Paleolithic period. There is undisputed
some of the terms connected with sacrifice are related to He-
evidence of sacrifice in the Neolithic period (Müller-Karpe,
brew terms.
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The evidence for the other Semites is sketchy. In the
The sacrifices known from the Hebrew scriptures (Old
high cultures of southern Arabia, which are known to us
Testament) are, in their external form, largely the same as
from inscriptions dating from as far back as the first millen-
those found in the surrounding world, especially among the
nium BCE, the sacrificial cult was administered by a profes-
Canaanites. As far as ritual was concerned, a distinction was
sional priesthood and was offered mainly to the three major
made chiefly between the burnt offering, or holocaust
astral divinities (Sun, Moon, Venus). Documentation for
( Eolah), in which the sacrificial animal was completely
northern and central Arabia begins at a later time; apart from
burned up, and the sacrifice of salvation or peace (zevah:
rock inscriptions containing scattered details about religion,
shelamim). In the latter, only certain parts of the sacrificial
the chief sources are literary, mostly from the Islamic period,
animal were burned; the blood, regarded as the vehicle of life
and provide rather sparse information about pilgrimages to
and therefore not to be consumed by humans, was poured
the shrines of local divinities and the sacrifices offered there.
out (in many sacrifices it was smeared on the altar), and the
In Vedic and later Hindu religion, sacrifice, which was
rite ended with a sacrificial meal. Expiatory sacrifices consti-
controlled by the brahmans, was ritualized down to the smal-
tuted a special category comprising asham, “guilt sacrifice,”
lest detail and given a comprehensive speculative theological
and h:at:Dat:, “sacrifice for sin,” the distinction between which
explanation. In the horse sacrifice (the A´svamedha) and in
is not entirely clear. In these sacrifices the animal had to be
other cultic practices, as, for example, the sacrifice of butter
burned up, probably because it had become the vehicle of
and of the sacred intoxicating drink soma, there are elements
impurity. Minh:ah meant a bloodless sacrifice (of vegetables),
common to the Indo-Iranian world, but after the immigra-
but the term was also used in a broader sense. There were,
tion of the Aryans into India, these were to some extent
in addition, incense sacrifices and libations. The sacrificial
amalgamated there with pre-Aryan rites. Buddhism, on the
cult was ritualized in great detail, especially in the period
other hand, rejected sacrifice in principle; tendencies to a
after the Babylonian exile. In this ritual the three major
spiritualization of sacrifice and its replacement by asceticism
feasts, those involving a prescribed pilgrimage to the central
are also found in some currents of Hinduism.
sanctuary, were marked by extensive sacrifices. In addition,
there were daily sacrifices in the temple. There were also indi-
Animal sacrifices were also practiced in the oldest form
vidual occasions for sacrifice, some of them prescribed, oth-
of Iranian religion, where they were inherited from the Indo-
ers inspired by freely made vows. After the destruction of the
Iranian period. During his reform, Zarathushtra (Zoroaster)
Second Temple in 70 CE, the sacrificial cult ceased and was
abolished these practices. In later times such sacrifices again
replaced by other religious activities.
made their appearance to some extent; they were offered,
however, not to Ahura Mazda¯ but to subordinate heavenly
Islam is in principle opposed to sacrifice. “It is not their
beings. Bloodless sacrifices, involving especially the sacred in-
flesh and blood [i.e., that of sacrificial animals] that reaches
toxicating drink haoma, remained especially important.
God but the piety of your heart” (QurDa¯n, surah 22:38). Sac-
Historical Greek religion combined the religion of the
rifice thus has no place in official worship. Pre-Islamic blood
Indo-European invaders with that of the pre-Indo-European
sacrifices live on, in external form, in the great slaughters that
population; the same combination marked the sacrificial
take place as part of the pilgrimage ritual at Mount Arafat
cult. There were bloodless sacrifices of food and drink. In
near Mecca, and similarly in almost all the countries of the
blood sacrifices a distinction was made, as far as objects and
Islamic world, on the tenth day of the month Dhu¯ al-H:ijjah.
ritual were concerned, between those offered to the ouranic
These are interpreted, however, as commemorations of the
gods (hiereia, thusiai), which culminated in a sacrificial meal,
sacrifice of Abraham and as almsgiving, inasmuch as the flesh
and those offered to the chthonic gods (sphagia), in which
is given to the poor or to anyone who wants it. Blood sacri-
there was no sacrificial meal and the victim was often com-
fices (and bloodless ones as well) are also part of popular
pletely cremated or buried (sacrifices of destruction). Pigs
piety, especially of veneration of the saints; but these are not
and cattle were sacrificed to the ouranic gods, while inedible
sanctioned by orthodox Islam.
animals (horses, asses, dogs) were the chief offerings to the
According to New Testament teaching, which is devel-
chthonic gods. Human sacrifice was later replaced by other
oped especially in the letter to the Hebrews, the sacrifices of
sacrifices. The sacrificer was the ruler in the earliest period;
the Old Testament were only provisional and had to cease
later on there were professional priests.
under the new covenant. The self-giving of Jesus in his death
In its earliest form, before intensive contact with Greek
on the cross is understood as the definitive and perfect sacri-
religion, Roman religion was pronouncedly agrarian. Occa-
fice that has the power in itself to effect expiation and re-
sions for sacrifices were therefore determined primarily by
demption and that therefore makes all earlier sacrifices super-
the agricultural year, and only later by special occasions in
fluous. In the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern
civic life. Etruscan influence shows in the divination
churches the celebration of the Eucharist is regarded as a ren-
(haruspicia) that was connected with sacrifice; the animals
dering present (not a repetition) of the sacrifice of the cross,
sacrificed were chiefly pigs, sheep, and cattle (suovetaurilia).
and therefore itself constitutes a real sacrifice in which Jesus
Like Roman religion generally, the sacrificial cult had a
Christ the high priest, using the ministry of the ordained
marked juridical character.
priests who represent him, offers himself as the perfect sacri-
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

ficial gift. The sixteenth-century reformers rejected the offi-
but also the necessity of a self-surrender that finds external
cial priesthood and the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist
expression in other ways as well; thus, even in the New Testa-
(Calvin took the most radical position on this point); the cel-
ment, prayers, hymns of praise, good works, and especially
ebration of the Lord’s Supper thus became simply a com-
love of neighbor are described as “sacrifices.” These tenden-
memoration of Jesus and, though a sacrament, had no sacrifi-
cies became particularly strong in Protestantism, which no
cial character. In recent times, there has been a tendency in
longer acknowledged the Eucharist to be a sacrifice.
the Lutheran church to confer to some degree a sacrificial
Finally, the idea of renunciation, which is connected
character on the Lord’s Supper. Even more explicit however
with the offering of a gift, was especially emphasized in
is the emphasis placed on the sacrificial character of the
Christianity, so that every kind of asceticism and self-
Lord’s Supper by the Anglican church. In Protestantism gen-
abnegation came to be called sacrifice (there is a similar de-
erally the term sacrifice refers to a purely interior attitude.
velopment in Buddhism). A one-sided emphasis on this as-
CONCLUSION. In the course of its history, which can be
pect led finally to a very broad and metaphorical use of the
traced through several millennia, sacrifice has undergone
term sacrifice. Thus an abandonment of possessions and a
many changes, and this in all its aspects: changes in the mate-
personal commitment to an idea or to the attainment of cer-
rial of sacrifice (occasioned by economic changes but also by
tain goals, especially if this commitment demands costly ef-
ethical considerations, e.g., in the suppression of human sac-
fort, is described as sacrifice in the active sense of the term.
rifice); changes with regard to place and time (centralization
We also speak of the victims of wars, epidemics, natural di-
of cult, regulation of feasts and thereby of the occasions for
sasters, and so on with a sense that they are, in a passive sense,
sacrifice); changes in the offerer (the rise of classes of official
sacrificial victims. Thus the word sacrifice ultimately became
sacrificers); and changes in ritual and motivation. These de-
very much a secular term in common usage; yet the origins
velopments do not, however, reflect a one-directional “ad-
of sacrifice in the religious sphere remain evident.
vance.” Egoistic and magical motives were not always elimi-
SEE ALSO Atonement; Blood; Cannibalism; Gift Giving;
nated by higher motives; in fact, they often asserted
Human Sacrifice; Magic; New Year Festivals; Scapegoat;
themselves even more strongly in connection with manifesta-
Seasonal Ceremonies.
tions of religious degeneration. In the same context a quanti-
tative increase in sacrifices is also often to be seen; thus in
some late cultures the number of human sacrifices became
Baal, Jan van. “Offering, Sacrifice and Gift.” Numen 23 (Decem-
especially extensive (e.g., among the Punics and the Aztec).
ber 1976): 161–178.
Baaren, Th. P. van. “Theoretical Speculations on Sacrifice.”
Disapproval and criticism of sacrifice might spring from
Numen 11 (January 1964): 1–12.
a skeptical, antireligious attitude that condemned sacrifice as
meaningless waste. However, it could also be motivated by
Bertholet, Alfred. Der Sinn des kultischen Opfers. Berlin, 1942.
a more profound reflection on the meaning of sacrifice in the
Closs, Alois. “Das Opfer in Ost und West.” Kairos 3 (1961):
light of religious interiority, leading to an emphasis on inner
conviction, the self-giving of the human being to the divini-
Evans-Pritchard, E. E. Theories of Primitive Religion. Oxford,
ty, which finds symbolic expression in sacrifice, and without
which the external rite has no religious value. This cast of
Faherty, Robert L. “Sacrifice.” In Encyclopaedia Britannica. 15th
mind could lead to the complete abolition of the external
ed. Chicago, 1974.
rite, but also to a consciously established accord between ex-
Girard, René. Violence and the Sacred. Translated by Patrick Greg-
ternal action and interior attitude.
ory. Baltimore, 1977.
Girard, René. Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde.
Tendencies to the spiritualization and ethicization of
Paris, 1978.
sacrifice were already present in Indian religion, where they
Gray, Louis H., et al. “Expiation and Atonement.” In Encyclo-
produced a mysticism of sacrifice; in the philosophers of clas-
paedia of Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings, vol.
sical antiquity, who regarded ethical behavior as of highest
5. Edinburgh, 1912.
value; and above all in the biblical religions. Early in the He-
Heiler, Friedrich. Erscheinungsformen und Wesen der Religion. Vol.
brew scriptures the idea was expressed that obedience to
1 of Die Religionen der Menschheit. Stuttgart, 1961.
God’s commandments is better than sacrifice (1 Sm. 15:22),
Henninger, Joseph. “Ist der sogenannte Nilus-Bericht eine
and the prophetic criticism of sacrifice was directed at an
brauchbare religionsgeschichtliche Quelle?” Anthropos 50
outward cult unaccompanied by interior dispositions and
(1955): 81–148.
ethical behavior. The wisdom literature, too, repeatedly
Henninger, Joseph. “Primitialopfer und Neujahrsfest.” In An-
stresses the superior value of religious dispositions and moral
thropica. Studia Instituti Anthropos, vol. 21. Sankt Augustin,
behavior. This outlook became even more pronounced in
West Germany, 1968.
postbiblical Judaism, once the destruction of the Second
Henninger, Joseph. Les fêtes de printemps chez les Sémites et la
Temple in 70 CE had put an end to the sacrificial cult. From
Pâque israélite. Paris, 1975.
the beginning, Christianity emphasized not only the contin-
Henninger, Joseph. Arabica Sacra: Aufsätze zur Religionsgeschichte
uance of cultic sacrifice in the celebration of the Eucharist
Arabiens und seiner Randgebiete. Fribourg, 1981.
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

Hubert, Henri, and Marcel Mauss. “Essai sur la nature et la fonc-
meanings, and conundrums of these types of violent, sym-
tion du sacrifice.” L’année sociologique 2 (1899): 29–138. An
bolic practices. New studies of human sacrifice, bloodletting,
English translation was published in 1964 (Chicago): Sacri-
biblical sacrifices, animal sacrifices, and the role of women
fice: Its Nature and Function.
and gender in sacrifice have been carried out. The rise in ter-
James, E. O. Sacrifice and Sacrament. London, 1962.
rorism with its various forms of martyrs has also led to new
James, E. O., et al. “Sacrifice.” In Encyclopaedia of Religion and
reflections on the meaning of sacrifice. As one scholar, con-
Ethics, edited by James Hastings, vol. 11. Edinburgh, 1920.
cerned about whether the origin of violence in human beings
Jensen, Adolf E. Myth and Cult among Primitive Peoples. Translat-
is to be located in biology or culture, writes, “The one thing
ed by Marianna Tax Choldin and Wolfgang Weissleder.
that cannot be denied is that violence is ubiquitous and tena-
Chicago, 1963.
cious and must be accounted for if we are to understand hu-
Kerr, C. M., et al. “Propitiation.” In Encyclopaedia of Religion and
manity” (Hamerton-Kelly, 1987, p. vi). In what follows, we
Ethics, edited by James Hastings, vol. 10. Edinburgh, 1918.
will review a handful of more recent studies on sacrifice that
have tried to “account” for the ubiquity, tenacity, and mys-
Lanternari, Vittorio. ‘La Grande Festa’: Vita rituale e sistemi di
tery of ritual violence and its creative and destructive powers
produzione nelle società tradizionali. 2d ed. Bari, 1976.
in human society.
Leeuw, Gerardus van der. “Die do-ut-des-Formel in der Opfer-
theorie.” Archiv für Religionswissenschaft 20 (1920–1921):
One of the most fascinating studies of sacrifice has come
from the historian of Greek religion, Walter Burkert, in his
Leeuw, Gerardus van der. Religion in Essence and Manifestation
Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial
(1938). 2 vols. Translated by J. E. Turner. Gloucester, Mass.,
Ritual and Myth (1972). Burkert sought to understand the
persistence of archaic survivals of religion, especially sacrifice,
Loisy, Alfred. Essai historique sur le sacrifice. Paris, 1920.
in Greek culture. Noticing on the one hand that sacrificial
myth and ritual accompanied many major religious dimen-
Müller-Karpe, Hermann. Handbuch der Vorgeschichte. 2 vols. Mu-
sions of Greek culture (e.g., oracles, games, cults, mysteries,
nich, 1966–1968.
drama, funerals, and royal ceremonies), while on the other
Le sacrifice, I–V. Nos. 2–6 of Systèmes de pensée en Afrique noire.
that the handling of bones of animal victims mirrored that
Ivry, France, 1976–1983.
of the practices of Paleolithic hunters, the author developed
Schmidt, Wilhelm. Der Ursprung der Gottesidee. 12 vols. Münster,
a theory of religion and ritual, based in large part on the
1912–1955. See especially volume 6, pages 274–281, 444–
hunt. In his view, the hunt was a supremely collective, dra-
455; volume 8, pages 595–633; and volume 12, pages 389–
matic experience that demanded disciplined behavioral codes
441, 826–836, and 845–847.
(rituals) which channeled unwieldy human aggressions to-
Schmidt, Wilhelm. “Ethnologische Bemerkungen zu theologisc-
ward new definitions and practices of shared territory, food
hen Opfertheorien.” In Jahrbuch des Missionshauses St. Ga-
distribution, mating, and reproduction. Critical in his view
briel, vol. 1. Mödling, 1922.
was the capacity of the hunting cultures to ritualize immense
Smith, W. Robertson. Lectures on the Religion of the Semites: The
human aggressions by focusing them away from other hu-
Fundamental Institutions (1889). 3d ed. Reprint, New York,
mans and refocusing them onto the prey, which became a
kind of organizing symbol that opened up new social possi-
Tylor, E. B. Primitive Culture (1871). 2 vols. Reprint, New York,
bilities as a result of the kill. In Burkert’s view, the dramatic
scenes and emotions associated with the killing of animals
Vorbichler, Anton. Das Opfer auf den uns heute noch erreichbaren
after careful planning and intense physical and mental exer-
ältesten Stufen der Menschheitsgeschichte: Eine Begriffsstudie.
tions resulted in new processes of perception and reflection
Mödling, 1956.
or the creation of mythologies about the events. The kill, the
Widengren, Geo. Religionsphänomenologie. Berlin, 1969.
planning and the success of the hunters, and the body,
Additional literature is found in the works cited in the article, es-
power, and beauty of animals stimulated the human capacity
pecially those by Hubert and Mauss, Loisy, Schmidt, Bertho-
for ritual and myth into a creative nexus or religion. In other
let, van der Leeuw, Henninger, Lanternari, Heiler, James,
and Widengren, as well as in Le sacrifice, especially volume
The hunting ritual gave rise to the full range of articula-
tions that we understand to be mythic or symbolic, ar-
ticulations characteristic of religion. The naming of the
Translated from German by Matthew J. O’Connell
‘Master of the Animals’, the songs and ‘prayers’ that ad-
dress the prey, the gestures surrounding the kill, the
care of the bones, the narration of the ritualized hunt
as a sequence of events (myth), and the eventual articu-
lation of social codes and honors, including honors due
TIONS]. Since Joseph Henninger’s outstanding summary
the Master of the Animals (‘worship’), all are found to
of the literature and practices of sacrifice in world religions,
be generated by the complex experience of the act of
scholars have continued to explore the sacrificial practices,
killing. Thus a theory of the ritualization of the hunt
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

becomes a theory of the origin of religion. (Mack, 1987,
tion of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity (1993),
p. 26.)
Davíd Carrasco’s City of Sacrifice: The Aztec Empire and the
Role of Violence in Civilization
(1999), and The Cuisine of
In this theory of religion and sacrifice, the effectiveness and
Sacrifice Among the Greeks (1989), edited by Marcel Detien-
emotionality of the kill, as well as its intense planning and
ne and Jean-Pierre Vernant. Valeri’s detailed anthropological
coordination, is not only the dramatization of a new social
work gives new emphasis to the significance of social and cos-
ordering—it actually restructures society for the satisfaction
mological hierarchies associated with royal sacrifices that
of basic human needs.
serve as mirrors of the major concepts of pre-Western Ha-
A new, evocative approach to sacrifice was put forth by
waiian society. Sanday’s work takes up the difficult topic of
Nancy Jay in her Throughout Your Generations Forever: Sacri-
ritual cannibalism in a number of tribal societies and shows
fice, Religion, and Paternity (1992), which surveys Greek, Is-
how cultural “selves,” cosmological order, and a cannibalistic
raelite, Roman, Nuer, Hawaiian, Lugbara, and Ashanti sacri-
consciousness combined to control the vitality of the world
fice. Jay’s work also looks at the Christian Eucharist as
and the reproduction of human society. Levenson shows
sacrifice and proceeds from two powerful observations, al-
how the story of the miraculous liberation of a beloved son
most always ignored by other scholars. First, “in no other
from the sacrificial knife is a powerful, shared theme in both
major religious institution is gender dichotomy more consis-
Christianity and Judaism, which sets the stage for new kinds
tently important, across unrelated traditions, than it is in sac-
of comparisons. Carrasco argues that sacrifices, and especially
rifice.” The exclusion of women and the repeated father-son
human sacrifices, become social forces largely through the
relations in sacrificial rituals have gone largely unremarked
construction of monumental ceremonial centers that func-
upon, and Jay’s work illuminates this lacuna and begins to
tion as theatres for the remembering and re-experiencing of
fill it up with new meanings. Her second observation is that
both mythic episodes and other human sacrifices. The work
the literature reveals a consistent opposition between blood
of Detienne and Vernant, emerging from the Center for
sacrifice and childbirth or between male sacrificers and child-
Comparative Studies of Ancient Societies in Paris, is a mul-
bearing women. She notes that while women sometimes par-
tidisciplinary and detailed analysis of how the sacrifice, cook-
ticipate in sacrifices, mothers never do and she wants to
ing, and eating of animals functioned in Greek society to tie
know why.
humans to the gods but also to insure that social relatedness
on all political levels was rejuvenated. As one author states,
Jay’s work brought gender and feminist studies into the
“political power cannot be exercised with sacrificial practice”
scholarship on sacrifice by making two claims that have re-
(Detienne and Vernant, 1989, p. 3).
cently undergone critical examination and appreciation. She
states that sacrifice is “at home,” that is, sacrifice thrives and
While new studies of sacrifice and its social, religious,
has historical continuity in social settings that require inter-
cultural, and political significance continue to be produced,
generational continuity to facilitate inheritance of power,
perhaps the best model for real dialogue, theoretical advance,
property, and prestige. This means that sacrifices serve to as-
and understanding appeared in Violent Origins: Walter Bur-
sist in the selective continuity between males and not fe-
kert, René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing
males. In other words, “ancestor worship” involves sacrifices
and Cultural Formation. This book, edited by Robert
designed to favor one gender of ancestors. Secondly, Jay ar-
Hamerton-Kelly and published in 1987, came from a confer-
gues that sacrifices are valuable because of their unexpected
ence that involved papers, conversations, and responses from
social achievement. Sacrifices give to males the mysterious
Girard, Burkert, Smith, Renato Rosaldo, and Burton Mack.
powers that are akin to those that women have in childbirth.
Interested readers will see how this event and its publication
Just as women bring new beings into the world in childbirth,
explored the tantalizing possibility that understanding
males recreate their lines of descent as authoritative social
human violence against animals and other humans is one
structures through sacrifice. Descent through males is not
major source for developing persuasive theories about the na-
naturally given but socially achieved through ritual violence.
ture of religion and culture. In this constructive sense, Bur-
kert’s claim and invitation seem highly relevant to the con-
Jay’s work is worth attention for at least two reasons. It
temporary situation. “More can be said for the thesis that all
is the first study to place a broad range of scholarship about
orders and forms of authority in human society are founded
ritual violence under serious feminist scrutiny and interpreta-
on institutionalized violence.”
tion. Secondly, it applied rigorous anthropological interpre-
tations to biblical texts about violence and then placed them
in a fresh comparative perspective by looking at other cul-
Burkert, Walter. Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek
tures with similar practices.
Sacrificial Ritual and Myth. Translated by Peter Bing. Berke-
ley, 1983.
Other works that have made their mark include Valerio
Carrasco, Davíd. City of Sacrifice: The Aztec Empire and the Role
Valeri’s Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and Society in Ancient
of Violence in Civilization. Boston, 1999.
Hawaii (1985), Peggy Reeves Sanday’s Divine Hunger: Can-
Detienne, Marcel, and Jean-Pierre Vernant, eds. The Cuisine of
nibalism as a Cultural System (1986), Jon Levenson’s The
Sacrifice Among the Greeks. Translated by Paula Wissing.
Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transforma-
Chicago, 1989.
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

Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G., ed. Violent Origins: Walter Burkert,
rately describe religious realities. The sacred and profane are
René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and
flexible, fluid categories that frequently overlap, distort, and
Cultural Formation. Stanford, Calif., 1987.
transform. For Smith, a central religious problem is adapting
Jay, Nancy. Throughout Your Generations Forever: Sacrifice, Reli-
sacred ideals to the messy reality of lived experience. Thus
gion, and Paternity. Chicago, 1992.
sacrilege is also a situational interpretive frame that must
Levenson, Jon. The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The
continually adapt to its context. What is clear, however, is
Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity.
that sacrilege is essentially concerned with the boundaries of
New Haven, 1993.
the sacred.
Mack, Burton. “Introduction: Religion and Ritual.” In Violent
The sacred is constituted by a perimeter, a differential
Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith
limit. Sacrilege is the violation or rupture of sacred bounda-
on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation, edited by Robert
G. Hamerton-Kelly, pp. 1–72. Stanford, 1987.
ries. “Theft from the sacred” and “violation of the sacred”
are reciprocal actions. They consist of either bringing the
Robbins, Jill. “Sacrifice.” In Critical Terms for Religious Studies,
profane into or the taking the sacred out of its established
edited by Mark C. Taylor, pp. 285–297. Chicago, 1998.
limits. In either case the sacred comes into contact with the
Sanday, Peggy Reeves. Divine Hunger: Cannibalism as a Cultural
profane and the order and purity of the sacred is disturbed.
System. Cambridge, U.K., 1986
There are two distinct forms of sacrilege: interreligious and
Valeri, Valerio. Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and Society in Ancient
intrareligious. Violations committed by religious outsiders,
Hawaii. Translated by Paula Wissing. Chicago, 1985.
or interreligious violations, are frequently described as “dese-
cration” and will be discussed in the section below. Sacrilege
typically refers to intrareligious violations, or violations by
religious insiders, which will be the focus of the remainder
of this section.
SACRILEGE is typically defined as “violation or theft of
the sacred.” It originates from the Latin sacrilegium or sacer
Although its etymological roots are in pagan Rome, sac-
(sacred) and lego (to gather or to steal). In addition to the
rilege, particularly in its connotation of unorthodoxy, is a
literal theft of sacred objects or the violation of sacred places,
Christian concept (and to a lesser degree an Abrahamic con-
sacrilege connotes violation of sacred practices (orthopraxy)
cept) whose greatest cultural impact occurred during the
and sacred beliefs (orthodoxy). Because the concept of sacri-
Middle Ages and continued throughout the eighteenth cen-
lege is founded upon the distinction between sacred and pro-
tury. Since the eighteenth century, its theological importance
fane, this entry will begin with a brief overview of the aca-
has waned, as a subject search in any academic library clearly
demic distinction between those two terms and their
demonstrates. Its Christian context is important because
relationship to sacrilege. An overview of different religious
wide application of the concept requires the type of hierar-
approaches to the problem of sacrilege and transgression will
chical organizational structure that was characteristic of
Christendom during that period. Broad accusations, prose-
cutions, and actions of sacrilege require the broad agreement
Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) argued that sacred and
upon definitions of orthodoxy and unorthodoxy that only
profane are distinct categories defined only by their absolute
a hierarchical religious organization can bring to bear. When
opposition. The sacred is that unique category circumscribed
localized religious subgroups control definitions and conse-
by boundaries that differentiate it from ordinary, or profane,
quences of sacrilege, its coercive power is significantly dimin-
reality. However, Durkheim claimed, the sacred is a category
ished. The definition of sacrilege is thus conceptually con-
created by humans and not unique in and of itself: anything
strained in Jewish and Islamic communities, where the local
can potentially be set aside and distinguished as sacred. Mir-
community by and large sets its own criteria for transgressive
cea Eliade (1907–1986), on the other hand, argued that the
sacred was an essential experiential category. From his per-
spective, the sacred is qualitatively different from ordinary,
If sacredness is inherently dualistic, in that its definition
profane reality. While a sacred object may be physically iden-
requires the profane, then sacrilege or transgression are also
tical to a profane object, they are not interchangeable because
inherent and essential to sacredness. However, this dualistic
the sacred object has a special quality that the profane object
boundary can be drawn more or less boldly. The more abso-
does not have. Physically identical profane objects, on the
lute and impermeable the boundary is between the sacred
other hand, are also qualitatively identical and interchange-
and the profane, the more rigid and inflexible the concept
able. Mary Douglas (1921–), argues that the distinction be-
and consequences of transgression will be. In the Abrahamic
tween sacred and profane is a distinction between order and
traditions, dualism is essential to creation, good and evil are
disorder. From her perspective, sacrilege means disturbing or
irreconcilable, and the boundary between the two is concep-
disrupting the established order of the sacred. Contemporary
tually impermeable. Non-Abrahamic traditions, such as
scholars of religion, such as Jonathan Z. Smith (1938–),
Buddhism and Hinduism, on the other hand, conceive of an
argue that the definitions put forth by Durkheim, Eliade,
underlying unity behind duality. Consequently, the bounda-
and Douglas, while helpful, are too rigid and do not accu-
ry between sacred and profane is more lightly drawn, and
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both traditions include antinomian sects that employ trans-
on the site because according to Hindu belief the site was the
gression as a means of transcending duality and dissolving
birthplace of Ra¯ma, the iconic hero of the 2,500-year-old
the boundary between sacred and profane.
Hindu epic, the Ra¯ma¯yan:a. A new temple honoring Ra¯ma
was begun immediately after the destruction of Babri Masjid.
Sacrilege and transgression are problematic because the
Rather than an isolated incident, the Ayodhya¯ dispute is but
sacred and profane inevitably come into contact during the
one symptom of centuries-old tensions between Hindu and
messy reality of lived experience. Absolute conceptual and
Muslim communities in northern sections of the Indian sub-
physical limits invite and require human transgression. The
continent. While the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan
heart of the sacred lies at its edges, not at its center. It is in
was an attempt to resolve such longstanding Hindu-Muslim
the encounter with boundaries, and their transgression, that
conflicts, at the beginning of the twenty-first century rela-
we experience the sacred. The Abrahamic concept of sacri-
tions have arguably deteriorated to the lowest level since par-
lege calls for retribution in so far as it maintains rigid bound-
aries. As rigid hierarchical boundaries lessen so too does the
need for retributive sacred justice. The transgression of
Desecration is frequently directed at sacred sites such as
boundaries understood as sacred does not destroy the sacred,
temples and cemeteries, but can also include sacred texts and
rather, it heightens awareness of those sacred boundaries
ritual objects. Like the Ayodhya¯ incident, desecration is not
where human desire for the sacred meets the mortal, trans-
simply the result of conflicting claims to coextensive sacred
gressive reality of human life.
territory. In most cases, including seemingly inadvertent des-
ecration (discussed below), it is a strike against the legitimacy
DESECRATION. Interreligious sacrilege consists of actions by
of the particular religious identity itself. Desecration occurs
members of one religious group that violate the sacred
within the context of complex social, economic, and political
boundaries of another religious group. Such destruction or
tensions. Because religion and its demarcations of sacrality
damage by outsiders inflicted upon temples, shrines, and
are so closely tied to individual and community identity, des-
other sacred places, as well as upon sacred objects or beings,
ecration is frequently linked to intolerance and hatred of re-
is commonly characterized as desecration, in contradistinc-
ligio-ethnic groups. Desecration is a symbolic negation of the
tion to intrareligious, or insider, sacrilege. In the case of sa-
targeted religious group.
cred violation resulting from sect