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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,

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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 s i x
o m m u n i
C t
O y
Images and the visual practices that put them to work contrib-
ute significantly to the experience of those social and cultural
groupings that structure human life. Clan, tribe, ancestors, congregation, family,
ethnic group, race, and nation are only some of the many shared orders of social life.
These forms of association configure the loyalties, obligations, and affiliations, as well
as the aversions and oppositions, that shape individual and collective identity. The
creation, display, gifting, veneration, ritual observation, and destruction of images all
can help perform group solidarity and signal individual status within the group.

In the manner of open-ended advertisements, some images broadcast identity
in a way that situates an individual or family within a larger public setting, such as
a domicile in central Ethiopia (a), which displays murals painted by the Protestant
owner of the home. In this instance, the
murals announce the particular nature of
the homeowner’s faith. Images are also used
to promote the interests of a particular
clan and its social intentions. The Shintō
figure of a goddess (b), which also repre-
sents a court figure, belonged to a shrine
ensemble that was typically installed by a
clan with the aim of elevating its standing
and even as a way of serving its political
ambitions. Royal and noble patronage
of the visual arts accounts for much of
the world’s finest art, and much of this
was created to broadcast status or curry
(a) Tukul (thatched hut) in Hossana, Ethiopia,
with murals painted by the Protestant owner.
[Photograph by David Morgan] (b) INSET. A tenth-
century carved and painted wood statue of the
Shintō goddess Nakatsu Hime Zo, wearing the
robes of a court lady, from the Hachimangu Shrine
in Nara, Japan. [©Werner Forman/Art Resource, N.Y.]
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support of the priestly or monastic classes, the devout
laity, or the gods themselves.

Images are often what members of a group physi-
cally share with each other as members. Some objects and
images orchestrate people’s relationship to one another.
The Uramot Baining people of Melanesia initiate young
men into higher grade levels of age by using masks, such
as the animated tree fork shown here (c), which represents
a natural configuration used in dwellings, and therefore is
something whose power consists of its operation in two
domains—nature and culture—which power the mask
can deploy to disrupt the cultural order, dislodging a
youth to move him to another social status. An ancestor
figure (d) from Papua New Guinea represents an impor-
tant predecessor who is accompanied by animals that are
(c) ABOVE. Masks (kavat sowelmot) worn by young Uramot
Baining men moving to a higher level of social status, bark
cloth, wood, fiber, pigment, Gazelle Peninsula, New Britain.
[©Wolfgang Kaehler/Corbis]
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the clan totems associated with the ancestor. This carving
was displayed among a group of such ancestor figures in
a cult house where the figures were consulted as oracles
before a battle or hunt. The tattoos a man received while
in prison in Mexico (e) indicate his identity as a Chicano,
his machismo, and his long-suffering prison stays; they
even mark the individual years spent in prison. Another
sort of display common among gangs in Los Angeles is
graffiti (f ), which is used to mark territory belonging to
gangs, display pride in the gang’s symbols and presence,
and, in the case of the illustration reproduced here, to
commemorate members of the Eighteenth Street gang in
Los Angeles. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and
Christ above the cross clearly signal the religious nature of
the commemoration, as well as the importance of Catholi-
cism for Chicanos.
(e) RIGHT. Tattoos on a Latino man in Los Angeles indicate
his cultural identity and the years he spent in prison. [©Susan A.
Phillips] (f ) BELOW. A graffiti memorial for deceased members of
the Eighteenth Street gang, near MacArthur Park in Los Angeles,
1990. [©Susan A. Phillips]
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A Vodou initiation ceremony (g), is organized around
a candlelit altar and chalk diagram, in which properly
costumed participants take part in a structured liturgy.
Whether Vodou or Christianity, Hinduism or Shintō,
visually elaborate, theatrically complex ceremonies liter-
ally perform group identity, assigning particular roles to
participants, even calling upon them to perform a reperto-
ry of actions or utterances. Such events may be restricted
to small, semiprivate groups, such as the women’s societies
in African secret associations (h), in which the masks and
costumes of society members cloak their identities as they
assume the identities of spirits or ancestors. Or the events
may be vast, highly orchestrated affairs, as in the annual
(g) TOP. Participants in a Vodou ritual in Haiti kneel around a
candlelit altar and chalk diagram, while onlookers sit outside of
the ritual circle. [©Morton Beebe/Corbis] (h) LEFT. Sande women
costumed as spirits and ancestors at a ceremony in Sierra Leone.
[Photograph by Ruth B. Phillips]
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Gan.eśa festival in Mumbai (i), where, during the culmina-
tion of the festival, thousands of participants accompany
large sculpted figures of the elephant-headed “remover
of obstacles,” made of unfired clay, to the sea, where the
image is submerged and dissolved. The ritual destruction
of the image brings the festival to a single, dramatic end in
the public witness of an entire city’s inhabitants.

Memorials and monuments enact collective identity
in powerful, though distinct, ways in modern urban set-
tings. The Marine Corps War Memorial (j), though called
a memorial, is much better described as a monument if by
that term one intends a heroic celebration of a great deed
(i) RIGHT. Hindus in Mumbai, India, carry a sculpture of
Gan.eśa to the Arabian Sea. [©Amit Bhargava/Corbis] (j) BELOW.
Felix de Weldon, Marine Corps War Memorial, near Arlington
National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington,
D.C., dedicated in 1954. [©Alan Schein Photography/Corbis]
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(k) A tribute in light over the site of the World Trade Center in
that is erected for the sake of public affirmation as consti-
New York City in spring 2002. [©Mark E. Gibson/Corbis]
tutive of the nation’s well-being. Monuments are intended
to gather the group—in this case, the nation—around
a figure or event that totemically represents the whole.
Memorials, on the other hand, are constructed as com-
memorations of loss. The towering beams of light that
marked the site of the World Trade Center Towers (k)
destroyed on September 11, 2001, did not aggrandize
anyone or glorify the city or nation, but acted as a colos-
sal form of mourning and remembrance. As a city and
nation, New Yorkers and Americans regarded the dra-
matic memorial as not only an elegiac and all too ephem-
eral reminder of what was taken from them, but also
what might register that loss within the larger gesture of
a luminous connection with the night sky over Manhat-
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tan. Both memorials and monuments seek to materialize
(l) A Chinese propaganda poster portrays Mao Zedong as the
a larger self, whether national or even divine. Both declare
sun, with representatives of China’s various ethnic groups hold-
in different ways and possibly to different ends that each
ing Mao’s Little Red Book. The text declares “Chairman Mao is
person is incomplete in him or herself and only more fully
the everlasting red sun in our hearts.” [©Ric Ergenbright/Corbis]
alive and purposeful as part of a larger self.

Images are often charged with the task of encourag-
ing the submission of individual interest to the interest of
the community. Clearly, this is the message of the Maoist
poster (l) in which Chairman Mao Zedong radiates light
like a solar deity above a smiling crowd of China’s many
ethnic peoples, several of whom conspicuously display
copies of Mao’s Little Red Book. Self-effacing obedi-
ence was part of Chinese Confucian tradition. Obliga-
tion to ancestors, parents, and superiors is the focus of
Confucianism, but, in contrast to Mao’s dictatorship,
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(m) Remonstration before the Emperor, handscroll, ink on silk,
authority was not unchecked. In the Chinese illustrated
China, from Li Kung-lin, The Classic of Filial Piety, chapter
scroll entitled The Classic of Filial Piety (m) a minister
15, 1085 ce. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ex coll.: C. C.
remonstrates with his sovereign, but while doing so he
Wang Family, from the P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Family
bows very low and avoids the sovereign’s superior gaze. All
Collection, Gift of Oscar L. Tang Family, 1996 (1996.479a-c).
spectators avert their eyes from the ruler out of respect for
Photograph by Malcolm Varon. [Photograph ©1991 The
his authority, but also perhaps to absent themselves from
Metropolitan Museum of Art]
his wrath or embarrassment as he is called delicately to
task. Authority is a socially enacted reality, bestowed by all
members of a society, even though not equally, nor with
the same benefit, to everyone.
Fong, Wen C. Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Callig-
raphy, 8th–14th Century. New York and New Haven, 1992.
Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. New York and Engle-
wood Cliffs, N.J., 1993.
Phillips, Ruth B. Representing Women: Sande Masquerades of the
Mende of Sierra Leone. Los Angeles, 1995.
Phillips, Susan A. Wallbangin’: Graffiti and Gangs in L.A. Chicago,
Silverman, Raymond A., ed. Ethiopia: Traditions of Creativity. East
Lansing, Mich., 1999.
Sturken, Marita. “The Wall, the Screen, and the Image: The Viet-
nam Veterans Memorial.” In The Visual Culture Reader, 2d ed.,
edited by Nicholas Mirzoeff, pp. 357–70. London, 2002.
David Morgan ()
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This entry consists of the following articles:
The scope and antiquity of goddess worship are remarkable. Female sacred images are
associated with some of the oldest archaeological evidence for religious expression and
they still have efficacy in the contemporary world. Goddess images are depicted in a wide
range of forms, from aniconic representations, such as abstract organs of reproduction,
to fully elaborated icons decorated with the finery of monarchy. They are linked to all
major aspects of life, including birth, initiation, marriage, reproduction, and death. They
display the elaborate variegation of religious experiences in different cultural contexts. A
historical survey reveals goddess worship to be a continuous phenomenon, despite period-
ic ebbs and tides during certain critical epochs.
cal evidence for the human religious impulse consists of sculptured images and cave paint-
ings of female figures excavated in hundreds of Upper Paleolithic sites throughout Europe
and northern Asia, including France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, the Ukraine, and
Siberia. These images, carved in bone, stone, antler and mammoth tusks, outnumber
those of male figures ten to one. They have been identified sometimes as part of an elabo-
rate and pervasive worship of goddesses; they are commonly known as “Venuses,” after
the Roman goddess of love and beauty. The interpretation of these artifacts remains con-
troversial today.
C LOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT CORNER. The Court of the Lions in the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
[©E.O. Hoppé/Corbis]; Sixth-century BCE marble relief of Aphrodite, Artemis, and Apollo from
the east frieze of the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi, Greece. Archaeological Museum, Delphi.
[©Erich Lessing/Art Resource, N.Y.]; Eleventh-century Byzantine mosaic of the Madonna and
Child at Hosios Loukas Monastery in Boeotia, Greece. [The Art Archive/Dagli Orti]; Gan:e´sa,
twelfth to thirteenth century, from Mysore, India. De Young Memorial Museum, San
Francisco. [©Werner Forman/Art Resource, N.Y.]; The Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens,
Greece. [©Bettmann/Corbis] .

Some Venuses have been discovered in Aurignacian de-
es, which may be connected in some way with the menstrual
posits as old as thirty to forty thousand years. However, they
appear more frequently about 25,000 years ago. Remarkably,
Other permutations include the various female images
these same goddess figurines have been unearthed from sites
painted on cave walls that have some association with ani-
dated as late as the early Neolithic period. One of the earliest
mals and a variety of different symbols and markings of prob-
of these figurines, found in the Dordogne region of France,
able notational significance. A number of abstracted images
was estimated to be thirty-two thousand years old, roughly
of female buttocks have been found in various sites, some-
the age of the famous cave art of that period and situated one
times with breasts and torsos. In one Italian grave site, for
level above Neanderthal artifacts associated with what are be-
instance, a decorated bone pendant in the shape of female
lieved to be ceremonial burials. This “pregnant” figure was
buttocks was found. The image is well worn, and it seems
carved from reindeer antler and is marked by a series of small
to have been used for some purpose during the life of its
notches that do not appear to be purely decorative. One can-
wearer and then placed among various other ceremonial
not be sure how to interpret this figurine, though it might
burial objects, including two other crudely carved goddess
be part of an elaborate cult associated with later discoveries
images made especially for the burial.
of the same type.
There is a great range of evidence for goddess worship
The Venuses have been widely interpreted as evidence
in the Upper Paleolithic era. The character of this worship
of a single phenomenon, fertility symbolism. Some scholars
is largely uncertain, and no single interpretation is adequate.
have lumped these prehistoric figurines together with a later
The figurines may have been associated with pregnancy,
so-called Great Goddess complex and the emergence of agri-
birth, burial, fertility, initiation, hunting, and the menstrual
culture. Most archaeologists, however, hestitate to treat all
cycle; they may even have had some erotic function. Al-
these female images as fertility symbols, because they are the
though they represent a prominent element in the religious
product of a wide variety of peoples with different economic
life of this period, it is erroneous to isolate these female figu-
systems, cultural traditions, and languages. Perhaps the Ve-
rines from other important and associated imagery, such as
nuses had a great variety of meanings, both within the differ-
animals, male images, and undeciphered markings. Nor can
ent cultural contexts in which they were found and depend-
one make the further leap of suggesting that this rich collec-
ing on the time period. Each of these images must be read
tion of sacred female images constitutes proof of an early
in the context of its archaeological provenience. Thus, theo-
stage of matriarchy; the symbolism of these images tells noth-
ries that the Venuses represent an ancient, widespread cult
ing clear about male or female roles in the social organization
of “fertility magic” are oversimplifications. Current research
of Upper Paleolithic cultures.
suggests that the Venuses may be associated with a wide
range of phenomena involving women, such as maturation,
menstruation, copulation, pregnancy, birth, and lactation.
AGRICULTURE. The most noteworthy fact about Neolithic
They are not to be treated separately or isolated in any way
goddess worship is its strong continuity with earlier Upper
from other artifacts of the same period that represent some
Paleolithic configurations. Gradually Paleolithic goddess
type of “storied event.”
symbolism was transformed to fit into the complex of human
needs generated by increasingly agricultural and urbanized
The Neolithic goddess figurines take different forms.
forms of social organization. Most sources date the Neolithic
Some are thin and geometric, representing snake and bird
era around ten thousand to four thousand years ago; it was
goddesses. These water and air deities were likely cosmic
marked by the appearance of ground stone tools and the do-
symbols of the regeneration of life. Other figurines are face-
mestication of plants and animals in Europe, North Africa,
less, unclothed, and corpulent. Still others appear to be con-
the Middle East, and throughout various parts of Asia. The
spicuously pregnant, with exaggerated breasts and large but-
female images found in Neolithic sites represent the continu-
tocks. The most famous of these figurines, the Venus of
ity of traditions from earlier Mesolithic and Upper Paleolith-
Willendorf (Austria), is often taken to be typical of Upper
ic cultures. Chevrons, meanders, serpentine and spiral de-
Paleolithic mother-goddess figures. This image is four and
signs associated with Neolithic goddesses are all familiar
three-eighths inches high, made of soft stone, faceless, fat,
motifs prefigured in Paleolithic female images. Also, it ap-
but not apparently pregnant; it appears to have been painted
pears that the Neolithic goddesses who were linked to lunar
with red ocher. However, the diversity of female images is
mythology are derived from earlier roots. Many of the Neo-
marked; not all are full iconic representations. There is a vari-
lithic goddess figurines are corpulent, like their Upper Paleo-
ety of images of female body parts such as sculptured breasts
lithic predecessors; they are connected also to the supply of
(from sites in Czechoslovakia) marked with curious notches
wild animals, but by this time with the addition of domesti-
that may have been either notational or decorative—some of
cated animals such as the dog, bull, and male goat as well.
these were worn as a string of beads, others as a single pen-
Some of these Neolithic figurines are pregnant, seated on a
dant. Abstracted images of vulvas have also been unearthed
throne, representing goddesses of vegetation. In general, they
in France, Spain, and Italy. Some are forked images, others
are composite images, sharing the traits of both preagricul-
are shaped like disks, and all have clear, finely marked notch-
tural and agricultural societies. Also noteworthy is a comple-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

mentarity between male and female images—one is not sub-
ricultural societies female deities have been variously linked
ordinate to the other.
to the fertility of crops, the sovereignty of kingship, the pro-
tection of urban ceremonial centers, and the waging of war-
The complex imagery of the Neolithic era was centered
fare against enemies.
around females and animals, as illustrated by evidence from
the famous Anatolian site of Çatal Hüyük, excavated by
India. No civilization in the world developed goddess
James Mellaart in 1961–1963. This Neolithic settlement lo-
worship so elaborately as did India. Terra-cotta figurines of
cated in southern Turkey is dated from the seventh to sixth
mother goddesses have been found in the Indus Valley, dated
millennium BCE. Its more than forty shrines, distributed
at 2500 to 1500 BCE, along with abstract stone rings repre-
through nine building levels, have yielded a wealth of infor-
senting the yoni and lingam, prototypes for the later god S´iva
mation about Neolithic religion. The evidence displays a
and his female consort. Goddesses rarely functioned sepa-
clear cultic continuity associated with a mother goddess and
rately from male divinities in ancient India. Nor was goddess
accompanying male deities. In some shrines at Çatal Hüyük
worship the central theme in the development of Indian civi-
the goddess is depicted as being supported by leopards or giv-
lization except during periodic episodes of florescence. In-
ing birth to a bull, which was a male deity. This association
deed, the goddess does not appear as a major focus in Indian
of goddesses with male deities is unusual at Neolithic sites;
literature until 600 BCE, in a legend recorded in the Kena
they usually appear without a male counterpart.
Upanis:ad. Not until much later, probably the seventh centu-
ry CE, did goddess worship emerge as a somewhat separate
The statuettes at Çatal Hüyük suggest that goddesses
cult in Hinduism and eventually in Tibetan Buddhism. This
were connected variously with pregnancy, birth, ritual mar-
Tantric expression of goddess worship was particularly
riage, and command over wild animals. Images of stylized fe-
strong in eastern India where it continues to flourish today,
male breasts similar to Upper Paleolithic figurines have also
though somewhat less intensely than formerly.
been found here. The principal deity of this Neolithic site
is a goddess represented in three forms, as a young woman,
At no point in the development of Indian civilization
a mother giving birth, and an old woman. There are also sev-
was goddess worship completely separate from devotion to
eral images of twin goddesses, with one of the two portrayed
male deities. The Hindu rajas wielded power through the
in the process of giving birth.
manipulation of icons of major male deities such as Su¯rya,
Vis:n:u, or S´iva. While these gods had female consorts who
In other Neolithic shrines, goddesses appear as bird and
were worshiped alongside them, goddesses usually played a
snake deities connected to rain and water. Further recent evi-
secondary though by no means unimportant role as images
dence of Neolithic goddess worship comes from a village site
of cultural identity. No doubt at the village level there has
presently being excavated outside of Amman, Jordan. Here
been a long, relatively unbroken continuity of goddess wor-
an international team of archaeologists has unearthed a series
ship extending back to Neolithic times. Local village god-
of plaster figurines three feet tall with startled expressions on
desses were besought (as they continue to be today) to in-
their faces, along with fifty animal figurines, two adorned
crease human fertility, to cause or cure diseases, to bring
plaster skulls, and three Venuses. One of the statues is of a
about good fortune, to enhance the productivity of crops, or
nude female standing and pushing up her breasts with her
to destroy demons. Yet, at the more exalted level of courts
hand. This image may foreshadow the later cult of the god-
and kings, these female deities played a less prominent role.
dess Astarte, who was widely worshiped in the area.
Up until the early part of this century many rajas incorporat-
The question has to be raised as to whether these Neo-
ed tribal peoples into their spheres of influence by worship-
lithic goddesses were part of a single cult complex spread
ing local goddesses, but this royal patronage of goddess wor-
across Europe and the Middle East or whether they represent
ship was usually accompanied by an even stronger devotion
different traditions entirely. In some places they are associat-
on the part of the raja to the sect of a male deity. Thus, it
ed with ancestor worship, death, and the afterlife; in others
would be erroneous to conceive of Indian goddess worship
they are related to the emergence of agriculture and the fertil-
as a distinct component in the development of Indian civili-
ity of crops. In still others, they represent developmental
zation. The widely known Hindu goddesses such as
functions, as they had in the Upper Paleolithic era. Whatever
Sarasvat¯ı, Laks:m¯ı, and Pa¯rvat¯ı rarely stand alone. Only Ka¯l¯ı
the answer may be to this question, one thing is clear. God-
and Can:d:¯ı, the more ferocious aspects of female divinity, be-
dess worship is not, as some scholars have suggested, an inno-
come focal points for separate worship. Even in these cases
vation that appeared suddenly in the Neolithic period with
the goddess rarely acts as a primary source for establishing
the emergence of agriculture, which these scholars then see
the legitimacy of kingship.
as a woman-controlled form of subsistence.
The ancient Near East. In the ancient Near East the
phenomenon of goddess worship displayed an even more
TIONS. Goddess worship has played a central role in the
elaborate and subtle set of nuances. Here are encountered
worldwide transition from small-scale social organization to
several distinct civilizations, some having borrowed heavily
the emergence of civilizations in India, the ancient Near
from each other. A number of goddesses were prominent in
East, Greece, Rome, China, and Japan. In these complex ag-
ancient Egypt: Nut, goddess of the sky and consort 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

earth god, Geb; the goddess Neith, patroness of victorious
of the Sumerian pantheon. In this urban context, Inanna be-
weapons and the art of weaving; Isis, goddess of wisdom; and
came a focal point for the full emergence of life in city-states,
Hathor, another sky goddess who assumed various forms.
and she assumed the regal responsibility for victory in war
Some of these goddesses were deeply entwined in the devel-
and the redistribution of resources among urban peoples.
opment and continuity of divine kingship. The name Isis, for
Often these functions have been allotted to male deities in
instance, is related linguistically to the term for “chair” or
other traditions, as in the case of the Hindu gods S´iva and
“throne.” The throne or “holy seat” of the pharaoh was the
“mother of the king.” The pharaohs thought themselves to
be sons of Isis. Later Isis became linked to the god Osiris.
Inanna is identified with the Semitic goddess Ishtar and
The heroic story depicts Isis’s famous search for her mur-
the West Semitic goddess Astarte. These deities, along with
dered husband’s corpse, her discovery of it, and his resurrec-
the Canaanite goddesses Asherah and Anat (a wrathful war-
tion. Eventually Isis became universalized as a benevolent
like deity), were worshiped by the early Hebrew people. It
goddess of the harvest. Her cult spread from Egypt to Greece
is certain that the early Israelites worshiped the Canaanite
and throughout the Roman Empire. By 300 BCE the cult of
goddess Asherah; even Solomon praised the pillars represent-
Isis had become a popular mystery religion, with secret initia-
ing this deity, and his son Rehoboam erected an image of her
tion rites promising salvation and rebirth.
in the temple at Jerusalem. Probably the female deities of the
early monarchic period did not disppear but were changed
Another stream in the ancient Near Eastern tradition of
into different forms, despite repeated efforts to reestablish a
goddess worship flows from the Mesopotamian civilization
strong monotheism in Judaism in the biblical period. Rapha-
located on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. In that area the
el Patai (1967) has argued that various disguises are assumed
goddess Inanna was worshiped; she was the queen of heaven
by the goddess in later Judaism: she appeared in the form of
and earth and the goddess of love, and she was profoundly
the cherubim (depicted as man and woman in an erotic em-
involved in the rise of Sumerian state-level social organiza-
brace); in images of Yahveh’s wife Astarte; as the one and
tion. Although she was one of many goddesses of ancient
only God having two aspects, male and female; and in the
Sumer, Inanna outlasted and overshadowed them all. Also
form of the Shekhinah (the personified presence of God on
known as Ishtar and later worshiped by different Semitic
earth). In this latter form, the Shekhinah argues with God
peoples, Inanna had very ancient roots. She was part of an
in defense of man; she is sometimes manifested as Wisdom
amalgamation of Sumerian and Akkadian religious and po-
and at other times as the Holy Spirit. The feminine element
litical beliefs, extending back to 3000 BCE or possibly further,
played an important role in qabbalistic thought, especially
and she is connected to the fertility of crops, the emergence
in the thirteenth-century Zohar, which stressed the
of increasing sedentary patterns of social organization, and
Shekhinah as female divine entity; she was also referred to
the development of the first urban centers.
there as Matronit (“divine matron”). The Shekhinah was
In the late nineteenth century the world’s oldest texts
seen as an intermediary between God and the scattered peo-
on cuneiform clay tablets were unearthed after having been
ples of Israel and was widely accepted in Jewish communities
buried for at least four thousand years. Some of these texts
in the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, when Qabbalah had
tell the life story of Inanna from adolescence through wom-
widely felt influence. According to Patai, the complex con-
anhood and her eventual apotheosis. The texts are extremely
cept in Qabbalah that the Shekhinah and God are one, fil-
rich; they reveal the sexual fears and desires of the goddess,
tered down to the Jewish masses, led to the simplified belief
an elaborate history of kinship among various deities in her
in her as a goddess.
family tree, her power as queen of Sumer, and her responsi-
Although the early Israelites engaged in the worship of
bilities for the redistribution of resources and fertility of the
female deities, at some point goddess worship was removed
earth. Inanna’s cult was centered at the ancient temple city
from the religious tradition. Whether one places this purge
of Uruk. Here archaeologists have provided evidence for the
of the goddess early in Judaism or posits a disguised form of
earliest known urban civilization, dated 3900–3500 BCE and
goddess worship that was retained for centuries and then fi-
characterized by monumental temple architecture and the
nally removed, the really important question is why the phe-
first writing. The oldest shrine of Uruk was dedicated to In-
nomenon was eliminated from the tradition at all. Some
anna, as were numerous later temples. She was the supreme
feminist scholars have argued that this purge of the feminine
patroness of the city. Though related to other deities, she re-
represents a repression of women. However, the phenome-
tained a certain degree of independence. Inanna’s shrine was
non can be explained also by the purely theological argument
the focus of considerable economic activity and the redistri-
that monotheism requires the loss of all “extraneous” deities,
bution of resources characteristic of urban life.
no matter what gender. This raises yet another question.
Unlike the female divinities of India and Egypt, the
Why has none of the monotheistic religions worshiped a
goddess Inanna, who was most likely derived from Neolithic
feminine deity as its centerpiece? Could there be some truth
and possibly even earlier Paleolithic roots, played the princi-
to the often asserted position that monotheism represents a
pal role in the religious tradition of an urban society. She was
final ideological phase in the evolution of complex state-level
considered to have equal status with the sky god, An, head
civilizations? If this were true, how then does one explain 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

dian civilization, which is clearly a state-level form of social
principles, derived from Tantric Hinduism, has resulted in
organization, but is neither monotheistic nor associated with
a large number of goddesses who are intimately related to
an exclusively dominant male divinity? Perhaps the gender
their male counterparts as consorts. Some goddesses, howev-
of deities has little, if anything, to do with the social structure
er, retain a certain degree of autonomy and represent inde-
in which they are manifested. Such questions require further
pendent deities. This is the case of the goddess Tara, a female
research from different theoretical perspectives.
bodhisattva who became a universal protectress. In Chinese
Pure Land Buddhism, Guanyin, goddess of mercy, is also
Greece. In Greece, the rebirth theme is found in the El-
considered to be a bodhisattva. She is a principal teacher, a
eusinian mystery cult associated with the earth goddess, De-
savior who can give her devotees assurance of enlightenment
meter. However, instead of the rebirth of a male deity, a fe-
and carry believers to the western paradise of O-mi-tEo-fo’s
male deity is reborn: Demeter’s daughter, Persephone, is
Pure Land. This goddess continues to be worshiped through-
resurrected after her abduction by Hades, lord of the under-
out China and in Japanese Buddhism.
world. The pre-Olympian goddesses of Greece were usually
connected to vegetation rituals. A prime example was Gaia,
The tradition of goddess worship is well established in
earth mother and chthonic mother of the gods. This deity
Japan, not only in Buddhism, but also in Japanese Shinto¯,
was associated with the oracle at Delphi before the oracle be-
where many male and female nature deities are propitiated.
came exclusively Apollo’s. Her rituals included animal sacri-
In Shinto¯ the world was created by a divine creator couple,
fices, offerings of grain and fruit, and ecstatic possession
the god Izanagi and the goddess Izanami. They gave birth
trance. Many of the later Greek goddesses emerged from pre-
to the sun goddess Amaterasu and her brother Susano-o no
Hellenic earth goddesses like Gaia. The famous twelve deities
Mikoto, god of storms, along with other nature deities. Ama-
of Olympus included the goddesses Hera, Athena, Aphrodi-
terasu eventually became the cult deity of the Japanese royal
te, Hestia, Artemis, and Demeter. These Olympian goddess-
family, retaining both her Shinto¯ function as sun goddess
es were each given distinct roles to play in accordance with
and a new role as Shining Buddha of Heaven. Until this cen-
their earlier spheres of influence. The original chthonic as-
tury the emperor of Japan was considered to be the descen-
pects of these goddesses were diminished as they became sub-
dant on earth of Amaterasu. He was charged to keep peace
ordinated in the Olympian hierarchy ruled by Zeus. No lon-
in the world and to support her major pilgrimage shrine, lo-
ger was each goddess an organic link to the generative forces
cated at Ise.
of life and death. Instead, she became highly compartmental-
This survey of archaic goddess worship points to the di-
ized in her new role in the male-dominated Olympian pan-
versity of the roles goddess worship has played in the devel-
theon. This compartmentalization demarcates a transforma-
opment of civilizations. In some parts of the world goddesses
tion in the role of goddess worship in the development of
were central in the emergence of urbanism and kingship.
Greek civilization.
Elsewhere they were secondary consorts of male divinities or
Rome. There was a strong identification of Greek dei-
vestiges of mystery cults associated with earlier shamanistic
ties with Roman deities. Most Greek goddesses had their
religion. Sometimes they represented a continuity with Neo-
Roman counterparts. In 204 BCE Roman aristocrats officially
lithic and Paleolithic traditions or were transposed and re-
adopted the foreign cult of the Anatolian goddess Cybele,
conceived as the bearers of complex social organization—
later to be known as the Magna Mater (Great Mother). On
waging warfare, presiding over the collection of taxes and
April 4 of that year the image of the goddess was carried into
controlling the redistribution of resources. The emergence
the city by Roman matrons, a temple was erected, and she
of virtually every major civilization was associated in some
was installed as a national Roman deity. Only self-castrated
way with goddess worship. While there may not be a single
foreign priests were allowed to serve in the temples dedicated
“Great Goddess” worshiped universally, the ubiquity of the
to Cybele, because Roman citizens were forbidden to be
phenomenon remains unbroken from Paleolithic times.
priests until the reign of Emperor Claudius (41–54 CE).
Driven by Cybele, his angry mother, Attis died of self-
worship of female sacred images is found in some form or
castration and then returned to life in response to his moth-
other throughout the world, except in those societies domi-
er’s intense mourning. This death and rebirth theme was cel-
nated by Islam or certain branches of Protestantism. Even in
ebrated during a series of holidays at the beginning of spring;
cultures heavily influenced by iconoclastic secular move-
the rituals included a procession carrying a pine tree (repre-
ments vestiges of goddess worship remain. For instance,
senting the dead Attis) into the temple of the Magna Mater,
Joanna Hubbs (in Preston, 1982, pp. 123–144) traces im-
violent ritual mourning, a celebration of the rebirth of Attis,
ages of a divine feminine in contemporary Russian folk art,
and the bathing of Cybele’s statue.
film, and literature, noting strong national themes that con-
tinued to thrive in the Soviet era.
China and Japan. The Vajraya¯na tradition of Tantric
Buddhism in Tibet and Mongolia is widely associated with
Goddess worship is represented widely in the Hindu,
goddess worship. Male and female manifestations of the di-
Buddhist, and Shinto¯ countries of Asia. Catholic Europe is
vine power are depicted as opposite but complementary as-
replete with pilgrimage shrines devoted to the Virgin Mary;
pects of each other. This dynamic tension of male and female
some of these are associated with earlier pagan goddesses,
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

while others represent a postindustrial flourishing of Marian-
goddess worship is within human experience. They each de-
ism during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
serve special attention.
Even in North America, where Protestantism predominates,
Virginity. In some parts of the world female deities are
sacred female imagery is venerated in Catholic enclaves, like
associated with virginity, purity, and perfect piety. This tra-
the large pilgrimage shrine devoted to Saint Anne de Beaupré
dition is strongly represented in several religions. In Hindu-
in Quebec, Canada. In the United States a quarter of a mil-
ism, Kannagi, goddess of chastity, symbolizes the sacredness
lion pilgrims a year visit the Shrine of the North American
of motherhood, which is linked to pure Tamil ethnic identi-
Martyrs (in Auriesville, New York), a composite pilgrimage
ty, language, justice, and politics. The Tamil concept of
site devoted to the Jesuit martyrs along with the American
chastity connotes not asexuality but sacred power. Another
Indian Kateri Tekakwitha, “Lily of the Mohawks,” who is
example of the Hindu virginity theme is found in Nepal and
a candidate for canonization. A˚ke Hultkrantz (in Olson,
India where Kuma¯r pu¯ja¯, the worship of a premenstrual girl
1983, p. 202) notes an extensive pattern of goddess worship
as the embodiment of a goddess, has been a tradition of some
among American Indians despite the widespread misconcep-
frequency until recent years. The combination of two seem-
tion that these religions are mostly oriented around male dei-
ingly contradictory themes—virginity and motherhood—
ties. Native American goddesses are often earth mothers
was evident among ancient Near Eastern goddesses such as
linked to the cultivation of corn. Goddess worship played an
Inanna, Ishtar, and Anat. These goddesses were simulta-
important role in ancient Aztec, Maya, and Inca civilizations,
neously chaste, promiscuous, nurturant, and warlike. While
traces of which continue to thrive in descendant Mesoameri-
the Virgin Mary is never portrayed as being promiscuous, she
can populations. The goddess Tonantsi remains today a vi-
sometimes embodies and exhibits a continuity with the attri-
brant focus of worship among the Nahuatl of Mexico (rem-
butes of these earlier goddesses; she is pious, intercedes, pro-
nants of the great Toltec and Aztec civilizations). Here
tects the community, bears children, is virginal, and enters
goddess worship expresses its typical syncretic pattern; im-
from time to time into the world to do battle against the
ages of Tonantsi are displayed on altars alongside Christian
forces of evil. The apparent contradiction in the juxtaposi-
sacred images, like the statue of Joseph, who is considered
tion of virginity and motherhood dissolves if the doctrine of
by the Nahuatl to be a son of the goddess.
the Immaculate Conception is taken to “reinforce the dogma
Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean a pattern
that the Virgin’s child is the son of God” (Leach, 1966,
of syncretism involving goddess worship is evident. Particu-
p. 42). The divine mother is not a mere projection of human
larly widespread is the transformation of local Indian god-
motherhood; female divinities give birth, but, unlike human
desses into Marian images. The best-known example of this
mothers, they are rarely considered to be polluted by the
syncretic expression is the famous Roman Catholic pilgrim-
event because of their supernatural status.
age icon of the dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe, whose
Motherhood. Another dimension of goddess worship
shrine was built on the site of a temple once dedicated to the
that enjoys widespread representation is the role of nurturant
Aztec goddess Tonantsi. Goddesses are prominent in some
female divinities as god bearers and sources of both carnal
African tribal religions. Daniel F. McCall (in Preston, 1982,
and spiritual life. Deities of the ancient Greek and Roman
pp. 304–322) traces the diffusion of Neolithic goddesses
world gave birth to gods, occasionally by having intercourse
from Southwest Asia to West Africa, where they became vari-
with humans. The earlier pagan role of god bearer finds con-
ously syncretized with local deities and were absorbed into
tinuity in Mary’s capacity as theotokos, mother of the incar-
Akan, Yoruba, and Igbo religious traditions.
nate divinity; here Mary becomes a human partner in the un-
folding nature of God. Consequently she is the supreme
WORSHIP. A comparative study of this vast array of types of
intercessor with God on behalf of individuals who seek her
goddess worship reveals certain common themes and distinct
assistance. The nurturing power of the divine feminine has
differences in the ways female deities are experienced. They
very ancient manifestations, extending back to Neolithic
are worshiped as nurturant or punishing mothers, protectors
goddesses, whose theriomorphic form was the cow. The nur-
of community, images of national identity, sources for the
turing goddess is often associated with mother’s milk, which
resolution of human problems, symbols of virginity and pu-
gives life and has strong curative powers. A. J. Weeramunda
rity, the origins of the fertility of crops and human beings,
(in Preston, 1982, pp. 251–262) describes the milk-
mediators between humans and male divinities, and sources
overflowing ceremony in Sri Lanka, which is a ritual means
for healing. None of these attributes is assigned to every god-
for bringing health, both to individuals and the Sinhala com-
dess, although they frequently recapitulate one another and
munity. Here the goddess, symbolized by milk, stands for
cluster together. The nurturing power, for instance, is associ-
matrilineal kinship, mother’s blood, bodily health, and inte-
ated often with the fertility of crops and conceived to be the
gration of community. This ancient theme is recapitulated
source of community identity, but this pattern is not found
in Roman, Greek, and Coptic tales of miracles worked by
everywhere. The following is a survey of common features
the Virgin Mary that refer to the milk from her breasts and
identifiable with goddess worship throughout the world.
the power of her tears to cure diseases.
While they are not universal characteristics of the phenome-
Wifehood. Goddesses are depicted frequently as wives
non, these common features demonstrate how deeply rooted
and consorts. Sometimes as consort she is subservient to her
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

partner. However, the goddess may be raised to the powerful
of S´iva) that fell to earth when her corpse was divided up by
position of queen and protectress. In India, each year
the gods to prevent S´iva from going mad with grief. In Oris-
Jaganna¯tha is said to argue with his jealous wife Laks:m¯ı after
sa, in eastern India, women behave as though they are men-
he has returned from a visit to other deities in the neighbor-
struating during the three days when the earth mother men-
hood. Here Laks:m¯ı is portrayed as a nagging wife. However,
struates; nor is it uncommon in India for men to avoid tilling
the role of consort to a male deity may be only secondary
the fields when the goddess is menstruating.
for a goddess. Inanna, the supreme goddess of ancient
Fertility. This leads to another widespread characteris-
Sumer, was queen of heaven and earth foremost; her role as
tic of goddesses; namely, their power over the fertility of soil,
wife to Dumuzi, the shepherd king, was less important. In-
the fecundity of women, and a plentiful food supply. The
anna’s power was evident in the prolonged Sumerian New
ancient Neolithic city of Çatal Hüyük offers evidence for
Year celebration that culminated in the sacred marriage rite
goddesses of the hunt and the abundance of crops. Alexander
of the goddess Inanna to the reigning monarch, a rite de-
Marshack (1972, p. 355) speculates that the Neolithic god-
signed to ensure the fertility of soil and womb.
dess, as mistress of animals, is prefigured in female images
Protection. One of the most widespread and significant
from the Upper Paleolithic era where goddesses are displayed
roles of female deities is the tripartite function of protectress,
holding animal horns that have been stained with red ocher.
monarch, and emblematic symbol. This pattern contrasts
Goddesses remain associated with the abundance of food
with gentler, more nurturant motifs like fertility and healing.
even today. The Inuit (Eskimo) goddess Sedna is an example;
The Chinese Buddhist goddess Guanyin is a popular domes-
if angered by sins committed in the community she with-
tic deity who is considered also to be a bodhisattva and celes-
holds the supply of sea animals. According to Hultkrantz, the
tial bureaucrat. The Virgin of Gaudalupe provides a famous
American Indian conception of the mother goddess as mis-
example of the emblematic, integrative, and protective role
tress of animals was changed by the introduction of horticul-
of the sacred female image. During the fight for Mexican in-
ture about 2000 BCE, when she began to be identified with
dependence, loyalists carried the banner of the Virgin of Re-
the cultivation of maize, beans, squash, gourds, and other
medios while their opponents marched into battle with the
crops. In Europe corn-mother images have been placed in
banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe; soldiers polarized be-
fields by peasants for hundreds of years. This concern with
tween the two shot at the banner of the “enemy” virgin. In
the fertility of the earth is repeated in the widespread associa-
many parts of the world female sacred images assume highly
tion of goddess worship with human fertility. Barren women
specialized protective qualities; the Daoist goddess Mazu is
in Europe, India, Africa, and many other parts of the world
protectress of fishermen and sailors who face the dangerous
turn to female divinities to ask for aid in pregnancy. Here
storm-ridden Taiwanese Straits; in Spain Our Lady of Ma-
goddesses become a source of life so that the human commu-
carena is protectress of bullfighters; the goddess Amaterasu
nity may be sustained. The ability to bear a large number of
was the supreme national guardian deity of Japan. The Black
children is often a sign of status in agricultural societies
Madonna of Czestochowa continues to be considered queen
where abundant human labor enhances the wealth of a fami-
of Poland, her image is worn on badges by members of the
ly unit. Thus, some form of goddess worship for the purpose
Solidarity movement, and she is highly revered as a focus of
of bearing children is often widespread in these societies.
pilgrimage by millions of Polish Catholics, including Pope
Healing. If goddesses can give life they can also take it
John Paul II.
away. They are frequently supplicated for curing diseases.
The Indian goddess S´itala¯ not only cures smallpox, she is
Earth goddess. Some scholars have attempted to link
considered to be its source and requires elaborate rituals to
the gender of deities with natural phenomena, typically asso-
cool her anger, which causes the disease. Thus, Hindu people
ciating female deities with the earth and male deities with the
both fear and adore her. The healing of wounds, prayers for
sun. Although this pattern is widespread, there are several
health, and the quest for wholeness are so universally associ-
noteworthy exceptions. For instance, the ancient Egyptian
ated with goddess worship that this aspect requires special
goddess Nut was conceived to be a sky deity whose partner,
scholarly attention.
Geb, was an earth god. According to C. Jouco Bleeker (in
Olson, 1983, p. 31) Egyptian goddesses were not believed
Why are female deities more frequently invoked than
to be intrinsically earth mothers. The Japanese Shinto¯ god-
male deities for purposes of healing? The obvious answer is
dess Amaterasu, who is identified with the sun rather than
that goddesses tend to be attributed more often with overall
earth, is another example. Thus, the general rule that god-
nurturant qualities. They are the primary and original
desses are earth mothers is clearly not without exception.
sources of life, like human mothers, and they consequently
There is considerable evidence from ancient times that god-
represent a reprieve from the more painful realities of death,
desses were associated with various natural phenomena, par-
decay, and disease. Yet, as been already observed, goddesses
ticularly the sea, the earth, and the phases of the moon. The
are linked also to the darker experiences in the human condi-
many pit:has associated with goddesses in India are linked to
tion. There must be an even more subtle reason for the ubiq-
the earth. Each of these pilgrimage sites devoted to goddesses
uity of the healing function attributed to female deities. In
is considered to be a fragment of Sat¯ı’s body (the dead wife
traditions where the female is subordinate to the male (and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

this is quite widespread), the worship of female sacred imag-
goddess worship are found in many of the world’s religions.
ery represents an embracing of the whole field of symbolic
Artemis and Medusa evoked similar responses among the an-
potentials and the bringing together of opposites. While
cient Greeks. Also, the Middle Eastern goddesses Ishtar and
male deities are approached during the course of everyday life
Isis were considered to have a terrible aspect associated with
for the favors required to sustain a worldly existence, female
the cosmic dark forces. The Aztec goddess Ilamatecuhtli was
divinities become the focus for ongoing sustenance of the in-
one of several deities associated with death.
dividual or local family.
The theme of ambivalence is further elaborated in the
It is no accident that female deities are strongly repre-
concept of vagina dentata (“vagina with teeth”) where the
sented in home rituals, in roadside shrines, and at local pil-
womb of the earth goddess appears to have a devouring
grimage sites in many parts of the world. Surinder M. Bhard-
mouth. For example, when the goddess is angry, she who is
waj (1973) has demonstrated this point for Hinduism,
the source of life can take it away as slayer of life. The vessel
noting how pilgrimage shrines devoted to goddesses are visit-
of procreation becomes a tomb. Death by absorption into
ed by pilgrims more on a subregional basis for the purpose
the vagina dentata is not always a punishment for wrongdo-
of curing diseases and asking for small favors, while pilgrim-
ing. Sometimes the devouring womb represents the necessary
age to the shrines of male deities is almost always at the re-
death of the old order to establish a new social and religious
gional or national level and for the purpose of darshan (Skt.,
organization. In these cases, entry into the vagina dentata is
darsana; “sight of the deity”) rather than a quest for cures.
a rite of initiation leading through a dangerous passage along
Not only is the mother more accessible and nurturant than
a path toward new birth. The violent act of being swallowed
the more distant father, she is the completion of a process
by an earth deity is a tradition found in many American Indi-
by which the individual embraces the whole religious field,
an religions, among the Australian Aborigines, in Hinduism,
including both gods and goddesses who constitute not sepa-
and in various parts of Africa and Polynesia.
rate but complementary parts of a unified whole.
One of the most interesting rites associated with god-
Violence and anger. The ambivalence associated with
dess worship is the widespread but not universal practice of
certain types of goddess worship is characteristic of another
blood sacrifice, which is found in some form or other in most
major theme in this survey. Because female divinities can
religious traditions. While sacrifice is not confined to the
take away life, they sometimes display a vengeful, angry, and
veneration of female deities, it is represented widely in god-
terrifying aspect. Such goddesses are identified with dark oc-
dess worship traditions. The sacrifice of blood, whether of
cult powers, sacrifice, and death. Usually the darker aspects
human or animal origin, has been linked to goddess worship
of goddesses are consonant with nurturing qualities. The Ba-
from ancient times. Sacrifice is widely celebrated in that
linese Hindu goddess Rangda, the witch, is an exception to
brand of goddess worship where female deities are portrayed
this rule. She is linked to the terrible and fearful powers of
as angry, vengeful, or punishing. Ka¯l¯ı and Durga¯ in the
divine origin. Rangda, whose name means “widow,” is asso-
Hindu pantheon are deities of this kind. In contemporary
ciated with her husband’s death. She is constantly doing bat-
India large numbers of goats, buffalo, chickens, and other
tle with her archenemy Barong the dragon. Elaborate ritual
animals are offered to these deities to satisfy their thirst for
battles between Rangda and Barong are acted out in the fa-
blood and to display community allegiance. Even human
mous trance dances that have attracted so many tourists to
sacrifice is reported to have been practiced as an expression
of goddess worship. It is not difficult to understand why
blood sacrifices should be associated with goddesses.
Rangda is associated with evil and death, unlike her
Through sacrifice human beings create bonds between them-
Hindu counterpart, Ka¯l¯ı, who has a more nurturant side.
selves and deities. Because people turn to goddesses to fulfill
Ka¯l¯ı grants boons to those who respect her, but she is easily
their needs, it is logical for sacrificial offerings to be made
angered and must not be crossed. Her major role is to battle
as expressions of thanksgiving. Despite the fact that blood
demons, whose skulls she wears in a garland around her neck.
sacrifice has been outlawed in many parts of the world, this
Like Rangda, Ka¯l¯ı is linked to death by her association with
custom continues to thrive, often underground. Sometimes
widowhood and graveyards. In a brilliant essay on the god-
various types of sacrificial substitutions are made in place of
dess Ka¯l¯ı, C. Mackenzie Brown (in Olson, 1983,
blood offerings, like the sacrifice of cucumbers, pumpkins,
pp. 110–123) notes that her bloody intoxication with rage
or money.
and violence is not an indication that she is evil. Ka¯l¯ı is
“mother of us all”—she gives birth, dazzles with her splen-
The many patterns of goddess worship evident through-
dor, and consumes in the game of life. Both beneficient and
out the world extend deep into antiquity and continue to
terrible qualities are combined in the image of Ka¯l¯ı. Just as
thrive in many of the world’s religions even today. Goddesses
Hindu disease goddesses become angry and cause epidemics
played a prominent role in prehistoric cultures, throughout
because people have neglected to worship them, Ka¯l¯ı rises
the development of agriculture, and in the emergence of
up from time to time, bringing about a reign of chaos in the
urban life associated with the great traditional civilizations.
realm of human order. Thus, she evokes enormous fear and
They continue to be a fertile source of religious experience
ambivalence among devotees. Such violent expressions of
within the contemporary world. Goddesses are multivalent
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

sacred images best understood within their separate historical
Olson, Carl, ed. The Book of the Goddess, Past and Present: An In-
and cultural contexts.
troduction to Her Religion. New York, 1983. This is one of
the most recent volumes dedicated to the study of female dei-
SEE ALSO Agriculture; Feminine Sacrality; Lady of the Ani-
ties. The contributions to this book represent a wide variety
mals; Neolithic Religion; Paleolithic Religions; Prehistoric
of studies of goddess worship written by historians of religion
Religions; Shekhinah; Virgin Goddess.
and feminists. The articles are uneven in quality; there is no
overall synthesis or index.
Patai, Raphael. The Hebrew Goddess. New York, 1967. This bril-
Bhardwaj, Surinder Mohan. Hindu Places of Pilgrimage in India.
liant essay on goddess worship in Judaism written by an an-
Berkeley, Calif., 1973. This excellent survey of pilgrimage
thropologist represents a major contribution to comparative
cycles in North India conducted by a cultural geographer of-
religions. Its bold thesis, challenging the purity of Jewish mo-
fers many insights into the contrast between pilgrimages to
notheism, remains both controversial and stimulating. An
the shrines of male and female deities.
important source that deserves special attention.
Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God, vol. 1, Primitive Mythology.
Preston, James J. “Goddess Temples in Orissa: An Anthropologi-
New York, 1959. This work explores the early Upper Paleo-
cal Survey.” In Religion in Modern India, edited by Giri Raj
lithic and Neolithic roots of goddess worship. It represents
Gupta, pp. 229–247. New Delhi, 1983. An anthropological
a Jungian orientation suggesting a universal Great Goddess.
study of the network of goddess temples in Orissa, eastern
Somewhat dated but useful as a secondary source if read criti-
India. Particularly valuable as an illustration of how goddess
worship reflects religious, political, and social dimensions of
Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God, vol. 2, Oriental Mythology.
human community.
New York, 1962. This work refers frequently to goddess
Preston, James J. Cult of the Goddess: Social and Religious Change
worship in Eastern religious traditions. Much generalization
in a Hindu Temple. New Delhi, 1980. A rare ethnographical
here, but still useful.
work on a Hindu goddess temple located in eastern India.
Gimbutas, Marija. The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, 7000–
Particularly valuable as a resource for the role of goddesses
3500 B.C.: Myths, Legends, and Cult Images. London, 1982.
in the process of cultural change.
An extensive discussion of the art and symbolism of Old Eu-
Preston, James J., ed. Mother Worship: Theme and Variations.
rope for the Neolithic period.
Chapel Hill, N.C., 1982. This volume is the most compre-
James, E. O. The Cult of the Mother Goddess. New York, 1959. A
hensive and up-to-date collection of data about goddess wor-
thorough discussion of goddess worship derived from archae-
ship in the field of anthropology. Particularly useful as a
ological and documentary evidence for the Middle East, the
source of primary data from firsthand fieldwork on the phe-
eastern Mediterranean, and India. An excellent source, al-
nomenon with a comprehensive introduction and conclu-
though some of the interpretation is dated.
sion discussing countemporary issues in the study of female
Leach, Edmund. Virgin Birth. Cambridge, U.K., 1966. The
sacred images.
Henry Myers Lecture.
Sangren, P. Steven. “Female Gender in Chinese Religious Sym-
Marshack, Alexander. The Roots of Civilization. New York, 1972.
bols: Guan Yin, Ma Zu, and the ‘Eternal Mother.’” Signs:
An outstanding analysis of Upper Paleolithic data on goddess
Journal of Women in Culture and Society 9 (1983): 4–25. An
worship, suggesting that the phenomenon is part of a com-
excellent anthropological treatment of Chinese goddesses.
plex notational system rather than merely an indication of
Particularly valuable here is the author’s discussion of how
fertility symbolism. While Marshack’s thesis may be contro-
female deities differ from their earthly counterparts.
versial, the volume is a rich source of information and re-
Turner, Victor, and Edith Turner. Image and Pilgrimage in Chris-
mains a major scholarly contribution.
tian Culture. New York, 1978. An excellent treatment of var-
Mellaart, James. Earliest Civilizations of the Near East. London,
ious Marian shrines within the context of pilgrimage. One
1965. A discussion of archaeological research on the Near
of the few anthropological studies of Christianity.
East with particular emphasis on the emergence of Neolithic
Wolkstein, Diane, and Samuel Noah Kramer. Inanna: Queen of
cultures. Mother goddesses are discussed throughout the vol-
Heaven and Earth. New York, 1983. this is the most up-to-
ume, particularly at the famous site of Çatal Hüyük.
date discussion of the ancient Sumerian goddess Inanna. The
Mellaart, James. Çatal Hüyük: A Neolithic Town in Anatolia. New
body of the volume comprises Sumerian texts together with
York, 1967. This is the field report of an archaeologist who
excellent commentaries by several authors on various aspects
excavated a major Neolithic town in 1961–1963. The data
of Sumerian culture history.
presented here constitute an important contribution to our
New Sources
understanding of goddess worship in the Neolithic period.
Benard, Elisabeth, and Beverly Moon, eds. Goddesses Who Rule.
At the level of interpretation, the author tends to oversimpli-
New York, 2000.
fy, attributing much of the evidence for goddess worship to
a fertility cult.
Billington, Sandra, and Miranda Green, eds. The Concept of the
Goddess. New York, 1996.
Obeyesekere, Gananath. The Cult of the Goddess Pattini. Chicago,
1984. In this classic study of the goddess cult in Sri Lanka,
Campbell, Joseph, and Charles Musès, eds. In All Her Names: Ex-
the author has brought to bear a number of disciplines—
plorations of the Feminine in Divinity. San Francisco, 1991.
anthropology, psychoanalysis, and ethnohistory—to reveal
Erndl, Kathleen M. Victory to the Mother: The Hindu Goddess of
the complex, multifaceted manifestation of goddess worship
Northwest India in Myth, Ritual, and Symbol. New York,
in Sinhalese religion.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Frymer-Kensky, Tikva Somone. In the Wake of the Goddesses:
be compiled from personal and place names, god lists and
Women, Culture, and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan
offering lists, seal inscriptions and votive dedications, mytho-
Myth. New York, 1992.
logical literary compositions and liturgical hymns, petition-
Hawley, John S., and Donna M. Wulff, eds. Devi: Goddesses of
ary prayers and exorcistic incantations.
India. Berkeley, 1966.
The literary and visual evidence are neither complemen-
Hiltebeitel, Alf, and Kathleen M. Erndl, eds. Is the Goddess a Femi-
tary nor comparable. Unfortunately, the texts have no pic-
nist? The Politics of South Asian Goddesses. New York, 2000.
tures and the pictures rarely bear texts. In Mesopotamia, im-
Hurtado, Larry W. Goddesses in Religions and Modern Debate. At-
ages of goddesses were clearly differentiated from mortal
lanta, 1990.
women by their divine horned headdresses. In other cultures,
Husain, Shahrukh. The Goddess: Power, Sexuality, and the Femi-
non-human features such as wings and animal attributes are
nine Divine. Ann Arbor, 2003.
indicators of divinity.
Kinsley, David R. The Goddesses’ Mirror: Visions of the Divine from
The most problematic artifactual material are figurines
East and West. Albany, 1989.
of nude women known from the Neolithic through all later
Kinsley, David R. Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten
periods and in all areas of the Near East, from Egypt to Iran.
Mahvidyas. Berkeley, 1997.
In prehistory, there are no written records to explain these
Pintchman, Tracy. The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition.
mute figurines, but they are commonly assumed to be images
Albany, 1994.
of the goddess and/or images for fertility magic. Their exag-
Pintchman, Tracy, ed. Seeking Mahadevi: Constructing the Identi-
gerated hips and breasts could also be understood as stylized
ties of the Hindu Great Goddess. Albany, 2001.
conventions for rendering ideal feminine beauty. No evi-
dence exists to identify the typical figurine with any major
goddess. On the rare occasions that goddesses were depicted
Revised Bibliography
naked, they can be distinguished by context, stance, or at-
The meaning of figurines is not something enshrined in
them but something that people confer on them, changing
with time and context. Figurines can be considered both as
The diversity of female divinities within ancient Near East-
“images of” human form and as “images for” important
ern societies makes it impossible to arrange them into neat
human concerns. Written records and anthropological evi-
categories, and any attempt to do so would inevitably involve
dence suggest numerous possible functions and meanings for
a great deal of simplification. There are two main reasons for
these miniature human representations. Magical ritual texts
this: the complexity of the religious systems, and the long pe-
specify how the figurines of a sick person are to be used dur-
riod over which they developed.
ing healing rituals. In Tanzania, adolescent boys are shown
One could and should ask, with some legitimacy, why
figurines of pregnant women during rites of initiation into
female deities are singled out for separate analysis. The an-
adulthood. Had such images been found out of context, this
swer to this lies, to a large degree, in the history of the discus-
type of figurine could easily have been identified as a “god-
sions on goddesses. The topic has sometimes been covered
dess” rather than as a symbolic device that plays a role in the
with academic rigor, sometimes with highly charged ideolog-
formation of male identity.
ical arguments. In the cultures investigated in this article,
There is an immense range of possible uses for figurines.
goddesses were inseparably integrated into a complex divine
They may have been cult figures, focal points of veneration
world. No single fundamental pattern universally repeats it-
in a private household shrine or public chapel. Conversely,
self even in the cultures of the ancient Near East. The gen-
figurines found in temples may well have been votive offer-
ders of the deities are culturally determined. For example, the
ings given by worshippers to the deity, expressing their do-
sun was gendered male in Mesopotamia, while it was gen-
nors’ fervent piety, heartfelt thankfulness, or heartfelt en-
dered female in the Levant and Anatolia. The “fickle” moon,
treaty. Figurines discovered in temple depositories may have
universally assumed to be female, was gendered male
been images created as part of a temple ritual.
throughout the ancient Near East. In Egypt the sky goddess
belies the “Earth Goddess” stereotype. Thus, the goal of this
Outside the temple, figurines were used in magic rituals
article will be to identify the range of goddesses in particular
to prevent or produce certain situations or states, such as en-
societies and to comprehend their symbolic significance,
suring fertility or good luck, warding off evil, curing illness,
rather than to delineate a rigid code that holds for all con-
or causing harm to others. In these situations, the figurines
texts. Unfortunately, the limited space allows only an intro-
might serve as talismans, amulets, fetishes, or therapeutic ob-
duction to the subject.
jects. These varied functions are known from many texts re-
cording charms, incantations, and descriptive rituals.
THE NATURE OF THE EVIDENCE. Reconstructions of ancient
Near Eastern theologies are based on texts and artifacts, un-
On a more personal level, figurines might be markers
evenly distributed in time and space. Data on goddesses can
of special times such as birthing or rebirthing, or periods 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

transition or of other time-based processes such as female
varied places of discovery precludes any single explanation
menstrual cycles. Figurines were employed as educational
of their purpose. Some seem to be site-specific, reflecting
aids and teaching figures, used in initiation or puberty rites
local religious customs, such as the alabaster statuettes from
to illustrate sexual topics for adolescents of both sexes. Di-
Tell es-Sawwan.
minutive anthropomorphic images were also undoubtedly
One particular site (and its interpretation) has provided
put to use as toys, in particular as dolls. They could also be
the basis for the belief in the worship of a universal monolith-
adapted to illustrate songs, epics, or myths.
ic “Mother Goddess”—the site of Early Neolithic Çatal
Figurines may have been placed in graves as part of buri-
Hüyük in south-central Anatolia, where certain female figu-
al rites to counteract the harmful effects of the ghost of the
rines are portrayed with large stomachs and pendulous
dead, as substitutes for the dead person’s body in the next
breasts similar to the European prehistoric examples. In
world, as images of a protective deity who guided the de-
1993, excavations began again at the site, now seen not as
ceased to the underworld, or perhaps as favorite possessions
distinctive but within the context of a range of settlements
to be enjoyed by the dead in the afterlife.
from Early Neolithic Çayönü in southeastern Anatolia to
Late Neolithic Hacilar in western central Anatolia.
The functions listed above cover only part of the spec-
trum of possibilities, and a single figurine may have served
GODDESSES OF MESOPOTAMIA. For over three millennia, the
more than one of these functions. Given the range of types,
religious life of Mesopotamia was presided over by thousands
sizes, and potential uses of figurines, it is clear that no single
of deities worshipped by a mixed population of Sumerians,
explanation could ever account for them all.
Akkadians, Amorites, Kassites, and Arameans. A continual
process of reinterpretation and syncretism, mutation and fos-
silization, fusion and fission generated a Mesopotamian reli-
4000 BCE). Female figurines with large stomachs and pendu-
gion that was a complex, multilayered accumulation.
lous breasts from the European Upper Paleolithic and Neo-
lithic periods (c. 40,000 to 5,000 years ago) are claimed to
It has often been remarked that female deities dominat-
provide evidence of a homogeneous European prehistoric re-
ed early Mesopotamian religion. Major cities dedicated to
ligion centered on the “Great Goddess,” whose image is re-
goddesses were: Uruk and Zabalam, dedicated to Inanna
flected in these figurines. Many scholars have interpreted
(goddess of love, war, and sexuality), Eresh, dedicated to Ni-
these figurines as depicting pregnant and/or breast-feeding
daba (goddess of grain and writing), Shuruppak, dedicated
women, and thus signifying fertility. This speculative inter-
to Sud (daughter of Nidaba, perhaps related to water and pu-
pretation was subsequently applied to the ancient Near East,
rification), Kesh and Nutur, dedicated to Ninhursaga (god-
where the first stone figures known were found in the Jordan
dess of birthing), and Lagash, dedicated to Gatumdug
Valley, on the shores of the Dead Sea, and around Mount
(Mother of Lagash). However, other cities of equal rank had
Carmel (c. 10,000 BCE). In the ensuing period, crude female
male tutelary deities.
figurines of clay and stone appear at Mureybet, on the upper
In the second millennium, previously important cities
Euphrates (8000–7600 BCE). Anthropomorphic and zoo-
in the lower stretches of southern Mesopotamia were aban-
morphic examples occur in central Anatolia (8000–7000
doned for political, demographic, and perhaps ecological rea-
BCE) and in the Valley of the Yarmuk River (late 7000–early
sons. As the earlier cult centers began to lose their priority,
6000 BCE). Yarmukian anthropomorphic representations in-
the religious center of Nippur gained by their loss. In Nip-
clude those made of clay and of river pebbles, both detailed
pur, Ninlil assumed the prerogatives of many of the other
and schematic, some with cowry-like eyes and massive thighs
goddesses. This process was mythologized: Sud of Shurup-
but minimal breasts. On the Tigris in Mesopotamia, 6000
pak was equated with Ninlil of Nippur through marriage
BCE graves (especially those of infants) have yielded female
with the god Enlil. When Sud became the bride of Enlil, she
alabaster statuettes while ordinary settlement debris con-
was renamed Ninlil. Once she was identified with Ninlil, she
tained clay figurines, both human and animal. The alabaster
disappeared for all practical purposes from the Mesopota-
statuettes are carved schematically with no accentuation of
mian religious scene. Thus, the decline in the number of
any female anatomical sexual parts. Disparate clay figurines
goddesses as city patrons between the third and second mil-
are found at 6000 BCE sites in Mesopotamia and on some-
lennia has been explained as due to the decline of the cities
what earlier Zagros sites such as Jarmo. Farther east, from
of lower Mesopotamia. Similarly, the rise of northern cities
the Bakhtaran region in Iran, female figurines with tall necks,
brought their gods into prominence, such as Babylon and its
no facial features, and bulging breasts and thighs were uncov-
god Marduk.
ered in the excavations of Ganj Dareh and Tepe Sarab. Hala-
fian sites in northern Syria and northern Mesopotamia (5000
Other elements of nature, such as the earth, played a
BCE) produced a variety of figurines, of which the most fa-
minor role in ancient Near East mythology. The primal fe-
mous are the painted terra-cottas of seated women with
male elemental at the beginning of time was water—the min-
pinched heads, long necks, arms encircling large breasts, and
gling of the waters was considered the source of life. The god-
fat, bent legs lacking feet. The significance of these figurines
dess of subterranean waters, Namma, was the engenderess of
is difficult to explain because their remarkable diversity and
all—the heaven, the earth, and the gods.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

The “mother goddesses” in Mesopotamia were birthing
Despite her masculine gender roles, she was conceived
mother figures. The emblem of the “mother goddess” was
as the epitome of femininity. She was the youthful goddess
the omega-shaped uterus rather than a child in her arms. The
of love, and literary compositions relate the romance of Inan-
interchange of Ninhursaga (Lady of the Foothills), Nintur
na and Dumuzi. Paradoxically, some compositions extol her
(Lady Birth-hut), Ninmah (Great Lady), and other “mother-
as a timid virgin while others exalt her as a licentious harlot.
goddess” figures becomes increasingly common as time
In love poetry, she manifests her eroticism and celebrates
The expected functions of “mother goddesses” regard-
In the late fourth millennium, there existed a pan-
ing other aspects of human and animal life were in the hands
Mesopotamian league centered on Uruk and its deity Inan-
of diverse goddesses and gods. The fish and water-fowl god-
na. The importation of Inanna into every community, and
dess Nanshe was better known for her association with divi-
her absorption of local female divinities of various character,
nation, dreams, and oracles. She was also an administrator,
resulted in one mega-female divinity. In addition to this pro-
responsible for checking weights and measures, protecting
cess of syncretism, her character became more ambiguous as
the weak, meting out justice, and punishing immoral acts.
the result of further fusion and fission. Inanna and her Se-
While Ninurta (the god of agriculture) was responsible for
mitic counterpart Ishtar had partly merged by the mid-third
the fertility of the land, grain goddesses (of which Nidaba
millennium. Simultaneously with this fusion, different god-
was the most prominent) were accountable for the growth
desses split off from this amalgam. At the end of the third
of the grain. She was also in charge of the scribal arts, includ-
millennium, the goddess Nanaya appeared in Uruk as the
ing accounting and surveying.
goddess of love. Inanna shared her aspect as Venus with Nin-
sianna, the “red lady of heaven,” who executed divine judge-
Goddesses occupied the same sex roles in the divine
family as in the human family: mothers, wives, brides, sisters,
and daughters. Pronounced complementarity existed be-
The Canonical Temple List assigns the largest number
tween the divine genders, especially in a brother-sister rela-
of temples to various manifestations of Ishtar. These god-
tionship. The archetypical sister was Geshtinanna (Grape-
desses were understood as both one goddess and as many.
vine of Heaven), a paragon of sisterly devotion. She
They were hypostases of a single divine archetype, a situation
sheltered, mourned, and substituted for her brother Dumuzi
similar to the proliferation of the various Zeus figures of clas-
in the netherworld. She played a prominent role as a singer
sical antiquity or the local manifestations of the Virgin in
of dirges and was associated with singing and music in gener-
Catholic belief.
al, and she became the recorder of the gods, particularly of
The second millennium brought changes in the theo-
the netherworld in the second and first millennia.
logical system. Gradual reduction of the roles played by fe-
Goddesses were also responsible for clothing manufac-
male divinities, as well as domination by divine male spouses,
ture, beer brewing, the education of children, and doctoring
curtailed their power of independent action. They therefore
the sick. Healing was always in the hands of the goddesses
assumed an increasingly mediatory function between the
of medicine throughout the millennia, while pestilence and
human world and the masculinized divine world. Most of
destruction were in the hands of the gods.
the goddesses popular in the third millennium continued to
be worshipped but commonly under the names of their Ak-
Inanna (in Sumerian, Ishtar in Akkadian) was the most
kadian counterparts.
revered and popular goddess of ancient Mesopotamia, and
she has consequently served as a focus for persons seeking to
With the rise of Babylon and its god Marduk to su-
revive “goddess” worship. Inanna first appears in the late
preme dominion of the divine and human worlds, Sumerian
fourth millennium as the patron deity of the city of Uruk,
and Akkadian divinities, both male and female, were relegat-
where she represented the numen of the central storehouse.
ed to lower positions in the hierarchy.
GODDESSES OF IRAN. Iran’s vast terrain is divided into areas
Even at this period, Inanna appears in various manifes-
of relatively isolated local cultures. The best known is Elam,
tations, each of which has a separate temple and cult. Two
in southwestern Iran. Yet, it is difficult to say anything cer-
of her manifestations, “Morning” and “Evening,” describe
tain about Elamite deities since little is known about Elamite
the goddess as the planet Venus, in the morning and in the
mythology and the only sources of information are royal in-
evening sky. In later texts, as Morning Star, Venus was fe-
male; as Evening Star, male. The two aspects corresponded
to the double character of Inanna/Ishtar as goddess of love
The major goddesses were: Pinengir, Kiririsha,
and war. She was viewed as a beautiful goddess of love who
Narunde, and Manzat. In a treaty from the third millennium
ruled the day and as a bearded goddess of war who ruled the
invoking the gods of Elam, the goddess Pinengir appears in
night. Even in her male role, she never becomes fully male,
first place as the highest deity of the Elamite pantheon. De-
but seems to be a female with male gender characteristics,
spite assumptions concerning her being a mother goddess,
thus providing a powerful symbol of the ambiguities of pure
nothing is known about her character until the Middle
Elamite period (latter part of the second millennium) when
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

not only a temple but also an “inn” was dedicated to her. The
warlike goddess, the protective deity of the land. In addition
latter suggests that Pinengir was responsible for love and sex
to being a goddess of the wild animals, she was said to have
life. During the second millennium on the coast of the Per-
power over fields and floods.
sian Gulf, another goddess, Kiririsha (Great Lady), occurs.
At the head of the Hittite pantheon were the storm-god
Apparently, from Middle Elamite times, two separate deities
and the sun-goddess of Arinna, identified with Hattic
existed, both designated “mistress of the sky,” “mother of the
Wurunshemu. A mother goddess, Hannahanna (Grand-
gods,” and “great consort.” Kiririsha seems also to have been
mother), was a wise old woman, skilled in healing and child-
responsible for combat and battle, judging by her votive of-
birth, whose advice was regularly sought by other gods in the
ferings of battle axes.
old Hittite vanishing god myths. Two important groups of
Narunde, the sister of the seven good demons, is found
goddesses were the Gulsh(esh) goddesses of fate and the
only in the third millennium. She was a goddess of victory,
mother goddesses. Kamrushepa, the Luwian goddess of heal-
who fought against the seven evil demons. Manzat (Rain-
ing, was responsible for the curing of earthly and heavenly
bow) was the wife of Simut, god of Elam, and her function
diseases and illnesses.
may have been to protect women as votive offerings of female
Deities of Hurrian origin were mostly worshipped in
figurines were found in her temple.
Kizzuwatna (southern Anatolia) during the Hittite Empire
period. In the sanctuary at Yazilikaya, a procession of the
In the latter part of the second millennium, Medes and
chief divinities of the Hurrianized Hittite pantheon was
Persians migrated from the Asian steppes onto the Iranian
carved on its walls: one procession of gods on the western
plateau. Among the Iranian deities, one goddess alone is
wall and another procession of goddesses on the eastern, with
prominent: Ardvi Sura Anahita. She was the goddess of all
the principal deities meeting in the center. This monument
the waters upon the earth and the source of the cosmic ocean.
provides an affirmation of the symmetry and equal impor-
She was regarded as the source of life, purifying the seed of
tance of the gods and goddesses. Leading the goddesses was
all males and the wombs of all females. Because of her con-
Hepat, the spouse of the storm-god Teshup, with their son,
nection with life, warriors in battle prayed to her for survival
Sharruma, and daughter, Allanzu. From her images together
and victory.
with her son, she is thought to be a mother goddess and gen-
GODDESSES OF ANATOLIA. In Anatolia, peoples of different
erally bears the title “the Lady, Queen of Heaven.” Shaushka,
languages and cultures coexisted producing a heterogeneous
the bellicose and beautiful sister of the storm-god Teshup,
polytheistic system—an amalgam of Hattic, Hittite, Luwian,
appears twice, among both the gods and the goddesses. It is
and Hurrian traditions with Syrian and Mesopotamian in-
assumed that she had a bisexual nature, with both male and
fluences. It is difficult to determine the original character of
female characteristics and attributes.
the gods of the Hattic people, who preceded the Hittites on
GODDESSES OF THE LEVANT. Deities from a variety of back-
the central Anatolian plain, since knowledge of these gods
grounds were venerated in the Levant: Syrian, West Semitic
has been transmitted through Hittite traditions. The Hittites
(Amorite, Canaanite), Hurrian, Akkadian, and Sumerian. In
were an Indo-European people who have left numerous texts
the second half of the second millennium, mythological and
dealing with religious practice and theology. Another Indo-
ritual compositions found at the site of Ugarit (modern Ras
European group, the Luwians, resided in southwestern Ana-
Shamra) on the Levantine coast provide a window into Ca-
tolia. The Hurrians were speakers of a Caucasoid language
naanite theology. The principal Ugaritic goddesses were:
whose influence expanded throughout Syria and Anatolia in
Athirat (Ashratu, Asherah), Anat, and Athtart (Ashtart[e]).
the mid-second millennium.
The goddess Athirat appears for the first time as Ashrata
As the Hittite kingdom expanded, the cults of the vari-
in Amorite personal names in Mesopotamia during the first
ous peoples of Anatolia, all of whom had their own religious
half of the second millennium BCE and sporadically in later
traditions and local gods, were incorporated into the Hittite
Mesopotamian sources. In the latter half of the millennium,
system. Interference between these theological systems re-
this goddess occurs in texts from Ugarit, Akhetaten (modern
sulted at times in gender change: the male Hattic/Hittite
Amarna) in middle Egypt, and Taanach in northern Israel
ruler of the underworld Lelwani became female under Hurri-
while in the first millennium her worship was limited to sites
an influence and was identified with the Hurrian goddess of
in southern Judah, Philistia, and northern Sinai, and to writ-
the underworld, Allani. The Hattic goddess Kait, the deity
ten references from the Bible. Nevertheless, she was invoked
of vegetation, became the Hittite god Halki (Grain).
in one Phoenician magical plaque found in the Aramean city
of Hadatu (modern Arslan Tash).
Important goddesses of the Hattic pantheon were the
two sun-goddesses, the sun-goddess of the sky, Wurunshe-
In Ugarit, this goddess appears as Datrt (or Athirat). In
mu, the consort of storm-god, and the sun-goddess of the
the mythological texts, she was the wife to the god El and
earth (or the netherworld). The name of the sun-goddess of
mother to his seventy sons. She held the title “progenitress
the earth in both Hattic and Hittite is unknown while in late
of the gods” and was associated with the fecund sea.
Hittite texts she was referred to by the Hurrian designation
In the Bible, Asherah occurs most frequently as a cultic
Allani. Next in importance was Inar (Hittite: Inara), a young
symbol of the divinity (wooden pole or tree), as in Deuteron-
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

omy 16:21, and occasionally as the goddess herself. She was
Canaan and associates her with fertility and love rather than
often associated with Baal, as in 1 Kings 18:19, when Elijah
rails against four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and four
From this review, it can be seen clearly that none of
hundred prophets of Asherah.
these major goddesses were “fertility” goddesses and that
Evidence of the importance of Asherah in the popular
there were no “fertility” cults in ancient Canaan. The deities
religion of the region of southern Judah is found in the con-
responsible for fertility were male. Baal was responsible for
troversial inscriptions on the pithoi vessels at Kuntillet
the fertility of the land and El for the fertility of human
Ajrud. One inscription reads: “I bless you by YHWH of Sa-
maria and his asherah.”
GODDESSES OF EGYPT. As in the other regions of the ancient
The two deities Anat (Ent) and Ashtart (Eˇstrt, Greek
Near East, the goddesses of Egypt can be described as local
form: Astarte) share similar characteristics. Both were beauti-
deities, although several local deities were worshipped
ful maidens and doughty warriors, and both were depicted
throughout Egypt, from the beginning of the historical peri-
as smiting goddesses, brandishing weapons above their heads
od onward.
and holding a shield and spear. After their first appearance
According to the Heliopolitan cosmogony, the creator
in Syria, the worship of these two goddesses spread through-
god Atum (He who makes/is complete), appears spontane-
out Egypt and the Levant. Both goddesses were venerated in
ously in the waters of the god Nun. He engendered from
Egypt: at Deir el-Medineh, the craftsmen’s village in Upper
himself the next generation of deities: the male Shu, the pre-
Egypt, the workers set up reliefs in their honor, while an Ash-
serving force of dry air, and the female Tefnut, the corrosive
tart sanctuary was discovered at Pi-Ramesses, the northern
force of moisture. Atum was said to have produced the pair
capital in Lower Egypt. Both Anat and Ashtart survive in for-
by masturbation, by his personified feminine hand, or by a
mal lists of Egyptian gods well into Roman times. In the first
female complement, Iusaas (“She comes and grows great”).
millennium BCE, Ashtart was the chief deity of the Phoeni-
Shu and Tefnut bore the earth god Geb and the sky goddess
cian city of Tyre (in modern Lebanon) and took precedence
Nut. Geb and Nut produced two more pairs of gods and
over Anat, although the latter continued to appear sporadi-
goddesses: the gods Osiris and Seth and their respective wives
cally in dedications from as far afield as Lower Egypt. Both
and sisters Isis and Nephthys. One myth tells of the conflict
goddesses were invoked in the treaty made by the Assyrian
between the two brothers Osiris and Seth. It describes how
king Esarhaddon with the king of Tyre.
Seth, envious of his brother Osiris, drowned him and cut his
Although these two goddesses were similar in character,
body into pieces. However, Isis and Nephthys managed to
they had different origins. The name Anat goes back to
collect the parts of Osiris’ dismembered body. With her ex-
Hanat, the theos eponymous of the Amorite Hanean tribes-
traordinary magical powers, Isis then revived her husband-
men in Syria, in the early second millennium. The cult of
brother, was impregnated by him, and later gave birth to
Anat was first attested in Egypt in the late Middle Kingdom
(eighteenth century BCE). As the daughter of the sun-god Re
The three goddesses Nut, Isis, and Nephthys were wor-
and the wife of the war-god Seth, Anat acted as a mediator
shipped as the most important goddesses of Egypt. The sky-
between the two. In late second-millennium Ugaritic myths,
goddess Nut was the regenerative mother, the mother of the
she was the sister of the storm god Baal, and again a mediator
deceased king (and thus a mortuary goddess). She was also
between him and the great god El. She was the mistress of
the mother of the solar deity Re who traveled by boat
animals, both protectress and huntress, as well as midwife at
through the night sky within the body of the goddess. At
both animal and human births. She was pictured as a young
dawn the god was reborn from between the thighs of the
maiden without children, swift as a bird and fierce as a lion-
goddess in the East.
ess. Her proficiency in battle was legendary. The Baal myth
tells of her bellicose attacks on men and divinities, as well
Isis was the primary symbol of the devoted mother and
as her help in placatory mediation for the building of Baal’s
wife; she was referred to as “the Savior” and “Great of
palace. Anat searches for Baal in the realm of Mot (Death),
Magic,” and she was entreated for protection, particularly on
and with the help of the sun-goddess Shapsu she finds and
behalf of women and children. Representations of Isis suck-
buries him and finally revives him by vanquishing Mot.
ling the infant Horus in her arms illustrate her role as the
protective goddess-mother.
Ashtart epitomized the fury of battle and probably had
astral associations with the planet Venus. In Emar (on the
Although Nephthys (Mistress of the House) was the
bend of the Euphrates River), one of her manifestations was
wife-sister of the god Seth, her loyalty to Osiris, her hus-
Ashtart-of-Battle. In Egypt, she was addressed as “Lady of
band’s opponent, earned her a similar position in the funer-
the Battle, goddess of the Asians.” In the Phoenician cities
ary cult to that of her sister Isis. Like Isis, she was regarded
of Tyre and Sidon during the first millennium, she was the
as the savior and protector of Osiris, and consequently of
leading goddess. In the Bible, Ashtart appears both in singu-
every dead person. Nephthys also played the role of wet
lar and plural forms: Eashtoret and Eashtorot. The Bible cites
nurse, despite not being able to give birth to children of her
her worship as widespread among the original inhabitants 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

Two other notable goddesses were Neith and Hathor.
Religion 5 (1989): 65–76. As essay analyzing the influence of
The history of Neith begins with the earliest history of
nineteenth and twentieth traditional scholarship on the view
Egypt, when she had a close, protective relationship with the
of Canaanite goddesses as “fertility goddesses” and the con-
king and queens. Her emblems, the double bow and crossed
struct “fertility religion” as a euphemism for ritual sexual
arrows, indicate her role as huntress. Once the most promi-
nent goddess, her cult faded until the Late Period of ancient
Sources on Prehistory
Egypt. In the Greco-Roman period she came to be portrayed
Cauvin, Jacques. Naissance des divinités, naissance de l’agriculture:
as a primordial creator deity.
La Révolution des symboles au Néolithique, Paris, 1994. Trans-
lated as The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture
In the latter part of the Egyptian Old Kingdom, the
(Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 2001). The essence of
goddess Hathor of Dendera came to the fore. Her complex
Cauvin’s controversial theory is that a “symbolic revolution”
nature is reflected in her numerous and diverse roles, her dif-
occurred in the Near East at the time of the origin of plant
ferent forms, and her many cult centers. Hathor appeared as
domestication. In particular the female figurines show a god-
a woman, a cow, a falcon, “Lady of the Sycamore Tree,” a
dess, the universal mother, while the bull signifies a brute
fiery uraeus (the cobra), and a savage lioness. Her name,
force that is tamed and converted into the virile essence of
which means “House of Horus,” identifies her as the mother
the male.
of the king (who was identified with Horus), and is associat-
Meskell, Lynn. “Twin Peaks: The Archaeologies of Çatalhöyük.”
ed with her ancient role as the celestial cow and mother of
In Ancient Goddesses: Myths and Evidence, edited by Lucy
the sun. Hathor was also the beautiful and sensual goddess
Goodison and Christine Morris, pp. 46–62. London, 1998.
Review of James Mellaart’s initial publications of this site
of love, sexuality, joy, dance, and music.
from the 1960s and the subsequent use of his work by propo-
Taweret (the Great One) was one of the most popular
nents of the goddess movement to construct a gynocentric
deities, associated with pregnancy and childbirth. She was
culture with a religion centered on worship of the “Great
usually represented as a composite being, with the body and
Goddess” followed by a summary of the preliminary reports
head of a hippopotamus, the paws of a lion, and the tail of
from new excavations under the direction of Ian Hodder.
a crocodile, or a complete crocodile on her back. She was
Oates, Joan. “Religion and Ritual in Sixth-Millennium BC Meso-
shown standing on her hind legs; her swollen abdomen and
potamia.” World Archaeology 10 (1978): 117–124. An at-
pendulous breasts indicate her association with pregnancy
tempt to look at the archaeological evidence for religious rit-
and nursing. The goddess Maat represents the perfect, stable
uals, with particular attention to the place of the sites Tell
es-Sawwan and Choga Mami, within their cultural context.
order of existence which governs every aspect of the world
Ucko, Peter J. Anthropomorphic Figurines of Predynastic Egypt and
from the laws of nature to the rules of human social life.
Neolithic Crete. London, 1968. The seminal book on the in-
Clearly, there is no one gender role incorporated by
terpretation of prehistoric anthropomorphic figurines. Ucko
these goddesses, each of whom exhibit an amazing amount
points out the flimsiness of the identification of prehistoric
of individuality.
figurines as representations of the mother goddess and dis-
cusses other possible uses for them.
Yakar, Jak. Prehistoric Anatolia: The Neolithic Transformation and
General Sources
the Early Chalcolithic Period. Tel Aviv, 1991. Valuable up-to-
Beckman, Gary. “Goddess Worship—Ancient and Modern.” In
date summary of sites in all areas of Turkey, against which
A Wise and Discerning Mind: Essays in Honor of Burke O.
the excavations at Çatal Höyük must now be viewed. See also
Long, edited by Saul M. Olyan and Robert C. Culley,
Supplement No. 1 (1994) by the same author.
pp. 11–23. Providence, R.I., 2000. An excellent review of
the evidence for the flourishing of a pre-modern Goddess
Abusch, Tzvi. “Ishtar.” NIN, Journal of Near Eastern Gender
cult, emphasizing material from the scholar’s own area of ex-
Studies 1 (2000): 23–27.
pertise, the religion of the Hittites.
Bahrani, Zainab. “The Iconography of the Nude in Mesopota-
“Can We Interpret Figurines?” Cambridge Archaeological Journal
mia.” Source XII (1993): 11–19. Essay on the function and
6 (1996): 281–307. A collection of essays on the subject of
significance of nudity in Mesopotamian Iconography.
figurine interpretation, stressing context and definition.
Bahrani, Zainab. “The Whore of Babylon.” NIN, Journal of Near
Frymer-Kensky, Tikva. In the Wake of the Goddesses. New York,
Eastern Gender Studies 1 (2000): 95–106.
1992. This feminist scholar reviews the representations of the
Black, Jeremy and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons, and Symbols of
varied goddesses in Mesopotamian polytheism and seeks to
Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary. London,
answer what happened to their functions under biblical mo-
1992. A very useful encyclopedic review of Mesopotamian
religion, with succinct descriptions of gods, demons, rituals,
Goodison, Lucy, and Christine Morris, eds. Ancient Goddesses:
mythological themes, and iconographical elements.
Myths and Evidence. London, 1998. The goal of this antholo-
Finkel, Irving L., and Markham J. Geller, eds. Sumerian Gods and
gy is to compare archaeologists’ reconstructions of ancient re-
Their Representations. Groningen, Netherlands, 1997. A col-
ligion with the reconstruction proposed by proponents of the
lection of recent papers given at a symposium in the memory
modern “Goddess Movement.”
of Thorkild Jacobsen.
Hackett, Jo Ann. “Can a Sexist Model Liberate Us?: Ancient Near
Frymer-Kensky, Tikva. “Lolita-Inanna.” NIN, Journal of Near
Eastern ‘Fertility’; Goddesses.” Journal of Feminist Studies in
Eastern Gender Studies, 1 (2000): 91–94.
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

Lambert, Wilfred G. “The Historical Development of the Meso-
by Jack M. Sasson, vol. 3, pp. 1959–1969. New York, 1995.
potamian Pantheon: A Study in Sophisticated Polytheism.”
Up-to-date summary of the known material from Iran with
In Unity and Diversity, edited by Hans Goedicke and J. J. M.
bibliographic references.
Roberts, pp. 191–199. Baltimore, 1975. Discussion of the
Mesopotamian principle of one patron deity to one city, the
Archi, Alfonso. “How a Pantheon Forms: The Cases of Hattic-
processes of syncretism, assimilation, and the theological de-
Hittite Anatolia and Ebla of the Third Millennium BC.” In
velopment of the god lists.
Religionsgeschichtliche Beziehungen zwischen Kleinasien, Nord-
Lambert, Wilfred G. “Goddesses in the Pantheon: A Reflection
syrien, und dem Alten Testament, edited by Bernd Janowski,
of Women in Society?” In La femme dans le Proche-Orient an-
Klaus Koch, and Gernot Wilhelm, pp. 1–18. Freiburg, Swit-
tique, edited by Jean-Marie Durand, pp. 125–130. Paris,
zerland, 1993. The first half of the article reviews the earliest
1987. Offers hypothesis of the decline in the number of god-
evidence for the gods of Anatolia and their integration into
desses as city patrons due to the accident of city decline, but
the pantheon of the Hittite state.
replete with gender assumptions about goddesses.
Beckman, Gary. “Ishtar of Nineveh Reconsidered.” Journal of Cu-
Michalowski, Piotr, “’Round about Nidaba: On the Early God-
neiform Studies 50 (1998): 1–10. A discussion of the Hurrian
desses of Sumer,” In Sex and Gender in the Ancient Near East,
origin of Ishtar of Nineveh, Shaushka, and her worship in
edited by Simo Parpola and Robert M. Whiting,
the Hittite state.
pp. 413–422. Helsinki, 2002. Critical review of the idea that
female deities dominated early Mesopotamian religion and
Haas, Volkert. Geschichte der hethitischen Religion. Leiden, 1994.
a reinterpretation of their decline due to various factors, one
The definitive volume on Hittite religion.
of which was the absorption of one goddess by another.
Laroche, Emmanuel. Recherches sur les noms des dieux hittites. Paris,
Selz, Gebhard. “Five Divine Ladies: Thoughts on Inana(k), Istar,
1947. First comprehensive listing and categorization of the
In(n)in(a), Annunitum, and EAnat, and the Origin of the
pantheon of ancient Hattusha.
Title Queen of Heaven.” in NIN, Journal of Near Eastern
Laroche, Emmanuel. “Hattic Deities and their Epithets.” Journal
Gender Studies 1 (2000): 29–62.
of Cuneiform Studies 1 (1947): 187–216. Early attempt to
Szarzyn´ska, Krystyna. “Cult of the Goddess Inanna in Archaic
differentiate the Hattic deities.
Uruk.” in NIN, Journal of Near Eastern Gender Studies 1
McMahon, Gregory. “Theology, Priests, and Worship in Hittite
(2000): 63–74.
Anatolia.” In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, edited by
Westenholz, Joan Goodnick. “Goddesses of the Ancient Near
Jack M. Sasson, vol. 3, pp. 1981–1995. New York, 1995. A
East.” In Ancient Goddesses: Myths and Evidence, edited by
short succinct review of the present state of scholarship in re-
Lucy Goodison and Christine Morris, pp. 63–82. London,
gards to Hattic, Hittite, and Hurrian deities and their wor-
1998. Examination of problems in understanding ancient
ship in Hittite Anatolia.
Near Eastern polytheism and overview of the most important
Singer, Itamar, “‘The Thousand Gods of Hatti’: Limits of an Ex-
goddesses and their roles in the third and second millennia.
panding Pantheon.” In Concepts of the Other in Near Eastern
Westenholz, Joan Goodnick. “King by Love of Inanna—An
Religions, edited by Ilai Alon, Ithamar Gruenwald, and Ita-
Image of Female Empowerment?” NIN, Journal of Near East-
mar Singer, pp. 81–102. Leiden, 1994. Discussion of Hit-
ern Gender Studies 1 (2000): 75–89.
tites’ respectful attitude towards foreign gods and the absorp-
Westenholz, Joan Goodnick. “Great Goddesses in Mesopotamia:
tion of various divinities from ethnically different regions
The Female Aspect of Divinity.” Bulletin of the Canadian So-
into Hittite pantheon and worship.
ciety for Mesopotamian Studies 37 (2002): 13–26. The article
Van Gessel, Ben H. L. Onomasticon of the Hittite Pantheon. Lei-
investigates the theology of “goddess” in Mesopotamia, as
den, Vols. I-II, 1998; Vol. III, 2001. The most recent com-
well as the concept of a female divine elemental at the begin-
prehensive list of Hittite deities in cuneiform Hittite texts,
ning of time. A definition of the female aspect of divinity is
but lacks information about the gender of the deities, their
followed by an analysis of the figure of the goddess Inanna/
origin, and functions.
Ishtar, in regards to the possibility that she was the personifi-
cation of the female aspect of divinity.
Wiggermann, Franz A. M. “Theologies, Priests, and Worship in
On the subject of the goddess Asherah there is a plethora of vol-
Ancient Mesopotamia.” In Civilizations of the Ancient Near
umes regarding her role and character, especially in view of
East, edited by Jack M. Sasson, vol. 3, pp. 1867–1869. New
the biblical connotations. In the following, only the recent
York, 1995. Excellent article in which the author elaborates
books in English published since 1990 are listed.
on a possible development of the Mesopotamian pantheon
Binger, Tilde. Asherah: Goddesses in Ugarit, Israel, and the Old Tes-
from non-anthropomorphic genderless deities to the later
tament. Sheffield, U.K., 1997. A thesis from the Copenhagen
one of anthropomorphic deities of fixed gender.
school of Biblical criticism with a review of textual sugges-
Wiggermann, Franz A. M. “Nackte Göttin (Naked Goddess). A
tions for the Khirbet el-Qom and Kuntillet Ajrud inscrip-
Philologisch.” Reallexikon der Assyriologie 9 (1998): 46–53.
An attempt to match the textual and iconographic evidence
Cornelius, Izak. “Anat and Qudshu as the ‘Mistress of Animals,’
for an interpretation of nude female images as the personifi-
Aspects of the Iconography of the Canaanite Goddesses.”
cation of Pride, Dignity, and Sexuality.
Studi Epigrafici e Linguistici 10 (1993): 21–45. Excellent dis-
cussion of the iconography of the West Semitic goddesses.
Koch, Heidemarie. “Theology and Worship in Elam and Achae-
Day, Peggy L. “Anat: Ugarit’s ‘Mistress of Animals’.” Journal of
menid Iran.” In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, edited
Near Eastern Studies 51 (1992): 181–190. In this 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

Peggy Day argues against the common tendency to describe
Sasson, vol. 3, pp. 1697–1709. New York, 1995. Descrip-
the Canaanite goddess Anat as a goddess of fertility. She re-
tion of creation myths and the Osiris myth. Discussion of the
examines the Ugaritic texts and demonstrates that Anat was
relative scarcity of written mythical stories and various theo-
rather a “mistress of animals,” both as huntress and a protec-
logical schools.
Hadley, Judith M. The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah.
New York, 2000. An important contribution to the debate
about the exact nature of Asherah and her significance in pre-
exilic Israel and Judah.
Kletter, Raz. “Asherah and the Judean Pillar Figurines Engen-
dered?” In Sex and Gender in the Ancient Near East, edited
by Simo Parpola and Robert M. Whiting, pp. 289–230. Hel-
After Johann G. Droysen’s famous Geschichte des Hellenismus
sinki, 2002. Discussion of the Judean Pillar figurines and
(1833–1843; 1877–1878), the term Hellenism was increas-
their interpretation, see references in article for more infor-
ingly used to qualify a crucial period in the history of the an-
mation on this controversial material.
cient Mediterranean world. Droysen considered the exploits
Walls, Neal Hugh Jr. The Goddess Anat in Ugaritic Myth. Atlanta,
of Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE) as a crucial turning
1992. Similarly to Peggy Day, Walls denies that Anat is the
point in the politico-cultural history of the vast geographical
consort of Baal or that the two deities had a sexual relation-
area around the Mediterranean and saw the year of his death
as the beginning of a new historical cycle. This cycle started
Watson, Wilfred G. E. “The Goddesses of Ugarit: A Survey.”
with the progressive fragmentation of the supranational em-
Studi Epigrafici e Linguistici 10 (1993): 47–59. An excellent
pire set up by the Alexander in the thirteen years of his daz-
survey of the principal goddesses of Ugarit, their names, epi-
zling career (336–323 BCE) and the creation of new king-
thets, and characters, with the exception of Attartu, for
doms by his generals, the Diadochi, and ended with the
which he refers to a French publication.
Roman conquest of Egypt after the Battle of Actium (31
Wiggins, Steve A. A Reassessment of “Asherah”: A Study According
BCE). By reducing the ancient kingdom of the Pharaohs (sub-
to the Textual Sources of the First Two Millennia BCE. Ke-
sequently inherited by the Ptolomies) into a Roman province
velaer/Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany, 1993. An attempt to
place Asherah in the wider ancient Near Eastern perspective,
BCE), the new power of Rome, soon itself at the head of
but does not treat the Mesopotamian sources in chronologi-
an empire, concluded its gradual conquest of the kingdoms
cal order.
of ancient Macedonian origin.
Wiggins, Steve A. “Of Asherahs and Trees: Some Methodological
THE HELLENISTIC PERIOD. Hellenism covers a wide period:
Questions.” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 1
three centuries of intense political, military, social, econom-
(2001): 158–187. Explores the evidence for the dendrical as-
ic, and religious events that influenced in various ways all the
sociations of Asherah and their relation to Israel and other
peoples of the Mediterranean. In the East, in particular, it
religions of the ancient Near East.
affected the kingdoms that had been formed from the divi-
sion of lands conquered by Alexander. However, this circum-
Hassan, Fekri A. “The Earliest Goddesses of Egypt.” In Ancient
scribed definition is now considered inadequate, and the
Goddesses: Myths and Evidence, edited by Lucy Goodison and
scope of Hellenism extends to cover the entire time span of
Christine Morris, pp. 98–112. London, 1998. Essay focuses
the Roman Empire until its transformation into a Christian
on bovine and maternal imagery relating to the royal ideolo-
Empire at the end of the fourth century. At this time bloody
gy based on the author’s idiosyncratic hypothesis that Egyp-
sacrifices were prohibited by Theodosius (391
tian religion had its roots in cattle herding in the Sahara.
CE), with the
aim of putting an end to the traditional cults of the Mediter-
Hornung, Erik. Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and
ranean world. The antipagan legislation of the Christian em-
the Many. Translated by John Baines. Ithaca, N.Y., 1982.
Basic work on the Egyptian theological system.
perors took effect gradually and over a long period of time,
and polytheistic religious traditions persisted, albeit to a less-
Lesko, Barbara. The Great Goddesses of Egypt. Norman, Okla.,
1999. Overview of the major goddesses of Egypt. Lesko cites
er extent, in many regions of this vast geographical area for
the evidence for their earliest appearances, traces their cults
at least another two centuries. It was however the clear sign
through Egyptian history, and often uses the texts of prayers
of a deep cultural and religious transformation that brought
from ancient sources to illustrate the powers and attributes
to a close the long and variegated historical period known
of each deity.
as Hellenism. A distinction between early and late Hellenism
Troy, Lana. “Engendering Creation in Ancient Egypt: Still and
can be identified, respectively, as the ancient Droysenian
Flowing Waters.” In A Feminist Companion to Reading the
phase and that of Imperial Rome—each have particular as-
Bible: Approaches, Methods, and Strategies, edited by Athalya
pects while also being part of an historical continuum.
Brenner and Carole Fontaine, pp. 238–268. Sheffield, U.K.,
1997. The author demonstrates how, for ancient Egyptians,
Hellenistic culture. Unlike the Greek etymon hellenis-
creation on all levels was firmly linked to reproductive sexu-
mos, which defines Greek as opposed to those different than
Greeks (represented by the “barbarians”; i.e., all non-
Van Dijk, Jacobus. “Myth and Mythmaking in Ancient Egypt.”
Greeks), after Droysen the term Hellenism—insofar as it re-
In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, edited by Jack M.
fers to the last three centuries before the Christian era—was
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

used to express the complex cultural physiognomy of that
open-mindedness and the preeminence of the individual
age, with its repercussions in subsequent centuries. This was
(i.e., the overcoming of the particularistic barriers of both the
the result of Greek elements meeting and amalgamating to
polis and the wider national aggregate) and (2) the initiative
various extents with the traditions of those peoples—above
of the individual who, by making new life choices, may reject
all Asian, but also Western—who came into direct contact
traditional patterns and participate independently in the
with them. The first and most evident consequence of the
many activities available in a supranational panorama. In this
gesta of Alexander the Great, who had created an immense
situation the individual often looks for new forms of aggrega-
supranational empire and modeled the subsequent structure
tion, including from a religious point of view, and may join
of Hellenistic kingdoms, was in fact the intense movement
groups, communities, and associations that in foreign lands
of people that, although mainly for military and commercial
practice the cult of one or another deity (of the nation of pro-
purposes, acted as a vehicle of wide-ranging cultural ex-
venience or of local deities) encountered by immigrants in
change and the source of profound changes also on a reli-
their new home. In the case of the indigenous populations,
gious level.
certain divine figures are sometimes the object of particular
veneration by groups of worshipers, independent of public
Extremely significant differences existed on the social,
or city traditions, and thus fuels dynamic forms of personal
economic, and institutional levels, between the nations of the
eastern Mediterranean, where monarchic Hellenistic states
lived alongside independently ruled Greek cities and their
The phenomenon of religious contacts and influences
leagues. However, it is possible to talk of Hellenism as a suffi-
is an almost structural factor in the history of Mediterranean
ciently homogeneous cultural entity, based on a common
peoples as far back as the observation of history allows. For
language (the Greek of the koine set up on the basis of the
the Greeks, it represented an important aspect of their colo-
Attic dialect) and characterized by common spiritual and in-
nial experience in the East and West, in which they took
tellectual traits. The religious component is an essential part
their own gods and came into contact with those of the local
of this culture, and here also there is significant homogene-
populations. However, it assumed particular relevance in the
ity, albeit with local and national variety. This homogeneity
Hellenistic period and, subsequently, under the Roman Em-
is the result of various kinds of interference between the
pire. The Greeks and almost all the peoples of the Near East
Greek religion and that of the peoples with which it came
and the West had in fact ethnic religious traditions whose
into contact. In other words, in religious terms the Hellenis-
origins and development were contemporaneous to the ori-
tic period was characterized by a phenomenon that, although
gins and developments of the communities in which they
foreshadowed and rooted in the archaic and Classical peri-
originated, where they were perceived as an essential compo-
ods, now acquired such large proportions that it became a
nent of cultural identity, together with language and the
distinguishing feature of an entire phase in the history of
socio-economic and political framework. Because they are re-
Mediterranean civilization.
lated to highly civilized peoples, the respective religious con-
texts may be defined as national rather than ethnic because
A distinction should also be made between the situation
they have (to varying extents) common constants and ten-
in the western Mediterranean and of the oriental regions,
dencies that, as in the case of the numerous Greek poleis, give
where Hellenism penetrated deeply into the local humus and
homogeneity to the religious life of the individual ethnic
from which in turn it sucked vital nutrients. Here, alongside
group and go beyond local identities. The national religions
peoples only marginally touched by Greek expansion in the
of the ancient Mediterranean world were, then, the heritage
early Hellenistic period, there were entire regions such as
of individual peoples, mutually acknowledged and cohabit-
Magna Graecia and Sicily, with a Greek tradition dating
ing without intolerance or exclusivism.
back to the seventh and eighth centuries BCE, and Etruria,
An essential component of the picture is the structure
with centuries of contact with Greece and the East. For its
of such religious traditions, which, with the exceptions al-
part, during its gradual expansion through the peninsula,
ready mentioned, may all in various ways be defined as poly-
Rome was receptive to Hellenic influence already in the mo-
theistic, implying the belief as reflected in ritual praxis in a
narchic age, whereas the Classical period brought direct con-
series of superhuman entities with more or less clearly de-
tact with the poleis of continental Greece. Moreover, with
fined personalities. These divine figures possess particular at-
the eastward expansion of the Roman Republic, the Helle-
tributes and prerogatives and are often connected with the
nistic period witnessed the large-scale Hellenization of the
various cosmic departments whose working they ensure and
cultural and religious life of the Urbs, which would continue
with human institutions over whose foundation they presid-
throughout the life of the Empire.
ed and of which they are now protectors. Greek polytheism
Fundamental tendencies of Hellenism. Although
may be defined as a dynastic-departmental religious struc-
tending to be linked primarily to tradition, the dialectic con-
ture, because the various deities (especially the main ones)
nection between various components of a cultural system,
are linked by bonds of parentage and endowed with power
beliefs, and cults nevertheless influence change in a commu-
over the various spheres of cosmic and human life.
nity’s socio-political and economic life. Two fundamental
As contact intensified in the early Hellenistic period
tendencies run through Hellenistic culture: (1) cosmopolitan
and, subsequently, in the Imperial Roman period, the struc-
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

tural similarities between the religious traditions of Mediter-
which they create the goddesses’ images and organize their
ranean peoples made possible the phenomenon of religious
cult. Additionally, all the religious contexts converging in
cosmopolitanism that characterizes the period. In fact, cer-
this vast geographical area maintained their ancestral struc-
tain cults (i.e., mythical–ritual complexes gravitating around
tures and, despite the more or less profound changes caused
single deities or divine “families”) spread progressive beyond
by the politico-military and socio-economic events of the
their respective national boundaries, as is the case of the ori-
age, fundamentally conserved the beliefs and worship prac-
ental cults that spread through Greece and the West. At the
tices consolidated by tradition. Each of the divine figures of
same time, Greek religion penetrated extensively into the
the numerous national pantheons had by now assumed uni-
East, in part superimposing itself on local systems and in part
versally recognizable stable and defined prerogatives and at-
cohabiting with them, giving the religious life of the great
tributes, so a full description would require the examination
Eastern cities—whether newly founded or of ancient ori-
of the deity’s entire history, right back to the most ancient
gins—a more or less marked but in any case decisive Hellenic
stamp. With the affirmation of the power of Rome, numer-
ous figures of the Roman pantheon also began to be wor-
Despite these reservations, we may try to identify the
shiped under various guises by the peoples of the Mediterra-
peculiarities of certain main female divine figures that occu-
nean and were found to be susceptible to forms of
pied a dominant role in the collective religious imagination
convergence or identification with local deities.
of early and late Hellenism. The distinguishing traits of this
wide historical time span were individualism and cosmopoli-
METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES. Before examining the Goddess
tanism—factors able to trigger processes of confluence and
worship in the Hellenistic World, two preliminary difficul-
cultural homogenization. Also, on a religious level, it is legiti-
ties need to be discussed. The first regards the polytheistic
mate to focus attention on those figures and their mythical–
structure of the religious contexts in question, in which each
ritual systems that were involved in similar processes, group-
figure acts and functions with specific attributes and preroga-
ing aspects and prerogatives of similar figures from other cul-
tives yet also within a complex web of relationships involving
tural contexts around an original national identity. These are
the other superhuman entities—particularly those to which
not phenomena of syncretism (a widely abused term that is
they are linked due to having similar or contrasting func-
contested by religious historians) but authentically creative
tions. This web implies a strongly anthropomorphic gender
processes, whereby certain aspects of a deity’s defining func-
differentiation, which is translated into a distinction between
tions and attributes were selected and developed so that the
gods and goddesses (i.e., in the creation of a male and female
deity drew to itself other divine figures with similar functions
divine world). The question, as posed by Nicole Loraux
but from different historico-cultural contexts.
(1990), then becomes “what is a goddess?”—an inquiry that
can be related to the Greek pantheon as well as similar Medi-
terranean religious contexts.
process, as in other components of the Hellenistic cultural
amalgam, a predominant and guiding role was played by the
When facing the problem of the significance of female
Greek religious tradition, in which there were a number of
divine figures within the religious systems of a Hellenistic
great goddesses with a long history (perpetuated by various
milieu, the structural dialectic of the relations operating
sources of nourishment) and whose origins were often un-
among all their components and, in particular, between the
clear (e.g., Mediterranean, Indo-European, Near Eastern),
two gender dimensions must be taken into full consider-
but which had by now assumed strong polyhedral identities.
ation. The focus on the various female presences should not
Figures included Hera, bride of the great Zeus, whose distin-
overshadow the individual basic reality of religious contexts
guishing feature is her link with marriage; Athena, the par-
in which the divine world is articulated according to the
thenos (never a child, always a virgin) who emerged intact and
complementary functions and prerogatives of these two di-
motherless from the head of Zeus as a warrior and patron
of the arts, protectress of the polis, and civilizing deity; Arte-
The second difficulty regards the very notion of Helle-
mis, the virgin huntress, mistress of the animals (potnia
nism assumed as the parameter of reference for the theme
thero¯n), and protectress of the critical passages of human life
under discussion. As mentioned previously, this term com-
from birth to male and female initiations; and, lastly, Aphro-
bines a time span that current historical research extends sig-
dite. She represented the very force of sexual desire and, ac-
nificantly beyond the limits of Droysen’s formula with an ex-
cording to Hesiodic tradition, was born before the other gods
tremely wide-ranging spatial dimension, enveloping all the
of Olympus from the marine foam fertilized by the member
cultures of the Mediterranean area that in various ways came
of Uranus and mutilated by his son Cronus to open the cos-
into contact with Greek culture. It follows that, in principle,
mic space necessary for the creation of gods and men. This
the entire chronological and cultural framework in question
figure undoubtedly had oriental connections in contiguity
must be examined to identify the personality and role at least
and probably in continuity with the Babylonian and Phoeni-
of its main female figures, who embody the spiritual and reli-
cian Astarte (perhaps via the Cypriot culture; Kypris is al-
gious needs that the worshipers—both men and women—in
ready a typical Homeric name given to her) and also brings
turn express through the prerogatives and the attributes with
together warlike aspects and a bisexual component.
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In the Hellenistic period, Aphrodite once more takes
Leukophryene; of Sardis; of Perge in Pamphylia; of Bargylia,
forceful possession of those far-off roots, moreover never for-
with the epithet Kindyas; and of Hypaipa, where she is iden-
gotten, to become associated and identified with numerous
tified with the Persian Anaitis. In fact, in the Hellenistic peri-
goddesses of Near Eastern pantheons. Already in the archaic
od, the Persian goddess was worshiped in various Anatolian
and Classical periods, those roots were expressed, amongst
centers, which to a varying extent preserved traces of ancient
other ways, in the typical love–death relationship with Ado-
Persian domination. In the game of finding similarities be-
nis, whose typological analogies and historical connections
tween the traits and functions of divine figures that emerged
with the Babylonian Tammuz are clear. Associated in Sap-
from the contact between different religious contexts, she is
pho’s female thiasos with the ritual of mourning and in classi-
usually identified with the Greek goddess. The name Persian
cal Athens with women dancing on roofs in a state of emo-
Artemis (persike), in fact, is one of the most frequent names
tional turmoil, in the city of Alexandria during the days of
given to Anaitis—especially in Lydia, which emphasizes how
Arsinoë II, wife of Ptolemy II, the cult of Adonis was, in-
various defining traits of the two figures are similar, such as
stead, the great city festival described in the famous Idyll XV
their links with nature and the animal kingdom in particular.
of Theocritus, thus confirming a religious continuity that in
the Hellenistic period widened to involve the cosmopolitan
lenistic period, other major Eastern goddesses began to be
public of the newly founded cities.
worshiped beyond their national boundaries, thus increasing
The metropolis of Alexandria was, in fact, built on
their number of worshipers. The contact with some of the
Egyptian soil by Alexander the Great as a tangible sign of hel-
main characters in the Greek, and then also Roman pan-
lenismos introduced into the heart of the ancient local civili-
theon, led to partial changes in their personalities.
zation and, under Ptolemaic rule, was considered one of the
Dea Syria. A case in point is the Semitic goddess Atar-
most prestigious cultural and religious centers of the Medi-
gatis, whose main center of worship was the city of Hi-
terranean world. The traditional Greek cults were practiced
erapolis-Bambyke in northern Syria. She had been known in
there, and sources indicate that the prevalent cult was that
Greece since the third to second century BCE by the name
of Demeter, who was the subject of numerous festivals also
of Pure (hagne) Aphrodite or Goddess Syria and was on occa-
observed in Egyptian society and in Eleusis, a suburb of Alex-
sions called Aphrodite Goddess Syria or Hagne Aphrodite
andria, where she was evoked in her peculiar dimension as
Atargatis, confirming that worshipers perceived certain anal-
the figure-head goddess of the mystery cult. With no local
ogies between the two goddesses. Moreover, Atargatis did
“branch offices” to perform its role, Attic Eleusis would re-
not lose her own distinct identity, underlined by the national
main a religious center of extreme vitality throughout early
name and clearly expressed in her traditional association with
and late Hellenism, attracting worshipers from all over the
the great Syrian Baal Hadad, lord of the tempest and of light-
Mediterranean and, in particular, from Italy and Rome.
ning, who was linked to the kingdom of the underworld and
Eleusis was also visited by many emperors from Augustus (31
BCE) to Gallienus (264/65 CE); Hadrian, an admirer of Greek
culture, was a particularly devoted worshiper. They displayed
In Delos, where the cult was introduced by Syrian mer-
a special respect for Demeter’s gifts, which the famous Cic-
chants, the two gods were first venerated together as patrician
eronian formula listed as cereal cultivation and the mysteries
gods by the Eastern community. When Athens took control
with their eschatological guarantees.
of the island, the public of worshipers widened to envelop
its entire cosmopolitan population, and the goddess progres-
On the acropolis of Pergamum (founded by Attalus I
sively acquired supremacy over her male counterpart. From
and capital of his kingdom) near the great altar of Zeus,
118/117 BCE the holder of the priesthood seems to have been
stands the sanctuary of Demeter, together with those of
an Athenian, who proclaimed himself hiereus t¯es agn¯es
Athena Polias and Hera Basileia. This sanctuary testifies to
Aphrodit¯es (priest of the Pure Aphrodite). This title is an in-
the substantial Greek influence on the new Asian kingdom,
dication of the advanced process of Hellenization in which
along the lines of the ancient Hellenic colonies in the Anato-
the goddess was by now involved. Lucian (second century
lian peninsula. This sanctuary, moreover, was also a particu-
CE) is attributed with the treatise “The Syrian Goddess,”
lar center for the worship of Artemis, who in numerous sites
which provides a description of the cult and religious tradi-
of ancient origin or Hellenistic foundation displayed evident
tions related to the great sanctuary of Hierapolis-Bambyke.
oriental traits (reflecting both the marked Mediterranean and
The goddess, although linked to her male counterpart Hadad
Anatolian components of her ancient roots) and new conflu-
and to a lower ranking figure of unknown identity, seems to
ences with figures of great local goddesses. Examples include
be the undisputed protagonist of the cult and of relative
the great sanctuary at Ephesus in which the unusual iconog-
mythical traditions. Assuming the identification of Hadad
raphy of the cult statue of the goddess, enclosed within a
with Zeus—considering that the numerous Semitic Baals
sheath decorated with numerous animal protomes (heads or
and the major male deities of the numerous local pantheons
foreparts), plastically expresses her essential dimension as
tended to be assimilated with the king of the Greek gods or
mistress of wild animals (pothnia thero¯n); those of Magnesia
with the Roman Jupiter, by now perceived as his counter-
on the Meander, in which Artemis bears the name of
part—Lucian also puts Atargatis on the same level as Hera.
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However, confirming the polyhedral nature of this divine
though her title identifies her with the bride of the highest
figure, Lucian declares that “on the whole, she is certainly
Roman god, the iconographic type of the Juno of Doliche
Hera, but she also has something of Athena, Aphrodite, Sele-
reveals its oriental origin in a number of characteristic ele-
ne, Rhea, Artemis, Nemesis and the Fates” (De Dea Syria
ments. In parallel with her divine bridegroom, who is depict-
ed standing on a bull’s back, the goddess appears upright on
an animal (not always clearly identifiable as bovine or cer-
There is an evident sense of a “game of identification”
vine) in a long robe with her head covered by a veil, or some-
between various divine figures, clearly perceived by contem-
times wearing a diadem (jeweled headdress) or a calathos (a
porary peoples, as a tool for classifying and evaluating their
cylindrical cap). The scepter and the mirror are her typical
functions and prerogatives when comparing the numerous
national pantheons. The presence of phallic symbols in the
Heliopolitan sanctuary, together with many other elements
Cybele. The Phrygian goddess of animals and moun-
of the ritual praxis, shows the goddess’s fundamental link
tains, Cybele was already known to the first Greek colonists
with nature and fertility. The existence of a religious staff
on the coasts of Asia Minor and since the seventh to sixth
consisting of eunuch Galloi and of men and women who in
century BCE was included in the Greek pantheon under the
the grip of obsession worshiped the goddess with singing,
name of Great Mother (M¯eter Megal¯e) on the basis of her
dancing, and the music of sacred instruments (De Dea Syria
identification with Rhea, mother of the Olympian gods. The
43), indicates a cult with clear orgiastic traits, similar to that
iconographic scheme that originated in this period would re-
of the great Anatolian mother Cybele, with whom some an-
main basically unchanged until the last manifestations of her
cient sources identify Atargatis. The marked astral and cos-
cult, which became one of the most widespread in the Medi-
mic characterization of her personality (often identified with
terranean world after its official introduction in Rome in 204
the constellation of Virgo), together with her peculiar traits
BCE. In this solemn image of the goddess, she seated on her
as protectress of the polis and her identification with Fortuna
throne, often within a naiskos (shrine or small temple), with
and Tyche, portray a complex personality. This was the re-
her veiled head surmounted by the polos, bearing the attri-
sult of a long historical process that grew from the ancient
butes of the sceptre, the patera (a libation bowl), and the tim-
local roots of a sovereign goddess of a city community to be-
panum (tambourine), and with a lion cub in her lap or ac-
come—according to the canons of Hellenistic cosmopolitan-
companied by one or two lions in a heraldic position near
ism—the figure of the omniparens (universal genetrix; moth-
the throne.
er of all) and omnipotent cosmic deity celebrated by
Apuleius (second century
More or less Hellenized (also due to her relationship
with Demeter) the Anatolian goddess does not lose the pecu-
In terms of the diffusion and significance of her cult in
liar connotations of her personality and cult. Her individual
the Mediterranean regions, Atargatis took her distance from
characteristics are expressed in the names that refer to her
her original male counterpart, who also—as Zeus or Jupiter
Eastern origins (Berecynthian, Idaea, Cybele) and in the or-
Heliopolitanus and often bearing the name Optimus Maxi-
giastic forms of the rite, with a significant role given to
mus—enjoyed a certain popularity under the Empire. The
women and its nocturnal connotations. In fact, the goddess
divine consort of another Syrian god, the Baal of the city of
has the prerogative of infusing obsession (mania) both in the
Doliche in Commagene (northern Syria), however, assumed
religious dimension of divine possession and in the destruc-
a subordinate position to her companion, while enjoying the
tive manifestation of pathological madness, which however
latter’s great popularity in the imperial period (second–third
she may also cure in her role of healing goddess. Above all,
century CE) only by reflection. This figure is identified with
the presence of a male counterpart, Attis, the subject of a
Iuppiter Optimus Maximus and bears the localized title of
bloodthirsty cult involving the self-castration of a number of
Dolichenus. He has warlike but also celestial and cosmic at-
worshipers forming the group of the Galloi, shows the orien-
tributes and a bride whom epigraphic and iconographic
tal roots of the mythical–ritual system revolving around the
sources identify with Juno, or often Regina Juno or Santa
Anatolian Great Mother.
The process of Hellenization of this system, which in
This assimilation fits perfectly into the general frame-
the Classical period caused the figure of Attis and his bloody
work in question and shows how the major female figures
rites to be abolished, did not however achieve its radical
in the Greek and Roman pantheons, which were by now ex-
transformation. In the early Hellenistic period in Greece, the
tremely similar, provided specific parameters of reference
young male counterpart of Cybele reemerged on a mythical
that allowed many divine figures with different national ori-
and ritual level. His anthropomorphic representation dis-
gins to be received into the great Hellenistic cultural amal-
plays the connotations of a superhuman figure linked to veg-
gam. Moreover, filtered by Hellenic and Roman influence,
etation. He is the protagonist of a tragic event of death, re-
these figures acquire a supranational, cosmopolitan dimen-
deemed by a promise of bodily incorruptibility and, above
sion and are often characterized in cosmic terms, assuming
all, by the ritual evocation of the event itself. In this way, he
functions and prerogatives of many other female deities
becomes the subject of worship together with the Great
while never totally obscuring their primitive identity. Al-
Mother. The official introduction in Rome of the Metroac
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 apparently supplants the Greek experience of it, because
until the end of Hellenism. In the late fourth century CE she
at the height of the military and political crisis caused by
would unite in the taurobolium those representatives of the
Hannibal’s presence on Italic soil during the Second Punic
Roman aristocracy who had remained impervious to Chris-
War (218–210 BCE) the Senate turned to King Attalus of
tianization. From Vettius Agorius Praetextatus and his bride
Pergamum as mediator at the sanctuary of Pessinunt, home
Fabia Aconia Paulina to many other members of the great
of the Great Goddess. On arriving in the Urbs, the Black
Roman senatorial families, the tenacious loyalty to ancestral
Stone, aniconic image of the goddess was housed in the tem-
religious traditions would be given particular importance and
ple of Victoria on Palatine Hill and then transferred to the
attention through devotion to the Magna Mater Idaea,
sacred temple dedicated to her on the same hill, the center
whose ancient Eastern personality is inextricably intertwined
of the city’s ancestral cults. The Hellenized dimension is
with the equally marked traits of her Hellenic and Roman
present also in the figure of the Roman Magna Mater Idaea,
adopted as national deity due to her links with the tradition
Isis. The Egyptian goddess Isis is undoubtedly the fig-
of the city’s Trojan origins as protectress of Aeneas, son of
ure that more than any other exemplifies the Hellenistic ty-
an Aphrodite perceived as homologous to the goddess Venus.
pology of a national deity assuming a cosmopolitan nature
In fact, the religious policy implemented by the public pow-
when coming into contact with similar personalities and
ers of Rome once again reflects the trends typical of the con-
under dominant Hellenic influence. Herodotos (c. 484–
temporary religious scene, whereby an oriental deity was in-
between 430 and 420 BCE) noted in his Histories that all
troduced into the traditional religious structure and the
Egyptians, independent of their innumerable local cults, ven-
aspects most suited to that structure were developed and its
erated the couple of Isis and Osiris. For thousands of years
physiognomy remodeled to harmonize it with the other
they played a central role in Egyptian religion, due to their
members of the pantheon.
triple connection with pharaonic ideology, funerary practices
At the same time, the new goddess does not lose her
and eschatology, and agrarian fertility.
own identity, which in the case of Cybele would be affirmed
In the light of the Greek interpretation, Osiris is identi-
strongly in the late Republic and early Empire when the
fied with Dionysos because of his chthonic and agrarian as-
Phrygian and mystic aspects of the cult reemerged. These as-
pects and especially the path¯e (sufferings) embodied in his
pects had been relegated to within the Palatine sanctuary, to-
mythical story and cult, and Isis is identified with Demeter.
gether with the figure of Attis and the eunuch Galloi, where-
This identification, however, only covers the aspect of her
as the official space had been entirely occupied by the public
divine personality linked to fertility and maternity. Parallel
festival organized by the aristocrats of the annual Megalesia
to a progressive diffusion of her cult in Greece, Asia Minor,
games, which included the procession of the divine image
the islands of the Aegean and the West (first in Sicily and
and its immersion in the waters of the river Almo. The em-
southern Italy and then throughout the peninsula and in the
perors Claudius (41–54) and Antoninus Pius (138–161) in-
various regions of the Empire) in the Hellenistic period Isis’s
stituted the Phrygian festival cycle of March 15–17, in which
attributes and prerogatives underwent such extraordinary de-
the story of Attis was publicly evoked with manifestations of
velopment that she became a panthea goddess. In his novel
mourning and joy and marked also by the bloody practices
Metamorphoses, Apuleius (second century CE) defined her as
of the Galloi. Once the Metroac ritual was adopted as the
“single Godhead (numen unicum) adored by the whole world
official cult of the state, thereby protected and promoted by
in varied forms, in differing rites and with many diverse
the emperors, this Roman festive cycle spread to many parts
names” (Metamorphoses 11, 5). In the prayer that the protag-
of the Empire. By 160 CE the entire Empire knew of the
onist of the novel addresses to the bright moon rising from
Metroac sacrificial rite in its dual form of the taurobolium
the waters of the sea over the beach of Cenchreae (Corinth),
(sacrifice of a bull) and criobolium (sacrifice of a ram) and
he invokes the Regina caeli (Queen of Heaven) by listing the
was performed by city communities and private individuals
main figures of the Greek-Roman pantheon—all expressions
for the health of the emperor and his family as an expression
of her multiform identity: Ceres honored at Eleusis, the
of devotion and loyalty toward the highest public authority.
caelestis (heavenly) Venus “worshipped in the island shrine
In the drastic evolution of lifestyle and religious feeling in
of Paphos; or the sister of Phoebus . . . now adored in the
subsequent centuries, the cathartic connotations of the
celebrated temples of Ephesus; or whether as Proserpine
taurobolium were accentuated, and it shifted from being a
. . .” (Metamorphoses 11, 5). He concluded: “By whatever
public rite performed for the salvation of the social commu-
name or ceremony or visage it is right to address thee, help
nity in the person of its highest representative to become an
me now in the depth of my trouble” (Metamorphoses 11, 5).
individual, private rite. Its aim was thus the purification and
In the reply of the epiphanic goddess, further details are
salvation of the worshiper.
added to the divine picture:
Both in the forms of the festival cycle of March and in
Thus the Phrygians, earliest of races, call me Pessinun-
those of the bloody rite of the taurobolium, the Great God-
tia, Mother of the Gods; thus the Athenians, sprung
dess, protagonist of the cult, together with her male counter-
from their own soil, call me Cecropeian Minerva; and
part, Attis, would maintain her position of importance up
the sea-tossed Cyprians call me Paphian Venus, the ar-
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cher Cretans Diana Dictynna, and the trilingual Sicil-
task of searching for the dismembered body of her spouse.
ians Ortygian Proserpine; to the Eleusinians I am Ceres,
On recomposing it, she celebrated the funeral rites, through
the ancient goddesses, to others Iuno, to others Bellona
which she made the great Osiris immortal. At the same time,
and Hecate and Rhamnusia. But the Ethiopians . . .
Plutarch defines the salvific function of the goddess toward
together with the Africans and the Egyptians who excel
through having the original doctrine, honour me with
my distinctive rites and give me my true name of Queen
The sister and wife of Osiris . . . , nor did she allow
Isis. (Metamorphoses 11, 1–5)
the contests and struggles which she had undertaken,
her wanderings and her many deeds of wisdom and
Deeply Hellenized but at the same time rooted in the ancient
bravery, to be engulfed in oblivion and silence, but into
Egyptian tradition, this image of Isis Myrionyma (with ten
the most sacred rites she infused images, suggestions
thousand names) is most vividly expressed in the hymns of
and representations of her experiences at that time, and
praise (aretalogies). In these, the goddess declares her powers
so she consecrated at once a pattern of piety and an en-
(dynameis) and lists the benefits she has bestowed on human-
couragement to men and women overtaken by similar
kind, configuring herself as a typical cultural heroine in line
misfortunes. (De Iside et Osiride, 27 as cited in Griffiths,
with the Hellenistic model of the euret¯es (inventor of the fun-
1970, pp. 26–27)
damental human techniques and institutions) and euerget¯es
The divine story contemplates suffering and death but also
(benefactor). The Isiac aretalogies are attested by epigraphs
provides a positive solution in the reanimation of Osiris, who
in many places of the Hellenized world and by literary docu-
regains life and sovereignty, albeit in the kingdom of the un-
ments and probably derive from a single prototype in which
derworld. To the eyes of the Greeks, who are aware of the
ancient Egyptian concepts were elaborated in the light of a
religious experiences typical of the Greek mystery cults, the
new religious vision typical of the Hellenistic period. The
story becomes an exemplary model for contemporary men
model of Isis’s aretalogies is, in fact, attributable to the begin-
and women. Translated into ritual terms (the teletai), it offers
ning of this period and was aimed at promoting diffusion of
worshipers the hope of overcoming the difficulties and suf-
the cult of the goddess whose functional identity and iconog-
ferings of human existence.
raphy had by now become deeply Hellenized. After the god-
dess’s genealogy and a list of her main cult centers, a list fol-
Plutarch’s text thus draws a picture that is clearly illus-
lows of her cosmogonic exploits (e.g., separation of the land
trated in Book 11 of the Metamorphoses, namely, the pres-
from the sky, fixing the route followed by the stars, the sun
ence in the Isiac cult of the initiatory and esoteric praxis of
and the moon) and of the benefits she bestowed on humanity
the mysteries, insofar as they are rites that place the worship-
(e.g., the abolition of cannibalism; the institution of public
er in intimate contact with the deity through the ritual reevo-
and family law; the invention of language, writing, and navi-
cation of a painful event that, however, has a positive out-
gation; the institution of religious rites; and the definition
come. The mystery component—absent from the ancient
Egyptian religious context—is the result of the undeniable
of ethical laws). The listing of the numerous aretai presents
influence of the Greek, probably Eleusinian model, as in
a picture of Isis as a universal power, mistress of the cosmos
other cults of oriental deities. In particular, at the beginning
in its natural and human dimension, and in some documents
of the Hellenistic period in some Greek centers, Cybele, an-
(e.g., Hymn from Andros, Hymn from Kyme, Metamorphoses)
other great goddess involved in the process of Hellenization
sovereign of astral destiny—the Heimarmene (fate) imposed
characteristic of the age, assumed traits typical of mystery
on Hellenistic society as a dark and tyrannical force. This
cults. These would persist with different forms and methods
prerogative of the goddess is expressed in the frequent name
up until the imperial period, when they are discussed by
of Tyche or Fortuna with which worshipers invoked her and
Christian authors such as Clement of Alexandria (150–215)
in the iconographic attributes of the cornucopia and the rud-
and Julius Firmicus Maternus (fourth century CE).
der. Its liveliest representation is the story of Lucius narrated
by Apeuleius in Metamorphoses. This trait explains the excep-
Insofar as they are subjects of a mystery cult resulting
tional favor that Isis enjoyed in the entire Mediterranean
from the dense network of contacts with Greek religious in-
world and represents the most typically Hellenistic aspect of
fluences and in particular with that of the Eleusinian Deme-
her personality. In the variety of her attributes and her typol-
ter to whom in various ways both are typologically related,
ogy, the figure of Isis—although rooted in a national tradi-
the two goddesses, Isis and Cybele, express an important
tion—is a typical creation of Hellenism in the sense that she
component of the great Hellenistic religious amalgam. They
exemplifies its cosmopolitan aspects and at the same time sat-
are, in fact, characterized by marked individualistic tensions,
isfies individuals’ needs for personal guarantees for the pres-
which on a religious level are reflected in the search for a
ent and future. To this end, according to ancient Egyptian
more intimate and personal relationship with the deity, such
ideology, an essential role is played by the goddess in the
as could be realized in initiatory and esoteric rites. At the
mythical–ritual framework associating her with her spouse
same time, the Isiac cult is one of the most characteristic
Osiris and her son Horus. In the organic explanation of the
manifestations of the tendency to set up new community
second century CE Greek writer Plutarch (before 50–after
groups because it requires total devotion of the initiate. In
120 CE), the Egyptian myth attributes Isis with the essential
exchange for the divine protection that broke the bonds 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 blind Fortuna and introduced him into the secrets of the
Turcan, Robert. Les cultes orientaux dans le monde romain. Paris,
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Rostovzev, Michael. Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic
Merlat, Pierre. Jupiter Dolichenus. Essai d’interprétation et de syn-
World. 3 vols. Oxford, 1941.
thèse. Paris, 1960.
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

on local, oral, village contexts where goddesses tend to thrive.
Duthoy, Robert. The Taurobolium. Its Evolution and Terminology.
With increasing numbers of publications, however, the best
Leiden, 1969.
way to characterize Hindu goddesses, either as individuals or
Sfameni Gasparro, Guilia. Soteriology and Mystic Aspects in the Cult
as a category, has become contested and complex. Accord-
of Cybele and Attis. Leiden, 1985.
ingly, this essay has three aims: to cover representative Hindu
Vermaseren, Maarten J. Cybele and Attis. The Myth and the Cult.
goddesses; to indicate the types of scholarly methodologies
London, 1977.
currently employed to study them; and to describe major
Vermaseren, Maarten J. Corpus Cultus Cybelae Attidisque (CCCA).
hermeneutical controversies in their interpretation.
7 vols. Leiden, 1977–1989.
For heuristic purposes, this survey organizes goddesses
via a pacific (saumya)/fierce (raudra) spectrum, or, as Wendy
Bricault, Laurent. Atlas de la diffusion des cultes isiaques (IVe s. av.
Doniger first labeled it, a juxtaposition between “breast”
J.-C.—IVe s. apr. J.-C.). Paris, 2001.
(gentle and nurturing) and “tooth” (ambiguous and poten-
Bricault, Laurent. Isis en Occident. Actes du IIème Colloque interna-
tially dangerous) goddesses (1980, pp. 90–91). In general,
tional sur les études isiaques, Lyon III 16–17 mai 2002. Lei-
breast goddesses are boon bestowing and provide mediation
den, 2004.
and access to their more powerful consorts. One example is
Bricault, Laurent, ed. De Memphis à Rome. Actes du Ier Colloque
S´r¯ı or Laks:m¯ı, associated from the Vedic period with royalty
international sur les études isiaques, Poitiens-Futuroscope, 8–10
and from the epic period with auspiciousness, fertility,
avril 1999. Leiden, 2000.
wealth, and usually Lord Vis:n:u. Iconographically, she is por-
Dunand, Françoise. Le culte d’Isis dans le bassin oriental de la Mé-
trayed either alone, seated on a lotus and surrounded by sym-
diterranée. 3 vols. Leiden, 1973.
bols of fecundity (coins, water, elephants, and the color red)
Eingartner, Johannes. Isis und ihre Dienerinnen in der Kunst der
or with Vis:n:u in a position of humble subservience. Theo-
römischen Kaiserzeit. Leiden, 1991.
logical reflections on Laks:m¯ı reach their apex in the medieval
Grandjean, Yves. Une nouvelle arétalogie d’Isis à Maronée. Leiden,
writings of South Indian S´r¯ı Vais:n:avas, for whom she is
Vis:n:u’s inseparable breast-jewel, and she argues with her lord
over devotees, independently granting them grace (prasa¯da).
Griffiths, J. Gwyn. Apuleius of Madauros. The Isis–Book (Metamor-
phoses, Book XI). Leiden, 1975.
Other instances include Sarasvat¯ı, the Vedic river god-
Griffiths, J. Gwyn, ed. and trans. Plutarch’s De Iside et Osiride.
dess who by the epic period symbolized purity, learning, and
Cambridge, U.K., 1970.
the arts, and who, though putatively linked to Brahma¯, helps
Heyob, Sharon K. The Cult of Isis among Women in the Graeco-
devotees directly; S¯ıta¯, the wife of Ra¯ma, the model of wifely
Roman World. Leiden, 1975.
perfection who, in Tulsida¯sa’s sixteenth-century Hindi ver-
Loraux, Nicole. “Herakles: The Super-Male and the Feminine.”
sion of the Ra¯ma¯yan:a, the Ra¯mcaritma¯nas, acts as the devo-
In Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in
tee’s intermediary to Ra¯ma; and the various forms of S´iva’s
the Ancient Greek World, edited by David M. Halperin, John
wife Sat¯ı, or Pa¯rvat¯ı, the one to draw her unpredictable hus-
J. Winkler, and Froma Zeitlin. Princeton, N.J., 1990.
band from the sphere of moks:a to that of dharma through
Malaise, Michel. Inventaire préliminaire des documents égyptiens dé-
her beauty and sexuality. In the South Indian theological
couverts en Italie. Leiden, 1972.
speculations of S´aiva Siddha¯nta, she is identified with S´iva’s
Malaise, Michel. Les conditions de pénétration et de diffusion des
grace (arul:), inherent in every human. In all cases, these me-
cultes égyptiens en Italie. Leiden, 1972.
diator-goddesses are said to be svakiya, or married to their
consorts, and even if they are soteriologically more signifi-
Malaise, Michel. “La diffusion des cultes égyptiens dans les prov-
inces européennes de l’ Empire romain.” In Aufstieg und
cant than the male gods, the latter are more important onto-
Niedergang der römischen Welt: Vol. 17.3. Religion, pp.
1615–1691. Berlin, 1984.
“Tooth” goddesses are sometimes dangerous and must
Walters, Elizabeth J. Attic Grave Reliefs that Represent Women in
be viewed with caution. Famous examples are Durga¯, or
the Dress of Isis. Princeton, N.J., 1988.
Ambika¯/Can:d:ika¯, the battle queen of the famed sixth-
century Sanskrit “Dev¯ı-Ma¯ha¯tmya” section of the
Ma¯rkan:d:eya Pura¯n:a, who slays demons on behalf of the gods
and who offers her devotees either worldly enjoyment (bhuk-
) or liberation (mukti); and Ka¯l¯ı, the emaciated demon-
chopper who emerges from Durga¯’s wrath to have an auton-
Academic interest in Hindu goddesses has burgeoned since
omous career as an awesome mother goddess, rescuing her
the 1970s because of three coalescing factors: in the United
votaries from distress. Other instances of ambivalent god-
States, funding for fieldwork in South Asia through postwar
desses include those whose provenance is local calamity or
area studies programs; feminist scholarship, with its stress on
disease, such as S´¯ıtala¯ and Ma¯riyamman, goddesses of small-
women’s experience and feminist perspectives; and the move
pox and skin maladies. Like “tooth” goddesses in general,
from a reliance on texts and elite viewpoints to an emphasis
they represent both the release from suffering and the cause
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of that suffering; devotees of S´¯ıtala¯ in pox outbreaks claim
about individual goddesses and the theoretical nuancing of
that the mother’s “mercy” (daya¯) is manifest on the bodies
scholarly approaches to goddesses in general. Alongside
of those she favors. Each of these powerful, independent god-
translations or descriptive works, therefore, are field studies
desses, though potentially allied with a male, either as con-
promoting feminist, neo-Dukheimian, Freudian, or post-
sort (S´iva is the husband of both Durga¯ and Ka¯l¯ı) or as com-
colonial interpretive lenses. These treat a variety of individual
panion (Jva¯ra¯sura, the Fever Demon, is S´¯ıtala¯’s helper), are
goddesses, such as An˙ka¯l:aparame¯cuvari, Bhadraka¯l:i,
not intermediaries to their male partners; one prays to them
Draupad¯ı, Ma¯riyamman, and M¯ına¯ks:¯ı, from South India,
directly, hoping that their compassionate sides will “inter-
and Manasa¯, Nanda¯dev¯ı, S´¯ıtala¯, and Vais:n:odev¯ı, from the
cede,” so to speak, with their more dangerous aspects.
north. As a group, such works challenge two influential her-
Midway between “breast” and “tooth” goddesses are
meneutical frameworks proposed when the study of Hindu
those who are neither subservient nor independently power-
goddesses was still nascent in the 1960s and 1970s. The first
ful, neither peaceful nor fierce, but who claim an equal status
rests on a dichotomy between the local or “little” and the
with their male companions. Pa¯rvat¯ı in her form as the fe-
universal or “great” traditions and claims that local goddess
male sexual organ (yoni), coupled with that of the male, S´iva
cults lack geographic spread, textual articulation, Brahman
linga, is a perfect example of such complementarity, as are
priests, sophisticated theology, vegetarian ethos, and a do-
S´iva and Pa¯rvat¯ı as two halves of the same being,
mesticated deity. As new field research shows, such juxtapo-
Ardhana¯r¯ı´svara, S´iva Half-woman. Ra¯dha¯, Kr:s:n:a’s cowherd
sitions may be too stark. An˙ka¯l:aparame¯cuvari is a village god-
lover, is another illustration; although, like the “breast” god-
dess prominent in Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh; her
desses mentioned above, she renders Kr:s:n:a accessible to
spread is wider than that of M¯ına¯ks:¯ı, who lives solely in one
Vais:n:ava devotees, offering her grace and compassion to
temple in Madurai, but the latter is a royal deity whose fame,
those who seek it (see Su¯rda¯s’s Su¯rsa¯gar and the Brahmavai-
and the wealth and Brahmanical prestige of her temple draw
varta Pura¯n:a). In other texts Kr:s:n:a exalts her over himself
crowds from around the country. Bhadraka¯l:i, a multiform
and even serves as a model of devotion to her rather than the
of the north Indian Ka¯l¯ı, shares several important elements
reverse (see Jayadeva’s G¯ıtagovinda and Ru¯pa Gosva¯min’s
with her northern namesake, but her cult in Kerala has many
unique features. The same is true of Manasa¯, the goddess of
In a theological move similar to that of Kr:s:n:a in the
snakes, who is widely worshiped throughout India but in va-
Bhagavadg¯ıta¯, who asserts that all gods are really just forms
rying ritual and iconographic forms. Draupad¯ı is reputed for
of himself, Hindu goddess worshipers also claim that all
her role in the Maha¯bha¯rata, but only in South India is there
manifestations of the divine feminine, whether benign or
a cult centered on her. Nanda¯dev¯ı and Vais:n:odev¯ı, both
ambivalent, are simply faces or aspects of the one Great God-
variants of Durga¯, inspire complex local traditions in the cen-
dess, Maha¯dev¯ı. This profession is attested textually from at
tral and western Himalayas, respectively. Finally, S´¯ıtala¯ and
least the time of the “Dev¯ı-Ma¯ha¯tmya,” where one finds epi-
Ma¯riyamman share a concern with skin diseases, but their
thets praising one goddess in terms of another, stories in
iconography, personalities, and ritual prescriptions differ
which goddesses emerge from each other, and philosophical
from region to region across India. Such scholarly studies
declarations about female energy (´sakti), primordial nature
imply twin processes at work: Sanskritization or Brahmaniza-
(prakr:ti), delusive power (ma¯ya¯), and the absolute ground of
tion, the identification of the local with the universally re-
being (brahman), each of which is said to characterize female
spected “higher” culture, and localization, whereby widely
deities. The concept of Maha¯dev¯ı was an especially powerful
recognized goddesses adapt to bounded geographic contexts.
tool for assimilating local, indigenous goddess cults into the
Hence, the demarcation between “great” and “little” tradi-
normative, widespread Hindu pantheon, and the Pura¯n:as
tions is more porous than scholars once thought. A second
(fifth to eighteenth centuries) are textual repositories of lore
influential opposition, according to which divine ferocity is
concerning this process of consolidation. Recent anthropo-
associated with marital independence, has also been disput-
logical studies underscore the same point: tribal and local de-
ed; Kathleen Erndl, Lynn Foulston, and Stanley Kurtz all
ities in Orissa are slowly being identified with the pan-Indian
document sweet, married goddesses who accept blood sacri-
Durga¯; a local “girl” in Madurai has risen through identifica-
fice, possession, and fire walking, as well as independent god-
tion with S´iva’s consort Pa¯rvat¯ı to the status of his royal wife,
desses who are benign and vegetarian.
now more beloved by devotees than her husband; and Val:l:i,
Among other themes of interest to contemporary schol-
Murukan’s Tamil wife, is a classic low-caste Cinderella
ars of Hindu goddesses is the question of origins: from where
whose origins have nearly been erased in her gradual upward
do Hindu goddesses come? From the Indus Valley civiliza-
mobility. The 108 S´a¯kta “seats” (p¯ıt:has) of the Goddess,
tion, in the third millennium BCE or earlier? The Vedic peri-
each a local shrine glorified by its incorporation into the leg-
od, after the mid-second millennium BCE? Autochthonous
end about the fallen body parts of S´iva’s wife Sat¯ı, are anoth-
tribal culture? Although the issue is hotly debated, the schol-
er illustration of regional deities being unified under the ban-
arly consensus is that the Indus Valley peoples were probably
ner of a universal goddess.
goddess revering, as there are parallels between scenes depict-
One of the results of the proliferation of studies on
ed on some of their steatite seals and later Dravidian sacrifi-
Hindu goddesses has been both the expansion of knowledge
cial goddess cults. Goddess worship is also important, as one
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sees even today, in many tribal societies. In spite of the natu-
of her sons’ heroic self-sacrifice. Most scholars, whether Indi-
ral theological desire to read goddesses back into the Vedic
an or not, find the explicit equation of the nationalists’ ene-
tradition, there is little evidence for this in the Vedic texts
mies with the goddess’s victims to be extremely worrying.
themselves, although it is likely that because they are au-
Of course, goddesses are a malleable lot, and the nation-
thored by the Brahman elite, they do not represent the totali-
alists are not the only ones to employ them for human ends.
ty of Vedic religiosity.
For example, Santos:¯ı Ma¯, Goddess of Contentment, found
An additional topic that galvanizes scholarly and popu-
a mass following after the release of a Bollywood film cele-
lar audiences, East and West, is the relationship of Hindu
brating her power in 1975, the AIDS-A¯mma¯ was created by
goddesses to Hindu women. Does the worship of female dei-
a health educator from Andhra Pradesh in 1999, and many
ties imply anything about expectations for women’s behav-
ecologically minded activists are exploring goddess traditions
ior? The evidence is mixed: many goddesses appear to act as
for environmentally friendly stories, rituals, or associated
approved models for Hindu women. S¯ıta¯, Sa¯vitr¯ı, and
philosophical concepts. Again, the data is conflicting; to take
Pa¯rvat¯ı embody the ideal in wifely virtue; Nanda¯dev¯ı’s ritu-
the case of the Ganges River, the same belief in the Ganga¯
alized reluctance to leave her parents’ home for S´iva’s abode
as goddess leads some Hindus to overlook pollution, since
mirrors the feelings of out-married Garhwali women; and
the Mother’s purity is inviolable, whereas others attempt to
the Orissan Ka¯l¯ı’s outstretched tongue is interpreted locally
cleanse her out of reverence.
as a symbol of desired wifely shame on the part of the god-
A further topic is the intersection between S´a¯ktism and
dess when she realizes that she has stepped on her husband’s
Tantra, the antinomian ritual and philosophical system in
prostrate body. In such cases the goddess’s conduct acts to
which the normally forbidden is utilized as a means to the
reinforce what many see as patriarchal values. Other goddess-
divine. From at least the tenth century, particularly in Bengal
es, however, represent the opposite: no mother would want
and Kashmir, Tantric speculation has involved goddesses:
her daughter to have the fate of Ra¯dha¯, an adulteress played
the ten maha¯vidya¯s (great goddesses of transformation), the
upon by the fickle Kr:s:n:a, or the character of the unruly Ka¯l¯ı,
seven ma¯tr:ka¯s (mothers), and numerous yogin¯ıs and d:a¯kin¯ı
who dances naked, uncontrolled. Several scholars have inves-
(female ghouls or adepts) in addition to Ka¯l¯ı and other dei-
tigated the specific effect that goddess worship has on women
ties. As David Kinsley opines, because of the ambiguous,
in particular locales. Most of them conclude that goddesses
death-dealing nature of many Tantric goddesses, they push
have not always been “good” for women: Bhadraka¯l:i’s cult
the devotee to new insight: if one can embrace, worship, even
in Kerala is nearly exclusively male and represents male fears
love such deities, then one wins the Tantric boon of freedom
of women; almost no women in Vindhyachal at the shrine
from fear (1975, p. 144). Investigations of Tantric goddesses
to Vindhyava¯sin¯ı find any relationship between the ´sakti of
cults aim to decipher the relationships between the Tantric
the Goddess and ordinary women; and even the famed spiri-
elevation of goddesses and ideas of women (most scholars
tual giant, A¯nandamay¯ı Ma¯, is perceived by her devotees as
conclude that, ideology notwithstanding, Tantra is primarily
transcending gender entirely. However, such authors also
male oriented); to understand the nexus between the patron-
concede that the potential for positive influence is present.
age of Tantric goddess cults and the power ambitions of their
As Kathleen Erndl notes, the goal for Hindu feminists on an
sponsors (since the time of the late guptas in the sixth to sev-
ideological level is “to rescue ´sakti from its patriarchal pris-
enth centuries, kings, whether real or titular, have utilized
on,” in which women, because of their power, need to be
Tantric symbolism to bolster their own claims to prestige);
subdued (1993, p. 96). Western feminists and denizens of
to study the interaction between Hindus and the British dur-
women’s spirituality have long found Hindu goddesses inspi-
ing the colonial period (for instance, in reaction to the first
rational sources of inner strength; until recently, however,
partition of Bengal in 1905, many nationalists used Tantric
Indian feminists have eschewed goddess symbolism as being
images of bloodthirsty goddesses to exhort rebellion against
a tool of patriarchal oppression.
the white colonialists); and to chart the British-influenced
Hindu critique of Tantric deities, due to which many have
Another site for the investigation of Hindu goddesses
lost their rough, sexualized, meat-eating demeanors.
is the context of Hindu nationalism. With the rise of the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party in
Evidence of the health and vitality of Hindu goddesses
the late 1980s, one sees a concomitant resurgence of interest
is indicated by the number who have made their homes out-
in the cult of Bha¯rat Ma¯ta¯, or Mother India, and the weap-
side India. Whether the new residence is the Caribbean, Eu-
on-bearing eight-armed As:t:abhuja¯, a deity self-consciously
rope, Britain, or North America, mainstream dev¯ıs such as
constructed by the women’s wing of the Rashtriya Swayam-
Laks:m¯ı, S¯ıta¯, Ka¯l¯ı, Durga¯, M¯ına¯ks:¯ı, and Vais:n:odev¯ı have
sevak Sangh to provide women with an anti-Muslim rallying
adapted in novel ways to their host environments. Most
symbol. The politicized use of goddess imagery in the mod-
Hindu communities attempt to replicate as faithfully as pos-
ern period goes back at least as far as the late nineteenth cen-
sible the worship settings of “back home”—temples known
tury, with Bankimcandra Chatterjee’s famed hymn, “Hail to
for their claims to authenticity are the Ka¯l¯ı temple in Toron-
the Motherland,” or “Bande Ma¯taram!” (1882), in which the
to and the M¯ına¯ks:¯ı temple in Houston—but even so, ac-
land of India is equated with the pillaged goddess in need
commodations are made in terms of festival timings, temple
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

construction and zoning laws, and types of offerings. Devo-
the Flute: Ka¯l¯ı and Kr:s:n:a, Dark Visions of the Terrible and the
tees must also contend with the fact that non-Hindus in dias-
Sublime in Hindu Mythology (Berkeley, Calif., 1975), Jeffrey
pora settings may have strange or even hostile attitudes to-
J. Kripal, Ka¯l¯ı’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life
ward their imported deities. How should a New York Hindu
and Teachings of Ramakrishna, 2d ed. (Chicago, 1998), Ra-
react to gift shop lunch boxes decorated with the face of
chel Fell McDermott, Mother of My Heart, Daughter of My
Durga¯, or to Western feminists’ interpretations of Ka¯l¯ı as a
Dreams: Ka¯¸li and Uma¯ in the Devotional Poetry of Bengal
(New York, 2001), and Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey
symbol of women’s rage against patriarchy? Such appropria-
J. Kripal, eds., Encountering Ka¯l¯ı: In the Margins, At the Cen-
tions are balanced by what is perceived as more “genuine”
ter, In the West (Berkeley, Calif., 2003); on Ma¯riyamman,
attitudes towards Hindu theism, like the Western-organized
chapters in Paul Younger, Playing Host to Deity: Festival Reli-
and -financed Ka¯l¯ı Mandir in Laguna Beach, California, to
gion in the South Indian Tradition (New York, 2002); on
which priests from Kolkata’s Dakshineswar Ka¯l¯ı Temple are
M¯ına¯ks:¯ı, C. J. Fuller, Servants of the Goddess: The Priests of
regularly brought for ritual accuracy. As scholars note and
a South Indian Temple (Cambridge, U.K., 1984) and Wil-
devotees experience, the Hindu Goddess, embodied in
liam P. Harman, The Sacred Marriage of a Hindu Goddess
countless goddesses in Hindu contexts the world over, is
(Bloomington, Ind., 1989); on Nanda¯dev¯ı, William S. Sax,
complex, theologically flexible, and alive and well.
Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pil-
(New York, 1991); on Santos:¯ı Ma¯, Stanley R. Kurtz,
SEE ALSO Bengali Religions; Durga¯ Hinduism; Ganges
All the Mothers Are One: Hindu India and the Cultural Re-
River; Hindi Religious Traditions; Hindu Tantric Litera-
shaping of Psychoanalysis (New York, 1992); and on
ture; Indian Religions, article on Rural Traditions; Marathi
Vais:n:odev¯ı, Kathleen Erndl, Victory to the Mother: The
Religions; Ra¯dha¯; S´aivism; Sarasvat¯ı; Tamil Religions;
Hindu Goddess of Northwest India in Myth, Ritual, and Sym-
bol (New York, 1993). Richard L. Brubaker’s dissertation
from 1978 is still a very good introduction to the category
of village goddesses: The Ambivalent Mistress: A Study of
South Indian Village Goddesses and their Religious Meaning.
A number of excellent volumes cover a range of Hindu goddesses:
For a modern discussion, see Lynn Foulston, At the Feet of
Vidya Dehejia, ed., Dev¯ı: The Great Goddess: Female Divinity
the Goddess: The Divine Feminine in Local Hindu Religion
in South Asian Art (Washington, D.C., 1999); John Stratton
(Brighton, U.K., 2002).
Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, eds., The Divine Consort:
Ra¯dha¯ and the Goddesses of India
(Berkeley, Calif., 1982) and
Explorations of the relationship between goddess worship and the
Dev¯ı: Goddesses of India (Berkeley, Calif., 1996); David R.
status of women may be found in Lisa Lassell Hallstrom,
Kinsley, Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in
Mother of Bliss: A¯nandamay¯ı Ma¯ (1896–1982) (New York,
the Hindu Religious Tradition (Berkeley, Calif., 1986); Axel
1999); and Alf Hiltebeitel and Kathleen Erndl, eds., Is the
Michaels, Corelia Vogelsanger, and Annette Wilke, eds.,
Goddess a Feminist? The Politics of South Asian Goddesses
Wild Goddesses in India and Nepal, Studia Religiosa Helveti-
(New York, 2000). Suzanne Ironbiter’s Dev¯ı (Stamford,
ca, vol. 2 (Bern, 1996); and Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty,
Conn., 1987) is a good example of a Western woman read-
Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts (Chicago,
ing a Hindu goddess-text in a personalized fashion; Shobita
1980). The philosophical aspect of the goddesses cult is ex-
Punja’s Daughters of the Ocean: Discovering the Goddess With-
plored by Tracy Pintchman in The Rise of the Goddess in the
in (New Delhi, 1996) is a Hindu woman’s counterpart. For
Hindu Tradition (Albany, N.Y., 1994) and Tracy Pintch-
women, goddesses, and nationalism, see Paola Bacchetta,
man, ed., Seeking Maha¯dev¯ı: Constructing the Identities of the
“All Our Goddesses Are Armed: Religion, Resistance, and
Hindu Great Goddess (Albany, N.Y., 2001). For excellent
Revenge in the Life of a Militant Hindu Nationalist
studies and translations of seminal S´a¯kta texts, see Thomas
Woman,” Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 25, no. 4
B. Coburn, Dev¯ı-ma¯ha¯tmya: The Crystallization of the God-
(1993): 38–51; and Tanika Sarkar and Urvashi Butalia, ed.,
dess Tradition (Delhi, 1984) and Encountering the Goddess:
Women and Right-wing Movements: Indian Experiences (Lon-
A Translation of the Dev¯ı-ma¯ha¯tmya and a Study of its Inter-
don, 1995). For Tantra in relation to Hindu goddesses, con-
pretation (Albany, N.Y., 1991); and Cheever Mackenzie
sult: Douglas Renfrew Brooks, Auspicious Wisdom: The Texts
Brown, Dev¯ı G¯ıta¯: The Song of the Goddess: A Translation,
and Traditions of S´r¯ıvidya¯ S´a¯kta Tantrism in South India (Al-
Annotation, and Commentary (Albany, N.Y., 1998), God as
bany, N.Y., 1992) and Secret of the Three Cities: An Introduc-
Mother: A Feminine Theology in India: A Theological Study of
tion to Hindu S´a¯kta Tantrism (Chicago, 1990); David R.
the Brahmavaivarta Pura¯n:a (Hartford, Vt., 1974), and Tri-
Kinsley, Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten
umph of the Goddess: The Canonical Models and Theological
Maha¯vidya¯s (Berkeley, Calif., 1997); Hugh B. Urban, Tan-
Visions of the Dev¯ı-Bha¯gavata Pura¯n:a (Albany, N.Y., 1990).
tra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics, and Power in the Study of Religion
Apart from essays surveying individual goddesses contained in the
(Berkeley, Calif., 2003); and David Gordon White, Kiss of
edited volumes listed above, monographs on the following
the Yogin¯ı: “Tantric Sex” in its South Asian Contexts (Chicago,
figures are highly recommended: on An˙ka¯l:aparame¯cuvari,
2003). Finally, discussions of goddess traditions providing
Eveline Meyer, An˙ka¯l:aparam¯ecuvari: A Goddess of Tamil-
(or not) inspiration for ecological consciousness may be
nadu, Her Myths and Cult (Stuttgart, Germany, 1986); on
found in Madhu Khanna, “The Ritual Capsule of Durga
Draupad¯ı, Alf Hiltebeitel, The Cult of Draupad¯ı, 2 vols.
Puja: An Ecological Perspective,” in Hinduism and Ecology:
(Chicago, 1988); on Ka¯l¯ı, Sarah Caldwell, Oh Terrifying
The Intersection of Earth, Sky, and Water, edited by Christo-
Mother: Sexuality, Violence, and Worship of the Goddess Ka¯l¯ı
pher Key Chapple and Mary Evelyn Tucker, pp. 469–498
(New Delhi, India, 1999), David R. Kinsley, The Sword and
(Cambridge, Mass., 2000); and Vijaya Rettakudi Nagarajan,
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“The Earth as Goddess Bhu Devi: Toward a Theory of ‘Em-
in the life of that people” (Bachofen, p. 75). The matriarchal
bedded Ecologies’ in Folk Hinduism” (pp. 269–296), and
period of human history was one of sublime grandeur, when
Kelly P. Alley, “Idioms of Degeneracy: Assessing Ganga¯’s Pu-
women inspired chivalry, chastity, and poetry in men. Al-
rity and Pollution” (pp. 197–330) in Purifying the Earthly
though men had superior strength, women strove for peace,
Body of God: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India, edited by
justice, and religious consecration—guiding the men’s “wild,
Lance E. Nelson (Albany, N.Y., 1998).
lawless masculinity.” This early phase of cultural evolution
was displaced, in Bachofen’s view, by a later period of con-
quest and patriarchy.
As early as 1851 proponents of the matriarchy theory
were embroiled in a controversy set off by the famous jurist
Sir Henry Maine, who insisted that the patriarchal family
was the original social unit. This was the same year in which
Theories about goddess worship have been advanced ever
Bachofen was preparing his work Das Mutterrecht, asserting
since the emergence of the social sciences disciplines in the
exactly the opposite thesis. Over thirty years later, anthropol-
nineteenth century. Religion specialists in the fields of an-
ogist and folklorist J. F. McLennan (1886) reasserted the ma-
thropology, sociology, folklore, psychology, and comparative
triarchal theory, citing new anthropological evidence. Again
mythology have contributed numerous theories to explain
in 1891 the matriarchy concept was discredited by Edward
the phenomenon of goddess worship. The topic has been re-
A. Westermarck, who was disturbed by Bachofen’s idea that
vived in recent years, particularly by specialists in the area of
myths and legends preserve the “collective memory” of a peo-
women’s studies. The following survey of theoretical issues
ple. Westermarck’s argument attempted to reestablish
in the study of goddess worship reflects controversies that
Maine’s patriarchal theory of human origins.
have raged over broader issues concerning the more general
interpretation of religion.
The issue flamed into controversy once again in 1927
with the publication of Robert Briffault’s encyclopedic work
century European social scientists and specialists in compara-
The Mothers. Arguing against Maine and Westermarck, Brif-
tive religion were fascinated by what they conceived to be
fault reasserted the existence of a primitive matriarchy that
universal themes of human experience. Because they relied
universally preceded patriarchy. However, unlike Bachofen,
heavily on the accounts of missionaries, traders, and other
who defined matriarchy as a period of mother rule and inher-
travelers to different cultures rather than firsthand fieldwork,
itance through the female line, Briffault conceived matriar-
many of their speculative theories are discredited today.
chy to be a period when women were socially rather than po-
These writers were concerned with the origins of human in-
litically dominant. Briffault speculated that the “male
stitutions such as marriage, law, and religion. Contemporary
instinct” created the original social herd and that the “female
scholars tend to be more cautious than these early writers
instinct” was responsible for the establishment of the family.
about the origins of religion, believing that it is just as dan-
Much of Briffault’s evidence was derived from the study of
gerous to speculate about the past as it is to develop theories
religion; he thought that the widespread existence of lunar
about other cultures without firsthand field observation.
deities among primitive peoples was proof of the early social
dominance of women, because women were the first hiero-
One of the most influential theories in the study of god-
phants of lunar cults. Briffault’s evolutionary theory was not
dess worship was advanced by the nineteenth-century Swiss
the last of its kind. As recently as the 1930s Wilhelm
jurist and historian of Roman law J. J. Bachofen (1815–
Schmidt advanced a theory for the origin of religion employ-
1887), who linked goddess worship with a more general the-
ing a multilinear rather than unilinear model of cultural evo-
ory of social development. He asserted that the first human
lution. Schmidt assumed the existence of three types of “pri-
societies were matriarchal and characterized by widespread
mary cultures”—matrilineal, patrilineal, and patriarchal.
promiscuity, which was reflected in the worship of female de-
According to Schmidt, women were involved in the earliest
ities. While this theory has been discredited by contemporary
cultivation of plants. Consequently their social importance
anthropologists, early social theorists such as Lewis Henry
increased, giving rise to widespread goddess worship.
Morgan, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels praised it. Sir
James Frazer set himself the task of completing Bachofen’s
Few psychologists have contributed theories about god-
assemblage of evidence for matriarchy among world cultures.
dess worship. Freud thought devotion to female deities rep-
Even Sigmund Freud thought that goddess worship was
resented an infantile desire to be reunited with the mother.
linked to an earlier stage of matriarchy. For Bachofen and
According to Freud, goddess worship represents universal
his followers, “mother right” marked a fixed and predeter-
unconscious fantasies characteristic of a stage in early psychic
mined stage in the evolution of human cultures. This stage
development in which the mother seems to be all-powerful
in human evolution, according to Bachofen, can be con-
to the child. C. G. Jung placed the religious impulse in a
firmed by myths about goddess worship, which are living ex-
more central position than did Freud. He postulated a set
pressions “of the stages in a people’s development, and for
of innate universal archetypes operative in the human psy-
the skillfull observer, a faithful reflection of all the periods
che, one of which was the feminine principle. Jung utilized
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

symbolism from primitive, archaic, and contemporary reli-
the analysis of single, manageable cultural entities through
gions to shed light on the operation of these archetypes.
direct fieldwork. Armchair speculation went out of style with
the emergence of the Boasian school in anthropology during
The Jungian perspective has been most fully developed
the early twentieth century. Few psychologists, excepting
in a classic work by Erich Neumann entitled The Great
Freud and the Jungians, have studied religious topics. Con-
Mother (1955). This massive volume explores the phenome-
temporary psychologists have focused on discrete measurable
non of goddess worship from a number of psychological per-
phenomena, such as the religious content of dreams and the
spectives. Unlike social theorists who traced the development
relationship of psychedelic drugs to altered states of con-
of goddess worship in social time and space, Neumann ana-
sciousness. Within the mainstream of American psychologi-
lyzes the phenomenon purely in terms of inner psychic im-
cal thought virtually nothing has been written on the subject
ages. Although he repudiates Bachofen’s sociological analysis
of goddess worship.
of matriarchy, he praises him for having made lasting discov-
eries about the elementary character of the feminine. In Neu-
Other than anthropologists and psychologists, some re-
mann’s words, “early mankind and the matriarchal stage are
ligion scholars have approached goddess worship from a phe-
not archaeological or historical entities, but psychological re-
nomenological perspective. Joseph Campbell for instance, in
alities whose fateful power is still alive in the psychic depths
his monumental four-volume work The Masks of God takes
of present-day man.” Neumann posits a matriarchal stage se-
a Jungian approach to goddess worship. While he sometimes
quentially preceding patriarchy at the psychic level. This
uses caution in connecting goddess worship with a matriar-
stage in the evolution of the human psyche is represented by
chal stage in cultural evolution, at other times he perpetuates
belief in the Great Goddess. A strange contradiction perme-
the nineteenth-century hypotheses of primitive matriarchy.
ates Neumann’s work; on one hand he discounts Bachofen’s
E. O. James (1959) vacillates between a purely historical de-
sociological argument for matriarchy, but at the same time
scription of different goddesses in their cultural contexts and
he praises Briffault for having “discovered the fact (which is
generalizations that border on a universal psychic unity ap-
still insufficiently recognized) that early culture is in very
proach, much like Erich Neumann’s.
high degree the product of the female group” (p. 281). At
the methodological level, Neumann admits to removing doc-
SHIP. After nearly thirty years without a major work on god-
uments and images of goddess worship from their cultural
dess worship, there has been a revival of interest in the topic
contexts. He rationalizes this methodology by asserting that
from three quarters—anthropology, religious studies, and
psychohistory (a set of stages in the development of the
feminist scholarship. Several new books have been published
human psyche) does not necessarily parallel historical events
on goddess worship in the early 1980s. The work Mother
in a linear way. Despite such methodological curiosities,
Worship: Theme and Variations (1982), edited by the author
Neumann’s work represents one of the most comprehensive
of this article, utilizes current data generated by anthropolo-
treatments of goddess worship ever assembled by a Western
gists to address the topic. Another volume, The Book of the
scholar. Not only does he demonstrate the great variety of
Goddess: Past and Present (1983), edited by Carl Olson, is a
forms manifested in the phenomenon of goddess worship,
collection of articles by historians of religion and feminist
he reveals the “transformative” nature of this religious im-
scholars. Goddess worship is a central theme in the Autumn
pulse. He sketches out four manifestations of the Great
1983 issue of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society,
Mother archetype: (1) the Good Mother (associated with
which is devoted to the study of women and religion. This
childbearing, vegetation mysteries, and rebirth); (2) the Ter-
recent revival of interest in goddess worship is due to three
rible Mother (linked to death, dismemberment, sickness, and
main factors: (1) a new interest in the old matriarchy contro-
extinction); (3) the Positive Transformative Goddess (related
versy, (2) an active discussion among feminists about goddess
to wisdom, vision, ecstasy, and inspiration mysteries); and
symbolism, and (3) the emergence of a new comparative
(4) the Negative Transformative Goddess (connected to re-
jection, deprivation, madness, and impotence). Any female
The matriarchy controversy. The issue of primitive
deity can be classified as one of these four functions of the
matriarchy, which once plagued the study of goddess wor-
archetype; some goddesses can be placed in more than one
ship, has not disappeared. Some modern writers continue to
of these categories.
assume there was an early historical phase when females
dominated males. They cling to the notion that goddess wor-
There has been no major work on the topic by a single
ship is a remnant of that earlier period. The controversy con-
author since Neumann’s classic treatment of goddess wor-
tinues to stir lively debate among popular writers, though
ship in the mid-1950s. There are several reasons for this.
many scholars think the issue is a dead one.
First, the works of Neumann and Briffault, who wrote in the
twentieth century, reflect the nineteenth-century approach
Most contemporary historians of religion accept the an-
to comparative religions, which relished the fabrication of
thropological view that a stage of matriarchy never existed.
elaborate and ambitious theoretical frameworks for the study
However, a few scholars of eminent stature like Joseph
of complex phenomena. Also significant is the emergence of
Campbell (in Bachofen, 1967, p. lv) continue to support
scientific anthropology, which, until recently, has stressed
Bachofen’s idea of an age of “mother right” that preceded pa-
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

triarchy. They insist that this has been “confirmed irrefut-
Even scholars who reject the existence of a historical
ably” by archaeological evidence. Although most feminist
stage of matriarchy sometimes insist that the symbolism of
scholars today agree with the anthropological position, there
goddess worship can provide information about the history
remain a few articulate feminist authors who continue to per-
of female social roles. Some feminists argue, for instance, that
petuate the idea of an original matriarchal stage. An example
the absence of female sacred imagery in Judaism, Christiani-
of this genre is Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the
ty, and Islam is due to the repression of women in Western
Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (1979), in which the au-
societies. This attempt to draw a parallel between the gender
thor discusses a rediscovery of the ancient “matrifocal civili-
of sacred images and women’s roles is misguided. Occasion-
zations” and the “falsehoods of patriarchal history.” Accord-
ally the two may parallel each other, but the social role of
ing to Sally R. Binford (1981, pp. 150–151) the belief in
women may directly contradict or differ significantly from
early matriarchies has taken a religious form for some femi-
that suggested by a religion’s sacred imagery. A study of
nists; mother-goddess worshipers in Los Angeles, for in-
Hindu goddess worship does not allow us, for instance, to
stance, have become organized into a church with a temple
predict with any certainty the relationship of women to men
and priestesses. They believe that the archaeological data that
in Indian society. This same point is made by the historian
refute their position reflect a conspiracy against women
and women’s studies specialist Judith Ochshorn (in Olson,
among professional archaeologists. Binford calls this move-
1983, p. 18) in her 1982 study of the Middle Eastern god-
ment a “New Feminist Fundamentalism.”
dess Ishtar. According to this scholar, the Near Eastern dei-
ties were heavily anthropomorphized. Sometimes they re-
The only other scholars to take primitive matriarchy
flected the reality of social roles in the Middle East, but more
seriously in recent decades were Soviets, who espoused
often they represented a different concept of community—as
Friedrich Engels’s outdated nineteenth-century notions.
exemplified by the frequent instances of incest among the de-
Alexander Marshack (1972, pp. 338–339) cites Soviet ar-
ities, a totally foreign idea in the social reality of that period.
chaeologists who interpreted Upper Paleolithic mother-
goddess figurines as confirmation of the existence of early
Today most scholars of comparative religions, including
matriarchal hunting societies organized around totemic clans
feminists, would agree that primitive matriarchy is a myth.
controlled by women. According to Marshack, this view is
This does not preclude continued research on male and fe-
simplistic, a distorted interpretation of complex data. He in-
male roles in prehistoric societies. Because fieldwork has not
sists that the goddess images from the Upper Paleolithic era
confirmed the existence of even a single matriarchal society,
are evidence for symbolic processes “extremely variable in
the matriarchy controversy is a quasi-religious issue that has
meaning and use and that they played a number of special-
no place in the serious study of goddess worship. Far more
ized and generalized roles across the complex, integrated,
important is the contemporary scholarship of feminists who
time-factored culture. . . . These facts do not confirm a
seek to deepen the understanding of the relationship of
matriarchy.” Marshack adds one final but crucial note to his
human nature to religion without invoking dubious nine-
argument: the era was also marked by a separate, specialized
teenth-century issues like primitive matriarchy. In much of
masculine imagery and complex animal mythology, and the
this work women are searching for a new focus of identity
female figurines must be considered in this context. Thus,
in the modern world. Goddess worship has been intimately
Upper Paleolithic society was neither matriarchal nor patriar-
linked to this quest.
chal, despite Marxist claims to the contrary.
The feminist revival of goddess worship. One reason
There is no anthropologist today who would argue for
for the increasing popularity of goddess worship as a subject
a stage of matriarchy associated with goddess worship. It has
of inquiry is the expanding influence and scholarly develop-
been refuted on many occasions by anthropologists of all the-
ment of women’s studies. According to Carol Christ (in
oretical persuasions, including Marxists and feminists. In a
Olson, 1983, p. 235) feminist writings about the gender of
brilliant argument against the matriarchy theory, Carolyn
deities reflect two distinct types of argumentation: (1) reli-
Fluehr-Lobban (1979, p. 343) notes three errors committed
gions that stress the maleness of the supreme being deify the
by scholars who insist on perpetuating this myth: They mis-
masculine principle and see it as the only source of legitimate
takenly assume that (1) the presence of female deities is evi-
authority; (2) the attribution of male qualities to deities re-
dence of matriarchy, (2) matrilineal societies are survivals of
flects distorted concepts derived from alienated male experi-
an era of matriarchy, and (3) matrilineality and matriarchy
ence in Western societies. Feminists who use the first argu-
are related to each other. According to Binford (1981,
ment stress the need to eliminate masculine pronouns and
pp. 152–153) all these ideas are false and misleading. In fact
gender-specific titles from Jewish and Christian scriptures
the myth of matriarchy is damaging to the cause of feminists.
and liturgy to restore authority to women. Feminists who as-
Women are not freed by perpetuating the myth. The idea
sert the second argument oppose this simple solution because
that the type of complex social organization required for ma-
in their eyes the distorted male image of divinity in Western
triarchy could be found among prehistoric societies is so pa-
religions cannot be removed by merely changing gender-
tently ridiculous as to be a source of embarrassment for seri-
specific language. They argue that the symbolism will remain
ous scholars pursuing the study of religion.
biased because of the dualistic, conquest-oriented, patriar-
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chal, and hierarchical infrastructure that underlies these
century armchair theoreticians has come to an end. This is
male-oriented religions.
reflected in a new comparative religions, which focuses once
again on the main themes of human religious experience. In-
Carol Christ (in Olson, 1983, pp. 238–248) presents a
stead of working from a dubious, in fact erroneous, data base,
schematic view of feminist solutions to the problem of gen-
the new comparative religionists are treating these universal
der in the worship of deities. According to this scholar, there
themes with the benefit of more than fifty years of extensive
are four approaches advanced by feminist theologians to re-
field work conducted in various cultures by cautious social
solve the problem of male symbolism of God: (1) male sym-
scientists. Since the mid-1970s social scientists and religion
bols of God can be reinterpreted in nonoppressive ways;
specialists have been working together more closely. The re-
(2) language used to refer to God can be made androgynous;
sult is the publication of numerous volumes devoted to the
(3) female symbolism for the Supreme Being must be intro-
main themes of religion, such as sacrifice, death, rebirth, rites
duced in order to create an imagery that reflects dual gender;
of passage, the evil eye, pilgrimage, and goddess worship.
(4) male symbolism must be deemphasized to provide an op-
These new works are neither too speculative nor overly cau-
portunity for the Great Goddess, whose existence has been
tious about exploring panhuman dimensions of religious ex-
obscured by this symbolism, to reclaim her ascendancy.
Western feminists are experimenting with many different
ways to introduce female sacred imagery into Judaism and
One of the most widely publicized and heavily attended
sessions at the American Anthropological Association meet-
Those feminists who believe sexism to be an integral
ings in San Francisco during 1975 was entitled “Anthropo-
part of Western religions want no part in saving them from
logical Inquiries into Mother Worship.” This session result-
what they see as built-in sexist biases; instead, they advocate
ed eventually in an edited volume on the topic (Preston,
a reemergent goddess worship as a focus of religiosity appro-
priate to complex modern life. These feminists are actively
The mid-1970s marked a watershed in the anthropolog-
developing extensive experimental liturgies for raising con-
ical study of religion. Since that time some anthropologists
sciousness about goddess worship, both as it existed in antiq-
have been about the business of synthesizing a vast amount
uity and in religions outside of Western civilization. Thus,
of data accumulated over the years on various dimensions of
goddess worship and imagery are considered to be the focus
religion. Much of this new information was isolated previ-
of a new power for women rooted in the women’s liberation
ously in the contexts of specific ethnographies devoted to the
movement and grounded in a new symbol system. The Spiral
elaboration of particular cultural descriptions. The large
Dance by Starhawk is a recipe for the rebirth of an “ancient
numbers of people who attended the session on goddess wor-
religion of the Great Goddess.” It reflects the conviction
ship in San Francisco were not attracted by any “star quality”
among some feminists that goddess worship is a source of
scholars making their usual erudite presentations, but rather
strength and creativity for women, and also provides an anti-
the time was ripe for introducing once again a topic that had
dote to the regrettable patriarchal “conquest of nature”
remained more or less dormant for several decades. An exten-
theme that characterizes Western thought.
sive amount of data had been gathered on goddess worship
The debate among feminists about these social and
in many different cultural contexts, and no one knew what
theological issues has been a healthy source of revitalization
to do with it. Scholars were seeking a new frame of reference.
not only in terms of the reawakening of the study of goddess
Historians of religion had been synthesizing the work of an-
worship but also in terms of scholarly inquiry into assump-
thropologists for years. It was now time for anthropologists
tions about human nature that lie at the heart of Western
to return to their original task of making sense of a topic like
religions. The growing literature in this field promises to
goddess worship by placing it in a comparative framework.
shed new light on the role of goddess worship in the contem-
The new approach to goddess worship, though cau-
porary world. Consequently, one can expect a steadily in-
tious, strives to retain a delicate balance between cultural
creasing growth in the amount of research on the veneration
context and the broader panhuman issues that continue to
of female deities, deriving particularly from the work of those
be vital in the comparative study of religion. Despite the
contemporary feminists who are intentionally constructing
early years of ambitious speculation and the later period of
new myths to transform traditional patterns of goddess wor-
overcautious skepticism, many questions about goddess wor-
ship into forms that give women a stronger sense of their
ship remain unanswered. More knowledge about the rela-
own identity, power, and meaning in the modern world.
tionship between male and female deities is needed. Why in
Thus, the feminist movement is a major contributing factor
some religions are female sacred images almost totally absent?
in the revitalization of goddess worship as a topic of inquiry
What about the role of goddess worship in the development
among popular writers and scholars in different disciplines.
of complex forms of social organization? Why do female sa-
The new comparative religions. A significant new di-
cred images continue to thrive, even in Communist coun-
rection is developing in the social sciences after the long siege
tries where religion is not officially sanctioned? How do the
of behaviorism in psychology and historical particularism in
personal religious experiences of devotees who turn to god-
anthropology. The revolt against the errors of nineteenth-
desses differ from those who turn to male gods for answers
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 their prayers? Why is goddess worship associated with
Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God, vol. 1, Primitive Mythology.
such great antiquity? How does the worship of female deities
New York, 1959. This work explores the early Upper Paleo-
fit into the postindustrial world? The new comparative reli-
lithic and Neolithic roots of goddess worship. It represents
gions, with its balanced perspective that incorporates ques-
the Jungian orientation toward a universal Great Goddess.
tions of panhuman and culturally specific levels of analysis,
Somewhat dated but useful as a secondary source if read
has been another stimulus for the revitalization of major
themes of religious significance shared by human beings the
Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God, vol. 2, Oriental Mythology.
world over.
New York, 1962. This work is encyclopedic in scope and re-
fers frequently to goddess worship in Eastern religious tradi-
No single theory is adequate to explain the multifaceted
tions. Much Jungian generalization here, but still useful.
phenomenon of goddess worship. What deeply felt impulse
Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn. “A Marxist Reappraisal of the Matriar-
is there that continuously kindles the veneration of female
chate.” Current Anthropology 20 (June 1979): 341–360. An
sacred images for thousands of years among human popula-
excellent discussion of current anthropological thinking on
tions? Are Victor Turner and Edith Turner (1978, p. 236)
the matriarchate with implications for goddess worship. Par-
correct when they ask whether the resurgent interest in fe-
ticularly important is the author’s attack on the idea that
male sacred images during the modern era is an index of dis-
goddess worship represents an epoch of mother-rule in
content with male iconoclasm, technology, progress, and
human history.
bureaucratization? Elsewhere this author has written (Pres-
James, E. O. The Cult of the Mother Goddess. New York, 1959. A
ton, 1982, pp. 340–341) that the loneliness of urban life, the
thorough discussion of goddess worship derived from archae-
contemporary emphasis on independence, the fast pace of
ological and documentary evidence for the Middle East, the
technological society, and the radical severing of human-
eastern Mediterranean, and India. An excellent source al-
kind’s relationship with the earth have left people in pos-
though some of the interpretation is dated.
tindustrial societies with a deep sense of disenchantment that
Marshack, Alexander. The Roots of Civilization. New York, 1972.
is perceived to have the potential to be healed by a return
An outstanding analysis of Upper Paleolithic data on goddess
to sacred qualities, which are often considered to be best ex-
worship, suggesting the phenomenon is part of a complex
pressed through a divine mother image. Even if one does not
notational system rather than merely fertility symbolism.
agree with the Jungian idea of a feminine archetype, all hu-
While Marshack’s thesis may be controversial, the volume is
mans understand the mother-infant bond and recognize the
a rich source of information and remains a major scholarly
related universal symbol of the womb as mother of life. The
worship of female sacred images is deeply entwined with a
Neumann, Erich. The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype.
panhuman experience of this primary bond. While not every
2d ed. Princeton, N.J., 1963. This is one of the most com-
prehensive discussions of goddess worship ever written. It
incidence of goddess worship is an expression of the attempt
represents the most thorough treatment of the subject from
by humans to return to the primary bond of origin, there can
a Jungian psychological perspective. While some of the inter-
be no doubt this theme underlies the strong continuity of
pretation is overly speculative, it is still a valuable resource.
goddess worship expressed in so many different forms and
Olson, Carl, ed. The Book of the Goddess, Past and Present: An In-
in such great profusion throughout the world.
troduction to Her Religion. New York, 1983. This is one of
the most recent volumes dedicated to the study of female dei-
EE ALSO Archetypes; Women’s Studies in Religion.
ties. The contributions to this book represent a wide variety
of studies of goddess worship written by historians of religion
and feminists. The articles are uneven; some are excellent,
Bachofen, J. J. Myth, Religion, and Mother Right. Translated by
others poor. The editor does not supply an overall synthesis
Ralph Manheim. Princeton, 1967. A selection of writings
or index.
translated from Bachofen’s Mutterrecht und Urreligion. Here
Bachofen elaborates on his controversial but dated theory as-
Preston, James J., ed. Mother Worship: Theme and Variations.
serting a predetermined universal stage of matriarchy associ-
Chapel Hill, N.C., 1982. This volume is the most compre-
ated with goddess worship.
hensive and up-to-date collection of data about goddess wor-
ship in the field of anthropology. Particularly useful as a
Binford, Sally R. “Myths and Matriarchies.” Anthropology 81/82
source of primary data from firsthand fieldwork on the phe-
1 (1981): 150–153. A brief but excellent critique of the cur-
nomenon with a comprehensive introduction and conclu-
rent matriarchy controversy. The author is critical of the
sion discussing contemporary issues in the study of female
branch of feminists who cannot accept the fact that there is
sacred images.
no evidence for matriarchy. An important source for illus-
trating the error of predicting sex roles through analysis of
Starhawk. The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of
sacred images.
the Great Goddess. San Francisco, 1979. The author attempts
Briffault, Robert. The Mothers (1927). Abridged by Gordon R.
to revitalize goddess worship as a focus of worship for femi-
Taylor. New York, 1977. A classic last attempt to argue for
nists. Though erroneous assumptions are made here, the
the nineteenth-century idea linking goddess worship with
basic thrust of attempting to develop new forms of religious
matriarchy. This voluminous work is outdated. It no longer
expression is important.
represents the thinking of contemporary social theorists on
Turner, Victor, and Edith Turner. Image and Pilgrimage in Chris-
the topic.
tian Culture. New York, 1978. An excellent treatment of var-
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

ious Marian shrines within the context of pilgrimage. One
does not mean that it was originally a matriarchy, for exam-
of the few anthropological studies of Christianity.
ple. It seems that myths about the gods and goddesses cannot
Warner, Marina. Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of
be taken as direct reflections of human historical experiences.
the Virgin Mary. New York, 1976. An excellent study of
At the same time, careful study of the changing visions of the
Marianism attacking the erroneous idea the female sacred
divine beings may suggest some facets of the dynamics of so-
images and women’s roles are equivalent.
cial change within a particular community of people. For ex-
Wasson, R. Gordon, Carl A. P. Ruck, and Albert Hofmann. The
ample, a change in dominance from one god or goddess to
Road to Eleusis. New York, 1978. A controversial and provoc-
another may reflect the rising power of a particular group
ative discussion of the Greek mystery religion suggesting the
within the society with its mythological concerns. Or a
possible use of psychotropic drugs.
change in a particular goddess or god’s function could con-
New Sources
ceivably reflect new needs and concerns on the part of the
Beckman, Gary. “Goddess Worship: Ancient and Modern.” In A
Wise and Discerning Mind: Essays in Honor of Burke O. Long.
Edited by Saul M. Olyan and Robert C. Cully, pp. 11–23.
Another issue questions whether it is possible to identify
Providence, 2000.
the “original” function of certain goddesses and gods, in con-
trast to added or accumulated functions, or to distinguish be-
King, Karen L., ed. Women and Goddess Traditions: In Antiquity
tween “primordial” gods, on the one hand, and lesser spirits
and Today. Minneapolis, 1997.
or deified humans, on the other. While these distinctions can
Mor, Barbara, and Monica Sjöö. The Great Cosmic Mother: Redis-
provide valuable insights, they can also be misleading. Al-
covering the Religion of the Earth. San Francisco, 1987.
though certain central functions may stand out, like those
Orr, Leslie C. “Recent Studies of Hindu Goddesses.” Religious
of creator, warrior, or fertility giver, often a particular god-
Studies Review 25, no. l (1999): 239–246.
dess or god displays a number of functions, and it cannot be
determined with certainty which should be considered the
Revised Bibliography
original or primordial. In fact, most divine beings are highly
complex and are perceived to meet the needs of the people
in a variety of ways.
GODS AND GODDESSES. In human religious ex-
In the last several years this discussion has been carried
perience, manifestations of sacred power (hierophanies) pro-
on particularly by feminist scholars who have focused a great
vide centers of meaning, order, worship, and ethics. Humans
deal of study on goddesses, with results that have enhanced
have always felt that real life is in close contact with sacred
our understanding of the importance, richness, and com-
power, and that sacred power is often encountered in the
plexity of the individual goddesses. Earlier scholarship em-
form of divine beings. Ideas and experiences of these god-
phasized the importance and variety of male gods while
desses and gods thus are not so much intellectual reflections
stereotyping goddesses as secondary and limited to mother-
as existential concerns, revolving around the fundamental
ing and fertility functions. But feminist scholars have
human questions of life in this world. The manner in which
brought the study of goddesses to the fore and shown con-
the divine beings are imagined and experienced, and the par-
vincingly that they are no less important in power and sover-
ticular types, functions, and personalities of the divine be-
eignty than male gods, and they are equally diverse in their
ings, depend on the cultural context of the particular com-
munity of people.
One central issue is the question whether there was, in
Gods and goddesses fit most aptly into what have been
the prehistorical period, one unified Great Goddess (e.g.,
called polytheistic cultures, where the divine reality has not
Mother Earth) that is somehow revealed or expressed in the
been unified into monistic or monotheistic systems. Monis-
various goddesses of the different peoples. J. J. Bachofen gave
tic views still allow for goddesses and gods as manifestations
impetus to this theory in Das Mutterecht (1861) by arguing
or emanations of one divine reality, whereas a monotheistic
that mothers ruled over families in the prehistoric era. Other
worldview absorbs their functions as attributes of the one
scholars, such as Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough
God, or downgrades them to helpers, such as angels or saints.
(1911–1915), Erich Neumann in The Great Mother: An
This article will focus on the major types of gods and god-
Analysis of the Archetype (1955), and E. O. James in The Cult
desses in the cultures in which plurality of divine beings is
of the Mother Goddess (1959), established the idea that the
taken for granted.
cult of the Mother Goddess was prevalent throughout the
Scholarly discussion on gods and goddesses has raised
ancient world and that it reflects an essential human arche-
a number of issues. One question has to do with the relation
type. Archaeologists James Mellaart and Marija Gimbutas ar-
between gods and human society. Even though the goddesses
gued that evidence from archaeology supports the theory
and gods of a particular society necessarily reflect the values
that the cult of the Great Goddess was reflected in the female
and traditions of that society, one cannot assume direct cor-
figurines and other feminine symbols which dominated these
respondences between the mythological divine world and
societies. Gimbutas put forth the view that peoples of ancient
humans. Just because a society emphasizes a mother goddess
Europe and the Near East were devoted to the worship of
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

the Mother Goddess in her various forms and lived in matri-
their social, political, economic, and cultural experience in
archal, peaceful societies. They were disrupted and changed
a living process.
by the invasion of war-like Indo-Europeans, who brought
In considering the morphology of goddesses and gods
their male gods and established patriarchal, violent societies.
across various cultures, the modalities by which the sacred
Many feminist scholars, through extensive critical inves-
is experienced are embedded in the structures of nature itself
tigations of goddesses in past and present world religions,
and in the structures of human life. Almost every significant
have questioned this theory of a unified Great Goddess be-
reality in human experience has been seen in one culture or
hind all goddess figures, and of the societal changes that took
another as the arena of a sacred manifestation: sky, earth,
place. These scholars, such as Lucy Goodison and Christine
sun, moon, mountains, water, hunting, planting, sexuality,
Morris in Ancient Goddesses: The Myth and the Evidence,
washing, childbirth, eating, rulership, war, death, and so
argue that the theory that all goddesses represent mother or
forth. Some common cross-cultural themes exist in the way
fertility power actually constricts and diminishes their role.
peoples of the world have envisioned gods and goddesses.
Rather, they find goddesses representing the whole range of
Since their power meets human existence precisely at the
divine functions—creators, rulers, warriors, fertility-givers,
most vital and crucial areas of life, humans experience these
promoters of sexuality, mistresses of animals, bringers of de-
divine manifestations in concrete, compelling forms. The
struction and death, among others. And they show that male
goddesses and gods thus revealed are felt to have efficacious
gods also include so-called feminine functions such as giving
power, personality, and will. The fact that the divine beings
birth, nurturing, and bringing peace. The emphasis in this
have personality and will is rooted in the sense that human
scholarship is not on uncovering a unified Goddess arche-
existence is not just aimless and haphazard but is related to
type, but on recognizing the complexity, diversity, and sig-
the sacred pattern created or structured by the will of the
nificance of goddess figures in the cultures of the world, past
gods and goddesses.
and present.
Each people’s system of gods and goddesses depends on
Yet discussion of the Great Goddess still plays a signifi-
their traditional cultural context, for deities are always envi-
cant role in some contexts. Hindus, with their full array of
sioned in ways appropriate to a culture. For example, divine
goddesses, have long speculated about one Great Goddess
beings in archaic hunting societies include ancestors, sky and
(Maha¯dev¯ı), manifested in various goddesses, including
astral gods, and representations of mother-type goddesses.
Pa¯rvat¯ı, Laks:m¯ı, S¯ıta¯, Durga¯, and Ka¯l¯ı, while at the same
But most characteristic of hunting cultures are sacred beings
time exulting in the individual aspects and activities of these
associated with animals: culture heroes in animal form and,
goddesses. A significant appropriation of the idea of the
above all, masters and mistresses of animals. These are pow-
Great Goddess has also taken place in the contemporary
erful gods and goddesses who represent the sacred as experi-
western movement variously called Goddess Spirituality,
enced in the people’s relationship to animals.
Goddess Religion, and Women’s Spirituality. Growing out
Planting cultures also know animal forms of gods, but
of feminism, Goddess Spirituality resonates to the perception
here earth gods of fertility come to the fore. Earth goddesses
of the Great Goddess, affirming women’s bodies and lives
and gods are creators and givers of life, appearing also in veg-
and providing powerful images of the mysteries of life and
etarian goddess forms as, for example, Mother of Grain. At-
death, regeneration, creativity, and the divine force in all of
mospheric gods—storm and sun—are important in that they
fertilize the earth goddess and bring fecundity. Dying and
rising deities often symbolize the cycle of vegetal fertility. An-
stand the full dimensions of gods and goddesses in the vari-
cestors or culture heroes are important as the divine beings
ous cultures of the world, it is helpful to keep in mind both
who originated cultivated plants.
the cultural history and the morphology of human involve-
Pastoral peoples are of many types and often include
ment with what they have considered sacred beings. Histori-
some planting activities in addition to keeping their herds.
cally, all the different deity forms that have developed need
Sky and atmospheric gods tend to be supreme among these
to be understood and related to the cultural areas in which
peoples. But they also revere divine powers associated with
they are at home. People of each particular culture choose
herds of animals, because sacred life-giving power comes to
certain types of sacred modalities as strong and efficacious,
the people especially in relation to their herds.
and these modalities define the goddesses and gods as they
are experienced and described within that culture. There is
Cultures that have developed beyond these archaic levels
always an ongoing process of revaluation of the gods and
create very complex pantheons of goddesses and gods. For
goddesses, even in archaic cultures that seem to change very
example, agricultural city-state societies like those of ancient
little over long periods of time. The modalities of the sacred
Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, or Mexico typically have a hi-
are dynamic, one form diminishing in importance or becom-
erarchical pantheon ruling over the city-state through a
ing absorbed into another form, while new experiences give
human ruler, the pantheon mirroring in some respects the
strength to other forms of the sacred. The way in which the
various functions of the city-state. The complex civilizations
people envision the gods and goddesses reflects something of
established throughout Europe and Asia by Indo-European
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

peoples retained some elements of the early pastoralist gods
rain, and sees and hears all. The Yoruba sky god is O:lo:run,
but greatly expanded and developed these pantheons as they
an almighty, immortal, all-knowing creator. An of ancient
interacted with the religious traditions of the indigenous
Mesopotamia is the supreme authority in the sky, presiding
peoples in their various settlement areas.
over the assembly of the gods. Varun:a of Vedic India is visi-
ble everywhere, with the wind as his breath; he gives rain and
In most cultures the plurality of divine powers is under-
thunder and is all-knowing, thousand-eyed, and is the uni-
stood to operate as some sort of pantheon, a system of gods
and goddesses functioning as a sacred community. Panthe-
versal king and the guardian of cosmic order. Ahura Mazda¯,
ons arise from the experience of the sacred in different arenas
the Iranian supreme god, and Zeus, who became the high
of nature and society. They change over time as some func-
god of the Greeks, retain this celestial character of sovereign-
tions become more important and others less so, reflecting
ty, as do the related sky gods Jupiter of the Romans and
dynamic changes in social groups and culture. Often a pan-
Óðinn (Odin) of the Scandinavians. Among the ancient
theon has some kind of hierarchal structure based on the dif-
Chinese, Tian (Heaven) was considered the upholder of the
ferent functions of its goddesses and gods. There may be a
universal moral order. Hathor, mistress of the sky in ancient
sovereign or head of the pantheon, for example, a father of
Egypt, was closely identified with the king’s sovereignty, and
the gods (such as DEl for the ancient Canaanites) or a great
another sky goddess, Nut, extended that sovereignty to the
goddess who ranks first before all in power and authority
journey into the afterlife. These sky gods and goddesses also
(such as Amaterasu in early Shinto¯). Sometimes the head of
take on many other specialized functions.
the pantheon is envisioned as old or remote, and the vital
Meteorological gods and goddesses. Deities associated
functions of maintaining life and order are performed by
with meteorological and atmospheric phenomena often rep-
other powerful, immanent gods and goddesses. The pan-
resent specialized functions or attributes of the supreme sky
theon functions as a particular culture’s way of understand-
god. Important among these are, first of all, the storm and
ing the various experiences of the sacred in a symbolic sys-
wind deities. Moving away from sovereignty and transcen-
tem, providing orientation and unity to human existence in
dence, they express fecundity, creative force, rain-providing
a world made up of a plurality of divine wills.
power, epiphanies of force and violence and war, sources of
energy for nature and for civil order. An, the Mesopotamian
the rich scope of divine beings in human history and culture,
sky god, in this aspect is called the “fecund breed-bull”; he
two somewhat different perspectives on gods and goddesses
manifests his powers in the spring sky with thunder and fer-
are explored here: a cosmic typology and a social typology.
tilizes Ki (Earth) with rain. In this form, too, appear such
The cosmic typology outlines some of the epiphanies of sa-
great storm gods as Enlil of Mesopotamia, Indra of India,
cred power through the structures of the cosmos and the or-
Min of ancient Egypt, Baal and Hadad of the Northwest
ganization of these divine forms. The social typology ex-
Semites, Marduk of Babylon, and Þórr (Thor) of Scandina-
plores sacred beings in relation to functions in vital areas of
via. While the supreme sky god is quite remote and transcen-
human society and culture.
dent, these storm gods become more immanent: Varun:a the
Cosmic goddesses and gods. Many religious traditions
sky god becomes old and feeble, and Indra takes over; DEl is
expressly recognize a cosmic typology of gods and goddesses.
sometimes pictured as old and impotent, and Baal moves to
The Greeks divided their gods into the Olympians and the
central stage as the fecundator. The storm gods overflow
chthonic gods, and early Shinto¯ myths spoke of kami of
with strength and vitality, burst open the clouds for rain,
heaven and kami of earth. Deities of the Indo-European peo-
send fertility to the fields, and keep the cosmic forces going.
ples typically are related to the three realms (Skt., lokas) of
Wind and storm are destructive as well as fecundating, and
sky, atmosphere, and earth. In ancient Mesopotamian cul-
the ravages of such storm gods and goddesses as Þórr (Thor),
tures, gods had cosmic functions, such as An of the heavens,
Enlil of Mesopotamia, Anat of the Canaanites, Tlaloc of the
Enlil of the storm, and Enki, lord of the earth and waters.
Aztecs, Ngai of the Maasai, and S:ango of the Yoruba are
Sky gods and goddesses. Among cosmic gods, the sky de-
ities generally take precedence. Even the most primal, archaic
Sun divinities are meteorological sacred powers related
cultures know of a primordial supreme god who is mani-
to the sky, embodying and dispensing the power of life. The
fested in the vault of the sky. The characteristics of this god
sun god brings light, enlightenment and wisdom and is often
are drawn from the experience of the sky: this is the high god
characterized by unchangeability, stability, and order. Sha-
with authority over all, all-seeing and thus all-knowing, pres-
mash, sun god in ancient Mesopotamia, was considered god
ent everywhere and sovereign in power. The sky god is also
of oracles and diviners; Hammurabi called him the great
the ultimate creator and sustainer of everything, as well as
judge of heaven and earth, source of laws and order. In an-
the law-giver and moral overseer. At the same time this god
cient Egypt, the sun god, fighting against darkness and
is remote, a deus otiosus. Other goddesses and gods of the sky
chaos, was thought daily to conquer darkness and create light
and atmosphere are often thought of as helpers of the su-
anew. In many cultures the sun god or goddess plays the role
preme sky god. Tribes of southeastern Australia have a sky
of the supreme god; Re-Atum in ancient Egypt, Huitz-
god called Baiame, or Daramulun, who is self-created, causes
ilopochtli in Mexico, the sun god among various North
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

American Indians, and Amaterasu in Japan exemplify this.
The earth is the primary source and nurturer of all life,
The sun god also has the power to destroy, especially in de-
and it is also the sacred power that receives all life back again.
sert cultures; this god overpowers the living with heat and
Many human cultures have perceived a particularly signifi-
drought, devouring as well as generating life. The sun god
cant epiphany of the sacred associated with earth itself, some-
has connections with the underworld, like Re of ancient
times named Mother Earth. Hesiod states in his Theogony
Egypt who leads dead souls through the underworld, or Utu
that Gaia (Earth) first gave birth to Ouranos (Heaven), and
of Mesopotamia who acts as their judge during the nightly
the hierogamy between Gaia and Ouranos initiated the
whole process of life. Humans perceive that the earth itself
is endlessly creative but at the same time passive and indis-
Goddesses and gods associated with the stars and planets
tinct, the repository of a wealth of sacred forces. Manifest in
frequently are experienced as the eyes and/or ears of the sky
the very soil of the place where humans live, this earth type
god, lending themselves to the all-seeing and all-knowing
of goddess is expressed first of all in motherhood (that is, in-
qualities of the supreme god. The Masai of Kenya believe the
exhaustible fruitfulness) from very ancient times in human
sky-rain god Ngai has universal vision through his nighttime
experience. In the long saga of human life prior to the discov-
“eyes”; a falling star is one of the eyes of Ngai coming closer
ery of agriculture, various forms of mother goddesses played
to earth in order to see better. The sky god Varun:a is “thou-
an important role in the way humans understood their exis-
sand-eyed,” and the Samoyed sky god Num employs the
tence; the multitude of female figurines found from Paleo-
stars as his ears, through which he listens to the earth from
lithic cultures provides evidence of the importance of this
the boundless regions of the sky. Inanna, Sumerian goddess
power. And so it has continued through all human history.
of the morning and evening star (the planet Venus), was con-
Children come from the earth mother; the sick are regenerat-
sidered to be the source of the king’s power, one who
ed by being brought again into close contact with her; the
brought the arts of civilization to the city and death and res-
dead are returned to her womb. For example, Ala, worshiped
toration to life. The polestar (north star), because it appears
by the Igbo of Africa, is the source of fertility for the land
not to move, is seen in many cultures to represent divine
and the family, the abode of the ancestors, and the guardian
power of stability; in India, for example, newlyweds worship
of laws; barren women pray to her for children, and men ask
Dhruva (the polestar) as a source of constancy in marriage.
her for success in trade or increase in livestock. Throughout
The complicated movements of the stars and planets led the
human history, goddesses with mothering and nurturing
ancient Babylonians to associate them with divine beings
functions, together with fertility-giving functions, have been
who control events in nature and human life, an idea also
widespread, including both great goddesses widely wor-
expressed by the ancient Greeks and others.
shiped and countless local goddesses.
The moon waxes and wanes, disappears and reappears,
It is striking that often these creative, mothering god-
and thus its divine epiphany epitomizes mysterious power,
desses also have a dark side, seen as a source of violence and
change and transformation, death and rebirth, fertility and
death. For Hindus, the great goddess Ka¯l¯ı epitomizes the
regeneration. Frequently the moon manifests a fertility-
ravages of time and death, as she is pictured with bloody
giving goddess; this is true for Selene among the Greeks,
fangs and devouring mouth, a necklace of human heads, and
Rabie among the Wemale of Ceram, and Pe among the Pyg-
a skirt of human arms. She devours her children, and yet
mies. There are also lunar elements associated with many of
many Hindus worship her as loving mother. Equally grue-
the great goddesses who have other functions. While the
some are mother goddesses among the Aztecs, as, for exam-
moon deity is often thought to be a goddess, in some cultures
ple, Coatlicue, pictured with a skirt of writhing snakes, a
the moon is considered male, while the sun is a female divine
blouse of human hands and hearts, heads of serpents for
being, as, for example, Tsukiyomi and Amaterasu in Shinto¯
hands, claws for feet, with twin spurts of blood gushing from
mythology. The moon deity rules especially over the rhythms
her decapitated body. Her central creative act was giving
of life associated with the waters, rain, vegetation, and the
birth to the great war god Huitzilopochtli just as her four
fertility of earth and all women. At the same time, the moon
hundred children sought to kill her. Huitzilopochtli, born
goddess or god sometimes becomes the mistress or master of
fully grown and armed, slaughtered the siblings, providing
the dead, receiving those who die and regenerating them.
a central motif for the ritual human sacrifices at the Templo
Gods of the moon, such as Thoth of ancient Egypt, Nanna
Mayor of Tenochtitlan. Such goddesses demonstrate the
of ancient Mesopotamia, and Aningaaq of the Inuit (Eski-
human experience that creativity, life, and growth are inevi-
mo), measure time and regulate natural phenomena.
tably linked with violence, death, and decay.
Earth gods and goddesses. Earth deities form an impor-
Indistinct and unformed like the earth, yet similarly
tant and complex category of the cosmic typology. Basic
powerful, the fons et origo (font and origin) of all life is the
types include the various manifestations of the earth itself:
sacred power manifest in water. Water symbolizes the primal
waters, mountains, the great many hierophanies associated
reality from which all forms come and to which all forms re-
with animal forms and vegetal forms—all the divine aspects
turn. Nun in ancient Egyptian mythology, for example, is
that seem “given” in the powerful epiphanies of sacred earth.
the primordial ocean in which are the germs of all things.
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

Rich in seeds, the divine water is homologized to semen and
Animal symbols of goddesses and gods include the cow in
fertilizes earth, animals, and women. Hapi, a male god of the
ancient Egypt, a manifestation of the sky goddess Nun; the
Nile, is often depicted with breasts to show that he is a bring-
fox Inari in Japan; the coyote in North America; the bear
er of life. Enki, Sumerian god of waters, helps to organize
among the Ainu; the buffalo among North American Indi-
and create the world and human life. Water also purifies and
ans; serpents and dragons in a great variety of cultures; and
regenerates, and so the Iranian water divinity Aradv¯ı Su¯ra¯
others, including caribou, elephants, dolphins, whales, and
Ana¯hita¯ is thought to purify humans and multiply flocks. A
eagles. Powerful deities in animal form are linked to rain
great many local cults are associated with springs, streams,
and storm, in particular the bull (Baal, Indra, Rudra, etc.),
and lakes in various religions. For Hindus, Gan˙ga¯ (the River
the thunderbird, and the dragon. Imaging the divinities in
Ganges) is a powerful goddess, nourishing the land and me-
animal form expresses a sense of close relation to the sacred
diating between this world and the divine world. The beauti-
life that sustains animals and humans alike.
ful Yoruba river goddess O:s:un bestows gifts of rulership and
With the agricultural revolution came also a revolution
wealth on the rulers of the towns and cities through which
in cosmic epiphanies, giving rise to various forms of goddess-
her river passes. Many of the most powerful deities of the
es and gods of vegetation, as well as giving new emphasis to
Ashanti are those associated with rivers and lakes; they can
the fertilizing male earth gods. Plant life is an epiphany of
cure sicknesses and social ills, but they also have destructive
sacred power. For example, in a bas-relief of Assur, the upper
powers. So water deities are ambivalent: water both generates
part of a god’s body is represented as coming out of a tree;
life and destroys it. There is a sense that the goddesses and
and a seal from the Indus Valley civilization depicts a divine
gods of the waters are capricious, randomly doing good or
being within a tree faced by a group of worshipers. Demeter
evil. Well known from Greek mythology is Poseidon, the un-
was a goddess responsible for grain for the ancient Greeks,
tamed and faithless god of the ocean; from his palace at the
and among the Cherokee the goddess Corn Woman is the
bottom of the sea he swallows the world and renews it in
origin of the corn plant. Among the Polynesians the growth
rhythmic cycles. In Scandinavian mythology, Ran, the sea
of plants such as banana trees and taros actually comes from
god Aegir’s wife, draws people down with her net. Sedna, the
the sacred concentration of power in the ancestral dema dei-
sea goddess of the Inuit, is the mother of sea animals, but
ties of the time of the beginnings. Characteristic of plant life
when humans violate taboos, she sends famine and destruc-
is the rhythmic cycle of death and birth, season after season,
tion with icy dispassion. Water gods and goddesses can be
and so the divinities of vegetation reflect this pattern of death
symbolic of chaos, taking the form of dragons and snakes,
and rebirth; this is true, for example, of Baal of the Canaan-
both destroying the world and bringing rain and fertility;
ites and Tammuz of Mesopotamia. Gods of phallic energy,
Apsu and Tiamat in Babylon, Prince Yamm in Canaan, and
such as the ancient Egyptian Min and the Indian S´iva, ex-
Vr:tra in India exemplify this duality.
press another aspect of the divine source of generative power.
Powerful epiphanies of earth deities are experienced
Gods and goddesses of the underworld. Chthonic dei-
through mountains, strong and distant pillars of heaven, sta-
ties live in the dark recesses of the earth and are especially
bilizing the earth and providing order and fertility. Most
related to the underworld. In some cases, the gods of the un-
mountains in Japan, such as Mount Fuji, are felt to be the
derworld are raging, destructive monsters who bring down
locale of kami presence; and Taishan in China is a divine
even the gods of life; such a figure is Mot in Canaanite my-
mountain that attracts extensive worship. S´iva is called “lord
thology. The ruler of the place of the dead is grim and dread-
of the mountains” in Hindu tradition, and his consort
ed; this is true of Hades in ancient Greece, Ereshkigal in
Pa¯rvat¯ı is “daughter of the mountains”; their favorite abode
Mesopotamia, and Seth and Nephthys in Egypt. Sedna, sea
is on Mount Kailash in the Himalayas. The ancient Hebrews
goddess of the Inuit, and Taishan, a mountain god of the
worshiped DEl Shaddai, apparently related to the mighty
Chinese, are cosmic divinities who receive the dead into their
mountains, and the Israelite god Yahveh was first encoun-
abodes. These goddesses and gods of the world of the dead
tered as the god of Mount Sinai. Mountains are the source
are ambiguous in the extreme: dreaded and avoided, they still
of life-giving springs and streams, and well as violent
have sacred powers that can assist people in this most critical
storms—and so many storm gods are linked with mountains,
passage of life. Often the deities of the underworld are related
such as Baal-Hadad among the Canaanites. Pele, goddess of
to the deities of life-giving power; Satene among the Wemale
volcanic fire in Hawaii, demonstrates the destructive aspect
of West Ceram is an example. After all, it is the divine moth-
of volcanic mountain epiphanies.
er who gives and nourishes life who also finally receives back
the dead. In illustration of this, figurines of pregnant god-
Reaching back to the dawn of human existence is the
desses have been found in prehistoric burial sites, providing
sense that the sacred is manifested in animal form. Epipha-
images of life-giving power within the realm of death.
nies are associated with animals that are powerful and terrify-
ing, those that exhibit wisdom or secret knowledge, those
Gods and goddesses of social functions. Much re-
that are symbolically connected with the power of the earth,
search has been done on the social functions of goddesses and
the moon, or the waters, and above all those that share sacred
gods, especially on the triad of functions common to Indo-
life-power with humans through their very flesh and blood.
European divinities: (1) a sovereignty function with magical
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 juridical aspects; (2) a function of physical power and
see its order. For example, the dema deities of the myths of
bravery, especially in war; and (3) a function of fertility and
the Marind-anim of New Guinea create the vital aspects
prosperity. Georges Dumézil in particular has shown how
of human culture and morality by their actions in the time
this triad of functions penetrates all the societies that stem
of the beginnings. Ancestors often take the place of the high
from proto-Indo-European culture, although each culture
god as guardians of human morality, although the high god
went on to develop their divinities further. While this impor-
is recognized as the ultimate authority, the court of last re-
tant system of categorization is incorporated to some extent
sort. The high gods may have inspectors, like Es:u of the Yor-
in the social typology used here, it should be noted that this
uba and Satan of the Israelites (Job 1–2), to help in uphold-
scheme does not apply as readily to non-Indo-European cul-
ing the divine order.
tures. For example, many deities of the ancient Near East and
of Africa combine the sovereign and the warrior functions,
Goddesses and gods of protection and war. Gods who
and other ancient societies do not so clearly separate the
display physical power often function as gods of protection
food-producing class and its attendant deities from the war-
and war. This role is ascribed especially to cosmic storm god-
rior class and its gods. Most of the great gods and goddesses
desses and gods, such as Indra in the Vedas and Þórr (Thor)
of non-Indo-European peoples cannot be neatly pigeonholed
in Scandinavian mythology. Ancient Near Eastern cultures
into this triad of functional classes; thus the following catego-
have combined sovereign storm gods to function as divine
ries are amplified somewhat.
warriors and protectors; Marduk of the Babylonians and
Yahveh of the Hebrews are two such gods. Mars of the Ro-
Creators and guardians of society and order. Su-
mans is a classical god of war, protecting the state against its
preme or sovereign deities often are considered to be creators
enemies but also preserving fields and herds against damage
and preservers of society and order. Often the supreme god
and disaster. In Mesoamerica, the powerful warrior god Tez-
creates human society and originates and upholds cosmic
catlipoca collaborated in creating the world and is present ev-
and moral law. This god holds people responsible on the
erywhere, but he also promotes conflicts and induces people
basis of the moral design, judges them, and punishes them,
to transgress. Huitzilopochtli, Aztec war god and sun god,
either directly or through other deities who perform this
was born in full warrior regalia and killed threatening deities
function. In Vedic thought, the sky god Varun:a is the cos-
so as to renew world order. For the Yoruba, Ogun is god of
mocrator and also the upholder of r:ta, the cosmic and moral
hunting, iron-making, and war; in great festivals he is wor-
law to which all things are subject. In theistic Hinduism,
shiped by hunters, blacksmiths, and warrior chiefs, as well
Vais:n:avas see Vis:n:u as the originator and preserver of society.
as the king. Mixcoatl, central Mexican warrior god, was also
Kr:s:n:a, avata¯ra of Vis:n:u, advises Arjuna to fulfill the duties
worshiped as god of the hunt. Many goddesses, such as Athe-
of his warrior caste, for even Vis:n:u performs his dharma
na among the Greeks, Anat in Canaanite mythology, Sekh-
(duty) so that the worlds continue to function (Bhagavadg¯ıta¯
met in ancient Egypt, and Durga¯ in Hindu tradition, are also
3.3–24). Yahveh of the Hebrews both originates human soci-
presented as divine warriors and protectors.
ety and gives forth the law that governs all peoples. Jupiter,
the Roman high god, is the guardian of oaths, treaties, and
Deified humans rise to become gods of war and protec-
moral duty. Shangdi, “Lord Above,” worshiped by the Shang
tion, such as the famous Chinese general Guandi, who was
rulers in ancient China, sends both weal and woe in govern-
deified as the warrior protector par excellence. The Christian
ing the fortunes of the rulers. And Tian, “Heaven,” supreme
apostle St. James is known as Santiago in Spain, where his
deity for the Zhou rulers, provided a moral mandate for just
body was miraculously brought after his death; he became
rulers but withdrew it for those who were unjust. In Babylon,
the warrior saint for the Christian Spaniards, driving out the
the assembly of the great gods, having created humans as ser-
Muslims during the reconquest of Spain. Then Santiago was
vants of the gods, supervises human society and determines
invoked as the warrior-protector during the conquest of Me-
human destinies. Widespread among African peoples is the
soamerica, helping to defeat the Indians who resisted becom-
notion that the supreme god is the ultimate originator and
ing Christian. Gods can also appear in human form to de-
authority governing human life, even as other gods fulfill the
stroy evil, as do the avata¯ras of Vis:n:u, whom this high god
needs of everyday life. In Hindu tradition, the great goddess
sends out from age to age to battle the rise of evil in the
S´r¯ı Laks:m¯ı, embodying S´r¯ı (radiance, creative power), was
thought to provide sovereignty and power to the kings in
their rule.
Overall, a great variety of goddesses and gods function
as divine protectors in every conceivable time of crisis: Castor
Sometimes the supreme god or gods create the first
and Pollux protect warriors for the Romans; in China the de-
gods, who then complete the creation. In Mesoamerican
ified girl who became Tianshang Shengmu (Holy Mother in
myths, the supreme dual creator god engendered several
Heaven), known popularly as Mazu, is the protector of sail-
sons, including Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl, who then cre-
ors; Min of ancient Egypt is the protector of travelers, as are
ated the universe and the other gods. In other mythic
the kami of the road in Japan and Saint Christopher in popu-
scenerios, the original humans are first produced and then
lar Christianity; and gods and goddesses all over the world
as divine culture heroes they complete the creation and over-
protect women in childbirth and children as they grow up.
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Goddesses and gods of fertility and prosperity. Dei-
to kings and prosperity to subjects. And Gan:e´sa, the popular
ties promoting fertility and prosperity fit into an extremely
elephant-headed god, is widely worshiped as the overcomer
broad and diverse category; in fact, the majority of gods and
of obstacles and the bringer of good fortune. The human as-
goddesses take on some of these functions, and the remain-
piration is summed up in the Chinese popular triad, the
ing categories listed below could be included in a general way
Gods of Posterity, Prosperity, and Longevity.
in this basic category.
Domestic and community gods and goddesses. The
All the goddesses and gods associated with hunting and
center of concern for fertility and prosperity is the home, and
agriculture belong in this group. It is perhaps in securing and
many goddesses and gods dwell and function within it,
producing food that humans experience most deeply the in-
guarding the door, presiding over the hearth, sustaining mar-
terpenetration of divine cosmic powers and the divine forces
ital ties, and granting children—everything that makes for
of society and culture. In hunting cultures special impor-
happy home life. Hestia is the goddess of the hearth for the
tance is given to the hierophanies related to the animal herd
Greeks, as Vesta is for the Romans. Among the ancient Ary-
most essential to the survival of the people, such as bears,
ans, Agni, the god of fire, also presides over the family cult
reindeer, caribou, seals, and walruses. Sacred power mani-
of the hearth. Neith in ancient Egypt is skilled in the domes-
fests itself in mythological form as the master or mistress of
tic arts, as is Athena among the Greeks. For the Ainu of
animals; this god or goddess is an archetype of the herd, pro-
northern Japan, the fire goddess, Iresu-Huchi, presides over
tector and master of animal life, who also provides boons to
the home, giving peace and prosperity, receiving and keeping
humans, giving to them of the sacred life of the animals. The
children who have died. Traditional Japanese homes have
Caribou Man of the Naskapi Indians (of Labrador), the
images of Daikoku and Ebisu as protectors of the household,
Great Bull Buffalo of the Blackfeet Indians, and Sedna as the
and the Chinese have Zao Jun, the god of the cooking stove,
keeper of sea animals among the Inuit are examples of this
who watches over and brings prosperity to the family. For
type of divine being.
the Romans, the penates guard the storeroom, and the lares
guard the family estate boundaries.
Planting peoples associate the sacred work of planting
and harvesting with the deities who originate and continue
Beyond the home, local communities have gods of pro-
the powers of vegetal fertility. In West Ceram, myths tell
tection and prosperity. At the entrance to traditional Japa-
how the body of the goddess Hainuwele was cut up and
nese villages stands a stone image of the bodhisattva Jizo¯,
planted in the earth, where it changed into root plants that
erected for the protection and welfare of the village. And the
the people have continued to cultivate. Widely known is the
Chinese earth god Tudi Gong is worshiped in traditional vil-
Mother of Grain, exemplified by Demeter in ancient Greece
lages; he is the god rooted in the locality who keeps track of
as goddess of the cultivated soil, and Corn Woman of Native
village happenings and generally oversees the prosperity and
American tribes.
welfare of the community. For cities, there are the Gods of
Moats and Walls, to perform the necessary bureaucratic
A primary concern in the realm of fertility is human
functions in the divine realm. In India, most traditional vil-
procreation, and most societies have deities of love, marriage,
lages have a powerful local deity (gra¯madevata¯), usually a
and procreation. In Greek mythology, Hera, wife of Zeus,
goddess, celebrated in rousing festivals, thought of both as
is goddess of marriage, and Aphrodite and Eros are instiga-
village founder and protector and also occasional source of
tors of love. Ishtar of Mesopotamia and Hathor of ancient
disease and disaster.
Egypt are goddesses of love and procreation. Freyja in Scan-
dinavian mythology is at the same time divine lover/mistress
Gods and goddesses of healing, sickness, and death.
and wife/mother. All across China, the bodhisattva Guanyin
A major concern in human life has always been sickness and
is invoked to help women in conceiving and child-bearing.
death; appropriately many goddesses and gods operate in this
The central Mexican goddess Xochiquetzal was widely popu-
critical area. Some bring sickness and death, others cure sick-
lar as goddess of the arts, physical pleasure, and amorous
ness and protect the dead, and still others perform both func-
love. Popular Mexican conceptions of the Virgin Mary, espe-
tions. Well known is the Greek god Asklepios, who presides
cially La Virgen de Guadalupe, identify her with indigenous
over healing and medicine. In China, Baosheng Dadi was a
fertility goddesses who occupied the land prior to the coming
human doctor who after death became a god of medicine and
of the Europeans. Aborigines of Australia have myths about
healing. Traditional Japanese keep images of the Buddha
the Great Rainbow Snake who is responsible for human fer-
Yakushi, king of medicines, in their homes for health. Some
gods and goddesses specialize in bringing about sickness: the
Pakoro Kamui brings smallpox to the Ainu; Irra is the dread-
An extension of this divine function of fertility is the
ed plague of ancient Mesopotamia; and Namtar, the herald
granting of prosperity and wealth. In Scandinavia this func-
of Ereshkigal, Mesopotamian goddess of the underworld, has
tion is performed by the deities known as the Vanir: Freyr,
sixty diseases that he can spread among humans.
for example, grants peace and fertility, and his father, Njo˛rðr
(Njord), dispenses prosperity to those who go to sea. In the
The ambiguity of divine power is often expressed in the
Hindu pantheon, Laks:m¯ı, the divine wife of Vis:n:u, is the
existence of one deity who is both the bringer of health and
goddess of wealth and happiness, granting sovereign power
prosperity and the agent of destruction and death. Hermes,
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

protector and guide of travelers, becomes the grim psycho-
Scandinavia is patron of those who build ships and go to sea.
pomp who guides souls to Hades. In the Vedas, the god
In Greek mythology, Herakles and Hermes are associated es-
Rudra often brings sickness and destruction, although he is
pecially with merchants, Athena is associated with women
also revered as the healer. The Great Rainbow Snake of the
artisans, and Hephaistos, the god of fire, is the creative flame
Australians, Hina of the Hawaiians, and Ka¯l¯ı of Hinduism
of the forge in metalwork. Amaterasu in Shinto¯ tradition was
all promote fertility and birth but also cause destruction and
linked to the art of weaving. Among the Yoruba it is believed
death. Human hopes of merciful treatment in the passage of
that Ogun clears away obstacles and gives prosperity to all
death are reflected in the existence of many goddesses and
those who work with iron and steel—warriors, hunters,
gods who guard, nourish, guide or otherwise help the de-
blacksmiths, goldsmiths, barbers, butchers, and (in modern
ceased. Hathor of ancient Egypt nourishes the dead, and the
times) mechanics and taxi drivers. Hermes is the patron not
bodhisattva Jizo¯ in Japan is especially revered as the receiver
only of merchants but also of thieves and rogues; and Inari
and protector of infants who die. Yama of Hinduism, as the
of Japan is the kami of rice growers as well as geisha and pros-
first mortal to die, guides the dead to the celestial world.
Amida (Skt., Amita¯bha) is popularly worshiped in Japan as
Gods and goddesses of esoteric knowledge and
the merciful Buddha who, when a person dies, appears with
magic. The mysterious character of divine power finds ex-
his holy retinue to lead the soul to rebirth in the Pure Land
pression in deities associated with secret mysteries and magi-
paradise. Some cults link the worshiper to the story of the
cal powers that are available only to those who have special
deity’s death and resurrection. Prominent cults of this type
knowledge or have been initiated into the worship of these
are that of Osiris and Isis in Egypt, Tammuz in Mesopota-
goddesses and gods. The high god of the Indo-Europeans is,
mia, as well as several of the Hellenistic mystery religions.
in one of his aspects, the source of esoteric knowledge and
Gods and goddesses of culture, arts, and technology.
magic. Varun:a of the Vedic period in India has the sun as
Divinities related to cultural expressions are quite diverse,
his eye and controls ma¯ya¯ (“creative power,” but later also
with roles corresponding to the needs and experience of a
“illusion”). Óðinn of the Scandinavians is one-eyed, having
particular society. Among divine culture heroes are Prome-
left his other eye in the well of the giant Mímir in return for
theus, who stole fire from the gods for the benefit of humans;
the gift of wisdom. A famous poem describes how Óðinn
Blacksmith in Dogon tradition, who acquired seeds from
hung on a tree for nine days and nights in order to acquire
heaven and brought them to earth for the first crops; Ra¯ma,
the esoteric knowledge of magical runes. Deities of esoteric
the carrier of culture, whose feats are recounted in the Hindu
knowledge inspire poets, shamans, and prophets, and they
Ra¯ma¯yan:a; Nyikang, the first king of the Shilluk of Africa;
give up secret knowledge to diviners. The Scandinavian god-
and Quetzalcoatl, the deified hero of the Aztec. Some culture
dess Freyja, for example, taught the gods magical knowledge,
heroes are thought of as the original humans who created the
and this is tapped into by women called vo˛lva, who go into
vital aspects of human existence in the mythic time of the
trances and act as soothsayers. Yogic exercises in Daoism at-
beginnings. The dema of the Marind-anim and the ancestors
tempt to tap into the power of the exterior and interior gods,
in the Dreaming of Australian myths provide the prototypes
and Tantric practices in Esoteric Buddhism involve invoking
for human cultural activities such as planting, sexuality, and
the cosmic Buddhas and bodhisattvas for esoteric knowledge
festivals. The changing image of the trickster, such as Coyote
and power.
among North American Indians, perhaps could fit here;
though not necessarily worshiped as a god, the trickster typi-
SEE ALSO Agriculture; Animals; Cosmogony; Culture He-
cally wrests some cultural benefit for humans from the gods.
roes; Deity; Deism; Deus Otiosus; Earth; Henotheism;
Indo-European Religions; Lady of the Animals; Lord of the
Gods and goddesses are patrons of the arts, representing
Animals; Meteorological Beings; Monotheism; Moon;
the creative force and the secret knowledge of individual arts.
Mountains; Polytheism; Sky; Stars; Sun; Supreme Beings;
Creativity comes from divine sources, and so worship of gods
Theism; Underworld; War and Warriors; Water.
and goddesses provides inspiration and creative energy for
poets, writers, sculptors, painters, weavers, dancers, musi-
cians, and various other artists. Sarasvat¯ı in Hinduism is the
A classic discussion of the meaning and typology of gods and god-
goddess of learning, art, and music, widely worshiped in
desses throughout all cultures is Mircea Eliade’s Patterns in
school festivals. Thoth, the god of wisdom in ancient Egypt,
Comparative Religion (New York, 1958). Raffaele Pettazzoni
is endowed with complete knowledge and is the inventor of
provides a model cross-cultural study especially related to the
all the arts and sciences: arithmetic, surveying, geometry, as-
omniscient quality of deities in The All-Knowing God: Re-
tronomy, soothsaying, magic, medicine, surgery, music,
searches into Early Religion and Culture (London, 1956). Al-
though outdated, The Mythology of All Races, 13 vols., edited
drawing, and—above all—hieroglyphic writing. In India,
by Louis H. Gray (Boston, 1916–1932), contains a wealth
S´iva is the lord of the dance, inspiring festival dancers; Ogun
of valuable information. Scholarly analyses of the major my-
inspires ecstatic dancing among the Yoruba as well as creative
thologies can be found in Mythologies of the Ancient World,
body art done with iron tools.
edited by Samuel Noah Kramer (Garden City, N.Y., 1961).
There are goddesses and gods for almost every conceiv-
Of the immense amount of scholarship focused on goddesses,
able occupation, craft, and technology. Njo˛rðr (Njord) of
Marija Gimbutas, in books such as Gods and Goddesses of 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

cient Europe (London, 1974) and The Language of the Goddess
looks at the Indian gods and goddesses from the early Vedic
(San Francisco, 1989), has been most influential in promot-
period to the late Puranic tradition. A flurry of scholarly in-
ing the theory of the Great Goddess worshiped in ancient
vestigation has focused on the Hindu goddesses, including
cultures, manifest in countless forms and symbols through-
Seeking Maha¯dev¯ı: Constructing the Identities of the Hindu
out old Europe and Asia before being suppressed by male-
Great Goddess, edited by Tracy Pintchman (Albany, N.Y.,
dominated cultures and gods. This theme is continued in
2001); and Dev¯ı: Goddesses of India, edited by John Hawley
Jean Markale’s, The Great Goddess: Reverence of the Divine
and Donna Wulff (Berkeley, Calif., 1996). A model investi-
Feminine from the Paleolithic to the Present, translated from
gation of one Hindu goddess is Sarah Caldwell’s Oh Terrify-
the French by Jody Gladding (Rochester, Vt., 1999). A more
ing Mother: Sexuality, Violence, and Worship of the Goddess
nuanced view of mother-type goddesses is put forth in Moth-
Ka¯l:i (New York, 1999).
er Worship: Themes and Variations, edited by James J. Preston
(Chapel Hill, N.C., 1982). Many scholarly studies have
questioned the theory of a unified Mother Goddess as they
carefully lay out the great variety of goddesses, as seen in
works including Ancient Goddesses: The Myths and the Evi-
dence, edited by Lucy Goodison and Christine Morris (Mad-
(1876–1924), Turkish sociologist in-
ison, Wis., 1998); Goddesses Who Rule, edited by Elisabeth
fluential in the modernization of religious thinking and in
Benard and Beverly Moon (New York, 2000); and Lotte
the development of Turkish nationalism. He was born Meh-
Motz, The Faces of the Goddess (New York, 1997).
med Ziya in the small town of Diyarbakır in southeastern
Turkey. After a traditional Muslim primary education and
Richard Wilkinson’s, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient
a secular secondary education in Diyarbakır, he went to Con-
Egypt (London, 2003), offers a comprehensive survey of the
deities worshiped by the ancient Egyptians. Thorkild Jacob-
stantinople to continue his studies in 1895. Five years later
sen’s The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian
he was arrested and banished to his hometown for his in-
Religion (New Haven, Conn., 1976) is a masterful presenta-
volvement with the Young Turks, then a secret organization.
tion and interpretation of ancient Sumerian and Babylonian
Following the successful Young Turk revolution of
divinities. John S. Mbiti’s Concepts of God in Africa (New
1908, he went to Salonika as a delegate to the Society (later
York, 1970) surveys ideas from all over Africa, emphasizing
the importance of the high god. Focusing on the Yoruba, J.
Party) of Union and Progress. There he contributed to a
Omosade Awolalu discusses some of the main deities of their
journal of philosophy (Yeni felsefe mecmuasi) and a literary
vast pantheon in Yoruba Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites (London,
review (Genç kalemler) published by the Young Turks. It was
1979). Africa’s Ogun: Old World and New, edited by Sandra
at this point that he adopted the pen name Gökalp (“sky
Barnes (2d ed., Bloomington, Ind., 1997), is a model investi-
hero”), which he retained for the rest of his life.
gation of one specific god, Ogun, laying out many facets of
this god’s cult in traditional times and describing vital trans-
With the outbreak of the Balkan War, he and his asso-
formations among contemporary Yoruba both in Africa and
ciates moved to the Ottoman capital, where their Turkish
in the Americas. For a helpful survey of the deities of native
nationalist ideas were sharply opposed by the politicians and
North Americans, see Sam Gill, Dictionary of Native Ameri-
writers known as Islamists, as well as by the traditional Otto-
can Mythology (Santa Barbara, Calif., 1992), and David
manists. In Constantinople Gökalp became acquainted with
Adams Leeming, The Mythology of Native North America
a group of Turkish-speaking émigré writers from Kazan, the
(Norman, Okla., 1998). Excellent information on deities of
Crimea, and Azerbaijan whose ideas had been influenced by
Mesoamerica is found in Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoameri-
those of the Russian Narodniks. Prominent among these
can Cultures, edited by David Carrasco (3 vols.; Norman,
writers was Yusuf Akçura of Kazan, the author of a lengthy
Okla., 1998). For convenient information on deities of
essay entitled Three Ways of Policy (Üç tarz-i siyaset), in which
South America, see John Bierhorst’s, The Mythology of South
he speculated on three possible directions for the Ottoman
America (New York, 2002).
Empire—a continuation of Ottomanism, a political unifica-
Georges Dumézil’s views on Indo-European deities are well repre-
tion of Muslims, or a national unification of the Turks (pos-
sented in his Gods of the Ancient Northmen, edited by Einar
sibly including those of the Russian Empire).
Haugen (Berkeley, Calif., 1973), and his Archaic Roman Reli-
2 vols. (Chicago, 1970). Much interesting information
This formulation of the Turkish problem had a strong
on the Scandinavian deities is carefully presented in E. O. G.
influence upon Gökalp, whose writings after 1911 were con-
Turville-Petre’s Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion
cerned with the resolution of Akçura’s trilemma within the
of Ancient Scandinavia (New York, 1964). While not cover-
framework of the modern nation, although the modifica-
ing all Greek mythology, W. K. C. Guthrie’s The Greeks and
tions he proposed were unacceptable not only to the Otto-
Their Gods (London, 1950) is still a helpful study of Greek
manists and Islamists but even to the Turkists themselves.
goddesses and gods; and Mark Morford’s, Classical Mythology
In his major work, Türkle¸smek, islamla¸smak, muasirla¸smak
(5th ed., White Plains, N.Y., 1995), covers the whole range
of gods and goddesses. Robert Turcan’s, The Gods of Ancient
(Turkism, Islam, and Secularization, 1918), he presented the
Rome: Religion in Everyday Life from Archaic to Imperial
concept of secularization, already initiated by the Tanz:¯ıma¯t
Times (New York, 2001), includes descriptions of the an-
reforms, as a means of reconciling the “three ways.”
cient Roman gods and goddesses. For India, Sukumari Bhat-
Throughout his life Gökalp dealt with the political, religious,
tacharji’s The Indian Theogony (Cambridge, U.K., 1970)
cultural, and educational ramifications of what he believed
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 be the reforms necessary to arrest the decline of Turkish
GOLD AND SILVER are among the most widespread
national unity. Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire he
symbols in the history of religions. Their exceptional physical
welcomed the birth of the nationalist, republican, and secu-
qualities make them—like their celestial counterparts, the
lar regime in 1921, and in the remaining three years of his
sun and the moon—unusually powerful symbols of spiritual
life he strove to adapt his earlier writings to it.
realities. As a physical substance, gold is quite literally incor-
ruptible: it is highly resistant to chemical reactions and is im-
Central to Gökalp’s thought were two distinct yet inter-
mune to the corrosion that affects baser metals. It is also in-
related concepts, “civilization” and “culture.” The first of
trinsically luminous, seeming to shine with a light of its own.
these he associates with traditions created by and belonging
Thus no speculative leap was required to make gold the uni-
to different ethnic groups and capable of being transmitted
versally acknowledged symbol of life and the spirit and of
from one group to another, while “culture” represents the
perfection and immortality. There is a certain obviousness
specific and unique set of mores of a particular nation. For
to the symbolic value of gold that explains its universal ap-
Gökalp “culture” is the more basic of the two because with-
peal throughout history and in virtually every corner of the
out cultural roots, any attempt to develop a dynamic civiliza-
tion will be unsuccessful.
Silver too is naturally suited to serve as a religious sym-
In applying this distinction to the concrete issue of Tur-
bol. Its faultless whiteness has made it a symbol of purity
key’s transition from a multiracial, formally Muslim empire
and—in the appropriate historical contexts—of chastity. Pu-
to a democratic, Western-oriented, and secular nation-state,
rified in the refiner’s fire, it becomes a symbol of purification
whose cultural basis would be Turkish and only secularly
and perfection. Associated with its silvery counterpart in the
Muslim, he was dealing not with the problems of Western
night sky, it is integrated into an entire complex of lunar
society or civilization, but with a nonsecular, non-Western
symbolism that includes—not surprisingly—the great purifi-
society that had come under the influence of Western civili-
er, water.
zation. He was concerned mainly with the place the Turkish
people would assume in the modern world, since they were
RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE. When John Ruskin spoke of
seen as alien to the Christian cultural background of Western
gold’s “imperishable splendour,” he spoke metaphorically of
civilization. He felt that the nations of the West, while re-
a universally recognized quality that people of earlier times
maining Christian in character, were destined to become sec-
took quite literally. For many in the history of religions, gold
ularized because of the dominant role assumed by science
has not merely symbolized the imperishable but embodied
and rational thought. Non-Christian Turks, however, and
it. In ancient India the S´atapatha Bra¯hman:a identified gold
others who were neither Christians nor Muslims, such as the
with immortality. The ancient Chinese identified it with
Japanese, could be secularized only if and when they became
Heaven. Beliefs such as these lie behind the extremely wide-
“nations,” for modern Western civilization had little to do
spread use of gold in connection with a whole variety of fu-
with the language, religion, folkways, and mores of the peo-
nerary practices. Indeed, most of the surviving examples of
ple outside the world of Christianity.
the ancient goldsmith’s art have been found in graves. One
of the most impressive collections of artistic gold articles was
After Gökalp’s death, there was a decline of interest in
discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamen (Egypt, fourteenth
his earlier writings, which preceded the readjustment of his
century BCE), including the stunning gold burial mask that
thinking to the conditions of the nationalist, secular regime.
formed a part of the king’s coffin. Gold funeral masks are
His ideas, however, would exert considerable influence upon
quite common globally: They have been found from Cham-
later Muslim thinkers, such as Muh:ammad Iqba¯l.
pa (modern Vietnam) to Peru. The mummies of the kings
of ancient Peru were completely wrapped in gold foil. In ad-
dition to masks, many other accessories and ornaments
Berkes, Niyazi, trans. and ed. Turkish Nationalism and Western
found in graves are also made of gold or silver. In the case
Civilization: Selected Essays of Ziya Gökalp. London and New
of gold the meaning is clear: The immortality of the deceased
York, 1959.
is ensured by providing the deceased with an immortal perso-
na, the mask made of gold. Moreover, gold (like jade) was
Fischer, August. Aus der religiösen Reformbewegung in der Turkei.
Leipzig, 1922.
sometimes used to block up the natural openings of the
corpse in the belief that this would prevent its decay. In some
Heyd, Uriel. Foundations of Turkish Nationalism: The Life and
cases, notably in ancient China, such concern for immortali-
Teachings of Ziya Gökalp. London, 1950.
ty began while the person was still alive. Thus Chinese alche-
New Sources
my, as in some other alchemical traditions, it was believed
Bonnett, Alastair. “Makers of the West: National Identity and Oc-
that drinking an elixir made from gold would confer immor-
cidentalism in the World of Fukuzawa Yukichi and Ziya Go-
kalp.” Scottish Geographical Journal 118 (2002), 165–183.
As a symbol of spiritual realities, gold occurs frequently
in the representations of key religious figures. The Buddha,
Revised Bibliography
the Enlightened One, is frequently portrayed in gold. One
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 the most impressive examples is the huge image of the
goal of this development is the production of gold, which is
Buddha found in the Wat Traimit in Bangkok, Thailand,
consequently viewed as the perfect metal, and as a symbol
an image made entirely of gold. One also thinks of the daz-
of spiritual perfection. The alchemist’s art is intended to has-
zling gold ornaments that adorn the bodhisattvas in the paint-
ten this natural process, both in external nature and within
ings discovered at Dunhuang. Equally striking are the golden
the alchemist’s soul. Silver here becomes the symbol of the
aureoles that surround the heads of saints in Christian ico-
soul’s purity and passivity before the activity of the spirit,
symbolized by gold.
Religious rituals have also made use of gold and silver.
SEE ALSO Alchemy; Colors; Money.
All manner of ritual implements and vessels have been fash-
ioned from these precious metals. The medieval Christian
church made extensive use of gold in the construction of
A good introduction to the history and use of gold is C. H. V.
crosses, chalices, patens, ornamental covers for the Bible, and
Sutherland’s Gold: Its Beauty, Power and Allure (New York,
reliquaries. One also finds silvered cases created to house
1959). For an introduction to the symbolism of gold and sil-
Buddhist su¯tras, and a variety of Buddhist ceremonial objects
ver in alchemy, one should consult Mircea Eliade’s The Forge
in gold.
and the Crucible: The Origins and Structures of Alchemy, 2d
ed. (Chicago, 1978), and Titus Burckhardt’s Alchemy: Sci-
Yet the symbolism of gold and silver in the history of
ence of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul (Baltimore, 1971). For
religions has not always been completely positive. Particular-
a survey of the use of both gold and silver in art from primi-
ly in the Western Semitic religions (Judaism, Christianity,
tive times to the present, see the article “Gold- and Silver-
and Islam), gold and silver have occasionally taken on a nega-
work,” in the Encyclopedia of World Art (New York, 1962).
tive value. One need only recall the story of the golden calf
(Ex. 32) or the golden image set up by Nebuchadrezzar,
New Sources
Bernstein, Peter L. The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession.
which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship
New York, 2000.
(Dn. 3). In the Hebrew scriptures gold is often the symbol
of idolatry or of purely human glory. There is a similar dis-
DuQuesne, Terence. Black and Gold God: Colour Symbolism of the
God Anubis with Observations on the Phenomenology of Colour
trust of gold and silver in Islam. According to one h:ad¯ıth,
in Egypt and Comparative Religion. London, 1996.
or saying of the prophet Muh:ammad, “He who drinks from
gold and silver vessels drinks the fire of Hell.” In the opinion
Gonda, Jan. The Functions and Significance of Gold in the Vedas.
New York, 1991.
of the thirteenth-century Persian cosmographer al-Qazw¯ın¯ı,
the use of gold and silver for ornament thwarts the divinely
James, Dominic. God and Gold in Late Antiquity. New York,
intended purpose of these metals, which should be used as
coinage for trade.
Revised Bibliography
ver have also played an important part in the articulation of
sacred time and space. Sacred time par excellence is often
represented as a Golden Age, which is followed by an only
GOLDEN AGE. In its narrowest sense, the term Golden
slightly inferior Silver Age. The widespread schema of the
Age refers to a mode of utopian existence, described in a vari-
four ages of the world finds its way into the Book of Daniel
ety of Greek, Roman, and later Western Christian texts, that
(2:31–45), in Nebuchadrezzar’s dream of a colossus with a
is freed from the vicissitudes of everyday life and is character-
head of gold and with breast and arms of silver.
ized by peace and plenty, with nature spontaneously produc-
To the extent that sacred space has been organized
ing food and humans living in close relationship to the gods.
around a temple, the presence of gold and silver ornament
Most usually, the Golden Age is located temporally in the
has contributed powerfully to the creation of a properly nu-
far past or, more rarely, in the distant future. Spatially, it is
minous ambience. Here one thinks not only of the wealth
located in vague or far-off regions of the earth; more rarely,
of Solomon’s temple and of medieval Christian cathedrals,
it is a place accessible only after death, as described by Pindar
but also of the Temple of the Sun at Cuzco in ancient Peru,
(fifth century BCE) in his portrait of the Elysian Fields (Olym-
which was covered with enormous quantities of gold. In the
pian Ode 2.68–76). In its broadest sense, the term has been
Hindu tradition the world has passed through four periods
extended by some scholars to include any mythical, paradisi-
of time; according to popular legend, all the accoutrements
cal time of origins. As banalized in common discourse, golden
used by people were made from gold in the earliest period,
age has been transformed into a quasi-historical label for any
which was regarded as the purest era.
period of extraordinary wealth or human achievement.
ASSOCIATION WITH ALCHEMY. Nowhere, however, is the
symbolic potential of gold and silver exploited more fully
particular reference to the Golden Age, although it does not
than in the various traditions of alchemy. According to al-
use the term, is the account of the successive races of people
chemical doctrine, gold and silver develop in the earth under
given by the Greek author Hesiod (eighth century BCE) in
the influence of the sun and moon respectively. The ultimate
his didactic poem Works and Days (106–201). Whether di-
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rectly or indirectly, Hesiod is the sole source for the myth
it was the Latin tradition, especially the Ovidian version, that
in later Western literature and the arts. The account sits
was most influential on later Western literature. Beyond its
somewhat uneasily in its Hesiodic context, being introduced
adaptations of the Hesiodic myth, Roman tradition contrib-
almost by way of a digression, and seems to be in tension
uted new spatial and temporal dimensions to the Western
with other anthropogonic motifs in the poem. Five races or
imagining of the Golden Age. Two innovations were of
kinds of people are described in temporal succession. Four
greatest significance; both may be associated with the tower-
are characterized by valuable metals: the golden race, the sil-
ing figure of Vergil in the first century BCE. The development
ver race, the bronze race, and, after an intervening race of he-
of the Alexandrian conventions of the pastoral, the literary
roes that is most likely not part of the original schema, the
topos of the idyllic place (locus amoenus), and the paradisical
iron race. Although not fully developed, there appears to be
imagery of the Golden Age came together in Vergil’s portrait
a succession of moral and physical decay. With the exception
of Arcadia in his Eclogues. In such poetry, the Golden Age
of the intrusive race of heroes, each state appears to be inferi-
came closer to the experience of the contemporary human.
or to its predecessor.
Taken out of mythical time and reduced to the “good old
days,” to bucolic scenes of the rustic, simple life, the pastoral
In its brief description of the golden race, the Hesiodic
became “an image of what they call the Golden Age” as Alex-
narrative combines six motifs: (1) the succession of races of
ander Pope observed in his Discourse on Pastoral Poetry. At
people (in Hesiod’s account, these are different species, sepa-
the same time, an eschatological element was introduced.
rate creations of the gods, and are not to be seen as successive
Often tied to imperial ideology, the notion was advanced
stages of mankind, the world, or history); (2) the correlation
that the Golden Age was recoverable, now or in the immedi-
of the races with metals; (3) the identification of the golden
ate future. While this became a commonplace of imperial
race with the reign of an elder deity (in Hesiod, with the rule
rhetoric (see Vergil, Aeneid 6.791–794)—no fewer than six-
of Kronos); (4) the topos that, in the beginning, humans
teen Roman emperors claimed that their reigns had reestab-
lived in close company with the gods; (5) a set of paradisical
lished the Golden Age—the best-known example remains
features including a carefree existence of feasting, wealth, and
the fourth of Vergil’s Eclogues. This mysterious poem, com-
peace in a state of perpetual youth, terminated by a peaceful
posed in 41–40 BCE, ties the end of the Iron Age and the ini-
death; and (6) the spontaneous yield of crops from the earth,
tiation of a new Golden Age to the birth of a wondrous child.
so that humanity was fed without toil. Each of these motifs
In Vergil’s work, the myth of the Golden Age is no longer
has worldwide distribution. At times, they have served as ele-
an expression of pessimism with respect to the present; rather
ments that have been integrated into broader systems of reli-
it has become a prediction of future hope and regeneration.
gious, historical, and anthropological thought (for example,
Elements in the poetic tradition of the Golden Age lent
systems of apocalypticism, messianism, utopianism, or prim-
themselves to christianization. In its Greek form, it could be
itivism) as well as literary genres such as the pastoral. Howev-
er, the combination of motifs in Hesiod is without parallel.
harmonized with accounts of Eden and with notions of sin
as accounting for humanity’s fall from Paradise. The eschato-
In later Greek poetic versions, especially the influential
logical understanding of the Golden Age could be harmo-
Phaenomena (96–136) by Aratus (third century BCE), addi-
nized with predictions of the birth of the Messiah and the
tional details were added to Hesiod’s brief account. The Gol-
coming of Christ’s kingdom. However, apart from contrib-
den Age was characterized, above all, by justice. Its utopian
uting to theories of world periods, the myth of the Golden
mode of life included vegetarianism. What was of greater im-
Age was not a major element in Christian literary imagina-
portance, the metals now identified stages in the history of
tion from the early sixth century (see Boethius, Consolation
a single race, and the implicit theme of degeneration was
of Philosophy 2.5) until the Renaissance. While late medieval
more consistently applied. In Greek philosophical litera-
epic traditions (for example, Dante and the Roman de la rose)
ture—most extensively by Plato (Statesman 269–274)—this
continued antique conventions of the Golden Age, a variety
latter element was fully developed and related to notions of
of new historical factors contributed to a reawakening of in-
historical periodicity, recurrence, and world cycles. The later,
terest in the motif of the Golden Age. Alongside of the redis-
expanded portrait of the Golden Age, with the additional
covery of classical texts and works of art was the self-
motif of free sexuality, was carried over into Latin versions
consciousness of a “renaissance,” of a new birth, a new age
of the Hesiodic myth, above all in the first-century work of
that was, at the same time, a recovery of lost, past glories.
Ovid (esp. Metamorphoses 1.76–150). The Latin tradition is
Thus, the motto of Lorenzo de’ Medici, “the time returned”
important in three respects. First, the persistent Greek termi-
(le tems revient), the description by Vasari of the era of Loren-
nology referring to the “golden race” (chruseon genos) was
zo as “truly a golden age” (Life of Botticelli), the elaborate
transformed into the more familiar phrase “the Golden Age”
court and coronation pageants in which Saturn-Kronos and
(aurea saecula or aurea aetas). Second, although some Roman
the four metallic ages were depicted by actors (Vasari, Life
texts maintain the four metals schema, the contrast was re-
of Pontormo). Once again, the language of the Golden Age
duced to a duality: then and now, the Age of Kronos and the
and imperial ideology were conjoined. The development of
Age of Zeus, the Golden Age and the present times. Third,
Renaissance urbanism led to a new, nostalgic interest in the
with the general loss of Greek literature in the Middle Ages,
pastoral, a form rediscovered by Jacopo Sannazaro and Tor-
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quato Tasso and culminating in Edmund Spenser’s domi-
Age mythology stand out, both for their persistence and for
nant interest in the Golden Age. The reformers found in the
their differing functions: the Golden Age in relation to
concept of the Golden Age an expression of their interest in
myths of origins, to millenarian activities, and to royal ideol-
a return to simplicity (see, for example, Erasmus’s In Praise
of Folly). Above all, it was contact with other cultures
through exploration that allowed a sense of the palpable pres-
Myths of origins. Most myth posits a sharp duality be-
ence of the Golden Age. Joined to the topos of the Noble
tween “then” and “now,” a duality often overcome in the
Savage, the new peoples and territories, especially those of
narrative through modes of transformation whereby the one
the “New World,” are unceasingly described in the Renais-
becomes the other. This split and its attendant transforma-
sance chronicles as living in the Golden Age. While shorn
tion is most clearly expressed in myths of origin, especially
of much of its mythic content, the concept plays a role in
those that take the form of a mythology of rupture between
the subsequent, somewhat turgid history of rival theories of
a previous state and the present order. Evaluations of this
the progress and degeneration of mankind. In the seven-
previous state vary: it may be better, or worse, or simply dif-
teenth and eighteenth centuries, these various contexts were
ferent than the present. Among early literary accounts, schol-
much elaborated, especially in the context of the mythic un-
ars of the ancient Near East have identified a genre of cre-
derstanding of immigrant America. It was a place of new
ation narrative that begins with the formula “When there
birth and rebirth, a place of freedom, its bounty vast and un-
was not” (the same negative formula recurs in medieval
imaginable. From the seventeenth-century Puritan imagina-
Christian descriptions of the other world). Some of these
tion (in Cotton Mather’s words, “the first Age was the Gol-
take on the form of a myth of a Golden Age. For example,
den Age; to return unto that will make a man a Protestant,
“Enki’s Spell,” a part of the Sumerian epic Enmerkar and the
and I may add, a Puritan”) to the nineteenth-century roman-
Lord of Aratta, tells of a time when there were no dangerous
ticization of the American West (historian H. H. Bancroft,
animals to threaten humans, when there was nothing to fear,
for example, described life as “a long happy holiday . . .
and when humankind spoke a common tongue, obeyed di-
such as the old-time golden age under Cronus or Saturn”),
vine laws, and was ruled by the beneficent deity Enlil. This
the imagery was self-conscious and persistent. Finally, in the
happy state was brought to an end through the jealousy of
nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the topos of the return
another deity (Enki). This same negative formula recurs in
of the Golden Age was joined to the industrial myth of prog-
Scandinavian mythology to describe the original cosmos
ress, expressed on the one hand in the notion of science as
(Voluspá 3, 5). In this state, before the creation of man, the
providing a world without care, and on the other in theories
gods lived in peace, playing games and possessing much gold
of primitive communism that animated many radical social
(Voluspá 8). This happy mode of existence will return. The
and political utopian experiments and political movements.
golden feasting tables will once again be set out and the fields
Both of these ideologies are a major motif in the writings of
will bear crops without cultivation (Voluspá 61–2). This last
Dostoevskii (most explicitly in Notes from the Underground
motif is common to many Indo-European epic traditions;
and The Dream of the Ridiculous Man), perhaps the most cre-
for example, Maha¯bha¯rata 3.11.234–235 tells how during
ative literary use of the Golden Age since Vergil.
the kr:tayuga there was no work and the necessities of life were
obtained by being merely thought of. The motif occurs as
well in many mythologies of the invention of agriculture, es-
considering the worldwide distribution of the myth of the
pecially in the Indonesian and North American Indian cul-
Golden Age, much depends on decisions of definition and
ture complexes. For example, in a variation on this theme,
classification. Does one seek close parallels to the specific
which includes as well the mythologem of rupture, a charac-
constellation of motifs found in the Hesiodic narrative, or
teristic etiological tale from the Boróro (of Mato Grosso,
does one note any instance of a sharp duality between a pre-
Brazil) tells how, in olden times, a woman went to pick
vious age of perfection and the present? Does one include
maize, which in those days was planted and cultivated by
such closely related topoi as postmortem realms that are the
spirits. The woman accidentally hurt her hand and blamed
reverse of present conditions, or terrestrial paradises? Does
the accident on Burekóibo, the chief of the spirits. In punish-
one insist on the notion of past possession of the Golden
ment, the spirits ceased their labors, and humans had to toil
Age? Does one focus on those mythologies that report its per-
for food, clearing the forest, planting the seed, and cultivat-
manent loss, or on those that promise its return? Does one
ing the crops. There was as well a diminution in the size of
include mythologies in which characteristics resembling life
the ears of corn since the days when the spirits were responsi-
in the Golden Age serve as narrative elements, expressing
ble for agriculture.
some contrast between a past and present state (as in the vari-
ous mythologies of the origin of death), but do not function
Millenarianism. The explicit connection of the Greco-
as the focal point of the myth? Does one include instances
Roman myth of the Golden Age and Christian chiliasm is
of isolated motifs (such as the widespread motif of self-
at least as old as the third century (Lactantius, Divine Insti-
harvesting plants or automatic implements) that occur in
tutes 5.5, 7.24) and was fully developed in the complex, me-
folkloristic contexts other than a Golden Age? Out of the
dieval Christian sibylline traditions. Similar combinations
number of possible comparisons, three systems of Golden
are equally prominent in archaic mythologies and recent na-
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tivistic movements. While none of these are demonstrably
Kingship. From the earliest Mesopotamian hymns of
free from possible Christian influence, they reflect, as well,
self-praise by Shulgi, ruler of the third dynasty of Ur (r.
indigenous tradition. Perhaps the clearest set of examples is
2094–2047 BCE) to the encomia addressed to seventeenth-
from the South American Indians of Gran Chaco and Ama-
century European monarchs (such as Charles II, whom
zonia. There are mythologies of a lost Golden Age such as
Abraham Cowley celebrates for having transformed an Age
that found among the Tembé. In earlier times, there was
of Iron into an Age of Gold), royal ideology and the myth
once a place where work was unknown. The fields planted
of the Golden Age have been intertwined. As noted above,
and harvested themselves. When the inhabitants grew old,
historical kings from the emperors of Rome to the Medicis
they did not die but were rejuvenated. The present-day
have claimed that their reigns reestablished the Golden Age.
Tembé no longer know the route to this “Happy Place.”
There is even greater elaboration of Golden Age motifs in
Such a mythical place can also be used to describe an original
the myths of primordial sacred kings. Kronos-Saturn in
peaceful unity, subsequently shattered, which explains the
Greco-Roman tradition is one such example, already present
difference between the white colonialist and the native.
in the Hesiodic account. Iranian mythology is more extend-
Thus, the Mataco picture a time and place long ago when
ed and explicit.
there were no Christians, when the ancestors of what would
After the ninth century CE, in the late Pahlavi, New Per-
later become the Christians and the Mataco lived together
sian, and Arabic writings as well as in the so-called secular
harmoniously in a single house. Everything was provided
epic tradition, the disparate Iranian royal genealogical and
without labor, from tools to domesticated animals and cloth-
mythical traditions were organized into a systematic presen-
ing. The Christian ancestors took away the best of these
tation that located the origins of kingship in the figure of
things, leaving the Mataco only clay pots and dogs. In other
Ho¯shang. Depicted in quite conventional terms as an ideal
versions of this motif of the origin of inequality, the native
king and civilizing hero as well as the progenitor (with his
utopia is superseded by a European one, as among the Bo-
sister Guzak) of the Iranian people, Ho¯shang established jus-
róro. After living peacefully together, quarrels broke out over
tice, peace, and law. He invented iron-working, the arts of
the possession of magically produced objects. The white peo-
mining and navigation, and the building of canals for irriga-
ple’s ancestors were sent away in boats to avoid bloodshed
tion. He was the first to hunt with dogs, make clothing out
and have never returned because they found a more beautiful
of skins, and to fashion wooden doors for houses. During his
and even more wondrous uninhabited land. A more complex
reign, according to the fifteenth-century universal history by
expression of a recoverable Golden Age occurs among the
M¯ırkhwa¯nd, the Rawzat al-s:afa¯D (Garden of purity), the
various Tupi-Guaraní and Tupinamba groups who have set
“world bloomed” and people “reposed in gardens of con-
off on lengthy tribal wanderings from the interior to the At-
tent.” Behind this stereotypical portrait of an ideal realm, lies
lantic coast in order to reach a mythical “Land without Evil”
an older, most likely pre-Zoroastrian, myth of a full-blown
or “Land of Immortality and Perpetual Rest.” (The earliest
Golden Age, that associated with the reign of the Indo-
record of such a journey is from a Spanish report in 1515;
Iranian figure of Yima. In the earlier traditions of the Avesta,
the most recent instance occurred in 1957.) This land, vari-
Yima is like the sun. In his reign of a thousand years, humans
and beasts do not die (indeed, there is no difference in ap-
ously described by the different groups, has neither sickness
pearance between a man and his son); waters and plants do
or death; it is a vast garden-island, filled with game and
not dry up from the heat; there is neither excessive warmth,
fruits, on which the inhabitants will spend their time feasting
nor cold, nor any form of disease; and there is an inexhaust-
and dancing. The same sort of Golden Age imagery recurs
ible supply of food (Yasna 9.4–5; Yashts 9.10, 10.50, 17.30,
among Tupinamba nativistic resistance movements. The
19.32–33). During this Golden Age, Yima enlarged the
Santidades, as described by late sixteenth-century Jesuit mis-
world three times in order to make room for his citizens and
sionaries, were common among groups displaced by force to
bounty, but such a realm could not be extended indefinately.
work on the colonial plantations. Native religious leaders
Therefore, Ahura Mazda¯ warned Yima that a universal win-
urged their followers to stop work and revive old rituals. If
ter would come and that Yima was to carve out a subterra-
they did so, the fields would plant and harvest themselves,
nean kingdom with magical tools, into which he was to bring
tools would work automatically, and old people would be re-
the most magnificent individuals among the men, animals,
juvenated and not know death. The fundamental imagery of
and plants in his realm as well as the most savory foods. This
these groups stems from shamanistic visions of an other-
kingdom, vara, in many respects resembles Yama’s realm of
world. Many exhibit, as well, clear Christian borrowings.
the dead in Indic tradition. There, in his underground gol-
Such influence, however, was reciprocal. In 1539, a large
den kingdom, which will glow with its own self-generated
group of Tupinamba crossed the South American landmass
light, Yima will rule and men will live “the most beautiful
at its widest point in a nine-year journey ending in Peru.
life” (Vendidad 2). In late traditions, Yima will emerge, at the
There their tales of the mythical “golden place” they were
end of the world’s winter, to repopulate the earth (M¯eno¯g i
seeking so excited the Spaniards that an expedition was im-
Khrad 27.27–31). Following the so-called Zoroastrian re-
mediately launched to locate Eldorado (originally a golden
form, this archaic myth was radically altered. The Golden
man; later believed to be a city of gold).
Age of Yima’s rule lasts only until he lies, when the glorious
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

kingship will leave him (Yashts 19.33–38). Indeed, in some
few centuries as a popular reference to the dictum, “Do unto
traditions, Yima is only the builder of the subterranean
others as you would have others do unto you,” best known
realm; Zarathushtra’s third son will be its ruler (Vendidad
in Western culture from its formulation in the New Testa-
ment (Matt. 7:12, Luke 6:31). Identical or similar axioms of
moral behavior are nearly universal, however, appearing in
SEE ALSO Heaven and Hell; Millenarianism; Paradise;
a wide variety of cultural contexts from oral folk wisdom to
ancient scriptural and philosophical writings. The written ca-
nonic versions most frequently cited as examples of golden-
Walter Veit’s Studien zur Geschichte des Topos de goldenen Zeit von
rule thinking include those found in early Jewish sources,
der Antike bis zum 18. Jahrhundert (Cologne, 1961) and H.
both in the Mishnaic and Talmudic corpus (Pirk:e-Avot 2:10,
J. Mähl’s Die Idee des goldenen Zeitalters im Werk des Novalis
Babylonian Talmud: Shabbat 31a) and in the apocryphal and
(Heidelberg, 1965) are the most comprehensive histories of
pseudepigraphic literature (e.g., Ben Sira 31:15, Tobit 4:15,
the theme of the Golden Age as found in Western literature.
Jubilees 36:8); additional passages in the New Testament
A balanced account of the Hesiodic tradition and a selective
(Rom. 13:8-10, Gal. 5:14, Acts 15:20 [Western recension,
bibliography can be found in the edition of Hesiod’s Works
codex D]); QurDanic and post-QurDanic Islamic teachings
and Days by M. L. West (Oxford, 1978). Jean-Pierre Ver-
(su¯rah 83: “The Deceivers” [At-Tat:f¯ıf, or Al-Mut:affif¯ın]; Al-
nant’s important Myth and Thought among the Greeks (Lon-
Nawawi, Forty H:adith 13; Ibn Al-EArabi, “Instructions to a
don, 1983) complements West’s book. The most significant
monograph on the Golden Age in the Greco-Roman tradi-
Postulant” [Risa¯la . . . l Dil mur¯ıd]); classical Greek and Latin
tion, with judicious cross-cultural parallels, is Bobo Gatz’s
texts (e.g., Plato, Republic 443d; Aristotle, Nicomachean Eth-
Weltalter, goldene Zeit und sinnverwandte Vorstellungen (Hil-
ics 9:8; Isocrates, “To Nicocles” 61b, “To Demonicus” 14,
desheim, 1967). A rich selection of Greco-Roman texts in
17); sacred precepts imparted in the Udyoga and Anus:asana
English translation is presented in Arthur O. Lovejoy and
sections of the Sanskrit epic Maha¯bharata (5:39:57,
George Boas’s Primitivism and Related Ideas in Antiquity
13:114:8); and comparable pronouncements in the Zoroas-
(1935; reprint, New York, 1973). For the myth as found in
trian Avesta (Dadestan-i denig 94:5, Shayest Na-shayest
Renaissance literature, see Harry Levin’s topical study, The
37:51), the Buddhist Dhammapada (10:129–130), the Jain
Myth of the Golden Age in the Renaissance (Bloomington,
A¯gamas: Su¯trakr:ta¯nga (1:10:13, 1:11:33) and other su¯tras,
Ind., 1969). Ernst H. Gombrich’s “Renaissance and the Gol-
and the Baha¯’¯ı scriptures (Kita¯b-i Aqdas 148). There are also
den Age,” reprinted in his Norm and Form: Studies in the Art
of the Renaissance
(London, 1966), is invaluable on the con-
striking parallels in the Analects (4:15, 5:12, 15:23) and other
nection of the myth to the ideology of the Medicis. The in-
works of the Confucian canon (Daxue 10:2, Zhongyong 13:3,
troduction to Gustavo Costa’s La leggenda dei secoli d’oro
Mencius 7:A:4).
nella letteratura italiana (Bari, 1972) sets the Renaissance re-
Occurrences in these and other traditions can be multi-
vival of interest in the Golden Age within the broadest of cul-
tural contexts. On the Golden Age and America, see Charles
plied virtually without limit, inasmuch as statements preach-
L. Sanford’s The Quest for Paradise: Europe and the American
ing a basic consideration for the feelings of others—in ideal
Moral Imagination (Urbana, Ill., 1961).
conception if not in common practice—are all but self-
On the central theme of automatic crops and/or tools in Western
evident in human culture, reflecting both the fundamental
literature on the Golden Age, see Roy Walker’s The Golden
imperatives of social organization and a deeply ingrained,
Feast: A Perennial Theme in Poetry (London, 1952); for its
though regularly ignored, instinct of empathy for fellow
occurrence in Indonesian and Amerindian myths, consult
members of the species. However, many apparently parallel
the brief synopsis in Gudmund Hatt’s “The Corn Mother
statements about elementary human decency are simply too
in America and in Indonesia,” Anthropos 46 (1951): 853–
vague or sweeping to support detailed comparison, while
914. On the complex South American mythologies of the
others may have been taken out of their original contexts and
“Land without Evil,” see Mircea Eliade’s masterful summary,
put forward as equivalent teachings by apologists keen on de-
with essential bibliography, “Paradise and Utopia: Mythical
fending the validity of one non-Western ethical system or an-
Geography and Eschatology,” reprinted in his The Quest
(Chicago, 1969), pp. 88–111. For the mythologies of
other. In order to properly assess the cultural and religious
Ho¯shang and Yima, the most complete account, with a
significance of various golden-rule formulations, therefore,
translation of all relevant texts, remains Arthur Christensen’s
it is vital to scrutinize them from the perspective of a number
Les types du premier homme et du premier roi dans l’histoire lé-
of specific variables and issues:
gendaire des Iraniens, 2 vols. (Stockholm, 1917–1934). For
a comparative treatment within the broad context of Indo-
1. The place of this teaching within its given religious or
European royal ideology, see Georges Dumézil’s The Destiny
philosophical context: does it simply describe a com-
of a King, translated by Alf Hiltebeitel (Chicago, 1973).
mendable mode of behavior, or is it enshrined as the
central pillar of an entire moral edifice?
2. The defense of this principle in the face of abundant evi-
dence of its nonobservance in human conduct: Is it
GOLDEN RULE. The expression Golden Rule has come
taken a priori as an inviolable tenet of revealed dogma,
into use in various modern European languages over the past
or is it proposed as a piece of utilitarian advice for 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

successful regulation of social life? Does it merely enjoin
universal principle in a wide variety of other cultural con-
a correct attitude toward one’s fellow humans, or does
texts, including at least two passages among the vast pool of
it require one to translate these feelings into the praxis
edifying verses in the Maha¯bha¯rata identifying this teaching
of concrete acts?
as the “essence” or the “summation” of the dharma (duty or
morality), Al-Nawawi’s (1233–1277) blanket pronounce-
3. The manner in which the precise rhetorical structure of
ment that one who fails to observe this precept cannot be
a given formulation reflects the specific intellectual un-
called a member of the Muslim community of the faithful,
derpinnings of its cultural milieu: Is it presented as an
and the set of linked passages in the Confucian Analects that
incontestable point of doctrine, or is it put forward as
use words virtually identical to those of Hillel (“what is not
a polemical position or a defensive response within a
desirable to you yourself, do not do”) to define the “single
context of moral disputation? Is its verbal form, espe-
thread [binding all of Confucius’s thought] into a consistent
cially its framing in either positive or negative grammat-
ical terms, simply an aspect of literary style, or does its
linguistic mode of presentation correspond to deep-
In all of these examples, it is noteworthy that what is
seated assumptions about the moral ground of the
claimed to be the “central thread” of the Golden Rule is re-
human condition and the possibility of humankind’s
duced to a rather unexpected point of doctrine, in each case
spiritual perfection?
accentuated by conspicuous silence with respect to such es-
sential tenets as the creation of the world and the acceptance
4. Claims of universal validity: is a certain culture-specific
God’s commandments in Judaism, the unity and singularity
version held to be a statement of moral truth for all hu-
of God in Islam, the ideals of virtuous rule and ritual order
mans and all time, or is it understood to apply exclusive-
in Confucianism, or the metaphysical underpinnings of
ly within a particular religious community or sociohi-
Hindu and Buddhist thought: spiritual liberation, enlighten-
storical context?
ment and nirva¯n:a, the universal godhead. In many of these
5. Mutual influences and borrowing: does a given citation
passages, therefore, one suspects that the citation of the Gol-
represent an independent enunciation of the principle,
den Rule as the ultimate ground of an entire body of moral
or can it be traced back to a chain of inherited sources
teachings is pointedly intended to be provocative, its stark
or to ur-texts shared with other traditions?
enunciation designed to shake listeners from complacent be-
lief in their conventional articles of faith and to force them
6. Commentarial expansion: how do scriptural exegetes
to contemplate the core principle of primary human empa-
and textual scholiasts seek to elucidate the message of
thy underlying all ethical thinking. As a result, it is not sur-
empathetic self-projection expressed in canonic teach-
prising that in each of these respective scriptural traditions,
ings and to ground this in the logic of philosophical or
legions of commentators have come forward to meet this in-
theological discourse?
tellectual and spiritual challenge, exercising their best exeget-
ical skills in an attempt to reconcile the sublimely simple
which makes various Golden Rule formulations in different
message of the Golden Rule with finer points of doctrine.
cultures not simply shining precepts of moral excellence but
truly golden—in the sense of setting the highest standard of
rhetorical articulation of golden-rule statements, the most
moral value—is the explicit claim that the exhortation to
commonly debated issue revolves around the use of positive
treat one’s fellow humans by the same criteria of behavior
or negative terms of discourse in different occurrences. Much
one wishes to enjoy oneself constitutes the essential core of
ink and breath has been expended to argue that these two
an entire system of belief. For example, Hillel the Elder (first
alternative grammatical modes reflect profoundly variant
century BCE–first century CE) folds all of Jewish law into one
perspectives on the human condition. According to a widely
succinct reply—while his questioner “stands on one foot”—
held view, the framing of the precept in positive terms (“Do
as, “What is hateful to you, do not do unto your fellow man”
unto others”) rather than negative ones represents at once a
(Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a). In this is heard the un-
more idealistic and a more demanding view of man’s capacity
mistakable echo linking it with the language of slightly later
for altruistic behavior, setting standards of moral perfection
enunciations of the same message in several New Testament
that, if met, would amount to an imitatio of divine compas-
sion. By this same reasoning, the negative formulation would
This may reflect no more than direct borrowing or the
seem to set the bar of moral expectation far lower, at the
use of common oral and written sources drawn from the
more “realistic” level of a covenant of nonintervention, re-
fount of Eastern Mediterranean wisdom literature. But what
quiring of people only that they refrain from aggressive and
gives this parallel its primary significance is the manner in
exploitative treatment of their fellows. In some discussions,
which both texts go on to cite these gnomic statements as
however, these assumptions are reversed, and the point is
encapsulations of religious truth: “the entire Torah” in Hil-
made that, in a sense, basing one’s behavior toward others
lel’s words and “the law and the prophets” in the Gospel re-
on what one wishes to receive in return turns the selfless em-
frain. Significantly, we observe very much the same impulse
pathy of the Golden Rule into a form of self-interest, at best,
to elevate the Golden Rule to the status of an all-embracing
or that it may even give license to impose one’s own values
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 preferences on other people. Conversely, it may be ar-
human interrelatedness set forth by Mencius (c. 371–c. 289
gued that the idea of mutual nonaggression, far from enjoin-
BCE), within which the all-embracing framework of prescrip-
ing simple inaction or restraint, may be understood to sanc-
tive ritual observances is conceived as a modality for recover-
tion an even more open-ended commitment to the
ing and bringing to realization the inborn core of humanity’s
inviolability of individual rights.
essential moral nature.
Regardless of which of these views is upheld, when one
A second rhetorical factor conditioning expressions of
surveys the full range of canonic golden-rule statements, one
the wisdom of the Golden Rule in different cultures concerns
discovers that typically the selection of positive or negative
the precise positioning of a given formulation within the
verbal form is not set in stone as a choice between mutually
broader context of intellectual discourse in which it figures.
exclusive approaches to the principle of reciprocity in human
Thus, where the best-known Judeo-Christian and Hindu-
relations. This observation becomes immediately clear when
Buddhist versions present this precept as the foundation of
we note the inseparable connection drawn between the Gol-
universal moral law, in a number of classical Greek and Latin
den Rule and the command to “love thy neighbor” in both
sources statements of more or less equivalent import tend to
testaments of the Bible (linked in the Gospels by direct textu-
be uttered within the framework of discussions on the ideal
al contiguity and in the rabbinic tradition by virtually auto-
fulfillment of human character, especially in connection with
matic exegetical association)—a point underlined by the fact
the classical ethical conceptions of temperance, moderation
that the original source text for this shared teaching at the
and spiritual well-being. For example, expressions of the
heart of both testamental traditions, in Leviticus 19:18, pres-
principle of reciprocity in the Republic and Gorgias (507b),
ents these words as the culmination of a series of negative
by Plato (c. 428–348 or 347 BCE), and the Rhetoric (1166–
ethical injunctions. Moreover, even the uplifting note of pos-
1167) and Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle (384–322 BCE),
itive exhortation in the Gospel versions of this teaching,
are oriented more toward the perfection of the individual self
often held to embody the purest expression of Christian love,
than toward the reciprocal relation between person and per-
did not prevent the early church fathers from transposing the
son. In major works of Stoic philosophy such as the Medita-
words recorded in Mark and Luke into negative formulations
tions of Marcus Aurelius (121–180 CE) (e.g., 5:20, 7:73, 9:4,
in certain other early Christian writings (e.g., Acts [Western
11:1), this ideal of altruistic self-transcendence is cited, in a
recension, Codex D] 15:20, Didache 1:2, and the Apologia
manner reminiscent of Mencius, as the mark of an individu-
of Aristides 15). In the same spirit, we find in such post-
al’s fullest attainment of harmony with Nature.
biblical Jewish texts as Mishna Avot (Pirk:e-Avot) and Ben Sira
In many passages, the wisdom of the Golden Rule seems
a fairly free alternation between positive and negative word-
to carry a markedly utilitarian message with reference to the
ing. The same is true of the terms of the Golden Rule enunci-
ordering of specific sets of human relationships. This occurs,
ated in the Confucian Analects. The near replication here of
for example, in the citation of this principle in the writings
Hillel’s negative formulation may tend to lead certain West-
of Seneca (4 BCE–65 CE) (Epistles 47:11) with respect to the
ern observers to hasty conclusions regarding the practical, or
treatment of slaves, in the context of punishment in the Bud-
this-worldly, character of traditional Chinese religious think-
dhist Dhammapada and honest measurement in the QurDa¯n,
ing—until one notices that this statement is conspicuously
and in the preaching of kingly virtues in the “Letter to Ar-
counterbalanced by a crucial passage in Mencius where a
isteias” (207) included within the corpus of the Jewish apoc-
strikingly positive rhetorical exhortation is used to enjoin
rypha. Indeed, discussions of the practical implications of
concerted efforts to live by the ideal of reciprocal empathy.
such teachings for the maintenance of primary social order
constitute a central focus of more recent golden-rule dis-
In weighing the significance of this point of textual anal-
course, from the classic analysis of the essential structure of
ysis, therefore, it is crucial to distinguish between the purely
power in works such as Leviathan (chapter 15), by Thomas
linguistic choice of this or that mode of assertion and the
Hobbes (1588–1679), to the scathing critique of humanity’s
deeper semantic grounding of positive and negative proposi-
hypocritical sacralization of its own self-interest in chapter
tions regarding human perfectibility. Just as the negative lan-
5 of Civilization and Its Discontents, by Sigmund Freud
guage in certain Old Testament and Confucian versions in
no way precludes a positive moral signification, so, too, the
parallels cited in Hindu texts as the essence of the dharma
Within the Greek vision of the maximum fulfillment of
can be construed in this term’s double sense of both a set of
human capacity, this issue is commonly linked to the con-
restrictive laws and rules of behavior and also a positive evo-
cept of justice, in the sense of the interpersonal balancing of
cation of the entire structure of meaning in human existence.
conflicting needs and wants. In this light, certain negative
In all of these examples, the notion that the evil inclination,
formulations of the Golden Rule may be understood as mir-
sinful nature, or aggressive impulses of humans require the
ror images of the concept of retributive justice, prescribing
coercive force of moral sanction to prevent mutual injury is
a sort of proactive or reactive payment in kind for undesir-
in no way inconsistent with a concomitant faith in the spiri-
able behavior. In its starkest form, this type of interpretation
tual power of primary human empathy. This is particularly
may even be reduced to the unforgiving terms of the lex ta-
clear in the later Confucian development the vision of
lionis, “an eye for an eye,” in apparent opposition to the 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 compassionate forgiveness suggested by the textual
Dihle, Albrecht. Die goldene Regel: Eine Einführung in die Gesch-
contiguity of the Golden Rule to the sermon on the mount
ichte der antiken und frühchristlichen Vulgärethik. Göttingen,
in its Gospel manifestations. But just as the literal application
Germany, 1962.
of the principle of retributive justice was replaced early on
Erikson, Eric H. “The Golden Rule in the Light of New Insight.”
in Jewish law by the concept of mutual responsibility, “re-
In his Insight and Responsibility. New York, 1964.
quiting love for love” (gemilut-h:asadim), so, too, in a famous
Fingarette, Herbert. “Following the ‘One Thread’ of the Ana-
passage in the Analects (14:34), Confucius (551–479 BCE) is
lects.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 47, no. 3S
pictured as rejecting the idea of repaying injustice with jus-
(1979): 373–405.
tice (literally, “requiting injury with virtue”) on the grounds
Freud, Sigmund, Civilization and Its Discontents. 1930. In Stan-
that this would constitute a breach of equity, preaching in-
dard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund
stead that one repay only virtuous behavior in kind and re-
Freud, edited by James Strachey, vol. 21. London, 1961. See
spond to injury with the “correctness” of justice.
pp. 108–116.
Gould, James A. “The Golden Rule.” American Journal of Theolo-
number of important canonic enunciations of the Golden
gy and Philosophy 4 (1983): 73–79.
Rule, both in scriptural and in commentarial writings, think-
Harman, Gilbert. The Nature of Morality: An Introduction to Eth-
ers go beyond the positing of its wisdom as the central pillar
ics. New York, 1977. See pp. 57–99.
of their respective ethical systems espousing consideration
Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. In
and justice toward one’s neighbor (variously construed as
Metaphysics of Morals. Translated by Mary Gregor. New
one’s fellow Jew, fellow members of the Islamic community
York, 1996. See pp. 191–197.
of the faithful, and the like, or in the broadest sense, all of
Nagel, Thomas. The Possibility of Altruism. Oxford, 1970.
one’s fellow human beings) and ascribe to this precept signif-
Nivison, David S. “Golden Rule Arguments in Chinese Moral
icance of a metaphysical or theological character. Thus, for
Philosophy.” In The Ways of Confucianism: Investigations in
example, an authoritative rabbinic commentary on the Levit-
Chinese Philosophy, edited by David S. Nivison and Bryan W.
icus injunction to “Love thy neighbor” (Palestinian Talmud,
Van Norden. La Salle, Ill., 1996.
Nedarim 9:4) cites this single verse as comprising the entire
Phillipidis, Leonidas. Die goldene Regel: Religionsgeschichtlich Un-
“book of the creation of man” (sefer tol’dot-ha’adam).
tersuch. Leipzig, Germany, 1929.
In certain formulations (e.g., the Jain Su¯trakr:ta¯nga) the
scope of application of the principle of universal empathy is
expanded to a cosmic level to take in all one’s fellow crea-
tures, indeed all of creation, as coterminous with one’s own
eternal Self. This same exegetical impulse also finds expres-
sion in the philosophical writings of a number of later Con-
1940), was an American anthropologist and student of prim-
fucian thinkers, among them Wang Yangming (1472–
itive religions. Born in Kiev, the son of a distinguished jurist
1529), who see in the moral message of the Golden Rule
and criminologist, Alexander Alexandrovich Goldenweiser
enunciated in the Analects a metaphysical identification with
was educated in his native Ukraine, and later, at the graduate
the “single body” (yiti) of the entire universe. This under-
level, in the United States. An important early influence was
standing gives new meaning to Mencius’s attachment of his
the intellectual companionship and guidance of his father,
own positive formulation of the Golden Rule to the startling
Alexander Solomonovich Goldenweiser, a social thinker in-
proposition that “the ten-thousand things are all within my-
fluenced by Hegel and Spencer. Father and son shared a
self,” here not an expression of the vaunt of unbounded ego
broad intellectual outlook and traveled together in Europe.
but a soaring affirmation of the innate moral core lodged
Goldenweiser immigrated as a young man to the United
within every human heart. This leap of faith from basic
States and from 1900 to 1901 pursued graduate study in phi-
human interrelatedness to a spiritual identification with all
losophy at Harvard. He later shifted his studies to Columbia,
creation may also help to explain the textual linkage in both
where he came into contact with Franz Boas and his stu-
Jewish and Christian scripture between the parallel com-
dents, and took his doctoral degree in 1910 under Boas’s su-
mands to “love thy neighbor” and to “love thy God,” as well
pervision. Goldenweiser taught as an instructor at Columbia
as Ibn al-EArabi’s mystical extrapolation from the wisdom of
from 1910 to 1919, served as a lecturer in the Rand School
the Golden Rule to the submission of humans to the infinity
of Social Sciences from 1915 to 1929, and was professor of
of the divine will.
thought and culture at the Portland Extension of the Univer-
sity of Oregon from 1930 until his death in 1940. He also
SEE ALSO Morality and Religion.
taught at the New School for Social Research, the University
of Wisconsin, and Reed College.
Allinson, Robert. “On the Negative Version of the Golden Rule
Although he carried out several months of anthropolog-
as Formulated by Confucius.” New Asia Academic Bulletin 3
ical fieldwork (on the social and political organization of the
(1982): 223–232.
Northern Iroquois), Goldenweiser’s primary interests were
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

theoretical. He was known as the most philosophical of
bic and Hebrew, and with Abraham Geiger and Moritz
American anthropologists, and he remarked once that he
Steinschneider for the historical relations between Judaism
would rather read bad theory than no theory at all. The
and Islam, and then in Leipzig, where he received his final
formative influence on his mature work was clearly that of
training as an Arabist under Heinrich Leberecht Fleischer,
Boas and his students. Goldenweiser’s most influential writ-
obtaining his doctorate in 1870. The work of the Austrian
ings are sober and sharp-sighted critiques of the cultural evo-
scholar Alfred von Kremer opened up for Goldziher the per-
lutionism and diffusionism prevalant in the early twentieth
spective of an intellectual history (Geistesgeschichte) of Islam.
Appointed privatdocent at the University of Budapest in
1871, he undertook several journeys, including a year’s stay
Goldenweiser’s “Totemism: An Analytical Study” ap-
in Egypt (1873–1874), where he attended lectures at al-
peared in 1910, the same year as James Frazer’s monumental
Azhar mosque. Goldziher became secretary of the Liberal
Totemism and Exogamy, although, as Lévi-Strauss later noted,
Jewish Community in Budapest in 1876 and had to confine
Goldenweiser’s 110 pages were to have a more permanent
his research largely to the evenings; yet during these years he
theoretical influence than Frazer’s four volumes. Frazer
prepared his major publications. He became professor of the
sought to establish the status of totemism as an evolutionary
philosophy of Judaism at the Jewish Seminary in 1900 and
stage of religious development, a sort of universal primitive
was appointed to the chair of Semitic philology at the Uni-
institution. Goldenweiser argued that what was called “to-
versity of Budapest in 1905; from there he exerted great in-
temism” was in fact merely the co-occurrence of three other-
fluence as the “patriarch” of Islamic studies until his death
wise distinct traits—the differentiation of formally similar
in 1921.
clans, the use of plant and animal symbols to distinguish
them, and the recognition of a special relation between clan
Goldziher may be said to have laid the foundation of
and totem.
Islamic studies as a scholarly discipline based on the literary
Goldenweiser, often immersed in the themes and issues
and historical study of texts, most of which were at the time
of his times, wrote widely on a number of topics relating to
available only as manuscripts. It required great erudition and
culture and history. It was, however, in such works as his
immense knowledge acquired through the reading of the
analysis of totemism, or his essay (1913) on “The Principle
original sources, and a creative use of the categories of the
of Limited Possibilities in the Development of Cultures” (in
history of religions, to reconstruct the architecture of the his-
which he argues, against the diffusionists, that limited possi-
tory of Islamic religion as he did.
bilities make cultural similarities inevitable) that his remark-
Goldziher’s first contribution was to reveal and then
able, critical intellect was able to transcend the limitations
study Islam’s sources (such as the QurDa¯n and the h:ad¯ıth lit-
of its era.
erature) as well as its religious disciplines: the techniques of
QurDa¯n exegesis (tafs¯ır), jurisprudence (fiqh), and philosoph-
ical theology (kala¯m). He also successfully undertook the
Goldenweiser’s most significant contribution to the study of reli-
study of texts pertaining to the further development of reli-
gion was his essay “Totemism: An Analytical Study,” Journal
gious ideas, including those of mystical and “sectarian” de-
of American Folk-Lore 23 (1910): 179–293. A shorter early
essay sets forth the “minority position” on the subject of in-
dependent invention and diffusion: “The Principle of Limit-
Second, by trying to understand the problems treated
ed Possibilities in the Development of Culture,” Journal of
in the religious texts within the framework of Muslim
American Folk-Lore 26 (1913): 259–270.
thought itself, Goldziher was able to show the inherent logic
of the history of ideas in Islam. He could situate texts and
New Sources
Shapiro, Warren. “Claude Leví-Strauss Meets Alexander Golden-
ideas not only in the “outward” history of Islamic institu-
weiser: Boasian Anthropology and the Study of Totemism.”
tions and in political history but also as part of the inner de-
American Anthropologist 93 (1991): 599–610.
velopment of Islam as a religion.
Third, Goldziher carried out a critical quest for histori-
Revised Bibliography
cal truth and strived to show the historical situation, charac-
ter, and limitations of ideas and practices that were of a reli-
gious nature and that were consequently held to be of an
eternal validity. As a historian, he revealed the historical char-
(1850–1921), was a Hun-
acter of the texts that, with their interpretations, form part
garian Arabist and Islamicist. After elementary schooling and
of Islamic religion and culture. He also traced external histor-
a Jewish religious education in his birthplace, Székesfehérvár,
ical influences that have played a role in the development of
Goldziher moved to Budapest in 1865. By the time he com-
pleted the Gymnasium in 1868, he had already begun to
study Islamic languages at the university under Arminius
Goldziher revealed Islam as a complete entity in itself—
Vámbéry. From 1868 until 1870 he pursued his studies first
that is to say, a religious entity—and encouraged its study.
in Berlin with Friedrich Dieterich and Emil Rödiger for Ara-
His insights into Islamic scripture and tradition, law, and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

theology were certainly enhanced by his familiarity with sim-
ilar problems in the study of Judaism. The respect he enjoyed
among Arabs is noteworthy; his contacts with Muslim schol-
ars were many, and several of his publications have been
translated into Arabic. The diary he maintained—an unusual
habit in the world of scholarship—was published in 1978.
GOOD, THE. A distinction has to be made between two
sets of questions related to the concept of the good. There
are ethical problems about how to elaborate reasonable
criteria of goodness, where goodness is conceived as a charac-
The following publications of Goldziher’s have become classics in
teristic of human actions and of things or properties that are
Islamic studies. In Die Zâhiriten: Ihr Lehrsystem und ihre
directly or indirectly relevant to human life. And there are
Geschichte; Beitrag zur Geschichte der muhammedanischen
questions concerning the goodness of God or of existence as
Theologie (Leipzig, 1884), which has been translated into En-
such, apart from God’s benevolence and love for the human
glish as The Zâhiris: Their Doctrine and Their History; A Con-
race. I shall concentrate upon the latter question.
tribution to the History of Islamic Theology (Leiden, 1971),
Goldziher provides an in-depth treatment of the distinctive
In archaic and polytheistic religions, gods are not neces-
jurisprudence and theology of an early medieval Islamic
sarily good either in the sense of caring about human well-
school that later disappeared. Perhaps most important was
being or in the sense of providing humanity with a model
the publication of his two-volume work Muhammedanische
of moral conduct; some are, some are not, and many com-
Studien (Halle, 1889–1890), which has been translated as
bine good and evil characteristics in both respects. Yet in the
Muslim Studies, 2 vols. (Chicago, 1966–1973). The second
myths of origin, the evil of gods has been connected, as a
volume contains a historical study of the development of
rule, with destruction and disorder, and goodness with cre-
h:ad¯ıth, or tradition literature (pp. 3–274), and traces the
ation and harmony, whether or not any one of the gods was
writing of particular groups of h:ad¯ıths to various currents
invariably and systematically good or evil. In Iranian dualist
and trends of the first one and one-half centuries of Islam.
mythology good and evil were attributed respectively to one
Goldziher also published a survey of the history of Islam,
and another mutually hostile divine beings. In all monotheis-
Vorlesungen über den Islam (Heidelberg, 1910), which origi-
nally had been intended as the Haskell Lectures of 1908; it
tic religions God is totally good in an absolute and unquali-
is available in English as Introduction to Islamic Theology and
fied sense, and his goodness consists not only in that he loves
Law (Princeton, N.J., 1981). His last major publication, a
his creatures: It is his intrinsic, nonrelative property; God
study of the different schools of QurDa¯n exegesis (tafs¯ır), was
would be good even if he had not created the universe. So
Die Richtungen der islamischen Koranauslegung (1920; re-
conceived, goodness acquires a metaphysical meaning that
print, Leiden, 1970). Among other works by Goldziher avail-
probably cannot be further analyzed, cannot be reduced to
able in English is his A Short History of Classical Arabic Litera-
other concepts, and has an axiomatic character.
ture (Hildesheim, 1966). Goldziher’s Gesammelte Schriften,
edited by his pupil Joseph de Somogyi, have been published
Philosophical reflection on this kind of goodness is
in six volumes (Hildesheim, 1967–1973). The first volume
Plato’s legacy; he discovered the idea of the good, which is,
contains a biographical account by the editor.
of course, desirable and therefore good for humankind, as
well as the source of all goodness; but the good is not good
A bibliography of Goldziher’s publications, Bibliographie des
because desirable, but desirable because intrinsically good.
œuvres de Ignace Goldziher, has been compiled by Bernard
This topic was taken up and elaborated by later Platonists,
Heller (Paris, 1927). Supplements have been published in
including, in particular, Plotinus; to him the One is good
the two Ignace Goldziher Memorial Volumes (Budapest, 1948,
both in terms of human needs and happiness and good in
and Jerusalem, 1958). Goldziher’s diary, or Tagebuch, has
itself, apart from this relationship. Other Platonists, howev-
also appeared, in an edition edited by Alexander Scheiber
(Leiden, 1978).
er, denied that the characteristics of goodness could be mean-
ingfully attributed to the first principle: Speusippus, Plato’s
New Sources
successor in the academy, made the point, and so did the last
Goldziher, I., M. Hartmann, and L. Hanisch, “Machen Sie doch
pagan philosopher, Damascius, to whom the first principle,
unseren Islam nicht gar zu schlecht”: der Briefwechsel der Islam-
being utterly ineffable, could not possibly have any proper-
wissenschaftler Ignaz Goldziher und Martin Hartmann, 1894–
ties, whether relative or even absolute; having no name (even
1914. Wiesbaden, 2000.
the word principle is not appropriate) and no relationship
with other realities or even with itself, it cannot be called
Goldziher, I., K. Dévényi, and T. Iványi, On the History of Gram-
good in any sense.
mar among the Arabs. Philadelphia, 1994.
Christian philosophy, which assimilated many Platonic
Smith, W.R., I. Goldziher, and S. A. Cook, Kinship & Marriage
categories, has always stressed all the meanings of divine
in Early Arabia. London, 1990.
goodness: God is good in himself, he is the creator of all
goodness, he is benevolent, and he is the source of criteria
Revised Bibliography
whereby one’s acts are called morally good or evil. Whatever
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

else is good is such derivatively and by participation in the
The idea of divine goodness as a nonrelative property
goodness of God. And, apart from a few dualistic sects, all
does not seem to be a product of pure philosophical specula-
creation was, in Christian thinking, attributed to God; be-
tion. It is rooted in, and makes explicit, the old tenet of many
cause no existence is conceivable apart from God, whatever
religions: Creation as such is good, and therefore the creator
exists is good by definition. Evil has no positive ontological
is good as such.
characteristics and is to be defined as pure negativity, priva-
The distinction between autotelic (or intrinsic) and in-
tio, lack of being: evil comes from the ill-will of human or
strumental goods has been almost universally admitted by
diabolic creatures endowed with freedom of choice and abus-
philosophers since Plato and Aristotle, yet there has never
ing this freedom; yet even the devil, insofar as he exists, is
been an agreement about how to draw the line between them
good, even though his will is incurably and totally corrupt.
and how to define what is good in itself; many philosophers
This doctrine has been elaborated in detail by Augustine. In
have denied that a collection of properties can be found that
Thomas Aquinas’s idiom it is summed up in saying that
would be common to all the things and experiences people
being and goodness are coextensive (esse et bonum convertun-
have called good. In the conflict between utilitarians and
tur). Some Christian philosophers and theologians discussed
Kantians, and between utilitarians and pragmatists, these
the question (broached already by Plato): Are the criteria of
problems are among the most often debated.
good and evil, given by God, arbitrary or intrinsically valid?
In other words, is the good good because God has decreed
it to be good (as some nominalists and Descartes believed),
A comprehensive listing of bibliographic references to the concept
or has God said that it is good because it is good in itself (as
of the good would include works by most Western philoso-
Leibniz argued)? If the former, moral rules appear to humans
phers, including Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Augustine,
as arbitrary and contingent as, say, the rules of traffic; God
Thomas Aquinas, Spinoza, Hobbes, Hume, and Kant. The
could have decreed other norms of conduct and said, for in-
following twentieth-century works can be recommended:
stance, that adultery is good and loving one’s neighbor
Dewey, John. Theory of Valuation. Chicago, 1939.
wrong—a conclusion that sounds outrageous to common
Ewing, A. C. The Definition of Good. New York, 1947.
sense; yet, if God orders what is intrinsically good, apart
Hartmann, Nicolai. Ethics. 3 vols. Translated by Stanton Colt.
from his decrees, he appears to be bound by laws that do not
London, 1932.
depend on him, which makes his omnipotence doubtful.
Moore, G. E. Principia Ethica. Cambridge, U.K., 1903.
The question can be invalidated, however, by saying—in
conformity with Thomist metaphysics—that God is what he
Rice, P. B. On the Knowledge of Good and Evil. New York, 1955.
decrees and that there are no rules of goodness different from
Ross, W. D. The Right and the Good. Oxford, 1930.
his essence, therefore he neither obeys a foreign law nor issues
Stevenson, Charles. Facts and Values. New Haven, 1963.
arbitrary decrees of which the content is contingent upon his
Westermarck, Edvard A. The Origin and Development of the Moral
Ideas. 2d ed. 2 vols. London, 1924.
If God is good in himself, and not only benevolent to
Wright, Georg H. von. The Varieties of Goodness. London, 1963.
his creatures, it is essential, in Christian terms, that one
New Sources
should love him not only as a benefactor and savior but be-
Dorter, Kenneth. Form and Good in Plato’s Eleatic Dialogues: The
cause he is who he is. The point was strongly stressed by
Parmenides, Theaetetus, Sophist, and Statesman. Berkeley,
many Christian mystics and other “theocentrically” oriented
writers. They argued that God is not only the highest good
Keenan, James E. Goodness and Rightness in Thomas Aquinas’s
but the only good proper, therefore humankind is for God,
Summa Theologiae. Washington, D.C., 1992.
rather than he for humans; individuals should admire him
MacDonald, Scott. Being and Goodness: The Concept of the Good
utterly oblivious of all favors and graces received from him;
in Metaphysics and Philosophy. Albany, N.Y., 1996.
indeed their love should be the same even if they knew that
Ross, Stephen David. The Gift of Beauty: The Good as Art. Albany,
he condemned them to hell, and they should be happy to
N.Y., 1996.
accept his will unconditionally, whatever it means to them;
Ross, W. D. The Right and the Good. Edited by Philip Stratton-
they ought only to want God to be God, whereas to love God
Lake. New York, 2002.
in reciprocity for his benevolence is unworthy or perhaps sin-
ful. The standard Christian teaching, while stressing the
Revised Bibliography
value of the disinterested love of God, never goes so far as
to say that worshiping God in connection with his gifts and
graces is a sin or to deny that one’s salvation is an intrinsic
good and not only an instrument whereby God’s glory is
GOODENOUGH, ERWIN R. (1893–1965), was
augmented; indeed, the last two statements sound heretical.
an American historian of religions. After studying for the
The theory of “pure love” was hotly debated in the Catholic
Methodist ministry at Drew Theological Seminary and Gar-
church in the seventeenth century.
rett Biblical Institute, Goodenough spent three years in New
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

Testament and Jewish Studies at Harvard University, chiefly
During a year at Brandeis University (1962–1963)
with George Foot Moore, before proceeding to Oxford Uni-
Goodenough moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he
versity and earning a D. Phil. in 1923. Little influence of Ox-
contemplated writing a study of early Christianity based on
ford is discernible in his work, except perhaps in the sketch
his Hellenistic Jewish model. In a commemorative essay,
of Middle Platonism provided in his dissertation on Justin
Goodenough’s friend and sometime student Samuel Sand-
Martyr. In the published version (Jena, 1923) he mentions
mel raised questions about the possibility of such a work, in
none of his teachers. The book does, however, foreshadow
view of Goodenough’s lack of knowledge of the history of
his later studies of Philo Judaeus, for in it Goodenough dis-
scholarship, especially in the New Testament field, but he
covered the influence of Philo to be pervasive in early Chris-
concluded that what Goodenough considered “prolegome-
tian theology.
na” to this proposed final work were probably more valuable
than any book on Christian origins would have been.
Goodenough began teaching at Yale University in 1923
and remained there until his retirement, steadily producing
Goodenough was active in learned societies, serving as
articles and books to demonstrate that many sectors of Juda-
editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature from 1934 to 1942
ism had been receptive to Greco-Roman influence, not only
and as president of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and
in the realm of philosophical ideas but also in those of mysti-
Sciences from 1947 to 1958. He took an active part in the
cal intuition and artistic representation. His By Light Light,
American Council of Learned Societies from 1953 to 1965
subtitled The Mystic Gospel of Hellenistic Judaism (1935), was
and was a member of its Committee on the History of Reli-
not universally accepted by students either of the Hellenistic
gions. In this setting especially he was highly influential be-
world or of Judaism, but like all his works it stimulated inter-
cause of his learning, common sense, and personal charm.
est in his hero, Philo.
In 1953 began the publication of Goodenough’s major
work, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, which was
Goodenough’s studies of Philo Judaeus also include The Politics
posthumously completed in 1968 in thirteen volumes (in-
of Philo Judaeus (1938; reprint, Hildesheim, 1967) and Intro-
duction to Philo Judaeus
(Oxford, 1940). Goodenough set
cluding a volume of valuable indexes and maps). The genesis
forth some of his own religious ideas in Toward a Mature
of this remarkable combination of fact and analysis was a
Faith (New York, 1955). Samuel Sandmel’s essay in memory
visit Goodenough made to Rome during his time at Oxford.
of Goodenough appears in a volume of other such essays, en-
In Rome he saw catacomb frescoes and intuitively concluded
titled Religions in Antiquity, edited by Jacob Neusner (Lei-
that the depictions of Old Testament scenes must have had
den, 1968). Other contributors of personal reminiscences to
Jewish models. Excavations in the early 1930s at Dura-
this volume include Morton Smith and Alan Mendelson.
Europos (in which Yale participated) seemed to confirm his
New Sources
theory, for a third-century synagogue with bold and mysteri-
Goodenough, E. R. The Jurisprudence of the Jewish Courts in Egypt:
ous frescoes of biblical themes (now preserved at Damascus)
Legal Administration by the Jews under the Early Roman Em-
was found.
pire as Described by Philo Judaeus. Union, N.J., 2002
Such paintings, prohibited by rabbinic teaching, re-
Goodenough, E. R., and A.T. Kraabel, Goodenough on the Begin-
quired explanation, and Goodenough took two primary lines
nings of Christianity. Atlanta, 1990
of approach. First, he went back to the Jewish catacombs at
Goodenough, E. R., and J. Neusner, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-
Rome and to many museums elsewhere, searching for the
Roman Period. Princeton, 1988.
symbols present at Dura and working out their meanings for
members of the Jewish communities. Then, influenced by
Revised Bibliography
psychoanalytic methods, he proceeded to explain their
“basic” (usually Freudian) significance. Another principle he
employed had to do with his division of the paintings into
“left” and “right” on the basis of Pythagorean and gnostic
GORA¯KHNA¯TH, also known by the Sanskrit form of
notions, although the scenes themselves seem to be arranged
his name, Goraks:ana¯tha, was a teacher of hat:hayoga who
“up” and “down.”
lived sometime between 900 and 1225 CE. A leading Hindi
The possibility or even likelihood that Goodenough was
scholar, Hazariprasad Dwivedi, has observed that “since the
overinterpreting naturally occurred to him as well as to oth-
time of S´an˙kara¯ca¯rya there has not been anyone in India as
ers, but he preferred to take this course rather than to retreat
influential or as great” as Goraks:ana¯tha. There is still no con-
into agnosticism. As an “ex-Christian,” as he called himself,
sensus about either his dates or the compositions that may
he found mystical theories especially attractive. His tendency
be correctly attributed to him.
to say what he thought, and to point out what he did not
Scholars who favor an early date for Gorakhna¯th base
believe, aroused the ire of the youthful William F. Buckley,
their claim mainly on indications of an early date for his
Jr., whose God and Man at Yale (1951) included an attack
guru, Matsyendrana¯th. They focus especially on a reference
on Goodenough’s lack of orthodoxy in teaching college stu-
made by Abhinavagupta (tenth century?), in which he identi-
fies a Matsyendrana¯th as his own guru. Some sources call
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

Gorakhna¯th’s guru M¯ınana¯th (both mina and matsya signify
other such texts such as the Hat:hayoga-prad¯ıpika¯ and
“fish”). Most scholars take Matsyendrana¯th and M¯ınana¯th
Gheran:d:a-sam:hita¯. The Goraks:a-´sataka describes the six
to be the same person. Svatmarama’s Hat:hayoga-prad¯ıpika¯,
(elsewhere eight) “limbs” of yoga— postures (a¯sana), breath
however, lists Gorakhna¯th as the fifth or sixth in spiritual de-
control (pra¯n:a¯ya¯ma), sense withdrawal (pratya¯ha¯ra), concen-
scent from Matsyendra and the direct disciple of M¯ına. This
tration (dha¯ran:a¯), meditation (dhya¯na), and illumination
lineage would lead one to conclude that Matsyendra and
(sama¯dhi)—and pays particular attention to certain yog¯ıc
M¯ına are different and that Gorakhna¯th lived more than a
practices such as the khecar¯ı mudra¯, the muscle contractions
hundred years after Matsyendra. A later date for Gorakhna¯th
called bandhas, and meditations on the seven mystical cen-
is based on the genealogy of Jña¯ndev, the author of the
ters (cakras).
Marathi classic Jña¯ne´svar¯ı, which, according to some manu-
The Siddhasiddha¯nta-paddhati is a more extended and
scripts, was written in the year 1290. Jña¯ndev claims to be
theoretical work that gives a somewhat different map of the
the third in spiritual descent from Gorakhna¯th. This would
supraphysical anatomy of the subtle body. It describes nine
place Gorakhna¯th in the early thirteenth century.
cakras, together with sixteen mental supports (a¯dha¯ras),
No reliable data on the life of Gorakhna¯th exist. He is,
three points of concentration (laks:yas), and five firmaments
however, the subject of many fascinating legends, legends
(vyomans). These are all used as points of reference and aids
that provide an archetypal portrait of a great yog¯ın and won-
to the attainment of supreme reality, here called the ana¯man
der-worker. The majority of these legends originated with
(“nameless”). An elaborate cosmology postulates a series of
the Hindu sect known as the Ka¯nphat:a¯ Yog¯ıs—also called
correspondences between the microcosm of the individual
na¯ths and na¯th siddhas—who have been the principal propo-
body and the macrocosm of the physical universe. The god-
nents of the doctrine and practice of hat:hayoga.
dess S´akti is called the support of the body. Ana¯man is closely
It is said that Gorakhna¯th’s doctrine was first propound-
related to, or identical with, the union of S´iva and S´akti.
ed by the god S´iva. S´iva imparted the doctrine to his wife,
When the master yog¯ın produces this union within his sub-
Pa¯rvat¯ı, while they were seated in a boat, or castle, floating
tle body, the supernatural powers (siddhis) appear spontane-
on the milk ocean. Matsyendrana¯th changed himself into a
ously. After twelve years of practice the yog¯ın becomes the
fish in order to listen surreptitiously to S´iva’s teachings.
equal of S´iva himself.
When the god became aware of this ruse, he uttered a curse
SEE ALSO Cakras; Hat:hayoga.
foretelling that Matsyendrana¯th would forget what he had
learned. Eventually, Matsyendrana¯th became ensnared by
the charms of the women of the mythical land of Kadal¯ı and
An excellent study of Gorakhna¯th and the Ka¯nphat:a¯ Yog¯ıs is
forgot the doctrine. His disciple Gorakhna¯th disguised him-
found in Shashibhusan Dasgupta’s Obscure Religious Cults,
self as one of the dancing girls of Kadal¯ı and broke his guru’s
3d ed. (Calcutta, 1969). George W. Briggs’s earlier work,
enchantment through the words of his songs. Matsyen-
Gorakhnath and the Kanphaya Yogis (1938; reprint, Delhi,
drana¯th and his disciple then returned to their former prac-
1973), is full of information but is somewhat disorganized.
tice of austere yogic asceticism.
It contains a translation of a version of the Goraks:a-´sataka.
Also valuable, with an excellent bibliography, is Mircea
Gorakhna¯th and Matsyendrana¯th are included among
Eliade’s Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, 2d ed. (Princeton,
the eighty-four siddhas, who belong as much to Buddhist
N.J., 1969). The Siddhasiddha¯nta-paddhati has yet to be
Sahajiya¯ tradition as to the S´aiva tradition of the Ka¯nphat:a¯s.
translated into English, but it is summarized by Kalyani Mal-
The Ka¯nphat:a¯s also include them among the so-called nine
lik in her introduction to her collection of Sanskrit texts,
na¯ths. Although the names of some of these na¯ths vary from
Siddha-siddha¯nta-paddhati and Other Works of the Na¯tha
list to list, two of them—Ja¯landhar¯ıpa¯ or Ha¯d:isiddha, an
Yog¯ıs (Poona, 1954). The initial citation is from Hazaripra-
Untouchable brother-disciple of Matsyendrana¯th, and
sad Dwivedi’s study in Hindi, Na¯th-samprada¯y (Varanasi,
Ka¯nhupa¯, Ja¯landhar¯ıpa¯’s chief disciple—form the principal
1966), p. 106.
subjects of a related cycle of legends that recount their rela-
tions with King Gop¯ıca¯nd and his mother, Queen
Mayana¯mat¯ı. Ka¯nhupa¯ may be identical with Kr:s:n:apa¯da,
the author of several of the Tantric Buddhist songs called
GÖRRES, JOSEPH VON (1776–1848), was a Ger-
man publicist and Romantic mythologist. Born in the
The texts attributed to Gorakhna¯th are all expositions
Rhineland and educated in Catholic schools, Johann Joseph
of the practices and mystic doctrines of hat:hayoga. Some are
von Görres remains best known for his fervent nationalist ac-
written in Sanskrit and others in Hindi or other languages
tivities as editor and pamphleteer: successively a republican,
of North India. Most important are the Siddha-
monarchist, and, as Catholic polemicist, an ultramontan-
siddha¯nta-paddhati and the Goraks:a-´sataka in Sanskrit and
ist—this last position also marked his tenure as professor of
the S´abad¯ı and Gorakhbodh in old Hindi.
history at Munich in the final third of his life, during which
The Goraks:a-´sataka (Hundred verses of Goraks:a) is one
he wrote Die christliche Mystik (4 vols., 1836–1842). His na-
of the basic texts of hat:hayoga and shares many verses with
tionalism is reflected in his mythic interests. While lecturing
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

at Heidelberg from 1806 to 1808, he was associated with
GOS´A¯LA, more fully Go´sa¯la Maskariputra (sixth century
Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano, who were then
BCE according to tradition, but, following Western research,
publishing their landmark German folklore collection Des
rather fifth, or even fourth century BCE); one of the principal
Knaben Wunderhorn (1806–1808). Görres published his
heterodox religious figures of early India. A contemporary of
own collection Die teutschen Volksbücher (1807) and Altteuts-
the Buddha and the Jina, Go´sa¯la was the leader of the A¯j¯ıvika
che Volks und Meisterlieder (1817). In 1820, after having
community and is said to have regarded himself as the
studied Persian from about 1808, he presented a translation
twenty-fourth t¯ırthan˙kara of the current avasarpin:¯ı
entitled Das Heldenbuch von Iran (part of the Shahnameh).
(“descending”) age. His name is given in various forms de-
His major work on myth is Mythengeschichte der asiatischen
pending on the source of the reference: Makkhali Go´sa¯la in
Welt (1810).
Pali; Maskarin Gosa¯la (“the ascetic with the bamboo rod”)
in Buddhist Sanskrit; Gosa¯la Man˙khaliputta in the Jain Pra-
This “history of the myths of the Asiatic world” seeks
krits; and Markali in Tamil.
to demonstrate that a primal monotheism originated in India
and spread from there through the world, though in con-
Much of the information concerning Go´sa¯la and the
fused or debased form. Görres carries his thesis into discus-
A¯j¯ıvikas derives from early Buddhist and Jain scriptures and
sions of Indic, Persian, Chaldean, Egyptian, Greek, Chinese,
the commentarial literature that developed around them. As
and Germanic myth. Seen from this perspective, his book is
a result, the picture of the A¯j¯ıvikas suffers from the inevitable
a prime example of German Romantic descriptions of pagan
distortions of sectarian prejudice. Some stray allusions to the
myth as “plagiarized” versions of the one true monotheistic
A¯j¯ıvikas can also be found in Sanskrit literature. The Tamil
revelation—a doctrine borrowed from earlier Christian writ-
epics, however, are comparatively well acquainted with the
ers. But his book is not a history in any rigorous sense so
sect and the A¯j¯ıvikas are mentioned in South Indian epi-
much as a grand Romantic visionary system, rapturously
graphs dating from the fifth to the fourteenth century CE.
elaborated. He openly relies on “higher” intuitive insight
A fairly reliable account of Go´sa¯la’s life and his relation-
where scholarly evidence is lacking or recalcitrant. His
ship with Ma¯hav¯ıra can be found in the fifteenth chapter of
thought (always difficult) is perhaps best understood as sug-
the fifth an˙ga of the Jain canon. According to this account,
gesting that the godhead is perpetually present. In the far-off
Go´sa¯la was born in the kingdom of Magadha (Bihar), proba-
mythic age, original humankind lived in the godhead, open-
bly the son of a man˙kha or professional mendicant. Im-
ly, spontaneously, and wholly. When this golden age dis-
pressed by the teachings and personality of Ma¯hav¯ıra, Go´sa¯la
solved, humans entered “history” and came to believe in an
insisted on being admitted as his disciple and for at least six
external “nature.” Still, the original truth survives in myth
years accompanied him on his peregrinations. At last, feeling
and can be at least partially recovered despite humanity’s dis-
himself to be spiritually more advanced than his master, he
persal and self-division into many peoples and languages.
undertook the practice of austerities, acquired magic powers,
There are echoes of Schelling in Görres’s emphasis on nature
and challenged Ma¯hav¯ıra. Surrounding himself with disci-
and history as the self-revelation of the godhead. But he also
ples, he is alleged to have established his headquarters in
seems at times to deny history or nature any real status what-
S´ra¯vasti (northwest of Magadha), forging close links with the
ever, and in this vein he may be close to certain views of Wil-
potters’ community there.
liam Blake.
In the twenty-fourth year of his asceticism Go´sa¯la was
visited by six other ascetics, possibly disciples. It is surmised
that at that meeting the teachings of Go´sa¯la were codified
Görres’s work is collected in Gesammelte Schriften, 6 vols., edited
to form the core of A¯j¯ıvika scripture. It was on this occasion
by Marie Görres (Munich, 1854–1860), with two additional
that he enumerated the six inevitable factors of life: gain and
volumes edited by Franz Binder (Munich, 1874). The most
loss, joy and sorrow, and life and death, along with the two
illuminating discussion of the Indic mythic background for
“paths,” song and dance. It is now believed that the original
Görres is A. Leslie Willson’s A Mythical Image: The Ideal of
corpus of A¯j¯ıvika scripture was composed in an eastern Pra-
India in German Romanticism (Durham, N.C., 1964). Fritz
krit, perhaps akin to the Jain Prakrit Ardhama¯gadh¯ı. Quota-
Strich’s Die Mythologie in der deutschen Literatur von Klop-
tions and adaptations of these scriptures appear to have been
stock bis Wagner, 2 vols. (Halle, 1910), is the standard work.
sporadically inserted in Buddhist and Jain accounts of the
Görres is discussed as mythologist, with translated selections,
in The Rise of Modern Mythology, 1680–1860, compiled by
sect, but the A¯j¯ıvika scriptures themselves failed to survive.
me and Robert Richardson (Bloomington, Ind., 1972),
A¯j¯ıvika doctrine apparently contained elaborate teach-
pp. 380–386.
ings on cosmology, reincarnation, and the elemental catego-
ries. It divided humanity into six groups, classified according
New Sources
to their psychic color (black, blue, red, green, golden/white,
Vanden Heuvel, Jon. A German Life in the Age of Revolution: Jo-
white/supremely white. Compare the lesyas in Jainism).
seph Görres, 1776–1848. Washington, D.C., 2001.
However, the school is best remembered (and condemned
in Buddhist and Jain sources) for its uncompromising deter-
Revised Bibliography
minism (niyati). In a Jain text an A¯j¯ıvika deity declares that
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there is in fact no real human effort, no deed, no strength,
could be qualified as euaggelion, particularly imperial birth
no courage, no action or prowess: all beings are instead “de-
announcements and news of the emperor’s ascension to the
termined” (after Basham). This determinism thus denies free
throne, but even imperial decrees. A significant passage in
will, moral responsibility, or the maturation of karman. It
this regard is a calendar inscription (9 BCE) from Priene in
was this tenet that elicited the strongest condemnation from
Asia Minor that comments upon the birth of the emperor
the Buddha in his assessment of various “false views.”
Augustus. This passage is usually translated “For the whole
world the birthday of the [emperor] god began the joyful
SEE ALSO A¯j¯ıvikas.
news [euaggelio¯n, a genitive plural] in his regard,” but the
passage is mutilated, and the Greek euaggelio¯n may just as
well refer to “joyful sacrifices” instead of “joyful news.”
Although written many years ago, A. F. R. Hoernle’s “A¯j¯ıvikas,”
Hellenistic Jewish authors, such as Philo of Alexandria
in volume 1 of the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, edited
(d. 45–50
by James Hastings (Edinburgh, 1908), can still be profitably
CE) and Josephus Flavius (37–c. 100 CE), used eu-
consulted. A convenient short summary of the Buddhist ac-
aggelion with a secular connotation. The term was also em-
counts concerning the A¯j¯ıvikas can be found in George
ployed by the translators of the Greek Bible (the Septuagint),
Peiris’s “A¯j¯ıvika” in volume 1 of the Dictionary of Pali Proper
who used euaggelion to render the Hebrew bsr. In the He-
Names, edited by G. P. Malalasekera (1937; reprint, London,
brew scriptures bsr is used only in a secular sense. Euaggelion
1960). See also Jozef Deleu’s Viya¯hapannatti (Bhagava¯ı): The
likewise has only a profane meaning in the Septuagint. There
Fifth Anga of the Jaina Canon (Brugge, 1970), pp. 214–220.
euaggelion is used of the reward given to a messenger in 2
At present, the standard work on the subject is A. L.
Samuel 18:22 and of a joyous message in 2 Samuel 18:20
Basham’s History and Doctrines of the A¯j¯ıvikas: A Vanished
(likewise 2 Sm. 4:10, 18:25, 18:27; 2 Kgs. 7:9).
Indian Religion (London, 1951). See also the review of this
work by Walther Schubring: “Bücherbesprechungen: A. L.
THE SEPTUAGINT. In the Septuagint (a Greek translation of
Basham; History and Doctrines of the A¯j¯ıvikas,Zeitschrift der
the Hebrew scriptures), the verb euaggelizein, cognate with
Deutsche Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 104 (1954): 256–
euaggelion, is commonly used in the profane sense with the
263. The dates of Go´sa¯la cannot be disjoined from those of
meaning “to announce.” In “Second Isaiah” (Is. 40:9, 52:7,
the Jina and of the Buddha. The latter, especially, has been
60:6, 61:1), however, and in some texts dependent upon it
reassessed; see Heinz Bechert (ed.), The Dating of the Histori-
(Na. 1:15; Ps. 68:11, 96:2), euaggelizein specifically connotes
cal Buddha / Die Datierung des historischen Buddha. Parts 1–3
the announcement of the good news of salvation. The mes-
(Symposien zur Buddhismusforschung, IV/1–3, Abhandlun-
senger of good news (euaggelizomenos) announces that the
gen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen.
Philologisch-Historische Klasse, Dritte Folge, Nos. 189,
time of salvation is at hand, that Yahveh will reign as king,
194, 222), Göttingen, 1991, 1992 and 1997.
that a new age is about to dawn. Within this context the use
of the verb acquires an eschatological connotation. The era
of salvation is made present by the announcement of it. Nei-
ther “Second Isaiah” nor the dependent texts use the noun
euaggelion in this eschatological, salvific sense.
GOSPEL. As a word in the English language, go¯spel repre-
The notion of the bearer of the good news of salvation
sents Middle English terminology derived from the Old En-
persisted in both Hellenistic and Palestinian Judaism (see the
glish godspel (from go¯d, “good,” and spel, “story”). “Gospel”
Targum on Isaiah 40:9 as well as 1QM 18:14 from among
is the common translation of the Late Latin evangelium,
the Dead Sea Scrolls). The mid-first-century Psalms of Solo-
which is a virtual transliteration of the Greek euaggelion. In
mon (11:1–2) uses euaggelizein in the eschatological sense,
classical Greek, euaggelion designated everything connected
while in postbiblical Judaism bsr and its cognate verb refer
with the euaggelos, the bearer of good news (from eu, “well,”
not only to concrete historical news but also to prophetic
and aggelos, “messenger, one who announces”). Initially eu-
messages of weal and woe, angelic messages, and divine an-
aggelion designated the reward given to the messenger who
nouncements of consolation and blessing.
brought happy news (see Homer, Odyssey 14.152–153). In
NEW TESTAMENT. Within the New Testament, euaggelion
the plural the term euaggelia was used to designate the offer-
is used far more frequently by Paul than by any other author
ings to the gods made in thanksgiving upon the reception
(forty-eight times in the indisputably Pauline writings). His
of good news (e.g., Xenophon, Historia Graeca 4.13.14).
writings are the first literary attestation to the Christian usage
Later euaggelion came to be used for the content of the mes-
of the term. It is characteristic of Paul that he uses the term
sage, the good news itself, usually an announcement of a mil-
in an absolute sense and without any qualifying adjective. To
itary victory.
some authors this suggests that Paul first gave a Christian
Euaggelion occasionally entered into religious use, where
connotation to the term euaggelion, while to others it implies
its connotation was derived from oracular usage. Within this
that Paul had taken over an earlier Christian usage. In any
context, euaggelion signified a divine utterance, but the term
event, there is little doubt that the term acquired its Chris-
was also used in the cult of the emperors. There it enjoyed
tian significance in a Hellenistic environment. While some
a mythical quality. Anything having to do with the emperor
scholars maintain that the early Christian usage was derived
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from emperor worship, the more common opinion locates
work with “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the
the roots of the Christian use of euaggelion in “Second
Son of God” (Mk. 1:1). This striking statement brings into
focus a point of view even if it does not, strictly speaking,
function as a title for the entire work.
Paul. In the Pauline letters two passages confirm the
thesis that Paul has taken over the absolute use of euaggelion
Matthew and Luke. Neither Matthew nor Luke em-
from early Christian usage. The passages in question are 1
ploys euaggelion so frequently as does Mark, and the Johan-
Corinthians 15:1–4 and Romans 1:1–4. In his first letter to
nine literature does not use the term at all. Matthew uses the
the Corinthians, Paul uses classic language to describe the
term four times but never without further qualification. He
handing on of traditional teaching and employs euaggelion
writes of “the gospel of the kingdom” (Mt. 4:23, 9:35), of
to identify the content of that teaching. Paul explicates the
“this gospel” (Mt. 26:13), and of “this gospel of the king-
content of the euaggelion by citing a creedal formula, proba-
dom” (Mt. 24:14). In all four instances Matthew uses euagge-
bly derived from Palestinian Christian circles, that focuses on
lion in relation to a speech complex. For him Jesus is no lon-
the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the opening verses of
ger the content of the gospel; instead, he is the
the letter to the Romans, the content of the gospel is the dis-
communicator of the gospel. The speeches of Jesus are “gos-
closure of Jesus as the Son of God and the Lord by his resur-
pels.” Matthew’s emphasis is on Jesus’ preaching and teach-
rection from the dead. Thus, for Paul, the basic content of
ing as providing a paradigm for the Christian way of life.
the gospel is the resurrection by means of which Jesus is con-
Luke does not use euaggelion at all in the first part of
stituted as Lord. This is understood as the fulfillment of the
his written work, but it appears twice in Acts (15:7, 20:24).
scriptural promise. Paul sometimes (e.g., 1 Cor. 9:12, 2 Cor.
Nonetheless, Luke employs the verb euaggelizomai (“I bring
2:12) calls it the gospel of Christ (euaggelion tou Christou) be-
the good news”) frequently both in his gospel (ten times) and
cause the good news of salvation has Christ as its central
in Acts (fifteen times). By doing so, Luke emphasizes the act
of preaching, which is then explained by the direct object
In the writings of Paul, euaggelion also defines the oral
that accompanies the verb. He sharply distinguishes the
proclamation of the missionary (e.g., 2 Cor. 8:19, Phil. 4:15).
preaching of the apostles from Jesus’ own preaching. Willi
In 1 Corinthians 9:14, Paul uses the word in two senses, that
Marxsen has suggested that Luke deliberately avoided using
is, as his message and as the act of proclamation. The act of
euaggelion in the first part of his work because instead of giv-
proclamation involves more than recitation of a creedal for-
ing a record of the church’s proclamation he was writing a
mula or recital of the traditional kerygma on Jesus’ death and
type of “life of Jesus.”
resurrection. Paul’s whole person is involved (see 1 Thes. 1:5,
THE WRITTEN GOSPEL. The general Pauline usage of euagge-
2:8). His proclamation is the work of an apostle “approved
lion to mean the proclamation of salvation as concretized in
by God to be entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thes. 2:4). Paul
the death and resurrection of Jesus continued into the second
writes succinctly of “my gospel” (Rom. 2:16) or “our gospel”
century as the writings of Polycarp of Smyrna (Letter to the
(2 Cor. 4:3). Those who receive his message receive it “not
Philippians 9.2) and the Didache (12.3.1) attest. Aristides of
as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God,
Athens, the first of the Christian apologists, once mentions
which is at work” (1 Thes. 1:13). For Paul, the gospel is the
the “evangelical writing” (euaggelik¯e graph¯e), and Ignatius of
“gospel of God” (e.g., 1 Thes. 1:9, 2 Cor. 11:7) because it
Antioch intimates that the gospel was a written text when he
comes from God and is about God’s work. Coming from
wrote to the church of Smyrna that neither “the prophetic
God, the gospel is powerful. Its proclamation brings about
predictions nor the law of Moses nor the gospel” has con-
the eschatological era of salvation; it implies the ending of
vinced his opponents (Letter to the Smyrneans 5.1).
one world order and the beginning of a new one.
Even when euaggelion came to be applied to a written
Mark. Both in understanding of the term euaggelion
text, the word continued to be employed in the singular, and
and in frequency of its usage (seven times), Mark is similar
this use of the singular was still widespread in the third cen-
to Paul. This does not imply a direct dependence of Mark
tury. The usage bespeaks the conviction that the gospel was
on Paul, because both of them reflect earlier Christian mis-
identical with the teaching of the Lord. This usage is reflect-
sionary usage. Mark, however, uses only euaggelion, the
ed in the formulaic expression “the Lord says in the gospel”
noun, and not the related verb. For Mark, euaggelion is a
(e.g., 2 Clem. 8:5), but it is also reflected in the titles of the
technical expression used to denote the kerygmatic an-
Gospels. The earliest parchment codices of the New Testa-
nouncement of salvation. Jesus is the subject of the gospel
ment, namely, the fourth-century Sinaiticus and Vaticanus
insofar as he proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of God
codices, entitled the Gospels “according to Matthew,” “ac-
(Mk. 1:15). When proclamation occurs, that which is pro-
cording to Mark,” and so on. This manner of providing each
claimed becomes a reality. Accordingly, the activity of Jesus
of the written gospels with a title suggests that euaggelion ap-
became the object of the gospel. Mark editorializes on the
plied to the whole collection of the four canonical gospels.
tradition he has incorporated into his work in order to affirm
Nonetheless, three of the early New Testament papyri have
that the gospel relates to that which has been done in and
made use of more complete titles: Gospel according to Mat-
through Jesus. Mark emphasizes this notion by opening his
thew (P4) and Gospel according to John (P66, P75). Even this
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is a strange turn of phrase if the sole intention is to designate
ing and the view that Jesus is one’s personal savior. The read-
authorship. These titles seem to suggest that the single gospel
ing of a passage from one of the four canonical gospels (Mat-
was narrated according to the vision of a specific evangelist.
thew, Mark, Luke, John) is a key feature of worship services
There was only one message of final, eschatological salvation,
of the more liturgically oriented Christian churches. Fre-
namely, salvation accomplished through the death and resur-
quently the excerpt that is read is simply referred to as “the
rection of Jesus, but the message could be conveyed in differ-
ent ways.
In the middle of the second century, Justin Martyr (c.
100–163/5), writing in Rome, was the first Christian author
The most comprehensive study of the term euaggelion remains the
article “Euaggelion” written by Gerhard Friedrich for the
to write of the Gospels in the plural (euaggelia). In his First
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Ger-
Apology (c. 155) and his Dialogue with the Jew Trypho he re-
hard Kittel, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1964),
fers to the “memoirs of the Apostles” on some fifteen occa-
pp. 721–736. The original German text was first published
sions. The first time he mentions the memoirs, he adds by
in 1935. Significant contributions to the knowledge of Paul’s
way of explanation “which are called gospels” (hatina kaleitai
understanding of the gospel are Peter Stuhlmacher’s Das
euaggelia; Apol. 1.66.3). In two other places, however, he re-
paulinischer Evangelium, in the series “Forschungen zur Reli-
tains the singular use of euaggelion (Dial. 10.2, 100.1). At the
gion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testament,” vol. 95
time of Clement of Alexandria (150?–215?) the euaggelion
(Göttingen, 1968), and Ernst Käsemann’s Commentary on
was understood to be a book on the system of Christian mo-
Romans (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1980), pp. 6–10. An analytic
rality. Subsequently the term was also applied to the so-called
study of Mark’s understanding of euaggelion is Willi Marx-
apocryphal gospels, the oldest of which come from the sec-
sen’s Mark the Evangelist (Nashville, 1969), pp. 117–150. In
this study Marxsen also compares the use of the term by Mat-
ond century.
thew and Luke with that by Mark. In his Studies in the Gospel
The transference of euaggelion from the designation of
of Mark (London, 1985) Martin Hengel examines the Mar-
an oral proclamation to a written text—a usage that most
kan use (pp. 53–58) as well as the titles of the Gospels
probably derives from the first verse of Mark—attests that
(pp. 64–84). Useful studies of the gospel as a Hellenistic lit-
these texts had the same content and purpose as the oral
erary genre are G. N. Stanton’s Jesus of Nazareth in New Tes-
tament Preaching
(London, 1974), pp. 117–136, and Charles
proclamation. Both the oral proclamation of the gospel and
H. Talbert’s What Is a Gospel? The Genre of the Canonical
the written gospel speak of eschatological salvation accom-
Gospels (Philadelphia, 1977). A good introduction to Lu-
plished in the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Far from
ther’s understanding of the difference between law and gos-
being biographies of Jesus, the four canonical gospels attest
pel has been given by Gerhard Ebeling in chapter 7 of his
to his preaching and to his activity in the light of his death
Luther: An Introduction to His Thought (Philadelphia, 1970).
and resurrection. The historical traditions they contain are
New Sources
subordinated to their religious and kerygmatic purpose.
Dart, John. Decoding Mark. Harrisburg, Pa., 2003.
They were written to evoke and/or confirm faith in Jesus as
Funk, Robert Walter, and Roy W. Hoover. The Five Gospels. New
Christ and Lord (see Jn. 20:31). The central content of the
York, 1993.
gospel is one, even if it is attested in documents written by
different authors.
King, Karen L. The Gospel of Mary Magdala. Santa Rosa, Calif.,
LATER USAGE OF THE TERM. At the time of the continental
Reformation, Martin Luther (1483–1546) sharply distin-
Koester, Helmut. Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and De-
velopment. Philadelphia, 1990.
guished between the law and the gospel. The law makes de-
mands and provokes anxiety; the gospel bestows grace and
brings consolation. From his study of Romans 1:16–17,
Revised Bibliography
where Paul writes of the gospel as “the power of God for sal-
vation . . . for in it the righteousness of God is revealed
through faith for faith,” Luther concluded that justification
GOZAN ZEN. The Japanese term gozan (also pro-
did not depend on outward obedience to the law. Although
nounced gosan; Chin., wushan; “five mountains”) refers to
the content of the law is the unchangeable will of God, the
a system of monastic organization and its associated culture
law brings humans before the throne of judgment. The first
that flourished in Song-dynasty China and medieval Japan.
use of the law deters people from sin by fear of punishment;
Because many Buddhist monasteries in premodern China
a second use makes even believers conscious of their sin. In
and Japan were located on mountains and conceived of as
contrast, the gospel, appropriated through faith, reveals the
being secluded from the world, the word mountain came to
saving love of God, assures believers of justifying grace, and
connote a monastery. The “five mountains” were a designat-
offers a promise of the forgiveness of sins.
ed group of Zen (Chin., Chan) monasteries. Gozan organi-
In modern times, preaching the gospel is characteristic
zation began to develop in China during the Song dynasty
of Christian missionary endeavors throughout the world.
(960–1279) and was transmitted to Japan during the Kama-
Gospel faith is popularly associated with evangelical preach-
kura period (1185–1333). These monasteries developed a
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distinctive pattern of Zen monastic life, a common organiza-
links maintained between the Gozan in Kyoto and Kamaku-
tional hierarchy, and a characteristic cultural style. Thus the
ra and their satellites in the provinces. Monks could move
expression “five mountains” is also applied to the literature
fairly freely among the monasteries, and a novice who began
produced by monks from these monasteries (gozan bungaku),
his religious career in a provincial shozan might continue his
the wood-block books printed in these monasteries (gozan-
training in a larger regional jissatsu and, perhaps, go on to
ban), and the art and culture associated with them (gozan
hold high office in a central Gozan. The whole network was
bunka). This article will outline the development of the
supervised by a Zen monk official, known as the so¯roku, from
Gozan administrative organization, define the Gozan style of
a subtemple within Sho¯kokuji. The so¯roku served as the me-
Zen, and introduce Gozan literature and culture.
diator between the bakufu and the Gozan. Not all Zen
As with Zen itself, Gozan organization, learning, and
monasteries were included within the Gozan. The Gozan
culture had their origins in China, and throughout their his-
system was dominated by those branches of the Rinzai
tory in Japan the Gozan monasteries remained major con-
school, especially the lineage of Muso¯ Soseki, who found
duits for the dissemination not only of Zen but also of Chi-
favor with the bakufu. Very few So¯to¯ Zen monasteries were
nese culture in the broadest sense. During the Song dynasty
included, and the Rinzai monasteries of Daitokuji and
some fifty large Chan monasteries in the Hangzhou and
Myo¯shinji were excluded.
lower Yangze regions of China were brought under the regu-
Zen monastic life within the Gozan was lived under the
lation of civilian officials and organized into a three-tier hier-
traditional Buddhist monastic precepts and characteristic
archy headed by five great monasteries (wushan; Jpn., gozan).
Zen regulations known as shingi (“regulations for the pure
These were among the most prestigious Chan training cen-
community”). Gozan Zen practice in Japan was based on the
ters in China. They were visited by such Japanese monks as
codes in force in Chinese Chan monasteries and shaped by
Eisai, Do¯gen, and Enni, who went to China in search of Zen
such Chinese émigré monks as Lanqi Daolung and Wuxu
beginning in the late twelfth century. From the mid-
Zuyuan in the thirteenth century, and their successors Muso¯
thirteenth century on, Chinese monks from these monaste-
Soseki, Gido¯ Shu¯shin, and Zekkai Chu¯shin in the fourteenth
ries, fleeing the advancing Mongols and seeking a new mis-
century. The core of monastic life was communal meditation
sion field for Chan, made their way to Japan, where they
in the monks’ hall, private and public interviews with a Zen
were patronized by shoguns, provincial warrior chieftains,
master involving the resolution of ko¯an, lectures on the su¯tras
and members of the imperial court.
and Zen texts in the Dharma Hall, and prayers and su¯tra
Before the close of the thirteenth century a similar three-
chanting in the Buddha Hall. In the late Kamakura and early
tier hierarchy of Zen monasteries was beginning to take
Muromachi periods the standards of Gozan monastic life
shape in Japan under the patronage and regulation of the
were fairly strictly observed. By the fifteenth century, howev-
Ho¯jo¯ regents who dominated the Kamakura bakufu. The
er, a slackening of discipline was becoming evident as monks
early Kamakura Gozan included Kencho¯ji, Engakuji, and Ju-
took the privilege of the great monasteries for granted, ne-
fukuji. Jo¯chiji and Jo¯myo¯ji were added later. With the over-
glected the rigorous practice of Zen, and devoted themselves
throw of the Kamakura bakufu in 1333, the Kemmu Resto-
to more worldly interests or to cultural activities. The monk
ration of 1333 to 1336, and the establishment of the
Ikkyu¯ So¯jun was so disappointed that he quit the Gozan in
Muromachi bakufu after 1336, political power shifted back
disgust and joined the Daitokuji community. He castigated
to Kyoto. A Kyoto Gozan hierarchy was quickly designated
Gozan monks, calling them idle rice bags who were con-
by the emperor Go-Daigo and the early Ashikaga shoguns.
cerned only with eating well and living comfortably.
The Gozan network assumed its final configuration, al-
Many Chan masters of the Song dynasty had consorted
though by no means its full scale, under the third shogun,
with lay scholars and artists, whose cultural interests they
Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. By an edict of 1386 the five Kyoto
shared. Chan monks became well known as calligraphers,
Gozan, ranked in order of seniority, were Tenryu¯ji,
painters in ink monochrome, poets, and students of Chinese
Sho¯kokuji, Kenninji, To¯fukuji, and Manjuji. Their counter-
philosophy. Some masters rejected these non-Buddhist avo-
parts in Kamakura were Kencho¯ji, Engakuji, Jufukuji,
cations as distractions from the true quest for enlightenment
Jo¯chiji, and Jo¯myo¯ji. The great Kyoto monastery of Nanzenji
through Chan. Other monks defended them as legitimate
was set at the apex of the Kyoto and Kamakura Gozan as a
means of expressing, enhancing, or relaying the insights of
superior temple. Lesser Zen monasteries in Kyoto, Kamaku-
the search for enlightenment. These cultural interests were
ra, and throughout the provinces were ranked beneath the
too strong to contain and the acquisition of secular learning
Gozan as either jissatsu (“ten temples”) or shozan (“many
and cultural accomplishments became a part of life in the
mountains”). Just as the Gozan category had been inflated
great Chinese monasteries. These tastes were quickly trans-
from five to eleven monasteries, so too the jissatsu and shozan
mitted to the Japanese Gozan, where they served to draw the
tiers grew rapidly in number. By the fifteenth century there
Zen monks and their warrior and court patrons more closely
were nearly fifty jissatsu and more than two hundred shozan.
together. Calligraphy and the writing of Chinese poetry were
This network was a fairly centralized system with uni-
the two most common avocations, but Gozan monks were
form monastic regulations and organization and with close
also accomplished ink painters, designers of gardens and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

buildings, arbiters of taste in art objects, interior decoration,
Ury, M. Poems of the Five Mountains: an Introduction to the Litera-
and the advocates of drinking tea, as well as teachers of Con-
ture of the Zen Monasteries. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1992.
fucian and Daoist thought.
Under the patronage of the bakufu, the court, and the
Revised Bibliography
provincial warrior nobility, the Gozan system flourished eco-
nomically. Gozan monasteries acquired estate holdings
throughout Japan. The Kyoto Gozan, in particular, were ac-
GRACE. The religious significance present in the Anglo-
tive participants in trade with China, in commerce, and in
French word grace is both multifaceted and ambivalent. As
money lending. The bursars of some monasteries acquired
a theological term, it may attempt to pinpoint the activity
reputations as astute managers of resources and lands. Politi-
of God here and now, or it may disclose nothing less than
cally, Gozan monks were active in defense of their monastic
the reality underlying all of religion and faith.
interests. They lent their managerial and diplomatic expertise
to warriors, serving as advisers and go-betweens in domestic
This almost transparent term points to the fundamental
disputes and in the conduct of diplomacy and trade with
power and horizon of every revelation, to the ultimate reli-
China. By the fifteenth century, the Gozan was much more
gious question and statement in any religion, for grace stands
than a network of monasteries. It could be counted among
primarily not for human virtue but for God’s presence.
the most influential and powerful religious, political, and
Grace is a divine activity in human history and in human
economic institutions in medieval Japanese society.
lives. The reality signified by h:esed (“loving-kindness”) in the
Hebrew scriptures and by charis (“grace”) in the Greek scrip-
The weakening of the Muromachi bakufu and the war-
tures can be found in the Dao, in the power of the Hindu
fare of the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries exposed the
triad, and in the radical absence contemplated by Buddhism.
Gozan to depredation. Many monasteries were burned or
Occasionally one can find in these other traditions the same
lost their landholdings. Communities were scattered, morale
theological discussions about the mediation by grace of the
was reduced to a low ebb, and spiritual concerns were ne-
divine in human freedom and suffering.
glected. Although some recovery took place under the pa-
tronage of Hideyoshi and the Tokugawa shoguns, the Gozan
Christian theologians have filled volumes with defini-
never recovered the influence it had had in the medieval peri-
tions and classifications of grace. Because God remains mys-
od. Perhaps the last prominent Gozan monk was Ishin
tery, the ineffable presence of the deity eludes precise defini-
Suden of Nanzenji, who served both as so¯roku of the Gozan
tion, and therefore the ultimate meaning of the word
and as an influential adviser to Tokugawa Ieyasu.
remains mysterious. In theology, as distinct from the expres-
sion of religion in art (where grace is shown rather than de-
Many of the former Gozan monasteries survive today,
fined), the word grace frequently denotes either too much or
some of them as Zen training centers. Among these are Nan-
too little.
zenji, Sho¯kokuji, and Tenryu¯ji in Kyoto, and Engakuji in
Kamakura. The Gozan system, however, as a monastic hier-
Moving back through the Latin gratia to the Greek cha-
archy and means of regulation and centralization faded out
ris, with its overtones of graciousness and liberality, the word
with the Meiji Restoration. Contemporary Zen monasteries
grace assumed a Christian theological importance with Paul.
are grouped by lineage around their major monasteries (hon-
But even for Paul, whose creative interpretation of Christian-
zan). Moreover, contemporary Rinzai Zen owes more to
ity began the turbulent odyssey of this term, the word has
Hakuin Ekaku (1686–1769) and the Daitokuji and
several meanings. Charis can mean a power coming from the
Myoshinji lineage than it does to the medieval Gozan.
spirit of Jesus active in a Christian (the charism of healing
or preaching; 1 Cor. 12), but it can also mean the power of
SEE ALSO Ikkyu¯ So¯jun; Muso¯ Soseki; Zen.
God to help one follow Christ despite the evils and difficul-
ties of human life. And with Paul there is also a more objec-
tive meaning of grace. The foundation of all grace and of all
Collcutt, Martin. Five Mountains: The Rinzai Zen Monastic Insti-
graces (charisms) is the generous saving activity of God man-
tution in Medieval Japan. Cambridge, Mass., 1981.
ifested toward humankind in the history and destiny of Jesus.
Fontein, Jan, and Money L. Hickman, eds. Zen Painting and Cal-
God’s grace is the gift of persevering, loving, purposeful gen-
ligraphy. Boston, 1970.
erosity that becomes visible in a climactic way in the life,
teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Pollack, David. Zen Poems of the Five Mountains. New York,
Charis means the favor of God, but that favor made ac-
New Sources
tive in the advent of Jesus Christ, particularly so in his words
Ichiki, T. Gozan bungaku yogo jiten. Tokyo, 2002.
and deeds. God’s loving generosity in Christ bestows not
only forgiveness of sin but a new, death-surviving mode of
Kageki, H. Chusei zenrin shishi. Tokyo, 1994.
existence. Jesus Christ is grace objectified, and in and after
Sekiguchi, K.y., et al. Gozan to zen’in. Tokyo, 1991.
him the worlds of creation, time, and human personality
Tanabe, G. J. Religions of Japan in Practice. Princeton, 1999.
have been radically (if invisibly) altered. Paul applied Jesus’
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

phrase “the kingdom of God” largely in a concrete manner
After the sporadic but often intense persecution in the
to Jesus himself, particularly through the triumphant guaran-
second and third centuries, the role of baptism as a commis-
tee of newness assured by Jesus risen from the dead.
sion for an eschatological life related less to the fading idea
of martyrdom than to the newer opportunity of communal
In a significant phrase, Paul proclaims that while sin in-
eremitical monasticism. Some monastic figures stressed the
evitably leads to death, the charisma of God to humanity is
ascetic side, others the contemplative. With schools and the-
“eternal life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:23). The following
ologies influenced by orientations based in the thought of
chapters of that letter describe this charisma: new freedom,
Origen and Dionysius the Areopagite, the monastic life be-
familial intimacy with God, the capability to follow the new
came a school of contemplation fulfilling in a special way the
“law” of love, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in men and
Christian vocation. Far from being simply training for vi-
women, and God’s advocacy on behalf of needy individuals
sions and miracles, monasticism viewed grace as the seed or
(Rom. 8). Personal entry into this life is begun by baptism
enabler of a God-bestowed contemplative outlook that, as it
conceived as rebirth in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrec-
intensified, fostered not visions but apophatic faith in touch
tion. The event of Easter has both personal and cosmic
with the darkness of the divine essence. Furthermore, in the
Eastern Christian churches, the liturgy became the sacra-
A final realization of charis for Paul comes from this very
mental place where grace reaches the concrete; in the liturgy,
baptismal life. The new life of grace is not only a divine favor
the social and the historical meet contemplatively the time-
and an adoption but also a commissioning for action. Charis-
less icon, hymn, and sacrament of worship.
mata, charisms, are powers of the Holy Spirit active in ma-
In the West, Christianity came to emphasize salvation
ture Christians, empowering them to act on behalf of the
from sin. With Augustine grace took on characteristics of an
reign of God and the life of the church. Christians are not
intermediate power sent from God to heal the effects of evil
passive. Each Christian has through the baptismal spirit
in human beings. Augustine’s life and conversion led him to
some active gift to aid the church either inwardly or in its
emphasize sharply the human person’s proneness to evil and
mission of service and evangelization. Drawing on his meta-
corresponding need for some divine assistance so that men
phor of the body, Paul faces the difficult challenges of diver-
and women might turn to God in faith and hope and to their
sity and unity in the young churches and of leadership amid
neighbors in mercy and love. With Augustine, grace appears
a variety of services. Nonetheless, Paul will not abandon this
in a triad along with freedom and evil. Human freedom can
final realization of the new presence of God where grace con-
mean freedom to choose this or that, but more often it means
tinues through time to be present in human life and minis-
the freedom to choose God as the personal ultimate in a life.
tries of service (Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12).
Evil can mean the fallen human condition—characterized,
for example, by prison camps—or it can mean the personal
Eastern Christian theology was heir to thought forms of
realization of evil in a sinful act.
human participation in the divine and subsequently empha-
sized less the evil and ruinous counterpart to grace than the
Within Western Christianity the history of the contro-
almost mystical capacity of the human person to become,
versies over grace illustrate the changing and perduring
through grace, a participant in the life of the triune God. In
meanings of the word. In the first decades after Christ Paul
the first two centuries of Christianity, the church was largely
asserted, against Jewish or Christian groups who based their
Greek-speaking. However, by the end of the second century,
hopes on external religious observances, the free and open
with the influence of Tertullian in the West and Clement of
salvation made widely accessible by God’s recent entry into
Alexandria in the East, Greek and Latin theology had begun
human history. Augustine upheld against the ascetic Pelagius
to take distinct directions. In the more Hellenistic, Neopla-
(whose view of the positive capacity of human nature made
tonist world of the Eastern Empire the seeds of the New Tes-
a strict following of the Christian way more plausible) the
tament teaching about a new creation, a new man and
pervasive infection of the primal fall. Augustine considered
woman, and a human being who is the temple of the spirit
human choice without grace to be enchained, bereft of the
of God found fertile soil.
contact of a divine activity (namely, grace) by which one
could please and live for God. In Augustine, conceptions of
The school of Alexandria in the third century, the great
the fall, the human sinful condition, and original sin describe
bishop-theologians of the fourth century, and monasticism
the opposite of salvation, of true goodness and life. The view
and mysticism in the fifth to eighth centuries solidified and
of the nature of grace as an intermediary, as a quasi entity
concretized Eastern theology—a theology of trinitarian,
of divine promise and power, began to appear.
divinizing grace renewed by Christ. In the East, Manichaean
dualism and the Augustinian theology of a God redeeming
In the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas, who was at
a segment of the fallen world were overshadowed by a view
work on his synthesis of nature and society with Christian
owing much to Neoplatonism, which envisioned a single
teaching, disagreed with his Augustinian colleagues over the
world in which the divine plan and presence was intertwined
need for grace. Thomas defended the natural potentialities
with creation and the Trinity continues that plan and pres-
of the human personality to do their work—to know the
ence through the effects of redemption.
truth, to seek the good. He considered original sin to be a
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

serious wounding of the personality from within the emo-
the Jesuits, providing leadership to the Counter-
tions and the ground of the will but not an irrevocable termi-
Reformation, found themselves embroiled in controversies
nation of the image of God. He brought back into Western
over freedom and grace on three fronts. The origin of the Je-
thinking the spirit of the Alexandrian school, a synthesis of
suits’ positive view of human efforts cooperating with grace
nature and grace where every aspect of creation and grace has
lay with the great Reformation theologies. Within Roman
the potential to find its place in a harmonious whole.
Catholicism, the Dominicans judged the Jesuits’ theory of
human freedom to be exaggerated and their theology of di-
Martin Luther, propelled by his rediscovery of Augus-
vine foreknowledge to be inadequate, while the followers of
tine and Paul, protested against the localization of divine
Michel de Bay (Baius) and Jansen asserted that the Jesuits
power in things (e.g., indulgences and noncommunal litur-
neglected the seriousness of original sin.
gy) and denied that the forms and laws of the church had
a monopoly over grace. Luther’s theology of justification by
As the eighteenth century progressed, such theological
faith permitted him to disengage grace from human control
controversies seemed dated and were swept aside by the ra-
and to return its meaning to God alone. Despite the extrinsic
tionalism and naturalism leading to the Enlightenment. If
nature of grace for Luther and its initial separation from vir-
human nature was good, wounded by the past structures of
tue and service, it would not be correct to view Luther as un-
society, it needed not a divine jostle but its own education
concerned with progress in the Christian life, that is, with
to pursue the good. Grace is transformed, even replaced, by
sanctification. For Luther, the Christian life is different from
the human mind and will, a nature awaiting cultivation, and
the life of sin: The Christian life is lived as the product not
even by human history, where religion should be viewed as
of law and effort but of an initial constituting and saving
a facet of reason.
(justifying) grace. Calvin selected other emphases for his Re-
formed theology of grace, particularly God’s sovereignty
Nineteenth- and twentieth-century philosophy provides
manifested in the divine transcendent plan for the elect.
a different interpretation of the active presence of God in his-
tory and life. The movement from Schelling and Hegel to
The Reformation began a long period filled with con-
Marx saw no need to preserve any separation of grace from
troversies over the nature of grace. Essentially these were ar-
nature and sin. Consciousness, freedom, and development
guments over how human freedom in need of redemption
become aspects of one reality, the enactment of the life of
was affected by truly divine grace. If grace is God’s act or the
the ultimate, and in that process of enactment there is no su-
exercise of God’s power, how do the finite and the created
pernature above nature.
participate in it? How can predestination and human free-
dom be reconciled?
After World War I some theologians began to rethink
Christianity precisely as a religion of grace, but from modern
The great topic of Baroque Roman Catholic theology
perspectives on the self and freedom. Grace was viewed as
lasting for almost two centuries after the middle of the six-
a horizon of consciousness and history, as the challenge made
teenth century was grace conceived as a finite, God-given
by the holy against the demonic in life. Grace is the presence
force that converts, sanctifies, inspires, and saves. Corre-
rather than the mechanics of God. For Paul Tillich, all as-
sponding to the culture of the times, with its new empirical
pects of human life could be theonomous, that is, transpar-
science and Cartesian philosophy, grace had the characteris-
ent to the divine, rather than authoritarian or superstitious.
tics of the subjective, the mechanical, and the theatrical. Ital-
As symbols of God, nature, religion, and art inspire a new
ian and Middle European art and architecture of the period
being in believers, one that struggles with the problems of
were frequently statements of a cosmic and mystical theology
meaning, life, and morality. For Tillich’s Roman Catholic
of grace: In a sacral world of light and golden divine symbols,
counterpart, Karl Rahner, grace was no less than God as ho-
great saints were depicted in their triumphant lives.
rizon and presence. God’s activity in human life and history
is universal and actively draws the world to a future that is
For Protestant communities as well as for Catholic reli-
the plan and future of God. Human life, open to and vivified
gious orders the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were
by grace, is realized, preached, and exemplified particularly
times of meticulous theological analyses of grace. Strongly
in Christ. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit paleontolo-
held views on God’s action and human psychological re-
gist, was convinced that the ultimate force driving the
sponse (both at the time of conversion and during the span
threads of evolution—spiritual as well as biological—on
of a Christian life), similar to those of the Jansenists, Jesuits,
earth was not instinct but grace. What the Gospel of John calls
and Dominicans, brought into existence Arminians, Meth-
agap¯e, love, is in Christ the source and the goal of the cos-
odists, and Pietists who debated the triad of divine action,
mos. For Teilhard, religious history, like evolutionary histo-
human freedom, and sin.
ry, is acted out over a long time. From the great religions of
The spirituality of the Jesuits reflects the Baroque (and
the world a central line emerges—that of Christ as the incar-
later nineteenth-century) Catholic devotional analysis of the
nation of God’s gracious purpose. In the contemplation and
interior life as activated by modes of “created grace,” that is,
discipleship of grace, a higher, developmental phylum intro-
God as the principle of human transformation rather than
duces to the human race individuality-in-community and
God as God (“uncreated grace”). In the seventeenth century,
freedom-in-charity. Rather than the end of the world being
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

close, the human race, for Teilhard, is only a few steps out
are struggles with the horizons of the holy, of the spiritual,
of the cave.
of grace. Such novelists as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Graham
Greene, Georges Bernanos, François Mauriac, and Flannery
In the thought of these three popular twentieth-century
O’Connor have often had evil and grace as their themes. In
theologians, Tillich, Rahner, and Teilhard, one sees the
such works, grace challenges in the most surprising ways the
modern, post-Kantian, and post-Heideggerian shift to the
conventions of religion and society, and evil is presented as
historical subject. Grace is both a divine presence and a de-
the almost necessary counterpoint to grace. Life becomes a
velopmental horizon of all history; Christ and the church are
chiaroscuro of evil and grace.
grace manifest, but they are not its exclusive repositories. In
short, grace is viewed no longer as the change of God’s will
The Christian theological term grace, then, can refer at
(Luther) or as a supernatural divine power agitating within
the same time to the most abstract dimension of religious
human minds and wills (Council of Trent, 1545–1563), but
power or human transcendentality and to the blood and
as the patient, luminous, inviting presence of a transcendent
sweat of ordinary everyday life. The record of theological
and mysterious God intimately active in the pain and glory
controversies over grace illustrates its prominence as a reli-
of life.
gious problem and its ultimate mystery. The core of that
mystery is God as active in history and in every human life.
grace reestablished grace as nothing less than the underlying
SEE ALSO Evil; Free Will and Determinism; Free Will and
reality of all religious enterprises, as the very presence of God.
Predestination, article on Christian Concepts; History, arti-
In this way it is the foundation for various schools of spiritu-
cle on Christian Views; Justification; Kingdom of God;
ality—Origenist, Greek and Russian, Benedictine, Francis-
Merit, article on Christian Concepts; Paul the Apostle; Re-
can, Dominican, Anabaptist, Carmelite—but it also con-
demption; Sin and Guilt; Transcendence and Immanence.
fronts and stimulates Christian ethics to put greater emphasis
on issues of peace and justice in the world. Grace is perceived
For a survey of the history of the theology of grace in Western
as the axis along which the kingdom of God confronts insti-
Christianity, see Johann Auer’s Das Evangelium der Gnade,
tutionalized evil.
vol. 5 of Kleine katholische Dogmatik (Regensburg, 1980).
The ecumenical movement, which began as the mutual
Roger Haight’s The Experience and Language of Grace (New
acceptance of Christian churches—Protestant, Catholic, An-
York, 1979) is a brief survey of the great theologians of grace.
Hans Conzelmann’s “Charis,” in the Theological Dictionary
glican, and Orthodox—gradually discovered through schol-
of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Friedrich, vol. 9,
arly investigations a remarkable lack of conflict between, for
(Grand Rapids, Mich., 1969), pp. 310–350, illustrates the
example, Luther’s and Thomas Aquinas’s interpretations of
Christian origin and initial variety in the meaning of the
grace, and between Trent’s and Karl Barth’s. There are fewer
word grace, as does Edward Schillebeeckx’s Christ: The Expe-
doctrinal and theological differences than first assumed.
rience of Jesus as Lord (New York, 1980). On the great theolo-
Drawing on the tradition held by mainstream Christianity
gians of grace, see Harry J. McSorley’s Luther: Right or
that God’s active presence reaches an incarnation and a cli-
Wrong? (New York, 1969), on Augustine, Thomas Aquinas,
max in Jesus Christ but is not monopolized by Christ, Chris-
and Luther; Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, 13 vols., plus
tian theologians such as Karl Rahner and official Christian
index, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Thomas F. Tor-
assemblies such as the Second Vatican Council have increas-
rance (Edinburgh, 1936–1977); Paul Tillich’s Systematic
ingly acknowledged the presence of grace in other world reli-
Theology, 3 vols. (Chicago, 1951–1963), with the study on
Tillich’s Christian anthropology by Kenan B. Osborne, New
gions and in the struggles of individual lives in increasingly
Being: A Study in the Relationship between Conditioned and
secular and agnostic contexts. For example, dialogue between
Unconditioned Being according to Paul Tillich (The Hague,
Christianity and Buddhism is now not simply an exchange
1969); Karl Rahner’s Foundations of Christian Faith (New
of similar words about ritual or theodicy but an exploration
York, 1978) with the explanatory volume; Leo J.
of different presentations and explorations of grace in specu-
O’Donovan’s A World of Grace (New York, 1980); and Leo-
lative, monastic, and mystical traditions.
nardo Boff’s Liberating Grace (New York, 1979), on Latin
American liberation theology. For a contemporary ecclesiol-
Realms as diverse as art, politics, and monasticism dis-
ogy of ministry drawn from biblical and systematic theolo-
close different approaches to what Jesus called the kingdom
gies of grace, see my Theology of Ministry (New York, 1983).
of God and to what the history of Christian theology calls
New Sources
grace. In the realm of art is found the presentation in various
Braaten, Carl E. Justification: The Article by Which the Church
media of the primal dialectic between sin and grace. Here
Stands or Falls. Minneapolis, 1990.
grace emerges from the dramatic reiteration of an active un-
Butin, Philip Walker. Reformed Ecclesiology: Trinitarian Grace ac-
seen presence that reveals “the more” and its opposite, the
cording to Calvin. Studies in Reformed Theology and History
violent exploitation of the holy, the beautiful, and the
2:1. Princeton, N.J., 1994.
human. The structure of Gothic architecture, the oils of Fra
Cassirer, Heinz W. Grace and Law: St. Paul, Kant, and the Hebrew
Angelico and the engravings of Rembrandt, the formation
Prophets. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1988.
of light by the Baroque, the planned abstractions of Kandin-
McGrath, Alister E. Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine
sky (which are there to make real “the realm of the spiritual”)
of Justification. 2d ed. Cambridge U.K. and New York, 1998.
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

Osborne, Kenan B. Reconciliation and Justification: The Sacrament
(in his first book, Methode der Ethnologie, 1911) took up
and Its Theology. New York, 1990.
ideas first espoused by Friedrich Ratzel and Leo Frobenius
Phan, Peter C. Grace and the Human Condition. Wilmington,
and developed the culture-historical method. This method
Del., 1988.
seeks to bring cultural-historical processes to light even
Tamez, Elsa. The Amnesty of Grace: Justification by Faith from a
where written sources are lacking or insufficient. To this end,
Latin American Perspective. Translated by Sharon H. Ringe.
Graebner’s method begins with particular facts and seeks to
Nashville, 1993.
establish “culture circles” (Kulturkreise), then to infer from
Wengert, Timothy J. Human Freedom, Christian Righteousness:
the geographical locations of these complexes their “culture
Philip Melancthon’s Exegetical Dispute with Erasmus of Rotter-
strata” (Kulturschichten), that is, the relative ages of cultures
dam. New York, 1998.
and their reciprocal influences, and, finally, to uncover the
origins of individual cultures.
Revised Bibliography
Because a culture circle must comprise all the necessary
categories of cultural life, including religious ideas, Graebner
also took up certain problems of the history of religions. He
GRAEBNER, FRITZ (1877–1934), German ethnolo-
rejected speculations that traced all religious manifestations
gist, was born on March 4, 1877, the son of a schoolteacher
back to a single primordial phenomenon (e.g., animism or
in Berlin. Graebner attended school in Berlin from 1887 to
belief in magic); he subjected the theories of E. B. Tylor and
1895 and studied history, German philology, and geogra-
James G. Frazer to detailed criticism and sought, unlike
phy, and other subjects (especially ethnology) at the universi-
them, to bring to light the religious phenomena typical of
ties of Berlin and Marburg (1895–1901). In 1901 he re-
individual culture circles or, as the case might be, larger cul-
ceived his doctorate in philosophy at Berlin with a
tural groups. Thus he regarded patrilinear and matrilinear
dissertation on medieval history. By this time he was already
cultures not as phases of a single standardized development
employed at the Berlin Museum of Ethnology as an auxiliary
but as independent cultural forms that coexisted with each
scientific assistant.
other; he established, for example, that animism, worship of
the dead, and lunar myths played a greater part in matrilinear
In 1906 he transferred to the museum of ethnology in
cultures, whereas belief in magic and sun myths were more
Cologne (called the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum after those
important in patrilinear cultures. He discussed this system
who endowed it), became a full assistant there in 1907, and
(which was in large measure taken over by Wilhelm
the museum’s director in 1925. In 1911 he qualified as a pri-
Schmidt) in many essays on specific topics, in the relevant
vatdocent at the University of Bonn. His work was interrupt-
sections of his comprehensive presentation of ethnology
ed by his capture in Australia at the outbreak of World War
(“Ethnologie,” in Die Kultur der Gegenwart, edited by Paul
I; because he was German, he was kept prisoner there until
Hinneberg, 1923) and in full detail in his final major work,
1919. In 1921 he was appointed professor extraordinarius at
Das Weltbild der Primitiven (1924). In this last book he rep-
Bonn and in 1926 became an honorary professor at the Uni-
resented the religious ideas of nonliterate peoples as the
versity of Cologne. However, he was unable by this time to
points of departure for the religions of the high cultures and
lecture any longer, because he was already suffering from a
for subsequent philosophical systems.
serious illness that soon made all scientific work impossible.
He retired in 1928 and returned to his native city, Berlin,
SEE ALSO Schmidt, Wilhelm.
where he died on 13 July 1934.
Graebner’s fields of specialization were the cultures of
Oceania and Australia. He first became generally known in
Studies about Fritz Graebner are included in Paul Leser’s “Fritz
the field of ethnology through his 1904 lecture “Kulturkreise
Graebner: Eine Würdigung,” Anthropos 72 (1977): 1–55,
und Kulturschichten in Ozeanien,” which was delivered at
and my article, “Fritz Graebner und die kulturhistorische
a meeting of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnolo-
Methode der Ethnologie,” Ethnologica (Cologne) n. s. 8
gy, and Prehistory and published in Zeitschrift für Ethnologie
(1979): 7–51. See also Jürgen Zwernemann’s Culture History
37 (1905). (Bernhard Ankermann, a colleague of Graebner,
and African Anthropology: A Century of Research in Germany
delivered the lecture “Kulturkreise und Kulturschichten in
and Austria (Uppsala, 1983).
Afrika” at the same meeting.) From then on, Graebner pro-
New Sources
duced numerous detailed studies that dealt with, among
other things, themes of social organization and spiritual cul-
Klaus E. Müller, “Grundzüge des ethnologischen Historismus,”
in Grundfragen der Ethnologie, edited by W. Schmied-
ture (thus it is wrong to consider him merely a “museum eth-
Kowarzik and J. Stagl (Berlin, 1981), pp. 193–231 is a com-
nologist” who concentrated in a one-sided way on the mate-
prehensive masterful presentation of the culture-historical
rial aspects of culture). In these studies he made broad
methodology in its relationship with the American culture-
comparisons that ranged throughout the world. Contesting
area doctrine. On Graebner’s theory of Kulturkreis and its
the theories, prevalent at the time, of the more or less unilin-
antecedents see also Giovanni Casadio, “Bachofen, o della ri-
ear evolution of culture and the “elementary idea,” Graebner
mozione,” in Agathe Elpis. Studi storico-religiosi in onore di
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Ugo Bianchi, edited by G. S. Gasparro (Rome, 1994),
Olschki, 1966), the topos is again taken up and transformed
pp. 73–78, 70–71.
into the central feature of a spiritual, and ever more Chris-
tian, body of literature. The following titles exemplify the
Translated from German by Matthew J. O’Connell
Revised Bibliography
Robert de Borron (late twelfth to early thirteenth centu-
ry) is the author of Joseph d’Arimathie, written in verse and,
somewhat like a Christian legend, based on apocryphal gos-
GRAIL, THE. Late in the twelfth century, a mystic
pels, the Evangelium Nicodemi and the Vindicta Salvatoris
theme appeared in Western literature that was fast taken up
(Vengeance of the Lord). Joseph, thrown into prison, sur-
as the central feature of chivalric romances with a religious
vives thanks to the veissel in which Christ, during the last
message and appeal. The key image of the theme is “the
supper, instituted the Eucharist and in which his blood was
Grail,” or, frequently, “the Holy Grail,” which is still a meta-
gathered during the passion. The symbolization has taken a
phor for spiritual salvation and the goal of a quest by the
sharp turn: The Host, which was the content of the Grail
elect. As a religious concept the Grail is of interest for having
in Chrétien’s story, is here replaced by Christ’s holy blood,
served, for about one century and in the context of contem-
and the vessel itself has changed into the chalice of the sacra-
porary civilization, as a symbol with, in social terms, a
ment. Borron, furthermore, links the evangelization of Brit-
strongly aristocratic connotation. The two pivotal works of
ain with the transfer of the Grail to the West.
the Grail cycle, Conte del Graal (or Perceval) by Chrétien de
A prose version of Joseph d’Arimathie, named Didot-
Troyes and Joseph d’Arimathie (or Roman de l’estoire dou
Perceval (after the manuscript collection in which it is pre-
Graal) by Robert de Borron, were dedicated, respectively, to
served) and attributed to the same Robert de Borron, is pat-
Count Philip of Flanders and Count Gautier of Montfau-
terned after Chrétien yet has a distinct religious reinterpreta-
con, both feudal lords, both Crusaders who died in the Holy
tion of the happenings: The Grail of the procession, for
example, becomes the receptacle of the last supper, and Perc-
eval, if he passes the test, will become the guardian of Christ’s
widely accepted that the earliest appearance of the Grail
theme is in Chrétien’s Conte del Graal, written in the late
Perlesvaus, a prose text (written between 1191 and
eighties of the twelfth century but left unfinished, probably
1212), blends a chivalric romance with a Christian allegory,
because of the author’s death. The relevant narrative is con-
strongly in the Cistercian spirit. Here the Knights of the
centrated in two brief scenes, the one set in the “Grail Cas-
Grail have become knightly monks.
tle,” the other in the “Hermitage.” An innocent young
knight, unaware of the realities of life and aimlessly wander-
A group of five romances in prose, attributed to Walter
ing, is directed by a mysterious fisher to a mysterious castle.
Map and called the Vulgate Cycle (1215–1230), was the
In the hall he meets the same fisher, the “Fisher King” and
most popular of the Grail versions. Among them are the Es-
lord of the castle, an invalid bound to his couch. The youth
toire del Saint Graal and the Queste del Graal. In these stories
then sees a strange procession passing by, full of symbols: a
the quest of illustrious knights for the Grail is told in terms
squire with a white lance, from which a drop of blood falls
of expiation and redemption, election and rejection. The
on his hand; two squires bearing golden candelabra; a noble
Christianization is emphasized by changing the carrier of the
maiden carrying a graal, a receptacle set with precious gems
Grail, according to sacramental usage, from a woman to a
and shedding a brilliant light; another maiden with a platter
man. The knights’ worldly virtues have been replaced by
of silver. The young knight, who has not yet matured enough
chastity and charity. The Grail, now the goal of the quest,
to fulfill his destiny and who overrates the chivalric virtue of
symbolizes the blending of the two worlds of contemporary
silence, does not ask the question of charity expected of him,
civilization, knighthood and religion.
“Who is served with the graal?” He thus fails to meet the test
THE ELUSIVE GRAIL. The corpus of the Grail romances
that would have restored the ailing Fisher King and the
raises questions that, in general, are unanswerable. The Grail
wastelands surrounding him. When he awakens the next
itself has remained a riddle: Its shape varies from vase to cup
morning the spell has disappeared, the castle is empty, and
to dish to stone; the use is that of a talisman or a reliquary;
he resumes his wanderings, now in search of the lost castle.
its symbolic meaning shifts with the context. By the middle
After five years he is directed to a hermitage and begs help
of the twelfth century the term appears in the western French
from a holy man, who consents to the repentant’s desire for
dialects, still marked by the indefinite article as a common
salvation. The Fisher King, he learns, is his uncle, whose fa-
noun (“a grail”). This is also the way Chrétien uses it. But
ther’s life was sustained by a Host brought to him in the
already in his prologue, and from Borron on, it is commonly
used as a proper name, “the Grail.” The derivation of the
word itself is still hypothetical. There is a consensus on a base
Chrétien, in whose Grail fragment Christian doctrine is han-
form gradalis, but the consensus stops at the root morpheme
dled in rather ambiguous terms (as pointed out by Leonardo
of gradalis: It has been variously identified as gradus (“degree,
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

step”), implying that food was placed in the vessel “step by
al, and religious formation of Perceval, the perfect knight and
step”; as cratis (“wickerwork”) or creta (“fuller’s earth”), both
the perfect Christian (Martín de Riquer). Specifically, be-
of which hint at the material used in making the receptacle;
cause Perceval displays traits of Prince Philip Augustus, the
and as cratus, a shortened tenth-to-thirteenth-century Latin
Conte seems to have been designed as a “mirror of princes,”
form of the Greco-Latin cratera/craterus (“crater”), secondar-
sponsored by Philip of Flanders to further the education of
ily expanded by the suffix -alis in analogy to other words for
his royal godson and pupil, the future king (Rita Lejeune).
vessels, such as baucalis and garalis.
7. Perceval symbolizes the two virtues of prowess and
The long history of exegesis, striving to bare the issue
charity (defined as “love of God”), and charity finally prevails
of the myth, has been moving in two directions. The one is
over prowess (David C. Fowler).
synchronic: It relates a work to the events and currents of its
8. The decadence and fall of the kingdom of Jerusalem
time and thereby aims to discover the meaning (sens) a story
function as a starting point. An analogy can be drawn be-
may have had for its contemporary public. The other direc-
tween the concept of the Crusades and the religious theme
tion is diachronic: It centers on the subject matter (matière),
of the Grail: The quest for and conquest of a Christian ideal
which it locates in a tradition and which it derives, as far as
is transferred to the elect in a castle of mystery. The construct
possible, from specific models. Knowledge of the model
of defeat and renewal represents an underlying exhortation
highlights the “message” of the work.
to persevere in the Crusades (Helen Adolf).
THE SYNCHRONIC VIEW. The impact of the contemporary
9. The quest for the Grail is the conversion of the Jewish
world on the Grail corpus and, above all, on Chrétien’s Conte
Temple, intended to offset further bloodshed of the Jews by
del Graal has been traced to religious diversity and policy,
fanatic Crusaders. Chrétien was working against the hatred
upper-class education and ethical perceptions, and to events
of the Jews (Urban T. Holmes, Jr., M. Amelia Klenke).
of historical import. Various interpretations follow.
10. The Grail procession was inspired by representa-
1. The objects carried in the ceremonious procession be-
tions in Christian art of the Crucifixion, with such figures
fore the Fisher King, such as the Host in the Grail, the bleed-
as Longinus, the carrier of the lance, and a beautiful young
ing lance, and the candelabra, have been explained as echoes
woman who gathers the blood of Christ in a vase; she in turn
of the eucharistic procession practiced in the Byzantine Mass
becomes an allegory of the church who brings the Eucharist
(Konrad Burdach, William A. Nitze).
to the Old King (Riquer). Similarly, Klenke relates the ob-
2. The extensive Christianization manifest in the Queste
jects of the procession to the cathedral art of contemporary
del Saint Graal has been interpreted as a reflection of Cister-
cian mysticism, specifically that of Bernard of Clairvaux (Al-
11. According to C. G. Jung’s depth psychology, the
bert Pauphilet, Étienne Gilson).
vessel is not a historical reality but an idea, or primal image,
3. The spiritual structure of the Conte is related to ideas
and as such is of universal significance, found in untold num-
current at Chartres, the Western center of the twelfth-
bers of myths and legends.
century Renaissance. Chrétien realizes in his work what Ber-
THE DIACHRONIC VIEW. The supposed models of the Grail
nard Silvester, the humanist, requested of a true author:
romances vary widely as to provenance and genre. They in-
“Being a philosopher, he has to write about the nature of
clude specific paradigms such as the Indic Vedas, an Iranian
human life.” And Chrétien has created in Perceval a charac-
national epic, the Alexander legend of late antiquity. But
ter motivated by the two forces of theology and charity, from
three great traditions of medieval culture are now recognized
which the Fisher King and the wastelands expect their re-
as the dominant influences: Christian legends, Celtic folk-
demption (Leo Pollmann).
lore, and ancient rituals.
4. The legend implies a heretical attempt (Nitze speaks
Christian legends. The hypothesis of a Christian foun-
of its “heterodox tinge”) to fight the supremacy of Rome and
dation of the Grail myth centers on the objects in the Grail
to replace Rome’s propaganda of the doctrine by another au-
procession. The apocryphal gospel Vindicta Salvatoris con-
thority (Giulio Bertoni).
tributed a cardinal episode to Robert de Borron’s version:
that of the elect, Joseph of Arimathea, kept alive by a vessel—
5. The Grail myth is considered a militant allegory, in-
an image deeply noted in Christian tradition. Once in exis-
spired by the activity of Count Philip of Flanders, against the
tence (as Willy Staerk points out), the Grail blended with the
heresy of the Cathari and other dualistic sects; the father of
varying perceptions of the last supper in early Christianity.
the Fisher King is the Perfect Man of Catharism (Otto Rahn,
Staerk recognizes five connotations of the Grail: vessel with
Leonardo Olschki). To Olschki, the castle, representing the
Christ’s blood; receptacle of the last supper; calix of the first
dualistic beliefs, is contrasted to the hermitage, which stands
Eucharist; receptacle of the Host; calix in which the first
for Christian orthodoxy; and Perceval does not yield to the
Mass was celebrated. The image of the lance, too, was em-
lure of the former but embraces the true faith of the latter.
bedded in the Christian tradition: It is the lance with which
6. Chrétien’s Conte del Graal is an Erziehungsroman, a
Longinus, a pagan soldier and Christian martyr, opened the
novel of education, describing the military, chivalric, spiritu-
side of the crucified Christ (Jn. 19:34). Longinus turned into
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 hero of a legend (Burdach). The third object, the silver
tien is unlikely to have made a playful or insincere reference
plate (tailleor d’arjant), has been repeatedly identified as the
to the illustrious name of his patron, one must assume that
paten on which the calix of the Last Supper was placed. Some
the model for the Conte was a real one and that it was a story
analysts question the assumption of an underlying Christian
written in prose. Of the sources mentioned here, ancient rit-
model and see Chrétien’s Conte, the first medieval form of
uals anticipated, in several respects, the sen of Chrétien’s
the Grail story, as still “pré-Christianisé” (the term used by
Grail narrative, and Celtic lore prefigured various details of
Pierre Gallais). They see in Robert de Borron’s Christian ver-
the objects and characters. But none of these analogues, nor
sion an ex post facto reconstruction of the myth’s “early histo-
their aggregate, amount to what Chrétien’s prologue praised
ry,” produced with the aid of pseudogospels.
as “the best story every told at a royal court.” Yet such a story,
Celtic folklore. Because the Arthurian world provides
the authors of this article suggest, did exist. The model was
the milieu for the Grail romances, the repeated attempts to
the Isis Book, the eleventh book—half fiction and half a per-
derive features of the myth from Celtic lore are certainly jus-
sonal memoir—of Apuleius’s novel, the Metamorphoses (sec-
tified. Irish sagas and Welsh tales, it is assumed, were taken
ond century). In Chrétien’s time the Metamorphoses existed
up by Breton storytellers, who adapted their themes to the
in Florence in at least one manuscript but was not well
French environment. The Grail objects are among such
known in France and had hardly been exploited for literary
themes: The magic horn of the gods, the wish platter, and
purposes. A comparison reveals both direct analogues be-
the horn of plenty anticipate the Grail, and the spear of
tween the works of Apuleius and Chrétien, and source mate-
Lugh, either dripping blood or held before a caldron of
rial contained in the Apuleian text, which Chrétien may have
blood, returns in Chrétien’s bleeding lance. Above all, one
associated with features of other traditions.
character vital to the narrative, the Fisher King, has his Celtic
Analogues. The similarities cover subject matter, struc-
counterpart: The maimed king, his wound, and his waste-
ture, textual homologies, and major and minor details. The
lands reflect the pagan belief, transferred into Celtic lore,
Isis Book is, in the words of Arthur Darby Nock, “one of the
that the reproductive forces of nature were related to the sex-
great ancient documents of a conversion.” Its theme, like that
ual potency of the ruler (R. S. Loomis, William A. Nitze,
of the Conte, is the salvation and rebirth of a young man, Lu-
Emma Jung and Marie Louise von Franz).
cius, who is selfish and a sinner and yet a select, and who after
Ancient rituals. The Grail myth in its sundry versions
his tribulations (narrated in the preceding ten books) is initi-
can be read as a saga of nature worship (Jessie L. Weston).
ated into a mystery religion. The Isis Book, in the portions
The mythic prototype discernible behind it is the ancient
comparable to Chrétien’s Grail story, describes the proces-
cult of Adonis, the deity linked to vegetation and fertility and
sion of Isis and the conversion of Lucius. The Isis procession,
symbolizing the fading and rebirth of nature. He was the
moving in ritual order, is dominated, just as Chrétien’s pro-
lover of both Persephone, goddess of death, and Aphrodite,
cession is, by gold, light, beauty, and mystery. Lucius’s con-
goddess of love, and thus always on his way from death to
version, like Perceval’s, is staged as a dialogue between two
life, and from life to death. Proceeding from there, Weston
characters, the initiate and the initiator. The phases of the
interprets the episodes and characters of the Grail story in
ritual run parallel in both versions, with numerous textual
terms of a nature ritual: The maimed Fisher King, deprived
concordances: selection; the initiate’s readiness; his prayer for
of his reproductive powers, is to be restored to life by the ful-
help; revelation; the hortatory sermon; the initiation.
fillment of the quest, and thus is an analogue of the waste-
Four topoi occurring in the Conte, three of them in the
lands; cup and lance are the sexual symbols of female and
hermitage scene, are prefigured in a Hermetic dialogue
male, just as blood stands for life; the Grail, by providing the
sacramental meal, represents the source of life.
which was traditionally ascribed to Apuleius and likewise
narrates an initiation. From the ninth century on, an apocry-
Following a similar line of thought, Nitze senses behind
phal treatise, the Asclepius, was included among the works of
Perceval’s story, with the decisive role of his mother and the
Apuleius. The editio princeps (1469) of the Metamorphoses,
nonrole of his father, echoes of a matriarchal system; and he
based on an unknown manuscript, contained the Asclepius.
sees in the suffering of the Fisher King and his land, to be
In short, it is not clear whether Count Philip’s book con-
ended by the initiate’s (at first unasked) question, the key to
tained the treatise together with the novel or not. The Ascle-
the Grail procession: the restoration of life and vegetation.
pius was the Latin translation of a Greek dialogue that de-
This leitmotiv is prefigured (without, as Nitze emphasizes,
scribed the catechesis of Asklepios by the mystagogue
an immediate connection) in ancient ceremonies such as the
Hermes Trismegistos. It was familiar to and often quoted by
Eleusinian mysteries and the cults of Mithra and Isis.
the prominent authors of the school of Chartres. The ana-
COUNT PHILIP’S BOOK. In his prologue to the Conte, Chré-
logues to the Conte are a secluded sanctuary as the locus of
tien states that Count Philip of Flanders transmitted to him
the ritual, with four men present; the Hermetic term malitia
a book containing a very good story, the Tale of the Grail,
for spiritual ignorance (agnosia), rendered as mal by Chré-
with the suggestion “to turn it into rime.” This cryptic state-
tien; a vegetarian meal ending the conversion; and the topos
ment by the author about his source has provoked numerous
of the wastelands as an apocalyptic vision of Egypt, which
hypotheses, not least concerning its reliability. Because Chré-
in the Conte is tied to Perceval’s (failed) test.
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

Stimuli. Chrétien’s technique of syncretism seems to
by itself, a masterpiece of literature, Wolfram von Eschen-
emerge from his use of the Isis procession, which provides
bach’s Parzival (c. 1200–1212). Its narrative, to be sure, is
motifs for the two central features of his Grail scene.
modeled after Chrétien’s Perceval. The differences of con-
tent, frequently at the frontier of religion, appear to be relat-
The Fisher King. The prelude of the Isis procession, the
ed to a difference of sources. But on the question of sources
Anteludia, consists of a bizarre spectacle of persons and prop-
the two authors are not very helpful. Chrétien’s puzzling re-
erties. Among the many unconnected items are (in this
mark about Count Philip’s book has its counterpart in Wol-
order) the following: a hunting spear; a hunter; a sword; a
fram: He mentions an enigmatic informant, Kyot, as having
fowler; a fisherman with hooks; a sedan on which someone
provided an Arabic model for the Parzival and, in addition,
is carried; a golden cup; a feeble old man. These eight unre-
as having expressed his misgivings about Chrétien’s choice
lated words (or phrases) return in Chrétien’s word portrait
of the (unspecified) source for Perceval. Questions of Kyot’s
of the Fisher King and his court: a fisherman fishing with
in a river (where Perceval meets him first) reappears as
provenance and even his mere existence have provoked vary-
the lord of the castle, marked as such by having among his
ing hypotheses. On the basis of Wolfram’s scattered remarks,
men a hunter and a fowler; maimed by a spear, he is confined
of the Catharist beliefs ascribed to the Grail community, and
to a couch on which he is carried around; he presents a sword
of the striking role that the science of geomancy plays in
to his guest and pours wine from a cup of gold, while he
Parzival, the authors of this article identify Kyot as Guillot
watches the procession that brings the life-sustaining wafer
(i.e., William) of Tudela, in Navarre, the author of the first
to the feeble old man, his father. By welding these incoherent
part of the Chanson de la Croisade albigeoise. He was, as the
bits into one figure and linking it to ancient fertility myths
author of this work, familiar with Catharism, was an adept
and Celtic lore, Chrétien created an impressive character of
of geomancy, had settled around 1199 in southern France,
medieval literature.
wrote in a Provençal French Mischsprache, and in all proba-
bility knew Arabic.
The Grail. Two vessels carried in the main body of the
Isis procession share the salient features of the Grail, above
The source that Kyot transmitted to Wolfram and that
all, those of its external aspect: Both are golden; in addition,
Wolfram fused with Chrétien’s story was, again in this analy-
the cymbium (“bowl”) sheds an intense light and the urnula
sis, the Corpus Hermeticum ascribed to Hermes Trismegistos.
(“small urn”) is ornamented and mysterious. The inherent
The treatises of this body of works communicate the mystical
powers of the Grail, on the other hand, are prefigured in
beliefs of a loosely structured brotherhood in second- and
other sources. Celtic tradition may have contributed the idea
third-century Egypt, and they were written in Greek, known
of the horn of plenty. As to the ancient rituals, the Corpus
in Byzantium, and transmitted to the West through Arabic.
Hermeticum seems to have provided with its fourth treatise,
The treatise that topically comes closest to Chrétien’s Grail
entitled The Krater, a model of the Grail that contributed its
fantasy is the one on the soteriological vessel of Hermetism,
mystic functions. The Greek text states that “the vessel is di-
the Krater. Wolfram re-created the Grail in Hermetic terms
vine,” repeated nearly verbatim in Chrétien’s “Tant sainte
as an astral myth. In The Krater it is stated that “God filled
chose est li graaus” (“The Grail is so holy an object”). The
a great krater with intellect and sent it down to earth”; simi-
content of the Hermetic vessel is nous, intellect, which makes
larly, in Wolfram’s version, the Grail is an astral vessel whose
one perfect; it is concretized as the wafer that the Grail con-
powers derive from a wafer brought down by a dove. The
tains. The Old King (the Fisher King’s father), sustained in
radiant maiden who carries the vessel in Wolfram’s Grail
his retreat by such spiritual rather than material nourish-
procession also represents a Hermetic concept: She is called
ment, evolves, in other words, into Perfect Man. The means
Repanse de Schoye, which translates the Greek for “knowl-
by which the Hermetic materials were transmitted to Chré-
edge of joy,” the second most important virtue (after knowl-
tien is not clear. The fourth treatise of the Corpus Herme-
edge of God) in the process of spiritual rebirth.
ticum was known in Byzantium, to be sure, and Chrétien,
The great religious conversion scene at the hermitage in
quite knowledgeable about contemporary Byzantine affairs,
the Conte also seems to be re-created by Wolfram in accord
as he demonstrated in his Cligès, could easily have heard
with his Hermetic inspiration. In the treatises of the Corpus
about Hermetism and its mystical appeal. But Hermetic
Hermeticum, Hermes Trismegistos appears as the dominant
ideas were in vogue at the school of Chartres, and if the Old
figure: He is a saint, an ascetic, a teacher, a sage; he is the
King is a replica of the Hermetic Perfect Man, as he is por-
symbol of learning and the founder of astrological science.
trayed in the death scene of Hermes in the contemporary
Wolfram’s mystagogue, Trevrizent, appears to be a portrait
Liber Alcidi, the scene at the Grail Castle turns into an exam-
of Hermes Trismegistos. He is a holy man, has written about
ple of twelfth-century theosophy and “literary paganism.”
religious doctrine, and is a teacher of astrology. This typolog-
WOLFRAM’S KYOT. With his Grail story Chrétien left a rich
ical derivation accords with the etymological root of this
legacy to medieval letters; yet his followers divided the heri-
name. The epithet trismegistos, “the thrice-great,” was ren-
tage. On the one hand, starting with Robert de Borron, the
dered in Arabic as “the thrice-sage,” which was translated
romances of the Grail cycle displayed an ever greater empha-
into medieval Latin as triplex scientia (“threefold wisdom”)
sis on the Christian aspect; on the other hand, there stands,
and into Old French whose obvious (although not docu-
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

mented) equivalent treble escient was, finally, corrupted by
Wood, Juliette. “The Holy Grail: From Romance Motif to Mod-
Wolfram into Trevrizent.
ern Genre.” Folklore 111 (October 2000): 169–191.
The works whose resemblances to the Grail myth have
been outlined here, the Isis Book for Chrétien and the Corpus
Revised Bibliography
Hermeticum for Wolfram, fall within the broad class of
sources often subsumed under the label of “ancient rituals.”
Yet the web of homologies involving subject matter, struc-
ture, characters, text, key terms, and the ambience of mystery
GRAIL MOVEMENT. The Grail movement was
appears sufficiently dense to consider these works, on the
begun in the Netherlands in 1921 by a Dutch Jesuit priest,
borderline between religion and literature, as the specific
Jacques van Ginneken, and a group of students at the Catho-
models of the two Grail romances.
lic University of Nijmegen who were among the first Dutch
Catholic women to earn university degrees. They were in-
SEE ALSO Hermetism.
spired by van Ginneken’s vision that Western civilization
was in crisis and in need of major changes, arguing that
women had never had a fair chance to develop their capaci-
The extensive literature on the Grail is regularly reported in the
ties to the full, in either the church or society, and that
annual Bulletin bibliographique de la Société Internationale
women had great gifts with the potential to change the world
Arthurienne (Paris, 1949–). An annotated list of contribu-
and move it in a Godward direction. Van Ginneken envi-
tions from the turn of the century to the late fifties can be
sioned a movement of young women, under female leader-
found in Urban T. Holmes, Jr., and M. Amelia Klenke’s
ship, willing to give themselves totally to spreading the king-
Chrétien de Troyes and the Grail (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1959),
dom of God, not as nuns in the cloister but as laywomen in
pp. 168–194. For good overviews from varying standpoints,
see Jessie L. Weston’s “Grail, The Holy,” in The Encyclo-
the midst of the modern world.
paedia Britannica, 11th ed. (New York, 1910); Martín de
Riquer’s “Graal,” in Dictionnaire des lettres françaises, vol. 4,
ment had spread to Great Britain, Germany, and Australia,
Le Moyen-Âge, edited by Robert Bossuat and others (Paris,
although the movement was suppressed in Germany by
1964); and Maur Cocheril’s “Graal,” in Dictionnaire de spiri-
Adolf Hitler’s government in 1939. In April 1940, on the
tualité, vol. 6 (Paris, 1967). The constituent works of the
eve of the German invasion, two Dutch Grail leaders sailed
Grail cycle are analyzed in R. S. Loomis’s Arthurian Litera-
for the United States to establish the Grail in the Chicago
ture in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1959).
archdiocese. Serious disagreements with diocesan authorities
The present survey draws, in particular, on the following works:
led them to relocate to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Archbishop
William A. Nitze, “The Fisher King in the Grail Romances,”
John T. McNicholas welcomed the group of autonomous
Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 24
laywomen determined to define their own work. They pur-
(1909): 365–418; Jessie L. Weston, The Quest of the Holy
chased a farm in Loveland, Ohio, where they established a
Grail (1913; New York, 1964); Konrad Burdach, Der Gral,
training center named Grailville and offered programs of al-
“Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Geistesgeschichte,” vol. 14
(Stuttgart, 1938); Leo Pollmann, Chrétien de Troyes und der
ternative education, preparing women for leadership in the
Conte del Graal (Tübingen, 1965); Leonardo Olschki, The
lay apostolate. Grailville quickly became the hub of a nation-
Grail Castle and Its Mysteries (Berkeley, Calif., 1966); Emma
al movement, with eleven other centers spanning the country
Jung and Marie Louise von Franz, The Grail Legend (New
from coast to coast.
York, 1970); and two of our own studies, The Krater and the
The Grail in the United States pioneered in many fields,
Grail: Hermetic Sources of the Parzival (1965; Urbana, Ill.,
promoting full, active participation of the laity in the liturgy,
1984) and “On the Sources of Chrétien’s Grail Story,” in
Festschrift Walther von Wartburg, edited by Kiert Baldinger
fostering vigorous contemporary expressions of a Christian
(Tübingen, 1968).
spirit in the arts, and disseminating its ideal of a new Chris-
tendom through publications, exhibits, and art and book
New Sources
stores. In the 1950s the Grail trained teams of young Ameri-
Barber, Richard W. The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief. New
can women and sent them to developing countries. Other
York, 2004.
Grail teams organized projects for racial and economic jus-
Goodrich, Norma Lorre. The Holy Grail. New York, 1993.
tice in the inner cities of Detroit, Brooklyn, and Cincinnati,
Goodwin, Malcolm. The Holy Grail: Its Origins, Secrets and Mean-
and in rural Louisiana. In the 1960s the Grail was in the fore-
ing Revealed. London, 1994.
front of ecumenical dialogue and opened its membership to
women of other Christian traditions. It also played a signifi-
Loomis, Roger Sherman. The Grail: From Celtic Myth to Christian
cant part in the modern catechetical movement, emphasizing
Symbol. Princeton, N.J., 1991.
personalist, psychological, and artistic approaches in the
Nicholson, Helen J. Love, War, ad the Grail. Boston, 2001.
teaching of religion.
Phillips, Graham. The Search for the Grail. London, 1995.
From 1940 to 1965 the Grail continued to expand in-
Sinclair, Andrew. The Discovery of the Grail. London, 1998.
ternationally. Teams from the lay mission school at Ubber-
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

gen in Holland were sent to Brazil, Surinam, and Java in the
and liturgical language . . . broke new ground for
1940s. In the 1950s and 1960s teams from Holland and the
women and supported an emerging feminist theology
United States went to South Africa, Basutoland, Uganda,
that begins, not with God, but with a theological reflec-
Nigeria, and Japan.
tion on women’s experience. . . . The Grail is small
. . . as contrasted with NCCW (National Council of
POST–VATICAN II. The many liberation movements of the
Catholic Women) but it is significantly more influential
1960s brought vast religious, social, and cultural changes.
as a forum for Catholic feminist thought. (1993,
The Grail responded with a rethinking of both its structures
pp. 126–127)
and its key concepts. Structurally, as a result of an interna-
Nelle Morton, a professor of theology at Drew University,
tional process of consultation carried on from 1964 to 1967,
wrote: “These two conferences [Alverno 1971, Grailville
the organization changed from a highly centralized and hier-
1972] became a watershed for women of religion to critique
archical pyramid, having at its apex a core group committed
boldly the traditional male-oriented theology as partial (not
to celibacy, to a more collegial institution. The new structure
including woman experience) and examine our own experi-
enabled all members—married, single, or celibate—to share
ences for sources of theological reflection” (1985, p. 12). Eli-
as peers in policy and decision making and to be eligible for
sabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, a professor of scripture at Harvard
any functional role. Grail work was reorganized into three
Divinity School, evaluated the 1972 Grailville Conference
task forces; working nationally and internationally, each fo-
by saying: “This workshop proved to be one of the birth-
cused on a broad goal that included living the faith, the em-
places of feminist theology, a movement that since has pro-
powerment of women, and liberation.
foundly changed both theology and church” (1998,
The early concerns with racial and economic justice that
pp. 1–2).
had led Grail members into the inner cities and overseas ser-
By 1998 the Grail had become established in Australia,
vice were deepened by a feminist liberation theology that em-
Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Mozam-
phasized the interconnections between racism, sexism, class-
bique, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Philip-
ism, heterosexism, and environmental degradation. The goal
pines, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, Uganda,
of the struggle for justice was broadened to include justice
and the United States.
for the earth and a global ecological vision of a sustainable
society. The original psychology of complementarity that
SEE ALSO Christianity, article on Christianity in North
stressed the fostering of womanly qualities as the way to em-
America; Feminist Theology, article on Christian Feminist
powerment gave way, after a long process of study, to the de-
velopment of a strong feminist consciousness among Grail
members. The feminist approach included a thorough analy-
sis of sexism in church and society, and an affirmation of
Brown, Alden. The Grail Movement and American Catholicism,
women as moral and religious agents, fully capable of engag-
1940–1975. Notre Dame, Ind., 1989.
ing in theology and of setting ethical norms. Moreover, the
Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schüssler. Sharing Her Word: Feminist Biblical
1940s goal of striving to build a new Christendom in the
Interpretation in Context. Boston, 1998.
midst of a secular world gave way to an acceptance of reli-
Kalven, Janet. Women Breaking Boundaries: A Grail Journey,
gious pluralism. In the words of the 1988 International Gen-
1940–1995. Albany, N.Y., 1999.
eral Assembly, “We are a faith community of women. We
Kennedy, Sally. Faith and Feminism: Catholic Women’s Struggle for
are learning that we are nourished by different wellsprings.”
Self-Expression. Manly, Australia. 1985.
A 1999 Grail pamphlet adds, “We support one another in
Morton, Nelle. The Journey Is Home. Boston, 1985.
our search for God. We work towards transforming our
world into a place of justice, peace, and love.”
Ronan, Marian, Linda Clark, and Eleanor Walker. Image-
Breaking/Image-Building: A Handbook for Creative Worship
The Grail has empowered thousands of women who
with Women of Christian Tradition. New York, 1981.
have participated in its activities, enabling them to move be-
Weaver, Mary Jo. New Catholic Women: A Contemporary Chal-
yond what was expected of women by church and society.
lenge to Traditional Religious Authority. San Francisco, 1985;
Since 1969 the movement has contributed significantly
reprint, Bloomington, Ind., 1995.
through its conferences, programs, and publications to the
Weaver, Mary Jo, and Debra Campbell, eds. “Grailville: Women
development of feminist theology and spirituality in the
in Community, 1944–1994.” U.S. Catholic Historian 11, no.
United States and Europe, a contribution recognized by
4 (1993).
many theologians, Protestant as well as Catholic. Mary Jo
Weaver, a professor of religious studies at Indiana University,
Their commitment to women has resulted in some
stunning and influential programs . . . [that] brought
GRANET, MARCEL (1884–1940), was an eminent
women together from all over the country to discover
French Sinologist associated with the Durkheimian sociolog-
and articulate the need for a more inclusive theology
ical tradition. Granet wrote extensively on ancient Chinese
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

religious institutions in relation to the development of Chi-
thought. The point of textual analysis, therefore, is not just
nese civilization. He was born at Luc-en-Diois and, after
to distinguish between true historical facts and false mytho-
demonstrating his outstanding scholastic abilities at several
logical embellishments but to accept the fact that an entire
lycées, enrolled at the elite École Normale Supérieure in Paris,
ancient text, or set of texts, reveals a particular logic that is
where he studied European history and came under the sway
ideologically grounded in mythic and ritual themes. In fact,
of Émile Durkheim, who was offering lectures there. The
for Granet and his contemporary Henri Maspero, the actual
crystallization of Granet’s intellectual interests, along with
historical facts are often only emblematic scraps manipulated
his turn toward China, came about during his graduate work
in accordance with a mythic and ritual code that, in turn,
from 1908 to 1911 at the Foundation Thiers. His commit-
categorically reflects back on the forms and transformations
ment to sociological theory deepened, and in looking for
of ancient social life.
comparative material to extend his study of the code of
From this admittedly controversial perspective, Granet
honor in European feudalism, he took up the study of Chi-
attempted to show that the ordinarily ignored aspects of
nese language and history under the direction of the re-
primitive, peasant, or folk tradition are embedded even in or-
nowned Sinologue Édouard Chavannes. From this point on,
thodox classical works and that these archaic social and reli-
Granet’s academic focus was fixed on China. As forecast by
gious patterns are crucial for understanding the fundamental
his initial interest in feudalism, he was continually concerned
“collective representations” that regulate all subsequent Chi-
with the problem of the development and significance of an-
nese thought. In Fêtes et chansons, for example, Granet un-
cient Chinese “feudal” institutions as interrelated with kin-
covered in the classical Chinese Book of Odes an ancient
ship, morality, and religion.
spring and autumn festival cycle that, he implied, is the basic
Granet’s baptism as a Chinese scholar came when he
categorical imperative for the later Chinese cosmological sys-
studied the Chinese classical texts and commentaries in Beij-
tem of complementary dualism. Although he typically es-
ing during the years 1911 to 1913, the traumatic period of
chewed the use of comparative ethnographic material, in
the republican overthrow of the Qing dynasty. He was to re-
Danses et légendes he extended his earlier analysis, much in
turn to China only once more, for a brief stay in 1918, at
the spirit of Marcel Mauss’s “Essai sur le don” (1923–1924),
the end of his World War I military service. Returning to
by demonstrating how the mythic and ritual themes of to-
Paris, he married in 1919, took his doctorate in 1920, and
temism, initiatory masculine brotherhoods, and potlatch
resumed writing and teaching in his prewar position at the
that are found in the whole ensemble of ancient texts help
École Pratique des Hautes Études. At about this same time
to expose a specific pattern of cultural development that
he accepted an additional teaching appointment at the Sor-
leads from ancient peasant society through a clan system of
bonne, and in 1926 he was elected to a prestigious chair at
alternating prestations (i.e., a comprehensive system of social
the École Nationale des Langues Orientales Vivantes and was
reciprocity) to a developed patriarchal feudal system.
installed as the first director of the Institute des Hautes
Aside from other important technical writings that also
Études Chinoises. Throughout this period Granet gained
touch on the same key theoretical issues, the culminating ex-
fame for his brilliantly synthetic style as an author and teach-
pression of Granet’s approach to China in particular and to
er and was actively engaged in Parisian intellectual circles
methodology in general is La pensée chinoise (1934). The sig-
that included such notable colleagues as Marcel Mauss,
nificance of this stylistically graceful and keenly insightful ex-
Henri Maspero, Marc Bloch, Édouard Mestre, and Louis
ample of haute vulgarisation is that, besides presenting a bril-
Gernet. After the fall of France in 1940, Granet took over
liant portrait of the distinctive character of the Chinese
the fifth section of the École Pratique from Marcel Mauss,
mind, it implicitly goes beyond a simple application of a
who, because he was a Jew, was forced by the Nazis to relin-
Durkheimian sociology of knowledge by suggesting that the
quish his post. Granet’s distinguished career was tragically
categories of Chinese thought may be viewed as a total trans-
ended shortly thereafter, when he died suddenly at the age
formational system of linguistic representations not wholly
of fifty-six.
determined by the historical flux of social forms. As with his
last work on kinship, Catégories matrimoniales et relations de
Granet’s importance stems both from his specific analy-
proximité dans la Chine ancienne (1939), which the anthro-
sis of ancient Chinese religion and from the methodological
pologist Claude Lévi-Strauss acknowledged as a precursor to
implications these specialized investigations have for the
his own methodology (Les structures élémentaires de la par-
overall interpretive study of religion. With regard to his ap-
enté, 1949), La pensée unconsciously points toward the mod-
proach to early Chinese tradition, especially as set forth in
ern development of structural hermeneutics, as is seen, for
Fêtes et chansons anciennes de la Chine (1919; translated into
example, in Lévi-Strauss and, appropriately enough, in the
English as Festivals and Songs of Ancient China, 1932) and
work of Granet’s students, the Indo-Europeanist Georges
Danses et légendes de la Chine ancienne (1926), Granet violat-
Dumézil and the paleohistorian André Leroi-Gourhan.
ed the traditional Sinological mold of strict philological and
historical exegesis by considering the whole corpus of ancient
Granet has often been condemned by Sinologists as too
Chinese documents, both the classics and nonorthodox texts,
much of a poetic generalist and by sociologists as too much
as fragmentary specimens of a comprehensive system of
of a narrow specialist. And it is true that his special genius
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

was to fall between the two camps by respecting both philo-
the Christian church. The terms Greek Christianity and
logical limits and interpretive breadth. Granet was an artisan
Greek church are often used as synonyms for it, but with dif-
of texts who sometimes “gambled” with his speculative con-
ferent nuances. This article seeks to clarify the term Greek
clusions, and there is no doubt that much of his work on
Orthodox church by describing Greek Orthodox Christianity
Chinese religion and society must be discarded or at least
through its historical development to its twenty-first century
drastically revised. At the same time, however, recent scholar-
ship indicates that Granet’s pioneering methodological spirit
and some of his specific findings still have considerable rele-
broadest meaning, Greek church and Greek Christianity can
vance for the study of traditional Chinese religion and the
refer to the earliest development of Christianity as it moved
general sociology of religion.
from its Jewish matrix into the Greek cultural world of the
Roman Empire. In this sense it is contrasted to Jewish Chris-
tianity. Cultural life at the time was imbued with the Greek
Works by Granet
In addition to the works already mentioned, the posthumous col-
heritage: language, philosophy, religion, literature, and polit-
lection of Granet’s important articles and monographs on
ical values. In the early Christian tradition, Greek often
Chinese religion, society, and kinship entitled Études so-
meant pagan or Gentile, but it referred, as well, to Christians
ciologiques sur la Chine (Paris, 1953) should be mentioned.
who came to the faith from a polytheistic background as dis-
See also Granet’s two other popular, and in some ways least
tinguished from Jews who accepted the messiahship of Jesus.
successful, works: La religion des Chinois (Paris, 1922), trans-
Much of the New Testament and the earliest Christian pa-
lated as The Religion of the Chinese People (New York, 1975),
tristic documents were written in the Greek language. Thus,
and La civilisation chinoise: La vie publique et la vie privée
insofar as early Christianity was a religion of conversion, it
(Paris, 1929), translated as Chinese Civilisation (London,
reflected its immersion in Greek language and thought.
Works about Granet
There is no full-scale biographical or critical examination of Gra-
Christianity soon came to be distinguished from other cul-
net, but see the appreciative discussion and full bibliography
tural embodiments of the Christian experience, especially
by Maurice Freedman, “Marcel Granet, 1884–1940: Sociol-
Latin Christianity. The early development of Latin Chris-
ogist,” in his translation of The Religion of the Chinese People
tianity has its roots in the Greek tradition as exemplified by
mentioned above. On some of the methodological implica-
Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130–c. 200). The Greek approach to
tions of Granet’s works, see Derk Bodde’s “Myths of Ancient
Christianity was strongly theological, seeking to come to as
China,” in Mythologies of the Ancient World, edited by Samu-
careful a comprehension as was possible of the mysteries of
el Noah Kramer (Chicago, 1961); C. Wright Mills’s “The
Language and Ideas of Ancient China: Marcel Granet’s Con-
the Christian faith. It expressed itself, as well, in rich worship
tributions to the Sociology of Knowledge,” in Power, Politics
traditions and iconography, on the one hand, while cultivat-
and People, edited by Irving Louis Horowitz (New York,
ing monastic, ascetic, and mystical Christian traditions on
1963); Maurice Halbwachs’s “Histoires dynastiques et lég-
the other. But by the late third century the special character-
endes religieuses en Chine,” Revue de l’histoire des religions 94
istics of the Latin cultural milieu began to influence the
(1926): 1–16; and Louis Gernet’s “Histoire des religions et
church in the West and formed a more practical, legally ori-
psychologie: Confrontations d’aujourd’hui,” Journal de psy-
ented Christian expression. Nevertheless, Greek and Latin
chologie 47–51 (1954): 175–187.
Christianity at this period were not contrasting forms of the
New Sources
faith but were complementary to each other.
Aubin, Francoise. “Religions et Systemes de Pensee en Chine.” Ar-
chives de sciences sociales des religions 36 (1991): 169–189.
Granet, M. La civilisation chinoise: la vie publique et la vie privée.
in the Byzantine (East Roman) Empire (325–1453) retained
Paris, 1994.
and developed the ancient traditions of Greek Christianity.
Granet, M. La pensée chinoise. New edition Paris, 1999.
Organizationally, this fostered more of the early church’s
sense of local autonomy, in which the council remained cen-
Granet, M., and R. Mathieu. Danses et légendes de la Chine ancien-
ne. Paris, 1994.
tral to church life. The early Christian tradition, as expressed
Granet, M., and T. Uchida. Chugoku kodai no sairei to kayo.
in the Greek fathers, Eastern monastic spirituality, early ca-
Tokyo, 1989.
nonical practice, and liturgical life became normative for By-
zantine Christianity. Distinct Christian traditions, however,
Revised Bibliography
differentiated from the Greek tradition, producing other ec-
clesial identities. These were the Oriental Orthodox church-
es, the Nestorian church, and the Roman Catholic Church.
The Oriental Orthodox churches (each with a national
component and traditionally characterized as monophysite)
and the Nestorians became ecclesially distinguished from
Greek Christianity by the fifth century. Latin Christianity,
used to describe several historical expressions of the life of
following its own inner dynamic, and strongly influenced by
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 rise of Frankish and Germanic political and economic
ed against the Muslim Ottoman Empire, they were often
power in western Europe, developed into a distinct ecclesias-
concurrently actions of independence from the Greek cultur-
tical reality. This distinction was formalized with the Great
al influence of the patriarchate of Constantinople as well as
Schism between the two great halves of Christendom that oc-
from its political influence. This led to the formation of inde-
curred over a period from the ninth to the early thirteenth
pendent (autocephalous) national churches. A partial excep-
century. The schism between Greek East and Latin West was
tion was the Church of Greece. Its separation from the ecu-
made permanent by the sacking of Constantinople in 1204
menical patriarchate was forced by political considerations
during the Fourth Crusade. It then became a linguistic con-
vention to refer to the church in the West as “the Roman
Catholic Church” and the church in the East as “the Greek
Generally, the new order of things required a church or-
Orthodox church.”
ganization and consciousness that would demarcate the
newly organized autocephalous churches from the ethnic
Greek traditional character of the ecumenical patriarchate,
rise of Slavic Christianity, a new ethos affected the identity
while concurrently acknowledging fully its historical ecu-
of the Greek Orthodox church. This development was a di-
menical character as primus inter pares (first among equals)
rect result of Greek Orthodox missionary policy in the ninth
of the Orthodox world. In this manner, the Orthodox
through the twelfth century, which fostered indigenous cul-
churches of Russia (1448), Serbia (1879), Romania (1885),
tures, liturgical languages, and clergy in each mission church.
Bulgaria (1870), Czechoslovakia (1922), Finland (1923),
Originally, the church hierarchy was composed of Greeks.
Poland (1924), and Albania (1937) came into being. Thus,
But each of the various Slavic and other peoples eventually
for example, today it is possible to differentiate Greek Ortho-
obtained their own hierarchies. All of these new churches,
doxy from Slavic Orthodoxy and Romanian Orthodoxy as
however, received the Christian faith in its Greek form (in
cultural realities within the canonically unified Eastern Or-
contradistinction to the Latin/Roman form). But while there
thodox church.
was a deep-rooted spiritual identity with the ancient Greek
Orthodox tradition of Christianity, there came into being a
new Slavic identity within these churches.
ethnic sense, Greek Orthodoxy is understood to include
those churches whose language, liturgy, and spirit keep Or-
What intensified the mix of traditional Greek Orthodox
thodoxy and the Greek ethnic cultural tradition united.
Christianity and the Orthodox Christianity of local noneth-
These churches are the Church of Greece, the patriarchate
nic Greeks was the millet system put in place by the Muslim
of Constantinople (in part because it is also the international
conquerors of the Byzantine Empire (1453). As a means of
center of world Orthodoxy), the patriarchate of Alexandria,
governing the Orthodox Christian peoples, as well as all
the patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Church of Cyprus, and the
other ethnic-religious groups, the Muslims understood them
ethnic Greek diaspora jurisdictions throughout the world.
to be one people, or nation (the millet). The patriarch of
Constantinople was recognized as the head of the Orthodox
The Church of Greece. The most restricted meaning
Christian nation with civil as well as religious duties. Greek
of Greek Orthodox church refers to the autocephalous
metropolitans and bishops were appointed over the various
Church of Greece. Prior to the Greek War of Independence,
Orthodox peoples to exercise this new administration, which
which began in 1821, Christianity in what is now known as
included responsibilities for collecting taxes, assuring the ob-
Greece was, for most of its history, part of the ecumenical
servance of the law, and the loyalty of the Orthodox Chris-
patriarchate of Constantinople. Even though the church was
tian populations to the central government. The combina-
self-declared autocephalous in 1833, it understands itself to
tion of spiritual and secular responsibilities created many
be in direct continuity with the founding of Christianity in
difficulties and occasioned abuses, but it also provided many
Thessalonica, Philippi, Corinth, Athens, Nicopolis, and
opportunities for service to Orthodox unity. Thus, the ecu-
other Greek cities by the apostle Paul. Given the Orthodox
menical patriarchate served as a focal point in the defense of
tradition that ecclesial order often follows civil governmental
the Orthodox faith from incursions of Roman Catholic and
patterns, over the centuries the church in Greece has come
Protestant missionaries intent on proselytizing the Orthodox
under various patterns of ecclesial jurisdiction. Following the
during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Numerous
early period, when metropolitan sees had been established in
councils were held for this purpose. With only a few excep-
the major cities, Greece came under Constantinople, where
tions, all of the documents arising out of this movement were
it stayed—with a few interruptions—until the nineteenth
written originally in Greek.
century. Originally, the autocephalous Church of Greece in-
cluded only the southern part of the modern nation of
At the same time, the ecumenical patriarchate, both as
Greece, since only that area was liberated in 1830. Over the
a representative of the Turkish authorities and as an agency
years, as the Greek nation expanded, the church also grew
of Greek ethnic influence upon the indigenous cultures of
in territorial size and numbers. But this equation of the
these Orthodox peoples, began to be perceived in some ways
boundaries of the state and the jurisdiction of the Church
as an alien force. When, in the first half of the nineteenth
of Greece is not absolute. Several areas of the nation of
century, various national wars of independence were initiat-
Greece are ecclesiastically under the control of the ecumeni-
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

cal patriarchate: the Dodecanese, Crete, and Mount Athos.
ippines, Singapore, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, with the
The Orthodox church is the official church of Greece, while
archbishop; the Metropolis of Switzerland and the Exarchate
at the same time freedom of religion is guaranteed by the
of Europe, with the metropolitan who also presides over the
constitution. The vast majority of Greece’s population of
Orthodox Center at Chambesy, Switzerland. The Ecumeni-
over ten million people are baptized Orthodox Christians.
cal Patriarchate maintains a permanent representative at the
In addition to the archbishop of Athens, there are eighty-five
World Council of Churches in Geneva. Although there are
bishops in seventy-seven dioceses and almost seventy-five
some exceptions, nearly all of the people making up the con-
hundred parishes.
gregations of these ecclesiastical jurisdictions are of Greek
The patriarchate of Constantinople. With the estab-
lishment of the modern secular Turkish state in 1921, under
The patriarchate of Alexandria. Egypt was one of the
Kemal Atatürk, the position of the patriarchate of Constanti-
first areas to come under the influence of Islam in the eighth
nople has suffered severe weakening. Following the destruc-
century. The larger portion of the Christian population that
tion of the Greek military forces in the Greco-Turkish war
survived belonged to the Coptic church. Nevertheless, the
of 1922, an erosion of the Greek population of Asia Minor
Greek Orthodox patriarchate of Alexandria continued to
has continued unabated. It began with the exchange of popu-
exist in Egypt throughout the centuries. Its major constitu-
lations between Greece and Turkey as mandated in 1923 by
ency consisted of a well-organized Greek community that
the Treaty of Lausanne. Only the Greek population located
was strongly entrenched in leadership positions in com-
in western Thrace and Constantinople (Istanbul) was ex-
merce, finance, and education. Numerous educational and
empted from the removal to Greece. The treaty also guaran-
cultural institutions were supported by the Greek communi-
teed the independence, freedom, and permanence of the pa-
ty. In addition the patriarchate of Alexandria had canonical
triarchate in its location in Constantinople, but it soon
control over all of Orthodoxy on the African continent. By
became a pawn in the political conflicts of Greece and Tur-
and large these jurisdictions were composed of Greeks in the
key. The conflict of Turkish and Greek interests in Cyprus
various African nations and some missionary churches. The
has been the occasion for the patriarchate to become a pres-
numerical strength of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate in
sure point against Greek interests.
Egypt was broken with the rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser in
1954. The Greek population of Egypt lost much of its eco-
In 1955, after years of general harassment, government-
nomic and social status and began to emigrate. Nevertheless,
inspired riots wrought havoc on the Greek community of Is-
in 2002 the patriarchate continued to serve about 350,000
tanbul, in which not only private homes and shops but
Orthodox Christians whose members worship in the Greek,
churches, cemeteries, schools, and other institutions were
Arabic, and several native East African languages. There are
vandalized and destroyed. Economic and administrative
thirteen metropolitan sees.
pressures forced a large part of the Greek Orthodox popula-
tion to leave the last remaining enclave of Greek Orthodoxy
The patriarchate of Jerusalem. Though severely tried
in Turkey. Only a couple thousand now remain, as the patri-
throughout the years of the Muslim conquests of the Holy
archate clings to its legal rights to remain in its historic city.
Land, the patriarchate of Jerusalem was able to sustain itself
until the Crusaders conquered the city of Jerusalem in 1099.
The patriarchate’s numerical strength resides in the nu-
The Greek Orthodox patriarch was expelled and replaced
merous Greek Orthodox dioceses, or eparchies, within its ju-
with a Latin patriarch. This situation lasted until 1177. In
risdiction in the diaspora. In addition to four eparchies in
1517 the area came under the control of the sultan in Con-
Turkey, the Patriarchate of Constantinople exercises juris-
stantinople while the church continued to struggle to main-
diction over the Archdiocese of Crete, with eight metropoli-
tain its rights to the holy places of Jerusalem. In the mid-
tan sees; the four metropolitan sees of the Dodecanese; the
nineteenth century, international agreements affirmed the
historic monasteries of Patmos and Mount Athos; the Greek
rights of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate over the ancient
Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, with
churches of the Holy Sepulcher. Changing political circum-
ten dioceses; the Archdiocese of Australia, with five archdioc-
stances in the area have required the negotiation of agree-
esan districts; the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain
ments regarding the status of the patriarchate with the Brit-
and the Exarchate for Western Europe, Ireland, and Malta,
ish, Jordanians, and Israelis. At the beginning of the twenty-
with eight bishops, in addition to the archbishop; the Me-
first century, the patriarchate counted 130,000 members
tropolis of France and the Exarchate of Iberia, with three
with sixteen bishops and maintained under its jurisdiction
metropolitan regions; the Metropolis of Germany and the
the archdiocese of Sinai, in present-day Egypt.
Exarchate of Central Europe, with three bishops and the
archbishop; the Metropolis of Austria and the Exarchate for
The Church of Cyprus. The Church of Cyprus, con-
Italy and Hungary; the Metropolis of Belgium and the Ex-
sisting exclusively of Greek Cypriots, received its indepen-
archate for the Low Countries, with the archbishop and one
dence as an autocephalous church through the eighth canon
bishop; the Metropolis of Sweden, Scandinavia, and the
of the Council of Ephesus (431), but its history goes back
Northern Lands, with one bishop; the Metropolis of New
to New Testament times (Acts 11:19). Its bishops participat-
Zealand and the Exarchate for India, Korea, Japan, the Phil-
ed in the Council of Nicaea (325). Although the Orthodox
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

church suffered severe repression during the period of Latin
Geanakoplos, Deno John. Byzantine East and Latin West: Two
domination (1191–1571), it retained its Greek Orthodox
Worlds of Christendom in Middle Ages and Renaissance; Studies
character. Under the Turks (1571–1878) the Orthodox hier-
in Ecclesiastical and Cultural History. New York, 1966. An
archy was fully acknowledged. The Orthodox church is very
excellent study on the topic, with important insights on the
close to the people of Cyprus, especially since the 1974
cultural sources of the ecclesiastical conflicts.
Turkish invasion of the island nation when almost half of its
Karmiris, Ioannes N. “Nationalism in the Orthodox Church.”
members were made refugees in their own land. In 2002, the
Greek Orthodox Theological Review 26 (Fall 1981): 171–184.
Church of Cyprus counted more than 442,000 members
An effort to explicate the broad Greek cultural impact upon
Orthodox Christianity, while distinguishing the Orthodox
with six dioceses, seven bishops, and twelve hundred priests.
faith from modern Greek nationalism, without contrasting
The Greek Orthodox diaspora. The Greek Orthodox
Christians found throughout the world today in traditionally
Runciman, Steven. The Great Church in Captivity: A Study of the
non-Orthodox lands are primarily under the jurisdiction of
Patriarchate of Constantinople from the Eve of the Turkish
the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The various ecclesial ju-
Conquest to the Greek War of Independence. Cambridge, U.K.,
risdictions are mentioned above. Those in English-speaking
1968. The definitive work on this subject.
lands are the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and
Vaporis, Nomikos Michael, ed. Post-Byzantine Ecclesiastical Per-
South America, the Archdiocese of Australia, the Archdio-
sonalities. Brookline, Mass., 1978. Biographies of several
cese of Thyateira and Great Britain, and the Metropolis of
major Greek figures in the Orthodox church under Ottoman
New Zealand. Of these, the American jurisdiction is the
Vryonis, Speros, Jr. Byzantium and Europe. New York, 1967. A
The Archdiocese of North and South America was es-
good, broad cultural introduction to Byzantine history,
with a focus on the relationships between East and West.
tablished in 1922. Sixty years later it consisted of the archdi-
ocese and ten dioceses with 488 parishes, 569 churches, 530
priests, and 670,000 duly recorded members, although it
Ware, Timothy. Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church
serves a much larger number of persons who identify them-
under Turkish Rule. Oxford, 1964. Reprint, Willits, Calif.,
1974. A fine case study of the practical dimensions of Greek
selves as Greek Orthodox Christians. It supported 24 paro-
Orthodox Christian life under the Ottomans.
chial schools and 412 afternoon Greek schools. The church
also has two institutions of higher learning, Hellenic College
and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. It
maintains an orphanage and several old-age homes. In 1984
it supported 518 catechetical schools for children and 186
adult religious education programs. By 2002 the archdiocese
entry focuses on Greek religion during the Archaic and Classical
counted 540 parishes and 800 priests, and a membership es-
periods, from the eighth to the fourth century BCE. Other reli-
timated at 1.5 million. Nearly every parish has a “Philopto-
gious systems of the ancient Mediterranean region are treated in
hos [Friends of the Poor] Society” and one or more youth
Aegean Religions, which discusses the earlier cultures of Cyclad-
groups. It publishes a bimonthly newspaper, The Orthodox
ic, Minoan, and Mycenaean peoples, and in Hellenistic Reli-
Observer, and a scholarly theological journal, The Greek Or-
gions, which surveys the later history of religions in the Greek-
thodox Theological Review, through the Holy Cross School
speaking world.]
of Theology. This pattern of organization and functioning
is the model for the other churches of the Greek Orthodox
The Greek religion of the Archaic and Classical periods
(eighth–fourth century BCE) presented several characteristic
traits that should be borne in mind. Like other polytheistic
SEE ALSO Eastern Christianity; Russian Orthodox Church;
cults, Greek religion was a stranger to any form of revelation:
Schism, article on Christian Schism.
it knew neither prophet nor messiah. It was deeply rooted
in a tradition in which religion was intimately interwoven
with all the other elements of Hellenic civilization, all that
Campbell, John, and Philip Sherrard. Modern Greece. New York,
gave to the Greece of the city-states its distinctive character:
1968. A useful chapter on the place of the Orthodox church
from the language, the gestures, and the manner of living,
in modern Greece.
feeling, and thinking to the system of values and the rules
Florovsky, Georges. “Patristics and Modern Theology.” In Procès-
of communal life. This religious tradition was neither uni-
verbaux du Premier Congrès de Théologie Orthodoxe à Athènes:
form nor strictly defined; its nature was not dogmatic in any
29 novembre-6 décembre 1936, edited by Hamilcar S. Alivisa-
tos. Athens, 1939. A historic call for a return to the Greek
way. It had no sacerdotal cast, no specialized clergy, no
fathers. The final clause, italicized for emphasis, reads “let us
church, and no sacred book in which the truth was fixed
be more Greek to be truly catholic, to be truly Orthodox.”
once and for all. It had no creed that gave the faithful a co-
herent set of beliefs about the beyond.
Frazee, Charles A. Orthodox Church in Independent Greece, 1821–
1852. Cambridge, U.K., 1969. A detailed account of the es-
MYTHOLOGY AND RELIGION. On what basis, then, did the
tablishment of the autocephalous Church of Greece.
deep-seated religious convictions of the Greeks lie, and how
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were they expressed? As their beliefs were not based on doc-
about the divine beings acquired an almost canonical value
trine, they did not entail for the devout any obligation to ad-
and functioned as sources of reference for the authors who
here, for fear of impiety, on all points and to the letter to a
came after them as well as for the public that listened to or
body of defined truths. It sufficed for a person performing
read them.
rites to give credence to a vast repertory of stories learned in
Certainly, the poets that succeeded Homer and Hesiod
childhood. Each of these stories existed in many versions, al-
were not as influential. As long as the city-state remained
lowing a wide margin of interpretation. It was within the
alive, however, poetic activity continued to act as a mirror,
context of this narrative tradition that beliefs about the gods
reflecting the image of the inhabitants and allowing them to
developed and that a consensus emerged as to their nature,
perceive their dependence on the sacred and to define them-
their role, and their requirements. Rejecting this core of
selves with reference to the immortal. Poetic activity gave the
common beliefs would have been, for a Greek, like giving
community of mortals its cohesiveness, its continuity, and
up the Greek language or the Greek way of life. However,
its permanence.
for all that, the Greeks were fully aware that other languages
and other religions existed. They could, without falling into
Consequently, a problem arises for the historian of reli-
disbelief, remain objective enough about their own religious
gions. If poetry was the vehicle through which the attributes
system to engage in a free and critical reflection on it, and
of divine creatures, their roles, and their relationships with
they did not hesitate to do so.
mortal creatures were expressed, and if it fell to each poet to
present, with occasional modifications, the divine and heroic
But how did they preserve and transmit this mass of tra-
legends that, taken together, constituted an encyclopedia of
ditional “knowledge” about the social reality of the other-
knowledge about the otherworld, should these poetic tales
world—the families of the gods, their genealogies, their ad-
and dramatized narrations be considered as religious docu-
ventures, their conflicts or agreements, their powers, their
ments or be given a purely literary value? That is, do myths
spheres and modes of action, their prerogatives, and the hon-
and mythology, in the forms given them by Greek civiliza-
ors that were due them? Where language was concerned, es-
tion, belong to the field of religion or to that of literary
sentially in two ways. First, through a purely oral tradition
maintained in each household, especially by women: nurses’
For the scholars of the Renaissance, as for the great ma-
tales or old grandmothers’ fables, as Plato called them, were
jority of the scholars of the nineteenth century, the reply was
absorbed by children from the cradle. These stories, or
self-evident. In their eyes, Greek religion was, above all, an
muthoi—which were all the more familiar for having been
abundant treasure of legendary tales transmitted to us by the
heard by children at the age when they were learning to
Greek authors (assisted by the Romans) in which the spirit
speak—helped shape the mental framework in which the
of paganism remained alive long enough to offer the modern
Greeks imagined the divine, situated it, and conceived it.
reader in a Christian world the surest path to a clear view of
As adults, the Greeks learned about the world of the
ancient polytheism.
gods through the voices of the poets. Through the tales about
Actually, in taking this standpoint, they simply walked
the gods, the remoteness and strangeness of the otherworld
in the footsteps of the ancients. In the sixth century BCE,
took a familiar, intelligible form. Performed with a musical
Theagenes of Rhegium and Hekataios inaugurated a critical
instrument, the poets’ songs were not heard in private, inti-
approach to the traditional myths, as recounted by Homer
mate surroundings, as were the tales told to children, but at
in particular. They subjected these stories to a reasoned ex-
banquets, official festivities, and important competitions and
amination or applied to them a method of allegorical exege-
games. The rise of a written narrative tradition modified and
sis. In the fifth century, work was begun that would be sys-
preserved the very ancient tradition of oral poetry and came
tematically pursued in essentially two directions. First,
to occupy a central place in the social and spiritual life of
chroniclers undertook the collection and inventory of all the
Greece. The poets’ songs were not a luxury reserved for the
legendary oral traditions peculiar to a city or a sanctuary.
learned elite, nor were they merely personal entertainment
Like the atthidographs of Athens, these scholars attempted
for an audience; they functioned as a real institution that
to set down in writing the history of a city and its people
kept alive the social memory, as an instrument for the preser-
from its earliest beginnings, going back to the fabulous time
vation and communication of knowledge. As a verbal form
when the gods mingled with men, intervening directly in
that could be memorized easily, poetry expressed and fixed
their affairs to found cities and to beget the first reigning
the fundamental traits that went beyond the particularities
dynasties. Thus was made possible, from the Hellenistic peri-
of each city and were the foundation of a common culture
od onward, the enterprise of scholarly compilation that led
for all of Hellas—especially those traits reflected in religious
to the drafting of veritable repertories of mythology: the Bib-
representations of the gods proper, daemons, heroes, or the
liotheca of “Apollodorus,” the Fabulae and Poetica Astronomi-
dead. Had it not been for all the works of the epic, lyrical,
ca of Hyginus, book 5 of the Bibliotheca historica of Diodorus
and dramatic poetry, we could speak of Greek cults in the
Siculus, the Metamorphoses of Antoninus Liberalis, the
plural instead of a unified Greek religion. In this respect,
three miscellaneous collections known as the Mythographi
Homer and Hesiod played prominent roles: their narratives
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Parallel to this effort, which aimed at a systematic sum-
What are the reasons for this exclusive bias in favor of the
mary of the legends common to all Greeks, there became ap-
cult and for the importance attributed to its most archaic ele-
parent a certain hesitation and uneasiness—already percepti-
ments? There are two, very distinct reasons. The first is of
ble among the poets—about how much credit should be
a general nature and has to do with the personal philosophy
accorded to the scandalous episodes that seemed incompati-
of the scholar and with his idea of religion. The second is
ble with the eminent dignity of the divine. But it was with
a response to more technical requirements: the progress of
the development of history and philosophy that interroga-
classical studies—in particular, the strides made in archaeol-
tion reached full scale; from then on criticism assailed myth
ogy and epigraphy—opened new areas of investigation, be-
in general. Subjected to the investigations of the historian
sides the mythological field, to students of antiquity. These
and the reasonings of the philosopher, the fable, as fable, was
advances led scholars to call into question, and sometimes
deemed incompetent to speak of the divine in a valid and
even modify profoundly, the image of Greek religion fur-
authentic fashion. Thus, at the same time that they applied
nished by literary tradition alone.
themselves, with the greatest care, to setting down their leg-
endary heritage, the Greeks were led to challenge the myths,
Today, the rejection of mythology is based on an anti-
sometimes in the most radical manner, and to raise the prob-
intellectualist presumption in religious matters. Scholars of
lem of the truth—or falsehood—of the myth. The solutions
this standpoint believe that behind the diversity of reli-
varied from rejection, or pure and simple negation, of the
gions—just as beyond the plurality of the gods of polythe-
myths to the multiple forms of interpretation that permitted
ism—lies a common element that forms the primitive and
them to be “saved”; for example, a banal reading might be
universal core of all religious experience. This common ele-
replaced with learned hermeneutics that brought to light a
ment, of course, cannot be found in the always multiple and
secret lesson underlying a narrative and analogous to those
varying constructions that the mind elaborates in its attempt
fundamental truths—the privilege of the wise—which, when
to picture the divine; it is placed, therefore, outside of intelli-
known, reveal the only real sure access to the divine. Yet,
gence, in the sacred terror that a human being feels each time
from one point of view, no matter if the ancients were care-
he or she is compelled to recognize, in its irrecusable strange-
fully collecting myths, if they interpreted or criticized them
ness, the presence of the supernatural. The Greeks had a
or even rejected them in the name of another, truer kind of
word for this effective, immediate, and irrational reaction in
knowledge—it all came down to recognizing the role gener-
the presence of the sacred: thambos (“reverential awe”). Such
ally assigned to myths in the Greek city-state, namely, to
awe would be the basis of the earliest cults, the diverse forms
function as instruments of information about the other-
taken by the rites answering, from the same origin, to the
multiplicity of circumstances and human needs.
During the first half of the twentieth century, however,
Similarly, it is supposed that behind the variety of
historians of Greek religion took a new direction. Many re-
names, figures, and functions proper to each divinity, a ritual
fused to consider the legendary traditions as strictly religious
brought into play the same general experience of the divine,
documents that could be useful as evidence of the real state
considered a suprahuman power (kreitton). This indetermi-
of the beliefs and feelings of the faithful. For these scholars,
nate divine being (Gr., theion, or daimonion), underlying the
religion lay in the organization of the cult, the calendar of
specific manifestations of particular gods, took diverse forms
sacred festivals, the liturgies celebrated for each god in his
according to the desires and fears to which the cult had to
sanctuaries. Next to these ritual practices, which constitute
respond. From this common fabric of the divine, the poets,
the “real” religious comportments, the myth appears as a lit-
in turn, cut singular characters; they brought them to life,
erary outgrowth, a mere fabulation. As a more or less gratu-
imagining for each a series of dramatic adventures in what
itous fantasy of the poets, myth could be only remotely relat-
Festugière does not hesitate to call a “divine novel.” On the
ed to the inner convictions of the believer, who was engaged
other hand, for every act of the cult, there is no other god
in the concrete practice of cult ceremonies and in a series of
but the one invoked. From the moment he is addressed, “in
daily acts that brought him into direct contact with the sa-
him is concentrated all divine force; he alone is considered.
cred and made him a pious man.
Most certainly, in theory he is not the only god since there
are others and one knows it. But in practice, in the actual
In the chapter on Greece in Histoire générale des religions
state of mind of the worshiper, the god invoked supplants
(1944), A.-J. Festugière warned the reader in these terms:
at that moment all the others” (Festugière, 1944, p. 50).
No doubt poets and sculptors, obeying the requisites of
Thus the refusal of some scholars to take myth into ac-
their art, were inclined to represent a society of highly
count becomes clear: it leads exactly to that which from the
characterized gods; form, attributes, genealogy, history,
beginning was meant, more or less consciously, to be proved.
everything is clearly defined, but the cult and popular
feeling reveal other tendencies. Thus, from the begin-
By effacing the differences and the oppositions that distin-
ning, the field of the religious is enclosed. In order to
guish the gods from one another, any true difference is ef-
understand fully the true Greek religion, forgetting
faced between polytheisms of the Greek type and Christian
therefore the mythology of the poets and of art, let us
monotheism, which then becomes a model. This flattening
turn to the cult—to the earliest cults.
out of religious realities to make them fit a single mold can-
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not satisfy the historian. Must not his first concern be, on
and appreciation of the great forces that in their mutual rela-
the contrary, to define the specific traits that give each great
tionships and their perfect equilibrium govern the natural
religion a character of its own and that make it, in its unicity,
and supernatural worlds and human society and makes them
an entirely original system? Apart from reverential awe and
what they ought to be.
a diffused feeling of the divine, the Greek religion presents
In this sense myth, which should not be confused with
itself as a vast symbolic construction, complex and coherent,
ritual or subordinated to it, does not conflict with ritual as
that allows room for thought, as well as feeling, on all levels
much as has been supposed. In its verbal form, myth is more
and in all aspects, including the cult. Myth played its part
explicit than rite, more didactic, more apt to theorize. It thus
in this system in the same way as ritual practices and repre-
contains the germ of that knowledge that—on another level
sentations of the divine. Indeed, myth, rite, and figurative
of language and thought—is the concern of philosophy
portrayals were the three modes of expression—verbal, ges-
when it formulates its assertions using concepts and terms
tural, and iconic—by which the Greeks manifested their reli-
that are removed from any reference to the gods of the com-
gious experience. Each constituted a specific language that,
mon religion. The cult is more engaged in considerations of
even in its association with the two others, responded to par-
a utilitarian nature. But it is no less symbolic: a ritual ceremo-
ticular needs and functioned autonomously.
ny unfolds according to a scenario whose episodes are as
The work of Georges Dumézil and Claude Lévi-Strauss
strictly organized and as fraught with meaning as the se-
on myth led to a totally different presentation of the problem
quences of a narrative. Every detail of this mise-en-scène, in
of Greek mythology: How should the texts be read? What
which the worshiper in defined circumstances undertakes to
status did they assume in Greek religious life? The days when
act out his relationship with one god or another, has an intel-
one could discuss myth as if it were a poet’s individual fanta-
lectual dimension and goal: it implies a certain idea of the
sy, a free and gratuitous romantic invention, are gone. Even
god, the conditions for his approach, and the results that the
in the variations to which it lent itself, a myth obeyed the
various participants, according to their role and status, have
severe constraints of the community. During the Hellenistic
the right to expect from this means of entering into symbolic
period, when an author, such as Callimachus, wrote a new
commerce with the divinity.
version of a legendary theme, he was not free to modify the
Figurative representation is of the same nature. Al-
elements or to recompose the scenario as he pleased. He be-
though it is true that during the Classical period the Greeks
longed to a tradition; whether he conformed to it exactly or
gave a privileged place in their temples to the great anthropo-
deviated on a certain point, he was restrained and supported
morphic statues of the gods, they were familiar with all the
by it and had to refer to it, at least implicitly, if he wanted
forms of divine manifestation: aniconic symbols, either natu-
the public to hear his tale. As Louis Gernet (1932) noted,
ral objects, such as a tree or a rough stone, or products shaped
even when a narrator seemed to have completely invented a
by the human hand (e.g., a post, a pillar, a scepter); diverse
tale, he was actually working according to the rules of a “leg-
iconic figures, such as a small, rough-hewn idol whose form
endary imagination” that had its own functioning, internal
was completely hidden by clothes; monstrous figures min-
necessities, and coherence. Without even knowing it, the au-
gling the bestial and the human; a simple mask whose hollow
thor was obliged to submit to the rules of the play of associa-
face and fascinating eyes evoked the divine; a fully human
tions, oppositions, and homologies that had been established
statue. These figures were not all equivalent, nor were they
by a series of previous versions of the tale and that composed
indiscriminately suited to all the gods or to all aspects of the
the conceptual framework common to the type of narrative.
same god. Each had its own way of translating certain aspects
To have meaning, each variation of a myth had to be linked
of the divine, of “making present” the beyond, of locating
to, as well as compared with, the other variations. Together,
and inserting the sacred in the space of the here and now.
they composed one semantic space, whose particular config-
Thus, a pillar or post driven into the ground had neither the
uration appears as the characteristic mark of Greek legendary
same function nor the same symbolic value as an idol that
tradition. By analyzing a myth in all its versions, or a corpus
was ritually moved from one place to another; as an image
of diverse myths centered around the same theme, we are
locked away in a secret repository, its legs bound to prevent
able to explore this structured and organized mental space.
its escape; or as a great cult statue whose permanent installa-
tion in a temple demonstrated the lasting presence of the god
Interpretation of a myth, therefore, operates along lines
in his house. Each form of representation implied for the spe-
different from those characterizing the study of literature and
cific divinity a particular way of making himself known to
must meet other goals. It seeks to determine the conceptual
man and of exercising, through his images, his supernatural
architecture of the very composition of the fable, the impor-
tant frameworks of classification that are involved, the
choices made in the division and the coding of reality, and
If, following various modalities, myth, image, and ritual
the network of relationships that the story, by its narrative
all operate on the same level of symbolic thought, it is under-
procedures, establishes between the various elements of the
standable that they combine to make each religion a com-
plot. In short, the mythologist seeks to reconstitute what
plete whole in which, to quote Dumézil in L’héritage indo-
Dumézil calls the “ideology,” that is, the conceptualization
européen à Rome (Paris, 1949, p. 64), “concepts, images and
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actions fit together and by their relations form a kind of net
concern for what is due even to the weakest. In him and by
in which, potentially, all the matter of human experience
him, order and power, law and violence are reconciled and
must be caught and distributed.”
conjoined. “All kings come from Zeus,” wrote Hesiod in the
seventh century BCE, not to oppose monarch, warrior, and
THE WORLD OF THE GODS. To find the lines of the net, to
peasant, but to affirm that there is no true king who does
pick out the configurations shaped by its meshes: such must
not set himself the task of quietly making justice triumph.
be the historian’s task. In the case of Greek religion, this
“From Zeus are the kings,” echoes Callimachus four centu-
proves to be far more difficult than with the other Indo-
European religions, in which the pattern of the three func-
ries later, but this kinship between kings and the royalty of
tions—sovereignty, war, and fertility—is maintained. Where
Zeus does not fit into a trifunctional framework. It crowns
it is clearly attested, this structure serves as the framework
a series of similar statements that link a particular category
and keystone of the entire edifice and provides a unity that
of men to the divinity who acts as its patron: blacksmiths to
seems to be lacking in Greek religion.
Hephaistos, soldiers to Ares, hunters to Artemis, and singers
accompanied by the lyre to Phoibos (Apollo).
Indeed, Greek religion presents an organization so com-
plex that it excludes recourse to a single reading code for the
When Zeus enters into the composition of a triad, as
entire system. To be sure, a Greek god is defined by the set
he does with Poseidon and Hades, it is to delimit by their
of relationships that unite or put him in opposition to other
apportionment the cosmic levels, or domains: the heavens to
divinities of the pantheon, but the theological structures thus
Zeus, the sea to Poseidon, the subterranean world to Hades,
brought to light are too numerous and, especially, too diverse
the surface of the earth to all three. When he is paired with
to be integrated into the same pattern. According to the city,
a goddess, the dyad thus formed brings out different aspects
the sanctuary, or the moment, each god enters into a varied
of the sovereign god, depending on the female divinity who
network of combinations with the others. Groups of gods do
is his counterpart. Joined with Gaia (“earth”), for example,
not conform to a single model that is more important than
Zeus is the celestial principle, male and generative, whose fer-
others; they are organized into a plurality of configurations
tilizing rain reaches deep in the ground to animate young
that do not correspond exactly but compose a table with sev-
sprouts of vegetation. United with Hera in a lawful marriage
eral entries and many axes, the reading of which varies ac-
that engenders a legitimate line, Zeus becomes the patron of
cording to the starting point and the perspective adopted.
the institution of matrimony, which, by civilizing the union
of man and woman, serves as the foundation of every social
Take the example of Zeus. His name clearly reveals his
organization; the couple formed by the king and queen is the
origin, based on the same Indo-European root (meaning “to
exemplary model. Associated with Metis, his first wife
shine”) as Latin dies/deus and the Vedic dyeus. Like the Indian
(whom he swallowed and assimilated entirely), Zeus the king
Dyaus Pitr: or the Roman Jupiter (Iovpater), Father Zeus
is identified with cunning intelligence and with the under-
(Zeus Pater) is the direct descendant of the great Indo-
handed shrewdness needed to win power and to keep it. He
European sky god. However, the gap between the status of
is able to ensure the permanence of his reign and to protect
the Zeus of Greece and that of his corresponding manifesta-
his throne from traps, snares, and surprises, for he is always
tions in India and in Rome is so evident, so marked, that
prompt to foresee the unexpected and to ward off dangers.
even when comparing the most assuredly similar gods one
Taking Themis for his second wife, he fixes, once and for
is compelled to recognize that the Indo-European tradition
all, the order of the seasons, the balance of human groups
has completely disappeared from the Greek religious system.
in the city (order and balance represented by the Horai,
Zeus does not appear in any trifunctional group compa-
daughters of Zeus and Themis), and the ineluctable course
rable to the pre-Capitoline Jupiter-Mars-Quirinus, in which
of the Fates (the Moirai). He becomes cosmic law, social har-
sovereignty (Jupiter) is contrasted with the action of the war-
mony, and destiny.
rior (Mars) and the functions of fertility and prosperity
Father of the gods and humankind, as he is designated
(Quirinus). Nor is he associated, as Mitra is with Varun:a,
already in the Iliad—not because he sired or created all be-
with a sovereign power that expresses not only legal and ju-
ings but because he exercises over each of them an authority
ridical aspects but also the values of magic and violence. Ou-
as absolute as that of the head of a family over his house-
ranos, the dark night sky, who has sometimes been compared
hold—Zeus shares with Apollo the epithet patro¯ios (“the an-
with Varuna, is paired in myth with Gaia, the earth, not with
cestral”). Together with Athena Apatouria, Zeus, as
Phratrios, ensures the integration of individuals into the di-
As sovereign, Zeus embodies greater strength than all
verse groups that compose the civic community. In the cities
the other gods. He is the supreme power: with Zeus on one
of Ionia, he makes of all the citizens authentic brothers, cele-
side and all the assembled Olympians on the other, it is Zeus
brating in their respective phratries, as in one family, the fes-
who prevails. Confronted by Kronos, whom he dethroned,
tival of the Apaturia, that is, of those who acknowledge
and the Titan gods, whom he fought and imprisoned, Zeus
themselves children of the same father. In Athens, joined
represents justice, the fair distribution of honors and offices,
with Athena Polias, Zeus is Polieus, patron of the city. Mas-
respect for the privileges to which each person is entitled,
ter and guarantor of political life, Zeus forms a couple with
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the goddess, whose function as titulary power of Athens is
nounces his oracles in the sanctuary of Delphi, he speaks not
more precise and, one might say, more localized. Athena
so much for himself as in the name of his father, with whom
watches over her city as a particular city distinguished from
he remains associated and, in his oracular function, seems to
the other Greek city-states. She favors Athens, according it
obey. Apollo is a prophet, but he is the prophet of Zeus: he
the dual privileges of concord within the city and victory out-
voices only the will and decrees of the Olympian so that
side of it.
here—at the navel of the world—the word of the king and
father may resound in the ears of those who can hear.
Celestial and judicious wielder of supreme power,
founder of order, guarantor of justice, governor of marriage,
The different epithets of Zeus, wide as their range may
father and ancestor, and patron of the city, the tableau of the
be, are not incompatible. They all belong to one field and
sovereignty of Zeus includes still other dimensions. His au-
emphasize its multiple dimensions. Taken together, they de-
thority is domestic as well as political. In close connivance
fine the contours of divine sovereignty as conceived by the
with Hestia, Zeus has supreme control not only over each
Greeks; they mark its boundaries and delimit its constituent
private hearth—that fixed center where the family has its
domains; they indicate the various aspects that the power of
roots—but also over the common household of the state in
the king-god may assume and exercise in more or less
the heart of the city, the Hestia Koine¯, where the ruling mag-
close alliance (according to circumstances) with the other
istrates keep watch. Zeus Herkeios, the god of the courtyard
and the household, circumscribes the domain within which
An entirely different matter is the Zeus of Crete, the
the head of the house has the right to exercise his power;
Kretagenes, Diktaios, or Idaios, the youthful god whose in-
Zeus Klarios, the divider of estates, delineates and sets
fancy was associated with the Curetes, with their dances and
boundaries, leaving Apollo and Hermes in charge of protect-
orgiastic rites and the din of their clashing weapons. It was
ing the gates and controlling the entries.
said of this Zeus that he was born in Crete and that he also
As Zeus Hikesios and Zeus Xenios, he receives the sup-
died there; his tomb was shown on the island. But the Greek
pliant and the guest, introduces them into the unfamiliar
Zeus, in spite of his many facets, can have nothing in com-
house, and ensures their safety by welcoming them to the
mon with a dying god. In the Hymn to Zeus, Callimachus
household altar, although he does not assimilate them entire-
firmly rejects the tradition of these stories as foreign to his
ly to the members of the family. Zeus Ktesios, the guardian
god, “ever great, ever king.” The real Zeus was not born in
of possession and wealth, watches over the property of the
Crete, as those lying Cretans told it: “They have gone so far
head of the house. As an Olympian and a celestial god, Zeus
as to build you a tomb, O King; Nay, you never died; You
opposes Hades; yet as Ktesios, Zeus’s altar is deep in the cel-
are for eternity.”
lar, and he takes on the appearance of a serpent, the most
In the eyes of the Greeks, immortality, which sets a rig-
chthonic of animals. The sovereign can thus incorporate that
orous boundary between the gods and mortals, was such a
chthonic part of the universe normally controlled by the
fundamental trait of the divine that the ruler of Olympus
powers of the underworld but occasionally incarnated by
could in no way be likened to one of the Oriental deities who
Zeus himself in a kind of internal tension, polarity, or even
die and are reborn. During the second millennium, the
a double image. The celestial Zeus, who sits at the summit
framework of the Indo-European religious system, whose in-
of the shining ether, is mirrored by a Zeus Chthonios, Zeus
fluence is reflected in the name of Zeus, may well have col-
Katachthonios, Zeus Meilichios, a Zeus of the dark under-
lapsed among those people speaking a Greek dialect, who
world, who is present in the depths of the earth where he
came in successive waves to settle Helladic soil and whose
nurtures, in the proximity of the dead, the riches or retribu-
presence is attested as far as Knossos in Crete from the end
tions that are ready, if he is willing, to surge into the light
of the fifteenth century BCE. Contacts, exchanges, and inter-
led by the chthonic Hermes.
mixing were numerous and continuous. There were borrow-
ings from the Aegean and Minoan religions, just as there
Zeus connects heaven and earth by means of the rain
were from the Oriental and Thraco-Phrygian cults when the
(Zeus Ombrios, Huetios, Ikmaios, “rainy,” “damp”), the
Greeks later expanded throughout the Mediterranean. Nev-
winds (Zeus Ourios, Euanemos, “windy,” “of a good wind”),
ertheless, between the fourteenth and the twelfth centuries,
and the lightning (Zeus Astrapaios, Bronton, Keraunios,
most of the gods revered by the Achaeans—and whose names
“wielder of thunderbolts,” “thunderer”). He ensures com-
figure on the Linear B tablets from Knossos and Pylos—are
munication between high and low through signs and oracles,
the same ones encountered in the classical Greek pantheon:
which transmit messages from the gods of heaven to mortals
Zeus, Poseidon, Enualios (Ares), Paean (Apollo), Dionysos,
on the earth. According to the Greeks, their most ancient or-
Hera, Athena, Artemis, and the Two Queens, that is, Deme-
acle was an oracle of Zeus at Dodona. There he established
ter and Kore.
his sanctuary at the site of a great oak, which belonged to him
and which rose straight as the tallest column toward heaven.
The religious world of the Indo-European invaders of
The rustling of the leaves of the sacred oak above their heads
Greece could well have been modified and opened to foreign
provided the consultants with the answer to their questions
influences, but while it assimilated some concepts, it kept its
to the sovereign of heaven. Moreover, when Apollo pro-
specificity and the distinctive features of its own gods. From
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the religion of the Mycenaeans to that of the age of Homer,
vate sanctuaries, this house of the god was the common prop-
during those obscure centuries that followed the fall or the
erty of all citizens.
decline of the Achaean kingdoms after the twelfth century,
To mark and confirm its legitimate authority over a ter-
continuity was not only marked by the persistence of the
ritory, each city built a temple in a precise place: in the center
names of the gods and cult places. The continuity of certain
of the city, the acropolis or agora, the gates of the walls sur-
festivals celebrated by the Ionians on both shores of the Med-
rounding the urban area, or in the zone of the agros and the
iterranean proves that these festivals must already have been
eschatiai—the wilderness that separated each Greek city from
customary in the eleventh century at the outset of the first
its neighbors. The construction of a network of sanctuaries
wave of colonization, whose point of departure may have
within, around, and outside the city not only punctuated the
been Athens, the only Mycenaean site to remain intact, and
space with holy places but also marked the course of ritual
which established groups of emigrants on the coast of Asia
processions, from the center to the periphery and back.
Minor to found Greek cities.
These processions, which mobilized all or a part of the popu-
This permanence of Greek religion must not be mis-
lation on fixed dates, aimed at shaping the surface of the land
leading, however. The religious world evoked by Homer is
according to a religious order.
no more representative of the religion of an earlier period
Through the mediation of its civic gods (installed in
than the world of the Homeric poems is representative of the
their temples), the community established a kind of symbio-
world of the Mycenaean kings, whose exploits the bard, after
sis between the people and their land, as if the citizens were
an interval of four centuries, undertook to evoke. During this
the children of an earth from which they had sprung forth
time a whole series of changes and innovations were intro-
in the beginning and which, by virtue of this relationship
duced: behind apparent continuities was a veritable rupture
with those who inhabited it, was itself promoted to the rank
(that the epic text effaces but whose extent can be measured
of “earth of the city.” This explains the bitterness of the con-
through archaeological research and a reading of the tablets).
flicts, between the eighth and the sixth centuries, that pitted
THE CIVIC RELIGION. Between the eleventh and eighth cen-
neighboring cities against each other in the appropriation of
turies, technical, economic, and demographic changes led to
cult places on those borders that were held in common by
what the English archaeologist Anthony Snodgrass called the
more than one polis. The occupation of the sanctuary and
“structural revolution,” which gave rise to the city-state
its religious annexation to the urban center were equivalent
(polis). The Greek religious system was profoundly reorga-
to legitimate possession. When it founded its temples, the
nized during this time in response to the new forms of social
polis rooted them firmly in the world of the gods so that its
life introduced by the polis. Within the context of a religion
territorial base would have an unshakable foundation.
that from then on was essentially civic, remodeled beliefs and
Another innovation with partly comparable significance
rites satisfied a dual and complementary obligation. First of
left its mark on the religious system. During the eighth cen-
all, they fulfilled the specific needs of each group of people,
tury, it became customary to put into service Mycenaean
who constituted a city bound to a specific territory. The city
buildings, usually funerary, that had been abandoned for
was placed under the patronage of its own special gods, who
centuries. Once they were fitted out, they served as cult
endowed it with a unique religious physiognomy. Every city
places where funeral honors were rendered to legendary fig-
had its own divinity or divinities, whose functions were to
ures who, although they usually had no relationship to these
cement the body of citizens into a true community; to unite
edifices, were claimed as ancestors by their “progeny,” noble
into one whole all the civic space, including the urban center
families or groups of phratries. Like the epic heroes whose
and the chora, or rural area; and to look after the integrity
names they carried, these mythical ancestors belonged to a
of the state—the people and the land—in the presence of
distant past, to a time different from the present, and consti-
other cities. Second, the development of an epic literature cut
tuted a category of supernatural powers distinct from both
off from any local roots, the construction of great common
the theoi, or gods proper, and the ordinary dead. Even more
sanctuaries, and the institution of pan-Hellenic games and
than the cult of the gods (even the civic gods), the cult of
panegyrics established and reinforced, on a religious level,
heroes had both civic and territorial value. It was associated
legendary traditions, cycles of festivals, and a pantheon that
with a specific place, a tomb with the subterranean presence
would be recognized equally throughout all of Hellas.
of the dead person, whose remains were often brought home
from a distant land.
Without assessing all the religious innovations brought
about during the Archaic period, the most important should
The tombs and cults of the hero, through the prestige
be mentioned. The first was the emergence of the temple as
of the figure honored, served as glorious symbols and talis-
a construction independent of the human habitat, whether
mans for the community. The location of the tombs was
houses or royal palaces. With its walls delimiting a sacred en-
sometimes kept secret because the welfare of the state de-
closure (temenos) and its exterior altar, the temple became an
pended on their safety. Installed in the heart of the city in
edifice separated from profane ground. The god came to re-
the middle of the agora, they gave substance to the memory
side there permanently through the intermediacy of his great
of the legendary founder of the city (the tutelary hero or, in
anthropomorphic cult statue. Unlike domestic altars and pri-
the case of a colony, the colonizing hero), or they patronized
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the various components of the civic body (tribes, phratries,
the roots of the families, groups, and communities of the
and demes). Disseminated to various points of the territory,
the cults consecrated the affinities that united the members
of the rural areas and villages (the ko¯mai). In all cases their
Although they were mortals, these ancestors seemed in
function was to assemble a group around an exclusive cult
many ways nearer to the gods, less cut off from the divine,
that appears to have been strictly implanted in precise points
than the rest of humanity. In their day, the gods still mingled
of the land.
readily with mortals, inviting themselves to their homes, eat-
ing at their tables, and even slipping into their beds to unite
The spread of the cult of the hero did not just comply
with them and—by mixing the two races, the mortal and the
with the new social needs that arose with the city; the adora-
immortal—to beget beautiful children. The heroic figures
tion of the heroes had a properly religious significance. Dif-
whose names survived and whose cults were celebrated at
ferent from the divine cult, which was obligatory for every-
their tombs were very often presented as the fruit of these
one and permanent in character, and also from the funerary
amorous encounters between the divinities and human be-
rites, which were limited in time as well as to a narrow circle
ings of both sexes. They were, as Hesiod said, “the divine race
of relatives, the heroic institution affected the general stabili-
of heroes called demigods.” If their birth sometimes en-
ty of the cult system.
dowed them with a semidivine origin, their death also placed
them above the human condition. Instead of descending into
For the Greeks, there was a radical opposition between
the darkness of Hades, they were “abducted” or transported
the gods, who were the beneficiaries of the cult, and mortals,
by means of divine favor—some during their lifetime but
who were its servants. Strangers to the transience that defines
most of them after death—to a special, separate place on the
the existence of mortals, the gods were the athanatoi (“the
Isles of the Blessed, where they continued to enjoy in perma-
immortals”). Humans, on the other hand, were the brotoi
nent felicity a life comparable to that of the gods.
(“the mortals”), doomed to sickness, old age, and death.
Consequently, the funeral honors paid to the dead were
Although it did not bridge the immeasurable gulf that
placed on a different level from the sacrifices and devotions
separates mortals from the gods, heroic status seemed to
demanded by the gods as their share of honor, their special
open the prospect of the promotion of a mortal to a rank
privilege. The narrow strips of material decorating the
that, if not divine, was at least close to divinity. However,
tombs, the offerings of cakes for the dead person, the liba-
during the entire Classical period, this possibility remained
tions of water, milk, honey, or wine that had to be renewed
strictly confined to a narrow sector. It was thwarted, not to
on the third, ninth, and thirtieth day after the funeral and
say repressed, by the religious system itself. Indeed, piety, like
again each year on the festival of the Genesia appear to have
wisdom, enjoined mortals not to pretend to be the equal of
been the temporary continuation of the funeral ceremony
a god; the precepts of Delphi—“know who you are, know
and mourning practices rather than acts of veneration toward
thyself”—have no other meaning than that. Humanity must
the higher powers. The intent of opening the doors of Hades
accept its limits. Therefore, apart from the great legendary
to the dead person was to make him disappear forever from
figures, such as Achilles, Theseus, Orestes, and Herakles, the
this world, where he no longer had a place. At the same time,
status of the hero was restricted to the first founders of the
through the various procedures of commemoration, the fu-
colonies or to persons, such as Lysander of Samos and Ti-
neral transformed his absence into a presence in the memory
moleon of Syracuse, who had acquired exemplary symbolic
of the survivors—an ambiguous, paradoxical presence, as of
worth in the eyes of a city.
one who is absent, relegated to the realm of shadows, reduced
henceforth to the social status of a dead man by the funeral
We know of few cases of men who were heroized during
rites. Even this status, however, is destined to sink into obliv-
the Classical period. They never concerned a living person
ion as the cycle of generations is renewed.
but always one who after his death appeared to bear a numen
(or formidable sacral power) because of his extraordinary
The heroes were quite another matter. To be sure, they
physical characteristics (size, strength, and beauty), the cir-
belonged to the humankind and thus knew suffering and
cumstances of his death (if he had been struck by lightning
death. But a whole series of traits distinguished them, even
or had disappeared leaving no trace), or the misdeeds attri-
in death, from the throng of ordinary dead. The heroes had
buted to his ghost, which it seemed necessary to appease. For
lived during the period that constituted the “old days” for
example, in the middle of the fifth century, the boxer Cle-
the Greeks, a bygone era when men were taller, stronger,
omedes of Astypalaia, who was exceptionally strong, killed
more beautiful. Thus the bones of a hero could be recognized
his adversary in combat. Denied a prize by the decision of
by their gigantic size. It was this race of men, later extinct,
the jury, he returned home mad with rage. He vented his
whose exploits were sung in epic poetry. Celebrated by the
fury on a pillar that held up the ceiling of a school, and the
bards, the names of the heroes—unlike the names of ordi-
roof caved in on the children. Pursued by a crowd that want-
nary people, which faded into the indistinct and forgotten
ed to stone him, Cleomedes hid in a chest in the sanctuary
mass of the nameless—remained alive forever, in radiant
of Athena, locking the lid on himself. His pursuers succeeded
glory, in the memory of all the Greeks. The race of heroes
in forcing it open, but the chest was empty: no Cleomedes,
formed the legendary past of the Greece of the city-states and
living or dead, was to be found. The Pythia, when consulted,
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advised the establishment of a hero cult in honor of the
THE SACRIFICIAL PRACTICES. To find his bearings in the
boxer, whose strength, fury, misdeeds, and death set him
practice of the cult, the believer, therefore, had to take into
above ordinary mortals. Sacrifices were to be made to him
account the hierarchical order that presided in the society of
as “no longer a mortal.” But the oracle manifested her reser-
the beyond. At the top of the hierarchy were the theoi, both
vations by also proclaiming that Cleomedes was the last of
great and small, who made up the race of the blessed immor-
the heroes.
tals. These were the Olympians, grouped under the authority
of Zeus. As a rule they were celestial divinities, although
However much the heroes constituted, through the
some of them, such as Poseidon and Demeter, bore chthonic
honors paid to them, a category of superior beings, their role,
aspects. There was indeed a god of the underworld (Hades),
their power, and the domains in which they intervened did
not interfere with those of the gods. They never played the
but he was in fact the only one who had neither temple nor
role of intermediary between earth and heaven; they were not
cult. The gods were made present in this world in the spaces
intercessors but indigenous powers, bound to the spot of
that belonged to them: first of all, in the temples where they
ground where they had their subterranean homes. Their effi-
resided but also in the places and the objects that were conse-
cacity adhered to their tombs and to their bones; there were
crated to them and that, specified as hiera (“sacred”), could
anonymous heroes designated only by the names of the
be subject to interdiction. These include the sacred groves,
places where their tombs were established, such as the hero
springs, and mountain peaks; an area surrounded by walls
of Marathon. This local quality was accompanied by a strict
or boundary markers (temenos); crossroads, trees, stones, and
specialization. Many heroes had no other realities than the
obelisks. The temple, the building reserved as the dwelling
narrow function to which they were dedicated and which de-
of the god, did not serve as a place of worship. The faithful
fined them entirely. For example, at Olympia, at the bend
assembled to celebrate the rites at the exterior alter (bo¯mos),
of the track, competitors offered sacrifices at the tomb of the
a square block of masonry. Around it and upon it was per-
hero Taraxippos, the Frightener of Horses. Similarly, there
formed the central rite of the Greek religion, the burnt offer-
were doctor heroes, doormen, cook, fly-catcher heroes, a
ing (thusia), the analysis of which is essential.
hero of meals, of the broad bean, of saffron, a hero to mix
This was normally a blood sacrifice implying the eating
water and wine or to grind the grain.
of the victim: a domestic animal, crowned and decked with
If the city could group into the same category of cults
ribbons, was led in procession to the altar to the sound of
the highly individualized figures of heroes of long ago, whose
flutes. It was showered with water and fistfuls of barley seeds,
legendary biographies were fixed in their epics, of exceptional
which were scattered on the ground and on the altar as well
contemporaries, of anonymous dead of whom all that re-
as on the participants, who also wore crowns. The head of
mained were funerary monuments, and of all sorts of func-
the victim was then lifted up and its throat cut with a
tional daemons, it was because inside their tombs they mani-
machaira, a large knife concealed under the seeds in the
fested the same contacts with the subterranean powers,
kanoun, or ritual basket. The blood that gushed onto the
shared the same characteristic of territorial localization, and
altar was caught in a receptacle. The animal was cut open and
could be used as political symbols. Instituted by the emerg-
its entrails, especially the liver, were drawn out and examined
ing city, bound to the land that it protected and to the
to see if the gods accepted the sacrifice. If accepted, the vic-
groups of citizens that it patronized, the cult of the hero did
tim was immediately carved. The long bones, entirely
not, in the Hellenistic period, lead to the divinization of
stripped of flesh, were laid on the altar. Covered with fat,
human figures, nor did it lead to the establishment of a cult
they were consumed with herbs and spices by the flames and,
of sovereigns: these phenomena were the product of a differ-
in the form of sweet-smelling smoke, rose toward heaven and
ent religious mentality. Inseparable from the polis, the hero
the gods. Certain internal morsels (splagchna) were put on
cult declined with it.
spits and roasted over the same fire that had sent to the divin-
ity his share, thus establishing a link between the sacred pow-
The appearance of the hero cult, however, was not with-
ers for whom the sacrifice was intended and the performers
out consequences. By its newness it led to an effort to define
of the rite for whom the roasted meat was reserved. The rest
and categorize more strictly the various supernatural powers.
of the meat was boiled in caldrons, divided into equal parts,
Plutarch noted that Hesiod was the first, in the seventh cen-
and eaten by the participants on the spot, taken home, or
tury, to make a clear distinction between the different classes
distributed outside to the community at large. The parts that
of divine beings, which he divided into four groups: gods,
were thought to confer honor, such as the tongue or the hide,
daemons, heroes, and the dead. Taken up again by the Py-
went to the priest who presided at the ceremony, though his
thagoreans and by Plato, this nomenclature of the divinities
presence was not always indispensable.
to whom men owed veneration was common enough in the
fourth century to appear in the requests that the consultants
As a rule, any citizen, if he was not impure, had full au-
addressed to the oracle of Dodona. On one of the inscrip-
thority to perform sacrifices. The religious significance of
tions that have been found, a certain Euandros and his wife
this must be defined by bringing out its theological implica-
question the oracle about which “of the gods, or heroes, or
tions. From the start, however, several points are essential.
daemons” they must sacrifice to and address their prayers to.
Certain divinities and certain rituals, such as that of Apollo
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Genetor in Delphi and Zeus Hupatos in Attica, required, in-
to the concealment of the knife in the basket to the shudder
stead of a blood sacrifice, food oblations: fruit, palms, grain,
by which the sprayed animal, sprinkled with an ablution, was
porridge (pelanos), and cakes sprinkled with water, milk,
supposed to give its assent to the immolation—was designed
honey, or oil; no blood or even wine was offered. There were
to efface any traces of violence and murder and to bring to
cases in which this type of offering, usually consumed by fire
the fore aspects of peaceful solemnity and happy festivity.
but sometimes simply deposited on the altar without being
Furthermore, in the economy of the thusia, the procedures
burned (apura), was characterized by marked opposition to
for cutting up the victim, for roasting or boiling the pieces,
customary practice. Considered pure sacrifices, unlike those
for their orderly distribution in equal parts, and for their con-
involving the killing of living creatures, they served as models
sumption, either on the spot or elsewhere, were no less im-
for sectarian movements. Orphics and Pythagoreans referred
portant than the ritual killing. The alimentary function of
to them in advocating a ritual behavior and an attitude to-
the rite is expressed in a vocabulary that makes no distinction
ward the divine that, in rejecting the blood sacrifice as impi-
between sacrificer and butcher. The word hiereion, which
ous, diverged from the official cult and appeared foreign to
designates an animal as sacrificial victim, at the same time
the civic religion.
qualifies it as an animal to be butchered, as one suitable for
In addition, blood sacrifice itself took two different
eating. Since the Greeks ate meat only on the occasion of sac-
forms according to whether it addressed the heavenly and
rifices and in conformity with sacrificial rules, the thusia was
Olympian gods or the chthonic and infernal ones. The lan-
simultaneously a religious ceremony in which a pious offer-
guage already made a distinction between them: for the first,
ing, often accompanied by prayer, was addressed to the gods;
the Greeks employed the term thuein; for the second, ena-
a ritualized cooking of food according to the norms that the
gizein or sphattein.
gods required of humans; and an act of social communion
that reinforced, through the consumption of the parts of one
The thusia, as we have seen, was centered on an elevated
victim, the bonds that were to unite all citizens and make
altar, the bo¯mos. The chthonic sacrifice had only a low altar
them equal.
(the eschara) with a hole in it to let the blood pour out into
the earth. Normally the celebration took place at night over
As the central moment of the cult, the sacrifice was an
a ritual pit (bothros) that opened the way to the underworld.
indispensable part of communal life (whether family or state)
The animal was immolated with its head lowered toward the
and illustrated the tight interdependence of the religious and
earth, which would be inundated with its blood. Once its
the social orders in the Greece of the city-states. The func-
throat was cut, the victim was no longer the object of ritual
tion of the sacrifice was not to wrest the sacrificer or the par-
handling; because it was offered in holocaust, it was burned
ticipants away from their families and civic groups or from
entirely without the celebrants having the right to touch it
their ordinary activities in the human world but, on the con-
or to eat it. In this kind of rite, in which the offering is de-
trary, to install them in the requisite positions and patterns,
stroyed in order to be delivered in its entirety to the beyond,
to integrate them into the city and mundane existence in
it was less a matter of establishing with the divinity a regular
conformity with an order of the world presided over by the
commerce of exchange in mutual confidence than of warding
gods (i.e., “intraworld” religion, in the sense given by Max
off the sinister forces, of placating a formidable power who
Weber, or “political” religion, in the Greek understanding
would approach without harm only if defenses and precau-
of the term). The sacred and the profane did not constitute
tions were taken. One might say that it was a ritual of aver-
two radically opposite, mutually exclusive categories. Be-
sion rather than one of reconciliation or contact. Under-
tween the “sacred” in its entirely forbidden aspect and its
standably, its use was reserved for the cult of the chthonic
fully accessible one a multiplicity of configurations and gra-
and infernal deities, for expiatory rites, or for sacrifices of-
dations existed. In addition to those realities dedicated to a
fered to heroes and to the dead in their tombs.
god and reserved for his use, the sacred was also to be experi-
enced by way of objects, living creatures, natural phenome-
In the Olympian sacrifice, the orientation toward the
na, and both the everyday events of private life—eating a
heavenly divinities was marked not only by the light of
meal, departing on a journey, welcoming a guest—and the
day, the presence of an altar, and the blood gushing upward
more solemn occasions of public life. Without any special
when the throat of the victim was cut. A fundamental feature
preparation, every head of a family was qualified to assume
of the ritual was that it was inseparably an offering to the
religious functions in his home. Each head of a household
gods and a festive meal for the human participants. Although
was pure as long as he had not committed any misdeed that
the climax of the event was undoubtedly the moment that,
defiled him. In this sense, purity did not have to be acquired
punctuated by the ritual cry (ololugmos), life abandoned the
or obtained; it constituted the normal state of the citizen.
animal and passed into the world of the gods, all the parts
of the animal, carefully gathered and treated, were meant for
As far as the city was concerned, there was no division
the people, who ate them together. The immolation itself
between the priesthood and the magistracy. There were
took place in an atmosphere of sumptuous and joyful cere-
priesthoods that were devolved and practiced as magistracies,
mony. The entire staging of the ritual—from the procession
and every magistrate was endowed by virtue of his duties
in which the untied animal was led freely and in great pomp
with a character of holiness. For any political power to be
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exercised, for any common decision to be valid, a sacrifice
and stomach and disgusting in appearance, constituted all
was required. In war as in peace, before giving battle as well
that was edible in the animal.
as when convening an assembly or inaugurating a magistrate,
Honor to whom honor is due: it was for Zeus, in the
the performance of a sacrifice was just as necessary as it was
name of the gods, to be the first to choose a portion of
during the great religious festivals of the sacred calendar. As
the sacrifice. He saw the trap but pretended to be tricked,
Marcel Detienne so accurately observes in La cuisine du sacri-
the better to take his revenge. He chose, therefore, the out-
fice en pays grec: “Until a late period, a city such as Athens
wardly enticing portion, the one that concealed the inedible
maintained the office of archon-king—one of whose major
bones under a thin covering of fat. For this reason, men
functions was to administer all of the sacrifices instituted by
burned the white bones of the victim for the gods, then di-
the ancestors, that is, all the ritual gestures that guaranteed
vided the meat, the portion that Zeus did not choose, among
the harmonious operation of society” (Detienne, 1980,
themselves. Prometheus had imagined that in allotting the
p. 10).
flesh to humans he was reserving the best part for them. But
If the thusia was indispensable for ensuring the validity
shrewd as he was, he failed to suspect that he was giving them
of social undertakings, it was because the sacrificial fire, by
a poisoned gift. By eating the meat, men sentenced them-
causing the fragrant smoke of the burning fat and bones to
selves to death. Driven by their hunger, they behaved from
rise toward heaven while at the same time cooking food for
then on like all the animals that inhabit the earth, the water,
people, opened the lines of communication between the gods
or the air. If they take pleasure in devouring the flesh of an
and the participants in the rites. By immolating a victim,
animal that has lost its life, if they have an imperious need
burning the bones, and eating the flesh according to ritual
for food, it is because their hunger, never appeased but con-
rules, the Greeks instituted and maintained with the divine
stantly renewed, is the mark of a creature whose strength fails
a contact without which their entire existence, left to itself
gradually, who is doomed to weariness, old age, and death.
and emptied of meaning, would have collapsed. This contact
By contenting themselves with the smoke from the bones
was not a communion; even in a symbolic form, the Greeks
and living off smells and fragrances, the gods bore witness
did not eat the god in order to identify with him and to par-
that they belonged to a race whose nature was entirely differ-
ticipate in his strength. They consumed a victim, a domestic
ent from that of men. They, the immortals, were everlasting
animal, and ate a part different from that offered to the gods.
and eternally young; their being contained nothing perish-
The link established by the sacrifice emphasized and con-
able and had no contact with the realm of the corruptible.
firmed the extreme distance that separated mortals and im-
But the vengeance of the angry Zeus did not stop here.
mortals, even when they communicated.
Even before he created out of the earth and water the first
Myths about the origin of the sacrifice are most precise
woman, Pandora, who introduced among men all the woes
in this respect. They bring to light the theological meanings
hitherto unknown to them—birth from procreation, fatigue,
of the ritual. It was the Titan Prometheus, son of Iapetus,
toil, sickness, age, and death—he decided, as retribution for
who was said to have instituted the first sacrifice, thus estab-
the Titan’s partiality toward mankind, to never again allow
lishing forever the model to which humans were to conform
men access to the celestial fire. Deprived of fire, were men
in honoring the gods. This took place during the time when
thus obliged to eat raw meat like beasts? Prometheus then
gods and men were not yet separate but lived together, feast-
stole a spark, a seed of fire, in the hollow of a stick, and
ed at the same tables, and shared the same felicity far from
brought it down to earth. Although they would no longer
all evils and afflictions. Men were still unacquainted with the
have the flash of the thunderbolt at their disposal, men were
necessity of work, sickness, old age, fatigue, death, and
given a technical fire, more fragile and mortal, one that
women. Zeus had been promoted king of heaven and had
would have to be preserved by constant feeding. By cooking
carried out an equitable distribution of honors and privi-
their food, this second fire—contingent and artificial, in
leges. The time had come to define in precise terms the forms
comparison with the heavenly fire—differentiates humans
of life appropriate for men and for gods.
from animals and establishes them in a civilized life. Of all
the animals, only men share the possession of fire with the
Prometheus was assigned the task. He brought before
gods. Thus it is fire that unites man to the divine by rising
the assembled gods and men a great steer, killed it, and cut
toward heaven from the lighted altars. But this fire, celestial
it up. The boundary that exists between gods and mortals
in origin and destination, is also, in its all-consuming ardor,
follows, therefore, the line of division between the parts of
as perishable as the living creatures subjected to the necessity
the immolated beast that went to the gods and those that
of eating. The frontier between gods and men is both
went to men. The sacrifice thus appears as the act that, as
bridged by the sacrificial fire, which unites them, and accen-
its first accomplishment, consecrated the distinction of di-
tuated by the contrast between the heavenly fire in the hands
vine and human status. But Prometheus, in rebellion against
of Zeus and the fire that Prometheus’s theft made available
the king of the gods, tried to deceive him for the benefit of
to mankind. Furthermore, the function of the sacrificial fire
men. Each of the two parts prepared by the Titan was a ruse,
is to mark the portion of the victim belonging to the gods
a lure. The first, camouflaged in appetizing fat, contained
(totally consumed in the flames) and that of men (cooked
only the the bare bones; the second, concealed in the skin
just enough not to be eaten raw).
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The ambiguous relationship between men and gods in
with a woman, whom marriage has drawn out of savagery
the sacrifice was coupled with an equally equivocal relation-
and domesticated by setting her in the conjugal home. By
ship between men and animals. In order to live, both must
reason of this same exigency of equilibrium in the Greek sac-
eat, whether their food be animal or vegetable, and so they
rifice, the sacrificer, the victim, and the god—although asso-
are equally perishable. But it is only man who eats his food
ciated in the rite—were never confused.
cooked according to rules and after having offered in honor
The fact that this powerful theology should have its base
to the gods the animal’s life, dedicated to them with the
on the level of alimentary procedures indicates that the di-
bones. If the barley seeds showered on the head of the victim
etary vagaries of the Orphics and Pythagoreans, as well as cer-
and on the altar were associated with the blood sacrifice, the
tain Dionysian practices, had a specifically theological signif-
reason was that cereals, as a specifically human food involv-
icance and constituted profound divergences in religious
ing agricultural labor, represented in the Greek view the par-
orientation. Vegetarianism was a rejection of blood sacrifice,
adigm of cultivated plants symbolizing, in contrast to a sav-
which was believed to be like the murder of a close relation;
age existence, civilized life. Cooked three times (by an
omophagia and diasparagmos of the Bacchantes—that is, the
internal process that assists the cultivation, by the action of
devouring of the raw flesh of a hunted animal that had been
the sun, and by the human hand that turns it into bread),
torn to pieces while still alive—inverted the normal values
cereal was an analogue to the sacrificial victim, the domestic
of sacrifice. But whether sacrifice was circumvented, on the
animal whose flesh had to be ritually roasted or boiled before
one hand, by feeding like the gods on entirely pure dishes
it was eaten.
and even on smells or, on the other, by destroying the barri-
In the Promethean myth, sacrifice comes into being as
ers between men and animals maintained by sacrificial prac-
the result of the Titan’s rebellion against Zeus at a time when
tice, so that a state of complete communion was realized—
men and gods needed to separate and establish their respec-
one that could be called either a return to the sweet familiari-
tive destinies. The moral of the story states that one could
ty of all creatures during the Golden Age or a fall into the
not hope to dupe the sovereign god. Prometheus tried to de-
chaotic confusion of savagery—in either case, it was a ques-
ceive Zeus; man must pay the price of his failure. To perform
tion of instituting, whether by individual asceticism or by
a sacrifice was both to commemorate the adventure of the
collective frenzy, a type of relationship with the divine that
Titan, the founder of the rite, and to accept its lesson. It was
the official religion excluded and forbade. Furthermore, al-
to recognize that through the accomplishment of the sacrifice
though employing opposing means with opposite implica-
and all that it entailed—the Promethean fire, the necessity
tions, the normal distinctions between sacrificer, victim, and
of work and of women and marriage in order to have chil-
divinity became blurred and disappeared. The analysis of sac-
dren, the condition of suffering, old age, and death—Zeus
rificial cuisine thus leads to an understanding of the more or
situated man between animals and gods for all time. In the
less eccentric—sometimes integrated and sometimes margin-
sacrifice, man submitted to the will of Zeus, who made of
al—positions occupied by various sects, religious move-
mortals and immortals two separate and distinct races. Com-
ments, or philosophical attitudes, all of which were at odds
munication with the divine was instituted in the course of
both with the regular forms of the traditional cult and with
a festive ceremonial, a meal recalling the fact that the com-
the institutional framework of the city-state and all that it
mensality of former times was no more: gods and men no
implied concerning the religious and social status of man.
longer lived together, no longer ate at the same tables. Man
GREEK MYSTICISM. Blood sacrifice and public cult were not
could not sacrifice according to the model established by
the only expressions of Greek piety. Various movements and
Prometheus and at the same time pretend in any way to
groups, more or less deviant and marginal, more or less
equal the gods. The rite itself, the object of which was to join
closed and secret, expressed different religious aspirations.
gods and men together, sanctioned the insurmountable bar-
Some were entirely or partly integrated into the civic cult;
rier that separated them.
others remained foreign to it. All of them contributed in vari-
ous ways to paving the way toward a Greek “mysticism”
By means of its alimentary rules, sacrifice established
marked by the search for a more direct, more intimate, and
man in his proper state, midway between the savagery of ani-
more personal contact with the gods. This mysticism was
mals that devour one another’s raw flesh and the perpetual
sometimes associated with the quest for immortality, which
bliss of the gods, who never know hunger, weariness, or
was either granted after death through the special favor of
death because they find nourishment in sweet smells and am-
a divinity or obtained by the observance of the discipline of
brosia. This concern for precise delimitations, for exact ap-
a pure life reserved for the initiated and giving them the priv-
portionment, closely unites the sacrifice, both in ritual and
ilege of liberating, even during their earthly existence, the
in myth, to cereal agriculture and to marriage, both of which
particle of the divine present in each.
likewise define the particular position of civilized man. Just
as, to survive, he must eat the cooked meat of a domestic ani-
In this context, a clear distinction must be made be-
mal sacrificed according to the rules, so man must feed on
tween three kinds of religious phenomena during the Classi-
sitos, the cooked flour of regularly cultivated domestic plants.
cal period. Certain terms, such as telet¯e, orgia, mustai, and
In order to survive as a race, man must father a son by union
bakchoi, are used in reference to all three, yet the phenomena
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

they designate cannot in any way be considered identical.
lowing year to acquire the rank of epopt¯es. The entire ceremo-
Despite some points of contact, they were not religious reali-
ny (at Athens itself, at Phaleron for the ritual bath in the sea,
ties of the same order; nor did they have the same status or
and on the road from Athens to Eleusis in a procession that
the same goals.
followed the sacred objects and included the Eleusinian cler-
First, there were the mysteries. Those of Eleusis, exem-
gy, the magistrates of Athens, the mustai, foreign delegations,
plary in their prestige and their widespread influence, consti-
and throngs of spectators) took place in full daylight before
tuted in Attica a well-defined group of cults. Officially recog-
the eyes of everyone. The archon-king, in the name of the
nized by the city, they were organized under its control and
state, was in charge of the public celebration of the Greater
supervision. They remained, however, on the fringe of the
Mysteries, and even the traditional families of the Eumol-
state because of their initiatory and secret nature and their
pides and the Kerukes, who had a special relationship with
mode of recruiting (they were open to all Greeks and based
the two goddesses, were responsible to the city, which
not on social status but on the personal choice of the indi-
had the authority to regulate by decree the details of the fes-
Next there was the Dionysian religion. The cults associ-
Only when the mustai had entered the sanctuary was se-
ated with Dionysos were an integral part of the civic religion,
crecy imposed and nothing allowed to escape to the outside
and the festivals in honor of the god had their place like any
world. The interdiction was sufficiently powerful to be re-
other in the sacred calendar. But as god of mania, or divine
spected for centuries. But although the mysteries have kept
madness—because of his way of taking possession of his fol-
some of their secrets till this day, some points about them
lowers through the collective trance ritually practiced in the
can be considered certain. There was no teaching, nothing
thiasoi and because of his sudden intrusion here below in epi-
resembling an esoteric doctrine, at Eleusis. Aristotle’s testi-
phanic revelation—Dionysos introduced into the very heart
mony on this subject is decisive: “Those who are initiated
of the religion of which he was a part an experience of the
have not to learn something but to feel emotions and to be
supernatural that was foreign and, in many ways, contrary
in a certain frame of mind.” Plutarch describes the mood of
to the spirit of the official cult.
the initiates, which ranged from anxiety to rapture. Such
Finally, there was what is called Orphism. Orphism in-
inner emotional upheaval was brought about by the
volved neither a specific cult, nor devotion to an individual
dro¯mena, things played and mimed; by the legomena, ritual
deity, nor a community of believers organized into a sect as
formulas that were pronounced; and by the deiknumena,
in Pythagoreanism, whatever links might have existed be-
things shown and exhibited. It is probable that they were re-
tween the two movements. Orphism was a nebulous phe-
lated to the passion of Demeter, the descent of Kore into the
nomenon that included, on the one hand, a tradition of sa-
underworld, and the fate of the dead in Hades. It is certain
cred books attributed to Orpheus and Musaios (comprising
that after the final illumination at the end of initiation, the
theogonies, cosmogonies, and heterodox anthropogonies)
believer felt that he had been inwardly transformed. From
and, on the other, the appearance of itinerant priests who ad-
then on, he was bound to the goddesses in a close personal
vocated a style of existence that was contrary to the norm,
relationship of intimate connivance and familiarity. He had
a vegetarian diet, and who had at their disposal healing tech-
become one of the elect, certain to have a fate different from
niques and formulas for purification in this life and salvation
the ordinary in this life and in the next. Blessed, asserts the
in the next. In these circles, the central preoccupation and
Hymn to Demeter, is he who has had the full vision of these
discussion focused on the destiny of the soul after death, a
mysteries; the uninitiated, the profane, would not know such
subject to which the Greeks were not accustomed.
a destiny after they died and went to the realm of the shades.
Although they neither presented a new conception of the
What was the relationship of each of these three great
soul nor broke with the traditional image of Hades, the mys-
religious phenomena to a cult system based on the respect
teries opened the prospect of continuing a happier existence
of nomoi, the socially recognized rules of the city? Neither
in the underworld. This privilege was available to believers
in beliefs nor in practices did the mysteries contradict the
who freely decided to submit to initiation and to follow a
civic religion. Instead, they completed it by adding a new di-
ritual course, each stage of which marked a new progress to-
mension suited to satisfying needs that the civic religion
ward a state of religious purity.
could not fulfill. The goddesses Demeter and Kore (Perseph-
one), who together with several acolytes patronized the Eleu-
On returning home to his family and to his professional
sinian cycle, were great figures of the pantheon, and the nar-
and civic activities, nothing distinguished the initiate either
rative of the abduction of Kore by Hades, with all its
from what he had been before or from those who had not
consequences (including the founding of the orgia, the secret
undergone initiation—no external sign, no mark of recogni-
rites of Eleusis), is one of the basic legends of the Greeks. The
tion, not even a slight modification in his way of life. He re-
candidate had to take a series of steps to attain the ultimate
turned to the city and settled down again to do what he had
goal of initiation—from the preliminary stage of the Lesser
always done with no other change but his conviction that
Mysteries of Agrai to renewed participation in the Greater
through this religious experience he would be among the
Mysteries at Eleusis, the must¯es having to wait until the fol-
elect after his death: for him, there would be light, joy, danc-
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, and song in the world of darkness. These hopes concern-
religion. Instead, it expressed the city’s official recognition
ing the hereafter would later be nourished and developed
of a religion that in many ways eluded the city, contradicting
among the sects, which would also borrow the symbolism of
it and going beyond its control. It established, in the midst
the mysteries, their secrecy, and their hierarchical system.
of public life, a religious behavior that displayed aspects of
But in the city that patronized them, the mysteries became
eccentricity in an allusive, symbolic form or in an open
part of the official religion.
At first glance, the status of Dionysism may seem com-
Even in the world of the Olympian gods, to which he
parable to that of the mysteries. This cult also consisted of
had been admitted, Dionysos personified, as expressed so
teletai and orgia, initiations and secret rites open only to
well by Louis Gernet, the presence of the Other. He did not
those who were invested as bakchoi. But the winter festivals
confirm and reinforce the human and social order by making
of Dionysos at Athens—Oschoporia, rural Dionysia, Lenaea,
it sacred. Dionysos called this order into question; indeed,
Anthesteria, urban Dionysia—did not form a coherent and
he shattered it. In so doing he revealed another side of the
self-contained whole or a closed cycle as they did at Eleusis;
sacred, one that was no longer regular, stable, and defined
they were instead a discontinuous series spread throughout
but strange, elusive, and disconcerting. As the only Greek
the calendar along with the festivals of the other gods and
god endowed with the power of ma¯ya¯ (“magic”), Dionysos
revealing the same norms of celebration. All of them were
transcends all forms and evades all definitions; he assumes
official ceremonies, fully civic in character. Some of them
all aspects without confining himself to any one. Like a con-
carried an element of secrecy and required specialized reli-
jurer, he playes with appearances and blurs the boundaries
gious personnel, for example, the annual marriage of the
between the fantastic and the real. Ubiquitous, he is never
queen, the wife of the archon-king, to Dionysos, which was
to be found where he is but always here, there, and nowhere
performed in the Boucoleion during the Anthesteria. The
at the same time. As soon as he appears, the distinct catego-
Gerarai, a group of fourteen women, who assisted the queen
ries and clear oppositions that give the world its coherence
in her role as wife of the god, performed secret rites in the
and rationality fade, merge, and pass from one to the other.
sanctuary of Dionysos in the marshes, but they did this “in
He is at once both male and female. By suddenly appearing
the name of the city” and “following its traditions.” The peo-
among mortals, he introduces the supernatural in the midst
ple themselves prescribed the procedures of the wedding and
of the natural and unites heaven and earth. Young and old,
ensured their safety by having them engraved on a stele. Thus
wild and civilized, near and far, beyond and here-below are
the queen’s secret marriage was equivalent to the official rec-
joined in him and by him. Even more, he abolishes the dis-
ognition by the city of the divinity of Dionysos. It consecrat-
tance that separates the gods from humans and humans from
ed the union of the civic community with the god and repre-
sented his integration into the religious order of the
When the Maenads give themselves over to the frenzy
of the trance, the god takes possession of them, subjugating
The Thyiads, or Bacchantes, of Athens, women who
and directing them as he pleases. In frenzy and enthusiasm,
participated in the orgiastic rites of Dionysos, met their
the human creature plays the god, and the god, who is within
counterparts from Delphi at Mount Parnassus every three
the believer, plays the human. The frontiers between them
years. They performed their secret rites in the name of the
are suddenly blurred or obliterated in a proximity through
city. They were not a segregated group of initiates, a marginal
which humans are estranged from their daily existence or or-
sisterhood of the elect, or a sect of deviants: they formed an
dinary life, alienated from themselves, and transported to a
official female cult, entrusted by the city with the task of rep-
distant elsewhere. This contiguity with the divine, accom-
resenting it before the Delphians. They operated according
plished by the trance, is accompanied by a new familiarity
to the framework of the cult rendered to Dionysos in the
with animal savagery. On the mountains and in the woods,
sanctuary of Apollo. There is no evidence of private Diony-
far from their homes and from cities and cultivated lands,
sian associations that recruited adepts to celebrate secretly a
the Maenads play with serpents and suckle the young of ani-
specific cult under the protection of the god in Attica, or
mals as their own, but they also pursue, attack, and tear to
even in continental Greece, in the fifth century, as was the
pieces living animals (diasparagmos) and devour their raw
case several centuries later with the Iobakchoi. Toward the
flesh (omophagia). Through their eating behavior, they as-
fifth century, when the city of Magnesia, on the Meander
similate themselves to wild beasts that—unlike human be-
River, decided to organize a cult dedicated to Dionysos, it
ings, who eat bread and the cooked meat of ritually sacrificed
founded, after consulting Delphi, three thiasoi (three official
domestic animals—eat one another and lap up each other’s
female colleges placed under the direction of qualified priest-
blood, knowing no rule or law but only the hunger that
esses who had come from Thebes especially for that
drives them.
Maenadism, which was limited to women, carried in its
What then constituted, in comparison with the other
sudden outburst two opposing aspects. For the faithful, in
gods, the originality of Dionysos and his cult? Dionysism,
happy communion with the god, it brought the supernatural
unlike the mysteries, did not exist as an extension of the civic
joy of momentary escape to a kind of Golden Age where all
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

living creatures meet again, mingled like brothers and sisters.
ple nor priest. He intervened as the figure of Iacchos, to
However, for those women (and cities) who rejected the god
whom he was assimilated and whose function was to preside
and who had to be constrained by punishment, mania led
over the procession from Athens to Eleusis during the Great-
to the horror and madness of the most atrocious of pollu-
er Mysteries. Iacchos was the personification of the joyful rit-
tions: a return to the chaos of a lawless world in which mad-
ual cry given by the cortege of mustai in an atmosphere of
dened women tear apart the bodies of their own children as
hope and festivity. In the representations of a hereafter to
if the children were animals and devour their flesh. A dual
which the faithful of the god of mania seemed quite indiffer-
god, combining in his person two facets, Dionysos, as he
ent (with the exception perhaps of those in southern Italy),
proclaims in The Bacchae of Euripides, is both “the most ter-
Iacchos was imagined as leading the blessed chorus of initi-
rible and the most gentle.”
ates in the underworld while Dionysos led his thiasoi of Bac-
In order that he may show himself beneficent in his gen-
chantes on earth.
tleness, Dionysos—whose strangeness, irrepressible exuber-
The problems of Orphism are of another order. This re-
ance, and intrusive dynamism seem to threaten the stability
ligious movement, in all of its diverse forms, belonged essen-
of the civic religion—must be welcomed into the city, ac-
tially to late Hellenism, in the course of which it took on in-
knowledged as belonging to it, and assured a place beside the
creasing importance. But several discoveries during the
other gods in the public cult. The entire community must
twentieth century have confirmed that Orphism had a role
solemnly celebrate the festivals of Dionysos: for its women,
in the religion of the Classical period. Let us begin with the
it must organize a form of controlled and ritualized trance
first aspect of Orphism: a tradition of written texts and sa-
within the framework of the official thiasoi, promoted public
cred books. The papyrus of Derveni, found in 1962 in a
institutions; for its men, an estrangement from the normal
tomb near Salonika, proves that theogonies from the sixth
course of things in the joyfulness of a revelry consisting of
century may have been known to pre-Socratic philosophers
wine and drunkenness, games and festivities, masquerades
and to have partly inspired Empedocles. Thus Orphism’s
and disguises; and, finally, it must found the theater on
principal feature appears from its beginning: a doctrinal form
whose stage illusion acquires substance and comes to life and
that opposed it to the mysteries and to Dionysian religion,
the imaginary is displayed as if it were reality. In each case,
as well as to the official cult, while relating it to philosophy.
the integration of Dionysos into the city and its religion
These theogonies are known to us in many versions, but the
meant installing the Other, with all honors, in the heart of
basic orientation is the same: they take an opposite view from
the social establishment.
that of the Hesiodic tradition. For Hesiod, the divine world
Ecstasy, enthusiasm, and possession; the joy of wine and
is organized in a linear progression leading from disorder to
festival; the pleasures of love; the exaltation of life in its out-
order, from an original state of indistinct confusion to a dif-
pouring and unexpectedness; the gaiety of masks and dis-
ferentiated world organized into a hierarchy under the im-
guises; the happiness of everyday life—Dionysos can bring
mutable authority of Zeus. For the followers of Orphism, the
all of these if men and cities are willing to recognize him. But
reverse was true: in the beginning the first principle, primor-
never does he come to announce a better fate in the hereafter.
dial Egg or Night, expresses perfect unity, the plenitude of
He does not advocate flight from the world, nor does he
a self-contained totality. But the nature of “being” deterio-
teach renunciation or offer the soul access to immortality
rates as its unity is divided and dislocated, producing distinct
through an ascetic way of life. He conjures up the many faces
forms and separate individuals. To this cycle of dispersion
of the Other in this life and world, around us and within us.
there must succeed a cycle during which the parts are reinte-
He opens before us, on this earth and even in the framework
grated into the unity of the whole. This is to take place dur-
of the city, the way of escape toward a disconcerting strange-
ing the sixth generation with the coming of the Orphic
ness. Dionysos teaches or forces us to become other than
Dionysos, whose reign represents a restoration of the One,
what we ordinarily are.
the recovery of the lost plenitude.
Undoubtedly, it was this need to escape, this nostalgia
But Dionysos does not just play a part in a theogony
for a complete union with the divine, that—even more than
that substitutes for the progressive emergence of a differenti-
his descent into the underworld in search of his mother, Se-
ated order a fall into division, followed (as if redeemed) by
mele—explains the fact that Dionysos could be associated,
a reintegration into the whole. According to one tale, Diony-
sometimes quite closely, with the mysteries of the two Eleu-
sos, who had been dismembered and devoured by the Titans,
sinian goddesses. When the wife of the archon-king went to
was reconstituted from his heart, which had been preserved
celebrate her marriage with Dionysos, she was assisted by the
intact; the Titans were then struck down by Zeus’s thunder-
sacred herald of Eleusis; and, at the Lenaea, perhaps the most
bolt, and the human race was born from their ashes. This
ancient of the Attic festivals of Dionysos, it was the torch-
story, to which Pindar, Herodotus, and Plato seem to make
bearer of Eleusis who led the invocation taken up by the pub-
allusions, is attested in the Hellenistic period. In it, Dionysos
lic: “Iacchos, son of Semele.” The god was present at Eleusis
himself assumes the double cycle of dispersion and reunifica-
as early as the fifth century and had a discreet presence and
tion in the course of a “passion” that directly engages the life
a minor role even in those places where he had neither tem-
of humankind since it mythically founds the misfortune 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 human condition and, at the same time, offers mortals
renew his initiation and discovering, together with his wife
the prospect of salvation. Born from the ashes of the Titans,
and children, the Orpheotelestai. Plato, for his part, de-
the human race carries as a legacy the guilt of having dis-
scribed the Orpheotelestai as beggar priests and itinerant
membered the body of the god. But by purifying himself of
holy men who took money for their alleged competence in
the ancestral offense by performing rites and observing the
performing purifications and initiations (katharmoi and te-
Orphic way of life, by abstaining from all meat to avoid the
letai) for both the living and the dead. These marginal
impurity of the blood sacrifice—which the city sanctifies but
priests, who made their way from city to city and based their
which recalls for the Orphics the monstrous feast of the Ti-
science of secret rites and incantations on the authority of
tans—each man, having kept within himself a particle of
the books of Musaios and Orpheus, were readily identified
Dionysos, can return to the lost unity, join the god, and find
as a band of magicians and charlatans who exploited public
a Golden Age type of life in the hereafter.
The Orphic theogonies therefore led to an anthropo-
But on another, more intellectual level, the Orphic writ-
gony and a soteriology that gave them their true meaning.
ings belonged, along with others, to the movement that, in
In the sacred literature of Orphism, the doctrinal aspect can-
modifying the framework of the religious experience, shifted
not be separated from the quest for salvation: the adoption
the direction of Greek spiritual life. Orphism, like Pythago-
of a pure life, the avoidance of any kind of pollution, and
reanism, belonged to a tradition of outstanding figures with
the choice of a vegetarian diet expressed the desire to escape
exceptional prestige and powers. From the seventh century
the common fate of finitude and death and to be wholly
on, these “god-men” used their abilities to purify the cities;
united with the divine. The refusal of blood sacrifice was
they have sometimes been defined as representing a Greek
more than just a deviance from common practice, for vege-
version of shamanism. In the middle of the fifth century,
tarianism contradicted precisely what sacrifice implied: the
Empedocles testified to the vitality of these maguses, who
existence of an impassable gulf between humans and gods,
were capable of commanding the winds and of bringing the
even in the ritual through which they communicate. The in-
dead back from Hades and who presented themselves, not
dividual search for salvation was situated outside the civic re-
as mortals, but as gods. A striking characteristic of these sin-
ligion. As a spiritual movement, Orphism was external and
gular figures—who included not only Epimenides and Em-
foreign to the city, to its rules and to its values.
pedocles but also a number of inspired and more or less leg-
endary missionaries, such as Abaris, Aristeas, and
Its influence was nonetheless exercised along several
Hermotimos—was that their disciplined lives, spiritual exer-
lines. From the fifth century on, certain Orphic writings
cises in the control and concentration of their breathing, and
seem to have concerned Eleusis, and whatever the differ-
techniques of asceticism and recollection of former lives
ences, or rather the oppositions, between the Dionysos of the
placed them under the patronage, not of Dionysos, but of
official cult and the one of the Orphic writings, assimilation
Apollo, a Hyperborean Apollo, the god of ecstatic inspiration
between the two might have occurred quite early. In Hippoly-
and purifications.
tus, Euripides suggests such an assimilation when he makes
Theseus speak of the young man “playing the Bacchant
In the collective trance of the Dionysian thiasos, the god
under the direction of Orpheus,” and Herodotus attributes
came down to take possession of his group of worshipers, rid-
the interdiction from being buried in woolen clothes to “the
ing them and making them dance and jump about according
cults called orphic and bacchic.” These convergences are not
to his will. Those who were possessed did not leave this
decisive, however, as the term Bacchic is not reserved exclu-
world, but they were made different by the power that inhab-
sively for Dionysian rituals. The only evidence of a direct en-
ited them. In contrast, among the god-men, for all their di-
counter between Dionysos and the Orphics, and at the same
versity, it was the human individual who took the initiative,
time of an eschatological dimension to Dionysos, is to be
set the tone, and passed to the other side. Thanks to the ex-
found on the fringes of Greece, on the edges of the Black Sea,
ceptional powers that he had succeeded in acquiring, a god-
in the Olbia of the fifth century. Here, the words Dionusos
man could leave his body, abandoned as if in a cataleptic
Orphikoi, followed by bios thanatos bios (“life death life”),
sleep, and travel freely into the other world, then return with
were discovered on bone plates. But, as has been observed,
the memory of all that he had seen in the beyond.
this puzzle remains more enigmatic than enlightening, and
This type of man, by the way of life that he had chosen
in the present state of documentation, its singular character
and his techniques of ecstasy, demonstrated the presence of
attests to the peculiarities of religious life in the Scythian en-
a supernatural element within him, an element foreign to
vironment of the colony of Olbia.
earthly life, a being from another world, in exile, a soul
(psuch¯e) who was no longer, as in Homer, a shadow without
In fact, Orphism had two major impacts on the reli-
force or an insubstantial reflection but instead a daimon, or
gious mentality of the Greeks during the Classical period.
“spirit,” a power related to the divine and longing to return
On the level of popular piety, it nourished the anxieties and
to it.
the practices of the superstitious, who were obsessed with the
fear of impurity and disease. Theophrastus, in his The Super-
To possess the control and mastery of this psuch¯e, to iso-
stitious Man, shows the protagonist going every month to
late it from the body, to focus it in itself, to purify it, to liber-
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

ate it, and by means of it to return to the heavenly place for
Vian, Francis. “La religion grecque à l’époque archaïque et clas-
which the heart still yearns—such may have been the object
sique.” In Histoire des religions, edited by Henri-Charles
and the end of the religious experience in this tradition of
Puech, vol. 1, pp. 489–577. Paris, 1970. A general study of
thought. However, as long as the city-state remained alive,
the formation of Greek religion and its basic components:
no sect, religious practice, or organized group expressed the
the nature and agrarian cults, the religion of the family and
the city, the federative and pan-Hellenic cults, and the mys-
need to leave the body and to flee the world in order to
teries and ecstatic cults.
achieve an intimate and personal union with the divine. The
renouncer was unknown to the traditional Greek religion. It
Gods and Heroes
was philosophy that relayed this concept by interpreting in
Brelich, Angelo. Gli eroi greci. Rome, 1958. From the viewpoint
of a general history of religions, this book analyzes the role
its own terms the themes of asceticism and of purification
of the Greek heroes in myth and cult and examines their rela-
of the soul and its immortality.
tions with other mythical figures in order to bring out the
For the oracle of Delphi, “know thyself” meant “know
specific morphology of the Greek hero.
that you are not a god and do not commit the sin of pretend-
Farnell, Lewis R. Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality
ing to become one.” For Socrates and Plato, who adopted
(1921). Oxford, 1970. An investigation of the origin of the
the maxim as their own, it meant: know the god who, in you,
Greek heroes, proposing a compromise theory between the
is yourself; try to become, as much as is possible, a likeness
thesis of Erwin Rohde, who considered the heroes as spirits
of the god.
of the dead, and that of Hermann Usener, who upheld the
theory of a divine origin of the heroes.
SEE ALSO Dionysos; Fire; Mystery Religions; Omophagia;
Guthrie, W. K. C. The Greeks and Their Gods. London, 1950. A
Orpheus; Shamanism.
still useful work on Greek religion, conceived and written for
Kerényi, Károly. The Heroes of the Greeks. Translated by H. J.
General Works
Rose. London, 1959. Discusses the life, exploits, and deaths
Bianchi, Ugo. La religione greca. Turin, 1975. For the general
of the Greek heroes.
reader, this book presents the results of a number of erudite
Otto, Walter F. Die Götter Griechenlands: Das Bild des Göttlichen
studies on Greek religion (those, for example, of Wila-
im Spiegel des griechischen Geistes. Bonn, 1929. Translated by
mowitz, Nilsson, Pettazzoni, Guthrie, Kern, Kerényi, et al.)
Moses Hadas as The Homeric Gods: The Spiritual Significance
and includes a methodical bibliography and a large number
of Greek Religion (1954; Boston, 1964). A study of the nature
of significant illustrations.
and essence of the gods of Homer, who is treated as a great
Burkert, Walter. Griechische Religion der archaischen und klassisc-
religious reformer.
hen Epoche. Stuttgart, 1977. Translated as Greek Religion
Séchan, Louis, and Pierre Lévêque. Les grandes divinités de la
(Cambridge, Mass., 1985). This synthesis, supported by an
Grèce. Paris, 1966. A complete scientific file on the principal
abundant bibliography, covers both the Archaic and Classical
figures of the Greek pantheon, whose origins, cult manifesta-
periods, examining Minoan and Homeric religion, the ritual,
tions, and figurative representations are analyzed by the
the principal divinities, hero cults, cults of the chthonic dei-
ties, the place of religion in the city, the mysteries, and the
Myth and Ritual
“religion of the philosophers.”
Burkert, Walter. Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Rit-
Festugière, A.-J. “La Grèce: La religion.” In Histoire générale des
ual. Berkeley, 1979. An analysis of the concepts of myth and
religions, edited by Maxime Gorce and Raoul Mortier, vol.
ritual from a historical perspective, which seeks to demon-
2, pp. 27–147. Paris, 1944. A general portrayal of ancient
strate the existence of a continuous but constantly trans-
Greek religion, organized under four principal headings: ori-
formed tradition from primeval times, through the Paleolith-
gins, the Olympians, the organization of the divine, and the
ic period, to the Greek and Oriental civilizations.
emergence of the individual.
Detienne, Marcel. L’invention de la mythologie. Paris, 1981.
Gernet, Louis, and André Boulanger. Le génie grec dans la religion.
Through the study of the status of the “fable” in the eigh-
Paris, 1932. Reprinted in 1969 with a complementary bibli-
teenth century, the discourse of the mythologists of the nine-
ography. Discusses the complex origins of religious concepts
teenth century, and the place of myth in ancient Greek soci-
in ancient Greece, the rise of civic religion, and the transfor-
ety, the author makes an epistemological investigation of
mation of religious feeling and the decline of the gods of
mythology, reconsidered as an object of knowledge as well
Olympus during the Hellenistic period.
as an object of culture.
Nilsson, Martin P. Den grekiska religionens historia. 2 vols. Stock-
Deubner, Ludwig. Attische Feste (1932). Hildesheim, 1966. The
holm, 1921. Translated by F. J. Fielden as A History of Greek
most complete discussion of the festivals of Attica, indispens-
Religion (1925); 2d ed., Oxford, 1949), with a preface by
able for the wealth of texts cited; places iconographic materi-
James G. Frazer.
al in relationship to certain festivals.
Nilsson, Martin P. Geschichte der griechischen Religion (1941–
Farnell, Lewis R. The Cults of the Greek States (1896–1909). 5
1957). 2 vols. 3d rev. ed. Munich, 1967–1974. The basic
vols. New Rochelle, N. Y., 1977. A veritable “encyclopedia”
“manual” for any study of the religion of ancient Greece; a
of Greek cults, invaluable for the broad range of materials
truly comprehensive work, indispensable, especially for its
brought together and analyzed under the name of each divin-
wealth of documentation.
ity of Greece.
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

Kirk, G. S. Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in Ancient and Other
the Greek sacrifice as a ritual and civic act situated in the cen-
Cultures. Berkeley, 1970. Studying the relationship between
ter of the alimentary practices and politico-religious thinking
myth, ritual, and fable, the limits of the structuralist theory
of the city; leads to questioning the pertinence of a Judeo-
of Claude Lévi-Strauss, as well as the specific character of
Christian model pretending to be unitarian and universal.
Mesopotamian and Greek myths, the author examines the
With contributions by Jean-Louis Durand, Stella Geor-
status of myths as expressions of the subconscious and as uni-
goudi, François Hartog, and Jesper Svenbro.
versal symbols.
Meuli, Karl. “Griechische Opferbräuche.” In Phyllobolia für Peter
Nilsson, Martin P. Griechische Feste von religiöser Bedeutung: Mit
von der Mühli zum 60. Geburtstage, edited by Olof Gigon
Ausschluss der Attischen (1906). Stuttgart, 1957. The best-
and Karl Meuli, pp. 185–288. Basel, 1946. A comparison
documented study of the festivals of ancient Greece, with the
between the “Olympian sacrifice” of the Greeks and certain
exception of Attic festivals, classified and analyzed under the
rites of the hunting and herding peoples of northeastern Eu-
name of each divinity.
rope and northern Asia; discerns a sacrificial structure origi-
Parke, H. W. Festivals of the Athenians. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977. A de-
nating in this primitive world and surviving in ancient
scription of the festivals of the ancient Athenians, analyzed
according to the calendar; accessible to nonspecialists of the
Reverdin, Olivier, ed. Le sacrifice dans l’antiquité. Geneva, 1981.
Greek world.
Contributors approach questions of method, not in a theo-
Rudhardt, Jean. Notions fondamentales de la pensée religieuse et actes
retical and general manner, but through the study of a choice
constitutifs du culte dans la Grèce classique. Geneva, 1958. A
of specific and varied sacrificial rites.
pertinent analysis of the notion of the divine; beliefs concern-
ing the gods, the dead, and the heroes; and the acts of the
Mysteries, Dionysism, Orphism
cult (dances, ritual meals, purifications, religious songs,
Guthrie, W. K. C. Orpheus and Greek Religion: A Study of the Or-
prayers, sacrifices, etc.).
phic Movement. 2d ed., rev. London, 1952. A study of Or-
pheus and Orphic beliefs, in which the author tries to analyze
Vernant, Jean-Pierre. Mythe et pensée chez les Grecs (1965). 2 vols.
and assess the influence of Orphism on the life and thought
3d ed. Paris, 1971. Translated as Myth and Thought among
of the Greeks.
the Greeks (London, 1983).
Vernant, Jean-Pierre. Mythe et société en Grèce ancienne. Paris,
Jeanmaire, Henri. Dionysos: Histoire du culte de Bacchus. 2 vols.
1974. Translated as Myth and Society in Ancient Greece (At-
Paris, 1951. A study devoted to the major institutions and
lantic Highlands, N. J., 1980). Attempts to determine the in-
the characteristic elements of the Dionysian religion as it was
tellectual code proper to the Greek myth and to define the
constituted especially in the Archaic period; also analyzes the
logical form that the myth brings into play (a logic of am-
development of the Dionysian myth and mystic speculation
biguity, equivocality, and polarity); examines the relation-
in the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman environment.
ship between the intellectual framework brought out by
Kerényi, Károly. Dionysos: Archetypal Image of the Indestructible
structural analysis and the sociohistorical context in which
Life. Translated by Ralph Mannheim. Princeton, 1976.
myth was produced.
Considering the Dionysian element as a chapter of the reli-
Divination and Oracles
gious history of Europe, the author retraces the itinerary of
Bouché-Leclercq, Auguste. Histoire de la divination dans
the Dionysian religion from “the Minoan period to the
l’antiquité (1879–1882). 4 vols. Brussels, 1963; New York,
Roman empire” with the aid of linguistic, archaeological,
1975. The fundamental book on ancient divination, al-
philosophical, and psychological research; includes 146 illus-
though outdated on numerous points.
trations and a rich bibliography.
Parke, H. W., and D. E. W. Wormell. The Delphic Oracle. 2 vols.
Linforth, Ivan M. The Arts of Orpheus (1941). New York, 1973.
Oxford, 1956. The most complete synthesis devoted to the
A critical study of texts relating to Orphism and the legend
oracle of Delphi, treating all the ancient accounts in the light
of Orpheus as well as the myth of Dionysos.
of archaeological discoveries.
Mylonas, George E. Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries. Prince-
ton, 1961. An archaeological study of the sanctuary and mys-
Burkert, Walter. Homo Necans: Interpretationen altgriechischer Op-
teries of Eleusis, retracing the history of the cult from the first
ferriten und Mythen. Berlin, 1972. Translated by Peter Bing
houses of the Bronze Age to the imperial era of Rome.
as Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial
Otto, Walter F. Dionysos: Mythos und Kultus. Frankfurt, 1933.
Ritual and Myth (Berkeley, 1983). Continuing the work of
Translated by Robert B. Palmer as Dionysos: Myth and Cult
Karl Meuli, the author attempts to articulate a general theory
(Bloomington, Ind., 1965). Emphasizes the Archaic and
of sacrifice in which the ritual murder of the victim is central
pan-Hellenic character of this “god of paradox” and the
to the entire ceremony.
theme of his “persecution” as well as the typology of his mul-
Casabona, Jean. Recherches sur le vocabulaire des sacrifices en grec,
tiple epiphanies.
des origines à la fin de l’époque classique. Aix-en-Provence,
1966. An excellent semantic study of the vocabulary of sacri-
Sabbatucci, Dario. Saggio sul misticismo greco. Rome, 1965. An
fice and libations, supported by a meticulous examination of
essay on the Greek concepts of salvation and Orphism, Py-
literary texts (from Homer to Xenophon) and epigraphic
thagoreanism, Dionysism, and Eleusinism as alternatives to
the politico-religious system of the city.
Detienne, Marcel, and Jean-Pierre Vernant, eds. La cuisine du sac-
rifice en pays grec. Paris, 1980. An anthropological analysis of
Translated from French by Anne Marzin
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

sometimes linked with urinating and defecating as taboos in
ERATIONS]. The most important religion for Western
sanctuaries. Women were denied access to sanctuaries of
European scholars attempting to gain a better understanding
macho gods and heroes like Poseidon and Herakles, and even
of the phenomenon of religion has long been the Greek.
statues of goddesses were washed more often than those of
Great historians of religion, from Vico and Herder to Frie-
male gods.
drich Max Müller, Jane Ellen Harrison, and Sir James Frazer
Unlike Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, Greek religion
of The Golden Bough, all steeped themselves in the religious
was polytheistic. However, the gods were not just separate
legacy of the Greeks, whom they considered superior to all
individuals but all belonged to a pantheon that was sup-
other nations of the past. The study of Greek religion, then,
ported by a Greek city, the polis. Admittedly, the great early
is already several centuries old. The persistent efforts of clas-
poets, such as Homer and Hesiod (both probably living in
sicists to collect and analyze the ancient Greek sources—
the seventh century BCE), had created a kind of unity in that
coins, texts, vases, statues, inscriptions, and excavations—
all these gods were accepted and recognizable all over Greece.
have supplied a basis that is more firm and varied than is
Moreover, important cultural and cultic centers, like Olym-
available for the study of any other ancient religion.
pia and Delphi, helped to establish a degree of homogeneity
The basic character of Greek religion is clear. Like the
in worship. Yet every polis worshiped its own pantheon that,
other religions of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East,
to a certain extent, was unique. In Sicily, for example, Deme-
Greek religion was embedded. In other words, there was no
ter was the most prominent divinity; in Athens, Athena; and
sphere of life without a religious aspect. “Church” and
on Chios, Dionysos. Moreover, small cities could support
“state” were not yet separated, as is the rule in the modern
only a small pantheon, but a big city like Athens had dozens
world, with the exception of a number of countries, such as
of sanctuaries with their corresponding divinities. Our
Islamic Iran and Saudi Arabia or the Roman Catholic Philip-
model, then, is basically a Panhellenic one, and the investiga-
pines. Consequently, there is no Greek term for “religion,”
tion of local religion as a reflection of local identity is still
which as a concept is the product of eighteenth-century Eu-
in its initial stages.
rope. This absence also meant that there was no strong dis-
It was typical of polytheism that its gods covered only
tinction between sacred and profane, as became conceptual-
a limited area of life. Unlike God, Jehovah, or Alla¯h they
ized only in Western Europe around 1900. The Greeks did
were not loving, omnipresent, or omnipotent. That is why
not even have a term for “profane,” although they had a rela-
piety never meant devotion to one god but rather the proper
tively large vocabulary for “holy.” The most important term
performance of religious ritual. As the fourth-century politi-
was hieros, which is everything that has to do with sacred ob-
cian Isocrates (7.30) observed: “piety consists not in expen-
jects, sacred times, and sacred buildings; in the felicitous for-
sive expenditures, but in changing nothing of what our an-
mulation of Walter Burkert, hieros is “as it were the shadow
cestors have handed down.” Impiety, on the other hand,
cast by divinity.” This is also the term that lies at the basis
came closer to our own ideas. It included temple robbery,
for the Greek word for priest, hiereus, which is already found
killing suppliants, and the introduction of religious innova-
in Mycenaean times. At the same time, this “embeddedness”
tions without the consent of the community. Socrates, for
also meant the absence of atheism. People could and did
example, was executed on the charge of proposing new gods.
question the existence of the gods, but, unlike in modern
Tolerance is not a great virtue of either polytheism or mono-
times, as an ideology atheism remained unthinkable.
Religion was a public affair. Unlike modern European
The many gods were also useful in explaining the vicissi-
society, where religion seems more and more to become a
tudes of life in an age without insurance or social welfare.
matter of the private sphere, Greek cult was always a public,
Dreams, accidents shipwrecks, plagues, and earthquakes—all
communal activity. Worship outside that framework was
could be traced to particular gods and thus be given a place
suspect, and magic became conceptualized only in the fifth
in the Greek worldview. And when the known gods failed,
century. Yet there was an enormous difference with the adja-
there were always the anonymous gods to take their places,
cent countries of the Near East. Among the Greeks, religion
in particular when the gods requested a human sacrifice, with
was not used to support theocracies, as in Babylon or Egypt,
which Greek mythology abounds but which does not seem
or to limit access to the sacred to the aristocracy, as was the
to have been practiced in historical times.
case in Rome. In Greece any citizen could bring sacrifices,
The gods set boundaries that people should not over-
and there never developed a professional priestly class, like
step. If they nevertheless did so, the most important conse-
the Israelite priests, the Indian Bra¯hman:s, the Celtic Druids,
quence was the incurring of pollution. In the Greek world,
or the Iranian mullahs.
fear of pollution helped to keep the social and religious order
Like Islam, Orthodox Judaism, and Christianity, Greek
intact, even though purity did not play the same role it does
religion was very much male dominated. The inferior posi-
in normative Judaism and Islam. Overstepping the divine
tion of women manifested itself in the modest place they oc-
boundaries could have even cosmic effects, as the Greeks did
cupied in the rituals but also in the fact that women were
not yet separate the human and divine spheres, as in modern
considered to be more impure than men. Giving birth was
Christianity. Grave crimes, like incest or murder, could have
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

the effect that the gods intervened by sending a plague, as
the eighth century BCE, although the Linear B tablets men-
was the case when Oedipus married his mother and Aga-
tion servants, priests, and priestesses. Unlike Classical times,
memnon offended Apollo’s priest Chryses. Pollution was
the sanctuaries were clearly controlled by the palaces and
even invoked by the Greeks in cases where modern society
were thus comparable to, if not influenced by, the contem-
would use a rather different kind of vocabulary. Men who
porary Near Eastern states.
practiced passive homosexuality or women who prostituted
themselves were considered impure and thus refused entry
OMERIC RELIGION. Homeric religion may have preserved
some of these older stages, but scholars have increasingly be-
into sanctuaries.
come reticent in postulating them. Contemporary attention
Like older Judaism, but unlike medieval Christianity
is directed especially toward the influence of the Near East
and Islam, Greek life was decidedly directed at this life, not
and the function of the gods in the epics. The latter have a
that of the hereafter. In fact, the early Greeks had hardly de-
clear narrative role in that they help to organize the poems
veloped a view of the afterlife. This changed in some circles
and its plots, but they also create a kind of antiworld in
in Classical times, but the percentage of Greeks strongly in-
which the gods feast on Olympus free from human toils and
terested in the destination of their soul always remained
troubles and thus emphasize the difference between mortals
small. Moreover, as the Greeks had no holy book or dogmas,
and immortals. Gods and goddesses can intervene in the
it was especially in this area that idiosyncratic ideas could
human world, even start relationships with them or form
flourish. In other areas of life, religion was fairly traditional.
special friendships with individual humans, like Athena with
Religious education was a “hands-on” business that children
Odysseus. Yet they cannot change the natural course of
received in the family. As they grew up, they were gradually
things and save their favorites from death. The gods, too, are
socialized in the festivals and rituals of men and women,
subject to Moira, the embodiment of fate.
which only slowly adapted themselves to changing times.
New ideas were long the territory of the poets who did the
As poets had to be able to recite and revise the poems
circuit of aristocratic courts and wove new ideas about the
of Homer all over Greece, the poems contain few specific rit-
afterlife or unusual themes from the Near East into their
ual names, such as festivals or months, and clearly give a
poems. For example, in his Iliad Homer adapted cosmogonic
highly stylized picture of contemporary religion. They men-
themes from the great Near Eastern epics Atrahasis and
tion those rituals that were widespread, such as sacrifice,
Enuma elish, and the poet Pindar clearly adapted Orphic
prayer, or the funerary rituals, but leave rites of initiation,
(below) views in his first Olympian Ode. Yet, on the whole,
which must have been still very much alive in the early archa-
Greek religion changed only slowly during the archaic and
ic period, in the background. On the other hand, they avoid
Classical periods (c. 800–300
as much as possible mention of rites that later times called
magical, and neither do they report those strange details that
MYCENAEAN RELIGION. Mycenaean religion (c. 1400–1200
make studies of local religion often so fascinating. Occasion-
BCE) is the oldest stage of Greek religion that we can recon-
ally, the poets may have even invented rituals, such as the
struct with some confidence. The many excavations and the
human sacrifice performed by Achilles in honor of his friend
decipherment of the Greek language of the period, the so-
called Linear B, enable us to see that many of the Greek di-
vinities already go back to the second millennium. The tab-
lets that survived through the fires that destroyed the palaces
religion received its specific “color” from the gods, whose
in Pylos, Thebes, and on Crete have given us the names of
statues were everywhere and whose exploits could be seen on
Zeus, Hera, Athena, Artemis, Dionysos, and Hermes, but
the thousands of vases that ornamented Greek homes. The
not Apollo. Even relatively small gods, such as Paiaon and
distinctive nature of a god was determined by various aspects.
Enyalios, already existed. On the other hand, some divinities
First, there was his name, which was often further deter-
did disappear in the course of time. Zeus’s wife Diwija and
mined by his epithet, a typically Greek habit, although not
Poseidon’s other half Posidaeja no longer existed in the Clas-
unknown in Rome too. Some divinities received the epithet
sical period. As one tablet mentions Zeus, Hera, and
from their place of worship, if they dominated that place,
“Drimios, son of Zeus,” we may also safely accept some kind
such as Apollo Anaphaios (the small Cycladic island of An-
of Mycenaean mythology; the existence of several Indo-
aphe), Artemis Ephesia (Ephesus), Demeter Eleusinia (Eleu-
European themes in Classical Greek mythology, such as the
sis), or Herakles Thasios (Thasos). Other epithets indicated
kidnapping of Helen, points in the same direction.
the function of the god: Artemis Phosphoros (“Bringer of
light, salvation”), Hermes Agoraios (“Of the market”), or
Continuity of names, though, is no guarantee for conti-
Zeus Ktesios (“Protector of possessions”). Second, the myths
nuity in practices. There are very few cult places that can be
about the divinities related their families and deeds. The Ho-
demonstrated to have survived as such into Classical times,
meric Hymn to Demeter, for example, detailed the kidnapping
and the Mycenaean ritual is hard to recover in the absence
of Persephone by Hades and the ways Demeter responded
of detailed descriptions. There is some evidence for the dedi-
by instituting the Eleusinian mysteries. The myth thus close-
cation of objects but hardly for burnt offerings. Sanctuaries
ly connected Demeter with the institution that glorified her.
did not yet have temples, which arrived in Greece only in
Myth also told that the goddess Leto had two children, Arte-
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

mis and Apollo. As all three divinities were connected with
Just as Poseidon had a wife, Posidaeja (“Mrs. Posei-
initiation, this function probably helped to create their fami-
don”), in Mycenaean times, so Zeus’s first wife must have
ly; at the same time, all three were also closely connected to
been Dione (“Mrs. Zeus”), a goddess later worshiped only
(southwestern) Anatolia, and their probable geographical or-
at the edges of the Greek world. In Homer, though, Hera
igin may have also contributed to their being a family. Art
is already his permanent wife, even though the relationship
must have helped to visualize the gods. Vases, statues, and
is not pictured as a happy one. In the Iliad, Hera is jealous
mirrors were highly standardized and in this way helped to
and Zeus regularly has to penalize her. The difficult relation-
create a mental image of the gods: Zeus with his lightning,
ship perhaps reflects the ambivalent position of Hera within
Athena with the owl, and Poseidon with his trident. In addi-
the social order. On the one hand, she is the goddess who
tion, all kinds of ritual aspects, such as the place of a divini-
“keeps the keys of wedlock,” as Aristophanes says in his Thes-
ty’s festival in the calendar, the location of the sanctuary, and
mophoriazusae (973), but that function seems to have been
the nature of the sacrifices received, contributed to the place
the consequence of her position as wife of Zeus; her cult as
of the divinity in the community. It was the sum total of all
goddess of marriage was certainly Panhellenic but not promi-
these factors that created the persona of a Greek divinity.
nent. An older layer becomes visible in the centers of her
Unlike the Egyptian gods, Greek gods were very much
worship, Argos and Samos. Here Hera’s festivals display
anthropomorphic. Their frivolous adventures were popular
strong signs of ancient New Year festivals. Moreover, here
themes in Greek poems, and their uncanny behavior was fre-
she is also closely connected with the coming of age of both
quently explored in tragedy. Hesiod related their genealogy
boys and girls, who perhaps demonstrated the newly ac-
in his Theogony, in which he was heavily dependent on the
quired status of adulthood during the New Year festivals. In
epics of the ancient Near East. His poem established the clas-
the course of time this older function receded for the newly
sic family relationship in which Zeus and Hera were the lead-
found one of goddess of marriage.
ing divinities who, together with their brothers, sisters, and
(half-)children, live on Olympus. Later times liked to think
The divinity closest to Zeus was Athena, who was born
of them as a group of twelve, of whom Zeus, Hera, Poseidon,
from his head. The myth surely reflects the aspect of intelli-
Demeter, Athena, Aphrodite, Apollo, and Artemis are always
gence that is prominent in Athena: she is closely connected
mentioned, but Dionysos, Herakles, and Hestia less regular-
with women’s crafts like weaving and male artisans like the
ly. Their parents Kronos and Rhea were relatively unimpor-
smiths; even the Trojan horse was built by a carpenter under
tant, as were their grandparents Tethys and the castrated Ou-
her supervision. Originally, Athena seems to have been a tu-
ranos; their great-grandmother Gaia is only a shadowy
telary goddess of cities, which is probably her oldest recover-
figure. The occurrence of Near Eastern motifs in the Theogo-
able layer, as in Mycenaean times she received the title Pot-
ny makes it likely that this genealogical system is relatively
nia, “Mistress.” Her temple is attested on many an acropolis,
late and almost certainly postdates the Mycenaean era.
the strategic heart of a Greek city. Her statuette, the Palladi-
um, the name of which comes from her still unexplained
The gods have been systematized in various ways. The
title, Pallas, functioned as a polis talisman and as such even
Greeks themselves opposed the heavenly gods to the subter-
played a role in Vergil’s Aeneid. It is not surprising, then, that
ranean ones, in particular Hades and his wife Persephone,
she often received the epithet Polias or, more literary,
who, due to their inferior position, hardly receive cultic hon-
Poliouchos. Given this protective role of the city, Athena,
ors. Late antiquity introduced the opposition Olympian and
like Hera, is also associated with the growing up of the young
chthonic, which it associated with different altars and types
generation, especially in Athens.
of worship. Yet recent scholarship has increasingly seen that
the distinction is not supported by the pre-Hellenistic evi-
Apollo’s name has been tied to the yearly Doric assem-
dence. That is why we opt for a distinction between “order-
bly, the apellai, in recent decades, but etymological rules and
ly” and “disorderly” or “central” and “ec-centric” gods: gods
the geographical distribution of his name make this less like-
who support the social order and gods who are more re-
ly. As he was still absent from the Mycenaean tablets, he
moved from or in opposition to that order.
probably entered Greece from Lycia, where his mother, Leto,
The most important Greek god was undoubtedly Zeus,
was a highly prominent goddess. His connection with initia-
one of the few Greek gods with an uncontested Indo-
tion has clearly shaped his divine nature to an extent that is
European name. At one point he must have progressed from
hard to parallel with other gods. Aristocratic male youths had
a position as weather god to the supreme divine ruler. It
to be able to sing, dance, and play the lyre, and this explains
seems likely that some Anatolian influence played a role, but
why Apollo was closely connected with these activities. Male
gods do not exist separate from their worshipers and the me-
initiation also meant the entering of a new stage of life in
chanics of these shifts in the Greek pantheon (or other pan-
which political activities were highly important. That is why
thea) are still only dimly understood. It is clear, though, that
Apollo is often associated with the center of political institu-
his promotion to the top took place relatively late, as he had
tions of the polis. In this role he is regularly worshiped as
only a few festivals and hardly any months named after him.
Apollo Lykeios or Delphinios; the latter non-Indo-European
He never occupied the same position in cult that we can see
epithet even strongly suggests that in this capacity Apollo
in the case of Roman Jupiter or Babylonian Marduk.
had taken over pre-Greek institutions. Finally, the comple-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

tion of the male initiatory ritual was often celebrated in a
a more recently published Linear B tablet has shown that
kind of New Year festival. That is why Apollo was also the
Dionysos was already worshiped in Mycenaean Crete. Con-
god of the new beginning, be it the god of the new moon,
sequently, these myths of arrival are better interpreted as
the god of purification, the god of healing, or the god of divi-
ways of expressing the nature of Dionysos as “stranger” in
nation, which often made an end to a period of confusion
the Greek world. This aspect of his nature becomes apparent
and uncertainty.
from his festivals, where we can find the split-up of society
in its two gender halves, the equality of slaves, or the promi-
Apollo’s sister Artemis goes back to a time in which
nence of the phallus in a procession. In some communities,
hunting was still of prime importance; witness her title “Mis-
Dionysos was even associated with human sacrifice (in myth,
tress of the Animals.” Such protecting goddesses were often
not reality). In this capacity he was worshiped on Lesbos as
also initiatory divinities, as was the indeed the case with Arte-
Dionysos Omestes, “Eater of Raw Meat.” A similar “antiso-
mis. She was in particular associated with the raising of girls
cial” nature appears from Dionysos’s mythical followers, the
at the margin of civilization in areas that were well watered
satyrs and maenads. The latter could commit heinous crimes,
or near rivers or lakes. Their lush nature reflected that of the
as Euripides’ Bacchae so well illustrates. The former showed
maturing maidens whose beauty the male Greeks so highly
themselves on the Greek vases in such antisocial activities as
admired. Rather strikingly, these areas were also often border
masturbation and sex with animals. Dionysos was a more
areas, and just as initiates were on the critical border between
problematic god than the many scenes of him happily drink-
youth and adulthood, so Artemis also functioned in other de-
ing suggest.
cisive moments like the critical phase of a battle, where she
was the one to give victory.
Other gods were less influential. Hephaestus was the
If Zeus, Athena, and Apollo were the gods who stood
god of the smiths, who seems to have played a more impor-
in the center of the Greek polis, other gods were more “off
tant role in the early archaic period than in later times. His
center.” Poseidon must once have been a very powerful god,
main place of worship was Lemnos, an island where the in-
but in the course of the post-Mycenaean age he was displaced
habitants once spoke a language related to Etruscan and that
by Zeus. He was the ancestor of several tribes and associated
was conquered only in the late sixth century by the Greeks.
with men’s associations, such as the pan-Ionic league. This
This means that originally Hephaestus was the god of a pre-
function also connected him to male initiation in some
Greek population.
places. Moreover, Poseidon was the god of brute force in
Hermes was the messenger of the gods and thus also
men and animals. That is why he was also considered to be
moved between the upper world and the underworld. In
the god of earthquakes and such powerful animals as horses.
many ways he is the personification of the more marginal
That is also why in more settled times Poseidon’s domain
persons in ancient Greece, such as the wanderers and the
was largely relegated to the sea, the area of the marginal fish-
merchants. He was sometimes connected with Aphrodite,
ermen but also the area that was feared by the Greeks because
the goddess of love, who had a clear background in ancient
of its dangers and unpredictability.
Near Eastern goddesses like Ishtar. However, this love was
In many places Poseidon was closely connected with
not only physical but also political. Aphrodite was often asso-
Demeter. The association must go back to an early stage in
ciated with the people as a whole or with smaller councils
Greek religion, as is illustrated by Poseidon’s metamorphosis
of magistrates. Her worship supposedly promoted the har-
into a stallion when Demeter tried to flee from him in the
mony and unity of those concerned. It is the Near Eastern
shape of a mare—a type of myth that has clear Indo-
connection that made her also into a goddess of military af-
European parallels. Poseidon’s ancient political side probably
fairs, and in several cities her statue was armed. The connec-
explains why at various places Demeter was also connected
tion also received expression on a mythological level: Aphro-
with political power; she even seems to have been connected
dite was the beloved of Ares, the god of war.
with initiation in some places before the rise of the mysteries
Like Dionysos, Ares was also reputed to come from
(below). However, Demeter was celebrated in particular dur-
Thrace to express his outsider position in the Greek pan-
ing the festival of the Thesmophoria, the most popular
theon. In Homer, Ares is already closely identified with an-
women’s festival in ancient Greece. During several days all
other war god, Enyalios, but in cult the two remained sepa-
the women of the community assembled to celebrate this fer-
rated. Ares was the god of the bloodthirsty side of war. This
tility festival, from which men were excluded. The occasional
made him an unpopular god who had few cults and whose
symbolic exclusion from power made men nervous, and they
sacrificial animal, the dog, was not normally eaten at sacrifi-
saw to it that the women assembled only in local communi-
cial banquets.
ties and never in cities as a whole.
The gods of the underworld, Hades and his wife, Per-
If Demeter is certainly “ec-centric,” the god of the “anti-
sephone, mainly had a mythological life. There were no tem-
order” par excellence was Dionysos. Myth designated him as
ples for them, and their place in Greek cult was negligible.
the stranger among the gods, as it related his arrival from
Thrace. Earlier generations of scholars usually interpreted
In addition to these major divinities there were also
these stories as reflections of a historical development, but
smaller ones, like Gaia, (“Earth”), Hestia (“Hearth”), Eirene
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

(“Peace”), Thanatos (“Death”), Arete (“Virtue”), and other
as Achilles and Herakles, whose precise status—hero or
personifications. Yet the Greek pantheon was much smaller
god?—remained debated. The development took a long time
than, say, the Hittite or Roman one. The reason for these
to materialize fully and should not be retrojected into earlier
differences is still unexplored, just as the nature of polythe-
centuries. In that period we have tomb cults, cults of the an-
ism and the implications of the difference with monotheism
cestors, and cults of founders of cities, but it is only from the
are still largely terra incognita.
late archaic period onward that we start to have hero cults
in the technical sense of the word. Consequently, we should
On the other hand, we have reached a better under-
standing of the mutual relations within the pantheon. Al-
avoid speaking of hero cult in the earlier archaic period.
though divinities have each their own sphere or mode of ac-
Because of their origin, the category of the heroes turned
tion, they can also combine their influence or display their
out to be the lowest common denominator of a motley group
powers in opposition to other gods. For example, the fact
of “supernatural beings,” such as faded goddesses like Helen,
that Apollo and Artemis are siblings cannot be separated
culture heroes like Prometheus, and mythological supermen
from their connection with initiation (above). Hera and
like Herakles. In the later fifth century the category became
Aphrodite are both associated with love and marriage, but
expanded to fallen generals like the Spartan Brasidas, who
whereas Hera is responsible for the protection of marriage
was killed in action in 422 BCE. As time went on, the Greeks
as such, Aphrodite promotes its sexual part. Ares and Aphro-
started to connect their great mythological heroes, like Aga-
dite were already a pair in Homer. Both divinities were at
memnon and Odysseus, with older graves or grottoes, and
the margin of the pantheon but also each other’s opposites.
scholars have all too long thought that these late connections
There is a Poseidon Hippios and an Athena Hippia. Both
also implied age-old continuities.
divinities are clearly concerned with horses, but whereas Po-
seidon is responsible for the power and fierceness of horses,
Yet the connection with graves does point to an impor-
Athena is the goddess who gives man the power to use the
tant quality of the heroes: their local association. Unlike the
animal in an intelligent manner. It becomes more complicat-
gods, heroes are nearly always associated with a family, a po-
ed when we see that the Athenian ephebes worshiped Ares
litical or social group, or a city. Many people gave regular
and Athena Areia. Evidently, Ares was responsible for their
greetings and offerings to the shrine of their neighborly hero
courageous behavior in battle, but Athena must have helped
and clearly expected something positive in return. Armies
them to do this in a strategically intelligent manner. In a dif-
could see heroes on their side, just as in the First World War
ferent way, myth often told of Poseidon’s defeat by other
German and English soldiers saw angels coming to their as-
gods, in particular Apollo and Athena. This shows that
sistance. The Locrians even left a gap in their phalanx where
Greek gods were not only persons but also embodied powers,
Ajax was supposed to defend the ranks. However, heroes
as in this case Poseidon’s defeat symbolized the conquest of
could also be nasty and mean. The chorus of Aristophanes’
“chaos” by the powers of order, intelligence, and civilization.
Heroes sings: “we are the guardians of good things and ill;
Both the aspect of “person” and of “power” should always
we watch out for the unjust, for robbers and footpads, and
be taken into account when looking at individual Greek
send them diseases—spleen, coughs, dropsy, catarrh, scab,
gout madness, lichens, swellings, ague, fever [some words
HEROES. It is hard to find parallels to heroes, the “demigods”
missing]. That’s what we give to thieves” (tr. Robert Parker).
between gods and men, in other religions. Their origin has
There is always something ambivalent about the heroes, as
been much discussed but rarely with the right attention to
there is about the gods.
an important terminological question. Surely, it is impossible
to speak of a hero cult before there was a category of heroes
RITUAL. Ritual was the basis of Greek religion, although the
named and conceptualized in opposition to the category of
all-embracing category “ritual” is a relatively modern inven-
the gods. Unfortunately, this simple truth is rarely taken into
tion that originated around 1890. The Greeks did not yet
account in scholarly literature. Yet the religious meaning of
have such a term but called their rituals teletai (connected to
the Greek word herôs as “demigod” did not start to material-
Greek telos, “goal”), drômena, “what is done,” or nomizo-
ize before the last decades of the sixth century. In fact, the
mena, “what is customary.” Rituals accompanied the most
order gods-heroes-men does not occur in extant Greek litera-
important stages of Greek lives, such as the birth, coming of
ture before Pindar’s Second Olympian Ode (2) of 476 BCE,
age, the wedding, and death, but also political activities, en-
in which the poet wonders: “What god, what hero and what
tertainment such as the symposium, divination, or purifica-
man should we celebrate?” It is not easy to explain this devel-
tions from pollutions. In addition, the Greek year was inter-
opment, but it is clear that in the later sixth century BCE a
spersed with festivals, if more in winter than in summer. In
gradual hardening took place of the division between the
this short compass it is impossible to pay attention to all
main gods of the Greeks and all other (for lack of a better
manifestations of ritual. We therefore just mention hymns,
word) supernatural beings worthy of worship. This develop-
dances, and processions and limit the discussion to a more
ment was perhaps the result of the growing status of Homer,
detailed extension of sacrifice (the most important ritual), to
but as there was no independent authority to decide who be-
sanctuaries (the places where many of the rituals took place),
longed where, some heroes stayed hovering on the edge, such
prayer, and the main women’s festival, the Thesmophoria.
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Sacrifices already abound in the oldest literary source,
had clearly dramatized the beginning of sacrifice by the orga-
Homer (c. 700 BCE). His preferred victim is the cow, the
nization of a sacrificial procession. At the front an aristocratic
largest domesticated animal available and the predominant
girl (the kanêphoros) walked with a beautiful basket on her
victim in literature and art. Yet after the Dark Age most sacri-
head, which contained the sacrificial knife covered up by bar-
fices were not of cattle, and smaller animals were the rule for
ley groats and ribbons. Male adolescents led along the victim,
small communities and private sacrifice. As a symbolic state-
and a male or female piper played the music indicating the
ment, cattle remained the preferred animal, and Athenian
walking rhythm. Music had become such an integral part of
colonies and allies had to send a sacrificial cow to the festival
the ritual in post-Homeric times that the fifth-century histo-
of the Panathenaia. The next expensive full-grown sacrificial
rian Herodotos (1.132) was struck by its absence in Persian
victim was the pig, although it was not the most popular ani-
sacrifice. Then adult males and females followed in a throng.
mal in sacrifice. Pigs were not much employed in the great
The whole community played a part in this ritual of rituals.
sanctuaries, except perhaps in Cypriotic sanctuaries of Aph-
When the actual sacrifice began, the sacrificer purified the
rodite, and no god was connected with the pig in particular.
participants, the altar, and the sacrificial victim. This inaugu-
The main exceptions were Demeter and Dionysos, both di-
ral act separated the sacrificial participants from the rest of
vinities in some opposition to the social order, as we have
the population and constituted them as a distinct social
seen. The low appreciation of the pig was not only shared
by the Jews, whose abhorrence of the pig is well known, but
also by the ancient Egyptians and, later, Islam. It thus fits
After a prayer, the officiant took the knife and cut a few
a larger Mediterranean and Near Eastern phenomenon.
hairs from the brow and threw them in the fire, the begin-
ning of the actual killing. In the meantime, the victim had
The predominant sacrificial victims were sheep and
given its consent by shaking its head. Voluntariness of the
goats, animals whose bones are often very difficult to distin-
victim was an important part of the Greek sacrificial ideolo-
guish. In the case of Aphrodite, even cheaper offerings were
gy, which stressed that the victim was pleased to go up to
quite normal, and the sacrifice of kids and lambs fits this pic-
the altar, sometimes could even hardly wait to be sacrificed.
ture. There were also a number of more marginal animals.
Obviously, ideology and practice did not always concur, and
Dogs were used for purificatory purposes but not normally
vases show us ephebes struggling with the victim or the ropes
eaten, except at the margin of the Greek world, such as Didy-
tied to its head or legs in order to restrain it. The participants
ma and Cyprus. The Greeks themselves thought of this sacri-
to the sacrifice now lifted up the (sometimes stunned) victim
fice as typical of foreigners, such as Carians and Thracians,
with its head up high, toward heaven, and a priest or another
and used it to differentiate cruel Ares and spooky Hekate
officiant cut the throat with the sacrificial knife. At this very
from the more civilized gods. Birds were brought to Aphro-
emotional moment the women present raised their high,
dite, and cockerels to Asklepios—both less important gods,
piercing cry, ololyge, which Aeschylus in the Seven against
whose status reflected itself in the gifts they received. Basical-
Thebes (269) calls the “Greek custom of the sacrifice cry”
ly, then, the Greeks selected only domesticated cattle for
(ololygmos). Great care was taken not to spill the blood of the
their sacrifice, and the origin of sacrifice does indeed not
victim on the ground. In the Classical period the blood is
seem to go back before the time when cattle became domesti-
prominently present on the altars as many vase paintings
cated in the ancient Near East. Yet in Artemis’s sanctuary in
show—the lasting proof of the otherwise perishable gifts to
Kalapodi, excavators have found bones of boars and deer; the
the gods.
latter have also come to light in the Theban Kabirion and
the Samian Heraion. In ancient Israel, too, excavations have
It was now time to skin the victim and carve it up. In
demonstrated incidental sacrifices of fallow deer. Evidently,
addition to the thigh bones, the gods also received some
there were sometimes fuzzy edges at the boundaries of the
other parts, such as the gallbladder and the tail. In Classical
accepted sacrificial victims in order to include the most pop-
times the gods also seem to have received a share of the in-
ular game.
nards, splanchna, in which the Greeks included the spleen,
kidneys, liver, and probably the heart and lungs. These parts
In addition to the nature and age of the victim, worship-
of the victim were the first to be eaten. Together with the
ers also had to make decisions about the sex and color of the
food, the gods received a libation of mixed wine. The meat
victims. In general, male gods preferred male victims, where-
was evenly divided between the participants, and egalitarian
as goddesses rather had female ones. Yet this was not a fixed
inclusiveness was very important for the Greeks: for the Jews
law but rather a rule with notable exceptions, as in the Sami-
the purity of sacrifice became an important guardian of
an Heraion bones of bulls, rams, and boars have been found.
monolatrous Yahwism, but foreigners were always invited to
Sacrificial regulations also often specified the color of the vic-
partake of Greek sacrifice.
tim, black being the preferred color for chthonic deities.
There were also sacrifices where food was absent or on
Sacrifice was a festal moment. Victims were adorned
purpose denied to the sacrificial participants. First, the vic-
with ribbons and garlands around their heads and bellies,
tim could be drowned: the Argives submerged a horse with
and the sacrificers took a bath, put on festive white clothes,
bridle in the sea for Poseidon, and the Rhodians, wealthy as
and, similarly, wreathed themselves. The Classical period
they were, a chariot with four horses for Helios. These costly
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sacrifices must always have been rare, and they seem to go
who could rise to great fame through their strategic insights.
back to great antiquity. Second, there were extremely cheap,
Instead of seers, many people consulted the main oracles,
purificatory sacrifices, usually piglets, who after the sacrifice
Delphi and Dodona, which were situated at quite a distance
were thrown out in order to carry away the pollutions. Piglets
from important cities, as divination had to look objective to
were also sometimes used for a preliminary sacrifice, in
be credible. As in many cultures, their function was more
which case they were burned whole. Third, the Greeks often
to help to make a choice or to set a seal on decisions than
swore an oath while grasping an object, the horkos (which
to forecast the future.
gave its name to the Greek oath), embodying the powers in-
The temples contained the statues of the gods but also
voked; so the gods swore holding a jug with water from the
the many votives of the worshipers, ranging from precious
Styx. Four, sometimes a pregnant animal was sacrificed. This
golden objects to the anatomical votives of vulvae and phal-
happened especially in the cult of Demeter and, seemingly,
luses after a successful healing; in addition they functioned
in some maturation rituals. The victims were probably
as banks and often received asylum seekers onto their some-
burned whole, a practice the Greeks had taken over from the
times extensive lands: like the medieval church, some Greek
Syro-Palestine area. In all these sacrifices the most plausible
sanctuaries were the largest landowners of ancient Greece.
explanation is that they lacked the required relaxed atmo-
sphere of a good banquet. Banquets were naturally also ab-
The location of sanctuaries once again reflected the na-
sent from other emotionally laden sacrifices, such as that just
ture of their gods: Zeus, Athena, and Apollo usually had tem-
before a battle. On the other hand, epigraphical evidence has
ples in the center of the polis, Apollo and Demeter were
increasingly made clear that sacrifices to heroes, the so-called
more often located away from the center, and Hera, Posei-
chthonic sacrifices, which many generations of scholars sup-
don, Artemis, and Dionysos were usually located out of the
posed to have been burned whole, normally ended in a happy
city. The location of heroic sanctuaries also depended on the
banquet. The whole notion of chthonic sacrifice, like the one
place of the hero in the community. For example, if he was
of chthonic gods, is in urgent need of revision. That is not
the founder of the city, his heroön (sanctuary) would be on
to say that sacrifices for gods were always totally similar to
the agora in the center of the city, but Trophonios, the owner
those for heroes. The latter received more often cakes and
of an oracle, was worshiped away from the civilized world.
PRAYER. Prayer had a place in many rituals and usually fol-
Finally, what did the collective imagination as expressed
lowed a standard structure of invocation, claim for attention,
in myth single out as significant? Hesiod’s Theogony (535–
and request. Moreover, the earlier Greeks never kneeled for
561) connects the origin of sacrifice with the invention of
their prayers, like Christians in several churches still do, but
fire and the creation of woman. In order to settle a quarrel
they prayed standing erect with hands raised. In principle ev-
between gods and mortals, Prometheus took refuge in a trick.
erybody (man and women, old and young, slaves and free)
He let Zeus chose between, on the one hand, the flesh and
could pray everywhere—at home, in a sanctuary, or on a
fatty entrails of a slaughtered bull and, on the other, the
ship. However, prayers were often pronounced on behalf of
white bones covered with glistening fat. Zeus opted inten-
the city or a smaller social group by priests or heralds. Unlike
tionally for the bones, and “since then the race of men on
the Christian God, Greek deities were not omnipresent
earth burn white bones for the immortals on smoking altars.”
and the worshipers had to call out for their attention. Thus,
Hesiod’s account locates the origin of sacrifice at the precise
a prayer often contained the invitations “hear” and “come”;
moment that gods and mortals were in the process of parting
moreover, it was important to mention the name of the di-
their common ways. Clearly, sacrifice was the preeminent act
vinity and his or her epithet. Yet to be absolutely certain that
of the “condition humaine,” which definitively established
the right divinity would hear their prayers, worshipers often
and continued the present world order, in which man dies
visited a temple and prayed in front of the deity’s statue,
and immortals have to be worshiped.
often in its very ear. When praying, the Greeks could freely
improvise and, unlike Rome or India, they did not have ar-
Sacrifice took mostly place in sanctuaries. Unlike Chris-
chaic fixed-prayer formulae. In their prayers there was a
tian churches, Islamic mosques, or Jewish synagogues, these
strong element of reciprocity. The worshiper referred to ear-
need not always have been proper buildings. For the Greeks
lier sacrifices or made a small gift that enlarged the chances
only the presence of an altar was essential, but sanctuaries
of being heard. Unlike Jewish and Christian prayers, Greek
often had a sacred grove, water for purification, and a temple.
prayers therefore rarely contained a feeling of gratitude.
Priests were useful but not indispensable, except in the larger
What did people pray for? Strangely, very few nonliterary
sanctuaries. Vases often portray them in white robes, and
prayers have survived, and our knowledge about the content
priestesses often carry a big key, the symbol of their supervi-
of Greek prayers is almost exclusively literary. Perhaps in op-
sion of the sanctuary. In addition to priests, there were also
position to many modern prayers, the Greeks did not shrink
seers, but they were often less officially connected with sanc-
from praying that the worst might befall their enemies, but
tuaries, even though two seer families officiated in Olympia.
they certainly mostly prayed for their own good. Unlike
Many seers wandered through Greece, and their status was
modern Christian attitudes, they would rarely pray for oth-
often not very high, with the exception of the military seers
ers, and Herodotos (1.132) expresses amazement about 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

fact that the Persians prayed for the well-being of their king.
took place at sowing time, the women clearly celebrated
Finally, although Christians, Jews, and Muslims often pray
human and agricultural fertility at the same time.
aloud in public or religious services, silent prayers are perhaps
the norm for the modern individual. In Greece praying aloud
YSTERIES. Mysteries originally was the name of the festival
celebrated in the sanctuary of Demeter outside Eleusis in the
was the norm, but antisocial and magical prayers were proba-
month Boedromion in early autumn. From there the Greeks
bly performed in silence.
applied the name also to cults with a related structure, such
FESTIVALS. Festivals were the main religions occasions at
as the cults of the Kabeiroi in Thebes and of the Megaloi
which the community (the city but also subdivisions of the
Theoi of Samothrace. Unfortunately, it was a characteristic
city and the family) manifested itself. Festivals derived their
of the mysteries, and hence our use of the term, that the initi-
names from the most striking parts of the festivities, such as
ates were not allowed to divulge the secrets of the rites. The
the Plynteria from the “washing” of a statue, or from the
Eleusinian sanctuary dates from the late eighth century BCE,
names of the gods, such as the Kronia, the festival for
and the widespread occurrence of Demeter Eleusinia in Ionia
Kronos. In turn, months often took their names from the fes-
and the Peloponnese demonstrates an early popularity of her
tivals, such as the Ionian month Anthesterion from the name
cult. The combined evidence of the Peloponnesian and Ioni-
of the festival Anthesteria. As with Greek religion in general,
an cults does point into the direction of an initiatory cult of
local calendars regularly differed, and festivals could change
an aristocratic family; iconographic evidence from the sanc-
places in the calendar in the course of history.
tuary of the Theban Kabeiroi points in the same direction.
Apparently, the ritual became restructured and reinterpreted
There were several types of festivals. Some were con-
after the disintegration of the archaic puberty rites at the end
nected with the rites of initiation, such as the Spartan Hy-
of the seventh century, as the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (c.
akinthia and Karneia or the Cretan Ekdysia. In these festivals
650 BCE) is evidently related to the Eleusinian mysteries.
the youths of the cities demonstrated their prowess or beauty.
However, without corroborating evidence it is impossible to
Others celebrated New Year, everywhere an important festi-
reconstruct the mysteries from the Hymn. It is only in Chris-
val and perhaps in Greece even influenced by those of the
tian times that former pagans start to communicate the de-
ancient Near East. In Athens it can best be seen as a complex
tails that give us an impression of what happened in that era;
that lasted for three months. In the penultimate month of
whether we can retroject these details into Classical times re-
the year, Thargelion, the so-called scapegoat ritual purified
mains a matter of debate. The earlier Eleusinian mysteries
the city; in the ultimate month, Skirophorion, several festi-
very much remain a mystery.
vals took place away from the political center, the acropolis;
and the first festival of the first month of the new year, Heka-
The main rituals started with a procession from Athens
tombaion, was the Kronia, in which the social order was re-
to Eleusis along the still existing Sacred Way. After prepara-
vered, as slaves and masters dined at equal footing. The cele-
tory rites of purification and fasting, the climax took place
bration of the city’s foundation in the Synoikia and the
in the Telesterion (“House of rituals”), which survived well
Panathenaia, Athen’s most prestigious festival, reestablished
into Roman times. It was a fifty-one-square-meter roofed
the social, political, and religious order. Festivals, then, were
building that evidently cannot have held that many initiates
often related to one another, and a proper study should al-
at the same time. At night, light effects must have played a
ways look at the whole festive cycle.
role, and texts suggest a plurality of emotions. The high
point seems to have been the moment when the hierophant
The most important women’s festival was the Thesmo-
showed a “single harvested ear of grain” and shouted out at
phoria, a three-day festival for Demeter. The exclusive female
the top of his voice: “the Mistress has given birth to a holy
participation made the festival somewhat suspect in male
child, Brimo to Brimos,” as the Church Father Hippolytus
eyes, and several stories told of males spying on the women
informs us. The ear must have been symbolic of the gift of
during the rituals. Male suspicion probably also meant that
corn, which the Athenians had associated with the mytholog-
in Athens the women could not celebrate their festival in one
ical Eleusinian king Triptolemus. In the heyday of the Athe-
sanctuary but only separately in the demes. Its “ec-centric”
nian empire the Athenians evidently claimed the invention
character was indicated by several oppositions with normali-
of agriculture, which for the Greeks signaled the arrival of
ty. The women did not live in houses but in huts, slept on
the present cultural order. After the decline of the empire,
antaphrodisiac plants, and sacrificed pigs, whereas as a rule
the emphasis of the mysteries shifted to eschatological prom-
the males were the sacrificers in Greece. On the second day
ises: the Eleusinian priests were clever entrepreneurs who
Athens suspended court sessions and council meetings; other
kept their mysteries moving with the times.
places in Greece may well have done the same. There proba-
bly also was ritual fasting, sham fights, and indecent speech
The relative late rise of eschatology as an important
on this day. After all this “abnormal” behavior, women re-
motif in the mysteries is also confirmed by its absence from
turned to “normality” on the third day. On this last day,
the mysteries of Thebes and the islands Lemnos and Samo-
which was called Kalligeneia, “Beautiful birth,” the women
thrace. In the latter, we can see a triad of two males with a
fetched the decayed remains of piglets from subterranean pits
Great Goddess. Its geographical location and the details of
and placed them on altars as future manure. As the festival
the ritual point to a pre-Greek background in the world 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

initiation and men’s societies, which on the island of Lemnos
Zeus: “Zeus is the head, Zeus the middle, through Zeus all
seems to have developed into a society of smiths and their
things come to pass.” Pythagoras, their contemporary, went
god Hephaestus. Both on Lemnos and in Thebes remnants
even further. His prescriptions meant the first total break
have been found of wine amphorae suggesting communal
with traditional Greek lifestyle, and gods hardly seem to have
drinking rituals, but on Samothrace the emphasis seems to
played a role in his teachings. Nor did ritual come away un-
have been reoriented to salvation at sea.
scathed, as Heraclitus of Ephesus attacked purification ritu-
als and praying before the statues of the gods, as if one could
The immediate success of the Eleusinian mysteries may
converse “with houses,” as absurd.
well have been the stimulus for the development of a differ-
ent type of mysteries that were not tied to one particular
The seeds of these philosophies came to fruition in the
sanctuary. From about 500 BCE we hear of Bacchic mysteries
second half of the fifth century through the so-called Soph-
that were propagated by what Plato and Theophrastus call
ists. These wandering teachers exercised a great fascination
Orpheotelestai, “Initiators of Orpheus.” These wandering
on the Greek jeunesse dorée, and their influence can hardly
priests and priestesses apparently initiated people, men and,
be exaggerated. Among them, Prodicus from the island of
it seems, especially women, against payment into small cultic
Keos introduced a completely new view about the gods by
groups that practiced the Dionysiac ecstasy but presented
claiming that “primitive man, [out of admiration, deified]
their views under the aegis of Orpheus, who at the time was
the fruits of the earth and virtually everything that contribut-
the most famous Greek singer. Orphism presented an origin
ed to his subsistence.” In other words, the gods had not been
of humankind, whereas traditionally the Greeks had very few
there all along as immortal beings, but they were the product
anthropogonic myths. It also had developed a view of an at-
of human imagination. Protagoras of Abdera even went fur-
tractive afterlife that had been absent so far in Greek religion
ther and stated that we cannot have any certain knowledge
and that eventually would influence Jewish and Christian
about the gods. It is not surprising that atheistic positions
ideas of the afterlife. Moreover, it developed the idea of a
now became debated in Athenian tragedy, even if preferen-
kind of “original sin” by stating that Dionysos had been mur-
tially through the mouth of young males, not sensible older
dered by the Titans, our ancestors. In order to atone for this
murder the Orphics had to live a life of purity and to practice
With Plato these tendencies became part and parcel of
vegetarianism. Only in this way they would be acceptable to
the enlightened Greeks. He rejected the teachings about the
gods by the poets and traditional piety. The divine adulteries,
their fantastic genealogies, the gods as the causes of our
Recent decades have given us not only a new papyrus
evils—all that is fit only for children and old women, accord-
with a commentary on an Orphic cosmogony (the Derveni
ing to Plato. Equally, the thought that prayers or sacrifices
papyrus), but also a number of the so-called Orphic gold
could influence the gods without a corresponding proper
leaves, minute tablets that were, so to speak, passports to the
moral behavior is completely rejected. God is now pro-
underworld and taught the deceased how to behave when
claimed to be absolutely good, but also without lies, always
meeting Persephone. Unfortunately the literary evidence for
the same, without envy, omnipresent, that is, an intellectual-
the Bacchic mysteries is rather poor, and it remains virtually
ly satisfactory but bloodless being that is so much above us
impossible to reconstruct the rituals of these mysteries in any
that it is hard to speak about him with any certainty. In his
detail and with any certainty. It seems that we must reckon
Timaeus Plato even introduced a creator god, an idea totally
with a whole spectrum of local varieties, but unless new evi-
alien to traditional Greek religion. These ideas transformed
dence turns up we will remain groping in the dark for these
the ways people would think about religion. Greek rituals
Bacchic mysteries despite our increased knowledge of Or-
may still have been practiced for many a century, but the tra-
ditional views of Greek religion would never recover from
PHILOSOPHY. Philosophers started to question the tradition-
the attacks of the Greek philosophers.
al views of Greek religion from about 500 BCE. They give us
a valuable insider view of what intellectuals thought of the
traditional myths, rituals, and cosmological and cosmogoni-
Walter Burkert, Greek Religion (Oxford, 1985) is a brilliant hand-
cal concepts. Xenophanes of Colophon (on the west coast of
book with excellent bibliographies but basically reflecting the
modern Turkey) no longer accepted tradition but propagat-
scholarly positions of the earlier 1970s. For later views and
ed “what is fitting.” He radically polemicized against the
bibliographies see Fritz Graf, “Griechische Religion,” in Ein-
leading poets Homer and Hesiod and questioned the anthro-
leitung in die griechische Philologie, edited by H. Nesselrath,
pomorphic form of the gods by pointing out that the Thra-
pp. 457–504 (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1997); J. N. Bremmer,
Greek Religion, 2d ed. (Oxford, 1999); J. D. Mikalson, An-
cians and Ethiopians imagined their gods to look like them-
cient Greek Religion (Oxford, 2005). For a Forschungsgesch-
selves. He did not do away with the gods, though, but
ichte of Greek religion and some of its terminology see J. N.
already tried to reduce the number of gods by claiming “One
Bremmer, “‘Religion,’ ‘Ritual,’ and the Opposition ‘Sacred
god is greatest among god and men.” Misgivings about tradi-
vs. Profane,’” in Ansichten griechischer Rituale. Für Walter
tional polytheism were clearly in the air, since Orphism, ac-
Burkert, edited by F. Graf, pp. 9–32 (Stuttgart and Leipzig,
cording to the Derveni papyrus, stressed the position of
1998); Ricardo di Donato, Hierà (Pisa, 2001). For the older
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

bibliography I refer to the above surveys, but in the following
Wege zur Genese griechischer Identität, edited by Ch. Ulf,
I concentrate on the most important publications since the
pp. 20–58 (Berlin, 1996); Robin Hägg, ed., Ancient Greek
mid-1990s although mentioning some authoritative studies
Hero Cult (Stockholm, 1999).
of the subjects discussed above.
Ritual: Many excellent studies in F. Graf, ed., Ansichten griechis-
Magic: Fritz Graf, Magic in the Ancient World (Cambridge, Mass.,
cher Rituale (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1998).
1997); J. N. Bremmer, “The Birth of the Term ‘Magic,’”
Greek sacrifice: F. T. van Straten, Hierà kalá (Leiden, 1995); J.
Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 126 (1999): 1–12.
N. Bremmer, “Modi di communicazione con il divino: la
Gender: U. Kron, “Priesthoods, Dedications, and Euergetism:
preghiera, la divinizazione e il sacrificio nella civiltà greca,”
What Part Did Religion Play in the Political and Social Sta-
in Noi e i Greci, vol. 1, edited by S. Settis, pp. 239–283
tus of Greek Women?,” in Religion and Power in the Ancient
(Turin, 1996); G. Ekroth, The Sacrificial Rituals of Greek
Greek World, edited by P. Hellström and B. Alroth,
Hero-Cults (Liège, 2002); Robin Hägg, ed., Greek Sacrificial
pp. 139–182 (Uppsala, 1996); M. Dillon, Girls and Women
Ritual, Olympian and Chthonian (Stockholm, 2004).
in Classical Greek Religion (London and New York, 2002).
Sanctuaries: Olivier de Cazanove and John Scheid, eds., Les bois
Local religion: Robert Parker, Athenian Religion (Oxford, 1996);
sacrées (Naples, 1993); N. Marinatos and Robin Hägg, eds.,
Massimo Osanna, Santuari e culti dell’Acaia antica (Naples,
Greek Sanctuaries: New Perspectives (London, 1993); S. Al-
1996); Robin Hägg, ed., Peloponnesian Sanctuaries and Cults
cock and R. Osborne, eds., Placing the Gods: Sanctuaries and
(Stockholm, 2002); K. Sporn, Heiligtümer und Kulte Kretas
Sacred Places in Ancient Greece (Oxford, 1994); Francois de
in klassischer und hellenistischer Zeit (Heidelberg, 2002).
Polignac, Cults, Territory, and the Origin of the Greek City
Purity and pollution: Robert Parker, Miasma (Oxford, 1983).
State (Chicago, 1995); Walter Burkert, “Greek Temple
Builders: Who, Where and Why?,” in The Role of Religion in
Death and the afterlife: Christine Sourvinou-Inwood, “Reading”
the Early Greek Polis, edited by Robin Hägg, pp. 31–45
Greek Death (Oxford, 1995); S. I. Johnston, Restless Dead
(Stockholm, 1996).
(Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1999); J. N. Bremmer,
The Rise and Fall of the Afterlife (London and New York,
Divination and oracles: J. N. Bremmer, “Prophets, Seers, and Pol-
itics in Greece, Israel, and Early Modern Europe,” Numen
40 (1993): 150–183; Robert Parker, “Greek States and
Gods: Luise Brut-Zaidman, Le commerce des dieux (Paris, 2001);
Greek Oracles,” in Oxford Readings in Greek Religion, edited
C. Scheffer, “Gods on Athenian Vases: Their Function in the
by Richard Buxton, pp. 76–108 (Oxford, 2000).
Archaic and Classical Periods,” in Ceramics in Context, edited
by L. Brut-Zaidman, pp. 127–137 (Stockholm, 2001).
Statues: A. A. Donahue, “The Greek Images of the Gods: Consid-
erations on Terminology and Methodology,” Hephaistos 15
Zeus: K. Arafat, Classical Zeus (Oxford, 1990).
(1997): 31–45; T. S. Scheer, Die Gottheit und ihr Bild (Mu-
Hera: Juliette de La Genière, ed., Héra. Images, espaces, cultes (Na-
nich, 2000).
ples, 1997).
Votives: F. T. van Straten, “Votives and Votaries in Greek Sanctu-
Athena: Jennifer Neils, ed., Worshipping Athena (Madison, Wis.,
aries,” in Le sacrifice dans l’antiquité, edited by O. Reverdin
1996); D. Geagan, “Who Was Athena?,” in Religion in the
and B. Grange, pp. 247–284 (Geneva, 1981); B. Forsén, Gr-
Ancient World, edited by M. Dillon, pp. 145–163 (Amster-
iechische Gliederweihungen (Helsinki, 1996).
dam, 1996).
Prayer: Simon Pulleyn, Prayer in Greek Religion (Oxford, 1997);
Apollo: J. Solomon, ed., Apollo: Origins and Influences (Tucson,
T. S. Scheer, “Die Götter anrufen: Die Kontaktaufnahme
1994); R. Capodicasa, “Apollo medico fra Grecia e Roma,”
zwischen Mensch und Gottheit in der griechischen Antike,”
Atene e Roma 48 (2003): 17–33; R. S. P. Beekes, “The Ori-
in Gebet und Fluch, Zeichen und Traum, edited by K. Broder-
gin of Apollo,” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 3
sen, pp. 31–56 (Münster, 2001).
(2003): 1–21.
Festivals: F. Graf, “Griechische Religion,” in Einleitung in die gr-
Artemis: Sarah G. Cole, Landscapes, Gender, and Ritual Space
iechische Philologie, edited by H. Nesselrath, pp. 483–490
(Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 2004).
(Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1997) (excellent survey of the various
Poseidon: J. N. Bremmer, “‘Effigies Dei’ in Ancient Greece: Po-
types of festivals); J. N. Bremmer, Greek Religion, 2d ed.
seidon,” in Effigies Dei, edited by D. van der Plas, pp. 35–41
(Oxford, 1999), pp. 44–50; the calendar, C. Trümpy, Unter-
(Leiden, 1987).
suchungen zu den altgriechischen Monatsnamen und Monats-
(Heidelberg, 1997); for the Thesmophoria, H. S. Ver-
Dionysos: Many studies by Albert Henrichs, in particular
snel, Transition and Reversal in Myth and Ritual (Leiden,
“Changing Dionysiac Identities,” in Jewish and Christian
1993), pp. 228–288; Kevin Clinton, “The Thesmophorion
Self-Definition, vol. 3, edited by B. F. Meyer and E. P. Sand-
in Central Athens and the Celebration of the Thesmophoria
ers, pp. 1–22, 183–189 (London, 1982).
in Attica,” in The Role of Religion in the Early Greek Polis, ed-
Demeter: S. G. Cole, “Demeter in the Ancient Greek City and
ited by R. Hägg, pp. 111–125 (Stockholm, 1996).
Its Countryside,” in Placing the Gods: Sanctuaries and Sacred
Mysteries: Walter Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cults (Cambridge,
Places in Ancient Greece, edited by S. Alcock and R. Osborne,
Mass., and London, 1987); on Eleusis, Kevin Clinton, Myth
pp. 199–216 (Oxford, 1994).
and Cult: The Iconography of the Eleusinian Mysteries (Stock-
Heroes: Carla Antonaccio, The Archaeology of Ancestors (Lanham,
holm, 1992); Paolo Scarpi, Le religioni dei misteri, 2 vols.
Md., 1995); J. Larson, Greek Heroine Cults (Madison, Wis.,
(Milan, 2002). The best introduction to Orphism is Robert
1995); G. Lorenz, “Die griechische Heroenvorstellung in
Parker, “Early Orphism,” in The Greek World, edited by A.
früharchaischer Zeit zwischen Tradition und Neuerung,” in
Powell, pp. 483–510 (London and New York, 1995); Chris-
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

toph Riedweg, “Initiation—Tod—Unterwelt,” in Ansichten
but was captured after three days and brought back. Gregory
griechischer Rituale. Für Walter Burkert, edited by F. Graf,
always lamented the imposition of this heavy burden, which
pp. 359–398 (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1998) (best edition of
deprived him of his “beloved solitude,” but he continued to
the gold leaves); Richard Janko, “The Derveni Papyrus: An
view himself as a monk and aimed to set up his household,
Interim Text,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 141
as at Constantinople, in the form of a small community
(2002): 1–62; note also the many studies of Alberto Bernabé,
made up of monks and clerics who would live together and
who is preparing a new edition of the Orphic fragments
share all things in common.
(Munich, 2005).
The fourteen years of Gregory’s pontificate (590–604)
are well documented, particularly on the strength of his cor-
respondence, which depicts a man who showed a superb
command of estate and personnel management and from
GREGORY I (c. 540–604), called the Great, was bishop
whom emanated good sense, moderation, and tact, allied to
of Rome from 590 until his death, and one of the most re-
shrewd, businesslike efficiency. He was fully conversant with
markable figures to occupy the Roman see. Gregory was
the laws of the imperial code but could temper them with
born into a landowning, aristocratic Roman family; he was
goodwill and humanity. He exhibited a firmness allied to
related to popes Agapetus I (r. 535–536) and Felix III (r.
fairness that was in the best Roman tradition. These qualities
483–492). There is no direct evidence about his early life and
were constantly at play in Gregory’s attempts to introduce
education, but his correspondence, the main historical
greater order and efficiency into the administration of the
source, suggests that he received sound legal training and ac-
patrimony of Peter (the possessions held by the church of
quired wide experience in the management of landed estates.
Rome not only in Italy and Sicily but also in Gaul, Africa,
Gregory’s own testimony relates that he spent some years in
and elsewhere), and in his handling of the affairs of dioceses
a public career as prefect of the city of Rome. Although one
and monasteries, and ecclesiastical disputes of all kinds. The
must assume that his education brought him into contact
correspondence also gives rise to the impression that in be-
with Latin classical authors, there are few echoes of their
coming bishop of Rome Gregory was in fact assuming again
works in Gregory’s writings; in this he was very different
some of the duties of the prefect of Rome, concerning him-
from Jerome and Augustine. What is known about his ori-
self with food and water supplies, appointing commanders
gins suggests a pious family background in which Christian
and paying for troops, and taking a leading role in negotiat-
authors and values prevailed.
ing truces and treaties with the threatening Lombard invad-
During his term as prefect he apparently felt called to
ers. Although there had been previous occasions when popes
become a more perfect Christian by embracing the monastic
assumed leadership of the city of Rome, particularly in crisis,
life. He speaks of having delayed his “conversion” for a long
Gregory’s pontificate is the first and best example of ecclesi-
time. When the decision was finally made—probably after
astical authority replacing, throughout the machinery of gov-
his father’s death—he established a monastery dedicated to
ernment, the political power of a declining state.
Saint Andrew in his paternal home, where he gathered a
Here and there in his letters a note of rigor and acerbity
community and appointed an abbot, and where he himself
emerges perhaps native to the Roman patrician and profes-
lived, by his own choice, as a monk. Despite the traditional
sional administrator, but for the most part these elements
view that Gregory was a Benedictine monk, it is by no means
were held in check by Gregory’s reverence for the gospel
certain that the rule of Saint Benedict governed the life of
teaching of humility and charity, in whose light he constant-
this new monastic house.
ly examined and formed his own conduct. His preoccupa-
Gregory’s skills as administrator and negotiator were too
tion with saving souls and helping the poor is ever present.
widely known to be eclipsed by his entry into seclusion. Pela-
John the Deacon, Gregory’s biographer, refers to a “very
gius II was no sooner elected bishop of Rome (r. 579–590)
large papyrus volume” (the first of its kind to be drawn up
than he summoned Gregory from his monastery, ordained
by a bishop of Rome), in which Gregory, with his usual effi-
him deacon, and sent him as papal representative (apocris-
ciency, caused all pensions, rent reductions, subsidies, and
iarius) to Constantinople. Gregory apparently accepted this
charitable outlays to be recorded so that none would be for-
mission on the condition that he could take monks from
gotten or overlooked in future years. Gregory’s concern for
Saint Andrew’s with him and set up a quasi-monastic house-
the good of souls likewise appeared in missionary activities
hold in the imperial city. Gregory remained in the East until
directed toward heretics or pagans, the most noteworthy
about 586, when he returned to Rome to resume his monas-
being his sending, in 596 and 601, groups of monks from
tic life and to assist and advise Pelagius II, even drafting some
his own monastery, under the leadership of Augustine, to
of the pope’s later letters.
evangelize the Anglo-Saxons.
Without much delay, and without waiting for the impe-
Despite the incessant preoccupations of his years as
rial consent, the Senate, clergy, and populace elected Gregory
bishop of Rome, and despite a debilitating malady that seems
bishop of Rome after Pelagius’s death in 590. Later tradition
to have afflicted him for years, Gregory consistently found
maintained that Gregory fled the city to avoid this burden
time to pursue the activity that lay nearest his heart, namely,
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to study and interpret holy scripture for the group of close
dria, it was his duty to remonstrate, “but when fault does not
associates with whom he lived, in an effort to bring out its
intervene, we [bishops] are all equal by reason of humility.”
hidden meaning as a guide for moral life. Gregory had begun
Gregory was tireless in underlining the danger of pride and
such a discourse, on the Book of Job, during his stay at Con-
the need for humility in those who govern the church. For
stantinople. In the period between his return to Rome from
this reason, he rejected the title of ecumenical patriarch, not
the East (586) and his election as bishop (590), he reorga-
only when applied to the patriarch of Constantinople but
nized these spontaneous discourses into book form. The re-
also for himself. Ecumenical means universal, and he who is
sult was the vast Magna moralia in Job, a work in thirty-five
universal has no rivals in rank; on that level, others have no
books divided into six codices, which had a lasting influence
standing. Therefore, he wrote to his friend Eulogius, patri-
on the whole Middle Ages. During the first years of his pon-
arch of Alexandria, “you deny your own standing as bishop
tificate he discoursed in church and before the people not
when you assert that I am universal as bishop and pope.” On
only on the gospel lessons of the day but also on the opening
the level of custom and usage, including liturgical usage,
and final chapters of Ezekiel, chapters that seemed particular-
Gregory did not believe that the Roman see held any monop-
ly relevant in those grim years when events seemed to presage
oly of good things. It is here that he contrasts most markedly
the end of the world. However, he found talking to a large
with his predecessor Innocent I, who maintained that all the
audience in church a trying experience that overtaxed his
churches in the West needed to follow Roman usage. Grego-
health. After his first years as pope he gave up the practice,
ry’s legal training had familiarized him with customary law,
but continued to discourse to a smaller group of intimates.
and he had observed that good things might be found every-
He himself listed the books on which he spoke: Proverbs,
where. “We should love places because of the good things
Song of Songs, the books of the prophets, Kings, and the Hep-
they possess and not things because of the places from which
tateuch. Only the commentary on 1 Kings and two homilies
they come,” he wrote to Augustine of Canterbury in his so-
on Song of Songs are extant.
called Libellus responsionum, urging him to borrow liturgical
usages from Gaul as well as from his native Rome for the
In addition to his scriptural works and his letters, Greg-
newly converted Anglo-Saxons. Such a statement fitted into
ory also wrote a book of dialogues (between himself and his
Gregory’s larger view that claims to monopoly were detri-
deacon Peter), recounting the miracles performed through
mental to charity, which was fostered by diversity and inter-
God’s power in Italy in his own time. The aim of this work
change. Diversity on the level of custom was allowable and
was to revive the religious faith of the Roman people, beset
even desirable, as long as unity was always maintained in
at that time by war, plague, and famine. The second book
Christian faith. The medieval papacy would have evolved
of the Dialogues is devoted entirely to one figure, Benedict,
very differently if Gregory’s precepts in these matters had
the founder of Monte Cassino and author of the Benedictine
rule; it embodies the earliest traditions about Benedict, in-
cluding stories gathered by Gregory from Benedict’s own dis-
It is now recognized that Gregory the Great had rela-
tively little to do with the sacramentary or with the chant
that still bears his name. He unquestionably composed cer-
His Regula pastoralis (Pastoral rule), probably the best
tain prayers and prefaces that eventually found their way into
known and most used of Gregory’s works in the Middle
the Roman sacramentary, but these are limited in number,
Ages, was the first work of his pontificate. No sooner had he
a total of 82 out of 927 formulas. The liturgical traditions
been consecrated in 590 than he set about constructing a
associated with Gregory’s name go back to Carolingian times
standard of conduct for the ideal shepherd of souls. In this
and derive from Gregory II rather than Gregory the Great.
one can perhaps perceive an attempt to redefine his own in-
sights as a skilled administrator and negotiator on a level
higher than that of practical affairs; that is, on a universal,
spiritual plane. Gregory always maintained that if bishops
The collected works in Patrologia Latina, edited by J.-P. Migne,
lived up to their true ideal the church of Christ, spread
vols. 75–79 (Paris, 1849–1878), reproduce the Maurist edi-
throughout the world, would prosper. In writing the Regula
tion of 1704. Dag Norberg’s new edition of Gregory’s Regis-
pastoralis he sought to instruct himself as well as others.
ter of Letters, S. Gregorii Magni registrum epistularum, in
Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, vols. 140 and 140A
As the years of his pontificate proceeded, Gregory con-
(Turnhout, Belgium, 1982), provides the most dependable
tinued to reflect on the implications of his position as bishop
Latin text, superseding Gregorii I Papae registrum episto-
of Rome, a see that claimed preeminence in the church over
larum, in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Epistolae,
all other sees, including those that were also patriarchal. Here
vols. 1 and 2 (Berlin, 1887–1899); nevertheless, the Monu-
edition remains indispensable by reason of its elucida-
he reached views that differ markedly from those that later
tory notes. Norberg has established a new order for the let-
formed the traditional papal attitude. Gregory sought to
ters, so their numbers in his edition do not necessarily
limit the Roman claim to what he considered its essential ele-
coincide with those of the Monumenta; he provides a concor-
ments. He believed that a supreme authority was needed in
dance. A new edition of the Moralia in Iob by Marci Adriaen
the church, but only so that things might be put right if they
can be found in Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, vols.
went wrong; if simony were practiced in Gaul or in Alexan-
143 and 143A (Turnhout, Belgium, 1979). For fragments
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of the homilies on the Song of Songs and the commentary on
dict, Gregory, Bede and Others (London, 1977). On Gregory’s
1 Kings, see volume 144 in the same series, Sancti Gregorii
authorship of some liturgical formulas, see Henry Ash-
Magni expositiones, edited by Patricius Verbraken (Turnhout,
worth’s “The Liturgical Prayers of St. Gregory the Great,”
Belgium, 1963). The Dialogues were edited by Umberto
Traditio 15 (1959): 107–161.
Moricca in Gregorii Magni dialogi (Rome, 1924), but with
Gregory was the only pope to win the admiration, even the affec-
a text long recognized to be unsatisfactory. The most useful
tion, of some Protestant reformers; see the references in L.
edition, comprising Latin text, French translation, introduc-
K. Little’s “Calvin’s Appreciation of Gregory the Great,”
tion, and notes is by Adalbert De Vogüé, Dialogues: Grégoire
Harvard Theological Review 56 (April 1963): 145–157, and
le Grand, in Sources chrétiennes, vols. 251, 260, and 265
my “Gregory the Great and the Theme of Authority,” in
(Paris, 1978–1980); to the long bibliography on the Dia-
Benedict, Gregory, Bede and Others (cited above).
logues should be added an important article by Pierre Bog-
lioni, “Miracle et nature chez Grégoire le Grand,” Cahiers
d’études médiévales (Montreal) 1 (1974): 11–102. The best
English translation of the Dialogues is Odo John Zimmer-
man’s Saint Gregory the Great: Dialogues (New York, 1959).
The earliest biographies of Gregory date from Carolingian
GREGORY VII (Hildebrand, c. 1020–1085), pope of
times: The Earliest Life of Gregory the Great, by an Anonymous
the Roman Catholic Church (1073–1085). The facts of Hil-
Monk of Whitby, edited by Bertram Colgrave (Lawrence,
Kans., 1968); the life of Gregory by Paul the Deacon in H.
debrand’s youth and education are hazy. He was born in
Grisar’s “Die Gregorbiographie des Paulus Diaconus in ihrer
Tuscany, perhaps at Soana, at an undetermined date: c.1015
ursprünglichen Gestalt, nach italienischen Handschriften,”
according to Cowdrey; Blumenthal says 1020/1025. He
Zeitschrift für katolische Theologie 11 (1887): 158–173; and
went to Rome early in his life and became a professed reli-
that by John the Deacon, in Patrologia Latina, vol. 75, cited
gious. The tradition that Hildebrand was a monk, perhaps
above. These and other early accounts of Gregory’s life, in-
at the Benedictine house of Santa Maria del Priorato on the
cluding those of the Liber Pontificalis and Bede’s Ecclesiastical
Aventine, is strong, although recently Blumenthal suggested
History (2.1), present only those facts that can be found in
that he was instead a regular canon. For a time he was a stu-
Gregory’s works or correspondence, which remain the pri-
dent of the learned and exiled Bishop Laurentius of Amalfi,
mary sources.
and also was active in the service of Pope Gregory VI (1045–
A good overall study of Gregory has yet to be written. F. H. Dud-
1046), with whom he had a familial connection. In January
den’s Gregory the Great, 2 vols. (London, 1905), is recog-
1047, Hildebrand accompanied this pontiff into exile in
nized to be outdated. The two long chapters (4 and 5) in
Germany, after Gregory’s deposition by Emperor Henry III
Erich Caspar’s Geschichte des Papsttums, vol. 2 (Tübingen,
and the Synod of Sutri (December 1046). That exile is the
1933), retain much value but stand in need of additions and
first precisely datable event in the future pope’s life. A later
corrections. Claude Dagens’s Saint Grégoire le Grand: Cul-
tradition that Hildebrand became a monk at Cluny almost
ture et expérience chrétiennes (Paris, 1977) is a long, diffuse
work, seeking mainly to explore Gregory as a spiritual writer,
certainly is erroneous, although he may well have stayed in
and often lacking historical perspective; see the review by
that house for a time before his return south. That return oc-
Robert A. Markus in Journal of Ecclesiastical History 29 (April
curred in the company of Bishop Bruno of Toul, who in
1978): 203–205. Jeffrey Richards’s Consul of God: The Life
1049 journeyed to Rome to become Pope Leo IX (1049–
and Times of Gregory the Great (London, 1980) gives an ex-
cellent picture, drawn from the correspondence, of Gregory’s
activity as bishop of Rome but does not deal adequately with
Leo’s pontificate is generally considered to mark the
his other writings and thought.
emergence of a reform movement centered on Rome and
which became predominant among other initiatives for re-
The view that there was little originality in Gregory’s spiritual
newal in the eleventh-century church. Pope Leo brought to
teaching has been dispelled by numerous recent studies. A pi-
oneer effort is Michael Frickel’s Deus totus ubique simul: Un-
Rome a group of reform-minded churchmen from both Italy
tersuchungen zur allgemein Gottgegenwart im Rahmen der Got-
and the north, and Hildebrand’s career developed in con-
teslehre Gregors des Grossen (Freiburg, 1956), which
junction with important individuals such as Peter Damian
demonstrates that Gregory’s special vocabulary could pro-
and Humbert of Moyenmoutier. He was designated by Leo
vide a key to his thought; his temperament was introspective
as abbot and rector of the Benedictine house of San Paulo
by nature, and his originality lies mainly in exploring the in-
fuori le Mura, and his importance in the evolving adminis-
ward dimensions of Christian behavior. For Gregory’s mo-
trative operations of the church is seen in his appointment
tives in sending missionaries to England, see Robert A.
several times in the 1050s as a papal legate north of the Alps.
Markus’s “Gregory the Great and a Papal Missionary Strate-
During one such legation, in 1054 in France, Hildebrand
gy,” Studies in Church History (Cambridge U.K.) 6 (1970):
presided over a synod at Tours that considered the question
29–38, and “Gregory the Great’s Europe,” Transactions of the
Royal Historical Society,
5th series 31 (1981): 21–36. On the
of the eucharistic views of Berengar of Tours, whose career
authenticity of the Libellus responsionum connected with this
would stretch into the 1070s and who would be called to
mission, see my essays “Diversity within Unity, a Gregorian
Rome during Gregory’s pontificate for an examination of his
Theme,” and “Bede’s Text of the Libellus responsionum of
teachings. It would be a mistake to view Hildebrand as the
Gregory the Great to Augustine of Canterbury,” in my Bene-
chief papal adviser at this juncture, but with appointment as
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archdeacon under Nicholas II (1059–1061), and with the
Reform of the church in general and increased visibility
death of Humbert and the election of Alexander II in 1061,
and power for the Roman church occurred side by side. This
his importance grew. During Alexander’s long reign he has
new perception of Roman authority was not, however, the
been considered, perhaps with only slight exaggeration, as
invention of eleventh-century thinkers. The dossiers of
the power behind the papal throne.
claims, traditions, and incidents on which Roman leadership
rested reach as far into the past as the New Testament and
Alexander II died on April 21, 1073. During the cere-
the so-called Petrine passages (Mt. 16:13–19). Popes such as
mony for his burial Hildebrand was acclaimed by the Roman
Leo I, Gelasius I, and Gregory I were pivotal figures in antiq-
populace as Alexander’s successor. That public display was
uity who advanced claims that contributed to the special sta-
at variance with the terms of the well-known decree of Pope
tus of the Roman church and its bishop; and in the ninth
Nicholas II (1059), which placed the choice of a pope essen-
century Pope Nicholas I was a vigorous proponent of those
tially in the hands of the cardinal bishops. In the spring of
claims and that status. Yet in the eleventh century from the
1073 public acclaim preceded selection by the cardinals, and
reign of Leo IX onward the uniqueness and the authority of
this variance with the decree of 1059 later opened Hilde-
Rome was stressed increasingly and with new vigor. As the
brand to the charge that his elevation to the papacy was ille-
reformers, now in control of the papal office, sought to pro-
gitimate. He chose the papal name Gregory, probably in
mote their aims, the prestige and potential of the Roman
honor both of Gregory I, one of the fathers of Latin Chris-
church became a vehicle for this strategy. As the reform prog-
tianity and a venerable monastic pope, and of his relative and
ressed the theoretical authority believed for centuries to be
onetime patron, Gregory VI. Gregory’s consecration as bish-
vested in the Roman church became increasingly real, and
op of Rome was on June 30, 1073, a date carefully selected
attention was given in practice as well as theory to the rights
for it is the feast day of the two great saints of the Roman
and powers of Rome, its clergy, and its bishop.
church, Peter and Paul.
Such was the general situation confronting Gregory VII
The significance of Gregory VII’s twelve-year reign
at the beginning of his reign. Given his long association with
must be assessed within the framework of the reforming
papal reform, it was to be expected that the initiatives for pu-
movements underway at the time throughout Latin Chris-
rity in the church would continue. Yet these policies, along
tendom. For decades sensitive churchmen had criticized
with the pope’s strong personality and intense devotion to
abuses in religious structure and administration. Chief
the Roman church, were on a collision course with events
among those problems was simony, the gaining of an ecclesi-
growing out of the final years of the pontificate of Alexander
astical office by means of payment rather than according to
II. King Henry IV of Germany, having reached maturity,
canonical norms. Various circles of ecclesiastical reform in
was determined to exercise control over affairs within his
the eleventh century were also adamant in condemning sexu-
sphere of influence. At issue specifically were claims to au-
al incontinence among the higher orders of the clergy. The
thority in both secular and church matters in important cities
offensive against simony and clerical sexual activity marked
in northern Italy, especially in Milan. Thus in the early
an effort to purify the hierarchy and the sacramental life of
1070s Henry supported one candidate for the archbishopric
the Latin church, and the notion of puritas ecclesiae (“purity
of that city while the papacy supported another. There were
of the church”) became a common reform theme.
two questions. Did Henry have a right to grant churches on
his own, to whomever he chose; and could Henry ignore di-
From the pontificate of Leo IX, however, and especially
rectives about ecclesiastical matters from the Roman church
from the reign of Nicholas II, the papacy was increasingly
and its bishop?
in a position of leadership in these efforts to purify the
church. Repeatedly, in papal letters, conciliar decrees, and
Historians are fortunate to possess from Gregory VII an
through legatine missions, the Roman church fostered re-
official papal register—a unique survival from the eleventh-
form, aiming particularly at eradicating the aforementioned
century papacy—in which the development of events and
abuses. It must be stressed, however, that these initiatives did
ideas often can be followed in detail. In the register, under
not involve merely administrative changes in the ecclesiasti-
March, 1075, appears a series of twenty-seven epigrammatic
cal structure. The theological and practical importance of the
statements that were drafted by Gregory and his advisers (the
changes being sought reached deep into the religious mental-
so-called Dictatus papae), perhaps as titles for a new canon
ity of Latin Christendom, and had profound effects on eu-
law collection where texts would have been presented from
charistic theology, the cult of saints, attitudes toward proper-
the canonical tradition to support each proposition. The un-
ty, and the role of laymen in designating appointees to
usual form and special content of these texts has received
church positions. Concomitant with this evolving reform ac-
much attention from historians, for contained therein is a se-
tivity an ecclesiology developed centering on the Roman see.
ries of strong statements asserting the superiority of ecclesias-
The roots of this doctrine reach deep into the history of Latin
tical over secular authority, and the absolute authority of the
Christianity, but from the mid-eleventh century the poten-
Roman church and its bishop over all churches and bishops.
tial and the prerogatives of the Roman church gained in-
Here is found, for example, in number 12, the statement that
creased attention as reform progressed.
the pope may depose emperors, and in number 27, the claim
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that the pope may absolve subjects of unjust men from their
from the perspective of his fascination with and devotion to
fealty. From the outset of his reign, therefore, Gregory VII
the Roman church and the papal office. From that perspec-
was concerned not only to advance policies to bring about
tive the events and the turmoil of his reign appear as outcrop-
puritas ecclesiae, but also, as part of a larger plan, he as eager
pings of a desire to continue the reforming work of his pre-
to define and command obedience to the policies of the
decessors, and also to establish what he deemed to be the
Roman church.
proper order of Christian society. Using the Bible as his chief
source, and infused with religious fervor and a deep sense of
The decade between 1075 and Gregory’s death in 1085
Roman ecclesiastical possibilities, Gregory believed that the
saw the genesis and development of a church-state controver-
whole world ought to be subject to the leadership of the
sy between Gregory and Henry that would outlive both lead-
church, for churchmen were responsible for promoting
ers. Issues arose about the interaction of the ecclesiastical and
secular realms of society that would be debated for centuries.
the kingdom of God on earth and would be held accountable
Gregory maintained that he had the right to remove Henry’s
for human souls on judgment day. It was Peter, the founder
kingship and to release his subjects from their oaths of loyal-
of the Roman church, to whom Christ gave supreme author-
ty. Henry, on the other hand, claimed that he reigned by the
ity over the terrestrial church, and thus Peter’s vicar, the bish-
grace of God, not of the pope, and that he possessed the right
op of Rome, was to be obeyed as the supreme authority on
to control the churches in his realm. Because of what he saw
earth and must be prime in both ecclesiastical and secular do-
as the indefensible novelty of Gregory’s positions he con-
mains. Both realms—the secular (regnum) and the religious
demned him as a “false monk” and usurper of the papal
(sacerdotium)—should attend to its own proper duties, but
throne. The battle extended beyond rhetoric and exchanges
by seeking to do God’s will under the headship of the church
of letters. In 1076 Gregory excommunicated Henry and for-
and ultimately under its chief bishop.
bade him to exercise his royal duties. After a period of com-
No less than laymen, Gregory expected churchmen to
plicated diplomatic maneuvering, however, in the early
be loyal devotees of Peter and his vicar. The papal office, fur-
1080s Henry invaded Italy, drove Gregory from Rome into
thermore, was an awesome responsibility. Gregory believed
Norman territory in the south, and installed in his place an-
that it was his divinely enjoined duty not only to protect the
other pontiff, the so-called antipope, Clement III (Archbish-
church from the stain of abuses such as simony, but also to
op Wibert of Ravenna). The controversy offers historians
free it from every distraction that would impede the perfor-
compelling vignettes such as the famous episode that oc-
mance of God’s work in the world. The desire for puritas
curred in January, 1077, at Canossa in northern Italy. At this
blended into a drive for the liberty of the church (liberts eccle-
crucial stage of the dispute Henry, beleaguered in both Ger-
siae). It often was necessary, consequently, to instruct and ad-
many and Italy, presented himself to Gregory as a penitent,
monish all sectors of society about their duties in the world,
parading barefoot in the snow to seek forgiveness from the
and about proper reverence for and obedience to Peter and
pope. After watching that performance from within the cas-
his successors. Gregory prohibited lay investiture, promoted
tle for three days, Gregory forgave Henry, and lifted the sen-
closer ties between Rome and outlying bishoprics and ab-
tence of excommunication (but probably did not intend to
beys, granted detailed powers to papal legates, stressed the
reinstate him as king). What political advantage was gained
need for liturgical harmony with Roman usages, ordered spe-
or lost on each side has been much debated, but Gregory’s
cial commissions to investigate the eucharistic teachings of
action in forgiving Henry was the response of a pastor of
Berengar of Tours, and even proposed early in his pontificate
souls and not of a power-crazed fanatic.
an expedition to the East to beat back the infidel from the
The prohibitions that Gregory formulated against lay-
Holy Land. Gregory was neither a canon lawyer nor a theolo-
men investing individuals with bishoprics and abbeys have
gian, although he was concerned with both areas, and he in-
been accorded a great deal of attention. In fact, the term In-
sisted that he was not an innovator. Perhaps he can be under-
vestiture Conflict has sometimes awkwardly been applied to
stood best as an eleventh-century monk (or regular canon)
the entire eleventh-century papal reform movement, with
of intense devotion and energy. He sought to realize what
the controversy about lay investiture, especially in the Ger-
he considered a properly structured Christian society and
man empire, wrongly seen as the cornerstone of Gregory’s
used the expanded authority of the papal office in his efforts.
policy to promote reform. Gregory’s decree against lay inves-
At the time of his death in 1085 Gregory was an exile
titure was probably issued first not in 1075 as once was as-
from Rome, driven to southern Italy by Henry IV and an
sumed but only in 1078. The transmission of these rulings
irate Roman populace. He had been deserted by many of his
must be closely examined to determine the extent to which
supporters, and many reforming churchmen thought he had
they were promulgated and applicable at different points
gone too far in his battle with Henry. By reason of that bat-
throughout Latin Christendom, for the programs of the re-
tle, however, and because of his powerful personality, Grego-
formers were not disseminated everywhere in the same
ry’s name has been attached to the entire reform movement
of the age, and the term Gregorian Reform is well-known
An assessment of Gregory’s policies must be given with-
to those who study medieval history. Although his impor-
in the general history of the eleventh-century reform and
tance is undeniable, the extent to which the cause of church
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

reform was aided or hindered by his pontificate is a compli-
cians at the patriarchal school where he lectured on the Paul-
cated issue. Many twelfth-century writers remembered Pope
ine letters. As one of the more creative personalities of the
Urban II (1088–1099), not Gregory, as the great figure of
late thirteenth century, he was the very embodiment of the
the preceding age of reform. Even so, Urban forcefully ac-
Paleologian renaissance that synthesized a renewal of ascetic
knowledged himself to be a disciple of Gregory, although the
spirituality and classical learning.
extent to which Urban is a true “Gregorian” can be debated.
Upon his ascendancy to the patriarchate in 1283, Greg-
As decades passed Gregory would be cited less and less fre-
ory inherited the political and religious problems that had
quently by his successors and by canon lawyers, but the issues
been festering since the Fourth Crusade (1204) and the
that dominated his reign could not be ignored. Because of
Council of Lyons (1274). Under the aggressive unionist at-
the claims that Gregory made, particularly those detailing the
tempts of Emperor Michael VIII and Patriarch John XI Bec-
relation between secular and ecclesiastical authority, medi-
cus (r. 1275–1282), these issues became entangled with the
eval church-state relations had been fundamentally altered
filioque controversy.
and could never again be seen as had been the case prior to
The Synod of Blachernae (spring 1285) proved to be a
short-lived victory for Gregory in his efforts to reconcile the
Arsenites (the hard-line conservatives) with the unionists.
Two new biographies of Gregory VII recently have appeared and
The importance of this synod, however, was, by way of its
are the starting point for all further study and bibliography:
condemnation of Beccus, its reaction to and rejection of the
H. E. J. Cowdrey, Pope Gregory VII, 1073–1085 (Oxford,
1274 Roman formulation. Gregory’s role was pivotal be-
1998), and Uta-Renate Blumenthal, Gregor VII. (Darmstadt,
cause of his synodal paper (Tome), which, however, was not
2001). The volumes of the journal Studi Gregoriani, edited
subsequently recognized for what it was—the definitive refu-
by G. B. Borino and others (Rome, 1947–), appear at irregu-
tation of Beccus’s theological innovation. Gregory’s subse-
lar intervals and contain scholarly articles about the Gregori-
quent writings (among them the Pittakion, which was ad-
an Age in many languages. Of special significance are the two
dressed to his benefactor and supporter, Andronicus II
volumes of papers from an international Congress held at Sa-
Palaeologus) constitute a defense of his stand against the
lerno in 1985, commemorating the 900th anniversary of
Gregory’s death in that city: vol. 13 (1989), and vol. 14
(1991). The critical edition of Gregory’s register is by Erich
Gregory’s theological contribution offered an insightful
Caspar, Das Register Gregors VII, “Monumenta Germaniae
solution to the filioque debate. Rather than being one of pro-
historica, Epistolae selectae,” vol. 2 (Berlin, 1920–1923).
visional accommodation (Beccus) or of rigorous adherence
Many sections of the register, following Caspar’s edition,
have been translated by Ephraim Emerton, The Correspon-
to the formulations of Photios and Athanasius, his solution
dence of Pope Gregory VII (New York, 1932; reprint 1991).
worked out the implications of the Cappadocians and of
Emerton’s introduction, albeit dated, is still useful for discus-
John of Damascus on the procession of the Holy Spirit. For
sion of the diplomatic questions raised by the surviving copy
Gregory, it was not enough to accept the authenticity of a
of the register in the Vatican Archives, although much has
particular scriptural or patristic reference; its correct interpre-
been written on this issue in the past sixty years: see, for ex-
tation was essential as well.
ample, Hartmut Hoffmann’s “Zum Register und zu den
Briefen Papst Gregors VII.,” Deutsches Archiv 32 (1976):
Gregory addressed Photios’s thesis that the Spirit eter-
86–130. Emerton’s translation has been superseded by a
nally proceeds from the Father alone by raising the question
complete English translation of the register by H. E. J. Cow-
of the relationship of the Spirit and the Son outside of time,
drey, The Register of Pope Gregory VII, 1073–1085 (Oxford,
as expressed in the formula “through the Son.” His argument
2002). For those letters of Gregory which are not to be found
distinguishes between the essence and energies of God, or be-
in the register, see the edition and translation by Cowdrey,
tween God’s unknowability and his perceivable manifesta-
The Epistolae vagantes of Pope Gregory VII (Oxford, 1972);
tion in the world. By emphasizing the notion of energetic
and for the papal privileges issued by Gregory see Leo Santi-
revelation in Greek patristic thought, Gregory remained,
faller et al., Quellen und Forschungen zum Urkunden- und
Kanzleiwesen Papst Gregors VII
., Studi e testi, vol. 190 (Vati-
indeed, in the mainstream of Byzantine apophatism and
can City, 1957).
also became the forerunner of fourteenth-century Palamite
The impact of Gregory’s insights on the Palamite syn-
thesis as well as his solution to the filioque debate is increas-
ingly recognized by scholars as being far more valuable and
GREGORY OF CYPRUS (1241–1290), known as
genuine than the theology of unionism. Unfortunately,
Gregory II, was a patriarch of Constantinople. Born in
Gregory’s contemporaries, unlike his successors, did not
Frankish-occupied Cyprus, Gregory traveled to Ephesus, Ni-
share the same sentiments toward their prelate. Even though
caea, and finally Constantinople, where he studied under
they tacitly accepted his orthodoxy, they insisted that he re-
Gregory Akropolites. His exceptional proclivity toward hu-
sign and solemnly removed his name from the hierarchical
manism gained for him a place in the select circle of academi-
list of the sunodikon. Was his self-imposed abdication from
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 patriarchate the most prudent action to take against a
works with the intention of eventually manifesting the or-
small yet influential band of opponents? That he did so
thodoxy of the Armenian church against the unitive attempts
proves not his weakness but his pastoral sensitivity to the im-
of Rome. His most important theological tracts are Girk E
portance of healing the political divisions that had torn the
Hartsmants (Book of questions; 1397) and Oskep Eorik (Book
church during his lifetime.
of golden content; 1407). In these Gregory addresses himself
to such topics as the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and
Christ’s birth, baptism, death, and resurrection. In Oskep
The published works of Gregory II can be found in Patrologia
Eorik, Gregory taught that rational examination can prove
Graeca, edited by J.-P. Migne, vol. 142 (Paris, 1865). Of
the existence of God without recourse to faith, because the
note is his autobiography, translated into French by William
existence of creatures implies the reality of the creator. In this
Lameere in La tradition manuscrite de la correspondance de
work he also formulated a profession of the Orthodox faith
Grégoire de Chypre (Brussels, 1937), pp. 176–191.
based on the creeds of the councils of Nicaea and Constanti-
The most definitive work on Gregory, with an extensive bibliogra-
nople and included the teachings of the Armenian church
phy, is Aristeides Papadakis’s Crisis in Byzantium: The Filio-
and its early fathers, especially Gregory the Illuminator (c.
que Controversy in the Patriarchate of Gregory II of Cyprus
239–c. 326). In continuous use, this credo is recited also dur-
1283–1289 (New York, 1983). For a critical approach to
ing ordination ceremonies by the ordinand.
Gregory’s analysis in light of Gregory Palamas (fourteenth
century) and Joseph Bryennios (fifteenth century), see
Criticizing Plato, Gregory taught in his About the Struc-
Dumitru Staniloae’s “Trinitarian Relations and the Life of
ture of Man that the spirit does not exist prior to the corpore-
the Church” (in Romanian), Ortodoxia (Bucharest) 16
al (body or matter) nor apart from it but issues concurrently
(1964): 503–525, reprinted in Theology and the Church
and works through the mechanisms that the corporeal pro-
(New York, 1980), pp. 11–44.
vides. There are different types of spirit—the vegetative, the
animal, and the rational. Through the initiative of God, the
corporeal, whether body or matter, contains “formative
power” or spirit, which is immortal, and which has heat, mo-
tion, and action. According to Gregory, faith and science do
GREGORY OF DATEV (1346–1410), or, in Arme-
not exclude each other but belong properly to two different
nian, Grigor Tatevatsi, was a Christian theologian, philoso-
realms. Science is bereft of the means to consider the super-
pher, and saint of the Armenian church. Gregory of Datev
natural realm and by faith alone one cannot understand na-
was born in TEmkaberd, a city in the province of Vayots
ture. Knowledge of the natural world is acquired through
Dsor, in northeastern Armenia. At the age of fifteen, he en-
reason, training, and experience (by way of the five senses).
tered the Monastery of AprakunikE to study under the fa-
The rational spirit of humankind is like a clean parchment
mous philosopher and theologian Hovhannes of OrotEn
and receives whatever is impressed on it, whereas through
(1315–1388), with whom he remained for twenty-eight
God’s grace one can understand theological truths.
years. With his teacher, Gregory traveled in 1373 to Jerusa-
lem, where he was ordained a celibate priest. He received the
An industrious writer, Gregory produced twenty-eight
degree of doctor of the church in Erzinka (present-day Erzin-
volumes on biblical, liturgical, pastoral, theological, and
can, eastern Turkey) and in 1387 was elevated to the rank
philosophical topics. Most of his works have not had a com-
of supreme doctor of the church at the Monastery of
prehensive critical evaluation. Such a task would enhance the
AprakunikE. At the death of Hovhannes and upon his express
proper understanding of the beliefs of the Armenian church
wish, Gregory became the dean of the theological school,
through the writings of one of its most loyal sons.
which in 1390 moved to the Monastery of Datev.
In addition to classical Greek philosophy, biblical exege-
sis, and both Greek and Latin patristic thought, Gregory’s
Works by Gregory
students were also introduced to music, calligraphy, and the
Girk E Hartsmants. Constantinople, 1729. Written in 1397, this
art of painting illuminated manuscripts. An erudite thinker,
work, composed of ten volumes of an encyclopedic nature,
Gregory knew Greek, Latin, and Arabic. He died at the
provides a comprehensive account of the beliefs of the Arme-
nian church. An excellent apologist, Gregory analyzes such
Monastery of Datev at the age of sixty-four and was buried
varied theological topics as creation, incarnation, resurrec-
there, where his tomb lies to this day. Venerated by following
tion, and eschatology.
generations as “Second Illuminator,” “eternally shining sun,”
“heavenly champion,” and “great teacher,” Gregory of Datev
Karozgirk E. Constantinople, 1741. This book of homilies was
completed in 1407. Both volumes together contain 344 ser-
dominated the thought and orientation of the Armenian
mons written partly in defense of the Armenian church
church in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as monk, au-
against the unitive attempts of the Roman church. As origi-
thor, educator, theologian, philosopher, scientist, orator,
nally intended, it is also an excellent textbook on homiletics.
apologist, painter, calligrapher, and polyglot.
Works about Gregory
Well versed in the scholastic manner of demonstration,
Khachikian, Levon S. XV Dari Hayeren Tseragreri Hishadakaran-
Gregory used syllogistic argumentation throughout his
ner, part A, 1401–1450. Yerevan, 1955–1967. This book 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

cludes a reprint of the concise but authoritative account of
Gregory was and remains the mystic of the Armenian
the life of Gregory written probably by his pupil Matheos
church. Central to his mysticism is the belief in a cathartic
Joughayatsi (b. 1360). Included are facts of his early back-
process that ultimately would lead humankind to a reacquisi-
ground, education, influences, death, and burial.
tion of divine similitude, or the likeness of God. The mysti-
Krikorian, Mesrob K. “Grigory of TatEev: A Great Scholastic
cism espoused by Gregory is a uniquely human undertaking
Theologian and Philosopher.” In Hygazian Hyagitagan Han-
whereby humanity tries to encounter God. To meet the Al-
tes, vol. 9, edited by Yervant Kasouni, pp. 71–79. Beirut,
mighty, humanity must rid itself of transgressions. In order
1981. A short but informative article portraying Gregory as
to encounter God, who transcends all being and all knowl-
scholastic theologian and nominalist philosopher.
edge, it becomes necessary to renounce all sense gathered
Ormanian, MalDachia. Azgapatowm (1912–1927). 3 vols. Reprint,
through the workings of reason. This apophatic approach to
Beirut, 1959–1961. This history of the Armenian nation is
an extremely comprehensive study of the events and people
knowledge of God takes the form of negating all meaning
who shaped the orientation and theology of the Armenian
in order to emphasize the absolute unknowability of God.
church as well as the politics of the Armenian nation. Of par-
According to Gregory, God is incomprehensible, invisible,
ticular relevance to the study of Gregory are paragraphs
ineffable, beyond totality, unspeakable, unobservable, with-
1367, 1379, and 1397–1404.
out beginning, and without time.
Gregory, however, also embraced the cataphatic ap-
proach to God by stressing God’s actions in history, which
manifest God’s love and concern for humankind. In the
GREGORY OF NAREK (c. 945–c. 1010), or, in Ar-
Commentary on the Song of Songs of Solomon, Gregory empha-
menian, Grigor Narekatsi, was a Christian mystic, poet, and
sizes the parallelism between the union of Yahveh with Israel
saint of the Armenian church. Gregory was born in the vil-
and the marriage of the incarnate Logos with the church. As
lage of Narek in the region of Vaspourakan (present-day
the Lord of compassion and mercy, the Christian God is dis-
Van, eastern Turkey). His father, Khosrov Antsevatsi, bishop
tinctly a God of action, that is, a living God. Gregory began
of the nearby province of AntsevatsikE, built a monastery,
all his prayers by declaring, “from the depth of heart, a con-
where Gregory obtained his elementary schooling. He con-
versation with God.”
tinued his education in the Monastery of Narek, where after
ordination he spent the remainder of his life.
The rulers of the kingdom of Vaspourakan favored ties
Gregory’s Odes and Discourses are available in the original classical
with Byzantium. Consequently, the Monastery of Narek
Armenian in Tagher Yev Gantser, edited by Armine
trained its novices in the trivium and quadrivium, having in-
KEo¯shkerian (Yerevan, 1981). The Book of Lamentation can
corporated the syllabi used in the educational centers
be obtained in classical Armenian as Matean Oghbergowt Den
(Jerusalem, 1964). This work is also available in a bilingual
throughout the Eastern Christian empire. Thus Gregory was
edition, with Russian translation by Naum Grebnev and in-
well versed in Greek philosophy, especially in the thought
terlinear translations by Levon Mkrtchian and Margarita
of Plato, Aristotle, and the Neoplatonic school, which by the
Darbinian, as Madyan Voghbergoutian/Kniga skorbi (Yerevan,
tenth century had been clothed in Christian garb. Gregory
1977). Parts of the Book of Lamentation are also available in
was also well read in the Armenian church fathers of the
English translation by Mischa Kudian as Lamentations of
fourth through seventh centuries and was familiar with the
Narek: Mystic Soliloquies with God (London, 1977). See also
thought of Ignatius of Antioch, the Cappadocian fathers,
the complete French translation by Isaac Kéchichian, Le livre
and Chrysostom.
de prières (Paris, 1961). Gregory’s Commentary on the Song
of Songs of Solomon
is published as Meknoutyoun Yerg Yergots
Gregory’s major work, the Book of Lamentation, popu-
Soghomoni (Beirut, 1963). For further discussion of Gregory,
larly known as Narek, is a prayer book still much venerated.
see MalDachia Ormanian’s Azgapatowm, 3 vols. (1912–1927;
In it the penitent is made aware of the total otherness of God
reprint, Beirut, 1959–1961), a comprehensive study of the
and of humanity’s utter dependence on God, who is the
Armenian church as well as the politics of the Armenian na-
source of all reality. The Book of Lamentation is an analysis
tion. Of particular relevance to Gregory are paragraphs 790,
of Gregory’s own spiritual progress, realized through a fun-
791, 793, 813, and 814.
damental knowledge of Christ and a radical knowledge of
himself as sinner. The work also exhibits detailed knowledge
of the scriptures and familiarity with agriculture, architec-
ture, mathematics, astronomy, nautical art, and medicine.
Among his other literary achievements are twenty-one
GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS (c. 329–c. 391) was
hymns, or odes; four panegyrical orations, containing histor-
one of the Cappadocian fathers, known to Christian tradi-
ical accounts of the era; and ten discourses, actually spiritual
tion as “the Theologian” by virtue of his rhetorical erudition
songs, consisting of invocations and supplications. Of special
and the consummate skill with which he combated the per-
interest is the historical information these discourses contain
ceived heresies of those who in any way detracted from or
concerning the stratification of society during the times of
denied the validity of the established orthodoxy of his day.
One of those “heretics” was his own father, Gregory the
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Elder, who in his youth had been a member of an obscure
many of his views were adopted) he retired to the contempla-
but apparently popular sect known as the Hypsistarii. But
tive life that he had so fervently desired from the beginning.
inasmuch as his father was later converted to orthodoxy and
But Gregory’s retirement years, as his extant letters
subsequently consecrated bishop, his son could say of him
clearly indicate, were far from idle. Chief among his concerns
that he was one whose “character anticipates their faith”
during this period of his life was yet another “heresy,” this
(Oration 18) and that he was “well grafted out of the wild
time authored by Apollinaris, bishop of Laodicea. In an at-
olive tree into the good one” (Or. 7). It was by his mother,
tempt to solve the question of how the Son of God (or
Nonna, however, that Gregory was to be most enduringly
Word) could become incarnate in the human Jesus, Apolli-
influenced, for it was she who, by her tears and by her
naris suggested that the Word (Gr., logos) took the place of
prayers, persuaded him to embrace the ascetic life. Gregory
Jesus’ mind (or rational faculty), thus ensuring the unity of
said of her, “Who had a greater love of virginity, though pa-
the incarnate person and also implying that everything Jesus
tient herself of the marriage bond?” (Or. 18). Gregory was
did or said could be attributed to divine authorship. Gregory,
one of three children; Gorgonia, his older sister (“One red
in three closely argued dogmatic letters (101, 102, 202),
tint was dear to her, the blush of modesty,” Or. 8), and a
called this a “mindless” Christology, insisting—again, out of
younger brother, Caesarius (“Neither by his fame [as a physi-
a concern for the need for salvation and for humanity’s ulti-
cian] nor by the luxury which surrounded him was his nobil-
mate goal of union with God—that “only that which is as-
ity of soul corrupted,” Or. 7), both predeceased Gregory.
sumed [i.e., by the Logos] can be saved.” It must be the
The funeral orations Gregory preached for his sister and
whole person, the mind included, that was assumed by the
brother remain classics of their genre, panegyrics of the most
Word at the time of the incarnation, if the whole person is
elaborate sort.
to be saved. If the whole person is not assumed, then salva-
Gregory’s education was undertaken at Cappadocian
tion itself is imperiled. Gregory’s powerful and incisive argu-
Caesarea, at Palestinian Caesarea, at Alexandria, and finally
ments won the day, and Apollinaris’s bold attempts to ex-
at Athens. Upon completion of these extensive studies, Greg-
plain the incomprehensible were condemned.
ory had hoped to retire to a life of contemplative solitude
If Gregory were to be remembered, within the relatively
(“with no contact with human affairs except when neces-
narrow confines of the history of doctrine, only as “the Theo-
sary,” Or. 2), but this desire was thwarted when his father,
logian,” and if he were understood solely as the defender of
now a bishop, ordained him priest and set him on the stormy
true faith against heretical encroachments, it would be doing
road of pastoral and ecclesiastical responsibilities. The “tyr-
him an injustice. As important as his Christological and
anny” he experienced at his father’s hand was repeated when
Trinitarian concepts were to the debates of his day, his more
his close friend Basil of Caesarea consecrated him suffragan
enduring (and often overlooked) significance may lie else-
bishop of the “exceptionally abominable and narrow little
where. Caught, as he was, between the desire for solitary re-
village” (Or. 10) of Sasima. Upon his father’s death, howev-
tirement (“For me the greatest business is to be free of busi-
er, Gregory returned to Nazianzus to pursue what he hoped
ness,” Epistle 49) and his vehement dislike of ecclesiastical
would be a quiet and undisturbed episcopate.
and political machinations (“For my part . . . my inclina-
This was not to be so. During the “heretical” emperor
tion is to avoid all assemblies of bishops, because I have never
Valens’s reign, the Arian party had gained strength, so Greg-
seen a council come to a good end or turn out to be a solu-
tion for evils,” Ep. 130), he nevertheless manifested in his
ory was (again reluctantly) persuaded to go to Constantino-
own person a delicate balance between a genuine concern for
ple, the capital city, and preach on behalf of the outnum-
his fellow Christians’ spiritual well-being and an intuitive
bered “orthodox.” Arius and his followers had called into
grasp of those divine mysteries that transcend logical or ratio-
question the eternal divinity of Christ (a dogma that the
nal boundaries. This balance is seen less in his exclusively
Council of Nicaea, in 325, had promulgated in direct oppo-
doctrinal discourses than in his poetry, for it is in the latter
sition to Arius), while others had denied the full divinity of
that one glimpses a sensitivity at once aesthetic and mystical.
the Holy Spirit. Such views offended Gregory deeply, so he
set out in a series of five long discourses, commonly known
While Gregory’s orations address theological issues with
as his Theological Orations (Or. 27–31), to articulate, with
precision and directness, his poems—many of them no less
both depth of learning and clarity of thought, what he be-
theological—are less rigid, more given to deep self-
lieved to be the true doctrine of the Trinity. The core of his
understanding and to a broad, inclusive generosity of spirit.
teaching consisted in his assertion that the salvation of hu-
Gregory may be one of the earliest Christian theologians to
mankind is possible only if the agents of that salvation (i.e.,
realize, instinctively, that poetry is a more appropriate medi-
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) share fully in the divinity of
um for theological articulation than is prose, however well
the one godhead. Defending the so-called Nicene faith
ordered, systematic, and architectonic that prose might be.
against its Arian detractors, however, took its toll on Grego-
He would have delighted, one dares suppose, in the claim
ry, as did his other episcopal duties, including his unwilling
of the nineteenth-century Scottish poet John Campbell
participation in ecclesiastical politics. It is no surprise, then,
Shairp that “whenever we come face to face with truth then
that during the Council of Constantinople in 381 (where
poetry begins.” It is as if Gregory’s dogmatic discourses were
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

true to his (albeit grudging) acceptance of the ecclesial re-
and saintly ascetic. Destined for an ecclesiastical career,
sponsibilities laid on him, whereas his poems gave voice to
Gregory was early made a lector in the church and was edu-
his capacity for a deep inner awareness of his relationship to
cated in the local schools at Caesarea, thus missing the op-
God, a relationship of which both his constancy in ascetic
portunity to study, as Basil had, at one or more of the great
discipline and his unending search after truth were genuine
cosmopolitan centers of learning. Nevertheless, Gregory de-
symbols. The balance, then, between theological precision in
cided in favor of marriage (with a woman named Theose-
the interests of orthodoxy and his poetic sensitivities was, for
beia) and the career of a professional rhetorician, which he
Gregory, perhaps more of a tension than a balance. Yet he
took up in earnest around 365.
had a vision of the future state in which the balance would
Gregory’s first known work was the treatise On Virgini-
be restored and the tension resolved. And this he could ex-
ty, which he wrote in defense of the ascetic life, apparently
press both poetically and theologically:
at the behest of Basil. Shortly after its composition, Basil,
No longer from afar will I behold the truth,
now the metropolitan bishop of Caesarea, found himself
As if in a mirror reflected on the water’s surface.
badly in need of episcopal allies in his struggle with the Arian
Rather, the truth itself will I see with eyes unveiled,
orthodoxy of the imperial court. Accordingly, he induced
The truth whose first and primary mark the Trinity is,
Gregory to be ordained bishop of Nyssa (371), a small town
God as One adored, a single light in tri-equal beams.
on the river Halys, some eighty miles northwest of Caesarea.
The job fit neither Gregory’s tastes nor his talents, but he car-
ried on until a synod of Arian bishops, assembled at Nyssa
The most extensive collection of Gregory’s writings in English
in his absence, deposed him (376) on a charge of maladmin-
translation is to be found in Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Saint
istration of funds.
Gregory Nazianzus, edited and translated by Charles Gordon
Browne and James Edward Swallow, in volume 7 (2d series)
The year 379, which saw both the death of Basil and
of “A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers”
the accession of an anti-Arian, pro-Nicene emperor in the
(New York, 1894), which comprises but a small portion of
person of Theodosius I, marked a turning point in Gregory’s
the extant corpus published (in Greek) in Patrologia Graeca,
life. For one thing, it raised him to prominence in the life
vols. 35–38 (Paris, 1857–1862), edited by J.-P. Migne. The
of the church: He was chosen (though by his own choice he
secondary literature on Gregory is vast, but any of the follow-
did not long remain) the metropolitan bishop of Sebaste in
ing titles may be consulted for their extensive bibliographies.
Armenia I; he figured prominently at the Council of Con-
Paul Gallay’s La vie de Grégoire de Nazianze (Lyons, 1943)
stantinople in 381; and he functioned as a regular “special
is a lively and appreciative work, complementing but not su-
preacher” in Theodosius’s capital.
perseding the earlier Saint Grégoire de Nazianze: Sa vie, ses
œuvres, son époque
(1884; reprint, New York, 1973) of Al-
More important still, Gregory, on the death of Basil,
phonse Benoit. Jean Plagnieux’s Saint Grégoire de Nazianze
took up the cudgels against his brother’s principal theological
Théologien (Paris, 1952) is a splendid survey of Gregory’s
opponent, the radical Arian Eunomius. In all he composed
overall theological significance, while Heinz Althaus’s Die
four treatises entitled Against Eunomius during the years
Heilslehre des heiligen Gregor von Nazianz (Münster, 1972)
380–383. His continuation of his brother’s work in the de-
and Donald F. Winslow’s The Dynamics of Salvation: A Study
bate with Arianism was paralleled by his completion of
in Gregory of Nazianzus (Cambridge, Mass., 1979) address
specific doctrinal issues in greater detail. Finally, an impor-
Basil’s exegetical homilies on the creation story of Genesis 1.
tant work is Anna-Stina Ellverson’s The Dual Nature of Man:
To this end Gregory wrote a lengthy treatise, On the Making
A Study in the Theological Anthropology of Gregory of Nazian-
of Man, many of whose themes and issues are echoed in his
zus (Uppsala, 1981).
contemporary Dialogue on the Soul and the Resurrection,
which he presents as a conversation between himself and his
dying sister Macrina. In all of these works Gregory exhibits
a remarkable knowledge not only of the Origenist tradition
in Christian theology, which Basil and Gregory of Nazianzus
GREGORY OF NYSSA (c. 335–c. 395), also known
had “rediscovered,” but also of pagan philosophy in the Neo-
as Gregory Nyssen, was a Christian theologian. With his
platonic idiom; and his indebtedness to these traditions is
elder brother, Basil of Caesarea (c. 329–379), and Basil’s life-
not the less obvious because he is critically aware of the prob-
long friend, Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329–c. 391), Gregory
lems they created for Christian theology.
of Nyssa was a principal architect and interpreter both of the
In his defense of the orthodoxy of the Nicene tradition
trinitarian settlement canonized by the ecumenical Council
(i.e., of the doctrine that Son and Spirit are “of one being”
of Constantinople (381) and, in his later years, of the ascetic
with God), Gregory insists, with Basil and Gregory of Nazi-
and mystical tradition of Eastern monasticism.
anzus, that the three hypostases of Father, Son, and Holy
Little is known of the details of Gregory’s life. The child
Spirit share a single being or substance (ousia): Each is all that
of an aristocratic Christian family of Cappadocia, he had two
the others are. Furthermore, every action or operation of
bishops among his brothers, while his elder sister, Macrina,
God is one in which all three hypostases share: As there is
whose biography is numbered among his works, was a noted
one divine being, so there is one divine energeia. What differ-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

entiates the “persons” is solely the relations of causation or
Otis, Brooks. “Gregory of Nyssa and the Cappadocian Concep-
origination in which they stand to one another. God appears
tion of Time.” In Studia Patristica XIV, edited by Elizabeth
in Gregory’s thought as a single being that is articulated
A. Livingstone, pp. 327–357. Oxford, 1976.
through relations of strict self-reproduction.
Völker, Walther. Gregor von Nyssa als Mystiker. Wiesbaden, 1955.
In taking this stand, Gregory repudiated the Arian hier-
archy of divine hypostases, which established the identity of
the Son, or Word, and the Spirit by insisting that they were
things of a different (and inferior) order in relation to God,
GREGORY OF SINAI (d. 1347) was an ascetic and
mediating between God and world. The fundamental error
mystic canonized by the Eastern Orthodox church. The
in this Arian position, as Gregory saw it, lay in the belief that
Greek church commemorates his life on February 11 and the
the being of God is definable and hence limited: that Son
Slavic churches on August 8. Much of the life and writings
and Spirit can be distinguished from God because their defi-
of this great church father is known from the life composed
nitions are different from God’s. He insists, on the contrary,
by his disciple Kallistos I, patriarch of Constantinople.
that no human words or ideas grasp the ousia of God, which
is infinite and illimitable Good; and for this reason the dis-
Born in Asia Minor, Gregory took his monastic vows
tinction of Father, Son, and Spirit belongs not to the order
on Mount Sinai. After travels to Cyprus and Crete he came
of being but to that of cause or relation.
to Mount Athos. Disturbed to find the holy men of Athos
in ignorance of true silence and contemplation, he under-
This doctrine of the divine infinity is closely related to
took to instruct both monks and solitaries in the contempla-
a central anthropological theme that appears in Gregory’s
tive art. Further travels took him to Constantinople and to
treatise On the Making of Man as well as in certain of his later
Thrace, where he founded monasteries and taught the tech-
ascetic works. As might be expected in one whose thought
niques of mental prayer.
was so closely allied to Platonist and Christian-Platonist tra-
ditions, Gregory, like Origen before him, has difficulties
Gregory did not write extensively. Most of his works are
about the bodily dimension of the human being. On this
concerned with mental prayer and hesychasm, the spiritual
score he corrects Origen by insisting that soul and body come
life of inner wakefulness. He taught that through obedience,
simultaneously into being and that embodiment is no prod-
mourning, tears, and the power of pure contemplation the
uct of a previous fall. Nevertheless he makes this critical
mind is cleansed and led to a vision of the “uncreated light”
move with a caution that reveals his sympathy with Origen’s
of God. Spiritual perfection is finally achieved in deification
deprecation of the body. Where he corrects Origen most
firmly is in the latter’s treatment of human finitude and mu-
The contemplative art practiced and taught by Gregory
tability. For Gregory, mutability, the capacity for unending
is known as “prayer of the heart.” In his Instructions to Hesy-
change, is the characteristic of the human creature that corre-
chasts he describes a method whereby the mind is forced to
sponds to divine infinity and incomprehensibility. It is envis-
descend from head to heart and is then held in repeated invo-
aged not primarily as the ever-present possibility of departure
cation of the name of Jesus Christ. Mental prayer is thus re-
from God, but even more as the condition of eternal progress
membrance of God through a pure and imageless contem-
into the infinite Good—Gregory’s definition of salvation.
plation. He urged his disciples to keep their minds “colorless,
These theological themes are developed in Gregory’s
formless, and imageless” and emphasized the use of such
later ascetic writings (especially in his Life of Moses and his
physical aids as rhythmic breathing for attainment of inner
fifteen Homilies on the Song of Songs) into the beginnings of
stillness. But, because human effort alone cannot accomplish
a mystical doctrine that is closely integrated with his under-
meditative union, he urged that “no one can hold the mind
standing of baptism and the life that it initiates. For him the
by himself, if it be not held by the Spirit.” As humans work
processes of moral purification and spiritual illumination
at prayer, the prayer works in them, and the mind rejoices
come to no final end precisely because there is no end to the
with the presence of the Holy Spirit and is strengthened in
Good that they seek. They issue, as did Moses’ pilgrimage,
its striving for perfection.
in an entrance into “the cloud” that symbolizes divine in-
comprehensibility and infinity. In Gregory’s spiritual teach-
ing, therefore, there is an anticipation of the path that
The largest compilation of Gregory’s works is published in En-
apophatic mysticism was to take in the writings of Dionysius
glish in Eugènie Kadloubovsky’s and G. E. H. Palmer’s Writ-
the Areopagite.
ings from the Philokalia on the Prayer of the Heart (London,
1951). An excellent account of Gregory’s theology can be
SEE ALSO Basil of Caesarea; Gregory of Nazianzus.
found in Kallistos Ware’s “The Jesus Prayer in St. Gregory
of Sinai” in Eastern Churches Review 4 (1972): 3–22. It in-
cludes a complete bibliography. An account of Gregory’s life
Balthasar, Hans Urs von. Présence et pensée: Essai sur la philosophie
can be found in John Maximovitch’s “The Life of St. Grego-
religieuse de Grégoire de Nysse. Paris, 1942.
ry of Sinai” in The Orthodox Word 5 (1969): 165–179.
Daniélou, Jean. Platonisme et théologie mystique. Paris, 1944.
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

GREGORY PALAMAS (1296–1359) was the most
discussions with papal legates on the question of church
important Orthodox theologian of the fourteenth century
union during the years 1333–1334, Barlaam had refuted the
and one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Or-
filioque by invoking the unapproachability and unknowabili-
thodox church. Raised in the Byzantine imperial court, he
ty of God. The agnostic character of Barlaam’s theology dis-
later became a monk and wrote important theological works
turbed many Orthodox theologians, including Gregory. He
that refer primarily to the experience of communion with
composed his Apodictic Treatises concerning the Procession of
God. He was elected archbishop of Thessalonica and imme-
the Holy Spirit (1335) without, however, ever referring to
diately following his death was recognized as a saint of the
Barlaam by name. It was the attack of Barlaam against the
Orthodox church. Gregory’s memory is celebrated twice per
ascetic method of the hesychasts that eventually provoked an
year: on November 14, the day of his death, and on the sec-
open rift between him and Gregory. Relying on simplistic
ond Sunday of Lent. This second celebration, which serves
and incomplete information concerning the psychosomatic
in effect as an extension of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, reveals
method of prayer used by the hesychasts, Barlaam assailed
the special importance the Orthodox church attaches to his
them in the most severe terms, characterizing them as om-
person and teachings.
phalopsuchoi (“men with their souls in their navels”) and as
The works of Gregory Palamas summarize the entire
Massalians, a heretical group that claimed salvation is ob-
earlier patristic tradition, offering it in a new synthesis that
tained only through the power of prayer and not through the
has as its central theme the theo¯sis (deification) of humanity.
sacraments of the church. The defense of the hesychasts was
This theo¯sis is realized through the participation of human-
undertaken by Gregory. It was for this purpose that he wrote
kind in the uncreated energies of God. For this reason, the
his famous work Triads in Defense of the Holy Hesychasts
rejection of the uncreated energies of God, which has as a
(c. 1338). The positions taken by Gregory were approved
consequence the rejection of the possibility for humankind
from the beginning by the church. They were sanctioned as
to achieve theo¯sis, was not considered by Palamas to be mere-
well by various synodal decisions, which have a special im-
ly another typical Christian heresy but rather the summariza-
portance for Orthodoxy.
tion of all heresies, and, ultimately, the negation of the God
The first official recognition of Gregory’s teachings,
who is revealed in the scriptures and the church.
with a parallel condemnation of the views of Barlaam, came
Gregory was born in 1296 in Constantinople. When he
about through the approval of the Hagioretic Tome, which
was seven years old he lost his father, Constantine, but he
Gregory himself wrote in 1340 and which was signed by rep-
continued to reside in the imperial court in Constantinople
resentatives of the monasteries of Mount Athos. In June
under the protection of the emperor Andronicus II
1341, a council was convened in Constantinople that con-
Palaeologus. He received a rich education there, particularly
demned the positions taken by Barlaam, who confessed his
in philosophy. Even though the emperor had destined him
error and finally was compelled to return to the West.
for high public office, the young Gregory had become in-
creasingly occupied with ascetic practices and noetic prayer,
The definitive resolution of the debate was delayed,
and he eventually chose to enter the monastic life. At the age
however, by the untimely death of the emperor, Andronicus
of twenty, he left with his two younger brothers for the mo-
III Palaeologus, which occurred immediately following the
nastic center of Mount Athos. He remained there first with
conclusion of the work of the council and before he had had
a hesychast in the vicinity of Vatopediou Monastery, then
a chance to sign its decisions. The situation was complicated
as a member of the koinobion (brotherhood) of the great
by the political controversy that soon arose over the question
monastery of the Lavra, and finally in the hermitage of
of the imperial succession and that led to a civil war. Thus,
a new period of struggle began for Gregory, a struggle that
lasted until 1347. His new opponent was Gregory Akin-
In 1325, Turkish incursions compelled him and other
dynos. During this period, when the strong man in Constan-
monks to leave the Holy Mountain. While on a visit to Thes-
tinople was Patriarch John Calecas, Gregory was banished,
salonica, he was ordained a priest; he left soon after for Be-
imprisoned, and excommunicated from the church (1344),
roea, where he lived for five years at a hermitage outside the
while his adversary Akindynos, who had already been con-
city, under even more austere conditions of asceticism. In
demned by the church for his views (August 1341), was grad-
1331, Serbian raids became a serious threat, and he was
ually restored to prominence and even ordained a priest.
forced to abandon Beroea and return to Mount Athos. Re-
Calecas’s tactic, however, eventually undermined his posi-
suming again the hesychast life, he resided for the most part
tion. Anne of Savoy, mother of the underaged emperor John
at the hermitage of Saint Sabbas, near the great monastery
V Palaeologus, had set Gregory free. A new council, con-
of the Lavra, except for one year, during which he served as
vened at the beginning of 1347, condemned Patriarch Cale-
abbot of the monastery of Esphigmenou.
cas at the same time that the victorious John VI Cantacu-
It was at Saint Sabbas that Gregory first was exposed to
zenus was entering the city as coemperor. The patriarchal
the antihesychast opinions of Barlaam of Calabria, a monk
throne was assumed by the hesychast Isidore, and Gregory
and philosopher of Greek ancestry from southern Italy.
was elected archbishop of Thessalonica. However, the zeal-
While representing the Orthodox church during preparatory
ots, who were occupying Thessalonica and who refused to
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

recognize the legitimacy of Cantacuzenus, prevented the new
based their theology on the experience of the revelation of
bishop from entering his see. Thus, Gregory only formally
God within history. However, true theology is also organical-
undertook his pastoral responsibilities at the beginning of
ly combined with the vision of God; it is the fruit and expres-
1350, after Cantacuzenus had captured that city as well.
sion of this vision.
Gregory’s first act as archbishop of Thessalonica was to
The vision of God is possible because God, who is unap-
reestablish peace within his flock. In the meantime, he had
proachable and imparticipable according to his essence, be-
to contend with a new attack against the hesychasts, this time
comes accessible to human beings through his uncreated
from the Byzantine humanist Nikephoros Gregoras. A new
grace or energy. To have the vision of God, a person must
council, called in Constantinople in 1351, decided once
cleanse his or her heart from the stain of sin. Before the incar-
again in favor of Gregory and reconfirmed his teachings, es-
nation of Christ, the uncreated grace of God illumined the
pecially those having to do with the distinction between es-
just from without. After the incarnation, God is united to
sence and energy in God. In 1354, while traveling to Con-
humankind through the sacrament of the Eucharist and is
stantinople, Gregory was captured by the Turks and
manifested as light within one’s inner being—provided that
remained their prisoner for approximately one year in Turk-
the person has tried, through prayerful contemplation, to
ish-occupied areas of Asia Minor. There he had the opportu-
collect his or her Nous (intellect), which is usually distracted
nity to come into contact with local Christian communities,
by the things of this world, and to cleanse it from sin. This
as well as to converse with Muslim theologians. After the
interpretation of the theory of the uncreated light can be
payment of a ransom, he was set free by the Turks. While
found not only among the hesychast monks, but, more gen-
passing through Constantinople, he held public debates with
erally, in the teaching of the Orthodox church regarding the
Nikephoros Gregoras, against whom he also composed sever-
renewal and theo¯sis (deification) of humanity. By participat-
al new treatises. In 1355 he returned to Thessalonica, where
ing in the uncreated grace or energy of God, humankind be-
he continued his pastoral work. He died on November 14,
comes itself a god by grace. The experience of theo¯sis begins
already in this life and is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
Christ, who is the Son of God become man and who came
Gregory left numerous writings, which are preserved in
into the world as the brother of all human beings, is at the
many manuscript codices. For the most part, these have been
same time also the father of all in the faith, who leads them
published. His dogmatic and apologetic writings include the
into the eternal and everlasting glory of the kingdom of God:
Apodictic Treatises, in which Gregory propounds his compro-
“for in the glory of the Father, Christ is come, and in the
mise with the Latin teaching on the filioque by stating that
glory of their Father Christ, the righteous shine as the sun
the Holy Spirit, who proceeds eternally from the Father, is
and will become light and see light, the pleasing and all-holy
poured out on the faithful also from the Son. In his Triads
vision which is only accessible to the purified heart” (Chris-
he discusses the value of secular studies, various aspects of
tou, ed., vol. 1, p. 599).
prayer (including the participation of the human body in
prayer and the vision of the uncreated light), and the impos-
The influence of the theology of Gregory on Eastern
sibility of participation in the imparticipable essence of God.
Orthodoxy remains historically important. His tradition of
Finally, the Hagioretic Tome presents God’s unfolding revela-
theology served as the best source of counsel for the life of
tion and the need for obedience to the saints who have had
the Orthodox during the dark period of Turkish domina-
the experience of the mystical energies of the Holy Spirit.
tion. His teaching, as well as the hesychast tradition, was
propagated not only within the bounds of the Byzantine Em-
Gregory’s writings on the spiritual life include The Life
pire but also throughout the entire Orthodox world, giving
of Peter the Athonite (1334); One Hundred and Fifty Physical,
new inspiration to ascetic and ecclesiastical life. The basic
Theological, Moral and Practical Chapters (1347), in which
principles of Palamite theology, revived in the early twenti-
basic dogmatic, anthropological, moral, and ascetic themes
eth century by the publication of more of his works as well
are presented; To Xeni (1345), which analyzes the anthropo-
as numerous studies, has become the starting point for the
logical and theological presuppositions of the spiritual life;
renewal of Orthodox theology and spiritual life, which, dur-
and Exposition of the Decalogue, a synopsis of Christian mo-
ing recent centuries, has sustained intense influence from the
rality. Most of the sixty-three homilies of Gregory that have
survived were preached during his tenure as archbishop of
Thessalonica. These sermons help to reveal the multifaceted
personality of Gregory—his lively interest in the spiritual up-
Primary Sources
lifting of his flock, as well as his concern for peace, social jus-
Christou, Panagiotis, ed. Gregoriou tou Palama suggrammata. 3
tice, and the everyday problems of the faithful. Some of these
vols. Thessaloniki, 1962–1970.
homilies, such as the sixteenth and the fifty-third, are com-
Gregorius Palamas: Opera Omnia. In Patrologia Graeca, edited by
plete theological treatises. Most of his letters have been pre-
J.-P. Migne, vol. 150, pp. 771ff., and vol. 151, pp. 1–550.
served, as well as numerous other theological treatises.
Paris, 1865.
The theology of Gregory has an empirical character.
Meyendorff, John, ed. Gregory Palamas, The Triads. New York,
The prophets, the apostles, and the fathers of the church
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

Oikonomos, Sophokles, ed. Gregoriou archiepiskopou Thessalonikes
The Armenian tradition ascribes to Gregory the author-
tou Palama, Homiliai KB. Athens, 1861. Contains twenty-
ship of canons, a book of homilies (the Yachakhapatum), and
two sermons.
the liturgical books that are used in the Armenian church.
Secondary Sources
Modern scholarship, however, has shown that none of these
Mantzaridis, Georgios I. Palamika. Thessaloniki, 1973.
works could have been composed before the fifth century.
Mantzaridis, Georgios I. The Deification of Man. Crestwood,
N.Y., 1984.
Meyendorff, John. A Study of Gregory Palamas. London, 1964.
Agathangelos. History of the Armenians. Translated with commen-
tary by Robert W. Thomson. Albany, N.Y., 1976.
Meyendorff, John. Saint Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituali-
ty. Crestwood, N.Y., 1974.
Ananian, Paulo. “La data e le circostanze della consecrazione di
S. Gregorio Illuminatore.” Le Muséon 74 (1961): 43–73,
Stiernon, Daniel. “Bulletin sur le palamisme.” Revue des études by-
zantines 30 (1972): 231–341.
Garitte, Gérard. Documents pour l’étude du livre d’Agathange. Studi
e Testi, vol. 127. Vatican City, 1946. Includes the Life of
Translated from Greek by Christopher H. Bender
Thomson, Robert W., et al., trans. The Teaching of Saint Gregory:
An Early Armenian Catechism. Cambridge, Mass., 1970.
bishop of Armenia from circa 314 to 325, one of the major
saints of the Armenian church, and author of the conversion
of the Armenian people to Christianity. Information about
him derives mainly from two fifth-century sources, Agathan-
GRIAULE, MARCEL. Marcel Griaule (1898–1956)
gelos’s History of the Armenians and the Greek Life of Gregory.
was a pioneer of French ethnographic research in Africa, an
emblematic figure of French ethnography, and a catalyst to
According to Agathangelos’s legendary account, Grego-
the emerging discipline’s professionalization. After serving in
ry was the son of the Parthian prince Anak who killed his
World War I as an air force pilot, he obtained a degree in
kinsman King Khosrov of Armenia. The Armenians retaliat-
living Oriental languages (Amharic and Gueze) before study-
ed by killing Anak’s family, Gregory being the sole survivor.
ing with sociologist Marcel Mauss. Griaule was among the
He was taken to Caesarea Mazaca (modern Kayseri, Turkey),
first ethnographers trained by the Institute of Ethnology at
where he was raised a Christian. There he married a Chris-
the Sorbonne, and his career paralleled every stage of the dis-
tian woman with whom he had two sons. He entered the ser-
cipline’s development. An energetic promoter of innovative
vice of King Tiridates III of Armenia (298–330), accompa-
technological aids, Griaule introduced the ethnographic
nying him to Greater Armenia in 298 when the Romans
film. He also founded the Société des Africanistes and its
restored the king to the throne of his ancestors. Gregory’s re-
journal. In 1942, he was named the first chair of ethnology
fusal to offer sacrifice to the idol of the goddess Anahita pro-
at the University of Paris. Like the discipline itself, Griaule’s
voked the king to torture him and condemn him to impris-
career took progressive distance from colonial interests. As
onment in the Khor Virap (“deep pit”) of Artashat. There
an advisor to the French Union and the president of France’s
Gregory miraculously survived for thirteen years until he was
Commission on Cultural Affairs, Griaule championed re-
released to cure the king of a severe ailment. Succeeding in
spect for African culture and criticized the politics of cultural
his mission, Gregory converted the king, the royal family,
and the army, and set out to proselytize the Armenian na-
tion. He destroyed six major shrines of the prevailing deities
In the first ten years of his career, Griaule led the princi-
of ancient Armenia, erected crosses throughout the country,
pal French ethnographic expeditions to Africa. His first expe-
and built baldachins over the graves of the forty Christian
dition was a year-long mission to Ethiopia in 1928, but his
virgins martyred by Tiridates III.
most celebrated journey was the Dakar-Djibouti mission.
About 314 Gregory received episcopal ordination in
Over twenty-one months (1931–1933), it traversed sub-
Caesarea. Returning to Armenia, he destroyed the pagan
Saharan Africa from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. Enthusiasti-
shrine at Ashtishat and founded the first church in Armenia.
cally followed by the French press, the mission also forged
Tradition reports that he baptized the entire Armenian na-
links with the literary and artistic avant-garde. Griaule gath-
tion in the waters of the Arsenias River, built several church-
ered an imposing ethnographic harvest—more than 3,600
es, founded monasteries, and ordained bishops. Finally, after
objects to enrich the holdings of the Trocadéro Museum,
handing over his episcopal duties to his younger son, Ar-
plus thousands of photographs, films, and recordings.
istakes, he retired to a solitary life. The office of the chief
During this mission Griaule encountered the Dogon at
bishop of Armenia became intermittently hereditary in his
the bend of the Niger River. Favoring intensive study of indi-
family until 439. The cult of Gregory and the veneration of
vidual societies, Griaule and his colleagues subsequently
his relics became popular in the second half of the fifth and
made regular expeditions to pursue research on Dogon cul-
especially in the sixth and seventh centuries.
ture as a team. A sense of urgency to archive and safeguard
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

disappearing cultures provoked a method of collaborative in-
1960s, criticized for essentializing cultural patterns and privi-
terdisciplinary investigation. Teamwork provided multiple
leging a romanticized past over a historically conditioned
accounts of an event for analysis, and also enabled the same
present. A constant refrain of Griaule’s detractors is that he
cultural phenomenon to be considered from various frames
reified “the Dogon.”
of expertise, a factor Griaule termed “plural observation.”
British anthropologists were especially skeptical of
Splicing observations into a “synoptic account” verified by
Griaule’s reliance on translators and select informants; they
informants, the method purportedly reconstructed a “typi-
charge that he neglected case histories and details of daily ex-
cal” instance, purged of modifications that would destroy
istence in favor of metaphysics, which presents a “too per-
what Griaule called “its ideal harmony” (Jolly, 2001,
fectly ordered vision of Dogon reality” (Richards, 1967;
p. 164). Griaule progressively extended his team to include
Douglas, 1967; Goody, 1967). Dutch anthropologist Walter
“native collaborators,” whom he described as “precious auxil-
van Beek (1991) continued the polemic, attempting to de-
iary.” The project, beginning in 1935 and spanning five dec-
bunk Griaule’s fieldwork with his own contemporary data;
ades, made the Dogon one of the best-known societies on
however, van Beek’s own lack of accountability weakened his
the continent.
verdict. James Clifford explored the complex role played by
In the initial period of his career, Griaule avoided infus-
a group of influential Dogon in the evolution of Griaule’s
ing explanation into data, and he approached the ethno-
work with greater sophistication, concluding that Griaule’s
graphic object as the only reliable “witness” to a society’s
writings “express a Dogon truth, a complex, negotiated, his-
meanings. Minute documentation characterized his doctoral
torically contingent truth specific to certain relations of tex-
thesis, which produced two outstanding works, a study of
tual production” (1983, p. 125).
masks, Masques dogons (1938), and games, Jeux dogons
That the Dogon celebrated exceptional funerary rites in
Griaule’s honor proves the degree to which they held the re-
searcher in esteem, recognizing him as one of their own.
Deprived of the opportunity for fieldwork for six years
during World War II, Griaule elaborated his theory of my-
SEE ALSO Dieterlen, Germaine.
thology as an “ordered system” reflected in social organiza-
tion. His return to Africa in 1946 reinforced this shift. At
the behest of Dogon elders, a blind old sage, Ogotemmêli,
Champion, P. “Bibliographie de Marcel Griaule (ordre
was charged with revealing to Griaule a deeper, esoteric level
chronologique).” Journal de la société des Africanistes 26, nos.
of mythological knowledge, reserved for initiates. This post-
1–2 (1956): 279–290. A complete bibliography.
war phase of Griaule’s career was therefore governed by dia-
Clifford, James. “Power and Dialogue in Ethnography: Marcel
logue and a new conception of the ethnographic inquiry as
Griaule’s Initiation.” In Observers Observed: Essays on Ethno-
initiation. Griaule focused his research on the complex cos-
graphic Fieldwork, edited by George W. Stocking Jr.,
mogony Ogotemmêli expounded, asserting it amounted to
pp. 121–156. Madison, Wis., 1983.
“a metaphysic, a religion that puts them on the same level
Doquet, Anne. Les masques dogon: Ethnologie savante eet ethnologie
as the peoples of Antiquity.”
autochtone. Paris, 1999.
Douglas, Mary. “If the Dogon. . .” Cahiers d’études Africaines 28
Presented as a daily chronicle of the old man’s revela-
(1967): 659–672.
tions in an accessible style, Griaule’s account, Dieu d’eau
Goody, Jack. “Review of Conversations with Ogotemmêli, by
(1948), translated as Conversations with Ogotemmêli, became
M. Griaule.” American Anthropologist 69, no. 2 (1967):
a bestseller. Foreshadowing a postmodern self-consciousness,
Griaule injected himself into the narrative as “the Europe-
Griaule, Marcel. Jeux dogons. Paris, 1938.
an,” “the Stranger,” and “the Nazarene.” This literary device
Griaule, Marcel. Masques dogons. Paris, 1938.
suggests a frank acknowledgment of roles ascribed to him in
Griaule, Marcel. Arts de l’Afrique noire. Paris, 1947. Translated as
the ethnographic situation. Nevertheless, of Griaule’s 170
Folk Art of Black Africa by Michael Heron. Paris and New
publications, it is the most contested. The book’s critics con-
York, 1950.
tend that it amounts to unrepresentative theological specula-
Griaule, Marcel. “Le savoir Dogon.” Journal de la société des Afri-
tions or mythopoeic invention (Goody, 1967).
canistes 22 (1952): 27–42.
After Griaule’s untimely death in 1956, his close asso-
Griaule, Marcel. Dieu d’eau: Entretiens avec Ogotemmêli. Paris,
ciate, Germaine Dieterlen, furthered work on Dogon myth
1948. Translated as Conversations with Ogotemmêli: An In-
and religion, publishing under both their names the monu-
troduction to Dogon Religious Ideas. London, 1965.
mental synthesis of cosmology, Le renard pâle (1965).
Griaule, Marcel, with Germaine Dieterlen. “The Dogon.” In Afri-
can Worlds: Studies in the Cosmological Ideas and Social Values
The work of Marcel Griaule and his followers is “one
of African Peoples, edited by Daryll Forde pp. 83–110. Lon-
of the classic achievements of twentieth-century ethnogra-
don, 1954.
phy,” self-conscious about method and unparalleled in its
Griaule, Marcel, with Germaine Dieterlen. Le renard pâle. Paris,
comprehensive detail (Clifford, 1983, p. 124). However,
1965. Translated as The Pale Fox by Stephen C. Infantino.
Griaule’s oeuvre has come under sharp scrutiny since the
Chino Valley, Ariz., 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

Griaule, Marcel. Méthodes de l’ethnographie. Paris, 1957.
Jakob published Deutsche Mythologie (Germanic mythology),
Jolly, Eric. “Marcel Griaule, ethnologue: La construction d’une
which established the link between German and Scandina-
discipline (1925–1956).” Journal des Africanistes 71, no. 1
vian myth and led to a new interest in Germanic antiquity
(2001): 149–190.
throughout Europe. Many English students came to Göt-
Richards, A. I. “African Systems of Thought: An Anglo-French
tingen, among them the Anglo-Saxon scholar John Kemble.
Dialogue.” Man 2 (1967): 286–298.
However, once more the brothers had to leave when the reac-
van Beek, Walter E. A. “Dogon Restudied (A Field Evaluation of
tionary duke of Cumberland became king of Hanover.
the Work of Marcel Griaule).” Current Anthropology 32, no.
They were invited to work in Saxony on a comprehen-
2 (1991): 139–158. Responses by R. M. A. Bédaux, Suzanne
sive dictionary of the German language, and when the liberal
Preston Blier, Jacky Bouju, Peter Ian Crawford, Mary Doug-
Friedrich Wilhelm became king of Prussia in 1840 he per-
las, Paul Lane, Claude Meillassoux, and W. E. A. Van Beek
suaded them to move to Berlin, to live in financial security
appear on pages 158–167.
and lecture at the university and the academy. This meant
a great change in their lives, but a happy one, and both
brothers worked indefatigably until the end, Jakob surviving
Wilhelm by four years. By their lives of devoted scholarship
they made a major contribution to the serious study of folk
GRIMM BROTHERS. Jakob Ludwig Karl Grimm
tales and comparative mythology, and showed how language
(1785–1863) and his brother Wilhelm Karl (1786–1859)
could be studied scientifically as a means of exploring hu-
were born in Hanau, Germany, where their father was town
mankind’s early religious beliefs.
clerk and later Amtmann (local administrator). Their happy
childhood ended with his death in 1796; thereafter they had
a constant struggle against poverty, with several younger chil-
dren to support. The brothers worked in close harmony all
Denecke, Ludwig. Jacob Grimm und sein Bruder Wilhelm. Stutt-
gart, 1971.
their lives, and their researches into early Germanic language,
literature, antiquities, and religion formed the basis for fu-
Grimm, Jakob. Deutsche Mythologie. Göttingen, 1835. Translated
ture studies in these fields.
from the fourth edition as Teutonic Mythology, 4 vols., and
edited by James Steven Stallybrass (1966; reprint, Glouces-
At the university in Marburg the brothers became inter-
ter, Mass., 1976).
ested in medieval literature. The family moved to Kassel, and
Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Translated by Francis P. Magoun, Jr., and
Jakob worked as a clerk in the War Office and later as secre-
Alexander H. Krappe. Carbondale, Ill., 1960.
tary to the legation in the war against Napoleon. Finally both
Michaelis-Jena, Ruth. The Brothers Grimm. London, 1970.
brothers were employed in the library of the elector of Hano-
ver. From about 1806 they were collecting popular tales and
New Sources
encouraging their friends to do so, believing that this materi-
Haase, Donald. The Reception of Grimms’ Fairy Tales: Responses,
al, never previously taken seriously by scholars, was essential
Reactions, Revisions. Detroit, 1993.
for the study of Germanic mythology. The first volume of
Kamenetsky, Christa. The Brothers Grimm & Their Critics: Folk-
Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Household and children’s tales)
tales and the Quest for Meaning. Athens, 1992.
appeared in 1812. The brothers worked unceasingly, reading
McGlathery, James M. The Brothers Grimm and Folktale. Urbana,
manuscripts, recording oral material, and continually explor-
ing new fields. They published poems from the Icelandic
Zipes, Jack David. The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests
Eddas, corresponded with Walter Scott (with whom they
to the Modern World. New York, 1988.
compared Scottish and Danish ballads), and worked on
runic inscriptions and Slavic languages. In 1816 and 1818
Revised Bibliography
they brought out Deutsche Sagen (German legends) taken
from printed and oral sources. Jakob concentrated on philol-
ogy and early law, publishing Deutsche Grammatik (German
grammar) in 1819 and Deutsche Rechtsaltertümer (German
GROOT, J. J. M. DE (1854–1921), Dutch Sinologist
legal antiquities) in 1828. Wilhelm worked mainly on medi-
and ethnographer. Born in Schiedam, Holland, Johannes Ja-
eval German literature and the heroic epics, and brought out
cobus Maria de Groot enrolled in the polytechnic school at
Die deutschen Heldensagen (The German heroic sagas) in
Delft in 1872. He subsequently studied Chinese with
Gustave Schlegel at the University of Leiden.
At first they refused teaching posts, but unsympathetic
In 1876 de Groot went to Amoy (present-day Xiamen,
treatment by the elector forced Jakob to become professor
China) to continue his study of Chinese, and his stay in
of philology at Göttingen in 1830; Wilhelm joined him
Amoy led to the publication of his first book, Les fêtes annuel-
there and proved a brilliant lecturer. Wilhelm married Doro-
lement célébrées à Emoui (Amoy): Étude concernant la religion
thea Wild in 1825; it was a happy marriage, and Jakob con-
populaire des Chinois (translated from Dutch into French by
tinued to live with his brother and sister-in-law. In 1835
Édouard Chavannes and published in 1886). From 1878 to
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

1883 de Groot traveled through Java and Borneo working
GROTIUS, HUGO (1583–1645), or Huigh de Groot,
as a Chinese interpreter. De Groot returned to Holland in
was a Dutch lawyer, diplomat, historian, poet, philologist,
1883, but was likely working for the government of the
and theologian. Grotius was born at Delft on April 10, 1583,
Dutch East Indian Colonies since 1878, and in their employ
into a socially and politically influential family. Following
he returned to China and lived there from 1886 to 1890, col-
three years at the University at Leiden and a brief period ac-
lecting the data later published in six volumes as The Reli-
companying a diplomatic embassy to Paris, he returned to
gious System of China: Its Ancient Forms, Evolution, History
Holland at the age of sixteen to become an advocate at the
and Present Aspect; Manners, Customs and Social Institutions
courts of the Hague. In 1607 Grotius was appointed to the
Connected Therewith (1892–1910).
office of Advocate-Fiscal (attorney general) of Holland. He
De Groot was appointed professor of ethnography at
married Maria van Reigersberch in 1608.
the University of Leiden in 1891. In 1904 he succeeded his
As a result of an assocation with the Dutch East India
mentor Schlegel as professor of Chinese, and in 1912 he as-
Company, Grotius wrote his first major legal treatise, De jure
sumed the chair of professor of Chinese at the University of
praedae (On the law of prize, 1604–1605), which presents
a theory of natural law based on divine will. In 1625 he pub-
De Groot was made a corresponding member of the
lished his most important book, De jure belli ac pacis (On
Netherlands Royal Academy of Sciences in 1887 and a full
the law of war and peace), in which he again pursued the
member in 1891. His election to membership in the Dutch
topic of natural law and its role in international relations.
Society of Literature came in 1893. In 1894 de Groot shared
Here Grotius reveals his concern for the lack of restraint in
the prestigious Stanislas Julien Prize with Édouard Cha-
waging war in the Christian world. He examines the theoret-
vannes. He was named correspondant de l’institut by the
ical justification for war and the rules that govern the actual
French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1908.
waging of war. He then distinguishes natural law (identical
In 1910–1911 de Groot came to the United States to deliver
with the law of God but knowable apart from divine revela-
the American Lectures on the History of Religions, a travel-
tion) from the voluntary laws of nations that exist between
ing lecture series, and at that time was awarded an honorary
civil communities. Both these types of law he finds binding
doctorate by Princeton University. In 1918 the kaiser pres-
in relations between states. In the case of a conflict between
ented him with the Service Cross for his help during World
natural and voluntary law, the law of nature should prevail,
War I.
although the application of this principle is qualified. In ad-
De Groot’s two most important works are The Religious
dition to delineating the conditions of waging a just war,
System of China and Religion in China: Universism, a Key to
Grotius also advocates temperamenta, or mitigations, in the
the Study of Taoism and Confucianism (1912; a revised and
conduct of war. To avoid unnecessary suffering, he counsels
enlarged edition appeared in German in 1918), which is the
communities to circumscribe their tactics in keeping with
published form of the lectures delivered in the United States
the perfect law of Christ, which, though itself not a basis of
in 1910–1911. The former is a detailed description of the
law, provides an ideal.
funeral customs of the Chinese and of their ideas concerning
Grotius was also involved in the religious affairs of his
the soul. It remains an important source of information on
day and strongly committed to the cause of Protestant unity.
funeral rites, ancestor worship, geomancy (feng-shui), exor-
In his 1612 correspondence with Isaac Casaubon at the court
cism, and possession. In Religion in China: Universism, de
of James I of England, he advocated a synod of Protestant
Groot argues that worship of the universe and its ways, its
churches in order to establish a common confession of faith
fluctuations between yin and yang, constitutes the root reli-
that would protect against the development of heresy in the
gion of the Chinese, from which Confucianism, Daoism,
individual churches, help them present a united front against
and Buddhism developed as three branches from a common
any papal aggressions, and yet allow moderate Roman Cath-
stem. When Confucianism assumed the dominant position
olics to see their integrity. Grotius’s hopes for such a meeting
during the Han dynasty, it failed to develop as a religion and
were, however, disappointed, in part because he was already
prevented religious growth of Daoism and Buddhism as well.
involved in a heated religious and political controversy. He
represented the States of Holland in a conflict that began
Besides those mentioned in the text, other works by de Groot in-
with the appointment of a professor of theology and esca-
clude Le code du Mahâyâna en Chine: Son influence sur la vie
lated into a major battle between church and state and be-
monacale et sur la monde laïque (Amsterdam, 1893); Sectari-
tween the local and the central governments within the Re-
anism and Religious Persecution in China: A Page in the Histo-
public of the United Netherlands.
ry of Religions, 2 vols. (Amsterdam, 1903–1904); and The Re-
ligion of the Chinese
(New York, 1910). Le code du Mahâyâna
After Prince Maurits came to power Grotius was sen-
includes a translation of Fo-shuo fan-wang ching (The su¯tra
tenced to life imprisonment (May 18, 1619). While in pris-
of Brahma’s net preached by the Buddha). In Sectarianism
on he wrote Introduction to the Jurisprudence of Holland, An-
and Religious Persecution, de Groot draws attention to the
notations of the Gospels, and On the Truth of the Christian
genuinely religious nature of rebel sects in the Qing.
Religion, an apologetic work in which he attempts to prove
the truth of the Christian faith based on reason and the testi-
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

mony of works outside the Christian tradition. On March
to be an assistant pastor in Udby. But in 1813 he went back
22, 1621, his wife Maria contrived to smuggle Grotius out
to Copenhagen, where he lived from 1816 to 1821 exlusively
of prison in a chest used to transport books, and he fled to
as a writer. From 1821 onwards he worked as a priest and
Paris. Grotius subsequently held various diplomatic and legal
discovered his own theological foundation, expressed as a
positions including the office of Swedish ambassador to
“peerless discovery.” He realized that the foundation of the
France. In March of 1645, he was permitted to visit Rotter-
church is not the Bible but the living Christ himself, present
dam and Amsterdam on his way from Paris to Stockholm.
in a living, historical tradition, with baptism and the Eucha-
On August 28 of that same year Grotius died while traveling
rist as sacramental signs of his presence. His pamphlet
from Stockholm to Lübeck.
Kirkens gienmæle (The church’s retort), directed against Hen-
rik Nikolai Clausen, a theologian at the University of Copen-
hagen, gives strong expression to this fundamental approach.
Printed editions of Grotius’s works are listed in Jacob ter Meulen
But he was censured for this work and had to become a free-
and P. J. J. Diermanse’s Bibliographie des écrits imprimés de
lance writer.
Hugo Grotius (The Hague, 1950). No complete critical edi-
tion of Grotius’s works exists. For commentary on the state
Grundtvig made four trips to England (three between
of Grotius scholarship, see Christian Gellinek’s Pax optima
1829 and 1831). English literature (Beowulf, Exeter Book,
rerum: Friedensessais zu Grotius und Goethe (New York,
etc.) and the nation’s mentality made a considerable impres-
1984), pp. 93–101.
sion on him. After 1832 his censure was lifted, and in 1839
For introductions to Grotius’s thought and influence, see Charles
he agreed to become a pastor at the Spital Church at Vartov
S. Edwards’s Hugo Grotius: The Miracle of Holland, A Study
in Copenhagen. From 1848 to 1858 he was also a member
in Political and Legal Thought (Chicago, 1981), Peter Hag-
of Parliament. Grundtvig had a close relationship to Nor-
genmacher’s Grotius et la doctrine de la guerre juste (Paris,
way, and for some time he considered emigrating there.
1983), and Hamilton Vreeland, Jr.’s Hugo Grotius: The Fa-
Norway had been a part of Denmark during large parts of
ther of the Modern Science of International Law (New York,
its history, but in 1814 Norway separated from Denmark,
a political development that Grundtvig deeply regretted.
Grundtvig was married three times and the father of five
children. Until his death in 1872 he went on writing. One
of his last poems, Gammel nok jeg nu er blevet (Long enough
now has my life run, 1872), stands as a permanent sign of
ERIN. Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783–1872)
his way of living through writing and of writing his whole
was an influential Danish theologian, philosopher, historian,
life into his work.
educationist, and writer. Each of his writings expresses one
of his numerous professional voices, centered in his own
VOICES. With extraordinary symbolic power, Grundtvig re-
heart. His childhood, the often turbulent course of his life,
created in his writings a traditional concept of heart-rhetoric,
and his relationships with women, men, children, and di-
closely connected with the dynamic theological concept of
verse contemporary groups are all reflected in his authorial
the Christian idea of “the Living Word.” “Heart” refers to
voices. His life was inseparably linked with the natural land-
all thinkable levels and subjects within his wide-ranging en-
scape, geography, and cultural milieu of Denmark-Norway,
gagements, where diverse voices express themselves and de-
which he viewed from the perspective of a distinctive histori-
mand new expressions, mediated through his texts.
cal and universal consciousness. Grundtvig was founder of
much that in the spheres of church, “folk,” and politics is
Grundtvig belongs inseparably within the nineteenth-
today perceived as characteristically Danish.
century Romantic period, yet he also stands in contrast to
romanticism, pointing both backwards and forwards in time.
BIOGRAPHY. Born into a clerical family in Udby in eastern
This is apparent not least in his anthropology. For him, the
Denmark, Grundtvig was influenced by his upbringing in an
human being is a divine experiment. His religious philoso-
orthodox Lutheran, pietistic parsonage. However, his theo-
phy is characterized by a poetic micro/macro pattern of
logical studies (1800–1803) led him eventually to a rational-
thinking, with humankind at the center, created in God’s
istic theistic faith. When working as a private tutor on the
image, in a heart-relationship with God, created and creative.
Egelo⁄kke estate on the island of Langeland, he fell in love
Human existence is therefore a graced condition, and life
with a married woman, and this experience of the challeng-
amid God’s material creation is a time not of religious pen-
ing power of love created a new crisis, leading to a romantic
ance as the way to Christ but of creative fulfillment of God-
awakening. Through this experience his interest in Nordic
granted human potential: Menneske fo⁄rst, kristen sa˚, “first a
mythology and romanticism was created and confirmed.
human being, then a Christian.”
From 1808 to 1811 he worked as a secondary school teacher
in Copenhagen, where he went through another crisis of
In his philosophy of history, as expressed, for example,
faith. This led him back to his roots, both theologically and
in Christenhedens Syvstjerne (The seven stars [or pleiades] of
physically, insofar as he accepted in 1811 his father’s wish
Christendom) (1860) and Sang-Værk til den Danske Kirke
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

(Song-work [or carillon] for the Danish church) (1836–
beyond, notably in Norway, where they are reckoned as the
1837), we find in coded form those historical-cultural voices
country’s own cultural treasure, together with the legacy of
out of which he constructs his narratives concerning the past.
two other great Danish hymn writers, Thomas Kingo
He speaks of a cultural and religious community of tongues
(1634–1703, orthodoxy) and Hans Adolf Brorson (1694–
in interactive entities (Sangskoler, “song-schools”), which be-
1764, pietism). In the Danish Hymnal, Grundtvig is repre-
tween them chart the historical progress of Christendom.
sented by over 250 original and reworked hymns; in the
They proceed like a chorus of voices: the Hebrew “song-
Norwegian Hymnal, by more than 40. The Danish hymn
school,” the Greek, the Roman, the Anglo-Saxon, the Ger-
tradition stands in direct descent from Martin Luther’s musi-
man, the Nordic, and—the seventh and last—the future, or
cal-poetical hymn project used as a medium of reformation
the “unknown,” which Grundtvig may have expected to be
in the 1500s. The vital, musical, and ecstatic word, in glorifi-
the Indian voice from Asia. A chief warranty of each of these
cation of the life force and in protection against the power
voices is that they articulate themselves in the true language
of death, is the primary impulse in Grundtvig’s contribution
of the heart, the local mother tongue.
to this Protestant and popular aesthetic.
Grundtvig’s concept of love gathers all his thinking into
one domain. He perceived love as the center of all life that
countless textual voices and his cultural, political, education-
is lived, its wellspring, way, meaning, and goal. In some fif-
al, and church activities, Grundtvig wrote himself into Dan-
teen hundred hymns he interpreted and renewed the Nordic-
ish history with a distinctive Nordic, European, and univer-
European ecumenical hymn rhetoric in order to mediate his
sal rhetoric. He has exercised an enormous influence on
existentialist-nuanced philosophy of love. He developed in
Scandinavian liturgical practice, theology, and education. In
new directions the metaphorical, gendered mode of express-
the present time, his influence on educational matters has
ing the divine, with special focus upon the relationship with
also increased outside Scandinavia through the so-called
God, in a comprehensive relationship discourse. The human
Grundtvig Initiative, which is part of the European Union’s
being in the world is a loving and loved microcosm. Lan-
adult educational initiative and represents a concept that, in
guage, gender, body, continuity, process, and metamorpho-
the modern search for popular models of social participation
sis—all have a central place in the hymn rhetoric, in which
in a global context, has gained a substantial international
he gave fresh currency to the spiritualized erotic and to erotic
spirituality without ignoring the hazard of sexism. As one of
the most frequently used words in his hymns, heart embodies
SEE ALSO Christianity, article on Christianity in Western
both the center and wellspring of the human body and of
Europe; Music, article on Music and Religion.
the written texts.
In his liturgy-shaping hymn texts, Grundtvig’s gendered
language of the human relationship with God comes fully
Primary Sources
into its own. He envisages the relationship with God in three
Grundtvig’s works are available in English in Selected Writings,
main models of a dialogue modulated by the heart: the rela-
translated by J. Knudsen (Philadelphia, 1976). In Danish,
tionships between parent and child, between friends, and be-
the standard text is N. F. S. Grundtvigs Udvalgte Skrifter, 10
tween lovers. This entails his construing the Trinity in differ-
vols., edited by H. Begtrup (Copenhagen, 1904–1909).
Among Grundtvig’s overwhelmingly abundant output, the
ent ways, to mirror human life as truly and flexibly as
following represent the rich diversity of his textual voices. In
possible, characterized not only by multiple relational mod-
1812–1814 the philosopher-historian was active with his re-
els but by androgynous conceptual models and by reciprocity
vised edition of Kort Begreb af Verdens Kro⁄nike, betragtet i
as an ideal.
Sammenhæng (Concise view of world-chronicle, considered
With the creative principle as his primary category, he
in context). Between 1833 and 1843 his historical universal
voice was again heard through his three-volume Haandbog
re-created and renewed the European hymn tradition in a
i Verdens-Historien (Handbook on world history). In 1816–
comprehensive gift rhetoric. The individual praising God in
1819 we see the philosopher of religion, literary critic, and
psalmody is, in Grundtvig’s linguistic-philosophical and in-
antiquarian in his periodical Danne-Virke. In 1824 he wrote
tertextual hymn rhetoric, a representative microcosm that
Nyaars-Morgen (New-year’s morning), which displays and
mirrors the macrocosm. We also meet representations of
gives promise of the poet and self-symbolist. In Kirkens
“The Daughter of God” equivalent to “The Son of God”
Gienmæle (The church’s retort; 1825), following his “peerless
within his experimental concept of the Trinity. In an 1870
discovery,” he identifies himself as fierce defender of the
sermon he argued—with the help of his evolved classical,
unity, antiquity, and authority of the church. Nordens
gendered rhetoric of “the heart”—for women priests. A cru-
Mythologi eller Sind-billed Sprog (Mythology of the north, or
cial point in his argument is that the absence of thoughts and
the language of myth), displaying Grundtvig the mytholo-
feelings, germane to women and springing from the heart,
gist, came out in 1832. The shaper of liturgy reveals himself
in the first volume of Sang-Værk til den Danske Kirke (Song-
harms the church at the core of its own heart.
work [or carillon] for the Danish church; 1837). The educa-
tionist is represented in the text Skolen for Livet og Akademiet
have exercised a wide, profound influence in Denmark and
i Soer (School for life and the academy at Soro⁄; 1838). In Den
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

christelige Bo⁄rnelærdom (Christian instruction for children;
Islam, receiving through Abdul-Hadi, a Swedish initiate, ini-
1868), the mature theologian declares himself. The church-
tiation and the blessing of the Egyptian S:u¯f¯ı master Shaykh
historical visionary poet reveals himself most clearly in Chris-
EAbd al-Rah:ma¯n EIllaysh al-Kab¯ır. Guénon continued, how-
tenhedens Syvstjerne (The seven stars [or pleiades] of Chris-
ever, to be deeply involved in the intellectual life of Paris, en-
tendom; 1860). The philosophy of history that permeates
countering such well-known figures as Jacques Maritain,
this work is the same as that forming the foundation of the
René Grousset, and others; in 1921 he published his first
structure and strategy of Sang-Værk til den Danske Kirke. Fi-
book, Introduction générale à l’étude des doctrines hindoues, a
nally, the confessional Grundtvig speaks through many ser-
mons, for example in the three-volume collection Christelige
work originally prepared as a doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne,
Prædikener eller So
a work that marked a major turning point in the study of
⁄ ndags-Bog (Christian sermons, or the Sun-
day book; 1827–1830).
Eastern doctrines in the West.
Secondary Sources
In 1930 after the death of his French wife, Guénon set
Since 1963 Grundtvig scholarship has been dominated by the
out for Egypt. He spent the rest of his days in Cairo living
work of Kaj Thaning, principally his three-volume Menneske
as a Muslim and was known as Shaykh EAbd al-Wa¯h:id
fo⁄rst—Grundtvigs opgo⁄r med sig selv (First a human—
Yah:ya¯. There he was to take an Egyptian wife, by whom he
Grundtvig’s battle with himself; Copenhagen, 1963), but
had two daughters and two sons. He associated closely with
current scholarship increasingly dissents from Thaning’s in-
certain eminent Muslim authorities of Egypt, such as Shaykh
terpretation. Leading works on Grundtvig’s educational
EAbd al-H:alim Mah:mu¯d, later to become Shaykh al-Azhar.
ideas and on Grundtvig as poet in the early nineteenth-
century context are, respectively, K. E. Bugge’s Skolen for
Guénon also carried out extensive correspondence with
Livet. Studier over N. F. S. Grundtvigs pædagogiske tanker
scholars and traditional authorities throughout the world, in-
(School for life: studies in N. F. S. Grundtvig’s pedagogic
cluding Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Marco Pallis, Leopold
thinking; Copenhagen, 1965), and Flemming Lundgreen-
Ziegler, Giulio Evola, and Titus Burckhardt. He was also vis-
Nielsen’s Det handlende ord. N. F. S. Grundtvigs digtning, lit-
ited by many Westerners in search of traditional teachings
teratur-kritik og poetik, 1798–1819 (The operative word:
and by some of those in the West who, like him, were seeking
N. F. S. Grundtvig’s authorship, literary criticism and poet-
to revive tradition. Foremost among the latter group was
ics, 1798–1819; Copenhagen, 1980).
Frithjof Schuon, who visited Guénon twice in Cairo and
Studies in English include Christian Thodberg et al., eds.,
who corresponded with him until the end of Guénon’s life.
N. F. S. Grundtvig: Tradition and Renewal (Copenhagen,
During the night of January 7, 1951, Guénon died after a
1983); Steven M. Borish, The Land of the Living: The Danish
period of illness and was buried according to Islamic rites in
Folk High Schools and Denmark’s Non-violent Path to Mod-
a cemetery outside of Cairo.
ernization (Nevada City, Calif., 1991); A. M. Allchin et al.,
eds., Heritage and Prophecy: Grundtvig and the English-
While in Cairo, Guénon continued the incredibly fruit-
Speaking World (Aarhus, 1993); A. M. Allchin, N. F. S.
ful intellectual life that he had begun in France, and numer-
Grundtvig: An Introduction to His Life and Work (Aarhus,
ous books, articles, and reviews continued to flow from his
1997); and A. M. Allchin et al., eds., Grundtvig in Interna-
pen. The articles appeared mostly in the journal Le Voile
tional Perspective: Studies in the Creativity of Interaction (Aar-
d’Isis, which changed its name to Les études traditionelles. The
hus, 2000).
writings of Guénon include some twenty-nine books and
some five hundred articles and reviews ranging over the do-
mains of religion, metaphysics, the traditional sciences, sa-
cred art and symbolism, occultism and esotericism, and the
criticism of the modern world.
(1886–1951), French traditionalist,
metaphysician, and scholar of religions. René Guénon was
The monumental corpus of the writings of Guénon can
born in Blois, the son of an architect. He carried out his early
be classified into several categories, though because of the tra-
studies in his place of birth and went to Paris in 1904 where
ditional nature of his thought there is an interrelation among
he pursued the field of mathematics and then philosophy,
his various books. The Introduction générale à l’étude des doc-
which he was later to teach. During his youth, Guénon was
trines hindoues was not simply his first work to be published;
attracted to various occultist circles and to Freemasonry; he
it also serves as a general introduction to all the major themes
entered several of these orders, including the Hermetic Ordre
of his writings including his exposition of tradition, his criti-
Martiniste and the Église Gnostique. As a member of this
cism of the modern world, and his discussion of Eastern doc-
“gnostic church” he adopted the name of Palingenius (under
trines based upon the purely metaphysical aspects of their
which he wrote several articles in the review La gnose) and
encountered Léon Champrenaud (who had been initiated
A number of books by Guénon are devoted more specif-
into Sufism under the name of Abdul-Haqq) and Albert de
ically to the criticism of the modern world and to the discus-
Pounourville (who had received Daoist initiation and was
sion of the significance of Eastern traditions in the process
known as Matgioi).
of rediscovery of tradition in the West. They include Orient
Guénon left Parisian occultist circles as he became more
et occident (1924), La crise du monde moderne (1927), and La
and more aware of Eastern doctrines. In 1912 he embraced
regne de la quantité et les signes des temps (1945). A group of
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his books turn to the study of initiation and esotericism as
world, and to the ramifications, applications, and historical
well as the criticism of occultism and “spiritualism” as distor-
unfolding of these truths, which are made available to human
tions and caricatures of authentic esoterism. These include
beings through the revelation that lies at the heart of all reli-
Aperçus sur l’initiation (1946), Le théosophisme: Histoire d’une
gions. Guénon distinguishes between the esoteric and exoter-
pseudo-religion (1921), L’erreure spirite (1923), and Initiation
ic dimensions of tradition and asserts the necessity of the ex-
et réalisation spirituelle (1952). The works of Guénon dealing
istence of both dimensions. He also distinguishes between
with metaphysics and Eastern doctrines include L’homme et
reason and intellect and insists upon the centrality of pure
son devenir selon le Vêdânta (1925), La métaphysique orientale
intellectuality, which for him is practically synonymous with
(1939), Le symbolisme de la croix (1931), Les états multiple de
l’Être (1932), and posthumous collections of articles such as
Guénon, moreover, insists upon the universal nature of
Études sur l’hindouisme (1968) and Aperçus sur l’ésotérisme is-
traditional truth, which lies at the heart of diverse religious
lamique et le taoisme (1973). Guénon also wrote a number
forms. He refers repeatedly to the inner unity of truth and
of major works on the traditional and modern sciences from
of traditional forms, standing united in opposition to the
the traditional point of view, such as La grande triade (1946),
modern world, which is based upon the forgetting of the
Les principes du calcul infinitésimal (1946), and the posthu-
principles of tradition.
mous collections of essays, Symboles fondamenteux de la sci-
Guénon also emphasizes the importance of orthodoxy,
ence sacré (1962) and Formes traditionelles et cycles cosmiques
which he does not limit to the exoteric realm. For him tradi-
(1970). Furthermore, Guénon dealt with the social and po-
tion and orthodoxy are inseparable. To understand tradition
litical dimensions of tradition, devoting many essays as well
means to grasp the significance of orthodoxy and the necessi-
as his books Autorité spirituelle et pouvoir temporel (1929) and
ty of remaining within its fold. Guénon’s whole message is
Le roi du monde (1927) to this subject. The latter work, deal-
in fact based upon not only the theoretical grasp of tradition
ing with the supreme center of tradition in this world, has
but the necessity of living within an orthodox, traditional
remained Guénon’s most enigmatic and controversial book
way, without which no metaphysical truth can possess effica-
for later traditionalist thinkers.
cy even if it is understood theoretically. There is for him no
spiritual realization possible outside tradition and orthodoxy.
In treating various traditions Guénon concentrated
most of all upon the East, dealing especially with Hinduism,
Guénon was also concerned with the essence of doc-
Daoism, and Islam (though hardly at all with Buddhism,
trines, ideas, forms, images, and symbols. His writings shed
whose traditional character he did not confirm until later in
a penetrating light upon doctrines and symbols that have be-
his life). But Guénon did also concern himself with the
come opaque and meaningless in the West as a result of the
Christian tradition although not orthodoxy, devoting such
loss of metaphysical knowledge. He bestowed once again
works as Aperçus sur l’ésotérisme chrétien (1954), L’ésotérisme
upon traditional concepts and symbols their essential mean-
de Dante (1925), and Saint Bernard (1929) to specifically
ing lost for the most part in the West since the Renaissance.
Christian themes. Guénon, however, identified Christian es-
He also presented to the West for the first time the essential
oterism mostly with the hermetic and other esoteric currents
teachings of the Eastern traditions in an authentic manner,
that became integrated into the Christian tradition rather
and his presentation was accepted by the living authorities
than with the Christ-given initiation at the heart of Christian
of those traditions. Moreover, Guénon sought to revive tra-
dition in the West in the light of essential, metaphysical truth
and to provide the weapons necessary to combat the errors
Guénon’s influence continues to expand as the decades
of the modern world.
go by. His works are marked by emphasis upon tradition,
Guénon must be considered as the first expositor in the
universality, orthodoxy, and essentiality. Guénon appeared
West of the traditionalist school in its fullness, a school that
suddenly on the intellectual stage of Europe and sought to
is also identified with “perennial philosophy.” He was fol-
sweep aside with an unprecedented intellectual rigor and an
lowed in his task of reviving traditional teachings in the West
iconoclastic zeal all the “isms” prevalent in modern thought
by many others, chief among them Coomaraswamy and
ranging from rationalism to existentialism. To present the
Schuon, whose writings perfected the exposition of the so-
truth of tradition, he believed, he had to clear away com-
phia perennis and of traditional doctrines. The influence of
pletely all those conceptual schemes that have cluttered the
Guénon has, furthermore, gone beyond the traditionalist
mind of Western scholars the end of the Middle Ages and
school to touch numerous scholars of religion, theologians,
that have prevented them from understanding the perennial
and philosophers who often without acknowledgment have
truths of tradition. Against the relativism of the day, Guénon
adopted some of his doctrines and teachings.
understood these truths as principles of a divine and sacred
nature from which have issued the great civilizations of East
and West, including the Far Eastern, Hindu, Islamic, and
Accart, Xavier. L’Ermite de Duqui. Milan, 2001.
traditional Christian civilizations. For Guénon the central
Chacornac, Paul. La Vie simple de René Guénon. Paris, 1982.
concept of tradition does not refer to custom or habit but
James, Marie-France. Esotérisme et christianisme autour de René
rather to truths rooted in ultimate reality and the spiritual
Guénon. 2 vols. Paris, 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

Laurant, Jean-Pierre. Le Sens caché selon René Guénon. Lausanne,
teaching that human sexuality could be an important or even
1975. Pages 262–276 contain an exhaustive bibliography of
essential component of the spiritual path. This teaching was
Guénon’s articles.
highly controversial, as the text itself admits in chapter one,
Mah:mu¯d, EAbd al-H:al¯ım. Al-Faylasu¯f al-muslim René Guénon aw
when it states that it “is a cause of doubt even for all
EAbd al-Wa¯h:id Yah:ya¯. Cairo, 1954.
Tatha¯gatas.” Because the literal interpretation of these textual
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Knowledge and the Sacred. New York,
passages was considered problematic in the Maha¯ya¯na Bud-
dhist monastic settings in which the Tantra has long been
Old Meadow, Kenneth. Traditionalism-Religion in the Light of the
studied and put into practice, Indian Buddhists developed
Perennial Philosophy. Columbo, 2000.
a complex hermeneutical system for the interpretation of this
Science Sacrée—Numéro spécial René Guénon. Paris, 2003.
and other related Tantric texts. These systems were based
Sigaud, Pierre-Marie. René Guénon. Lausanne, 1984. Pages 305–
upon the premise that the true import of the text is often not
313 contain a list of Guénon’s books and of translations of
the literal meaning, but rather the secret or symbolic mean-
Guénon’s works into various languages.
ings accessible via systems of interpretation handed down in
Valsân, Michel. L’Islam et la fonction de René Guénon. Paris, 1984.
lineage instructions by masters of the traditions.
Waterfield, Robin. René Guénon and the Future of the West. Lon-
don, 1987.
There were two traditions of exegesis and practice cen-
tering upon the Guhyasama¯ja Tantra that developed in
India. The first is called the Jña¯napa¯da school, named after
its founder, Buddhajña¯napa¯da, who lived in India during the
eighth century. While not an important tradition from the
GUHYASAMA¯JA. The term Guhyasama¯ja (“Secret As-
perspective of contemporary Tibetan Buddhist practice, it is
sembly”) applies to the Tantra so-named, the assembly of de-
an important tradition historically because the writings of
ities in the man:d:ala described in this text, and sometimes to
Buddhajña¯napa¯da and his students contain numerous quota-
the man:d:ala’s central deity. The Guhyasama¯ja Tantra was
tions from the root scripture, demonstrating that it was es-
composed in India by the early eighth century. The earliest
tablished by the late eighth century. The man:d:ala of this tra-
datable reference to the Tantra is in a text written by
dition is a relatively simple one, centering around the
Amoghavajra, a Sogdian monk active in China, namely his
Buddha Mañjuvajra, who is in turn surrounded by four other
Index of the Vajra´sekhara Su¯tra Yoga in Eighteen Sections (Jin-
buddhas: Vairocana (east), Ratnaketu (south), Amita¯bha
gang-ding yu-qie shi-ba-hui zhi-gui, T. 869), which he com-
(west), and Amoghasiddhi (north)—together with their con-
posed during the mid-eighth century. In it, Amoghavajra
sorts, Locana¯, Ma¯mak¯ı, Pa¯n:d:ara¯, and Ta¯ra¯. This inner circle
lists a text called the Guhyasama¯ja Yoga (mi-mi-hui yu-qie),
is in turn surrounded by the ten “Fierce Kings,” krodhara¯jas,
his description of which is clearly identifiable with portions
for a total of nineteen deities.
of the Tantra. Most likely the text at this period was some-
what shorter than the ultimate version, which was estab-
The second school, which developed somewhat later, is
lished by the late tenth century when it was translated into
known as the “Noble” (a¯rya) school, since its primary texts
Chinese and Tibetan.
are attributed to Na¯ga¯rjuna (second century CE), A¯ryadeva
The Guhyasama¯ja Tantra consists of eighteen chapters,
(c. 170–270 CE), and Candrak¯ırti (c. 600–650 E). It super-
the last of which is clearly a late addition and is often treated
ceded the former school, and also advocated an expanded
as a separate text titled the Uttara Tantra. It is notable for
man:d:ala with thirty-two deities. Its central deity is Aks:obhya
its erotic language and its avocation of transgressive practices,
Buddha, in sexual union with his consort, Spar´savajra¯. In ad-
including the sacramental consumption of sexual fluids, as
dition to the four buddha couples and ten Fierce Kings, it
well as the consumption of other substances deemed impure
also added eight bodhisattvas and four additional goddesses.
by contemporary Indian society, such as feces. The
It was this school that was primarily responsible for the so-
Guhyasama¯ja is also one of the first Buddhist Tantras to de-
phisticated system of hermeneutics that became greatly influ-
pict its central buddhas in sexual union with consorts. The
ential in Tibetan Buddhist circles.
Guhyasama¯ja man:d:ala is built upon the foundation estab-
While the Guhyasama¯ja tradition, like all other Bud-
lished by the Sarvatathaga¯ta-Tattvasamgraha, taking the core
dhist traditions, disappeared in India during the late medi-
of that man:d:ala, a central buddha surrounded by four other
eval period, its texts and practice was preserved in Nepal. In
buddhas in the cardinal directions, and giving each a consort.
addition, the tradition was also disseminated to Tibet and
The man:d:ala is thus centered upon five deity couples in sex-
East Asia. The Guhyasama¯ja Tantra was translated into Chi-
ual union. Matching this imagery, the text is replete with
nese by Da¯napa¯la around 1002 CE. The ritual and practice
erotic language, most notably in its infamous opening verse:
tradition associated with it, however, did not take root in
“Thus have I heard: At one time the Blessed Lord resided in
East Asia. The tradition was successfully transmitted to
the vulvas of the Adamantine Ladies [vajrayos:idbhages:u], the
Tibet. The standard Tibetan version was translated by the
essence of the Body, Speech, and Mind of all Tatha¯gatas.”
Tibetan scholar Rin chen bzang po (Rinchen Zangpo, 958–
The Guhyasama¯ja Tantra was revolutionary in being
1055 CE) and the Ka´smiri scholar S´raddha¯karavarman
one of the earliest Buddhist Tantras to openly proclaim the
around the same time, circa 1000 CE. From Tibet it was also
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

transmitted to Mongolia, where it remained an important
of the word is found in medical parlance but is not confined
and popular tradition up until the decimation of Buddhism
to that context. It is also found in Mimamsa exegesis of the
there under the Communists. In Tibet it remained an impor-
merits of action, including mental and verbal activities.
tant element of contemporary Buddhist practice. It is studied
and practiced by all Tibetan Buddhist schools, although it
Perhaps related to the foregoing, Sa¯m:khya metaphysics
is particularly emphasized by the Dge lugs (Geluk) school.
postulates three gun:as as the constituents of pr:akrti, or mate-
While Buddhism in Tibet has suffered under Communist
rial nature. These three qualities are known as sattva, rajas,
Chinese rule, the tradition remains in practice among Tibet-
and tamas, terms that are somewhat difficult to translate into
an communities in diaspora, as well as among the Buddhist
simple English. Sattva connotes the bright, light, buoyant,
groups founded by Tibetan lamas in exile around the world.
wise, good, transparent aspects of nature and all creations.
Tamas connotes their opposites, hence what is dark, heavy,
SEE ALSO Tantrism.
dull, bad, opaque. Rajas is viewed in Sa¯m:khya as the catalytic
or dynamic principle in things that accounts for all spiritual
and material change and activity. According to Sa¯m:khya, all
Davidson, Ronald. Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of
substance, whether mental or physical, consists of a mixture
the Tantric Movement. New York, 2002. An excellent over-
of these three gun:as in certain proportions. During pralaya,
view of the history of esoteric Buddhism in India, with a crit-
the period when the material universe is reabsorbed into its
ical discussion of the history of the Guhyasama¯ja Tantra and
its exegesis.
unmanifest state, the three gun:as are in equilibrium. At the
time of creation, that is, at the onset of another cycle of man-
Fremantle, Francesca, ed. and trans. “A Critical Study of the
Guhyasama¯ja Tantra.” Ph.D. diss., University of London,
ifestation of the universe, an imbalance among the gun:as oc-
curs, and thus differentiation takes place.
Giebel, Rolf W. “The Chin-kang-ting ching yü-ch’ieh shih-pa-hui
In the Vai´ses:ika system of classification, gun:a is the
chih-kuei: An Annotated Translation.” Journal of Naritasan
name of the second of seven categories of being. A gun:a in
Institute for Buddhist Studies 18 (1995): 107–201. A detailed
study of Amoghavajra’s text that contains the earliest refer-
this system is a particular characteristic of an individual sub-
ence to the Guhyasama¯ja.
stance, for example, the specific patch of color that is dis-
Matsunaga, Yukei, ed. The Guhyasama¯ja Tantra. Osaka, 1978. A
played in a certain piece of cloth at a given instant. A gun:a
superior critical edition of the text.
for Vaisesika is a fleeting quality related for only a few mo-
Thurman, Robert. “Vajra Hermeneutics.” In Buddhist Hermeneu-
ments to its possessor, which must be a substance (dravya).
tics, edited by Donald Lopez Jr., pp. 119–148. Honolulu,
Particular colors, tastes, sounds, smells, and textures are
1988. An introduction to the A¯rya school of exegesis.
gun:as; so too are numbers, contacts and disjunctions, desires
Wedemeyer, Christian. “Tropes, Typologies, and Turnarounds:
and aversions, effort and awareness, as well as karmic and
A Brief Genealogy of the Historiography of Tantric Bud-
memory traces.
dhism.” History of Religions 40, no. 3 (2001): 223–259. A
general critique of Tantric historiography with a specific dis-
In Jainism, gun:a is one of three inherent qualities of
cussion of the dating of the A¯rya school of exegesis.
every material thing (pudgala). Each bit of matter is a dravya
Yangchen Gawai Lodoe. Paths and Grounds of Guhyasamaja ac-
possessing certain kinds of features (gun:as) that are presented
cording to Arya Nagarjuna. Dharamsala, 1995. A good intro-
in various modes (parya¯yas). Thus a gun:a in Jainism is not
duction to the traditional Tibetan understanding of the text
substantial, as Sa¯m:khya gun:as are, but neither is it adventi-
and its associated practices.
tious or evanescent, as are Vaisesika gun:as. A Jain gun:a is a
DAVID B. GRAY (2005)
generic feature of the kind of substance comprising an indi-
vidual object—earthy, hot, and so forth. The quantitative
and qualitative variations of these features are their modes.
SEE ALSO Prakr:ti; Sa¯m:khya; Vai´ses:ika.
Sa¯m:khya interpretations of gun:as are reviewed in Gerald James
Larson’s Classical Sa¯m:khya: An Interpretation of Its History
GUN:AS. Gun:a is a Sanskrit word etymologically suggest-
and Meaning, 2d ed. (Santa Barbara, Calif., 1979). For the
ing a “strand” or “thread,” several of which when intertwined
views of the Vai´ses:ikas, see Indian Metaphysics and Epistemol-
make up a rope. The term is defined and applied in numer-
ogy: The Tradition of the Nya¯ya-Vai´ses:ka up to Gan˙ge´sa, vol-
ous ways, depending on the governing systematic assump-
ume 2 of the Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, edited by
tions and/or philosophical contexts. Four of the most com-
Karl H. Potter (Princeton, N. J., 1977). Jain views are dis-
mon usages are described below.
cussed in Padmanabh S. Jaini’s The Jaina Path of Purification
(Berkeley, Calif., 1979).
The gun:as or “virtues” of an animate or inanimate ob-
ject can be contrasted with its dos:as, or “faults.” This sense
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GUO XIANG (d. 312 CE), Chinese thinker associated
the unutterable reality. In avowing that names were an in-
with the xuanxue (“dark learning” or “school of mystery”)
complete expression of the hidden source of existence, Guo
movement. A rationalist mystic and naturalist pantheist,
Xiang was writing against the Confucian perspective as it de-
Guo Xiang is the author of a commentary on the Zhuangzi,
veloped in the “school of names” (mingjiao). The “determin-
the only text of his still extant and the best known and oldest
ism” Guo Xiang showed was nothing more than common
of all the Zhuangzi commentaries still in existence. Guo
sense: we must cope with what is unavoidable. Yet the partic-
Xiang also edited the text of the Zhuangzi itself. In establish-
ipation in the world he advocated was a mystical one, very
ing the version we have today he reduced the size of the text,
near the Daoist ideal. Kuo rejected everything supernatural
chose what seemed to him to be “the best and most complete
and by so doing he came close to the Chinese “rationalists”
parts” to make a coherent whole, rejected some parts, and
such as Wang Chong, but because he allotted a large place
arranged the whole in thirty-three chapters. All the complete
to xuan, the Mystery, the undefinable, he is associated with
versions of the Zhuangzi known at present are derived
xuanxue. Nevertheless, in denying the central role of the con-
from his.
cept of wu (nonbeing)—Guo Xiang maintains wu is a mere
negation, that it simply serves to negate the existence of any-
Guo Xiang’s commentary both develops a personal phi-
thing that gives birth to beings outside themselves, and that
losophy and makes a radical reinterpretation of the Zhuang-
wu implies a total absence of a source other than an imma-
zi. That the universe produces itself and is not produced by
nent one—he is at odds with Wang Bi, the movement’s most
another is the starting point and the central concept of Guo
prominent exponent. By his treatment of some of Zhuangzi’s
Xiang’s system. The universe contains all the attributes of the
terms, Guo Xiang prepared the way for the diffusion of the
Absolute: it exists eternally and necessarily and is self-
Zhuangzi among Buddhist thinkers.
sufficient. Beings come into existence of themselves; their
true nature is their self-beingness. They are defined as identi-
SEE ALSO Wang Bi; Zhuangzi.
cal to themselves, and this identity is identical in each of
them: thus Guo Xiang understands Zhuangzi’s “identity of
beings” as a type of monism. The Great One (tai) or, some-
Fukunaga Mitsuji. “Kaku Sho¯ no So¯shi kaishaku.” Tetsugaku
times, the Ether (qi) is the universal force that is the source
kenkyu¯ 37 (1954): 108–124, 166–177.
of the self-production of beings; every phenomenon repre-
Fung Yu-lan. Chuang-tzu: A New Selected Translation with an Ex-
sents a varying state of dispersion or condensation of the
position of the Philosophy of Kuo Hsiang (1933). 2d ed. New
Ether. But Guo Xiang escapes complete monism by admit-
York, 1964.
ting the notion of fen, “allotment” or “limit.” Beings are dif-
Nakajima R. “Kaku Sho¯ no shiso¯ ni tsuite.” Shu¯kan to¯yo¯gaku 24
ferentiated by the congenital limitations of their existential
(1970): 43–60.
and social possibilities (their span of life, their natural en-
Robinet, Isabelle. “Kouo Siang ou le monde comme absolu.”
dowment, their place in society). These limitations assign the
T’oung-pao 69 (1983): 73–107.
place they must take in society and the universe, which place
Togawa Yoshio. “Kaku Sho¯ no seiji shiso¯ to sono So¯shi chu¯.” Nip-
in turn actualizes and manifests their being. The relation that
pon chu¯goku gakkaiho¯ 18 (1966): 142–160.
obtains between these limitations of beings (fen) follows a
natural pattern (li), an immanent principle of order that is
established spontaneously (ziran) without any external agent.
In order to achieve their own totality, individuals must ac-
cept the elements that compose their being: spontaneity (a
GURDJIEFF, G. I. Georgii Ivanovich Gurdzhiv
universal, natural, and nonpersonal force that lies within
(1866–1949) was a spiritual teacher of esoteric knowledge
each of us and is distinct from the ego), limitations in time
who claimed to have discovered specific methods for devel-
and society (fen), and, finally, “daily renewal” (an incessant
oping the human consciousness toward a more awakened
state of change characteristic of all beings). In this way, indi-
state. Gurdjieff was born of a Greek father and Armenian
viduals enter into a “marvelous coincidence” with themselves
mother in Alexandropol in the Cappadocian Greek quarter
and with the oneness of the world, into that mystic fusion
on the Russian side of the Russian-Finnish border. The date
with the immanent force that produces everything and has
of his birth is disputed to be as much as eleven years later,
no beginning or end.
due perhaps to a mistake on his passport. Gurdjieff himself
Guo Xiang was not a Confucian. He valued Confucian
maintained that he was born in 1866, a date that is corrobo-
virtues after the fashion of Daoists; he did not believe in a
rated by a number of sources.
life after death, a denial incompatible with the ancestor cult.
The gifted boy, who came to use the Russian name
He also advocated governing by wuwei (noninterference), a
Gurdjieff, was carefully schooled for a career in either the Or-
Daoist emphasis. If he acknowledged a social life, it was be-
thodox priesthood or in medicine. However, even as a teen-
cause society was an inescapable fact, but he held that
ager he was convinced of the existence of perennial wisdom
“names” (titles and official functions) in society were external
and secret knowledge that held the answers to life’s ultimate
aspects that must be “forgotten” in order to gain union with
questions. For this reason, Gurdjieff left the academic world
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 engaged in a quest that took him to Central Asia, includ-
unconventional life, and to take great risks in travel and spiri-
ing upper Tibet, and the Middle East. Some of the signifi-
tual practice.
cant events of this journey are recorded in Meetings with Re-
The central idea in Gurdjieff’s thought is that human
markable Men (begun in 1927 and revised over the years; first
consciousness can be awakened to a much greater degree
published in 1963), which British director Peter Brook made
than most people experience. In fact, there is a “Real I” inside
into a movie in 1979.
all people, which can be uncovered, but only by those who
In 1912 Gurdjieff took up residence in Moscow and at-
are devoted to finding this divine essence in themselves. His
tracted a circle of students there and in Saint Petersburg.
monumental work, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (1949),
Having previously read the Tertium Organum published in
is an allegory of a being in a spaceship who observes the
Russian in 1911 (1920 in English) by P. D. Ouspensky
“hell” of life on earth and the misery of the “three-brained
(1878–1947), Gurdjieff accepted Ouspensky as a pupil in
beings” who inhabit the planet. Humans are composed of
1915. The musician and composer Thomas de Hartmann
ordinary waking consciousness, which is fictitious; the sub-
(1885–1956) and his wife Olga also joined the circle. To
conscious, which is closer to reality; and the state of transfor-
avoid the difficulties of life during the Bolshevik Revolution,
mation or higher consciousness, which religions might call
Gurdjieff led his followers to the Caucasus and stayed in Tbi-
“spirit” (pneuma, buddhi, or a¯tman). Beings who live only by
lisi, Georgia. There in 1919, he accepted the artist Alexandre
the perceptions of waking consciousness are disrespectfully
de Salzmann (1874–1934) and his wife Jeanne as disciples.
called “slugs” by Beelzebub’s grandson, a truth seeker.
In collaboration with de Hartmann, Gurdjieff composed
Methods for attaining the Real I included meditation
music based on an inversion of the Greek diatonic Dorian
at dawn and dusk, meditation on sacred music, and intense
mode (EDCBAGFE) found in Plato’s Timaeus. Working
self-observation to assess one’s automatic, as opposed to truly
with his gifted pupils, Gurdjieff also choreographed 250 en-
conscious, actions. The teachers Gurdjieff encountered in
semble movements of Sacred Dances, which illustrated his
Russia and in the Middle and Far East were described as
spiritual teachings and were performed in public. He then
being on the verge of attaining or having attained this higher
traveled to Constantinople and to London, where the promi-
consciousness. At the end of Meetings with Remarkable Men,
nent editor A. R. Orage (1873–1934) joined his group.
having discovered a sacred place, Gurdjieff wrote that
Finally settling in France, Gurdjieff opened the Institute
“among the adepts of this monastery were former Christians,
for the Harmonious Development of Man at Prieuré des
Mohammadens, Buddhists, Lamaists, and even one Shaman-
Basses Loges at Fontainebleau-Avon in 1922. There he at-
ist. All were united by God the Truth” (p. 239).
tracted international pupils, including the dying author
In spite of his emphasis on experience, Gurdjieff’s con-
Katherine Mansfield (1888–1923) from New Zealand. In
tribution was concerned with cosmology, metaphysics, and
1924 he toured with a group of dancer-disciples that per-
evolution. For example, Beelzebub teaches his grandson that
formed Sacred Dances in New York, Chicago, Boston, and
all beings were “Rays of Creation” from the “Common Fa-
Philadelphia. While in the United States he attracted other
ther Endlessness Himself” (one of the many names for the
prominent students, including the editor and writer Jane
Absolute [God]). According to Gurdjieff, Charles Darwin
Heap (1887–1964).
(1809–1882) had explained little about human evolution be-
After surviving a near fatal auto accident in 1924 and
cause he did not account for the human inner nature as di-
the trauma of his wife’s death in 1926, Gurdjieff continued
vine emanations. Human beings on the “minor planet earth”
to teach in Prieuré until financial problems forced its closure
have lost touch with their origins and reasons for existence
in 1933. After another visit to the United States, he settled
due to mindlessly following conventional religions and polit-
permanently in Paris. There he constituted an exclusively les-
ical leaders. Humans are actually governed by cosmic laws,
bian group, including the author of The Nun’s Story (1956),
which are a part of their psychic makeup. Tragically, humans
Kathryn Hulme (1900–1981). In 1930 René Daumal
are caught up in materialism, external success, and the unat-
(1908–1944) and his wife Vera joined Gurdjieff’s other Pari-
tainable goal of happiness. They are hopelessly lost unless
sian circle. Gurdjieff remained in Paris during the Nazi occu-
they can return to the Real I. The final part of the All and
pation. His followers helped hide Jewish members of their
Everything series, Life Is Real Only Then, When “I Am” (1950)
group. He continued to teach, and died in 1949 in Neuilly,
deals with aspects of this teaching that are accessible only to
his most devoted students. Ouspensky, in his record of
Gurdjieff’s talks, In Search of the Miraculous (1949), explains
Gurdjieff remains a mysterious and controversial figure
these ideas further. In 1924 Gurdjieff and Ouspensky broke
even into the twenty-first century. He has been called every-
off their association in spite of their similar teachings.
thing from a charlatan to a master of wisdom. Those who
knew him well considered him to be a profound seeker after
Gurdjieff’s work was carried on by his pupil, Jeanne de
truth, which included the meaning in life, the origins and
Salzmann (1889–1990), who organized the Gurdjieff Foun-
reasons for human existence, and the potentiality for humans
dation in 1953 in New York. The foundation dispenses the
to expand their consciousness. In order to achieve these ends,
teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky in London, Paris, San
Gurdjieff was willing to break the rules of custom, to live an
Francisco, and centers all over the world. The quarterly
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Gurdjieff International Review publishes essays and commen-
York, and Fontainebleau. Includes interesting paintings by
tary about Gurdjieff and his teachings.
Felix Labisse and George Rahner Ferro.
Pentland, John. Exchanges Within: Questions from Everyday Life.
EE ALSO Ouspensky, P. D.
New York, 1997. Gurdjieff’s teaching about life’s basic ques-
tions and his interaction with his students.
Works by Gurdjieff

Peters, Fritz. Boyhood with Gurdjieff. New York, 1964. A boy who
Gurdjieff, G. I. All and Everything. New York, 1950. Original
grew up in Gurdjieff’s circle shows him to be “all too
publication that includes Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson,
human” while retaining a deep reverence for him.
Meetings with Remarkable Men, and Life Is Real Only Then,
Peters, Fritz. Gurdjieff Remembered. New York, 1965. An intimate
When “I Am.”
of the Gurdjieff circle discusses teachings, arguments, and
Gurdjieff, G. I. Herald of the Coming Good. Paris, 1933; reprint,
problems that led to the split between Gurdjieff and Ous-
New York, 1970. Gurdjieff discusses the great future for the
human race during the dark days prior to World War II.
Speeth, Kathleen Riordan. The Gurdjieff Work. New York, 1989.
Gurdjieff. G. I. Meetings with Remarkable Men. New York, 1974.
A clearly written book on Gurdjieff’s fundamental ideas and
An autobiographical account of Gurdjieff’s travels and en-
how his “Fourth Way” teachings were diffused in the West,
counters with people who attained spiritual realizations on
influencing such individuals as the physiologist Moshé Fel-
the path.
denkreis, the painter Georgia O’Keeffe, and many writers.
Gurdjieff, G. I. Views from the Real World: Early Talks in Moscow,
Walker, Kenneth. The Making of Man. London, 1963. A short,
Essentuki, Tifli, Berlin, London, Paris, New York, and Chicago
readable book on the teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky
as Recollected by His Pupils. New York, 1975. A discussion
on cosmic consciousness and cosmic laws.
by Gurdjieff regarding what it would be like to view things
as they really are from an objective enlightened state.
Webb, James. The Harmonious Circle: The Lives and Work of
G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, and Their Followers. New
Gurdjieff, G. I. Life Is Real Only Then, When “I Am.” New York,
York, 1980. A discussion of Gurdjieff’s experiments to im-
1982. Gurdjieff’s friendly advice for getting in contact with
plement harmony and personal development in his inner cir-
the real “other being” beyond the instinctive, emotional, and
thinking person.
Gurdjieff, G. I. Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson: An Objectively
Critical Perspectives
Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man. New York, 1999. A
Needleman, Jacob, George Baker, and Bruno de Panaflieu, eds.
allegory of the problems and potential of the human race as
Gurdjieff: Essays and Reflections on the Man and His Teaching.
seen by a great being from outer space.
New York, 1996. A collection of essays that attempt to objec-
tively evaluate the life and work of Gurdjieff.
Works from Sources Close to Gurdjieff
Anderson, Margaret. The Unknowable Gurdjieff. New York, 1962.
Woodson, Jon. To Make a New Race: Gurdjieff, Toomer, and the
A clearly written work by an intimate of his circle, which in-
Harlem Renaissance. Jackson, Miss., 1999. A critical look at
cluded Jane Heap and Kathryn Hulme, discussing the diffi-
Gurdjieff’s ideas and an interesting view of his influence on
culties of understanding Gurdjieff and his doctrines.
the poet Jean Toomer.
Bennett, J. G. Gurdjieff: Making a New World. New York, 1973.
Internet Sources
A discussion of Gurdjieff’s life and teaching and a portrait
Gurdjieff International Review. “Selected Excerpts from the Talks
of him as a man by one of his associates.
and Writings of G. I. Gurdjieff.” Available from http://
Driscoll, J. Walter, and the Gurdjieff Foundation. Gurdjieff: An
Annotated Bibliography. New York, 1985. Compiled by
Moore, James. “Gurdjieff Chronology.” Available from http://
Jeanne de Salzmann and others.
Moore, James. Gurdjieff and Mansfield. London, 1980. A portrait
Needleman, Jacob. “G. I. Gurdjieff and His School.” Avail-
of the relationship between Gurdjieff and Katherine Mans-
able from http://www.bmrc.berkeley.edu/people/misc/
Moore, James. Gurdjieff, the Anatomy of a Myth: A Biography.
Dorsett, U.K., 1991. An attempt to reveal and differentiate
truths, with good stories about Gurdjieff and his doctrines.
Nicoll, Maurice. Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of
Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. London, 1952–1956; reprint, Bos-
ton, 1984. A difficult work setting forth the major ideas that
¯ . The word guru¯ refers to a spiritual master or teach-
Gurdjieff and Ouspensky held in common on psychology
er whose gift or skill bears an esoteric dimension. Though
and the spiritual evolution of the human race.
derived from the Hindu tradition, the term guru¯ has also
Ouspensky, P. D. In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Un-
come to be applied to spiritual masters of other religious tra-
known Teaching. New York, 1949. Ouspensky’s notes and
ditions, and to masters in other areas of expertise, such as
records of Gurdjieff’s most important teachings and discus-
music, dance, and even business. The Sanskrit term guru¯ was
sions with his pupils.
originally used in its Vedic context as an adjective meaning
Pauwels, Louis. Gurdjieff. New York, 1972. A portrait of Gurd-
“heavy” or “weighty.” In the Upanis:ads, it came to refer to
jieff’s personal interaction with his groups in Paris, New
a person who had reached the highest state of spiritual real-
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ization (moks:a) and who was able to lead others to the same.
have been told to a high-minded man, who feels the highest
The guru¯ may be distinguished from a Hindu sadhu, in that
devotion for God, and for his Guru as for God, then they
the role of the guru¯ consists mainly in teaching disciples (sh-
will shine forth,—then they will shine forth indeed”
ishyas), and from an a¯ca¯rya or pan:d:it in that the teaching of
(S´veta¯´svatara Upanis:ad 6:23). Disciples generally recognize
the guru¯ is based primarily on personal spiritual experiences
the teachings of a guru¯ as the ultimate truth. While Hindu
rather than on traditional religious knowledge. As such, the
guru¯s acknowledge the authority of the Hindu scriptures,
guru¯-disciple relationship represents the Hindu form of the
they are autonomous in interpreting these scriptures. This
phenomenon of spiritual direction that may be found in
explains the rich diversity of teaching traditions within
most religious traditions. The guru¯ may be regarded as the
Hindu equivalent to the figure of the kalya¯na mitra in
Therava¯da Buddhism, the roshi in Zen Buddhism, or the
While a guru¯ may be regarded as God in the Hindu tra-
lama in Tibetan Buddhism. Parallels to the guru¯ may also be
dition, the authority of the guru¯ is still constituted solely by
found in the figures of the tsaddiq within the Hasidic tradi-
a disciple’s recognition of this divinity. It is often said in
tion of Judaism, the shaykh or pir in Sufism, the starets within
Hinduism that it is the disciple who makes the guru¯. In the
the Eastern Orthodox tradition of Christianity, or the novice
Upanis:ads, a disciple approached the guru¯ with fuel in the
master and spiritual director in Catholic monasticism. In
hand, expressing a desire to serve the guru¯ (by tending to his
each case, the spiritual master is believed to represent the
sacrificial fire). Upon acceptance, the disciple underwent a
highest spiritual realization within that particular tradition,
formal initiation (d¯ıksha¯) symbolizing a new birth from the
and is expected to lead others to that state both by example
guru¯ and incorporation within the guru¯’s household
and by teaching. All spiritual traditions emphasize the im-
(guru¯kula). Disciples often remained with the guru¯ for more
portance of the complete surrender of the disciple to the spir-
than a decade, practicing various forms of asceticism and self-
itual master as a condition for spiritual growth. While most
abnegation under the guidance of the guru¯. In later times,
traditions regard the master-disciple relationship as only one
the religious community surrounding a guru¯ came to be
form of religious observance, often reserved for a spiritual
called an a¯´srama (ashram). A¯´sramas usually consist of a
elite, within the Hindu religious tradition the figure of the
group of core members who are totally devoted to the guru¯
guru¯ has come to play a central role.
and have often taken vows of celibacy and renunciation
(sannya¯sa), and of a larger group of followers who may come
and stay with the guru¯ for various lengths of time without
portance of the guru¯ within the Hindu tradition is directly
renouncing the world. However, some guru¯s may instead
related to the pursuit of moks:a (liberation) as the highest and
adopt a more itinerant lifestyle and visit disciples in their
ultimate religious goal. In the Upanis:ads, this state of moks:a
own villages and homes.
is expressed in terms of the realization of the nonduality of
a¯tman (deepest Self) and brahman (ultimate reality). The
From the outset, each relationship between guru¯ and
guru¯ came to be regarded as the embodiment of this state,
disciple has been regarded as unique or irreplaceable. The
and as the only means through which it could be attained.
guru¯ generally adapts the teaching to the spiritual needs and
Since the experience of moks:a is considered to be unfathom-
level of spiritual development of the disciple. This has at
able in words, it could only be exemplified and pursued
times generated an image of the guru¯ as being unpredictable.
through one who had already reached that state.
Guru¯s often act and relate to disciples in ways that defy com-
mon sense. Disciples are expected to uncritically accept the
Thus, the Mun:d:aka Upanis:ad states, “nothing that is
particular teaching and discipline imparted upon them by
eternal (not made) can be gained by what is not eternal
the guru¯ and to maintain faith in the guru¯’s capacities of dis-
(made). Let him, in order to understand this, take fuel in his
cernment. Since the ultimate goal of the guru¯-disciple rela-
hand and approach a Guru who is learned and dwells entirely
tionship is not the acquisition of objective knowledge but re-
in Brahman” (1:2:12). In the Maitr¯ı Upanis:ad the disciple
alization of the deepest Self (a¯tman), not only the path, but
addresses the guru¯ with the following words: “In this world
also the goal of every guru¯-disciple relationship is considered
I am like a frog in a dry well. O Saint, thou art my way, thou
to be unique. It is only the guru¯ who is able to acknowledge
art my way” (1:4). Thus, the figure of the guru¯ effectively be-
the attainment of self-realization in the disciple, since, as it
came, as David Miller put it, the “centre of sacredness” in
is said, the one who attains it “does not know, yet he is know-
ing, though he does not know” (Br:hada¯ran:yaka Upanis:ad
4:3:30). While the attainment of the state of realization
As the embodiment of the ultimate state of realization,
marks the end of the guru¯-disciple relationship, Hindus gen-
the guru¯ came to be endowed with divine attributes. In the
erally maintain a reverence for their guru¯ throughout their
Mun:d:aka Upanis:ad it is said that “he who knows that highest
Brahman, becomes even Brahman” (3:2:9). There is no
higher authority in Hinduism than the one who has attained
The guru¯-disciple relationship has formed the basis for
the knowledge of brahman. The guru¯ thus came to be regard-
the development of various teaching traditions (samprada¯yas)
ed as God, and recognition of the divinity of the guru¯ was
within Hinduism. Each samprada¯ya is based on a lineage of
seen as a condition for reaching liberation: “If these truths
teachers (guru¯parampara¯) in which the authority of a guru¯
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is legitimated by the previous guru¯s. In the end, however, it
the Tantric tradition, states, “There is nothing greater than
is the capacity of a guru¯ to generate and maintain a religious
the guru¯.
commitment from disciples that sustains a tradition. Teach-
All three functions of the guru¯—teaching, initiation,
ing traditions may disappear and new ones may emerge at
and imparting love and grace—may be found to various de-
any given time.
grees in any particular guru¯. While some guru¯s may be clearly
situated within one or the other tradition of Hinduism, most
tus and role of the guru¯ may be variously defined and legiti-
combine elements from the different Hindu traditions and
mated within any particular teaching tradition. Certain gen-
even from other religious traditions within their teachings
eral characteristics distinguish the conception of the guru¯
and practices.
within the traditions of Advaita Veda¯nta, Bhakti, and Tan-
Because of the absolute authority of the guru¯, the Hindu
trism. Within Advaita Veda¯nta, the guru¯ is predominantly
tradition has always been conscious of the possibility of abuse
regarded as a teacher who imparts spiritual wisdom to the
of this authority by false guru¯s or pseudo-guru¯s who exploit
disciple. S´an˙kara (788–820), the founder of this tradition,
disciples for their own purposes. In the Mun:d:aka Upanis:ad,
framed the relationship between guru¯ and disciple in terms
one is warned of “fools dwelling in darkness, wise in their
of ´sravan:a (listening), manana (contemplation), and
own conceit, and puffed up with vain knowledge, [who] go
nididhya¯sana (meditation). High demands are put upon a
round and round staggering to and fro, like blind men led
disciple who must be “a seeker after final release whose mind
by the blind” (1:2:8). This is why many Hindu texts enumer-
has been calmed, whose senses have been controlled, whose
ate in great detail the various qualities that characterize a real
faults have been abandoned, who is acting as prescribed [in
guru¯. Among these, complete freedom from desire and from
the scriptures], who is endowed with virtues, and who is al-
conceit plays a central role.
ways obedient” (Upade´sasa¯hasr¯ı 1:16:72). The guru¯, on the
other hand, must be endowed with tranquility, self-control,
The guru¯ is of central importance in Sikhism, which is
lack of attachment to enjoyments “visible and invisible,” and
based on a lineage of ten human guru¯s, from Sikhism’s
freedom from faults such as “deceit, pride, trickery, wicked-
founder Guru¯ Na¯nak (1469–1539) to its tenth leader, Guru¯
ness, fraud, jealousy, falsehood, egotism, [and] self-interest”
Gobind Singh (1666–1708), after whom guru¯ship became
(Upade´sasa¯hasr¯ı 2:1:6). The guru¯ must not only be liberated
enshrined in the collection of hymns known as the Guru¯
(j¯ıvanmukti) but also filled with compassion and a willing-
Granth Sa¯hib, or Sikh scriptures. God is considered as the
ness to share spiritual knowledge with others. S´an˙kara insti-
Guru¯ of Guru¯s,” and some Sikhs also believe in a living
tutionalized the guru¯-disciple relationship through the estab-
lishment of five monasteries (mat:has) in Sringeri, Kanchi,
Dwaraka, Puri, and Badrinath. The heads of these monaste-
MODERN DEVELOPMENTS. Since the beginning of the twen-
ries are called jagadguru¯s, or “world teachers.” These teachers
tieth century, the concept of the guru¯ has undergone a num-
differ from other guru¯s in that their responsibilities also in-
ber of changes. While the function of the guru¯ was tradition-
clude administration and their authority generally extends
ally limited to the spiritual sphere, guru¯s have become
beyond their own immediate group of disciples.
increasingly more active in the political and social realm,
contributing to Indian nationalist movements and causes.
Within the devotional (bhakti) traditions of Hinduism,
Figures such as Swami Dayananda Saraswati, founder of
the relationship between guru¯ and disciple is generally of a
A¯rya Sama¯j, formulated an ideology in which spirituality was
more affective nature. It is the love and grace of the guru¯ that
inseparable from national identity. The combination of spiri-
is here regarded as the principal means of salvation. The guru¯
tual and political authority was also evident in a figure like
may be regarded as a divine incarnation or avata¯ra, who has
Mohandas Gandhi. Many Hindu guru¯s are actively involved
the capacity to remove spiritual obstacles in the disciple.
in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the religious or ideo-
Much of the spiritual practice consists of expressions of lov-
logical branch of the political Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP).
ing devotion to the guru¯, who is worshiped as a God. In the
While guru¯s traditionally focused on individual and purely
absence of the guru¯, it is customary to worship the slippers,
spiritual relationships with disciples, these guru¯s have devel-
seat, statue, or picture of the guru¯.
oped more public roles as advisors to political leaders and ad-
vocates of political agendas.
In the Tantric tradition, the role of the guru¯ is concen-
trated in the imparting of d¯ıksha¯, or initiation. It is here that
A second development has been the internationalization
the idea of the indispensability of the guru¯ reaches its highest
of the mission and following of Hindu guru¯s. The popularity
expression. A disciple cannot conceive of the possibility of
of a number of Hindu guru¯s (Ra¯makrishna Paramahamsa,
liberation without receiving a mantra and the transmission
Aurobindo Ghose, Ramana Maharshi, Paramahamsa
of power (shaktipa¯t) from the guru¯. In the tradition of Kash-
Yoga¯nanda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Swami Mukta¯nanda,
mir S´aivism, this power is believed to awaken the spiritual
Krishnamurti, Bhagavan Shree Rajneesh, Sathya Sai Baba,
energy (kun:d:alin¯ı) in the disciple, transforming him or her
etc.) has led to the development of a¯´sramas and centers in
from within. Here, the guru¯ is often regarded as superior to
many countries outside India and to new challenges of tend-
God. The refrain of the Guru¯ G¯ıta¯, a text widely used within
ing to the spiritual needs of disciples from very different cul-
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tural and religious backgrounds, including many who live a
great distance from the guru¯. While most of the more famous
The first systematic treatments of the figure of the guru¯ in Western
guru¯s have come to spend much of their time traveling
languages may be found in Louis Renou’s introduction to
throughout the world visiting disciples who gather in large
Hinduism (New York, 1962) and in Jan Gonda’s Change and
Continuity in Indian Religion
(The Hague, 1965). The theme
numbers to receive their dar´san (vision), others remain in
of the absolute centrality of the guru¯ in Indian religion is de-
India and have disciples from all over the world visit them
veloped by David Miller in “The Guru as Centre of Sacred-
there. The international outreach of some guru¯s and the in-
ness,” Studies in Religion 6, no. 5 (1976–1977): 527–533.
crease in funds and material support has also led to new styles
More specialized studies of the role of guru¯ in particular
of teaching through high-tech means of communication.
schools or traditions of Hinduism may be found in William
This has led to shifts in the traditional concept of the
Cenkner’s A Tradition of Teachers: S´an˙kara and the
guru¯-disciple relationship. Whereas a personal relationship
Jagadguru¯s Today (Delhi, 1983), which discusses the guru¯ in
with the guru¯ was traditionally regarded as an essential di-
the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, and in Daniel Gold’s books
The Lord as Guru: Hindi Saints in the North Indian Tradition
mension of spiritual growth, such intimacy and personal
(New York, 1987) and Comprehending the Guru: Toward a
guidance has come to be replaced by very brief moments of
Grammar of Religious Perception (Atlanta, 1988), which focus
nonverbal exchange. In most cases, however, the belief that
predominantly on the Hindu Saint tradition. The dynamics
the guru¯ knows each disciple personally and attends from a
of the guru¯-disciple relationship has been approached from
distance to his or her spiritual needs has been preserved. An-
a psychoanalytical perspective in Richard Lannoy’s book The
other result of the internationalization of Hindu guru¯s is the
Speaking Tree: A Study of Indian Culture and Society (Lon-
rise of non-Indian disciples to the status of guru¯. This may
don, 1974) and in Anthony Storr’s Feet of Clay: A Study of
occur through appointment and succession within an estab-
Gurus (London, 1996.) For a brief discussion of the role of
lished lineage of guru¯s, or through independent forms of imi-
the guru¯ in Sikhism, see W. Owen Cole’s The Guru in Sikh-
(London, 1982).
tation of the Indian guru¯-disciple relationship. Such develop-
ments have raised questions regarding the traditional
Cross-cultural comparisons of the figure of the spiritual master
and the religious appropriation of the category of the guru¯
understanding of Hindu identity.
within a Christian context may be found in Catherine
One of the most remarkable developments of the twen-
Cornille’s The Guru in Indian Catholicism: Ambiguity or Op-
tieth century was the emergence of female guru¯s. While
portunity of Inculturation? (Louvain, Belgium, 1991) and in
M. Thomas Thangaraj’s The Crucified Guru: An Experiment
women were never explicitly excluded from the possibility
in Cross-Cultural Christology (Nashville, 1994). Numerous
of assuming spiritual authority in Hindu texts, and while a
books offer devotional and/or historical accounts of particu-
number of women have been recognized as important Hindu
lar guru¯s. Among these, works of scholarly interest are: Law-
saints in the course of history, women did not assumed roles
rence Babb’s Redemptive Encounters: Three Modern Styles in
of spiritual leadership until the beginning of the twentieth
the Hindu Tradition (Berkeley, Calif., 1986), focusing on the
century. One of the first renowned female guru¯s was
Radhasoami Faith, the Brahma Kumaris, and Sathya Sai
A¯nandamay¯ı Ma¯ (1896–1982). Though a wandering ascetic,
Baba; and Lisa Lassell Hallstrom’s Mother of Bliss:
she came to be widely sought out for spiritual direction and
A¯nandamay¯ı Ma¯ (Oxford, 1999).
advice. Numerous other female guru¯s have since gained pop-
On the topic of female guru¯s, a volume edited by Karen Pechilis,
ularity and fame, including outside India. Some of these fe-
The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the
male guru¯s were appointed as successor to their own male
United States (New York, 2004), offers a collection of studies
of the figures of Gauri ma, Sita Devi, Ananadamayi ma,
guru¯. But some became recognized purely on the basis of
Jayashri Ma, Meera Ma, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, Karuna-
their own spiritual power and authority. Though female
mayi Ma, Shree Maa, Mata Amritanandamayi, and
guru¯s are generally considered to be beyond gender, they are
more often identified with the goddesses of India, and their
affection for disciples is often expressed in explicitly nurtur-
ing gestures (such as touching or hugging). Female guru¯s may
be found in all strands of Hinduism, from the contemplative
and nondualist traditions and the Tantric schools to the
more devotional traditions. They continue the long Hindu
tradition of the importance of personal spiritual experience
and realization, and enrich that tradition with a distinctive
form and flavor. The figure of the guru¯ thus remains at the
¯ GRANTH SA¯HIB. The Sikhs’ full title for
heart of Hinduism, even as this religion and its concept of
their scripture, the A¯di Granth, is A¯di Sr¯ı Guru¯ Granth
the guru¯ continue to change over time.
Sa¯hibj¯ı. More generally they refer to it as Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib.
Sa¯hib, and j¯ı are all honorifics, conveying the Sikhs’ rev-
SEE ALSO Ashram; Avata¯ra; Bhakti; Brahman; Guru¯ Granth
erence for this volume of scripture. This entry complements
Sa¯hib; Kun:d:alin¯ı; Mantra; Moks:a; Na¯nak; Sam:nya¯sa; Sikh-
the encyclopedia’s A¯di Granth entry by focusing upon the
ism; Tantrism, overview article.
text as Guru¯ and the practical implications of this status,
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

rather than upon its content, structure, and message. Sikhs
readers take turns to read in shifts, and the family who orga-
regard the A¯di Granth as their living Guru¯ in succession, at
nize the akhand pa¯th provides food for all who read or attend.
his command, to Guru¯ Gobind Singh and his nine human
The Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib plays a part at significant life
predecessors, starting with Guru¯ Na¯nak. According to his
cycle rites, commencing with the naming of infants. When
follower, Bha¯¯ı Nand La¯l, Guru¯ Gobind Singh’s last words
parents bring their baby to the gurdwa¯ra¯, the granth¯ı opens
before his death in 1708 were: “Whoever wishes to hear the
the volume at random, as for a va¯k, and reads out the initial
Guru¯’s word should wholeheartedly read the Granth or listen
for the child’s forename. This is the first letter of the stanza
to the Granth being read.” Whereas the word guru¯ in Hindu
with which the left hand page starts.
usage refers to teachers generally, and in contemporary par-
lance more widely it is applied to any expert, Sikhs reserve
A Sikh couple is deemed to be married when they have
the word for their ten Guru¯s, for the Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib, and
completed the central marriage rite of circumambulating the
for God—hence the need for a capital G in the Roman
volume four times. In this way the Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib is at
the heart of the ceremony, as its witness. Moreover, it pro-
vides the La¯va¯n hymns that are read and then sung as the
The Sikhs’ place of worship, the gurdwa¯ra¯ (i.e., “door-
couple proceeds round. The La¯va¯n, composed by the fourth
way of the Guru¯”), is such only by virtue of the presence of
Guru¯, Ra¯m Da¯s, celebrate the soul’s movement towards full
the Guru¯ in the form of the Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib. Conversely,
union with God.
any room in which the Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib is appropriately
installed is a gurdwa¯ra¯. Those who enter do so only after tak-
Although the Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib is not present at a cre-
ing off their footwear and covering their heads (if they are
mation, it is the Sohila¯, the hymns from the Guru¯ Granth
not already wearing a turban).
Sa¯hib that mark the close of the day, that will be sung at this
time. It is also customary for a complete reading of the scrip-
USE OF TEXT IN WORSHIP. The text of the scripture plays
tures to take place following a death. The reading may be an
several roles in Sikh worship. Each day the pages are opened
akhand pa¯th or may be an intermittent reading over seven
at random for a va¯k (utterance) or hukam (order) that is re-
or ten days.
garded as guidance for the day. The passage that is read is
the first stanza on the left hand page, which will be read from
Like the life cycle, daily life too is punctuated by the
the beginning even if this is on the previous page. The va¯k
reading or hearing of select passages of scripture. Devout
from Sikhs’ holiest shrine, the Harmandir Sa¯hib (the Golden
Sikhs begin each day by bathing (between 3:00 and 6:00 AM)
Temple) in Amritsar (Punjab, India) is now disseminated
and singing or chanting Guru¯ Na¯nak’s Japj¯ı. A selection of
worldwide by the internet, as the daily hukam-na¯ma¯ (com-
hymns, known as Sodar Rahira¯s, is recited in the early eve-
mand, edict). Some of the va¯ks from the Harmandir Sa¯hib
ning and the day ends with the selection of hymns entitled
have attained historic status because of their pertinence to a
particular situation. In 1920, for example, a va¯k resolved (in
Sikhs’ annual festivals are preceded by an akhand pa¯th,
the affirmative) the question of whether converts from the
which concludes on the morning of the festival day, and the
lowest caste should be allowed to offer prasa¯d (blessed food)
largest-scale celebrations involve bearing the Guru¯ Granth
that is distributed to the congregation.
Sa¯hib in a procession, known as a nagar k¯ırtan, through the
streets. Often the volume is carried in a vehicle serving as a
The scriptures are read aloud in worship and also sung.
temporary mobile gurdwa¯ra¯.
Almost the entire text is arranged according to musical
modes (ra¯gs, i.e., ra¯gas). The shabads (hymns) are sung by
ra¯g¯ıs (musicians) to the accompaniment of instruments.
litany at the conclusion of Sikhs’ principal congregational
These usually include the tabla¯ (pair of hand drums) and at
prayer, the Arda¯s, affirms that the scriptures are “paragat
least one harmonium, and often a saurang¯ı (similar to a vio-
gura¯n k¯ı deh,” “the Guru¯’s body made manifest.” This dic-
lin) and a chimta¯ (literally “fire tongs”) that is inset with disks
tates the physical treatment of the volume in ways appropri-
like those in a tambourine. By singing and listening one is
ate for a revered Indian spiritual teacher. Account is taken
steeped in the gurba¯n¯ı (the Guru¯’s utterance) and so this is
of whether it is day or night, and other details such as season-
a form of na¯m simaran (i.e., remembrance of the Name, in
al temperature may also be considered in deciding where the
the sense of divine reality encapsulated). Musical rendering
volume is placed at night or how warmly it is covered. The
of the scripture is known as k¯ırtan and in this way Sikhs ex-
Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib spends the day reposing on a cushioned,
press their devotion.
canopied stand, the pa¯lk¯ı (literally palanquin). When not
being read it is covered by ruma¯la¯s, brightly colored covers
Pa¯th (pronounced like English part) is the word for a
which devotees make from velvety or satiny fabric. When
reading of the scripture. Akhand pa¯th means unbroken read-
open the volume is fanned by an attendant who waves a
ing and so denotes a forty-eight-hour reading of the entire
chaur (chaur¯ı or chanwar) above it. The chaur usually consists
Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib. Such readings are held to mark both
of a switch of silvery hair from a horse or yak’s tail that is
happy and sad occasions. Most people gather for the com-
mounted in a wooden or metal handle. Like the pa¯lk¯ı and
mencement and the culmination of the reading. Individual
chanan¯ı (canopy) this has come to symbolize sovereign au-
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

thority, because in the heat of India in the days before elec-
extensive study) is that the Banno group, who held to a less
tricity dignitaries would be kept cool by being fanned in this
militant style of Sikhism than was emerging after the fifth
way by a servant.
Guru¯’s violent death, supported the Banno b¯ır which omit-
ted dhun¯ıs (heroic tunes) and included, inter alia, a verse by
In the late evening the Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib is carried cer-
M¯ıra¯ Ba¯¯ı, a woman devotee of Kr:s:n:a, and a poem mention-
emonially (on a Sikh’s head) to its place of rest. This is often
ing a Hindu head-shaving rite.
a room in which the volume is literally put to bed. For this
bedroom the name is sach-khand, the realm of truth, a name
Translation of the text also began contentiously as Ernst
which it shares with the last stage of the spiritual journey as
Trumpp, the first translator, was conspicuously insensitive
mapped out by Guru¯ Na¯nak.
to Sikh sentiment. Subsequently, and thanks in no small part
to the devoted labors of the next translator, Arthur Max Ma-
Because the Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib is treated as a living
cauliffe, translation has been less controversial than textual
Guru¯ relatively few Sikhs have a copy at home, unless they
criticism. English translations of the entire text have been ap-
can set aside a room for its use. Instead Sikhs usually keep
pearing since Trumpp’s 1877 version but not for liturgical
a gutka¯ (handbook) containing the nitnem—that is, those
use. The Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib that is installed in gurdwa¯ra¯s is
passages from the A¯di Granth and from the Dasam Granth
always the 1,430-page Gurmukh¯ı text, in fact a copy of the
(the scripture traditionally attributed to Guru¯ Gobind
Damdama¯ b¯ır. (Gurmukh¯ı, literally “from the mouth of the
Singh) that are used liturgically. If a family holds an akhand
Guru¯,” is the name for the script used both by the Sikh scrip-
pa¯th at home, a room will be cleared of furniture, the Guru¯
ture and for the modern Punjabi language.)
Granth Sa¯hib is brought from the gurdwa¯ra¯ and installed
under a canopy. While the Guru¯ is in the house no nonvege-
Some attempts to translate the Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib’s me-
tarian food is cooked, and before coming into the Guru¯’s
dieval mystical verse into a contemporary non-Indic lan-
room people remove footwear and cover their heads.
guage have produced stilted English and/or a skewing of un-
derlying concepts. The fact that the opening formula “ik oan
The sanctity of the A¯di Granth as the Guru¯’s physical
ka¯r” can—arguably less tendentiously—be translated as
embodiment means that the scripture is printed, bound, and
“One reality is” (Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh) as well as the
transported with special care. Employees of the press in
popularly accepted “There is one God,” epitomizes the diffi-
Gurdwa¯ra¯ Ra¯msar, Amritsar, undertake to abstain from to-
culty for translators. The gendering of language about the di-
bacco and alcohol. Any “waste paper” is cremated in accor-
vine reality by successive translators has conveyed the impres-
dance with Sikh tradition. The bound copies are individually
sion of a male God, which Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh and
wrapped in a ruma¯la¯ and transported to gurdwa¯ra¯s in special-
other contemporary scholars have challenged. For example,
ly appointed luxury buses.
the original text contains no equivalent to the English words
he and his, which are introduced by most translators in the
ence for the scripture as the living Guru¯ has discouraged
interests of a fluent English rendering of many verses about
scholarly analysis of the text. During the latter half of the
the divine principle.
twentieth century, however, some scholars, including
Gurinder Singh Mann, sought to understand the complexi-
¯ di Granth; Dasam Granth; Gender and Reli-
gion, article on Gender and Sikhism; Guru¯; Na¯nak.
ties of the A¯di Granth’s compilation. Textual study by Hew
McLeod from New Zealand and the Sikh scholars Piar Singh
and Pashaura Singh resulted in hostile outbursts from some
Macauliffe, Max Arthur. The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus, Sacred Writ-
Sikhs and the boycotting of the scholars concerned. The
ings, and Authors. Oxford, 1909; reprint, Delhi, 1985. Lives
sense of outrage has to be understood in the context not only
of the ten Guru¯s and of the bhagats represented in the Guru¯
of Sikhs’ veneration of the Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib as the Guru¯’s
Granth Sa¯hib plus extensive translation; reflects Singh Sabha
living embodiment, but also of their insecurity as a religious
influence; still highly influential.
minority during a period (the 1980s and 1990s) of violent
Mann, Gurinder Singh. The Making of Sikh Scripture. Oxford and
political instability in Punjab.
New York, 2001. A work of rigorous textual analysis.
One controversial textual issue is why there are discrep-
Singh, Nikky-Guninder Kaur, trans. and ed. The Name of My Be-
ancies between different recensions (b¯ırs) of the A¯di
loved: Verses of the Sikh Gurus. San Francisco, 1995. Contem-
Granth—that is, between the early-seventeenth-century
porary English rendering of selected passages of the Guru¯
Karta¯rpur b¯ır and the early-eighteenth-century Damdama¯
Granth Sa¯hib and Dasam Granth, using non-gendered lan-
b¯ır, on the one hand, and on the other hand another seven-
teenth-century recension known as the Banno b¯ır, which
Singh, Pashaura. The Guru Granth Sahib: Canon, Meaning, and
came to be widely respected by eighteenth-century Sikhs. Ac-
Authority. New Delhi and New York, 2001. Authoritative
cording to a long-accepted view, while the Karta¯rpur b¯ır was
analysis of the compilation and status of Sikh scripture.
being taken for binding to Lahore, another was prepared by
Singh, Pashaura. The Bhagats of the Guru Granth Sahib: Sikh Self-
Bha¯¯ı Banno, but his additions were not approved by Guru¯
Definition and the Bhagat Bani. New Delhi, 2003. Definitive
Arjan Dev. Another theory (Pashaura Singh’s on the basis of
study of a major element of the Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib.
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

Internet Resources
land dispute. To avert further harassment, Gu moved north
English renderings are of the Guru¯ Granth Sa¯hib are available on
and spent the remainder of his life separated from family and
the internet at www.sikhnet.com/sggs/translation/0005.html
regional friends. In earlier years, he had turned in times of
and www.sikhs.org/english/frame.html.
trouble to ancestral veneration, both to honor the heritage
of his ancestors and to seek their guidance. In the North, he
worshiped regularly at the tombs of the Ming imperial fami-
ly, ritually renewing his commitment never to serve the
Manchus, and hence honoring the memory of his mother.
The values and ritual practices of Confucianism gave
meaning and structure to the life of Gu Yanwu. His scholar-
GU YANWU (tzu, Ningren; hao, Tinglin; 1613–1682),
ship was inspired and informed by his deep personal com-
a founder of the “school of evidential research” (kaozheng).
mitment to the Confucian Way.
Gu Yanwu was born to the scholarly life. He was from Kun-
Gu Yanwu charged that Confucian scholarship of the
shan, Jiangsu province, in Southeast China, a region re-
Song (960–1279) and Ming was so speculative and tainted
nowned for its historians and philosophers. His forebears
by Buddhism that it lost sight of the core of the tradition.
were distinguished intellectuals, passionate readers and col-
He echoed the scholars of the late Ming in their call for prac-
lectors of books. From the age of eleven, Gu was taught to
tical learning (shixue). Confucian scholarship could be effec-
read the encyclopedic originals of historical works rather
tive only if it were solidly grounded in the authentic Way
than the standard abridgments. His upbringing instilled in
of the sages, which was expounded in the Confucian classics.
him the highest standards of Confucian moral conduct.
For many centuries, however, Confucians, while venerating
At an early age, Gu’s parents sent him to be adopted as
the classics as a kind of sacred canon, had distorted their true
the heir of his father’s cousin, who had died in his teens. He
meaning by citing passages out of context or fabricating base-
was raised by his adoptive grandfather and by the fiancée of
less interpretations. Inspired by Han dynasty (206 BCE–220
the deceased cousin, who insisted on living as his widow.
CE) commentaries, Gu advocated a close reexamination of
This woman’s extraordinary devotion to her fiancé’s family
the classics, seeking to reconstruct the actual pronunciations
won her public recognition and an imperial title, “Chaste
and meanings of the original texts. He built on late Ming
and Filial.” Gu Yanwu later expressed his admiration for his
scholarship in phonology and philology, broadening the
foster mother in a laudatory biography.
method by bringing to bear an enormous range of evidence.
His work became the benchmark of evidential research.
In 1644 the Manchus conquered North China, bring-
ing an end to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The next year
Gu extended the methodology of kaozheng beyond clas-
they drove south and conquered Jiangsu. During the siege,
sical studies. The broad-ranging collection of evidence and
in which several of his relatives were killed or wounded, Gu
meticulous cross-checking of data were applied to such areas
fled with his foster mother to a remote village. When the
as water management, geography, and epigraphy. Gu did not
Manchu victory was imminent, his mother starved herself to
limit his research to written materials; he made use of arti-
death as an act of loyalty to the Ming, exacting from her son
facts, interviews, and trips to the field. His energetic scholar-
a vow never to serve the Manchus.
ship inspired several generations of intellectuals, many of
whom did not appreciate the commitment to the Confucian
In the early years of Manchu rule, Gu Yanwu, like many
Way that motivated his work.
in the Southeast, resented the Manchus and clung to the
hope that the Ming might be restored. Gu may even have
Scholars have compared the legacy of kaozheng to the
covertly aided the resistance government headed by an exiled
European Renaissance (Liang, 1959, p. 11, and Yü, 1975,
Ming prince. As time passed, many accepted the finality of
p. 128) or to the Reformation (Hou, 1962–1963, p. 250).
the Ming defeat and made their peace with the new regime.
A more appropriate comparison might be made to the histor-
The Manchus, for their part, courted the holdouts by means
ical-critical movement in biblical scholarship, which arose
of the boxue hongci, a special examination in 1679 to select
alongside the European Enlightenment. Both movements
candidates for a lavish imperial project on Ming history. The
claimed that misinterpretations of the canon had obscured
court invited the support of leading intellectuals to dissipate
the true teachings and exposed their traditions to dangers
the last vestiges of resistance in the Southeast; the “invita-
and heresies. Both sought to recover the true core of the
tion” was in fact a command performance. Gu Yanwu was
teachings by means of the most rigorous historical and criti-
one of the few who did not take this examination; he escaped
cal tools available. Both were occasionally misconstrued as
by working behind the scenes to have friends remove his
secularizations of their traditions. Gu Yanwu devoted him-
name from the invitation list. Even after he had personally
self to rigorous scholarship in order to recover the solid foun-
accepted the finality of the Ming defeat, he felt bound to
dations of the Way of the sages.
honor his vow to his mother.
In 1657, Gu Yanwu narrowly escaped assassination by
Gu Yanwu’s Yinxue wushu in 38 juan (1667), 8 vols. (Taibei,
a personal enemy with whom he had been embroiled in a
1957), established a model for the method of evidential re-
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

search. His broader scholarly approach is best embodied in
THEORIES OF GYNOCENTRISM. The literary scholar Elaine
his Rizhi lu in 32 juan, “Guoxue jiben congshu,” vol. 14, ed-
Showalter was one of the first feminists to develop a system-
ited by Wang Yunwu (Taibei, 1968), a collection of erudite
atic program that was critical of the androcentrism of main-
notes on a wide range of subjects that were revised through-
stream literary studies and that sought instead to illuminate
out his life whenever he found a new bit of relevant informa-
the “subculture” of women writers and readers. She coined
tion. The Gu Tinglin shi wenji, “Guoxue jiben congshu,” vol.
the term gynocritics to refer to this project, suggesting in her
317, edited by Wang Yunwu (Taibei, 1968), contains im-
article “Towards a Feminist Poetics” (1986) that:
portant letters and prefaces that articulate in succinct form
the principles behind his scholarly approach.
The program of gynocritics is to construct a female
There are two standard sources for Gu Yanwu’s life. Fang Chao-
framework for the analysis of women’s literature, to de-
ying’s biography in Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period,
velop new models based on the study of female experi-
1644–1912, 2 vols., edited by Arthur W. Hummel (Wash-
ence, rather than to adapt male models and theories.
ington, D.C., 1943–1944), includes a valuable overview of
Gynocritics begins at the point when we free ourselves
Gu’s scholarly contributions, pp. 421–426. Willard J. Peter-
from the linear absolutes of male literary history, stop
son’s “The Life of Ku Yen-wu, 1613–1682,” Harvard Jour-
trying to fit women between the lines of male tradition,
nal of Asiatic Studies 28 (1968): 114–156 and 29 (1969):
and focus instead on the new visible world of female
201–247, offers a thoughtful analysis of the historical and fa-
culture. (p. 131)
milial forces that shaped Gu’s career.
Showalter thus argued for the realignment of the conceptual
On Gu’s thought and scholarship, the best works are Hou Wailu’s
standpoints of literary studies by seeing women’s writing as
Zhongguo sixiang tongshi, vol. 5 (Beijing, 1962–1963),
primary, rather than as marginal. For her, it was a matter of
pp. 204–250, and Qian Mu’s Zhongguo jin saibainian xueshu
identifying the difference in women’s writing and of demon-
shi, 2 vols. (1937; reprint, Taibei, 1957), pp. 121–153.
strating how the psychodynamics of female creativity shaped
There is as yet little in Western languages. Liang Qichao’s
Intellectual Trends in the Ch’ing Period, translated by Imman-
women’s literary productions and readings differently from
uel C. Y. Hsü (Cambridge, Mass., 1959), offers a brief intro-
those of men. In order to identify female difference, the
duction in English. Yü Ying-shih’s article “Some Preliminary
gynocritical approach sought to study the history, styles,
Observations on the Rise of Ch’ing Confucian Intellectual-
themes, genres, and structures of writing by women, as well
ism,” Tsing-hua Journal of Chinese Studies, n.s. 11 (1975):
as the constraints on, and impact of, female literary tradi-
105–146, is the most helpful source on the origins and sig-
tions. The aim of gynocritics was the transformation and re-
nificance of the kaozheng movement.
definition of the androcentric parameters of the study of
New Sources
Ku, Wei-ying. “Gu Yanwu’s Ideal of the Emperor: A Cultural
Showalter’s gynocritical approach coincided with, and
Giant and Political Dwarf.” In Imperial Rulership and Cul-
reflected, a shift in second wave feminism away from the pro-
tural Change in Traditional China, edited by Frederick P.
Brandauer and Chun-chieh Huang, pp. 230–247. Seattle,
motion of the humanist ideal of gender-neutral equality, to-
wards a model of liberation that affirmed female experience.
Vergnaud, Jean-François. La pensée de Gu Yanwu, 1613–1682:
Iris Marion Young, in her essay “Humanism, Gynocentrism,
essai de synthèse. Paris, 1990.
and Feminist Politics” (1990), outlines the benefits of this
Vermeer, Eduard B. “Notions of Time and Space in the Early
change in emphasis, arguing that:
Ch’ing: The Writers of Gu Yanwu, Hsu Hsia-k’o, Ku Tsu-
[G]ynocentric feminism finds in women’s bodies and
yu and Chang Hsueh-ch’eng.” In Time and Space in Chinese
traditional feminine activity the source of more positive
Culture, edited by Chun-chieh Huang and Erik Zürcher,
values. Women’s reproductive processes keep us linked
pp. 201–236. Leiden, 1995.
with nature and the promotion of life to a greater de-
gree than men’s. Female eroticism is more fluid, diffuse,
Revised Bibliography
and loving than violence-prone male sexuality. Our
feminine socialization and traditional roles as mothers
give to us a capacity to nurture and a sense of social co-
operation that may be the only salvation of the planet.
GYNOCENTRISM (derived from the Greek gyno,
(p. 79)
meaning “woman,” and kentron, meaning “center”) is a radi-
cal feminist discourse that champions woman-centered be-
Gynocentric feminism thus promoted a vision of femininity
liefs, identities, and social organization. It also challenges the
at odds with traditional androcentric and misogynist formu-
androcentric promotion of masculine standards as norma-
lations, neatly reversing the values that had been traditionally
tive, and the presentation of those standards as neutral rather
assigned to women. In doing so, it simultaneously rehabili-
than gendered. Consequently, from a gynocentric perspec-
tated those aspects of femininity that were historically belit-
tive, the assumption of masculine-neutral norms has meant
tled or maligned, and articulated a theory of female differ-
that femininity has traditionally been presented as deficient,
ence in contrast to, and against, a masculine logic of
secondary, and lacking. Gynocentric feminism is concerned,
therefore, to revalue sexual difference and femininity
For Showalter, writers like Adrienne Rich and Susan
Griffin have exemplified gynocritical writing, as has Hélène
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

Cixous’s theorization of l’écriture féminine (feminine writing
Daly, Mary. Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism.
and language). Within religious studies, the gynocentric ap-
Boston, 1978. Gyn/Ecology (a deliberate pun on gynecology)
proach has been epitomized by the feminist theologian Mary
is a lively, iconoclastic, and provocative book that maps male
Daly, and by Goddess feminists who have argued that patri-
domination of women in a wide range of contexts, from Chi-
archal religions have promoted detrimental and erroneous
nese footbinding to American gynecology and the European
witch craze. In drawing sweeping parallels between such a di-
models of femininity, which can only be corrected by devel-
versity of practices, and insisting on their connection, Daly
oping an inspirational, woman-centered ontology rooted in
is able to sketch a universal pattern of misogyny that exem-
female experience.
plifies the gynocentric approach.
CRITIQUES OF GYNOCENTRISM. However important the res-
Griffin, Susan. Woman and Nature: The Roaring inside Her. New
toration of dignity to women may have been for many femi-
York, 1978. Griffin writes in her preface to this book that,
nists, the viability of the gynocentric approach has been sub-
“I found that I could best discover my insights about the
logic of civilized man by going underneath logic, that is by
ject to sustained criticism for some time. The most common
writing associatively, and thus enlisting my intuition, or un-
critique has been the suggestion that reliance on a theory of
civilized self” (p. xv). What follows in the book is a poetic
sexual difference—where femininity is promoted as the
and fluid, gynocentric exploration of the connections be-
source of values by which to criticize androcentrism and to
tween the female body and nature as a challenge to the histo-
realize a better society—is problematic in that it depends on
ry of man’s domination over woman and nature.
ahistorical, essentialist, and universalist ideas about gender
Moi, Toril. “Feminist, Female, Feminine.” In The Feminist Read-
attributes. Moreover, it is contradictory for feminists to ad-
er: Essays in Gender and the Politics of Literary Criticism, ed-
vocate binary thought (in this case male/female, with the
ited by Catherine Belsey and Jane Moore, pp. 117–132. Bas-
qualities that accrue to each member of the pair simply re-
ingstoke and London, 1989. The title of this essay alludes to
versed). The idea of an essentialized femininity confronting
the three categories of writing identified by Elaine Showalter
an equally essentialized masculinity is not a coherent feminist
in A Literature of Their Own. Moi critiques the belief that
strategy for the defeat of misogyny; on the contrary, it reifies
female experience is the basis of feminism, and argues that
the gynocentric approach fails to avoid the dangers of biolog-
the very system it seeks to undo by invoking the dichoto-
ical essentialism in its depictions of men and women.
mous logic that many feminists have argued is the mecha-
Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory. 2d
nism by which male-dominant hierarchies are sustained (see
ed. London and New York, 2002. Moi examines the
Moi, 1989, pp. 125–126; and Young, 1990, pp. 87–90, for
strengths and limitations of the two main strands in feminist
a more detailed critique of gynocentric feminism). Gynocen-
criticism, the Anglo-American and the French, and argues
trism is perhaps best seen as a transitional phase in feminist
against the essentialism of gynocentric approaches to litera-
theory, one that was probably necessary for addressing the
ture, paying particular attention to the works of Cixous, Iri-
wholesale marginalization of women’s voices, but which has
garay, and Kristeva.
been critically adjusted as gender theory has emerged as a
Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and
preferable mode for understanding sexual identity and for
Institution. New York, 1977. Rich’s influential and landmark
challenging notions of gender neutrality.
investigation links the experiences of women with the insti-
tutions (like motherhood) that are imposed on them and that
SEE ALSO Androcentrism; Feminism, article on Feminism,
determine their sense of self. It is also a celebration of moth-
Gender Studies, and Religion.
erhood that seeks to revalorize women’s identity in gynocen-
tric terms.
Showalter, Elaine. A Literature of Their Own: British Women Nov-
elists from Brontë to Lessing. Princeton, 1977. This work has
Belsey, Catherine, and Jane Moore, eds. The Feminist Reader: Es-
become a classic of feminist literary criticism and, through
says in Gender and the Politics of Literary Criticism. Basings-
a close study of female novelists, presents a detailed argument
toke and London, 1989; 2d ed., 1998. This anthology sur-
for gynocritics.
veys the range of feminist critical theory on writing and
Showalter, Elaine, ed. The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on
language that followed early feminist interventions in literary
Women, Literature, and Theory. London, 1986. A useful col-
studies, and includes some of the main criticisms of gynocri-
lection that brings together some of the most influential and
tics. Contributors include Hélène Cixous, Julia Kristeva,
controversial essays on the feminist approach to literature
Toril Moi, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Dale Spender.
that followed from Showalter’s development of gynocritics.
Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” In French Feminism
Particularly relevant are the two articles by Showalter in the
Reader, edited by Kelly Oliver, pp. 257–275. New York and
volume: “Towards a Feminist Poetics” (pp. 125–143), which
Oxford, 2000. In this essay Cixous begins to develop her the-
is a good summary of gynocritics, and “Feminist Criticism
ory of l’écriture féminine, and calls for women to return to
in the Wilderness” (pp. 243–270), which reiterates some of
their bodies in writing the feminine as a way of subverting
her earlier descriptions of the gynocritical approach and seeks
phallocentric reason. Cixous characterizes this kind of writ-
to outline future directions for the feminist study of litera-
ing as tactile, bodily, and interior, and one that embodies a
ture. Other authors in the volume include Rosalind Coward,
giving without taking back and without expectation of re-
Sandra Gilbert, Susan Gubar, and Carolyn Heilbrun.
turn, drawing on metaphors of a mother’s milk and menstru-
Showalter, Elaine, ed. Speaking of Gender. New York and London,
al blood.
1989. This volume brings together influential essays by male
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

¯ GI
and female critics dealing with a broad range of topics in lit-
vented a new kind of earthenware and is credited with the
erary studies where gender theory has been applied to the
introduction of the potter’s wheel. Also active in welfare
production, reception, and interpretation of texts. Show-
work, he built free clinics and lodging houses. In the prov-
alter’s introduction shows a subtle shift in her earlier com-
ince of Kii he built forty-nine Buddhist temples. In all these
mitment to gynocritics, so that it has become possible to start
activities he was convinced that his engagement in manual
asking questions about the construction of masculinity and
labor was an “expedient means” (upa¯ya) to nirva¯n:a. Hence
its relationship to literature.
his testimony: “That I have attained [understanding of] the
Young, Iris Marion. Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays in Fem-
Lotus Su¯tra was possible only through making firewood,
inist Philosophy and Social Theory. Bloomington and India-
gathering herbs, drawing water, and laboring thus.” In his
napolis, Ind., 1990. See especially chapter 5, “Humanism,
sermons he stressed that there was no antagonism between
Gynocentrism, and Feminist Politics” (pp. 73–91), which as-
sesses the benefits and pitfalls of gynocentric feminism.
Shinto¯ and Buddhism, and he tried to reconcile Shinto¯ gods
and buddhas. It is not accurate, however, to trace to Gyo¯gi
the origin of Ryo¯bu Shinto¯, or Shinto¯-Buddhist syncretism.
Gyo¯gi’s activities and sermons earned the high esteem
of Emperor Sho¯mu (r. 724–749). In 745 he appointed
¯ GI (670–749), born Koshi no Obito, was a Buddhist
Gyo¯gi to the office of daiso¯jo¯, the highest office in the Bud-
monk who popularized Japanese Buddhism during the Nara
dhist hierarchy. At that time, Gyo¯gi was also sent by the em-
period (710–784). According to the Genko¯ shakusho, a col-
peror to the sun goddess Amaterasu’s shrine at Ise, bearing
lection of biographies of priests, Koshi no Obito was born
a Buddhist relic as a present to the deity. By that gift he
in the Kubiki district of Echigo (present-day Niigata prefec-
hoped to receive her approval for the construction of a huge
ture) to a family that claimed to be descended from Korean
statue of Buddha Vairocana (the Daibutsu) to be erected in
royalty. In his youth, because he was so often in the company
the To¯daiji in Nara, a large temple that had been completed
of birds and cows, he was called Ushitori (“cowbird”), but
a few years earlier. In a dream Sho¯mu received the answer
he soon began to concern himself instead with the needs of
of the sun goddess, who said: “This land is the country of
his fellow people. His ministrations on behalf of common
the gods. [The people] should worship them. But the wheel
people attracted hundreds of followers. At the age of fifteen,
of the sun is Dainichi Nyorai [Skt., Maha¯vairocana].” With
he “left the world” (i.e., took mendicant orders) and entered
these words Amaterasu identified herself with Buddha Vairo-
Yakushiji, one of the seven great Nara temples. Under the
cana. Thereupon, Gyo¯gi traveled about the country to collect
guidance of the monks Eki, Do¯sho¯, and Gien he became ac-
money and gold for the construction of the Daibutsu. Al-
quainted with the doctrines of the Hosso¯ (Skt., Yoga¯ca¯ra)
though in his lifetime Gyo¯gi was already considered a bodhi-
school of Buddhism.
sattva, he was not granted this title by the emperor until the
year of his death. He is considered to be the manifestation
In 694 Gyo¯gi was ordained a monk by Tokuei, who ad-
of Mañju´sr¯ı, the bodhisattva of divine wisdom. Gyo¯gi died
ministered the 250 full monastic precepts (gusokukai; Skt.,
in To¯nanin Hall of Sugiwara Temple in 749.
upasampada¯). He later retired with his mother to Mount
Ikona in order to practice austerities. In this action Gyo¯gi,
SEE ALSO En no Gyo¯ja.
whose religious name means “foundation of ascetics,” fol-
lowed the example of the mountain ascetic (hijiri) En no
Gyo¯ja, who had done the same a few decades earliers.
Traditional accounts of Gyo¯gi’s life can be found in many sources,
Gyo¯gi did not persist in this life of retreat, however.
including the Shoku nihongi, the Nihon ryo¯iki, and the Genko¯
Soon he started to travel extensively and to propagate Bud-
shakusho. For modern secondary sources, see especially Hori
dhism, not only in its religious, but also in its magical as-
Ichiro¯’s Folk Religion in Japan, edited and translated by Jo-
pects. At the same time he undertook numerous projects that
seph M. Kitagawa and Alan L. Miller (Chicago, 1968), and
demanded strenuous physical labor: He constructed roads,
H. H. Coates and Ishizuka Ryu¯gaku’s Ho¯nen, the Buddhist
built bridges and dikes, and planned and dug out irrigation
Saint, 5 vols. (Kyoto, 1949).
canals. Gyo¯gi was a remarkable sculptor and artisan; he in-
J. H. KAMSTRA (1987)
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

HAAVIO, MARTTI (1899–1973) was a Finnish poet, folklorist, and scholar of
comparative mythology and phenomenology of religion whose multifaceted career and
comprehensive scholarship stemmed from a deep knowledge of Finnish history. After a
childhood spent in Lutheran vicarages in Ostrobothnia, Tavastia, and southwestern Fin-
land, which gave him a taste of the diversity of Finnish folklife, he became one of its lead-
ing scholars, analyzing Finnish language, literature, folklore, religion, and culture. As a
poet who published under the pseudonym P. Mustapää, Haavio also introduced modern-
ism into Finnish poetry while emphasizing its roots in the past.
Haavio began his scholarly work as a student of Kaarle Krohn, who was the Universi-
ty of Helsinki’s first professor of Finnish and comparative folklore, in 1908. Haavio’s doc-
toral dissertation Kettenmärchenstudien was based on the principles set forth in Krohn’s
Der finnische Arbeitsmethode (The Finnish work method). The dissertation was published
in Folklore Fellows Communications (FFC) in 1929, a long-standing folklore series that
was later edited by Haavio himself.
In the 1930s field experience and work as director of the Folklore Archives of the
Finnish Literature Society made Haavio an expert on various folklore genres, both prose
narrative and oral poetry as well as folk beliefs. The genre of Karelian saints legends was
introduced as a result of his fieldwork with Nastja Rantsi, a narrator and singer of saints’
legends in Onega. Haavio’s archive-oriented research produced numerous titles, including
Suomalaisen muinaisrunouden maailma (The world of Finnish old poetry, 1935); Suo-
malaiset kodinhaltiat
(Finnish guardian spirits, 1942), a geographical and psychological
study of Finnish folk belief; and Viimeiset runonlaulajat (The last rune singers, 1943).
Haavio’s rich scholarly output deserves a more thorough presentation than this brief
article can undertake. Unfortunately the bulk of his work remains untranslated, despite
its many valuable insights into the study of comparative religions. The few samples trans-
lated include Väinämöinen, Eternal Sage (FFC 144, 1952), a study on the roles of the main
hero of the Kalevala (the Finnish national epic) as Orpheus, creator god, and shaman and
the oral tradition behind them; Essais folkloriques (Studia Fennica 8, 1959), a comparison
C LOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT CORNER. Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1490. [©Bettmann/
Corbis]; Thirteenth-century relief of the wheel of the sun chariot from Su¯rya Temple in
Konarak, India. [The Art Archive/Dagli Orti]; Wooden figures of gods at Marae, a temple site
near Honaunau, Hawai’i. [©Werner Forman/Art Resource, N.Y.]; The ancient Egyptian god
Horus, at Edfu, Egypt. [©Christine Osborne/Corbis]; Eighth-century Chinese horse. [©Royal
Ontario Museum/Corbis]

of Finnish sacred vocabulary with Homer, the Edda, and
other mythological traditions; Heilige Haine in Ingermanland
(FFC 189, 1963), which compares regional phenomenology
of religion on Ingrian sacred groves to Greek temenos and
Egyptian Osiris.
HADES is the Greek name for the underworld and its
ruler. The spelling of the name sometimes varies (Aides,
Haavio’s contributions to the disciplines of comparative
Hades, Aïdoneus), but the etymology seems now reasonably
religion, mythology, and phenomenology of religion in par-
clear. Appropriately, it is linked to the root *a-wid- (invisible,
ticular could be better appreciated if more of his research
unseen): Hades’ wolf’s cap is worn by the goddess Athena
were translated. His ability to analyze and write is compara-
in the Iliad and makes her invisible (5.844–845). Most like-
ble to that of the well-known religious historian Mircea
ly, Hades first denoted a place name and was personified
Eliade. What unites these two scholars is their shared ability
only later.
to build an intuitive bridge from a single mythical symbol
or sacred space to universal spheres of meaning and compre-
Hades is a shadowy god in Greece. He has few myths,
fewer cults, and is not even represented with certainty on ar-
In his fieldwork Haavio was a master of qualitative
chaic Greek vases. Homer (Iliad 15.187–193) mentions that
methods. He rejected the quantification typical of Krohn
Hades acquired the underworld through a lottery with his
and the Finnish Folklore School as well as the sociological
brothers Zeus and Poseidon. The passage is one more exam-
approach that emerged after Word War II. His emphasis on
ple of the increasingly recognized Oriental influence on early
field observations as purely individual experiences that could
Greek literature, since it ultimately derives from the Akkadi-
not be replicated by any other observer stem from his train-
an epic Atrahasis. There is an obscure allusion in the Iliad
ing in Finnish ethnography but are also related to his per-
(5.395–397) that Hades was wounded by Heracles “at Pylos
spective as a mainstream scholar and poet.
among the dead.” This myth is probably part of Heracles’
function as Master of Animals and suggests that the personi-
Haavio’s first memoir Nuoruusvuodet (Years of youth)
fication of Hades dates back to the Bronze Age.
is a chronicle of the years 1906 to 1924, but it was not pub-
lished until 1972. After his death in 1973, his notes and cor-
However, the most famous myth of Hades is his abduc-
respondence were compiled by his wife, Aale Tynni, an In-
tion of Persephone, which was localized at various spots in
grian-born poet, and his daughter Katariina Eskola
the Greek world. The oldest version is related by the Homeric
completed their publication through 2003 as a series of
Hymn to Demeter, which probably dates from the first half
books of his correspondence with Autius lehtipuissa, a unique
of the sixth century BCE. When Persephone was frolicking
narrative history of Finland, filtered through the life and
with her friends, “the deep-bosomed daughters of Ocean,”
times of a multitalented man.
on a meadow, picking flowers, Hades carried her off on his
golden chariot. Her mother, Demeter, went everywhere to
SEE ALSO Finno-Ugric Religions.
search for her daughter, but eventually it was Hermes who
persuaded Hades to release Persephone. However, before
doing so, he tricked her into eating seeds of the pomegranate.
Haavio, Martti. Über orientalische Legenden und Mythen un Grenz-
This meant that she had to spend part of the year with Hades
Karelien und Aunus. Studia Fennica 2. Helsinki, 1936.
in the underworld and part of the year with her mother in
Haavio, Martti. Die Vögel des Schöpfers und andere kerelische Legen-
the upper world. The couple became worshiped as Plouton
den. Aus dem Finnischen übertragen von Barbara Frank-
and Kore or, as in Eleusis, Theos and Thea. Understandably,
furth. Berlin, 1967.
the Greeks could not imagine them to be with children, as
Haavio, Martti. Der Oberste Gott der skandinavischen Lappen. Te-
the underworld was imagined to be an infertile place. As Per-
menos 5. Turku, Finland, 1969.
sephone was also associated with love and marriage and an
abduction was part of Spartan wedding rites, the myth would
Haavio, Martti. Mitologia finska. Warsaw, 1979.
originally have been a narrative representation of prenuptial
Honko, Lauri. Martti Haavio 1899–1973. Temenos 9. Helsinki,
girls’ rites, although at some point it had become connected
with the Eleusinian mysteries.
Pentikäinen, Juha. “Auf der Suche nach universellen Strukturen:
Eine erneute Untersuchung von Eliades ‘ewiger Wiedeerke-
A god like Hades could hardly receive a cult, and Elis
hr’ anhand finnischer Volksquellen.” In Die Sehnsucht nach
seems to have been the only place that worshiped him in a
der Ursprung zu Mircea Eliade, edited by Hans Peter Duer.
temple, which could be opened only once a year, with only
Frankfurt am Main, 1983.
the priest having access to the temple. Hades was indifferent
to offerings and not moved by prayer. His connection with
the underworld made him “horrible” (Iliad 8.368) and even
an eater of corpses (Sophocles, Electra 542–543). Fear made
people euphemistically refer to him as, for example, “Zeus
of the Underworld” (Iliad 9.457), “the chthonian god” (Aes-
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

chylus, Persians 629), or even “the god below” (Sophocles,
originally different god, Plouton, “wealth” personified, who
Ajax 571).
was related to the Eleusinian cult figure Ploutos, and in this
Evidently, there was not an authoritative tradition about
capacity even received a priestess. Hades now became the god
Hades’ appearance. In his Alcestis (259–262) Euripides lets
who sent up “good things” to the mortals from below. The
the homonymous heroine exclaim: “He stares at me from
connection between the underworld and material wealth also
under his dark-eyed brow. He has wings: it’s Hades,” but
reflected itself in new terms to denote the dead. Whereas in
normally Hades was wingless in Greek art. In representations
Homer the dead were preferably called the “feeble heads of
of the kidnapping of Persephone, Hades is sometimes depict-
the dead,” they now become the “blessed” in a materialistic
ed as a young man, but he can equally be mature or even old.
sense: the dead were people blessed with material goods and
His positive side comes to the fore in later representations
better off than the living. In the later fifth century these ideas
through his holding the cornucopia. Typically, he is some-
about the “good life” in the underworld were even exploited
times looking away from the other gods—even they did not
by Athenian comedy, which portrayed the world of Hades
like him.
as a Land of Cockaigne with beautiful maidens and boister-
ous banquets.
In the Iliad a soul of the dead goes straight to the under-
world, whose gates are guarded by the canine Kerberos (Iliad
Yet on the whole the Athenian public did not firmly be-
5.646). The underworld is situated under the earth, but also
lieve in rewards or punishments after death. In fact, they do
in the west—perhaps a sign of a conflation of different ideas
not seem to have expected very much at all. “After death
about the underworld; its deepest part is called the Tartaros.
every man is earth and shadow: nothing goes to nothing,”
The soul can reach this “mirthless place” (Odyssey 11.94)
states a character in Euripides’ Meleagros (frag. 532, Nauck,
only by crossing a river, the Styx. The picture of the under-
2d ed.). In Plato’s Phaedo Simmias even claims that it is the
world is bleak and somber, as dead Achilles says: “do not try
fear of the majority that their soul is scattered at death “and
to make light of death to me; I would sooner be bound to
this is their end” (77b). Most Athenians may therefore have
the soil in the hire of another man, a man without lot and
agreed with the statement in Euripides’ Hypsipyle that: “One
without much to live on, than be ruler over all the perished
buries children, one gains new children, one dies oneself.
dead” (Odyssey 11.489–491). It is only somewhat later that
Mortals do take this heavily, carrying earth to earth. But it
we hear of the old (youth is out of place in the gloomy under-
is necessary to harvest life like a fruitbearing ear of corn, and
world) ferryman of the dead, Charon, and of Hermes as the
that the one be, the other not” (vv. 234–238, in the edition
guide of the dead.
by J. Diggle).
Death was considered to be “common to all men” (Iliad
The early Greek ideas about the afterlife remarkably re-
3.236–238). In contemporary mythology, personified death
semble those of Rome and ancient Israel. In ancient Rome
(Thanatos) is the brother of personified sleep (Hypnos). This
people seem hardly to have believed in a life after death at
appears to be another way to express the feeling that death
all, even if they worshiped their ancestors at certain festivals;
is something natural. Yet these rather bleak pictures could
the Etruscans certainly took over Hades from the Greeks in
not satisfy everybody, and in Book 4 of the Odyssey we al-
the shape of their Aita, but lack of texts (albeit plenty of illus-
ready hear of an abode for select dead, “the Elysian Plain at
trations) does not allow us to reconstruct their “infernal”
the ends of the earth” (563–567). The somewhat later Hesi-
ideas. It was perhaps not that different in ancient Israel. In
odic Works and Days (167–173) mentions the Islands of the
historical times the hereafter was called SheDol, which in the
Blessed, the destination of many heroes at the end of their
Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, nor-
lives on earth. This changing conception of the underworld
mally is translated as Hades. Yet in the oldest Israelite ideas
went concomitant with a growing interest in the afterlife that
the grave must have played an important role, since “to go
reflected itself in accounts of a descent into the underworld,
down into the grave” (Ps. 16:10, 28:1, etc.) is equivalent to
as in the myths of Heracles, Theseus, and Orpheus.
“to go down into SheDol” (Gn. 37:35, 42:38, etc.). SheDol was
In the same process the underworld also gradually be-
located beneath the earth (Ps. 63:10), filled with worms and
came “upgraded.” At the Eleusinian mysteries there had long
dust (Is. 14:11, 26:19), and impossible to escape from (Jb.
been a promise of a better life in the hereafter, as is illustrated
7:9ff). Its shadowlike (Is. 14:9) inhabitants no longer
by Sophocles’ words: “Thrice blessed are those mortals who
thought of the living (Jb. 21:21), or even of God himself (Ps.
have seen these rites and thus enter Hades: for them alone
88:13). It is only in a relatively late prophet like Ezekiel (Ez.
there is life, for the others all is misery” (frag. 837, Radt).
32:19–28) that we hear about different areas of SheDol for
In Pythagorean and Orphic circles, however, the idea arose
different orders of dead. However, it would still be quite a
of a “symposium of the pure” (Plato, Republic 2.363c). At
while before radical new ideas about the resurrection from
the same time, the Orphics developed the idea of a kind of
the dead would take shape.
hell, where sinners had to wallow in the mud. Hades only
The dominant idea of the underworld in the ancient
now developed into a judge of the dead.
Mediterranean, then, seems to have been a relatively dim un-
This revaluation of the afterlife reflected itself also in the
derworld with people focusing on life on this earth. This atti-
early fifth century when Hades became identified with an
tude proved to be highly tenacious, and, even if minority
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

views existed about a happier hereafter, it lasted well into By-
ions referred to both the sayings and the deeds of the Proph-
zantine times before the more joyful ideas about the Chris-
et. Hence the difference between sunnah and h:ad¯ıth gradual-
tian heaven started to prevail over the traditional, grimmer
ly faded and they became synonymous. This was further
views of the ancient Hades.
confirmed by Ima¯m Muh:ammad ibn Idr¯ıs al-Sha¯fiE¯ı
(d. 820), who maintained that no sunnah could be proven
SEE ALSO Afterlife, overview article, article on Greek and
without a valid h:ad¯ıth, and the view thus prevailed that
Roman Concepts; Death; Demeter and Persephone.
h:ad¯ıth signifies not only the speech but also the acts and con-
duct of the Prophet. A technical difference that still remains,
however, is that sunnah refers to the law or value that is con-
For the older literature, see the excellent bibliography of Marlene
tained in a h:ad¯ıth; hence, a h:ad¯ıth does not necessarily con-
Herfort-Koch, Tod, Totenfürsorge, und Jenseitsvorstellungen in
tain a sunnah. Sunnah (or h:ad¯ıth) is the most authoritative
der griechischen Antike (Munich, 1992); as well as Christiane
source of Islam next to the QurDa¯n; it is both explanatory in
Sourvinou-Inwood, “Reading” Greek Death: To the End of the
relation to the QurDa¯n and a source in its own right. The
Classical Period (Oxford, 1995); and, with a new synthesis,
QurDa¯n provides the affirmation that “he (the Prophet)
Jan N. Bremmer, The Rise and Fall of the Afterlife (London
speaks not of his desire and what he says is based on revela-
and New York, 2002).
tion And whatever the Messenger brings to you, take it, and
For Hades, see Ruth Lindner et al., Lexicon iconographicum
whatever he forbids you, abstain from it” (53:3). Elsewhere
mythologiae classicae (LIMC) 4, vol. 1 (1988) s.v. Hades; for
the QurDa¯n also makes it a religious obligation of every Mus-
Aita, Ingrid Krauskopf, LIMC 4, vol. 1 (1988) s.v.; Kevin
lim to obey the Prophet (4:59; 59:7). To this al-Sha¯fiE¯ı
Clinton, LIMC 7 vol. 1 (1994) s.v. Ploutos. See also Albert
(d.820) added the argument, which seems to have been cur-
Henrichs, “Hades,” in Simon Hornblower and Anthony S.
Spawforth, eds., The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3d ed. (Ox-
rent before this time, that when the QurDa¯n spoke of “the
ford, 1996), pp. 661–662 (a rich collection of passages from
Book and the Wisdom (al-kitab wa Dl -hikah),” which it does
classical literature). For the geography of Hades, see David
on seven occasions in this order, it meant QurDa¯n and Sun-
M. Johnson, “Hesiod’s Descriptions of Tartarus (Theogony
nah. The h:ad¯ıth thus represented divine guidance, and the
721–819),” Phoenix 53 (1999): 8–28. For the Styx, see Al-
conclusion was drawn that all authentic h:ad¯ıths must be un-
bert Henrichs, “Zur Perhorreszierung des Wassers der Styx
questioningly accepted and obeyed.
bei Aischylos und Vergil,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epi-
78 (1989): 1–29.
Khabar (lit., “news”; pl. akhba¯r) is also synonymous
For Israel and the ancient Near East, see Nicholas J. Tromp, Prim-
with h:ad¯ıth, especially among the Sh¯ıE¯ı writers, as they in-
itive Conceptions of Death and the Netherworld in the Old Tes-
clude not only h:ad¯ıths but also the sayings of their recog-
tament (Rome, 1969); Klaas Spronk, Beatific Afterlife in An-
nized ima¯ms within the meaning of khabar. The Sh¯ıE¯ı ima¯m,
cient Israel and in the Ancient Near East (Neukirchen-Vluyn,
being a member of the Prophet’s family (i.e., the ahl al-bayt)
Germany, 1986); and Richard E. Friedman and Shawna Do-
is deemed to have inherent knowledge(al- Eilm al-ladunni) of
lansky Overton, “Death and Afterlife: The Biblical Silence,”
the Sunnah of the Prophet, transmitted from father to son
in Judaism in Late Antiquity, Vol. 4: Death, Life-After-Death,
down the line of descent. There is, however, a tendency
Resurrection, and the World-to-Come in the Judaisms of Antiq-
among Sh¯ıE¯ı writers, too, to reserve Sunnah for the Sunnah
uity, edited by Alan J. Avery-Peck and Jacob Neusner, (Lei-
of the Prophet alone, whereas khabar, and h:ad¯ıth can include
den, 2000), pp. 35–59.
both the h:ad¯ıth proper as well as the sayings of the ima¯m.
Lastly, a¯tha¯r (lit., “vestige”) refers to the sayings, opin-
ion (fatwa), and precedent of the companions. The phrase
Eilm al-h:ad¯ıth (“science of h:ad¯ıth”) refers to h:ad¯ıth literature
H:AD¯ITH. The Arabic word h:ad¯ıth literally means speech
as well as to the methodology and critical standards used to
and also new: because speech is created as it is uttered, it is
authenticate the h:ad¯ıth.
always new. Following Prophet Muh:ammad’s death (632
H:ad¯ıth quds¯ı (“sacred h:ad¯ıth”) is the name given to a
CE), people engaged in speech about him so much that the
unique variety of h:ad¯ıth wherein the Prophet attributes what
word h:ad¯ıth was eventually reserved for speech related to the
he says directly to God. In the eleventh century CE, the ques-
Prophet, including his own speech; it then came to refer to
tion arose whether the h:ad¯ıth quds¯ı was to be regarded as
the sayings of the Prophet and his companions, and finally
part of the QurDa¯n, which by definition consisted of the re-
only to the sayings of the Prophet himself.
vealed speech of God, or was to be attributed to the Prophet.
Sunnah (lit., a beaten track) is a parallel word to h:ad¯ıth,
H:ad¯ıth scholars concluded that while the message of the
as both refer to the speech and conduct of the Prophet, yet
h:ad¯ıth quds¯ı comes from God, it is in the words of the
the two usages initially signified different shades of meaning.
Prophet—and thus cannot be considered part of the QurDa¯n.
H:ad¯ıth denoted speech or word whereas sunnah signified ac-
For this reason only the QurDa¯n, and not the h:ad¯ıth quds¯ı,
tual conduct, or the way of doing something. It was, howev-
may be recited during ritual prayer (s:ala¯h:). Even so, h:ad¯ıth
er, difficult to draw a clear line between words and deeds,
scholars generally treat the h:ad¯ıth quds¯ı as a superior class
especially in light of the fact that the narrations of compan-
of h:ad¯ıth. A total of about one hundred h:ad¯ıth quds¯ı have
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

been recorded, and their authenticity is measured by the
isna¯d is the conveyor of the teachings of the Prophet, it is
same criteria and standard as are applied to h:ad¯ıths generally.
a part of the religion. Hence a diligent and conscientious ren-
Muhy¯ı al-D¯ın ibn al-EArab¯ı (d. 1240) compiled a collection
dering of isna¯d is believed to be an act of merit that gains
of 101 qudsi h:ad¯ıths bearing the title Mishkat al-Anwar.
the pleasure of God.
Later Mulla EAli al-Qari (d.1605) selected forty such h:ad¯ıths,
and this collection has become widely adopted by many sub-
The Prophet is reported to have discouraged documen-
sequent authors.
tation of his own sayings in order to prevent confusion be-
tween the QurDa¯n and h:ad¯ıth. Many of his leading compan-
RECEPTION AND DOCUMENTATION. As a general rule, every
ions were consequently against documentation of h:ad¯ıth; at
h:ad¯ıth must be supported by a reliable isna¯d (chain of trans-
the same time, however, many others among them consid-
mission) consisting of the names and identity of its transmit-
ered it permissible and actually wrote h:ad¯ıths for their own
ters. The number of transmitters in the isna¯d tends to in-
collections. There are also reports that during the latter part
crease with every successive generation. Sometimes a h:ad¯ıth
of his ministry, that is, when much of the QurDa¯n had already
that is transmitted by one companion is then transmitted by
been documented, the Prophet permitted some of his com-
a number of persons in the next generation who may happen
to be residing in different localities. This raises the question
panions to write h:ad¯ıths, and even instructed them “to pre-
of how the particular transmitter obtained the information
serve knowledge through writing.” It seems, then, that after
from his immediate source. Was it through direct hearing
an initial period of hesitation, the basic permissibility of writ-
(sama¯ E) and personal contact, or through other means of
ing and documenting h:ad¯ıths was accepted and this activity
communication? Various methods of reception (tahammul)
became, in due course, a major preoccupation of the Eulama¯D
have thus been identified, which include, in addition to
during the second and third centuries of Islam. But even in
sama¯ E, such methods as submission ( Eard) and recitation
the early stages, renowned companions such as EAl¯ı ibn
(qira¯ Dat) of a h:ad¯ıth to the master for his approval, permis-
Ab¯ı-T:a¯lib (d. 661), EAbd Alla¯h ibn EUmar (d. 690), SaDd ibn
sion (ijaza) to transmit h:ad¯ıth, handing over (munawala) of
Ubada (d. 671), and Samura ibn Jundub (d. 681) are known
the master’s materials to the student, correspondence
to have documented h:ad¯ıths in small booklets, or sah¯ıfas.
(mukataba), declaration (i Elam) by the master of his own
Ja¯bir ibn EAbd Alla¯h (d. 699) compiled a larger sah¯ıfa, and
source, bequest (wasiyya), and finding (wijada) by the stu-
Abd Alla¯h ibn EAmr ibn al-EA¯s: (d. 681) compiled one that
dent of h:ad¯ıth in the master’s handwriting. Following the
became known as al-sah¯ıfa al-sa¯diqa (“the true collection”).
large-scale documentation of h:ad¯ıths in the ninth century,
One of the earliest documented h:ad¯ıths of that period to
most h:ad¯ıth scholars began to employ special terms in the
have survived in its original form is the renowned Constitu-
isna¯d literature that indicate the method by which the h:ad¯ıth
tion of Madina (Dustu¯r al-Madina, c. 622).
had been transmitted; this has remained the most common
Recent research by Muslim scholars concerning the
method to this day. Most people nowadays find h:ad¯ıths in
early documentation of h:ad¯ıths has suggested the need for
one of the standard collections and when quoting them make
a revision of some of the negative conclusions Western Isla-
reference to the latter.
mologists have drawn regarding the time frame and authen-
Isna¯ds can consist of one or two links, or of as many as
ticity of the early collections. Twentieth-century scholars in-
half a dozen or more; the smaller the number of links, the
cluding Muh:ammad Ham¯ıdulla¯h, Subh¯ı al-Sa¯lih, Abul
shorter the time lag between the demise of the Prophet and
H:asan al-Nadw¯ı, and Muh:ammad Mus:t:afa¯ AEzam¯ı have
the transmission of the h:ad¯ıth. Thus isna¯ds are divided into
questioned the conclusions of Ignác Goldziher, Joseph
two types, namely elevated (al-isna¯d al- Eal¯ı), which consist
Schacht, G. H. A. Juynboll, and others who cast doubt on
of fewer links and transmitters, and descended (al-isna¯d
the authenticity of the bulk of h:ad¯ıths. The most extreme po-
al-na¯zil), which may involve a large number of transmitters.
sition on the authenticity of the h:ad¯ıths is that of Joseph
Most h:ad¯ıths were compiled long after the time of the
Schacht, who took Goldziher’s observations a step further to
Prophet, but some were compiled relatively early. H:amma¯m
conclude that “every legal tradition from the Prophet, until
ibn al-Manabbih (d. 722), for instance, recorded his collec-
the contrary is proved, must be taken, not as an authentic
tion (sah¯ıfa) around 672. His h:ad¯ıths consisted mainly of
. . . statement . . . but as a fictitious expression of a legal
one link, namely a companion. Ima¯m Ma¯lik (d. 796) related
doctrine formulated at a later stage” (The Origins of Muham-
h:ad¯ıths in his Muwatta (Straightened path) that had been
madan Jurisprudence, 1950, p. 149). For their part, Muslim
told to him by Na¯fiE, who had heard them from EAbd Alla¯h