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

University of California, Santa Barbara
Center for Muslim–Christian
Understanding and Liberal Studies
Neil Rudenstine Professor of Study of
Program, Georgetown University
Professor, History of Religions, Le
Latin America, Divinity School and
Art and Religion
Moyne College (Syracuse, New York)
Department of Anthropology, Harvard
Professor of Anthropology and Women’s
Professor of Religious Studies, and
Studies, George Washington University
Chair, Department of Religious
Australian Indigenous Religions
Professor of History of Religions,
Studies, Yale University
Dipartimento di Scienze
Professor Emeritus of History,
dell’Antichità, Università degli Studi
Professor and Director, The Institute
University of California, Los Angeles,
di Salerno
of Ismaili Studies, London
and Fellow, Netherlands Institute for
Advanced Studies in the Humanities
Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service
Professor, African American and
and Social Sciences
Professor of the History of Religions,
African Studies Program, University
History of Religions
University of Chicago
of California, Davis
Associate Professor in the Department
Professor of History and Religious
Professor of Hebrew and Religious
of East Asian Languages and
Studies, and Director, UMKC Center
Studies, Ohio State University
Literature and the Program in
for Religious Studies, University of
Religious Studies, University of
Missouri—Kansas City
Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Chinese Religions
Department, University of California,
Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies,
Santa Barbara
Faculty of Comparative Culture,
The Divinity School, Harvard
Sophia University
Humor and Religion
Associate Professor of Religious Studies,
Associate Professor, Department of
McDaniel College
Professor of Religion, Bucknell
Languages and Cultures of Asia and
Study of Religion
University and Co-Coordinator,

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page vi
Harvard Forum on Religion and
Religion, University of Chicago
Professor of Systematic Theology,
Law and Religion
Ecology and Religion
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
and the Center for Theology and the
Associate Professor of Religious Studies,
Francis Lee Higginson Professor of
Natural Sciences at the Graduate
and Director, Center for Latin
English Literature and Professor of
Theological Union, Berkeley,
American Studies, Arizona State
Folklore, Harvard University
Germanic Religions
Science and Religion
South American Religions
Professor Emerita, Senior Research
Professor of the History of Religions
Professor of Religion, Bucknell
Fellow and Associate Member of the
and Buddhist Studies in the Divinity
University, Founder and Coordinator,
Institute for Advanced Studies,
School and the Department of South
University of Bristol, England, and
Asian Languages and Civilizations,
Harvard Forum on Religion and
Professorial Research Associate, Centre
Emeritus, University of Chicago
Ecology, Research Fellow, Harvard
for Gender and Religions Research,
History of Religions
Yenching Institute, Research Associate,
School of Oriental and African
Harvard Reischauer Institute of
Studies, University of London
Assistant Professor, Department of
Japanese Studies
Gender and Religion
Classics and Ancient Mediterranean
Ecology and Religion
Studies and Department of History
Duesenberg Professor of Christianity
and Religious Studies, Pennsylvania
Associate Professor, Department of
and the Arts, and
State University
Comparative Studies, Ohio State
Professor of Humanities and Art
Ancient Near Eastern Religions
History, Valparaiso University
Politics and Religion
Color Inserts and Essays
Director of Research, Religion, Health
and Healing Initiative, Center for the
Professor of the History of Religions
Professor, Department of English,
Study of World Religions, Harvard
and Women’s Studies, Loyola
University of California, Los Angeles
University, and Senior Research
University New Orleans
Celtic Religion
Associate, Center for Women’s Health
New Religious Movements
and Human Rights, Suffolk University
Healing, Medicine, and Religion
Obafemi Awolowo University
African Religions
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, University
of Toronto

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

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EEduy. EEduyyot
Hung. Hungarian
Lith. Lithuanian
e.g. exempli gratia, for example
ibid. ibidem, in the same place (as the
Lk. Luke
Egyp. Egyptian
one immediately preceding)
LL Late Latin
1 En. 1 Enoch
Icel. Icelandic
LL.D. Legum Doctor, Doctor of Laws
2 En. 2 Enoch
i.e. id est, that is
Lv. Leviticus
3 En. 3 Enoch
IE Indo-European
m meters
Eng. English
Ill. Illinois
m. masculine
enl. enlarged
Ind. Indiana
M.A. Master of Arts
Eph. Ephesians
intro. introduction
Ma Eas. MaEaserot
EEruv. EEruvin
Ir. Gael. Irish Gaelic
Ma Eas. Sh. MaE aser sheni
1 Esd. 1 Esdras
Iran. Iranian
Mak. Makkot
2 Esd. 2 Esdras
Is. Isaiah
Makh. Makhshirin
3 Esd. 3 Esdras
Ital. Italian
Mal. Malachi
4 Esd. 4 Esdras
J Yahvist (source of the Pentateuch)
Mar. Marathi
esp. especially
Jas. James
Mass. Massachusetts
Est. Estonian
Jav. Javanese
1 Mc. 1 Maccabees
Est. Esther
Jb. Job
2 Mc. 2 Maccabees
et al. et alii, and others
Jdt. Judith
3 Mc. 3 Maccabees
etc. et cetera, and so forth
Jer. Jeremiah
4 Mc. 4 Maccabees
Eth. Ethiopic
Jgs. Judges
Md. Maryland
EV English version
Jl. Joel
M.D. Medicinae Doctor, Doctor of
Ex. Exodus
Jn. John
exp. expanded
1 Jn. 1 John
ME Middle English
Ez. Ezekiel
2 Jn. 2 John
Meg. Megillah
Ezr. Ezra
3 Jn. 3 John
Me Eil. MeEilah
2 Ezr. 2 Ezra
Jon. Jonah
Men. Menah.ot
4 Ezr. 4 Ezra
Jos. Joshua
MHG Middle High German
f. feminine; and following (pl., ff.)
Jpn. Japanese
mi. miles
fasc. fascicle (pl., fascs.)
JPS Jewish Publication Society trans-
Mi. Micah
fig. figure (pl., figs.)
lation (1985) of the Hebrew Bible
Mich. Michigan
Finn. Finnish
J.T. Jerusalem Talmud
Mid. Middot
fl. floruit, flourished
Jub. Jubilees
Minn. Minnesota
Fla. Florida
Kans. Kansas
Miq. MiqvaDot
Fr. French
Kel. Kelim
MIran. Middle Iranian
frag. fragment
Ker. Keritot
Miss. Mississippi
ft. feet
Ket. Ketubbot
Mk. Mark
Ga. Georgia
1 Kgs. 1 Kings
Mo. Missouri
Gal. Galatians
2 Kgs. 2 Kings
MoEed Q. MoEed qat.an
Gaul. Gaulish
Khois. Khoisan
Mont. Montana
Ger. German
Kil. Kil Dayim
MPers. Middle Persian
Git.. Git.t.in
km kilometers
MS. manuscriptum, manuscript (pl.,
Gn. Genesis
Kor. Korean
Gr. Greek
Ky. Kentucky
Mt. Matthew
. ag. H
. agigah
l. line (pl., ll.)
MT Masoretic text
. al. H
. allah
La. Louisiana
n. note
Hau. Hausa
Lam. Lamentations
Na. Nahum
Hb. Habakkuk
Lat. Latin
Nah. Nahuatl
Heb. Hebrew
Latv. Latvian
Naz. Nazir
Heb. Hebrews
L. en Th. Licencié en Théologie,
N.B. nota bene, take careful note
Hg. Haggai
Licentiate in Theology
N.C. North Carolina
Hitt. Hittite
L. ès L. Licencié ès Lettres, Licentiate
n.d. no date
Hor. Horayot
in Literature
N.Dak. North Dakota
Hos. Hosea
Let. Jer. Letter of Jeremiah
NEB New English Bible
. ul. H
. ullin
lit. literally
Nebr. Nebraska
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Ned. Nedarim
pop. population
sp. species (pl., spp.)
Neg. Nega Eim
Port. Portuguese
Span. Spanish
Neh. Nehemiah
Prv. Proverbs
sq. square
Nev. Nevada
Ps. Psalms
S.S.R. Soviet Socialist Republic
N.H. New Hampshire
Ps. 151 Psalm 151
st. stanza (pl., ss.)
Nid. Niddah
Ps. Sol. Psalms of Solomon
S.T.M. Sacrae Theologiae Magister,
N.J. New Jersey
pt. part (pl., pts.)
Master of Sacred Theology
Nm. Numbers
1Pt. 1 Peter
Suk. Sukkah
N.Mex. New Mexico
2 Pt. 2 Peter
Sum. Sumerian
no. number (pl., nos.)
Pth. Parthian
supp. supplement; supplementary
Nor. Norwegian
Q hypothetical source of the synoptic
Sus. Susanna
n.p. no place
s.v. sub verbo, under the word (pl.,
n.s. new series
Qid. Qiddushin
N.Y. New York
Qin. Qinnim
Swed. Swedish
Ob. Obadiah
r. reigned; ruled
Syr. Syriac
O.Cist. Ordo Cisterciencium, Order
Rab. Rabbah
Syr. Men. Syriac Menander
of Cîteaux (Cistercians)
rev. revised
TaE an. TaEanit
OCS Old Church Slavonic
R. ha-Sh. RoDsh ha-shanah
Tam. Tamil
OE Old English
R.I. Rhode Island
Tam. Tamid
O.F.M. Ordo Fratrum Minorum,
Rom. Romanian
Tb. Tobit
Order of Friars Minor
Rom. Romans
T.D. Taisho¯ shinshu¯ daizo¯kyo¯, edited
R.S.C.J. Societas Sacratissimi Cordis
by Takakusu Junjiro¯ et al.
OFr. Old French
Jesu, Religious of the Sacred Heart
Ohal. Ohalot
RSV Revised Standard Version of the
Tem. Temurah
OHG Old High German
Tenn. Tennessee
OIr. Old Irish
Ru. Ruth
Ter. Terumot
OIran. Old Iranian
Rus. Russian
. ev. Y. T
. evul yom
Okla. Oklahoma
Rv. Revelation
Tex. Texas
ON Old Norse
Rv. Ezr. Revelation of Ezra
Th.D. Theologicae Doctor, Doctor of
O.P. Ordo Praedicatorum, Order of
San. Sanhedrin
Preachers (Dominicans)
S.C. South Carolina
1 Thes. 1 Thessalonians
OPers. Old Persian
Scot. Gael. Scottish Gaelic
2 Thes. 2 Thessalonians
op. cit. opere citato, in the work cited
S.Dak. South Dakota
Thrac. Thracian
OPrus. Old Prussian
sec. section (pl., secs.)
Ti. Titus
Oreg. Oregon
Sem. Semitic
Tib. Tibetan
EOrl. EOrlah
ser. series
1 Tm. 1 Timothy
O.S.B. Ordo Sancti Benedicti, Order
sg. singular
2 Tm. 2 Timothy
of Saint Benedict (Benedictines)
Sg. Song of Songs
T. of 12 Testaments of the Twelve
p. page (pl., pp.)
Sg. of 3 Prayer of Azariah and the
P Priestly (source of the Pentateuch)
Song of the Three Young Men
. oh. t.ohorot
Pa. Pennsylvania
Shab. Shabbat
Tong. Tongan
Pahl. Pahlavi
Shav. ShavuEot
trans. translator, translators; translated
Par. Parah
Sheq. Sheqalim
by; translation
para. paragraph (pl., paras.)
Sib. Or. Sibylline Oracles
Turk. Turkish
Pers. Persian
Sind. Sindhi
Ukr. Ukrainian
Pes. Pesahim
Sinh. Sinhala
Upan. Upanis.ad
Ph.D. Philosophiae Doctor, Doctor
Sir. Ben Sira
U.S. United States
of Philosophy
S.J. Societas Jesu, Society of Jesus
U.S.S.R. Union of Soviet Socialist
Phil. Philippians
Phlm. Philemon
Skt. Sanskrit
Uqts. Uqtsin
Phoen. Phoenician
1 Sm. 1 Samuel
v. verse (pl., vv.)
pl. plural; plate (pl., pls.)
2 Sm. 2 Samuel
Va. Virginia
PM post meridiem, after noon
Sogd. Sogdian
var. variant; variation
Pol. Polish
Sot.. Sot.ah
Viet. Vietnamese
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eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page x
viz. videlicet, namely
Yad. Yadayim
* hypothetical
vol. volume (pl., vols.)
Yev. Yevamot
? uncertain; possibly; perhaps
Vt. Vermont
Yi. Yiddish
° degrees
Wash. Washington
Yor. Yoruba
+ plus
Wel. Welsh
Zav. Zavim
Wis. Wisconsin
Zec. Zechariah
= equals; is equivalent to
Wis. Wisdom of Solomon
Zep. Zephaniah
× by; multiplied by
W.Va. West Virginia
Zev. Zevah.im
→ yields
Wyo. Wyoming
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

v o l u m e t h r e e
o s m i c v i s i
C o
O S n
M I s
Images offer viewers a special advantage: not only can they
compact and transmit information with great economy, they
offer a commanding perch from which to survey vast transits of time and expanses of
space. Schematic images serve as maps of the cosmos, of history, of the night sky, and
of the wanderings and pilgrimages of the
soul. Visual imagery can also present to a
single view, for purposes of meditation or
memorization, extensive bodies of thought
and teaching. Such images are often dia-
grams or charts that serve as mnemonic
devices, teaching aids, or prompts for
visualization in meditation. This manner
of imagery is able to condense a complex
array of information into a single visual
field and to serve as a graphic shorthand
for referring to or recalling teachings.
Itinerant Buddhist teachers in Tibet
and other Himalayan regions make use of
diagrams like the Wheel of Existence (a),
in which are encoded in symbolic imagery
and scenes the fundamental teachings of
Buddhism as practiced by Tibetan fol-
lowers. Nearly one meter high, the image
serves as a teaching aid for explaining the
cycle of life, the structure of the Buddhist
cosmos, the forces of evil and good, and
such essential doctrines as karma, rebirth
and its causes, and the levels of rebirth.
(a) A Tibetan cloth diagram of the Buddhist
Wheel of Existence, from the eighteenth or
early nineteenth century. [©The Newark Museum/
Art Resource, N.Y.]

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(b) Navajo medicine man Victor Begay with a sand painting he
Other images reproduced here are cosmic maps created
created for a healing ritual. [©Arne Hodalic/Corbis]
for various purposes. The Navajo sand painting (b) is a
temporary device produced for the purpose of healing,
fecundity, and the restoration of order. The diagram con-
figures the ideal, balanced relations among natural forces
and divine beings, which, when they slip into imbalance
by human action, cause evil and ill health. The creation
of the sand painting and its quick and ritual destruction
bring about the resumption of cosmic balance and human
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well-being. A Daoist hanging scroll from China (c) also
signifies the search for well-being conceived as balance
and protection from evil. Zhenwu, the perfected warrior,
is a savior figure who confronts evil on behalf of all souls
by achieving the Dao’s ideal balance of yin and yang,
symbolized in the eight trigrams above the central figure.
The rest of the image consists of seventy-two talismans,
each of which is a star diagram with script that explains
the particular protection against malevolence provided by
each configuration.

Diagrams are an especially effective way of mapping
a relationship between the scale of the human form and
the corresponding macrocosm. The human body is trans-
formed into a microcosm of larger forces. Robert Fludd’s
hermetic diagram (d) is an example of this graphic way
of discerning occult relationships between the human
form and the cosmic. The image conveys a prevailing
sense of harmony among spiritual and material domains,
described as a continuum that stretches from the divine
(the Hebrew tetragramaton at the top) to the human body
centered in the genitals. A different kind of diagram that
represents in abstract linear form the embodied connec-
tion of different levels of the cosmos appears on many
Olmec celts or stone axe heads that were illustrated and
(c) ABOVE. Chinese hanging scroll depicting Zhenwu with
the Eight Trigrams, the northern dipper, and talismans,
Qing dynasty, seventeenth or early eighteenth century. [Russell
Tyson Endowment, 1999.566; reproduction, The Art Institute of

Chicago] (d) LEFT. The Diapason Closing Full in Man, an illustra-
tion from Robert Fludd’s The Macrocosm, volume 1: Metaphysics
and Cosmic Origins
(1617). [The Granger Collection, New York]
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vertically displayed as the axis mundi, or vertical align-
ment of earth, sky, and underworld. Celts mounted on
wooden handles were used to prepare land for crops. The
figure on some celts represents a shaman applying the tools
of his trade to effect travel to the different levels of the
cosmos for the benefit of the celt’s owner.

Diagrams are often thought to possess power of their
own. Several examples appear here. The investment of
arcane diagrams with power and hermetic significance
clearly informs the Jewish mystical or qabbalistic symbols
assembled on a single folio and portrayed with Hebrew
script (e), presumably to avoid the Bible’s injunction
against graven images, but also to charge the images with
greater spiritual potency. The hand-shaped form, for
instance, called hamsa, provides protection against the evil
eye. The elaborate printed page dedicated to the rosary (f )
offers 230 years off from the soul’s time in purgatory (note
(e) ABOVE. A qabbalist print by Samuel Habib, used as a
mizrach, an indicator of the direction toward Jerusalem, 1828.
[©The Jewish Museum, N.Y./Art Resource, N.Y.] (f ) RIGHT. Erhard
Schön, The Great Rosary, hand colored woodcut. The Metropoli-
tan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1920. (20.34.1) [Photograph
©1997 The Metropolitan Museum of Art]
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the angels snatching souls from flames at the bottom) for
those who pray the rosary, prescribed and guided by the
print’s compacted gathering of heavenly hierarchies who
form the “brotherhood of the rosary,” that is, those celes-
tial worthies to whom one joins one’s devotion. The circle
of colored roses signifies the different kinds of prayer and
the number of repetitions to ensure the rosary’s promised
efficacy. A Hindu practice of combining a diagram or yan-
with supplication is shown here (g), where a woman
is creating the image of a lotus bloom from rice flour on
the floor of a temple, while she invokes a goddess to assist
her search for a good husband. The elaborate diagram is
understood to attract divine energy and enable beneficial
contact. A similar linear intricacy characterizes the Native
American dream catcher (h), a delicate mesh of fiber
stretched on a willow frame and hung above sleeping
children to attract the ephemeral stuff of good dreams and
filter out bad dreams.

Diagrams are perhaps most widely used as maps.
Eighteenth-century Muslims could envision the organiza-
(g) RIGHT. An Indian woman creates a yantra of a lotus for aid
in finding a good husband, Samayapuram, Tirchirappalli district,
Tamil Nadu, India. [©Photograph by Stephen P. Huyler] (h) BELOW.
A Yurok woman holds a dream catcher during the 1994 Salmon
Festival in Klamath, California. [©Catherine Karnow/Corbis]
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tion of the mosque in Mecca by the map (i) provided in
manuscripts, showing the location of the Kacbah at the
center and the entrances to the inner court of the mosque.
Jains frequently used another kind of map found in stone
relief in temples or painted portrayals. These structures
present in highly symmetrical, concentric form the hall
(samavasaran.a) that is built by the gods for the delivery of
a sermon by a Jina, one of twenty-four teachers who have
achieved liberation from rebirth and gather monks and
laity alike about them in order to teach the way to salva-
tion. The image maps out the key ideas of Jainism, in par-
ticular tranquility (santarasa) and nonviolence (ahim
. sā),
symbolized by the peaceful pairing of natural antagonists,
such as the deer and tiger or the snake and mongoose.

Mapping the astral realm and the passage of time is
perhaps one of the most universal uses for diagrammatic
structures. Stonehenge (j) is a Neolithic structure whose
functions included a precise coordination of astronomical
events with human ritual. Tibetan lamas rely on astrologi-
cal charts, such as the one reproduced here (k), to consult
(i) LEFT. An eighteenth-century map of the H
. aram Mosque
in Mecca. [©Giraudon/Art Resource, N.Y.] (j) BELOW. Stonehenge,
on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, constructed of sand-
stone and bluestone c. 2000 bce. [©Jason Hawkes/Corbis]
(k) OPPOSITE. Srid pa ho (Divination Chart), Tibet, late twen-
tieth century, paint on cloth. Tibetan Collection, Asian Division
(82). [Library of Congress]
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
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the horoscope of those undertaking a journey in order to
determine an auspicious day for departure. The large
Aztec stone diagram (l), uncovered in Mexico
City in 1790, is, according to recent study, a
portrayal of an earth deity surrounded by
depictions of the major periods of cosmic
history. Outer circles represent cardinal
directions and a calendrical system of
notating recent Aztec history that
affirmed the cosmic centrality of
the Aztec empire and appears to
have declared the importance of
combat and human sacrifice as the
destiny of the empire.
Godwin, Joscelyn. Robert Fludd: Her-
metic Philosopher and Surveyor of Two
Worlds. Boulder, Colo., 1979.
Leidy, Denise Patry, and Robert A. F. Thur-
man. Mandala: The Architecture of Enlighten-
ment. New York, 1997.
Little, Stephen, with Shawn Eichman. Taoism
and the Arts of China. Chicago, 2000.
Menzies, Jack. Buddha: Radiant Awakening. Sydney,
Mills, Kenneth, and William B. Taylor, eds. Colonial Spanish
America: A Documentary History. Wilmington, Del., 1998.
(l) Late-fifteenth-century Aztec sun or calendar stone depicting
David Morgan ()
the Five Eras, Tenochtitlan, Mexico. [©Bettmann/Corbis]
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
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CABASILAS, NICHOLAS (c. 1322–1395), born Nicolaos Chamaetos Cabasilas;
Greek Orthodox theologian and saint. A native of Thessalonica, Cabasilas studied there
and in Constantinople. One of his teachers was his uncle Nilos Cabasilas, an adherent
and successor of Gregory Palamas in the see of Thessalonica. Cabasilas served for ten years
as counselor to the emperor John VI Cantacuzenos (1341–1354). In 1353 his name was
put forward as a candidate for the patriarchal chair, although he was a layman. During
the second half of his life, he resided in Constantinople, mostly in the monastery of Man-
gana, as a layman or as a monk, devoting himself to theological studies.
Gennadios Scholarios, the first patriarch after the fall of Constantinople, character-
ized Cabasilas’s writings as “an ornament to the church of Christ.” With an imposing
style, apophthegmatic, prophetic, and poetical, he expresses genuine religious feeling and
deep faith.
One of Cabasilas’s most important works is Interpretation of the Holy Liturgy, a spiri-
tual explanation of what is said and done during the Divine Liturgy, which he considers
a real image of divine worship in heaven as well as of the earthly life of the incarnated
God. In his thought the participation of the church in the sacraments (must¯eria) is not
symbolic, but real, as is the participation of the members of the body in the heart. By
participating in the mysteries (i.e., the Body and Blood of Christ), the faithful do not
incorporate these elements into the human body as they do other food; rather, the faithful
themselves are incorporated into these elements. Human’s union with Christ, soul with
soul and body with body, brings complete peace, which makes the many one; disturbance
makes the one many.
Cabasilas’s second great work, On the Life in Christ, presents an anatomy of the spiri-
tual life in the framework of the incarnation, repeated and continued in the sacraments
of the church. Cabasilas’s thought revolves around the fact of salvation through union
C LOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT CORNER. Bronze of the Egyptian goddess Bastet, patron of Bubastis, as a
cat, 713–332 BCE. Louvre, Paris. [©Art Resource, N.Y.]; Ninth-century QurDa¯n written in
Kufic script. Abbasid dynasty, Iraq. [©Werner Forman/Art Resource, N.Y.]; Le Christ de l’Abbé
Louvre, Paris. [©Giraudon/Art Resource, N.Y.]; Aztec calendar stone. [©Bettmann/
; Fifth-century CE silver Roman shield depicting Cybele in a chariot with Attis.
Archaeological Museum, Milan. [The Art Archive/Archaeological Museum Milan/Dagli Orti] .

with God. The destination of humankind from the moment
peri dikaio¯seo¯s didaskalia Nikolaou tou Kabasila (Piraeus,
of its creation to the end of its history is this: union with
Translated from Greek by Philip M. McGhee
For Cabasilas, the distinguishing property of God is
goodness. God is good in an excelling way, and the nature
of good is to pour itself out and be distributed. Thus human-
kind is created good from the beginning, both Godlike and
Christ-like, with the purpose of being united with God in
the future. The incarnate Word of God encounters a Godlike
kernel in each human being and from this encounter a new
CAIN AND ABEL, the first two sons of Adam and Eve,
life springs, which leads to perfection in life in Christ. Perfec-
the progenitors of the race according to the Bible, after their
tion is the supreme and complete gift of God. All things have
banishment from the garden of Eden (Gn. 4). Cain (Heb.,
been made for perfection.
Qayin), the elder, was a farmer; Abel (Heb., Hevel) was a
shepherd. The biblical text jumps from their birth to a later
The present world is in the process of giving birth to
episode when both made (apparently votary) offerings to the
the inner person, who is molded and formed in the present
Lord: Cain presented a meal offering of his fruits and grains,
life, but who is born only in the future world. The moment
while Abel offered up the firstlings of his sheep. The offering
of transition is the most delightful of visions. “Christ de-
of Cain was rejected by the Lord, and that of Abel was ac-
scends from heaven to earth brilliantly, the earth raises up
cepted. No reason for this is given, and generations of pious
other suns toward the sun of justice. All is full of light” (Life
attempts to justify this event have been made by contrasting
in Christ 6.16).
the intentions of the donors and the nature and quality of
their donations. Cain’s despondency led to a divine caution
In 1983 Cabasilas was canonized a saint of the Greek
to resist the temptation to sin (Gn. 4: 6–7); presumably this
Orthodox church and his feast fixed on June 20. His writings
refers to the jealous urges and hostile resentments Cain felt.
are widely read in many languages.
But the elder brother was overwrought and killed his brother
in the field. This led to the punishment of Cain: like his fa-
ther, he would not farm a fertile earth; and, like him, he
would be banished “eastward of Eden.” Fearing further retri-
Works by Cabasilas
bution, Cain was given a protective “sign,” whose aspect de-
An unsatisfactory edition of the main texts, by Fronto Ducaeus,
lighted the fancy in later legends and art. There is a deliberate
is reprinted in Patrologia Graeca, edited by J.-P. Migne, vol.
reuse of the language of the temptation and punishment of
150 (Paris, 1865). All modern translations of Cabasilas’s two
Adam and Eve (Gn. 3) in the ensuing account of the tempta-
great treatises, based on this text, are necessarily unsatisfacto-
tion and punishment of Cain (Gn. 4: 1–17).
ry too. Explication de la divine liturgie, edited and translated
by Sévérien Salaville, in Sources Chrétiennes, vol. 4 (Paris,
The murder of Abel by Cain in Genesis 4: 1–17 is the
1967), follows the same text collated with one Parisian
first social crime recorded in the Bible, and it complements
manuscript. An English translation by Joan M. Hussey and
on the external level the inner temptation and misuse of will
P. A. McNulty is also available as Interpretation of the Divine
depicted in similar language in Genesis 3. The tradition of
Liturgy (London, 1960). While working on my own transla-
Cain’s act of murder and his subsequent punishment is fol-
tion into modern Greek, I prepared another, more correct
lowed by a genealogical list that presents him as the progeni-
original text, based on four manuscripts; see Nikolaos Caba-
, no. 22 in the series “Philokalia” (Thessaloniki, 1979–).
tor of several culture heroes. His son, Enoch, founded the
first city (Gn. 4: 18); and two other descendants, Jubal and
Works about Cabasilas
Tubalcain, were respectively named the cultural ancestors of
Die Mystik des Nikolaus Cabasilas vom Leben in Christo, edited by
“all who play the lyre and the pipe” (Gn. 4: 21) and those
Wilhelm Gass (1849; 2nd ed., Leiden, 1899), was excellent
“who forged all implements of copper and iron” (Gn. 4: 22).
in its time. The work of Myrna Lot-Borodine, Un maïtre de
There is thus an anachronistic blending of Cain, whose name
la spiritualité byzantine au quatorzième siècle, Nicolas Caba-
means “smith,” with an ancient agricultural forebear. In so
silas (Paris, 1958), in spite of its oratorical style, is very inter-
presenting Cain as the ancestor of technology and culture,
esting. Special aspects of Cabasilas’s thought are treated in
the tradition displays a pessimistic attitude toward such
Ermanno M. Toniolo’s La mariologia di Nicola Cabasila (Vi-
achievements (complementing the attitude taken in the
cenze, 1955); Ihor Sˇevcˇenko’s “Nicolas Cabasilas’ ‘Anti-
tower of Babel episode, in Genesis 10: 1–9) and shows a pro-
zealot’ Discourse: A Reinterpretation,” Dumbarton Oaks Pa-
found psychological insight into the energies and drives that
pers 11 (1957): 79–171; and Jean Vafiadis’s L’humanisme
chrétien de Nicolas Cabasilas: L’épanouissement de la personne

underlie civilization. The episode of Genesis 4: 1–17 may re-
humaine dans le Christ (Strasbourg, 1963). For readers of
flect an old literary motif of debates between farmers and
modern Greek, two important works are Athanasios An-
herdsmen as well as the fairly universal theme of fraternal
gelopoulos’s Nikolaos Kabasilas Chamaetos, H¯e zo¯e kai to
pairs who represent contrasting psychological and cultural
ergon autou (Thessaloniki, 1970) and Panagiotes Nellas’s H¯e
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Early rabbinic interpretation drew forth various ele-
an ecstatic devotee and Vais:n:ava revivalist. To his devotees,
ments of the story for moral and theological emphasis. The
Caitanya is the paradigm of an emotionally intense, loving
Midrash elaborates the psychology of fraternal strife (Genesis
devotion (prema-bhakti) to Kr:s:n:a—which humans may as-
Rabbah 22.7), depicts Cain’s impious rejection of divine jus-
pire to emulate while never reaching the perfection of their
tice when his offering is rejected but also notes his act of re-
divine/human exemplar. He is also the object of their devout
pentance in the end (Gn. Rab. 11.13), and shows the cycle
adoration, affirmed to be God, Kr:s:n:a, appearing within re-
of violence that was unleashed by Cain’s act, since this deed
cent human history to establish loving devotion as the reli-
led to his accidental death at the hands of his descendant La-
gious norm (yuga-dharma) of the current degenerate era, the
mech who, in grief, accidentally killed his own son as well
kaliyuga (Kali age).
(Gn. 4: 23–24). Early Christian tradition focused on Abel
as the head of a line of prophets who were killed (Mt. 23:
LIFE. Vi´svambhara (i.e., Caitanya) was born/appeared at the
25) and emphasized his innocent blood (cf. Heb. 12: 24);
onset of a lunar eclipse on the full moon day of Pha¯lgun
thus they set the framework for the typology that related
month, February 27, 1486, at Navadvip town, the center of
Abel’s innocent death to that of Jesus and saw Cain as repre-
Sanskrit learning in then Muslim-ruled Bengal. The second
senting the children of the devil (1 Jn. 3: 12). For Augustine,
son of a Vais:n:ava Bra¯hman:, Jaganna¯tha Mi´sra, and his wife
Cain was furthermore identified with the Jews. The topos of
S´ac¯ı, he became a Sanskrit pan:d:it, married Laks:m¯ı, and,
Cain and Abel recurs in the medieval mystery plays, and the
after her untimely death, wed Vis:n:upriya¯. At the age of twen-
murder of Abel was a common iconographic motif in Chris-
ty-two, he journeyed to Gaya to perform post-funeral rites
tian and Jewish art.
(´sra¯ddha) for his late father and first wife. While there, he
was overwhelmed by devotion to Kr:s:n:a and promptly took
initiation (d¯ıks:a¯) from a Vais:n:ava guru¯, ¯I´svara Pur¯ı. He re-
Aptowitzer, Vigdor. Kain und Abel in der Agada den Apokryphen,
turned to Navadvip overflowing with eagerness to spread de-
der hellenistischen, christlichen und muhammedanischen Li-
votion to Kr:s:n:a.
teratur. Vienna, 1922.
Vi´svambhara’s charismatic proselytizing led him to be
Fishbane, Michael. Text and Texture. New York, 1979. See pages
readily hailed by the Vais:n:avas of Navadvip as their leader.
For about a year, he led devotional singing, acted in devo-
Ginzberg, Louis. The Legends of the Jews (1909–1938). 7 vols.
tional dramas, and even challenged the Muslim authorities
Translated by Henrietta Szold, et al. Reprint, Philadelphia,
by leading sam:k¯ırtana (collective religious chanting) proces-
1937–1966. See volume 1, pages 55–59.
sions through Navadvip. His behavior, both when in normal
Réau, Louis. Iconographie de l’art chrétien. Vol. 2. Paris, 1956. See
consciousness and when in ecstatic states, suggested to his
pages 93–100.
followers that he was in some way God, Hari (i.e., Kr:s:n:a),
Speiser, E. A. Genesis. Anchor Bible. Vol. 1. Garden City, N.Y.,
manifesting himself in human guise. His engrossing passion
1964. See pages 29–38.
for bhakti to Kr:s:n:a brought an end to his career as pan:d:it
New Sources
and soon culminated in renunciation of domestic life while
Levin, Schneir. “The Abel Syndrome.” Jewish Bible Quarterly 20
still childless. He received ascetic initiation from Ke´sava
(1991): 111–114.
Bha¯rat¯ı in February 1510, when he took the name
Paine, Robert. “‘Am I My Brother’s Keeper?’ (Genesis IV:9): Vio-
lence and the Making of Society.” Qualitative Sociology 24
(2001): 169–189.
Soon after taking sam:nya¯sa, Caitanya went to the
Ratner, Robert J. “Cain and Abel, and the Problem of Paradox.”
Jaganna¯th (Kr:s:n:a) deity (i.e., sacred image) in his great tem-
Journal of Reform Judaism 37 (1990): 9–20.
ple at Puri in Orissa. For several years, he traveled intermit-
tently throughout India meeting adherents of diverse reli-
Revised Bibliography
gious orientations—appealing all the while for devotion to
Kr:s:n:a. His longest journey was through South India, toward
the beginning of which he met Ra¯ma¯nanda Ra¯ya, whose
spiritual sensibilities were remarkably akin to his own. It was
CAITANYA. For half a millennium, Caitanya has been
Ra¯ma¯nanda who first declared Caitanya to be not simply
revered by millions of Hindus, especially in eastern India, as
Kr:s:n:a, but Kr:s:n:a combined with Ra¯dha¯. A subsequent jour-
a unique human manifestation of the divine Kr:s:n:a. He is un-
ney toward the Vraja region—locale of Mathura and Vrin-
derstood to be Kr:s:n:a come to bestow devotion (bhakti) and
davan—via Bengal was cut short after Caitanya began at-
salvation (uddha¯ra/nista¯ra) upon even the lowliest of per-
tracting large crowds. Caitanya subsequently did make the
sons, while combining in himself the fair complexion and de-
much-desired journey to Vraja via wooded tracts of Orissa,
votional sentiments of Ra¯dha¯, his divine mistress. Caitanya
where he spread devotion to Kr:s:n:a among tribal peoples.
is a popular shortened form of Kr:s:n:a-Caitanya (whose con-
While in Vraja, he visited traditional sites of Kr:s:n:a’s birth,
sciousness is of Kr:s:n:a), the religious name taken at his ascetic
childhood, and youthful pastimes (l¯ıla¯s), and is said to have
initiation (sam:nya¯sa) by Vi´svambhara Mi´sra (1486–1533),
discovered still other sites.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

From 1516 Caitanya remained at Puri, where he wor-
individual souls), and bhagava¯n (ultimate conscious reality,
shiped Jaganna¯tha, engaged in his private devotions, and
personal and possessed of all auspicious forms and qualities,
counseled disciples. The latter included prominent devotees
encompassing and surpassing brahman and parama¯tman).
from Bengal who would make an annual pilgrimage for the
Kr:s:n:a is understood to be the quintessential bhagava¯n
Jaganna¯tha Chariot Festival (ratha ya¯tra¯) in June and remain
(“Kr:s:n:as tu svayam Bhagava¯n”; Bha¯gavata Pura¯n:a 1:3:28).
with Caitanya for the duration of the rainy season. In his
later years, Caitanya underwent intense and prolonged devo-
Human souls (j¯ıvas) are minute emanations, paradoxi-
tional states, often turbulent and ecstatic, pained by the sense
cally different and yet not different (acintyabheda¯bheda) from
of separation (viraha) from Kr:s:n:a. Among those who cared
their divine source. A soul undergoes rebirth unless and until
for him during these tormented years was Svaru¯pa
by divine mercy (kr:pa¯) it realizes its true nature as devoted
Da¯modara, whose “notes” (kad:aca¯), based on his intimate
servant of Kr:s:n:a. In the present degenerate age, Kr:s:n:a ap-
observations of and communication with Caitanya, had a
pears in the merciful guise of Caitanya to promulgate a sim-
crucial role in shaping the Vais:n:ava theology being devel-
pler, universally accessible religious norm for the age, namely
oped by the Gosva¯mins (pastors) whom Caitanya had earlier
loving devotion to himself, evoked and expressed best
directed to settle in and around Vrindavan. There is no con-
through chanting his names (na¯mak¯ırtana). In principle, all
firmed report of the circumstances of his death/
persons, and especially such disfavored classes as women,
disappearance at Puri in the month of A¯s:a¯r:h (possibly July
´su¯dras, and sinners, are eligible for bhakti, by which they may
9) in 1533. But one early biographer, Jaya¯nanda, mentions
be delivered from bondage to spiritual ignorance (avidya¯), sin
an injury that became septic. Vais:n:ava tradition affirms his
(pa¯pa), and rebirth (sam:sa¯ra). Devout souls may imitate the
merging with the Jaganna¯tha deity.
roles and sentiments displayed by Kr:s:n:a’s eternal compan-
ions: his servants, parents, friends, and lovers, who are de-
There are several extant accounts in Sanskrit and in
picted in the Bha¯gavata Pura¯n:a and other Vais:n:ava texts.
Bengali of Caitanya’s life and mission composed within
The goal of human life is to enter into eternal communion
eighty years of his passing. The earliest is the Sanskrit
with Kr:s:n:a and his divine and human companions, to partic-
Kr:s:n:a-caitanya-carita¯mr:ta by a childhood friend and adult
ipate with them in his transcendent pastimes, expressive of
disciple, Mura¯ri Gupta. The most informative are
loving devotion.
Vr:nda¯vanada¯sa’s Caitanya-bha¯gavata (c. 1548; in Bengali)
The myriad theological works in Sanskrit by the
and Kr:s:n:ada¯sa Kavira¯ja’s Caitanya-carita¯mr:ta (c. 1612; also
Gosva¯mins whom Caitanya dispatched to Vrindavan include
in Bengali but containing many Sanskrit verses). As re-
commentaries on the Bha¯gavata Pura¯n:a by Sana¯tana (tenth
marked by Edward C. Dimock Jr. and Tony K. Stewart in
canto) and J¯ıva (entire text); the Bhaktirasa¯mr:tasindhu and
their introduction to the former’s definitive translation of
Ujjvala-n¯ılaman:i, two reference anthologies by Ru¯pa
this masterpiece of Caitanya Vais:n:ava literature, “it is far
Gosva¯min illustrating devotional dramatic theory
more than a simple biography; it is a compendium of histori-
(bhakti-rasa-´sa¯stra); inspirational dramas and poems by
cal fact, religious legend, and abstruse theology so complete
Ru¯pa Gosva¯min, Raghuna¯thada¯sa, and others; a liturgical-
and blended in such proportions that it is the definitive work
cum-disciplinary manual, Hari-bhakti-vila¯sa, by Gopa¯la
of the religious group called Vais:n:ava, since the time of Cai-
Bhat:t:a and Sana¯tana; Sana¯tana’s Br:had-bha¯gavata¯mr:ta, a
tanya the most significant single religious group in all of east-
“pilgrim’s progress” of a devout soul in search of ever more
ern India” (1999, p. 3).
favored modes of devotion and ever more intimate self-
Caitanya himself, though he inspired men of great
disclosures of the divine; and the S:at:-sandarbha (or
learning and piety to compose a massive corpus of Sanskrit
Bha¯gavata-sandarbha), a summa of Vais:n:ava theology and
texts, may have left at most eight Sanskrit stanzas, including
philosophy by J¯ıva (based on a prior outline by Gopa¯la
the following (in Dimock’s translation):
He who knows himself as humbler than the grass, who
NFLUENCE. Caitanya and the movement (often called
is more forbearing than a tree, who feels no pride but
Gaud:¯ıya or Bengali Vais:n:ava) of which he was the fervent
gives honor to other men, he should practice always the
catalyst spread devotion to Kr:s:n:a throughout Bengal, Orissa,
Hari-k¯ırtana. (3:20:Sl. 5) He may crush my breasts in
and Vraja and to a lesser extent Assam, with scattered circles
embracing me, a slave to his feet, he may destroy my
of devotees elsewhere in India. Restoration and populariza-
heart by not appearing to me, he may be a libertine
tion of sites sacred to Kr:s:n:a in the Vraja region owed much
wherever he wants, but still he is the lord of my heart,
to the zeal of Caitanya and his disciples. Vernaculars of east-
and there is no other. (3:20:Sl. 10)
ern India, especially Bengali, are far the richer for a host of
THEOLOGY. Caitanya’s conception of God and human-
original sacred biographies and hagiographies plus songs,
kind—as elaborated by the theologians he inspired and guid-
poems, and other Vais:n:ava compositions; and for numerous
ed—is grounded in the Bha¯gavata Pura¯n:a. The divine is un-
vernacular translations and adaptations based on Sanskrit
derstood to have three modes, in order of ascending
texts treating Kr:s:n:a, Caitanya, or Vais:n:ava bhakti. Bengali
ultimacy: brahman (conscious, but undifferentiated ground
culture as a whole, including its non-Vais:n:ava Hindu and
of being), parama¯tman (conscious divine soul indwelling all
even Muslim sectors and as refracted through modern cre-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ative figures such a Rabindranath Tagore, has been influ-
perceptions of him include: A. K. Majumdar’s Caitanya: His
enced profoundly by the symbolism, ethos, values, and sensi-
Life and Doctrine (Calcutta, 1978), Walther Eidlitz’s
bilities of Caitanya’s humane and emotionally and
Kr:s:n:a-Caitanya: Sein Leben und seine Lehre (Stockholm,
aesthetically refined devotion to God as Kr:s:n:a. Even practi-
1968), Deb Narayan Acharyya’s The Life and Times of
tioners of transgressive Tantric yoga—the hybrid
S´r¯ıkr:s:n:a-Caitanya (Calcutta, 1984), and the less-than-
Vais:n:ava-Sahajiya¯s, many of whom sang Vais:n:ava lyrics—
sympathetic book by Amulyachandra Sen, Itiha¯sera
(Calcutta, 1965). Sixteenth-century accounts
have claimed to share in the heritage of Caitanya.
(besides the Caitanya-carita¯mr:ta) of Caitanya and his disci-
Through the ministering of certain of Caitanya’s mar-
ples available in English translation include the
ried associates (also called Gosva¯mins), notably the egalitari-
Caitanya-candra¯mr:ta of Prabodha¯nanda, translated by Bhak-
an Nitya¯nanda and the more elitist Advaita A¯ca¯rya and their
ti Prajnan Yati Maharaj (3d ed.; Madras, 1978), and several
by Kusakratha Dasa of the Krishna Institute (Los Angeles)
descendants, as well as Vais:n:ava ascetics, the majority of Ben-
and by other devotees. For analysis of the tension between
gali Hindus in the middle castes and considerable numbers
historicity and theology-cum-mythology as reflected in each
in the upper and lower castes had come to identify them-
of the sacred biographies, see Tony K. Stewart’s “The Bio-
selves religiously as Vais:n:ava in the tradition of Caitanya by
graphical Images of Kr:s:n:a Caitanya: A Study in the Percep-
the time of British Indian ethnographic and census reports.
tion of Divinity” (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1985).
Even so, Caitanya Vais:n:ava prestige was on the wane in
For academic studies of the theological-philosophical tradition
urban Bengal by the late nineteenth century, despite the ef-
stemming from Caitanya, see O. B. L. Kapoor’s The Philoso-
forts of many to revitalize, reform, and modernize the tradi-
phy and Religion of S´r¯ı Caitanya (Delhi, 1978), Sushil Kumar
tion. Notable among these modernizers was Kedarnath
De’s Early History of the Vais:n:ava Faith and Movement in
Datta (Bhaktivinode Thakur, 1838–1914), a deputy magis-
Bengal, 2d ed. (Calcutta, 1961), Radhagovinda Nath’s
trate of ka¯yastha caste. He wrote numerous Vais:n:ava texts,
Gaud:¯ıya Vais:n:ava Dar´san, 6 vols. (Calcutta, 1956–1959),
launched a vigorous revitalization campaign, and sought to
Sudhindra Chandra Chakravarti’s Philosophical Foundation
make traditional Kr:s:n:a-Caitanya bhakti comprehensible to
of Bengal Vais:n:avism (Calcutta, 1969), and Mahanamabrata
his rationalist contemporaries in Calcutta and elsewhere. His
Brahmachari’s Vais:n:ava Veda¯nta: The Philosophy of S´r¯ı J¯ıva
(Calcutta, 1974). Modern devotees’ presentations
son, Bimalprasad Datta (Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, 1874–
of Caitanya and the teachings associated with him include
1937), founded the Gaud:¯ıya Mat:h, a pan-Indian network
Sisir Kumar Ghosh [Ghoshe]’s S´r¯ı Amiya Nima¯i Carita,
of monastic communities and temples centered in Calcutta
14th ed., 6 vols. (1907; Calcutta, 1975); Bhakti Vilas
and Sri Mayapur (adjacent to modern Navadvip) and dedi-
Tirtha’s S´r¯ı Chaitanya’s Concept of Theistic Veda¯nta (Madras,
cated to preaching and publishing about Caitanya Vais:n:ava
1964); and A. C. Bhaktivedanta’s The Teachings of Lord
bhakti. One of Bhaktisiddhanta’s disciples, Abhaycaran De
Chaitanya (New York, 1968).
(A. C. Bhaktivedanta, 1896–1977), inaugurated the Interna-
Among well-translated compositions of devotional literature in
tional Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New
the Caitanya Vais:n:ava tradition are S´r¯ı Br:had
York in 1966. Its several thousand devotees, mostly non-
Bha¯gavata¯mr:ta of Sana¯tana Gosva¯m¯ı, 2 vols. (Los Angeles,
Indians, currently propagate devotion to Kr:s:n:a-Caitanya
2002–2003), translated by Gop¯ıpara¯nadhana Da¯sa; Mystic
worldwide using modern means of communication com-
Poetry: Ru¯pa Gosva¯min’s Uddhava-Sande´sa and Ham
˙ sadu¯ta
bined with traditional chanting of the “great prayer”
(San Francisco, 1999), translated by Jan Brzezinski; In Praise
(maha¯-mantra): “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna,
of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali (Garden City, N.Y., 1967;
Krishna, Hare, Hare; Hare Ra¯ma, Hare Ra¯ma, Ra¯ma, Ra¯ma,
reprint, Chicago, 1981), translated by Edward C. Dimock
Jr. and Denise Levertov; and Sukumar Sen’s History of
Hare, Hare.”
Brajabuli Literature (Calcutta, 1935). Donna Marie
Wulff’s Drama as a Mode of Religious Realization: The
SEE ALSO Bengali Religions; International Society for Krish-
Vidagdhama¯dhava of Ru¯pa Gosva¯m¯ı (Chico, Calif., 1984)
na Consciousness; Kr:s:n:a, Kr:s:n:aism; Ra¯dha¯.
and David Haberman’s Acting as a Way of Salvation: A Study
of Ra¯ga¯nuga¯ Bhakti Sa¯dhana
(New Delhi, 1988) provide de-
tailed expositions of how Vais:n:ava religious training
An excellent source in English for studying the life, devotional
(sa¯dhana) draws upon devotional literature and dramatic the-
image, and impact of Caitanya is the Caitanya Carita¯mr:ta of
Kr:s:n:ada¯sa Kavira¯ja: A Translation and Commentary by Ed-
A remarkably thorough survey of all aspects of the Vais:n:ava tradi-
ward C. Dimock Jr., with an “Introduction” by Dimock and
tion in Bengal from Caitanya’s time through the nineteenth
Tony K. Stewart (Cambridge, Mass., 1999). Valuable analy-
century is Ramakanta Chakrabarty’s Vais:n:avism in Bengal:
ses of the textual sources for Caitanya’s life are Sushil Kumar
1486–1900 (Calcutta, 1985). For Orissa, see Prabhat
De’s Early History of the Vais:n:ava Faith and Movement in
Mukherjee’s History of the Chaitanya Faith in Orissa (New
Bengal, 2d ed. (Calcutta, 1961); Bimanbehari Majumdar’s
Delhi, 1979) and for Vraja, Alan W. Entwistle’s Braj: Centre
S´r¯ıcaitanya-cariter Upa¯da¯n, 2d ed. (Calcutta, 1959); and as-
of Krishna Pilgrimage (Groningen, Germany, 1987). So-
sessments by Radhagovinda Nath in his editions of the
ciocultural implications of the Caitanya movement are exam-
Caitanya-carita¯mr:ta, 6 vols. (Calcutta, 1962–1963) and
ined by Melville T. Kennedy’s The Chaitanya Movement: A
Vr:nda¯vanada¯sa’s Caitanya-bha¯gavata, 6 vols. (Calcutta,
Study of Vaishnavism of Bengal (Calcutta, 1925), Hitesranjan
1966). Other academic studies of Caitanya and his devotees’
Sanyal’s Ba¯n˙la¯ K¯ırtaner Itiha¯s (Calcutta, 1989), and Joseph
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

T. O’Connell’s Religious Movements and Social Structure: The
2003, p. 222). The earliest-known accounts of cakras as
Case of Chaitanya’s Vais:n:avas of Bengal (Shimla, India,
inner circles of energy actually come from an eighth-century
1993). For the Vais:n:ava-Sahajiya¯ phenomenon, see Edward
Buddhist text, the Hevajra Tantra, which identifies four
C. Dimock Jr.’s The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysti-
cakras in the body at the navel, heart, throat, and head re-
cism in the Vais:n:ava-Sahajiya¯ Cult of Bengal (Chicago, 1966).
spectively. These cakras are in turn identified with four geo-
Modern developments in the Caitanya tradition in India are
graphical sites (p¯ıit:has) in India regarded as sacred to the
treated in Shukavak N. Dasa’s Hindu Encounter with Moder-
Great Goddess, Devi or S´akti. The classic group of six cakras
nity: Kedarnath Datta Bhaktivinoda, Vaisnava Theologian
(Los Angeles, 1999) and in North America by J. Stillson
emerged slowly; not until the ninth or tenth century, in
Judah’s Hare Krishna and the Counterculture (New York,
works like the Kaulajña¯nanirn:aya, does one find an identifi-
able system of six energy centers called cakras. Other yogic
traditions, however, added a variety of other cakras, some
listing as many as twelve.
According to the well-known sixfold system, the name
and location of the cakras is as follows:
CAKRAS. Literally meaning a circle, wheel, or discus, the
1. the mu¯la¯dha¯ra, located between the anus and the geni-
Sanskrit term cakra plays a key role in both Hindu and Bud-
tals, imagined as a lotus with four petals;
dhist traditions, particularly in their more esoteric Tantric
2. the sva¯dhis:t:ha¯na¯ at the root of the genitals, with six
forms. The term has several uses in various forms of yogic
and Tantric practice. Thus cakra may refer to the circle of
worship in which a particular ritual is conducted—for exam-
3. the man:ipu¯ra at the navel, with ten petals;
ple, the highly esoteric cakra pu¯ja¯ of Hindu Tantric rituals,
4. the ana¯hata at the heart, with twelve petals;
usually performed in the dead of night in a cremation
5. the vi´suddha at the throat, with sixteen petals;
ground, involving practices that deliberately violate tradi-
tional laws of class distinctions and purity. Cakras may also
6. the a¯jña¯ between the eyebrows, with two petals.
refer to circular diagrams used in meditation and the worship
Above these six lies a seventh and ultimate cakra, the
of such specific deities as the famous S´ri Cakras or S´ri Yantra
sahasra¯ra, imagined as a thousand-petaled lotus that serves
images associated with the goddess Tripura¯sundar¯ı.
as the divine seat of Lord S´iva. Each of the cakras is also in
turn enmeshed in a complex network of correspondences
In Hindu and Buddhist yogic practice, however, cakra
and is identified with a particular color, shape, element, cos-
has a more specific meaning. In these traditions it refers to
mic principle, sacred syllable, and deity.
the spiritual energy centers believed to lie within the human
subtle body (suks:ma ´sar¯ıra). The subtle body in the yogic tra-
The aim of yogic practice is to awaken the divine cre-
dition is the immaterial aspect of the living being that lies
ative energy believed to lie within every human body. This
between its gross physical form and its divine spiritual es-
energy is imagined in the form of a coiled serpent or
sence. This subtle organism is comprised of a complex net-
kun:d:alin¯ı, which represents the microcosmic presence of the
work of arteries (na¯d:¯ıs, usually numbered at seventy-two
divine power (´sakti) of the goddess within each of us. When
thousand), knots (granthis), and energy centers (cakras),
this energy is awakened through meditation, it can be made
which correspond only roughly to the arteries and organs of
to rise upward through the body, where it successively pene-
the physical body. The cakras are often imagined not just as
trates the six cakras and awakens the various powers associat-
wheels but also as lotus blossoms with varying numbers of
ed with each one. Finally, when it reaches the sahasra¯ra cakra
petals and even in some traditions as ponds connected by an
at the crown of the head, the yogi experiences the supreme
internal network of rivers.
union of the divine male and female principles—Lord S´iva
and the Goddess S´akti —within his or her own body.
The most widely known list of cakras in the early twen-
ty-first century is the sixfold system, which identifies six en-
Although the cakras do not exist as physically measur-
ergy centers located along the spinal column from the base
able entities in the material body, they do correspond to par-
of the spine to the eyebrows, with a seventh supreme cakra
ticular psychological states and levels of consciousness. Their
at the crown of the head. This sixfold list, however, is by no
opening in turn leads to “mental transformation and the
means the only or oldest one; it became standardized only
opening of the psyche to hitherto inaccessible levels of con-
after the publication of a translation of one relatively late
sciousness” (Kakar, 1988, p. 187). On the other hand, the
text, the S:at:-cakra-niru¯pan:a, by Sir John George Woodroffe
malfunctioning of the cakras may also lead to a variety of
in 1919. The historical origin of the cakras as inner centers
mental and physical problems. For example, a disorder in the
of subtle energy is not entirely clear. Some scholars believe
sva¯dhis:t:ha¯na cakra at the base of the genitals can produce de-
that the cakras are derived from circular arrays of powerful
lusion, infatuations, and sexual disturbances among other ills
goddesses who were originally represented externally in tem-
(Kakar, 1998, p. 188).
ples and ritual diagrams but were then gradually internalized
One of the more remarkable figures in modern history
and identified with energy centers within the body (White,
to describe his experience of the cakras was the great Bengali
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

holy man Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836–1886). Ac-
CAKRASAMVARA. The term Cakrasamvara, “the
cording to Ramakrishna, the lower three cakras associated
binding of the wheels,” designates both a Buddhist scripture
with the anus, the sexual organs, and the navel correspond
and also the man:d:ala that it describes, which is the abode
primarily to the instinctual levels of consciousness, namely
of a host of deities centering around the divine couple
greed and desire. The higher cakras, however, relate to the
S´r¯ıheruka and Vajrava¯ra¯hi. The text, the Cakrasamvara Tan-
transcendent states of consciousness found in the heart, in
tra, is also known as the S´riheruka-abhidha¯na (The discourse
mystical experience, and finally in “complete absorption in
of S´r¯ıheruka) and the Laghusamvara (Samvara light), a name
the mystic-erotic union of S´iva and S´akti” (Kripal, 1988,
it earned because it is a short text of approximately seven
p. 44). As Ramakrishna described the awakening of the high-
hundred Sanskrit stanzas. It was composed in India during
est cakra, it is a state of pure ecstatic annihilation in union
the mid-to-late eighth century, and it quickly became one of
with the divine: “When the kun:d:alin¯ı comes here there is
the most important Indian Buddhist Tantras, as evidenced
Sama¯dhi [meditative absorption]. In this sahasra¯ra, S´iva, full
by the large number of commentaries and associated ritual
of sat [Being] cit [Consciousness] and a¯nanda [Bliss], resides
literature that it inspired. Like most Tantras, it is primarily
in union with S´akti . . . . In Sama¯dhi nothing external re-
a ritual text, dedicating most of its fifty-one chapters to the
mains. One cannot even take care of his body any more; if
description of rites such as the production of the man:d:ala
milk is put into his mouth, he does not swallow. If he re-
and the consecration ceremonies performed within it, as well
mains for twenty-one days in this condition, he is dead” (Di-
as various other ritual actions such as homa fire sacrifices, en-
mock, 1966, p. 178). For Ramakrishna then, the awakening
chantment with mantras, and so forth. It is a rather cryptic
of the seven cakras suggests that there is no rigid separation
text, one which never gives sufficient information for the
of the physical and spiritual or the sexual and transcendent
performance of these rituals and that often obscures crucial
dimensions of consciousness. Rather, the higher and lower
elements, particularly the mantras, which the text typically
cakras lie on a continuum in which “mystical union and sex-
present in reverse order or in codes via an elaborate scheme
ual experience are different wavelengths of the same energetic
in which both the vowels and consonants are coded by
spectrum” (Kripal, 1998, pp. 45–46). Through the tech-
niques of yoga and meditation, sexual energy itself can be
transformed into mystical experience, greed and desire into
The Cakrasamvara Tantra is classified by Buddhists as
spiritual ecstasy.
a Yogin¯ı or Mother Tantra, a designation that reflects the
focus of the text upon female deities, who constitute a signifi-
In the early twenty-first century the cakras and tech-
cant majority of the deities in the tradition’s main man:d:ala.
niques of awakening them are found not only in esoteric
It also reflects a focus on practices that, in a Buddhist monas-
Tantric traditions but are also more widely dispersed
throughout other Indian yogic practices. They have also
tic context at least, were deemed transgressive, such as sexual
made their way to the West and are now a regular feature
yogic practices as well as animal sacrifice and apparently even
in much of New Age and other alternative forms of spirituali-
anthropophagy. Another characteristic of texts of this genre
ty across Europe and the United States.
is an influence from non-Buddhist, particularly S´aiva,
sources, as is most notable in the appearances of the deities
SEE ALSO Kun:d:alin¯ı; Man:d:alas, article on Hindu Man:d:alas;
themselves, who are quite similar to fierce Hindu deities such
New Age Movement; Ramakrishna; Tantrism, overview arti-
as Bhairava and Ka¯l¯ı. This reflects the complex origins of the
cle; Yantra; Yoga.
text, which probably was inspired by teachings and practices
of the loosely organized groups of “accomplished ones” (sidd-
ha), male and female practitioners of yoga who, generally
For good discussions of the cakras and their historical develop-
speaking, do not seem to have had strongly defined religious
ment, see David Gordon White, The Alchemical Body: Sidd-
identities. Their teachings, and the texts derived from them,
ha Traditions in Medieval India (Chicago, 1996), and Kiss of
seem to have been an important influence on the develop-
the Yogin¯ı: “Tantric Sex” in Its South Asian Contexts (Chicago,
ment of both Buddhist and Hindu Tantric traditions. The
2003). The classic description of the sixfold system is Sir
John George Woodroffe, trans., The Serpent Power, Being the
Cakrasamvara Tantra was particularly influenced by quasi-
S:at:-cakra-niru¯pan:a and Pa¯duka¯-pañcaka (London, 1919).
heretical S´aiva groups such as the Ka¯pa¯likas, who were infa-
On Ramakrishna’s description of the cakras, see Jeffrey J.
mous for their transgressive practices, that is, their employ-
Kripal, Ka¯l¯ı’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life
ment of violence, meat eating, intoxicants, and sexuality as
and Teachings of Ramakrishna (Chicago, 1998); and Edward
key elements of their spiritual practice.
C. Dimock, The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism
in the Vais
:n:ava-Sahajiya¯ Cult of Bengal (Chicago, 1966). For
According to the myths constructed to account for the
an interesting psychological interpretation of the cakras, see
origin of the Cakrasamvara tradition, the undeniable similar-
Sudhir Kakar, Shamans, Mystics, and Doctors: A Psychological
ity between the Cakrasamvara deities and practices and those
Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions (New York,
of their S´aiva competitors is not accidental, but a direct result
of the “historical” revelation of the tradition. While there are
several versions of the myth, all agree that this revelation was
HUGH B. URBAN (2005)
triggered by the takeover by S´aiva deities of twenty-four sa-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

cred sites scattered across the Indian subcontinent. There,
translation of the Cakrasamvara Tantra itself, but of several
they engaged in transgressive practices such as wanton sexu-
related ritual texts.
ality and sacrifice of living beings. In order to put an end to
Huber, Toni. The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain: Popular Pilgrim-
their “misbehavior,” the cosmic Buddha Maha¯vajradhara,
age and Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet. Oxford,
along with his retinue, assumed the appearance of these S´aiva
1999. A detailed study of an important Tibetan Cakrasam-
deities and then subdued them, in the process transforming
vara pilgrimage place.
the Indian subcontinent into the Cakrasamvara man:d:ala.
Huntington, John, and Dina Bangdel. The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist
This myth reflects the mixed origins of the tradition and ex-
Meditational Art. Chicago, 2003. A detailed study of Cakra-
presses a Buddhist awareness that one of their more impor-
samvara art and iconography.
tant textual and ritual traditions shared more than superficial
Mullin, Glenn. Tsongkhapa’s Six Yogas of Naropa. Ithaca, N.Y.,
similarity with those upheld by rival Hindu groups.
1996. A translation of Tsongkhapa’s commentary on a tradi-
By far the most important ritual element of the Cakra-
tion of yoga closely associated with the Cakrasamvara.
samvara tradition is its man:d:ala. It is called the Three
Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Bud-
Wheeled, or tricakra, because its primary structural element
dhism. Princeton, N.J., 1994. A study of the role of women
is three wheels or concentric circles that are correlated both
in Buddhist Yogin¯ı Tantra traditions.
to the Triple World, or trailokya, of ancient Indian cosmolo-
gy (that is, the heavens, earth, and underworlds) and to the
DAVID B. GRAY (2005)
three Buddhist psychophysical realms of body, speech, and
mind. At the center of man:d:ala, in a palace atop the cosmic
mountain, is S´r¯ıheruka and Vajrava¯ra¯h¯ı in sexual embrace,
CAKRAVARTIN is a Sanskrit noun referring to an ideal
surrounded by the Four Essence Yogin¯ıs, Da¯kin¯ı, La¯ma¯,
universal king who rules ethically and benevolently over the
Khan:d:aroha¯ and Ru¯pin:¯ı. They are in turn surrounded by
entire world. Derived from the Sanskrit cakra, “wheel,” and
the Three Wheels, three concentric Mind, Speech, and Body
vartin, “one who turns,” the term cakravartin (Pali, cakkavat-
wheels, each of which has eight pairs of deities in sexual em-
ti) in classical Hindu texts signifies that all-powerful mon-
brace, for a total of twenty-four couples, corresponding to
arch “whose chariot wheels turn freely” or “whose travels are
the sacred sites. At the periphery of the wheels are eight fierce
unobstructed.” Such a ruler’s unsurpassed and virtuous rule
goddesses, who guard the man:d:ala’s gates and corners. This
is described as sarvabhauma; it pertains to all creatures every-
brings the total number of deities to sixty-two, thirty-seven
where. Buddhist and Jain literatures describe their enlight-
of which are female. Lastly, artistic depictions of the man:d:ala
ened founders (the Buddha or Buddhas and the t¯ırthan˙karas,
usually show it as surrounded by the “eight great charnel
respectively) in similar terms, the notion being that religious
grounds,” inhabited by fearsome beasts and evil spirits.
truth transcends local or national limitations and applies to
This man:d:ala has been deployed in several important
all people everywhere. This idea is particularly evident in
ways. It has been remapped across the Kathmandu Valley
Buddhist oral and scriptural traditions, which frequently
and Tibet, where many of the sites associated with the
refer to Gautama as a cakrava¯la cakravartin, an illuminator
man:d:ala continue to be important pilgrimage places. Addi-
of dharma (life in adherence to compassionate truth) in all
tionally, it is also mapped onto the human body, with the
regions of the world. From the symbol of the turning wheel,
pilgrimage sites and associated deities linked to various parts
a sign of universal sovereignty, comes the description of the
of of the body. In the contemplative “body man:d:ala” prac-
Buddha as dharmacakrapravartayati, “he who sets the wheel
tice, the adept visualizes the man:d:ala within her or his body,
of law in motion,” and thus the name of his first sermon,
which is seen as a microcosmic version of the universe in its
Dharmacakrapravartana Su¯tra (Pali, Dhammacakkappavat-
ideal form, as the pure abode of the man:d:ala deities. These
tana Sutta; The su¯tra on the turning forth of the wheel of
practices helped ensure the successful transmission of the
dharma), in which the Buddha presents his insights into the
Cakrasamvara tradition to Nepal, Tibet, and Mongolia,
Four Noble Truths. After his death in 480 BCE, Gautama’s
where it is still practiced today.
followers cremated his body and enshrined his relics in a
stupa, just as they would have done with a universal mon-
Davidson, Ronald. “Reflections on the Mahe´svara Subjugation
Myth: Indic Materials, Sa-skya-pa Apologetics, and the Birth
general South Asian notion that the king was to have exten-
of Heruka.” Journal of the International Association of Bud-
dhist Studies
14, no. 2 (1991): 197–235. An analysis of Bud-
sive rule dates at least as far back as the high Vedic era (1200–
dhist myths of the conversion of Hindu deities.
800 BCE) and possibly to the centuries preceding. The Vedic
Davidson, Ronald. Indian Esoteric Buddhism. New York, 2002.
ritual coronation of the king (Ra¯jasu¯ya), for example, was
An overview of the history of esoteric Buddhism in India,
preceded by a ceremony in which a wild stallion was left to
with a useful discussion of the Cakrasamvara sacred sites and
wander at will throughout the land for an entire year, at
their relation to rival Hindu groups.
which time it was sacrificed in the important rite known as
Dawa-Samdup, Kazi, ed. S´ri-Cakra´samvara-Tantra: A Buddhist
the A´svamedha, and all of the territory it had covered in that
Tantra. Calcutta, 1919; reprint, New Delhi, 1987. Not a
year was held to be the king’s domain. The actual term cakra-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

vartin was known in the late fifth and early fourth centuries
the cakrava¯la cakravartin with which the Buddha’s religious
BCE by the compilers of the Maitri Upanis:ad, who used the
supremacy is compared.
noun when listing the names of several kings who had re-
nounced their royal prerogatives in favor of the life of ascetic
source of the image of the king as a cakravartin is not to be
contemplation (Maitri Upanis:ad 1.4).
found, however, in its political history. Rather, it is the pow-
Direct discussions of the cakravartin as an imperial ideal
erful and evocative South Asian mythic and religious themes
appear as early as Kaut:ilya’s Artha S´a¯stra (c. 300
regarding the cakravartin with which various kings identi-
BCE), a court
manual of polity, diplomacy, economy, and social behavior.
fied. According to South Asian sovereign myths (many of
In his descriptions of the range of an emperor’s influence
which suggest a solar origin), the cakravartin—here, a para-
(cakravarti-k´setra), Kaut:ilya notes that the king should un-
digmatic figure—while deep in meditation sees a peaceful
dertake any task he feels will bring him and his people pros-
and pleasantly glowing wheel (cakra) turning slowly in the
perity and that he should have power “from the Himalayas
sky above him. Knowing this wheel to be a call to unify all
to the ocean.” Kaut:ilya may have had in mind the prestige
peoples, the king leads his armies out in all directions to the
and hopes of the first Mauryan king, Candragupta, who
farthest horizons, all the way to the universal ring of moun-
reigned from about 321 to 297
tains (cakrava¯la) that lie beyond the oceans and that mark
BCE and whom Kaut:ilya re-
portedly served as chief minister. Candragupta was perhaps
the final edge of the concentric world. Guided by the celestial
the first ruler to unify all of the lands from the shores of
wheel, and borne upon the atmosphere by flying white ele-
the southern tip of India to the Himalayas in the north and
phants and horses, he ends all strife and suffering as he brings
the Kabul Valley in the northwest. Edicts and other lessons
all people everywhere under his virtuous rule. Thus,
inscribed on pillars and cliffs describe the last Mauryan king,
cakrava¯lacakravart¯ı cakram vartayati: the universal monarch
A´soka (d. 238
turns the wheel of righteousness throughout the whole
BCE?) as a cakravartin under whose patronage
the Buddhist Dharma spread throughout South and South-
east Asia. Chroniclers in the courts of the S´a¯tava¯hana emper-
The mythic cakravartin, therefore, was a ruler in whose
ors (first to second centuries CE) similarly defined their king-
virtue and strength all people, regardless of their homeland,
doms as that world extending from the eastern, southern,
could find guidance. He was a pacifying leader whose power
and western oceans to the mountains. The Guptas, too,
was embodied in his unifying skills. Hence it may be no co-
viewed themselves as the rulers of empires. Skandha Gupta
incidence that the religious traditions in which the cakravar-
I, who reigned from 455 to 467 CE, for example, is depicted
tin is given the most prestige revolve around the ideologies
in the Janagadh inscriptions (dated mid-fifth century CE) as
and aspirations of the ks:atriya class of Indian society, that
a leader whose rule was the entire earth bounded by the four
group who were to protect society, serve as its soldiers, rule
oceans and within which thrive several smaller countries.
its courts, and sit on its thrones. For some ks:atriya communi-
The Western Ca¯l:lukyas (sixth to eighth and tenth to twelfth
ties, as, for example, those represented by the epics
centuries) described themselves as the emperors of the lands
Maha¯bha¯rata and Ra¯ma¯ya¯n:a (c. 300 CE), the most appropri-
between the three seas, while the Vijayanagara rulers (four-
ate person to become a universal monarch was somebody
teenth to seventeenth centuries) labeled themselves the mas-
who already was a king, someone who could extend his rule
ters of the eastern, western, southern, and northern seas.
through martial and diplomatic skill.
Thus the South Asian political imagination up to the
Even for some ks:atriya traditions, however, the true
seventeenth century generally included the ideal of a unified
cakravartin renounces the political life of the secular king and
rule, and various kings have identified themselves as univer-
guides the people through the power of his spiritual virtue.
sal monarchs: hence the common royal titles samra¯j
Such is the case for the early Jain and, particularly, Buddhist
(“supreme monarch,” i.e., the one who rules over all princes
communities, whose histories of their founders suggest the
and principalities), ra¯ja¯dhira¯ja (“king above kings”), ekara¯ja
notion that to them religious truth is more powerful and uni-
(“the only king”), parama-bhat:t:a¯rka (“most venerable lord”),
versal than political prestige. According to both Jain and
disampati (“lord of the lands”), and digvijayin (“conqueror
Buddhist literatures, both Vardhama¯na Maha¯v¯ıra (the most
of the regions”).
recent of the twenty-four Jain t¯ırtham:karas) and Siddha¯rtha
Gautama (the Buddha) were born into powerful royal fami-
Buddhist and Jain literatures have distinguished three
lies, both displayed the characteristic physical signs of a
types of cakravartin. A prade´sa cakravartin is a monarch who
maha¯purus:a (“great man”), and thus were certain to become
leads the people of a specific region and may be thought of
secular cakravartins. Both traditions further maintain that
as a local king. A dv¯ıipa cakravartin governs all of the people
their founders, however, chose not to enjoy the political
of any one of the four continents (dv¯ıipas, literally “islands”)
power and privileges incumbent on the universal monarch
posited by ancient Indian cosmologies and is, accordingly,
but, rather, to seek understanding of the deepest dimensions
more powerful in the secular realm than the prade´sa cakra-
of existence itself and—especially in the case of the Bud-
vartin. Superior even to a dv¯ıipa cakravartin, however, is the
dha—to teach that understanding to all.
cakrava¯la cakravartin, the monarch who rules over all of the
continents of the world. It is the political paramountcy of
SEE ALSO Kingship, article on Kingship in East Asia.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

scriptions are not satisfactorily situated against the back-
Readers interested in the history of imperial rule in India may con-
ground of the cultures in question, but are treated as if they
sult any of a number of good works on the history of India.
are solely concerned with chronology and astronomy.
A good, if relatively short, reference is An Advanced History
of India
(London, 1948), by Ramesh Chandra Majumdar
The sacral aspect of the question has, however, been dis-
and others. For more thorough studies by various respected
cussed in the subsequent scientific literature, in which the
historians, see The History and Culture of the Indian People,
specialists are divided into two opposing camps: those who
11 vols., under the general editorship of Ramesh Chandra
believe the calendar originated as a secular phenomenon
Majumdar (Bombay, 1951–1969): see especially volume 2,
purely utilitarian in its purposes (a view accepted by the ma-
The Age of Imperial Unity; volume 3, The Classical Age,
jority of scholars), and those who believe it was originally a
pp. 1–360; volume 4, The Age of the Imperial Kanauj; and
religious institution (Ernst Cassirer, Martin P. Nilsson,
volume 5, The Struggle for Empire. A more impressionistic
Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss, Gerardus van der Leeuw,
depiction of the cakravartin ideal is found in Heinrich Zim-
Mircea Eliade, and others). Less common are harmonizing
mer’s Philosophies of India, edited by Joseph Campbell, “Bol-
lingen Foundation Series,” no. 26 (1951; reprint, Princeton,
positions such as that of Bronislaw Malinowski, who in an
1969), pp. 127–139. Finally, for an example of the cakravar-
article on the calendar of the Trobriand Islanders (Journal of
tin ideal as expressed in religious myth, see Frank E. Rey-
the Anthropological Institute 57, 1927, pp. 203ff.), viewed
nolds and Mani Reynolds’s translation of a Thai Buddhist
systems for computing time as meeting both practical and
text, Three Worlds according to King Ruang (Berkeley, 1982),
sacral demands.
pp. 135–172.
Disagreement on the subject has been largely overcome
New Sources
since the publication of such works as Eliade’s Cosmos and
Bartholomeusz, Tessa J. “In Defense of Dharma: Just-war Ideolo-
History: The Myth of the Eternal Return (New York, 1954)
gy in Buddhist Sri Lanka.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 6
and Angelo Brelich’s Introduzione allo studio dei calendari fes-
tivi (Rome, 1955). The reality of periodicity in the world;
Collins, Steven. “The Lion’s Roar on the Wheel-Turning King:
the religious importance of this periodicity in helping to
A Response to Andrew Huxley’s ‘The Buddha and the Social
overcome the crisis that is coextensive with human existence
Contract.’” Journal of Indian Philosophy 24 (1996): 421–446.
(the duration of which is irreversible) by establishing fre-
Daalen, Leendert A van. “Zum Thema und zur Struktur von Vak-
quent contact with the sacred time proper to the feast or fes-
patis Gaudavaha: der Held als cakravartin.” Deutscher Orien-
tival (which is outside of ongoing duration); the parallelism
talistierung 8 (1994): 282–294.
between natural and sacral periodicity, both of which have
Harvey, Peter. An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics: Foundations,
as a constant a continual renewal in the same forms, so that
Values, and Issues. New York, 2000.
in even the most diverse civilizations the sacral periodicity
Huxley, Andrew. “The Buddha and the Social Contract.” Journal
provides an effective means of keeping a timely eye on the
of Indian Philosophy 24 (1996): 407–420.
natural periodicity—all these ideas are now well established
in our discipline. As a result, any modern work on any aspect
Revised Bibliography
of the vast complex of problems raised by calendars must
nowadays start with the acceptance of a concept that proves
to be constant across the most varied cultural contexts and
the most diverse calendrical forms and manifestations, name-
ly, that time is of interest not in and of itself and as a simple
This entry consists of the following articles:
fact of nature, but only as a dimension of life that can be sub-
mitted to cultural control.
Such control is very difficult to exercise over something
abstract, especially in social contexts still far from possessing
even rudimentary astronomical knowledge. Nevertheless, by
making use of a procedure now familiar to historians of reli-
The absence of a historical dimension and the scant attention
gion, the various civilizations managed to gain this kind of
paid to the religious aspect of the question are the most nota-
control. They did so especially by concretizing time, whether
ble limitations of the specialized literature on calendars dur-
this be understood in absolute terms or in relation to the var-
ing the nineteenth century and into the first decade of the
ious measurements (hours, days, months, years, etc.) that
twentieth century. Thus, such monumental works as L.
were gradually imposed on time, depending on the culture
Ideler’s Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen
in question.
Chronologie (Berlin, 1825–1826), F. Ginzel’s work of the
same title (Leipzig, 1906–1911), and even the entry “Calen-
Mythology makes clear how the chronological dimen-
dars” in James Hastings’s Encyclopaedia of Religion and Eth-
sion (especially if limited to the distinction and alternation
ics, vol. 3 (Edinburgh, 1910), although they provide indis-
of the light and dark times of the day, or to the lunar phases,
pensable information, amount to little more than
which are harmoniously ordered within the arc of the
unconnected descriptions of various calendars. These de-
month) can acquire such a material form in the minds 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

peoples under study that it becomes the subject of stories
ing the stars, did not merely give material form to that which
without causing the least disturbance in the civilizations in-
in and of itself would be simply the calculation of solstices
volved. It is told, for instance, that time was wrapped in
and equinoxes; he also carried this materialization to a higher
leaves (the Sulka of New Britain); enclosed in a bag (the Mic-
level by developing a calendar that was primarily a means of
mac of Nova Scotia); kept in a box (the Tlingit of the U.S.
binding the heavenly corps in its otherwise incoherent and
Northwest Coast) or a trunk (the Hausa of the Sudan) and
unusable movements. (But note, too, among the Aztecs, the
later taken out; extracted from the wattles of a fowl (the
“knot of years,” or xiuhmolpilli, a great cycle of fifty-two solar
Nandi of northeastern Africa); hidden and found (the Pomo
revolutions subdivided into four periods of thirteen years
of California); hung up (the northern Paiute of Nevada);
that were described as “knotted together,” thalpilli.) The
hoisted up to heaven (the Pomo; the Aleut of Alaska);
magistrate in ancient Rome who was in charge of the ritual
pierced by arrows (the Caddo of eastern Texas); or cut up
hammering in of the clavus annalis (“nail of the year”) on the
with an obsidian knife (natives of Mota in Melanesia). In
Ides of September (which was New Year’s Day in one of the
each case, time is looked upon not only as something very
many Roman calendrical systems) thereby not only turned
concrete but also and especially as something capable of
time from an abstraction into something that could be
being handled at will.
pinned down but also compelled it to remain, from one Sep-
tember to the next, within the limits of the solar year.
Meanwhile the concrete treatment of time was strength-
ening this tendency toward materialization of the chronolog-
It is possible to view in a similar perspective those who,
ical sphere, for the latter was being treated in such a way as
in civilizations already familiar with writing, either ideally or
to acquire an ideal spatial coherence. As a macroscopic exam-
in actual fact superintended the compilation of calendars,
ple, one can cite the persistent attempts to identify time with
and this specifically in the form of inscriptions. In this case
space, both in language and in the calendar, by the primitive
the concretization of time was accomplished either by bind-
cultures of North America—a tendency also found at a
ing the dimension of time to stones and/or metals, which
higher cultural level in the Aztec calendar, and in the Indo-
were moved about or incised to this end, or by imprisoning
European area as well (Müller, 1967). In addition, a real spa-
it in the no less constraining nets of the various graphic
tiotemporal dimension is found in Roman religion, where
forms. Evidence here is the widespread use in the ancient
close, complex, and functional relations are discernible in the
Near East of the alphabet as a calendrical memorandum as
mythological tradition and in cult, as well as in the calendri-
early as the second millennium BCE (Bausani, 1978), as well
cal linking of the two, between time and Terminus (the sym-
as the example, cited above, of the clavus annalis, which in
bol of boundaries and, at the same time, a divinity in charge
early Rome was regarded both as a palpable sign of the year
of the juridical, political, and sacral aspect of territory).
and as a functional “writing” of a chronologico-juridical kind
Moreover, the projection of a cosmic framework on the lay-
at a time when few people could read the symbols of the al-
out of the circus, and this in such a detailed form (with the
aid of a rich set of symbols) as to make the circus a universe
in miniature, automatically transformed the chariot races in
The key role played by human beings in these opera-
the arena into the course of the sun through the arc of the
tions whereby time is concretized and straitjacketed (espe-
cially within the compass of, and for the purposes of drafting,
calendrical systems that are more or less developed according
Thus, it can be a rather short step from the concretiza-
to cultural level and social demands) is such that, in case of
tion of time to its material embodiment. The example just
need, the materialization of time can be further specified by
given shows how, while the spectator at the circus (which is
giving it human traits in the true and proper sense. This spec-
assimilated to the vault of heaven) feels himself to be witness-
ification may be limited to introducing into the calendar the
ing the calendrical rotation of the sun, the charioteer is a di-
physiological rhythms of those who are the protagonists of
rect protagonist in this drama as he drives his chariot.
time. This is seen in the assimilation, widespread and found
in the most diverse cultures, of the lunar month of twenty-
Yet the title “protagonist of time” belongs with greater
eight days to the menstrual cycle of the same duration; or
justice to those who, through actions in which it is not easy
in the projection of the period of human gestation (260 days)
to distinguish the sacred and profane dimensions, do not
onto the identical time period of nine lunar revolutions, as
limit themselves to concretizing and materializing time but
in the Aztec tonalamatl or the Numan calendar at Rome.
also embody it in a true calendrical system. Thus the native
who in certain cultures uses knotted cords for computing
But this process of specification can also lead to a more
time does not simply concretize this dimension by pinning
or less concealed identification of a segment of time (located
it down to so many firmly fixed points of its otherwise limit-
within the calendar and thus describable in precise terms)
less and therefore uncontrollable extension but also defines
with a part or belonging of a person who usually enjoyed an
it in a calendrical manner that, though rudimentary, proves
important sociocultural and, in particular, religious status.
functional in relation to the needs of his society. The astron-
Thus, as a result of Islamic influence on the Cham of Cam-
omer in ancient Peru, who used stone columns called “tools
bodia, to give but one example, the first three days of every
for knotting the sun” (inti-huatana) as a position for observ-
lunar cycle are assimilated to the three favorite wives 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

Muh:ammad, and every year of the twelve-year cycle is equat-
of monarchic rule, which was constantly assimilated to the
ed with one of the Prophet’s members.
negativity of the period of origins, in order to make way for
a republic was traditionally dated by the Romans on the very
Finally, this process can even find expression in a per-
day, February 24, on which the intercalation usually began.
sonification of time in its various parts. Thus in Achaemenid
Iran the retinue of the magi seems to have usually comprised
A negative proof pointing in the same direction is the
365 young men dressed in red, one for each day of the year,
resistance to and even rejection of intercalation in those civi-
with the color symbolizing the lighted period of the day. At
lizations that most clearly show the assimilation of natural
Rome, on the Ides of March (New Year’s Day, according to
time to sacred time. Such rejection was preferred despite the
one of the many Roman calendrical systems), all the negative
inevitable practical nuisances it entailed—above all, discrep-
aspects of the old year were eliminated through the ritual ex-
ancy with the rhythm of the seasons. Two examples among
pulsion from the city of the mythical carpenter Mamurius
many can be cited. First, in ancient Egypt (which adopted
the practice of intercalation only in the Alexandrian period,
This kind of progressive, and in some cases even parox-
and then not without hindrances) an oath not to intercalate
ysmic, personification of time seems on closer examination
was taken by the pharaoh, who, in his capacity as the future
to be simply an expression of the persistent tendency to re-
Osiris and, therefore, an important participant in the field
create, on several distinct but complementary levels, the tem-
of action proper to the sun god Re, was probably reluctant
poral dimension that is so important at the human level, thus
to intervene in a dimension of reality that was projected in
asserting the priority of the unqualifiedly cultural essence of
its ideal form onto the sacral level. Second, Muh:ammad cate-
time over the mere natural fact of time.
gorically prohibited changing the number of the months,
which “Alla¯h ordained . . . when he created the heavens and
If, on the one hand, this cultural point of reference is
the earth” (su¯rah 9:36 of the QurDa¯n), and which “Alla¯h has
indispensable because it is linked to any latent or open calen-
sanctified” (su¯rah 9:37). Thus the Islamic lunar year, though
drical system, on the other hand such a system, whatever its
without any correspondence to the seasons, has proved sur-
character (heliacal rising of a constellation; blooming of a
prisingly functional for a religion now practiced in varying
species of plant; period of sowing and/or harvesting; migra-
latitudes. Such interventions in the course of time became
tion of animals; etc.), becomes by this very fact a field of ac-
even more drastic in the great calendrical reforms of Julius
tion for the cultural process, which immediately begins to act
Caesar (46 BCE) and Pope Gregory XIII (1582 CE).
therein in the form of well-defined and often massive inter-
ventions. In the case, widespread in both higher and primi-
This kind of attempt to reduce time to a cultural cre-
tive civilizations, of a discrepancy between the lunar and
ation is even more pronounced in those widespread cases in
solar years, for example, the intervention takes the form of
which the most varied means are used to emancipate time
an intercalation that makes up for the difference; in other
from natural phenomena on which calendrical computation
words, a portion of human, cultural time is inserted into the
is usually based and to replace these phenomena with others.
living body of natural time, which is computed on the basis
Thus, the Aztecs chose the duration of human gestation, and
of the revolution of the heavenly bodies.
not the Venusian year to which astronomy bears witness, as
the basis of the tonalamatl; the Egyptians based their calendar
The awareness that the intercalated period is the work
on the rising of Sirius (Sothis), “the second sun in the heav-
of man, and the conviction that, as such, it merits a privi-
ens,” and not on the true sun; while, in the most diverse
leged position are made manifest at various levels. This is
primitive cultures, it is the periodic return of the ancestors,
seen in the view that the year, having been thus manipulated,
regarded as dispensers of foodstuffs, and not the particular
is now complete as compared with nature’s presumably de-
seasonal moment that gives a specific economic meaning to
fective version of it, whence the designation—prevalent
the great New Year festival. Comparable motivations proba-
among various primitive peoples, but also found in Mesopo-
bly explain the otherwise incomprehensible perseverance, on
tamia, Rome, and China—of the year or month as “full” or
the part of the most varied types of civilization, in adopting
“empty.” It is seen too in the systematic insertion of such in-
lunisolar calendars and continuing to use them right down
tercalated periods immediately after moments in the calendar
to the present day, despite such problems as the discrepancy
that sanctioned human control over the world of nature: at
between festive complex and seasonal moment, the conse-
Rome, for example, the intercalation came immediately after
quent necessity of intercalating, and so on. It is as though
the celebration of Terminalia, a festival that appealed to
this very difference of a few days or parts of a day represents
mythical time in order to give sacral confirmation to the cul-
a kind of margin of security for man, who thus has leeway
tural definition of space. Further evidence is found in the
to act on natural time instead of passively enduring it.
tendency to locate during the intercalated period those
events that were of capital importance for the particular civi-
This desire to be actors rather than spectators in the de-
lization and that evidently could not be left to the blind and
velopment of calendrical time is even more evident in those
irrational course of nature’s time, precisely because these
systems in which, by highly artificial means, months are es-
events were due in the maximum degree to the human will
tablished whose duration is identical with or superior to the
and creativity. A prime example: the definitive liquidation
lunar month, and in which a short period is set apart 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

defined in a special way, independent of the features this pe-
entrusting of calendar reform in China in 1629 to the Jesuits,
riod may assume from time to time in any other culture. By
and the adoption of the Gregorian calendar as the only valid
way of example, we may think of the five “supernumerary”
one for civil purposes by the republican government of
(nemontemi) days that the Aztecs set apart at the end of the
China in 1930; the acceptance by Japan in 1684 of the Chi-
360-day year, considering them to be nefasti (taboo) and un-
nese calendar as reformed by the Jesuits and then in 1873
suited for work of any kind; or, in the Egyptian calendar, of
of the Gregorian calendar; and the adoption of the Gregorian
the epagomenai (“superadded”) days that did not conclude
calendar by Russia after the October Revolution in 1917 and
the old year, as might have been expected, but were a prelude
by various primitive peoples as they gradually accepted the
to the new year, a kind of “little month” directly linked to
lifestyles of the Western civilizations. Finally, there is the ten-
the mythical time in which the gods were born. Similarly,
dency, which practical considerations and economic reasons
in the Zoroastrian religion the “days of the Ga¯tha¯s” were
have made stronger than ever in our day, to create a universal
added to the end of the year; on these days, the celebrants,
and perpetual calendar that is binding on all. Such a calendar
assuming the title of Saoshyant (“rescuers”), participated rit-
would be supremely artificial, since it seeks to be as indepen-
ually as protagonists in the renewal of the world. Along the
dent as possible of natural rhythms, but for that very reason
same line, but at a more advanced level, is the creation of
would transcend the various cultures.
units of time comprising several or more days, months, years,
SEE ALSO Chronology; Sacred Time.
centuries, or even millennia, which apparently, at least, are
independent of the rhythms of nature. Examples include the
very widespread seven-day week (already used in Mesopota-
mia); the cycles of three days and three, seven, and thirty
The extensive bibliography of scientific writing on the subject has
years among the Celts; the seven-year period, the jubilee, and
been brought together and discussed splendidly by Angelo
Brelich in his Introduzione allo studio dei calendari festivi, 2
the groups of seven-year periods among the Hebrews; the
vols. in 1 (Rome, 1955). The reader is also referred to this
octaet¯eris or eight-year period of the Greeks; the Aztec xiuh-
work for the historico-religious approach to calendrical prob-
molpilli; and the Indian kalpa.
lems. Festive time in relation to the New Year is extensively
discussed and documented in Vittorio Lanternari’s La grande
But perhaps the most radical humanization of the chro-
festa, 2d ed. (Bari, 1976). On the concretization of time at
nological dimension (the one in which the cultural interven-
various levels, compare the following works: Werner Müller’s
tion into nature is the most extensive, and the dependence
“Raum und Zeit in Sprachen und Kalendern Nordamerikas
on nature for the computation of time is reduced to a mini-
und Alteuropas,” Anthropos 57 (1962): 568–590, 68 (1973):
mum that is obscured and even deliberately ignored) is found
156–180, 74 (1979): 443–464, 77 (1982): 533–558; Hugh
in cases in which the historical situation determines and de-
A. Moran and David H. Kelly’s The Alphabet and the Ancient
fines the calendar. We may pass over those restructurings
Calendar Signs, 2d ed. (Palo Alto, Calif., 1969); Alessandro
that are promoted or imposed on time by important politi-
Bausani’s “L’alfabeto come calendario arcaico,” Oriens An-
cians (i.e., the aforementioned Julian reform). In some civili-
tiquus (Rome) 17 (1978): 131–146; J. H. Scharf’s “Time and
zations, the personal name of the ruler was given to the cur-
Language,” Gegenbaurs morphologisches Jahrbuch 128 (1982):
257–289; and Ulrich Köhler’s “Räumliche und zeitliche
rent year (eponymy among the Assyrians and in the classical
Bezugspunkte in mesoamerikanischen Konzepten vom
world, the “regnal name” in prerevolutionary China), or
Mondzyklus,” Indiana 7 (1982): 23–42. Also compare my
events of capital importance led to a complete resystematiza-
Elementi spettacolari nei rituali festivi romani (Rome, 1965);
tion of the calendrical pattern, the beginning, rhythm, and
Terminus: I segni di confine nella religione romana (Rome,
shape of which, though in substance inevitably following tra-
1974); and “La scrittura coercitiva,” Cultura e scuola 85
ditional lines, had to be at least formally determined by the
(1983): 117–124. Raffaele Pettazzoni treats the primitive
new order of things. The prime example here is the French
myths on the origin of time and provides a bibliography in
revolutionary calendar, which, though it started at a particu-
his Miti e leggende, 4 vols. (Turin, 1948–1963). Alexander
lar equinox, numbered 365 days, needed periodic intercala-
Marshak discusses Paleolithic systems of noting time in The
Roots of Civilization: The Cognitive Beginnings of Man’s First

tion, and linked the new names of the months with seasonal
Art, Symbol, and Notation (New York, 1972). While Mar-
motifs, nonetheless presented new features: a beginning
shak’s views are somewhat controversial, they have been
(September 22) that officially coincided not with the autumn
widely discussed.
equinox but with the inauguration of the republic (Septem-
ber 22, 1792); the abolition of the seven-day week in favor
Translated from Italian by Matthew J. O’Connell
of the decade or ten-day week; the elimination of feasts; and
the nonetheless festive solemnization of five or six days (sig-
nificantly called sans-culottides) added at the end of the year
as a definitive break with Christian worship.
In connection with the historicization of time, one may
In 1555 Bishop Diego de Landa wrote:
also consider such phenomena as the adoption of calendrical
The natives of Yucatan were as attentive to the matters
systems belonging to other civilizations, as, for instance, the
of religion as to those of government and they had 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

high priest whom they called Ah Kin (Daykeeper) Mai
Unique in the world, the number 260 served as the base
. . . . He was very much respected by the lords . . .
of practically every Mesoamerican calendar that has survived.
and his sons or nearest relatives succeeded him in office.
Its origin is debatable, but there can be no question that one
In him was the key of their learning . . . . They pro-
of its factors, the number twenty, was derived from the num-
vided priests for the towns when they were needed, ex-
ber of fingers and toes on the body. The other factor, the
amining them in the sciences . . . and they employed
number thirteen, represents the number of layers in the
themselves in the duties of the temples and in teaching
Maya heaven. Beyond this, however, it seems that the human
them their sciences as well as in writing books about
body can be further implicated in the origin of the tzolkin.
them . . . . The sciences which they taught were the
The average duration between human conception and birth
computation of the years, months and days, the festivals
and ceremonies, the administration of the sacraments,
is close to 260 days (on average 266). Modern Maya women
the fateful days and seasons, their methods of devotion
in highland Guatemala still associate this sacred count with
and their prophecies. (Tozzer, 1941, p. 27)
the term of pregnancy. The tzolkin also turns out to be a con-
venient approximation to the length of the basic agricultural
When he wrote those words, Bishop Diego de Landa correct-
season in many areas of southern Mexico, where it probably
ly perceived the extraordinary attention paid time and calen-
dar by the Maya of Yucatán even several centuries after their
classical heyday. It is likely that these Ah Kin were among
Celestial phenomena are also implicated in establishing
the elite of Maya culture. One eighth-century scribe from the
Mesoamerica’s fundamental time pillar. Nine moons (about
city of Copán received a royal burial. His remains were found
265 days) represent the 9 “bloods” taken away by the moon
elaborately laid out, ink pots, brushes, and all, next to the
from pregnant women to give lives to their newborn. Lunar
ruler he served. Though his trappings seem far more modest
and solar eclipses occur at seasonal intervals commensurate
in comparison to those of his precontact predecessor, the
with the tzolkin in the ratio of 2 to 3 (3 times the “eclipse
modern Maya day keeper is still one of the most important
year” of 173.5 days nearly equals 2 times 260 days). Thus
and highly regarded members of society. Seated at a cardinal-
the ancient astrologer could easily warn of certain days vul-
ly oriented table adorned with bowls of incense and lighted
nerable to the occurrence of an eclipse. The planet Venus,
candles, he arranges piles of seeds and crystals drawn from
the patron star of war in Teotihuacán (the ancient city of
his divining bag in an attempt to “borrow from the days” the
highland Mexico built around 100 BCE), was also revered by
answers to questions posed by his clients: Will I be cured of
the Maya at a time when the New World’s most precise cal-
the disease that plagues me? Will my daughter’s marriage be
endar was being developed. The duration of its appearance
successfully consummated? Will my crop tide the family over
as morning star averages 263 days—again close to a tzolkin.
this year?
And if all these harmonies were not enough, in southernmost
Mesoamerican latitudes the year is divisible into periods of
BASIC CALENDRICAL UNITS. For the Maya a single word,
260 and 105 days by the (2) days in the annual calendar
kin, signified time, day, and sun. In both meaning and
when the sun passes overhead.
glyphic form it suggests that the art of timekeeping was inti-
mately connected with the practice of astronomy. The direc-
Mesoamerican people were further cognizant of the sea-
tions of the petals of the floral design that makes up the kin
sonal year. Abhorring fractions, the Maya measured their
glyph likely correspond to the extreme positions of the sun
year, or haab (Aztec, xiuhmolpilli), at 365 days. They divided
the year into eighteen months, each of which was twenty
along the horizon. Cosmograms also exemplify the space-
days in length, with a concluding five-day month (an un-
related time system employed by most ancient Mesoameri-
lucky period thought to reside outside the year). Eschewing
can cultures. Found on both pre-Columbian and colonial
leap years, ancient Mesoamericans easily kept track of the an-
documents, these diagrams can be thought of as exercises in
niversary of the tropical year within the haab.
temporal completion. For example, page one of the Féjér-
vary-Mayer Codex from highland Mexico consists of a quad-
Cycle building emerges as a central theme of Me-
ripartite glyph in the shape of a Maltese cross. Carefully posi-
soamerican calendrics. The strategy seems to have accumu-
tioned within the symmetric floral design are all the things
lated small cycles to make bigger and bigger ones. One of the
that belong to each of the four sides of space: gods, plants,
larger cycles was the calendar round, a period of 52 years
trees, birds, even parts of the body; moreover the four direc-
consisting of 18,980 days, the lowest common multiple of
tions are color coded. But time is also spatially divided, each
the tzolkin and the haab (52 x 365 = 73 x 260). This time
region of the world being assigned its share of the twenty
loop thus records the interval over which name and number
days of the Aztec week. The so-called year bearers, the names
combinations in both cycles repeat themselves. Perhaps not
of successive New Year’s Days, are placed one at each of the
coincidentally, it is also about equal to the length of a full
tips of the cross. Circumscribing the world is the ultimate
human life. The completion of a calendar round was quite
Mesoamerican number for time: 260 dots, one to each day,
a momentous occasion. Spanish chronicles record that Aztec
arrayed in 20 units of 13. These 260 days make up the Maya
priests timed this “year binding” event by proceeding to a
tzolkin (called by the Aztecs tonalpohualli), a ritual calendar
special place outside ancient Mexico City called the Hill of
known as the “count of the days.”
the Star. There they carefully watched the Pleiades to see
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

whether they would pass the zenith. If they did, it would be
twentieth century there had been considerable disagreement
a sign from the gods that time would not come to an end.
about just how to do this. According to the most widely ac-
Instead, a new era would be granted to humanity.
cepted scheme, the so-called Goodman-Martinez-
Thompson correlation, the zero point of the most recent
To judge by the archaeological and epigraphic evidence,
starting position of the long count was August 12, 3114 BCE,
Maya mathematics was almost exclusively devoted to day
a date on which astronomers have found no momentous ce-
keeping. About half a millennium before the beginning of
lestial event to have occurred. The next cyclic overturn will
the common era a system of numeration developed in south-
take place on December 8, 2012.
ern Mesoamerica. It probably emanated about 600 BCE from
the region of Monte Albán, Oaxaca, but was not without
CALENDARS AND CREATION. The concept of successive cre-
Olmec antecedents from the Gulf Coast. The Maya em-
ation-destruction cycles is central to understanding Me-
ployed only three symbols to produce numbers written in the
soamerican timekeeping. For example, despite the terrifying
hundreds of millions: a dot was equivalent to one, and a hori-
effigy at its center, the famous Aztec Sun Stone provides a
zontal bar (uniquely Maya) was equivalent to five, whereas
pictorial narrative of a cyclic cosmogony in which people
a variety of symbols represented zero. Each of these symbols
play an active role. Tonatiuh, the sun god, a flint knife de-
likely derived from hand gestures.
picting his lolling tongue, grips the firmament with his claws.
He cries out for the blood of human sacrificial hearts that
Unlike its Western counterpart, the Maya zero repre-
he may keep the world in motion. The four panels that sur-
sented completeness rather than emptiness. Temporally it
round Tonatiuh represent previous ages, or “suns,” as the Az-
was regarded as the moment of completion of a cycle, as in
tecs called them. The first cosmogonic epoch (upper right)
the turning of a chain of nines to zeroes on the odometer of
was the “Sun of Jaguar,” named after the day “4 Jaguar” in
an automobile at the conclusion of a large-distance unit trav-
the 260-day cycle on which it terminated (the head of the
eled. A seashell often represented the Maya zero, perhaps be-
jaguar is surrounded by 4 dots within the panel). During this
cause its roundness was intended to depict the closed, cyclic
epoch the inhabitants of the earth, the result of the gods’ first
nature of time. The grasping hand, which like a knot ties up
try at a creation, were giants who dwelled in caves. But they
or bundles the days and years together into completed pack-
did not till the soil as expected, and so the gods sent jaguars
ages, also serves as a zero in many of the inscriptions. The
to eat them. In the second sun, the “Sun of Wind,” symbol-
dot and bar numerals probably derived from the tips of the
ized by the day “4 Wind” (upper left), another less than per-
fingers and the extended hand respectively. The Maya ex-
fect human race was blown away by the wind. The gods
pressed large time intervals in a notational system utilizing
transformed these creatures into apes that they might better
place values, quite like the Arabic system, which was devel-
cling to the world, an act said to account for the similarity
oped independently in the Middle East after the fall of the
between apes and people. In the third creation, the “Sun of
Roman Empire.
Fire-rain” (the symbol of “4 Rain” is at the lower left), some
STRUCTURING DEEP TIME. Just as it is part of human nature
people were permitted to survive by being transformed into
to cling to life, many societies attempt to extend their power,
birds to escape from the destruction of the world by volcanic
lineage, and legacy. Hierarchically organized societies are in
eruptions. The fourth creation, the “Sun of Water,” depicted
the best position to do this. Often they bureaucratize time,
at the lower right, ended with a flood that followed torrential
giving it a deep structure that goes beyond the immediate
downpours. But this time a transformation from people into
confines of remembered generational experience. The Maya
fish kept the people from perishing entirely. The symbol “4
utilized their mathematical system to create history. They ac-
Water” marks this epoch. The Aztecs believed they existed
cumulated years to make scores of years. Heaping score upon
in the “fifth sun,” of which the symbolic date “4 Movement”
score was a logical extension of their vigesimal (base twenty)
houses the effigy of Tonatiuh and the other four ages. (The
system. The “long count” is a five-digit tally that marks an
four large dots of this day sign’s coefficient are easily recog-
event in lapsed time from the most recent creation. One
nizable on the periphery of the four panels that denote the
finds most long counts carved on stelae dating from 100 BCE
previous suns.) According to most Mesoamerican cosmogon-
to 900 CE. These display the effigy of a ruler, usually in full
ies, the universe was destroyed and re-created anew, each age
regalia, accompanied by a hieroglyphic text that details his
providing an explanatory temporal framework in which to
or her ancestral history, described in terms of the intervals
categorize different forms of life and to relate them to the
between seminal events (birth, accession, conquests, mar-
present human condition.
riage, death). To add depth and historical permanence, the
Two distinct points about Mesoamerican concepts of
dating of these events often seems to have been contrived to
time emerge in such creation stories. First is the oscillating,
fit with repeatable cosmic time markers, such as the reap-
repetitive nature of the events taking place. Previous suns
pearance of Venus as morning star, eclipses, and solstices.
were thought to have been creative ventures that failed to
To obtain the equivalent in the Gregorian calendar of
achieve the necessary delicate balance between gods and peo-
any long count date appearing in the Maya inscriptions, one
ple. Creation time repeats itself, but it is punctuated by peri-
must be able to match with certainty at least one long count
ods of destruction. Second, each present contains a piece of
date with a date in the Gregorian calendar. Until the late
the past. Each attempt at creation tries to account 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

present state of humankind by referring to what remains in
Monuments such as Stela D attribute the completed
the world. Fish and birds are really human kin, the failed
cycle of time to the ruler and his dynasty. Stela D gives time
children from archaic creations. People were not destined to
a name and proclaims it to belong to the ruler, who is as-
dominate them, as Old Testament Genesis requires. Rather,
signed various other titles that connect him to his otherworld
people must revere them, for nature is part of people.
ancestors. The side opposite the numbers leaves no doubt
that it is the ruler who is being exalted. Dates of his accession,
According to the Aztec chronicles, the gods made sacri-
marriage, and victories in battle adorn the glyphic text. So
fices in order to bring about the world in its present condi-
tion. They performed these sacrifices at the ancient pyramids
high is the relief on the monument that the ruler seems al-
of Teotihuacán when, in the aftermath of a struggle among
most to emerge from the cut stone, appearing larger than life,
themselves, one of their number sacrificed himself to the cer-
fully garbed with ritual paraphernalia in hand. He wears an
emonial fire, thus promising to become the first rising sun.
enormous headdress and facial mask, his bloodletting instru-
Such stories have a Darwinian ring to them: life is a struggle
ments draped from his loincloth. Perhaps the ruler himself
filled with key transitory moments. But unlike the Western
once stood before the citizenry in front of his monument
view, theirs was a cosmology with a purpose. Human action,
performing the rite of genital bloodletting with the spine of
in this case blood sacrifice to the gods, was necessary to ex-
a stingray to seal his bond with his ancestors. Here was a
tend the fifth or present epoch. It mediated the balance of
demonstration of the continuity of dynastic rulership that
violent forces that might erupt as they still do in the fragile
also guaranteed the continuity of time.
highland environment. After all since the gods sacrificed
Two seminal qualities of the Maya concept of time from
themselves for people, it is only reasonable that people
the dynastic histories comprise these time capsules wrought
should offer sacrifice as payment of the debt to them.
in stone. First, one has the sense that, whereas the arrow of
CARRYING THE BURDEN OF TIME. Perhaps no monumental
time points toward the future, it is pushed from behind rath-
imagery better expresses the essence of Maya time than Stela
er than tugged forward, a stark contrast to the teleological
D of Copán. This larger than human-size monolith is dedi-
or purposive forward pull of time embedded in the Judeo-
cated to rituals conducted at the juncture of a series of impor-
Christian tradition. Circumstances in the past, even before
tant time cycles. Eight squared-off images carved in high re-
the creation of the world, had set the number gods on their
lief confront the eye at the top of the monument. Each
journey. It was those four events, enacted in the realm of the
depicts a humanoid figure carrying an animal that represents
ancestor gods, that determined the future course of human
a bundle of time. They employ tump lines, common devices
history, the creation of the lineage, the journey of the four
used by modern Maya peasants to carry a load of wood or
founders of modern Maya culture to the right place to build
a sack of citrus by tying one’s pack to a band that presses
the city. Their journey parallels in space the long arduous
tightly about the forehead, thus leaving the arms to swing
track along the road of time undertaken by the number gods
free and perform other tasks. Each porter is a full-figure
who bear their ponderous freight. The Popol Vuh, the sacred
glyph that represents a number. Thus the uppermost figure
book of creation of the Quiché Maya, states that the ancient
in the left block, number nine, is distinguishable by the
word is the potential and the source for all that is done in
markings on his youthful chin. He carries a heavy load of
the present world. “How should it be sown, how should it
baktuns of time, 144,000-day periods consisting of 20 x 20
dawn?” the gods ask themselves as they contemplate the cre-
x 360 days. The old god of number 15, shown in the upper-
ative act (D. Tedlock, 1985, p. 73). Events that took place
most right block, hauls katuns (scores of 360-day periods).
then, by the creators, the founders, the so-called mother-
Fully transliterated, the numbered portion of Stela D reads:
fathers, are responsible for setting time on its course toward
It was after the completion of nine baktuns, fifteen katuns,
the present.
five tuns (360 days), zero uinals (20 days), and zero kin, reck-
oned since creation day, that such-and-such an event took
A second seminal quality of Maya time inherent in the
place. Thus Stela D becomes the resting place of the numbers
monumental inscriptions is more difficult to grasp, especially
at the end of their long journey (lubay in Kekchi Maya), who
when contrasting it with the Western historical view of time,
finally let their burden fall 1,405,800 days (3,849 of our Gre-
which clearly separates human history (arrived at via the tes-
gorian years) after the last creation. Likewise katun prophe-
timony of people) from natural history determined from the
cies from postconquest texts repeatedly refer to time as a bur-
testimony of things, such as events in the sky, in the land-
den: “This is the removal of his burden . . . fire is his burden
scape, signs in plants and animals. Thus events in the history
. . . (In reference to the fifth katun)”; “On the day of the
of the dynasty are directly linked with cosmic events. For ex-
binding of the burden of Lord 5 Ahau.” Writes one chroni-
ample, many of the paramount happenings in the life of 18
cler, “According to what [the Indians] say [these four first
Rabbit (called Waxaklahun-Ubah-K’awil in modern orthog-
days] are those which take the road and bear the load of the
raphies), the name of the ruler depicted on Stela D, are tied
month, changing in time” (Thompson, 1950, pp. 59–61).
directly to the appearance of the planet Venus at key posi-
Time then appears as some sort of essence to be carried or
tions in the sky. This habit of creating a single frame for nat-
borne along the roadway of eternity, finally seated or brought
ural and human history is quite common across Mesoameri-
to rest at various stopping points.
ca. It is reflected especially vividly in the Aztec year annals
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

in which depictions of volcanic eruptions, eclipses, comets,
One usually finds in an almanac a calendar for each month
and shooting stars appear linked to victories in battle and the
that gives all the holidays. There is also astronomical infor-
deaths of emperors. Aztec history consists of like-in-kind
mation, such as sunrise, sunset, moon phase tables, and
events, both natural and civic-social, matched up repeatedly
eclipses for the year, coupled with meteorological informa-
over multiple fifty-two-year cycles of time.
tion and tide tables for major local harbors. Information con-
cerning weather predictions and the positions of the plane-
In many instances these astronomical events were regis-
tered in preferentially aligned calendrical, ceremonial archi-
tary bodies in the signs of the zodiac is also provided. Add
tecture. For example, Temple 22 at Copán possesses a slot-
to these data nonquantitative information on food recipes
like viewing chamber on its western facade that marks the
and proverbs and the modern almanac, updated and altered
appearance of Venus at the beginning of the rainy season.
slightly from year to year, becomes a handy compendium
Buildings that deviate from the prevailing grid structure and
that both amuses and instructs in practical matters and per-
buildings of unusual shape at Uxmal, Chichén Itzá, and
haps offers advice regarding personal behavior.
other sites also contain Venus alignments. Classic Maya sites
Maya almanacs feature many of these same aspects.
in the Petén rain forest include a number of solar “observato-
They contain both invocations and divinations that deal with
ries.” These specialized architectural assemblages consist of
the weather, agriculture, drilling fire with sticks, and disease
a pyramid on the west side of an open plaza that overlooks
and medicine in addition to the fates and ceremonies. Their
three smaller structures on the east. Viewed from the top of
purpose seems to have been to bring all celestial and human
the former, the sun rises over each of the latter on seminal
activities into the realm of the sacred almanac of 260 days.
dates of the year, for example, the solstices, the equinoxes,
As is the case in the monumental inscriptions, duration
and especially dates measured at multiples of twenty days
emerges as the support beam in the framework of Maya
from the passage of the sun across the zenith. In the high-
calendrics in the codices. Each phase seems to be based on
lands of Mexico the largest building in the Aztec capital, the
a perceived forward movement of time from an event located
Templo Mayor, was deliberately aligned with the sun at the
at the start of the text, to which “distance number” intervals
equinox. Such structures might better be conceived as “the-
are added. Every round of time in a Maya almanac begins
aters” than “observatories.” They are sacred places that offer
with a starting day name and number in the tzolkin. One
the appropriate setting for cosmically timed ritual.
then proceeds via black distance numbers to red dates, each
CALENDARS AND CODICES. In addition to the monuments,
accompanied by a picture and glyphic block that convey the
the books (misnamed “codices”) constitute a second major
appropriate debt payment and (usually) an accompanying
medium of information concerning Mesoamerican time and
omen. The participatory role of the Maya worshiper is also
calendars. But here the message is quite different. If the mon-
reflected in the content of the codices. The business of laying
umental inscriptions, related to a program of public display,
out the calendar that prescribes Maya ritual behavior must
were intended to exalt the rulers and legitimize their descent
have been complex. A multitude of offerings needed to be
from the gods, the content of the codices seems relatively eso-
made to the gods at the proper places and times when the
teric and private, consisting of omen-bearing texts to be read
gods of number dropped their loads, and the periods be-
only by high-status priests. Only four pre-Columbian codi-
tween ritual events surely were not arbitrary. Long thought
ces have survived. Their content, expressed in what have
to be endlessly cyclical in nature, many almanacs, studies
come to be called almanacs, is almost exclusively concerned
suggest, may have been fixed in real time. And like modern
with divinatory rituals cyclically timed in remarkable detail.
almanacs, they may have undergone repeated revision and re-
In a minority of cases the timings are based on astronomical
phenomena encoded in tables that might properly be called
ephemerides, even though their content is largely astro-
The most exquisitely complex and esoteric almanacs,
termed ephemerides, deal with precise astronomical predic-
tion. Known since its rudimentary elements were deciphered
The manifold ways the almanacs are laid out, challeng-
early in the twentieth century, the Venus table in the Dres-
ing the eye of the reader to dance about the page in order
den Codex chronicles the appearance and disappearance
to pursue a temporal journey, bespeak a playful intercourse
dates of that planet over several centuries. Accompanying
between time and the Ah Kin. Time’s arithmetic flows verti-
pictorials at the middle of each frame show the Venus deity
cally or zigzaggedly; in some cases the black and red numbers
Kukulcan flinging daggers of omen-bearing light on victims
that comprise, respectively, the intervals and resting points
who lie impaled below them. A correction table enables the
in a text are scattered about a single prognostic or divinatory
Venus calendar to stay on track for five hundred years with
picture like so many loose tokens dropped randomly upon
scarcely a day error. Maya astronomers seem to have been at-
it from above. In many instances the numbers seem to take
tracted by the perfect 8 to 5 commensuration between the
on an irrational, almost mystical quality akin to the Pythago-
Venus cycle of 584 days and the seasonal year of 365 days
rean way of dealing with numbers.
as well as by the larger commensuration between 65 Venus
One thinks of an almanac in the West as a compilation
cycles and two 52-year calendar rounds. Adjacent ephemeri-
of useful information, most of it adapted to local space-time.
des in the Dresden Codex were used to predict eclipses 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

to chart the movement of Mars, whose 780-day cycle com-
Gillespie, vol. 15, supp. 1, pp. 759–818 (New York, 1978).
mensurates with the tzolkin in the exact ratio of 3 to 1.
Alfonso Caso’s “Mixtec Writing and Calendar,” in Hand-
book of Middle American Indians
, edited by Robert
Studies suggest that other pages of the Dresden Codex
Wauchope, vol. 3 (Austin, Tex., 1965), remains the classic
as well as certain pages of the Madrid Codex also mark astro-
exposition of central Mexican calendrics. See also Rafael
nomical events. Venus deities, looking much like those in the
Tena’s El Calendario Mexica y la cronografía (Mexico City,
Dresden, also appear in the Borgia group of codices from
1987). On other central Mexican calendars see Javier Urcid’s
highland Mexico. In the Anales de Quauhtitlan, a colonial
Zapotec Hieroglyphic Writing (Washington, D.C., 2001).
document from the Mexican highlands, are specific state-
Munro S. Edmonson’s The Book of the Year: Middle Ameri-
ments about which class of people shall suffer wounds from
can Calendrical Systems (Salt Lake City, Utah, 1988) offers
the piercing rays of Venus, called Quetzalcoatl in the central
a pan-Mesoamerican comparative analysis of calendars and
Mexican pantheon:
calendar glyphs. Contemporary Mesoamerican calendar sys-
tems are dealt with in Frank J. Lipp’s The Mixe of Oaxaca:
And as they (the ancients, the forefathers) learned.
Religion, Ritual, and Healing (Austin, Tex., 1991); Barbara
When it appears (rises). According to the sign, in which
Tedlock’s Time and the Highland Maya (Albuquerque,
it (rises). It strikes different classes of people with its
N.Mex., 1982; rev. ed. 1992); and Michael P. Closs, ed., Na-
rays. Shoots them, casts its light upon them. When it
tive American Mathematics (Austin, Tex., 1986), which also
appears in the (first) sign, “1 alligator.” It shoots the old
deals with North American calendars. See also Alfred M.
men and women. Also in the (second) sign, “1 jaguar.”
Tozzer, ed. and trans., Landa’s Relación de las cosas de Yuca-
In the (third) sign, “1 stag.” In the (fourth) sign, “1
tan, vol. 18 (Cambridge, Mass., 1941), Eduard Seler, “The
flower.” It shoots the little children. And in the (fifth)
Venus Period in Picture Writings of the Borgian Codex
sign, “1 reed.” It shoots the kings. Also in the (sixth)
Group,” Bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology 28:
sign, “1 death.” And in the (seventh) sign, “1 rain.” It
373–390, Dennis Tedlock’s translation of Popol Vuh: The
shoots the rain. It will not rain. And in the (thirteenth)
Definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life and
sign, “1 movement.” It shoots the youths and maidens.
the Glories of Gods and Kings (New York, 1985), and J. Eric
And in the (seventeenth) sign, “1 water.” There is uni-
S. Thompson, Maya Hieroglyphic Writing (Washington,
versal drought. (Seler, 1904, pp. 384–385)
D.C., 1950).
In stark contrast with the Maya texts, the so-called picture
books of highland Mexico, which also include ritual ceremo-
nial prescriptions, have generally been regarded as devoid of
real-time astronomical events; that is, the Mexican codices
have been characterized as celebrating time cycles, whereas
the Maya books were thought to be more event specific.
At the time of the Spanish conquest of the New World in
However, this traditional picture has been challenged by
the early sixteenth century, the peoples of Mesoamerica and
studies that offer evidence, specifically in the Codex Borgia,
the Andes were living in highly developed civilizations sup-
that real-time astronomical events were recorded in the mid-
ported by well-integrated political and religious organiza-
dle of the fifteenth century. Scholars now regard Mesoameri-
tions. The Aztec, Mixtec, and Maya of Mesoamerica pro-
can (especially Maya) mathematical, astronomical, and ca-
duced codices in which are described their gods, priests,
lendrical achievements to have been rather more like those
religious paraphernalia, and so on. Their knowledge was or-
of the ancient Middle East; that is, closer to the sort of quan-
ganized by way of an elaborate calendar that bore no rela-
titative science that led to modern astronomy.
tionship to any kind of calendrical system known to the
Spanish. The chroniclers soon realized, however, that an im-
SEE ALSO Aztec Religion; Maya Religion.
portant aspect of these Mesoamerican calendars was the re-
peating succession of 260 days. The 260-day “year” was di-
vided into thirteen “months,” each comprising twenty days
As the field of Mesoamerican calendrics has remained extraordi-
irrespective of observations of the sun, moon, and other ce-
narily specialized, most work is in journals such as the Jour-
lestial bodies.
nal for the History of Astronomy, Archaeoastronomy, Supple-
ment to the Journal for the History of Astronomy, Latin

Unlike the Mesoamericans, the Andean peoples did not
American Antiquity. David H. Kelley’s Deciphering the Maya
leave codices or a hieroglyphic script (as was used, for in-
Script (Austin, Tex., 1976) and Anthony F. Aveni’s Skywat-
stance, by the Maya from their early history onward). They
chers: A Revised and Updated Version of Skywatchers of Ancient
apparently had no tradition of a historical chronology and
Mexico (Austin, Tex., 2001) are standard texts that offer
left no dated monuments. However, a recent analysis of Pe-
broad overviews of Mesoamerican calendrics. Somewhat
ruvian quipus—knotted strings that were used for various ad-
more specialized are John Justeson’s “Ancient Maya Eth-
noastronomy: An Overview of the Hieroglyphic Sources,” in
ministrative purposes—demonstrates that Andean peoples
World Archaeoastronomy, edited by Anthony F. Aveni (Cam-
were capable of highly abstract, mathematical thought. Ac-
bridge, U.K., 1989); and Floyd Lounsbury’s “Maya Numer-
cordingly, we may assume that the conclusion reached by
ation, Computation, and Calendrical Astronomy,” in Dictio-
certain Spanish chroniclers that the quipus were used for ca-
nary of Scientific Biography, edited by Charles Coulston
lendrical purposes is valid. Indeed, José de Acosta, an early
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

chronicler who thoroughly studied the cultures in both parts
existence of a longer report, that heavily influenced all later
of what we now call nuclear America and who compared the
accounts given by the major chroniclers (e.g., Cavello de Bal-
Andean and Mesoamerican calendars, favored the Andean
boa, Murua). Only the later indigenous chronicler Felipe
system because of its technical accomplishments. Thus it
Poma de Ayala provides substantial new information on the
may be reasonable to assume that the political and religious
economic use of the calendar; and yet another indigenous
needs of the Andean states crystallized into a common calen-
chronicler, Juan de Santa Cruz, refers to the mythological
drical tradition of a complexity comparable with that of Me-
data pertaining to it. The description given in 1653 by
soamerica; but its organizing principles may have been as dif-
Bernabé Cobo, the last chronicler, is probably the most faith-
ferent from those of the Mesoamerican tradition as these
ful to those of Polo and Molina.
differed from the European.
themselves do not seem to have grasped the calendrical prob-
conquistadors entered Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire,
lem completely, Polo and Molina give us the best evidence
the Inca territory stretched from what is now northern Ecua-
with which to evaluate the character of the months. Polo, for
dor south to Chile and Argentina. Spanish chroniclers have
example, tells us, “[The Inca] divided the year into twelve
left us some data on the astronomical and calendrical ideas
months by the moons, and the other days that remained were
of the people living on the north coast of Peru, a rich descrip-
added to the [different] moons themselves.” Polo claims to
tion of myths and rituals of Quechua-speaking peoples in
be speaking of synodical months, that is, those that mark the
central and southern Peru, and some bits and pieces of astro-
period between new moons in a sequence independent from
nomical and calendrical lore from the Aymara-speaking peo-
the solar year; nonetheless, he says that the eleven days that
ples living around Lake Titicaca. But it was only in Cuzco
these twelve months are short of a year were added to the in-
that the chroniclers became aware of the rich tradition of the
dividual months. If he is right on this last point, we can as-
Inca’s history, myths, and rituals, as well as of their seasonal
sume that the Inca calendar had solar months, each thirty or
activities (e.g., agriculture and llama husbandry) and astro-
thirty-one days long, bearing no connection to the phases of
nomical observations and beliefs about the sun, moon, and
the moon. Polo refers to certain monthly observations of
stars. Many scattered data of critical importance in the recon-
sunrises and sunsets that reinforce this claim. When consid-
struction of the Inca calendar have survived. Nonetheless, al-
ered together with important information from Molina,
though some chroniclers may have been aware of the impor-
Polo’s critical data underscores the fact that the Inca calendar
tance of some of these data for the reconstruction of the
included synodical, as well as solar, months.
calendar, they themselves recorded little more than the
According to Molina (1574), the Inca year began with
names of the months. They assumed that the Inca calendar
the lunar month marked by the June solstice; this month
comprised twelve months but barely analyzed what kinds of
started with the first new moon after the middle of May. Mo-
“months” they were in fact dealing with. The actual recon-
lina, however, was still using the Julian calendar; his “middle
struction of the Inca calendar—going well beyond the
of May” is thus equivalent to May 25 in the Gregorian calen-
chroniclers’ list of twelve names—enables us to realize the
dar, which was not introduced to Cuzco until ten years after
magnitude of the debt owed by the Inca to the states and cul-
Molina wrote his account. Accordingly, any month begin-
tures that preceded them: those of Huari, Tiahuanaco, and
ning with a new moon after May 25 would include the date
Chavín in the Andean highlands and those of Nazca, Mochi-
of the June solstice, June 21 (Zuidema, 1982a).
ca, and Paracas on the coast. The Spaniards’ interpretations
of the Inca data provide only a faint idea of what a pre-
Molina then describes the subsequent lunar months,
Conquest calendar might have looked like.
stressing in particular the observations of a new moon and
full moon in the fourth month. This was the month in which
Some seventeen years after the Conquest, Juan de Be-
crops were planted and all women, including the queen, cele-
tanzos became the first chronicler in Cuzco to attempt an ac-
brated the moon. Molina then comes to the seventh month,
count of the months. His description, however, is inextrica-
Capac Raymi (“royal feast”), during which noble boys were
bly interwoven with a recording of Inca history, especially
initiated into manhood. During the eighth month, Capac
with those events that concern the legendary reorganization
Raymi Camay Quilla (“royal feast, moon of Camay”), rituals
of Cuzco after the city had successfully rejected a foreign at-
were dedicated to the rains, which would subside in the
tack. He intimates the close relationship between Cuzco’s
months to come. Molina’s section on the seventh month has
calendar and its political organization, an aspect with which
a day-to-day account of its ritual events but makes no refer-
he was probably more familiar than any later chronicler. But
ence to the moon; the eighth month, however, is described
he leaves the technical problem of the calendrical count unre-
solely in terms of the lunar cycle.
solved. In 1574, the priest Cristóbal de Molina wrote the
first detailed account of calendrical rituals in Cuzco. Juan de
Polo says that Capac Raymi originally began in January
Polo de Ondegardo, a lawyer, had probably written a similar
but was later moved back to December, the month “when
report some years earlier, but it was lost. In 1584, the third
the Sun reaches the last point on its road towards the South
Council of the Peruvian Church published a shorter version
pole.” Whatever historical information he thought could be
of Polo’s calendar; it is this version, or the knowledge of the
derived from this statement, the most satisfactory reading 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

calendrical terms would be that Capac Raymi ended on the
marked the beginning of the year for people in central and
December solstice itself and that Camay Quilla began there-
northern Peru. In Cuzco, the full moon of the month that
after. Molina’s description of ritual held at the end of Capac
included the June solstice would have occurred after the Ple-
Raymi also seems to imply the same conclusion. But if both
iades first rose in the morning sky. The Inca data on the Ple-
Polo and Molina were right about the lunar character of the
iades, the sun, and the moon replicate in detail the more gen-
months, then it is possible that a given Capac Raymi may
eral Andean concepts of celestial, calendrical, and social
not have included the December solstice at all, for the month
order established in relation to the Pleiades; we see here the
of Inti Raymi could have begun just after May 25 (there are
Inca debt to the Andean cultures that preceded them.
211 days from May 25 to December 22; seven synodical
CALENDRICAL SOCIAL DIVISION. Another way to further our
months have only 206). From these data alone we cannot de-
understanding of the Inca calendar is to analyze the integra-
termine exactly how the Inca solved this calendrical discrep-
tion that obtained between the calendar and the empire’s po-
ancy but we can conclude that they were aware of it and had
litical hierarchy and its territorial organization. Betanzos cites
probably devised a solution.
this integration but gives no technical details on it. An anon-
Later chroniclers, including modern writers, did not
ymous, but rather early and well-informed, chronicler men-
take into account Molina and Polo’s critical data, although
tions how Pachacuti Inca, the king who reorganized Cuzco,
they sometimes opted for either lunar or solar months. Thus
divided the population of the Cuzco Valley into twelve
Clements R. Markharm (1910) interprets the calendar as
groups. His purpose was to make each group take “account
consisting of solar months; the first month, he says, starts on
of its own month, adopting the name and surname of that
the June solstice. John Howland Rowe, on the other hand,
lunar month, and of what it had to carry out in its month;
in his influential article “Inca Culture at the Time of the
and it was obliged to come out to the plaza on the first day
Spanish Conquest” (1946) chooses—on the authority of
of its month by playing trumpets and by shouting, so that
Polo, he claims—lunar months. Later studies on Inca culture
it was known to everybody” (my translation, from Maúrtua,
generally follow Rowe’s example. These accounts differ by
vol. 8, 1908). Whereas his father had brought order to the
as much as two months in their assessment of the location
observance of lunar months, Pachacuti Inca erected pillars
in the calendar of a particular month, making the relation-
on the horizon from which the sun could be observed. This
ship between specific ritual and seasonal activities difficult
was an attempt to integrate the months into an account of
to understand.
the solar year.
THE CEQUE CALENDAR. Based on original information from
problem cannot be resolved on the basis of Molina and
Polo, Cobo describes a similar problem with the calendar
Polo’s data alone. Fortunately, research on the alignment of
and establishes the close link between customs of each Cuzco
certain Inca buildings (Zuidema, 1982a; Aveni, 1981; Urton
group and astronomical observations. His description is
and Aveni, 1983; Urton, 1981; Ziolkowski and Sadowski,
based on an important Andean political concept, which ex-
1984) enables us to evaluate additional types of calendrical
presses the visual and directional relationship between the
and astronomical data. I will mention here the data based on
political divisions and their political and ritual center. For
the architecture of the Coricancha (“golden enclosure”)—
this purpose the Inca employed a system of forty-two “direc-
properly known as the Temple of the Sun—and on the ritu-
tions” called ceques (“lines”).
als and myths associated with it. Located in the center of
The ceques were imaginary lines that radiated from
Cuzco, the Coricancha included four one-room buildings
Coricancha to points on the horizon. They were distributed
that served as temples, each facing the other two by two. The
in groups of three over four quarters of the territory; in one
more important buildings were said to face the rising sun
quarter, however, fifteen directions, that is, fourteen ceques
during the June solstice. But exact measurements by Antho-
(in this case, two ceques were taken together as one), were
ny F. Aveni and myself revealed that the temples face the
used. The twelve political divisions of Cuzco were individu-
point on the horizon at which the sun rises on May 25. This
ally associated not only with a different group of three ceques
alignment not only supports the validity of Molina’s data re-
but also with one particular ceque in each group. Each ceque
garding when the Inca year began but also helps us interpret
linked the division with the location of the land in the valley
other significant information. For example, in exactly the
that it had been given by Pachacuti Inca. Lands in the fourth
same direction of the sunrise, but just beyond the horizon,
quarter were also divided between only three divisions; we
is a legendary place called Susurpuquio, well known for its
notice that in this quarter the fourteen ceques were also re-
important role in Inca mythology. It was here that Pachacuti
bundled into three groups of ceques (which had four, four,
Inca, the king who set the Inca on the road to conquest, had
and six ceques, respectively).
met his father, the sun god, who predicted that he and his
people would share a future filled with military success. The
Each of the twelve political divisions had an important
direction toward Susurpuquio coincides closely with that of
ritual obligation to bring offerings to a cultic place on the
the rise of the Pleiades, the “mother” of all stars. The reap-
horizon. The sun would then arrive at this place, either at
pearance of the Pleiades in early June, after they had disap-
sunset or sunrise, sometime during its annual journey. These
peared from the southern sky for some fifty days, generally
twelve places on the horizon were called sayhuas; two extra
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ones, called sucancas, were necessary to comply with astro-
of a mummy). Influenced by certain ideas of hierarchical
nomical observations. The ceque system used the whole hori-
order, the Inca integrated these ancestors into the legendary
zon, although the sun rises and sets in only part of it. There-
history of their royal dynasty. This line of thought explains
fore a sayhua or sucanca was not necessarily located along a
why ten of the twelve political divisions were linked genea-
ceque that stretched between the horizon and the land of the
logically to the dynasty and were called panacas (collateral
political division that was in charge of its cult. People first
lines of descent from the royal family). The remaining two
worshiped a series of cultic places, called huacas, that were
divisions represented the autochthonous population of the
located along the three ceques associated with their division.
valley of Cuzco, which had been conquered by the Inca.
They would then turn to the corresponding sayhuas, located
in another direction, and offer the remains of whatever had
Specific myths about panacas and former kings should
been served to the huacas.
help us interpret calendrical rituals. The anonymous chroni-
cler gives us one clue on how to proceed. He claims that each
Cobo lists the huacas that were served before the sayhuas
division—that is, each panaca—took its name from its par-
and sucancas. If this list is complete (328 huacas), as it indeed
ticular month. Thus we can argue that the highest-ranked
appears to be, then it allows us to suggest various calendrical
panaca, called capac ayllu, was in charge of the initiation ritu-
consequences. Although it would not be appropriate here to
als of noble youths, who were also called capac churi (“royal
carry out a technical analysis of Cobo’s list, certain general
sons”). These rituals occurred during the month of Capac
characteristics of such a ceque calendar can be proposed.
Raymi, which ended on the December solstice. Another
panaca, called aucailli (the “victory song” that was chanted
One observation of the sun was made along a ceque radi-
at harvest time), implying that its rituals were conducted in
ating from the Temple of the Sun: the one toward sunrise
April. But these examples seem to be more exceptions to than
on May 25. Perhaps one other solar observation was made
confirmations of the rule, and only one chronicler (Murua)
along a ceque in the opposite direction. But all other solar
relates a myth explicitly linking two political divisions to cer-
observations were done from higher places just outside town.
tain months of the year and their rituals (Zuidema, 1982b).
Based on our data on stars and certain huacas in the ceque
system, we believe that all risings and settings of stars were
What makes the following myth interesting is the rela-
observed from the Temple of the Sun. In contrast to the say-
tionship it establishes between dynastic legends and myths
huas—upright, manmade stone pillars that were used for ob-
in Inca culture. Pachacuti Inca—who appears in the myth
serving the sun—the huacas were mostly natural topographi-
as the son of the first mythical founder of the royal dynasty—
cal features whose worship was part of a cult to the earth. The
establishes a pact with a giant. During a month of heavy
rather irregular numerical distribution of the huacas over the
rains, the giant comes down on the rushing waters of a river
ceques and groups of three ceques seems to be conditioned by
some thirty kilometers from Cuzco. As the rains threaten to
their calendrical use. The number of huacas—on ceques, on
destroy the city, Pachacuti, who is characterized in this myth
groups of ceques, and in each of the quarters—reveals that
as a brash young warrior, persuades the giant to retreat, and
the Inca were concerned with bringing in line the worship
he himself turns to stone. According to the myth, it is be-
of the moon during its full and new phases (these phases
cause of this pact with the giant that the Inca celebrated
occur every twenty-nine and one-half days) with a cult of the
Capac Raymi in December. A sequel to the myth deals with
sun (the sun is the cause of the moon’s phases), as well as
the heroic feats of a son of Pachacuti Inca, whose conquests
with a cult of the stars (against which the moon shifts its po-
and marriage explain why the Inca celebrated their feast of
sition every night). The year can thus be divided into twelve
planting (normally assigned to the month of September, but
solar months of thirty or thirty-one days each, while the
here to October 1).
moon will reach the same position among the stars every
Other, more legendary versions of the first myth convert
twenty-seven and one-third nights. Rituals during full and
Pachacuti Inca into the ninth king of the dynasty and the
new moons carried out a balancing act between these two cy-
giant into his father, Viracocha Inca; it is these conversions
cles related to the sun and the stars; one cycle occurred dur-
that allow us to relate their panacas to specific months. These
ing the day and the other at night, while the moon can be
versions present Pachacuti Inca as the reorganizer of the city,
observed both day and night.
its political system, and its calendar. Both kings are seen as
MYTHS AND LEGENDS. Irrespective, however, of where a
historical persons, but their mythical aspects crystallize them
technical analysis of the ceque calendar leads us, the data
into deities in their own right: they become the thunder god,
given by the anonymous chronicler and by Polo and Cobo
worshiped by Pachacuti Inca as his personal god, and Vi-
allow us to integrate Inca ideas of time and space with their
racocha, the god whom the Spanish misinterpreted as the
calendrical rituals, legendary history, and myths. Each politi-
Inca creator god. Viracocha Inca, the king, was thought to
cal division carried out rituals during the particular month
be the ancestor of the high priests of Cuzco. It may be sug-
after which it was named; we can assume, therefore, that each
gested here that the giant in the myth should be associated
group’s ideas about its function in society, its past, and its
with the society’s concerns during the month of March. This
origin myths are relevant for an understanding of its rituals.
was the month in which the priests of the Sun carried out
Each group worshiped its own mythical ancestor (in the form
rituals intended to curtail the rains and to prepare 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

forthcoming dry season and harvest; they also directed the
vicuña), color, age, and sex. The system of llama sacrifice can
building of dams in mountain lakes to store irrigation water
be reconstructed (Zuidema and Urton, 1976). Iconographic
for use during the dry season.
evidence from the Huari and Tiahuanaco (1–1000 CE) cul-
tures demonstrates how deeply rooted llama sacrifices were
No dynastic legends like those found at Cuzco were re-
in Andean society.
corded for central Peru by the Spanish chroniclers, who do,
however, relate stories of battles, similar to that between
Another important aspect of Andean culture is that of
Pachacuti and the giant, that were fought between the thun-
divination, studied by E.-J. de Durand (1968). However, the
der god and a primordial deity in the times before a great
numerous data relating to its importance for the calendar
have yet to be coordinated.
CONCLUSION. The Andean calendar as an exact numerical
The story of Pachacuti Inca functioned on two different
system for computing days in the year did not survive the
temporal levels in Cuzco: as a myth that was related to the
onslaught of Western civilization. Many rituals and calendri-
yearly calendar and as a dynastic legend. It should be ob-
cal customs were integrated, however, into the Catholic cal-
served, therefore, that the temporal sequence was not the
endar; many scholars have reported on this syncretism (Ur-
same in both cases. In the myth, the giant is associated with
bano, 1974; Poole, 1984). Their studies, as well as the data
a calendrical concern (in March) that followed the one asso-
from numerous monographs on present-day Andean socie-
ciated with Pachacuti Inca (in December). In the dynasty,
ties, are extremely valuable in helping us to understand the
Viracocha Inca is the father of Pachacuti Inca. Dynastic in-
symbolic values of pre-Conquest rituals. Also, the knowledge
terest established a kind of causal link between the legendary
of astronomy found among present-day Andean peoples has
versions of the stories told about succeeding kings. But the
its principal roots in pre-Conquest culture, notwithstanding
myths, as seasonal versions of the same stories, did not follow
the fact that their ancestors were able to integrate Spanish
the same temporal sequence.
learned and popular notions about the sky and weather into
Here it is probably more the calendrical rituals that, in
their own systems (Urton, 1981).
terms of a closed annual cycle, can bring unity into Inca
The amount of ethnohistorical data that is available for
thought, integrating the cosmological and political aspects of
reconstruction of the Inca and other Andean calendars is
their society. On the basis of the data on Inca months in the
broader and deeper than had previously been assumed. In
chronicles, Henrique Urbano has evaluated the dialectical re-
Peru, indigenous calendrical notions did not have the over-
lationships between the gods Viracocha and Inti (Sun), who
whelming impact on the Spaniards as they had in Mexico.
symbolize the opposing values of water and fire, respectively.
Interestingly, it is those data that did not seem important to
Both are associated with animal symbols: Viracocha with the
the Spaniards—that did not threaten their missionary and
amaru (“serpent”), which is related to farming and the fertili-
political interests and that lost their significance in colonial
ty of the earth, and Inti with the guaman (“falcon”) and
society, although they nevertheless happened to be report-
puma (“mountain lion”), which both represent warfare. In
ed—that are the most helpful in understanding pre-
this occurrence, Inti is emblematic of society and of the in-
Conquest Andean culture and its calendar.
side, while Viracocha symbolizes nature and the outside.
EE ALSO Ethnoastronomy.
ITUAL AND THE INCA CALENDAR. The analytical value of
the data available allows us to study various other aspects of
the Andean calendar. One aspect, that of human sacrifice,
Aveni, Anthony F. “Horizon Astronomy in Incaic Cuzco.” In Ar-
was of capital importance in the Inca state, establishing polit-
chaeoastronomy in the Americas, edited by Ray A. Williamson,
ical alliances and hierarchical relationships between peoples
pp. 305–318. Los Altos, Calif., 1981.
brought under imperial rule. Victims from all parts of the
Durand, E.-J. de. “Aperçu sur les présages et la divination de
empire were brought to Cuzco, either to be sacrificed there
l’ancien Pérou.” In La divination, edited by André Caquot
or to be sent elsewhere to be sacrificed. In journeying to and
and Marcel Leibovici, pp. 1–67. Paris, 1968.
from Cuzco, they traveled along routes that were as straight
as possible and that, like the lines radiating from Cuzco, were
Maúrtua, Victor M. Juicio de límites entre el Perú y Bolivia. Lima,
1908. Volume 8 contains the anonymous “Discurso de la
called ceques. The data suggest that the system of human sac-
sucesión y gobierno de los Yngas.”
rifices was integrated into the calendar. Various kinds of ani-
mals were sacrificed according to the particular occasion;
Molina, Cristóbal de. Ritos y fábulas de los Incas (1574). Buenos
Aires, 1947.
they were eaten or burned, and their blood was also used.
Furthermore, ashes, including those of textiles and other
Poole, Deborah A. “Ritual-Economic Calendars in Paruro: The
products, were saved so that they could be thrown into rivers
Structure of Representation in Andean Ethnography.”
at appropriate times of the year.
Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois, Urbana, 1984.
Rowe, John Howland. “Inca Culture at the Time of the Spanish
The most important sacrifices of all, however, were
Conquest.” In Handbook of South American Indians, edited
those of llamas. These animals were used for various ritual
by Julian H. Steward, vol. 2, pp. 183–330. Washington,
purposes according to their variety (alpaca, llama, guanaco,
D.C., 1946.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Urbano, Henrique. “La representación andina del tiempo y del es-
But who was to lead this society? What was to be his
pacio en la fiesta.” Allpanchis Phuturinqua (Cuzco) 7 (1974):
authority? The caliphate, the expression of the temporal lead-
ership of all Muslims conceived as a single community, was
Urton, Gary. At the Crossroads of the Earth and Sky: An Andean
the institutional answer. It had emerged ad hoc, however, in
Cosmology. Austin, Tex., 1981.
response to a crisis. Evolving practice framed theoretical con-
Urton, Gary, and Anthony F. Aveni. “Archaeoastronomical Field-
structions, especially in the absence of any agreed QurDa¯nic
work on the Coast of Peru.” In Calendars in Mesoamerica and
foundation. Hence the conduct of those holding the office,
Peru, edited by Anthony F. Aveni and Gordon Brotherston.
the caliphs, elicited sharp and continuing controversy over
Oxford, 1983.
not only individual moral qualitites but also the character of
Ziolkowski, M. S., and R. M. Sadowski. “Informe acerca de las
the institution itself.
investigaciones arqueo-astronómicas en el area central de In-
gapirca (Ecuador).” Revista española de antropología ameri-
The forces at work in this controversy may be divided
cana 15 (1984): 103–125.
for the purposes of analysis into Islamic theories of the ca-
Zuidema, R. Tom. “Inca Observations of the Solar and Lunar
liphate and historical influences on the institution.
Passages through Zenith and Anti-Zenith at Cuzco.” In Ar-
chaeoastronomy in the Americas, edited by Ray A. Williamson,
Sunn¯ı view of the origins of the caliphate is that Muh:ammad
pp. 319–342. Los Altos, Calif., 1981.
left no instructions for the future leadership of the ummah.
Zuidema, R. Tom. “Catachillay: The Role of the Pleiades and of
Yet on his death the community desperately required an ac-
the Southern Cross and a and b Centauri in the Calendar of
knowledged leader, since all the latent rivalries that the pro-
the Incas.” In Ethnoastronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the
phetic message had overwhelmed reemerged in tribal faction-
American Tropics, edited by Anthony F. Aveni and Gary
Urton, pp. 203–220. New York, 1982 (cited as 1982a in the
alism. The innermost core of the Muslims responded by
acclaiming as their leader one of the earliest of their number
and certainly among the most prestigious, Abu¯ Bakr (r. 632–
Zuidema, R. Tom. “The Sidereal Lunar Calendar of the Incas.”
In Archaeoastronomy in the New World, edited by Anthony
634). Whether he was actually proclaimed khal¯ıfa¯t rasu¯l
F. Aveni, pp. 59–107. Cambridge, 1982 (cited as 1982b in
Alla¯h (“caliph of the messenger of God”) is unclear, but all
the text).
Sunn¯ıs regard him as the first caliph. His role was to lead
Zuidema, R. Tom, and Gary Urton. “La Constelación de la Llama
the ummah in peace and in war as the Prophet had done, and
en los Andes Peruanos.” Allpanchis Phuturinqua (Cuzco) 9
to lead the ritual prayers and conduct the pilgrimage, both
(1976): 59–119.
of which duties he had previously performed on
Muh:ammad’s behalf. Absent from this formulation was the
prophetic role that had clothed Muh:ammad’s acts with nigh
impeccable authority. Theoretically, a divinely guided com-
munity of Muslims selected the early Sunn¯ı caliphs, while
CALIPHATE. The office of “successor” to the prophet
its act of acclamation, the bay Eah, constituted an elective
Muh:ammad as the leader of the Muslim community is a
ideal that deprecated all subsequent dynasticism.
uniquely Islamic institution. Hence the anglicization caliph-
is preferable to inadequate translations of the term
Evolved Sunn¯ı theory required that a caliph be an adult
khila¯fah. (This article will not address the concept of khila¯fah
male from the Quraysh, the leading tribe of Mecca. Sound-
in Islamic mysticism.)
ness of mind and body, knowledge of the religion, piety, and
probity are frequently listed among Sunn¯ı criteria. Caliphal
Upon Muh:ammad’s death in AH 11/632 CE there was
preogatives were to lead the prayer, to be recognized in the
in existence a self-governing, powerful Islamic community,
Friday sermon as the leader of all Muslims, to coin money,
or ummah. It had been shaped by the Prophet in conformity
to command the army, and to receive on behalf of the
with the revelations he had received, and by the end of his
ummah a fifth of all booty. Later, the Abbasid caliphs (750–
life, his temporal as well as his spiritual authority was unas-
1258) arrogated to themselves the right to wear the
sailable: he was the governor of the ummah, an arbitrator of
presumed mantle of the Prophet, a sacred relic in their pos-
disputes within it, the commander of its military forces, and
its principal strategist. He had deputized others as his repre-
sentatives to distant tribes and regions. The term khila¯fah in
Sunnis generally describe the caliph’s duties as follows:
the pre-Islamic sense of “deputy” was apparently used in ref-
to defend the domain of Islam and to extend it if possible,
erence to these assignees.
to uphold the shar¯ı Eah, the prescribed conduct for a Muslim,
to ensure law and order so that Muslims might observe the
To the ummah the Prophet’s death was a shocking, even
shar¯ı Eah in peace and security, to collect canonical taxes, and
inconceivable event. The Muslims were suddenly bereft of
generally to administer the ummah in consultation with se-
divine guidance, the source of Muh:ammad’s charismatic au-
lected counselors.
thority. Yet they were sufficiently imbued with the Islamic
vision to persevere in efforts to shape the ideal society em-
The Sh¯ıD¯ı conception of the caliphate differs from the
bodied in that moral imperative.
Sunni in the manner of origination and the consequences
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

flowing therefrom. Out of certain verses of the QurDa¯n and
thority, but rising criticism of their reliance on Arab social
from selected h:ad¯ıth (reports of the Prophet’s words or
custom was a crucial element in the dynasty’s overthrow.
deeds), the Sh¯ıEah adduce that Muh:ammad had indeed cho-
sen a successor: his first cousin, son-in-law, and early convert,
The later Umayyads and the early Abbasid dynasty were
EAl¯ı ibn Ab¯ı T:alib. According to the Sh¯ıEah, a conspiracy
deeply affected by the tradition of imperial authority in the
among the companions of the Prophet denied EAl¯ı his right-
lands they had conquered. Its advocates, usually newly con-
ful position, plunging the community into error the instant
verted scribes, envisaged a rigidly hierarchical society of priv-
Muh:ammad died. That the prophet had himself selected EAl¯ı
ileged rulers and taxpaying ruled, with the caliph as supreme
establishes to Sh¯ıD¯ı satisfaction a leadership of far greater
arbiter in all matters. The Abbasid caliphs, therefore, with-
charismatic authority than the Sunn¯ı version, a leadership
drew within a royal city, appeared in public only on ceremo-
that for most of the Sh¯ıD¯ı grew to incorporate impeccability
nial occasions, ruled despotically and pursued a lifestyle
and infallible interpretation of scripture.
greatly at variance with the Islamic values expressed in the
QurDa¯n and sunnah.
EAl¯ı did become the fourth caliph, the last of the so-
called Ra¯shidu¯n or “rightly guided” caliphs, but his designa-
The Abbasids never exclusively adopted their imperial
tion by the assassins of his predecessor, EUthma¯n ibn EAffa¯n
tradition inherited largely from the Sasanid Persians. They
(644–656) of the clan of Umayyah, precipitated a civil war
were acutely conscious of having acquired power by criticiz-
that rent forever the fabric of the community. When EAl¯ı was
ing the alleged impiety of the Umayyads, so they patronized
killed in 661, the caliphate passed to the Umayyads (661–
the Eulama¯D (religious scholars) as well as poets, musicians,
750). The Sh¯ıEah would thereafter cleave to the view that
and wine merchants. Even the Islamic aspects of the caliph-
only the EAlids, EAl¯ı’s progeny, could claim the caliphate;
ate, however, succumbed to imperial majesty. Assuming
their claim alone was divinely sanctioned. Yet the inability
charismatic throne-names, the Abbasids, following the later
of the Sh¯ıEah never to agree on a particular candidate among
Umayyads, asserted that their authority derived directly from
EAl¯ı’s descendants condemned their movement to martyr-
God, not from Muh:ammad and certainly not from the
dom, factionalism, and futility.
ummah. If most of the pious shunned their patronage, still
it was during the early Abbasid caliphate that Islamic civiliza-
The conflict between EAl¯ı and the Umayyads spawned
tion attained its full grandeur.
a third interpretation of the caliphate, that of the Kha¯rij¯ıs.
In the view of these numerically few but very active dissi-
By the middle of the tenth century, however, the caliph
dents, hostile to both parties following the civil war, the ca-
was a virtual prisoner in his palace, his authority and his maj-
liph was liable for deposition should he deviate an iota from
esty evaporated. Between 945 and 1055 the Buyids, tribes-
Muh:ammad’s practice. The Kharijis thus depreciated the of-
men from Iran professing Shiism, ruled the caliphal capital
fice to no better than a tribal chieftainship. Arab nomadic
of Baghdad yet retained the Sunn¯ı caliphate, perhaps recog-
groups were, in fact, the milieu from which they drew their
nizing that a pliant puppet symbolizing the unity of Islam
was politically more useful to them than a Sh¯ıE¯ı caliph de-
manding at least their respect. Furthermore, the Buyids re-
tion of the caliphate reflects in microcosm the forces molding
fused to recognize the Sh¯ıE¯ı Fatimid caliphate that had
Islamic civilization. Foremost of these was the Islamic moral
emerged in North Africa in 909 and was preparing to ad-
imperative, expressed in the QurDa¯n and the sunnah, or cus-
vance eastward to establish itself in Cairo (969) with the he-
tom, of the Prophet. However visionary and inspirational
gemony of the Muslim world as its manifest goal. As an ex-
these Islamic teachings were, they offered little specific guid-
tremist Sh¯ıE¯ı dynasty, the Fatimids were a menace to both
ance on the shape of Islamic leadership, principally the pro-
Sunn¯ı and moderate Sh¯ıE¯ı Muslims.
phetic model and a framework of moral principles. But vari-
Such a threatening Sh¯ıE¯ı presence in North Africa
ous non-Islamic influences heavily warped these Islamic
evoked a response from the remnant of the Umayyad dynasty
in Spain (755–1031). Heretofore content with lesser titles
In the first Islamic century Arab tribalism was a contin-
despite nonrecognition of their Abbasid successors, the
uing challenge to the developing caliphate. Inherited and/or
Spanish Umayyads now claimed the caliphate in 929 as a ral-
acquired prestige, directly linked to lineage, constituted the
lying point for nearby Sunn¯ıs. The simultaneous existence
basis of Arab leadership concepts. Traditionally power was
of two Sunn¯ı caliphs presented a challenge to those religious
closely associated with the numerical strength and past repu-
scholars bent on accommodating their political theory to the
tation of the lineage. Early Muslim caliphs lacked such es-
actual historical process. Abu¯ Mans:u¯r EAbd al-Qa¯hir
teem; only EUthma¯n had both tribal and Islamic prestige. His
al-Baghda¯d¯ı (d. 1027), for example, argued that if an ocean
well-intentioned effort to use tribalism as well as Islamic
should separate the ummah into two distant parts, a second
prestige to enhance the caliph’s authority was a major cause
caliph was unfortunately justifiable. This view was firmly re-
of his downfall. Mutual hostilities among the tribes plagued
jected, however, by the jurist Abu¯ al-H:asan al-Ma¯ward¯ı
the early Muslim community: the Umayyads were con-
(d. 1058), who would condone no attenuation of the caliphal
strained to form tribal marriage alliances to solidify their 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

Rescue, if it can be so characterized, came in the form
In retrospect, it is not surprising that the most secular
of the Seljuk Turks, tribesmen from Central Asia who styled
of the nationalist movements in Muslim countries, the Turk-
themselves champions of Sunnism while continuing to dom-
ish, should have abolished the Ottoman caliphate in 1924;
inate the caliph. In the eleventh century they reversed the
at the time it came as a shock to the entire Muslim world.
tide of political Shiism, yet in their train came a new influ-
The Indian Khilafat Conference (1919–1933), advocating
ence damaging to the concept of the caliphate: visions of
self-rule for Indian Muslims because they owed spiritual alle-
world domination nurtured among pastoralists of the broad
giance to the caliph, found its cause hopelessly undercut.
Asian steppes. Incipient with the Seljuks, the view reached
Muslims elsewhere demanding independence from colonial-
full force among the pagan Mongols, who would suffer no
ism had to revise their strategy once they overcame their dis-
rival, however moribund, to a Mongol khanate destined to
rule the earth. Their assault on Baghdad in 1258 extin-
In the newly independent Arab world a contest for the
guished the classical caliphate.
caliphate emerged, but the effort to revive the “true” caliph-
Although they soon became Muslim, those Mongols
ate was short-lived. Three conferences over a brief span
who ruled in Islamic lands and the Turco-Mongol dynasties
(1926–1931) broke up in disarray. It was soon apparent that
that succeeded them gave little heed to the caliphate. They
new nation-states opposed the restoration of such a vaguely
claimed to rule by divine right and garnished their own tradi-
defined but potentially influential institution unless their
tion with the Persian concepts of a functionally hierarchical
own governments could control it.
society. Islamic scholarship adjusted, however reluctantly, to
The quickened religious pulse in the Islamic world
this new reality: henceforth the Eulama¯D, claiming to be the
today has evoked no noticeable inclination to revive the con-
guardians of the shar¯ı Eah, conferred the title of khal¯ıfat Alla¯h
cept of the caliphate. It would seem that however much
(“deputy of God”) upon any ruler who upheld that body of
Muslims may desire a greater sense of unity, any expression
sacred law and ruled righteously. The once-exalted title be-
of such sentiment is unlikely to assume the caliphal form.
came one of many with which Muslim rulers of succeeding
centuries adorned their chancery documents.
SEE ALSO Imamate; Modernism, article on Islamic Modern-
The Mamluk sultans of Egypt, however, adopted an al-
ism; Ummah.
leged scion of the Abbasid house as legitimator of their oli-
garchic rule, seemingly a residual authority during the ten-
sion-laden interlude between the death of one ruler and the
Historical Surveys
consolidation of his successor. Until 1500, Indian kings used
In addition to Dominique Sourdel’s comprehensive article
to seek investiture documents from this “shadow caliph” to
“Khal¯ıfa” (and its references) in The Encyclopaedia of Islam,
bolster their tenuous legitimacy. The Ottoman conqueror of
new ed. (Leiden, 1960–), the only full treatment of the con-
Egypt, Yavuz Sultan Selim, then took this putative Abbasid
cept of the caliphate and its role in Islamic history is the book
caliph to Istanbul in 1517, an event subsequently exploited
by Thomas W. Arnold, The Caliphate, the second edition of
by Ottoman sultans of the nineteenth century to substantiate
which, with an additional chapter by Sylvia G. Haim, is to
be preferred (Oxford, 1965). Its heavy emphasis on classical
their own caliphal claims.
Sunn¯ı texts may be leavened by the insights and balance of
By the late nineteenth century the force of European
Marshall G. S. Hodgson throughout the three volumes of his
imperialism had sparked a revival of the caliphate in a new
The Venture of Islam (Chicago, 1974). Al-Mawardi’s exposi-
form that engendered as much controversy among Muslims
tion of the Sunn¯ı caliphate is ably assessed by H. A. R. Gibb
in an article, “Al-Ma¯ward¯ı’s Theory of the Caliphate,” in his
as had the classical version. The Ottoman sultan, ruling a
Studies on the Civilization of Islam, edited by Stanford J.
sprawling empire threatened by European powers, sought to
Shaw and William R. Polk (Boston, 1962). The chapter “Ca-
elevate his prestige and retain a link to his lost Muslim sub-
liphate and Sultanate,” in the pioneering Islamic Society and
jects by recasting the caliphate into a spiritual office. This de-
the West, vol. 1, part 1, by Gibb with Harold Bowen (Ox-
vice appealed to Muslims under colonial rule, such as in
ford, 1950), unduly reflects the views of Sunn¯ı theoreticians
India, tsarist Russia, the Malay Peninsula, and the Indone-
of the caliphate.
sian archipelago. Even in British-occupied Egypt it elicited
Interpretive Works
a favorable response. But within the Ottoman empire, non-
Most valuable for its able exposition of the early caliphate against
Muslim nationalists struggling for independence regarded
the background of Arab culture is H. M. T. Nagel’s article,
the revived concept of the caliphate as an instrument to mar-
“Some Considerations concerning the Pre-Islamic and the Is-
shal Muslim support for their suppression. By the eve of the
lamic Foundations of the Authority of the Caliphate,” in
First World War this view was shared even by some Muslim
Studies on the First Century of Islamic Society, edited by G. H.
Arabs who decried the Ottoman caliphate was a sham lack-
A. Juynboll (Carbondale, Ill., 1982), pp. 177–197.
ing the slightest trace of a Quraysh pedigree. Both Islamic
The growth of Persian influences on Islamic ruling institutions is
reformers and Muslim nationalists reviled the Ottoman sul-
best found in the two-part article by Ann K. S. Lambton,
tan/caliph and, citing classical scholars to support their con-
“Quis custodiet custodes? Some Reflections on the Persian
tention, characterized the Ra¯shidu¯n as the only true caliphs.
Theory of Government,” Studia Islamica 5 (1956): 125–148;
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6 (1956): 125–146. She continues her analysis into the
metal stylus on wax (as used in Rome and Greece), wet clay
Turko-Iranian period, but her work should be supplemented
in Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean, or palm leaves on
by Osman Turan’s article “The Ideal of World Domination
which the script is incised in South and Southeast Asia can
among the Medieval Turks,” Studia Islamica 4 (1955): 77–
produce pleasing results but not calligraphy. The material
90. The chapter “The Mongols, the Turks and the Muslim
and the instruments used for writing simply do not allow the
Polity” in Bernard Lewis’s Islam in History: Ideas, Men and
production of free-flowing lines. Though stone is not the
Events in the Middle East (London, 1973) puts Turan’s thesis
best medium, it served well to receive and preserve calli-
in a broader perspective.
graphic copies; indeed, Western calligraphy can trace its
Intellectual aspects of the recent phase of the history of the caliph-
roots to the stone inscription found on Trajan’s (r. 98–117
ate are perhaps best dealt with in Albert Hourani’s Arabic
CE) column.
Thought in the Liberal Age, 1789–1939, 2d ed. (Cambridge,
1983). The Turkish perspective is outlined in the analytical
The other important factor is motivation. According to
chapters of Bernard Lewis’s The Emergence of Modern Turkey,
the above definition, only three civilizations have produced
2d ed. (Oxford, 1968), while the abolition of the caliphate
true calligraphy: the Chinese (and those who use the Chinese
and the reaction to it in the Arab world is covered in detail
script, namely Japanese and Koreans), the Arabs (and those
in Arnold Toynbee’s “The Islamic World since the Peace
who use the Arabic script), and Western civilization based
Settlement,” in the Royal Institute of International Affairs,
Survey of International Affairs
, 1925, vol. 1 (Oxford, 1927).
on Roman letters, Roman laws, and the Christian church.
In the case of Arabic calligraphy, it was the revelation of the
QurDa¯n and Islamic conquest; in the Far East artistic sensibil-
ity and political hegemony; and in the West the discipline
of Roman letters and Christianity.
Calligraphy flourishes within a definite discipline.
This entry consists of the following articles:
Scribal authorities such as the ones established in medieval
monasteries of Europe; Ibn Muqlah’s (866–940
CE) reforms
of the Arabic script based on the interaction between the
rhombic dot, the standard alif, and the standard cycle; and
the original definition of a Chinese character based within
a square. There is also a connection with dynastic elements.
The term calligraphy derives from the Greek word graphein
For example, after the fall of Rome in the fifth century, a
(to write) and kallos (beautiful); it has therefore often been
number of “national hands” developed in the various states
identified with “beautiful writing.” But calligraphy is more
carved from the disintegrating empire: the Merovingian
than that. It arises out of a combination of several important
style, the Visigothic script, Carolingian minuscule, Gothic,
elements: the attitude of society to writing; the religious con-
and so on.
cepts involved; the importance and function of the text; defi-
nite, often mathematically based rules about the correct in-
LIGION. The position of calligrapher in society and religion
teraction between lines and space and their relationship to
reflects the attitude to his craft and the level on which it is
each other; and a mastery and understanding of the script,
practiced. In Europe and the Arab world calligraphy has al-
the writing material, and the tools used for writing. Writing
ways been first and foremost in the service of God and the
and script store information essential to the political, social,
divine Revelation. In the West the calligrapher was “in ser-
and economic survival of a particular group; they are as such
vice” too, first to a human master (Rome), then to the mo-
part of the infrastructure of society. Calligraphy makes a
nastic order to which he had given his life, and eventually
statement about the sum total of its cultural and historical
simply to the customer who paid him. Only in the Far East
heritage. As such it can become subject to political and na-
did the calligrapher exist in its own right. He did not propa-
tionalistic/religious expressions and pressures. In addition,
gate any secular or religious order; his calligraphy was, with
calligraphy united the pictorial with the scriptorial. A calli-
definite restrictions, an expression of his inner self.
graphic passage, or even a single Chinese character, not only
Though mainly practiced by men, none of the three
provides information through its scriptorial meaning but also
great civilizations actively forbade women to become callig-
communicates on a more direct and archetypal level through
raphers. The first Chinese treatise on calligraphy, published
its inherent pictorial powers. Unlike writing, calligraphy can-
in 320 CE, that established definite criteria, still valid today,
not be acquired simply by learning; it demands insight and
was written by the Lady Wei Shao. It is thought that even
individuality, but individuality expressed within strictly pre-
the great Wang Xizhi (321–379 CE) was one of her students.
scribed boundaries.
In China and Japan calligraphy was an accomplishment
Calligraphy needs enabling tools: a smooth writing sur-
practiced by the elite for the elite; a good calligraphic hand
face such as paper, parchment, or silk and instruments like
ensured success in the civil service examinations (enforced
a quill pen and brush to produce the variation of lines so es-
during the Tang period, 618 to 907 CE). During the Japanese
sential for true calligraphy. The sharply yielding point of a
Heian period (794–1185 CE) it almost took the place 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

aphrodisiac in courtly circles. If the first note from a prospec-
faced again among groups like the Dadaists and some indi-
tive lover proved indifferently written, the affair could not
vidual modern poets. Though Islam is strictly averse to visual
proceed. A special form of women’s calligraphy, written in
representation, calligraphers have been skillful in writing at
the hiragana style, developed. The Islamic world, too, knew
least the basmalah (“In the name of God, the Compassionate,
famous women calligraphers. Some Muslim ladies achieved
the Merciful”) in a variety of shapes. Such text pictures were
a high competence in calligraphy; the emperor Aurangzeb’s
also known in India and China and other parts of the world.
daughter Zebunnisa (1639–1702), for example, a great pa-
Indeed the whole text of the QurDa¯n, numbering some
troness of art and learning, was proficient in at least three cal-
77,934 words, has been written on the shell of a single egg.
ligraphic styles. In the Maghrib (the western part of the Is-
CONTEMPORARY CALLIGRAPHY. In the West printing has
lamic world) women were told that they had to write at least
generally been considered a move toward the end of calligra-
one QurDa¯n to make a good marriage. Calligraphy written
phy. But the twentieth century has seen a remarkable renewal
by eighteenth-century Turkish women is still kept in the
of interest, both in Europe and, perhaps even more so, in
mosques at Istanbul. Christianity had always favored literacy
America: exhibitions, the foundation of professional socie-
in women, hoping that a good education would make them
ties, teaching at art schools and colleges, and a growing circle
more suitable for the monastic life, should their parents de-
of gifted amateurs and fine professional scribes. The roots go
cide to dedicate them. Nuns often collaborated with monks
back to the Arts and Crafts movement of the 1880s and the
in the production of calligraphic manuscripts, but unlike in
work of William Morris (1834–1896) and, most of all, Ed-
China and in the Islamic world they worked, as did the
ward Johnson (1872–1944). In Islamic countries and in the
monks, anonymously. Western calligraphy, which arose sim-
Far East the situation has always been different. Calligraphy
ply from copying texts that were often brought back after dif-
has never been a disinherited art form, and printing (with
ficult journeys from Rome or neighboring monasteries, was
wood block on which the hand of the writer could be in-
part of the life to which they had dedicated themselves, and,
cised) has never meant an end of calligraphic traditions. Let-
like their male colleagues, they were strictly forbidden from
ters, always the main basis of Western calligraphic traditions,
boasting. This was different in the Islamic countries and in
began to appear in paintings (such as those of the cubists,
China/Japan, where a long list of famous calligraphers and
surrealists, Picasso, and Joan Miró) and on newspapers (char-
their biographical data were freely provided.
acters written by Mao Zedong on the masthead of the Peoples
Daily) and posters. Most important, however, was a certain
EAUTIFUL WRITING.” Although outside the strict disci-
pline of calligraphy, beautiful writing is mostly based on pic-
kind of symbiosis between the three main styles that began
torial expressions. Writing itself began mostly with pictures:
to appear from the middle of the last century. Western callig-
in Egypt, among the Sumerians, in the Indus Valley, and in
raphers began to take an interest in Eastern conceptions of
the pre-Columbian world of Central America. In the case of
art and calligraphy; a definite example is Mark Tobey (1890–
the Chinese this pictorial element is often still clearly visible.
1976). Islamic calligraphers, many educated at Western uni-
Though not rooted in the knowledge of traditional science
versities, have begun to look for new interpretations, which
and religious conviction, beautiful writing could some-
could be incorporated within the core of their own tradi-
times—as, for example, in the case of the originally Indian
tions. But it is mainly in Japan that calligraphy is still deeply
siddham script—become calligraphy in the hands of Japanese
respected. Prices for a good piece of calligraphy may start at
four thousand pounds and can go up as far as one million.
There, “well written” still implies calligraphic aspirations,
But the absence of chancelleries and scribal authority
not just textual excellence.
had its restrictions. Judaism, for example, has produced
many fine manuscripts and beautiful micrography but no
SEE ALSO Alphabets.
calligraphy in the strict sense. During the many years of the
Diaspora there were no courts or chancelleries that could es-
tablish and control definite styles. Except for the Sefer
Brown, Michelle P. A Guide to Historical Scripts from Antiquity to
Torah, used in the synagogue, the meaning of the text has
1660. London, 1990. An illustrated survey of the evolution
always been more important than its visual execution.
of Western scripts.
Another concept consists of writing a picture that relates
Butterworth, Emma M. The Complete Book of Calligraphy. Wel-
lingborough, 1981. Overview of the subject.
to the meaning of the text. The calligrams (text pictures) of
the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918) go
Catich, Edward M. Letters Redrawn from the Trajan Inscriptions
however back through history to the Greek poet Simias,
in Rome. Davenport, Iowa, 1961. Influence of Trajan
who, in the fourth century
(Roman) inscription on letterforms.
BCE, wrote poems in the shape
of an egg or the wings of a bird. The tradition continued and
Folsom, Rose. The Calligraphers Dictionary. London, 1990. Offers
was eventually introduced into Christian Europe in the sixth
an explanation and definition of words and concepts con-
century by the bishop of Poitiers, who wrote a poem in the
nected with calligraphy.
form of a cross. Text pictures remained popular right
Gaur, Albertine. A History of Calligraphy. London and New York,
through the Middle Ages and the baroque period and sur-
1994. A comprehensive study of calligraphy in all its aspects.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Gray, Nicolette. A History of Lettering, Creative Experiment and
vances, but its importance increased enormously in response
Lettering Identity. Oxford, 1986. On the importance of let-
to the central authority’s demand for records, accounts, and
terforms in Western calligraphy.
the issuance of edicts and orders throughout the provinces.
Hamel, Christopher de. Medieval Craftsmen: Scribes and Illumina-
Within a century the “regular” style (zhen shu) developed and
tors. London, 1992. Deals with the makers of paper, parch-
became the standard form still employed today.
ment and inks, and with scribes, illustrators, booksellers and
Wang Xizhi (321–379 CE), China’s greatest calligra-
pher, created a cursive or “running” script (xing shu). He ar-
Harris, David. Calligraphy, Inspiration, Innovation, Communica-
rived at this elegant form of speed writing, which reduces the
tion. London, 1991. Examines the breath of calligraphy in
rigid formality and clarity of “regular” style to impressionistic
modern life.
essentials instantly comprehensible to the expert, after study-
Mote, Frederick W., and Hun-Lam Chu. Calligraphy and the East
ing geese. He saw in their graceful, turning, supple necks pre-
Asian Book. Edited by Howard L. Goodman. Princeton,
cisely the strength and flexibility required of the calligra-
1988. Calligraphy before and after the start of printing in
pher’s brush strokes. The result was that another
China and Japan.
convenience, and yet another level of artful beauty entered
Safadi, Yasin Hamid. Islamic Calligraphy. London, 1978. Exam-
ines the work of Islamic calligraphers from the beginning of
Islam; deals also with calligraphy in Islamic architecture.
Many Chinese characters are in a sense pictures (picto-
graphs) representing “things” such as sun, moon, tree, or
Whalley, Joyce Irene. Writing Implements and Accessories: From
Roman Stylus to the Typewriter. Vancouver, 1975. Exhaustive
house; others (ideographs) represent “ideas.” But by far the
study of the history of writing implements.
majority of all Chinese characters are now recognized as
“logographs,” that is, as graphs that represent, strictly, nei-
Yao, Min-Chi. The Influence of Chinese and Japanese Calligraphy
ther pictorial image nor brute idea but words, through a
on Mark Tobey (1890–1976). San Francisco, 1983. The spir-
itual influence of far eastern calligraphy on the American
complex system of semantic and phonemic constituents that
painter Mark Tobey.
long ago escaped from a purely visual medium of representa-
tion. By combining these graphs in an endless variety of ways
Zapf, Hermann. About Alphabets, Some Marginal Notes on Type
to make new words and then compounding them with still
Design. New York, 1960. The place of calligraphy in modern
type design.
others, any word or idea can be expressed. For thunder and
, for example, combine rain and paddy field. For cash
money, put the word for gold next to that for a guardian spear.
Modern notions can be incorporated into the language by
the same process. For electricity, write thunder and lightning,
add a tail, and make a compound with the word for feeling.
The system suits China’s monosyllabic language perfectly
and adapts into Japanese most conveniently. When the Chi-
Four thousand years ago, it is alleged, the Chinese sage Cang
nese or Japanese regard a character, they at once see a picture,
Jian, whose pastime was to observe birds’ footprints in the
hear a sound, and perceive a meaning.
sand and trace their patterns, conceived China’s first writing.
These were pictographs or stenographic sketches of familiar
Unabridged Chinese and Japanese dictionaries list up-
objects, animals, or birds, still more or less easily recognized.
ward of forty thousand characters today. A knowledge of five
They formed no sentences or concepts, merely incomplete
thousand is sufficient for reading a newspaper. The number
ideas and phrases. In the pre-Confucian, pre-Buddhist China
of strokes within a single character ranges from one (meaning
of the Shang dynasty (1500–1050 BCE) such scripts were
“one”) to thirty-three (composed of three deer, meaning
used to inscribe the shells and bones used for divination.
“rough,” “rude,” or “wild”). Each stroke is either thick or
Early writing is next encountered in China during the Zhou
thin, strong or soft, curved or straight, heavy with ink or dry
dynasty (1122–221 BCE) in the stiff, cold, classic, formal
and faint, pushed against the paper or lightly withdrawn
ideograms of the “great seal” style (da zhuan) that covered
from it. A character, regardless of its number of strokes, must
ceremonial bronzes with messages of felicity in the afterlife.
occupy the same amount of space within an invisible square,
These vessels, suitable for cooking or wine, were entombed
and must be equidistant from all others on the page. Each
with their masters, who might need such comforts as they
stroke composing the ideogram must be written in correct
journeyed to join their ancestors. “Great seal” was the writing
order—from top to bottom, left to right, vertical strokes be-
Confucius read and wrote, and it is still used in China and
fore horizontal ones.
Japan for signature seals (chops) or ornamental inscriptions
In 405 CE, Wani, a Korean scribe well versed in Chinese
of a particularly exalted sort.
classics, was hired by the imperial court of Japan as tutor to
Following the unification of China in 221 BCE, the first
the crown prince. Japan had no written language of its own,
emperor of the Qin dynasty simplified and regularized the
and it had become increasingly necessary to communicate
written language into the “small seal” style (xiao zhuan).
with its powerful neighbor, the “center of the universe.”
Writing continued in use as ceremony and religious obser-
Within a century China began sending presents to Japan’s
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

emperor—images of Lord Buddha, su¯tras translated into
Ecke Zong Youhe. Chinese Calligraphy. Philadelphia, 1971.
Chinese from the Sanskrit and Pali, and the teachings of
Hisamatsu, Shin’ichi. Zen and the Fine Arts. Tokyo, 1971.
Confucius. Scholars arrived from China bringing with them
Sansom, George B. Japan: A Short Cultural History (1931). Rev.
books, music, medicines (tea among them), the craft of cal-
ed. New York, 1962.
endar making, and the art of divination. And with them also
came the “four perfections of calligraphy”—the brush, paper,
Sullivan, Michael. The Three Perfections. New York, 1980.
ink stick, and ink stone.
Tazawa Yutaka, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Japanese Art.
Calligraphy in Japan is called shodo¯, “way of writing,”
Tokyo, 1984.
and is a way of life, a path or pursuit, like bushido¯, the path
New Sources
of the warrior, sado¯, the cul˙t of tea, or Shinto¯, the way of the
Barrass, Gordon. The Art of Calligraphy in Modern China. Berke-
gods. In the Nara period (710–784 CE) priests began the
ley, 2002.
practice of shakyo¯, the copying over and over of su¯tras,
Ellsworth, Robert Hatfield. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy
the Buddha’s teachings and commentaries thereon, a custom
1800–1950. New York, 1987.
that continues to this day. A Chinese priest had said, “If you
Gaur, Albertine. A History of Calligraphy. London, 1994.
do not understand, write the su¯tra. Then you will see its
inner meaning.” Obediently, priests spent lifetimes at this
Sturman, Peter Charles. Mi Fu: Style and the Art of Calligraphy in
Northern Song China. New Haven, 1997.
labor in search of enlightenment (which sometimes came in
the middle of an ideographic stroke), as penance, and as a
Zeng, Youhe. A History of Chinese Calligraphy. Hong Kong, 1993.
means of raising temple funds. Spiritual merit accrued not
only to the writer but to the beholder and to anyone who
Revised Bibliography
purchased the manuscript.
Japan’s earliest poems were in Chinese, but gradually
the Japanese broke free and began adapting monosyllabic,
short, concise, and tonal Chinese to their own spoken lan-
The patterning of Hebrew texts into ornamental motifs is a
guage, which is polysyllabic, highly inflected, and periphras-
medieval art form that bears the modern name of microgra-
tic with affixes for adjectives and prefixes for nouns. In the
phy, “minute writing.” Within an artistic tradition almost
ninth century the women of the Heian court devised brief
universally consigned to dependency on one dominant cul-
cursive signs called hiragana, a syllabary that derived from
ture or another because of its minority status, this distinctive
Chinese and, remotely, was probably inspired by the Sanskrit
calligraphic device represents one of the most original aspects
alphabet known in Chinese translation.
of Jewish art.
At present, calligraphy is held in highest esteem in
Japan. Scholars practice hitsudan, or communicating with
MERGENCE OF THE ART. Micrographic decoration can be
found on manuscripts from Yemen to Germany, but its his-
each other by exchanging notes across a table. (They can also
torical origins lie in the eastern Mediterranean, during the
communicate with modern Chinese this way without know-
first few centuries of Muslim rule. The earliest dated example
ing the pronunciation of a single spoken word.) Great callig-
is the Cairo Codex of the Prophets written in Tiberius in
raphers are paid as much as fifty thousand dollars a word,
and specimens of fine writing adorn shopping bags, cigarette
CE by the renowned scholar Moshe ben Asher. In the
manner of near-contemporary QurDa¯ns, the manuscript con-
boxes, or signs outside a shop window. Kabuki actors are ap-
tains five “carpet pages” of geometric and floral motifs, but
plauded for their calligraphy, and an onnagata (a player of
six other full-page compositions are made up of elaborate mi-
female roles) will mix a touch of lipstick in his ink to add
crographic patterns; simpler lettered designs are scattered
eroticism to an autograph. Kakizome, the first brush writing
throughout the margins of the text itself, and at the end, the
of the new year, occurs annually on January 2, and at “callig-
patron’s colophon is similarly framed with writing.
raphy meets” more than a thousand participants ranging in
age from five to sixty gather in the Great Martial Arts Hall
In addition to the Cairo Codex of the Prophets, pat-
of Tokyo to compete for prizes.
terned texts appear on at least fifteen other manuscripts and
Although the typewriter and the fountain pen have re-
fragments dating from the tenth or eleventh century, all of
moved calligraphy from the daily life of the average Japanese,
which are associated with Egypt, although the scribes fre-
many men and women practice it as a form of spiritual disci-
quently come from elsewhere in the Muslim empire. Taken
pline. As Aoyama San’u, one of the greatest living calligra-
together, these early examples reflect quite clearly the dual
phers, expresses it, “In calligraphy you see the reality of the
Judeo-Muslim context that literally shaped the micrographic
person. When you write you cannot lie, retouch, ornament.
art. The meeting ground of the two, of course, was the vener-
You are naked before God.”
ation of the word of God, but while the Muslim scribes gave
visual expression to this religious stance through the refine-
ment of the letters that made up the divine words, their Jew-
Chen Zhimai. Chinese Calligraphers and Their Art. New York,
ish counterparts opted instead to fashion words into pat-
terns. And here, the basic conservatism of the micrographic
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

script, which is never regularized or embellished like the Ara-
manuscript arts, declined in the wake of the printed book.
bic letters of the QurDa¯n, may well reflect a reluctance to alter
But the technique soon reemerged throughout eastern and
the alphabet that had been used for centuries in the writing
western Europe in popular engravings and then lithographs,
of the Torah scroll (a practice carefully regulated in the
with subjects ranging from mizrah: and shiviti designs to indi-
cate the direction of prayer toward Jerusalem to Bible illus-
The words chosen for patterning were drawn from the
trations, rabbi portraits, and postcard views from Palestine,
Bible itself and the masorah, the critical apparatus aimed at
all of which were often executed in an incongruously realistic
keeping the biblical text intact through an elaborate system
style. Renewed interest in Jewish art has drawn some modern
of word counts. Significantly, the Cairo Codex of the Proph-
artists back to traditional micrography techniques.
ets is also the earliest dated Bible with masorah—the activities
of Masoretes and scribes alike (and Moshe ben Asher was
both) were devoted in their respective ways to the preserva-
The most extensive work on Hebrew micrography has been done
tion of the sacred scripture. On the popular level, these ef-
by Leila Avrin, whose essay “Micrography as Art,” published
along with Colette Sirat’s “La lettre hébraïque et sa significa-
forts were endowed with mystical and magical significance
tion” as Études de paléographie hébraïque (Paris, 1981), con-
as well, through deeply rooted notions of letter symbolism
tains many illustrations and relevant bibliography. See also
and the power of the word.
Avrin’s “The Illustrations of the Moshe ben Asher Codex of
In fact, it is this last dimension that suggests a concrete
985 CE.” (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,
source for the convention of micrographic decoration, name-
ly the amulets and charms that were commonly inscribed,
New Sources
in minuscule letters, with the names of God and biblical
Avrin, Leila. “Hebrew Micrography.” Ariel 53 (1983): 90–100.
verses often patterned around magical figures. In the early
Metzger, Thérèse. “Ornamental Micrography in Medieval He-
micrographic Bibles, this amuletic inspiration—and in-
brew Manuscripts.” Bibliotheca Orientalis 43 (1986):
tent—is apparent throughout, from arcane marginal decora-
tions made up of in-text masorah to elaborate geometric car-
pet pages incorporating propitious biblical verses.
Revised Bibliography
LATER DEVELOPMENTS. Within the Muslim world, microg-
raphy spread from the eastern Mediterranean to Yemen,
where it became a highly developed art in the fifteenth centu-
ry and continued into the seventeenth. The most striking ex-
Calligraphy occupies the highest rank among the arts of
ample is a 1469 Pentateuch (British Museum, MS Or.
Islam: according to the tradition of the Prophet, the calligra-
2348), with a double-page design that fashions Psalm 119
pher, who knows how to pen in beautiful letters the word
into a Mamluk metalwork pattern of mountains and fish.
of God or even a fragment of the QurDa¯n, will certainly go
Through the Iberian Peninsula the technique reached
to Paradise. The art of calligraphy developed at an early stage
Europe by the the thirteenth century. Spanish variants on the
of Islamic history, and soon the ungainly characters of the
Near Eastern repertoire include the addition of a framing
Semitic alphabet were transformed into decorative letters. An
text in large letters around carpet pages and the outlining of
angular, hieratic script developed for the preservation of the
solid decorations with micrographic borders, as well as a few
QurDa¯n; although several early styles existed, it is generally
representational images in micrography illustrating the adja-
called Ku¯f¯ı or Kufic (from the city of Kufa in Iraq), and in
cent Bible text. The most elaborate Spanish Bible (Bibliothè-
pious tradition certain features of it are ascribed to EAl¯ı ibn
que Nationale, Paris, MS Hébreu 1314–1315) opens with
Ab¯ı T:a¯lib, considered the patron of calligraphers. Early
eight carpet pages containing the entire biblical text in mi-
Kufic lacks the diacritical marks that were added after 685,
crographic interlace.
as were the signs for vocalization (both in color). A cursive
In Germany and France, Gothic marginalia—
hand was also used, as numerous papyri show. This was de-
grotesques and heraldic motifs—make their way into the mi-
veloped into several styles for chancelery and copying pur-
crographic tradition alongside the Near Eastern interlace,
poses when the use of paper (introduced from China) be-
while the carpet pages at the beginning and end of the manu-
came common in the Islamic world after 751. Early Kufic
script give way to full-page designs inserted between individ-
QurDa¯ns are written on vellum with a reed pen; the format
ual books of the Bible, including floral and animal motifs
of the books is oblong, and only from about the tenth centu-
around the initial word of the biblical text. Full-page illustra-
ry was the normal book format adapted for QurDa¯ns, appar-
tions are also formed from micrographic text, as in the repre-
ently first in the eastern Islamic world. With this change of
sentations of Aaron found at the end of the Book of Exodus
format, the lettering too changed: the broad, very impressive
in a 1294/5 Pentateuch (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, MS
early Kufic assumed a taller, more graceful stature, and its
Hébreu 5).
developed forms are still used for decorative purposes.
Apart from a revival of decorated marriage contracts (ke-
The cursive hand was transformed into true calligraphy
tubot) in seventeenth-century Italy, micrography, like other
by the Abbasid vizier Ibn Muqlah (d. 940), who invented 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

system of measuring the letters by circles and semicircles,
lamic Calligraphy (Boulder, 1979). Martin Lings’s The
with the first letter, alif, becoming the measure for the other
Qur Danic Art of Calligraphy and Illumination (London, 1976)
twenty-seven letters. As alif is basically a straight vertical line
is excellent because it dwells upon the religious character of
with the numerical value 1 and is used in mystical specula-
writing. Ernst Kühnel’s small but weighty book Islamische
tion as a symbol for Alla¯h (God), the formation of the letters
Schriftkunst (1942; reprint, Graz, 1972) is still very valuable
“in the shape of alif” corresponds in a mystical way to the
for its all-around approach and interesting examples. I have
provided a brief introduction to the subject in Islamic Callig-
shaping of Adam “in his, God’s, form.” The rules of Ibn
raphy (Leiden, 1970) and delved at greater length into the
Muqlah were refined by Ibn al-Bawwab (d. 1032). Along
history, the social situation of the calligraphers, and the uses
with the circles, the square dots produced by the tip of the
of calligraphy in Sufism and in poetical parlance in Calligra-
reed pen served as measuring units: an alif could be five,
phy and Islamic Culture (New York, 1984).
seven, or nine points high, and all the other letters had to
be formed accordingly. Su¯f¯ı interpretation saw here the pri-
mordial dot from which everything created developed. Cur-
sive writing replaced Kufic first in books and documents (in
early days usually written as scroll), then, in the thirteenth
CALVERT, GEORGE (1580?–1632), secretary of
century, also in epigraphy, where the angular letters had
state and privy councillor under King James I of England;
grown, between 800 and 1250, into multiple forms of flori-
the first Lord Baltimore, principally known for his efforts in
ated, foliated, and plaited Kufic, which became barely legible
advancing religious toleration in an age that regarded plural-
but formed exquisite geometrical ornaments. In Iran, a
ism as dangerous.
“hanging,” slanted cursive developed from grammatical exi-
gencies; it was refined according to Ibn Muqlah’s rules to be-
Calvert’s commitment to religious toleration was a re-
come the “bride of Islamic writings,” nasta El¯ıq, the ideal ve-
flection of his unsettled religious life. Born into a Roman
hicle for copying Persian, Turkish, and Urdu poetry.
Catholic family that was troubled periodically for its alle-
giance to a proscribed church, he lived as a Catholic during
Calligraphy can be exercised on every material: vellum,
the first twelve years of his life. In 1592 his father succumbed
papyrus, and paper (paper mills are found from Spain to
to the harassment of the Yorkshire High Commission and
India); it is woven into silk and linen, embroidered on velvet,
certified his conformity to the rites of the Church of En-
used in metalwork and wood, on glass and ceramics, on
gland. George Calvert soon conformed and for the next thir-
stones and tiles. Brick and tile compositions result in
ty-two years lived as a Protestant.
“square” Kufic, where the names of God and the Prophet
(and in Iran, EAl¯ı) or religious formulas can cover whole walls
At about the age of fourteen Calvert matriculated at
in geometrical design. Calligraphy on paper (which includes
Trinity College, Oxford, where he studied foreign languages.
the patterns for the other types of writing) is written with
After earning his bachelor’s degree, he spent three years
a reed pen; only very rarely—in early days in Central Asia
studying municipal law at the Inns of Court. In 1603, while
and India—a brush may have been used. The trimming of
on a continental tour, he came to the attention of secretary
the pen in distinct angles and the preparation of the various
of state Robert Cecil, who was in Paris. Employed as one of
types of ink belong to the arts the calligrapher has to learn,
his many secretaries, Calvert used Cecil’s influence to begin
as he has to study the shape of each and every letter for years
a slow but steady climb in the government of James I. He
before becoming a master who is allowed to sign works with
traveled overseas on a number of diplomatic missions. In Ire-
his katabahu, “has written.” Only in North Africa did pupils
land he served as a member of a commission investigating
write whole words immediately, which accounts for the less
the complaints of Irish Roman Catholics. In 1610 Calvert
“calligraphic” quality of the so-called Maghribi style.
was named one of the clerks of the Privy Council. Later he
assisted James in writing a tract refuting the Dutch theolo-
Later calligraphers liked to form tughra¯s—originally the
gian Conrad Vorstius. Two years after knighting him in
elaborate signature or handsign of a ruler at the beginning
1617, James appointed Calvert as one of the secretaries of
of a document. Subsequently the word is applied to all kinds
state and made him a member of the Privy Council.
of artistic shapes: mirrored sentences, pious formulas in the
shape of birds, lions, or other creatures, faces made of sacred
During the negotiations to marry heir apparent Prince
names, or harmonically elaborated calligrams of invocations,
Charles to the Spanish Infanta, and to cement an alliance be-
prayers, or divine names. The imagery of calligraphy perme-
tween Spain and England, Calvert, as secretary of state, be-
ates Islamic poetry, and the interpretation of letters accord-
came closely identified with both the Spanish and Roman
ing to their numerical value and their “mystical” qualities
Catholic causes. Laboring diligently to achieve the king’s
was, and still is, widespread.
goal, Calvert reached the pinnacle of his power in 1621 and
1622. However, when the government scuttled the marriage
treaties in 1624, Calvert lost favor at court and came under
Numerous publications on calligraphy have been issued recently,
intense pressure to resign his office. During this crisis, he re-
most of which are devoted to aesthetic rather than historical
solved his religious commitments, declaring his intention to
purposes. A good brief introduction is Yasin H. Safadi’s Is-
live and die a Catholic. He resigned his office, selling it for
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

three thousand pounds. James elevated him to the Irish peer-
Also a humanist and linguist, Calvin helped to shape and
age by creating him baron of Baltimore.
standardize French language and literary style.
Out of office, Lord Baltimore turned his attention to his
Calvin was reclusive and reticent; hence the only Calvin
Irish estates and to the supervision of his Newfoundland col-
we know is the public figure. Of his first twenty-five years
ony, for which he had received a charter in 1621. In 1628
we know comparatively little. He was born at Noyon (prov-
he returned to Newfoundland intending to colonize the re-
ince of Picardy), France, on July 10, 1509, the fourth of six
gion with a religiously diverse population. However, the for-
children born to Gérard Cauvin and Jeanne Lefranc. Chris-
bidding climate and the hostility of the French convinced
tened Jean Cauvin, from his university days he used the
him to abandon his plans of permanent residency in New-
name Calvin, the latinized form of Cauvin. He spent his first
foundland. Baltimore subsequently journeyed to Virginia
thirteen years in Noyon, benefiting from the rich traditions
and, impressed by what he saw there, returned to England
of this historic episcopal city where his father served as attor-
in 1630 to secure a charter for a colony along Chesapeake
ney for the cathedral and secretary to the bishop, Charles de
Despite the opposition encountered from some of the
Intimately associated as a youth with the de Hangest
Protestant settlers in Newfoundland to his policy of religious
household, Calvin developed aristocratic tastes and demea-
toleration, the Catholic Baltimore drew upon his own expe-
nor. Church benefices permitted him to further his educa-
riences in government and rejected the dominant concept of
tion at the University of Paris; he spent nearly eleven years
cuius regio eius religio, namely that the local ruler’s religion
in Paris, participating in the intellectual life both of the uni-
must be the religion of the region. Rather, he sought to
versity and the large circle of humanist scholars at the court
found a colony where Catholics and Protestants could work
of the king, Francis I.
together to achieve an economically viable enterprise. He
died in April 1632, shortly before the Maryland Charter
At the university, preparing for a career in theology,
passed its final seals. The founding of the colony in 1634 was
Calvin had completed the master of arts degree when his fa-
left to his son Cecil, the second Lord Baltimore.
ther had a falling-out with the bishop. The father ordered
his son to change to a career in law. Obediently Calvin
moved to Orléans, where the best law faculty in France,
There is to date no modern biography of George Calvert. The
under the leadership of Pierre de l’Étoile, was located.
most thorough biography is Lewis W. Wilhelm’s Sir George
Though more interested in humanist studies, he completely
Calvert, Baron of Baltimore (Baltimore, 1884). It must be
immersed himself in the law (at Orléans, Bourges, and Paris)
used cautiously, however, as it contains many errors. The
and took his doctorate and his licentiate in three years.
Maryland Historical Society published the first four chapters
In 1531 Calvin’s father died excommunicate. The
of James W. Foster’s uncompleted biography under the title
struggle to secure a Christian burial for his father doubtless
George Calvert: The Early Years (Baltimore, 1983). Calvert’s
letters, mostly official, are scattered throughout the State Pa-
soured Calvin’s relations with the Roman church. But for the
pers in the Public Record Office (London) and in The Cal-
moment the effect of his father’s death was to permit him
vert Papers in the Maryland Historical Society (Baltimore).
to commit himself to the uninterrupted pursuit of humanist
For Calvert’s conversion to Roman Catholicism, see my short
study “‘The Face of a Protestant, and the Heart of a Papist’:
In 1532 Calvin published his first book, a commentary
A Reexamination of Sir George Calvert’s Conversion to
on Seneca’s On Clemency. Though distinguished for its learn-
Roman Catholicism,” Journal of Church and State 20 (Au-
ing, the book did not win him any acclaim. His days of hu-
tumn 1978): 507–531. For his religious problems in his
manist study in Paris were cut short when, in 1533, his close
Newfoundland colony, see R. J. Lahey’s “The Role of Reli-
gion in Lord Baltimore’s Colonial Enterprise,” Maryland
friend Nicholas Cop, rector of the University of Paris, deliv-
Historical Magazine 72 (Winter 1977): 492–511. For the
ered an address that incorporated ideas of the Lutheran Ref-
role of religion in the colony founded by his heir, Cecil Cal-
ormation. Reaction by the theologians at the Sorbonne was
vert, see my articles “Lord Baltimore, Roman Catholics, and
strong, and because Calvin had a hand in the composition
Toleration: Religious Policy in Maryland during the Early
of the address, he, along with Cop, was forced to flee for his
Catholic Years, 1634–1649,” Catholic Historical Review 45
life. Although scholarly opinion differs, it appears that short-
(January 1979): 49–75, and “‘With Promise of Liberty in
ly thereafter he underwent the “sudden conversion” he
Religion’: The Catholic Lords Baltimore and Toleration in
speaks about later. A marked man in France, Calvin spent
Seventeenth-Century Maryland, 1634–1692,” Maryland
the rest of his life in exile.
Historical Magazine 79 (Spring 1984): 21–43.
Having turned his considerable talents to the support
of the Reformation, in early 1536 Calvin published at Basel
the first edition of his epochal Institutes of the Christian Reli-
Intended as a defense of the French Protestants to the
CALVIN, JOHN (1509–1564), primary Protestant re-
king of France, it marked Calvin as the foremost mind of
former, biblical scholar, church organizer, and theologian.
Protestantism. The desired life of solitude and study that per-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

mitted its composition could never again be Calvin’s. In late
by the Holy Spirit. It is, thus, a spiritual message. Hence Cal-
July of 1536, he happened to stop in the small city of Gene-
vin should not be viewed as an academic theologian, or as
va; there God “thrust him into the fray,” as he was to say.
a theologian writing for intellectual purposes. He wrote for
Geneva had recently declared for the Protestant faith under
the church, for believers; his purpose was to edify, to form
the urging of the fiery evangelist Guillaume Farel, one of
the pious mind that would emerge in reverential, grateful
Calvin’s colleagues from his Paris days. Farel, learning of
worship and adoration of God. He constantly warned his
Calvin’s presence in the city, sought him out and urged him
readers not to indulge in idle speculation, not to seek to
to join in the work of reform at Geneva. When Calvin re-
know anything except what is revealed in the scripture, not
fused, Farel thundered that God would punish him for turn-
to forget that theology is more of the heart than of the head.
ing his back on that work. The shaken Calvin heard it as the
Consequently, being biblical, practical, and spiritual, his the-
summons of God and agreed to stay. Except for a three-year
ology was of a different type from that of most of the later
period of peaceful study and ministry in Strasbourg (1538–
Calvinists who wrote for the university audience, for those
1541), Calvin was henceforth associated with the city and
who regarded theology as the “queen of the sciences” in the
republic of Geneva in a stormy ministry designed to bring
world of ideas.
the city into conformity with the biblical model as he under-
stood it.
The principal source for Calvin’s thought is, of course,
the Institutes. This book is best understood as a manual on
Calvin’s ideal for Geneva was that church and state
spirituality. And, although the corpus of his writings is great,
work hand in hand to create and govern a utopian society
Calvin’s ideas, whether found in sermons, biblical commen-
in which the biblical worldview was enforced. But the Gene-
taries, or polemical literature, are consistent with what is
van state was determined to keep the church under its con-
presented in the Institutes.
trol. A man of courage and indomitable will, Calvin took up
the battle. Armed only with the power of the pulpit and of
In general Calvin had fully accepted Luther’s idea that
the church institutions, through persistence, adherence to
salvation is by grace alone through faith. Beyond this, schol-
biblical principles, organizational talents, and moral convic-
ars have been unable to establish that any one specific doc-
tion, he managed to overcome massive resistance and to see
trine is central to his thought. The basic and fundamental
most of his ideals realized. Geneva was transformed from a
development of his thought was not according to the tradi-
city of ill repute to one in which a strict moral code regulated
tional topics of theology, sequentially and logically devel-
the lives of all, regardless of rank or class. In spite of the radi-
oped. Formally he organized his material according to the
cal harshness of his policies, by the end of his life Calvin was
topical format, suggesting that the key to its analysis be
widely respected, even admired, by the Genevans. From an
sought from the perspective of one or several discrete topics.
international perspective, Geneva became the model for the
Yet this approach has only led to an impasse—even to the
emerging Protestant states, a city of refuge for persecuted
conclusion that he was in logic and purpose inexact and am-
Protestants, and the so-called “Rome” of Protestantism. Of
biguous. The often-discussed doctrines of providence and
perhaps capital importance, Calvin’s program—alone
predestination, for example, are presented by Calvin as the
among the Protestant groups—included both a training cen-
response or affirmation of a man of faith, affirming the con-
ter (in the University of Geneva, which he established) and
trol of God in his life, not as an epistemological program.
an acceptance of a missionary mandate to export Calvinism
To approach his theology from specific topics such as these
throughout the world. Hence Calvinism, or Reformed Prot-
has not been fruitful. There are, however, larger, general
estantism, was the only Protestant group with universalistic
ideas or themes that run through the Institutes from the first
page to the last like so many threads in an intricate tapestry
and that point to what is essential in his thought. He under-
Unquestionably, Calvin was first and foremost a man
stood the redemptive message to be the same in both the Old
of ideas, although he effectively blended thought and action.
and the New Testament; hence his theology can be seen as
True to his Renaissance humanist orientation, he was inter-
all of a piece, permitting the dominance of the thematic ap-
ested only in what was useful. All of his ideas are designed
proach rather than the topical.
for practical application, whether to an individual religious
experience or to a specific activity of the church. Further, the
Calvin’s theological program is based on the dictum of
rhetorical and pedagogical program of the humanists formed
Augustine that man is created for communion with God and
the basis of his thought, and their devotion to original
that he will be unfulfilled until he rests in God. Calvin usual-
sources determined his methodology. As a theologian he in-
ly expresses this idea in terms of a union with the Maker and
tended only to set forth scriptural teaching. He accommo-
Redeemer, which is presented as essential to man’s spiritual
dated ambiguity and contradiction in his theology, for peo-
life. Thus the relationship between God and man is made
ple are both limited in mental capacity and debilitated by sin,
the basis of all theological discourse, and this union or com-
hence totally reliant upon the revelation of God in scripture.
munion is established and maintained through what Calvin
calls knowledge, a theme or idea that becomes an ordering
For Calvin, the word of God in scripture is generated
principle of his theology. Knowledge of God the creator and
by the Holy Spirit and, therefore, properly interpreted only
knowledge of God the redeemer are the two divisions of his
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

thought. He uses the term knowledge practically synony-
enduring legacy, is due principally to the nature of his
mously with the term faith. It comprises both the elements
church, to its unique, adaptable, and efficient organization.
of objective information and its subjective appropriation, but
Although its unique blend of theory and practicality meant
essentially it consists of a reverential and worshipful trust in
that Calvin’s theology could be drawn upon by a variety of
the goodness and bounty of God. As with all of his theologi-
different interests, it can also be shown that his theology was
cal ideas, two poles or foci must be kept in balance: the
revised almost beyond recognition very shortly after his death
knowledge of God and the knowledge of self. God is al-
and that the Institutes were not widely read in the late six-
ways—in the context of every theological discussion—at
teenth and early seventeenth centuries. Moreover, while the
once the great, infinite, and incomprehensible being who
educational system produced an informed and well-trained
calls all things out of nothing, as well as the loving, conde-
church membership that was designed to be educationally
scending, and revealing being who calls men and women to
self-perpetuating, it seems undeniable that the unique orga-
commune with him. God is always hidden and revealed,
nizational structure of the Calvinist church was required for
both beyond our comprehension and revealed to us at our
the growth and development of the educational program.
level. Humans, albeit the greatest of God’s creations, are al-
Calvin appears to have recognized as much, for on his return
ways dependent creatures, both because we are created to be
to Geneva in 1541, his first major undertaking was to secure
so and because our sin renders us totally helpless in spiritual
approval of his Ecclesiastical Ordinances, which set forth the
things. Consequently God must always be the initiator of
organization of the church.
any communication with us. And hence humility, sobriety,
Calvin developed a representative form of church gov-
and teachableness are our principal virtues.
ernment with the fundamental activity based in the local
church. The leadership was elected from the local member-
Although he always keeps in mind the perfect condition
ship, and the power, which ultimately resided in the local
in which all things were created, because of the cataclysmic
membership as a whole, was vested in these elected officials,
event of the Fall, all of Calvin’s theology is concerned with
not in the clergy. While there are three higher levels of au-
redemption, with the restoration of the state that God origi-
thority above the local church, established in ascending rep-
nally created. Christ alone is the mediator who both reveals
resentative bodies and culminating in the national or general
and effects this redemption, or restoration. Human beings
assembly, part of the genius of this organization lies in the
are in bondage to sinful nature, so anything relating to this
ability of the local church, in times of emergency, to function
restoration must be initiated by God through Christ. Resto-
without the meeting of the upper-level bodies. As a result
ration occurs when the person is united to Christ by re-
these Calvinist churches were nearly impossible to eradicate.
sponding in faith to the provision made through Christ’s
Silencing the minister and arresting the leadership only tem-
death and resurrection, but this mystical union occurs only
porarily disrupted the church, for the minister was not an es-
if and when the hidden or secret work of the Holy Spirit en-
sential element in the church’s continuance, and in a short
genders that faith. The faithful person is called to obedience,
time new leaders would be elected. So the church could sur-
to be a servant of righteousness, to model his or her life after
vive, even flourish, under conditions of severe persecution.
the incarnate Christ. In this sense Calvin’s theology is Chris-
Beyond the necessary capacity to continue to exist in times
tocentric. But he did not focus attention only in the area of
when religious persecution and wars were the order of the
Christology, for all that Christ does and is, is made real to
day, the representative nature of the church responded to the
man only through the work of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, all
psychological and political reality that humankind is more
of his soteriology is presented in the context of the work of
likely to be committed to a cause when participation in the
the Holy Spirit, “the bond by which Christ effectually unites
decision-making process is involved. The impact of the rep-
us to himself.” The work of restoration, by the power of the
resentative nature of the Calvinist church has been signifi-
Holy Spirit, is done in the context of the church, God’s gra-
cant in the development of the democratic political struc-
cious provision for the activity of preaching and teaching, for
tures of the Western world.
the administration of the sacraments, and for the commu-
nion (and reproof) of the saints.
Calvinists were the most vital of the Protestant groups,
Primary Sources
spreading throughout Europe and the New World, triumph-
The numerous works of Calvin are available, in the original texts,
ing in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Scotland, and for
in the fifty-nine volumes of the magisterial Ioannis Calvini
a time in England and America. Scholarly opinion is divided
opera quae supersunt omnia, edited by J. W. Baum and others
over whether this success is due mainly to Calvin’s theologi-
(Braunschweig, 1863–1900), and in its continuation, the
cal teaching, to his training and educational program (the
Supplementa Calviniana, a collection of subsequently discov-
ered sermons edited by Erwin Mülhaupt and others (Neukir-
complete revamping of the elementary schools and the cre-
chen, 1961–), seven volumes to date with more to come. In
ation of the University of Geneva), or to his organizational
English, the best edition of the Institutes of the Christian Reli-
talent. Probably all of these are contributory factors, and per-
gion is that of J. T. McNeill, translated by Ford Lewis Battles
haps others, but it does seem that the vitality of the Re-
(Philadelphia, 1960) in two volumes. Many other works are
formed or Calvinist movement, and therefore Calvin’s most
available in English translation, including the important edi-
E N C Y C L O P E D I 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 New Testament Commentaries edited by Thomas
for Christian union through the “restoration of the ancient
F. Torrance and David W. Torrance (Edinburgh, 1959–).
order of things,” that is, by restoring New Testament Chris-
Secondary Sources
tianity. Prior to 1830 Campbell was extremely iconoclastic
An excellent guide to the secondary literature is J. T. McNeill’s
in his attacks on the popular churches, ridiculing the clergy
“Fifty Years of Calvin Study: 1918–1968,” which is prefaced
and seeming to attack all cooperative societies. After 1830
to Williston Walker’s John Calvin, the Organiser of Reformed
he became a more constructive builder and seemed confident
Protestantism, 1509–1564 (reprint, New York, 1969). T. H.
that the millennium was about to begin, initiated by the res-
L. Parker’s John Calvin (Philadelphia, 1975), is fully in-
toration movement. In 1849 a group of Disciples leaders es-
formed and reliable, but the fullest and best biography, in
tablished the young church’s first national organization, the
spite of its hagiographic character, is Émile Doumergue’s
American Christian Missionary Society, and, although he
seven-volume Jean Calvin, les hommes et les choses de son temps
was not present at the meeting, Campbell accepted the presi-
(Lausanne, 1899–1927).
dency of the society.
On Calvin’s thought and influence, current scholarly opinion can
be found in the proceedings of the International Congress on
Campbell’s formal college training consisted of less than
Calvin Research edited by W. H. Neuser in three volumes
one year at Glasgow University, but he was a man of consid-
(vols. 1–2, Kampen, Netherlands, 1975, 1979; vol. 3, Bern,
erable erudition. He established a national reputation as a de-
1983). Benoît Giradin’s Rhétorique et théologique . . . (Paris,
bater, especially as a result of widely publicized debates with
1979) is indispensable for the explication of the nature and
the renowned Scottish socialist and atheist Robert Owen, in
structure of his thought, and E. A. Dowey’s The Knowledge
1829, and with the Roman Catholic archbishop of Cincin-
of God in Calvin’s Theology (New York, 1952) is one of the
nati, John B. Purcell, in 1837. Campbell became financially
better introductions. Richard Stauffer’s Dieu, la création et
independent as a result of his marriage to Margaret Brown
al providence dans la prédication de Calvin (Bern, 1978) is an
in 1811, and he spent the remainder of his life living near
excellent corrective to the exclusively Christocentric interpre-
tation of many recent scholars. On Calvin’s influence, Rob-
his wife’s home in Brooke County in western Virginia. He
ert M. Kingdom’s Geneva and the Coming of the Wars of Reli-
became a moderately wealthy man, and in 1829, in his only
gion in France, 1555–1563 (Geneva, 1956) and Geneva and
venture into politics, he was elected a delegate to the Virginia
the Consolidation of the French Protestant Movement, 1564–
Constitutional Convention. In 1841, Campbell established
1572 (Geneva and Madison, Wis., 1967) are representative
Bethany College near his home. Until his death he served as
and excellent studies.
president and professor of moral sciences at the college and
trained a generation of leaders for Disciples churches. Camp-
bell traveled and preached widely throughout the United
States, as well as in England and Scotland. The aging reform-
er was discouraged by the sectional tension caused by the
CAMPBELL, ALEXANDER (1788–1866), one of
slavery debate and the Civil War. He counseled moderation
the founders and the foremost early leader of the Disciples
and believed that the restoration movement could survive the
of Christ. Campbell was born in County Antrim, Northern
tragedy, but by the time of his death his millennial hopes had
Ireland, the son of a Presbyterian minister, Thomas Camp-
given way to pessimism.
bell. He immigrated to America in 1809, joining his father,
who had come two years earlier. When he arrived, Campbell
SEE ALSO Disciples of Christ.
discovered that his father had broken with the Presbyterian
church and had begun a small, nonsectarian “Christian asso-
ciation.” Having been exposed to similar New Testament
No satisfactory biography of Alexander Campbell has yet been
primitivist ideas in Scotland, young Campbell embraced his
written. Probably the best source of information about the
reformer is still the classic study written by his friend Robert
father’s reform and quickly became the most prominent
Richardson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, 2 vols. (Phila-
leader of the new movement. For a time the Campbells were
delphia, 1868–1870). A novel based on Campbell’s life is
Baptists, and from 1823 to 1830 Alexander edited the Chris-
Louis Cochran’s The Fool of God (New York, 1958). Useful
tian Baptist, a periodical that attracted many supporters in
specialized studies include Harold L. Lunger’s The Political
the West and South. Beginning in the 1830s Campbell and
Ethics of Alexander Campbell (Saint Louis, 1954); R. Freder-
his “Reforming Baptist” supporters separated into indepen-
ick West’s Alexander Campbell and Natural Religion (New
dent churches. Campbell preferred the name Disciples of
Haven, 1948); and D. Ray Lindley’s Apostle of Freedom
Christ, but local churches frequently were called Christian
(Saint Louis, 1957). The most comprehensive statement of
Church or Church of Christ. In 1832 the church nearly dou-
Campbell’s ideas can be found in his own The Christian Sys-
bled in size through a union with the Christian movement
tem, 4th ed. (1866; reprint, New York, 1969).
led by Barton Stone of Kentucky; Campbell quickly became
the dominant figure in the united denomination.
From 1830 until 1864 Campbell edited a journal called
the Millennial Harbinger, which became a mirror of his ma-
CAMPBELL, JOSEPH (1904–1987). Joseph Camp-
turing thought. The heart of Campbell’s plea was an appeal
bell was perhaps the best-known mythologist of the twenti-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

eth century. His fame was largely due to his highly acclaimed
on Indian philosophy and art, along with several volumes
public television interviews with Bill Moyers in 1985–1986
from the Eranos conferences in Ascona, Switzerland, for the
and his posthumously published best-selling book, The
Bollingen series.
Power of Myth (1988), based on that series, and in no small
Campbell’s fascination with myth, Eastern religion, and
part to movie director George Lucas, who gave Campbell
Jungian psychology finally led to his own famous study of
credit for inspiring his movie Star Wars (1977). Campbell’s
hero myths, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). Several
books on myth had many admirers, from literary critics who
other notable studies on comparative mythology followed.
found his analysis of hero myths interpretatively rich, to the
The Masks of God (1959–1968), written after an eye-opening
general public, who loved Campbell’s retellings of his “myths
trip to India in 1954, was a monumental four-volume survey
to live by.” Campbell believed that the world’s great myths
of “primitive,” “oriental,” “occidental,” and modern literary
symbolized the ultimate human spiritual goal of living joy-
“creative” mythology. His goal was to write a “natural histo-
fully and mystically, at one with one’s true self and the cos-
ry” of myths that traced “the fundamental unity of the spiri-
mos, and generations of fans took his advice to “follow your
tual history of mankind” by revealing themes with a world-
own bliss.”
wide distribution, such as “fire-theft, deluge, land of the
EARLY YEARS. Campbell was born in New York City in 1904
dead, virgin birth, and resurrected hero” (vol. 1, p. 3). This
to a prosperous Irish-American family who gave their gifted
was followed by The Flight of the Wild Gander (1969), a col-
child every advantage. He was trained in Roman Catholicism
lection of Campbell’s important essays on the biological,
at parochial school, but became fascinated by non-Western
metaphysical, and historical-cultural origins of myth as well
traditions after seeing American Indians at Buffalo Bill’s
as his own positive essay on the “secularization of the sacred”
Wild West Show. Campbell read widely, including many In-
in the modern world.
dian myths that, he noticed, shared common motifs with sto-
After retiring from Sarah Lawrence in 1972, Campbell
ries from the Bible. After entering Columbia University in
moved to Honolulu, where he continued writing. Books
1921, Campbell continued his studies in languages and liter-
from this period include Myths to Live By (1972), his argu-
ature, and studied anthropology with Franz Boas and philos-
ment that the modern world has a desperate need for new
ophy with John Dewey. Campbell was introduced to Eastern
myths; The Mythic Image (1974), his exploration of the inti-
religions on a trip to Europe before his college graduation.
mate connection between dreams, myths, and art; The Inner
There he met Jiddu Krishnamurti and read Edwin Arnold’s
Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion
The Light of Asia, with its translations of Asian religious clas-
(1986), a collection of lectures arguing that the true meaning
sics like the Upanis:ads and the life of the Buddha. Both Hin-
of myth is symbolic, universal, and mystical; The Historical
duism and Buddhism were to have a major impact on Camp-
Atlas of World Mythology (1983, 1989), a two-volume at-
bell’s interpretation of myths.
tempt to trace the historical origin and diffusion of myths;
After graduating in 1926 with a master’s degree in me-
and The Power of Myth. Campbell died of cancer in Honolu-
dieval literature, Campbell lived abroad in Paris and Munich
lu in 1987.
on a two-year traveling fellowship, studying Romance philol-
CONCEPTS OF MYTH. Campbell was hostile to organized re-
ogy and Sanskrit. He was deeply influenced by the contem-
ligion. Intellectually, his antipathy owes much to John
porary European intellectual scene, and particularly in-
Dewey’s critique of organized religion in his A Common
trigued by the fictional heroes of novelists James Joyce and
Faith (1934). Dewey dismissed religion as a set of fossilized
Thomas Mann, cultural morphologist Adolf Bastian’s notion
doctrines and institutions based upon a now scientifically
of elementary ideas, ethnologist Leo Frobenius’s idea of cul-
discredited belief in the supernatural and physical immortali-
ture circles, and Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung’s theories of
ty, weighted with historical doctrines and rituals that ob-
dreaming and the unconscious. Jung’s theory of collective ar-
scured the powerful personal experiences underlying it, and
chetypes and their role in the psychic process of self-
mistakenly believed to be literally rather than symbolically
integration had a lasting impact on Campbell’s thinking.
true. While institutional religion had little value for Dewey,
however, its symbols did. They expressed the “religious
SCHOLARLY WORK. In 1934, Campbell began his teaching
moral faith” of the individual who conscientiously harmo-
career at Sarah Lawrence College, where he was a popular in-
nized the self to the world through a pragmatic “adjustment”
structor until his retirement in 1972. His first major publica-
of human ethical ideals in response to an experience of the
tion, A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (1944, with Henry
“imaginative totality” of the Universe (Dewey, 1934,
Morton Robinson), was in the field of literature, but Camp-
pp. 18–19).
bell’s broad scholarly interests soon shifted to mythology. He
was influenced by his friendship with the German Indologist
Campbell agreed with Dewey that taking such stories
Heinrich Zimmer, whose positive views of Indian myths as
as the virgin birth, heaven, and resurrection as literal truths
repositories of timeless spiritual truths greatly impressed him.
was absurd, and argued that they must be understood sym-
After Zimmer’s untimely death in 1943, Campbell edited his
bolically rather than doctrinally. In other respects, however,
manuscripts, publishing Zimmer’s Myths and Symbols in In-
Campbell abandoned Dewey’s self-conscious pragmatism for
dian Art and Civilization (1946) and other important books
a Jungian perspective. Campbell saw parallels between reli-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

gious and dream symbolism and followed Jung’s view that
sonify a kind of spiritually radical monism that is not self-
dreams symbolized the collective patterns, or archetypes, of
sacrificing but rather a self-fulfilling realization of the “soul
the unconscious psyche. Campbell considered dreams to be
in the body, heaven on earth, and god in humanity” (Segal,
personalized myths, and myths to be depersonalized dreams.
1990, p. 138).
He believed that myth’s symbols expressed a psychic-
spiritual wisdom that could free ordinary people from the
RITICAL VIEWS. Several criticisms have been lodged against
Campbell’s comparative mythology. Folklorist Alan Dundes
debilitating anxieties and social chaos of modern secular
argues that, like many other universalists, Campbell is prone
to sweeping generalizations. To show the universality of his
Campbell believed that religious doctrines were nothing
Belly of the Whale motif, for example, Campbell often cited
more than misunderstood mythology. In The Hero with a
stories in which a hero is swallowed. Dundes, however,
Thousand Faces, which he considered his most important
points out that Campbell’s motif of a fish swallowing a per-
work, Campbell drew on Freudian and Jungian psychology
son is not actually found worldwide; it is not found in sub-
to argue that hero myths worldwide use a universal narrative
Saharan Africa, for one, so how can it be a universal struc-
formula to describe rites of passage, each one a local example
ture? He further argues that Campbell’s examples include
of what James Joyce called the mono-myth, a narrative mag-
both Jonah being swallowed by a whale and Little Red Rid-
nification of a basic three-part structure: separation, initia-
ing Hood being swallowed by a wolf. But Little Red Riding
tion, and return. Despite their various historical and cultural
Hood is a heroine, not a hero; her story is a fairy tale, not
particularities, the stories of Jesus, Buddha, Gilgamesh, and
a myth; and a wolf, not a whale, swallows her. Campbell does
other mythological heroes ultimately shared an underlying
not explain to what level of generality an analysis can go to
archetypal unity of common motifs, symbols, and themes.
find the mythic pattern in myths.
They also had a shared meaning—a common psychological
Other critics, including Wallace Martin, fault Campbell
and metaphysical reality was at work in these tales. This uni-
for emphasizing what stories have in common, an approach
versality explains why ancient myths, even those of other
that inevitably blurs distinctions “and thus makes it impossi-
people, are still powerful today.
ble, within the theory, to show how and why stories are dif-
Campbell believed that myth functioned as a kind of
ferent” (Martin, 1986, p. 103). Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty
comforting second womb. He focused his work on the latter
dismisses this as Campbell’s “TV dinner approach” to myth,
half of human life, where dealing with despair and anxiety,
boiling it down to its bloodless archetypes. She sees this re-
and especially old age, sickness, and death, is unavoidable.
ductionism in The Historical Atlas of World Mythology, where
Myths responded to the reality of suffering and mortality by
Campbell abandoned Jungian theory for a supposedly histor-
revealing a spiritual way to transcend the universal tragedies
ical analysis tracing the origin of his mythic motifs through
of humanity. Campbell supplemented Jung’s theory of psy-
diffusion. What Campbell forgot, O’Flaherty notes, is that
cho-developmental integration of the unconscious and con-
a phallus, for example, may be archetypal, but it is “always
scious with the mysticism of Hinduism and Buddhism. He
someone’s phallus.” It is in the “banal details” of myths, their
believed world myths pointed to the possibility of apotheosis,
variants, and their culturally specific forms that meaning re-
of discarding personal ego and realizing an enduring oneness
sides (O’Flaherty, 1988, pp. 34–35). Because of his decon-
with the cosmos. The power of myth was its ability to shatter
textualizing approach, she argues, Campbell ignored indige-
“forms and our attachment to the forms” and through “com-
nous interpretations and trivialized the many and often
edy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy,” to evoke an ec-
contested meanings of myths within their cultures of origin.
static feeling of being alive (Campbell, 1949, pp. 28–29).
Although he recognized different functions of myth, his
Campbell modified his views after his trip to India in
critics claim that Campbell ignored the social, political, and
1954. In the latter volumes of The Masks of God, Occidental
ethical to focus exclusively on the mystical. In The Hero with
Mythology, and Creative Mythology, he rejected what he came
a Thousand Faces, Campbell left Jung behind with a meta-
to consider a dehumanizing monism in Eastern theology and
physical, spiritual perspective that envisaged the role of myth
instead embraced a Western spiritual individualism that did
“not to cure the individual back again to the general delu-
not dissolve the ego into a larger social and cosmic mystical
sion, but to detach him from delusion altogether and this not
whole. In Creative Mythology, Campbell claimed that this
by readjusting the desire (eors) and hostility (thanatos)—for
ideal, with origins in pre-Christian European paganism, was
that would only originate a new context of delusion—but by
classically formulated in the twelfth-century Romantic litera-
extinguishing the impulses to the very root, according to the
ture of courtly love. Stories like those of Tristan and Isolde,
method of the celebrated Buddhist Eightfold path.” (Camp-
in which the heroic lovers achieve an ecstatic spiritual and
bell, 1949, pp. 164–165). Thus Campbell argued that the
physical union while preserving their separate identities, ex-
Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh told the same story as the Dao
emplified the ideal of individualism. He found parallels in
de jing and Indian Tantrism: that physical immortality was
contemporary Western literature in the novels of James Joyce
impossible and that the only eternity was in the realization
and Thomas Mann. The male heroes of Mann’s Magic
that all was one here and now (p. 189). Hindu mysticism and
Mountain (1924) and Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939) per-
the eightfold path of Buddhism provided the key for Camp-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

bell’s understanding of hero myths, and he later relied upon
Martin, Wallace. Recent Theories of Narrative. New York, 1986.
Kun:d:alin¯ı Yoga and European paganism as well. This one-
Noel, Daniel, ed. Paths to the Power of Myth: Joseph Campbell and
meaning-fits-all approach, critics claim, reveals more about
the Study of Religion. New York, 1994.
Campbell’s own brand of philosophy than anything else.
O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Other People’s Myths. New York,
Several critics, including Brendan Gill and Robert Segal,
have also accused Campbell of being anti-Semitic. Campbell
Segal, Robert. Joseph Campbell: An Introduction. Rev. ed. New
was hostile to organized religion generally, but his critics
York, 1990.
argue that he singled out Judaism especially, using what
Segal, Robert. “Joseph Campbell on Jews and Judaism.” Religion
Segal calls “the crudest of stock epithets” for his vitriolic at-
22 (1992): 151–170.
tacks on it as chauvinistic, fossilized, tribal, patriarchal, and
Segal, Robert. “Joseph Campbell as Anti-Semite and as a Theorist
literalistic (Segal, 1999, p. 462). Campbell’s biographers Ste-
of Myth: A Response to Maurice Friedman.” Journal of the
phen and Robin Larsen sympathetically portray him as, at
American Academy of Religion 67 (1999): 461–467.
most, anti-Zionist, but other critics believe Campbell’s prej-
Tillich, Paul. The Socialist Decision. Translated by Franklin Sher-
udices left him indifferent to the Holocaust and blind to the
man. New York, 1977.
dangers of what the philosopher Paul Tillich describes as the
“mythical powers of origin of the soil and blood” that culmi-
nated in the Nazi worship of a German paganism that lay
at the heart of its terror (Tillich, 1977, pp. 13–18). Camp-
bell’s limited focus only allowed him to see this paganism
nostalgically, as the source of a Western romantic individual-
This entry consists of the following articles:
ism buried under the historical encumbrances of Christianity
and Judaism.
Campbell, Joseph. A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, with Henry
Morton Robinson. New York, 1944.
The term Canaanite is variously used in both ancient and
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. New York,
modern sources. Most popularly, it refers to the indigenous
population of the southwestern Levant, which, according to
Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God. 4 vols. New York, 1959–
biblical traditions, was displaced by Israelite conquerors late
in the second millennium before the common era. This pop-
Campbell, Joseph. The Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in
ular usage is, however, both too narrow geographically and
the Mythological Dimension. New York, 1969.
fraught with sociohistorical difficulties. In this article, the
term Canaanite religion will refer mainly to the one North-
Campbell, Joseph. Myths to Live By. New York, 1972.
west Semitic religion of the second millennium that is pres-
Campbell, Joseph. The Mythic Image, assisted by M. J. Abadie.
ently well attested, the Ugaritic. It should be borne in mind,
Princeton, N.J., 1974.
however, that ancient sources do not necessarily support the
Campbell, Joseph. The Historical Atlas of World Mythology. 2 vols.
often-asserted equation of “Ugaritic” with “Canaanite,” if
New York, 1983, 1989.
the terms of the equation are linguistic, ethnic, or political.
Campbell, Joseph. The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as
And in any case, the undoubtedly idiosyncratic Ugaritic data
Myth and as Religion. New York, 1986.
do not facilitate a generally applicable description of “Ca-
Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers, edited
naanite” (or, more accurately, “Northwest Semitic”) religion.
by Betty Sue Flowers. New York, 1988.
Dewey, John. A Common Faith. New Haven, Conn., 1934.
Before the late nineteenth century, there were only two
sources for the study of the Canaanite religion. The first, the
Doniger, Wendy. “A Very Strange Enchanted Boy.” New York
Times Book Review, February 3, 1992.
Hebrew scriptures, contains numerous references to the Ca-
naanites and their practices, which are generally condemned
Dundes, Alan, ed. Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of
as abominable (e.g., Lv. 18:3, 27–28). As early as the first
Myth. Berkeley, 1984.
century BCE, the biblical commentator Philo of Alexandria
Ellwood, Robert. The Politics of Myth: A Study of C. G. Jung, Mir-
recognized that Canaan was the biblical symbol of “vice,”
cea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell. New York, 1999.
which the Israelites were naturally bidden to despise (De
Friedman, Maurice. “Why Joseph Campbell’s Psychologizing of
cong. 83–85). It is generally agreed that the biblical witness
Myth Precludes the Holocaust as Touchstone of Reality.”
to Canaanite religion is highly polemical and, therefore, un-
Journal of the American Academy of Religion 66 (1998):
reliable; biblical evidence must at the least be used with ex-
treme caution, and in conjunction with extrabiblical sources.
Gill, Brendan. “The Faces of Joseph Campbell.” New York Review
of Books 36 (September 28, 1989): 16–19.
The second source for knowledge of Canaanite religion
Larsen, Stephen, and Robin Larsen. Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the
was those classical texts that preserve descriptions of aspects
Mind. Rochester, Vt., 1991.
of it. The best known of these are the Phoenician History of
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Philo Byblius, of which portions are preserved in Eusebius’s
finities with biblical prophecies of a millennium later. Some
Praeparatio evangelica, and The Syrian Goddess, attributed
of this oracular speaking seems to have been done by cultic
(perhaps falsely) to Lucian of Samothrace. The reliability of
personnel, and some apparently consisted of messages trans-
Philo Byblius, however, has been the subject of scholarly de-
mitted by the gods through ordinary people. In either case,
bate, and the present consensus is that the comparability of
it clearly deviated from the normal (and presumably norma-
the Phoenician History with authentic Canaanite data should
tive) mode of divine intermediation, which was, as generally
not be overstressed. At best, Philo’s information probably
in the ancient Near East, divination in its various forms.
sheds light on the religion of late Hellenized Phoenicians,
Local temple officials probably felt that the extraordinary be-
and offers no direct evidence for second-millennium Ca-
havior, and the messages transmitted by it, had to be report-
naanite religion. The same generalization applies to (Pseu-
ed to higher authorities. It may be suggested, on the basis
do-) Lucian, despite a few scholarly claims to the contrary.
of these Mari texts and related evidence, that the phenome-
non broadly termed prophecy represented a peculiar and pe-
Firsthand evidence for Canaanite culture in the second
ripheral kind of divine intermediation among the West Sem-
millennium BCE (or, in archaeological terms, the Middle
ites generally.
Bronze and Late Bronze periods) comes from artifactual evi-
dence found at many archaeological sites (more than sixty for
Most of the Amarna letters report on Levantine mili-
the first part of the Middle Bronze period alone—mostly
tary, economic, and political matters to the Egyptian court.
tombs) and from textual evidence stemming mainly from
The letters were written in Babylonian, the diplomatic lan-
three great discoveries: (1) the eighteenth-century royal ar-
guage of the period, but they regularly reveal the Canaanite
chives of “Amorite” Mari (Tell Hariri, on the Euphrates
character of their authors—in personal names, peculiar scrib-
River near the present border between Syria and Iraq); (2)
al practices, and, especially, the use of characteristic Canaan-
the diplomatic correspondence between several Levantine
ite vocabulary and turns of phrase. While none of the
vassal princes and the pharoahs Amenophis III and IV (first
Amarna letters is directly concerned with religion, important
half of the fourteenth century), found at Tell al-EAmarna
information can be derived from the divine names and epi-
(about 330 km south of Cairo on the east bank of the Nile);
thets mentioned in passing (and as components of personal
and (3) the mainly fourteenth- and thirteenth-century texts
names), and from Canaanite religious and liturgical clichés
found at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit) and nearby Ras Ibn
that have been incorporated into the epistolary style. For ex-
Hani, both within the present-day administrative district of
ample, the son of Aziru, prince of Amurru, writes as follows
Latakia, on the Mediterranean coast of Syria. The artifactual
to the Egyptian court: “You give me life, and you give me
evidence is crucial for understanding material culture, socio-
death. I look upon your face; you are indeed my lord. So let
economic developments, population movements, and the
my lord hearken to his servant.” Such expressions, which are
like, and provides considerable data about funerary practices.
frequent in the correspondence, are probably borrowed litur-
Most significant for the study of religion are the figurines,
gical formulas, perhaps from lost Canaanite prayers that were
thought to represent gods and goddesses, that have been re-
probably comparable to the biblical psalms. A systematic
covered in virtually every archaeological context. These will
study of all such formulas might shed considerable light
be discussed below with other manifestations of popular
on Canaanite religious conceptions of the mid-second mil-
The ancient city of Mari was peripheral to both the
Without slighting the importance of the Mari and
Mesopotamian and the Levantine spheres of influence. Cul-
Amarna material, by far the most significant evidence for Ca-
turally and linguistically, it was clearly West Semitic, but to
naanite religion in the second millennium is found at Ugarit.
label it “Canaanite” goes beyond the evidence (the designa-
From the beginning of the millennium until the city’s de-
tion Amorite represents, to some extent, a scholarly compro-
struction at the hands of the Sea Peoples (c. 1180–1175
mise). The Mari texts are virtually all concerned with eco-
BCE), Ugarit was a thriving cosmopolitan trading center. In
nomic, juridical, and administrative matters. One text in
the Middle Bronze period (2000–1600; Level II of the Ras
particular testifies to the eclecticism and heterogeneity of
Shamra excavations), Ugarit underwent considerable expan-
Mari’s religious cult in the eighteenth century. It lists the sac-
sion. During this period, two large temples (dedicated to the
rificial sheep distributed among the various gods and temples
gods Baal and Dagan respectively; see below) were erected
of Mari, and the list of gods is a mixture of Semitic and non-
on top of older ruins, forming, in effect, an acropolis in the
Semitic deities from east and west, along with some gods per-
city. The pottery of the period is predominantly Canaanite,
haps unique to Mari. This list of diverse gods may be supple-
and other material evidence demonstrates that Ugarit was in
mented by the more than one hundred forty divine names
contact with Egypt, the Aegean, and Mesopotamia. At the
(at least two dozen of which are West Semitic) attested as
same time, Ugarit’s population was augmented by an influx
components of personal names in the Mari archives.
of Indo-European-speaking Hurrians from the northeast.
The most striking group of Mari texts is the small collec-
The best-attested period at Ugarit is the last two centu-
tion of so-called prophetic texts. These twenty-odd letters at-
ries of its existence (Late Bronze III, c. 1365–1180 BCE; Level
test to a type of oracular speaking that shows significant af-
I.3 of the Ras Shamra excavations). The Ugaritic texts date
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from this period, although some of the religious texts are un-
The second Il is called Ilib. The Akkadian and Hurrian
doubtedly older, and were merely written down at this time.
parallels show that this name is a portmanteau composed of
One of the most important developments in human history
the elements il (“god”) and ab (“father”), but the precise sig-
was the invention, during the reign of Niqmad II (c. 1360–
nificance of the combination is uncertain. Most likely the
1330 BCE), of a cuneiform alphabetic script (the world’s old-
name denotes an ancestral spirit, the numen manifest in the
est alphabet) adapted to the Ugaritic language. It seems likely
Ugaritic cult of the dead. In the Ugaritic epic of Aqhat,
that this invention was specifically for the purpose of setting
the ancient worthy Danil, whose epithets mark him as one
ancient religious documents in writing, since diplomatic and
of the deified dead, seeks a son who will “erect a stela for his
administrative texts could be, and often were, written in Ak-
ilib”—that is, for the divine spirit of his dead father. The af-
kadian. At the instigation of Niqmad II, the great mythologi-
finity of Il with the Ugaritic cult of the dead is shown in a
cal texts that are at the heart of the Ugaritic religion were in-
mythological fragment in which the god participates in a
cised on clay tablets. They were preserved in the library of
marzih feast (an orgiastic revel comparable to the Greek thia-
the high priest, which was located on the acropolis near the
sos), the ritual banquet of the funerary cult. Il drinks himself
two temples.
into a stupor (as is customary at such affairs), and has to be
carried off by his faithful son. (This, too, is one of the duties
In addition to the mythological texts from the high
of the son enumerated in the epic of Aqhat.)
priest’s library, the excavations of this and several other ar-
The third Il is presumably to be identified with the head
chives of Ugarit and Ras Ibn Hani have turned up related
of the pantheon in the mythological texts. His epithets and
mythological material, descriptive ritual texts, lists of sacrifi-
activities in those, and in the cultic texts, provide a fair pic-
cial offerings, god-lists, prayers and liturgies, incantations,
ture of his character. He is the father of the gods, who are
divinatory texts, and dedicatory inscriptions. These may be
called his “family” or “sons,” and he is styled “father of hu-
used, with due caution, as the basis of a description of Uga-
mankind” and “builder of built ones.” He may have been re-
ritic religion.
garded as the creator of the world, but the Ugaritic evidence
DEITIES. The essential information about Ugarit’s deities
is inconclusive on this point. He bears the epithet “bull,” a
comes from what appears to be a canonical god-list. Two
symbol of virility and power (although one mythological text
nearly identical copies of the basic list have been published,
casts some doubt on his sexual prowess). He is serene in his
along with an Akkadian “translation.” In addition, the list
supremacy, a source of “eternal wisdom,” “beneficent and
is incorporated, with minor variations, into a list of sacrificial
benign”; a unique and problematic text that may be a prayer
offerings. This list shows that the basic cultic pantheon of
to Il seems even to hypostatize his “graciousness.”
Ugarit numbered thirty-three or thirty-four gods. One of the
The three Ils comprise the three principal aspects of
most controversial problems confronting Ugaritic scholar-
Ugaritic “godship,” or numinous power, that are denoted by
ship is the imperfect correspondence between the god-list
the term il: (1) it is the wise and sovereign power that
and the gods who are prominent in the mythological texts.
brought gods and humans into being; (2) it abides in any sa-
The myths probably represent an older stratum of Ugaritic
cred place; and (3) it is the tangible presence of the spirits
religion, and were undoubtedly “reinterpreted” in the light
of the dead.
of subsequent developments in the cult.
The next deity on the list is Dagan. The Mari texts attest
Two reasons are generally given for the order of the gods
to his great importance in the Middle Euphrates region (es-
in the list: either it reflects their relative importance, or else
pecially Terqa). The most common explanation of his name
it gives the order in which their symbols were paraded in a
relates it to the West Semitic word for “grain,” but this is by
cultic procession. The list begins with two or three Ils (El)—
no means certain; other (even non-Semitic) etymologies are
the sources are evenly split on the number. Il is the common
possible. One of the two temples on the acropolis of Ugarit
Semitic word for “god”; it is the proper name of the head
was evidently consecrated to Dagan. During excavations car-
of the Ugaritic pantheon in the mythological texts. The first
ried out in 1934, two inscribed stone slabs were found just
Il in the god-list is associated with Mount Sapan (Tsafon),
outside the temple. The inscriptions, the only known exam-
the Canaanite Olympus, which was traditionally identified
ples of Ugaritic carved in stone, commemorate pgr sacrifices
with Jebel al-Aqra, about fifty kilometers north of Ugarit at
of a sheep and an ox offered to Dagan. Since so little is
the mouth of the Orontes River. (The mountain was itself
known of Dagan’s character at Ugarit, and since the term pgr
deified, and appears in the god-list in place 14/15.) In all
is controversial (perhaps “mortuary offering” is the best in-
likelihood, the term sapan, which means “north,” was taken
terpretation), it is not possible to say anything definitive
to be a metaphor for the god’s temple (as in the Bible, Psalm
about these stelae.
48:3), and not as a simple geographical designation. Thus
Despite his obvious prominence in the cult, Dagan
the Il of sapan is the numen manifest in the sanctuary, which
plays no role in Ugaritic mythology. The god Baal bears the
is the earthly representation of the divine abode. Sapan, it
epithet “son of Dagan,” but that is itself problematic, since
should be noted, is not the abode of Il in the mythological
Il was supposedly the father of the gods. Three explanations
texts, but of Baal.
are possible: (1) Dagan was in some sense identified with or
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assimilated to Il; (2) the epithet represents a variant tradition
known; perhaps the domain over which Baal holds sway is
of Baal’s paternity; or (3) the epithet “son” is not to be taken
deified. There are also two other geographical deities: Sapan
literally but as an indication that Baal belongs to some class
(discussed above) and “Mountain and Valley” (significance
of gods exemplified by Dagan.
unknown, unless it defines the domain of Athtar, the god oc-
cupying the preceding place on the god-list).
Following Dagan come seven Baals. The first is the Baal
of Mount Sapan, who dwells in the same place as the Baal
The remaining divine names on the list may be grouped
in the mythological texts (the “heights” or “recesses” of
in four categories: individual goddesses and gods who are
Sapan); the term sapan surely refers to the Baal temple of
known or at least mentioned in the mythological texts; col-
Ugarit as well. The Akkadian rendition of Baal is Adad,
lective terms that designate groups of lesser deities; Hurrian
which is the name of the most prominent West Semitic
deities; and otherwise unknown or poorly attested gods.
mountain and weather god. The same Ugaritic “prayer” that
The two most prominent goddesses in the mythological
mentions the graciousness of El also establishes the threefold
texts are Athirat (Asherah) and Anat. Athirat is the consort
identification of Adad (the variant Hadd occurs in the
of Il, and as such she is the highest-ranking goddess in the
mythological texts) with Baal of Mount Sapan and Baal of
pantheon. Her full title is “Lady Athirat of the sea” (or per-
haps “the lady who treads the sea”). She is the mother of the
The significance of the other six Baals (none qualified
gods, bearing the epithet “progenitress of the gods.” She is
by epithets and all identified with Adad) is uncertain, al-
also called Ilat (“goddess”), the feminine form of Il. Athirat’s
though sevenfold lists of all sorts, including divine heptads,
activities in the mythological texts are not always clear, but
are common throughout the ancient Near East: the number
she seems to specialize in zealous intervention on behalf of
seven evidently denotes completeness or perfection. If the
her divine offspring.
extra six Baals have some specific function, they might repre-
In contrast to the maternal goddess Athirat, Anat is a
sent local manifestations or sanctuaries of Baal, separate cult
violent goddess of sexual love and war, “sister” (perhaps con-
symbols, or hypostatized attributes.
sort) of Baal and vanquisher of Baal’s enemy Mot. Her prin-
The name Baal is derived from the common Semitic
cipal epithet is “maiden,” a tribute to her youth, beauty, and
noun meaning “lord, master, husband.” The god’s full title
desirability, but pugnacity is her primary trait in the mytho-
in the mythological texts is “prince, lord (baal) of the earth,”
logical texts, as well as in the epic of Aqhat; there, she secures
and his principal epithet is “most powerful one” (aliyan). He
the magic bow of the title character by arranging his death.
is also called “high one” (aliy) and “rider of the clouds,” both
Iconographic evidence from Ugarit and elsewhere may
names clearly illustrating his character as a weather god.
be associated with both of the principal divine pairs, Il/
In contrast to the numinous Il, Baal represents the di-
Athirat and Baal/Anat. The first two are represented as a
vine power that is immanent in the world, activating and ef-
royal pair, either standing or enthroned. Baal is typically de-
fectuating things or phenomena. Given the paucity of rain-
picted with his arm upraised in smiting position, and Anat
fall in most of the Levant, it is not surprising that the lord
is naked and voluptuous, sometimes standing on a lion’s
of the storm is the most prominent god of this type (cf. the
back, an Egyptian Hathor wig on her head, with arms up-
ubiquitous Phoenician Baal Shamem, “lord of the heavens,”
raised and plants or animals grasped in her hands. Only the
and his famous encounter with the Israelite god in 1 Kings
Anat figures can be identified with any certainty, because of
18). On his shoulders rests the burden of bringing fertility
an Egyptian exemplar that bears the inscription “Qudshu-
and fecundity to the land, and as such he is venerated by the
rest of the gods and declared their “king.”
Although the precise significance of Qudshu is uncer-
But the kind of god who is immanent in the natural
tain (perhaps she is the same as Athirat?), the Egyptian in-
world is also subject to its flux. Thus, in the mythological
scription seems to demonstrate the fusion of the West Semit-
texts, Baal has three enemies. The first two, Yamm (“sea”)
ic Anat with the great Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar
and the desert gods who are called “devourers,” represent the
(Ugaritic Athtart; the biblical Ashtoret). This fusion is appar-
destructive potential inherent in nature. Baal succeeds in
ent in the binomial Athtart wa-Anat, which occurs in two
subduing Yamm (and undoubtedly also the “devourers”),
Ugaritic incantation texts and is the ultimate source of the
but he is in turn defeated by his third and greatest adversary,
name of the first-millennium “Syrian goddess” Atargatis. In
Mot (“death”; never mentioned by this name in the cultic
some mythological and cultic texts, as in the god-list, Athtart
texts). Nothing that is in the world, gods included, can es-
still has some independent status. (Paradoxically, in Israel it
cape death.
is Anat who has disappeared, evidently assimilated to Ashto-
ret.) Her beauty is proverbial, but her principal trait is pug-
Following the seven Baals, the god-list continues with
nacity; like Anat, she is a divine huntress.
Ars wa-Shamem (“earth and heaven”). Binomial deities are
common in Ugaritic; they represent either a hendiadys (as
The textual and iconographic evidence suggests that a
in this case) or a composite of two related gods who have
central feature of Ugaritic religion was the veneration of two
been assimilated to one another. This god’s function is un-
divine pairs. One pair apparently symbolized kingly and
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queenly sovereignty over the world—Il and Athirat; the
ings. In the late third millennium, he was one of the patron
other represented brother and sister, caught in the flux and
gods of the kings of Ebla. He also found his way to Egypt,
turmoil of the world, engaged in constant struggle for surviv-
where he was patron god of Amenophis II and one of the
al and supremacy—Baal and Anat.
most popular gods in the cults of the nineteenth dynasty.
There are three other Canaanite goddesses on the god-
The Akkadian version of the Ugaritic god-list identifies
list. Shapash is the all-seeing sun (male in Mesopotamia, but
Rashap with Nergal, the Mesopotamian king of the nether-
female at Ugarit), “luminary of the gods.” Pid-ray (“fat”?)
world. That identification, along with other Canaanite and
and Arsay (“earth,” perhaps, on the basis of the Akkadian
Egyptian evidence, leads me to suggest that Rashap is the god
parallel, having some connection with the netherworld) are
who, in one mythological text, is called Rapiu, the “healer,”
two of the daughters of Baal; the third, Talay (“dew”), does
the eponymous patron of the deified dead, the rapium (the
not appear on the god-list. Two other non-Canaanite god-
biblical refa Eim). Most scholars, however, consider “Rapiu”
desses are on the list, undoubtedly via the Hurrians, although
to be an epithet of Il.
the deities themselves are not necessarily Hurrian in origin:
The remaining god on the list is Kinar, who is perhaps
Ushharay (Ishhara), the scorpion goddess, who appears in
the deified lyre. Nothing is known about him, but he has
several cultic texts but never in the myths, and Dadmish,
been identified with the Cypriot hero Kinyras, father of
probably a warrior goddess but very poorly attested. The one
remaining goddess on the list is Uthht (pronunciation uncer-
Finally, the god-list includes four collective terms. The
tain; the sex of the deity is, in fact, only surmised from the
first, kotharat, designates a band of female divine singers and
feminine ending); possibly Mesopotamian in origin, and
wet-nurses who appear on sad and joyful occasions in the
most likely signifying a deified incense burner.
Aqhat epic and the Nikkal poem, respectively (also, perhaps,
Seven male deities remain on the god-list, all but one
in Psalm 68:7). Although their name suggests an affinity
of whom are at least mentioned in the mythological texts.
with the god Kothar, nothing further can be said about this.
Yarikh is the moon god, and he figures prominently in a
They bear an epithet that is problematic: the two most plau-
poem that describes his marriage to the moon goddess, Nik-
sible translations are “daughters of joyous song, the swal-
kal. This text is undoubtedly a Hurrian myth in Ugaritic
lows” and “shining daughters of the morning star [or the new
guise. The other clearly astral god is Shalim (the divine ele-
ment in the name of the city Jerusalem and of King Solo-
The next collective term apparently designates the “two
mon), who represents the evening twilight or Venus as eve-
allies of Baal,” perhaps his messengers, Gapn (“vine”) and
ning star. Since the root sh-l-m can signify “conclusion,
Ugar (“field”). The third collective term is puhr ilim, the “as-
completion,” it is appropriate that Shalim is the last name
sembly of the gods,” which designates the host of lesser dei-
on the list. Elsewhere, he is often paired with his sibling
ties—unmentioned by name in the god-list—who constitute
Shahr, who is the dawn or the planet Venus as morning star.
the progeny of Il and Athirat. In other texts, this assemblage
The birth of the pair is described and celebrated in a Ugaritic
bears other epithets, including “sons of Il” and “the family
of the sons of Il”; the precise significance of these terms is
much debated, but they all seem to pertain to the general
Three of the gods play important roles in the mytholog-
Near Eastern notion of a “divine assembly” over which one
ical texts about Baal. Yamm is one of Baal’s principal adver-
god reigned supreme.
saries; he is identified with or accompanied by two fearsome
sea monsters, Litan (the biblical Leviathan) and Tunnan (the
The last collective term is malikum, which literally
biblical Tannin). The god Athtar (the masculine form of
means “kings.” It designates the deified dead kings of Ugarit,
Athtart) is often associated with a prominent South Arabian
the most important members of the larger assemblage of dei-
astral deity, but the Akkadian translation of his name identi-
fied dead ancestors (rapium, mentioned above). The
fies him with the Hurrian warrior god Ashtabi. When Baal
malikum are invoked by name in an extraordinary Ugaritic
is killed by Mot, Athtar, styled “tyrant,” is appointed king
liturgy entitled the Document of the Feast of the Protective An-
in his stead.
cestral Spirits. It may be inferred that the patron of the
malikum was the ubiquitous Malik (biblical Molech), who
The god Kothar (“skilled one”; also known as Kothar
is almost certainly to be equated with Death himself.
wa-Hasis, “skilled and wise one”) is the divine craftsman. In
Many other deities who do not figure in the standard
various sources he is a master builder, weapon maker, sea-
god-list are mentioned in various texts and as components
man, and magician. It has been suggested that he is the ge-
of personal names. Huge, malleable pantheons characterized
nius of technology.
every major urban center of the ancient Near East, and
The god Rashap (the biblical Reshef, which means both
Ugarit was no exception (see Johannes C. de Moor, “The Se-
“pestilence” and “flame”) is blamed in the epic of Kirta for
mitic Pantheon of Ugarit,” Ugarit-Forschungen 2, 1970,
the demise of part of the title character’s family. But Rashap’s
pp. 185–228).
real importance at Ugarit and Ras Ibn Hani emerges from
RITUALS AND CULTIC PERSONNEL. Most older descriptions
the cultic texts, where he is the recipient of numerous offer-
of Canaanite religion explain it in terms of the seasonal cycle
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and concomitant fertility rites. The evidence for this charac-
the king performs the rite of desacralization.” On the seven-
terization comes from first-millennium sources, especially
teenth day of the month, the king (re)purifies himself and
the anti-“Canaanite” polemics of the Hebrew scriptures, and
makes another series of sacrifices, perhaps accompanied by
from the a priori claims of the “myth-and-ritual” approach
a festal banquet (if this is the correct sense of the technical
to religion. When the mythic texts about the Ugaritic Baal
term dbh). (Another of the main sacrificial terms, th, which
were deciphered and pieced together, the tendency was natu-
seems to denote “gift offering,” also occurs here.) The king
rally to make them conform to the older theories about Ca-
remains in his purified state and continues the series of offer-
naanite religion. Those texts were thus described as a mythic
ings on the eighteenth day. Then the text breaks off. The re-
representation of the seasonal cycle, which was either recited
verse of the tablet begins with broken references to rites per-
as the accompaniment to fertility rites or served as the libret-
formed on the second day (of what, is unspecified). On the
to of a fertility-cult drama.
fourth, birds are offered; on the fifth the king offers a shlmm
sacrifice to Baal of Ugarit in the temple, along with the liver
Assuming that the biblical and related data are reliable,
of an unspecified animal (which has presumably been used
they evidently refer to local manifestations of first-
for divination) and an offering of precious metal. The shlmm
millennium Phoenician cults (such as that of northern Isra-
offering, well attested in biblical Hebrew and Punic cultic
el). The simple assumption of continuity between second-
texts, was probably the most common type of sacrifice at
millennium Canaan and first-millennium Phoenicia is un-
Ugarit. The term is traditionally translated “peace offering,”
justified—as is, more generally, the facile identification of
but it seems actually to have been a “gift” or “tribute” to the
“Canaanites” with “Phoenicians.”
god. In some texts (but not this one), the shlmm is described
As for the myth-and-ritual claim, the seasonal interpre-
as a shrp, which probably signifies that it was wholly con-
tation of the Baal texts is by no means certain. There is no
sumed by fire.
evidence that the Baal texts were ever used in conjunction
On the seventh day, at sundown, the king performs the
with cultic activity. In fact, there is only one Ugaritic mytho-
ritual desacralization, evidently aided in this case by cultic
logical text containing rubrics for ritual performance (dis-
functionaries called “desacralizers.” Then the queen is
cussed below); it apparently entails some sort of fertility rite,
anointed with a libation of “a hin [liquid measure] of oil of
but one not necessarily connected with the seasonal cycle.
pacification for Baal”; the text concludes with the following
Knowledge of the Ugaritic calendar and its fixed festivals is
prayer, perhaps recited by the queen:
too scanty to permit the claim that Ugaritic religion was or-
ganized with respect to the agricultural year.
When a strong enemy assails your gates,
A mighty foe attacks your walls,
The Ugaritic ritual texts describe a highly organized sac-
Raise your eyes unto Baal:
rificial cult under the patronage of the king. The sacrifices
“O Baal, chase the strong enemy from our gates,
seem to be of the gift or tribute type; that is, they were per-
The mighty foe from our walls.
formed to curry favor with the gods, to secure their aid and
A bull, O Baal, we consecrate;
protection. It is undeniable that offerings might have been
A vow, O Baal, we dedicate;
made to deities (particularly chthonic ones) to promote the
A firstborn [?], O Baal, we consecrate;
fertility of the land and the fecundity of the flocks. But the
A htp sacrifice, O Baal, we dedicate;
one mass public ritual that has survived, and the one attested
A tithe, O Baal, we tithe.
prayer to Baal as well, both seem more concerned with pro-
To the sanctuary of Baal let us ascend,
tection from Ugarit’s potential military opponents. In view
On the paths to the House of Baal let us walk.”
of the shifting alliances and political instability that marked
Then Baal will hear your prayer,
Ugarit’s last two centuries, this concern seems only natural.
He will chase the strong enemy from your gates,
Most of the known Ugaritic rituals were performed by
The mighty foe from your walls.
or on behalf of the king. The best-attested type of ritual is
A second type of ritual is preserved in three texts that de-
found in seven different texts. In it the king of Ugarit per-
scribe the transfer of cult statues from one place to another.
forms, at specified times, a ritual lustration to purify himself,
The clearest of these begins “When Athtart of hr [meaning
and then offers a series of sacrifices to various deities. At sun-
uncertain] enters into the sanctuary [?] of the king’s
down, the king “desacralizes” himself in a way that is not
house. . . .” It is not clear whether the term king refers to
clear. The most interesting of these texts is evidently a pre-
Ugarit’s king or to a god (perhaps both?); the “house” could
scriptive ritual to which is appended a prayer to Baal, perhaps
be a royal palace or temple. A group of offerings is then made
recited by the queen, that seems to specify the occasion on
in the “house of the stellar gods” (meaning uncertain), in-
which the rites were to be performed.
cluding oblations, vestments, gold, and sacrificial animals.
This text begins with a date formula and a list of offer-
The rites are repeated seven times. The remainder of the text
ings: “On the seventh day of the month of Ibalat [otherwise
describes essentially the same rituals as those performed for
unknown]” sheep are offered to several gods, notable Baal
a different collection of gods (on a different occasion?), the
and “the house of Baal of Ugarit.” Then “the sun sets and
poorly attested gthrm.
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One substantial ritual text is unique in the corpus, and
was held at a sacred “threshing floor” or “plantation,” per-
has been the subject of many studies. It is unique in its poet-
haps within the royal palace.
ic/hymnic quality and in the acts it describes. It seems to de-
Another important text invokes the god Rapiu, “king
pict a great public assembly in which the entire population
of eternity” (that is, of the netherworld). Rapiu is clearly the
of Ugarit, male and female, king and commoner alike, partic-
patron of the deified dead; at first he is invited to drink, and
ipated. The ritual appears to have been a mass expiation or
at the end of the text he is asked to exert his “strength, power,
purgation of sins, or some sort of mass purification rite, de-
might, rule, and goodness” for the benefit of Ugarit. If Rapiu
signed to protect Ugarit against its threatening neighbors. A
is indeed to be identified with Il, this text comports well with
parallel has been drawn between it and the Jewish Yom Kip-
the mythological fragment that depicts Il getting drunk at
pur, the “day of purgation [of sin].” In the Ugaritic text, the
a marzih.
men and women of the community are alternately sum-
moned to offer sacrifices, which they do. While the sacrifices
Alongside the cult of the dead must be placed the texts
are performed the people sing, praying that their offerings
that apparently describe the ritual offerings to the gods of the
will ascend to “the father of the sons of Il” (that is, to Il him-
netherworld (ilm ars). The clearest of these begins with an
self), to the “family of the sons of Il,” to the “assembly of the
offering to Rashap and mentions several other chthonic dei-
sons of Il,” and to Thkmn wa-Shnm, Il’s son and attendant
ties. There is also a strange god-list that appears to include
(the one who cares for him when he is drunk; in one of his
a collection of netherworld demons. Finally, an inscribed
epithets, Il is called “father of Shnm”).
clay model of a liver may record a sacrifice offered to a person
(or deity?) who is “in the tomb.”
Only one mythological text, the poem about the birth
of Shahr and Shalim (the ilima naimima, “gracious gods”),
The considerable activity that took place in the Ugaritic
includes rubrics for ritual performance. These rubrics, inter-
cult demanded an extensive array of cultic personnel. Unfor-
spersed throughout the poem, describe the activities of the
tunately, while the names of many cultic officials are known,
king and queen, and of cultic functionaries called aribuma
their precise function is not. It can be assumed, of course,
(some kind of priests?) and tha-nanuma (members of the
that “priests” participated in the royal rituals described
king’s guard?). They offer sacrifices, participate in a banquet,
above, but the ritual texts do not specify how. Apart from
and sing responsively to musical accompaniment. It seems
the “desacralizers,” the tha-nanuma and aribuma already
almost certain that the poem itself was acted out as a type
mentioned, several other kinds of personnel figure promi-
of ritual drama. It describes the subjugation of Death by
nently. Except for the queen, who participated in some ritu-
some sort of pruning rite, followed by Il’s sexual relations
als (one broken text from Ras Ibn Hani describes a “dbh
with Athirat and Rahmay (“womb” = Anat?). The poem con-
[sacrifical rite] of the queen”), all the important cultic func-
cludes with the birth of Shahr and Shalim, and their youthful
tionaries attested by name or title are male.
activities. The text and its accompanying ritual may com-
After the king, the highest-ranking religious official was
memorate (or attempt to foster) the birth of a royal heir to
probably the rb khnm, the “chief of the priests.” Under him
the reigning king and queen of Ugarit; they bear some rela-
were orders or guilds of khnm (“priests”); the term corre-
tion to Mesopotamian sacred marriage rites and to Hittite
sponds to the Hebrew kohanim, but there is no necessary
rituals designed to protect the life and vigor of the king and
similarity of function. The priests either were connected with
the palace or they earned their living at the many shrines in
Most difficult to reconstruct, but obviously of great im-
Ugarite and its environs. They appear on administrative lists
portance, was the Ugaritic cult of the dead. The dead were
of personnel and on a military payroll. Other administrative
summoned, by a liturgy accompanied by offerings, to partici-
texts detail allotments of oil and wine to various shrines. One
pate in a banquet. The banquet, which was apparently a
of the high priests is also designated rb nqdm, “chief of herds-
drunken orgy, was intended to propitiate the dead and to so-
men.” In all likelihood, there was a consecrated group of
licit the aid and protection provided by their numinous
herdsmen whose task was to maintain the royal flocks to be
power. The most important group of the deified dead was
used in the cult.
comprised of Ugarit’s kings (malikum). The larger assem-
The second major category of priests is called qdshm,
blage, variously called “healers” (rpim), “healers of the neth-
“devotees” (comparison with Hebrew qedeshim, “cult prosti-
erworld” (rpi ars), “ancient healers” (rpim qdmyn), “divine
tutes,” is almost certainly misleading). They appear only on
spirits” (ilnym), and “assembly of Ditan/Didan” (qbs dtn/
administrative lists, in all but one case in conjunction with
ddn), included two men who are prominent in the epic texts,
khnm. Nothing can be said about their function at Ugarit.
Danil and Kirta, as well as several other spirits who are iden-
tified by name in a liturgical invocation of the dead.
Two categories of cult functionaries are attested in Ak-
kadian texts from Ugarit, but they have no certain Ugaritic
The funerary feast itself was called a marzih (or marzi),
equivalents. One is the awilu baru, which is either an omen
a feast. It was held at a special location: one text describes
priest or some sort of oracular seer; one of these men is also
problems concerning the rental of a marzih hall; a poorly pre-
called “priest of Adad [i.e., of Baal].” The other, aptly charac-
served fragment of the Aqhat epic suggests that the marzih
terized by Anson F. Rainey (1967) as “a sort of religious
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

brotherhood” (p. 71), is “men of the marzi/marzih.” Their
The second class of evidence for popular religion comes
activity was almost certainly related to the ritual feasts of the
from metal figurines that are generally thought to represent
Ugaritic cult of the dead. Several other terms probably desig-
gods and goddesses. A comprehensive catalog of these figu-
nated groups associated with the cult. There were singers, in-
rines, compiled by Ora Negbi (1976), describes over seven-
strumentalists, and libation pourers who served as temple at-
teen hundred of them. They are considered to have been
tendants, along with a group of uncertain function called
miniature copies of now-lost wooden cult statues, and were
ytnm, who may be compared with the problematic biblical
probably used as votive idols. The fact that so many have
been found at cultic sites suggests that they had some cere-
monial function. Negbi notes that these idols “may have
Finally, there is the well-attested and much-debated
been used as amulets for magic purposes in domestic and fu-
term insh ilm. Some scholars think that it is a divine name;
nerary cults as well” (p. 2).
others argue that it denotes cultic personnel. If the latter,
then these people performed some function in the sacrificial
As mentioned above, the figurines at Ugarit attest to the
rites, and seem to have been rewarded for their labor with
popularity of two distinct types of divine pairs, a kingly and
queenly figure (Il and Athirat) and a smiting god and volup-
POPULAR RELIGION. As is generally the case in the ancient
tuous goddess (Baal and Anat, with Anat occasionally por-
Near East, little can be said with any certainty about popular
trayed as a war goddess). The latter pair is the better attested
religion at Ugarit, since only kings, priests, and members of
in Late Bronze Ugarit; figurines have been found in deposits
the elite are represented in the texts. The Ugaritic texts were
from this period in and around both of the temples on the
apparently only a part of the larger cosmopolitan scribal tra-
dition of Ugarit, which was modeled on the Babylonian
Some textual evidence has been recovered for magic and
scribal schools. The same scribes who produced the Baal texts
divination at Ugarit. There are two versions of a long and
were also trained to write in Babylonian cuneiform, and they
impressive incantation against the bite of a venomous ser-
copied Sumerian and Akkadian texts in almost every genre.
pent; several important deities are summoned from their
Surviving evidence demonstrates that Ugarit’s educated elite
mythical abodes during the course of the incantations.
was conversant with the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh tradi-
tions, wisdom and proverbial literature, and legal formulas,
Inscribed clay models of lungs and livers show that ex-
although little of this material is reflected in texts in the Uga-
tispicy (divination by the examination of animal viscera) was
ritic language.
practiced at Ugarit. The practice was undoubtedly borrowed
from Babylonia, but it was given a distinctive Canaanite cast
It is not at all certain, then, how much of the literary
by the incorporation of West Semitic sacrificial rites. Anoth-
tradition might have filtered down to the commoners of
er borrowing from the Babylonians is attested in three omen
Ugarit. Still, speculation about popular religion may be
texts that describe the predictive value of unusual human and
made in four areas: conceptions of gods reflected in personal
animal births. These texts clearly parallel the famous Babylo-
names; the evidence of votive figurines; evidence for magic
nian shumma izbu omen series; unfortunately, they are all
and divination; and possible religious, ethical, or “wisdom”
quite fragmentary.
teachings derived from the texts.
Finally, one very difficult text reports a divine oracle. It
Popular conceptions of the gods may emerge from a
begins: “When the lord of the great/many gods [Il?] ap-
consideration of personal names, since a great number of
proached Ditan, the latter sought an oracle concerning the
names are composites of divine names (or surrogates) and
child.” Some individual presumably wishes to inquire of Il
nominal or verbal elements. The standard collection of Uga-
about his (sick?) child. (A comparable episode occurs in the
ritic personal names, Frauke Gröndahl’s Die Personennamen
Kirta epic.) Il can be reached through an intermediary,
der Texte aus Ugarit (Rome, 1967), lists over fifty divine ele-
Ditan, the eponymous patron of those deified dead known
ments that appear in them. The most popular are Il, Baal,
as the “assembly of Ditan.” The text continues with a series
Ammu (“uncle,” a surrogate for a divine name), Anat and
of instructions (broken and unclear) that will enable the in-
her “masculine” equivalent Anu, Athtar, Yamm, Kothar,
quirer to obtain the desired oracular response. The text seems
Malik, Pidr (masculine equivalent of Pidray?), Rapiu,
to conclude with several instructions, “and afterward there
Rashap, and Shapash. In some names, a god is described as
will be no suffering [?].”
father, mother, brother, sister, or uncle (e.g., Rashapabi,
Taken together, these texts indicate a lively interest in
“Rashap is my father”). In others, the bearer of the name is
the mantic arts at Ugarit. There is practically no evidence,
the god’s son, daughter, servant, or devotee (e.g., Abdi-
however, about the specialists who practiced those arts; per-
Rashap, “servant of Rashap”). A large class of names describes
haps that is because they operated on the periphery of the
characteristics of the gods; those composed with Il, for exam-
official cultic institutions.
ple, emphasize his kingship (Ilimilku, “Il is king”) and justice
(Danil, “Il judges”; Ilsdq, “Il is just”), his creativity
The most problematic aspect of popular religion is the
(Yakunilu, “Il establishes”; Yabniilu, “Il builds”) and his love
interpretation of the Ugaritic religious texts. Assuming that
(Hnnil, “Il is gracious”).
they were in some way normative and that they were diffused
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

orally, they would embody the religious “teachings” of
Other aspects of the Aqhat text suggest ethical teachings
Ugarit. There are, however, no surviving interpretations of
as well. The long-sought son, Aqhat, is presented as the ar-
the texts or expositions of religious doctrine that explain
chetypical huntsman, recipient of a magic bow fashioned by
what those teachings might have been or what impact they
the craftsman god Kothar. But the bow is not an unequivocal
had on the life of a community of believers. The Ugaritic
blessing: it arouses the envy of Anat, and makes Aqhat so se-
mythic and epic texts (as opposed to the descriptive ritual
cure in his own power that he rudely dismisses the goddess.
texts) can be read as homilies on the nature of the world in
Aqhat’s folly parallels Baal’s when, secure in his new palace
which people live. Ancient readers or hearers of these texts
(also the work of Kothar), he presumptuously challenges
would have sought their own place in the “cosmos” they de-
Death. Even the cleverest invention affords no protection for
scribe. Ugaritic believers, like modern believers, would pre-
one who oversteps his bounds and incurs divine wrath.
sumably have formulated a special application of sacred texts
Aqhat’s death is avenged by his sister Pughat, a model of love
to their own lives.
and devotion, just as Baal’s sister Anat acts on the god’s be-
half in the mythic texts.
The Baal texts punctualize eternal truths in a symbolic
realm that is only superficially remote from human experi-
The Kirta epic, like that of Aqhat, begins with its hero
ence. The gods experience joy and mourning, battle and
childless, this time because of catastrophe instead of impo-
tranquillity, life and death, power and impotence. The
tence. Dramatic tension arises from the situation of a king
mightiest of the gods confronts the world’s challenges and
without an heir, which could result in disruption of both the
surmounts them all, until he encounters Death, the one
political and the natural order. The story conveys the fragility
enemy to whom gods and humans alike succumb. Baal’s tri-
of power and the delicate relationship between humans and
umphs and trials, furthermore, illustrate the contiguity and
interrelationship of everything in the world: the gods, nature,
Kirta enjoys the favor of Il, “father of humankind,” who
the political order, and human life are all part of the same
calls the king “gracious one, lad of Il.” Kirta is instructed to
order. When Baal is vanquished, political order collapses and
perform a series of rituals in order to secure victory in battle
the earth turns infertile—not because Baal “symbolizes”
and a new wife. He does so faithfully, but he also stops to
order and fertility in some simplistic way, but because the
make a vow in the sanctuary of “Athirat of Tyre, goddess of
intricate balance of the world has been subverted. The same
the Sidonians.” This act of personal piety leads to disaster:
upset of the natural order occurs when Kirta, a human king,
Kirta achieves his victory and builds a new family, but he is
becomes mortally ill.
stricken with a mortal illness for his failure to fulfill the vow.
Overarching the flux of the world, and apparently not
His beneficent “father” Il intervenes once again in his behalf,
subject to it, is the wise and beneficent Il. At critical mo-
but the story concludes with Kirta’s son attempting to usurp
ments in the Baal texts, the gods journey (or send emissaries)
the throne, accusing Kirta of unrighteousness (reason
to him in order to obtain his favor and advice. After Kirta’s
enough, evidently, to depose a king). The vicissitudes of
family is annihilated by malevolent forces, Il comforts the
kingship continue.
king in a dream; later on, Il provides the cure for Kirta’s terri-
The texts are all firmly on the side of reward for virtue
ble illness. And in the Aqhat epic, Baal implores Il to grant
and piety, and punishment for wickedness, blasphemy, and
a son to the childless Danil. Il consents, and appears to Danil
folly. Yet even someone who is justly suffering the wrath of
in a dream with the good news. In every case, Il manifests
the gods may appeal to the gracious Il and be heard.
transcendent power that is wielded justly, in response to ur-
gent pleas.
SURVIVALS. Survivals of Canaanite religion are observable in
two first-millennium cultural spheres, the Levant and the Ae-
The epic texts (perhaps “historico-mythic” would be a
gean. Phoenician religion, both in the Levant and in its wider
better designation for them) Aqhat and Kirta parallel and
Mediterranean sphere of influence, represents, to some ex-
supplement the mythic texts. They narrate the existential en-
tent, a continuation of Canaanite traditions. Northern Isra-
counter of humans with the gods. Historical (or pseudohi-
el’s official cult was among the Levantine successors of Ca-
storical) figures become exemplary or admonitory paradigms
naanite religion. It has often been noted that biblical
of human behavior.
polemics against that cult (for example, in the Book of Hosea)
are directed against a characteristically Canaanite feature—
The crises that move the plot of the Aqhat text demon-
the idea that the god (in this case Yahveh = Baal) was imma-
strate the conjunction and contiguity of the human and di-
nent in nature and subject to its flux. The Israelite god was,
vine realms. Danil, who is, like Kirta, a man become god
on the other hand, comfortably assimilated to the transcen-
(one of the deified rapium—from the point of view of the
dent Il.
reader, that is), is an embodiment of that contiguity. Danil
is clearly an ideal type, pious and just; he brings his plea for
In the Aegean area, the nature of Canaanite influence
a son before the gods in humble obeisance, and he is reward-
is more controversial. But there is compelling evidence for
ed. The incubation rite performed by Danil at the beginning
the existence of direct West Semitic contact with Mycenaean
of the story seems to be a model of personal piety.
Greece, creating a legacy of Semitic names, literary motifs,
E N C Y C L O P E D I 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 religious practices that became part of the Hellenic cul-
outstanding representative of the myth-and-ritual approach
tural heritage.
is Theodor H. Gaster’s Thespis, 2d ed. (1961; New York,
There is not yet an adequately introduced and annotated English
There are excellent, comprehensive articles on Amarna, Mari, and
translation of the Ugaritic texts. The best English transla-
Ras Shamra in the Dictionnaire de la Bible, Supplément, vol.
tions are those of H. L. Ginsberg, in J. B. Pritchard’s Ancient
1, cols. 207–225 (by Édouard Dhorme); vol. 5, cols. 883–
Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament, 3d ed.
905 (by Charles F. Jean); and vol. 9, cols. 1124–1466, re-
(Princeton, 1969), pp. 129–155, and those in J. C. L. Gib-
spectively (Paris, 1928–). The Ras Shamra article, by several
son’s revision of G. R. Driver’s Canaanite Myths and Legends,
distinguished experts, is magisterial—the best survey to be
2d ed. (Edinburgh, 1978). The serious student should con-
found anywhere. In English, the journal Biblical Archaeolo-
sult Textes ougaritiques, translated and edited by André Ca-
gist has published a number of good survey articles: on Mari
quot and others (Paris, 1974), and the even more compre-
by George E. Mendenhall, vol. 11 (February 1948),
hensive Spanish work by Gregorio del Olmo Lete, Mitos y
pp. 1–19, and by Herbert B. Huffmon, vol. 31 (December
leyendas de Canaán según la tradición de Ugarit (Madrid,
1968), pp. 101–124 (on the “prophetic texts”); on Amarna
1981), complemented by the same author’s Interpretacíón de
by Edward F. Campbell, vol. 23 (February 1960), pp. 2–22;
la mitología cananea (Valencia, 1984). A more popular intro-
on Ugarit by H. L. Ginsberg, vol. 8 (May 1945), pp. 41–58,
duction and translation that is both readable and of high
and by Anson F. Rainey, vol. 28 (December 1965),
quality is Paolo Xella’s Gli antenati di Dio (Verona, 1982).
pp. 102–125. All of these articles have been reprinted in The
A comparable but inferior volume in English is Stories from
Biblical Archaeologist Reader, edited by David Noel Freed-
Ancient Canaan, edited and translated by Michael D. Coo-
man and G. Ernest Wright, vols. 2 and 3 (Garden City,
gan (Philadelphia, 1978).
N.Y., 1961–1970). More recently, Biblical Archaeologist 47
Works on Ugarit and the Bible are legion. The serious student is
(June 1984) is a special issue devoted to Mari.
directed to Ras Shamra Parallels, edited by Loren R. Fischer,
Turning specifically to Ugarit, an excellent popular introduction
2 vols. (Rome, 1972–1975). The contributions are uneven
is Gabriel Saadé’s Ougarit: Métropole cananéenne (Beirut,
in quality, but the many proposed parallels are presented
1979). Saadé gives a thorough account of the excavations,
with full bibliographic information. A convenient survey of
with complete bibliographical information and many illus-
comparative studies is Peter C. Craigie’s “Ugarit and the
trations. Most of the technical information is derived from
Bible,” in Ugarit in Retrospect, edited by Gordon Douglas
articles in the journal Syria, beginning with volume 10
Young (Winona Lake, Ind., 1981), pp. 99–111. John Gray’s
(1929), and from the volumes in the series “Mission de Ras-
The Legacy of Canaan, 2d ed. (Leiden, 1965), has become a
Shamra,” 9 vols., edited by Claude F.-A. Schaeffer (Paris,
standard work in this area; its great learning and originality
1936–1968). Two other useful works on the archaeological
are marred by eccentricity, especially in the translation of the
data are Patty Gerstenblith’s The Levant at the Beginning of
Ugaritic texts. On the most important classical account of
the Middle Bronze Age (Winona Lake, Ind., 1983) and Ora
“Canaanite” religion, see the definitive work by Albert I.
Negbi’s Canaanite Gods in Metal (Tel Aviv, 1976).
Baumgarten, The Phoenician History of Philo of Byblos (Lei-
den, 1981). Semitic influence on the Aegean world is one of
A good detailed account of Ugarit’s history is Mario Liverani’s
the main topics of Cyrus H. Gordon’s stimulating book Be-
Storia di Ugarit (Rome, 1962), and an unsurpassed descrip-
fore the Bible: The Common Background of Greek and Hebrew
tion of Ugaritic society is Anson F. Rainey’s The Social Struc-
Civilizations (London, 1962); a more technical work on the
ture of Ugarit (in Hebrew; Jerusalem, 1967). Readers of En-
subject is Michael C. Astour’s brilliant Hellenosemitica (Lei-
glish can consult Rainey’s Ph.D. dissertation, “The Social
den, 1967).
Stratification of Ugarit” (Brandeis University, 1962).
New Sources
On the study of Canaanite religion before the discovery of Ugarit,
The period 1985–2004 has produced a wealth of new information
there is a fine survey by M. J. Mulder, “Von Seldon bis
and scholarly analysis concerning Ugaritic religion. Impor-
Schaeffer: Die Erforschung der kanaanäischen Götterwelt,”
tant new reference works include the Handbook of Ugaritic
in the leading scholarly journal devoted to Ugaritic studies,
Studies, edited by Wilfred G. E. Watson and Nicolas Wyatt
Ugarit-Forschungen 11 (1979): 655–671. The best general
(Leiden, 1999), and the revised edition of the Dictionary of
introduction to Canaanite religion is Hartmut Gese’s “Die
Deities and Demons in the Bible, edited by Karel van der
Religionen Altsyriens,” in Die Religionen Altsyriens, Altara-
Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst (Leiden,
biens und der Mandäer (Stuttgart, 1970), pp. 3–181. On the
1999). These books provide extensive bibliographic refer-
Canaanite gods, the standard work is still Marvin H. Pope
ences to previous studies of Ugaritic religion and deities.
and Wolfgang Röllig’s “Syrien,” in Wörterbuch der Mytholo-
, edited by H. W. Haussig, vol. 1 (Stuttgart, 1965),
Excellent English translations of the mythological texts are conve-
pp. 219–312. On the rituals and cultic personnel, an excel-
niently gathered in Simon Parker’s edited volume, Ugaritic
lent presentation of the data is Jean-Michel de Tarragon’s Le
Narrative Poetry (Atlanta, 1997), and in Nick Wyatt’s Reli-
culte à Ugarit (Paris, 1980), which should be consulted
gious Texts from Ugarit (2d ed., Sheffield, 2002). Scholarly
alongside Paolo Xella’s I testi rituali di Ugarit (Rome, 1981).
advances in the study of religious iconography are represent-
There is an exceptionally interesting theoretical discussion of
ed by the landmark book by Othmar Keel and Christoph
Canaanite religion by David L. Petersen and Mark Wood-
Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God in Ancient Is-
ward in “Northwest Semitic Religion: A Study of Relational
rael (Minneapolis, 1998). The cultic and ritual texts from
Structures,” Ugarit-Forschungen 9 (1977): 232–248. The
Ugarit have also received renewed attention, culminating 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

Dennis Pardee’s massive study, Les textes rituels (Paris, 2000).
first millennium BCE were divided into the political units of
Non-specialists may find Pardee’s shorter presentation, Ritu-
Phoenicia, Israel (later Israel and Judah), Ammon, Moab,
al and Cult at Ugarit (Atlanta, 2002), more accessible yet
Edom, and not infrequently, Aram, especially Aram-
equally authoritative. Gregorio del Olmo Lete’s useful book,
Canaanite Religion: According to the Liturgical Texts of Ugarit
(Bethesda, Md., 1999), offers a comprehensive analysis of
The term literature is used here to mean extended works
Ugaritic religion, while Mark S. Smith’s survey, The Early
composed in poetic style, specifically several dozen clay tab-
History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel
lets, inscribed with an alphabetic cuneiform script, that have
(2d ed., Grand Rapids, 2002), explores the relationship be-
been found at ancient Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra) on the
tween Ugaritic religion and the biblical record. Important
Syrian coast in excavations since 1929. The much larger
studies of aspects of Ugaritic religion can also be found in the
body of material found there, and at nearby Ras Ibn Hani,
following books:
apparently a royal palace, includes a variety of documents not
Day, John. Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan. Shef-
germane to the topic of this article, such as diplomatic corre-
field, 2000.
spondence, lists of ritual offerings, economic texts, and notes
Dietrich, Manfried, and Oswald Loretz. Studien zu den ugaritisc-
for the care and treatment of horses. But even these contain
hen Texten. Münster, 2000.
valuable evidence for religious practice, especially in the
Hadley, Judith M. The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah.
names of the gods listed as recipients of offerings, names that
Cambridge, 2001.
were also used as components of personal names.
Lipin´ski, Edward. Dieux et déesses de l’univers phénicien et punique.
Most of the literary texts were found in the temple pre-
Leuven, 1995.
cinct of ancient Ugarit, on the city’s acropolis. This is not
Mettinger, Tryggve N. D. The Riddle of Resurrection: “Dying and
merely a result of scribal activity in the sacred quarter, be-
Rising Gods” in the Ancient Near East. Stockholm, 2001.
cause the secular archives were found in the royal palace area
Niehr, Herbert. Religionen in Israels Umwelt: Einführung in die
and other libraries existed elsewhere in the city; rather, the
nordwestsemitischen Religionen Syrien-Palästinas. Würzburg,
presence of these texts in a religious context indicates that
they had a religious function. Unhappily, few of them have
del Olmo Lete, Gregorio. El continuum cultural cananeo. Perviven-
any rubrics, and other, specifically ritual texts, such as the
cias cananeas en el mundo fenicio-púnico. Sabadell, 1996.
lists of offerings and the inscriptions on clay models of livers
del Olmo Lete, Gregorio. Mitos, leyendas y rituales de los semitas
and lungs used for divination, provide no clue to the cultic
occidentales. Madrid, 1998.
setting in which the literary texts were used. Presumably, at
Pardee, Dennis. Les textes para-mythologiques de la 24e compagne
least some of them were read or recited periodically at festi-
(1961). Paris, 1988.
vals, as were the Homeric poems in ancient Greece; others
Schmidt, Brian B. Israel’s Beneficent Dead. Tübingen, 1994.
may have been actual librettos for ritual activities.
Smith, Mark S. The Ugaritic Baal Cycle, I. Leiden, 1994.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE TEXTS. The major mythological
and epic texts were written on clay tablets that were fired
Smith, Mark S. The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Poly-
after having been inscribed on both sides in from one to four
theistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts. Oxford, 2001.
columns. The lines are written continuously, with divisions
Wyatt, N., W. G. E. Watson, and J. Lloyd, eds. Ugarit, Religion,
between the words but without other spacing except for oc-
and Culture. Münster, 1996.
casional dividing lines between sense units and episodes;
Yon, Marguerite. La cite d’Ougarit sur le tell de Ras Shamra. Paris,
these, however, are not used systematically. Not infrequent-
ly, the tablets have a title at the beginning; thus, two of the
three parts of the Kirta cycle are marked “Concerning Kirta,”
Revised Bibliography
and one tablet of each of the Baal and Aqhat cycles has a sim-
ilar heading. Such a cataloging device may have been used
more regularly, but because a significant number of the tab-
lets are broken at the edges, one cannot be sure. The incom-
plete preservation of many of the tablets also makes it more
The scope of this article needs definition. The term Canaan-
difficult to follow the sequence of the narratives and hence
ite designates the culture of the region often known as the
to interpret them; this explains the conjectural analyses
Levant, roughly comprising the modern entities of Syria,
Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine, beginning with the
earliest extensive written records in the third millennium BCE
Five tablets have concluding notations; the most com-
and ending with the start of the Hellenistic period in the
plete reads: “The scribe was Ilimilku from Shubanu, the ap-
fourth century BCE. “Canaanite” did not have such a broad
prentice of Attanu-Purlianni, the chief priest, the chief herds-
definition in antiquity; generally, and especially in the Bible,
man; the sponsor was Niqmaddu, king of Ugarit, master of
Canaan is the southwestern part of this region. The sources
Yargub, lord of Tharumani.” As this colophon indicates, the
are not consistent in this usage, however, and many modern
texts were written under royal patronage, illustrating the
scholars apply it to the regions that in the first half of the
close connection between palace and temple. The king in
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question was Niqmaddu III, the second-last ruler of Ugarit,
major source of Canaanite literature, the Hebrew scriptures,
who lived in the late thirteenth century BCE. Ilimilku may
for the same building blocks of Canaanite verse—parallel
have been more than just a scribe to whom the contents of
pairs—are used there as well:
the tablets were dictated. Although the texts show signs of
Behold, your enemies, Yahweh, behold, your enemies
having originally been oral compositions, Ilimilku may have
have perished, all evildoers have been scattered. (Ps.
been a writer in the modern sense, one who, like Homer in
Greece a few centuries later, took an oral tradition and cre-
Your kingdom is an eternal kingdom, your rule is forev-
atively revised it for a written medium.
er and ever. (Ps. 145:13)
Among the characteristics that Canaanite literature
The reason for this similarity of form and content is cultural:
shares with other oral literatures is the use of stock epithets
notwithstanding the significant geographical and temporal
for human and divine characters, a technique most familiar
differences between Ugarit and Israel, they were part of a
from the Iliad and the Odyssey. Thus, El, the head of the pan-
larger cultural entity that shared a common poetic and reli-
theon, is variously called “the bull,” “the creator of crea-
gious vocabulary.
tures,” “the father of years,” “the kind, the compassionate,”
and “the king”; the storm god Baal is “the prince,” “the con-
This commonality is significant, for the literature of an-
queror (of warriors),” and “the lord of the earth”; Kirta, the
cient Israel preserved in the Bible is able to shed much light
hero of the epic called by his name, is “the gracious one,”
on obscurities and gaps in the Canaanite literature from
“the noble,” and “the servant of El”; and Danel, the father
Ugarit. Conversely, the Ugaritic texts enable us to under-
of the title character of Aqhat, is “the hero” and “the Healer’s
stand the Canaanites better on their own terms instead of
man.” The poets apparently chose the epithet that was most
through the often virulent polemics of the biblical writers.
appropriate for the context and that best fit the meter.
Each body of literature thus illumines the other, as will be
seen below.
Another device familiar from the Homeric poems is the
use of formulaic units to narrate standard scenes: the offering
MYTHOLOGICAL TEXTS. The texts in this category make no
of a sacrifice; the harnessing of a donkey; the preparation of
reference to human persons or actual societies. The protago-
a banquet; the journey of a god or goddess to El’s abode.
nists are divine and there is no historical time frame.
Thus, with appropriate changes of number and gender, the
The Baal cycle. The major cycle of preserved Canaanite
following lines occur some half dozen times in the extant
literature from Ugarit has to do with the deity Baal, the most
important god in the Ugaritic pantheon. Although the high
god El was worshiped at Ugarit, as throughout the Semitic
Then she headed toward El, at the source of the two riv-
ers, in the midst of the two seas’ pools; she opened El’s
world, and figures in a number of texts, Baal seems to have
tent and entered the shrine of the King, the Father of
supplanted him as the major deity by the late second millen-
Years. At El’s feet she bowed down and adored; she
nium BCE; this is confirmed both by nonliterary sources, such
prostrated herself and worshiped him.
as ritual lists and personal names, and by the Baal cycle,
Also characteristic of Ugaritic literature is the almost verba-
whose theme in brief is the affirmation “Baal the Conqueror
tim repetition of large blocks of lines; this is found in the giv-
is our king!”
ing of a command and its execution, the occurrence of a
More than a dozen tablets contain various episodes or
dream and its telling, and in various specific narratives.
variants of the Baal cycle, indicating the god’s importance at
Finally, like other ancient eastern Mediterranean litera-
Ugarit, but many of them are fragmentary, and so any sus-
tures, this originally oral Canaanite literature was poetic. Be-
tained development of the plot of the cycle is difficult to de-
cause the texts were written almost entirely without vowels,
termine. What is clear is the main plot of three episodes:
it has so far not been possible to establish the metrical princi-
Baal’s battle with Sea; the construction and dedication of
ples underlying the poetry, and rhyme was not used. But one
Baal’s house; and Baal’s encounter with Death.
formal characteristic can be identified, traditionally called
Baal and Sea. El, the head of the pantheon, had appar-
parallelism and fortunately not obscured by translation. In
ently shown preference to his son Sea (Yamm)—called “El’s
Canaanite poetry the basic element is a unit of two or three
beloved” and also by the parallel titles Prince Sea and Judge
lines in which one thought is extended by repetition, para-
River—over Baal, the son of Dagan (whose name means
phrase, or contrast. Thus, in a speech by the craftsman god
“grain”). Initially, Sea seems to have gained the upper hand,
Kothar-wa-Hasis, the lines
with El’s support. He sends the council of the gods, over
which El presides, an ultimatum:
“Let me tell you, Prince Baal, let me repeat, Rider on
the Clouds: behold, your enemy, Baal, behold, you will
“Message of Sea, your master, your Lord, Judge River:
kill your enemy, behold, you will annihilate your foes;
‘Give up, O gods, the one you are hiding, the one you
you will take your eternal kingdom, your dominion for-
are hiding, O multitude; give up Baal and his powers,
ever and ever”
the son of Dagan: I will acquire his gold.’”
consist of three units, each of which expresses a complete
Although El and the divine assembly are willing to capitulate
thought. This stylistic feature is familiar from the other
to Sea’s demand, Baal is not, and he proceeds to engage Sea
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in battle. With the help of magical clubs fashioned for him
(Compare Isaiah 51:9–10.)
by Kothar wa-Hasis (“skillful and wise”; the divine crafts-
Furthermore, the same parallel terms used of Baal’s ad-
man, the Canaanite equivalent of the Greek Hephaistos),
versary are put into service by biblical poets, as in Habakkuk
Baal defeats his adversary:
The club danced in Baal’s hands, like a vulture from his
Were you not angry at the river, Yahweh, was your rage
fingers; it struck Prince Sea on the skull, Judge River be-
not against the river, was your wrath not against the sea?
tween the eyes; Sea stumbled; he fell to the ground; his
joints shook; his frame collapsed. Baal captured and
And in Psalms 114:1–3 the formulaic pair “sea/river” is par-
drank Sea; he finished off Judge River.
tially historicized:
This brief episode cannot be fully understood without refer-
When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob
ence to similar and more detailed Near Eastern myths, espe-
from people of a different language . . . the sea saw and
cially that preserved in the Babylonian Enuma elish. There
fled, the Jordan turned back.
the council of the gods is threatened by Tiamat (Deep), the
In the more fully elaborated prose accounts of the story of
primeval goddess of saltwater. The only deity able to rescue
Israel’s deliverance, the splitting of the Red Sea is repeated
the gods is the young storm god, Marduk, who agrees to do
at the crossing of the Jordan, again reflecting the ancient par-
so only if he is given complete authority over gods and
human beings. Following their battle, described in lavish de-
tail, Marduk forms the elements of the cosmos from the
The ancient Israelites thus made frequent use of the
corpses of his defeated adversaries and is proclaimed supreme
broader ancient Near Eastern myth of the defeat of the pri-
ruler. Despite differences between the Babylonian and Uga-
meval sea by the storm god. In the Bible, as in Ugaritic, the
ritic texts, there seem here to be two versions of a single story
watery adversary of the deity is also called Leviathan, the
that tells how a younger god comes to assume leadership over
multiheaded monster (Pss. 78:13–14; cf. Jb. 41). Behemoth
his fellows; similar myths are found in ancient Anatolia,
and Rahab, other biblical names for the sea, have not yet
Greece, and India. Like Marduk, Baal is a storm god: he is
turned up elsewhere. This myth is transformed in the apoca-
called the “rider on the clouds” (compare the Homeric epi-
lyptic visions of Jewish and Christian writers: in the end of
thet of Zeus, “the cloud-gatherer”); his weapon is the light-
time, the sea will finally be defeated (see Is. 27:1; Rv. 21:1).
ning bolt; and he is responsible for the rains in their season.
Baal’s house. After a considerable gap, the Baal cycle
Many of these aspects of Baal are also attributed to the
continues with a description of Baal’s victory banquet. One
Israelite Yahweh. Thus, he too is the “rider on the clouds”
of Baal’s servants prepares an appropriate spread for “Baal the
(Ps. 68:4); he
Conqueror, the Prince, the Lord of the Earth”:
makes the clouds his chariot, walks on the wings of the
He put a cup in his hand, a goblet in both his hands,
wind, makes the winds his messengers, fire [and] flame
a large beaker, manifestly great, a jar to astound a mor-
his ministers. (Pss. 104:3–4)
tal, a holy cup that women should not see, a goblet that
There are also allusions in various biblical passages to a pri-
Asherah must not set her eye on; he took a thousand
jugs of wine, he mixed ten thousand in his mixing bowl.
meval conflict between Yahweh and the sea; especially note-
worthy is Job 26:12–13:
Another break in the text occurs here, and there follows a
lengthy account of a battle waged by Anat, the most vividly
With his power he stilled the sea, with his skill he smote
Rahab, with his wind he put Sea in a net, his hand
described of the three major goddesses in the Ugaritic texts.
pierced the fleeing serpent.
The other two, Asherah (Athiratu in Ugaritic) and Astarte
(Athtartu), appear only infrequently and generally in formu-
(Compare Psalms 89:9–10 and Isaiah 27:1.)
laic passages that shed little light on their characters. Anat,
The Bible does not, however, present a completely de-
on the other hand, is a major figure in the Baal cycle, a posi-
veloped version of this primeval struggle, for in ancient Isra-
tion that is appropriate in view of her relationship to Baal:
elite tradition the normative event was not mythical but his-
she is his sister and his wife. As this description of her martial
torical: the defeat of the Egyptian army at the Red Sea. But
style indicates, Anat is a violent deity:
frequently the language used to celebrate this event was
derived from Canaanite myth. Thus, Psalms 77:15–20 incor-
Heads rolled under her like balls, hands flew over her
like locusts, the warriors’ hands like swarms of grass-
porates into a remembrance of God’s ancient deeds the
hoppers. She fastened the heads to her back, she tied the
hands to her belt. She plunged knee-deep in the sol-
With your arm you redeemed your people, the sons of
diers’ blood, up to her hands in the warriors’ gore; with
Jacob and Joseph. The waters saw you, God, the waters
a staff she drove off her enemies, with the string of her
saw you and writhed, indeed, the deeps trembled; the
bow, her opponents.
clouds poured out water, the thunderheads sounded
After this gory battle Anat purifies herself:
their voice, your arrows were in constant motion. . . .
Through the sea was your way, and your path through
She drew water and washed, the heavens’ dew, the
the mighty waters. . . . You led your people like a
earth’s oil, the rain of the Rider on the Clouds, dew that
flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
the heavens pour on her, rain that the stars pour on her.
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In the next scene, Baal sends messengers to summon Anat;
Before El can give his assent, however, his consort Asherah
this invitation, which includes one of those extended formu-
has to agree; mollified by a bribe of marvelous gifts specially
lae that recur in the texts, is lyrical in tone:
fashioned by Kothar, the divine craftsman, she intercedes for
“Message of Baal the Conqueror, the word of the Con-
queror of Warriors: ‘Remove war from the earth, set
“You are great, El, you are truly wise; your gray beard
love in the ground, pour peace into the heart of the
truly instructs you. . . . Now Baal will begin the rainy
earth, rain down love on the heart of the fields. Hasten!
season, the season of wadis in flood; and he will sound
hurry! rush! Run to me with your feet, race to me with
his voice in the clouds, flash his lightning to the earth.
your legs; for I have a word to tell you, a story to re-
Let him complete his house of cedar! let him construct
count to you: the word of the tree and the charm of the
his house of bricks!”
stone, the whisper of the heavens to the earth, of the
Anat brings the news of El’s approval to her brother; Baal
deeps to the stars. I understand the lightning that the
then gathers appropriate building materials—silver, gold,
heavens do not know, the word that human beings do
not know, and earth’s masses cannot understand.
lapis lazuli—and commissions Kothar to begin work. As they
Come, and I will reveal it: in the midst of my mountain,
discuss the plans, Kothar recommends that a window be in-
the divine Zaphon, in the sanctuary, in the mountain
cluded; despite his repeated urgings, however, Baal refuses.
of my inheritance, in the pleasant place, in the hill I
The house is built, and with the other gods Baal celebrates
have conquered.’”
its completion at a banquet, after which he goes on a trium-
When Anat sees Baal’s messengers approaching, she is over-
phal tour of his domain. When he returns, he has apparently
come with fear that another enemy threatens Baal. She lists
changed his mind about the window, and at his request Ko-
the various enemies of Baal who have been defeated; first
thar makes one; from this window, appropriately described
among them is Sea, who is given a full range of epithets, in-
as a slit in the clouds, Baal thunders, the earth quakes, and
cluding “the dragon,” “the twisting serpent,” and “the seven-
his enemies flee. Baal’s enthronement as king is complete.
headed monster.” Curiously, Anat herself claims credit for
Baal and Death. Near the end of the tablet on which
Sea’s defeat, as for that of the other enemies named. Clearly,
the above episode occurs, Baal proclaims:
there was more than one version of Baal’s defeat of Sea, for
“No other king or non-king shall set his power over the
the one discussed above does not depict Anat as a participant
earth. I will send no tribute to El’s son Death, no hom-
in the battle; similarly, there is no account of combat be-
age to El’s Beloved, the Hero. Let Death cry to himself,
tween Baal and such adversaries as “the divine calf, the
let the Beloved grumble in his heart; for I alone will rule
Rebel” or “El’s bitch, Fire.” These gaps in knowledge are sal-
over the gods; I alone will fatten gods and human be-
utary reminders of the limited nature of the sample of Uga-
ings; I alone will satisfy earth’s masses.”
ritic literature as yet discovered, and of the difficulty of com-
This challenge to Death is best explained by the incomplete
bining the several tablets of the Baal cycle into a continuous
nature of Baal’s triumph: while he has defeated Sea and has
been proclaimed king by the divine assembly, the major force
When Baal’s messengers assure Anat that there is no
of Death is still not subdued.
danger and issue Baal’s invitation, Anat proceeds to visit
Like Sea, Death is El’s son; apparently, Baal’s accession
Baal. Again a section is missing, and as the text resumes, the
to kingship over the gods requires the elimination of this
main plot line of this tablet is developed: the construction
rival as well. The enigmatic dispute between Baal and Kothar
of a permanent abode for Baal. In the gap he apparently
about whether Baal’s house is to have a window may be an
complains to Anat that despite his victory over Sea, he has
indication of Baal’s awareness of this requirement. Baal’s ini-
no house like the other gods. The word house in Ugaritic, as
tial reluctance can be better understood by reference to Jere-
in Hebrew, has several senses; here it means not just a dwell-
miah 9:21:
ing but a permanent abode for the god, hence a temple. The
Death has come up through our windows, he has en-
construction of a temple for the god who has been victorious
tered our fortresses, cutting down the children in the
over the forces of chaos is a typical motif; in Enuma elish in
street and the young men in the squares.
particular, after Marduk establishes cosmic order and creates
human beings from the blood of Tiamat’s spouse, the gods
Since the decipherment of Ugaritic it has become clear that
themselves build a temple for Marduk, and after its comple-
in many biblical passages that mention death, there is at least
tion they are his guests at an inaugural banquet. Baal’s eleva-
indirect reference to the Canaanite deity representing death
tion to kingship over the gods and human beings is therefore
(Hebrew and Ugaritic, mot) and not merely a designation of
incomplete as long as he has no house like the other gods.
the cessation of life. The verse in Jeremiah is one such pas-
sage, and may reflect a popular belief that the god Death en-
Anat goes to El to obtain his approval for the erection
tered a house through the window. Seen in this light, Baal
of a temple for Baal; her request includes a characteristic
is at first unwilling to include a window in his house because
threat of violence if she is refused:
he fears giving Death access; later, after his inaugural banquet
“I’ll smash your head; I’ll make your gray hair run with
and triumphal march, his grasp of power is, he thinks, more
blood, your gray beard with gore.”
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In any event, having proclaimed his supremacy, Baal
announcement of Baal’s death occasions El’s suggestion to
sends messengers to Death; their names are Gapn and Ugar
Asherah that one of her sons replace Baal as king; at least two
(“vine” and “field,” appropriately reflecting Baal’s aspect as
try and are found wanting.
god of the storm that brings fertility and thus anticipating
After a considerable gap in the text, Anat is described
the coming contest with its antithesis). Baal directs them:
as she is about to encounter Death:
“Head toward the midst of his city, the Swamp, Muck,
Like the heart of a cow for her calf, like the heart of a
the throne where he sits, Phlegm, the land of his inheri-
ewe for her lamb, so was Anat’s heart for Baal.
Death’s underworld domain is, like the grave, a damp, dark,
Anat grabs Death’s clothes and insists that he give up her
unpleasant place; it is reached from his earthly territory, the
brother; Death refuses, or at least is unable to grant her re-
barren, hot desert, where (Baal continues)
quest. Time passes; in Baal’s absence the forces of drought
and sterility are dominant; “the heavens shimmered under
“Sun, the gods’ lamp, burns, the heavens shimmer
the sway of El’s son, Death.” Again Anat approaches Death;
under the sway of El’s Beloved, Death.”
no words are exchanged, but this time Baal’s sister is as vio-
Suitably warned and instructed, Baal’s two messengers leave.
lent in grief as she is in battle:
Because the text is broken here and even an entire tablet may
She seized El’s son, Death: with a sword she split him;
be missing, it is not wholly clear what the gist of Baal’s mes-
with a sieve she winnowed him; with a fire she burned
sage is; a plausible guess is that Baal wishes to invite Death
him; with a hand-mill she ground him; in the field she
to his new palace. But Death will have none of such niceties;
sowed him.
Baal is condemned for his destruction of Sea and its cosmic
This agricultural imagery is striking: for Baal, the dead god
consequences, and the sentence is death at Death’s hands.
of fertility, to be restored to life and for Death, the living god
Gapn and Ugar return with Death’s reply:
of sterility, to be destroyed, the mysterious processes of the
“One lip to the earth, one lip to the heavens; he stretch-
natural cycle have to be ritually repeated. It is important to
es his tongue to the stars. Baal must enter inside him;
note that this is not the ordinary annual cycle but rather the
he must go down into his mouth, like an olive cake, the
periodic disaster that a prolonged drought can cause; if the
earth’s produce, the fruit of the trees.”
life-giving winter rains are to fail, there will be no crops, no
Without any sign of resistance, Baal agrees:
food for animals or humans. In myth this is represented by
“Hail, El’s son Death!”
the struggle between Baal and Death; with Baal dead, the
forces of sterility prevail, and Baal can be revivified only by
“I am your servant; I am yours forever.”
Death’s death. Only if Death, whose appetite is insatiable,
The tablet is very fragmentary here, leaving only the
whose gaping jaws have swallowed up Baal like a lamb or a
skeleton of a plot. Baal is to take with him all his companions
kid, is himself swallowed up, can Baal’s power return.
and accoutrements—cloud, winds, lightning bolts, rain—
In the next scene, El has a prophetic dream in which he
and to proceed to the underworld; then “the gods will know
foresees Baal’s restoration and its effects:
that you have died.” Apparently he does so, for when a read-
able text resumes, two messengers are reporting to El:
In a dream of El, the Kind, the Compassionate, in a vi-
sion of the Creator of Creatures, the heavens rained
“We arrived at the pleasant place, the desert pasture, at
down oil, the wadis ran with honey.
the lovely fields on Death’s shore. We came upon Baal:
he had fallen to the ground. Baal the Conqueror has
Baal is restored to power, and as a later heir of Canaanite tra-
died; the Prince, the Lord of the Earth, has perished.”
dition would put it (1 Cor. 15:54–55):
El’s reaction is, initially, one of grief:
Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is
your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?
He poured earth on his head as a sign of mourning, on
his skull the dust in which he rolled; he covered his
(Compare Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14.)
loins with sackcloth. He gashed his skin with a knife,
The Baal cycle does not quite end here; there remain his
he made incisions with a razor; he cut his cheeks and
revenge on his rivals and yet another successful struggle with
chin, he raked his arms with a reed, he plowed his chest
like a garden, he raked his back like a valley. He raised
Death after a seven-year interval. The latter confirms the
his voice and shouted: “Baal is dead: what will happen
analysis of this last episode as the mythical representation of
to the peoples? Dagan’s son: what will happen to the
an occasional rather than an annual event.
The relationship between El and Baal is complex. On
Meanwhile, Anat independently discovers Baal’s corpse, and
a narrative level, it is difficult not to sense El’s less than en-
she too mourns in the same formulaic fashion. Afterward,
thusiastic acceptance of Baal’s dominion. In the first episode
with the help of Sun, she brings Baal’s body back to Mount
he is willing to hand Baal over to Sea, “El’s Beloved”; in the
Zaphon, where she buries him and offers the appropriate fu-
second, both he and Asherah are scornful of Baal’s position,
nerary sacrifice. Then she heads toward El’s abode, where her
for “he has no house like the other gods”; and in the third,
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despite his real (although stylized) grief at Baal’s death, he
invocation to “the beautiful and gracious gods,” almost cer-
is quick to suggest replacements from his own family. Fur-
tainly Dawn and Dusk, who are minor but established fig-
thermore, throughout the cycle El remains the head of the
ures in the Ugaritic pantheon; Dawn also occurs in biblical
pantheon and presides over the council of the gods. Yet this
tradition (Is. 14:12). Their exile in the desert may be a myth-
very cycle, the most extensive among the surviving texts from
ical explanation of their perceived origin: in the ancient view
Ugarit, tells of Baal’s rise to some kind of preeminence. At
both day and night rose in the east, and from the Canaanites’
the very least it can be suggested that Canaanite ideology was
perspective the eastern limit of their territory was the great
not static, and the mythological literature reflects this fluidi-
Syrian desert.
ty. While Baal had become the patron god of Ugarit, this did
The details of the ritual, in which particular words and
not mean that its citizens rejected either the worship of El
actions are to be repeated seven times and performed in the
or the traditional understanding of his role in the world of
presence of the king, queen, and royal court, are highly ob-
the gods.
scure. Various deities are mentioned, various sacrifices are to
Other mythological texts. In other texts from the same
be offered, and while there are some verbal connections with
archaeological context as the Baal cycle, El has a dominant,
the mythic section, it is difficult to interpret the whole with
sometimes even an exclusive, role. There follows a discussion
coherence; yet it is improbable that the two parts are not
of some of the better-preserved texts that also have to do with
somehow related. What is clear is that the myth depicts El
the Canaanite gods.
with full enjoyment of his generative powers, and it is likely
that the concern underlying both the ritual and the narrative
Birth of the beautiful and gracious gods. Unlike the
parts is the maintenance of fertility.
other texts treated here, this tablet (of which some seventy-
six lines survive) combines mythological material with ritual
Marriage of Nikkal and the moon god. This relatively
rubrics; the former is apparently the accompanying libretto
brief text is a kind of epithalamium, or wedding hymn, cele-
for the action prescribed by the latter.
brating the marriage of the moon god (Yarih), “the heavens’
lamp,” to Nikkal wa-Ib. The first part of the latter’s compos-
The central portion of the tablet describes the concep-
ite name is ultimately derived from the Sumerian title of the
tion and birth of the deities Dawn (Shahar, probably the
moon goddess Ningal, “great lady,” and its second half is
morning star) and Dusk (Shalim, the evening star). As it
connected with the word for “fruit.” The tablet opens with
opens, El is at the seashore, where two women became
an invocation of Nikkal and Hirhib, an otherwise unknown
aroused as they observe his virility:
deity called “the king of summer,” and then tells of the
El’s hand [a euphemism] grew as long as the Sea, El’s
Moon’s passion for Nikkal. To obtain his intended bride he
hand as long as the Ocean.
uses the services of Hirhib, the divine marriage broker, offer-
In language full of double entendre, the text relates how El
ing to pay her father as bride-price a thousand silver pieces,
shoots and cooks a bird, and then seduces the women:
ten thousand gold pieces, and gems of lapis lazuli.
Hirhib suggests that Moon marry instead Baal’s daugh-
The two women became El’s wives, El’s wives forever
ter Pidray (“misty”) or someone else, but Moon is adamant;
and ever. He bowed low, he kissed their lips; behold,
their lips were sweet, as sweet as pomegranates. When
the marriage with Nikkal is arranged, and the bride-price is
they kissed, they conceived, when they embraced, they
became pregnant; they began labor and gave birth to
Her father set the beam of the scales; her mother the
Dawn and Dusk.
trays of the scales; her brothers arranged the standards;
Two divine sons are thus sired by El, who is in full possession
her sisters took care of the weights.
of his vigor and virility. As his offspring, they “suck nipples
This portion of the tablet ends with another invocation: “Let
of the Lady’s breasts”; “the Lady” is El’s principal consort,
me sing of Nikkal wa-Ib, the light of Moon; may Moon give
the goddess Asherah. But the two young gods have insatiable
you light.”
appetites, comparable (because the same formula is used) to
The brief second part of the tablet consists of another
that of Death himself:
hymnic invocation of the goddesses of childbirth, the Wise
One lip to the earth, one lip to the heavens: into their
Women (Kotharatu). Their presence, as in the account of the
mouths entered the birds of the heavens and the fish in
birth of Aqhat (see below), guarantees the conception and
the sea.
safe delivery of babies.
So, at El’s command, they are banished to the desert; after
El’s banquet. This short tablet provides a candid
seven years they are finally allowed to reenter the land by “the
glimpse of the gods, and especially El, as they participate in
guard of the sown.” Here the text breaks off.
a ritual symposium. El invites the gods to his house, where
This summary does not begin to deal with the many
he has prepared a feast; among those present are Moon, As-
problems of interpretation posed by the laconic text, nor is
tarte, and Anat.
it clear how the first portion of the tablet is related to the
The gods ate and drank; they drank wine until they
material just recounted. The tablet begins with a first-person
were full, new wine until they were drunk.
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At this point the party becomes rowdy, and El’s gatekeeper
the Ugaritic texts and the Bible, seven days is the convention-
rebukes the guests; El too is chided, apparently for allowing
al length of a journey, and the revelation about to be made
the unruly behavior. Then, however, El himself becomes in-
to Danel recalls God’s call to Moses on the seventh day (Ex.
toxicated and decides to retire; en route he has an alcoholic
24:16). Other biblical examples include the seven days of
hallucination of a figure with two horns and a tail (a possible
creation at the beginning of Genesis and the literal tour de
satanic prototype). Despite the support of two attendants,
force of the collapse of Jericho, which occurred on the sev-
enth day after seven priests blowing on seven trumpets had
He fell in his excrement and urine, El fell like a dead
man, El, like those who go down into the earth.
marched seven times around the city. It is unlikely that this
repeated use of seven is much more than literary convention,
In other words, he is dead drunk. The reverse side of the tab-
but its frequent occurrence in Ugaritic and biblical literatures
let is extremely fragmentary, but, appropriately, it seems to
underscores the close relationship between them.
contain a remedy for hangovers.
On the seventh and final day of Danel’s ritual, Baal,
In the middle of the text, El is described as seated, or
Danel’s patron, addresses the assembly of the gods on
enthroned, in his mrzh: (“symposium”). The mrzh: (Hebrew
Danel’s behalf:
marzeah:) was a chronologically and geographically wide-
spread ritual institution, mentioned several times in texts
“Unlike his brothers, he has no son; no heir, like his
from Ugarit (including once in the fragmentary Rephaim
cousins; yet he has made an offering for the gods to eat,
an offering for the holy ones to drink.”
texts, discussed below), twice in the Bible (Jer. 16:5, Am.
6:7), and in Phoenician/Punic texts from Sidon and Mar-
In response, El blesses Danel and then catalogs the benefits
seilles. It is also mentioned in Aramaic texts from Elephanti-
that a son will provide:
ne in Egypt, from Petra in Jordan, and from Palmyra in
“When he kisses his wife she will become pregnant;
Syria. Scholars disagree as to the precise character of this in-
when he embraces her she will conceive: she will be-
stitution, especially its possible connection with funereal
come pregnant, she will give birth, she will conceive;
practices and memorials; there is no doubt that this text con-
and there will be a son in his house, an heir inside his
tains at least part of its mythological background.
palace, to set up a stela for his divine ancestor, a family
EPIC TEXTS. The two major Canaanite literary cycles with
shrine in the sanctuary; to free his spirit from the earth,
human protagonists are Aqhat and Kirta. As in more familiar
guard his footsteps from the Slime; to crush those who
rebel against him, drive off his oppressors; to eat his of-
classical heroic epics, however, and as in other ancient Near
fering in the temple of Baal, his portion in the temple
Eastern sources, such as the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh epic,
of El; to hold his hand when he is drunk, support him
the gods play a significant role in the narrative; from a tem-
when he is full of wine; to patch his roof when it leaks,
poral point of view, actions in both the divine and human
wash his clothes when they are dirty.”
realms occur on a single continuum. Thus, while a specific
time is not indicated in either of these two texts, the time
Heartened by the divine promise, Danel returns to his pal-
frame in which the narrative takes place is historical at least
ace, where with the assistance of the Wise Women, the god-
in the sense that the cosmic order has been established.
desses of marriage and childbirth, conception occurs after
seven days.
Aqhat. This title is an ancient one, appearing as a cata-
loging device at the beginning of the third major tablet of
This list of ritual and personal filial duties suggests that
the cycle that is preserved. Nevertheless, the story is part of
one of the epic’s purposes was didactic: to school its audience
a larger one about Aqhat’s father, Danel, a royal figure whose
in proper social behavior, which included not only the re-
righteousness and wisdom were legendary (see Ez. 14:14, 20;
sponsibilities of a son to his father but the model conduct
28:2). The surviving remnants of the cycle deal with the rela-
of kings, of daughters and sisters, and in fact, of all humans
tionship of Danel and his son, and as the extant story begins,
in their complex relationships with one another and with the
Danel is described performing a seven-day incubation ritual,
occasioned by his lack of progeny.
The picture of the childless patriarch is a commonplace
A period of seven days or seven years occurs some five
in Canaanite literature. In the Ugaritic texts, the opening of
times in Aqhat, and elsewhere in the Ugaritic corpus as well:
Kirta (see below) is remarkably similar to that of the Danel
Baal’s initial defeat of Death lasted seven years, and in the
cycle, and in Genesis, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob each are ini-
Aqhat text (see below), Danel cursed the land by calling for
tially either childless or lacking descendants from their favor-
an absence of Baal’s generative powers:
ite or principal wives. In each case, offspring are promised
by their patron deity: in Abraham’s case, in the context of
“For seven years let Baal fail, eight, the Rider on the
a nocturnal revelation, like Danel’s (Gn. 15), and in Isaac’s,
Clouds: no dew, no showers, no surging of the double
in response to a prayer by the patriarch (Gn. 25:21). In the
deep, no benefit of Baal’s voice.”
more extensive Jacob cycle, the promise of numerous descen-
This is reminiscent of the alternation of seven years of plenty
dants is made at night (Gn. 28:11–17) and is granted in re-
and seven of famine in the biblical story of Joseph. The fre-
sponse to Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel’s specific prayer (Gn.
quent use of the number seven applies to days as well; in both
30:22). The stories of Hannah (Samuel’s mother), of Sam-
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son’s parents, and to some extent of Job are further variations
twice on the skull, three times over the ear; like a
of this motif. In the biblical narratives of Israel’s ancestors
slaughterer he made his blood run, like a butcher, run
as preserved in Genesis it is further significant that the patron
to his knees. His breath left him like wind, his spirit like
deity who pronounces the blessing on each patriarch, al-
a breeze, like smoke from his nostrils.
though called Yahweh in the present sources, is elsewhere un-
The end of this tablet and the beginning of the next are badly
equivocally identified as El (see Ex. 6:3; cf. Gn. 14:19–20;
broken; apparently Anat regrets her action, at least in part
49:25). As his epithets in biblical literature and especially in
because while Aqhat was being killed his bow dropped into
Genesis make clear, this is none other than the head of the
the sea.
Canaanite pantheon. It is noteworthy that in Aqhat, even
When the text becomes legible, Danel is again sitting
though Baal is Danel’s patron (as his epithet, “the Healer’s
at the gate presiding over legal matters. His daughter Pughat
man,” indicates), the blessing is given by El; Baal acts only
notices that the vegetation has withered and that vultures are
as mediator between the childless king and “El, the Bull, the
swooping over her father’s house; both are clear signs of vio-
Creator of Creatures.”
lent, unnatural death. With his clothes torn in mourning,
The middle third of this first of the cycle’s three tablets
is missing; in this section the birth of Danel’s son Aqhat must
cursed the clouds in the still heat, the rain of the clouds
have been related. The story then resumes. As Danel is en-
that falls in summer, the dew that drops on the grapes.
gaged in typical royal judicial activity at the city gate, judging
Thus, Danel invokes a seven-year drought (see above), the
the cases of widows and orphans, he sees Kothar approaching
absence of Baal’s pluvial benefits. Then, at her father’s in-
with a bow and arrows. The divine craftsman gives this
structions, Pughat,
weapon to Danel as a gift for his son; after a suitable feast,
prepared by Danel’s wife for their divine guest, the god
who got up early to draw water, who brushed the dew
from the barley, who knew the course of the stars, in
tears she harnessed the ass, in tears she roped up the
In the next episode Anat, having seen the wonderfully
donkey, in tears she lifted her father, she put him on
crafted weapon, offers to buy it from Aqhat; the latter re-
the ass’s back, on the splendid back of the donkey.
fuses, proposing instead that he will supply the raw materials
At this point neither Danel nor Pughat is aware of Aqhat’s
necessary for the construction of another one by Kothar.
death; together they set out on a tour of the blasted fields.
Anat goes further:
There, Danel poignantly wishes that they could be restored,
“If you want life, Aqhat the Hero, if you want life, I’ll
so that
give it to you, immortality—I’ll make it yours. You’ll
“the hand of Aqhat the Hero would harvest you, place
be able to match years with Baal, months with the sons
you in the granary.”
of El.”
While they are still in the fields, messengers appear and relate
Again Aqhat refuses, and this time his response goes beyond
the facts of Aqhat’s death. Danel is stricken:
the proper limits:
His feet shook, his face broke out in sweat, his back was
“Don’t lie to me, Virgin, for to a hero your lies are
as though shattered, his joints trembled, his vertebrae
trash. A mortal—what does he get in the end? what
does a mortal finally get? Plaster poured on his head,
Finally, Danel lifts up his eyes, sees the vultures overhead,
lime on top of his skull. As every man dies, I will die;
and curses them:
yes, I too will surely die. And I have something else to
tell you: bows are for men! Do women ever hunt?”
“May Baal shatter the vultures’ wings, may Baal shatter
their pinions; let them fall at my feet. I will split their
The first part of Aqhat’s response, while realistic, is bad
gizzards and look: if there is fat, if there is bone, I will
enough: he implicitly denies Anat’s ability to provide what
weep and I will bury him, I will put him into the hole
she had promised, because from his perspective, old age and
of the gods of the earth.”
death are inescapable. But in insulting her prowess with such
Three times Danel examines the innards of various vultures
weapons, Aqhat is challenging the goddess’s very essence.
for remains of Aqhat; they are found at last inside Samal, the
Anat replies with a characteristically furious threat, and goes
mother of vultures, and presumably are given proper burial.
to report the matter to El.
Danel then curses the three cities near the scene of the crime
The second and shortest tablet of the cycle retains only
and returns to his palace to begin the mourning period. For
two of its original four columns. In the first column El ac-
seven years the mourning goes on, and at its conclusion
cedes, apparently with reluctance, to Anat’s insistence on re-
Danel dismisses the mourners and offers the appropriate sac-
venge, and in the last Anat carries out her threat:
In the last surviving brief episode, Pughat asks her fa-
When Aqhat sat down to eat, the son of Danel to his
ther’s benediction:
meal, vultures swooped over him, a flock of birds soared
above. Among the vultures swooped Anat; she set him
“Bless me, that I may go with your blessing; favor me,
[Yatpan, Anat’s henchman] over Aqhat. He struck him
that I may go with your favor: I will kill my brother’s
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killer, put an end to whoever put an end to my mother’s
The Rephaim texts. Three other tablets, extremely frag-
mentary ones, give some hint of the outcome of the story.
The blessing having been given, Pughat, like the Jewish hero-
Like most of the texts treated in this article, they were written
ine Judith, applies cosmetics and puts on her finery, under
down by Ilimilku, and because one of them mentions Danel
which she hides a sword. She reaches Yatpan’s tent at sun-
by name, they are part of the larger Danel tradition. Most
down, and he welcomes her, boasting:
scholars refer to them as the Rephaim texts, after the Hebrew
pronunciation of the name of their principal figures, the Re-
“The hand that killed Aqhat the Hero can kill a thou-
phaim; this title is probably to be translated (despite the He-
sand enemies.”
brew vocalization) as “the Healers,” although some scholars
Our text ends tantalizingly:
prefer “the Healthy (or Healed) Ones.” These “Healers”
Twice she gave him wine to drink, she gave him wine
seem to have been minor deities of the underworld. (See Job
to drink.
26:5; in other biblical passages the term Rephaim is used for
the legendary pre-Israelite inhabitants of the land of Canaan,
Interpretation of this epic is difficult because of the gaps in
probably by extension from the sense of the deified dead.)
the narrative and the abrupt break at the end of the preserved
They also seem to have been connected with Baal; recall
portion, but some light is shed on the main lines of the story
Danel’s epithet, “the Healer’s man.”
by other ancient sources. The encounter between Anat and
Aqhat is reminiscent of similar episodes in classical litera-
In these texts the Healers visit Danel’s threshing floor
tures, and especially of a portion of the Gilgamesh epic.
and plantation, presumably to restore them. Four broken
There, the goddess Ishtar (Inanna) tries to seduce Gilgamesh;
lines read as follows:
he repudiates her advances and reminds her in arrogant, in-
“Behold your son, behold . . . your grandson . . . the
sulting detail how she had behaved toward other mortals she
small one will kiss your lips.”
had loved after she had finished with them. Ishtar is naturally
It is tempting to see here the promise, if not the fact, of a
furious and complains bitterly to her father, Anu, the head
new heir for Danel. It has even been conjectured that Aqhat
of the pantheon. At first he resists her desire to take revenge
himself was restored to life, somewhat analogously to Baal’s
on Gilgamesh by setting against him a powerful animal ad-
resurrection, but this is unlikely because Aqhat was human,
versary, the Bull of Heaven, telling her that if her request is
not divine, and he himself had stated the Canaanite view of
granted there will be seven years of drought. Finally, howev-
mortality: “As every man dies, I will die.”
er, Anu relents, when Ishtar tells him that she has stored up
sufficient grain and fodder.
Kirta. This epic, consisting of three tablets, is incom-
plete: at least one additional tablet is missing, for the third
The parallels between this episode and Aqhat are nu-
ends abruptly in mid-sentence. Its eponymous hero, Kirta (a
merous and striking, but there are also significant differences.
name also vocalized as Keret), was, like Danel, a king, and
While Ishtar is the Mesopotamian counterpart of Anat, a
as the story begins he too has no heir. As he laments his lot,
goddess of love and of war, Gilgamesh and Aqhat are not
he has a revelatory dream in which El appears to him; paral-
simply literary cultural variants. In particular, it seems un-
lels in Aqhat and in the ancestral stories of Genesis indicate
likely that the bow in the Ugaritic epic is a symbolic substi-
that his sleep may have been part of a formal incubation ritu-
tute for Aqhat’s sexual organ: because it had been manufac-
al. El’s instructions to Kirta amount to more than ninety
tured by Kothar, a substitute could be made for it, and after
lines of text, and they are immediately repeated, with only
Aqhat’s death it dropped into the sea.
minor variations, as the childless ruler carries out the divine
The Egyptian myth of Osiris offers another avenue of
comparison. In that tale Isis, the sister (and wife) of the dead
First, Kirta offers a sacrifice to the gods, and then he pre-
Osiris, retrieves the murdered corpse of her brother, gives it
pares an army for his campaign against King Pabil of Udm,
a proper burial, and then encourages their son Horus to
whose daughter, the Lady Hurraya, is to be given to Kirta
avenge his father’s death; Osiris is, significantly, the god of
as his wife. There is almost universal conscription:
the regenerating vegetation.
It seems, then, that the Gilgamesh, Osiris, and Aqhat
The bachelor closed his house; the widow hired a sub-
stitute; the sick man carried his bed; the blind man was
cycles have a common thread, the threat to continued fertili-
assigned a station; even the new husband came out: he
ty. Extrapolating from these links, it is likely first that Pughat
led his wife to another, his love to a stranger.
does avenge her brother’s death, probably by destroying
Anat’s henchman Yatpan—it turns out that women hunt
This army proceeds like a swarm of locusts for three days,
after all! Second, given the importance assigned to Danel’s
after which it arrives at the sanctuary of Asherah of Tyre.
lack of an heir and the positive recollection of him in Ezekiel,
There Kirta vows that if his suit is successful, he will donate
it is difficult not to assume that he, like Job, is granted reha-
double the bride-price to the goddess. On the evening of the
bilitation, that the land is restored to production, and that
seventh day he reaches Udm and lays siege to the city:
a substitute son is born, all in other episodes of the Danel
They attacked the cities, they raided the towns; they
cycle not yet discovered.
drove the woodcutters from the fields, and the gatherers
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of straw from the threshing floors; they drove the water
To do so he takes clay and creates the goddess Shataqat
carriers from the well, and the women filling their jars
(whose name means “she causes [disease] to pass away”), then
from the spring.
sends her to Kirta. She succeeds; “Death was broken,” and
After seven days of siege Pabil begins to negotiate, offering
Kirta’s appetite returns.
Kirta silver, gold, slaves, and chariots. But Kirta rejects these,
In the final scene, after Kirta has been restored to his
insisting that there is only one thing he wants:
throne, his rule is challenged by one of his sons on the
“Give me rather what is not in my house: give me the
ground that because of his weakness, he has ceased to per-
Lady Hurraya, the fairest of your firstborn: her fairness
form the expected functions of a king:
is like Anat’s, her beauty is like Astarte’s, her eyebrows
“You do not judge the cases of widows; you do not pre-
are lapis lazuli, her eyes are jeweled bowls.”
side over the hearings of the oppressed; you do not drive
This is the end of the narrative of Kirta’s fulfillment of El’s
out those who plunder the poor; you do not feed the
command, and also the conclusion of the first tablet. The be-
orphan before you, the widow behind your back.”
ginning of the second tablet is damaged; as the text resumes,
Kirta’s response is to curse his son, praying that Horon, an
Pabil accedes to Kirta’s suit, with regret:
underworld deity, and Astarte, “the name of Baal,” will
“As a cow lows for her calf, as recruits long for their
smash his son’s skull.
mothers, so will the Udmites sigh.”
The plot of the Kirta cycle is relatively straightforward
After some missing lines, the council of the gods assembles
(at least where the text is continuous). Kirta also provides a
in procession. Some of them are listed: the Bull (El), Baal
perspective on the Canaanite ideology of kingship. Among
the Conqueror, Prince Moon, Kothar-wa-Hasis, the Maiden
the duties of the king was to maintain the social order; he
(Anat), and Prince Resheph. This assembly gathers to witness
did so by his effective support of the powerless in society—
El’s blessing, at Baal’s behest, of Kirta’s marriage:
the poor, widows, orphans—all groups who are mentioned
“Kirta, you have taken a wife, you have taken a wife into
in innumerable ancient Near Eastern sources as the special
your house, you have brought a maiden into your court.
responsibility of kings, both divine and human. Thus, his
She will bear seven sons for you, she will produce eight
son’s attempted coup to seize Kirta’s throne was motivated
for you; she will bear Yassib the Lad, who will drink the
by the alleged lack of justice for the powerless; Absalom’s re-
milk of Asherah, suck the breasts of the Virgin Anat, the
volt against his father, King David, in 2 Samuel 15 was ini-
two wet nurses of the gods.”
tially successful because Absalom was able to appeal to a simi-
The close association with the gods of the offspring of royal
lar failure in the royal administration of justice. Another
but human parents is a feature of the Canaanite ideology of
aspect of the maintenance of the social order was the provi-
sion for an orderly succession; Kirta’s (and Danel’s) desire
Seven years passed, and El’s blessing proves effective,
for male descendants was prompted by the recognition of
but Asherah is angry because Kirta has forgotten his vow.
this royal responsibility.
Meanwhile, Kirta plans a feast for his nobles, but during its
The most complex feature of Canaanite royal ideology,
preparation he is stricken with a mortal disease, apparently
however, was the quasi-divine status of the king; as the re-
as a punishment from Asherah.
peated question of Kirta’s children—“Do the Kind One’s
As the third tablet opens, Kirta’s son Ilha’u is expressing
offspring not live on?”—shows, it was puzzling to the Ca-
consternation at his father’s illness:
naanites as well. The Kirta cycle probably recounts the leg-
endary tale of the founder of a Canaanite dynasty. While
“How can it be said that Kirta is El’s son, an offspring
there is evidence that the kings of Ugarit, like those of the
of the Kind and Holy One? Or do the gods die? Do the
Hittites, were deified after their death, there is no suggestion
Kind One’s offspring not live on?”
of actual divine parentage for them. Kirta’s epithet “El’s son”
Ilha’u shares his dismay with his sister Thitmanit (“the
must therefore have a nonbiological sense, expressing in
eighth,” or Octavia), who repeats her brother’s words of con-
mythological language the close connection between human
fusion. After another gap the text tells of the disastrous con-
and divine rule. Thus, just as Baal was responsible for the
sequences of Kirta’s illness:
continuing fertility of the earth, which failed during the peri-
The plowmen lifted their heads, the sowers of grain
od of his subjugation to Death, so the king shared in this re-
their backs: gone was the food from their bins, gone was
sponsibility; when Kirta was ill, the natural order was upset.
the wine from their skins, gone was the oil from their
(Psalm 72, one of the Israelite royal hymns, is an extended
elaboration of the positive connection of natural prosperity
Again there is a break in the text, and then El intervenes per-
with the king.)
sonally; he asks the divine council seven times if any of their
The evidence of a number of biblical passages that speak
number can cure Kirta, “but none of the gods answered
of the king as the son of Yahweh is instructive here. The lan-
him.” Finally he takes the task upon himself:
guage of divine sonship is not just a literary device but seems
“I will work magic, I will bring relief; I will expel the
to have been part of the actual coronation ceremony, in
sickness, I will drive out the disease.”
which the newly anointed king would proclaim:
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

“I will tell of Yahweh’s decree. He said to me, ‘You are
tains photographs and hand copies. The standard edition
my son; this day I have given birth to you.’” (Ps. 2:7)
used by most scholars is Manfred Dietrich, Oswald Loretz,
and Joaquín Sanmartín, The Cuneiform Alphabetic Texts from
Similar language is found in 2 Samuel 7:14 and in Isaiah
Ugarit, Ras Ibn Hani, and Other Places, 2d ed. (Munster,
9:2–7, a prophetic coronation oracle, the divine council itself
Germany, 1995); it is generally abbreviated as CAT (or
sometimes KTU, from the title of the original German
“To us a child has been born, to us a son has been
Several accessible translations for the general reader exist. The
The language of sonship also occurs in Psalms 89:26, imme-
translations in this article are the author’s own, revised from
diately after a passage that expresses in the clearest way the
those first published in Michael David Coogan, Stories from
Ancient Canaan
(Philadelphia, 1978) and used by permission
close relationship between deity and king. Earlier in the
of Westminster John Knox Press. That work also includes
psalm Yahweh is praised as the one who (like Baal) rules the
helpful introductions to each of the four cycles that are trans-
raging of the sea, scattering his enemies with his mighty arms
lated, as well as to the Canaanite material from Ugarit in gen-
(vv. 9–10); in verse 23, using the traditional parallel formula
eral. The best recent translation of the Ugaritic texts into En-
for the storm god’s enemy, the deity states that he will share
glish is Simon B. Parker, ed., Ugaritic Narrative Poetry
his cosmic powers with the Davidic king:
(Atlanta, 1997), in which translations by a number of schol-
ars are juxtaposed to transcriptions of the original Ugaritic;
“I will set his hand on the sea, and on the rivers his right
unfortunately there is no consistency in this volume, so that
the same Ugaritic words and phrases are translated different-
CONCLUSION. This article has dealt primarily with the cor-
ly by different scholars. Also important are Gregorio del
pus of Canaanite literature from Ugarit and has not discussed
Olmo Lete, Mitos, leyendas y rituales de los semitas occidentales,
in detail the many other Canaanite sources extant. Most
2d ed. (Madrid, 1998), and the translations, mostly by Den-
prominent among these are hundreds of inscriptions from
nis Pardee, found in William W. Hallo, ed., The Context of
the first millennium BCE in the Phoenician, Aramaic, He-
Scripture, vol. 1, Canonical Compositions from the Biblical
brew, Moabite, Ammonite, and Edomite languages; refer-
World (Leiden, 1997), pp. 237–375. Nicolas Wyatt, Reli-
ences to Canaanite religion in various Greek and Roman
gious Texts from Ugarit: The Words of Ilimilku and His Col-
2d ed. (London and New York, 2002), which in-
writers; and, more remotely, scattered material in Mesopota-
cludes a number of ritual texts as well as the myths and epics
mian sources. It should be realized, however, that with rare
considered here, is often idiosyncratic. Among older ver-
exceptions, this material is not literature in the sense in
sions, especially valuable are Textes ougaritiques, vol. 1 of My-
which the term has been interpreted above.
thes et légendes, by André Caquot, Maurice Sznycer, and An-
Throughout this article there has also been an effort to
drée Herdner (Paris, 1974), and Canaanite Myths and
by John C. L. Gibson, 2d ed (Edinburgh, 1978).
adumbrate the significance of the Ugaritic texts for the inter-
pretation of the other great corpus of literature that may be
A number of studies have been devoted to individual myths and
subsumed in the designation Canaanite—the Bible. Much
epics. Among the best are Mark S. Smith, The Ugaritic Baal
more could be added on this topic, including discussion of
Cycle (Leiden, 1994), and Simon B. Parker, The Pre-biblical
the council of the gods; the enthronement festival of the
Narrative Tradition: Essays on the Ugaritic Poems Keret and
deity as represented in Psalms; and, in general, the pervasive
Aqhat (Atlanta, 1989). It is also important to understand the
myths and epics in the larger context of the ritual texts from
use of Canaanite imagery, formulas, and ideology by biblical
Ugarit; a good starting point is Gregorio del Olmo Lete, Ca-
writers, especially when describing the character and activity
naanite Religion according to the Liturgical Texts of Ugarit (Be-
of Yahweh. The writers were themselves aware of this rela-
thesda, Md., 1999), translated by W. G. E. Watson.
tionship and the problems it raised; this partially explains the
consistent portrayal of ancient Israel as—at least in the
Grammars and dictionaries are also important resources. Among
the most comprehensive are Gregorio del Olmo Lete and
ideal—a people set apart from their historical context, their
Joaquín Sanmartín, A Dictionary of the Ugaritic Language in
hostility toward their non-Yahwistic neighbors, and the in-
the Alphabetic Tradition (Leiden, 2003), translated by Wil-
sistence on the uniqueness of Yahweh. Yet biblical tradition
fred G. E. Watson, and Josef Tropper, Ugaritische Gramma-
can, on occasion, be remarkably candid about the origins of
tik (Munster, Germany, 2000).
Israel and its culture. In the light of Canaanite religious and
mythological literature, the declaration of the prophet Eze-
Since their discovery and decipherment, the Ugaritic texts have
been the focus of a steady stream of investigation. A useful
kiel to Jerusalem is strikingly apposite: “Your origin and your
summary of the history of scholarship is Mark S. Smith, Un-
birth are of the land of the Canaanites” (Ez. 16:3).
told Stories: The Bible and Ugaritic Studies in the Twentieth
(Peabody, Mass., 2001). A fuller view of Ugaritic
studies at the turn of the millennium is provided by the es-
The official publication of the major Ugaritic texts is Andrée
says in Handbook of Ugaritic Studies, edited by Wilfred
Herdner, Corpus des tablettes en cunéiformes alphabétiques dé-
G. E. Watson and Nicolas Wyatt (Leiden, 1999). See also
couvertes à Ras Shamra-Ugarit de 1929 à 1939 (Paris, 1963);
the lengthy review of that volume, providing many correc-
the first volume contains the texts, preceded by extensive bib-
tions especially on matters of detail, by Dennis Pardee, “Uga-
liographies and copiously annotated, and the second con-
ritic Studies at the End of the 20th Century,” Bulletin 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

American Schools of Oriental Research 320 (November 2000):
who had wanted to adopt independent inferences.
Candrak¯ırti I thus tried to reestablish the prasan˙ga method
of reasoning. Tibetan doxographers accordingly classified
ICHAEL D. COOGAN (1987 AND 2005)
him with Buddhapa¯lita as representative of the Pra¯san˙gika
school. He also lodged criticism against the doctrines of the
Buddhist logico-epistemological school and the metaphysical
and gnoseological theories of the Yoga¯ca¯ra-Vijña¯nava¯ddins.
Candrak¯ırti II composed a few Tantric works, the most
important of which is the Prad¯ıpoddyotana (D. 1785, B.
2650), a commentary on the Guhyasama¯ja Tantra.
CANDRAK¯IRTI (Tib., Zla ba grags pa; Chin., Yue-
Candrak¯ırti III composed the Madhyamaka¯vata¯raprajña¯ or
cheng; Jpn., Gessho¯), Indian Buddhist dialectician. Scholars
Madhyamakaprajña¯vata¯ra (D. 3865, B. 5264) and together
have identified at least three Candrak¯ırtis. The first, who will
with the translator ‘Gos khug pa lhas btsas translated it into
be referred to as “Candrak¯ırti I,” was a renowned Madhya-
Tibetan. If the identification of Dpal ldan zla ba with
maka (Ma¯dhyamika) philosopher who lived around 600–
Candrak¯ırti III is correct, this same pair of translators also
650 CE; the second, “Candrak¯ırti II,” was a Tantric master
translated Kr:s:n:apa¯da’s commentary on the Hevajra Tantra
assumed to have lived slightly later than the former; and the
(D. 1187, B. 2317). ‘Gos khug pa lhas btsas also translated
third, “Candrak¯ırti III,” was a Buddhist thinker of the elev-
the Prad¯ıpoddyotana with Rin chen bzang po (958–1055)
enth century. Biographies are available only in Tibetan
and others. We can thus fix the date of Candrak¯ırti III with-
sources such as the histories of Bu ston, Ta¯rana¯tha, and
in the eleventh century.
Sumpa mkhan po. These sources are not particularly helpful
to the historian, for they tend to confuse history and legend
Although Candrak¯ırti I and III are certainly two differ-
and freely interchange the lives of the three Candrak¯ırtis.
ent people, it may be possible that Candrak¯ırti II is identical
This did not pose a great problem in Tibet, however, for the
with either Candrak¯ırti I or III. Research on this point re-
Tibetan tradition acknowledges only one Candrak¯ırti, who
mains open.
lived for three or four hundred years.
SEE ALSO Ma¯dhyamika.
Candrak¯ırti I wrote several important commentaries on
the works of Na¯ga¯rjuna and A¯ryadeva: (1) the Prasannapada¯
(available in Sanskrit in Bibliotheca Buddhica 4, hereafter
Lindtner, Christian. “Candrak¯ırti’s Pañcaskandhaprakaran:a.” Acta
cited as Bibl. Bud.), a commentary on Na¯ga¯rjuna’s
Orientalia 40 (1979): 87–145.
Mu¯lamadhyamakaka¯rika¯; (2) the Yuktis:as:t:ika¯vr:tti (Derge
May, Jacques, trans. Candrak¯ırti, Prasannapada¯ Madhyama-
edition of the Tibetan Tripit:aka 3864, hereafter cited as D.;
kavtti: Commentaire limpide au traité du milieu. Paris, 1959.
Beijing edition of the Tibetan Tripit:aka 5265, hereafter cited
Ruegg, David S. The Literature of the Madhyamaka School of Phi-
as B.); (3) the S´u¯nyata¯-saptativr:tti (D. 3867, B. 5268); and
losophy in India. Wiesbaden, 1981.
(4) the Catuh:´satakat:¯ıka¯ (D. 3865, B. 5266, partially avail-
able in Sanskrit), a commentary on A¯ryadeva’s Catuh:´sataka.
New Sources
A¯ryadeva, Candrak¯ırti, and Karen Lang, “Aryadeva and
He also composed works of his own inspiration: (1) the
Candrak¯ırti on Self and Selfishness” In Buddhism in Practice,
Madhyamaka¯vata¯ra, with its autocommentary, the
edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr., pp. 380–398. Princeton,
Madhyamaka¯vata¯rabha¯s:ya (Tib. edition in Bibl. Bud. 9), an
introduction to the basic Madhyamaka treatise of
Jong, J. W. de. “Materials for the Study of Aryadeva, Dharmapala
Na¯ga¯rjuna; and (2) the Pañcaskañdhaprakaran:a (Tib. edi-
and Candrakirti: The Catuhsataka of Aryadeva, Chapters
tion, Lindtner, 1979), a treatise on Abhidharma topics (five
12–13, 2 V.” Indo Iranian Journal 36 (1993): 150–153.
aggregates, twelve bases, and eighteen elements) from the
Scherrer Schaub, Cristina. “Tendance de la pensee de Candrakirti,
Madhyamaka point of view. Opinions differ concerning the
Buddhajnana et Jinakriya.” Buddhist Forum 3 (1994):
authorship of the work titled Tri´saran:a[gamana]saptati (D.
3971, 4564; B. 5366, 5478). According to Lindtner it was
composed by Candrak¯ırti I, but according to Ruegg (1981),
by Candrak¯ırti II. As to the chronological order of these trea-
Revised Bibliography
tises, one can only state with certainty that the
Madhyamaka¯vata¯ra (probably with the autocommentary)
was composed before the two large commentaries, the
CANISIUS, PETER (1521–1597), doctor of the
Prasannapada¯ and the Catuh:´satakat:¯ıka¯, since both of the lat-
church, Jesuit priest, educator, theologian, and saint. Born
ter refer to the former.
at Nijmegen, Peter Canisius was educated at the University
Candrak¯ırti I expounded the Madhyamaka philosophy
of Cologne. Sent by his father, Jakob Kanijs, to study law
of Na¯ga¯rjuna and defended the position of Buddhapa¯lita (c.
at Louvain in 1539, Peter, determined to be a priest, re-
470–540) against the criticism of Bha¯vaviveka (c. 500–570),
turned to Cologne and in 1541 became the first German Je-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

suit. He helped to found the first German Jesuit house at Co-
publications in volume 2, pages 617–688. The standard life
logne and in 1546 was ordained a priest. In 1547, Cardinal
of Canisius is by James Brodrick, St. Peter Canisius, S.J.,
Truchsess of Augsburg appointed Canisius as his theologian
1521–1597 (1935; reprint, Baltimore, 1950).
at the Council of Trent. Between the first and second ses-
sions of the council, Canisius went to Rome for further spiri-
tual training with Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of
Jesus. From 1548 to 1580 Canisius worked out of Germany,
traveling to Austria and Poland as Jesuit provincial, counsel-
CANNIBALISM is both a concept and a practice that
or to princes, and founder of Jesuit schools. Three times Em-
may involve diverse themes of death, food, sacrifice, revenge,
peror Ferdinand I (1556–1564) asked Canisius to become
aggression, love, and destruction or transformation of
bishop of Vienna, but each time he refused. From 1556 to
human others. The many and varied examples of cannibal-
1569 Canisius served as the first Jesuit provincial of upper
ism are difficult to summarize, except in terms of the wide-
Germany. In 1580 he was sent to Fribourg in Switzerland
spread idea of the human body as a powerful symbolic site
to help found a Jesuit college; it was his last assignment.
for defining relations between oneself and others and mark-
ing the boundaries of a moral community. In violating the
Canisius’s primary work was reestablishing Roman Ca-
bodily integrity that prevails in ordinary social life, cannibal-
tholicism or strengthening it where it was threatened by
ism signifies an extraordinary transformation or dramatiza-
Protestantism, especially in Germany, Austria, and Poland.
tion of relations between those who eat and those who are
His means were manifold, but chief among them was educa-
eaten. When it occurs in religious contexts, the act of con-
tion through the establishment of twenty Jesuit colleges be-
suming human substance commonly represents an exchange
tween 1549 and 1580. From these colleges came staunchly
between people and cosmic powers, promoting union with
Roman Catholic political and spiritual leaders.
the divine or renewing life-sustaining spiritual relations.
Frequently, Canisius had to deal directly with Protes-
Such religious meanings may overlap with the social and po-
tants, as at Worms in 1557 and at Augsburg in 1566, or indi-
litical significance of consuming enemies to mark one’s dom-
rectly through his advice to Catholic princes to whom he was
inance and superiority—or consuming kin to express love,
appointed secret nuncio by the pope. While he dealt severely
to distance the spirit of the deceased from the world of the
with heretical books and what he deemed overly lenient poli-
living, or to acquire physical or spiritual qualities contained
cies on the part of princes, he distinguished between obdu-
in the corpse. Thus sacrifice, the aggressive destruction of en-
rate heresy and that of people who had been led astray. These
emies, and the devoted incorporation or anxious destruction
latter should not be coerced, he argued, but persuaded. To
of a loved one’s body are all facets of cannibalism that may
prepare Catholics to meet Protestant arguments, Canisius
be present in different cultural contexts.
drew up catechisms that, while not attacking Protestants
frontally, gave Catholics a thorough grounding in the Catho-
gists distinguish between endocannibalism, eating a member
lic side of controversial issues such as justification and the
of one’s own social group, and exocannibalism, eating a
Lord’s Supper. Canisius also answered Protestant controver-
member of some other group, frequently an enemy. Endo-
sialists, especially the Centuriators, Flacius Illyricus and Jo-
cannibalism is most often associated with funerals or other
hann Wigand, who had prepared the Magdeburg Centuries,
mortuary rites and with themes of sacrifice, familial devo-
a century-by-century history interpreted from a Lutheran
tion, reincarnation, and regeneration, as well as group wel-
fare, reproduction, and continuity. Exocannibalism com-
Toward his flock, Canisius was a kindly and practical
monly signifies domination, revenge, or destruction of
superior and pastor. He served as cathedral preacher at Augs-
enemies. The distinction between exo- and endocannibalism
burg, Innsbruck, and Fribourg, and through his direct and
has limited value in describing the complex forms in which
pious sermons won back thousands to the Roman Catholic
people have ingested human body substances.
sacraments. Pope Leo XIII (1898–1903) dubbed Canisius
The symbolism of the sacrifice and consumption of
“the second apostle of Germany after Boniface.” He was can-
human offerings pervades religious thought in European and
onized on May 21, 1925 and declared a doctor of the Catho-
Middle Eastern traditions; this symbolism is explored by
lic church by Pope Pius XI.
Walter Burkert in Homo Necans (1983). Cannibalism is a
common theme in mythology and folk tales (see Lévi-
Strauss, 1969) and, as a practice, it has been reported in Eu-
The best source for Canisius’s life is a multivolume edition edited
rope, Polynesia, Melanesia, North and South America, and
by Otto Braunsberger, Beati Petri Canisii Societatas Iesu epis-
Africa (see Tannahill, 1975; Sanday, 1986; Gordon-Grube,
tulae et acta, 8 vols. (Freiburg, 1896–1923). Friedrich Strei-
1988). The occurrences have no simple correlation with pat-
cher has edited a critical edition of Canisius’s catechisms: S.
terns of subsistence, ecology, food supply, or other cultural
Petri Canisii doctoris ecclesiae catechismi Latini et Germanici,
2 vols. (Munich, 1933–1936). The Bibliothèque de la Com-
pagnie de Jésus
, compiled by Carlos Sommervogel (1891; re-
In popular imagination and in psychoanalytic analyses
print, Paris, 1960), contains a bibliography of Canisius’s
such as that of Eli Sagan (1974), cannibalism has commonly
E N C Y C L O P E D I 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 seen as characteristic of primitive communities and
ter isolation and the threat of starvation, individuals some-
magical thought rather than civilization and religion. Such
times developed delusions of being transformed into such a
assumptions ignore the variety of cannibalistic practices in
monster (Marano, 1985). The idiom of cannibalism in myth
complex societies, such as the western European tradition of
is worldwide and has an extensive range of context and
using human body parts as medicines and the Aztec practice
meaning. Claude Lévi-Strauss (1969) points to the universe
of human sacrifice. As William Arens (1979) has empha-
of oppositions, associations, and transformations of humans
sized, exaggerated or unfounded reports of cannibalism are
and animals: death and rebirth, cooked and raw food, death
widespread and often have been used as racist propaganda
and rotting, cannibal and ogre. South America is one of the
and justification for colonial domination of native peoples.
areas where these themes have been elaborated in myths and,
Arguments persist about when and where cannibalism really
in the past, were expressed by a number of native societies
has existed as an institutionalized, socially accepted practice.
through practices of endocannibalism and exocannibalism.
Some of the most heated of these debates have focused on
Fiji and the circumstances surrounding the death of Captain
James Cook in Hawai’i, and on the interpretation of archae-
MERICA. For some native peoples in lowland South Ameri-
ca, endocannibalism was a ritual act that honored the de-
ological remains of the ancient Anasazi culture of the south-
ceased by sparing the corpse from the horror of burial and
western United States. Anthropological scholarship on some
decay. Eradicating the body by consuming it was thought to
of the better-described ethnographic and historical cases has
protect against the negative effects of death and the twin dan-
focused on elucidating the cultural beliefs reflected in the di-
gers associated with the corpse: the danger that the body’s
verse historical practices of consuming human body sub-
presence would attract the dead person’s soul to attack living
people, and the danger of excessive grief among mourners for
whom the body is a constant reminder of their loss (Conklin,
widely known large-scale practice of human sacrifice and
2001). South American endocannibalism took several forms,
cannibalism is that of the ancient Aztec, as recorded by many
from eating the flesh (among the Guayaquí of Paraguay and
early reports. The Aztec religion involved many kinds of of-
the Wari’ of Brazil) to cremating the flesh and grinding the
ferings, but the Sun, patron of warriors, required human
roasted bones into a powder to be mixed with food or bever-
hearts and human blood for nourishment; human sacrifice
age and consumed (Clastres, 1974; Conklin, 2001; Dole,
was therefore essential. The victims were usually prisoners or
1962; McCallum, 1999; Vilaça, 2000). Among the Wari’ of
purchased slaves; during the rituals, their hearts were re-
Brazil, who believed that ancestors’ spirits become game ani-
moved and placed in vessels, and their heads were placed in
mals that offer their flesh to feed their living relatives, the act
skull racks. The limbs, and sometimes other portions of the
of consuming the corpse at the funeral evoked religious be-
victims’ bodies, might be cooked and eaten by the nobles,
liefs about life-supporting reciprocity between the living and
priests, and wealthy elite, as well as by successful warriors and
the dead, and between people and animal spirits.
guests invited to celebratory feasts. Aztec priests also prac-
ticed autosacrifice, drawing their own blood as an offering.
For the Tupinamba and other native peoples of lowland
South America, exocannibalism was traditionally associated
Michael Harner (1977) and Marvin Harris (1977)
with intertribal and intercommunity warfare. War was high-
argue that Aztec cannibalism had a nutritional purpose, be-
ly ritualized, being preceded by dreams and magical rites,
cause the Aztecs of the late prehistoric and early historic peri-
and victory was celebrated with further rites, cannibal feasts,
od had depleted their game supply and lacked domestic her-
and a display of head trophies by the victors. Prisoners might
bivores. Harner and Harris suggest that cannibalism was a
be kept for a long time, adopted or married into a local fami-
response to the pressure of overpopulation and meat short-
ly, and then tortured before being killed and eaten. Eduardo
age, disguised as propitiation of the gods. Their reasoning
Viveiros de Castro (1992) has shown how the Tupinamba
and claims about the scale of both human sacrifice and food
treatment of war captives embodied cultural ideas about self
shortages have been disputed by other scholars who empha-
and other, nature and culture, marriage and alliance. Carlos
size that the public ritual of blood sacrifice was vital in the
Fausto (1999) sees cannibalism as a key mechanism and met-
Aztec religion.
aphor through which Amazonian peoples transformed ene-
mies into kin, or mortals into immortals, by taming, socializ-
ing, or perfecting that which is wild or culturally inferior.
Kwakiutl of the northwest coast of North America, a major
feature of the winter ceremonies was the Hamatsa dancer,
who symbolized hunger, craving for human flesh, the fire
enemy villages and consumption of enemy dead—or the tak-
that transforms, and regurgitation (rebirth), and who was
ing of captives who were later killed and eaten—also has
later tamed so as to become a member of society. Here the
been documented in Melanesia and Polynesia. The discovery
cannibalistic image is the key to the relation between man
and control of Pacific islanders from the eighteenth century
and supernatural forces. In the Great Lakes region of Canada
onward brought exploratory expeditions, missionaries, ad-
and the United States, northern Algonkian legends describe
ministrators, magistrates, and, later, anthropologists into
a cannibalistic Windigo monster. Under conditions of win-
contact with local informants who described and explained
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

their beliefs and practices related to consuming human sub-
secret societies, such as the Human Leopard and Alligator,
stances. Ross Bowden (1984) reports that in New Zealand,
reportedly required head-hunting and cannibalism as a quali-
Maori cannibalism in warfare not only provided contribu-
fication for membership (see MacCormack, in Brown and
tions to the warriors’ diet but also had a profound symbolic
Tuzin, 1983). Witches and sorcerers acquired and renewed
significance: to degrade the slain enemy, whose flesh was
their powers by consuming human flesh and thereby absorb-
converted into food and whose bones were turned into ob-
ing the powers of the deceased. Accusations of cannibalism
jects of common use. The victors especially relished desecrat-
are a political weapon still powerful among the contempo-
ing the corpse of a chief.
rary Sherbro of Sierra Leone.
In Fiji, myth and historical practices together provide
Witchcraft is in various ways commonly associated with
an understanding of the interconnections between the Fiji-
cannibalism. In the Strickland/Bosavi region of the New
ans’ surrender of their sisters to foreign husbands in exchange
Guinea highlands, among a number of groups, including the
for marriage payment of valuable whale teeth and their cap-
Onabasulu (see Ernst, in Goldman, 1999), witches who were
ture of foreign war prisoners for cannibalism. Human sacri-
executed were cooked and consumed in a symbolic denial of
fice accompanied the building of sacred houses and canoes
the individual’s humanity and status as a moral person. Else-
and the ceremonial visits of allied chiefs. A Fijian chief over-
where, witches themselves are often thought to be cannibals
saw an exchange cycle that included the symbolic transfer of
who obtain personal mana (power) by consuming a victim.
valued objects—women (as wives) and men (as cannibal vic-
The notion that witches feed upon the blood and body of
tims); by this process, political alliances were confirmed. The
their victims and that death results from this loss of body
cannibal victims were consecrated to the major war god, who
substance is noted in many areas among unrelated peoples.
was represented by the chief.
In some places a cult group of witches is believed to teach
and share techniques and cannibalistic acts, real or symbolic,
In parts of Melanesia, anthropologists have documented
but a belief in a solitary cannibal-witch also exists. Neil
native informants’ accounts of cannibalistic practices that
Whitehead (2002) describes how sorcerers in the highlands
continued into the mid-twentieth century. In the northern
of Guyana extract and sip fluids from decomposing corpses.
Fore region of the New Guinea highlands, dead enemies
The act is the sorcerer’s gift to divine beings of the cosmos,
were eaten by men and women, and in the southern region
given to ensure the fertility of plants, fish, and animals.
women and children ate kin and members of the residential
CONCLUSION. The theme of cannibalism as an exchange that
group who had died. Similarly, Gimi women cooked and ate
feeds and renews sources of life and fertility appears in a wide
the dead of the local group. The Fore people reportedly val-
range of contexts, from the hostile relations of Guyanese sor-
ued enemy flesh as food, but cannibalism carried ritual
cery and Aztec warfare and human sacrifice to the loving and
meanings as well. When Gimi women ate human flesh they
honorable funerary rites of native peoples in Melanesia and
prevented the ravages of decomposition and alleviated the
lowland South America. Although Eli Sagan (1974), I. M.
hunger they believed to be caused by intense sorrow. Gimi
Lewis (1986), and other psychological theorists see in aggres-
practices were structured by kinship relations, ideas about ex-
sion and interpersonal conflict the source and meaning of
change transactions between men and women, and myths
cannibalism, the trend among most anthropologists and his-
that associate cannibalism with wildness and uncontrolled or
torians has been to demonstrate the diversity of cultural
rapacious female sexuality.
meanings. In both practice and imagination, cannibalism is
Elsewhere in the New Guinea highlands, warfare canni-
clearly an emotionally charged and culturally significant act,
balism reflected concerns with fertility and gender. The
but it has no single meaning. Cannibalism’s multifaceted
Bimin-Kuskusmin (see Poole, 1983) and the neighboring
symbolism and its connections with mythic themes of sacri-
Miyanmin reportedly ate enemies killed in war. The latter
fice, destruction, regeneration, and social reproduction are
ate the whole body, whereas the former group dismembered
understood best within a specific cultural context.
bodies, buried heads, and ate to defile the enemy. The
Bimin-Kuskusmin distinguished between hard body parts
SEE ALSO Aztec Religion; Human Sacrifice, overview article.
that were considered male and were eaten by men, and those
parts, flesh and fat, that were considered female and were
Books and articles on cannibalism may be theoretical or interpre-
eaten by women. The Great Pandanus Tree Rite was an oc-
tive general works or they may present descriptive case
casion for feasting upon game and human victims obtained
studies that analyze cannibalism in particular cultural set-
by raiding a nearby group. Fitz John Porter Poole’s interpre-
tings. Many works combine both features, applying a theo-
tation of this ritual emphasizes the cultural meaning of male
retical or interpretive approach to particular case studies.
and female substances, ritual expression of myth, relations
General Works
between the sexes, fertility, and death.
Arens, William. The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthro-
pophagy. New York, 1979. Finds the evidence for cannibal-
consumption of enemies was associated with the construc-
ism unconvincing.
tion of masculinity through head-hunting and initiation rit-
Goldman, Laurence R., ed. The Anthropology of Cannibalism.
uals. In West Africa, among the Sherbro, for example, certain
Westport, Conn., 1999. Presents a series of articles with cri-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

tiques of Arens’s position, analyses of the politics of ethno-
Lindenbaum, Shirley. Kuru Sorcery: Disease and Danger in the New
graphic representations of cannibalism, and case studies cited
Guinea Highlands. Palo Alto, Calif., 1979. A discussion of
in the text of this article: Kantner on the Anasazi, Zubrinich
the importance of sorcery belief in the reactions of the Fore
on the Asmat, and Ernst on the Onabasulu.
to the kuru disease, which was spread by contact with victims
Harris, Marvin. Cannibals and Kings: The Origins of Culture. New
of the disease, mainly through cannibalism.
York, 1977. Presents a materialist-ecological explanation of
McCallum, Cecelia. “Consuming Pity: The Production of Death
among the Cashinahua.” Cultural Anthropology 14, no. 4
Lewis, I. M. “The Cannibal’s Cauldron.” In Lewis’s Religion in
(1999): 443–471.
Context: Cults and Charisma, pp. 63–77. New York, 1986.
Marano, Lou. “Windigo Psychosis: The Anatomy of an Emic-Etic
Highlights symbolic themes of sexuality and oral aggression.
Confusion.” In Culture-Bound Syndromes, edited by Ronald
Sagan, Eli. Cannibalism: Human Aggression and Cultural Form.
C. Simons and Charles C. Hughes, pp. 411–448. Dordrecht,
New York, 1974. A popular psychoanalytic study of canni-
balism in general, relating it to aggression and sublimation
Métraux, Alfred. “The Tupinamba.” In Handbook of South Ameri-
of aggression.
can Indians, edited by Julian H. Steward, vol. 3. Washing-
Sanday, Peggy Reeves. Divine Hunger: Cannibalism as a Cultural
ton, D.C., 1949.
System. New York, 1986. Surveys cross-cultural cannibalism
Métraux, Alfred. “Warfare, Cannibalism, and Human Trophies.”
and analyzes its relation to cultural concepts of self-other re-
In Handbook of South American Indians, edited by Julian H.
lations and the reproduction of society.
Steward, vol. 5. Washington, D.C., 1949.
Tannahill, Reay. Flesh and Blood: A History of the Cannibal Com-
Obeyesekere, Gananath. “Cannibal Feasts in Nineteenth-Century
plex. New York, 1975.
Fiji: Seaman’s Yarns and the Ethnographic Imagination.” In
Cannibalism and the Colonial World, edited by Francis Bark-
Studies of Areas and Cases
Bowden, Ross. “Maori Cannibalism: An Interpretation.” Oceania
er, Peter Hulme, and Margaret Iversen, pp. 63–86. New
55 (1984): 81–99.
York, 1998.
Brown, Paula, and Donald Tuzin, eds. The Ethnography of Canni-
Poole, Fitz John Porter. “Cannibals, Tricksters, and Witches: An-
balism. Washington, D.C., 1983. Presents a group of case
thropophagic Images among Binim-Kuskusmin.” In The
studies, some cited in the text of the article: Poole on the
Ethnography of Cannibalism, edited by Paula Brown and
Bimin-Kuskusmin, MacCormack on the Sherbro, and
Donald Tuzin, p.13. Washington, D.C., 1983.
Sahlins on the Fijians, with a commentary by Shirley Lin-
Sahlins, Marshall. “Raw Women, Cooked Men, and Other ‘Great
Things’ of the Fiji Islands.” In The Ethnography of Cannibal-
Burkert, Walter. Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek
ism, edited by Paula Brown and Donald Tuzin. Washington,
Sacrificial Ritual and Myth. Berkeley, Calif., 1983. Essential-
D.C., 1983.
ly a study of the ritualization of sacrifice. Cannibalism as im-
Strathern, Andrew. “Witchcraft, Greed, Cannibalism and Death:
agery rather than practice.
Some Related Themes from the New Guinea Highlands.” In
Clastres, Pierre. “Guayakí Cannibalism.” In Native South Ameri-
Death and the Regeneration of Life, edited by Maurice Bloch
cans: Ethnology of the Least Known Continent, edited by Patri-
and Jonathan Parry, pp. 111–133. New York, 1982. Com-
cia J. Lyon, pp. 309–321. Boston, 1974.
pares and discusses the themes of cannibalism, witchcraft,
sacrifice, exchange, recreation, and the enemy.
Conklin, Beth A. Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in
an Amazonian Society. Austin, Tex., 2001.
Vilaça, Aparecida. “Relations between Funerary Cannibalism and
Warfare Cannibalism: The Question of Predation.” Ethnos
Dole, Gertrude. “Endocannibalism among the Amahuaca Indi-
65, no. 1 (2000): 83–106.
ans.” Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences 24
(1962): 567–573.
Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo Batalha. From the Enemy’s Point of
View: Humanity and Divinity in an Amazonian Society. Chi-
Fausto, Carlos. “Of Enemies and Pets: Warfare and Shamanism
cago, 1992. An interpretation of Tupi-Guarani ritual canni-
in Amazonia.” American Ethnologist 26, no. 4 (1999):
balism, emphasizing how society is constructed through the
incorporation of enemy others.
Forsyth, Donald W. “The Beginnings of Brazilian Anthropology:
Walens, Stanley. Feasting with Cannibals: An Essay on Kwakiutl
Jesuits and Tupinamba Cannibalism.” Journal of Anthropo-
Cosmology. Princeton, N.J., 1981. A symbolic analysis of
logical Research 39 (1983): 147–178.
Kwakiutl cannibalistic spirits and dances.
Gillison, Gillian. Between Culture and Fantasy: A New Guinea
Whitehead, Neil L. Dark Shamans: Kanaimà and the Poetics of Vi-
Highlands Mythology. Chicago, 1993.
olent Death. Durham, N.C., 2002.
Gordon-Grube, Karen. “Anthropophagy in Post-Renaissance Eu-
Zerries, Otto. “El endocanibalismo en la América del Sur.” Revista
rope: The Tradition of Medicinal Cannibalism.” American
do Museu Paulista (Sao Paulo) 12 (1960): 125–175.
Anthropologist 90, no. 2 (1988): 405–409.
Harner, Michael J. “The Ecological Basis for Aztec Sacrifice.”
American Ethnologist 4 (1977): 117–135.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. The Raw and the Cooked. New York, 1969.
Discusses myths of cannibalism and the symbolism of raw,
cooked, and rotten food, especially among South American
CANON. Because employment of the term canon (usually
as a synonym for scripture) in comparative religious studies
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

is both commonplace and subject to a growing scholarly de-
preaching), “the canon (rule) of faith” (Lat., regula fidei, or
bate, the classic usage will be considered at the outset. Subse-
the essential truth of the gospel), and “the ecclesiastical
quently, a consideration of contemporary applications of the
canon” (Lat., regula veritatis, expressing both true confession
term within the study of world religions will follow in order
and correct ritual participation in the church). Likewise, the
to illustrate its usefulness and to show some of the hermeneu-
term could characterize any authorized list or collection of
tical issues implicit in such usage. Since the use of canon to
decisions or persons. Thus one could speak of a “canonical”
mean both a norm and an attribute of scripture arose first
set of laws, a list or collection of “canonized” saints, papal
within Christianity, some special attention must necessarily
decretals (ninth century), church leaders, monks, nuns, and
be given to present debates in the study of that religion.
so on. Hence, early in the history of Christianity, the Greek
However, the focus of this treatment is on the wider implica-
kano¯n was carried over as canon or regula in the Latin used
tions concerning the value of this term in a comparativist de-
in churches of the East and the West. By the Middle Ages,
scription of world religions.
the whole collection of binding decisions by the Roman
church came to be regarded as the ius canonicum (canonical
Greek word kano¯n, which gave rise to its later European and
laws), either touching on secular matters (Lat., lex; or
English equivalents, is a Semitic loanword basically signify-
Gr., nomos) or belonging to the juridical, religious, and
ing a reed, as seen in biblical passages such as 1 Kings 14:15
ethical canons of the church. Gratian’s Decretum (1139–
and Job 40:21. The semantic usage that occurs in Hebrew
1142 CE) provided the foundation for canon law in Roman
(qaneh), Assyrian (qanu), Ugaritic (qn), and similarly in Ara-
maic, Syriac, Arabic, and modern Hebrew, derives in turn
The relationship between “canon” and “scripture” in
from the even more ancient non-Semitic Sumerian (gi, gi-
Christianity is more complicated. The earliest Christian
na), with the same import. In the above Semitic languages,
scripture was either the Hebrew Bible of Judaism or the old
the basic conception of a reed generated a semantic field that
Greek version of it (the so-called Septuagint). Within Juda-
included in Hebrew, for example, the description of either
ism, neither prerabbinic nor rabbinic literature ever chose to
a standard of length or a straight or upright object. Images
refer to this scripture as a “canon.” At about the same time
of a standard of length that occur in biblical passages are the
as the flowering of rabbinic Judaism in the second century,
measuring rod (qeneh ha-middah) in Ezekiel 40:3 and 40:5
Irenaeus—probably borrowing the use of the term from
and a full reed of similar length in Ezekiel 41:8. The straight
Marcion, his gnostic competitor—began to speak of a “New
or upright object is exemplified as the shaft of a lampstand
Testament” as a group of “inspired” Christian traditions dis-
in Exodus 25:31, the branches of a lampstand in Exodus
tinct from the “Old Testament” inherited as scripture from
25:32, and a shoulder blade in Job 31:22.
Judaism. The Christian terminology of “inspiration,” al-
The Greek usage of this common Semitic term extend-
though grounded in Jewish understanding, occurs first in the
ed these derivations to include a great variety of figurative
later Pauline traditions and undoubtedly reflects influence
applications. Besides associating this term with various in-
from related Hellenistic conceptions that had previously
struments of measure and design, Greeks came to regard lists,
been applied to the Iliad and the Odyssey. However, not until
catalogs, or tables in the sciences as “canons.” Likewise, the
shortly after 450 CE did the term canon begin to be used by
humanities and anthropology sought to describe “the norm”
Christians, apparently first by Athanasius, to designate the
(ho kano¯n), for example, in grammar, aesthetics, music, phys-
biblical books of scripture.
ical beauty, ethics, the perfection of form in sculpture, and
Within rabbinic Judaism, the Hebrew scripture began
so forth. Epicurus wrote a book, now lost, entitled Peri
to be called Miqra’ (“that which is read”), and the entire col-
krit¯eriou h¯e kano¯n, focused on the “canonics” of logic and
lection came to be referred to as Tanakh, an acronym of the
method. Epictetus, and the Epicurians similarly, sought to
names of the three major divisions of the Hebrew scriptures:
find a formal basis (kano¯n) for distinguishing truth from
Torah (Pentateuch), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim
falsehood, the desirable from the undesirable.
(Writings). Instead of speaking about “canonization,” as was
In the area of religion, Christianity drew heavily from
typical later in Christianity, Jewish sources describe an en-
this Hellenistic milieu and came to assign a new and unique
deavor to determine which books “defile the hands” and,
role to the term canon. In the New Testament itself, the
therefore, constitute sacred scripture, as distinguished from
Greek term is used only by the apostle Paul as a standard of
other normative traditions. The extrabiblical traditions in
true Christianity in Philippians 3:16 and in a late text, Gala-
the Mishnah and Talmud were, consequently, authoritative
tians 6:16, and as a divinely delimited mandate or authoriza-
(arguably “canonical” in that sense) but considered to be
tion in 2 Corinthians 10:13–16. Nonetheless, in the Roman
“oral law,” which did not defile the hands, in contrast to the
church during the first three centuries, the term occurs fre-
scripture or “written law.” Prior to these designations within
quently and can signify almost any binding norm of true
Judaism and Christianity, the Hebrew Bible (Old Testa-
Christianity, expressed with a variety of technical nuances.
ment) was denoted by a variety of diverse expressions, such
For instance, Irenaeus, in the second century, could already
as “the law and the prophets and the other books of our fa-
speak of various familiar canons: “the canon of truth” (in
thers” (Prologue to Ben Sira); “the law and the prophets”
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

(e.g., Mt. 5:17); “the law of Moses, the prophets, and the
Just as some “Christian” gnostics dismissed the Hebrew
psalms” (Lk. 24:44); the “oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2); “the
Bible in favor of a “New Testament,” one may find an analo-
scripture” (e.g., Mk. 12:24); “the holy scriptures” (Philo Ju-
gy with the development of Hinduism as a reaction against
daeus, On Flight and Finding 1.4); “the book”; “the sacred
certain aspects of Vedic religion. Similar to the Jewish dis-
book”; and others. In view of this evidence scholars continue
tinction between written and oral law was the distinction
to disagree whether the weight of the later Christian refer-
made by brahmans between two kinds of “canonical” litera-
ences to the term canon for scripture turns primarily on the
ture. S´ruti (“heard”) generally refers to the ritualistic litera-
term’s denotation of either a binding “norm” or an ecclesias-
ture found in the Upanis:ads and is believed to be revealed
tically approved “list” of inspired books.
directly from divinity, while smr:ti (“remembered”) desig-
In Islam, another “religion of the Book” associated with
nates the epics, the later Pura¯n:as and other legal and philo-
the children of Abraham, the QurDa¯n replaces the imperfect
sophical writings touching on practical matters of personal,
rendering of revelation in Judaism and Christianity. While
social, and domestic conduct. Even if ´sruti has a higher sta-
Muslim interpreters never traditionally identified the QurDa¯n
tus, it can be viewed as a lower kind of ritualistic knowledge
as a “canon,” they did employ the term to designate the law,
in comparison with the immediate moral implications of
in a manner reminiscent of some early Christian understand-
smr:ti. So, too, even if the oral law does not defile the hands,
ings of the biblical law of God.
it may provide a more explicit and pragmatically significant
register of the demands of a holy life in Judaism than one
CONTEMPORARY USAGE. Certainly, the use of the term
can find by simply reading the written law.
canon, despite its association with Christianity, can prove to
be an illuminating heuristic device in describing other world
religions and their principal texts. The analogies with the for-
adumbrate some of the possibilities and problems in the use
mation of Western religious canons provides an attractive,
of canon as a technical term in the study of religion. The term
yet to be fully explored, way of thinking about religion in
inherently vacillates between two distinct poles, in both secu-
general. For example, such terminology can be helpful in un-
lar and religious usage. On the one hand, it can be used to
derstanding aspects of Eastern religions. Although Confucius
refer to a rule, standard, ideal, norm, or authoritative office
(Kongzi), who died in the fifth century BCE, claimed of his
or literature, whether oral or written. On the other hand, it
teaching, “I have transmitted what was taught to me without
can signify a temporary or perpetual fixation, standardiza-
making up anything of my own” (Lun-Yü 7.1), the “Five
tion, enumeration, listing, chronology, register, or catalog of
Classics” as we now know them only became a scripturelike
exemplary or normative persons, places, or things. The for-
guide to Confucianism from the first century CE onward.
mer dimension emphasizes internal signs of an elevated sta-
Obviously innovations entered into this work long after the
tus. The latter puts stress on the precise boundary, limits, or
death of Confucius. Moreover, competing views within
measure of what, from some preunderstood standard, be-
Confucianism led to some groups’ diminishing the impor-
longs within or falls outside of a specific “canon.” For the
tance of this work or adding to it new canons that were
purpose of illustrating these significant differences, I shall call
viewed as complementary (e.g., Ssu Shu, or “Four Books,”
the former “canon 1” and the latter “canon 2.” This “ideal”
and still later in the ChEing era, the “Thirteen Classics”), al-
distinction only demarcates poles in a continuum of options,
most in the same manner as Christianity added the New Tes-
since the essential nature and status of a normative tradition
tament to the “Old.”
or a “scripture” within a religion inevitably emerges through
its own unique, dialectical interplay between these polarities.
Just as Christians debated whether the Old Testament
The interplay itself engenders a systemic ambiguity in any
“canon” should be the Hebrew version, with Judaism, or the
discussion of religious canons and helps account for the vari-
expanded old Greek version, language and culture influenced
ety of ways, sometimes conflicting, in which the term canon
the formation of “canonical” distinctions in many religions.
has been employed in recent scholarship.
Centuries after the death of the Buddha, ancient traditions
were combined in South Asia to form what is presently called
Canon 1. In its first usage as rule, standard, ideal, or
the “Pali canon” (c. 29–17 BCE). A century or so later, a dif-
norm, the term canon in the secular domain may apply to
ferent “canonical” literature developed in India, written in
a wide range of fields in which a standard of excellence or
Sanskrit and eventually translated into Chinese and Tibetan,
authority governs the proper exercise of a discipline. For ex-
which became foundational for Maha¯ya¯na Buddhism. In
ample, it can reflect criteria by which one makes decisions
contrast to adherents of the Pali canon, these Buddhists re-
within a field of inquiry, whether these choices conform to
garded the su¯tras of the Maha¯ya¯na (“great vehicle”) as an al-
grammatical and mathematical principles or indices of aes-
ternative canon, the only true authority regarding what the
thetic excellence in rhetoric, art, or music. Implicit in such
Buddha himself taught. Even within later Zen Buddhism,
canons is some political and social theory of intellectual con-
where the idea of a canon seems antithetical, one may consid-
sensus about the quality, worth or preservation, and validity
er the lists of ko¯ans, questions and answers developed in re-
of that which is being judged and remembered. Likewise, re-
gional monasteries for training and testing students, as at-
ligious iconography, Buddhist organization of a city, and
taining “canonical” status as a constant feature of the
church architecture reflect implicit canonical assumptions.
instructions given by particular Zen masters.
The success of “pop art” in the 1960s may have resided partly
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

in its ability to make our implicit canons explicit. The
between different kinds of books: “outside” or banned
Campbell’s Soup can we had accepted in some unconscious-
books; secular or “Homeric” books that deserve reading; in-
ly canonical sense suddenly appears before us in an explicitly
spired canonical books (scripture); and uninspired canonical
canonical form through the medium of art. The dynamism
books (oral law, i.e., Mishnah/Talmud). Consequently, the
possible within such canons becomes evident when, for in-
Jewish discussion at the end of the first century CE at Yavneh
stance, one surveys the changing collections of art museums
over the status of the Book of Ecclesiastes concerned only its
and contrasts their content with the work being done in art-
“inspiration,” not its canonicity, for it could continue to be
ists’ studios.
cited as normative even if not as “scripture.”
In examining religious scriptures as “canons,” one may
Conversely, other scholars, (see, for example, Jacob
generalize that the founding leaders of religions almost never
Neusner, 1983, pp. 11–37) argue that the ritual difference,
compose for their disciples a complete scripture. The one ob-
“defiling the hands,” did not produce any clear levels of ca-
vious exception is that of the third-century Mani, founder
nonical authority between the Hebrew Bible, the Mishnah/
of Manichaeism. There are usually substantial periods after
Talmud, other religious books, and the “inspired” commen-
the death of a leader or founder when oral and/or written tra-
tary of a rabbi. If canonicity (canon 1) is determined by the
ditions function authoritatively as canonical, in the sense of
norm of revelation itself, then distinctions either among le-
representing a scripture without specific dimension. This dy-
vels of canonicity or between canonical and noncanonical lit-
namic process may be influenced greatly by later disciples,
erature begin to blur. If, as Neusner suggests, the rabbis
and the scriptures may for long periods of time, if not indefi-
themselves embodied the torah (law), then for students of re-
nitely, lack the public form of a fixed list of books or a stan-
ligion there is only limited value in a descriptive appeal to
dardized “text.” At the same time, canonical criteria, such as
certain texts as “canonical.” If the meaning of these texts re-
“inspiration,” incarnation of the Dharma, and so on, are suf-
sides in a spiritual or “Midrashic” sense held by consensus
ficient for them to sustain their scriptural status. The initial
among “inspired” rabbis rather than in a “plain” literary, or
recognition of some traditions as being crucially foundation-
peshat:, sense, then the semantic import is not publicly avail-
al or scriptural sets in motion political and economic pres-
able through a reading of the scripture per se. Similarly, some
sures within the religion that usually lead to the formation
Catholic scholars currently locate the canonical sense of
of a scripture in the latter sense of canon (canon 2).
Christian scripture in the teaching magisterium (canon 1) of
the church hierarchy rather than in either a literary or histori-
From the standpoint of Christian history, one may
cal-critical assessment of biblical texts themselves. In such an
argue that the term canon has been and may continue to be
approach, a scripture may be viewed as the deposit of a vari-
useful in the designation of extrabiblical oral or written deci-
ety of historical traditions, any of which may or may not be
sions that are binding in matters of faith and practice, as part
“canonical” (canon 1) according to an “inspired” norm or
of a church’s teaching magisteria. Certainly, prior to the
standard inherent within the leadership of the religion itself.
fourth century, some Christian traditions were explicitly ca-
In this case, identifying a scripture may shed only modest
nonical (canon 1) in the sense that they provided normative
light on the beliefs of a religion.
religious guidance outside of the Hebrew Bible. Justin Mar-
From a historical perspective, the final formation of a
tyr cites from the “Sayings of the Lord” source as authorita-
scripture (canon 2) usually results from an earlier, often ob-
tive alongside the Hebrew Bible and arguably refuses to do
scured process of redaction, expansion, and selection of texts
the same with the Gospel narratives or Paul’s letters. It is un-
(canon 1), whether one thinks of the Dao de jing of Daoism,
likely that these “sayings” belong to a fixed list. Therefore,
the various Buddhist canons, the extensive collection of Jain
one can say that Christian scripture had a canonical status
“canonical” literature, or the Hindu Maha¯bha¯rata and the
(canon 1) long before the church decisions of the fourth cen-
Bhagavadg¯ıta¯ along with the older Vedas.
tury delimited a fixed list of books (canon 2). More precisely,
the canonization (canon 2) is by degree, since even in the
Often some underlying traditions of a scripture were
fourth and fifth centuries the standardization of the actual
considered normative or “canonical” for the earliest disciples,
text had not taken place.
while other traditions gain an elevated status as scripture not
anticipated by their celebrated founders, as, for example,
Despite the silence of the rabbinic tradition on the sub-
through the posthumous deification of Lao-tzu. Repeatedly
ject, recent studies of Judaism commonly refer to “canon(s)”
one finds evidence of how earlier oral or written traditions
and “canonization.” In a provocative study, Sid Leiman re-
or writings, whose normativeness depended originally on
gards a religious book as “canonical” if it is “accepted by Jews
more modest criteria, gradually gain greater authority, in
as authoritative for religious practice and/or doctrine . . .
terms of a later perception of religious genius, inspiration,
binding for all generations . . . and studied and expounded
revelation of the law (e.g., dharma), or the presence of ulti-
in private and in public” (Leiman, 1976, p. 14). Because this
mate reality, perfection, or some other transcendent value.
definition conforms to criteria of canon 1, Leiman can claim
This adjustment in the believers’ vision of canonical tradi-
that the oral law is “canonical,” although it both is “unin-
tions within a religion often entails a radical shift in the per-
spired” and does not defile the hands as scripture. Relying
ception, understanding, and significance of older traditions
on this principle of normativeness, Leiman can distinguish
when they are caught up into the new context of a scripture.
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Most often, canon and community are related dialecti-
the comparison of Islam with Judaism, Christianity, and
cally in a process of semantic transformation. The steps taken
Manichaeism is that the QurDa¯n is not a “scripture” in the
by editors in this process may go unrecognized by the believ-
sense of an inspired, historically accommodated writing. The
ers or may be seen as essential elements in the orchestration
QurDa¯n is the actual word of God, representing an eternal ar-
of the traditions in order to protect them from heretical mis-
chetype of revelation cast in heavenly language. Unlike
interpretation. In sum, the recognition of canon 1 materials,
Christianity’s scripture of “books” (ta biblia), the QurDa¯n is
defined as traditions offering a normative vehicle or an ideal
more simply “the Book.” Nevertheless, during the lifetime
standard, occurs in most world religions and usually contrib-
of the Prophet, his disciples did not have the book of the
utes momentum to an impulse within the history of a reli-
QurDa¯n as we now know it. The order of the chapters and
gion to totalize, to circumscribe, and to standardize these
other significant editorial influence belongs to the hands of
same normative traditions into fixed, literary forms typical
the disciples who succeeded the Prophet. Moreover, the later
of canon 2.
collections of the sunnah (customary practice of the Proph-
et), now found in the h:ad¯ıth, provided a normative and,
Canon 2. The second usage of the term canon will be
therefore, “canonical” (canon 1) guide to Muslim exegesis.
in the sense of a list, chronology, catalog, fixed collection,
As with the Jewish Karaites and the Antiochene Christian ex-
and/or standardized text. Scholars of comparative religion
egetes, many “spiritualists” within Islam could lay claim to
such as Mircea Eliade and Wilfred Cantwell Smith have
their own direct insight upon scripture in a manner that di-
placed emphasis on the full appearance of a religion complete
minished the significance of the h:ad¯ıth and could appear to
with its “scripture,” reflecting whatever norms of excellence,
assign normative, and in that sense, “canonical” status to the
truth, goodness, beauty, or revelation may be affirmed by the
QurDa¯n alone.
respective religious adherents. In religious studies, the foun-
dational religious documents are most easily approached at
Regarding the final delimitation of the Hebrew scrip-
this more developed stage, when they constitute a publicly
tures, most scholars agree that the promulgation by Ezra of
available, delimited canon (canon 2) in the maturity of par-
a five-book Torah in the early postexilic period constituted
ticular religious movements. Of course, only the most pre-
a decisive moment in the formation of Judaism. Unlike the
sumptuous type of “protestant” interpretation of other reli-
later case of the Christian Gospels, the Pentateuch comprised
gions would presume that the ideas and beliefs of a religion
a single, allegedly Mosaic “book of the Torah” (Jos. 1:7–8).
can be grasped solely by a literary study of such religious can-
From a traditional-historical standpoint, this Mosaic Torah
ons. Smith has amply illustrated the problems that arise in
appears to combine multiple older, normative torot, or laws,
the study of Islam because of this naïveté.
in the sense of canon 1 and/or canon 2 (e.g., Proto-
As already noted, the normativeness of religious tradi-
Deuteronomy) into a fixed and integrated collection of books
tions is usually acknowledged long before these same tradi-
(canon 2). This combination of traditions most likely reflects
tions attain a fixed dimension and textual standardization,
the legislation preserved and venerated by two different
the elements of canon 2. So, for example, after the death of
groups from the Babylonian exile—bearers of Jerusalemite
the Buddha the disciples sought, although not without con-
priestly tradition (e.g., the laws in Exodus 22ff.) and deuter-
troversy, to envision the diverse sermons (canon 1) of the
onomistic interpreters (e.g., the Decalogue in Deuteronomy
Blessed One as part of a larger collection (canon 2), a larger
5 and the subsequent laws). The effect would be to make
normative and publicly recognized canon.
much private tradition public and to set all of the laws for-
ward to be interpreted together as parts of the same revela-
Conversely, Mani claimed to write by inspiration “my
tion of law delivered by God to Moses prior to the conquest
scriptures,” which combined the essence of older books or
of Palestine.
scriptures into one “great wisdom” (Kephalaia 154). His
work remains exceptional in part because he is perhaps the
Similar to the codification by the Egyptians of the Fifth
only founder of a major religion who was self-consciously
Pharaonic Law early in the same period, the promulgation
“inspired” to compose a complete “scripture.” His work rep-
of the Mosaic Torah probably occurred in response to a be-
resents the best-known example of a canon that attained
nevolent policy under Persian sovereignty. As a reward for
both normative authority and distinct literary boundaries at
this codification and public promulgation of the private or
the same time. Even so, other generations of believers ex-
secret religious law, the Persians sanctioned the right of Jew-
panded and modified the canon. Mani’s use of the Judeo-
ish leaders to make juridical decisions according to it in ex-
Christian concept of scripture corresponds to his hope of ab-
change for obedience to Persian civil and international law.
sorbing these two religions into his own, much as Islam as-
In any case, these events undoubtedly helped to accelerate
pired in its early development to bring Jews and Christians
the forces behind the formation of a part of a religious canon.
into its more universal fold.
The compilation of the exact list of books that make up
Unlike most other religious canons, completed centu-
the completed Hebrew Bible could not be completed until
ries after their founders had died, Islam settled most dimen-
late in the first century, perhaps not until the second. Fur-
sions of the QurDa¯n within only twenty-three years after the
thermore, the textual standardization of the Bible continued
death of Muh:ammad. One of the significant differences in
up to the end of the first millennium, culminating in a rela-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

tively uniform consensus regarding the orthography, punctu-
the essence of the book in a manner that puts the “wisdom,”
ation, and vocalization of the so-called Masoretic text of the
or Solomonic, books in full continuity with the Torah. The
Tanakh, the Hebrew scriptures. Here, as in the case of Chris-
addition of titles to some of the Christian Gospels makes
tianity and many other religions, the process of canonization
their character and common witness together as Gospels
in the sense of canon 2 entails a resolution of the limits of
more explicit than their original authors could have envi-
the collection before a full standardization of the text can
sioned. The Gospel of Luke in the Western tradition has now
take place. Centuries might elapse during this process of full
been separated from its original sequel, Acts of the Apostles,
canonization (canon 2), and it may be much easier for believ-
by the Gospel of John. In this way, the Gospels were read col-
ers to debate the authority of the latest stages in the process
lectively and Acts came to mark a transition from the teach-
of the text’s stabilization than it is for them to reopen the
ings of Jesus to that of the apostle Paul. This type of organi-
question of whether a book really belongs in the scripture at
zation of highly diverse traditions into partially harmonized
all. The length of the process of full canonization may often
canons of literature is also common to the canons of other
affect the believer’s assessment of what represents the final
world religions.
As has already been shown, considerable differences of
The semantic import of the formation of a canon 2
opinion exist among scholars over the appropriate relation-
should not be underestimated. Christianity and Judaism
ship between the terms scripture and canon. At a minimum,
amply illustrate this feature. Unlike the above-mentioned in-
these terms both gain and lose some of their historical signifi-
stance of the Pentateuch, the individual Christian Gospels
cance when they are taken away from the specific religious
retained their independence from one another despite the as-
vocabulary of Judaism and Christianity for the purpose of
sumption that they collectively convey the same “one” gospel
an etic assessment of world religions. Frequently scholars
of Jesus Christ. Perhaps the late ending of Mark attests to
have used scripture and canon synonymously, although am-
an effort at bringing that work into greater harmony within
biguity in both terms, particularly in the latter, suggests the
the canonical collections of gospels. Paul’s letters illustrate a
need for more careful definitions and historical finesse. In the
different feature, for they include in a single collection some
application of both terms to a religion, the interpreter stands
original letters in edited and unedited form, for example, Ga-
within a hermeneutical circle. Only by some prior judgment
latians, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, together with deutero-
regarding the identity of the believers of a given religion can
Pauline traditions reflective of a later generation, for exam-
any description be proffered regarding their “canons” and
ple, 2 Thessalonians. The original Pauline letters, which were
their modes of interpreting the same. Moreover, this judg-
written before the composition of the Gospels, were, through
ment is hindered by the ethnocentrism of the outside observ-
canonization, subordinated to the Gospels as commentary
er, as well as by the difficulty in taking a term indigenous
upon them. Similarly, the Gospel of John is read contextually
to one religion and assigning to it a technical usage appropri-
within scripture in connection with the so-called Johannine
ate for describing features of other religions.
letters (1, 2, and 3 Jn.), even though the historic evidence
Nevertheless, contemporary efforts to understand how
of common authorship is extremely weak. Again, this type
canons achieve formation and exercise significance within a
of canonization alters the religious vision of the preceding
religion has already proved unusually illuminating as a way
authoritative traditions (canon 1) as being part of a larger
to describe and to compare religions generally. The interpre-
“inspired” New Testament. The terms New Testament and
tation of religion must inevitably assume some operational
Old Testament likewise signal a change in the perceived sig-
certitude regarding the identity, the economic character, and
nificance of the Hebrew Bible when read as part of a Chris-
the literary sources of revelation or truth to which religions
tian text in the context of a purportedly new revelation. The
lay claim in the world. It must be carried out with an acute
difference in religious visions of the “shared” scripture im-
awareness that the heretics and noncanonical sayings of some
plies profound distinctions between the import of the
will likely be viewed as the saints and scripture of others.
Tanakh within Judaism and that of an “Old Testament”
within Christian interpretation.
SEE ALSO Authority; Scripture.
SCRIPTURE AND CANON. These ideal distinctions between
canon as a norm and canon as a list or standardization of text
usually overlap in the actual assessment of a particular reli-
Beyer, Hermann W. “Kanon.” In Theological Dictionary of the
New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel. Grand Rapids,
gion. For example, in the Tanakh and the New Testament
Mich., 1965. An excellent word study of the Greek term in
one can detect evidence of “canon-conscious redactions,”
secular and Christian sources.
whereby assumptions about the normativeness (canon 1) of
the traditions and of their being read together in a specific
Bleeker, C. Jouco, ed. Historia Religionum: Handbook for the His-
collection (canon 2) coincide.
tory of Religion, vol. 2, Religions of the Present. Leiden, 1971.
An excellent overview of religions with careful attention to
Historicized titles added to the psalms assigned to David
the historical appearance of normative traditions in each.
link these prayers contextually to the narrative about David
Brown, Raymond E. The Critical Meaning of the Bible. New York,
in 1 and 2 Samuel. The epilogue to Ecclesiastes summarizes
1981. A significant Catholic example of the modern attempt
E N C Y C L O P E D I 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 distinguish between the “literal” and the “canonical sense”
of early Christian appeals to “scripture,” that the conception
of the biblical text.
of a “scripture” without specific dimensions preceded the
Campenhausen, Hans von. The Formation of the Christian Bible.
later ecclesiastical decisions regarding a “canonical” Bible
Philadelphia, 1972. A classic study of the canonization of the
conforming to a specific list of books.
New Testament.
New Sources
Childs, Brevard S. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture.
Assmann, Aleida, and Jan Assmann, eds. Kanon und Zensur. Mu-
Philadelphia, 1979. An examination of how the canonization
nich, 1987. Proceedings of two conferences on canonization
of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) influenced the “shape”
and censorship, including contributions in both sociological
and semantic import of biblical books.
and historical perspectives.
Childs, Brevard S. The New Testament as Canon: An Introduction.
Farneti, Roberto. Il canone moderno. Filosofia politica e genealogia.
Philadelphia, 1985. A study of the New Testament from the
Turin, Italy, 2002.
perspective of the role played by canonization in its forma-
Kooij, Arie van der, and Karel van der Toorn. Canonization and
tion as scripture.
Decanonization. Papers presented to the International Confer-
Eliade, Mircea. A History of Religious Ideas, vol. 2, From Gautama
ence of the Leiden Institute for the Study of Religions. Leiden,
Buddha to the Triumph of Christianity. Chicago, 1982. A
1998. This important volume includes a first section on
monumental overview in which “canon” and “scripture” are
“(De)canonization and the History of Religions” and a sec-
employed as categories to interpret major world religions.
ond section on “(De)canonization and Modern society.” An
Leiman, Sid Z. The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture. Hamden,
annotated bibliography compiled by J. A. M. Snoek
Conn., 1976. A controversial reexamination of the primary
(pp. 436–506) makes this book an indispensable tool for any
evidence for the canonization of the Hebrew Bible. Leiman
future study on the topic.
helpfully collects and translates relevant texts from the Mish-
nah, the Talmud(s), and other sources.
Revised Bibliography
Neusner, Jacob. Midrash in Context. Philadelphia, 1983. A pro-
vocative study of how the oral law came to accompany Jewish
scripture in the history of that religion, as well as the implica-
tions of “canon” for the same.
CAO DAI is a syncretistic modern Vietnamese religious
Peters, F. E. Children of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam.
movement founded in 1926 by Ngo Van Chieu (1878–
Princeton, 1982. A comparative investigation into the three
1932; also known as Ngo Minh Chieu). An official of the
“religions of the book,” including concern with issues of
French colonial administration, Chieu was widely read in
scripture and tradition.
both Eastern and Western religion, and had a particular in-
Sanders, James A. Canon and Community: A Guide to Canonical
terest in spiritism. The movement began during séances con-
Criticism. Philadelphia, 1984. An attempt to understand the
ducted by Chieu and a group of friends of similar back-
dynamic of religious interpetation in Judaism and Christian-
ground as Vietnamese intellectuals. An entity called Cao Dai
ity through a hermeneutical theory of canonization.
(literally, “high tower,” a Daoist epithet for the supreme god)
Sheppard, Gerald T. Wisdom as a Hermeneutical Construct: A
appeared and delivered to the group the fundamental fea-
Study in the Sapientializing of the Old Testament. Berlin and
tures of the religion: universalism, vegetarianism, the image
New York, 1980. A monograph that examines the canonical
understanding of “wisdom” and “wisdom books” in prerab-
of an eye in a circle (which became its central symbol), and
binic Judaism and explores similar examples of late “canon
various details of worship. On November 18, 1926 the
conscious redactions” within the Hebrew Bible itself.
movement was inaugurated in a dramatic ceremony that
Sheppard, Gerald T. “Canonization: Hearing the Voice of the
drew some fifty thousand people. Though resisted by Bud-
Same God through Historically Dissimilar Traditions.” In-
dhists and French officials, who perceived its nationalistic
terpretation 36 (January 1982): 21–33. An examination of
potential, Cao Dai grew phenomenally. By 1930 it num-
the semantic import of the selection and editing of traditions
bered a half million by conservative estimate, and soon had
in the formation of both the Hebrew Bible and the New Tes-
garnered over one million followers, embracing at least one-
eighth of the population in what was to become South Viet-
Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. “The Study of Religion and the Study
nam. The remarkable appeal of the eclectic, spiritist faith un-
of the Bible,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 39
doubtedly reflected the yearning of an oppressed Vietnamese
(June 1971): 131–140. A general theory regarding the proper
population for something new, immediate, indigenous, and
understanding of “Bible” in the study of comparative reli-
idealistic in a situation in which Catholicism was the religion
of the alien colonizers, Buddhism was moribund, and Con-
Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. “The True Meaning of Scripture: An
fucianism was linked to a social order clearly passing away.
Empirical Historian’s Nonreductionist Interpretation of the
QurDa¯n.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 11 (July
Cao Dai met those criteria. The substantial Chinese cul-
1980): 487–505. A consideration of the problem of under-
tural influence in Vietnam is evidenced in the fundamental
standing what constitutes viable religious interpretation from
similarity of Cao Dai to religious Daoist sectarianism in its
a history of religions perspective.
spiritism, political overtones, and colorful liturgy. Further-
Sundberg, Albert C., Jr. The Old Testament of the Early Church.
more, like most Chinese religious movements of recent cen-
Cambridge, 1964. An argument, based on an examination
turies, it also sought to unify the “three faiths,” and so it 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

corporated Confucian morality, Buddhist doctrines such as
Oliver, Victor L. Caodai Spiritism: A Study of Religion in Vietnam-
karman and reincarnation, and Daoist occultism. Also like
ese Society. Leiden, 1976.
some of its Chinese counterparts, it further sought to unify
Werner, Jayne Susan. Peasant Politics and Religious Sectarianism:
the religions of the world, seeing them all as coming from
Peasant and Priest in the Cao Dai in Viet Nam. New Haven,
the same source, and heralding a new age of world harmony.
Its elaborate organizational structure, headed by a pope, car-
dinals, and archbishops, was patently inspired by Roman Ca-
tholicism. Besides the supreme god, Cao Dai, the faith also
honored a great company of spirits, not only Eastern figures
like the Buddha, Lao-tzu, Confucius, and Sun Yat-sen, but
CAPPS, WALTER. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, of
also such Westerners as Jesus, Muh:ammad, Joan of Arc, and
Swedish-American background, Walter Holden Capps
Victor Hugo.
(1934–1997) was a professor in the Department of Religious
Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, from 1963
Cao Dai worship centers on rituals performed in tem-
to 1996. Beginning with his academic training and intellec-
ples four times daily and celebrated with even greater elabo-
tual interests in European Christian theology and philosophy
rateness on festivals. The rituals consist of prayer, chants, and
of religion, Capps proceeded to develop innovative research
such simple offerings as incense, tea, and wine presented with
and teaching on the intersections of religion with American
highly stylized ceremony. Séances are held separately and are
culture, society, and political life. He emerged as a public in-
restricted to set occasions and to mediums appointed by the
tellectual through his academic and administrative leadership
hierarchy. Despite these rules, Cao Dai has generated a num-
of the Council on the Study of Religion (1977–1984), the
ber of sizable subsects, frequently inspired by fresh medium-
California Council for the Humanities (1983–1985), and
istic communications.
the National Federation of State Humanities Councils
Cao Dai is headquartered in a sacred city, Tay Ninh,
(1985–1987). Elected in California to the U.S. House of
northwest of Saigon. Here it boasts a large main temple and
Representatives in 1996, Walter Capps served in the Con-
many administrative and ritual offices. Before the unification
gress for ten months before his untimely death of a heart at-
of Vietnam under the communist Hanoi regime in 1975, the
tack in October 1997. The Walter H. Capps Center at the
“Holy See” was responsible not only for spiritual and ecclesi-
University of California, Santa Barbara, was established in
astical matters, but also for managing the sect’s considerable
2002 to continue his legacy by advancing the study of reli-
agricultural and business holdings. During the several dec-
gion and public life.
ades of strife before 1975, Cao Dai exercised effective control
From the philosophy of religion developed in Uppsala,
of its headquarters province and, until its forces were dis-
Sweden, by Anders Nygren (1890–1978), Capps distilled an
banded by President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1955, fielded its
intellectual program for the study of religion, based on a
own army. Although its alliances shifted among the contend-
Kantian framework, that remained remarkably consistent
ing groups, Cao Dai basically labored for an unaligned na-
throughout his life. Immanuel Kant’s three critiques repre-
sented for Capps three different but complementary entry
Accused by the new communist state of being both po-
points into the study of religion: with echoes of the ancient
litically oriented and “superstitious,” after 1975 Cao Dai was
Greek trinity of the true, the good, and the beautiful, as
severely repressed A high proportion of its churches were
Capps often observed, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781)
confiscated, and clergy arrested or laicized. The Holy See be-
raised the problem of theoretical knowledge; his Critique of
came virtually inactive. However, a gradual liberalization of
Practical Reason (1788) focused on ethics; and his Critique
policy toward religion commenced in the late 1980s. In
of Judgment (1790) engaged the world of aesthetics. Adopt-
1997, in a grand ceremony at Tay Ninh, the regime officially
ing this multidimensional Kantian mandate, Capps pursued
made Cao Dai a recognized religion, though its governance
these three threads—theoretical, practical, and aesthetic—
was placed firmly under state control; many believers resisted
through his publications and teaching in the study of
recognition at that price. Outside Vietnam, Cao Dai temples
and worship centers flourish in Vietnamese immigrant com-
Although his earliest books were on contemporary de-
munities. Estimates put the faith’s worldwide numbers at be-
velopments in Christian theology, Capps had a consistent in-
tween two and four million.
terest in theory and method in the study of religion and reli-
gions. In part, this interest was informed by Nygren’s
SEE ALSO Vietnamese Religion.
philosophy of religion, which sought general, formal, and
even scientific terms in which “to identify and examine the
content of religion” (Capps, 2000, p. 21). But Capps was
Blagov, Sergei. The Cao Dai: A New Religious Movement. Moscow,
also convinced that the academic study of religion was a col-
lective, cumulative, intellectual enterprise in asking certain
Bui, Hum Dac, and Ngasha Beck. Cao Dai: Faith of Unity. Fay-
basic questions about the essence, origin, structure, function,
etteville, Ark., 2000.
and language of religion. From Ways of Understanding Reli-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

gion (1972), his edited collection of theoretical approaches
Capps, Walter, ed. Ways of Understanding Religion. New York,
to these questions, to his landmark history of the study of
religion, Religious Studies: The Making of a Disciple (1995),
Capps, Walter. Hope Against Hope: Moltmann to Merton in One
Capps rigorously and perceptively examined the diversity of
Decade. Philadelphia, 1976.
theoretical approaches to the study of religion.
Capps, Walter, and Wendy Wright, eds. Silent Fire: An Invitation
Moving from the theoretical to the practical, Capps de-
to Western Mysticism. San Francisco, 1978.
veloped work on religion and politics, first through his inter-
Capps, Walter. The Unfinished War: Vietnam and the American
est in the impact of the Vietnam War on American society,
Conscience. Boston, 1982; 2d ed., 1990.
which produced a groundbreaking book, The Unfinished
Capps, Walter. The Monastic Impulse. New York, 1983.
War: Vietnam and the American Conscience (1982), and an
Capps, Walter. The New Religious Right: Piety, Patriotism, and Pol-
extraordinary university course, “Religion and the Impact of
itics. Columbia, S.C., 1990.
the Vietnam War,” which received national attention in the
Capps, Walter. Religious Studies: The Making of a Discipline. Min-
United States by being featured on the popular television
neapolis, Minn., 1995.
show 60 Minutes. Subsequently, in his research on right-
wing, conservative Christian politics, which resulted in the
Capps, Walter. “Interpreting Václav Havel.” Cross Currents 47
(1997): 301–316.
book The New Religious Right: Piety, Patriotism, and Politics
(1990), Capps emerged as an acute analyst of religious and
Capps, Walter. “Introduction to Religious Apriori.” In Anders Ny-
political tensions in American society. Although his work on
gren’s Religious Apriori, edited by Walter H. Capps and Kjell
the practical implications of religion primarily focused on the
O. Lejon, pp. 17–35. Linköping, Sweden, 2000. Avail-
able from http://www.ep.liu.se/ea/rel/2000/002/rel002-
United States, Capps’s interest in the political, social, and
ethical implications of religion was never parochial, as wit-
nessed by his skill in surveying global, cross-cultural, and
multireligious relations between religion and society.
Alongside theory and practice, Capps was consistently
interested in aesthetics, structures of feeling, and varieties of
CARDS function in the religious context both as instru-
experience. From 1968 to 1969, as a visiting scholar at one
ments for performing divination rituals and as repositories
of the world’s preeminent centers for art history, the Univer-
of esoteric sacred teaching. Current historical evidence sug-
sity of London’s Warburg Institute, Capps was able to devel-
gests that cards originated in China and that their sacred
op his enduring interest in aesthetics. In his studies of reli-
usage developed from shamanistic or Taoist divinatory ritu-
gion, this aesthetic sensibility was clearly evident in his
als that predated cards themselves. The oldest extant card,
abiding theoretical concern that most accounts of religion
found in Chinese Turkistan, dates from no later than the
failed because they were frozen in time—like still photo-
eleventh century. The design of Chinese cards was copied
graphs—instead of providing moving pictures that might
from paper money first used in the Tang dynasty (618–908
track the dynamic, experiential character of religion. In
CE). The design of an arrow on the back of the oldest Korean
thinking about religious experience, Capps was more inter-
cards suggests that those cards developed from a divination
ested in processes of change, as explored by the psychoanalyst
technique for interpreting the pattern of arrows randomly
Erik Erikson (1902–1994), who tracked the psychological
cast onto a circle divided into quadrants.
transitions in the human life cycle, than in establishing deep
psychological structures. At the same time, however, Capps’s
Number and pattern, and their orderly transformations,
interest in aesthetics, feeling, and religious experience in-
are in sacred mathematics symbolic expressions, or hieropha-
formed his research on the stillness of religious contempla-
nies, of the eternal divine essences and processes that mani-
tion and religious solitude, as evident in his edited volume
fest themselves to us in time as the visible cosmos. The pack
on Christian mysticism and his explorations of Christian
of divination cards is a homologue of the set of divine mathe-
matical potentialities that can manifest itself in the time and
space of the cosmos. The spontaneous play of the cards, like
For the study of religion, these three strands—
in any other particular act of divination, reveals a meaningful
theoretical, practical, and aesthetic—represent a research
structure homologous to the divine creative process, which
program, as Capps argued, that fits the multidimensional
manifests itself within worldly events. The interpretation, or
character of religion. In a 1997 article on the Czech philoso-
reading, of any particular play of cards is essentially a matter
pher, political activist, and creative artist Václav Havel,
of intuiting from the sacred mathematical symbolism of the
Capps demonstrated that these three strands could be woven
cards the worldly events whose structure corresponds to that
together in a single life. His own life, as academic, politician,
and person, was similarly woven.
It is not certain when and where cards first appeared in
Europe. One hypothesis is that they were brought into
Capps, Walter. Time Invades the Cathedral: Tensions in the School
southern Europe by the Moors as early as the eighth century.
of Hope. Philadelphia, 1972.
The earliest mention of numbered cards is in Covelluzzo’s
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Istoria della città di Viterbo (1480). Covelluzzo says that they
Giles, Cynthia. The Tarot: History, Mystery, and Lore. 1992; re-
were brought to the city of Viterbo by the Saracens in 1379.
print. New York, 1994.
In her extensive study A History of Playing Cards (New York,
Preston, Cathy Lynn and Michael Preston. “Catholic Holy Cards:
1966), Catherine P. Hargrave says that these early numbered
Visual, Verbal, and Tactile Codes for the (In)visible.” In
cards were probably European copies of Chinese cards that
their The Other Print Tradition: Essays on Chapbooks, Broad-
arrived through Venice. The oldest extant European cards
sides, and Related Ephemera, pp. 266–283. New York, 1994.
are several tarot cards from a pack designed for Charles VI
of France in 1392.
Revised Bibliography
The two most prominent packs of cards used in Europe
for divination are the ordinary pack, consisting of fifty-two
cards, and the tarot pack, consisting of seventy-eight cards.
The ordinary pack is divided into four suits—diamonds,
clubs, hearts, and spades. Joseph Campbell (in Campbell and
a motorcade drove into Madang, a provincial capital in
Roberts, 1979) has suggested that the four suits represent the
Papua New Guinea (independent since 1975), and stopped
four estates, or classes, of the medieval social order: clergy
outside the local branch of the national bank. The drivers
(hearts), knights (spades), merchants (diamonds), and peas-
and passengers came from a Catholic village sixty kilometers
ants (clubs). The four suits of the ordinary pack possibly de-
to the west. Their spokeswoman, Josephine Bahu (about
veloped under Protestant influence from the earlier tarot
twenty-eight at the time), asked the bank manager, a Europe-
suits of chalices, swords, coins, and staves. The fact that the
an, to give her the keys to his vaults, for God had revealed
four suits of the ordinary pack culminate in the figures of
to her the truth about money—its true source and its proper
knave, queen, and king leads Campbell to suppose that the
use as a road to economic development.
pictorial symbolism of the cards expresses a medieval esoteric
This incident was a recent example of cargoism, the
initiatory tradition wherein ascent along any of the four lines
most common form of millenarianism in Melanesia since the
represented by the suits leads to spiritual realizations of
nineteenth century, when colonial rule reduced its inhabi-
equivalent value and importance.
tants to the status of cheap labor for European employers.
The tarot pack falls into two sections: the “minor arca-
The millennium, as it has inevitably come to be manifested
na” of fifty-six cards, divided equally into four suits, and the
in this context, is the anticipated arrival of bulk supplies of
“major arcana” of twenty-one numbered picture cards and
European goods (cargo)—civilian stock, such as tinned meat,
one unnumbered card, the Fool. The origin of the tarot deck
cotton cloth, steel tools, and motor vehicles; and military
is not known. The first history of the tarot, Le jeu des tarots
equipment, especially rifles and ammunition—which many
(Paris, 1781), was written by Court de Gebelin. Gebelin
of the people believe to be made not by human beings but
claims that the deck originated in ancient Egypt and repre-
by a deity or deities aided by the spirits of the dead. This con-
sents the esoteric teaching of the god Thoth, recorded and
ception of the millennium may give rise to a cargo cult or
expressed in a hieroglyphic alphabet, in which all the gods
movement whose devotees perform ritual to induce the cargo
are symbolized by pictorial signs and numbers. While Ge-
god(s) to send the ancestors with supplies of the new wealth
belin’s theory of Egyptian origins is clearly itself of a mythic
(and nowadays, as the initial example suggests, money) for
nature (the Rosetta Stone, which made translation of hiero-
immediate distribution. I begin by describing overt cargo
glyphics possible, was not discovered until 1790), the evi-
phenomena and then discuss some of the best-known ap-
dence of recent research on the history of symbols indicates
proaches to their study by Western scholars.
that the deck is indeed, as Gebelin supposed, a repository of
OVERT CARGO PHENOMENA. Western scholars first learned
sacred teaching and esoteric knowledge. The pictorial sym-
about cargo phenomena in 1857 through the publication of
bolism of the deck is known to have much in common with
the Mansren myth of the Koreri in the Biak-Numfoor area
the symbolism of spiritual initiation rites and instruction in
of Irian Jaya, probably the oldest cargo movement in the
Hellenistic mystery cults, ancient astrology, and medieval al-
whole region, although there were manifestations in Samoa
chemy, wherein the processes of manifesting divine energies
in the 1830s and in Fiji in the 1880s. In Papua New Guinea
are represented in the progression of visual and numerical
the first known cults were the Baigona, reported in 1912,
and the Vailala Madness, reported in 1919, although one
movement, centered on Madang, can be dated from 1871
Tarot Revelations by Joseph Campbell and Richard Roberts (San
and continues to the present day. Cargoism began to prolif-
Anselmo, Calif., 1979) is a detailed work summarizing the
erate just before World War II. In Papua New Guinea there
phenomenological evidence linking the tarot to Hellenistic
has been a plethora of cults; in the Solomon Islands, March-
religion and alchemy as well as the tarot’s place in nine-
ing Rule; and in Vanuatu, the John Frum movement. In re-
teenth-century esoteric societies.
cent times the region has seen the rise of various alternatives
New Sources
to cargoism, specifically Pentecostalism and other Christian
Baird, Merrily. “Card Games.” In her Symbols of Japan: Thematic
cults that are independent of the established European mis-
Motifs in Art and Design. New York, 2001.
sions and that lay stress on healing and salvation. Although
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

it is hard to draw a firm line between cargoism and other
essary to redress the balance. Most leaders have been men,
modern religious developments in Melanesia, I concentrate
but there have been some outstanding women: Josephine
on cargo cults as such.
Bahu in the 1980s, Philo of Inawai’a village (of the Mekeo
language group, Papua) in 1941, and Polelesi of Igurue vil-
The many forms that cargo cults take depend on a num-
lage (of the Garia language group, New Guinea) in 1947.
ber of variables: (1) a people’s socioeconomic structure, basic
personality, and traditional religion, which factors together
In this context, it is essential to distinguish between
determine the strength of their desire for the new wealth and
cults based on paganism, Christianity, and syncretic Chris-
the extent to which they are prepared to test or reject theo-
tian-pagan doctrine. In a purely pagan cult, the leader has
logical experiments; (2) the nature of the introduced religion,
the difficult task of persuading the followers that traditional
which they may or may not readily interpret as cargo doc-
myths have a meaning which was not mentioned in the past
trine; and (3) the pattern of initial contact and subsequent
but which has now been revealed to him alone. In quasi-
relations with Europeans (the actual purveyors of cargo),
Christian cults the problem is not so great. Christianity is not
which underlie the political aspects of the people’s responses.
enshrined in tradition and can be interpreted with greater
Thus, as we learn from the early ethnographic accounts of
flexibility. The leader may claim to have visited God in heav-
the Papua New Guinea Highlands—which were brought
en and returned as the Black Jesus. Again, in the course of
under administration only after 1933, when Europeans had
some such experience, he may have learned that the secret
gained some experience in Melanesian affairs—for some
of the cargo is the identification of an indigenous deity with
years it seemed likely that strong social structures, hard-
God or Jesus Christ.
headedness, and the predilection for secularism rather than
religion, together with good race relations, accounted for the
These basic differences, which are generally the result
general paucity of cargo cults in the area. On the seaboard,
of the degree of administrative and more particularly mission
incorporated within colonial administrations soon after
influence, determine the nature of the ritual instructions the
1884, a contrary situation obtained. Relatively weak social
leader invariably claims to have received from the deity. In
structures, an induced inferiority complex, an intellectual
a pagan cult, where cultural change is minimal, the leader is
system dominated by theology, and often traumatic race rela-
likely to do no more than order the performance of mainly
tions had created the conditions in which cargoism was
traditional rituals in honor of deities and the dead (possibly
bound to flourish. Yet, although differences of this kind do
with a few foreign embellishments), albeit in an intensified
exist, the neat geographical distinction suggested is probably
form, as happened in the eastern Highlands of Papua New
overdrawn. In recent years cargoism, like Pentecostalism, has
Guinea. But where there has been acculturation, ritual incor-
made inroads into the Highlands, forcing a reappraisal of
porates new forms and becomes more elaborate. Cults based
previous interpretations.
on Christianity may have mass village assemblies with mara-
thon church services and prayers to God, “the Cargo Giver.”
The most obvious signs of a cargo cult’s emergence are
Disbelievers are threatened with hellfire, and the Second
generally its devotees’ preparations for the arrival of the
Coming of Our Lord is prophesied as imminent, with all the
goods they expect. Especially early on, when all cargo came
wealth of Europe going to the faithful. There are mass con-
by ship, they built wharves and storehouses in coastal vil-
versions and baptisms. Polygyny and sexual promiscuity are
lages. During and after the Pacific war, when the importance
forbidden, although in some villages in the southern Madang
of aircraft became apparent, they cleared airstrips. Cargo may
Province in the 1940s cult leaders experimented with wife
also be expected to appear in local cemeteries, which devotees
exchange on the ground that this eliminated the quarrels
assiduously keep clean and tidy, on altars in churches, which
over adultery that so displeased God. The sanctuaries of tra-
they regard as particularly holy, or at other places the leaders
ditional deities are often desecrated or destroyed, and all
designate. In addition, there have been “flagstaffs,” “radio
forms of indigenous dancing and exchange outlawed. Chris-
masts,” and even “telephones,” by means of which the leaders
tian fervor may go to extremes: in the early 1960s, in a village
could make contact with the deity and ancestors for news of
north of Madang, a man acquiesced in having his throat slit
the goods’ arrival. Sometimes both leaders and followers have
in front of a completely unsuspecting Catholic archbishop.
“demonstrated” the reality of this contact by simulating spir-
It eventuated that this was a ritual reenactment of the Cruci-
it possession, including shaking fits and other forms of vio-
fixion: the victim was the Black Jesus, who was to intercede
lent seizure.
with God for the economic advantage of his people just as
the White Jesus had done for Europeans.
Yet cargo cannot come by itself: its arrival has to be en-
sured by means of religious ritual. A cult normally begins
In Christian-pagan syncretic cults, ritual, like doctrine,
when, after a dream, waking vision, or some other extraordi-
tends to borrow from both religions. Cults of this degree of
nary experience, its leader announces that he has been in
sophistication often have two interesting features. First, dev-
touch with the deity, who has revealed to him the source of
otees may root out their crops, cut down their palms and
the desired wealth, the methods by which those who have
fruit trees, and slaughter their livestock. No ubiquitously sat-
so far monopolized it (generally Europeans) have defrauded
isfactory explanation for this behavior has been found, but
the people of their rights, and the new ritual procedures nec-
in one area, the southern Madang Province, the reason given
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is that the people want to stress their poverty to the cargo
anti-European. After a bad period, mainly in the nineteenth
deity and ancestors, thereby hastening the arrival of the new
and early twentieth centuries, colonial rule—certainly as it
goods. Second, especially in communities which value
was known in Papua New Guinea—was relatively benign.
money as a means of access to cargo, leaders may persuade
Many villagers have adopted cargoism as a means of explain-
their followers to place spare cash in a case or chest on the
ing and manipulating the new order long before unfulfilled
promise that their ritual will increase the sum deposited
hopes have made them antagonistic. As indicated, cargoism
many times over. Finally, in some areas the people have total-
can express the desire to fraternize with white men. Second,
ly rejected Christianity and its syncretic modifications in
the Marxist approach to issues raised by cargoism is basically
favor of paganism for cargoist ends. This heralds the reintro-
secular and so barely touches on the question of why the peo-
duction of traditional ritual with modern borrowings.
ple have used religion, virtually on its own, to explain and
try to cope with the colonial and postcolonial situations.
literature on cargoism primarily consists of accounts of single
Many cults are based on intricate philosophies, which cannot
cults, although there are several important comparative anal-
legitimately be ignored.
yses. Space precludes detailed consideration of these general
Between 1960 and 1972 three other scholars—Ian Jar-
works, so I have selected for discussion the approaches of sev-
vie, Freerk Kamma, and Kenelm Burridge—did much to off-
eral Western scholars since World War I to indicate the
set this imbalance. Jarvie, a philosopher with a deep interest
trends in our thinking about the problem.
in social anthropology and an appreciation of Melanesian re-
It took many years to complete detailed studies of cargo
ligion, approaches cargoism from an uncompromisingly in-
cults in which the participants could speak for themselves.
tellectualist point of view. Although he does not deny the im-
Inevitably, therefore, the first European interpretations were
portance of the political issues raised by Worsley, he makes
ethnocentric. Francis E. Williams, who was from 1922 until
it quite plain that his interest lies in the structure of cargo
1943 the government anthropologist in Papua, wrote essays
doctrines as means of “teaching” the people the source of Eu-
in 1922 and 1934 that examined the facts of cargo phenome-
ropean wealth and giving them the prescription for getting
na in light of the assumptions of his own society. He wrote
it. In the sense that they are based on traditional assumptions
only about the disturbances in the Gulf Province, the so-
and modes of thought, cargo cults are completely logical.
called Vailala Madness, a title which, significantly, he never
Kamma, a missionary who studied the Koreri move-
challenged. Although a meticulous field-worker, he never
ment in the northwestern sector of Irian Jaya, argues that it
comprehended Melanesian values and epistemology. He
is a direct continuation of religious traditions aimed at main-
made careful notes about the external features of the cult: the
taining and improving the people’s way of life. With the ar-
people’s imitation of European dress, eating habits, and
rival of European missionaries in the nineteenth century, the
house decoration; their use of Christian beliefs as part of
people wove Christianity into these traditions and treated
their doctrine; their make-believe Western technology; and
cargo as the symbol of the improved way of life. His argu-
their periodic hysteria. But the meaning of it all eluded him:
ment is echoed by John Strelan, another missionary, who
nothing in his personal or academic experience had prepared
reasons that for Melanesians cargo is salvation, an idea akin
him for this kind of behavior. He concluded that the people
to Calvin’s dictum that worldly success is the basis of certitu-
were temporarily insane as a result of misunderstood Chris-
do salutis.
tianity and boredom caused by the loss of traditional activi-
ties, such as warfare and religious ceremonies. The cure he
Burridge, who studied the Tangu in the northern Ma-
advocated was the Anglo-Australian boarding-school nos-
dang Province, sees cargo cults as the Melanesians’ attempt
trum: some form of intervillage sport like football.
to achieve full human dignity through attainment of eco-
nomic and sociopolitical equality with Europeans. Their
Peter Worsley, writing in the 1950s, had at his disposal
purpose is to create the “new society” and the “new man”
a far larger body of cargoist literature, which he presented
able to maintain this principle of equivalence with whites.
with great thoroughness. Yet much of the material was of
He stresses the importance of the “myth-dream,” in both tra-
doubtful value, based as it was on superficial accounts by un-
ditional religions and quasi-Christian cults, as the revelation
trained onlookers during and after World War II. Many of
of the origin of cargo and the secret of the ritual that will
the observations were made when, after a period of optimis-
make it available.
tic but unproductive cooperation with Europeans (which the
authors never appreciated), the people were finally hostile to
developed a composite approach based on my own research
whites. Hence it was easy for Worsley to offer a Marxist ex-
in the southern Madang Province after 1949. I regard it as
planation: the cults were an embryonic form of class struggle
essential to take all the issues raised by the foregoing scholars
against economic and political oppression, that is, the peo-
and combine them in a way that keeps each one in proper
ple’s protest against their colonial overlords.
perspective. Broadly, cargoists try to recreate in the modern
There are two objections to this kind of analysis. First,
situation the same kind of predictable cosmic order they
although one aspect of cargoism is undeniably its political
knew in the past: an order the gods ordained and human be-
statement, we have no evidence that cargoism is invariably
ings maintain by fulfilling social obligations among them-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

selves and ritual obligations toward deities and ancestors.
Although the pragmatic incentive to acquire cargo is a
This recreation will give them the key to the new wealth and
constant, sociopolitical motivation correlates with the cli-
ensure its fair distribution. In a word, they retain their old
mate of race relations, which in its turn determines the kinds
cosmic values of anthropocentrism and materialism: man is
of goods the people desire and the political significance of
the center of the cosmos, which exists for his benefit. Cargo-
cult activity. This has been documented for one area of
ism, thus conceived, is a dialogue between the old sociocul-
Papua New Guinea. In the southern Madang Province,
tural system and the economic, political, and religious poli-
which comprises a large number of separate language groups
cies introduced by colonial administrations. A most
or virtually autonomous societies, the cargo movement has
important factor is that, although they enabled the people
since 1871 passed through five broad stages that have ex-
to acquire limited supplies of the new goods, these policies
pressed varying attitudes toward Europeans (ranging from
actually achieved few changes in village life. Despite a centu-
friendship to hostility) and shifting preferences for specific
ry of European control, the pattern of economic and socio-
types of goods, civilian or military.
political life has remained very much intact. The people still
have minimal knowledge of the European world, so that
The first stage (1871–c. 1900) began with the arrival of
their reactions to, and interpretations of, cargo are based pri-
the first European settler, the Russian scientist Baron Mik-
marily on tradition. To this extent, cargoism is conservative.
louho-Maclay, who won the people’s friendship by establish-
ing a fair trading partnership with them. He introduced
My “composite approach” to cargoism raises three ques-
Western civilian goods and new food plants, all of which
tions relating to motivation, conceived means, and effects in
were enthusiastically received. In 1884 he was followed by
cargo cult. Why do the people desire European goods so
German settlers, whose behavior was a complete antithesis:
much that they waste decades in trying to acquire them by
they were arrogant; they alienated a disproportionate
obviously futile procedures? Why do they rely on religious
amount of coastal land for plantations; and they paid badly
ritual rather than secular activity? What have cargo cults
for labor. Friendship gave way to hostility, which was the
done to indigenous society?
leitmotif also of the second stage (c. 1900–c. 1914). The peo-
ple now wanted to acquire rifles and ammunition with which
MOTIVATION. In absolute terms, Melanesians have never
to expel the foreigners. In 1904 the administration put down
been poor. They have rarely known hunger. Hence cargoism
a serious uprising in Madang and in 1912, fearing another
is an expression of relative deprivation. The people want
emergency, exiled a large part of the local population.
Western goods for two reasons: their obvious utility and
technical superiority over indigenous products; and their so-
The third stage (c. 1914–c. 1933) saw a volte-face. The
ciopolitical significance. They quickly saw the practical value
new Australian administration permitted the exiles to return
of European artifacts, especially steel axes and knives, nails,
home, and the people sought an accommodation with the
and cloth. In the nineteenth century European traders took
whites, hoping to live in peace with them and acquire civilian
great pains to provide the kinds of goods the people wanted.
goods. Certainly the last expectation was unreal, so that the
These traders were always on guard against theft, for the de-
fourth stage (c. 1933–c. 1945) witnessed a return to enmity
mand for their goods was great, and Melanesians were skillful
toward Europeans and a desire for military equipment. Some
fighters. By 1900, most Melanesians under colonial adminis-
cultists collaborated with the Japanese (who occupied the
tration had adopted steel tools, some Western clothing, and
area between 1942 and 1944), armed themselves with dis-
such luxuries as glass beads and mirrors.
carded Japanese weapons, and set up a quasi-military camp.
For a brief time after 1945 the people, under the leadership
This pragmatic incentive has its sociopolitical counter-
of Yali Singina, who had served in the Australian army, once
part, which can be understood only by considering the role
again expressed goodwill toward Europeans. Because of a
of wealth in traditional society. Beyond its usefulness, wealth
misunderstanding, Yali believed, and so had persuaded his
is a vital content of all social relationships. Bonds between
people, that in return for the loyalty of native troops the Eu-
local descent groups, kinsmen, and affines—the prime con-
ropeans would reward the people with bulk cargo. These
stituents of social structure—are strengthened by the period-
hopes were dashed in 1947, when it transpired that the “bulk
ic exchange of goods and services, particularly pigs and valu-
reward” was to be development in the form of hospitals and
ables. For one party to fail in its commitments is cause for
schools—benefits that ordinary villagers could not then ap-
tremendous shame, which nothing can alleviate. The people
preciate. This inaugurated the fifth stage (1948–1950),
desire exactly this kind of egalitarian relationship with Euro-
which expressed renewed hostility and, for some of the re-
peans, and cargo is the most important part of the goods and
gional population at least, the hope of getting modern weap-
services to be exchanged. One cargo leader put it to an Aus-
ons with which to fight the Europeans.
tralian officer thus: “We are doing no harm. All we want is
to live well—like white men!” Yet the structure of the mod-
Regrettably, there is no comparable account of this al-
ern economy necessitates marked inequalities between for-
ternating pattern of friendly and hostile race relations else-
eign employers and indigenous employees. European mo-
where in Melanesia. Yet the Madang evidence stresses the fal-
nopoly of the new wealth has become the symbol of this
sity of the view that cargoism always expresses hostility
imbalance and hence a primary cause of political unrest.
toward Europeans. Another recent incident supports this ar-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

gument. In a major cargo cult in the East Sepik Province of
with gifts of food. They do not appear to have honored him
Papua New Guinea in 1971, some six thousand people
with ritual while he was living in their midst. Ordinary social
formed a chain gang to remove from the summit of Mount
behavior sufficed. Although they at first expected to establish
Hurun some military concrete markers, which were believed
comparable exchange ties with the Germans, ultimately they
to be demons impeding the cargo millennium. Before the
came to regard them, because of their haughtiness, as hostile
event local Europeans widely predicted that they would be
gods whose purpose was to enslave them with their rifles.
the target of popular animosity. Yet there was no evidence
But, as the second cargo belief (c. 1900–c. 1914) indicated,
of this. Cult devotees brought the markers to the station of
they decided that the Germans were human beings who, be-
the local European patrol officer and then peacefully dis-
cause of a cosmic accident, had acquired sole access to the
persed. Significantly, a year later a similar operation was
cargo deity, Kilibob or Manup, and so misappropriated the
planned near Madang: the destruction of the monument
wealth properly destined for Madang.
erected in honor of the German governor von Hagen after
his death in 1897 and said to be preventing the arrival of the
The third cargo belief (c. 1914–c. 1933) expressed the
cargo deity. The sponsors stressed their desire for racial har-
people’s renewed goodwill toward Europeans because the
mony by inviting Europeans and Chinese to take part. They
missionaries had consistently shown concern during their
tried to get a message to this effect broadcast over Radio
exile and the new administration had brought them home,
which they interpreted as signs that the cargo secret would
be revealed to them. To this end, they adopted Christianity
Conceived means. As attacks on trading vessels and up-
and revised it as a cargo religion. God, Jesus Christ, and the
risings around Madang suggest, Melanesians are prepared to
ancestors lived in Heaven (a suburb of Sydney, Australia),
use physical force to gain their economic and political ends.
where they made cargo. Baptism and assiduous worship of
Hence it is perhaps puzzling that at the same time they con-
the kind already described would induce God to send the an-
sistently rely on religious ritual as a means of getting cargo
cestors with cargo to the ships (and later aircraft) that would
in the face of recurrent failure. It can be said, of course, that
deliver it to the Madangs. But after twenty years the people
once they appreciate the power of colonial administrations
were no better off. Thus the fourth cargo belief (c. 1933–
they are afraid to take direct action. But this does not explain
c. 1945) spelled out their distrust of, and enmity to, Europe-
why they are convinced that religion will provide a solution
ans, especially the missionaries, who had hidden the truth
or why, in some cases, they combine it with secular economic
from them. The new doctrine and ritual were syncretic. Kili-
activity. For instance, the people of Karkar Island and
bob and Manup were equated with God and Jesus Christ,
Mount Hagen, now rich from cash crops, either believe in
the cargo deities kept prisoner by the whites in Australia. The
or actually practice cargo ritual.
aim was to honor them in such a way as to ensure their re-
The only possible answer is that Western contact has
turn: through church services, dancing, feasting, and food of-
not destroyed the people’s traditional intellectual assump-
ferings. The Japanese soldiers, of course, were either spirits
tions: that religion is the source of “true knowledge” and that
of the dead or emissaries of the cargo god sent to punish the
ritual is a pragmatic technology with no mystical attributes.
Europeans for their duplicity. The fifth cargo belief (1948–
The forces that governed the old cosmic order should govern
1950) marked the end of dependence on a foreign religion.
the new one. This idea was expressed to me early in my re-
All the traditional gods of the southern Madang Province
search by a highly intelligent informant: “Everything that we
were now proclaimed cargo deities. The missionaries had
have was invented by a deity: taro, yams, livestock, artifacts.
hidden them in Australia, but Manup (alias Jesus Christ) had
If we want taro to grow, we invoke the taro goddess, and so
found them and taught them to make cargo. It was now the
forth. Well, then, you people come to us with all your goods,
people’s duty and interest to get them back to Madang to
and we ask, ‘Where is the god of the cargo and how do we
establish the millennium. To do this, they had to reject all
contact him?’” The continuing search for the divine source
Christian teaching and worship, and return to traditional rit-
of Western goods after each negative result is consistent with
ual, especially dancing, feasting, initiatory ceremonies, and
this statement.
food offerings to gods and ancestors set out on specially pre-
pared tables.
Here again the southern Madang Province is illustrative,
as the area saw a succession of five cargo beliefs or doctrines
Effects. Until recently a main interest of Anglo-
that correlated more or less with the sociopolitical stages al-
Australian social anthropology has been the study of political
ready summarized. The first of these beliefs (1871–c. 1900)
structure and function, and it is not surprising that the effect
expressed the people’s conclusion that the early European
of cargoism on traditional society has been evaluated pre-
visitors were indigenous gods suddenly appearing in their
dominantly in that field. Early suggestions were that cargo-
midst. Miklouho-Maclay was either Kilibob or Manup, the
ism might help lay the foundations of future nationalism in
two deity brothers who between them were said to have cre-
two ways: by uniting the populations of whole regions and
ated all the sociocultural systems of the region’s seaboard. He
thereby breaking down sectionalism based on clan, village,
had invented the new goods he brought especially for them,
and language group; and by preparing the people to accept
and as a measure of their friendship they had to reciprocate
genuine development when it was presented to them in real-
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istic administrative projects. We should be careful on both
In the field of politics, it is necessary to consider the be-
these counts.
havior of cargoists in two situations; in the electorate at large;
In the first context, although cargo cults have at times
and within parliament and local government councils. Dur-
brought together social aggregations far larger than was pos-
ing election campaigns cargoists have indeed made extrava-
sible before contact, it is doubtful whether this process has
gent claims. In 1967–1968 Yali Singina, who now prefixed
been universal and automatic or whether the leaders have de-
his name with the title god-king, campaigned for a seat in
liberately fostered it. The evidence suggests rather that these
the national parliament in Port Moresby on the following
aggregations occur only when their members have a single
platform. He would go to the House, where he would dis-
doctrine to unite them. When this is lost, the aggregations
cover the indigenous deities, whom the administration had
disperse. I consider again the southern Madang Province. In
now placed there in a secret room. He would occupy the
the second stage of the cargo movement, although the people
Speaker’s Chair, take control of the Mace, and liberate the
of the whole coast under administration may have been hos-
gods, with whom he would return to Madang, where he
tile to the Germans and may have hoped for a return of Kili-
would usher in the cargo millennium and proclaim self-
bob or Manup, they did not form a grand alliance. The polit-
government, administering the country with the aid of those
ico-military groups in the revolts of 1904 and 1912 appear
European officers of whom he approved. He was not elected.
to have been based on old rather than new alignments: tradi-
Again, in 1971, he rejected an offer of an electoral alliance
tional clan alliances and marriage or kinship ties. In the third
from the Madang representatives of Pangu Pati (the senior
stage, widespread conversion to Christianity gave the people
government party) on the grounds that as “king” of Papua
of the whole region a sense of common consciousness: to-
New Guinea he could not share power. Yet, in 1972, he be-
gether with Europeans, they were all descended from Adam,
latedly but unsuccessfully tried to take up the offer because
Eve, and Noah. Yet there was no attempt to create a wide
he believed that Pangu was a cult organization like his own.
political organization to exploit the new attitude. In the
Matias Yaliwan, the chief cargo prophet in the East Sepik
fourth stage, this widespread common consciousness was
Province, claimed to have been told in a dream that he had
considerably attenuated because the new syncretic doctrines
been appointed leader of the country. He was elected to par-
based on the amalgam of the Kilibob-Manup myth and
liament in 1972 and subsequently told his followers that it
Christianity were restricted entirely to the littoral. The quasi-
was through his special aura that self-government was
Christian cargoists of the inland, who had no rights to the
achieved. By the same token, in the 1980s Josephine Bahu’s
traditional myth, were at once excluded. Nevertheless, the
senior followers wrote to the prime minister that she should
coastal villagers following the new doctrine did evince a de-
be made head of state.
gree of solidarity never known in the past. Finally, in the fifth
Apart from Matias Yaliwan, a number of known cargo-
stage, Yali Singina agreed to become the movement’s leader
ists have been elected to parliament and local government
only when he was satisfied that Jesus-Manup had transferred
the power to make cargo to all the indigenous deities so that
councils, where their behavior has generally been far more
he, as an inland dweller, could not be accused of theft for
circumspect. Real politics does not provide an arena in which
meddling with a coastal myth. The new doctrine had the po-
they can operate with success. Matias resigned his seat when
tential to unite the people of the whole region in a mass anti-
he realized that his claim to personal leadership was being
European cult. Yet, although antagonism was rife, Yali’s or-
quietly ignored. Other cargoists have remained largely quies-
ganization was too inefficient and parochial to turn it into
cent, making few speeches and little contribution to proceed-
an effective political force. In short, the process of expanding
ings beyond voting. In the same way, Yali Singina and his
political cohesion is probably unconscious and haphazard
“deputy” Dui Yangsai sat for many years on the Rai Coast
rather than deliberately planned.
Council but, despite their flamboyant pronouncements else-
where, never advocated cargoist policy in the chamber.
In the second context, there appears to be even less evi-
dence to support the view that cargoism arouses among the
A comparable conflict of interest and interpretation ob-
people such energy and enthusiasm for modernization that
tains in the fields of economic development and education.
it helps facilitate the change to indigenous government and
Although on Karkar and at Mount Hagen the people have
administration. Indeed, the facts suggest that cargoism is—
succeeded in cash cropping while at the same time engaging
and that its devotees see it as—ontologically quite different
in cargoism, there are many other cases in which cargoists
from the national structure established and bequeathed by
and developers are continually at loggerheads. The cargoists
the former colonial power, and that cargoism cannot easily
assert that the developers prevent the millennium by paying
be assimilated to that structure, which, moreover, it may de-
all their attention to their plantations and denying the cargo
liberately impede. By presenting itself as a seemingly logical
god the ritual honor due to him. Also, it is questionable how
alternative system, the movement offers those unwilling to
genuine economic success on Karkar and at Mount Hagen
experiment with new ideas the opportunity to engage in ac-
can be when many people still appear to regard purely secular
tivities which may be consistent with tradition but are bound
activity as a poor second best. Cargoism could well hold
to be sterile—an argument relevant not only to the political
them back from innovations that might lead to expansion,
field but to the economic and educational fields as well.
so that they may remain always the satellites of 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

businessmen, who still provide all the initiatives. Finally,
Kamma, Freerk C. Koreri. The Hague, 1972. A detailed history
many people misunderstand and are disenchanted with
and analysis of cargoism in western Irian Jaya, with a most
modern education. In the past, parents have taken their chil-
valuable summary and assessment of other works on the gen-
dren away from mission schools when they discovered that
eral subject.
the cargo secret was not in the curriculum. Some have even
Lawrence, Peter. Road Belong Cargo. Manchester and Melbourne,
denied the value of mission schools, which are attended by
1964. A full history of the cargo movement in the southern
children of both sexes: genuine education—that is, powerful
Madang Province of Papua New Guinea, with a rounded
analysis of the movement in its economic, sociopolitical, and
religious secrets—is given only to males during and after ini-
intellectual contexts. The analysis of the people’s intellectual
tiation. In cargoist areas secular education has been equally
interpretation of cargo and the right way to get it, indepen-
badly received. Many children see no point in it, and the
dently parallels and endorses Jarvie’s argument in The Revo-
dropout rate for secondary schools is very high. Unsuccessful
lution in Anthropology, mentioned above.
pupils have been drawn into cargo organizations as “secre-
May, Ronald J. “Micronationalism in Perspective” and “Microna-
taries” and “clerks.” With their smattering of Western
tionalism: What, When, and Why?” in Micronationalist
knowledge, these young members give the cults an appear-
Movements in Papua New Guinea, edited by Ronald J. May.
ance of increased sophistication and provide explanatory sys-
Canberra, 1982. The most recent and precise analysis of the
tems so persuasive that the ordinary villager finds it hard to
relationship between cargoism and nationalism in Papua
fault them. It is no wonder that both national and provincial
New Guinea.
politicians and public servants, concerned for the future of
McSwain, Romola. The Past and Future People. Oxford, 1977. A
their country, view these counterintellectuals with disquiet,
thorough examination of a Papua New Guinea society (Kar-
as a fifth column that can vitiate genuine achievement.
kar Island) undergoing development preparatory to becom-
ing part of a new independent nation-state; discusses the way
SEE ALSO New Guinea Religions.
in which the people have interwoven new economic, politi-
cal, and educational projects with cargoism.
Ogan, Eugene. Business and Cargo. Canberra, 1972. A most valu-
Berndt, Ronald M. “A Cargo Movement in the Eastern Central
able account of the relationship between commercial devel-
Highlands of New Guinea.” Oceania 23 (September 1952):
opment and cargoism among the Nasioi of Bougainville,
40–65; (December 1952): 137–158; (March 1953): 202–
Papua New Guinea, a people living in the shadow of a
234. An early paper describing what was until recently one
major mining venture to which much of the local economy
of the few cargo cults in the Highlands of Papua New
was tied.
Plutta, Paul, and Wendy Flannery. “‘Mama Dokta’: A Movement
Burridge, Kenelm. Mambu: A Melanesian Millennium. London,
in the Utu Area, Madang Province.” In Religious Movements
1960. A humane and sophisticated analysis of cargo activity
in Melanesia, edited by Glen W. Bays. Goroka, Papua New
in the northern Madang Province of Papua New Guinea.
Guinea, 1983. A vivid description of cargoist activity in
Emphasizes the people’s efforts to reestablish their self-
modern postindependence setting; illustrates the uneasy
respect by achieving socioeconomic and political equality
relationship between cult devotees and the indigenous gov-
with Europeans. Burridge expands and projects his argument
into the field of international millenarianism in his New
Schwartz, Theodore. “The Paliau Movement in the Admiralty Is-
Heaven, New Earth (New York, 1969).
lands, 1946–1954,” Anthropological Papers of the American
Museum of Natural History
49 (1962): 211–421. An impor-
Cochrane, Glynn. Big Men and Cargo Cults. Oxford, 1970. An
tant work. Describes and analyzes an indigenous, as against
analysis of the role of leaders in cargo cults, with emphasis
a government-sponsored, development movement and its
on Papua and the Solomon Islands.
ambivalent relationship with a cargo cult.
Guiart, Jean. Un siècle et demi de contacts culturels à Tanna, Nou-
Steinbauer, Friedrich. Melanesian Cargo Cults. Saint Lucia, Aus-
velles-Hebrides. Paris, 1956. An important historical analysis
tralia, 1979. A most comprehensive survey and discussion of
of administrative and mission influence and popular re-
the literature on cargo cults and of European scholars’ ap-
sponse (including cargoism) in Vanuatu.
proaches to them.
Hanneman, E. F. “Le Culte du Cargo en Nouvelle-Guinée.” Le
Strathern, Andrew. “The Red Box Money-Cult in Mount Hagen
monde non Chretién, n. s. 8 (October–December 1948):
1968–71.” Oceania 50 (December 1979): 88–102; (March
937–962. An early demonstration of the possibilities of an
1980): 161–175. A paper important for dispelling the mis-
intellectualist approach to cargoism. A classic work.
taken notion that Highlands societies in Papua New Guinea
Harding, Thomas G. “A History of Cargoism in Sio, North-east
are not prone to cargoism; valuable too for showing how the
New Guinea.” Oceania 38 (September 1967): 1–23. A paper
people experiment with cargo activity while engaging in vig-
important not only for its ethnographic content: here Har-
orous cash cropping.
ding coins the term cargoism and establishes the movement
Strelan, John G. Search for Salvation. Adelaide, Australia, 1977.
as a philosophy in its own right.
An enterprising general analysis of cargoism from a Christian
Jarvie, Ian C. The Revolution in Anthropology (1964). New York,
missionary’s point of view. Strelan suggests that Melanesians
1967. A prominent work: the first internationally recognized
are now working out their own distinct theology.
study of cargoism in intellectualist terms and, at the same
Williams, Francis E. “The Vailala Madness” and “The Vailala
time, an astute critique of positivist social anthropology.
Madness in Retrospect.” In Francis Edgar Williams: The Vai-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

lala Madness and Other Essays, edited by Erik Schwimmer,
gin not in Pacific sociology or cosmology but in the Western
pp. 351–384 and pp. 385–395. London, 1976. Two early
imagination. Finally, serious scholarly thinking about the na-
accounts of cargo cult, most valuable for their careful de-
ture of states and cults that finds the state as enchanted as
scription of its external features but lacking insight into its
any millenarian movement has made the melding of politics
socioeconomic, political, and epistemological bases.
and religion in these Pacific movements less surprising and
Worsley, Peter. The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of “Cargo” Cults
all the more useful to study of general issues of present and
in Melanesia (1957). New York, 1968. An early general work
future religious life.
important because it did much to bring the phenomenon of
cargoism to the attention of Western scholars. Describes
This entry reviews three analyses that exemplify some
many of the outbreaks of cargo cult up to the 1950s. The
of these trends in interesting ways, beginning with a summa-
first edition is written from a strictly Marxist perspective, at
ry of Martha Kaplan’s chronicle of the Fijian Tuka move-
least part of which the author renounces in the second.
ment, Neither Cargo nor Cult: Ritual Politics and the Colonial
Imagination in Fiji
(1995). The work is fully committed to
understanding an ongoing, dynamic ritual-political history
making of Fijians, and it is also highly skeptical of the analyt-
ic utility of the concept of the cargo cult, finding its origins
in British colonial discourse of order and disorder. It thus
ATIONS]. Since Peter Lawrence wrote his confident, em-
takes a Bakhtinean, dialogical approach to this colonial and
pirically rich discussion of the cargo cult for the first edition
postcolonial history. Dialogical does not mean a friendly or
of this encyclopedia in 1987, the terrain of Pacific religion
consensus-seeking interchange, but rather explores the semi-
and politics has changed, as has the terrain of scholarly analy-
otic and cultural consequences of interactions of sharply op-
sis. It is no longer so clear that “cargo cults” ever existed, or
posed agents, parties, and classes. Thus, a dialogical history
at least whether the analytic category is valuable.
is a history in which none of the agents is unaffected by the
interaction (see Kelly and Kaplan, 1990).
Over the past fifty years in the Pacific, the post–World
Next is a summary of Lamont Lindstrom’s important
War II decolonization imperative has proceeded apace. New
Cargo Cult: Strange Stories of Desire from Melanesia and Be-
nation-states, multinational corporations, nongovernmental
yond (1993), which argues that cargo cults do exist (or at least
organizations, proliferating evangelical groups, and other
that there is a cross-cultural unity among certain events of
postcolonial institutions and agents populate the islands.
collective action in which people seek to fulfill rational de-
The imperial world system entanglements of the era of Euro-
sires through irrational means). But Lindstrom does not seek
pean capitalist and colonial expansion are replaced by global
to elaborate the characteristics of this category. Rather, Lind-
interconnections of the post–World War II United Nations
strom’s poststructuralist psychoanalytic approach draws our
world, including regional nation-state alliances, aid and de-
attention to what he calls the Western discourse of cargoism,
velopment programs, migration, tourism, multinational cor-
in which, he argues, non-Melanesians map onto Melanesians
porate penetration, consumption, and media flows. Yet, Pa-
their own fantasies concerning love, longing, and unrequited
cific people have not ceased to innovate politically and
religiously. How are we to understand these innovations?
What particular issues of religion, power, and sovereignty are
Finally, a brief summary is presented of an article in
raised by the nation-state and how might this implicate the
which discourse about cargo cults figures in decolonization
concept of the cargo cult?
history. Robert J. Foster’s “Your Money, Our Money, the
Government’s Money” (2002) is an evocative historical eth-
In scholarship, the “cargo cult” is now treated far more
nography of money and the state in decolonizing and inde-
skeptically by many scholars than in Lawrence’s account. In
pendent Papua New Guinea (PNG), in which the enchant-
the mid-twentieth century, scholars unproblematically wrote
ments of a national monetary system emerge in a complex
books and articles defining cargo cults, giving examples of
and dialogical postcolonial history.
cargo cults, arguing over their nature and causes, and propos-
ing explanations of their causes. While many important
This description of the current field is, by design, selec-
studies still use the category (and while Pacific peoples them-
tive. The examples have been chosen to contrast with Law-
selves may use the term—positively, neutrally, or pejorative-
rence’s approach. Readers interested in a wider spectrum of
ly), many of the analytic issues have turned from ontology
important turn-of-the-millennium writing on cargo cults in
to epistemology, from questions about what cargo cults are,
the Pacific, and on cargo cults and revitalization movements
to questions about the knower, and to the effects of claiming
more generally, will find the collections by Holger Jebens,
that cargo cults do exist or the effects of seeking to specify
Cargo, Cult, and Culture Critique (2004), and Michael E.
their characteristics. For example, some anthropologists now
Harkin, Reassessing Revitalization Movements: Perspectives
argue that “cargo cults do not exist,” finding the so-named
from North America and the Pacific Islands (2004), most
phenomena better understood instead in terms of ongoing
trajectories of Pacific history-making (including that long
predating the colonial encounter), while others find their ori-
scholars have seen the Fijian Tuka of the 1880s as the flag-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ship example of a cargo cult (Worsley, 1957, 1968) or mille-
exist, being merely an example of how people conceptualise
narian movement (Burridge, 1969). Tuka would seem to
and experience change in the world” (1988, pp. 121–122).
have features similar to those Lawrence describes. Led by a
For example, concerning Navosavakadua and Tuka in Fiji,
hereditary oracle priest called Navosavakadua or Mosese
why in seeking to study millenarianism did scholars such as
Dukumoi (d. 1897) oriented in opposition to eastern coastal
Burridge problematize “Tuka” for study, rather than the
Fijian kingdoms and colonial rulers, 1880s colonial accounts
massive Fijian Christian conversion of the 1830s and 1850s?
of the movement described anticipation of the return of Fiji-
Indeed, Marshall Sahlins (1985) chronicles this conversion
an gods (notably the twin gods Nacirikaumoli and Nakausa-
as part of a ritual-political kingship politics in Fiji without
baria, newly understood as Jesus and Jehovah) and a trans-
finding any need to refer to “cults.” Reconsidered in these
formed political and material order. One could then,
ways, “cults” dissolve into far more complex histories of in-
following Lawrence, see Tuka as one of his syncretic rather
digenous history making of colonial encounter and of the
than pagan or Christian movements. One could also, with
making of new cultural-political systems. For some scholars,
Peter Worsley and later Fiji scholars Simione Durutalo
this becomes an opportunity to reconsider cargo cults as ex-
(1985) or E Atu Emberson-Bain (1994), see Tuka as protona-
amples of a culturally Melanesian form of history making,
tionalist, prefiguring twentieth-century incipient union
whereby external intrusions are encompassed and remade
movements or Labour Party politics. Or, with Kenelm Bur-
culturally. Such an approach can run the risk of presenting
ridge (1969), one could see the movement as a strategy to
Pacific people as unchangingly culturally separate, but the ar-
obtain moral recognition in an oppressive colonial context.
gument that there are plural ways of making history can also
However, chronicling Tuka via field research in Fiji (with de-
serve as a strong, politically inflected argument for the auton-
scendants of the leader and his followers) and via examina-
omy and power of non-Western peoples, even in the face of
tion of the colonial records at the National Archives of Fiji
hegemonizing discourses. Indeed, as Sahlins (1988) and oth-
and beyond, Kaplan has argued instead that there was neither
ers point out, globalization itself can impel or support diver-
a cargo nor a cult at issue. The very attempt to define and
sification and difference.
explicate a general category of “cargo cult” seems to reify and
occlude the complexities of this dialogical history.
And indeed, in the events called “Tuka,” Fijians mobi-
lized a Fijian grammar for history making, invoking a long-
On the one hand, theorists of “cargo cults” or “millenar-
standing ritual political opposition of “People of the Land”
ian movements” were among the first scholars to have ac-
against eastern coastal chiefs and other culturally constructed
knowledged and politically engaged the issue of the agency
foreigners, as well as against labor recruiters, missionaries,
of “Others” in cultural change in colonial contexts. Such
and colonial administration Yet, it is not enough simply to
studies initiated basic discussions about agency and history
see Navosavakadua and Tuka as encompassed in an essential-
in colonial societies that have inflected most later anthropo-
ly Fijian form of local history making. For, reconsidering
logical considerations, including this one. (Indeed, over the
cargo cults in the context of local histories entails attention
years since Lawrence’s entry for this encyclopedia was writ-
to a dialogical history, in which the local and the colonial,
ten, Worsley’s approach, downplayed by Lawrence, seems to
the local and the global are never unaffected by each other.
have been prescient of the strong political voice that emerged
in the anthropology of the 1980s, an anthropology much fo-
cused on Gramscian questions [via Raymond Williams] of
While Neither Cargo nor Cult (1995) argues that the analytic
hegemony and resistance or Foucaultian questions of knowl-
categories of “cargo cults” or “millenarian movements” are
edge/power.) Problematic, however, is the way that these
scholarly reifications, it also argues that (despite McDowell’s
studies drew boundaries around the phenomenon to be stud-
elegant borrowing of Lévi-Strauss) cults and movements do
ied and the way they reified the category of cult, lumping to-
exist. They exist, not necessarily as Pacific or non-Western
gether ostensibly similar events throughout Fiji and the Pa-
phenomena, but rather as a category in Western culture and
cific, identifying and abstracting “cults” as a general
colonial practice. “Tuka” was a thing to colonial officers and
phenomenon, or treating cults as a transitional stage between
has come down to us as such. In the colonial imagination
tradition and inevitable modernity (see Kelly, 2002; Pletsch,
it incited the drafting of ordinances for its criminal prosecu-
tion and the deportation of its practitioners, gaining its own
sites in colonial archival files and indexes and in local re-
sponses to colonial criminalization.
IC HISTORY-MAKING. The analytic concept of cult itself has
been called into question in a range of ways. For example,
When Tuka as cult—separate, irrational, and nonortho-
quite pointedly, Nancy McDowell argues with reference to
dox—came into being via British colonial discourse and
Claude Lévi-Strauss’s famous argument on totemism that
practice, a coalition of eastern coastal Fijian chiefs and colo-
“cargo cults do not exist or at least their symptoms vanish
nial officials simultaneously brought into being another enti-
when we start to doubt that we can arbitrarily extract a few
ty: a colonial state founded on a system that would (with self-
features from context and label them an institution” for “just
proclaimed humanity and cost-effectiveness) rule Fijians
as totemism did not exist, being merely an example of how
through their traditional chiefs, institutions, and customs.
people classify the world around them, cargo cults too do not
An understanding of the dependence of states (from king-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

doms to colonies to nation-states) on ritual or magical consti-
Westerners about Melanesians, about the Third World, and
tution of cosmology and authority shifts our attention from
about themselves.
the enchantments of the marginalized to the enchantments
The term cargo cult, Lindstrom tells us, first appeared
required to routinize the major and central power (e.g., see
in 1945 in the pages of the colonial news magazine Pacific
Abrams, 1988; Kelly and Kaplan, 1990; Sahlins, 1985; Tam-
Islands Monthly (1993, pp. 15–16) and was used as an epi-
biah, 1985; Taussig, 1992). Certainly, neither colonial state
thet, interchangeably with “madness.” Soon, Lindstrom
nor cult was real before the dialogical history of Fiji of the
notes, missionaries, planters, and administrators traded accu-
late 1800s. Both were founded and routinized in ritual
sations as to who was responsible for cargo cults. Soon, too,
the term entered anthropological usage, from missionary-
Thus, in Neither Cargo nor Cult (1995) Kaplan presents
anthropologists in New Guinea to Australia-based anthro-
a composite analytic approach, but the analytic components
pologists, and by the 1950s the literature was copious
are quite different from Lawrence’s empirical, causal condi-
enough that a bibliography was compiled by a South Pacific
tions. This view is one that is confident of the reality of Fijian
Commission librarian (p. 38). He argues that the term is
and colonial historical agencies, in dialogical relation, though
then projected back, anachronistically, as when Lawrence
it is skeptical that separating out inquiry about cults in par-
wrote of early nineteenth-century movements as cargo cults
ticular will tell us enough about this complex history and the
(p. 38), though, one might argue that more could be said of
enchantments of both the colonially routinized state and the
the reifications already extant in British colonial discourse.
criminalized resistant counterpolity that Navosavakadua en-
Lindstrom goes on to chronicle the history of uses of the
visioned and tried to make real. It does, however, attend to
term in anthropological analysis (up to and including the ar-
the pull, the feeling of obviousness, to find cults real, since,
gument that “cargo cults do not exist”). He suggests that an-
ethnographically, they were very real to colonial agents. Still,
thropologists extended the features of the ostensible cults to
it is important to recognize that that reality was generated
all of Melanesian society, seeking to show that care for cargo
initially not in Fijian practice or intent, but rather in the co-
and use of cultic, religious means was itself a general Melane-
lonial imagination.
sian characteristic. To sympathetically explain cults, Linds-
trom says, anthropology claims that the colonial’s exception-
It is this Western certainty that cargo cults do exist that Lind-
al and fearful cult is in fact normal Melanesian culture. Thus,
strom explores, taking us from the twentieth-century arenas
he says, for anthropologists, “Cults are not—or not just—
of colonial discourse and practice in which they coalesced for
aberrant ritualized reaction to a powerful European presence.
scholars of Melanesia to an American and global popular
Anthropology instructs us, rather, that cults are normal, cre-
imagination. In Cargo Cult: Strange Stories of Desire from
ative Melanesian institutions of cultural dynamism and
Melanesia and Beyond, Lindstrom, invoking post-
change” (1993, p. 61). Other anthropologists would argue
structuralist theory and literary deconstructionism (1993,
that in fact the anthropological problematic of valuables, ex-
p. 10), focuses attention on the literal term cargo cult. Trac-
change, and cosmology in the Pacific, made famous by
ing the term, Lindstrom cagily proclaims that he will not say
Bronislaw Malinowski in 1922 and Marcel Mauss in 1925,
anything about Melanesian ethnographic realities. “Cargo
predates “cargo cult” discussions and that Lindstrom homog-
cult—or something like this under another name—may ac-
enizes and simplifies anthropological scholarship of the Pa-
tually exist on Melanesian islands—or it may not” (p. 12).
cific, in his quest to delineate a single, general Western obses-
On the other hand, Lindstrom later asks, looking at dis-
sion with cargo cults.
course about “cargo cults,” what common denominator is to
Lindstrom also discusses political uses of the term in in-
be found in the phenomena to which the term is applied?
dependent Papua New Guinea, where it is used in political
If there is a general phenomenon, it is a “variety of desires
discourse, sometimes to signify positive kastam, or tradition,
for collective benefit coupled with apparently irrational strat-
other times as a negative epithet to disparage political oppo-
egies to attain those desires,” he concludes (p. 189). Yet, it
nents. But he reserves special interest for the term’s wider
is not so much the quest for an essence of cargo cult, a com-
spread in popular discourse (film, tabloids, and news media)
mon denominator in the events and actions of different peo-
in the United States and globally. Most interesting to Linds-
ples in Melanesia and beyond, but rather a common denomi-
trom are the consequences of calling phenomena “at home”
nator in what Westerners perceive in these events and the
in the West cargo cults. He concludes, “The cargo cult is an
implications of naming something a cargo cult that fascinates
allegory of desire” (1993, p. 184). He finds this desire, pro-
Lindstrom. He borrows the term cargoism, coined initially
jected onto “others,” but really about the self, in the Western
to denote “real” Melanesian activities, to instead denote dis-
psyche and in love of commodities, an unfulfillable desire,
course about cargo cults, especially Western discourse. Lind-
an unrequitable love.
strom’s interest is, adamantly, in the uses of the term, which
he considers to be a Western projection of unfulfilled desire.
“Cargo Cult is fascinatingly trivial,” Lindstrom wrote
The term had, and still has, a complex life: it was at first a
provocatively on page three of his 246-page book. His fasci-
Western term projected onto Melanesians, but more recently
nation draws us to chronicle a world of talking about cargo
it has been used by Melanesians about themselves and by
cults. The work’s focus on cargo cults, even when the focus
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is on discourse about cargo cults, may once again reify its ob-
people to abandon the materiality of traditional wealth
ject, now risking solipsism. What more, beyond unrequited
items, colonial advice nonetheless proffered a material form
love, might animate the projects and events that are folded
for the wealth of the people of Papua New Guinea: the bank
into this way of narrating unrequited love? What of desires
book. At the lead up to independence in 1975, colonial edu-
and successes for freedom, for self-determination, for Bur-
cation about money turned to “our money” and the national
ridge’s “moral redemption,” for . . .? It is Lindstrom’s in-
wealth, with money serving as a token of the nation-state
tention to produce a Foucaultian genealogy of a term’s con-
that was just coming into being.
textual origins and the consequences of its use. However,
Where Lindstrom was critical of approaches that lent re-
diagnosing Western unrequited longing may not lead us into
ality to cargo cult beliefs and practices, believing that they
greater insights into anything else.
implied a diagnosis that the “natives” were mad, not rational,
Foster follows William Pietz (1985, 1987, 1988), not Linds-
ALLY INTERCONNECTED WORLD. The big story of the twen-
trom, in seeing the cardinal fantasy endorsed by cargo-cult
tieth century for places like the Pacific is the end of the era
theory (and all imputations of fetishism to “others”) as the
of empires and the coming into being of the nation-state as
idea that “We” have or can have a society without fetishes,
the normal polity form. Not just the former colonies, but
a purely rational society of enlightenment. Foster’s argument
also the former colonizers were reconstituted as nation-states.
can be carried further, thinking about alleged “cargo cults’”
Massive new secular rituals, state myths, and authorizing ac-
in particular. Something becomes known as a “cargo cult”
counts have been mobilized to routinize and to make real
precisely when it is objectified, criminalized, and subject to
these new polity forms. Familiars for the state and nation are
scrutiny, criticism, and counterargument; when its premises
born: flags that seem the living body of the state and anthems
do not seem natural and inevitable; and when its modes do
and pledges of and for the nation that serve as charms bind-
not readily persuade official observers. But, as Foster argues,
ing members to national citizenship (on state familiars, see
we all live with tokens of the state (we might call them state
Kaplan, 2003). What is the place of matters once called cargo
familiars), including our money, that for others have not suc-
cult in this history?
cessfully routinized into obvious utility. Foster cites U.S. sur-
vivalists who question U.S. government legitimacy and ques-
The most intriguing of more recent studies of cargo
tion the legitimacy of U.S. paper money. And, in Papua New
cults are those that are not about cargo cults at all, but rather
Guinea, Foster shows, questions about money question the
about complex local and global histories in which the term
state as well, whether debating the figures portrayed on
figures historically. In this category would fall, for example,
notes, maintaining shell money and using it to pay taxes, or
studies like Foster’s “Your Money, Our Money, the Govern-
using bills and notes as ceremonial exchange valuables. These
ment’s Money: Finance and Fetishism in Melanesia” (2002).
kinds of usages bring together what colonial and postcolonial
This is an analysis, not of a cargo cult, but of the enchant-
administrators “hell bent on modernization” (Foster 2002,
ments found in the putatively modern, Western, disenchant-
p. 60) tried so hard to keep apart. One could propose that
ed, and practical world of nation-states, nation-building, de-
this is an example of Melanesian confusion, or, preferably,
velopment agencies, financial institutions, and national
that it is an example of the very potential that all powerful
economy. Foster’s overall point is that by assuming that Mel-
systems (states, finance systems, and cosmologies) must trade
anesians were confused about the real and true origins and
in reliance on modes of routinzation, on tokens of existence,
value of material things, colonizers were also able to assume
and on familiars that render them subject to being recog-
that they themselves lived in a Western world in which the
nized as constructs, challenged and sometimes remade. That
real and true value of material things was self-evident and ir-
is, one could take the point to be that nations, states, and
refutable, a world without fetishes (pp. 36–37). Foster’s anal-
religions rely on the same kinds of enchantment of symbols
ysis shows that the New Guinea state, and indeed all states,
and institutions that get undermined in criticism of cults.
depends on the workings of state familiars like money; that
is, on the public belief that only the state-issued tokens are
GODS AND NATION-STATES. Whether or not cargo cults and
appropriate tender for all debts, public and private.
the cargo cult literature is adduced, much of the scholarship
since the 1980s in the Pacific has focused on postcolonial his-
In the mid-twentieth century, colonizers in New Guin-
tories of nation and state as locally understood and lived in
ea began distributing educational material about money,
the Pacific Islands, describing predicaments and novel local
seeking to counter cargo-cult thinking, the perceived “na-
solutions in ritual, economics, kinship, and religious life that
tive” misunderstanding of the origin of goods. In the 1960s
connect to matters of sovereignty and its infringements, and
the Administration and the Reserve Bank of Australia pro-
the reconfiguration of old and new institutional forms. The
duced booklets and films to provide people with “an under-
literature that explicitly continues the study of cargo cults
standing of the management of money.” Addressing individ-
also connects new cosmologies to postcolonial as well as colo-
uals with advice about “your money,” they presupposed and
nial history and sees millenarian movements growing in en-
naturalized “modern” individuals who would relate to
twined response to increasingly diverse Christian evangeliz-
money and define themselves via work and monetary wealth,
ing and/or to development discourse, electoral politics, and
rather than in relation to other people. Ironically, urging
political crises.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Commonly, conflicts over power begun in precolonial
Burridge, Kenelm. New Heaven, New Earth: A Study of Millenari-
and colonial eras are of continuing import. This is especially
an Activities. Oxford, 1969.
clear in the example of Tuka in Fiji’s history. Tuka was about
Durutalo, Simione. “Internal Colonialism and Unequal Regional
questions of local sovereignty (though not nation-state sover-
Development: The Case of Western Viti Levu, Fiji.” Mas-
eignty) and it was also, for Navosavakadua, about identifying
ter’s thesis, University of the South Pacific, 1985.
one’s own gods. For Navosavakadua, the twin gods Na-
Emberson-Bain, E Atu. Labour and Gold in Fiji. Cambridge, U.K.,
cirikaumoli and Nakausabaria had been misunderstood as
Jesus and Jehovah. For some of his descendants, Navo-
Foster, Robert J. “Your Money, Our Money, the Government’s
savakadua was himself Jesus, returned. For some Fijians,
Money: Finance and Fetishism in Melanesia.” In Materializ-
more generally, Fiji and Fiji Christianity are special and tra-
ing the Nation: Commodities, Consumption, and Media in
Papua New Guinea.
Bloomington, Ind., 2002.
ditional and entitle Fiji’s indigenes to special political privi-
lege in the island’s nation-state (Kelly and Kaplan, 2001).
Harkin, Michael E., ed. Reassessing Revitalization Movements: Per-
spectives from North America and the Pacific Islands. Lincoln,
What we learn from Tuka, we can bring to the study of the
Neb., 2004.
United Nations and the nation-state. These putatively disen-
Jebens, Holger, ed. Cargo, Cult, and Culture Critique. Honolulu,
chanted institutions have, in fact, their own rituals and even
their own familiars.
Kaplan, Martha. Neither Cargo nor Cult: Ritual Politics and the
For Lawrence, the variables for considering cargo cults
Colonial Imagination in Fiji. Durham, N.C., 1995.
were the characteristics of local society, the nature of intro-
Kaplan, Martha. “The Magical Power of the Printed Word (in
duced religion, and the character of contact with Europeans.
Fiji).” In Magic and Modernity: Interfaces of Revelation and
But the world-system entanglements of the era of European
Concealment, edited by Birgit Meyer and Peter Pels. Stan-
ford, Calif., 2003.
capitalist and colonial expansion are replaced by global inter-
connections of the post–World War II, United Nations, na-
Kelly, John D. “Alternative Modernities, or Alternatives to Mo-
dernity? Getting out of the Modernist Sublime.” In Critically
tion-state world. People everywhere in this world face dilem-
Modern: Alternatives, Alterities, Anthropologies, edited by
mas of belief over the question of how nation-states or other
Bruce M. Knauft. Bloomington, Ind., 2002.
political entities are to be authorized. On what basis is legiti-
Kelly, John D., and Martha Kaplan. “History, Structure, and Rit-
mate sovereignty made? Does it come from “we the people”?
ual.” Annual Review of Anthropology 19 (1990): 119–150.
From a god or gods? From previous or external powerful po-
Kelly, John D., and Martha Kaplan. Represented Communities: Fiji
litical forms, like empires or the United Nations? People in
and World Decolonization. Chicago, 2001.
nation-states are confronting these questions. Monotheism
Lindstrom, Lamont. Knowledge and Power in a South Pacific Soci-
and the idea of a universal god is not always congruent with
ety. Washington, D.C., 1990.
bounding the local nation-state. The relations of church and
Lindstrom, Lamont. Cargo Cult: Strange Stories of Desire from Mel-
state, and of God and the nation are often in tension.
anesia and Beyond. Honolulu, 1993.
Malinowski, Bronislaw. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. London,
ONCLUSION. Earlier scholarship that defined cargo cults (in-
cluding the work of Peter Lawrence), addressed matters of
subjectivity and the imagination, and of emotional life en-
Mauss, Marcel. The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Ar-
chaic Societies (1925). Translated by W. D. Halls. New York,
twined with reason and social institutions, mostly as matters
located in local, non-Western institutions in transition to-
McDowell, Nancy. “A Note on Cargo Cults and Cultural Con-
ward a generalized modern life. Those studies neglected the
structions of Change.” Pacific Studies 11, no. 2 (1988): 121–
degree to which colonials, and then scholars, imposed their
own subjectivity, images, categories, and desires into their
Pietz, William. “The Problem of the Fetish.” Part 1, Res 9 (1985);
frameworks of description and analysis. Later, so-called post-
Part 2, Res 13 (1987) 23-45; Part 3, Res 16 (1988) 105–123.
modern scholars demonstrated the powers and limits of in-
Pletsch, Carl. “The Three Worlds, or, The Division of Social Sci-
trinsically political discourse everywhere. They tended to re-
entific Labor, circa 1950–1975.” Comparative Studies in So-
focus attention from the people studied to the people
ciety and History 23, no. 4 (1981): 565–590
studying. But scholars of the cargo cult and beyond now
Sahlins, Marshall. Islands of History. Chicago, 1985.
ponder both scholarly (and other) imaginings and the actual
Sahlins, Marshall. “Cosmologies of Capitalism: The Trans-Pacific
fabric of the world’s interconnected histories—that is, they
Sector of ‘The World System.’” Proceedings of the British
can ponder both the elements of actually complex and varie-
Academy 74 (1988): 1–51.
gated Western imaginaries (religious, political and scholarly,
Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. Culture, Thought, and Social Action: An
local and global, colonial and postcolonial, Western and not)
Anthropological Perspective. Cambridge, Mass., 1985.
and the careers of those ideas everywhere.
Taussig, Michael. “Maleficium: State Fetishism.” In The Nervous
System, pp. 111–140. New York, 1992.
Worsley, Peter. The Trumpet Shall Sound: A Study of “Cargo” Cults
Abrams, Philip. “Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the State.”
in Melanesia. London, 1957; 2d ed. New York, 1968.
Journal of Historical Sociology 1, no. 1 (1988): 58–89.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

mainland are members of the same ethnic group. The Island
This entry consists of the following articles:
Arawak and Arawak proper did not speak the same language.
Irving Rouse points out that their two languages were “no
more alike than, say, French and English” (Rouse, 1974).
Moreover, inhabitants of the Greater Antilles thought of
themselves not as “Arawak” but as members of local chief-
doms, each of which had its own name. Since each chiefdom
European explorers noted three major aboriginal groups in
was totally independent of all others, the group we know as
the Caribbean at the time of contact (1492 and the years im-
the Island Arawak had no need for an overall tribal name.
mediately following): Island Arawak, Island Carib, and Ci-
boney. There is an abundance of information concerning the
In 1920, Hartley Alexander suggested that the sea must
religious practices of the Island Arawak and Island Carib, but
have been a tremendous barrier to cultural transmission in
very little is known of Ciboney religion. Our knowledge of
the Caribbean. Contemporary archaeologists, however, rec-
the Ciboney has increased somewhat, especially through the
ognize that water did not constitute a barrier for these peo-
work of Cuban archaeologists such as Osvaldo Morales Pa-
ples. Therefore, archaeologists no longer study individual is-
tiño, but there remain many gaps in the archaeological and
lands in isolation. This has many implications for the study
ethnohistorical records.
of aboriginal Caribbean religions as it becomes increasingly
apparent that religious developments on one island were like-
This essay will focus on the Island Arawak and the Is-
ly to have affected religious developments elsewhere in the
land Carib. The Island Arawak were concentrated in the
region. Various island groups seem to have been in constant
Greater Antilles, a group of large, mainly sedimentary is-
contact with one another.
lands. The principal islands of the Greater Antilles are, mov-
ing from east to west, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola (now divided
Archaeologists have since established a firmer and more
between Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Jamaica, and
comprehensive chronology for the Caribbean region (Rouse
Cuba. The Island Carib inhabited the small, mainly volcanic
and Allaire, 1978). They also have discovered much greater
islands of the Lesser Antilles (Saint Christopher-Nevis, Anti-
variation in religious artifacts than was previously thought
gua, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Bar-
to exist, which in turn hints at a greater variation within the
bados, Grenada, Saint Vincent, and Tobago). Trinidad,
religious traditions of the Island Arawak and the Island Carib
Margarita, Cubagua, and Coche are usually considered a part
than was previously supposed. Arawak and Carib traditions,
of the Caribbean region, but culturally these islands have
for example, may have differed from settlement to settlement
much in common with the South American mainland (Gla-
on the same island.
zier, 1980b; Figueredo and Glazier, 1982).
DEITIES. Both the Island Arawak and the Island Carib pos-
Earlier scholars, such as Hartley B. Alexander (1920),
sessed a notion of a high god, though, as the chroniclers’ re-
emphasized differences between Island Arawak and Island
ports make clear, their high god differed conceptually from
Carib religions. This tradition continued in the work of
the God of Christianity. We know, too, that aboriginal high
scholars such as Fred Olsen (1974) and Charles A. Hoffman
gods were thought to exert very little direct influence on the
(1980), for example, who postulated strong Maya influence
workings of the universe. Many of the early chroniclers, in-
on the religious systems of the Greater Antilles. Later, schol-
cluding Fray Ramón Pané, Gonzalo F. de Oviedo, and Ray-
ars paid greater attention to the similarities in Arawak and
mond Breton, refer to Arawak and Carib high gods as kinds
Carib belief systems—for example, the many parallels in Ara-
of deus otiosus; that is, they are inactive gods far removed
wak and Carib shamanism—than to their differences.
from human affairs and concerns. Neither the Island Arawak
Both the Island Arawak and the Island Carib originally
nor the Island Carib conceived of their high god as creator
migrated from the South American mainland (Rouse, 1964).
of the universe, and it is unclear how powerful the high god
The Island Arawak settled in the Greater Antilles at about
was thought to be. Was it that their high god was able to in-
the beginning of the common era and were followed several
terfere directly in world affairs but chose not to do so, or was
hundred years later by the Carib, who claimed to have begun
he thought to be totally ineffectual? Chroniclers differ some-
their migrations into the Lesser Antilles only a few genera-
what on this. Pané suggests that the high god was a powerful
tions before the arrival of Columbus. The Island Carib as-
deity who chooses to be inactive. Other chroniclers stress the
serted that they conquered the Arawak of the Lesser Antilles,
inactivity of the high god and the lack of attention accorded
killing the men and marrying the women. Douglas M. Tay-
him. The bulk of the evidence, including what we know of
lor (1951) suggests that the women’s language prevailed, be-
other American Indian religions (Hultkrantz, 1979), sup-
cause the language spoken by the descendants of the Island
ports the latter interpretation.
Carib belongs to the Arawakan family of languages. Of
Island Arawak. The identification of Island Arawak de-
course, another possible explanation is that all the peoples
ities is often a problem. Their high god was known by two
of the Lesser Antilles were of Arawak origin.
names: Iocauna and Guamaonocon (spellings differ from
It should not be assumed that the Island Arawak of the
chronicler to chronicler). Peter Martyr reports that the Ara-
Greater Antilles and the Arawak of the South American
wak supreme being was not self-created but was himself
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brought forth by a mother who has five names or identities:
unfortunate because the Island Arawak themselves seem to
Attabeira, Mamona, Guacarapita, Iella, and Guimazoa. He
have made such a distinction.
also reports other appellations for the high god, including Jo-
As Alexander (1920) has pointed out, there is some evi-
cakuvaque, Yocahu, Vaque, Maorocon, and Macrocoti. Pané
dence that nature worship and/or a vegetation cult existed
provides an equally complex list of male and female deities,
among the Island Arawak. This remains, however, a much
and it is apparent that most deities in the Arawak pantheon
neglected aspect of Island Arawak religion. Pané’s elaborate
were recognized by a number of appellations. Henri Pettit-
description of the manufacture of wooden religious objects
jean-Roget (1983) has suggested that the various names be
suggests some similarities between the production of these
interpreted as different incarnations of the same deity, as in
objects and the construction of wooden fetishes in West Afri-
the Hindu tradition. Another possible explanation is that dif-
ca. While the analogy is not complete, it has been noted that
ferent names simply represent local variants.
many aspects of Caribbean religions seem to derive from sim-
A number of interpreters (Joyce, 1916; Alexander,
ilar attitudes toward material objects (Alexander, 1920).
1920) have posited that the Island Arawak possessed a con-
One of the most important differences between Arawak
ception of an earth mother and a sky father similar to that
and Carib religions is that among the Island Arawak nature
of other American Indian groups. This has been called into
worship seems to have been closely associated with ancestor
question. While there are many similarities between the god-
worship. The bones of the Island Arawak dead, especially the
dess Attabeira and the earth mother of American Indian my-
bones of their leaders and great men, were thought to have
thology, there are also many differences. Attabeira does seem
power in and of themselves. This notion also existed among
to have been associated with fertility, and as Fred Olsen
the Island Carib, but their ceremonies and representations
(1974) suggests, her many Arawakan names describe her var-
were not so elaborate. In addition, most chroniclers mention
ious functions: mother of moving waters (the sea, the tides,
that the Island Arawak painted their bodies and faces, espe-
and the springs), goddess of the moon, and goddess of child-
cially in preparation for war. The chroniclers are in agree-
birth Representations of Attabeira frequently show her
ment that the painted figures were horrible and hideous, but
squatting in the act of parturition, and archaeologists have
there is little agreement as to what the figures were supposed
been greatly impressed with the vividness of these portrayals.
to represent. Jesse W. Fewkes (1907) has suggested that body
Her hands are holding her chin while her legs press into her
paintings had religious importance; most other sources sug-
sides as she struggles in childbirth. In several representations
gest that markings served to distinguish members of the same
her open mouth and heavy eyebrows ridging over wide-open
clan. The practice may have been a form of ancestor worship.
eyes convey successfully the intensity of her efforts. But there
are other characteristics of Attabeira that are not at all like
Island Carib. Like the Island Arawak, the island Carib
those of an earth mother. Sven Lovén (1935) concludes that
recognized a multitude of spirit beings as well as a high god
Attabeira cannot be identified as a goddess of the earth be-
whose name varies according to text. Sieur de La Borde
cause she seems to have dwelt permanently in the heavens.
(1704) refers to their high god as Akamboüe. According to
He concedes that Attabeira may have been an all-mother, but
Raymond Breton (1665), however, Akamboüe means “carri-
this does not necessarily imply that she was an earth goddess.
er of the king,” and the highest deity in the Island Carib pan-
theon was the moon, Nonu-ma. Breton argues that the
Lovén (1935) also points out that Iocauna was not an
moon was central in Island Carib religion because the Carib
all-father. As noted previously, native conceptions of Iocauna
reckoned time according to lunar cycles. The sun, Huoiou,
would have precluded procreative activities. It is possible that
also occupied an important place in the Island Carib pan-
one of Iocauna’s names, Yocahu, is related to the yuca (cassa-
theon. Although the sun was said to be more powerful than
va) plant (Fewkes, 1907). Yocahu may have been the giver
the moon, Huoiou was also said to be more remote from
of yuca or the discoverer of yuca, but he was not believed to
human affairs and therefore less significant.
be the creator of yuca (Olsen, 1974). It is clear from all ac-
counts that after yuca was given to the Island Arawak, it was
Of the spirits directly involved in human affairs, Icheiri
cultivated through the cooperation of zemi spirits and was
and Mabouia are the most frequently mentioned. Icheiri,
not at all dependent on the cooperation of Yocahu.
whose name comes from the verb ichéem, meaning “what I
like” (Breton, 1665, p. 287), has been interpreted as a spirit
Other prominent Island Arawak deities include: Gua-
of good, while Mabouia, from the same root as the word
bancex, goddess of wind and water, who had two subordi-
boyé, or “sorcerer,” has been interpreted as a spirit of evil. The
nates: Guatauva, her messenger, and Coatrischio, the tem-
Carib informed Breton that it was Mabouia who brought
pest-raiser; Yobanua-Borna, a rain deity; Baidrama (or
about eclipses of the sun and caused the stars to disappear
Vaybruma), a twinned deity associated with strength and
healing; Opigielguoviran, a doglike being said to have
plunged into the morass with the coming of the Spanish; and
The terms icheiri and mabouia have been widely dis-
Faraguvaol, a tree trunk able to wander at will. One difficulty
cussed in the secondary literature. I believe that these were
with the various listings provided by the chroniclers is that
not names of spirits, but were general categories within the
they do not distinguish mythical beings and deities. This is
spirit world, and that spirits were classified primarily accord-
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ing to their relation to the individual. One man’s icheira
went to the seashore or became mabouias in the forest. There
(helper) could be another man’s mabouia (evil spirit) and vice
was no concept of an underworld, nor were spirits associated
versa (Glazier, 1980a). The most important consideration,
with specific locations, as among the Island Arawak. Each in-
as far as the Carib were concerned, was to get a particular
dividual was said to possess three souls: one in the heart, one
spirit on one’s side.
in the head, and one in the shoulders. It is only the heart-soul
Another major category in the Island Carib spirit world
that ascends to the sky, while the other two souls wander the
was that of the zemiis. Zemi, too, appears to have been a very
earth for eternity. The Island Carib asserted that only valiant
general term; the word is of Arawak origin and indicates the
heart-souls ascended; the implication here is that even the
strong influence of Island Arawak language and culture on
heart-souls of the less valiant sometimes became mabouias
the Island Carib. Among the Carib, to get drunk, chemerocae,
and roamed the earth.
literally meant “to see zemiis.” Zemiis were thought to live
Elaborate burial ceremonies were noted among both the
in a paradise far removed from the world of the living, but
Island Arawak and the Island Carib. Archaeological evidence
every so often, according to La Borde (1704), Coualina, chief
indicates that the Island Arawak performed several types of
of the zemiis, would become angry about the wickedness of
burials: (1) direct interment, with the skeleton in a sitting
some zemiis and drive them from paradise to earth, where
or flexed position; (2) interment within a raised mound, with
they became animals. This is but one example of the constant
the body in a crouched position; (3) interment within a grave
transformations from deity to animal in Island Carib my-
covered with an arch of branches topped with earth; and (4)
burial in caves, with skeletons in a flexed position. Secondary
Zemiis were frequently represented by, and in many
burials were also prevalent (Lovén, 1935).
cases were identical with, conical objects that have been
Christopher Columbus summarized the different burial
found at both Island Arawak and Island Carib sites. The
customs on Hispaniola as follows: “They open the body and
most common types are triangular (the so-called three-
dry it by the fire in order that it may be preserved whole.
pointers) and/or humpback in shape. Some are elaborately
Often, depending on rank, they take only the head. Others
carved, but a majority of zemiis are plain. Archaeologists have
are buried in caves. Others they burn in their houses. Others
discovered zemiis made of wood, conch shell, and stone, but
they drive out of the house; and others they put in a ham-
stone zemiis are the most prevalent.
mock and leave them to rot” (Lovén, 1935). It is apparent
Fewkes (1907) was among the first to suggest the reli-
that Arawak burial customs differed markedly and that buri-
gious import of these objects. He posited that they may have
als for leaders were much more elaborate than burials for the
had a magical function, especially in reducing pains associat-
masses. From the archaeological record, it is also apparent
ed with childbirth. Olsen (1974) offers a more materialistic
that the Island Arawak buried a majority of their dead in
explanation. He suggests that the conical shapes of these
crouching or flexed positions. In this they differed from the
stones represented the Caribbean islands themselves dramati-
Ciboney, who buried their dead lying straight (Lovén,
cally rising out of the sea with their pronounced volcanic
peaks. Pettitjean-Roget (1983) provides a broader interpreta-
tion than Fewkes or Olsen. He postulates that these conical
Burial customs among the Island Carib were not so var-
objects were nothing less than an encapsulation of the entire
ied. Breton (1665) noted that the Island Carib dreaded
death, and that it was forbidden to utter the name of the de-
ceased. The Island Carib referred to the dead indirectly (e.g.,
AFTERLIFE. Both the Island Arawak and the Island Carib had
“the husband of so-and-so”) because to do otherwise would
a notion of the afterlife. The Island Arawak conceived of
cause the deceased to come back to earth.
spirits of the dead, called opias or hubias, who were said to
wander about the bush after dark. Occasionally opias joined
When an Island Carib male died, the women painted
the company of the living and were said to be indistinguish-
his cheeks and lips red and placed him in a hammock. After
able from the living, except for the spirits’ lack of navels. In
some time the decomposed body was brought inside a hut,
both Arawak and Carib religions, the activities of the dead
where it was then lowered into a shallow grave. Burial was
were thought to resemble the activities of the living. Opias,
in the flexed position, with the body sitting on its heels, and
for example, passed their time feasting and dancing in the
with the elbows resting on the knees and hands folded to the
forest. Their behaviors were similar to native ceremonies.
breast. Important men were buried with cooking pots and
Pané reports that the Arawak of Haiti believed in a king-
utensils, their dogs, and slaves who were killed so they might
dom of death, Coaibai, which was situated on their own is-
continue to serve their masters in the next life. La Borde
land. Every leader of importance had his own kingdom of
(1704) notes that the Island Carib frequently burned the bo-
death, usually located within his own dominion. In addition,
dies of their leaders and mixed the ashes with their drinks.
there were uninhabited places where the spirits of evil people
This may not be accurate, for there is little archaeological evi-
were said to roam.
dence for cremation among the Island Carib.
The Island Carib, on the other hand, had a much more
ORIGIN MYTHS. We possess no creation myths for Caribbe-
diffuse notion of the afterlife. All spirits of the body, omicou,
an peoples. Both Island Arawak and Island Carib seem 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

have assumed that the universe had always been in existence.
ber their years; Sauacou, who changed into a great blue
They did, however, have many stories concerning the earliest
heron, was sent to heaven where he forms a constellation an-
peoples of their respective groups.
nouncing hurricanes; the Great Bear is the heron’s canoe; the
Island Arawak. According to the aborigines of Haiti,
constellation Achinaou announces gentle rains and high
the earliest people appeared out of two caves. A majority of
winds; the constellation Cauroumon is associated with heavy
the people emerged from a cave known as Cicibagiagua,
waves; the constellation Racumon was changed into a snake;
while another, smaller group emerged from the cave
and Baccamon (Scorpio) foretells high winds (Breton, 1665).
Amaiacuva. Alexander (1920) suggests that these two caves
It is clear that the various constellations were used to divine
represent two different races or tribes. Lovén (1935) argues
the future, but it is unclear whether or not the constellations
to the contrary: there is, he says, but one tribal group. Since
were actually believed to cause earthly events.
most of the people emerged from Cicibagiagua, those who
RITES AND CEREMONIES. The most important ceremonies
emerged from Amaiacuva constituted an elite, the Taino. I
among the Island Arawak pertained to rain and the growth
find Lovén’s interpretation the more plausible. These caves,
of crops, but there were also important ceremonies for suc-
situated on the mountain of Cauta in the region of Caunana,
cess in war, burial of the dead, curing of the sick, canoe
were believed to actually exist and may have been located in
building, cutting hair, the births of children, marriage, and
the area of present-day Sierra de Coonao. Where caves did
initiation. In most instances these rites took the form of elab-
not exist, Island Arawak stress appearance out of the ground.
orate dances known as areitos. Fewkes (1907) notes that
dramatization played a part in all ceremonies. For example,
Island Arawak legends also account for the first appear-
in their war dances the entire war sequence was portrayed:
ance of the sun and the moon from a grotto known as
the departure of the warriors, surprise of the enemy, combat,
Giovaua, and for the origin of fish and the ocean. According
celebration of victory, and return of the war party. Singing
to the legend:
also played a part in all ceremonies, and some of the early
There was a certain man, Giaia, whose son, Giaiael, un-
chroniclers incorrectly restricted their use of the term areitos
dertook to kill his father, but was himself slain by the
to funeral chants or elegies in praise of heroes.
parent, who put the bones into a calabash, which he
hung on top of his hut. One day he took the calabash
The island Carib conducted ceremonies on many of the
down, looked into it, and an abundance of fishes came
same occasions as did the Island Arawak. According to La
forth. The bones had changed into fish. Later, when
Borde, the Island Carib held rites whenever a council was
Giaia the parent was absent, his four sons took the cala-
held concerning their wars, when they returned from their
bash and ate some of the fish. Giaia returned suddenly
expeditions, when a first male child was born, when they cut
and in their haste the sons replaced the calabash badly.
their children’s hair, when their boys became old enough to
As a result, so much water ran from it that it overflowed
go to war, when they cut down trees, and when they
all of the country, and with the water came an abun-
launched a vessel. Some authorities mention other ritual oc-
dance of fish. (Fernández Méndez, 1979; my trans.)
casions: when a child reached puberty, when a parent or
Other stories tell how the four brothers obtained manioc and
spouse died, when the Island Carib were made captives, and
tobacco from people whom they visited (see Fernández
when they killed one of their enemies.
Méndez, 1979). Rouse (1948) suggests that these stories may
have been put to song.
Island Carib rites met individual as well as societal
needs. Each individual had his own personal deity or zemi.
The stories of the emergence from caves and the origin
These personal deities were thought to reveal things to the
of fish are, in Pané’s account, followed by stories concerning
individual, and it is reported that individuals customarily
the adventures of Guaguigiana, a culture hero, and his com-
withdrew from society for six or seven days, without taking
rade. Giadruvava. Guaguigiana appears to have been some-
any sustenance save tobacco and the juice of herbs. During
thing of a trickster figure, and his adventures resemble those
this period, the individual experienced visions of whatever
of trickster-fixers associated with other American Indian
he or she desired (victory over enemies, wealth, and so on).
groups. It is to Pané’s credit that he attempted to present sto-
ries in the order in which the Island Arawak themselves pres-
Much has been written on alleged cannibalism among
ented them, even when that order made little intuitive sense
the Island Carib (the word cannibal is a corruption of Carib-
to him (Deive, 1976).
al, the Spanish word for “Carib”). The Island Arawak told
Columbus that they were subject to raids by man-eating In-
Island Carib. Among the Island Carib the first man,
dians known as Carib, and Columbus directed his second
Louguo, was said to have descended from the sky. Other
voyage to the Lesser Antilles, where he had been told the
men came out of his navel and his thighs. Louguo created
Carib lived, in order to confirm Arawak reports. Rouse
fish by throwing cassava scrapings into the sea, and according
(1964) credits Columbus with confirming that the Carib
to La Borde (1704), many of the first men were later trans-
practiced ritual cannibalism, that is, they ate captives in order
formed into stars.
to absorb their fighting ability. Recently the anthropologist
The constellations were accorded great importance in
William Arens (1979) has suggested that Columbus had no
Island Carib thought: Chiric (the Pleiades) was used to num-
direct evidence for this assertion, and in fact did not really
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

believe that the Carib were cannibals, but he perpetuated the
to direct offering to zemiis during public ceremonies. In both
myth of Carib cannibalism for political reasons. The early
of these duties, they served as intermediaries between the Is-
chroniclers provide some support for this position. In his Hi-
land Arawak and their gods (Deive, 1978).
storia general de las Indias, 1527–61, Bartolomé de Las Casas
Accounts of Arawak shamanism provide very little detail
flatly denies that the Carib were cannibals. Whatever the sta-
concerning the piaie’s role in public ceremonies, and it is un-
tus of Carib cannibalism, there is agreement that it was
clear whether or not all piaies were able to conduct public
not an everyday practice and was largely confined to ritual
ritual. It is possible that some piaies functioned solely as
curers or diviners and could not perform other rites.
One other Island Carib rite attracted considerable atten-
Pané provides a lengthy account of Arawak healing
tion in the early literature, and that was the practice of the
practices. The curer, he notes, began his treatment of the pa-
couvade. At the birth of a child, Jean-Baptiste Dutertre re-
tient by prescribing a special diet and was himself expected
ports, Carib fathers would rest as if it were they who were
to observe the same diet as his patient. Herrera gives a con-
suffering labor pains. For forty days and nights fathers re-
densed description of curing procedures:
mained isolated from society, fasting or consuming a meager
When any leading man is sick, he calls a medicine man,
diet. At the end of this period there was a great feast at which
who is obliged to observe the same dietary rules as the
the invited guests lacerated the father’s skin with their finger-
patient. It is customary for the medicine man to purge
nails and washed his wounds with a solution of red pepper.
himself with an herb that he takes by inhaling until he
For an additional six months the father was expected to ob-
believes himself inspired. In this condition he says many
serve special dietary taboos (e.g., it was believed that if the
things, giving the sick to understand that he is talking
father ate turtle, the child would become deaf). Dutertre re-
with an idol. Then the Indians anoint their faces with
cords a number of other taboos involving birds and fish.
oil and purge the sick who stand by in silence. The
medicine man first makes two circuits about the patient
RUGS. Tobacco, narcotics, and stimulants played an im-
and, pulling him by the legs, goes to the door of the
portant part in both Island Arawak and Island Carib rites.
house, which he shuts, saying: “Return to the mountain
Tobacco, called cohiba, was used in a number of different
or whither you wish; blow and join hands and tremble,
forms in all ceremonies. Among the Island Arawak, tobacco
and close the mouth.” Breathing on his hands, he then
smoke was used as an incense to summon the gods. Tobacco
sucks the neck, the shoulders, the stomach, and other
was sprinkled on the heads of idols as an offering. Religious
parts of the body of the sick man, coughing and grimac-
leaders among the Island Arawak and Island Carib “stupe-
ing; he spits into his hands what he had previously
fied” themselves with tobacco when they consulted their ora-
placed in his mouth and tells the sick man that he has
cles; they also used tobacco in curing rituals.
taken from the body that which is bad. He also says that
the patient’s zemi had given it to him because he had
As Breton (1665) reports, the Island Carib “know to-
not obeyed him. The objects that the doctors take from
bacco but do not smoke it.” They would dry it by a fire,
their mouths are for the most part stones, which they
pound it into a powder, add a little seawater to it, and then
often use for childbirth or other special purposes, and
place a pinch of the snuff between their lips and gums. The
which they also preserve as relics. (Herrera, 1937,
Island Arawak, on the other hand, sometimes did inhale to-
p. 69; my trans.)
bacco smoke through their nostrils. But its use was limited.
If a patient died, it was thought to be because the piaie had
Generally there is no evidence that tobacco was burned dur-
not observed the proper diet. The Island Arawak were not
ing ceremonies.
very tolerant of unsuccessful healers, and it was not uncom-
Throwing aji (pepper) onto live coals was part of Island
mon for a healer to be seized by a deceased person’s relatives
Arawak and Island Carib preparations for warfare. Ricardo
who would strike him with a stick until his arms and legs
E. Alegría (1979) contends that the pepper caused irritation
were broken, gouge out his eyes, and lacerate his private
of the mucous membrane, a racking cough, and other dis-
comforts that were thought to induce the proper psychologi-
Alfred Métraux (1949), in his overview of shamanism
cal state for war.
in South America, states that in most instances the role of
SHAMANISM. The distinction between shamans, who are said
the religious leader was distinct from that of the political
to obtain their power directly from the supernatural, and
leader, but this distinction between political and religious au-
priests, who must learn a body of ritual knowledge from es-
thority does not seem to have been as pronounced among
tablished practitioners, is not useful in distinguishing Island
the Island Arawak. For example, Rouse (1948) points out
Arawak religious leaders (variously known as piaies, behutios,
that it is unclear whether the chief and his attendants (the
buhitihus, behiques) from Island Carib leaders known as
principal men of the village) were also shamans. The atten-
boyés. Although the role of the piaie appears to have been
dants, he notes, had a special name, bohuti, and were of such
more priestlike than that of the boyé, similarities among piaies
high status that they customarily refused to accept common-
and boyés far exceed their differences.
ers as patients.
Island Arawak. Major duties of the Arawak piaie were
Island Carib. The Island Carib maintained a rigid dis-
to divine the future by consulting their personal zemiis and
tinction between political and religious authority. There are
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

no reports of healers becoming chiefs or chiefs becoming
to receive a spirit familiar. Shamans who claimed that their
healers. But even in the Lesser Antilles, a certain complicity
knowledge derived solely from their relationship with spirits
between religious and political leaders is apparent. For exam-
probably glossed over their arduous training, wanting instead
ple, a political leader needed a boyé’s support in order to wage
to stress mystical aspects of their careers. The picture they
war, and boyés derived direct economic benefits through their
present of shamanism in the Lesser Antilles is inaccurate.
association with chiefs.
There is, however, no ambiguity concerning the boyé’s
The Carib never went to war without first consulting
authority. While the authority of the war chief may have
the spirit world to find out if conditions were favorable for
been that of a charismatic leader, the authority of the boyé
victory. Since chiefs were unable to make direct contact with
was clearly that of formal investiture. Breton (1665) put it
spirits, they required the services of a boyé whose predictions
succinctly: “The boyés make other people boyés.”
had tremendous impact on public opinion. It would be diffi-
Boyés were perhaps the wealthiest members of their soci-
cult for a war chief to override a boyé’s predictions and carry
ety. While war chiefs and families had considerable control
out expeditions believed to be inauspicious. Shamans never
over the distribution of some resources and war booty, boyés
gained an upper hand, however, for if a chief was dissatisfied
had control over the distribution of goods outside kinship
with one boyé’s prediction, he was free to consult others.
obligations. A boyé’s clientele was not restricted to his kin
Often, several boyés were consulted at once, and the old war
group, and his reputation could well transcend his own is-
chief chose the most “correct” prediction. Given the circum-
land. The boyé Iris’s reputation, for example, extended be-
stances, it was advantageous for both parties when a chief de-
yond his native Dominica (Du Puis, 1972).
veloped a working relationship with a particular shaman who
could be counted on to support his war policies. These rela-
The boyés had great potential for wealth, for there was
tionships often followed kinship lines.
always demand for their services. In times of trouble, they
were called upon to dispel evil spirits; in times of prosperity,
Boyés also needed to develop working relationships with
they were called upon to insure its continuance; and when
chiefs to defray the high costs of apprenticeship. We have no
there was doubt, they gave assurances for the future. Major
clear notion of the actual length of apprenticeship for sha-
religious activities were sacrifice and offerings, both of which
mans among the Island Carib, though in some tribes of the
were ultimately appropriated by the boyés (Rochefort, 1665).
Guianas apprenticeship is said to have lasted from ten to
Offerings consisted of foodstuffs and some durable goods, a
twenty years (Métraux, 1949). This period of training was
portion of which went directly to the shaman in return for
probably considerably shorter among the Carib, but we lack
his services; the remainder, ostensibly for the gods, was ap-
details for all but the final months of preparation:
propriated later for the shaman’s use. Thus shamans had nu-
After a fast of five months, the candidate is brought into
merous occasions to accumulate wealth, and in some cases
the carbet (a place in which things have been set aside)
a shaman may have gotten too wealthy and would be forced
before a table on which manioc bread, ouicou (sweet po-
by public opinion to redistribute part of his property.
tato and manioc beer), and the first fruits of the season
Under certain conditions, senior war chiefs were al-
are placed. An older shaman chants and blows tobacco
lowed to join with the boyés in appropriating offerings in-
smoke to summon his familiar spirit who descends and
sits on a hammock to receive offerings (anaeri). The
tended for the gods. This further differentiates the roles of
elder shaman asks for another spirit to descend and be-
boyé and chief. Only the most senior war chief had the
come his apprentice’s familiar. (Dutertre, 1667–1671,
right to do what any boyé could do from the moment of his
vol. 2, pp. 365–366; my trans.)
From this passage, it is clear that five months of training (and
possibly more) was required of the would-be shaman. This
Alegría, Ricardo E. “The Use of Noxious Gas in Warfare by the
would constitute a hardship for the apprentices family, for
Taino and Carib Indians of the Antilles.” Revista/Review In-
others had to assume his workload and provide for him while
teramericana 8 (1979): 409–415.
he was in training. Also, they had to provide offerings for sac-
Alegría, Ricardo E. Ball Courts and Ceremonial Plazas in the West
rifice and make payments to senior boyés.
Indies. New Haven, 1983.
Boyés were a professional class in Island Carib society.
Alexander, Hartley Burr. “The Antilles.” In The Mythology of All
They charged for all services, and I contend that they did not
Races, edited by Louis Herbert Gray, vol. 11, Latin-American
train new shamans without demanding something in return.
Mythology, pp. 15–40. Boston, 1920.
War chiefs and their families, as wealthier members of their
Arens, William. The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthro-
society, were in the best position to take on obligations to
pophagy. Oxford, 1979.
senior boyés (Glazier, 1980).
Benzoni, Girolamo. History of the New World (1595). Translated
Island Carib shamanism was not flexible. It was not pos-
by W. H. Smyth. London, 1857.
sible to go off on one’s own and become a boyé. A would-be
Breton, Raymond. Dictionnaire caraïbe-françois. Auxerre, 1665.
shaman had to do an apprenticeship under an established
Charlevoix, Pierre-François de. Histoire de l’Ile Espagnole ou de
boyé and had to undergo formal rites of initiation in order
Saint-Dominique. 2 vols. Paris, 1930–1931.
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Deive, Carlos Esteban. “Fray Ramón Pané y el nacimiento de la
Morales Patiño, Osvaldo. “Arqueología Cubana, resumen de ac-
etnografía americana.” Boletín del Museo del Hombre Domini-
tividades, 1946.” Revista de arqueologia y etnografia (Havana)
cano 6 (1976): 136–156.
1 (1947): 5–32.
Deive, Carlos Esteban. “El chamanismo taíno.” Boletín del Museo
Olsen, Fred. On the Trail of the Arawaks. Norman, Okla. 1974.
del Hombre Dominicano 9 (1978): 189–203.
Oviedo y Valdés, Gonzalo Fernández de. Historia general y natural
Du Puis, Mathias. Relation de l’establissement d’une colonie françoise
de las Indias (1535). 5 vols. Edited by Juan Perez and Tudela
dans la Gardloupe isle de l’Amérique, et des mœurs des sauvages
Bueso. Madrid, 1959.
(1652). Reprint, Basse-Terre, 1972.
Pané, (Fray) Ramón (Father Ramón). Relación acerca de las an-
Dutertre, Jean-Baptiste. Histoire générale des Antilles habitées par
tigüedades de los Indios, 1571. Edited by José Juan Arrom.
les François (1667–1671). 4 vols. Fort-de-France, Marti-
Mexico City, 1978.
nique, 1958.
Pérez de Oliva, Fernán. Historia de la inuención de las Yndias. Ed-
Fernández Méndez, Eugenio. Art y mitologia de los indios Tainos
ited by José Juan Arrom. Publicaciones del Instituto Caro y
de las Antillas Mayores. San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1979.
Cuerva, no. 20. Bogotá, 1965.
Fewkes, Jesse Walter. The Aborigines of Porto Rico and Neighboring
Pettitjean-Roget, Henri. “De l’origine de la famille humaine ou
Islands. Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnolo-
contribution à l’étude des Pierres à Trois-Pointes des Antil-
gy, no. 25. Washington, D.C., 1907. See especially pages
les.” In Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress for the
Study of Pre-Columbian Cultures of the Lesser Antilles,
Figueredo, Alfredo E., and Stephen D. Glazier. “Spatial Behavior,
pp. 511–530. Montreal, 1983.
Social Organization, and Ethnicity in the Prehistory of Trin-
Rochefort, Charles César de. Histoire naturelle et morale des ïles
idad.” Journal de la Société des Américanistes 68 (1982): 33–
Antilles de l’Amérique. 2d ed. Rotterdam, 1665.
García Valdés, Pedro. “The Ethnography of the Ciboney.” In
Rouse, Irving. “The West Indies.” In Handbook of South American
Handbook of South American Indians, edited by Julian H.
Indians, edited by Julian H. Steward, vol. 4, pp. 49–565.
Steward, vol. 4, pp. 503–505. Washington, D.C., 1948.
Washington, D.C., 1948.
Glazier, Stephen D. “The Boyé in Island-Carib Culture.” In La
Rouse, Irving. “Prehistory of the West Indies.” Science 144
antropología americanista en la actualidad: Homenaje a Ra-
(1964): 499–513.
phael Girard, vol. 2, pp. 37–46. Mexico City, 1980. Cited
Rouse, Irving. “On the Meaning of the Term ‘Arawak.’” In On
in the text as 1980a.
the Trail of the Arawaks, by Fred Olsen, pp. xiii–xvi. Nor-
Glazier, Stephen D. “Aboriginal Trinidad and the Guianas: An
man, Okla., 1974.
Historical Reconstruction.” Archaeology and Anthropology:
Rouse, Irving, and Louis Allaire. “Caribbean.” In Chronologies in
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New World Archaeology, edited by R. E. Taylor and C. W.
3 (1980): 119–124. Cited in the text as 1980b.
Meighan, pp. 431–481. New York, 1978.
Gullick, C. J. M. R. Exiled from St. Vincent. Valletta, Malta, 1976.
Taylor, Douglas M. The Black Carib of British Honduras. New
Herrera y Tordesillas, Antonio de. Historia general de los hechos de
York, 1951.
los Castellanos en las islas y Terrafirme del Mar Océano. 17
Wilbert, Johannes. “Magico-Religious Use of Tobacco among
vols. Madrid, 1934–1957.
South American Indians.” In Spirits, Shamans and Stars: Per-
Hoffman, Charles A. “The Outpost Concept and the Mesoameri-
spectives from South America, edited by David L. Browman
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Lesser Antilles, pp. 307–316. Tempe, Ariz., 1980.
D. Rubin (The Hague, 1975), pp. 439–461.
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La Borde, Sieur de. Voyage qui contient un relation exacte de
l’origine, mœurs, coûtumes, réligion, guerres, et voyages des Car-
aïbes, sauvages des isles Antilles de l’Amérique. Amsterdam,
Most West Indians of African descent are affiliated, at least
nominally, with a historic Christian denomination or with
Las Casas, Bartolomé de. Historia general de las Indias, 1527–61.
one of the newer sects. In many areas of the West Indies,
2 vols. Edited by Juan Perez de Tudela and Emilio Lopez
however, a number of hybrid religions have attracted large
Oto. Madrid, 1957.
numbers of followers. In Haiti, virtually the entire popula-
Layng, Anthony. The Carib Reserve: Identity and Security in the
tion is in some way involved in vodou. In Jamaica, the Reviv-
West Indies. Lanham, Md., 1983.
alist, Kumina, and Convince cults continuously attract a
Lovén, Sven. Origins of the Tainan Culture, West Indies. Göteborg,
small number of adherents. Wherever such cults are found,
some persons participate more or less regularly in both a
Métraux, Alfred. “Religion and Shamanism.” In Handbook of
Christian church and a cult, and in times of crisis many who
South American Indians, edited by Julian H. Steward, vol. 5,
ordinarily ignore the cults become involved in their healing
pp. 559–599. Washington, D.C., 1949.
or magical rituals.
E N C Y C L O P E D I 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 essay will concentrate on four types of syncretic re-
Catholic saints; others have names of uncertain origin. The
ligious cults found in the Caribbean region, which will be
confusions and contradictions in the beliefs about these be-
called the neo-African cults, the ancestral cults, the revivalist
ings are due in part to contradictions in the Fon religious sys-
cults, and the religio-political cults. The experience of Carib-
tem that the Haitians adopted, and in part to the merging
bean blacks under the political, economic, and domestic con-
of the Fon system with that of the Yoruba (Courlander,
ditions of slavery modified character in a stressful direction,
1960). But the endless variations in these and other beliefs
and those who were most sensitive to the stress advanced in-
concerning the ultimate reality are also the result of the ab-
novative religious and secular systems to deal with their anxi-
sence of a hierarchy in the cult and of written documents.
ety. The new religious institutions consisted of elements of
Erika Bourguignon (1980) suggests that variety and inconsis-
African and European beliefs and practices, and, in some
tency in Haitian vodou have developed, and continue to de-
cases, parts of American Indian and South Asian religious
velop, in part through the mechanism of altered states of
traditions. A number of new religions arose from the interac-
consciousness, particularly in the forms of possession-trance
tion of three major variables: socioeconomic, psychological,
and dreams. In Haiti, possession-trance is not highly stereo-
and cultural. Contingent factors in the development of these
typed and prescribed. During possession-trance, cult leaders
hybrid religions include such ecological and demographic
and members speak and act in the names of the spirits, be-
variables as the degree to which a group of people had been
having in ways that may modify the future performance of
isolated physically and socially from other segments of the
the ritual or the adherents’ perception of the spirits.
population and the proportion of the total population con-
stituted by various ethnic and racial groups (Simpson, 1978).
The grand lwa comprise both nature spirits and func-
Successful religions spread, adapt, and persist after the condi-
tional spirits that are of African origin. Prominent among the
tions that gave rise to them have changed (or changed to
nature spirits are Dambala, the serpent spirit identified with
some extent), and individuals are socialized into accepting
the rainbow and associated with floods; Bade, spirit of the
the revised beliefs and procedures. When this happens, a reli-
winds; Sogbo, a Fon spirit of thunder; Shango (Yor., S:ango),
gion acquires new meanings for its members, and it takes on
the Yoruba spirit of thunder and lightning; and Agwé, spirit
new functions, the most universal of which is the satisfaction
of the sea. The functional lwa include Legba, the Fon guard-
that comes from group activities.
ian of crossroads and all barriers; the Ogou (Yor., Ogun)
family, spirits associated with war; Zaka, associated with
NEO-AFRICAN CULTS. These cults developed during the
crops and agriculture; Ezili, a sea goddess among the Fon,
early stages of cultural contact between persons of European
but transformed in Haiti into the personification of feminine
and African origin, because members of the subordinate
grace and beauty; the members of the Gèdè family, the spirits
group could neither acquire the religion of the dominant
of death; Adja, skilled in the fields of herbs and pharmacy;
group nor participate as comembers in the historic Christian
and Obatala (Yor., O:batala), the Yoruba divinity responsible
denominations. The major cults of this type are Haitian
for forming children in the womb (Herskovits, 1937b; Cour-
vodou, Cuban Santería, and Trinidadian Shango. From the
lander, 1939; Simpson, 1945, 1978; M. Rigaud, 1953;
viewpoint of cultural content, these religions represent the
Métraux, 1959).
most extensive blend of African and European traditions and
rituals in the Caribbean region.
The lwa are also identified with Catholic saints. Thus,
Legba is often believed to be the same as Anthony the Her-
Haitian vodou. The African dances that were per-
mit, but some say that he is Saint Peter, the keeper of the
formed in the seventeenth century by slaves in the western
keys. Dambala is identified with Saint Patrick, on whose
part of the island of Hispaniola and the religious beliefs of
image serpents are depicted. Ogou Ferraille is equated with
the Fon, Siniga, Lemba, Yoruba, and other African peoples
Saint James; while Ogou Balanjo, the healer, is associated
who had been brought to Hispaniola were combined with
with Saint Joseph, who is pictured holding a child whom he
certain beliefs of European folk origin about Roman Catho-
blesses with an upraised hand. Obatala becomes Saint Anne;
lic saints, and, as a result, the neo-African religion of vodou
and Ezili, who is believed to be the richest of all the spirits,
developed. As James G. Leyburn (1966) has noted, the peri-
is identified with Mater Dolorosa and is represented as richly
od from 1780 to 1790, when the importation of slaves to
clothed and bejeweled. The marassa, spirits of dead twins, are
Hispaniola was increasing, saw the emergence of vodou, with
believed to be the twin saints Cosmas and Damian (Price-
a gradual ascendancy of Fon ideas. Finding the rites useful
Mars, 1928; Herskovits, 1937a).
for their cause, revolutionary leaders in the last decades of
the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth
The relationship between vodou adherents and the lwa
century brought about further syntheses.
is thought to be a contractual one; if one is punctilious about
offerings and ceremonies, the lwa will be generous with their
The supernatural phenomena of greatest importance in
aid. The lwa must be paid once or twice a year with an im-
vodou are the lwa, also known as zanj, mistè, and other
pressive ceremony, and small gifts must be presented fre-
names. Many of these have names derived from old African
quently. It is thought that the lwa like blood and that animal
gods, but other deities have names derived from African trib-
sacrifices are the means by which favors may be obtained. It
al or place names, names of Haitian origin, or names of
is believed also that neglect of one’s lwa will result in sick-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ness, the death of relatives, crop failure, and other misfor-
O:batala) is Our Lady of Mercy, and Yemaja (Yor., Yemo:ja)
tunes (Simpson, 1980).
is identified with the Virgin of Regla (a suburb of Havana).
Osun (Yor., O:s:un) is associated with the Virgin of Cobre (a
In West Africa, concepts of the “soul” are highly elabo-
town in eastern Cuba), and Osanyin (Yor., O:sanyin) known
rated. In traditional Fon belief, all persons have at least three
for his skill in healing, is identified with Saint Raphael. Ifa,
souls, and adult males have four (Herskovits, 1938). In Hai-
or Orunmila (Yor., O:runmila), the god of divination, is
tian vodou, every man has two souls: the gro bonanj, which
linked with Saint Francis of Assisi. The Ibeji (Yor., “twins”),
animates the body and is similar to the soul in the Christian
who behave like young children, are the counterparts of the
sense, and the ti bonanj, which protects a person against dan-
twin saints Cosmas and Damian. Ogun, the Yoruba god of
gers by day and by night (Métraux, 1946). “Bad” souls are
war and iron, is equated with John the Baptist (Bascom,
said to become “bad” lwa who divide their time between suf-
1951, 1972).
fering in hell and doing evil deeds on earth (Simpson, 1945).
Adherents fear the power of the dead and observe funer-
During a Santería ceremony, the blood of animals sacri-
ary and postfunerary rites meticulously. A wake is held on
ficed to the gods is allowed to flow onto the sacred stones
the night of death; the funeral itself follows and, if possible,
of the santero (Santería priest). Many instances of spirit pos-
is held in accordance with the rites of the Catholic Church.
session during a given cermony indicate that the orishas have
On the ninth night after death is the “last prayer,” and on
been well fed and are satisfied with the ritual offerings. The
the tenth night a ritual is held in which sacrifices are offered
herbs serve to cleanse, refresh, and prepare the devotees and
to all the family dead (Métraux, 1959; Herskovits, 1937b).
ritual objects for contact with the orisha. The blood is the
Also, a family must honor its dead by mentioning their
food of the deities, and the stones are the objects through
names at subsequent ceremonies and, if family finances per-
which they are fed and in which their power resides (Bascom,
mit, by holding memorial services for them annually. In
1950). The lucumis (Afro-Cubans of Yoruba extraction)
vodou belief, the dead rank second only to the lwa, and to
honor each of the gods with choral dances and pantomime
neglect or anger them is to invite disaster. (For accounts of
in accordance with authentic Yoruba tradition (see Ortiz,
vodou cermonies, see Herskovits, 1937b, pp. 155–176;
1951, for a detailed and vivid account of lucumi dances; and
Simpson, 1940; Simpson, 1946; Rigaud, 1946; Métraux,
Simpson, 1978).
1959, pp. 157–212; Courlander, 1960, pp. 41–74.)
The regime of Fidel Castro has not assisted the Afro-
François Duvalier, the dictatorial president of Haiti
Cuban cults and has taken some measures to control their
from 1957 to 1971, successfully exploited vodou for political
expansion (Barrett, 1982). Although in recent years Santería
purposes (Rotberg, 1976). Nevertheless, most observers
has declined in Cuba, the presence of Cuban refugees has
agree that the cult has been weakened in recent years. An im-
stimulated the worship of Shango and the other Yoruba or-
portant factor in its decline has been the decay of the large
isha in the United States. Today many priests and priestesses
extended family in the rural areas. Many of the large cult cen-
officiate in Miami, New York City, Newark, Detroit, Chica-
ters have split up into minor sects under priests whose train-
go, Savannah, Gary, and other cities (Bascom, 1972).
ing has been inadequate. A deepening economic poverty in
The Shango cult in Trinidad. In southwestern Nigeria,
the countryside has brought about the impoverishment of
each Yoruba deity, including S:ango, god of thunder and
ritual there, and with the expansion of urbanization there
lightning, has his or her own priests, followers, and cult cen-
have emerged innovative cult leaders who deal with the prob-
ters. In the Shango cult in Trinidad, Shango is only one of
lems of a heterogeneous clientele rather than with the tradi-
several dozen “powers,” which include twenty or more Yoru-
tional concerns of farming or the demands of ancestral spirits
ba deities (Lewis, 1978). Several non-Yoruba powers—
(Bastide, 1971; Métraux, 1959; Bourguignon, 1980).
especially Gabriel and Mama Latay—are popular in Trini-
Cuban Santería. Most of the non-European elements
dad. Ancient African gods are identified with certain Catho-
in the Afro-Cuban syncretic religion known as Santería are
lic saints, as occurs in Haiti, Grenada, parts of Brazil, Cuba,
derived from Yoruba beliefs and rituals. Animals are sacri-
and other countries in the New World. Among these pair-
ficed to Yoruba deities, Yoruba music is played on African-
ings in Trinidad are Obatala and Saint Benedict; Shango and
type drums, songs with Yoruba words and music are sung,
Saint John; Shakpana and, variously, Moses or Saint Francis
and dancers are possessed by the orisha (Yor., oris:a, “spirit”).
or Saint Jerome; Oshun and Saint Philomena or Saint Anne;
Yoruba foods are cooked for the gods and for devotees, beads
Béji (Ibeji) and Saint Peter; Emanja and Saint Catherine or
of the proper color are worn, and leaves with Yoruba names
Saint Anne; Oya and Saint Philomena or Saint Catherine.
are used in preparing medicines and in washing the stones
Each god has his or her favorite colors, foods, and drinks;
of the ori-sha and the heads of cult members. In Santería,
each is thought to have certain physical traits and to possess
Elegba (Yor., Es:u or E:le:gba) is identified with Saint Peter,
certain powers. In Shango, as in vodou and Santería, partici-
and Shango (Yor., S:ango), god of thunder, is identified with
pants can recognize the major spirits who are well known
Saint Barbara. Shakpana (also Babaluaiye; Yor., S:o:-po:na) is
throughout the country, or the principal spirits known in a
equated with Saint Lazarus. Oya (Yor., O:ya), one of Shan-
given locality, by the stylized behavior of devotees possessed
go’s wives, is the equivalent of Saint Teresita. Obatala (Yor.,
by them (Bourguignon, 1980). For example, Ogun, the god
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

of iron and war, is believed to prefer the colors red and white
but some Kumina gods appear to serve tribes or “nations”
(also the favorite colors of Shango), and rams and roosters
that are African. Of the sixty-two earthbound gods given by
are his preferred offerings. When possessed by Ogun, a Shan-
Moore, at least seven have biblical names (e.g., Moses, Eze-
goist brandishes a sword and behaves in a violent way (Simp-
kiel). The twenty-one ancestral zombies are the spirits of
son, 1978).
men and women who, in their lifetimes, were dancing zom-
bies (persons who experienced possession by a god and who
Each Shango cult center holds an annual ceremony in
danced while possessed), obeah men (sorcerers), and drum-
honor of the orisha known to its worshipers. The four-day
mers (Moore and Simpson, 1957). Most Kumina dances are
ritual begins with the recitation of original prayers, followed
memorial services held to pay respects to the dead ancestors
by several repetitions of the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and
of the participants, but ceremonies are performed on other
the Apostle’s Creed. The leader then recites in succession
occasions, such as betrothal, marriage, burial, the naming of
prayers such as Saint Francis’s prayer, Saint George’s prayer,
a baby, the anniversary of emancipation, and Independence
and Blessed Martin’s prayer; he recites each prayer line-by-
Day (Moore, 1953; Schuler, 1980).
line, and the worshipers repeat each line after him. Next, in
an act of dismissal, food for the deity Eshu is placed outside
All zombies are invoked through drumming and sing-
the ceremonial area. (The Yoruba deity Es:u is thought both
ing. Songs are of two types: bilah songs, which are sung in
to serve as a messenger among the gods and to be a trickster.)
a dialect of English; and country songs, which are sung in
After Eshu’s ejection, the worshipers invite other powers to
a language referred to as African (accent on the last syllable).
the ceremony by drumming the powers’ favorite rhythms.
Kumina ritual ends with the sacrifice of a goat and the dance
Ogun’s rhythm is the first to be played. Drumming, dancing,
of the Queen of the Kumina and her attendants. In perform-
singing, and spirit possession continue through the night; the
ing ritual, the living members of a family convey their wishes
climax comes at dawn with the sacrificing of pigeons, doves,
to the ancestors (Moore and Simpson, 1957, 1958).
chickens, agoutis, land turtles, goats, and sheep. Similar rites
Convince. The Convince ritual practiced in the Jamai-
are performed on the following three nights, and often a bull
can parishes of Saint Thomas and Portland has a number of
is sacrificed. Aspects of Trinidadian cult life that are closely
Christian elements, but its principal powers are the spirits of
related to African religious behavior include divination, con-
persons who belonged to the cult during their lifetime. The
juring, and folk medicine, which are often strikingly similar
most powerful bongo ghosts come from Africa, but the spirits
to West African procedures (Simpson, 1978).
of ancient Jamaican slaves and the Maroons (descendants of
In recent decades, traditional religious, magical, and
runaway slaves), who perpetuated the cult until recent times,
medical beliefs have been undermined to some extent by the
are also of importance. The spirits of Jamaicans more recent-
expansion of education, the growth of medical and social ser-
ly departed are less powerful than the other ghosts, but those
vices, and the influence of mass communication. Trinidadi-
who practiced obeah (“conjuration”) in their lifetime are used
an Shango has also been modified by the intermixture of
by bongo men (i.e., Convince devotees) as partners in divina-
some of its aspects with the Spiritual Baptist (Shouters) com-
tion and conjuring. Each bongo man operates independently,
plex (Simpson, 1978). There are many similarities between
and each has one or more assistants called apprentices or
the Shango cult of Trinidad and that of Grenada (Pollak-
grooms. In addition, a number of lesser followers are at-
Eltz, 1968; Simpson, 1978).
tached to each cult group, including some persons who are
devout Christians (Hogg, 1960).
NCESTRAL CULTS. The second type of hybrid religious cult
in the Caribbean, called the ancestral cult, has fewer African
Each bongo man holds a sacrificial ceremony annually
and more European components than does the neo-African-
and conducts Convince rites as the need for them arises.
type religion. The Kumina and Convince cults and the Kro-
Christian prayers, the reading of Bible passages, and hymn
manti Dance in Jamaica, the Big Drum Dance of Grenada
singing precede the main ceremony. Special bongo songs,
and Carriacou, Kele in Saint Lucia, and the religion of the
hand clapping, and dances performed by bongo men call the
Black Carib of Belize exemplify this kind of syncretic
spirits to the ceremony. Later, the spirits of the ancestors
(that is, devotees possessed by the ghosts) dance.
Kumina. According to Monica Schuler (1980),
According to Donald Hogg (1960), such traits as blood
Kumina did not originate among plantation slaves of the
sacrifice, vigorous possession-trance behavior, the materialis-
eighteenth century but was brought to Jamaica by post-
tic purposes of ceremonies, the involvement with divination
emancipation immigrants from central Africa who chiefly
and conjuring, religious dancing, the worship of ancestral
settled in the eastern parish of Saint Thomas. Kumina is pri-
spirits, and the propitiation of potentially malevolent beings
marily a family religion, and each group honors a number
almost certainly have African antecedents. In these respects
of family spirits in addition to other divinities. The three
Convince, like Kumina, shows greater African influence than
ranks of Kumina spirits (known as zombies) are the sky gods,
do the Revival Zion, Pocomania, and Rastafarian cults in Ja-
the earthbound gods, and ancestral zombies. Among the
maica. Once a nativistic movement, Convince has so de-
thirty-nine sky gods listed by Joseph G. Moore (1953), only
clined since the 1950s that it now provides mainly jollifica-
one (Shango) clearly has the name of a West African deity,
tion and catharsis.
E N C Y C L O P E D I 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 Kromanti Dance. The traditional religion of the
ed by immigrants from the Caribbean. Present-day devotees
descendants of “Maroons,” escaped slaves of the seventeenth
in Saint Lucia seem to be unaware that Shango (S:ango) is
and eighteenth centuries in Jamaica, is known as the Kro-
the deity of thunder and lightning in traditional West Afri-
manti Dance. One supreme deity, Yankipong, is believed to
can belief. To these believers, Shango is simply the name of
be remote from human affairs. The spirits of the dead, called
the thunderstones that enable the living to get in touch with
duppies, jumbies, or bigi-man, have the power to work good
their African ancestors.
or evil in the daily lives of their descendants, and this power
Following some preliminary drumming, singing, and
is referred to by the term obeah or by the more modern term
dancing, the leader of a Kele ceremony asks the ancestors to
science. No Kromanti Dance can be successful without one
intercede with God on behalf of the sponsor of the occasion.
or more of the participants becoming possessed by the spirit
A ram is then sacrificed to the ancestors. Communication
of an ancestor. Most Kromanti Dance ceremonies require the
with God is achieved through possession; the ancestors enter
sacrifice of an animal to the pakit (ancestral spirit) of the fete-
the bodies of some of the men participating in the ceremony.
man (ritual specialist). Although the Kromanti Dance is a
After the ram has been cooked, morsels of the meat, as well
separate tradition, it bears some similarity to both Kumina
as portions of yams, rice, and other foods, are thrown on the
and Convince (Bilby, 1981, pp. 52–101).
ground as offerings to Shango—that is, to the African ances-
The Big Drum Dance in Grenada and Carriacou. For
tors. Saint Lucia is a predominantly Catholic country, and
numerous residents of Grenada and Carriacou, performing
some devotees of the cult are active Catholics.
the Big Drum Dance (also known as the Nation Dance, or
Ancestral cult of the Black Carib of Belize. The Black
Saraca—“sacrifice”) is a show of respect to their ancestors.
Carib of Belize are descendants of African slaves who escaped
In Carriacou, many persons can still recount the African “na-
from other parts of the West Indies and settled first among
tions,” traced patrilineally, to which they belong. Usually
the Island Carib in Saint Vincent. At the end of the eigh-
this ceremony is a family occasion, but it may be put on by
teenth century, they were deported by the English to Roatan,
members of an occupational group—for example, fishermen.
an island in the Gulf of Honduras, and later they spread out
Various reasons are given for organizing a festival: to counter
along the coast of the mainland. The Black Carib of Belize
the ill health or misfortune of a friend or relative, to dedicate
speak a South American Indian language, and, as Douglas
a tombstone for a deceased family member, to start a critical-
MacRae Taylor has noted, their “outward cultural manifesta-
ly important undertaking, or to launch the marriage prepara-
tions differ but little, in the main, from their neighbors”
tions of a son or daughter. Offerings of food are prepared for
(Taylor, 1951, p. 37; Stone, 1953, pp. 1–3).
the ancestors and the guests, a space is provided where the
spirits of the ancestors can dance, the ancestors are sum-
The supernatural beliefs, rites, and practices of the Black
moned, and the “beg pardon” dance is performed, during
Carib are a mixture of African and non-African elements.
which family members kneel and sing, asking the ancestors
Singing, drumming, and dancing are intended to placate the
to pardon them for any wrongdoing (Pearse, 1956). In Car-
ancestors of the family giving the ceremony, and some partic-
riacou, as M. G. Smith (1971) has noted, Christianity and
ipants become possessed by the spirits of their deceased an-
the ancestral cult are complementary, each supplying what
cestors, as occurs in Kumina and Convince in Jamaica, the
the other lacks.
Big Drum in Grenada and Carriacou, and Kele in Saint
Lucia. Sacrifices of food and drink are offered periodically
The Kele cult in Saint Lucia. The Kele ceremony in
to the spirits of the ancestors; some offerings are taken out
Saint Lucia resembles, in attenuated form, the Shango ritual
to sea and thrown into the water.
in Trinidad. The ritual is performed to ask the ancestors of
devotees for health, protection against misfortune in agricul-
Most of the Black Carib are professed Christians and,
ture, and success in important undertakings, as well as to
in the main, Catholics. They see no inconsistency between
thank the forebears for past favors. The paraphernalia essen-
their Christian faith and non-Christian beliefs. The ancestral
tial for the Kele rite consists mainly of Amerindian polished
spirits are regarded as subordinate to the Christian God, and
stone axes (which are called pièrres tonnerres, “thunder-
the evil forces of the universe are manifestations of Satan
stones,” by devotees, who believe them to have fallen from
(Taylor, 1951).
the sky), drums, and agricultural implements such as ma-
REVIVALIST CULTS. The third type of Afro-Caribbean reli-
chetes, axes, hoes, and forks. Several of the stone axes are
gious syncretism, the revivalist cult, descends from the Afro-
placed on the ground to form a cross, with additional axes
Protestant cults of the late eighteenth century and, in the case
arranged around the central grouping (Simpson, 1973; Sim-
of Jamaica, from the Great Revival of 1861–1862. Revival
mons, 1963).
Zion in Jamaica, the Spiritual Baptists (Shouters) of Trini-
dad, and the Shakers of Saint Vincent typify this kind of cult.
The stone axes, addressed as “Shango,” symbolize the
African ancestors of the Saint Lucians who participate in
Revival Zion. For nearly a hundred years after England
Kele. Thunderstones constitute one of the principal symbols
acquired Jamaica in 1655, no missionary work was carried
of Shango in West Africa, Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad, Grenada,
on on the island. The official missionary movement did not
and urban areas of the United States that are heavily populat-
begin until the 1820s. A religious movement known as
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Myalism emerged in the 1760s to protect slaves against Eu-
make ritual offerings to the spirits “of the sea, the land, and
ropean sorcery. This “native” Baptist movement was without
the river,” and occasionally a Shango “power” may enter a
serious competition during the forty-year period (1780–
person who is taking part in a ritual. In Trinidad, important
1820) when a reinterpretation of Christianity spread across
relationships exist between Spiritual Baptists and Shango
Jamaica. Rent and wage disputes between planters and work-
groups. (The Shango cult is not found in Jamaica). Shango-
ers were common after the abolition of apprenticeship in
ists as well as Shouters need to be baptized, and only a Shout-
1838. In 1841–1842, Myalists preached the millenarian
ers pastor of some standing can perform this service. In addi-
message that they were God’s angels, appointed to do the
tion, “mourning” and “building”—optional rites taken by
work of the Lord, and their wrath was directed against both
some members of both cults—are conducted by Spiritual
planters and missionaries. The authorities took severe mea-
Baptist leaders. Many Shouters attend the annual ceremonies
sures against the movement. Popular interest in separatist
staged by different Shango cult groups, and like their coun-
churches, as well as in regular missions, was stimulated by
terparts in syncretic cults elsewhere in the Caribbean, some
the Great Revival which swept over the island in 1861–1862,
adherents participate at times in the services of more ortho-
but the enthusiasm dwindled within a short time. The hy-
dox religions (Simpson, 1978; Glazier, 1983).
brid religion of the Myalists, or Black Baptists, which includ-
Spiritual Baptists are often men and women of the lower
ed dancing, drumming, and spirit possession, resurfaced in
classes. Most are of African descent, but a few East Indians
1866. Subsequently, the vitality of this movement was seen
do participate in the cult. Throughout the Caribbean in re-
in the multiplication and flourishing of black revivalist cults
cent decades, most of the neo-African cults, the ancestral
(Curtin, 1955; Schuler, 1979).
cults, and the revivalist cults, as well as many of the historical
Adherents of Revival Zion and the related sects of Re-
churches, have lost membership, while the Pentecostal, Holi-
vival and Pocomania do not identify old African gods with
ness, and Adventist sects and the Rastafarian movement have
Christian saints as do participants in vodou (Haiti), Santería
made impressive gains (Simpson, 1978).
(Cuba), and Shango (Brazil, Trinidad, Grenada). The Holy
The Shakers of Saint Vincent. English rule of the is-
Spirit possesses followers during revivalist ceremonies, as do
land of Saint Vincent began in 1783, and the first direct reli-
the spirits of Old Testament figures such as Jeremiah, Isaiah,
gious influence intended for the slave population was
Joshua, Moses, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; New
brought to the island by a Methodist missionary in 1787.
Testament apostles and evangelists such as Matthew, Mark,
The Shaker cult, which goes back to at least the early part
Luke, John, Peter, and James; the archangels Michael, Gabri-
of the twentieth century, has a Methodist base, with an ad-
el and Raphael; Satan and his chief assistant, Rutibel; beings
mixture of elements of other Christian denominational tradi-
from Hebrew magical tradition, such as Uriel, Ariel, Seraph,
tions (Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, Pentecostalism),
Nathaniel, and Tharsis; Constantine, Melshezdek, and the
modified African religious traits, and elements developed lo-
Royal Angel; and the dead, especially prominent revivalist
cally. An important feature of this religion is the mild state
leaders of the past (Moore and Simpson, 1957; Simpson,
of dissociation, attributed to possession by the Holy Ghost,
that some of its adherents experience. The range of Shaker
Drumming, hymn singing, hand clapping, praying,
services and the rituals themselves are similar to those of the
Bible reading, spirit possession, and intermittent commen-
Spiritual Baptists of Trinidad (Henney, 1974).
tary by the leader are main features of the weekly services,
RELIGIO-POLITICAL CULTS. The fourth cult type appears
as is “spiritual” dancing, in which leading participants circle
when a society is undergoing severe reorganization, as was
the altar counterclockwise, stamping first with their right feet
the case in Jamaica with the unrest that accompanied the
and then with their left, bending their bodies forward and
Great Depression of the 1930s. The Rastafarian movement,
then straightening up, hyperventilating, and groaning rhyth-
which appeared in the island during this period, is a mixture
mically. Special revivalist rituals include baptismal ceremo-
of social protest and religious doctrine and so may be called
nies, death rites (wake, funeral, “ninth night,” “forty days,”
a religio-political cult.
and memorial services held after one or more years have
passed since the death), and the dedication of a meeting
Rastafarianism. An important factor underlying the
place. “Tables” (feasts) are given to thank the spirits for assis-
rise of Rastafarianism is that, since at least the beginning of
tance or to seek deliverance from trouble (Simpson, 1956).
the twentieth century, Jamaican blacks have identified with
Ethiopia on account of its biblical symbolism. The verse
Spiritual Baptists (Shouters) of Trinidad. In many
most often cited is Psalms 68:31: “Princes come out of Egypt;
ways, the Spiritual Baptist cult (Shouters) in Trinidad is sim-
Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” Be-
ilar to Revival Zion in Jamaica, but there are several notewor-
tween 1904 and 1927, Ethiopianism came to the attention
thy differences. Among the Shouters, no drums or rattles ac-
of Jamaicans through several essays, articles, and books pub-
company hymn singing. Spiritual Baptists do not become
lished in Jamaica and in the United States. The early 1930s
possessed by the wide variety of spirits that possess Revivalists
saw the founding of a number of associations for black peo-
in Jamaica; as a rule, devotees are possessed only by the Holy
ple and the emegence of the Rastafarian movement, named
Spirit. Certain groups among the Shouters do, however,
after Ras (“prince”) Tafari, who was crowned emperor Haile
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Selassie of Ethiopia (Abyssinia) in November 1930. Marcus
plex doctrinally. This growth continued through the 1970s
Garvey had formed the Universal Negro Improvement Asso-
and the early 1980s. Membership—both the fully commit-
ciation in Jamaica in 1914, and his doctrine of racial redemp-
ted and partially committed—came to be drawn from all le-
tion, together with the coronation of Haile Selassie, fur-
vels of the society. The more militant Rastafarians insisted
thered interest in the Ethiopian tradition (Hill, 1980).
that deliverance from poverty, unemployment, and humilia-
tion must come from forces within Jamaica and not from
Since emancipation, persons on the lower rungs of Ja-
Haile Selassie or Haile Selassie’s spirit. Repatriation to Africa
maican society have struggled continuously against exploita-
received less emphasis as some bands began to stress black
tion. Higher wages, the granting of civil and political rights,
power and “the africanization of Jamaica” (employment, ed-
and other gains have come slowly, and often against bitter
ucation, and use of the country’s resources are to benefit per-
opposition. In the early 1930s, the basic issues for rural Ja-
sons of African descent; see Nettleford, 1970; Barrett, 1974;
maicans were land, rent, and taxation, and their struggles
Simpson, 1978).
over these questions gave rise to the millenarian visions of
the Rastafarian movement. In that period, Rastafarians were
The militancy of present-day Rastafarianism is seen
subjected to intense police pressure in Saint Thomas and
clearly in its concept of a modern Babylon that includes Brit-
neighboring parishes. It is likely that the Rastafarian mille-
ain, the former colonial power; the United States, the present
narianism, with its vision of black domination, served as a
major industrial power; the bourgeois state of Jamaica; and
catalyst in bringing about the labor uprisings of 1938 (Hill,
the church. Babylon is said to be the source of Jamaica’s mis-
fortunes (Chevannes, 1977). A recent theme of the move-
ment has to do with its concept of nature. In Rastafarian
In 1953, Rastafarianism bore strong resemblance to re-
thought nature is nonindustrial society; and this underlies
vivalism in organizational and ritual patterns. The small, in-
certain aspects of Rastafarian lifestyle—for example, dietary
dependent groups of both movements had similar sets of of-
rules, uncombed locks and beards, and the importance of
ficers, festivals, and ritual procedures, including the reading
ganja (Chevannes, 1977).
of passages from the Bible and the singing of hymns (modi-
fied in the case of the Rastafarians to fit the doctrines of the
Since the early 1960s, Rastafarianism has played an im-
cult), but important differences existed. Drumming, danc-
portant role in the evolution of Jamaican popular music. The
ing, and spirit possession were prominent features of revival-
rhythm of the Rastafarians’ akete drums influenced the devel-
ism, but they never occurred in a Rastafarian gathering
opment of the fast rhythm called ska, and the ska form has
(Simpson, 1955). Beards and dreadlocks were present among
developed into reggae. Most reggae songs contain caustic so-
Rastafarians but were not important aspects of the move-
cial comments, but they also praise Ras Tafari, Jamaican he-
ment in the early fifties, nor was the place given to ganja
roes, freedom, and ganja (Barrett, 1977; Chevannes, 1977).
(marijuana). Rastafarianism was, however, antiestablishment
In the poetry and prose written by contemporary Rastafari-
and bitter on the racial question (Chevannes, 1977). Revival-
ans awareness of an African identity and of Africa itself is a
ism had no political significance in 1953; its adherents were
main theme (Johnson, 1980).
mainly concerned about personal salvation (Simpson, 1956).
Rastafarianism is not a unified movement (Campbell,
1980). Many of the brethren gather in small, informal bodies
According to Rastafarian doctrines in 1953, (1) black
and are not affiliated with organized groups. Many Rastafari-
people were exiled to the West Indies because of their trans-
ans refuse to take part in elections on the grounds that nei-
gressions; (2) the white man is inferior to the black man; (3)
ther of Jamaica’s two political parties represents them. In re-
the Jamaican situation is hopeless; (4) Ethiopia is heaven; (5)
cent times, however, some Rastafarians have played an
Haile Selassie is the living God; (6) the emperor of Abyssinia
increasingly active role in politics (Smith, Augier, and Net-
will arrange for expatriated persons of African descent to re-
tleford, 1960; Chevannes, 1977).
turn to the homeland; and (7) black men will soon get their
revenge by compelling white men to serve them (Simpson,
Rastafarian culture has spread to other parts of the Ca-
1955). These remain the basic beliefs of the movement, but
ribbean, and Rastafarian art, poetry, music, and philosophy
not all adherents subscribe to all of them, nor do they give
are well known in London, Paris, and other cities in Western
them equal emphasis. Rastafarians reinterpret the Old Testa-
Europe and the United States. Rastafarian music has been
ment in claiming that they are true present-day prophets, the
diffused to a number of African countries (Campbell, 1980).
“reincarnated Moseses, Joshuas, Isaiahs, and Jeremiahs.”
The dethronement of Haile Selassie in 1974 and his
They also believe that they are “destined to free the scattered
death the following year have not resulted in a decline of the
Ethiopians who are black men” (Nettleford, 1970,
movement. Rastafarianism arose out of certain conditions in
pp. 108–109).
Jamaica and in other countries of the Caribbean and has con-
tinued because those conditions, as well as the international
As revivalism began to decline in the mid-1950s, many
situation, have not changed appreciably (Barrett, 1977).
of its followers were attracted to Rastafarianism and became
active participants in the movement, or sympathizers (Smith,
SEE ALSO Christianity, article on Christianity in the Carib-
Augier, and Nettleford, 1960). Between 1953 and 1960, the
bean Region; Fon and Ewe Religion; Santería; Vodou; West
Rastafarian movement grew rapidly and became more com-
African Religions; Yoruba 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

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Simpson, George E. “Ideas about Ultimate Reality and Meaning
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3 (1980): 187–199.
of libidinous excesses and in the inordinate consumption of
Smith, M. G. “A Note on Truth, Fact, and Tradition in Carria-
food and drink, have also become prominent characteristics
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of Carnival. This unruliness that temporarily suspends the
recognized world order has the corollary of introducing a
Smith, M. G., Roy Augier, and Rex M. Nettleford. The Ras Tafari
contrast to the parameters of daily life. In other words, these
Movement in Kingston, Jamaica. Mona, Jamaica, 1960.
cyclical rituals of disorder and rebellion show themselves in-
Stone, Doris. The Black Caribs of Honduras. Ethnic Folkways Li-
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Taylor, Douglas MacRae. The Black Carib of British Honduras.
they thus serve as a reminder of the necessity for order, which
New York, 1951.
is reestablished at their conclusion.
In Rabelais and His World (Cambridge, Mass., 1968)
the Russian essayist Mikhail Bakhtin presents an interesting
interpretation of the meaning of Carnival in the context of
the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. He treats Carnival as
the most evident expression of a joking popular culture with
its roots in the Roman Saturnalias, which reflected the play-
ful, irreverent side of human nature and the indestructible
CARNIVAL. The Christian festival called Carnival takes
festive element in all human civilizations. During the whole
place on Shrove Tuesday, the eve of Ash Wednesday. In its
of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, this culture of
widest sense, however, the Carnival period is of much longer
laughter resisted the official, serious culture. In opposition
duration, beginning right after Christmas, the New Year, or
to the mysticism and dogmatism of the ecclesiastical culture
the Feast of Epiphany, depending on the region.
and rigidity of the prevailing political structures, the joking
The etymological roots of the name Carnival may be the
popular culture revealed a world in which a playful mutabili-
Latin caro (“meat”) and levara (“to remove, to take away”),
ty was possible and provided an experience, at once symbolic
which in vulgar Latin became carne levamen, and afterward
and concrete, of the suspension of social barriers. By drama-
carne vale. Some etymologists also link it to carnis levamen,
tizing the comic and relative side of absolute truths and su-
“the pleasure of meat,” the farewell to which is celebrated in
preme authorities, it highlighted the ambivalence of reality,
the festivities that come immediately before the prohibitions
coming to represent the power of both absolute liberty and
of Lent. Another hypothesis links it etymologically to the
carrus navalis, the horse-drawn, boat-shaped carriage that
was paraded in Roman festivals in honor of Saturn, carrying
Using these distinctions, Bakhtin contrasts the official
men and women who, in fancy dress and wearing masks,
and ecclesiastical ceremonies of ordered society with the fes-
sang obscene songs.
tivities of carnivalesque culture. He characterizes the former
as rituals of inequality because they reinforce the dominant
If it is problematic to identify the etymological roots of
order and seek justification of the present in the past. The
Carnival, it becomes even more difficult to determine the
historical origins of the celebration itself. However, the
latter he regards as rituals of equality because they parody the
Roman feasts of Saturn, the Saturnalias, are generally recog-
stratification of power and the cult of religion, as well as pro-
nized as the ancient forerunner of Carnival festivities. They
vide a symbolic suspension of norms and privileges, harbor-
embodied the essential carnival spirit, strongly characterized
ing a seed of social reaction in satire.
by the transgression of daily conventions and excesses of be-
Thus, inversion is universally at the root of Carnival
havior. In these feasts, which took place in the midst of great
symbolism, and explains the presence of such customs as
licentiousness, slaves banqueted together with their masters,
transvestite costume, or clothes worn inside out, the poor
whom they insulted and admonished. From among them
playing the role of the rich, and the weak that of the power-
was elected a King of Chaos who, for the period of Saturnalia
ful. This interpretive perspective also makes sense of the sym-
only, enjoyed full rights to his master’s concubines, and gave
bolism of death, common in Carnival celebrations; here it
ridiculous orders that had to be obeyed by everyone. At the
implies revitalization. Similarly, the dethroning and burning
end of the festivities, however, he was unthroned and, in the
in effigy of the Jester King marks the end of a cycle and sug-
earliest form of the rite, sacrificed to signal a return to order.
gests the commencement of another, and the scatological ag-
Although far in meaning from the Christian Carnival,
gressions with bodily materials like urine are a symbolic com-
these Roman rituals contained some elements that would
ponent implying fertilization. From this point of view, one
come to define the later and more universal concept of the
can also amplify the concept of “carnivalization” to include
feast. The inversion of prevailing norms—as when servants
all the symbolic processes that bring about transformations
rule masters—is of particular importance; the burlesque par-
in the representation of social reality.
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The most notable carnivalization of late medieval Euro-
Paris in 1444. This circular maintained that just as ferment-
pean society was to be found in the Feast of Fools, also called
ing barrels of wine sometimes need ventilation to prevent
the Feast of Innocents. Although it took place in churches
them from exploding, the wine of human madness must have
between Christmas and Epiphany, this festival was both an
an outlet at least once a year in order to transform itself into
extreme satire of the mannerisms and mores of the court and
the good wine of pious devotion.
the high church and a radical mockery of ecclesiastical struc-
The Feast of Fools continued for a long time in France.
ture and religious doctrine. The low church and the lower
It was still a solidly institutionalized event in Nice in the sev-
orders played an important part in it, while the high church
enteenth century, when various secular laws were passed to
and the nobility were its principal targets.
regulate the structuring of the profane “Abbeys of the Fools”
For the festival, a King of the Fools or a Boy Bishop,
and to formalize the powers of the “Abbots of the Fools.” At
chosen from among the local choir boys, was elected to act
the same time, ecclesiastical decrees attempted to prevent the
out a parody of episcopal functions, including the distribu-
previously uncontrolled participation of the low church in
tion of blessings to the crowd from a balcony. A comic ver-
the carnivalesque festivities and dances and bind them to
sion of the holy mass was enacted, in which obscene parodies
their liturgical duties on the relevant days.
such as “The Liturgy of the Drunkards,” “The Liturgy of the
Gamblers,” and “The Will of the Ass” were substituted for
As a result of the Nice ordinance in 1539, the carni-
the canticles and prayers. Masked and painted, wearing the
valesque balls were subdivided into four categories, namely,
garb of the high church or dressed up as women, the revelers
those of the nobles, the merchants, the artisans, and the la-
danced freely in the cathedrals and banqueted on the altars.
borers. Each was the responsibility of one Abbot of the Fools,
The burning of old shoes and excrement replaced incense.
aided by a certain number of “monks,” who policed the ball.
Meanwhile, riotous processions of other revelers, wearing
The “abbots” were responsible for maintaining order, for
goat and horse masks, paraded dancing and singing through
making sure that only those suitably dressed, unarmed, and
the streets.
wearing masks, entered, and for preventing members of a dif-
ferent category from attending the wrong ball. The ruling of
Dances in churches are not totally unheard of in the his-
1612 increased the number of Abbeys of the Fools to ten and
tory of Christianity; so-called shrine dances, for example,
gave the Abbots of the Fools the artistic function of directing
were frequent in the first centuries of its development. How-
the musicians as well as the right to dance at the balls.
ever, with the consolidation and institutionalization of the
church, these dances were gradually abolished. In any case,
The Abbots of the Fools also had the right to collect
the Feast of Fools had an entirely different sense. Its most
charavilh, a tax paid by betrothed widows upon remarriage.
striking characteristic was that of grotesque buffoonery, and
Charavilh itself sometimes brought about a sort of carnival,
in it the carnivalesque inversion was carried to its ultimate
whenever the bridegroom was reluctant to pay it. In such an
extreme. Focusing on the ecclesiastical hierarchy and reli-
instance, the “abbot” would barricade the entrance to his
gious ethics, the Feast of Fools pointed out the critical rela-
house and orchestrate a deafening racket with trumpets and
tions of medieval society and demonstrated that such a soci-
various improvised percussion instruments, such as sauce-
ety was capable of self-criticism.
pans and frying pans, until the recalcitrant newlyweds agreed
to pay. Although charavilh was prohibited in Nice in 1721,
The Feast of the Ass, which took place principally in
it was so deeply rooted in the popular customs of the region
France, was a variation within the same category of rituals
that there are records of its occurrence until the end of the
of carnivalesque inversion. Also part of the Christmas cycle,
nineteenth century.
it theoretically commemorated Mary’s flight to Egypt. The
central character was, however, the ass, or rather the Ass
Nevertheless, by the end of the Middle Ages, the trend
Prince, who was richly adorned and brought in procession
everywhere was to discipline Carnival, restricting the ex-
under a luxurious canopy to the church, where a mass was
tremes of its licentiousness and violence, while encouraging
celebrated in its honor, punctuated with braying noises to
its artistic aspects. To control carnivalesque rebelliousness
which the celebrants responded by also braying.
was, however, the work of centuries. The introduction of
masked balls in the sixteenth century in Italy was the first
For almost a millennium, the Roman Catholic church
step on the festival’s path to a predominantly poetic charac-
attempted, with perceptible difficulty, to control or ban the
ter. Parades of floats began to compete for a place in the dis-
Feast of Fools. One of the first recorded proscriptions dates
orderly street processions. From the combination of these
from the seventh century in Toledo, Spain. That this had lit-
two new currents flowered the fusion of carnival with art.
tle success can be measured by the numerous subsequent
proscriptive edicts up to the sixteenth century, like that of
The rise of the Italian commedia dell’arte played an im-
Dijon, France, in 1552. The Feast of Fools died out only
portant role in the consolidation of the use of masks, lending
with the advent of the Reformation and Counter-
them an artistic character and codifying human types. Previ-
Reformation. Until then, just as it had come under severe
ously, a wide variety of masks had already been featured in
attack, it had also produced its enthusiastic apologists, such
Carnival, so that they were easily assimilated into the com-
as those who wrote the circular of the Theology School of
media dell’arte, a theatrical genre with a close popular affinity
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

to the festival, imbued with a similar spirit of social satire.
in the fifteenth century, it was transferred to the Via Latta,
The commedia dell’arte selected several types of masks from
which became the traditional setting for the carnivalesque
the carnivalesque repertory and reduced these to a certain
parades called Corso. The Roman Carnival was essentially
number of character types, translating regional and psycho-
a series of masquerades and horse parades—these abolished
logical characteristics which, as they evolved, became more
only in 1833—culminating on Shrove Tuesday with an im-
abstract and universal. It drew strongly on regional inspira-
pressive candlelight procession, in which the participants,
tion and referred to events in the day-to-day Italian life of
shouting “Death to him who has no candle,” tried in whatev-
the time, as is the nature of improvised theater. From these
er ways they could to put out one another’s candles. In the
traditions emerged its famous characters, who, in a stylized
carnivalesque revelry, the literal meaning of the threat of
form, dominated the three subsequent centuries of the carni-
death was tempered, blending into the essential ambivalence
valesque scenario in Europe. The characters of the commedia
of Carnival imagery. The procession ended with a Pantagru-
dell’arte embodied various satirical social types of the Italy of
elian feast in the early morning of Ash Wednesday, during
that period: Pantaloon, for example, was the rich, greedy,
which immense quantities of meat were consumed in antici-
and libidinous merchant; the Doctor represented the pedan-
pation of the Lenten fast to follow.
tic drunkard and charlatan; and the Captain was boastful and
full of bravado, but a complete coward. Harlequin, Colom-
As a result of the Romantic movement, the following
bine, and Pulcinella are the most famous of these figures.
centuries saw a growing beautification of Carnival. Flowered
With time, all modified their characteristics. Initially, Harle-
carriages, parades, allegorical floats that grew ever more ma-
quin represented the ignorant rustic who thought himself in-
jestic and complex, and fancy-dress balls became permanent
telligent and whose poverty was evident in the patches, later
features of the celebration, wherever it still existed. The ele-
sophisticated into lozenges, on his clothes. Pulcinella be-
ments of violence lessened: fighting, verbal abuse, and the
longed to the same category of clowns and buffoons, though
various forms of mock aggression—water jets, the hurling of
he was also crafty, as did Colombine, who evolved from a
oranges, plaster confetti—gradually gave way to battles of
simple peasant girl to a calculating and extremely cunning
flowers and colored paper confetti that were the new and
maidservant. From the fusion of the commedia dell’arte with
prominent aspect of nineteenth-century street Carnival. In
the masquerades of other cultures came a number of other
this way, the masses of revelers were gradually transformed
characters, such as Pierrot, from France, who became an eter-
from participants to spectators, to the detriment of the heter-
nally present and central character in Carnival.
ogeneous character of the festival, which had been for every-
one and everywhere, unfocused and without privileged ac-
The commedia dell’arte and the Italian Carnival had
tors. In proportion as the crowds grew more controlled, the
much in common, as a result of their shared spirit of buf-
festival became spatially more limited, subordinated to ratio-
foonery and improvisation, each making the other more col-
nal organization, diminishing the spirit of carnivalesque im-
orful and fertile. In Renaissance Florence, Carnival songs
provisation and burlesque satire. In Nice, for example, where
made fun of the private lives of certain social groups, with
Carnival still preserved its rich tradition, a festival committee
themes like “the goldsmith’s song,” “the song of the poor
was set up in 1873. The functions of this committee were
who accept charity,” and “the song of the young wives and
to organize the festivities, parades, and flower battles and to
the old husbands”; by means of their festive ambivalence,
award prizes for the allegorical floats, functions that still exist
they revealed the ridiculous—and usually censored—side of
social conventions. Under the patronage of the Medici fami-
ly, the Florentine Carnival was typified by the singing of
These artistic and commercial innovations passed by the
these songs on flower-covered, ornamented triumphal carts,
Carnival in Portugal. The typical form of Portuguese Carni-
which were the models for the later Carnival floats of the Ba-
val, like that of the whole Iberian Peninsula, was the Entru-
roque and Romantic periods. In Turin, too, there were pa-
do, a rowdy celebration in which flour, eggs, lupines, mud,
rades of flower-covered carts and floats as well as tourna-
oranges, and lemons were thrown on passersby. Dirty water,
ments and cavalcades. In Venice, as throughout the Italian
glue, and various other liquids were also poured onto the
Peninsula, masks were the distinguishing feature of Carnival.
crowd, and gloves heavy with sand were dropped from win-
Celebrated with the great solemnity afforded by the presence
dows. Repeating a common New Year custom, pots and pans
of the doge and Signoria and accompanied by a fireworks
and all sorts of useless kitchen utensils were also thrown out
display, it contrasted with what happened in the streets,
of the windows, perhaps symbolizing the discarding of the
where there were battles between rival groups and a bull was
old, or perhaps heralding the Lenten fast. Fierce battles were
sacrificed. Another element of Venetian Carnival was the
waged with plaster eggs, wax lemons, corncobs, and beans
flight of a man on ropes to the top of the campanile of Saint
blown fiercely through glass or cardboard straws. Blows with
Mark’s, since Carnival was also a time to challenge and exor-
brooms and wooden spoons were dealt out liberally. Apart
cise the forces of nature.
from the violence and filth, the Entrudo was also a Carnival
of gluttony: in the better stocked houses—from whose win-
Carnival in Rome was typified by a complex symbolism
dows cakes and pastries were pitched—guests feasted sump-
of violence, death, and resurrection. In Pope Paul II’s time,
tuously. Even in the convents cakes were widely distributed.
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The apogee of the Portuguese Entrudo was in the eigh-
small projectiles, later substituted by wax lemons. During the
teenth century. This coincided with the period of the greatest
Entrudo, so much water was used in Rio de Janeiro that the
popularity and prestige of masked balls in the European
newspapers invariably warned about risks to the city’s water
courts; in 1715, the Royal Music Academy of Paris trans-
supply. The Entrudo was played even in the imperial palace,
formed its opera hall into a ballroom, in use three times a
and whole families with their slaves dedicated weeks on end
week throughout the year. Masks had been prohibited in
to the fabrication of wax lemons. Daniel Kidder, an Ameri-
Portugal since 1689, exactly when they were at the height
can missionary who visited Brazil in the nineteenth century,
of fashion in the rest of Europe. The first masked ball in Lis-
advised in his Sketches of Residence and Travel in Brazil (Phil-
bon took place only in 1785, offered by the Spanish ambas-
adelphia, 1845) that people leaving their houses on these
sador in commemoration of the marriage of Princess Carlota
days should take their umbrellas with them to protect them-
Joaquiná with Prince Joa˜o, but further masques were prohib-
selves against missiles and water.
ited again immediately afterward. So the Entrudo continued
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Brazilian Carnival
to reign largely without rivals.
showed clear signs of transformation. Masked balls were
In Galicia, Spain, the Carnival of flour, eggs, and water
held, though the use of masks had been prohibited during
was similar. It began with a chariot attack by one neighbor-
the whole of the colonial period, just as in Portugal. Proces-
ing village on another and ended with the burial of Señhor
sions of allegorical carriages made their first appearance in
Antroido, for whom a eulogy was written, satirizing the most
1855, in a pompous parade sponsored by competing groups
notable local people and the most notorious events of the
known collectively as the Great Carnivalesque Societies, and
previous year.
this contrasted so strongly with the disorder of the Entrudo
that from then on the characteristics of the street Carnival
In nineteenth-century Portugal, there were flower bat-
began to change. Originally, among these societies there were
tles in Oporto and Lisbon. Nevertheless, the form of Carni-
a considerable number of intellectuals; one of the relevant
val introduced into the American colonies by Portugal and
features of the parade each year was the presence of a “Float
Spain was, in substance, the Entrudo.
of Criticism,” satirizing some important recent political
In Europe, it was a weakened Carnival that greeted the
event, about which satirical poems were also distributed.
contemporary age. In the scientific dogmatists of the end of
With the abolition of slavery at the end of the nine-
the nineteenth century, Carnival inspired suspicion and con-
teenth century, massive rural contingents migrated to the
tempt and was viewed as an irrational, primitive, and inexpli-
larger urban centers, bringing with them a great variety of
cable rite. Lacking spontaneous popular support in Europe,
regional folkloric contributions. In the first decades of the
Carnival has, with rare exceptions, gradually lost its force in
twentieth century, the activities involved in Carnival expand-
the twentieth century, until it has become a subject of inter-
ed, and a multiplicity of organizations, structured to a greater
est chiefly for academics and those who have a strong affec-
or lesser extent, began to make their presence felt in the street
tion for the past.
In Brazil, meanwhile, Carnival assumed the proportions
The Congo, a popular festivity with African roots allud-
of a national festival. Because of Brazil’s multiethnic popula-
ing to the coronation of the “Congolese kings,” began to
tion and nearly continental proportions, its Carnival drew
make its contribution at this time. It was made up of several
on many different cultural and folkloric sources, becoming
elements, among which were processions and warlike dances.
the melting pot of indigenous, African, and European influ-
From these came the majestic Maracatus, making their ap-
ences. Instead of surviving merely as a curious anachronism,
pearance in the Carnival of northeastern Brazil; these are
it is today a living, dynamic phenomenon, modifying itself
choreographed processions derived from the Congo, with
even in conjunction with the modern resources of mass com-
king, queen, and a court of princes, ladies, ambassadors, and
munications. The Brazilian Carnival, like those of all His-
standard- and sunshade-bearers, along with a percussion sec-
panic America, stems from the Iberian Entrudo. Begun with
tion of rhythmic drums and triangles. There was also an in-
the Portuguese colonization in the sixteenth century, the En-
crease in the number of cordo˜es—loose groupings of people
trudo lasted more than three centuries before collapsing in
with masks depicting old people, the Devil, kings, queens,
the first years of the Brazilian republic. Prohibitions against
clowns, Bahian women, Indians, bats, Death, and so forth,
it, however, date from its very introduction. The first re-
who sang and danced frenetically to the accompaniment of
corded one is a decree of 1604, the first of many that pro-
percussion instruments.
duced no result, despite the stipulated punishments. A decree
An innovation in the Carnival of the south of Brazil
of 1853 imposed fines and detention for free men and caning
were the ranchos de reis, which were taken from devotional
and prison sentences for slaves participating in the Entrudo;
Christmas dramatizations performed in procession, repro-
nevertheless, another with identical content had to be issued
ducing the journey of the Three Kings to Bethlehem to visit
in 1857.
the infant Jesus. They were, however, stripped of their reli-
The Brazilian Entrudo was very close to its Portuguese
gious allusions, carnivalized, and took the form of rancho car-
source: it involved the throwing of a lot of water and various
navalesco—a slow-march procession accompanied by brass
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and string instruments, during which costumed male and fe-
ry to enact national and historic themes. In the 1960s, the
male choruses, carrying small allegorical images, narrate lyri-
intellectuals and the urban middle class became involved in
cal stories while singing and dancing.
the samba schools, recognizing them as a genuine focus of
popular national character. Their complete acceptance by the
The most complete expression of the contemporary Bra-
higher social classes coincided with the aspiration of the
zilian Carnival is the samba school. These schools, which are
poorer element to be accepted and, as a result, the samba
actually associations, present a kind of mobile popular opera,
schools received a fresh and definitive impulse on the road
each year worked around a different theme. This theme is
of growth and social valuation.
narrated through the music and words of the Carnival samba
song (samba-enredo), and the characters are represented col-
The samba schools have now developed into extraordi-
lectively by groups of dancers and singers in costume, with
narily complex institutions, in both their actual parades and
the scenery mounted on allegorical floats. A samba school is
their daily organization. They continue to function through-
divided into three basic sections: first comes the drum sec-
out the year as modest community clubs, always, however,
tion (bateria), which has between two hundred and four
with an eye to raising money for their Carnival expenses. As
hundred instrumentalists, who play big bass drums (surdos),
Carnival draws closer, they open up to allow the participa-
side drums, tambourines, triangles, cuícas, and bells, among
tion of the upper classes, until the parade at the climax festi-
other percussive instruments; second is the group (ala) of
val, which is itself a rite of total social integration. Afterward,
composers; and last is the main body of dancer-singers and
they retract again to their more modest dimensions. The
other performers of the school. Schools compete with one
themes of the parade refer to folkloric tales and events from
another during the festival. The increasing complexity of the
Brazil’s history, which, in the language of Carnival, are trans-
parade, and its internal regulation, have brought about the
lated into an idealized vision of Brazil, depicted as a rich and
creation of a great number of both financial-administrative
generous mother country in which the contributions of the
and technical-artistic posts, organzing the samba schools to
three races—white, black, and indigenous—join them in
meet certain commercial norms. There are more than a hun-
harmony, and where there is always room for hope and opti-
dred samba schools, concentrated principally in Rio de Janei-
mism. In reality, Brazil is a country marked by deep inequali-
ro, where they originated, each one with between two thou-
ties, still struggling in its uphill battle for development.
sand and four thousand members.
In its historical and contemporary manifestations, the
The rapid rise of the samba schools is an interesting so-
common denominator of Carnival is still the process of the
ciological phenomenon. They sprang up in Rio de Janeiro
inversion of reality. This inversion is of a symbolic and tem-
in the 1930s, from the lowest social strata. At that time, the
porary nature, which classifies as a process of ritual transfor-
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro was visibly stratified: the upper
mation. As a ritual, Carnival allows a glimpse of the axiomat-
classes amused themselves with costumed saloon-car proces-
ic values of a given culture, as well as its underlying
sions, tossing confetti and paper ribbons; working-class dis-
contradictions. The language that relates these contradic-
tricts celebrated with ranchos; while the samba schools, which
tions to one another is principally that of satire. But the car-
were still embryonic associations, attracted the remaining pe-
nivalesque inversion can equally be expressed through vio-
ripheral elements.
lence and exaggeration. In the Carnival context, violence
symbolizes an attack on order, classifying the festival, in this
At first these associations suffered great persecution.
case, as a ritual of rebellion, of which the Entrudo is the clear-
Their participants, the sambistas, sometimes had to hide
est example. Carnival retains a close correlation with daily
themselves in the centers of Afro-Brazilian cults recognized
life, though during its celebration the normal and quotidian
by the police, where they held clandestine samba parties.
are inverted and lived as a festival. In this way, carnivalesque
There was still a lot of violence and disorder in the Brazilian
rebellion and provocation become a parody of true rebellion
Carnival; on the one hand, fights and shoot-outs and, on the
and provocation. In any case, ambivalence is inherent in Car-
other, strong police repression, particularly against the lowest
nival symbolism, since Carnival itself is on the threshold be-
social elements.
tween order and disorder, hierarchy and equality, real and
The samba schools came from the carnival blocks (blocos
ideal, sacred and profane. Essentially, Carnival represents
carnavalescos), which were conglomerations of barely orga-
confrontation of the antistructure with the structure of soci-
nized masked dancers, modelled on the ranchos but with
ety, constituting a channel through which utopian ideals of
rather more limited financial resources. From the ranchos
social organization find expression and suppressed forms of
they adopted the processional form, the thematic structure,
human behavior are released from the restrictions of daily
the master of ceremonies and flag-bearer, and the allegories,
but the brass instruments were eliminated and the rhythm
The inversion of the social order inherent in Carnival,
section increased to correspond to the beat of the samba.
when amplified to a larger scale, represents the inverted, pro-
The samba schools soon caught the attention of the gov-
fane extreme of the sacred religious festival that Carnival im-
erning authorities because of their populist potential, and
mediately precedes. The two are inextricably interwoven and
when Carnival was made official in 1935, it became obligato-
find their opposites in each other.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

CARROLL, JOHN (1735–1815), first Roman Catho-
lic bishop of the United States (1789). Carroll attended Saint
Omer College in French Flanders in 1748 and a few years
One of the most complete interpretations of the meaning of con-
later joined the Jesuits. By 1771 he had been ordained a
temporary Carnival in Brazil is Roberto DaMatta’s Car-
priest and made his final vows in the order. When Pope
navais, malandros e heróis (Rio de Janeiro, 1979). The same
Clement XIV suppressed the Jesuits in 1773, Carroll was
author analyzes the costumes and gestures of Brazilian Carni-
briefly under arrest. The next year he returned to his family
val in Universo do Carnaval (Rio de Janeiro, 1981). For a
estate in Maryland, ministering as best he could under the
knowledge of samba schools, their internal organization and
uncertain jurisdiction ex-Jesuits then faced. He joined his
ideology, see my O palácio do samba (Rio de Janeiro, 1975)
cousin, Charles Carroll, and Benjamin Franklin in an at-
and José Sávio Leopoldi’s Escola de samba, ritual e sociedade
(Petrópolis, 1978). For the carnivalization of a sacred rite,
tempt at winning Canadian support for political indepen-
refer to Isidoro Maria da Silva Alves’s O Carnaval devoto (Pe-
dence, which would open the way for an American Catholic
trópolis, 1980), which deals with the profane aspects of a re-
ligious procession.
Carroll’s church leadership emerged in 1782–1783, in-
For a view of contemporary Carnival in Europe, see Annie Sidro’s
spired by concepts of church-state separation drawn from the
Le Carnaval de Nice et ses fous (Nice, 1979). The catalog ed-
writings of Roberto Bellarmino, Francisco Suárez, and En-
ited by Samuël Glotz, Le masque dans la tradition européenne
glish Catholic commentators on the subject. Carroll viewed
(Mons, Belgium, 1975), provides important information
the relationship between the pope and Roman Catholic con-
about the use of masks at Carnival.
gregations as principally spiritual rather than administrative;
A broad definition that allows a vision of Carnival as a ritual phe-
thus his plan for the American Catholic church placed
nomenon can be found in the article by Edmund R. Leach,
church property in the United States in its own corporations,
“Ritualization in Man in Relation to Conceptual and Social
both clerical and lay, in this way guarding against foreign in-
Development,” in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Soci-
trusion. Carroll also emphasized the spiritual nature of the
ety of London 251 (December 1966): 403–408. For notions
office of bishop, a view he would explain in a disciplinary de-
of structure and antistructure and for a discussion of the sym-
cree published in 1797.
bolic properties and transformation processes of ritual phe-
nomena, essential reading is Victor Turner’s The Ritual Pro-
In order to ensure against a nonresident appointee by
cess (Chicago, 1969).
Rome, Carroll advocated electing the first American bishop
New Sources
by vote of the clergy. Thereafter, he expected, the American
Béhague, Gerard. “Popular Music.” In Handbook of Latin Ameri-
hierarchy could follow more common ecclesial practices.
can Popular Culture, edited by Harold E. Hinds Jr. and
However, the first American see, Baltimore, remained under
Charles Tatum, pp. 3–38. Westport, Conn., 1985.
the administrative control of the Congregation of the Propa-
Cunha, Maria Clementina Pereira. Ecos da folia: uma história social
gation of the Faith, a body administered by Rome, thus
do carnaval carioca entre 1880–1920 (Echos of folly: a social
weakening American control over episcopal appointees.
history of carnival between 1880 and 1920). Sa˜o Paulo,
Later, as first archbishop of Baltimore (1808–1815), Carroll
was to acknowledge the lack of suitable American candidates
Dudley, Shannon. Carnival Music in Trinidad: Experiencing
to fill offices created by four new dioceses.
Music, Expressing Culture. Oxford, 2003.
Consistent with Maryland Catholic tradition, Carroll
Eisenbichler, Konrad, and Wim Hüsken, editors. Carnival and the
held that no one should be molested in the free exercise of
Carnivalesque: The Fool, The Reformer, The Wildman, and
his religion. He believed that the Maryland constitution
Others in Early Modern Theatre. Amsterdam and Atlanta,
honored this principle. He wrote against states with laws that
favored Protestantism (1789), arguing that such laws went
Eneida, Haroldo Costa. História do Carnaval Carioca (History of
beyond what was just in interpreting the role of religion in
Carnival). Rio de Janeiro, 1987.
the state’s promotion of public morality. In An Address to the
Harris, Max. Carnival and Other Christian Festivals: Folk Theology
Roman Catholics (1784), Carroll responded to what he con-
and Folk Performance. Austin, 2003.
sidered distortions of Catholic teachings in these and other
areas. His arguments were effective in the era before the rise
Orloff, Alexander. Carnival: Myth and Cult. Wörgl, Austria,
of Nativism—a movement characterized by hostility toward
immigrants, particularly Irish Catholics.
Scher, Philip W. Carnival and the Formation of a Caribbean Trans-
nation. Gainesville, Fla., 2003.
John Carroll was also eminent as a builder of the church
in visible form. Emerging into the world of public worship
after 1776, the Catholic community under his leadership de-
Revised Bibliography
terminedly built parishes and institutions. Among the lasting
legacies of his episcopacy were the establishment of Saint
Mary’s Seminary, the recruitment of priests from Europe,
and the founding of Georgetown College for the laity of 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

faiths. He placed high value on the ministry and education
eth century, a number of Loka¯yata Ba¯rhaspatya su¯tras were
of women, as seen in his sponsorship of Elizabeth Ann
collated from various sources, but their authenticity is open
Seton’s founding of the Daughters of Charity and of paro-
to question.
chial schools. He also sponsored establishments of the Car-
According to the available sources, the Ca¯rva¯ka taught
melite and Visitation orders. Carroll also contributed his ser-
that the world is as we see it, that is, as perceived by our sen-
vices to Saint John’s and Washington colleges and to what
sory organs, and is devoid of all but a purely mechanical
became the University of Maryland.
order or principle that can be confirmed by recourse to sense
evidence alone. A moral or ethical order, admitted in one
form or another by all other Indian schools (as in, for in-
The primary source for Carroll’s writings is The John Carroll Pa-
stance, their use of the paired terms dharma and adharma),
pers, 3 vols., edited by Thomas O’Brien Hanley (Notre
is thus denied as incompatible with empirical evidence. So
Dame, Ind., 1976). Arranged in chronological order, it has
too, an omniscient being, God, life after death, and ultimate
title and date listings for each volume, useful for the refer-
ences made above. Annabelle M. Melville’s John Carroll of
reward or punishment for one’s actions are all denied. It is
Baltimore (New York, 1955) to some extent abridges Peter
for this reason, and for the fact that it denies the authority
K. Guilday’s biography, The Life and Times of John Carroll,
of the Vedas, that the school is termed na¯stika, or negativist.
2 vols. (1922; reprint, Westminster, Md., 1954). Joseph
Ca¯rva¯ka ethics, as might be expected, do recognize the
Agonito has made the most extensive use to date of the Car-
claims of superior force and authority. Obedience to the king
roll papers in “Ecumenical Stirrings: Catholic-Protestant Re-
and to the state are recommended as a practical means of self-
lations during the Episcopacy of John Carroll,” Church His-
45 (1976): 358–373.
preservation; otherwise, a life given to the pursuit of pleasure
and wealth is considered the ideal. Political power was
deemed by the materialists to derive from the approval of the
governed (lokasiddha bhavet ra¯ja¯); as a consequence, the
ruler’s mandate to govern was regarded as without divine or
transcendental sanction. Ca¯rva¯ka cosmology recognized four
A school of “materialists” thought to have
elements—earth, water, fire, and air—as fundamental con-
been contemporary with early Buddhism, the Ca¯rva¯ka
stituents of all things; when called on to explain the appear-
school, or Ca¯rva¯kas, has only scant evidence to attest to its
ance of life or consciousness in material things when the ele-
existence. Writing in Hastings’s Encyclopaedia of Religion and
ments themselves are devoid of any such powers or
Ethics, Louis de La Vallée Poussin noted that “a materialistic
properties, the Ca¯rva¯ka had recourse to a theory whereby the
school, a system in the exact sense of the term” did not exist
conjunction of certain elements is accidentally invested with
in India. Such an opinion was based not upon the failure of
properties missing in the original constituents. As evidence
scholars to recognize such terms as loka¯yata (“world-
of this, they pointed to the power in the fermented drink to
extended”?) or ca¯rva¯ka, or the schools known by these
intoxicate, which is missing in the unfermented constituents.
names, but upon the ambiguity and obscurity that certainly
This empirical methodology might have been the precursor
surround their origin and exact connotation. In earlier litera-
of scientific thought in India.
ture the term loka¯yata did not stand for a doctrine that is nec-
essarily materialistic. In the Buddhist collection Sam:yutta
Ca¯rva¯ka epistemology regards perception as the only
Nika¯ya, two brahmans are described as followers of the
valid source of knowledge and explicitly rejects inference.
Loka¯yata view, proponents of which are credited with hold-
Eventually, the school produced a very sophisticated philo-
ing one or more of the following four propositions: every-
sophical critique of the inductive premise in each act of infer-
thing exists; nothing exists; everything is a unity; and every-
ence. Sometimes the Ca¯rva¯ka view is represented as a skepti-
thing is a plurality. Buddhaghosa’s commentary identifies
cal critique of knowledge, for, according to Jayara¯´si,
the first and third propositions as “eternalist views” (sassata-
probably a proponent of Ca¯rva¯ka doctrines, even sense evi-
ditthiyo) and the second and fourth as “annihilationist views”
dence can mislead.
(uccheda-ditthiyo). Later, the Annihilationist views were re-
It is doubtful whether there was ever a well-entrenched
garded as consonant with materialism.
traditional “school” called Ca¯rva¯ka or Loka¯yata, for we do
The use of the word ca¯rva¯ka was also initially obscure.
not have available to us any independent texts of the classical
Some say that ca¯rva¯ka was a name. Others propose a fanciful
period that are expressly affiliated with this school. The
etymology, joining caru (“beautiful”) with va¯k (“speech”) to
notable exception is the text of Jayara¯´si called
render a compound connoting “attractive discourse”; thus
Tattvopaplavasim:ha, discovered and edited in 1940. In it, the
understood, the doctrines of this school, which denounce re-
author is revealed as a gifted dialectician. The work itself is
ligion and religiously founded morality as useless, would
a highly sophisticated critique of all the prama¯n:as, or valid
have been found attractive by the common man, himself a
sources of knowledge, criticizing both Vedic and non-Vedic
materialist at heart. In later writings, the name Loka¯yata
schools. Theories of perception and inference of the Nya¯ya¯,
came to refer to the Ca¯rva¯ka school, which was traced to a
Buddhist, Sa¯m:khya, M¯ıma¯m:sa¯, and Jain traditions are all
mythical founder Br:haspati. In the latter part of the twenti-
faulted. If this text belongs to the Ca¯rva¯ka-Loka¯yata school,
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

then we have to admit that this tradition consists not only
After 415 Cassian, now a priest, moved to Marseilles,
of materialism, but combines elements of skepticism and ag-
where he established two monasteries, one for men and one
nosticism as well. In this light, it would be incorrect to credit
for women. The last record of him is Prosper of Acquitaine’s
the Ca¯rva¯kas with advocacy of pure license and hedonism,
theological attack on him, in about 433. A short time after
charges that, after all, are found only in the writings of their
the attack Cassian died; his last words, reported in Sayings
opponents (as, for instance, Haribhadra and Ma¯dhava). All
of the Fathers, were “I have never done my own will, nor
told, the Ca¯rva¯kas probably represent an anti-religious tradi-
taught anyone something which I had not previously carried
tion that rejected religious and spiritual pursuits and sought
the basis of moral and social order in human rationality.
Cassian came very late to writing, and he wrote only
SEE ALSO Materialism.
when requested to do so by important persons. Generally he
used the same material as did Evagrios, but he gave it his own
personal imprint. More synthetical than Evagrios, he ar-
Summary accounts of this school can be found in such compendia
ranged his sources in extensive collections. He was a brilliant
of Indian philosophy as Haribhadra’s S:ad:dar´sanasamuccaya
Latin stylist, distinguished for his clarity and elegance. Three
(seventh century) and Madhava’s Sarvadar´sanasam:-graha
of his works are still read today with great interest.
(fourteenth century). Haribhadra was a Jain and hence be-
longed to a non-Vedic school; Ma¯dhava was a Vaidika, prob-
1. Institutes of the Cenoby and the Remedies for the Eight
ably a Veda¯ntin.
Principal Vices, written around 420 at the request of
Modern studies include Hara Prasad Shastri’s Lokayata (Oxford,
Castor, bishop of Apt in Provence, consists of two dis-
1925), a pioneering work that is both suggestive and illumi-
tinct sections. Books 1–4 discuss clothing, prayer,
nating; Dakshinaranjan Shastri’s A Short History of Indian
psalmody, and rules of monastic life; books 5–12 are a
Materialism, Sensationalism and Hedonism, 2d ed. (Calcutta,
moral exposition of the eight evil thoughts, or vices—
1957), a tenuous historical reconstruction of the school; and
gluttony, luxury, avarice, wrath, sloth, acedia (negli-
Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya’s Loka¯yata: A Study in Ancient
gence), vainglory, and pride—and their remedies.
Indian Materialism (New Delhi, 1959), a Marxist analysis of
the history of Indian materialism, including useful materials
2. Conferences of the Fathers has three sections. Conferences
from nonphilosophical literature.
1–10, written around 422 and dedicated to Leo, bishop
of Fréjus, and the monk Helladius, recount Cassian’s
conversations with famous elders from Scetis on the
fundamental principles of the ascetic and spiritual life.
CASSIAN, JOHN (c. 365–c. 435), monastic leader,
Conferences 11–17, written around 424 at the request
founder of ascetic theology in the Latin church. According
of Honoratus, founder of Lérins monastery, and the
to Gennadius of Marseilles, John Cassian came from Scythia
monk Eucherius, recount Cassian’s conversations with
Minor (modern-day Dobruja), a province of the early Byzan-
elders of the Nile delta on problems of spiritual theolo-
tine empire. Born of a rich Scythian family, Cassian received
gy. Conferences 18–24, written around 426 and dedi-
a good education. After he moved to Palestine, he entered
cated to a group of Gallican monks, present conversa-
a monastery in Bethlehem, together with his friend Ger-
tions with elders of the Nile delta and Scetis on
manos. Receiving permission for a temporary absence, the
particular problems of the ascetic life.
two men left the monastery for a short visit to the monastic
3. On the Incarnation against Nestorius, written in 430 at
colonies of Egypt. After they met the first prominent elders
the request of the future pope Leo, constitutes the single
there, they were so fascinated that they forgot their promise
Western refutation of Nestorian teachings, which Cas-
to return to their monastery in Bethlehem. They continued
sian considered a result of Pelagian influence.
on their travels as far as the region of Scetis, where they set-
tled. From time to time they made visits to other monastic
Cassian is the first monastic leader in the West to have set
areas, but they do not seem to have realized their original in-
forth the theological principles of monastic life. Although his
tention of visiting the Pachomian monasteries at Thebais.
works encompass not only the anchoritic but also the ceno-
Cassian and Germanos stayed in Egypt for over thirteen
bitic form of monasticism, his real interest lay in anchori-
years, with only a short break to settle the matter of their per-
tism. On questions of monastic organization, his sources are
mission to leave Bethlehem.
the institutions of the monastic centers in the East, chiefly
Egypt and Palestine. In the theoretical area, he has as his
During the anti-Origenist persecution of 399 the two
guide the great teacher of ascetical theology, Evagrios, al-
men were forced to abandon Egypt because of their associa-
though, because Evagrios had been condemned as a heretic,
tion with Origenist monks, whose theological exponent was
Cassian avoided citing his name.
Evagrios of Pontus. They fled to Constantinople, where they
were well received by the archbishop John Chrysostom.
Cassian’s thought revolves around the spiritual perfec-
There Germanos was ordained a priest and Cassian a deacon.
tion of ascetics, following the classical twofold distinction of
At the beginning of 405, they went to Rome on behalf of
the stages of the spiritual life, the active and the contempla-
Chrysostom to deliver a letter to Pope Innocent I.
tive way, for which he used the Greek terms praktik¯e 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

theoretik¯e. Complete renunciation leads to the active way:
der Hoch’s Lehre des Johannes Cassianus von Natur und
“We have two fathers, one to abandon, the other to follow”
Gnade: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Gnadenstreites im fünf-
(Conf. 3.6). In the preliminary stage a fierce struggle develops
ten Jahrhundert (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1895), and Joseph
against the passions caused in us by demons and evil
Laugier’s S. Jean Cassien et sa doctrine sur la grâce (Lyons,
thoughts. Praktik¯e becomes the way through which the
1908). A general picture of the personality and the work of
cleansing of the passions and the establishment of the virtues
Cassian is given under “Cassien” in Dictionnaire de spiritua-
(Paris, 1937). Owen Chadwick’s John Cassian: A Study
are effected. Theoretik¯e is the higher stage, in which the con-
in Primitive Monasticism (1950; 2d ed., London, 1968) is
templation of the divine realities and the acknowledgment
very important. A number of other studies on special aspects
of the most secret signs are acquired (Conf. 14.1).
of his monastic activities may be mentioned, such as Hans
Like all ascetic writers, Cassian demands from Chris-
Oskar Weber’s Die Stellung des Johannes Cassianus zur ausser-
tians a hard struggle for the attainment of perfection. This
pachomianischen Mönchstradition (Munich, 1961), Salvatore
Pricoco’s L’isola dei santi: Il cenobio di Lerino e il origini del
struggle, in turn, requires a strong and free will. Cassian re-
monachesimo gallico (Rome, 1978), and Philip Rousseau’s As-
jected two important theories of his day. He regarded the
cetics, Authority and the Church in the Age of Jerome and Cas-
volitionism of Pelagius as heretical, and the absolute predes-
sian (Oxford, 1978). Some new studies on the theological
tination of Augustine of Hippo as sacrilegious. According to
teachings are Victor Codina’s El aspecto cristológico en la es-
Cassian, humankind preserved even after the Fall the ability
piritualidad de Juan Casiano, “Orientalia Christiana Analec-
to turn toward the good and to accept or reject the salvation
ta,” vol. 175 (Rome, 1966), and Paul Christophe’s Cassien
offered by God.
et Césaire: Prédicateurs de la morale monastique (Gembloux,
In the West, Cassian’s teaching was criticized by Prosper
of Aquitaine, a disciple of Augustine, and later it was con-
demned by the Council of Orange (529). It is still regarded
Translated from Greek by Philip M. McGhee
today as semi-Pelagian. Cassian, however, was an Eastern
theologian in the Latin West, and his teaching must be
judged by Greek theological criteria. From this point of view,
CASSIRER, ERNST (1874–1945), German philoso-
he was in agreement with the entire Eastern tradition and es-
pher of culture. Cassirer was born in Breslau, Silesia. He
pecially with the views of John Chrysostom.
studied at the universities of Berlin, Leipzig, Heidelberg, and
In his last years, Cassian was regarded as one of the lead-
Marburg and completed his inaugural dissertation under the
ing theologians of the West. Even though his opposition to
direction of the Neo-Kantian Hermann Cohen at Marburg
Augustine kept him out of the mainstream of the Western
in 1899. Between 1903 and 1919 Cassirer taught as privat-
church, his authority was unofficially accepted. Abridged re-
docent at the University of Berlin, and in 1919 he assumed
dactions of his writings were made in both Latin and Greek,
the chair of philosophy at the newly founded University of
while eight of his sayings were preserved in Sayings of the Fa-
Hamburg. Cassirer left Germany in 1933 with the rise of
thers. Through Benedict of Nursia his influence was spread
Nazism; he taught for two years at Oxford before accepting
throughout the West.
a professorship at the University of Göteborg in Sweden in
1935. Cassirer left Sweden for the United States in the sum-
Gennadius of Marseilles calls Cassian a saint, but in the
mer of 1941, teaching first at Yale and then at Columbia.
West he is not venerated, except in Marseilles, where his feast
Cassirer’s published writings comprise nearly 125 items,
is celebrated on July 23. In the East the feast is generally cele-
ranging from short articles to books of eight hundred pages.
brated on February 29.
They treat a wide range of subjects in history, linguistics, my-
thology, aesthetics, literary studies, and science. Because he
wrote continuously on so many subjects it is difficult to form
Works by Cassian
a sense of Cassirer’s thought as a whole. The largest division
Guy, Jean-Claude, ed. and trans. De institutis / Institutions ce-
within his writings is between his works on the history of
nobitiques. Vol. 109 of Sources chrétiennes. Paris, 1965.
philosophy and those that state his own philosophical posi-
Migne, J.-P., ed. Opera omnia. Vols. 49 and 50 of Patrologia La-
tion. In addition to these are subcategories of works on liter-
tina. Paris, 1874 and 1863.
ary figures, especially Goethe, and on the philosophy of
Petschenig, Michael, ed. Opera omnia. Vols. 13 and 17 of Corpus
Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum. Vienna, 1886 and
The center of Cassirer’s work in the history of philoso-
phy is his four-volume study Das Erkenntnisproblem in der
Pichery, Eugène, ed. and trans. Conlationes Patrum (Conférences).
Philosophie und Wissenschaft der neuern Zeit (The Problem
Vols. 42, 54, and 64 of Sources chrétiennes. Paris, 1955–
of Knowledge in Philosophy and Science in the Modern
Age). The first two volumes (1906–1907) trace the problem
Works about Cassian
of knowledge from Nicholas of Cusa to Kant. The third
Cassian’s doctrines on nature and grace in opposition to Augus-
(1920) and fourth (first published in English translation in
tine’s view of predestination is the central concern of Alexan-
1950) continue the theme through Hegel and into the first
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

decades of the twentieth century. In addition to this large
unity. In his phenomenology of the third volume of Philoso-
study, Cassirer’s works on the Enlightenment, the Renais-
phie der symbolischen Formen, Cassirer connects myth with
sance, Descartes, and Leibniz have become classics in their
the Ausdrucksfunktion of consciousness, with the primordial
areas. The central work of Cassirer’s original philosophy is
phenomenon of “expression.” Religion never loses its roots
his three-volume Philosophie der symbolischen Formen (The
as an expression of the unity of life and the fear of death.
Philosophy of Symbolic Forms; 1923–1929), the ground-
Religion also has roots in the “sympathy of the Whole”
work of which was laid in his theory of scientific concept for-
that underlies magical practices in primitive societies. But re-
mation in Substanzbegriff und Funktionsbegriff (Substance
ligion arises, Cassirer says in An Essay on Man, when the
and Function) in 1910. He extended his theory of concept
totem and taboo system of society based on magical practices
formation to humanistic thought in Zur Logik der Kultur-
begins to break down. In the taboo system the individual has
wissenschaften (The Logic of the Humanities; 1942). Cassirer
no responsibility for his own actions. Religion gives scope to
recast his conception of symbolic forms in An Essay on Man
a new feeling, that of individuality. Cassirer regards the pro-
(1944). This was followed by The Myth of the State (1946);
phetic books of the Old Testament as an example of the rise
both works were written in English.
of the new ideal of individual moral responsibility that marks
Cassirer regards religion as part of the symbolic form of
the appearance of religious consciousness out of the taboo
myth. In An Essay on Man he labels this as the symbolic form
system. In religion there develops this first sense of the moral
of “myth and religion” within a series of symbolic forms that
includes also language, art, history, and science. Each of these
areas of human culture represents a way in which people
form their experience through symbols. Cassirer defines the
Works by Cassirer
human as an “animal symbolicum.” Consciousness forms its
There are two comprehensive bibliographies of Cassirer’s writings:
object in many different ways. No one mode of formation
a topical arrangement can be found in Philosophy and History:
offers a “literal” presentation of the real; all human activities
Essays Presented to Ernst Cassirer, edited by Raymond Kliban-
are equally “symbolic.” The symbol is the medium of all peo-
sky and H. J. Paton (Oxford, 1936), pp. 338–353, and a
ple’s cultural activity, whether mythic-religious, linguistic,
chronological listing appears in The Philosophy of Ernst Cas-
artistic, historical, or scientific. The interrelationships of all
sirer, edited by Paul A. Schilpp (Evanston, Ill., 1949),
pp. 881–910. Of particular interest to the study of Cassirer’s
these manners of symbolizing form the system of human
conception of myth and religion are the following: Philoso-
phie der symbolischen Formen, 3 vols. (Berlin, 1923–1929),
Religion arises as a stage within the mythical mode of
translated by Ralph Manheim as The Philosophy of Symbolic
symbolizing. In the second volume of Philosophie der sym-
Forms, 3 vols. (New Haven, 1953–1957), especially volume
2, Mythical Thought; Sprache und Mythos (Leipzig, 1925),
bolischen Formen (see part 4) Cassirer says that the break be-
translated by Suzanne K. Langer as Language and Myth (New
tween religious consciousness and the mythical symbol oc-
York, 1946); Zur Logik der Kulturwissenschaften: Fünf Stu-
curs when consciousness begins to regard the images and
dien (Göteborg, 1942), translated by C. S. Howe as The
signs of myth as pointing to meanings beyond immediate ex-
Logic of the Humanities (New Haven, 1961); An Essay on
istence. Like true linguistic signs, Cassirer says, religious
Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture (New
signs are understood as referring to an order of reality beyond
Haven, 1944); and The Myth of the State (New Haven,
the plane of immediate sensuous existence. In mythical con-
1946). Symbol, Myth, and Culture: Essays and Lectures of Ernst
sciousness the dancer who wears the mask of the god is the
Cassirer 1935–45 (New Haven, 1949), edited by Donald
god; he does not signify the god who exists in another realm
Phillip Verene, is a volume of Cassirer’s previously unpub-
of being. Religion introduces a distinction between a finite
lished papers. It includes a description of the corpus of Cas-
sirer’s manuscripts housed at Yale University.
and an infinite realm, a distinction that is beyond the power
of the mythic symbol. For mythical consciousness, symbol
Works about Cassirer
and symbolized occupy a single plane of reality. In religious
For bibliographies of critical work on Cassirer, see “Ernst Cassirer:
consciousness the sensuous and the spiritual divide, but they
A Bibliography,” Bulletin of Bibliography 24 (1964): 103–
remain in this division as continuously pointing to each
106, and “Ernst Cassirer: Critical Work 1964–1970,” Bulle-
tin of Bibliography
29 (1972): 21–22, 24, both compiled by
other in a relationship of analogy.
Donald Phillip Verene, and “Bibliographie des textes sur
In An Essay on Man Cassirer approaches the relationship
Ernst Cassirer,” Revue internationale de philosophie 28
between myth and religion less in terms of the epistemology
(1974): 492–510, compiled by Robert Nadeau. These bibli-
of the symbol and more in sociocultural and moral terms:
ographies list critical works on Cassirer in all languages. The
main source for critical views on Cassirer’s thought remains
“In the development of human culture we cannot fix a point
The Philosophy of Ernst Cassirer, edited by Paul A. Schilpp
where myth ends or religion begins. In the whole course of
(Evanston, Ill., 1949). The essays in this volume cover all as-
its history religion remains indissolubly connected and pene-
pects of Cassirer’s thought, but most are expository. Other
trated with mythical elements” (p. 87). Cassirer says that
book-length works are Carl H. Hamburg’s Symbol and Reali-
myth and religion originate in the “feeling of the indestructi-
ty: Studies in the Philosophy of Ernst Cassirer (The Hague,
ble unity of life” and in the fear of death as a break in this
1956); Seymour W. Itzkoff’s Ernst Cassirer: Scientific Knowl-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

edge and the Concept of Man (Notre Dame, Ind., 1971) and
offspring decide to separate their parents, cutting the father’s
Ernst Cassirer: Philosopher of Culture (Boston, 1977); and
“tendons” (probably a euphemism) and pushing him up to
David R. Lipton’s Ernst Cassirer: The Dilemma of a Liberal
achieve the present separation of sky and earth. The cosmo-
Intellectual in Germany, 1914–1933 (Toronto, 1978). There
gonic motif of the primordial couple is found in almost all
are two biographies of Cassirer in essay form, one by Dimitry
Oceanic civilizations and widely in Africa and the Americas.
Gawronsky in The Philosophy of Ernst Cassirer, the other by
Cassirer’s wife, Toni Cassirer, Mein Leben mit Ernst Cassirer
But the act of violent separation of the two cosmic entities
(1950; reprint, Hildesheim, 1981).
is seldom clearly described as a real act of castration, even if
its symbolic verisimilitude leads one to think of it in this way.
New Sources
An example of castration presented in a straightforward man-
Bayer, Thora Ilin. Cassirer’s Metaphysics of Symbolic Forms: A
Philosophical Commentary. New Haven, Conn., 2001.
ner is in the Greek cosmogonic myth, Hesiod’s Theogony.
The god Ouranos (“sky”) and the goddess Gaia (“earth”)
Friedman, Michael. A Parting of the Ways: Carnap, Cassirer, and
conceive a breed of divine beings, but the god exhausts his
Heidegger. Chicago, 2000.
paternal role in procreation and keeps his children from any
Graeser, Andreas. Ernst Cassirer. Munich, 1994.
kind of activity, thrusting them again into their mother’s
Itzkoff, Seymour W. Ernst Cassirer: Scientific Knowledge and the
womb. At last one of them, Kronos, makes an ambush and
Concept of Man. 2nd ed. Notre Dame, Ind., 1997.
cuts off his father’s sexual organ, throwing it behind his own
Krois, John Michael. Cassirer, Symbolic Forms and History. New
back. The goddess Gaia is fertilized by the blood of Ouranos,
Haven, Conn., 1987.
while from his sexual organ, which falls into the sea, is born
Lofts, Steve G. Ernst Cassirer: A “Repetition” of Modernity. Albany,
the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Thus the only way to elimi-
N.Y., 2000.
nate Ouranos, whose existence consisted of mere sexual and
Strenski, Ivan. Four Theories of Myth in 20th Century History: Cas-
procreative activity, was to castrate him: this is the only op-
sirer, Eliade, Lévi-Strauss and Malinowski. Iowa City, Iowa,
portunity to “murder,” in some sense, an immortal god. This
castration is a positive event because it breaks the cycle of
Sundaram, K. Cassirer’s Conception of Causality. New York, 1987.
endless and useless reproduction and gives Ouranos’s off-
Wisner, David A. “Ernst Cassirer, Historian of the Will.” Journal
spring a living space between sky and earth. It represents
of the History of Ideas 58 (1997): 145–161.
moreover a fundamental moment in the establishment of the
real and ordered world. From the morphological point of
Revised Bibliography
view, the myth of Ouranos’s castration is typical of the image
of the heavenly divine being who, after his initial perfor-
mance, leaves the stage, becoming a deus otiosus.
Comparative analysis has pointed out important resem-
blances to the myth of the impotence of Varun:a, an Indo-
Iranian god, and also to the investiture ritual of the king in
India (Dumézil, 1948). Analogies exist also with the Navajo
CASTRATION. Castration is a custom found both in
creation myth (Dine Bahane), in which the First Woman
mythological tales and in ritual practices of peoples of various
gives birth to twins with her husband. These twins, who are
origins, cultural levels, and geographical locations. Because
nadleeh (intersexed, neither male nor female), ordered the
there is a preponderance of documentation of the custom in
world, slayed the dragons, and invented pottery and all sort
the ancient Near East and Mediterranean cultures, the origin
of tools. Historical analysis, on the other hand, has indicated
and propagating center of this custom has often been as-
some parallel cases in cosmogonic myths of the ancient Near
cribed to ancient Semitic culture. But evidence of castration
East. The Mesopotamian creation epic, Enuma elish, tells of
has also been found in other, different cultures that were
the god Enki, who defeats and annihilates his enemy
never influenced by Semitic culture, which seems to rule out
Mummu, taking off his crown, smashing his head, and final-
a hypothesis of diffusion. Besides, the act of castration, both
ly cutting off his penis. The Hittite myth of Kumarbi con-
mythological and ritual, is naturally connected with other
tains even more similarities to Ouranos’s story. This cosmog-
practices, beliefs, and doctrines that are all related in some
ony, combining one of the earliest Hurrian stories with some
way to sex and sexuality. Their connections (with circumci-
elements of Assyro-Babylonian mythology, deals with a suc-
sion, bisexuality, virginity, and celibacy) constitute a kind of
cession of children’s rebellions against their fathers. In this
compact but multivariegated “symbolic universe.”
myth Kumarbi pursues his father, Anu, who seeks safety by
MYTHS. Many of the cosmogonic myths are based on two
flying toward the sky, but the son grabs his father’s feet, drag-
cosmic entities, Sky and Earth, who are originally united in
ging him to the ground. Then, seized by excitement, Kumar-
a sexual embrace from which violent action alone can sepa-
bi bites his father’s penis, tears it off, and swallows it, laugh-
rate them. A tale of the Maori in New Zealand says that off-
ing and boasting of his bravado. But the swallowed sexual
spring born of the endless mating of Rangi (“sky”) and Papa
organ makes him pregnant with terrifying gods who will
(“earth”) are held in darkness and spacelessness. Finally the
soon defeat him in turn.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Scholars are in agreement that the similarity between
all over Egypt. His wife, the goddess Isis, found the body.
Greek and Hittite myths can be explained as an indication
But Osiris’s penis was thrown into the Nile and eaten by a
of direct historical derivation on the grounds of similar gen-
fish, so Isis is forced to construct with sycamore wood a fac-
eral structure and the common presence of castration. Never-
simile of his phallus. The Phoenician and Cypriot and in any
theless there are significant differences between these myths,
case Semitic Adonis that lives out his short season seducing
and there remains a notable uncertainty about how the motif
and being seduced by Aphrodite, whose vitality is overpow-
spread. A recurrence of Ouranos’s castration can be found
ering, bled to death in a boar hunt. But his castration is only
in the cosmogony of Philo of Byblos, a late Phoenician au-
hypothetical, and above all there is no evidence that his
thor who claims a reference to Sanchuniathon, an ancient
priests practiced ritual castration. Two basic events, emascu-
Phoenician author. Mixing local information with Greek
lation and death, therefore mark the mythical personalities
conceptions in a syncretic and euhemeristic way, Philo as-
of these young gods (but only problematically the concrete
cribes to the god El-Kronos an act of castration against his
ritual castration of their followers) and signify the depoten-
father. The Hellenic pattern is clearly apparent, but archaeo-
tiation of divine life and its inevitable repercussions on the
logical discoveries at Ugarit (Ras Shamra) in Phoenicia, dat-
life of the cosmos, which seems to imitate the vicissitude of
ing from the second millennium BCE, seem to confirm to
the divine body (Casadio, 2003).
some extent the authenticity and antiquity of the myth. In
RITUALS. The documentation related to ritual practices re-
a different case in the Prose Edda, an ancient Germanic cos-
cords, first of all, that the act of castration can sometimes be
mogony, the “father of everything,” a personal entity with
the result of temporary exaltation or religious fanaticism.
creative power, is also called “the castrated” with no further
The religio-historical as well as ethnographic literature cites
explanation. Scholars agree that many features of this divine
some examples, but their rarity and especially their complete
being are not original but derived from Christian influences,
isolation from myths, doctrines, and institutionalized inter-
and they think also that the castration element can be dated
pretations make them subjects for studies in psychology (or
back to the earliest Greek tradition of Ouranos.
psychopathology). The history of religions, on the other
Besides these cosmogonic myths other kinds of myths
hand, is concerned with institutionalized acts of castration,
in which castration constitutes a pattern of ritual action de-
for instance, within the so-called pubertal cults. All these
serve mention. The close connection between myth and rite
practices belong to a broader category of ritual mutilations,
in these cases arouses the rightful suspicion that the myth
like the custom of removal of one testicle, which is practiced
may have been constructed in order to provide a motivation
almost exclusively among Camitic populations in Africa,
for the ritual practice. The most famous myth is the Greco-
where it seems to serve as a substitute for circumcision, a
Roman story of the goddess Cybele and the god Attis. Cybe-
practice completely unknown to them. In the initiation rites
le, venerated in Rome and in the Roman Empire under the
of primitive peoples different practices involving male geni-
name of Great Mother (Magna Mater), was an ancient god-
talia are frequent (circumcision, subincision), as are those in-
volving female genitalia (clitoridectomy, infibulation), and
dess of fertility known in Anatolia since the second millenni-
their origin and significance seem rather difficult to establish.
um BCE under the name of Kubaba. Some iconographic and
According to some scholars, these practices constitute sym-
onomastic evidence suggests an even more remote origin
bolic equivalents of castration.
going back to the Anatolian Neolithic and perhaps Mesopo-
tamian civilization. The young servant-lover Attis, on the
Another category of castration is the custom, wide-
other hand, seems to have been introduced along with his
spread in the ancient Near East and in Semitic cultures, of
mate only after the arrival in Anatolia of the Phrygians
castrated priests. The kurgarru, for instance, is a eunuch
(c. eighth century BCE). There are several mythical versions
priest of Ishtar who officiates at the orgiastical rites in honor
of Attis’s castration (Hepding, 1903/1967). It is easy to fol-
of the god Marduk. Many of the clergy of Hekate in Strato-
low a constant line of development from more ancient
nicea, Caria, and in Laginas and the clergy of Artemis in
tales—much more intricate and grotesque—to the embel-
Ephesus and of Atargatis in Hierapolis, Syria, were castrated.
lished and romantic later versions. The original stories take
Some sporadic cases of analogous priestly castration have
place in an environment of unnatural primitiveness, mon-
been reported in Brahmanic India, particularly in the north-
strous procreations, violent loves, and bloody punishments.
ern mountains, and also in Nepal and Tibet. Usually the cas-
All these versions culminate in the story of Attis, who cas-
trated priests are connected with a powerful and fertile god-
trates himself in a fit of madness or out of a desire for abso-
dess, sometimes with astral characteristics, and at other times
lute chastity. Sometimes Attis’s castration is attributed to a
with the features of a goddess of animals, who is convention-
wild boar or to a jealous entity who wants to punish him for
ally called Mother Goddess.
his amorous exploits.
Finally, there is a series of examples in which the ritual
Similar is the Egyptian myth of the mystical couple Isis
of castration appears entirely institutionalized, justified ac-
and Osiris, but here the mythical castration apparently does
cording to the myths of foundation or in accordance with
not constitute a pattern of ritual action. The god Osiris was
precise beliefs and doctrines. Within the Cybele and Attis
dismembered, and fourteen pieces of his body were strewn
cult, the mythical castration of Attis is the foundation 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

practice of castration of his priests (and perhaps of believers
intertwined with the rise of monasticism, this topic is evinced
too), which is a kind of sacrament of consecration, a sacrifice
in some authors as a preaching of the enkrateia (continence),
recalling the god’s passion, and sometimes a votive offering.
understood as the complete rejection of any kind of sexual
The Galli—as these priests are most commonly called—
intercourse. If within the ecclesiastical and orthodox line vir-
dedicated themselves to the goddess Cybele after willingly
ginity and chastity are recommended solely on the basis of
castrating themselves during ritual performances in which,
motivations, such as the imitation of Christ or in anticipa-
in a frenzy of dances, obsessive beating of drums, and self-
tion of the kingdom of heaven, according to these doctrines
flagellation, they reached paroxysms of exaltation. The Galli
sexual abstinence becomes a necessary condition of salvation
wore female clothing and heavy makeup, their hair was long
and is based on ontological and protological motivations of
and loose, and they lived in a wandering missionary commu-
the dualistic and Platonic mold. According to some writers,
nity, supporting themselves with alms they received for offer-
the Greek father Origen (third century CE) and other ecclesi-
ing predictions and prognostications. At Pessinus in Asia
astic authorities castrated themselves in order to extinguish
Minor they ruled sacerdotal city-states in which temples and
definitively any desire for sexual intercourse. At the same
royal palaces were unified. In Greece they were generally de-
time, in the mysterious sect of the Valesians (from Valesius,
spised and driven away because of their mutilation and their
the founder), castration was a normal practice. Epiphanius,
appearance; they were never fully assimilated into official re-
bishop of Salamis, refuted the sect and accused it of heresy.
ligion. In Rome, where the cult of Cybele was introduced in
It also seems that among the Manichaeans the current obli-
204 BCE, and in the Roman Empire they were at first strictly
gation of chastity was transformed in some cases into the
regulated and controlled by the state; then they acquired, lit-
practice of self-castration. The phenomenon must have been
tle by little, more importance and autonomy. The Roman
rather widespread, because it was addressed by the Council
distaste for eunuchism slowly faded away because of the ap-
of Nicaea (325 CE) and a bull of Pope Leo I (c. 395 CE).
proval of some emperors of the practice and because of a cer-
tain lessening of bloodier and crueler aspects of the cult.
A renewal of the practice of castration for the sake of
proselytism and asceticism (a call to remove the “organs of
Thus the cult of Cybele and Attis had its temples and
sin”) is found among the Skoptsy (the castrated), a Russian
its brotherhood in Rome, and its feasts included in the sacral
sectarian community that developed from the complex
calendar. Little by little, under the influence of a certain spir-
movement of the Raskol schism during the mid-eighteenth
itualism and new symbolic interpretations, the cult assumed
century. The Skoptsy were long persecuted, but they spread
a mystic character and became a kind of mystery cult like
throughout Russia during the next century and survived in
other cults of Oriental origin. The castration of believers was
some Romanian peasant communities until 1950.
easily explained as a sign of the search for perfection, a volun-
tary renunciation of the pleasures of the flesh, and the Attis
ORIGINS. From this brief review of facts relative to castration
figure became more and more spiritualized. During the later
in some myths and ritual practices, it becomes clear that even
Roman Empire the self-castration of believers was probably
if the ancient Semitic (and Mediterranean) world offers the
replaced or integrated into the bloody and spectacular rite
majority of the documentation and shows some cases of de-
called the Taurobolium. A bull was slain and (probably) cas-
pendence and evolution, it cannot be considered the unique
trated, and its blood was shed over the believer as a lavation
source of the diffusion of this practice. In the same way it
of intensified achievement, regenerative and purifying. Im-
is impossible to decide on a univocal interpretation of the
portant mystical interpretations of relevant myths also were
practice of castration that can explain in all cases its causes
given in late antiquity by Naassene Gnostics, for example,
and motivations. Sometimes the connection with themes of
by which “the mutilation of Attis means that he was separat-
fertility and procreation is primary, so that castration of a
ed from the low earthly regions of creation” (Cosi, 1986,
“vegetation spirit” (“Dying and rising god,” in the words of
pp. 111–113). For Julian the Apostate the castration of Attis
James George Frazer [1890, I, pp. 278–279]) constitutes a
means “a pause in the rush towards the infinite” (Cosi, 1986,
dramatic event stopping the flow of life or containing it with-
pp. 111–113).
in more orderly boundaries. “Functional” is otherwise the ex-
planation provided by Walter Burkert (1979): the act of cas-
Castration appears sporadically in practices of groups,
tration, producing neither man nor woman but “nothing,”
sects, and isolated thinkers that link it to doctrines preaching
puts a man outside archaic society and makes apostasy im-
asceticism and sexual abstinence and regard it as an escape
possible. At other times, on the basis of doctrinary principles,
from the temptations of the flesh. Such doctrines—which
castration is instead related to a search for asexuality under-
have remarkable precedents and parallels within the pagan
stood as a privileged condition. In some cases this asexuality
as well as the Judaic world—developed during the first cen-
resolves into a kind of symbolic bisexuality that aims to re-
turies of the Christian era and were inclined to radicalize the
produce in the believer the powerful joint presence of both
pronouncement by Matthew on eunuchs (Mt. 19:12) as well
sexes that is found in certain androgynous primordial figures.
as the orthodox position (of Paul, for instance) on the pres-
Interpretations influenced by psychoanalysis have often been
tige of virginity. Strongly connected with sexual and marital
offered to explain these themes. Finally, in many cases castra-
morality, bound to the theme of ecclesiastical celibacy, and
tion is clearly demanded as an extreme form of mystical prac-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

tice in currents of thought that celebrate abstention as a
ish and other regional languages. He traveled twice
choice in life and as a condition of salvation.
throughout Eurasia, including a journey through Siberia
proposed by his Finnish colleague A. J. Sjögren (1794–
SEE ALSO Androgynes; Clitoridectomy; Cybele; Dying and
1855), an academician in Saint Petersburg. During his visits
Rising Gods; Hierodouleia; Virginity.
among the small populations in the huge, sparsely populated
territory between the Ural Mountains and the southwestern
Chinese border, Castrén recorded local folk songs, proverbs,
For “Dying and rising gods,” see James George Frazer, The Golden
legends, and other traditions. These were published by
Bough, I-II (London, 1890). For a discussion of castration as
Anton Schiefner (1817–1879), another linguist from Saint
a form of substitution sacrifice, see Henri Graillot’s treat-
Petersburg, in the twelve-volume series Nordische Reisen und
ment of the myth and the ritual of Cybele and Attis in his
Forschungen, between 1853 and 1862.
now classic Le culte de Cybèle, mère des dieux, à Rome et dans
l’Empire romain
(Paris, 1912). For a more modern treatment,
Castrén collected folklore mainly among the Samoyed
see Maarten J. Vermaseren’s Cybele and Attis: The Myth and
peoples of Siberia; most of this work was published in 1960
the Cult (London, 1977). Vermaseren compiled archaeologi-
by Toivo Lehtisalo (1887–1962) as Samojedische Sprach-
cal and literary documents concerning the cult in Corpus cul-
materialien: Gesammelt von M. A. Castrén und T. Lehtisalo.
tus Cybelae Attidisque, 7 vols. (Leiden, 1977–1989). See also
Publications on Castrén’s voyages by Aulis J. Joki (1913–
Walter Burkert, Structure and History in Greek Mythology and
1989) show how Castrén carried out his fieldwork, collecting
Ritual (Berkeley, Calif., 1979); Dario M. Cosi, Casta Mater
such linguistic artifacts as Turkish epics among the Tatars
Idaea: Giuliano l’Apostata e l’etica della sessualità (Venice,
of Minusinsk steppe at Akaban (Schiefner, 1853–1862, vol.
1986); Shaun Tougher, ed., Eunuchs in Antiquity and Beyond
2, pp. 305–306).
(London, 2002); and Maria Grazia Lancellotti, Attis: Between
Myth and History; King, Priest, and God
(Leiden, 2002), a
Castrén had a rare ability to learn to communicate in
radically historicizing treatment of myth and ritual. For a dis-
foreign languages in a short time, and he spent three to six
cussion of Ouranos and Kumarbi, see Hans Gustav Güter-
months at each key station. Although he was criticized by
bock, ed., Kumarbi: Mythen vom churritischen Kronos aus den
later philologists for both his Altaic urheimat theory and his
hethitischen Fragmenten zusammengestellt (Zurich, 1946). For
overeagerness to find new languages, both of these can be un-
a reappraisal of the evidence of Dionysos, see Eric Csapo,
derstood in the context of the nationalistic Pan-Finno-Ugric
“Riding the Phallus for Dionysus,” Phoenix 51 (1997): 253–
295. The literary sources for Attis are in Hugo Hepding’s
trend of his time, which sought new relatives on the family
Attis, seine Mythen und sein Kult (Giessen, 1903; reprint,
tree of the recently established Finnish nation.
Giessen and Berlin, 1967). A comparative study of Indian
The study of Finno-Ugric religion, particularly shaman-
and Iranian ritual is Georges Dumézil, Mitra-Varuna, 4th
ism, was central to Castrén’s fieldwork between 1841 and
ed. (Paris, 1948). The theme of sexual abstinence is ad-
1849. He wrote:
dressed in Ugo Bianchi, ed., La tradizione dell’enkrateia: Mo-
tivazioni ontologiche e protologiche
(Rome, 1985). See in gen-
All the religion proper of the Altaic peoples has been
eral Walter Burkert, Creation of the Sacred: Tracks of Biology
called shamanism. Unfortunately this far attention has
in Early Religions (Cambridge, Mass., 1996); Gary Taylor,
more been paid on the naming and outer features of the
Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood (New
phenomenon, not on the inner disposition, the essential
York, 2002); and Giovanni Casadio, “The Failing Male
nature of it. . . . I would not consider shamanism as
God: Emasculation, Death, and Other Accidents in the An-
a form of religion of its own, but rather as a moment
cient Mediterranean World,” Numen 50 (2003): 231–268.
of the folk religious divine doctrine. (Castrén, 1853,
p. 1)
DARIO M. COSI (1987 AND 2005)
A professor at the University of Helsingfors in the last years
of his life, Castrén was appointed chair of Finnish language
and literature studies. As a professor Castrén devoted most
of his lectures to the folklore and mythology of northern peo-
1852) was a scholar of Finno-Ugric languages and the found-
ples. In one of his last lectures he defined ethnography as:
er of the Finnish School of Ethnography of Religion. His
a new name for an old thing. It means the scientific
studies of remote north Eurasian peoples helped establish a
study of the religion, society, customs, way of life, habi-
discipline that he named Altaic in accordance with his theory
tations of different peoples, in a word: everything that
of their urheimat (point of common origin) in the Altai
belongs to their inner and outer life. Ethnography could
Mountains. Now called Finno-Ugrics or Uralics, the disci-
be regarded as a part of cultural history, but not all na-
pline, in Castrén’s broad definition, embraces comparative
tions possess a history in the higher sense; instead their
studies of Finnish and Finno-Ugric languages, literature, eth-
history consists of ethnography. (Castrén, 1857, p. 8)
nology, folklore, and religion.
Castrén’s untimely death at the age of thirty-nine left much
Castrén began his studies at the University of Helsing-
of his work unfinished. He is remembered most for his lin-
fors (now Helsinki) as a student of Greek and Hebrew. Be-
guistic studies that identified the Finno-Ugric and Samoyed-
fore long, however, this was subsumed by an interest in Finn-
ic languages as members of the larger Uralic family.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

SEE ALSO Finnish Religions; Finno-Ugric Religions.
major ethical monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam, certain persons have assumed the role of interpreting
Castrén, Matthias Alexander. Nordiska resor och forskningar, vol 2:
to the faithful the overarching moral injunctions of the Lord
Föreläsningar i finsk mytologi. Helsinki, 1853.
God. In Judaism, the written law, collected in the five books
Castrén, Matthias Alexander. Tutkimusmatkoilla Pohjolassa; Ma-
of the Torah, and the oral law, taught by Moses to the Israel-
tias Aleksanteri Castrénin matkakertomuksista suomentanut ja
ites, were expounded by the scribes. These detailed interpre-
johdan non kirjoittanut Aulis J. Joki. Helsinki, 1853.
tations of the law, collected in the two Talmuds, were them-
Castrén, Matthias Alexander. Nordiska resor och forskningar, vol.
selves commented upon by the learned teachers of the
3: Ethnologiska föreläsningar. Helsinki, 1857.
people. This immense body of literature, as well as the intel-
Castrén, Matthias Alexander, and Toivo Lehtisalo. Samojedische
Sprachmaterialien: Gesammelt von M. A. Castrén und T. Leh-
lectual tradition enshrined in it and continued by the rabbis
tisalo. Helsinki, 1940.
in the life of the people of Israel, is called halakhah (“the
Estlander, Bernhard. Mathias Aleksanteri Castrén: Hänen matkansa
way”). Concerned with fidelity to the law in every aspect of
ja tutkimuksensa. Helsinki, 1929.
daily life, it is the casuistry of Judaism. However, within this
Joki, Aulis J. “M. A. Castrénin elämäntyö.” Virittäjä 67 (1963).
tradition, a special form of reasoning, employing very sharp
Pentikäinen, Juha. “Northern Ethnography: On the Foundations
distinctions and clever logic, came to be called pilpul
of a New Paradigm.” In Styles and Positions: Ethnographical
(“pepper”). Flourishing in the late Middle Ages, it was criti-
Perspectives in Comparative Religion. Comparative Religion 8.
cized by the great rabbi Eliyyahu ben Shelomoh Zalman
Helsinki, Finland, 2002.
(1720–1797) and others for twisting the plain truth “like
Schiefner, Anton. Nordische Reisen und forschungen. Saint Peters-
shaping a wax nose.” In this respect, pilpul resembles the
burg, 1853–1862.
Roman Catholic casuistry of the seventeenth century that
gave rise to the pejorative connotation of the word.
Shar¯ı Eah (lit., “the path toward water”) designates the
holy law of Islam revealed in the QurDa¯n. More particularly,
CASUISTRY. Moral knowledge comprises general prin-
the word refers to forms of ritual and social behavior to be
ciples and propositions: for example, “Do unto others as you
observed by the faithful. In the eighth and ninth centuries,
would have them do unto you,” “Honest persons do not lie
schools of interpretation coalesced: they attempted to define
or steal,” and so forth. However, moral knowledge also bears
precisely the exact content and stringency of the law. The
on choices to act in specific ways in unique situations. Thus,
teachers of Islam, muft¯ıs, issued fatwa¯s, considered opinions
general principles must be transformed into particular
for the guidance of the faithful, distinguishing moral acts as
choices: “I should not make this offensive remark about him
obligatory, recommended, permitted, reprehensible, or for-
because I would not want him to say such a thing about me
bidden. Since God’s will is inscrutable, it is permitted to find
in the hearing of those people,” “I could not consider myself
hiyal (“stratagems”) to avoid the letter of the law in favor of
honest if I told her she was capable enough to deserve pro-
the spirit. Again, it is this aspect of Muslim casuistry that re-
motion,” and so forth. Casuistry is concerned with the tran-
calls the reprehensible approach that gave casuistry its bad
sition from general moral knowledge to particular moral
choices. It can be defined as “the technique of reasoning
whereby expert opinion is formulated concerning the exis-
In the Western philosophical and theological tradition,
tence and stringency of particular obligations in light of gen-
two sources of casuistry are manifest. Socrates suggested cases
eral moral maxims and under typical conditions of the agent
to test whether the general definitions of virtue proposed by
and circumstances of the action.”
his interlocutors were adequate (e.g., in Euthyphro, Laches).
Religious moralities that rest upon strong divine com-
Aristotle noted, as the premier methodological point of his
mands and prohibitions are fertile ground for a casuistry.
Nicomachean Ethics that, while the nature of the human good
Unless a divine imperative is couched in terms that direct a
and of virtue can be stated in general, “fine and just actions
particular person to perform or refrain from a particular act
exhibit much variety and fluctuation” (Nicomachean Ethics
at a particular time (e.g., “Moses, you must proclaim the
1.3). The Stoics proposed the most general precepts (e.g.,
Commandments to the people when you descend the moun-
“Follow nature”), and their opponents, particularly the Cyn-
tain”), interpretation of the general statement of a divine
ics, retorted with cases to show that rules of such generality
command is necessary. Does, for example, the command
could lead to no definite conclusions for action, or even to
“Thou shalt not kill” apply to David facing Goliath? Howev-
contradictory ones. Certain questions that become perennial
er, it is not only divine commands and prohibitions that gen-
first appear in this debate: for example, “Which of two ship-
erate the need for casuistry. All statements of moral principle
wrecked men clinging to a spar has a right to it?” and
are expressed in universal terms; thus, any ethical system, if
“Should a merchant reveal defects of his merchandise?” Cic-
it is to take effect in the lives and actions of its adherents,
ero recalls these questions and employs them to illustrate his
must have its universal principles fitted to the various situa-
theses regarding the priority of virtue over expedience. The
tions in which decisions are to be taken.
third book of his On Duties is, in effect, the first book of ca-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

suistry in Western moral philosophy, even though it contains
Roman Catholics to confess sins by kind and number, a reac-
much material from authors of the Late Stoa.
tion to Protestant rejection of confession to a priest. The So-
ciety of Jesus, founded in 1540, dedicated itself to propagat-
contain many “hard and impossible” commands: “If you will
ing the proper use of the sacrament of penance and to the
follow me, leave father and mother,” “Turn the other cheek,”
education of the Catholic laity and clergy. In the religious
“It is as hard for a rich man to enter heaven as for a camel
turmoil of the last half of the sixteenth century, many settled
to pass through the eye of a needle.” Those dedicated to fol-
moral positions were upset. Catholics faced novel problems
lowing his ideals of love and mercy had to discern how these
of personal relationship (e.g., how to deal with non-
difficult and paradoxical commands were to be carried out
Catholics) and of public moment (e.g., how to continue to
in daily life. They also faced the problem of whether they and
observe traditional prohibitions regarding money lending in
all converts from Judaism and paganism were bound by the
the new mercantile economy, how to govern newly discov-
law of the Jews. There is therefore some casuistry in the Gos-
ered lands, whether to give allegiance to rulers of newly
pels, in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the epistles of Paul,
formed national states). The Jesuits and other theologians
all of it employing reasoning of the type familiar to the rab-
undertook to analyze these problems, both in speculative
binical schools. In the early centuries of the church, many
treatises and in more practical case presentation. They pro-
Christian writers faced the problem of how the Christian
duced a vast literature, known collectively as “cases of con-
should live. In Can a Rich Man Be Saved? Clement of Alexan-
science.” In the century between 1565 and 1665, over six
dria advises that the severe words of Jesus do not condemn
hundred titles appeared, many of them in multiple editions.
those who, while rich in goods, are poor in spirit. Augustine’s
In 1663 Blaise Pascal, the great mathematician and
On Lying is a premier work of casuistry in which appears the
physicist who had taken the side of the Jansenists (a Catholic
question analyzed centuries later by Kant: “Should a person
sect of extreme piety and rigor) against the Jesuits, published
lie to conceal an innocent person from persecutors?”
the Provincial Letters. In this brilliant satire, he attacked the
In the history of Christianity, casuistry was given its
Jesuit casuists, citing case after case in which ingenious analy-
greatest impetus by the practice of confession of sins and ab-
sis led to outrageous moral conclusions. The casuists, with
solution by a priest. When private confession first appeared,
their clever distinctions, seemed able and willing to dispense
in the sixth to the eighth centuries, books of direction were
with all moral probity, allowing killing, adultery, and lying,
written for priests advising them what penances to impose.
if only the circumstances were right. The criticism, justified
These “penitential books,” while lacking precise analysis of
to some extent, was too far-reaching: it condemned the entire
moral acts, show an incipient sense of discrimination regard-
enterprise of casuistry for the faults of some of its authors and
ing the moral seriousness of certain acts and the circum-
the weakness of some aspects of its methodology. From that
stances that modify or excuse. In the twelfth century the
time onward, casuistry has carried the opprobrious sense of
canon law of the church, working with the large corpus of
moral sophistry.
ecclesiastical case law, as well as with rediscovered Roman
Casuistry continued to be an integral part of Catholic
law, provided distinctions and categories for a more refined
moral theology. Alfonso Liguori (1696–1787), a most re-
casuistry, as did the speculative theology of the thirteenth
vered Catholic moralist, was a master casuist. By the mid-
century. The books for confessors published from the late
nineteenth century, however, casuistry had become sterile
thirteenth through the fifteenth centuries manifest this influ-
and was much criticized, within and without the church, for
ence in careful but succinct delineations of the nature of con-
its failure to promote moral ideals and its dwelling on mini-
science, of law, and of imputability. These later volumes were
mal obligation. Nevertheless, some fine casuistic analyses
stimulated by a universal law of the church requiring that all
continued to appear: about the just war, the just wage, abor-
confess at least yearly and that the confessor deal with peni-
tion, and so forth.
tents “as a prudent physician of the spirit” (Fourth Lateran
Council, 1215). These books present innumerable cases in-
Protestant theology showed little interest in casuistry—
volving marriage, commerce, feudal obligations, and justice.
indeed showed early antipathy. (Luther cast the Summa An-
In each example the purpose is to assist the confessor in judg-
gelica into the flames, calling it the “Summa Diabolica.”) An-
ing whether a particular act that appeared to violate a moral
glican theologians engaged in a vigorous casuistry in the sev-
commandment of church law did in fact do so in the particu-
enteenth century, with Jeremy Taylor and William Perkins
lar circumstances of its commission. Raymond Pennafort,
being the leading authors. In the twentieth century, Con-
Peter the Cantor, Alain of Lille, William of Chobham, and
science and Its Problems (1927), one of the very few modern
Peter of Poitiers were the principal authors of this genre. In
English works on casuistry, was written by an Anglican theo-
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, certain summae that
logian, Kenneth E. Kirk.
presented material in alphabetical order (e.g., from Absolu-
In the 1970s, interest in medical ethics led to the revival
tion to Uxoricide) became immensely popular: the Summa
of a sort of casuistry both within and without the theological
Astesana, the Summa Sylvestrina, and the Summa Angelica.
context. The occurrence of many cases of note, such as that
During the Reformation, casuistry was stimulated by
of Karen Ann Quinlan, brought theological and philosophi-
several circumstances. The Council of Trent (1551) required
cal moralists to analyze the ethical issues. The National
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Commission for Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedi-
Keenan, James F., and Thomas Shannon, eds. The Context of Ca-
cal and Behavioral Research (1974–1978) employed a meth-
suistry. Washington, D.C., 1995.
od of case analysis to develop the ethics of research. In the
Leites, Edmund, ed. Conscience and Casuistry in Early Modern Eu-
1980s, concern about nuclear armaments further stimulated
rope. New York, 1988.
casuistry, and a case analysis of various “scenarios” of defense
Miller, Richard P. Casuistry and Modern Ethics: A Poetics of Practi-
was developed. The Church and the Bomb (1983), a publica-
cal Reasoning. Chicago, 1996.
tion of the Church of England, and the pastoral letter on nu-
Vallance, Edmund, and Harald Braun, eds. Conscience in the Early
clear warfare (1984) of the American Catholic bishops are
Modern World, 1500–1700. New York, 2003.
both examples of sound casuistry.
METHODOLOGY OF CASUISTRY. Casuistry differs from moral
Revised Bibliography
philosophy in a number of ways. The work of the casuist is
discrimination; that of the moral philosopher, generaliza-
tion. Casuists discuss moral problems; moral philosophers
discuss moral reasoning. Casuists analyze the morality of
CATHARI. Catharism (from cathari, “the pure”) was dis-
choice in circumstances; moral philosophers analyze the
tinguished from the other heresies of the Middle Ages by its
meaning of moral principle in general. While the work of
rejection of basic Christian beliefs, although its adherents
moral philosophers has been richly described and many
claimed that in their pursuit of a pure life they were the only
methodologies have been proposed, the work of casuists—
true Christians. In contrast to the Waldensians and other
although we are all, in a sense, casuists in our personal moral
gospel-inspired movements of the twelfth century, the basis
deliberations—is hardly understood, and it has no accepted
of Catharism was a non-Christian dualism deriving ultimate-
methodology. Even the casuists of the seventeenth century
ly from Gnosticism. In place of the Christian conception of
developed no overall method of resolution of moral prob-
an inherently good universe that was wholly God’s creation
lems. Inspection of their work, however, reveals the outline
and embraced all existence, spiritual and material alike, this
of their method.
dualism posited two principles: one good, governing all that
was spiritual, the other evil, responsible for the material
Casuists developed positions by first stating a case in
world, including man’s body. The consequence was the deni-
which the moral obligations entailed by a rule were most
al of the central Christian doctrines of the incarnation,
clear and then moving, step by step, to more complex cases.
Christ’s two natures and the virgin birth, bodily resurrection,
These steps were taken by adding various circumstances and
and the sacraments, all of which involve the acceptance of
weighing their relevance to the stringency of the rule. They
matter as part of God’s design, as well as nullifying the doc-
assessed the degree of credence that various options deserved
trine of the Trinity and the very idea of God’s omnipotence.
and the consequent weight of moral obligation. They aimed
at resolving the case not by settling theoretical problems but
By the time it reached the West from Byzantium, Cath-
by practical advice concerning how seriously a person in-
arism had taken two forms, a mitigated and a radical dual-
volved in certain sorts of circumstances should consider him-
ism. Mitigated dualism originated with the Bogomils in Bul-
self bound by or excused from the moral principles generally
garia in the tenth century, spreading to the Byzantine
incumbent. The strength of the casuists’ method lay in an
empire, whence it was carried to western Europe. It was
appreciation of exceptions and excuses generated by different
closer to Christianity in recognizing only one God, the good
circumstances; the weakness lay in the absence of any theo-
God who had created everything good, including Satan, who
retically established boundaries of this appreciation. Casu-
had been his eldest son Lucifer before he had rebelled against
istry at its best is vigorous moral common sense; at its worst,
his father. Satan had therefore corrupted himself by his own
it is moral sleight of hand.
free will, and that freedom was held, somewhat inconsistent-
ly, to belong also to the souls that Satan subsequently impris-
SEE ALSO Christian Ethics.
oned in bodies. Adapting the Old Testament account of cre-
ation in Genesis, the Bogomils, and later the Cathari,
substituted Satan for God as creator of the firmament and
Häring, Bernhard. The Law of Christ, vol. 1, General Moral Theol-
the visible world, although Satan made it from preexisting
ogy. Translated by Edwin G. Kaiser. Westminster, Md.,
1961. See especially chapter 1.
matter created by God from nothing.
Jonsen, Albert R., and Stephen Toulmin. The Abuse of Casuistry.
The world was therefore Satan’s domain, and the Old
Berkeley, 1988.
Testament was the witness to his tyrannical rule. Hence the
Kirk, Kenneth E. Conscience and Its Problems: An Introduction to
Cathari rejected the Old Testament as God’s word—one of
Casuistry. London, 1927.
their distinguishing traits. Although they accepted the New
Long, Edward L. Conscience and Compromise: An Approach to Prot-
Testament, its meaning was transformed as part of a syncre-
estant Casuistry. Philadelphia, 1954.
tism of Christian and non-Christian beliefs, expressed as alle-
New Sources
gories and fables that were the preserve of the initiated—the
Gallagher, Lowell. Medusa’s Gaze: Casuistry and Conscience in the
perfect. Catharism thus not only had its own tenets and prac-
Renaissance. Stanford, Calif., 1991.
tices but also its own canonical literature.
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The only thing that Satan had been unable to make was
garded as angels, neither having a real body. For both abso-
the human soul; it came from the angels and was variously
lute and mitigated dualists, as indeed for orthodox Chris-
described in the different Cathar fables as having been cap-
tians, all souls would at the end be saved or damned. But for
tured or stolen from heaven and then put in a body. The first
the absolute dualists free will seems to have played no part
two imprisoned souls were Adam and Eve, who by succumb-
in salvation. At the end the visible world would fall into ma-
ing to Satan’s temptations, depicted in strongly sexual imag-
terial chaos from which all souls would have departed,
ery, became the progenitors of the human race. The penalty
whereas for the mitigated dualists Satan would be captured
for their fall, which for the Cathari was identified particularly
and all things would return to order.
with sexuality, was the procreation of individual souls with
their bodies, so that all men were born as souls imprisoned
Accordingly the Cathari shunned all contact with the
in a body. The whole of Cathar religious practice was direct-
material, beyond that which was unavoidable to their exis-
ed toward releasing the soul from the body, thereby liberat-
tence as human beings. That meant the rejection of marriage,
ing it from Satan’s rule and enabling it to return to its place
of all foods that were the product of sexual generation, of all
in heaven. That was also the reason why God, taking pity
material elements in worship, and of all involvement in
on the fallen angels, represented by mankind suffering for
things of this world, whether love of material goods or world-
Adam and Eve’s sin, had sent not only Christ, his second
ly behavior, including any kind of violence or taking of life,
son, but also the Holy Spirit into the world to help redeem
the exercise of jurisdiction, or the swearing of oaths. The re-
them. Although they, too, according to some mitigated dual-
sult was an extreme asceticism and austerity, which in their
ists, were part of God’s nature, they were inferior to God.
moral and practical expression had close affinities with the
Moreover, as a spirit, Christ in his human form did not have
Christian ideal of evangelical perfection. The Cathari exhib-
a real body: it was either, according to some, a phantom, or,
ited the same sense of material renunciation and spiritual de-
according to others, some kind of angelic covering. Whatever
votion, and that probably more than anything else accounted
the case, though, the human Christ of the Cathari was not
for the hold that the Cathari were able to gain in southern
the word made flesh. He had not been born of Mary but had
France and northern Italy in the twelfth and thirteenth cen-
entered through her ear. Nor did he suffer on the cross, an-
other of the material objects, together with images and the
Because the demands of Catharism were exceptional,
material properties of the Christian sacraments, rejected by
strict practice was confined to a small minority of adepts, the
the Cathari. The true Christ suffered for mankind in heaven.
perfect. They represented the Cathar hierarchy; unlike the
In this world his role was to show the way and reestablish
Christian hierarchy, however, they were a very small elite
the truth of God’s word. In that sense there was, in keeping
who had to prove themselves all the time. The mass of ordi-
with their docetic belief, only one Christ, in heaven; he was
nary Cathar believers were able to live ordinary lives while
not to be found in churches, which were not his house: one
accepting the spiritual ministrations and authority of the
more Cathar trait, shared with the Waldensians, although by
the late twelfth century in Languedoc, the Cathari did use
churches as meeting places for their ceremonies. The struggle
The great dividing line between the perfect and the be-
of the soul with Satan would finally end not as in the ortho-
lievers was the reception of the consolamentum: the initiation
dox Christian belief, in the body’s resurrection with the soul,
rite of spiritual baptism by the laying on of hands that admit-
but in the body’s destruction with all of Satan’s handiwork
ted the recipient into the ranks of the perfect. It was usually
and the soul’s ascent into heaven.
performed after a year’s probation and the full revelation of
The main divergence of radical dualism from the miti-
Cathar teaching, which was not accessible to the ordinary ad-
gated form lay in its making the opposition between the
herents. Once received, the consolamentum remitted the con-
principles of good and evil absolute and eternal. Good and
soled’s sins and the consequences of the soul’s imprisonment
evil and their creations had always coexisted. And as the good
in a body, reuniting his soul with his spirit in heaven and
God’s creation was heaven, so the visible world created by
releasing him from Satan’s rule. It was then that his testing
Satan was hell. Hence to live in this world was to be in hell,
really began. Any lapse into forbidden sins—and for the Ca-
in man’s case through having a body in which, as with the
thari they were all equal—meant the loss of the consolamen-
mitigated dualists, Satan had initially imprisoned the souls
tum both for the sinner and for those who had been consoled
of angels taken from heaven. Free will thus played no part
by him. He could be reconsoled only after severe penance.
in Satan’s original fall; and the power of God was corre-
But so long as he remained firm to his obedience, he was ef-
spondingly restricted in never having had control over evil,
fectively among the saved, one of the perfect, and revered as
which was completely autonomous. Nor did individuals
such by ordinary believers. For the latter a special consola-
have the means of directly returning to God. Although
mentum was administered before death to remit their sins
Christ taught the way of salvation, individuals had first to
and bring salvation; should they recover, a further consola-
undergo a series of reincarnations until they came to recog-
mentum was needed. The consolamentum thus conferred a
nize evil by becoming perfect, thereby freeing their souls
Gnostic-like certainty of salvation which challenged ortho-
from the devil. Christ himself, and generally Mary, were re-
dox Christian revelation.
E N C Y C L O P E D I 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 precise date of the appearance of Catharism in
most up-to-date account of medieval popular heresies. Par-
western Europe has been keenly debated; there is no univer-
ticularly strong on the Cathari.
sal agreement even now. The generally accepted view is that
Moore, R. I., ed. The Birth of Popular Heresy. London, 1975. A
the first firm evidence of Cathari appears at Cologne in 1143
representative selection of translated sources, mainly from
or 1144. That opinion could well be modified in the future.
the twelfth century, with a useful introduction.
What can be said is that by the 1150s they were in southern
Obolensky, Dimitri. The Bogomils: A Study in Balkan Neo-
France and northern Italy; by the 1160s they were firmly es-
Manichaeism. Cambridge, 1948. The standard account in
tablished in both regions. These became their two chief areas,
especially Languedoc in the lands of the count of Toulouse.
Russell, Jeffrey B. Dissent and Reform in the Early Middle Ages.
In 1176 a great council of Cathari is reported to have been
Berkeley, 1965. A useful, wide-ranging survey of early medi-
held at Saint-Félix-de-Caraman where, in addition to an al-
eval heresies to the end of the twelfth century.
ready existing Cathar bishopric at Albi, three more bishop-
Thouzellier, Christine. Catharisme et Valdéisme en Languedoc.
rics were established for Cathar territories. It was from Albi
Louvain and Paris, 1969. A very full analysis of the sources.
that the southern French Cathari received their name of Al-
Wakefield, Walter L. Heresy, Crusade and Inquisition in Southern
bigensians (Albigenses). By 1170 they had become the main
France, 1100–1250. Berkeley, 1974. A clear, brief account
heresy to be combated. The papacy sent a succession of
with a good bibliography.
preaching missions, including Waldensians, Cistercians, and
Wakefield, Walter L., and Austin P. Evans, eds. Heresies of the
the founder of the Dominican order, Dominic. As early as
High Middle Ages. New York and London, 1969. The largest
1181 Alexander III’s cardinal legate, Henry, abbot of Clair-
collection of translated sources, particularly valuable for their
vaux (before whom Valdès also appeared), besieged a castle
at Lavaux sheltering two heretics. Alexander’s successor, In-
nocent III, intensified the pressure, using both sanctions and
persuasion. Matters came to a head in January 1208, when
one of Innocent’s legates, Peter Castelnau, was assassinated.
CATHARSIS. The Greek katharsis is an action noun cor-
Innocent, who had already called upon the king of France
responding to a verb that literally means “to prune, to clean,
to make war against the Cathari, then launched his own cru-
to remove dirt or a blemish [katharma] for the purpose of
sade under the abbot of Cïteaux. That marked the beginning
rendering some thing, place, or animate being pure [ka-
of the Albigensian crusade, in which the lands of the count
tharos].” As denoting the general process of purification, ca-
of Toulouse were overrun. Although the crusade severely
tharsis could of course be applied to a very broad range of
weakened the Cathari, they survived and regrouped. It was
phenomena in the history of religions. In this article, howev-
not until 1243 that they were effectively destroyed as an or-
er, the focus will be specifically on the Greek conception. Al-
ganized church with the capture of over 200 perfect at Mon-
though the meaning of catharsis and the exact techniques or
tségur. Their strength had lain in the widespread support
modalities of purification (katharmoi) differ according to
they had received in both town and countryside from the no-
context, the sense of catharsis always remains negative: it re-
bles as well as from artisans and members of the professions.
fers to separating, evacuating, or releasing. Whether per-
For a time before the Albigensian crusade they had overshad-
formed in a strictly ritual setting or understood as a spiritual
owed the Roman Catholic church in southern France.
concept, catharsis maintains this negative meaning of ridding
In Italy, the Cathari never enjoyed the same cohesion
either oneself or an object of something impure or unclean.
as those in Languedoc. They were driven by the conflicts that
Catharsis originally appears as a ritualized process of
began early in the 1160s between adherents of the two forms
quasi-material purification that makes use of a variety of sub-
of dualism. They were also mainly located in the cities, where
stances as purifying agents. Chief among these are the ele-
they owed their survival to the opposition of the cities to
ments water, fire, and sulfur, followed by oil, clay, and bran.
both imperial and papal authority. It was only in the second
Certain other vegetable substances, such as laurel, myrtle,
half of the thirteenth century, after the ending of the wars
and olive are also used, especially as prophylactics (coronets
between the popes and Frederick II, the German emperor,
of leaves) or as supports of cleansing waters (aspersions).
that the way was cleared for papal action against the Cathari.
Since ceremonial purifications are usually conducted out in
A series of trials in the larger Italian cities had largely extirpat-
the open, the element of air also plays a role.
ed them by the beginning of the fourteenth century, at which
In the selection and use of such purifying agents, the
time they also disappeared from Languedoc.
symbolism of numbers sometimes comes into play, especially
SEE ALSO Dominic; Waldensians.
of the numbers three, seven, and nine. The gestures involved
in aspersions, ablutions, fumigations, and the like, may be
repeated a set number of times; a definite number of sacrifi-
Borst, Arno. Die Katharer. Stuttgart, 1953. The standard work on
cial victims may be required; and even the source of the water
the subject.
used in the rite may be determined on the basis of numbers
Lambert, Malcolm. Medieval Heresy: Popular Movements from Bo-
(water coming from a river that arises from three springs was
gomil to Hus. London and New York, 1977. The fullest 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

When a sacrificial victim was required for purification,
by Apollo himself. The stain of death may also be collective,
the pig was the most frequently sacrificed animal. However,
as in the case of the Athenians after the deaths of Androgeus
once a year, the Athenians purified their city with the sacri-
or the Cylonians. In this case a collective purification may
fice of two human victims, pharmakoi, one bearing the guilt
be necessary. Even the quelling of malefic creatures such as
of all the Athenian men, the other bearing the guilt of all the
the brigands killed by Theseus, the dragon killed by Cadmus,
Athenian women. As a general rule whatever served for the
or the serpent Python killed by Apollo demands purification.
purification had to be completely destroyed. Human victims
However, Homer presents us with a somewhat different
were burned.
picture. Odysseus, after having executed the suitors of Penel-
The idea of defilement is closely linked to the percep-
ope, asks that sulfur and fire be brought “to disperse the bad
tion of a disturbance of the natural order or a breach of the
air” (Odyssey, 22.481). This is meant to purify the house but
day-to-day routine. Contacts or experiences that call into
not particularly those who have been killed or have done the
question the physical integrity of the individual or of the
killing. It is as if the cadaver that defiles a house takes prece-
general environment require a catharsis. Since health is un-
dence over the idea of moral responsibility for homicide.
derstood to be normal, illness is seen as something abnormal,
Throughout antiquity the sentiment prevails that the
as a physical or mental stain requiring purification. Madness,
contact with death, the presence of the dead under the family
too, and breaches of morality are seen as illnesses and there-
roof, demands purification. Iamblichus writes around 300
fore as defilements; thus an army in violation of the law or
CE: “It is impious to touch human bodies from which the
in revolt can be called back to order, cured of its illness,
soul has departed,” since “the nonliving mark the living with
through purifications. Examples of this “psychosomatic” use
a stain.” Thus the domicile of the deceased should be ritually
of purification are numerous. The Proetides were purified of
disinfected. In the morning, vases of lustral water that had
their madness by the magus Melampus. To cure the Lacedae-
to be borrowed from another house were placed at the door
monian women struck with nymphomania required the in-
of the deceased’s home. These were then interred with the
tervention of a kathart¯es Bakis, delegated by Apollo, the god
dead. The funeral and the subsequent rites had the ultimate
of healing and purification. The women of Samos were liber-
purpose of purifying the family and consecrating the bound-
ated from their sexual exaltation thanks to the katharmos of
ary that would henceforth separate the dead from the living;
any dead person deprived of a tomb thus remained a
The Bacchants were liberated from their maladies quite
differently, however—in the orgy, which temporarily identi-
Certain sacred places prohibit the presence of tombs. Pi-
fied them with Dionysos, the god of mania. The Dionysian
sistratus, instructed by the oracles, purified the island of
orgy is cathartic to the extent that it releases the urges re-
Delos by having the dead disinterred “anywhere in the region
pressed by social and moral constraints. The ritual release of
within visual range of the sanctuary” (Herodotus, 1.64).
the Dionysian rite is a purification: “Blessed are the dancers
Later, in 426, all of the dead found on the island were dis-
and those who are purified, who dance on the hill in the holy
posed of (Thucydides, 1.8, 3.104, 5.1). The authorities of
dance of god” (Euripides, The Bacchae 75ff.). Intoxication
Eleusis had the body of a dead man found on the plain of
from wine or from dance purges the individual of irrational
Rharos removed and had the entire plain purified by a
impulses which, if repressed, would be noxious. Ritual mad-
kathart¯es. Contact with the world of the dead was not per-
ness can also cure internal madness. Music, too, can have a
missible without prior lustrations (Homer, Odyssey 11.25ff.;
cathartic function (Quintilianus Aristides, Peri mousik¯es
Lucian, Nekuomanteia 7). Conversely, one who was resusci-
3.23). The Aristotelian theory of tragedy—initially Dionysi-
tated had to be washed and nursed like a newborn (Plutarch,
ac—defined catharsis from this same perspective: The satia-
Quaestiones Romanae 5). Even encountering the dead in a
tion of the passions by the spectacle of the theater is a thera-
dream requires purification (Aristophanes, Ranae 1340). Fi-
peutic based, like the Bacchic ekstasis, on purgative and
nally, contact with and, particularly, the eating of dead ani-
liberating homeopathy.
mals were impure in the eyes of the Orphics, the Pythagore-
ans, the initiates of the cult of Zagreus (Euripides, The
Contact with death requires purification, whether it is
Cretans 472), as well as for candidates for certain initiations
a death one has caused, the death of a family member, or any
(Porphyry, De abstinentia 4.16; Apuleius, Metamorphoses
other contact with the dead. The murderer, whether the act
11.23.2). There was also a blood taboo, which legitimated
was voluntary or involuntary, is defiled. Herakles had to be
excluding criminals from the Eleusinian mysteries, but the
purified of the deaths of Iphitos, the Meropes, the sons of
Lesser Mysteries of Agra prepared them for initiation into the
Proteus, and the centaurs; Achilles of the murder of Thersites
(according to Arctinos of Miletus); Jason and Medea of the
murder of Apsyrtos; and Theseus of the murder of the Pal-
The blood taboo explains the relationship of menstrua-
lantides. In certain cases, only the gods can cleanse the crimi-
tion, generation, and parturition to catharsis. Hippocrates
nal of his wrongdoing. Ixion was apparently the first murder-
gives the menstrual periods the name katharsis because they
er purified by Zeus. Patricide constituted a particularly grave
relieve women of their menstrual blood. The houses of
case, whether of Oedipus or Orestes; the latter was purified
women giving birth also require purification. Miscarriages
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

require forty days of lustrations. When Delos was purified
things are”). The speculations of the Orphics were particular-
in 426 all lying-in on the island was forbidden. To approach
ly important to this change of emphasis. Orphic mythology
a woman in labor was, for the superstitious character in The-
places a hereditary taint on humanity that has been com-
ophrastus (Characteres 16.9), as serious as walking on a grave
pared to a sort of original sin. It is said that Zeus, hurling
or touching the dead (the two injunctions are often in tan-
a bolt of lightning, reduced the race of Titans to cinders for
dem). The initiates of Ida whom Euripides places on stage
having eaten Dionysos Zagreus. The human race is then
in The Cretans avoid “assisting at birth or approaching a cof-
born from these cinders. Consequently, human beings must
fin.” The newborn, too, must be purified. By means of sever-
be delivered from this Titanic contamination in order to re-
al lustrations the Amphidromies of the Greeks and the rites
cover their true Bacchic essence. Toward this end, Orphic
of the dies lustricus of the Romans integrate the newborn into
catharsis serves to actually reinstate the divine life through
the community and preserve him from evil spirits attracted
the practice of continual asceticism. Similarly, Plato (Phaedo,
by the blood present at birth.
67c) refers to an “ancient tradition” for the purification par
the separation of the soul from the body. The
Sexual contacts demand catharsis just as those with
kathart¯es whom Plato ridicules in The Republic (364e) and
death or the dead. Anyone wishing to approach the chapel
the Orpheotelestes of Theophrastus (Characteres 16.11) offer
of Men-Lunus had to be purified if he had eaten pork or gar-
ritual recipes. The “Orphic life” implies a spiritual discipline,
lic or touched a woman or corpses. Matrimonial rites derive
a kind of personal sacrifice. Similarly, the Platonists and,
from concerns connected with the taboos of blood, sex, or
later, the Neoplatonists, were to preach the liberation of the
life. They consist of preliminary lustrations (baths, asper-
spirit. This catharsis is reserved, however, for the elite sages,
sions, circulating fumigations, the wearing of white vest-
and with the last of the Neoplatonists the techniques of the-
ments and of crowns), which were to safeguard the couple
urgy tended to overshadow intellectual purification.
(Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis 1111; Valerius Flaccus, Ar-
After physical death (which the philosopher can antici-
pate while still in the body), the soul must be stripped of the
More radically, life itself can appear impure, inasmuch
garments that it has donned in its descent through the plane-
as life comes from a mixture of body and soul, Dionysiac and
tary spheres (Cumont, 1949, pp. 358, 364; Festugière, 1953,
Titanic elements which, according to Orphism, are implicit
pp. 128ff.). Posthumous catharsis, as understood by the Or-
in the human makeup. Life is also impure when compared
phics and Neoplatonists, consists in separating the soul from
to that of the gods. Contact with the gods thus requires cer-
all heterogeneous elements. Vergil’s hell (Aeneid, 6.740ff.),
tain lustrations. Access to sacred enclosures (and especially
which tries the souls by wind, water, and fire, reminds us of
to the aduton, the inner sanctum) is forbidden to those who
the katharmoi of Empedocles (frag. 115). Seneca (Ad Mar-
have not undergone the ritual catharsis. Pools of water for
ciam de consolatione 25.1), by contrast, gives a moral explana-
this purpose are located at the entrances to sanctuaries, remi-
tion for posthumous purification. The funeral pyre is
niscent of the holy water fonts of Christian churches. The
thought by some to purify the soul from the body. Lightning
sacrificial ceremony itself includes purifications of the offici-
is also thought to confer apotheosis (Cumont, 1949,
ates, of the participants, the victim, the liturgical vessel, the
p. 330). For others, the universe as a whole is subject to peri-
instruments of immolations, and the altar near which the an-
odic purifications, which in Stoic cosmology consist of del-
imal is to be slaughtered.
uges and conflagrations (Origen, Against Celsus 4.12, 4.21,
The initiations, which permit man to establish a closer
4.64, 4.69).
bond with the world of the gods, indeed, to be assimilated
From birth to death, through marriage and initiations,
to the gods in certain cases, impose on the candidate a rigor-
catharsis thus sanctioned the major steps of life. From its
ous catharsis. Examples include the rituals of Andania and
therapeutic, magic, or prophylactic functions, catharsis tend-
Agra, various types of abstinences, baths in the sea with a sac-
ed to shift in time to a moral and mystical exercise, especially
rificial pig for the candidates for the mysteries of Eleusis, and
in stipulating the conditions for salvation or apotheosis
the continences, abstinences, and ablutions for the initiates
through radical ablation or liberation.
of Isis, Mithra, and Dionysos. The Bacchic mysteries could
even be regarded as being essentially cathartic. These rites
SEE ALSO Blood; Fire; Purification; Water.
suppose that man himself is too unclean to enter into rela-
tionship with the gods. Moreover, he cannot himself proceed
with his own purification; he needs to have recourse to the
Bouché-Leclercq, Auguste. “Lustratio.” In Dictionnaire des anti-
techniques of a priest or of a kathart¯es.
quités grecques et romains (1904), edited by Charles Darem-
berg et al., vol. 3. Graz, 1963.
The philosophers, however, shifted emphasis in the un-
derstanding of catharsis, viewing it more in terms of spiritual
Boyancé, Pierre. Le culte des muses chez les philosophes grecs. Paris,
purification. An inscription at Epidaurus recommends that
one approach the gods with a pure spirit (Porphyry, De ab-
Boyancé, Pierre. “Platon et les cathartes orphiques.” Revue des
stinentia 2.19; cf. Cicero, De legibus 2.24: “The law bids one
études grecques 55 (1942): 217–235.
approach the gods purely, with a spirit that is in which all
Cumont, Franz. Lux perpetua. Paris, 1949.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Dodds, E. R. The Greeks and the Irrational. Berkeley, 1951.
the theological knowledge of friends she attracted among
Fehrle, Eugen. Die kultische Keuschheit im Altertum. Giessen,
Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans, and Jesuits. She
began, too, to draw as disciples people from every walk of
Festugière, A.-J. La révélation d’Hermès Trismégiste, vol. 3. Paris,
life, a circle she would call her famiglia. She found an ideal
mentor in the Dominican friar Raymond of Capua. Ray-
Festugière, A.-J. Études de religion grecque et hellénistique. Paris,
mond was an astute theologian and diplomat, under whose
guidance and in whose company Catherine’s scope broad-
Jeanmaire, Henri. Dionysos: Histoire du culte de Bacchus. Paris,
ened to include the ecclesiastical and the political—in her
mind always of one piece with the spiritual, and all ultimate-
ly oriented to the same spiritual ends.
Moulinier, Louis. Le pur et l’impur dans la pensée des Grecs,
d’Homère à Aristote. Paris, 1952.
Unlike her contemporary Birgitta of Sweden, Catherine
Nilsson, Martin P. Geschichte der griechischen Religion, vol. 2, Die
was an ardent promoter and recruiter for the crusade project-
hellenistische und römische Zeit. 3d rev. ed. Munich, 1974.
ed by Pope Gregory XI and his successor, Urban VI. A holy
Parker, R. Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Reli-
war seemed to her a perfect means of uniting in a common
gion. Oxford, 1983.
cause Christians now at odds among themselves and with the
Places, Édouard des. La religion grecque. Paris, 1969.
papacy. She saw Palestine as a Christian trust, and she be-
Rohde, Edwin. Psyche: The Cult of Souls and Belief in Immortality
lieved with many that the advance of the Turks toward Eu-
among the Greeks (1925). Translated by W. B. Hillis. Lon-
rope must be halted. A main object of the crusade would be
don, 1950.
the conversion of the Muslims, who would in their new faith
Spiegel, N. “The Nature of Katharsis according to Aristotle: A Re-
be a leaven to reinvigorate a sick church. And it would pro-
consideration.” Revue belge de philologie et d’histoire 43
vide her and others (she apparently intended to go along) the
(1965): 22–39.
opportunity to pay Christ “blood for blood.”
Trouillard, Jean. La purification plotinienne. Paris, 1955.
It was the dissension between Florence and Gregory XI
Turcan, Robert. “Un rite controuvé de l’initiation dionysiaque.”
that brought Catherine to that city in 1376 to attempt to me-
Revue de l’histoire des religions 158 (1960): 129–144.
diate a reconciliation. On the mandate, probably, of only
Turcan, Robert. “Bacchoi ou bacchants? De la dissidence des vi-
certain Guelphs she traveled to Avignon (where the popes
vants à la ségrégation des morts.” L’association dionysiaque
had resided since 1309) with no official credentials, only to
dans les sociétés anciennes (Coll. De l’Ecole française de Rome,
be ignored by Florentine ambassadors who came later. In
89), Rome, 1986, pp. 227–244.
subsequent efforts, also, she failed to influence the Floren-
Wächter, Theodor. Reinheitsvorschriften im griechischen Kult.
tines significantly in this dispute, which was to her essentially
Giessen, 1910.
religious but was to them a matter of political survival.
Translated from French by Marilyn Gaddis Rose and
Once rebuffed by Florence, Catherine turned her energy
William H. Snyder
toward the two issues she considered the root of the dissen-
sion: the continuing absence of the popes from Rome and
clerical corruption. If the pope would return to Rome, she
reasoned, Christians would have no more cause for rebellion,
and reform could begin. Gregory XI had in fact so resolved
but had repeatedly, in fear, put off taking action. Catherine
can surely be credited with finally moving him. In fact, when
CATHERINE OF SIENA (1347–1380), Caterina da
dissent deepened after his return to Rome, many including
Siena; Italian mystic and Christian saint. The particular ge-
the pope blamed Catherine’s advice.
nius of the spirituality of Catherine of Siena had its earliest
Gregory XI died on March 27, 1378, and within
beginnings in a visionary experience of Christ when she was
months his successor, Urban VI, was being denounced by a
six years old, and her subsequent childish yet serious vow of
growing number of the cardinals, who in September of that
virginity. She persisted in her purpose in spite of family op-
year elected Clement VII as antipope, thus effectively split-
position until she was accepted as one of the Mantellate, a
ting the church. At Urban’s invitation Catherine came to
Dominican third-order group comprising, up to then, only
Rome to support his cause. Though her health was by this
widows. For about three years thereafter she gave herself to
time failing under her fierce asceticism and exertion, she con-
prayer and asceticism in almost complete seclusion, until her
tinued to pray and work tirelessly for unity and reform, both
very prayer (which had become deeply mystical) led her out,
of which seemed to her ever more elusive. The weight of this
first to serve the poor and the sick in her own city, and gradu-
sense of failure surely contributed to her early death on April
ally into wider and wider spheres.
29, 1380. She was canonized in 1461 and proclaimed a doc-
She had learned in her solitude to read, and now she be-
tor of the church in 1970; she and Teresa of Ávila were the
came an enthusiastic conversationalist, feeding insatiably on
first women to receive that title.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Catherine used letters prodigiously as a favored vehicle
coló Tommaseo, revised by Piero Misciattelli (1860; reprint,
of influence. The nearly four hundred letters that have been
Florence, 1940). The first volume of the only truly critical
collected and edited date mostly from 1375 to 1380. They
edition was prepared by Eugenio Dupré Theseider, Episto-
are addressed to persons as diverse as popes, high-ranking
lario di Santa Caterina da Siena, vol. 1 (Rome, 1940); the
clergy, nobles, relatives, disciples, prisoners, and prostitutes.
work on this critical edition is being pursued by Antonio
Unfortunately, the early compilers’ purposes of simple edifi-
Volpato. A complete English translation from the critical
edition is in progress under my editorship. I have translated
cation led them to delete much that was personal from the
Giuliana Cavallini’s critical editions of Il dialogo (Rome,
letters, but still they open a revealing window on Catherine’s
1968) and Le orazioni (Rome, 1978) as The Dialogue (New
evolving thought and on her warm and spontaneous person-
York, 1980) and The Prayers of Catherine of Siena (New
York, 1983), respectively.
In 1377 and 1378, in addition to all her other activities,
Works about Catherine of Siena
Catherine composed the work since known as The Dialogue
A useful primary source for the life of Catherine of Siena is Ray-
(because she cast it as an exchange between God and herself).
mond of Capua’s The Life of Catherine of Siena (1385–1389),
Her intent in writing it was to share with her disciples and
translated by Conleth Kearns (Wilmington, Del., 1980);
others the insights she had gained in prayer and in her own
other biographies in English are History of St. Catherine of
experience. In it she approaches the way of holiness from sev-
Siena and Her Companions, by Augusta Theodosia Drane
(London, 1899), good for its inclusion of primary source ma-
eral vantage points, and develops at length the themes of
terial not otherwise available in English; Saint Catherine of
God’s providence, the role of Christ as redeemer and media-
Siena: A Study in the Religion, Literature and History of the
tor, and the church. Finally, during the last three and a half
Fourteenth Century in Italy, by Edmund G. Gardner (New
years of Catherine’s life, her secretaries sometimes recorded
York, 1907), complete on historical contexts and well in-
her prayers when she spoke in ecstasy. Twenty-six such
dexed; and Arrigo Levasti’s My Servant, Catherine, translated
prayers have been preserved.
by Dorothy M. White (Westminster, Md., 1954), which
concentrates on Catherine’s psychology and spirituality and
Through her reading and her associations, Catherine
also gives an excellent bibliography. Eugenio Dupré Thes-
gained a knowledge of the Christian tradition remarkable in
eider’s entry “Catherine da Siena, Santa,” in Dizionario bio-
an otherwise unschooled person. In her works she draws free-
graphico degli Italiani (Rome, 1979), covers very well Cather-
ly not only from scripture but from Augustine, Gregory the
ine’s life and theology, including debated points, and offers
Great, Bernard, and Thomas Aquinas (to name only those
a very comprehensive bibliography.
most frequently reflected), as well as from contemporaries
such as Ubertino of Casale, Domenico Cavalca, Iacopo Pas-
savanti, and Giovanni Colombini. Her own writing, howev-
er, is not speculative or systematic or analytical. Rather, she
synthesizes into an integrated whole all of the various aspects
of Christian faith on which she dwells. Her purposes are emi-
nently practical, her tone warm and personal. She resorts for
clarification not to conceptual argumentation but to literary
images, developing the meaning of each as she goes and in-
CATS seem to be surrounded by a special power. Their
terweaving them one with another.
graceful movements, their liveliness at night, and their inau-
The central principles around which Catherine’s teach-
dible steps as well as their independent spirit have enchanted
ing revolves are everywhere evident in her writings: God
poets and painters and storytellers in many cultures, but
alone is absolute being, and God’s being is at once love and
these very traits account also for the aversion many people
truth—love that is truth and truth that is love. When hu-
have had to them. Throughout history, cats have rarely been
mankind cut itself off from God by sin, God’s endlessly cre-
regarded with indifference; they have generally been consid-
ative and re-creative being took flesh in Jesus Christ, who in
ered either sacred or demonic. The earliest known center of
himself repaired the breach. The foundation of all spiritual
their veneration, and probably also of their domestication,
life is knowledge of oneself in God and of God in oneself.
was ancient Egypt, where they are documented from 1600
Human nature is God’s creation and as such is essentially
BCE onward. Bast, a popular goddess of pleasure, was repre-
good, and Catherine is therefore understanding and compas-
sented with a cat’s head. Numerous sacred cats lived around
sionate of human weakness even as she denounces sin. Desire
her sanctuary in Bubastis, and thousands of mummified cats
for the truth and love that is God puts all in order, and what
have been found in that area.
God asks of the human heart is infinite desire.
Other goddesses with feline attributes have also been
connected with cats. In a Roman myth, Diana assumes the
form of a cat, and in Germanic mythology, Freyja’s carriage
Works by Catherine of Siena
is drawn by cats. In Bengali Hinduism, S´as:t:i rides or stands
The most complete recent edition of Catherine’s letters is Le lettere
on a (usually black) cat. Should a mother be disrespectful to
di S. Caterina da Siena, 4 vols., translated and edited by Nic-
the goddess, a cat will kill her children; such revenge can be
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

averted by pouring sour milk over a black cat and licking it
that it can predict—or, indeed, is responsible for—the
weather. In Turkey, if a cat purrs loudly, a severe winter is
impending; in England, if a cat sits with its back to the fire,
Cats are frequently perceived as malevolent creatures.
there will be frost. In Java and Sumatra, bathing two cats or
The idea that a cat can “suck the breath” of sleeping children
throwing one into a river can bring rain.
(i.e., suffocate them) is widely prevalent, and in some myths
the cat is represented even as a bloodsucking ogre. Some peo-
Folklore often talks about the hypocritical cat. “The cat
ple think that to swallow a cat’s hair will result in tuberculo-
weeps at the mouse’s death,” according to a Chinese proverb.
sis. But a cat’s tooth can serve as a talisman, for cats have not
The story of the “repentant” cat that appears as a pious ascet-
only “nine lives” but supernatural powers. In Ireland, for ex-
ic in order to cheat the mice has been told from ancient
ample, it is thought that the devil can assume the form of
Egypt to modern Mongolia, and it occurs frequently in Per-
a cat; in China, it is believed that cats can see spirits at night
sian literature (see EUbayd-i Za-ka¯n¯ı’s little epic Mouse and
and that a dead cat can turn into a demon. In many places
Cat from the fourteenth century). Hence, in Persian and Ot-
it is thought that cats can sense the presence of death, that
toman Turkish urban poetry, the term cat is sometimes used
they can smell the guiding spirit come to conduct away the
to characterize a sly person of high rank. The friendship of
departing soul. Because of their supernatural abilities, cats
a cat with a mouse or other weaker animal, or with its arch-
are connected with witches and sorcerers; in fact, they are—
enemy the dog, lasts only so long as both are in danger, as
especially black ones—typical familiars of witches. In medi-
Ka-l¯ılah wa-Dimnah (The fables of Bidpai) tells us; once
eval Europe, every owner of such an animal was therefore
safe, the cat usually eats the mouse. This “hypocrisy” has
been expressed in many proverbs that warn against trusting
the cat, which may first lick one’s hand and then scratch it.
As an agent of the supernatural, the cat became a sacrifi-
The motto of the Mackintosh clan of Scotland is “Touch not
cial animal in some cultures. In medieval Europe, cats were
a cat but [i.e., without] a glove.”
killed as an expiation in times of plague or were thrown into
the Saint John’s fire at the summer solstice. As late as the
Nevertheless, the cat has many positive aspects. In an-
mid-seventeenth century, in the ceremony of the Taigheirm
cient Rome, the cat was a symbol of liberty, for no animal
in the West Highlands of Scotland, black cats were roasted
has so independent a spirit or is so resistant to restraint as
on spits to raise the infernal spirits. In Japan, however, as in
a cat. In China, the association of the sign for cat, mao, with
ancient Egypt and other cultures, it has been thought inad-
that for the number eighty has made the cat a symbol of long
visable to kill a cat, owing to its special power. Such an act
would bring misfortune, or would have to be atoned for (in
In Islamic tradition, the cat is born in Noah’s ark from
Muslim Bengal, with five pounds of salt).
the lioness’s sneeze, or else she is the lion’s, or tiger’s, aunt
In European lore, cats can function as house goblins and
who teaches him various tricks but withholds the last one,
are also counted among the shapeshifters; they can assume
that is, how to climb a tree. The positive evaluation of cats
enormous proportions in case of danger or in order to rescue
in the Islamic world is due to the prophet Muh:ammad’s
their benefactor from equally enormous rats. Thus their role
fondness for cats. Because he stroked the back of a cat that
can be beneficial as well: friendly cat demons can produce
saved him from a snake’s wiliness, cats never fall on their
gold and treasures for those who have been kind to them,
backs, and the trace of his fingers is visible in the dark stripes
and cats—especially tricolored cats (which are believed to be
that appear on the foreheads of most cats. The cat is clean
always female)—can protect a house from fire and guarantee
and does not spoil man’s purity for prayer (as does the dog),
marital happiness.
and its drinking water can be used for ritual ablutions. Many
S:u¯f¯ıs have had cats as companions, animals that have some-
In many cultures it is considered a bad omen to see a
times performed wonderful feats of clairvoyance or self-
cat, especially a black one, when leaving a house; likewise,
sacrifice to save others from danger or death. The most re-
to dream of a black cat, or to cross its path, means misfor-
markable cult of cats is connected with the North African
tune. But the black cat’s body serves both medical and magi-
beggars’ order of the Heddawa, in which cats are treated like
cal purposes; a meal of cat’s brains may arouse love in some-
humans; however, once in a while a cat is ritually killed by
one, or strengthen a man’s sexual power, or restore sight.
the brethren. Cats can assume the shape of saints or helpers,
Pulverized cat’s gall rubbed into the eyes enables one to see
as in pre-Islamic Arabia, where desert demons, ghu¯l, were vi-
at night, or to see jinn. Certain parts of a black cat, prepared
sualized with cats’ heads. Even the Sak¯ınah, God’s presence,
with other ingredients, can make a person invisible.
appeared to the Prophet in the shape of a white cat.
The behavior of cats is also often regarded as an omen.
Caterwauling, not always appreciated by most people,
In Germany, if a cat washes itself, a guest will come. In
has sometimes been interpreted as mysterious music. An
China, the arrival of a strange cat in a house portends pover-
early Arabian musician learned some superb songs from a
ty, because that cat is believed to have a premonition that
black cat in his dreams. Nursery rhymes sing of the cat’s fid-
many mice will come to live in that house. The cat’s sensitivi-
dling, and the cat’s purr has sometimes been interpreted as
ty to atmospheric changes has led, in many places, to belief
its prayer.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Benevolent cats occur frequently in folk tales. The Dick
for plowing, a process that greatly increased the agricultural
Whittington motif of the cat that proves useful in a country
yield. This combination of cereal agriculture and cattle-
without cats is known in the East and the West. The friendly,
drawn plows was an extremely dynamic one: increased agri-
clever tomcat, manifested in Puss in Boots, is a common topic
cultural production made it possible to feed ever larger herds
of folk tradition. It is always the youngest of three sons who
of cattle (as well as ever more people), which in turn made
inherits the resourceful cat. Thus, the cat often uses its magic
it possible to bring ever larger areas of land under the plow.
properties for positive ends and appears as a mediator be-
As irrigation techniques were mastered, still greater produc-
tween the hero and the supernatural world. This expresses
tion resulted, ultimately making possible the emergence of
best the good side of the cat’s ambivalent character and of
urban civilization.
its role as an animal that is powerful in the three realms of
Elsewhere, in terrains less conducive to agricultural pro-
activity: demonic, human, and divine.
duction, with perhaps an inadequate water supply and/or a
short growing season, pastoral economies proper developed.
Here, herds of cattle were exploited more as a source of food
Carl Van Vechten’s The Tiger in the House, 3d ed. (New York,
and raw materials than for their labor. Milk, butter, cheese,
1936), includes interesting chapters on cats in the occult and
in folklore as well as an extensive, classified bibliography.
and sometimes the blood of cattle served as chief items of
Since publication of this work, the literature about cats has
diet, although agricultural products might also be obtained
increased enormously and at present is growing almost daily.
by way of trade. Meat, for pastoralists as for those who prac-
Excellent surveys can be found in Nine Lives: The Folklore of
ticed mixed herding and agriculture, remained always a high-
Cats, by Katharine M. Briggs (New York, 1980), and in Le
ly specialized and prestigious item of diet, the consumption
chat dans la tradition spirituelle, by Robert de Laroche (Paris,
of which was surrounded by religious attitudes and ritual
1984). For Islamic cat lore, see my discussion in Die orien-
talische Katze (Cologne, 1983).
Beyond food, cattle provided numerous other necessi-
New Sources
ties of life for such pastoral peoples as the Nilotic tribes of
Loibl, Elisabeth. Deuses Aimais. Sa˜o Paulo, 1984.
East Africa, the Israelites of the patriarchal period, and the
early Indo-Europeans. Among the products derived from
Revised Bibliography
cattle were leather hides, used for clothing, shelter, defensive
armament, thongs, and the like; bone tools; dung, which
served as fuel for slow-burning fires in areas where wood was
scarce; and urine, often used as an all-purpose disinfectant.
By cattle is here meant those bovines that have
It is thus no overstatement to say that for cattle-herding pas-
been brought under domestication (Bos taurus, Bos longifrons,
toralists, cattle formed the very means of production, being
Bos brachyceros, Bos indicus) and not merely bovines or do-
in effect machines for the conversion of grass into multiple
mesticated livestock in general. The first datum that must
usable forms.
thus concern anyone interested in the religio-historic impor-
tance of cattle is the very fact of the domestication of wild
Equally important, however, is the fact that cattle served
bovines, which was one of the central cultural accomplish-
as the standard measure of wealth and means of exchange.
ments of the “Neolithic revolution,” now dated in the period
Nor is exchange to be understood as simply trade: rather, the
roughly between the tenth and sixth millennium BCE. Since
transfer of cattle from one person or group to another estab-
the nineteenth century, a debate has continued between
lishes a continuing relation between them, the exchange hav-
those who have argued in favor of a religious motivation for
ing social, ritual, and sentimental dimensions as well as eco-
the domestication of this species and those who have stressed
nomic. Convenient examples of this are found in the
material and economic factors. The former position, initially
institutions of bridewealth and wergild, whereby one social
formulated by Eduard Hahn, emphasized the common use
group that has caused another group to lose a valued member
of cattle as sacrificial victims throughout ancient Mesopota-
compensates the latter by bestowing a prescribed number of
mia, arguing from this datum that cattle were tamed in order
cattle upon them. These cattle not only restore the economi-
to ensure a regular and adequate supply of victims for the sac-
cally productive value of the lost individual, but also replace
rificial cult. While some still maintain this theory, more gen-
him or her in the affections of the group that receives them.
erally accepted is the opposing point of view, which holds
As a result of this exchange, the two groups—one of which
that obtaining reliable sources of milk, meat, and traction
would otherwise benefit at the expense of the other—remain
power for nonreligious purposes was the primary motive for
in balance and harmony.
the initial domestication.
Cattle are thus a crucially important part of any pastoral
Once tamed, cattle quickly came to occupy a highly im-
society, for in truth they make social life possible. All mo-
portant place within both the agricultural and the pastoral
ments of passage—births, deaths, marriages, initiations—are
economies of Neolithic societies. In those areas where suffi-
marked by an exchange of cattle. And, in addition to hori-
cient rainfall and a long growing season made the production
zontal exchanges of cattle (i.e., those between humans, all of
of crops feasible, cattle were harnessed to the yoke and used
whom occupy the same level of the cosmos), vertical ex-
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changes are also frequent, sacrifice being in part an exchange
As the last sentence of this highly significant text indicates,
between humans and gods—as for instance in sacrifices per-
the Nuer—who are militarily superior to their Dinka neigh-
formed on behalf of those suffering from disease, in which
bors—make use of this myth to justify their raiding activity,
cattle are given to deities, who in return restore the afflicted
for the myth permits them to claim that such aggression (1)
person to his or her social group.
sets right an ancient wrong, in which Dinka initially cheated
Nuer of his calf, and (2) fulfills a commandment spoken by
One can thus readily see that there exists a constant de-
God. Such an ideology permits the Nuer to make use of their
mand for cattle within pastoral societies, given their enor-
superior force with a sense of perfect self-righteousness; it
mous importance as means of production, means of ex-
seems probable that the Dinka herds would be thoroughly
change, measures of wealth, and signs of prestige. New
depleted by Nuer attacks, were it not for the fact that the
supplies are obtained through normal reproduction and
Dinka tell more or less the same myth, interpreting it, how-
breeding, of course, but also through violence, for the raiding
ever, as establishing a sacred charter and precedent for their
of neighboring people’s herds is an extremely common prac-
own continuing theft of Nuer cattle through stealth and
tice among pastoralists. Such raids stand in marked opposi-
guile, qualities in which they exceed their Nuer enemy.
tion to the types of exchange discussed above. Involving no
reciprocity, they create or perpetuate imbalance and dishar-
Similar stories are found among many other peoples for
mony between the raiding and raided groups, reciprocity and
whom cattle are a mainstay of the society and economy.
balance (but never harmony) appearing only when the tables
Sometimes these circulate in secular versions, as in Ireland,
are turned and the previously raided group turns raider itself.
where numerous tales, including the great national epic Táin
To ensure success in raids, warrior values and patterns of or-
Bó Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cuailnge) celebrate the raid-
ganization—militarized age-sets, Männerbünde, and the
ing exploits of human, if prodigious, warriors. Elsewhere,
like—are particularly cultivated. Specialized training, initia-
demigods appear as the prototypical heroes of cattle raids, as
tory rituals, and magical apparatuses prepare young men to
with the Greek tale of Herakles and Geryon, or its Roman
go forth on raids, these being not simply expeditions born
counterpart, in which Hercules vanquishes Cacus. Both of
of socioeconomic utility, but also—from the point of veiw
these are quite similar to the pattern of the Nuer myth, tell-
of those who participate, at any rate—sacred, ritual ventures.
ing how a foreigner stole cattle, which the national or ethnic
hero then recovered in a fully justified raid. Yet again, the
The chief means whereby raids are elevated to ritual sta-
central figure of raiding myths may himself be a deity, as in
tus is through the propagation of myths that offer a divine
numerous myths of Vedic India, in which the warrior god
precedent for the deeds of warriors. Such myths, in which
Indra recovers stolen cattle from such enemies as the pan:is,
the exploits of a deity, hero, or primordial ancestor are cele-
Vr:tra, and Vala. In these myths, the cattle raid is lifted to
brated, serve to charter and legitimate similar raiding activi-
cosmogonic significance, for it is regularly told that in recov-
ty, as warriors come to identify with, and pattern themselves
ering lost cattle, Indra also set free imprisoned waters and
after, the mythic models. A case in point is a celebrated Nuer
light, rescuing the cosmos from possible disaster. Here the
myth, which tells of the first cattle raid launched by the
rains and the sun’s rays are homologized to cattle; they are
first Nuer against the first Dinka, at the command of God
the cows of the atmosphere and of the heavens respectively,
these having been penned up by drought and night but set
free by the god’s successful cattle raid—a raid that makes all
There were still no cattle on the earth. Then God col-
life and prosperity possible and on which human raiding is
lared Nuer and gave him a cow and a calf with the in-
structions to share them with Dinka—to give the cow
to Dinka and to keep the calf himself. Then, he secretly
A certain moral ambiguity frequently surrounded raid-
gave Nuer the direction to come to him early in the
ing, however, in myth as in actual practice. Thus, for in-
morning in order to receive his calf. But, unobserved,
stance, the Homeric Hymn to Hermes tells how the god Her-
Dinka had overheard this speech. Very early—still by
mes, while still an infant, stole cattle from his brother Apollo.
night—Nuer came to God’s dwelling and said, “Gwah,
Yet for all that the exploit is celebrated and helped Hermes
my Father, I have come; give me my calf.” “Who are
win elevation to full divine stature (the common initiatory
you?” asked God. Whereupon the Nuer said, “I am
Nuer.” “But now, who was it who came to me a little
value of raiding is here evident), Hermes’ action is also called
while ago and said he was Nuer, and to whom I conse-
into question. According to the hymn, he was hunted down
quently gave the calf?” God now asked. The astonished
by Apollo, forced to stand trial, and ultimately had to make
Nuer replied, “I did not come. That must have been
restitution to his brother before peace could be established
Dinka. This was Dinka cunning; he has out-witted
between them.
me.” Then God said to Nuer, “Good, now you take the
cow for the present; then follow Dinka. When you have
Part of the problem was that Hermes had killed some
overtaken him, you may kill him and take the calf from
of the cattle that he stole, and the unrightful slaughter of cat-
him.” Since that time date the struggles of the Nuer
tle is always a most serious crime among cattle-herding peo-
against the Dinka to gain possession of their cattle.
ples. Thus, for instance, Enkidu was condemned to death for
(Crazzolara, 1953, pp. 68–69; my trans.)
his part in slaying the Bull of Heaven, according to the Epic
E N C Y C L O P E D I 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 Gilgamesh, and the men of Odysseus’s last ship were all
is the precise definition of portions allocated to the gods—
destroyed by a thunderbolt for having killed and eaten the
the victim’s bones, wrapped in a single layer of fat—and
cattle of the sun god Helios, which were pastured on the is-
those reserved for humans—the rest of the meat, wrapped
land of Thrinacia. Again, among Nuer and Dinka alike, any
within the animal’s stomach. In this, some scholars have seen
cattle killed for food outside of sacrifice are said to be slain
a reminiscence of archaic hunters’ rites, the bones being pre-
“just for nothing” (bang lora), and it is expected that they will
served so that the dead animal might be resurrected. Detien-
return to haunt their slayer.
ne and Vernant have argued, however, for a different line of
interpretation, in which bones are contrasted to meat as the
The same point is made in this Nuer-Dinka belief as in
undecaying (or immortal) portion of the victim to the decay-
the story of Odysseus’s men: however much hunger may
ing (or mortal) portion. The contrast of meat and bones thus
drive one to desire meat, lethal violence directed against cat-
replicates and comments upon the contrast of gods and men;
tle constitutes a sacrilege unless it is set within a ritual con-
the inclusion of the stomach in the human portion further
text—that is to say, carried out with a certain etiquette, so-
stresses man’s need to eat, which spurs him on to kill.
lemnity, and decorum (often by specialists), and legitimated
by reference to some set of sacred precedents, symbolic con-
Social processes also figure prominently in the logic and
structs, or transcendent principles. These conditions being
structure of cattle sacrifice, for the distribution of meat tends
met, the slaughter of cattle and subsequent distribution
to be differential and hierarchic, either in the nature of the
of meat is considered sacrifice; these lacking, it is wanton
portions assigned to individuals or in the order in which por-
tions are presented, or both. A clear case in point is the
Roman Feriae Latinae, an annual ceremonial to which all
Cattle sacrifice is ideologically the most prestigious and
members of the Latin League sent representatives and contri-
significant ritual performed among pastoral peoples, al-
butions. The central act was the sacrifice and dismember-
though in practice offerings of lesser economic value (sheep,
ment of a white bull, pieces of meat from which were as-
goats, milk products, cakes, etc.) are often substituted. In
signed to the representatives according to the relative
part, as has been discussed above, sacrifice always includes
importance of their cities. Change over time was also reflect-
among its significances and functions the consecration of
ed in the proceedings of the Feriae Latinae, for as a city grew
meat and the legitimation of the violence requisite for the
or shrank in size and stature, its portion of meat seems to
procurement of meat. Sacrifice is no more a straightforward-
have been adjusted accordingly. Other societies also pos-
ly utilitarian procedure, however, than it is a simple or univo-
sessed mechanisms whereby social hierarchy could not only
cal one. Rather, complex symbolisms and multiple dimen-
be signified within a sacrificial context, but could also be
sions are always present, however much these may differ
contested, as seen in the accounts of brawls and duels fought
from one culture area, historical period, or sacrificial perfor-
over the “champion’s portion” among the Greeks and Celts.
mance to another.
Cattle sacrifice was also a highly important part of Indo-
Cattle sacrifice in ancient Babylon, for example, while
Iranian religion, reflecting the prominent position of cattle
clearly part of the general “care and feeding of the gods” en-
within the society and economy of India and Iran alike. Cer-
joined upon mankind, was also in part a remembrance or
tainly, cattle figure almost obsessively in the earliest religious
repetition of the cosmogony. For as tablet 5 of the creation
texts from India and Iran (the R:gveda and the Ga¯tha¯s of the
account Enuma elish makes clear, the deity Tiamat—whose
Avesta respectively), although some scholars have maintained
death marks the beginning of the cosmos as we know it—was
that most references to cattle should be taken metaphorically
understood to take the form of a cow, although other pas-
or allegorically, while granting that the stimulus for bovine
sages of the text present her as a monstrous, chaotic being.
imagery would still come from the real possession of cattle.
(A similar account of a being simultaneously monstrous and
Controversy also exists as to whether Zarathushtra (Zoroas-
bovine, which must be put to death in order for a proper cos-
ter) condemned cattle sacrifice in Iran—as some of the Gath-
mos and society to emerge, is the golden calf of Exodus 32.)
ic texts seem to indicate—or if it remained always a part of
Moreover, the sacrifice of cattle was cast as a divine act, as
the Zoroastrian cultus.
is clear in the declaration of the Babylonian priest who offers
The rejection of cattle sacrifice is attested elsewhere in
an ox, the skin of which will be made into the covering for
history, particularly in cases where a previously pastoral pop-
a temple drum: “These acts—it is the totality of the gods
ulation has abandoned its earlier mode of production and
who have performed them, it is not really I who performed
consequent way of life. Thus, for instance, within the Athe-
nian polis, details of the foremost cattle sacrifice—the
Again, the cattle sacrifice of the Greek polis (city-state)
Bouphonia (“ox-slaying”)—reveal a profound uneasiness
was informed by myths of the first sacrifice, particularly that
over the violence and bloodshed inherent in the rite. Toward
performed by Prometheus, as described by Hesiod, which—
the end of each Bouphonia, a trial was thus held to assess the
as Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant (1980) have
guilt of those responsible for the victim’s death, such guilt
demonstrated—served to define the essential human posi-
ultimately being assigned to the sacrificial knife with which
tion in the universe as that intermediate to those of beasts
it was killed, the knife then being punished (and purified)
and gods. Of particular interest in myth and practice alike
by being thrown into the sea.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

However much the ritual slaughter of cattle prompted
Mohandas K. Gandhi entitled “How to Serve the Cow.”
a certain moral disquietude, the practice continued unabated
Vast numbers of cattle roam the Indian subcontinent free
throughout the history of ancient Greece, insofar as sacrifice
from any threat to their well-being (urban riots have been
was a central mechanism for the periodic renewal of social
provoked by attempts to drive cattle from busy streets or
hierarchy and integration within the polis. The criticism of
markets), and numerous homes have been founded for the
sacrifice implicit in the Bouphonia, however, was given a
care of old and sick cattle.
more articulate and aggressive formulation by certain philos-
Western technocrats, colonial authorities, and others
ophers and mystics possessed of a radically different vision
have generally viewed the “sacred cow” of India as a classic
of what the polis ought to be and of the guilt incurred
example of the ways in which religious principles can lead
through sacrificial violence. Chief among these were Pythag-
large populations into modes of habitual behavior and social
oras and Empedocles, the latter of whom condemned sacri-
organization that are irrational and counterproductive in
fice in the following terms, contrasting it with an imagined
strictly economic terms. Yet this view has been challenged,
paradisal sort of offering that took place in the distant past
largely by the research of Marvin Harris, and a lively debate
and—given his theories of cyclical time—would once again
has resulted, which is still to be resolved. For it is Harris’s
replace the bloody rituals:
contention that when one considers the full range of ways
Ares was not a god for them, nor was Battle-din,
in which cattle resources are exploited within India (traction,
Nor was Zeus the king, nor Kronos, nor Poseidon,
dung for fuel, milk and milk products, etc.) and the ways in
But Aphrodite was queen.
which cattle are fed (scavenging, use of stubble from the
They appeased her with pious gifts:
fields, etc.), as well as other important seasonal and ecological
With painted animal figurines, with perfumes,
factors, one is forced to conclude that the prohibition on kill-
With sacrifices of unmixed myrrh and fragrant frankin-
ing cattle is both rational and productive, even in the most
narrow economic sense. Debate still rages over many details
Pouring libations of golden honey to the ground.
of Harris’s argument, as well as on his general conclusion,
The altar was not smeared with the unmixed gore of
but his writings have been a valuable corrective to studies
Rather, that was the greatest defilement for men:
that emphasize the divergence between religious and socio-
Taking away the life-force in order to eat the noble
economic considerations. Rather than being contradictory,
even in the case of the “sacred cow,” these matters are inti-
mately correlated, in ways far richer and more complex than
Although these Greek opponents of sacrificial ritual re-
is generally understood.
mained always in a minority—often, what is more, a suspect
minority—others were more successful in India, where the
SEE ALSO Bones; Neolithic Religion; Sacrifice.
doctrine of ahim:sa¯, “noninjury” to all living creatures, gradu-
ally displaced older sacrificial ideology, particularly in the
wake of Buddhist and Jain challenges to Brahmanic doc-
On the religious significance of cattle within pastoral cultures, see
trines and practice. Thus, the Sanskrit legal texts—as Ludwig
my Priests, Warriors, and Cattle: A Study in the Ecology of Reli-
(Berkeley, 1981). A good discussion of the domestica-
Alsdorf (1962) first demonstrated—show a clear process of
tion of the species is found in Frederick E. Zeuner’s A History
development, in which the eating of meat obtained from sac-
of Domesticated Animals (New York, 1963). Eduard Hahn’s
rifices was first freely permitted, but later came to be con-
theories on the religious origin of domestication were set
forth in a number of publications, most important of which
Although the privileged status of the “sacred cow” in
was Die Haustiere und ihre Beziehungen zur Wirtschaft des
India is in some measure related to the emergence of the
Menschen (Leipzig, 1896).
ahim:sa¯ ethic, its sources are considerably older. For already
The importance of cattle in the life and religion of the peoples of
in the R:gveda and also in the Avesta, cows are referred to as
East Africa has been treated in a number of excellent publica-
tions, among which should be noted Melville J. Herskovits’s
“beings not to be killed” (Skt., aghnya; Av., agenya), a corre-
“The Cattle Complex in East Africa,” American Anthropolo-
spondence that indicates that this was already an item of
gist 28 (1926): 230–272, 361–388; E. E. Evans-Pritchard’s
Indo-Iranian belief at the beginning of the second millenni-
Neur Religion (Oxford, 1956); Godfrey Lienhardt’s Divinity
um BCE. One must stress, however, that it is only cows—that
and Experience: The Religion of the Dinka (Oxford, 1961);
is, female bovines—that are so designated, and not cattle in
Peter Rigby’s Cattle and Kinship among the Gogo (Ithaca,
general, and it appears likely that the symbolic, sentimental,
N.Y., 1969); Pierre Bonte’s “Il bestiame produce gli uomini:
and socioeconomic importance of the cow as the source of
Sacrificio, valore e feticismo del bestiame nell’ Africa orien-
both milk and new bovine life led to the formulation of reli-
tale,” Studi storici 25 (1984): 875–896; and J. P. Crazzolara’s
gious principles protecting it against slaughter, even slaugh-
Zur Gesellschaft und Religion der Nueer (Vienna, 1953).
ter within the context of sacrifice.
On sacrifice in general, see Walter Burkert’s Homo Necans (Berke-
ley, 1983); La cuisine du sacrifice en pays grec, edited by Mar-
Within modern Hinduism, however, the “sacred cow”
cel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant (Paris, 1980); and the
has been treated as the foremost example of the more general
papers on the theme “Sacrificio, organizzazione del cosmo,
principle of ahim:sa¯, as for instance in a celebrated treatise by
dinamica sociale,” Studi storici 25 (1984): 829–956.
E N C Y C L O P E D I 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 the use of cattle as metaphor, see Wolfgang E. Schmid’s “Die
maintains the spiritual energy, is close by. The mountains are
Kuh auf der Weide,” Indogermanische Forschungen 64 (1958–
believed to have been created in order to form geomantic
1959): 1–12; George G. Cameron’s “Zoroaster the Herds-
caves (Yoon, 1976, pp. 28–34). This mountain-cave-water-
man,” Indo-Iranian Journal 10 (1968): 261–281; and Boris
energy tradition is similar to the ancient Mexican belief that
Oguibenine’s “Le symbolisme de la razzia d’après les hymnes
water was contained within mountains, the womb of the
vediques,” Études indo-européennes (1984): 1–17.
water goddess Chalchiuhtlicue, whence it flowed in the form
On cattle raiding, see Peter Walcot’s “Cattle Raiding, Heroic Tra-
of the rivers and lakes necessary to human settlement.
dition, and Ritual: The Greek Evidence,” History of Religions
18 (May 1979): 326–351; Françoise Bader’s “Rhapsodies
THE CAVE AS AXIS MUNDI. The cave as a sacred spot that
homériques et irlandaises,” in Recherches sur les religions de
marks the place for a major religious structure and even for
l’antiquité classique, edited by Raymond Bloch (Paris, 1980);
a great city, the axis mundi of its time, is well illustrated at
and Doris Srinivasan’s The Concept of Cow in the Rigveda
Teotihuacán, Mexico. The most impressive monument here
(Delhi, 1979).
(built c. 100 BCE, destroyed c. 750 CE) is the Pyramid of the
On ahim:sa¯ in India, see Ludwig Alsdorf’s Beiträge zur Geschichte
Sun, built shortly before the beginning of the common era
von Vegetarismus und Rinderverehrung in Indien (Wiesbaden,
over a primitive shrine, which was itself built over a subterra-
1962). The debate on the sacred cow has taken place largely
nean cave. The cave has the form of a four-petaled flower,
in the pages of Current Anthropology (Chicago) from 1966
one of Teotihuacán’s most popular art motifs, possibly sym-
on. Marvin Harris’s arguments are conveniently summarized
bolizing the four world quarters. The great Sun Pyramid was
in Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches (New York, 1974). On the
constructed in such a way that the four-petaled cave lies al-
Indian homes for indigent cattle, see Deryck O. Lodrick’s
most directly beneath its center. Although the cave was ran-
Sacred Cows, Sacred Places (Berkeley, 1981).
sacked in ancient times, the few remains within suggest that
New Sources
it may have been a cult center for water gods. Or, inasmuch
Peires, J. B. The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa
as a sixteenth-century document labels the place in front of
Cattle-Killing Movement of 1856–7. Bloomington, 1989.
the pyramid “Moctezuma’s oracle,” an oracle may well have
dwelt here. Whatever the answer, the sacredness of this cave
Revised Bibliography
was such that it had to be preserved by building a shrine over
it, then by constructing the immense pyramid over this. Sa-
cred space was thus preserved for all time.
BIRTH AND CREATION. Because of its volcanic formation,
Mesoamerica is honeycombed with caves. Each is revered,
and many are associated with the emergence myth. Chico-
moztoc (“seven caves”) was the place of creation of many eth-
nic groups, particularly the Aztec. Its seven caves are repre-
CAVES. In all cultures and in almost all epochs the cave
sented in ancient pictorial manuscripts and in oral tradition.
has been the symbol of creation, the place of emergence of
But before the creation of people, the sun and the moon were
celestial bodies, of ethnic groups and individuals. It is the
made in a grotto. In the myth of the creation of the Fifth
great womb of earth and sky, a symbol of life, but also of
Sun (the name given the present era by the Aztec), some
death. It is a sacred place that constitutes a break in the ho-
chronicles state that after one god threw himself into a fire
mogeneity of space, an opening that is a passage from one
and became transformed into the sun, another god went into
cosmic region to another, from heaven to earth or, vice versa,
a cave and came out of it as the moon. In a legend of Españo-
from earth to the underworld (Eliade, 1959, p. 37).
la (Hispaniola), all men were created in one cave, all women
All caves are sacred. Some, like cosmic mountains or im-
in another (Fray Ramon Pané, in Heyden, 1975). Suste-
portant sanctuaries, are considered the center of the universe.
nance, also, originated in caves, according to popular belief.
Where the sacred manifests itself, the world comes into exis-
Some caves were called cincalco, “house of maize”; in them
tence (Eliade, 1959, p. 63). Every religious person places
corn was kept by the gods. A sixteenth-century Mexican
himself at the center of the world, “as close as possible to the
chronicle, Historia de México, relates that Centeotl, a maize
opening that ensures him communication with the gods”
god, was born in a cavern; from different parts of his body
(ibid., p. 65). Earth gods live in caves, which are often called
cotton and many edible plants grew. According to another
“the earth’s navel.” As the world center, the axis mundi, the
early chronicler, Fray Geronimo de Mendieta, a flint knife
cave at times blends in religious symbolism with the moun-
fell from heaven and landed in Chicomoztoc, where it broke
tain. Of the elements in Asian geomancy that determine the
into sixteen hundred pieces, from which that number of gods
quality of a place for a settlement, a home, or a tomb, moun-
was created. The cave, then, is a symbol of the womb. Ac-
tains are considered the most important. Their vital energy
cording to Fray Bernardino de Sahagún’s Historia general de
gives them the name of “dragon.” This magical energy flows
las cosas de la Nueva España (the so-called Florentine Codex),
into a cave, which is not always a real opening but represents
a saying is ascribed to Aztec women of the sixteenth century:
an auspicious site. Geomantic caves are those surrounded by
“Within us is a cave, a gorge . . . whose only function is to
mountains, where wind is stored and where water, which
E N C Y C L O P E D I 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 EMERGENCE PLACE. The cave as the center of the world
bolizing corn husks or those of other plants) were stored in
and place of emergence is found in many traditions. Hopi
an artificial cave at the foot of the Yopico pyramid in Te-
mythology tells of three worlds under the earth where the
nochtitlán, the Aztec capital, and bodies of young women
Hopi lived with the Ant People before they found their way
sacrificed to Xochiquetzal, the vegetation goddess, were
up to the fourth, or present, world. The Zuni, with the same
placed in a cave called a “mist house.” These instances may
traditions, call the place of emergence hepatina (“the middle
constitute a ritual metaphor for seed germination, which
place”) and the last world (which they classify as still under-
takes place in a dark area, comparable to the cave-womb.
ground) the “fourth womb.” The modern kiva of these and
other Pueblo Indian groups is an artificial cave, the ceremo-
Regarding ceremonies, the fabulous grotto of Balankan-
nial center of the village, in which there is also a small hole
ché, immediately southeast of the ancient Maya city of Chi-
in the ground, symbolic of the place of emergence. Kiva ritu-
chén Itzá in Yucatán, has revealed a wealth of offerings to
al follows a man from life to death. As soon as he is born a
the rain god Tlaloc (Chac, among the Maya) and chamber
boy is symbolically initiated into the ritual life and pledged
after chamber of ceremonial settings for rites. These date
to his father’s kiva. Zuni society has six divisions, associated
mainly from the ninth century CE, when highland Mexican
with the four world directions, the zenith, and the nadir.
influence was strong (hence the presence of the god Tlaloc
Each division has its own kiva, around which religion re-
rather than Chac), although the grotto was used for ritual
volves (Leighton and Adair, 1966). The kiva evidently has
purposes mainly by the Maya, through 3,000 years. Six offer-
been basic to ritual for many centuries. During the Pueblo
tory foci are directly associated with either underground
Classic period (1050–1300) the underground kivas were of
pools or stalagmitic formations, caused by the action of the
tremendous size, as can be seen in the ruins of Mesa Verde
water (Andrews, 1970, p. 9). These natural formations have
and Chaco Canyon. They were caves within caves, partially
the appearance of altars and were used as such. In the major
natural grottoes and partially hacked out of the rocks. A maze
chamber, floor and ceiling are united by a stalactite-
design carved on rocks in Arizona—much like the Minoan
stalagmite “tree” that suggests the ceiba (silk-cotton), the sa-
maze—represents the myth of emergence. It is the Mother
cred Maya tree that unites earth, sky, and underworld. This
Earth symbol, according to the modern Hopi; the maze rep-
structure is called by the modern—and undoubtedly by the
resents the paths a person will follow on the road of life
ancient—Maya the “throne of the balam,” that is, of the Jag-
(Campbell Grant, 1967, p. 65).
uar Priest. When the inner chambers were discovered in
1959, this altar-throne was found to be covered with effigy
AVE GODS AND RITES. Since the rites and deities of differ-
ent parts of the world, many of them associated with caves,
censers, most of them in the form of Tlaloc, some wearing
are dealt with in numerous articles of this encyclopedia, this
flayed skins and some suggestive of the Aztec vegetation deity
brief section is focused on Mesoamerica, which, in general,
Xipe Totec. Other offerings here and in various chambers in-
is less well known than Europe or the Orient.
clude miniature vessels, grinding stones, and spindle whorls,
perhaps symbolic offerings for use in the otherworld. Enig-
Tlaloc, the Aztec rain and earth deity, was also called
matic handprints in red ocher (as suggested below, perhaps
Path under the Earth, or Long Cave, according to the six-
evidence of a rite of passage) are on the central, treelike col-
teenth-century chronicler Fray Diego Durán. This name re-
umn and on the ceiling of low tunnels. Other chambers with
fers to the god’s character as fertilizer of the earth with gentle
stalagmitic altars yielded many more Tlaloc effigy censers,
rain, and also to rites in caves where water deities were propi-
quantities of shells, jade beads, fragments of a wooden drum,
tiated. Rain, lightning, and thunder were thought to be con-
and charcoal from burnt offerings. Numerous fire pits and
trolled in caves and on mountain tops. Toribio Motolinía,
the charcoal in the censers seem to be evidence of both illu-
another colonial chronicler, describes ceremonies to Tlaloc
mination and ritual hearth use. Inasmuch as smoke was one
each year during which four children were sacrificed and
of the messengers to the gods, the fires may have been in-
their bodies placed in a cave; this was then sealed until the
tended solely for communication. That this was a major ritu-
following year, when the rite was repeated. Children were
al center is indicated by the insistence of the H-men (the
considered special messengers to the water gods.
practitioner of native folk religion) from a village near Balan-
Oztoteotl literally means “god of caves”; this was the
kanché that, because of the cave’s sacred nature, when the
name of a god venerated in a sacred cave at Chalma, a site
sealed chambers were discovered, it was necessary to propiti-
about two days’ march from Mexico City that was the scene
ate the deities within in order to ward off supernatural retri-
of important pilgrimages. Oztoteotl has been supplanted by
bution for the profanation. Rites were held involving the rit-
the Christian Lord of Chalma (a representation of Christ),
ual drinking of honey-based balché, the sacrifice of chickens,
who is no less venerated, both in the cave and in a church
and, among other things, the imitation of frogs by two small
erected here. One rite in Chalma is the leaving of umbilical
boys: the entrance to the cave home of the rain god was tradi-
cords in two caves, one at the top of the hill, one at the bot-
tionally guarded by a frog (Andrews, 1970, pp. 70–164).
tom, in order to ensure the infants of good fortune in life.
This type of ceremony is not unique to the cenotes of
Vegetation gods frequently had rites performed in their
Yucatán. Marion Oettinger (in a personal communication)
honor in caves. For example, the skins of flayed victims (sym-
records a cave rite in the state of Guerrero dedicated to 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

water god; in it, stalactites and stalagmites are revered as dei-
cited by Heyden, 1976). At times a cave steals this spirit or
ties. Corn is believed to come from hollows on the cave floor
that of an adult, whereupon a curandero, a healer, must per-
made by dripping water. Rites dedicated to supernatural be-
form a rite in the cave. In one case he captures the lost spirit
ings who control water and vegetation are still held within
in a piece of the spirit-owner’s clothing and manages to pull
the cave.
it out of the cave (Guido Münch, personal communication,
RITES OF PASSAGE. Since Paleolithic times caves have been
referring to Oaxaca). In these cases of soul loss and recupera-
preferred places for many rites of passage. Symbols of passage
tion, the rite of passage is a hazardous one between life and
into another world, of a descent to the underworld, they are
death. People also become ill from cave “winds,” and gra-
the scene of initiation rites for shamans—among the Austra-
niceros can cure them by making offerings to the owners of
lian medicine men, among the Araucanian of Chile, among
the caves. A rite associated with these ceremonies is that of
the Inuit (Eskimo), and among peoples of North America,
dying and resuscitating; the usual way to become a granicero
to mention but a few (Eliade, 1964, p. 51). The iruntarinia
is to be struck by lightning, be pronounced dead, and then
(“spirits”) of central Australia create a medicine man when
come to life again. In some regions the healer must “die”
an Aranda (Arunta) candidate goes to sleep at the mouth of
twice a year; then his spirit goes to a special cave, where he
a cave; he is dragged into it by one of the spirits and dismem-
receives instructions (William Madsen, cited by Heyden,
bered, and his internal organs are exchanged for others. For
1976). Exorcism is yet another rite practiced in caves, fre-
example, a fragment of rock crystal, important to shamanic
quently by saying a mass in the interior, in the presence of
power (a detail reported in Oceania and the Americas also),
the affected person.
is placed in his body, which is then returned to his village
(Eliade, 1964, pp. 46, 139). Eliade tells also of the initiatory
RELIGIOUS CAVE ART. Paintings on the walls of ancient
dream-journey of a Nenets (Yurak Samoyed) in his transition
caves, or sculptures hewn out of rock within caverns, have
from candidate to shaman. In one important episode, the
been called “invisible art” and likened to “silent music” (Car-
initiate was led into a cave covered with mirrors; there he re-
penter, 1978, pp. 90–99). That is, such art was created for
ceived a hair from each of two women, mothers of reindeer,
the initiated few and did not need to be public. Esoteric it
with which to shamanize for the animal (p. 41).
is, and it has generally been conceived to possess sympathetic
magic. For example, depicting a speared deer would ensure
In British Columbia, as each Salish adolescent conclud-
success in the hunt. Undoubtedly this is one meaning, but
ed a puberty rite, he or she imprinted a red hand on a cave
it is not the only one. Some cave images may be a way of
wall. Furthermore, these and other images painted in red on
keeping a record of rites. They may also relate to the animal
rock walls recorded remarkable dreams. A spirit quest by a
double that each person possesses. Among the North Ameri-
Salish boy led him into the hills, usually to a cave, where,
can Indians, a young man, as part of a spirit quest, often gave
through praying and fasting, he would dream of a supernatu-
thanks to his spirit guardian by painting or carving figures
ral being who would be his guardian in later life (Grant,
on cliff walls or in dark caves. These were addressed to his
1967, p. 29). Among the Dogon in Africa, circumcision rites
spirit guardian and were not meant to be seen by living hu-
are recorded by ritual signs and paintings on the rocks; these
mans; exposure would diminish their powers. Carpenter sug-
are also related to ceremonies for the renewal of the cosmos
gests that many anthropomorphic figures, depicted at times
every sixty years. In Mexico’s Malinalco rock temple, carved
in coitus, in caves or in earth sculpture on mountaintops or
altarlike felines and eagles stand against the walls; the mili-
desert floors, probably represent the original tribal ancestors
tary orders of the Jaguar and the Eagle must have held cere-
and, by extension, the beginning of the world.
monies here, such as the initiation of new members into their
select ranks.
European cave paintings dating from the Upper Paleo-
lithic period (c. 35,000–19,000 years ago), among them
A rite of passage from illness to health is performed at
those at Altamira in Spain and at Lascaux, Cap Blanc, Les
the grotto at Lourdes, France. The healing waters of
Trois Frères, Cougnac, and Rouffignac in France, portray
Lourdes’s spring and the story of the apparition of the Virgin
mainly animals. Although Henri Breuil had interpreted these
Mary to Bernadette have made this an important pilgrimage
as belonging to hunting-gathering magic, recent studies pro-
center since 1858.
pose that such art is part of Paleolithic cosmology. Leroi-
In Mexico, until early this century, a boy child born in
Gourhan (1965) sees this worldview as based on a male-
the vicinity of the Teotihuacán pyramids was placed in a
female division, with sections of the caves, as well as the ani-
cave. An animal, it was said, came out from the dark interior
mals and symbols, divided according to gender. Alexander
and licked his face; if the baby did not cry, he automatically
Marshack interprets certain forms in cave art as calendrical
acquired the right to be a granicero. Graniceros perform cur-
and incisions on bones and antlers as notational; he also
ing ceremonies and control rain from within caves. Thus the
claims that some representations have seasonal and ecological
child experienced two rites of passage, a kind of baptism and
significance, symbolized, for example, by flora and fauna typ-
initiation into this special group. In a part of Chiapas, as
ical of certain seasons and regions (cited by Conkey, 1981,
soon as a child moves within his mother’s womb, he is said
p. 23). Ritual art, then, is often a key to the daily life and
to possess a spirit, and this dwells in caves (Esther Hermitte,
economy of a people, as well as to their 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

At El Castillo in Cantabrian Spain, about fifty negative
San Francisco Mountains of Baja California a sixteen-foot-
handprints were painted on a wall by blowing red ocher
long plumed serpent is the object of a ceremony involving
around a hand held there. Although this symbol has not been
red and black men and deer. However, Uriarte sees this great
clearly interpreted by students of the period, it is reminiscent
figure as a serpent-deer, joining the natural forces of both
of red handprints on walls in the Maya region of Mexico,
creatures (1981, p. 151). The men surrounding it wear ser-
prints that according to popular tradition were placed there
pent-deer headdresses and therefore must be members of a
by slaves who were to be sacrificed. This interpretation may
cult group. Uriarte suggests also that the two-in-one animal
be fantasy, however, for in Pueblo belief (where Mexican in-
may represent a male-female creation myth. Hundreds of
fluence is often found) the handprint is a “signature” that at-
handprints found in Arizona, Utah, and northern California
tracts supernatural blessings or marks the completion of a
must have had ceremonial significance. The Chumash of
rite. Some animal representations, evidently men dressed in
California painted supernatural figures, believed to be related
skins and antlers, have been thought to depict sorcerers.
to dreams and visions, in remote mountainous areas. A cere-
Clusters of bison on the ceiling at Altamira could symbolize
monial liquor used by the Chumash and other groups was
different human groups that went to the cave for various rea-
made of the hallucinogenic jimsonweed, which could have
sons and rites. Thus the cave could have been a seasonal ag-
spurred such ritual art. Rock paintings by the Navajo marked
gregation site for people who were dispersed throughout the
sacred places where mythological events occurred; these
region (Conkey, 1981, p. 24). Could Altamira have been an
paintings often depicted the yei, equivalent to the Pueblo ka-
early Magdalenian pilgrimage center?
china, a divine creature usually associated with maize agricul-
ture. Campbell Grant (1967) suggests an important reason
René Huyghe, in discussing Paleolithic cave art, points
for some of the rock art symbols: they were mnemonic de-
out that the facsimile is effective in the beliefs of the people
vices for rites, and records of certain events. Among present-
who create these magic images. He further explores the func-
day Ojibwa, tobacco, prayer sticks, and cloth are placed on
tion of the facsimile, citing paintings on the walls of Egyp-
rocks below paintings as offerings to the supernatural beings
tian tombs, where representations of foodstuffs and furniture
depicted there. The Ojibwa believe that a shaman can enter
sometimes substituted for the actual articles needed for life
the rock and trade tobacco with the spirit there for special
after death. Huyghe has stated that the accomplished tech-
medicine (Grant, 1967, pp. 32, 147).
nique with which the cave paintings were executed indicates
probable teaching by sorcerer-priests (1962, pp. 16, 18).
In central Baja California, Uriarte (1981) records 72
With the transition to the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods,
caves painted with 488 figures or sets of figures, many with
cave art became more realistic and depicted human beings
the bodies adorned in body paint of various colors. Similar
in communal activities. Paintings of this sort are found at the
colors are also typical of cave paintings in northwestern Aus-
entrance to caves, accessible to the larger group, instead of
tralia. Among the Kulin there, Bunjil was the supreme
mythological being, who with all his people turned into stars
in dark interiors, where formerly esoteric rites must have
and whose son was the rainbow. Bunjil’s favorite place was
been held. This different religio-social art is characteristic of
Angel Cave; he created it when he spoke to rocks, which then
the Iberian coast facing Africa, and its tradition has contin-
opened up (Aldo Massola, 1968, pp. 59, 106).
ued to the present time among the African San. The paint-
ings convey great action, expressed by few, almost abstract
ARTIFICIAL CAVES. Some of the world’s most renowned
lines (running warriors at Teruel, for example), side by side
painted caves are in India. At Ajanta¯ the Gupta style of the
with incipient architecture (the menhir, probably intended
fifth and sixth centuries was the peak of a golden age, al-
as a receptacle for the soul of the deceased). Both reflect more
though the caves themselves existed by the second century
settled activities of Neolithic peoples: flock keeping and agri-
BCE, and painting continued through the eighth century CE.
culture, which spurred new ideas and customs (Huyghe,
Portrayed on the walls are scenes from the lives of Gautama
1962, pp. 21–24).
Buddha, the bodhisattvas, and other divine beings conceived
in the manner of the palace life of the time. The ja¯taka tales
America holds a wealth of cave and rock art, from Alaska
painted here illustrate the Buddha’s previous earthly experi-
to South America. Most of it dates from about 1000 CE to
ences. That some of the people are engaged in religious con-
the late 1800s. Its subjects are animals, humans, supernatural
versation is apparent from the occasional mudra¯s (hand posi-
beings, and abstract designs. Although some scenes are his-
tions). But perhaps the most extraordinary thing about these
torical or narrative (depicting Spanish horsemen, for exam-
caves, as well as at Ellora and elsewhere, is that they were
ple), much of this art is religious. Hunting magic is repre-
carved out of sandstone rock. Entire mountains were turned
sented by a heart line drawn within an animal and sometimes
into sanctuaries by devoted and anonymous sculptor-
pierced by an arrow. The mythical Thunderbird, thought to
architects to be used as monastic retreats. The thirty Ajanta¯
control thunderstorms but also a clan symbol and sacred an-
caves, excavated in the semicircular face of a mountain in the
cestor guardian among the Hopi, is often represented. The
Deccan region near Aurangabad, are either caityas (chapels)
plumed serpent, known as the god Quetzalcoatl in Mexico,
or viha¯ras (monasteries). The caityas consist of an apse, side
was the guardian of springs and streams in the Southwest,
aisles, and a central nave in the center of which is a stupa,
and is seen on kiva wall paintings or in rock carvings. In the
all hewn out of living rock. In the viha¯ras there are a congre-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

gation hall and monks’ cells. In the early caves, the Buddha
Upper Egypt. By the time of New Kingdom, the Valley of
was represented not in his bodily form but with symbols,
the Kings, on the Nile’s west side facing Luxor, had become
such as the bodhi tree or a set of footprints. Sculpture in re-
the necropolis of pharaohs, who lay in rock-cut tombs on
lief and in the round later filled the caves and covered the
both sides of the valley. The funerary temple of Queen
doorways with large figures of the Buddha and the bodhisatt-
Hatshepsut at Deir al-Bahri was carved out of the mountain
vas as well as an exuberance of elephants, buffalo, men and
on different levels. Under Ramses II, in the nineteenth
women in different positions, lotus medallions, and other
dynasty, the spectacular rock temple at Abu Simbel was
floral motifs. The happy marriage at Ajanta¯ of architecture,
hewn out of a mountain in Upper Egypt.
painting, and sculpture produced an insuperable monument
In Persia, royal rock tombs at Naksh-i-Rustam, near
to the Buddhist faith.
Persepolis, date from the sixth to the fourth centuries BCE.
Also hewn out of a mountain (sometime between the
Here the king is represented before a fire altar, above which
fourth and ninth centuries CE), the caves at Ellora are a mira-
is the god Ahura Mazda¯, whose face is surrounded by a circle,
cle of carving. Unlike the Buddhist caves at Ajanta¯, these are
symbol of eternity. At Petra, in modern Jordan, the Nabate-
dedicated to three faiths: the early caves, before 800, are Bud-
ans more than two thousand years ago carved their capital
dhist; the Hindu caves overlap (600–900), and the Jain caves
city out of rock. Along with temples and civil buildings,
cover the period from 800 to 1000. At Ellora the great
some of these artificial caves are tombs for the kings.
Hindu Kailash temple dedicated to S´iva represents Mount
In Mexico, shaft tombs—the shaft hollowed out of the
Kailash, where the gods dwell. In the early Buddhist caves,
earth, ending in a side chamber for the cadaver—were defi-
the vast number of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and ´saktis express
nitely cave representations, the deceased returning to the
the Vajraya¯na philosophy, wherein Buddhahood was ob-
earth that gave him life. The temazcal, the purifying sweat
tained through self-discipline and meditation. The Hindu
bath, used for millennia in this region, was “the house of
caves are dedicated to S´iva, who is worshiped symbolically
flowers” in pre-Columbian times, the flower symbolizing
in the phallic symbol called the lingam, found always in the
both the womb and the cave.
shrine. Sculptures of S´iva also represent him in many of his
manifestations, as the personification of death and time, as
An outstanding example of funerary caves, albeit in this
Creator, Destroyer, Divine Lover, and Lord of the Dance.
case artificial, is that of Rome’s catacombs. These were Chris-
S´iva’s wife Pa¯rvat¯ı, goddess of love and beauty, accompanies
tian cemeteries begun in the first century CE. They were
him, as does his son Gan:e´sa, the elephant-headed god of wis-
twice confiscated, during the third century and at the begin-
dom. S´iva is sometimes represented in his half-male, half-
ning of the fourth; after a bloody persecution by Diocletian,
female form. Brahma¯ and Vis:n:u are also portrayed in various
peace was finally granted by Constantine in 313. From then
forms. The composition of Ajanta¯ paintings is at times remi-
on, catacomb excavations were enlarged and embellished
niscent of the man:d:ala (or cosmic diagram), while Jain sculp-
with paintings and inscriptions referring to Christian mar-
ture at Ellora borrowed freely from Hinduism and depicts
tyrs; they became the goal of pilgrims.
Hindu deities.
In the sub-Saharan region of Mali, the Tellem people,
Undoubtedly the most spectacular of the many caves
who flourished from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries,
carved out of solid rock in China is the complex known as
buried their dead, accompanied by grave furniture and cloth-
Longmen Grottoes at Luoyang, in Honan Province. Begun
ing for the otherworld, in special caves. Objects were ritually
in the fifth century CE, the grottoes continued to be carved
destroyed, as they are in other parts of the world, in order
over a period of four hundred years. Twenty-one hundred
to release the spirit. One cave contained three thousand skel-
caves and niches and more than forty pagodas house more
etons. Among the offerings left in these high cliff caves were
than one hundred thousand sculptures, the largest 17.4 me-
skeletal remains of a crowned crane and of a turtle, both fig-
ters, the smallest only 12 centimeters high. Statues in these
ures in the mythology of the Dogon, who came to the region
grottoes mainly portray the Buddha. Also represented are at-
after the Tellem (Bedaux, 1982, pp. 28–34).
tendant figures, warriors, the Buddha’s disciples, bodhisatt-
In the lowland Maya region of Mexico and Central
vas, and a giant lotus—symbol of divine birth, purity, cre-
America, the limestone floor is honeycombed with cenotes.
ative force, and Buddha’s footsteps—on a ceiling. The walls
Perhaps because these are the main sources of water in the
of one cave, that of the Ten Thousand Buddhas, are covered
largely riverless Yucatán Peninsula, they were highly venerat-
with a myriad of tiny relief-carved figures of the divinity,
ed as sacred sites; one of their functions was that of funeral
which envelop the viewer with an awesome sense of the
chamber. The great cenote at Chichén Itzá is well known,
as are tales of fair maidens thrown into the water at this cave-
ROCK TEMPLES AND TOMBS. The hypogea, rock-cut tombs
well. It actually was a place of sacrifice to aquatic deities, but
of Egypt, attest to the use of natural materials available for
adolescents of both sexes were the victims. A sixteenth-
building. Stone, abundant in Egypt, was used for the great
century account by Fray Diego de Landa tells of young boys
monuments. From the Middle Kingdom on, tombs were
whose hearts were extracted before their bodies were deposit-
hollowed out of cliffs alongside the Nile for high officials of
ed in the cenote; propitiation of water gods by child sacrifice
E N C Y C L O P E D I 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 a common rite. The victims were accompanied by in-
Massola, Aldo. Bunjil’s Cave: Myths, Legends and Superstitions of
cense balls, gold jewels, and the even more highly prized jade,
the Aborigines of South-East Australia. Melbourne, 1968.
symbol of water and of all that is precious. These sacrificial
Stuart, George E. “Maya Art Treasures Discovered in Cave.” Na-
rites were related to maize agriculture, but also had divinato-
tional Geographic 160 (1981): 220–235.
ry and prophetic purposes. Before the rainy season, or during
Uriarte, Maria Teresa. Pintura Rupestre en Baja California. “Co-
times of drought, child sacrifices increased. Some accounts
lección Científica,” no. 106. Mexico City, 1981.
relate that the victims were lowered alive into the cave-well
Yoon, Hong-key. Geomantic Relationships between Culture and
so that they could communicate with the god, then left to
Nature in Korea. Taipei, 1976.
drown. A procession went from the main temple to a shrine
next to the cenote; there the priests instructed the victim as
New Sources
Berkson, Carmel. Elephante, the Cave of Shiva. Princeton, N.J.,
to the message to be given to the gods; then they consum-
mated the sacrifice. The walls of Guatemala’s spectacular Naj
Tunich cavern are covered with eighth-century paintings of
Bonor, Juan Luis. Las cuevas mayas: simbolismo y ritual. Madrid,
the ritual ball-game (with celestial and life-death signifi-
cance), ritual bloodletting, dwarfs (associated with both
Loubser, J. H. N. A Guide to the Rock Paintings of Tandjesberg.
heavens and the underworld), shells (symbols of birth and
Bloemfontein, Republic of South Africa, 1993.
of death), and long columns of hieroglyphs, mainly calendri-
Rutkowski, Bogdan, and Krzysztof Nowicki. The Psychro Cave,
cal. George Stuart (1981, pp. 220–235) points out that the
and Other Sacred Grottoes in Crete. Warsaw, 1996.
Classic Maya considered the numbers and days in their cal-
Whitehouse, Ruth. Underground Religion: Cult and Culture in Pre-
endar as a procession of gods who marched along an eternal
historic Italy. London, 1992.
and endless trail. The Maya believed that caves, like the roots
of the sacred ceiba tree that held earth and sky together,
Revised Bibliography
reached far down into the underworld. Caves were the en-
trance to this place, called Xibalba, where underworld gods
dwelt. Stuart suggests that the great cavern of Naj Tunich
CAYCE, EDGAR. Edgar Cayce (1877–1945) was an
was the embodiment of Xibalba, place of death.
American spiritual healer and teacher. Celebrated for trance
SEE ALSO Labyrinth; Mountains; Neolithic Religion; Paleo-
readings, diagnosing illnesses, and for prescribing unortho-
lithic Religion.
dox but reputedly effective treatments, Cayce (pronounced
“Casey”) was a seminal figure for the mid- to late twentieth-
century revival of interest in psychic phenomena and the
Andrews, Edward Wyllys. Balankanché, Throne of the Tiger Priest.
New Age movement. In addition to Cayce’s healing work,
New Orleans, 1970.
the New Age movement was inspired particularly by trance
Bedaux, Rogier M. A. “Rediscovering the Tellem of Mali.” Ar-
teachings offered by the “sleeping prophet,” as Cayce was
chaeology 35 (1982): 28–34.
called. These included “life readings,” interpreting the lives
Carpenter, Edmund. “Silent Music and Invisible Art.” Natural
of individuals in light of previous incarnations, and dis-
History 87 (1978): 90–99.
courses involving future history and “earth changes.” Cayce
Conkey, Margaret W. “A Century of Palaeolithic Cave Art.” Ar-
was relatively little known until the appearance late in his life
chaeology 34 (1981): 20–28.
of a best-selling biography by Thomas Sugrue, There Is a
Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane. New York, 1959.
River (1942); Cayce’s life and work thereafter became the
Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Rev. &
subject of many publications.
enl. ed. New York, 1964.
Cayce was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in modest
Grant, Campbell. Rock Art of the American Indian. New York,
circumstances, the son of a farmer and sometime small shop-
keeper. Edgar Cayce’s formal education did not extend be-
Heyden, Doris. “An Interpretation of the Cave underneath the
yond grammar school. He and his family were faithful mem-
Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán, Mexico.” American An-
40 (1975): 131–147.
bers of the (Campbellite) Christian Church. Deeply
religious, Edgar read the Bible regularly and taught Sunday
Heyden, Doris. “Los ritos de paso en las cuevas.” Boletín Instituto
Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (Mexico City) 2 (1976):
school for many years. He married Gertrude Evans in 1903
and was the father of three sons: Hugh Lynn, Milton Porter
Huyghe, René. “Prehistoric Art: Art Forms and Society” and
(who died in infancy), and Edgar Evans. As a young adult,
“Primitive Art: Art Forms and Society.” In Larousse Encyclo-
Cayce was employed as a salesman in a bookstore and in
pedia of Prehistoric and Ancient Art, edited by René Huyghe,
other enterprises. After moving to Bowling Green, Ken-
pp. 16–25, 72–77. London, 1962.
tucky, in 1903, he worked as a photographer. He lived in
Leighton, Dorothea C., and John Adair. People of the Middle
Alabama, chiefly in Selma, from 1909 to 1923, then moved
Place: A Study of the Zuni Indians. New Haven, 1966.
to Dayton, Ohio, and finally in 1925 to Virginia Beach, Vir-
Leroi-Gourhan, André. Treasures of Prehistoric Art. New York,
ginia, where he spent the remainder of his life engaged in his
psychic work.
E N C Y C L O P E D I 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 trances began around 1901, when Cayce was hyp-
quired a central position in the new spiritual consciousness
notized in Hopkinsville by Al C. Layne, an osteopath and
of the 1960s and the New Age movement. The association
amateur hypnotist, in connection with treatment for a throat
regained control of the hospital building in 1956 and con-
disorder. Reportedly, the entranced patient diagnosed his
verted it into office spaces for the ARE. Atlantic University
own condition and prescribed an effective cure by sugges-
was reopened in 1985 as a distance learning institution, of-
tion. As news of this occurrence spread, Cayce was persuaded
fering courses and degree programs in New Age topics. By
by Layne to work with him in treating other patients in a
2004 the extensive headquarters campus of the movement
similar way. Layne would put Cayce into a hypnotic state,
in Virginia Beach included a library, a bookstore, a confer-
during which the latter would characteristically say, “We
ence center, alternative healing facilities, and a day spa. Hugh
have the body,” and proceed to describe the ailment in spe-
Lynn Cayce was succeeded in the leadership of the move-
cific anatomical terms. The healing methods he recommend-
ment by his son, Charles Cayce (b. 1942).
ed varied greatly from individual to individual and included
Edgar Cayce is a figure unique in American spirituality.
unique combinations of osteopathy, chiropractic, electro-
He represents a link between the biblical and folk Christiani-
therapy, vibrations, massage, foods and diets, and herbal
ty of the middle South out of which he came and which was
treatments. Experience showed that the work was equally ef-
always a part of his world, and the theosophical ideas he also
fective whether the patient was in the same room with Cayce,
espoused. Reincarnation and other such concepts seemed
in an adjoining room, or miles away. For some years, howev-
much less alien to many Americans when expressed by a seer
er, Cayce’s trance readings were only occasional. During his
of Cayce’s background and earthy character. Cayce also was
years in Alabama, he also attempted to use his psychic powers
a living link between the Spiritualism of the nineteenth cen-
to find oil in Texas, but without success.
tury, with its trance mediumship, and the New Age era of
In 1923 Cayce met Arthur Lammers of Dayton, Ohio,
the late twentieth century. Because of him, ideas from all
a prosperous printer and student of theosophy. Deeply im-
these quarters came together to form the groundwork of a
pressed by his conversations with Lammers, Cayce moved to
distinctive American esotericism.
Dayton, and soon afterwards his readings began to include
references to reincarnation, Atlantis, Gnostic Christianity,
SEE ALSO Association for Research and Enlightenment.
and other features of the theosophical and occult worldview.
He began to give “life readings,” relating physical and other
problems of clients to their past lives.
Bro, Harmon Hartzell. A Seer out of Season: The Life of Edgar
Cayce. New York, 1989.
In 1925, following what he believed were psychic lead-
Cayce, Charles Thomas, and Jeanette M. Thomas, eds. The Works
ings, Cayce moved to Virginia Beach where, with the sup-
of Edgar Cayce as Seen through His Letters. Virginia Beach,
port of wealthy backers, he was able to devote himself exclu-
Va., 2000.
sively to his spiritual calling and to establish complementary
Cayce, Edgar. My Life As a Seer: The Lost Memoirs. Compiled and
works. Chief among his supporters was Morton Harry Blu-
edited by A. Robert Smith. New York, 1971.
menthal, a young Jewish stockbroker from New York. They
founded a Cayce Hospital in 1928 and Atlantic University
Cayce, Edgar Evans, and Hugh Lynn Cayce. The Outer Limits of
Edgar Cayce’s Power. New York, 1971.
in 1930, but both failed during the Great Depression. On
the other hand, the Association for Research and Enlighten-
Cayce, Hugh Lynn. Venture Inward. New York, 1964.
ment (ARE), a membership organization incorporated in
Cayce, Hugh Lynn, ed. The Edgar Cayce Reader. New York, 1969.
1932, has remained a major pillar of Cayce’s work and lega-
Johnson, K. Paul. Edgar Cayce in Context: The Readings, Truth and
cy. It provided for continuing stenographic recordings of
Fiction. Albany, N.Y., 1998.
Cayce’s readings (begun in 1923), for the dissemination of
Kirkpatrick, Sidney D. Edgar Cayce: An American Prophet. New
a newsletter and other literature, and, in time, for the estab-
York, 2000.
lishment of Cayce study groups around the nation and the
Sugrue, Thomas. There Is a River: The Story of Edgar Cayce. New
world. Some fifteen thousand transcripts of readings are kept
York, 1942; rev. ed., 1945.
in the ARE library in Virginia Beach, a collection available
to researchers and unique in the annals of mediumship. A
study by Edgar Cayce’s sons based on this material, The
Outer Limits of Edgar Cayce’s Power
(1971), presents a re-
markably candid assessment of their father’s successes and
the deliberate abstinence from sexual activi-
ty, derives its religious value from the vital human signifi-
Edgar Cayce’s older son, Hugh Lynn Cayce (1907–
cance of sex itself. The different roles played by celibacy in
1982), a gifted organizer, did much to develop the ARE,
the world’s religions then reflect different attitudes toward
heading it in the postwar years following his father’s death.
procreation and earthly existence. Thus, traditions oriented
It was largely through Hugh Lynn’s books, lectures, and en-
toward fecundity and wordly success, like those of most non-
ergetic promotional activities that Cayce and the ARE ac-
literate peoples, rarely if ever enjoin permanent celibacy for
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

anyone; only periods of temporary celibacy preceding and
formation. More often, however, adepts practice techniques
following childbirth and at crucial communal rituals are pre-
that entail only physiological imagery: Daoist spiritual alche-
scribed. The great traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and
my may lead to the generation of an immortal fetus; Hindu
Christianity, on the other hand, all oriented toward other-
yogins speak of channeling the seed upward through higher
wordly goals, have firmly established roles for celibate monks
centers of the body. For most adepts, then, total celibacy is
working out their salvation. And smaller, extreme groups
crucial in order to preserve the spiritual potencies of their
with radically negative views of life in the world may pre-
own seed, a point also affirmed in popular tradition: Hindu
scribe celibacy as an ideal for all. The reasons offered for celi-
mythological texts are full of stories of ascetics who suc-
bacy consequently range from concerns for personal physical
cumbed to lust and lost their powers.
health to a total rejection of the physical body. Religious in-
Thus, the power of holy persons also depends in good
stitutions, moreover, differ both in the ways of life that they
part on their self-control. The word yoga, in fact, deriving
prescribe for the celibate and in the image of the celibate that
from a root meaning “to yoke,” can often be best understood
they present to laypersons.
in a very concrete sense: a willful harnessing of the vital ener-
TRADITIONAL PERCEPTIONS. The placement of deliberate
gies, which are considered prone to rage like beasts. So even
religious restraints on physical behavior, celibacy is often ex-
in traditions like Christianity that do not explicitly posit a
plained within tradition through physiological as well as
direct continuity between sexual and spiritual energies, celi-
metaphysical concepts. Asian esoteric texts, moreover, can be
bacy still appears as a measure of powerful mastery over the
most explicit about the spiritual potentials of reproductive
senses. Latin Catholicism gives us stories of triumphant (and
energies. Traditional understandings of celibacy, then, pres-
faltering) ascetics struggling with incubi or succubi, attrac-
ent a continuity that spans ideas about marriage and procre-
tive male or female spirits bent on seducing them. Among
ation, spiritual powers, spiritual purity, and chaste marriage
the American Shakers, a struggle with sexual desire became
to the divine.
the distinctive focal point through which an active Protestant
sect sought to reform human existence. For the Shakers, the
Temporary concentration of reproductive energies.
world of sensual experience itself was so overwhelming that
The perception that sexual intercourse during pregnancy and
a break with it required radical means: absolute abstention.
lactation will harm an infant is found in many cultures, in-
In this instance, perfect celibacy expresses an attempt at total
cluding some contemporary Western folk traditions. The
larger worldviews in which this perception is embedded may
thus vary immensely. For the Arapesh of New Guinea, the
Separation from the impure. Ascetics who aim to sub-
practice of temporary celibacy has a positive religious signifi-
jugate the flesh usually have no high opinion of the gross
cance for procreation. According to Arapesh ideas, the fetus
physical matter that constitutes it. The eventual aim of con-
is shaped and nurtured by both parents through several
trolling the sexual nature for many can then become the
weeks of frequent and purposeful intercourse after the moth-
achievement of distance from a fundamentally impure, de-
er’s menstruation stops. Yet once the mother’s breasts enlarge
generate, and transient world. The perception of the physical
in the first obvious sign of pregnancy, the child is considered
body itself as disgusting and ultimately worthless may be ac-
fully formed and all intercourse must cease. After the child
tively cultivated in monastic traditions, sometimes through
is born, the parents are supposed to sleep together with it,
deliberate meditation practice. In the near-canonical Visudd-
devote their energies to it, and give it special attention. If ei-
himagga, Therava¯da Buddhist monks are enjoined to detach
ther parent indulges in sexual activity—even with other part-
themselves from sensual desire by contemplating the dead
ners—before the child can walk, they say that it will become
body in various stages of decomposition (swollen, bluish,
weak and perhaps die. With infanticide common among the
gnawed, worm-eaten) and the live body as filled, among
Arapesh, choosing to keep a child is a deliberate decision, and
other things, with intestines, excrement, bile, pus, fat,
this extended celibacy surrounding childbirth, once chosen,
mucus, and urine (chaps. 6, 8). Sexual activity in this context
is normally kept. Celibacy then appears to represent here a
can easily be seen as another disgusting physical function
conscious channeling and concentration of the reproductive
from which all wise people should abstain.
power of both parents for the good of the child, lineage, and
In nonliterate cultures, which usually have fewer qualms
about the physical body, the impurity attributed to sex may
stem in part from its potential danger to the social fabric.
The power of holy persons. Adepts in the esoteric tra-
Built up out of kinship bonds, tribal societies may splinter
ditions of Asia are often aware of transmuting their repro-
over family tensions and conflicts about women. Temporary
ductive power into spiritual power and channeling it within.
celibacy is thus often enjoined at crucial public rituals that
This perception lies behind certain occult meditation tech-
highlight communal solidarity—initiations, hunting expedi-
niques found in both India and Daoist China that draw on
tions, the start of a group journey.
a tension between continence, in a strict sense, and sexual in-
tercourse. Through entering a woman and still remaining
The image of chaste asexuality encompassing the com-
continent, the male adept arouses sexual energy in both part-
mon good is also found in Western religious institutions.
ners, which can then be absorbed inwardly for spiritual trans-
Roman state religion, which is often, in fact, understood 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

derive from the religion of family and clan, exalted the Vestal
Lord’s faithful wife, a concept institutionalized in Catholic
Virgins. The keepers of Rome’s communal hearth, the Vestal
orders that identify nuns as brides of Christ. Moreover,
Virgins were legally neither men nor women. Buried alive if
Christian as well as Hindu mystics sometimes express them-
they violated their chastity, their most crucial obligation was
selves in terms of nuptial ecstasy. Though the patriarchal her-
celibacy itself. People in literate as well as nonliterate cul-
itages of East and West usually present the aspiring soul in
tures, then, may believe that sacred institutions maintaining
feminine guise, dependent on the will of her Lord, men too
the welfare of humanity as a whole should depend on indi-
can adopt a passionate devotional attitude. In India, both
viduals in an extraordinary state, beyond human sexuality.
male and female devotees of Kr:s:n:a understand the highest
spiritual state in terms of romantic love, and make much of
Ideas about the impurity of sex known both to the
Kr:s:n:a’s amorous dalliance with the adoring milkmaids of his
Roman world’s ascetics and in its politico-religious institu-
pastoral childhood home. Some theologians of Kr:s:n:a wor-
tions were assimilated and transformed by early Christians,
ship have further pointed out that the milkmaids were in fact
who by the fourth century had recognized the source of their
married women, and that the most intense desire between
own religious institution in the virgin son of a virgin mother.
men and women actually takes place outside routinized mar-
For Christians, then, maintaining virginity can be an imita-
riage, between clandestine lovers. So, paradoxically, the
tion of divine models and the purity of permanent celibacy
milkmaids’ passionate attachment to Kr:s:n:a —an important
can offer a constant tie to what is realized as primal in reli-
ideal for a large tradition of Indian celibates—is frequently
gious experience. Appearing as the original state of man born
represented as wives’ unchaste betrayal of their husbands.
of the spirit, celibacy in Christianity, as in other traditions,
Thus, as radical departures from ordinary convention, both
promises innocence—eternal childhood in the Lord.
celibacy and sexual abandon become religious parallels to
Exclusive attachment to the divine. Being an eternal
one another.
child in God can free the celibate from many worldly respon-
sibilities. Luke’s reference to chaste persons as “equal to an-
THE PLACE OF CELIBACY IN SOCIETY. Like total sexual aban-
gels” (20:35–36) suggests not only the innocence of celi-
don, moreover, total abstinence is not a generally recom-
bates, but also their roles as agents of God, in no way
mended practice in most traditions, and the social regulation
beholden to man. Certainly, the ability to devote all of one’s
of sexual behavior may entail curbs on celibacy as well as on
efforts to spiritual matters without the burden of family obli-
indulgence. Indeed, traditional cultures often present celiba-
gations is a very frequently voiced justification for celibacy
cy and procreation in a complementary relationship, which
in the East as well as in the West. In India, the practical im-
can be ordered according to the calendrical cycle, the life
plications of celibacy for a life devoted to religious pursuits
cycle, or divisions in the society as a whole. At the same time,
has explicit expression in the semantic range of the Sanskrit
separate communities of celibates have their own norms of
word brahmacarya, which occurs very frequently in religious
sexual propriety, and the maintenance of these norms is often
writings. Used most often to refer to sexual abstention, brah-
crucial for the image of the celibate in the eyes of laypersons.
macarya literally means “walking with brahman,” the primal
Procreation and abstinence in traditional societies.
divine essence; at the same time, brahmacarya may be used
Clearly, no civilization can survive for long without some
to refer specifically to the first stage in the traditional Hindu
provision for procreation, and religious traditions with
life cycle, which is supposed to be devoted to religious study.
strong ethnic roots, like Confucianism and Judaism, may
Thus, a word suggesting adherence to first divine principles
have no place at all for the permanent celibate. Although tra-
explicitly links the concept of celibacy to distinctly religious
ditional Judaism proscribes sexual relations outside marriage,
pursuits and the absence of worldly, adult responsibilities.
all Jews are expected to marry and engage regularly in conju-
In a highly dualistic theology, strict adherence to first
gal relations. Indeed, the Sabbath itself is thought of as a
principles can demand an absolute withdrawal from involve-
bride, and to celebrate its arrival Jewish husbands are en-
ment in earthly endeavors. Abstinence from sex is required
joined to have intercourse with their wives joyously on Sab-
less to follow active religious pursuits freely than to desist
bath eve. In Judaism, then, controlled religious pursuits
from physical procreation. For a gnostic like Marcion
should also embrace sanctified procreation throughout a ma-
(d. 160?), the physical world is the creation of a false god,
ture person’s life.
not the true one; trapped in physical bodies, souls cannot re-
The most highly structured relationships between absti-
turn to their real, original home. From this perspective, mak-
nence and procreation are found in traditional India, where
ing more physical bodies only means making more prisons
classical Hindu tradition sees these relationships ordered not,
for human souls, and keeping celibate represents a refusal to
as in Judaism, in a lifelong weekly cycle, but in the cycle of
further the false, earthly creation.
each individual life. The life stages of classical Hinduism are
By inhibiting fruitful physical unions, celibacy may also
fourfold: (1) brahmacarya, a period of celibate study; (2)
strengthen the devotee’s spiritual union with the Lord. In-
gr:hastha, the householder stage, in which traditional Hindus
deed, in devotional traditions, physical sexual abstinence is
were expected to marry and have many children, particularly
often a sign of faithful attachment to the divine beloved.
sons who would perform their death rites; (3) vanaprastha
Hindu devotional poetry idealizes the stalwart devotee as the
(“forest dwelling”), the later stage of marriage, after the chil-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

dren were fully raised and had received most of their inheri-
should sleep in separate beds, clothed and with a light burn-
tance, and when abstinence was prescribed; and finally (4)
ing; though inmates of monasteries should sleep in groups,
sam:nya¯sa, the stage of total renunciation of settled life as well
young monks should not sleep alone as a group but should
as sex. The classical Hindu life cycle, then, begins and ends
be together with older ones (chap. 22). The abbots seemed
in celibacy, but prescribes a sexually fruitful period of life as
to recognize that ideals of spiritual love among members of
a householder in between.
their communities could stand in practical tension with vows
of celibacy.
Giving celibacy an explicit place in the individual life
cycle, Hindu tradition also gives celibate individuals an ex-
Yet more often than not, the physical chastity of clois-
plicit place in society. Hindus recognize that exceptional in-
tered monks is rarely tested; the crucial spiritual role of sexual
dividuals will want to live all their lives as celibate ascetics,
restrictions on celibates is less the prevention of sexual activi-
either prolonging their studies indefinitely as brahmaca¯rins
ty than of sexual thoughts. For celibates living outside the
or bypassing the householder stage by making early formal
cloister, continually interacting with laypersons, temptation
renunciation. Today, Hindus tend to collapse the first and
and desire can become particularly problematic. Necessary
last stages of the cycle and ignore the third, thus resolving
celibacy for diocesan priests has been frequently questioned,
the four stages of the life cycle into two social states: house-
both inside and outside the Roman Catholic church. In pre-
holders fruitfully participating in society, nurturing new
Reformation Europe, many priests openly took concubines,
souls, and supporting ascetics; and solitary celibates outside
and the last half of the twentieth century has heard continu-
society, working out their own salvation. In most Indian cos-
ing discussion of the value of requiring celibacy for all priests.
mologies, the participation of householders as well as celi-
The tensions facing the modern priest are understandable:
bates is required in the proper economy of salvation in the
living in a sexually open society and as a confessor hearing
detailed accounts of the intimate lives of individuals, he is
nevertheless expected to exercise the same sexual discipline—
Sexual norms in celibate groups. In Therava¯da Bud-
both mentally and physically—of the cloistered monk.
dhism, the complementary roles of the householder and celi-
bate were institutionalized and given a distinctive religious
The image for the layperson. The persistence of sacer-
valuation. The community of monks—the sam:gha—should
dotal celibacy in Roman Catholic tradition may lie, in part,
be supported by the laity, but the proper ordering of the cos-
in the image that the priest holds for the laity. As an adminis-
mos (and so the welfare of the laity) depends on the sam:gha’s
trator of divine office, the priest is seen to function within
purity, conceived in good part as its sexual purity. Thus, in
the holy mother church and should reflect her virginal puri-
the Vinaya Pit:aka, the monastic disciplinary code, specific
ty. The ideal of virginal purity for its officiants is maintained
rules governed everyday practices that had even the most
even in the Eastern Orthodox church: though married men
subtle sexual implications, from propriety in dress to contact
are allowed to become priests, they are not allowed to rise
with women. Atonement for even minor sexual infractions
to the highest episcopal office, and once a man has become
required not only confessions but also a formal legal decision
a priest he may not take a wife. As representatives of a sacred
handed down in a meeting of the community. Sexual inter-
institution regarded as pure, Buddhist monks project a simi-
course with a woman was one of the few grounds for imme-
lar image of chaste holiness in Therava¯da society. Like
diate expulsion from the sam:gha.
priests, monks are formal participants in Therava¯da ritual,
much of which involves the feeding of monks by laypersons.
Perhaps more crucial than the rules regulating the con-
The religious power of the rite for laypersons depends in part
tact between members of a celibate community and potential
on the monks’ perceived purity.
sexual partners outside it are those controlling the relation-
ships among the community members themselves. These
A vow of celibacy, moreover, can make individuals ap-
rules can be especially complex in celibate communities of
pear remarkable beyond the confines of sanctified ritual. No
mixed sex. The Shakers, a mixed celibate community
longer appearing as ordinary mortals, celibates can be relaxed
founded by a woman, maintained strict segregation between
in their socioreligious roles. The Roman Catholic priest can
the sexes; men and women were even to avoid passing each
joke and gossip with parishioners and not have to worry too
other on stairways. Taking in children and youths to raise,
much about a decorous image. A Therava¯da monk, even if
they kept them under tight control. Children were not al-
he is not particularly charismatic, at least withstands the rig-
lowed out at night except for some specific reason (and not
ors of chastity—an experience familiar to many male Th-
for any reason on Saturday evenings); lest they be tempted,
eravadins who have temporarily taken the robe. Among
children even of the same sex were not to be left unattended
Hindu gurus, the married ones may feel constrained to ap-
at their weekly bath. In whole communities of the same sex,
pear particularly scrupulous in financial matters; celibate
too, provisions are often made to inhibit physical contact
gurus, on the other hand, not burdened by family responsi-
among members. Though the Rule of Saint Benedict, which
bilities, are said to be more easily trusted. And in all tradi-
stands behind much of Western monastic life, has little ex-
tions, celibate hermits who do not interact readily with
plicit to say about celibacy itself, it does include provisions
laypersons may, through their renunciation of society, seem
apparently aimed at the prevention of homosexuality. Monks
awesome and powerful.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

CONCLUSION. In setting individuals apart from normal life,
Christian era and their impact on the Greco-Roman world.
deliberate celibacy can render them extraordinary both to
Herodotus and Hecataeus confirm that by about 500 BCE the
themselves and to others. In crucial situations, temporary ab-
Celts were already widely dispersed over central and western
stinence is undertaken by members of many cultures, either
Europe, including perhaps Gaul and the Iberian Peninsula,
to achieve distance from impurity during rituals or to chan-
and evidence from the fifth century testifies to further terri-
nel reproductive energy at the birth of a child. In religions
torial expansion. About 400 BCE this process quickened as
oriented toward salvation, more permanent vows of celibacy
tribal bands invaded northern Italy and established settle-
affirm the links of individuals to powers higher than this
ments that, in due course, became the Roman province of
world, often as members of sanctified institutions. In these
Gallia Cisalpina. Some Celtic bands raided farther south, as
ways, celibacy makes people seem less grossly, physically
far as Rome and Apulia and even Sicily, and around 387 they
human, and thus, sometimes, more divine.
captured and sacked the city of Rome, an event of traumatic
importance in Roman history.
SEE ALSO Asceticism; Desire; Kun:d:alin¯ı; Sam:nya¯sa; Tan-
trism; Virginity.
To the east, other Celtic tribes penetrated into the Car-
pathians and the Balkans during the fourth century BCE. In
279 some of them entered Greece and plundered the shrine
For an extensive survey of celibacy in Christianity with a brief
at Delphi, and in the following year three Celtic tribes,
treatment of Asian traditions see Elizabeth Abbott, A History
known collectively to the Greeks as Galatae, crossed into Asia
of Celibacy (New York, 2000). For small-scale societies, see
Minor and eventually settled in the region that still bears the
the essays in Celibacy, Culture, and Society: The Anthropology
name Galatia. In Britain, the final phase of Celtic settlement
of Sexual Abstinence (Madison, 2001) edited by Elisa Janine
came with the arrival of the Belgae in the first century BCE,
Sobo and Sandra Bell. In Taoist Yoga: Alchemy and Immortal-
although there is archaeological evidence of earlier immigra-
ity (New York, 1970), Charles Luk presents a translation of
tions dating back as far as the fifth century BCE. For Ireland,
a turn-of-the-century Chinese text that treats the spiritual
the evidence is complicated, and one cannot confidently
transformation of sexual energies. Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Im-
infer a Celtic presence before the third century BCE.
mortality and Freedom (Princeton, 1969), treats this dimen-
sion of celibacy along with many others in Hindu religious
By the early third century BCE the Celts extended across
traditions. Social-scientific insight on the role of celibate
the length of Europe from Britain to Asia Minor, and they
monks in Therava¯da Buddhist culture is presented in S. J.
were considered one of the three or four most important bar-
Tambiah, Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in North-east Thai-
barian peoples in the known world. Thereafter, however,
land (Cambridge, 1970). A socio-religious perspective on the
their history is one of decline. Harried by Germans in the
Shakers is given by Louis J. Kern, who presents them as a
north, Dacians in the east, and Romans in the south, the
radical Protestant community: An Ordered Love (Chapel
Hill, 1981).
continental Celts saw their widespread dominion disinte-
grate and contract until their realm came to be associated
Incisive accounts of issues surrounding celibacy in the first Chris-
solely with Gaul, where they maintained their independence
tian centuries are offered by Peter Brown, The Body and Soci-
ety: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christian-

until their conquest by Caesar (100–44 BCE) in the mid–first
ity (New York, 1988). Later Christian traditions are treated
century BCE (58–51 BCE).
in the essays in Medieval Purity and Piety: Essays on Medieval
In Britain and Ireland the process was longer drawn out,
Clerical Celibacy and Religious Reform (New York, 1998), ed-
but there too Celtic society was gradually eroded and sub-
ited by Michael Frassetto. Contemporary concerns about cel-
merged by foreign domination. By the beginning of the
ibacy in Catholicism, together with a concise historical sur-
twenty-first century, Celtic languages were being spoken
vey, are presented by Thomas McGovern, Priestly Celibacy
(Princeton and Chicago, 1998).
only on the western periphery, in restricted areas of Ireland,
Scotland, Wales, and Brittany. The insular languages belong
DANIEL GOLD (1987 AND 2005)
to two distinct branches of Celtic and perhaps reflect an
older dialectal division among the Celtic-speaking peoples of
Europe: Goidelic, which comprises Irish and Scottish Gaelic
(and formerly Manx), and British or Brythonic, comprising
This entry consists of the following articles:
Welsh and Breton (and formerly Cornish). However, Bre-
ton, which is largely the product of immigration to Brittany
from southwest Britain from around the fourth to the sev-
enth century CE, may also have absorbed surviving elements
of Gaulish speech.
Historical references to the Celts begin in the fifth century
The entry of the Celts into the written record coincides
BCE. Herodotus and Hecataeus of Miletus are the forerun-
with the first evidences of the Second Iron Age, also known
ners of a long series of Greek and Latin writers whose reports
as La Tène culture, which refers broadly to those areas of Eu-
and comments, both well- and ill-informed, reflect the
rope historically associated with the Celts. However, the fur-
changing fortunes of the Celtic peoples during the pre-
ther back beyond the fifth century BCE one goes, the more
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

difficult it becomes to use the term Celts with reasonable
of later writers who borrowed from him, such as the historian
confidence, because the correlatives of language and written
Diodorus Siculus (died after 21 BCE,), the geographer Strabo
reference are lacking. The cultural phase which preceded La
(c. 63 BCE–24 CE), and, most notably of all, Julius Caesar,
Tène, known as Hallstatt, dates from the ninth century BCE
whose account is crucial for the study of Gaulish religion.
and covers an expanse of territory extending at least from
Burgundy to Bohemia. Hallstatt culture is characterized by
The limitations of the classical sources are obvious.
elaborate chariot burials and by the use of iron rather than
Most of the reports come at second- or third-hand and are
bronze for arms and utensils. It is the product of a warrior
subject to the prejudices and preconceptions born of classical
aristocracy that is generally recognized as Celtic, or at least
civilization—or even, as in the case of Caesar, of internal
as the direct ancestor of the Celts of the following period.
Roman politics—but they are not without substance, as on
Obviously, the definition of a Celtic identity was the product
many points they harmonize remarkably with the later insu-
of a long period of linguistic and cultural evolution, and
lar sources. For example, classical sources note that in Gaul
some archaeologists have ventured to identify as proto-Celtic
there were three classes associated with literature and learn-
the peoples of the Urnfield culture and of the Tumulus cul-
ing: the druids, the bards, and, between them, an order that
ture that preceded it in the second millennium
seems to have been best known by the Gaulish term *va¯tis
BCE, or even
the peoples of the Beaker and Battle-Axe cultures of the third
(cognate with Latin vatis; * denotes a form not appearing in
epigraphs and reconstructed from the quotations of Greek
BCE. However, this is mere speculation; the
point in the archaeological record at which the Indo-
and Latin authors), which is not clearly distinguishable from
Europeans made their appearance in central and western Eu-
the druids. Far removed in time and space, the same three-
rope cannot be known with certainty. And yet most scholars
fold arrangement occurs in medieval Ireland, comprising
discern in the culture of the Tumulus peoples features that
here druids (druïdh), filidh, and bards (baird). The term fáith
are echoed in that of La Tène.
(prophet) is the Irish cognate of Gaulish *va¯tis and appears
frequently as a near synonym of fili (plural, filidh).
SOURCES. The sources for Celtic religion fall broadly into
two categories. The first category comprises the various mon-
Manuscripts. The second main body of evidence, the
uments relating to the Celts on the continent, particularly
insular Celtic literatures, is at first glance far removed from
in Gaul and in Roman Britain, and the second category com-
the pre-Roman world of the continental Celts. The great his-
prises the insular Celtic literatures that have been preserved
torian of Gaul, Camille Jullian (1859–1933), questioned
in writing. The two types pose problems that are very differ-
whether it was valid to use Irish and Welsh literary sources
ent in character. Most dedicatory inscriptions, images of
to interpret Latin and Greek references to Gaulish institu-
Celtic deities, and commentaries by classical authors belong
tions and concluded that one could not rely on documents
to the Roman period and probably reflect in varying degrees
written so long after the Celtic migration to Ireland. In fact,
the effect of Roman influence on Gaulish institutions. For
the gap is much narrower than the twelve centuries that he
example, because Gaulish sculpture is based for the most part
supposed, because much of the relevant material is linguisti-
on Greco-Roman models, it is often difficult to assess and
cally older than the period of the manuscript collections in
interpret its relevance to native belief. Even cases in which
which it is now preserved. Further, there is no evidence that
motifs and figures seem clearly to derive from pre-Roman re-
Christianity was introduced to any part of Ireland before the
ligious tradition, as in some of the Celtic coins of the third
second half of the fourth century CE, or that it impinged
and second centuries BCE, they are not easily related to what
much on the traditional culture of the country before the
is known of insular Celtic myth and ritual.
sixth century. Moreover, one must reckon with the highly
conservative character of Irish learned tradition, which,
The difficulty lies in the lack of the literature that would
thanks to the assiduousness of the hereditary filidh, survived
provide a context for the iconography as well as a key to its
far into the Christian period and transmitted innumerable
understanding. The druids, as Caesar records, accorded pri-
elements of form and content, particularly in the area of so-
macy to the spoken word and refused to commit their teach-
cial institutions, which find their closest detailed analogues
ing to writing. Consequently, the whole of the traditional lit-
in the sacred texts of Vedic and classical Sanskrit.
erature, including the mythology that gave the iconography
its meaning, was confined to oral transmission and perished
Written literature in Irish dates from the second half of
with the extinction of the Gaulish language. The total loss
the sixth century CE, when monastic scholars adapted the
of this vernacular literature, which was doubtless comparable
Latin alphabet for that purpose, and it gradually increases in
in volume and variety with that of early Ireland, renders all
volume during the following centuries. In addition to a good
the more significant the testimony of those classical authors
deal of typically monastic learning, both religious and secu-
who recorded their own or others’ observations on the Celts.
lar, the literature comprises a vast amount of varied material
Probably the most important was Posidonius (c. 135–c. 50
recorded or adapted from oral tradition. However, only frag-
BCE), who had firsthand knowledge of diverse cultures, in-
ments of this literature survive in contemporary manuscripts,
cluding the Celtic in southern Gaul, and who devoted the
mostly in the form of annals or notes and glosses accompany-
twenty-third chapter of his lost Histories to Celtic ethnogra-
ing Latin texts; all the vernacular manuscripts written before
phy. Much of his account of the Celts survives in the work
the end of the eleventh century, some of them known 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

name, have perished through usage or spoilage caused by
the many other miscellaneous sources are the lives of the
warfare. Then around 1100 came Lebhor na hUidhre (The
saints, particularly those later ones compiled or redacted
book of the dun cow), probably written in the monastery of
from the eleventh century onward (of which it is sometimes
Clonmacnois and the first of a series of great vellum manu-
said that they contain more pagan mythology than Chris-
script compilations that were part of a conscious endeavor
in the face of ominous political and social change to conserve
the monuments of native tradition. It was followed around
Evidence indicates that the early oral literature of Wales
1130 by an untitled collection now at the Bodleian Library
was comparable in volume and variety with that of Ireland.
at Oxford University and around 1150–1200 by Lebhor na
Unfortunately, because of a weaker scribal tradition, Welsh
Nuachongbála (known commonly as the Book of Leinster),
literature is less well documented for the pre-Norman period,
probably compiled in the monasteries of Glendalough and
prior to the eleventh century. This applies particularly to
Terryglass, respectively. Over the next couple of centuries a
prose, which in the Celtic languages is the standard medium
number of major manuscripts appeared, of which the most
for narrative and hence for most heroic and mythological lit-
important are the Great Book of Lecan, Yellow Book of
erature. Of the compositions ascribed to the fathers of Welsh
Lecan, Book of Ballymote, Book of Lismore, and Book of
poetry, Taliesin and Aneirin, who belonged to the second
Fermoy. These capacious bibliothecae embrace all the various
half of the sixth century, only a modest proportion is likely
genres of traditional literature: hero and king tales, mytho-
to be authentic, and all of that consists of eulogy and heroic
logical tales, origin legends, genealogies, onomastic (the
elegy. However, from the ninth or tenth century onward Ta-
study of proper names) and etymological lore, gnomic texts,
liesin became the focus of poems and stories (extant only in
legal tracts, eulogy and elegy, battle tales, birth tales, death
much later versions) that represent him as a wonder child,
tales, tales of the otherworld, and so on. It is important to
seer, and prophet; some of these motifs clearly derive from
remember that, although the surviving manuscripts date
native mythological tradition. There is no evidence of writ-
from a relatively late period, the matter they contain has gen-
ten Welsh narrative prose before the eleventh century, the
erally been copied more or less faithfully from earlier manu-
period to which most scholars assign the first redaction of
scripts. The result is that the initial redaction of the individu-
the earliest of the group of tales known as the Mabinogi or
al texts can be dated with a fair degree of accuracy on the
Mabinogion. However, the earliest manuscripts containing
basis of linguistic criteria. Thus the texts are often demon-
this prose material date from considerably later. Apart from
strably centuries older than the extant manuscripts.
two manuscript fragments from the late thirteenth and early
fourteenth centuries, the main texts are the “White Book of
Along with these manuscript collections, several special-
Rhydderch” from the mid–fourteenth century and the “Red
ized compilations, including Leabhar Gabhála Éireann (The
Book of Hergest” from the late fourteenth or early fifteenth
book of the taking of Ireland), commonly known as the
century. Another important source is the Trioedd Ynys Pry-
Book of Invasions, an amalgam of myth and pseudohistory,
dein (The triads of the island of Britain), which contains nu-
which purports to recount the coming of the Gaels to Ireland
merous references to mythological as well as historical char-
as well as the several immigrations that preceded it; the Cóir
acters and events; it may have been compiled in the twelfth
Anmann (Fitness of names), a catalog of names of “historical”
century, but much of the contents must have existed in oral
personages with many imaginative etymologies and refer-
tradition before then. Also of mythological interest are the
ences to traditional legends; and the Dinnshenchas (Lore of
poems compiled as part of the “Black Book of Carmarthen”
famous places), which provides a much fuller and more elab-
in the mid-thirteenth century, some of the contents of which
orate examination of place names than the Cóir Anmann pro-
may be dated on linguistic grounds to the ninth or tenth cen-
vides for personal names. The features of the Irish landscape
and their names, if properly construed, were thought to re-
veal the history of the country and its peoples from their be-
Given the diversity of these sources, it is unrealistic to
ginnings. From the first shaping and definition of the land—
expect from them a clear image of religious and mythological
the clearing of plains, the creation of rivers and lakes, and
unity. On one hand, Gaulish epigraphy and iconography be-
the assigning of names (as related in Leabhar Gabhála)—
long preponderantly to the period of Roman domination
each place was linked indissolubly to momentous events by
when native religion was being progressively modified by
an association that conferred on it an enduring psychic reso-
Roman influence. On the other hand, the insular literatures,
nance. The onomastic element is pervasive in Irish (and
although exceedingly conservative in many respects, were re-
Welsh) literature, and in poetic tracts dating from around
corded and redacted by monastic scribes and scholars who,
the tenth century, the history of dinnshenchas is included
however well disposed toward their own vernacular tradition,
in the course of study prescribed for apprentice filidh. Dur-
were nonetheless educated Christians, who on matters of
ing the eleventh and twelfth centuries, a period of intensive
crucial importance doubtless gave priority to Christian
compilation, a comprehensive volume of these onomastic
teaching over pagan tradition. In short, the integral tradition
legends was assembled. This mythological gazetteer of Irish
as it would have been transmitted and commented on by the
place names exists in several recensions (critically revised
druids in an independent Celtic society does not exist. Even
texts that use varying sources), both prose and verse. Among
among the insular Celts, history created important dispari-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ties. For instance, Ireland escaped the immediate physical
an intensifying force, expressing totality or omnipotence, al-
presence of Rome, which left its imprint so clearly on medi-
though its symbolism may be even more complex and subtle.
eval language and thought in Britain and Wales. One must
also acknowledge the imponderable but obviously consider-
that the bulk of the relevant evidence belongs to the Roman
able survival of pre-Celtic religion in Celtic belief and prac-
period, the Gaulish religion is for the most part as seen
tice in the several areas of Celtic settlement. Yet, despite these
through Roman eyes, which means that it is perceived and
sources of dissimilation, the underlying structural and the-
presented in terms of Roman religion. A classical example is
matic unity of British and Irish ideology is more striking
the passage in Caesar’s Gallic Wars in which he lists and de-
than the superficial differences.
fines the principal gods of the Gauls:
Artifacts. The plastic art of the Celto-Roman period is
Of the gods they worship Mercury most of all. He has
so evidently based on that of Rome that it might appear at
the greatest number of images; they hold that he is the
first glance to have been borrowed whole and unchanged,
inventor of all the arts and a guide on the roads and on
but on closer scrutiny it reveals many elements that derive
journeys, and they believe him the most influential for
from the Celtic rather than from the Roman tradition. On
money-making and commerce. After him they honor
one hand, there are forms quite foreign to classical art, such
Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva. Of these deities
as the tricephalic (three-headed) god, the god with stag’s ant-
they have almost the same idea as other peoples: Apollo
drives away diseases, Minerva teaches the first principles
lers, and the god depicted in the Buddha-like cross-legged
of the arts and crafts, Jupiter rules the heavens, and
position. On the other hand, there are images more or less
Mars controls the issue of war. (Gallic Wars, 6.17)
in the classical mode but with features not associated with
the corresponding deities of Greco-Latin religion: the wheel,
What Caesar offers us here is a thumbnail sketch of the Gaul-
for instance, or the mallet. The wheel is seen by some as rep-
ish pantheon modeled on that of Rome. As part of this glar-
resenting the thunderbolt, by others as representing the sun,
ingly Roman interpretation, he refers to each deity not by
and in some cases it may also be the emblem of the god of
his proper Celtic name but by that of a Roman deity to
the underworld. Similarly, the mallet or hammer is thought
which it is most easily equated. At the same time he intro-
to have several connotations: it symbolizes thunder and the
duces a neat schematism, which is quite foreign to all that
sky from which it emanates, but it also functions as an
is otherwise known of Celtic religion. In thus equating gods
apotropaic (able to prevent evil or bad luck) symbol and as
and divine functions that are not really equal, he has posed
the emblem of an underworld god of fecundity. The cornu-
many problems for modern scholars who seek to identify
copia, or horn of abundance, is not particularly Celtic, but
Caesar’s Roman gods in continental Celtic iconography and
it appears as a common attribute of the Celtic mother god-
insular Celtic mythology.
dess, perhaps the most important divinity of the primitive
To confound matters further, modern scholars have
Celtic pantheon. Animal horns are commonly regarded as
tended to depreciate Caesar’s testimony on the Gauls; first,
signs of fertility, and the antlers that the Celtic deity wears
on the grounds that he distorted the facts to enhance his own
on the Gundestrup Caldron, a first-century BCE vessel found
achievements, and second, on the grounds that he took his
in Denmark, and elsewhere are taken to symbolize his power
information from Posidonius, but used it inaccurately. It has
and fecundity. Another frequent emblem of divinity is the
been argued, for example, that Caesar—and even Posidoni-
ornamented torque, which is interpreted to denote a power-
us—exaggerated the social and political importance of the
ful god who is able to provide protection from evil spirits.
druids, assigning them a dominant role that they never in
Although it is usually worn around the neck as a metal collar,
fact possessed. Yet in this regard, as in others, Caesar’s ver-
the torque is sometimes held in the hand, and, on the relief
sion of things is largely confirmed by the independent evi-
of the Celtic god Cernunnos in the Musée de Cluny in Paris,
dence of the insular literatures. Once allowance is made for
the deity carries two torques suspended on his horns.
the synoptic nature of his comment, his inevitable profes-
Probably the most notable element in the religious sym-
sional bias, and the limitations of his interest in Gaul, there
bolism of the Celts is the number three; the mystic signifi-
is no reason to assume that his account is not largely authen-
tic. By the time he wrote his account, he had had eight years’
cance of the concept of threeness is attested in most parts of
experience of the country, and most likely he derived much
the world, but it seems to have had a particularly strong sig-
of his information from personal observation and from the
nificance for the Celts. This is confirmed both by Celto-
reports of colleagues and acquaintances; certainly there is lit-
Roman iconography, which has its three-headed and three-
tle basis for the common assumption that he was totally in-
faced deities (and even a triphallic Mercury) and its triads of
debted to Posidonius for his knowledge of the land and its
mother goddesses, and by the insular literary tradition, which
has an endless variety of ternary groups in which the triad
is an expressive restatement of an underlying unity. Examples
The concise precision of Caesar’s testimony makes it
include goddesses such as the three Brighids and inseparable
difficult to correlate with other evidence. Georges Dumézil
brothers such as the three companions of the tragic heroine
(1898–1986) remarked that one of the many traits the early
Deirdre. It is commonly accepted that ternary repetition has
Irish shared with the Indians is that they were both fond of
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classification and careless of order. The result is that Irish lit-
amples of major gods known by several different names. As
erature is often a curious mixture of meticulous detail and
for the form Teutates, it may be a title linking the god to the
incoherence that finds its closest parallel in some of the Indi-
tribe but does not necessarily confine him to it. By the same
an epics. One must therefore adjust one’s mental perspective
token, in early Irish law the small tribal kingdom, the tuath
considerably as one moves from Caesar to the vernacular lit-
(from *teuta¯), was the unit of jurisdiction, and rules of law
eratures. It may be that something of this prodigal disorder
were explicitly stated to apply i tuaith (within a tuath). Pre-
is reflected in the continental Celtic iconography, which may
sumably, then, laws originally applied with equal validity
help to explain why identifications with Caesar’s deities are
only between members of the same tribe; however, substan-
often more a matter of speculation than of demonstration.
tially the same law—formulated by the same learned class of
But perhaps a more important consideration is that Caesar’s
jurists related to the druids and filidh—was common to all
account and the iconography refer to quite different stages
the tribal kingdoms. Similarly, in primitive Ireland the vital
in the history of Gaulish religion. Periods of profound cul-
ritual of inauguration was founded in the first place on the
tural and political change often bring into prominence popu-
small tribal kingdom (tuath), as is enunciated in the law
lar forms of belief and practice that have hitherto been con-
tracts, but it is also replicated at different levels throughout
cealed by the dominant orthodoxy. It seems probable that
the wider cultural community. And as for the alleged lack
the religion represented in Gallo-Roman plastic art was less
of great divinities common to all the Celtic peoples, this is
clearly structured and delimited than that maintained by the
gainsaid even in terms of nomenclature by such insular gods
druids in the days of independence before Caesar’s conquest.
as Lugh and Brighid and their continental equivalents. In
short, there is a growing awareness that, despite its all too ob-
Modern scholars have often noted, and sometimes exag-
vious complexities, the seeming throng of Celtic gods is both
gerated, a discrepancy between Caesar’s account and the
less amorphous and more universal than was formerly be-
Gallo-Roman evidence, claiming that the evidence does not
substantiate Caesar’s account of a pantheon of major deities
who were worshiped throughout Gaul. In Gallo-Roman
Another criticism levelled at Caesar is that he assigned
dedications, deities may be assigned a Roman name, a native
separate functions to the several Gaulish deities in contradic-
Gaulish name, or a Roman name accompanied by a native
tion of the evidence. Some scholars hold that the deities were
epithet. The last two cases clearly have to do with indigenous
polyvalent (they can be understood in more than one way)
gods, and even the first group may also. For example, the nu-
tribal gods, and that to seek to restrict them to distinct
merous statues and reliefs of Mercury in the guise of the
spheres of activity is pointless. Others hold that all the vari-
Greco-Roman god might have been intended to honor that
ous attested gods may be reduced ultimately to a single deity
god, but equally they might have been intended to honor a
who is both polyvalent and polymorphic (i.e., taking more
native god by borrowing the classical form together with the
than one form). Thomas F. O’Rahilly, one of the two princi-
classical name. Indeed, many of these images have certain
pal exponents of this view, believed that the core of Irish and
features that betray their essential non-Roman character. It
Celtic mythology was the conflict in which this universal
has been observed that the great majority of the several hun-
deity was slain by a youthful hero using the god’s own sacred
dred names containing a Gaulish element occur only once.
weapon, the thunderbolt. Pierre Lambrechts, the other prin-
Those that occur more frequently tend to do so in regional
cipal exponent of this view, believed that originally Celtic re-
or tribal groupings, and many of them have a clear local ref-
ligion was bound up with one great deity, possibly a ternary
erence (e.g., Mars Vesontius pointing to Vesontio and Dea
(three-formed) deity endowed with multiple and compre-
Tricoria referring to a goddess of the Tricorii). The inference
hensive attributes and that during the Roman period this
drawn by some scholars, including Joseph Vendryes and
largely undefined and impersonal deity was fragmented into
Marie-Louise Sjoestedt, is that, although the Celts had a
a number of smaller, specialized deities through contact with
multiplicity of gods, their cults were local and tribal rather
the Greco-Roman world.
than national. Scholars also cite Lucan’s (39–65 CE) mention
of the deity name Teutates, which they interpret as “God of
This notion of a single all-encompassing god, endlessly
the Tribe” based on the etymologies of Celtic word *teuta¯
varied in form and function, has perhaps a certain plausibili-
(tribe) and an oath formula from Irish hero tales, Tongu do
ty. Because the Celtic gods were not clearly departmental-
dia toinges mo thuath (I swear to the god to whom my tribe
ized, it is difficult to pair them off neatly with their Roman
counterparts, and so one finds such evident anomalies as the
occasional use of the same Gaulish byname (e.g., Iovantu-
But this evidence is susceptible of a different interpreta-
carus and Vellaunus) with different Roman deity names
tion. A large proportion of the Gaulish forms attested in ded-
(e.g., Mars and Mercurius). However, although the func-
ications are mere epithets or bynames; even of those that may
tional roles of the several deities are not clearly defined and
be taken to be proper names, it would be quite erroneous to
delimited and frequently overlap with one another, it does
suppose that each indicates a separate deity. As Dumézil re-
not follow that they may be reduced to a single, all-purpose
marked in Dieux des Indo-Européens (1952), the names of de-
divine overlord. It has often been remarked that in polytheis-
ities are easily reinvented, and the insular literatures offer ex-
tic systems each god tends to move beyond his or her normal
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functional field toward a kind of universalism. Yet, despite
the cyclopean Balar with a slingshot. Lughnasadh, his feast,
this tendency toward the assimilation of roles, the insular
was a harvest festival, and at least two of its principal sites,
Celtic gods are far removed from functional indifferentism,
Carmun and Tailtiu, were the burial places of goddesses by
and there are some, like Goibhniu (The Smith) and Dian
the same names, who were associated with the fertility of the
Cecht (The Leech) whose central responsibilities are defined
earth (as was, apparently, the Gaulish Mercury’s consort
very precisely. The assumption of undifferentiated polyva-
Rosmerta). Lugh was the divine exemplar of sacred kingship,
lence that underlies the conflicting interpretations of Ven-
and in the tale Baile in Scáil (The Phantom’s Vision) he ap-
dryes and O’Rahilly (i.e., tribal and polytheistic) or Lam-
pears seated in state as king of the otherworld and attended
brechts (i.e., vaguely monotheistic) has not been
by a woman identified as the sovereignty of Ireland, reminis-
substantiated. In fact, more recent scholars, notably Franç-
cent of Rosmerta. His usual epithet, lámhfhada (of the long
oise Le Roux and Anne Ross, have moved in the direction
arm), relates to his divine kingship. In the Christian period
of a typological classification of the gods based on criteria of
Lugh survived in the guise of several saints known by variants
function. The scheme put forward by Le Roux is in close
of his name—Lughaidh, Molua, and others—and the motif
conformity with the principles established in Dumézil’s
of the arm is reflected in these Christian traditions as well.
functional theory of Indo-European mythology. Indeed, it
could be argued that this typological approach had already
Gaulish Mars. A famous passage in Lucan’s (39–65 CE)
been anticipated by Caesar in his brief account of the charac-
Civil War refers to the bloody sacrifices offered the three
teristic activities of the major Gaulish deities.
Celtic gods: Teutates, Esus, and Taranis. A later commenta-
tor on Lucan clearly illustrates the difficulty of identifying
Mercury or Lugh. Caesar’s observation that Mercury
individual Gaulish and Roman gods, for one of his two main
was the deity with the greatest number of images in Gaul is
sources equated Teutates with Mercury, the other with Mars.
confirmed by the surviving evidence of inscriptions, stone
But if, as seems likely, teutates is primarily a title (“god of the
statues and reliefs, bronze statuettes, and terra-cotta figures.
tribe”) rather than a name, then such confusion is explain-
His image often appears in the mode of the classical Mercu-
able: the god of sovereignty and the arts, Mercurius, will also
ry: youthful, naked, and beardless; equipped with caduceus
function as a warrior, whereas the god of war, Mars, will
(rod entwined with a pair of snakes), petasos (wide-brimmed
often function as the protector of the tribe. Consequently,
hat), and purse; and accompanied by cock, ram, or tortoise.
their functions will sometimes overlap, and it may be a mat-
But his image is also found in Gallo-Roman guise: mature,
ter of chance or circumstance which is given preeminence in
bearded, and dressed in a heavy cloak. Sometimes, as in the
a given time or place. A further complication is that many
east and the north of Gaul, he has three heads. Unlike his
of the Gallo-Roman dedications to Mars present him not
Roman counterpart, he has a frequent consort named Maia
only as a god of war but also as god of healing and guardian
or Rosmerta (The Provider) and includes the art of war in
of the fields, but this may reflect an extension of his role in
his range of competence.
the Roman period and does not necessarily discredit Caesar’s
One cannot assume that Caesar’s Mercury coincides
description of him as god of war. So far as the insular tradi-
with a single native deity throughout the Celtic areas, but
tion is concerned, a god of war does not come into clear
there is quite strong evidence for identifying him substantial-
focus, perhaps because fighting is a more or less universal
ly with the Irish god Lugh (although some doubts have been
rather than a differentiating feature in the heroic context.
expressed in this regard by Bernhard Maier). First, Lugh’s
Thus one cannot easily define the role of Mars, and one can-
name and cult were pan-Celtic. Further, Caesar speaks of
not so easily assign him a pan-Celtic identity as one can
Mercury as omnium inventorem artium (inventor of all the
arts), a close paraphrase of Lugh’s sobriquet in Irish,
Gaulish Apollo. The classical form of Apollo in Roma-
(sam)ildánach (skilled in many arts together). In fact, an epi-
no-Celtic monuments only partly conceals the several native
sode in the tale of the mythological Battle of Magh Tuiredh
deities who have been assimilated to him. The use of the plu-
dramatically sets forth Lugh’s claim as the only god who was
ral is probably justifiable, because several of the fifteen or
master of all the arts and crafts. At Osma in Spain an inscrip-
more epithets attached to Apollo’s name have a wide distri-
tion was found with a dedication on behalf of a guild of shoe-
bution, which might suggest that they were independent
makers to the Lugoves, whose name is the plural of Lugus,
gods. Yet some of these epithets may have referred to a single
an older form of Lugh. Most likely these divinities, who
deity. Belenus was especially honored in the old Celtic king-
recur in an inscription from Avenches in Switzerland, are
dom of Noricum in the eastern Alps, as well as in northern
simply the pan-Celtic Lugus in plural, perhaps triple, form.
Italy, southern Gaul, and Britain. The solar connotations of
The Middle Welsh tale Math vab Mathonwy may well echo
the stem bel- (shining, brilliant) would have confirmed the
this connection with shoemaking, for Lleu, the Welsh cog-
identification with the Greco-Roman Apollo. Grannus,
nate of Lugh, operates briefly as a high-class practitioner of
whose name is of uncertain etymology, has a widespread cult
the craft.
with one of its principal centers at Aachen. He is sometimes
In Ireland, Lugh was the youthful victor over malevo-
accompanied by a goddess named Sirona. Borvo, or Bormo,
lent demonic figures, and his great achievement was to kill
whose name denotes boiling or seething water, is associated
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with thermal springs, as at Bourbonne-les-Bains and other
In the Irish context the single goddess who answers best
sites named after him. His consort is Damona (Divine Cow)
to Caesar’s Minerva by virtue of her functional repertoire
or Bormana.
and wide-ranging cult is the goddess Brighid (from earlier
This association of healing with springs and wells,
*Brigent¯ı). According to the Glossary of Cormac mac Cuilen-
which was subsequently taken over into Christian or sub-
náin (c. 900) she was the daughter of the father-god, the
Christian usage throughout the Celtic countries, tended to
Daghdha (literally, Good God), and was worshiped by the
encourage localized cults, and it is all the more remarkable
filid, the exclusive fraternity of learned seer-poets. In keeping
that these early names had such an extensive currency. Un-
with the Celtic penchant for triadic repetition, she had two
like those already mentioned, Maponos (Divine Son/Youth)
sisters, also called Brighid—the one associated with healing,
occurs mainly in northern Britain, although it is also attested
the other with the smith’s craft—and their combined fame
in Gaul near healing springs. Maponos appears in medieval
was such that among all the Irish a goddess used to be called
Welsh literature as Mabon, son of Modron, that is, of
Brighid (a statement that invites comparison with Caesar’s
Matrona (Divine Mother), eponymous goddess of the river
use of Minerva as an inclusive term for the goddesses of
Marne in France. A brief but significant episode in the tale
Gaul). Thus, Brighid was patroness of the artistic inspiration
of Culhwch and Olwen casts him in the role of hunter and
of the poets as well as of healing and craftsmanship. Minerva,
alludes to a myth attested elsewhere in insular literature of
for her part, is associated with healing, as at the shrine of
the youthful god carried off from his mother when three
Bath, and she is also combined on reliefs with Mercury, the
nights old. That his legend was once more extensive in oral
master of all the arts, and Vulcan, more specifically connect-
tradition than appears from the extant literature is borne out
ed with the craftsmanship of the smith. It seems clear that
by the survival of his name into Arthurian romance under
Brighid is merely the Irish reflex of a pan-Celtic deity. Her
the forms Mabon, Mabuz, and Mabonagrain.
name, which meant originally “The Exalted One,” has its
His Irish equivalent was Mac ind Óg (Young Lad/Son),
close linguistic correspondent in *Brigantî, latinized as Bri-
otherwise known as Oenghus, who was believed to dwell in
gantia, the name of the tutelary goddess of the Brigantes,
Bruigh na Bóinne, the great Neolithic and therefore pre-
who formed an important federation in northern Britain.
Celtic, passage grave of Newgrange. He was the son of Dagh-
She has also a remarkable Christian (or Christianized) double
dha, chief god of the Irish, and of Boann, eponym of the sa-
in the person of her namesake Brighid, the great sixth-
cred river of Irish tradition (Boyne, in English). As his name
century abbess of the monastery of Kildare. The legend of
and relationship suggest, he is a youthful god, and, perhaps
the saint is inextricably fused with that of her pagan alter ego,
in keeping with this, he is often treated with a certain affec-
and as she is inevitably accorded a much fuller documenta-
tion in the literature, particularly in his familiar roles of trick-
tion by monastic redactors, there is the curious irony that the
ster and lover. But he is nowhere presented as a god of heal-
richest source for the mythology of the goddess is the hagiog-
ing, which merely underlines the impossibility of exactly
raphy of the saint together with the prolific folklore that
equating Celtic and Roman gods in terms of their functional
commemorates her in popular tradition. Both the saint’s
Lives and her folklore suggest a close connection with live-
stock and the produce of the soil, and, appropriately, her
Gaulish Minerva: Irish Brighid. The goddesses of in-
feastday, February 1, coincides with Imbolg, the pagan festi-
sular Celtic tradition are involved in a wide range of activities
val of spring. In a passage of the Topographia Hiberniae that
that are only partly reflected in Caesar’s succinct comment
evidently draws on this conflate tradition, the twelfth-
that Minerva concerned herself with teaching “the first prin-
century Norman cleric Gerald of Wales (c.1146–c.1223; also
ciples of the arts and crafts” (Minervam operum atque artifici-
known Giraldus Cambrensis) reports that Brighid and nine-
orum initia tradere), even though expertise in arts and crafts
teen of her nuns at Kildare took turns in maintaining a per-
enjoyed high status in Celtic society and covered a broad
petual fire surrounded by a hedge within which no male
swathe of competences. It is very probable that Caesar chose
might enter. Also, it is a significant coincidence that already
a single widely revered deity to represent the whole category
in the third century Iulius Solinus, associating Minerva with
of goddesses, national and regional. Dedications to Minerva
the healing springs of Sulis, mentions in Collectanea Rerum
are found throughout the Celtic areas of the continent and
Memorabilium that perpetual fires burned in her sancuary
in Britain. At Bath she was identified with the goddess Sulis
also. In secular texts Brighid is sometimes made to aid and
who was worshiped there in connection with the thermal
encourage the men of Leinster when they were engaged in
springs and has been identified as a solar deity. The name
crucial conflicts, a reflection perhaps of her pristine role as
Minerva is frequently accompanied by the epithet belisama
territorial goddess like those other Celtic deities indicated by
(very brilliant), which suggests a rapport with the Gallo-
such nicknames as Dea Tricoria of the Tricorii in the Nar-
Roman Apollo, who is sometimes named Belenus (The Shin-
bonnaise, Dea Nemetona of the Nemetes in the Rhine re-
ing One). The related plural suleviae is applied to triads of
gion, or even Dea Brigantia of the British federation.
mother-goddesses at sites on the Continent and in Britain.
Sulis Minerva is also related to the widespread and important
Celtic Vulcan. Although Caesar does not mention a
category of mother-goddesses: Matres Suleviae and Suleviae
Gaulish Vulcan, his cult was evidently known to all the Celt-
ic peoples; indeed, the evidence suggests that he enjoyed a
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higher status than his Roman counterpart. Because he func-
dwelling place was a small rocky island off the southwest
tioned as a very specialized deity, there is a strong probability
coast of Ireland known as Tech nDuinn (House of Donn).
that his native name among the continental Celts made refer-
Its English name, the Bull, echoes its other name in early
ence to his craft, as it did in Ireland and Wales, where he was
Irish, Inis Tarbhnai (Island of Tarbnae). Tarbhnae derives
known as Goibhniu and Gofannon, both names derived
from tarbh (bull), which perhaps suggests a connection be-
from the word for smith. The weapons Goibhniu forged with
tween the god Donn and the great brown bull (the Donn)
his fellow craft gods, Luchta the Wright and Creidhne the
of Cuailnge, which provides the central motivation for the
Metalworker, were unerring in aim and fatal in their effect.
saga Táin Bó Cuailnge (The cattle raid of Cuailnge).
Further, those who attended the Feast of Goibhniu and par-
In his role as god of death, Donn is a rather retiring fig-
took of the god’s sacred drink were thereby rendered im-
ure in the early literature. Like Dis Pater, he seems to stand
mune to age and decay. He was known for his healing pow-
apart from the other deities, but his importance is confirmed
ers, and he is invoked in an Old Irish charm for the removal
by his status in modern folk tradition, in which he is repre-
of a thorn. Until the nineteenth century, and in some areas
sented as the underworld god who creates storms and ship-
even into the twentieth century, the country smith was still
wrecks but also protects cattle and crops. Both early and late
believed to retain something of his ancient preternatural fac-
sources record the belief that the dead made their way or
ulty, and he was constantly called on for the healing effects
were ferried to his island after death. As one early text makes
of his charms and spells. In the early tradition, Gobbán Saer
clear, these travelers were regarded as Donn’s descendants re-
(Gobbán the Wright; Gobbán is a hypocoristic form of
turning to their divine ancestor. The parallel with Dis Pater
Goibhniu) was renowned as a wondrous builder, and under
is evident and is a further argument for the general authentic-
the modern form, Gobán Saor, he is the skillful and resource-
ity of Caesar’s account of the Gaulish deities. Donn’s impor-
ful mason who outwits his rivals and enemies by his clever
tance in indigenous religious tradition is implicitly recog-
nized in the fact that he is included in the pseudo-history of
Gaulish Hercules or Irish Oghma. Hercules is well
Leabhar Gabhála Éireann as chief of the Gaels, the Sons of
represented in Celto-Roman iconography and has a number
Míl, last of the several peoples to settle in Ireland, but his
of regional epithets assigned to him. Doubtless his popularity
religious significance presented a problem of how to accom-
derives largely from his identification with native Celtic gods
modate him within what was essentially a project of Chris-
who correspond approximately to his classical character. One
tianizing native mythic history. The solution the redactors
of these is mentioned in a curious passage by the Greek writ-
opted for was to dispose of him by having him drown in the
er Lucian in the second century CE, who, when describing
sea off the southwest coast and be subsequently brought for
a Gaulish picture of Hercules, notes that the Celts call him
burial to a rocky islet nearby that has been known ever since
Ogmios. It showed him armed with his familiar club and
as the Island of Donn.
bow but pictured him uncharacteristically as an old man,
Sucellus and Nantosvelta. Some two hundred monu-
bald and gray with his skin darkened and wrinkled by the
ments, mostly in Gaul, show a deity holding a hammer, and
sun. He pulled behind him a willing band of men attached
a number name him as Sucellus (The Good Striker). Besides
by slender chains that linked their ears to the tip of his
the characteristic hammer or mallet, he is often depicted with
tongue. The explanation, according to Lucian’s Gaulish in-
a cask or drinking jar and accompanied by a dog. He is some-
formant, was that eloquence reaches its apogee in old age:
times paired with the goddess, Nantosvelta, whose name sug-
the Celts did not identify eloquence with Hermes, as did
gests an association with water (cf. Welsh nant, meaning
the Greeks, but with Hercules, because he was by far the
brook). Particularly in the Narbonnaise, Sucellus is frequent-
ly assimilated to the Roman Silvanus, guardian of forests and
A question much debated is whether this hoary champi-
patron of agriculture. Because of these associations and attri-
on can be identified with the Irish god Oghma, despite the
butes, he has been seen as controlling fecundity, not an un-
fact that the phonological correspondence is not exact. The
usual function for an underworld deity. He has also been
functional parallel is adequate: Not merely is Oghma known
equated with the Celtic Cernunnos and the Irish Daghdha,
as a trénfher (strong man, champion), but he is also credited
but although there are certain broad similarities between
with the invention of the Ogham letters. This system of writ-
them, the evidence does not suffice to prove a closer con-
ing was based on the Latin alphabet and can hardly be older
than the fourth century CE, but it probably replaced an older
Goddesses and divine consorts. In continental iconog-
system of magical symbols of the same name.
raphy, the frequent pairing of god and consort represents the
goddesses as complementary to the male deities, and this
Gaulish Dis Pater or Irish Donn. Caesar mentions Dis
image may overlap with the ideal coupling of king and
Pater separately from the other gods and states that all the
territorial goddess so widely portrayed in medieval Irish
Gauls believed with their druids that they were descended
from him. The reference is brief but is sufficient to indicate
at least an analogy between the Gaulish god of the dead and
It seems impossible to draw any clear distinction be-
his Irish counterpart Donn (Brown/Dark One), whose
tween specific named goddesses and the matres or matronae
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

who appear so frequently in Celtic iconography, often in tri-
thing of it remained in the divine nomenclature of these
adic form like the goddesses of Irish tradition. Both goddess-
es and matres are concerned with fertility and with the sea-
Apart from the general cult of the earth goddess, an ex-
sonal cycle of the earth, and the insular goddesses are
tensive repertory of deity names attached to individual places
sometimes identified with the land and cast in the role of its
or topographical features also exists. Hilltops and mountain
protective deities. This intimate connection with the land
tops are considered particularly appropriate settings for the
and its physical features is reflected in the exceptional impor-
sacred, as evidenced by dedications to Garra and Baeserta in
tance of the feminine element in the dinnshenchas, the vast
the Pyrenees and to Vosegus in the Vosges. There was a god
accumulation of prose and verse, which constitutes a virtual
of the clearing or cultivated field (Ialonus), of the rock (Ali-
mythological topography of Ireland. A goddess’s concern for
sanos), of the confluence (Condatis), of the ford (Ritena),
the land in general also becomes a responsibility for the par-
and of the fortified place (Dunatis). Water, particularly the
ticular region or kingdom with which she is especially associ-
ated. Each goddess ensures the material well-being, sover-
moving water of rivers and springs, had its special deities,
eignty, and physical security of her particular domain, just
which were generally female in the case of the rivers. One
as Brighid, in the guise of her saintly namesake, protects
can perhaps glimpse the lost mythology of such rivers as the
Leinster both as goddess of war and as goddess of peace. The
Seine (Sequana), the Marne (Matrona), and the Saone (Sou-
mother-god specifically titled as such, Mâtrona, gave her
conna) through the legends of insular equivalents like the
name to the river that is now the Marne in France. She was
Boyne (Boann). The names of many rivers throughout the
the mother of Maponos (The Youthful/Son God) known in
Celtic lands, such as the French Dives or the Welsh Dyfrd-
Welsh as Mabon, son of Modron. In Irish tradition the cor-
wy, are derived from the stem dev- and mean simply “the di-
responding role belonged to Boann, eponym of the river
vine one.” Sacred springs are deified as, for example, Aventia
Boann (anglicized Boyne); she was the mother of the Irish
(Avenches), Vesunna (Périgeux), and Divona (Cahors). Fur-
divine youth par excellence, Mac ind Óc, whose name is the
ther, there were many divine patrons of thermal waters, such
semantic equivalent of the Welsh and Celtic Mabon/
as the god Borvo, and this particularly widespread cult is re-
Maponos. As mother, the goddess is sometimes represented
flected in the countless holy and healing wells (some twelve
in Irish texts as ancestress of a distinguished line of descent,
hundred in Wales alone, and no one has yet added up the
and this is presumably what is intended by the author of the
Irish instances) that made the transition from paganism to
medieval Welsh tale “Branwen Daughter of Llyˆr” in which
Christianity with little essential change. However, the abun-
he describes Branwen as one of the three great ancestresses
dant material evidence for this pan-Celtic phenomenon is
of the island of Britain.
not matched by the early insular literary evidence: many Irish
tales mention wells with preternatural powers and associa-
In keeping with their title—Matres, Matrae,
tions, but there is hardly anything about healing wells as
Matronae—the mother-goddesses attested throughout the
such. Unless this is due to suppression by the monastic redac-
Romano-Celtic world are characteristically represented with
tors of the literature, the only explanation would seem to be
the various symbols of their maternal and creative function:
that the frequenting of healing wells had always been regard-
carrying or caring for infants or bearing such familiar sym-
ed, even in pagan times, as a popular practice to be distin-
bols of prosperity as the cornucopia or the basket of fruits.
guished from the more official tribal cults, or simply that it
They were also thought of as nourishing and watching over
was so familiar as to be unremarkable.
specific peoples and regions and were named accordingly the
Matres Glanicae at Glanum (Saint-Rémy-de-Provence), for
In many instances the holy wells of the Christian period
example, or the Matres Treverae among the Treveri. They
stand close to a specific tree that shares their supernatural
would seem to have survived cultural and religious change
aura. Obviously, this is one aspect of the widespread cult of
in the guise of the mamau (mothers) and the formidable cail-
sacred trees. In the Pyrenees there are dedications to the
leacha (old women) of Welsh and Irish-Scottish popular tra-
beech (Deo Fago) and to the Six Trees (Sexarbori deo, Sexar-
dition respectively.
boribus) and at Angoulême to the oak (Deo Robori). The
Romano-Celtic name of the town of Embron, Eburodunum,
Nature associations. Underlying the tradition of dinns-
contains the name of the deified yew tree. Such continental
henchas is the belief that prominent places and geological fea-
forms are supplemented by a vast dossier of insular evidence.
tures throughout Ireland were the scene of mythic events or
There were, for example, scores of Christian foundations in
the abode, even the embodiment, of mythic personages.
Ireland evidently located on the sites of pagan cult centers,
Many of the numerous women who populate this world of
each with its sacred tree nearby. The literature frequently
onomastic legend are clear reflexes of the multifaceted god-
mentions several great trees that were particularly honored
dess whose origins are bound up with the physical land-
in tradition: the Tree of Tortu (an ash), the Oak of Mughna,
scape—figures like Tailtiu and Carmun whose burial places
the Yew of Ross, the Bough of Dathí (an ash), the Ash of
were named after them—were the sites of great royal assem-
Uisnech, among others. There was even a special term for
blies. In most of the Celto-Roman world the early onomastic
such trees, bile, and this term was sometimes used for the
lore disappeared with the indigenous languages, but some-
great tree that marked each of the inauguration sites of tribal
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and provincial kings. Standing theoretically at the center of
ing food of the otherworld is a pig, which, although cooked
its kingdom like the axis mundi in its greater cosmos, the bile
each night, remains alive and whole each morning.
symbolized the integrity and independence of the kingdom.
The horse, index and instrument of the great Indo-
When it happened, as it did occasionally, that it was attacked
European expansion, has always had a special place in the af-
and felled by a hostile neighbor, this doubtless dealt a severe
fections of the Celtic peoples. Sometimes in insular tradition,
blow to communal pride and self-respect.
particularly in folk tales, he is the bearer of the dead to the
Zoomorphic gods. Celto-Roman iconography contains
otherworld, a role probably reflected in some monuments in
a rich abundance of animal imagery, frequently presenting
southern Gaul, such as the frieze of horses’ heads on a lintel
the deities in combinations of zoomorphic and anthropo-
from the Celto-Ligurian sanctuary of Roquepertuse, Bou-
morphic forms. Already noted is the probable connection be-
ches-du-Rhone. Epona (from *epos, meaning horse) was an
tween Donn, the Irish Dis Pater, and the bull of the same
important Celtic deity and was particularly favored as patron
name in the epic Táin Bó Cuailnge. Neither of the two bulls
of the cavalry of the Roman army. She has insular analogues
whose conflict forms the climax of the tale is of natural ori-
in the Welsh Rhiannon and in the Irish Edaín Echraidhe
gin. According to other texts, they had previously undergone
(echraidhe, meaning horse riding) and Macha, who outran the
many metamorphoses—as ravens, stags, champions, water
fastest steeds. There was also a Dea Artio (as well as a Mer-
beasts, demons, and water worms—and in the beginning
curius Artaios), whose name connects her with the bear
they had been the swineherds of the lords of the otherworld.
(Irish, art, meaning bear); a little bronze group from Bern
This kind of shape shifting, a continuing expression of the
shows her seated before a large bear with a basket of fruit by
unity of the living world of creation, is commonplace in in-
her side. Dea Arduinna, who appears seated on a wild boar,
sular Celtic tradition and serves to invest a given deity or he-
may be compared with the Irish goddess Flidhais, who ruled
roic demigod with the attributes traditionally ascribed to cer-
over the beasts of the forest and whose cattle were the wild
tain birds and animals. For instance, the bond between
animal and human is implicit in the archetype of the divine
Gaulish monuments that show a god or goddess with
swineherds, who are doubtless avatars of the great herdsman
two or more birds seated on their shoulders call to mind the
god. Further, the Brown Bull of Cuailnge cannot be wholly
supernatural birds that are a familiar feature of insular tradi-
dissociated from the Tarvos Trigaranus (The Bull of the
tion, in which some deities assume bird form occasionally;
Three Cranes), pictured on reliefs from Trèves and Notre-
others, like the war goddesses, do so constantly. The insular
Dame-de-Paris and presumably the subject of a lost Gaulish
catalog of bird imagery is endless. King Conaire’s supernatu-
narrative. Among the Celts, as among many other cattl