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Images Borne on Dewy Lightning: Byzantine παρθένογένεσις as Hierotopy of Fluid Brilliance

Publication: Research - peer-reviewBook chapter

The Silent Book (Mutus Liber) printed in 1677 opens with an unusual picture for a 21st century viewer showing a male figure and a female alchemist wringing out the dew they have collected in sheets exposed to the air. One wonders why on earth one may try to squeeze and then store dew, and how it might be possible? Yet the morning dew has been conceived from immemorial time as celestial moisture, a heavenly gift (Pliny the Elder), the philosopher’s stone in embryo (for alchemist), the manna (for Zohar the Cabbalistic mysticism). The “collectors” or carriers of such ineffable things, as dew, have been known since ancient times. The ἀρρηφορεῖν, in translation 'dew carriers', are one of them. They are young virgins (παρθένοι), named after the “dew,” performing the sacred rite consisting in carrying on their heads the unspeakable mystery, hidden in baskets and then covered by sacred veils. This paper follows this tradition up to Byzantium and examines the Byzantine variant of the old myth of παρθένογένεσις, the celebration of the impalpable element for which a whole new theological corpus is shaped around the cult of the Virgin Mary.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHOLY WATER : in the Hierotopy and Iconography of the Christian World
EditorsAlexei Lidov
Number of pages25
Place of PublicationMoscow
PublisherTheoria: Moscow UNESCO
Publication date12 Aug 2017
Pages184-209
ISBN (print)978-5-91796-061-6
StatePublished - 12 Aug 2017

ID: 183727819