Fieldwork and Ancient Sources
A Comparative Method for Healing Rituals
Keywords:modern and ancient Greece, ethnohistory, gender, healing rituals, pilgrimage, religion, theory and method
The article presents a new method for the study of antiquity: ethnographic fieldwork results combined with studies of ancient sources. The study addresses the interrelationship between oral and written sources. The pilgrimage centre located on the island of Tinos, which houses a miraculous holy icon (image) of the Annunciation of the Panagia (“the All-Holy One”, or the Virgin Mary), is central here. Many dedications in the sanctuary are memorials linked to the most famous miracle cures worked by the icon. These are written down in a church pamphlet distributed to pilgrims, and this aspect of the miracles is further illustrated by examining the sanctuary’s archive housing letters from several categories of believers, including white and black magic. We also meet the activities that most often are performed by female pilgrims, including vows, prayers and offerings, accompanied by oral sharing of stories of miracles. Women reproduce written miracles in their own way too, as they likewise do with miracles they have heard from others. Many of these share similarities to what we read about in ancient sources, generally authored by men, as well as in inscriptions telling us about the healing miracles of Epidauros, where ancient pilgrims journeyed. The article discusses some of these through a comparison in order to shed new light on the ancient world. The male-produced texts must be deconstructed and considered from a gyno-inclusive perspective by examining them in conjunction with information from the female sphere, such as the few sources authored by ancient women and the oral stories shared by modern women.
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