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Ritual and Communication in the Graeco-Roman World

Eftychia Stavrianopoulou

Ritual Dynamics: The Contribution of Analogy, Simile and Free Association

Henk S. Versnel

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  • 1 Lecture delivered on the occasion of the award of the title of doctor honoris causa by the Philoso (...)

1This lecture is intended as a brief introduction to three types of ancient Greek ritual that have had my interest over the last twenty years.1 Only recently it began to dawn upon me that they share a common feature, of which I had never been aware before. I am referring to the remarkable contribution of the principles of free association or analogy to their construction, to their function and to their meaning. The three ritual phenomena that I propose to discuss from this perspective are, first, magical spells including the so-called curse tablets, secondly ancient festivals, more especially one specific festival, and thirdly divine miracles, more especially those accompanied by divine epiphanies.

1. Magical spells

2A few years ago I possessed a green plastic watering can, which I used for spreading pesticides to eradicate the weeds, herbs and grasses teeming between the paving stones of the terrace and walks in my garden. My reason for using this green can was grounded on the (subconscious) association: poison is green, because the Dutch language has an expression “gifgroen” (green as poison). The next year I used that same can but, the original association having vanished from my memory, I took it that it referred to green as the symbol of unspoilt nature and hence I used what remained of its content for the opposite goal namely to fertilize the grass of my lawn. This resulted in the definitive end of my beautiful lawn and in the near end of my up to that moment relatively happy marriage.

3Both times my choice had been guided by the principle of association, and we have here a first suggestion of the multireferential potential of free association and its most productive manifestation: analogy. One can regret the broad variety of possible references of a substance or a quality (as I did), or one can welcome it since it provides abundant opportunities for creative association.

  • 2 All these spells can be found in R.L.M. Heim, “Incantamenta magica graeca latina”, Jahrbuch fur Cl (...)

4My green can also perfectly demonstrates that the process of free association can produce quite opposite effects. Examples abound in ancient magical spells, for instance in the application of colour analogy in the treatment of ailments or wounds. White anemones, so we read in an ancient medical spell, must be applied to prevent the white complexion that is caused by heavy drinking, just as yellow flowers are good to prevent or to heal jaundice. Likewise, the red colour of a plant can be recommended against red ulcers and red bruises. However, quite to the contrary, the use of a red cloth or garment is recommended in order to produce a healthy red complexion.2 There appears to be a certain arbitrariness in the spectrum of associative mechanisms. In the process of association anything goes, it seems, as long as there is the tiniest shred of similarity, as we shall see more clearly from what follows.

5Let us cast a glance at the ancient curse tablets, also called defixiones. These are small, thin sheets of lead, inscribed with texts intended to influence, by supernatural means, the actions or the welfare of persons against their wills. More than 1500 have been found in graves, especially graves of young persons deceased before their time, or in springs, sources, pits, throughout the Graeco-Roman area, where they were deposited as messages and instructions to the dead and the gods of the Netherworld.

  • 3 DTA n° 67. For this and other curses with lead as an analogon see: D. Ogden, Binding Spells: Curs (...)
  • 4 It is in one of the 34 fascinating curse tablets found recently in Mainz where they are being deci (...)
  • 5 For instance DTA n° 105.

6Among the many interesting questions evoked by these objects, I single out one for the present occasion: why specifically ‘lead’? For a long time this has been a vexed question in the scholarly discussion. And many solutions have been proposed. What do the authors of the tablets say themselves? One tablet against an opponent in a lawsuit says “just as this lead is heavy, so may the tongue of my opponent be heavy”3 – a quite convenient wish in the context of litigation. Likewise, but with a different associative link, another tablet says: “just as this lead is heavy, so may my adversary suffer from the anger of the gods”,4 which apparently was experienced as a heavy burden or weight. Such texts have led scholars to believe that here we have the true reason for the use of lead in curses in general. However, another tablet has the following text: “just as this lead is cold, so may my opponent become cold”.5 And again other tablets refer to the ability of lead to sink in water or to melt in fire: “may my enemy go down just as this piece of lead sinks in water”, “may he be burnt by fever just as this lead melts in fire”. I could go on and on.

7What does all this say? What do we learn from this? First, of course, that we should refrain from making general inferences on the basis of one single stray find. As a matter of fact, the actual reason for using lead, as most scholars agree to date, is almost certainly the very prosaic and un-magical fact that lead was the material for writing letters and notes of any kind, also in private communication, since the material was very cheap, not perishable, and widely available. The lesson most relevant to our issue, however, is the insight that we get into the nearly unlimited and endlessly productive potential of free association and analogy. The material was there, ready for ‘magical’ activation. And this activation, as becomes apparent from the texts quoted, required active, indeed creative involvement of the author of the text, who sometimes, but not always, is also the user.

8The analogies discussed so far were constructed on the qualities of the material concerned: lead is heavy, cold, dark, will sink, will melt. However, the lack of certain qualities is equally prone to associative engineering. One of the very few lead tablets that refer to a different material, namely with the term c(h)arta (paper), has the text: “let my adversary’s actions be fruitless, just as this paper will never come to flourish (come to bloom)”: aga(t) como (= quomodo) haec carta nuncquam florescet. Apparently, if one cannot immediately think of a positive analogon, one may create a negative one. It is an immensely popular device, so popular indeed that we have a word for it: the adunaton, a type of analogy that derives its effect from the projection of an “impossibility” of the material onto the abilities of the target. Also in medical spells: “just as a mule does not propagate, just as a drinking-vessel does not drink, just as a pigeon has no teeth, so may my teeth not hurt”. Lots of inventiveness has been invested in this very original little series of similes.

  • 6 Best edition: D.R. Jordan, in D.R. Jordan, H. Montgomery, E. Thomassen, (eds), The World of Ancien (...)

9I shall give just one example from our curse tablets in which the negative and the positive application of one and the same analogy are on display in a peaceful co-existence. The curse6 first “binds” the works and tongue of a certain person named Kerkis and places them in the care of the young, prematurely dead persons in the grave, adding: “and whenever the dead read these words then shall it be for Kerkis to speak.” Of course this will never happen, for the inability of the dead to read is here presented as an exemplary adunaton. However, the text ends with the words: “Hermes Chthonios, control these things and read these (sc. words) as long as my enemies are alive”, where it is precisely the god’s continuous reading of the letter that is to effectuate the desired incapacity of the victims of the curse.

10Not being able to read versus an urgent request to read, two radically contrasting expressions in the service of one and the same desire. Positive or negative, the similes are often elaborated into little stories about great mythical or legendary persons, whose abilities or inabilities are used as analoga for how the victim of a curse or, in a medical spell, the illness should behave. Moreover it appears that people took considerable liberty in adapting or changing standing similes into sometimes essentially different ones, without apparently detracting from their supposed effectiveness.

  • 7 B. Malinowski, The Language of Magic and Gardening, London, 1966, p. 238.
  • 8 J.L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, Cambridge Mass., 1975 [1965], founded the concept of per (...)

11“Such a battery of verbal devices”, as S.J. Tambiah once wrote. The texts we have seen have all one thing in common: they testify to a genuine poetical creativity. After all, analogy, similes and metaphors are the stuff poetry is made of. B. Malinowski already spoke of “the creative metaphor of magic,”7 while J.L. Austin, and in his wake S.J. Tambiah,8 have done much in the study of magic to pave the way towards the substitution of the traditional notion of “sympathetic magic” by that of “persuasive analogy.” Also, we are gradually discovering that, although formulaic models as exemplified in the Magical Papyri were available to those who could afford them, the sheer unlimited range of variations was the product of individual inventiveness. This poetical creativity in the use of association is a conscious and purposeful device to make magic work.

2. A festival

  • 9 All detailed evidence concerning this festival can be found in the work cited in n. 1 above.

12In our second section the working of association is of a different type. Also, we will now move on from verbal analogy to associations in ritual performance. The Thesmophoria, the most widespread Greek festival and the major cult form for Demeter (and her daughter Persephone/Kore), was held during three days in autumn just before the sowing season.9 The festival was strictly reserved for married women who, in Athens, assembled in the Thesmophorion, the locality of the festival in the centre of Athens. On the second day, known as the ‘Fast’ (nesteia), the women abstained from food and sat on the ground. The third day was called Kalligeneia, ‘day of beautiful offspring’, a name that refers to the concern for bearing fine children. Earlier in the year women had thrown various objects related to fertility into the megara, among them sacrificed piglets. The decayed remnants of these animals were recovered during the Thesmophoria and placed on altars. When scattered with seed in the field this was supposed to promote the fertility of crops.

13The emphasis on women, on fair offspring, on piglets, which are closely connected with the cult of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, all this leads to one conclusion: the core of this Demeter festival is the concern for the promotion of human and cereal fertility. This is the first and most obvious level of association. The analogy between women and agricultural land as potential bearers of fertility was proverbial in ancient Greece. Women are fields to be ploughed and sown by men in order to yield fruit. The analogy was so worn that it was taken for granted also by modern scholars. The fertility paradigm that reigned supreme from the late 19th century, under the sway of the famous Sir James Frazer, indeed became so dominant that it claimed every single bit of information concerning our festival for its own perspective. Those elements handed down by tradition that did not immediately fit into the associative frame of fertility were either ignored, or distorted or simply pressed into that paradigmatic interpretation. The paradigm tyrannized the evidence. Here are a few of these recalcitrant pieces of evidence.

14First of all, during the three days of the festival the women used to camp in booths or huts arranged within the open space of the Thesmophorion. They slept on the ground, on beds (stibades) made of lugos (a kind of willow). This plant, generally regarded as unproductive and infertile, was supposed to work as a strong antaphrodisiac and hence to prevent all sorts of undesirable sexual impulses. However, the fertility addicts among the scholars could not tolerate an antaphrodisiac plant in a fertility festival and contended that this must be a later inversion of its original meaning. For originally, they argued against all testimonies, lugos must rather have stimulated female sexuality.

15Secondly, on the second day prisoners were freed from their chains. This custom, too, was explained by the followers of Frazer as a magical means to promote fertility in women: knots and chains had negative effects on everything connected with (re)production, especially confinement. However, this idea puts its advocates into serious trouble. First: liberation from bondage is also attested for two other festivals that are not at all connected with women or fertility. And secondly, what to do with the complicating datum that on that same (second) day of the Thesmophoria the law courts and council meetings were suspended as well, so that political life came to a standstill?

16It is again the recognition of the polyreferentiality in processes of association and analogy that may help us out of the deadlock. Let us have a fresh look at the nature of the festival. During these three days the women laid off the burden of their normal routine and of their submissiveness to male dominance, more especially their obedience to male phallokratia. For once, they enjoyed privileges that were unimaginable in normal life: the right to organize a women’s society with complete autonomy and proper female ‘archontes’, to ward off male intervention, to leave their houses and stay outside, even during the night, to perform private and secret rituals. Consequently, if the festival had originated as a ritual of fertility, in a subsequent phase and from a secondary perspective it also became a ritual of exception and of role-reversal. If we now consider the two recalcitrant data mentioned above in the light of reversal and exception, they soon reveal their secrets.

17First, the primitive huts and sleeping on the ground, rather than being a relic of times immemorial as they are often explained, are ritual references to a status of ‘primitivism’ a quite common imagery in rituals of exception. The anti-cultural status and behaviour of the women during the festival, challenging and indeed defying the social and cultural norms, by association evokes other signs of the reverse of normality, expressed in the temporary return to an a-cultural or pre-cultural way of life, a situation of anomia, suspension of cultural norms and laws.

18Once recognized, this insight immediately entails a most natural and, above all, coherent explanation of the liberation of prisoners and the suspension of court sessions and council meetings, rites that have never been understood correctly. For, as a matter of fact, they are the very expressions of anomia, a period in which laws, codes and social rules are suspended, the anomia, as I said, typical of this type of festival of reversal.

19And this is not the end of it. The exceptional liberty, not to say licence, of the married women during the festival not only attracted an analogous imagery of a-cultural primitivism, it also evoked feelings of threat and danger. To cope with them another most remarkable analogy was called in, which may explain some other elements of the festival. The beds of antaphrodisiac lugos, apart from their primitivist connotations, confront us with a glaring inconsistency. On the one hand the festival focused on the fertility of (fields and) women: Kalligeneia. On the other hand, however, this ‘fertility’-festival is marked by a rigorous prohibition of any sexual action that is naturally preconditional for activating the procreative potential of women: men are excluded, both husbands and other sexually interested males. There is a host of objects around that may provoke or at least refer to erotic desire, but no opportunity to implement this in sexual action. While Demeter reigns in her temporary all-female society, Aphrodite is relegated to the sidelines. Metaphorically speaking, during the Thesmophoria the matrons were temporarily reduced to the status of virgins, before or on the brink of marriage, for which the Greeks have the word numphe. Though sexually mature they are not available for consummation.

20It will be immediately evident now that sleeping on beds of antaphrodisiac lugos is the perfect manner to express (and effect) one side of this paradox. The lugos by association evokes and symbolizes the return to a virginal existence, as is also wonderfully corroborated by the myth of origin, the aition, that has come down to us. Here it is.

21Persephone, daughter of Demeter, was abducted to the underworld by the god Hades, in the period in which, as a numphe, she was preparing herself for marriage, inter alia by weaving clothes for her wedding and marital life. After her disappearance, her mother Demeter entrusted the basket (kalathos) in which these clothes had been stored to the Nymphs, but the clothes themselves she took with her when she went to the isle of Paros, where she was hosted by King Melisseus, ‘king of the bees’. After her stay there she showed her gratitude by giving the bridal dress of Persephone to the sixty daughters of the king, while also revealing the secret rituals of the Thesmophoria to them. From that time on all the women celebrating the Thesmophoria bore the ritual name of ‘bees’ (melissai).

22In Greek literature the melissa (bee) was the emblem of female domestic virtue. The bee distinguishes itself by a chaste way of life, and by an extreme abstinence in sexual matters. We may conclude that the ritual name of ‘bees’ exactly symbolizes the expectations concerning female behaviour during this festival of reversal. Although everything may be confused, and all sorts of extravagancies condoned, the sexual codes must be carefully maintained.

23Now, the little myth about Demeter at Paros contains one curious detail: the legend of origin of the Thesmophoria does not refer to matrons, but to numphai, here (as usually) in the explicit sense of virgins on the eve of marriage. This is a strikingly accurate mythical translation of what we inferred from our analysis of the ritual data: during the Thesmophoria the matrons were temporarily reduced to the status of nymphai. They become chaste and sexually abstinent melissai, bees. The question remains, what is the meaning of this last and most fascinating association?

24The answer to this question should be sought in the fundamental tension hidden in this ambivalent festival. In terms of the dominant ideology of Greece and Rome, the ceremonies are beneficial and necessary from a socio-biological point of view, but wrong and undesirable from a socio-cultural point of view. Matrons enjoy a licentious excursion from reality, but do so right in the centre of the city. Hence these festivals affect the prevailing codes in two respects. First, they focus the attention on the women’s sexual import by references to erotic aspects through licentious behaviour, taboo language, sexual symbolism, etc. And secondly, they stage women taking over (part of) men’s predominance while expelling the men from the centre of things and adopting their dominant roles. The first is intolerable in terms of the family codes, the second unthinkable in terms of the codes of the community.

25My surmise is that there is only one way of coping with the intolerable and of depriving the unthinkable of its extreme disruptive effects. If for some indisputable reason matrons must act as they do, they cannot remain matrons: for the time being they must give up this status and adopt another, that of the unmarried maiden. Numphai, both the mortal women just before marriage and the immortal demi-goddesses, the nymphs, who inhabit the wild country outside, though keeping to the rules of a chaste and sexually abstinent life, were allowed or at least associated with a type of behaviour that recalled the wild life of the extra-cultural spaces. When, thus, during the Thesmophoria the matrons can not remain matrons, the web of associations closes: in breaking the fetters of social codes women inevitably return to nature; in breaking the marital codes they inevitably return to the premarital status of the virgin.

26Three layers of association, intertwining, yet different. Together, they differ from the first type of association that we discussed: however creative, the associations connected with the Thesmophoria were no purposeful creations by individuals. These associations and analogies were a spontaneous, unreflected, involuntary, but deeply compulsory offshoot of the common cultural stock of concepts, images, codes and traditions of ancient Greek society.

3. Miracles and apparitions

27I opened my lecture with a Dutch green watering can and the different associations it evoked. Let me end it with the text that one can read on a so-called St Nikolaus Bildstock some five kilometres from our present location in Heidelberg, up the mountain near the Königsstuhl. There one can find a little shrine holding a statue of St Nikolaus. Opposite it is a notice board displaying a series of little stories distinguished by the dates they are referring to.

1747 Ein Blitz schlug in den Buchengrund
worin ein Förster unterstund
Wie durch ein Wunder blieb verschont
der Förster, des Gebet belohnt.
Ein Denkmal ward nach kurzer Zeit
St. Nikolaus zum Dank geweiht.

  • 10 The series of miracle stories continues. However, that the faithful are not entirely convinced of (...)

1800 Ein Frevler, der an Gott nicht glaubt,
schlug ab St Nikolaus heilig Haupt.
Nach Jahresfrist zur selben Stund,
da ward uns diese Nachricht kund,
dass jener Frevler seine Tat
mit seinem Tod bezahlet hat
Wie seltsam spielt das Leben doch
der Frevler fiel durchs Scheunenloch
Er brach sich dabei das Genick
Oh. Denk an Skt Nikolaus zurück
Zur selbe Stund zu selben Zeit
ward ihm derzelbe Tod bereit.10

  • 11 As my study on which this third section is grounded is still in preparation (see above n. l), I ma (...)

28In the winter of 279-278 BC a barbarian Celtic tribe attacked the famous oracular sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi, one of the most sacred places of the Greeks. When they approached the temple, there was a sudden outburst of thunder and lightning, earthquakes, hail and snowstorms. Rocks came tumbling down from the Parnassos. There were also reports of supernatural apparitions. One source mentions visions of local heroes, joining the Greek defenders in their travail, another that people had seen two White Maidens, two goddesses, and there is one testimony that mentions the appearance of Apollo himself, coming to the rescue of his sanctuary. The barbarians took to a chaotic flight. The message of the miraculous expulsion of the Gauls, including the visible assistance of the gods, was circulated among the Greek cities and a festival was instituted, the so-called Soteria (celebration of salvation) in which all Greek cities participated.11

29So far, apart from the institution of this festival, there is nothing ‘ritual’ in this event. But there is more to come. Some 60 years later, in 207 BC, envoys from the city of Magnesia in Asia Minor travelled around with the story that the goddess Artemis had appeared to inhabitants of that city some years before (221-220 BC) and had given an oracle ordering that their city should have the right of asylia (inviolability). They also proposed to found a festival (207 BC) in which all Greek cities should participate. This time there is no context of military threat: the goddess simply appeared out of the blue, for no other reason than to do her city a favour. Asylia was an eagerly pursued privilege and obviously it did no harm to have a god at your side to foster its implementation.

30From this period onwards we perceive an ongoing flow of reports of divine apparitions in historical narrative and especially in contemporaneous inscriptions. The majority relate to situations of extreme military peril, quite a few reporting that sudden meteorological, geological or psychological events forced the enemy into a panicked flight. Under such circumstances it comes as no surprise that reports emerged of the appearance of a god or a heros, who in visible form had sent the storm or the fire from heaven, or who in another miraculous manner had induced panic among the enemy troops. These so-called military epiphanies become all the rage, a veritable fashion, from the late 3rd into the 1st century BC. They are a most striking example of both ritual in construction and the fundamental import of association in this process. For it is association that coloured expectancy.

31Attributing a miraculous salvation to a god or heros or saint is a form of association so common in both Christian and non-Christian religions that we do not even realize that it is a case of association: The forester of the little German miracle story was miraculously safeguarded against a stroke of lightning, the blasphemous offender came miraculously to a deserved end, etcetera. All this must have been due to a personal intervention by the local Saint. This form of association helps to confer sense to incomprehensible events, both negative and positive, by anchoring them in a supernatural ordainment. It is a form of making sense. Nor is it uncommon that occasionally a saving deity is reported to have manifested him or herself in corporeal form. But that divine epiphany develops into a fixed and predictable programme, as it did in the Hellenistic period in Greek-speaking areas, that is both a testimony of the power of association and a sample of the ritualisation of expectancy.


32Three samples of ritual dynamics, three different mechanisms of association, analogy, simile. In magical spells and curse tablets, analogy and simile are launched in a purposeful attempt to activate ‘magical’ potency and thus influence its outcome. They are authentic poetical devices and expressions of personal creativity, often the only tools available for human beings in uncontrollable and desperately chaotic circumstances.

33In the festival of the Thesmophoria we encountered the dynamics of various socio-cultural aspects of one ritual. They were no conscious individual ventures in the field of association, but the results of culturally ingrained and indeed irresistible processes of association. Without calling on the multireferentiality of association, we would never have been able to explain the different meanings of various elements of the festival.

34In the field of miracles and especially epiphanies, finally, the predominant function of association is “making sense.” Unexpected and essentially uncontrollable events, both of a destructive and of a saving nature, are given a place by anchoring them in a higher reality. This manner of Sinngebung enhances their import and lends them a slight degree of controllability. They thus became ideal tools in the political competition between rival cities.

  • 12 “Letter to Professor Arthur D. Nock on some fundamental concepts in the Science of Religion”, HThR (...)
  • 13 J.Z. Smith, Relating Religion. Essays in the Study of Religion, Chicago/London, 2004.

35In 1949 the greatest expert on ancient Greek religion, Martin P. Nilsson, wrote a public letter to another giant in the field Arthur Darby Nock.12 In this letter he underlined the enormous impact of associations on the formation of religious ideas, forms and images. By chance or predestination, it was one of the first scholarly articles I read in the early years of my studies in classics, now exactly fifty years ago. It must have receded to the back of my mind, but did not sink into complete oblivion, for it re-emerged recently when I was reflecting on the topic for the present lecture. In his latest book,13 that other outstanding scholar, Jonathan Z. Smith, whose intellectual interest started as a fascination with the taxonomy of grasses, explains how religion and its interpretation are heavily dependent on taxonomy and how taxonomy in its turn is a systematisation of association and distinction.

36The works of these two giants (among many others, of course) encompass my scholarly life. I think it would not be a bad idea – in honour of these two great scholars (honoris causa so to speak) – to elect as my next project a study into the workings of association and analogy in ancient religion. One good thing is that I will have plenty of time for it, because, for some unfathomable reason, my wife has called in the services of our agricultural neighbour to take over the care of my grass-plot.


1 Lecture delivered on the occasion of the award of the title of doctor honoris causa by the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg on October 21, 2005. I have omitted the introduction with words of gratitude to those responsible for this honour, which does not imply that I am less grateful now than at the moment of the ceremony. I have maintained the original phrasing of the lecture, which, in accordance with the occasion, was intended for a general and varied audience. References are limited to a few sources and modern studies. The three topics of this lecture are based on earlier studies to which I refer the interested reader for more detailed information. Section 1: “The Poetics of the Magical Charm: An Essay in the Power of Words”, in P. Mirecki, M. Meyer (eds), Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World, Leiden, 2002, p. 105-158. Section 2: “The Festival for Bona Dea and the Greek Thesmophoria”, in Transition and Reversal in Myth and Ritual, Leiden, 1993 (Inconsistencies in Greek and Roman Religion, II), p. 228-288. Section 3: EPIPHANEIA: A Study in Perception (in preparation).

2 All these spells can be found in R.L.M. Heim, “Incantamenta magica graeca latina”, Jahrbuch fur Classische Philologie, Suppl. 19 (1892), p. 465-575.

3 DTA n° 67. For this and other curses with lead as an analogon see: D. Ogden, Binding Spells: Curse Tablets and Voodoo Dolls in the Greek and Roman Worlds”, in V. Flint, R. Gordon, G. Luck, D. Ogden, Witchcraft and Magic in Europe. Ancient Greece and Rome, London, 1997, p. 11-13.

4 It is in one of the 34 fascinating curse tablets found recently in Mainz where they are being deciphered and edited by J. Blänsdorff. A first collection of these texts will be published in: R. Gordon, F. Marco (eds), Magical Practice in the Latin West: Papers from the international conference held at the University of Zaragoza, 30th Sept.-1st Oct. 2005, Leiden, forthcoming end 2006 (Religions in the Graeco-Roman World). All the examples, if not indicated otherwise, with lead as analoga in the present section are taken from this new collection.

5 For instance DTA n° 105.

6 Best edition: D.R. Jordan, in D.R. Jordan, H. Montgomery, E. Thomassen, (eds), The World of Ancient Magic. Papers from the first international Samson Eitrem Seminar at the Norwegian Institute at Athens 4-8 May 1997, Athens, 1999, p. 119.

7 B. Malinowski, The Language of Magic and Gardening, London, 1966, p. 238.

8 J.L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, Cambridge Mass., 1975 [1965], founded the concept of performative speech acts; s.J. Tambiah exploited this for anthropological issues, especially the idea of magic as persuasive analogy, in “The Magical Power of Words”, Man 3 (1968), p. 175-208. Cf. id., “Form and Meaning of Magical Acts: a point of view”, in R. Horton, R. Finnegan (eds), Modes of Thought: Essays on Thinking in Western and Eastern Societies, London, 1973, p. 199-229. Both in: id., Culture, Thought, and Social Action, Cambridge Mass. London, 1985, p. 17-59; 60-86, where see also: “A Performative Approach to Ritual”, p. 123-166.

9 All detailed evidence concerning this festival can be found in the work cited in n. 1 above.

10 The series of miracle stories continues. However, that the faithful are not entirely convinced of the invulnerability of their sanctuary may appear from a post-scriptum: “Diese Tafel wurde mit Liebe und Sorgfalt im Jahr 1998 erneuert. Mit Skt Nicolaus ist zu hoffen, dass sie vor mutwilliger Zerstörung verschont bleibt.”

11 As my study on which this third section is grounded is still in preparation (see above n. l), I may refer the interested reader to the book of my Doktorvater Angelos Chaniotis, War in the Hellenistic World, Oxford, 2005, p. 157-160, for detailed information on epiphanic miracles in the Hellenistic period, with ample literature at p. 163-164.

12 “Letter to Professor Arthur D. Nock on some fundamental concepts in the Science of Religion”, HThR 42 (1949), p. 71-107.

13 J.Z. Smith, Relating Religion. Essays in the Study of Religion, Chicago/London, 2004.


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