BARABANOV N.D. Byzantine People’s Anthropology. The Force of the Foot And Its Reflection in the Life of St. Theodore Sikeot

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu4.2015.3.9

Nikolay Dmitrievich Barabanov

Candidate of Sciences (History), Associate Professor,

Department of Archeology, Foreign History and Tourism,

Volgograd State University

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Abstract. The article deals with one aspect of Byzantine folk anthropology in its religious incarnation. We are speaking about human limbs, feet of the Saint, who showed specific ability of miracles using them. Among the many wonders which were committed by Holy Theodore Sikeot, who was Abbot of Sikeon monastery and former Bishop of Anastasiopol (date of death – April 22, 613), three of them deserve special attention. In the narration of life of the Saint it is told about healing the patients who suffered from paralysis of limbs and, consequently, were deprived of their ability to move. Saint Theodore saved them from illness not only by the power of prayer. In all cases he put his foot on the body of the patient, in particular, on chest and knees. This kind of touch makes us think about the meaning of committed ritual and about that complex of ideas which was connected with it. Presumably, the described action reflected not only the individual attitude of the hagiographer but also an attitude of the audience, to which it was addressed. For this reason, this phenomenon should be considered not as a hagiographic topos, but as an element of the mythological-ritual continuum, which is connected with religious contemplation of the specificity of the different parts of the human body, in particular, of the lower limbs. The tradition of honoring the legs and their prints are well known and are rooted in “deep antiquity”. In the pre-Christian world of the Graeco- Roman time there was the cult of the legs, the image of which was regarded as an amulet, which had an apotropaic power. 

The feet can be associated with different deities, however, most of all, the following cult was associated with Serapis, the God of fertility, underworld and healing. It was believed that the right foot of Serapis had healing force. However, the process of transferring of the properties of Serapis foot to the foot of Christian Saint raises some questions. First of all, about filling of this phenomenon by the Christian meaning, which must exclude the pagan connotations of the phenomenon and which reflected the erudition and conceptual tools of the author of hagiography and his contemporaries. The search of the answer to this question leads primarily to the texts, the plots and the characters of the Holy Scriptures of the old and New Testaments.

Key words: anthropology, cult of Saints, popular religiosity in Byzantium, agiography.

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Byzantine People’s Anthropology. The Force of the Foot And Its Reflection in the Life of St. Theodore Sikeot by Barabanov N.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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