Bibliotheca Alexandrina is going to be publishing an (as yet unnamed) anthology on syncretism. Here are some words from the editor on what he is hoping to accomplish, and the type of material he is looking for:
I have some very clear ideas about what an anthology like this should contain, and what would be the most useful and productive things for us to be discussing in such an anthology, so that it is not a mere showcase of people’s practices, but that it actually makes some theological contributions to our field, and to wider polytheism in general.
I think we’d mainly be talking about anything up to and including late antiquity–so, say, to the 6th century CE for the most part. Though, of course, if there are good articles, I would not be
opposed to things which discuss medieval or renaissance, romantic period or modern topics
either, as long as there is some basis in the ancient (mostly Mediterranean) cultures which are
the focus of [Bibliotheca Alexandrina].
Topic suggestions (not a comprehensive list)
So, as far as more theoretical and theological matters are concerned, here’s some things I’d think would be very useful, and would be interested in seeing:
- the idea of syncretism as a species of universalism or pantheism; syncretism as a type of “archetypalism” or typologizing (which Origen of Alexandria rather advocated for in a Christian framework), etc.
- syncretism as a species of religious imperialism–would some of these things have come about if Alexander had not conquered Egypt, or if various other peoples (e.g. the Romans) had not had so many diverse cultures come into contact with them through conquest and expansion?
- syncretistic theology and its implications for different forms of polytheism; is it possible to be a “hard polytheist” as well as a syncretist?
- syncretism as a polytheistic multiculturalism
- syncretism as a “process theology,” i.e. that non-omnipotent, non-omniscient deities evolve and change and develop just as humans do, and therefore connections between different divinities reflect these changing relationships and constructions, etc.
- the new term I suggested a while back, “polyamorotheism” (which may or may not catch on!), or indeed other new practical and theoretical terms and ideas for how syncretistic theology is envisioned and lived
- the value of information presented to us in general and specific cases of interpretatio Romana or interpretatio Graeca, as this pertains to deities in Celtic and Germanic settings, as well as in things like the Dionysos-Shiva connection
- the general syncretizing trends of Egyptian religion and cultus (e.g. Amun-Re, Re-Harakhte, Sobek-Re), and the implications in this for the cult of the dead (e.g. Osiris-Anyone-Who-Is-Dead) and for deification of mortals (Imhotep/Imouthes; Antinous; etc.)
- general aspects of mortal deification and identification of deities, and the implications of this
- and leading on from the previous one, deification of pharaohs, emperors, and so forth
As far as more specific case study type things, here’s a few that would come to mind:
- the absorption by certain deities of related hero-cults (e.g. Apollon and Hyakinthos and Karneius), and how these matters work out in terms of mythology and holidays, etc.
- the introduction of non-Egyptian deities into the Egyptian pantheon at very early periods (e.g. Anat, Astarte), and later figures (e.g. Ereshkigal’s appearance in many of the Greek Magical Papyri)
- inclusion of non-syncretistic religions like Judaism into the Greek Magical Papyri, esp. with the names Iao Sabaoth, Adonai, and some other figures (like prominent archangels) and the implications this has for knowledge of Jewish practice, but also for the possible participation in these activities by Hellenized and/or Romanized Jews
- the Roman cult of Mithras as a syncretistic phenomenon
- Gnosticism as a form of Christian syncretism, and other similar occurrences with Christianity in the early centuries
- Indian and Zoroastrian/Persian imports and influences into Greece and Egypt (and Rome)
- the absorption of North African cults into the Roman sphere (e.g. Juno Caelestis, etc.)
- the entire phenomenon of Romano-British and -Gaulish religions and interpretations (without which our knowledge of things Continental Celtic is impoverished), and the possibility of looking at Celtiberian, Lepontic, Cisalpine Gaulish and Galatian religious sources through this lens (and paying attention to classical author’s accounts of things, like Herakles’ relation to some Gaulish peoples, the Dioskouroi being worshipped by particular Celts, etc.)
- and for that matter, also Germanic/Norse/etc. religions, since Tacitus first used the phrase “interpretatio Romana” in relation to his observations in the Germania
- a number of “native” Greek figures and their syncretistic/non-Greek backgrounds, including (but not limited to) Aphrodite, Adonis, Dionysos, Cybele/Magna Mater/Rhea, etc.
- and the “usual suspects” of typical syncretistic deities: Serapis, Antinous, Hermes Trismegistus, Hermanubis, Harpokrates, and the Greek and Roman cults of Isis
- poetry, fiction, and art dealing with these things, or with deities of this type
Topics to avoid
What I’m less/not interested in for something like this:
- pieces on the difference between (and usually better status of) syncretism as opposed to eclecticism, or slagging off in general on eclecticism…that’s what Witchvox is for, folks!
- accounts that are strictly personal, like “How Syncretism Works in My Life” followed by how one maintains separate altars for different cultures and practices, etc. While these accounts are useful, there would need to be some theoretical as well as practical supports for this type of writing as being relevant on a larger level; this kind of personal reflection should be by way of illustration of larger theoretical concerns, and not a thing done for its own sake, unless there is very good justification for doing so (i.e. how one’s practices and history in this regard lead to a totally new and different theological formulation of syncretism, etc.)
Does all of that make sense?
I’d like to propose the date of March 10  for the final submission of pieces in this regard, for a proposed release date in late April of 2009, hopefully in time for the Serapeia (at least as I will be marking it on April 25!), since Serapis is one of the main and most prominent (not to mention cool!) syncretistic deities.
While spelling conventions of deity names and such will not be strictly enforced (as long as they are recognizable and not obviously in error!), I would like a particular format to be followed for pieces that have references/footnotes/etc., which would be to use footnotes (not endnotes, and not internal parenthetical citations, which I hate, hate, hate!), as well as particular bibliographic conventions to be observed (and I don’t imagine/plan for there to be a unified bibliography at the back, so instead people should use “Full-Service” footnotes), which would be as follows:
David Ulansey, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 11-13.
Bernhard Maier, “Beasts from the Deep: The Water-Bull in Celtic, Germanic and Balto-Slavonic Traditions,” Zeitschrift fur Celtische Philologie 51 (1999), pp. 4-16 at 7.
ARTICLES/CHAPTERS IN BOOKS/ANTHOLOGIES
H. Alan Shapiro, “Cult Warfare: The Dioskouroi between Sparta and Athens,” in Robin Hagg (ed.), Ancient Greek Hero Cult (Stockholm: Svenska Institutet i Athen, 1999), pp. 99-107 at 102.
Further references to the same work can be by author only (e.g. Ulansey, p. 70), or by author and short title if there is more than one work in the overall piece cited by that author (e.g. Maier, “Beasts,” p. 12.)
Any other concerns beyond that, please feel free to ask–but I think that covers it for the most part.
So, feel free to send your submissions in whenever you like, to aediculaantinoi (at) hotmail (dot) com, with “Syncretism Anthology” clearly in the subject line, so as not to lead to any confusion on my part. And all shall be well!
I hope everyone is safe and happy as they read this, and I look forward to seeing what people come up with!