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Sacred Darkness Cover

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Sacred Darkness

A Global Perspective on the Ritual Use of Caves

Edited by Holley Moyes

Caves have been used in various ways across human society but despite the persistence within popular culture of the iconic caveman, deep caves were never used primarily as habitation sites for early humans. Rather, in both ancient and contemporary contexts, caves have served primarily as ritual spaces. In Sacred Darkness, contributors use archaeological evidence as well as ethnographic studies of modern ritual practices to envision the cave as place of spiritual and ideological power and a potent venue for ritual practice. Covering the ritual use of caves in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, Mesoamerica, and the US Southwest and Eastern woodlands, this book brings together case studies by prominent scholars whose research spans from the Paleolithic period to the present day. These contributions demonstrate that cave sites are as fruitful as surface contexts in promoting the understanding of both ancient and modern religious beliefs and practices. This state-of-the-art survey of ritual cave use will be one of the most valuable resources for understanding the role of caves in studies of religion, sacred landscape, or cosmology and a must-read for any archaeologist interested in caves.

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Sacred Debts

State Civil War Claims and American Federalism

Kyle Sinisi

In this innovative book, Kyle Sinisi explores a little-known chapter in the history of American politics-the struggle between states and the federal government over the costs of fighting the Civil War. At stake was the disposition of some 8 million. Focusing on Kansas, Kentucky, and Missouri, Sinisi explores the process by which states were reimbursed by Washington in the most expensive intergovernmental contact of the 19th century. Recasting our understanding of governance, he shows that traditional sources of influence-courts and political parties-were less important in settling claims than adjutants general and private agents who fought for cash bonanzas. These power brokers helped shape the federal bureaucracy-and the process of state building.

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The Sacred Door and Other Stories

Cameroon Folktales of the Beba


The Sacred Door and Other Stories: Cameroon Folktales of the Beba offers readers a selection of folktales infused with riddles, proverbs, songs, myths, and legends, using various narrative techniques that capture the vibrancy of Beba oral traditions. Makuchi retells the stories that she heard at home when she was growing up in her native
The collection of thirty-three folktales of the Beba showcases a wide variety of stories that capture the richness and complexities of an agrarian society’s oral literature and traditions. Revenge, greed, and deception are among the themes that frame the story lines in both new and familiar ways. In the title story, a poor man finds himself elevated to king. The condition for his continued success is that he not open the sacred door. This tale of temptation, similar to the story of Pandora’s box, concludes with the question, “What would you have done?”
Makuchi relates the stories her mother told her so that readers can make connections
between African and North American oral narrative traditions. These tales reinforce the commonalities of our human experiences without discounting our differences.

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Sacred Dread

Raïssa Maritain, the Allure of Suffering, and the French Catholic Revival (1905-1944)

Brenna Moore

In early twentieth-century France, a vast network of artists, writers, and religious seekers were drawn to Roman Catholicism’s elaborate panoply of symbols centered on suffering. A preoccupation with affliction dominated the movement now known as the French Catholic revival, or the renouveau catholique—considered a watershed in the history of the modern Catholic Church and the “golden age” of French Catholicism. In Sacred Dread, Brenna Moore examines the life and writings of Raïssa Maritain (1883-1960), one of the few women to contribute to this intellectual movement. Moore explores the reasons why Maritain, a nonpracticing Jew, was attracted to this suffering-centered theological imagination and how she and other advocates transformed it in the wake of the Holocaust. Sacred Dread offers readers a new understanding of a radical Catholic piety that was embraced by a wide range of pre-war intellectuals. By combining late-modern French intellectual and cultural history, Catholic theology, biography, and an analysis of Maritain’s published and unpublished writings, Moore also identifies two major factors in this Catholic revival—gender and Judaism—that have not received adequate attention. Discourses of femininity and Judaism were central to the French Catholic articulation and idealization of suffering. Moore argues that Maritain, as a Jewish convert and one of the few women in this intellectual community, embodied symbolic associations of suffering, holiness, women, and Jews; indeed, for her husband, godfather, confessors, friends, and godchildren, Raïssa Maritain was herself the articulation of this abject ideal. Caught as she was in a web of meaning, Raïssa Maritain was an intellectual whose legacy deepens but also subverts the centrality of femininity and Judaism in French Catholic elaborations of suffering.

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Sacred Fictions

Holy Women and Hagiography in Late Antiquity

By Lynda L. Coon

Late antique and early medieval hagiographic texts present holy women as simultaneously pious and corrupt, hideous and beautiful, exemplars of depravity and models of sanctity. In Sacred Fictions Lynda Coon unpacks these paradoxical representations to reveal the construction and circumscription of women's roles in the early Christian centuries.

Coon discerns three distinct paradigms for female sanctity in saints' lives and patristic and monastic writings. Women are recurrently figured as repentant desert hermits, wealthy widows, or cloistered ascetic nuns, and biblical discourse informs the narrative content, rhetorical strategies, and symbolic meanings of these texts in complex and multivalent ways. If hagiographers made their women saints walk on water, resurrect the dead, or consecrate the Eucharist, they also curbed the power of women by teaching that the daughters of Eve must make their bodies impenetrable through militant chastity or spiritual exile and must eradicate self-indulgence through ascetic attire or philanthropy.

The windows the sacred fiction of holy women open on the past are far from transparent; driven by both literary invention and moral imperative, the stories they tell helped shape Western gender constructs that have survived into modern times.

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Sacred Founders

Women, Men, and Gods in the Discourse of Imperial Founding, Rome through Early Byzantium

Diliana N. Angelova

Sacred Founders argues that from the time of Augustus through early Byzantium, a discourse of "sacred founders"—articulated in artwork, literature, imperial honors, and the built environment—helped legitimate the authority of the emperor and his family. The central idea around which the discourse coalesced is that imperial men and women were sacred founders of the land, mirror images of the empire’s divine founders. By establishing a new capital for the Roman Empire, Constantine and his formidable mother, Helena, initiated the Christian transformation of this discourse. Over time this transformation empowered imperial women, transformed the cult of the Virgin Mary, fueled contests between church and state, and provoked an arresting synthesis of imperial and Christian art. With balanced analysis, Angelova presents a fresh argument about the symbolic logic of Roman rule and uncovers forgotten legacies that profoundly shaped the Christian era.

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Sacred Land

Sherwood Anderson, Midwestern Modernism, and the Sacramental Vision of Nature

From the 1910s through the 1930s, Midwestern writers were conspicuously prominent in American literary life. A generation of writers from the Midwest had come of age and had shared an important and motivating cultural experience: the encompassing transformation of rural and urban Midwestern life from traditional craftsmanship, manual labor, and local community to a fragmented, machine-driven, and intensely capitalistic mode of existence. A profound sense of lost possibilities pervaded the literary mood of these authors. An organic Midwestern village culture that had only just begun to take definite shape was swept away, and a fruitful and promising region was sacrificed to crass commercialism.

In Sacred Land, author Mark Buechsel shows that Sherwood Anderson, Willa Cather, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others, turned to two potential sources for grounding their region’s and nation’s life authentically: nature itself—particularly the super-abundant nature to be found in Midwestern states and the model provided by the traditional sacramental culture of medieval Europe. The result was a new sacramental vision of how life in the Midwest—and, by extension, life in modern America—might be lived differently. Buechsel demonstrates that each author painted his or her spiritual and cultural vision with different shades and nuances and looked to America’s future with varying degrees of optimism.

Of crucial importance in each author’s work are the characters’ encounters with the Midwestern land, a recalcitrant objective reality that refuses to yield to the wrong kinds of dreams. Characters who are genuinely open to what their engagement with the land has to teach them generally find some personal blessing and learn how to claim a fully human place in the order of things. Characters who fail to learn the lessons nature offers become distorted and grotesque, in a way that expresses the modern condition emblematically. Sacred Land shows that in the process of critiquing American culture, Midwestern writers redefined the American pastoral myth so central to the national psyche.

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Sacred Memories

The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas

Kelly McMichael

War memorials are symbols of a community’s sense of itself, the values it holds dear, and its collective memory. They inform us more, perhaps, about the period in which the memorials were erected than the period of the war itself.

Kelly McMichael, in her book, Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas, takes the reader on a tour of Civil War monuments throughout the state and in doing so tells the story of each monument and its creation. McMichael explores Texans’ motivations for erecting Civil War memorials, which she views as attempts during a period of turmoil and uncertainty—“severe depression, social unrest, the rise of Populism, mass immigration, urbanization, industrialization, imperialism, lynching, and Jim Crow laws”—to preserve the memory of the Confederate dead, to instill in future generations the values of patriotism, duty, and courage; to create a shared memory and identity “based on a largely invented story”; and to “anchor a community against social and political doubt.”

Her focus is the human story of each monument, the characters involved in its creation, and the sacred memories held dear to them.

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Sacred Misfits


Sacred Misfits is a short fiction collection by Mark Blickley.

Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition Cover

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Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition

Black Christian Nationalism in the Age of Jim Crow

Adele Oltman

Using Savannah, Georgia, as a case study, Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition tells the story of the rise and decline of Black Christian Nationalism. This nationalism emerged from the experiences of segregation, as an intersection between the sacred world of religion and church and the secular world of business. The premise of Black Christian Nationalism was a belief in a dual understanding of redemption, at the same time earthly and otherworldly, and the conviction that black Christians, once delivered from psychic, spiritual, and material want, would release all of America from the suffering that prevented it from achieving its noble ideals.

The study’s use of local sources in Savannah, especially behind-the-scenes church records, provides a rare glimpse into church life and ritual, depicting scenes never before described. Blending history, ethnography, and Geertzian dramaturgy, it traces the evolution of black southern society from a communitarian, nationalist system of hierarchy, patriarchy, and interclass fellowship to an individualistic one that accompanied the appearance of a new black civil society.

Although not a study of the civil rights movement, Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition advances a bold, revisionist interpretation of black religion at the eve of the movement. It shows that the institutional primacy of the churches had to give way to a more diversified secular sphere before an overtly politicized struggle for freedom could take place. The unambiguously political movement of the 1950s and 1960s that drew on black Christianity and radiated from many black churches was possible only when the churches came to exert less control over members’ quotidian lives.

A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication

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