Despite their tendency to demonize and even lead attacks on older religious forms, Egyptian Christian holy men were active syncretists, combining new Christian ideas with regional traditions of religious action, need, and orientation. This paper seeks a reappraisal of the concept of syncretism, moving beyond earlier notions of "pagan survival" to discuss issues of agency, habit-memory, and sacred landscape as they emerge in the activities of holy men: first, their exorcistic demonstrations and the wider cultural perceptions of traditional gods that resulted from exorcistic discourse; second, the reorganization of sacred topography according to the locations of saints; and third, the gestures, performances, and substances that allowed both holy men and their supplicants to mediate the holy in meaningful ways. Throughout, the holy man is examined as a type of regional prophet, asserting a new, totalist worldview against older centers while at the same time revitalizing basic religious functions in the culture.


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pp. 339-385
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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