anthropology of religion

The Female Spiritual Elder and Death: Some Thoughts on Contemporary Lives of Russian Orthodox Saints

In contemporary Orthodox hagiography a special type of saint has emerged — blessed female spiritual elders (blazhennye startsy should not be in italics here). In some respects this form of sainthood is a successor to the traditional “fools for the sake of Christ.” Yet the staritsy have their distinctive features, chief among them the saint’s possession of an incurable disease such as blindness or motor function disorders. The meaning of these ailments can be interpreted as a sign of permanent liminality and the person’s divine election.

Forgotten Time, or Techniques of Self-Transformation in Contemporary Russian Orthodox Convents

From a secular perspective, certain religious techniques of self-transformation, such as the complete subordination of an individual to a spiritual leader, appear to violate fundamental human rights and are hence unacceptable. Conversely, religious traditions offer a different view of the subject and their welfare and the means by which this welfare can be achieved. Nowadays, however, the secular environment in which they operate affects religious groups.

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