Back when I did my posts regarding the “Book of Mary’s Repose”, the book that accompanied that text included a long history of the Virgin Mary’s history regarding the dormition tradition. Part of the book mentioned an earlier sect that had even deified Mary. The book did not go into detail, so I didn’t pursue that history but here recently this Mary worshipping sect popped up in one of my readings. The name of this practice is “Kollyridianism”. The evidence of this group I am going to reference is written by Epiphanius of Salamis who was a bishop in Cyprus during the late 4th century.
I am pulling this from the book The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III, translated by Frank Williams. The writings in the book are against various heresies, which will make for good material for the blog in the future. There is only 9 pages dedicated to the sect and very little material on their practices. Most of the text has Epiphanius being quite misogynistic. He really does not want women being priestess at all and believes they have no business as such. What little time he does talk about the sect, here is the key points:
- On a particular day of the year (it is not mentioned what day), the women priests use a “barber’s chair” or square seat, spread a cloth onto it, set out bread and offer it in Mary’s name.
- Epiphanius compares these women to Eve and the serpent story, where they are being deceived and demonically influenced.
That is pretty much all we get from his writings. The rest of the time, he just blasts women left and right. This phrase here pretty much sums up his feelings:
“Women are unstable, prone to error, and mean-spirited.”-Epiphanius
Yikes! Epiphanius also speaks of the group in his letter to Arabia. Here are some key points:
- Women from Thrace brought this belief system into Arabia.
- “they bake a loaf in the name of the Ever-virgin, gather together, and < both > attempt an excess and undertake a forbidden, blasphemous act in the holy Virgin’s name, and offer sacrifice in her name with woman officiants.”
Not much else is detailed in the letter regarding this group, but rather just Epiphanius going off on them (and other groups in the letter, including some Gnostic sects!).
Leontius of Byzantium also wrote about the group but referred to them as “Philomarianites”, however his work came much later and as of now, I could not find an English version of his work relating to them (and I can’t read Greek….).
However, I did come across this interesting write up by Ana H. Golland (Link HEREI) that links the group with the Six Books Apocryphon dormition texts. I thought that was quite the interesting observation. I read the “Six Books” texts last year but did not have that in mind when reading them. Then I realized something, and I am sure you all can relate, I have a book by Stephen Shoemaker titled Mary in Early Christian Faith and Devotion that actually speaks of this very cult and text connection, sitting in my collection! This is why I need to quit buying so many books before getting around to reading them!! I had bought this book around the same time I bought Shoemaker’s “academic” book on the Dormition traditions in which I based last year’s blog postings on, but after spending quite a bit of time on that book, I had moved on to something else with the intention on returning to this other book. I think this is the universe telling me to read this book now, lol.
The “Six Books” text is something I need to tell in another post (or 2, or 3) and not just shoehorn it into this particular blog entry. However, I did want to bring attention to the Kollyridians and perhaps throw out that breadcrumb for you all to explore.
Hail Mary indeed!
(note: artwork featured is a midjourney piece I created using the description of the Kollyridian ritual)