In recent years, scholars have devoted a great deal of attention to the history of scholarship in general and, more specifically, to the emergence of critical historical and anthropological literature from and within ecclesiastical scholarship. However, few studies have discussed the Jewish figures who took part in this process. This paper analyzes the role played by historiographical and ethnographical writing in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italian Jewish–Christian polemics. Tracing various Christian polemical ethnographical depictions of the Jewish rite of shaking the lulav (sacramental palm leaves used by Jews during the festival of Sukkot), it discusses the variety of ways in which Jewish scholars responded to these depictions or circumvented them. These responses reflect the Jewish scholars’ familiarity with prevailing contemporary scholarship and the key role of translation and cultural transfers in their own attempts to create parallel works. Furthermore, this paper presents new Jewish polemical manuscript material within the relevant contexts, examines Jewish attempts to compose polemical and apologetic ethnographies, and argues that Jewish engagement with critical scholarship began earlier than scholars of this period usually suggest
The present study describes the function of small-scale maiolica sanctuaries and chapels created in Italy in the sixteenth century. The so-called eremi encouraged a multisensory engagement of the faithful with complex structures that included receptacles for holy water, openings for the burning of incense, and moveable parts. They depicted a saint contemplating a crucifix or a book in a landscape and, as such, they provided a model for everyday pious life. Although they were less lifelike than the full-size recreations of holy sites, such as the Sacro Monte in Varallo, they had the significant advantage of allowing more spontaneous handling. The reduced scale made the objects portable and stimulated a more immediate pious experience. It seems likely that they formed part of an intimate and private setting. The focused attention given here to works by mostly anonymous artists reveals new categories of analysis, such as their religious efficacy. This allows discussion of these neglected artworks from a more positive perspective, in which their spiritual significance, technical accomplishment and functionality come to the fore.
In recent years, pre-modern beds have generated extensive scholarly interest. Their social, religious, and economic importance has been rightfully highlighted in the study of domestic piety. Yet, concern has primarily focused on beds in late medieval English homes. This essay uses Hebrew texts from thirteenth-century Southern Germany, primarily Sefer Hasidim, to further this analysis of the role of the bed in shaping medieval domestic devotion. Jewish notions about the social, moral, and sexual significance of the bed reflect those identified in late medieval Christian culture. These ideas inspired numerous rituals practiced in Jewish homes. Yet, the bed and the remnants of sex assumed to be found in it also frustrated Jewish attempts to perform domestic devotion. These findings highlight the complicated nature of the home and how medieval people had to navigate both its opportunities and challenges in order to foster a rich culture of domestic devotion.
In recent decades the relationship between tantric traditions of Buddhism and Śaivism has been the subject of sustained scholarly enquiry. This article looks at a specific aspect of this relationship, that between Buddhist and Śaiva traditions of practitioners of physical yoga, which came to be categorised in Sanskrit texts as haṭhayoga. Taking as its starting point the recent identification as Buddhist of the c.11th-century Amṛtasiddhi, which is the earliest text to teach any of the methods of haṭhayoga and whose teachings are found in many subsequent non-Buddhist works, the article draws on a range of textual and material sources to identify the Konkan site of Kadri as a key location for the transition from Buddhist to Nāth Śaiva haṭhayoga traditions, and proposes that this transition may provide a model for how Buddhist teachings survived elsewhere in India after Buddhism’s demise there as a formal religion.
Indic rites of purification aim to negate the law of karma by removing the residues of malignant past actions from their patrons. This principle is exemplified in the Kahika Mela, a rarely studied religious festival of the West Himalayan highlands (Himachal Pradesh, India), wherein a ritual specialist assumes karmic residues from large publics and then sacrificed to their presiding deity. British officials who had ‘discovered’ this purificatory rite at the turn of the twentieth century interpreted it as a variant of the universal ‘scapegoat’ rituals that were then being popularized by James Frazer and found it loosely connected to ancient Tantric practises. The However, observing a recent performance of the ritual significantly complicated this view. This paper proposes a novel reading of the Kahika Mela through the prism of karmic transference. Tracing the path of karmas from participants to ritual specialist and beyond, it delineates the logic behind the rite, revealing that the culminating act of human sacrifice is, in fact, secondary to the mysterious force that impels its acceptance.