Stones, beetles, or both? The transmogrification of the shepherd that Barbara cursed   Leave a comment

I have previously discussed an episode in the Syriac version of the story of Barbara in which a shepherd and his flock are mutated into beetles. As I mentioned there, in the Greek version, the sheep become beetles (κανθαρίδες), but the shepherd himself becomes a stone (λίθος). I also noted that the synaxarion texts in Arabic and Gǝʿǝz lack this episode entirely. Since then I have looked at two other sources: an Arabic version from a manuscript I cataloged, and the Armenian version in Vark’ ew vkayabanut’iwnk’ srboc’, vol. 2, and here is what I have found.

The Armenian text appears in Vark’ 2, two lines from the bottom of p. 358 to p. 359, line 13 (see here). The text, with a few notes on vocabulary and grammar and an English translation, follow:

Եւ սուրբն Վառվառ ելեալ փախչէր յերեսաց հօրն իւրոյ։

ելեալ ptcp ելանեմ, ելի to go out | փախչէր impf 3sg պախչեմ, -խեայ to flee  | երես, -աց face

Իսկ հայրն իբրեւ զարիւնարդու գազան՝ ելեալ [p. 359] վարէր զհետ նորա.

արիւնարդու bloodthirsty, bloodsucking | գազան, -աց beast, animal | վարէր impf 3sg վարիմ, -եցայ to conduct oneself, act, go (m/p of վարեմ, -եցի to direct, guide, manage, lead, use) | զհետ after (< հետ, -ոյ, -ք, -տոց footprint, step, track)

եւ ել ի լեառն եւ խնդրէր զերանելին Վառվառ. եւ ահա տեսանէր ի լերինն հովիւս երկուս զի արածէին զհօտս իւրեանց. եւ հարցանէր ցնոսա եթէ արդեօք տեսեալ իցեն զնա։

ել aor 3sg ելանեմ, ելի to go out | խնդրեմ, -եցի to search for, pursue, wish | լեառն, լերանց mountain | արածեմ, -եցի to tend (herd), cause to graze | հօտ, -ից flock, herd | հարցանեմ, հարցի to ask, question | արդեօք perhaps | իցեմ subj pres 3pl եմ to be

Իսկ միւսն ի նոցանէ կամեցաւ ստել վասն նորա զի մի ի բուռն անկցի սուրբն եւ սպանցի, եւ երդնոյր նմա եթէ ոչ եւս գիտեմ զնա թէ ուր իցէ, եւ ոչ տեսեալ իցեմ զնա։

կամին, -եցայ to want, intend | ստել to lie | բուռն, բռանց fist, hand, violence, force | անկցի aor subj 3sg անկանիմ, անկաւ to fall | սպանցի aor m/p subj 3sg սպանանեմ, սպանի to kill, slay, slaughter, etc. | երդնույր impf 3sg երդնում, երդւայ to swear | եւս still | գիտեմ, գիտացի to know | ուր where | իցէ pres subj 3sg եմ to be | իցեմ pres subj 1sg եմ to be

Իսկ ընկեր նորին ակնարկեալ եւ նշանացի սկսաւ ցուցանել նմա զաղախինն Քրիստոսի։

ընկեր, -աց companion | ակնարկեալ ptcp ակնարկեմ, -եցի to indicate, show | նշանեմ, -եցի to sign, mark, make a sign (նշան, -աց sign) | սկսաւ aor 3sg սկսանիմ to begin | ցուցանեմ, ցուցի to show, point out | աղախին, -ոց/-աց maidservant

Զորս եւ անիծեալ սրբոյն՝ զանօրէն հովիւն զայս, եւ առժամայն մածեալ արձանացաւ հանդերձ ոչխարօքն, որպէս զկինն Ղովտայ. եւ կայ մինչեւ ցայսօր նովին կերպարանաւ, կան քարացեալ ի նմին տեղւոջ ի ցոյցս տեսողաց։

անիծեալ ptcp անիծանեմ, անիծի to curse | անօրէն unjust, wicked | առժամայն immediately | մածեալ ptcp մածանիմ, մածայ to be glued, adhere, coagulate, congeal, join, unite | արձանացաւ aor 3sg արձանանամ, -ացայ to become like a statue, to be fixed  | հանդերձ with, together with (also -ից clothes) | ոչխար, -աց sheep (cf. Geo. ცხოვარი/ცხუარი sheep [see Ačaṙean, vol. 3, 562b]) | կին woman, wife | կայ pres 3sg կամ, կացի to remain, be, stand | նովին inst.sg նոյն that (same), self, he/she/it | կերպարան, ի (also pl) form, face, look, appearance, image | կան pres 3pl կամ, կացի to be, exist, live, remain, stand | քարացեալ ptcp քարացուցանեմ to turn into stone | ցոյց, ցուցից showing, index, sign, testimony, indicator, proof | տեսող seer, spectator

A rough ET:

Saint Barbara, having gone out, was fleeing from her father, but he, like a bloodthirsty animal, was pursuing her. And he went out to the mountain and searched for the blessed Barbara, and just then he saw on the mountain two shepherds, who were tending their flocks, and he was asking them whether they might have seen her. One of them wanted to lie for her, lest the saint fall violently and be killed, and he swore to him, “I don’t know at all where she might be, nor will I be able to spot her.” But his companion began to indicate and make signs so as to point out Christ’s handmaid. The saint, then, having cursed him, (namely) this wicked shepherd, and he immediately having coagulated, he, together with the sheep, became like a statue, like Lot’s wife, and it remains to this day in that very form: they remain petrified in the same place for a sign to those who see it.

The Arabic (Garšūnī) copy I have read is in CFMM 306, with this episode at ff. 57v10-58r7. Here is the image:

CFMM 306, ff. 57v-58r

CFMM 306, ff. 57v-58r (pp. 102-103)

And a rough ET:

And when her wicked father realized that she had gotten the better of him by the power of her great Lord, he made a thorough search for her and went up the mountain after her. That mountain was enough for two [shepherds] to tend sheep, and he asked them about her. One of them swore that he had not seen her. Satan entered the heart of the other as he had entered the heart of Judas, who handed Christ over to the Jews: thus [the second shepherd] handed the chaste woman into her father’s hand. Then she lifted her gaze toward that shepherd who had pointed her out to her father and she cursed him, and he and his flock became black rocks, [remaining so] to this very day.

So we have now seen this part of the tale in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, and Arabic. Here is a chart showing what happens to the cursed shepherd and his sheep in these versions:

shepherd sheep
Greek stone beetle
Syriac beetle beetle
Arabic stone stone
Armenian stone stone

This data is of course not based on a complete examination of surviving sources for this story, not even for the languages included here. In all likelihood a more thorough investigation would reveal even more variety across the versions of this text, as well as some clues as to when and whence the different metamorphoses manifest in these texts.

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