Archive for the ‘Saint Barbara’ Tag

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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An episode from the Martyrdom of Barbara   1 comment

Today (Old Style, Dec. 4) is the commemoration of Saint Barbara (and her companion Juliana). Greek, Armenian, and Syriac texts are listed at BHG 213-218 and BHO 132-134. In addition, there are truncated notices of the synaxarion in Arabic (ed. Basset, PO 3: 403-404) and Gǝʕǝz (ed. Grébaut, PO 15: 651-654, with the sälam on 674-675). This Georgian icon of the saint has the following inscription at the bottom in asomt’avruli: წმიდაო ქალწულ-მოწამეო ბ(არ)ბ(ა)რე ევ(ედრ)ე ღ(მერ)თსა ჩუენთჳს (“O holy virgin-martyr Babara, plead with God for us!”).

From here.

From here.

Well known is the metamorphosis (Verwandlung) of Kafka’s Gregor Samsa “zu einem ungeheuren Ungeziefer”, but in this hagiographic episode we have another metamorphosis, a change into beetles thanks the curse of a saint! Prior to the part of the narrative I want to focus on, mainly for its fantastic elements, Barbara’s father, who is not a Christian, has hired some craftsmen to make a bath — balani in Syriac, but a tall tower (πύργος ὑψηλός) in Greek — in her name with two windows, but his daughter, who is beautiful, of course, and a Christian, in her father’s absence orders the builders to add an extra window, so that when he returns he finds three windows, an obvious index to the Trinity. Below I give part of the next part of the story in English, translated from Syriac; the corresponding Greek text is in Joseph Viteau, Passions des saints Écaterine et Pierre d’Alexandrie, Barbara et Anysia, publiées d’après les manuscrits grecs de Paris et de Rome, avec un choix de variantes et une traduction latine (Paris, 1897), pp. 91, 93; the book is now at archive.org here. The Syriac text is available in two places. In 1900, Agnes Smith Lewis, in her still significant volumes on females saints in Syriac, gave it along with an English translation: Select Narratives of Holy Women, vol. 1 (Syr.) 104-105, vol. 2 (ET) 79-80. Unfortunately, her manuscript was illegible at a crucial part, and thus her translation is missing some words, but Bedjan’s previously published text (AMS III 348-349, which appeared in 1892) has it, and it is on the basis of his text that I give the translation below.

In lieu of typing out the Syriac text from Bedjan, here are the necessary images.

bedjan_ams_III_348 bedjan_ams_III_349

Here is my translation:

When the building was finished and the bath made, her evil father, Dioscorus, returned from his journey. He entered the bath to see it, and saw three windows there. He asked and said to the craftsmen, “You’ve installed three windows?” The craftsmen said to him, “It was your daughter that commanded us to do so.” So he turned to his daughter and said, “Did you command the craftsmen to open [sic!] three windows?” She answered and said to him, “Yes, father, well have I commanded, because there are three windows that give light to everyone who comes into the world, and just two are dark.” So her father took her and went down to the bath, and she said to him, “How much more splendidly these three windows give light than two!” Again the maidservant of Christ, Barbara, said to him, “Observe now, father, and see: here is the Father, here is the Son, and here is the Holy Spirit.”

[p. 349]

When her father heard these things, he was filled with anger and great wrath, and he drew the sword that was hanging on him in order to kill her. But Saint Barbara prayed, and the crag that was near her opened up and received her within it and immediately put her out on the mountain that was there to receive her. Two shepherds, who were shepherding on that mountain, saw her fleeing, and when her father approached them, he questioned them whether they had seen his daughter. One of them, because he wanted her to be rescued, swore that he had not seen her, but the other one pointed his finger and showed her to her father. When the saint saw what he had done, she cursed him and immediately he and his sheep became beetles [ḥabšušyātā]: to this day these beetles congregate on the saint’s grave. As her father was going up the mountain after her, he found her and pulled her bitterly: he grabbed her by the hair of her head, drug her, brought her down from the mountain, brought her in and imprisoned her in a nasty room [ḥabšāh b-baytā ḥad šiṭā]. He closed and sealed [the door] in front of her with his ring, and he set guards over her, so that no one would be able to go in with her, until he went and informed Marcianus the governer about her, that he might eliminate her.

The whole text of the martyrdom has other happenings of interest, including some that have verbal echoes with parts of the text given above, but for now, in this part of the tale, we see a saint teleporting through rock, and a shepherd and his flock transmogrified into beetles. In the Greek version, the sheep do indeed become beetles, as here, but the informer shepherd himself becomes a stone instead: καὶ εὐθέως ἐγένοντο τὰ πρόβατα αὐτοῦ κανθαρίδες καὶ προσμένουσιν τῷ τιμίῳ αὐτῆς λειψάνῳ, αὐτὸς δὲ ἐγένετο λίθος, καὶ ἔστιν ἕως τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας. Notably, the synaxarion texts in Arabic and Gǝʕǝz lack the part about the shepherds, and thus the beetles! But since we’re here, I’ll append the sälam from Gǝʕǝz:

ሰላም ፡ ለበርባራ ፡ ዘአግሀደት ፡ ሃይማኖታ።
እንዘ ፡ ታርኢ ፡ ሥላሴ ፡ በውስተ ፡ መስኮተ ፡ ቤታ።
ኢያፍርሃ ፡ መጥባሕት ፡ ወሞሰርተ ፡ ሐፂን ፡ ኢያሕመመታ።
ሰላም ፡ ሰላም ፡ ለዩልያና ፡ ካልእታ።
እንተ ፡ ሰቀልዋ ፡ በ፪ኤ ፡ አጥባታ፨

Greetings to Barbara, who publicly announced her faith,
Showing the Trinity in the window of her house.
The sword does not frighten her, the iron saw does not harm her.
Greetings, greetings to Juliana, her companion,
Whom they hung up by her breasts.

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