ένα μη κερδοσκοπικό και μη εμπορικό πολιτιστικό ιστολόγιο - a non profit and a non commercialized cultural blog

Δευτέρα, 21 Μαΐου 2007

CYNOCEFALOI: DOG HEADED SAINTS

This is an extremely interesting subject as these people are mentioned in many early texts. Cynocefaloi translates literally as “the dog-head people.” They are also spoken of in the Life of Saint Makarios, which locates the tribe in a desert far beyond Syria. Tzetzis, a Byzantine historical commentator, refers to them as inhabitants of India, of which modern Pakistan would have been a part. In the Greek Life of St. Christopher (who some speculate came from this area), it is said that that he came to the Roman world passing through the Persian desert, and Marco Polo mentions them as inhabitants of the Indian Ocean. So they could be the same primitive tribes that Alexander the Greek found on his way to the sea coast of the Gedrosian Desert (modern Makran in Pakistan).Our main source for the Cynocefaloi is Ktesias (5th century B.C.), a well-known ancient geographer, pharmacist and historian from Knidos, whose writings were taken seriously by Byzantine Church fathers, for example by Patriarch Photius the Great (see his Myriobiblos). In Ktesias’ book “Indica,” which St. Photius himself used, there is a whole text dedicated to the Cynocefaloi, “an Indian tribe.” These ancient folk tales (Ethiopian, Slavic, Persian, Arabic, Armenian, Greek etc.) all refer to the dramatic contact of Alexander the Great and the Cynocefaloi. This also explains why I’ve seen many old Greek icons of St. Christopher with a dog’s head. At first I was shocked, it seemed like blasphemy and I wondered what on earth the Greeks were thinking. No one was able to explain it, except that St. Christopher’s life from the Menaion says that he was so tremendously ferocious-looking that when Emperor Decius saw him, he fell off his throne from fright. Do you think there was a connection? The sources say that St. Christopher came across the Persian Desert. These people lived on the other side of the desert.I have my own theory, although this explanation is not in the old texts that cite these people, because the sources assume the reader is already familiar with the place names and locations. Several sources say that St. Andrew was in this northeast region of Pakistan, and we know that there were peoples in this area who slashed their cheeks from mouth to ear, so that all the teeth showed. Marco Polo saw this tribe, whom he called the Cynocefaloi. He said that they looked like mastiffs; that is, they didn’t have elongated heads like German shepherds with the long nose, but like mastiffs. You can imagine – a mastiff has a round, flat face shaped more like that of a human. They cut the cheeks, filed the teeth, cropped the ears, and reshaped the skulls of theirbabies so that they would grow into a very ferocious aspect. All of this was to protect themselves from the constant invasions of the area.If you go to some sub-Saharan tribes today along the Nile in Rwanda, or along the Amazon, or in New Guinea, the faces of some tribal peoples can frighten you terribly. They systematically mold their faces into something ferocious – the shape of the head, cheeks, teeth…. These people were ferocious in looks, but not ferocious in their ways. They were simply a primitive people who needed to protect themselves.According to the Syriac text, when St. Andrew went to these people they were transformed into normal human beings. In my opinion this means that after their baptism they simply stopped doing these things. In Deuteronomy it is forbidden to scar or mutilate the face, so this would have been part of the apostolic heritage that St. Andrew taught to this people.The Syriac sources say that when St. Andrew first saw them he was horrified. He panicked and fled back to the shore to jump into the boat, but as he reached the shore he smelled incense and realized that the Lord Himself had guided the boat there. He even questioned God at first, “Why did you bring me to this place?” (He is a man you know. St. Andrew is a man like all of us, but he is special.) But when the people came to him, they were kind, they gave him hospitality. They were just fine primitive people, as are many tribes in the Amazon today, even those who fight each other.We hear of this nowadays from people who have come into contact with “barbarian” tribes with strange customs, according to our cultures. Because they accept these people, they in turn are accepted by them. In Papua, New Guinea, in the Amazon, in the jungles of Africa, these people often embrace westerners who settle and live with them in a matter we can hardly imagine, with real love and tenderness. This happened to the apostles as well. The real problem for the apostles was when they were in the “civilized” world, not amongst primitive peoples.

Christopher Orr

Δεν υπάρχουν σχόλια:

Δημοσίευση σχολίου