Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Geography and Religion - and three mysterious holy men

Geography and Religion

Geography, and the geological formations and climatological effects derived thereby, have a distinct shaping influence on the everyday lives of people who live in particular areas. This shaping influence extends naturally to the religious traditions that develop in certain places, affecting the figures, metaphors, motifs, and physical structures that are relevant in certain areas of the world. To be meaningful, of course, something must be relevant. The Eastern Mediterranean was shaped by certain geographical and climatological forces that enabled life, through rainfall agriculture, but that also limited life, due to a lack of largescale irrigative rivers, constant aridity, and the blight of frequent drought. Geographical and agricultural motifs developed in the region that both were relevant and meaningful in such a setting. Such agricultural motifs earliest were associated with the figure of the ancient storm-god, and then became associated with his subsequent regional manifestations and alternatives, in the figures of Jewish Elijah, Christian St. George, and Muslim al-Khiḍr. Investigating this particular example offers a good case study for the usefulness of geography of religion as both a theory (geography shapes religions) and as a method (geographical contextualization allows us to see that religious traditions always are a product of both place and time).

See Also: Geography, Religion, Gods, and Saints in the Eastern Mediterranean (Routledge, 2020).

By Erica Ferg
Assistant Professor, Religious Studies
Regis University
March 2020
Cross-file under New Book.

There are too many past PaleoJudaica posts on Elijah to link to here. If you are interested, run "Elijah" through the blog's search engine. Past posts on St. George (the patron saint of England and late-antique Palestinian reputed dragon-slayer) are here and links. Past posts involving the Qur'anic figure Al-Khidr are here and here.

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