Collyridianism, now there’s a word for the New Year Scrabble games.

Any thoughts?

We’ll give you a clue….

We’ve been preparing for some workshops in York in April …

I (Alan) will be presenting a weekend workshop based on aspects of Alchemy in terms of personal and spiritual development and Sue will be running a workshop entitled Goddess Awakens, which not surprisingly will explore the Goddess Tradition, Imagery and Path.

So, Collyridianism … any thoughts yet?

We know quite a lot about this practice from its strongest opponent, Epiphanius of Salamis, who was writing around 370 AD.

So a Christian writer opposing a specific practice suggests that Collyridianism was perhaps heretical in some form.

OK, enough clues ….

Collyridianism was an Early Christian heretical movement in pre-Islamic Arabia whose followers seem to have worshipped the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, as a Goddess.

Epiphanius states that Collyridianism originated in Thrace and Scythia, although it may have first travelled to those regions from Syria or Asia Minor.

It is interesting that some writers have suggested that this particular heresy reflects passages in the Qu’ran which speak of the Christian Trinity as God, Jesus and Mary.

“And when Allah will say: O Jesus, son of Mary, didst thou say to men, Take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah? He will say: Glory be to Thee! it was not for me to say what I had no right to (say). If I had said it, Thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. Surely Thou art the great Knower of the unseen.”

Qur’an 5:116

Note how this strange verse does not mention the Trinity, but has Allah asking Jesus whether he told the people to take him and Mary for gods beside Allah. To which, Jesus replied ‘no, I did not; if I did you would have known about it anyway’.

As an article on WikiIslam notes “Why did Allah ask Jesus something he already knew Jesus did not do? Did Allah ask simply for the fun of it? Or was he testing him? If this was a test, why perform it at all, when one already knows the result? The circularity of this verse and its lack of logic is apparent”

The Collyridian sect was comprised of mostly women who combined Christian and Pagan rituals and beliefs. Epiphanius considered this blasphemous, writing “certain women there in Arabia have introduced this absurd teaching from Thracia: how they offer up a sacrifice of bread rolls in the Name of the ever-Virgin Mary, and all partake of this bread.”

The Collyridian heresy lasted about 100 years, existing between 350 and 450 A.D.

Getting the balance right between recognition of Mary and deification of Mary has proven to be an important part of Catholicism. With regards this particular heresy Epiphanius notes in his apologetic Panarion (Medicine Box) both extremes of Marian heresies: Collyridianism (the super-exhaltation of Mary) and Antidicomarianitism (an Arabian movement which demoted and debased Mary’s importance).


It is interesting to reflect on the possibilities that these struggles with the status of Mary stem from the challenges of suppressing pre-existing Goddess traditions whilst at the same time trying to capture recruits to the ‘new’ Christian dogmas. Of course this speculation would need more research to support, but does echo those who have reclaimed the Goddess Traditions and are re-treading the Goddess Path, who speak convincingly of the HIS-tory of religion and its continued (and continuing) repression of women.


You might like to read this blog post which considers Collyridianism and Philomarianism

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