‘Those Who Make a Profession out of Rites’: Unlicensed Religion, and Magic

Robert Parker

in Polytheism and Society at Athens

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780199216116
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191705847 | DOI:
‘Those Who Make a Profession out of Rites’: Unlicensed Religion, and Magic

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The Greek expression paraphrased in the title to this chapter occurs in a non-Attic text, the Derveni papyrus, but there were religious professionals in Attica as throughout Greece. And although the things of the gods had to be spoken of with utmost respect, religious professionals such as seers and prophets were always subject to suspicion and often to insult. Expertise could be deployed for payment, a way of making a living, but it is that claim to possess an expertise accessible only on payment that makes the religious professionals of Greece such ambiguous figures. Priests and priestesses in public cults also profited from traditional fees and perquisites. The shadiness of the religious professionals is also the shadiness of unlicensed, free-enterprise religion. Regularly paid and serving the city's military needs, such practitioners had no need to lure clients by offering religious services not available within ancestral tradition.

Keywords: religious professionals; Attica; Greece; magic; cults; religion; religious services; seers; prophets

Chapter.  11622 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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