08 July 2010

Some Confusion about Njegoš's Angelology

Although there is much in it that is insightful, in an interesting article entitled ‘The Dark Side in Milton & Njegoš’, Roland Clark makes some odd comments. First of all, he writes, ‘As is typical of Orthodox angelology, [Petar II Petrović] Njegoš [in his poem, The Ray of the Microcosm] relies completely upon Michael and Gabriel, who were equal in rank to Satan before his fall, to act as the opposites of Satan, rather than placing Christ himself in this rôle.’ So, he seems to be suggesting that this aspect of Njegoš’s angelology is Orthodox, right?

But then in the very next sentence, Clark writes, ‘This is a defining feature of Bogomilism, one of the many traditions that appear to have influenced Njegoš.’ [1] Really? So the very angelology that he has just told us is Orthodox, is also ‘a defining feature’ of a dualistic heresy? How can that be?

I’m also a bit annoyed because right after the word ‘fall’ in the first sentence, he has a footnote citing Njegoš and then suggesting, ‘For more on this convention in Orthodox angelology see Cyril Mango, Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome (London, 1980), p. 154.’ [2] So, naturally, I pull out my copy of Mango to see if he does indeed support the apparent meaning of the first sentence that the angelology Clark has described is Orthodox. But the only passage I find on p. 154 of that book that is at all relevant reads:

As for the archangels, only two, namely Michael and Gabriel, had a firm place in popular devotion; the others, including Raphiel and Uriel, appear mostly in prayers and incantations of an occult character. St Michael was the commander-in-chief, the archistrategos, of the celestial host, and had several cult centres in Asia Minor, the most famous being at Chonai (Colossai) in Phrygia, where he was believed to have split a rock and diverted the course of a torrent. [3]

I found this disappointingly impertinent. Perhaps the article we are led to by the footnote to the sentence suggesting Bogomilism in Njegoš’s angelology [4] would be more helpful, but unfortunately, I do not have a copy. It is by Zdenko Zlatar, is entitled ‘Archangel Michael & the Dragon: Slavic Apocrypha, Bogomilism, & Dualist Cosmology in the Medieval Balkans’, and is found in Encyclopedia moderna 2 (38), 1992, p. 267.

Although I don’t really need answers to these questions beforehand, tomorrow I leave for Dallas to present my little paper on cosmological conflict in Njegoš at the Mythopoeic Society conference, MythCon 41. On the off-chance that there will be any blog readers at MythCon, please try to find me. I also plan to attend Divine Liturgy at St Nicholas ROCOR parish in McKinney, TX, on Sunday.

[1] Roland Clark, ‘The Dark Side in Milton & Njegoš’, Sydney Studies in Religion 6.1 (2004), p. 107. It can be found online here.

[2] Ibid., p. 107, n. 4.

[3] Cyril Mango, Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome (London: Phoenix Giant, 1994), p. 154.

[4] Clark, p. 107, n. 5.


Andrea Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the schedule update. I'll be out of town Saturday, but hopefully George and I can attend St. Nicholas Sunday. The pleasure of meeting you would also give us the excuse we've been waiting for to drive all the way over to visit St. Nicholas. Additionally, a kid or two may want to come and see Fr Seraphim and his son as they were all at camp together last week.

aaronandbrighid said...

I look forward to it, Andrea Elizabeth! Just pray I don't get lost or something...

Fr. Mark said...

A red flag went up for me as soon as I read the phrase, "As is typical of Orthodox angelology..."

Patristic commentary on the Bodiless Powers is rich and varied; I worry when someone begins moving towards what appear blithe reductions regarding what is "typical." I'll try to reserve judgment until I've read the article, though.

And say hello to Shawn and Abby at St. Nicholas in McKinney. God protect you in your travels!

aaronandbrighid said...

I know what you mean, Father.

Thank you, and I will!

Andrea Elizabeth said...

Sorry you got a little lost. Guess I didn't pray hard enough. That and Dallas is crazy. You weren't too late though, and it was lovely to meet you.

aaronandbrighid said...

Andrea Elizabeth> Likewise! Although, as they always are, the conversation was cut too short. And don't worry about my driving adventure. It just helped me feel better about our decision not to move to Texas. ;-)