Of a Lion, Dog, Shayṭān, and Snake: Sīdī al-Ḥasan Abirkān of Tlemcen

Thicket & Thorp

2008BU0720 The walls of the village of Manṣūra outside of Tlemcen, 1870, by Sir John Baptist Joseph, 12th Baron Dormer (V&A SD.340)

That sainthood and social and cultural marginality have a tendency to go together, in Christian and Islamic traditions anyway, will hardly come as a surprise to anyone versed in such things: this is not the place for such speculations, but my personal working theory is that when we see Late Paleolithic burials of unusual individuals whose grave goods mark them as special, what we are seeing is a trace of something very much like sainthood. Regardless of the veracity of such speculatory reconstruction, it is quite clear from medieval and early modern hagiography in both Christian and Islamic traditions that while hardly a prerequisite for sanctity, difference, marginality, even outright societal opposition were all potential entryways into sainthood, not necessarily barriers. To discuss the reasons for this sustained relationship…

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