Religion and the Everyday Life of Manichaeans in Kellis

Beyond Light and Darkness


Published in Open Access with the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation.
Winner of the Manfred Lautenschläger Award!

Religion is never simply there. In Religion and the Everyday Life of Manichaeans in Kellis, Mattias Brand shows where and when ordinary individuals and families in Egypt practiced a Manichaean way of life. Rather than portraying this ancient religion as a well-structured, totalizing community, the fourth-century papyri sketch a dynamic image of lived religious practice, with all the contradictions, fuzzy boundaries, and limitations of everyday life. Following these microhistorical insights, this book demonstrates how family life, gift-giving, death rituals, communal gatherings, and book writing are connected to our larger academic debates about religious change in late antiquity.
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Mattias Brand, Ph.D. (2019), Leiden University, is postdoctoral researcher at the University of Zürich. He has published on Manichaeism, ancient Christianity, and the study of religion. Currently, he is researching the transformation of religious practices within ancient and contemporary houses.
Mattias Brand has produced a well-conceived and nuanced study of Manichean life in late antique Kellis that usefully brings theoretical insights to bear on textual, material, and visual evidence. I would strongly recommend this book to any historian or student interested in Manichaeism or lived religion in late antiquity.
Joseph E. Sanzo, BMCR 2023
List of Figures and Tables
Abbreviations and Translations

Introduction Religion and Everyday Groupness
  Introducing Manichaeism
  Manichaeans and the Transformation of Religion in Late Antiquity
  Theoretical Framework: Everyday Groupness
  Sources and the Structure of the Book

1 Makarios’s Family: Manichaeans at Home in the Oasis
  Kellis in the Dakhleh Oasis
  Locating Makarios and Pamour: The Archaeological Context
  Makarios and Maria
  Pamour and His Brothers
  Other Clusters of Letters
  Indications of Manichaeanness
  Documents Associated with the Various Family Clusters

2 Pamour’s Connections: Religion beyond a Conflict Model
  Egyptian Temple Religion
  Classical Traditions from the Greek and Roman World
  Celestial Power and Amulets
  Christian Institutions and Repertoire
  Manichaeans and the Roman Administration

3 Orion’s Language: Manichaean Self-Designation in the Kellis Papyri
  Performing Personal Letters
  Self-Designation in Documentary Papyri
  Excursus: Coptic as a Community-Specific Language?
  Appendix: List of Self-Designators in the Personal Letters

4 Tehat’s Gifts: Everyday Community Boundaries
  The Manichaean Ideology of Giving
  Five Types of Giving in the Kellis Letters
  The Agape, a Manichaean Ritual Meal?

5 The Deacon’s Practice: Manichaean Gatherings with Prayer and Psalm Singing
  Manichaean Communal Gatherings
  Did Makarios Go to Church? On the Location of Manichaean Gatherings
  A Manichaean Monastery in the Oasis?
  Evoking Groupness: Teaching and Emotional Arousal through Song

6 Matthaios’s Grief: Manichaean Death Rituals
  Death and the Deceased in Documentary Papyri
  Songs and Prayers for the Deceased
  Christian and Manichaean Funerary Meals
  Burial Practices and Material Culture

7 Ision’s Books: Scribal Culture and Access to Manichaean Texts
  Copying and Circulating Books
  The Syriac Connection
  Materiality: The Ude of the Codex and Wooden Tablets
  Identifying Manichaean Scribes

Conclusion: Untidy History: Manichaeanness in Everyday Life
  When Did Manichaeism Matter?
  Modeling Late Antique Religion
  Abandoning Kellis

Appendix 1: Outline of Published Documents from Kellis
Appendix 2: Prosopography of Makarios’s and Pamour’s Relatives
Index of Sources
Index of Names
Subject Index
Scholars interested in Manichaean Studies, the History of religion, religious change in Late Antiquity, the art and archaeology of fourth-century Egypt, and the application of social-scientific theories to the ancient world.
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