The article argues that self-praise hymns (a.k.a. aretalogies or in Sanskrit ātmastuti) can be analyzed as an inventory of records of mystical experiences across religious traditions and over history, similar to inventories of mystical experiences gathered by way of structured questionnaires. The genre is characterized by linguistic features such as paradoxical predications, gnomic temporalities and deictic indexicalities. The paper compares case studies in Sanskrit, Hebrew, Coptic, and Tibetan whereby a deity or a ‘culturally postulated supernatural agent’ speaks in the first-person of its other-worldly nature. The article thus offers a novel analytic approach to the study of mystical experiences.
Jewish history in Kerala, the southernmost state in modern India, goes back to as early as the tenth century CE. In the mid-twentieth century, Kerala Jews migrated en masse to Israel, leaving behind but a handful of their community members and remnants of eight communities, synagogues, and cemeteries. The paper presents a preliminary attempt to describe and analyze the language—so far left undocumented and unexplored—still spoken by Kerala Jews in Israel, based on a language documentation project carried out in 2008 and 2009. In light of the data collected and studied so far, it is clear that the language in question fits nicely into the Jewish languages spectrum, while at the same time it fits perfectly into the linguistic mosaic of castolects in Kerala. Though the linguistic database described here reflects a language in its last stages, it affords salvaging the remnants of a once rich oral heritage and opens new channels for the study of the history, society, and culture of Kerala Jews.