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Fasting

Post  Apollyon on Thu Oct 24, 2013 8:49 pm

I am curious if anyone knows of any references to fasting in our faith?

I am almost certain that I read about it somewhere, but for the life of me, I can not find it.

I thank all helpers in advance!
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Re: Fasting

Post  Erodius on Thu Oct 24, 2013 11:48 pm

Some form of fasting appears in virtually every religion. However, in many cases, the subject of fasting is more elaborate than the simple 'fast on certain days' arrangement as it is in Christianity or Islam.

I would divide the sorts of fasts that appear in Graeco-Roman religions into three categories: 1. purificatory/penitential, 2. ritualized, and 3. mystic/memorial — though these three categories are not always clear cut.

On one hand, fasting in Classical cultures all around the Mediterranean world (including Classical Judaism) was associated with purification, and especially purification from some sort of guilt, pollution, crime or sin. Of this first type of fasting, in terms of Graeco-Roman religion, examples would include a person abstaining from some or all types of food or drink prior to a particular ceremony or sacrifice (from what one was abstaining would depend on the ceremony or deity involved). Of the second type, examples would include any type of penitential or votive fast: the therapeutic fasts of the sanatoria of Epidaurus, meant to ward off and/or mitigate illness, and the penitential and fortitude-strengthening fasting of such ascetic groups as the Stoics, Pythagoreans, and other philosophical orders.

Ritualized fasts also existed, although fairly uncommon. These would be the closest, really, to the common contemporary conception of fasting as an act associated with certain festal observances, where the fasting is associated primarily with observation of the festival, rather than having a clear practical purpose. Certain local Δημήτρειαι/Ceraliae (festivals of Δημῆτρα/Ceres) incorporated fasts as a simple part of the festival's observation custom. (For somewhat obvious mythic reasons, this type of fast is most often associated with festivals of Ceres).

The third category is sort of a sub-category of the second. Among ritualized fasts, primarily a feature of the public religion, are also those associated with the private religion of Mystery movements. It is the private religion of the Mystery cults that is closest to our contemporary conception of what a religion is. Everyone went through the motions of the public religion (not to do so would be essentially treasonous in the Classical world), but the public religion should really be seen as something similar to, for Americans for instance, the observation of mass holidays like Thanksgiving, Christma-chanuk-kwanzaa, and New Years, which everyone celebrates and observes the basic motions, and everyone has been taught the basic mythology behind since childhood, but which really are not especially solemn events for most of the population. This is one reason why Christians were thought so strange: they refused participation in the public rituals that everyone else participated in without much of a second thought. Even people who would not have even considered themselves religious would have participated without making any big deal of it. Belief was not especially important in the public religion. That was the sphere of private religion. Any devout person of the Classical world would have been a member of some private or Mystery cult or another, something that offered actual belief and faith outside of the essentially empty ritualism of the public religion. And, back to the subject, these private cults also incorporate fasts. Among these, Christians, Orphics, Isiacs, and Mithraists all either certainly or likely incorporate/d fasting of some form or another. In these cases, fasting is usually either purificatory, as visible in the pre-ceremonial fasts observed prior to initiation/baptism among the first three groups (and then later, often before sacramental rites in Christianity, Orphism and very likely (though we don't know for sure) in Mithraism, or is what I would call 'memorial', where the fast is observed in mimicry/memorialization of a significant period of fasting or abstinence on the part of the major cult figure of the religion. Examples of these would include Jesus' forty days in the wilderness, observed as Lent, Ceres' abstinence from food in her search for Proserpina, observed as a fast as part of the ceremonies of the Mysteries at Eleusis, and Orpheus' 7-day fast on the banks of the Styx.

Does that help some?

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Re: Fasting

Post  Apollyon on Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:23 pm

Indeed it does, Erodius! I've been searching like crazy, and it just keeps coming up with the references to Judeo-Christian Fasting....

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