How should Hermits dress? I

How should Hermits dress? The earliest Hermits seemed to adopt somewhat eccentric and strange practices! As the (on-line) “Coptic Encyclopedia” notes:

In both Jewish and Christian environments, there were several distinctive customs in matters of dress. Women, young girls, or widows who lived in community, took the veil as a sign of modesty and virginity. The polemics surrounding this custom were numerous.
Tertullian even devoted a whole work to it. The Essenes, for their part, chose the white baptismal robe to signify to the world their purity and their “baptism of life.” In the desert, the prophets of all ages clothed themselves in a cloak of camel’s hair and a loincloth of skin. In the course of the fourth and fifth centuries, a new ethic of clothing arose around PALLADIUS, Saint John CASSIAN, and EVAGRIUS PONTICUS, rooted in the prophetic example in the context of the desert and of eremitism.
naked hermit
To the ideal hermit were attributed the melote (mantle of animal skin), symbol of mortification; the skhema (a garment like a scapular marked with a cross, which recalled the cross of Christ); the Koukle (a hood, cowl, or cap), symbol of the grace of God and a witness to the childlike spirit of the follower of Jesus, His simplicity and His innocence; the girdle
(leather belt worn by soldiers), which kept the Christian from impurity and was an attribute of the soldier of Christ; the sleeveless tunic, symbol of renunciation of the world; and sandals, which rather than shoes gave nimbleness for running the spiritual course.

This costume, however, was not worn in any rigorous fashion in the different ascetic centers. Anchorites and cenobites exhibited various and sometimes whimsical forms of dress, at least in early times. They drew upon local forms of dress, adapting them as closely as possible to the basic ideal scheme. Considerations of the level of asceticism, the material resources, and personal preferences were also taken into account. Also it was possible to distinguish one group of monks from another by variations in their dress.
hermit robe
An important evolution toward a more uniform style of dress took place under the influence of the political, economic, social, and religious progress of Egypt. The state had something to say, and popular fashions—Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Syrian, Byzantine, or Arab, to mention only the most important—influenced even the religious. These conditions produced in Egypt a very changing and subtle style of dress, for these fashions were more or less fixed according to the regions, the levels of population, and the zones of immigration. This evolution can be traced through six periods.

Egyptian asceticism in the third century passed through a period of extreme poverty and solitude. Some hermits wore nothing at all and possessed nothing, not even a garment. Without even a loincloth, they covered themselves only with their long hair or their beard if they could grow one. Some used their mats as clothing as well as for sleeping. Others plaited tunics for themselves from the fiber of palm, papyrus, or some other fibrous and coarse plant. Simple long white tunics of linen, without sleeves or decoration, were also used. Some ascetics wore the klaft (cap), which was like the cap of very small children. Some covered themselves in cool weather or on journeys with the balot (cloak of sheepskin or
goatskin), which on occasion served as a pouch if the ends were knotted. Some girded themselves with the mojh (leather cincture characteristic of soldiers), on which was hung a purse for small change. The most valiant ascetics lapped over themselves, front and back, the skhema, or Arabic marcnah (scapular of tanned leather, made of bands passed over the shoulders and attached to the mojh).

Although these garments constituted the basic model of religious dress, the complete costume was practically never worn at this period.
hermit robe 2
Alongside these garments of Egyptian origin, a whole range of clothing brought in from abroad was gradually established with the great periods of immigration. The Greek
Kentonarion was a “patchwork” garment of various fabrics, which gave it a multicolored appearance. Two tunics, the kolobion, from Greece or Syria, and the lebiton, are often confused. The first was of brown wool, the second of white linen and originally worn by the
Levites (hence the name), straight in form and without sleeves or seams. In the same way the plebeian cloaks of Greece and Rome, the lodix and the melote, were found among the monks of Egypt. The lodix was very shaggy, of wool woven with all its fleece, either sheep wool or goat hair; it served both as a greatcoat and as a rug or blanket for covering animals. The Greek melote (mantle) was made of sheepskin or goatskin with its white fleece. It was knotted on the chest, and was akin to the balot. In Rome it was also fastened with a fibula. The melote generally came down to the level of the knees. It is often portrayed in representations of Moses and Elijah.

In Romanized contexts, the analabos replaced the skhema. The analabos was similar to suspenders, shoulder-straps, or bands of woven wool, which, like the skhema, crossed over on the back and on the chest, passing over the shoulders and attaching to the belt. This kind of crossed sash had the immediate advantage of holding the ample tunics in fashion close to the body so as not to hinder movement, especially during work. The ascetics who originated from Syria brought with them the akes, a simple loincloth of linen, wool, or some vegetable fiber crudely worked

A rather important change took place in the fourth century when the first rules for monastic life, including clothing, were enacted, and in a very specific manner, first by ANTONY (toward 310) and then by PACHOMIUS (315). The latter rule, taken up and encouraged by ATHANASIUS I of Alexandria, affected also the secular clergy and liturgical usage. Other rules followed, which we do not always know, since they probably remained in the domain of
oral tradition and are consequently lost. The directives issued by Antony and Pachomius had better fortune, for they were immediately translated and disseminated in the West. It is probable that at this period each monastery of any importance had its own usages, following the basic model more or less strictly. It was thus that the number of the garments worn by the religious grew. In addition to those known in the preceding century we may note the caciton (tunic), of coarse linen, hemp, or jute, made of two pieces of cloth joined at the shoulders and rectangular in form; the pork (Bohairic, phork), (cloak), of dark color and woven of fleecy wool, reserved for divine service; the hook (leather belt or plastron that soldiers also wore); the auleou (loincloth) of horsehair; the hboos (perhaps a liturgical tunic of linen); and finally the rahtou, of tanned goatskin or sheepskin, which was akin to the skhçma but perhaps corresponded to the triangular aprons of the Shenutian monks; found
on the mummies of several monks, it symbolized a very high degree of asceticism.
Other garments, of Greco-Roman origin, made their appearance in the milieus of the Coptic religious. Such were the zone, a belt of leather that gathered the tunic to the body and held in the analabos, and the lention, without any ornament, a symbol of mortification, which could serve as a turban just as well as for linen or loincloth.

For the liturgy, there was a whole array of garments. The principal item was the sticharion , a tunic made of linen and falling to the feet, with sleeves stitched and tapered at the wrists. In early times this tunic was always white. Sometimes it was adorned with clavi or with motifs embroidered on the lower part.

Other vestments included the kamassion, also a tunic of linen for the use of deacons and priests, closely resembling the long liturgical tunic; the epomis, made of two pieces of linen joined at the shoulders and white in color, put on by priests and deacons at the moment of communion; the katanouti, a small cloak for the liturgy, which recalled the woolen pallium of the Romans; the maphorion, which was in origin a woman’s cloak, worn around the neck and shoulders among men, as among the monks in the Christian period, and resembling the
Latin ricinum, a kind of shawl edged with fringes; and the ballin, a long double band of wool passing round the head, then crossing behind the back and fastened in the girdle



One Response to “How should Hermits dress? I”

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