The Leather Belt

The use by Hermits, Monks and Nuns of a belt made of leather is very ancient.
monastic belt 1
In the earliest Coptic tradition:

“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.”
monastic belt 2
Although in most Orthodox monastic traditions, the belt is worn over the monastic garments, amongst the Copts it is most common for the belt to be worn underneath the outer garments, and therefore not to be visible.
monastic belt 4
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition at the blessing of a Monk or Nun, a leather belt, made of the skin of a dead animal signifying deadness to the world is fastened about the loins. This girding of the loins also signifies bodily mortification and readiness for the service of Christ and His return (Luke 12:35-37). The buckle of the belt has the symbols of the Crucifixion on it to remind the new monk of his daily Crucifixion. The follow words are spoken by the Abbot: “Our brother is gird about his loins with the power of truth, for mortification of body and renewal of spirit, and for courage and caution.”
monastic belt nun
A Stavrophor Nun in the Orthodox Church in America receives the Belt

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