Athanasia (Anastasia) Logacheva, The Cave Dweller

February 12 marks the repose of the cave-dweller Anasthasia Logacheva (1875).

The peasant Anastasia Logacheva (1809-1875), blessed by St. Seraphim of Sarov (1759–1833), to become a hermit, had to wait seventeen years looking after her parents before following her vocation; at length her fame as an ascetic and spiritual mother led to her appointment as Abbess of a monastery in the newly evangelised Altai region.
seraphim sarov 2
“The fame of Fr. Seraphim’s ascetical life reached her and when she was seventeen she went to the elder. Having never seen her before, he knew her desire to live as a recluse and said, “What you are thinking about, what you desire, the Queen of Heaven blesses, but the time has not come yet.” A few years later she returned to Seraphim, who told her to go to Kiev to venerate the holy relics there. She complied and while on the pilgrimage she learned to read and write amazingly quickly. At age twenty-three she went again to Fr. Seraphim, who now blessed her intention to live a solitary life, telling her to settle where there was the fragrance of burning incense and giving her permission to wear chains for the mortification of the flesh.

Anastasia went back to the spot in the forest where she had first dug her cave, nine miles distant from her home village, where there was indeed the odor of burning incense, and she took up the solitary life. To avoid attention, she visited relatives in her village only at night, returning to her cave after only a few hours. In the forest she practiced her feats of asceticism. In the manner of Seraphim, she fasted for forty days while remaining unmoving on a rock, and she was seen standing on an anthill, covered with ants and mosquitoes, with blood pouring from her body. She also had to endure demonic temptations and torments of “visions and frightful spectacles,” as she saw animals threatening to eat her, her cabin engulfed in flames, people coming to tear apart her poor building. However, also like Seraphim, she actually lived comfortably with the wild animals of the forest and even ordered bears away from her garden.

Despite her efforts to remain inconspicuous, her renown spread and great numbers of visitors came to her as an eldress for spiritual counsel and advice on how to pray. Others attempted to live with her in the forest but usually they found the life too severe. One man who was thinking of taking up the solitary life asked her about it. She answered, “It is just as difficult to live in solitude as it is to sit peacefully naked on an anthill,” which ended his ambitions.

During this time her intense prayer was observed by those around her, as tears would stream down her face and she would be so deeply absorbed in her prayers that she was oblivious to those around her. Later in her life, shining rays were seen radiating from her face as she prayed. Anastasia was also gifted with foreknowledge of events and would even have fresh berries waiting for guests intending to make surprise visits to her.

The number of women who wanted to join her compelled her to go to the authorities for permission to establish a women’s community in the forest. Disastrously, the authorities not only refused her permission because “she is often not in her right mind” but they also ordered her to leave her cells, which they then demolished. She was officially attached to the nearby Ardatov Protection Convent but she returned to her home village and dug another cell in which she placed a coffin so that she could, in the monastic tradition, contemplate death constantly. To avoid being disturbed, she announced to all that she was going on a pilgrimage and then closed her window, locked her door from the inside and stayed in the cell “as though in the desert.”

Anastasia went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and when she returned after nine months, again the authorities intervened, destroying her cell and ordering her to the Ardatov Convent, a hardship for a recluse accustomed to living alone. Her cellmate was a difficult novice who obstructed her prayers, leading Anastasia to pray for deliverance from the girl. An angry Archangel Michael appeared to her, fiery sword in hand, demanding, “Is this the way people pray to the God of love and peace?” Anastasia repented and continued to enjoy the favor of heaven, and the Virgin Mary again appeared to her, “standing in the air in a prayerful stance, with Her arms out stretched.”

In 1863 Anastasia’s fortunes changed again when she was named to be the superior of the newly established convent of St. Nicholas in the Siberian diocese of Tomsk with the bishop himself tonsuring her under her new name of Athanasia. She remained there for the remaining eleven years of her life, living simply and providing counsel for her nuns, who would leave her presence flying away “as on wings, so light it would be on the soul.”

After her death in 1875, her grave became a pilgrimage site as many were healed of illnesses by drinking the earth from her grave mixed with water.”
mystics of the christian tradition
Steven Fanning “Mystics of the Christian Tradition”, London: Routledge 2001: pp.56-57

See also;
anathasia book 2
Aleksandr Priklonskīĭ; Thaisia Simonsson; and Sophia Leland “Blessed Athanasia: Disciple of St. Seraphim
ATHANASIUS nun 1
Fr. Alexander Priklonsky “Blessed Athanasia & The Desert Ideal” Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1993.
anasthasia book
Brenda Meehan “Holy Women of Russia. Lives of Five Orthodox Women Offer Spiritual Guidance for Today”, San Francisco: Harper 1993
holy women of russia

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