The House of Mirrors: Reflections of an Academic on the Monastic Rituals of Death on Mount Athos

Christopher Russell


The purpose of this paper is to relate the rituals of death practised in the Monks’ Republic of Mount Athos in northern Greece, and to reflect on them as an academic. To do this fifty days and nights were spent on the Holy Mountain conducting ethnography; this enabled both the monks’ enactments to be captured and their interpretations recorded. The monastic rituals of death on Mount Athos are presented according to three emergent, paradoxical themes. These are that death is: both near and far; both a blessing and a tragedy; both uniting and dividing. The paper, the first study of monastic rituals of death on Mount Athos, then reflects on these themes in relation to being an academic, concluding that the limited commemoration of our colleagues in universities is intertwined with the slow death of the academic vocation.


death; monks; academics

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