Bogomil Movement and its Implications

/, Essays, Blesok no. 15/Bogomil Movement and its Implications

Bogomil Movement and its Implications

The end of the IX and the beginning of the X century were marked by major changes in the social structure of Macedonian Slavic tribes. At the time, the territory of Macedonian tribes was a component of the powerful feudal state of Bulgarian Tzar Symeon (823-927). After coming into reign, in order to sustain power, as well as because of the opportunity for quicker and more efficient exploitation, the military and administrative division was spread in this region also in the form that had already existed in Bulgarian Empire. Simultaneously, it meant rapid disintegration of the clan structures. The church too was engaged in this process and it used to receive real estates from the dominant feudal institutions. As an outstanding propriety owner it took the side of monarchy, in defence of the established social order.
The conditions in which Macedonian Slavs found themselves, really deteriorated in the middle of the X century, during the reign of Tzar Peter (927-969), when he completed his conquest expeditions when the taxes for the great military and administrative apparatus abruptly increased.1F In such critical historical circumstances sprang up a strong people’s movement for religious and political liberation – Bogomilism. In the essence, it represents a religious teaching based on dualistic heretic teachings.

1. CHARACTERISTICS AND SYMBOLICS OF BOGOMILISM

The religious base from which Bogomilism developed is Christianity in its original form. Bogomils called themselves Krstjani and showed extraordinary respect for Christ. Starting from the attitudes at the beginnings of Christianity they believed that in addressing God the individual does not need mediators – people from the church institution who are in deep sins of greed and immorality – nor a church object. At the outset they preached their sermons and conducted their spiritual baptism most frequently in the open in the vicinity of the village i.e. the town.
At the start of the X century emerged the first written documents dealing with the beginning of Bogomilism. It was a list of anathemas from the provincial synod of Orthodoxy passed between the years of 912 and 925 during the reign of Patriarch Nikola.
Approximately at the same time appeared the polemics of Jovan Exarch with the dualistic heretics. These documents were supported by St.Clement’s hagiography, concerned with “the bad heresy” in the area of Ohrid, after Clement’s death.2F
In spite of such foundation of their teaching, they rejected Christian monotheism and accepted theological dualism. According to them, the entire visible material world is created by two gods, the god of light and the god of darkness, of the good and the evil, which exist as parallel in the world and in every one of us. The world is governed by the permanent dual principle of creation and destruction. This was in fact the way in which they explained social injustice, the existence of wealthy feudal lords, the church, and the impoverished peasantry. “… To tell the world of the ‘holy feudal order’ that ‘it was not created by God’ but by ‘the Devil’, that there is no ‘holy truth’ in it but ‘an eternal battle’ … in which blind Pharisees suffocate the truth of ‘the Word of God’, that man should not believe, but think … that there is sense in people’s life, in having a high and perfect ideal – a battle against anything that is from ’the Satan and of Satan origin’, but not only within ourselves but also in social life… that the world of lords and boyars is the world of the ‘Satan’ and it ought to collapse and only the world of freedom and equality of ‘God’s children’ is the world to be distinguished. In the dusk night of the Middle Ages, at the time of the ’holy silence’, at the hour when our Orthodox believers buried deep the reason and consciousness of the lost and destroyed human being… at that hour and throughout that night, the mystically dark dualist word echoed as human as human can be, epochally historic indeed.”3F
At first as a religious opposition sect, Bogomilism mobilised the masses of people into a struggle against the harder and harder feudal oppression. The subdued and dormant revolt converted into an open and tempestuous protest, so the movement turned into a real social reformation movement with uncovered aspirations towards change of social order, and most expressive was their demand for “abolishment of all social institutions introduced by feudalism.”4F
The most substantial heretic stronghold of Bogomilism, and simultaneously the first church municipality, was in Macedonia, in the regions inhabited by the tribe Dragovits. From here Bogomilism spread throughout the whole Povardarie (Vardar River Valley), then on the entire Macedonian territory, and from here it was expanded in Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, also in Italy, France, and in some other countries. Dualism left deep traces in the towns of northern Italy and southern France, where it became an ideal of the citizenry. In Italy the dualists were known as Patarens, in France as Cathars, and they all considered the Bogomil municipality of Dragovit as their cradle.5F
Some of the most substantial proofs of their impact on the development of dualist movements as well as on its relations with the newly formed heretic church in Italy and France, and for the organisation and functioning of the Bogomil Church in the Balkans, are the acts of Cathar Synod held in 1167 in San Felix in Karaman, near Toulouse in France. This Synod was chaired by Pope Nickita from Constantinople, a devotee to the heretic church of Dragovit, and the decisions of this Synod are known as ‘the seven churches of Asia”, among which were “ecclesia Romanae, Dragumetae, Meliguae, Bulgariae and Dalmatiae”.6F
On the basis of the references available, according to Dragojlović, a real continuity in the development of Bogomil heretics can be traced from its initial rudimentary forms to the full authentic and theologically rounded whole. Also there can be traced a true chronological relation between the news from different periods of time, from the beginning of the X until the middle of the XV century, in Macedonia in the districts inhabited by Dragovits alone. In the other parts of the Balkans and Asia Minor, it emerged occasionally and was interrupted many times by longer periods of calm.7F
What is very interesting for our further research is the symbolics practiced by Bogomils; also the vestiges in material culture, rituals, and beliefs, which are evident even nowadays.

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1. Stojanovski A. d-r, Katardzhiev I. d-r, Zografski D. d-r, Apostolski M. d-r, the same, p. 24
2. Dragojlović D., POCECI BOGOMILSTVA NA BALKANU, p. 20
3. Racin K., PROZA I PUBLICISTIKA, BOGOMILITE, p. 146
4. Racin K., the same, p. 146
5. Dragojlović D., POCECI BOGOMILSTVA NA BALKANU, p. 20, Racin K., PROZA I PUBLICISTIKA, BOGOMILITE, p. 146
6. Dragojlović D., Antic V., BOGOMILSTVOTO VO SREDNOVEKOVNATA IZVORNA GRAGJA, p.25
7. Dragojlović D., POCECI BOGOMILSTVA NA BALKANU, p.28

2018-08-21T17:23:53+00:00 June 1st, 2000|Categories: Literature, Essays, Blesok no. 15|0 Comments