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Emmanouela Grypeou

DUALISTIC HERESIES AND CULTS IN SYRIAC SOURCES AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE IMAGE OF THE HERETIC1
Syria has been a fertile soil for the flourishing of dualistic groups and ideas, some of them peculiar Syriac such as the Bardaisanites or the Quqites.2 According to heresiological reports, dualistic groups were widespread in Syria. However, a comprehensive study on dualistic groups in Syriac literature is still lacking. Information on dualistic groups and their cults can be found in the Syriac literature from the fourth century onwards until late in the Middle Ages. Most of the sources demonstrate certain interdependence between them. They often derive their basic material from popular Greek heresiological sources, such as Epiphanius of Salamis’ Panarion. In the present analysis, I will concentrate less on Gnostic or dualistic theology and mythology, but rather on reports, where dualistic
1 The present article is based largely on my book, ‘Das Vollkommene Pascha’. Gnostische Bibelexegese und Ethik, Wiesbaden 2005. I would like to thank Prof. Amir Harrak, who drew my attention to his own research work on this topic and especially to his erudite and illuminating article: ‘Anti-Manichean Propaganda in Syriac Literature’, in Journal of Eastern Christian Studies 56 (2004), 49-67. See H.J.W. Drijvers, Bardaisan of Edessa, Groningen 1966 and idem ‘Quq and the Quqites’, in: Numen 14 (1967), pp. 106-129. Vol. XXIII 2008
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Peabody Mass. 292.10 A detailed account of these accusations can be found in Minucius Felix. in: Bulletin de la classe des Lettres. 19). Ausgewählte Schriften der syrischen Kirchenväter. ed. 9 Cf. ‘Le crime rituel rapproché aux chrétiens du II siècle’. who has been urged on as if to harmless blows on the surface of the meal.6 3 See St. Vosté. CSCO 115.. thus. p. The not uncommon in Roman society slander against Christians of promiscuity. why Christians were persecuted by Jews and Pagans.6. with dark and secret wounds. if this was a name used polemically by their opponents or if it was an ironic self-designation. bishop of Edessa (411-434). 69. 21.4 Similar information without further details can be found in Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c. 579. Panarion. Vööbus (ed. Bickell. Louvain 1982. that it may deceive the unwary.466) (Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium I. The Borborites or Borborians mixed with the people from the church. p. 26. Their name would derive from the Greek word ‘borboros’ meaning ‘filth’. XXIII 2008 The Harp 4 5 6 . Ad Nationes XV. where the Borborites are mentioned in a list of heretics. note 26. with this consciousness of wickedness they are covenanted to mutual silence. who derive from Simon Magus. The Canons Ascribed to Maruta of Maipherkat and Related Sources. The Harp Vol. CSCO 169. An infant covered over with meal. known for its immoral practices were a Late Antiquity Gnostic group. p. Waltzing. pp.). Académie Royale de Belgique XI (1925). Louvain 1981. 373) mentions in his Hymns against Heretics (22. I would like to follow. See A.16) in the Panegyric on Rabbula. Beck. The most notorious group with a dualistic theology. Hymnes contra Haereses. Octavian IX. 257 worldviews are accompanied by reports of cults and more precisely of cults that were considered to be ‘immoral’ and shocking.393-c.11 and Tertullian. ‘With Walter Bauer on the Tigris: Encratite Orthodoxy and Libertine Heresy in Syro-Mesopotamian Christianity’. Ephrem (d. Nag Hammadi Gnosticism and Early Christianity. Kempten 1874. 11 “Now the story about the initiation of young novices is as much to be detested as it is well known. E. as well as that they use the blood of babies for magic.8 An early hint for ‘immorality’ among Gnostics that are erroneously regarded to be Christians can be found in Justin. The reference to ‘Thyestean feasts’ and ‘Oedipodean intercourse’ implies that the Christians were accused of incest and cannibalism regarding their own children. p. By this victim they are pledged together. Hedrick-R. Dialogue with Trypho 35. so that the pagans thought that it was the law of the church to marry the own mother. 197.28. M.9 Similarly. Church History IV. and in Theodore bar Koni (Liber Scholiorum. CSCO 335. And of Vol. Louvain 1959.7 This passage indicates that the Gnostics were regarded as dangerous opponents of the Great Church. Finally. ed. XXIII 2008 Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. Gero. incest and cannibalism is not refuted as such but it is attributed to heretics that are mistaken for Christians. p.4) the Borborians.3 Borborians are mentioned in the Syriac literature independently from Epiphanius and they appear even earlier than Epiphanius’ detailed report. ‘mire’. p. Apology VII. Athenagoras mentions that Christians are accused of ‘Thyestean feasts’ and ‘Oedipodean intercourse’ (Legatio pro Christianis III). It is not clear. who were repudiated by the Church on account of their filth.256 Emmanouela Grypeou Dualistic Heresies and Cults in Syriac Sources. the socalled Borborites – known under this name from Epiphanius’ report in his major heresiological work. the Canons that are pseudepigraphically attributed to the Bishop Maruta of Maipherkat (d.11 7 See Commentarius in Evangelium Johannis. the history and development of certain heresiological motifs and commonplaces in Syriac sources in order to reconstruct through them the image of the ‘heretic’ in Syriac literature. 290. on account of their proximity or even their identification with ‘orthodox’ Christian communities.5 . Hodgson Jr. Louvain 1973. 8 See P. E. See Ephraem the Syrian. to eat the own children and to commit other defilements in secret. eagerly they divide its limbs. (eds).. 10 The same information is repeated by Eusebius. 350-428) observes in his Commentary on John 16:2 (c. Mimra XI. 420). CSCO 439. Thirstily—O horror!—they lick up its blood. Apology I. See ‚Panegyrikos auf Rabulas’. Beck. 205-239. 400) that the Borborites. were the reason. in: G. mention the filthiness and lascivity of the Borborians. is placed before him who is to be stained with their rites: this infant is slain by the young pupil. ed. and also Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Sermones IV.7. 1986. in: Ch. Such sacred rites as these are more foul than any sacrileges.

when the priests bless the ‘mystery’. and thus the conscious light being overturned and extinguished in the shameless darkness. known from Epiphanius. These were expelled from Persia as ‘Manicheans’ and fled to Armenia.13 In the Christian heresiological literature.-B. On a solemn day they assemble at the feast. to rush and spring. “the filthy ones” in Syriac. cannibalism was a stereotypical accusation in Roman society. Edinbugh 1868-69. Moreover. the Borborites.7.. it is the Montanists that are first accused of sacrificing children for their Eucharistic celebration or for Easter. which was used against political opponents that were supposed to be extremely dangerous and criminal. a dog that has been tied to the chandelier is provoked. vol. Panarion 48. Barhadbeshabba of Bet Arbaia mentions in his History (late sixth century) that the sect of the ‘Barborians’ marry their mothers and eat their children. There. their banqueting it is well known all men speak of it everywhere. In the Wisdom of Solomon 12:3-5. London 1975. p. The actual ‘mystery’ is described as follows: they pierce the newborn baby. and chopping them up into unholy food. Augustine. since by the desire of all of them everything is sought for which can happen in the act of each individual. are commonly and stereotypically accused of promiscuity. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) accuses the Montanists in 348 of “cutting the throats of unfortunate little children. This report reminds vaguely of the Collyridians. it contains associations with a special ‘Mary-cult’ and of course with a peculiar ‘Eucharistic’ rite. the connections of abominable lust involve them in the uncertainty of fate. mothers. They also perform a ‘disgraceful cult’. The king of Persia Peroz found out about these practices and expelled all Christians from the land because of their ‘defilement’.12 So. Cap. vol. J.. they have intercourse with them and the virgin that would conceive.16 He remarks that they are called in their language ‘malioune’. Epiphanius. when the fellowship has grown warm. The accusation of the ritual sacrifice of children is a common place in the religious polemical literature. for the purpose of their socalled mysteries” (Catechetical Lectures 16). people of every sex and of every age. They go (back?) to Syria. Wallis. Although not all in fact. Ante-Nicene Christian Library. that is. where they take 15 Histoire.14 This accusation becomes soon a cliché in heresiological literature.”Transl. which might indicate a Syrian origin of the sect. Nau. sisters. according to Dio Cassius. the ‘orthodox’ Christians are unfairly persecuted because of the ‘misdeeds’ of the heretics. and the fervour of incestuous lust has grown hot with drunkenness. or Philomarianites. conceived in the mystery and the blood of this child flows over flour that they offer to the believers. Vol. with all their children. p. 30 (313).E.O. unclean rites and the slaughtering of children during their mystery-cults. 177f. 14 Cf. 13 12:3-5 “Those who dwelt of old in thy holy land thou didst hate for their detestable practices. IV. ed. yet in consciousness all are alike incestuous. ed. by throwing a small piece of offal beyond the length of a line by which he is bound. 30). 259 Incest and cannibalism constitute fundamental taboos of human society. P. XXIII 2008 In certain extensive Syriac accounts. Chabot. Its flesh is consumed by the priests. is put in the position of Mary and worshipped. The ceremony described in this account bears features of a hieros-gamos-ceremony in the context of the celebration of a ‘mystery cult’. 312 T. Bruxelles 1963.15. 9. 284 V. Cohn stresses. As N. F.258 Emmanouela Grypeou Dualistic Heresies and Cults in Syriac Sources. The transgression of these fundamental taboos excludes the ‘heretic’ de facto of any thinkable society. incest and cannibalism. that were worshipping Mary as a goddess and were offering cakes or small breads (collyris) (Panarion 79. 1913.15 Similarly to the accounts of the early Church Fathers.. De haeresibus 26 and 27. II. XXXVII. Some reports contain also more detailed descriptions of ritual cults. The Harp Vol. R. where they choose ten virgins that they take in a ‘house of defilement’ that they call the ‘Holy of Holies’.5. the pagans are accused of magic.7). their work of sorcery and unholy rites. XXIII 2008 The Harp . 12 Europe’s Inner Demons. after much feasting. At the moment. their merciless slaughter of children and their sacrificial feasting on human flesh and blood”. 16 Chronique. Catiline made his fellow-conspirators to take an oath on the entrails of a slaughtered boy that they afterwards ate (Roman History. even the speech of our Cirtensian testifies to it. They pretend to lead a monastic life and men and women dress in black frocks. Michael the Syrian in his Chronicle repeats this information about the Borborites adding some interesting details. IV. p.

Williams. XXIII 2008 The Harp ..17 Gregor bar Hebraeus in a similar to Michael’s account. Leiden 1987. p. XXIII 2008 it up in a trough shaped like a pestle. the Borborites.. “if a woman becomes pregnant [after a ritual intercourse].18 Heresiologists copy each other but as we can see the reports vary not insignificantly in the details. Vol.86. see Opera. The ‘tactic of deception’ was in accordance with Gnostic beliefs regarding their detachment from the world. were accused by the Armenian Catholikos John of Ojnun in the seventh century. p. Russell. but pretend to be strict ascetics. The Mandean reports serve primarily as a warning for the Mandeans to be 19 F. Louvain 1972-77. Aucher. who are often identified with the dualistic sect of the Bogomiles. we should note that Epiphanius does not talk explicitly of cannibalism – not in this passage and notably. Still. by J. who were claiming that Gnostics were intentionally hiding their real identity. they used to bring to their evil leader. ed. PG 122. They also perform magic. again an imitation (or parody?) of a ‘Eucharistic’ rite. 18 Chronikon Ecclesiasticum. and cut 17 See H. where they mix the blood of children with flour. take this aborted infant. born after an orgiastic night. In the morning they put on again their black frocks and they pretend to be Christians. 1991. Accordingly. And they mix honey.R. Venedig 1844. not in any of his numerous and lengthy accounts of Gnostic groups. of incestuous and adulterous sexual intercourse.20 In the Mandean literature we find similar accounts as well but in the context of polemics against Christianity. The so-called ‘tactic of deception’ was a common accusation against Gnostics by the earlier heresiologists.260 Emmanouela Grypeou Dualistic Heresies and Cults in Syriac Sources. and transl. were also supposed to kill children. 219f. the Gnostics of late Antiquity are accused neither of incest nor of cannibalism. and prepare from its blood the communion that they mix with the blood of a white hen. According to BarHebraeus. All Christians that eat from it become bewitched. they extract the foetus at the stage appropriate for their enterprise. 86. in: Revue des études armeniennes 4 (1993) pp. 832. col. such as the Paulicians and the Tondrakians in Armenia or the Euchites according to Michael Psellos. a virgin and the child that is born after this union. Die vorderasiatischen Erlösungsreligionen in ihrem Zusammenhang mit der antiken Stadtherrschaft. Accusations of practicing cults of the same kind can be found also against other allegedly Gnostic or dualistic groups. born after an orgiastic ceremony. it is sacrificed and consumed ritually. is ritually sacrificed. The shared meal here. 20 The Paulicians that are often associated in the source literature with the Manicheans. is an aborted foetus. They also conduct orgiastic rites with incestuous character. The ceremony in this report bears clearly a witchcraft character. towards the Roman society as well as towards the Christian communities. whenever he likes. considers the ‘Barburianer’ to be a branch of the Manicheans. p. To my mind. 261 over the monasteries. Epiphanius of Salamis’ report of libertinistic Gnostic groups is widely believed to belong to the realm of imagination. ‘The Mother of All Heresies’. Kippenberg. Michael.B. Abeloos-Lamy. pepper and certain other perfumes and spices with it to keep from getting sick and then all the revellers in this <herd> of swine and dogs assemble and each eats a piece of the child with his fingers” (Pan. where they pierce a child. according to Epiphanius.5. 26. The veracity and reliability of Epiphanius is not the subject of the present article but his notorious report that seems to have created a new heresiological tradition. Dialogus de Operationes Daemonum V. see Michael Psellos. 273-293. p. The Thracian Euchites. They celebrate a feast. Frankfurt a.4). deserves our attention. it is commonly acknowledged to have served as a model for later polemics against heretics. ed. see J. the way the Manicheans do. The Harp Vol. 392ff. The Tondrakians are accused in the ninth and tenth centuries of similar practices. and to consume a magical potion made out of their blood and flesh of children.19 In spite of the seemingly obscene character of this passage. So.M. as well as of ‘Eucharistic’ rites. who could not have possibly known surviving Borborites at his time. the tradition that can be found in Syriac sources constitutes a peculiar development that combines elements from various heresiological polemical traditions. thinks of groups that practice libertinistic rituals. they celebrate first an orgiastic feast and the child that is born out of this ceremony. More precisely. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis.

pp. are becoming bewitched. p.. they describe a so-called ‘rite of life’. for the preparation of the Eucharist. Harrak. This is called the ‘sacrament of the housel’. A. Ginza. Ginza – Der Schatz oder das grosse Buch der Mandäer. until its flesh and bones would become like oil. is repeated here for the ‘Manicheans’.22 According to Augustine. Harrak. Göttingen 1925. The Harp Vol. 94ff.4. The City of the Moon God: Religious Traditions of Harran. 203. pp. After seven months they abort the foetus and they take it together with the placenta and bake it with flour and butter. Lidzbarski. 23 See Th. p. Then they take his blood taken and they bake with it bread that they then offer as food (Ginza. certain information that is mentioned in other sources considering the Borborites. They would look after him throughout this year and they would kill him as a sacrifice to the demons. Similarly. All the people who partake in it. AntiManichean Propaganda. these rites consist in the mixing of sperm with flour that is used later for their Eucharist. probably Jesus. edited by Guidi23 .15ff. Theodore bar Koni reports also about the Manicheans that they would sacrifice people to the demons and that they would copulate without shame but with no further details (Liber Scholiorum. The sacrifice of grown-up people is a new element. Chronicle of Zuqnîn. This person then would never again renounce Mani.25 In the Fihrist. They used to take off the head. where a Jewish boy is killed. in: E. The Mandean sources know also of unclean rites among the Manicheans. see Ginza. XXIII 2008 would boil immediately.10ff.”24 This report refers to the year 764-765. 228. This report is clearly a polemical description of the Christian Eucharist. Nöldeke. it is mentioned that the ‘Sabians of Harran’ would take a man of a certain (mercurial) constitution and they would put him for long time in oil and borax and then they would perform magic and divination with 24 A. they had the custom of grabbing and imprisoning a man for one year. According to the Chronicle of Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre: “the Manicheans of Harran. As we observe. they would bring a virgin and they would all sleep with her. where they used to celebrate once every year a great and violent feast during which they used to offer sacrifices. p.p. ‘Die von Guidi herausgegebene syrische Chronik’. to slaughter in their feast. Bacon (ed). 1-47. The motif of the use of the head of a captured man for divination purposes can be found also in some detail the Fihrist of al Nadim (tenth century) among other Arabic sources. J. 22 Leo the Great. pp. Furthermore. put a coin in its mouth and place it in a niche. where interestingly enough the Christians are accused of killing a Jewish boy. in: Sitzungsberichte der philosophisch-historischen Classe der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften 28 (1893). They would then pound it in a mortar and they would prepare it with wheat flour and they would make small cakes out of it.). the general context is the practice of magic.17ff. Reports of obscene rites among the Manicheans can be found already in Augustine (De natura boni 4547) but also in other early sources. ‘Sabian Mysteries’. who becomes pregnant. In the anonymous Chronicle of Khuzistan from the seventh century... 53ff. So they would kill one man each year. see M. 21 The Manicheans. to worship and practice divination with it.. During this great feast. 201-220. Sermons XVI. At the end. see T. however.262 Emmanouela Grypeou Dualistic Heresies and Cults in Syriac Sources. the Manicheans in Syria are accused to sacrifice people in the service of magic. they used to practice divination. They would offer these cakes to anybody that would join them. London 1963. 25 On Arabic sources referring to the ‘prophetic head’ in connection to the Sabians of Harran. 227. Segal. they would practice magic and divination with his head for an entire year. 58). As their feast approached. 229. such as the ceremonial preparation and sacrifice of children born out of ritual sexual intercourse. pp. The child that would be born out of this intercourse.B. Mimra XI. had a monastery there. probably the best known dualistic religion. seven ‘holy men’ gather and sleep with a woman. Leiden 1992. According to this source. Green. But no reference is made to sacrifices of children of any kind. Vanished Civilizations: Forgotten People of the Ancient World. were also accused of practicing ‘hideous cults’. Vol. Toronto 1999. They also spray menstrual blood of a whoring nun in wine that they put in cups that they give as a drink. these Manicheans used to capture a man at the beginning of a year and to imprison him in a house under the earth. they 21 In the Ginza. XXIII 2008 The Harp . 263 resistant against Christian mission and not to partake in Eucharistic ceremonies. Another rite is called the ‘sacrament of the temple’: according to this rite.

cut off his head and sprinkle it with salt and spices. 27 See Fihrist. vol. Rachel stole the images (the teraphim).cit. Gündüz. Manicheans in Harran were accused in 765 C. 130. the Manicheans were also called “zendiq. XXIII 2008 The Harp . See also L.27 Ibn an-Nadim reports also about the sacrifice of a new-born child. cf. Altjüdisches Zauberwesen. op. The Harp Vol. St.. Harun al-Rashid had met 40 years ago. Fr. Actually. 53. Vol. 2004 p. ‘Sabians’. red in colour’. op. Harrak states: ‘What Arab authors said about the Manicheans was borrowed mainly from Christian sources as they themselves confessed while compiling their sources’ (Anti-manichean Propaganda. 26 See The Fihrist of al-Nadîm. p. Harrak. p.. see Lidzbarksi. 28 See Fihrist. II. The Knowledge of Life.26 Additionally. p. 61). unbeliever’ in the Islamic literature. S. p. Still. In the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Gen 31:19 we read: “When Laban had gone to shear his flock. Mimra XI. a first-born. XXIII 2008 ‘those whom Muslim writers on pre-Islamic Arabia called the zanadiqa among the Quraysh’. Edinburgh 1992. 512. In the Mandean literature the Manicheans are also referred to as ‘Zandiqe’. Characteristically.31 In any case. 4.cit. p. Fr. vol. M. to confuse star worshippers such as the Harranians with the Manicheans. p. and it would speak to them.28 It is probable. of a similar practice. see D. 753ff. This account is based most probably on Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 36.”30 Theodore bar Koni reports that Mani introduced the worship of the demons as Gods as well as the worship of the sun. pp.29 As we saw above. 265 his head. On human sacrifice among the Sabians of Harran. boiled and baked to cakes for their mysteries. 28. And it was to these (idols) that her father bent down. 65f. that this information about the Sabians of Harran. vol. For they should slay a man. a cult of star worshippers was inspired by the account of the Manicheans or they were even perhaps confused with the Manicheans of the Syriac sources. Oxford 1994. Maher. as we can see this peculiar divination method with the help of a severed head becomes also part of the Arabic polemics against ‘unbelievers’..”32 It seems that the teraphim were understood in Jewish tradition to be mummified bodies or heads worshipped and used for divination (cf. it might have been a common misperception after the seventh century. 229. 109. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis.33 31 See.58).89-96 in combination with II. op. p. p. as they believed that he would be animated by the planet Mercury. probably following Syriac reports on the Manicheans. Consequently. in: The Encyclopedia of Qur’an. Then they would set it up on the wall. pp. The use of a head for divination purposes is known also in Jewish literature. 759. and transl. 32 transl.. In PRE the victim has to be a ‘first-born man. considering the long heresiological and other relevant traditions preceding the Syriac sources. M. p. 30 See Chwolsohn. according to pseudoDionysius of Tel-Mahre. Zechariah 10:2). p.E. 5f. in: Journal Asiatique 274 (1986). 1 Samuel 19:13. and London 1970. Chwolsohn. it was only in the Jewish literature that I could find immediate parallels to the ‘Manichean’ head-cult.Qatiy’I. Although this term means ‘heretic. pp. It appears that Jewish traditions about the teraphim and about divination practices of the ‘pagans’ have influenced the Syriac polemical literature about the ‘Manicheans’. Dodge. esp.cit. Blau. ed. Petersburg 1895. argues that the accusations against Manicheans in the Syriac sources go back to pagan anti-Jewish claims reported by Josephus in Against Apion II. de Blois. They would write magical formulas on a plate of gold and put it under its tongue. ‚Sabien coraniques et „Sabiens“ de Harran’. 751.16. de Blois suggested that the enigmatic Sabians (Sabiun) of the Qur’an were actually Manicheans. 211f.264 Emmanouela Grypeou Dualistic Heresies and Cults in Syriac Sources. see Anti-Manichean Propaganda. 33 A. 29 As A. 2.112-114. 386-87. when al-Ma’mun visited Harran accused the inhabitants of being ‘Adherents of the Head’ whom his father. Ibn al-Nadim reports that according to the Christian Abu Yusuf Isha’ al.. bSanhedrin 65b mentions the consulting of a skull for divination purposes. I believe that those passages from Josephus do not suffice to explain the antiManichean allegations in their full complexity. Chwolsohn. Tardieu. Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus II. the moon and the stars and all sorts of horoscopes (Liber Scholiorum. In Tanhuma Yelammedenu (Parashat Va-Yetze 12) the victim is a child but the type of necromancy is the same.Y. N. Berlin 1914.. by B. el-Mamun calls them ‘zendiq’ in the above quoted passage.

Still. of Cambridge. instead. the emphasis is less on the accusation of immorality but on the practice of magic.uk Vol. The motif the incestuous intercourse as well as of cannibalism mostly of the own offspring dominates the accounts.but they would go into detail to describe cultic practices of an immoral or even criminal character. We note. They do not particularly focus on an exposition of theological doctrines – at the most they cite some bizarre mythological story .34 The common element between the different reports on dualistic groups is apart from their names their ritual life. are used in the Syriac 34 See for example. The Manicheans become here dangerous magicians. according to the Church Fathers. XXIII 2008 sources in order to stigmatise “the other” as a monstrous outcast not on the grounds of his beliefs but almost exclusively on the grounds of cultic practices. the explicit practice of divination and necromancy is mentioned first in the later Syriac chronicles. since its very beginning in the figure of the legendary founder of Gnosticism. The historicity of these accusations cannot be proved but the practicing of unconventional behaviour patterns as well as obscure and shocking rites among marginal groups cannot be excluded either.ac. born out of this union. Faculty of Divinity. The Harp Vol. dangerous magician – an image that has followed dualistic groups. Epiphanius. United Kingdom E-mail: eg299@cam. Univ. described above. 267 As we can observe in the later reports about Manicheans. XXIII 2008 The Harp . the repetition of the stereotypes.266 Emmanouela Grypeou Dualistic Heresies and Cults in Syriac Sources. even if they are mentioned by name – and by the names that they were known by. Dualistic groups in Syriac literature lose their specific character. The accusation of practicing magic is a standard commonplace against rival religious groups. Simon Magus. is being thus stylised as the promiscuous. such as Gnosticism. Dr. Motives that are repeated are the union of a priest with a virgin and the ‘eucharistic’ use of the blood and/or the flesh of the child. not only because they practice a sort of necromancy but also because they kill innocent people for this purpose. This presents us with a new element in the heresiological accounts on dualistic groups. the Borborite or the Manichean of our Syriac sources. Panarion 21. already in the second or third century.. Emmanouela Grypeou. a shift in the interest of the accounts.. The heretic. Although we can find several earlier references to the practice of magic or to the invocation of demons among Gnostics and Manicheans. These descriptions remind of pagan allegations against Christians and are now used ironically enough by the Christians themselves against ‘heretics’.