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A gnostic Christian writer (called 'Sethian' by the author of the Refutation of All Heresies) describes a painting showing an old man with an erect penis chasing a dogshaped or dog-faced woman (Refutation 5.20.7). For a long time in scholarship the old man has been identified with the Orphic god Phanes. In contrast, this paper presents evidence for identifying him as a form of Hermes. In turn, the woman (called 'περεη Phikola') is identified with a Thessalian version of the goddess Hekate (Einodia). Accordingly, it is suggested that περεη should be emended to φεραίη, the Pheraian goddess. The sexual encounter of the Thessalian Hekate and Hermes (the 'Word') proved useful for depicting the Word's entry into the dark and watery womb in Sethian soteriology.


Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

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Journal Article

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