'Souvenirs of the Self': Personal Belongings as Votive Offerings in Ancient Religion
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Many of the votive offerings which survive from antiquity were purpose-made for dedication. These include things like anatomical votives, figurines, temple models, and sculpted reliefs bearing scenes of sacrifice or healing. Other types of votive offering were not purpose-made for dedication but had served other functions before being brought to the sanctuary, such as jewellery, tools, mirrors, cups, clothes and children's toys. Such 'recycled' (or, perhaps more accurately, 'non-purpose-made') votives arguably give us our most direct glimpses of individual agency in a religious context, since they not only bypass the intermediary figure of the craftsman but also relate closely to the worshipper's own body and biography. This article considers the archaeological and literary evidence for such 'non-purpose-made' offerings, particularly those related to illness or healing – the theme of this special issue. I consider how these boundary-crossing objects differed conceptually from purpose-made votives like the anatomicals, for instance by entangling the different spaces (the house, workshop, sanctuary) in which ancient religion was experienced. Ultimately, I argue that the appropriation and re-use of household objects or medical paraphernalia as votives enabled the individual to respond quickly and creatively to illness and other crises, creating deeply personal narratives of healing and transformation from the layered associations and memories that these objects embodied.