Visualization 1. Collocation network for the terms: “George”, “Khidr” and “Elias”. The visualization shows the relation of each of the saints as a “key term” (blue nodes) to “neighbor” terms (orange nodes) that most often appear next to them. It includes “neighbors” that appear at least 5 times close to the key term.

This particular visualization (Visualization 1) of the three saints that Hasluck discussed most frequently in his book, Elias (Elijah), Saint George and Khidr (Khidrilliz) relates these names as key terms to other terms that most often appear next to them. For those who have studied the world of medieval Balkans, Anatolia and the Middle East, the three saints are of utmost importance. They defined in some ways the connectivity between the religious and mystical worlds of three faiths, Islam, Christianity and Judaism representing prophet-saints to whom people appealed for their miraculous healing powers and their protection. The visualization represents the relations between the terms in the text which we can assume are close together because they reflect in Hasluck’s world his interpretation and documentation of the world that he observed. If such relational representations are further corroborated by additional evidence, we can then take at face value the importance of these relations as mapping onto the practices, the communities and the stories that were prevalent at the time of Hasluck’s visit. The three saints are well known to multiple communities of scholars:

Saint George, mentioned 270 times in the book, is thought to be a soldier in the Roman army at the time of Diocletian, martyred by this latter for refusing to renounce Christianity. He is also venerated as a miracle-worker and a powerful figure who slayed the dragon to rescue the people of his region.

Khidr, mentioned 191 times, is a mystical figure in Islam, believed to be the companion of Moses and at a different time that of Alexander the Great. Khidr travels through space and time, to sacralize space and people, help the poor and downtrodden, and perform miracles at key moments.

Elias, mentioned 141 times, is the prophet and miracle worker of the northern Kingdom of Israel in the Bible. He is one of the most venerated figures of the popular traditions of the Middle East, discussed in the Koran and the New Testament.

There are certainly multiple ways to interpret the various representations that include these three saints. One approach that I would like to take is to delve both into the dense, close-knit networks that such terms might reflect, while also through the more removed connectivities that enhance a much more global network.

On the one hand, the fact that Khidr, Elias and St George all appear as neighbor terms to each other in the graph together with terms such as Bektashi and tekke reiterates the recognized scholarship on these saints and their relations to each other. While the term Bektashi is connected to all three of the saints, the words “tekke”, “tomb” and “buried” are shared only by Khidr and St George. This is interesting in the sense that, while the Bektashi tradition at large seems to be a catalyst for the relations between these three religious groups, it actually looks like the actual on the ground practices of cooperation as articulated in tekkes happen mostly between Muslim and Christians. This is further demonstrated by the observation that “church” is only related to George. Moreover, Hasluck’s explanation of Khidr as a transitional figure whose presence in a Christian religious site facilitated transference of a site from one religion to another is corroborated by the co-location of George, Khidr, tekke, tomb and buried. Numerous popular narratives were spun around these three figures, often using them interchangeably. Their traits seem to melt into each other, creating composite figures that were the result of a particular history of cultural interchange, frontier fusions and dense relations across geographical and cultural borders. It also represents the density of relations since these terms are mentioned together many times in the text, presumably relating that there were multiple sites where these saints were referred to together.

On the other hand, the terms that are associated only with one particular saint (not the other two) provide us with a flavor of the expanse of the network that these figures evoked in the popular imagination. These neighbor terms in the text evoke a rich, complex and sprawling network that fanned out and at its outer edges connected a trans-medieval world, showing the full sweep of geographical connections across Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottoman, the Persian empires and even the Indo-Muslim world of the Delhi Sultanate. In many ways the associations relate interactions that happen in space that is both multi-temporal and encompassing different traditions, legends and stories and they become connected through the “strength of weak ties”(Granovetter, AJS 1973). Yet each of these places and peoples were also privy to their deep knowledge, history and mythology and the associations that such saints evoked in their particular network of learning. That is what we see for each figure in their network is a series of terms that evoke their own religious tradition, but also terms that reach out to other traditions.

Beyond the associations between Elias, Khidr and Saint George we find that Elias is linked to the history of the Carmelite order founded on Mount Carmel in Palestine where the shrine to Elias also exists. The connection of Elias with Helios and Zeus tells us of how the imagery of a hill top prophet (since Elias ascended Mount Horeb where Moses had received the 10 Commandments) evoked for Greeks their own hill top deities, especially Zeus. There are many monasteries in Greece where there are St Elias chapels, but also Zeus shrines and some might have Helios shrines. The conjecture here seems to be that Saint Elias was substituted in Christianity for Helios. Elias is then the transitional figure that marks the decline of paganism and the rise of Christianity (Folk-Lore, Volume 12, ‪Joseph Jacobs, Alfred Trübner Nutt, Arthur Robinson Wright, William Crooke, p. 501).

Not only does Helios sound like Elias but they both share the imagery of the chariot, Elias being driven to heaven on a chariot of fire, and Helios riding his chariot to the sun. Zeus is similarly connected in the myth making of the period since this latter was certainly the God of the hills and had power over rain and wind, attributes that Elias also had. Drawing from the Bible and from the Koran, Elias has also been compared and evoked together, sometimes even superposed with Enoch or Idris, both referring to similar figures of their respective religions.

Saint George’s story is told differently in the western and eastern traditions: in the west, he is the hero who saves the princess by slaying the dragon. In the Coptic tradition, he is represented on horseback with a lance but not a dragon. He is also associated with Saint Michael who is another saint depicted on horseback, killing a dragon whom Hasluck calls an ambiguous figure. St Michael is associated with two churches in Bithynia and Tepecik where Christians and Muslims pray together and where miraculous healing regularly transpires. Hasluck sees Saint George as undistinguishable from Saint Michael. The relation between George and Hungary is quite simple since it alerts us to the important text by Michael of Hungary that discusses the lives and miracle working of our three figures, giving ample evidence of the meanings people gave to their lives and appearances.

Finally, Khidr, the Muslim saintly figure closely connected to Saint George and the Prophet Elias is among the most versatile and lithe personalities of the Islamo-Judeo-Christian world. He is the product of both the transmission of religious and literary knowledge at the level of sophisticated and urban traditions while also existing in the popular, mystical understandings of the believers. On the one hand, he is identified as the companion of Moses in the Koran and is depicted in manuscripts and miniatures with Elias sharing a fish, or using the fish as his mode of transportation. At the hands of the powerful, he is used to sacralize and Islamicize non-Muslim territories and spaces, the Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia being an excellent example. Many leaders experience Khidr through their religious practice of incubation when they spend nights in a sacred space to encounter the Divine. On the other hand, he relates to the Kizilbas, to the Babai’s and certainly is brought together with Baba Ilyas in the medieval Anatolian books of saints. In these associations, he is the saint of the people, the mystical helper of the travellers who appears when folks need him.

Visualization 2. Collocation network for “Ali” and neighbor terms. The visualization shows the relation of “key terms” (blue nodes) to “neighbor” terms (orange nodes) that most often appear next to them. It includes “neighbors” that appear at least 5 times close to the key term. You can find the “raw versions” of collocates and clusters here and here.

Visualization 3. Collocation network for: Ali, Elias, Khidr and George.The visualization shows the relation of each of the saints as a “key term” (blue nodes) to “neighbor” terms (orange nodes) that most often appear next to them. It includes “neighbors” that appear at least 5 times close to the key term.