Dissident Websites

the bektashis in albania

bektashi 'heresies'



poems of the month

orpheus in soho

a seriously sexy man


measuring my face

old clothes

modern iranian poems

my hero

face at the bottom of the world

perhaps (maybe)

the diogenes sequence

where to store furs

i am and am not:
      fragments of rumi

destiny and destination

the zen of no-enlightenment

the iraqi monologues

already backwards

a light in ruins

separate amputations

the sexy jihad

awaiting the barbarians

the smell of possibilities

ultimate leaves

rejoice in the dog

post-millennium maggot

the book of nothing

dispatches from the war against the world

albanian poems

french poems in honour of jean genet

the hells going on

the joy of suicide

book disease

foreground trouble

the transcendental hotel

cinema of the blind

lament of the earth mother

uranian poems

haikai by okami

haikai on the edge

black hole of your heart

jung's motel

wine and roses

confession from belgrade

gloss on rilke's
ninth duino elegy

jewels and shit:
poems by rimbaud

villon's dialogue with his heart

vasko popa:
a shepherd of wolves ?

the rubáiyát of omar khayyám

genrikh sapgir:
an ironic mystic




good riddance to mankind

the maxims of michel de montaigne

400 revolutionary maxims

nice men and
  suicide of an alien

anti-fairy tales

the most terrible event in history

the rich man and the leper




the three bears

three albanian tales

a little creation story


lazarus the leper



i am a sociopath

one not one

an occitanian baby-hatch

ancient violence
in the amazon

home, sweet home no longer

the ivory palace

helen's tower

extortion through e-bay

schopenhauer for muthafuckas

never a pygmy

against money

'original sin' followed by
crippled consciousness

a gay man's guide to soft-willy sex

the holosensual alternative

tiger wine

the death of poetry

the absinthe drinker

with mrs dalloway in ukraine

love  and  hell

running on emptiness

a holocaust near you

a note on the cathars


londons of the mind
& dealing death to the caspian


a muezzin from the tower of darkness

kegan and kagan

being or television

satan in the groin

womb of half-fogged mirrors

tourism and terrorism

the dog from sinope

in britain & america

this sorry scheme of things

the bektashi dervishes

a holy dog
& a dog-headed saint

fools for nothingness

death of a bestseller

vacuum of desire: a homo-erotic correspondence

a note on beards

translation and the oulipo

western values


the problems of translating poetry

an albanian ikon ?

albanian donkeys

the bektashi dervishes

poems by ujko BYK

albanian love-poems

albanian poems of dissidence

albanian poems of exile

recent albanian poems

albanian emigration

beyond the albanian experience


horatio morpurgo's albanian trip

map of albania

albanian short stories

the dictator's library




This unique and rustic ikon was bought in 1994 on the Greek island of Corfu for the sum of $300.
No provenance was given by the dealer, nor indeed any interpretation of its intriguing subject.

In fairly good condition, it was painted on a small wooden board, somewhat cracked and bowed, and looking like a piece of old, thick shelving.

After some enquiries on my return home I found that this ikon was almost certainly not from a church, but was an unusual example of a domestic ikon depicting the fifth century Saint Simeon Stylites on his column, Saint Stylianos holding a child, and the legendary second century Saint Onouphrios (Humphrey), who lived in the desert for forty years 'clad only in his hair'.

Saint Simeon Stylites (or 'The Elder') is quite well known in the West - if only from Luis Buñuel's famous film Simon of the Desert. He spent many years on an increasingly higher column or pillar in a vain attempt to escape ever more from the World - which in his case was largely the adulation of followers. He is sometimes depicted on ikons with other Stylite saints such as Daniel and Alipius, or the other Simeon "of the Wonderful Mountain".

The central figure is the main purpose of the ikon. Stylianos was an ascetic from Paphlagonia who was confused with the Stylite Saint Alipius, and was credited with conferring fertility to barren couples. On his right Saint Simeon Stylites stands - partly because the epithet Stylites is similar to, and reinforces, Stylianos, and partly because he was considered a powerful intercessor.

However, Saint Onouphrios (Onuphrius, Onufrios) is present in order to make the ikon really powerful and further reinforce the power of the legendary Stylianos - for Saint Onouphrios is credited with promising - just before he was carried up into heaven - that all pure prayers addressed through him would be answered. He was famously "clad only in his own hair", because it was considered very meritorious and holy to have a beard that would cover the genitals, thus doing away with the need for clothing, a source of vanity. He was also credited with subsisting entirely on dates which fell from the palm under which he lived. A date and camel-milk diet is indeed very nourishing.

Onouphrios, celebrated throughout the northern Mediterranean - even as far west as Sardinia - had an important shrine in Berat in southern Albania.
Thus it is possible that this unprovenanced ikon came from Albania with refugees who, since 1991, have paid large sums in cash or in kind to be landed by night on the island of Corfu only a couple of miles off the Albanian coast. It is unlikely to come from "Northern Epirus" which used to be southern Albania before it was seized and ethnically cleansed by the Greeks in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

The year after it was brought to Ireland it was stolen - perhaps not for the first time in its history, and its whereabouts remains unknown.


The cult of St Onuphrius was popular throughout Christendom, East and West, in the Middle Ages, initially with monks, and then in general. St. Onuphrius (also known as Onouphrius of Egypt, Onuphrius, Onofrio, Onofre, Humphrey and Onuphrius the Great) died around 400 CE.

When Abbot Saint Paphnutius was trying to discern whether the eremitical life was for him, he met Onuphrius, who had been a hermit for 70 years in the desert beyond Thebais in Upper Egypt. Paphnutius was affrighted at the Saint's appearance, seeing him covered with hair and leaves like a wild beast. (Thus he is the patron saint of weavers.)

Onuphrius told him that he had been a monk in an austere monastery of 100 monks near Thebes but, having felt called to imitate Saint John the Baptist, had left to follow the eremitical life. He related that he had struggled for many years against grievous temptations, but by perseverance overcame them. Paphnutius was amazed when food miraculously appeared for their evening meal. Otherwise, Onuphrius lived on the fruits of a date palm-tree that grew near his cell.

The abbot spent the night with the hermit. The next morning Onuphrius told Paphnutius that the Lord had told him he, Onuphrius, was soon to die and Paphnutius had been sent by the Lord to bury him. This indeed came to pass, and Paphnutius buried the saint in a cave or rocky cleft. Although he desired afterwards to remain in the Saint's cave, as soon as he had buried him, the cave fell in and the palm tree which had furnished the Saint with dates withered and died, indicating that it was the will of God that Paphnutius return to his monastery and make Saint Onuphrius known to all.

For a riveting translation of the Life of Saint Onuphrius see:




Saints Onuphrius, Makarius of Egypt, and Peter of Athos

The motif of Three Bearded Men occurs also in Islamic Persian art.

“The Island of Men with Long Beards” -
an Iranian manuscript illustration of a story from The Thousand Nights and a Night,
derived from the Persian but incorporating Indian elements.
The inscription at the top is in Farsi, and requires translation.


click here to read about holy dogs and dog-headed saints




Click on this image to go to
an Albanian archæological web-site




Albanian Ottoman Architecture >



a canadian-albanian film
about the
"sworn virgins" of northern albania


Filmi kanadezo-shqiptar, Gruaja pa krahë'
sapo ka fituar çmimin e argjendtë ‘Remi Award',
si pjesëmarrës në ‘Houston Worldfest 2003' në Teksas.



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