CFP Sailing with the Gods (Malta, 17-21 June 2020)

Sailing with the Gods: Religion and Maritime Mobility in the Ancient
Sponsored by: The Society for Ancient Mediterranean Religions
Location: Grand Hotel Excelsior, Floriana, Malta
Dates: June 17-21, 2020
Ritual practices dedicated to maritime success appear across a wide
span of human cultural history, from the Mediterranean to the North
Sea, Southeast Asia across the Pacific to the west coast of the
Americas. Culturally-constructed seafaring rituals could be seen as
spiritual or superstitious, and respond to the combination of risk and
profit endemic in even short voyages by water. Maritime religion
infuses all water-borne contact across cultural boundaries; the crafts
of those who build rafts, canoes, and sailing vessels; navigational
skills which may reach back to ancestors who have faded into cultural
legend; and myriad mnemonic and naming strategies extending to
littoral markers and celestial patterns. Mythic and ritual responses
are accordingly complex, ranging from apotropaia to the divine
authorization of civic structures, shipboard shrines and functional
epithets which could link divinities, heroes and nearly-deified rulers
to the control of the waves and winds.
Studies of religion and maritime mobility are often framed within
individual cultural contexts, but this international conference seeks
to bring together scholars from across a range of disciplines and
historical periods, from prehistoric to the seventh century CE, to
address critical questions in method and theory relevant to religion
in the context of maritime mobility. Among these questions are:
• What are the benefits and limitations of the types of data
available for the investigation of ancient seafaring – myths,
legends and histories, the excavations of harbors and shipwrecks, the
iconography of sea gods, the analysis of artifacts?
• What is the range of critical frameworks – from network
analyses to iconography – appropriate for these data sets?
• How do data from ports and land-based institutions complement or
even contradict evidence from seagoing vessels?
• How can we de-essentialize the question of ‘maritime
ritual’; what might the role of cross-cultural or
cross-chronological studies contribute to this end?
• How might the studies of maritime ritual offer fresh questions
for the analysis of Christianity vis-à-vis traditional Greco-Roman
and Mediterranean religions?
• How do Judaism, Christianity and/or Islam deploy maritime
religion in different yet complementary ways to one another, or to
polytheistic traditions such as Indian or Chinese religions?
• How do the divine protections sought for religiously-motivated
journeys such as pilgrimage compare with the day-to-day appeal to the
gods on seafaring vessels?
Abstracts should be submitted by email attachment as .doc or .docx
files to and should be from 500-600 words in length
for a paper to last between 25 to 30 minutes. Abstracts should contain
a title and a word count, but should not have any information
regarding the identity of the submitter. The deadline for submission
of abstracts is January 1, 2020, and all abstracts for papers will be
reviewed anonymously. Please direct all queries to SAMR at To register for the conference and see schedules as
they develop, please visit: