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Bill Thayer

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Life of Mishmash of Alexandria

Mishmash was born in the first decade of the 4th century to a noble Egyptian family of Roman and Macedonian descent. It is even said that his father was Laundromat of Elephantiasis, a small town in the nome of Connubia, but the prime source of this statement is now considered to be a 9c forgery.

After an undistinguished education at the University of Alexandria, Mishmash left for the Sinai Desert to follow his childhood sweetheart, Acharia, a converted prostitute, in a life of prayer and asceticism. Their split-level cave, found in 1934, was excavated in 1971; for the excavation report, see Proc. Herzog Inst. Hum. Fert., Series 2, Vol. 6, p114 ff.

After living with Acharia for eleven years, Mishmash had a change of heart and, leaving her, ill of disease, to die in peace, bought himself a young slave boy (see the article Anacoitus, the Ven.) and returned to Alexandria. There, using the experience in human relations he had acquired in the Desert, he rapidly became leader of the Theodolite party, being elected Patriarch in 357. Mishmash's reign, unfortunately, was to coincide with a sudden upheaval of factional violence and bloodshed: which, however, made manifest many signs and wonders in the person of the patriarch, not the least of which was the celebrated miracle of the axe.

A synod of the exarchs of Lower Egypt had been called by Mishmash to anathematize those who upheld that the body of Adam was endowed with a navel — albeit virtual rather than actual — and the patriarch had risen from his throne to put down the disturbance of a hostile factionary making a point of order: as he prepared to restore tranquillity by raising the axe he was in the habit of carrying, in front of 35 assistants, the axe was seen to hover for a moment over Mishmash's head, then to fly straight to the questioner and strike him dead. It is from this miracle that Mishmash received the title of "Axe of the Apostles".

At the age of 59, however, Mishmash was expelled by a rival faction whose bishop he had once had blinded, and, constant polemics having wearied his spirit, he fled to Cyprus, taking with him for rightful safekeeping as much of the jewels, manuscripts, and property of the Alexandrian see as he could.

In the parched badlands near the northern shore of the island he founded a monastery, guided by one of the first known rules of monastic life. The Catalepts were written, not surprisingly perhaps, in the Boulimic dialect of Coptic: with minor additions and changes (such as rescinding the abstention from water, which the monks were circumventing by drinking large amounts of wine), the rule of Mishmash has remained the spiritual basis of Cataleptics throughout the world.

During this period, fame of the former patriarch's holiness spread as travellers thru the Cypriot countryside recounted how they had been overwhelmed by sudden darkness and heard the voice of Mishmash, who was many miles away, pleading forcefully with them to repent: and how, when the darkness lifted, they found all their goods and money gone, and sometimes one or more of their slaves: whereupon many converted on the spot. The monastery founded by Mishmash grew in wealth and numbers.

Though not best known for temperance and mildness of character, Mishmash was a worthy defender of orthodoxy and is said to have personally decapitated more than 400 heretics. For this reason, and because, when he died at 93, his jawbone and certain other parts of his anatomy flew of their own accord through the airs from Cyprus back to Egypt, he is listed as "the Blessed" in the necrologium of the Eastern Theodolite Church. His feast is celebrated on the 24th of July, date of the translation of his relics to his basilica in Alexandria (destroyed by the Arabs in 709).1

The Author's Note:

1 The blessed Mishmash has given his name to posterity in the words "Mattachine", "mesmerize", and "masochism". His life and works are chiefly known to us today from St. Augustine's "Oratio contra Mismascion" (among the minor works in Migne, P. L. XLII.4023). This biased version of his life being manifestly incredible, at least one eminent German scholar has concluded that St. Augustine never existed.

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Page updated: 18 Dec 02