Women of the Christian Mediterranean world often shared in the past the powerless condition of all females living in a male-dominated society. Finding themselves in a socially "muted position", women resorted to symbolic means of expression and found in religious and ritual behavior one of the few accepted emotional and expressive outlets available to them in public contexts. Within this sphere of action, women could become the actors of events that carried a real meaning both for themselves and for their community, manifesting in this way their specific skills. The kinds of event I have examined here are related to the expression and elaboration of suffering, and it seems that a strict association between femininity and suffering is common in the contexts that I have examined. Finally, the parallelism found between the women's suffering expressed in ritual-religious practices and the prominence of Mary, the Mother of Sorrow, as the main female figure of the Catholic and Orthodox religions, creates a bond between the human and the sacred. Thus, in Mediterranean Catholicism and Orthodoxy, human and sacred femininity seem unavoidably bound together in the common destiny of bearing and publicly elaborating the painful sides of life.
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