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ceremony of consecration

A second category of sacred image meriting adoration and respect is the miraculous image that receives gifts and votives regularly from devotees. Miraculous images such as the Black Madonnas of Spain, Italy, France, and Switzerland, or Ganeśa, the Hindu “remover of obstacles,” exhibit their sacrality by performing miracles, especially miraculous healings of otherwise inexplicable illnesses, bodily ailments, and physical disabilities; the dissipation of obstacles; and the conception and birth of healthy children to previously barren women. To evidence reassurance or perhaps to foretell impending disaster, some miraculous images produce a sign such as a glowing light, aromatic scents, streams of oil or blood, or tears as those of the renowned twelfth-century icon of the Theotokos of Vladimir. Other miraculous images such as the icon of the Theotokos Hodegetria of Constantinople were known for responding to prayers of protection from invading armies or natural disasters, so the preservation of the city or the conditions for a good harvest witnessed the inherent sacrality of the image.

Rituals of consecration performed by holy periods, or ecclesiastical hierarchs, affirmed venerability through the ceremonial imbuing of diving energy so that the image is worthy of adoration and respect. Consecration ceremonies range from the ancient Egyptian “Opening of the Mouth” ritual to the Hindu “Installation of Breath” rite in which the image was brought to life through the initiation of breath to the Zen Buddhist rite in which the eyes of the image are completed. Representative of that living dichotomy between the collective of believers and the religious hierarchy are images accepted as miraculous and venerable by the former prior to any formal ecclesiastical approval or consecration ceremony, as with a manifestation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara or an icon of Theotokos Treheroussa