Friday, November 27, 2020

How Saint James the Persian Became the Patron Saint of the Deaf in Cyprus


Saint James the Persian holds a special place of honor in Cyprus. Not only are there noteworthy churches there named in his honor, some of which date back many centuries, but there is even a village named after him. But Cypriots don't call him by either of the two English translations of his name, which are James or Jacob, nor is he known by his Greek name, which is Iakovos, but in Cyprus alone he is called upon by the faithful as Akouphos.

The reason Saint James is called Akouphos is due to folk etymology. As we said, the Greek name for James is Iakovos, which somewhere down the line of history was shortened, as Greeks often do with multi-syllable names, to Akovos, which somewhere further down the line of history became falsely pronounced as Akophos and then eventually Akouphos. The Greek word "akouphos" in translation means someone who is able to hear, or someone who is not deaf. Now that Saint James became associated with deafness due to folk etymology alone, it was assumed he was also a special patron of deafness, hearing problems and ear infections. Therefore, those who had any of these ailments would flee to Saint James with faith and call upon him as "Saint Akouphos" (more commonly in Cypriot Greek as Άης Άκουφος) to be healed of their ailment, especially on his feast day which is November 27th.

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