Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece: Writing History from a Female Perspective 1443861278, 9781443861274

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Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece: Writing History from a Female Perspective
 1443861278, 9781443861274

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Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece

Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece: Writing History from a Female Perspective


Evy Johanne Håland

Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece: Writing History from a Female Perspective, by Evy Johanne Håland This book first published 2014 Cambridge Scholars Publishing 12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2014 by Evy Johanne Håland All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-6127-8, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-6127-4


List of Figures........................................................................................... viii A Note on Transliteration ......................................................................... xiii Acknowledgements ................................................................................... xv Introduction ................................................................................................. 1 Chapter One ................................................................................................. 6 Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece From death in general to Greek women and death in particular Festivals and rituals connected with death Bridging a cultural divide to situate the context Locating gendered values: from the honour of masculinity toward a poetics of womanhood Women The death cult From fieldwork in modern Greece to ancient death rituals The female sphere Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 31 Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals Tinos, the most important pilgrimage centre in modern Greece The festival dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary The day of the Annunciation of the Panagia, 25 March The Monastery of Kekhrovouno and Agia Pelagia Agia Pelagia’s vision, 23 July 16 August 1992: the summer festival dedicated to Agios Gerasimos on the island of Kephallonia The feast dedicated to the saint who deals with demonic aggression The Monastery of Agios Nektarios on the island of Aegina The festival dedicated to Agios Nektarios The feast day, 9 November The bodies of saints


Table of Contents

Chapter Three .......................................................................................... 130 The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead Easter on Tinos, 2012 From Easter on Tinos to the cult of dead mediators, ancient and modern Chapter Four ............................................................................................ 190 Laments and Burials Some preliminary reflections on modern Greek death rituals and the gender issue Female laments and male burials Laments for dying personified vegetation Goddesses and Gods and other divinities Chapter Five ............................................................................................ 265 Tombs and Gifts Women at the cemetery on Saturday mornings and modern memorial celebrations “Soul Saturdays”: Psychosabbata Ancient offerings and memorial rituals Grave inscriptions and funeral orations Chapter Six .............................................................................................. 350 The Cult of the Bones Chapter Seven.......................................................................................... 417 The Cult of the Deceased Mediators Ancestor worship and the saint cult Ancient ancestor, hero and heroine worship Chapter Eight ........................................................................................... 485 Communication between the Living and the Dead Ideas about the afterlife Life out of death The festival cycle and the death cult Chapter Nine............................................................................................ 550 Some Concluding Reflections on Gender and Death in Greece, the Interpretation of Greek History, and the Wider World

Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece


Glossary of Greek Terms ......................................................................... 574 Sources and Bibliography........................................................................ 588 Index ........................................................................................................ 628


All photographs, except figures 73 a and b, are by the author. For pictures taken at Greek museums, © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund. Front page. 1: Memorial service performed for a deceased person with offerings of food at the tomb on the second of the three psychosabbata (plural of psychosabbato, psychƝ=soul, sabbato=Saturday), i.e. All Souls’ Day, during Carnival and Lent, at the end of the winter. Serres (Greek Macedonia), 7 March 1992. © Evy Johanne Håland. 2: Sarcophagus of Mourning Women. Pentelic Marble. Royal Necropolis of Sidon, Chamber no. 1. Mid 4th cent. BCE (inv. no. 368 T. Cat. Mendel 10). © Archaeological Museum, Istanbul. Figure 1. The “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia (the Virgin Mary)” starts on the eve of 23 August, Tinos, 1995 ..........................................................................10 Figure 2. The lamb sacrifice during the Anastenaria festival, in the village of Agia ElenƝ (Greek Macedonia), 21 May 1992 ..............................................21 Figure 3. A “female sphere” in a public space: the cemetery, a space controlled by women, Tinos, a Saturday morning, August 1994 .......................................28 Figure 4. Painting in the Monastery of Kekhrovouno, Tinos, illustrating the nun Pelagia receiving the vision ..............................................................................32 Figure 5. Supplied with Greek flags, a female pilgrim arrives at the Church of the Annunciation, Tinos, 24 March 2013......................................................41 Figures 6 a and b. A lamp with a votive offering of the island of Cyprus hanging in front of the iconostasis, the Church of the Annunciation, Tinos, 25 March 2012 .......................................................................................46 Figure 7. The holy icon of the Annunciation is carried in procession and passed over the waiting pilgrims, Tinos, 25 March 2013 .............................................51 Figure 8. People venerating Agia Pelagia’s head in her church, Monastery of Kekhrovouno, Tinos, 23 July 2011 ...............................................................63 Figure 9. Women eager to receive their lunch boxes, Monastery of Kekhrovouno, Tinos, 23 July 2012 ...................................................................66 Figure 10. The priest hands the icon over to the abbess, Monastery of Kekhrovouno, Tinos, 23 July 2012 ...............................................................72 Figure 11. A priest carries the holy icon inside the Agia ThƝkƝ in procession towards Tinos town, 23 July 2005 ....................................................................73 Figure 12. Agios Gerasimos’ relics are carried in procession and passed over the sick, Kephallonia, 16 August 1992..............................................................81

Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece


Figure 13. Pilgrims listen to Agios Nektarios’ footsteps at his original tomb, Aegina, 8 November 2012 ................................................................................98 Figure 14. Women venerating the right hand tomb of Agios Nektarios, Aegina, 8 November 2011 ............................................................................................103 Figure 15. Some house altars awaiting the procession with the head of Agios Nektarios, Aegina, 9 November 2011 .............................................................117 Figure 16. The church dedicated to the Life-Giving Spring in Athens. Behind the low wall is the Holy Spring, and in front of the altar is the icon depicting the Life-Giving Spring, 2006 ..........................................................134 Figure 17. Written moirologia and pictures of the deceased, attached to the Epitaphios. Holy Friday in the church of Olympos, Karpathos, 1992…… .....141 Figure 18. Lamenting women in front of the Epitaphios, Holy Friday in the church of Olympos, Karpathos, 1992 ....................................................142 Figures 19 a and b. Worshipping the Panagia on the eve of the “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia”, Tinos, 1993 and 2006 ..................................................152 Figure 20. The Epitaphios is carried into the sea, Spitalia beach, Holy Friday on Tinos, 2012 ................................................................................................169 Figure 21. Women carry the Epitaphios from the cemetery to the church of Agios Nikolaos, Holy Friday on Tinos, 2012 .............................................171 Figure 22. The burial of the former high school teacher, Pyrgos Dirou, Inner Mani, September 1992 ...........................................................................205 Figure 23. Prothesis of a woman, Myrrhine, with lamenting women, detail from a black-figure Phormiskos, late sixth century BCE. 3d Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities— Kerameikos Museum (inv. no. 691)…………………………………………215 Figure 24. Mourning women surrounding the funeral bier. Fragment of plaques, ca. 530 BCE. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 12697)………………..………………………………………..…...217 Figure 25. A clay model of the ekphora. Over the bier is a shroud, beneath which lies the body, first part of the seventh century BCE. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 26747)…………………..……... 225 Figures 26 a and b. Monumental Attic funerary amphora by the Dipylon painter and detail of painted scene. Late Geometric period, 755-750 BCE. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 804)…………… .230 Figure 27. Some gifts, “Matchbox cars”, at a child’s tomb. 1st Cemetery, Athens, 1992……… .......................................................................................266 Figure 28. The small enclosure on a woman’s tomb, Areopolis 1992 ...................268 Figure 29. A black-clad woman depicted on a funerary white-ground lƝkythos. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 2021)………..272 Figure 30. A woman visiting a tomb with offerings, funerary white-ground lƝkythos (ca. 440 BCE). National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 1935)……………………………………………………………….274 Figure 31. A first anniversary memorial. The photo of the deceased and a wreath are placed on the kollyba during the liturgy. Tinos, 16 August 1994 ...............................................................................................278 Figure 32. The priest blesses breads and cakes on the eve of the festival


List of Figures

dedicated to the Panagia Mesosporitissa, Eleusis, 20 November 2011 ...........283 Figure 33. Women start to light the candles on their kollyba arranged in the church of Agia Marina, Athens, the eve of the first of the three psychosabbata during Carnival and Lent, at the end of the winter, 7 March 2013 ..................................................................................................290 Figure 34. The blessing of the kollyba offered by the Athenian dƝmos (municipality), 1st Cemetery, on the psychosabbato dedicated to “Thauma Kollybǀn Ag. Theodǀrou”, i.e. the third psychosabbato during winter, Athens, 3 March 2012 .............................................................294 Figure 35. A housewife in front of her family grave on which she has placed dyed eggs, and the censer, waiting for the priest to say a prayer, Olympos cemetery, Karpathos, April 1992 ....................................................................302 Figure 36. Kollyba with lighted candles in the church of Agios IǀannƝs o Prodromos, Tinos, the eve of the psychosabbato before Whitsunday, 1 June 2012 .....................................................................................................306 Figure 37. Clay figurines (dolls). Early Geometric period, cremation (T33/IV, 950-900 BCE). 3d Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities—Kerameikos Museum (inv. no. 961, 962) .................................313 Figure 38. Lead figurine in a lead case inscribed with a magic curse, found in the enclosure of Aristion (420-410 BCE). 3d Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities—Kerameikos Museum (inv.no 1B 12=SA40)…....315 Figure 39. Grieving at a tomb, funerary white-ground lƝkythos. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 19355)………………………..... 318 Figure 40. The grave stƝlƝ of Hegeso, the daughter of Proxenos (ca. 410-400 BCE). National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 3624)………..... 331 Figure 41. People performing their devotion in front of Agios Andreas’ head in his reliquary, Patras, autumn 1990 ..............................................................352 Figure 42. People attend to their relatives’ ossuaries, psychosabbato dedicated to “Thauma Kollybǀn Ag. Theodorou”, 1st Cemetery, Athens, 2012..............355 Figure 43. Marble ossuary urn, dating from the Hellenistic age. 3d Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities—Kerameikos Museum (inv. no. Ost. 19)…………. ............................................................................370 Figure 44. Venerating Agios Nektarios’ holy head in Panagitsa Iera MƝtropolƝs, Aegina, 9 November 2012 ..........................................................379 Figure 45. Agios Nektarios’ relic and the miraculous icon in the safe in the Church of the Annunciation, Tinos, January 2012 ..........................................381 Figure 46. Bones exhumed at the cemetery in Serres, northern Greece, March 1992 .....................................................................................................390 Figure 47. The ossuary in the Monastery of Kekhrovouno: exhumed skulls and coffins containing bones, July 2011 .........................................................394 Figure 48. The ossuary in the Monastery of Kekhrovouno: the nun Makaria DelƝgiannƝ, July 2013 .....................................................................................395 Figure 49. The ossuary in the Monastery of Kekhrovouno: the nun EuphrosynƝ Kornarou, a consultant, July 2013 ...............................................396 Figure 50. Agia Pelagia’s holy head in her church, Monastery of Kekhrovouno, 23 July 2005 ............................................................................397

Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece


Figure 51. Family tomb at the cemetery of Orchomenos, Boeotia, October 1991...................................................................................................399 Figure 52. The bones of father, mother and son, in one family’s ossuary at the new ossuary in Tinos town, Easter 2012 ...............................................433 Figure 53. The tomb of Mother Superior Theodosia KarditsƝ, cemetery of the Monastery of Kekhrovouno, July 2013 .................................................448 Figure 54. The Varvakeion Athena, a Roman marble copy (ca. 130 CE) of the colossal gold and ivory statue of the Athena Parthenos by Phidias (438 BCE). National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 129)………449 Figure 55. Lararium. House of the Vettii. Roman classical wall painting, Pompeii, mid first century, probably between 62 and 79 CE ..........................452 Figure 56. Woman dying in childbirth. Detail from a funerary lƝkythos, ca. 340 BCE. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 1055)…...457 Figure 57. A young mother seated on a stool looks sorrowfully at her baby held by another standing woman. Detail of a grave stƝlƝ, first quarter of the fourth century BCE. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 3790)..………………………………………………………..……458 Figure 58. Crying woman dedicating mourning bands at a tomb, funerary white-ground lƝkythos. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 1958) .................................................................................................465 Figure 59. Pilgrims leave their (mostly) black pilgrimage clothes (i.e. penitential robes) as dedications, either to the miraculous icon or, as shown here, on the ruins of the Byzantine Church, in the chapel dedicated to Agia Pelagia, Tinos, August 2005 ..............................................468 Figure 60. Women cleaning the tombs, psychosabbato dedicated to “Thauma Kollybǀn Ag. Theodorou”, 1st Cemetery, Athens, 14 March 1992 .................470 Figure 61. A woman busy filling kollyba into plastic cups, psychosabbato dedicated to “Thauma Kollybǀn Ag. Theodorou”, 1st Cemetery, Athens, 2012 ...................................................................................................471 Figure 62. Woman dying in childbirth. Newly-born baby held in the background. Grave relief, Pentelic marble, middle of fourth century BCE. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 819)……………..474 Figure 63. Pilgrims leave their pilgrimage clothes as dedications in the sanctuary of Agia Marina, hanging them on the fence at the entrance to her cave. Athens, 17 July 2011 .......................................................................475 Figure 64. The Benaki family’s (Oikogeneia E. Benaki) tomb, 1st Cemetery, Athens, 2013 ...................................................................................................477 Figures 65 a and b. The grave of Andreas Papandreou at the 1st Cemetery in Athens, in 2011 and 2013 ...........................................................................481 Figures 66 a and b. The statue of Melina Mercouri outside the Plaka area and the photograph at the Akropolis metro station, Athens 2013....................483 Figure 67. Memorial service performed for a deceased person with offerings of food at the tomb on the second of the three psychosabbata during Carnival and Lent, at the end of winter. Serres, 7 March 1992. ......................486 Figure 68. The burial enclosure of the stƝlƝ of Hegeso and other funeral monuments in Kerameikos, Athens, April 2013 .............................................499


List of Figures

Figure 69. A tomb at the cemetery in Tinos town, March 2013 ............................500 Figure 70. Charon’s boat and a funerary banquet. Detail of the ancient Greek funerary relief (ca. 320 BCE) for Lysimakides of Acharnes, Illustrating four people and Charon waiting in his boat. Exhibited in the entrance cloister of the Museum. 3d Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities—Kerameikos Museum (inv. no. P 692)………. ....506 Figure 71. Sphinx used as a finial of a grave stƝlƝ, ca. 570 BCE. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 28)……………………………....518 Figure 72. Hair offering on the ruins of the Byzantine Church, in the chapel dedicated to Agia Pelagia, Tinos, 14 August 2009..........................................533 Figures 73 a and b. The Panagia’s active participation in the Greco-Italian War of 1940-1941 is illustrated in several pictures from the period. Collections of the National Historical Museum of Athens, Greece/Natassa Kastriti. ..................................................................................537 Figure 74. Offerings of roses on the tomb of a young man, 1st Cemetery, Athens 1992 ....................................................................................................542 Figure 75. The “Life-Giving Spring”, Monastery of Kekhrovouno, July 2013 .....564 Figure 76. The Panagia Ypermachos hovers over Greece: icon in the chapel reserved for women, Agios Nektarios’ sanctuary, Aegina, November 2011 ..... 567 Figure 77. People looking towards the bell tower of the Church of the Annunciation, Tinos, 14 August 1994.............................................................568


There is no unified universally accepted system for transliteration of written and spoken Greek. I have therefore devised my own, which, with a few exceptions in practical terms, is identical to the system used at the Nordic Library, Athens. However, when quoting from a published text, variations may occur since there are several different ways of transliterating Greek texts, such as the one adopted in Chapter 2 for the citation of printed pamphlets distributed by the various religious centres. ǹ Ǻ ī ǻ Ǽ ǽ Ǿ Ĭ I Ȁ ȁ Ȃ ȃ Ȅ ȅ Ȇ ȇ Ȉ ȉ Ȋ ĭ ȋ Ȍ ȍ

Į ȕ Ȗ į İ ȗ Ș ș Ț ț Ȝ ȝ v ȟ o ʌ ȡ ıȢ IJ ȣ ij Ȥ ȥ Ȧ

a b g d e z Ɲ th i k l m n x o p r s t y ph ch ps ǀ

A Note on Transliteration


ǹȣ Įȣ au Ǽȣ İȣ eu ȅȣ oȣ ou Ȗ before Ȗ n Ȗ before ț n ǯ

h (in Ancient Greek)

When an author’s name can be spelt in more than one way, I have followed the author’s own spelling; if the author does not consistently use the same spelling, I have transcribed it following the aforementioned system. Exceptions to this practice include personal and place names or terms that have a well-established or standard Anglicised form, such as, Tinos, not TƝnos; Serres, not Serrǀn; anastenaris, not anastenarƝs. In general, though, Greek names are not Latinised with the letter c, which does not exist in the Greek alphabet. Sometimes I use C, as in Corfu and Cyprus, since those are standard Anglicised forms. When a term or name can be rendered in several ways, I have followed my own system, such as Agia, not Hagia, Ayia or Aghia. This mainly concerns Modern Greek, since Ancient Greek names and terms are more widely known in “European versions”, such as Arrephoros. This is also the reason that I have marked the spiritus asper (ǯ) with h on transcriptions from Ancient Greek, since, for example, hiera and hieros gamos are well-established spellings within ancient scholarship. Thus, with one exception, I have used the same system for Ancient Greek (A.Gr.) and Modern Greek (M.Gr.), although anthropologists may be critical of this usage, claiming I try to demonstrate that Modern Greek originates from Ancient Greek. For me, it has been a practical solution, given how closely related the two systems of orthography are. I have not used the Greek alphabet in the text, only in transliteration, hoping that this rule will be more appropriate for readers less accustomed to the Greek language. When a Greek term is first used, it is shown in italics.


The central theme of this book is modern and ancient Greek death rituals seen from a gendered perspective, for which I have drawn on about thirty years of fieldwork, particularly in Greece, but also in Italy and other Mediterranean countries, as well as my studies of ancient Greek culture, which I first undertook in the late 1970s. My interest in death rituals in general, and women’s role in them in particular, started many years ago. To locate a specific point in time, my interest was awakened while doing fieldwork on religious saints’ festivals and life-cycle passages or death rituals in Italy in 1987. Furthermore, women’s role in these rituals came more and more to the forefront during an extended period of fieldwork in Greece between 1991 and 1992. More recently, my two-year research period as a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow at the University of Athens from 2011 to 2013 gave me the financial resources to devote myself full-time to researching and writing. This included an excellent opportunity to conduct new and broader fieldwork on modern Greek death rituals and saints’ festivals while also allowing me to carry out research in libraries and museums in the city in order to continue the project and write this book. My warm thanks to the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for funding the research, and also to the Department of Archaeology and History of Art, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, for hosting the project. Particular thanks go to the technician Yannis Matzavakis for all his help in matters in which I am not a specialist, particularly in setting up a homepage for the project. I thank the staff at the Nordic Library in Athens for providing me with a wonderfully convenient office in the very room that houses the Greek part of the Loeb Classical Library—even though for me, as for others, the Perseus Digital Library (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/) is becoming more and more practical to use—and assisting me in many practical matters. My thanks are also extended to the staff at the Norwegian Institute at Athens. A special thanks to Nancy Bolain, Project Officer, Research Executive Agency, Brussels, for all her help with practical details. Additionally, a special word of thanks to the Deputy Director at the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, who opened up the closed-off vase section solely for my research purposes. Natassa Kastriti at the National Historical Museum of Athens also deserves special mention for her help.



A special note of thanks also to the Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture, Norway for a grant supporting parts of my fieldwork. On Tinos, I am deeply indebted to the staff at the Church of the Annunciation and to the Mother Superior at the Monastery of Kekhrovouno for their cooperation concerning necessary practical arrangements during my fieldwork, particularly in allowing me access to different sites and giving me permission to walk around freely, converse with people and take pictures during the festivals. I would also like to thank the nuns for their helpfulness. Special thanks are due to Elephteria Aphedaki, ParasekeuƝ Giannikou and Stathis Polykandritis, and to A. PhlǀrakƝ, who has written on similar traditional popular customs from his native island, and was immediately ready to share his knowledge with me when he learnt of my research. Warm thanks to the family of EiƝnƝ and Petros BidalƝs. On Aegina, I would particularly like to thank Nektarios Koukoulis, Deputy Mayor of Aegina and the Mother Superior in the Agios Nektarios’ monastery, Theodosia, for their help. Furthermore, a special note of thanks to “Sister Maria”. Many people have commented on earlier drafts of the present book or have provided invaluable help in other ways, drawing on their own expertise on death rituals in Greece, whether ancient or modern; in this regard, I would particularly like to thank Professors Gail Holst-Warhaft (Cornell University, USA) and Georgia Kokkorou-Alevras (University of Athens), respectively. Several researchers working on death rituals at the Academy of Athens Hellenic Folklore Research Centre have been of invaluable help over the years, and I thank them all: Dr Eleutherios AlexakƝs, Maria Androulaki and Dr Maria Koumarianou. I am especially grateful to the folklorist ElenƝ Psychogiou, who for several years has been a most helpful guide, always ready to answer my many emails and questions about our common research interest: women and death rituals. In Greece, Professor Maria Vassilaki (University of Thessaly) has also been helpful in this regard. The students Giǀrgos DoulphƝs and EiƝnƝ G. Fanerou deserve special mention for their help and willingness to discuss death rituals and answer my many questions; in the latter case, EiƝnƝ did so frequently concerning her own home island, Tinos. I would particularly like to thank doctoral student Anna Papavassiliou, from the University of Thessaloniki, for all her help and willingness to discuss my various questions and answer my many emails. Dr Anna Caraveli (USA) also deserves a word of thanks for her kindness and generosity in discussing laments. In addition, my thanks go to the participants at the seminar Women and Death, which I organised at the Centre for Women and Gender Research at the University of Bergen, Norway in 2006, where a

Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece


preliminary draft of the project was presented. I particularly profited from the comments made by participant, Professor Alexandra Cuffel (RuhrUniversität Bochum, Germany), as well as the feedback I received from Gail Holst-Warhaft. These two scholars, along with Professor Cynthia Kosso (Northern Arizona University, USA), ceaselessly supported me in pursuing the topic. I particularly want to thank Professor Kosso who also gave my manuscript a generous reading before copy editing. A special note of thanks also to Professor Snezhana Dimitrova (Southwest University “Neofit Rilski”, Bulgaria), who invited me to present my project to her students and colleagues. I am also thankful for having been invited to various conferences, all of which gave me the opportunity to present parts of this research to various scholarly audiences, thereby receiving invaluable feedback as well as gaining the chance to learn more specifically about death rituals in the wider world, especially those of Eastern Europe. In particular, Assistant Professor Gevher Gökçe Acar (Turkey), Dr Tatiana Minniyakhmetova (Udmurtia/Russia/Austria), Associate Professor Katya Mihailova (Bulgaria), and PhD student Irina Stahl (Romania), most of whom participate in the SIEF (Société Internationale d’Ethnologie et de Folklore) Working Group on The Ritual Year all deserve very warm thanks for their input. A special word of thanks to my UK-based sister, Oddrun Elin Håland, who, along with my brother-in-law, David Brunsdon, was ever ready to help (often aided by my sending them a picture from my fieldwork) when I had problems finding the right English word to express my Norwegian thoughts. A special note of thanks to Elisabeth Salverda who has proofread the manuscript. Last, but not least, I wish to express my gratitude to my informants: all those—particularly women, but also men—who over the years have invited me to participate in death rituals they performed for their own deceased loved ones. Death rituals are by their very nature extremely emotional, coping with death being the most difficult of all the life crises; although I have done fieldwork both on Tinos and in Athens for many years the topic of this research has not become any easier with the passage of time, despite my familiarity with it or the fact that my research is longstanding. Therefore, I extend my most heartfelt thanks to all those who let me in; without their openness and kindness, I could not have written this book. Accordingly, I dedicate the book to my informants, and to my Dadda (Norwegian term for “Nanny”), Oline Marie Engebretsen, who died a few days after I defended my PhD dissertation in 2005.


Greece occupies a special position within the historical self-understanding of Europe. At the same time, it is situated geographically in the southeastern corner of Europe, on “the border of the Orient”. Influenced by Edward W. Saïd’s Orientalism (1978), Michael Herzfeld has illustrated the way in which Europe has used Ancient Greece to create its own predecessor.1 But what is it exactly that we understand by the term “Ancient Greece”? For Europeans, Ancient Greece, i.e. the Athenian polis (city-state) of the fifth century BCE, is generally regarded as the cradle of Western, i.e. European civilisation, and the source of key concepts such as rationality and democracy. Throughout historical scholarship, the model most favoured has been that of the polis and its citizens, a public, male world that, in turn, makes the nation male. Is this what we mean when we speak of Ancient Greece? On the other hand, northern European researchers working within the field of ancient Greek culture have shown relatively little interest in contemporary Greek culture due to the general thesis that it is a “backward society” related to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Byzantium and Islam, i.e. the “Other”, motivating the question, why is this so? Considering this tension, which is particularly strong in my own country of origin, Norway, I look at Ancient Greece from the perspective of the female domestic sphere in contemporary Greece, in which a focus on female values is central. Making use of everyday religion in general, and death rituals in particular as the most important source of evidence, this study will endeavour to discover what implications arise when we attempt a new understanding of Greek and south-eastern European history, including the ancient polis. Thus by comparing modern and ancient death rituals from a female perspective, I will try to supplement the generally male reading of the sources. Female versus male perspectives are also connected with gendered perceptions of history and time, which however, may merge in this geographical context. I have already developed this into a theory of female and male values, in that I have located two contradictory views both in ancient and modern male-produced sources. 1

Saïd 1978; Herzfeld 1986, 1992.



By comparing them with the few surviving sources we possess from ancient women and with the values found in present-day society’s female sphere, I have come to realise that these contradictory views present two distinct value-systems, one connected with the female sphere and another connected with the male sphere.2 The current research develops my gynoinclusive perspective on the meanings assigned to rituals in both the ancient and modern world by examining their significance to modern women in conjunction with ancient texts. Drawing on festivals and burials, which were studied extensively over the course of my fieldwork, as well as on ancient sources, this study examines the relationship between the death cult that revolves around mediators (or intermediaries) between the living and the dead in ancient and modern society as manifested through laments, burials, and ensuing memorial rituals. Since the practical performance of domestic rituals is and was in the hands of women, it is important to determine the extent of women’s influence, throwing light in the process on the real power relations between women and men, which is particularly significant as men produced most of the ancient sources, and later scholars perpetuated their values. Consequently, by bringing ancient and modern worlds into mutual illumination, this study has relevance beyond the Greek context, both in time and space. Although religious festivals dedicated to dead individuals and other death rituals are found in ancient and contemporary Greece, these festivals are not considered part of present-day northern and western European culture, while the “polis” has become paradigmatic of the “modern” culture. How has this come to pass? While traditional festivals and rituals have disappeared from most European cultures, those that have survived reasonably intact from antiquity are still important in the European peripheries, where many traditions co-exist, such as in the Mediterranean region and the Balkans. For western Europeans, these are often linked with “primitive” culture, everyday religion, emotions and “the female”. At the same time, Europe is seen to be moving ahead, and is linked to “the (rational) male”. The Greek material under discussion is representative of the tension between the “primitive” Other and modern Europe. This study will hopefully provoke discussions that may illuminate the processes whereby such developments have evolved, while providing a framework for a broader contemporary self-understanding of Europe. 2

Håland 2007a. See particularly Ch. 1 infra in which this theoretical and methodological approach is outlined.

Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece


In contrast to the northern part of Europe, we encounter rituals similar to the Greek death rituals studied here all over the Balkans and the eastern part of Europe. Parallel circumstances made evident by the importance of the veneration of the dead both in a public and domestic context in central Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean clearly show the importance of taking into account both the domestic and public, or female and male points of view in order to enhance our knowledge of European history as seen “from the grassroots”. The importance of conducting research on death rituals in contemporary Greece, i.e. at a crossroads of cultures on the margins of Europe, and of comparing them with ancient sources is evident now more than ever, as the field of South-eastern European and Mediterranean studies becomes increasingly important within comparative cultural historical research. It could be posited that this research is, in fact, crucial to the future of Europe because of the continuing expansion of the European Union, and particularly because of the southern crisis. Since the value accorded by Greeks to the death cult is similar to that attributed to it by other eastern European and Balkan people, this study has relevance to research on Eastern Europe in general and southeast Europe in particular. The present study also taps into the increasing number of studies focusing on cross-cultural and interdisciplinary issues in the Mediterranean area. In Greece, and all over eastern Europe, women have a prominent role in death rituals, which needs to be studied and understood in order to comprehend more fully society as a whole. The comparative study of women and death in Greece, then, opens up new perspectives on the social world, consequently increasing our understanding of cultural values and transition in Europe, because it combines questions and unites micro and macro levels. Death rituals are an important factor concerning cultural dynamics in general, and inheritance and identity in particular. The abundant resources found in Greece are particularly important for comparisons with countries in the eastern and southern parts of Europe, in the context of several older and more recent member states within the EU, where we encounter rituals similar to Greek death rituals. Key to such comparisons is cultural diversity, but also cultural similarities and values within the region, both gendered and non-gendered, such as popular versus official. This pertains also to the cultural diversity and heritage, religions, attitudes and values of the citizens of the EU. This study of the Greek case, then, attempts to shed fresh light on the wider European setting, thereby affording us new insights into European history. Very often students coming from the eastern part of Europe to the western part to do their Ph.D. find that scientific staff do not have enough



knowledge about the eastern part of Europe to give them appropriate supervision. This also pertains to Norway and the rest of Scandinavia, where research into modern Greek culture is virtually non-existent, and no one is doing comparative research on the two periods. Although research into Balkan culture has assumed greater importance following the Balkan wars, the actual research undertaken mainly concerns Eastern and Central Europe and the Western Balkans after 1985, as illustrated by the workshop “Red-Letter Days in Transition” that took place at the University of Oslo in 2009. To understand the present, however, we must study the past, and rituals in particular link the past to the present and vice versa. We also learn that the political and ideological boundaries that have long divided Europe into Eastern and Western spheres, having placed Greece in the latter, is untenable. We learn this when taking on board the findings of researchers working in the field and setting them in a broad framework of history and prehistory. The importance of the Greek “case” is obvious, since the Mediterranean area in general and Greece in particular offer a unique opportunity to pursue questions of continuity and change over very long spans of time, directly and not conjecturally, since we have a long literate—and archaeological—tradition that may be combined with the results of empirical fieldwork. One may also mention the new international initiative on intangible heritage, spearheaded by UNESCO. The present approach is important in providing new understandings of what Europe is in these multicultural times. The comparative historical analysis of women and death has important ramifications for current research related to the shaping of a “European identity”, the marketing of regional and national heritages, and associated activities. Regarding the present-day aim of connecting the various and quite different European heritages and developing a vision of Europe and its constituent elements that is at once global and rooted, this work is essential. This original kind of work is extremely important in allowing us better to understand the idea of a European cultural unity at the beginning of the twenty-first century, since to understand contemporary Europe as a whole we need to study the individual European societies comparatively. In this respect, the Greek material is unique, as we have extant sources dating from the pre-historical period to contemporary times. Thus, the present study seeks to be a contribution to women and gender research, anthropology, ancient and modern history and religious studies in a Greek, Norwegian, European and global context. In the recent debates about Mediterranean studies as a discipline and Mediterranean history as global history, the Greek topic has an important place, particularly so considering that the many parallels

Rituals of Death and Dying in Modern and Ancient Greece


between Greek death rituals and death rituals all over the world provide an interesting and important example of the global in the local. In this era of globalisation, then, the unique character of the Greek source material is of ever greater importance worldwide from a comparative approach, not only because it relates to the south-eastern European margin, but also to the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Americas. The field of comparative cultural research should particularly be enhanced by this study, especially as religious ideologies are flowering in modern Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Balkan and Russian societies. By identifying sources for the beliefs and rituals connected to women and death and by discussing gendered spaces, that is to say, public, mixed, domestic and private spheres, this study is of considerable relevance to Europe because it focuses on cultural and historical similarities, parallels as well as differences, instead of merely perpetuating the “othering” of immigrants seen particularly in northern but also in southern Europe. This book aims to reach both the scientific and non-scientific milieus of those interested in Greek culture, ancient and modern. From a broader perspective, one may cite further associations, given the effects of Scandinavian tourism in Greece and immigrant groups in Scandinavia, some of whom may be inspired to find parallels with their own cultural heritage, often from the Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan worlds. Needless to say, Greeks are also interested in this type of research: they want to learn how others see them, as well as how others view their ancient forerunners.


From Death in General to Greek Women and Death in Particular Little attention has been paid historically to the topic of “Greek Women and Death” from a gender perspective, where fieldwork is of central importance, and where the focus is on how we present the voices of our informants alongside the historical sources. Thus, the present volume fills a manifest gap. But, why do I study “Greek Women and Death”?1 Death is crucial to the formation, manifestation, and elaboration of social structures and hierarchies. The death of a member of a society threatens its stability and the descendants’ performance; in particular, women’s performance of the necessary rituals before, during and after the burial rites incorporates a concern for the spiritual world and the ancestors as well as for the society in general. Hegel once wrote that history is the record of “what man does with death” because “the dead did not bury themselves”. Death lies beneath all facets of humanity, and is therefore a crucial factor in the development of societies.2 The stability of society and the cosmos is not only threatened during a death but, conversely, death is also a means by which it is possible to encapsulate and grasp the dynamics that constitute both society and the cosmos. Death triggers reconstitutions of society and of the cosmos that invoke descendants and divinities alike. Both in earlier times and today, all over the world, we encounter peasant societies where the living are dependent on the deceased mediator’s successful communication with chthonic powers in order to assure the continuity of their own lives through the fertility of the earth. 1

Parts of the following chapter were first published in Håland 2008a. Parker Pearson 2001: 203. These two quotations are borrowed from Bradley 1989 and Whaley 1981: 1 respectively. For the importance of death in relation to peoples’ reflections and social actions, see Goody 1975: 8.


Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece


Despite the significance of death, its pervasive role in the constitution of society has often been neglected, with some exceptions however. The most notable works on death were written many decades ago; some have also been reprinted, for example, Robert Hertz’ Death and the Right Hand (1960), originally published in French in 1907. Peter Metcalf and Richard Huntington’s (eds.) Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual originally from 1979 (2nd ed., rev. 1991) examines the relationship with death and the handling of this period of crisis in the life cycle. Another important work reprinted several times is Maurice Bloch and Jonathan Parry’s (eds.) Death and the Regeneration of Life (1982). More recent publications in the field of death include The Buried Soul by Timothy Taylor (2002), and Death, Mourning, and Burial: a Crosscultural Reader, edited by Antonius C. G. M. Robben (2004), although all the articles in this collection had been published elsewhere previously. Several studies on the cultures of death and dying deal with specific periods or places, such as Paul Binski’s Medieval Death (1996), Sandra Gilbert’s Death’s Door: Modern Dying and the Ways We Grieve (2006), and The Buddhist Dead: Practices, Discourses, Representations, edited by Bryan J. Cuevas and Jacqueline I. Stone (2007). Nicola Denzey’s The Bone Gatherers: The Lost Worlds of Christian Women (2007) deals with late antiquity, drawing mostly on Latin sources. Apart from these studies, mortuary rituals are often touched upon in ethnographies, although little emphasis has been put on death as a process of transformation by which society and the cosmos are created. Death rituals and celebrations of new social structures can be seen as an opportunity to renegotiate and recreate society and the social order. By using death, gender and women’s values as analytical entrances as well as empirical case studies, it is possible to use an often underestimated category of data in order to shed new light on deep traditional and resilient processes in society that encompass the relationship between man and woman within the family, the household and the village, the town, city and state. Hence, a study of gender, women and death opens up new perspectives on the social world while also increasing our understanding of contemporary transitions in Europe in that it combines, questions and unites micro- and macro-levels. Among the growing though divided scholarship on the ancient Greek material, Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood, in her book, “Reading” Greek Death: To the End of the Classical Period (1995), discusses Greek mortuary practice as a system of behaviour based on cultural attitudes from Homer and archaic grave monuments via later mostly written but also visual sources until the end of the classical period. However, she


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omits a significant amount of archaeological evidence in her eagerness to distance herself from Ian Morris’ Death-Ritual and Social Structure in Classical Antiquity (1992), since his analysis of mortuary data based on excavated remains of burials rejects what he sees as limiting text and object-based approaches. The present study does not pick a side to follow within this divided scholarship on literary versus material sources, but seeks instead to use both. It also argues for the importance of changing our northwestern European approach when studying both ancient and modern Mediterranean societies, where one does not necessarily encounter the same frame of reference and values as found in northern Europe. This means that regardless of how many or of which categories of sources we apply when reading or reconstructing ancient society, they will not uncover anything about ancient society without our knowing what questions we should ask the sources. The sources give us the possibility of interpreting ancient society, not of entering it: ancient society exists only in our minds, because the sources are signs from another cultural context and not identical to it. That the surviving Greek literary texts were written for a small elite, as Morris has argued, and that the authors such as, for example Plato, Aristotle and Euripides were intellectuals and thus did not represent the majority of people is true; but all the written sources from antiquity are the product of intellectuals. The intellectuals were also part of the society in which they lived, revealed “implicit” concepts in their work, and were therefore guided by a common mentality.3 This also holds for much of the archaeological material, since, for example, funerary markers are also constructed, or raised, to communicate a message.4 The salient question here is from which perspective should this message be understood, the northern or the Mediterranean part of Europe? This crucial issue becomes more acute when we try to deal with both men and women, and their relationships with death, since the former produced most of the sources, while the latter seems to have had a central role in connection to death rituals.5 Several scholars have examined death, moving from the study of death to its association with the social order and vice versa, claiming that to 3

Håland 2007a: Ch. 1. See, for example, Closterman 2007: 633-652. For anthropology and archaeology of death, see, for example, Humphries and King, eds. 1981. 5 Béchec 2013 is also relevant for this study; however, despite it being a recent study building on her dissertation, there are two problems: firstly, it presents an outdated view on the relationship between magic and religion (10) and secondly, although it is an important topic within gender studies, only men are considered within the study. 4

Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece


examine death is to look at society through female eyes.6 The topic of “Women and Death” in general has been explored in Western thought and literature. Historical perspectives on the representation of Greek women, also in connection with death, have equally been investigated.7 Margaret Alexiou has attested the strong position of the lament in Greek tradition from antiquity via the Byzantine era to contemporary society. Following Alexiou, several researchers have also investigated the topic of lament in the ancient and modern periods. Most publications on themes related to women and death have indeed focused on lament, often through documentation of the condemnation of the practice of female lamentation, particularly in modern and ancient Greece.8 The arguments of these studies will be questioned in this work. Likewise, it is my intention to show that not only are laments important in connection with death, but the same importance is also illustrated by other elements of death rituals in the Greek context, such as meals and food offerings at the tombs and their ingredients; the importance of a series of commemorative ceremonies after the burial involving gifts; days dedicated to the dead and various symbols such as statues, pictures and bones.

Festivals and Rituals Connected with Death In my book, Greek Festivals, Modern and Ancient: A Comparison of Female and Male Values, published in 2007, the main focus was on the fertility cult. The present study draws on the same methodology, i.e. using modern sources in conjunction with ancient ones, while here I focus on the death cult. Among the modern festivals analysed in my aforementioned book, we find the two most important Pan-Hellenic death festivals. As the ritual celebrated on 15 August is called Ɯ KoimƝsis tƝs Theotokou (the “Dormition” or “Falling Asleep” of the Bearer or Mother of God), the Greek name of the festival already suggests a connection with death. The Virgin’s death or “Dormition” is followed by her burial, or the “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia” on 23 August, thus reflecting ordinary death rituals and the subsequent memorial service (Fig. 1). We encounter the same phenomenon in the Orthodox Easter festival dedicated to the “Death and Resurrection of Christ”. Also among the ancient festivals, we encounter two that are 6

Seremetakis 1991 vs. Ariès 1983b (or. 1977). Seremetakis 1993. Western thought and literature: Bassein 1984. 8 Alexiou 1974 (2nd edition 2002); Holst-Warhaft 1992; Loraux 1990, 2002. Recent works dealing with laments include Saunders 2007; Suter 2008; Psychogiou 2008. 7


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particularly connected with the death cult, the Adǀnia, dedicated to the vegetation God Adonis, and the Dionysian Anthesteria, which was also the festival of the ancestors, during which it was believed that the spirits of the dead returned temporarily.

Figure 1. The “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia (the Virgin Mary)” starts on the eve of 23 August, Tinos, 1995.

Death rituals are first and foremost rites of passage, and Greek death rituals very often seem quite foreign, bizarre and “exotic” to people from the north of Europe and the US. The difference between a familiar “us” and an exotic “them” is a major barrier to achieving a meaningful understanding of the world of the Other. This obstacle can be overcome, however, if we are willing to participate in the world of the Other9 and this can best be achieved through fieldwork. These reflections are very much influenced by Loring M. Danforth’s study of the death rituals of modern rural Greece, published in 1982, because his assessments parallel many of my own experiences and thoughts in connection with my own fieldwork


Danforth 1982: 5, 32 f.

Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece


on death rituals in Greece, which started some years after the publication of Danforth’s book.10 The validity of comparing ancient and modern Greek death rituals may generally be explained by the French structuralist P. Ariès’ theory, which contends that political and ideological changes have had an important effect on Western attitudes towards death. He argues that such changes occur at an unconscious level. In other words, we change our attitudes toward death intuitively rather than consciously. In a passage discussing “The social function of the cemetery”, he illustrates how prohibitions from the councils regarding meetings taking place at several French cemeteries in the medieval period were unsuccessful, stating that no theoretical consideration, no legal or moral authority could prevent the cemetery from serving as a meeting place so long as people felt the need to come together.11 Influenced by the historian Fernand Braudel, Ariès analysed the cultural construction of the death rituals under the paradigm of la longue durée, since death rituals constitute a deep-seated structure within social life.12 This means that ideological changes do not necessarily provoke changes in fundamental beliefs or long-lasting mentalities, in my terminology. With regard to using “our” own modern cult of tombs as a comparative tool with the ancient, this topic has also been investigated by 10

Influenced by Geertz 1973: 142 f.; Crick 1976 and Lévi-Strauss 1966: 238 f., Danforth 1982: 27 f. argues for a semiotic approach to those “clusters of meaning” which shape our experiences and make the world around us understandable. However, Danforth’s universal image, created by participant observation, in many ways cracks because the consequence of these reflections is that he refutes a particular scholarly treatment of the mourning process, a subject that will be discussed later in this study. Since he lets the death of the cultural Other become a privileged instance of cross-cultural connections which may transcend superficial cultural divisions, we meet a paradoxical statement from a “Western” researcher who in another context has been eager to carry out western cultural critiques, cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 2 for discussion of Danforth 1984. Accordingly, Danforth’s study may be regarded as an ethnocentric reading of the sources, which is, unfortunately, not a new phenomenon. We meet the same problem in relation to archaeological sources, as stated by Whitley 1991: 195, see also 32, 67 f., who is also reluctant to accept universal grammars. However, Danforth may also be compared with the holistic view of Bloch 1988: 26-28, who likewise sees similarities between “exotic” peoples and our own society and therefore the “Others” do not appear as foreign as they were for Hertz 1907 and for Seremetakis 1991: 2. 11 Ariès 1983b: 69. In another study, Ariès 1983a, he also discusses the attitudes towards death from a historical perspective, focusing on changes in mentalities, but his analysis, unfortunately, is very schematic. 12 Ariès 1983b, cf. Braudel 1969: 41-83, 1990.


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R. Garland,13 but as mentioned already, it is not necessarily relevant as a comparative tool with the Greek context, which is, after all, quite different from northwestern European contexts and more similar to modern eastern European and other Mediterranean realities. In these areas, people still carry out rituals similar to those of their ancient predecessors despite changes in lifestyle, technology and culture. So although one may, of course, profit from using theoretical material from other researchers, including Ariès’ aforementioned study of medieval cemeteries, the contemporary comparative research basis needs to be more oriented towards the southeastern part of Europe. This may be illustrated by the following quotation from Ariès: “In 1231, the Council of Rouen prohibited dancing in the cemetery or in the church under pain of excommunication.” In modern Greece however, people may still dance in the cemetery.14 It is crucial to undertake deeper analyses that are, in turn, critical of and redefine Western ideology’s official understanding of death, because we encounter problems when trying to apply such an understanding categorically to the Greek material.15

Bridging a Cultural Divide to Situate the Context How is it possible to make a comparison between religious rituals in modern and ancient Greece, despite a gap of two millennia between the two cultures? Ancient and modern rural Greece represent two peasant societies, inhabiting the same landscape, with the same climate and almost the same technological level. The two societies demonstrate strong similarities in culture, social organisation and folk religion, which relate to the economic base of the community—agriculture. These are important factors in the recent debates about Mediterranean Studies as a discipline.16 The analogy between ancient and modern Greek farmers is not farfetched. I have already discussed the survival of values and beliefs, in spite of the introduction of new normative religions and the close relationship between the official Orthodox religion and popular religion, particularly in the rural parts of Greece.17 Since attitudes toward death seem to be very similar in modern and ancient Greece, it is fruitful to look at society from the cemetery or from the institutions of death: through the “optic offered 13

Garland 1985: 118 f.; Ariès 1983a: 68 ff. Personal information from E. AlexakƝs. Cf. Ariès 1983b: 69. 15 See also Bloch 1988: 11-29. 16 Cf. Horden and Purcell 2008; Harris 2006 and the argument in Håland 2005, cf. 2007a. 17 Cf. Håland 2005, 2007a: Ch. 3. See also du Boulay 2009 for long continuities. 14

Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece


by death”, as Seremetakis terms it in her discussion of modern Greek material, while Juliette de La Genière argues for looking at ancient societies from their necropoleis.18 It is not my intention to make an argument for the historical development of the death cult in Greece here; rather, I wish to compare the modern and ancient Greek death cult, i.e. as a case of structural history or comparative statics. However, we have ample evidence for the death cult in the intervening time, i.e. the Byzantine and later periods in Greece.19 Several scholars have also argued for the value of using “Mediterranean anthropology” comparatively to try to present a more accurate picture of ancient society based on a broader understanding of the context in which the ancient sources were formulated.20 The main reasons for using anthropological results in conjunction with reading ancient sources are the similarities of certain cultural patterns and social values found in the same geographical area. There are, of course, numerous local differences within the Mediterranean area, but the point is that certain cultural patterns, such as honour and shame, recur across many nationalities, languages and religious groupings from Portugal in the West to Iran in the East.21 Several of the same patterns may also be found in Africa, but are more in evidence in the Mediterranean regions. The variations that occur are variations on a theme. One of the main themes is the death cult. The differentiated spheres and roles of men and women are other important cultural themes. We find the prevalence of “honour” as a social value, and the ways people in the area solve their conflicts are very similar in Homer and in the vendetta cultures of the contemporary Balkans as well as in other specific regions of the Mediterranean, where people still practise blood feuds. Certain deep-rooted premises about social life, widely shared in the relevant area, can be used to frame and illuminate ancient texts, bringing out their unspoken assumptions. This way of interpreting the material does not 18

La Genière 1990: 83-91; Seremetakis 1991: 14 f. See also Alexiou 1974, 2002; Limberis 1994; Håland 2007a. Kjeldstadli 1994 discusses comparative statics. 20 The problems and fruitfulness of working with anthropological comparative approaches (such as using material from modern Mediterranean and particularly Greek civilisation as models) to ancient society are examined further in Håland 2007a, see 2010a for a shorter version, cf. also Winkler 1990; Holst-Warhaft 1992; Esler 1994 versus Pomeroy 1998. 21 For honour and shame, cf. Peristiany 1966; Gilmore 1987. The honour and shame dichotomy has been questioned by a number of scholars, see, for example, several publications, particularly by Herzfeld, such as 1980, 1984, 1992. These and others are discussed in Håland 2007a: Ch. 2. Horden and Purcell 2008 return to it as a defining social characteristic. 19


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necessarily presuppose an organic continuity between ancient and modern Greece and recognition of historical discontinuity in many areas (including changes both in the institutional and economic contexts) should not exclude comparative and genealogical analysis.22 In addition to the general application of results from Mediterranean anthropology, it is important to conduct fieldwork among women in contemporary Greece and compare the results with ancient material, as I have done,23 arguing for the importance of changing our approach when working with ancient cultures. Taking account of the female sphere in Greece provides us with a basis for considering the female part of society as a whole. In order to do so, however, the official male perspective, which is similar to the Western male perspective generally applied within Greek studies, has to be deconstructed.

Locating Gendered Values: From the Honour of Masculinity toward a Poetics of Womanhood What did ancient Greek people think about women and death? Many scholars have studied the role of women in ancient Greece. It should be stated that, when we talk about the appreciation of women within ancient Greek culture, we must unfortunately rely mainly on the opinions found in the male-produced sources of that culture, whether written or visual, men being the creators of most of these sources. Almost all of the female individuals are presented through what others, i.e. the male authors, say about them. This means that we possess only half of the story. Is it possible to amend this problem and if so, how? Is it possible to learn something about women through men’s descriptions? The way ancient male authors, such as Hesiod, Aristotle, Plutarch and late-antique Christian writers, consider women and their behaviour is strikingly similar to the modern Greek and Mediterranean ideology connected with “honour and shame” which reflects conventional male values.24 According to these values, gender relations in society are 22

Cf. Seremetakis 1991: 11. Generally, scholars who use modern material comparatively with ancient sources do not carry out fieldwork but rely on anthropological reports of traditional Mediterranean societies, for example, Cohen 1991; Walcot 1999, cf. also n.20 supra. Conversely, and with few exceptions (such as Papamichael 1975), Greek scholars who carry out fieldwork do not use ancient sources (or use ancient sources to a very limited degree, e.g. Psychogiou 2008), but do rely on secondary literature, cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 2-4 for discussion. 24 Cf. Gilmore 1987. 23

Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece


spatially divided, and the most characteristic aspect of the code seems to be the association of these concepts with gender roles, power and sexuality. Representing the ideal of a patriarchal ideology, these values are reproduced by fieldworkers who are introduced to them by their own informants, most often male. The works of these male but also female ethnographers have been used by several scholars working on material related to ancient women, such as Peter Walcot who compares modern and ancient material.25 These male values are also strikingly similar to the values found in works written by most of the Western scholars that describe ancient Greek women meanwhile taking a more cautious view of comparisons with the modern Mediterranean material, such as Sarah B. Pomeroy.26 The ancient sources Pomeroy uses are all written by men and they have the same principal view: they are men who subscribe to the same androcentric ideology connected with “honour and shame”. Although Pomeroy is wary of using modern material comparatively, one may argue that her presentation suggests the entire culture can be reduced to these two values.27 By taking the statements of ancient male-authored sources about women literally, as she does, I do not think it is possible to find out about “flesh-and-blood women in the ancient world”, as she attempts to do. In fact, she is adopting, probably unconsciously, the male Western ethnographic researcher’s reading of the Mediterranean sources by way of her one-sided presentation of the ancient male-produced sources and their values. These sources need to be compared with modern Mediterranean reality from a female perspective, to see if the extremely negative bias could be nuanced or changed. Even if Greek women may subscribe to the male ideological model of “honour and shame”, they have their own values in addition to, or running contrary to the male view, depending on how the male view suits their own thinking. Ancient sources written by men often criticise women’s “female knowledge”. Male-authored texts describe women as having roles different from those of men and as reacting to war and family crises differently; ancient medical texts grant women a very different biology and recognise that women do not share the same medical problems as men. What is obviously difficult to discern from ancient texts is women’s understanding of those roles attributed to them by men simply because 25

Walcot 1970, 1999. Cf. supra for Horden and Purcell 2008. Pomeroy 1998: 9 f. 27 Apart from one comment (Pomeroy 1998: 10), she does not discuss modern values, but the way she presents the ancient sources written by men is very similar to, for example, Walcot 1999. There are, however, other non-related cultural values that have also endured, cf. supra, see also infra. 26


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women experience the world differently. Based on the values of modern Greek women, this understanding may be called a poetics of womanhood,28 the point of which is to show how to be good at being a woman, for example when performing fertility rituals in agricultural or procreation contexts, using magic in healing contexts, or nursing children. Modern and ancient women have the same symbolic categories, and they may draw on a range of cultural materials when performing their womanhood, such as the meanings related to the female body, motherhood, sexuality and to women’s general activities in the religious sphere. “Emotion and suffering”, “female ways” and “the power of woman in the maintenance of society” are all important ways of manifesting “a poetics of womanhood”. In reality, these performances are difficult to manifest in the context of “honour and shame”, because this code claims that generally women’s roles are domestic, “private” and unofficial; their identity is less problematic and not earned or actively demonstrated and they are not engaged in the sort of public struggles engaged in by their menfolk. The very idea of a public “performance” of women seems antithetical to the cultural male rules for appropriate female behaviour. The reality, however, is far from the male wishful thinking, since women “perform” womanhood in what are sometimes very public ways, for example during festivals and funerals. I have located two contradictory views in both ancient and modern male-produced sources. By comparing them with the few sources we possess from ancient women and the values found in present-day society’s female sphere, I have come to understand that the actual contradictory views reveal two value-systems, one connected with the female sphere and another connected with the male sphere.

Women Greek religious festivals are most commonly dedicated to a dead person, or, in the case of the ancient festivals, to a dead person together with a God or Goddess, often a vegetation deity. Accordingly, these festivals illustrate the importance of popular beliefs connected with fertility and death cults, and healing for the preservation of the official


Cf. Dubisch 1995: Ch. 10. See Lyons 1997: 171 for an interesting comment on male produced texts’ projections about the transformations within the female life cycle.

Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece


ideology, in both ancient and modern society.29 These three cults are connected with the female sphere. I have come to realise the importance of conducting further research into the relationship between the cults that are fundamental to these festivals and the people who are the practical performers of the rituals connected with the different cults: women. The cyclical perspective is central to the festivals since they follow a ritual calendar whereby celebrations are performed in connection with important phases of the agricultural year. The fertility perspective shows how peoples’ values are manifested through religious festivals, and how fertility festivals are the foundation on which the official male valuesystem is based. Belief in the efficacy of fertility rituals is common to ancient and modern society, and these rituals are intimately connected with women. Women are the most competent performers of the rituals connected with the promotion of fertility in society, and their knowledge of fertility magic means that they also have the power to prevent fertility. Female rituals were of great importance in promoting the fertility of the ancient polis and they are still of focal importance in Greek society. Maledominated rituals are connected with the official male sphere and in ancient Athens the relationship between the two was demonstrated by the Thesmophoria, a gathering of women to ensure fertility: if an Assembly was to be held during the days on which this female festival was celebrated, it was held not on the Pnyx, its normal setting, but in the theatre.30 So, the women’s higher duties to Demeter and her grain displaced the men’s political business. The celebrations of the Demetrian festivals were an important way of demonstrating how to “be good at being a woman” since women’s collective performance of the rituals ensured fertility for the community. We encounter a similar situation with regard to other festivals as well. The Panathenaia was the most important ideological festival in classical (480-323 BCE) Athens. In the same way as this “Festival of all the Athenians” was celebrated through the figure of the protecting city Goddess on the Akropolis, the Panagia protects present-day Greeks: their national celebration, the “Day of the Armed Forces”, coincides with the Dormition of the Virgin on the Aegean island of Tinos. In both festivals, fertility rituals performed by women are of focal importance. In rituals connected with life-cycle passages, such as birth and marriage, we find the same relationship in ancient as in modern Greek society. Men are the performers of the public rituals, but the point is that 29

Cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 6, see also 2010a. See Winkler 1990: 194 for IG II² 1006.50-51, cf. Xen. Hell. 5.2,29; Håland 2007a: Ch. 5-6.



Chapter One

these rituals cannot take place until the “women-dominated” rituals have finished; the official rituals where men are agents cannot be performed before women have done the preliminary work, and thus manifested their “poetics of womanhood”. The foregoing begs the question: how does this relate to Greek women and death? Throughout ancient Greek history, customs related to women’s rituals in the sphere of the death cult were condemned. Therefore, it is important to continue research into the relationship between official male ideological values demonstrated in the statements of archaic (700-480 BCE) legislators, the writings of the tragedians, followed by those of Plato, Plutarch and later accounts of the church fathers such as John Chrysostom and the accounts of popular customs often condemned by the same authors, by examining the significance of death rituals to the very people conducting them: women. In this way, I continue the process of questioning I started in my earlier publications, in an effort to offer a new contribution to earlier portrayals of ancient society, which, we must remember, was populated by both men and women. It is necessary to examine the sources from new perspectives, including “non-traditional” or “non-male” values, and thus avoiding a continual “serial production” of one-sided representations of the Greek “reality”. It is important to analyse ancient society in its specific historical, cultural and therefore geographical context, i.e. its Mediterranean environment. Further, in relation to gender, various factors such as behaviour, emotions, gestures and rituals are important, and these typical Mediterranean means of expression—illustrated by, for example death rituals—are usually unknown to persons from the north of Europe and the US. Nevertheless, in the Mediterranean environment this “body language”, i.e. ritual or performative mode of communication is as important as verbal communication. From a male perspective, it has been termed a “non-verbal” or “inarticulate” mode of communication, and often connected with women. If an important condition for the development of the Athenian democracy, and later of the Byzantine Empire, was the “appropriation” of or “fascination” with the female by those who were simultaneously attempting to subjugate women, as female researchers have claimed,31 it is important to continue questioning how this came about, whether it did indeed happen, or whether we can point to further examples of important “women-dominated” rituals. In short, what is the nature of Greek “reality” when approached from a new angle, one in which an appreciation of the “poetics of womanhood” is central?


Loraux 1981a, 1989, cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992, 2000.

Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece


What is necessary then, is to investigate the other main cult derived from Greek religious festivals as well, namely the death cult, and to examine its connection to the female and male spheres, as it can be “read” from a comparison between ancient statements and present-day reality.

The Death Cult In the Greek cultural environment, the death cult combines the veneration of dead family members and “great persons” through dedications of offerings and the performance of prayers at their tombs. Such veneration of newly-deceased people and long dead heroes or heroines bears witness to a death cult.32 We meet this phenomenon both in ancient and modern Greek society. The death cult for holy men and women is apparent in the ancient cult of heroes and heroines, the modern practice of sainthood in Christian areas, the Turkish MevlƗna (Our Lord), and the marabouts (holy men) in North Africa, which suggests that it is related to fundamental beliefs, or longlasting mentalities in the Mediterranean.33 Ancestor worship is the reverence or propitiation of ancestors. Hero or heroine worship, and the later cult of the saints is the worship, cult or propitiation of an important deceased man or woman. The phenomenon termed “death cult” here is, in fact, an important key to most of the religious festivals in Greece. The reason being that the festivals often take the form of annual memorials and celebrations, and therefore can be seen as annual festivals, dedicated to a deceased guardian of society, saint, hero or heroine. This idealised guardian is a mediator between human beings and the supernatural within the hierarchical structure that constitutes the polytheistic-polydaemonistic society, in the same way as he or she often functioned when still alive, within the human society. The ancient Greeks believed that the various agonistic festivals derived from commemorations dedicated to great men or women, a hero or


Also discussed in Håland 2004: 566. Accordingly, I do not follow Ekroth 2002, who in her study of sacrificial rituals questions the view that the rituals of hero cults are to be considered as originating in the cult of the dead. Cf. therefore for example, Alexiou 1990: 97-123; Psychogiou 1991, 2008. For the cult of the dead, see also Jacoby 1944a: 65-75; Burkert 1985: 190-194; Georgoudi 1988; Sourvinou-Inwood 1995: Ch. 2; Stavrakopoulou 2006, 2010; Acar 2010; Kukharenko 2011: 75. See also Ch. 3 infra. 33 For a different position, see Brown 1982: Ch. 1. Eickelman 1981: 10-13 discusses the marabout vs. official Islam.


Chapter One

sometimes a heroine.34 This definition is influenced by N. Robertson’s analysis of agonistic festivals dedicated to heroes. However, he does not discuss the Hera games that, according to Pausanias, were established by Hippodameia.35 To mention one example of a “starting point” for the cult: the Parparonia festival in Sparta was dedicated to the God Zeus, but the festival also needed a hero, Othryades. We encounter the same pattern at the Panathenaia dedicated to Athena, because death cults, both in the Agora (market place) and on the Akropolis, were of major importance in connection with the cult of the Goddess. Traditional scholarship has focused principally on the cult dedicated to the earth-born Erichthonios/ Erekhtheus.36 Nevertheless, several heroines were also important in connection with the festival, such as Pandrosos and Aglauros. All the agonistic festivals in ancient Greece had their own hero, because they were traced back to some mythical death and burial, i.e. festival games originated as funeral games, or a propitiation for the death of the actual hero. The rituals re-enacted the ceremonies conducted at the burials and memorial celebrations for a deceased hero. The same picture emerges when we consider the Pan-Hellenic festivals and lesser local festivals, although the connections in these instances are more obscure. A putative tomb was a prerequisite for the festival site, and blood offerings were made in honour of the heroes at the altar. The altar was of central importance in the cult of the hero, a person who lived long ago and was still honoured, or to quote Nicole Loraux, the ancient Greeks regarded a hero as: “un homme qui, autrefois, a vécu dans l’exception et que la mort a consacré”.37 This dead person was considered to wield magical influence. Like the dead heroines,38 he was also a mediator between even stronger powers in the underworld, which were responsible for the fruits of the 34

Paus. 1.43,4 f., 8.35,8; Dem. 60.29. See also Ap. Rhod. 1.1055-1062, for the death cult, laments and games taking place in a meadow or field. For a critique of the pre-Christian cult of the dead, see Clem. Al. Protr. 3.39P. 35 Paus. 5.16, 2-4. Robertson 1992: xv f. 36 Mikalson 1976; Robertson 1992: Ch. 8. 37 Loraux 1981b: 492. Cf. Robertson 1992: Ch. 11, but his emphasis on the (male) ideological use of the death cult in ancient society should, in my opinion, be reconsidered through a new investigation into the role of women and a consideration of the real importance of folk beliefs. 38 Paus. 9.17,4-6. Contrary to the cult of the hero, the cult of the heroine did not interest researchers until recently. A word for heroine first appears in Pind. Pyth. 11.7, see also Ar. Av. 315, but the concept is older, cf. the apotheosis of InoLeukothea, Od. 5.333-335. See Lyons 1997: Ch. 1 for discussion of the problematic definition of the heroine cult, esp. 5, cf. Larson 1995: 3, cf. 21-24; Sébillotte Cuchet 2009: 4.

Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece


earth. It was of great importance to manipulate these powers for the benefit of the living world. Since this pattern can also be found in modern religious festivals dedicated to the dead, such festivals are clearly connected with a cult of the dead, and may be referred to as death festivals. It may be noted that “saint” in Greek is Agios (m.) or Agia (f.); we also find Osios (m.) or Osia (f.). Today, blood offerings are still made to the earth via the dead saints, Agios Kǀnstantinos and Agia ElenƝ, just before the grain harvest (Fig. 2):

Figure 2. The lamb sacrifice during the Anastenaria festival, in the village of Agia ElenƝ (Greek Macedonia), 21 May 1992.

Similarly, the Panagia receives a bull (i.e. “Tauros”) sacrifice at the island of Imbros (or nowadays Imroz, but in Turkish: Gökçeada), in the northern Aegean, at her Dormition festival which is celebrated after the grain harvest.39 The importance of studying death is in fact also illustrated by the modern cycle of the religious year in which the official orthodox ideological rituals are adapted to the agricultural calendar, as will be shown in the following analysis.


Psychogiou 1991, 2008.


Chapter One

I assume that official ideological rituals are influenced by the domestic rituals people perform for their own dead, and vice versa, that modern domestic rituals at the same time reflect public performances. As this cult has many parallels with the official cult of ancient Greece, the question is, can an analysis of the rituals, i.e. of modern public and domestic rituals in combination with the few scattered sources we have from ancient Greece, tell us more about the ancient death cult as a whole? A second question derives from the first: what can such an analysis tell us about the relationship between the domestic death cult and the official equivalent? Since the practical performance of the domestic death rituals is and was in the hands of women, it is of particular importance to figure out how far their influence extends, to discern their real power within the society as a whole.40

From Fieldwork in Modern Greece to Ancient Death Rituals Bearing this in mind, a deeper investigation into the phenomenon of the death cult is called for. Consequently, it was of prime importance to participate in the rituals myself. Although I have conducted fieldwork into the death rituals and saints’ festivals of modern Greece on several occasions over the years, and draw on these data in the present study, my two-year research period in Greece from 2011 to 2013 in particular afforded me an excellent opportunity to conduct broader fieldwork into modern Greek death rituals and saints’ festivals, the results of which will be presented in the following chapters. Given the highly emotional nature of the rituals in which I participated as an observer, it was essential to be adequately accepted into the community. Accordingly, the bulk of my research was carried out on Tinos, with which I was already well acquainted. Death rituals, i.e. funerals and the particular rites which are performed in connection with special commemorative celebrations, are the most difficult to cope with of the “crises of life”. An ethical problem arising out of research on death rituals is, of course, the inherent difficulty of studying people who are grieving considering the added sensitivity required and the real danger of infringing on or exploiting an emotionally charged situation. As indicated, I tried to alleviate this problem by carrying out fieldwork in a local environment into which I had already been accepted and was known to people. I do not attempt to disguise the location of my field research, although I do use pseudonyms in order to 40

In other words, I do not agree with Pomeroy’s statement 1998: 16, cf. 1995a.

Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece


protect the identities of the individuals concerned. To do otherwise would, I think, be a missed opportunity for an open dialogue between myself, and by extension the society of which I am a member, and the islanders. This dialogue is a condition of fieldwork. The local environment in rural areas of modern Greece represents “living sources”. Several modern religious festivals may also be regarded as valuable living sources from a comparative perspective, particularly festivals dedicated to Christian saints, i.e. holy dead persons or the “very special dead”. These festivals present ritual similarities to ancient festivals which were held in the same geographical area, and which were especially concerned with the death cult. I focus the present research on modern religious festivals, concentrating particularly on four annual celebrations, which I assume can be compared with similar ancient festivals. My research into modern Greek values connected with death rituals, begins with the festival dedicated to the “Day of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary” (25 March), as celebrated on the sacred island of Tinos. In the nineteenth century this festival was deemed more important than 15 August, the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, on which I have been working since 1990. The importance of the “Annunciation festival” is summarised by two facts: Firstly, the dominant symbol of the island, “The miraculous icon (image) of the Annunciation of the Virgin”, is said to have been made by Agios Luke, and therefore painted during Mary’s lifetime. This icon belongs as much to the festival in March as to the one in August. Secondly, this day has both a religious and a national ideological significance: 25 March is also celebrated as Independence Day, marking Greece’s liberation from Turkish (Ottoman) rule. The Greek name for the Virgin, ȆĮȞĮȖȓĮ (Panagia), i.e. the “All-holy One” (Pan: all/Agia: holy), reminds us that she is considered to be the most important intercessor and saint in the Greek tradition which emphasises her maternal role as the Mother of God, rather than her virginity. In the fourth century, Athanasius used the term Panagia, as did Eusebius. According to Gregory Nyssa, Mary defeats death by her virginity.41 As several researchers have demonstrated, there are further theological differences in the way Mary is viewed in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. According to Jill Dubisch: “In the Orthodox church, Mary is not seen as immaculately conceived and bodily assumed into heaven.”42 Accordingly, the Orthodox Church celebrates her Dormition,

41 42

Limberis 1994: 103 f. Dubisch 1995: 236.


Chapter One

rather than her Assumption, and she “does not become a semi-deified human as in Catholicism”.43 The second festival also takes place on Tinos. This local festival is celebrated in July and is dedicated to one of the most recent Orthodox saints, Agia or Osia Pelagia, a nun who was sanctified in 1971. After the great Greek War of Liberation (1821) broke out, the pious nun Pelagia had several mystical visions that lead to the finding of the miraculous icon of the Annunciation. According to tradition, Pelagia repeatedly saw, in her visions, the Panagia, who ordered her to start digging to find her icon. In 1823, the icon was unearthed in the field where it had remained for about 850 years. “Pelagia’s Vision” is celebrated on 23 July. During the festival, the church in which her skull is housed, located next to her cell in the Monastery of Kekhrovouno, is a site of particular importance. The third festival is dedicated to the healing saint Agios Gerasimos and is celebrated on the island of Kephallonia, of which he is the patron saint, on 16 August, the day after his death. Two years after his death in 1579, his body was found to have undergone no decomposition, and it exuded a pleasant odour. He became the patron saint of the island in 1622. His relics are housed in his monastery and during the festival his sarcophagus is carried in procession to the plane tree by the well that the saint is said to have dug with his own hands. As the sarcophagus is carried in procession, the pilgrims lie down in its path so that the saint’s body may pass over them, thereby healing them. Gerasimos is particularly famous for combating demons, and the pilgrims collect some dust from his tomb or fetch several leaves from his plane tree to keep as amulets. During the last festival, another healing saint, Agios Nektarios, is celebrated on the island of Aegina on 9 November. This is an important healing festival dedicated to one of the most recently deceased saints, i.e. the former bishop of Pentapolis, who lived a secluded life on Aegina until his death in 1920. The bishop was canonised as Agios Nektarios in 1961, becoming the island’s patron saint. His monastery is situated in a geographical area where the cult of deceased holy persons has been particularly important. An important ritual during the festival is connected with a chapel that is reserved to women. This chapel is part of the monastery dedicated to the saint and housing his skull. All these festivals are dedicated to saints who possess the same mystical powers as those of the ancient mediators, heroes and heroines. Pausanias, for example, describes the importance of taking earth from a particular grave before the grain harvest and laying it on the tumulus of 43

Dubisch 1995: 236, cf. also Economides 1986.

Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece


Antiope to ensure a successful crop.44 In modern Greece, the holy earth from Panagia’s sanctuary on Tinos is seen as a powerful aid to fertility and as a healing remedy. The church is also built on the ruins of a pagan temple of Dionysos. Assuming that there are some important characteristic aspects connected with the death cult in Greece, ancient and modern, in spite of the many historical changes that have occurred, my hypothesis is that modern rituals as observed in rural Greece today can provide new insights into, and thus offer a clearer picture of, the way in which ancient people perceived death and the afterlife. In this analysis of official modern Pan-Hellenic and local festivals and private burials, comparable ancient sources are found mainly in the Attic tragedies (and comedies), funeral orations, poems, inscriptions, various Hellenistic and late-antique writers, as well as grave stƝlai, gravestones and vases.45 The focus of this examination will be on the following conditions: to be a deceased mediator, a person must die, be lamented46 and buried. Afterwards, certain memorial rituals must be 44

Paus. 9.17, 4-6. Heroes: Hdt. 1.67 f.; Plut. Thes. 35 f., cf. also Paus. 3.3,7. The term “Ancient Greece” is used here to indicate that this research is not centred on a strictly defined time and place, since the central theme is Greek women’s role in connection with the death cult in pre-Christian Greek society. Because of the general similarity with later rituals, I have reason to believe that the time periods within the pre-Christian epoch can be merged. Nevertheless, the most relevant sources derive mainly from 5th cent. Athens (i.e. “the height of the classical period”). The importance of the death cult can be inferred from several written sources, but owing to limitations of space I cannot present all the material that is of relevance to this research here, see therefore infra. Generally, inscriptions describe cult practices, but literature can give a better feeling for the human atmosphere of the cult. When necessary, scholastic sources will also be employed. The most important literary sources include the death of Patroklos and Hektor in the Iliad (Il. 19 and 23 f.) and Odysseus’ visit to the border of the underworld (Od. 11); the classical tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophokles and Euripides (for example, the representation of women’s rituals performed at the tomb in Aesch. Cho.); and late antique Christian sources, such as St. Augustine’s Confessions (6.2). Among important passages in other sources are Hes. Op. 654 f.; Hdt. 1.67 f.; Thuc. 2.3446. The epitaphs and epigrams collected in the Greek Anthology are especially important, because some are women’s writings (cf. AP. 7.712, 710). Several of the poems of Sappho (cf. Fr. 103, 136, 25) are particularly important. Pausanias and Plutarch also have important passages (as Paus. 1.43,4 f., 8.35,8, 1.36,3) and texts (cf. Plut. Mor. 101f-122a, 608b-612b). The vases, such as the funerary loutrophoroi and lƝkythoi, as well as several of the gravestones, grave stƝlai, funerary plaques and reliefs, also provide information about rituals, gestures and so on. 46 On laments see Alexiou 1974; Motsios 1995; Psychogiou 2008, cf. HolstWarhaft 1992, 2000, see also Caraveli 1986; Foley 1993. See also supra and infra. 45


Chapter One

performed at the tomb, combined with the offering of more material gifts, in order to obtain reciprocal benefits. After a certain period, the bones are exhumed. Depending on the colour of the bones (their unusual size and sweet smell also being important evidence of sanctity) as well as on the dead person’s status or power while alive, the deceased person may be a mediator in the literal sense of the word, through this second burial in the ossuary (where the bones are placed after the exhumation), or in a mausoleum or church. Both in earlier times and now, the living are dependent on the mediator’s successful communication with other powers in the subterranean world, to assure the continuity of their own lives through the fruits of the earth. All death rituals are twofold: women, who dominate the domestic sphere, are the performers of the laments;47 men, the representatives of the official sphere, carry out the burial.48 This motivates the question: how exactly are these tasks and the other rituals related? By conducting an analysis in which the objective is to employ the study of death to try to gain new knowledge about the social order, instead of the other way around, thus combining important aspects from both Ariès and Seremetakis, we realise that death rituals can indeed illuminate other important themes of Greek life. A prominent theme, as outlined previously, is gender relations, i.e. the position of women, and by definition the position of men, as well as reciprocity, obligations and heritage, and social connections within the family. Accordingly, the study of death contributes to a deeper understanding of the nature of human life. It is for this reason that the present analysis of the religious festivals will be based upon their connections with the cult of the dead in modern and ancient Greece. This will be followed by a general discussion of the relationship between an official “male” ideology and a mentality related to traditional values, often connected with women. The institution of death functions as an important vantage point from which to see the society. Since the death cult is connected with the domestic domain, in which women are the dominant power, presenting the “female sphere” from a female perspective will help us to deconstruct the ancient (male) sources’ persistent male views about women and death.

47 48

Il. 24.710-776, 19.282-302, cf. Eur. Hec. 609-619; Soph. El. 1137 f. Il. 24.785-799; see also Pl. Leg. 947b-e, 958-960; cf. Thuc. 2.34; ABL. 229,59.

Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece


The Female Sphere In “patriarchal” Mediterranean society, women are associated with practical religion. The death and fertility cults and processes of healing are all deeply connected with the domestic sphere, in which women dominate. It is essential to consider the “female sphere” when studying such personal phenomena as ideologies and mentalities, which are, in turn, represented by religion, behaviour, values, customs, faith, worship, and popular beliefs. We discover that what we usually call “macro-” and “microsociety”, i.e. the “public” and “domestic spheres”, in fact have different meanings from those generally assumed.49 In Greece we do not find the “little” society or “only the family” at home; rather, this is where we meet the “great” society. Hence, it is important to investigate the extent to which the official ideology is dependent upon these cults, and consequently on the female sphere, to manifest itself. Even though the “male sphere” is usually connected with the official world, and the female with the domestic world, this situation, as I have pointed out, does not imply that the female sphere is marginal and the male is not, as some researchers have claimed.50 Marginalisation is a spatial metaphor and depends on where you are standing. This means that the centre in a Greek village can be both the central village square, “the man’s world”,51 and the kitchen hearth or courtyard, important spaces 49

For example, by Pomeroy 1995b: Ch. 5, 1998: Ch. 1; Osborne 1994: 81-96. Also Bourdieu 1980: Ch. 3, defines women as “private” (and powerless) and men as “public” (and powerful), cf. 1998. Unfortunately, we encounter the same bias in Larson 1995, see e.g., 144. Cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 1 and 6 for discussion of these and other references. The importance of taking ancient women on their own terms instead of distorting them so that they will fit into our own models is also emphasised by Denzey 2007: xxi, see also 75 on male clerics’ thinking. Corley 2010: 22 also emphasises the importance of the women’s activities within the death cult. 50 See, for example, Danforth 1982: 136 f., also cited by Pomeroy 1998. The main problem with Danforth’s analysis is that he sees the Greek world from the male sphere, i.e. rendering him, perhaps, a modern counterpart of ancient male writers? Yet, the ancient male writers and Danforth’s informants were reared in the female sphere and have childhood experiences that Danforth does not share. According to Seremetakis 1991: 13, the problems with Danforth’s analysis derive from his reading of Greek death rites, a reading that relies on Greek Orthodox liturgy. While I agree, I think an additional problem with his reading is that he, as a male ethnographer, has no access to the female sphere in order to conduct his own fieldwork. 51 Cf. Ar. Eccl. 154 f. for a parallel.


Chapter One

controlled by women. When studying Greek village life, anthropologists have considered the two spheres of female and male importance in terms of “private” and “public”, home and outside home, i.e. equivalents to the ancient polis (“male club”) and oikos (household). There are, however, public spaces in which women dominate. One of these is the cemetery (Fig. 3).52

Figure 3. A “female sphere” in a public space: the cemetery, a space controlled by women, Tinos, a Saturday morning, August 1994.

When working with this material, one realises that the division between female and male spheres in Greek society may, under certain circumstances, be blurred. The world of the domestic and familial, the female sphere, covers a more extended area and has greater power than has commonly been assumed. Generally, Greek women and their lives have been analysed from a Western male perspective. Based on this approach, both ancient and 52

Cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 52 f.; see also for example Dubisch 1986: for a revision of the traditional anthropological examinations of the female sphere. For WalterKarydƝ 2011: 429 however, the domestic sphere seems to be more restricted. She makes many interesting points but unfortunately contrasts the written and visual sources without examining one single example of the former, see 428. Cf. also Ch. 4 infra for further discussion.

Death Rituals and the Cult of the Dead in Greece


modern Greek women have been categorised as lacking freedom, being dependent, secluded and as not leading a full life. Accounts of women written by men, and by many academic women, portray them as passive or subservient.53 But, if the goal is to conduct research from the female sphere in Greece, the picture may be different, since Greek women may have other values.54 In this way, we may gain new perspectives on the ancient texts as well. I hope my research may offer an important female perspective on ancient texts, firstly because the death cult is first and foremost associated with the female sphere and secondly, because the present researcher is a woman who continues her “wanderings” both in the “female” and “male” sphere in modern Greece, while conducting parallel research on ancient sources, mainly written by men, thereby laying the foundation for a comparative analysis between the modern and ancient material. In Greece, women are connected with birth, nurture and the care of the dead; they are nurturing mothers, and through their activities as care-takers they manage and control the fundamental course of life. Many symbols and rituals in the festivals under discussion illustrate this and are regarded as belonging to the female domain. By analysing the death cult, then, it is possible to gain further insight into the meanings and importance of the customs and values related to fundamental principles within the “ideological entirety” that constitutes a festival, and into male-authored texts, whose interest and theme is the male ideology. They must, therefore, be deconstructed and considered from a gyno-inclusive perspective by examining them in conjunction with information from the female sphere. Women in Greece have a double consciousness about their own existence and about men’s representations of it. Therefore, it is of vital importance to conduct fieldwork among women and men when working with ancient sources, since these texts with very few exceptions are written by men, and the goal here is to represent a complete and not one-sided or 53

See, for example, Machin 1983: 107-126; Walcot 1999: 163-183. These and other references are discussed at length in Håland 2007a, particularly 28-30, 332356, 401-469. 54 Even if several female researchers (such as Seremetakis 1991; du Boulay 2009) have carried out fieldwork in the female sphere (cf. n.50 supra), one may claim that they do not focus adequately on women’s values, as they are still influenced by Western male ideological values (as Connelly 2007), and read their material from a male perspective (this also relates to Seremetakis 1993: 22 f.n.17, cf. 24n.22 discussed in Håland 2007a: 462), cf. therefore Dubisch 1995, who, unfortunately, only works with modern Greek society. See, however, Alexiou 2002.


Chapter One

partial society. It is thus important to compare the male- and, very few, female-produced ancient sources55 with information collected from the modern female and male spheres. Is the information found in the few sources produced by women consistent with that of ancient and modern men, or does it agree more with that given by modern women, for example, in relation to rituals performed at the cemetery? How should we understand relevant passages from Homer, Aeschylus and Plutarch combined with a funeral law, when we compare them with some of the few sources we have from ancient women56 and the modern reality? How will male-produced texts’ often critical and simultaneously paradoxical information about women carrying out rituals in connection with death be understood from a female perspective? To try to gain a better understanding of ancient society through a comparison with modern Greek rituals, it is necessary to conduct analysis on different levels. Modern society must itself be “read” in order to illuminate ancient society. In addition, ancient society must be analysed from the relevant sources we possess. Thirdly, a diachronic analysis must be conducted. The necessity of conducting comparative analyses on all levels simultaneously is self-evident. In this way, modern society can enlighten us about ancient society and vice versa. The next chapter will present some of my fieldwork experiences during some death festivals of modern Greece.


Cf. n.45 supra. Cf. Sappho. Fr. 103; AP. 7.649 and SIG³1218; Plut. Sol. 12.4 f., 21.4 f.; Aesch. Cho. 22-31, 324-339, 456–461; Il. 24.93 f. See Ch. 4 infra. 56


Tinos, the Most Important Pilgrimage Centre in Modern Greece In 1823, after several mystical visions experienced by one of the islanders, a pious nun named Pelagia (Fig. 4), people on Tinos found the miraculous holy icon of the Annunciation (Euangelismos) of the Panagia (MegalocharƝ, megalo: great, charƝ: grace, i.e. the Blessed Virgin).1 1

According to Stavropolos 1991: 532. However, the word “virgin” is not literally included in MegalocharƝ, so perhaps “greatly blessed” or “exceedingly graced” might be better translations. Other inconsistencies in the translation of the Panagia, etc. are found in the official English translation of the printed church pamphlet distributed to the pilgrims at Tinos. The first version was written by E. A. Foskolos, employee of the Holy Foundation of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Tinos, according to the information given in the pamphlet. First published in 1968, the pamphlet is reprinted annually in Greek, with shorter versions translated into English, French and German from 1985 onwards. A new and more elaborate version, written by three persons, Dimitris Sofianos, professor at the University of Athens; Georgos Amiralis, philologist, and Georgos Bourdakos, civil engineer, was published in 2007. The English version(s) of the pamphlet never translates Euangelistria as the Panagia of the Annunciation or the Annunciated, but clearly writes, for example, “The Church of the Annunciation (Euangelistria)” on page 11 in the translation (by Silvestros) from 2004 (first English version from 1991, tr. C. Meihanetsidis, latest English version from 2009, tr. Irina Tsotadze-Anastasiadi). In general, people do not translate Euangelistria, cf. also infra concerning the street. In the following, then, I will adhere to the Greek translations, and write the Church of the Annunciation. This also pertains to the information I have received from other Greeks not living on Tinos: In general, among Greeks, when referring to the church, one says the Annunciation, i.e. Euangelismos. Euangelistria is used when referring to the icon. When referring to the church as Panagia, Euangelistria in everyday speech, one indicates the church in which this icon is housed, not the church per se. I thank Kiriaki Papadopoulou Samuelsen for giving me this


Chapter Two

Figure 4. Painting in the Monastery of Kekhrovouno, Tinos, illustrating the nun Pelagia receiving the vision.

According to tradition, Pelagia saw the Panagia repeatedly in her visions and was instructed by her to inform the elders to start excavations in order to find her icon, buried many years earlier in an uncultivated field, and to build her “house” (i.e. her church) on that site. On 30 January 1823, the icon was unearthed in the field where it had been for about 850 years since the church built on the ruins of the pagan temple of Dionysos was destroyed and burnt down by the Saracenes in the tenth century CE. In 1821, two years before the icon was found, the great Greek War of

information. Since 1990, I have engaged in several periods of fieldwork particularly involving research into the festival dedicated to the Dormition of the Panagia on 15 August on Tinos. I witnessed the festival in 1990, annually in the period 1993-1998, and again annually in the period 2004-2013, but also visited the island in the autumn of 1996. I have carried out fieldwork on the festival dedicated to the “Vision” of Saint Pelagia four times (2005, 2011-2013), and visited the festival of the Annunciation twice (2012-2013). I also made several return trips to the island in the period January-August 2012, during an extended research stay in Athens, also visiting the festival of the “Finding”. Håland 2007a gives a comprehensive presentation and discussion of the Dormition festival, as well as an extensive bibliography on the island and its history. See also 2006a, b, 2007b, 2011a, 2012a.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


Liberation broke out.2 The finding of the icon, the construction of the church of the Panagia, Euangelistria, the enormous crowds of pilgrims and all the miracles worked by the icon, occasioned the passing of an act declaring, by governmental decree, the island to be sacred in 1971. Pelagia became sanctified on 11 September 1970. Below the main church on Tinos are several minor churches or chapels shaped as caves. In the first chapel is a holy spring, where the pilgrims fetch water, which is believed to have fertility powers and to cure sickness. According to tradition, the well was found during the excavations undertaken in search of the icon, but, when discovered, the well was completely dry and useless. On the day of the laying of the cornerstone of the Church, however, the formerly dry well became filled to the brim with water. The source is seen as a miracle, and according to tradition it is one of the most important miracles of the Panagia of Tinos. The chapel of holy water is called Zǀodochos PƝgƝ, i.e. the “Life-Giving Spring”.3 Since the discovery of water in this well, pilgrims regard its water to be sacred. Accordingly, small or bigger bottles of this precious water are taken away by pilgrims from all over the world, and kept in their homes as a talisman. The sanctuary is a vast complex. “The Holy Foundation of the Euangelistria of Tinos” is a multifaceted institution of national and international dimensions, being the most important source of income on the island. The different parts of the sanctuary, such as doors and benches, are gifts, and the names of the donors are always written on nameplates affixed to the dedications. Among the most famous gifts given as tokens of gratitude is the marble fountain donated by a Muslim official who was cured of syphilis. Much of what is given to the church as offerings is retained, but many of the gifts are also sold. As an organisation, the Church of the Annunciation is a powerful force in local politics, acting in the manner of a philanthropic institution that commands a vast amount of wealth. Moreover, as well as being philanthropic, it is largely a clerical organisation. Generally, local people have an ambivalent attitude towards the Church of the Annunciation: on the one hand, it is a source of pride but, on the other, it is considered to be “too rich”. People working in the church’s office, however, are keen to point out that the church is not 2

See also Håland 2012a, cf. the printed annual account from the PanellƝnio Iero Idryma Euangelistrias TƝnos (short form: P.I.I.E.T.) from 2011 (in which is also found the programme for the festival of the “Finding” in 2012), hereafter P.I.I.E.T. 2012: 19. 3 I.e. the source of life, according to Stavropolos 1991: 359. Another translation is the Life-Giving Well, cf. Dubisch 1995: 135, or Life Giving Source, Stewart 2012: 69 f.


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engaged in “business”, despite the fact that after the festivals, they, the attendants, along with the priests, count the money the pilgrims have left, a task that takes several hours. The money, however, is important for the prosperity of the island. So I would say that the health business on modern Tinos is illustrated in many ways, for example, by the church sending talismans all over the world, requested by people who do not themselves have the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Tinos. Pilgrims come to Tinos throughout the year. They come to the shrine for their “tama (pl. tamata)” or ex-voto (a dedication sealing a vow). Their pledge involves offering something to the Panagia for her help, mainly with health problems. Many of the pilgrims are fulfilling a vow made after having a dream in which the Panagia ordered them to go to Tinos bringing with them particular offerings in exchange for a cure. People, mostly women, make their way up to the church barefoot, on their bare and bleeding knees, or on their stomachs, and they bring with them various offerings, sometimes tied to their backs: candles as tall as themselves, icons, wax. They may also bring incense, silver candlesticks, censers, bread, wine, flowers, or sheep, the last being brought by gypsies.4 The most common offering is a silver- or gold-plated ex-voto (tama) representing either the person who has been miraculously cured by the icon, the cured limb itself, the person or limb wanting to be cured, or a ship. The avenue, named leǀphoros MegalocharƝs leads directly from the harbour to the church. This is a wide avenue or square about a kilometre in length, lined with shops and booths, particularly at its lower end. After having disembarked from the ships, pilgrims arrive at the foot of the avenue, and begin to make their way up the hill, often assailed by the cries of shopkeepers who stand outside their stores, hawking the items necessary for a successful pilgrimage: “Lampades! Tamata! Mpoukalakia gia agiasma! Edǀ Lampades!” (“Large candles! Tamata! Little bottles for holy water! Here [are] large candles!”). At the top of the hill, having arrived at the doorway of the sanctuary, the pilgrims present their large candles as offerings. Afterwards, they line up on the steps at the Church of the Annunciation, waiting their turn to enter the main chapel, to perform their proskynƝma, the set of devotions a pilgrim undertakes upon entering the church. Of particular importance are their devotions in front of the miraculous icon, itself representing a microcosm since it is made of all substances of the world.5 It is especially 4

My use of the word, “gypsies” is not meant to be pejorative, rather it is given here as a translation of the word used by Greek people in general. “Gypsies” never use the word but call themselves “Romani.” 5 Kenna 1985: 348.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


important to kiss the actual icon. One might also touch the icon with exvotos to make them holy, or cotton wool, which is then treated as an important amulet. The black pilgrim clothes are often left as dedications either to the icon or to the ruins of the foundations of the Byzantine Church, in the chapel dedicated to Agia Pelagia, which is situated next to the “Life-Giving Spring”. Most of the pilgrims stay for a service, but even during services many continue to move around, engaging in their own rituals. The majority, however, confine their attention to the main sanctuary and to the chapel of holy water below the church: “Where do we go for holy water (agiasma)?” pilgrims ask each other, and the more knowledgeable direct them. The pilgrims drop some money in a carved wooden counter with a slot, pick up candles to light, and inside the first chapel they kiss the icons, before worshipping the spot where the miraculous icon was found. Until recently, pilgrims had the opportunity to take some earth from the hole where the icon was found. This custom has now fallen out of practice because the church attendants started to put other items (most recently big red “grave candles”) into the marble pedestal vessel on which is written “Matina Passa”. Afterwards, pilgrims queue up to obtain holy water in small bottles or drink directly from the tap. Many only carry out the most important rituals and obtain the holy symbols before returning to the harbour. Most pilgrims descend by the street named Euangelistrias, like the church. It is lined with shops and booths, and is known as EpistrophƝ (“the Return”) by the shopkeepers along the thoroughfare. During the festival calendar or the ritual year of the holy icon on Tinos, the greatest shrine of Greek Orthodoxy, several festivals are of particular note. The most significant, the “Dormition” of the Panagia, is celebrated on 15 August, and the 15 August festive cycle in many ways “terminates” the Orthodox liturgical year on 23 August—while the annual local festive cycle on Tinos starts on 30 January with the festival dedicated to the anniversary of the Finding of the Holy Icon, or the “Finding of the Icon”, as the locals say, when the finding of the icon is ritually re-enacted. The next significant festival is dedicated to the “Day of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary” and takes place on 25 March, and the third is celebrated on 23 July. These last two festivals will be described below.6

6 Cf. Håland 2007a, 2010b, 2011b, 2012a for the other festivals during the ritual year of this icon. See also n.1 supra.


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The Festival Dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary The Annunciation of the Virgin Mary was established as a holiday by Justinian around 540 CE.7 The icon itself, of course, illustrates the importance of the Annunciation festival. Moreover, the Annunciation is also the name of the church of the Panagia and the street by which most of the pilgrims descend after completing their proskynƝma. This day has both religious and political or ideological significance on a national scale since 25 March is celebrated as Independence Day, marking Greece’s liberation from Turkish rule. In the nineteenth century this festival celebrating the anniversary of the Greek revolution was the most important festival on Tinos, and in the beginning of the twentieth century, many pilgrims came from Asia Minor, i.e. modern Turkey.8 Government officials often participate. The festival is particularly related to the central and dominant symbol of the island: “the miraculous icon of the Annunciation of the Virgin”, which is clearly illustrated in the 2012 printed festival programme, as the icon features both on its front and back pages. The icon is attributed to the apostle and evangelist Luke, who is believed to have painted it during Mary’s lifetime, using her as a living model, thus linking it to the very origins of Christianity and the image directly to Mary herself.9 It shows Gabriel appearing to Mary with the announcement of Christ’s birth: in other words, the icon announces fertility. Today, the icon is covered with offerings of gold and precious stones, and it is no longer possible to see what it portrays. These offerings of gold and gems have been dedicated ever since the finding of the icon and while most of the jewellery is auctioned in Athens, different stories are told regarding the actual origins of the remaining jewellery. According to some of my Athenian informants, “the king’s family bestowed all the gold and precious stones that cover the icon, when King Paul became ill.”10 The miracles worked by the holy icon have made Tinos a centre of Pan-Orthodox worship. Some miracles are 7

Limberis 1994: 90. Bent 1965 gives a vivid description of the festival in the 19th cent., comparing it with ancient pilgrimages to the neighbouring sacred island of Delos, see also Håland 2007a: 113 f. for discussion. 9 Cf. the 2004 English version of the church pamphlet, i.e. tr. Silvestros: 10. See however Siotis 1993: 40. Here, we see a contradiction within the Panhellenic Sacred Foundation at Tinos, since he writes that only three icons are attributed to Luke and none of these is the one on Tinos. 10 See also Håland 2007b. According to Foskolos 1996 many of the precious offerings have come from the royal family. 8

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


more famous, than others,11 and several miracles are said to have happened during the agypnia (vigil) of 25 March.

The Day of the Annunciation of the Panagia, 25 March As I arrived in the Church of the Annunciation on the afternoon of 22 March 2012, I realised that just inside the main entrance of the church, in its yard, was a reminder that 25 March is both a Christian and national holiday, or celebration.12 The pictures of several national heroes from the Liberation War of 1821 hung on both walls, and although I had been there many times before this was new to me. The pictures were as follows: on the left, was Alexandros YpsƝlantƝs, next hung the picture of GrƝgorios E’ (i.e. the 5th), the only ecclesiastic among the revolutionary heroes, and the last was of Geǀrgios KaraïskakƝs. On the other wall, next to the entrance into the room where the pilgrims come to offer their large candles, I found first the picture of Kǀnst. KanarƝs, in the middle was Athanasios Diakos (a small street in Tinos town is named after him, and so is my “home street” in Athens) and the last was that of Odysseys Androutsos. The pictures of the revolutionary heroes had been removed when I came back to Tinos on the Friday before Easter, and when I enquired people told me that they are usually only displayed for a week in connection with the celebration of 25 March. When I arrived on 22 March a year later the pictures of the national heroes were in their usual place just inside the entrance of the sanctuary. The next day, all the pictures were decorated with green wreaths. Outside of the church, on the same day, I met a cheese seller from Crete, who had loaded his car with dairy products and come to Tinos evidently expecting many customers during the celebration; he did very well, his only competitors being the people, or rather beggars, selling amulets. There were not so many pilgrims in the church compared to the high season for pilgrimages in August. But the staff in the church were busy preparing for the celebration: two women were sweeping and washing the stairs, and instructed that I walk on the carpet. In the chapel dedicated to the Life-Giving Spring, the women had just finished cleaning and the chapel smelt of fresh flowers. In the upper church and further up on the upper floor, attic or balcony, women were cleaning the various votive gifts. In the main church room, one of the male churchwardens moved 11

Cf. also Foskolos 1996 for the most famous miracles. See also n.1 supra on my fieldwork. I use the historical present to describe the festivals and their rituals in general. 12


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around with a vacuum cleaner, directed by a woman. In front of the ikonostasis, the icon stand or screen, was a table loaded with blue flowers. The shrine with the relic of Agios Nektarios, dedicated to the church during the festival celebrating the anniversary of the Finding of the Holy Icon on 30 January 2012, that had been on display during my return trip to the island in mid-February, no longer was when I came back one month later, on 22 March. The shrine containing Agios Nektarios’ relic had been on display next to the icon depicting the Dormition of the Panagia, which is permanently displayed in a lectern or proskynƝtƝrio (place of adoration, worship, prayer)13 in the centre of the church. When I entered the church on Friday 22 March 2013, the icon, “Oi Agioi Theodǀroi”, depicting the two saints O StratƝlatƝs and O TƝrǀn, was displayed on the lectern next to the icon depicting the Dormition of the Panagia, since the two saints would be celebrated the following day.14 Most of the carpets hung outside the church to air, and some women were also cleaning the marble tiles in the upper court. Both here and outside the chapels beneath the main church, a programme for the festival was on display. A third hung outside the church’s office. There was a great level of activity inside and outside of the church in the early afternoon in 2013, as there had been the previous year. The women were busy cleaning. A special liturgy would be celebrated for the Panagia at 5:30 pm, and in front of the iconostasis they had started to erect a stand from which hung a carpet illustrating the Annunciation: this is one of the many motifs in the church on which Mary is displayed spinning.15 The previous year this liturgy was celebrated one day later, and while under normal circumstances the liturgy is headed by the bishop, because of the bad weather in 2013 he was not able to arrive from the neighbouring island of Syros so the liturgy was performed by the local priests.16 In 2012, an invitation and programme issued by the Pan-Hellenic Holy Foundation of the Euangelistria, Tinos (PanellƝniou Ierou Idrymatos Euangelistrias TƝnou) was distributed to special guests at the annual 13

A proskynƝtƝrio, may be made of wood (as here), marble (as the one which holds the holy miraculous icon), or metal. 14 See Ch. 5 infra for the celebration. 15 Cf. Geller 2006 for the importance of this theme. 16 A male churchwarden told me that the bad weather caused the bishop not to attend. During my many stays on Tinos, I have experienced a similar scenario: the local priests read a prayer or letter from the bishop who is not able to attend, since he lives on Syros. Although two ferries are scheduled for Tinos on a daily basis all year round, with additional boats being provided during the summer, the weather may prevent boats coming to the island even then.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


celebration, according to the custom. On the front page, the leaflet announces “Good tidings and great joy on earth” (Euangelizou GƝ Charan MegalƝn), going on to state that the feast of the Annunciation of the Mother of God (EortƝ Euangelismou tƝs Theotokou) 2012 is celebrated within the sanctuary. The invitation is decorated with a picture of the miraculous icon of the Annunciation and other biblical scenes in which the Panagia is prominent. On the back of the programme is also a copy of the icon. The receiver of the invitation is invited to take part in and by her or his presence honour the national religious festival of 25 March in accordance with the celebration in the most sacred church of the MegalocharƝs. It is signed by the managing committee of the Holy Foundation of the Euangelistria, TƝnos, its president (that is to say, the metropolitan bishop of Tinos and Syros), vice-president, secretary, and members. Beneath follows the programme for the festival. From early in the morning of Friday 23 March 2012 the town filled up with children dressed in national costumes, as is customary for the festival: around noon, a procession headed by musicians and all the children on the island march to the “Liberty Square (plateia Eleutherias)”.17 The youngest, belonging to the various nurseries are first, and later come the school children dressed in national costumes or school uniforms. At the marble statue, four priests from the Church of the Annunciation and priests from other churches in the town perform a liturgy. Afterwards, several wreaths are laid, the first by the mayor, representing the municipality, followed by the leader of the church administration, the head of the port authority, the police, etc. These male official functionaries are followed by the school children, from those in nurseries to the gymnasio (high school). Many wreaths are laid. Finally, two of the high school students read the names of those who fought and died during the Liberation War, and finally the musicians play the national anthem. Afterwards, all the dignitaries, ecclesiastics and municipal officials go to the circular Panagia Square or “PantanassƝs Place” (known by the locals as exedra, i.e. stand, platform), next to the harbour, to oversee and applaud all the children parading in front of them. The musicians also play. In 2012 some ten demonstrators

17 This ritual also takes place on 28 October (The “Ochi Day”, i.e. Anniversary of the No/rejection of Mussolini’s ultimatum in 1940), and the day before, i.e. on 27 October they also march to the monument, the Herǀon Athanasia 1912-1913, dedicated to those who fell during the Balkan Wars (i.e. World War I, according to the locals, whose dates for World War I differ from the official ones within “European history”, cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 2). Their names are inscribed according to the municipality on all four sides, i.e. Tinos, Panormous, etc.

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were standing behind the parade holding two big banners on which they had written: 1821: They fought 2012: Us?

Freedom or Memorandum

My literal translation masks a deliberate play on words in the original Greek. The Greek motto during the War of Liberation was Freedom or Death (i.e. Ǽleutheria Ɲ Thanatos), paraphrased here as Freedom (alternatively Independence) or Memorandum. Thus, they took the opportunity to comment on the present situation or “crisis” in Greece. In 2013, this ritual took place one day earlier, i.e. on Friday 22 March, and there were fewer wreaths compared to the previous year, and no demonstrators. All the booths and shops selling the necessary items for a successful pilgrimage, such as candles, little bottles for holy water, votive gifts, etc., now also stocked Greek flags. I had never noticed that before, but it may well have been due to the occasion, i.e. the celebration of 25 March, coupled with the nationalistic breeze that now blows over the country because of the national problems, or “crisis” as people say.18 While visiting the church on 24 March in the morning, I observed a silver war ship on top of the safe in which the miraculous icon is stored at night. This votive offering, which is still there, clearly indicates the intermingling of religion and politics. The staff was still busy with decorating and cleaning for the celebration. On the day before the festival, there were more pilgrims in the church and the staff was still busy cleaning. Around noon, there were many people in the church. Since 25 March fell on a Sunday in 2012, many pilgrims were able to come from all over Greece, in addition to all those returning home to the island from Athens,19 and, of course, all those who had decided to go back home several months before, “because of the crisis”, a phrase that has become almost mantra-like among Greeks recently (i.e. in 2011-2013). One of the priests stood at the central entrance to the hieron, the holy place, altar or sanctuary, and read the “letters” (chartia) paraklƝseis (prayer or supplication papers) for the health of ill family members, in order to bless them. All day, many pilgrims crawled 18 It is apparently due to the national day, since the same flags also are sold in various booths and kiosks in Athens ahead of 28 October. 19 Most old people who have retired spend their summers on Tinos and winters in Athens. They usually come back to Tinos in connection with the 25 March festival and stay until mid- (or late) October.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


on their knees to the church. I experienced the same in 2013, although there were more pilgrims than the previous year. Because of the event many had taken three days off work. As usual, I met several pilgrims who regularly come to the celebration of the Dormition on 15 August,20 some of whom also attend the celebration of Agios Nektarios in November, which is generally quite feasible since both islands are situated fairly close to Athens; on 24 March 2013 I also came across one of the pilgrims I had observed on Aegina during the festival of Agios Nektarios in 2012.

Figure 5. Supplied with Greek flags, a female pilgrim arrives at the Church of the Annunciation, Tinos, 24 March 2013.

Eleutheria was easy to recognise because she wore the same black dress as previously worn by her on Aegina: a black version of the kind of 20

Cf. Håland 2012a.


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dresses that the “gypsies” wear, quite different from other pilgrims’ clothes (i.e. penitential robes). When going up to the sanctuary in the early afternoon of 24 March, I saw a woman crawling in the middle of the last, or upper, stair case of the church and all the while she read prayers, quite loudly, and furthermore, carried, or rather dragged, her two unusual gifts: the Greek flag in two different sizes (Fig. 5). As noted, they are easy to obtain during the March festival since all the booths and shops stock flags during this celebration, as opposed to the situation in August. All the pilgrims who had lined up on the upper stair and in front of the entrance to the church made way for her. In front of the icon, while waving a flag in her hand, she made a long prayer to the Panagia. Next, she returned to the entrance, dropped money in the counter where pilgrims usually fetch small plastic bottles with holy oil (i.e. oil that has been rendered holy by being mixed with holy oil from the ever-burning lamp that hangs in front of the miraculous holy icon), and was provided with a plastic bag filled with these small bottles. She smeared the oil over her face and hands. Then, with a flag in hand, she went around the church, worshipping all the other icons as well, particularly the icons on the iconostasis. She further proceeded to the left door (left that is from the writer’s vantage point) of the iconostasis and asked for blessed bread, adding that she had “travelled far”. She received blessed bread and a large sweetened bread decorated with icing sugar, resembling a round cake, wrapped in plastic and closed with a decorative red ribbon on top. Next, she sat down in front of the iconostasis eating blessed bread. I asked her why she had brought the flags, and she replied “for Greece”, giving me some of her bread. She told me that she would stay in the church all night and sleep alongside the other pilgrims on the gallery or balcony. She had brought a blanket along with her; if she needed more, the church would lend her blankets (this is normal practice). Next, she climbed the stairs to the gallery, and passed the other bags and sleeping bags left by other pilgrims, choosing the place where she intended to pass the holy night: below one of the icons depicting the Panagia and Child on the right part of the gallery. Here, i.e. on the air conditioner below the icon, she organised her dedications, amulets, etc. It seemed as if she was erecting her own altar made up of flags, bread, the cake, some amulets, several copies of the printed church pamphlet distributed to the pilgrims at Tinos, describing the Tinos legend and the most famous miracles worked by the holy icon,21 and also school books

21 Cf. Foskolos 1996, see also Sofianos/Amiralis/Bourdakos 2011. See Håland 2011a for discussion.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


(with many paintings) relating the Greek Revolution. She smeared her face with more oil, and then left the church. On 24 March, several children are taken to the baptistery, located off the chapel of the “Life-Giving Spring”, to be baptised in holy water from the “Life-Giving Spring”. Afterwards, they are confirmed in the main church, by the door on the left part of the iconostasis, as is the custom. Many pilgrims also receive Communion, as usual in connection with their pilgrimage during the main festivals. Some hours later, around 4 pm, many people, particularly women, gather in the church. Most have prayer books from which they read. Many also have suitcases or bags in tow, indicating that they have come straight from the ferry to the church. In the chapel of the Life-Giving Spring, the icon, hanging above the place where the original miraculous icon was found, was decorated with red and white flowers, I observed some women busy worshipping: first they knelt several times in front of the icon, after which the icon was duly kissed. Next, one of the women knelt and kissed the silver lid covering the hole where the miraculous icon was found. The woman who followed, of course, did the same. I have observed similar rituals several times: if one pilgrim does something very pious, the next does not want to seem inferior, so he or she does the same, and may add gestures that are even more pious. Then, if there is no one immediately following, the third, arriving some minutes later, may only kiss the icon, and not pay attention to the lid. While of course it could be that the third person is not quite so knowledgeable about the stories relating to the symbols, a pattern of imitation nevertheless suggests itself. The same also pertains to elaborate rituals of bowing in front of a holy entrance door, the main icon and other icons. After worshipping the “finding”, as people say, pilgrims fetch holy water from the spring; some wash their faces and soak their hair completely. Then, the iconostasis in the chapel below the main church is worshipped. The main motif on the central door is, of course, one of the many illustrations of the Annunciation. Below the main sanctuary of the church, and next to the aforementioned chapels, including the baptistery is a mausoleum commemorating the sinking of the Greek destroyer Elli by a submerged Italian submarine while anchored off the Tinos harbour on 15 August 1940. Annually, wreaths are laid to the heroes of the Elli, and a service is given in front of the mausoleum in connection with the Dormition festival, on 13 August. Regarding the March festival, the heroes of the Elli are also important however, and the ever-burning lamp is indeed always kept burning in the mausoleum dedicated to them. A censer is placed in a tree in the court for the entire day, and new pieces of incense are repeatedly thrown into the


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censer, duly purifying the area before the festival starts, particularly the space in front of the mausoleum which is regularly censed by a priest. In 2012, at around 5 pm a “warrior craft” or missile boat from the Hellenic Coast Guard (Limeniko Sǀma) arrived on the harbour, which is also characterised by symbols referring to the Elli. In 2002, the heroes of the Elli received a memorial in the harbour in front of which a cannon from the ship was placed, and by the end of May 2012 another important feature had been added it: the front page of a newspaper from 16 August 1940 now hangs next to the cannon. In July of the same year, a glass wall was erected around the cannon and the newspaper page inserted in the wall. When the aforementioned vessel arrived on 24 March 2012, the greeting committee consisted of a priest from the Church of the Annunciation, the local head of the Hellenic Coast Guard, and eight personnel from the port authorities or coast guard; the latter had lined up in single file, facing the personnel on the arriving ship. The priest, chief of the coast guard and the captain drove to the church in a waiting black car, while the rest of the maritime crew walked in procession. The visiting representatives of the Hellenic Coast Guard went to the main chapel of the church, to perform their proskynƝma. Of particular importance were their devotions in front of the miraculous icon, as is the custom. They were also greeted by the representatives of the church and received holy bread wrapped in plastic, which is uniformly reserved for dignitaries, in contrast to the common people who receive bread from a red basket. They also received a copy of the latest (2011) version of the printed church pamphlet. Afterwards, many fetched holy water in the chapel dedicated to the Life-Giving Spring and some of them also wrote (chartia) paraklƝseis, i.e. prayer or supplication papers. After a ceremony at around 6 pm, one of the priests stood in the midentrance to the hieron reading out the names on the supplication papers written by the pilgrims. Next to the miraculous icon many of the breads left by the pilgrims along with their supplication papers were put in a basket. One of the churchwardens sorted the papers and put them in a heap on the counter, for delivery behind the iconostasis where people generally leave their bread and supplication papers, to be read by the priests. Of course, pieces of the bread offerings are always given to the people when a liturgy takes place in the church. (The small loaves of bread that have been blessed are called prosphoro, pl. prosphora. This is bread that is “offered” to Christ.) When a saint’s feast is held, in addition to the liturgical bread there are offerings of oil, wine, and larger loaves of bread (called artos, pl. artoi, as opposed to psǀmi, the term used for everyday bread), which are

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


brought to the church to be blessed.22 The pieces of the artoi are distributed to the people after the liturgy as antidǀro. In general the (chartia) paraklƝseis, or supplication papers on which are inscribed names of living family members “for their health”, mainly feature the name that is celebrated on the actual day, i.e. on their name day, such as Maria or Panagiotis on 15 August or Euangelia on 25 March, but also the names of other family members. The women bring these to the church on the feast day along with the Communion bread (prosphoro) or five (consecrated) breads (artoi) for the festive artoklasia, the Orthodox ceremony of blessing bread, if they have a relevant tama (vow), one bottle with oil and one bottle with wine (“Communion wine”), and also a small sum of money, if they so wish.Then the priest reads the names during the liturgy on the feast day or at the eve of the feast, during vesper.23 A little later, around 6:30 pm, a priest takes the censer hanging in the tree, and walks around the court censing, particularly in front of the mausoleum of the Elli. Next, he goes to the bust of the former bishop, GabriƝl, MƝtropolitƝs i.e. the bishop of Tinos at the time when the icon was found, and censes in front of the statue for a while. Finally, he kisses the statue and hangs the censer back in the tree. A churchwarden then adds incense to the censer. Some women wash the tiles outside the main church. Inside, the churchwardens are busy lighting candles, using ladders to reach up to all the candles in the votive lamps. Although the ceremony starts half an hour later, all the chairs in the church are already occupied, mostly by women who have been there for several hours, as have many of those sitting in the gallery. Those who brought their own folding chairs are ordered to sit down outside of the marked areas. Many pilgrims rush to the church in the hopes of securing a chair, although the female Tinotes (i.e. from Tinos), knowing the situation, usually bring chairs with them, while others go up to the gallery. As the church becomes increasingly illuminated from the large 22

Pilgrims arriving at Tinos generally dedicate oil, bread, and flowers, but they also bring wine to the church in return for prayers and blessings, which are often sought for ill or dead relatives. 23 Personal information from ElenƝ Psychogiou, email communication 03.10.12. She also explains (pers. comm. 25.11.12, see also Håland 2007a: Ch. 4) that the wooden carved stamp which is pressed on the shoulder of the paste before the bread is baked, is inscribed with the words, IS CHR NI KA (“Jesus Christ will win”). It is used for the festive consecrated bread, artos (and also the “Christmas bread”, i.e. the festive bread of Christmas), which is also called “prosphoro” or “liturgical bread” (the first because it is “offered” and the second because it “attends the liturgy” inside the church).


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Figures 6 a and b. A lamp with a votive offering of the island of Cyprus hanging in front of the iconostasis, the Church of the Annunciation, Tinos, 25 March 2012.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


amount of candles, one can study all the votive lamps with votive gifts hanging from them. In front of the miraculous icon, for example, is a votive offering depicting Cyprus in gold; this bears witness to many pilgrims’ requests that the Panagia will grant Cyprus liberation from Turkey. A similar lamp with a corresponding votive offering also hangs in the silver chain with votive lamps and gifts suspended in front of the iconostasis (Figs. 6a and b). The actual lamp, with the Cyprus votive, hangs in front of the main entrance of the iconostasis and is much bigger than all the other lamps hanging in the actual chain. Thus, we see a clear example of the intermingling of religion and politics, since other national ideas are also reflected in connection with the sanctuary. As is customary within the Orthodox Church, the festival starts on the eve of the celebration when vespers (“esperino”, cf. esperos i.e. “evening star”) is celebrated. According to the programme, the celebration of 25 March starts on 24 March at 7 pm, when a great festive archieratic vespers is celebrated in the Holy Church of the Annunciation. The liturgy is officiated by His Eminence the Metropolitan Bishop of Tinos and Syros, Dǀrotheos B’ (i.e. the 2nd). He arrives by the main entrance of the church along with all the other priests, and lights the large candle in front of the miraculous icon, from which all the other candles to be offered are lit. He turns around, blesses everybody and enters his cathedra (throne). Therefore, the main entrance is closed to the pilgrims for some time prior to the liturgy, and they have to enter by one of the side doors. After entering the cathedra, the bishop is greeted by all the other priests one by one. Meanwhile, the church chanters (cf. psaltƝs, chanter, cantor) start their singing. The women now sit down and start their talking again, after having stood up and been silent for a while when the ecclesiastics first entered the church. Afterwards, the bishop is greeted by all the chanters. At the beginning of the liturgy in 2013 only one representative from the Hellenic Coast Guard was present, but four other representatives for the port authorities and the police later arrived. The same year an old man, evidently a peasant, arrived with two bunches of yellow spring flowers: he gave one to the bishop and kissed his hand, and left the other with the chorus. As usual, the representatives of the dƝmos, i.e. municipality, and other representatives for the Greek state arrive after the beginning of the liturgy. They are assured the most prominent places in the church, next to the ecclesiastics. The general hierarchical structure of the official state, both ecclesiastic and non-ecclesiastic, is meticulously followed, and the people at the centre of the church reflect the traditional close connection between the official Orthodox Church and the nation-state, in a patriotic


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sense.24 During the liturgy, some of the churchwardens bring the five large round breads to be blessed by the priests. The breads are arranged on a table in front of the iconostasis; in front of the breads is a many-armed candelabra and from this an oil flask is suspended. The candelabra with the lighting candles is put on top of the breads, which are then censed. All the priests who have been alternately in the church and behind the iconostasis enter the church by its left door (the north door, liturgically the exit from the altar) for the second time during the liturgy, one of them carrying a silver icon depicting the Annunciation on top of which are three lit candles. On their first arrival, the full church was censed. Now they encircle the entire church with this icon, before they end up in front of the iconostasis by the right entrance after having also been in front of the miraculous icon, thus letting the two icons depicting the Annunciation greet each other ceremonially. One of the priests carries around the censer to purify the whole church. Then, the five breads in a stack with candles are ritually blessed by the bishop, i.e. only the bread at the top of the stack is given to the bishop, who by blessing the first bread, blesses all the others. Before the blessing, the bishop is ceremonially dressed in a robe decorated with an embroidered depiction of the Annunciation, which is placed over his head by some of the priests. During the ritual blessing of the breads all of the priests line up holding each other’s shoulders, the one behind putting his hand on the shoulder of the one in front and so on, paralleling the circular round dance as described by the anthropologist, J. du Boulay.25 After the blessing of the breads, they return behind the iconostasis, and the bishop delivers the final speech just before 9 pm, in which he has in more recent years focused on the ongoing crisis. In 2012, he stressed that, despite the crisis, people had come to Tinos from all over Greece to celebrate the festival, and he was eager to insist that people should trust each other and cooperate. The same economic topic featured in his speech the following year. In addition, he stressed the importance of the presence of the official representatives. In a way, one might interpret the speech underlining brotherhood as an effort to counterbalance emotions currently running very high in contemporary Greece, given that people feel outrage towards the EU, particularly towards Germany. Some claim that they (i.e. EU/Germany) are trying to erase Greece from the map.26 This may explain the bishop’s diplomatic masterstroke in underlining the presence of representatives from the Greek authorities 24

Cf. also Håland, 2007b, 2012a. du Boulay 2009: esp. Ch. 12. 26 Others may say that “they try their new methods on Greece, but Greece has been through crises before and has always survived”. 25

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


during the celebration in 2013: Greece is not erased from the map. During the liturgy, the women talk amongst themselves, commenting on the festival in general, and although they are not permitted to enter certain areas with their folding chairs, they do so anyway, also leaving the chairs for others who might feel tired, thus illustrating solidarity among themselves contra the male ecclesiastics and also the male attendants in the church. The liturgy always ends by the bishop wishing everybody “Many Years” (i.e. “Chronia Polla”), the bells then chime and people walk around eating blessed bread which is distributed from several baskets clad in red velvet. Many go down to the centre of the town to have a meal before the next liturgy, others eat food they have brought in the gallery of the church. The church remains open throughout the night, permitting people to stay for an all-night prayer vigil. At 11 pm the holy vigil service (Ieras Agrypnias) is performed. Both before the vigil and afterwards, around 11:30 pm, there are no priests in the church and the curtain in the mid-door of the iconostasis, separating the holiest of holies from the church, is drawn aside. The church is filled by people singing hymns, particularly women, thus paralleling the olonychtia (sleepless vigil or wake lasting the whole night), the all-night prayers between 14 and 15 August. When the formal liturgy has finished, several women perform their own when singing hymns in front of the iconostasis. The gallery is packed with pilgrims, many of whom are equipped with sleeping bags and food and most of whom are asleep, some in their own sleeping bags or under the blankets provided by the church. Along with many of the others up on the gallery in 2013, Eleutheria slept as well, in front of her own altar. On the day of the festival a liturgy is celebrated, after which the icon is carried in procession to the harbour and back to the church in a koubouklio (canopy). On 25 March, the first liturgy starts at 7:30 am, when the matins of the holy festival is performed. At the same time, the marching band moves in procession around the town, as is the custom also on 15 August and at other festivals. At 9 am, an archieratic divine liturgy officiated by His Eminence the Metropolitan Bishop of Tinos and Syros is held. Although the missile boat that was present on 24 March 2012 had left the next morning, some official representatives of the coast guard were in attendance at the liturgy, as was also the case in 2013. This official national element is important because at 10:30 am a festive doxology (i.e. service of thanksgiving) to the Ethnic Festival of 25 March is held, as announced by the programme. In 2013, the speech contained a “lesson in history”, covering the important elements, places and persons from the beginning of the history of the Greek nation-state and the great Greek War


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of Liberation, such as the siege of Mesolongi (1825), the revolutionaries, in particular General IǀannƝs MakrygiannƝs, and the help they received from the Panagia, the important stratƝgos (i.e. general or commander-inchief) of the Greeks. Before the speech, blessed bread is distributed. During the speech, many people go around outside of the church eating blessed bread. Some of the representatives from the coast guard also wait outside. Many of the children wear national costumes and carry Greek flags. All the pilgrims who spent the night inside the church, particularly in the gallery, have packed up their personal belongings. Many sit outside the church during the entire liturgy. Others take their folding chairs and leave the church, to await the icon on the processional road, i.e. the main street. Before the service at 10:30 am the church bells chime, and some of the churchwardens and other people belonging to the church start to prepare the koubouklio, the “movable sanctuary”, bier or platform on which the icon is normally carried during the processions.27 The choirboys wait outside the church. Many waiting pilgrims worship the koubouklio. Those who want to enter the church are requested to use the side entrance: the main entrance is closed because the icon will be brought out that way. The service is followed by a solemn official procession at 10:45 am, when the most sacred icon of the MegalocharƝ is carried in procession in Tinos, the main township on the island. The bishop fetches the icon and places it on the canopy, which is carried by eight officers from the coast guard. More specifically, the men carrying the icon are students of the Port Authorities Academy (petty officers), and Ensigns (or second Lieutenants). The miraculous icon is carried down the main street of the town, leǀphoros MegalocharƝs. In addition, political and military representatives, followed by the clergy and by notables who have been present at the liturgy, participate in the procession. Children wearing national costume head the procession. First come the girls, followed by the boys. Then follow some high school students in school uniform, followed by more children in national costume and more high school students wearing school uniforms. Then come boys dressed in sweaters and slacks. After a short break, the marching band. Next, follows the ecclesiastical part of the procession, headed by the choirboys carrying the symbols from the church and the Greek flag, in turn pursued by the priests and the icon, which is carried by the same eight officials in uniform all the way down to the circular space, i.e. the “Panagia Square” at the 27

The icon is transferred in this canopy four times during the year: on the anniversary of the Finding of the Holy Icon, 30 January; 25 March: the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary; 23 July: the anniversary of the Vision of Agia Pelagia; 15 August: the Dormition of the Virgin Mary.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


harbour. So we see that the ecclesiastical part of the procession intermingles with the political, since prominent persons march ahead, next to and after the icon.

Figure 7. The holy icon of the Annunciation is carried in procession and passed over the waiting pilgrims, Tinos, 25 March 2013.

Carried in procession, the icon is passed over the sick and over women wanting to conceive. Before the service is finished, a long queue of pilgrims forms in the middle of the upper part of the main street waiting for the icon to pass, and as the icon is carried down the street the pilgrims stand bent in its path to ensure that the icon passes over them (Fig. 7). It is important to touch and kiss the icon. Many pilgrims have plastic bags filled with bottles of holy water or holy oil from the church with which they touch the icon when bending so the icon can pass over them. When arriving at the “Panagia Square”, the school children and youths who lead the first part of the procession, walk around the circle, and line up on its right side.28 The choirboys stand around the steps leading up to 28 The platform (cf. supra) is in the shape of a circle, and I always think of it as “the circle”. It was dedicated to the church Euangelistrias, by the Leǀnida Gaphou


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the circle. Many dignitaries in uniform stand outside and next to the circle, which is entered by the most prominent participants: those who carry the icon, the bishop and other priests, the mayor, and president of the church administration. In 2012, the bishop held some yellow spring flowers. An assortment of similar flowers lay behind the icon. The bishop blesses the three elements: the air, water and earth. One can notice that the bishop is wearing a robe to which is attached a rectangular shaped cloth decorated with an embroidered illustration of the Annunciation. He finishes his speech, in which he has included all the problems Greece encounters today, as in all his speeches, with “long live Greece, the Greeks and long live 1821”. Then, all the people present, led by the bishop, sing the national anthem—a cappella. During the singing in 2013, Eleutheria and a friend stayed in front of the circle, holding the Greek flag raised between them. Eleutheria had also opened up one of her school books, so everyone could see a picture of the former national heroes. But, after the hymn, she corrected the bishop by saying that it would be better to invoke Agios Nektarios than General MakrygiannƝs. Nevertheless, this event illustrates very clearly the intermingling of political nationalism and Orthodox religion in the Greek context. When returning to the church many people pass under the icon individually, and since this is a smaller event, i.e. there are fewer participants, than the 15 August celebration, all participants are welcome. Both on the way down and on the way up, many housewives stand in the road outside of their houses carrying their censers. As the holy icon approaches and passes before her house, each woman, in turn, throws a handful of incense onto the embers in her censer, and the bishop, to reward her for having assisted the holy icon to be carried through scented air, pauses to say a prayer for her. When the children, youths and marching band arrive at the church, they line up along the red carpet outside of the main entrance of the sanctuary to greet the icon when it arrives. Thus, when the choirboys, priests and the icon arrive along with the prominent persons, they enjoy a welcome akin to a guard of honour. When arriving at the main entrance to the church proper at the top of the stairs, the eight carriers put down the “movable sanctuary” on the same spot from where it started the procession. Now they take off their hats, and line up one by one to perform their proskynƝma in front of the miraculous icon. When all have kissed the icon, the bishop lifts it up. In 2012, he handed it over to the president of brothers in 1927, according to the inscribed plate hanging on its “outside” part or wall, i.e. towards the harbour.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


the sanctuary’s office for a little while, to everybody’s great pleasure. Then he carries it into the church and reinstates it in its customary place in the usual ceremonial way and the pilgrims immediately line up to perform their proskynƝma while the chanters start to sing. At the “Panagia Square”, outside of the circle, many small children, now start to dance traditional folk dances, led by their dancing teacher, one of the chanters. Many pilgrims leave the sanctuary with their suitcases and bags to take the next ferries back to Raphina and Piraeus, respectively. Many others stay and go to the various restaurants to eat fish since few restaurants serve meat because of the Great Lent. In the evening, at 7:30 pm, the marching band makes its way around the town as they did twelve hours earlier. Most of the visiting pilgrims leave in the afternoon when the procession has finished, but some people stay until the next day and leave after attending the morning service in the church. When visiting the Church of the Annunciation on 26 March 2013 the icon depicting the next saints to be celebrated, Agia Matrǀna and Agia Lydia had by then been put into the lectern next to the icon depicting the Dormition of the Panagia. The two female saints were to be celebrated on 27 March. Eleutheria’s flag, the only remnant of her altar the previous afternoon, had been removed from the air conditioner in the gallery, and no one would imagine that a very special altar had been displayed there only two days earlier.

The Monastery of Kekhrovouno and Agia Pelagia During the ritual year on Tinos, the next important festival is dedicated to one of the most recent Orthodox saints, the aforementioned Agia Pelagia. “Her Vision” is celebrated on 23 July. During the festival the ritual connection between the Monastery of Kekhrovouno, where she lived, and the Church of the Annunciation in Tinos town, is marked by way of a procession with the miraculous icon. This means that the Monastery of Kekhrovouno is central to this festival, and before I present the festival in detail, it is important to make some introductory remarks about the monastery. The English version of the free pamphlet distributed by the Monastery of Kekhrovouno, “The Holy Monastery of Kekhrovouno on the Cycladic Island of Tinos: The humble cell which sheltered the Joy of the Angels”, is written by Gerontissa Iouliani, The Mother Superior of the Holy Kechrovouni Monastery and Mr. Dimitri Sofianos, professor emeritus of Byzantine Studies at the Ionian University, and provides the official


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account of the monastery.29 The section “Our Monastery” offers a general description, including information about the entrance and the marble belfry or bell tower, found opposite. At its base is the “Icon of the Panagia of the Angels”. We also learn that the Katholikon (body of the church, nave and aisles) of the monastery is dedicated to the “Dormition of the Panagia”. It was renovated in 1774. Within the monastery, several small churches are also found. They are dedicated to Agios IǀannƝs o Prodromos (John the Baptist, i.e. “IǀannƝs who came before Christ”); The Holy Trinity; the angels of Taxiarchon (i.e. the Archangels, Michael and Gabriel); Agia Christina, and the Shrine of the Life-Giving Spring or Katogiotissa, respectively. The chapel of Agia Pelagia is a recent construction, dating from 1972, and in this church rests her skull the monastery’s most precious treasure. Next to the chapel is the small and humble cell in which the nun lived. Loukia Negreponti was born around 1752 in the village of Kambos on Tinos. Her father, a priest, died when she was twelve years old. Three years later, she came to the ancient Monastery of the Panagia of the Angels, where she lived for the rest of her life. When Loukia became a nun, she took the name Pelagia. In the passage, “The Life of the Venerable Pelagia”, the pamphlet from the Monastery of Kekhrovouno tells us that on 28 April 1834 the nuns of the monastery accompanied their beloved sister Pelagia to her final resting place. Upon disinterment, her remains were moved for reasons of safekeeping and devoutness, to the space behind the Holy Altar Table in the chapel of Agios IǀannƝs o Prodromos, where they rested until 8 October 1949, when the Holy Skull of Agia Pelagia was found. This finding is celebrated in an annual festival at the monastery, which starts on the eve of the feast, i.e. on 7 October. By act of the Patriarchal Synod of 11 September 1970, Pelagia was placed among the Saints of the Orthodox faith, and 23 July was designated as the day on which to celebrate her memory, the Day of the Holy Vision. The Agiologion (i.e. “calendar of saints”) from 2011,30 found in the monastery’s shop, confirms this information saying that she was sanctified in 1970, and 23 July is celebrated in her honour, i.e. the day she received the vision saying that the icon was to be found in the field of Antonios Doxaras on Tinos. 29

The Introduction is written by Gerontissa Iouliani, while Prof. Emeritus Sofianos has written the passages, “First Evidence of the Existence of the Monastery” and “How and Why the Monastery was Re-Declared ‘Stavropigiako’”. 30 It is worth mentioning that according to the same Agiologion 2011, another Pelagias Osias is celebrated on 8 October. One may wonder if it is a coincidence that the head was found on this day.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


Strictly speaking, Pelagia is not an Agia, i.e. saint, but Osia, i.e. venerable, blessed, though the term also means saint. Her official name is Pelagias os. (i.e. Osias) en TƝnos, thus distinguishing her from another Agia Pelagia within the Orthodox church from whom she took her name, and who is celebrated on 4 May. One of my male informants from Tinos, a chanter in the Church of the Annunciation, stresses that the Tinos Pelagia is not an Agia (saint) such as, for example, Agios Nikolaos, because she has not provoked miracles. According to one of my other informants, a young scholar who has been visiting the island since childhood, there are two kinds of saint or rather two levels, i.e. Agia/Agios and Osia/Osios, for ceremonial reasons. She further explains that Osia/Osios is the designation of a person who has participated in something of religious importance, but has never provoked a miracle. The difference is also seen in the liturgy: the liturgy performed for an Osia/Osios is much shorter than the liturgy performed for an Agia/Agios.31 They both emphasise that Pelagia is an Osia, which means that she is “further down” the hierarchical structure of saints. This might also be the reason that she is not found on all lists of saints in Greece, for example on one found on the internet.32 The nuns I have spoken with in the monastery where she lived, however, regard her as Agia, as do most ordinary people on the island, particularly the women, local scholars included, and pilgrims coming from Athens. Furthermore, some of her icons, as well as sayings during the liturgies in the two churches on the island, the one dedicated to the Annunciation and her own, refer to her as Agia. That means that priests, such as the one from Syros who had a leading role during the celebration in 2012 also refer to her as Agia. During his speech in the Church of the Annunciation on 22 July, for example, the priest from Syros did not refer to her as Osia at all, but Agia, as I also do in this study. However, I will refer to her as Osia Pelagia when citing the programme or other official documents that refer to her as Osia. Also, according to a non-local priest who was consulted by the aforementioned young scholar, there is no difference between the Saint and the Holy or the Agia and the Osia. Holy or Osia is a kind of Saint or Agia, i.e. there are several kinds of saints: archangels, angels, prophets, apostles, hierarchs, martyrs, holy persons, ancestors of God (Joachim and Anna who gave birth to the Virgin Mary). All of these are saints. According to the official account given by the Monastery of Kekhrovouno in the pamphlet, no one knows exactly when the monastery was built. Tradition has it that for several nights in a row, three respectful sisters 31 32

See however infra for a comment. Cf. http://orthodoxwiki.org/Category:Greek_Saints (accessed 12.05.14).


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from the village of Tripotamos, saw a strange light embrace the summit of the mountain Kekhrovouno exactly where three parish churches, the Holy Trinity, Agios IǀannƝs o Prodromos and the Angels of Taxiarchon are found. They connected it to their common dream in which an impressive woman urged them to go over to Kekhrovouno and dedicate themselves to God. They started to build their cells and the Monastery of the Panagia of the Angels a little bit further down from the arid Kekhrovouno, in the environment of Vani, but the Panagia had chosen her own place for Her Monastery. The labourers began their activities in Vani, but every morning they found their previous day’s work destroyed and their tools moved to Kekhrovouno, so in the end the monastery was built here, as the Panagia demanded. From this legendary account, the same pamphlet, in the passage about the “First Evidence of the Existence of the Monastery”, says that the first historical reference to the existence of the monastery is found in manuscripts from the beginning of the seventeenth century. This is the Greek translation of an original undated Italian document, which takes the form of a plea to the governor of Tinos, Michail, by the active Western Bishop of Tinos, George 1st Perpiniani. The document which dates to around 1614, informs us about the judicial power exercised by the Western Bishop over the Orthodox clergy and monks, who also appointed the Mother Superior and Purser of the women’s Orthodox Monastery as well as its Supervisor. According to Professor Sofianos, who has written the passage, the founding, running and organisation of the monastery must be placed sometime in the eleventh or twelfth century. In the next passage, “How and Why The Monastery was Re-Declared ‘Stavropigiako’”, also written by Sofianos, we learn that the monastery was re-declared and became “Stavropigiako” in 1749, which means that from then on, neither the local Bishop of Tinos nor any other ecclesiastic or political figures would have any power over the monastery. In 1755, a new patriarchal document was released in favour of the Monastery of the Immaculate Panagia of Tinos, “named Panagia of the Angels”, thereby using (and preserving for posterity) the old name of the Monastery of the Dormition of the Panagia of Tinos. Before the recent restoration work of parts of the monastery, the document used to be found in the monastery’s library, or “museum”, which is only open once a year, i.e. during the celebration on 23 July. The same museum also houses a particularly precious icon from the seventeenth century, paintings, old books, such as the first publication on the “Finding” (Eureseǀs) (of the icon) from 1833— ten years after its finding—and a picture illustrating Doxaras’ field where the icon was found, from the 1850s, as well as amulets from places like Bethlehem, Kǀnstantinople (i.e. modern Istanbul) and Sinai, and various

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


gifts from pilgrims, particularly shells.33 Today after the renovation, the patriarchal historical document from 1755 hangs framed and glazed on the wall in the Mother Superior’s official building for representation, situated next to the bell tower and above the chapel dedicated to the Life-Giving Spring. The building also contains other valuables, particularly a split (part) of Christ’s cross, bones of various saints both Greek and foreign, and pictures of donators hanging on the walls. Today only thirty nuns live in the monastery; but according to one, there were ninty-five when she entered the monastery some seventy years ago, while there were 150 in Pelagia’s time.34 In 1903, the monastery had 120 nuns, and, as Gerontissa Mitrodora writes in the last section of the monastery pamphlet, a nun should only speak seven words a day, which is very reminiscent of both Paul and ancient pre-Christian sources written by men. The final paragraph also tells us that for the nuns the “memory of death” was constant in their lives. Some would frequently take out their shrouds (the robe and the clothes worn for their tonsure), to wash, dry and prepare them, as if they were to wear them the next day. They approached death peacefully and serenely. One of their occupations is to make amulets, which are sold in the monastery’s shop. The amulets contain cotton which has been in contact with the holy skull, dried flowers from the Epitaphios (funeral) of Christ, and earth from the hole where the miraculous icon was found. It is interesting to note that, according to believers, the cotton, which has come in contact with the holy skull, has thereby obtained some of its sweet smell, an important sign of its sanctity, although a non-believer might claim that the smell derives simply from the lemon-sprinkled cotton with which the nun wipes off the glass top above the skull. Moreover, by making amulets from items that have touched the holy skull of Pelagia,

33 There is also an old fire place and basin like the one in Pelagia’s cell, see infra. When visiting the monastery in 2013, I was welcomed more than usual since the renovation had been partly paid for by Norwegian funding, and I was guided around the library by a nun. When I enquired why the pilgrims give shells, the answer given was that they “don’t ask why the givers give these particular gifts, they are from the heart, and do not necessarily follow a north-western European logic”. Cf. Wikan 2012 for “feel-thinking”. Still, I wonder if the shells illustrate that all pilgrims come by boat. 34 I got this information in 2011. Two years later, the Mother Superior told me that there were between 25 and 30 nuns.


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people believe that these amulets can provoke miracles through her intercession.35

Agia Pelagia’s Vision, 23 July I visited the festival dedicated to Agia Pelagia’s Vision four times in the period 2005-2013, and the following description will be based on these visits. During my second visit to the festival in 2011, nearly all hotels were full during the weekend the festival took place because, although this is a local festival on a much smaller scale than the Dormition, many pilgrims attend, particularly middle-aged women. From the place I stayed, I had the opportunity to see them coming from the harbour, particularly on 21 July, with even more the following day, and booking into the bigger hotel next door. Out of ten persons, eight were women, mainly in their fifties or older. The following years, in 2012 and 2013, the situation had changed completely due to the crisis. Although many pilgrims still arrived for the festival there were fewer than usual, and the hotel was only half booked. Moreover, the ferries changed their schedules during the summers of 2012 and 2013, so pilgrims could arrive in the morning and leave in the evening without needing to spend money on accommodation.36 During the week prior to the festival people, women in particular, were busy cleaning the Church of the Annunciation in Tinos town. In the Monastery of Kekhrovouno the nuns and several helpers in the monastery were busy cleaning and arranging everything before the festival. The Mother Superior did not have much time to answer my questions in 2011 because she had to oversee everything, but I was able to have long conversations with the second most senior nun, and also strolled around talking with some of the other thirty or so nuns living in the monastery as well as with their helpers and two students working in their shop during the days before and after the festival. Paralleling other places in Greece, the nuns have made many of the items they sell in this shop, particularly the beautifully hand-embroidered amulets, and the different woven and knitted items for religious purposes, along with remedies for healing uses made of various herbs and fruits. 35

To be clear, amulets do not help the saint produce miracles; rather, it is the other way around: the contact with her skull renders the amulets holy, by way of sympathetic magic, cf. Ch. 3 infra. 36 It is interesting to note that because of the crisis many ordinary Greek pilgrims spent their nights in sleeping bags in parks, while many gypsies stayed in hotels. In other words, that situation has completely changed since 1990. Then, the gypsies also had money, but were not permitted to enter hotels or restaurants.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


Before the festival an invitation and programme from the Pan-Hellenic Holy Foundation of the Euangelistria, TƝnos is distributed, as is the custom during all the major festivals on the island. On the front page, Ɯ Osia Pelagia Ɲ TƝnia holding the icon of the Annunciation hovers above an aerial photo of the Holy Monastery of Kekhrovouno. In the 2011 invitation and programme, the receiver is invited to participate (i.e. “come and pray together”) in the festival dedicated to the Vision of the Holy Pelagia on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 July 2011, when celebrating its 189th anniversary, the 59th annual celebration after its establishment and the 39th anniversary of Osia Pelagia’s inclusion in the orthodox calendar of saints (i.e. hagiology). It is signed by the administrative committee of the Holy Foundation of the Euangelistria, TƝnos, its president, i.e. the metropolitan bishop of Tinos and Syros, the vice-president, secretary, and members. On the next page follows the programme for the 189th anniversary of the Vision of the Holy Pelagia.37 With one exception, i.e. an explicit announcement of the lunch of the abbess, presumably due to the financial crisis, the programme is similar to that issued in 2005. The 2012-2013 programmes are the same as the 2011 programme. On the eve of the festival, the celebration starts at 8 pm, when a great festive Archieratic Vespers is celebrated in the Holy Church of the Annunciation. The liturgy is led by His Eminence the Metropolitan Bishop of Tinos and Syros, who is assisted by other bishops. Along with the mayor and other leading officials, officers from the Hellenic Coast Guard are also present, particularly so in 2013. The Church of the Annunciation is crowded by the islanders, and all those coming home to Tinos for their summer holidays, as well as the aforementioned “weekend pilgrims”, especially in 2011 and 2012, since the effects of the economic crisis meant people did not stay as long as they usually would have done, and because the festival in 2011 fell on a Friday and Saturday, and on a Sunday and Monday in 2012. Most people also came for a two-day visit the following year. In the church hymns and prayers are dedicated to Pelagia. The icon of Pelagia is decorated with flowers and three burning candles,38 and plays a main role during the liturgy, together with the 37

I would like to thank Elephteria Aphedaki for discussing the translation of the programme for the festival in 2011. In that connection it is interesting to note that her translation does not mention Osia, since her rendering refers to the Holy Pelagia. 38 I.e. in 2005 and 2013. The candles were omitted in 2011 and 2012, when the icon of Pelagia was not carried towards the miraculous icon during the ceremonial procession, but remained in front of the iconostasis, in front of the main entrance and in the hands of the carrying priest. Also, in 2012, the miraculous icon was


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miraculous icon: during the second part of the liturgy, and after the ceremonial lighting of the candles on the breads in front of the iconostasis, several priests emerge from the hieron through the left door of the iconostasis, one of them carrying Pelagia’s icon. The icon is carried in a ceremonial procession to the miraculous icon, which has been censed before this part of the ceremony starts. Pelagia’s icon is then carried around in the church, and while standing in front of the iconostasis, the priests pay homage to her icon: all the priests kiss the icon of Pelagia, one by one, the most prominent priest being the first to perform this ritual kissing. At the end of the liturgy, before returning behind the iconostasis, the priest bearing the icon stands in the door lifting it up for a long time so everyone can see it clearly. Then the icon is carried back behind the iconostasis via the main entrance and around the holy table by the same priests walking in procession while they continue to sing invocations along with the cantors. During the liturgy, many pilgrims also line up to perform their proskynƝma in front of the miraculous icon, holding their votive gifts. In 2005, I observed a woman who had brought a purse full of jewellery, which she put into the brown “votive box” next to the icon. Here, people also put money and hair, although the church does not encourage the latter offering nowadays. As usual, several pilgrims bring with them icons and bread, which they cross three times over the miraculous icon. Some of them let the church attendant standing next to the icon perform this task, but most pilgrims carry out this ritual themselves, since the objects are also considered to have been transformed into curative amulets during the ritual, having absorbed holiness from the icon. In 2011, I observed some of the younger nuns in the church during the liturgy, although I was told by one of the older nuns, that they would be having a separate liturgy (vespers) in the church dedicated to Pelagia in the monastery that evening, while the morning Mass would be celebrated in the church dedicated to Taxiarchon. As previously mentioned, Pelagia also has a chapel dedicated to her below the main church. Her icon is normally situated in front of the stones from earlier sanctuaries that were removed when the miraculous icon was unearthed. On the eve of the festival, however, the lectern on which her icon is found is decorated and moved out from its usual place and placed just inside the entrance to her chapel in front of an icon depicting Agia censed while the icon of Pelagia remained in front of the iconostasis, while the whole church was censed the first time the priests entered the body of the church from the left door of the iconostasis (two of them incensing in two directions, meeting in front of the iconostasis); they brought with them Pelagia’s icon the second time they emerged from the hieron.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


Loukia39 and Agios Basileos, and opposite the wooden counter into which people drop money before they pick up candles. All the icons depicting Pelagia are decorated with flowers. Several of the pilgrims also take some of these flowers as amulets. In 2011, pilgrims had left some black pilgrimage clothes (i.e. penitential robes), as dedications on the stones, i.e. the ruins of the Byzantine Church in her chapel, although this is more common during the 15 August celebration. The Church of the Annunciation wanted to have her bones when they were disinterred three years after her death (as is general practice within the Orthodox Church); however, as already mentioned, her relics, i.e. consisting mostly of her skull, remain in the Monastery of Kekhrovouno, where she had her visions in 1822.40 In the chapel dedicated to the “Life-Giving Spring”, which is situated next to Pelagia’s chapel, a man received a powerful amulet during the liturgy in 2011: one of the women working in the church took some cotton wool that she crossed several times over the icon depicting the Christ Child in his mother’s arm on the iconostasis. Then, she dipped the cotton in the holy oil in the “ever-burning” lamp hanging in front of the icon. In front of the hole where the miraculous icon was found, several pilgrims stand writing “letters” or supplication papers, (chartia) paraklƝseis, to be blessed as usual. During the formal liturgy several women stand in one of the open doors in the upper church holding burning candles. In his final speech in 2012, at the celebration of the 190th anniversary of the Vision of the Holy Pelagia, the bishop of Tinos and Syros also stated, among other things, that the Panagia is the mother of all Greeks and also their stratƝgos, their commander-in-chief. His most dignified visiting colleague, who had a main role during the ceremony, occupied the normal place of the bishop. The visiting priest also gave a long speech, in which he talked about Agia Pelagia, sometimes referring to her simply as Pelagia. According to him, the Panagia has a special relationship with the Tinotes, since she visited Pelagia and announced that she should find the icon. In 2012, the service terminated at 10 pm, half an hour earlier than the previous year, when the bells chimes and people fetch bread. Although one may claim that this is not as long as a service or liturgy on an ordinary saint’s day, lasting only two hours, it is worth mentioning that the duration of the liturgy is the 39 In other words both her original name, Loukia, and her name as a nun, Pelagia, were taken from other saints, which is also the normal procedure in Greece. Agia Loukia is celebrated on 6 July, and is referred to as Parthenomartyras (i.e. virgin martyr). 40 KardamitsƝ 1992; Lagourou 2004; Karita n.d. According to Dubisch 1995: 276n.22 the latter description is fictionalised, although I do not think that makes it irrelevant.


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same as the one in the church of Agia ParaskeuƝ on the eve of her feast day some days later. Early the next morning, on 23 July, a Holy Mass or liturgy is performed in the Church of the Annunciation at 6 am, followed by general bell ringing from all the churches in Tinos town at 7 am. When the onehour ceremony terminates, all the church bells in Tinos town chime to announce the miraculous icon leaving its home, i.e. the church. Headed by the church musicians, the holy icon of MegalocharƝs is carried in a solemn festive procession from the church down the main street of the town, leǀphoros MegalocharƝs, all along the harbour road to the “Liberty Square” at the end, from where it is carried by taxi, i.e. “in procession by car”, to the Holy Monastery of Kekhrovouno, dedicated to the “Dormition of the Panagia”, where it further remains all day. During the official procession through Tinos town, the icon is accompanied by all the priests, some of the nuns from the monastery, and islanders, the latter thereafter entering their own cars and buses. In 2005, it was specified that the abbess was participating in this annual “tour”.41 In 2011 and in subsequent years, when the icon arrived at the monastery, all the nuns lined up in front of the monastery greeting its arrival also by scattering flower buds on it. All day, the buses travel incessantly between Tinos town and the monastery. Here, a holy liturgy is performed at 9 am in the church dedicated to Osia Pelagia in which, according to the programme, “Her Charming head” is central. The archieratic liturgy is co-officiated by His Eminence the Metropolitan Bishop of Tinos and Syros and other bishops, and ends two hours later with a reception. As noted above, today Pelagia’s holy skull is on display in her church next to her cell. It rests in a marble lectern dating from 1973. During the festival, the miraculous icon is placed next to Pelagia’s head on a white carpet with red, green and gold embroidery. On the other side, i.e. to the right, is a golden icon depicting the Annunciation on its upper part and Agia Pelagia and the Church of the Annunciation beneath. Another flower-decorated icon hangs on the right wall of the church. According to its name plate, it illustrates Ɯ Agia Pelagia Ɯ en TƝnǀ holding a cross and standing in front of the church, which, according to the aforementioned tradition, she was ordered to build. It was dedicated by a family in Thessaloniki in 1972, Nik. I. GerbasƝ, and as its nameplate illustrates, Pelagia is not necessarily regarded as Osia by all the faithful, but rather as Agia. During the ceremony, the pilgrims line up on the steps of the church dedicated to Pelagia, waiting for 41

Cf. the procession with hiera (i.e. hagia) “the holy objects”, between Eleusis and Athens in ancient Greece, in which the priestess of Demeter participated, see Håland 2007a: Ch. 5; Mylonas 1961: 84.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


their turn to enter the main chapel. At the entrance, they drop some money in a carved wooden counter with a slot, pick up candles to light, and line up to perform their proskynƝma particularly in front of the miraculous icon, the most important devotion being to kiss the icon itself. Next, they proceed to perform their proskynƝma in front of Pelagia’s holy head, which they also kiss (Fig. 8).

Figure 8. People venerating Agia Pelagia’s head in her church, Monastery of Kekhrovouno, Tinos, 23 July 2011.

Afterwards, some leave the main church and enter a chapel on its right side, where they light their candles and proceed to one of the women working in the church who, following their dictations, writes the usual “letters,” (chartia) paraklƝseis, on which she inscribes names of the ill to be blessed by the priest at the end of the liturgy. Next to the woman writing letters is another flower-decorated icon depicting Pelagia. At 11 am people receive the Holy Communion (Eucharist), wine followed by wrapped antidǀro (i.e. blessed bread), distributed from the priest standing


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in the entrance of the iconostasis. The usual big baskets with antidǀro are also brought outside of the church. At the end of the liturgy in 2011, the male priests asked the abbess to come forth and join them, although most of the male priests had left the main church by then, the Eucharist having already been distributed. All through the ceremony, singing nuns take the place of the male chorus. They stand opposite the miraculous icon and the head of Pelagia, next to the door leading out to the chapel in which people light their candles; several chairs in this part of the church, that is to say, across from the usual part reserved for women, are marked with signs indicating that they are reserved for nuns. In 2011 at one of the microphones, two of the nuns were joined by a non-ecclesiastic, a woman from Bali, who works in the monastery and is married to a Greek man. Several women were also singing. At the end of the ceremony, the bishop performs a general speech, and as in all his general speeches during 2011-2013 celebrations, the economic crisis formed an important theme. I observed that one of the younger nuns eagerly took pictures of the event during all the celebrations, thus paralleling the priests and male church attendants in the Church of the Annunciation as well as visiting priests. In 2013, just after the morning liturgy, I observed that the marble vase on the wall next to Agia Pelagia’s skull was filled with (chartia) paraklƝseis, some of which were the official supplication papers headed with the sign of the Church of the Annunciation followed by the heading holy liturgy (theia leitourgia). Below this the place and date are marked, followed by two columns: the left column consists of the names of living to be blessed (yper ygeias, i.e. for/to the health of); and the names of the dead people to be blessed (yper anapauseǀs, i.e. to rest in peace) have been written in the right column. Other papers were marked with a cross indicating that those so marked were deceased:42 after writing the names, the papers are passed or crossed three times over the miraculous icon and thereafter over the holy head, and finally put into the marble vase to be blessed by the officiating priest. In 2005, a lunch was “served by the abbess” to all the participants at 1 pm, with the most significant visitors receiving the most elaborate meals. The latter, i.e. the dignitaries, the police and other important people sat around long tables in the library situated in one of the houses in the upper part of the monastery. They were served a hot meal, consisting of meat and vegetables, which had been ordered from the biggest catering house on the island, Mesklies. Several of the waiters from Mesklies, the owner 42

See also Ch. 5 infra for psychochartia (lists of names for commemoration during the service).

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


included, ran up and down from their two buses in the car park, carrying big plates filled with meat, etc. to serve the most important visitors. Most people, however, were queuing up to receive their more simple lunch packs, which were distributed by several women over a kind of counter in one of the houses further down in the monastery: small plastic boxes containing some small tomatoes, a bread roll, some cheese, and a meat filled pita. Those who had obtained their share were busy finding a space to sit down and enjoy their lunch. Some sat on the steps, others in the shade, while others still joined their relatives or friends in their apartments or cells, i.e. wherein the nuns who live permanently in the monastery reside. Many people also lay straight down wherever they found a space, preferably in a shady spot, in order to have a nap after finishing their lunches. While walking round talking with the pilgrims, it seemed like a nice summer picnic was taking place. Whereas most of the ordinary people had finished their lunches and taken their nap or walk around in the monastery, many guests, and particularly the most prominent, were still being served as late as 3 pm. When visiting the monastery in the days before the festival in 2011, I asked about the lunch since it was not explicitly included in the programme, although as in subsequent years, it did announce that a reception (ȂonastƝriakƝ DoxƝ, i.e. “a welcome or hospitality that the monastery offers to all pilgrims”) would take place at 11 am. During my encounters with the people in the monastery, I was told that due to the financial crisis, the traditional lunch would not be served. On the other hand, the reception organised by the nuns of the monastery, who traditionally welcome the pilgrims and offer them food, coffee or drinks after the liturgy, did take place in 2011 as indicated in the programme by the aforementioned ȂonastƝriakƝ DoxƝ, although on a much smaller scale. As soon as the ceremony finished, the priests and more significant visitors were served in one of the houses next to the church in which they have a big “saloni”, or reception room. I was not allowed to take a picture of the event by a woman who seemed to be charged with watching who was entering; she was also directing ordinary people to a house further down. There, some women distributed a more simple meal from an open window. The meal consisted of a small cup of coffee, a cake and a sweet. The women distributing the food were eager to stress that the simple nature of the fare was due to the recent crisis. When asking some of the helpers in the monastery and various local Tinotes about the lunch, some days after the festival in 2011, I learnt that the simpler food on offer also owed to the fact that the sumptuous lunches from former years, such as in 2005, which catered for up to 100 people, had been heavily criticised.


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When I asked who had received the special treatment, I learnt that these were people who had been active in the preparations of the festival in the monastery and were tired after their work, but it seemed the group also included priests and other dignitaries. In 2012, the lunch appeared at first sight to be even sparer, but after the ceremony ended at 11:30 am, a male helper went around distributing almond cakes from a plastic bag. Next to the church dedicated to Agios IǀannƝs o Prodromos four women stood behind a table, one handed out plastic cups, the next poured coffee and the two others distributed sweets. One of them also took a tray and went around distributing the sweets. Further up, tables were laid out inside two of the houses, i.e. in the “salonia”. People from Exǀ-catering (formerly Mesklies) were busy carrying the food from the cars and arranging the meal for the approximately 100-150 people who would be served, i.e. priests and police, according to one of the cooks. Around 12:40 am, two women started to distribute lunch boxes from a house next to the church of Agios IǀannƝs o Prodromos. They said they had five hundred boxes.

Figure 9. Women eager to receive their lunch boxes, Monastery of Kekhrovouno, Tinos, 23 July 2012.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


These lunch boxes, coming from “Halaris Patisserie from 1923”, each contained a bread roll, cheese, a mini pizza, etc. and were similar to those distributed during the festival in 2005. Although the female pilgrims were eager to fetch lunch boxes, often requesting more than one per person (Fig. 9), by the end, the two women still had some left. I suggested to them that they had started too late: many did not expect more than a symbolic lunch that year and went back to the town to have lunch; others complained that there were far fewer present compared to earlier years.43 This is also illustrated by the fact that although most hotels were packed in 2011, several rooms were empty in 2012 and 2013. During and after the lunch, others sat down and started to tell stories, as usual. On learning about the topic of my research in 2012, Anna and Joseph from Athens started to tell me about interesting churches on Crete and Tripolis that I should visit. A Romanian pilgrim however, recommended that I visit the church dedicated to Agia ParaskeuƝ next to the MƝtropolis in Omonia square in Athens, “because the saint will listen to you, if you perform your proskynƝma in front of her relic and tell your story”. Most people stay in the monastery all day, taking the opportunity to visit the cell of Agia Pelagia, to see her humble belongings and her ascetic bed on which two white towels were placed in 2013 paralleling the white towel placed there in 2005. In 1990, when I first visited her cell, the three “rooms” were open to all visitors. This was also the rule later in the 1990s and again in 2012-2013. But in 2011 people were not allowed to enter her sleeping place, only to glimpse at it from behind a barrier. A nun was on guard to ensure people did not go in. Three years after Pelagia’s death, when she was disinterred, the nuns hid her remains since they did not want them to be buried outside the monastery. Later, her head was found buried in a chapel dedicated to John the Baptist. One of my informants, a Greek woman living in Canada, told the story about the nuns hiding Pelagia’s remains, when the Church of the Annunciation wanted her bones. Her version is different from the official one promulgated by the church, although it is more in line with the aforementioned pamphlet from the Monastery of Kekhrovouno, than the one recounted by J. Dubisch, who writes that Pelagia’s bones were found and are now in her church.44 The iconostasis of the church dedicated to John the Baptist contains three altars 43

In 2013 the same meal was distributed from a door on the ground floor in the newly restored building next to the bell tower. The women who served the meal (consisting of a cup of coffee, a cake and a sweet, as in previous years) told me that: “this is breakfast and a sandwich will be served at lunch at one o’ clock”. The prominent guests were served as usual. 44 Dubisch 1995: 152 f.


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that look like three different niches, but the women specify that they are three different altars or rather chapels, and that the middle chapel is the one where Pelagia’s skull was discovered. My Greek-Canadian informant was eager to specify that this is not one but three chapels although the church is dedicated to John the Baptist, as is one of the altars, and went on to explain that the nuns hid the remains behind the altar in the middle chapel, in which there is a painting of the Panagia and Child. When the church was renovated, they found Pelagia’s skull, but no one knows where the rest of her remains are. In 2011, however, she said that she thinks the rest of Pelagia’s remains are in the monastery cemetery. There are different explanations as to why Pelagia’s remains were hidden by the nuns when she was exhumed. When I asked the students working in the shop, they did not know anything about the rest of her remains. “The nuns wanted to have her in the monastery for blessing.45 Therefore, they hid her bones behind the holy table. Later, the head was found when they wanted to renovate the floor, i.e. the workers found her head.” They regard it as a holy sign, a miracle. So, although other Tinotes may claim that Pelagia is not a saint, i.e. Agia, since she has not provoked miracles, we can see that there are different views on this topic. In 2005 after lunch, several women performed their own liturgy in the church of John the Baptist: they joined in with the singing of hymns to Pelagia in front of the altar where her skull was found. My nonparticipating female informant told me that this is not usual, while others say it is. I find this ritual interesting since the point seems to be that they do not follow the rule of the official male-dominated church. Their ritual parallels the women’s own liturgy in the Church of the Annunciation, when the formal liturgy has finished at the Dormition and Annunciation festivals,46 and also mirrors their continued singing when the male priests have left the church of Pelagia. My informant further related that the little bowl filled with oil with a burning candle floating in its midst in front of the altar, is to be poured into the “ever-burning” lamp. A packet with incense and cotton is also found next to the dish.47 Some of the priests, those who have finished their meal, take a taxi to Tinos town to spend a few hours there in the afternoon instead of staying in the monastery. Some other people do the same. In 2005, the situation at the bus station in Tinos at 5 pm was chaotic. Although many had stayed in 45 I also learnt that the relation between the monastery and the Church of the Annunciation is good, and that the “controversies” about the bones of Pelagia was a misunderstanding. See also Ch. 6 infra for Pelagia’s bones. 46 Håland 2007a, 2012a for the Dormition festival. 47 Cf. Megas 1992: 157; Håland 2007a: Ch. 4. See also Ch. 3 infra.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


the monastery all day, as is customary, it seemed that “everybody” was on their way back up to the monastery, to attend the afternoon liturgy and the following procession. The grandmothers, i.e. older women, were the most eager to barge their way onto the bus and in their fight to enter first, all conventional rules about queuing up were forgotten. Some people became desperate and started taking taxis to get to the monastery in time. I managed to get on a bus, and arrived at the monastery at 5:30 pm. In 2011 and the ensuing years however, the buses ran continually as soon as they were filled, and transport arrangement seemed to be more organised, particularly in later years because there were not as many people present. The vespers in the sanctuary of the Holy Pelagia, next to her cell, starts at 6 pm. Before it starts however, some women seem to perform their own liturgy in this church as well, when several women, holding prayer books, sing hymns (paraklƝsƝs, i.e. supplications) to the Panagia in front of Pelagia’s skull and the miraculous holy icon. According to my informants from the monastery though, these hymns are not in opposition to the church. My other aforementioned informants’ words about the shorter liturgy performed for an Osia came to mind,48 since it seemed that her liturgy became longer through the women’s own liturgies, which we find on several occasions. All day the pilgrims line up on the steps at the church dedicated to Pelagia, waiting their turn to enter the main chapel to perform their proskynƝma in front of the miraculous icon and the holy skull. During the liturgy, the queue lengthens from the entrance to the monastery, through the narrow streets and the staircase leading up to the church with incoming pilgrims waiting to perform their proskynƝma in front of the miraculous icon and Pelagia’s head. At the bottom of the upper staircase, as well as at all other entrances to the church, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides holding large canes guarded the entries, letting pilgrims into the church in small groups in 2005. Some of the pilgrims preferred to visit Pelagia’s cell before they entered the church, more so in later years. The female leader of the young Scouts and Guides organised her troops, constantly giving directions. They did not participate in 2011-2013, and the queue was self-regulating as is generally the case in the Church of the Annunciation. Inside the church, a nun49 stands next to the miraculous icon and wipes it with cotton wool sprinkled with lemon water when the pilgrims have 48

See supra for discussion. During the day, the nuns are replaced by some of the men working in the Church of the Annunciation and a priest who distributes cotton wool to the female pilgrims, which they pass over the glass top above the skull of Pelagia, but in 2012, before the liturgy started, one of the nuns came and replaced the priest. She 49


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paid their devotions and particularly kissed the icon. The pilgrims are impatient to fetch the used cotton along with some buds or branches from the flowers decorating the holy skull of Agia Pelagia. Similar to the flowers decorating her icons in the Church of the Annunciation, both the buds and the cotton are considered to be very powerful amulets; these are put into empty Kleenex wrappers or wrapped in paper hankies and secured in purses, bags or laid on pilgrims’ chests. Other amulets, such as small newly bought icons, written papers or other items are crossed three times over the holy skull, preferably using the same procedure carried out over the miraculous icon, situated next to the skull. Many pilgrims carry out their own quite elaborate rituals in front of the holy icon: one woman brings a piece of paper filled with red carnations to put around the icon, thus adding her own decoration, another crosses her backpack three times over both icon and skull, and a third carries out the same ritual with several towels. The women, who were singing before the liturgy started, proceed to pay devotions in-between. After paying their devotions to the icon and skull, they enter the chapel to light their candles. Then many pilgrims leave the church and proceed to Agia Pelagia’s cell, although many also come back into the church, and carry out the same ritual a second time. So, as in the Church of the Annunciation, it seems that the pilgrims carry out their own ritual while the priests perform the formal liturgy, accompanied by singing nuns who replace the male chorus during this liturgy as well. During the liturgy, many pilgrims, mostly women, also sit in front of the iconostasis and around the church. Around 7 pm, some policemen with revolvers in their belts enter the church and take their post in front of the holy icon. They seem to become more and more impatient, partly because the pilgrims have not finished making their devotions, but also because the liturgy lasts much longer than scheduled. As during the other liturgies in 2011 and in subsequent years, the priest had much to say about the economic crisis in Greece, so all three years the ceremony lasted longer than the scheduled one hour. Finally, one of the priests lifts the holy icon from the lectern or proskynƝtƝrio next to the skull, thus breaking off the never-ending queue of waiting pilgrims. After 7 pm, the clergy and many faithful return the holy icon back to the Church of the Annunciation in Tinos town during a nine-kilometrelong procession. According to the official programme, the holy procession carrying the holy icon of MegalocharƝ “on foot” to Tinos town, takes place between 7 and 9 pm. The procession starts out from the monastery brought with her a packet of cotton wool with which to wipe off the glass top above the skull and the holy icon.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


and goes to the holy church dedicated to Agia ParaskeuƝ on the outskirts of Tinos town, where the arrival of the holy icon is scheduled to take place at 9 pm. There, more people join in while it is reorganised into a solemn festive procession carrying the icon to the Holy Church of the Annunciation after a prayer in the circular Panagia Square next to the harbour. In reality the procession takes more than two hours, and in 2011-2012 the younger clergy were constantly asking people to hurry up. When leaving the monastery the older nuns, who were not participating in the procession, wished us “kalo dromo” (have a nice walk/trip). Only three younger nuns participated in the procession in 2011 and 2012, while several participated in 2005. In the years 2011-2013 however most of the nuns were transported by bus to the church dedicated to Agia ParaskeuƝ. In 2005, when departing from the overcrowded monastery-church dedicated to Agia Pelagia, the icon was carried by one of the priests who handed it over to the abbess outside the church. Then, she carried the icon through the streets of the monastery headed by the marching band. Thus, at the beginning of the procession the icon is carried by the abbess, and in 2005 she was followed by another nun. However, the second carrier shared this duty with a male layperson who also held the icon. Later during the procession, the nuns are required to hand the icon over completely to male priests. It is interesting to note that in 2005 when handing over the icon soon after leaving the monastery, at the parking area for the buses, the abbess was very reluctant to do so and stated several times that they wanted the icon to stay longer in the monastery (“want the icon to stay here for a longer time”). It seemed indeed that she carried the icon longer than she was permitted to, since tradition prescribes that she should hand it over to one of the priests at the square right outside the monastery.50 Unwilling to do this, she grasped the icon with both hands while arguing with the male priests. This can be read as being parallel to their unwillingness to hand over the remains of Pelagia, i.e. both demonstrate a conflict between the female monastery and the male church of the town. This incident from 2005 came back to my mind when talking with one of the nuns before the festival in 2011, and I asked her if they would like to have the icon more up in the monastery. She piously answered that “Panagia must stay in her house”. So, it seems that the relation, at least officially, is calmer now, although I have wondered why most of the nuns do not attend the ceremony in Tinos town on 22 July, but 50 Cf. the relationship between the priestess of Demeter in Eleusis and the male hierophant (i.e. hierophantƝs, displayer of holy things), Håland 2007a: Ch. 5.


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perform their own liturgy in the monastery’s church dedicated to Agia Pelagia. In 2012, the visiting priest from Syros carried the icon down to the entrance of the monastery and then handed it over to the abbess who carried it down to the buses’ parking area (Fig. 10).

Figure 10. The priest hands the icon over to the abbess, Monastery of Kekhrovouno, Tinos, 23 July 2012.

When arriving at the parking area a square a little further down from the monastery, the formal procession through the streets of the monastery to the square is reorganised into an actual procession “on foot”. In the years 2011-2013 most of the nuns got on their bus. Many ecclesiastics also go by car, and in a sort of “vehicle procession”, the first to set out is the car carrying the metropolitan bishop of Tinos and Syros, and in 2012 his aforementioned colleague. The marching band also leave at the square, to rejoin the procession outside of the church dedicated to Agia ParaskeuƝ, along with the nuns and many of the upper male clergy. In the actual procession then, the following people participate: first come pilgrims, then

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


choirboys, carrying the staffs and other symbols, followed by most of the priests, and, of course, the holy icon. The rest of the participants bring up the rear. In general, women wearing trousers are not permitted to enter the monastery, but this rule is relaxed for a few hours during the afternoon vesper since many of the women participating in the procession are duly clothed with comfortable jogging shoes and bottoms.

Figure 11. A priest carries the holy icon inside the Agia ThƝkƝ in procession towards Tinos town, 23 July 2005.

The icon is carried alternately by clergy and male people working in the Church of the Annunciation. When reorganising the procession, the first male carrier puts the icon into what the nuns call the Agia ThƝkƝ (i.e. holy box, case or chest), while other Tinotes call it the ThƝkƝ51, omitting the word Agia. This “box” or “case” acts as a practical tool for the transfer of the icon: in terms of appearance, it is a sort of bag, sack or back frame, 51

An older example is found in one of the museums at the Church of the Annunciation. The box is also used on the festival dedicated to Eureseǀs, i.e. the Finding (of the Holy Icon), when the icon is carried from the main church to the minor church or chapel below and placed at the site where it was found.


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which is carried at the front, i.e. at the chest, instead of at the back (Fig. 11). The box is made of red velvet or velour decorated with golden embroidery and the bearer carries it around his neck, so that the icon hangs inside a frame in front of him. At the lower part of this frame or carrying implement, it seems that a kind of shelf has been made between the icon and this velvet “carrier-frame”: on this shelf, many flower offerings are dedicated by the pilgrims during the procession. So, one after the other, the male carriers hand over the icon within the Agia ThƝkƝ to the next.52 At intervals, the priests take turns carrying the icon, and every time a priest hands the icon over to the next, there is a little ceremony. During the procession they also chant solemn hymns. At the beginning of the procession in 2005, the young Scouts and Guides who participated, carrying their large canes, created a circle around the priests and the icon. However, this circle was very soon broken and anyone of the pilgrims could walk close to the icon if they wanted, as is the general rule. Older women in particular are so eager to walk next to the icon that many actually fight to come as close as possible, some run, and, in 2011, one collapsed in the middle of the road and had to leave the procession. The same happened the subsequent year. In 2005, one of those walking close to the icon was a local woman with terminal cancer who had decided to do this “tama” before she died, knowing the doctors had given up on her. Many women also gather various herbs growing along the procession route. At the border of or entrance to the first village we pass through, Triantaros, there is a ceremony: the icon is placed in a permanent marble proskynƝtƝrio, and people are permitted to perform their proskynƝma. In 2011, some policemen were guarding the ceremony, and since the young Scouts and Guides did not participate that year or the next, people working in the Church of the Annunciation created a circle around the icon. In 2012, the priest of the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios and one of the male helpers in the church guarded the ceremony, the first with one of his hands on the top of the icon also ordered the pilgrims to line up to speed up the veneration ceremony. A similar ceremony takes place at the outskirts of the next village; although there is no proskynƝtƝrio here, the place is situated on a crossroads. Some days after the festival in 2011, I went up to the Church of the Annunciation to ask about the two stops. I received various explanations: one member of the church staff said, as informants often do, “it has always been like this”. I was also told that the 52

According to the nun working in the souvenir shop, the Agia ThƝkƝ lives (menei) in the church of the Panagia. So, it is generally found in the Church of the Annunciation but is taken up to the monastery some days before the festival.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


people who performed their proskynƝma in front of the icon are ill, or have been ill and are now recovered, and thank the icon for their recovery. I made further enquiries at the monastery, and got another answer. According to the students and nun working in the monastery shop, the reason for the first stop opposite the marble proskynƝtƝrio into which they put the icon and perform a deƝsƝ, a supplication or prayer, is that there used to be a church there dedicated to Agios or rather Osios Artemios.53 A heavy snowstorm at some point caused a rockslide or landslide and the church was destroyed. The nun went on to explain that the reason for the second stop is that people are tired and need a rest. The positioning of the crossroads however, inspires me to consider this location to be a more likely reason for the stop, since it is, in fact, rather close to the first one, and if there really was need for a rest, would it not have been better to stop farther along? As already mentioned, we were constantly being asked to walk faster in 2011 and 2012, since we had to arrive at Agia ParaskeuƝ at 9 pm. When passing churches and chapels along the road, there is always general bell ringing. All of them are fully illuminated and decorated with flags and outside there are also burning censers. All along the road, many women stand outside their houses holding their burning censers while greeting the procession. By this ritual, i.e. letting the icon pass through censed air, they in return secure their own and their families’ health for the coming year. At the church dedicated to Agios IǀannƝs o Theologos (John the Evangelist), situated along the processional road, several of the participating pilgrims, particularly the younger ones took a short cut in 2005: from the road they rushed down the stairs towards the church, whose external space was fully illuminated and decorated with the Greek flags customary for this festival. After passing through the church, they climbed over the walls enclosing the courtyard, and down a tiny wooden ladder, although some of them, particularly older women and some of the younger ones, who were not dressed for these physical exercises, had problems climbing over the walls. Meanwhile, a man persistently chimed the church bells. In this way, many pilgrims advanced from the last part of the holy procession to standing in the road waiting for the first, the chanting priests carrying the icon. At the border of Tinos town, fireworks also start outside a chapel, to greet the procession. Before entering the town in 2011 and 2012, a man in a wheelchair approached the icon to perform his proskynƝma. Some disabled and ill people were likewise 53 I.e. according to the Agiologion 2011, although everybody on Tinos refers to him as Agios.


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permitted to perform their proskynƝma, as was also the case during the two stops at the borders of the two villages. Here, at the border of Tinos town, one of the priests and some of the choirboys, who went by car, also join the procession, with the priest carrying the icon during the last phase until the procession is reorganised outside the church dedicated to Agia ParaskeuƝ. It is dark when the procession finally approaches the fully illuminated church decorated with flags dedicated to Agia ParaskeuƝ at the outskirts of Tinos town (in 2011, it was fifteen minutes overdue and even later in subsequent years), and in the adjacent street, the members of the marching band and the nuns are waiting. Now a more formal and solemn procession, more similar to the procession during the Dormition and Annunciation festivals is organised. People are awaiting the miraculous icon next to the aforementioned koubouklio (canopy), the “movable sanctuary”, bier or platform, on which the icon is generally carried during the other processions, and which has been fetched from the Church of the Annunciation. Eagerly anticipating its approach, people have also lined up along the road to watch the procession. The procession is now reorganised as described below. In 2005, girls headed the procession, and everybody carried a bunch of white flowers and green branches. The two leading girls also had a torch on top of their bunch of flowers. All the girls wore t-shirts printed with a picture of the Church of the Annunciation. The boys wore similar t-shirts and carried torches. Then came the marching bands. The Scouts and Guides carried their large canes, making a circle around the choirboys, priests and several nuns who went before the icon, which was carried in the usual way, i.e. on the bier, with various persons on each side carrying it with its handles or canes over their shoulders as a “tama”. A man came next carrying the empty ThƝkƝ. In the 2011-2013 festivals, the marching bands headed the formal procession, since the aforementioned Scouts and Guides and t-shirt-wearing youths did not participate. The streets leading from the church dedicated to Agia ParaskeuƝ to the Church of the Annunciation are decorated with flags, as are the churches we pass, and, of course, the circular space, i.e. the “Panagia Square” at the harbour. While the procession proceeds down the street towards the centre of the town, short-tempered policemen arrive, and, as usual, under the pretence of regulating the procession, instead they create problems for the pilgrims, who want to follow the icon physically, not line up along the street. Along the road through the township, many women stand in their open windows or, preferably, outside their houses holding their burning censers while greeting the procession. Next to them and all along the

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


harbour street, many people also stand holding lighted candles. The fireworks start as soon as the procession arrives at the harbour and torches burn in the boats. In 2012-2013, these torches were, with the exception of one boat, mostly replaced by fireworks. The boats horns are soon joined by beeping buses, which are lined up in the harbour outside KTEL’s (former) office,54 all marked with the same destination: “MonastƝri”. Many of the drivers seem to enjoy themselves, while more or less holding down their horns. The noise is almost deafening. Before returning the icon to the church, there is also an “outdoor prayer” in the “Panagia Square” at the harbour. As the priests, dignitaries and the miraculous icon enter this circular space, they ask the Mother Superior to join them. A liturgy is then performed and several speeches are given. In 2011 as well as in ensuing years, the crisis was, of course, an important theme, and in 2012, the bishop gave a particularly warm and encouraging speech, which addressed not only Tinos and the Tinotes, but the entire country. Many people were very moved by this and stood weeping outside of the circle. The same year the main protagonists in the circle were the bishop and two of his colleagues from Syros, each of them holding bunches of white flowers in their hands. The procession subsequently reforms for the last time during this festival before proceeding to the Holy Church of the Annunciation to return the icon to its “house”. In the procession, the dignitaries and priests occupy the most prominent places. Many of the followers carry with them flowers, particularly lilies, to offer to the icon when it has been returned to its resting place. Many also crawl on their knees as is customary for pilgrims approaching the Holy Church of the Annunciation on Tinos. The abbess is helped up the last stairs to the church. Outside the church enclosure, a bus fills up with nuns who are brought back to the monastery. The festival terminates around 11 pm. So, arriving in Tinos town late at night, the icon and procession from the monastery are welcomed by fireworks, torches, boats’ whistles and bus horns, and the miraculous icon is returned to the church after sermons and speeches on the podium by the waterfront, thereby closing this very picturesque local festival, celebrated on a more moderate scale in 20112013 than in former years due to the severe economic crisis in Greece.


I.e. in 2005. The KTEL (Regional Bus Service) office was relocated opposite the new harbour in 2010 but the buses were lined up at the same place also in 20112013.


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16 August: the Summer Festival Dedicated to Agios Gerasimos on the Island of Kephallonia In 1992, I came to the island of Kephallonia to visit the Dormition festival dedicated to the Panagia on 15 August in the village of Markopoulo, but I learnt very soon that for the locals the festival dedicated to the patron saint of the island, Agios Gerasimos, is their most important festival. This latter festival as I experienced it in 1992 will be presented therefore in the following section, because it is a particularly important example of a local death festival dedicated to a patron saint. The importance of the festival is illustrated by the fact that the festival of the Panagia ends around noon on 15 August, since the central festival dedicated to Gerasimos starts the same evening, i.e. on the eve of the festival, which is the general rule within the Orthodox Church. People must be ready to celebrate “Agios” (i.e. the saint), and according to the churchwarden in Markopoulo “the festival ends now because we celebrate Mass tonight at Agios”.55 On Kephallonia 1953 is known as the disastrous earthquake year. The earthquake happened on 12 August, after which most of the island lay in ruins. On this and the previous day in 1992 there were particular commemorations in Argostoli, the island’s capital. The main church at Argostoli is dedicated to Gerasimos, but before the celebration of his festival on 16 August they celebrate the festival dedicated to Agios Spyridonos, the patron saint of Kerkyra (i.e. Corfu), on 10 and 11 August, the latter being his actual feast day. The Ionian Islands pride themselves particularly on having the preserved bodies of their patron saints, each of whom is celebrated in August.56 In Argostoli at the festival of Agios Spyridonos, a liturgy is celebrated at the market place on the eve of the feast, and with much oratory the eloquent bishop ended his speech referring not only to the earthquake and the “Snake feast” in the neighbouring village of Markopoulo, but also to Biblical Zion, sin and people trying to rob present-day Macedonia, or the Greek interpretation of “Skopje” (i.e. the Greek popular name of the new Macedonian Republic of


Dubisch 1988: 117-134, also discusses the problem when coming to the island (i.e. Tinos) for one particular reason, as opposed to what the locals find most important. See also Håland 2011c for the Dormition festival in Markopoulo. 56 Cf. Fornaciari, Giuffra and Pezzini 2010: 223-249 concerning preservation of dead bodies in southern Italy/Sicily. One may wonder if this is related to the Ionian Islands.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


1992).57 It was interesting to see the eyes of the young listeners in particular as most of them swallowed this obvious propaganda whole. We met a similar performance when he ended his liturgy in the church at Markopoulo on 14 August the same year, at the eve of the feast of the Dormition of the Panagia, here his final speech contained all the “historical” elements; from the ancient Olympic heritage to present-day “Skopje”, Cyprus and Epirus, these being the most important topics generally emphasised in the speeches of the nationalistic Greek Orthodox Church. These polemics are not unusual during Greek Orthodox liturgies. Also, on the island of Tinos in 2009, the priest ended his final speech on the eve of 15 August by reclaiming all the “missing parts” of Greece, and the congregation, almost asleep, “woke up” and applauded enthusiastically. In Greece, the official Orthodox Church and the nation-state are two institutions that traditionally have very close connections to each other, i.e. in a patriotic sense, as is also illustrated by the Annunciation festival on Tinos. When observing the young listeners in Argostoli, I started thinking about the way children are socialised in Greece, such as during the Dormition festival dedicated to the Panagia on Tinos where I have conducted most of my fieldwork. There, as elsewhere in Greece, the popular faith is transferred to the next generation by practical imitation, rituals, observation and listening to what the elders do and say. One may go to the church to have the priest conduct an exorcism to get rid of an illness provoked by the Evil (i.e. envious) Eye, for example, although this is officially illegal within the Greek Orthodox Church.58 Agios Gerasimos, known as a hermit, priest-monk and wonder-worker, was born in Trikala, in upland Corinthia in the Peloponnese in 1509.59 He came from the aristocratic family of Notaras that had been famous in Kǀnstantinople during the Palaiologos dynasty. He lived as a monk for twelve years in the Holy Land, and then five years on the island of Zakynthos. Finally he went to Kephallonia where he settled down in a cave near the village of SpƝlia (cave in modern Greek) in the area known 57 Its official name is Republic of Macedonia, however in Greece it is called FYROM or FYR Macedonia. 58 Håland 2007a: Ch. 3 and Fig. 9. See also Ch. 5 infra. Cf. Dubisch 1990: 113139, for the socialising of children, and an exorcism she witnessed at Tinos during the summer of 1988. Cf. also the Easter celebration in the village of Olympos on the island of Karpathos in southern Greece and the rituals and festival dedicated to the “Life-Giving Spring”, in modern Athens, cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 3-4, 6 and b. I attended the latter festival also in 2012. 59 See http://orthodoxwiki.org/Gerasimos_of_Kephalonia (accessed 17.11.12). See also Agiologion 2011. Other sources cite his birth year as 1503 or 1506.


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as Lassi outside Argostoli in 1560.60 He then devoted himself to reorganising the Monastery of the Plain of Omala, the area being among the most beautiful on the island, until his death in 1579. According to the Agiologion 2011 he built the women’s monastery, which he called “New Jerusalem”. On 20 October, they celebrate “the removal of his relics”. This happened in 1581, when they learnt that his body had undergone no decomposition, and exuded a pleasant, sweet and heavenly fragrance. He was actually buried twice, and exhumed intact. In 1622, he became the patron saint of the island. He was forewarned of the day of his death, and although he died on 15 August, he is commemorated on 16 August because 15 August is devoted to the Dormition of the Panagia. Since the summer is a particular convenient time for pilgrimages, this 16 August festival has become especially important and popular. His relics, or rather body is guarded and protected in a glass case (larnaka, i.e. shrine/reliquary) as it has never decomposed, and housed in his monastery at Omala. On both festivals, in August and October, his holy sarcophagus is taken outside the church (I. Naos KoimƝseǀs, i.e. the Holy “Dormition” or “Falling Asleep” Church) where it is housed (in the Holy Shrine/Reliquary, i.e. Iera Larnax), and carried in solemn procession approximately 500 metres, to the huge plane tree next to the well, which the saint is said to have dug with his own hands. His body is passed over ill and sick persons for the purpose of healing them.

The Feast Dedicated to the Saint who Deals with Demonic Aggression Agios Gerasimos is the saint who protects against demons and cures what are believed to be illnesses caused by demons. From all over the island, the pilgrims therefore arrive to the sanctuary, where they stay during the olonychtia, “the all-night-service”, between 15 and 16 August, paralleling the circumstances on the island of Tinos. Many of them are seriously ill, others display psychopathic tendencies, and the saint is said to have the power to fight off demons. On 16 August, the feast culminates with the procession in which they carry the shrine with his body over the sick lying down on the path outside of the monastery. Pilgrims fetch dust from his tomb and leaves from the plane tree as amulets. They also fetch blessed bread baked in the monastery. 60

For the festival dedicated to Ag. Gerasimos: GkelƝ 1991a and 1991b; Loukatos 1981: 131-136; Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 173 f. One may note that Ag. is short for Agia and Agios.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


When talking with local people during the days before the festival, they were eager to tell me that the festival starts with “a liturgy at Agios”, i.e. the opening liturgy at the festival dedicated to the patron saint, Gerasimos. The celebration started around 9 pm on 15 August and continued the next day. According to one of the younger helpers in the church dedicated to the Panagia in Markopoulo, “they take out his body and carry him in a procession and people lay down underneath” (Fig. 12).

Figure 12. Agios Gerasimos’ relics are carried in procession and passed over the sick, Kephallonia, 16 August 1992.

The importance of the feast was illustrated by several factors: the shops that generally are open twenty-four hours during the peak of the summerand tourist season, closed at 2 pm on the feast day because “it is Agios”, according to the shopkeepers. Several were closed all day, and the local buses were not functioning as usual, instead running continually between


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Argostoli and the saint’s monastery. For Kephallonians, the festival dedicated to Agios Gerasimos is in fact more important than the 15 August dedicated to the Panagia, because the islanders have his relics.61 They also celebrated a liturgy in the saint’s church in Argostoli on the eve of the feast. All the public buildings celebrated the festival by hoisting the Greek flag. Until midnight, buses heading for the monastery left the city continually. They started again the next morning at 7 am. On the eve of the feast, at 9 pm people drove in convoy all the way from Argostoli to the monastery. The buses were packed with people, both young and old. Several buses had lined up at the parking next to the plane tree: “They leave when they are filled up,” people say. A number of sellers had set up their booths here, and all the rest of the way towards the church was lined with shops and booths, since the sellers had travelled from the previous day’s and the morning hours’ festival dedicated to the Panagia up on the mountain where the village of Markopoulo is situated. But I encountered more sellers here, and the setting reminded me particularly of the situation on modern Tinos and in, for example, the Greek Macedonian village of Agia ElenƝ as well as many villages in southern Italy: the sellers offer an enormous variety of objects; from goldfish to nail polish to women’s underwear. According to Martin Nilsson’s old, but still valid, comparison between the ancient panƝgyris, public festival, and the modern equivalent (i.e. panƝgyri), religion has been secularised.62 He goes on to argue that all the tents and booths that are erected during the modern saint festivals or panƝgyria and the other associated elements, such as the feast and merrymaking, represent a form of religion, which, for us, hardly seems to be religion at all. On the other hand, the same elements have demonstrated a strong tenacity. The problem with his analysis here, as I have already argued elsewhere,63 is that he sees Greek religion from a northern European (i.e. Protestant and Puritan) perspective when using the word “us”, and also when arguing that religion is secularised, as these socalled secularised elements are the very factors which are so important within religion in the south of Europe and particularly Italy as well as Greece. Another problem is that modern Greek researchers, such as AlexakƝs,64 using non-Greek theories might also claim that the modern reality is secularised, thus unconsciously advocating a northwestern perspective. I do not think the celebrants would agree with such an opinion 61 Cf. Håland 1990: Ch. 4 f., 8 and Nilsson 1961: 20, 80 f., 94 f., for the God/hero. See also Ch. 6 infra for discussion. 62 Nilsson 1961: 97-101, particularly 101. 63 Håland 2007a: Ch. 5. 64 E.g. AlexakƝs 2008: 170.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


however, since these factors have always belonged in the religious festivals in Greece, as Nilsson also clearly states. So, perhaps it might be better to talk about an ethic contra an emic approach.65 Another factor is that there might be more similarities between the Mediterranean reality and other places, such as Central and South America, than with northern Europe, which becomes more apparent today in our global world. Despite these comments, Nilsson’s comparative approach is important, since the ancient religion most probably had more in common with the modern geographical equivalent than a northern European reality and analysis. At the monastery dedicated to Gerasimos, you could see booths selling all kinds of food. The lively fair, in fact, underlines well the translation of panƝgyri, i.e. patron festival or fair,66 and that is exactly what it is! The beggars and disabled people had also transferred from Markopoulo, since they now had found another place for a possible income. A begging mother, who had brought her disable child in a wheelchair, is one of the many beggars travelling from one festival to the next. All the entrances to the main church were open, and after buying large candles at the open place outside the church, the pilgrims entered through the left door. Other people, i.e. “non-believers” (i.e. non-Orthodox) and curious visitors entered by the central door. The pilgrims were lining up waiting their turn to perform their proskynƝma, particularly to perform devotions in front of the saint’s body, which because of the festival had been transferred to the main church. Generally, his body rests in a shrine by the iconostasis in a smaller church in the monastery, next to the bell tower. All the chairs in the fully illuminated main church were occupied. With the help of red ropes, the police regulated the pilgrims’ passing in front of the body: they were admitted in groups to pay devotions to “Agios’ body”. Inside the church, the large candles offered by pilgrims were burning. The relics were found to the right of the iconostasis. According to one man, “his body is beneath, and while bowing, people move their upper bodies through a gate or hatchway to kiss the body”. The saint’s body inside the glass-covered coffin or reliquary is fully clothed, and since the coffin is raised in an upright position, the saint seems to be standing inside the coffin. This might symbolise that he in one way or another is resurrected in corporeal form on his feast day, i.e. similarly to the belief that his power is particularly strong during his festival when he is so near.67 When the gate is open, people shove their heads through to 65

Cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 3. Another, more recent, version of Nilsson’s view is found in Scullion 2005: 125. 66 See also Håland 2011d: Ch. 2. 67 Cf. Håland 1990: Ch. 7, 1993 for an Italian parallel, Saint Ubaldo of Gubbio.


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kiss the saint’s feet. Many pilgrims push their bowed heads through to kiss the lower part of the priest’s robe; others kiss the frame of the hatchway or opening while many others also kiss the glass door of the sarcophagus. Inside the coffin hang votive offerings of gold and precious stones. Along the open hatchway is a string from which are suspended votive offerings and some jewellery.68 The altar behind the saint’s body is marked or set off by a circular enclosed space. Inside the enclosure, to the left of the iconostasis, is the bishop of Kephallonia. In honour of the occasion, he was clothed in light purple. Many lined up to kiss his hand and be blessed by him. Simultaneously, and continually, a liturgy took place accompanied by solemn choral singing. On the gallery, some women clad in black were commenting on what was going on downstairs, i.e. in the main church. Many pilgrims spent the night inside the church, particularly at the gallery, where, like those on Tinos, they were equipped with sleeping bags and food. Many pilgrims slept in the court, just outside the door, since it was a very warm night and visitors arrived continuously. The arriving pilgrims struggled incessantly to enter the church and approach the sarcophagus. I chatted a little with a young Greek woman who had lived in New York since she was twelve years old. She was with her mother, who, despite all the years spent in the USA, only speaks Greek; this is quite common for homecoming emigrant women. They said that the feast would start early the next morning. From 6 am people arrived to perform their proskynƝma before the saint’s bones. They also told me that miracles have occurred, like on Tinos. “It is fantastic.69 Did you hear?” It seemed as if there was almost some kind of competition between the two pilgrimage shrines. Two priests carried around the censers at approximately 11 pm. On the feast day, 16 August, a liturgy started at 7:30 am. For several hours in the early morning, packed buses ran continually between the town and the monastery. Cars were parked all the way out towards the nearest village, Fraggata. The service was followed by a solemn official procession at 11 am. Two marching bands arrived one hour before the start of the procession, as well as a detachment from the army dressed in camouflage uniforms and carrying bayonets. The pilgrims continuously entered the 68

When performing their devotions after the procession some of the faithful tear down the cord and the policemen crawl on all fours to collect the votive offerings. 69 After the procession, the young woman looked at me with disdain, because I “did not lie down”. She, however, laid down when the procession returned to the church. Cf. Stewart 1991: 82 concerning his experience of the same thinking: “How can a fieldworker see and hear of so many miracles and not believe?”

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


church, to perform their devotions in front of the saint’s body, and the queue at the entrance door was enormous. Right opposite, on the other side of the court, many people had taken their place at the other stairway, to get the best view when the procession left the church. The liturgy in the church, however, was drowned out by the popular music from the market. The bishop and his assisting priests were in complete pontiff’s vestments. The police organised the queue heading towards the saint’s body. The members of the marching bands also performed their devotions in front of the holy body. A priest was always posted to the right of the relics. On the other side of the holy body and inside the holy enclosure in front of the altar, the nuns of the monastery, all clad in black, were seated. One of them received the written “letters” on which the pilgrims write the names of their ill family members to be blessed. The “letters” were handed over to the priest beside the relics. He put them next to the shrine, i.e. collected them in a plastic sack between himself and the shrine. There was also an icon of the Panagia and Child. According to one of the policemen the “letters will be read afterwards [i.e. the blessing will be at the end of the liturgy], and there are prayers for particular persons as in general in the churches on festivals”. At 10:30 am, a priest carrying a wooden icon arrived, and brought it behind the iconostasis. I strolled around talking with people who told me that the procession would go towards the tree. Under the tree, a liturgy would be held, and afterwards the procession would return to the church. While receiving this information, I observed that more and more of the monastery’s nuns arrived and sat down inside the circle. All were clad in black. The ritual was performed by putting their bowed heads inside the opening and kissing the relics, and reminded me very much of the ritual in front of the relics of Agia Marina in Athens during the annual feast at her sanctuary on 17 July, an important healing feast. From this reflection, let us go back to the sanctuary of Agios Gerasimos: at 10:45 am they started to carry around the censer. Then, preceded by a choirboy carrying a large candle, all the priests entered the body of the church by the left door of the iconostasis carrying the holy symbols. Another choirboy, also carrying a large candle, followed. They took their places around the reliquary. The bishop chanted and then all of them returned behind the iconostasis by the main entrance. They seemed to draw a holy circle around the relics70 reminiscent of the liturgies in the Church of the Annunciation on Tinos. That the technical—or communicative—revolution had also been introduced to the Orthodox Church in 1992 was illustrated by one of the 70

Cf. du Boulay 2009 for the importance of the circle in Greece.


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priests who, in complete pontiff’s vestments and equipped with a video camera, had taken his place next to the chorus on the gallery. Then, from the opposite direction to the pilgrims, he went to kiss the relics, but took off his hat before inserting his head. After a while, a man came out from the altar through the left door of the iconostasis, carrying sedan chairs for the shrine, and the ecclesiastics, etc. in the church were ready to start the ritual while taking out the relics. For a long time an old woman carrying a walking stick and a “Greek style” woollen prayer-wreath,71 stood to the left of the shrine bowing her head towards the shrine. A woman carrying a loaf of bread arrived and was told to hand it to the nun receiving the “supplication-” or “praying letters”. After a while, some people arrived with a person in a wheelchair. He was directed inside behind the “nuns’ space”, to receive the Holy Communion, before the start of the procession. A priest, supplied with the holy wine, took his place in the left door of the iconostasis, and people queued up in front of him to obtain the sacraments. A man walking on crutches arrived as well as a young man carrying green herbs. The bishop asked the pilgrims to stop performing devotions, since they were ready to take the saint out for the procession. Next, they took down the symbols, and the saint. The bishop terminated the liturgy in the church, which had been delayed by half an hour, by wishing “Many Years” (“Chronia Polla”). The succeeding procession took the following form. It was headed by two marching bands, followed by the cherubim- and standard-bearers four by four in breadth with a small gap in between, which was filled by a priest. Then followed another priest carrying the Holy Bible. On each side of these two priests, walking in the middle, were two rows of priests. Two priests carrying the icon depicting the Panagia followed, headed by a man carrying a carpet. So, the holy symbols were carried in the middle flanked by cherubim- and standard-bearers and priests. I took particular notice of the priest equipped with the video camera, which he carried under his wide and long robe. The nuns came next. Some representatives from the army followed on carrying raised arms. Behind them, several priests and laymen carried the main symbol: the reliquary. At various places, people lay down in the middle of the street, as used to be done on Tinos, when the icon of the Panagia was passed over them. The local icon of the Panagia was also passed over the pilgrims here during Agios Gerasimos’ festival, although there was no white line indicating where to lie down in this Kephallonian 71

In Greece, the prayer wreaths are traditionally made of wool, and a certain number of knots are tied on the wreaths. The production of these wreaths is learnt in the monasteries. Cf. Il. 1.14 ff., for the meaning of wool on a staff, cf. hair, life and healing.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


setting, when the icon or the saint’s body was passed over the faithful. In several places the reliquary was passed over the pilgrims and although most tried to lie beneath both icon and reliquary, it is of course more important on Kepallonia to have the opportunity to lie below the saint’s bones than the Panagia’s icon. In some places, however, the pilgrims were ordered to get up, as on Tinos, and not permitted to lie down anywhere. Arriving at the tree, the shrine was placed on a kind of elevated circular platform. But, before they lowered the saint, the carpet was arranged, paralleling the circumstances in the modern village of Olympos on the island of Karpathos in southern Greece when carrying the icons in procession on “White Tuesday” after Easter.72 The actual “raised or elevated platform” is the lid above the well dug by the saint, as the legend would have it. The chorus arrived at the tree and the well before the others, and the ecclesiastical part of the procession chanted inside the circle marked by a white border under the tree. It reminded me of the “circle” or Panagia Square by the harbour on Tinos, where they carry the icon in procession. Here on Kephallonia, the people who gathered outside the circular holy space were quite disorderly, compared to Tinos: they jumped towards the plane tree and bent down the branches while picking or rather tearing off leaves and sometimes entire branches. At the same time, the service was performed: following their arrival, they sang hymns dedicated to the saint. Afterwards, the bishop made a long speech. He finished the sermon at twelve o’clock by wishing everyone “Many Years”. It is worth noting that the key symbol that is carried in procession is very special: the whole rear part of the shrine in which the body of the saint is kept is completely covered or constructed by votive offerings in silver, i.e. silver-plated exvotos (tamata). When the service had finished, and the procession was on its way back to the monastery, people were eager to lift up the lid and look down into the well the saint is said to have dug. They continued to tear branches and leaves from the tree. Other people strolled after the holy (i.e. ecclesiastics), and the procession arrived at the monastery after fifteen minutes. Many pilgrims lay down on the return trip as well, but everything took place in a more relaxed way than during the procession towards the tree. Before entering the church, at the top of the stairs, the bishop gave a speech. The door to the shrine was opened and people lined up waiting their turn to perform their proskynƝma, bowing their heads into the shrine to kiss the saint, while they were surrounded by the priests. One of the marching bands and the deputies from the army took their leave. The other 72

Håland 2005, 2007a: Ch. 4, 2011d: Ch. 1.


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marching band was photographed on the staircase of the church. The shrine returned to its place and people continued to perform devotions to the saint. A woman scolded her husband for undertaking his proskynƝma for the second time today. Would he never finish? She wanted to go home. The priest standing next to the shrine was impatient as well. The nuns greeted the other priests when emerging from the hieron, and kissed their hands. Many pilgrims were still busy writing supplication papers, then they put the “letters” in the slot at the table by which the nun sat, checking that everything was done in the proper way. Afterwards some “letters” were handed over to the priest next to the relics, and he read the blessings. A young woman hung a silver ring on the string, which stretched over the open hatchway towards the saint’s final resting place. There were still many supplication papers next to the shrine. Furthermore, the pilgrims would not stop making their devotions in front of the relics: however, this is understandable given that his body is only taken out from the tomb in the small church next to the bell tower, for display in the church on Gerasimos’ feast days.73 On the road between the two churches, I recognised the very same beggars and disable people I had met the day before in Markopoulo. The man who sells relics and “herbs”74was present as well. He had moved from Argostoli, where I had also met him the previous day. In this interior area of the monastery is a square, and on one side is a brick wall that has water taps from which people fetch holy water. That night they would take down the saint and put him in his tomb in the small church, which is also situated here. After the procession many pilgrims had retired to this inner area to receive a meal, a kind of meat stew,75 which was served from the monastery’s kitchen. Once the service has finished, the fast is broken and the procession terminated; they then serve a communal meal to the pilgrims. In this area there is also a house with a drawing room. There are holy pictures on the walls, and on the table is a box with icing sugar in it. After the meal, the pilgrims took some of the sugar, like in other festivals


Cf. Håland 1990: Ch. 7, 1993 for the ritual dedicated to Saint Ubaldo of Gubbio, Italy. 74 Cf. the “herb-seller” in the village of Agia ParaskeuƝ at the festival dedicated to Ag. Charalampos on the island of Mytilini/Lesbos (hereafter: Lesbos), Håland 2007a: Ch. 4, 2011e: 73. See also 2011c. 75 Cf. Psychogiou 2008 for a similar dish on the island of Imbros, see also Håland 2011e for Lesbos, although in these two instances we have to do with meals made after the sacrifice of an animal.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


in Greece. On the stairs outside, a woman distributed blessed dark bread rolls from a sack. The bread was intended to accompany the meal. Others packed up their things and left with their stuffed bags. Many of the booths were taken down and many people had already left. When the bus started on the return trip to Argostoli, everybody made the sign of the cross and looked towards “Agios” (i.e. the monastery). It had finished for this year and many wished each other “happy winter” (kalos cheimǀnas). On the bus, people competed with each other to be the most devout pilgrim, i.e. the one who had been the most eager to perform her or his proskynƝma, with an old woman claiming that she had passed in front of the body to perform her proskynƝma at 3 in the morning! In the evening of the feast day, a service was also held in the saint’s church in Argostoli. Afterwards, his icon was carried in procession around 9:30 pm, thus demarcating the city. The procession was not particularly impressive, made up of only two marching bands and a priest carrying the Holy Bible. The bishop and another priest, who also participated in all the festivals on the preceding days, were also present along with some other participating ecclesiastics. Altogether seven priests were present in the procession. Two young men carried the saint’s icon. The icon was decorated with flowers. People followed the ecclesiastics. The procession rested for a service at the central square, and returned to the church at 10:30 pm, fifteen minutes later, the two marching bands marched back crossing the square. The festival dedicated to Agios Gerasimos may be summarised thus: the entire ritual in which people walk in procession—carrying symbols over others who wish to be healed— towards a circle at this time of the year, that is to say during a period of holiday and leisure, after harvest and the threshing of the grain, is not only concerned with the cult of the dead saint’s bones, but also with the fertility cult and healing. Therefore it is worth comparing the ritual not only with the festival and parallel ritual on Tinos on 15 August,76 but also with the two rituals from the same island that are described previously in this chapter, although on Tinos they carry the miraculous icon, whereas at Kephallonia they first and foremost carry the saint’s preserved body. The central symbols of the festival dedicated to Agios Gerasimos is the body, the coffin decorated with all the votive gifts, the plane tree and the well, finally the taps, from which people fetch holy water. As already mentioned, near the village of SpƝlia outside of Argostoli, is found also Agios Gerasimos’ cave, in which he lived as a hermit for a 76

Håland 2007a: Ch. 4, 2012a.


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while, during the passage rite towards his new status as a holy person. In other words, we encounter a cave cult dedicated to a shaman, i.e. Gerasimos:77 Iera MonƝ Agiou Gerasimou “SpƝlaion” (the Holy Monastery of Agios Gerasimos of the “Cave”).78 A church has been constructed above the saint’s cave, paralleling the cave of Agia ParaskeuƝ in the village named after this saint on the island of Lesbos and other places.79 I visited the place next to SpƝlia the day after the festival, and found three vases with red roses in front of the iconostasis. To the right of the iconostasis is the entrance to the cave from which a small staircase ascends. Inside the cave candles are burning. There is also an old bigger icon and many smaller icons. A small elevation to the left makes a crevice or “inroad” further into the cave. It is possible that a water source is hidden somewhere here, since holy water (agiasma) in a cave is an essential element in places where Agios Gerasimos is worshipped all over Greece and on the southern shore of the Mediterranean.80 To the left of the iconostasis, in the chapel outside of the cave, is a “copy” of the reliquary or coffin in the monastery that holds his body, and which is carried into the large church at his two festivals. In SpƝlia, the body is a copy, or rather a figure-sized icon and the reliquary or coffin is locked with bars and several padlocks. Two votive offerings depicting eyes hang at the top of the shrine. Inside the shrine is a cane covered with votive offerings at the lower part, i.e. “on the feet”, thus paralleling the string in the monastery church. Next to the shrine is a vase with fresh flowers. Votive offerings are also placed in front of his icon to the left of the iconostasis. Below this is a vase with roses, another can be found beneath the icon depicting the Panagia and Child, and a third below the icon depicting Christ and the Bible.

The Monastery of Agios Nektarios on the Island of Aegina Six kilometres from Aegina town and port up in the central plateau in the area known as Kontos is the monastery dedicated to Agios Nektarios, in front of which there is also a massive church that has recently been built. Before 1961, the monastery was known as the Monastery of Agia Triada (the monastery dedicated to the Holy Trinity). It was built between 1904 and 1910 on the site of a chapel dedicated to Zǀodochos PƝgƝ, by the 77

Cf. Saint Domenico of Cocullo, Italy, see Håland 1990, 1993, 2011c. Cf. Håland 2007a: n.355 Ch. 6. 79 Håland 2007a: Ch. 4, 2012b. 80 Cf. GkelƝ 1991a and 1991b. Emigrants from the island have also introduced his cult in USA. 78

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


bishop of Pentapolis, who lived a secluded life here until his death on 9 November 1920. According to the official story, it was at the request of several nuns that he established a monastery for them on Aegina in 1904.81 As stated in the Agiologion 2011, he established the women’s monastery on Aegina. The bishop, canonised as Agios Nektarios in 1961, is one of the most recent Orthodox saints. After he had been bishop in Egypt, and later worked as director at Rizarios Ecclesiastical School for the education of priests in Athens, Nektarios (Anastasios Kephalas, 1846-1920) withdrew to Aegina and became an ascetic. His relics were officially removed from his grave on 3 September 1953, and gave off a sweet fragrance. Official recognition of Nektarios as a saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Kǀnstantinople took place on 20 April 1961.82 He also became the island’s patron saint at this time.83 Many people though, already regarded Agios Nektarios as a saint during his lifetime because of his prayerful life, humility, purity and other virtues, and writings, as well as the miracles he performed. He also had the gift of prescience, like Agios Gerasimos. He is particularly renowned for curing cancer, the illness of which he himself died following hospitalisation for prostate cancer. Although he was sanctified quite recently, his celebrity has spread all over Greece and Europe. Villages and cities compete in the building of churches dedicated to him as votive offerings. His popularity is growing, and his relics repose in more and more churches in Greece and Cyprus, and also further afield. Many thousands of pilgrims come to Aegina every year for their “tama(ta)”. Their pledge involves offering something to the miracle-working saint in return for his help with problems, mainly concerning health. The same happens in his other churches. The monastery on Aegina which lies up on the hill behind the large church, is made up of a complex of buildings, including chapels, two shops selling books, icons, holy oil, candles, postcards, souvenirs, and so on, and the old house in which the holy man once lived. In the little monastery church the relics of the saint rest in a casket and his skull in a golden crown set with precious stones. The beeswax candles burning there 81

See http://orthodoxwiki.org/Nectarios_of_Aegina (accessed 2.10.12). See also DionysiatƝs 1979: 164; Chondropoulos 1998; Panagopoiloi 1987. I visited the monastery in 1990 for the first time, and the festival in 1991, 2011 and 2012. My fieldwork in 2012 was curtailed due to strikes in Athens, and there were no ships leaving Piraeus on 6-7 November. 82 See http://orthodoxwiki.org/Nectarios_of_Aegina (accessed 2.10.12); TsotakouKarbelƝ 1991: 226 f. 83 Cf. Saint Ubaldo of Gubbio, see supra.


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give off a fragrant scent of honey. The second chapel in the courtyard is the oldest one in the complex, dedicated to Agia Triada and is now reserved for women only. The small chapel dedicated to the Archangels, which is partly shaded by a pine tree covers the saint’s first resting place. On his marble tombstone dedicated (to him) in gratitude by the Rizareios Ecclesiastical School, the following heroic inscription can be read: You, passer-by, can admire the tomb of the God-graced bishop, Nektarios Metropolitan of Pentapolis, renowned for the virtue and the devoutness he exhibited all during his life and the life-giving preaching of God’s holy word. For these reasons, when he left, the devout Christians and the Muses’ friends felt an unprecedented deep sorrow in their souls as an unhealed wound. The female “Parthenon” of Aegina weeps and so does the holy brotherhood and burning tears are shed by the students of Rizareios, all of whom saw him like a father, and so do they weep those to whom he nourished wisdom and virtue. And the Muses who descended from the region of Pieria came and lived all over the land of Mount Helikon [in Boeotia] wept for their patron who had passed away…84

In May 1921, six months after burial, the grave was opened to adjust the marble plaque covering the tomb, at which point people realised that he was a saint, since the body was uncorrupted and emitted a sweet fragrance. The saint was reburied and when the grave was opened again one and a half years later, his body was found in the same condition and reburied. The grave was reopened after three years, as is the rule within the Orthodox Church, and the body was still intact, but the saint had to remain in his sweet-smelling tomb.85 On 3 September 1953, his relics were transferred to the new Chapel of Agios Nektarios. Many cures are credited to him. The church in which his relics rest is packed with thanksgiving lamps, and the number of pilgrims to the site is constantly increasing. Several thousand pilgrims visit the monastery and the newer, large church on the anniversary of his death on 9 November every year. A small community of nuns live in the monastery. During my first fieldwork in 1991, I was told they numbered twenty-two, but by 2011, there were only fifteen nuns in the monastery. They take care of the spiritual needs of those who come to seek consolation and healing. 84 85

Translated by Anna Papavassiliou. See also DionysiatƝs 1979: 158. DionysiatƝs 1979: 158-161, he does not say explicitly why, see also Ch. 6 infra.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


Before travelling to Aegina in 2011, I had organised an appointment with the Mother Superior, Gerontissa, Theodosia. Unfortunately, she was not feeling well, so I spoke with some of the sisters, and also had a longer meeting with Sister Maria, who welcomed me warmly with sweets and tea in the Mother Superior’s apartment. We talked about the festival that would be celebrated in the days that followed, i.e. on Tuesday and Wednesday, and she was eager to explain the programme displayed on posters around the city of Aegina, on the announcement boards of the various churches next to the entrance doors, and also there in the monastery and the big church further down the hill. She told me that the festival would start the next afternoon with the short vespers at 6 pm, and the long vespers to take place half an hour later. At 10 pm there would be an olonychtios iera agrypnia (i.e. a night-long or overnight holy vigil) in the monastery. Although this ceremony was not indicated in the official programme, in which the olonychtios iera agrypnia taking place in the new church was indicated, she was keen to stress that it would last until 5:30 am on Wednesday morning, and would be an explicitly female part of the festival. I find this very interesting, since it parallels the circumstances on Tinos, where one may say (roughly) that the women start when the men finish. The nuns on Aegina, however, mostly run the female part, and, according to Sister Maria they do not participate in the male celebration in the new church, which starts at 6:30 pm, and carries on into the next day. On the other hand, they have their own celebration during the olonychtios iera agrypnia between 10 pm and 5:30 am. I have already mentioned the olonychtia in connection with the Tinos festivals. It is worth noting that the noun olonychtia indicates a vigil or wake, while the adjective, olonychtios coupled with iera agrypnia, indicates a holy night-long or overnight vigil service. The holy night-long male vigil which takes place in the holy church, runs concurrently with the female sleepless vigil or wake of the nuns, although the latter, according to Sister Maria lasts until the next morning, while the end of the former is not indicated. The female and male parts of the celebration parallel the distribution of gender roles in general death rituals in Greece.86 Sister Maria explains that during the female all-night celebration in the monastery, they are not alone since visiting nuns from the monastery dedicated to Agia Anastasia (i.e. Anastasias [cf. anastasƝ, resurrection] Pharmakolytrias [cf. medical]), celebrated on 22 December) also


Cf. Ch. 4 infra. Cf. Denzey 2007: 87 for early Christian parallels, such as women holding all-night prayer vigils for the deceased.


Chapter Two

participate.87 This female monastery is situated not far from the harbour and in close proximity to another monastery. She invited me to join them, adding that I would be free to depart whenever I wished. In other words, we encounter a male official celebration contra a female and rather more domestic part of the celebration, which is not indicated in the programme, and which takes place in the monastery. Sister Maria also told me that at 9 pm on Tuesday there would be a great communal meal served in the building called “scholƝ”, i.e. a former school for girls who were taught practical handicraft or needlework (“housekeeping”). It is situated next to the new big church. She went on to tell me that on 9 November the official festival starts at 6:30 am when they celebrate matins (orthros). At 10:30 am the procession sets off. Then, the saint’s head is taken to the town by car. At 11:30 am the procession around Aegina town begins, and at 4 pm vespers is celebrated. A communal lunch is served at 1 pm in the “scholƝ”, and although not mentioned in the programme, the aforementioned dinner is also served on the first evening. After the afternoon vespers, a holy paraklƝsis (supplication) is performed, after which the saint’s closet in his flat will be opened. This ritual opening is performed only twice a year: at this festival on 9 November and on 3 September when they celebrate the opening of his grave and finding his body “like this” (i.e. intact, cf. the official version), as explained by my informant. She also said that another celebration is performed on 15 January. This is the festival dedicated to the patriarch of Alexandria who accepted Nektarios as a saint, as Sister Maria told me. According to the small calendars (Ɯmerologion) for 2012 and 2013 from the Holy Monastery of Agios Nektarios, Aegina (Iera MonƝ Agiou Nektariou AiginƝs), that I bought during the festivals in 2011 and 2012, 15 January is dedicated (among other events) to the (Disinterment) of the holy corpse of Nektarios in Egypt (MetakomidƝ i leips. Ag. Nektariou eis Aigypton). However, the event is neither mentioned in the aforementioned Agiologion 2011 from Tinos, nor in the Agiologion 2013 from the church dedicated to Agia Marina in Athens, so I assume it is a local celebration. Sister Maria further shared with me that, here, in the monastery they celebrate 10 November by repeating all the prayers for Nektarios in the small church. This is the most holy of all the churches, and “here everything is as it has always been”, i.e. his body is here in his own chapel, not in the “copy tomb” in the new church. One may comment that the “copy tomb” she refers to is actually also a tomb since it contains his right arm and hand. The sister, however, went on with her account of 87

Another informant told me that visiting nuns come from the Agios MƝnas’ monastery, situated closer to the ancient Aphaia’s temple.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


the ritual year in Nektarios’ Monastery, saying that on 21 May they celebrate the opening of the new big church, and this act is “re-celebrated” or repeated annually on 21 May and thereafter every Sunday until 9 November. From that date the big church is closed until the following 21 May. In the period between 9 November and 21 May it opens only on requests from “officials”, i.e. administrators from Athens who want to use the church. Officially, it opens again on 21 May, and the ritual sequence is repeated. Having read the official programme, it was very interesting for me to receive an interpretation and explanation from a nun living here in the monastery before the festival began. It seemed that the new big church, which is described very positively in the official programme and displayed on most official pictures from this holy site, is not so important for my informant, since the most holy is actually up in the monastery, as it has always been. As already mentioned, the church was recently constructed, and at the beginning of the 1990s when I went there for the first time, it was not yet completely finished and played a minor part in the celebration. Since I had seen several male pilgrims entering the female-only chapel when walking around the site earlier that day, I wondered if things had changed, to which Sister Maria informed me that this restriction only affects the liturgy, otherwise men may enter. It is interesting to observe a similar rule in the new big church, where the right and left parts are clearly marked for men and women by signs announcing “andres”, and “gynaikes”, respectively. This segregation is however quite common in Greek churches. In the church dedicated to Agios Nikolaos on Plaka, in Athens, for example, men are generally seated on one side and the women on the other, which is also the case in the Athenian church dedicated to Agia Marina and in various churches on Tinos and in Olympos, Karpathos. In the latter church however, the rule is strictly observed; it also has a women’s entrance and a men’s entrance.88 Concerning the daily routine at the monastery, the sisters rise at four o’clock in the morning and attend church services until 8:30 am. The doors to the monastery open at 5:30 am. After the morning service, followed by breakfast, they go about their various chores, in the kitchen, office, guest house, vegetable garden, with the chickens and their goats, speaking with/listening to the pilgrims who come to the church to seek help. They eat their midday meal at 1 pm, while listening to readings of the words of the saints. Afterwards, they may rest. Sister Maria emphasised that there is much work in the monastery, with some employed helpers (as on Tinos) to assist the nuns. During summer, there is 88

Håland 2007a: Ch. 4.


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a vespers service at 6:30-7:30 pm. The evening meal is one hour later, and the gates to the monastery also close at that time for the night. When asking her why someone decides to become a nun and if the sisters who come to live and work in the monastery come here for their whole life, Sister Maria replied: “if you love God, there is no end”. This is also the reason why it is difficult for her to see my research project as a project on death, because she considers the festival of Agios Nektarios to celebrate happiness and glory, not death. Actually, she was concerned about why I was working on this project and, in the manner of other intellectual Orthodox people, such as various Greek and Balkan colleagues (within the fields of Anthropology and Archaeology), stressed that the focus is not on death and mourning, but instead on birth to eternity, and therefore joy and happiness. I find it particularly interesting to evoke this reaction from some intellectuals, among whom I must undoubtedly count this very devout and also very well educated and intelligent nun, and to compare it with the reaction I get from others, quick to compare my project with ordinary death rituals and everyday life within Greek culture. That is to say, I encounter reactions I might put in the theological perspectives “box” from some of the intellectuals versus perspectives connected with popular, everyday religion from most people, academics (particularly ethnographers) included. In any case, I told her that I understood her view, since death is birth to eternity from a theological point of view, but since I am an historian and not a theologian I hoped I could use the definitions I had worked out, and, smilingly, she accepted my standpoint. She also told me that new sisters are accepted into the monastery. Although, understandably, she did not want to go into personal details, she did tell me that she knows a young girl who decided to become a nun and enter the monastery at the age of twelve because she did not want to go to school. Sister Maria however, was well educated. Their main means of supporting their lives economically comes from the books, candles, icons and other items sold in the two monastery shops. Donors have given the church money for larger works, as is common practice in Greece, and visitors sometimes also bring gifts of food. When she heard I was to stay on the island for several days, she apologised for not having known earlier, as she could have organised a space for me in the guest house. The monastery provides lodging for pilgrims, also mirroring the circumstances on Tinos. But normally they can only stay for one or two nights, depending on how far they have travelled. At this time, the guesthouse was fully booked, since the festival was to begin the following day. The procedure for requesting lodging is via fax. One must state the number of guests seeking lodging and leave a return number. The monastery does not accept money for this service,

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


because it is “a hospital of the soul”: “People come to the monastery as pilgrims to let the nuns hear their pain.” Regarding their monastery and the Monastery of Agia Anastasia, Sister Maria told me that there are seven women’s monasteries in total on Aegina. All the others were established after their own, founded by Agios Nektarios. Thus, according to Sister Maria, they have “some sort of a female Mount Athos here on Aegina”. The church of Agios Nektarios supports the local foundation known as Leousio that provides daily meals to those in need, many of them elderly or disabled people, numbering some forty households to whom the food is delivered from the “syssitio” (kitchen). Local citizens provide the volunteer labour for preparation and delivery of these meals, while many items are donated by the local supermarket chain, Kritikos. Benefit events are also held to support this effort. The church, for example, built the local hospital of Agios Dionysios and has plans to turn the building where meals are prepared into a “gerokontio” (old people’s home).89 Trained sisters have often served as nurses in the hospital and as teachers in local schools. A seaside campsite supervised by the church is located in the area called Tourtos, near Vagia. The church is also restoring an old building in Aegina town, which will become a children’s centre for lessons, games, and other activities. Nevertheless, the church does not involve itself in politics, according to Sister Maria. Over the course of 2011 and 2012 there were fewer pilgrims than usual, probably as a result of the economic crisis, but many still visited the festival, as we will see in the following passage. For those who do not have the opportunity to go to Aegina themselves, it is possible to have the church mail them icons and other items. These can be requested via faxes citing an address. Holy oil is free, though books and other items require payment. After leaving Sister Maria the day before the festival started in 2011, I walked around the monastery. At the original tomb of the saint, several pilgrims were lying next to the tomb praying or rather communicating with the saint, the point being to “hear the saint [i.e. his footsteps] inside”, as they say. To hear him, they place themselves close to or cling to the tomb (Fig. 13), putting their heads and hands in contact with the stone of the coffin, after having placed their votive gifts on top. A young woman brought with her a newborn baby, which was also positioned as close to the tomb as possible. In addition, she had a red letter that she placed on the tomb. Another woman brought with her a dark blue bonnet or cap, evidently 89

Cf. Tinos, see Håland 2007a: Ch. 4.


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Figure 13. Pilgrims listen to Agios Nektarios’ footsteps at his original tomb, Aegina, 8 November 2012.

belonging to a child, which she laid on top of the tomb while reading aloud from her prayer book. Afterwards, she went down to the other tomb in the new church and repeated the process. A supplication letter was also placed on the tomb, i.e. on the marble shelf behind the head and body of the saint in the silver coffin, next to one of the vases with flowers. This tomb is different from the one in the monastery made entirely of marble: in the new church, we find a marble stand, inside of which is a silver coffin with a lid on its top depicting a figure of the saint. Although Sister Maria had just told me that the saint is still in the monastery (“everything here in the monastery is as it has always been”), a sign in the new church, “Pros parekklƝsion Ierǀn leipsanǀn” (Towards the chapel of the Holy relics), indicates that parts of the body of the saint are in this new tomb, the silver coffin. The coffin is located in the right or “male” part of the

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


church. Agios Nektarios is known for his relics residing in many different churches, and there is indeed a part of him here, that is to say his right hand and forearm up to the elbow, while the monastery church, possesses his head (the most precious part of the saint) and other relics. The supplication letter on the tomb reminded me of similar letters next to the icon of Agia Marina during her feast in July 2011 and of those placed under the figure of the Virgin Mary in the southern Italian, Calabrian village of Torre di Ruggiero during her feast on 8 September 2008 at the Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie, along with votive gifts or objects such as caps or bonnets pilgrims wanted to make holy, as they made devotions in front of her statue before it was carried in procession. Behind the church dedicated to the Archangels, a staircase leads up to the rooms in which the saint had his home. Here, all the furniture is intact. Local women proudly showed me the saint’s bed, framed and glazed photographs illustrating the house in which he stayed when living in Thrace, emphasising that this was still “during the Turkish occupation”. They also showed me other photos taken during his lifetime. In a little closet are several personal belongings: slippers, comb, the red Easter egg from 1920—the year he died. A sponge he once found, with a cross at its centre, underscores the fact that these are holy objects.90 In general many pilgrims kneel in front of the bed and all the other holy objects. It reminded me of my visits to the cell of Agia Pelagia in the Monastery of Kekhrovouno on Tinos. The pilgrims there, like those in Agios Nektarios’ house, kiss the furniture and all the other objects. In Nektarios’ living room, the women show framed and glazed photos of the saint and his family, mother, brother, sister and so on. When visiting in 1991, I encountered a spontaneous friendliness I had not experienced since I carried out fieldwork in southern Italy in 1987. On entering the saint’s bedroom the day before the festival in 2011, I learnt that I was not permitted to take pictures of the icons in this room, but only of the bed and his other belongings, such as the cabinet with glass doors, in which personal items such as his slippers are exhibited. When I enquired the reason for this, the women present, one of whom I assumed was a helper in the monastery, did not reply. I wished to know because one of the icons illustrates the Panagia under her attribute of Zǀodochos PƝgƝ (the “Life-Giving Spring”), one of my research topics.91 Although I had permission from the Mother Superior to take pictures of whatever I 90

In the 19th cent. the sponge trade was particularly important and many rich sponge merchants lived on the island. 91 The Panagia is worshipped under many attributes, as illustrated in Ch. 3 infra, and the “Life-Giving Spring is one of them.


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wished, these woman did not accept photography of the icons. On a later occasion, I discussed this topic with a younger male Romanian pilgrim, who said that this is regarded as blasphemy, because one cannot replicate a picture of someone who is painted under inspiration or with the help of God. The two women who on the former occasion were in the bedroom as “helpers” were not from the monastery but pilgrims living in Athens; one of them comes from Piraeus. Although they said they did not know why it is not permitted to take pictures of icons, only that it is not permitted, when the Romanian pilgrim explained the reason, they said they knew. A researcher with permission from the Mother Superior, I was then allowed to take a picture. In the women’s chapel, in 2011 and 2012, I saw an interesting icon of the “Panagia, the defender or supporter” (ypermachos), on which she hovers over a circle inside of which is painted the Greek flag along with a map of Greece. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that its contemporary importance and potency as an icon is all the greater in the light of the country’s current economic crisis, the fact that it “feels threatened by Europe” in general, and is, according to some of my informants, in real danger of “being erased from the map”.

The Festival Dedicated to Agios Nektarios On 9 November, the anniversary of the saint’s death in 1920 is celebrated. The saint’s relics are brought down from the monastery and carried round the town of Aegina in a procession attended by many visiting bishops in full regalia. Carpets are laid in the streets and strewn with flowers and green branches, and icons and lamps are placed in the windows or outside the houses along the route. During the weeks leading up to the festivals of the various saints, their icons are decorated and placed on a lectern in front of, to the right or left of the nave and are thus accorded a prominent position in the different churches. By the end of October, for example, the icon of Agios DƝmƝtrios is placed on a lectern in front of the nave in several Athenian churches.92 On 1 November, approximately one week before the annual festival dedicated to Agios Nektarios begins, in line with the general rule, his icon replaces that of Agios DƝmƝtrios who, after the celebration of his own festival, is put back into his ordinary place in the churches, and several of the small chapels at the 1st Cemetery in Athens. 92

Cf. supra for the practice on Tinos where they are put next to the icon depicting the Dormition of the Panagia.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


During the festival of Agios Nektarios in 1991, it was not so easy to travel from Athens to Aegina because all the ferries were on strike. On the day before the festival Flying Dolphins, one of the fast ferry companies, was given dispensation for two departures. In Aegina town, they had started to make preparations for the festival: flags had been raised in front of the town’s main church. At the little bus station, several extra departures from the town up to the monastery were announced: the night before the feast day, buses would run almost continually. In the afternoon of 8 November, people had already started to set up their booths in front of the large church a little way down from the saint’s monastery. At the entrance to the church, a woman was busy pasting the typical labels—“Agios Nektarios, Aegina”, accompanied by a picture of the saint—on the collars of the jackets and coats of the arriving people. This is a usual custom in other places as well, and allows the festival and its participating people to be identified. Next to the woman, a little boy stood holding a collecting box: one has to pay for the blessing and the label. The church was full of activity: a basket with votive offerings (tamata) representing limbs was on a desk. The tamata were tied to red or blue bands. In front of the altar was a cross bearing a wreath, paralleling Maundy Thursday in the village of Olympos. An icon representing the saint was also placed on a lectern in front of the nave, as is the custom. On a raised platform to the left of the altar, people were occupied decorating another altar symbolising the saint’s deathbed, Epitaphios or “Falling Asleep” (KoimƝsƝ). Old and younger women were busy decorating the deathbed with flowers, and they repeatedly gave orders to a man carrying a ladder, instructing him what to do. At 3:30 pm a bus filled with pilgrims arrived. The woman with the labels and the boy carrying the collecting box hastened to greet them. Women, clad in black, spilt out of the bus. Some entered the church, but most proceeded up the hill to the monastery. On their way, some women enthusiastically point towards Paliachǀra, while loudly discussing to whom the different sanctuaries are dedicated. Paliachǀra, “the Holy Mountain”, literally means “Old Town”, and is situated on a steep hill directly behind the Monastery of Agios Nektarios. The mountain is covered with sanctuaries; small churches dedicated to a host of saints within the Orthodox Church, both known and unknown. According to one of the priests in the monastery, these are “abandoned sanctuaries and an archaeological area”. When inspecting the area on the feast day in 1991, the opposite was apparent: in some chapels, candles had been lit, and at some of the altars, people had dedicated money and flowers. In 2011, I


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counted many chapels, including those of Agios Geǀrgios and Agios Dionysios. Above the latter is a monk’s cell. Another preserved church is dedicated to MetamorphǀsƝ (the Transfiguration). Also visible is the church of Agioi Anargyroi, i.e. “without money”, an epithet attributed to the “penniless” healing saints, Kosmas and Damianos, the patron saints of healing, who treated the sick without taking payment. The medieval village of Paliachǀra might be called Aegina’s version of Mystras in the Peloponnese. For a millennium (from the ninth to early nineteenth century), it was the capital of Aegina. The settlement of Paliachǀra followed a massive invasion of Attica and the Peloponnese by Saracen pirates with Aeginitans fleeing the dangers of the harbour for the inland heights, which they subsequently fortified. Even so, the site was raided by pirates several times during its thousand years of existence. The settlement itself is marvellous but all that remains of the hill village today are its churches, said to number 365, one for each day. It is not possible to tell if there were once indeed so many, as only seventy are confirmed to have existed on the hill, of which thirty-three still remain and are open to visitors. Five churches have been restored. That the churches are preserved in various conditions some of them with frescoes intact, clearly indicates that although people abandoned the village when moving back to the coast, they did not abandon their holy places. The churches are linked by stone paths, many of them flanked by stone walls, with pine trees here and there and stone steps leading to some. Annually, on the Monday after Easter Sunday, a celebration knows as LamprƝ (“bright” being another word for Easter) is held in the area next to the Holy Cross Church (Stauros) from midday into the afternoon, with traditional Greek music and dance. The houses of the inhabitants (estimated at more than 800) however, have crumbled into heaps of stones during the two centuries following the end of the Turkish occupation when the hill capital was abandoned. Only then was it safe to return to the harbour, where the small city of Aegina would soon become the first capital of the New Greek nation (1826-1828), established before the end of the war, which concluded successfully in 1832. On 8 November 2011 and 2012, I took the bus up to the monastery at 4 pm. The bus was filled to the brim with largely female pilgrims. Both years, most of them went directly into the new big church. In 2011, only one woman continued up the hill towards the monastery by the old path, to the right of the church. I was reluctant to follow her that day, because I had discovered the day before that the sewer from the monastery now runs directly into its path. On the left side of the church, many pilgrims came down along the new and beautifully decorated path linking the monastery

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


and the new church. All along the path grow flowers and trees, and there are benches so pilgrims can rest on their way between the two sanctuaries. Since so many pilgrims came down to the big church through this “monastery garden”, they had evidently taken taxis or parked their cars outside the old main entrance to the monastery. Nowadays there is another entrance to the monastery at the top of the new path. In the new church, many pilgrims had already taken their seats. A woman crawled on her knees towards the tomb containing Agios Nektarios’ right hand and forearm, situated in a nave or aisle to the right of the iconostasis. The lid had been removed from the silver tomb inside the marble throne and through a glass top one can see a silver representation of the saint inside, his right arm and hand clearly indicated with the brown bone. The frame of the glass top was decorated with flowers all around.

Figure 14. Women venerating the right hand tomb of Agios Nektarios, Aegina, 8 November 2011.

The lid rested on the floor leaning towards the wall. When a pilgrim reaches the tomb, she goes up on a sort of platform next to the particularly holy side of the tomb beside his arm and hand and kisses the glass top, paralleling the ritual in front of the miraculous icon and head of Pelagia on


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Tinos. In 2011, a woman said or sang prayers over the “sleeping” saint resting within his tomb. Another caressed his face with her hands. A third—half lying over the glass top—passed written supplication letters over his body, particularly his arm, hand and face to make them holy (Fig. 14). The same procedure is carried out with various items, such as children’s clothes and other persons’ clothes or amulets; some of them are placed or wrapped in plastic bags. Various other items are placed next to the flowers or on the marble shelf that runs around the silver coffin. The woman who half-lay over the glass top had a long conversation with the saint, others also caressed his cheeks, etc. while staying around the coffin. All of these actions particularly reminded me of the women’s personal rituals in front of the silver figure of the Panagia during the “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia” on Tinos when some lift up, kiss and caress the figure, performing their own individual rituals. In 2011 and 2012, I encountered many pilgrims from Romania. The first year, many wore yellow caps stating they were from Romania, reminding me of the poster I had seen pinned outside the Orthodox cathedral in the northern Romanian city of Alba Iulia in October that invited people to make a pilgrimage to Aegina in the period 6-13 November 2011, during the festival of Agios Nektarios.93 This invitation and the many nuns and several buses filled up with pilgrims from Romania attending the festival both years, illustrate his growing importance in that country. In 1991 at the entrance to the monastery hung a wide variety of skirts and other clothes in different sizes, as in most monasteries in Greece. The clothes are intended for the women who are not properly dressed to enter the holy area. In later years (i.e. 2011 and 2012), these clothes had been moved to the newer entrance at the top of the path leading down to the new church. Upon entering the monastery here, one sees the accompanying announcement: “It’s strictly forbidden to enter into the monastery men with shorts and women with trousers or half-naked”. Another sign denotes “clothes for women” and under this hang the clothes. Many pilgrims in short skirts or jeans wear these clothes over their own. In 2011 in the afternoon, the arriving pilgrims were greeted with a dinner just inside of the old entrance, and in front of the two-storey guest house or dormitory. They were served spaghetti with salsa and bread, followed by coffee and loukoumades (sweets, i.e. honey puffs/doughnuts). The menu was the same the following year, and the women working in the 93 And, for the price of 280 euros, to also visit other places in Greece, such as Thessaloniki, Meteora and the Akropolis of Athens.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


kitchen assured me that they worked there every year. I learnt that there was not one free bed; several of the Romanian pilgrims were eager to know whether there were any free rooms in the town. There is an allfemale dormitory and an all-male one; the first is situated next to the kitchen, the second is upstairs. In the little shops inside the monastery (although there was only one in 1991), the visitors can buy holy amulets, incense, books, and other items. The sale of such objects is very popular and I encountered the same excited activity in 2011 and 2012 as I had twenty years earlier.94 As soon as dinner was over, people entered the first and oldest shop to buy bottles for holy water or icons they wished to make holy by putting them on the tomb of the saint. A woman had also set up a counter outside of the shop to sell small two-euro Ɯmerologion ([saints’] calendars) for 2012 from “Iera MonƝ Agiou Nektariou AiginƝs”, with a picture of the saint on the front. A different woman had taken over this job in 2012 but her asking price was the same. At the two chapels in the monastery’s courtyard, many people sat in deep concentration, writing their (chartia) paraklƝseis. Since the saint’s power is especially strong on his annual feast day, it is particularly important to ask him to intercede on behalf of one’s closest family members. In 1991, a nun sitting just inside the entrance to the “women’s chapel” distributed writing paper. The bread and wine offered by the pilgrims was stored by her feet. In 2011 and 2012, several bottles of oil were stored on a marble shelf in the same chapel, and behind the saint’s bed in his apartment to keep the ever-burning lamp on his chest of drawers burning. In 2011, two women had taken up seats in front of the iconostasis in the women’s chapel. When someone asked why they were sitting there, they replied that they were venerating the icon. Perhaps they also sat there to ensure that they had the best view when the holy head was taken out. A third woman sang from her prayer book. On the same day (8 November), the annual feast of the Archangels, Michael and Gabriel, is also celebrated. The first, i.e. TaxiarchƝs, is celebrated especially in the village of Mantamados on the island of Lesbos where he is also patron saint. On Aegina, however, the sanctuary of the Archangels covers Agios Nektarios’ first resting place, and here by his original tomb, the faithful fetch holy and healing oil from the lamp hanging between the tree and the tomb. Many gifts were also left at this upper and original tomb in 2011 and in the subsequent year, including 94

It is strictly forbidden to take pictures inside the shops, which advertise that they sell books from their own publishing house (a male pilgrim who did so in 2012 was instructed to delete the photograph).


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candles, flowers, clothes and other items the saint was asked to render holy. Several pilgrims lay on the tomb in the same manner as they had on the previous day (cf. Fig. 13), while listening to the saint, or communicating with him. In 2011, I observed a family (mother, son and daughter) leaning on the tomb, enjoying a sort of “collective listening”. The following year I saw a young woman placing a pair of running shoes on the tomb, alternatively one shoe after the other, for some time. Others put baby clothes or other items of clothing on the tomb to absorb power. In 2011, two big candles, formed as coiled snakes, were left as dedications at the tomb; after a while these were lit and put behind the tomb in the passage leading to the saint’s apartment. There was an intense activity in the monastery: the faithful lit candles, prayed, handed in their written supplication papers and bought candles of various sizes. A mother arrived with her daughter who appeared to have learning difficulties. A man fetched blessed bread from the nun and touched the saint’s grave with a piece of it. Then he wrapped the bread in foil and attached it to his breast pocket, thereby acquiring an amulet for the next year. One woman, who had drawn quite a lot of oil from the lamp between the tree and the grave, finished her ritual by pouring holy water from the tap next to the tree into a small blue plastic bottle. Owing to her greed, the monastery staff had to refill the lamp with more oil. Another woman who was less indulgent, took only a little oil on one of her fingertips and wiped her forehead with it.95 The large candles hang outside the chapel covering the grave, next to the aforementioned lamp: the candles thus outline the entrance to the grave. On the other side of the tree is another door, so the pilgrims do not need to turn around (which would be inauspicious anyway) but can pass in front of the grave, always to the right.96 So, inside a little consecrated area within the monastery are the original tomb, a tree and holy water. Several pilgrims immediately drink some of the holy water on arrival there; others, mostly young men, brush it through their hair with their fingers. A young couple knelt on either side of the grave, praying intensely. As on Tinos, young childless couples are often present on Aegina.


Cf. the ritual in the church dedicated to Agia Marina, Athens on 17 July when a priest smears holy oil on people’s foreheads, and also other crosses painted on people’s foreheads during festivals: shoe polish at the Kalogeros ritual in the village of MelikƝ during Carnival; icing sugar during the Easter festival, Olympos, Karpathos; and blood at the Charalampos festival, Tauros mountain, Lesbos, see Håland 2007a: Ch. 4 and 6. See also Ch. 3 infra for Easter 2012. 96 Cf. du Boulay 2009; Håland 2007a: Ch. 4 and 6.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


In Agios Nektarios’ bedroom in 2011, I observed a female pilgrim praying on her knees in front of the bed. She appeared not to be Greek because, like most of the pilgrims from Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and other eastern European countries, she wore a scarf on her head. Her husband and young son were waiting for her, and she seemed to be very devout and emotional as she was weeping a lot. They spoke a Slavic language, and the mother was very eager to put the boy on a chair in the living room of the apartment and take a picture of him, although it is forbidden to sit on the chairs, as outlined on nearby notices in Greek, which apparently she could not read. In 2011 and 2012, I encountered many pilgrims from other Orthodox countries, Romania in particular, but also Bulgaria and Russia. In 1991, below the staircase leading up to Nektarios’ private apartment, I entered a room in which some nuns and female helpers were busy cutting bread for the liturgy the next morning. They cut the bread in front of an altar, where it would also be kept in baskets overnight, to render it particularly holy.97 During the afternoon, the activity at the grave intensified. Some of the faithful leant their heads towards the grave and prayed, others listened to the saint’s footsteps. Some pilgrims filled a spoon with oil from the lamp between the tree and the original tomb, which they ingested. In the small monastery church housing the saint’s relics, there is also an icon depicting Agia ParaskeuƝ in front of which people had dedicated some votive offerings. Naturally, they are shaped as eyes, since she is the saint most renowned for protecting against eye diseases. Directly opposite is an icon depicting Agios Nektarios. In front of this icon are many more votive offerings, which are dedicated there in increasing number throughout the festival. People touch the icon with the votive gifts, before attaching them to the string hanging along the icon. Inside the entrance door, a seated nun was busy handing out pieces of bread. Writing paper is also available. A young girl was writing supplication papers on behalf of an old woman who dictated with a loud voice. All the lamps hanging from the ceiling, like those on Tinos, are thanksgiving offerings. Further inside the chapel, the saint’s relics repose in a casket and his skull rests in a crown made of gold. Many votive offerings hang next to the holy relics. Two swords are showcased just beneath the votive gifts, which are also framed and glazed. There is a separate exit door used by the pilgrims who have performed the required set of devotions in front of the saint’s relics. Some pilgrims lay flowers on the saint’s reliquary. As usual, on the other side, i.e. in front of 97

Cf. the bread in the village of Capitello, Italy, Håland 1990, 1993.


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the iconostasis, some people stood reading aloud from their prayer books. Outside the entrance doors to the two monastery churches, a large icon depicting the saint is placed for the event and decorated with flowers. When people pass, they kiss the icon and dedicate votive offerings. Access to the other monastery church, as previously mentioned, is reserved to women. In this sanctuary, many votive offerings are dedicated to the icon depicting the Panagia and Child during the festival. The tamata are put beneath the icon; those representing men are tied with a light-blue ribbon and others depicting women bear a red ribbon. The supplication papers are collected in this chapel, to be read by the priest during the liturgy. While men can enter before it starts, they are prohibited from entering during the service. According to the programme in 1991, the celebration was scheduled to start at 6 pm on the eve of the feast. Liturgies would be held at 10 pm, 2:30 am and again at 6 am on the feast day and “The Holy Procession with the Holy Icon” would start at 10:30 am. The last liturgy would be held at 5:30 pm. As each programmed liturgy approached, more people arrived, including the ecclesiastics who were dressed in complete pontiff’s vestments. The latter arrived in taxis and some conversed with each other in French. In a niche in front of the main entrance to the monastery, is an icon depicting the saint. Also decorated with flowers, it is the first icon the pilgrims encounter at this sanctuary, as they arrive by the old gate. Many pilgrims put some cotton wool on this icon at the entrance. A young couple walked barefoot all the way up to the monastery in 1991, while in 2012 I observed a female pilgrim, clad in black, crawling the whole way, i.e. along the “old” path, up to the monastery. On the other side of the hill leading up to the large church and proceeding to the monastery, is the aforementioned “scholƝ”, which was converted into a hotel for the occasion in 1991. The same year a bus-load of Scouts and Guides arrived. They brought with them large candles. Before the start of the liturgy, buses of pilgrims arrived continually. Among them were many parents carrying their sick children, some suffering from rickets. People carried with them chairs, flowers and other necessary items for spending the night inside the church, as the wake or sleepless night would be long. The ferries running to the island in 1991, having obtained a dispensation from the strike, did not dock at the usual quay.98


There also used to be a special quay for the pilgrim ships on Tinos.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


All evening and during the night, they continued to arrive and extra buses ran constantly from the aforementioned bus station which is next to the harbour up to the sanctuary in the monastery. After a brief break, buses resumed service at 4 am. As during the course of the festival dedicated to Agios Gerasimos, like on Tinos, it is important to remain in the sanctuary overnight also on Aegina: the saint is thought to be present during his festival and because his potency particularly increases at night, pilgrims have to remain awake. We encounter a similar custom during Easter, but also in ancient festivals, such as the Mysteries at Eleusis. It is for this reason that all saints’ festivals start on the eve of the actual feast and culminate in the olonychtios iera agrypnia, “the holy all-night-service”, and procession. Many pilgrims sleep in the courtyard. Many also spend the night inside the church, while the priests and cantors sing invocations. According to popular belief, the Holy Nektarios usually wanders around at night, visiting the place he used to live. Accordingly, he receives new slippers once a year.99 Although the rituals performed by the pilgrims were very similar in all three of my visits (in 1991, 2011 and 2102), the previous account of the first day of the festival derives mainly from observations made in 1991, unless later years are explicitly mentioned. The event itself had changed somewhat by 2011 and 2012, since parts of the ritual no longer take place in the monastery. In fact, the 2011 and 2012 version of the festival was generally quite different from the one I experienced in 1991: today the new big church has been wholly integrated into the ritual celebration, also illustrated by the path that links the two sanctuaries, which did not exist in 1991, because the new church was not yet fully completed. One of the male helpers in the monastery informed me that at 6:15 pm the head would be taken down to the new church. According to the mostly identical 2011 and 2012 programmes, the celebration starts at 6 pm. The programme begins by saying that the Holy MƝtropolis of Hydra, Spetses, Aegina, HermƝonis and TroizƝnia, the Holy Monastery of Agia Triada—Agios Nektarios of Aegina celebrates, according to the sequence, in religious brightness at the Holy Monastery of Agia Triada—Agios Nektarios of Aegina, the annual memorial for the holy father Nektarios the Wonderworker, patron saint and protector of the island of Aegina and the whole Holy MƝtropolis. All the pilgrims and the inhabitants of the island 99 Today the same custom is found in Mantamados on Lesbos: in front of the holy icon of TaxiarchƝs, which, according to legend, is made of earth and blood from monks killed by the Turks, many pairs of golden shoes are dedicated. Cf. Athena who received a new peplos annually, as did also other ancient divinities, cf. Håland 2006b, 2007a, 2012c.


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are invited to participate in the worship and festive manifestations. The Evening Mass on 8 November 2011, starts at 6 pm with a short vespers in the Church of the Holy Monastery, Agia Triada. Then, the Holy Head of Agios Nektarios the Wonderworker will be carried in a solemn procession to the new magnificent Holy Church. At 6:30 pm a Great Hierarchical Vespers is officiated by His Eminence, Metropolitan Ephraim of Hydra, Spetses and Aegina, assisted by other Bishops. In 2011, however, this announced sequence took place on “overtime”. During the small service before the holy head is taken down, and in conjunction with the transferring of the head from its sanctuary through the women’s chapel, pilgrims light their candles from each other. This “candle procession” follows the head down to the big church by the new path connecting the two sanctuaries. Before the procession starts, a decorated icon of the saint is prepared next to the tree and original tomb, outside of the women’s chapel. Then, the head is carried through the women’s chapel and down to the big church. In the procession, a man carrying a flag comes first. Choirboys follow with candles and next comes a priest with the Bible. He is followed by the laymen carrying the icon and after more priests and choirboys with candles comes a priest carrying the head. He is followed by policemen, Scouts and Guides holding hands, finally followed by nuns. People carrying lighted candles follow the procession. In 2012, the visiting nuns and their Greek colleagues came up to the women’s chapel just before the beginning of the liturgy to participate in the escorting of Agios Nektarios’ holy head. Upon arrival at the new church, the icon of the saint is placed outside while the head is placed in the middle of the church in a decorated wooden lectern or proskynƝtƝrio, taking the place of an icon of the saint that is normally found at the lectern. Before it is placed, all the priests kiss the head, and thereafter take up position in front of the iconostasis. The pilgrims following the procession now line up to enter the church to perform their proskynƝma in front of the head, but before they enter, they also pay devotion to the icon outside. The third object to be venerated is the tomb of the saint in this church, which has replaced the decorated Epitaphios (present in 1991). All the way from the entrance door to the holy head Scouts and Guides are lined up on either side and the pilgrims file inbetween them. When the ecclesiastics perform the scheduled ritual announced in the programme, the activity at the “right hand” tomb becomes very intense: people, mostly women, kiss the glass top above the silver figure of the saint, pray, and place or rather pass clothes, icons and other items over the silver corpse of the saint in the sign of the cross. The tomb is almost entirely covered with flowers; several pilgrims also bring

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


long candles. In 2012, many pilgrims (particularly Romanian visitors) were eager to take pictures of the saint.100 By this point, many pilgrims have organised their belongings, chairs and food on the upper gallery, and have rolled out their blankets and sleeping bags. A part of the gallery is also reserved for the nuns, and separated from the others by locked wooden doors. However, in 2011 only one nun was present, which was consistent with what Sister Maria had said. A non-ecclesiastic woman was also there. Outside the sanctuary, the woman who earlier that day (i.e. in 2011) had sold the 2012 Ɯmerologion in the monastery had organised a new table where most of the pilgrims were now to be found. In 2012, the Ɯmerologion was sold by different women in both places. Since events were behind schedule, the dinner, for seventy people, had been postponed and would take place at 9:30 pm in 2011. Around 8 pm, two men were busy frying meat. Two others were preparing the tables. Carafes of white wine were placed on the tables and each of the guests was given a bread roll. The principal section of the table, reserved for the most venerable guests, the Metropolitan and the other priests, was particularly decorated with flowers. Cars arrived with flowers and more food for the dinner and decoration of the dining room. Outside begging children clad in rags ran around barefoot. Booths had been set up by African sellers, a change that has occurred steadily on Tinos during the celebration of the Dormition on 15 August from the 1990s until today, when for example South African sellers are present although they underline that they are also Greek. According to the official programme, an all-night holy vigil service, olonychtios hiera agrypnia, was to take place in the new Holy Church at 10 pm. In 2012, it is clearly marked that it will last until 5 am. It is interesting to note that at this time, i.e. 10 pm, the nuns start their own ritual celebration of the holy saint, while others, particularly priests, start their meal in the “scholƝ” next to the big church. Neither the meal nor the nuns’ ritual is officially mentioned in the programme. However, the official all-night holy vigil service that starts in the new church at 10 pm and the nuns’ ritual in the monastery starting at the same time draw a parallel with the gendered tasks and spheres during wakes over the dead.101

100 101

See infra for a possible reason. See Ch. 4 infra.


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The Feast Day, 9 November The feast day starts with a service early in the morning. Pilgrims arrive all through the previous night. This was particularly the case in 1991, due to the aforementioned strike. Before the start of the procession, the situation at the bus station was chaotic: everyone wanted to go up to see the saint and people fought to get on the buses. On the way up to the monastery in 1991, we passed a car decorated with flowers carrying an icon, and the frantic people on the bus started to shout: “Have we missed something? Has the procession already started?” During the feast day the saint’s decorated Epitaphios in the large church received many votive offerings in 1991. This particular icon illustrates the dead saint in a similar fashion to that of the icon that hangs over the door to his sleeping room in the monastery. On the way leading up to the monastery I met many beggars sitting along the path, a common sight at festivals dedicated to saints with powerful healing capacities as well as at pilgrimage centres famous for their healing power, as on Tinos. Many beggars had only one leg. Some pilgrims crawled to the sanctuary on their knees, paralleling the situation on Tinos. Many travelling sellers had set up their booths. At the monastery, the situation was even more chaotic. There was also some money at the icon outside the entrance to the monastery, illustrating that prayers had been fulfilled or were expected to be fulfilled. Before the start of the procession, a service was held in the sanctuary. At the end of Mass, the priests were on the terrace behind the monastery, facing downhill towards the new large church, chanting through loudspeakers. Simultaneously many pilgrims received the Holy Communion (Eucharist), and blessed bread was distributed continually from large baskets. As is usual at important saint festivals, people were eager to fetch bread and many stuffed themselves with it, not only eating it but also putting it into pockets and bags. A priest stood at the entrance to the altar inside the chapel housing the saint’s relics, and the faithful proceeded towards him, receiving the wine. Just before the start of the Eucharist, the crown with Agios Nektarios’ skull was lifted from its normal place. This solemn act took place at the end of the service, when it was taken behind the iconostasis. It is the most important symbol taken in procession to the town. Before the procession, people moved towards the priest to receive the holy wine. Afterwards they kissed the place from where the head had just been removed, having now been replaced by an icon. When Nektarios’ relics were taken out to be carried in procession, they were escorted through the chapel reserved for women.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


The aforementioned ritual was different in 2011 and 2012, because the morning service took place in the new church, as announced by the programme: “in 2011 the Wednesday Morning Mass on 9 November starts at 6:30 am with matins. At 7:30 am: Byzantine hymns (katabasiai, i.e. hymns chanted in the Orthodox Church at Matins, which alternate according to the great festivity of each period throughout the year), followed by the Divine Liturgy concelebrated within the new beautiful Holy Church dedicated to the saint.” While the priests perform the liturgy, people busily worship the same three items as the previous evening and night: the icon outside the door, the saint’s head in the middle of the church, and the tomb. By the end of the liturgy and before the procession starts, many pilgrims lie half-asleep along the walls inside the sanctuary of the new tomb in this church. They have been awake all night, although many of them had brought sleeping equipment with them, illustrated by the implements on the gallery the previous night. Most of the women who came on the 4 pm bus the day before also brought bags with them, indicating that they intended to spend the night in the sanctuary. I am not permitted to take pictures of the worshippers in front of the head, because, according to one man, “this is a holy liturgy”. That this rule does not apply to everyone is illustrated by all the male photographers running around inside the priest’s space in front of the iconostasis, some of them also with video cameras.102 In 1991, the procession started with the ecclesiastics setting out from the women’s chapel carrying the saint’s head. Outside, a hysterical girl stood pouring holy water over herself, another collapsed. When leaving the sanctuary, the first part of the procession involved the ritual carrying of the saint’s head in a car decorated with flowers to the outskirts of the town. The icon was carried in another car. When the head was lifted into the car, a choirboy swung the censer to keep away evil spirits. On their 102

One may also mention the male lay helper in the Church of the Annunciation on Tinos on the eve of the festival dedicated to the Vision in 2011 (and also some of the priests the following year), who completely ignored my written permission from the office of the church to take pictures. Simultaneously, male photographers ran around next to the iconostasis as they pleased, particularly in 2012, but taking pictures of the bishop instead of the women (as I do). Needless to say, this problem was exaggerated in 2012, when the situation between Greece and the EU complicated my position as a Marie Curie Fellow. Because for some people this meant that I represented the EU, I went from being a welcome visitor one year to the opposite the next. My solution, therefore, was to become more anonymous, presenting myself as the Norwegian researcher I had always been on the island. In 2013 this was particularly appreciated, cf. n.33 supra.


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way down from the monastery, many women were busy collecting herbs, flowers and green leaves in the grass growing on the hillside. The herbs are thought to be particularly holy when the saint’s head is carried in procession, thus paralleling the holy earth traditionally collected on Tinos as well as the “dust” from Gerasimos’ tomb. One may also mention the analogous ritual in the Italian village of Cocullo where people are eager to fill their handkerchiefs with “Saint Domenico’s Earth” from the heap in one of the recesses in the church during his festival in May.103 In 2011 and 2012 the procession from the sanctuary escorting the Holy Relics of Agios Nektarios, the Wonderworker to the town of Aegina, as it is described in the programme, was to start at 10:30 am. When the head emerges from the church, carried by a priest, people become quite excited and wild, many of them because of lack of sleep. The saint’s head is placed into a decorated car to be carried to the town. An old woman, clad in black, manages to come close to the head before it is passed over to an older priest who, in turn, passes it back to the former once he has taken his seat in the car. All the visiting pilgrim groups have their own buses back to town.104 The older women struggle and jostle a lot to get onto the public bus when it finally arrives. On the bus to town in 1991, two women started to fight; emotions were running high on this day and many of the pilgrims were in a particularly bad or excited mood after a combination of fasting, the sleepless night and all the incense in the sanctuary. Along the road leading down to Aegina town, many villagers have removed the saint’s icon from among the other family icons in their holy corner, putting it in front of their houses, along with the oil lamp and their household censer. In this way, the household cult shifts from the innermost to an outer space. The holy symbols are placed at the roadside or in a niche at the gate, thus their power will be renewed at the same time as ensuring the saint’s relics pass through clean air, like in Olympos during the procession on Holy (Good) Friday, and on Tinos. As the holy head passes before the house, the housewife throws incense on the embers, and the priest rewards her for having made the air smell sweetly for its passage by pausing to say a prayer for her. The procession is assembled at the outskirts of the town. As on Tinos and in other festival locations, the processional route is marked with white crosses bordered with apotropaic (cf. apotrepein, to ward off) blue (as on the Greek flag itself), and two crossed Greek flags, as well as the usual flags at the sanctuaries. During the procession, cars are prohibited from entering the town, and the shops 103

Håland 1990, 1993, 2011c. Hotels that were closed for the season opened up for a few days during the festival, to accommodate these groups.


Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


are closed between 12 noon and 2 pm for the procession. In 2011 and 2012, the programme announced the procession thus: “At 11:30 am-12:30 pm: The religious procession of the Holy Relics will pass throughout the central streets of the town of Aegina [Kapodistriou—PhaerǀmenƝs— ParaliakƝ (Promenade, i.e. the coastal road)—Katsa—Thǀmaidos— Kyberneiou (the Government Building)], ending up at the Holy Metropolitan Church (i.e. Cathedral) of Aegina, where the last prayer will be held in favour of the town, its residents and the pious pilgrims.” So, after stops at the harbour, the first government building of the new Greek nation-state and the two churches dedicated to the Panagia and Agios Nikolaos respectively on the procession’s promenade around the town, it ends up in the principal church dedicated to the Panagia (Panagitsa Iera MƝtropolƝs). At all stops it is important to walk under the canopy carrying the head to be purified and therefore protected for the next year, thus paralleling the rituals on Tinos and Kephallonia. Scouts, Guides and school children head the procession. The latter, starting with the youngest pupils, lead the way carrying flags; all the schools on the island are represented. They pass by the church of the Panagia or Panagitsa, as many locals say, next to which a small market is held on occasion of the feast.105 The children are followed by marching bands. Choirboys lead the ecclesiastical procession, in which nuns and priests are present. They swing their censers, in order to “purify” the area before the arrival of the head. Some carry banners with various symbols, and their coats are a diverse range of colours. A priest dressed in a yellow robe carries the Holy Bible. In 2011 and 2012, two laymen or nonecclesiastics, carried an icon of the saint. Next, follows a boy, clad in black, carrying a censer. Then follows the icon decorated with flowers, carried by young priests, also dressed in black. After this come the nuns, and an old nun follows carrying a censer. In 1991, a car with loudspeakers came next, and a “rolling” or “moving” service was being held from the car. The priests chanted in turn. In the intervening years, the technical apparatuses have improved, and today the car has been substituted by a portable microphone. The priest carrying this is followed by more members of the clergy with Agios Nektarios’ skull in the golden crown. The icon and head are carried by priests, and nowadays (in 2011 and 2012) the officiating priest comes next. The most important part of the procession, the priests carrying Agios Nektarios’ head, are walking below a sort of “moving” canopy carried by policemen, under which is the 105

One of the local women was eager to tell me that they would celebrate in that church on 21 November. I also noticed that many icons in the church depict the Presentation of the Panagia in the Temple. Se Ch. 5 infra for this festival.


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koubouklio, the “movable sanctuary”, bier or platform and on which rests the head, carried by the priests. The metropolitan bishop and other bishops wearing crowns on their heads and carrying staffs in their hands follow the bier. One also carries some green leaves. In the middle of the last section of the ecclesiastical part of the procession, a priest dressed in black carrying a staff is the leading person. The procession ends with the people following the saint through the town. In 1991, a woman went up to the saint’s head, strewing petals and leaves around the relic from a sack. In several places parts of the house altars have been moved outside to greet the saint. At the church of the Panagitsa, the church version of the saint’s icon has been transferred outside. Here the saint’s icon, heading the sacred part of the procession, makes his first stop, thus greeting his other icon, which is placed on a lectern outside of the church. The latter is decorated with flowers, thus, in “festival attire” it meets and greets the icon that has been brought from the saint’s main sanctuary outside of the town.106 When arriving in front of the church, both the visiting icon and following holy head, below the canopy, are sprinkled with white flower leaves, and a choirboy swings a censer. Helpers roll out red carpets in front of the church, and a service is held. A second stop is made at the town hall (dƝmarcheio) where an icon depicting the saint is suspended. During the procession, I see a woman on a balcony holding the saint’s icon over the procession passing underneath. On several streets in the historical centre of the town, beautiful carpets have been rolled out awaiting the procession, and they are sprinkled with green leaves and flower buds. There is a third stop in front of the church dedicated to Agios Nikolaos (I. N. Agiou Nikolaou Aiginas).107 The final stop is made at the church dedicated to the Dormition of the Panagia, i.e. MƝtropolitiko Iero Nao KoimƝseǀs tƝs Theotokou AiginƝs, generally called only MƝtropolis, perhaps to distinguish it from the first church, since both are dedicated to the Panagia. At the third and fourth stops, the head and icon are sprinkled with flowers; at the former, an old woman does the sprinkling, while a young man holds the censer. Here, at Agios Nikolaos’ 106

Inside the church are many votive offerings in front of the icon depicting the Panagia and Child. They mostly depict a woman’s breasts, a child, a woman, a house or a foot. These are typical gifts from women. The same is illustrated by the other offerings: jewels, rings, blue beads (to ward off the Evil Eye). In the evening the icon depicting Ag. Nektarios is moved inside again next to this icon of the Panagia and Child. 107 In the church of Ag. Nikolaos, many votive offerings hang beneath his icon. The day after the festival of Ag. Nektarios, the icon of Ag. Nikolaos is placed on a lectern in front of the nave, anticipating his festival.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


church, two decorated icons have been moved out in their lecterns and some of the women start their own singing.

Figure 15. Some house altars awaiting the procession with the head of Agios Nektarios, Aegina, 9 November 2011.

All along the road, beautiful decorated house altars await the procession (Fig. 15). In some places, the women also stand next to their altars holding lighted candles. Some nurses in uniform have put a decorated icon of the saint in a lectern outside the building housing the first government building of John Kapodistrias. The local hospital of Agios Dionysios is some five hundred metres away on the same road. At the final stop, only a few pilgrims are permitted to enter with the ecclesiastic procession, since the police close the gate after them. The rest can enter after the termination of the liturgy and speech, which is followed by the national anthem. During the final speech at the last church to be visited by the procession in 2011, all the foreign pilgrims from Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and other eastern European and Balkan countries, i.e. all the non-Greek Orthodox believers present, were given a special mention alongside the Greek worshippers. Through the procession the town is blessed, and so are, particularly, its churches and public


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administrative buildings, thus paralleling other festivals both in Greece and abroad; such as, to give an example, the Italian festival dedicated to Saint Ubaldo, the patron saint of the village of Gubbio. The procession traverses the town, tracing a route between the local churches. In front of nearly every single house, the “household altar” or parts of the household cult are displayed outside, and as the holy saint passes before each one; the woman of the house, standing ready with a sack of flower buds, throws them at the procession. When the Scouts, Guides and the other nonecclesiastics pass, these women often throw green herbs from another sack; but when the priests carrying the head pass, they throw greater quantities of flower buds, or, most often petals. Inside the gate to the MƝtropolis, which is the end of the procession, another boy waits carrying a censer, which he swings as it arrives. When the procession enters the church enclosure, a woman standing in the window above empties a basket of flower leaves over the participants: parts of the flowers over the icon and the first part of the procession and the rest over the canopy carrying the holy head. The procession terminates with a service in the church dedicated to the Panagia or MƝtropolis, while it is visited by Agios Nektarios’ icon and head. As soon as the service in the MƝtropolis church is finished, the marching band tours the town a second time. Inside the church enclosure, however, people are enthusiastic to receive blessed bread after the ceremony, although most already received some hours earlier when the service finished in the new Agios Nektarios church, and the holy head started out its taxi ride to the town. Outside of the MƝtropolis, some eager pilgrims gather up the last crumbs in the basket using pieces of the paper that covered the interior. Next to the bell tower, some helpers fold away the “moving” canopy, which has a picture of the saint hovering over the island of Aegina on its front. Simultaneously, people line up outside the entrance of the church waiting their turn to perform their proskynƝma, fervently making their devotions in front of the head, now displayed on a tall table draped with red silk, next to the decorated icon, both of which are now “visiting” the Panagia in her main church. A man and a nun take turns standing next to the head, which also receives green leaves from some of the pilgrims. Others secure some of the flowers and green leaves from the koubouklio in which the head was transported. In the church of the Panagia then, three objects are worshipped by the faithful: everyone bows and kisses the holy head, then, they proceed to the icon, and finally many bow their heads into the empty koubouklio. Many also fetch flowers or green leaves from the decoration, while others fetch green leaves from the entrance gate to the church. Many also cross various symbols three times

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


over the head, such as crosses. I encountered three of the pilgrims I have met over the years at Tinos during the Dormition festival here on Aegina. People move around wishing each other “Chronia Polla” (Many Years), and most pilgrims rush onboard the “Flying Dolphin” which is bound for Piraeus; others await later boats. Some of them, including a number of nuns, eat their packed lunches in the parks or in the streets, while others still invade the various tabernas in the town. The priests have presumably gone up to their lunch (for 250), which starts at 1 pm. In 1991, the visiting ecclesiastics departed the monastery in the afternoon. The younger priests went downtown by bus. The most prominent visiting priests left on a helicopter from the landing field behind the monastery. In the monastery pilgrims were still lining up waiting their turn to perform the required set of devotions in front of the saint’s head, and in its absence they paid homage to the space it usually inhabits and to the icon that had temporarily replaced it. More votive gifts had been dedicated there, as well as flowers and money. The icon outside the two chapels had also been left some votive gifts. At the saint’s tomb, his original resting place, a substantial load of large candles, flowers, money and other gifts had been left, such as a box containing 500-milligram tablets of cortisone along with a letter. His slippers were in their usual place. A young French woman had made her pilgrimage all the way from Paris, and she told me that Saint Nektarios had helped her many times. Just before the service started at 5:30 pm, the ritual activity became intense: the head was brought back up from the town accompanied by screaming sirens. Before it was put back on its stand, a priest carried the censer around the women’s chapel: he censed the whole chapel before the head was brought inside. It was then posed on a table in the middle of the chapel. The doors towards the most holy were wide open, and inside an icon was displayed on a silver shrine. The pilgrims entered the sanctuary, bowed and kissed the head, etc. The head, therefore, is escorted ritually through the women’s chapel both when removed from its usual space and when it is returned. The service took place in the women’s chapel, like the one in the morning; during the service, an old nun walked around collecting healing moss and herbs on the hill below the monastery in the bright moonshine. The aforementioned sequence describes the afternoon as I experienced it in 1991. Twenty years later, some changes had occurred: when I entered the new big church around 4 pm, the icon had again replaced the saint’s head on the lectern in the middle of the church, and several decorated flowerpot offerings were placed beneath the lectern. At the “right-hand” tomb were many candles and green branches. An old woman dedicated a


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bottle of oil while praying passionately, half-crying. There was a flourish of activity at the tomb: in 2012, a female Romanian pilgrim was busy sweeping pieces of candles, dust and flower buds from the tomb. All the pieces of one- and two-euro coins that had been offered, were brushed away into a corner. The money was of no interest compared with the holy leftovers from candles, flowers, etc., paralleling the dust pilgrims fetch from the tomb of Agios Gerasimos and the holy earth on Tinos. She swept all of these holy “amulets” into a plastic bag, which she put into her own. With the bag in her hand and another backpack on her back, she went up to the monastery. See seemed to be ashamed of the state of the path leading up to Agios Nektarios’ monastery, picking up items of rubbish along the way; in the end, she took one of the dustbins with her on her tour to facilitate her actions. Two Greek men looking at her asked if she was Romanian as she wore a headscarf typical of non-Greek Orthodox eastern European women. She said yes, and continued her work. Arriving at the monastery’s entrance, she put down the rubbish container and entered the monastery. She had cleaned and tidied up all the way from the saint’s church to his monastery. Once inside, she took all her newly acquired holy items from her bag and backpack, arranged them next to a water fountain, and contemplated them, both those she had paid for—a 2013 calendar, icons and books—and the one she had taken from the tomb, the dust in the plastic bag. In 2011, I also went up to the monastery through the garden, and in the saint’s bedroom I met the two aforementioned women, one from Piraeus, who at first forbade me to take pictures, but then later changed their minds. They told me that they were waiting for the saint’s head to be brought back from the town. The head was scheduled to leave the town at 4:30 pm, and once back in the monastery, the liturgy would start. The liturgy at the closet would start at 6:30 pm: Then, they would open the door and take out his clothes, according to the woman from Piraeus. The two women started to fill the ever-burning lamp on the chest of drawers in the bedroom with fresh oil. They smeared the oil on their faces and over my hands too, insisting I must convert. I then left the bedroom and strolled around the court in front of the women’s chapel, where I met the female lay person who stayed in (or rather organised)108 the nuns’ quarter on the gallery during the nocturnal service the previous night. She asked me with wide open eyes how the pictures I took turned out (I had taken some of pilgrims paying homage to the head from the gallery using the zoom lens of my camera), and if I had also taken one of Agios: had I seen that he had 108

She was in fact very effective, deciding who was permitted to enter and who was not. The only nun present was busy listening to the service. I had the opportunity to stay for a little while.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


opened one of his eyes? I said no, having to confess that although I also took several pictures of the silver figure under the glass top in the chest of the right hand tomb and of the detached lid, I did not see that he had opened one of his eyes. She looked at me as if I had really missed something. I did not reflect on the issue then, but later I would be reminded of the topic. This happened in 2011, since at the same moment in 2012, I noticed many monastery nuns participating in the evening liturgy on 8 November in the big church together with many visiting nuns; all of them stood at the front on the women’s side of the church, and their quarter up on the gallery was closed. I left the woman and continued on to the water source, where a young woman had arranged six bottles to be filled with holy water. According to the programme, which does not mention the ritual with the closet, in the afternoon of 9 November, the end of the celebration, i.e. the festivities within the Holy Monastery will be held as follows: at 4:30 pm, the Holy Head will be carried back from the town to its usual position (oikeian) in the Church of the Holy Monastery where the Great Vespers and the Holy Prayer will be chanted. The programme is signed: “On behalf of the Holy Monastery”. At 4:30 pm the holy head is escorted up to the monastery in a decorated car followed by screaming sirens, motor bikes and cars.109 The car stops at the old entrance to the monastery, and soon a priest comes backwards down the stairs to the courtyard and the two chapels. He is censing the air before the holy head arrives carried by the metropolitan bishop, and they enter the women’s chapel. Here the casket with the head is put on a table with a red and golden cloth, and the liturgy starts. While the nuns are singing, the bishop sits next to the head, holding his staff. During the liturgy, people continually enter the chapel to kiss the head and the hand of the bishop. After a while, the other priests enter ceremonially and in a short time, return behind the iconostasis. They alternately read the written “letters”, (chartia) paraklƝseis (prayer or supplication papers), lying in the heap on the altar, and sometimes only pick them up without reading aloud. Around 6 pm, they emerge from the hieron and start to dress the officiating bishop in his entire pontiff’s vestments including the Bible, and he starts to read. The service ends by returning the head to its original place in its own chapel via the south door (right) of the iconostasis in the women’s chapel. In other words, Agios Nektarios leaves and returns via the women’s sanctuary, and we observe a symbolic or rather concrete rebirth, via the female sanctuary and female aspect, paralleling many other 109

It reminds me of cars with newlywed couples on Saturday evening in Greece.


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passage rites both in Greek and other contexts.110 In short, through the annual liturgy in the women’s chapel that officially concludes the festival, Agios Nektarios, who instituted a women’s monastery, has been “reborn”. Afterwards his closet is opened, but this popular ritual is not mentioned in the programme. Nonetheless, the ritual in the closet is very important to the pilgrims. As soon as they have venerated the head, many leave the women’s chapel to head for the closet. In 2012, they were stopped in the outer hall just inside the saint’s private apartment. The aforementioned woman from Piraeus sat on a sofa holding the key to the entrance door stating that the apartment would remain closed until vespers had finished. Beside her sat two younger women. On the other sofa sat an old man and a young man with a baby on his lap. Two women stood next to a cabinet. All the newcomers who tried to enter the hall were bluntly commanded to wait outside. Although many tried to argue with her explaining they needed to take the boat that leaves at 7:30 pm, the female caretaker was categorical: no one was permitted to enter, and she would not open the door until vespers had finished. She made a space for me on the sofa though. By the end of vespers, another younger woman came to assist her, saying that only groups of four people were permitted to enter at any one time; the couple with the baby were promised to be among the first, since they were among those to leave on the aforementioned boat. Around 6:30 pm the vespers finished. In his closing speech, the bishop touched on most aspects of the present situation in Greece, including the crisis, or as he put it, “Greece’s dangerous voyage over the turbulent waves”. He ended by talking about Agios Nektarios’ new clothes. At the same time, the queue outside the saint’s apartment was steadily growing: everybody sat waiting on the stairs, around the court, or they stayed in its middle, awaiting the opening of the closet or wardrobe. When he finally concluded, the ecclesiastics arrived, headed up by one of the younger nuns: she entered the hall triumphantly carrying the big key to the closet. Laymen carried in the decorated icon that had been in the court just outside of the women’s chapel. All the nuns followed, among them some of the visiting nuns. The priests and the bishop followed on from them. Some of the ecclesiastics carried various symbols, among these the new clothes. Four pilgrims were also allowed to enter. Apart from the nun with the key, most of the ecclesiastics left the apartment quite quickly. The pilgrims did not want to leave, however, having completely forgotten 110

Cf. many African passage rites, when people, i.e. boys and girls, are reborn after being at “the place of death”, Dowden 1989: 36. Cf. also ancient Greek festivals and cult in general, see Ch. 8 infra.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


about the boat. Inside the closet or wardrobe, which is a room of approximately the same size as the bedroom, the nun with the key stood in front of a glass cabinet or closet containing the former clothes of the saint. In front of this cabinet is a decorated icon and next to it, the “visiting” icon that was carried in by the laymen. On a table, a package containing the new clothes was partly unwrapped. There were also many sponges in the room. The pilgrims were quite excited: they kissed the glass cabinet, the icons, all the holy items, and crawled around on the floor, kissing everything; the icon that is permanently kept in the closet as well as the “visiting” one, the clothes, i.e. the glass cabinet covering the clothes, one of the most eager was the aforementioned Eleutheria. When people had been inside the closet venerating all the holy objects, they were treated in one of the rooms to sweets and coffee. When I left the apartment around 7 pm, the queue waiting to enter the apartment to proceed to the closet was enormous. After the liturgy in 2011, I shared a taxi back to the town with two young Greek women. One of them was very excitedly telling us that she had noticed the saint opening one of his eyes. In the beginning, she did not believe her own eyes, but another woman said she had witnessed the same, convincing her that she had in fact seen what she thought. All the way down to the town, while repeatedly telling the story, she crossed herself continually, and the female driver started to share her own story, i.e. “her miracle”: she had an allergy, eczema on her hands, but had been healed through the help of Agios Nektarios. I feel it is important to note here that although the aforementioned woman from the gallery is an older woman, the driver is middle-aged and the two pilgrims I travelled with are quite young. In addition, I met several young women who brought along their newborn babies, and placed them next to the head to kiss it. In other words, women of all ages come to Agios Nektarios to get help. Further, it is important to mention that all the rituals left out of the official programme, such as the meals, the annual opening of the closet, and so on, are popular and female rituals that seem to be particularly important to the female pilgrims I talked with along with their personal worship of the saint’s head and body in his two tombs at the area. I assume that all the discussion about the saint opening his eye both in Greece and Romania accounts for the fact that so many, particularly Romanian, pilgrims were eager to take pictures of the saint in 2012.111 The same year, 111

In this connection, one may also mention a film on Agios Nektarios, made by a local TV station, which was broadcast in Romania in the summer 2012. The interviews are only with Romanian pilgrims (see http://magazin.trinitastv.ro/viatasi-minunile-sfantului-nectarie, accessed 24.11.12), and in the film a woman talks


Chapter Two

I noticed that the main icon of the saint in the women’s chapel is painted so it seems that the saint is winking with his right eye. In 1991, the day after the festival dedicated to the patron saint of the island, i.e. on 10 November, some new votive offerings had been dedicated to the icon, which is placed on a lectern in front of the nave in the large new church. At the saint’s Epitaphios some new votive gifts are also dedicated, depicting a leg and women’s breasts. But all the flowers and money had been removed. Further up the hill, in the monastery, the woman who pasted labels on the pilgrims some days earlier stood in the gate. Now, she sold books that would grant the saint’s blessing for the next year. They cost 100 drachmae per copy. In the monastery church, in which the saint’s head was in its usual place, there was still much enthusiastic activity, since many were writing supplication papers. The French pilgrim woman sat next to the head, while looking at the saint’s head, tears streaming down her cheeks. At the original tomb in the chapel beneath the tree, there were some minor votive gifts, among others a plastic syringe in a plastic sack. People were still fetching oil and water. The saint’s private apartment was closed. One of the priests came out from the most holy in the monastery church in which the relics repose. He chanted, swinging a cross, letting people kiss the cross. Extra buses still ran up to the monastery, but the activity had declined. The day after the celebration in 2012, I visited the new church and monastery around noon. There were still many visitors, particularly Romanian pilgrims, and several buses were parked in the parking area beneath the new church. Inside, the lid had been put back above the tomb containing the right arm and hand. A woman was going around the church wiping all the icons with white paper on which she had sprinkled lemon water. In particular, she wiped the glass framing the icons and finally the tomb. By so doing, she had obtained an effective amulet to bring home about the lid generally covering the coffin which contains the right hand. This woman says that the eyes of the saint open when the lid of the coffin is photographed. They even show the photo in the film and the eyes appear to be open. The same woman says that although some call it an optical illusion (created by the reflection of light), she personally believes that the saint opens his eyes for us. See also http://www.formula-as.ro/2008/818/spiritualitate-39/minunilesfantului-nectarie-9580 (accessed 24.11.12). The female interviewee mentions some pictures she took of the lid in which the saint has his eyes open and a halo around his head. Similar testimonies (made by Romanian pilgrims to Aegina) are also published in the books about his miracles. In one of the books, a woman mentions some photos of the saint with the eyes open. This Romanian material was received via personal communication from PhD student, Irina Stahl (Romania), see also infra.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


with her. In the monastery, there were many people, particularly Romanians. A service was performed and one of the young nuns sang in the women’s chapel accompanied by one of the priests who was singing in the next church in which the head is in its usual place. I recalled Sister Maria’s words, telling me that they celebrate 10 November by repeating all the prayers for Nektarios in the small church. People were treated to coffee and outside the women’s chapel was a big basket with some of the distributed kollyba, i.e. a mixture of wheat, nuts and fruit usually offered to the dead during memorial services at the tombs, which attracted a large number of wasps. Many pilgrims clung onto or lay next to the saint’s original tomb to hear and to communicate with Agios Nektarios and be healed by his miracles. Although my descriptions have been based on three periods in the field studying the festival in 1991, 2011 and 2012 (with a gap of twenty years between the first and second periods), I hope I have managed to illustrate that even though much of the decor has changed, primarily because of the enlarged importance of the new church during the festival, the core of the rituals endure as does the attendees’ faith in the saint. To quote a female Greek PhD student: “I am looking forward to meeting you and sharing your experiences from Aegina. I have never been to Aegina and Agios Nektarios is considered to be one of the most Divine Saints who performed many miracles.” The same opinion is expressed by other people, particularly women in Athens. One woman in her thirties asked me to light a candle for her during the festival in 2012, saying that “Agios Nektarios is so special since he is one of the most recent saints here in Greece, and he is indeed a proven wonder-worker, otherwise people would not return to Aegina”. In 1991, I learnt that Agios Nektarios’ relics reposed in more than eighteen churches in Greece and Cyprus. Today this has changed. According to Abbess Valentina Drumeva of the Bulgarian monastery dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple in the town Kalofer, with whom I spoke on 30 June 2012, a few of the nuns from the monastery had already gone to Aegina in 1990 to fetch some of his relics. A small relic is on display in their monastery church, that today has eleven nuns, one of whom is named Nektaria. I have also learnt of a monk called Nektarios. In addition, Agios Nektarios’ relics repose in more and more churches, such as in Romania and Spain. The Romanian Orthodox Church, i.e. the Radu Vodă Monastery in Bucharest, obtained one of his relics in 2001 or 2002, and he is particularly famous for healing cancer in a country where the health system is on the verge of collapse. Actually, an important explanation for the saint’s body starting to decompose is that it indicated


Chapter Two

that he, or rather his relics, should be spread out among many sanctuaries, inside and outside of Greece, i.e. worldwide.112 The situation today means it is by no means certain how many places can boast of having an actual relic of Agios Nektarios residing in their church. As already mentioned, Agios Nektarios now also resides in the Church of the Annunciation on Tinos, since the Metropolitan of Aegina and several nuns came to Tinos with his relic during the festival of the “Finding of the Icon” in 2012. After being on display in the church during the day, he resides next to the miraculous icon in its “safe” every night. He is indeed a “migrant saint”.113


DionysiatƝs 1979: Ch. 8.2, i.e. 163. The information relating to Romania was communicated to me by the PhD student, Irina Stahl (Romania) who presented the paper, “Saint Nectarios, ‘The Migrant Saint’: Healing Rituals in Post-communist Romania”, at the Eight Annual Conference of the SIEF (Société Internationale d’Ethnologie et de Folklore) Working Group on The Ritual Year, Migrations, 2629 June, 2012, Plovdiv, Bulgaria. From her initial sources she understood that his relics came to Bucharest in 2001. But recently, the prior of the monastery told her they actually came in 2002. She also reports that from Romania his cult has spread to the Romanian parish in Coslada, a suburb of Madrid, Spain. In 2011, they received his relic from a Greek metropolite. Spain has one of the largest Romanian communities abroad. 113 On 17 October 2012 I got a message from the Romanian researcher Irina Stahl saying that Agios Nektarios’ head would come to Romania at the end of October, i.e. on 27 October on the festival dedicated to Saint Dimitrie from Basarabi (this is a local Saint Dimitrios, i.e. celebrated the day after the Greek Agios DƝmƝtrios). Agios Nektarios’ head should be brought to Romania by the Greek Metropolitan Ephraim of Hydra, Spetses and Aegina who would be the guest of honour. And then they would also have a special celebration at Radu Vodă monastery on 9 November, bigger than usual, so I was told that “there is a lot going on in 2012 around Saint Nektarios in Romania”. Later I learnt that the bishop of Aegina “only” brought with him the right hand, which was displayed in Bucharest (http://www.basilica.ro/stiri/pelerinajul-continua-pe-dealul-patriarhiei_420.html; http://www.basilica.ro/stiri/bmoastele-sf-ier-nectarie-pe-icolinabucurieiib_251.html, accessed 24.11.12). The Romanian Patriarch called the right hand of Nektarios “his healing hand”. He made a joke in his speech telling the audience that a number of pilgrims bought tickets to go to Aegina to see the saint, and after hearing that he would come to Bucharest they changed their mind, asking for their money back. Then he realised that the Greek Metropolitan standing next to him might not appreciate his joke and he added. “But then, they will actually gain more, going to visit the saint at his home, etc.” To me who met them on Aegina, it seems that they really did.

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


The Bodies of Saints In this chapter, I have given a “thick” description of the fieldwork that I have carried out on modern death festivals, often pointing out differences from year to year. One of the reasons for that is to show the continuity of rituals, since although some factors change due to the dynamics of history, the main sequences remain very similar. As several researchers including myself have pointed out:114 rituals are by their very nature unchangeable although new values and meanings are continually added. One may sum up this chapter, which has presented four festivals dedicated to dead mediators, by emphasising the importance of their bodies to the worshippers. Although the festival dedicated to the Annunciation does not focus on the concrete body of the Panagia, her icon plays the same role for the believers—as I will discuss in the following chapters. Moreover, on Tinos, in particular, we meet the death cult in connection with the holy skull of Agia Pelagia, which resides in an ornate stand near the main entrance of her church, and through the glass top of the stand its dome can be seen. Pilgrims pay the same devotion to her skull as to the miraculous icon, touching the glass top with similar votive offerings or objects they want to make holy, such as cotton, flowers, green leaves, candles, bread or cloth. Particularly during the festival, flower buds from the wreath of flowers decorating the stand are considered to be effective amulets after being crossed three times over her head. The same procedure is carried out in front of the figure depicting Panagia on her deathbed (Epitaphios) during the “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia”, which will be described in the next chapter. The procedure on Tinos is very similar to the cult we encounter in connection with the two male saints that have been presented. The bodies of both Agios Gerasimos and Agios Nektarios are of highest importance for the worshippers, and although several churches both in Greece and abroad today share the latter, the main pilgrimage centre on Aegina possesses his head. However, Agios Gerasimos, the patron saint of Kephallonia, is the most obvious example of the importance of a saint’s body for the worshippers, who lie down in the street to be healed when his body is passed over them. Although two of the presented festivals are dedicated to male saints, both instituted women’s monasteries, and nuns as well as ordinary women are the most frequent pilgrims to visit the sanctuaries dedicated to them. 114

Robertson 1992: Limberis 1994; Håland 2007a, see also d’Aquili, Laughlin, Mc Manus 1979.


Chapter Two

Furthermore, although the festivals are public and the male priests and male political authorities often have important ceremonial roles, one can argue that the festivals in many ways are primarily related to the female domestic sphere. The festivals represent “women’s things” in general, i.e. religion, death, illness, and family life. In the context of daily life, women give birth, raise children, prepare food, and tend to the dead in an endless cycle; and it is women who make pilgrimages to the shrines to offer themselves so that this cycle might continue. So, women come to the two male saints for the same reasons they make pilgrimages to the Panagia and Agia Pelagia on Tinos, to whom they come with prayers related to the eternal issues of health, children, death, and birth. They pray and make offerings to conceive or to be healed of a sickness; but most often, they make vows and requests on behalf of others, such as sick children or a family member who has just died. The requests women make are related to fertility, health, and death. Women are also the most important actors in the churches, which they dominate before and after the ceremonies of the priests. Generally, they are the most devout pilgrims, the first to light a candle and the most eager writers of the supplication papers in order to assure the health of their living family members and their deceased dear ones. As already noted, the female and male parts of the nocturnal celebration during the festival of Agios Nektarios also parallel the gendered spheres apparent during death rituals in Greece. Regarding the other festivals we also encounter a parallel to the general female wake or all-night prayer vigils for the newly deceased. By concentrating on the meaning of these rituals, we shift focus from a man’s world to a woman’s world, considering values and cults that are important to women, first and foremost the death cult. In a broader perspective, we realise that this cult also has importance for the official ideology. One may question the statement that “women participating at festivals are not necessarily representatives of women’s daily life situation”. The reason being that festivals do not seem to be “a change of air” for women generally confined to their own sphere within the “private” houses, living a totally secluded life, as some researchers have claimed. On the contrary, it seems that their daily life situation is intensified during the festivals. Women are the guardians of their family’s spiritual health, given the role of prayers and vows in healing and protection. Accordingly, modern women visit the cemetery nearly every day; they light the oil lamp or candle in front of the family icons, and in so doing parallel ancient women taking care of the household cult. Relations with the divine powers are still part of everyday activities. Religion and the rituals represented in the festivals and in

Fieldwork: Modern Saints Festivals


connection with the life-cycle passages are an “overdose” or intensification of the rituals performed in daily life, as I will show in the following chapters. In the ensuing analysis, death aspects linked to the festivals presented in this chapter will therefore be examined, but I will also explore other festivals connected with death, such as the most important of the contemporary Pan-Hellenic death festivals. The next chapter will delve deeper into the cult of the saints or “exceptional” deceased in Greece and their ancient analogues: the heroes and heroines. I will particularly discuss the Easter celebrations on Tinos that I witnessed in 2012, and the most prominent ancient death festivals. Thereafter, I will present some general death rituals. From the modern material, I will journey back to ancient society to see if and how the modern rituals can enlighten ancient society through a comparison and vice versa from a female point of view.


Communication with the supernatural occurs by way of mediators. Among the deceased mediators are ancestors, heroes, heroines and saints. In modern Greece, the so-called exceptional dead have been officially sanctified and initiated by the church. People may invoke their power by way of flattery, without fearing any unpleasant consequences. These deceased mediators are saints, the most important being the Panagia and Christ. For people in general however, the term saint has a much wider sense than that employed in the official Orthodox Church. Although not from the Greek, but the Italian context, the fresco of Madonna dei Tramonti (by Lorenzetti) in the Italian church, the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi in Assisi (Basilica inferiore di San Francesco), includes a concrete illustration of a mediator. Here, the Christ Child, on his mother’s arm, is situated in the middle, in the literal sense of the word, i.e. between Saint John, the Apostle and Saint Francis. The Christ Child is a mediator between the last of these, who stands behind his mother, and his mother, to whom the Christ Child points with his finger. His mother points at Saint Francis with her right thumb.1 The large group of saints in the Greek Orthodox tradition is constituted by those who upon their death “are born as saints in the consciousness” of the people. The day of their death is, metaphorically, a birthday, as the death days of the Christian martyrs are seen as their birth to immortality.2 Literally, a martyr means a witness, and in early Christianity, the term signified a person who, by direct observation, or revelation, could bear witness to the truth of the power of God and the sacrifice and salvation of Christ. Through the ages and during the persecutions this direct witness became identified with physical sufferings and death, and the spiritual 1

Cf. http://www.tellusfolio.it/index.php?prec=%2Findex.php%3Flev%3D125& cmd=v&id=7498# (accessed 22.10.12). 2 Bower 1897: 41.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


power the martyrs demonstrated during such sufferings became a token of their holiness.3 A saint is a person who, from the moment of her or his death or at a later point, is regarded as someone who can intercede for people with superior powers, because the saints, as stated by the church fathers “were friends of God”, according to Peter Brown, who writes about the early Christian martyrs.4 The hierarchical relationship between ordinary people, priests, saints and God can be clearly illustrated by the Basilica of Saint Clement in Rome, where the priest carries out the service at the altar that is situated above the sarcophagus of the saint, while people sit on the benches some steps further down and in the apse mosaic above the priest, Christ is depicted.5 The relics of Saint Clement are preserved beneath the high altar of the basilica and on 23 November, the festival of Saint Clement, they are exposed for veneration and carried in solemn procession through the neighbouring streets. The idea that a saint is “born” at her or his death is also seen at tombs of ordinary people in Greece, since people’s death days are commemorated and observed, and within a life cycle, people celebrate baptism and subsequently their name day. In other words, because in general people are named after a saint, they celebrate the death day or canonisation day of their patron saint at the same time as their own name day. The use of common names at baptism is a sort of social camouflage and a way of warding off supernatural attacks. The name of the saint is regarded as giving protection, and the lack of individual naming is a form of collective security through uniformity.6 Although this did not help the young Panagiotis, who, despite being named after the Panagia, died prematurely on 15 August 1993, one may regard the naming after saints as a nonmaterial, intangible or perhaps spiritual amulet, talisman, charm or phylachto. In a way, this can be construed as an illustration of sympathetic magic, because the power of the saint is transferred to people through the shared name. “Sympathetic magic” is magic that depends on a resemblance or perceived similarity between the object, substance, or action used in performing the magic and the desired effect. There are two fundamental laws for how magic operates: the law of similarity and the law of contamination. The first law involves manipulation of something corresponding to what one wishes to invoke. The second law implies that two items, which have been in contact with one another, retain some 3

Hart 1992: 194. Brown 1982: 5 f. 5 See http://www.basilicasanclemente.com/ (accessed 23.10.12). 6 Machin 1983. 4


Chapter Three

influence over each other after separation. The two laws are known under the common term of sympathetic magic and are a persistent characteristic of ancient as well as contemporary festivals and everyday rituals, such as death rituals.7 A saint is not necessarily sanctified on her or his death day however; sanctification very often takes place when miracles have occurred at her or his tomb or the corpse, after exhumation, is found to be sweet-smelling, as was the case with Agios Gerasimos. His relics were removed two years after his death in 1579, when they discovered that his sweet smelling body had undergone no decomposition. He became the patron saint of Kephallonia in 1622, and his death day is the most important festival on the island, when his relics are carried in procession, as illustrated in Chapter 2. One may think that saints are deceased people who are considered good because they have been sanctified by the church, but many saints are not found on the official church record. The high tradition of the official church, in fact, often opposes the popular religion of the people.8 In contemporary Greece, Athanasia in Egaleo is regarded as a fake saint by the church and most educated people, but she also has many followers.9 In practical life however, the division is not so clear, as illustrated by Agia Methodia, a saint who is not officially accepted. Still, she is to be found on a modern hagiographic list.10 The same pertains to Pelagia, officially known as Osia, but in cult practice as Agia, as discussed in Chapter 2. Moreover, she is not included on all hagiographic lists.11 The purity of saints is clearly illustrated by the Modern Greek term agios, i.e. holy. The Ancient Greek term, hagnos (cf. hagios) generally signifies pure, chaste, holy.12 It may also signify consecrated, purifying. 7

Håland 2007a: Ch. 3. Cf. Frazer 1987: 11-48 and Finrud Di Tota 1981a: 91-93 for a critical discussion of the former and an interesting modification, based on Leach 1986: Ch. 2. See also Keesing 1981: 519. 8 Finrud Di Tota 1981a: 104, 116 f.; Blum/Blum 1970: 79 f.: but see also AikaterinidƝs 1979 and Stewart 1991 for more balanced views, particularly in more recent times. Cf. my own fieldwork for discrepancies, see Håland 2007a: Ch. 4. 9 http://www.pare-dose.net/?p=2775 (accessed 23.10.12). 10 Hart 1992: 202. See also Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991, for examples of local saints who are not on the official record. 11 See Ch. 2 supra. Under the category Greek Saints there are 92 pages on the Orthodox online list: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Category:Greek_Saints (accessed 26.10.12, it may be noticed that in 2011 there were 66 pages) but, many saints are missing from this list, such as Agios Spyridonos of Kerkyra (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corfu#Saint_Spyridon_the_Keeper_of_the_City (accessed 26.10.12) and Agia Pelagia. 12 LSJ s.v. hagnos.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


Concerning divine persons, the term is particularly used for Artemis13 and other female divinities, such as Persephone and Demeter, but might also be used for Zeus and Apollo. After Homer, it is used for persons, indicating that they are undefiled, chaste (particularly maidens), pure or guiltless.14 Hagnos also signifies the chaste tree, the branches of which were strewn by the women on their beds during the Thesmophoria festival. In light of this, one may wonder, whether a village such as Agia ParaskeuƝ on Lesbos is actually holy—that is to say a kind of modern version of the ancient polis, which was a “holy space”, particularly after a procession— or whether it is because the village is dedicated to the saint bearing this name, and so is named after her, like people are named after saints. The same, of course, pertains to Agia ElenƝ. Often, a spring, generally found inside a cave situated on the summit of a mountain, is an all important feature of a place that becomes holy. In the next phase, the saint’s chapel, often built over her or his tomb, or that of a priestess or priest, is situated in that very place, and in the end, the village or town is named after the holy person, thereby completing the circle.15 To give some examples, in ancient Brauron, the priestess of Artemis’ tomb was of particular significance to the sanctuary. Similarly, on the aforementioned island of Lesbos, in the village named after this saint, Agia ParaskeuƝ is worshipped in a cave wherein cults to various figures have been documented ever since antiquity. On the same island, the bull sacrifice on Tauros, the mountain of the Bull, constitutes the climax of the festival dedicated to Agios Charalampos (martyred in 235 CE), famous for his healing capacities. His chapel is built on the summit of Tauros. At the rear of the chapel is a cave over which grows a tree. Inside many icons are placed on a shelf. People light candles in front of the icons, and perform their devotions. Next to his chapel is also a spring with healing water. As mentioned earlier, both a cave and a spring form part of the cult of Agios Gerasimos. The same key symbols are likewise found in connection with similar cult places dedicated to other deceased protectors, such as saints’ tombs in caves with water, and are connected with death, fertility and healing. In the ancient world, the nymphs were closely connected with the land, and the various aspects of its nature, like mountains and caves, water, and vegetation. They were water-deities who provided the water for springs, but also for rivers and pools, hence they presided in general over the granting of water. We meet a parallel in modern Athens, where the 13

Od. 5.123, 18.202. Soph. Ant. 889, hagnoi. OT. 864, hagneian (innocence). Maidens: Alc. 55; Pind. Pyth. 4.103; Aesch. Fr. 133. 15 Cf. Makistou 1970: 81; Håland 2007a, 2011d. 14


Chapter Three

ancient spring in the Akropolis cave dedicated to the Water-Nymphs, is now dedicated to the Panagia, under her attribute of the “Life-Giving Spring” (Fig. 16).16

Figure 16. The church dedicated to the Life-Giving Spring in Athens: Behind the low wall is the Holy Spring, and in front of the altar is the icon depicting the LifeGiving Spring, 2006.

The cult of the saints varies from place to place and the names and attributes of modern saints represent a mix of Olympian Goddesses and Gods, mythical figures and heroes and heroines who had in turn often developed from an earlier death cult. The phenomenon of saints is derived from the ancient cult of heroes and heroines. These are persons who are thought to have once lived, and, from their death, are worshipped as supernatural powers; they also remain spiritually, and sometimes materially, in the vicinity of their tomb, for example in the cases of Agia Pelagia on Tinos, Agios Gerasimos on Kephallonia and Agios Nektarios on Aegina. The connection between the cult of the saints and the former cult of the heroes is explained by the fact that the church fathers termed 16

Håland 2007a: Ch. 4 and 6, 2007b, 2009a, 2012b.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


the first martyrs heroi, since the new Christian ideology had to use vocabulary their language already possessed. For people, in general, they were connected with the earth, and their power was particularly active near their graves.17We encounter a parallel during the Easter season in the village of Olympos on Karpathos, when the priest asks the dead in the cemetery and the saints who have their chapels in the neighbourhood of the village for a plentiful harvest. Besides the death and Resurrection of Christ, the most important ritual during Easter is performed on the Tuesday after Easter Sunday, when the Resurrection of Christ is also proclaimed from the cemetery. To honour the dead and celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, on “New” or “White” Tuesday in the “White Week” following Easter Sunday, the people of Olympos carry icons of saints from the main church to the cemetery for services honouring the dead. The farmers believe these icons can ward off drought. Thus, in addition to regular religious services at the graves, the priest says prayers for rain. The priest says a prayer over each grave, at which the housewives have already placed dishes of food as offerings to the dead, such as dyed eggs, elaborate cakes, wine, orange juice, cheese, sweets, fruits, and so on. After the priest’s blessing, the food is finally passed round and eaten. In this way, the participants share a meal with the dead. Apparently, there is some competition between the leading families in the village to offer the most elaborate grave gifts. Animal sacrifice also forms part of the ritual. Then, they take the icons, which are wrapped in bright cloths, into the fields to pray at the small private chapels to ensure a plentiful harvest. They carry the icons in procession over the fields surrounding the village, and observe a special service at the river, which is almost dry, during which the icon of the Panagia is immersed in the water in front of one of the many chapels. This procession with the icons first happened during a time of drought many years ago. Then, the priest prayed to the icons for rain. Ever since, they have carried the icons in procession on “White” Tuesday. The icons preside over everything: prosperity, fertility, plentiful rain, harmony between the members of society, and protection against all aggression from outside. By celebrating the annual festival dedicated to the death of Agios Nektarios, the patron saint on Aegina, and conducting a procession of his relics from the 17

Blum/Blum 1970: 318, cf. Vico, 2,2,2,1 quoted in Herzfeld 1992: 186 and Brown 1982: 3 f. Cf. 134n.23, although he rejects this importance, see also the following. See also 4-6, vs. Nilsson 1961: 20. See Gernet/Boulanger 1970: 215, 221 (definition of hero: 218, cf. Paus. 5.13,4-7); Gernet 1981: 6 ff.; Robertson 1992: 244-249. See also Brown 1972: 119-146; Parker 1985: Ch. 2. See also Ch. 1, esp. n.38 supra for heroines.


Chapter Three

sanctuary containing his tomb to the centre of the town, traversing it and returning back, Aeginitans are, in effect, imploring the saint to protect the space defined by the procession,18 just as the people of Olympos appeal to the deceased to protect their crops. In the same way as a person through her or his death may be reborn as a saint, a young woman or man could be reborn as a hero or heroine in the ancient world, as is the custom also today. Therefore, they remain in people’s consciousness, contrary to those who live down in the “shadow world”, exemplified by the ancient underworld, Hades.19 Several scholars have discussed the saints and the Orthodox Church and possible survivals from pre-Christian religions20 while, for example, Peter Brown in The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity, distinguishes between ancient heroes and Christian martyrs.21 He relies on Louis Gernet and André Boulanger who, in their book, Le génie grec dans la religion, write: “il est frappant que les héros ne soient pas conçus comme des intercesseurs. Avec la divinité proprement dite, ils n’ont pas de rapports directs”.22 I have already mentioned that Brown has a different position from mine, since I regard the death cult, in connection with ancient heroes, heroines, saints and other dead in non-Christian parts of the Mediterranean, as cases related to long-lasting mentalities. In my opinion, it is important to consider where in the hierarchy the hero is actually situated, and what the concrete cult involves; as illustrated, for example, by Euripides’ tragedy Hippolytos, in which the protagonist is lower down in the hierarchy than his father, Theseus, son of Poseidon.23 When consulting Gernet and Boulanger,24 we learn that they are not as categorical as Brown, who, I assume, is more influenced by Christian theological ideology than is the case for people in the Mediterranean, Christian and non-Christians, when considering their own cult: their practical reasons for carrying out their rituals. We may claim of course, 18

Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 226-228. Cf. Ch. 2 supra. Od. 11.94. Cf. Bower 1897: Ch. 3; Vernant 1982a: 12. According to Knudsen 1984: 17-20, our notion on the individual is the term concerning the hero and the meaning of life which is defined by death. Cf. modern ideological war heroes, such as Che Guevara or the “tomb of the unknown soldier”, for some, and heroes such as Elvis Presley or James Dean for others. 20 Hart 1992: Ch. 7; Stewart 1991: 80 f.; Blum/Blum 1965: 28, cf. 1970: Ch. 6. See also e.g., Lyons 1997: 33. 21 Brown 1982: 6. Cf. also Chaniotis 2006, discussed in Håland 2011d: 265. 22 Gernet/Boulanger 1970: 221, cf. e.g., Lyons 1997: 72. See also Ch. 1 supra. 23 Eur. Hipp. 887-891, 1219 ff., 1411 f. 24 Gernet/Boulanger 1970: 218-221. 19

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


that the Goddess Artemis abandoned the hero Hippolytos, stating that this very act illustrates the lack of strong contact between the hero and the divinity. On the other hand, according to the rules of this hierarchical society, one may also argue that a father’s prayers are fulfilled before his son’s, and since Theseus prayed to his father, Poseidon, to kill his son, Hippolytos, his prayer was fulfilled. Moreover, the tragedy, Hippolytos, starts with Aphrodite’s statements about Hippolytos who “rejects the couch of marriage”,25 and if we follow her words, the hero, Hippolytos rejects his human male heterosexual nature. Modern saints very often have their own particular domains of protection. For instance, Agia ParaskeuƝ is known as the saint who protects against eye diseases. Agia Marina and Agia Barbara both protect against illness in general, but the latter has especially been regarded as the protector of small children against smallpox, while Agia Marina has been especially worshipped in Athens as the protector against smallpox in general. As mentioned in Chapter 2 supra, in her Athenian church they have a small silver shrine containing her holy relics (i.e. agia/iera leipsana), which can be seen beneath a glass lid. During her annual festival, it is moved from its usual place of display to the front of the church, just outside the enclosure to the holy space in front of the iconostasis, and a relic is also carried in procession. From this follows also the custom of naming various villages after saints, for example, Agia Marina or Agia ParaskeuƝ, as we have already seen on Lesbos. Many, especially the fishing villages along the coast, are also named after Agios Nikolaos, since he is known to protect fishermen, in particular. Further, many villages have the same protecting saint, for example, Agios Elias, whose churches are situated more often than not on mountain tops. The two saints, Agios Gerasimos and Agios Nektarios respectively protect the islands of Kephallonia and Aegina, and they are both so-called new or younger saints within the Orthodox Church. Agios Nektarios is a relatively recently sanctified deceased person, and he is a very popular saint among ill people, particularly among those who suffer from cancer.26 One may wonder if Agios Nektarios’ ability to cure cancer is because he died of the same illness. If so, this may be an example of sympathetic magic. Agios Gerasimos is also known for curing illness, and on Kephallonia, his festival on 16 August in many ways “ousts” the Panagia 25

Eur. Hipp. 10 ff. Prayer fulfilled: 1412. Abandoned by Artemis: 1437-1440. According to Panagopoiloi 1987, Nektarios is the most recently sanctified male in Greece. Today, this has changed, since, for example, Ephraim of Nea Makri was officially sanctified in 1998, cf. also Håland 2009a: 90 f.n.23. For Agios Gerasimos, see Ch. 2 supra.



Chapter Three

herself, who is celebrated on 15 August, as seen in Chapter 2. The reason for this is that they have his relics. People on the Ionian Islands are very proud to have the bodies of their saints. On the island of Kerkyra (Corfu), for example, the pilgrims are always lining up to perform their proskynƝma in front of the shrine of the patron saint of the island, Agios Spyridonos, “the Keeper of the City”, and when I visited the island in 2011, many people came into the church asking when the coffin would be opened, so they could see the saint. We also have the Agioi Anargyroi, the doctor saints mentioned in Chapter 2. The village has its own patron saint. There are also other “specialist saints”, paralleling the ancient heroes and specialist divinities who protected villages and various functions and phenomena in society. In the medieval period, these divinities were often represented by the various social groups’ or guilds’ patron saints, as is still reflected in the modern festival dedicated to Agios Charalampos in the village of Agia ParaskeuƝ. This point is illustrated by the poster from the local farmers’ union, or ploughmen’s guild, founded in 1774, which welcomes everybody to the great festival of the bull, “which has been handed down by our ancestors”. According to legend, the festival dedicated to Agios Charalampos has been celebrated since the Turkish period, as described in the pamphlet presented to interested visitors at the office of the organising committee (the modern version of the ploughmen’s guild), whose protector is Agios Charalampos. According to its introduction, the intention behind the founding of the farmers’ union was to develop the village, thereby starting a civilising process at the end of the Turkish period.27 In practical life, the saints also represent continuity or rather adaptation of the ancient world’s various figures or aspects of Goddesses and Gods; for example, the cult of minor divinities, such as the Goddesses Eileithyia and Dike (Justice), respectively Hera’s and Zeus’ mediators,28 but the ancient Goddesses and Gods could also incorporate new Goddesses such as, for instance, Athena Alea. Similarly, a cult dedicated to Dionysos Eleutheros was introduced in Athens, when Eleutherai was incorporated into the expanding Athenian polis. He is also worshipped as “Dionysos Flower-God”.29Another phenomenon that has a parallel in the ancient world is the many attributes of a saint, particularly the Panagia. Pausanias writes about Zeus Sthenius (Strong) and Zeus Polieus (of the City). There 27

ChatzƝgiannƝ 1969. Cf. Molinos 1993, for other important guilds that organise festivals in Greece. 28 Hes. Op. 256-260, Th. 921 f., cf. Megas 1992: 14; Blum/Blum 1970: 271. See also Håland 2011d: Ch. 4, for the need for minor Goddesses/Gods. 29 Paus. 1.31,4, cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 5. Athena Alea: Paus. 2.17,7.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


is also Zeus Ammon, Zeus the Saviour, Zeus Chthonios (of the Lower World), The Most High (Hypsistos) Zeus, the Nemean Zeus, and a temple dedicated to Zeus Aphesius (Releaser).30 The Goddess on the Akropolis, his daughter, was worshipped in different variations as well: Athena Polias (i.e. “of the City”), was celebrated with a festival in the first month of the Athenian year.31 In the last month, she was celebrated as Athena Skiras, when the Athenians went in procession from the Athenian Akropolis to Skiron outside of Athens and also had a race to the temple of Athena Skiras at Phaleron.32 During the Athenian year, she was also celebrated with other festivals, such as the festival of the Chalkeia, which honoured Athena as the Goddess of handicraft, i.e. Athena Ergane (“Worker”). On the Akropolis she was honoured in several aspects, as Athena Parthenos (the Virgin) and Athena Promachos (“the Warrior”; literally “fighting in the front” and being in full armament). In addition, the latter is especially represented in the Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus, in vase paintings, such as on Panathenaic amphoras, and in the large statue that was situated on the Akropolis, while Athena Parthenos was inside the temple, which was dedicated to this very aspect of her. Athena Hygieia (Health)33 was also an important figure whose cult may go back to the sixth century BCE, or may have come into being in connection with the worship of Asklepios, which was introduced into Athens on the occasion of the plague of 429 BCE. According to Plutarch, Athena Hygieia was established by Perikles, but the altar or dedication he mentions might be of a later date, since it is made in the name of the Athenians and probably postdates Perikles’ death in 429 during the plague.34 On the Akropolis she was also worshipped as Nike (the Victory),35 which also is illustrated by her little temple. We also find the sanctuary dedicated to Athena Oxyderces (“the Sharp-Sighted”), Athena Pania (“of Abundance”), Athena the Horse Goddess, and Athena Apaturia (derived from the Greek word

30 Paus. 1.44,9, Nemean: Paus. 2.20,3, Most High: Paus. 2.2,8, Chthonios: Paus. 2.2,8, cf. Hes. Op. 465: Zeus of the Earth; Saviour: Paus. 2.20,6, Ammon: Paus. 9.16,1, Polieus: Paus. 1.24,4, Sthenius: Paus. 2.32,7. 31 See also Neils 1992: 13-27; Parke 1986: 156-169; Håland 2006b, 2007a: Ch. 5, 2012c also for the following. See also Ridgway 1992: 119-142 for more images of Athena. 32 Cf. Paus. 1.36,4. 33 Paus. 1.23,5. 34 Ridgway 1992: 137 f. Cf. Plut. Per. 13.8, 38.1. 35 Cf. Paus. 3.15,7.


Chapter Three

for deceit).36 According to Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, the Persian “tiara” of “the Mourning Athena” illustrates the Athenian victories over the eastern enemy, and the symbol of supremacy is implied by the subordination of the eastern cap to the Corinthian helmet.37 But, one may wonder if this example illustrates that it was also in use in Athens. As on modern Tinos, there were many dedications, both public and private, in Athens, in and around the sanctuaries, with epithets that emphasised the various aspects of the Goddess. Today, the official church has abolished many of the local saints; for this reason, the village may often have gravitated towards one saint figure, who has become the patron saint of the village, or island, as illustrated by Agios Gerasimos. Accordingly, the annual festival of the saint represents the whole village, or as, in this example, the whole island. The modern festivals show that the saint is important for people, and particularly important saints seem to travel around under a common disguise, while holding the name of a single saint. This might best be illustrated by Agios GiǀrgƝs of Cappadocia, who is the version of Agios GiǀrgƝs venerated by the official Orthodox Church. The Agios GiǀrgƝs, who has a healing sanctuary near a Sarakatsani camp, is obviously not the Cappadocian foreigner: “This Agios GiǀrgƝs is ours; he is from here; he is not the same one as they talk about when they say Agios GiǀrgƝs.”38 Officially, Agios GiǀrgƝs is celebrated on 23 April, but the festival day may change in certain circumstances, when the Orthodox Easter season celebrations coincide. In 1992, for example, the festival of Agios GiǀrgƝs was on Maundy Thursday, and in Olympos, as elsewhere, it was transferred to the Monday after Easter Sunday.39 In 2013, his celebration was postponed until 6 May, the day after the Resurrection. In the Dodecanese and on Cyprus they also have a local festival dedicated to Agios GiǀrgƝs on 3 November, when they celebrate the “laying down of the corpse of Agios GiǀrgƝs, the Great Martyr”. The festival is also dedicated to Agios GiǀrgƝs, o SporiarƝs (the “rich in seed”) on the island of Rhodes. On the same day, they celebrate Agios GiǀrgƝs “the Drunk” on Karpathos. These festivals are not included in the official calendar of the church.40 In general, most people consider the annual saint festival to be more important than Easter, since the saint lived, performed miracles and died in 36

Paus. 2.33,1, Horse Goddess: Paus. 1.30,4, Pania: Paus. 2.22,9, Athena Oxyderces: Paus. 2.24,2. 37 Ridgway 1992: 139 f. and Fig. 94. 38 Blum/Blum 1970: 79, cf. 46, 323 f. See also Håland 2011d: 137. 39 Håland 2007a: Ch. 4. 40 Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 223 f.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


the same village, while Christ lived and died in a country far away, and neither they nor their ancestors have ever had any personal contact with him.41 Accordingly, other rituals, such as the cult of one’s own deceased, can also be attached to the Easter season celebrations: in Olympos, a woman explained the written letters attached to the Epitaphios (Christ’s funeral), on Holy Friday as moirologia, laments written in memory of the dead (Fig. 17). The written laments are accompanied by pictures of the actual recently deceased.

Figure 17. Written moirologia and pictures of the recently deceased attached to the Epitaphios. Holy Friday in the church of Olympos, Karpathos, 1992.

When the men leave the church after the official service, the women start their own ritual lament in front of the Epitaphios, while tearing their loosened hair.42 They are not lamenting Christ however, but their own dead family members, particularly those who died most recently, and who are represented in the pictures. In the village of Olympos, in 1992, the priest’s wife, in particular, was lamenting intensely in front of the picture


Stewart 1991: Ch. 3; Blum/Blum 1970: 79 f., 88-94, 323 f., cf. Finrud Di Tota 1981a: 109. 42 Toledo 1991: Fig.


Chapter Three

of her brother (Fig. 18) who had been found lifeless on the beach some days before Easter.43

Figure 18. Lamenting women in front of the Epitaphios, Holy Friday in the church of Olympos, Karpathos 1992.

All of the festivals give the various villages the possibility of competing for the honour of “holding the greatest festival”, much in the way that families vie with each other to have the most magnificent tomb and to offer the most elaborate grave gifts.44 The processions also present various opportunities to boast of surpassing each other in public display, intended to incite the envy of the others in this continual contest, both today as in

43 44

Håland 2007a: Ch. 4. Vernier 1991; Di Tota 1981b: 322-325. See also Ch. 5 infra.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


the ancient world.45 The official ideology rejects boasting, but this enduring mentality requires it. Since saints have lived on this earth, returned after their deaths and are able to perform benevolent or malevolent miracles, they cannot be compared to ordinary ghosts or revenants, but are historical persons who have performed benevolent acts, both in their earthly and supernatural lives. In Greece, they tell many stories about the miracles performed by Christ, the Panagia and the various saints after their deaths. Christ is seen both as a brikolakas (vampire), magician, healer, elaphrostichos (one with a “light shadow”, i.e. a kind of demon who is able to speak with God and see the angels) and a sorcerer who is able to place effective curses.46 The “malevolent miracles” are an important factor both within ancient and modern religions, although scholars have not particularly focused on the issue by trying to make a clear definition of the topic. To perform “malevolent miracles” means that the saints or Gods do as they like and not always as humans desire. For humans, though, it is also a way of explaining why things do not always go as they wish, for example, when prayers are not “heard” or fulfilled by the Gods or consented, as is the case with the ancient figure Oedipus or the many modern Greeks who go to the Panagia on Tinos, but return unhealed. As one can make a pledge on behalf of others, a saint’s anger at an unfulfilled vow may rebound or fall back on the closest family of the one who breaks her or his vow. Eva and Richard Blum give a good example of this, when telling the following story about an unfulfilled pledge due to lack of faith. A woman who had lost all her children promised the Panagia on Tinos that if she bore a child who lived for one year, she would give the child to the Panagia, that is to say, go on a pilgrimage to Tinos and throw the child from the bell tower. Her request was granted, she went to Tinos, threw her child to the ground, and it landed unharmed. Another woman had the same request granted, but did not believe in the miracle, so her child was killed when it hit the ground.47 These stories might have something to do with the reason that the bell tower has been closed for at least as long as I have been undertaking my fieldwork on Tinos. However, when inquiring among the locals, I discovered that they know nothing about the issue. Normally, people “offer” their children to the Panagia in a more humane way: many ask the Panagia to allow them to conceive children. The efficacy of their 45

Finrud Di Tota 1981a: 112 vs. 92, cf. 102 and van Straten 1981: 68 f., 76 for ancient material. 46 Stewart 1991: 142-144, 147, 225, 230, 236, 241; Blum/Blum 1970: 52, 80-82, 239n.1. See also Aune 1980: 1523-1539. Cf. Alexiou 1974: 74; Graf 1994: 261. 47 Blum/Blum 1970: 45 f. See also Dubisch 1995: 94, 270n.34.


Chapter Three

prayers is reflected in the baptism, on 15 August, of children in thanksgiving for their conception. In addition, when a child is seriously ill, it is dedicated to the Panagia. If the child survives, it remains dedicated to her and is dressed as a nun or monk, in a black-hooded robe with a red cross embroidered on the front, for as many years as the parents have promised.48 When carrying out the pilgrimage to Tinos, not only is the child dressed in black pilgrimage clothes, but often so too are the parents, particularly the mother. Therefore, these children, often named after the Panagia, are brought to Tinos, and their clothes are dedicated to the church. In this way, the children are dedicated to the Panagia and the material symbol is illustrated by the black pilgrim clothes that are often left as dedications either to the miraculous icon or to the ruins of the foundations of the Byzantine Church, in the chapel dedicated to Agia Pelagia, which is situated next to the “Life-Giving Spring”. The following story illustrates such a pilgrimage: On 10 August 2012, at approximately 12 o’clock, noon, the following persons arrive by boat: two women wearing pilgrim clothes and a little boy wearing a red pilgrim band around his neck. Two men walk ahead carrying between them a container of olive oil. They carry the can between them in a white cloth or shawl, each of the two men holding one of its ends. The shawl is decorated with red pilgrim bands. I assume that the boy is going to be baptised. The woman who leads him by the hand is not his mother, because she does not wear pilgrim clothes, nor do those accompanying them: two men, another woman, and another boy who is a little older. When they arrive at the beginning of the MegalocharƝs avenue, they buy the large pilgrimage candles and one of the men leads the boy by the hand. They do not speak Greek, are probably not gypsies, nor is their language Slavic. They are most likely Romanian. Just like most people who poured out of the boats in the summer of 2012, they carried no luggage with them either.49 The aforementioned pilgrims may illustrate the following: the mother did not become pregnant, she invoked the Panagia, and her request was heard. Consequently, the child is dedicated to the Panagia and is now going to be baptised.50

The aforementioned story, told by the Blums, is probably not so farfetched, since local Tinotes are eager to tell me that it is usual for someone to die on 15 August, particularly believers. In other words, the Panagia 48

Håland 2007a: Ch. 4 and Fig. 7. People come to worship/kiss the icon, and then go straight back to Athens. They cannot afford to stay on Tinos. Those who stay can usually only do so for a maximum of two days, which means the local hotel industry is driven to despair. 50 I.e. contrary to the story in Blum/Blum 1970: 45 f., cf. n.47 supra. 49

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


comes to take them back, as she came for the young Panagiotis. A young female student of theology adds that this happens particularly on 14 August. Another example of a “malevolent miracle” is, of course, the legend behind the pilgrimage centre on Tinos, which is described in the pamphlet distributed to pilgrims by the Church of the Annunciation.51 According to the information given therein, the nun, Pelagia, had her dream or vision three times, but did not do anything, or as the pamphlet says, “Pelagia at first hesitated to speak of the visions, and assumed that people would not believe her”. In the end, she went to the bishop and told him about her visions. He believed her and people started to dig. The preliminary excavations for the icon brought to light the ruins of the foundations of the ancient church and the dry well, as mentioned in the preceding chapter, but no icon. People’s enthusiasm diminished, and the excavations stopped. Following a cholera epidemic, believed to be a punishment from the Panagia for abandoning the excavations, these were resumed and finally the icon was unearthed, according to the legend told on the island.52 Other versions tell that already by the time of the third visit to the nun, the Panagia was angry and said that if she did not obey, she would send cholera, or “a divine sword will smite everyone!”53 and so she did. Therefore, they started to build the church although their digging had not resulted in finding the icon. On the day of the laying of the cornerstone of the Holy Church, the formerly dry well became filled to the brim with water, and on 30 January, when they found the icon, the cholera epidemic stopped immediately, and no further occurrences were reported. So even saints, for example Agios Kǀnstantinos, Agia Marina and the Panagia herself are not only performing benevolent miracles. They are hard to please, and make great demands on return gifts: building a church, or worse, “sacrificing” one’s child, eventually sending sickness if they are not satisfied, as the Panagia did when people stopped searching for her icon on Tinos. Agia Marina in particular may use her power maliciously, and inflict punishment on those who do not respect her memory. Someone who threshes wheat on her feast day, 17 July, might provoke her to send “malevolent miracles”, destroying the crop about to be threshed, or else send scorpions and snakes bringing sickness, if she is not satisfied with a gift. Agia Marina has been especially worshipped in Athens as the 51 Cf. Foskolos 1996. See Håland 2011a for discussion, cf. also Dubisch 1995: 134-136. 52 Foskolos 2004: 7-9 (tr. Silvestros). 53 Dubisch 1995: 146. Her version is a bit different from the one presented by Foskolos. Cf. Hart 1992: 205.


Chapter Three

protector against smallpox, as mentioned above, but she might also send snakes bringing sickness like other saints, thus paralleling the acts of ancient heroes/heroines and Goddesses/Gods when unsatisfied with their worshippers.54 Accordingly, a hunger or plague was often at the origin of a festival, established to satisfy these chthonian deities. The “malevolent miracles” illustrate how the ideology requires divine sanction to carry out the required procedures. This may indicate that the myth is invented after they have carried out these actions, but thereby both the God (often the “neighbour’s” God, worshipped as an enemy, see infra) and a similar course of action must already be familiar to the culture as common knowledge derived from similar former events, so that people, in general, know these stories, since otherwise they will not accept them. In any case, it might be regarded as an illustration of a manipulation of the common mentality. At the end of the hunger, nature’s cooperation is once again celebrated.55 In the ancient world, we also see a kind of “reversed relationship” where people might worship their dead “enemies”, transforming them into powerful protectors of the land they once attacked, as illustrated by aspects of the hero cults: in Argos for example, the attacking Pyrros was killed by a woman, who happened to be Demeter in disguise, depending on who told the story, according to Pausanias. He continues to relate that after this incident, Pyrros, the enemy of Argos, was buried in a sanctuary of Demeter founded by divine oracle where he died. To be buried in a God’s sanctuary is a sign of hero status.56In this way, one may also consider the fight over Hektor’s corpse by both his own Trojans as well as the opposite faction, the Greeks or Achaeans, which will be discussed at length in a later chapter, but also the worship of, for instance, the murderer Kleomedes who became a hero in agreement with the will of Delphi.57 Another example is the myth about the introduction of Dionysos Eleutheros in Athens. In the first instance, the God was rejected, but when the male part of the citizenry contracted a genital infection and the oracle at Delphi advised them to worship Dionysos and perform a phallic procession in his honour, they were cured. According to another myth, a 54

See e.g. Plut. Mor. 293 where the heroine Charilla must be appeased. Molinos 1993: 87 ff.; Megas 1992: 231 f.; Blum/Blum 1970: 82 ff.; Stewart 1991: 156-158, 229; Hart 1992: 200; Danforth 1989: 74, 117, cf. 304. Cf. Ch. 7 infra. 55 Gernet 1981: 19. Cf. Ar. Av. 375-381: “the wise can often profit by the lessons of a foe”. 56 Paus. 1.13,7-8, cf. Visser 1982: 407; Larson 1995: 110. 57 Paus. 6.9,8, cf. 6.9,6. For Hektor: Il. 23.21ff., 24.575-579. See also Ch. 6 infra for Hektor.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


similar reason forms the background to the Athenian Lenaia festival dedicated to the same God. Moreover, Demeter receives or “gains” her cult in Eleusis if not “by force”, at least in a very similar way, as recounted in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (HHD.), when demanding a temple and altar, in return for which, she will teach the Eleusinians her rites.58 This also recalls the Panagia’s demand to Pelagia in her vision. In my neighbourhood here in Athens, we also have a story describing a similar miracle: On 26 October 1656 on the eve of the festival of Agios DƝmƝtrios, the Christians gathered at his chapel in the vicinity of Philopappou Hill at Athens to celebrate the festival. This was deeply resented by the garrison commander at the Akropolis, Ghioussouf Aga. He was an enemy of the Christians, and he planned an evil plot to kill them “en masse” on the saint’s name day. Ghioussouf Aga prepared all the cannons on the Akropolis Propylea, including the big cannon, known as “Loumbarda”. He waited for the moment in the service when the praise “Te Deum” is sung, and ordered the soldiers to open fire. At this moment, God, through the intercession of Agios DƝmƝtrios, hurled down a lightning bolt that destroyed the powder magazine of the Akropolis along with the cannons ranged at the Propylea of the Akropolis. The soldiers together with Ghioussouf Aga and his family were killed.

Contained in a framed, laminated information sheet hanging outside the local church of Agios DƝmƝtrios, the aforementioned story purports to explain what happened according to legend.59 Furthermore, we learn that the traveller, Spon, also recorded the story. The information sheet goes on to explain that since this event the chapel has been called the chapel of Agios DƝmƝtrios “Loumbardiaris of Bombardiarios”, a word derived from the Greek verb bombardizǀ (“to bomb”), and from the name of the big cannon, called “Loumbarda”. Therefore, this Athenian cult also illustrates the cult of the enemy, since the cannon that should have killed the worshipping Athenians, instead killed Ghioussouf Aga, the one who fired the cannon, which afterwards became part of the cult as an epithet of Agios Demetrios Loumbardiaris. In 2011 and 2012, the festival began on the eve of 26 October when local people, mostly women, set off for the 58

HHD. 268-280. See Håland 2007a: Ch. 5 for discussion of the sources to the Demetrian and Dionysian festivals. 59 The information sheet ends with a reference to Antonios Zoukos from 1992, translated into English by Sean Lavin and Ioannis Zoukos in 1999. See also http://www.mesogeia.net/athens/places/philopappou/dimloumbard_en.html (accessed 31.10.12).


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church carrying with them bread, wine and olive oil, as is the usual custom. According to the Athenian legend from 1656, God sent a lightning bolt, as Zeus used to do, and this lightning bolt destroyed the enemy and their weapons instead of the Greeks. A parallel can also be seen with the ancient Boeotians, who used to make pilgrimages to their expelled former king Oedipus’ tomb, situated in Kolonus, at the border of one of the entrances to the underworld, and marked by a three-headed stone.60 In connection with the aforementioned story from Athens, one may also mention the account of the Italian submarine that sank the Greek destroyer Elli while anchored off the Tinos harbour on 15 August 1940.61 As mentioned in Chapter 2, the church on Tinos comprises a mausoleum commemorating the sinking of the Elli, whose heroes are honoured with an annual service in front of the mausoleum on 13 August. They also have a memorial at the harbour, where wreathes are laid, which likewise plays an important role during the festival dedicated to the Annunciation. In 2012, the sinking is also illustrated on the back of the printed version of the official programme for the 15 August celebration distributed by the church, while the Panagia on her deathbed is reproduced on the front page. During the celebration of this festival, several posters on display around the town announcing the festival also serve to illustrate her importance as a source of help: one year posters shows the Panagia hovering over the national symbol, the Akropolis of Athens. Posters in other years may depict a mix of modern and ancient symbols, or a jet flying over Tinos, or the front page of a newspaper from 15 August 1940. Regardless of the depiction, the message is always the same: 15 August is proclaimed as the “Day of the Armed Forces”, and the symbols of the navy, the air force and the army are represented. This underlines the double nature of the occasion as both a patriotic and a religious holiday, in agreement with the traditional close connection between the official Orthodox Church and the nation-state, in a patriotic sense.62 Several newspaper pictures from the Greco-Italian war show the Panagia hovering above Greek warships and, in the midst of Greek jets, helping them to sink Italian enemy ships such as the Liguria. Sometimes she is portrayed as hovering in the clouds accompanied by the Christ Child and angels, while helping Greek soldiers.63


Triomphe 1992: 15 f. See Ch. 7 infra. MazarakƝs-Ainian/Papaspyrou-KaradƝmƝtriou 1987: 39-43. 62 Cf. also Håland 2007a: Ch. 4, 2012a. 63 MazarakƝs-Ainian/Papaspyrou-KaradƝmƝtriou 1987: 59, see 133 for the sinking of Liguria. Cf. Håland 2012g. 61

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


One and the same saint may also have many different attributes. There is the Panagia ChrysospƝliǀtissa, or Our Lady of the Golden Cavern; the Panagia Galaktotrophousa, or “Breastfeeding” Panagia; the “SweetKissing” Panagia; the Spinning Panagia; the Lamenting Panagia; the Panagia MegalospƝliǀtissa, or Panagia “of the Great Cave”, the Panagia Gastriǀtissa, or “Panagia who helps women to conceive”; and the Panagia worshipped under her attribute of Zǀodochos PƝgƝ, the “Life-Giving Spring”. The Monastery of Kekhrovouno, has a copy of the icon of the Panagia Myrtidiotissa (“of the Myrtle Tree”), whose original icon was discovered in a myrtle bush, and resides in her monastery on the island of Cythera. As some of the aforementioned versions of the Panagia demonstrate, she is very often worshipped in a cave containing a healing spring, and where nymphs were worshipped in ancient times. She is also known as the Mother of God (Theotokos) or the MegalocharƝ (Blessed Virgin), as illustrated in the preceding chapters.64 Panagia Aphroditissa is celebrated on Cyprus, the island of Aphrodite, and in the north of Greece, Pontian immigrants worship the Panagia Soumela, or “Panagia of the Refugees”. The icon was brought to Greece from the Holy Monastery of Panagia Soumela in Pontus in 1931, and later found a new home in a monastery in Greek Macedonia. While the icon was originally dedicated to Panagia Athiniotissa, it was renamed when it was brought from Athens to Pontus some time before the end of the fourth century CE.65 Soumela is a typical Pontian female name. The Annunciation, encountered in the Holy Church on Tinos and through many icons depicting the topic of the Annunciation in that church, is another attribute of the Panagia or, strictly speaking, of the Annunciated, Euangelistria.66 Each attribute is celebrated as if it belongs to a particular saint, even though, strictly speaking, the Panagia and Christ are not saints, according to Greek Orthodox theology.67 Moreover, while Christ is at the centre of the Orthodox cult, in accordance with the official dogma of the gospels, the Panagia is called Ɯ PrǀtƝ (The First), in Orthodox ecclesiastical literature. This might indicate that, as designated by the very name Panagia, the “All-Holy One”,68 i.e. the one who dominates all the others (the most holy), Christ does not procure the same attention from people in practical life (in fact, God is seen as a 64

See also Håland 2012a. For the Panagia, caves and the nymphs: Håland 2009a; 2012b; Stewart 1991: 276 f. n.29 f. 65 Bouzikos 2011; Fann 1991: 340-356 (“Panagia of the Refugees”). 66 See Håland 2012a: n.8 for discussion. 67 Stewart 1991: Ch. 3, cf. Blum/Blum 1970: 79 f. Cf. Finrud Di Tota 1981a: 114; Coloru 1987: 14 f., 19, 46 f. 68 Cf. Ch. 1 supra. See Styliou 1987 for Ɯ PrǀtƝ.


Chapter Three

remote abstraction), and one may wonder if the official Orthodox ideology, in its own way, has borne the consequence of this relationship. The same belief is illustrated by the importance of her life and its connection with the agricultural cycle in the official religion. In fact, the Panagia is the first, most important and powerful saint in the Orthodox Church. She is at the head of the entire church because she was the vessel of Christ. The mother’s two festivals, i.e. her Dormition and her Annunciation are the most important official festivals in Greece and they have a double religious and political connotation. This is probably because of the important mediating position of a mother. The Panagia is also called Mesitria, the Mediator. She is essentially a human intercessor and a mother, since her maternal role is emphasised within the Orthodox tradition, as well as her power within the heavenly and earthly world. In the early Byzantine period, women worshipped Mary as a Goddess. Moreover, in the same period there were several beliefs surrounding the death of Mary.69 The most important religious festival in Greece is the Orthodox Easter festival, dedicated to the “Death and Resurrection of Christ”,70 but this celebration has its own local traditions all over Greece, while the Dormition and Annunciation festivals put Tinos into national focus. It should already be clear that I regard the festivals dedicated to the Panagia as saint festivals, since, in practical life, she is worshipped as a saint, and, indeed, as the most important one. I also regard the Easter festival as being essentially a saint feast, illustrated by its equivalences with practical saint worship in Greece. The Panagia is generally the most important divinity, particularly regarding fertility and healing. Indeed, many people are named after the Panagia, women, for example, as seen in the names: Maria, Panagiota or Despoina. Of these, the unmarried girls celebrate 21 November, i.e. the Presentation of the Panagia in the temple, while the married women celebrate 15 August. The Panagia’s spiritual geography is both local and general. She is a Goddess, but has many characteristics. In Thessaloniki, for example there is a church called Panagia Dexia, because this is where the only icon in which she holds Christ on her right-hand side is kept. The church is built on the place where the icon was found.71 Since the Panagia’s various qualities are reflected in her icons and the churches dedicated to her, she becomes several personalities, each of whom is identified with particular places and histories. Therefore, “your” and “my” 69

Limberis 1994: 117, cf. 118-120. Håland 2007a, 2008a. 71 Personal information from Anna Papavassiliou. 70

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


Panagia may be different virgins, celebrated as if they belong to a separate saint. On a popular level the different versions of the Panagia are also illustrated by various villages that might compete or talk about “my” Panagia who is another than “your” Panagia.72 Of the deceased mediators who may intercede for humans with even stronger powers, the Panagia is the most popular, as regards both prayers and festivals. Her sanctuary on Tinos is the most important pilgrimage centre, and the “Dormition” or “Falling Asleep” of the Panagia, the Bearer or Mother of God (cf. Theotokos=God-bearer or the One who gives birth to God. MƝtƝr Theotokou=Mother of God), is the most important festival.73 The large number of qualities attributed to her is reflected in all the different festivals dedicated to her honour and celebrated throughout the year.74 The cyclical perspective is central to the festivals of the agricultural year, and the official ideological rituals are adapted to the agricultural calendar. Thus, the orthodox liturgical year is established through the Panagia’s biography. It begins around autumn, and several important moments in her life are celebrated during this period of the year. This is the time before and around sowing and during the germination and growth of the corn crops, when the “female”, wet and fertile period in the agricultural year’s cycle replaces the “male” and dry period, because, in the Mediterranean area, the woman is looked upon as the productive partner in a relationship.75 The Panagia’s death or “Dormition” on 15 August is celebrated during the “dead period” of the grains’ cycle: after harvest. The festival marks a turning point towards autumn, at the end of the dog days, i.e. by the end of August, when the transitional period towards the “productive part” of the year is about to begin again,76 and the 15 August cycle ends with the memorial service nine days after her death: the “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia” on 23 August. In the Church of the Annunciation on Tinos, people worship a silver figure depicting the Panagia on her deathbed, or Epitaphios, and bring newly bought icons,


Hart 1992: 220 n.4 and Dubisch 1995: 245. Cf. supra for Agios GiǀrgƝs. Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 169 f.; Alexopoulos 1993: 35-40; Håland 2007a, 2012a. 74 On the island of Naxos the Panagia has ninety-three qualities: Stewart 1991: 34 f. 75 Bourdieu 1980; Håland 2007a, 2012a. Cf. also Denzey 2007: 144 on the circular time of the martyrs. 76 The period after the grain harvest is identified as the dead period within the agricultural cycle; the new productive period starts again when the grain is sown back into the soil. See Bourdieu 1980: 361, for the periods of work, gestation and death, the last of these running from the grain harvest until the new period of ploughing/sowing starts; also discussed in Håland 2007a: Ch. 6. 73


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Figures 19 a and b. Worshipping the Panagia on the eve of the “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia, Tinos, 1993 and 2006.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


healing basil, rosaries and other amulets to absorb healing power from the silver figure for the next year, or before the winter sets in (Figs. 19a and b). They obtain this holy power by kissing the figure, then touching it with the objects before passing them three times over the silver figure of the dead Panagia in the form of a cross, and, in this way, carry out the same procedure that is usually accomplished in front of the miraculous icon or Pelagia’s holy skull. Everyone performs this individual ritual in turn, after the burial of the Panagia during the evening liturgy that starts at sunset on 22 August. The memorial ceremony shows, in particular, that popular culture has a much stronger link with the everyday experiences of ordinary people than is the case with what might be considered culture in an elitist sense. This celebration is an integral part of the Orthodox Church, as illustrated by the celebrations both in the Church of the Annunciation and in the church called Malamatenia (the church dedicated to the Panagia “under her golden aspect”) on Tinos.77 I have been following this celebration, i.e. Enniamera, as the locals say, on Tinos since the early 1990s. During the celebration in the Church of the Annunciation the silver figure depicting the deceased Panagia is wrapped in a shroud and carried in burial procession through the entire church, both inside and outside, before she is literally buried: placed inside a flower-decorated canopy or Epitaphios. In 1993, several women beseeched a little girl, who was ill, to lie down on the floor just inside the main entrance, so the priests could pass the shrouded Panagia over her when re-entering the church after having carried the Panagia out during the procession. When the Panagia has been put into the canopy, everybody lines up to perform their proskynƝma, and in the 1990s, they usually dedicated money to the silver figure, covering it completely with money during the ceremony.78 Some also pass the clothes of sick children over the figure three times in the form of a cross, or more elaborately, the clothes (inside a bundle) are passed over the figure and under the canopy three times, in a cyclical movement thus encircling it, as I witnessed a young father do with the help of some women. Alternatively, many put clothes on a shelf under the canopy so they could rest there during the ceremony and obtain power from the Panagia that might heal the sick person the clothes belong to afterwards. Others pass various herbs or other objects over the silver figure 77

I.e. “Panagia me to chrysi”, according to one of my informants from Tinos, cf. malamatenia (gold, golden), i.e. the same aspect as the Panagia ChrysospƝliǀtissa (Panagia of the Golden Cavern), which in Athens is also celebrated on 23 August, and is particularly illustrated by her Epitaphios in her cave church dedicated to this aspect of the Panagia in one of the Akropolis caves, cf. Håland 2009a. 78 See Fig. 19 a supra. See also Håland 2007a: Fig. 27.


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while worshipping the Panagia.79 Some lift up the figure to kiss and caress the Panagia. Today people are not permitted to dedicate money, but many take away some of the flower buds from her deathbed as amulets. In 2012, they were not permitted to lean into the canopy to kiss her, but had to kiss the silver figure that was held by one of the priests standing in front of the canopy instead. Still, many went behind his back: ignored these instructions and did as they have done every year. In 2012, as usual, the canopy, into which the Epitaphios of the Panagia is laid after the procession around the church, is situated on a blue cloth, the same cloth on which her icon is placed during the celebration of the Annunciation on 25 March. However, now the embroidered scene beneath the throne illustrates the Panagia on the Epitaphios, because the scene illustrating the Annunciation is on the other side, i.e. facing the iconostasis. The very cloth and its embroideries illustrate, if not death and resurrection at least the Annunciation and the Death, two important phases in the life of the Panagia, as well as signifying life and death more generally. All the priests who surround the Panagia on the Epitaphios wear black hats with veils emphasising the funeral in which they are participating. When the Panagia has been buried, the officiating priest sprinkles her with flower buds from a silver tray, thus paralleling the throwing of earth over the coffin in the grave. Thereafter, he scatters the rest of the flower buds in all directions, over the people present, taking on the role of the boy who in the 1990s stood on the pulpit carrying out this very act. The same procedure is then performed with lemon water from a silver carafe. After this, two other priests sprinkle lemon water on people around the church: they proceed from both sides of the congregation’s area of the church (i.e. along the north and south aisles), a priest with a censer following each of the two priests carrying the silver carafes. They start by sprinkling the buried Panagia. Then they split into two groups, one goes to the left while the other goes to the right, up to the iconostasis. They turn and then move forward, up the church towards its main entrance passing by the miraculous icon, then continue their procession outside the church from both sides and back in, so all the entrances have been traversed, thereby covering the entire church. Along the way, they see to it that those present are practically soaked with the lemon water, while wishing the crowd “Many Years”. People extend their arms and hands towards the lemon water, waiting to be drenched, particularly so women, who wipe the lemon water over their faces and hair. When the breads are to be blessed, all the priests line up, placing their hands on each other’s shoulders, in the 79

See Håland 2007a: Fig. 26.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


right-handed dance pattern that stands universally for the undeviating forward movement of blessed and auspicious giving both in life-cycle rituals such as death rituals and within the Orthodox liturgy. The importance of this movement is seen within all areas of Greek culture, as masterfully illustrated by J. du Boulay.80 After the ceremony, the Panagia is taken out of the canopy, and one of the priests stands in front of it holding her for people to perform their proskynƝma and kiss her. In 2012 however, the priests (taking off their hats while doing so), the president and secretary of the establishment along with the most eager local photographer were all permitted to lower their heads into the canopy and kiss her, as people used to do in former times. Behind the back of the priest holding the silver figure, people are eager to fetch flower buds from the canopy while also kissing the blue cloth on which the silver figure was placed during the ceremony, after having kissed the silver figure itself. This action is forbidden and they are told to stop, but as soon as the church attendant turns round or looks in another direction, they begin again. All the rituals in the 1990s and in subsequent years when the church representatives tried to prevent the public from expressing their devotion in certain ways, such as putting clothes under the canopy, passing them over and under, etc., come to mind. When the ceremony is finished in the Church of the Annunciation, most people make their way down to the next church. The following ceremony takes place in the aforementioned church dedicated to the Malamatenia, the Panagia under her “golden aspect”. This ritual is more popular among many of the inhabitants on Tinos, since the church is small and more informal. Two priests carry the figure depicting the dead Panagia in her shroud first inside the church and then all around its outside area, thus encircling the entire church before she is buried, i.e. redeposited on a table in front of the iconostasis. Beneath the table is a big basket with bread, dedicated by the people, which will be distributed at the end of the blessing ceremony. These repeated burial processions based on the Panagia’s death on Tinos resemble the legend which tells that when the Panagia had breathed her last, or “surrendered her spirit”, the apostles lifted up her bed and carried it in procession, burying her in the garden of Gethsemane.81 In some places, they perform the ritual on 15 August, such as on Corfu where the Panagia’s Epitaphios, or symbolic bier, decorated with flowers and carried in burial procession through the streets, is followed by pilgrims 80 81

du Boulay 2009, cf. n.25 Ch. 2 supra. Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 169-172.


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who carry lighted candles. On the Greek islands, the Panagia is often celebrated with mourning or funeral processions.82 In Greece, the transition to the fertile and healing period starts when, according to popular belief, the Panagia descends into the underworld, thereby ensuring the future fertility in agreement with the powers of the divine underworld.83 One might also say that she “falls asleep”, before she is reborn in September, paralleling the earth that sinks to rest after harvest and is renewed in the autumn, since there is a correspondence between the earth and the Panagia, as shown in her biography and the important phases of the agricultural year, from sowing to harvest. The discussion of the saint cult may be summarised by stating that for modern Greeks a saint is any supernatural person considered to have once lived and who is seen as being sufficiently important and holy. This is the case whether he or she is accepted by the church or not. Based on this definition the modern cults’ “exceptional deceased” are all saints, including and indeed headed by the Panagia and, to a certain degree Christ, i.e. from a non-theological point of view.84 Although officially Christ has a different position within Christianity, being the “God-man”, and also within the Orthodox Church, in everyday life, the Panagia and the saints, particularly the local patron saints, are those who usually receive prayers from people. Furthermore, the performance of the burial ritual for Christ during Easter and the ensuing resurrection indicates that he might be regarded as a dead mediator. Therefore, the following paragraph will offer a “thick” description of the Easter season on Tinos as I experienced the celebrations there in 2012.85


Cf. KephallƝniadƝ 1990: Vols. A and B, and 1993. Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 172 (Corfu). 83 This might perhaps be problematic from a theological point of view. However, as an historian, not a theologian, I am merely pointing out that the survival of values and beliefs and the close relationship between the official religion and popular religion (cf. Ch. 1 supra) is a well-known fact that is also embedded in the practical celebration of Orthodox festivals and has been illustrated by several other researchers as well, see e.g. Kyriakidou-Nestoros 1986; Psychogiou 2008; cf. Håland 2005, 2007a: Ch. 3, see also 2006a, 2012a. Stewart 1991: argues against the conceptual separation of church doctrine and folk practice. 84 In other words, I do not agree with Blum/Blum 1970: 79 ff., cf. Finrud Di Tota 1981a: 116 f. For a discussion of the Panagia and the difference between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, see also Dubisch 1995: 236; Håland 2007a, 2008a, 2012a. Concerning Christ, this is my own definition. 85 See also Håland 2007a: Ch. 4 for a similar description of Easter in Olympos in 1992. Cf. Leach 1986 for the god-man, Christ.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


Easter on Tinos 2012 The Easter season celebrations start with the festival dedicated to Lazaros, on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. Due to the death and resurrection of Lazaros, this day is commonly known as the “First Easter”. On the Friday before Palm Sunday, the icon depicting the “Resurrection of Lazaros” (Ɯ egersis tou Lazarou) is put into the usual lectern and placed next to the icon depicting the Dormition of the Panagia in the Church of the Annunciation. The celebration starts on Friday evening. According to the programme that hangs outside all of the churches on Tinos, “Holy and Great Week” (Agias kai MegalƝs Ebdomados) 2012 starts on Palm Sunday, with the liturgy (“Orthros kai Th. Leitourgia: Ag. Iǀannou tou Chysostomou”) at 7:30 am in every church. On Palm Sunday, people fetch palm leaves and olive branches from the church that will bring good luck once they have been blessed. The Church of the Annunciation is decorated with palm leaves and olive branches. The fresh palm leaves are arranged into crosses and hang from the many lamps in the church. Towards the end of the liturgy, the priests bless the crossed palms that have been taken down from the lamps along with the olive branches and put into two baskets, one for palm crosses and the other for olive branches, situated on each side of the lectern displaying the icon that depicts Christ entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The lectern is placed in front of the iconostasis. At the end of the liturgy people line up to perform their proskynƝma in front of the icon. Afterwards, they receive blessed branches from one of the priests, and sometimes take more from the baskets. After the liturgy, everyone present proceeds down the road leading from the church while eating blessed bread and holding branches in their hands. When the liturgy ends in the smaller church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios a little later, two of the churchwardens go outside carrying with them two smaller baskets, one containing palm crosses and the other olive branches. When people leave the church after the ceremony, they receive these palm crosses and olive branches that have been blessed during the liturgy. When the women go home, they position the branches in their holy corner, preferably over the most holy icons, replacing the ones from the previous year. In this way, they ensure that all evil forces are prevented from entering their homes in the year to come. After vespers at 5:30 pm, the churches are decorated and at 8 pm, the clergy begin the liturgy dedicated to the “Akolouthia tou Nymphiou (Orthros Meg. Deuteras)”, known as the Bridegroom service, starting with the Hymn of the Bridegroom (“Behold the Bridegroom comes in the midst


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of the night”). The liturgy lasts three evenings: from Palm Sunday until Wednesday afternoon. It is dedicated to the Nymphios (Bridegroom), “Christ with the crown of thorns”,86 or the “suffering Christ” whose icon is placed on a prominent spot after a procession around the church. In the Church of the Annunciation, the icon is exhibited on the lectern, which usually displays the icon dedicated to the Dormition of the Panagia. The icon is called o Nymphios Meg. Deuteras, Meg. TritƝ, Meg. TetartƝ (the bridegroom of Great Monday, Great Tuesday and Great Wednesday). Next to the icon is a banner depicting the Resurrection of Christ. Another icon depicting Nymphios, “Christ with the crown of thorns”, is put on a lectern in front of the iconostasis. On Great Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week, three liturgies are celebrated in the church: in the morning, afternoon and evening. On Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the morning vespers are dedicated to the holy liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts, i.e. bread and wine for the Holy Eucharist. The aforementioned evening liturgies on Monday and Tuesday are dedicated to Nymphios. On Monday afternoon, I went to the monastery dedicated to Agia Triada situated outside Tinos town. This is the place where most of the ossuaries on Tinos are found. I talk with the churchwarden who tells me that there are daily liturgies during the week, except for Saturdays and Sundays because the priests are busy in the churches on those days. I assume this to mean that the place is more or less “in women’s hands” on Saturdays, when they come to clean and take care of the ossuaries as is the case in other places. He tells me that the place will be packed with people visiting their dead relatives on Holy Friday after approximately 1 pm, which coincides with the hours that there will be a priest at the cemetery in Tinos town. Already before Easter in 2012, an announcement outside the cemetery informs a priest will be present at the cemetery on Holy Friday from 2 pm until 5 pm. Further up the road from the Monastery of Agia Triada is the church dedicated to Agioi Anargyroi. On this Monday of Holy Week, two red cemetery candles are lit in front of the iconostasis, and on a table a small bowl is filled with oil, on which two other burning candles are floating. This arrangement reminds me of the church in Olympos in Holy Week in 1992, and is a custom found commonly all over Greece during Easter. On “Great Wednesday”, the third liturgy is dedicated to the “Holy Unction Service” (“Akolouthia tou NiptƝros”, i.e. “Washing of the 86

See Håland 2007a: Ch. 4 for references, i.e. Papoutsis 1982: 45; Megas 1982: 93 for the bridegroom, the Mass on Tuesday and Maria Magdalena, and the prostitutes who, in the big towns in Greece, go to the churches on this day. Paradoxically the day is also dedicated to the ten virgins according to the official Orthodox Church.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


Feet”),87 and starts at 8 pm. Approximately half an hour earlier, many people arrive at the Church of the Annunciation to be blessed by holy oil. The icon depicting Nymphios, “Christ with the crown of thorns”, that has been displayed on a lectern in front of the iconostasis, has now been moved outside this “holy circle” (i.e. the enclosed area in front of the iconostasis), and placed just outside the entrance to the altar, next to the table supplying papers for writing supplication letters. In front of the iconostasis, there is now an altar table with several holy items; the most essential being the bowl containing two candles floating on oil. This day is dedicated mainly to the “Sacrament of the Holy Unction”, i.e. ointment of the believers, and after the liturgy the priest cleanses the latter with oil. People who arrive at the church enter this holy space, and one of the priests smears some oil using one of the two “spatulas” with cotton tips that rest in the bowl on their foreheads, chins, and hands. A number of them also receive some oil on a piece of cotton wool. The practice reminds me of the ritual in the church dedicated to Agia Marina, in Athens during her festival on 17 July, when a priest performs the same purifying ritual, daubing people with oil next to the relics of the saint.88 During Easter in Olympos in 1992 people also smeared themselves: on a lectern in front of the iconostasis, a small bowl containing white powder, resembling flour or icing sugar rested on a shawl. In the bowl filled with oil a burning candle was floating. All around it were small cotton buds. When people entered the church, they put a finger into the white powder and oil, to trace a cross on their forehead. According to my informants, this custom “belongs” to Easter. In the Church of the Annunciation on Tinos, on the same altar table mentioned above, there are two lighted candles and some holy symbols: a silver Bible, a silver cross and a silver censer or lamp from which several bells are also suspended. When people have been daubed, cleansed, purified or “initiated” with the blessing and healing oil, they receive a sheet with a holy text from one of the younger choirboys. Most of the women in the church bring with them a small prayer book; some also bring with them the usual folding chairs, so they can sit down wherever they want. When the liturgy starts at 8 pm, the icon depicting Nymphios, relocated earlier outside the “holy circle”, is taken behind the iconostasis. One of the priests also removes the other icon depicting Nymphios that was on display where the icon of the Dormition of the Panagia usually resides. Two churchwardens appear wheeling a trolley with many candles in candelabras. These are lit and distributed to several 87

Cf. Tuesday night when the Gospel of Maria Magdalene, who came to wash the feet of Jesus, is read. Cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 4n.121, see also the previous note. 88 Cf. n.95 Ch. 2 supra.


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laypersons, all of whom are men. They line up on each side of the passage in front of the left door of the iconostasis from which the ecclesiastics always come out when carrying holy icons around the church. With everyone holding candelabras, the choirboys emerge from the hieron carrying their usual holy symbols, followed by the chanters, and two priests who walk backwards, while swinging their censers. Another priest follows on carrying the icon to be put on display on the lectern next to the table where people are writing their “healing letters”, marked with the words dia paraklƝseis (for supplications). This icon depicts the Last Supper and has three burning candles on its upper part, as is customary in this church. The small procession walks straight ahead and leaves by the door to the left of the main entrance to the church, i.e. behind the miraculous icon. Then, it re-enters by the main entrance, next to the icon, moves to the right, so the whole church has been encircled or purified, and enters the holy space in front of the iconostasis always moving towards the right; again, we encounter the importance of the right-handed processional movement. The priest carrying the icon walks several times around the holy altar table in front of the iconostasis and its display of holy symbols (two lighted candles, and a silver Bible, cross and censer in front of the bowl with oil and floating candles). Ahead of him, the two other priests continue walking backwards, while swinging their censers, thereby purifying the space for the icon, which will now be in focus. During this procedure, the choirboys stand to the left in front of the iconostasis, while the chanters stand to the right. The men carrying the lighted candles have lined up outside the holy circle, and in so doing, mark the direction the priest carrying the holy icon follows as he moves towards the lectern to display the icon. The burning candles at its top are adjusted. All those involved, the priests and the candle carriers, perform their proskynƝma in front of the icon depicting the Lord’s (or Last) Supper, the priests and the candle carriers, the last of whom put their candles back on the “rolling table”, to be wheeled out again by two churchwardens. After this, a sort of folding throne or lectern is placed in the main entrance to the hieron, and on the throne is put a Bible from which the former icon-carrying priest starts to read the relevant biblical text. On Maundy Thursday, the morning service is dedicated to the Last Supper, while the liturgy dedicated to the Holy Passion of Christ (“Akolouthia tǀn Achrantǀn Pathǀn”), starts at 7 pm. All of the churches on Tinos follow the same programme, as is the rule during the whole of Easter. First, I visit the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios. The icon depicting the Last Supper, flanked by two lighted candles, is placed on a lectern in the middle of the church in front of the iconostasis. Later, I go

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


up to the Church of the Annunciation. The icon of the Last Supper has been moved to the lectern that usually displays the icon depicting the Dormition of the Panagia, and recently exhibited the Nymphios icon. In general, during the Easter mourning ceremonies, all the priests are dressed in purple robes. The three priests emerge from the hieron, remove the icon depicting the Last Supper ceremonially and escort it behind the iconostasis. Then, the aforementioned “folding throne or lectern” is put in the main entrance to the hieron, on which is placed the Bible the iconcarrying priest uses to read the relevant liturgical texts related to the Passion. The “rolling table” is moved next to where people offer their candles. Three choirboys, also dressed in purple, come out from the hieron. Although the priest reads from the Bible, most women and some men have brought with them their own smaller copy. I choose to go back to the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios, because a TV crew is busy filming in the Church of the Annunciation. In the smaller church, many people hold lighted candles or ones they are still to light. Some of them brought their own with them to church; others drop some money on a silver tray when entering. Some people also stand outside the church, although it is not yet full. As usual, people do not move around when the priest reads from the Bible. A similar folding throne or lectern to the one in the Church of the Annunciation is arranged in the main entrance of the iconostasis, and on the throne is a Bible, flanked by two burning candles, from which the priest reads the relevant biblical text. The evening liturgy is dedicated to Christ’s Passion, or the “Crucifixion Service” encompassing the Procession of the Cross, and is commonly known as the Mass dedicated to the “Twelve Gospels”, because the priest reads twelve different gospel excerpts that describe the Passion of Christ. These gospels concern what happens after his arrest, the events before and after the Crucifixion. In the church, Christ on the cross is put above the altar inside of the hieron. Each time the black and purple-robed priest finishes reading a new gospel, he lights a candle, lighting twelve candles in total during the Mass. As is usual in Greek churches people arrive during the service. When the priest has finished reading the first gospel excerpt, many more people enter the church, bringing with them candles, burial wreaths and flowers to decorate the crucified Christ. They leave the wreaths and flowers with the churchwardens, before they perform their proskynƝma in front of the icon in the middle of the church. After the chanters’ singing, the priest starts to read again, and all present rise, stop moving around and return to their places. The priest reads from the mid-door to the hieron; afterwards, he takes up a position next to the chanters. Then, behind the iconostasis, he takes off his hat and lights a new candle. During the


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reading of the fifth gospel, on the Crucifixion, the icon depicting the Last Supper is removed from the lectern. Between the fifth and the sixth gospels, the priest goes behind the iconostasis to the large cross. All the lights in the church are extinguished, and people light their candles; those who had already lit their candles must relight them. The priest takes the large cross on which a figure of Christ hangs, and on top of which three candles are lit, and enters the body of the church from the hieron and walks in procession towards the left church entrance, behind the choirboys and the man carrying the censer. They leave the church, and walk in procession all around the outside, thereby paralleling the ritual in the Malamatenia Church, when the Panagia is carried in burial procession during the “Enniamera” celebration, the “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia” on the eve of 23 August. Similarly, when they re-enter by the main entrance, people throw flower buds over them. Women carrying lighted candles follow the procession. The priest places the cross on which Christ hangs in the area newly vacated by the icon depicting the Last Supper. However, the cross is put into a sort of base or “Christmas tree stand”. The lights are turned on, and the cross is decorated with burial wreaths and flowers. All people attending perform their proskynƝma in front of the cross, and kiss the wooden Christ on his knee. The priest carries the censer all around the church, starting and ending in front of the crucified figure, before continuing to read the next seven gospels that refer to the death and burial of Christ. Soon the cross, laden by so many wreaths and flowers, starts to wobble, and some of the churchwardens have to fetch a hammer to drive it down securely into its stand. The liturgy ends very late, early next morning 2 am.89 On Easter Friday, all flags are flown at half-mast, as is usual during Easter Friday, when Christ is believed to be in the underworld. The vespers at 9 am is dedicated to the deposition from the cross (ApokathƝlǀseǀs). In the middle of the service, the gospel relating how the body of Christ is taken down from the cross is read. The priest stops the reading to take down the body, which is later placed in the decorated tomb, while hymns are sung. The Epitaphios (Christ’s shroud; from epi=on/upon and taphos=grave/tomb) is an embroidered piece of cloth depicting the body of Christ on the white linen shroud. This shroud is placed in the koubouklio (i.e. canopy) decorated with flowers. On Tinos, the wooden figure representing Christ is laid on the shroud in the koubouklio. I have mentioned the Epitaphios several times, and although it generally represents the tomb or grave of Christ, his funeral or deathbed, 89

See Håland 2007a: Ch. 4 for the version of the liturgy in Olympos, 1992.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


most Greek Orthodox churches also possess icons depicting the Epitaphios of the Panagia or other saints, such as Agios Nektarios, as illustrated in Chapter 2. Within the Orthodox Church, the Epitaphios or the koubouklio is a coffin that people decorate with flowers. In some churches, the decoration takes place after the reading of the twelve gospels so it is ready for the next day when the burial procession is performed. In many places, people stay in the church until sunrise on Friday morning and special mourning hymns are sung at the feet of the cross. These songs or laments are called Christomirologia, and are sung while people decorate the Epitaphios.90 The church bells announce Christ’s burial (entaphiasmos) and funeral procession (ekphora) from early on Friday morning. I go to the monastery dedicated to Agia Triada. The churchwarden tells me that the priest will arrive around 1:30 pm and stay until 5 pm, to read prayers over the ossuaries. Meanwhile he shows me around the chapel that has been dedicated by one of the Tinotes, details of which are recorded on a placard affixed to the outside of the chapel. In the chapel, he shows me the icon dedicated to Agios Stylianos, the patron saint of newborns, who therefore is depicted holding a swaddled baby in one of his arms. I learn that the saint is offered a candle when a woman is pregnant or a child is ill by those seeking help. When I enquired of the churchwarden when this saint’s day is celebrated, he answered that people come and light a candle whenever they need his help. Another icon depicts the Annunciation, and here the Panagia is shown in the act of spinning. In this chapel, the same bowl with oil featured above is found, but here there is only one floating candle; all of the candle offerings must be lit from the one in the bowl. The priest of the church dedicated to the Treis Hierarches91 arrives and puts his “blessing cloth” on a chair while awaiting the first women to visit the ossuaries. Most of the people who arrive are indeed women, bringing with them yellow-brown candles of varying sizes, flowers, red grave candles, and incense. Most also enter the chapel and light candles from the one floating in the oil before proceeding to the ossuaries. In each ossuary, one also finds a bowl containing a floating candle from which relatives may light their own to be put on the floor in front of—or on a hanging device directly on—their respective ossuaries. The churchwarden sees to it that censers are constantly burning. The women decorate the ossuaries with flowers and some also cense them; while a few do not ask the priest to 90

See also http://www.stdgocunion.org/holyweek.html (accessed 3.11.12). Cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 4 for Olympos. 91 These three prelates, also known as the Cappadocian Fathers, are Megas Basileios, Agios GrƝgorios Theologos and IǀannƝs Chrysostomos.


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come at all, most leave the ritual censing to the priest who also reads a prayer in return for money. One of the women reels off all of the names he has to mention, i.e. to bless while decorating the ossuary of one of the former mayors of Tinos. The latter also receives a wreath with red and white flowers; the woman and a young man require a folding ladder and help from the churchwarden to hang it at the top of the mausoleum. As in this instance, some men do participate in the memorial celebrations, but most wait outside their cars, and do not enter the holy place at all. When the priest has finished the blessing, they wish each other “KalƝ AnastasƝ”, “i.e. Happy Resurrection”, which is common practice during the entire Holy Week all over Greece. A number of women put some flowers on several ossuaries, both on “their own” and on those of others; equally, they cense their own ossuary, but perhaps also the memorial of someone they knew very well, such as the young Panagiotis. Around 2:50 pm, when I enter the church dedicated to Agia ParaskeuƝ, the flower-decorated Epitaphios is placed in front of the iconostasis. Behind the Epitaphios in this church is the cross, with a wreath but without the dead Christ since he is lying inside the Epitaphios alongside a copy of the Bible. Women arrive, light candles, perform their proskynƝma, i.e. kiss the icon depicting Agia ParaskeuƝ: they always kiss the actual saint being worshipped in the church they enter, before continuing to the Epitaphios to perform their proskynƝma. Some genuflect three times, bending into the tomb and kissing the dead Christ. Others take flower buds from the tomb. Then, they proceed to the cross and kiss it as well. In this church, the Epitaphios was decorated between 11 pm the previous night and 3 am in the morning by the women belonging to the church and by the priest. When talking with the female churchwarden in the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios on the Friday before Easter, I learnt that only one person is responsible for decorating the Epitaphios on Maundy Thursday. When I arrived there on Easter Friday afternoon at 3 pm, people were also worshipping the decorated Epitaphios, with the dead Christ inside. According to a male churchwarden: The same person is always responsible for decorating the Epitaphios in the church of Agios Nikolaos on Thursday afternoon. After the termination of the liturgy in the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios on Thursday night, or rather early Friday morning, it is brought to the latter church where it remains until the procession starts. After the procession, it is brought back to Agios Nikolaos’ church.

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The two churches of Agios Nikolaos and Agios Eleutherios belong to one parish.92 On that Friday, the priest also receives papers on which people have written the names of their deceased relatives, and reads prayers for them over the Epitaphios of Christ. Thus, on Tinos the Epitaphios is decorated as soon as Christ has died, i.e. very late on Thursday night or early Friday morning, instead of midmorning, in a similar fashion to the decoration in Olympos in 1992. I learnt about the Tinos customs in January 2012 from one of my female informants: Concerning the Epitaphios, they don’t decorate it in the Church of the Annunciation. But all the others are decorated. They start on Maundy Thursday evening. All the Epitaphioi are taken in procession down to the PantanassƝs square at the harbour. Then, they are carried to the cemetery, but the priest in the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios takes the Epitaphios into the sea.

According to the above informant, who was not born on Tinos, this priest is more special than the others are. But according to another, a man of my own age who was born on the island, the Epitaphios of the churches of Agios Nikolaos and Agios Eleutherios has always been carried into the sea. In any case, according to my female informant, “after having taken this Epitaphios into the sea, the priest also goes to the cemetery to the others [i.e. Tinotes and their respective Epitaphioi]”. Here, we have the description and interpretation of an Athenian woman settled on Tinos, as well as that of a Tinote who has lived most of his adult life in Athens. One may also say that, like the old priest in the Malamatenia Church, who performs the service during the “Enniamera” on 22 August, the priest in the church of Agios Eleutherios is careful to uphold traditional local customs, which evidently is very much appreciated since the two churches are filled to the brim during the respective liturgies. At the cemetery in Tinos town, I see several people visiting tombs around 3:30 pm on Holy Friday. Since the priest affiliated to the churches of Agios Nikolaos and Agios Eleutherios has been present since 1 pm to read prayers over the tombs, many tombs have by now been blessed: these have burning red grave candles, and new wreaths along with fresh flowers. The same is true of the ossuaries in front of which one can observe many lighted candles and bunches of flowers. Like those in Agia Triada, most of the women here are busy at the graves while some men wait in the 92

Re parishes: the churches of Malamatenia and TaxiarchƝs also belong to one parish, and so do the churches of Treis Hierarches and Agios IǀannƝs.


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entrance or outside, although a few are also tending the tombs. The priest is busy, practically running around from the upper to the lower level of the cemetery and down the steps to the ossuaries (the old and the new ossuaries being situated in the same building). The chapel at the cemetery is also open today; inside, an icon depicting the Resurrection of Christ is placed on the lectern. From the cemetery, I go on to the church dedicated to the Annunciation. The burial aspect of the day is signalled at the main entrance to the church, which is draped or bordered with a kind of curtain in black and purple: burial colours. People enter to worship the Epitaphios by one of the side entrances. At the lectern where the icon depicting the Dormition of the Panagia usually rests, is an icon depicting Christ on the Epitaphios, the Epitaphios ThrƝnos, illustrating the lamentation around the Epitaphios, the Panagia sitting next to his head. The Epitaphios is placed in front of the iconostasis. In a way, my female informant was correct when saying that Epitaphios in this church is not decorated. On the other hand, she was wrong. Contrary to the other churches’ Epitaphioi, not one flower hangs on the Epitaphios and only the wooden carvings are visible, but inside the dead Christ rests on a bed of flower buds surrounded by an abundance of different flowers, along with a copy of the Bible. So although not decorated with flowers outside, it is inside. Behind the Epitaphios is the cross, as in the other churches. Worship continues for the duration of the day, as is the custom generally. People are busy writing supplication letters, which are, in turn, collected by the churchwardens and brought behind the iconostasis to be read by the priests. Other churchwardens are busy placing candles in all the candelabras hanging in the church. The main entrance to the church dedicated to the TaxiarchƝs is likewise draped with a kind of curtain in the same purple and black burial colours. Inside, people are also worshipping the Epitaphios. An icon depicting Christ on the Epitaphios, the Epitaphios ThrƝnos, has been placed on a lectern just inside the entrance. The Epitaphios rests in front of the iconostasis, and behind is the cross. Like those in two of the three former churches, it is decorated with flowers, but all three can be distinguished by the differently coloured flowers of their ornamentation. The most elaborate and beautiful is the one in the church of Agios Eleutherios. Here, in the church of TaxiarchƝs, the main colours are yellow, white and green, visible in the flowers and other vegetation. The least embellished of the three is the one in Agia ParaskeuƝ, and the one in between is the Epitaphios here in TaxiarchƝs. The figure of the dead Christ rests on flower buds, and is surrounded by long-stalked flowers—roses, tulips and lilies—along with a copy of the Bible. In a small basket next to the flowers

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inside the Epitaphios are buds for people to take. There is likewise an Epitaphios in the church dedicated to the “Treis Hierarches”, next to the taxi station: in all there are five Epitaphioi in Tinos town. The liturgy dedicated to Epitaphios ThrƝnos starts at 8 pm. Half an hour later, the churchwardens in the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios start to collect the symbols to be used in the procession. The Epitaphios is worshipped by all those who arrive. Behind is the cross, and several palm crosses hang from the lamps in the ceiling just above it, where they will remain until Palm Sunday. Burial colours do not mark the entrance to this church, but the altar cloth is purple. The priest’s first robe is black, but he later changes into white vestments and finally ends up wearing a patterned robe primarily purple in colour. All the yellow-brown candles on the Epitaphios are lit as are all the coloured lanterns decorating the Epitaphios. Around 9 pm, the priest distributes several booklets to many of the women and they gather around the Epitaphios and start to sing the Epitaphios ThrƝnos, the lament of the Virgin,93 helped by the chanters. Initially, the priest appears slightly sad that so few women in the congregation participate in the lament during this part of the ceremony. Some of the women are reticent and have to be guided towards the Epitaphios but many sing enthusiastically. I assume this shyness might be due to my presence, since I am the only “stranger” in the church. When on Tinos, I have generally conducted my fieldwork in other churches, particularly the Church of the Annunciation, but I spent much time in the churches dedicated to Agioi Eleutherios and Nikolaos during Easter 2012, as I did during memorial celebrations for various deceased in the previous years, so I know many members of the congregation. Nevertheless, some of the women seem to feel inhibited, since they are not used to non-Tinotes being present at ceremonies; many others however, are unperturbed by my presence, with some of them even “adopting me into the congregation” by providing me with a long white candle, candle cuff, red eggs, etc. During the ceremony, many of the women, and indeed other members of the congregation, hold lighted candles of various sizes, some of which are also encircled by candle cuffs decorated with Christ on the cross or coloured red. During the women’s ceremonial singing, other new comers line up to worship the Epitaphios. In-between, when a female singer with a beautiful voice performs a solo part, the priest has to calm down the other women who sing eagerly at the top of their voices. According to one of my informants, Maria, living next to the church of Agios Nikolaos, “women 93 Cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: Ch. 6. One may note that on this day some eat boiled lentil soup, which represents the tears of the Panagia under the cross.


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will more often than not be found in the church singing the Epitaphios ThrƝnos the whole day; it depends on how many available voices there are”. Just before 10 pm, the priest goes around the whole church, sprinkling lemon water, starting and ending by the Epitaphios. When the women have finished their ritual singing, which does not sound like a lament, they worship the Epitaphios. The priest thanks all present for their assistance and mentions many, particularly those who helped decorate and provide the flowers for the Epitaphios, by name. The programme for the rest of the evening, or night is also detailed. The Bible is removed from the Epitaphios, and the Epitaphios is put on wooden beams to be carried in procession, by men. The congregation files down a side street, and wait to join the rest of the procession, which started from the Church of the Annunciation. As usual, the choirboys come first, followed by chanters and priests, mainly those from the Church of the Annunciation with ones from the other churches joining in when their Epitaphios also joins the procession. The respective Epitaphioi are preceded by men and boys carrying the various crosses on which burial wreaths and flowers still hang. After the first Epitaphios from the Church of the Annunciation, follows the one from Agios Eleutherios. When the procession passes by the church of TaxiarchƝs, the cross, Epitaphios, and ecclesiastics from this church also join in. At the circular Panagia Square, the two Epitaphioi from the churches of Agia ParaskeuƝ and Treis Hierarches, respectively, arrive from the opposite direction to meet the others, and all five Epitaphioi enter the circle together following the men carrying the crosses. When all the ecclesiastics are gathered on the podium of the platform or “circle”, only two non-ecclesiastics are present: the mayor and the president of the administration of the Church of the Annunciation. After reorganisation on the way down as the respective Epitaphioi join in, the procession enters the harbour headed by the crosses with the wreaths, the choirboys follow on, and the Epitaphioi after them, and, finally, all gather in the square, where the respective priests read their parts of the liturgy, one of them also reading on behalf of the bishop who is not present. After the ceremony, all the Epitaphioi, with one exception, the one from the churches of Agios Nikolaos and Agios Eleutherios, go to the cemetery. The latter Epitaphios goes in the opposite direction: towards the sea, to the closest beach, Spitalia, located in the parish of the church of Agios Nikolaos, the saint who protects seamen. First, come four small choirboys, then the older boys carrying the cross, followed by the priest, the laymen carrying the Epitaphios, and chanters. The priest sings throughout, assisted by the chanters, carrying a microphone powered by an

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


handheld generator. The fireworks were set off before the procession left the square, and torches burn along the harbour and seashore, also on several boats moored in the bay next to the beach, whose breakwater is permanently marked with a cross. The choirboys descend the steps to the beach (a “short cut”), while the rest of the procession comprising the cross, the Epitaphios, the priest and the chanters goes the more usual way down to the beach (along the beach and down the road to the left), and straight into the water (Fig. 20). This group is led by the priest, who sings the whole way.

Figure 20. The Epitaphios is carried into the sea, Spitalia beach, Holy Friday on Tinos, 2012.

One of the photographers becomes so eager that he walks into the water as well, while the rest of the crowd stands on the beach and collectively jumps backwards every time a heavy wave approaches. It is raining. By the end of ceremony, the priest takes five wreaths from the cross and throws them into the water, and the flowers are left floating on the water. According to one of my informants, young Maria, the background to this custom stems from an incident in which a small child drowned at this spot on Holy Friday thirty years earlier, and the priest then decided to


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carry out the ritual as a memorial for the dead child. According to another informant, who is in his fifties, however, the “ritual has always been like that”. When coming up from the sea, the procession goes through the locality or common parish of the two churches, and ends up at the cemetery, where some people are waiting; by this time however, the other four Epitaphioi have already returned to their respective churches. All along the processional route, as the holy Epitaphios passes before their houses, the women of each house throw a handful of incense on the embers, and to reward them for having made the air smell sweetly for the passage of the holy Epitaphios, the priest pauses to say a prayer for them. Many housewives also throw flower buds over the Epitaphios and sprinkle lemon water, as is the custom. At the cemetery, the priest holds another service, while the tired choirboys sit down next to some graves, and the carriers of the Epitaphios and the cross remain standing in the stair-case leading to the upper part of the cemetery. When leaving the cemetery, the priest indicates that the women are now to take over the Epitaphios and the singing. Therefore, the whole way back to the church of Agios Nikolaos, young women carry the Epitaphios (Fig. 21). This is a decision some of the male carriers loudly protest; one of the men actually walks backwards in front of them most of the way, and tries to direct them, or perhaps he is just keen to see if they can manage to carry the heavy Epitaphios. I hear him whisper that this is not usual. According to the young Maria on the other hand, it is customary for the men and women to alternate carrying the Epitaphios to and from the cemetery, and to take turns singing. Three of the women, Maria included, in fact, take over the microphone and choral singing all the way back to the church, which is very beautiful. On the way towards the church of Agios Nikolaos, we pass the church of Agios Eleutherios. In front of the entrance to the church of Agios Nikolaos, the men lift up the Epitaphios, which is removed from the pillars or sedan chairs on which it has been carried, and everyone enters the church by passing underneath the canopy. During this ritual, the singing women stand next to the Epitaphios. When everyone has entered, the Epitaphios is taken into the church, and the priest takes the figure of the dead Christ behind the iconostasis. Here, the priest and another man carry the figure of Christ, wrapped in the shroud, in burial procession around the altar table three times, paralleling the Enniamera ritual of the Panagia, although the latter takes place both inside and outside the church, as described earlier. While circling the altar, the priest chants burial hymns.

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Figure 21. Women carry the Epitaphios from the cemetery to the church of Agios Nikolaos, Holy Friday on Tinos, 2012.

A censer carrier, who walks backwards swinging the censer so the air is clean and purified for the dead Christ, heads the burial procession. After the procession, at around half past midnight, the figure is placed into a big, red basket on the altar table, which is used to distribute blessed bread. The liturgy ends very late. On Saturday, the five burial wreaths and flowers have been washed up on Spitalia beach by the waves. The flags are hoisted, since Christ is already thought to be resurrected. This day celebrates “that the Panagia asks Christ to bring up the souls of the dead, from wherever they might be, and then they remain among the living until Pentecost, when they go back to their places”, according to one of my female informants. One may


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wonder if this is the real reason that the priests are busy at the cemetery of Tinos town and in Agia Triada on Great Friday. Be that as it may, on this Saturday I visit the Catholic cemetery, dedicated to the Panagia PonemenƝ (“the Sad Panagia”), on the outskirts of Tinos town, next to the sea. Several women are busy cleaning their tombs. A placard next to the entrance indicates that the cemetery is a gift dedicated by the family of Antǀnio BidalƝ to the memory of his daughter, KlairƝs Delatola. The cemetery is exactly as one would expect of an Orthodox cemetery: the graves are similar, and two rows of ossuaries are situated at the back. People there also report that the customs are similar: everyone exhumes their dead after three years. Actually, Catholics celebrate Easter according to the Orthodox calendar here on Tinos, since many families are of mixed religious background due to intermarriages. On Saturday, young boys busily set off firecrackers the whole day, as is the custom in Greece, to ward off the Devil who is believed to hover over the congregation, hindering the Resurrection and by extension the salvation of humankind,94 although it is questionable whether the boys reflect on this reasoning. Indeed, according to custom, they are supposed to wait until the time of, or after the Resurrection, but these boys set off firecrackers both before and after, regardless. In general, people wear new clothes, representing the new life that starts with the Resurrection. In the churches on Tinos, there are two ceremonies on this day. Early in the morning the Resurrection of the righteous from Hades is celebrated. During the liturgy, the priest throws flower leaves into the air, with the leaves meant to represent the resurrected souls.95 People are eager to catch them in the air since they are thought to bestow a blessing, and people take them home, usually putting them on the icon shelf. The second ceremony, or midnight service, starts at 11 pm, and one hour later follows the Resurrection. I attend the ceremony in the church of Agios Nikolaos, described below. The church is lit only by a few candles, thereby representing the darkness in the tomb. Inside the Epitaphios, the Resurrected Christ is already on display,96 and the yellow-brown candles have been removed from the Epitaphios, although the coloured lanterns are still there. People arrive carrying large white, often decorated “Resurrection” or Easter candles; many have more than one candle, some also have lanterns. Most 94

Cf. Megas 1992: 170 f.; Håland 2007a: Ch. 4. In some places this is called the first Resurrection. 96 The iconography is very similar to the statue of the Resurrected Christ in the church dedicated to Madonna Berikna that was carried in procession in the small town of Gzira, near Sliema in Malta on Easter Sunday 2005. 95

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


candles have collars around the upper part, in varying designs: some with illustrations of Christ on the Cross, on others there is written “Many Years” (i.e. “Chronia Polla”). The majority of participants carry their mobile phone next to the candles, and everyone lines up to kiss the Resurrected Christ before finding a place to stand. People go to the church to fetch new light for the “domestic hearth”, i.e. the ever-burning lamp in the holy corner of the house, according to custom. Since the point is to bring the live flame back home, a task that is difficult on Tinos, “the island of the north wind”, both the lanterns and candle collars have a practical function. Outside the church and on the balcony of the house where Maria lives next to the church, a sort of podium has been arranged with a pulpit and two candles on either side.97 The priest will announce the Resurrection of Christ from this pulpit. Already ten to twelve, the priest emerges from the altar holding a large lighted candle and announces that the new candle is lit; everybody approaches the priest with their candles to receive light from the first and thereafter light their candles from each other. According to the programme, the Resurrection is to be proclaimed at twelve exactly. The priest, two men carrying two “Resurrection wreaths” and the choirboys, followed by the congregation carrying lighted candles, leave the church in procession towards the podium on the balcony, and from this outside altar the Resurrection is indeed proclaimed. When the priest announces that “Christ is Risen” (Christos AnestƝ), people respond: “Truly He is Risen” (AlƝthƝs AnestƝ). The gospel narrating the Resurrection is read and the hymn of Resurrection is chanted. At the same time, people tell each other that “Christ is Risen”, and the other party respond: “Truly He is Risen”. As already noted, young boys busily set off firecrackers, which they are now fully sanctioned to do, but most people become scared, myself included. One of the churchwardens goes around with a basket filled with dyed eggs, cakes and sweets that he distributes to the congregation. The priest and his followers go back into the church followed by the congregation. The two Resurrection wreaths on top of two standards are positioned next to the Epitaphios. The priest reads out a message from the bishop. During the celebration of the matins and the Divine Pascal Liturgy, which starts fifteen minutes past midnight, all members of the congregation hold their lighted Resurrection candles in their hands, some with their lanterns; some also leave carrying their lanterns and candles. The priest is dressed in white, the colour of the Resurrection, and swings the censer in front of the Epitaphios. Then, he 97

During the announcement of the Resurrection in the Church of the Annunciation the big and decorated outdoor altar is moved into the court in front of the memorial of the heroes of the Elli.


Chapter Three

and one of his helpers circle the Epitaphios carrying the Bible. One of the women in the parish also provides me with a candle, which makes it difficult for me to take notes and pictures. Many also stay outside of the church, particularly the men in the yard, and also some women who sit down on a bench outside on the other side of the church, since the small church is quite packed. Around 1 am, I go down to TaxiarchƝs Church, which is quite close to the church of Agios Nikolaos. Here, the congregation is much smaller, since most people evidently go to the church of Agios Nikolaos or the Church of the Annunciation or “Panagia”, as it is popularly known. In the church of TaxiarchƝs, two icons depicting the Resurrected Christ have substituted both the one depicting the Epitaphios ThrƝnos and the dead Christ inside the Epitaphios. The priest stands in front of the iconostasis, and people line up to pass in front of him to receive his blessing. Around 2 am the ceremony is finished, people receive the blessed bread and go home with their lighted candles and lanterns to eat the traditional Easter soup, mageiritsa, consisting of the entrails of the Easter lamb mixed with rice and dill. The fast has finished, but the first food to be eaten is the Easter egg, which should preferably be red.98 On Easter Sunday, the Easter lamb is roasted outdoors all over the town and villages, and most people sit in their gardens eating and feasting until the liturgies start in the churches. The tops of menus outside and in the windows of the tabernas and restaurants in the town, proclaim “Christos AnestƝ”.99 The only boat that leaves on this day is Sea Jet, which goes to Rafina at 6 pm. When I ask why there are no other crossings, I am told “it is Easter”. At the Catholic cemetery, three women come and light the lamp at the tomb of their female relative who died on 23 April 2009 at the age of seventy-eight and presumably will be exhumed in a week’s time. Today, the liturgy starts in all churches at 5:30 pm with the Pascal Vespers, the AgapƝ (Love) service, in the respective parishes. Thirty minutes later, members of all the churches take their Easter wreaths with them and go up to the Church of the Annunciation where the Resurrection will be announced in several languages, so it is heard around the world. This ceremony is also called the second Resurrection, and should ideally


Håland 2007a: Ch. 4; Megas 1992: 180. One may also note that red dyed eggs were on sale at the supermarkets on Tinos during Holy Week in 2012, so nowadays people do not need to dye their eggs themselves. 99 In 2012 Easter lamb was on sale all over Greece in the period before Easter. I saw one kilo of lamb advertised for the price of 6.99 euros.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


be announced in twelve languages.100 When I arrive at the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios around 5:30 pm, the two Easter wreaths have been moved there from the church of Agios Nikolaos, but the Epitaphios is still in the latter church. The priest is behind the iconostasis and the chanters have begun. The people present all have their white candles with them, and the priest comes to the main entrance door of the iconostasis holding a candle with a collar. At the counter next to the main church entrance is a basket filled with red Easter eggs, on which is a paper with an illustration of the Resurrected Christ, accompanied with the text: “Holy diocese (metropolis) Syros—Tinos, parish Agios Nikolaos—Agios Eleutherios; Christos AnestƝ (Christ is Risen)”. The same message is given to everybody one meets on this day, and the person answers, “he is indeed Resurrected”, while the days prior to the Resurrection, people exchange the phrase “Happy Resurrection”. Red banners suspended from all the lamps in the church also announce: “Christ is Risen”. After the short service, the priest sees to it that everyone has received an egg, two men take the wreaths and the procession sets off to the Church of the Annunciation. In the Church of the Annunciation, the wreaths from the other three churches also arrive, the one from Treis Hierarches being the last to arrive. The only parish to have two wreaths is the one of the churches of Agios Nikolaos and Agios Eleutherios. The men carrying the wreaths line up on either side of the Epitaphios belonging to the Church of the Annunciation, whose wreath is outside the holy circle in front of the iconostasis, i.e. next to the table with papers for the supplication letters. On the lectern that usually displays the icon depicting the Dormition of the Panagia is an icon depicting the Resurrected Christ. According to Orthodox ideology, the kingdom of Death was destroyed by Christ’s descent into Hades, a topic that is illustrated on several of the depictions of the Resurrection. Most people arriving at the church carry white candles of varying sizes, and all worship the Epitaphios. During the liturgy that starts at 6 pm, the Resurrection is proclaimed a second time: four priests and a choirboy emerge from the north (left) door of the iconostasis. They perform a ritual blessing in front of the Epitaphios, proceed all around the church in the usual circular movement towards all of the entrances and end up back in front of the Epitaphios. Then, the chorus and all the priests come out from the left door the iconostasis, with one of the priests belonging to this church carrying the Bible, and all line up around the Epitaphios, singing. Simultaneously, the members of the church marching band are 100

Megas 1992: 181.


Chapter Three

enthusiastically throwing firecrackers outside, finally activating the fire alarm. The priests go behind the iconostasis, but only the priests of this church come back out. The one carrying the Bible mounts a pulpit in the middle of the church and opens the Bible, on each side of which he lights two candles. While he stands there, the other priests come out in turn standing in the main entrance to the hieron, and proclaim the Resurrection from a Bible placed on the folding altar that has been put in the middle of the entrance. Next to these priests stands one of the priests from the Church of the Annunciation. When the “visiting priests” have read their parts, one of the resident priests proclaims the Resurrection in German, another in Spanish, Italian, Russian, English, and so on, that is to say, in “all” of the languages where Orthodoxy is found.101 The proclamation of the Resurrection finishes around 8 pm, and the wreaths are returned to their respective churches; the marching band goes around the town after having finished its firecracker display and fireworks begin. On the Monday after Easter, there is a special celebration in the village of Kardiani. It starts in the morning and lasts all day. On the Monday I am there, however, most people leave Tinos and go back to Athens. The respective Epitaphioi are still in their churches when I leave on Tuesday, and will remain there for forty days after the Resurrection until the Ascension, thus paralleling the forty-day ritual after a burial.

From Easter on Tinos to the Cult of Dead Mediators, Ancient and Modern I have already made some preliminary comments on the ancient hero and heroine worship both in Chapter 1 and in the present chapter, on the assumption that the actual worship forms an ancient parallel to the modern saint cult, and I will also delve further into the topic in later chapters. However, although many have given definitions of hero cult and fewer of the female equivalents, no agreement exists among researchers concerning the origin and role of the hero worship or heroic cult. Many make a distinction between the cults of the recently deceased and of heroes, such as D. Kurtz and J. Boardman.102 The definition I have given of the death 101

I put “all” in quotation marks here since Orthodoxy is also found in Norway, but the Resurrection was not proclaimed in Norwegian. 102 Kurtz/Boardman 1971: 297 ff., for other definitions, see Ch. 1 supra and supra this chapter. For examples illustrating hero cult: Paus. 1.41,8, 1.36,1, 1.36,4, 1.38,7, 1.18,8, see also 1.13,9. See Rice/Stambaugh 1979: 81-85, for local hero cults and inscriptions that illustrate the technical operation of the cult. The hero cult is also discussed by: Schnapp-Gourbeillon 1981a: 481-484; Gernet 1981: 6, cf.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


cult in Chapter 1 supra implies that I do not follow G. Ekroth who, in her study of sacrificial rituals, argues that because worshippers ate the meat of the sacrificial animal, a ritual that was “intimately linked to the social structure of society”, the hero cult must have fulfilled the same role as that of the Gods.103 That the heroes were dead seems to have had little bearing on the sacrificial rituals, and she questions the general view that the rituals of hero cults are to be considered as originating in the cult of the dead. I do not want to dwell on a longer discussion of her view here, but suggest that since similar rituals are performed for saints and for the ordinary dead today, one cannot exclude the possibility that this might also have been the case in earlier periods, when comparing more recent manifestations with ancient sources.104Scholars have discussed whether the hero cult was a continuation of Mycenaean (approximately 1400-1200 BCE) tomb cults or a phenomenon from the eighth century BCE, resulting from epic poetry. Archaeology is also a further source of disagreement. W. Burkert rejects M. Nilssons’ claim that the hero cult was a direct continuation of the Mycenaean tomb cult.105 The later opinion has been that the cult of the heroes at their tombs is a late development, a view that in itself is also a hypothesis, although the practice of the cult might have changed. R. Hägg is also critical of the notion of continuity in burial and hero cults,106 while N. Robertson discusses the origin of the hero cult and festivals, as mentioned in Chapter 1 supra. Robertson has also criticised Burkert for conflating hero cults and rituals at the tomb.107 Contrary to the cult of the hero, scholarship has not focused explicitly on the cult of the heroine until recently. According to Jenifer Larson, one of the oldest cults is the one dedicated to Helen and Menelaos in Therapne, which is documented from the fifteenth century BCE and again in the thirteenth century BCE, followed by a gap of five hundred years before the founding of the hero shrine in the eighth century BCE. This pattern is typical of the oldest hero 30 f.; Vernant 1982a, 1982b Vol. 2: 89-92; Richardson 1988: 55 f. See e.g. Larson 1995; Lyons 1997; Shapiro 2008 for the cult of the heroines, see also esp. Ch. 7 infra. 103 Ekroth 2002 vs. Håland 2004: 566, see also 2008a: 42n.20 and Ch. 1 supra. 104 See infra. Moreover, Alexiou 1990: 116 f. demonstrates that the term thysia may have other meanings than sacrifice/killing, a fact that seems to have escaped Ekroth (in continuity of Burkert 1983: 297?). See e.g. AikaterinidƝs 1979, cf. Conybeare 1901: 44: 109 ff. for the rituals. 105 Burkert 1985: 204 vs. Nilsson 1950: 584-615, 1967 Vol. 1: 378-383, cf. 184 f. continuation of Mycenaean tomb cult. 106 Hägg 1987: 93-99. 107 Robertson 1992: 248n.46 vs. Burkert 1985. Cf. Ch. 1 supra and Robertson 1992: 205.


Chapter Three

cults, which were often founded on Bronze Age or Late Helladic sites. While Larson states that the shrine had a continuous life of seven hundred years from the Geometric (ca. 900-700 BCE) to the Hellenistic (323-31 BCE) periods, the Greek scholar E. Psychogiou argues for the continuity of the cult of Helen down to the present day.108 I will argue that both the heroic and the tomb cults demonstrate a death cult. This aspect might be illustrated by a modern parallel: the deceased Panagiotis Lampeas received sirtari (kollyba) on the second anniversary memorial of his death in 1995, and the same offering was publicly made in Athens at the 1992, 2011 and 2012 psychosabbata (i.e. psychosabbato, psychƝ=soul, sabbato=Saturday), i.e. All Souls’ Days or Soul Saturdays, as is the custom also on Tinos, and as I experienced it there in 2013.109 The same offering was dedicated to the common patron saint Agios Charalambos during his festival on Lesbos in 1992, and to Agios Nektarios, as illustrated in the previous chapter. In other words, the same mixture is distributed during the memorial services for the individual and “collective” dead, at the cemeteries and at several saints’ festivals. As further indicated in my introductory chapter, the term “death cult” implies that I am dealing not only with the usual rituals surrounding death and burial but with a cult of the dead (cult being the sum of the rituals and beliefs). In my terminology the death cult is dedicated to dead mediators, to ensure magical intervention, for example, in connection with the crop, i.e. fertility or health, and is broader than the term ancestor worship, since the actual cult is not only dedicated to one’s own forebears. In the ancient world, the commemoration of heroes and legendary figures and association with them through rituals, is probably a phenomenon that dated back at least to the Bronze Age when some of the myths were created, and they may go further back, as the British scholar Ken Dowden has argued.110 Dowden also draws some conclusions about the origins of mythologies, demonstrating how heroes and heroines might be eliminated (from their heroic status to be seen as faded Goddessess or Gods), while criticising the prevailing view, arguing that both Burkert’s and Nilsson’s approaches are reductionist.111


Psychogiou 2008; Larson 1995: 80 f. See also 84 for heroic cult at Amyklai followed by a church dedicated to Agia ParaskeuƝ. 109 See Ch. 5 infra. See however, Corley 2010: 22 for another view, differentiating the cult of the dead from tomb cults and hero cults. 110 Dowden 1989: 4, 194 f. 111 Dowden 1989: 44 f., see also Ch. 9.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


Dowden’s discussion of myths is especially interesting when coupled with that of later scholars, particularly E. W. and P. T. Barber.112 Their argument is that ancient myths did not begin as fiction; rather, they originally transmitted genuine information about real events and observations, preserving that information sometimes for millennia within non-literate societies. We have been literate for so long that we have forgotten how myths encode reality. Accepting the idea that ancient myths offer a reasonable way to convey important messages orally over many generations, one may restore some of the lost history and teaching about human storytelling as the Barbers have convincingly done, by way of recent studies on how our brains work applied to data from the ancient world. Among several examples Dowden gives to show that the hero cult must be older than originally assumed is the cult of Achilleus in Tanagra. The cult of Achilleus derives from a common Aeolic culture that was established long before the end of the Bronze Age, otherwise the Greek colonists could not have brought him with them to Lesbos.113 Does the hero cult really indicate a grave cult or does it express something very different? One theory argues that the grave cult takes place only once or twice, while the cult of the hero occurs in various places, and in other places than at the original tomb. I do not find this line of argument convincing, and I will argue that by comparing the ancient material with the modern official saint cult, coupled with the study of people’s private ceremonies within the domestic or family sphere, such an investigation may generate a more nuanced picture of the ancient cult. As will be comprehensively illustrated in Chapter 5, during the modern psychosabbata, we encounter the contemporary death cult. This cult is not one-sided: on one of the official psychosabbata the saint cult, dedicated to Agios Theodǀros, a modern parallel of the ancient hero cult, common rituals, including the wreathing of the monument dedicated to the soldiers that fell during World War II, and the cult dedicated to people’s own deceased, are all included. Furthermore, the memorial or tomb may be empty, or the saint’s bones may be divided between many churches, as is the case with the modern Agios Nektarios, whose relics reside in several different churches both in Greece and abroad. Against the indicated claims about the difference between the grave cult and the hero cult, one may object that both cults represent aspects of the death cult. The ancient grave cult should instead be seen as a cult of the bones, at least ideally, since one 112

Barber/Barber 2004. See Håland 2011a for a longer discussion of this aspect. Cf. also 2005, 2007a: Ch. 2. 113 Dowden 1989: Ch. 3, particularly 58 f.


Chapter Three

should preferably possess a concrete symbol. Accordingly, there were both death cults and hero cults in the ancient world, including both the Mycenaean and later periods in Greece, paralleling the modern saint cult and the more general death cult. Certainly, the death cult in the ancient world was not static, but rather changed over time. There are, for instance, various changes in the grave cults from the archaic to the classical periods. Although there was a general decline in big domestic grave monuments in Athens after 480 BCE, during the democratic classical period, many did not follow the official rules of the polis, and big monuments were erected by the state. After 430 BCE, families again erected sculpted funerary monuments. Later, other changes occurred. Therefore, one should perhaps be careful when claiming that a distinctive cult is present in both the ancient and the modern world in this geographical area. The sumptuous archaic public cult in which many people participated became officially limited to the closest relatives in the democratic cities,114 at least according to ideology, and was perhaps more similar to the general grave cult we find in the modern Greek and Balkan areas. However, in this study I will demonstrate that there are many parallels despite the changes, from an archaic “Big Man”, such as Patroklos in Homer,115 to the picture we meet in a Spartan or democratic Athenian cult, for example in connection with the heroes of Marathon. In a wider context, the archaic also “reappears” in the Roman cult, for instance, at the burial of the emperor, Tiberius.116 The topics examined in the following seem to be particularly long lasting or persistent; I attempt to address why. Today the Greek death cult dedicated to the “private” deceased is reflected in those festivals celebrated in memory of the “shared saints”: deceased persons who are important for larger and public societies. These festivals are celebrated both in local areas, such as the particular celebration of Agios Charalampos on Lesbos, and on a national level, because the saint also has a fixed liturgical celebration within the Orthodox year, thereby involving the whole of Greece. It has been stated that in the earlier ancient period there was no clear-cut distinction between the customs in the burial ceremonies for ancestor cults and hero cults.117 A similar picture is found regarding the relation between modern burials in 114

See also Garland 1985: 22 for the burials in aristocratic societies vs. democratic. 115 Cf. Sahlins 1963 (for the term) and Il. 23.252-257, cf. esp. Ch. 4-6 infra for the following. 116 See also Jacoby 1944a: 69n.3 for a similar line of thinking. Cf. also Cic. Leg. 2.66, cf. Blok 2006: 204. 117 Hägg 1987: 99.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


general, and, for instance, the cult dedicated to the Panagia as it is celebrated during the Enniamera, or in connection with the death of Christ as described earlier in this chapter. The death cult, then, is present both in relation to deceased family members and other notable dead who are conferred an official status either as a hero in the ancient world or as a saint in later periods, up to modern times.118 This cult exists because of the demand in society for a general protector, for personal protectors with various attributes or qualities, as well as diverse protectors in the numerous different life situations. The heroes or saints of different ideologies as a general, or personal protector, depends on circumstance or the kind of protection people foresee as being necessary in the given situation. Certain attributes or qualities seem to persist, despite new ideologies and name changes. In short, then, a hero or a heroine cannot be replaced by a saint if there is not “an existing market”, as illustrated by Agios Eleutherios who helps women in childbirth and has replaced the ancient Eileithyia or Eleuthyia (i.e. “she who comes”), the Goddess of childbirth and labour 118

For sources on the modern death cult in Greece, see Ch. 1-2 supra. In addition, one may also point out: Psychogiou 2008; Alexiou 1974: particularly Ch. 3; MeraklƝs 1984: 39-41, 134 f. (the rituals), 1986: 64 f. (the cemetery), cf. Koumarianou 2008; Papamichael-Koutroubas 1980: 273-318 and 1981; Seremetakis 1991; AikaterinidƝs 1979; Blum/Blum 1965 and 1970; Sanders 1962; Lawson 1910: 98-117, 412-607; Bent 1886: 391-405; Caraveli 1986: 169-194; Stewart 1991; Hart 1992: 130-145. These build on their own fieldwork, involve other researches; many of them compare modern manifestations with ancient material (see however n.23 Ch. 1 supra), extend over the last century and involve most parts of the Greek area (Koumarianou 2008 includes Greek Orthodox cemeteries abroad). Of these Bent’s work is the oldest (1886) and Psychogiou’s (2008) the most recent. I also refer to Friedl 1962, who carried out her fieldwork in Boeotia and du Boulay’s (2009) study from Euboea. All agree that the burial rituals are the most enduring of the Greek rituals. For the ancient cult, see Ch. 1 supra and infra, and e.g. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: Ch. 7, 10 f., but cf. 297 ff. See also, e.g. Robertson 1992: Ch. 11; Rehm 1994: Ch. 1; Dowden 1989; Burkert 1985: 190 ff., for burials and the death cult. Among other scholars, cf. also Sourvinou-Inwood 1995 vs. Morris 1994, cf. Ch. 1 supra. Bernhard-Walcher 1992: 90-93, gives a general short introduction to the death cult supplied with illustrations from vase paintings. Oakley 2004 gives a comprehensive study based on vase paintings, i.e. the white lƝkythoi, see also 2008 for a “short version” focusing on women in the death rituals. Among the many re-published studies on death in the ancient world, one may also mention Garland 1985 (2nd ed. 2001), who concentrates on the power and status of the dead, burial, between worlds, life in Hades, the special dead, and visits to the tombs. However, the book seems to be superficial compared with the work of Alexiou 1974 for example, but does present a good record of studies on the topic.


Chapter Three

pain. Eileithyia is also associated with Hera and Artemis as seen by Eleutheria, one of Artemis’ epithets. One may also mention Agios Dionysios, celebrated in December during the time of the winetasting, or the assimilation of most of the ancient Goddesses into the cult of the Panagia, as illustrated by her many epithets, for example, the Panagia Aphroditissa.119 In the death cult, we encounter communication between humans and the supernatural. The dead mediators are ancestors, semi-Goddesses and Gods or heroes and heroines. They require offerings, and the principle behind all offerings, is the law about gifts and counter-gifts. In the ancient world, libations to the dead were a necessary requirement before setting out on a new undertaking, in which people were dependent on assistance from the dead being on the other side, in the otherworld, whether the adventure concerned the foundation of a colony, setting out on a dangerous sea journey, declaring war, or defending one’s territory against enemy attack.120 The ancestors are worshipped by memorial ceremonies at their tombs, and in the ancient world, they were worshipped especially during the Anthesteria festival when the dead were thought to return to earth. Living family members communicated with their dead relatives by way of offerings. In this way, the living came into contact with the world of the dead, the subterranean world where life begins, according to the cyclical perception of time, which is central to the functioning of peasant societies. Several researchers, including myself, have discussed the fundamental importance of death and regeneration in the mentality of the ancient Greeks, and some of us have also given illustrations from later Greek societies.121 However, contact with the dead was also dangerous. The presence of the dead necessarily implied certain dangers. In particular, they could possess the living, and hence drag the living along with them when returning to the underworld. Accordingly, people took precautions by performing protective rituals to ward off all evils, and afterwards purification rituals were performed.


Cf. also Alexiou 1974: Ch. 1, 3; Blum/Blum 1970: Ch. 2, 5, 6, see 324 for Eleutherios/Eileithyia (cf. Burkert 1985: 170 f.); Stewart 1991: Ch. 3. See however Psychogiou 2008: esp. 86-88 on Agia ElenƝ and the relation to the Panagia. 120 Thuc. 3.59; Eur. Hec. 528-542, IA. 87-94. See also Hdt. 4.148 ff. For another view, see e.g. Lyons 1997: 72. 121 Håland 2005; Papamichael-Koutroubas 1980 and 1981; Psychogiou 2008. Modern: du Boulay 2009. Cf. Dubisch 1991; Hart 1992: Ch. 8. For ancient material: Triomphe 1992: 3-7; Rehm 1994.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


Both collective and individual festivals have traditionally been celebrated on behalf of the dead. During the contemporary festival, the priest reads prayers for the dead, and swings the censer to ward off evil spirits. In the ancient world as well as today, the recently deceased are thought to bring messages to the other dead in the underworld. The deceased also receive a coin to take to the ferryman Charon on their forehead or in their mouth. In the ancient world, Kerberos, the threeheaded dog that guarded the entrance to Hades, received a honey cake. People still perform memorials at the tombs, bringing with them dishes of food to ensure that the dead remain in their tombs, and giving them some of the harvest so they will intercede for the living with the divinities of the underworld to ensure the future success of the crop. By investigating Greek death rituals, in the following chapters, the relationship between the female and male spheres in particular, as expressed through the cult of the dead, will be illustrated by exploring the burials and following memorial rituals in modern society combined with ancient sources: the family’s death cult within the domestic sphere in general, and specifically the official hero cults and saint cults, as these are illustrated through the festivals dedicated to deceased persons. In so doing, I also seek to illustrate the relationship between official ideologies and long-lasting common mentalities in general. The death cult is manifested through the ritual laments, the mourning, the wake and the treatment of the corpse, the burial procession, burial and the memorial rituals dedicating offerings to the dead. These traits are common to the domestic death cult and the hero and saint cults, which thus reflect the relationship between the domestic and public spheres. The hero or heroine worship, and the later cult of the saints diverge from the general death cult since it continues over a more extended period. In other words, it becomes too easy to maintain that a society—or societies in general— becomes more complex just because we happen to find more sources relating to it, as argued by D. G. Rice and J. E. Stambaugh in their discussion of death and the afterlife based on sources for the study of ancient Greek religion.122 Their chronological treatment of the topic endeavours to show how the attitudes towards death and the afterlife became more complex and were influenced by changes in the political and social fabric of Greek culture.123 Unfortunately, the authors ignore the reality that all societies are in fact complex, not only those we, by accident 122

Rice/Stambaugh 1979: Ch. 6. See Seremetakis 1991 and Ariès 1983 for a more nuanced view, cf. Ch. 1 supra. 123 Rice/Stambaugh 1979: 21.


Chapter Three

or by luck, can analyse because we happen to possess more sources pertinent to them. Contrary to earlier studies, then, the present research seeks to portray a wider account of Greek history, from a female point of view, while also trying to highlight parallels between Greece and the eastern instead of western part of Europe, which has hitherto been the general focus for western scholars making comparisons between the ancient and modern periods. Therefore, and as stated in Chapter 1, the following chapters will discuss various topics connected with the death of a person in Greece, from the death to the exhumation and beyond. Considering the importance of the exhumation and the bones supports Arnold van Gennep’s notion of a liminal transitional period starting at the moment of death and continuing during the memorial rituals at the tomb, as well as Hertz’ emphasis on the second burial of the white bones of the deceased mediator.124 As seen in Chapter 1, the importance of the bones for the living and the focal communicative aspect regarding the deceased mediator’s position between the humans and the chthonian powers, are a means of safeguarding the future. The connection between the aspects to be discussed, may also be indicated by employing some central terms: firstly, epitaphios (adj.), which today signifies funeral, epitaph, tombstone, funeral oration, while epitaphios (n.) signifies dirge. The ancient epitaphios signifies “over” or “at a tomb”, while when used in conjunction with agǀn, it means funeral games. By comparison, the ancient sƝma signifies a sign or a stone monument. EpisƝmon means tomb, burial place, literally an inscription. The ancient term, mnƝma, signifies a tomb or memorial over the deceased,125 as is still current use. In the tragedies, it often means coffin.126 As discussed earlier in this chapter, in the Orthodox Church, Epitaphios today is a piece of golden embroidered cloth that represents the corpse of Christ, i.e. Christ’s funeral, or the canopy into which the cloth is put. It may also signify the Holy Friday service and procession. Epitaphios is often translated as the figure of Christ, but can refer also to the bier, which after the decoration ceremony resembles a coffin or small chapel, into which “the dead Christ” is laid. Here, people may hang wreaths decorated with pictures of their own recently deceased, including mnƝmeia “memorial words”, or moirologia, laments written in memory of the dead, as is the custom in Olympos. The rituals for the dead are known as mnƝmosyna, memorial services. 124

van Gennep 2011: Ch. 8; Hertz 1907: 48-137. Il. 23.619; Hdt. 7.167. 126 Eur. Or. 1053. 125

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


All the modern festivals which are presented, represent the death cult, and might more properly be called death festivals, because they are officially dedicated to deceased mediators. On the “Day of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary” (25 March), the Panagia, the most important intercessor and saint in the Greek tradition is celebrated along with various national heroes from the Greek Revolution. During “Pelagia’s Vision” on 23 July, one of the Orthodox saints declared most recently, the local Agia Pelagia, is celebrated. On 16 August, the healing saint Agios Gerasimos is fêted on the island of Kephallonia, where he is patron saint, on the day after the date of his death. During the last festival, another healing saint Agios Nektarios, is celebrated on the island of Aegina on 9 November where he is patron saint. It is interesting to note that in one of the books written about Agios Nektarios “the Wonder-worker”, his death is also expressed with the word koimƝsƝ, i.e. Dormition or “Falling Asleep”. The same pertains to Agios Gerasimos whose body is also housed in his church called the Holy “Dormition” or “Falling Asleep” Church, where an icon also depicts his Dormition or “Falling Asleep”.127 In my analysis in the following chapters, I will also draw on other death festivals I have visited during my fieldwork over the years. Since 1990, I have engaged in several periods of fieldwork involving research into the festival dedicated to the Dormition or “Falling Asleep” of the Panagia on 15 August on Tinos. In 1991-1992, I visited a number of other religious festivals, among them several in the northern and most fertile part of Greece. These included: the female festival celebrating the midwife, Babo, Agia or Osia Domenika, celebrated in the village of MonokklƝsia on 8 January; several carnivals in Greek Macedonia, attended at the beginning of March 1992, including the “Kalogeros” ritual celebrated in the village of MelikƝ and the mock wedding performed in the village of KoimƝsƝ. During carnival, farmers celebrate an important transitional period in the cycle of nature. This transition is illustrated by the death and resurrection of the “Kalogeros” (the monk) celebrated annually around the spring equinox, in a period when farmers remain deeply aware that nature is undergoing a slow change. Thus, by means of various symbolic practices inherited from remote antiquity, they seek to hasten the coming of spring and ensure the fertility of their land. The mock wedding performed in KoimƝsƝ on Clean Monday, the first day of the Lenten period, parodies a ritual that is forbidden during the Lenten fast, which lasts until the Resurrection of Christ. During the Orthodox Easter season celebrations in Olympos on Karpathos, the “Death and Resurrection 127

Cf. GkelƝ 1991a: e.g., 98 (Gerasimos) and DionysiatƝs 1979: 155 (Nektarios).


Chapter Three

of Christ” is celebrated, as are the dead family members of the villagers, as already demonstrated in the present chapter. The dead saints Agios Kǀnstantinos and Agia ElenƝ are celebrated through the Anastenaria festival on 21-23 May in the village of Agia ElenƝ. Finally, a bull sacrifice is dedicated to Agios Charalampos, who protects the farmers, at the end of June in the village of Agia ParaskeuƝ on Lesbos. I have also visited several other annual festivals dedicated to different saints, such as Agia Barbara (4 December) in Athens (1991), Agia Marina (17 July) in Athens (1992, 2011 and 2012) and Agia ParaskeuƝ (26 July) in Athens (1992) 128 and on Tinos (2005, 2011 and 2012) as well as wine festivals celebrated after vintage (harvesting of wine grapes) in 1992. In addition, I also draw on my many field trips to Tinos during and after my extended research period in Greece in 2011-2013. On the macro-society level, the offering or votive gift to the deceased saint is symbolised firstly by the festival, celebrated for the wellbeing of the society, but also by a sacrificial bull or lamb, kollyba, or a horse race. Gifts are also collected during the traditional visits to all the houses of the village, as is the custom among the Anastenarides (m.) and the Anastenarisses (f.; i.e. those who celebrate the Anastenaria festival) in MelikƝ and Agia ElenƝ, and at other processions. In many ancient, particularly Athenian, festivals we also encounter elements that are related to the death cult. The most obvious death festival is the Adǀnia, which can be regarded as a significant parallel to the Easter festival. Several of the female festivals were dedicated to the Corn Mother, Demeter and connected with the death and resurrection of KorƝ (“the daughter”), as described in the Homeric Hymn dedicated to Demeter. Dionysos is also a chthonic divinity, supposed by many to spend the winter months somewhere else. In the Dionysian Anthesteria the dead had a central part: the festival was also the festival of the ancestors, when the spirits of the dead returned temporarily. The festival was celebrated at the same time during the agricultural year as the modern carnivals are performed nowadays. In the City Dionysia, the tragedies were a kind of “male lament” performed in the theatre. They were also cultic texts developed from the choral singing of dithyrambs, religious odes and dancing in honour of Dionysos. The first step in the development of drama by Thespis was that he engaged in dialogue with the chorus and dressed himself up in a mask and robes so that he could impersonate different 128

In Athens she is worshipped in her cave situated in the church of the parekklƝsion Metamorphoseǀs tou SǀtƝros (chapel/small church dedicated to the transfiguration of the Saviour) and askƝtƝrion (hermit’s cell) Agias ParaskeuƝ on Plaka, beneath Akropolis, Håland 2007a: Fig. 94.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


characters. These male-performed cultic texts were important in the worship of the God, who has also been seen as an “Oriental” or “Eastern” vegetation God, as illustrated by Euripides in the tragedy, the Bakchai (the Bacchanals). In general, the tragedies are very concerned with death, and it has been claimed that Greek drama originated from burial conceptions,129 i.e. death rituals. According to Gail Holst-Warhaft, the classical tragedies, such as Choephoroi (Libation Bearers) by Aeschylus, are partly an appropriation of the women’s traditional way of expression, the lament.130 However, in language, music and dance we meet parts of an older ritual or mentality, which are sometimes in opposition to the male “new art”. Death and marriage are central elements in the tragedies, as illustrated by several researchers, particularly Rush Rehm in his book, Marriage to Death: The Conflation of Wedding and Funeral Rituals in Greek Tragedy (1994). The relationship between marriage and death is also visible in vase paintings,131 illustrating women’s rituals in connection with the life-cycle passages, a topic we also meet in grave inscriptions, the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, and in the modern context. Concerning other ancient festivals, the Panathenaia, celebrated towards the end of the first month (i.e. Hekatombaion, July-August) of the official political Athenian year, illustrates the importance of death cults in central rituals, such as the procession, games and horse races as a “continuation” of earlier hero cults and death cults in the Agora. These rituals also parallel the modern horse races dedicated to Agios Charalampos, the processions on Tinos and particularly the wreathing of the heroes of the Elli both at their mausoleum in the church and at their watery tomb during the Dormition festival. However, during the ancient Panathenaia other death cults were also important in connection with the cult of the protecting city Goddess Athena, particularly at the Akropolis. We know from Pausanias that sacrifices were dedicated to the hero Erekhtheus at the altar of Poseidon.132 But heroines were also worshipped during the festival, such as Pandrosos and Aglauros. The Dormition of the Panagia and the Orthodox Easter festival, dedicated to the “Death and Resurrection of Christ” constitute the two 129

Goody 1975: 5. Holst-Warhaft 1992: Ch. 5, cf. Aesch. Cho. 22-31, 327-339. See also Croon 1955-56, 15, cf. Harrison 1977: Ch. 7, for what the tomb cult may generate. 131 Cf. Oakley 2004, 2008. 132 Paus. 1.26,5, cf. Eur. Erech. Fr. 65.92-94. Cf. Ch. 1 supra. See also Burkert 1983: 149; Mikalson 1976: 143, 147; Neils 1992: 20 discussed in Håland 2007a: Ch. 5 f., see Ch. 2 for the ritual dedicated to the heroes of the Elli. See also Ch. 2 supra. 130


Chapter Three

most important Pan-Hellenic death festivals. In addition to the heroes of the Elli and the national revolutionary heroes of 25 March, the Church of the Annunciation dedicated on Tinos also celebrates local Tinote “ancestors” on that and other occasions, particularly on 30 January.133 In addition, we meet the cult dedicated to the local saint, Agia Pelagia, celebrated on 23 July. Although her skull remains in the Monastery of Kekhrovouno where she lived and had her visions, the Church of the Annunciation possesses considerable symbolic capital in a Bourdieuian sense. The same, of course, also pertains to the other sanctuaries and, by extension, their festivals. The Panathenaia is the most obvious parallel to the Dormition festival on Tinos. Athena’s attribute as virgin and foster-mother of the mythical king of Athens Erichthonios, a variant of Erekhtheus, and the cults dedicated to the deceased heroes and heroines during the festival are important aspects in this regard. The Easter festival parallels the ancient Dionysian festivals, particularly the Anthesteria, but also the Mysteries at Eleusis and the Adǀnia, which likewise illustrate central rituals connected with death, rebirth and healing. The festival dedicated to Adonis celebrates the young God’s death and resurrection, paralleling the rituals during the Eleusinian Mysteries that were connected with the Demeter-Persephone myth, which was also central to the other ancient Demetrian festivals, the Thesmophoria, Haloa and Skira or just “mystƝria”, i.e. the secret rituals that were celebrated by women alone. The ritual on “White Tuesday” after Easter, which besides the ritual lament on Holy Friday is the most important feast day during the Easter celebrations in Olympos today, is also related to the Dionysian cult, i.e. the ritual during the Anthesteria when the dead received food offerings. Accordingly, and as the festivals on Tinos also show, we see here the importance of the communication with people’s personal or local deceased, represented by family members, a local heroine, Agia Pelagia, national heroes of the Elli, and the heroes who are in focus during the Annunciation festival, or the villagers’ heroes represented by the builders of the church in connection with the festivals dedicated to a stronger deceased mediator, female or male, who, nevertheless, is more remote for people (than the personal and locals) when facing the mediators’ hierarchy. A death within the village disrupts not only the daily routines, throwing them into disarray, but modern religious festivals are also interrupted when someone dies during a festival. In 1992, the female 133

Pelagia is not celebrated on 25 March, see Ch. 2 supra and following chapters for the local ancestors.

The Cult of the Saints, Heroes, Heroines and other Exceptional Dead


festival celebrating the midwife Babo in MonokklƝsia was disrupted because of a death, as was the festival dedicated to the Panagia under her attribute of Zǀodochos PƝgƝ, the Life-Giving Spring in the village of DiaphanƝ (i.e. the port of the village of Olympos) on Karpathos. Similarly, in the same year several rituals during the festival dedicated to Agios Athanasios in Agia ElenƝ were not performed. This saint is celebrated by the Anastenarides on 18 January, in 1992 they celebrated only for two days, because an old woman died during the festival. Under normal circumstances, however, the festival lasts three days, and, according to the manager of the konaki, the shrine of the Anastenarides, participants visit all the houses of the village during the final two days to bless their icons, and in the evening dance in the konaki. Since the woman died and was buried on the following day, they did not dance in the konaki on the first evening (Friday), the eve of the feast day of Agios Athanasios. Instead, they shared a meal in the konaki on the third evening (Sunday). The same happened during the Anastenaria festival in 1991. In addition, the musicians always stop playing when the procession passes in front of the house of someone who died the previous year. Since a local death is so important within village life, the next chapter will present a burial from the village of Pyrgos Dirou, Inner Mani, on the southern part of the Mani peninsula in the Peloponnese, which I witnessed in October 1992. The presentation of this burial from Mani will be followed by an account of a more recent burial and ancient parallels, to illustrate the close relationship between official and domestic death rituals, but also to highlight significant differences pertaining to the female and male spheres. In general, I go from the modern to the ancient cases, foregrounding the field observations of modern death rituals before I move on to the ancient material. To avoid unnecessary repetition, however, I sometimes deal with the ancient parallels in connection with the modern material and vice versa.


Some Preliminary Reflections on Modern Greek Death Rituals and the Gender Issue Several researchers have documented the death rituals performed in the village of Olympos.1 However, when I visited Olympos in 1991 and 1992, I did not have the opportunity to participate in death rituals apart from those performed in the church and at the cemetery during the Easter celebrations, as illustrated in the previous chapter. In the autumn of 1992, I went to the southern part of the Mani peninsula in the Peloponnese for a period of fieldwork involving research into death rituals in Inner Mani. Several other researchers have documented the death rituals of Mani.2 Since it is not so common to perform laments on Tinos today, I will rely on my experiences from other places, oral and written sources from Tinos included, when discussing this topic of the death rituals.3 One may perhaps claim that it is dangerous to apply generalisations from Mani and Olympos to the rest of Greece, since the people of these two places are typically viewed as being very conservative, among scholars and also by other Greek people.4 However, the perception of time, 1

E.g. Caraveli 1982, 1986; Toledo 1991, cf. e.g., Motsios 1995. See also n.22 infra. 2 Allen 1976: 168-198; Andromedas 1976: 199-206; Seremetakis 1987a and b, 1991, 1993, 2011; Håland 2004. See also Leigh-Fermor 1984. See also MeraklƝs 1984: 60-63; PhterƝs 1981; Tsouderou 1986. 3 According to PhlǀrakƝ 1971: 189 they (i.e. the laments) had “disappeared”, although he is not consistent in his following description. Some of my informants also say that. However, others lament at home (Håland 2007a: 458, 2011f.), or during memorials (cf. Ch. 5 infra), so I do not agree that performing laments no longer occurs on Tinos. See also Caraveli 1986: 169 f., 185 for women performing laments “in secret”. 4 According to a Greek scholar, two relative phrases in Modern Greek are still in use: “the Mani obstinacy” for something that has been decided very firmly, and “we hold the Mani one [=decision]” for similar mental behavior with negative

Laments and Burials


space and the bones of the deceased found among the people of Inner Mani5 and the importance of the lament, are relevant for the rest of Greece. Moreover, similarities in burial customs and ideas, particularly regarding religious rituals, the importance of divination, and the significance of concrete symbols and actions—all the portents people take from various phenomena, such as dreams, bones, or the food in burial and grave offerings—makes it more legitimate to generalise from Mani and Olympos to the rest of Greece than to make comparison between Greece and northwestern Europe; as many researchers from the latter very often do, consciously or not, when dealing with particularly ancient Greek death rituals. The danger in doing so is that—as argued in the first chapter— ancient sources do not speak unless we ask questions of them. More to the point, should we ask these questions in a northwest European or Mediterranean context? In my opinion, focus should be on the latter. I would like to add that during the period from 1991-2013, I participated in several burials at the 1st Cemetery in modern Athens6 and also on Tinos, as will be illustrated in this chapter. In addition, I have studied various publications on traditions in Epirus, on various islands, such as Symi, Euboea and Crete, among former Greek settlements in Asia Minor (i.e. content. Although Mani belongs to Greece, to the southernmost part of the Peloponnese, many Greeks will claim that many of their habits are not genuinely Greek, but imported. The region was traditionally a haunt of pirates, well back to classical times and beyond, and also in medieval times. It was there that the pirates, according to myth, captured Arion, the famous singer at Cape Tenaron (the medieval Cape Matapan Bram Stoker’s Dracula, bound for England, passed by), who moved them with his song so deeply that he was allowed to jump into the sea to swim and to save his life, and was then saved by a dolphin. Sulla, the Roman dictator, also had to proceed against the pirates of the region. Such bitter conditions, continuing from very ancient times through the whole Middle Ages, might not be regarded as traditionally Greek but as characteristic of another, international, rather rude tradition. Many people on Tinos are descended from immigrants from the Peloponnese. 5 Cf. Seremetakis 1991: 64, 243n.1. 6 When visiting the 1st Cemetery a burial is generally taking place. In 2011-2013, on tables in front of the kyklikeion (cf. kyklikos, circular), the building where people are served coffee and cakes accompanied with the usual metaxa (Greek brandy) after the burial, are specific papers or tags specifying warm condolences for the various persons to be buried along with pens for the participants in the respective burials. After filling in their name, address and telephone number on the “condolence labels”, people may proceed to the right to find the deceased in her or his coffin. Now the family knows who participated in the funeral so that they can later send thanks and information about the date for the memorial ceremonies. This is a contemporary custom invented by burial agencies.


Chapter Four

modern Turkey), various villages in Thessaly and other areas of Greece, and in the Balkans and the Mediterranean area.7 Another problem emerges with the realisation that the various customs encountered in the field are often more related to particular individuals, families, or relatives than to a particular geographical area. On Tinos in late July 2012, for instance, at the funeral of an old woman, the family had chosen to keep the lid on the coffin for the wake in the church during the hours before the burial. In general, coffins are left open on the island as in other places in Greece. One elderly man who entered the church kissed the coffin, as is customary, but then whispered, “Is she really inside?” The question is quite natural from a person who has only known open coffins during funeral ceremonies. So in a changing world, where one may wish to introduce closed coffins, people may wonder what is really inside. Greek people want to have concrete evidence. Moreover, I have discussed Greek burial customs with colleagues from Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Egypt, and Syria who tell me that such customs are very similar wherever Orthodoxy is found—a fact one, of course, may also learn by reading ethnographic publications from these areas. Therefore I will also draw on parallels from other researchers’ fieldwork from Greece, the Balkans and the Mediterranean area overall to legitimise the generalisations drawn from Mani and Olympos. Concerning laments in modern Olympos, when I visited the village in the early 1990s, one of my informants, a male high school teacher my own age, stated that their society was divided due to influences from outside, which were also reflected in all of the different societies in which Olympians lived, both inside and outside of Greece.8 According to him, “[t]hey [emigrants] lose their identity”, and, “[t]hose who return home to Olympos are disunited”. He also stated that during Easter in 1988 (four years before my main fieldwork in 1992), there were too many tourists. The power in the laments had changed because of these disturbances: the young were not familiar with the art. Several researchers have discussed the problems of culture clashes, emigration and “homecoming emigrants” in this particular village.9 When I visited, however, I was the only nonvillager in the church listening to the lamenting women on Holy Friday afternoon, where no adult male was present, and the way the children were being socialised seems to be a clear illustration of how the tradition is taught to the next generation. The American researcher David Jordan stated that the Greek laments have not been collected, they disappear when 7

Cf. also Ch. 3 supra. Cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 4. 9 Cf. Toledo 1991; Caraveli 1985; Vernier 1991. 8

Laments and Burials


the youth move to the big cities.10 Holst-Warhaft has further argued that the laments need to be understood and studied before they disappear, stating that many Maniot women continue the tradition in Piraeus, where they now live.11 She also says that the loss of traditional laments in Greece and other countries not only deprive the women of their traditional control over the death rituals, but leave all of the bereaved impoverished. Maniot women are very proud of their custom of lamenting the dead. When I visited Mani and talked with lamenters in 1992, the women eagerly told me that it is quite different from what one finds in Athens. The young men, conversely, often say the opposite. They have other values, and think this custom is “outdated”.12 On the other hand, to sing laments is not something one can learn; this is a skill “in one’s blood”. The art of lamentation is only known within certain families.13 Not just anyone can sing laments, since to transform one’s own or another’s pain into a lament requires a certain musical and verbal skill. Accordingly, many have already chosen their lamenter long before they die. In addition, as indicated by Holst-Warhaft, a lamenting person must not be too immersed in grief. The ritual laments demonstrate women’s influence in the practical performance of the death cult, and the solidarity between women in the ritual may be demonstrated by the village women, who during the burial procession line up along the streets, lamenting a woman who has died.14 Seremetakis has argued for the coexistence in the women’s presentations of both agonistic and non-agonistic ways of exchange, a topic I have discussed in another context.15 In contrast to Seremetakis, M. Herzfeld only finds the first, perhaps because he unconsciously sees the topic from a male perspective and in comparison to men’s behaviour.16 In another study, “Silence, Submission, and Subversion: Toward a Poetics of Womanhood”, Herzfeld argues that through irony, women convert the disadvantages of their mute or silent position in a creative way.17 I have already discussed his article in several contexts, arguing that, in a way, Herzfeld automatically reproduces his studies of Cretan men in this study 10

Personal communication autumn 1991. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 80; Seremetakis 1991 has a more nuanced view. 12 Cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 53. 13 Hart 1992: 140; Seremetakis 1991: 130, see also 3-5, 99 f. 14 Caraveli-Chaves 1980: 142. 15 See Håland 2007a: Ch. 6n.727 for discussion of Seremetakis 1991: 88, 244n.3. 16 Herzfeld 1985: 11-16, cf. Beidelman 1984: 277-259. See also Håland 2007a: Ch. 6, cf. Ch. 1 supra for discussion. 17 Herzfeld 1991: 79-98. 11


Chapter Four

on women, who are however different.18 His singular male approach to the question might be due to the problem that he does not have admission to the female sphere, and, despite all his good intentions, cannot see the situations he discusses from a female point of view. His study therefore must be compared with Dubisch’s analysis from 1995, in which she manages exactly what Herzfeld as a man does not: using the same terminology, she illustrates a “poetics of womanhood”, while his depiction becomes a badly “converted poetics of manhood”.19 To regard modern women as performing a sort of “protest theory” or “protest culture” as Herzfeld does conforms with E. Keuls’ “countermovement” in her analysis of ancient women.20 Their analyses neglect the purpose of presenting society from another perspective than usually employed: that of the Greek woman. Let us then attempt such a perspective in the following through the description of some of the death rituals in which I have participated while also drawing on others’ presentations and comparing the observations with ancient sources. In this way, a Pyrgos burial will be the centre around which the whole presentation is spun, the starting point for examining a particularly gendered topic within the world of death, laments and burials in modern and ancient Greece.

Female Laments and Male Burials The ritual laments belong to the burial, which is the most commonly visited of the life-cycle passages.21 When death has “arrived” and the deceased has been washed, dressed and “laid out” on the bier, the face turned towards the east, i.e. towards the resurrection of the sun, the women start the ritual lamentation.22The laments are sung by the women of the house and the closest neighbouring women, often professional lamenters. The magical laments are divided into three stages: they are sung at the traditional wake in the house before the burial, during the burial procession,


Håland 2007a: Ch. 6, 2010a. Dubisch 1995. 20 Keuls 1993. See Håland 2007a: Ch. 6 for an extensive discussion of these and other works. 21 Allen 1976: 192. 22 Mani and laments: Seremetakis 1991; Leigh-Fermor 1984: Ch. 5, see also supra. Karpathos: Caraveli-Chaves 1980: 129-157; PelegrinƝs 1984: 143-163; Vernier 1991: 247-250. Cf. Alexiou 1974, Holst-Warhaft 1992; Motsios 1995. 19

Laments and Burials


and at the tomb. Afterwards, laments are sung at fixed intervals. A woman passing in front of the cemetery may often start to lament.23 The laments constitute a ritual that is considered a social duty in most Greek villages, and lamenters arrive as soon as a person has died without having been invited by the family of the deceased.24 The dead are buried between twelve and twenty-four hours after death. In Mani, as in Olympos, people are buried in the village of their childhood, even if they have lived in another village their entire adult life. The former high school teacher of the village of Gytheio, Nikolaos Melas, was eightyfour years old when he died in September 1992 after ten years of illness, and was buried the next day. In the deceased’s childhood home in Pyrgos Dirou, close to the bigger village of Areopolis in Inner Mani, the courtyard is full of visitors. In the living room, or saloni, the deceased rests adorned in the coffin:25 he wears a suit and his hands are folded, the right over the left, and joined on the chest, a candle placed in-between. He wears a white ribbon around his right wrist. As in antiquity, the contemporary deceased also receive a coin on the forehead or in the mouth.26 People might still send messages to their own dead by way of the deceased, like the ancient Polyxena.27 Thus, letters, flowers, fruits, nuts and herbs are thrown on the body, who carries these gifts to the next world. An icon picturing the Panagia is resting against his wrist. Here also are yellow-brown pilgrims or penitential candles, gifts from the lamenting women.28 The other gifts, handkerchiefs and money, are placed on the deceased, followed by embraces and kisses on the forehead. Uneven numbers of lighted candles are placed around the coffin, towards the right side. The laments that are sung around the dead are “passed” in the same direction, as with 23

Alexiou 1974: Ch. 3; Sanders 1962: 271 f. Cf. Caraveli 1986: 169-194; Seremetakis 1991. 24 Alexiou 1974: 50. Cf. Wolf 1966: 98 f. 25 Informants in Pyrgos were the closest family of the deceased. One of his two sons, who in 1992 was practising as a medical doctor (dermatologist), had carried out his studies in London and lived in Kallithea, Athens. His friend, Paulos, who lived in Gytheio, was also very helpful. I did not take that many pictures at the burial, since I did not know the family very well, although they were all very helpful, and I am very grateful for that. The widow also invited me to the meals, which in general are only attended by the very closest family. See for instance Danforth 1982: pls. 1, 3, 4 and 5, which are all very similar to the actual burial and might illustrate the situation in Pyrgos. 26 Alexiou 1974: 39; Lawson 1910: 108-114, cf. AP. 11.171; Ar. Lys. 601-608. 27 Eur. Hec. 422 ff.; Verg. Aen. 2.546-550, cf. Blum/Blum 1970: 68, 316. See also Lawson 1910: 344 f., cf. Harrison 1977: 289-294. 28 Cf. photo in Allen 1976: 193 and the ritual in Pyrgos.


Chapter Four

everything else passed around the corpse, such as the censer at intervals, food or drinks.29 According to the local custom, the deceased must be placed with the head in a downwards position towards the west (cf. Cape Tenaron, the southernmost tip of the Mani peninsula, one of the entrances to the underworld), and the feet in an upwards position towards the east, which is different from the rules found in other places in Greece. The deceased is carried in this position towards the cemetery.30 Earlier there was also a tradition of covering all the mirrors in the room so they would not reflect the body of the deceased. In modern Mani, when mourners enter the room they raise their right hand like in the ancient custom, and call out with emotional intensity while addressing their deceased relative by invoking the deceased.31 This custom is very reminiscent of the ancient customs as illustrated in tragedies and several vase paintings.32 Today, when the body is laid out for burial, the clothes must be without knots and the coat unbuttoned. Knotting and buttons are the opposite of unloosening, which is the desired effect at death. The reason is supposed to be that the lack of such ties means the soul will thus be able to ascend to heaven.33 The mourners wake the dead body the whole night before the burial. According to Alexiou, the laments may stop at sunset so the dead is not disturbed, but the corpse must be guarded the whole night.34 A reason for this watch is that the nighttime, which is also associated with nature and the wild, is regarded as dangerous in Greece, as several researchers have documented. The gypsies tell fairy tales during the nocturnal wake when lamenting is forbidden.35 The importance of staying awake the night before the burial in the Mediterranean environment is clearly illustrated in Albert Camus’ 1957 novel, L’Étranger. In this novel, the main protagonist falls asleep during the nocturnal wake for his mother. This lapse could be seen as the reason why he is later executed for a murder, not the murder itself.36 In other words, he is punished for falling asleep during his mother’s wake. Here in Pyrgos, the men and women wake the dead separately; the men carry out a 29

du Boulay 1982: 226, cf. Stewart 1991: 177 f. Seremetakis 1991: 66. For Cape Tenaron, see Ch. 8 infra. 31 Seremetakis 1991: 87 f. 32 E.g. ABV 113,84, ABL 229.58; Oakley 2008: Fig. 3a, cf. Aesch. Cho. 9 f., 42932. 33 Stewart 1991: 231. See also Danforth 1982: 52; Vernier 1991: 255. 34 Alexiou 1974: 42. 35 Holst-Warhaft 1992: 84. Blum/Blum 1970: 70-76, 319 f. Cf. 141 f. and Campbell 1966: 164. Alexiou 1974: 42. 36 Cf. also Huntington/Metcalf 1981: 31 f. 30

Laments and Burials


kind of male wake, separated both from the women and the actual deceased. At the burial, Paulos, the friend of one of the deceased’s sons, told me he was almost deadly tired after the night-long wake, because he had only managed to get some rest between 6 and 7 in the morning. The women lament the dead here in the living room. The thirty-four lamenting women sitting around the coffin in Pyrgos are led by the widow of the deceased, who sits to the right of the head of her husband. When singing about his life from his childhood to his death, they perform the female part of the death ritual, which lasts the whole night, and until 3 o’clock the following afternoon when the wake reaches its peak: the great lament. Now the priests arrive and the male part of the burial begins. While women are supposed to finish their part of the death ritual when the priests arrive, these have not yet completed their lamentation and continue as if nothing had happened, forcing the priests to wait in the yard. In Mani they generally talk about klama,37 which means cry, weeping, tears, sob, while moirologi means lament, dirge. Although new laments are created when a person dies so that they correspond to the person and situation, their content is traditional, and includes questions to the deceased. The laments might start with the dead saying farewell to the closest relatives. They comprise several contrasts, such as the opposition between the present and the past, life and death. Marriage and travels to foreign countries (xenitia) are central themes in the laments, since they involve painful separation, now as earlier.38 According to Danforth, such metaphors are however only partly analogous to death, since it is possible to come back from one’s travels and resume social interaction.39 Female researchers and the ancient Homeric Hymn to Demeter, along with poems and laments written by women such as Sappho, illustrate another, more female reality, since within the female sphere travels traditionally have implied permanent separation, particularly between mothers and their daughters leaving home for marriage into a remote community.40 A further opposition between female and male researchers is illustrated in Danforth’s analysis of the analogy between cyclical passages in the natural world and the progress of human life illustrated in the laments; Dubisch and du Boulay, for example, have given more nuanced views of linear progression versus cyclical time in Greek culture, the disparity between which can be seen as gendered, and often as a conflict between female and 37

Seremetakis 1991: 161 (mourning ritual). Caraveli-Chaves 1980: 137, 141; Alexiou 1974. 39 Danforth 1982: 95, see also 131 and 92, lament 14. 40 Cf. HHD.; Sappho. Fr. 103 and e.g. Brumfield 1981: 225 ff.; Alexiou 1983: 73111; Håland 2007a: Ch. 6. Cf. infra. 38


Chapter Four

male values.41 Other images encountered in the laments involve food, water and birds, who can mediate by crossing the boundaries between the world of the living and the dead. The importance of washing clothes and providing food to maintain social relations is also illustrated in the laments.42 As a lament sung by the chorus escorts the dead brothers from their house, thus becoming a psychopompos (guider of souls), in Aeschylus’ tragedy, Persae (Persians),43 the modern lamenter in many ways is also a kind of psychopomp, since she facilitates the passage between life and death for the deceased. Accordingly, laments represent a link between the living and the dead; they constitute a communicative action or event in the same way as festivals or dances, and might also provide social commentary on the rest of the world, include threats, or protest against the official ideology as represented by Christianity and its views of a rewarding afterlife for the pious.44 They often deal with fate. The laments are handed down through the generations, particularly from mother to daughter. We encounter many sources for popular beliefs about the afterlife. The laments moreover illustrate the continuity of preChristian patterns, since they contain many themes from ancient grave inscriptions. They often attach social change. The following lament published by A. Caraveli, for example, considers the Christian promise of an eternal life as a reward for the pious to be false: All lies! All fables you hear in laments! People don’t meet, people don’t talk here in the underworld. They call this “place of rot,” where bodies rot away. I saw them and was frightened. My heart turned to ice.45

In one’s grief, one might protest about everything in the ancient world as well: Does Kharidas lie beneath you? If you mean the son of Arimmas of Kyrene—yes. Kharidas, what’s it like down there? Great darkness. And resurrection? A lie. And Pluto? A fable. Then we are finished…What I’m 41 Håland 2007a: Ch. 2 and 6, 2012a. Cf. Danforth 1982 with Dubisch 1991 and du Boulay 1982, 2009. 42 Danforth 1982: 150 f. lament 38, cf. 109 f. lament 25 and 132 lament 33. 43 Aesch. Sept. 915 ff., cf. Od. 24.1-14. 44 Caraveli 1986: 184. 45 Caraveli 1986: 184. Author’s emphasis. Commenting on her former publications today, Caraveli says that she no longer holds the same views on a dichotomy between church and folk tradition that she expressed in 1986, since she later studied Byzantine hymnology and the lamentations of the Virgin and found that they are part of the same continuum (email communication 31.10.13).

Laments and Burials


saying is the truth. If you want to hear something pleasant, the cost of living is very low in Hades.46

Modern laments also protest against modern doctors of medicine.47 As at the tombs of Darius and Agamemnon in the ancient world, the contemporary laments might also be a sort of exorcism or necromancy when the deceased is commanded: “Up, my love, rise! Rise and talk to me”.48 An ancient parallel is the mother crying bitterly on the tomb of her young daughter who died before her wedding day, invoking her soul. Sophokles’ Antigone met the same end.49 Ancient unmarried girls might be buried in their wedding clothes, as illustrated by Euripides and Aeschylus.50 Their modern equivalents may also be buried in their wedding dress and crown because they did not marry the chosen one, but married death;51 in the ancient world, such a death was also seen as a marriage with Hades. Accordingly, the sources present a reality other than that of D. Kurtz and J. Boardman, who deny the relationship between “death and marriage”.52 Later research has also shown the importance of the connection between death and marriage, particularly in the tragedies. In this regard, one may mention two ancient epigrams written by Erinna about the dead bride Baukis from Tinos:53 You column and my Sirens, and thou, mournful pitcher that holds the little ash of death, bid them who pass by my tomb hail, be they citizens or from another town; and tell this, too, I was buried here a bride, and that my father called me Baukis, and that my country was Tinos, that they may know. Say, likewise, that my friend and companion Erinna engraved these lines on my tomb. I am the tomb of Baukis the bride, and as you pass the much bewept pillar, say to Hades who dwells below, “Hades, you are envious.” To you the fair letters you see on the stone will tell the most cruel fate of Bauko, how her bridegroom’s father lit her pyre with those very torches that had burnt 46

AP. 7.524 (tr. Jay), translator’s emphasis. Caraveli 1986: 181-186. Cf. Blum/Blum 1965: 218-236; Seremetakis 1991: 2. 48 Cf. Caraveli 1986: 184 f. and Aesch. Pers. 619 (657)-681, 687 f.; Eur. El. 678681; Aesch. Cho. 456-461. See however, Pl. Leg. 909b-c (e) for critique. 49 Soph. Ant. 806-816, 865-871, 891-928; AP. 7.486, cf. 7.490. 50 Aesch. Sept. 333-336; Eur. Tro. 1219-1221. 51 Cf. Alexiou 1975 (76): 111-140, 1974: 5, cf. 120-122 and 10 f., cf. Danforth 1982: 13. 52 Kurtz/Boardman 1971: 152, 161 vs. Soph. Ant. 653 f., cf. Eur. HF. 483 f.; AP. 7.186, 7.182, cf. 7.187. 53 AP. 7.710, AP. 7.712. 47


Chapter Four while they sang the marriage hymn. And you, Hymenaeus, did change the tuneful song of wedding to the dismal voice of lamentation.

A variant is the epitaph for young girls’ collective suicide in a besieged city.54 In 1993, during the recent Balkan war, girls in in white dresses resembling wedding dresses followed dead Croatian soldiers to their tombs. A similar cortege may follow Christ’s Epitaphios on Holy Friday in Greece. As mentioned in the previous chapter, the liturgy that starts on Palm Sunday night is dedicated to the bridegroom.55 An ancient epigram tells us about a man taken by death too soon, leaving behind an infant child, but the son is shown respect in memory of his father’s name.56 Laments in modern society are closely connected with ancient songs. Furthermore, a modern lament recounted by Seremetakis is almost a contemporary version of Odysseus’ visit to the border of the underworld, Hades. From the modern lament, we learn that:57 Basilis, my sweet cousin and brother close to my heart, in Hades, where you will now descend, in Tartarus, where you will go, there the sun gives no light and the wind does not blow. There you will find many others from Shadowy and Sunward Mani, lawyers and doctors, senators and ministers.

It has been stated that the laments, despite their ancient motifs, are more closely related to the popular than to the official religious tradition.58 This relationship probably also reflects the relationship between the popular and official ancient world. At the wake, the women start by lamenting the deceased. Then they lament their own dead, as do the women in Olympos during the Easter celebration, particularly those who have died the previous year. The lament starts in a monotonous, repetitive way, and the content is manipulated for the good of the living.59 As in Homer, the laments provide expression for a person who is filled to the brim with grief; or one laments oneself, although under the appearance of lamenting the deceased, who


AP. 7.492; Rehm 1994. Håland 2007a: Ch. 4, see also Ch. 3 supra; Pilitsis 1985: 158; report on the Norwegian news, “Dagsrevyen” 05.02.93 (Croatian soldiers). 56 AP. 7.659. 57 Cf. Seremetakis 1991: 199 and Od. 11. PelegrinƝs 1984: 143-163 (modern lament/ancient songs). 58 Alexiou 1975 (76): 124, 140 gives a more nuanced analysis of the laments than, e.g. Mavrogordato 1955-56: 53 ff. 59 Caraveli-Chaves 1980: 129 f., 140. 55

Laments and Burials


thereby receive the honour to which they are entitled.60 Most often, the lament still ends by lamenting the condition of the lamenter. Whether she tells the story in the first or third person, it is the lamenter, not the deceased, who is at the centre of the story, like Kassandra in Aeschylus singing her own dirge as she goes to her death.61 The Modern Greek word for lament, moirolo[g]i, appears first in the Life of Alexander attributed to Pseudo-Kallisthenes (ca. 300 BCE), through the verb moirologǀ, which means to foretell one’s own fate, as Kassandra does when lamenting herself.62 The modern lamenter generally also laments her own fate, having lost a loved one to death. For those who sing them, laments may be the reordering of the woman’s inner emotional reactions to death into a tangible outward expression. During the performance of the laments, the female mourners sway their bodies rhythmically, beat their breasts and scarify their cheeks while tearing their hair. Until recently, they might also have cut their hair to cover the face of the deceased, as during the mourning for Patroklos in the Iliad.63 According to a middle-aged Maniot woman, people do not grieve as they used to do: You should have seen all the hair! When someone had lost a man, looking down these streets you could see that they were completely covered with women’s hair!64 A candle is lit so the deceased may find the way to the next world. Doors and windows are shut to prevent Death from leaving the house. A person from the household invokes Death to leave the deceased, to prevent him from taking another in the household. In Euripides as well, Death is presented as someone who comes to fetch the actual person.65 Like in ancient society—from the earliest vase paintings and Homer to the tragedies and beyond—in contemporary society people demonstrate their grief by dressing in death’s colour—black—for the rest of their lives.66 This particularly pertains to the surviving widows. More remote 60

Il. 24.725, 748, 773, 14.302, 314, 331 (oneself); 23.137 (filled to the brim with grief). 61 Aesch. Ag. 1345, cf. 1322-1326, 1341. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 140 f. discusses Kassandra’s lament. See also 62, cf. 81, 92 and 77. She (110) also comments that a mourner not close to the dead will focus on her private suffering to acquire the necessary pain. Cf. Alexiou 1974: 65. See also Foley 2001: 31 for Antigone. 62 Aesch. Ag. 1322-1326; Holst-Warhaft 1992: 40, also for the following. 63 Il. 23.135 f.,151; Alexiou 1974: 36-42, 46, 110-118; Caraveli 1986: 191; Sanders 1962: 271 f. 64 Seremetakis 1991: 73. 65 Eur. Alc. 23 ff.; Sanders 1962: 271. Cf. Alexiou 1974: 39 f. 66 Plut. Mor. 608f4; Aesch. Cho.11, Pers. 598; Eur. Alc. 922-925, Hel. 1186; Il. 24.93 f., cf. Vermeule 1981: 39.


Chapter Four

female relatives and in-laws are required to wear black mourning clothes for a period lasting forty days to three years, depending on the closeness of their relationship to the deceased. It is also important that the changeover back to ordinary clothing takes place over a period during which they wear brown and dark blue clothes. Men, however, are only required to wear a black mourning band (a “weeper”) around their arms for forty days. Accordingly, Nikolaos Melas’ two sons wore black mourning bands around their upper right arms. The same relates to one of the members in the organising committee at the festival dedicated to Agios Charalampos. Since his father had died very recently, he was not permitted to take part in the vast communal meal, the Charlamelia, which concluded that festival, although he was very active during the rest of the festival. That this fortydays requirement is not absolute is illustrated in the case of Panagiotis Lampeas, who died in an accident when he was only twenty-two years old, whose father manifested his mourning for him by still wearing the band two years after the accident. His mother still wears black, and probably will for the rest of her life. Another variant of the modern band is presented by G. F. Abbott in his study, Macedonian Folklore, at the beginning of the twentieth century: he described that the black band, i.e. the sign of mourning, was worn around the fez. Today, Death’s colour is also present in the church on Maundy Thursday, which is decorated in very dark colours, underlining the burial aspect of the day.67 The death rituals in contemporary Mani are related to the household domain while burials are associated with the public world, represented by the church; and when the termination of the ritual lament in Pyrgos, Mani draws near, some of the women fetch the symbols required for the priest’s blessing. Then the priests enter, followed by the closest male relatives of the deceased, primarily his two sons, who have returned home from Thessaloniki and Athens, respectively. When they enter the room, all the women rise, and their lament is abruptly cut off. The priests start the official ritual, which ends with one of them dipping a twig of basil into a glass of water and blessing the people present. The glass of water and the candles around the coffin might be compared with the lƝkythoi (vases) that were arranged around the bed of the deceased in antiquity,68 the purpose of which was probably to purify both the dead and the living. After the service, the burial procession sets out from the house of the deceased to the church dedicated to the Panagia where burial rituals take place. In the procession, a man carrying a wreath dedicated by the school 67

Cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 4, see also Ch. 3 supra. Abbott 1903: 4. Ar. Eccl. 1030-1033; Garland 1985: 43. See also ARV 845,168, 1227,1 for similar grave offerings. 68

Laments and Burials


where the deceased worked as a teacher walks behind the musicians. Another man carries the coffin lid. Then follow the two priests and seven men carrying the open coffin.69 Here in Inner Mani, the practice of using a coffin is a new invention. Coffins were, however, used in ancient Greece.70 Behind the coffin in Pyrgos, a woman follows carrying a large plate with kollyba, which is decorated with a cross made of black and brown raisins. Following her is a woman carrying a bottle of water, a towel, plastic drinking cups, plastic spoons and several bottles of metaxa. Another woman carries a bunch of candles and an icon depicting the Panagia. As the funeral procession slowly moves through the village, new mourners join. Several stop and pay their respects to the deceased. People who live along the processional route shut their doors and windows, both to pay respect to the deceased and to protect themselves from Death. At the outskirts of Pyrgos, more people are waiting at the chapel. The procession with the coffin and closest family members enters the church moving towards the right, the customary way of carrying coffins in Greece, although in Mani it is often carried in the opposite direction.71 The coffin lid and wreath are placed outside the church. Inside, the coffin is placed in front of the iconostasis. In contrast to Athenian rituals, the closest family stands to the left during the burial ceremony. It is important to remember that the dichotomy of right versus left might have a different meaning in Mani than what is understood by this dichotomy in general, but this rule concerns people’s general conceptions, and is not the rule of official Greek society. The priest stands to the right in conformity with the official rule.72 While the priests perform the burial rituals, people queue up to enter the church, light yellow-brown candles, and kiss the icon next to the entrance. The candles that were carried in the procession are distributed. People light their candles from each other as they do during the Resurrection service on Easter Sunday. But here in Pyrgos, the candles are soon extinguished and collected.73 Then a priest censes the whole 69 This is also the rule in other places in Greece, e.g. on Aegina and Tinos, where the lids rest outside the church entrances during the burial services, see infra and supra. 70 Thuc. 2.34; Eur. Alc. 366. Cf. Seremetakis 1991: 171 f. and Ariès 1983b: 168 f. 71 Seremetakis 1991: 186 vs. du Boulay 1982, 2009, see also Ch. 3 supra for the counterclockwise movement vs. the clockwise movement (the path of the dead). See also infra. 72 Cf. supra, see also Bourdieu 1982: 129-159, 1980 for parallels, cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 4, 6, 2010a for discussion. 73 Cf. Machin 1983: 120; Fauriel 1824: 223.


Chapter Four

congregation, always moving towards the right, in the counterclockwise movement i.e. the path of life, in keeping with the importance of the image of the circle within Greek culture in general, as mentioned in the previous chapters. The priest’s ritual sermon is followed by a number of men delivering orations that emphasise the deceased’s public life and particularly all the donations he had made to the church and other charitable purposes, thus paralleling the ancient liturgies (leitourgiai) or “services for the people”—the idea, then as now, being that “if you don’t leave anything, people do not count you in”.74 Afterwards, the ceremony in the church is finished. As is customary, the cemetery is situated on the outskirts of the village, surrounded by high cypresses, which traditionally symbolise death and mourning. In ancient Greece and Rome, the cypress is the tree of the dead, according to Pliny. It is associated with the immortality of memory.75 Indeed, several ancient authors discuss the value of the cypress, which is also seen as aristocratic, and may be used for the construction of a palace or temple.76 Upon arrival at the Pyrgos cemetery, the musicians stop outside, while the mourners enter. One of the empty graves awaits the deceased. A handkerchief is placed over his head. A priest sprinkles oil at the head and feet and both sides of the waist in the shape of the cross, so that the soul and bones will become as white as snow (Fig. 22). One may also wash the deceased with wine, and afterwards wine is poured over the coffin in the shape of the cross. Then the priest scatters some earth on both sides of the body. When the coffin has been lowered into the grave, someone breaks a dish, in keeping with the custom according to which a wine jug, a dish, and a breadbasket are broken before mourners return home.77 As in the ancient world, it is important to wash one’s hands before leaving the cemetery; here, people wash their hands with water from the bottle. Then the rest of the water is poured over the nearest grave, because the 74

Cf. Stewart 1991: 58; Vernier 1991: 250-259. Pliny HN. 16.141, cf. 16.139 (tree of the dead); Pl. Leg. 741c 6-7. 76 Pind. Pyth. 5.39; Pliny, HN. 16.215. Od. 17.340 (palace); Plut. Per. 12.6 (aristocratic). Cf. Loraux 1981a: 357n.26, cf. 20. Value: Theophr. HP. 5.42; Pliny, HN. 16.213, 233. 77 This custom is still found in Athens at the 1st Cemetery. During the burial of Maria Alexandros who died at eighty-three on 22 February 2012, a yellow dish was broken and left on the tomb together with a plastic glass with kollyba. On 3 March, the broken dish was still there, but there were no remains of the kollyba. The same procedure was found at the burial of Anna MaurakƝ, although the dish here was white. 75

Laments and Burials


deceased’s coffin has been in contact with it. This is a modern parallel to the ancients’ fear of miasma, pollution at death, when a water vessel was set outside of the house of death for the purification of those leaving it.78

Figure 22. The burial of the former high school teacher in Pyrgos Dirou, Inner Mani, September 1992.


Ar. Eccl. 1033; Eur. Alc. 98-100. Cf. Parker 1985: Ch. 2; Burkert 1985: 58.


Chapter Four

This burial ceremony in Pyrgos was clearly officiated by a priest, but in other places, an experienced person, most often a woman, may officiate. While touching the earth she is about to scatter onto the coffin, she whispers to the deceased, “This earth which fed you, shall also eat you”.79 This modern example, which also parallels the thinking we encounter in ancient sources, such as Euripides’ tragedy, Suppliants,80 indicates the close connections between women and the chthonic Earth, fertility, healing and the cyclic connection between birth and death.81 In another context, we learn that “the earth cries for burials”.82 People are queuing up in the mounting path leading from the cemetery. Everybody offers condolences to the deceased’s closest family, who are standing in the middle of the mounting path. Next to them, a woman distributes plastic cups with kollyba and plastic spoons, and another distributes metaxa. The recipients utter the wish that the deceased will be forgiven. Upon expressing sympathy to the family, the widow invites everyone for coffee and metaxa at the “kapheneio” (coffeehouse) next to the cemetery. At the “kapheneio” are several drunk people, as is common in Greece at burials and during Easter, and women whose voices are hoarse from the lamentation. When people have bidden farewell, the family invite their relatives and friends to share a meal of fish in the deceased’s childhood home. According to one of the sons, the meal is an offering or a tama from the family, who avoid eating meat during the next forty days, awaiting the great memorial ritual. From the burial in Mani in 1992, let us move to another, which took place on Tinos in 2012, nearly twenty years later. Iakǀbos BidalƝs, son of Stephanos, according to the announcement for the burial, died early in the morning at 4 am on 18 February 2012, a date that coincided with the first psychosabbato of that year. He died after a stroke at the hospital on the island of Syros where he had been for eight days, and turned eighty-four as well. He was brought back to Tinos, and, according to his sister, it was difficult to find a church to carry out the funeral so soon, but they managed to find one. The burial was announced for 4 pm on the same day, in the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios. As is the custom on Tinos, an announcement hangs outside the cemetery in Tinos town, together with several other announcements for funerals and memorial celebrations that 79

Alexiou 1974: 44. Eur. Supp. 531-537; Aesch. Cho. 127-130, 42-45; AP. 7.371, 7.368. 81 See also Harrison 1977: 286; Motte 1973: 233-279; Zeitlin 1982: 129-157; Triomphe 1992: 73-80. Cf. Blum/Blum 1965: 50, 182-189; Papamichael 1975; Dubisch 1991: woman-earth-healing. 82 Blum/Blum 1970: 69 f., 72, 138, 249. See also 68-73, 313, 317 (burials). 80

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will take place in the following days or weeks. Another announcement is posted on a mailbox on a board close to the harbour, where it is also customary to pin announcements for funerals and memorials taking place in the near future. A third announcement is suspended outside of the church. At 1:30 pm, the coffin lid and two burial wreaths are placed outside of the church. Inside, the deceased lies adorned in the open coffin in front of the iconostasis. He wears a suit, and an icon is placed next to his head. All around him, the coffin is filled with flowers and candles. Four white candles are placed next to his legs, two on each side, and one larger, yellow-brown candle is placed next to his head. This might parallel the former custom in which small hanging oil lamps were placed next to the head of the deceased and incense was burned.83 Many people sit around in the church talking. A dish with small glasses filled with metaxa is placed just inside one of the doors at the church entrance. Two hours later, the church bells begin to ring, their special chimes announcing a burial, and many people go to the church, which is soon full. When people arrive at the church, they drop some money on the silver tray, take candles to light, and kiss the main icon of the church. Then they proceed to the coffin. Here they kiss the icon next to the head of the deceased, many bending three times to the floor and crossing themselves before doing so. Some also lift up the icon and kiss it. Most of the visitors then kiss the deceased, all caressing his head. Next, they offer their condolences to the brother six years his elder, who sits to the left of the coffin, and move to the other side of the coffin, where two sisters of the deceased are sitting with one of his nieces, and again express their sympathies. Then they go to their places in the church, most men on one side and most women on the other, as is the custom. At 4:00 pm, the chanters begin their chanting and the priests start to arrive. The first to arrive walks ceremonially around the table inside of the hieron carrying the censer, and censes the holy area. The churchwarden lights the candles: first, the two large candles in the tall candlesticks draped with long, purple-coloured cloths of velvet or silk (purple along with black being the colour of death) by the head and the foot of the coffin. Next, he lights the four white candles placed in the coffin, two on either side of the deceased’s legs. One of the sisters of the deceased tells me that they have arranged everything with a burial agency, as is often the custom nowadays.84 After a while, some other priests appear. One of them, 83

See PhlǀrakƝ 1980: 108. In 2012, I noted that burial agencies had started to put up posters announcing their services outside of the cemetery in Tinos town. Cf. also supra re the lid 84


Chapter Four

from the Church of the Annunciation, proceeds to the main entrance of the iconostasis wearing his hat and carrying a prayer book. Two other priests without hats stand at the foot of the coffin with their faces turned towards the iconostasis and their backs to the coffin and the congregation. One of the two officiates in-between the chanters’ singing and the singing of the priest in the main entrance door to the hieron, and the three priests and the chanters sing antiphonally. Then the fourth priest arrives, the one who generally performs liturgies in this church. He walks ceremonially around the altar table behind the iconostasis carrying the censer, then emerges from the hieron, the holy area, to swing the censer in front of the iconostasis, the deceased, and the other three priests before returning inside. Thus, there are four priests carrying out the rituals in this burial. One of these, the priest of the church dedicated to Agia ParaskeuƝ, goes behind the iconostasis, and out comes the one who is the priest of this church. Then, a churchwarden come out from the left door of the iconostasis carrying the censer and gives it to one of the priests, who swings it next to the deceased and thereafter in front of his sisters. Finally, all four priests, led by the one from the Church of the Annunciation, come out and pay their respects to the deceased. Each of the priests kisses the icon, before offering condolences to the deceased’s family. All the other people present follow suit, repeating their actions from when they first arrived. The churchwarden quenches and collects the candles. The icon is removed from the coffin. Several men lift the coffin and carry it out to the funeral car waiting outside the church, which drives to the cemetery at walking pace, preceded by two men carrying the burial wreaths, the priest of the Agios Eleutherios Church and two chanters. The rest of the congregation follows the car. The priest, carrying a cross, reads prayers during the funeral procession and the church bells ring slowly, as is customary during such processions. The two men throw away the burial wreaths right inside the entrance to the cemetery, as is the custom. The coffin is placed behind the empty grave, which has been freshly opened the very same morning. The cemetery worker and another man remove his shoes and the white silk pillow on which his head rested, and take out the shroud from inside the jacket of his suit. The shroud is white and decorated with Christian symbols, i.e. the words, IS CHR NI KA (“Jesus Christ will win”), which is both a blessing or prayer and a catchphrase at

covering the coffin in July 2012, which is also something new, and which the old man had problems understanding, wondering if the dead woman was really inside.

Laments and Burials


the same time.85 He is lifted into the shroud, which then is tied at the head and feet. The worker at the cemetery, wearing plastic gloves, climbs down into the grave and some other men throw him the body wrapped in the shroud. The grave worker settles the dead, i.e. arranges him into the vault to decompose, as is the custom on this island, and climbs back out. Thus, in contrast to the high school teacher in Mani, this man is buried without the coffin, in which he lay only during the funeral ceremony, and without the flowers and other decorations. The priest reads the funeral prayers, blesses the grave with the cross while the family gather next to it and take some earth from a plastic cup to throw down into the grave. Most people leave the cemetery. The grave worker puts the stone slab on the grave and seals it immediately with cement. A flower cross is put on the grave, and the other flowers are put in the rubbish bin along with the shoes of the deceased. According to A. PhlǀrakƝ, who has written about the customs and traditions on his home island of Tinos, the head of the deceased was formerly laid on a pillow made of lemon leaves so the soul would be cool, and in the deceased’s mouth they used to put a tile on which the pentagram (five-pointed star) was scratched and the words, IS CHR NI KA, the same initials carved on the prosphoro and embroidered on the aforementioned burial shroud so that the deceased would not rise from the tomb. The comb with the last hair of the deceased was thrown into the tomb along with a handful of earth. In the end, when the priest had emptied the water and oil from a little lamp over the face of the deceased, the slab was placed over the tomb. This slab was made of marble or stone and placed level with the surface of the earth. Most of this information from PhlǀrakƝ parallels the situation today.86 However, the deceased I followed to his grave in February 2012 did not receive any lemon leaves, and the silk pillow was left in the coffin when he was thrown into the tomb. After the burial, the deceased’s sisters invited everyone for coffee, metaxa, ouzo and biscuits at the Theoxenia hotel, next to the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios. I had met one of the sisters on the boat some days earlier when both of us were going to Tinos. She told me that he did not have a family of his own, and she used to bring him food, since he was unmarried and lived alone. The closest family members were his elder brother and his sisters, two of whom are older than she is, out of six children in all. In addition, his nephews and nieces are present. She tells 85

I thank ElenƝ Psychogiou for this comment (email communication 26.11.12). Cf. also n.23 Ch. 2 supra re the same words inscribed on the consecrated bread with the same carved wooden stamp. 86 PhlǀrakƝ 1980: 108.


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me that they will celebrate the ninth day’s ritual, the “Enniamera”, next Sunday, which will be followed by all the customary memorials until exhumation, three years later. After the burial, the closest family members eat dinner at one of the few tabernas open at this time of year, the “Koutaki tƝs ElenƝs” (“ElenƝ’s small taberna”). I have read various descriptions about people being buried in their shrouds, sometimes explained as owing to the family not being able to afford to buy a coffin. In some places, such as in the village of Kardamyla on the island of Chios, for example, people used to always be buried in their shrouds, because the coffin belonged to the church and was reused within the village. Upon enquiry, I learnt that [t]here were three reasons for this custom: The first was financial, since it was too expensive to have a coffin for everyone. The second was social, since the rich as well as the poor are equal in front of death, in front of God, so they had to use the same coffin. And the last one was religious: the coffin was an ecclesiastical implement, like the font for the baptism.87

The communal coffin on Chios used to be called “latera” or “letera”. In general, the coffin on Tinos has also been public belonging to the cemetery chapel; this communal coffin, which was similarly called “litera”, was formerly used to carry the deceased and returned to the church after the burial.88 When the procession stopped in front of the grave on Tinos in former times, the hands of the deceased were untied, the body taken out of the coffin and placed in the tomb wrapped or wound in a white sheet, thus paralleling the burial in February 2012. As PhlǀrakƝ writes, this way of burying the dead is quite uncommon in Greece in general but is reminiscent of the description of the burial of Christ as illustrated by Matthew, Mark and Luke. The explanation given for the custom on Tinos where people are buried in the shroud is in fact that the first Christians buried their dead in this way.89 So on Tinos this burial custom has nothing to do with poverty. Placing the dead in a sheet is also found among the Hebrews, and is the custom among Muslims as well. One may also mention the ritual on Holy Friday in the Orthodox Church, when 87 See e.g., Tsouloucha 2008. The information is from the author, i.e. personal communication via Giǀrgos DoulphƝs (email communication 16.12.12). 88 PhlǀrakƝ 1971: 191 and n.48. For Chios: see Tsouloucha 2008: 62 f. (Kardamyla). 89 PhlǀrakƝ 1980: 108 (on the Greek Ebraios, cf. the following, this means Hebrew, Jew), cf. Matt. 28.58-60; Mark. 16.45 f.; Luke 24.52 f. Cf. Dubisch 1989: 191.

Laments and Burials


the officiating priest takes Christ out from the Epitaphios after the procession and brings him inside the hieron. Moreover, the ritual burial of Christ in his shroud performed in the church of Agios Nikolaos on Easter Friday in 2012 is very similar to the ritual that annually takes place on the eve of the Enniamera of the Panagia on 23 August in several churches on Tinos (for all three rituals, see Chapter 3 supra). In the ancient world, as now, it was the privilege of the deceased to be lamented and buried, and many parallels from ancient death rituals have already been mentioned, to which the reader is referred in order to avoid unnecessary repetition. The importance of lamenting the ancient dead is, for example, illustrated in the works of Homer.90 In particular, Homer, tragedies, inscriptions, funeral orations, authors like Plato and Plutarch, vase paintings, and gravestones tell us about the ancient death cult. Hektor’s burial as it is described in the Iliad is a model of this important institution in Greek society because it is an ideal burial of a prominent person.91 The first 650 verses of Aeschylus’ Choephoroi are set at Agamemnon’s tomb, and the play opens with delayed burial rituals, performed by Orestes and Elektra for their murdered father. Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes also illustrates laments.92 Actually, in both his works, the Oresteia and the Persae, death is a central theme. Several of Euripides’ plays also deal with death rituals, for example, Alkestis and Medea. The Phoenissae presents laments and grief for Menoekeos and Eteokles.93 In Andromache, we encounter laments for Neoptolemos followed by the burial,94 while in Hippolytos the death of Hippolytos is staged. In Hekuba, Odysseus escorts the bride and future corpse, Polyxena,


Cf. Il. 24.485 ff., 719 ff. Laments and burials in antiquity, in general: Alexiou 1974: Ch. 1; Holst-Warhaft 1992: 105-114; Rehm 1994: 26-29, see also infra. For an inscribed lead tablet from a grave in the town of Rhodes, suggesting a ritual lament: a “grave”, “wailings”, “libations” for the dead, “hot tears” of the mourners, “hair” cut from their heads with a “sharp knife”, see Jordan 1994: 139 and n.33: “If the text from the Rhodian tablet is…a lament, it is unique”, since according to him, “we have no such inscribed threnoi from graves elsewhere in the Greek world”. 91 Il. 24.707-745, 776-804. 92 Aesch. Sept. 861 f. In other words, I do not agree with the classical philologist Hame 2004, 2008, who claims that Greek tragedy cannot be used as an historical source for funeral rites, while Rehm 1994; Patterson 2007: 154 have the opposite view, conforming with mine. See Håland 2007a: Ch. 1 for a comprehensive discussion of ancient sources from an historian’s perspective. 93 Eur. Phoen. 1627-1628 (Eteokles), 1315-1321 (Menoekeos). See also e.g. Alc. 1014-1017, cf. infra. 94 Eur. Andro. 1263-1264 (burial), 1158-1160 (laments).


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Hekuba’s daughter.95 Sophokles’ plays, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Kolonus, Antigone, Ajax, Elektra and the Trachiniae are also important, as will be illustrated. We also have many vase paintings and relevant material symbols like gravestones to broaden the picture of death in the ancient world.96 Both these source categories are particularly important since they deal with women, or, to paraphrase Helene Foley’s statement on tragedies, they give a voice to women.97 If a burial ritual was not performed according to the rules, the deceased would not be properly accepted into the world of the dead, and the soul would wander around without finding rest, as happened to Dolon in Homer, because he had not left the world of the living in a proper way.98 The ancient death ritual can also be divided into two main parts: mourning and burial. Women played the most significant role in the first part, while men had the leading role in the second. Immediately after death, the deceased was invoked three times, and, as today, the closest relative closed the eyes.99 The importance of closing the eyes has been analysed as connected to the general fear of gazing or staring eyes.100 The deceased was washed,101 dressed in burial clothes of particular colours,102 and prepared for the funeral ceremony, ekphora (i.e. “carrying out of the corpse”),103 by the women of the house. Several sources tell about certain herbs used in the preparation of the deceased.104 We also learn that people might engage in a personal cleansing ritual when it was known that death was approaching.105 The women’s laments during the ritual mourning were divided into several stages, as they are today. The closest relatives 95

Eur. Hec. 568 (future corpse), 432 (bride), 222 (escorting). Hippolytos: Hipp. 1365 ff. 96 Cf. Ch. 1 supra, and e.g. ABL; ABV, ARV; Bernhard-Walcher 1992; Garland 1985; Kurtz/Boardman 1971, esp. 68-141; Rehm 1994; Morris 1994: e.g. 116-118, 140 f.; Oakley 2004, 2008. 97 Foley 2001: 27 f. 98 Il. 10. Cf. Gernet 1981: Ch. 6, see also Petron. Sat. 62, for a werewolf. See also Od. 11.51-84 (cf. 3.256-262), 24.186-190. Cf. Il. 23.69-108; Soph. Ant. 27-31, 255-259, 1000-1033; Eur. Hec. 1-98, 790-798, Supp. 17-28, 531-537; Paus. 1.39,2; Verg. Aen. 6.337-343, 347 ff., 370-375; Hdt. 5.92e-g. See also Cerri 1982: 121131, cf. Pl. Leg. 958 ff.; Tupet 1986: 2661 f.; Parker 1985: Ch. 2. 99 Od. 11.425 f., 24.291-296, cf. Alexiou 1974: 39 (today). Invoking: Od. 9.65. 100 Deonna 1958: 324-328, 1965: 303 ff. 101 Od. 24.44 f.; Il. 18.343-356, cf. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: 144; Alexiou 1974: 5 f. 102 Pl. Leg. 947b, white; Eur. HF. 442 f. burial clothes, HF. 329 f. dressed. 103 Eur. Alc. 422 f. See also Alexiou 1974: 4-7; Kurtz/Boardman 1971: 142-145. 104 Ar. Eccl. 1030: origanum; Eur. Hec. 573-575: leaves, cf. Parker 1985: 35. 105 As Sokrates: Pl. Phd. 115d-117a.

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did not eat, drink, or sleep before the burial ceremony,106 as in contemporary Mani. At the onset of death, such as Hektor’s, the immediate grief is characterised by the closest family members tearing their hair, the men throwing themselves on the ground and soiling themselves, and the women throwing themselves upon the body. The entire house was thrown into disarray.107 In a later source, Lucian illustrates the contrast between the dead lying peacefully and the behaviour of the grieving, while Aeschylus describes painful cries.108 Then followed the washing and preparation of the corpse for its display at the wake, when the body was laid out on a table or klinƝ to be viewed by the mourners. The women had the leading role in these rites, which were followed by the formal lament during the funeral prothesis, the “laying out of the corpse” or wake, which might be led by both women and men, while the final burial ceremony was led solely by men.109 Homer tells us about the grief of women and that of men. One may also compare sequences in Homer to see the differences between gendered ways of lamentation.110 In turn, these sequences might be compared to Gilgamesh lamenting Enkidu, and similar biblical sources.111 From Homer we also learn about the lament of the Other.112 It was the women’s duty to perform laments, and mothers are associated with them in general, illustrated in the hymn dedicated to the Corn Mother, Demeter, in which Demeter laments the journey of her daughter, KorƝ, to the underworld.113 Other sources also present us with lamenting mothers, such as Hekuba and a chorus of suppliant mothers.114 E. Stasinopoulou-Kakarouga discusses a black-figure phormiskos (small vessel believed to be related to the funerary ceremonial) depicting 106

Vernant 1989: 141, cf. Zeitlin 1991: 101. Il. 22.105 ff., 24.160 ff. 108 Aesch. Cho. 150; Luc. De Luctu 12. Cf. Hdt. 4.71; Lincoln 1991: 190. 109 Men and burial: Il. 24.785-799; see also Pl. Leg. 947b-e, 958-960, cf. Thuc. 2.34; ABL 229,59, cf. Sourvinou-Inwood 1983: 37. Women and lament, see infra and Eur. Hec. 609-619; Soph. El. 1137 f. See also Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 4: prothesis (Geometric grave crater), cf. pp. 143-144. 110 Cf. Il. 9.13-15, 16.2-4 (men) and Od. 19.214 (woman). Men’s grief: Il. 18.22 ff., 22.408, 23.151-152, Od. 24.45 f., cf. Pl. Phd. 117a-118. Women: Il. 24.710776, 19.282-303, Od. 8.523-530. 111 Gen. 37.34, Est. 4.1, Job. 1.20 and 2.12 f., 2 Sam. 3.31 ff.; Gilg. 94-96. 112 Il. 22.408 f. 113 HHD. 40 ff., 47 f., 82, 319, 305. 114 Eur. Supp. 286-290, 798 ff.; Il. 22.45-46 (Hekuba). See also Loraux 1990: 17 ff.; Holst-Warhaft 1992: 63 ff., 167 f . 107


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mourning women, although the absence of men on the vase does not necessarily indicate that this scene is from a gynaikonitis (women’s quarters), as she maintains, in keeping with the common explanation in various presentations of vases at museums.115 As I have discussed in a former context, it is disputed whether or not there were women’s quarters in antiquity. Written sources mention women’s quarters, rooms or spaces, and although it is generally believed that such quarters were situated on the upper floor of ancient Greek houses, they have not been confirmed by archaeology as having existed. If there were indeed separate women’s quarters, their domains were probably neither as physically restricted, nor restricted as an actual domain for power as female scholars such as Pomeroy have maintained. As in modern society, female spaces do not necessarily mean that women were thereby “locked up” in the houses, nor is segregation even confirmed by the ancient source material. The actual vase might illustrate the women and the corpse before the men enter the room, since it is uncertain where in the house prothesis took place, according to Karen Stears. One may therefore compare it with the three scenes on an Attic black-figure phormiskos of ca. 500 BCE, discussed by John Oakley, where the central scene shows women lamenting the dead Myrrhine during her prothesis (Fig. 23), while the men are on the other side of the Doric column.116 That the Doric column divides the women from the men does not necessarily indicate the absence of one of the two sexes in the room. Here one may also mention that, although men and women still have their own sections in many Greek churches, even in Athens in 2013 (e.g., Agia Marina), this arrangement does not mean that they are in two different rooms or locations. Women may domesticate a space before they let the men enter, such as in the aforementioned living room where the high school teacher was lamented, the modern cemetery, or the place where Agios Nektarios’ right hand is buried, which is officially in the male part of the church, although most people who visit are women. Many ancient sources describe women in “outdoor life”, such as at the cemetery, in the fields or at the fountain, which indicate that most women were not necessarily confined to a particular place in the house, even if they were generally associated with areas and topics such as 115

Stasinopoulou-Kakarouga 2008a: 342 f. See Entry 152, i.e. Athens NM, 477. Cf. the discussion in Håland 2007a: 435 f. on women’s quarters based on written and material sources and also Pomeroy 1998: 80. See also Walter-KarydƝ 2011: 420: research on the function of space in ancient Greek houses has not demonstrated that women lived secluded in “fixed women’s quarters”. 116 Oakley 2008: 336 f. Fig. 3, i.e. Kerameikos Museum, 691 (cf. Fig. 23 infra for a detail). Stears 1998: 115. Cf. the previous note.

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thalamos (couch, [bridal] chamber, [women’s] apartment, bedroom, etc.), mychos (innermost corner, interior, recess), and lechos (couch, [marriage] bed, bier) for male authors of sources, paralleling the Muslim h’aram (the forbidden/the sacred).117 Nevertheless, one may argue that on the whole, the prothesis took place within the female domestic space, and thereby the female sphere.

Figure 23. Prothesis of a woman, Myrrhine, with lamenting women, detail from a black-figure Phormiskos, late sixth century BCE. 3d Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities—Kerameikos Museum (inv. no. 691). © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.

A terracotta figurine from the Archaeological Museum on the island of Santorini, ancient Thera, illustrates a lamenting woman tearing her hair in


Cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 6 for a discussion of these topics, for the latter, see Bourdieu 1966: 222. For the following, see also Stears 1998: 120, cf. however, Blok 2006: 211 f. for prothesis over time, i.e. from the outside to the inside of the house.


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the sixth century BCE.118 In the ancient world, one might also hire professional lamenters, as seen in connection with the death of Hektor. At the wake and the performance of the formal lament, the women of the family, other female kin and professional women mourners surrounded the bier. The mother or the widow started the lament. At Hektor’s prothesis, the lament was performed by two groups, male professional singers and a chorus of women,119 the latter also providing a voice for the protagonists at the lament. After the hired lamenters, Andromache, Hektor’s widow, leads the relatives.120 We learn that many encountered their death by Hektor’s hand and that he did not die in his own bed.121 She is followed by his mother, Hekuba.122 Helen, who was the source of the pain, is the last lamenter. She praises the deceased, and her lament is different from the others, since being a foreigner she is a marginal person.123 The women’s laments in general sum up a single life, such as that of Hektor, but also life itself, in which they have a central position. Contrary to the male ideology, not one of the women praises Hektor as a hero on the battlefield.124 He dies. Therefore, one may say that the women sing laments for the dead, while the men sing songs about the dead. Vase paintings illustrate the location of the mourners: men to the right and women to the left, shown with arms raised above their heads.125 The mourning men greet the deceased with their right hand lifted and stretched out.126 A Dipylon funeral vase from the Geometric period shows mourners around the bier. Another vase painting, the aforementioned phormiskos (cf. Fig. 23), illustrates the women beating their breasts and heads and tearing their hair when lamenting the dead Myrrhine.127These positions and gestures are also confirmed by written sources. In Aeschylus’ Choephoroi, the women beat their bodies and breasts and tear their clothes to pieces in 118

See http://www.pinterest.com/pin/298715387755644487/ (accessed 26.06.14). Cf. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 43; Håland 2011g: Fig. 3.04. Cf. Sappho. Fr. 144. 119 Il. 24.719-777. See also 22.476 ff., 18.22 ff., 19.228 f., 282-303, 17.1, 35-64 and 19.8 f., cf. Aesch. Sept. 860-873, cf. Eur. Supp. 87-90, Hec. 495 f., 650-657, 681 ff., Alc. 922-925. See also Alexiou 1974: 6; Blok 2006: 211 f. 120 Il. 24. 723 ff. Hired lamenters: Il. 24.720 f. 121 Il. 24.734 f. Killed by Hektor: Il. 24.739. 122 Il. 24.746 ff. 123 Il. 24.760 ff. 124 Il. 24.723-777 vs. 16.829 ff., 17.94 ff., cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 113. 125 ARV 851,273. 126 ABV 113.84; Oakley 2008: Fig. 3a, cf. Eur. Alc. 768 f. and Supp. 772. See also Vermeule 1981: 13 Fig. 7, cf. Garland 1985: 12. 127 See also supra for Oakley 2008: Fig. 3b, 3c, cf. Fig. 23 supra for a detail. Håland 2006b: Fig. 3 (Dipylon funeral vase).

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grief.128 One vase painting illustrates women’s versus men’s gestures, while another shows the similarities between the gestures of the two sexes.129

Figure 24. Mourning women surrounding the funeral bier. Fragment of plaques, ca. 530 BCE. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 12697). © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.


Aesch. Cho. 25 ff., 22, 31, 425-428, cf. 9 f., 429-32. See also Eur. Hel. 1186-90, Alc.193 f.; Il. 22.405 ff. 129 ABV 146,22. Women’s vs. men’s gestures: ABL 229.58. For the lamenters, see also Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pls. 4-6, 11-15, 24 f., 33, 43, cf. Hes. Sc. 243; Il. 18.31, see also 317, 24.724 and Eur. Phoen. 1485 ff., Alc. 90 ff., 512.


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These gestures, including the women’s tearing of their hair and dresses and lacerating of their cheeks and breasts, were conventional activities at the ritual performance of the lament (Fig. 24).130 The deceased also received hair offerings for the journey to the next world.131 Loraux has discussed the goos, i.e. the general expression for all lament, and its similarity to the versified thrƝnos.132 Grief and lament in general and the goos/thrƝnos relationship is particularly illustrated in Aeschylus’ Choephoroi.133 Holst-Warhaft discusses the difference between the goos of the women and the thrƝnos of the professional mourners in the Iliad, where the latter was performed by “the singers, leaders of the dirge, who led the song of lamentation, they chanted the dirge and thereafter the women [of the family] made lament”, according to Homer.134 E. Vermeule has discussed the development of the laments:135 gradually, a professional leader enters the “arena” to direct the song and the offering, which might be compared with the priest’s function in contemporary society. On the other hand, in contemporary society, as in the Peloponnese, a village woman may still hire professional lamenters to perform when one of her closest relatives has died,136 or the lamenters may be a mix of women of the family and neighbouring women, as in Pyrgos in 1992. In the modern laments, Death is imagined to be personified in the form of Charos. Otherwise he is perceived as an angel of death, sent by God to fetch the soul. He is personified as someone with whom the dying must struggle, because he uses all of his power to pull the soul out of the body. We also encounter this struggle in the Kalogeros ritual, in which the protagonist dies and goes to the underworld fighting with Death, and is


Od. 24.43-50, Il. 22.405-410, 23.43-48, 24.160-169, 710-713, 719 ff., 19.301 f., cf. Od. 10.566-569, Il. 22.33-41, 77-84; Aesch. Cho. 5-84, 152-164, 332-340, Sept. 961-1011, Pers. 1038-1076; Eur. Supp. 71-87, 94-98, 826 f., 971-980, 1160-1166, HF. 526-529. Hec. 650-657; HHD. 40-51; Petron. Sat. 72. Cf. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: 144; Alexiou 1974: 6; Deonna/Renard 1961: 99-105; Huntington/Metcalf 1981: 28-34. See also Paus. 1.4,1. 131 Il. 23.46, 134 f., 141-154, Od. 4.197 f., 24.46, cf. Pl. Phd. 87e-89b; Eur. El. 241 f., Hel. 1087-1089, Alc. 94; Aesch. Cho. 7, 226. 132 Loraux 1981a: 45. 133 Aesch. Cho. 322, 330, 449, 502: goos; thrƝnos: 334 f., 342, cf. Od. 24.58-62. 134 Il. 24.720-723 (thrƝnos), cf. 22.45 f. (goos). Holst-Warhaft 1992: 111, 116, 131, 140, 146 f., 166. 135 Vermeule 1981: 200. 136 Personal information from Charitini Papantonopoulou. See also Sanders 1962: 353n.22, for professional lamenters.

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resurrected afterwards.137 A good person dies “easily”. A long, drawn-out death process, however, often indicates that the deceased has not done penance for a sin, leaves behind unsettled disagreements, has not fulfilled a vow, or that a close relative is not present.138 The way of explaining the fear of the dying is generally that one sees Charos arrive with a sword to cut one up, according to C. Stewart.139 The image of “the fight with Charos” at the deathbed explains a person’s death struggle. In the ancient world, the death process was also conceived as a struggle that the soul had to carry out in order to get free from the body. Euripides’ play, Alkestis, gives a precise description of how Herakles fights with Hades in order to be able to bring Alkestis back to life again.140 A prolonged death process might result from the fact that an oath had not been accomplished in life. Accordingly, Sokrates reminds his friends that he owes a cock to Asklepios. Sokrates on his deathbed also sends the women out so that the soul can leave his body in peace; in other words, he does not want laments,141 in due conformity with Plato’s view on laments in other of his writings as well. A curse might prevail over the dead, like the bad omen that Andromache had already started the ritual lament for Hektor before he died.142 Modern Greek scholars such as K. MƝnas have presented important parallels concerning the death cult in antiquity and in modern Olympos, laments from Homer, the lamenting of Hektor in the Iliad, and modern lamentation.143 Furthermore, ancient Greek culture also contains parallels to the modern belief about a fight between the dying and the personification of Death, Charos, who comes to fetch the dying person; the same rituals had to be performed to allow the deceased to cross the border and enter the world of the dead.144 Hence, in Sophokles’ Oedipus at Kolonus, the chorus invokes the Watcher of Hades to clear the path for Oedipus who will soon be on his way down to the underworld.145 137

Dawkins 1906: 200 Fig. 7, cf. Kakouri 1965: Fig. 61; Håland 2005, 2007a: Ch. 4. Alexiou 1974: 36-38; Sanders 1961: 270 f. Cf. Caraveli 1986: 186. See also Blum/Blum 1970: 66, cf. 72; Campbell 1966: 147. 139 Stewart 1991: 16. 140 Eur. Alc. 844 ff., 1022 ff., 1140-1143. 141 Pl. Phd. 59e-60b, 117a-118. 142 Il. 6.499-503, cf. 17.52-64 vs. 19.8 f. (Thetis); cf. Eur. Alc. 525 f., see also Hec. 677-682; Soph. El. 1126-1171. 143 MƝnas 1987: 157-164 for laments from Il. 24.707-745, 776-804 (Hektor, cf. supra) and today. 144 Verg. Aen. 6.324-343; Od. 11.51-84, see also Schnapp-Gourbeillon 1981a: Ch. 5. Cf. Blum/Blum 1970: 66-76; Alexiou 1974: 47 f.; Lawson 1910: 487, 540-543; Caraveli 1986: 184-187. 145 Soph. OC. 1570 ff., cf. Od. 24.85 ff. 138


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Many people still believe that the dead go to Hades, which is often seen as a general meeting place. Sunlight is seen as one of the pleasures of life, since there is no sunrise in Hades. Accordingly, upon arrival in Hades, the deceased starts by complaining about being deprived of life’s pleasures, but upon drinking from the spring of forgetfulness, which is also described in the ancient world, the former life on earth is forgotten.146 Homer describes the immortality of the deceased as an impersonal, freezing shadow world, where the sun does not reach and where the dead are anonymous.147 Today, according to Caraveli, the underworld is seen as a negative copy of life on earth. In a lament dedicated to a dead midwife, she is seen as a giver in life, and a receiver in the anti-world, while the women are to become the givers, after being the receivers in life.148 The laments still represent a common tradition as regards conventions, themes and expressions. They open tentatively with questions to the dead and present wishes and curses, praises and accusations. They might also comprise reproaches, as when Hekuba laments her grandchild, Astyanax, Andromache’s and Hektor’s son.149 Furthermore, they allude to symbols that demonstrate continuity, such as the journey upon which the dead set out. This is symbolised by Charon, the ferry, and the coin.150 Pausanias indicates the direction of the waters of the Styx, which according to Apollodorus flows from a rock in Hades.151 Hades and death are also associated with water, represented by the river over which people are ferried between worlds, and thirst (in connection with the spring of forgetfulness and the spring of memory).152 One may also compare this 146

Sanders 1962: 270 f.; Caraveli 1986: 184, cf. Pl. Resp. 620e-621; AP. 7.346, 7.711; Vernant 1982b Vol. 1: 108-123. See also for example Graf and Johnston 2007 for the importance of springs and water in antiquity. 147 Od. 11.14-20, 57-84, 20.354-357, cf. Hes. Op. 152-156; Eur. Hec. 411-415, Alc. 268-269; Verg. Aen. 6.324-343; Vernant 1982b Vol. 2: 89. 148 Caraveli 1980: 148-149. 149 Eur. Tro. 1167-1173; Aesch. Cho. 345-354; Il. 24.719 ff. Cf. Alexiou 1974: Ch. 8. 150 AP. 11.171, 7.600, 11.133; Verg. Aen. 6.326 ff.; Ar. Ran. 172 ff., Lys. 606 f., Plut. 749 ff., cf. Eur. Alc. 252-256; Paus. 10.28, 1f.; Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 40, cf. pl. 8; Oakley 2008: Fig. 7. See also Od. 10.502, 11, cf. Aesch. Sept. 854-861. Cf. Alexiou 1974: Ch. 9; Sanders 1962: 270 f.; Lincoln 1991: 49, 58n.5, 67; Mavrogordato 1955-56: 43; Caraveli 1986: 184-189, 1980: 137. 151 Apollod. 1.2; Paus. 8.17.6, cf. 18.7 (where water flowed after the deluge). Cf. Lincoln 1991: 119 ff. two paths. 152 Alexiou 1974: 202-205, cf. Vernier 1991: 256. Cf. Håland 2009c; Lincoln 1991: Ch. 4. See also Rudhardt 1971: 77-79, 89-93. Cf. Hes. Th. 361, 785 ff.; Od. 10.501 ff., 11.10 ff., 637-640, 24.11; Paus. 2.37,5, 8.17,6, 5.14,2; Verg. Aen. 3.442

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topic with the Orphic tablets supplied with answers to the guards of the underworld, so that the dead do not set out on the wrong path. The life cycle is symbolised in the laments by spring and autumn. The tree, which as well as being holy in the cult of nature, is also related to human life through its associations with spring and autumn. In the ancient world, for example, Achilleus, “the one who brings grief to the people”, is conceived of as a young shoot when his mother, Thetis, laments for him, while Christ is the tree emerging from the root of the Panagia.153 One may also mention Athena’s sacred olive tree enclosed on the Akropolis of Athens. The tree grew in front of the Erekhtheion temple in which the earth-born hero Erekhtheus’ tomb was found; more specifically, it grew in the Pandrosion, the open-air sanctuary of the heroine and Dew Goddess Pandrosos, or “All-Dew” (drosos=dew).154 Today, we find offerings dedicated next to a tree growing over the victim of an accident outside of Areopolis,155 who was buried on the spot of his motorbike crash. Perhaps the cult dedicated to him at the actual spot where this teenager lost his life may be related to a belief according to which he “has power in the area around his grave”. Accordingly, might he prevent future accidents? The small roadside altars in Greece have different purposes. Some state that, as in former days, they are found here because they are situated at a crossroads, paralleling the places where the ancient Goddess Hekate was worshipped. Today, however, an accident is often the reason for these sanctuaries or road shrines, a kind of “spontaneous shrine” established by the family of the victim, often a young boy, to indicate that this is a dangerous place. A young Greek man may thus make the sign of the cross when passing such a shrine on his way to the beach on a hot summer day in July 2011, even if driving his car at a speed of 100 kilometers an hour. Yet Stewart illustrates a very different situation in which a sanctuary is erected as a thanksgiving offering on behalf of a person who survived an accident.156 Concerning the connection between an apple tree, a chapel and ff., 6.238 ff.; Hdt. 5.92e-g; AP. 7.482; Eur. Hipp. 121 f. See also Paus. 1.14,1; Pl. Ti. 40, for the meaning of water, cf. Stewart 1991: 51; Danforth 1989: 15 f. See also supra. 153 Makistou 1970: 235: Panagia’s lament, cf. Luke. 23.27-31. Il. 18.51-65: Thetis’. See also Od. 24.55-60 for lament around Achilleus’ bier; Alexiou 1974: 195-201. See also AP. 7.714; Pl. Leg. 947 and cf. Phdr. 230, 238; Holst-Warhaft 1992: 96; Bower 1897: Ch. 5; Blum/Blum 1970: 132-134, 337 f. Oikonomides 1964: x (tree cult). 154 Håland 2007a: Ch. 5, 2012c. 155 The grave may also be cf. with Harrison 1977: 339 f. for an ancient parallel. 156 Stewart 1991: 84 and Fig. 12.


Chapter Four

a tomb, which link death and fertility, one may also refer to Pausanias, who tells us that not far from a spring is “the grave of Kallisto, a high mound of earth, whereon grow many trees, both cultivated, and those that bear no fruit. On top of the mound is a sanctuary of Artemis surnamed Kalliste (Most Beautiful)”.157The tree and the gifts are also found next to the tomb of Agios Nektarios, since the small chapel dedicated to the Archangels, partly shaded by a pine tree, covers the saint’s first resting place. Since all of the deceased, including the heroes and heroines, are worshipped at their tombs, lament is also a natural way of worshipping. The lament of Thetis for her child in Homer is a mythical example of the custom.158 Based on the information in the source material we possess, it seems that the duration of the ritual grief before the funeral varied according to the status of the deceased. Although the heroic burial customs in Homer were probably atypical, they parallel the visual material and provide a framework for how aristocrats during the early archaic period interacted with their dead.159 Euripides provides us with the longest burial sequence in the tragedies.160 In pre-classical Greece or Homeric society, then, the lamenters were both men and women. The later change is rather a change in official attitude towards mourning the dead, illustrated by the passing of legislations in which women are singled out by the restrictions.161 Despite the existence male lamenters in Homeric society, the lament is genuinely a female response to death, but it also embodies the relationship of society to death, and is, by consequence, fundamental to life.162 Lamenters are responsible for keeping the memory of the deceased alive. It is also by way of laments that heroic ancestors are kept alive. For example, Alexander the Great, one of the alleged glorious ancestors of the Greeks as well as of other Europeans, is kept alive in this way. However, although the lament is a female response to death, many of the sources on 157

Paus. 8.35,8. Cf. Mavrogordato 1955-56: 51; Vermeule 1981: 240n.26; Harrison 1977: 165 f. 158 Il. 18.51-65, Od. 24.47-60. Cf. Paus. 6.23.3; Pind. Isthm. 8.61-68. See also Il. 23.14 f. Cf. Dowden 1989: 57 f., n.16 f.214 f. 159 Il. 24.784-787, 23.69-108, cf. 7.328-337. Cf. Od. 24.63-67; Ar. Lys. 612 f.; Pl. Leg. 959 f. 160 Eur. Supp. 798-954. See also Brede Kristensen 1925: 200-224; SchnappGourbeillon 1982: 77-88, cf. Hartog 1982: 143-154 and Hdt. 4.71-73, 3.24. 161 Cf. Ch. 1 supra, and e.g. Humphries 1983: 86; Holst-Warhaft 1992: 114-115; Stears 1998: 117. See also infra. 162 Holst-Warhaft 1992: 10.

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the subject and on death are produced by men, and the few femaleproduced sources differ from the male descriptions. How should we, for instance, understand relevant passages from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey;163Aeschylus’ Choephoroi; a funeral law from the late fifth century BCE, which is a copy of an earlier Athenian law; and passages from Plutarch’s Life of Solon,164 if these passages are compared with, for example, the epitaph from the mother of Thersis, written by Anyte,165 fragments from Sappho, and the modern reality? To give three ancient examples, Sappho says, “The delicate Adonis is dying, Cytherea [i.e. Aphrodite]; what can we do? Beat your breasts, maidens, and rend your garments.”166 According to Plutarch, on the other hand: “Mourning is verily womanish, and weak, and ignoble, since women are more given to it than men, and barbarians more than Greeks, and inferior men more than better men;….”167 Finally, an epigram from Anyte (third century BCE) tells us that “On this her daughter’s tomb, Kleina could not stop crying bitterly for her short-lived child, calling to the soul of Philaenis, who crossed Death’s pale joyless river before her wedding day.”168 How will male-produced texts’ often critical and simultaneously paradoxical information about women carrying out rituals in connection with death169 be understood from a female perspective? Because of women’s communication with the deceased, they are regarded as mediators between the world of the dead and that of the living in several places in Europe and the Middle East.170 Women’s mourning rituals, particularly their laments, were and are an essential part of Greek death rituals, and the public performance of laments is regarded as vital in modern Greece: without it, death is silent and unmarked for the deceased.171 163

Such as Il. 24.93 f. (the mourning Goddess, Thetis, puts on her dark veil before leaving her home). 164 Plut. Sol. 12.4 f., 21.4 f.; SIG³1218 (texts from legislators aiming to curb women’s rituals for their dead, see infra); Aesch. Cho. 22-31 (the chorus of lamenting libation bearers on their way to Agamemnon’s tomb are described as tearing their hair, beating their bodies and bleeding breasts, and tearing their clothes to pieces in grief), 324-339 (the mourning Elektra invokes her dead father at his tomb), 456–461 (also accompanied by Orestes). 165 AP. 7.649, see Ch. 5 infra. 166 Sappho. Fr. 103. 167 Plut. Mor. 113a. See Pl. Resp. 395d, see also 603e-604e and 387e-389e for a similar thinking. 168 AP. 7.486 (tr. S. Purcell in P. Jay ed.). 169 Cf. also Plut. Mor. 608b-612b; 101f-122a. 170 See, for example, Abu-Lughod 1993. 171 Holst-Warhaft 1992: 35-37, lament and memory.


Chapter Four

As I have indicated in the introductory chapter, the condemnation of the practice of female lamentation in modern, Byzantine and ancient Greek literary sources has been well documented.172 Nevertheless, these condemnations by male authors of ancient sources, the Orthodox Church, and the modern nation-state need to be re-evaluated from a critical historical and alternative female perspective. The persistent banning of women’s laments and other rituals from burials in the ancient Greek world173 suggests that women were still carrying out their rituals at “maledominated” burials. Although the modern church is critical of women’s laments, my own experiences from Mani demonstrate that women are still able to obstruct the priest’s service with their own laments. I have also observed lamenting women in a burial procession headed by a priest at the 1st Cemetery in modern Athens. By comparing the modern cases with ancient sources written by men, we learn that women’s laments were not necessarily eliminated by the bans imposed on them in written texts, either in the ancient or in the Byzantine periods. But what do the relevant sources say? This needs to be discussed in connection with the male part of the burial customs, the funeral. According to the laws of the archaic statesman Solon (ca. 638-558), the funeral processions should take place before dawn on the third day after death, and the deceased carried out of the home to the grave early in the morning on the third day. The right to lament is reserved to the relatives.174 Solon’s laws aimed to prohibit professional lamenters, a category of mourners also known in other places in the ancient Mediterranean. As already mentioned, the laments are often composed by professionals, who express what they are expected to say which might be dangerous in a society where striving factions are found.175 In conformity with earlier legislation, then, Plato claimed that the procession should take place in silence, without laments or emotional excess:176 the unmarried men should head the procession and the women follow behind. This order is also customary today, but Plato’s emphasis along with other sources


Alexiou 1974; Loraux 1990; Holst-Warhaft 1992, 2000. Plut. Sol. 21.4 f., cf. 12.5; SIG³ 1218; Pl. Leg. 947b, 960a. 174 Plut. Sol. 12.4 f., 21.4 f. Blok 2006: 197-247 presents the relevant sources to Solon and also gives an overview of the historiography on the topic. 175 Mavrogordato 1955-56: 46; Holst-Warhaft 1992. Other places: Jer. 9.17 f., cf. Alexiou 1974: 12 vs. Blok 2006. 176 Pl. Leg. 947be, 958 ff., cf. Resp. 398. 173

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illustrate that it had not always been the rule.177 Thus, the customs that Solon tried to ban are also present in later societies, as illustrated by the tragedies as well as several other sources that comment negatively on women and burial customs, be that the writings of orators such as Lysias, the aforementioned Plato, or later, the Delphian priest and moralist Plutarch. Repetitions of the Solonian laws and other sources during the ancient pre-Christian period therefore reveal that the archaic laws and Plato’s desires were not necessarily successful.178

Figure 25. A clay model of the ekphora. Over the bier is a shroud, beneath which lies the body, first part of the seventh century BCE. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 26747). © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.


Cf. also Sanders 1962: 272; Alexiou 1974: 6 f., 29-31, 42-44 and Holst-Warhaft 1992: 114 ff. with Dem. 43.62; AP. 7.182; Parker 1985: 36. See also Petron. Sat. 78; Thuc. 2.34; Eur. HF. 451-455. See also infra. 178 SIG³1218; Plut. Mor. 608.4-609; Lys. 1.8; Aesch. Sept.182-192, 200-201, 236278. See supra for Cho.; Plut. Sol. 21.


Chapter Four

In the Christian era, it is the church rather than the state that has attempted to control death rituals, particularly women’s laments.179 The funeral ceremony proper included the ekphora, or carrying of the body through the city streets out to the grave, the eventual cremation of the body, the rituals at the tomb, and the burial of the bones, ashes, or body, i.e. inhumation. In the first part of the seventh century BCE, one might come across a funeral wagon with the mourners, the ekphora or burial procession, as illustrated by a terracotta group of mourners now found in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens (Fig. 25). Four mourning women with raised and swaying arms stand around the bier, and a child lies on top of it next to a bird, which has been assumed to signify the soul of the deceased.180 A shroud also covers the bier, being an important part of women’s traditional gifts to the dead. The mourning women in the terracotta model appear to be of varying age due to their different sizes, and their gestures have been compared with modern dances of laments from Cappadocia, which are particularly danced during Easter.181 The ancient burial procession is also illustrated in vase paintings. From the Geometric period, for example, a grave crater depicts a bier placed on a cart. Subsequent examples include two black-figure vases showing funeral processions with a bier. On the first, the bier is carried on a mule cart towards a rectangular tomb, and on the second, the bier is carried by men followed by lamenting women. On the first vase, some women are seen to have arrived at the tomb before the men.182 Another black-figure vase illustrates a dead man being lifted into his coffin at night, since lamps are burning. A detail of the same vase shows the funeral procession and the carpenter assembling with baskets of food and lƝkythoi, hydria, alabastron.183 Today as well, gifts are distributed at burials and memorials so that the passage rites will be successfully completed.184 The same thinking lay behind the ancient distribution of gifts. In the ancient period, several mourners participated in the funeral procession and lamented vociferously, as illustrated in the aforementioned terracotta model, vase 179

Holst-Warhaft 1992: Ch. 6. See also infra. Garland 1985: Fig. 9; i.e. Athens NM 26747, cf. Oakley 2008: Fig. 2; Håland 2006: 175 and Fig. 12; Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 16. 181 See e.g. Stratou 1992: 66 Fig. 84 f. ancient wailing women (=Athens NM 26747) and modern dances of laments. 182 Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pls. 34 f. (=ABV 346,7-8), cf. pl. 5 for the Geometric grave crater, see also pp. 144-146: the third day: the dead was borne to the grave. ABV 146,22. 183 Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pls. 37 f. 184 Seremetakis 1991: 168 f.; Coloru 1987: 100 f., cf. 58; Megas 1992: 113. 180

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paintings and not least by the bans of the lawgivers and descriptions in the tragedies.185 One may, for example, also recall the funeral processions of the aforementioned Astyanax, Andromache’s and Hektor’s child, and Achilleus’ son, Neoptolemus, as described by Euripides.186 One black-figure loutrophoros amphora shows lamenting women standing behind the men lowering the coffin of the deceased into the earth.187According to P. Vidal-Naquet, C. Lévi-Strauss’ term, “the raw and the cooked” is clearly shown by the ancient funeral customs; the children were interred and the adults cremated.188 Moreover, the general view has been that there was a development or transition from cremation towards inhumation, but both customs were practised concurrently, although cremation is the only form of burial in the Iliad, and was most popular in the archaic period. Accordingly, ancient Athenian burials could consist of either cremation as illustrated by the funeral of Patroklos or inhumation. In the classical period, every type of burial occurred, including cist inhumations and both primary and secondary cremation, in which the deceased was not cremated at the tomb, but on a pyre next to it. The ashes were then collected and placed in an urn that was buried. There were regional variations, but distinctions between adults and children were unchanged.189 After the burial, the mourners returned to the home of the deceased to participate in the funeral meal, the perideipnon. The right to be buried was also an unwritten law and thereby a fundamental right in ancient society, although it was not always carried out in practical life, as we learn from Sophokles’ tragedy, Antigone, and Plato’s suggested treatment of criminals: to throw them outside the city walls without burial. Other punishments also existed and were well-known in the ancient world.190 Funeral rituals were probably great events in the pre-classical period, at least if we are to rely on the picture Homer presents for us, supplemented with archaeological grave findings and the restrictions from lawgivers, 185

E.g. Eur. Alc. 606-613, 739-746; Plut. Sol. 12.4 f., 21.4 f.; SIG³1218, see infra. Eur. Andr. 1166-1225, Tro. 1118-22, 1156-1255 (Astyanax). 187 Cf. Stasinopoulou-Kakarouga 2008b: 344 f. i.e. Entry 153; ABL 229,59, cf. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 36. 188 Vidal-Naquet 1983: 189 f. Cf. Morris 1989: 316. 189 Morris 1989: 316; Rehm 1994: 26-28; Kurtz/Boardman 1971: 96-99, 51 and pl. 37. Il. 23.161-258 (Patroklos). Achilleus: Od. 24.65 ff. See also Il. 7.427-430; Petron. Sat. 71. Cf. Hughes 1991: Ch. 2. 190 Soph. Ant. 21-39, cf. 77, 745, 749, 872-875; Pl. Leg. 960b.115, 854d, cf. 909c., Lys. 12.21, 12.96, 12.88, see also Hdt. 1.67 f., 70 f.; Thuc. 1.126 f. for other punishments, cf. Vidal-Naquet 1993: 44 f. See also Rosivach 1983: 193-211. 186


Chapter Four

which were introduced from the sixth century BCE in connection with the rise of the polis. As Holst-Warhaft has pointed out, despite the legislation, there is no change in the sequence of ceremonies, and little change in their representations in the vase paintings.191 We therefore meet with the same inconsistency as we do in connection with the festivals dedicated to Adonis and Dionysos, respectively, i.e. between the written (here, laws) and figurative sources: Do the written sources, i.e. the laws and, for example, Plato’s wishes, thus represent the real or an ideal society, or is this the case with the visual arts?192 The legislation aiming to curb elaborate ritual lamentation was issued all over the Greek world, for example, in Delphi, Ioulis on the island of Keos, and in Gambreion in Asia Minor, and includes restrictions aiming to confine the participation of women in particular.193As already stated, the archaic Athenian legislator Solon, tried to ban or at least limit the value of grave offerings and confined the right to lamentation to female kin, but the legislation also expanded to women’s other activities, as will be shown in the following several pages.194 Based on the legislative sources, researchers have stated—and in unison—that as the polis emerged, women became powerless. Oakley, for example, writes, “legislated changes are thought by many scholars to reflect a weakened role for women in Athenian society”.195 However, the prominent role of women is the rule in archaic and classical sources, written as well as visual, such as examples of archaic and classical Greek art, the latter of which is also demonstrated by Oakley. He continues, stating that: In 317 BCE, large-scale marble gravestones stopped being used in Athens as a result of the sumptuary law of Demetrios of Phaleron. In addition to limiting the number of participants at the funeral and relegating all the burial rites to the hours before dawn, he also appointed a new board of officials called the gynaikonomoi (supervisors of women), whose duties included overseeing the conduct of women at rituals such as funerals.196

Here Oakley repeats the statements of several other authors,197 probably based on, among other sources, the information given by Plutarch in his 191

Holst-Warhaft 1992: 114 ff. cf. Alexiou 1974: 14-23. See Håland 2007a: Ch. 1 for a discussion of this problem. 193 Alexiou 1974: 14-23; Holst-Warhaft 1992: 101, 115 f. 194 Plut. Sol. 12, 21; Dem. 43.62, cf. Plut. Mor. 608 a ff.; Lys. 1,8. Cf. Ch. 5 infra. 195 Oakley 2008: 335. 196 Oakley 2008: 341. 197 E.g. Foley 2001: 27. 192

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presentation of the life of Solon, in which he discusses legislation created to target funerals and mourning and calm civil unrest, simultaneously alluding to his own time several hundred years later: On coming to Athens he [Epimenides of Phaestus] made Solon his friend, assisted him in many ways, and paved the way for his legislation. For he made the Athenians decorous and careful in their religious services, and milder in their rites of mourning, by attaching certain sacrifices immediately to their funeral ceremonies, and by taking away the harsh and barbaric practices in which their women had usually indulged up to that time. Most important of all, by sundry rites of propitiation and purification, and by sacred foundations, he hallowed and consecrated the city, and brought it to be observant of justice and more easily inclined to unanimity.198…He [Solon] also subjected the public appearances of the women, their mourning and their festivals, to a law which did away with disorder and licence. When they went out, they were not to wear more than three garments, they were not to carry more than an obol’s worth of food and drink, nor a pannier more than a cubit high, and they were not to travel about by night unless they rode in a wagon with a lamp to light their way. Laceration of the flesh by mourners, and the use of set lamentations, and the bewailing of any one at the funeral ceremonies of another, he forbade. The sacrifice of an ox at the grave was not permitted, nor the burial with the dead of more than three changes of raiment, nor the visiting of other tombs than those of their own family, except at the time of interment. Most of these practices are also forbidden by our laws, but ours contain the additional proviso that such offenders shall be punished by the board of censors for women, because they indulge in unmanly and effeminate extravagances of sorrow when they mourn.199

That the ekphora should take place in silence and the women stay behind the men indicates that several female kin also participated in the public or official part of the funeral, the procession, and that they did not participate “in silence”, as already illustrated by the aforementioned vases.200 In Delphi, it was forbidden to lie down on the coffin and lament at “turnings in the road”, or in front of others’ houses. Moreover, close relatives were forbidden to lament those who had died previously. It was also forbidden to lament on the customary days after the burial and at the annual rituals, as women have traditionally done. But another task associated with women was also affected by the restrictions. 198

Plut. Sol. 12.4 f. Plut. Sol. 21.4 f. discussed in Håland 2011f. Another recording of Solon’s laws and citation of Demetrius is found in Cic. Leg. 2.66. 200 See supra for e.g., Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pls. 34 f. 199


Chapter Four

In the ancient world, women devoted most of their time to preparing textiles and food.201 Accordingly, their main gifts to the divinities were food and clothing, as illustrated by descriptions by lamenting heroines in two of Euripides’ tragedies, indicating that Athenian women wove dresses with figurative designs.202

Figures 26 a and b. Monumental Attic funerary amphora by the Dipylon painter and detail of painted scene. Late Geometric period, 755-750 BCE. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 804). © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund. 201 202

Håland 2006b. Eur. Hec. 465-474, IT. 222-224.

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These gifts were also given on other occasions, since Greek funerals have made use of ornate cloths as well. Weaving is a sort of “female speech”, since women integrated story material into their weaving. By weaving pictures into cloths, they communicated with each other. Myths expose the magical power of a silent web of threads to speak, and women’s weaving implies a kind of “writing”, or graphic art, a silent material representation of audible, non-verbal speech. Furthermore, the motifs of the Geometric vases may also indicate how Greek women used weaving to tell stories long before the Geometric period (Figs. 26 a and b). Penelope at her loom, for instance, was weaving a funerary cloth for her father-in-law, Laertes.203 The practice of laying a story-cloth over the body and eventually the coffin during a funeral is attested, such as on the aforementioned terracotta model from the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.204 The painted scenes on sarcophagi and on the Dipylon funeral vases seem to be another way to accomplish the same ritual ends. Nevertheless, the aforementioned legislation frequently limited the expense, luxury, number of gifts, and amount of mourning at funerals, i.e. women’s gift giving to the dead along with their laments. In practical terms, such laws also tried to restrict women’s opportunities for gathering and self-expression. According to a funeral law from the late fifth century BCE, a copy of an earlier Athenian law, The dead shall be buried as follows: in three or fewer white cloths—i.e. a spread, a shroud and a coverlet—the three worth not over a hundred drachmas. They shall carry him out on a simply-wrought bed and shall not cover the bier with cloths. They shall take to the tomb not more than three measures of wine and not more than one measure of olive oil, and they shall carry away the [empty] jars. They shall carry the corpse, covered, in silence all the way to the tomb. They shall perform the pre-burial sacrifice according to ancestral custom. They shall carry home from the tomb the bed and the spreads…The women who go to the funeral shall not go away from the tomb before the men. They shall not hold monthly services for the dead…Wherever a person dies, after the bed is carried out no women shall go to the house except those polluted [by the death]; those polluted are mother, wife, sisters and daughters, in addition to these not more than five women, namely children of daughters and cousins, and no one else…205


Od. 2.94-110; ARV 1300,2. See also Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, although her perspective is different from mine. 204 See Fig. 25 supra and cf. Barber 1991: 358-382 and Figs. 7.11-13, 16.15. Cf. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 16. See also pls. 4 f. for the following. 205 SIG³1218 (tr. N. Lewis in Lefkowitz/Fant ed.).


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These and other restrictions levied against women’s traditional rituals for the dead were repeatedly stated in the ancient world, which only serves to illustrate that women were still carrying out their rituals and offering food and clothes to their dead, often competitively.206 One may also mention the housewives’ competition at the cemetery in Olympos on “White” Tuesday, as illustrated in the previous chapter. That it was difficult to enforce the restrictions against women in the ancient world, may therefore also be indicated by a comparison with the modern Easter procession in Olympos. When Christ’s body is carried around in the streets there, people with newly deceased family members weep, and the procession makes a stop in front of the houses in which people have recently died. In addition, many lament those who died several hundred years ago, i.e. “as far back as they remember”, according to one of my informants, the aforementioned high school teacher from Olympos. Furthermore, the priest carries out purification ceremonies at the crossroads. People in Olympos still lament the dead on fixed days after the funeral and at annual commemorative celebrations, as will be discussed at length in the next chapter. One may object, of course, that the above do not prove anything regarding the ancient period, since the customs may have disappeared and been reintroduced to prove the connection between the modern and ancient period in the name of the modern Greek nationstate of 1821. I have discussed these issues at depth in an earlier study,207 and do not believe such an argument to be sound, since the modern Greek nation-state has tried to curb the very same rituals. As in ancient Greece, contemporary death rituals are related to the household, where the women have the main role in the burial ritual through the preparation and decoration of the corpse for burial (when the deceased return to the earth that sustained them). In this respect, women are regarded as being the most influential because of their “chthonic characteristics”, or connection with Mother Earth. Burials, however, are associated with the public world, today represented by the church.208 The division between the part of the ritual led by women, in contrast to the official, male part, may be illustrated by an episode, or rather, “setting” from the mourning rituals that took place in the centre of a village in Mani. In this particular geographical setting, the village square was always separated into two gendered domains, one part reserved for women and the


Håland 2006b, cf. 2007a: Ch. 6. For the restrictions, cf. Plut. Sol. 21.4 f., cf. 12.5, see also supra. 207 Håland 2007a, see also 2011a and d. 208 Cf. Danforth 1982: 119 and Rehm 1994: 161n.47.

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other for men.209 The division between the ritual lament and wake (klama) and the burial (kƝdeia) might be understood as a contemporary version of the former tension between the ancestor cult and central churches, particularly in Mani, as illustrated by Seremetakis, although Bernard Vernier describes parallel practices at Karpathos.210 I have also experienced this tension during my own fieldwork, both in these two places and in contemporary Athens, because many people who move to the city bring their own customs with them from their “villages”, Olympos, for example. The material from Mani, though, is particularly helpful in obtaining a clearer picture of ancient circumstances. The power of the clans in modern Mani makes the area an interesting comparative tool with which to analyse ancient Greece, although modern Greek people may say that Mani is different, often associated with murder and vendettas. On the other hand, Mani mourning is familiar to anyone in Greece, even today.211 In this context, one may also mention the ancient powerful families or kin groups and their cults, against which both the ancient legislators and later the classical Athenian democratic polis struggled. They also struggled against a female means of expression that gave women considerable power over the rituals of death. John Chrysostom called the laments “self-centred” and “self-indulgent”, and, according to him, hired mourners represented a “disease of females”.212 The frequency and strength of the condemnations in the Byzantine period illustrates the continuity of the ritual lament.213 As already indicated, in ancient Greece, women find means of expression through weaving and lamentation and in the same way as the hero, and sometimes also heroines, is made immortal after great deeds during her or his lifetime, the lamenter is immortalised by her lament—be that Antigone, Medea, Phaedra, Andromache, or contemporary Maniot women, who through their lament have sung the song of their own fate, thus paralleling the aforementioned Kassandra.214 Sources written by men express a certain uneasiness towards weaving women. This is particularly 209

Seremetakis 1991: 98, cf. photo 25. For another view, also discussed in Håland 2007a: 406, see Fauriel 1824: 259. 210 Vernier 1991: 87, cf. Seremetakis 1991: 161. For the following, see the discussion in Håland 2007a: Ch. 1 and 4. 211 Cf. also the discussion in n.4 supra. 212 Migne Vol. 59.346 for Hom. 62.4 in John. 213 Alexiou 1974: 28 and 213n.21. cf. also supra. 214 See supra for Aesch. Ag. 1322-1326. Cf. Seremetakis 1991: 130-137 and e.g., Soph. Ant. 806-820, 823-831, 839-851, 858-871, 878-881, 891-928, 933 f., 937943, cf. 500 ff., 559 f.; Il. 24.724 ff., see also Eur. Med. 1032-1034 and Supp. 923; Holst-Warhaft 1992: 40 f., 83, cf. 63 ff.


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illustrated through the three spinning Goddesses, the Moirai, or Fates, who weave their net and spin the thread of life, as illustrated by Aeschylus.215 As mentioned in the preceding chapters and above, the image of the circle is very deeply rooted in Greek culture, and cyclic symbolism still pervades Greek rituals and thinking. Thus to form a ring is a magical ritual. The apotropaic power of the circle derives from the manner in which it creates two distinct spaces.216 This is illustrated by the circular movement when the Moirai, Erinyes (i.e. “the avengers”), or Furies dance in a ring while singing a magic “binding song”. In fact, laments are directly connected with dances, and one may also compare the Furies’ cyclic or round dance with the dance of the modern Anastenarides, the logic being that to dance is to control, i.e. to exercise power.217 The dancing Fates are actually weaving or spinning their laments for the dead Klytaemnestra. She has just been murdered by her son Orestes,218 in vengeance for murdering her husband, Agamemnon, his father, after weaving her intricate threads into the path leading him from the outside world of men and light to the dark, inner chamber of the palace,219 where women ply the art of weaving which belongs to them as it does to the Fates and the Goddess of weaving, Athena. The connection between women, laments and weaving is important in Greek society. As already mentioned, the ancient term goos signifies lament, but it is also connected to the terms goƝteia (sorcery) and thelgein, signifying charm (cf. spell, enchantment), to charm. GoƝteia or sorcery is mageia, according to the Suda (s.v. referring to a connection between goƝteia and goos). In other words, the ancient term for lament was thought to have a magical function, because it charmed. This connection is particularly illustrated by Aeschylus, when the Furies dance around Orestes lamenting, enchanting, and winning over him.220 Interestingly, 215

Aesch. Eum. 334 ff. Cf. du Boulay 1982, 1984: 543 ff., 2009; Stewart 1991: Ch. 6 217 Cf. Danforth 1989: 93. 218 Aesch. Cho. 930 ff. 219 Aesch. Ag. 956-972, 1343, cf. Håland 2006b for Bourdieu 1980: Figs. 2 and 5. 220 Aesch. Cho. 1048 and Eum. 307-397, cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 146, 156 f. thelgein, cf. thelgǀ to charm, enchant; to blind, cheat, seduce; to fascinate, win; goos a wailing, lament, dirge, incantation. Cf. MeraklƝs 1986: 100 for the connection between goƝteia, magic and women, cf. Graf 1994: 37 for the combination between goƝteia and mageia in Plato. See also Alexiou 1974: 225 f.n.6. Cf. also the thread of Ariadne, “cunning”, Plut. Thes. 19.1. See also Håland 2006b, 2007a: Ch. 6. It is interesting to note that women are prohibited from setting up the loom during the first forty days after a death: Psychogiou 2008: 79n.135. 216

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these female chthonic Goddesses are equalled in strength with the God Zeus by the ideologue Aeschylus.221 Laments constitute a complex form of art that gives women a way of expressing pain, frustration and rage. Laments are cries in themselves, expressions of emotions. Today, as already mentioned, moirologi (i.e. moirolo[g]i, dirge, lament[ation], bewailing, funeral song) is the general word for the laments for the dead, and the song to Fate is assumed to be the origin of the modern moirologi.222 The Ancient Greek word moira signifies fate or destiny, and logos signifies speech or word. In other words, to lament is to sing or weave a person’s fate. The moirologi is particularly sung at death, and avoided on other occasions as ill-omened, due to many of the oldest and most fundamental associations of moira. Homer associates the Goddesses, Fate (s), and Erinyes, or Furies of vengeance, with one another.223 Contemporary Greek laments have survived by oral transmission from Homeric times. Lamentation is essentially a female art form that gives women a means to express not only pain, but frustration and anger as well. Actually, the art of lamentation gives women considerable power over the rituals of death, and women’s laments became “dangerous voices” in ancient Greece, as Holst-Warhaft has demonstrated.224 Traditionally, ritual lamentation has been women’s way of articulating themselves in public, both in ancient and modern Greece, and women’s mourning rituals have been characterised as a weaving conflict, i.e. women’s cultural resistance as they weave together diverse social practices through their mourning ceremony (klama), for example in opposition to men’s council (gerondiki) in modern Mani.225 A lamenting woman does not produce only pity, nor are the messages her laments convey ever completely oppressed. The tragedies as well as the repeated legislation illustrate men’s fear of women’s magical power. The moirologhistra, the great singer of laments, in the modern Greek village is rightly regarded by men with a certain fear. She has an authority to communicate with the dead that is recognised by all around her. She is poet and priestess, spellbinder and exorcist of spells. The lamenter articulates the inarticulate, and establishes a bridge between the living and the deceased that is accepted by the rest of the society. Through the laments, important equilibriums are established, and the narrating activity guarantees the lamenter full participation. The ritual 221

Aesch. Cho. 1045 f., but cf. 781-994, and therefore 1021 ff. Alexiou 1974: 110. Cf. also supra. 223 Il. 19.87. Homer associates Fate and Erinys, but Erinys are translated as Furies of vengeance (see glossary) and all are Goddesses. 224 Holst-Warhaft 1992. 225 Seremetakis 1991: Ch. 7. 222


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activities are complemented by the lament, and the lamenter is equipped with comprehensive control over inevitable natural phenomena and a strengthened feeling of identity. In the language of the lament, she reflects on connections involving those who preserve the traditions, i.e. the female “subculture”. In a broader perspective, however, the language of lament encompasses the whole society. The ritual lament represents an amalgamation of the most important realms of human thinking and experience—life and death, physical and metaphysical, temporal and mythical. Therefore, the most important human relations are symbolically determined in the poetics of lamentation. Through the language of lamentation, bonds between members of the society are strengthened and confirmed. We also encounter a dialogue between the living and the dead, and it is the “subjugated woman” in the “patriarchal” Greek rural world who manipulates the magical language of the lament and builds the bridge between the different worlds, today as previously.226 The lament opens a communication channel with the dead and the old powers in the underworld: the Furies, the Fates, Thanatos and Hades.227 In this way, the lament is transformed into a “tool for the living”, and thereby oneself.228 The rhetoric in the women’s laments has therefore been regarded as a threat to society because the dialogue with the dead equips the lamenter with a particularly effective power in a society characterised by blood feuds, which have been the rule in Mani. They were also the rule in the ancient Athenian polis, for example during the feud that lasted for at least thirty years following Megakles’ murder of Kylon and his fellow conspirators, which required proper legislation, according to Plutarch’s portrayal of the archaic lawgiver, Solon.229 In the greater social group known as the ancient Greek polis, the woman’s central position in the death rituals and her use of the public forum of the burial to articulate grief and anger represented a powerful challenge to the established social order.230 As Loraux has pointed out, the state’s need to raise a civil army meant that dying in war had to be glorified, not lamented; simultaneously, the existence of public legal procedures banned the private retributive cycle


Cf. Caraveli-Chaves 1980: 140 and Aesch. Pers. 697, Sept. 854 ff. Aesch. Eum. 325 ff. (cf. 264-266), Ag. 989 f., Cho. 886 and 324-331, cf. Soph. Ant. 1070 ff. and Od. 11.72 f. 228 Caraveli-Chaves 1980: 155-157. Cf. Seremetakis 1991: Ch. 11, see also Alexiou 1990: 116. 229 Plut. Sol.12.3. 230 Cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: Ch. 4 f. 227

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stirred up by the women’s medium, the lament.231 When the mothers were mourning, their rage burst out within the polis, since there is always the threat of “exaggeration” in a mother’s grief, according to Loraux. The Greek men’s political response to the mother’s lament was to prescribe a burial ritual introducing restrictions on outbursts of emotions, which is regarded as a remedy for female exaggeration.232 The result was that through the creation of the official classical male funeral oration (the Epitaphios Logos) and tragedy, the Greek polis appropriated the function of women’s laments and condemned their excesses. Thereby, the importance of the polis was manifested, and the male polis appropriated an important female language, the way women have traditionally addressed the dead.233 Although the funeral oration will be discussed at length in the next chapter, I will argue here that the rhetoric used in attempts to curb the laments is based upon an approval of women’s traditional control over society’s relationship to the dead, as well as the authority they possess by holding this control. There is no doubt a strong element of fear involved in the legislation against the laments, a fear based on the association of laments with not only the dead, but also the possession, madness, violence and magic involved in the lamentation. One may, for example, illustrate the consequences of the declared appropriation of female domains with the passage in the Bakchai by Euripides, in which Pentheus is punished for having pursued, or rather ridiculed and spied on the female worshippers of Dionysos. A further comparison may be made with passages in Aeschylus’ Oresteia concerning the forces, i.e. the “Avenging Spirit, The Furies, Curses or Daughters of Night”, which they confront through the legislation.234 Is this due to scorn of the forces controlled by women, and thereby of women themselves, or rather fear?235 One may further compare Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae236 where Euripides is ridiculed because, according to the conservative Aristophanes, he has gone too far in 231

Loraux 1981a: 15-56, 330-343. Cf. also Plut. Sol. 12, 21 and Mor. 608 a ff.; Thuc. 2, 34-46 with Alexiou 1974: 21-23 and Holst-Warhaft 1992: Ch. 4 f. 232 Loraux 1990: 19 ff., cf. Plut. Sol. 12. 233 Loraux 1981a (also concerning lament banished from the Agora and the public funeral to the theatre); Holst-Warhaft 1992, see also Loraux 1989, discussed in Håland 2007a: Ch. 6. The word “tragedy”, traghodia, is a compound, which includes the word song, and has become the general term for song in Modern Greek. 234 Cf. Aesch. Eum. 325 ff., 416 f., Ag. 989 f. and Plut. Sol. 21. The punishing of Pentheus: Eur. Bacch. 1060 ff. 235 Cf. also Plut. Mor. 113 (22); Pl. Resp. 387 ff., 398; Ar. Lys. 387-397. 236 Ar. Thesm. e.g., 855 ff., 1105 ff., 1014 ff.


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recognising woman for her considerable power, which he in fact does in the Bakchai. The very result is that the forces associated with women must be appeased, because these old powers control death, but thereby also life.237 In Aeschylus’ play Eumenides, the Furies are represented as monsters or witches exposed to the light. While weaving their incantations, they were assumed to be stirring up the dead, as lamenting women often do. Nevertheless, the male ideology depends on the subterranean forces with whom the female Moirai are connected.238 Accordingly, they cannot be eliminated. It should therefore be mentioned that R. Rehm has proposed an interesting alternative explanation regarding the background of the new burial arrangements in the classical polis to the one prevailing among most scholars; according to him, the public exclusion of the woman is not reflected in private praxis.239 According to Holst-Warhaft, the Oresteia is the conservative Aeschylus’ representation of the taming of the laments by the male polis, since the Erinyes, Furies or Goddesses of vengeance are transformed into the Eumenides, or “the Kind Spirits”, in the last part of the trilogy, and the ending of Eumenides is assumed to represent the triumphant celebration of civic stability.240 Nevertheless, the Furies who earlier sang the magic “binding song” of vengeance, like ordinary female singers of dirges, remain essentially unchanged, and the female principle finally wins a place in the official classical male city. This is in contrast to the general view that they became powerless; the opposite was the case. They accept Athena’s offer, not because they are bribed to bless rather than to curse, but because they remain unchanged. The Furies retain their power over both life and death. Thus, owing to the male fear of their magical power, they remain as they have always been.241It is females who have traditionally by the authority of the Fates controlled this magical power, i.e. the great mysteries of birth and death. This mysterious connection is underscored by the laws of Solon, which were directed at women’s 237

Aesch. Eum. 834-836, 921-994. Cf.: 1045 f. (death); 1021 ff. (forces appeased). See also Soph. Ant. 490 ff., and 77, 1070-1091, El. 379-382. Cf. Caraveli-Chaves 1980: 157; Holst-Warhaft 1992: 26 f., 157 and 193. 238 Aesch. Eum. 928-931, 1021 ff. 239 Rehm 1994: 27 and 163n.59, see also 26 and Ch. 3 f., 8, vs. e.g., Loraux 1981a; Holst-Warhaft 1992; Stears 1998. 240 Holst-Warhaft 1992: 127-170, cf. Aesch. Eum. 1044 f., cf. 685 ff. For the two aspects of the Goddesses, i.e. Erinyes vs. Eumenides/Semnai, see also Ch. 5 infra, and cf., e.g., Clinton 1996: 165-170, esp. 166. 241 Aesch. Eum. 990 f., 1018-1031. Cf. Rehm 1994: 57; Loraux 1989: 48. See supra for the general view, e.g. Oakley 2008, etc.

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behaviour in two superficially contrasting situations: festivals and funerals.242 The laments for the dead reflected many emotions and interests, and therefore often included demands for revenge, in antiquity as today. This topic is illustrated at the tomb of Agamemnon and in contemporary Mani, a bit south of where the legendary “House of Atreus” was situated.243 It is common for the lamenter to shift pain outwards by blaming the agent of death, thus instigating vengeance or the cycle of private retribution, since family loyalty is privileged over loyalty to the state. In a passage from Aeschylus, Elektra asks the God Hermes—who conducted the dead to and from the underworld and was therefore the mediator between the living and the spirits of the dead— to bring up Orestes in order to avenge the death of their father, Agamemnon. According to Pausanias, someone who has only daughters will not be avenged; on the other hand, we encounter the Goddess Aphrodite’s revenge in Euripides,244 and ancient men paralleling Orestes were driven to revenge by the women’s laments, as typified by Elektra, since revenge, then as now, needed both instigators and executors. Thus, many have stated that the women instigate feuds with their laments, and they do. This is not straightforward, however, and from another point of view one may claim that the lamenting women are criticising the blood feuds because their own sons are killed.245 The laments also continue to act as a release for grief. Actually, the grief is released through the lament, which thus has a healing


Plut. Sol. 21.4 f., cf. 12.5. See also infra. Aesch. Cho. 324-339, 886. Cf. Ag. 1317 f., 1322-1326 (Pers. 627, Sept. 911 ff.) and Seremetakis 1991: 28 f., 127-129, 144-157. Cf. Alexiou 1974: 124 ff., 178181; Holst-Warhaft 1992: Ch. 3, e.g., 76. Cf. Campbell 1966: 143; Baroja 1966: 91 f.; Knudsen 1984: 5-24, 1986: 135-141 and Aesch. Cho. 142-152, 283 ff., cf. Ag. 1223-1228, see also Soph. El. 178 f., 452-458; Eur. El. 56-60, 135-142, 880-890. 244 Eur. Hipp. 1-55; Paus. 1.5,4; Aesch. Cho. 124-151. 245 On 6 December 2012, the centre of Athens seems paralysed: it is the second anniversary of the death of a fifteen-year-old school boy, killed by a policeman during a demonstration. The police expect riots today and have equipped themselves accordingly. I heard no laments, but it is interesting to see how the common view can paralyse the public arena, using the death of a young boy to offer a commentary on the general condition of Greece today. See Holst-Warhaft 1992: 179-184 for a similar event in 1936 and its aftermath, cf. also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJrCW6LPmC0 (accessed 07.02.14). 243


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function.246Their function is double; they honour and appease the deceased, and express several conflicting emotions.247

Laments for Dying Personified Vegetation Goddesses and Gods and Other Divinities In Greek culture, a recently deceased person is not only lamented ritually. In the ancient world and later tradition, people also performed laments for Goddesses/Gods and heroes/heroines. We also have the historical lament for the fall or destruction of a town or people, such as Troy, or later Kǀnstantinople. Laments also memorise the sufferings of the Greek population during World War I and II.248 In antiquity ritual lamentations were performed for personified vegetation Goddesses and Gods, such as Ariadne, Adonis, Dionysos, Linos, Hyakinthos, Hymenaios, and Demeter’s daughter, KorƝ, who perpetually oscillated between life and death. The rituals dedicated to these divinities who died and returned annually offer parallels to the modern Easter season celebrations and the Kalogeros ritual in particular, but also to other popular and official religious celebrations.249 In addition to these parallels performed during the agricultural year, the Demeter hymn may be seen as a mother lamenting her daughter’s wedding, the separation and subsequent departure from her home. The mother-daughter relationship was and still is particularly close in Greece, and when a daughter marries and leaves home, mother and daughter might never meet again. In Greek tradition, marriage has often resulted in a permanent separation between mother and daughter; it was the rule in ancient times, but has also been common more recently.250 It has also been argued that HHD illustrates the second separation between mother and 246

Eur. Med. 191-203. See Holst-Warhaft 1992: 73, cf. 76. Cf. Eur. Tro. 608 f. and Caraveli 1986: 177; Alexiou 1974: 125. See also Gjesdal Christensen 1980: 23-29, for the positive effect of the rituals re: grief, vs. Soph. Ant. 823-832, Niobe is petrified by grief, cf. Il. 24.602-618; Paus. 1.21,5. See also Od. 11.200-204: die of grief. This not only pertains to mothers: Zethos died of grief when his wife killed his son: Paus. 9.5,9. 247 Cf. Alexiou 1974: 55. See also Sourvinou-Inwood 1983: 33 f.; Huntington/Metcalf 1981: 24-34, 42 f. 248 Cf. Aesch. Ag. 1256-1295, Pers. 249-256, 908-935, 1002-1012; Eur. Tro. 511517, Hec. 59 ff., Andr. 1-56 with Alexiou 1974: Ch. 5, particularly 93 f., 99 f. 249 Cf. Håland 2012d. Hyakinthos: Lyons 1997: 124, for Ariadne: 124-128; Larson 1995: 122, cf. Ch. 7 infra. 250 Cf. Brumfield 1981: 225 ff., see also Arthur 1977: 10 ff.

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daughter. We encounter the idea of the child in the intimate sphere of the mother during the years of life dedicated to nature, nourishment, and motherly recognition.251 When Polyxena is conducted to her sacrifice, she describes herself as a young calf taken from her mother, Hekuba, an image that, in another context, is also used to describe a bride.252Accordingly, the lament of KorƝ’s mother, Demeter, while dressed in black, grieving and searching for her daughter as described in HHD, is an important aspect of the female Thesmophoria festival, since the second day was a day of mourning when the female celebrants imitated the grief over KorƝ’s descent into Hades.253 After her eating of the pomegranate seed, KorƝ becomes the wife of Hades, i.e. Persephone, the queen of the underworld. In short, she acquires a social identity independent from that of her mother, according to H. Foley.254 The most central topics in the DemeterKorƝ myth are KorƝ’s departure from her mother, Demeter, who after the abduction of her daughter starts her lament, and the marriage with Hades, which was situated in several places, in a meadow or in a cave, both spaces associated with the underworld.255 Although it has also been stated that Demeter and KorƝ are one and the same Goddess pictured in two phases of her female life cycle, recent research has claimed that the hymn involves an earlier tale of Demeter and Persephone, and that the story of the abduction reflects a sacred marriage or hieros gamos.256 Among the various elements related to the ritual passage is the purification before the wedding, which was and still is important in connection with death as well.


Daladier 1979: 235; Saintillan 1986: 64 (second separation). Eur. Hec.74 f, 205-210, cf. Rehm 1994: 167, see also Ch. 1; Beaton 1980: 21 ff., 97 f., 128 ff.; Alexiou 1983: 73-111; Danforth 1982: 63, 74-81, 86-89; Cowan 1990: Ch. 4 and 192 ff. 253 Plut. Dem. 30.4, Mor. 378d-e, cf. HHD. 49 f., 98 ff., 200 f., cf. Ar. Av. 1519 ff. 254 Foley 1994: 129. 255 HHD. 7, 15-21; Strab. 14.649-650. 256 Furthermore, the two Goddesses were once quite separate and Persephone was the more ancient, according to Suter 2005. Independently from Suter and inspired by Motte 1973, I argued for a hieros gamos in an earlier version of my PhD thesis from 1997, which was rejected by two members in the evaluating committee but accepted by the third. A new version from 2004 was however accepted by a new committee, reflecting the changes of view among scholars of antiquity. One and the same Goddess: see Håland 2007a: Ch. 5 for discussion, cf. also 2005 for hieros gamos. 252


Chapter Four Often when I attend the ritual procession on Good Friday, I have problems deciding if the God who is buried is Christ or Adonis (Giǀrgos SepherƝs).257

The festival dedicated to Adonis, the Adǀnia, was celebrated in various places, such as in ancient Athens and Alexandria. Many of the rituals that were connected with the cult of Adonis probably also appear in the modern death cult in general. In connection with the Easter celebrations, the lamentation over Adonis is particularly central. If we examine the burial ritual for the dead mediator, Christ, as it is performed in the Greek Orthodox tradition and its relation with the ancient festival dedicated to the vegetation God, Adonis, we encounter parallels, but we also encounter relationships with other customs and rituals of an older date, and might acquire new perspectives concerning their original meanings. This does not necessarily mean that the Adǀnia can or will explain the modern celebration. The opposite is also important, i.e. how the Orthodox Easter festival may illuminate its old, non-Christian, parallel. Particularly interesting are modern rituals in the village of Olympos in which the Epitaphios is decorated with laments and pictures, and the women’s own ritual lament in front of the Epitaphios once the men have left the church. Also of note is the modern custom of arranging “gardens” in connection with Christ’s burial ritual on Holy Friday in several places in northern Greece, particularly in the town of Serres, but also on the island of Lesbos.258 This particular custom is very reminiscent of the ancient “gardens” that were planted and exposed annually during the festival of Adonis. As a supplement to the custom in Olympos, the rituals from northern Greece might perhaps illuminate the intermingling between Adonis and Christ that has occurred in popular belief and resulted in an adaptation of the ancient custom to Christian ideology,259 as this might reveal more about the real meaning of the cult in the ancient world. That this cult has been so long lasting indicates that it must have been more important than the information we glean from the official male-produced literary texts, and probably conforms more to the fragments of Sappho’s poems lamenting the dying God.260 257

The citation is borrowed from his Letter to a Friend (Poetry 105 (1964) 53), quoted in Pilitsis 1985: 145. The following presentation of the Adonis myth and the Easter ritual is influenced by Pilitsis 1985. 258 Makistou 1970: 204-209. Serres: Pilitsis 1985: 160-165, cf. Megas 1992: 168, pl. 9 Fig. 2; Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 93. 259 Cf. Alexiou 1974: 57, where the assimilation is suggested. 260 See supra for Sappho. Fr. 103, cf. Fr. 136, 25.

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The Greeks conception of Christ as a ghost or revenant reminds one of the Easter celebrations, the mourning at his covered symbol in the church, the Easter procession, and the two climaxes on Easter Sunday. The first climax occurs when all the lamps and candles are extinguished and the priest lights a new candle, and the second occurs in the dark church when the whole congregation hears the priest announce that “Christ is risen”, and the fireworks start. On Tinos, though, the parishioners stand outside the church, as described in Chapter 3.261 The ritual and collective “Holy Friday songs” are performed once a year and the women are central in this cult, as is the case on Tinos. In general, women also decorate the coffin and perform the lamentations before a picture or symbol representing a dead youth, as in Olympos.262 As described in Chapter 3, the Greek Orthodox Church declares Holy Friday to be the official anniversary of Christ’s suffering on the cross and his burial. In Olympos, below the Greek flag flying at half-mast, the Epitaphios is decorated outside the church, paralleling the circumstances on Tinos. When the coffin has been adorned, it is carried into the church and the figure of Christ is lifted into it in a ritual very reminiscent of the one performed for the Panagia during the celebration of the “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia” on the eve of 23 August.263 In the morning ceremony in Olympos, we encounter the same division as found in death rituals in general. The women are the most active and busy decorating the Epitaphios, while the men have the leading role when it is carried into the church. Although some men also participated in the decoration of the Epitaphios when I attended the ritual in Olympos, nine of the eleven decorating were women, assisted by men. I also noticed that they were active at separate parts of the Epitaphios: the women on the right and the men on the left.264 The role of the women concerning the decoration of the tomb with flowers, along with the written moirologia and pictures and the lamentation they perform in front of the tomb in the afternoon with no man present illustrates the symbolic female power connected with the Epitaphios. Christ is in the passage between death and resurrection, and the traditional female emphasis on the non-ecclesiastic death rituals they perform for their own dead are performed here at Christ’s Epitaphios in a 261

See also Friedl 1962: 102 f. for the same custom; Campbell 1966: 158 f.; Megas 1992: 147-187; Hirschon 1989: 198-201. Cf. Harrison 1977: Ch. 8 and 202, for cycle/fertility/vegetation God. 262 See Fig. 18 Ch. 3 supra, cf. Alexiou 1975 (76): 134 f., cf. 1974: 77 f. Cf. e.g., Romain 1988: 88. 263 Cf. Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 169-172, for her burial. 264 Håland 2007a: Fig. 56.


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way that very strongly demonstrates an impression of death. It should be noted that this is one of the few examples in which women participate actively in public ecclesiastic rituals, which in general are confined to the priests. In Olympos, the priest is the one who departs when the women start their lament inside the church. As illustrated in the preceding chapter, the women’s lament in the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios on Tinos in 2012 was quite different from the ritual in Olympos, since the women on Tinos sang the prescribed Epitaphios ThrƝnos, the lament of the Virgin, helped by the male chanters. When the formal service finishes in Olympos, however, that is to say, when Christ has been placed in his tomb, the second part of the women’s ritual starts. While circling around the Epitaphios, they lament and loosen their hair. In their grief, they tear their hair and lament their most recently deceased female and male relatives, as illustrated in the previous chapter.265 An elderly woman loosens her grey hair, tearing at it and trying to throw tufts of hair at the coffin, which parallels the rituals in Mani and Achilleus’grief over Patroklos in the Iliad. Another woman calls her dead father, while a third throws herself on the coffin: a normal act during the burial of a close family member. As described in Chapter 3, the priest’s wife who lost her brother some days before Easter needs to be helped and supported by her eldest daughter, who stands behind her holding a handkerchief.266 Many of the other women weep, but “more for themselves”; some stand in the background while the tears stream down their cheeks; most are consumed by grief. Everyone enters the Epitaphios with bowed heads to kiss the dead Christ. While decorating the Epitaphios of Christ, many women attached several pages with moirologia to it. These “letters” are laments written in memory of their own dead accompanied with pictures of the deceased.267 A long letter or a lament is dedicated to a person who died one year earlier. The women in Olympos lament in front of these pictures; they are not lamenting Christ, but their own dead. The women of Olympos tearing their hair and beating their breasts with no man present may be compared to the ritual lament Hekuba and Andromache perform for Hektor, but also Aphrodite’s and the Athenian women’s lament over the vegetation God


Cf. also Alexiou 1990: 116, and see Håland 2007a: Ch. 4 for a detailed description. 266 See Fig. 18 Ch. 3 supra. 267 Fig. 17 Ch. 3 supra.

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Adonis, as illustrated in several vase paintings complementing Sappho’s fragments.268 Today, the women sing laments during the dressing and decoration of Christ’s body before it is laid on the bier in several places in Greece, waking him throughout the night. In the village of Katǀ Panagia, KastroKyllini in Elis in the western Peloponnese, the women sing laments in front of the crucified Christ during the night of Maundy Thursday before Holy Friday in the church dedicated to the Dormition of the Panagia. Many read the laments from a printed booklet published by the local cultural association.269 The ritual parallels the one on Tinos described in the previous chapter, although there the laments are sung on Holy Friday. The traditional laments express the women’s own grief, but also the Virgin’s grief over her dead son. These laments are called the Epitaphios ThrƝnos, the lament of the Virgin. The Epitaphios ThrƝnos was created in the Byzantine period, and encompasses elements from Greek tragedies, the Bible and newer folk songs. The Virgin’s lament presents a theme that can be followed through Greek tradition from 500 CE until modern times, and despite an archaising language, we encounter motifs that are closer to the popular than the official religious tradition, according to Alexiou.270 As she has illustrated, we encounter the theme of Mary’s lament in Byzantine hymns, Epitaphios ThrƝnos, the homilies, the scholarly drama Christos Paschon, the Acta Pilati, the vernacular ThrƝnoi from the 1300s to the 1500s, and modern folk songs. These manifestations illustrate the dynamic and reciprocal influence of religious, scholarly and popular elements. In the Christian tragedy, Christos Paschon, we encounter the influence of ancient tragedies; seven of Euripides’ plays and two by Aeschylus, among others. Borrowings from the Old and New Testaments are also evident.271 The lament deals with Christ’s death on the cross as it is understood in the Greek tradition: Christ was crucified because he had to descend to the underworld and fight against Hades, and asks his mother to organise the funeral celebration. The implication of his Resurrection is that the dead are liberated from their sufferings in Hades, as is also depicted in several icons on display in the churches. This is understood absolutely literally, since it is generally accepted that the souls of the dead are set free on Maundy 268

Such as ARV 1179,3, cf. Paus. 2.20,5, see also supra for the fragments of Sappho, see also infra. 269 Psychogiou 2008: 318. For Easter and laments, see also: Alexiou 1974: 62-78; Megas 1992: 147-187; Friedl 1962: 101-103, cf. Campbell 1966: 152-159; Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 79-100; Loukatos 1988: 61-154. 270 Alexiou 1975 (76): 111-113, also for the following; Holst-Warhaft 1992: Ch. 6. 271 Alexiou 1975 (76): 123 f. See also 1974: 62-78; Pilitsis 1985: 155 ff.


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Thursday. Accordingly, they can return to their families to celebrate the Resurrection, and remain free for fifty days until Whitsunday.272 As mentioned in Chapter 3, one of my informants on Tinos also tells me that the Panagia asks her son to set free the souls of the dead when he is in the underworld on Great Saturday. Although Mary’s lament is not mentioned in the ideological and androcentric gospels, it is very important in the popular cult.273 Mary at the cross is mentioned in the Gospel of John, and he also mentions Mary weeping outside the tomb. Luke mentions women beating their breasts and wailing for Christ, but he does not specify who they are.274 Several Byzantine icons also depict the lamenting Virgin, always dressed in black.275 As Alexiou has demonstrated, the Byzantine hymnographer Romanos’ kontakion, “Mary at the Cross” from the early sixth century is an example of popular influence on Christian ideology.276 Although important in the Balkans and the Mediterranean area, neither it nor Sarah’s lament for Isaac are particularly known in the Western tradition.277 In Greek popular religion, however, the importance of the lamenting mother, the Panagia, surpasses that of Christ. She curses his murderers, and is


Megas 1992: 164, 216-219, cf. 97 ff., see also Alexiou 1974: 47 f.; Sanders 1962: 273. Cf. Stewart 1991: 52 f., 59, 77, 105, 142, 167, 198, 205; Hart 1992: 94, 110, 130, 227, 229, 234, 238; Blum/Blum 1970: 318-321. 273 Alexiou 1974, 1975 (76): 111-140. See also Corley 2010: 4 for an interesting comment. 274 Luke 23.27-29. People beating their breasts: 23.48. Joh. 20.11, 19.25-27. On the lament of the Virgin at the Cross: Loukatos 1988: 85-90, particularly 88, also for referring to Luke 2.35, 2.51 (mentioning the future pain in her soul). 275 Vassilaki and Tsironis 2000: 453-456, pl. 227, cf. pl. 225 for a detail. Pl. 226: the Virgin from the Crucifixion, detail from the monastery of Daphni, Attica. See also: http://users.sch.gr/geioanni/sel-politismos-1-PINAKES/politismos_zan _moreas_1_b-DAFNI=1-a.htm (accessed 10.12.12). There is also an icon of the lamenting Panagia at the Benaki Museum, Athens, the Byzantine collection (second group), i.e. Athens, Benaki Museum (inv. no. 36363), cf. also Vassilaki 2000a: 488 f. See also Kalafati 2000: 486 for Two-sided icon. A: the crucifixion. The theme of the lamentation of Mary at the cross is also common in Romanian icons, according to email message from I. Stahl, 08.07.12. One may also mention an icon at the Bulgarian Bachkovo monastery in the Rhodopes Holy Mountain, which shows Mary fainting in the arms of her two female attendants next to the crucified Christ. I observed the icon, 28.06.12, but was not permitted to take a picture. 276 Alexiou 1974: 62 f., cf. 1975 (76): 111-140 and Holst-Warhaft 1992: 175n.10. 277 Alexiou 1990: 103 ff. and 1975 (76): 112. Of relevance is also Geller 2006.

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presented as a furious lioness fighting to save her child.278 The furious mother has quite natural reactions to her crucified son. She addresses Christ as “my son”, and he is often credited with powers more magical than divine. In her lament, Mary also sings that she must go home and prepare the ritual burial celebration.279 This ritual is closer to the popular than to the official religious tradition, and it echoes the ancient Greek cults, particularly the cult of Adonis, which generally has much in common with the Virgin’s lament as we know it today. Remnants of preChristian elements in the songs as well as the pre-Christian origin of the very ritual indicate that the tradition regarding such songs has continued for a long time.280 The contrast between light and dark in the death rituals is symbolised by the lighting and extinguishing of the candle during the burial in Pyrgos, Mani, and the extinguishing of all lights and subsequent lighting of the new candle after the Resurrection, and is rich in symbolic associations with life and death in Greek tradition, from Aeschylus to modern times.281 We encounter the same element in the lament sung for Christ. Here, the participation of nature is also present: Mary invokes the mountains, valleys and rivers to join her in the lament over Christ. The beauty of the dying God is emphasised in the verses.282 According to Alexiou, the lament sung for Christ reflects an emotion that is closer than anything else in the Byzantine tradition to the belief that nature takes part in the lament for the dead divinity.283 Christ is identified with the spring that has passed. He is equipped with the characteristics of nature, and his death is associated with its death. He is described as a life-giving source. When he goes down into the underworld deprived of life, he leaves the earth and humanity. He is also the light or the sun, which by its setting has thrown earth and heaven into darkness, but only until he is resurrected from Hades with an even greater brightness, since by his death he wakes the dead up 278

Alexiou 1974: 75. See also 1975 (76): 112 and 140 for the common tradition of the earlier and later laments. The raging Mary opposes Seremetakis’ 1991: 241n.4 critique of the “egoism model” she attributes to Bloch/Parry 1982: 7-9. 279 Alexiou 1975 (76): 136, 139 f., 112, 1974: 93 ff., cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 166. See also Psychogiou 2008: 86. 280 See also supra. Cf. Beaton 1980: 144 and Alexiou 1975 (76): 111 ff. See also Mavrogordato 1955-56: 53, who nevertheless presents a different approach from Alexiou 1975 (76): 124. 281 Aesch. Sept. 854 ff.; Galvaris 1978: 69-78, cf. Caraveli-Chaves 1980: 153; Stewart 1991: 206. 282 See Alexiou 1974: 67-68 for stasis 1.68, 1.8, and 3.16, cf. 1975 (76): 120. 283 Alexiou 1974: 67 f.


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from their sleep.284 He is like the seed corn sown into the earth and the life-giving vine plant. One may also recall the general inclusion of the topic of the life cycle in the laments, symbolised by spring and autumn and particularly by the tree, both in connection with Christ and with others who die young. Christ is the life that by his dying has put death to death.285 The Adonis myth presents a similar concept. In his identification with the life-giving vegetation spirit, Adonis descends into Hades when he is in full flower, in his golden youth, to ensure new life. The “Adǀnidos kƝpoi”,286 or “gardens of Adonis”, were considered to be manifestations of Adonis’ identification with the decay and renewal of nature. Mountains, trees, rivers and springs accompany Aphrodite in her lament for the young and attractive Adonis, according to the Greek bucolic poet Bion (late second century and early first century BCE), who wrote the poem, Adǀnidos Epitaphios (The Lament for Adonis).287 Nature’s direct participation in the lament for Adonis and Christ is a phenomenon we also encounter in the legend telling of the death of the Panagia, according to which it started to thunder and clouds covered the house in which she died.288 Nature also plays a role in the death of Oedipus at Kolonus, when he is called by the underworld by thunder.289 Oedipus’ disappearance is very reminiscent of Christ’s death on the cross when the forces of nature call him home: an eclipse of the sun is followed by an earthquake and many dead (“fallen asleep”) saints rise from their tombs.290 One may also mention the apotheosis of Romulus.291 Nature’s participation is also seen when Darius rises from the kingdom of the dead, lamenting that the earth moans over the hardships of the Persian state.292 The solar mysticism that circulated in late antiquity is also exemplified by Adonis, Attis and other divinities being ascribed heavenly qualities and associated with the cult of the sun. One may also mention the emperor Kǀnstantinos who became Agios Kǀnstantinos, but before his death appeared as “Sun Kǀnstantinos” 284

Alexiou, 1974: 66 f. for stasis 2.25, 1.30 and 2.54. See also Pilitsis 1985: 163 f. and n.46. Cf. also Schott-Billman 1987: 93-127 285 Alexiou 1975 (76): 119 f. Cf. Galavaris 1978: 69-78. See also supra for the tree. 286 Hsch. s.v. Adǀnidos kƝpoi. Cf. Theoc. Id. 15 for his festival in Alexandria. See also infra. 287 Bion 1. 288 Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 169-172. Cf. Alexiou 1974: 67 f. for Christ, see also supra. 289 Soph. OC.1624 ff. His death process: OC. 1555 ff. 290 Matt. 27.45-54; Luke 23.44 f. Cf. Soph. OC.1649 ff. 291 Plut. Rom. 27.3-28.3, especially 28.2 f., cf. also Num. 2.1-4; Livy 1.15 f., see Håland 1993 for discussion. 292 Aesch. Pers. 681-692. See also Dietrich 1967: 19.

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with characteristics from, among others, Sol Invictus, Apollo (Sol-Apollo) and Helios. The early church fathers evaluated peoples’ inclination towards heavenly elements in a way that was relevant to the Christ figure. Accordingly, the sun and the moon were transformed into symbols for Christ and the church. F. Scott-Billman has also illustrated the connection between the Holy Easter week and the festivals dedicated to Attis through symbols and rituals that were performed at the same time of the year, around the spring equinox.293 Easter Friday’s ekphora, Christ’s funeral procession and burial, illustrate how the people in Olympos solemnly and with laments bury their God as if he had just died. Afterwards, the laments/moirologia, pictures and wreaths are removed from the flower-decorated Epitaphios. Although the decorated Epitaphios on Tinos remains in the church until Ascension Day, as illustrated in the previous chapter, the burial sequence and procession follow almost the same order. Even though the Easter procession in the Catholic world is not a theme of this study, I would like to mention that among all the biblical figures (i.e. simulacri) that participated, for example, in the Italian village of Chieti when I experienced the procession in 1987, and in the villages of ƪal Qormi and Birgu in Malta where I observed the processions in 2005, the cloaking of the executioners of Christ may be compared to Orestes when he killed his mother, as illustrated by Euripides: “I threw my cloak over my eyes, and began the sacrifice…”294 It is different in the Orthodox world, and Christ’s body, which is carried in procession through the streets of Olympos and Tinos town on Holy Friday, has its parallel in the representations of the Panagia’s Epitaphios, which is carried in procession during the “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia” on Tinos, or on 15 August, as on Corfu. We also encounter a burial procession like that of the dead Christ in connection with his mother’s death on several islands in Greece. A similar representation was also seen during the festival dedicated to Agios Nektarios on Aegina in 1991, when the women decorated a kind of altar symbolising the saint’s deathbed, the Epitaphios.295 It parallels the Epitaphioi of the Panagia and Christ, as well as the ancient Adonis, who was carried in procession. 293

Scott-Billman 1987: 138, 144, cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 6: The sun God, Apollo or Sol-Apollo, is mingled with another cult of the sun, dedicated to the one and only sun God, Mithra (Sol Invictus), Sun-Attis (Sabazios, cf. Thracian Dionysos), SunKǀnstantinos (cf. the Helios-Kǀnstantinos-statue). See also Limberis 1994: 20, 47. 294 Eur. El. 1221-1224. For Chieti in 1987, see Håland 1990: Ch. 5. For Malta, Cf. Ch. 8 infra. 295 Cf. Ch. 2-3 supra.


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As illustrated by her name and her festivals, particularly her Dormition on 15 August, the Panagia is seen to be the most important “supernatural”, followed by Christ and God. In Athens, her symbolic tomb is in fact the most important place during Easter. Here, the monastery MetochƝ tou Panagiou Taphou (Anaphiotika) is built above the cave dedicated to the Panagia’s “Tomb”, and belongs to the Holy Grave in Jerusalem, to which it is “connected”, according to some of my Athenian informants, who also told me that “the Holy light first appears here after the Resurrection”. On a later occasion, I learned that the “holy light that arrives from Jerusalem goes straight there, and from there it is delivered to Orthodox churches across Greece”.296 Thus the Mother’s tomb is particularly holy in Greece. The Panagia is a demanding Goddess, and it is of no use to ask her for something without giving something in return. All of the votive gifts in the churches demonstrate that she is an often-visited mediator. We also encounter the conception of a life-giving, nourishing and demanding Mother Goddess in the ancient Demeter, Hera, and Athena, as well as Artemis and Aphrodite in their eastern variations.297 The curses that the Panagia directs toward the murderers of her son in the laments performed during the Easter celebrations parallels Demeter’s lament when, blackclad, she searched for her abducted daughter, and in her grief, anger and revenge allowed nothing to flower or sprout until the compromise with the other Gods, when she was finally placated.298 Here we also encounter a parallel to the myth behind the establishment of the City Dionysia in Athens, in which Dionysos had to be appeased by the Athenians for their former bad behaviour towards the God, as recounted in the previous chapter. The parallel between the ancient and modern Mother Goddesses is also seen in the Black, Mourning or Lamenting Panagia in Orthodox icons and the equivalent statues of the black-clad Madonna always seen in Catholic Easter processions as well as 296 The monastery’s church is called Agioi Anargyroi and dates back to the 17th cent. It is situated in Plaka at Erechtheos and Prytaneiou streets, and I got this information in March 1992 when doing fieldwork in the Akropolis area. The information was confirmed when visiting the church during Easter 2013. 297 Håland 2007a: Ch. 6. For Aphrodite: see infra, cf. Theoc. Id. 15.112 ff.; Bion, 1.68 ff.; Motte 1973: 137-146, cf. 175-178. 298 HHD. 40-51, 310-314, 460-473, see also 256-275, cf. Alexiou 1974: 62-72, 75; Blum/Blum 1970: 45 f., 82-88, 323. See also Vernant 1982b Vol. 1: 124-170. See also Brumfield 1981: 229 ff., 1 f. vs. Motte 1973: Ch. 4 particularly 114 ff. and, for example, Barb 1953: 193-238; Schott-Billmann 1987: 126 f.; Triomphe 1991: Ch. 3 f.; Lacoste-Dujardin 1981: 45 f., for mother worship. See also Håland 2007a: Ch. 5 f.

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the Black or Mourning Demeter, who was worshipped at her Arkadian cave, the Cave of Demeter, at the sanctuary dedicated to her at Phigalia. The cult dedicated to her in the cave clearly illustrates her chthonic character.299 One may also mention Pausanias, who tells about the grove of Persephone, where black poplars and willows grow, illustrating the underworld character of the Goddess. Homer too illustrates chthonic aspects in connection with death and the underworld.300Accordingly, the links between the resurrection of Persephone, Adonis and Christ should be clear.301 The following will delve further into some aspects of the ancient Adonis cult, based on a comparison with his modern equivalent. When comparing modern death rituals and the Easter season celebrations with ancient festivals, we encounter first of all the importance of ritual lamentation of Greek women from Homer until today. Furthermore, many of the rituals that were connected with the cult of Adonis are reflected not only in the modern death cult in general, but also in connection with the Easter season celebrations through the decoration of the Epitaphios on Holy Friday and the lamentation in front of the Epitaphios. The symbols with which the women decorate Christ’s tomb parallel those the women bring to the tombs on the psychosabbata. Especially important are the spring flowers with which they decorate Christ’s tomb, but also the use of rapid-growing seedlings, which are particularly related to the cult as it is practised in Serres. Here the women also bring pots with sprouting grain, which they put next to the symbolic bier on which Christ lies. Later in the evening when the procession passes by their houses, they not only put out the icon depicting the crucified Christ and fresh flowers on the altar-like table in front of their houses, but also pots or plates with sprouting lentils or barley similar to those they have already brought to the church and the Epitaphios. The “gardens”, or hassili (grass), are planted when Holy Week approaches, and are tended by the woman of the family: they are kept in a semi-dark place in the house and watered regularly for one week. By the time Easter Friday draws near, the grain has already sprouted into a beautiful green “garden”. Families who move from Serres to, for example, Athens, may bring the custom with them to their new Athenian home. The custom is also found elsewhere in Greece, such as in Thrace and in the Peloponnese, and a similar custom is also reported from Italy. In other 299

Paus. 8.42, particularly 1-7, 8.5,8, cf. HHD. 42. Od. 11.582. Paus. 10.30,2 (Persephone). 301 Megas 1992: 168 f., cf. 147-150 and Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 92 f., and 79-82. See also Robertson 1992: 235-238. Madonna: Moss/Cappannari 1953: 321, cf. Blum/Blum 1970: 60 f.; Stewart 1991: 34 f.: Panagia. See also Dupront 1974: 114, 128 f. 300


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places in Greece where the ritual is performed, the seeds may be placed on wet pieces of thick woollen material or on wet cotton wool. According to Pilitsis, the same ritual was performed in Messenia in the Peloponnese in the summer time approximately one hundred years ago. He also mentions a similar ritual from Cyprus, but does not know at what time of year it was celebrated.302 All the same, the custom is very reminiscent of the ritual that was carried out during the Adonis festival. It is also important to mention the evening procession with torches and the final scene of joy and light after the Resurrection.303 Accordingly, in modern Greek tradition, popular belief associates the Resurrection of Christ with the return of the spring and the rebirth of the annual crop sprouting in the fields in the same way the ancient vegetation Goddesses and Gods were. In some places, as mentioned above, young girls wearing black mourning dresses walk in solemn procession on either side of the Epitaphios while singing laments. They carry baskets with flower buds and small bottles containing cheap rosewater with which they sprinkle the Epitaphios regularly, paralleling the sprinkling of the Epitaphios and its followers during the procession in Olympos. One may compare Theocritus’ (315-260 BCE) description of the Adǀnia in his Idyll 15 with Pilitsis’ account of the aforementioned procession, although he does not write where it takes place.304 One may assume that it is from the northern part of Greece, i.e. Greek Macedonia, where it seems he carried out his fieldwork. Elsewhere, the Epitaphios is carried to the sea and immersed in the water, for instance on Tinos and Hydra. On Tinos, the Epitaphioi from all the churches are carried to the harbour in procession, and the priest in the churches dedicated to Agios Eleutherios and Agios Nikolaos leads their Epitaphios into the water, as described in Chapter 3 supra. In this way, the ritual becomes a purification bath for the dead God, and we encounter modern parallels to the annual burial procession with the deathbed of Adonis in ancient Greece and Egypt when the image of Adonis was thrown into the water, leading to the God’s subsequent sexual renewal.305 The cult of the vegetation God Adonis at the cave at Bethlehem,


Pilitsis 1985: 161, referring to Nilsson 1964. Cf. Alexiou 1974: 77; Pilitsis 1985: 156; Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 87-94 and Theoc. Id. 15. Cf. Men. Sam. 46 for the nocturnal aspect of the Athenian celebration of Adonis. 304 Cf. Pilitsis 1985: 158 and Theoc. Id. 15. 305 Theoc. Id. 15.132–142. Cf. Fig. 20 Ch. 3 supra and Papmanoli-Guest 1991: 63 for Tinos (in the 1980s) and the ritual on Hydra. See also Alexopoulos 1993: 8088. For the importance of water re: life, death and regeneration: Håland 2005, 303

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which later became the birth church of Christ, illustrates the link between the resurrection of Adonis and Christ: Bethlehem, which is now ours, and the most venerable place in the whole world, was once overshadowed by the grove of Tammuz, that is to say, Adonis, and in the cave where once Christ whimpered as a little child, there sounded lamentations for the beloved of Venus.306

The dying of the God Adonis corresponds to the dying of nature in the summer, and the “Summer” Adǀnia was celebrated during the dog days after the grain harvest in late July.307 Thus, the festival may be regarded as a thanks offering. The sacred wedding of Adonis and Aphrodite is particularly illustrated in Theocritus’ aforementioned detailed description of the Adǀnia as it was celebrated in Alexandria in his day, found in his Idyll 15, dated to around 273/2 BCE. During the festival, images of Adonis and Aphrodite reclining in each other’s arms were displayed on a couch: “In Adonis’ rosy arms the Cyprian [i.e. Aphrodite] lies, and he in hers.”…“And now farewell to Cypris [i.e. Aphrodite] as she clasps her lover.”308 This two-day festival as it was celebrated in Alexandria constituted a sequence of two antithetical phases, the Sacred Wedding followed by the dirges lamenting the death of the young God.309 The same phases are also illustrated on two Attic vases from 400-300 BCE, one depicting their wedding and the other possibly illustrating the lamenting Aphrodite, thus paralleling a fragment from Sappho, cited above.310 The cult of the dying God Adonis and Aphrodite was important throughout the Greek cultural area, but according to Marcel Detienne’s ideological patriarchal and puritan view, the Adǀnia festival was

2007b, 2009a; Bader 1986: 19-37, cf. Vernant 1985: 76 and Stewart 1991, vs. Detienne 1989: 204. 306 Hieron. Ep. 58.3, in Migne’s Patrologia Latina, 22.581. Cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 5; Pilitsis 1985: 151. 307 Amm. Marc.19.1,11, 22.9,15. Cf. Atallah 1966: the two festivals. Cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 5 for the festivals. 308 Theoc. Id. 15.131 and 128 respectively. For the dating of Id. 15: Gow 1950: xvii. 309 Theoc. Id. 15.132-135, 15.131 (Sacred Wedding). 310 Sappho Fr. 103, cf. supra. Lamenting Aphrodite: ARV 1179,3. Wedding: ARV 1312,I.


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celebrated mainly by courtesans, being lascivious occasions without any particular importance. 311 Adonis appears in Greek literature and art from the beginning of the sixth century BCE. The death of the young Adonis and the laments of Aphrodite were celebrated annually in Asia Minor and the Greek cultural area.312 The cult was particularly connected with women. According to the late Greek lexicographer, Photios, the Adǀnia festival is said by some to be in honour of Adonis and by others of Aphrodite, and that it is derived from the Phoenicians and Cypriotes. According to two inscriptions, thiasos (“followers” or retinue) for Aphrodite and procession during the Adǀnia were being organised by Cypriotes in Piraeus by the end of the fourth and the middle of the third centuries BCE.313 On the other hand, as already discussed, lawgivers in the archaic and later periods, as well as the Orthodox Church that followed, attempted to curb women’s rituals where their connection with the mysteries of life was prominent. These rituals, which the male society has attempted to curb several times during Greek history, are connected with the life-cycle passages related to weddings and funerals, but also festivals such as the ancient Adǀnia, thus making obvious the connection between possession (in the Dionysian sense) and laments for the dead God.314 Along with succeeding legislators, Solon declared that women displayed “excessive” behaviour through their traditional laments for the dead, which induced “madness”; their grief for the dead God was carried to extremes.315 In Greece proper, the Adonis cult was often regarded as an “eastern cult” in male-produced sources, such as Plutarch and Aristophanes.316 The latter tells us about the unofficial Athenian women’s festival dedicated to Adonis in which the essential ritual was to make a wooden image of the oriental vegetation God, which was laid on a flower-decorated bier on the roof-tops, after which they sang laments and danced while beating and scarifying their breasts. Finally, they buried the dead God. The central feature of the cult of Adonis are the “Adǀnidos kƝpoi” or “Adonis 311

For a discussion and critique of Detienne’s (1989, or. 1972) interpretation of Adonis, see Håland 2007a: Ch. 5 f., expanded in 2011d: Ch. 3, cf. 2009b for a shorter version. 312 Ov. Met. 10.725-727, cf. Luc. Syr.D. 6. 313 IG II² 1261.9-11, 1290.10, cf. IG II² 1290.3 f. Cf. Pl. Leg. 738c; Phot. s.v. Adǀnia. 314 Cf. Ar. Lys. 387-396 (8). 315 See supra for Plut. Sol. 12.4 f., 21.4 f.; cf. Mor. 608f-611b; SIG³1218; Alexiou 1974; Holst-Warhaft 1992. 316 Ar. Lys. 387-398; Plut. Mor. 756c. See also Plut. Alc. 18.3, Nic. 13.7.

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gardens”, as mentioned previously. According to Hesychios, at the Adǀnia the women bring out images (eidola), and gardens in terracotta vessels and they prepare for Adonis gardens with all types of vegetation, such as fennel and lettuce; for it is said that he was laid out by Aphrodite among the lettuce. However, according to Plato as well as several other ancient authors, the seedlings in the gardens of Adonis do not reach fruition, but signify sterility; they are perishable and useless. Ovid also gives an ideological, androcentric presentation of the Adonis myth.317 As already indicated, their viewpoint has been taken at face value by researchers such as Detienne, who claims that the Adonis myth and ritual have nothing to do with fertility, but, on the contrary, announce seduction and sterility. In other words, this clear evidence of Saïd’s “orientalism” from ancient sources parallel modern accounts based upon the aforementioned male “honour and shame” perspective, which is quite different from a female perspective connected with a “poetics of womanhood”, according to which the point is how women can present public performances of “being good at being a woman”.318 According to the male perspective, the cult was imported from Cyprus, a place famous for the cult of Aphrodite and sacred prostitution, general oriental practices, thus ignoring that Solon had already legalised prostitution and founded a temple of Aphrodite Pandemos,319 the aspect of Aphrodite whose embrace of the entire population creates the common bond and fellow-feeling necessary for the existence of any state. It should also be stressed, that contrary to Detienne’s claims, the only female Adǀnia celebrant attested in fifthcentury Athens is a citizen-wife. As with other festivals, the Adǀnia was celebrated by different categories of women.320 In contrast to the aforementioned sources, Sappho’s fragmentary lines as well as vase paintings present another reality. From these and other sources, such as Theocritus and Bion,321 we learn that the religious ritual that was performed with the gardens, the components of the gardens, and all the other aspects of the cult, such as plants associated with Adonis, are related to fertility, purification and healing. Thus, one may consider the importance of Aphrodite and the vegetative function of Adonis without 317

Ov. Met. 10.298-739; Pl. Phdr. 276b61; Hsch. s.v. Adǀnidos kƝpoi. See Ch. 1 supra, cf. Dubisch 1995. Saïd 1979; Detienne 1989. 319 Ath. 13.569d. Sacred prostitution, general oriental practice: cf. further Hdt. 1.199 and Detienne 1989. 320 Cf. Men. Sam. 35-50; Ar. Lys. 387-398 (citizen-wife). See, e.g., Foley 2001: 59 for the importance of the status boundaries separating citizen from foreigner, slave, etc. 321 ARV 1482,I, 1482,5. Cf. supra, also for Theoc. Id. 15, Bion 1. 318


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ending up reproducing a “Frazerian ideology”.322 As already mentioned, the most interesting feature of the cult, the “Adonis gardens”, enjoyed a long life in the ancient Mediterranean world, and is still a popular Easter custom in the Greek Orthodox Church.323 The Epitaphios ritual and importance of its vegetative decoration also parallel the ancient Adǀnia. The hassili (the “gardens of Adonis”) in modern Serres, the candles and flowers of the Holy Friday service (known as “Christ-candles” and “Christ-flowers”), and other symbols are believed to become holy during the ceremonial Easter procession in connection with the spring festival. They are believed to have miraculous power and produce the same fertilising effect as the “gardens of Adonis” on the feast of the vegetation God, Adonis. Therefore, burying the “hassili” in the fields “is good for the crops”. In ancient Athens, women celebrated Adonis in late July, at the end of the threshing, when the Dog Star Seirios arose, apparently in an informal way. He may also have been celebrated earlier in the spring before harvest, on 4 Mounichion (April-May), the day dedicated to Aphrodite. On Cyprus around that date, she was offered a boar, the animal that killed Adonis.324 Thus, these celebrations of the ripening and reaping of the fruits of the earth parallel the celebrations of the Corn Goddesses, Demeter and KorƝ or Persephone.325 So, contrary to Detienne’s masculinist view, Demeter does not negate, but rather supplements another Mother Goddess, Aphrodite. Their relationship is moreover indicated by the fact that Aphrodite’s aforementioned thiasos dedicated offerings to Demeter as well, thus illustrating the connection between the cults of Adonis and Demeter.326 The official ideology could not exclude the Adǀnia, dedicated to both Aphrodite and her eager lover, even if the festival did not become incorporated into the official religious calendar of the Athenian polis.327 The puritan division between eroticism and fertility in Detienne’s description, based on his analysis of the ideological, male-produced 322

See Håland 2007a: Ch. 3 and 6 for discussion, also for Winkler 1990: Ch. 7, to whom I am indebted for the critique of Detienne, although he unfortunately does not see the fertility aspect in the Adonis cult, due to an old fashioned view of fertility. Cf. therefore Motte 1973; Alexiou 1974, see also Jacobson-Widding/van Beek 1990 for the logic. 323 Pilitsis 1985. 324 Lydus, Mens. 4.65. 325 Håland 2006a, 2007a: Ch. 5 f. 326 Cf. Atallah 1966: 256 vs. Detienne 1989. 327 In Argos it was probably quite different, Paus. 2.20,6. Cf. also Motte 1973.

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sources, may have been quite unfamiliar to the ancient Athenians.328 Thus, changes or ambiguities in the official view of the Adǀnia do not necessarily indicate changes in the cult or the faith of the celebrants. Hence, the modern Easter celebration also offers parallels to various ancient festivals dedicated to the vegetation Goddesses or Gods, such as the annual return of Adonis, Persephone, and Dionysos. The latter was celebrated in Athens during the aforementioned great spring festival, the Anthesteria, to guard the yearly renewal of vegetation, while Persephone was celebrated with three different rituals in the same spring month, Anthesterion (February-March), when the flowers were blooming. The name of one of these feasts, the Chloaia (from an epithet of Demeter, chloƝ, i.e. young, green), illustrates the importance of the spring and her yearly return.329 The Adǀnia has an interesting contemporary parallel, although it is celebrated later in the year. Modern Greeks on the island of Aegina worship a personified meal in a ritual that is reminiscent of the cults dedicated to earlier vegetation Goddesses/Gods.330 When the summer halfyear closes, the regular break at noon and late evening meals come to an end. During the festival dedicated to the Exaltation of the Cross on 14 September, the supplementary evening or afternoon meal of the sunny period (which is very demanding for the farmers) is literally buried during the ritual called Leidinos or Deilino (i.e. evening-meal). The women gather, and some of them boil Leidinos, which is made of grain, grapes, pomegranates, almonds, roasted chickpeas and some parsley. Others make 328

Cf. therefore Detienne 1989 and Håland 2007: Ch. 5 f. HHD. 399-402, cf. Diod. 5.4,6; ARV 1012,1. For Demeter chloƝ: cf. Paus. 1.22,3; Ath. 14.618e. 330 The following description draws on Kyriakidou-Nestoros 1986: 111, 113-116, cf. also Megas 1992: 248 f. (and photo); Loukatos 1982: 42 f. For a more recent version of the ritual, organised by the educational and cultural association of KypselƝs in cooperation with the municipality of Aegina on 9 September, 2007, see http://aegina2007.wordpress.com/2007/09/04 (accessed 12.06.12). Here we get a short description of the programme, which includes a revival of the custom staged by members of the aforementioned cultural association combined with traditional Greek dances performed by children. Next, a summary of the custom describes it as an autumnal phallic custom with symbolic characters diffused from the satirical spirit of the ancient Dionysian custom, which has been performed until the present day and now is revived in KypselƝs, Aegina. Although I have interpreted it as a parallel to the ancient Adonis and similar customs, it is interesting to learn that it is viewed as a phallic Dionysian custom, which is consistent with Greek interpretations of similar customs elsewhere in Greece, such as in the Peloponnese, cf. Psychogiou 2011. 329


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a doll, dressed and decorated with flowers. This doll, also known as Leidinos, personifies the meal that has now come to an end. Leidinos is laid on a table and lamented by the women. Their laments also tell about his resurrection next spring: “With the dew in March, with the flowers in April, with the work in May you will return.” When they finish their lament, Leidinos is laid in a flower-decorated coffin. While singing, they carry Leidinos in a procession through the village. Afterwards, the doll is buried, and when throwing earth in the grave, everyone says: “Now Deilino [i.e. the meal] stops and the sleep will reign”. From now on, they will not work from sunrise to sunset, at least not until next spring. After the burial of Leidinos, everybody returns to their houses and eats the Deilino, asking Leidinos his forgiveness. Then the music and dance begins. The Leidinos festival parallels other ancient festivals, such as the Dionysian cult, particularly illustrated in a vase painting in which the God is lying in a winnowing basket (i.e. liknon),331 as well as the myth about Persephone’s annual descent to the underworld in the autumn and return in the spring. The ritual on Aegina, however, also has a parallel in the southern part of the Mediterranean. Homer mentions the dying vegetation God, Linos in connection with a folk song.332 He was a fertility God, and is connected with an autumnal lament via the refrain, “Ai Linos”. It seems to have been sung while dancing, as many laments are still performed, since dance and movement enhance their effect.333 The reason is that the ritual dance serves the function of release, like the tears that flow unrestrained down the cheeks of the lamenting women. Herodotus found the same lament in Egypt, and believed the song of Linos to be the origin of all music. In Egypt, they lamented the young son of the king, who died after having invented agriculture. In the Greek version, the heroic mother of the God Psamathe was also present in the cult, since she was killed with her son.334 The popular refrain linked with Linos and his cultic song was connected with both the first lamenting cry expressed over the dead and the cry of victory


ARV 1249,13. Il. 18.561-573. Cf. Paus. 9.29,6-9 for other traditions about Linos, see also infra. 333 Cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 104. See also Ar. Lys. 392 f.; Eur. Supp. 72-80, Phoen. 1489, cf. Vernant 1985: 55 ff.; Kitto 1955-65: 36-41; Vermeule 1981: 223: dance. See also supra. 334 Larson 1995: 90, 133. Hdt. 2.79; Frazer 1987: 424 f., cf. 365, 371 f. 332

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in the tragedies.335 This apparently symbolises the double nature of the cult and the ritual, death and resurrection, lament and happiness.336 Like the preceding divinities, Hymenaios also died in his youth. He is connected with a hymn sung during wedding processions.337 It was moreover customary to perform ritual laments in connection with annual festivals dedicated to heroes, heroines and other chthonic divinities. According to Pausanias, the hero338 Achilleus has no altar [in the gymnasium], only a cenotaph raised to him because of an oracle. On an appointed day at the beginning of the festival [in Olympia], when the course of the sun is sinking, the Elean women do honour to Achilleus, especially by bewailing him.

Hymns were also sung for the chthonic God Dionysos.339 In Korinth, they performed an annual festival in honour of Medea’s dead children, in which seven black-clad boys and girls performed a ceremony characterised by chthonic burial laments. According to the legend, the Korinthians had stoned two of Medea’s children to death, and they had a memorial next to the Odeion. Furthermore, she had buried her other children in Hera’s sanctuary herself, thinking that buried there they would become immortal, according to Pausanias.340 He comments on the Korinthians’ stoning of Medea’s children: But as their death was violent and illegal, the young babies of the Korinthians were destroyed by them until, at the command of the oracle, yearly sacrifices were established in their honour, and a figure of Terror was set up. This figure still exists, being the likeness of a woman frightful to look upon...


Aesch. Ag. 121 (139, 159); Soph. Aj. 625; Eur. Hel. 171, HF. 348 f. Cry over the dead: Eur. Or. 1395. 336 Cf. Alexiou 1974: 57, 218n.10 and 60, death-reappearance/descent-ascent. See also Harrison 1977: xviii: “Le roi est mort, vive le roi”. Cf. 243, 254, 506 f., 275294. See also Dietrich 1967: 19; Triomphe 1991: Ch. 2. See Hdt. 4.188, for laments in Libya, and Gernet 1983: 247-257, cf. Aesch. Cho. 400-404, 419-421; Eur. El. 697 f. 337 Alexiou 1974: 57 f.; AP. 7.182, 7.712, cf. Il. 18.493; Hes. Sc. 274. Cf. Bion, 1.87. For hymen, see also Sissa 1984: 1119-1139, 1987: 127 ff. and 1990: 339-364. 338 Paus. 6.23,3. 339 Plut. Mor. 299b, cf. Mor. 364 f.; Paus. 6.26,1. 340 Paus. 2.3,6-8, see however Eur. Med. 1378-1383 (she killed them herself). See Philostr. Her. 207K for a peculiar Roman parallel cited by Dowden 1989: 231n.22.


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We also learn that, included in the custom of offering sacrifices to the children of Medea, the Korinthians’ children cut their own hair in honour of them and wear black mourning clothes. Aelian also tells us that “A tradition has it that the bad reputation of Medea is undeserved. It was not she who killed her children, but some Korinthians.” He continues: “But they say that on account of the crime against the children, the Korinthians even today perform rites in their honour, as they were paying debt to them.”341 The annual festival in Korinth was probably an atonement ceremony. In Sikyon, they performed an annual ceremony dedicated to the former king, Adrastos, according to Herodotus, who adds that laments were also a part of the ritual at the Dionysos festival in Sikyon, when the tragic dances for Adrastos were transferred to Dionysos.342 We encounter the strong connection between the cult of the hero and other vegetation Goddesses and Gods. At the Eleusinian Mysteries, the lamentation and searching for the dead KorƝ constituted an important part of the mystical drama about Demeter and her daughter, KorƝ. The Demeter hymn presents the mother’s lament over her dead daughter as it was ritually enacted at the women’s festivals.343 Today the festival dedicated to Lazaros is called “the First Easter”, and many of the symbols we encounter in this festival are related to both the fertility and death cults as well as to healing. The dead Lazaros parallels both Christ and the ancient Adonis.344 Furthermore, during the Kalogeros festival, the most important ritual is when the protagonist, the Kalogeros, is carried to the mud, where he is immersed three times. To do the ritual properly, he is laid on his back in the narrow trench or furrow, which has been ploughed in the field. When I attended the festival in 1992, it seemed difficult to carry out the ritual properly in the mud, but the mud is in fact of the greatest importance. This act symbolises the death and resurrection of the Kalogeros, and is the most important and tragic part of the play. When he comes back to life after having been in the underworld fighting with the evil forces, i.e. Death, he is washed with water from the village’s water tank, “so it will rain during the summer”, as everybody says while completing the ceremony. The lament for the dead Kalogeros has traditionally been important during the time he is in the underworld, 341

Ael. VH. 5.21. Hdt. 5.67, also for the following. 343 See also supra and cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 5 for sources to the Eleusinian Mysteries. 344 MichaƝl-Dede 1987: 71-74; Megas 1992: 147-150; Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 7982; MelikƝ 1984: 65-111. 342

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although it was not so obvious when I attended the festival, since there is no wedding in the version of the ritual celebrated in MelikƝ, and accordingly no widow to lament her dead husband.345 The lament for Kalogeros and other similar festivals are, however, parallels to the ancient Adonis and other vegetation Gods regarding both the ritual and the period of the year, around the spring equinox and the sprouting of the grain. The resurrection of Kalogeros, Christ, Dionysos Zagreus,346 Persephone and Adonis symbolise the same thing: a divinity dies in her or his golden youth, is lamented, and raised from the dead, hailed by everyone as a source of new life. K. Makistou presents the myth about Dionysos Zageus somewhat differently from the usual accounts, since he clearly separates Dionysos and Zagreus. According to him, Zagreus was the son of Persephone and Zeus in the form of a serpent.347 The Titans killed the Zagreus child, whom the “almighty” Zeus had hidden in a cave because the chthonic Moirai or Fates had other plans. This happened despite the fact that Zagreus transformed himself into an ox, and both Athena and Apollo tried to help him. They only managed to rescue some parts of the body of the God-child from the Titans. Among these was the heart, which still throbbed. Zeus swallowed the heart and gave birth to the child reborn as Iakchos. According to Makistou, this Iakchos is mixed up with Dionysos (Bakchos), and he was present at the Eleusinian Mysteries. As a result of his own experiences, he protected cults in which regeneration was a central theme. His dismembering carried out by the Titans had also made him immortal. In addition, Makistou presents several interesting parallels between Zagreus and the place called Zagrea on Lesbos, where they celebrate a local “Kalogeros” called the Titan.348 Makistou is influenced here by the Orphic tradition, according to which the Dionysos child is torn to pieces by the Titans, who cook and eat him. Only his heart remains intact, and from this he is reconstructed by the other Gods.349 In both modern and ancient festivals and burials, we encounter the same relationship between death and birth.350 Customary prayers to the 345 See however, Dawkins 1906: 200 Fig. 7, cf. Kakouri 1965: Fig. 61; ThrakiǀtƝs 1991: 105-139. Cf. Psychogiou 2011. 346 Alexopoulos 1993: 87. Cf. Motte 1973: 50-52, 190-193, 270-272; ScottBillmann 1987: Ch. 4. 347 Makistou 1970: 198 f. He is influenced by the Orphic tradition: Clem. Al. Protr. 2.15P, cf. Håland 2011c. 348 Makistou 1970: 198 f., also discussed in Håland 2011d: Ch. 4. 349 Cf. Clem. Al. Protr. 2.18P. 350 Cf. Plut. Sol. 21.1 and 4 f. and Alexiou 1990: 119n.19; Hirschon 1989: 198201.


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earth that are documented in inscriptions from the fifth century BCE and later relate burial with other women’s rituals involving fertility. Women’s role is also central to the connection between grief and love concerning Adonis, marriage and death.351 Although men carry out the burial itself, it seems that, in general and at every stage in the burial ceremony, women have traditionally performed not only the leading role as the performers of laments, but also one closely related to their participation in festivals involving death and fertility, as mentioned in connection with the Adonis festival. In the female festivals, the Thesmophoria, the Haloa and the Mysteries at Eleusis dedicated to Demeter, the Anthesteria dedicated to Dionysos and the aforementioned Adǀnia, we encounter a direct connection between rituals performed for different divinities, particularly a Goddess who mourns someone who has died. While during the Anthesteria the women summon the God Dionysos up from the underworld through the ritual in the Marshes (en limnais), the Mysteries at Eleusis also connect the resurrected Zagreus, named Iakchos and recognised as Dionysos, with Demeter and her lost daughter, and dramatise the link between fertility and death. Adonis was not only Aphrodite’s lover, but, in his Syrian appearance as Tammuz, also a son whose worshippers participated in his mother’s/lover’s lament over his death. The mid-winter Dionysos celebration, particularly in Delphi,352 but also the vernal Anthesteria festival, connected Dionysos to the underworld and the dead. We also encounter the cult and the relationship between Dionysos and Demeter through the women’s festivals dedicated to Dionysos-Sabazios and Adonis. In Aristophanes, the two divinities seem to be identical, a fact that clarifies the relationship between Dionysian possession353 and the laments for a dead God. Dionysos’/Iakchos’ relation with Demeter in the Mysteries at Eleusis also connects him to the underworld and the women’s rituals, which is moreover clearly concretised in the Bakchai. In both periods, we are presented with the mythical and ritual lament in front of an image depicting a God. As recently as 1992 in Olympos on Holy Friday, the women were lamenting their own recently deceased, who were represented in the pictures attached to the Epitaphios. The grief the women evidently felt for their own dead was apparent not only from the mourning in the church, but also during the procession, when the priest stopped in front of the houses of people with newly deceased family 351

Cf. Aesch. Cho. 125 ff.; AP. 6.231, 7.657 and Motte 1973. See also Bérard 1984: 92-103; Håland 2007a: Ch. 5 f. 352 Plut. Mor. 365a. 353 Eur. Bacc. 1075 ff.; Ar. Lys 387-397 (Sabazian mysteries and laments for Adonis). Cf. Ar. Ran. 159 ff., 397-415 (Dionysos and Demeter).

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members and performed a blessing. In Olympos, then, people mourn their own dead rather than lamenting the distant abstraction, Jesus Christ. On the other hand, the resurrection here too symbolises hope for the worshippers. Grief is followed by the lighting of a new candle, and the call announcing the resurrection of the divinity, today as in antiquity, guarantees renewal and resurrection for all living facets of nature. The ancient Hades was known not only as the insatiable Homeric destroyer of life, the traditional enemy personified, but also as the chthonic God who regenerated life. Since the lives he seized were always returned, he was also Pluto, the giver of all gifts, the great benefactor, the large cornucopia symbolising his ability to grant abundance. This generosity is illustrated by the myths about Persephone and Adonis, who both returned to life.354 According to Heraklitos, Dionysos and Hades were one and the same person.355 On the other hand, this general male reading of the myths cannot conceal—at least in the first myth dealing with Persephone—that Hades and his ally Zeus encountered a stronger power in the mourning Demeter, who destroyed all plant life on earth in her grief and had to be reconciled before the earth could sprout again. The male Hades has his parallel in Mother Earth, the nourishing mother of all,356 who reclaims everyone. This view is in evidence when the aforementioned woman whispers that the same earth that fed the deceased will later devour the same person. Hades is totally absent in this picture.357 Plutarch’s essay, Isis and Osiris is important in regard to the death cult as well as to the relationships between women and death, men and women, and popular and elite religion, as I have shown in another context.358 While he condemns the ancestor cult, or mediators, in his discussion of popular cults in Egypt, he talks positively about his own Greek ancestors.359 For Plutarch, the female celebration of the Thesmophoria is normal,360 but in accordance with his official religion, he is critical of rituals that are contrary to Olympian ideals. Festivals connected with the opposite of Olympian Gods (i.e. chthonic forces) are, for example, celebrated on days of ill omen, and beatings, lamentations, fasting, 354

HHD. 460-406, cf. Eur. Alc. 851-854; Hes. Op. 465 f. (and Th. 972), ARV 1191,1 (vs. Clinton 1996: 167) vs. the destroyer of life: Il. 9.158 f. See also Brede Kristensen 1925: 130-133; Motte 1973: 233-279. 355 Heraclit. Fr. 15 =127, see also Jeanmaire 1991: 56; Lyons 1997: 119. 356 Aesch. PV. 90, 211 f., Sept. 16 ff.; HH 30. 1 ff., cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 6n.211. 357 Cf. also Håland 2007a: Ch. 6. 358 Håland 2011f, cf. Plut. Mor. 351c-384c. 359 Plut. Mor. 611de, 612a vs. 351c-384c, cf. the following. 360 Plut. Mor. 378de69.


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scurrilous language, or ribald jests are associated with them.361In other contexts, these are elements associated with female fertility Goddesses, such as Demeter, who is worshipped by women alone. This may be an important reason for his critical comments on female rituals, since he, as a man, simply cannot know what happens in them. On the other hand, he does not deny the importance of Mother Goddesses, since he at the same time informs us about Isis, who recovered and nurtured the rests (of Osiris) after Typhon’s destructions.362Furthermore, Plutarch tells us: “we [all] make the best of a life in the embrace of mother earth”.363 As mentioned in the previous chapter, the term Epitaphios is central to the relationship of the aspects linked to the death cult. We encounter all the elements that the term signifies—dirge, funeral, epitaph, tombstone— in the modern Epitaphios dedicated to Christ as it is presented in Olympos, and Tinos, to a lesser degree. Also in Olympos, pictures of women’s own deceased are attached to the tomb of the deceased mediator. Perhaps this constitutes an implicit request that he will bring their dead up from the earth when he is resurrected, and an echo of the information from my female informant on Tinos in 2012, who told me that “the Panagia asks Christ to go down and set free the souls”. This line of thought is further illustrated by the priests busy at the cemetery and ossuaries at Agia Triada on Holy Friday. The meaning of the picture is also encountered in the image of Adonis, in front of which the celebrants lamented at his ancient festival. Once people’s own dead and the vegetation Gods have been lamented and buried, we have come full circle, and the next chapter will move to the cemetery where the following rituals take place.

361 Plut. Mor. 361ab. However, some of the divinities are, of course, also chthonic, see Håland 2007a: Ch. 1 and 6 for discussion. 362 Plut. Mor. 375c, cf. 356f for Anubis. See also Ch. 6 infra for Osiris. Typhon for Plutarch is SƝth of the Egyptians. 363 Plut. Mor. 954b20.


Both pre-Christian and Christian laws banned women’s memorial services for the dead and their accompanying gifts, but other written texts, as well as vases1 and similar modern memorial rituals, demonstrate another reality: the importance of the actual rituals performed by women. Therefore, attention also has to be paid to aspects of the Greek death cult such as the meals on the tombs and their ingredients, or the memorial rituals following burial with gifts, the days dedicated to the dead, and various symbols such as statues, pictures/photographs or the bones of the deceased. While the bones will be examined in the next chapter, the other topics will be discussed here. Tombs and gifts are important factors in connection with the death cult: the shape and decoration of the tomb are concrete gifts from the living to the dead. In ancient and contemporary Greece, the gifts dedicated at the tombs reveal much about beliefs concerning the afterlife, thus supplementing the inscriptions. In ancient Greece, we meet the standardised kouros (youth) or vase paintings.2 In addition to food and libations, the ancient grave gifts might consist of cuttings of hair, ribbons, wreaths— particularly myrtle wreaths—flowers, cloths, and small ceramic vessels. Among Hellenistic grave offerings from Athens, we find a gold wreath from an ash urn.3 Ancient people also lit torches and lamps on the tombs.4 1

ARV 746,4, 748,1; for texts, see, e.g., Aesch. Cho. 129 f. See infra for further sources, cf. Ch. 4 supra. 2 Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 20 (Kouros marking the grave of Kroisos), cf. pl. 19 f. (the stele of Aristion); pl. 30 (the gravestone of Eupheros, shown holding a strigil). See also n.3 infra. 3 Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 39, see also pls. 26 f., 63, 84 f., cf. 104-106, 147 f.,167, 299, see also ARV 743,5, 845,168, 754,14, 997,156, 1227,1, 1227,9, 1372,3, 1384,18, 1516,80. See also Eur. Phoen. 682-690; Aesch. Cho. 125 ff., Pers. 522526, 610-623; Soph. El. 894-914; Eur. El. 324 f., IT. 159-180; Thuc. 3.58; AP. 7.187; Ar. Lys. 600-605. See also Rehm 1994: 28; Greco Pontrandolfo/Rouveret 1982: 299-317. 4 Alexiou 1974: 7 f.


Chapter Five

Today, we observe photos at the tombs, and gifts ranging from a packet of John Players cigarettes, to sweets or toys such as small toy cars, depending on the age and taste of the deceased.

Figure 27. Some gifts, “Matchbox cars”, at a child’s tomb. 1st Cemetery, Athens, 1992.

Little Nico, who died when he was six years old in 1991, received an abundance of flowers on his grave, along with marble plates on which were inscribed verses and words in remembrance of the little boy. Toy motorbikes were parked on the tomb and flutes were hanging from a green bush. A black toy airplane was “parked” on evergreen plants along with a letter from his older brother. Around the burning flame in the lamp, four small “matchbox cars” were parked (Fig. 27) alongside a figurine of a policeman. A packet with even newer “matchbox cars” had not yet been opened. In addition, Nico’s tomb received a bag of sweets and a lollipop,

Tombs and Gifts


chewing gum and a bar of milk chocolate. We encounter a clear example of all the food that might be offered on the tomb. Actually, I went to Nico’s tomb at the 1st Cemetery in Athens for several years, and there was always an abundance of gifts. Contrary to the general custom, he was not exhumed and placed in the ossuary. In 2004, his father joined him in the grave, and many gifts were present in 2012 and later. In Greece, it is customary to offer long kerchiefs (headscarves) to the saints; they are draped over or around the icons, such as in Agia ElenƝ and Olympos respectively. In Arkadia people also put symbolic kerchiefs on the tombs of the deceased: the young receive red kerchiefs, the old men dark kerchiefs and young girls receive white ones, symbolising the life stages of the deceased.5 In the cemetery in Tinos town in 2012, a man who had died in his fifties a year earlier received a shawl with the logo of Olympiakos, his favourite football team. The occasions of the gift giving, the memorial celebrations dedicated to the deceased, are related to the grave inscriptions narrating the deceased’s achievements in life such as a victory in the ancient world,6 or the university exams passed by a student in contemporary Areopolis in Mani. The inscription on the gravestone of one young man (b. 24.02.54, d. 02.12.74), for example, who died at the age of twenty, indicates that he had studied philosophy for three years at the University of Athens. Contrary to the general custom, which is to inscribe the death date and age of the deceased, we also learn his exact birth date. I visited the tomb in 1992, and realised that the family tomb had later developed around it. This student of philosophy was evidently extraordinary: a raised statue depicting a woman, i.e. the youth’s mother, looks down on photos depicting the deceased. The scene is reminiscent of a lament from the Mani area, in which it is also said: “You thought good parents, that to make him a professor would give you in return a good old age”.7 The content of this lament parallels other laments in connection with status and the ancient liturgies, as mentioned in the previous chapter. It is also customary to decorate tombstones with professional symbols indicating the occupation of the deceased in earthly life. In the cemetery of the village of Pyrgos on Tinos, many gravestones state the occupations of the deceased, such as sea captain, shoemaker, marble worker, pharmacist, or tailor, and so on. Formerly, a ABC book among the sewing tools might also suggest that a tailor was literate and simultaneously also a clerk or 5

MeraklƝs 1984: 40 f. AP. 7.724. 7 Seremetakis 1991: 132 f. 6


Chapter Five

secretary.8 At the women’s tombs, however, the tools related to the female crafts used to be depicted, most often the distaff and the spindle. Actually, spinning has traditionally been so gender-stereotyped that even in burials of the Dark Ages (ca. 1200-800 BCE), spindle whorls served to identify corpses as female.9 Today, photographs on the tombs may also indicate professions of the deceased. In the cemetery in the modern town of Tinos, the maritime profession is illustrated by the picture of a dead captain in his uniform, receiving good luck on his last journey, while the photograph on another tomb indicates a priest. In modern Athens the former profession of, for example, a female medical doctor, politician or lawyer is often announced in an inscription accompanied with an appropriate picture.

Figure 28. The small enclosure on a woman’s tomb, Areopolis 1992.

Although the 1st Cemetery in modern Athens at the time of writing in 2011-13 is becoming increasingly packed with graves, in general there are few tombs at the Greek cemeteries, and some of them are empty. On the graves that are occupied there are photographs portraying the deceased, and usually some plastic or fresh flowers. Along with other gifts, these are kept in a small altar or enclosure on the tombs. Aikaterinas G. Palli, who 8 9

PhlǀrakƝ 1980: 147 and pl. (i.e. eik.) 232. Håland 2006b: Fig. 7; PhlǀrakƝ 1980: 147.

Tombs and Gifts


died when she was seventy-five years old, was provided with her glasses and watch in the small enclosure on her tomb that holds an icon, three red carnations, some green branches, and a bottle of oil, some boxes with incense, matches and coal for the ever-burning lamp (Fig. 28). Soap, cif scouring cream, plastic gloves and a dishcloth lie ready in small depositories on the flanks or at the back of the tombs, so the marble can be kept clean. Here are the implements needed for the memorial ceremonies: oil, a censer, a lighter, sometimes wine, silver-wrapped cakes, etc. These small depositories on the modern tombs parallel the ancient vases and pots, some of which were depositories for other items necessary in the tomb cult.10

Women at the Cemetery on Saturday Mornings and Modern Memorial Celebrations People I talk with at the various cemeteries do not always use the word nekrotapheio, when talking about the cemetery, but may instead use the word koimƝtƝrio, which also means cemetery (i.e. “sleeping place”, cf. koimƝsƝ), and is a more official and formal word. Every Saturday morning a crowd of women in black, move towards the cemetery to clean and take care of their graves. On Saturday 24 March 2012, the black-clad mother, sister and little nephew of Anna Lenontakiankos who died on 3 January 2012 at the age of thirty-eight, arrive at the cemetery in Tinos town to clean the tomb. As Anna’s mother approaches the grave, she greets her dead daughter, saying “gia sou, Anna” (hi, Anna). Her grandson asks, “what did you say”? His grandmother replies, “I said ‘gia sou, Anna’”. When she arrives at the tomb, she caresses the photograph of her daughter several times, and lays down some yellow spring flowers next to the picture. Her daughter lights the censer, which she puts next to the picture and the flowers. The mother fetches water and they start to clean the grave. The little boy does not understand how his grandmother can talk with Anna, but she continues talking with her dead daughter while arranging flowers in the various pots that decorate the grave. Two days later, Anna’s sister and another friend also arrive at the tomb with flowers. The latter caresses the photo of Anna. On the celebration of the three months ritual, Anna receives a big wreath and many flowers on her tomb, and two lamps are lit in its small enclosure, while usually on other tombs only one lamp is lit. Just as the Panagia is believed to reside in her icon, it is quite clear the same pertains to the deceased and her or his picture at the 10

Cf. also Hägg 1987: 98.


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tomb. Anna’s family are not alone at the cemetery the aforementioned Saturday; as mentioned above, women attend the cemetery every Saturday morning, thus demonstrating their “poetics of womanhood” by their cleaning-abilities when washing the tombs before they arrange their food offerings. The ritual cleaning of the grave is particularly important, as is also the custom of carrying food to the grave: the women thus maintain the social relations with their dead. Both themes frequently appear in laments and indicates that the two rituals are closely related, today as in the ancient world.11 A mother sitting by the tomb of her deceased child in modern Serres might parallel an ancient figurine that illustrates the mourning next to the grave stƝlƝ.12 Formerly, many Maniot women were likely to spend the night at the cemetery, particularly if they only had one child and that child died, bringing bedclothes with them to the child’s tomb. “If God was raining,” these covered the grave so water would not get in.13 After the burial, certain memorial rituals must be performed at the tomb combined with the offering of more material gifts. Today, the official mourning period generally lasts three years. Memorial rituals are performed on the third, ninth and fortieth day following burial. One may compare the individual rituals with the Resurrection of Christ on the third day and Ascension Day forty days later. The deceased is also honoured every sixth months for three years, the anniversary of the death day being particularly important. There are also services honouring the dead three months and nine months after burial. Maniots living in Athens return home to their natal villages for two events: olive harvesting and mortuary ceremonies. They return to Mani not only for burials, but also for the following memorials. As one woman from Mani explains, it is necessary to return home to Mani for the death day anniversaries of her relatives because the custom has been inherited from her ancestors.14 It is worth noting that legacy is also the reason for preserving old important customs, nowadays as in the ancient world.15 During the three years before the bones are exhumed, Nikolaos Melas’ widow will visit his tomb every day, at least once a day, to grieve and care for her deceased husband. In the first forty days that are consecrated to mourning and seclusion, she burns an oil lamp in front of the picture of her husband in her house. Then, she brings the picture to the cemetery on the fortieth day, when the male descendants ceremonially dedicate the 11

Cf. Danforth 1982: Ch. 4 and Rehm 1994: Ch. 1 f. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 44. 13 Seremetakis 1991: 173. 14 Seremetakis 1991: 168 f., cf. 46. 15 Lys. 2.81. 12

Tombs and Gifts


gravestone.16 On this day, they pray that the earth will accept the deceased. The widow will wear black mourning clothes, and although the fortieth day ritual terminates the first period of mourning and seclusion, she might wear black clothes for the rest of her life (i.e. if she does not remarry). The dominating role of women in the mourning rituals appears throughout the Mediterranean area, and is particularly illustrated by the women “carrying the death with them” through their black mourning clothes.17 Hence, the female body provides a significant source for social symbolism: it plays an important role in the “poetics of womanhood”, because bodies have social meanings that may be used in public performances. In Greece, the female body both creates and represents the family and social relations in a variety of contexts. By wearing black mourning clothes when a family member dies, women become highly visible symbols of mourning, thus of the kinship relations between the deceased and the living. The importance of women’s black mourning clothes is stated in ancient traditional sources from Homer, when Thetis puts on mourning clothes for her dead son, but is criticised by Plutarch.18 Today, the black-clad Athenian women who arrive at the cemetery carrying candles, flowers and food offerings, may be compared with the women in Olympos on their way to the cemetery and the pilgrims who go to Tinos with their gifts to the holy icon of the Annunciation. An ancient parallel is Elektra who along with her maidens goes to Agamemnon’s tomb bearing grave offerings, as the ritual is presented by Aeschylus’ Choephoroi, but many scenes from vases also help to fill in the picture (Fig. 29). One of these also shows Elektra and Orestes cutting a lock of hair to be offered at their father’s tomb.19 The black-clad women are related to mourning and suffering, and complaints about suffering are especially expressed by women lamenting their dead, both during and after the washing, anointing and dressing of the corpse in clean robes, as illustrated in the previous chapter. Women also 16

Cf. Hirschon 1983: 119. See Ch. 4 supra for the burial of Nikolaos Melas. Bloch 1982: 226. Particularly Seremetakis 1991 has theorised on the nature and meanings of clothing in the modern Greek context. See also Athanasiou 2007: Ch. 8, re contemporary protesting “Women in Black” (cf. also Holst-Warhaft 2000). On page 225 and n.3 she discusses black-clad mourning women and its symbolic meaning in the Mediterranean and the Balkans. She also refers to Neni Panourgia who claims that the dressing in black also means that the dead no longer have any desires, right or existence. I doubt my Athenian female informants would accept this view, particularly the women I spoke with at the 1st Cemetery in Athens over the years, also in 2011-2013, cf. Håland 2012d. 18 Plut. Mor. 608f4 vs. Il. 24.93 f. See also Fig. 29 infra. 19 ARV 1516,80. 17


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suffer in pilgrimage. But we encounter the same complaints in relation to problems of everyday life, since they call attention to what women must endure in order to carry out their roles as wives and mothers. All these examples are part of the available “cultural material” upon which women may draw for the creation of the “poetics of womanhood”. Suffering as expressed through verbal complaint, the body and ritual actions is an expression of social identity among women. Sappho illustrates this.20

Figure 29. A black-clad woman depicted on a funerary white-ground lƝkythos. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 2021). © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.

The idiom of suffering is particularly important in the context of women’s roles. For many women, the points of both tension and fulfilment centre around motherhood and familial responsibilities. The body plays a particularly important role in these expressions of suffering, whether it is 20

See Ch. 4 supra for Sappho. Fr.103.

Tombs and Gifts


through the wearing of black mourning clothes, or the many expressions of the ways women suffer in the process of bodily reproduction.21 In modern Greece, we find the verb ponǀ, meaning to suffer or feel pain. Suffering or feeling pain is one of the important ways of expressing the “poetics of womanhood”. From my earlier fieldwork on Tinos, I often remember the mother of the dead Panagiotis crying both in public and in private, holding her hand to her heart while saying “ponǀ”, meaning “I have pain I suffer”. In ancient society, ponos described motherly suffering generally.22 The same word signifies a woman in labour. In contemporary Greece, a woman makes a public performance when crawling on her knees to the church with a sick child on her back in the hope of healing it, but the action takes its validity through the sacrifice and suffering of the self on behalf of others. Through her maternal role, the mother’s own body is repeatedly offered as a sacrifice, and this sacrifice may be dramatised in women’s pilgrimage to the shrine dedicated to the Annunciation of the Panagia on Tinos. In Greece, a suffering mother may give public performances of “being good at being a woman”. Her “public” audience are usually other women, who share her “public” space, interests and value-system and therefore are interested in competing with her performance of “being good at being a woman”. In fact, many aspects of a woman’s housewifely abilities may be publicly displayed, for example, such as her cleaning abilities when washing her family tomb at the cemetery every Saturday morning.23 These women may be compared with the women who visit memorials on ancient vase paintings (Fig. 30).24 Furthermore, ancient women going on pilgrimage, celebrating the Thesmophoria and other female festivals such as the Adǀnia25 were parallels to the modern women going to Tinos during the Dormition of the Panagia, or lamenting their dead in front of the Epitaphios in Olympos. During the burial period, special prayers are performed. Most people assume that the prayers performed by the living will help the deceased to be forgiven for their sins and reach their final goal, the paradise. The theologians, however, maintain that death is the end, and that people will be judged by the life they have lived, although very few accept these ideas. On the anniversary of the death day, people may arrange water and wine in 21

Dubisch 1995: Ch. 10. Plut. Mor. 496de, cf. 771b; Sappho. Fr. 42, cf. 28, 118b. For Panagiotis’ mother, see also Håland 2007a: Ch. 6, 2011f. 23 As illustrated on Fig. 3 Ch. 1 supra. 24 ARV 746,4, 845,168, 748,1. 25 Theoc. Id. 15. Thesmophoria: Plut. Mor. 378e69; pilgrimage: Mor. 253f, 953cd. 22


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the house and at the tomb, so the soul of the deceased might come to quench its thirst. The tomb is decorated with flowers, the priest sings a blessing and the women sing laments. In the church, they offer kollyba, sometimes the variant in which the blanched wheat is mixed with pounded walnuts, raisins and parsley, covered with powdered sugar. When the kollyba has been prepared the sign of the cross is made over the dish; sometimes, the initials of the deceased are written with the raisins.26

Figure 30. A woman visiting a tomb with offerings, funerary white-ground lƝkythos (ca. 440 BCE). National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 1935). © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.


Sanders 1962: 273, 183, cf. Blum/Blum 1970: 69 f.; Alexiou 1974: 46 f.; Lawson 1910: 533 f.

Tombs and Gifts


When visiting the grave of Iakǀbos BidalƝ who died on 18 February 2012 at the age of eighty-four, one month later, on 23 March, the tombstone has already been erected, and a picture of the deceased as a young and handsome man is placed in the small enclosure on his tomb, along with the ever-burning lamp, a censer, a vase with flowers, tissues, a bottle with oil, and an empty jam jar with pieces of incense. His forty-day ritual is celebrated on 1 April. After the usual ritual in the church with kollyba, he receives a big wreath and flowers on his tomb. On 31 July 2011, the forty-day memorial (40n thƝmero mnƝmosyno, also called sarantaƝmero mnƝmosyno or ta saranta) for Petros ApergƝs, who died when he was seventy-eight years old, takes place at 10:15 am, in the church dedicated to TaxiarchƝs in Tinos town. The church is already full before the announced start of the liturgy, which starts before schedule. The closest relatives stand next to the decorated plate with kollyba, which is placed in front of the iconostasis in the middle of the church, and on which a photograph of the deceased is placed, as is the custom at all memorial rituals in the churches. The widow, daughters and a male member of the family weep throughout, and so do many other villagers. In the middle of the ceremony, many people proceed to the iconostasis to receive the Holy Communion (Eucharist), wine distributed by the priest, followed by bread, as is the usual procedure during memorial rituals. It is not compulsory for all relatives to take the Eucharist at the memorial rituals. Only those who wish to honour the memory of the deceased do so, and generally, they must have fasted previously and/or confessed. Regarding the children who receive the Holy Communion, they are in general grandchildren or others who were close to the deceased. They do not fast (except the same morning, i.e. ahead of the memorial), “since they do not carry any sin”.27Another priest walks ceremonially in procession around the holy table inside the temple, on the other side of the iconostasis that is reserved for the priests, and a third priest emerges from the hieron and proceeds towards the kollyba, in front of which he censers. When the ceremony ends around 10:45 am, the other participants, who have not received Eucharist, pass in front of the priest, and receive blessings and bread. The picture is removed from the kollyba and given to the widow, who receives condolences from those who have been blessed by the priest, while she stands in the doorway onto the courtyard of the church where people are generally treated (cf. kerasma, pl. kerasmata, i.e. treat; pouring out; of wine, for example) after the memorial rituals in this church. Some women were out in the courtyard during the ceremony. On the other side 27

I thank E. Psychogiou for this information (email communication 07.01.13).


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of the court is a small building housing a reception room, a small kitchen and an office. In general, all the relatives line up here to receive condolences, while the people who have received treatment pass in front of them offering condolences. A woman working in the church carries the kollyba outside and puts it in the usual small paper bags to be distributed to those present along with coffee, metaxa and various pastries wrapped in plastic, orange juice, and so on. The decorated upper part or cover of the kollyba is left outside the small building. On 21 August 2011, the trimƝno mnƝmosyno, third month’s memorial ceremony, is celebrated for ElenƝ Kormou at 10:15 am, in the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios in Tinos town. Here too, the church is full before the announced start of the liturgy, which also starts before schedule. Many people also stand outside of the small church. However, fewer people are present than there were at a forty-day memorial service I attended in the same church the preceding Saturday.28 Inside, many light candles, as usual, and kiss the icon of the saint. The closest relative, i.e. the son of the deceased, who is the only person mentioned in the poster announcement for the memorial, stands to the right of the decorated plate with kollyba, which is placed in front of the iconostasis in the middle of the church. There is no photograph of the deceased on top of the kollyba, contrary to the custom at memorial rituals in the churches, which leads me to wonder if the son did not wish or think to include one since it seems he returned to the island in haste. In many ways the situation points to Dubisch’ reflections in a 1989 study, “Death and Social Change in Greece”, on what will become of the memorial rituals when most people leave the island to settle down in big cities such as Athens.29 My experience is that people tend to come back for the rituals. When I arrive at the church that morning, a woman stands outside of the door at the top of the staircase leading up to the building next to the church, i.e. Enoriako kentro (parish centre for) Agios Nikolaos [and] Agios Eleutherios, [which was built in] 1991, where those who have attended are offered coffee, metaxa, cakes, and sweets after the memorial service. She is one of the women responsible for managing this ritual treatment. Inside the church, people receive the Holy Communion in front of the iconostasis, wine distributed by the priest, followed by bread distributed by another man 28

On 13 August 2011, I attended a 40-kontimera: a variant of the forty-day memorial service. According to one of my informants, a chanter from Tinos, “40kontimera” is any period lasting forty days, i.e. it may be the forty-day memorial service (the forty-day period or “sarantaƝmero” after the funeral) or the forty-day period of the fast or Lent preceding Easter Sunday. 29 Dubisch 1989.

Tombs and Gifts


standing next to him; as is the usual procedure in connection with memorial rituals. A churchwarden goes around the church distributing a sort of pamphlet or announcement. The memorial ritual starts. One priest stands in the entrance to the hieron, while the other, who was in charge last Saturday, now has a minor role and stands outside of the hieron to the left. At the end of the ceremony, he proceeds towards the kollyba, and swings the censer towards it, singing in antiphony with the chorus. An elderly woman, who was a friend of the deceased, weeps during the entire ritual. Towards the end of the ceremony, people start to talk quite loudly, and others try to calm them down. Throughout the ceremony, however, people have been going in and out of the church greeting each other, and many women sit, talk and comment, as usual. Most women are on the left side of the church, while most men are on the right in a perpetuation of earlier practices still widely adopted today.30 When the ceremony ends at 11:30 am, the participants who have not received the Eucharist pass in front of the priest and receive blessings and bread. The plate with the decorated kollyba is lifted from its decorated stand, carried out and up the stairs to the parish centre by a male churchwarden, and put in small paper bags to be distributed along with coffee, metaxa and various pastries wrapped in plastic, orange juice, and other items. An elderly woman goes around the church distributing koulouria (biscuits or small cakes) from a box from one of the patisseries in the town. The son, who remains in the church for a while, receives condolences from people before they proceed to be blessed by the priest. Then they line up on the staircase leading up to the parish centre where people are generally treated after the memorial rituals in this church. At the entrance, a woman distributes sweets and plasticwrapped koulouria in the form of braids, apparently because the deceased was a woman; this custom is also found in other villages, such as Olympos. At the counter, cups of coffee are ready, and inside people sit down around the tables and talk. Some of the women have fetched flower buds from the lilies decorating the church during the ceremony. On the other side of the church, a man puts the wreath that was decorating the plate with kollyba on his motorbike, apparently to take it to the tomb. As mentioned earlier, most people who have migrated to the cities come back to the island for memorial ceremonies, and after the ceremony, I walk along the main street with Mrs. (i.e. Kyria) Metaxa, who lives close to the cultural centre of Tinos at the harbour. According to her, “the deceased was a nice girl”. Mrs. Metaxa will go back to Athens after a month or so; 30

See Morris 1989: 319n.143 for an interesting parallel from a twelfth-century BCE shrine.


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she lives in Phaliro. This is a common habit for many people from Tinos: to live in Athens during the winter and on Tinos from March to October.31

Figure 31. A first anniversary memorial. The photo of the deceased and a wreath are placed on the kollyba during the liturgy. Tinos, 16 August 1994.

Nine days before the first anniversary memorial of the late Panagiotis Lampeas on 16 August 1994, his father attaches the announcement to the streetlamps in Tinos town. Panagiotis died on 15 August 1993, but for obvious reasons—the celebration of the Dormition festival—the memorial celebration had to be postponed until the next day. The ceremony started at 8 am with a liturgy in the church dedicated to the family’s patron saint, Agios IǀannƝs (Fig. 31). One of the youngest relatives is among those who receive Communion during the ceremony. Afterwards sirtari (wheat. Kollyba is often called sirtari, particularly on Tinos, cf. also Ch. 6 infra for makario) is distributed, on top of which the photograph of the deceased was placed during the liturgy. The visitors are treated to cakes, coffee and metaxa, and as often happens in burials many are drunk when they leave the parish centre next to the chapel. The photo, generally found at the grave, is returned there after the ceremony along with the wreath dedicated by his mother. 31

Cf. n.19 Ch. 2 supra.

Tombs and Gifts


On 9 June 2012, the etƝsio (annual anniversary memorial) in memory of the deceased Iakǀbos LoubarƝs son of Stamatelos is held at 10:00 am in the church, dedicated to Agios Eleutherios. The memorial ritual has been advertised outside the church, the cemetery and on a noticeboard next to the harbour for more than a week, and is signed by his parents, sister, brother and other relatives. Before the memorial starts, many people receive the Eucharist from the priest who stands in the main entrance to the hieron. Although it is Saturday, the church is only half full. In the middle of the church is the usual kollyba with the photo of the deceased, surrounded by flowers. The candles on each side of the kollyba are burning, and the closest relatives stand to its right, the parents of the deceased in front of the deceased’s siblings. Four priests are involved in the memorial ritual: in addition to the priest of the church, the ones from Treis Hierarches, TaxiarchƝs and one of the priests from the Church of the Annunciation are present. When blessing the deceased, the latter three emerge from the hieron, while the priest of this church stands in its main entrance throughout the ceremony. After his blessing with the censer, a churchwarden comes out from the left door of the iconostasis and passes the censer to the priest from TaxiarchƝs Church who plays the main role, standing in front of the picture of the deceased with his colleagues on each side. The memorial finishes after half an hour and everyone offers condolences to the family members and lines up to receive bread and a blessing from the priest in front of the iconostasis. Then, everyone lines up on the staircase leading up to the parish centre for treatment after the memorial ritual. The youngest couple, the sister and brother of the deceased, are the last to enter, seeing to it that everyone present is invited to coffee, metaxa and the usual cakes along with some of the kollyba. So as illustrated in the previous pages, the memorial rituals after the burials are performed on specific days, and although not all the memorials have been presented (i.e. 3rd , 9th day ritual and the 6th month ritual), it has been shown that the ceremonies in the various churches are also an integral part of the rituals, in which most of the villagers participate. We often encounter family tombs at Greek cemeteries; such tombs display the words oikogeneias (family) or oikos (house, home). Some of them actually resemble a small house or miniature temple.32 Inside these are pictures of all the late family members, paralleling, for example a traditional house in Olympos where pictures of all “those who are gone”, that is to say, who have migrated to the USA, Athens or elsewhere, or died, hang on the walls in the saloni (living room) above a kind of altar. 32

Cf. Fig. 51 Ch. 6 infra.


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Another parallel is the konaki of the Anastenarides, but also their houses, in which photos of their deceased ancestors are included next to the icons depicting their saints on the icon shelf. Such altars are the general rule in homes on Tinos, but are also common in shops or hotels, whose owners may set up a holy corner with icons of patron saints and dead ancestors. At the cemeteries, women come to tend the grave, water the plants, clean the marble and light the oil lamp in front of the icon or the picture of the deceased, in the same way as they clean the house and light the candles in front of the family’s icon(s). They carry the censer around the grave, while talking with the deceased, paralleling the way they censer the house particularly in front of the deceased’s photo.33 A person lives on as a part of a family after death; a house has a spirit and cannot live without the dead. Certain other connections exist between the family houses and the family tombs. In many places, for instance, the beds in a home will be arranged so that people sleep with their heads turned towards east: in the same direction as the corpse in the tomb.34 Moreover, the tombs are often situated so that those who are neighbours in life continue to have the same relationship in death. The topography of the cemetery is another version of the village. Some glimpses from Greek cemeteries provide a good insight into “the daily life” people have with their own deceased mediators. This pertains to people’s domestic and private rituals within the family sphere and the official psychosabbata or Soul Saturdays that are celebrated annually. Both in the large luxurious main cemetery in Athens, the 1st Cemetery, and in the smaller one in Serres in northern Greece, customary rituals are observed with the same concern as in rural Greece, although the kollyba and other grave gifts are often more standardised because of the many cemetery shops and pastry shops in the neighbourhood. In Tinos as in Athens, burials and memorials constitute a rich industry for the patisseries, and especially in Athens, many shops and establishments deal with the production and sale of these effects.35 However, in 2012-2013 many Athenian women made their own kollyba as they have always done, and boast of their recipes, most often inherited from their own mothers. At all cemeteries, the candles and censers are lit after the cleaning procedure, and at the tombs of recently deceased persons, kollyba is offered when the priest has carried out the blessing and read the words of remembrance. 33 A particularly devout person may also ask the priest to come and censer the house annually, for example, in September at the beginning of the Orthodox liturgical year. 34 Stewart 1991: 52 f., and 54 Fig. 8. 35 MeraklƝs 1984: 41 and 135 n.40.

Tombs and Gifts


Kollyba, which is usually offered at sowing and harvest to various saints and to the dead during the memorial services at the tombs, consists of boiled stewed wheat (symbolising immortality) mixed with honey or sugar, pomegranate (the symbol for abundance), cinnamon, raisins, minced walnuts (symbolising the pleasures of life), sesame, parsley, currants, etc. The mixture is decorated with powdered sugar, which in other situations symbolises the pollen of the bees. The ingredients in kollyba are also found in polysporia (poly: many, varied; spori: seed) or panspermia (pan: all, spernǀ: to sow, “all seeds”), a boiled mixture of all kinds of crops and several varieties of corn, i.e. all sorts of the fruits of the earth. Worth mentioning here is that the treating with ouzo, nuts, etc. during many of the festivals, for example the Kalogeros and the Anastenaria, parallels similar ritual distributions of sugared almonds, and other types of food, particularly sweets at other life-cycle ceremonies, such as baptisms, weddings and name days. Concerning the ingredients in the food, also paralleling the kollyba, the actual consuming also illustrates a wish for the kind of fertility to which these symbols refer. Today this mix marks the sowing season and the wish for a plentiful crop, but also the other important phases in the grain’s cycle: sprouting and harvest.36A similar mixture was known in antiquity: panspermia (“all seeds” or all kinds of grains) was offered during the Pyanepsia festival before sowing, the Anthesteria festival around sprouting, and the Thargelia festival before harvest. Since the natural cycle also depended on the participation of the dead, then as now, the same mixture was dedicated to the dead on their graves in ancient Greece,37 paralleling the modern custom when the mixture is distributed during memorial services at the cemetery. The same mixture is often dedicated to deceased saints, such as Agios Charalampos. In the village of Agia ParaskeuƝ, people say that “Agios Charalampos demands kollyba”. Also on Aegina, kollyba is distributed the day after the festival, indicating the death aspect of the festival of Agios Nektarios. The polysporia is particularly important around sowing. Although 21 November is dedicated to the Presentation of the Panagia in the Temple all over Greece, the name of the patroness and her festival is specified according to the region. By that date the good farmer, especially in northern Greece, must have sown at least half his land. Accordingly, this feast day is known in some regions as Panagia Mesosporitissa (mesos: middle, half; sporos, spora: seed, sowing, “Panagia Half-Way-Through36

Håland 2007a: Ch. 6, cf. Loukatos 1982: 150 f.; Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 223 f., 231-234. 37 Cf. Rehm 1994: 160n.41.


Chapter Five

the-Sowing”).38 In other regions, the festival is known as Panagia Archisporitissa (“Panagia the sowing begins”) or Panagia Aposporitissa (“Panagia the sowing is over”). The festival is also called Panagia Polysporitissa (poly: many, varied), because of the “offering” of the fruits of the latest harvest. It is the custom on this day to boil several varieties of corn in a large cauldron. She receives this boiled mixture comprising all sorts of the fruits of the earth, since she is the protector of the sowing.39 It is also the dish of the day, and plates are sent round to relatives and neighbours with good wishes for the crops. People offer the fruits from the latest harvest, as in connection with the ancient festivals at sowing, sprouting and harvest, to assure the future crop. On Crete, they have a rain litany during this festival, if the rains have not started. The point is the Panagia’s importance in ensuring the food supply. In 2011, I attended the festival dedicated to the Panagia Mesosporitissa in Eleusis. Inside the archaeological area in Eleusis is the church dedicated to the Panagia, where the day of the Panagia Mesosporitissa starts on 20 November. When I arrive at the site around 1:30 pm, the church is open. A little later, at 2:10 pm, a woman arrives carrying two flower wreaths, and starts to decorate the icon illustrating the Presentation of the Panagia in the Temple. She tells me that the ritual will start at around 4:20 pm. Two young girls arrive carrying flowers and are ordered by the first woman to start decorating specific icons to the left of and on the iconostasis, particularly the one depicting Anna and Joachim, the Panagia’s parents, and an older icon depicting the Presentation of the Panagia. I learnt about the ritual from my Greek colleague, the folklorist ElenƝ Psychogiou, who has included a description of the 2004 ritual in her book from 2008. Since the early 1980s, when I took some pictures of this church situated right above the cave dedicated to the ancient God Hades, I had been wondering to whom the little church was dedicated; I learned that when reading ElenƝ Psychogiou’s book. Before I went, she told me that the church and the entire archaeological site would be open until vespers and the artoklasia had finished, around 6:00 pm, but that “there is not, as you know, a certain programme for the ritual. It is connected with vespers in the Panagia’s little church and it is not exactly the same every year, because it is not a kind of ‘performance’ but a live religious ritual”. In 2004, when she arrived a little before 4:00 pm, the women offering the holy breads also started to arrive; “at this time, you can get into the 38

An alternative explanation of “Panagia Mesosporitissa” is to be in the earth, i.e. the grains, Loukatos 1982: 132 f. 39 Håland 2005, cf. Kyriakidou-Nestoros 1986: 13; Loukatos 1982: 132 f., 150 f., 198.

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archaeological area with the women and other people that go to the little church for vespers.” Arriving with the bus from Athens, I got there earlier than Psychogiou had, and strolled around in the area; after the museum closed at 3 pm, I went back to the church. Now the decorating had finished, and the decorated icon was placed outside of the church on a stand and the visiting people had already started to perform their proskynƝma in front of and particularly to kiss the icon. One of the priests had also arrived along with some helpers. A basket with bread, oil, wine and candles was placed outside of the church, next to a column. Inside the church were other bread offerings and the supplication papers or “letters” (chartia) paraklƝseis inscribed with the names of ill family members to be read out, thus blessed, by the priest.

Figure 32. The priest blesses breads and cakes on the eve of the festival dedicated to the Panagia Mesosporitissa, Eleusis, 20 November 2011.

The arriving participants brought breads to offer, particularly the round holy bread, prosphoro, which is always offered to the church and blessed by the priest. In addition, we also find sweet breads or a kind of cake sprinkled with icing sugar, which are often baked and offered at annual


Chapter Five

festivals dedicated to saints. Several women arrived with baskets, most of them filled with a variety of special decorated breads, elaborate cakes, various other sweets, olive oil and wine, and the helpers arrived with various items for the service. Many of the women carried the bread in plastic bags, and started to decorate the baskets with a cloth and candles upon arrival. The service started around 4:30 pm, and four priests participated. The leading priest had earlier been sitting outside of the church collecting the bread and papers or “letters” for the service. The breads were put into a black bin liner and brought behind the iconostasis along with the letters. The priests started the service inside the church, and came out with the censer and a candle from which the women started to light their own candles on the decorated breads. After the end of the blessing service (Fig. 32) around 5:30 pm, they started to distribute their breads, cakes and other items to each other. The officiating priest had only blessed one of the breads, symbolically, as it would have been unfeasible to bless all the breads and cakes present. Before the end of the liturgy, the evening liturgy is announced for 9 pm, while the liturgy the next day will start around 8:30 am: this is the main liturgy during the feast. Outside of the archaeological area, some women serve tea and soup when the liturgy is over. Several women said there used to be more breads and cakes; others said there were many people that day since it was a Sunday. In ancient Greece, during Demeter’s festival at the time of sowing, a general mixture of the edible plants to be sown was boiled and offered to the Goddess, and her worshippers also partook of it, while praying for a renewal of these crops the next year. The ritual was repeated around sprouting in January and before the harvest in May-June. The same ingredients are found in the thanks offering to Demeter on the Eleusinian kernos by those about to be initiated into the Mysteries (the Mystai).40 The similarity of the boiled meal in the festival dedicated to the Presentation of the Panagia in the Temple illustrates that the mother of Christ has taken over the functions of an older pre-Christian chthonic Mother Goddess, and its ingredients further draw attention to the ancient Goddess of the corn crop, Demeter, who was particularly worshipped in Eleusis. Like the aforementioned Panagia, the other dead may also be mediators between God and humans to ensure rain at sowing time, the most decisive period of the year’s passage. So, around the time of sowing, people exhume a skull from a grave and put it into a basin with water, to dissolve 40 Kernoi (pl.) were circular earthenware dishes to which were attached numerous tiny cups. See Parke 1986: pl. 22.

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the ancestral sins. In this way, they end the anger of God, “so he rains”.41 The custom might be compared to the death cult found in other places in Greece today, such as in Serres where the dead are mediators between humans and God. In addition to the individual memorial rituals, the deceased also receive food offerings on their tombs on Christmas Eve. On the psychosabbata, All Souls’ Days, all the deceased are honoured with the annual rituals and it is necessary to carry out these rituals to respect the rules.42 The days for the ceremonies are often labelled by their old names, and people do not always use the official Christian terms. The relations between the popular death cult that is carried out within the domestic sphere and the official festivals is clearly illustrated by the ritual called the “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia” on 23 August, celebrated annually nine days after the Panagia’s death or “Dormition” on 15 August, as described in the previous chapter.

“Soul Saturdays”: Psychosabbata In addition to the memorial services performed within the family sphere, there are annual collective festivals dedicated to the dead. Particular days are dedicated to the dead, as at the ancient Anthesteria, but today these festivals are called psychosabbata, Soul Saturdays or All Souls’ Days. The psychosabbata are celebrated when the flowers and the green grain stalks are proliferating and at harvest time. According to Danforth, a fifth psychosabbato is celebrated on Saturday before the day of Agios DƝmƝtrios on 26 October, although he does not give any references for this event. However, the ritual in the northern part of Greece is indeed different from the customs elsewhere.43According to a local custom, for instance, in a village close to Thessaloniki, people celebrate psychosabbato during autumn on the Saturday either prior to or after the celebration of Agios DƝmƝtrios, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. This custom is shared in Epirus, where a psychosabbato is commonly celebrated on the Saturday prior to or after the most important local or patron saint’s day. According 41

Kyriakidou-Nestoros 1986: 125; Håland 2005. Seremetakis 1991: 168 f.; Danforth 1982: 43-47; Blum/Blum 1970: 313n.2, cf. Sanders 1962: 273 f. For the following, see Alexiou 1974: 47, cf. Blum/Blum 1970: 167-169, 67 f. 43 This was emphasised by the priest in the church dedicated to Agia Marina in Athens during a conversation on 7 March 2013. Although raised in Germany he learned this during his studies in Thessaloniki, and I would like to thank him for clearing up this question for me, since I had problems finding out what calendar Danforth follows in his 1982-publication, cf. infra. 42


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to a priest, “this is a local custom that people have observed for several hundred years, and although it is not a custom within the official Orthodox Church it would be wrong to deny people from observing their age old local custom”.44 However, my presentation of the psychosabbata mainly follows the official Greek Orthodox calendar, whose celebrations are generally in common with the popular calendar, although the latter usually adds two Saturdays.45 Interestingly, a psychosabbato celebrated in October corresponds to the time of sowing, and this northern celebration is also found in Bulgaria. Three psychosabbata, All Souls’ Days, are connected to the official worship of the church: the Saturday before the first Sunday of Apokreos, carnival; the Saturday after Shrove Monday (Kathara Deutera, Clean Monday), which is the Saturday of “ton Agion Theodǀron”, and the Saturday before the Pentecost. But in the folk customs, all Saturdays of Apokreos, and especially the Saturday of the third week of Apokreos, which is sometimes called “ton Agoon Theodǀron”, are considered psychosabbata. In other words, by the end of winter the two final Saturdays during Carnival, i.e. “Meat Saturday” and “Cheese Saturday”, and the first Saturday in Lent (i.e. “the Great Lent”) are called psychosabbata, “Soul Saturdays”.46 The souls of the dead are generally thought to be set free during the first week of carnival. They wander among the living. Accordingly, people say, “May God forgive the souls of the dead”, when the carnival pig has been slaughtered, the carnival meal starts and people take the first mouthful of meat. On Thursday in the “Meat Week”, the second week of 44 See previous note for the priest. This is, in fact, a new thinking from the official church, compared to what I experienced from some priests in 1992, and conform to my experiences from the celebration of the ritual dedicated to the Life-Giving Spring in the Akropolis’ cave-church, and may be due to the fact that the priests are more educated today, cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 2 and 4, 2009a. Cf. Ch. 8 infra. 45 Personal information from researchers at the Academy of Athens Hellenic Folklore Research Centre, i.e. Maria Androulaki (email communication 03.06.11) and ElenƝ Psychogiou (several pers. comms. 2011-12). I have also been discussing the topic with other Greek researchers and students (as Giǀrgos DoulphƝs, Irene G. Fanerou). Cf. also Agiologion 2011 and 2013; Papoutsis 1982: 31; Loukatos 1985: 152-158; Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 52, 120-122; Megas 1992: 113 f., 132; Aranca 1968: 57-58; Sanders 1962: 270-274, vs. Danforth 1982: 56 f. (unfortunately, he does not give any sources). Regarding his statement, I met a Bulgarian scholar (Dr. Vihra Baeva) at the Ritual Year-conference in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in 2012, who had the same opinion, cf. the following and supra. I have however never come across the autumnal custom, although I have carried out fieldwork in the northern part of Greece and also read much ethnographic research literature on the region. 46 Loukatos 1985: 152-155. Re the spelling, “ton Agoon Theodǀron”, I have this information from Maria Androulaki.

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carnival, people often give rice and meat to the poor in memory of the dead.47 During carnival the living are expected to celebrate and rejoice over life, but they must not forget their dead. In 2012, Apokreos was celebrated from Sunday 5 February until Sunday 26 February. Both in Athens and on Tinos official programmes covered the period from Saturday 11 February onward. On Tinos, the 11 February programme invited children to decorate the town: various carnival figures are placed all over the town, in shops, restaurants, and in the streets. Diverse activities take place all over the island during the carnival period until Clean Monday,48 and the first psychosabbato fell on 18 February. The first week of carnival is known as the “ProphǀnƝ” (from prophǀnǀ, to address, to announce), because carnival is announced. The second week is the “Meat Week” and the last is the “Cheese Week”, which is an introduction to and preparation for the Lenten fast. In the Church of the Annunciation on Tinos, the celebration of the first psychosabbato started, as usual, on the eve of the celebration, i.e. on Friday 17 February, since people perform rituals for the dead, i.e. psychƝs on Friday afternoon before the psychosabbato, i.e. on “psychoparaskeuo” (psychƝ=soul, paraskeuƝ=Friday). Around 4 pm, the first woman comes to the church offering holy bread (prosphoro) and a plate with kollyba for the psychƝs (souls) of the dead, also bringing with her a yellow-brown candle (to light during the service) and a paper with the names of the dead family members to be blessed by the priest at the end of the liturgy. Women bring these written “letters” called psychochartia (“soul papers” or lists of names for commemoration), to the church along with the Communion bread (prosphoro). The priest reads the names in special short memorial services for the souls: in the church on the eve or afternoon on Friday before the psychsabbato or on the psychsabbato proper; separately at every tomb; or on both days if the people wish. The aforementioned woman, who was the first to bring her kollyba to the Church of the Annunciation, gives the gifts to the churchwarden who brings the bread and “soul paper” or “prayer paper” behind the iconostasis. He places the kollyba and a tall 47

Megas 1992: 113. It is interesting to note that on “Smoked Thursday” (TsiknopephtƝ) in the Meat Week when I went to Tinos, I watched TV reportages from central Athens during the crossing: at Varvakeios square, traditional barbeques were offered by the meat vendors of the Varvakeios Market, where they prepared large quantities of meat for the people from 11:30 am, despite EU’s “charges” to save money. On Clean Monday people fly kites at Philopappou Hill at Athens as the custom is. In 2012 however, they started two days earlier because of the weather. See also http://www.cityofathens.gr/en/ (accessed 27.02.12). 48


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yellow-brown candle on a table decorated with a tablecloth which has been placed in front of the main entrance to the hieron. The candle from the woman is placed in the middle of the kollyba. She fetches more candles, lights them in front of the miraculous icon once she has paid her devotions, then leaves the church. The next woman to arrive also gives the gifts to the churchwarden, but goes to the iconostasis to assure herself that he has placed the kollyba and candle properly. She kisses the miraculous icon and Agios Nektarios’ relics, which are on display next to the icon depicting the Panagia on her deathbed, and leaves the church. The churchwarden brings the prayer papers behind the iconostasis. He tells me the same ritual is celebrated the following morning, when the priests read the psychochartia, i.e. “bless the souls of the owners of the names at the end of the liturgy, from approximately 9:00-9:20 am”. When I enquire about similar rituals at the cemetery, all he can tell me is that the reading of the letters takes place on Friday, Saturday and on the next (official) psychosabbato two weeks later. After the ritual blessing, they distribute the kollyba to those present, and some people also take some of the kollyba home. On Friday 17 February 2012, the ritual proper starts at 4:30 pm when the daily vespers is celebrated. Another churchwarden lights the large candle and the two on the two kollyba respectively. The chanters start the ritual chanting. A younger woman arrives bringing the third plate with kollyba and a candle; as the first two kollyba take up all the space on the table, she attempts to place it on the floor next to the iconostasis while simultaneously trying to position her candle in its middle. The churchwarden brings another table. She lights the candle in her kollyba from the large candle as do the following persons. ManǀlƝs, one of the offduty male churchwardens and the only man to bring kollyba, is followed by a woman with a large dish with kollyba. After having arranged their kollyba, several start to write their prayer papers on the table which is supplied with paper and pens for this undertaking. In fact, only the first two women had written their supplication papers before going to the church. The newly written papers are collected and taken behind the iconostasis. Many of the chanters and helpers in the church write prayer papers upon arrival. Some people do not bring kollyba, but bread which is collected behind the iconostasis; these offerings are brought directly to the left entrance. A sixth woman arrives with her kollyba, she is followed by an old man who writes a prayer paper. The latter places some candles on the “kollyba table”, but he does not bring kollyba and the candles remain unlit. A priest emerges from the hieron with a censer that he swings in front of the kollyba before censing the entire church, particularly all the

Tombs and Gifts


important icons, and also the people present. He also kisses Agios Nektarios’ relics and the miraculous icon. A second priest soon enters the body of the church from the hieron, and together they read the names written on the prayer papers at the end of the liturgy. After the blessing, the women blow out the candles in their kollyba, and then all the kollyba are mixed together in one of the big baskets generally used for distributing blessed bread after liturgies. A person arrives with a kollyba for the next morning, of the psychosabbato proper, which is taken behind the iconostasis. One woman is busy spooning kollyba from the breadbasket into plastic drinking cups, puts plastic spoons into each one and distributes them to the people present. Only one of the two priests participates in the ritual eating of the kollyba and he asks for two extra cups with kollyba. While one of the six kollyba was not mixed with the rest because the woman who brought it left as soon as the blessing had finished, presumably taking it to the cemetery, the five remaining kollyba, however, did go into the basket, and much is left over when everyone has received a share of this communal meal. The next morning, the ritual is performed again, and blessed bread is also distributed after the liturgy, with the remaining bread in the basket put next to the entrance of the church. One of my informants, whose father is a priest in the Church of the Annunciation, explains that once the kollyba are blessed some people bring it to the cemetery, because of “the love of their dead relatives”. She also says that this is the reason for celebrating the “mnƝmosyna”, the memorials, adding that Saturday for Orthodox Christians is generally a day dedicated to the Angels and the souls, thereby explaining the connection between the soul=psychƝ and (psycho)sabbato =Saturday. During the first annual psychosabbato on 8 March 2013 in the church dedicated to Agia Marina in Athens, the celebration also started on psychoparaskeuo with vespers at 6 pm. The first woman arrived with her kollyba one hour earlier, and during the liturgy, two tables in front of the iconostasis were filled up with kollyba. The women arranged their kollyba (Fig. 33), each with one or more candles, on the table and gave bread, often home-made, wrapped in embroidered tablecloths, to the churchwarden along with their psychochartia. The women’s part of the church was full, and apart from four men sitting in their part of the church, women also filled that part. Two men also came to the church, kissed the icons and left, while one man brought a kollyba, but sat down in the male part of the church along with the other three, while the women were arranging their kollyba and practically dominated the church. The only men present throughout were the priest and the churchwarden, while the young chanter


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arrived just before the liturgy started. After vespers, the churchwarden brought the psychochartia and the priest read or rather sang all the names, standing in front of the iconostasis. The ceremony finished at 7 pm, when the women brought their respective kollyba out into the court to share with each other, mixing all the kollyba. An old woman told me that she preferred to “go to the church and hear the priest read the psychochartia, since the cemetery is so far away”. The next morning on psychosabbato proper, the liturgy started at 7 am, and the same ceremonial blessing of the kollyba after the liturgy, followed by the reading of the psychochartia, was performed.49

Figure 33. Women start to light the candles on their kollyba arranged in the church of Agia Marina, Athens, the eve of the first of the three psychosabbata during Carnival and Lent, at the end of the winter, 7 March 2013.

In 2012, at the cemetery in Tinos town on the first psychosabbato, several women were cleaning their tombs. When I asked them why they do not bring kollyba to the cemetery on that day as in other places in 49

As the priest in Agia Marina emphasised during a conversation on 7 March 2013, the ritual is the same in most parts of Greece.

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Greece, such as Athens, they answered that although it is not a usual custom on Tinos, some do, but they do not call it kollyba,50 and in general they bring it to the church. One of the women, assisted by another, busily sweeps, cleans, washes and polishes the glass in front of the small enclosure on the tomb of her brother Geǀrgios, who died the previous year at the age of fifty-five. She lights the lamp and censer, which she crosses three times in front of his picture where she also leaves it burning. Then, they leave. In other words, these two women perform the entire ritual at the tomb with no assistance from a priest. On a later occasion, a shawl illustrating Geǀrgios’ favourite football team is tied around the cross on the tomb, paralleling an example of the custom from earlier days described by PhlǀrakƝ,51 according to which a handkerchief was placed around the cross on a new tomb. The deceased was a captain as indicated by the sailboat on the relief on the base of the cross. The handkerchief said goodbye every time the boat set sail, symbolising the eternal travel and the last greetings promising of memory. The aforementioned women are not the only ones who perform the necessary ritual at the cemetery without a priest: on 26 March, a man, presumably on duty at the municipality, arrives on his motorbike, censes the grave of his deceased relative and leaves. A woman cleans her mother’s tomb, and a young woman and older man clean the tomb of their late mother and wife, respectively. After leaving the cemetery, when I return to the Church of the Annunciation, I meet the older woman who just cleaned her mother’s tomb, now busy writing a prayer paper to be blessed by the priest. Since the aforementioned women take care of their tombs independently of the priest on the psychosabbato, one may wonder whether the church has managed to “move” the psychosabbato “from the cemetery to the church”. If so, the situation differs from that in Athens, where people bring kollyba both to the church and to the cemetery, and where many priests are also present to bless the kollyba and the graves. On the other hand, people on Tinos often arrange meetings with the priest for the blessing of souls of their deceased family members. As one of my female informants said, “I arranged to go to the cemetery with the priest to say some hymns, for the peace of the soul of my mother who died last year”. In Athens, arranging meetings is unnecessary, since the priests are always walking around at the cemetery. Although many priests used to be present at the cemetery on Tinos on Saturdays, at least in the 1990s, today their salary is higher, which may explain why people must now arrange 50

Cf. supra for sirtari. One may note that the women in Agia Marina also said sirtari, when mixing their respective kollyba. 51 PhlǀrakƝ 1980:148. See also supra this chapter.


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with them in advance. I have asked informants on Tinos about this, but the usual reply is, “there is only one day in the year that there will certainly be a priest on the cemetery today, and that is on Holy Friday”. As mentioned in Chapter 3, before Easter in 2012, a sign outside the cemetery, announced the presence of a priest at the cemetery on Holy Friday from 25 pm. In Athens, inevitably, there are always priests at the cemetery simply because there are much more people. In addition, a priest at the cemetery there might concurrently be studying for a PhD at the Theological Faculty and need the money and food he receives from the women after blessing their tombs, for example on the psychosabbato. At the 1st Cemetery, on Saturday 25 February 2012 for instance, as soon as the women have finished cleaning their tombs, lit the censer, and cry “pater”, the closest priest—of the three present—rushes over carrying the prayer book, obligatory blessing cloth (cf. Jewish ritual, from which it is borrowed according to an ecclesiastic informant), a bottle of water (the day was warm), and other necessary items to carry out the blessing, for which he is paid. Although this is not an official psychosabbato within the church, kollyba is also distributed, as the custom is other places in Greece, for example, in Serres. It is interesting to note that one of my female informants on Tinos insists the next psychosabbato, which is dedicated to “Thauma Kollybǀn Ag. Theodǀrou” (i.e. “Agios Theodǀros’ Miracle with the Kollybǀn”), according to the Agiologion 2011, is not a proper psychosabbato but that this Saturday in reality is “kollyba on the cemetery” organised by the municipality, when people bring kollyba and sweets to the cemetery. Another informant, a young scholar from Athens, agrees: This Saturday, is not a psychosabbato. People have misunderstood this. In the Orthodox Church, we make two kinds of kollyba. One is for dead people, as you know. The other is a festive kollyba. We make these not to pray for our dead, but to celebrate a Saint’s memory or miracle. So, on this Saturday we make kollyba to celebrate the miracle of Agios Theodǀros TƝrǀn. But people think that is a psychosabbato.52

According to the scholar G. A. Megas, the festival dedicated to tǀn Agiǀn Theodǀrǀn that is celebrated on the first Saturday of Lent, belongs to the psychosabbata.53 All my other informants, including the researchers at the Academy of Athens Hellenic Folklore Research Centre, also regard it as a psychosabbato. In other words, one of the many examples of the divergences 52 53

Personal information from Giǀrgos DoulphƝs (email communication 05.03.12). Megas 1992: 132.

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between official and popular religion, including people’s different opinions, can be seen here. In 2012, the event took place on 3 March. On Tinos, the municipality takes care of the Mass and the memorial service, and people bring sweets to the cemetery where the ritual takes place in the cemetery chapel. On the eve of the celebration of the “Thauma Kollybǀn Ag. Theodǀrou”, or psychoparaskeuo, on 2 March 2012, the local women bring kollyba to the church dedicated to Agia Marina in Athens, to be blessed by the priest during vespers at 5 pm. The icon depicting the saints, tǀn Agiǀn Theodǀrǀn or as the icon says, “Oi Agioi Theodǀroi” (i.e. O Agios Theodǀros o StratƝlatƝs and O Agios Theodǀros o TƝrǀn), is placed on a stand in the middle of the church in front of the relics of the saint to whom the church is dedicated. Like the saints’ icon in the Agiologion, the icon in the church depicts both of them. Inside an open shrine on a table next to the icon stand, a medallion depicting the two saints and relics are displayed on velvet lining. Since they only have relics of Agia Marina in this church, the priest has brought these relics for the event.54 According to the Agiologion from 2011, the saints were persecuted and severely tortured. The thauma tǀn kollybǀn, the miracle of the kollyba, happened during the reign of Emperor Ioulianos the Transgressor (M.Gr. ParabatƝs, transgressor), or Julian the Apostate (emperor between 361 and 363 CE). According to a young Athenian scholar, “only Agios Theodǀros TƝrǀn worked the miracle, and this day is dedicated only to him”.55 The women also bring kollyba for the 7 am to 9 am liturgy the next morning. In the Meropeion, the holy church dedicated to Agias Sophias Akropoleǀs, the liturgy starts at 6:30 pm on psychoparaskeuo. Five kollyba brought by women to be blessed during the liturgy are on a table in front of the iconostasis. A single candle is lit in three of the kollyba. In the fourth, there are two lighted candles, and in the fifth, four candles burn, the last placed after the beginning of the liturgy by a newly arrived woman and lit from one of the other candles. The women’s part of the church is full, and newcomers arrive after the beginning of the liturgy, as is the custom. At the beginning of the liturgy, only one man sits in the male part of the church, but three others arrive during the liturgy. Still, it is interesting to note the exclusive predominance of women also in this church in the centre of Athens. At the end of the liturgy, the churchwarden 54 On a later occasion I was told (by his successor in the church) that he might have lent them from a colleague or a monastery. 55 Personal information from Giǀrgos DoulphƝs (email communication 05.03.12), cf. n.52 supra, vs. Megas 1992: 132, cf. also the Agiologion 2011. Giǀrgos DoulphƝs also suggests that the relics are “on loan”. Cf. the previous note.


Chapter Five

comes out from the left door of the iconostasis carrying a silver tray with a pile of psychochartia or supplication papers. While the priest reads out the names, newcomers arrive with more supplication papers. When the blessing has finished, the women take their kollyba, and some put the lighted candles in one of the candlesticks in the male part of the church, or in the votive candle stand, the round container filled with sand (“manouali”) in which lighted candles are usually placed in Orthodox churches.The women now bring their kollyba outside the church, place them on a table and distribute the blesse mixture to the others and new people who arrive. Afterwards, they go back into the church. No men, the priest included, participated in this female meal: the passersby who received kollyba were also women.

Figure 34. The blessing of the kollyba offered by the Athenian dƝmos (municipality), 1st Cemetery, on the psychosabbato dedicated to “Thauma Kollybǀn Ag. Theodǀrou”, i.e. the third psychosabbato during winter, Athens, 3 March 2012.

In Athens as on Tinos, the municipality organises the last psychosabbato during winter, i.e. the celebration of the “Thauma Kollybǀn Ag. Theodǀrou”, at the 1st Cemetery, in which the church and priests participate. This third

Tombs and Gifts


psychosabbato, according to most people, or second according to the church, is dedicated to “Thauma Kollybǀn Ag. Theodǀrou”. As already indicated, some of my informants say it is not a proper psychosabbato since this Saturday is dedicated to “Thauma Kollybǀn Ag. Theodǀrou”. In Athens on 3 March 2012, the ritual takes place in the church, or first chapel next to the entrance to the 1st Cemetery at 7:30 am. At 11 am, the official ritual blessing of the kollyba from the Athenian dƝmos (municipality) is performed on a podium in front of the church (Fig. 34), which was erected and decorated the previous afternoon (Friday) by people belonging to the cemetery. The ritual in the church finishes some minutes past 11 am. Outside, the musicians are lined up next to the podium. The bishop of Marathon,56 a priest and two chanters leave the church, a young church attendant carrying the train of the bishop’s episcopal vestments. The five ecclesiastics walk up onto the podium and so do the four representatives from the Athenian dƝmos, the mayor and three women. In the middle of the podium is the kollyba offered by the Athenian dƝmos. The bishop performs the blessing, swinging his censer, and finishes by also blessing the aforementioned representatives from the Athenian dƝmos. During the service, one woman in the audience holds a lighted candle. Many people have lined up in front of the podium to attend the Mass, but much more attended in 1992, when I previously observed the ceremony. There are also fewer ecclesiastics than in 1992, when four priests including the bishop were present. Both years, however, many people did not stop to attend the service, but continued to their own graves. After the blessing, the people on the podium and the musicians proceed to the memorial (i.e. mausoleum) erected in honour of those who have died in military service at wars, where two female soldiers have been standing during the liturgy holding a green wreath between them. Two men take the kollyba and leave in the other direction to prepare its distribution. The bishop blesses the memorial, swings the censer, and one of the women from the municipality puts the wreath in front of the monument. The musicians play the national anthem. Everyone continues to the tomb of the Athenian mayor, who died in 1992 while in office, just 56 According to Galantis Loukaki, Athens International Cooperation Dpt. (email communication 01.02.13), the bishop of Marathon has blessed the kollyba the last few years, however the ecclesiastic blessing the kollyba may be different next year, since this is not a fixed rule. According to Dr. Maria Koumarianou at the Society for Ethnology, Athens (email communication 14.02.13), having enquired of a theologian of her school, the kollyba can be blessed by an ordinary priest but a bishop gives the ceremony higher prestige.


Chapter Five

after the psychosabbato of Agios Theodǀros. Behind the tomb, a woman has lit the censer. The bishop blesses with his censer and the same female representative for the Athenian dƝmos lays a bunch of yellow roses on the tomb. A female representative for the cemetery invites the representatives from the Athenian dƝmos for coffee at the cafeteria (cf. kyklikeion) next to the entrance of the cemetery where people are offered sweets, cakes, coffee and metaxa after a burial. Meanwhile, the ecclesiastics and many of the people present continue to the tombs of the late Athenian archbishops that are situated in a line next to the church, the most recently deceased (in 2008) the first after the chapel. An extensive blessing service is performed at this tomb, and many persons go to perform their proskynƝma, i.e. kiss the marble crown of the former archbishop erected at the head of the tomb. There is no doubt that this blessing is the most emotional for a majority of people and also the most extensive. Inside the cemetery church, some people have put a plate with kollyba and a bottle of oil to be blessed, although such items are supposed to be left there earlier in the morning. There are many ossuaries at the 1st Cemetery, and at the one behind the podium, many visitors distribute kollyba after the blessings of the priest. One woman has put her plate with kollyba up into the votive candle stand so as to be sure it is properly blessed before she starts to distribute her kollyba.57 All over the cemetery, people, mostly women, clean their tombs, and distribute kollyba and cakes after the blessing of the tomb by one of the priests. One of the women tells me there are three dead family members in her family grave. She cleans it every Saturday in the three first years after death, then less often. Those I speak with also say, “This Saturday is the Great psychosabbato”, which opposes the view of one of my informants on Tinos, who says, “The Big one is in June”. In 2013, I attended the psychosabbato connected to Agios Theodǀros on Tinos, because it was celebrated on 23 March, just before the celebration of the Annunciation. Contrary to the custom in Athens and elsewhere, the psychoparaskeuo was not celebrated in the churches in Tinos town. On Tinos, the most important celebration of Agios Theodǀros takes place in a small chapel dedicated to him on the northern tip of the island close to the sea and the neighbouring island of Andros. In the church of Agios GiannƝs in Tinos town, an old woman told me that there would be a common kollyba inside the church in connection with the morning liturgy. Instead of celebrating psychoparaskeuo in the churches as is common in most places in Greece, Athens included, on Friday afternoon 57

Cf. Fig. 61 Ch. 7 infra.

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at the cemetery in Tinos town, several women busily clean their tombs, because “the priests will come and bless the tombs” the next day after the liturgy at 8:30 am. The celebration at the cemetery takes place between the hours of 8:00 and 10:30 am. When approaching the cemetery I notice a woman walking in front of me carrying a plastic bag from one of the local patisseries, evidently containing cakes. Inside the cemetery, a long table with a white tablecloth is arranged in front of the graves next to the little chapel. The chapel is full of people. Many take their places outside the chapel as soon as they have dropped money into the wooden counter inside, picked up and lit candles, and kissed the icon displayed on the lectern depicting the Resurrection. I notice that the icon depicting the two saints, Oi Agioi Theodǀroi, is not on display, but hangs on the wall, which confirms the words of the old woman in the church of Agios GiannƝs the previous day that “this is the celebration of the psychƝs [souls] not the saints [i.e. Agioi Theodǀroi]”. In front of the iconostasis is a big kollyba. The officiating priest is from the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios, and I observe many from that particular parish in the chapel, including the three chanters attending the ceremony. The rest of the congregation is mostly made up of women, many of whom are crying, in particular the younger ones who have lost one of their closest family members recently, and therefore have a special reason to attend the ceremony today. This is also illustrated by those receiving the Holy Communion by the end of the ceremony. During the liturgy, more people are continuously arriving and after having lit candles and worshipped the icon, they go outside. Many of the women bring plastic bags with cakes. Outside, people also start to arrange the long table: one woman brings a tray of coffee in plastic cups. Some men lay out boxes with cakes, sweets and some bottles of metaxa. Inside the chapel, the priest sings, assisted by the chanters. By the end of the ceremony, he kneels, as do many of the attending women. After the chiming of the church bells, a churchwarden brings the psychochartia, and the priest reads the names. The liturgy ends with a common prayer at 9:50 am. The priest asks everyone to go outside, because the space in the chapel is limited, and the kollyba is brought outside the door and put on a lectern. Next to it is a big burning candle. The representatives from the dƝmos and the Church of the Annunciation have by now arrived, among them the mayor and two priests. The two priests assist the officiating priest and the chanters when blessing the kollyba, while people line up around them and the kollyba. Then the officiating priest reads a long list with the names of the psyches who are to be blessed. Standing in the door, the priest distributes blessed bread to everyone, blessing each person, one by one, in the same way as


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he carries out the ritual blessing in his own church. At the same time, the cemetery worker takes the kollyba and empties it into a big brass container placed just outside the entrance to the chapel. He then spoons the kollyba into the same type of paper bag used for distributing kollyba in memorial rituals, so everyone can take a share. Most women walk around distributing cakes and sweets from the various patisserie boxes, and at the table, representatives from the dƝmos distribute their share in the celebration: sweets, cakes, coffee and metaxa. According to some, this ritual distribution of sweets and alcohol is for the souls of the dead, while others claim it celebrates the miracle of the saint. Most people leave the cemetery after the distribution, while others go to their tombs to light the censer.58 As indicated earlier, in Greece almost every household sends kollyba to the church to be blessed by the priest during the various psychosabbata. Many families also bring the kollyba with them directly to the cemetery: in some places a long procession of black-clad women move towards the cemetery with dishes of food, particularly kollyba, in memory of their dead. The dishes are arranged on the graves as an offering to the dead. The relatives light candles and burn incense over the family tomb.59 The food is blessed by the priest, busy moving from grave to grave to say a prayer over each one. After the priest’s blessing, the food is finally passed round and eaten, so that the souls of the dead may be forgiven. Some of the food is often left on the graves as an offering. In this way, the living have a ritual meal with the dead. Since the feast is dedicated to the dead, many people assume that it has a magical meaning. The tombs are sprinkled with water, and many scatter the rest of the kollyba over the tomb. In some places, people assume that the souls of the dead are set free on the Sunday prior to Lent, by sacrificing hens’ blood on the grave.60 G. AikaterinidƝs writes about a ritual that takes place on “Meat Saturday” when people daub blood on the ears and foreheads of all the family members.61 This is reminiscent of the blood ritual during the festival dedicated to Agios Charalampos, which will be discussed below. At the ancient animal sacrifices, paralleling the 58

Particularly the tombs for the recently deceased already mentioned supra. Many also tend to their graves on 24 March, evidently people who come back to Tinos for the celebration of the Annunciation, which is also the usual date those living in Athens for the winter period return home to Tinos. 59 Cf. Fig. 67 Ch. 8 infra. See also front page. 60 Alexiou 1974: 47, cf. Megas 1992: 113 f. See Papoutsis 1982: 56 for a custom with ambivalent meaning: ashes from the burnt effigy of Judas is scattered on the graves. 61 AikaterinidƝs 1979: 113.

Tombs and Gifts


modern animal sacrifice mentioned in Chapter 1, the victim was also killed so that the blood would flow into the earth and appease the souls of the dead. But it is also a sacrifice to the underworld accompanied with a prayer for a bountiful harvest. Blood sacrifice can generally be understood as “killing as a source to fertility”, from the logic behind “sympathetic magic”, and may therefore be compared with the way Odysseus by a similar sacrifice came into contact with the seer Teiresias on the threshold to the underworld, Hades.62 According to Homer, a person became clairvoyant in the moment of death, and by being nourished with, among other substances, blood from the earthly world the dead could answer the questions of the living.63 Similarly today, it is important that the blood from the sacrificial animal will flow into the earth, through the freshly dug hole close to the sacrificial tree and its roots, to ensure the continuity of the vegetable life, such as in the villages of Agia ElenƝ and Agia ParaskeuƝ. This modern custom draws a parallel with the annual goat sacrifice next to the olive tree on the Akropolis in ancient Athens during the Arrephoria, a preliminary ritual to the Panathenaia. Today, the sacrificial animal is dedicated to the deceased patron saints, Agios Kǀnstantinos and Agia ElenƝ, and Agios Charalampos, respectively. However, because a small piece of meat and a part of the hide is given to each family within the circle of the Anastenarides in the village, and the bull of Agios Charalampos is cooked in the collectively shared dish, kesketsi, either of the two modern sacrifices belong to the group of chthonic unconsumed sacrifices that we encounter in Pausanias’ stories. On the other hand, he does relate a sacrifice in which the blood goes to the deceased and the meat is consumed on the site or sacrificial ground.64 Pausanias further tells us about a chthonic sacrifice dedicated to the Gracious Gods performed at night: in this nocturnal sacrifice, the celebrants were required to consume the sacrificial animal before sunrise.65 We therefore encounter a smooth transition between the ancient and modern rituals, since the blood still flows into the hole, and the remaining non-edible parts, such as the testicles, are thrown into the pit in 62

Od. 11.35 f., 48-51. Od. 11.26-155, cf. 23.250-254; Eur. Hec. 528-542. See also Il. 22.355-361, 16.858 f., cf. Tupet 1986: 2665; Brede Kristensen 1925: 132. JacobsonWidding/van Beek 1990: 28 ff.: blood sacrifice, killing and fertility, cf. Burkert 1983: 153 f., and 1985: 37, the sacrifice of the Arrephoria and the Athenian Panathenaia, cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 5-6, 2012c. 64 Paus. 10.4,10, cf. Od. 11. See also Vernant 1979: 63-71, cf. Eur. El. 509-524. Cf. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: 145-148. 65 Paus. 10.38,8. 63


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Agia ElenƝ, while at Tauros these parts are hung in a tree, “so that ‘sacred things be not given to the dogs’”.66 We encounter a more peculiar ritual to avoid miasma in the ancient bull sacrifice, the Bouphonia, i.e. the slaying of an ox, a particular ceremony of the Dipolieia festival dedicated to Zeus in his special aspect as God of the City, Zeus Polieus, in ancient Athens.67 In many cases, the participants in heroic cults ate the meat as in a sacrifice to Olympian deities instead of totally destroying the victim, usually burnt in a holocaust; and bull sacrifice took place at the Athenian public burial place at the festival of the Epitaphia, while Odysseus’ black non-castrated sacrificial ram and black ewe were to be completely burnt (i.e. a “burnt offering”).68 Since the latter, i.e. Odysseus’ offering, was not to be eaten, one may argue that the comparison is invalid. On the other hand, it is also prohibited to eat certain parts of the sacrificial animal today: the content of the stomach and the testicles are ritually flushed or washed down into the pit, while horns and hoofs are cut and buried along with the bones.69 Usually the hide of the sacrificial animal has been dedicated to the Christian church, paralleling ancient pre-Christian circumstances, when the hides were dedicated to the priests.70 Both today and in the ancient world, the point has been that the blood and other organs (testicles, for example) connected with life are not intended for humans, but go down into the earth in order to receive a reply. However, the living can fetch some of the life-giving blood from the bull at Tauros, when they immerse their hands in the blood, and daub a cross on their foreheads or palms with the blood, “gia to kalo” (i.e. for the good of it).71 After the exhumation of the bones of the deceased—a topic that will be explored in the next chapter—the living are only responsible for celebrating the collective festivals dedicated to the dead.72 However, the dead are generally celebrated on the anniversary of their death, likewise 66 Kakouri 1965: 23n.29. Cf. Fig. 2 Ch. 1 supra and ARV 1045,2 where Odysseus meets Elphenor at the pit of Hades. See also AikaterinidƝs 1979: 65-70; van Straten 1987: 159-170. 67 Paus. 1.24,4 and 28.10; Harrison 1977: 148n.1; van Straten 1987: 159-170; AikaterinidƝs 1979: 67. 68 Od. 10.531 f. Epitaphia: Robertson 1992: 244 f.; Arist. Ath. Pol. 58.1; Jacoby 1944b: 37n.1 and 65 f.; Larson 1995: 14. 69 According to the late M. MichaƝl-Dede (personal communication) this is a Greek custom. Cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 4; Kakouri 1965: Fig. 12 and n.30. 70 Kakouri 1965: 65. Around 1780 the hides might be dedicated to monks, cf. Romaios 1949: 52, cf. Durand 1979: 156 f.; AikaterinidƝs 1979: 90, 94 for the custom earlier and today, see also Håland 2007a: Ch. 3n.48 for discussion. 71 Håland 2007a: Ch. 4. See also Ch. 6 infra re human blood. 72 Danforth 1982: 56.

Tombs and Gifts


after the exhumation and the second burial, which is also customary in contemporary Athens. The social relations between the living and the dead are preserved by mentioning the name of the deceased. During the liturgy in the church on the psychosabbata, the priest recites the names of those who have died in the village during the last generations.73 “New” or “White” Tuesday in the “White Week” after Easter, when the Resurrection of Christ is celebrated also commemorates the Panagia who is happy that her child is resurrected.74 On this day, the women of Olympos do not distribute kollyba on the tombs, as is usual during visits to the cemetery at liturgies for departed souls, but only distribute other sweets, elaborate cakes, etc. as illustrated in Chapter 3. Actually, the women rush to the cemetery, often carrying the food in baskets or plates on their heads, as is the custom in Olympos in general. Arriving at their family tombs, the housewives lay out the different dishes as offerings to the dead.75 The absence of kollyba on this day owes to the fact that this is not a mourning day, but instead a festive and joyous celebration. People share a meal with the dead, who are believed to be resurrected along with Christ and to wander among the living until they must go back to their dwelling on Assumption Day or during Pentecost.76 In the cemetery in Olympos, a festive banquet takes place in which both the living and the dead participate, and the four icons of their most important saints are also present.77 The priest circulates among the family tombs saying a prayer over each grave, in the same way as he went from house to house during the procession on Holy Friday, and as the villagers carry the decorated icons from the cemetery into the fields around Olympos to pray at the small private chapels to ensure the future crops. The importance of the meal and the blessing by the dead or communication with the dead, is also illustrated in the banquet they have the same evening when they eat the food that in the morning was placed as an offering on the tombs.78 The importance of the food is also illustrated in the customary sprinkling of the crumbs left over from the Easter dinner over the fields to ensure a good crop.79 Just as particular festivals are celebrated on the tombs, the visit to 73

Loukatos 1985: 157, cf. Danforth 1982: 133 f.; Stewart 1991: 58. Loukatos 1985: 164 f.; Megas 1992: 184 ff. He also mentions a particular ritual that takes place on White Saturday in Megara outside of Athens. 75 Cf. Vernier 1991: Ch. 3 76 Papoutsis 1982: 70; Litsas 1976: 454n.12. 77 GeǀrgiadƝs 1984: 227-243. 78 Sherrard 1974: 131. 79 Cf. Papoutsis 1982: 62. See also 70 for some interesting regional customs on Easter Sunday. 74


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the cemetery on White Tuesday clearly illustrates the importance of the cult of the dead the Greek cultural domain.80 Another important factor clearly illustrated on White Tuesday is the apparent competition between the leading families in the village to offer the most elaborate grave gifts. However this is a female competition of presenting public performances in “being good at being a woman”. The competition generally goes unnoticed by the men at the cemetery, which also illustrates that most often the women’s audience is other women, who are also their eager competitors. This is true in other respects, when women display their skills, at home or publicly on “their tombs” at the memorials in the cemetery, when washing the tombs and displaying their cooking abilities through the sumptuous cakes offered. It was particularly

Figure 35. A housewife in front of her family grave on which she has placed dyed eggs and the censer, waiting for the priest to say a prayer, Olympos cemetery, Karpathos, April 1992.

interesting to note women’s proud attitudes when standing next to their graves after finishing the cleaning and decoration early in the morning on “White” Tuesday, although some had already cleaned the tombs on Monday evening. Once the tombs had been cleaned on Tuesday they went 80

Cf. also Stewart 1991: 52 f.

Tombs and Gifts


home to fetch the food and came rushing back down to the cemetery with the dishes and baskets filled up with different food (Fig. 35). In ancient society, the same competition between women can be observed, when women dedicated offerings on tombs, and displayed their clothes and other objects competitively and publicly.81 Likewise, their desired “public” audience, competitors and most critical commentators were not men, but other women who shared their values and interests. On Assumption Day, the dead go back to their dwelling. Many also assume that they roam among the living until Pentecost.82 All Souls’ Days are also celebrated on the Saturday of Pentecost and on the Saturday after Pentecost, although the second is of course not included in the official church’s three celebrations of the psychosabbata. In 2011 Athens, only the first was celebrated, as will be outlined in the following pages, but in 1992, when I also attended the rituals in Athens, both were celebrated by the Athenians. The psychosabbato of Pentecost is otherwise known as Rousalia, and according to G. Megas, many regard this celebration to be the most representative of the festivals that honour the dead in modern Greece.83 I learnt the same from one of my female informants on Tinos, while an Athenian woman said that the most important is the “Thauma Ag. Theodǀrou”, as already mentioned. Be that as it may, the point is that the dead are celebrated with food both when they come up from their dwellings and when they go back. On Rousalia Saturday then, the dead must go back to the underworld.84 They weep and complain. Therefore, families go to the cemetery bringing with them offerings of kollyba to calm the souls of the dead. They might first send the kollyba to the church to be blessed by the priest. Afterwards, they bring it to the cemetery, and distribute it to the poor. They might also distribute other foodstuffs to the poor, such as pieces of bread and cheese. People believe that the restless souls will be shut away into Hades the next day. However, this also troubles people’s imagination, and the saying goes: “that the psychosabbata will arrive—that they all will come and go—but the psychosabbato in May [i.e. the month when it usually falls] that it never arrives”. The reason behind all the offerings and prayers is to assist the dead. The symbolism might also be illustrated by including black raisins in the kollyba instead of sugar, which is white.85 81

Plut. Sol. 21.4 f., Mor. 142c30; SIG³1218. Papoutsis 1982: 76. 83 Megas 1992: 216-218. 84 Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 120-122 outlines characteristic rituals in Thrace and Mani. See also Litsas 1976: 452 ff.; Loukatos 1985: 156-158. 85 Loukatos 1985: 157. 82


Chapter Five

In many churches, people perform rituals for the dead, i.e. psychƝs on Friday afternoon before Whitsunday (on psychoparaskeuo), and on Saturday morning at the cemetery, such as at the village of Vonitsa in northern Greece, where the women may also be lamenting at their tombs. In 2011, the psychosabbato or All Souls’ Day, which is celebrated fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ, i.e. on Saturday before Whitsunday, is celebrated on 11 June. However, it starts on Friday, 10 June around 4 pm, when the women go to the church offering holy bread (prosphoro) and kollyba for the psychƝs (souls) of the dead; on Saturday morning, they go to the cemetery. I visited the church dedicated to Agia Marina in Athens on psychoparaskeuo in 2011. According to the church programme, vespers would start at 7 pm, but the first woman arrived in the church at 5 pm with kollyba, bread, olive oil, yellow-brown candles, and money, along with the usual written “letters,” psychochartia inscribed with names of the dead to be blessed by the priest at the end of the liturgy. She arranges the kollyba on a table in front of the iconostasis, putting a yellow-brown candle in its midst, while the churchwarden takes the bread, other offerings and psychochartia behind the iconostasis through its left hand door, as is the usual rule in all Greek Orthodox churches. Other women arrive with the same offerings, some of them with larger and more decorated plates with kollyba, also with more candles, and when the liturgy starts at 7 pm the little table is full. One of the women tells me that this is “Christoskollyba” since they will celebrate the fiftieth day after the Resurrection the next day. When I ask whether they will bring the kollyba to the cemetery afterwards, she answers that it is not for the dead, but for the families, which does not seem very plausible given the psychochartia and the names on them. Be that as it may, some women bring their bread in plastic bags, others in a tablecloth or towel. All women sit down in the left part of the church after dedicating their offerings, lighting candles, and having paid devotion to the icons, first and foremost Agia Marina’s and particularly her relics, some go out into a side room to drink water and chat. The first woman to arrive scolds the young priest when he arrives approximately one hour before the start of the liturgy, arguing that he should be there at 5 pm; he answers that the liturgy starts at 7 pm. At that time the right part of the church is also filled up with women: apart from the priest, chanter, churchwarden and another helper, all the participants are women. During the liturgy, the priest censes the church, and the women light the candles in the kollyba. At the end of the liturgy, the churchwarden brings in all the psychochartia, the priest reads the names, and while reading, the woman whose names he reads out rises. Afterwards, the priest censes again, this

Tombs and Gifts


time particularly over the table on which the kollyba are placed, and the liturgy ends at 8 pm. The women bring their kollyba out into the court, and put them on another table, before distributing to each other. Although I learnt that the kollyba is for the families and not the dead, it very much resembles a party for female friends outside of the church. The next day, they will all visit the cemetery. At the 1st Cemetery in Athens, people, mostly women, clean their tombs on psychosabbato, as usual but today they also bring kollyba and koulouria, cakes, which are offered to all other people. Most of the women I talk with have made the kollyba themselves, but the koulouria are generally bought from the pastry shops. The psychosabbato before Whitsunday is also celebrated on Tinos in several churches. One of my informants from Tinos,86 whom I asked about the psychosabbato in Athens in 2011, explained the ritual thus: There is no tour of the holy icon but they organise a Mass in the main church and other churches. Families who have lost their relatives prepare special plates with wheat and sugar, kollyba, these are placed in front of the altar and blessed by the priests during the Mass and at the end they are offered to all the people present, as on the psychosabbato during carnival. The idea is that the church blesses the souls that passed away, helping them on their trip to salvation; special texts and prayers exist for this purpose. In addition, on Sunday evening and Monday morning, they have a special Mass at Agia Triada, i.e. the place where they keep ossuaries, just a bit outside of Tinos town.

In 2012, I attended the celebration myself, visiting several of the churches in Tinos town and also Agia Triada: in the Church of the Annunciation on Friday 1 June 2012, the icon depicting Ɯ AnalƝpsi to Christo (Ascension of Christ) had replaced the icon depicting the Dormition of the Panagia. The adjacent stand displayed the icon depicting the next saint to be celebrated. In 2012, the psychosabbato before Whitsunday, i.e. tƝs PentƝkostƝs, was celebrated on 2 June. Yet, on Tinos, as in Athens, it started on Friday 1 June at 5:30 pm in the smaller churches, the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios and the church dedicated to Agios IǀannƝs o Prodromos, while it started at 6 pm in the church dedicated to the Annunciation. However, when I arrive in the church dedicated to Agios IǀannƝs, around 4:30 pm, several women are already busy in front of the iconostasis placing their kollyba on the marble steps leading up to the iconostasis, on the right part 86

I thank Iǀanna Krikelli for this information (email communication 06.06.11).


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of the steps and in front of the icon depicting Agios IǀannƝs o Prodromos (Fig. 36).

Figure 36. Kollyba with lighted candles in the church of Agios IǀannƝs o Prodromos, Tinos, the eve of the psychosabbato before Whitsunday, 1 June 2012.

One of the women is eager to instruct me that the church is dedicated to him. The priest of the church dedicated to the Treis Hierarches, who was at the ossuaries in the monastery dedicated to Agia Triada on Holy Friday afternoon, is also responsible for this church, since both belong to the same parish, and I ask him about the ritual there during Pentecost. He gives me a long and very interesting introduction to vespers, which is about to start, and the psychosabbato, saying, among other things, that he is going to bless the kollyba and read the names of all the individual souls to be blessed, which might amount to 2,500 names. On the Saturday, the liturgy is more formal and a “common reading”, celebrating the families, saints and others who are waiting in paradise. Meanwhile, many more women arrive offering their holy bread (prosphoro) at the left door of the iconostasis. They deliver their supplication papers to the priest and then arrange their kollyba for the psychƝs (souls) of the dead. The kollyba candles are of different sizes: some are the normal yellow-brown candles,

Tombs and Gifts


but many are longer. Some kollyba only have one candle, but others have two or three. The three “common kollyba” have many candles of varying sizes: several of the women empty their kollyba into one of the three big baskets, two in front of the iconostasis and a third on one of the pews further back in the church. Alternatively, they may empty a part of their kollyba into each of the three baskets. The latter of these three “common kollyba”, i.e. the one on a pew, is kept for Saturday. On the adjacent are several other personal kollyba also destined for the liturgy the next day. In front of the iconostasis on a stand, a small bowl is filled with oil on which two burning candles are floating, resembling the ones seen during Easter. Before the liturgy, the women light the candles on their respective kollyba, the priest emerges from the hieron and swings the censer in front of each of the kollyba, and thereafter he goes around the entire church swinging his censer. After this purification, the liturgy begins and comes to an end with the priest standing in front of the iconostasis and swinging the censer towards the kollyba for a long time, blessing them. Then, he receives the big pile of papers from the young churchwarden, and starts to read the names. During the liturgy, more and more women have arrived with their contributions, among them Sophia, the mother of the late Panagiotis, who empties a part of her kollyba in each of the common baskets. Afterwards, she leaves her bread and paper on which she has written “her names”: her mother who died some years ago, her younger sister, and of course her son, Panagiotis. When the priest starts to read her paper, she rises and moves towards the iconostasis, fetches the candle she had placed under one of the icons next to the kollyba to acquire more holiness, and lights it. When the priest has read her names, she leaves the church. Several other women do the same, which is reminiscent of the ritual in Agia Marina in 2011: when the priest read “their names” they rose, some also approached the iconostasis during the reading of their names and lit a new candle in the kollyba, although very few left the church. After the reading of the names and the termination of the liturgy around 7 pm, the women fetch their kollyba after extinguishing the candles, if they had not already done so during the liturgy when many candles burnt all the way down. The priest asks them to take their kollyba outside to share between them, and keep the church clean since the liturgy will start early the next morning at 7:45 am, and vespers will be celebrated at 5 pm. Many women leave some of their kollyba in the “common kollyba” for the day after, and still others arrive with more kollyba for Saturday, which they place on the next pew. The rest take their kollyba


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outside to share, but many also bring their kollyba, or parts of them, home again. On Saturday morning, i.e. on psychosabbato, the ritual starts at 7:45 am, when women also offer kollyba in the church, but as mentioned above, many already came to the church with their kollyba during the liturgy on Friday. In the Church of the Annunciation, the priests are still reading names around noon, since many pilgrims arrive on this day only for this purpose. The icon depicting the Dormition of the Panagia has taken its normal place, and downstairs a baptism is being prepared for one of the many pilgrims, a little boy. The division of nature between heaven and earth is related to man and woman. The chthonic sphere, i.e. the earth and the fertility belong to the woman’s domain, while heaven is associated with the man. This dichotomy between men and women is illustrated in connection with Whitsunday, a day also known as “Kneeling Sunday”. The central part of the ceremony on this day from which it takes its name is the kneeling in the church or in the cemetery after the liturgy: in some places, headed by the women who carry baskets filled with offerings, everybody walks in procession to the cemetery. The women remain next to their tombs to watch over the offerings, while they kneel with their heads turned towards the earth. While this ritual is performed, the priest escorts the men back to the church. The ritual clearly illustrates the important role of the women in rituals connected with the dead. They invoke the dead who dwell beneath the earth, while the priest in the church invokes God in heaven.87 The same dichotomy is illustrated by mourning (women) and burial (men), as illustrated in the preceding chapter. A variant of the dichotomy is also symbolised by the two ancient divinities Hestia (the “fixed” and domestic Hearth) and the “moving” God Hermes, as illustrated by J.-P. Vernant.88 On modern Tinos on Whitsunday, “Kneeling Sunday” is also celebrated, although here the kneeling takes place in the church: after the morning service in the church dedicated to Agios Eleutherios, all the parishioners kneel in front of the priest. Around 10:30 am, the priest starts to read the relevant biblical passage while kneeling in the main entrance to the hieron. The whole congregation also kneels, some members in the entrances to the church. All together, the priest and his parishioners kneel 87

Alexiou 1974: 47, cf. 71 f.; Megas 1992: 164, 216-219; Sanders 1962: 273; Coloru 1987: 103-107. 88 Cf. Håland 2007a: Ch. 6 for discussion of Vernant 1982b Vol. 1: 124-170 and the relation to Bourdieu 1982: 157, 1998 and, e.g., Hes. Op. 750-754. Cf. Blum/Blum 1965: 50, 1970: 311-327. Cf. Ov. Met. 7.234-294. See also Harrison 1977: 275-294; Aesch. Cho. 479-510.

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three times: while he reads the relevant passages all are on their knees, inbetween, the chanters chant, and meantime the priest is behind the iconostasis. To finish the liturgy, around 11:30 am, the priest announces the rest of the liturgies during Pentecost and the following week. At the end of the liturgy two men bring a big brass water urn outside the church. Standing in front of the iconostasis, the priest greets all his parishioners individually, shaking their hands and giving blessed bread to each and every one in turn, while blessing them on behalf of the Lord (Kyrios). When they leave the church, the parishioners receive holy water from the brass water urn resting on a table decorated with a white tablecloth: a man pours blessed or holy water from the brass water urn into glasses or small plastic bottles, so everyone gets a share of the agiasma or holy water after the ceremony. Some drink the water immediately, while others take the bottles home. The same evening there is a service in the monastery dedicated to Agia Triada at 8:30 pm. I arrive at Agia Triada around 8:10 pm. The space outside of the monastery is packed with cars. Inside there are a lot of people. In the monastery garden, many long tables are decorated with linen cloth and stacks of plates, awaiting the hot food to be brought by Exǀ, the main catering company on the island. On other tables are glasses, many jugs filled with local wine, retsina and half litre bottles of water. On other tables are boxes with cakes and sweets from the island’s main patisserie, Mesklies, formerly also the catering company. Waiters and caterers from Exǀ and Mesklies are waiting behind the tables for the liturgy to end. On the white stone benches in the garden and outside the church, carpets are laid, as is the custom at saint’s feasts during summer on the island, such as in the church dedicated to Agia ParaskeuƝ. Inside the church is a table midway between the main entrance and the iconostasis with four big breads, and on the floor in front of it, a big basket contains more. People enter the church continually, to drop money into a carved wooden counter with a slot, pick up candles to light, and kiss the various icons: the main one depicting the Ascension of Christ is decorated with a white flower and placed next to the breads, and the most important icon on the iconostasis, depicting the saint of the event of the church’s dedication, Agia Triada, is decorated with white flowers all around the icon. As soon as they arrive at the monastery, and before entering the church, most people go to their own ossuaries with special red “grave candles”, flowers and other offerings. They light the candles, incense the grave or ossuary, and kiss the ossuary containing the bones of their deceased family members. Others go directly to the church.


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At 8:30 pm, the priest of the church dedicated to the Treis Hierarches and a helper, one of the chanters, start to draw the bell rope to chime the church bells, and then the liturgy starts, but before it starts, the priest instructs the chanters which relevant texts to sing. Then, the priest enters the hieron and the chanters to the right outside the iconostasis start to chant. Throughout the liturgy, more and more people arrive: while entering the church they drop money in the counter, pick up candles to light, and kiss the various icons. Some bring with them more breads to place in the basket. Others leave the breads with the church attendants who cut up the breads, put them in big baskets, and bring these in front of the “bread table”. Some people also bring more flowers, particularly lilies, the flowers of the dead, for one of the big vases in front of the iconostasis. Some people stay inside the church, but most leave through the right exit and find a seat on one of the carpeted benches outside, find a seat in the garden, or proceed to their ossuaries. The latter mostly descend by the door on the left side of the church that leads to the ossuaries. During the liturgy, most people sit talking in the garden. Inside the church, a candle is also lit in front of the big icon depicting Agios Charalampos on the left wall. Opposite, i.e. on the right hand wall, a smaller icon depicts the same saint. Some days earlier, the priest told me that the main saint feast to be celebrated in this church is the day of Agios Charalampos whose liturgical day is celebrated on 10 February, when all the farmers come to the church with their cattle and sheep to be blessed. Around 9 pm, the priest emerges from the hieron with the censer and censes, particularly in front of the decorated icon on the stand in the middle of the church next to the bread table and the decorated icon on the iconostasis. Then, he walks around ceremonially swinging the censer, particularly in front of important icons, leaves by the left door, and censes outside, enters by the main entrance, and censes the breads. Then, he returns behind the iconostasis, after having purified the whole space both inside and outside of the church. One of the priests from the church dedicated to the Annunciation arrives. The candles in the candelabra on the breads are lit. The two priests emerge from the hieron, preceded by two choirboys carrying tall candles who each take up position on either side of the main entrance to the hieron, while the priests continue towards the breads. After swinging the censer and singing, they return behind the iconostasis and enter the body of the church a second time. In connection with the blessing of the breads, it is important that the heavy electric glass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling are made to swing or move, which is done by pushing them with a big candle. On a later occasion I was told that this ritual symbolises “the Holy Spirit descend[ing]”. At the same

Tombs and Gifts


time, more full baskets of cut bread are placed in front of the bread table. Before blessing the breads, the priest belonging to the church reads or rather sings or chants from the papers the names to be blessed, and swings the censer. Along with these “soul papers”, the second time he emerged from the hieron he also brought the prayer or liturgical book for Pentecost (on which the Greek term for Pentecost, “tƝs PentƝkostƝs” is written). Both priests bless the breads, but only the priest belonging to the church reads. The priest from the Church of the Annunciation takes one of the breads, kisses and blesses it, and the other priest performs the same ritual. After the blessing of the breads, the two priests and the two choirboys return behind the iconostasis. Towards the end of the liturgy, the priest from the Church of the Annunciation emerges from the hieron carrying a big golden cross with which he blesses the whole congregation. The liturgy ends at 10 pm. One of the enthusiastic black-clad women instructs me to fetch blessed bread and thereafter go outside and eat, assuring me that “there is food for everyone”. Since I am taking notes, she rushes to fetch bread herself to be sure I will have some. The usual rule from the Church of the Annunciation is observed: all the prominent persons, such as the mayor, receive bread wrapped in plastic. Outside of the church, there is indeed plenty of food for everyone: at the two long tables where various hot dishes are served, many people are queuing up. From here, they proceed to the table where drinks are served: red or white wine and water. Several women walk around distributing cakes and sweets from the various boxes from Mesklies. People are seated everywhere: around the fountain, at the benches around the church, in the garden, and in the children’s playground also in the garden, while the priests are being served at a table on the upper balcony of the monastery. Below them is a table around which some of the women working or helping during the liturgy are seated. Several people ask for boxes with lids to take the food away with them, and also fetch a bottle with water. This is evidently standard practice, since the appropriate items for keeping food warm are on the tables, next to the dishes, like at any take away restaurant. At the same time as some are leaving, many new visitors arrive, enter the church, drop their coins, fetch candles and kiss the icons “before they join in the party”. Many visitors leave in taxis or waiting cars, but even at 10:30 pm many others arrive on foot, in cars or on motorbikes. When enquiring how the meal is financed, I am told that the food and wine are bought with the money people leave when entering the church to light candles. In other words, this is a prime example of the redistributive function within Greek religion. Moreover, this celebration at Agia Triada


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is, in all senses of the word, a communal meal with the dead whose bones reside there. Many people are eager to tell me that there is another service the next day, on Monday morning at 8 am. Slightly before this time, many of the parishioners belonging to the church of Agios Nikolaos/Agios Eleutherios meet their priest at the Health Centre of Tinos outside the township proper to walk to Agia Triada together, as they did when going to the Church of the Annunciation after the Resurrection on Easter Sunday to celebrate the common vespers. Many of the older women prefer to attend this morning liturgy instead of the evening service, in which I observed that many younger people participated, or came later to join in the meal. Based on my participation in the celebration at Agia Triada and even though this is not the psychosabbato proper but Whitsunday, i.e. the day after psychosabbato, it is clear why my aforementioned informant on Tinos said that the big psychosabbato is the one in June: effectively, it is far more extensive a ritual than any of the others, lasting from Friday until Monday. In general gifts are distributed on the Soul Saturdays,89 so the passage rites will be successfully completed. Before moving on, it is important to recapitulate that the psychosabbata correspond with sprouting and harvest, or the annual life and death cycle, since they are celebrated at the end of winter and at the end of spring: during the sprouting of the grains at the beginning of Lent and at Pentecost, around the grain harvest. Perhaps the modern rituals can give a clearer picture of how similar ceremonies might have been carried out and appreciated by ordinary people, particularly women, in the ancient world. For ancient communities, grief over the dead was apparently as fundamental as it is today, or perhaps even more important, and through a comparison with the modern material we may perhaps obtain a clearer picture, and thereby a wider comprehension of the ancient public or official state manifestations and condemnations of women’s manifestations of grief that constitute most of our written sources and see how they fit with the few women-authored sources and the visual material, in which women and their grief are prominent.

Ancient Offerings and Memorial Rituals Whether inhumed or cremated, the ancient dead were buried along with gifts and offerings. As is common today, they were buried with their 89

Megas 1992: 132 f.; Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 52.

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favoured possessions, including mirrors, strigils, toys (Fig. 37), and other personal belongings.

Figure 37. Clay figurines (dolls). Early Geometric period, cremation (T33/IV, 950900 BCE). 3d Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities—Kerameikos Museum (inv. no. 961, 962). © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/ Archaeological Receipts Fund.

The ancient burial involved different offerings and rituals: cuttings of hair, libations, blood sacrifices, laments, eulogies and singing.90 The deceased 90

Rehm 1994: 26-28; Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 30. Libations: Aesch. Cho. 87, 538; ARV 743,5. Cuttings of hair: Aesch. Cho. 7, 226; ARV 1516,80, see also Eur. Tro.1182-1184 for hair offering and 1200-1201 burial gifts to Astyanax, El. 959960 to Aegisthus although no burial is involved. Cf. Il. 23.163-179 (897); Robertson 1992: 244 ff.; Triomphe 1992: 110-112; Burkert 1983: 48-58, 1985:


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received gifts as possessions befitting their status in life. There are also destructive sacrifices,91 motivated by the helpless rage that accompanies grief, but also by various other reasons, such as offerings to the dead corresponding to those dedicated to other chthonic deities. To break, bend and burn were the main methods to kill or destroy an object that pertained to the spirits underneath.92 A new tomb was often sprinkled with grain, paralleling modern circumstances.93 The grave was always a place for libations; sometimes libation vessels were broken and left on the tomb, thus paralleling the modern wine bottle. Elektra does not turn to look behind her when she has broken the dish, illustrating the ambivalence ancient people felt in connection with death.94 No burial was without a funerary banquet. The deceased person duly provided for is, correspondingly, often imagined at a banquet, as the large group of the so-called Totenmahl reliefs shows. The everlasting banquet indicates absence of desires.95 According to an inscription from Keos, funeral rituals were terminated by purifying the house with seawater, followed by washing the next day. Finally, they sacrificed to Hestia (the Hearth).96 After the funeral, the funerary sacrifices and funerary banquet were recapitulated at increasing intervals: on the third (trita) day and on the ninth (enata) day, food was again brought to the grave. On the thirtieth, a communal feast was held to mark the end of the official mourning period.97 As it is today, the anniversary ritual was celebrated, and there were other less formal visits to the tomb, for example to appease the spirits of the dead.98

192, particularly re blood sacrifice vs. Hughes 1991: 39, 215 n.119 and Ch. 3, for a different interpretation of great bloody burial sacrifices. See also Ch. 6 infra. 91 Od. 11.31. Hägg 1987: 93-99 (gifts befitting her or his status in life). 92 Hughes 1991: 51 ff.; Burkert 1983: 48-58, cf. Vermeule 1981: 197. 93 Papoutsis 1982: 20, cf. supra. For the ancient: Cic. Leg. 2.63. Cf. Dietrich 1967: 31n.6. 94 See Jacobsen/Cullen 1981: 98n.15 for ritual breakage. Cf. also Vermeule 1981: 34 Fig. 26, see also 81 Fig. 36 for ambivalent symbols. 95 Pl. Resp. 363d, cf. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 60; Garland 1985: 71 and Fig. 14; Vermeule 1981: 57 f., and Fig. 13; Harrison 1977: Fig. 87; Lincoln 1991: 24. Cf. Larson 1995: 43-50, although her analysis is different, see Ch. 7 infra. 96 SIG³1218. Garland 1985: 44, cf. 41 ff., 147. For “miasma” re death and people’s ambivalent emotions: Parker 1985: Ch. 2. 97 Isae. 2.37, 8.39. See Larson 1995: 91 for fish sacrifice to the dead. 98 Annual feast: Pl. Menex. 249bc; Lys. 2 (i.e. Epitaphios/Funeral Oration) , cf. Paus. 1.18,7 f. See also Eur. Alc. 1146; Pl. Leg. 717, 740, 947, cf. Hdt. 4.26. See also Kurtz/Boardman 1971: 147 f.; Alexiou 1974: 7-10; Rehm 1994: Ch. 1 f., cf.

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Figure 38. Lead figurine in a lead case inscribed with a magic curse found in the enclosure of Aristion (420-410 BCE). 3d Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities—Kerameikos Museum (inv. no. 1B 12=SA40). © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.

In the ancient world, one might also be provided with written curses in the tomb, or messages to the couple below such as the following informing them about opponents who should be affected:99 Let Thersilokhos, Oenophilos, Philotios, and any other legal supporter of Pherenicos be put under a spell to Hermes Chthonikos and Hekate Chthonia. And I put under a spell the soul and mind and tongue and plans of Pherenikos, and whatever he does and plots concerning me. Let all things be opposed to him and to those who plot and act with him.

Aesch. Cho. e.g. 6 f., 129-132, 149-152, 164-170, 486-491. Cf. Tupet 1986: 2663 ff. The thinking behind the offering: Od. 19.395-399; Harrison 1977: 275-294. 99 Wunsch D.T. no. 107, cited in Mikalson 1987: 77. Cf. Jordan 1985: 205-255, 1994 (see infra). See also PGM. 51.1-27, 58.1-14, 4.1390-1495, 2140-2144; Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pls. 45 f., cf. 331 f. See also Versnel 1981: 21-26.


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Among the finds from the Kerameikos area displayed in the Kerameikos Museum in Athens is a lead figurine in a lead case inscribed with a curse from ca. 420-410 BCE. It bears the names of adversaries at law and a suitable phrase: “and anybody else whoever is a fellow-accused or witness in favour of them” (Fig. 38). Another curse from the Kerameikos is inscribed on a sheet of lead, and is directed against groups of individuals, amongst whom reference is made to servants, procurers, wine-shop owners and tent-dwellers. I bind their tongue and their mind and soul and body, as well as their acts and mind, spirit, intellect and their own will too.100

To care for the graves is a duty that falls on the descendants, officially the male citizens.101 The importance of observing the cult of the tomb in ancient Athenian society is clearly illustrated by the fact that before a citizen could pass the necessary examination that made him prepared to hold a public position, he was required to prove that he had fulfilled his duties, stating the importance of honouring the tombs of the ancestors.102 It was possible to adopt a son, to secure that the annual rituals at the tomb would be carried out according to custom.103 Accordingly, we also have sources telling us about parents mourning their dead child, which in practical life, meant that their own tomb would not be properly cared for after death.104 However, even adopted sons needed aid from their wives to tend the dying and thereafter take care of their graves.105 The predominance of images of women on the funerary white-ground lƝkythoi deposited in or on the grave thus confirms their critical role in the tendance of the dead and the family grave in the ancient world, paralleling contemporary realities. The ancient lƝkythoi illustrate female visitors dedicating locks of hair, libations, wreaths and flowers. These female depictions on the vases confirm their important role concerning maintenance of the graves. We encounter the same reality in the tragedies, and later in, for example, Plutarch’s writings. In Aeschylus’ Choephoroi, 100 Magic curse written on a lead sheet, dating from 4th cent. BCE. On display in Room 10 (devoted to the late classical period) of the Kerameikos Museum, Athens, Individual find 1B 43, 20. 101 Aesch. Cho. 123-149, 456-461; Thuc. 2.34, cf. Georgoudi 1988: 73-98; Rehm 1994: 102; Holst-Warhaft 1992: Ch. 4 f. 102 Arist. Ath. Pol. 55.2 f.; Xen. Mem. 2.2.13; Pl. Hp.Ma. 291de; Isae. 2.36 f. Cf. Georgoudi 1988: 74, 85. 103 Isae. 2.10, 36, 46, 6.64-65, 7.29-30. 104 Eur. Supp. 923, Med. 1032-1034. 105 Isae. 2.36 f.

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Elektra promises her father that she will provide future libations and care for his tomb.106 In a passage from Euripides, we learn that flowers are dedicated on the tomb.107 As I stated in the previous chapter, the tragedies constitute a particularly important category of sources on death, burial and the following rituals in the domestic or family sphere. Here we encounter the usual rituals relatives performed for their dead after burials. In the opening sequence of Euripides’ Orestes, we learn Orestes has killed his mother Klytaemnestra. Her sister, Helen, sends her daughter, Harmonia, to perform the ritual libations at the grave of her sister: 108 Take the libation in your hands and this hair of mine, and go to Klytaemnestra’s burial site. Pour out the stirred-up honey, milk and frothing wine. Then stand on top the mound and say these words: “Helen, your sister, offers these libations, fearing to come to your tomb in person, afraid of the Argive mob.” And ask her to look with kindness on you and me and my husband, and on this wretched pair some God has ruined. Promise funeral gifts, all the things I should give to my sister.

Demosthenes writes about a memorial ceremony paid for by the deceased man’s daughter.109 The ancient did not offer in silence, but the offering was accompanied with laments, prayers and the ritual gestures also common at the bier.110 The invocation of the dead was an emotional situation, accompanied with ritual gestures, and this was the conventional way to carry out the ritual so that the offering should be positive, i.e. have the anticipated effect (Fig. 39).


Aesch. Cho. 486-488, 93, cf. Soph. El. 896; Eur. Tro. 1144, 1182-1184, 1247. Cf. e.g., ARV 743,5, 746,4, 845,168, 748,1, 754,14, 997,156, 1022,139bis, 1227,1, 1227,9, 1233,19, 1372,3, 1384,18. See also Fig. 30 supra. 107 Eur. Or. 1321-1322. Cf. e.g. Garland 1985: 111 Fig. 26 and Bérard 1984: 94103; Rehm 1994: 22, 161n.46. 108 Eur. Or. 112–124. Tr. http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/euripides/orestes.htm (accessed 16.01.13). 109 Dem. 41.8-21. Cf. Lacey 1972: 152. 110 Aesch. Pers. 536 ff., 619 ff., 1004-1076, cf. 468-471, Cho. 22 ff.; Eur. Phoen. 1485 ff., Supp. 71 ff., Hec. 495-501; Men. Aspis, 220-230; Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pls. 11-13, 27, 33, 44, cf. 147 f., 104 f.; Pl. Leg. 947, cf. 960


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Figure 39. Grieving at a tomb, funerary white-ground lƝkythos. National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 19355). © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.

According to a contemporary Greek woman describing this situation, one must be “overcome by pain” to be able to be a mediator between the living and the dead through laments.111 There might be an underlying feeling of fear that the anger of the dead might strike back at or retaliate against the living, if they were not appeased. This was particularly the case if they had suffered a “wrong death”, perhaps from the viewpoint of the society’s 111

Seremetakis 1991: 3-5, 99 f.; Caraveli 1986: 171-178, cf. Huntington/Metcalf 1981: 28-34 and see e.g. Aesch. Pers. 619-700, Cho. 475 ff.; AP. 7.486; Eur. Hec. 528-542, Tro. 1301 ff. Cf. Harrison 1977: 275-307; Oakley 2004: Fig. 123.

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male ideology. Accordingly (and before she was killed), Klytaemnestra sent lamenters with food and libations to Agamemnon’s tomb.112 Regarding the claim that the fear for the dead that thrives in the Magical Papyri only pertains to late antiquity, however, we arguably encounter the same fear in Homer, even if manifested differently, e.g. in the various measures adopted by Odysseus before invoking the dead in the underworld, or the various devices to avoid miasma in the tragedies and comedies.113 Klytaemnestra’s offerings, however, came too late: they were not accepted by Mother Earth and she was killed by her son, as already mentioned.114 It is worth noting that Rehm compares Orestes’ offerings at the tomb of Agamemnon granted by filial love with Klytaemnestra’s offerings, which were given with fear, seen in her use of Elektra as a mediator, since she did not dare to approach the grave herself.115 However, it is important to keep in mind that we are presented here with Aeschylusࡓ ideological male view, on why the earth by pushing back the offerings, thereby also refuses to renew the fertility. On the other hand, Klytaemnestra had succeeded in avenging her own loss,116 and we encounter an illustration of the situation the legislators feared—the women’s “dangerous voices”, or, here their “dangerous actions”, that start the blood feuds—since her revenge is to kill the man (her husband) who killed her daughter, as a later Maniot woman also avenges the loss she has suffered.117 Holst-Warharft provides some important comments and discusses several ancient parallels to this Maniot woman, such as Antigone and Elektra.118 However, regarding Klytaemnestra’s point of view, which we rarely encounter, since the sources are mostly written by men, one may draw attention to a passage in Euripides concerning “her” outline of “his [Agamemnon’s] plots against his own family”, contra the male view in Aeschylus.119 The latter is also presented by J.-P. Vernant who presents the traditional male (Greek) view of Klytaemnestra as the male part, since she has assumed the 112

Aesch. Cho. 523 ff., cf. 22 ff.; Soph. El. 442 ff.; Eur. El. 29 f., vs. 324 f. See also Hec. 40 f., 528-542, cf. Aesch. Cho. 1048-1051, Eum. 66-78, Sept. 69-78, 632-664. Cf. Mikalson 1987: 51; Tupet 1986: 2663. 113 E.g. Ar. Eccl. 1033; Eur. Alc. 98-100; Od. 10.528 ff., 534 ff.; e.g. PGM. 70.4-25 and 60.1-27. Cf. Harrison 1977: 295 f. and Loraux 1988: 58. Cf. infra for Jordan 1994: 131-143. 114 Aesch. Cho. 66 f. 115 Aesch. Cho. 22-48 vs. Orestes’ offering: Cho. 1-9. Cf. Rehm 1994: 53. 116 Aesch. Ag. 139-141. 117 Holst-Warharft 1992: 77-83, cf. Loraux 1990: 19 ff. for Klytaemnestra. 118 Holst-Warharft 1992: 84, cf. 104, 143. 119 Aesch. Ag. 12 f., 139-141 vs. Eur. El. 1010-1050.


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role of Agamemnon, while her lover Aigisteus in this setting becomes the female part of a relationship. This view is also accepted by Pomeroy who sees her as a masculine woman.120 However, as H. Foley has illustrated in her analysis of “the female intruder-pattern”,121 women, be that Klytaemnestra or others such as Demeter, react when men enter their domain, as Agamemnon did when he lead their daughter off and killed her: in other words, when men meddle in the mother-daughter relationship or other domestic interests by force, women react by leaving their female sphere and breaking down the social order, paralleling their actions during ancient feuds. In the “Klytaemnestra-portrait” then, we meet a parallel to other mothers wanting or actually taking revenge, but also the reactions of the later Panagia when her son is killed, as illustrated in the previous chapter. As I have discussed in an earlier context, Klytaemnestra’s argument about what Agamemnon did to her daughter, her “sweet flower”, is not what one generally associates with a man’s “masculine” saying, but rather with a mother mourning her daughter.122 After the thirtieth day ritual, the official honouring of the deceased is incorporated into the general celebrations with which every polis honours its dead every year: the day of the dead is called Nekysia, or the day of the ancestors (forefathers), Genesia.123 Nemesia was probably an all-night festival dedicated to the dead. Another feast lasted nine days.124 Ceremonies dedicated to the dead were also celebrated within the domestic, familial sphere, paralleling the contemporary psychosabbata when the public rituals have finished, as will be further discussed later in this chapter. The Attic festival of the Genesia has been interpreted as an example of communal commemoration of the ancestors, through the Athenian official or state celebration of the festival, which again developed from an originally small festival celebrated within the familial, domestic or wider sphere; it has been assumed that this domestic festival was the one called Nekysia.125 Demosthenes writes, “my wife advanced a mina of silver and expended it on her father’s behalf for the feast of the dead [the Nemesia]...” According to S. D. Lambert, Nemesia here can be an early corruption of the more likely Genesia, which also in Athens ran 120

Pomeroy 1995b: 98 f.; Vernant 1982b Vol. 1: 134-138. Foley 1982: 1-21 (tragedy), 1994: 116 (HHD.) 122 See Håland 2007a: Ch. 6 n.981 for discussion of Aesch. Ag. 1525 f., etc. 123 Hdt. 4.26; Pl. Leg. 717e, 740. For Genesia, see also infra, cf. Jacoby 1944a: 6575; Georgoudi 1988: 76 ff., 79 ff., cf. 80 ff.; Lambert 2002: 75-82. 124 Jacoby 1944a: 67 (it is not clear whether this is a Roman or a Greek festival, cf. Ch. 8 infra); Dietrich 1967: 166 f. (Nemesia). 125 Lambert 2002: 76, cf. also infra for Hsch. s.v. Genesia. 121

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parallel with the state festival, since it was a rite celebrated at the individual family level and at the state level.126 During these memorial celebrations, they had meals at the tombs and the relatives invoked the deceased by name (mneia), thus paralleling the modern letters, or moirologia, laments written in memory of the dead in Olympos, but also the “soul papers” or “supplications”. They similarly distributed food to the other participants.127 On such days the graves are adorned, offerings are made, special food is eaten, and on some days it is also said that the dead come up and go about in the city. At the festivals of the dead, the grave stƝlai are washed, anointed and wound with fillets or mourning bands. This is illustrated by the pictures on the tall vessels, lƝkythoi, used for the libations of oil.128 The offerings for the dead are pourings, choai: barley broth, milk, honey, frequently wine, and especially oil, as well as the blood of sacrificed animals.129 There are also simple libations of water, which is why there is talk of the bath of the dead. According to Isaeus, there is also enagizein,130 the consecration and burning of foods and sacrificial victims; but the living, too, have their feast, as in contemporary society. Indeed, it is through the “meals of mortals ordained by custom”, the “enjoyable, fatsteaming, burnt offerings of the earth”, that the deceased receives her or his honour.131 An epigram from the Hellenistic period describes how the dead Kleitagoras in the world of Mother Earth and Persephone, asks for flowers, milk and the playing of pipes. In return, he will also give gifts:132 You shepherds who wander this lonely mountainside taking your goats and fleecy sheep to pasture: I ask a favour in the name of Mother Earth and Persephone, who shares our world below—a slight enough thing, but one that means a lot to a dead man: let me hear your sheep bleating while one of you sits on a rough rock, softly playing the pipes to them; let a village man pick wild flowers in early spring to decorate my grave; and let a 126

Lambert 2002: 80, 75 f.; Dem. 41.11. Artem. 1.4; Georgoudi 1988: 77 f. Cf. Simondon 1988: 92 (memorial celebration), and 93 (invocation by name and its relation to the deceased), cf. 94 f. 128 Cf. Fig. 58 Ch. 7 infra. See also e.g. ARV 997,156, 845,168, 754,14, 1227,1, 1227,9, 1372,3, 1384,18. Adorned: ARV 746,4, 748,1. Cf. Plut. Arist. 21. 129 Aesch. Pers. 611-618; Eur. IT 159-166; Aesch. Cho. 84-164 for choai, cf. Burkert 1985: 18 and Soph. OC. 466-492. See also Garland 1985: 114. Blood: Pind. Ol. 1.90; Eur. Hec. 536. See also Od. 11.35-37; Il. 23.166-180. 130 Isae. 6.51, 7.30, cf. LSJ s.v. enagizǀ, offer, sacrifice to the dead. 131 Aesch. Cho. 483 f.; Soph. El. 284, see also Isae. 2.46, cf. 1.10, 2.4,10, 4.19, 6.65, 9.4,7 and Georgoudi 1988: 74. 132 AP. 7.657 (tr. Fleur Adcock in P. Jay ed.). 127


Chapter Five shepherd raise the full udder of a nursing ewe and squirt rich milk onto my tomb. I, Kleitagoras, will remember you; even we dead can return favours.

In another late Hellenistic grave inscription, cited in D. G. Rice and J. E. Staumbough, the deceased asks that the grave gifts should not be dedicated to him, but to the Gods below.133 One may wonder if this is a contradiction or an attempt to adjust customary rituals and belief. Another preferred gift to the dead was honey cakes.134 The custom of carrying kallysmata, the sweepings from the house, to the tomb once a month has been considered as a ritual carried out to remove eventual miasma, impurities from the house, but it might also have been an offering in the same way as other grave offerings. One may draw this conclusion by comparing the ritual with the customary use of the sweepings from the sanctuary dedicated to the Panagia during her “Dormition” festival on Tinos and the tomb of Agios Gerasimos in the festival commemorating his death on Kephallonia, where he is patron saint. As illustrated in Chapter 2, a similar ritual was performed at the tomb of Agios Nektarios’ right hand in 2012, though on a more individual level. Many islanders believe that sweepings from the church might appease storms. They also have a healing function and are kept as an amulet. In other words, the grave offering has an apotropaic function.135 Not only the deceased, but also the earth was given offerings, paralleling the modern blood offerings that are made to the earth, as illustrated in the introductory chapter. We encounter the cult of nature in ancient Greek religion, by the custom of reimbursing the earth for the gift of life by burying the dead in the earth, and making fruit, grain, and flower offerings to the earth via the deceased. The earth was seen as “the mother and nurse of all things”, as illustrated in several sources.136 For example, Plato illustrates that the cult of nature is present within all layers of society.137 Since the earth was so intimately related to the deceased, the mourner first invoked her, asking to receive the offering and convey it to


Rice/Staumbough 1979: 243. Luc. Mec. Cond. 28. 135 Cf. AP. HE13=Ath. 7.313d (Poseidippos, see Jay ed. nr. 87, pp. 69 f.). Kallysmata: SIG³1218 on, see also Blok 2006: 209n.39. 136 HH 30; Aesch. PV. 90, cf. Cho. 127 f., Pers. 521-532, 623-632, 639-647, Eum. 960-968; AP. 7.368, 7.371, 7.321; Eur. Supp. 531-537, Phoen. 683-687. Cf. Od. 10.303; Il. 2.547; Hes. Op. 465 f., cf. AP. 6.231. 137 Pl. Leg. 958 f. 134

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the dead. In the tragedies, the deceased is often invoked via the earth.138 In Rome this intimacy was also symbolised by laying the dead directly on the earth. A similar custom is still found in rural Greece, for example in Olympos and the island of Euboea.139 The aspect of gift giving and return gifts is central: the earth is reminded of former offerings, and so is asked to take care of the dead. It is clear from the grave inscriptions in contemporary cemeteries that the death day might be considered as the second birth, i.e. the birth into people’s memory, although according to the nun, Sister Maria they are born into the eternal life in paradise. From a non-theological point of view, however, one may assume that the deceased is thus reborn annually in people’s memory, and they obtain a new social existence by way of a feast both today and in the ancient world.140 This cyclical link between death and birth, a birth that might be understood on several levels, is also seen through the etymology of Genesia. According to F. Jacoby, who deals with the Athenian state festival, “genesia belongs to the genetai, the Genesia is the festival of the fathers (or ancestors)”, while Lambert states, “This rite, or festival (to do with genesis, [i.e.] birth, parenthood or origins more generally)…is attested at family and state level and at the level of the formal groups intermediate between family and state.” According to the lexicographer, Hesychius, “Genesia is a festival of mourning for the Athenians…And on this day they make sacrifices to Ge [Earth].”141 So, during the communal Genesia festival in Athens, people mourned and made sacrifices to Earth. No other divinity than Ge or Gaia, is more suited to be the protector of this eternal oscillation between the termination and the beginning: everything is born from her, and returns back into her.142 It is the earth, the “the Mother of all”, the feeder of “all creatures that are in the world”, the creator of everything, who gives birth and nourishes everything; it is this Earth Mother who cares for the human beings and makes them citizens of the polis. But it is also the earth that will cover them when they die.143 It is the earth that will receive the humans in her motherly bosom. When she gives birth to a person, she takes another back. 138

Eur. El. 677-679, Tro. 1305 ff.; Aesch. Cho. 126-131, 398 f., 471-479, 489-492, Pers. 522 f., 619 ff.; Soph. El. 110-129. 139 Cf. du Boulay 2009: 231, cf. 34, 72. For Rome: Paoli 1975: 128. 140 Georgoudi 1988: 87-89 also for the following, cf. Motte 1973: 150 f. 141 Hsch. s.v. Genesia; Lambert 2002: 75 f.; Jacoby 1944a: 67. Cf. Georgoudi 1988: 80-89. 142 Hes. Th. 117, cf. HH 30; Aesch. Cho. 127-128; Eur. Supp. 534-536. See also Lydus. Mens. 132 11W; Macrob. Sat. 1.12,20, for birth and rebirth. 143 Cf. AP. 7.368.


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When the dead are united with this nurse who produces everything, they are participating in the production and reproduction of the fruits of the earth. Thus, the dead secure the food for the living: “from the dead come nourishment, growth and seed...”144Inside the depth of the earth, the dead participate in the eternal renewal of both nature and generations; from here originates the vital power that gives life to everything, and is exhausted and regenerated in a movement which is at once a perpetual and permanent passage. From several sources, particularly Homer, we learn that one might swear an oath by Earth and Styx.145 The ancient also had the idea that omphalos is the centre of the earth, or marker for the bosom, i.e. the interior of the earth.146 The bosom of this earth is the place where the dead dwell, and simultaneously the place in which one encounters the “original water of the subterranean”. Hence, omphalos might be considered as the stone that prevents the water from flowing forth and overflowing the earth. On the other hand, it also indicates the location where one may come into contact most easily with the subterranean world to learn about the future. The food offerings from the lamenters return to the earth a symbol of its own abundance, because oikos is a living organism that must be revitalised in every generation to survive. Oikos simultaneously provided 144

Hp. Reg. 4.92. Cf. Gernet 1981: 31 f. Cf. also an inscription from Selinute (ancient Selinus) (mid-5th cent. BCE), in which death festivals, offerings, etc. are required, cf. Jameson, Jordan and Kotansky 1993; Lambert 2002. The inscription was discussed at a seminar at the Swedish institute at Athens, autumn 1991, in connection with the worldwide custom in which the dead are manipulated and David Jordan’s paper, “Late Feasts for Ghosts”, discussing curse tablets of Roman imperial date from Cyprus invoking chthonic powers, Gods and spirits and the magical operation originating in the ordinary ritual tendance of the dead, see Jordan 1994: 131-143. I particularly like his suggestion on these operations being “routine low-intensity ritual[s] providing the framework for medium-high intensity and high intensity”, 138 f. paralleling my own analysis of women’s everyday rituals that are the background or framework for rituals in all festivals, i.e. religion and the rituals represented in the festivals and in connection with the life-cycle passages are an “overdose” or intensification of the rituals performed in daily life, see Håland 2007a, 2010a. See also Jordan 1994: particularly 136, cf. Chaniotis/Stavrianopoulou 1998: 323. These curses have been analysed as mainly directed against opponents at law, and are in line with prescribed offerings to the dead for magical purposes. The same thinking is present in the modern death cult: gifts are given to receive counter-gifts. 145 Il. 14.271-277, 15.36-47, cf. 3.103 ff.; Hes. Th. 397-401, 784, cf. Soph. OC. 1593 ff. See also Aesch. Ag. 1431 ff. (cf. Eum. 1-64); Soph. Ant. 450-453; Paus. 5.14,10. 146 Cf. Barb 1953: 222 n.104.

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food for its living members, and its deceased members’ want for the performances of cultic rituals. This reciprocal contact is necessary to ensure the food.147 We encounter the same logic on White Tuesday on contemporary Karpathos regarding the priest praying to the icons for rain, good economy and an abundant harvest, and afterwards when he says a prayer over each grave, i.e. the expectation that the dead will provide the crop as a counter-gift for the grave offerings they receive. One may suggest that during the memorial called Genesia, several links are united and strengthened, bonds between sons and deceased fathers, but also between daughters and mothers,148 between the family and its deceased, between the polis and its deceased citizens, between the earth and the people; between those she supports and those she preserves in her caring bosom. In other words, we encounter a cycle, birth-death-birth on all levels of life and in nature through this annual and thereby cyclic celebration. The days of the Anthesteria festival around 1 March were perceived as being polluted. According to the source of the Byzantine patriarch of Kǀnstantinople, Photios, it was supposed that the spirits of the dead returned to earth and roamed around the living during the festival.149 They came from the temple dedicated to Dionysos in the Marshes, en limnais, when the wine-jars (Pithoigia) were opened, and the temple was opened on this particular day to facilitate their arrival. Accordingly, the living took precautions, honouring the dead with an offering of panspermia and libations as custom prescribed, before driving them out from the living’s spaces. On 12 Anthesterion, the second day of the festival, the Athenian polis carried out a common ritual offering to the dead in the underworld. According to Pausanias, they threw cakes of wheaten meal kneaded with honey into some ground sacred to Olympian Earth. The ground there had split open about two feet wide and was said to be where the water ran away after “Deukalion’s flood”.150 On the third day, which was dedicated to the spirits of the dead, each householder carried out an individual ritual in which the dead were offered a boiled mixture of all kinds of grains and honey: panspermia (cf. kollyba). The meal was cooked in Chytroi (“Pots”), from which the day took its name. On behalf of the dead, the meal of pottage was offered to the God Hermes who conducted the dead to


Cf. Håland 2012d; Rehm 1994: 27 f. and 160n.41. Cf. e.g. Eur. Med. 1032-1034. 149 Phot. s.v. thyraze Kares, see Håland 2007a: Ch.5 and n.310 for discussion. Cf. ARV 760, 41; Harrison 1977: Fig. 78. See also Rice/Stambaugh 1979: 205. 150 Paus. 1.18,7 f. Cf. e.g. Lawson 1910: 528 f., 533 f., for gifts to the dead/food offerings. 148


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and from the underworld.151 An ancient vase painting may illustrate the souls when they returned to earth: here Hermes, the divine conductor of the dead to and from Hades, seems to direct them coming up from their graves concretised by a big pithos—meaning both wine-jar and also used as grave-jar/coffins—from which they fly.152 The painting may illustrate the souls coming back for some days during the Anthesteria, which was celebrated during spring as the modern Easter. A relevant modern parallel was mentioned in Chapter 3 in connection with the flower leaves the priest throws into the air during the celebration of the Resurrection of the righteous from Hades that represent the resurrected souls. Nekysia and the Anthesteria, the ancient flower and death festivals may be compared with the modern Rousalia.153 According to F. G. Abbott’s outline of the Feast of Rousa, or Rousalia, as this celebration was performed in the Peloponnese round the turn of the previous century, at Mid-Pentecost (MesopentƝkostƝ), i.e. on the twenty-fifth day after Easter, or the Resurrection, the ritual was connected with the ancient Anthesteria, the flower festival celebrating the first shoots of blossom that also celebrated the dead.154 The ancient festivals may also be compared with the carnivals—particularly the Kalogeros festival and the Soul Saturdays—celebrated at the same time of the year as the Anthesteria, i.e. around the time of spring germination, which is not accidental.155 Apart from the edible offerings represented by the panspermia and kollyba, it is striking to encounter the same quantity of alcohol consumption in burials, memorials and in many festivals dedicated to deceased protectors, as in modern carnivals and the ancient Anthesteria: during the contemporary celebration of Agios GiǀrgƝs “the Drunk” on 3 November, in some places on Karpathos and Crete, the new wine is opened and it is important to drink as much as possible. In one village on Karpathos, people visit all the houses and are treated with alcohol.156 One may 151 Håland 2007a: Ch. 5 f. also for discussion of sources, e.g. Ar. Ran. 213 ff.; Schol. Ar. Ach. 1076, cf. also Schol. Ar. Ran. 218. See also Jameson, Jordan and Kotansky 1993: 69, cf. 72 for offerings of honey mixture. 152 ARV 760,41. According to the comment in the Loeb-edition (Plut. Mor. 655e) 258n.b pithos was earlier used as burial jars. 153 Cf. Litsas 1976: 448 ff., cf. Corley 2010: 19 for the continuity of pre-Christian funerary practices. 154 Abbott 1903: 40 f., he refers to the work of N. PolitƝs, see Håland 2007a: Ch. 2 for discussion. 155 Romaios 1949: 182 f.; Kyriakidou-Nestoros 1986: 33; Hart 1992: 229; Håland 2007a: Ch. 4, cf. 2005 for Kalogeros. 156 See Ch. 3 supra, cf. Tsotakou-KarbelƝ 1991: 223 f.

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compare this festival of Agios GiǀrgƝs with the Easter celebration on the island as I experienced it in 1992, but also with the wine that is consumed during the procession at the Kalogeros festival in northern Greece when it visits all the houses of the village. In general the new wine is opened in February, such as when celebrating the Kalogeros, paralleling the ancient Dionysian Anthesteria festival. The modern custom is in fact very similar to the Anthesteria, which was also dedicated to the new wine: the first day was dedicated to the God of Wine, Dionysos. In honour of Dionysos’ gift and of the beginning of the new vintage, the first fruit offering, the first mixed wine and water, was offered to the God, when the Pithoigia, the wine-jars, were opened. Alternatively, the first fruits of the vintage were offered to father and daughter, the Attic hero Ikarios, the former host of Dionysos, and his daughter the heroine Erigone, who was particularly connected with the Anthesteria.157 Be that as it may, on the second day the wine was drunk, though solemnly. There was also a drinking contest, to celebrate the arrival of the God. During the second anniversary memorial of the deceased Panagiotis, several male participants were already drunk at 11 am, and some of the male participants at the burial of the high school teacher in Pyrgos Dirou were also very drunk in the burial, explaining that they had been drinking all night. As already illustrated in this chapter, metaxa was also distributed during the psychosabbato of Agios Theodǀros on Tinos in 2013, along with the usual sweets, cakes and coffee, illustrating the importance of alcohol during modern festivals dedicated to the dead, as is the rule during funerals. In an old, but instructive article, Jacoby has discussed the Genesia, and presents the sources for the festival. He also mentions the difference between the Athenian official or state celebration of the festival of the Genesia and the other (i.e. private or domestic) festivals dedicated to the dead, although his focus is on the former, as stated above.158 Jacoby’s view of the festival of the Genesia has later been discussed by S. Georgoudi, in her article, “Commémoration et célébration des morts dans les cités grecques: les rites annuels”, in which she also refers to the festival in several locations, as does Lambert.159 As already mentioned, it has been claimed to be most likely that Genesia was initially a festival celebrated within the domestic sphere on the anniversary of the deceased in Athens as elsewhere. The Athenian celebration, as has already been noted, has 157 Larson 1995: 99, cf. Schol. Luc. DMeretr. 7.4, see Rabe 1906: 279.24-281.3, discussed in Håland 2007a: Ch. 5 f. 158 Jacoby 1944a: 66 f., sources: 74 f. 159 Lambert 2002: 75; Georgoudi 1988: 87, cf. 76 ff., 79 ff., cf. 80 ff. See also Garland 1985: 88; Harrison 1977: 300 f.


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moreover been seen as the Nekysia, while Jacoby states that we cannot know if the domestic/private Genesia still existed in the classic period alongside the state festival with the same name.160 In his struggle against the clan cults of the powerful kin groups, Solon wanted to reduce expenditure on funerals and thereby the women’s display in connection with their mourning of the dead, as already discussed in the previous chapter.161 It has thus been argued that he reorganised the Genesia from a grand festival celebrated on the anniversary of a big man’s death to a public festival dedicated to the dead in general, a change that, similarly to the restrictive legislation concerning funerals, can be seen as a part of the broader process towards democracy.162 Therefore, the Genesia was transformed into a common citizen festival celebrated before sowing in autumn, just before the celebration of the Mysteries at Eleusis, on 5 Boedromion (September-October). The date of the celebration clearly demonstrates a link to the gift giving in the cult of Mother Earth and the dead, to secure the future crop before the sowing season. One may also mention that the Epitaphia is seen to have been celebrated on 8 Pyanepsion (October-November), on the day of the festival in honour of Theseus, the Theseia, “before plowing-time”.163 I have already illustrated that although Solon wanted to restrict women’s ritual display at burials, that does not mean that he was successful, and the same pertains to the Genesia. According to Jacoby:164 either he restricted the yearly memorial festivals of the several clans for their ancestors as he restricted their burials, or he eliminated them


Jacoby 1944a: 66n.3, cf. 74 (evidence for the Genesia). Cf. supra for Lambert 2002: 76 on Hsch. s.v. genesia. 161 Cf. Plut. Sol. 12B, 21.4 f. 162 Alexiou 1974: 19, cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 116. Lambert 2002: 75 and Georgoudi 1988: 80-84, reject the theory of Jacoby 1944a (cf. 1944b: 37), i.e. that the Genesia had to do specifically with the gene and that a democratising Solon, in instituting a state Genesia, was making available to all what had been a ritual specific to aristocratic families. Cf. Jameson, Jordan and Kotansky 1993: 113. See also Larson 1995: 7 for genos vs. family in connection with heroic cult. 163 Ar. Plut. 627; Plut. Thes. 17, 27.3-5 (see also Ch. 7 infra), cf. Jacoby 1944b: 37n.1, in the latter part of the article (59-66) he suggests that the festival replaced the Genesia at a later date, and was celebrated on 5 Boedromion, i.e. arguing against e.g., Mommsen 1898: 298, 304 ff. who states that it was celebrated in conjunction with the Theseia. The point, however, is that it was celebrated in conjunction with another death feast and before the time of sowing. 164 Jacoby 1944a: 70.

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altogether and substituted for them the one public Festival for the Dead of the whole people.

Since the festival was also celebrated at the individual family level at later stages within Athenian history, as has been illustrated by post-Jacoby research, Solon did not succeed in his endeavour.165 Furthermore, although Jacoby focused his analysis on the male ancestors or fathers, the female and chthonic aspect of the Genesia is not only demonstrated by the Earth, as already illustrated, but also by the custom according to which it was common to “set tables” for deceased heroines on the eve of the festival. Furthermore, in Athens the Semnai (the Holy) or Eumenides, also connected with the Moirai, seem to have had an important role on the eve of the festival by a procession dedicated to them. They were dedicated a cult next to the Akropolis, since their sanctuary was a cave under the Areopagus, as alluded to in the end of Aeschylus’ play, Eumenides, where the processional escort with torches may suggest the annual celebration. As illustrated in the previous chapter, their power over life and death and thereby the fertility of the polis was important, and the Semnai were associated with the KanƝphoroi (i.e. basket bearers) during festivals, who were powdered with white flour, paralleling the modern kollyba iself.166 In the communication between the living and the dead in the ancient world, one may distinguish between the “days of the dead” and the “festivals of the dead”. On the first, the dead were active, such as during the Anthesteria when they returned to the earth; during the second, the living were active, when remembering their dead, visiting the graves and dedicating offerings to the dead.167 The inhabitants in the polis needed a particular place to go to recall what the actual deceased person or legend meant to them. The significance of place introduces us to time conceptions that differ from the one prevailing in modern western society, such as the difference between “point in time” and the western “linear time” with which one may not 165

Lambert 2002: 76 ff. Håland 2007a: Ch. 6n.134; Lambert 2002: 78, 81 f., cf. Ch. 4 supra for discussion of Aesch. Eum. cf. 1032-1044 (procession). See also Paus. 1.28,6 (“the August”=Semnai); Aeschin.1.188; vs. Hes. Th. 185 (Erinyes, i.e. “Furies”); Dem. 21.115 (Dread Goddesses). Cf. Jacoby 1944a: 67. The Eumenides/Semnai are also central in Jameson, Jordan and Kotansky 1993: 77 ff., 117 ff., cf. also Clinton 1996: 165-170. See also Paus. 2.11,4 for the cult of the Kindly Ones in Sicyon, among their offerings were a pregnant ewe (burnt offering) and a libation of honey and water. 167 Hdt. 4.26; Pl. Leg. 717e. Cf. also Jacoby 1944a: 66n.1. 166


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understand the stories of Pausanias. In his writings, places are related to persons and events, not development “along a temporal or ‘time line’”.168 Thus, the graves were of paramount importance, such as the empty grave of Achilleus in Elis, in front of which the women perform ceremonies in his honour, and observe the rites of lamentation for him at the beginning of the festival in Olympia, as illustrated in the previous chapter.169 What can the fact that the dead do not need to be physically present in the grave suggest? One of the implications is probably that one may have several graves, but in general, it is necessary for a tomb to contain a part of the body, as already illustrated by saints’ relics, such as those of Agios Nektarios, or another symbol (cf. amulets). One may also mention Pelops’ grave or Pelopium in Olympia,170 or the grave of a deceased daughter, such as Thersis. The tomb is marked with a stone, the sign, sƝma, which also translates as monument.171The sign proclaims the deceased to all eternity, describes achievements in life and assures protection in death. The sƝma may also be understood as a mysterious guardian of the deceased person; thus lions and sphinxes are found as grave markers. One may for instance mention the giant lion that marks—so protects—the common tomb at the border by Chaeronea. The “Lion of Chaeronea” was probably erected by the Thebans in memory of their dead in the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE. Accordingly, the tomb also protected the living, in the same way as the heroes and heroines.172 Empty tombs were also erected in classical Athens. Similarly to occupied tombs, they received offerings and sometimes a stone was placed inside instead of the deceased’s body. Early epigrams stress the substitution of the stone, the sƝma, for the man.173Empty tombs were often erected in commemoration of men who disappeared at sea, due to a belief that these men could not meet their family in the underworld, if the incomplete burial was not strengthened by a ceremony and a stone image.174Here, we 168

Cf. Dowden 1989: 1 and Håland 2007a: Ch. 2 for a discussion of different conceptions of time. See also Holst-Warhaft 1992: Ch. 1. 169 Cf. Paus. 6.23,3 and 6.24,1, cf. Ch. 4 supra. 170 Paus. 5.13,8. 171 According to Sourvinou-Inwood 1995: 135, “sƝma in Homeric epic names the grave monument in terms of its function, not, like tymbos, in terms of the physical object that constitutes it”. Cf. also Closterman 2007: 642n.51. See also Ch. 3 supra, cf. Burkert 1985: 193 f. 172 Loraux 1981a: 40, although she deals only with the hero. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 67: the lion. 173 Vermeule 1981: 187. 174 Vermeule 1981: 188. See also Sourvinou-Inwood 1995.

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encounter the thinking behind sympathetic magic, i.e. a magical function similar to that of other symbols in connection with death and burial, such as the food offerings and numerology (magical numbers).175

Figure 40. The grave stƝlƝ of Hegeso, the daughter of Proxenos (ca. 410-400 BCE). National Archaeological Museum Athens (inv. no. 3624). © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.

Among the various memorials erected after burial, stƝlai were the most common in the archaic period.176 Beginning as roughly worked, undecorated slabs, the stƝlƝ shaft was later decorated with a figure meant to represent 175

Cf. Il. 24.781, 784 and 785 for the meanings relating to 12, 9 and 10, cf. Hes. Op. 772, 774; Rice/Staumbough 1979: 230. See also Loraux 1988: 58. Vermeule 1981: 241 n.27 discusses the meaning of food in connection with magic. 176 Rehm 1994: 28.


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the deceased, such as the grave stƝlƝ of Hegeso, the daughter of Proxenos from ca. 410-400 BCE found at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens (Fig. 40).177 The stƝlƝ might be painted, incised, or carved in relief, and frequently topped with a sphinx. Archaic tombstones focused on the adult male in his prime, while classical tombstones depict women, children, and the elderly, as well as men. In the fourth century BCE, in place of isolated figures, groups commonly appear, which stresses strong familial bonds.178 It is worth noting that many of the tombstones from the classical period depict women, many of whom have died in childbirth, while others are represented along with the children or husbands they have left behind. A parallel to some of the female depictions can be found in the inscription where a mother mourns her daughter, Thersis: “Instead of a solemn wedding and marriage-bed your mother gave you a statue for your marble tomb, Thersis. It stands life-sized, it has your beauty, so, although you are dead, we can still speak to you.”179 We encounter a modern version in the lamenting mother who has achieved her ambition in raising a good son, a medical student. But her work was only partly accomplished; she had not managed to get him married, only engaged, when he died, and therefore she has not ensured the continuity of her own kin.180 It is thus very important that the dead bestows something on those who are left behind, be that honour or offspring.181 This is also illustrated in the laments. The pictures on the tomb are paralleled by the meanings attributed to the icon of the deceased saint. At a saint’s festival, visitors often receive labels on the collars of their jackets and coats with a picture of the saint, such as at the festival dedicated to Agios Nektarios in 1991, or to Agia Marina in 2011 and 2012; in the latter case, however, there was no picture only the phrase: “Holy Church of Agia Marina ThƝseion”. Furthermore, the saint’s house and other belongings are holy, paralleling the offerings at the tombs. Agios Nektarios’ house—from photos to the bed, chairs and the sponge he once found with a cross in its middle that is displayed in his closet with glass doors—and the importance of opening the holy wardrobe during the festival, underline that we have to do with holy and wonderworking objects. The belongings in the house of Agia Pelagia, be that her bed or the stone she used as a pillow, are equally viewed.182 Like 177

Athens, NM 3624. IG I² 1079. See also Fig. 68 Ch. 8 infra. Closterman 2007: 634 f. 179 AP. 7.649 (tr. S. Purcell in P. Jay, ed.). 180 Holst-Warhaft 1992: 65-69, cf. 95. 181 Cf. Stewart 1991: 58. 182 Cf. Ch. 2 supra. See also Dubisch 1995: 83 on the tomb of Ag. Raphael on Lesbos. 178

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Thersis, the ancient Goddesses and Gods were incarnated in her or his xoanon (carved image or cult statue), the subsequent saints in their respective icons, and the deceased in her or his picture.183 In the ancient tomb cult, we also encounter the masks in Rome. In some places, we also encounter incised symbols on the ancient grave stƝlƝ illustrating the profession of the deceased in life, just as the modern profession might be specified today, particularly if the deceased was a medical doctor or a student. Several researchers have discussed the development and change in funerary monuments and the real meaning of the legislation that limited funerary extravagance at the turn from the archaic to the classical period, such as Vernant.184 Although scholars agree that there was a change in funeral practices and ideology in Athens between 530 and 480 BCE, their opinions have been divided. A reason for this is that scholars have tended to focus on different sources: some study archaeology, others focus on laws. The result is that Holst-Warhaft,185 for example, in her analysis ascribes Solon’s laws greater influence than they probably had, if we compare them with the material from later stages of Greek societies. We encounter several problems when trying to analyse the existing ancient material,186 and perhaps the material from modern Mani and elsewhere in Greece, through a comparison, may help to clarify the ancient sources: it has been debated whether the production of gravestones diminished early in the fifth century. Although there was a decline of grave markers, some families ignored the trend and continued to erect grave stƝlai.187 Simultaneously, the state burials became huge glorified affairs. From the end of the fifth century, i.e. approximately fifty years after the aforementioned shift, there is a shift back to magnificent grave monuments, and the custom of family tombs emerges. This custom “arises parallel to and separate from the public funerals performed in honour of those patriotically fallen in combat during which the deceased’s individuality is submerged in the common glory of the polis”, according to Vernant.188 One may wonder, however, if this custom arose as a way to counteract Solon, because the funerary stƝlai “associate the deceased with 183

Cf. Seremetakis 1991: 108-111. Cf. Vernant 1989: 93, 219 f. Others mention the change in passing, e.g. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: 89 f. 185 Holst-Warhaft 1992: 114 ff. 186 Rehm 1994: 28, 35, cf. 164n.68 and 167n.35. 187 Morris 1994: 132. Cf. Seremetakis 1991: e.g. Ch. 8 and 11. 188 Vernant 1989: 217-220, esp. 219 f., cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 117, see also 114 ff. 184


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the surviving members of the household. The epitaphs celebrate the personal feelings of love, grief, and admiration of husbands and wives, parents and children”.189 On the other hand, the importance of the death cult within the family sphere is also attested in earlier periods, illustrated by the struggle of the lawgivers against the display of expenditure and female laments. It is also illustrated by the tragedies and vase paintings.190 The shift back to magnificent grave monuments has been analysed as a relaxation in the anti-luxury legislation, since families were permitted to erect greater monuments, and a return to display. This may be compared with the importance of display in contemporary society, such as the sumptuous grave monuments in Athens and in the village of Olympos, which are quite normal, despite the general critique of display within the same societies. We meet the same phenomenon in connection with people’s private gifts to sanctuaries and the modern festivals, which are occasions to display extravagance to incite other peoples’ envy in the continuous competition. Simultaneously, as people must show their wealth, the very display incites envy, i.e. the Evil Eye. The continuous belief in the Evil Eye, and the thinking behind the limited good (i.e. “the basic philosophy of peasant society”, or the belief that all goods are limited, material or not), at the very same time illustrates the same society’s scorn of the display both earlier and today.191 In other words, based on a comparison between ancient sources and modern society, one may question whether the picture really is as unambiguous as Vernant describes.192 One may compare it, for example, with the modern women’s laments for their own dead versus the official mourning over Christ on 189

Vernant 1989: 220. ARV 743,5, 746,4, 845,168, 748,1, see also supra. 191 See also Jordan 1994, where, among others, the chthonic Evil Eye is invoked, cf. PGM, 70.4-25. Cf. Esler 1994: Ch. 2; Foster 1965: 293-315, see also Maloney 1976. Håland 2007a: Ch. 3 and 6 for the “limited good”. Re my focusing on display, in this connection one may mention that people go to Tinos during the summer of 2012, although “they cannot afford to do so”. There are, of course, obvious reasons for going on pilgrimage for the faithful, particularly in “this time of crisis”. However, those who can afford to do so go abroad and buy expensive items, for example, at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, instead of supporting the Greek economy: a woman may buy expensive French wine, instead of buying from the Athenian super market. One may object here that my Scandinavian “equality thinking” makes me comment on this, but I experienced such displays of wealth in the midst of the crisis; many people are eager to show that they can afford to do and buy things the average Greek cannot, and if I comment on this behavior people will look at me sympathetically as if I do not understand the rules. 192 Vernant 1989. 190

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Holy Friday in Olympos and the official ceremony on psychosabbata versus how the private cults are performed in Serres and in Athens. Concerning Olympos, one may recall the mix of private written laments, pictures and “inscriptions” attached to the Epitaphios and compare this with the description Holst-Warhaft gives when discussing “epitaphs and photographs: laments in modern Greek literature”.193 However, we see a lack of “development” from the first to the second aspect in Olympos, which is how we often encounter “real life” in Greece, that is to say, as a combination or mix of various aspects. Therefore, it is possible that we should also modify Vernant’s account, according to which there is a change from the pre-classical hero cult to a more individual cult at family tombs.194 I would rather suggest that we instead encounter two similar elements. If one should state Vernant’s analysis in its extreme form, it seems that people only begin to show feelings and emotions for their closest relatives when we happen to have sources in which such feelings are evident. Along with the relations between the public and domestic spheres, the actual competitive spirit in modern and ancient Greece is important to take into account, when analysing the material.195 Today, we generally encounter different views concerning the competition in precious grave gifts, but even though one may be critical of the “endless theatrical performances”, the very same person can still participate in the competition. A woman from Mani, as presented by Seremetakis, for example, claims that she is not so eager to dedicate expensive gifts. However, the same woman tells how, the previous year when she brought a plate for the blessing, the priest took her 500 drachmae (this was before the euro was introduced in 2000), and forwarded her soul paper to the younger priest. She asked the priest if he was not going to perform the blessing, because he had already taken off the ceremonial clothes. He put them on again. She gave bread for the absolution, and everybody “grabbed” it, “one piece to the priest, one to the deacons”, so she decided that this would be her last gift. I have already mentioned this woman earlier in the chapter, since she continues her story by stating that it is necessary to go home to Mani for the anniversary for her deceased, because the tradition has been handed down by the ancestors. At the same time she criticises another woman for only having brought one plate with wheat to the church.196 Laurie Kain Hart, also writing about the Peloponnese, describes how, if someone does not boast 193

Holst-Wahaft 1992: Ch. 6. Vernant 1989. See also Ch. 3 supra. 195 Cf. Håland 2011e, 2007a: Ch. 4-6; Esler 1994: Ch. 2. 196 Seremetakis 1991: 168 f. 194


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of the house, it will collapse over the very same person.197 My own experiences from Olympos during Easter 1992, for example, confirm this picture: in every house I visited, the living room is more or less a museum displaying the wealth of the family, again a parallel to every family tomb at the cemetery. The priest receives payment when he blesses the tomb or the ossuary in Olympos on Easter Tuesday, in Athens during the Saturday rituals and on Tinos on Holy Friday. In Olympos, the women give the priest papers inscribed with the names of their deceased, as is the usual custom all over Greece. As a parallel to the laments on the Epitaphios, i.e. for their own in Olympos, they generally request prayers to be read for their own family, i.e. in “the female lineage”.198 According to Vernier, since the gifts and money priests receive from people for the blessing and the ceremonies have started to decrease, so has their living standard, owing to factors such as civil marriage, and the competition with other increasingly attractive domains for homecoming emigrants to the USA, such as coffeehouses and tourism. Accordingly, many priests are eager to acquire money for themselves.199 A bitter priest complains about people that give too little. So, he revenges himself by saying “his own” names first, i.e. the bishop who ordained him as priest, and thereafter the names of the priests he succeeded in the village, i.e. those whose names he remembers, then approximately twenty names from his own family, before finally saying the names of the people who requested the liturgy. Based on this constant significance of both display and one’s own personal relations, found within all layers and sectors of modern Greek society also at the time of writing, from a comparative perspective, I will suggest that it might also have been difficult for Solon and other legislators to carry out their anti-luxury legislation in practical life.200 The reason for my suggestion is the simple fact that ancient society also demanded displays in practical life, although the official ideology represented by Solon’s laws tried to stop this mentality, which, very often, was connected with women. As illustrated in the previous chapter, Solon’s legislation (594/3 BCE) targeted funerals and mourning, and particularly women, since: “When they went out, they were not to wear more than three garments…to carry more than an obol’s worth of food or drink, nor a pannier more than a cubit high”, and they were not permitted to bury “with 197

Hart 1992: 77. Vernier 1991: 148. 199 Vernier 1991: 213. When I visited the village, however, my most important informant told me that the priest had earlier been a carpenter, but became a priest since his pension would increase, Håland 2007a: Ch. 4. 200 Plut. Sol. 12 and 21; Dem. 43.62, see also Ch. 4 supra for other sources. 198

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the dead…more than three changes of raiment”.201 As also illustrated in the previous chapter, similar laws are introduced from the end of the fifth century BCE, and later by the orator Demetrius of Phaleron (flourished 317-307 BCE), and Plutarch is also critical of the same customs in his own lifetime (ca. 50-120 CE). It is also worth noting that in a wider context, Cicero records laws attributed to Solon regarding the funeral in his discussion of the Laws of the Twelve Tables in De Legibus, citing Demetrius. In the Byzantine Empire, during the rule of Theodosius II, banquets for the dead held at cemeteries as well as “celebrations of any solemn ceremony” were prohibited by law, paralleling the pre-Christian laws that placed a ban on women’s memorial services for the dead, including offerings of food and other gifts to the dead.202 Furthermore, Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), condemns meals on the tombs, burial practices and ceremonies, in North Africa in his own time.203 Like his Greek and pre-Christian equivalents, he was occupied with the best strategies of controlling these folkways, or female rituals and practices, in North Africa. Thus, from Solon to Saint Augustine and beyond, the male society tried to curb the same female rituals. In addition, and paralleling modern circumstances, it was important for people that the grave monuments should impress the passers-by, therefore nothing is done with the backs of the erected monuments:204 they were on display. So, a continuous production of grave monuments and/or change in fashion, might indicate that the anti-luxury laws did not have a great influence on changes in burial practices. Many gifts, such as clothes, food, vessels with wine and oil, the women competed with each other in giving, then as now, are perishable. A change in legislation does not necessarily indicate a change in belief. The picture we have from Athens, may also suggest an accepted return to the older more traditional ways of honouring the dead after the plague in 430/429 BCE, and signify the importance of deepseated values in the long term, and demonstrate that the eventual change


Plut. Sol. 21.4 f., cf. Ch. 4 supra. Cf. SIG³1218; Aesch. Cho. 23-30, 66 f., 124 ff., Pers. 687 f., 1050-1056; Pl. Leg. 947, 959 f., Resp. 398, cf. 387 ff.; Thuc. 2.46. See also Håland 2007a: Ch. 6 for the persistence of both rituals and condemnations, cf. 2011f, for a discussion of Plutarch. 202 Cf. SIG³ 1218; Plut. Mor. 608a ff., 114f-115a; Cic. Leg. 2.59-66 and Limberis 1994: 43. 203 August. Conf. 6.2. Cf. also Denzey 2007: 97; Corley 2010: 19. 204 Garland 1985: 109 Fig. 25, cf. van Straten 1981: 68 f., 76. See also Closterman 2007.


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did not last very long. Perhaps the plague was seen as a punishment for neglecting the cult of the dead?205 The identity of the Greek extended family, which was so important within the political and social structure of the polis, could be demonstrated by a common burial ground on the terrain of the ancestors, as confirmed by the orator, Demosthenes in the speech, Against Macartatus: 206 There is a place of burial common to all those descended from the Buselus (it is called the burial-place of the Buselidae, a large area, enclosed, after the manner of the men of old). In this burial-place lie all the other descendants of Buselus and Hagnias and Eubulides and Polemon, and all the rest of those descended from Buselus, all these hold in common this place of burial.

Until recently, the same pattern has been customary on Karpathos and in Mani.207 Solon and other legislators tried to reduce the expenditure on funerals, not to help the poor, but to strangle the display by powerful families that made them even more powerful. They wanted to prevent emotional extravagance through the women’s laments and powerful families’ continuously increasing display.208 That Solon encountered problems with carrying out his intentions in practical life is illustrated by, for example Kleisthenes’ reorganisation of the phyles (i.e. phylƝ/phylai, clan or tribe) in order to forestall strife between the powerful families and their friends. Although he used the old phyles in a new setting based on the area of residence instead of family relations, he had to use arrangements that people knew: accordingly, the new phyles acquired their mythical ancestors sanctioned by Delphi. Here we encounter an ideological manipulation of the mentality, and it is relevant to mention the similar power of the clans in modern Mani, as discussed in the previous chapter.209 As we today encounter the family or oikos along with the whole village at the cemetery, the ancients conceived the otherworld as a fortified area with ramparts made of earth, indicating that one must pass through a 205

Cf. Paus. 8.42,6 for this way of thinking, i.e. Deo’s punishment for being deprived of privileges and ancient honours. 206 Dem. 43.79, see also 57.67 concerning “those who have the right to the same places of burial”. Cf. also Isae. 2.46, 6.51, 65, 7.30; Garland 1985: xi. 207 Karpathos: Vernier 1991. Concerning the power of the clans in Mani: cf. Seremetakis 1991: Ch. 2, 8 ff. 208 Plut. Sol. 21.5; Dem. 43.62; Pl. Leg. 958d-960a. 209 See Ch. 4 supra, esp. n.4. Cf. Seremetakis 1991: Ch. 2, 8 ff., and Holst-Warhaft 1992: 102 and 118 ff. Arist. Ath. Pol. 21.6. See however Pomeroy 1998: 103.

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threshold. The walls and the earth construction may signify the tomb, in which the earthen walls separated the deceased from the living.210 The otherworld was conceived as the tomb in a big format. In this dwelling house, which paralleled the house of the living, there might be several rooms and halls as illustrated by Euripides in his play, Alkestis.211 Although in another text he indicates the confusion between Hades as a physical place and a metaphor for death, in Alkestis we encounter the “House of Hades”.212 The tomb was the home of the deceased, often portrayed as a cave, such as the heroine Iphigeneia’s cave or tomb displayed in Brauron in the sanctuary of Artemis.213 One may also compare Odysseus in Kalypsos’ cave and the same hero on the threshold to Hades.214 In Aeschylus, it seems as if the deceased beneath the earth can hear every knock on the roof of their silent dwelling as is also depicted on vases.215 Here inside the tomb sit the deceased, often with the edible offerings from the living.216 The continuing idea that the dead are inside the grave that we encounter during the necromancy in Aeschylus, also perpetuates the belief that the dead may feel it physically if someone jumps on the tomb, as Aegisthus did on the tomb of Agamemnon.217

Grave Inscriptions and Funeral Orations In Greek tradition, one may distinguish two contrasting ideas concerning death. The official classical male funeral oration, Epitaphios Logos, employs the term “a beautiful death”, which differs from the disfigured corpse of the vanquished warrior in Homeric epic. The point is the difference between Homeric presentation of death and Perikles’ whose aim was to mobilise warriors to a civil army of peasants, and thus had to 210

Cf. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 86 and Lincoln 1991: 108, 111, 114, see also Triomphe 1992: 15 f., the threshold to the underworld. Cf. Sergent 1988: 45-83, Hades. 211 Eur. Alc. 73, 126, 436 f., 457, 626, 851f., 867 (grave-home, domata) and 861863, 911-913, 922-925. 212 Eur. Alc. 25 vs. Eur. HF. 296-297, 426-435, 1101-1105, cf. Rehm 1994: 85. 213 Cf. Hsch. s.v. Braurǀniois. 214 Od. 11, cf. 1.11-15, 5.208 f.: Kalypsos’ cave. Cf. Vermeule 1981: 32: the tomb. Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pls. 86, 77-79. Vikela 2008: 84-85 (Iphigeneia). Lincoln 1991: 38. The topic is also discussed in Håland 2012b. 215 ARV 1022,139bis; Aesch. Cho. 456-461, cf. 123-149. Cf. Vermeule 1981: 42 f. 216 Kurtz/Boardman 1971: pl. 85 (“a 4th cent. Apulian vase showing a grave naiskos [cf. A.Gr. naos, temple], small temple, with a seated youth and figures carrying offerings”); Bernhard-Walcher 1992: Kat.Nr. 39. 217 Eur. El. 324 ff. Vermeule 1981: 31 f.


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glorify the value of dying in the service of the state, polis, particularly because the male polis feared lamenting mourning mothers. The different forms of self-mutilation that were aspects of female grieving was a way to lessen emotional anguish218 by converting it into physical pain. In politically charged environments, outpourings of grief at a funeral also provide the opportunity for a powerful family to display its might, and for the authorities to assert theirs by limiting or denying ritual observances as dramatised in Sophokles’ Antigone, where a lone woman throwing dust on her brother’s corpse is viewed as a political threat. According to Plutarch, writing in the late antique period, and as already discussed, the same practices that Solon banned, were punished by the board of censors for women in Plutarch’s time, thus indicating that the same practices occurred. We have many similar instances in present-day Mediterranean societies and elsewhere.219 As discussed in the previous chapter, from the sixth century onwards legislation was introduced in Athens and other city-states aiming at the restriction of mourning of the dead, particularly women’s laments, which by expressing pain, frustration and anger challenged the social order. As also illustrated, Loraux has particularly demonstrated how the male polis tried to cope with lamenting mothers by introducing the praising funeral oration that honours anonymous deceased in Athens in the fifth century BCE.220 Along with the classical tragedy, the Epitaphios Logos, which focused on praise of the dead, the Greek polis or “men’s club” appropriated the function of women’s laments in order to promote the eternity of the hero who died for the fatherland. By focusing on loss, as the women’s lament does, instead of praising the dead, the value of dying for the society or the state is denied. This “female way”, creates problems for the state when it needs to recruit an obedient army.221 The restrictions towards the women’s laments begin at the same time as new cults are introduced, cults that offer honour to those who die in the service of the state. The Eleusinian Mysteries, for example, promised the initiated eternal happiness after death and the hero cult was both a demonstration against defeat in war or eternal immortality won in battle. Several researchers 218

There are probably multiple reasons for it, see for example, Dutsch 2008. Sol. 21.4 f., cf. Ch. 4 supra, also for the modern material. 220 Loraux 1990, and 1981a: 15-75 (cf. 38 and 350 f. n.52 for a comment to Jacoby 1944a: 65-75 who, according to her, underestimates the importance of this genre), cf. esp. Thuc. 2.44,1; Lys. 2.77 and 80; Pl. Menex. 248c7; Hyp. 6.42. 221 See Simondon 1988: 97 ff., and 99-105, for the official memorial and various inscriptions, e.g. over those who fell at Eurymedon, Hellespontos, Potidaea. Cf. Pollux 6.202; Plut. Mor. 608a ff. 219

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have also claimed that the establishment of the Thesmophoria and the Eleusinian Mysteries were a calculated compensation for women’s lost authority in the rituals of the dead, one that placed their activities under state control.222 From another point of view, this “establishment”, actually an elaboration of existing cults, was an official approval of the power of woman for the maintenance of society, her power over life and death, and the significance of women’s rituals to the survival of the polis. The grief and fury of the Mother Goddess, Demeter, when her daughter has been married off without her consent, threatens to destroy humanity, since she hides the corn and the earth cannot send it back up (sprout).223 Accordingly, she has to be “softened up” with several festivals during the agricultural year, in order that the polis may survive, and the corn may grow.224 The male society’s wish to control fertility by using chthonic Goddesses in their service is difficult to achieve in practical life.225 Concerning the hero cult, the state’s need to raise a standing army meant that death had to be glorified not lamented. The virtue of the Homeric warrior then, was later—by Simonides—transferred to the citizen, who is praised in death and not only in life, according to Vernant.226 An epitaph by Anyte from the Greek Anthology records the deeds of the deceased in life, laments his death and describes the mourning of the living:227 Indeed then, it was your own courage destroyed you, Proarchos, in the battle. Dead, you have put the house of your father Phidias to murky sorrow. But this stone above you sings a splendid tale: how you were slain while fighting for the sake of your own dear country.

So too did the Euripidean Menoekeus, Kreon’s son, in Phoenissae, and only the Athenians provide burial orations for the citizens who died for the town, according to Demosthenes.228 The grave inscription is particularly important because it describes the commemoratory function of the memorial concerning the deeds fulfilled by the deceased while still in life. The 222

Alexiou 1974: 21, cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 116 ff., 129; Loraux 1981a, discussed in Håland 2007a: Ch. 6, also for a comprehensive version of the following. 223 HHD. 305 ff., 332, 353, 450-453, cf. Paus. 8.42,2. 224 HHD. 460-471, cf. 268-274, 292-298, 470-479. 225 Cf. Aesch. Eum. 990 f., 1018-1031. 226 Vernant 1989: 91-101; Simondon 1988: 97. 227 AP.7.724 (tr. John Heath-Stubbs and Carol A. Whiteside in P. Jay ed.). 228 Dem. 20.141; Eur. Phoen. 1313.


Chapter Five

modern parallel is illustrated by the bust depicting a hero from World War II at the 1st Cemetery in Athens. The importance of the inscription is further illustrated by the funeral oration and the invocation of the deceased during the commemorative celebrations. The invocation of the dead by name in the tragedies is different from the Epitaphios Logos of the classical period, in which anonymity is the rule: where the collective dead, not singular individuals, are celebrated. As already indicated, Loraux and Holst-Warhaft have argued that ancient Athenian democracy was based on the appropriation of the female combined with the subjugation of women. Such deprivation was especially connected to women’s rituals in the sphere of the death cult. The funeral oration, which was officially institutionalised in the classical period, has been seen as the male polis’ appropriation and civilisation (i.e. banalisation) of women’s laments. It has been argued that this is particularly illustrated by Perikles’ speech for those who died in the first years of the Peloponnesian War, as reproduced by Thukydides.229 In the Athenian funeral oration, the classical tragedy, and the official festivals, such as the reorganised Genesia or Epitaphia, we encounter the death cult as it is employed by the official male ideology. However, when men attempt to appropriate women’s domains, as illustrated through the classical tragedy’s and funeral oration’s “appropriation” of women’s traditional laments, this demonstrates an acknowledgement of the importance of women’s rituals, resembling the aforementioned elaboration of the Demetrian cults.230 Athenian (male) attempts to curb women’s festivals and laments that posed a threat to the official society were probably only partly successful, since it has been stated that the same process happened in the Byzantine and modern periods when new attempts to curb women’s laments became important.231 The picture from the Christian era, however, is not very different from its forerunner: women were still lamenting, and the female laments continued to our own days, since women’s laments and


Thuc. 2.34-46, cf. Loraux 1981a; Holst-Warhaft 1992, see also Ch. 1 and 4 supra. 230 See supra for HHD and cf. with Thuc. 2.34-46; Aesch. Cho. 22-31, 327-339. Holst-Warhaft 1992 quotes classical sources and analyses the texts to show how men appropriated women’s rituals, but I have argued that they did not manage to appropriate women’s domains, Håland 2007a: Ch. 6, see also Ch. 4 supra. See also supra this chapter for Genesia/Epitaphia. 231 Holst-Warhaft 1992. Cf. Ch. 4 and n.212 supra for John Chrysostom, see also supra this chapter for Augustine.

Tombs and Gifts


other rituals remained essential parts of the death rituals of rural Greece.232 In other words, one may claim that men never managed to appropriate women’s rituals, since ancient women continued the laments for their own dead notwithstanding what took place at the classical stage in different theatres, which is further illustrated by the repeated passing of laws.233 The ancient circumstances may also be compared with some other modern realities, the first from the village of Olympos. Of the “poems” that are published in the modern journal, Olympos’ Voice (i.e. Ɯ PhǀnƝ tƝs Olympou), the magazine of emigrants from Olympos that is published in Piraeus, thirty are laments, and seventeen are poems celebrating diplomas, and other achievements, according to Bernard Vernier’s 1991 publication, La Genèse sociale des sentiments. Ainés et cadets dans l’ile grecque de Karpathos.234 The laments tell about gifts and return gifts, symbolic services, and they publicly lament the social value of the dead.235 Among the published laments from Olympos, particularly men, such as uncles, receive laments, because they are in a better economic situation to give support, i.e. laments are assumed to repay debt from both nephews and nieces. We encounter the economic function of religion, according to Vernier, and though the composers are both female and male, in both cases the aunts receive less laments. Within the nuclear family, however, laments are mainly composed by the daughters for their parents, but fathers are lamented more often than mothers in the ones mentioned here. It would be interesting to know the ratio in non-published laments, but his study is silent on this issue. GiannƝs Motsios, in his study of “The Greek Lament” (ȉo EllƝniko Moirologi) from 1995, illustrates that out of one hundred laments from the same journal, seventy-five belong to women and only twenty-five to men, and he differentiates the female and male laments, the latter are more subjective and concrete while the first are more traditional, lyrical and representative.236 Laments are still written and published in the memory of a dead person in the contemporary newspapers of Olympos; these laments may be from, for example, an aunt to a nephew, grandparents to their grandchildren, sisters to brothers, mothers to sons, wives to husbands, wives and children to a husband/father, friends to 232

Cf. Ch. 4 and supra this chapter. Further sources for the Christian reality are found in Alexiou 1974, 2002; Caraveli 1986; Seremetakis 1991; Holst-Warhaft 1992; Psychogiou 2008. See also supra and infra for my own fieldwork. 233 So I do not agree with Blok 2006 and other scholars who argue that the laws were passed after changes had taken place, and thereby confirmed actual status. 234 Vernier 1991: 250-254, and 258. 235 Vernier 1991: 251-253. 236 Motsios 1995: 158 f. cf. Vernier 1991: 254, 259.


Chapter Five

a friend. It seems that all possible combinations can be located.237 But these published laments are not the ones performed in the presence of a dead person. Since I could only base my analysis on two periods of fieldwork in Olympos, in which the experience of laments in a “female atmosphere” in the church during Easter in 1992 as illustrated in Chapter 3, occurred during my second fieldwork, I became interested in testing this information from Vernier and Motsios more fully. Specifically, I wished to discover the reactions of someone who had carried out more extensive fieldwork than I had on the study of published laments and the relation to what I would call the real laments. Given the close connection between mothers and daughters in Greece, I was particularly interested in finding out if it is correct that although daughters compose laments, they mainly compose laments for their fathers, and wanted to learn something about laments from daughters to mothers in general. The only Greek researcher I found in this field was Anna Caraveli who conducted extensive fieldwork on laments in Greece some decades ago, in Epirus, Olympos and Crete, and published substantially on the topic of laments, particularly from Olympos.238 According to Caraveli: It is completely untrue that women composed laments mainly for men. They lament for whatever member of their family dies: husbands, parents, children. I have [published] a lament composed by a woman for her mother.239 I have recorded many laments for sisters, mothers, daughters and find women’s laments for other women especially powerful. I know nothing about ratios but that will not tell you anything. The sample you select to look for ratios is not necessarily typical of a range of laments in a specific context by a specific lamenter or category of lamenter in a region etc. Looking at printed laments in an anthology, for example, will tell you more about the taste and criteria for selection of the editor than patterns in laments that differ with individual performers, regions, situations etc. Printed laments in anthologies are also encountered in real performances but they are idealised versions, picking and choosing from many variations. As you know, in laments and other folk performances it is the variants of a traditional composition or formulaic phrasing that count— the choices and adaptations of an individual performer to fit a specific 237

I thank Maria Androulaki for this information (email communication 17.06.13) based on the following issues of Olympos’ Voice (Ɯ PhǀnƝ tƝs Olympou), 1) October-November-December 2009, year 42, number 335, 2) Oct.-Nov.-Dec. 2010, 46, 339, 3) Jan.-Feb.- Mar. 2010, 42, 336, 4) Jan.-Feb.-Mar. 2012, 48, 344, 5) Oct.-Nov.-Dec. 2011, 47, 343. 238 Email communication 31.10.13. Cf. also Caraveli-Chaves 1980: 129-157, Caraveli 1982: 129-158, 1985, 1986: 169-194. 239 Caraveli 1980: 131-157 the lament is from Crete.

Tombs and Gifts


context. The printed mantinades in the “Voice of Olympos” illustrate a more improvisatory tradition in which people can spend entire evenings conversing, exchanging couplets among them.240 So while printed laments may not be repeated word for word in actual performance, laments improvised on the spot still follow the same conventions as the written ones, and used formulaic phrases that are variations of those used in other parts of Greece.

In addition, unlike the aforementioned published laments, laments at the death bed are not composed for a particular person but improvised to suit the deceased, and the lamentation is instead a collective process performed by local women and female relatives as illustrated in the previous chapter by the lamentation led by the widow of the high school teacher. Other leaders may be a mother, daughter, or a sister of the deceased depending on the aguish they feel at the death, i.e. ponǀ (pain). If they have too much pain they cannot lament, since a lamenting person must not be too immersed in grief; and if this is the case, the leader may be one of the other women. Traditionally the intensity of the lament increases the younger the deceased, for example, if a father dies young leaving behind his widow and small children, economical problems, etc. In another context, Holst-Warhaft has illustrated what she considers as a male calculated adaptation of a female art form in modern Greek poetry, and also how modern female poets deliberately try, although without success, to imitate this traditional female art form.241Perhaps they do not have it “inside”, as a woman lamenter might explain the art she performs? If so, the modern reality may also suggest a parallel to the result of the ancient male “adaptation” of ancient women’s laments. According to Loraux, a passage from Euripides’ Suppliants, i.e. Adrastos’ eulogy when praising the dead friends, constitutes a funeral oration in its full length in the tragedy, and represents a parallel to the male funeral oration as illustrated by Thukydides.242 However, the same Thukydides illustrates that the female art form still exists, in the same way as the women’s central role in connection with lamentation and burials is illustrated in the aforementioned tragedy when the chorus of mothers lament their dead sons.243 The passages from Euripides’ Suppliants may be compared to the modern burial ritual in Mani that was described in the


See Håland 2007a: Ch. 4 for an example. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 173 ff., 5. 242 Thuc. 2.35 ff.; Eur. Supp. 857-917, cf. Loraux 1981a: 48 ff. 243 Eur. Supp. 798 ff., cf. Rehm 1994: 116. Thuc. 2.34,4 and 2.46,2. 241


Chapter Five

previous chapter, where the women lament the dead at home followed by orations in the church during the funeral ceremony. Although the classical Athenian polis, i.e. in the democratic period, officially attached great importance to the public funerals that celebrated those who gave their lives for the service of the state, ordinary people probably did not; even Perikles had to let everyone bring what he wished to his own dead, and the female part of the families were present to make their laments for their own dead at the tomb.244 When the bones are displayed and everyone laments and gives offerings to their own dead at the public burials in the Athenian democratic polis, we encounter the incorporation of the rituals of the general death cult in the ideology of the official state.245 According to Lysias, it is necessary to follow old customs and respect the laws of our ancestors by lamenting those we bury. This is also confirmed by other sources stating that one must respect the dead.246 A possible parallel to Periklean Athens might be found in the modern official ceremony on one of the psychosabbata in Athens as celebrated in 2012 and 1992, illustrating both the saint cult dedicated to the common protector Agios Theodǀros, collective rituals in which an important ceremony was the wreathing of the monument dedicated to war heroes, and ordinary people’s cult dedicated to their own deceased. An example illustrating how the nation’s history and revolt against “the infidel” has been interwoven with the deep-rooted customs that are performed at the tombs of the deceased, is demonstrated by the cult dedicated to Agios Theodǀros. According to the tradition this protecting saint taking care of the greater society fought against Julian the Apostate and is celebrated on the third and last psychosabbato during spring, i.e. in the first week of the Lenten period.247 As described earlier in the present chapter, the legend around the saint and the miracle with the kollyba is important in connection with the problem the Christians had with Julian the Apostate, particularly suitable for a psychosabbato. In the Athenian context though, in spite of solemn sermons by the bishop, the presence of the mayor of Athens, the distributing of a common kollyba and wreathing of the monument dedicated to the soldiers that fell during various wars, this part of the celebration is not necessarily more important than people’s own 244

Thuc. 2.34,4, cf. 2.46,2. See also 2.34. Thuc. 2.34,1-8. 246 Lys. 2.81. Cf. Dem. 63.79 and Soph. Ant. 872-875. See also Loraux 1981a: 17. Rehm 1994: 26 f. provides an interesting nuancing of Holst-Warhaft 1992: Ch. 4 f. and Vernant 1989: Ch. 10, arguing that “the solidarity instilled by funeral rituals was being broadened from a small circle of kin to the citizenry as a whole”. 247 Loukatos 1985: 152-155. 245

Tombs and Gifts


ceremonies. As soon as the official ceremony finishes, people’s “real” ceremonies start at their own graves. Indeed, several do not participate in the public ceremony, but go directly to their own graves. The parallel activities that take place simultaneously in contemporary Athens might also have their ancient predecessors, i.e. that people carried out their own rituals simultaneously to the Periklean ceremonies we encounter in the sources. When Holst-Warhaft writes about male laments, i.e. male genres, I suggest that they do not necessarily reign supreme.248 After the Persian Wars, the Athenian polis introduced an annual festival in Kerameikos for the Athenians who had died in battle. This was the so-called patrios nomos, “the ancestral custom” or “law of their forefathers”. Thukydides provides a description, which I paraphrase here:249 The state burial takes place during winter. Three days before the celebration they erect a tent, and inside the bones lie in state. The relatives bring to their own dead any offering which they please. At the time of the funeral the bones are placed in chests of cypress wood, one chest for each tribe. They also carry an eleventh chest, this is a single empty litter decked with a pall for all whose bodies are missing, and cannot be recovered after the battle. Anyone may take part in the procession doing homage to the dead, citizens and foreigners. Women related to the dead make lamentations at the place of internment. The common public sepulchre, the dƝmosion sƝma, is situated in the most beautiful spot outside the city walls, where they usually bury those who fall in war, with the exception of those who fell at the battle of Marathon. When the remains have been buried, a man chosen by the city-state pronounces the Epitaphios Logos. After that all depart. In a passage from Euripides an absent body is shrouded, and in another passage, it is decked and carried in procession, paralleling the rituals that were followed in the patrios nomos.250 The Athenian custom celebrating those who had died for the fatherland, describes how such a death may be seen as a perfect offer of civic virtue: they won an everlasting honour and the most exceptional of all tombs; not the one in which they were buried, “but…that in which their glory survives, and is proclaimed always and on every fitting occasion both in word and deed”.251The dƝmosion sƝma was in the Kerameikos area, which 248

Holst-Warhaft 1992: 123-125. See Fig. 60 Ch. 7 infra for people’s ceremonies at their graves. 249 Thuc. 2.34. For patrios nomos, see also Jacoby 1944b: 37-66. 250 Cf. Thuc. 2.34,3 and Eur. Hel. 1261, see also 1243; Rehm 1994: 123. See also Loraux 1981a: 24 for dƝmosion sƝma. 251 Thuc. 2. 34-52, particularly 2.34, 2.43 (for citation of Perikles) and 2.52, cf. AP. 7.251; Dem. 20.141.


Chapter Five

was the repository of many tombs, many of them were important tombs, and funerary sculptures were erected along the “Sacred Way”, the road out of the city towards Eleusis. According to Pausanias, along the way up to the Akademy were graves of heroes and of men.252 In the area were particularly many funerary markers dedicated to women, such as the aforementioned grave stƝlƝ of Hegeso. The tombs in the Kerameikos and in particular the dƝmosion sƝma may be compared with the modern memorials, for example, at the 1st Cemetery in Athens for the Jews who were killed during World War II, heroes from the same and other wars, etc., to the honour of whom official sermons are performed during the psychosabbato, and after which they are wreathed. As illustrated by the patrios nomos, which included both offerings from the relatives to their dead, and women’s laments, although former studies have been more occupied with the Epitaphios Logos that in the actual case was pronounced by Perikles,253 it seems that neither he nor other orators could appropriate and thereby erase the customary rituals connected with the women’s food offerings and laments, i.e. the rituals that were most important to people. Thukydides does not say what kinds of offerings relatives brought to their own dead, or who brought them, only that they could bring whatever they wanted. I would suggest that food offerings were important, since both written and visual sources emphasise that particular offering, which is normally brought by women, and which is necessary to ensure the renewal of fertility both in the ancient and modern world, illustrated by the modern kollyba and the ancient panspermia. In addition, the patrios nomos was celebrated during winter. Following Thukydides’ division of his narrative into campaigning season (“summer”) and non-campaigning season (“winter”), one may assume that the ritual took place shortly after the conclusion of the campaigning season, i.e. before the sowing. If this is correct, it was celebrated early in Boedromion just before the most important period for the corn crop, and may be seen as a ritual aiming to secure the rain and thereby the future harvest along with the Genesia and the Eleusinian Mysteries. Actually, Jacoby has convincingly 252

Paus. 1.29,2. Patterson 2006: 48-56, argues against Morris’ claim in the Oxford Classical Dictionary (OCD) 1996 s.v. cemeteries (307) that “Burial in a recognised cemetery was a primary symbol of citizenship in Athens.” She correctly argues that burial was not a citizen privilege and there were not exclusive citizen cemeteries in the polis, since women, children and foreigners were also buried in the Kerameikos, an area not only reserved for tombs, but a “multi-use area” (56), and there is no evidence for walled cemeteries in the modern sense (53). 253 Thuc. 2.34,8 ff., cf. supra for 2.34,2 and 4. See also Dem. 18.285 ff. and 60 for Demosthenes’ funeral speech.

Tombs and Gifts


argued that the patrios nomos was celebrated on 5 Boedromion on the very day of the Genesia.254 I would therefore suggest that the ancient world seems to have had its parallel to the relation between the contemporary public and domestic rituals during the Athenian psychosabbato, where the official part of the commemoration of the dead only comprises a minor part of the entire celebration. One may also note that Thukydides’ description of the public patrios nomos shows that the ceremonial procedure with the prothesis and ekphora was modelled in imitation of the private burial ritual. Accordingly, we learn how difficult it is to change people’s deep-seated beliefs and emotions, and how official rituals reflect people’s cult within the domestic sphere.255 Paralleling the Thukydidian text and other ancient written and visual sources then, Greek women are still lamenting their dead. Furthermore, the importance of the rituals at the cemeteries is illustrated by the many shops in front of the 1st Cemetery in Athens as well as by the pastry shops all over Greece, visited by women every Saturday morning, on their way to the weekly cleaning of “their” graves, although they generally make the food themselves. It is also illustrated in Olympos when women rush to the cemetery carrying sweets and cakes to honour the dead on “New” or “White” Tuesday in the “White Week” after the Resurrection of Christ. In return, they expect rain and a plentiful harvest. The aforementioned epigram about the dead Kleitagoras asking for gifts and promising return gifts, is therefore one of the many examples in an unbroken chain of communication between the dead and the living, and in this communication the women and their rituals are central.256 Just as the dead saints or heroes received offerings at their tombs, the modern worshippers come to the Panagia on Tinos carrying with them votive gifts, candles, food, and so on. The ancient divinities also received gifts at their cult places, and the ordinary dead received—as their modern parallels receive—gifts on their tombs. However, discussion of the aforementioned rituals is not complete until the material symbol of the cult is considered: the cult of the bones.


Jacoby 1944b: 37-66. See also Ch. 8 infra and cf. Håland 2012d. I also thank Professor Vincent J. Rosivach for having discussed this issue with me. 255 See also Jacoby 1944b: 62 for this imitation. Cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 118, 126, 154. 256 Cf. Eur. Or. 112–124. See supra for AP. 7.657.


The journey reminded him of Israel’s exodus from Egypt carrying with them the bones of Joseph.1 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him; for Joseph had solemnly sworn the people of Israel saying, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place”.2 In Arcady lies Tegea in the level plain, Where under strong constraint two winds are blowing; Smitting is there and counter-smitting, and woe on woe; This earth, the giver of life, holds Agamemnon’s son. Bring him home, and you will prevail over Tegea.3 The whole village community is responsible for...the bones of their ancestors, on which their good fortune is thought to depend...In the case of sudden evacuation of a village, the bones are...dug up...and taken with them to help found a new settlement.4 “...ramène-moi que je sois enterré dans ma terre”.5

The last of the aforementioned passages, which is an extract from a published lament, shows how today’s emigrated Olympians expect to be buried in their own earth, and that the children of emigrants from the village living in the USA are asked to bring their parents home for burial. In the ancient world, people also wished to be buried at home, illustrated by the ancient orator Aeschines’ description of a mother begging her son


Johan Falkberget: Nattens Brød (The Bread of Night): Kjærlighetens veier (The Paths of Love). Oslo: Aschehoug, 1975 (1959). 2 Exod. 13:19. 3 Hdt. 1.67,4. 4 Alexiou 1974: 48, cf. Holst-Warhaft 2000: 102 f. 5 Vernier 1991: 249.

The Cult of the Bones


not to sell all his land, so she could be buried there.6 In the remaining passages above, the bones are seen to be important for descendants: when people were evacuated from a village, for example, they generally brought with them the bones of their deceased.7 It was particularly important to bring with them the bones of deceased holy persons. Here, we also encounter the limited power that is attributed to the local saint; the concept that the deceased saint could exercise real power only in the vicinity of her or his grave, and this power is not going to be used to the benefit of others. The extent of the power was also derived from the importance of the saints in their former life. If the deceased has great power, he or she might be shared between many places and people, such as Agios Nektarios whose relics reside in an increasing number of churches in Greece, on Cyprus and abroad; and this distribution serves to continually increase his power.8 However, his most important sanctuary is on Aegina, which possesses his head. it reposes in a golden crown set with precious stones. The other relics repose in a silver casket. This situation parallels the head of Agia Pelagia, reposing in her church on Tinos although her other relics are elsewhere. Another parallel is Agios Andreas whose relics reside in his church in the town Patras, where he is patron saint. His head dwells in a reliquary, a special mitre made of silver, in the shape of a church, from 1836. According to legend, Agios Andreas’ church in Patras is built on the place where he was crucified. One may suppose, however, that it is instead built over an ancient temple of Demeter, as is also suggested in connection with the key symbols in his church.9 To the right of the altar are some fragments of Andreas’ cross, framed and glazed. In front of the cross is the silver shrine containing the head, which looks like a “miniature” sanctuary and is reminiscent of the “descriptions of” the Ark of the Covenant, and the importance of Joseph’s bones for the Israelites. Other parallels are the miraculous icon on Tinos, in which the Panagia is thought to reside, and the relics of Agios Nektarios and of Agios Gerasimos, whose body is also more or less intact. In Agios Andreas’ church, as elsewhere, people line up waiting their turn to perform their proskynƝma, particularly making the devotions before the head, the most important devotion being to kiss the 6

Aeschin. 1.99. See also Lacey 1972: 152. Alexiou 1974: 48. Cf. the citations supra with Clastres 1986: 159 ff., cf. Jouan 1986: 175 f., see also infra. 8 Cf. Ch. 2 supra. 9 Cf. Ch. 3 supra. The description from Agios Andreas’ sanctuary in Patras is based on the information I got when visiting the site in 1981 and 1990. According to the Metropolis of Agios Andreas at Patras today, the coffin containing the remains of Agios Andreas is kept inside the main church. 7


Chapter Six

head itself and pray (Fig. 41). The saint is also immortalised together with Patras as seen in a painting that hangs above the iconostasis. Outside the church to the right is an older church where a coffin can be found to the right of the altar. Here are the usual written “letters”, (chartia) paraklƝseis, on which the faithful have written the names of their ill to be blessed by the priest; many are left on a table or otherwise put into a box, paralleling the situation in the “miracle churches”, such as in Mantamados on Lesbos and on Tinos.

Figure 41. People performing their devotion in front of Agios Andreas’ head in his reliquary, Patras, autumn 1990.

The Cult of the Bones


Agios Andreas’ head has not always been in Patras. Actually, the head was in Rome in the period 1460-1963 because Thomas Palaiologos brought it with him when he fled. The fight over the bones of Agios Andreas being in Rome for 500 years parallels the fight over and official manipulation with the bones of ancient heroes as the various poleis’ use of the assumed bones of Theseus, Orestes and Hektor.10 The bones of heroines could also be the object of covetousness, since the bones of Hippodameia were removed from Midea in the Argolis to Olympia. Moreover, Alkmene’s tomb was said to be found in four different places: in Megara, in Thebes, and at Haliartos in Boiotia. The latter was opened by the Spartans wanting to remove her remains to Sparta, which they also did, according to J. Larson.11 In the wake of ancient heroines, the remnants of the Panagia as well as her terrestrial belongings have also been important.12 Concerning the Panagia, she is, as already mentioned, thought to reside in her icon on Tinos,13 but formerly she, or rather her belongings, resided in Kǀnstantinople: in 451 CE the empress Pulcheria sought her coffin in order to bring the corporeal remains of the Theotokos to Kǀnstantinople. However, she was told that when Mary’s coffin was opened three days after her death, only the fabric of her garments and shroud were there, so these were brought to Kǀnstantinople to be deposited in the church of the Blachernae (Panagia Blacherniotissa). A parallel to the stealing of bones is found in the legend about the two pilgrims who stole the shroud of the Panagia in the Holy Land and brought it to Kǀnstantinople to be deposited in the Blachernae. Like icons and bones, her garments were powerful talismans: useful during a war or in case of natural disasters. In the early Byzantine era, Pulcheria actively sought out the relics of saints, those particularly Christian sacra for Kǀnstantinople, and then organised ceremonies for their arrival on the model of an imperial adventus


Il. 24.793; Dowden 1989: 51–53. Orestes: Paus. 3.3,7; Hdt. 1.67 f., cf. supra. Theseus: Plut. Thes. 36.1. Cf. also Paus. 8.9,3 f., for the bones of Arkas in Arkadia. On the cult of bones and hero worship in the ancient world, see particularly Visser 1982, cf. e.g. Paus. 1.44,14 (tr. Levi Vol. 1: 125n.263); Brown 1982: 4. 11 Megara: Paus. 1.41,1, Thebes: 9.11,1, cf. Larson 1995: 91-93; Lyons 1997: 24. Hippodameia: Paus. 6.20,7. 12 Lately the Panagia’s zǀnƝ (belt) has been much in focus: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/24/world/europe/virgin-mary-belt-relic-drawscrowds-in-moscow.html?_r=0 (accessed 02.06.13). 13 Most people coming to Tinos say they “go to the Panagia” (as she resides in the icon), i.e. not to the church.


Chapter Six

(arrival).14 Some of my informants in the village of Agia ElenƝ explain that during Agia ElenƝ’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem, “she was fetching bones”. According to the official legend, however, she went there to fetch a piece of Christ’s Cross.15 One may also mention the grave robbers and circulation of bones sold as relics in late antique Rome. Furthermore, the remains of venerated holy men and women were moved from sacred spaces that had been founded, patronised and inhabited by women into a space controlled by male church officials, i.e. from the Roman catacombs to populate the aboveground basilicas with relics in the early Christian era.16 However, bones were important not only in Christian Rome and in Kǀnstantinople: the importance of the bones of Joseph for the Israelites17 parallels both the coffins of various deceased important persons and the reliquaries carried in procession in modern Greece. Other parallels are the Panagia’s Epitaphios and Agios Nektarios’ Epitaphios, the former being carried in burial procession on the eve of 23 August during the “9th day’s ritual of the Panagia”. Another parallel is the Epitaphios of Christ found in every single Orthodox church, and which is carried in procession every Holy Friday and sometimes immersed in the sea, as on modern Tinos, again analogous to the annual burial procession with the deathbed of Adonis in ancient Greece and Egypt.18 In order to investigate this cult of the bones in ancient and modern Greece, which still has such a great importance not only in Greek culture, but also in the entire Mediterranean and Balkan world, we must examine the second burial. Many scholars have noted that the second burial marks the end of a long process of mourning in several cultures, and according to the English translation of Arnold van Gennep’s study on rites of passage, the process is:19 a transitional period for the survivors, and they enter it through rites of separation and emerge from it through rites of reintegration into society (rites of lifting of mourning). In some cases the transitional period of the living is a counterpart of the transitional period of the deceased, and the termination of the first sometimes coincides with the termination of the


Limberis 1994: 58-59. Today Zugdidi, Georgia boasts of having her shroud while the “Blachernae” icon is in Moscow. 15 See for example Schott-Billmann 1987: 80; Håland 2007a: Ch.4, 2013. 16 Denzey 2007: Ch. 5, esp. 131, 134, 138. Cf. Ch. 3 supra for Saint Clement. 17 Exod. 13:19. 18 Theoc. Id. 15.132–142. Cf. Ch. 3-4 supra, and Fig. 20. 19 van Gennep 1960: 147 (i.e. tr. Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee. Or. Fr. 1909, cf. 2011: 208 f.).

The Cult of the Bones


second—that is, with the incorporation of the deceased into the world of the dead.

Figure 42. People attend to their relatives’ ossuaries, psychosabbato dedicated to the “Thauma Kollybǀn Ag. Theodorou”, 1st Cemetery, Athens, 2012.

The custom of exhuming the dead after a certain period is well known all over Greece, and has been discussed by several scholars.20 One of these is Loring M. Danforth, whose synchronic analysis of Greek death rituals is deeply influenced by van Gennep’s theory. However, the traditional importance of exhuming the dead also means that a main problem with Danforth’s analysis is that he in fact “stops” his description at the


Seremetakis 1991: Inner Mani; Holst-Warhaft 1992, 2000: Ch. 3 (also worldwide) and Alexiou 1974: 47 f.: Mani and Epirus; Papamichael-Koutroubas 1980 and 1981: Symi island; MeraklƝs 1984 and 1986: Asia Minor and Athens; Blum/Blum 1970: 75 f.: the village of Dhadhi, Panorio, a camp of the Sarakatsani herders; Danforth 1982: Thessaly; Caraveli 1986: 173: Epirus, Crete, Olympos, cf. Vernier 1991; Lawson 1910: 487, 540: Zakhynthos, Lakonia and Asia Minor; Sanders 1962: 270-274 Spetsai and Macedonia; Friedl 1962: Boeotia. See also infra.


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ossuary,21 while my experience from modern Greece is that the bones are honoured and cared for as people earlier honoured the tombs. As illustrated in the previous chapter, this is the reality at the 1st Cemetery in Athens on a psychosabbato in June 2011, in March 2012 and 2013 (Fig. 42)22 and on Tinos during the psychosabbata in 2012 and the following year. The dead are also honoured by those very few, who for practical reasons (such as the problem of space at modern cemeteries) have chosen to “accept” cremation, which means that they go abroad, particularly to Bulgaria, to cremate their dead, since cremation is not yet practised inside Greece.23 Danforth’s use of van Gennep’s model coupled with his reading of Greek death rites from the approach of the official Greek Orthodox liturgy, is problematic for the anthropology of death and the death ritual— not only in Inner Mani, as Seremetakis has pointed out,24 but also in Olympos, on Tinos, in Athens and in the rest of Greece, both modern and ancient. Therefore, it is important to take into consideration studies of researchers who contrary to Danforth try to “go behind the ossuary”,25 if one attempts to learn something about the Greek mentality, since the bones of the deceased are of fundamental importance in modern and ancient Greece, as illustrated by the citations starting this chapter.26 Many aspects of van Gennep’s studies are naturally of great importance in the analysis of death, and in his study, Les rites de passage, he repeatedly argues that his general theory is not universal, a fact he illustrates with parallels and variations from all over the world. On the other hand, in van Gennep’s model, based on worldwide material, the bones and ashes curiously do not seem to have the importance that these substances have in the Greek

21 Danforth 1982: 38, 65, 150. See also O’Rourke 2007: 387, although less rigid than Danforth, since she sees that the formal (cf. official) end of mourning is not necessarily practised or accepted by all. However, I wonder if Greek informants will consent to her rather “neo-orientalist” distinction between secular interests and religion, since, for example, “prideful public display” (cf. 388) is a very important part of everyday religion in Greece, as practised by all layers of society. Aside from this, her analysis is a good reading, particularly her term, “bone building” for the common ossuary. 22 See also Figs. 52 and 61 Ch. 7 infra. Cf. Fig. 43 infra for an ancient parallel. 23 See infra for the question on cremation in Greece. Blagojeviü 2013: 48-55 gives a good account of the problem. 24 Seremetakis 1991, see also n.50 Ch. 1 supra. 25 E.g. Seremetakis 1991: Ch. 6, 8; Bloch/Parry 1982: 6 f. 26 Cf. also MeraklƝs 1984: 39 f., and 134 f.n.39 f.; Holst-Warhaft 2000: Ch. 3.

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context.27 Hence, it becomes precarious to base one’s analysis so heavily on his work, as Danforth does, when dealing with a culture where the bones are as important as they are in the Greek context. Therefore, it is important to combine various analyses; sociological and symbolical analyses must be employed in combination with the structural analysis of Ariès and a functional analysis, or the importance of practical aspects within farmers’ world-view, a lesson that I have particularly learnt from my own fieldwork. These analyses do not exclude each other; the cultural logic of symbolism should be taken into account in relation with the organising aspects of the societies in which they appear.28 Tombs in Greece are often empty because the bones of the deceased are generally exhumed three or five years after death and placed in the ossuary, although in some places they are exhumed after either one, four or seven years.29 As in other cultic relations, this varies as much due to the persons involved as to specific local customs. In general the bones are exhumed after three years, but the official church wishes to change this custom so the bones will rest in the earth as long as possible, and preferably are not exhumed, since it believes exhumation to be a pagan custom. In several places, therefore, it has been decided that the bones should not be exhumed until after five or seven years. In others, the custom has been abolished. According to Alexiou however, the church has gradually learned to accept this pagan custom, and today neither the church nor the legislation oppose so-called survivals,30 while others claim that the custom is still opposed. According to the friendly and informative cemetery worker in Olympos in 1992, this continuing opposition was very frustrating for many people: “the church does not understand anything”. He explained the struggle between people and the church regarding the exhumation of the bones as follows: “The priests are without any understanding. They must understand that we need the earth for new tombs.” People are practical, because they realise space is required for new burials. The picture from Athens is similar: MeraklƝs has presented discussions and various attempts to solve the problems with the ever-


van Gennep 2011: 232 (also for a comment on Hertz 1907), cf. also e.g., 227 for one of his comments on his theory: “je ne prétends pas à l’universalité et à la nécessité absolues du schéma des rites de passage”. 28 Hertz 1907. For the cultural logic of symbolism, see Frazer 1987. 29 Cf. supra. Alexiou 1974: 47 f.; Blum/Blum 1970: 75 f.; Danforth 1982: 15-23; Caraveli 1986: 173; Seremetakis 1991: 110 f., 177-195; Lawson 1910: 487, 540; Kenna 1976: 31 f. 30 Alexiou 1974: 47 f. vs. Blagojeviü 2013.


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expanding Athenian cemeteries in the 1970s.31 Although there are many ossuaries at the 1st Cemetery, older tombs illustrate that not all are exhumed, as was also mentioned in the previous chapter, in connection with little Nico. This is also illustrated by the limited space for many newer tombs today, particularly by those situated along the fences to the road. Whether this was the case with little Nico, I cannot say, but one may choose to postpone the exhumation because it officially concludes the mourning period. This was the case with one of my informants on Tinos, the mother of a young man who crashed his motorbike and was killed on 15 August 1993 when he was twenty-two years old. He was supposed to be exhumed three years later, which is the custom on Tinos. According to popular sayings, one may think the family was interested in exhuming the bones to take portents for the future of the family. His mother, however, did not want him to be exhumed. She assured me that her son is in heaven with God, just before the three-year’s ritual when he was supposed to be exhumed. Simultaneously, she had problems accepting that her son was dead. Therefore, she cleaned the marble every day believing that she washed her son, according to the powerless father. She also changed the photos on the tomb very often. As she told me, “I go there every day and talk with him, he is there [in the tomb]”. The priest, on the other hand, denied to carry out the final memorial ceremony before the bones had been exhumed, and as he said: “this must be done before the winter starts”. In the end, the local priest managed to persuade her to let him be exhumed, arguing that if she postponed the ritual longer, the ground would freeze. Exhumation of the bones was thus arranged in September 1996 and the memorial ritual was celebrated nine days later. The second burial was accomplished, when the mother finally accepted that the exhumation take place. The whole situation was heart breaking, and the mother still preferably wears dark clothes. Today he has a big marble memorial in the monastery dedicated to Agia Triada, outside of Tinos town. As already illustrated, this is the place where most of the ossuaries on Tinos are found, and just opposite, is the memorial to one of Tinos’ former mayors who died in 1998. When the young Panagiotis (1971-1993) was dedicated this memorial by his mother, she started to go here to mourn him, and today it is also decorated with one of his pictures, and fresh lilies are found in a vase there. Officially, the mourning period has ended, but not in practical life. On 14 August 2012, both parents asked me, “Do you know what day it is tomorrow?” Not one of us was thinking of the celebration of 31

MeraklƝs 1984: 41, 135n.42.

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the Dormition of the Panagia, but about the day they lost their son, Panagiotis, who was named after the Panagia. For this family then, 15 August has taken on a new meaning after 1993. I have used the word ossuary when referring to the building where the bones are kept, but the word may also refer to the individual box (i.e. kouti/a) in which a person’s bones are kept, as illustrated by the words of one of my informants. However, in Greek the word osteophylakio refers to the ossuary, meaning charnel house or literally “bone building”. The term osteothƝkƝ, also means ossuary, and may refer to individual containers kept at gravesites, such as in the village of Pyrgos on Tinos.32 Another word for ossuary is mnƝmeio (i.e. monument, memorial, tomb), and perfectly describes some of the memorials containing individual persons’ bones at Agia Triada, for example, those of the aforementioned Panagiotis. According to one of my informants, osteophylakio refers to specially designed boxes, which have to be bought. On the box are written the deceased’s name, date of birth and date of death. She further states that some people prefer to put the bones in a melting pot because, according to the Orthodox religion, people are made from and must return to earth.33 After the exhumation, the various parts of the body are collected and put in a box. After the personal details are written on the box, and a photograph is attached, it is placed in the ossuary. M. Kenna provides a good description of the village community with its ossuary:34 the ossuary is usually a house in the aft corner of the cemetery, and often looks like a chapel. This is also the situation at the cemetery in Tinos town where the ossuaries are found on the “first level” at the three-storey cemetery, just behind the Church of the Annunciation. An older ossuary building has recently been extended with a newer building. In addition, there are ossuaries at Agia Triada outside the town, some of which resemble those at the Catholic cemetery, as described in Chapter 3. Ossuaries are also found in the various villages on the island, and, of course, in the Monastery of Kekhrovouno, as will be described later in this chapter. Both on Tinos and elsewhere, the bones may also be collected or assembled in a common family tomb. In some places, as in the village of Olympos, the bones of the dead are placed in bone depots in the small private chapels dedicated to the patron saints of the families that are situated in the fields surrounding the village. Here in the chapels they are finally buried after 32

Cf. Dubisch 1989: 192. See also O’Rourke 2007: 392 for discussion of the term. See also infra on the different wordings for bones (osta), such as relics (skƝnǀmata, cf. leipsana) at the cemetery in the Monastery of Kekhrovouno. 33 I thank Anna Papavassiliou for this information (email 30.03.13). 34 Kenna 1976: 21.


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the exhumation at the cemetery of the village.35 In addition, there are also ossuaries at the village’s cemetery, both in a new (i.e. in 1992) “common building” at the very back of the cemetery where the recently dug up coffins were placed side by side. Furthermore, there are individual ossuaries along the one side of the cemetery; in 1992, many were new and richly decorated.36 In the beginning of the 1990s I encountered three full ossuaries at the 1st Cemetery in Athens, illustrating the importance of the customary second burial, although many would claim that Athens is much more “modern”, “European” or “Western” than other places in Greece, for example, Danforth.37 Today, other and newer ossuaries are also found outside of the three older ossuary buildings, owing to the issue of space at this cemetery, as already noted. When the bones of the deceased are exhumed, in general three years after death, the women of the village assemble around the tomb. Only the closest male relatives are present, usually a father and a brother, in addition to the priest.38 The skull is the first to be unearthed. It is laid in a white headscarf and passed around so everyone can embrace the deceased for the last time. Simultaneously they put money into the scarf; this most often goes to the church. When all the bones have been exhumed, they comment on how white the bones are. If the bones are black and not entirely free of flesh, it is seen as a token that the deceased lived a sinful life and that these sins have not been forgiven. When the bones have been exhumed, they are habitually brought home in a basket and washed in wine and water. A priest’s bones, however, are washed in oil. After the cleaning of the bones, they are laid beneath a table on which the family boils wheat. The priest reads prayers, and the family kisses the skull, after which it is laid in the box together with the bones, and placed in the ossuary.39 Afterwards, it is customary to distribute food in memory of the deceased, to ensure that the sins of the deceased are forgiven. The food often consists of wine, kollyba, bread, honey, cakes and sweets. Every person who receives a portion of the food offering answers with the wish “That God may forgive her/him”. Friends and associates of the deceased’s family offer the food; the closest relatives, however, leave the cemetery as soon as the bones are placed in the ossuary.40 The aforementioned 35

Cf. Vernier 1991: 87n.3 and Kenna 1985: 345-368. See Håland 2007a: Ch. 4 for a detailed description. 37 Personal communication (letter in 1992). 38 This is the normal procedure, but there are also occasions in which only men participate in the digging and exhumation of the bones, see Litsas 1976: 458. 39 Sanders 1962: 273, cf. supra. Cf. Danforth 1982: pl. 31. 40 Cf. Danforth 1982: 21. 36

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description of the treatment of the bones is mainly based on I. T. Sanders’ publication from 1962, and this may have changed in 2012, forty years later. In this connection, it is worth mentioning that although the Greek state is officially in the process of instituting cremation “while the right to hold civil funerals is being demanded…with the prospect of complete secularisation of the funeral service in view”, in practical life, people still carry out the traditional customs. Further, despite cremation having been legalised, no crematoriums have yet been built, at least during the time of writing, in 2011-2014.41 On Tinos, where I carried out the bulk of my fieldwork, they still exhume the bones and place them in the ossuary, as in other places in Greece. When asking one of my informants, on a second anniversary in August 2008 how her family would proceed in the future— the church had finally agreed to support the bill allowing for cremation two years earlier42—my young informant said that they would exhume her grandmother’s bones, whose daughter (i.e. “my mother”) or the priest would clean them in oil, before placing them in the ossuary. Furthermore, one of my most important informants over the years on Tinos, ParaskeuƝ MƝliou, died on 7 May 2010 at the age of eighty-seven. When chatting with her young nephew and his wife, who cleaned her tomb on the eve of the psychosabbato of Agios Theodǀros in 2013, I asked if her bones would be exhumed in the near future and learnt that this would be carried out in the summer. When I returned to the island in July, her bones were exhumed and placed in the family’s ossuary in the Monastery of Agia Triada. The decision to introduce cremation, of course, is dependent on several factors, namely the problems of space at the cemeteries, as already 41

See different articles in Athens News in 2011, where it seems that Athens and Thessaloniki are now competing in offering space to build the first crematory in Greece. However, no building programme had started when writing this in December 2011: http://www.athensnews.gr/portal/9/49558; http://www.athensnews.gr/issue/13420/34712); http://www.athensnews.gr/portal/9/51079 (all accessed again 12.02.13). See also Blagojeviü 2013, also for the cremation societies mentioned infra. For quotation, see Psychogiou 2008: 17, 525, on the background of her study. 42 The Orthodox Church opposes cremation on theological reasons, seeing the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. It considers cremation to be the deliberate desecration and destruction of what God has made and ordained for us. In 2006, it agreed to support a bill allowing cremation, on the ground that the law specified that it applied to non-Orthodox Greeks and foreigners. Orthodox priests are not permitted to perform a funeral service if they know that the deceased is to be cremated. So, people who plan to cremate their deceased (abroad, mainly in Bulgaria) tell the priest that the body will be buried back in the village, see http://www.athensnews.gr/issue/13420/34712 (accessed 12.02.13).


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mentioned, but also campaigns by cremation societies (organised in part as a result of the lack of space leading to the traumatic experience of exhumation before corpses have dissolved), which stress that Greece is the only EU member country without a crematorium. It will be interesting to see how successful the Greek state will be in changing a custom that has been a living tradition for millennia. I have already discussed the importance of the link between the laments and the Moira or Fate and between writing and the female communication tool, weaving. The relationship is also found in connection with the bones of the dead. After the exhumation at the churchyard, the assembled women examine the unusual seams (raphes) on the forehead of the skull. While doing so, they murmur to each other, “Look, this is where the Moira wrote his fate!”43 According to Margaret Alexiou, “this fusion of writing and weaving is used of the Moira as early as the Greco-Roman period”, as in the inscription found in Peek: “The Fates, having written…wove.”44 The concept can be traced back to Homer; Achilleus, after his fight and slaying of Hektor, “shall suffer whatever Fate spun for him with her thread at his birth,” according to the prophesying Goddess, Hera.45 The process for treatment of the bones, their traditional importance and magical observations of them have been discussed by researchers working on the material both from ancient and modern Greece.46 The three ingredients in the aforementioned treatment of the bones, i.e. wheat, wine and oil, are also important offerings to the church, such as on saint’s feasts, and were similarly important in the ancient world; however, as in later periods, the wheat might be substituted with other kinds of grain, such as the more common barley meal. The wheat on the aforementioned table is particularly important in connection with death and resurrection, because it symbolises both fertility and the relationship with the underworld, such as it is illustrated by the offering Odysseus performed on his journey to the border of the underworld: he sprinkled white barley meal and carried out a blood sacrifice to come into contact with the seer Teiresias in Hades.47


Alexiou 1974: 116, also for the following, cf. Danforth 1982: pls. 27-31. Peek 1955: 1029.3-4. 45 Il. 20.128. 46 Litsas 1976: 459; Seremetakis 1991: 177-195. 47 Od. 11, particularly 11.28, for the citation: 11.24-50. See Pliny, HN. 22.67 for medical uses of e.g., oatmeal, cf. bread. 44

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I…dug a pit of a cubit’s length…and around it poured a libation to all the dead, first with milk and honey, thereafter with sweet wine, and in the third place with water, and I sprinkled thereon white barley meal…I took the sheep and cut their throats over the pit, and the dark blood ran forth…And I myself drew my sharp sword from beside my thigh and sat there, and would not suffer the powerless heads of the dead to draw near to the blood until I had enquired of Teiresias.

We also encounter the importance of grain in connection with the legend about Demeter and Persephone.48 Wine and oil are likewise associated with life and regeneration. Furthermore, the “trinity” of cereals, vines and olives forms the basis of all subsistence agriculture in the Mediterranean region.49 The bones of the deceased provide good or bad portents for the surviving relatives. Yellow-brown bones signify that the deceased lived a good life. If they are black, he or she lived a bad life. If the body has not decomposed, it is a bad portent, and the bones must be buried anew: If after some years they find that someone has not dissolved in the grave, as for example after the three years when they go to take the bones from the grave, it is necessary to bury the people all over again.50

When the body does not decompose, the deceased becomes a ghost. According to the official explanation, he or she is in Hell, while most people might use the ancient word, Tartara, also found in Hesiod, i.e. Tartarus.51 If the bones of the deceased do not have the correct colour, one may pay the priest to perform a special liturgy for the deceased’s soul. In certain cases, one might also have to proceed to the drastic action of cremating the dead:52 The following morning I saw the priest and some relatives go to the grave to read a prayer over the hole through which the brikolax [vampire] had left the grave in the night. They burned him, and since that time, he has not disturbed anyone.


HHD. 450-472. Håland 2005, 2007a: Ch. 6. 50 Blum/Blum 1970: 75, cf. 66-76, 190, 258, 312-321; du Boulay 1982: 220 ff.; Sanders 1962: 270-274; Alexiou 1974: 47 f.; Lawson 1910: 388 f.; Campbell 1966: 164. See also Huntington/Metcalf 1981: 13-17. 51 Cf. Hes. Sc. 254 f. Th. 119, 682, 721 and Alexiou 1974: 48. 52 Blum/Blum 1970: 75, cf. 266 f. 49


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If the deceased has turned into a vampire, the Devil has taken over the soul. If that is the case, the soul becomes demonic, revives its own body, returns from the grave and can harm the surviving relatives. Accordingly, the soul of the deceased must be destroyed, and this may be done by pouring burning oil and vinegar into the grave as the priest reads an expulsion. Then the soul bursts and the deceased is killed, since candles are neither lit for the soul nor is food brought to the grave afterwards.53 Thus, the reason behind the Orthodox Church’s condemnation of cremation may be related to the deceased not being conceived of as dead; in this way, cremating would kill a person, as when vampires are extinguished with burning oil.54 A Maniot highlights the significance of this thinking, stating that “it is not permitted to burn the dead in Greece as the non-Christians do; here in Mani people are to be buried”. For this Maniot, as for many other Greeks, the Protestant northern Europeans and others who cremate their dead are defined as non-Christians. The modern reality might be compared with Pliny’s account of the ghost whose bones were found in fetters: “The bones were collected, and buried at the public expense; and after the ghost was thus duly laid the house was haunted no more.”55 People who died prematurely were seen to become dangerous ghosts thought to have to remain on earth until their originally allotted time had elapsed.56 Ancient sources tell about the deuteropotmoi, “secondfated ones”, persons for whom ekphora was performed and tombs built, since they were considered to be dead.57 This may be illustrated by Plato’s tale of the mythic warrior Er, who apparently was killed in a battle, but whose body was found intact ten days later. At his funeral, on the twelfth day as he laid upon the pyre, he revived, and told what he had seen in the world beyond: “He said that when his soul went forth from his body, he journeyed with a great company.”58 In the Laws, Plato states that a murdered man demands atonement for his death, otherwise the miasma 53 du Boulay 1982: 226, cf. Stewart 1991: 258 f.: appendix 2 citing a devil expulsion prayer from Xiropotamou 98.139, on the vampire and how to destroy him. 54 du Boulay 1982: 226. 55 Plin. Ep. 7.27 (Licinius Sura). Cf. Soph. Ant. 1030. See also Rice/Stambough 1979: 254. 56 Jordan 1994: 141. See also Jameson, Jordan and Kotansky 1993, for prescriptions for what to do in the case of death, ghosts and hauntings on official and individual levels, cf. Larson 1995: 143. 57 Cf. Plut. Mor. 264 f. and Garland 1985: 100 f. 58 Pl. Resp. 614b. Cf. Blum/Blum 1970: 70-76, buried alive and revenants. Cf. Harrison 1980: 244 f.; and modern “near death experiences.”

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will invade the house of the successor, again paralleling Aeschylus’ statement that fratricide results in miasma.59 One may ask if Plato thereby encourages revenge in the very “archaic female tradition” despite the struggle of the polis to combat this way of thinking. If so, we encounter another example of an unconscious mentality and the problems with the real acceptance and support of new ideologies, because they are attached to or constitute parts of mentalities that are difficult to change. The same way of thinking leads Klytaemnestra to mutilate the body of Agamemnon, so he cannot become a phantom and take revenge.60 This illustrates how problematic it is to classify one society as archaic and another as classical, since values very often transcend conventional historical periodisation. Accordingly, it may be assumed that the Orthodox Church has a similar mentality to that present in the Mycenaean time: one provides the dead with food in their tombs since they are believed to be present on earth for a certain period after death. The same view is present in the mystery cults: earth was expected to return to earth, thus the initiated could not be cremated when they died. What we encounter in Greek tradition is a view that sees both humans and nature as parts of the same living organism that communicate with each other. Therefore, one cannot be sure if the earth will receive the dead: if the earth pushes the deceased up to the surface again, he must be buried in another village.61 In my village, when I was a small girl, there was a dead man who was not received by the earth in his own village. The earth pushed his body to the surface. So he was taken from that village and buried in ours.

A reason for the earth to reject the deceased, in addition to a sinful former life, may owe to burial rituals not having been properly performed. As written in one of the citations at the beginning of this chapter, caring for the bones of the dead is, and since antiquity has been the responsibility of the entire community. Today the whole village is seen to be responsible for the preservation of the bones of the ancestors, on which it depends, because the bones bring good luck. If a village has to be vacated, the bones are dug up, and brought to the place where a new settlement is established. If this is not possible, the bones must be burned; when a village was forced to move, as in the case of the village of Parga, for example, which was ceded to the Turks in 1819, its inhabitants burned 59

Aesch. Sept. 679-737; Pl. Leg. 866b. Aesch. Cho. 439 f. 61 Blum/Blum 1970: 70, see also 318. The problems with periodisation is discussed in Håland 2007a: Ch. 2. 60


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the bones of their ancestors before they left to prevent them from being desecrated by the enemy.62 Actually, the ancient Greeks began cremating their dead around 1000 BCE, partly to prevent their enemies from mistreating their dead on the battlefield, also later illustrated by Thukydides and Xenophon.63 The modern logic then, may illustrate a lasting belief that if bones fall into enemy hands, the latter might, by the use of magic and with evil intent, manipulate the bones of the ancestors. An ancient grave inscription reveals the following threat: “Cursed be he that moves my bones”.64 The explanation for this curse was the idea that the deceased could act after death; i.e. the conception around the dead’s soul or nekudaimon and ousia (its possibility to act after death). If someone had a part of the corpse, the person could use ousia, or the magical power of the deceased. Magicians employed the deceased’s orenda, magical power that still stuck to the rest of the corpse, illustrated by them being busy working in the graveyard at night. From this way of thinking follows ancestor worship, the use of scalps and cannibalism.65 As burial practices have varied, whether concerning cremation or inhumation, the duration of the mourning period has also varied according to location, customs, the status of the deceased, and the various historical periods. When the corpse has decomposed, the death process has been completed. In modern society, this generally takes three years, which is the official mourning period, but at times, the completing of the death process has been accelerated by cremation. In this connection one may mention that the term sarcophagus means carnivorous. The red colour on the inside walls of the sarcophaguses has been interpreted as symbolising fire, because many could not afford the expensive burial custom that was involved when cremating the deceased.66 I interpret the red colour as symbolising blood, i.e. signifying life and argue that there is a link to the 62

Alexiou 1974: 48. Cf. Blum/Blum 1970: 337; Holst-Warhaft 2000: 102 f. Today this logic is found among Serbians, see infra and Håland 2011d: Ch. 5. 63 Xen. Hell. 1.2,11; Thuc. 2.34,2, 6.71,1, cf. Jacoby 1944b: 37n.1; Holst-Warhaft 2000: 79. See also Ch. 5 supra. 64 Strubbe 1991: 33-59. Cf. Denzey 2007: 29. 65 Daraki 1982: 155-176, cf. “The Lord’s Supper”, Clastres 1986: 160 and Keesing 1981: 163-166. Cf. Leach 1986: 29-32 (“scalp”: Hdt. 8.53-57; Pitt-Rivers 1966: 74n.9); Vernant 1982a: 9. Tupet 1986: 2657-2668, cf. Ap. Rhod. 3.800 ff. (drugs for killing); Ov. Met. 4.504; Pliny, HN. 28.20,70 (remedies from women and tearing to pieces for sinful practices the limbs of still-born babies, cf. also Kukharenko 2011: 72), see also infra. The idea of the dead as still alive (cf. though the Christian Paradise, as discussed in Ch. 2 supra): Bloch 1988. See also infra for human sacrifices and cannibalism. 66 Kurtz/Boardman 1971: 330, 318, cf. Blum/Blum 1970: 75, 138, 313.

The Cult of the Bones


blood sacrifices performed both in the ancient world and during the modern private masses for the departed souls as well as a link to the official cult in Agia ElenƝ and Agia ParaskeuƝ during the festivals dedicated to Agios Kǀnstantinos, Agia ElenƝ and Agios Charalampos, for example, as described in the previous chapter. One may also mention that the women’s laceration of their cheeks during mourning may have its origins in a blood sacrifice for the dead. However, fire also symbolises purification and life. This is particularly illustrated during the dance of the Anastenarides and Anastenarisses over red-hot coals when they defeat the fire with the help of their saint, and in the Demeter hymn. When Demeter nursed Demophoon at night, she also hid him in the heart of fire to make him deathless and unageing. This mythical baptism in the fire symbolises the immortality into which the Mystai were initiated because they were reborn through the holy rituals and words.67 A boundary stone provides lodging for the souls of the deceased that were thrown off their tombs when Themistokles’ Athenian wall was erected in 479 BCE. We encounter a modern parallel in the “Holy Table” in the Athenian Akropolis cave church dedicated to the Life-Giving Spring. According to the faithful, the Holy Table has relics from saints inside.68 Not only modern people from the village of Olympos consider it essential to be buried in the earth of their native district.69 That ancient people also considered it necessary to be buried in their own polis is illustrated by Aeschylus when Orestes’ alleged ash is brought home from exile and awaits burial in a bronze urn.70 As written in Chapter 4 and also mentioned in Chapter 5, the right to receive a proper burial was a PanHellenic custom and an unwritten law in the ancient world, whether this pertained to an enemy or a friend, but not always respected in practical life, as illustrated by Sophokles’ Antigone and Plato’s proposal of how to 67 HHD. 233-263, cf. Harrison 1977: 34; Triomphe 1992: 11-48, 193-235; Burkert 1985: 60-64, cf. 80-82, see also Håland 2007a: Ch. 6, see also Ch. 4 for the Anastenaria, cf. Scott-Billmann 1987: 40 f.; Danforth 1989: Ch. 2. Lacerating/blood sacrifice: Blok 2006: 216. For the symbolism re blood as 1) death and 2) life: Leach 1986: 57-60; Lewis 1988; cf. Alexiou 1974: 47; du Boulay 1984: 533-556. Cf. Ov. Met. 4.504, 14.408: magical use of blood. 68 Håland 2009a: 91; Garland 1985: 4 and Fig. 1 for the ancient parallel. See also Paus. 1.2,2. 69 Vernier 1991: 249, cf. 241-247. Cf. supra. 70 Aesch. Cho. 686, cf. 682-689. Cf. Soph. El. 1113 f., 1141 vs. Garland 1985: 193. See also Pl. Hp. Ma. 291de and Rehm 1994: 21, cf. 175 n.28: bones, ashes, corpses.


Chapter Six

deal with criminals. In the Laws, Plato proposes the same treatment of criminals as Kreon’s edict concerning the dead Polyneikes, Antigone’s brother.71It was a severe punishment to be denied burial in one’s own polis, and prohibition on burial of traitors in Attic earth is illustrated by several historical sources.72 Due to the same logic, the living were expatriated and the dead dug up and thrown beyond the borders of the country when Megakles’ family was found guilty in the feud after the murder on Kylon, thus illustrating Plato’s wishes in practice.73 In an earlier context I have used Pope Gregory the Great as an example to illustrate the confrontation in one and the same person between official Christian ideology—according to which one shall forgive a repentant sinner—and a mentality that refuses burial to a person who has broken the rules of society wherein honour and dignity are fundamental values. The person he refused to bury was a monk who on his deathbed admitted a theft. After his death, the monk was thrown onto the rubbish heap.74 We encounter the same mentality in Antigone, since Kreon issues the edict that leaves Polyneikes lying without grave and without lament, a prey for birds:75 “no one shall bury him or mourn him, but instead leave him unwept, unentombed, for the birds a pleasing store, as they look to satisfy their hunger.” In both cases we see how new institutions come into conflict with traditional values. Holst-Warhaft has illustrated a modern version of Sophokles’ Antigone, that is to say, a ban on burial and lamenting one’s own dead, which is broken by people because it is an unwritten law also in modern society to bury and lament one’s own,76 and preferably the burial should take place “at home”. Accordingly and in an ancient context, the struggle the Athenians conducted against Thebes in Euripides’ play, Suppliants, is a battle over corpses that are to be buried. Theseus claims that he did not arrive in order to destroy the city, but to bring back the dead.77 One may therefore ask if this emotional meaning of the deceased body represents a fundamental or natural popular mentality the official ideology could use in its own service. From E. Vermeule 71

Pl. Leg. 909c, see also 960b. Cf. Soph. Ant. 21-39, cf. 77, 450-460, 745, 749, 1070-1073. See also Aj. 1130 f., 1342-1345, OC. 1409-1413; Eur. Supp. 307-314, 526-541, 558-563, 670-672; Thuc. 4.98. Cf. Parker 1985: 45-48, 70-73. 72 Thuc.1.126,12 and 1.138,6; Xen. Hell. 1.7,22; Din. Against Dem. 77; Lycurg. Against Leocrates 113; Plut. Mor. 833a, 834a; Phoc. 37,2; Ael. VH. 4,7. 73 Se supra for Pl. Leg. 909c; Plut. Sol. 12.3. See also Ch. 4 supra. 74 Håland 2007a: Ch. 3. 75 Soph. Ant. 25-31. 76 Cf. Holst-Warhaft 1992: 4 and Soph. Ant. 872-875. Cf. Alexiou 1974: 44. 77 Eur. Supp. 723-725.

The Cult of the Bones


discussion of the continuity concerning the emotions in connection with the body,78 this is exactly how one may analyse the presentation of Theseus’ mother, Aethra as a mediator, so the other mothers will obtain their own dead sons’ bodies, so they can bury them, while Theseus takes the guiding role, answering his own mother’s as well as the other mother’s laments.79 In another Euripidean play, we learn that during the Trojan War, the invading Greeks were not swaddled in death clothes by their wives’ hands but rest in foreign earth.80 Nor did those who died in Greece receive proper rituals, because the men were away and could not perform their part of the rituals:81 “wives were dying widows, parents were left childless in their homes, having reared their sons for others, and none is left to make libations of blood upon the ground before their tombs.” The Trojans however, received complete burial honours from their beloved and were buried in their paternal earth.82 Paralleling these tragedies, in laments from all over Greece, to die in exile, away from one’s home and territory, is still conceived to be a tragedy, as for example Vernier has illustrated.83 Many laments are concerned with xenitia, absence from Greece and homesickness, as we also encounter in the story about the ancient Odysseus. The fate of the exiled was pitiful, because the ritual tendance was lost.84 One may also mention Jewish tradition in which the Lamentations are centred on the personification of Zion as a bereaved mother lamenting her lost exiled children. In the same way, Achilleus considered a possible future death in a foreign country, since he had promised to offer his hair to his native river when he returned home.85 In antiquity the bones of the deceased were gathered after the cremation, prepared in wine, oil or honey and placed in an urn, to be buried in a mound. It was the duty of the closest relative, particularly the son, to collect the bones of the deceased. The importance of the bones is illustrated in Homer when Patroklos’ and Hektor’s white bones are


Vermeule 1981: 8, cf. 42 f. Cf. Daladier 1979: 235 f. Eur. Supp. 286-290, cf. 762-768, 940 ff., cf. 836 ff., cf. 1160-1167, cf. also Loraux 1981a: 48 ff. and Thuc. 4.98. 80 Eur. Tro. 277-279. 81 Eur. Tro. 380-382 (tr. Coleridge, see http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0124). 82 Eur. Tro. 386-393. 83 Cf. Vernier 1991: 250-260. 84 Od. 8.521 ff.; Rehm 1994: 21. 85 Il. 23.144-146. Cf. Holst-Warharft 1992: 61 ff.; Seremetakis 1991: 46. 79


Chapter Six

collected after their cremations.86 It was important to bring the bones along if people were to move, for example, at the end of a war or in connection with founding a new colony.87 In the absence of bones, the rituals could be performed at an empty grave mound.88

Figure 43. Marble ossuary urn, dating from the Hellenistic age. 3d Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities—Kerameikos Museum (inv. no. Ost. 19). © Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.

A parallel to later disputes about relics is illustrated in Pausanias’ many stories about city-states’ hero worship, their finds, thefts, trades and fabrication of bones from earlier times which equipped the burial place with special functions, i.e. the official ideology’s employment of the death cult in its own service.89 In this connection one may also mention N. 86 Il. 24.793-800, cf. 24.664-668, 23.239-257, Od. 24.71-85. Cf. Petron. Sat. 77; Deonna/Renard 1961: 101 f. 87 Il. 7.333-337. Cf. Aesch. Pers. 402-405; Vernant 1982a: 9. 88 Od. 1.289-293; Paus. 3.14.1. Cf. Aesch. Ag. 437-451; Thuc. 2.34,3, cf. Ch. 5 supra. 89 Paus. e.g., 8.9,3, 3.3,7; Loraux 1981a: 17-55. Cf. Vermeule 1981: 207 and Robertson 1992: 244 ff.

The Cult of the Bones


Robertson’s statement regarding what he calls Pausanias’ “naivety” in recounting the information he has received from his sources, i.e. his various informants.90 However, the various descriptions Pausanias provides concerning hero worship and all the obligatory associated symbols illustrate not only that the official ideology employs essential elements of the popular cult for its own goals, but also that this employment is accepted—unquestioned or unconsciously—as a part of the common value-system. Accordingly, Pausanias provides a common symbolic language, which is especially important. This is also illustrated by similar stories told by other authors of sources, such as Herodotus and Plutarch: following a command from Delphi, cited in the beginning of this chapter, Orestes’ bones were transported from Tegea to Sparta, and Theseus’ from Skyros to Athens.91 In that way they came home, paralleling the way modern deceased people come home to Olympos from the USA or to Mani from Athens.92 Today, their bones are transferred so that they, in the same way as the heroes of former times, can lie in their own earth and execute their blessing influence for their descendants. In this connection it is also worth mentioning that the only known detail around the death of Aeneas is that his body was buried on the banks of the river Numicus after dying on the battlefield. According to Livy, his people called him Jupiter Indiges. The same topic is mentioned by Dionysios of Halicarnassus: the Latins made a shrine to him with an inscription patƝr chthonios. Therefore, Aeneas is father to and autochthonous divinity for the Romans.93 The importance of the burial place is illustrated by the concept that it was necessary for the enemy to devastate this when a polis was conquered during a war.94 Thus, the dead ancestors are crucial for the wellbeing of the living: without the corpses of their dead, illustrated by the cult of the bones, the future is difficult to cope with. Since the dead are assumed to be mediators between the living and the stronger powers in the underworld, who are responsible for sending up a good yield, the dead assist the living, and without the material remains of the bones, i.e. preferably, or some other valuable symbol connected to the deceased, including the place of death, one cannot expect any help. So when an enemy devastates an opponent’s ancestral burial place, the aim is to devastate the divinities and 90

Robertson 1992: 235-238, discussed in Håland 2011b: Ch. 5. Plut. Thes. 36.1-2, cf. supra for Hdt. 1.67,4. 92 See also Buettner 2012 on a cancer sick man returning home from the USA to his island Ikaria, where he could be buried with his ancestors in a cemetery shaded by oak trees that overlooked the Aegean Sea. 93 Dion. Hal. 1,64; Livy. 1,2,6. 94 Vernant 1982a: 9, cf. Aesch. Sept. 69-79. 91


Chapter Six

wellbeing of the conquered people. This way of thinking may be paralleled with the general purification or marking of a particular space that is carried out in several connections, be that by a procession during a festival or the modern purification ceremonies in the church during a liturgy. As Edmund Leach has pointed out; in extension of hair as a magical symbol, to capture the presidential palace is synonymous with revolution in South America. There are several ancient parallels to this way of thinking, such as the Persians destruction of the Athenian Akropolis where the tomb of Erekhtheus was found.95 The fear that the graves would be violated in the aftermath of this event may explain why the patrios nomos was officially established, although the violation of corpses was not an unknown phenomenon for the Greeks.96 Still, at some point after the Persian Wars, Athenian soldiers stopped being buried at the battleground where they fell, their remains instead brought back to Athens for burial in the Kerameikos. When Athens instituted the patrios nomos, or “ancestral custom”, and as illustrated in the previous chapter, the annual public state funeral became a crucial part of the democratic ideology: the corpses that remained after a battle were cremated, the bones or ashes were returned to Athens to be buried, and a stone erected.97In this way, it was easy to reach the burial place to attend the memorial ceremonies. Furthermore, the remains were also secured so they would not be manipulated. I will therefore argue that the similarities of values between the Greeks and their neighbours were the reason that the actual violations could occur. Since the bones of the dead constituted such an important symbolic meaning, the mythical heroes, e.g. Agamemnon’s son, Orestes, and the Athenian Theseus, had important ideological roles for the Spartan and Athenian poleis respe