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and their action...
with the wishes of group «Comenius» – Lachesisof second GeneralCollege of Chalkida.
The festive period of Christmas and New Year, both in Greece and Europe is full of customs and beliefs. The Christmas tree, the candles, the presents and carols are customs which remained alive from Ancient Times till today. The period around winter solstice till the beginning of January is one of the most ancient festive period of humanity. The celebration of Light Birth (Epiphany), of the Holy Spirit or Jesus Christ are very old, too.
Dodecaimero (twelve days) is named, from the Byzantine years, the festive period from the 25th of December to the 6th of January. It starts with the birth of Christ and ends with the baptism and the Blessing of the waters (Epiphany). The Dodecaimero is a unique period with lots of peculiar characteristics such as, for example, the prohibition of fast, but, also…of work.
One of the most magical beliefs of the Dodecaimero is the appearance of the Kalikantzari. The Kalikantzari, Karkantzali, Karkatzelia or Pagana are spirits or demons of the earth (of the underworld) that make their appearance these celebration days making people’s life difficult. As to the etymology of the name Kalikantzaros, there are many views. Though, it is certain that the annomination–Kali (good), mollifies the spirits and flatters them. As ,for example, in Greece, we usually call the storm a “fourtouna” or “good luck” and vinegar, “glykadi”, or something sweet, and the furies (Erinnyes) “Benevolent Spirits”, Eumenides. The name Pagana has to do with the word “pagano”, witch means idolater.
The Kalikantzari live all year long down from earth and plane away the tree that holds it. When, with Christmas, begins the celebration and the joy, the organisations and the nice smelling, they get out of curiosity or of disposition to take part in the surface of earth and stick their noses into people’s business.
The Epiphany as the priests bless the waters and the Birth of Light is a fact, they come back to the earth. The tree they planed has now been nourished and they start again from the beginning.
It is true that the Kalikantzari are much more trouble-makers and teasers, than dangerous. They are hided in the cold ash of the fireplace and that is why the whole Dodecaimero the fire should not be put off. They steel the pancakes or the freshly-baked sausages. They dirty the fresh-cleaned clothes, mess up the freshly-ground flour and tangle up women at the clothes’ patches. That is why it was better for everybody not to work these days not even walk out alone! If a Kalikantzaros meet you alone at the road, he may make you dance until your feet can’t stand!
I don’t know if Kalikantzari were ever really scared of men, as the appearance they were given and the things they did were funnier, than scary. For example, the known Karkantzalos “Psilobelonis” is very long and skinny, blackish with long fingers and tail. He is so gangling that he passes through the cracks of the doors and the keyholes.
Another known Kalikantzaros is “Mandrakoukos the chief”. “Mandrakoukos” holds for sceptre his pastoral shepherd’s crook and frequently goes to folds and grasslands. His cap that was by him out of bristles is not enough to cover his ear, which are as big as donkey’s. He has a huge nose that is hung like as soft dough. “Mandrakoukos”, throws a hack from the chimney and steals the sausages from the fire and at the grasslands he teases the sheep.
Another one is “Anemis” the cut waist (kopsomesis). He has a very slim and long waist and the upper part of his body goes round and round as whirligig. He tangles the warp of the loom and breaks the thread on the spinning.
Kalikantzaros “tragopodis” looks like god Pana. He is hairy, has feet and tail, and he is such a trouble-maker. He steals sweets and candies and messes up the food if it is not covered.
“Vervenzou” with the three faces, keeps alive the three-face god Ekati, until today. As in the ancient years the same at the nowadays Greek tradition, the landladies used to leave for her a plate of food, or sausages, at the corner of the roof.
Kalikantzaros “Kantharos” comes from Rhodes Island. He is copied from a famous kantharos of 8th century B.C. “Kantharos” is an ancient kind of cup for drinking wine. His pinny has traditional island embroideries.
Though, people would rather the Kalikantzari not mess up at their lives. With their different hocus-pocus or other tricks, they kept them away from their houses. Kalikantzari don’t like at all bad smells. So, they burnt at the fireplace an old shoes, so that the smell and smoke would whisk away them. Kalikantzari like neither crowd of people nor noise. What is better for people to get together at their houses, keep the fire, sing, drink and eat the tasty food and the candies, than been stolen by the Kalikantzari….!
There are plants which send away Kalikantzari and bring good luck to the New Year. Such a plant, which is even nowadays used in our houses for good luck and protection, is Scilla Maritima. Pythagoras who lived in the 6th century B.C., used to hang this plant above his door as a symbol of good health and regeneration. Its like the light which is reborn during the winter solstice and it wishes Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
The pieces of information about kalikantzaros and the ideographic draws are taken from the book of h\Thanos Velloudios
“AERIKA – XOTIKA - KALIKANTZARI”
The draws were sketched by P. Tetsi, A. Baynes and G.Gliata.