Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Every day is Halloween

No holiday makes me miss America more than Halloween. Greece might as well not even be aware of its existence, for the little people seem to know about it. The only knowledge most Greeks seem to have of Halloween is gleaned from Hollywood, and we all know that is the most accurate source of information on anything American.

The traditional ghost story also seems rather absent from Greek life. In America, in just about any town that has a population of at least twenty people you can find a haunted house, or barn, or some local lore about some ghost or other that just won’t leave people be. Here in Greece, supernatural stories seem to exist on a grand scale, and you almost never hear individual stories of hauntings in someone’s home. No, Greeks don’t have a ghost or two haunting a house, they have a whole damn ghost army. They have snakes that appear spontaneously in a church. They have haunted caves, haunted woods, haunted mountains. But the haunted house is a rare phenomenon.

One of the most famous Greek ghost stories involves the Drosoulites of Crete, a ghost army that appears every year at dawn on May 17th at the ruins of Agios Charalambos, marches towards the fort at Fragokastello and eventually disappears into the sea. Many people have claimed to have seen this vision and science has not yet been able to explain it with rational facts. The army is so clear to the eye that the Turks fired on them in 1890, as did the Germans in World War II. Now that’s spooky. I fully intend to visit Crete some May 17th so I can have a chance of seeing the ghost army for myself.

Davelis Cave , along with the mountain it lies on, are reported to be sites for strange paranormal occurrences. Located on the Pendeli mountain just outside Athens, people have claimed to see odd beasts on the mountain, from giant bats to horned men, and odd things have occurred in the cave, from moving balls of light to the cave being swarmed with domestic cats.

On the island of Kefalonia the denizens of the village of Markopoulo celebrate the feast of the Virgin on August 15th. During the religious services marking this holiday, small snakes with black marks like the sign of the cross on their heads appear at the bell tower and make their way towards the church. Thousands of snakes crawl into the church, slithering over people on their way to their final destination – the bishop’s throne and the icon of Mary. After the celebrations they disappear as quickly as they appeared, and no sign is seen of them again until the next year. The snakes are welcomed by the locals, and do no harm to people. The snakes are thought to be the spirits of nuns from the village, who in 1705, upon attack by pirates, prayed to the Virgin Mary to be turned into snakes to avoided being captured. Apparently, their prayers were answered.

No doubt Greece is filled with more stories of the supernatural, as you can’t help but walk through the streets without feeling the presence of thousands of years of history.

Happy Halloween from Greece!


J.Doe said...

Happy Halloween to you.

kassandra said...

One of my fave holidays too - especially cause of the whole pagan feel of it. If you were in Athens I'd invite you to my Halloeen party this Saturday. Though you and I might be the only people dressed up - like you said, Greeks haven't got a clue, and all my wheedling for costumes has just resulted in blank stares and the insinuation that I'm crazy. How different is it from dressing up for Carnival, for god's sake? At least I'll have the candy, and a carved squash maybe since I can't find a pumpkin. Sigh. Anyway, Happy Halloween!!!!

Dixie said...

I really love Halloween too. I was so sad when I first moved to Germany to never see any Halloween anything and now it gains more popularity each year.

And I can't get enough ghost stories!

Tim said...

Halloween just happens to be my favorite holiday - I personally think they should give it an eve and days off to go with it. Many of the old farts here aren't terribly happy with, as they think it's something too "American" and it's infiltrating the culture. For once, I'm upset with the Norskies - they couldn't be more wrong. They've taken Xmas and Easter and made it in their own tradition, so the same could be done with Halloween. Twerps.

Scruffy said...

We have a ghost in our house or a poltergeist.

Many times we leave the house and find things out of place when we return.

Even a plant that moves by itself now and then.


Anonymous said...

I actually went to a Halloween party last night here in Athens! It's my Greek American friend who threw the party and everyone was dressed up, I (like everyone else there probably) just wore the same costume we wore in February for Carnival. A good time was had by all...


Infindecimal slice said...

Actually, we have ghost stories and haunted houses here too. Heard a lot of them while growing up from friends at parties and so on :p