Insight on traditional superstitions in ancient greece
Like every culture, greece society is surrounded with traditions & beliefs and superstitions , are considered bad or good. Crow is the symbol of misfortune and Bat bone happiness.
Greek culture is very diverse and colorful unique with its regional aspects. Greece has been, due to its geographical formation, a highly departmentalized-localized country with the distinctions between the various locations visible. There are great differences in the dialects, customs, dances and versions of fairytales between the different parts of the country. There is not one “correct way of doing things” as each part of Greece developed their own traditions over the centuries. However, some elements are accepted at large, especially the ones related to the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church . Like in every culture, Greek people have their own superstitions. Though, some of them are very similar and even identical to many cultures. Here are some of the most popular ones.
Greek wedding superstitions & rituals
Greeks are so superstitious they wear a mati around their neck to ward off evil spirits and they cant give a compliment without a ftou ftou at the end. But when it comes to weddings, their superstitions are designed to ensure the bride and groom live a happy and healthy life. There are wedding traditions and superstitions that are unique to the Greek culture and that’s what we are exploring here. And from region to region, from island to island, the superstitions vary in degree.
Even before the wedding day is announced, the bride and groom must pick specific days on the calendar to make sure they harness all the best luck for their nuptials. The celebration of the krevati, the making of the marital bed, is a time to celebrate the couples purity and fertility. But lock up the baby boys as superstitious mother-in-laws are always on the hunt to find a male toddler to throw on the bed so the bride can go on and produce many-a-sons to keep the family name going.
According to tradition in Greece, especially the islands, the Greek people decorate ships instead of Christmas trees to celebrate the holiday season. It may be simply a coincidence that the warm and ebullient country of Greece, which serves as a mainland to 2,000 islands in southeastern Europe, begins and ends its Christmas season with the religiously symbolic substance of water. Although this country is tiny – smaller than the state of Alabama – there is nothing small about the pride that Greeks take in their Christmas traditions, with and without water. Most of Greece’s 11 million residents are members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which makes them Greek Christians. They believe that John the apostle wrote the Bible’s Book of Revelations on the island of Patmos, which is part of the Dodecanese group of islands, only 40 miles from the Turkish coast.
Plants and Death
Plants have been associated with the burial of the dead since at least the 16th Century. In the medieval period placing flowers on graves may have been problematic as the vicar or curate was often allowed to graze his animals in the churchyard. In the South of England disturbances resulting from this were sometimes guarded against through constructing wicker or willow fences around the grave. However people started objecting to anything that might damage or disturb the grave, especially in the wake of new ideas about reverence to the dead in order to protect expensive monuments such as gravestones which were becoming increasingly fashionable.
Others important superstitions
Leap year: There is a Greek superstition that claims couples have bad luck if they marry during a leap year. Apparently one in five engaged couples in Greece will avoid planning their wedding during a leap year.
Bread: In villages, bread is considered as a gift of God; old women bless the bread and make the sign of the cross with a knife before slicing it.
Sneezing: means that someone is talking or thinking about you. You can ask someone to give you a 3 digit number. Count each digit together and then find the corresponding letter in the alphabet. This letter is supposed to be the initial of the person that is talking about you.
Mirror: If you break a mirror, you will have 7 years bad luck. Many also believe that if you look at the mirror after midnight, great evil will find you.
Knives: Greeks never hand knives to someone who asks for it for they consider that if they do that they will have a fight or argument with the person. Therefore they set it down on the table or somewhere and let the other person take it her / him hand.
Scissors: if a pregnant sit on open scissors unintentionally, she will give birth to a boy. If you leave it open you will soon have an argument with somebody.
Priest: Greek Orthodox priests ( popes ) are very revered and the custom is to kiss a priest’s hand in respect when meeting one, today this custom is only followed in small villages. But it is believed that seeing a black cat and a priest during the same day is bad luck.
Salt: Makes unwelcome visitors to leave. All you need is to shoot a little behind theirback.
Garlic: The ancient Greek name for garlic was scorodon. According to Fulder and Blackwood, French physician Henri Leclerc derived this from skaion rodon which he translated as rose puante, or “stinking rose”. Garlic (Allium sativum) has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. Sanskrit records show its medicinal use about 5,000 years ago, and it has been used for at least 3,000 years in Chinese medicine. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans used garlic for healing purposes. In 1858, Pasteur noted garlic’s antibacterial activity. Garlic is another way to ward off the evil eye, and one can sometimes see it hanging in a corner of some houses. Garlic, as well as onion, is also considered of having a great healing power by many Greeks. If someone is feeling ill, they will advice him to eat garlic.
Black cat (μαύρηγάτα): If you see a black cut means that bad luck is waiting for you for the rest of the day.
Ladybug: It is the opposite of the black cat. It will bring luck if it lands on you.
Ladder: It will bring bad luck if you pass under it.
Bat Bone: For some Island folk, bat bones are considered to be very lucky. These people carry a small bit of the bone in their pockets or purses with them where ever they go. The only problem is getting the bone as it is supposed to be very bad luck to kill a bat.
Cactus: No Greek home would be complete with out at least 1 cactus positioned somewhere close the front entrance. Cactus with its thorny spikes, takes it place proudly warding off the evil eye from the property.
Closing Eyes: Some death rituals are practicalities. The closing of the eyes of the recently deceased in Britain is cited as being due simply to guard against rigor mortis setting in while they are still open, the eyelids being one of the first parts to be affected. However this was often combined with a superstition that being looked at by a corpse could threaten you and your kin. To aid this, pennies were sometimes placed on eyelids to keep them shut.
Crow: Crows are considered omens of bad news, misfortune, disease and death. When you see or hear a crow cawing, you say go well into the day and bring me good news ( in greek language “Sto Kalo, Sto Kalo, Kala Nea na me Feris” )
Evil Eye: The belief in the Evil Eye is an ancient superstition that you will meet in many cultures around the Mediterranean sea, Arabia, Turkey, Greece and all the way to India. In Greece these belief is dating back to at least the 6th century BC. In the Greco-Roman period a scientific explanation of the evil eye was common. Amongst Greek superstitions, the Evil Eye is one of the oldest and widely believed myths. The Evil Eye is known widely throughout Greece and the Greek Islands. The Greek Orthodox Church also believes in the evil eye, and they refer to it as “Vaskania”.