Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Greece in All Her Glory; Under the Mystical Full Moon of August


Full moon over The Acropolis Athens, Greece
Full moon over The Acropolis
Athens, Greece


Greece is positively enchanting, but, when beheld under the full moon of August, it is transformed into something truly magical.

Why the August full moon?

This full moon, known as the sturgeon moon, owing to the large number of fish found around this time, in the lakes of North America, is the brightest, most beautiful moon of the year.


Sturgeon Moon August full moon
Sturgeon Moon
August full moon


Viewed in the Northern hemisphere, the full moon of August, is low on the horizon, which gives the illusion that it is so close to earth, you could reach out and touch it!



Touch the moon
Touch the moon


The dazzling light causes the moon to seem almost as radiant as the sun, turning night into a never-ending twilight.

A Greek proverb describes the light of the August moon perfectly:

“Του Αυγούστου το φεγγάρι, ήλιος της ημέρας μοιάζει”

“Tou Avgoustou to feggari, ilios tis imeras moiazei”

Loosely translated as:
“The August moon, looks like the sun of the day”



August full moon Greece
August full moon
Greece



In ancient times, the month of August, named Metageition, in the ancient Athenian, or, Attic calendar was a month of festivals and celebrations



Ancient Greek Athenian, or, Attic Calander
Ancient Greek Athenian, or, Attic Calander



The word Metageition, meta- among, and geition-neighbour, was a time for partying, mixing with the neighbours!

The ancient Olympic Games, held in honour of Zeus and staged in Ancient Olympia from 776 BC-393 began on the day (The day, in ancient Greece, began at sunset, not at midnight, as today) of the August full moon, and were held every four years.



Zeus
Zeus





Ancient Greek Olympic wrestlers, a relief from a funerary kouros base. National Archeological Museum Athens.
Ancient Greek Olympic wrestlers,
a relief from a funerary kouros base.
National Archeological Museum Athens.




The tradition still holds today, the modern Olympic Games are held in August, it is a matter of luck though, if the opening ceremony falls on the day of the full moon.




Ancient Olympia, Greece Home of the Olympi Games
Ancient Olympia, Greece
Home of the Olympic Games





The Krypte, official entrance to the stadium of ancient Olympia. Photo Mark Cartwright
The Krypte, official entrance to the stadium of ancient Olympia.
Photo Mark Cartwright



Ancient Greece has invariably been connected with the mystical moon, from the ancient lunar calendar, to incredible stories from Greek mythology.

The most well-know Greek “Moon Myth” is Selene (Also one of the Greek words for moon), Titan Goddess of the moon, who traversed the night sky, in her silver chariot, the moon, drawn by two, snow-white, winged horses.




Selene Titan Moon Goddess Jules Louis Machard 1874
Selene
Titan Moon Goddess
Jules Louis Machard 1874






The Parthenon Sculptures. The head of a horse of Selene,.Moon Goddess, from the East pediment.
The Parthenon Sculptures. The head of a horse of Selene; Moon Goddess,
from the East pediment.
Now in The British Museum



The love of Selene’s life was Endymion, the shepherd Prince, the most handsome boy Selene had ever set eyes on, and who was granted eternal youth and immortality, and put into a never-ending state of sleep by Zeus.




Selene visiting Endymion Ubaldo Gandolfi
Selene visiting Endymion
Ubaldo Gandolfi



Selene paid nightly visits to Endymion, in his cave on Mount Latmos, and eventually bore him fifty daughters, who represented the fifty lunar months of the Olympiad, or period of four years, marking the beginning of the Olympic Games.


Today, on the day of the August full moon, archaeological sites throughout Greece, stay open well after midnight, entrance is free.

To see the brilliant white marble of the Acropolis, glowing in the moonlight, or the moon, hanging low over the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, is a sight never to be forgotten!



  Acropolis under the light of the full moon of August
Acropolis under the light of the full moon of August


Many festivities, including singing, dancing, musical performances and poetry reading, food abundant and wine flowing, are held under the light of the moon at about a hundred archaeological sites and museums all over Greece.



Full moon over the Temple of Apollo Sounion Greece
Full moon over the Temple of Poseidon
Sounion
Greece



Full moon over The White Tower Thessaloniki Greece
Full moon over The White Tower
Thessaloniki
Greece



Full moon illuminating the statue of Alexander The Great.  Thessaloniki, Greece.
Full moon illuminating the statue of Alexander The Great.
 Thessaloniki, Greece.




Full mooon at The Temple of Apollo Ancient Corinth Greece
Full mooon at The Temple of Apollo
Ancient Corinth
Greece



Here are a couple of pictures of Loutraki, Peloponnese, where we live in Greece.

beautiful photo' of the full moon over the bay of Loutraki, taken by talented photographer, living in Loutraki, Melissa Birley

The full moon over my garden, taken by not-so-talented photographer; me!





Super moon over Loutraki, Greece 10 August 2014 Melissa Briley
Super moon over Loutraki, Greece
10 August 2014
Melissa Briley



August moon over my garden Loutraki, Greece
August moon over my garden
Loutraki, Greece



Years ago, the Acropolis remained open all night, not only for the full moon of August, but for all twelve full moons of the year.

Athenians would prepare picnics, to be eaten in the glow of the magnificent marble columns of the Parthenon, and spend the night there, dreaming of magical nights in faraway ancient Greece.


A wonderful book:


"Six Nights on the Acropolis" George Seferis
"Six Nights on the Acropolis"
George Seferis


“Six Nights on the Acropolis”

 by Greece’s Noble prize winner (Literature) George Seferis, tells the tale of seven friends, four boys and three girls, in 1928, meeting on the Acropolis, once a month, for six months, on the night of the  full moon.

The book is actually a Roman à clef, the protagonist, Stratis Thalassinos, being George Seferis himself, experiencing his first months back in Athens, after studying law in France.



Visit Greece in August, around the time of the full moon and see one of her many other faces!


“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
Mark Twain



Monday, 15 August 2016

15 August, Assumption Day. Dekapenteavgoustos, Koimisis Tis Theotokou; Third Most Religious Celebration in Greece



"The Assumption of the Virgin" Peter Paul Rubens
"The Assumption of the Virgin"
Peter Paul Rubens


15 August
Assumption Day, Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, in Greek:

Dekapentavgoustos. Koimmisis Tis Theotokou.

  This is the third most important religious celebration in Greece, after Easter and Christmas, it commemorates the death of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Mary spent her final days living peacefully in Ephesus (Modern day Turkey), tended to by the apostles, who accompanied her on frequent trips to Jerusalem.



The House of the Virgin Mary Ephesus, Turkey
The House of the Virgin Mary
Ephesus, Turkey


After her death, Mary was laid to rest near the Garden of Gethsemane, Apostle Thomas, who was away travelling in India at the time of her death, immediately returned to Jerusalem to pay his respects.

On entering Mary’s tomb, Thomas discovered her body had disappeared and the tomb now filled with fragrant flowers, traditionally said to be roses and lilies.

On looking upwards, Thomas had a vision of Mary ascending to heaven, at that moment Mary untied her sash, which fell at the feet of Thomas.



The assumption of the Virgin Mary who is removing her sash,  which falls at the feet of Apostle Thomas (In Green) Palma Vecchio
The assumption of the Virgin Mary who is removing her sash,
 which falls at the feet of Apostle Thomas (In Green)
Palma Vecchio



Parts of the sash, today a Holy relic, are housed in the Prato Cathedral, Tuscany, Italy and Saint Mary's Church of the Holy Belt, Homs, Syria.




Saint Mary's Church of the Holy Belt Homs, Syria. Photo Stalinsunnkvj
Saint Mary's Church of the Holy Belt
Homs, Syria.
Photo Stalinsunnkvj


Prato Cathedral Prato, Tuscany Italy
Prato Cathedral
Prato, Tuscany
Italy


 The apostles assumed that God had retrieved the body of Mary and reunited it with her soul in heaven, from this derives the name Assumption Day.



There are two places in Jerusalem today, associated with the death of The Virgin Mary, the Basilica in the Garden of Gethsemane, the site of her tomb, and the Abbey of Dormition, built on the site where Mary is said to have died.



Tomb of The Virgin Mary Garden of Gethsemane Jerusalem, Israel
Tomb of The Virgin Mary
Garden of Gethsemane
Jerusalem, Israel



Tomb of the Virgin Mary Garden of Gethsemane Jerusalem, Israel.
Tomb of the Virgin Mary
Garden of Gethsemane
Jerusalem, Israel.




Dormition Abbey Jerusalem Israel
Dormition Abbey
Jerusalem
Israel


Preparations for this important date in The Greek Orthodox Church begin on the first of August with strict fasting, lasting until the Feast Day of The Virgin Mary on the fifteenth.

The fifteenth of August is a public holiday in Greece, as it is in most catholic countries of Europe and Latin America.


This is one of the most popular Name Days as Mary; (Maria) is the most common female name in Greece. Despina, Thespina, Marios, Panayiota, and Panayiotis (Peter) are also celebrated.


 
The Virgin Mary El Greco
The Virgin Mary
El Greco
  

 The whole of Greece celebrates, friends and relatives, laden down with beribboned boxes of delicious cakes, descend on the “Name Day Girl” (Or boy), who will have been slaving away over her cooker since early morning, preparing mouthwatering Greek dishes for her visitors.

After church, towns and villages have huge communal feasts, accompanied by traditional dancing, fueled by gallons of local wine.

Most towns and villages have their own fifteenth of August traditions, below are some of the more well-know, popular celebrations, legends and traditions:


The Island of Tinos


Devout Christians make the pilgrimage to the church of Panagia Evangelistria, on the Greek island of Tinos, situated near the port, crawling all the way to the church, along a red carpet, laid for this special occasion.



Church of Panagia Evangelistria Tinos
Church of Panagia Evangelistria
Tinos


Devout worshipers at Panagia Evengalistria, Tinos "The Little Lourdes of Greece"
Devout worshipers at Panagia Evengalistria, Tinos
"The Little Lourdes of Greece"



You can see why this place is sometimes referred to as “The little Lourdes of Greece” !

Legend has it that here, a nun, Saint Pelagia, had a vision of The Virgin Mary, informing her of where to find an icon which possessed healing powers.




Saint Pelagia of Tinos
Saint Pelagia of Tinos



  Icon of the annunciation of the Virgin Mary Pnagia Evangelistria church Tinos
Icon of the annunciation of the Virgin Mary
Pnagia Evangelistria church
Tinos



Icon of the annunciation of the Virgin Mary discovered on Tinos 1823 The icon before being covered in silver amulets, offered to the Virgin Mary by worshipers.
Icon of the annunciation of the Virgin Mary discovered on Tinos 1823
The icon before being covered in silver amulets, offered to the Virgin Mary by worshipers.



Pelagia was ordered to dig in a field of the Ant. Doxaras area.

An icon depicting The Virgin Mary was eventually found underground in 1823 in the Kechrovouni region.


Imathia, Kastania


 Two monks from Athens, Barnabus and Sofronios, were ordered by The Virgin Mary, who visited them in a vision, to leave Athens and head for Trebizond (Modern day Trabzon, Turkey), where they were to build a monastery.
They were to carry with them the icon of the Holy Virgin Atheniotissa, said to have been painted by Saint Luke, for protection on their hazardous journey.



Icon of The Holy Virgin Atheniotissa Now in the Monastery of Our Lady of Soumela Kastania, Imathia
Icon of The Holy Virgin AtheniotissaAttributed to Saint Luke
Now in the Monastery of Our Lady of Soumela
Kastania, Imathia



 In the year 386, on Mount Melas, they built the famous Monastery of Our Lady of Soumela,  making it the home of the icon of the Holy Virgin Atheniotissa.

The monastery was seized by the Russian Empire during the 1916-18 occupation of Trabzon




Monastery of Our Lady of Soumela Trebizond (Trabzon, Modern day Turkey) Photo Chritian Torrissen
Monastery of Our Lady of Soumela
Trebizond
(Trabzon, Modern day Turkey)
Photo
Chritian Torrissen


Monastery of Our Lady of Soumela Trebizond (Trabzon, Modern day Turkey)
Monastery of Our Lady of Soumela
Trebizond
(Trabzon, Modern day Turkey)


In 1930, a monk secretly returned to Soumela and retrieved the icon, which is now in the new Panagia Soumela Monastery, on the slopes of Mount Vermion, near the town of Naousa, built in 1951 by Greek Pontians, refugees from Trebizond.



Panagia Soumela Monastery Built 1951 Mount Vermion Greece
Panagia Soumela Monastery
Built 1951
Mount Vermion
Greece

Thousands flock to the feast day of The Virgin of Soumela, on the fifteenth of August, to worship the miraculous Atheniotissa icon.


Paros


Another church celebrating on the fifteenth of August is the Church of the Hundred Doors, located on the island of Paros, dedicated to “Panagia Ekatontapilion”
The Virgin of the Hundred Doors.


Our Lady of the Hundred Doors Paros
Our Lady of the Hundred Doors
Paros


Icon of Our Lady of the Hundred Doors "Panagia Ekatontapilion" Paros
Icon of Our Lady of the Hundred Doors
"Panagia Ekatontapilion"
Paros


Ninety nine doors are visible, the story goes, that the hundredth door, will be revealed when Greece again occupies Istanbul (Constantinople).


Kefalonia


In the village of Markopolou, on the island of Kefalonia, is the church of The Virgin Mary Lagouvarda, or “Panagia Fithousa”, Virgin of the Snakes”



Church of the Virgin Mary Lagouvarda Virin of the Snakes Markopoulou Kefalonia Photo http://filoptoxoimkefallinias.blogspot.gr/2015/08/blog-post_61.html
Church of the Virgin Mary Lagouvarda
Virin of the Snakes
Markopoulou
Kefalonia
Photo http://filoptoxoimkefallinias.blogspot.gr/2015/08/blog-post_61.html



Here, from the sixth to the fifteenth of August, harmless snakes gather in and around the church.

On the fifteenth the snakes head for the icon of The Virgin Mary and the Bishop’s throne.



Snakes on the icon of Virgin Mary Virgin of the Snakes Kefalonia
Snakes on the icon of Virgin Mary
Virgin of the Snakes
Kefalonia


The island was attacked by Barbarossa in 1705, it is said the nuns begged The Virgin Mary, to help them escape, who then turned them into snakes, and they slithered away to safety.


Kozani


On the morning of fifteenth august, riders, on decorated horses, meet at Sitista to accompany the faithful to the Monastery of The Virgin Mary in Mikrokastro, Kozani where they worship the icon of The Virgin Mary.


Monastery of the Virgin Mary Mikrokastro
Monastery of the Virgin Mary
Mikrokastro


On the return journey, a stop is made at church of the Prophet Elija, and there, in the church grounds, they hold a small celebration, with food, drink and dancing, at lunch time they return to Siatista, where, in the evening thousands gather in the squares of Hora and Gerania to see the magnificent horses on parade.



Horsemen of Mikrokastro
Horsemen of Mikrokastro



This tradition stems from when Greek slaves, of Western Macedonia, under Ottoman rule, were granted one day of freedom to celebrate the fifteenth of August, when, on horseback, they would return to their families for celebrations and to worship at the Church of The Virgin Mary.


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