Sunday, March 2, 2014

Magic rain and the wish for water

Rituals of Magical - Rain Making in Modern and Ancient Greece: A Comparative Approach
and From Modern Greek Carnivals to the Masks of Dionysos and other Divinities in Ancient Greece are two very interesting articles about the  Kalogeros (monk), a carnival ritual associated with something that is a deep concern in Greek  culture: magic rain and the wish for water:

Both of them are written by Evy Johanne Harland.

''On Cheese Monday, the Kalogeros, followed by other painted characters visit the houses of the village, and are treated with wine, ouzo, and food. The housewife sprinkles the Kalogeros with polysporia, a symbolic mixing of grains, through a sieve. As a counter gift, he swings with his “sceptre” in order to mix the grains
with water and earth, while wishing a lot of rain and a plentiful harvest. The Kalogeros plungs his “sceptre” with the cloth into puddles, soaks it with muddy water, and smears the celebrants with it. The aim of the  procession is to assure the rain and a plentiful harvest. When they have made the round of the village, they end up in front of the church, where the entire village is awaiting them. Here, a play, a parody of ploughing and sowing, begins: “May the water-melons grow as  big as the Queen’s breasts, may the maize grow as long as the King’s prick” – all the actors in the agricultural play join in the recitation. Simultaneously, they sow “polysporia”. Two men take the place of a pair of oxen, yoked to the plough, and everybody invokes the buried grain so it may come back to life again. The Kalogeros is the rain-maker, who symbolizes the forces of vegetation and the fertility of the earth. Babo also belongs to the ritual. This is a man dressed up as an old woman. Babo holds a cup with “holy water”, i.e. women’s spittle and a sprig of basil in “her” hands and “she” sprinkles the holy content on the male articipants. “Her” assistant holds “The Invincible Life’s Powers” in “her” or his hands. This is the male sex organ in the form of a lyre, to be deposited on the earth when it has been “ploughed” and “sown”. The assistant pretends to play, while “she” utters magical fertility formulas. In ancient and popular Greek, Babo or Baubō is a wet-nurse, and symbolizes nourishment.'' ( From Modern Greek Carnivals to the Masks of Dionysos and other Divinities in Ancient Greece, p.115-6)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ancient Eros

 Alexis, dwelling on the aphrodisiac properties of bulbs, says: "Pinnas, crayfish, bulbs, snails, buccina, eggs, extremities, and all that. FIf anyone in love with a girl shall find any drugs more useful than these . . .(Athen. 63F)
and pharmaka (drugs) and enchanting charms for passion (φίλτρα θελκτήρια έρωτος). 

And  spells to heighten the drama of eros, spells to dissolve the unhappy love and cure the pain. 
And antaphrodisiacs.
And poisons.

Oh  eros is so complicated!* 

Take wax [or clay] from a potter’s wheel and make two figures, a male and a female. Make the male in the form of Ares fully armed, holding a sword in his left hand and threatening to plunge it into the right side of her neck. And make her with arms  behind her back and down on her knees. And you are to fasten the magical material on  her head or neck. Write on the figure of the woman being attracted as follows: On the head: VM; on the right ear: VM; on the left ear: VM; on the face: VM; on the right eye: VM; on the other; VM; on the right shoulder: VM; on the right arm: VM; on the other: VM; on the hands: VM; on the breast: the name, on her mother’s side. Of the woman being attracted; on the heart: VM; and below the lower belly: VM; on the pudenda: VM; on the buttocks: VM; on the sole of the right foot: VM; on the other: VM. And take thirteen copper needles and stick one in the brain while saying “I am piercing your brain, NN”; and stick two in the ears and two in the eyes and one in the mouth and two in the midriff and one in the hands and two in the pudenda and two in the soles, saying each time, “I am piercing such and such a member of her, NN, so that she may remember no one but me, NN, alone.” PGM 4.296-466). 

*Eros in the context of ancient Greek culture was not flowers and happiness. It involved annoyance and pain on the body and soul.
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