Accepted Paper:

The Anastenaria: a healing festival in Greece  

Author:

Evy Johanne Håland (Norwegian Council of Arts)

Paper short abstract:

Based on the authors fieldwork, the paper explores the Anastenaria, a healing festival celebrated mainly by descendants from refugees who fled to Greece after the Balkan Wars last century, its background and ambiguous relationship to the official Greek Orthodox Church which regards it as pagan.

Paper long abstract:

The Anastenaria is celebrated by the Anastenarides and the Anastenarisses. They descend from refugees who fled from the village of Kōsti in eastern Trace, nowadays Bulgaria, after the Balkan Wars, and had settled in several villages in Greek Macedonia by 1924. The Anastenaria is dedicated to the saints, Kōnstan¬tinos and his mother, Elenē, who are depicted on holy icons that the Anastenarides brought with them. The main ritual during the Anastenaria is the ecstatic dance over red-hot coals by the Anastenarides who are possessed by their saint. The festival presents a ritual, which in many ways is in opposition to the official Orthodox religion, and it has been persecuted by the Church. Therefore, it was performed in secret for many years last century. Officially, the uneasy situation between the Church and the Anastenarides has ended. But, the Church still states that the festival presents a combination of paganism and Christianity, and does not subscribe to the holistic view of the Anastenarides. The paper is based on fieldwork which the author has carried out in two of the villages populated by Anastenarides and other Greeks during annual festivals in 1992. The paper explores how the religious spaces surrounding the rituals carried out by the Anastenarides in the villages are copies of the original cultic space in Kōsti. Furthermore, their cultic apparatuses belong to "former days", thus constituting an ancestor cult located to their place of origin, since the "Thracians" or "Kōstilidians", celebrates their "Kōstilidian" community and identity through their religious rituals.

Panel Medi03
‘Healing’ as harmonization of ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ cosmos? Conceptualizations and practices of ‘health’ and ‘healing’ in Europe and beyond