The action of “Kalogeros” is met with a developed dramatic performance in the villages around Vizyi, although with different names and ceremonies we also meet it in other parts of Thrace.
“Kalogerodeutera” or “Kalogeros” (good old man), is a unique event that the inhabitants of Kryoneros in eastern Thrace (Vizyi province) revived every year on Monday of Tyrini, symbolizing the good year and the fertility of the land.
Rooted in the Dionysian cult, the refugees brought this act with them in its entirety in October 1922 when they left their ancestral homes and settled in their new homeland, in Kalampaki of Drama. Since then, the residents of the area have been reviving this event, observing almost religiously every aspect of it and without altering the central core of its performance.
On Monday, February 20, as according to folklore and the Orthodox tradition the week of Tyrini begins, the members of the Kalambaki Educational Cultural Association will revive for another year the custom passed on by their ancestors, thus honoring their memory and traditions.
“The ceremonies of Tyrini Monday”, the ever-active president of the Educational Cultural Association of Kalambaki Drama, Mrs. Athanasia Theodoridou, “in the villages of Mikros Aimos (Stranza, Vizyis region in Eastern Thrace) they possess a unique fullness of drama, i.e. a ceremony with a defined and strict formality. In these ceremonies, their ancient origin is reflected, which is connected to the Dionysian cult and refers calendarically to the “Anthesteria”.
As Mrs. Theodoridou underlines, “the action of “Kalogeros” is met with a developed dramatic performance in the villages around Vizyi, although with different names and ceremonies we also meet it in other parts of Thrace. It is a rare transfer of the same custom by the refugees from Kryonero, which is performed continuously to this day in Kalamaki of Drama. The first extensive description of it was made by G. Vizyinos in 1888 under the title “The Kalogeri and the cult of Dionysus in Thrace”.
The action, the customs and the participants
According to tradition, on the morning of Tyrian Monday, ten to twenty young men gather, who must be single, and choose among themselves one who will be “good-looking”. He is then dressed in animal skins and sheep bells are passed around his waist. He paints his face with ash and wears an animal skin hood on his head. In his hands he holds two sticks, the dokmaki. His attendants are dressed in sackcloth and also have their faces painted with ashes. In the group there is always someone disguised as a katsivela, who is sometimes accompanied by the gyphtos (katsivelo).
As soon as the troupe is assembled, the alarm goes off. They go around the houses of the village accompanied by a bagpipe creating a lot of noise. The monk with the dokmaki knocks on the carts in the courtyards of the villagers, saying that they are broken and for their repair he demands that he and his company be paid. Many times some of the entourage hold chains in their hands and tie the host by the neck, demanding that the “beteli” (debt) be paid. Householders usually give them money and eggs. At the same time, they treat the monk and his company to various snacks with tsipouro or wine.
“Just before sunset,” notes Mrs. Theodoridou emphatically, “the troupe ends up in the square, where all the residents gather. There are three rounds in total, while the bagpipes accompany the action throughout its performance. The monk’s company used to choose the best householder of the village and anoint him king – today, of course, the “king” and the “monk” volunteer to take on their role. At the same time, a wooden plow arrives, on which the disguised men take the place of oxen, and the king, holding the plow and a wooden pole, urges them to “plough” the land. At some point the disguised ones who have the position of the oxen fall down pretending to be helpless.”
Contact with mother earth is part of what is going on, to give them her strength and grace. “Blooded…”, shout the others and the king must blind his “animals” by saying the right words so that the process can continue. After the mock plowing, in the second circumambulation, the king takes a tin of wheat and corn mixed with ashes and sows the supposed plowed field by scattering the seed by hand.
During sowing the king calls various prices for the basic agricultural products, which are outrageously high, seeking in this way to have a good harvest and also good selling prices for their labors
The dive of… death and the rise of… Resurrection
In Kryonero immediately after the sowing the king accompanied by the “monks” went to the river, where the followers threw the elected king into the water in a symbolic baptism. His descent (death) and his emergence (resurrection) then relate, in addition to the symbolism of death and rebirth, to the purifying quality of water. In this way, the return to life also has the meaning of purification and purification.
In the Kalamaki of Drama, the custom ends with the king being abjured by the residents present, in a symbolic gesture that completes the ritual. The “change” concerns the integration of the custom in the new place of life that has a different geomorphology from their homeland Kryonero, which crosses a river dividing it in half. The action ends with teasing, merriment and dancing by the disguised and continues until late with all the inhabitants of the place where the scene unfolded.
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