Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The ancient world revived: Today's Dionysian Procession in Greece

Unlike the carnivals from the big cities of Greece that are, noways, cosmopolitan and void of meaning, the ones in the country are reminiscence of ancient Dionysian processions. 

Many people know Dionysus as the god of wine and wine-making but he is also the god of ecstasy, fertility, orgies and everything that exceeds the boundaries of the conventional society and is repressed by it.

The Dionysian celebrations were best known for their phallic processions (called phallika in ancient Greece) and were characterized by obscenities and vulgar speech.

Today the festivals are not that... explicit let's say. They only place where the  phallic procession is still part of the carnival ( Dionysys celebrations) it's said to be Tyrnavos ( in the municipality of Larissa).

In Kozani, where I've been, the tradition is kept but in a somehow tamed manner. There are fires (called "fani" - lamp)  in different plazas of the town where people dance, sing, eat but mostly they drink.
The wine is free for everyone during the festival and so are the special cheese pies made for this occasion.

We were lucky enough to witness a contemporary version of a dithyramb, a hymn dedicated to Dionysus that is sung and danced during his festivals.

Dithyramb are sang traditionally by chorus of fifty men dancing in circular formation. In the contemporary version though, everyone could join the dance. 

The lyrics of the hymn were sang in vlahika, a Greek dialect, and it contained more or less explicit sexual references.

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