Laura's Blog

Greek Fire 6. Vasilópita, luck-bringing bread of the Greek New Year

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Πάει ο παλιός ο χρόνος, ας γιορτάσουμε παιδιά  
Και του χωρισμού ο πόνος ας κοιμάται στην καρδιά. 
Καλή χρονιά, χρονιά πολλά, χαρούμενη χρυσή Πρωτοχρονιά...

The old year is leaving, let us celebrate, friends! 
And may the pain of separation go to sleep now in our hearts. 
A good year, many years, happy golden new year!

– Greek New Year carol

In recent posts I've been writing about ceremonial bread as a link between the life-giving power of women and the life-giving power of the earth, in women's dances and traditions of rural Greece. Following this theme, today I want to write about Greek New Year customs, including St Basil's Bread, the luck-bringing vasilópita.

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Greek Fire 5. The Divine Mother gives birth! The dance circle as symbolic womb

Thursday, December 24, 2020
Last week, in Bread, birth, and the Píta of the Panayía, I wrote about the link between the life-giving power of women and the life-giving power of the earth in women's traditions of rural Greece. This week I explore these themes in relation to the Nativity, the moment of Christmas celebrated tonight and tomorrow, when the heavily pregnant Mother of God gives birth to the divine child.
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Greek Fire 3. The Womb of the Mother and the Life-Giving Spring

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Last week I wrote about the chalice-shaped incense burner, the thymiatírio, which in Orthodox belief is a symbol for the womb of the Divine Mother.

Today, on a December morning blessed with
life-giving rain, I light frankincense in my clay thymiatírio and sense the strong presence of the Divine Mother, She who will soon give birth to the light of the returning sun and the cosmic Christ. Inside this divine being, I also see the woman Maryam in her ninth month of pregnancy, facing difficult circumstances for the coming birth. Both of these images guide me strongly during this Advent time.

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Greek Fire 4. Bread, birth, and the Píta of the Panayía

Thursday, December 17, 2020

This week, in the northern hemisphere, we are enjoying the last days of deepening darkness before the winter solstice brings the return of the light. As my friend Carol P. Christ writes, while the light is indeed to be celebrated, the dark is not to be feared: at this time of year we would be wise to celebrate the restful, welcoming darkness.

The rebirth of light at the winter solstice is mirrored in Christianity by the birth of love and wisdom symbolised by the cosmic Christ. In earlier times, the return of the sun was one phase in the balanced cycle of birth, death, and regeneration embodied by the Goddess. [1]

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Greek Fire 2. The fire of incense and the Tree of Life

Thursday, December 3, 2020

One of the things I love most about life in Greece is the way women burn incense to sanctify their homes and holy icons. With this tiny act of sacred offering, along with the lighting of the kandíli or olive-oil lamp, the lady of the house takes on the role of priestess, turning her home into a temple, a place of prayer, as women did in ancient times. Incense sticks are not used here. Chunks of pure frankincense or scented resins are placed on little charcoal disks called karvounákia, in a special burner, a thymiatírio. When money is scarce or shops are far, women burn olive leaves, as they have done in Greece and Cyprus for thousands of years.

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