Laura's Blog

Greek Fire 14. Ayia Zoni, the birthing belt, and the dance mandíli

Thursday, February 25, 2021 
  In Greek Fire 13 I described the miraculous icon of Panayía Tricheroúsa (Παναγία Τριχερούσα), the Three-Handed Madonna, an unusual and powerful manifestation of the Mother of God. This caused a regular reader of this blog to comment that I always seem to be writing about the Panayia, or fire, or women's ritual dances.

It's true: my inspiration for the name Greek Fire comes from the importance of fire here, both literally – the fireplace in our unheated house (Greek Fire 1), the incense I light daily (Greek Fire 2) – and metaphorically, as in the fire of life, expressed so unreservedly in nature and in dance. My life in Greece is definitely an ongoing quest for living traditions of women's ritual dance and other aspects of women's spirituality which survive here in sometimes unexpected ways.

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Greek Fire 13. Panayia Tricheroúsa, the Three-Handed Madonna

Thursday, February 18, 2021 
  In Greek Fire 12, I mentioned the miraculous icon of Panayía Tricheroúsa (Παναγία Τριχερούσα), the Three-Handed Madonna, an unusual and powerful manifestation of the Mother of God. 
I don't know of a church in our part of Greece which has an actual icon of Panayía Tricheroúsa, but a large framed picture of the miracle-working one from Mount Athos hangs behind the cash desk of my favourite grocery store in Kalamata, Aderfoi Lambou (Lambou Brothers), near the harbour.  
On our way to give concerts and seminars in Mani every year, we always used to stop there to stock up on ladopaksimádia, delicious olive oil rusks; the famed pastéli of honey and sesame seeds; local figs and olives; lalángia or 'snake cakes', my favourite treat [photo at left]; and other traditional delicacies for our seminar guests. Visiting the Three-Handed Madonna was always the best thing about shopping there.

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Greek Fire 11. Tsamikos Kardhítsa, Papalambrena, and A Camel in Nunavut

Thursday, February 4, 2021 

In Greek Fire 10, 'The power of the women's Tsámikos', I talked about an important yet little-known ritual dance family in which older women, particularly, can publicly express authority and power: the women's Tsámikos. [1] Of the more than 30 different women's Tsámika I've learned over the years, one of my favourites is Tsámikos Kardhítsa, also known as Papalámbrena, the focus of today's blog. In the 27 years since I first learned it and began to pass it on, it has become a staple in the Sacred/Circle Dance network, where it has taken on a somewhat surprising life of its own.

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Greek Fire 12. Candlemas and Ypapantís: Forty Days After Childbirth, Mary Returns to the World

Thursday, February 11, 2021 
  Here in Greece we are enjoying the lengthening late-winter days and the first flowers of spring. The almond trees, always the first to bloom here, light up the landscape in sunlit airy clouds of blossom, heavy with fragrance, dancing with bees. Thousands of anemones shine like stars scattered in the grass, ranging in hue from the palest white through faint shades of pink, to a startling deep fuchsia. And the sea squill bulb we hung by our front door for luck at New Year (see Greek Fire 6) has surprised us by flowering: a tender green stalk is crowned with tiny lavender orchidlike blooms, whose heavenly aroma wafts around us as we go in and out. I did not know it would do this and am astounded by the flower: its beauty, its fragrance, and the fact that it appeared at all. Note the resemblance to the 'sun-headed winged Goddess' motif so common in women's ritual dances and the costumes and embroideries which accompany the dances!

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Greek Fire 10. The power of the women's Tsámikos

Thursday, January 28, 2021

At dozens of weddings I've attended in Greece over the years, my favourite part is when the older women lead the ritual dance. At some point during the proceedings, the mothers (and grandmothers!) of the bridal pair will invariably each take a turn as the first dancer at the head of the line. In the islands this is likely to be a Syrtós, in the Peloponnese a Kalamatianós, and on the mainland a Tsámikos.

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