The Anastenaria fire walking ritual of Greece.

The Ancient ecstatic tradition, annually, 21-23 May.

The Anastenaria is a northern Greece traditional ritual of fire walking which dates back to pagan times. There are variations in the ritual from place to place, and though the "Anastenaria" is a ceremony that derives from times before Christ, it is dedicated and attached to the christian faith. This ceremony takes place on Saint-Konstantinos day, 21st of May. The whole celbration lasts three to four days.

The communities, which celebrate the Anastenaria, are descendants of refugees from Eastern Thrace that settled in Northern Greece following the migrations necessitated by the Balkan Wars and by the later exchange of populations in 1923.

Every year, barefoot villagers of Agia Eleni and Kerkini at Serres, and of Langada near Thessaloniki, get themselves worked up into a trance before walking over hot coals. Those celebrating the Anastenaria are descendants of refugees from Eastern Thrace who arrived in Greece in the 1920s. Each village community of Anastenarides is headed by a "group of twelve" who, on the eve of the feast of Saints Constantine and Helen, gather in the "konaki", which houses the icons of Saints Constantine and his mother Eleni. These are draped with large red kerchiefs (simadia), which are believed to possess the power of the icons. In the konaki they work themselves into a trance-like state through hours of devotional dancing. the main aspect of this festival is at night, when they firewalk. They make a huge fire, and when it is down to extremely hot coals, some of them (only some people are "called" to do this) walk and dance on the fire. They believe that during the dance they are "seized" by the saints.

The next day, a ritualistic sacrifice of animals takes place. After lunch the Anastenarides gather again and resume their dancing. A candle is lit from one of the oil lamps in front of the icons, and is used to light a bonfire. When the wood burns, coal is spread down. Initially the Anastenarides dance barefoot around the hot ashes, but when the saints moves them, individuals run across the burning coals. Sometimes devotees kneel down beside the fire and pound the ashes with the palms of their hands. This continues until the ashes are cool.

During the next two days, the Anastenarides process around the village visiting each house. On 23 May they conclude with a second dance over the fire, although this one is in private and not for tourists to gawp at.

According to the story told by the refugees, the origin of the Anastenaria lies in a fire, which took place at Kosti, a village by the Bulgarian borders(Eastern Thrace), in the thirteenth century. One night the church of St. Konstantinos caught fire, and as it burned the people heard cries coming from the flames. It was the icons calling out for help. Some villagers ran into the building and rescued them, neither the icons not their saviours being burned or injured. Since that time, the Anastenaria has been held to celebrate their delivery.

The Greek Anastenarides, who are unique in all the world, by their fire-walking, they present us one of the inexplicable mysteries in earth, the n o n - f l a m m a b l e phenomenon.

and see the YOUTUBE video the Anastenria - fire walking tradition.

The anastenaria take place yearly on May 21 and last for 3 days at the towns of Lagada - Thessaloniki, Agia Eleni - Serres, Meliki - Verria and Mavrolefki - Drama.

Every year the following land tours are organised to watch the tradition:

If you are interested to take part let us know and we shall contact you in due time

Our tours are organised for groups from 5 - 35 persons . The evening of May 21 we watch the ritual. On the way back to Athens we visit the royal tombs at Vergina - the most important Royal Graves ever discovered: the tomb of King Philippos, Great Alexander's father. This is where we see the golden Larnix with the star of Macedonia and other fabulous findings.

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Add the "anastenaria - fire walking" tradition to my favourites to remember and visit Greece May next year.
Since January 24th, 2010
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