Monthly Archives: March 2015

CHASING APOLLO

Apollo’s mother, Leto, became pregnant by Zeus, which of course greatly infuriated Hera, although the myths tell us that Leto was already in the family way when Zeus and Hera tied the knot. Zeus was rather fond of Leto, while Hera was anything but. No surprise there. She threw a spectacular hissy fit and one can just imagine the glee with which this tale was told and retold by the ancients as the myths took shape; soap operas are nothing new. Husbands with a wandering eye, betrayed womenfolk, children born outside a formal relationship – these have been well understood from time immemorial, and are the endlessly fascinating stuff of stories in every genre.

It didn’t take Hera long to get rid of Leto. As I’ve already mentioned
(Apple SlapDash; Stormy Relationships) she wasn’t one to tolerate her husband’s straying under any circumstances, nor was she going to give lodging to Leto on Mt Olympus. Out! Leave! Banished! So Leto wandered about until Zeus had his fellow god, Boreas of the North Wind, carry Leto out over the sea until she wound up on Delos. Heavy with child, as they say, on this rocky island did the heart wrenching operatic saga continue. Fascinating stuff indeed, but my point is that Apollo was born here.

I guess today we’d call Apollo a Renaissance man as he was heavily involved in quite a few things, including music, medicine and minding other people’s business through his role as the god of prophecy in Delphi. His large portfolio included being god of the sun and light, duties performed by Helios in earlier versions of the myths, so one might say Apollo’s was a hostile takeover, although Helios continued to be known as god of the sun, alongside Apollo.

No question Apollo took his obligations as sun god very seriously for he never failed to drive his chariot of fire across the world to bring the light. From East to West in regular rhythm did he travel, and we chased him across the sky last week as we flew back to Texas from Greece.

MRS SARAKOSTI – A GREEK EASTER TRADITION

Easter is an extremely important part of the Greek Orthodox calendar, and great are the festivities on Easter Sunday, a joyful day of celebration for families. As with all religions there are many customs and traditions associated with each faith and its landmark events, and though there are some regional differences, the preparations for Easter follow certain centuries-old conventions.

Kathara Deftera which means Clean Monday is a public holiday in Greece, and signals the beginning of the seven weeks of Lent which lead up to Easter. Special foods are eaten on this day, kites are traditionally flown, and a period of fasting begins. Lent is a quiet time, a time to reflect, and so there are typically no weddings, no parties, no raucous revelry. Clean Monday is however preceded by the Greek carnival, known as Apokria, and what a fun season that is!

One charming custom for children is that of Mrs (Kyria) Sarakosti, which surely originated as a way for children to understand and prepare for Easter, rather like an Advent calendar. In some parts of Greece, Mrs Sarakosti is made of paper, and in others she’s prepared of a simple flour and water dough, then baked. However she’s made, Mrs S has one leg removed each week until Easter, thus building up great excitement until the effigy is quite literally legless and Easter Sunday has arrived.

We were visiting good friends in Volos last Saturday and had the pleasure of watching their son Michael as he prepared Mrs Sarakosti from the instructions provided by his school teacher; she obviously took some trouble to do this for her class.

The handout begins with a delightful little poem about Mrs Sarakosti and what she represents.

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The verses, roughly translated, explain that:

Mrs Sarakosti
Is an old custom
Our grandmothers made her for us
With flour and water.

For her outfit they dressed her
With a cross upon her head
But no mouth did they give her
For she fasted for some time

They counted the days
By means of her seven legs
Once a week they’d cut one
Until Easter arrived

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Michael with his instruction sheet

Michael followed the directions meticulously. He mixed the dough and shaped the good lady very carefully, before baking her in the oven. His little sister, Nelly, wisely left him to it; looks like she could become a career diplomat.

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So much fun!

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Nearly done

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The master baker with his mother, Lena, and Nelly