Thursday, October 31, 2019

Orthodoxy and Halloween: Ten Years Later (2009-2019)

By John Sanidopoulos

On October 31, 2009 I wrote a post on that when I woke up that morning I had no intention to write. All that morning I was checking social media and saw over and over again Orthodox Christians, both clergy and laity, posting links and comments warning others of the dangers of Halloween and how anyone who participated in any way in the holiday was in league with the devil. There was hardly a positive thing to say about Halloween. When I read the contents of these links and comments, it was no wonder there was nothing positive to say about Halloween. The information being spread was so ridiculous and false, it was enough for any sane person to pull their hair out in frustration. I thought: "Are my fellow Orthodox Christians really this stupid?" Honestly, I wouldn't expect an illiterate Greek yiayia from a remote village to believe the things I was reading. But knowing this erroneous information was being circulated by clergy helped me understand why they accepted such absurdities. The people look up to the clergy and trust their judgment. So I did some quick research on the internet to see if the clergy were able to do their homework to fact check the information they were spreading. It was then that I realized there was a big problem that needed to be addressed. Almost everything I read on the internet about Halloween was false. Not only was it false, but it was often in the realm of insane.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

"The Vroucolacas: A Tale" by James K. Paulding (full text)

James Kirke Paulding (August 22, 1778 – April 6, 1860) was an American writer and, for a time, the United States Secretary of the Navy. He was born in Pleasant Valley, New York and largely self-educated. He became a close friend of Washington Irving, with whom he began a periodical. The result was Salmagundi; a short-lived satirical periodical, from which the word 'Gotham' was first ascribed as a name for New York City. After writing many other things, in June 1846 he published "The Vroucolacas: A Tale" in Graham's American Monthly Magazine of Literature and Art out of Philadelphia. This is among the earliest American tales influenced directly from true accounts of Greek vampire tales, half a century before the publishing of Bram Stoker's Dracula. He died at his farm near Hyde Park, New York. He is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A Useful Tip for Organizers of Haunted Attractions

Here’s a useful tip for haunted house organizers from Michael Ward of Theatronics Engineering:

“As a theatrical consultant I have spent over 20 years helping people build ‘dark attractions’ (so named because they are in the dark). In that time I have been involved in raising over 5 million dollars for causes such as Jerrys Kids (M.S.), Special Olympics, Prevent Blindness, Make a Wish, Campus Life (Christian Youth Group), Jay Cees, and two high schools. Amid this rampage of 'evil doing,' I have been approached many times by protestors and preachers who have tried to drive away our customers (thus driving down our charitable donations). I have tried to argue and debate, I have even tried to be polite and ask that they leave. Calling the law sometimes worked if we had any claim to the land we were on.

Monday, October 21, 2019

On the Belief in Vampires in Greece During the Ottoman Occupation (An Essay From 1844)

The Vroucalaca

(Published in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction 
on Saturday, February 24, 1844)

The Vampire, of which so much has been written, is the descendant of the Vroucalaca of Modern Greece. It is astonishing to what a height of absurdity ignorance, aided by superstition, has arrived. Tournefort relates, that in all the Archipelago the people firmly believed that it was only in the Greek church that excommunication preserved the body entire and unputrified. Some ascribed it to the force of the bishop's sentence — others thought that the devil entered into the body of the excommunicate, and reanimated him, so that he became an evil spirit incarnate. There was a prevalent superstition that the dead ate and drank in their graves, that they devoured their own flesh and burial-clothes for want of better food, and that all the viands and wine placed on the bier, and in fact consumed by the priests, were really the nourishment of the dead. From this point an easy transition would lead the excited dupes to believe in the demoniacal and hungry corpse sallying forth from the tomb, and satisfying at once its malignity and its appetite by preying on the flesh and blood of the living. Tournefort was present at the exhumation, impalement, and burning of a Vroucolaca in the island of Mycone, who was reported to have broken the windows and the bones, and drained the bottles and the veins of half the inhabitants of the island. For many days the people were in continual consternation, and numbers left their abodes and the island — masses were said – holy water showered about in torrents — the nine days were passed, and still the Vroucolaca was every night at fresh mischief — the tenth day mass was said in the chapel where the unfortunate corpse lay — but without avail, owing, as the priests afterwards pretended to discover, to the negligence of not extracting the heart before the expulsory mass was said. Had the heart been first extracted and a mass instantly said, before the devil could have returned into possession, the people were convinced his Infernal Majesty's entry would have been barred, and the nuisance put an end to. The corpse was then exhumed, the town butcher took out the heart, and declared that the entrails were still warm. The putrid stench of the corpse obliged them to burn frankincense, which produced an amalgamation of fumes that laid hold of the people's senses, and helped to inflame their imaginations. "Vroucolaca! Vroucolaca!" echoed through the cloisters and aisles. The corpse was assailed with swords in all directions, till a learned Albanian appeared and told the people they were all fools for using Christian swords, since the cross of the hilt had the effect of pinning the demon more firmly in the body, instead of expelling him, and that the only sword for the purpose was the straight Turkish scymetar. The people would not wait for the experiment, but, with one accord, determined on burning the body entire. This was accordingly done on the point of the island of St George; and the people then defied the devil to find a niche in which to quarter himself, and made songs in celebration of their triumph.

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Exhumation of a Vampire on the Island of Mykonos in 1700: An Eye-Witness Account

Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656–1708) was a French botanist, notable as the first to make a clear definition of the concept of genus for plants. Between 1700 and 1702 he traveled through the islands of Greece and visited Constantinople, the borders of the Black Sea, Armenia, and Georgia, collecting plants and undertaking other types of observations. He was accompanied by the German botanist Andreas Gundelsheimer (1668–1715) and the artist Claude Aubriet (1651–1742). His description of this journey was published posthumously in 1718 as Relation d'un voyage du Levant (A Voyage Into The Levant), he himself having been killed by a carriage in Paris; the road on which he died now bears his name (Rue de Tournefort in the 5√®me arrondissement). It was during this journey that he became an eye-witness to what locals on the island of Mykonos believed to be the exhumation of a vampire, or a Vroucolacas as it was called there. Below is how he described it, and his attempt to stop this superstitious practice.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Relics of Ancient Superstitions in Modern Greece (An Essay from 1856)

By Prof. Henry Martyn Baird (1832–1906)
Author of Modern Greece, A Narrative of a Residence and Travels in that Country (1856)

It is not my intention, in the present paper, to investigate the nature of superstition; nor shall I attempt to account for its origin and prevalence. In some form or other, it has existed in every country with which we are acquainted, and, at the present day, it can boast of as many slaves as in the most remote antiquity. This is a fact which Mr. De Quincey, in his admirable essay on Modern Superstition, has exhibited in a clear light. The European as well as the Asiatic, the inhabitant of Christian England, equally with the pagan, are firm believers in the reality of a vague and mysterious influence exercised over man, and the natural objects with which he is connected, by a superior order of beings.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

How A Famous Greek Astrologer Became an Orthodox Priest

Nikos Chortareas, the self-proclaimed "best astrologer in Greece and Cyprus," was a famous Greek astrologer known to people in Greece and Cyprus mainly through his after midnight psychic television program. Not only would he predict people's future based on their astrological sign, but he would promote other superstitious beliefs popular among the Greek general public like reading coffee cups and warding off the evil eye.

Apart from astrology and divination, another area in which Nikos Chortareas was active in was singing. In fact, he has also released his own album.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Miracle of Saint Cyprian of Antioch in 1966

By Archimandrite Haralambos Vasilopoulos

In 1966 there was a 29 year old young man, a soccer player from Athens, who was at the brink of death. He was the victim of a magical spell.

The young man had asked for the hand in marriage of a modest and good maiden. But there was another woman who was a rival that gave into satanic envy, so she went to a sorceress in order to drive the young man crazy and kill him.

The spell attached itself to the young man. This is because the young man had no connection with the Mysteries of the Orthodox Church. At first he no longer wanted to go to work and his large store fell to ruin. He also didn't want to see his family and in the end he suffered from horrible headaches. He even reached the point of attempting to commit suicide.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

How the Prolific Serial Killer Countess Elizabeth Bathory Fits Into a Feast of the Orthodox Church

Portrait of Countess Elizabeth Bathory

In August of 1581 the Russian city of Pskov was held under siege by the Polish king. On August 27th of that year the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision to a holy elder and blacksmith named Dorotheus, and she informed him that the siege was taking place due to the sins of the people of Pskov. When he interceded on behalf of the city, and the people repented and processed a miraculous icon of the Holy Virgin along the city wall for the days leading up to the battle, the Mother of God forgave the people and protected the city from the invading Polish king. To commemorate this event and the deliverance of the city, an icon was painted called the Pskov-Pechersk Icon, and to honor her Protection over the city, the feast was established for October 1st, which is the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God.