Παλαιαί συνήθειαι της 6. Μαΐου ημέρας μνήμης τού «Παλιού Άη Γιώργη» εις το βλαχόφωνον χωρίον Σκρά (Λιούμνιτσα)

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Μαρία Γ. Παπαγεωργίου

Abstract

The rusticated Vlachs of the Central Macedonian village of Skra (Ljumnitsa)
believe that at the crack of dawn on 6 May, "Old St. George's Day", the 'fresh water of
the year’ begins to flow (I: 1). They say that the water's course is obstructed by a
lamia, but St. George 'on a white steed slays her with his spear and lets the water flow
free’ a: 2).
The Vlachs of Skra observe this special day with a number of ancient customs,
starting at dawn. They deck the water pitchers with Virginia creeper; the daughters,
preferably prepubescent and certainly unmarried, must then draw and carry the water;
everyone drinks the water 'on an empty stomach', some of it is poured into the
courtyard, and a small quantity is retained for its medicinal properties until the
following spring (I: 1). They hire a shepherd for six months, and separate the lambs
and kids from their dams, which they then milk. Everyone drinks 'first milk' and some
of the milk is curdled so that there will be 'soft cheese' by midday; 'first milk' is also
taken to families who do not raise sheep or goats; and from midday onwards 'first milk' and 'soft cheese' are offered to visitors. The flocks are sprinkled with 'fresh water of the
year' as they leave the fold, and the children of the neighbourhood are given 'first milk'
to drink (II). The Vlachs then go to the fields. In the middle of each one they lodge a
young sprig of oak, around which is tied a 'red Maundy Thursday thread, and a red egg
is put next to it (III). Early in the afternoon, the young nubile women loop Virginia
creeper around their waists and go to the chestnut groves, where they hang up swings
and take turns to swing each other (IV).
The article argues that the belief in the 'fresh water of the year' has its origins in
a parallel ancient, pre-Apollonian belief. This concerned a warm, healing, water-loving
sun-god on a white horse, who annually slew the hydra of the frost in the West and the
hydra of the ice in the East, or, by extension, the lion of the burning heat; and a virgin
moon goddess of sources and springs, patroness of prepubescent girls and young nubile
women.

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