According to Wikipedia (yes, I admit to being an unabashed fan), “An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, ‘manifestation, striking appearance’) is an experience of sudden and striking realization.”
Having just sent the final edits of my latest Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis’ novel off to my publisher for printing, I suppose I could use one of those for what will be Andreas’ next adventure. But this is not about that sort of epiphany.
I’m talking about the holiday—which has the identical root in Greek—that for most Christians generally falls on January 6th (tomorrow) and concludes the Twelve Days of Christmas. The Greeks usually refer to it as the “Feast of Theophany” (“God shining forth” or “divine manifestation”) or “Ta Fota” (“The Lights”) as it celebrates the baptism of Christ in what is one of the three Great Feast days of the year, ranking only behind Easter (Paska) and Pentecost. Understandably, it is also a big day for baptisms.
In many parts of the world a Greek Orthodox priest performs the “Blessing of the Waters.” Traditionally, it’s done twice: Once, on the eve of the Feast (generally at a baptismal font inside the church), and the next day at a river, sea, or lake, where at the end of the service a priest tosses the blessed cross into the water—launching a host of young men in after it in hopes of retrieving the cross and receiving a special blessing from the priest that will bring a year of good luck to the successful diver.
Epiphany is also the day for expelling kallikantzari from your home through a blessing from the priest and the sprinkling of Theophany blessed holy water. Kallikantzari are half-beast, half human, bad-spirited gremlins that try to slip into your house through a chimney to wreak havoc and mischief amid your home, livestock, and food between Christmas and Epiphany.
During that twelve-day period virtually every Greek in one way or another engages in some superstitious practice—like wrapping a sprig of basil around a small wooden cross and suspending it over a bowl of water—and seeks a blessing from a priest. Ultimately, the goal is to expel the kallikantzari before they can do serious damage, like saw through the huge tree on which rests the foundations of the world.
Where the kallikantzari go for the rest of the year to do their harm is anybody’s guess. Though from the way things are going in Greece these days, perhaps someone should think about checking out Parliament.
Happy New Year, everyone—especially our newest MIE contributors, Caro and Lisa. All the best in 2013 and far, far beyond.