Firewalk With Me: Red-Hot Pagan Religious Fervor Endures in Greece

February 2, 2007

Author: Helene Colliopoulou

Source: Manila Times

LAGADAS, Greece: As night falls on the small town of Langadas, northern Greece, a dozen men and women prepare for a centuries-old ritual that combines Orthodox Christian rites with paganism and is literally a trial of faith by fire.

Known as “Anastenarides,” they mark the May 21 feast of Saint Constantine and Helena—one of the most important religious festivals in Greece in honor of the Roman Emperor who embraced Christianity—by walking on red-hot coals.

“I’ve been fire-walking for 30 years and it doesn’t hurt a bit because God is at our side,” says Georgia Hatzibouzini, an elderly woman who was putting her shoes back on after treading on the burning embers.

Most of the Anastenarides are descended from Greek families forced to leave their homes in eastern Thrace following the Balkan Wars, the early 20th century conflict that drastically redivided the borders of Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.