Part of a local Apokries tradition with a hint of ancient inspiration, the performance of the “Stixia,” or ghostly spirits in the town of Amfissa is one interesting experience to be had. On the last Saturday night of Apokries, I ended up visiting Amfissa in Central Greece to witness this local tradition, part celebratory part spooky, for myself.
To my surprise, I was among many visitors from Athens and surrounding villages who travelled to take part in the festivities. Surrounding the village center were revelers of all ages dressed in various costumes, many as mischievous creatures. Clothed in goat skin, the dermatoforoi and koudounoforoi sported horns, charcoaled faces, and sheep bells.
The celebration here started with the narration of the story of the “Stixio of Hermena.” Said to have been based on a true story, the story of the Stixia goes as follows. A hard-working charming young man called Konstantis labored at a tannery in the Harmena neighborhood. He was in love with an equally beautiful girl called Lenio. Konstantis left Amfissa to make a living selling skins and after much effort, returned to Harmena with a ring for his beloved. Shocked by the news his love had perished, Konstantis took his own life, an act that was not accepted by the church. With his soul left to wander, a haunting took place thereafter, bringing to life the ghost of Harmena, a tall, long-armed creature that terrified the locals. Aside from this famous ghost existed others in Amfissa that roamed the streets screaming and picking fights with each other. This tale has been passed on from generation to generation and is today reenacted in a lively performance where the Stixio of Harmena wins.
At this year’s performance, large monster figures representing the ghosts of Amfissa, including the famous ghost of Harmena, appeared on stage to the sound of scary tunes, strange howling and dangling chain noises. These large colorful costumes made with a mix of paper mache and cloth scraps were manned by individuals inside. It’s safe to say the children watching the show were at least in awe if not just a tad bit scared of this scene. The celebration’s atmosphere was truly like something out of a Halloween-themed spooky film.
After the Stixia engaged in a battle amongst themselves in a reenactment of the old tale, the show was over, and the onlookers began to scatter in all directions. Some went toward a music stage featuring performing artists, some to restaurants (every place we checked had pre-reserved tables) and others merrily strolled around.
After not finding anywhere to sit, my group and I decided to get some pork souvlakia to-go, and took to the streets. We eventually decided to rest at a café bar and spent some time indoors amongst other costumed guests. The place was at least three times stormed by these mischievous goat skin-wearing creatures I mentioned previously. Walking in as a couple or in a larger group, these guys began to wreak havoc, jumping up and down so the sound of their bells not only got everyone’s attention, but rang louder than the bar’s music. They then trotted over to the barman for a “kerasma,” or their treat for the night, before moving on to raid another establishment for drinks on the house. This behavior continued throughout the night.
If you’ve never witnessed the performance of the Stixia in Amfissa and are nearby during Apokries, it’s a carnival event worth visiting. Apokries week in Greece is definitely for the outdoors, as the streets are full of people, merrymaking, costumes, performances, food, color, and lots of fun to be had.Source: The National Herald