folklore…..the egg

Shear the egg to take its wool

As the saying goes, to describe concisely an adverse turn of events: <>, or

for someone who, while he is right he cannot be vindicated or take what it is owed to him, because the debtor doesn’t have anything to give him.

 This phrase however, continues to be used today since our ancient times.

 “Ωόν τίλλεις” (spelt: oon tilis) = You shear the egg, as our ancient ancestors used to say for similar situations (Diogenian 45 Ploutarch. Boisson 40 Discipl. 71Bekker An. Gr. I. 69, 29)

 “Τίλλω” (spelt: tilo) = I shear (Homer Od. O, 527, Il. X, 406 “τιλjω”) in ancient Greek means I pluck, pull out, remove, root out, fray, peel and from it the following words are extracted:

  • Τίλσις (spelt: tilsis) and τίλμος (spelt: tilmos) (= the removal of hair, most commonly the plucking)
  • Τίλμα (spelt: tilma) (= most commonly the wad, the plucked, the lint, whatever can be plucked)
  • Τιλτός (spelt: Tiltos) (= the plucked, the frayed), etc.

These are words that continue to be used from Homer until nowadays.

 In regards to ωόν-(spelt: oon), it is what we call “αυγό”= egg, after the change of “ω” to “αυ” (like “αυδή”-(spelt: avdi) became “ωδή(spelt: odi) = song)

 That’s why it’s wrong in terms of spelling – and historically – to spell the egg <<αβγό>>.

 Besides, our people had a proverbial phrase for the person who spelled words incorrectly:

He is so bad in spelling that he spells “αυγό (avgo) with a “βήτα (b)!!

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The egg & the hen as currency & and means of transaction   

 This tiny hen product that serves as food for children and adults, for the healthy and the sick, is an unsolved mystery and People wonder every day and ask «which came first, the chicken or the egg?». It remains an unsolved enigma and so does the age of the egg, since when it appeared and when man first used it. Anyway, the egg has offered a lot to man. It is considered a healthy food in villages and towns. Every artisan will have a few hens, but also they would not be absent in towns.

 A little egg as a side dish, an egg for the sick man, a fresh little egg for the children and there was a real fight in towns, how to find the egg of the day.

 Not every class could afford it, the rich were after it and the surrounding villages supplied it. Things were not that easy, like today where there are plenty of poultries and eggs of the day and refrigerators for transportation from far, even from foreign places.

 Today the place is full of eggs and we don’t give much importance to it, because there is not any shortage, it is not absent from any household.

 These are not the only properties of the egg. In previous times and it continues to do so in villages even today, the egg had replaced cash, it was also cash, a monetary standard. At the grocer, at the itinerant trader, at the seller of hens, at the trader, at the salesman, woman had the egg for currency. She could buy whatever she wanted without carrying any money on her, without a metal coin or a banknote. Edible oil, soap, burning oil and all kinds of household items, even for the girl’s dowry and the yarns and dyes, for household linen, everything could be bought by this round demon with its white-yellow content. It was a currency, and a stable one, gold without easy fluctuations and an alert watcher and spy of the economic stability of the state budget.

 If finances were not going well, price index would go up, with an immediate rise of the price of the egg, following closely the price index. We leave the era of wars and famines, as well as the Second World War, when it was difficult to find an egg and they always came from the villages and by the time they arrived by the means of transport of the time they had gone stale. Nonetheless, in many such cases, especially the fresh egg, was passed to the black market and despite its snow-white color, it turned into a black marketer. Two-three-five-ten hens in the yard was a livelihood for the family and a treasure for the housewife who had the privilege to handle the eggs.

 The egg was never without expenses, because even the Jews don’t recommend this trade, yet it was effortless and without special professional engagement, keeping a coop at the side of the yard was easy, in the barn or in the basement with a few hens.

 Egg production, depended on the housewife’s labor acumen, without any special professional engagement. Today myriads of eggs and brood arrive by air from Europe and America in infancy and in all sorts of breeds. At that time, the type of hen was a breed that was good for the whole of Greece, “vlachokotes” was a variation, a type kept by the tent-dwelling Vlachs, usually pheasant chicken hens that were coming and going loaded on animals, sometimes to the lowland area for the wintering of flocks and sometimes to the summer seasonal settlement.

 The gypsies were carrying them in the same manner in their tours, and hens were never absent for them as they were given to them in return. Not only the egg, but also the hen was a common means of exchange, however for a little more important business transactions. Today even the gypsies have become motorized, the number of tent-dwelling Vlachs has reduced and caravans have vanished along with their picturesqueness and the loaded hens.

 An essential figure in the coop was the king of the yard, the proud rooster, the chief shepherd of the hen flock, the weather’s horoscope, the landlord’s night alarm clock and wake up call for Matins. Two roosters could not coexist in the same coop, nor could do so any other profane one from the neighborhood. As soon as they appear the trumpet calls – enemy ahead and cock fighting without any delay until, one of them is defeated and flees shamelessly, often without both of them staying uninjured and in other cases they are dragged covered in blood or they fall in the battlefield. Since he was the king of the coop, he would receive his royal honor. When the housewife decided to sell a rooster, his price was even higher than that of the hen and her products, i.e. the egg.

 And even today they are exchanged in villages, where women take banknotes, silver coins or even dollars, and also the egg has not ceased to be the first and most handy means and standard of transaction for the village housewife.

 And the egg and the hen were not only standards of transaction. A hen sold by the housewife to the itinerant trader, covered so many of the housewife’s needs. With that she would also buy the edible and the burning oil and some sugar and so many essential things for the household. The seller of hens brought a small feast on a weekday every now and then and he caused havoc in the village with his voices, carrying two baskets with long tails on his shoulders, for the eggs and a strong thick string to tie the hens which he also drag by his shoulder as he was loaded. The dogs caused havoc in the village on seeing him and that first slow-moving procession «seller of hens-hens and eggs». The seller of hens was a signal to housewives, and also a counter-signal of dogs’ attack, which he managed successfully with two crooked sticks (the “stravolegges”) rotating them all around him, without watching back, taking care not to break the eggs, and he was indeed holding the baskets in such a good pace that he never broke them.

 An accident could rarely happen because of some blindness as he said. Then it would make an omelette and mixed yolks and whites ran from the basket and even the fountain of the village could not wash out the baskets and the unbroken from the broken eggs.

 Today, the sellers of hens and eggs have disappeared, not only the sick but also the healthy eat eggs and hens and only the remainders will go to the grocer. However, a housewife always keeps some eggs aside and nominates some old hen that has stopped to be productive, in case of an urgency and also to host a stranger who arrives randomly and unexpectedly.

 The egg and the hen were not always a means of transaction in the village, they were also a means of hospitality, with a couple of eggs placed in the frying pan by the housewife on an urgent and unexpected visit by a stranger or a relative and she would not feel embarrassed because she didn’t have enough time to prepare some other food.

 And these are not the only the properties of the egg and the hen, because they also have many usages and symbolisms.

 They will sweat an egg at the chimney corner on carnival night after dinner, to see whose egg will sweat first and that one will be the healthiest and happiest person of the year. Health is also symbolized by the tapping of red Easter eggs.

 The housewife will give eggs to the girls who will come to sing the Carols of Lazarus. The girls hold a basket decorated with spring flowers instead of a little bag.

 Source: «Customs, Traditions & Beliefs of our people»

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HASKARIS: The carnival tradition of Kastoria

 The tradition of Haskaris is a symbolic one and takes place in the houses of Kastoria and the villages of its region, on the last Sunday of the Carnival. The oldest person, usually the grandfather of the family, ties the edge of a thread to an egg, putting the other members of the family in the process to catch it with the mouth. All of them have their eyes turned to the person who is trying to gulp the egg and each move of that person is accompanied by laughter and cheers and applause when he or she manages to gulp it! When this happens they put fire to the thread and if the whole of it is burned it is considered as a «good omen» for the family.

 The tradition of «Haskaris» is imposed by the Lenten order that says: «the mouth closes with an egg on the night of the Carnival and it opens also with an egg on the night of the Resurrection», reminding of the fast that must be kept during this interval.

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 LAZARINES

 On the Saturday of Lazarus, in the Municipality of Agioi Anargyroi, unmarried girls, younger and older, wearing white dresses, looking like brides, were going out to the neighborhoods, chanting the Carols of Lazarus. Housewives treated them with eggs and other delicacies. These girls were called Lazarines or Lazaritses.

 Similarly in Trikala, children who sing the Carols of Lazarus always hold a basket decorated with flowers because their purpose is to collect eggs.

 Give us eggs,

 eggs to tell you the Carols

 In the village of Episkopi, Imathia, on the eve of the Lazarus day, girls of different ages who are called Lazarines, collected flowers with which they decorated a little basket. On the day of the feast, wearing local attire and each of them holding a little basket were going round to all the houses of the village, singing the carols of Lazarus:

THE CAROLS OF LAZARUS

Lazarus has come and the palm leaves have come

fish-eating Sunday has come.

Arise Lazarus and don’t sleep

your mother has come from Poli (Constantinople)

she brought you paper and a rosary (squid)

write Theodoros, write Dimitrios

write Lemona and cypress 

your little hens lay eggs

give us a little egg to give us some joy.

The househusbands offered to Lazarines who honored their home, fruit, eggs, sweets or other delicacies, and also money.