religion - churches

With Christianity, the people of Paxoi stopped believing in the ancient gods and the temples were transformed into churches. According to tradition, the new religion was taught on the island by two disciples of St. Paul, Gaios and Krispos as early as the first century, so the island's church is considered to be an Apostolic one. Gaios, still according to tradition, lived, died and was buried in the beach of the settlement that was (and still is) named after him. On his grave was to be built the temple of the Saint Apostles Peter and Paul. Krispos left a little while later.

The first early Christian churches are Agia Marina in the Port of Ozias, Agios Stefanos in the meadow of Kori of Ozias (they are both in ruins) and Agioi Anargyroi in Gaios. All three are three-aisle Basilicas. Panayia on the islet is an early Christian Toss-shaped church. They are all built on ancient temple ruins. From 1386 to 1797, the church of Paxoi was under the Great Priest of Corfu who appointed an overseer on the island under the title of Great Priest of Paxoi.

The Constitution of 1817 of the English Protection, provided for a bishop on each island. In 1824, with the accordance of the people of Paxoi, the former archbishop of Paramythia, Chryssanthos Kefalas is appointed until the day of his death, in 1847. In 1850 Dionyssios Mourikis is elected. With his death in 1871, the bishop's throne is abolished. The church returns to the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Bishop of Corfu and has, as its representative, the Prelatical Commissioner. The official religion on the island is Greek Orthodox. There are a total of 64 churches.

AGIOI APOSTOLOI (SAINT APOSTLES)

It is located in Gais and -according to tradition- it was built on the grave of Apostle Gaios. His grave is thought to be behind the altar and the old people used to take some sand, mix it with water and drink it, because they believed it made them invulnerable to snake bites. It is mentioned in the church list of 1686. It belonged to the families of Tranakas and Goulios. It was renovated in 1858.

Its wonderful bell-tower was built in 1860. Antonis Nomikos and Nikolaos Horafas from Ioannina sculpted the iconostasis and the bishop's throne in 1714. The Ourania is painted by the Ionian painter Gazis. It is the scene where Simon of Cyrenea is lead to Mt. Golgothas to be crucified. It is a copy of an original by Raphael, which is kept in the Prado museum of Madrid. The 4 Evangelists are also by Gazis.

The temple is repaired anew in 1963. Unfortunately, this resulted in the destruction of frescoes behind the bishop's throne, depicting the Apostles Gaios and Krispos. Inside the Temple are buried many prominent people of Paxoi and benefactors, such as Fokion Karoussos, Antonia Martinegko-Karoussou, Antonia Bogdanou-Karoussou, captain Tomas Vellianitis etc. Since 1985, the Bishop of Corfu, Timotheos has established a procession of the icon of Apostle Gaios, in 29 June. Corfu philharmonic bands accompany the procession. The teacher D. Kontaris has published an extensive study on the St. Apostles in "Echo of Paxoi".

ANALIPSI

It is a small church at the centre of a square with the same name in Gais. It used to be a separate islet that slowly -with natural and artificial embankments- came to take the shape it has today in the early 1800. It was renovated in 1737. It was used as the Metropolitan Church for many years until 1916. Its bell-tower was built after 1847. On its exterior right side, over the door, it has a roman clock. In a map kept in the Paxoi Historical Archive, one can see the loggia (arch), which means that there must have been another building there, most probably a temple or even that the islet was connected to the main island via a bridge.

In 1848, Bishop Dionyssios' election took place in this church. In 1982 it receives extensive damage from the waters of the small river that actually came through the church. It was repaired and a new iconostasis was installed. Many of the icons were destroyed and the rest were sent to the Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities in Ioannina for repairs and maintenance.

YPAPANTI

It is a uniquely magnificent and beautiful church. The only twin-cupola church in the Ionian Islands. Two brothers, Adam and Vassilios San Ippolyto and the most prominent families in the village, reportedly built it in l60l. It is located at the village of Grammatikeika of Lakka. Tradition says it was built at the point were the underground cave (grava) of Ypapanti surfaces -at the westernmost part of the island. It is said that the miracle-working icon was found hidden inside one of the four wells of the torrent that flows underneath the church. The ruins next to the church indicate the existence of a monastery. Local craftsmen built its bell-tower in 1772. It is a work of art, worthy of admiration. Evangelos Ivallos made its iconostasis in I909.

In 1818 it became the bishop's seat. It is here that are kept the bishop's vestments, belonging to the Municipality under official contract. The procession of the church's silver icon takes place on the Monday after Easter and goes as far as Lakka, where it remains until the Friday of the Life-giving fountain, at which time it is transported to Loggos -at the church of the Life-giving fountain. On Sunday it is brought to Ai Nikolas for a week. From there, through Foundana and Magazia, it returns to its place.

PANAYIA

It is built on an islet with the same name, opposite the islet of Agios Nikolaos of Gais. It is a monastery that used to belong to the Vellianitis family. Now it is a sacred place of worship. The Vellianitis family brought the Madonna's icon with them from the Velliani village of Epirus and they first placed it in the church of Agioi Anargyroi. Later on, they bought the island and on the ruins of an early-Christian cross- shaped church that was built on an ancient temple, they constructed the new church, maintaining many architectural elements from the previous edifice. The 1686 list of churches mentions it as old and damaged. It became a monastery and is surrounded by a tall, circular, whitewashed wall and its entrance is through the bell-tower. In 1720 it became a convent with 10 monks. Around 1850 it became a nunnery and stays that way until 1935. At present there are no nuns.

Next to the monastery there is an arch-shaped water tank. Opposite the sanctum lies the Lighthouse (Faros) built in ca. 1825. However, the monks used to light a lantern to keep the boats away. The new lighthouse is built on an ancient tower (friktoria?). In the front yard there are the kitchens and the dining room, where free beef stew is cooked and served inside "kandarelia" (deep plates that used to be made of clay) on 15 August. The monk Ignatios Vellianitis (Paxoi Hist. Archive, K. Bogdanos B 14 p. 35) mentions this fair as early as 1817.

The monastery attracts thousands of pilgrims on 14 August for the pious Vespers. At 9:30 in the morning the procession of Virgin Mary's Epitaph takes place, going all the way around the monastery's outer wall. As soon as the Epitaph returns, the beef stew is served under the pergolas. In both sides of the pebbled road leading from the gate to the church there are the exterior walls (fanades) of the old cells. Now the monastery is connected to the church.

The Madonna icon, depicting the Assumption, is placed inside a special cell, next to the Altar and it is the one that was brought from Velliani. In the same cell, in a special throne, there is also a more recent icon of the Virgin Mary with Jesus in her arms, the procession of which takes place every Monday after Easter on Paxoi. It stays for 21 days in the church of Agios Georgios in Vellianitika, Gais and every night there is a most pious prayer.

architecture

The people of Paxoi, just like God, who took clay and gave it life, took stone and moulded it, giving it the privilege to speak throughout the centuries. It is the only abundant material that used to come out of numerous quarries (kaves), chiselled with great difficulty and craftsmanship to fill the entire island with architectural masterpieces: cisterns, wells, houses, bell-towers, mills, tools, utensils, etc.

A characteristic feature of the houses on Paxoi is montzos (a porch with a stone staircase, columns and a root, the steep pointed roofs, the kitchen next to the house -with a lower roof and the rectangular shape. The colours used are whitewash, red and earth yellow. There are numerous windows to let the sunlight inside. Ground floors have local rectangular flagstones. The island churches have more or less the same architecture (except for Ypapanti) -they are Basilicas.

Worthy of special reference are the iconostases of Agioi Apostoloi of Gaios (1860), Vlaheraina ( 1801), Taxiarhes of Magazia and Agioi Apostoloi of Boikatika. The bell-towers of Ypapanti (1774), Agios Haralambos (1875-1900), Vlaheraina of Foundana (1772), Agioi Apostoloi of Gaios (1860) and Analipsi of Gaios are true pieces of art. The shape of the island's Windmills is most characteristic. Also worthy of admiration is the stone staircase of he Antipaxoi Lighthouse, the wells, the cisterns and the large variety of chimneys. Litharia, katolithara, pyles (olive oil tanks), mortars and laundries are only a part of what the stone-masons of Paxoi made by hand.

windmills

On the tops of hills one can still see the remains of what used to be tall and imposing windmills. Their story starts three centuries ago. The oldest is the Paliomylos of Vellianitis (ca. 1700). About 80 years later, the Lessianitis windmill was built. In 1818, the Municipal Board votes for the construction of more windmills. There are already some in Lakka, Ai Nikolas etc.

In 1885, out of a total of 7 mills, 4 work on horsepower. By 1905, the only one in operation is the one of Loggos. Over 16 Windmills are known today, most of which are in very good condition. The Ministry of Culture has decided to protect and preserve them through the competent Ephorate of Antiquities. The most important ones are: the Windmill of Kouvalias in Ai Nikolas, Lessianitis' in Mousmouli, Papa-Sokratis', Kastanida's, Paliomylos in Lakka, Koueras and Anemoyiannis' in Loggos.

Almost every house had a handmill of its own. Two circular stones (panolithi and katolithi), the top one placed inside the bottom one and fixed with bolt a through a hole in the middle, and rotated using a handle. In the centre, they used to pour corn or wheat and grind it into flour that came out of the ends of the rotating stones. Handmills were particularly useful during the Occupation, to make flour with corn or wheat smuggled in from Epirus -after been traded for olive oil- to make bread.

wells-cisterns

The problem of water-shortage has always been an intense one for Paxoi. The actual geological profile of the islands (calciferous substrata) excludes the very existence of potable underground waters. The first inhabitants of Paxoi attempted to chisel the rock and to create the first cisterns. They took advantage of the anavrytsades (places where water runs for several days after it has rained) by filling cisterns they constructed nearby and then by building wells that could supply them with brackish water and small quantities of freshwater.

When the population grew, so did the demand for water. Under the Venetians, the water supply came from wells and the said wells. The first cisterns were built under the French and the English. The most important chiselled cisterns are in Plakota, at Stefous and in Eleousa of Gaios, at Bouloukos of Boikatika, Magazia and at Argyratika, Lakka. The best known wells are Marko's, Zerba's, Agia Marina's, Vathy, Loggo's, Myrtia (before 1700) and Mothonio's.

As pertains to the cisterns built later, especially under the Protection, they are true works of art, architectural monuments and protected by the Ministry of Culture.

The cistern of Agioi Anargyroi, Gaios, was first built in 1809. It has a capacity of 350m3 and collects water from a large paved surface. It is of circular shape.

The one in Agioi Apostoloi, Gaios, is the largest in the area and the second largest on the island, with 600m3. Two staircases, one with 20 steps and -after a landing- a second one with 15, lead to another landing whence two other 9-step staircases lead to a rectangular pavement. Here are two large round openings surrounded by columns with pyramid-shaped column-capitals. Construction began in 1825 and finished in 1837. Additional works were carried out in 1851.

Mandropoulos' cistern is within a stone's throw from the settlement, next to the peripheral road. It is circular, with a stone enclosure and an entrance in steps with columns inscribed in English of Greek in honour of Thomas Galloway (1832). It was built inside an orifice, chiselled in the rock sine the antiquity.

Materi of Ozias: A paved cistern with a rectangular opening and a freshwater well even in summertime.

Mandoukas of Ozias: It is paved, horseshoe-shaped with a rectangular opening.

Kaloiris' cistern in Antipaxoi: It has a small quantity of natural, running water and ends up near the sea. The English built there a twin-dome collection reservoir with a flat, paved roof. It has two openings for watering. It was built in 1835, under lord Nugent (1832-1835).

The cistern of Koutrouli at Magazia.

Erimitis at Magazia: It is a source, supplied from the mountain, filling a rectangular reservoir with two large arches on the top. The excess water is channelled to the sea. Some additional works were carried out under the English.

The English built the cistern in the field, Valsamis' at Lakka, in 1862.

The cistern in Pialouches and of Vatos, Lakka.

Tzilios, at Loggos is the largest one on the island with a capacity of 2,OOOm3. It is paved with two pyramid-shaped column-capitals. The English built it in 1837.

The cistern of Malethonas in Vontza: Of rectangular shape, located right next to Vathy. It is supplied by an anavrytsada.

The cistern at Vlahopoulatika, the one of Malethonas and that of Foundana are more recent -they were built in 1885-1935.

The main characteristic in all of these cisterns is the grooves created by the ropes being pulled to raise the buckets full of water. They resemble wrinkles, like the ones that appear normally with old age.

ellinospita

In Kastanida, in the midst of a virgin and inaccessible landscape, up on a green crag, over the sea of the western coasts, Ellinospita (Greeks' houses) are perched. Their name signifies that most probably Greeks built them, that is to say the island's inhabitants before the Roman conquest. Up on a crag, controlling the entrance to the Ypapanti cave (grava), with the open sea in front of them, they built this peculiar construction. It is elongate, just like the porch formed by the rock that covers it.

Its fanade, from the sea-side, is built with flagstones and mortar, and has an inclination so as to meet with the rock at such an angle that it forms an elongate arch. One can still see two sea-side embrasures. At the end of the path lies its entrance, on top of which there is a guardiola (watchtower). Right opposite that, at the very end of the building, there is another door leading to a dead-end. It is speculated that it was built during Homer's age.

Another version states that it was used during the early Christian times as places of retreat. What is certain is that the people of Paxoi used them as refuge during pirate raids. Today, access is nearly impossible due to the condition of the path that is covered by the dense vegetation.

customs and habits

The roots of many customs and habits are lost in the distant past. They have been enriched or modified over the years but they are piously preserved in Paxoi either on an annual basis, or in special occasions (marriages, funerals etc.). Some of them are no longer in use either because they are not needed any more or because they are thought of as outdated and anachronistic (the return of stolen bridal gifts, the ritual that took place 20 days after someone had died etc.).

Some of them -the most interesting ones- are described below.

Since the Prehistoric times, fire has played a very important role and is thus closely connected with the lives of people. It provides warmth for the family to gather around, discuss and listen to the stories of the elders but also it is what bakes the bread and bends metals.

In New Year's Day, the hearth must be clean and whitewashed. Each member of the family had to bring a different piece of wood and light the fire with wishes for the New Year (the wood was usually from olive-trees, cypress and holm-oak which stand for a good harvest, male children and good health respectively). This custom is called "the marrying of the hearth". As soon as someone went out of the house or at the window they would cross themselves and say:

Good morning to you, mountains and have a good month,
let me be strong like the mountains and rich like the sea.

The children accept coins from the relatives or the friends of the family or even a gift that is called string (New Year's present). Everyone has to help a little around the house for the year to have a good start.

On Halloween everyone puts on a mask or a costume and goes from home to home singing and teasing each other. On Shrove Monday, Koulouma is celebrated in Foundana and at "Rinio" in Lakka. In the latter they revive the ancient custom with paganistic dances and songs, a remnant of the ancient Dionysian cult. The most significant are "How they grind pepper" (danced in an explicit way), "A pretty lass" (sang by a "leader" and repeated by the "chorus") and "My father split the goods without my brother knowing it". They take the King Carnival to the square of Lakka where they burn it.

On the Holy Week's Friday, the day of the Epitaph's procession, one can go to the islet of Panayia around 4 in the afternoon. At that time they have the Epitaph's service and then the procession takes place, going all the way around the monastery's whitewashed outer wall. After the procession, pieces from the Epitaph candles are offered to the people and are considered as powerful charm.

On the Holy Week's Saturday, the "First Easter" takes place in Ai Giakoumos (St. Jacob) of Foundana and is quite a surprise for whoever sees it for the first time. When the priest says the words "God has risen from the dead", the people start banging the pews, while in the past they used to throw stones down the stairs of the gynaeceum to make noise. This was believed to cast away evil spirits and to make Hades sore for losing Jesus.

On that same day, housewives break everything they have that is cracked or old for the "First Easter".

On the night of Easter, which is celebrated in the square of Gais, when the priest reads the Evangile, the churchwarden closes the door and when the priest -after the Christos Anesti (Jesus has risen from the dead)- comes back to the church with the congregation and the icon of the Resurrection, they can't get inside. So the priest and the churchwarden (or the sexton) -who plays the role of the Devilşengage in a dialogue.

- Priest: Open the gates, our lords and you, eternal doors, open as well to let the King of Glory inside (he kicks the door but it doesn't open).
- The Devil: Who is this King of glory?
- Priest: The Lord Almighty, he is the King of Glory. Open the gates, our lords, etc. (he kicks the door again -unsuccessfully).
- The Devil: Who is this King of glory?
- Priest: The All-powerful Lord, he is the King of Glory. (he kicks the door, it opens and they come in singing Christos Anesti).

Easter is the time when the processions begin. On the Monday of Eastertide (new Monday), 1'anayia (the Virgin Mary) comes down from her island to Gais.

The same goes for Agios Haralambos and Eleousa. The three icons meet on the square of Analipsi, in Gais under the sundial. After the worshipping of the icons by the Christians, they go together all the way up to Bogdanatika, on the shoulders of different people, stepping on flower pedals that has been sprinkled on the road. Agios Haralambos and Eleousa remain in Agia Paraskevi until the following Sunday (the Sunday of Thomas), while Panayia goes to Ai Giorgis of Vellianitika for twenty days. Every night there are most pious services. On the same day, Ypapanti sets off from Grammatikeika for Agios Andreas in Lakka until the Friday of the Life-giving Fountain, at which time it is taken to Loggos to the church that bears the icon's name until the Sunday of Thomas, at which time it is taken for a week to the nearby church of Ai Nikolas. After that, its procession is carried out for one year in the church of Vlaheraina in Foundana for a week, in Agios Konstantinos for another week and then it is taken back to its place. The following year it is taken from Loggos straight to Agios Spyridonas in Magazia for a week and from there -via Manessatika- back to its place. These processions are accompanied by constant rifle shots, sign of respect.

On the eve of Ai Giannis the Labataris (of the tapers), in every neighbourhood people gather olive-tree leaves and dried greens to make their tapers which they light at dusk. They jump over them three times to purify themselves and to cast away the evil spirits. In the past they used to make a King Carnival, carried around the neighbourhoods on a donkey to end up by the sea and burn it on the rocks singing:

"Oh King Carnival, what have they done to you, They lit the fuse and burnt you. "

On that same night, unmarried girls used to bake garlic and smear it on their hands so as not to sweat while they embroidered their trousseau. The first male name they heard when they woke up the next day, they considered it to be the name of the man they were going to marry.

On the day of the celebration, the summer solstice, is when they have the klidonas. From the previous night, the girls had already brought the silent water (they were not supposed to speak at all while carrying it home) and filled a jar. They put inside a piece of their jewellery and covered it with a red handkerchief. Next morning the girls all gather in a yard to recite the klidonas verses:

"Open up the klidonas to let the charming one out And wherever he is welcome, he'll find a wife".

Then they recited more verses -usually improvisations- each corresponding to a piece of jewellery picked randomly from the jar, that would give a clue for the loved one that would come soon, filling each girl with hope that they'd marry someone rich and handsome.

On the day of the Saint Apostles (Agioi Apostoloi), boys and girls would gather to make the bouletia. These were little pieces of paper each one would write one's names on, fold them and put them in two vases (one for the girls and one for the boys). When' everything was set, they'd pull one bouleti out of the girls' vase and one out of the boys', making pairs and singing:

"Come Agioi Apostoloi, All twelve of you, And give good luck, To these bouletia".

On the day of the Ascension, but also on the day of the St. Apostles, the unmarried girls would put three peas under their pillows. One would be peeled, one half-peeled and one nonşpeeled. When they'd wake up in the morning they'd reach for one of they peas, which would indicate the financial status of the husband to be (peeled = poor, nonşpeeled = rich and half-peeled = mediocre financial status).

The day of the Ascension was the first day bathing at sea was allowed. Those who were ill on that day would take off a piece of cloth and throw it away, so that it would take the illness with it.

On the day of Ai Lios they would melt lead and pour it in a glass of cold water. From the shape it would take, they deduced the profession of the husband to be (if it had the shape of a boat, he'd be a sailor, the shape of a loaf of bread -a baker etc).

There were many fairs all the year long. Almost on each Saint's name day they'd have a roussali (fair) outside the church. Local instrumentalists would provide the music; raki and wine (usually from Antipaxoi, Lefkimmi or Agiomavritiko) would contribute to the festive spirit. Nowadays, the only ones that are still preserved are on 15 August (of the Virgin Mary) and on 18 July (of Ai Milianos) in Antipaxoi, which is not held on an annual basis, but sporadically.

The fair of Panayia is most picturesque and attracts thousands of pilgrims, to who is distributed free beef stew and bread. On 23 August, we have the ninth day memorial service, right after which the sperm (boiled wheat offered after funerals) is distributed, made on the islet with the addition of raisins, nuts, almonds, pomegranate etc.

On the day of the Crucifix (14 September), new (fresh) oil must be used in the lampion, for the oncoming harvest to be a good one. In case the oil presses had not opened yet, they had to thrash olives in a mortar to make new oil themselves.

On the eve of St. Spyridon's name day, all houses with a Spyridon in the family made loukoumades (honey puffs) for the neighbours.

Christmas dinner usually included avgolemono (whipped egg and lemon) soup either with turkey or rooster or boiled chicken.

In mid July, the neroladia fair takes place under the sounds of the local band. There is free bread, olive oil, oregano, garlic, onion, olives, cheese and boiled potatoes with salt for everyone. It is a custom established forty years ago by Nikos Boikos (Bitsitsis), mocking poverty and giving people a chance to have fun.

Love was in the air, and its first sign was the red carnation, that the lad would skilfully pass to the girl. Just before the wedding, on Thursday, the bride's trousseau is carried from her house to the groom's. No one can turn one's head back, when returning to the bride's house, for it is considered a bad omen for the impending marriage. The fiddlers, who lead the way playing a local tune şspecial for weddings-, accompany the bride. In the banquet that follows, the prindezi are recited. These are self-made limericks about the newlyweds, their relatives, the best man and the maids of honour with a touch of irony and josh.

At christenings, whoever heard the child's name and congratulated the mother, was entitled to a gift. When the priest would announce the name, all present would throw at the child coins that would later be collected by children only. christenings, whoever heard the child's name and congratulated the mother, was entitled to a gift. When the priest would announce the name, all present would throw at the child coins that would later be collected by children only.

supestitions

Like customs and habits, superstitions have lasted for centuries until our days. It is impossible to mention them all here, so we'll just make a limited reference.

  • The lamb for the Holy Week's Saturday must always be a white one and the man of the house used to paint a cross with its blood on the front door's lintel.
  • On Easter, one must paste the shell of a red egg on the door using dough.
  • On May 1st, one makes a wreath of flowers or a bouquet and hangs it on the door before sunrise. It stays there until the day of Ai Giannis the Labataris, at which time it is burnt in the labates.
  • On New Year's Day, one doesn't eat fish so as not to go through the same agony it does when it is caught, for the rest of the year.
  • When a house is built, one throws wine, slays a rooster and places a coin in the foundation. When the house is done, one must hang a bouquet on the door.
  • One must not step on another's shadow.
  • Hunters, when they meet a woman with the evil eye, they either go back, or piss on the barrel of their guns, or kiss a small child they have with them. Other people spit to cast away the evil, or they give them the finger from inside their pocket.
  • For the evil eye, one hangs behind one's door a net and a horseshoe for good luck.
  • In the past, in oil presses and stores, they used to hand a pair of horns.
  • When Christmas happens to be on Saturday, it is considered that day next year many shall die.
  • Brides keep a pair of small scissors underneath their wedding dresses to cut the evil tongues.
  • It is considered bad luck to spill salt.
  • If one sews a button on a cloth still worn by someone else, one has to ask, "What am I sewing", and the one wearing the piece of garment must reply "An ass".
  • Oil must not be transported at night.
  • When a rat eats something, it is considered that someone has stolen from the house.
  • If one passes the soap from hand to hand, a quarrel is sure to follow.
  • One must place a coin under the coffee cup for the coffee to be interpreted correctly and for the predictions to come true.
  • Four-leaf clovers are considered powerful charms.
  • One with an only son must not plant a mallow, for one's sun will die.
  • One must not drink in such a way the glass's shadow falls on one.
  • When one pisses, one must not look at the moon, or else one gets jaundice.
  • If one counts the stars at night, one will wet one's bed.
  • When one returns home from a funeral, before entering the house, one must seat on an olive-tree root or on a parapet.
  • Kollyva (boiled wheat together with of raisins, nuts, almonds, pomegranate etc., offered after memorial services) must be eaten on the road and never taken home.
  • Pregnant women must have beautiful dolls to look at for them to give birth to good-looking children.
  • It is bad luck for the wick to roll over inside the lampion and one has to throw salt for the evil to go away.
  • If one's relatives die, one must not plant anything for a year.
  • When one enters a house from a door, one must exit using the same door, or the matchmaking will be spoiled.
  • Women in childbed must wait forty days before visiting other houses.
  • Bread yeast leaven must not be passed from one house to another.
  • During the first year of mourning one does not paint eggs red or bakes cookies for Easter.
  • If a relative of two people engaged to be married dies, they must marry before forty days have passed or wait for a year.
  • It is considered an omen of death when the nightjar sings outside a house at night and one must chase it away, banging pots together.

medicaments - spells

For every disease there was a herb -or combination of herbsş proposed to patients by the elders, based on their experience, passed down to them by their ancestors.

  • For dyspnoea and cough, one boils clove, nutmeg, flaxseed, wild chestnut, cinnamon, wheat and honey.
  • Stomatitis (mouth infection) is treated with boiled ohiodentro mouthwashes.
  • In order for one to pass one's kidney stones, one has but to drink boiled grass or perdikouli roots several times over.
  • For toothache, one can put in one's mouth white hollyhock root cooked with vinegar.
  • For chapped lips, one can use one's "first" saliva in the morning -before eating or drinking anything.
  • If the eyes are bloodshot, one can put on a cloth with wine and white bread.
  • For toothache, one can rub thrashed garlic on one's elbow. In fact, if the pain is on the left side of the mouth, one must rub the garlic on the left elbow and vice versa.
  • In cases of calcium shortages in children, they must drink lime-water.
  • For urinary calculus and kidney stones, one must slice a white onion. On each slice one puts a spoonful of sugar and places them in a glass of water. In the morning, one must drink the mixture and everything is dissolved.
  • For skin burns, one must use a potato cut in half or tomato sauce.
  • If one suffers from diabetes mellitus, one can drink daily one glass of boiled grass (it must be boiled for two days straight).
  • For snakebite, one must drink boiled melia or ash-tree.
  • One boils eucalyptus leaves inside an asthmatic's room.
  • If children can't sleep, one can add boil poppy in their milk.
  • If one has a sprained leg, one can put thrashed onion on the swelling.

Set aside these practical solutions involving herbs, there also spells to cover for those needs that can't be covered by the former.

There are many kinds of spells. Some for the evil eye, some for jaundice, some for sty etc. There are many variations thereof and this is mainly due to the fact that they were cast at a very low voice, to keep others from hearing them, in which case the spell would no longer be effective. So, for one to learn the spell, one would have to eavesdrop when the spell was cast quietly, resulting in one mishearing and conveying it slightly differentiated.

games

In the past, when toys didn't exist or they were very expensive, children played games in the neighbourhood. Most of them are from the Venetian, French or English period. Some of the are spana, tsioukos, stissimo, omada tou Sante (Sante's team), omadella, kotsis, koulouraki (cookie), sklentza, sgouros, balles (balls), zonaraki (little belt), touboula kai vari, Stravone, kompos (knot), aroma, sandala-mandala, litharaki (little rock), bouzes, tritsis, pentogoulia (jacks), kato Bali, lantza, birbitsola, kynigito (hideşand-seek), tapsilou etc.

local garb

The garb of Paxoi, influenced by the neighbouring countries in the Mediterranean and Epirus, yet adapted to the local climatic conditions and needs, is centuries old. In spite of its common elements with the other garbs, it maintained its character until the late 19th century. The penetration of the western lifestyle and dressing, lead it to a gradual decline, much earlier than in the rest of the Ionian Islands, where one can still see women dressing in their traditional garbs -mainly in Corfu and Lefkas.

We have the testimony of the English M.G.K., who came to 1'axoi in 1820 and was translated by Yiagkos Tranakas, from Salvator's book "Paxos and Antipaxos", From old dowry contracts and personal collections.

Men's garb

  1. Red fessi (fez) or koukos, that was later replaced by the sailor's hat.
  2. Kamizeto (a shirt with large, wide sleeves and no collar).
  3. Kamizeto tou lemou (kamizeto with no back or sleeves). It was worn over the regular kamizeto to protect it from wear and stains.
  4. Foulari (red or white foulard).
  5. Mayia (shirt made from local wool).
  6. Modantes (underpants)
  7. Open vest with a double series of buttons at the bottom.
  8. Yiaketa (short jacket, open in the front).
  9. Vrakolinia (red, white or blue wide belt that was tied around the waist over the baggy breeches, usually made of local wool).
  10. Platovraka (usually blue, knee-long baggy breeches).
  11. Skartsounia (thick cotton or wool socks).
  12. Stivalia or tsourapia (shoes without shoelaces).
  13. Moines (thick leather shoes without laces, used in winter).
  14. Tabaro (a coat, shorter for sailors and longer for the rest).

Women's garb

  1. Boustina (brassiere şusually embroidered).
  2. Vraki or sela (long panties, fastened with ribbons).
  3. Messofori (white or beige combination garment in several different types).
  4. Kotolo (internal skirt, tied in the waist with a ribbon. The same name was used later for ordinary skirts as well).
  5. Palka or poukamisso (cotton or linen shirt -or even silk for rich women-, with long, wide sleeves. It is embroidered in the front, has a narrow collar and closes with buttons).
  6. Missogeleko (sleeveless velvet or silk vest). It was worn over the shirt, closed with buttons or a V-shaped ribbon under the bosom, leaving the bust open.
  7. Geleko or pesseli or kondogouni (vest). Usually in the same colour as the missogeleko, with sleeves, tight on the wrists, with gold embroidery on the sleeves from the elbow down, on the shoulders and on the two pleats in the back.
  8. Roketo or vesta (long skirt). Sometimes with pleats or straight, forming a kouda (tail) in the back. Earthy colours.
  9. Silk or cloth belt with silver or gold buttons.
  10. Brostella (apron). Embroidered, with fringes, white or rusty with a pocket on one side. The more recent ones have imprinted flowers.
  11. Foulard. Sometimes silk, with fringes and sometimes linen or made of wool. The more recent ones have imprinted flowers.
  12. Krepi (very large silk foulard). Single-coloured, embroidered, with fringes. Usually brown, fixed on the hair with a pin. It covered the back and shoulders without closing in the front.
  13. Tsourapia or gondolettes or botinia (flat shoes).
  14. Skartsounia (thick cotton or local wool socks)
  15. Skouti or tabaro or velessi or sakkos (long coat). Long sleeves, tight on the wrist, curved on the shoulders, with fringes at the bottom. It has many buttons in front with embroidery on both sides of them.

The women's garb was supplemented by jewellery:

  1. Spila or sfiggla (brooch).
  2. Kadina (neck chain).
  3. Bokolettes (earrings).
  4. Vergettes (golden bracelets).
  5. Rozettes (rings with a central stone and several other şsmaller ones- around it).
  6. Bratsouletto (bracelet).

music - dance

The people of Paxoi -like the true Ionians they are- have the music inside. Mothers familiarise infants with music, singing them lullabies in their cradle.

In the past one could hear girls singing in the neighbourhoods and in olive-groves in the morning and lads serenading at night. Local folk instrumentalists would play in the roussolia (fairs).

The most well known pieces are the wedding song, the balos of Ozias and Ai Giorgis. A dancing school opened at one time, a small band was created (it doesn't exist anymore, because there is no teacher), a choir and a dancing group. The Spathas family has produced the finest -and most numerous- musicians in the island.

folk songs

These songs were born by the people of Paxoi or brought on the island by travellers and adapted to the local conditions.

There are many different categories. The most significant ones are:

  1. Historical: the ones that refer to historical events of the island or the country.
  2. Nostalgic ones and for those who went to foreign countries.
  3. For the table.
  4. For dancing.
  5. Lullabies.
  6. Teasing songs.
  7. Election songs.
  8. Carols.
  9. Love songs.
  10. Children and school songs.

cuisine

The Venetians, the French and the English influenced şamong other things- the way of cooking that was to be adapted to the local conditions and needs. The material that was easy to find on the island, as well as the climatic conditions played a most important role. Many restaurants on the island offer this local cuisine, comprising of different dishes, beverages and desserts.

Dishes : Bourdetto, sofrito, pastitsada, biagko, savouro, spading salamistrada, smoked spading, neroladia, ragout, bread bourdetto, cod stifado, eggs banio Maria, ryzişbizi, poulenta, yiaprakia, stakofissi, turtledove with broad beans, pilaff marinara, pilaff with kihles, artichokes with broad beans etc.

Pies : Tsilihourdopitta, herbs pie, broad beans pie.

Salads : Caper salad, tsibala salad, rocket, broad beans salad.

Olives : Harakotes (slit olives), throubolies, tsakistes (crushed olives), salamouras (in brine), nerolies (water olives), frymenes (toasted) etc.

Cheeses : Oil cheese, brine cheese, fresh cheese.

Sweets : Pastelia, hytes, bolsevikos, puddings, pastafrola, moustalevria, fig-pie, oil buns, mandoles, oil cookies, xerotigana, quince with nuts, kassies jam and Greek confectionery made with quince, grapes, figs, citrus and bitter orange.

Beverages : Soumada and tsitsybyra (ginger beer).

Decoctions : Hamaskakidi, ayiasmos (holy water), petrokalamithri, holly-hock etc.

Drinks : Raki, rum, rozolio, sour cherry, lagkeros and -of course- wine from Antipaxoi.

olive presses

Alongside the story of olives, develops the way to press the fruit in order to produce oil. In the beginning they used to crush the fruit in large stone mortars and when it was reduced to a pulp, they put it in large containers with warm water and stirred. Then the olive oil would surface for them to gather. Then came the monolitharo (single-stone press) pulled by a donkey that walked around the threshing mill. The pulp was channelled to the zyftaria (press) to extract the oil.

Yiannis Doikas, in his book "Paxos" describes: "After threshing, it (the pulp) was taken to the zyftaria, a rectangular stone like a boulder, approximately 2.SOm long, 1.10m wide and 0.35m high. It was called grenta or kato (lower) plantra. It had one hole in each end to place the adrachtia (spindles). These were pieces of wood, approx. 2-3 meters high, through which the pano (upper) plantra passed from two holes like the ones in the kato plantra, after having placed the sfyrides (basses) containing the pulp. The sfondyli, a wooden triangular nut, was screwed onto each adrachti that slowly pushed the pano plantra downwards and the olive oil flowed in the katolavri".

With evolution, the monolitharo was replaced by wooden presses and horse-powered threshing machines with two or three stones. They were followed by the iron torkola with the kambana (bell), the vida (screw), mandravida (counterscrew) and the ergatis (capstan). After that, at the turn of the 19th century came the simple manual hydraulic presses, which lead to modern factories. In 1781 there were 102 olive presses on the entire island. In 1821 they amounted to a mere 156. Salvator records 112 in 1885, while in 1900 only 64 remained. Today 8 of them still work.

In spite of the grate drop in oil prices, income thereof is always considerable for every family. For the people of Paxoi, olive oil production is closely connected to their very existence. This fundamental product has nourished generations and is identified with them.

production and products

Apart from olive oil, there is also wine produced mainly from the vineyards of Antipaxoi. This wine is made from many different varieties of vines and has, therefore, a unique taste, which makes it very valuable -yet it is produced in very small quantities.

The production of almonds used to be much larger than it is today. Until 1980, in Loggos, existed and operated Anemoyiannis' factory that produced oil and soap from olive pits. Nowadays, only individuals using old oils and container leftovers make soap. There is also a small production of honey.

In the past there were quarries that produced flagstones to be exported. The central square of Patras is covered with flagstones made in Paxoi. Today, flags are still extracted, but in very small quantities. A few years ago, looms were widely used and women used to spin wool with their distaffs. All this is but a pleasant memory now, which belongs to the past.

Lime-klins resemble to living dead, given that lime is no longer produced on this calciferous island, but imported instead from the continental Greece. A quite profitable profession is that of the fisherman. There are many fishing-boats both big and small that supply the local market (as well as other markets) with fresh fish throughout the year. Oregano, like many other herbs (camomile, hamaskakidi, petrokalamithri, mint etc.) and spices is abundant and covers the needs of the islanders.