Carnival day at Amfissa

An annual pagan custom takes place at the Town of Amfissa. The night of the sprites, takes place on the Saturday just before Ash Monday. A custom that can be combined with flour wars of Galaxidi, taking place on Ash Monday.
Photography / Text: Michael Pappas

I was searching online to find a place to take photographs during the carnival. 

At the time I was looking for something close to Athens, because of low budget. I couldn't find anything great, until just before deciding to go to bed, I stumbled upon a photograph taken during the Carnival of Amfissa. I really liked this one. 

I looked for more information and I found out that during the last Saturday of Carnival, that is the Saturday before Ash Monday, the night of the sprites takes place. I had never heard about this custom before. 

I arrived at Saturday morning so that I have enough time to see the place but also ask around for more information about the custom. As a great fan of Theo Angelopoulos (director) I went along to have a coffee at the cafe where the movie 'Thiasos' (The travelling players, 1975) was filmed. I stayed there to kill some time until the event would start in the afternoon. 

At the local cultural club, the participants are getting ready. The musicians also gather around. Once started I followed along the march which passes through the streets of the town. The weather is not great, however a big crowd has come to see the custom at the village square. The parade starts with music and smoke agents. 

Soon after a heavy rain starts. I find a bin bag and try to cover my camera. The rain keeps falling for about two hours but the custom will not stop. At a point on the square, there are many steps. Women dressed in white clothes are waiting at the steps, holding lit torches. Huge masks will come down this way along with the masquerade taking course towards the square. 

I climbed the stairs to see if I can combine in my frame the masquerades waiting. At the end of this stair, there is a church and this is where I find some people dressed like the devil. I try to combine this image with the church symbols.


The course ends at the square where a special stage has been set up to carry out the theatricals. The huge masks, the priestesses holding the torches, ghosts in chains, everyone, takes their place on the stage. 

I climb up on the stage as well, making sure that I am not in the way, so that visitors can watch freely. Nevertheless, someone started yelling at me for what reason I was on the stage. He was probably right, but after all this effort and the rain I could not just stand down. The rain was still pouring. Myself and, even worse, my camera, are unprotected. However that is the least of my concerns because the custom is now at its peak and I don't want to miss a thing of what is happening. 

The event reaches the end. The rain keeps pouring even harder. I go to my car to change clothes and open my trunk where I keep the dry clothes. I take out my shoes and socks that are soaking wet and I stand on my bare feet on the wet road. I put on my dry clothes and I go in the car to sleep. I put on the air condition to keep me warm and i throw the sleeping bag on me. 

I could hear the rain falling on the roof of the car all night. That was the best sleep I ever had.


Next day everyone is gathering around the central square to burn the King of the Carnival. At this part everything was blurry through my camera's viewfinder because of condensation. Well, it was my choice to photograph during the day last night, so that was fair enough. I kept taking pictures anyway, maybe I could still make a nice picture. 

At the end I decided to spend another day in the car, because another custom was coming in the nearby town of Galaxidi on Ash Monday and it was a good chance to get that one too. The day went along by editing pictures in the town's cafes and getting acquainted with the locals. They even suggested to offer a place to spend the night, at the local cultural club, but it was too late as I had to go. 

#dance #masquerade #parade #music #fires #carnival #pagan #sprites #ghosts #stage


Carnival day at Amfissa

Λεωφ. Σαλώνων 13, Άμφισσα 331 00, Ελλάδα
Amfissa, Western Greece, Greece