Charapides of Pagoneri

Bell bearers, ancient Pagan custom during Epiphany in a secluded beautiful village of Drama with very interesting architecture.
Photography / Text: George Tatakis

I have been around Pagoneri village the day before the event. I had arrived in Drama early, so I wanted to explore the places and check out the distances. Pagoneri was the most secluded village of all that I was going to visit for the Arapides custom. 

I really liked the place, especially its architecture. The road as you enter the village has a row of very old houses that are most of them two stories high and look as if they are going to fall down. Because of the location it is very common to be snowy during Epiphany, or at least foggy.

Pagoneri was the most secluded village of all that I was going to visit for the Arapides custom. 

The event starts at around three o'clock in the afternoon so you even have plenty of time to start your day in Volakas village and see the custom of taking the newlyweds for a dance inside the waters of the main square's fountain.

The name of the custom here is "Charapides" instead of the most usual "Arapides" of the nearby villages. At the main square of the village there are some tables and music by local music players and you can have roast sausages or other meat and drink as much wine as you want. Everything is free of charge, but it is good manners to offer a small donation for the village club. 

You can eat and drink as much as you like, but be a lad and leave some donation to the local club.

Charapides spread themselves around the square making noise with their pastoral bells that are tied up around their waists. They wear scary masks that are made of goat skin and hold wooden swords in their hands. 

More roles are also present in the event. There is the doctor who also wears a mask but his outfit is made by lighter colour fabric. He also has a wooden horse under his legs. Finally, there is the bride, this is actually a man, dressed as a bride. This is similar to ancient Greek plays, where all roles were performed by men, both male and female ones.

The peculiarity in this village, compared to similar customs in the nearby villages is that participants play sick / injured and drop on the floor in unsuspected moments. "Chatlis" (doctor) hastens to make them well.

Participants drop on the floor in unsuspected moments and the doctor comes to the rescue.

Charapides, are supposed to be the (man-) bride’s brothers. Many visitors of the event are stealing the bride and try to hide her from her brothers. As soon as Charapides realise the imminent danger, rush to get her back.

At some point they stop for a few minutes to rest but also to visit the local fountains to chase away the Kallikatzaroi from over there. Kallikatzaroi are malicious creatures found in Greek folklore, who dwell underground only to come out during the twelve days of Christmas to cause trouble to humans. This is what Arapides try to scare away and send back to where they belong, underground. 

This point was very interesting to me as a photographer, because I could make some images without surrounding cars and at a moment where Charapides where more relaxed.

#volakas #masks #pagoneri #northern #arapides #ancient #bells #carnival #pagan #dionysian


Charapides of Pagoneri

Unnamed Road, Pagoneri 660 33, Greece
Pagoneri, Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, Greece