Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti

Koudounati (bell bearers) and a fake wedding at 2 beautiful villages in the mainland of Naxos.
Photography / Text: Antonios Chrysakis

The carnival week continues at the villages of Aperanthos and Filoti, where the custom of Koudounati (bell bearers) and a fake wedding are taking place. Both villages are about 1 hour drive from the Naxos chrora to the center of the island.

Sunday - Koudounati of Aperanthos

Aperanthos is a very picturesque village that time industrial progress hasn't touched much. I arrived early in the morning and parked at the northern side of the village to make sure I can avoid the crowds when the event is over. Finding my way to the center of Aperanthos was as simple as getting lost in small alleys with trees and beautiful houses. The first stop of the day was of course at the central square for a cup of coffee at a traditional cafe.

Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis

I asked for information on where the koudounati would get dressed and prepare for the event. I was told that every year one resident of the village volunteered to open their house for the day and host the carnivalists. By pure luck the person I talked was the one hosting the event.

He welcomed me and my friends to his house where we were greeted by the guests and offered wine and food.

Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis

It is accustomed for the woman of the house to make rounds with a plate of food, mostly meat, and feed the men with her fork while they prepare. 

Along with the koudounati custom there is also a fake wedding reincarnation. For this event a man is wearing a bridal gown, while a woman is dressed as the groom. A fake priest, a best man and bridesmaid complete the illusion.

Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis

Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis

The kids are having a blast. Boys wear bells and wool jackets while the girls wear traditional dresses. They run around the small alleys of the village, dancing and playing. Watching them makes me a little be jealous of the freedom these kids have compared to the ones who grew up in big cities. They are free to wander around with friends without having the parents watching after every move they make.

He welcomed me and my friends to his house where we were greeted by the guests and offered wine and food.

Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis

Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis

People keep arriving, until the house is so full that many of the Koudounati have to get dressed outside. Fitting these large and heave bells around their waist is not an easy feat without the help of others. The men also wear the "ampadeli" which is a cape with a mask over their face so they can't be recognized. On their hands they are holding a long wood which is called "sompa" and resembles the Dionysian phallus. The noise they make is deafening but the power of the sound makes them jump higher and faster competing each other.

However not all heroes wear bells. A man is dressed with an animal fleece and a rope is tied around his waist. The koudounati are pulling him while running in the narrow alleys of the village. 

We start descending towards the main square of the village where hundreds of visitors have arrived to see the carnivalists. The crowd creates a circle and inside it the bell bearers dance, jump sing non stop. They bring with them a donkey that carries the "old lady" while the "bride and "groom" are watching them motionless.

The noise they make is deafening but the power of the sound makes them jump higher and faster competing each other.

I knew i had to find a way to capture the dance from a higher point so i decided to climb on the roof of the local cafe. I found my way from the back door and through a broken staircase managed to find a vantage point where I could see the whole circle and record the movement of the participants.

Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis

Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis


Monday - Koudounati of Filoti

At Filoti a similar custom took place on Monday noon. Starting from the church of the village the Koudounati danced in the alleys following the bride and groom. 

After many days of wonderful experiences meeting all these people my trip had come to an end. But not before enjoying some local "raki" at a tavern, watching the Koudounati swirling passionately.

Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis

Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti - Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti
Greece. South Aegean. Naxos. © Antonios Chrysakis
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Location

Koudounati of Aperanthos and Filoti

Aperanthos, Filoti
Naxos, South Aegean, Greece

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