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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Greece Series at GreekPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Greek holidays and observances. I’m Michael, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 21, The Birth of John the Baptist. In Greek, it's called [η Γέννηση του Αγίου Ιωάννη του Βαπτιστή].
The birth of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated every June 24, at the beginning of the Greek summer. It’s also close to the day of the summer solstice or [θερινό ηλιοστάσιο]. During antiquity, the solstice served as the inspiration for a number of traditions that, despite their pagan origins, have found a place in this contemporary celebration of John the Baptist.
In this lesson we will learn about some of these ancient traditions.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question-
Do you know what lead may have to do with the traditions of the day of St. John?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
Saint John the Baptist is perhaps most famous for performing the baptism of Jesus. He also, however, played an important role in laying the groundwork for Jesus' ministry. Because of this he is also often called "Saint John the Precursor" or [Άγιος Ιωάννης ο Πρόδρομος]. Greek people have given him more nicknames, though, such as [Ριζικάρης] or [Ριγανάς] — which refers to a tradition of collecting oregano or [ρίγανη], on the morning of this day.
The two main customs of this holiday, however, are celebrated on the night before—the “divination sign,” or [κλήδονας], and the fires or [φωτιές] that are lit in village squares and neighborhoods across the country. This is why Saint John is also called [Κλήδονας], or [Λαμπαδάρης] or sometimes [Φανιστής]. Two of these words come from the words [λαμπάδα], which means “tall candle,” and the third comes from [φανός] meaning “torch” or “lamp.” All of the village residents are expected to jump over the fires, because they believe that in this way they will repel all evil and bring on purification. The competition for the biggest fire is quite strong!
The custom called [κλήδονας] is a divination ritual for unmarried young women. The young women gather in a house. One of them silently goes and brings the "silent water" or [αμίλητο νερό] from a well or a spring and pours it into a clay pot. Each girl then drops one of her personal objects, the so-called [ριζικάρι], into it. Afterwards the pot is covered with a red cloth; it is then tied up tightly with a string, and left outside all night long under the stars. As a consequence of this, the girls believe that they will see their future husband in their dreams.
On the following day the girls uncover the pot. As the water-bearer draws out the [ριζικάρια] one by one, one of them recites traditional rhyming couplets related to the items. "May the black hen’s wings fall on the ground," begins one example, "and may the evil neighbor’s eyes pop out!"
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
Do you know what lead may have to do with the traditions of the day of St. John?
In Cephalonia, young women used to pour liquid lead into the silent water. As it cooled down rapidly, it would form different shapes. Then the eldest of the girls, who was designated as an interpreter or [εξηγήστρα], would examine the shapes and give various interpretations about the future that lay before each girl.
How did you like this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Do you have similar divination customs in your country?
Leave us your comments on GreekPod101.com, and we'll see you in the next lesson.

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Do you have similar divination customs in your country?