National Geographic Traveler

Firewalking: Music

ambience: slow firewalking music

We’re listening to music from a festival in Northern Greece celebrating Saints Constantine and Helen. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by Dupont.

Every year, local Greek villagers gather to celebrate a three-day ritual in which they attempt to come into contact with the spirit of St.Constantine. With the help of music, dance and prayer, some of the participants are possessed by the spirits of the saint. According to legend, long ago, some villagers rescued icons from a burning church that was dedicated to Saint Constantine and his mother. As the story goes, the icons themselves cried out for help, the villagers entered the church and retrieved them without being burned. Ever since, the icons have protected the celebrants who walk across fire in honor of the Saints.

“When people gather in the shrine and are getting ready to dance, and enter a trance state, and be possessed, the first song that’s played is a really slow song without any noticeable rhythm.”

Loring Danforth is a professor of anthropology at Bates College.

“Sometime during that song somebody may, jump up and start to dance, or collapse on the floor, or start to writhe and twist in their seat, and at that point, the musicians know what to do, and that’s the sign that Saint Constantine has possessed somebody. So they they switch to the other song, which has a much more powerful rhythm, and they’ll dance up to the icon shelf and the leader of the ritual will give them an icon or a kerchief to dance with, and that’s the symbol of their actually acquiring—coming into contact with—the power of the saint, and then they’ll dance for a half hour or so.”

ambience: Fire walking music with drums

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Pulse of the Planet is presented by Dupont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.


First broadcast on 15-MAY-01

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