Where It's At
Anastenaria, an ancient Firewalking Festival performed
in Northern Greece, is a religious and sacred ritual that
has raised many question marks in modern medical science.
History of the firewalking festival
It all started in 1250 when a local Church in the vicinity
of Thrace caught fire and people heard the holy figures
crying from within. Locals in the village of St. Helen
ran into the burning church and saved the figures. The descendants
are believed to have the power of dancing on red hot coals
without suffering any burns by holding the very same figures
held by their forefathers, which is how the event is celebrated
up until today.
The day begins by displaying the holy figures and selecting
a sheep to be sacrificed. During the day the practitioners
bring themselves into a state of ecstasy by dancing to a hypnotic
rhythmic music performed on the lyre and drum.
When the trance state is reached and when the red hot coals
are ready, the participants, mainly old, step out and start
running back and forth over the coals. The figures are held
while dancing, as it is believed that they protect the dancers
from getting burnt. When the firewalking is over the feasting
continues in locals houses until dawn.
If you want to join this ecstatic music and dance, or simply
sit back and watch (the safer option), the festival takes
place every year from May 21-23rd and attracts many
spectators. The village of St. Helen is located nine miles
out of Serres.