Cretans - Religion and Expressive Culture



Orthodox Christianity accounts for the overwhelming majority of religious affiliations. Religion and ethnicity are often identified, so that pre-1924 "Turks" were often Greek-speaking Muslims.

Religious Beliefs. Many Cretans are vociferously anticlerical, acknowledging the existence of a higher power but despising the (especially higher) clergy and accusing them of venality. Despite their skepticism, Cretans do seem to recognize a wide range of ambiguous supernaturals in official doctrine.

Religious Practitioners. The priests and a dwindling number of monastics of both sexes are recruited largely from the local population. Women are given custodial tasks around the church but are barred from the inner sanctum. Committees of local people oversee the daily management of church affairs. Nonecclesiastical rituals such as curing of evil eye and other ailments are conducted by informal local experts, who receive gifts rather than money for their services.

Ceremonies. In most rural and urban communities, the most important ceremonies are those of the Easter cycle and the local saint's day. Christmas and Epiphany are also Important, as are the commemorative ceremonies of the state; Independence Day (March 25) coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation.

Arts. Crete is famous for its music and dance, and for its woven goods. Some village artists and wood-carvers have achieved local fame. There is a lively tradition of informal assonant distich ( mandinadha ) contests, to which improvisatory skills are central.

Medicine. Despite official opposition, local practitioners ( praktiki ) continue to do bonesetting, and evil-eye curers seem concerned with primarily psychosomatic conditions.

Death and Afterlife. Funerals, although conducted by the priest, also give women in some villages the opportunity to express their grief through improvised keening verses ( miroloya ). Memorial services are held at statutory increasing intervals after death, and they also may be accompanied by female keening. The death of an unmarried person is celebrated with wedding symbolism; the death of the old is often treated as "less serious." Interment is preceded by a wake. Despite Christian teaching, a vague notion of "Hades" ( Adhis ) persists.


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