Ionians - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs and Practices. Despite centuries of Catholic rulers, Eastern Orthodoxy remains the primary faith; a number of Catholic churches are found in the urban areas. Also reflecting the Italian influence is the emphasis on processions associated with local saints. Most notable are the celebrations for Saint Spiros on Corfu and Saint Gerasimos on Cephalonia. Personal attachment to individual or local patron saints is a part of the Little Tradition. Village celebrations or panayiria are occasions for marked communitas and the return of migrants. Christmas, the festivities for the Virgin Mary on 15 August, and Easter Week draw returning Migrants as well. A declining belief in the evil eye is found among the elderly in particular, who believe it to cause illness, impotence, sterility, and death. Women and children attend church more frequently than men.

Arts. Traditional music and dance among Ionians reflect the Italian heritage through couples' dances and unusual rhythms; Western influence in modern music and dance is readily apparent in local discotheques. Artisans flourished in the Ionian Islands during the Venetian and British periods, and the architecture in urban areas is visibly Italianate. Clothing has shown European influence among the upper classes since the 1600s.

Medicine. The Ionians have long emphasized education, and students commonly specialize in law or medicine. Access to medical care is facilitated by a national program that installs doctors in small villages throughout the country. An emphasis among the elderly on medical care involving such practices as leeching, cupping, and bleeding is fading.

Death and Afterlife. Women are largely responsible for the care of the dead. Disinterment and placement of the bones in an ossuary is not as common in the Ionian Islands as it is elsewhere in Greece, where a shortage of land exists. It is typical to have a single family burial plot and to bury the dead without embalming and in simple wood coffins. Over time, the bones of the family mix together.


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