Tales from Lesvos about Archangel Michael

On November the 8th each year, Greece celebrates angels and archangels. The Greeks with angelic names celebrate too. Aggelos, Stamatis, Michael, Gabriel and Stratos are just a few of these names.

To celebrate this big day, I am sharing here a couple of stories about Archangel Michael that locals once shared with me on the island of Mytilene (Lesvos). But first, a brief introduction to angels:

The Greek word for angel is Aggelos, which means ‘messenger’. Different kinds of angels can be found across the angelic ranks of hierarchy. The highest in rank are the Cherubim, The Sherafim and the Thrones. Three of the most revered archangels are Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

Archangel Michael is the ultimate military ‘superhero’ that the faithful call upon when in need of protection. His name means ‘Who is like God’. All you have to do is say three times ‘Archangel Michael, protect me!’ and He is said to rush to your side to make sure no harm comes your way. Other than protection, He also provides courage and strength.

Archangel Gabriel is said to provide strength and guidance to those who need Him. His name means, ‘God is my strength’.

Archangel Raphael is the one to invoke when healing is required. His name means ‘Healing power of God’ and He responds to prayers to provide healing on a physical, emotional or mental level.

 Now, to share the stories that the locals of Mandamatho in Mytilene shared with me:

There is a monastery in Mandamatho, which I’ve had the pleasure to visit, and its church is dedicated to Archangel Michael. The church is famous for its ancient icon of the archangel as well as the iron shoes that are also on display there. According to the locals, the archangel wears the iron shoes at night and wanders around their village.

Many claim to have heard loud thuds coming from the roofs at night, and the shared belief is that this is the sound of His iron shoes as He walks around, up on roofs and on the streets, to patrol the village when the sun goes down.

Others claim to have seen His shadow wander around in the church.

The locals replace the iron shoes occasionally, and many offer new pairs from time to time too, seeing that they tend to find signs of wear and tear on them, as if someone actually wears them…

 One of the locals told me this amazing story:

There was a villager who was renowned for being highly blasphemous. All day he’d swear, using sacred names in vain, and Archangel Michael’s was one of his ‘favorites’, seeing that he used His name to swear heavily on a daily basis. One night, he saw a tall man in a dream. He looked very strong and was dressed in a military uniform. The man in the dream began to beat up the blasphemous villager pretty badly. Punches, kicks, slaps, you name it, while telling him of for his blasphemy. When the man woke up, his body was covered in bruises… Needless to say, he quickly realized he had been paid a visit by the Archangel Michael himself and stopped swearing, literally, overnight!

Another local had an even more intriguing story to share with me. It was about a man who had a sick child. One night, Archangel Michael appeared before him in a dream and made a devastating announcement – that he had come to take his sick child away. The man then began to wail, crying and begging the Archangel to reconsider. Then the Archangel said, ‘All right! I will let you choose: Shall I take your child or the cow in your field?’

‘Of course, no need to ask,’ the man replied in the dream, ‘please take the cow!’

When the man awoke, he rushed to his child’s bedside to find it was feeling a lot better, and it was eventually cured. As for the cow, the man found it that morning dead in the field.

(image by LesvosGreece.gr)

The legend surrounding the ancient icon of Archangel Michael goes like this:

The monastery was raided one day by Saracen pirates who attacked the monks and slaughtered them. Only one survived to tell the tale; it was a young monk who managed to hide on a roof and watched the massacre from up there. According to legend, afterwards, he saw a vision of Archangel Michael hovering over the slaughtered bodies of the monks.

Inspired by the vision, and to honor their memory, he took some of the blood-stained soil, mixed it with wax and made the Archangel’s face as he remembered it. Today, only the head of the full-body icon is on display.

 

Take a 3D walk around the monastery grounds in Mandamatho, and see the infamous icon and other relics inside the church to the sound of ecclesiastic hymns. GO HERE (Language is Greek)

 

Other than the protector of Mandamatho (and the island of Mytilene in general), Archangel Michael is also the protector of the Hellenic Air Force. Every year, on November the 8th and for a couple of days earlier, the Hellenic Air Force celebrates with various events to honor Him. If you’re reading this post near the big day, check out their site for any events near you. Go HERE

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Do you enjoy angel stories? My Greek romantic comedy, The Amulet, features a bunch of guardian angels that will inspire and delight you! Check it out HERE

Browse through my posts where I share spooky messages I have received from my angels from time to time. Go HERE

 

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An insider’s view of Greek Easter

Easter in Greece is the brightest holiday, even more so than Christmas. The Greeks celebrate it with wonderful customs that make it a huge joy to attend the festivities. No matter where you are in Greece, the evening of Good Friday will find you following the epitaph procession with a lit brown candle in your hand, an experience that always makes my heart swell as the fragrance of jasmine and honeysuckle from the yards waft in the crisp night air, and the solemn melody of the hymn ‘Oh glyki mou aiar’ delights my ears. The epitaph is a wooden structure adorned with a multitude of flowers. A depiction of Christ lies inside and the epitaph serves as His tomb. Seeing that the procession symbolizes His funeral, the mood of this procession is mournful and voices are kept to a respectful low volume.

Midnight on Holy Saturday is the exact opposite experience. Here, the atmosphere is joyful, and how can it not be with the fireworks exploding overhead and the church bells ringing madly! The priest brings out the holy light (flown into the country from Virgin Mary’s tomb in Jerusalem the same day and distributed to every church on time), and people light up their white or red candles as they kiss and exchange the news of Jesus’ rising from the dead. One person will say ‘Christos Anesti’ (Christ has risen) and the other will respond ‘Alithos Anesti’ (indeed, He has) or ‘Alithos, o Kyrios’ (indeed, the Lord has).

On Easter day, the Greeks get up early to put the lamb and the kokoretsi on the spit. Lunch is a grand celebration that includes bumping together Easter eggs (traditionally dyed red).

Other than the above festivities that can be sampled anywhere in Greece, there are variations in places. For example, on the island of Hydra, the procession of the epitaph is not done on the road but in the sea by boat. Also, there are special customs in other parts, such as the spectacular ‘rocket war’ between two churches on the island of Chios and the burning of effigies of Judas in various parts of the country.

By far, and I am not just saying this because I am biased – everyone agrees here – the brightest Easter you can ever experience in Greece takes place in Corfu town.

 

The Holy Relic of St Spyridon is taken around town several times a year during the grand processions.

Other than the multitude of epitaph processions and spectacular fireworks display you’re in for here, Holy Saturday stands out for two things: the grand procession of St Spyridon, schools, boy scouts, and philarmonic orchestras that starts in the old town at 9:00 am, and the ancient custom of ‘botides’ that is a spectacle everyone should behold at least once in their lives.

Botides are massive ceramic pots that the Corfiots throw from high balconies when the bell tolls the ‘First Ressurection’ at 11:00 am before a huge crowd. What follows is a pandemonium of cheers and noise that is said to ward off evil and celebrates the victory of Man over death. The atmosphere soon becomes electric and you feel so elated, it almost feels like you’re ready to grow wings on your back and fly. You have to experience it firsthand, I guess, but that’s the best way I can describe the feeling! Here’s a little taste:

 

Here, I will also share Amleto (Little Hamlet, from Faccio’s opera) – my favorite piece of music played by the Old Philarmonic in Corfu town on Saturday morning during the grand procession I mentioned earlier. Total silence falls among the locals when the band begins to play this song as to enjoy it fully – this is a piece of music adored by the Corfiots, including me, as it has the unique power to compel and to make your heart swell. You be the judge – although again, you have to be there to experience the atmosphere to the max:

 

For the Greeks, Easter is a religious experience that goes on inside their souls. It is a chance to gather hope and strength inside and to keep going, no matter the hardship. It is one of the Greek secrets, if you like, for their ever renewed ability to withstand adversity and to keep the faith. During the Holy Week, the Greeks wish each other ‘Kali Anastasi’ (Happy Resurrection), which doesn’t only mean the enjoyment of the midnight festivities on Holy Saturday – it also means a resurrection in their lives; it wishes the preservation of hope until a better day comes. Therefore, as you appreciate, Easter to the average Greek is not just a cause for celebration but a form of psychotherapy too – a provider of renewed hope. I hope this makes sense. For what it’s worth, this is the best way I can share it with you, what Easter is to a Greek!

And with this, I bid you adieu, wishing you a wonderful Easter no matter where you are and how you plan to celebrate.

Please note: if you ever plan to visit Greece for Easter, do check online for the date of Orthodox Easter first. It coincides with Easter in the rest of the world only once in a few years!

 

And now, I am off to my kitchen to make Easter cookies. Holy week is a busy one for Greek housewives. Thankfully, I’ve already dyed the Easter eggs! I make mine with red onion leaves and curry to avoid those nasty chemicals. See how I prepare them here

Kali Anastasi & Happy Easter!

 

 

Do you love Corfu?

Make sure to check out my FREE online guide if you plan to visit the island. It’s unmissable!

 

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