The village of St. Eleni is very well known for Â«AnastenariaÂ», a festivity that is celebrated in Bacchus greatness on 21st May, the day of St. Constantine and Eleni.Â
Â Â Â Â Anastenaria is of great interest both from the folklore and religious points of view, because this festivity managed to preserve devotional elements from the ancient worship of Dionysus.
Â Â Â Â
This custom has been brought from Thrace and to be more specific, from some isolated Thracian villages, which remained unaffected by the influence of modern civilization. The believers of the peculiar worship managed to preserve the Dionysian worship by using extremely primitive elements.
Â Â Â Â Anastenarides, the modern Bacchus-Christians who live in small societies, create a special class, an Â«orderÂ» we could say, similar to the Dionysian Â«ancient troopsÂ». These people hardly ever go to church but they own private temples called Â«konakiÂ» (lodging). Their top leader is Â«Saintâ€™s anastenariko iconÂ» and their top prelate is Archianastenaris, who is a diviner, exorcist, therapist, and founder of temples and houses.
Â Â Â Â The unique custom of Fire walking or Anastenaria includes many different and interesting rites and mystagogies such as: ceremonial animal sacrifice, inspired by God mysticâ€™s ecstasy, fire walking of the inspired. The ceremony starts on 20th May with animal sacrifices and the transfer of the icons from the villageâ€™s church to Â«KonakiÂ», where sleeplessness and general preparation takes place.
Â Â Â Â In the morning of the 21st May, Anastenarides bring the bell-icons to Agiasma, a holy place in a small wood. These icons, which are called Â«HaresÂ», portray the holy couple of St. Constantine and St. Eleni. According to Anastenarides, itâ€™s the Â«HaresÂ» icons, which give them the ability to walk on fire.
Â Â Â Â In the afternoon of the 21st May the first fire walking takes place, leaving all the spectators speechless. A particular mystic, who is entitled to it because of an ancestral heritage, lights the holy fire. When the fire settles down and a thick coal fire has formed, they call Anastenarides who appears in pomp and they start dancing in a circle around the holy coal fire, while the music exasperates the soul, increases the rhythm and the volume. The sonorous drum Â«whipsÂ» Anastenaridesâ€™ nerves and in a stimulating rhythm, which keeps on precipitating, leads the mystic occupied by the holy mania, walks barefoot on the coal fire and dances while he holds an icon or a holy hanky. The mysticâ€™s body is not harmed in any way during that time and thatâ€™s because of a chemical reaction, which remains unknown to science. This no burning phenomenon, which is found all over the world and during the centuries, remains a mystery that still needs to be solved.
Â Â Â Â Based on a religious opinion, fire walking is based on the faith of duality. Anastenarides believe that they vanish the Evil spirit with the help of the fire walking and to be more specific, with the help of the Saint, the representative of the Good spirit.