St. John feast juping over the fire
The Feast of Klydonas and the jumping over fire during St John’s celebration

The Feast of Klydonas and the jumping over fire during St John’s celebration at the end of June is one of the traditions that has slowly disappeared. The 24th of June is considered one of the biggest summer festivities in Greek tradition. This day is the day of Saint John of Klydona (also called Rigana or Rizikari) and consists of the traditional custom of jumping over fire.

The nickname Klydonas finds its origin in the ancient Greek word «κλήδων» which means a prognostic sound and was used to describe the combination of random and incoherent words used during the course of a divination ceremony.

Practically the «Klydonas» is referring to a popular divination ceremony where, as it was believed, it would find and reveal the future husband to unmarried young women.

klydonas
klydonas divination ceremony

According to tradition, at the eve of Saint John’s day, these unmarried women would gather in one of the village’s houses and one of them would go and bring from the well the «αμίλητο νερό» (silent water). Its name comes from the fact that during her trip back to the house, she wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone.

Once inside the house, the water would be versed inside a clay pot and each girl must put one of her personal belongings inside that pot (called in Greek rizikaria). Then the pot is covered and tied with a red tissue while the girls pray to Saint John at the same time. The pot is finally placed on an open space during the hole night. It is said that during this same night the girls will dream and see their future husband.

divination ceremony
the pot is covered and tied with a red tissue for the ceremony

At the same time, during Saint John’s Eve, the traditional custom with the fire is taking place: in the main square of the village a big fire is lit and all the villagers are jumping over it. According to popular belief, this brings purification “κάθαρση” (catharsis) and humans are free of Evil.

klydonas5
In popular belief jumping over the fire brings the catahrsis

Finally, Saint John is also called Riganas (“Ριγανάς”) because on the 24th of June people would go and harvest oregano. It is also said that this harvest should take place before the sunrise, due to the belief that it would have magical powers if harvested that way.


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