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Aloystines, The Fairies of August
by Irini Gazi
Source: EGEO Exotiko

Gnomes, fairies, elves, goblins and other weird creatures: Modern Greek tradition likes to have them visit us from time to time, to capture our imagination and keep alive our wonder of the existence of other dimensions and unknown worlds! Such stories abound in various villages in Greece and generally in places that have retained their natural environment. On the contrary the lights, noise and lack of green in the big cities turn away these creatures. In Symi, tradition says that every summer in August, Aloystines come along...

Fairies in white dresses, females of exquisite beauty with long hair having, according to the myth, either goat legs or donkey ears, Aloystines come out around midday or midnight when there is no moon and must disappear again at the third cockcrow. Aloystines always come out in August, a month that is also called in the Greek language Aloystos (meaning ‘unwashed’) or Drimaris because of the days so called ‘drimes’, that is to say the first six days of the month during which the older people used to forecast the weather for the forthcoming year. During these six days, people in the past used not to wash themselves out of fear. Like all fairies (Neraides or Anarades in Greek – the name is taken from the ancient Niriides, the Nymphs of the sea), Aloystines are frequently seen near wells or fountains, but also in fields and threshing floors. They love dance and music and seize men and put them in the dance.

According to a version of the myth, when Aloystines dance they sing ‘Cotton or Lead?’ and then, if a man says ‘Lead’ they let him free, however, if he says ‘Cotton’ they take him with them or they fly him up so high that nothing of him remains back on earth. Another version says that they may suddenly fall onto passers-by, sitting in their nape and asking the question. If someone gives ‘Iron’ for answer, he captures the Aloystina and can take her with him and make her his slave! Anything she touches will multiply!

In the past it used to be said that if one does find an Aloystina at midday, he must try to catch her hair and not let her go. Then he can put her to grinding for him, for her grinding never stops... Another way to catch an Aloystina is to wait until the cockcrow time when they must quickly go away and then touch the hand of the chosen one and keep her tight so as not to let her go. At the next cockcrow, she stays behind compelled to follow and serve her captor. However, after a certain time she will always find a way to return back to the world to which she belongs.

Therefore, if you find yourself walking in Symi at midnight in August and meet a beautiful woman dressed in white asking you ‘Cotton or Lead?’ do not let her cheat you! Aloystines are out for a walk… and you already know what the right answer is!

Text © EGEO Exotiko


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(1) Comments

  1. jasonla said on 01/12/2008, 18:58

    What a great island every year i try and visit a new one before heading to mine. Last year we took some greek island cruises and visited so many it was worth it since we met some locals on the islands and have made plans for next year.

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