fire walking in Greece

Fire Walking in Greece



saint tranquil sacrilege
icon bear (3) appear (2)
purify ancient revolve (2)
ritual rescue unscathed
heal festival believe (2)
set (2) blessed claim (2)
prove worship miraculously
faith escape descendant
lyre blessing seek/sought/sought
joyful cross (2) take along
pagan bishop metropolitan (2)
slap coal (2) hangover (2)
insult bonfire ceremony
folk plunge ever since
betray ember secure (2)
vapor offer (2) tradition
pain chief (2) feel/felt/felt
shrine follower take the plunge
sacred science stamp out
elated oppose stamp (2)
step possible explanation
skin pass (3) perspiration
buffer traverse






For much of the year, the town of Saint. Helen in northern Greece is tranquil place of just seven hundred (700) people. Like Kiriokos Patsos, most feel blessed to live here.

Kiriokos is the chief icon bearer in a firewalking festival called the Anastenaria.

The ritual revolves around a set of ancient icons that worshipers believe have special powers to purify, heal and protect.

One story claims that a thousand years ago, worshipers rescued the icons from a burning church, escaping miraculously unscathed.

Ever since, their descendants have carried the icons into the fire to prove their faith, and to seek blessings from Saint Constantine.

But others view the ritual as sacrilege.

Kiriokos Patsos, Chief Icon Bearer: “People who oppose the tradition dislike the fact that we take the icons along in the fire. That’s why they claim the tradition is pagan.”

To the Metropolitan Bishop of Laigadas, the Anastenaria is pagan, a hangover from ancient times, when people worshiped the sun and the moon. He believes the Anastenarians are betraying Saint Constantine.

Kiriokos Patsos, Chief Icon Bearer: “In this lifetime, he would give them a slap in the face. Saint Constantine is a saint. And to think and act that way is an insult.”
As sunset approaches, worshipers build a bonfire.

Inside the shrine, the final ceremony begins as always with ancient folk songs played on the lyre.

Kariarkis takes on the sacred icon. The Saint, and their faith in him is the only protection the Anastenarian will take into the fire.

He traverses the hot coals; first north to south, then a second pass, east to west. His steps form a cross.

And he appears to feel no pain.

One by one, the followers of the Saint take the plunge.

The ceremony continues until the embers are almost stamped out.

Kariokos is elated.

Kiriokos Patsos, Chief Icon Bearer: “I feel so joyful; the Saints were with us.”

Science has offered possible explanations for firewalking. One is that perspiration forms a buffere of vapor between skin and coal.

But back at the shrine, the faithful need no further explanation. Kiriarkas believes he has secured the blessings of Saint Constantine for another year.


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1. The town of Saint Helen has lots of clubs, bars, discos and nightlife. True or false?

2. What is the origin of firewalking in Saint Helen?

3. Everyone is enthusiastic about the firewalking ceremony. Is this right or wrong? Why are some people opposed to it?

4. Does silence accompany the ceremony?

5. What happens during the ceremony? What do participants do?

6. The participants feel pain and suffer burns and injuries. Is this correct or incorrect?

7. Are there different explanations to this phenomenon? What are the explanations?


A. I have seen a firewalking ceremony. Yes or no? Are there firewalking ceremonies or rituals in your country?

B. How do the firewalkers perform their feats?

C. My friends would like to perform a firewalk. True or false?

D. Are there metaphors regarding firewalking?

E. What might happen in the future?

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