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Manolis Valsamidis

The character of dramatization in the Boules of Naoussa.

Valsamidis, Manolis: "The character of the dramatization in the Boules of Naoussa", 16th International Congress on Dance Research, Corfu, Greece, 30/10-3/11, 2002.

Every carnival in Naoussa, except from an interval of few years during the German occupation, a mask-wearing dramatization, preserved from the old days, is being performed with religious devoutness. The dramatization has the character of the custom and particularly the last years is being developed and is being served by four local organizations. These organizations have different names but a common goal to preserve the custom. We are following the dramatization during the past century, which is closely connected to the period of carnival. Compared to that period, there have no big changes occurred, apart from the fact that many young people who belong to an organization, go to Thessaloniki to give performances. This act is repeated increasingly the last few years with a tendency to visit cities not only in the domestic boundaries but also abroad.

It is about an impressing dramatization, which elements are the performers' costumes, the music and the dances, the control of the procession with the characteristic rhythm and its obvious aims, which are related to the period of spring, when the performance takes place. The performance is part of the category of purifying ceremonies of the city; it is a circle ceremony, a shield, a surrounding of the Community in order to prevent the evil. And of course it is closely connected to the ancient years.

Nowadays it is probably difficult to understand those aims. There are other ceremonies of Christian content such as litanies, the procession of the Epitaph that have surpassed the religious-mystic character of the performance. Nevertheless, I can assure you that even in our days it is a very important fact to the town, like a talisman. It is not irrelevant the fact that we are touched every time the performance takes place and when a detail is not as it should be, we say a sacrilege has been committed. Do not ask the mystic about his feelings. He absolutely feels excitement, pride, dynamism and optimism even if, deep inside, the emotional basis remains indefinable, vague and inexplicable.

When I talked to old people about the custom, I found its origins in the period of the Turkish Occupation. In their minds the Turkish Occupation seemed to be even older timely than the ancient years. This connection was related to the role of the dramatisation (performance) during the above period. At this point it would be useful to go on to a historic retrospection.

The first people lived in Naoussa in the beginning of the 15th century, as we had the pleasure to ascertain with the Prof. Mr Lagopoulos, the town planning professor of the AristotleUniversity in Thessaloniki. It is certain that until the devastation of the city of Naoussa, in 1822, and about 400 years, the city was a free city, capital of the hence the Axios river Macedonia area, according to Poukevil. In case that the custom existed during that period when the Community of the first city of Naoussa was free, the atmosphere of freedom existed. The pride of people was underlined in a city, which represented freedom and underlies the inhabitants’ pride for freedom in an islet freedom town during hard times.

After the period of 1822 until the time of liberation in 1912, and the population exchanges, for about 100 years, a whole Century in Naoussa co-exist two communities: The Greek and the Turkish. The dramatisation (performance) is not related to the Turkish community. The surrounding of the dramatisation of the Greek communities for which a lot have been written leaves Naoussa with the itinerary that Boules follow, leaving out the Turkish neighbourhoods. And it is not only that. The performance is being transformed to a revolutionary performance against the Turkish oppressor dramatization. There is evidence that during the procession people who were wanted by the Turkish authorities entered in the dramatisation. The most important part was the content of the songs and the whole brightness of the performance. Under the music parts, a rousing song e.g. by Rigas was sung: "Until when fearless men we will live in narrow (roads)", and Roido", "Mother I do not want a Turk for my husband". We do not have any knowledge about the songs that were sung before the revolution. The songs have changed but not their rhythm. We know their rhythm, which is ancient Greek. The anapaests are played with the beat of the tabor. The same as the simple or the mixed rhythms. In a particular anapaest there is observed a sudden impulse of the dancers who come together and knock their swords.

I named the swords as "ceremonial spears". They are. The young men who take part in the dramatisation must be unmarried. The swords were not unknown to the religious ceremonies of ancient years and particularly replaced the "thyrsus" during the Dionysian worship. Among the jobs, which were related to the devotion of God Dionysus and they constitute a good source of livelihood, was the job of the ceremony-sword decorator. I do not know whether there are folk musicians among us. However, I can say the occupation the served the Dionysian procession, was well paid. The organ player (musician) was coming first. The only difference was that the instrument was a trumpet not a kind of clarinet (zournas) like it is nowadays.

In a report for the Dionysiac devotion I read the phrase "Dionysus plus Aglaia", and couldn't understand what it was about. After an extensive study related to the Dionysiac devotion, I realised that Aglaia was the best trumpeter of those years. Portly and drinker like some of our people in previous years.

There is other evidence too, which make us believe that there is a close relationship to the ancient years, particularly to the Dionysiac facts. One of them is the ''Brousliani''. This happened in a donation room in 1954 and is guarded by Mr Michael Tomtsis. Two friends donated to the late Chatzitryfon Tryfona a necklace of a Boula and a ''Brousliani''. ''Brousliani'' from the plant's property to be tacked in the trees, is the ivy. It is amazing the fact that the coins that decorate it have the shape of the ivy, which is cultivated in our area. Another element that connects the performance with ancient times is the sword, what we nowadays call sabre. Arhilohos states, "Brandishing the thyrsus he worships Dionysos".

The cover of head is also another element, an element I refer a bit more. There was a time when the priestess of the dramatisation late Athina Zahou, laughed at me when I brought her fabrics to make the ''taraboula'' (kerchiefs) for Pyrsos. The ''taraboula'' are called the coverings of the head. "Forgive me for laughing, she said, but these fabrics are not proper". Talking with her, I realised then that the ''taraboulo'' (kerchief) is like the hide of an animal.

1. The animal masks

In ancient years people were devoted to animals, which were treated as Gods. The disguises into animals are actions, which aim at the equation to the strength of the animals. It is an invitation to the nature in order to deal with the evil, and contribute to the fertility of the land. The animals were connected to Gods as was stated by Mrs Carmela Deindain the first congress of Pyrsos that took place in Naoussa. There is a period of time when people believed in the existence of Gods who had the appearance of both a man and an animal. People tried to imitate their Gods in order to conquer the nature, as Augoustinos claims.

Poseidon after Cronus and Rea is one of the oldest Gods. His holly animal is the horse, but when action is demanded he turns into a taurus. But also Dionysus is being transformed into a Taurus in Crete. It is natural to have taurus as a protagonist in ceremonies and dramatisations.

In Sardinia, in Barbaria, we have many dramatisations with bulls. A group was in the festival of Naoussa. They have horns and bells and they retain the Greek name Boes until nowadays. In our recent meeting we analysed the dramatisation in Sardinia with the Mamoutones. The researhers, Karmela and Louigi Scalas, presenting also the points of the profesors Francesco Caesar Cazoula, Dolores Turchi and Rafaelo Marchi, left no doubt that their custom ceremonies have greek dionysian origins. The devotion to the bull is expanded in all the territory of Mediterranean. The taurus must be stated is the personification of Api the Egyptian god.

After the withdrawal of Poseidon, when Zeus and other gods wanted to eliminate his power, there is the appearance of Dionysus, who brought the overturning. Pro and new Dionysian dramatization merge together and are regarded as Dionysian. Dionysius is the God of nature, of spring, of vine, of joy and life. His holly animal is the lion and the panther. He is pictured as a triumphant on a chariot driven by panthers followed by its troupe as it is pictured in an Ancient Pella’s mosaic. He is also identified with the Taurus and is being worship as a taurus.

The Dionysian spirit according to the meaning we gave will give a new stimulus to folk dramatizations and will contribute to the dramatisation and will lead to the creation of tragedy. The myths will stand on the scene and reach the perfection through the tragedy and comedy, a fact described by Aristotle in his Poetics. In the meantime as the same person observes referring to comedy, the folk dramatisations keep going on in Greek cities.

Is it possible for the cover of the head to be an animal hide? Secondly, is it a taurus hide? A part of the head cover, is called ears. It is constructed in details by the experts. To remain hard, tulle or kampoto is used in the inner side. Apart from the ears, a very interesting method of sewing the ‘taraboulo’ or else kerchief, was revealed to me by Athina Zahou. The taraboulo or else the kerchief constitute of three parts 30-35 cm in width and 3.60m in length. According to Athina Zahou the middle of the three parts is darker in colour, whereas the other two are lighter and similar. In carnival-acted representation in Greece, Bulgaria, Sardinia, Poland and other countries are used hides from lion, taurus, dear. Hercules wore a lion hide on his head. I reach the conclusion that the ''taraboulo'' is a development of an animal hide. Even if it is a bull hide, it is not absolutely certain, because the appearance of the animal is not retained. The face is a man's face so as to have the Epiphany. The linguists will tell us what is the origin of the word “boula” and if it is connected with the word Taurus and where the word “taraboulo” comes from.

Another question is about the figure, which is pictured on the face. We have got two kinds of mask: a man mask and a woman mask. It must be noted that the woman mask is also carried by a man. The research results made me reach the conclusion that both masks refer to Dionysus. There are three basic representations of Dionysus in art. The first one which is found in ceramics in the archaeological museum of the royalty, represents young masked dancers of dithyramb dancing like the ''Papadia'' dance in front of Dionysus carrying a mask. The second one belongs to Hellenistic years as it is presented in the museum of Pella, on the incredible mosaic known as Dionysus on panther. The last one is found in Dilos. There is also an incredible mosaic, which represents Dionysus on a chariot carried by panthers. That Dionysus is dressed as a woman.

Our group, without any doubt, is a troupe with a Dionysiac character. It is a troupe of mystics and mystagogics, who go round the city, like in old years, to prevent the evil, for the good of the year, for the unhindered development of society. Form what has been written above and from the discussion that may follow, we are absolutely sure about one thing. ‘Boules’ in Naoussa is not for tourist purposes. It is an instinctive experience of an ancient dramatization, which is performed in its place as it was performed in ancient times, the same time, I mean season for the same reasons the same needs of expression until ecstasism is reached.

Let’s not ask the performer to explain us what he is doing. We have to be grateful as he takes part in the performances and he perpetuates our identity with an optimistic and proud attitude and progress to the future.

Manolis Valsamidis



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