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Basil.”. I asked a priest whose acquaint- for the priest to bless. On his return ance I had made to copy down one of them, home the master of each house dashes of which the following is a rough transla- this pomegranate on the floor as he crosses tion :
his threshold, and says as he does so, From Cæsarea came the holy Basil;
“ May as many good-lucks come to my Ink and paper in his hands he held.
household as there are pips in this pomo Cried the crowds who saw him coming, granate; "and apostrophizing, so to speak, Teach us letters, dear St. Basil.
the demons of the house, he adds, “ Away His rod he left them for instruction
with you, fleas, and bugs, and evil words ; His rod, which buds with verdant leaves, and within this house may health, happiOn which the partridges sit singing And the swallows make their nests.
ness, and the good things of this world
reign supreme! Jangle went the bell in the brushwood In like manner, no good housewife
“ the thicket,” as they call it - and out would neglect to distribute sweets to her came the housewife when the singing was children on New Year's morning, considover, her hands full of homely gifts, in ering that by eating them they will secure return for which she was presented with for themselves a sweet career for the rest one of the silk ribbons from the trophy. of the year. And many other little superThis she will keep the whole of the en- stitions of a kindred nature are gone suing year, for it will bring her good luck. through and considered essential tc the And after many good wishes for the com- well-being of the family. In one house ing year the troupe removed on to another we entered on New Year's day we were house.
presented with pieces of a curious and Before it was dark we strolled up to the exceedingly nasty leavened loaf, and were ruined fortress of Trikkala, built on an told that this was the New Year's cake, eminence above the town. The view was which every family makes; into it is de enchanting over the surrounding moun-posited a coin, and he who gets the coin tains; behind us were Othrys and Pindus; in his slice will be the luckiest during the at our feet, towards the north, once lay an coming year. Every member of the famold Greek city, now marked by only a few ily has a slice given to him - even the fragments; and among the houses, dotted tiny baby, who has not the remotest chance about amid gardens and trees, flowed the of consuming all his; and then, besides Trikkalinos of ancient legend, the river the family slices; two large ones are al of forgetfulness, on its way to join the ways cut off the cake and set on one side; Peneus, of which we determined not to one of these is said to be “for the house,' drink, for we did not wish to forget the which nobody eats, but when it is quite view; it would be to us an everlasting dry it is put on a shelf near the sacred memory. By the bishop's palace we de pictures, which occupy a corner in every scended, which is an interesting specimen home, however humble, and is dedicated of Roman and Byzantine architecture in to the saints the household gods we may stone and wood; and past the church, with call them — and is not thrown away till its storks' nests and quaint pictures of after Easter; the other slice is for the fearful saints ; up and down winding poor, who go round with baskets on their squalid streets, until we came to the no- arms on New Year's day, and collect from march's house, the representative of the each household the portion which, they new régime in this corner of Thessaly. know, has been put aside for them. We called upon him, and he explained to Every Thessalian, however poor, gives us the plan they had of replacing the old a New Year's gift - "for good luck," they town by straight streets at right angles to say; and these gifts, curiously enough, one another. The work of destruction is are called ét louides - - a word which we in rapid progress undoubtedly; but the find Athenæus using as a translation of work of reconstruction, in the present the Roman term strena for the same gift, financial condition of Greece, is not likely which still exists in the French étrennes, to progress with equal rapidity, and mean- and Italian strenne. Even as in ancient while Trikkala will be but a miserable Rome gifts were given on this day boni place.
ominis causå, so did we find ourselves at No good Thessalian would think of be- Trikkala constantly presented with some ing absent from the liturgy on New Year's thing on New Year's day- nuts, apples, morning, and no good peasant would think dried figs, and things of a like nature, of leaving behind him the pomegranate which caused our pockets to become inwhich has been exposed to the stars all con
onvenientiy crowded. I fancy it was night, and which they take to the church | much the same in Roman days, and prob
ably earlier, as it is now in out-of-the-way | ple in no way resent these constant vis. corners of Greece. We know how on itors and claims on their hospitality; nay, New Year's day clients sent presents to rather they would be deeply hurt if the their patrons
slaves to the lords, friends bands of children passed them by. The to friends, and the people to the emperor songs sung on this occasion, I noticed, are
-and that Caligula, who was never a rich far more religious and less blended with man, took advantage of this custom and superstitious lore than those I have heard made known that on New Year's day he sung on St. Basil's day, May-day, the wanted a dower for his daughter, which swallow festival on the ist of March, and resulted in such piles of gold being other occasions on which this street sing. brought that he walked barefoot upon ing takes place. After some difficulty I them at his palace door.
obtained the words of one of the Epiphany The custom of giving New Year's gifts songs we heard at Skiathos, which began in Rome grew as great a nuisance as wed- with a somewhat lengthy conversation beding presents bid fair to become with us, tween our Lord and St. John on the bank and sumptuary laws had to be passed to of the Jordan, and ended thus: restrict the lavish expenditure in them, and then St. John baptised our Lord, and the earlier Christian divines took oc- That from the evil hearts of men sion to abuse them hotly, St. Augustine Might now be thoroughly cleansed and calling New Year's gifts diabolical," and purged Chrysostom preaching that “the first of The sin that Adam first had sinned; the year was a Jewish feast and a Satanic That to the lowest depths of Hades might be extravagance." Wishing to Christianize driven ą pagan custom, as they always tried to The thrice-accursed foe, beguiler of mankind. do, these earlier divines invented Christ- Despite the wind which howled and the mas gifts as a substitute. Owing to this rain which fell from time to time, we wanwe unfortunate dwellers in the West have dered about in Skiathos a good deal that the survival of both Christmas and New evening. It was such a pretty, primitive Year's gifts; in Greece Christmas gifts little place, built in an amphitheatre round are unknown; but there exists not in a tiny harbor, and with a quay divided Greece a man, however poor, who does into two parts by an island converted into not make an effort to give his friends a la promontory by a narrow causeway. The gift on the day of the Calends.
harbor was full of caïques taking refuge It was by chance that we found our from the storm; the cafés by the shore selves in another remote corner of Greece were full of sailors from all parts of this for the closing festival of the season of eastern sea, and tlius the population of the twelve days. We embarked at Volo the town, which is under a thousand, was on a tiny Greek steamer for Salonica on considerably augmented. Behind the a lovely night, to wake next morning and town rose fir-clad hills, sending out into find ourselves tossing about in a great the sea innumerable promontories, re. storm, amongst a small group of islands minding us much of Riviera scenery. known as the Northern Sporades. Our Skiathos is one of those happy places captain, much to our annoyance at the without a history, and without a prospect moment, told us that it was impossible to of creating any. Now, as in ancient times, proceed on our voyage, for the sea at the it is but a dark speck on the Ægean Sea, mouth of the Thermaic Gulf ran so high a place of shade and mysterious repose, that it would be dangerous to proceed. from which it has acquired and retained Consequently, we put into the best harbor the name of “ the shady." which these islands afford, the island of I was anxious to be present at the early Skiathos, where we remained for two liturgy next morning to witness the cerewhole days, and were able to pass most of mony of the “ blessing of the waters.” It this time on shore amongst the inhab- was a great effort, for it was still cold and itants of a pretty and quaint village; and stormy; however, by some process which as it chanced to be the feast of Epiphany, will never be quite clear to me, I managed or, as they call it, the Feast of Lights, we to find myself at the door of the one were not altogether discontented with our church of Skiathos, with its many.storied fate.
bell-tower, soon after four o'clock. Very On the evening of the Feast of Lights quaint indeed it looked as I went out of bands of children again paraded the nar- the cold darkness into the brilliantly row streets and quay. It seems to me lighted churcl., and saw the pious islanders that this is the most favorite Greek method kneeling all around on the cold floor as of celebrating a festive season. The peo. I the liturgy was being chanted prior to the
blessing of the waters. Near the entrance carefully with him his bottle of water and stood the font, filled to the brim; and close sprig of basil to hang up in his home to it was placed an eikon or sacred picture, amongst the saints. In nearly every representing the baptism of our Lord; humble Greek dwelling, you may see a around the foot were stuck many candles, dried sprig of basil hanging in the housefastened by their own grease; whilst pots hold sanctuary. It is this sprig which and jugs full of water, of every size and has been blessed at the Feast of Lights. description, covered the floor in the im- It is most effectual, say they, in keeping mediate vicinity of the font.
off the influence of the evil eye that After the priest had chanted the some- dreaded influence which every
Greek what tedious litany from the steps of the mother fears for her tiny offspring, and high altar in an antiphonal strain, he set which every farmer imagines will wither off, dressed sumptuously in his gold bro- up his crops and shrivel his olive-trees caded vestments, round the church, with unless it be warded off by priestly blessa large cross in one hand, and a sprig of ing and religious intervention. basil in the other, accompanied by two The day broke finer, and the violence acolytes, who waved their censers, and of the storm was over. From the hill cast around a pleasant odor of frankin- above the town, which we climbed, the cense. Every one was prostrate as the distant snow-clad mountains of Greece priest read the appointed portion of Scrip. were visible - Ossa, and Pelion, and ture, signed the water in the font and in giant Olympus; around us the sea was the adjacent jugs with the cross, and threw dotted with islands, spread over its surinto the font his sprig of basil. No sooner face like leaves on the grass after an was this solemn and impressive ceremony autumn storm. Yet our captain still linover than there was a general rush from gered, saying that perhaps towards even. all sides with mugs and bottles to secure ing we might start, and for this delay I some of this consecrated water. Every believe I discovered the reason. Towards body laughed, and hustled his neighbor in midday on Epiphany it is customary the struggle; even the priest, with the amongst these seafaring islanders to hold cross in his hand, stood and watched them a solemn function, closely akin to the one with a broad grin on his face. The scene I had witnessed in the church that mornwas ludicrous in the extreme - a striking ing, namely, the blessing of the sea. contrast to the prostrate solemnity and From their homes by the shore the fishworship which had reigned amongst the ermen came, and all the inhabitants of congregation only a moment before. Skiathos assembled on the quay to join
Very soon the font and the jugs were the procession which descended from the emptied of their contents, and each wor-church by a zigzag path, headed by two shipper had secured his portion in the priests and two acolytes waving censers bottle or vessel that he had brought with behind them, and men carrying banners him for the purpose, and an orange which and the large cross. had been floating in the font, for what Very touching it was to watch the deep purpose I could not ascertain, was pre- devotion of these hardy seafaring men as sented by the priest to one of his acolytes. they knelt on the shore whilst the litany Before taking his departure for his home was being chanted, and whilst the chief each person went up to kiss the cross priest blessed the waves with his cross which the priest held, and to be sprinkled and invoked the blessing of the Most with water from the sprig of basil. Each High on the many and varied crafts which person had brought his own sprig of basil, were riding at anchor in Skiathos harbor. which he presented to the priest to bless, When the service was over, there foland in return for this favor he dropped a lowed, as at the service I had attended in coin into a plate, which an acolyte held the church that morning, an unseemly to receive contributions for the church. bustle, so ready are these vivacious peo Basil is always held to be a sacred plant ple to turn from the solemo to the gay; in Greece. The legend says that it grew Every one chatted with his neighbor, and on Christ's tomb, and they imagine that pressed forward towards a little jetty to this is the reason why its leaves grow in witness the prospective fun. Presently a cruciform shape. It is much thought of the chief priest advanced to the end of by every one. "It is a favorite offering this jetty with the cross in his hand, and from one man to another, and is found in after tying a heavy stone to it he threw it every cottage garden.
into the sea. Thereupon there was a When the service was over the congre- general rush into the water; men and boys gation dispersed, each individual carrying with their clothes on plunged and dived,
until at length, amidst the applause of the impossibility, and thus the primary rebystanders, one young man succeeded in quirements of a large population of anibringing the cross to the surface, stone mals are supplied. If it were not for this and all. A subscription was then raised supply of seaweed, it is not too much to for the successful diver, the proceeds of say that the Arctic regions would be which were spent by him in ordering many almost uninhabited; but, thanks to the glasses of wine at the nearest coffee-shop, consequent abundance of fish, the Eskimo and the wet men sat down for a heavy and the Samoides extend themselves to drink - to drive out the chill, I suppose. within ten degrees of the pole.
Thus was concluded the last ceremony In a cold country like Russia, threeof the season of the twelve days. The quarters of which has a mean annual temmind of the housewife is now relieved perature of only forty degrees - that is, from all anxiety respecting those horrible of only eight degrees above freezing-point, hobgoblins, which are now obliged to flee and nearly half of which has a mean Janto their abode. The mind of the sailor uary temperature of more than twenty-two is at ease, for amongst these islands the degrees of frost — there are millions of superstitious mariner avoids if possible people who must depend on the sea, the entrusting himself to the sea during these lakes, and the rivers for a very large prodays. In many places even you find the portion of their daily food, and who rarely boats hauled up on to the beach on the if ever partake of animal food except in day before Christmas, and nothing will the form of fish. To them, the takes of induce the owners to launch them again salmon, pike, shad, herring, cod, haddock, until after the blessing of the sea. I am and dorse are as much a harvest as the firmly convinced that the captain of our harvest of the fields is in more favored re. steamer shared the same superstitions, gions. St. Petersburg, indeed, is the methough he chose to laugh at the benighted tropolis of fish dinners; nowhere else can islanders and their funny ways; for a few fish be placed on the table in so many hours after the sea had been blessed we different forms, and nowhere else can so put out into it, and I should imagine that many fish delicacies be procured; there, we could have started hours before if the you may have endless varieties of fish captain had been so inclined.
soups; fish baked, boiled, steamed, J. THEODORE BENT. stewed; fish salad, fish pies, fish brawn,
potted fish, marinated fish; fish fresh, salted, dried, smoked, or frozen; and when you have got through the catalogue
of most European fish, you may begin From Chambers' Journal.
again with preparations of fish roes. RUSSIAN FISHERIES.
The Arctic Ocean and the White Sea In the Arctic regions, so greatly does are extremely rich fishing-grounds, and fish preponderate over all other kinds of furnish most of the trade of Archangel. food, that the people there have often been The fish of this region comprise the salgrouped together under the name of mon, herring, cod, whiting, tusk, coalfish, ichthyophagi, or fish-eaters; and there ling, pollack, and dorse, many of which have been naturalists who have followed are sold as stockfish. The Baltic is not this idea so far that they have been able so rich, and supplies no stockfish except to discover a fishy type of physiognomy dorse. among them. Some of these people in the But it is in fresh water that Russia course of their lives probably never taste stands pre-eminent in Europe. Besides any other kind of food; and as its peculiar the fresh-water fish, there are the fish, richness in fat especially adapts it to their such as salmon, sturgeon, eels, and so on, requirements of an easily digestible heat- which ascend the rivers at certain seasons. giver, it is well that nature has been so Each river is let off in sections to farmlavish in peopling the waters. So numer-ers, some of whom are great capitalists; ous are the individual members of the while others are obliged to advocate the finny tribes, that they may be said to exist principles of co-operation, or to fish alone. in their myriads, thus forming a striking Some rivers — the Volga, for instance contrast to land animals, which are com- are strictly considered as crown monopoparatively scarce. This abundance of fish lies; others are reserved to the nobles arises from the evenness of temperature and the townships; but fishing licenses of water as compared with land. Sea form one of the most remunerative sources weeds grow luxuriantly in latitudes where of Russian revenue. land plants of any importance would be an The Volga is the richest fish river in
Europe. Its length is 2,200 miles. Other |(A. stellatus), the osseter (A. Guldenrivers are the Petchora, 900 miles long; stadtii), and the small sturgeon or sterlet Mezen, 480 ; Dwina, 760 ; Onega, 380; (A. ruthensus); also for the salmon, white Dniester, 700; Bug, 340; Dnieper, 1,200; salmon, and knifefish. The sturgeon famDon, 1,100 ; Kuban, 480 ; and the Ural, ily attains to an enormous size, especially 1,020, — miles in length respectively. Be- the beluga, which sometimes measures sides these giants, there are hundreds of twenty feet in length, and weighs two rivers which may vie in size with our own thousand five hundred pounds, though Thames and Severn; and then there are specimens of over one thousand pounds thousands of sheets of fresh water, for a
The sewruga is also a giant ; great portion of Russia belongs to the but the other sturgeons are seldom taken Baltic region of glacier-formed lakes. above six feet in length. The number of These range in size from mere ponds to these giants disposed of annually at Assuch a sheet of water as Lake Ladoga, trakhan has in some years been enormous which covers an area of 6,330 square - three hundred thousand sturgeons, one miles, which is equal to more than three hundred thousand belugas, and millions quarters of the extent of Wales. Then of the others. No wonder that there are there are — Onega, 3,280 square miles; complaints of the failure of the supplies, Saima, 2,000; Peipus, 1,250; Enara, and, as is usual where ignorance prevails, 1,200; Bieloe, 420; Ilmen, 390 ; and the mischief is attributed to every cause Pskov, 280. Our own largest lake is but the right. “It is because of the Lough Neagh, in Antrim, which only cov- steamboats!” says the moujik, and forthers 153 square miles. Nor are the Rus- with the moujik hates the sight of a steamsian lakes mere gigantic horseponds, boat. But steam or no steam, the sturgeon which might be drained as the Dutch of the Caspian may soon become as rare lakes have been ; but, like most glacier- a curiosity as Thames salmon. formed lakes, they have considerable Astrakhan, the principal Caspian port, depth. Ladoga has a maximum depth of is one of the most important fishing-staone thousand feet; while several of the tions in the world. From this region others range down to eight hundred. alone the Russian revenue nets about a
From these statements, it will be seen million pounds sterling for fishery lithat the aggregate amount of fresh watercenses; and during the fishing season, in Russia available for fisheries or for twenty thousand strangers, ranging in fish-culture is immense; and it is every- degree from simple laborers to gigantic where thickly studded with pike, salmon, capitalists, come in to compete with the lake trout, shad, thicksnouts, red bream, regular inhabitants for the profits from the perch, and carp; while the larger rivers fish industries. also yield sturgeon.
The fishery trades are systematically The Russian is to some extent pre- pursued in Russia, since so much of the vented from settling down as an agricultu- national life depends on these industries. rist by the amenities of his climate, but As a general rule, a company of capitalmore by his old nomadic blood, so that, ists begins by forming a fishing-station in spite of the immense strides which civ-|(utschiug); and here they make a dam; ilization has made in Europe, he alone is they catch the fish; they manufacture still a semi-savage. He still prefers a nets, harpoons, traps, and lures ; they consemi-nomadic employment to farming, and vert fish refuse - heads, bones, scales, the fresh-water fisheries meet his require- entrails, and sounds — into glue, gelatine, ments.
and isinglass, or even into manure; they In the south-east of Russia is the great. split, clean, salt, smoke, or freeze the fish; est salt lake in the world, the Caspian and they distribute them through the Sea, which has an area of 130,000 square country to their agents for sale, much of miles — that is, an area greater than all the this latter work being done by sledges in British Islands put together, with an addi- winter, to save freight. They also pursue tional island larger than England thrown the more lucrative fish industries, such as in extra — and is intimately connected manufacturing the finest kinds of isinglass with the fresh-water fisheries of the Volga and gelatine, as well as that curious fish and the Ural; for the fish migrate from product known as caviare. “'Twas caviare fresh water to salt, and from salt to fresh, to the general,” wrote Shakespeare, when there as elsewhere. The great fishery of the Russian Company of London introthis region is that for the sturgeon (Åcci- duced it to this country; and unless men penser sturio), and its kindred the great train themselves to like it, just as they sturgeon or beluga (A.huso), the sewruga | train themselves to eat olives, they are