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Basil." I asked a priest whose acquaint-
From Cæsarea came the holy Basil;
His rod he left them for instructionHis rod, which buds with verdant leaves, On which the partridges sit singing And the swallows make their nests. Jangle went the bell in the brushwood -"the thicket," as they call it - and out came the housewife when the singing was over, her hands full of homely gifts, in return for which she was presented with one of the silk ribbons from the trophy. This she will keep the whole of the ensuing year, for it will bring her good luck. And after many good wishes for the coming year the troupe removed on to another house.
Before it was dark we strolled up to the ruined fortress of Trikkala, built on an eminence above the town. The view was enchanting over the surrounding mountains; behind us were Othrys and Pindus; at our feet, towards the north, once lay an old Greek city, now marked by only a few fragments; and among the houses, dotted about amid gardens and trees, flowed the Trikkalinos of ancient legend, the river of forgetfulness, on its way to join the Peneus, of which we determined not to drink, for we did not wish to forget the view; it would be to us an everlasting memory. By the bishop's palace we descended, which is an interesting specimen of Roman and Byzantine architecture in stone and wood; and past the church, with its storks' nests and quaint pictures of fearful saints; up and down winding squalid streets, until we came to the nomarch's house, the representative of the new régime in this corner of Thessaly. We called upon him, and he explained to us the plan they had of replacing the old town by straight streets at right angles to one another. The work of destruction is in rapid progress undoubtedly; but the work of reconstruction, in the present financial condition of Greece, is not likely to progress with equal rapidity, and meanwhile Trikkala will be but a miserable place.
No good Thessalian would think of being absent from the liturgy on New Year's morning, and no good peasant would think of leaving behind him the pomegranate which has been exposed to the stars all night, and which they take to the church
for the priest to bless. On his return home the master of each house dashes this pomegranate on the floor as he crosses his threshold, and says as he does so, May as many good-lucks come to my household as there are pips in this pome granate; "and apostrophizing, so to speak, the demons of the house, he adds, "Away with you, fleas, and bugs, and evil words; and within this house may health, happiness, and the good things of this world reign supreme!
In like manner, no good housewife would neglect to distribute sweets to her children on New Year's morning, considering that by eating them they will secure for themselves a sweet career for the rest of the year. And many other little superstitions of a kindred nature are gone through and considered essential to the well-being of the family. In one house we entered on New Year's day we were presented with pieces of a curious and exceedingly nasty leavened loaf, and were told that this was the New Year's cake, which every family makes; into it is de posited a coin, and he who gets the com in his slice will be the luckiest during the coming year. Every member of the fam ily has a slice given to him even the tiny baby, who has not the remotest chance of consuming all his; and then, besides the family slices, two large ones are al ways cut off the cake and set on one side; one of these is said to be "for the house,' which nobody eats, but when it is quite dry it is put on a shelf near the sacred pictures, which occupy a corner in every home, however humble, and is dedicated to the saints the household gods we may call them -and is not thrown away till after Easter; the other slice is for the poor, who go round with baskets on their arms on New Year's day, and collect from each household the portion which, they know, has been put aside for them.
Every Thessalian, however poor, gives a New Year's gift-"for good luck," they say; and these gifts, curiously enough, are called twoμides. -a word which we find Athenæus using as a translation of the Roman term strena for the same gift, which still exists in the French étrennes, and Italian strenne. Even as in ancient Rome gifts were given on this day boni ominis causâ, so did we find ourselves at Trikkala constantly presented with something on New Year's day-nuts, apples, dried figs, and things of a like nature, which caused our pockets to become inconveniently crowded. I fancy it was 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 viscorners 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 1st of March, and resulted in such piles of gold being other occasions on which this street singbrought 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 songs we heard at Skiathos, which began with a somewhat lengthy conversation between our Lord and St. John on the bank of the Jordan, and ended thus: And then St. John baptised our Lord, That from the evil hearts of men
The custom of giving New Year's gifts in Rome grew as great a nuisance as wedding presents bid fair to become with us, and sumptuary laws had to be passed to restrict the lavish expenditure in them, and the earlier Christian divines took ocsion to abuse them hotly, St. Augustine calling New Year's gifts "diabolical," and Chrysostom preaching that "the first of the year was a Jewish feast and a Satanic extravagance.' Wishing to Christianize a pagan custom, as they always tried to do, these earlier divines invented Christmas gifts as a substitute. Owing to this we unfortunate dwellers in the West have the survival of both Christmas and New Year's gifts; in Greece Christmas gifts are unknown; but there exists not in Greece a man, however poor, who does not make an effort to give his friends a gift on the day of the Calends.
It was by chance that we found ourselves in another remote corner of Greece for the closing festival of the season of the twelve days. We embarked at Volo on a tiny Greek steamer for Salonica on a lovely night, to wake next morning and find ourselves tossing about in a great storm, amongst a small group of islands known as the Northern Sporades. Our captain, much to our annoyance at the moment, told us that it was impossible to proceed on our voyage, for the sea at the mouth of the Thermaic Gulf ran so high that it would be dangerous to proceed. Consequently we put into the best harbor which these islands afford, the island of Skiathos, where we remained for two whole days, and were able to pass most of this time on shore amongst the inhabitants of a pretty and quaint village; and as it chanced to be the feast of Epiphany, or, as they call it, the Feast of Lights, we were not altogether discontented with our fate.
On the evening of the Feast of Lights bands of children again paraded the narrow streets and quay. It seems to me that this is the most favorite Greek method af celebrating a festive season. The peo
Might now be thoroughly cleansed and purged
The sin that Adam first had sinned; That to the lowest depths of Hades might be driven
The thrice-accursed foe, beguiler of mankind.
Despite the wind which howled and the rain which fell from time to time, we wandered about in Skiathos a good deal that evening. It was such a pretty, primitive little place, built in an amphitheatre round a tiny harbor, and with a quay divided into two parts by an island converted into a promontory by a narrow causeway. The harbor was full of caïques taking refuge from the storm; the cafés by the shore were full of sailors from all parts of this eastern sea, and thus the population of the town, which is under a thousand, was considerably augmented. Behind the town rose fir-clad hills, sending out into the sea innumerable promontories, reminding us much of Riviera scenery. Skiathos is one of those happy places without a history, and without a prospect of creating any. Now, as in ancient times, it is but a dark speck on the Egean Sea, a place of shade and mysterious repose, from which it has acquired and retained the name of "the shady."
I was anxious to be present at the early liturgy next morning to witness the cere mony of the "blessing of the waters." It was a great effort, for it was still cold and stormy; however, by some process which will never be quite clear to me, I managed to find myself at the door of the one church of Skiathos, with its many-storied bell-tower, soon after four o'clock. Very quaint indeed it looked as I went out of the cold darkness into the brilliantly lighted church, and saw the pious islanders kneeling all around on the cold floor as 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; around the font were stuck many candles, fastened by their own grease; whilst pots and jugs full of water, of every size and description, covered the floor in the immediate vicinity of the font.
humble Greek dwelling you may see a dried sprig of basil hanging in the household sanctuary. It is this sprig_which has been blessed at the Feast of Lights. It is most effectual, say they, in keeping off the influence of the evil eye - that dreaded influence which every Greek mother fears for her tiny offspring, and which every farmer imagines will wither up his crops and shrivel his olive-trees unless it be warded off by priestly blessing and religious intervention.
After the priest had chanted the somewhat tedious litany from the steps of the high altar in an antiphonal strain, he set off, dressed sumptuously in his gold brocaded vestments, round the church, with a large cross in one hand, and a sprig of 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 evenall 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 worship which had reigned amongst the congregation only a moment before.
From their homes by the shore the fishermen came, and all the inhabitants of Skiathos assembled on the quay to join the procession which descended from the church by a zigzag path, headed by two priests and two acolytes waving censers behind them, and men carrying banners and the large cross.
Very touching it was to watch the deep devotion of these hardy seafaring men as they knelt on the shore whilst the litany was being chanted, and whilst the chief priest blessed the waves with his cross and invoked the blessing of the Most High on the many and varied crafts which were riding at anchor in Skiathos harbor.
Very soon the font and the jugs were emptied of their contents, and each worshipper had secured his portion in the bottle or vessel that he had brought with him for the purpose, and an orange which had been floating in the font, for what purpose I could not ascertain, was presented by the priest to one of his acolytes. Before taking his departure for his home each person went up to kiss the cross which the priest held, and to be sprinkled with water from the sprig of basil. Each person had brought his own sprig of basil, 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 peoBasil is always held to be a sacred plant ple to turn from the solemn to the gay. in Greece. The legend says that it grew on Christ's tomb, and they imagine that this is the reason why its leaves grow in a cruciform shape. It is much thought of by every one. It is a favorite offering from one man to another, and is found in every cottage garden.
When the service was over the congregation dispersed, each individual carrying
Every one chatted with his neighbor, and pressed forward towards a little jetty to witness the prospective fun. Presently the chief priest advanced to the end of this jetty with the cross in his hand, and after tying a heavy stone to it he threw it into the sea. Thereupon there was a general rush into the water; men and boys 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 of the season of the twelve days. The mind of the housewife is now relieved from all anxiety respecting those horrible hobgoblins, which are now obliged to flee to their abode. The mind of the sailor is at ease, for amongst these islands the superstitious mariner avoids if possible entrusting himself to the sea during these days. In many places even you find the boats hauled up on to the beach on the day before Christmas, and nothing will induce the owners to launch them again until after the blessing of the sea. I am firmly convinced that the captain of our steamer shared the same superstitions, though he chose to laugh at the benighted islanders and their funny ways; for a few hours after the sea had been blessed we put out into it, and I should imagine that we could have started hours before if the captain had been so inclined.
J. THEODORE BENT.
From Chambers' Journal.
In a cold country like Russia, threequarters of which has a mean annual temperature of only forty degrees — that is, of only eight degrees above freezing-point, and nearly half of which has a mean January temperature of more than twenty-two degrees of frost-there are millions of people who must depend on the sea, the lakes, and the rivers for a very large proportion of their daily food, and who rarely if ever partake of animal food except in the form of fish. To them, the takes of salmon, pike, shad, herring, cod, haddock, and dorse are as much a harvest as the harvest of the fields is in more favored regions. St. Petersburg, indeed, is the metropolis of fish dinners; nowhere else can fish be placed on the table in so many different forms, and nowhere else can so many fish delicacies be procured; there, you may have endless varieties of fish soups; fish baked, boiled, steamed, 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 again with preparations of fish roes.
The Arctic Ocean and the White Sea are extremely rich fishing-grounds, and furnish most of the trade of Archangel. The fish of this region comprise the salmon, herring, cod, whiting, tusk, coalfish, ling, pollack, and dorse, many of which are sold as stockfish. The Baltic is not so rich, and supplies no stockfish except dorse.
IN the Arctic regions, so greatly does fish preponderate over all other kinds of food, that the people there have often been grouped together under the name of ichthyophagi, or fish-eaters; and there have been naturalists who have followed this idea so far that they have been able to discover a fishy type of physiognomy 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 farm. Tavish in peopling the waters. So numer-ers, some of whom are great capitalists; ous are the individual members of the finny tribes, that they may be said to exist in their myriads, thus forming a striking contrast to land animals, which are comparatively scarce. This abundance of fish arises from the evenness of temperature of water as compared with land. Seaweeds grow luxuriantly in latitudes where land plants of any importance would be an
while others are obliged to advocate the principles of co-operation, or to fish alone. Some rivers - the Volga, for instance are strictly considered as crown monopolies; others are reserved to the nobles and the townships; but fishing licenses form one of the most remunerative sources of Russian revenue.
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 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 are rare. 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 depth. Ladoga has a maximum depth of one thousand feet; while several of the others range down to eight hundred.
Astrakhan, the principal Caspian port, is one of the most important fishing-stations in the world. From this region 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 water censes; 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, lake trout, shad, thicksnouts, red bream, perch, and carp; while the larger rivers also yield sturgeon.
capitalists, come in to compete with the regular inhabitants for the profits from the fish industries.
The fishery trades are systematically pursued in Russia, since so much of the national life depends on these industries. As a general rule, a company of capitalists begins by forming a fishing-station (utsching); and here they make a dam; they catch the fish; they manufacture nets, harpoons, traps, and lures; they convert fish refuse-heads, bones, scales,
The Russian is to some extent prevented from settling down as an agriculturist by the amenities of his climate, but more by his old nomadic blood, so that, in spite of the immense strides which civilization has made in Europe, he alone is still a semi-savage. He still prefers a semi-nomadic employment to farming, and the fresh-water fisheries meet his require-entrails, and sounds—into glue, gelatine,
In the south-east of Russia is the greatest salt lake in the world, the Caspian Sea, which has an area of 130,000 square miles that is, an area greater than all the British Islands put together, with an additional island larger than England thrown in extra-and is intimately connected with the fresh-water fisheries of the Volga and the Ural; for the fish migrate from fresh water to salt, and from salt to fresh, there as elsewhere. The great fishery of this region is that for the sturgeon (Accipenser sturio), and its kindred the great sturgeon or beluga (A. huso), the sewruga
and isinglass, or even into manure; they split, clean, salt, smoke, or freeze the fish; and they distribute them through the country to their agents for sale, much of this latter work being done by sledges in winter, to save freight. They also pursue the more lucrative fish industries, such as manufacturing the finest kinds of isinglass and gelatine, as well as that curious fish product known as caviare. “'Twas caviare to the general," wrote Shakespeare, when the Russian Company of London introduced it to this country; and unless men train themselves to like it, just as they train themselves to eat olives, they are