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by Archaeology Newsroom

Religious representations on Modern Greek jewels from Thrace

To this day a wide variety of folk traditions live on in Thrace. Particularly persistent are original forms of cult, in which pagan and Christian elements often coexist harmoniously. It is well-known that many gods of the Greek pantheon originate from Thrace and it is highly probable that a large part from the Dionysian orgies and mysteries came from the deeper strata of Thracian culture. Quite many modern Greek mimic representations, having a strong physiolatric character and aiming at the fertility of the land, are based on Christian religion, but also retain indispensable elements from the ancient Greek tradition as well as from the instinctive primitive religions. It is characteristic that the Church, during its early years, tried all but possible means to uproot myths and pagan practices but it was finally obliged to give up its efforts. In Thrace, that northeastern part of Greece, the cult of the Thracian Hero-Rider is deeply rooted and manifests itself in various forms and media, on stelae in reliefs and on rock carvings. The old tradition of the Thracian Rider is continued by the modern Greek inhabitants of the area in the cult of St. George, the hero of the new faith. The deep religious feeling of the Greek population of Thrace seals, in a distinct way, their traditional art. Various data concerning the traditional folk attire lead to the indisputable presence of deep religious feeling. In Mikro and Megalo Zaloufi, villages in eastern Thrace, as well as in the neighbouring settlements, the peasants used to wear over the typical headdress, a significant and peculiar form of jewel, called “pliatsika”. It covered the entire space between the top of the hood and the eyebrows.The jewel consisted of five rows of big golden coins, sewed vertically on leather. The five rows symbolized the five nails of the Crucifixion. A golden cross, showing the crucified Christ,hung over each row. The “pliatsika”, a gift to the fiancée from her beloved, was worn for the first time on the day of betrothal. A woolen or silk material covered the headdress and was attached to the top of the head by a golden buckle showing the Virgin or Christ on the Cross. This buckle was considered to be an amulet and was worn by women throughout their life. The religious-Christian element plays an important part in secular, silver jewelry, in which religious representations and symbols deriving from Church iconography are employed for the decoration of head or body.