BELL ROADS

Until the 9th millennium BC the human traces were those of a hunter-gatherer who wandered the earth to find food; since then the farmer’s traces appeared, who makes the earth go round for him in an unprecedented and productive cycles. With the discovery of agriculture, the immeasurable area, the chaos becomes a field, a measured space, while the indifferent alternation of warm and cold periods becomes the passing from one production run to another, a countable time.

 

The agro-pastoral communities experienced passages from one production run to another with great intensity which fed the dipole of fear and hope. Fear of the unpredictability and volatility of the climate treaty that could threaten the crops, thus the survival of the community. Hope for good harvest and healthy procreation of humans and animals. These common and pervasive in their communities strong feelings prompted agrarians and stock breeders to devise rites of passage, rituals of eugenic and salutary –for a prosper year- meaning, mostly mimetic representations of agricultural labour, and to multiply them during the critical transition from winter (season of apparent necrosis of nature), to spring (season of incipient revegetation). With the rituals, the “dromena” (performances, acts) as they are called, they invoked mystical forces, superior to the natural forces, to appease them in order to benefit the community: beneficence means renewal of trust in the power of the community, in its collective self and in the solidarity among its members.

 

Our area, here in Thessaloniki, on the passage of Thermaikos –Axios- Morava- valley in Hungary where the culture of growers run through spreading, approximately during the 7th millennium BC, the agriculture from the Aegean Sea to the few members of hunting societies of Central Europe, was fundamental to the development of the new agro-pastoral culture and its rituals. Three other passages, west of the Greek peninsula, crossed over the mountain barrier of the Alps allowing the diffusion of agriculture until the 5th millennium BC, from the north coast of the Mediterranean to Central and Western Europe: the Brenner pass in Northern Italy, the Rhone river next to Marseille, the region of Carcassonne near the Pyrenees. Locations also fundamental in homothetic rituals, customs linked to fertility, deafening bell bearings and preventative to the crash of the demons who are against the survival of communities and the propitiation of friendly forces. Customs and performances (“dromena”) that we will welcome in our city, “out of place and out of time”, in terms of geography and the conventional timing, but within the epopee of our common agro-pastoral heritage, the wider and more generous reference of our current culture: The agriculture was the “edification of virtue and courage” and we, the current people, are the children of the epopee that was mapped on earth by the agro-pastoral society, making the land, that before was “anonymous, non-existent, desolate”, a universe.
If the pre-modern man invented the deafening, for its community scale, bells to exorcise evil, and it seems that he did it well, what size of bells should we expect from the modern man who in just two and a half centuries managed to threaten the planet?
Perhaps a bell bearing of a cosmic scale!

 

Zisis Skambalis 
Director of Folklife and Ethnological Museum Of Macedonia-Thrace (FEMM-Th)