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Sunday, 4 June 2017

Honour, Family and Patronage - The Sarakatsani, J. K. Campbell; Vitsa, Zagori, Panigyria; Οι Σαρακατσάνοι - ΜΑΥΡΟΙ ΦΥΓΑΔΕΣ;

From The Anglo-Hellenic Review, No. 6, Autumn 1992.

Oxford University Press, 1964

Photo by Mark Allen, 3 June, 2017

Kiria Eleni Karagianni was around 21 or 22 when John Campbell was conducting his field research amongst the Sarakatsani in Vitsa and the Zagori. 
She recalls all the old days, their busy lives and the varied activity (she demonstrated her impressive scything technique), the many inhabitants in the well-populated villages, the rows of mules in a caravan and the thousands of sheep, and her goats. Her family knew John and Sheila Campbell at the time of their fieldwork and research in 1954-1955.

Map of Sarakatsani Grazing Areas (Summer and Winter) by Roger Vaternelle

The Black Departers, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Atlantic Monthly, June 1962 - unavailable

"All their eyes lit up like those of the children of Israel at the thought of Canaan...You didn't need wine there- the air made you drunk; and as for the shade, the grass, the trees and the water- why the water came gushing out of the living rock as cold as ice, you couldn't drink it, it was so cold, and you could drink it by the oka, and feel like a giant. Words failed them".

Patrick Leigh Fermor, Roumeli (on the Sarakatsani shepherds; beyond Vitsa and Monodendri, where they graze their flocks in summer).

"Mr. Campbell does not discuss the question of the origins and ethnology of the Sarakatsani in his book. He assumes that they are Greeks. In describing their way of life I would like to stress at this point of how much the folklore material (so much of which was gathered by Mrs. Chatzimichali, and an equally large amount used by Mr. Campbell in his study) indicates that the Sarakatsani are Greeks. One asks oneself if perhaps their practices are not the most genuine and most unspoiled ones of Greek life, representative of its first agricultural and shepherding form, since honour, family and patronage continue to regulate life in Greek communities". Dem. Loukatos, book review

"The author’s first mention of women in shepherding life is with humor (“Women and goats are conceptually opposed to men and sheep”) and then he proceeds to describe their important duties: “The assistance women give in the care of the animals is their direct contribution to the stani. Their work within the hut concerns only their own family. They care for the children, cook, bake bread on the open hearth, cut wood or bushes for the fire, carry water in barrels from the spring, Reviews of books 367 sometimes from a very considerable distance” (p. 32). And : “The building of the hut is entirely the work of the women... Five or six women working continuously are able to erect a hut of conventional size in two or three days”4 (p. 33)."

From Dem. Loukatos' book review

(Above) - from the studies of Kostas Krystallis


A quick look inside this fascinating book:

The word Sarakatsani, etymology (extracts), Evripides Makris (Zoi kai Paradosi ton Sarakatsanaion, Ioannina, 1997)

'Black Departers' or 'Flokati (White Sheepskin-Cape) Wearers'?

Evripides Makris writes that the mountains in the Zagori region (from Mitsikeli to Tymphi) provided the best summer pastures for the sheep (page 97). He goes on to say that, in Koukouli, Andreas Tsoumanis built a house in 1902. One after another, the Sarakatsani families slowly left their konakia and moved into the villages. After the promulgation of the law of 1938. most of the Sarakatsani were obliged to become registered residents of various Zagori villages; this also helped to secure their summer pasturing areas (see Greek extract below).

Arthur Foss, in his chapter "The End of the Nomadic Life" (Epirus, 1978, p. 94-95), writes about his enquiries concerning nomadic life and changing economic conditions in 1973: "We were often told about the sudden collapse of the traditional Sarakatsani life and how glad they were to be done with it. In the bad old days, everybody by middle-age had either rheumatism or arthritis from exposure in all weathers, Just imagine, they said, being out all day with the sheep in the winter rain or spending the night on the sodden hillside. How could they ignore the better life which work in the towns and in Germany offered them, especially where the future of their children was concerned? An improved breed of sheep had been developed by the Ministry of Agriculture which gave far more meat and milk than their former sheep so fewer were needed to make a living. Instead of being taken down to the coast in winter, they were now kept under cover in what had merely been the summer village but was now their home all the year round. Sheep, when moved today, are taken by truck. With the great increase of motor traffic on the roads, it is now virtually impossible to shepherd two or three thousand sheep, goats and mules on foot round a large town like Ioannina".

Tim Salmon writes of the Sarakatsani in "The Unwritten Places", Lycabettus Press, Athens, 1995 (page 95):

"On the evidence of their dialect, customs and art - in particular, the characteristic geometric design on their dress - scholars believe that they are among the most ancient and perhaps "purest" Greeks, maybe even directly descended from the Dorian invaders. For by their practice of endogamous marriage -oute dhiname, oute pername, they say, like the Vlachs: "We neither gave brides nor took them" - and their nomadic way of life, they escaped outside influence right up until the Second World War...Most, even among those still engaged in the pastoral life, have acquired houses".

Brian de Jongh ("The Companion Guide to Mainland Greece", London, 1979) writes of Vitsa and Monodendri (page 397):

"Above the village are the pasture-grounds of the Sarakatsans, a migrant people, believed (but not proved) to be descendants of the original pastoral communities of Homeric Greece...Between them and the villagers there is often undeclared war: not only the friction provoked by disputes over grazing rights but hostility arising from the existence of a completely different set of moral values - rigid and intolerant in the case of the Sarakatsans..."

How times have changed!


"Το όνομα Σαρακατσάνος (τουρκικής προέλευσης) είναι σύνθετη λέξη αποτελούμενη από το kara (καρά) που σημαίνει «μαύρος, μαυροντυμένος» και το kacan (κατσάν) που σημαίνει «φυγάς, ανυπότακτος». "

From a speech by Demitrios Stergios-Kapsalis

Andamma at Giftocampo Stani, 31.7.2004

The Sarakatsani

Are gathering at the sheep-fold:

Great glendi!

Zagori Nomad

I’m a new kind of nomad

Without any sheep: I’m changing

The manner of migration.

Four months in the mountains,

Five months by the sea,

The rest of the time in some city.

For half the year

Nomads lived and died round here;

They bred their livestock

And wove their wool

For almost thirty centuries.

Three thousand years, so little changed.

Half my life I’ve lived

Like some kind of wanderer,

Like a Sarakatsan

Or Zagorian man,

A man on the move,

Self-exiled, xenitemenos.

On African Nomads (West and East African) :

Fulani Flautist 

(Nomad versus World Bank Agricultural Development Project, 

Gombe, Nigeria, September 1978) 

At the edge of the forest reserve 

We stopped to stretch our legs. 

The road gangs had not reached this far. 

The jungle cats had yet to come 

To claw up trees and undergrowth. 

No bulldozers, graders or scrapers, 

No pipeline crews; only our Landrover 

Had so far disturbed the peace. 

Out of the forest the faint sound of a flute; 

A mirage of silver-white cows. 

I watched the herd materialise; 

The sound of the flute grew louder. 

Long-horned cattle, groomed like stallions, 

Sleek-skinned, clean and cared-for. 

The Fulani flautist emerged from the trees: 

Standing before us with a welcoming smile. 

He stopped to play, acknowledged our interest, 

And them ambled away with his herd. 

I would have followed the Fulani herdsman, 

But I could hear less soothing sounds. 

The big yellow cats were coming, 

Rumbling through the forest reserve. 

The ground was beginning to tremble. 

And the fragile flute of the nomad 

Would soon be crushed beneath caterpillar tracks; 

And the cattle would soon have to graze 

On whatever might be left 

Between the asphalt and acres of maize.

A Song (Ethiopia-Kenya)

The Nomad

Fetch me my old wooden pillow,

That’s the way I sleep the best.

My son return to your city,

Out here you never will rest.

CHORUS (after each verse):

The world is changing so fast,1

New ways have banished the old,

The things that I love cannot last,

The old tales have vanished untold.

Fetch me a gourd with sour milk,

That’s the way it surely tastes best,

My son return to your city,

Out here you never will rest.

Fetch me my old thumb piano,

That’s the music I like to hear best,

My son return to your city,

Out here you never will rest.

Fetch me my old spear to lean on,

Without it a man can’t pass the test.

My son return to your city,

My son I’m not speaking in jest.

Recorded version (Stefanie Kaloudis vocal, YouTube)

My demo version of Raul Scacchi's setting

Poems and song-lyric by Jim Potts

Even though I'm not a transhumant pastoralist, I'm tempted to build my own wood-and-straw kalivi (konaki)!

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