The Kleidona tradition

The Kleidona tradition

“Kleidona” in Homer meant something unknowable, but later on came to mean a form of divination. As a custom, it derives from ancient Greece and the wild Dionysiac festivals and it is mentioned in Byzantine chronicles. Recently in Aegina the custom was revived after many years: “For the older ones to remember, and the younger ones to learn”.

The day before St John’s feast day all the adults met in the square. One or two girls took a jug, filled it with water from the well, and went round gathering jewels and other valuables from unmarried girls which they put in the jug hoping to divine in this way their future husbands. Throughout, they never speak a word as they are carrying the “silent water”. Later they leave the jug on a window-ledge covered with a red cloth.

The following evening all the neighbours meet up and for each object they took out of the jug they made up a verse. The grandmothers – knowing a lot about the girls’ personal lives knew how to make each verse be particularly appropriate! The young men teased the girls, then lit fires, jumped over them in order to free themselves of the bad spirits and started the dance.

On Aegina the “Kleidona” is yearly celebrated at the light house in Aegina town and sometimes on several other places like for example in the village of Vathi at the old school. These events are organised by the women organisations on the island.