Παρασκευή, 7 Νοεμβρίου 2008


Written from Christos Zalios

(Teacher of Physical Education)

Boules are a very old carnival custom of the town of Naoussa. It is very difficult for us today to discover its origin, as it usually happens with most of our customs. Nevertheless, all of its elements lead us to older times when this custom first originated.
In this carnival custom of our town a very successful definition is given, that of ‘dance act’, because the action of the people who take part in its enactment is a dance act and without that dance act the enactment of the custom is impossible to take place.
The most important elements of the custom of Boules that come from a very strict oral tradition are:
· The forming of the group (boulouki), which presupposes the strict acceptance and keeping of certain rules pervading the enactment of the custom of Boules, so that certain people could join in and participate in the enactment.
· The gender of the people taking part in the custom should be young males.
· The woman’s part (that of bride-Boula) is always enacted by a man.
· The outfit, the disguise and the attitude of those who take part in the custom of Boules are all determined by old traditional rules.
· The musical instruments, the dances, the itinerary are all pre-determined by the ritual which is followed without any changes through the passage of time.
The custom of Boules has its origins in ancient times and it is probably related to rituals of tribal initiation ceremonies, such as the ritual of becoming an adult, during which the young man dressed in woman’s clothes and led by unmarried men of the tribe will be initiated into its secrets following his turn. Then he will take off the woman’s clothing and he will be turned into a man.
Today we can observe that in its long-lasting history the custom of Boules reshapes and also incorporates the local tradition, the myths, the legends, the songs and the heroic fights of the town of Naoussa in its elements.
The people who take part in the custom of Boules were and are always young men. In older times their number seems to be from six to twelve men, whereas, today more men can take part in the enactment of the custom of Boules. In the group (boulouki), small children could take part even from long ago.

The enactment of the custom: The forming of the group, which is going to enact the custom of Boules, starts way before Carnival days. The people who are going to form the group, define their leader, find and secure the musical instruments needed for the enactment, look for their outfits and the silver coins and necklaces they are going to wear. The old Boules always lend their outfits to the younger Boules and they help them dress up. On Saturday evening, a day before Carnival day, the dressing up of the people who take part in the custom of Boules, starts and it continues all through the night and it is very tiring. The silver coins and necklaces are sewn on the outfits one by one by seamstresses or by the women of each house and when the dressing up finishes, a specialised craftsman comes, who ties on the head of each young man the scarf (taraboulo) and the mask. Now the young man is ready and he waits for the musical instruments to be heard and invite him to the group.

Sunday of the Carnival. The gathering of the group: The young man dressed up from the previous evening in later years, and from early morning nowadays, is ready. The drum and the clarinet (zournas) are heard from far away calling for the group to gather. The musical instruments, playing a melody of the free rhythmic type, called Zalistos, will pass by all the houses of the young men who participate in the group and they will gather them one by one.
The musical instruments will not gather the small boys. Those boys go with their fathers to the houses of the older men.
When Zalistos is heard, the Boula will come to the window or the balcony of the house to hail the group, which is coming to gather him. He stretches his hands up and hails by moving his chest to the right and left, so that the coins that hung from his chest are heard. Then the young man greets all the people of the house and everybody who helped him dress up by a handshake and by hopping on his two feet.
When the young man comes to the front door of the house, he makes three times the sign of the cross and then he greets all the people who came to gather him. Afterwards, the group start their way in pairs to gather the next Boula while the musical instruments play Zalistos.
The bride-Boula is also ceremonially prepared from the family of the man who is going to impersonate her. It is a role that must be acted in a serious and proud manner. The bride-Boula kisses the hands of all the people of her house and then she kisses the hands of the whole group, of the musicians and of all the people who are there at the time that she is going to be gathered.
After the group places two Boules and the bride-Boula in the middle, they continue gathering the other members of the group from their houses. First they gather the young ones, then the older ones and last of all they gather the leader of the group.
Little by little a procession is formed, which had the following structure. The smaller boys, who do not wear a mask, lead the way and then the older ones follow. Then the younger Boules are placed and in the middle come those who hold the bride-Boula and last come the oldest Boules and the leader of the group. Right behind the leader are the musicians, so that they can take orders for the songs and the melodies they would play.
After the gathering of the group finishes, they all head to the Town Hall, called the House of Mountiris in the years of the Turkish occupation and they figure they would arrive there at around noon. They gather at the Town Hall at almost twelve o’clock. All the citizens of Naoussa are gathered there, too. Everybody waits to see Boules.
The itinerary: Right after finishing dancing in front of the Town Hall, Boules start moving in a slow dance called Patinada accompanied with the song ‘Os Pote Palikaria’ towards the first neighbourhood, where they will stop to dance for the crossroad of Lamnias (triodi of Lamnias).
Boules hail all the people they know by shaking his/her hand and by hopping three times on their feet. When they reach the place where three streets meet, the clarinet players play the Patinada of Sanidas. After that they pass through the narrow lane of Christides, the present market place, and they come out at the Burnt Houses (Kammena) dancing the Patinada of Chontrosougla’s. They also stop to dance at the Burnt Houses.
Afterwards, the group proceeds to the quarter of Pouliana. After they dance there, the next stop is the quarter of Batania, whey they go by dancing the Patinada of Ypsilantis.
Coming out again from the Burnt Houses and following Vassileos Konstantinou Street dancing the Patinada ‘Milis o Periphanos’, they go to the park of Naoussa. There a lot of citizens of Naoussa wait to admire and judge the best dancers.
Leaving the park with the Patinada ‘Kambana’ they head towards St George’s church, where the members of the group who live in that quarter dance.
Then they head for St Mina’s church and from there they go to the crossroads of Maggavelas next to St Mary’s church. From Maggavelas onwards the musicians play the Patinada called ‘Kateva katou Lenko’ and they go to the quarter of Alonia, where a great feast is going to be held. In this neighbourhood all the members of the group whose houses or their relatives’ houses are close by take off their masks.
After the great feast at Alonia and following the street to Galakia, the clarinet players play the Patinada ‘Den s’arizan t’alonia Marijia’.
Boules, dancing to the rhythm of the Patinada of Chontrosougla, pass by the Bended Plane-tree the crossroads or Latsis and Lamnias and then they come out to the Burnt Houses, where they dance their last dance. Now all the men who live on this side of the town take off their masks, too.
There old Boules dance as well as many of the people who are gathered there and who want to dance. At the Burnt Houses the group starts dispersing, those of the Boules who are really tired go home, whereas the rest of them continue the feast at the houses of the citizens of Naoussa who like to celebrate and who call them to dance and drink. The dance seizes to follow the custom ritual and it turns into a popular feast.
In the morning all the members of the group and the rest of the people tired from dancing so many hours, they separate and they go home, too. In older times, when they returned late at home, Boules slept with their outfits in a chair or on the mattress, wrapped in a clean sheet, so that the next day they would be ready and they wouldn’t have to get dressed again.
Monday of the Carnival: On Monday morning all the members of the group gathered at the leader’s house without wearing their masks. The musicians join them along with the small children of the group. This day the programme is not ritual. Here a small family feast takes place with the relatives and the friends of the leader of the group taking part in it. After that they dance Patinada to the Konaki (Town Hall), they dance there for a while and then they visit the houses of the members of the group, where they are invited to dance, eat and drink.
Today the itinerary is not scheduled and it is a day of feast. In every house a table waits for them laid with rich food and wine. The musical and dance repertoire of this day is not as strict as that of the previous day and besides the dances danced at the enactment of the custom of Boules, the clarinet plays modern melodies, too or even melodies from the villages around Naoussa, if the family of the house where they play comes from a certain village of Naoussa.
In the evening all the members of the group, really tired from the exhausting dances, which last for two days, after they shake hands with one another, they go home.
Second Sunday, ‘Tis Tirinis’: The next Sunday, ‘Tis Tirinis’, the custom is repeated exactly as it was enacted on the Sunday of the Carnival.
Clean Monday: On Clean Monday the members of the group gather once more at the leader’s house in the morning. But the itinerary is standard this time. In the evening the last feast also takes place at the Burnt Houses and some time they have to be separated and return home. In the end, Boules form a circle, they put the musician in the middle of it and they strike him symbolically with the flat side of their swords on the head and after they lift him up in their hands, they shout, ‘Always capable, may we repeat this next year.’
The dancing repertoire: For the protagonists of the custom the dancing repertoire consists of the following dances: Zalistos, Sygathistos, Papadia, Old Papadia, Davelis, Sotiris, Nizamikos, Melikes, Moustabeikos, Sarantapente, Souda, Makrynitsa and of course Patinada.
In all of those exclusively male dances, the bride-Boula dances very little. She moves symbolically with the other Boules, but her dance repertoire consists of dances like Makrynitsa and Souda.
If anyone of the small boys who accompany the group can dance very well, after the request of his parents (who follow the group), the leader of the group defines when and where that small boy will be placed first in the circle of dancers and he will dance as first dancer, and at the same time the rest of the group will regard him as a grown up.
In older years, the dancing action of the group started after the visit to the house of the lord of the town, who was supposed to give permission to the leader of the group for the enactment of the custom. Today, all the groups visit the Town Hall and then they start their dancing route through the streets of Naoussa.
Right after the group reaches the Town Hall and the leader of the group meets with the mayor in order to offer him the ‘credentials’ of his group, the dancing action of the group begins. The clarinets plays Zalistos and Boules who are in pairs, lean their bodies backwards and they proudly move their chests. One man from each pair helped by his companion who holds him at the back, stretches backwards clanking proudly the coins on his chest in opposition to the bride-Boula, who curtsies to the ground.
The mayor, the first lord of the place, gives permission and then the clarinet plays ‘Kato sti Roido’, a dance which is danced by Boules as Sygathistos using the handkerchief they have sewn on their sleeves (the same melody was danced at weddings in Naoussa as ‘Sygathistos’ and it was the first dance of the wedding reception).
After the song of Rigas ‘Os Pote Palikaria’ the dance Papadia follows, usually danced by the leader of the group. Then Makrynitsa follows, the dance of the Bride, who is the second protagonist of the ritual and who is going to dance with dignity and magnificence as this dance should be danced since it is a dance which is a lamentation and a tribute to one of the most glorious pages of Greek History, the holocaust and the total destruction of Naoussa by the Turks in 1822. Then the dances Nizamikos, Sarantapente, Melikes and maybe Souda or Moustabeikos follow, dances which can be danced by small children, too.