Παρασκευή, 25 Φεβρουαρίου 2011

Traditional ‘Tatto’ of Vlachs-Aromanians

http://www.vlahoi.net/v4/media/gallery.html
The ‘cross-type’ (exact translation of the Greek word -σταυρωτύπωμα) namely the tattoo is a habit, which is not widely known that it existed in the society of Vlach-Aromanians. Yet, long ago, the Vlachs used to cross-type (tattoo) traditionally, wishing thus to express their social order, hierarchy and religious feeling, or because they believed that the tattoo attached more beauty and luck in young girls or even because of prejudices. Most women had ‘embroidered’ their bodies to be beautiful because, when they were young, all girls used to do it. Today's grandmothers who are over 80 years are the last generation that preserves this ancient custom. Some researchers (Panagiotis Argyropoulos) argue that the tattoo was applied in ancient times (slaves, prisoners), and it is very likely the tattoo (to Vlachs) has been the continuation of this ancient custom. During Turkish Empire, people said that the shape of a cross that young girls had, aimed at preventing the abduction and restriction them to a harem, since as a symbol was particularly hateful to Turks.
It also was the prime symbol of preventing evil. According to researches, tattoos were used mainly to Vlachs of Macedonia and Epirus. Coal, tile and various other coloring matters were used for the final result, usually mixed with an alcoholic liquid (‘ouzo’, ‘raki’, etc.). They often took coal, broke it with stones and made it dust, like flour. Then they mixed this flour with the alcohol liquid (raki) to make mud. When they made the mixture, with a small stick they designed in the hand or the forehead of the woman (girl) the symbol they wanted. Later, with two needles they punctured the symbol which was worked out. Normally, a lot blood ran out and the pain was great. Then they wrapped the hand or the forehead with a cloth and of course there was swelling in the punctured area. They unfolded it ten days later, when the coal was already inside the punctured area. So the ‘tattoo’ was ready! The girls usually made it to each other. Nowadays, many Vlach old women have the symbol of cross between their eyebrows or their hands as a sign of their religious feeling (the expression: ‘he hit him on the cross’ probably comes from here). Vlach women used also other symbols (they called them ‘embroideries’) like trees, dates and some that did not mean anything specific. Professor Vasilis Nitsiakos (folklorist) states on the subject: «The primary function of the tattoo is differentiating. Aesthetics follow, although it has only remained in the memory of people now. The Vlachs apparently used it as a symbol of racial separation. Now if you ask a Vlach woman about the purpose of its use, she will answer that they did it to seem beautiful. Beauty always functioned as a claim of social status. The most proud, who had better social position, used the finest and most impressive symbols. . The fact that the custom is preserved in our country only by Vlachs proves that such primitive habits survive only in closed societies. Men (Vlachs) do not use tattoos. Women use it as a means of attracting the opposite sex. This course was underground (secret) because in these societies the codes were too strict. It was something which was not confessed but had its own secret function ….» (Source: Websitε «Vlach Association, Almiros, Volos, Thessaly, responsible: Dimitrios G. Tsoutsas)


(By John Tsiamitros, teacher of traditional dances)
(Translated from Greek by John Tsiamitros, too) 

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