Legend has it that, during the Ottoman rule, no tax collector dared approach the village of Kali Vrisi was one of the few within the Greek mainland where people did not pay for the Haraç , the harsh tax imposed to non-Muslims. The reason? No tax collector dared approach the village, for fear of meeting the Babougera, the mythical beasts that lived in the area – or rather, the groups of men, dressed in animal skins, sporting goathead-like masks, who roamed the streets making noise, banging drums and cowbells. This was not the only time in history when Babougera were called to save the day.
According to another legend, Alexander the Great had also employed the services of the cowbell-equipped animal-skin-clad men in order to scare the hordes of elephants Persian kings used in their army. Because the custom of men dressing up like goats is as old as time in the area. Believed to have started as a way to celebrate Dionysus, the god of wine, Babougera were the mainstay of fertility festivals, making noise in order to wake up the Earth, during winter.
It was one of the many pagan traditions that passed on from the ancient religion to Christianity, and an annual revival is a staple in the calendar of the region, taking place after the blessing of the waters ceremony, during the Holy Epiphany. This year was no exception and last weekend, the Babougera parade brought mirth to the residents and visitors of Kali Vrisi, in a three-day celebration of wine, food, fertility and music which culminated, as always, with the ‘Dionysian Wedding’.
Watch the video from Monday’s celebrations, courtesy of RuptlyTV.