Page:Notes and Queries - Series 11 - Volume 11.djvu/497

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11 S XL JUNE 26, 1915.] NOTES AND QUERIES.


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Cypriote from, personal observation at the present day exhibit survivals which the folk- lore students of ' N. & Q.' will possibly find of interest.

According to the ' Cyprus Handbook,' 1913, the population of the island at the 1911 census amounted to 273,964, of whom 214,480 were Orthodox Christians. These people are, of course, predominant in all matters of folk-lore interest. The other inhabitants of the island Moslems, Maronites, &c. merely represent the cha- racteristics of their respective races or reli- gions as they are well enough known else- where.

Mr. Hogarth (' Wandering Scholar,' 1896) well describes the Levantine native :

" The richest man of a village commonly lives in a similar house, on like food and drink, and the same life of manual labour as the poorest : a roof, four walls, bread, water, and sensual joys are all that either craves. The luxuries of Anatolian life are its necessities, slightly more abundant."

Such relics of the past as local superstitions and customs, or methods of handicraft and industry, and even the mere outward fashions of costume, are perhaps the surest indica- tions of social affinities and character.

The people are bi-lingual, speaking Turkish and a bastard form of the Neo -Greek, both languages being much corrupted by the introduction of mysterious local words and Arabic. The Greek (not as spoken in Athens) predominates, and, of course, all educated people speak more or less English.

In country districts one still sees the old native costume of the men, consisting chiefly of black trousers of a most voluminous cha- racter caught up at the knee and fastened round the waist with a gay coloured sash, over which is worn a curious sleeved waist- coat, richly decorated with silk embroidery and tapes. But within the last few years the women have almost entirely abandoned their picturesque and mediaeval -looking dress. How much longer the masculine part of the population will resist the influences of modernity under feminine pressure is not difficult to foresee ; already the Turkish fez is becoming rare, and, indeed, is only worn by professed Moslems, whereas five years ago it was universal with, Moslem and Christian. Apropos of this it is curious to find that 200 years ago the Cypriots wore hats. The Dutch, traveller Van Bruyn states in 1683 that

" the peasants have generally very short hair and very long beards, a fashion which I thought


remarkable, but not without its beauty. In the^ country they wear high hats with a broad brim r such as were worn in Holland forty years ago. They are not made in Cyprus, arid it would be difficult to say whether they come from Holland or elsewhere."

Dressed in his baggy trousers, high jack- boots, and with a soft felt hat on his head,, the modern Cypriot looks, even at the present day, curiously like a Dutchman in the pictures of the seventeenth century.

Formerly the native fashions in dress- differed slightly in the various districts and villages, and marked a certain spirit of dis- tinction and rivalry, always noticeable in sections of a primitive community. In spite of the improvement in agriculture during the past thirty years, the fields still abound with nettles and thorns of a most intractable character, and the peasants must continue to wear jack-boots or leggings for obvious reasons. An old traveller gives- another reason for th,is very necessary part of their costume :

" It abounds, too, in serpents, particularly asps,, whose bite is incurable ; they are like snakes of three palms length, and move very little. On this account the natives always wear very stout boots throughout the year, and at reaping time they put bells on their sickle, for the sound scares away every venomous beast." P. J. Lopez, ' Peregrinacio,' 1750.

Snakes figure largely in the village life of Cyprus, and are frequently represented in wood carvings, and sometimes on the door- locks as emblems of good fortune. The large harmless black snake of the country is encouraged in the neighbourhood of houses* under the impression that it destroys the " kufi "or poisonous variety, and it is con- sidered unlucky to kill one.

The manners and customs of the Cypriot are essentially stamped with his religious; ideas. The innumerable saints' days, fasts,, and festivals mark the passing of his life ; and his amusements or moments, of relaxa- tion or jollification are sanctified, as some Would perhaps say, with a religious desig- nation.

Easter is the most important festival of the Levant. Beginning with the noisy " Burning of Judas," a sort of Guy Fawkes celebration on Good Friday, the whole week following is disturbed by the village boys 7 crackers and pistols in or near the churches. Accidents are not uncommon, due to t he- discharge of firearms with loaded cartridges, a natural result of the well-known Eastern carelessness. At this season it is usual to make cakes of bread and sesame seed, moulded into fantastic animal and human forms, and to place small gardens of wheat,.