The Virgin Mary (Panagia/Theotokos) in Modern Greek Incantations: The Sacred Afflicted

  • Haralampos Passalis A guest lecturer at the University of Amsterdam and at the Greek School “Athena”, Amsterdam, Netherland
Keywords: Virgin Mary, Greek narrative charms, evil eye, afflicted sacred figures, Greek folk religion, Apostles, Angels, liminality, ambiguity


Sacred personae of the officially recognized religious systems often appear in charms in order to enhance the therapeutic efficacy of the ritual. Their appearance is particularly common in Greek narrative charms where they often assume the role of the auxiliary agent who expels the malevolent factor and provides a cure to the afflicted person. In this context, the appearance of Christ, the Virgin Mary, Angels, Archangels, the Apostles, as well as various saints, is also quite frequent. There is, however, a peculiarity in terms of the role that the figure of the Virgin Mary (Panagia, Theotokos) assumes. This holy figure can not only assume the role of an auxiliary sacred agent who provides a cure to the afflicted person, but also the role of the afflicted, seeking healing treatment by another holy figure. Worth mentioning in the last case is that this affliction could have as its source another sacred figure such as the Apostles or even the Angels. In which particular charm-types does the Virgin Mary appear as the afflicted person? Which are the factors leading to the onset of this affliction and which are the symptoms experienced by the holy figure? How is this affliction cured and by whom? How could we, finally, explain this ambiguity of the Virgin Mary (Panagia) who appears to be standing in a liminal and transitional space between the sacred and the secular, divine and human, healer and afflicted? These are some of the questions that this article seeks to examine and answer.