Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Phanourios Cake

The other day, while sorting bones at the museum, I was served this small piece of what looked like coffee cake. Antonios (the museum director and one of the most interesting people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting) brought it out to me saying his wife had baked it, they have it often. Here is the story he then told of the Phanourios cake (in his words):

My wife bakes it often. You lose something, bake this pie and it will return to you.
Usually some gold thing or something (gesturing to neck/necklace).
We have it at least three times a month!

You feed it to seven women, married women, not single, for Phanourios' mother. 

Not sure how to explain it in English... (long pause).
There is no happiness after death, but this, this makes her happy. Brings joy to (gestures to the sky). 

I quite like this story. The cake was delicious too. I was even more curious about it because it was to honor the martyr Phanourios. My hippo species is Phanourios minutus, and the connection struck a cord. So, here is what else I found regarding the tradition, the martyr and the cake:

About the martyr-- not much is known. Ok, thats not all too helpful. His holy icon (classifying him as a martyr) was discovered in 1500 among the ruins of an ancient church in Rhodes. His name, Phanourios, translates to "the Newly Revealed".  People pray to him to help them recover things that have been lost, and because he answers prayers so frequently, the custom of baking a cake (a Phanouropita or "Phanourios Cake") rose as a thanks-offering. Apparently the "thanks" is preemptive :)

The tradition began in Rhodes, where the icon was discovered, and spread throughout Greece. In Crete there are three monasteries and dozens of churches named after him. In places like Crete and Cyprus, young women bake Phanouropita to ask Phanourios' help in finding a husband. In Skiathos, it is baked by a woman who wants a husband for her daughter and in Florina unmarried women place a piece under their pillow hoping to dream of their future husband. 


I couldn't find much about offering it to married women for Phanourios' mother, but I quite like that part. It's nice to have been a part of such a local custom and to know that I had part in bringing happiness where there is none. 

1 comment:

  1. I hope that when we come we can eat cake and meet the man in the museum.