A GHOSTLY APPARITION IN MYSTICAL CRETE
Articles on Greece by AURELIA
Most visitors to Crete come to see the splendid Palace of Knossos and the golden artifacts of the Minoan age; others make pilgrimages to the gravesite of Nikos Kazantzakis in Iraklion, or to his the birthplace in Varvari; and still others come to go trekking in the awesome Samaria Gorge in Chania. And then there are those who come to see the famous ghosts.
The phenomenon of the ghosts is said to occur at the Venetian Castle of Frangokastello, slouched on the wine-black Libyan Sea in Southwestern Crete. The ghosts are the unredeemed souls of dead Cretan soldiers who died on May 18, 1828, during an attack by the Turks led by the infamous Mustafa Bey. It was one of several hundred uprisings the free-spirited, freedom-loving Cretans staged against the four-century Turkish rule.
Six hundred brave Cretan men were slaughtered, along with their leader, Hadjimichalis Dalianis, whose life came to a grisly end. Against the opinion of his troops, he elected to remain inside the castle wall when the Turks stormed it and, during a battle that lasted seven days, all the Cretans were killed. Dalianis was beheaded and his head sent to the Turkish Pasha. The bones of the soldiers are said to be below the sand that comprises the floor of the castle as it stands now.
If you visit the castle today, you will see a once imposing structure that now slouches like a defeated beast, valiantly defying the ancient sea and its seductive attempts to draw its war-scarred walls in its watery bosom. The castle blends with Crete's famed cloud-crowned, White Mountains, and appears to pay homage as it rests at the mountain's ancient feet.
The locals will tell you that if you are patient and have a sharp eye, for a period of about ten minutes sometime between May 17 and May 30 you will see a shadowy procession leave the ruins of the Church of Agios Haralambos and march along the castle walls. Fully armed, black-robed and helmeted men march in single file along a misty coast.
But people say you will see this only if the atmospheric conditions are exactly right, meaning that the sea must be calm and the humidity just right. And, furthermore, you have to be in the right place at the right time, because the phenomenon lasts only ten minutes and no one knows exactly when it will occur.
Some people will give you a hint. One man says it usually happens just before sunrise, which may explain why so many people sleep near the castle between May 17 and May 30 in hope of witnessing the miracle for themselves.
It is said to happen annually, however, ever since the brave Cretans were slaughtered during the 1828 battle, the people say. Every year that battle, the valiant souls have marched in a shadowy procession, a black-ribboned parade of death, reminding the world of their unjust fate.
The ghosts are known as Drossoulites or 'dew men' or 'the dew shades' because they appear in the damp in the early morning air. Their legend has captured the imagination of locals and foreigner alike.
Filitsa Markoyiannaki, a villager from nearby Hora Sfakion swears on her icon of the Panagia that she has seen the Drossoulites in their funeral march across the field. She believes the souls of the dead are waiting for a proper funeral and will not rest. Scientists who have traveled from near and far to study the phenomenon generally believe it is caused by the reflection of rays from soldiers in Libya engaged in military exercises.
British Cretophile Michael McKeown, in his article 'Ghosts of the Morning Dew, debunks this explanation saying 'This theory ignores the fact that the apparition occurs every year, under fixed atmospheric conditions and always in May, which excludes any possibility of coinciding with military maneuvers in Libya. Besides this, extensive studies have been carried out on what causes mirages and have shown that they occur over large, flat, barren territories where it is hot.'
He goes on to explain that many people have attempted to explain this apparition, including leading psychic researchers from Europe, but no one has succeeded. He said the Drossoulites are a mystery and adds that the mystery is 'pleasing.'
There may be more magic on Crete than on any place on earth. If you are in the right place at the right time and if the morning air is kissed by the dew, you may be the one to see the ghostly apparition visible only to those who believe in the magic of Crete.
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