Culture and Healing in Greece


Kiriaki Papakonstantinou

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Kalomira Sakellaraki

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Georgia Livieri

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Culture and Healing in Greece were inseparable from ancient times till present and this is sealed by Apollo, the God of Light, Music, Love, and Healing. Early Greeks focus on mind, body, and spirit.

Light, Music, and Love had healing qualities and the sun is a life-giving force. Since ancient times, great importance has been attached to the qualities that the theatre brought into the psychological state of the person. Τheater was a catalyst for maintaining unity and social peace. Even today continues to play an important role in the psychological treatment of the individual, whether it is a spectator or is on a stage and interprets a role. Greek tragedy was a popular and influential form of drama performed in theatres across ancient Greece from the late 6th century BCE. The most popular theatre in Ancient Greece was the one of Epidaurus, which had educational character. Up to now, the annual Athens and Epidaurus Festival is one of the major cultural events in Greece.

Aristotle defines tragedy as follow:

"στν ον τραγωδία μίμησις πράξεως σπουδαίας κα τελείας, μέγεθος χούσης, δυσμέν λόγ, χωρς κάστ τν εδν ν τος μορίοις, δρώντων κα ο δι' παγγελίας, δι' λέου κα φόβου περαίνουσα τν τν τοιούτων παθημάτων κάθαρσιν".

Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action of high importance, complete and of some amplitude; in language enhanced by distinct and varying beauties; acted not narrated; by means of pity and fear effectuating its purgation of these emotions. (L. J. Potts:24)

A Greek chorus, or simply chorus (Greek: χορός, khoros) in the context of Ancient Greek tragedy, comedy, satyr plays, and modern works inspired by them, is a homogeneous, non-individualised group of performers, who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action.

Aristotle said that the main function of the tragedy was to cause emotional clearance to viewers. He believed that by empathizing and matching the spectators with the characters of the theatrical work embodied by the actors, the opportunity was given to the first was to come into contact with the negative oppressed feelings of fear, anger, self-love, and anguish and release them.

The term "purification" sometimes translated purgation (catharsis) means that tragedy first raises (it does not create) the emotions of pity and fear, then purifies or purges them. Whether Aristotle means to say that this purification takes place only within the action of the play, or whether he thinks that the audience also undergoes a cathartic experience, is still hotly debated. Tragedy purifies "whatever is 'filthy' or 'polluted' in the pathos, the tragic act". The play arouses emotions of pity and fear in the spectator and then purifies them (reduces them to beneficent order and proportion) or purges them (expels them from his/her emotional system)1.

In the ancient Greek world, religion was personal, direct, and present in all areas of life.

Ancient Greek believed that gods caused and cured diseases. One of the most emblematic examples of the role of Greek religion in medicine is the opening of Homer's Iliad. The temple (naos) was the place where, on special occasions, religion took on a more formal tone. Τemples were often visited in order to seek healing, especially at those sites associated with Asclepius the god of medicine, notably at Epidaurus.

Situated on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis, Delphi was associated with the Greek god Apollo. By the 8th century B.C., Delphi was already renowned internationally for the prophetic powers of the Pythia. Pythia first enters the inner chamber of the temple (Adyton). Then, she sits on a tripod and inhales the light hydrocarbon gasses that escape from a chasm on the porous earth. Even today the religious element is intense with the important example of Virgin Mary and the vows, which are devoted to her.

For the ancient Greeks, philosophy was a practical tool that could be used to guide one's course through life. By discerning truth from error and illusion, philosophy helped them make wiser, sounder decisions. Plato saw in philosophy a healing balm for the soul.

"The human race is sick and needs philosophy as medicine"

Philosophical counseling is based on a sincere, open communication, or dialogue, between counselor and client. It uses the Socratic Method, in which the counselor asks questions designed to uncover discrepancies and errors in the client's thinking and to bring out the core philosophical issues behind the problems the client is facing.

In Greek Medicine, there evolved a healing tradition called the "Water Cure". It is the common term for a collection of therapies which make skillful and ingenious use of the healing virtues of water. It includes:

Hydrotherapy: techniques of therapeutic bathing and use of water

Balneotherapy: therapeutic bathing in medicinal and thermal springs

Thalassotherapy: the therapeutic use of ocean bathing and marine products

It has an expulsive virtue that washes wastes and impurities from the body. Being the most receptive element and the greatest receiver of energy also has a number of distinctive thermodynamic properties.

Herbal medicine is the use of plants and other natural substances in healing. Greek Medicine is a constitutionally based healing system that treats the person, not the disease. The origins of herbal medicine lie in the common empirical experience of the human race, in observing which plants the animals ate when they were feeling sick, and following their example.

Aromatic Herbs have been used since ancient times as a seductive ritual, one washing away sorrow, ailments, death. Today, pharmaceutical companies show a marked preference for Greek herbs in order to exploit the hemostatic properties of the plant that healed the wounds of Achilles and seek for all aromatic herbs described by Hippocrates, Theophrastus, Dioskorides, and Galen. The concept of a synthesis of overall harmony with nature-mind-body-spirit.

Teas have miraculous effects on health including anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial action...Mountain tea, Fascomilo, Chamomile, Oregano, Basil, Dill, Mint, Fennel, Parsley, Daphne.Due to the varied environment, the development of amazing varieties of teas with countless of beneficial effects on human body. Thousands of cosmetics and recipes worldwide are based on Greek ingredients.

Laughter is a part of human behavior regulated by the brain, helping humans clarify their intentions in social interaction and providing an emotional context to conversations. Baubo, the Greek Goddess of mirth, is a fun-loved and sexually liberated goddess, who plays a crucial role in the Eleusian mysteries in ancient Greece. She reminds us that laughter is one of her greatest gifts.Humor and laughter can make you feel good and take the edge off of seemingly difficult situations. Humor is a great communication tool to relieve tension between people and facilitate relationship-building. As a coping mechanism, humor helps people diffuse difficult emotions such as anger, fear, grief, and sadness.

Hugs may help protect against infection. The hunger for touch is a real human need. Babies have a deep need for touch and if not forthcoming healthy development is interfered with. As adults we have a strong need to hold hands, be held in someone's arms, to hug, receive a non-sexual massage, have our face or arms stroked, be cuddled. All of these things have actual physiological effects on our biochemical and bio-energetic systems. Brain wave activity is increased resulting in increased alertness for instance.

Touch is physically necessary and beneficial to our entire sense of well-being. Through touch, multiple neuronal messages are transmitted to our brains stimulating the production of hormones that provide physical and emotional good feelings. Clinically, cutaneous deprivation, (the lack of touch) leads to a host of emotional, physical and developmental problems in young and old alike.

The notion of love has its dual ability to cure and destroy underscored the practices of medicine and the understandings of human anatomy. Greeks saw Love as the substance of all matter, and therefore, at the center of their own living bodies. According to scientists, love and kindness strengthen the immunize system and lead to a long-term life. Mother's love equips us for the journey of life, as it builds high levels of self-confidence. The hormone of love...hocytokini!

Friendships great and small have the potential to leave long-lasting impressions on our lives—imprints of the experiences and emotions that shape who we are and how we relate to the world around us. You can learn how to find, choose, and establish friends of your own who will provide you with the support and encouragement you need to grow and change. The sensory experiences of being surrounded by healthy, loving, supportive friends will also support your childlike mind in maintaining healthy, new ways of thinking.

The Mediterranean diet has strong evidence showing that it can reduce your risk of:

  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Premature death

It is a way of eating: a series of nutritional choices and a philosophy for eating. It is based on real foods with the following characteristics:

  • Eat lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, olive oil, fish, avocados, and whole grains
  • Avoid sweets, baked goods, processed meats, and processed foods
  • Focus on higher quality ingredients and emphasize high-quality fat
  • Eat appropriate portion sizes
  • Be vigilant to avoid added sugars

Women have always been healers. They were the unlicensed doctors and anatomists of western history. They were abortionists, nurses, and counselors. They were pharmacists, cultivating healing herbs and exchanging the secrets of their uses. They were midwives, traveling from home to home and village to village. For centuries women were doctors without degrees, barred from books and lectures, learning from each other, and passing on experience from neighbor to neighbor and mother to daughter. They were called "wise women" by the people, witches or charlatans by the authorities. Artemis was the patroness of midwives.

However, healing takes the form of a journey whether it is real or not. In Greece, since ancient times, traveling had an influence in our soul as it was a common way to accomplish the curiosity and broaden the horizons. Because through it, we have the opportunity to strengthen our sense of self. In addition to this, we can distance ourselves from our everyday life and to be born again. The distance helps us to see more clearly how the situation we are concerned with, what we need to be better and how we can do that, to claim it. Travelling beyond its recreational and cultural character, have a direct impact on our psychological state and personality. But sometimes the journey happens not to be real but imaginary, through the Arts and in particular music and poetry.Art has a psychotherapeutic power for both artist and viewer who comes in contact with his vivid senses. It can lead to self-improvement and to be a way of redefining, reflecting, and even training for an evolutionary path. It breaks stereotypes and brings out social groups that belong to the margins, it changes consciousness and socializes.

According to the above, music is powerful because it imitates the movements of the soul. Music, in the ancient Greek understanding, has two faces. On the one hand, it can suppress human passions and desires, making it a powerful moral and educational tool. On the other hand, it can influence the "animal" part of the soul when that is disturbed, and act as a calming, therapeutic influence. Accordingly, the Greeks of the Classical period attributed the gift of music both to Apollo, for its educational value, and to Dionysus, for its cathartic and therapeutic power. Till today, the right selection of music can lift our spirits and provide hope. It does not have a language barrier and used in almost all cultures, from building emotion in celebrations, to calming and relaxing them.

Ancient Greek society placed considerable emphasis on literature and, according to many, the whole Western literary (λιτεραρι) tradition began there, with the epic poems of Homer. In addition to the invention of the epic and lyric forms of poetry, the Greeks were also essentially responsible for the invention of drama, and they produced masterpieces of both tragedy and comedy that are still reckoned among the crowning achievements of drama to this day.

Indeed, there is not an idea discussed today that has not already been debated by the writers of ancient Greece. Poetry is one of the most important therapies for those who suffer from psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. It releases our senses ... in the journey of dreams, beyond the possible, beyond the acquaintance in the untried and the from else brought.Poetry is a wandering ...

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