A toast to amulets and witches

Abracadabra: Why not leave politics, political leaders and television debates behind, and indulge in a little bit of magic? Since prehistoric times, magic is known as the effort made by man to surpass his weaknesses and develop metaphysical skills, in some cases, even identifying with godly powers. Magic is the subject of this year’s celebration of European Heritage Days, an initiative supported by the Council of Europe and the European Commission which aims to lure audiences to museums, monuments and archaeological sites. Greece is participating in the three-day festival, to run from September 25 to 27, with free-of-charge museum visits. Kathimerini has selected a number of museums below, while an online visit to will provide further information on what is going on all around the country. At the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, the «offerings» are on display throughout October. Though a small-scale installation – two display windows in total – the exhibition is cute, stirring the imagination. The display’s lead role is taken by a Roman sculpture with extended arms and open palms – in modern times this signifies the «mountza,» a very insulting gesture. Being a tombstone sculpture, however, the piece is in fact keeping evil away. Also on display are vases featuring mythological motifs, including Medea as well as the well-known enchantress Circe, about to give Odysseus her magic potion. Furthermore, the display holds the gold signet ring from the Mycenaean Treasure of Tiryns, featuring four lion-headed demons walking in procession. At the Numismatic Museum, visitors will discover mythical creatures on coins and the painted motifs of the Ilion Melathron, former home of Troy discoverer Heinrich Schliemann and one of old Athens’s most luxurious mansions; at the National Historical Museum, visitors will look at amulets and incantations; at the Museum of Greek Folk Art on Kydathinaion Street, expect some snakes, fairies, mermaids and dragons, while the Attalos Arcade will host a small, temporary exhibition focusing on magic from the Ancient Agora. Meanwhile, the Benaki Museum will embark on a journey throwing light on fears and amulets throughout Greek history. Gods, demons and witches of the sea will be the subject at the Hellenic Maritime Museum in Piraeus, while the Culture Ministry’s Modern and Contemporary Monuments Resto-ration Directorate has already inaugurated «Deus Ex Machina: The Magic of the Stage of the Municipal Theater of Piraeus» – «a technological achievement of 19th-century theater stage mechanisms,» currently on display at the Piraeus Municipal Gallery (29 Filonos). The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki presents magic in ancient and Christian times, while at the Byzantine Museum of Veria, ethnologist Miranda Terzopoulou will go in search of interpretations of magic. Clever ideas also beckon from the Archaeological Museum of Aiane (a journey from Circe to Harry Potter) in Macedonia, the Silk Museum of Soufli (witch’s brews) in Thrace, and the Archaeological Museum of Corfu (Medusa’s gaze).