A Balkan Custom Half As Old As Time
by Nigel Allenby Jaffe
Trafford Publishing

"It has survived cataclysmic events that have seen civilizations come and go, yet still, in the southeastern corner of Europe, this ritual continues to be observed, one of such antiquity that it takes your breath away."

No matter where one travels in the world it is possible to observe seasonal activities that incorporate ritualistic behavior rooted in myths or legends. For example, in Japan the use of decorations incorporating pine, bamboo, and oranges for New Year's reflects Shinto beliefs from over a thousand years ago. In the States the Easter bunny owes its presence in the spring to its original use as a symbol for an ancient Teutonic goddess of fertility. However, as the author of the book argues, the customs practiced on Cheese Monday in the Balkans may stem from a mythology that is much older than even these.

Inspired by the work of R. M. Dawkins which linked the contemporary celebrations in the region with the Cult of Dionysus, the author has expanded on the ideas that Dawkins set forth and offers readers some of his own conclusions based for the most part on thirteen years of research into the subject and his extensive observations of Cheese Monday festivals in Greece and Bulgaria. To build his case, he examines practically every element associated with the events such as the various characters portrayed, the costumes used, and the ritual actions that each actor employs in his role. He reinforces his argument by drawing parallels to related myths and by including supportive writings and research of other scholars in the appendices.

Despite the plethora of information the author presents, he manages to keep his readers engaged through his frequent bits of humor and quirky observations. Ironically, these additions more than anything else bring home the true, fun-loving nature of the festivals he examines.

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