Vol.9, No.2 | [Article] The Festival Dedicated to Agios Gerasimos, a Healing Saint Fighting Demons



The festival dedicated to the healing saint Agios (Saint, m.) Gerasimos is celebrated on the Greek island of Kephallonia, of which he is the patron saint, on 16 August, the day after his death. Two years after his death in 1579, his body was found to have undergone no decomposition, and it exuded a pleasant odour. He became the patron saint of the island in 1622. His relics are housed in his monastery and during the festival his sarcophagus is carried in procession to the plane tree by the well that the saint is said to have dug with his own hands. As the sarcophagus is carried in procession, the pilgrims lie down in its path so that the saint’s body may pass over them, thereby healing them. Gerasimos is articularly famous for combating demons, and the pilgrims collect some dust from his tomb or fetch several leaves from his plane tree to keep as amulets.The article will present the festival as I experienced it during my fieldwork in 1992, and make some comparisons with similar cults in the Mediterranean world.