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Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Holy Mastiha

Folkloric references: 
  • Saint Isidore
    Isidore was a rich Alexandrian who made the “mistake” to be a christian during the reign of emperor Decius, the most notorious persecutor of Christianity. He arrived in Chios in 250 CE as a military officer. With his house adjacent to the brothels, he made the acquaintance of working girls, at least two of whom he converted to Christianity, Aphra and her mother Ilaria. When his officer General Numerianus was informed of his activities, he ordered Isidore arrested and brought before him. Numerianus demanded that he repent. Isidore refused and was condemned to death by fire. He was put into a furnace, but when he did not burn, he was tied to a horse and dragged through the countryside of southern Chios until he died. Then, as was the usual practice with Christian martyrs, his corpse was beheaded to thwart the possibility of resurrection.Years later, when Christianity finally prevailed, the Chians linked their mastiha to the new religion by way of their very own saint, Isidore. They proclaimed that the lentisc trees before which Isidore was martyred miraculously wept and that the mastiha was their tears.
  • Holy OilMastiha is one of the ingredients in holy oil. Holy oil is prepared by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and distributed to Orthodox churches. Its formula has varied over the years, but has always included mastiha.
  • Pope Alexander VIThe extent of demand for Chian goods at this time is evident in the following incident. In 1512, Pope Alexander VI, wishing to flatter the English King Henry VIII, sent a galleon to London loaded with Chian products: wine, black and red marble, almonds, honey, oil, rosewater, flower extracts, mastiha liquor and mastiha.
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