The Symbolism of the Exotiká
The Devil actively opposes “the good” in Christian cosmology, by tempting people to swerve from the path of virtue. Formally, Satan and his fellow fallen angels, the demons, controvert the aesthetic and moral values of society: they are dark, smelly, malign and monstrous. The exotiká in Greece, a broad category of at least thirty morally ambiguous creatures, are local extensions and variations of the Orthodox Christian idea of demons and the Devil. Local communities have developed detailed narratives of these demonic figures, which far exceed the information found in scripture. Based on field research in the mountain village of Apeíranthos on the Cycladic island of Naxos, and supplemented by comparative accounts from throughout the Greek-speaking world, I study the symbolism of the exotiká in order to produce a grammar and lexicon of moral opposition. This analysis allows a new perspective on Greek values, and the struggle to realize them in practice, by following a via negativa and considering in detail the semiotics of ambiguity and evil.
Keywords: Greece, exotiká, Naxos, via negativa, semiotics, ambiguity, evil