Those raised in our cultural tradition know that the Vlachs have plenty of myths. Some of the most popular are about the origin of various tribes, villages, mountains, and monuments. Because our culture is primarily oral and not literary, and the vast majority of our people have traditionally been shy about identifying themselves as Vlachs, most of these myths have never been recorded. And yet, for the careful researcher, they are there to be found.
Peter Asteriou, long the “poet laureate” of the Greek daily newspaper Ethnikos Kerix (National Herald), wrote a poem about the Vlach villages of his youth — Târnava and Magarova, in Slavic Macedonia — just before he passed away in March, 1967. These two “towns” face each other at the foot of Mt. Peristeri and were almost destroyed during World War I. The poem reflects the deep conviction of Vlachs that their own village of origin is the best of all places, and it also integrates Christianity into what is essentially a pagan origin myth (the references to the Virgin Mary may mean that she was the patron saint of these villages; readers with information about this are encouraged to write us).
Though the poem was composed with at least as much patriotism as art, and though Asteriou’s English was far from perfect, this poem certainly qualifies as an origin myth. We reprint excerpts from it here, and we offer our thanks to Peter Asteriou’s nephew, Dr. Socrates Asteriou of Washington, D.C.
The Founding of Tyrnovon and Megarovon
Glory and honor, superior and kind,
To those of lofty imagination and mind;
Who saw creation sacred and supreme,
Come from the Highest as a beautiful dream,
To bring anew, built cities, towns again,
Worthy of great and famous nations and men.
From highest mountains, higher than on earth,
Predestined to be built, of pristine worth,
In a select and consecrated spot,
Not large, but great in Infinity’s lot,
Our towns to be, The Lord to give them fame:
Tyrnovon and Megarovon their name…
With roaring, clanging, came stones immense, huge,
From high and far, seeking peace and refuge…
Led by two sacred bulls of an older time,
Praised in processions with lyrics and rhyme…
Sacred the scene, procession blessed from God,
Bringing new land where faithful feet will trod,
Spiritual, inspiring, earth, and above,
Our towns: new creation of divine love…
The long procession, long in pace and time
Forever come, beloved as in its prime,
Settled between our precious, golden towns,
Heaping blessings of heaven and of earth,
Ever renewed in each breath and each birth.
The stones of Peristeri, grand and old,
Ever the mark of that bright light they hold.
The candles, sacrifice to Her who owns
The adoration of our beloved towns,
The Mother of God, who Him to all gave,
Supreme favor to us granted to have,
Her presence from perils our town did save!
Toledo, Ohio — January 17, 1967 — Peter P. Asteriou