Every year, from the 6th of August until the 15th, a mystical phenomenon takes place in the island of Kefalonia. Dozens of harmless small snakes appear at the village of Markopoulo and fill the Temple of the Virgin Mary. What do they mean?
The village of Markopoulo is situated on a hill side at the south side of the island, around 30 kilometers outside of Argostoli. It is a beautiful and historically significant village for Kefalonia, but it is not its beauty that makes thousands of people visit it every year. The reason is the temple of Panagia Lagouvarda or Virgin Mary of the snakes, that is located in the village. There, every year from the 6th of August until the celebration of the Virgin Mary on the 15th of August, dozens of harmless small snakes appear out of nowhere and fill the temple and the surrounding area.
The snakes are small and look a lot like the common viper that is found in Greece, but they are not poisonous. On their head and their tongue they bear a small cross (!) and they do not seem to be intimidated by people. No one knows where they come from or where they disappear to after the 15th of August!! Every year, on the 6th of August, young children roam the area after sundown looking for them and once the first one is spotted, the church bells sound since they are considered to be a very good omen. If the snakes do not appear it is considered bad omen and the only two times they failed to appear were the year of the Second World War and the year of the great earthquake that took place in Kefalonia.
Legend has it that, the snakes appeared for the first time hundreds of years ago when a female monastery stood where the temple of the Virgin Mary stands today. During an attack by pirates, the nuns asked for the protection of the Virgin Mary and she responded by sending thousands of dangerous snakes upon the intruders that left the monastery and the nuns unharmed. Since then and every year, the snakes appear out of nowhere on those particular dates and their appearance is considered a blessing. They are friendly creatures that let people touch and hold them, while many go as far as to take them home for good luck only to have them disappear on the 15th of August, no matter where they put them.
The appearance of the snakes is a miraculous and unexplained phenomenon, but for the Greek Orthodox faith, the submission of the snake, of that enemy to humans, to the grace of the Virgin Mary is the biggest miracle of all. That miraculous grace is evident all over the temple and the energy of the location is something that needs to be experienced in order to be fully understood. So, a visit the dates between the 6th and the 15th of August is not recommended, it is mandatory!
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