07 October St.John the Hermit
This particular John, according to tradition, arrived in Crete from Cyprus, with another 98 monks. Many churches in Western Crete are dedicated to him, as well as caves.
On the same day, Sergios and Vakhos are also celebrated: these two military saints are from the second Byzantine period, when Crete was liberated from the Saracen pirates by Nikephoros Phocas and Crete was reunited with the Greek Byzantine Empire.
26 October St. Dimitrios
The saint that rides the red horse – another military saint. The 26 of October announces the beginning of winter; St. George in spring, with his white mount, brings in the spring in a similar manner. Saints on mounts (in other words, warriors) are seen as extending a form of hope, since Crete has been so many times conquered and pillaged.
St. Dimitrios is the patron saint of Thessaloniki in Northern Greece. In the province of Rethymno, the village of St. Dimitrios has in the church wall paintings of the 14 century.
The name Dimitrios might remind you of the ancient Greek Goddess Dimitra (from Gi Mitera or Mother Earth): she was responsible for the well being of the crops. As October comes to an end the preparations begin for the olive harvest and we need all the Gods and saints we can have on our side! Crete is not famous for its soft pastures, rich soil and rain … the end of October is when the people of the island should also have finished ploughing the fields…but what if, following the summer’s heats, it had not rained all through autumn until October? Some rain is essential for both tilling the soil, and plumping up the olives so they are easy to pick.
St. Dimitrios was their last hope! So cakes and bread are brought to any church dedicated to this saint: very much like what was done in Ancient Greece – to please the Goddess Dimitra.
Thus you can easily see that in Crete (like in Greece generally) there exists a continuation of tradition centuries-long, with overlapping beliefs. In Heraklion on this day and in the wine country of the Pediadha just inland, the barrels are repaired or built. Naturally, some wine is offered to the saint: since St. Dimitrios just happens to be the patron saint of the guild of the coopers (barrel makers) and carpenters.
In Chania St. Dimitrios, in the areas of Apokoronas and Kydonia, protects and brings peace to all those that are in conflict. People will reach common ground and resolve their differences over an icon of St. Dimitrios. He is very busy!