Researching about the village of Voroklini and going back many years, we discover –in depth –the roots of our ancient folkloric and traditional art. Further below we will take a look at and analyze this valuable treasure, which is called “traditional folkloric art”, in a number of vocations as well as through their wonderful traditional products.
The “Voufa” in Voroklini during the old times
The “voufa” (loom, weaving machine) is the ancient, folk, wooden, locally made machine that they used for weaving their textiles. It was used in almost all of Cyprus’s regions to a great extend in various eras. Today it is still used in some villages but only to a very limited degree. This weaving machine is also called “arkastirin” (workshop) –out of the verb “ergazomai” (to labor, to work) –since weaving was one of the most basic, domestic tasks performed by the women.
Below, let us take a look at the way of weaving, which is similar in the traditional looms in many regions:
Four, vertical, wooden poles are fastened to the ground in the shape of a parallelogram. Another two cylindrical pieces of wood are fastened to the front part (“antin”, the breast-beam) and the back part (“pisantin”, the rear breast-beam). The two cylindrical pieces of wood revolve, the long threads of the prospective textile (the so-called “stimoni”, the warp) wrapping around the one while the finished textile wraps around the other. One by one the threads of the warp pass through the “mitarka” (threads vertically placed) and through the “teeth” of a wooden card, starting from the rear breast-beam and ending in the front breast-beam. The “mitarka” move up and down with the aid of a simple mechanism that is set in motion through treadles, the operation of which is achieved by using one’s feet. The threads move up and down accordingly along with the “mitarka”. By pressing one treadle, half of the threads move downward so that they create a void in the midst of the threads’ ensemble. The weaver passes the “yfadi” (a thread wrapped on a shuttle that is called “makoutzin”) breadth-wise through this void. By pressing the second treadle, the other half of the threads move downward whiles the first half move up. In that way the threads cross each other and the thread of the shuttle. In order to better fasten each “yfadi”, the weaver strikes it with the card that moves back and forth.
The weaving continues in that manner and the threads continuously unwind from the rear breast-beam in order to be weaved and be wrapped –now as a textile –around the front breast-beam. The variety and alternation of colors in the textiles is achieved through using threads of different colors in the “yfadi”. For that purpose, the weaver keeps close to her many “makoutzia” (shuttles), each bearing a thread of a different color. In accordance with the weaving design that she follows and her own perception of aesthetics, she alternatively uses various shuttles with various colors so as to achieve the coloration of her liking.
The “zempilia” and the “syrizes”
The soft wicker baskets of the “zempilia” (plural, a kind of long wicker basket) and “syrizes” (plural, a double hamper / pannier) types were made in regions where there were plenty of perishables, since the transfer of the perishables to the cities’ markets was done using them. It consisted of two large openings -one on each side -so that the panniers would fit in it. It was made with interwoven “sklinitzia” (a kind of rush) or some other similar material. Just like the pack-saddle, the “syriza” was also placed over the “stratouri” (a thick fabric placed under the pack-saddle)
The raw materials
The “floudin” (Typha) was primarily used as the raw material. There are however cases where the “sklinitzia”, also known as “vroulloi”, (plural, Juncus maritimus, which were used for the making of straw mats), the “samatzin” (Erianthus Ravennae), the “velonies” (needle-like leaves), and the leaves of palm trees were also used with equally good results.
Th. Ch. Kanthos reports that during older times the “syrizades” (basket-makers) would spend a month in the swamplands of Larnaca and the “Alyki” (Salt Lake) as well as in Kalo Chorio, Livadia, and Voroklini so as to gather the quantities of “floudi” needed for the weaving of “syrizes” throughout the year. They would then carry the “floudin” in their villages using camels or wagons drawn by oxen.
The work started with the softening of the typha’s fibers and this was done by rubbing a bone over its narrow and long leafs. The weaving began with the making of long, double “vroullia” (plural, braids / plaits), which were called “koufades” (snakes). These were bands that were twirled and -after being placed on the ground -were sewed with a thick, wooden needle or a “sakorafi” (large, metallic needle with a slightly bent tip with which sacks were also stitched, a pack-needle). The craftsman joined the first coils of braids using some “rafidi” (pack-thread, waxed string) so as to form the bottom and then added some more until he reached the brim of the “zempili” or the “syriza”.
The pack-thread was also made of twirled typha. The stitches were done in such a way so that the wickerwork’s “snakes” would incline towards the inner side of the circle, thus forming a basket.
The “syrizes” were two baskets joined together so that each of them would fall on each side of the donkey’s pack-saddle. After a certain height, the sewing of the “snake” stops so that it will be joined with and completed by a second basket. The upper part of both baskets was made with the same “snake” so that there would be no chance of the two baskets separating due to excessive weight when placed on the back of the donkey. Usually, the “syrizes” were used for carrying all sorts of garden produce to the market. Special “syrizes” of smaller size were made for the gathering and transportation of salt coming from Larnaca’s Salt Lake. Because of its practical usefulness, some Cypriots continued using the “syriza” on motorbikes when donkeys started being replaced by such mechanical means.
The “zempilia” were made in the same manner, using “snakes” and “rafidia” (typha pack-threads) –though not as thick since they were panniers of a smaller size. Two handles are knitted and fastened to the perimeter of the brim, forcing the brim’s circle to fold in the middle and close as the “zempili” hangs from one’s arm. The “zempili” was used as a sowing pannier or –a bit more spruced up –as a shopping basket in the market. Usually, one or two belts made of palm leafs were additionally knitted onto the “zempilia” used in sowing. The practical value of the “zempili” in the way it was carried, as one passed his / her arm or the handlebars of a bicycle or a motorbike through the handles, made it very popular during the old days.
Also called “zempilia” were the latticed sacks in which they placed ground olives in the olive-mill, as they passed through the oil-press in order to extract the oil. They were thinly woven, latticed sacks, being narrower at places so that they would fold like an accordion when they were squeezed by the press.
The “psatharkes” (wickerwork mats)
The “psatharkes” that were made with straws (cane) were different from the ones made with ”floudin” (“tonon”, which is berry fiber / bark and “samatzin”).
For the “psatharkes, which were hard, the canes were cleaned and cut lengthwise with a short knife or a pocket-knife so as to produce ”ftelles” (bands / strips), just like in the case of making baskets. The wickerwork started by spreading a number of “ftelles” on the ground in parallel lines, constituting the base. Strips would then be manually passed through in alternating fashion (over and under the base “ftelles”) until the “psatharka” is complete.
The way of weaving the soft wickerwork mats was different than that of the “psatharka”. It was done on a loom of a somewhat basic nature that was a simple, horizontal wooden frame directly placed on the ground and a large board with holes, which played the role of the card.
The woven “vroulia” (the plaits) made of “tonos”, which played the role of the base in weaving, were stretched by being pulled at the one narrow end of the frame after first being run through the holes of the card. During weaving, the thin “ftelles” of the canes were used instead of threads, one being pressed against the other through strokes of the card. The woman that was weaving the straw-mat was working while stooping or sitting by the one side with the already woven mat.
The straw-mats were used in the coating of the houses’ roof over the beams. They were also used as containers for the keeping of wheat. Using one piece of straw-mat they formed a large cylinder -with a diameter of about one and a half meters –that they sealed with stitches on one side and at the bottom, for which they used another small piece of straw-mat. This wicker structure was placed in some corner of the house and after stepping inside of it they covered its entire interior with plaster, applying two or three coatings of plaster or mud made with white soil so that the wheat would not drop through the cracks between the canes. In the same way this prevented ants from stealing the wheat,
Other wickerwork items
The making of “talarka” (plural, a tubular filters for the draining of cheese) using “sklinitzia” (plural, a kind of rush), the manufacture of “tsestoi” (shallow panniers or trays) with the use of stems from cereals, and the making of “skarkes” (kipes, fish-traps) with rods from “mersinies” (myrtle-trees) are also included in the craft of wickerwork. With regard to the latter, the craftsmen started the weaving with a small hoop upon which “mastoroi” (items used as guides) were woven. By turning the whole set inside out the fish-trap took a spherical shape. Afterwards the weaving continued all around until the fish-trap was complete. Then three stones were placed over it so as that it would be compressed and its spherical shape got inflated at the circumference’s mid section.
In their effort to increase their income or at least decrease their expenses for the purchase of silk fabrics, most rural and other poor families took to the raising of silkworms.
The whole project started with the purchase of one or two boxes with silkworm seeds. These small boxes had many holes –probably made with pins –for ventilation purposes. At the right season the women kept the small boxes in their bosoms day and night so that they would be preserved in body temperature for a day or two and thus achieve hatching. Immediately afterwards they placed the little silkworms in a small area and fed them with the tender leafs of wild “sycaminia” (black mulberry) trees. As the silkworms grew, the breeders enlarged their area as well until they reached the point of using a “psatharka”, which was made of straws and was sized 1.5 by 3 meters approximately. These straw mats were tied in such a manner so that they would hang from the ceiling, three or four of them in every hanger from top to bottom and with a distance of 40 to 50 centimeters between each of them. By the time the silkworms reached their full length, the straw mats would be filled. When the little silkworms matured and their mouths were strong enough, instead of wild mulberry leafs they were fed with the leafs of the tame mulberry tree that were bigger and thicker. The “kamatero” (means “industrious”) -as the silkworms were called -would periodically fast, that is, it stopped eating and rose its head up until it shed its skin, at which point its body grew along with the new skin and the silkworm would start eating again.
Its last period of fasting was done so that it would prepare and convert the food into silk inside itself. At this stage its color changed from greenish to yellowish and then they would place some «throumpi» (thyme) or other aromatic bushes around the straw mats, the silkworm going there in order to «weave» the «koukouli» (cocoon), producing a thin thread from its mouth. When in a few days this ritual was over, the silkworm transformed into a pupa (chrysalis) and the cocoon was now ready for the silk-mill. If there was a delay of several days in extracting it then the pupa transformed into a butterfly, pierced the cocoon and destroyed it while coming out since its threads were torn. In a little while the male ones would meet the female ones and –after a few days –the latter would give birth to several eggs, which would hatch as silkworms next year.
However, before going to the silk-mill we must explain that these pierced cocoons were not useless. They women processed them in the spindle, making a thin thread with which they weaved the “koukoularika” (a silk fabric that is thicker than normal silk)
It would be an omission not to mention a certain practice existing then, to print various fibs in the newspapers (not “April Fools’ Day” lies) during the hatching season of the “kamatero” so as to secure success in all the stages of breeding.
The regular cocoons were transferred to the silk-mill, which was not operating permanently but seasonally. The silk-makers always were of some age, wearing galligaskins, and many of them being quite experienced since this was a very delicate job.
Each silk-mill consisted of two crews so as to have greater efficacy and of course two silk-makers. For each crew there was a large “chartzi” (copper-made boiler), a fire constantly burning beneath it so as to keep the water boiling.
They would throw in the boiling water the cocoons, which the silk-maker stirred with great mastery using a thin rod, swiftly grabbing some of the threads and throwing them onto a moving reel that transferred the thread to a spinning wheel. There were four to five such reels and the silk-maker managed to feed all of them with separate threads, all of them resulting in the spinning-wheel, which was divided into 4-5 lines, one for each reel. When the spinning wheel was full the silk-maker would stop and pull each line and wrapped it in such a manner that it would not open until the day it would be used for weaving. When all the silk threads of the cocoons would unwind the only things remaining were the pupas, having died -of course -because of the hot water. These were removed using a large skimmer so as to throw some new cocoons in the water. The dead pupas were given to the chickens that consumed them greedily –although their eggs they later produced had a nasty smell.
Traditional “Chaloumi” in Voroklini
Our Cyprus in general is characterized by its genuine folkloric tradition. Both the handmade items and our homemade, traditional products make every Cypriot, wherever he/she may be, feel proud of his/her descent.
Especially, one will hear about the traditional, homemade “chaloumi” of Cyprus. So, in accordance with our tradition, the women in Voroklini also made and even sold the genuine, “village chaloumi” with zeal and pride.
The way they make it
“Challoumin” (pronunciation in Cypriot dialect) is a traditional dairy product. “Chaloumi”, like “anari” (a white, soft cheese) and contrary to several other cheeses, has a white color. It is not known when it started being produced in the village because the art of making it is lost in the depths of the aeons. However, even today, it still is one of the village’s main dairy products.
During older times, the “challoumi” and the “anari” -and yoghourt as well –were made by the shepherds and the housewives on a domestic basis. Few people make these products in the villages today -by now known as “village products” and priced at a rather high cost -but they are much sought after and they are considered genuine.
The milk of the livestock is heated upon a fire and after a special congealing powder (the so-called “pithkia” –rennet –which in older times came from the stomach of a very young lamb or pig that was slaughtered during Christmas) it is left to cool down. Soon the milk thickens. It is then cut in pieces and placed in a “talarin” (a kind of a small basket made of woven “sklinitzia”, the stems of aquatic plants / rushes). It is pressed so as to drain and the liquid that comes out, the so-called “noros” (whey of white cheese), is gathered.
(More milk is added to the “noros” and it is reheated. The “noros” will thicken again, thus producing the “anari”, which either remains unsalted or has salt added to it and is stored after it dries up; the “talarin” is again pressed so as to make “anari” and -as the “anari” drains -we get a quantity of “noros” once more, in which the “chaloumia” (plural) will be dipped in order to be stored and preserved.)
In the meantime, after the processing in the “talarin” and when the “chaloumia” dry up, they are thrown into the “noros” left from the production of “anari” and they are cooked on a low fire for about an hour. It is characteristic that when they are done, they rise up to the surface of the “noros” in which they are boiling. Afterwards, every piece of “chaloumi” is salted. Some mince mint is also added. Then every piece is folded in two and placed in a glass jar for storage. Once the jar is packed with “chaloumia”, it is filled with “noros” and sealed.