Legends of Sfentoni cave




The Fairy of Skafidia (by Mr. Dimitris Parassiris, retired schoolteacher)

Baba koti, baba douma  (by Mr. Dimitris Parassiris, retired schoolteacher)



In the old days, the cave had been used as a hideout, although not so extensively. The somewhat blackened from the smoke roof near the entrance is today the only visible sign that testifies it. The story of a Sfakian chainis (in the Cretan dialect it means partisan, fugitive but for revolutionary reasons), by the name Sfentonis, who was hiding in the cave for some time, has spread up to today from mouth to mouth. The name of the cave probably comes from that person Sfentonis.



The Fairy of Skafidia

A bit further from Sfentoni cave, about 150 m., there is a fountain called Skafidia. A little water gushes out of it but it is healthy and very easy to digest. The Cretan couplet “Poor water of Skafidia I wish I had a glass to wash out my heart and heal every pain” (in Greek: ermo Skafidiano nero ke na cha ena flitzani na plino tin kardoula mou ke opou poni na giani) explains everything. The ancient inhabitants of Axos had built a wall starting from that fountain and ending in Axos. On the wall they had put koutsounares (that is gutters in order to allow to the water to fall from flat terraces), in that way they had managed to supply water in Axos which was built on the hill above the village which exists today. A part of that wall had been saved until recently and was named ‘tichio’ (another word for wall in the Cretan dialect). Kavalomichalis passing through Skafidia, one day at dawn, saw a fairy, which had taken off her clothes and was washing her hair. As soon as she was aware of his presence she tried to hide her naked body and realizing his intentions, she begged him: “If you don’t hurt me”, he told him “I will give you a ball of silk wool which the children of your children will try to unwind but it will never end.” But he went ahead. Then she cursed him: “I curse the hands of your offspring to shake forever and ever as I’m shaking at this moment.”



Baba koti, baba douma (which means “’Old man (give me) liver, old man (give me) entrails)

When we were kids grazing the sheep in the area of Mironos, the older children would tell us a legend about Sfentoni cave: 

"Once upon a time there was a thief who had entered the cave and was roasting the liver and the entrails of a lamb he had stolen. When he began to eat, out of a sudden a young man appeared, sat on a stone opposite the thief and told him: “barba, koti”, which means “Old man give me some liver”. The thief looked closely at him. However, given that the flame of the fire had gone out, under the dim light of the coals, he could see something dark on his forehead, and thought that it was a wound. He gave him a little liver and then asked him: “What’s your name?” “Sfentonis” replied the young man and then asked him in turn “And who are you?” “Myself, eat and shut up”. When he had finished eating up the liver and started eating the entrails, the young man asked him again: “barba doumi”. He gave him a piece of entrails and put the empty roasting-jack of the liver on the coals, blew them and as there was fat on it, it lit like a candle. In the light of the roasting-jack the thief noticed that what he had thought as a wound on the forehead of the young man, it was in fact an eye. He then realized that he was a man having three eyes, got scared, stuck the roasting-jack, as it was still lit in his eye, and rushed to the exit of the cave. When he approached the exit, he heard the tramp of people coming from outside. He stopped behind a rock and saw a group of other three-eyed men passing before his eyes while coming back in order to hide in the cave. As soon as everyone had passed, he came out in a rush and run towards the village. He was running so quickly that his heels were touching his neck. In the meantime the three-eyed young man was moaning with pain. The other men kept asking him what had happened to him and he told them that “myself” had blinded him. By the time they had realized what had happened, the thief had arrived at Stavros (an area at the beginning of the village). The cockcrow was heard from Kliniana (another area of the village). The sun began to rise and the three-eyed men could no longer stay on the surface of the earth. They only said: “You are lucky that the cock crowed” and came back.

We used to pick up wood, usually flammable (e.g. aspalathus), and go so deeply into the cave, as the little light that was coming into the small entrance allowed us to go, (back then we used to get into the cave bent), light the wood and an older man who was hidden a bit ahead of us used to shout: “Three-eyed devils go for them!”  We scurried away. As we were running, we stroke with the head on the pillars and the stones, we fell and rose and got out of the cave with broken knees and bumps on our heads. But we used to do it over and over again often. Some time ago I read the book by Dr. Paul Faure, “Ulysses the Cretan”, (1980), which cites the legend of three-eyed men in Sfentoni Hole and in general in the area of Zoniana and it relates it with the legend of Ulysses and Polyphemus. However, I can’t stop wondering: Is it possible that even us –inwardly- without knowing it, had played and represented in some way the adventure of Ulysses that Homer describes? I will not comment on everything that the author cites about Homer, Ulysses, the Cyclopes and their relation to Crete. I will only cite that the legend about the three-eyed men existed and still exists in Zoniana, even as a nickname.