“So our papers say”: allusions of oracular prophecy in contemporary Cretan historical folksongs (1960s & 1970s)
Folksongs have a long tradition in Crete and are still widely cherished as they are often used to record popular feelings, collective attitudes, facets of life or facts of history. This paper seeks to highlight the presence of prophecy in contemporary Cretan historical folksongs. To this end, it focuses on Cretan songs about the Cyprus issue, particularly those produced during and after the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. As it turns out, a sizeable portion thereof contains allusions to an age-old Greek prophetic tradition, originally of anti-Islamic, later of anti-Ottoman and lately of anti-Turkish character. The respective literature, here codenamed “our papers”, originally aimed at providing hope and encouragement to Orthodox Christians during critical times of threat and anxiety, assuring them that any poor state of communal affairs would soon be reversed. Since the 16th-century Veneto-Ottoman wars, the fate of Crete had become the object of prophetic speculation, and prognostications poured out as long as the Eastern question unfolded. In this light, it is no surprise that oracular prophecy has an established presence in the body of traditional Cretan folksongs. This is the first conclusion at which this paper arrives. The second conclusion is that the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus led prophetic allusions to reappear afresh in Cretan folksongs’ contemporary forms. As the Turkish troops stormed Cyprus, the Cretan folk writers and singers looked back in anger, recalled elements of oracular myth and incorporated them into their songwriting as late as the 1970s.