Τάματα are little votive offerings, wishes in the form of sympathetic magic. We found many such votives in the numerous small jewel-like churches in the byzantine town of Mystras, located in the Laconian province of the Peloponnese, Greece. Tamata are made from thin metal sheets stamped with legs, arms, ears, eyes, torsos, hearts, babies, whole bodies (both male and female) in youth or maturity…. They usually show anything bodily that concerns the supplicant. 

Other concerns are symbolised by the stefana (wedding crowns), little box style houses (“home”) or wishes simply encapsulated in single words.

The offerings are hung from an icon with a prayer and the lighting of a candle, symbolising wishes for a miracle of healing. It is very appropriate that this icon of Ayios Demetrios, shown at the moment of his martyrdom as he is pierced with numerous lances, has a clutch of tamata. The saint is known to produce many miraculous cures even after his death. Such is the power of the wishes and the rituals surrounding it.

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  1. Debi,

    Nice post. I love Mystras. We always stop in Sparti on the way back from Neapolis. Our relatives generously give us olive oil to take back to the States. A local woman in Sparti transfers the oil to sealed shipping containers that we can put in our suitcase. While we wait for the olive oil to be packaged, we dine at one of the tavernas along the road under Mystras. It’s been a long time since we visited Mystras and you’ve inspired me to make sure we visit next time we are in Sparti.


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  2. Lovely photos, thank you Debi! Have been very interested in these for ages, as they are visually so rich and link to such old practices. Just came back from Crete the other day, having bought a load of them which are in our cabinet now (which is probably not the right idea). Must find myself a mountain sanctuary in the peaks somewhere!


    • I love these old practices and am really glad they are still alive today. Do hang yours up somewhere. It would be a shame to have them stuck away in a cabinet. You can always have a little shrine at home. I’m going to look for that Benaki book, too!


  3. Have received a few tamata over the years and can attest to their magical healing! The Benaki Museum
    published a lovely book, Tamata, several years ago.


    • Might trot down there and see if I can find a copy. Sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the reference. We have tamata hanging at home, but a friend of mine reminded me that the don’t work unless you dedicate them in church. Still, I wouldn’t part with my little legs, ears and eyes. Forever hopeful they’ll do their magic!


  4. I’ve had a look online for the book, but although it’s on the website it’s not in the e-shop. If you could let me know if it’s available in the museum shop I’d be grateful. They are all in a glass cabinet so I am looking at them, but might get the leg one out and hang it somewhere to hope it helps my poorly knee, lol. Yes, my fired Fotini also pointed out that they need to go to the right shrine to be effective, but being somewhat illiterate in orthodox practices and on top of that an agnostic, I may have to improvise!


    • Thought I replied earlier, but found out that the server was down and it just dissipated in the airwaves. Yes, they are a bit creepy to the uninitiated, but you get used to them. The torso, however…


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