Every August, on a great feast of the Virgin Mary, small snakes slither into the chapel of a tiny village on the Greek island of Kefalonia. As you might expect, there is a curious story behind it.
ONE day in 1705, the nuns of a convent on Kefalonia heard that pirates were toiling up the hill, intent on rape and plunder. So they hurried to their chapel, where they kept a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary.
This icon had been found, many years before, at the foot of a charred tree, though neither the icon nor the neighbouring trees were even scorched. As it obstinately refused to move, the chapel had been built around it.
Here the nuns prayed for protection. Presently, dozens of small snakes started slithering into the grounds of the convent. The pirates arrived, took one look, and fled.
To this day, every August, between the Transfiguration of Christ on the 6th and the Dormition of Mary on the 15th, the snakes’ descendants return.
Warm and silky to the touch, with a little cross-shaped mark on their heads, they are normally shy and aggressive, but during this period they become positively sociable.
Unless, presumably, you are a pirate.