Tykhê – The Greek Goddess of Fortune and Chance

Tykhê – (tee-hee), is the Greek goddess of fortune and chance.  To the ancient Greeks, she explained the unpredictability of life. Whenever there was disaster, it was Tykhe.  She was considered fickle, bestowing on one, great riches while for another, taking every thing. In Greek, the word, tykhe, means luck. It is said that the inventor, Palamedes dedicated the first set of dice to the goddess Tykhe at her temple in Argos, Greece.  Interestingly, she rolled snake eyes for him; he was wrongly accused of being a traitor during the Trojan war and killed.

Recently, I read that Americans just can’t get that bad things happen to good people.  The Greeks understood that it not only could, but that it did.

It’s actually a very liberating idea.

As the character of Marcus Cole said in the television series Babylon Five,

 “I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?’ So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

 It’s Greek to me. It’s just tykhe. I can live with that.

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The Oakland Greek Festival.

I remember the Oakland Greek Festival when I was a teenager. In the early years, the festival was held at the Oakland Auditorium. A beaux-arts building built in 1914 which consists of a 5,492-seat arena, a theatre and a ballroom. The auditorium was renamed the Kaiser Convention Center in 1984 after Henry J. Kaiser.

But back in my day, it was just the Oakland Auditorium and while the adults worked the festival, we kids were rulers of the arena. We arrived before opening helping our parents setup and then with their volunteer activity or as volunteers if we were old enough. We would leave after midnight on Friday and Saturday exhausted both thrilled by the fun we’d had, ready to return the next morning.

I remember viewing the oval cavernous space of the auditorium from the seats above and thinking it would be impossible to fill. The slightest sound carried in the empty arena. In those morning hours I could have driven a car on the floor amongst the booths, exhibits and around the central stage. Then slowly with each hour after opening, the festival would attract visitors until in the evening hours there was no elbow room left and a cacophony of voices, music and dancing filled the arena.

Some of us kids performed on the stage as dancers in Greek customs from the regions of our parents or grandparents. Others assisted in one of the booths or clearing tables in the restaurant and kafenio sections or serving food. But once finished with our shifts, we roamed the auditorium; walking the length of the arena a thousand times or climbing up into the seats above. We ate Greek food like souvlaki and roasted lamb. Nibbled on desserts, loukoumades or baklava. And we danced!!  In long lines, hands linked and following steps centuries old with embellishments by the leader of the line showing off skill and creativity.  For three days in Oakland everyone was Greek and shouting ‘Opa’.

I love these memories, and you can make your own. The Greek Festival while no longer at the auditorium, still happens every May and this year it is 17 – 19 May 2013, so come and be Greek!!

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Greek War of Independence 1821


The 25th of March is the independence day of the Greeks from the Ottoman Empire.  The Ottoman Empire defeated the Byzantine Empire in 1453 and Greece fell under Ottoman rule.  The traditional story is that the Metropolitan Germanos III of Patras blessed a Greek flag in the Monastery of Agia Lavra on the 25 of March 1821 and ushered in the uprising against the Ottoman empire.

Greeks revolted many times over the years against Ottoman rule but the revolt began in ernest in 1821.  Uprisings started in the northern parts of Greece and moved into the Peloponnese.  A crucial meeting was held in the city that is now called, Aegion.  Aegion is the city near the two villages that my parents come from. The Greeks fought under various leaders one of which was Theodoros Kolokotronis who became commander-in-chief of the Greek forces in the Peloponnese.

Kolokotronis Statue Athens

Kolokotronis Statue Athens

The makeshift Greek navy fought against the Ottoman navy in the Aegean Sea achieving successes.  Lord Byron travelled to Greece to fight on behalf of Greek independence and Greeks revere him as a national hero.  He spent his own money to outfit the Greek navy and protested against Lord Elgin’s removal of the Parthenon marbles from the Acropolis.  He died of a fever In Missolonghi while preparing to attack the Turkish fortress at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth.

I remember Greek Independence Day as a day of speeches, poems, Greek food, wearing Greek costumes, Greek flags and the singing of the Greek National anthem.  As a child, I learned about the ‘hidden school’ where Greek children were educated in secret in order to retain their heritage under Ottoman rule.  There is a song about the moon guiding the children to and from the school where they would learn Greek. I can still see the hall festooned with Greek flags.  My friends and I dressed in our traditional costumes.  Each child and sometimes parents, wore the traditional costumes of the area where one’s family came from.  I was taught to appreciate being Greek in an open and democratic society and to never forget the land of my parents and my heritage.

A Child of Two Worlds