Dr. Dimitris Xygalatas is an anthropologist and cognitive scientist who studies ritual behaviour. He has conducted over 4 years of ethnographic fieldwork in Greece, Bulgaria, Spain and Mauritius, focusing on the performance of high-intensity rituals and developing a methodology to study such rituals experimentally in their natural contexts. He currently holds a joint position between Aarhus University and Masaryk University, where he is the Director of the Laboratory for the Experimental Research of Religion (LEVYNA). His ethnography of the Greek fire-walking rituals of the Anastenaria was published in the monograph The Burning Saints (Equinox 2012). His current research involves cognitive and physiological aspects of the practice of high-arousal rituals in Mauritius, where he is leading the Mauritian Laboratory for Experimental Anthropology.
It’s dark outside. The moon hangs in the sky and the soft smell of smoke permeates the warm air as it stings your eyes. Looking down, you notice the glow from burning coals, as hot as 535 degrees C, scattered on the ground below. When Saint Constantine calls you to become a firewalker – you answer - at least if you are one of the Anastenaria.