What is 'Tamata' in the Greek Orthodox Tradition?


My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

What are 'tamata' in the Greek Orthodox tradition?

According to our tradition tama (plu. tamata) is a votive offering or promise for something to happen when someone requires help or a miracle. They are rectangular pieces of metal (tin, silver, or gold) with miniature body parts on the plaque symbolizes the subject of prayer (the miracle) for which the tama (promise or pledge) is offered.

Tamata may be offered through which someone invests their faith. They are link between the faithful and the Holy Spirit.

Other offerings may include candles, prosphora, wine oil, or incense. In addition, many will leave something of personal value, such as jewelry or military decoration as a sign of devotion. Some Orthodox Christians leave crutches or walking frames as thanks of being healed by God.

Saint John of Damascus

One of the most famous tama offering is that by Saint John of Damascus. While he was serving as Vizier to the Caliph, he was falsely accused of treachery and his hand was cut off. Upon praying in front of the holy icon of the Theotokos his hand was miraculously restored. In thanksgiving he had a silver replica of his hand fashioned and attached it to the holy icon of the Ever-Virgin Mary.

This miracle-working (wonderworking) holy icon of the Theotokos now called 'Trecherousa' or "The Three-handed" is preserved today at Hilander Monastery on the Holy Mountain.

When does the need arise?

A tama purchased when the individual Orthodox Christian believer or a loved one is ill, lonely, unable to conceive, looking for work etc. In other words, there is no situation which does not require a tama.

The images are capable of multiple interpretations:

Heart - a prayer for love or a heart problem

Eye/s - an eye affliction

Hand/s or leg/s- maladies of the limbs

Pair of wedding crowns - a prayer for a happy marriage

Torso - afflictions of the body (i.e, cancer, etc.)

What do I do with my tama?

Once a tama has been purchased:

  • take it to the church
  • light a candle
  • give it the priest to place it under the holy icon of Christ, Theotokos or Saint.
  • say a prayer asking Our Lord or the Saint for help
  • leave a gift/offering to the local church (i.e., wine, prosphora, flowers, etc.)

When the tamata had real value ( i.e.silver, gold) they were sometimes sold and the funds derived from that transaction would be donated to help the poor, widows, orphans, etc.. Other times to help the local church in its holy mission.

Another beautiful tradition of our Holy Church.

In Christ,

+Father George