As I was observing the well in Gkini’s mansion, I noticed its elaborate construction, the way the jointless rocks are paired and how deep they get under the surface. Whenever I wander in the estates, I often lean forward to take a look at this stone tunnel which cuts across the soil and disappears in the dark, while the stationary water residing down there resembles a marble, odd looking surface that I always have trouble identifying.
Dimitris, a friend of mine who is well acquainted with the manner in which wells were made back then, explains to me how crucial finding water was for an estate’s sustainability in the old days and how the orchard’s value would depend on the water veins people would dig very deep to find. He demonstrates that dowsers were the ones in charge of discovering water: they would hold a rod and slowly roam around the estate looking for water; the moment they spotted it, the rod, along with the bearer’s arm, would start pulsing, a clear indication that a water deposit lay exactly at that point, underneath their bodies. At times, he maintains, the dowser’s body, much to everyone’s amazement, would shake all over as if he was possessed by an uncanny force, an imp he was unable to battle against.
Dimitris carries on explaining that these wells, being twenty to thirty meters deep and put together in a bottom-up pattern, were stone built by experienced masons dubbed “well diggers”. Capable of retaining stream water, the wells served as artificial reservoirs and were connected with burrows that could be unblocked during droughts to increase water flow. Sometimes, he says, while making their way into the ground in search of the water source, the diggers would bump into a boulder forcing them to laboriously penetrate the stone slab with a big iron spear (called “makassi”) for the sought-after water table to eventually gush out through the slit.
Translated into English by Nikos Loutraris