What becomes a legend most? Rasputin and Nostradamus both became celebrity doomsayers, but for the student of myth making, are there any present day examples? Enter Elder Paisios, a Greek monk who died in his homeland in 1994. According to the Wall Street Journal, he developed a cult following for his divinations and visions that allegedly predicted the current financial upheaval in Greece. Now everyone wants to know what else Elder Paisios envisioned.
Paisios spent most of his adult life as a hermit on Mount Athos, spiritual homeland to the Greek Orthodox church. His fame spread when tales of his miracles and predictions circulated in the media as pundits searched for an explanation for the recent economic fallout. The mystic had previously predicted that Greece would experience “great disruption and confusion, followed by hunger and political turmoil.” As Greeks endure the current crisis, they are now poring over Paisios’s other predictions. Some make puzzling reading; Greece will ultimately prevail over Turkey, Greece will partition part of Albania, and the world is secretly run by a cabal of five?
Yet Greeks are entranced by this man, whose grave has now become a shrine. Even a military officer was quoted in the WSJ as saying, “Paisios predicted many things, and his prophecies are now coming true.” A Facebook page making fun of him and his writings was taken down after vociferous protests and condemned in Parliament. Paisios has captured the public imagination, but like all mystics, his words are a matter of interpretation.
The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for the Paisios legacy. There is a PR lesson to be learned from his enduring popularity.
The PR Takeaway: Mystery and silence make a reputation. Despite over 350,000 copies of a biography sold on Elder Paisios’s life, little is known about him. Born in 1924, Paisios was small man with an emaciated frame (not surprisingly, there is also an Elder Paisios diet book) sporting a black robe and long beard, rather like Rasputin and Nostradamus. In the age of social media where no detail is spared, creating a myth out of spare writings and a striking iconic appearance gives PR students a second take on how to create a legend. Sometimes less really is more.