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Mount Athos is a female-free monastic community

Mount Athos, formally known as Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain, is located on the Greek peninsula of Halkidiki. The monastic traditions of the mountain date back to 800 A.D. and the Byzantine era. Today, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries, and 2,000 monks from Greece and other eastern orthodox countries such as Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia. These monks live an ascetic life, isolated from the rest of the world. Although technically part of the European Union, the Holy Mountain is largely self-governed. This prohibits the free movement of people and goods in its territory, unless formal permission has been granted. As a result, a number of traditions at Mount Athos might seem odd to people outside. The keeping of Byzantine time, for instance, means that their day begins at sunset. But perhaps their most bizarre practice is the centuries-old ban on women entering the sacred peninsula. For over 1,000 years, women have been forbidden from setting foot on the mountain. In fact, females of other species such as cows, dogs and goats aren’t permitted either. Only birds and insects are exempted from the rule. As a part of the growing movement for the equality of sexes in Christianity, a number of orthodox women now insist that it is their theological and political right to share in the mystical fruit of the holy mountain. Many such women have come together on social media and are engaging in political lobbying as well. Women aren't banned purely because their natural charms are prone to distract the monks from their prayer and study. Hundreds of years ago after several monks reported visions of the Virgin Mary, it was decided that the Athos monks should devote themselves to her, and that no other woman should be allowed to outshine her. All women were duly banished, from the peninsula, and with them all female animals. Sows, cows and ewes, even chickens were expelled. It was conceded that female songbirds and insects were allowed to remain, purely because it was impossible to keep them out. It's unclear exactly how plausible the danger of a chicken outshining the Virgin Mary is, but still. A rule's a rule.

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