Monday, December 8, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: A Real Life Terpsichore

Who is Terpsichore? you might be asking yourself. In ancient Greece, she was one of the nine muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. She and her sisters, Clio, Thalia, Erato, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Kalliope, Urania and Melpomene were believed to reside above Mounts Olympus, Parnassus and Pindus and were the inspiration and patrons for poets, musicians, dramatists of tragedy and comedy, sacred hymns and authors, such as Homer. Terpsichore was the muse of the dance and the Greek chorus. Theater was a major form of entertainment in ancient Greece and she was thought to inspire dramatists in writing plays, which included the all important chorus who told the story. 

At a recent Saint's Day festival in Greece, it would seem the muse of Terpsichore is still hard at work, as you can see in the faces of these men...

...for as the goddess of dance approaches, she is welcomed, as ever, on bended knee and with open arms.

Only those who don't strive after life
Truly respect life.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Athens: Ancient Meets Modern

Woman chatting on a cell phone in front of Hadrian's Library, Monastiraki, Athens

Monday, November 24, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: Walking the Labyrinth

An archaeologist unearths the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...

The word labyrinth comes from the ancient word labryswhich means double axe. The double edged axe was a sign of royal power and is associated with the royal palace of King Minos on Crete, which was referred to as the "house of the double axes." This was the classic labyrinth that housed the famous Minotaur, which the hero Theseus went in to kill. He escaped thanks to Minos' daughter, Ariadne, who had given him a ball of thread to find his way out. 

Labyrinths differ from mazes. Both are defined by a series of complex pathways, but mazes are multicursal in that they offer multiple choices of direction, whereas labyrinths are unicursal. In a labyrinth, there is only one path, and it leads to the center. 

Aside from Ariadne's, one of the world's most famous labyrinths exists at Chartres Cathedral. To walk a labyrinth is said to help a person gain access to their soul and develop spiritual insight, so it's not surprising that is has become a prominent motif in Christianity. The labyrinth at Chartes Cathdral is known as the Rose Labyrinth. Laid into the floor of the structure in 1360, it was commissioned by a bishop for a celebration of Easter. In keeping with the majesty of the Cathedral's size, the Rose Labyrinth measures over 42 feet in diameter and completely fills the width of the nave. 

Recently, I read about a labyrinth that was laid into the grass of a church near my neighborhood. Having lived in the same place for 27 years, I was amazed (pardon the pun!) to have never known that a labyrinth existed almost in my own back yard. A close friend lives right across the street and I spent years picking up kids for morning carpool, passing it by. Some afternoons I take a break from my work and walk over to the church yard. High on a hill, it isn't visible to the street below, so you have to climb up to get perspective. I have found a sense of peace in tracing the meandering patterns around and around until I reach the center. Sometimes I stand, sometimes I sit there for a while, and let the sense of peace envelop me. As an archaeologist, it doesn't escape me how lovely it is that at the most unexpected moments, we find treasures sitting right under our feet. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Postcards from the Underworld: Loutrophoros

The word loutrophoros means, "to bring a bath." This tall, slender vessel with an egg like body was used both in wedding and funerary rites. Most vessels of this type were made of clay and in antiquity were used on the wedding day to bring a bath to the bride. Others, such as the one shown above, were made of marble and used a grave markers for those who died unmarried. This exquisitely carved example is in the Kerameikos cemetery of Athens. The buildings of the city and the peak of the hill called Lykavittos can be seen in the distance. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: The Wind is Talking on Ithaka

An archaeologist unearths the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...

I've always thought the wind spoke. It would seem all the winds in Greece are named for male gods: Boreas, the god of the north wind and winter, Eurus, the god of the east wind, Notus, god of the south and Zephyrus, god of the west wind. But the breezes are feminine. The Aurai, known as nymphs, were also daughters of the god Anemos, which means wind. 

Whether it be male or female, after many years of visiting the Greek island of Ithaka, I can safely say that the wind does a lot of talking here. Along the harbor where ships dock side by side, it threads its way through the masts, knocking them against one another and whistling its mysterious and eerie sound as it rattles the halyards. Walking along the pier in the town of Kioni, this glass globe filled with oil caught my eye. As I gazed at the sun reflecting in the amber liquid the wind started to talk. 

Instead of answering its mournful call, I just listened