Monday, April 21, 2014

Postcards from the Underworld: Photos and Chinese Cookie Fortunes


Every day, when I sit at my desk to work, I face a collection of cherished photos, memorabilia, Chinese cookie fortunes and quotes that inspire me...





...what inspires you?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: Aphrodite, the Mother of Fear and Terror

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

When you think of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, the images of fear and terror aren't the first to come to mind. But that is what the sons of Aphrodite are named.

Fear and Terror the sons of Love? How can that be?

Well for one, the father is Ares, the god of war.

Aphrodite was married to the lame smith god, Hephaestus, when she had an affair with Ares. She gave birth to the twin gods Phobos (Fear) and Deimos (Terror) who accompanied Ares into battle and spread fear, terror, dread and trembling in their wake. The two brothers were worshipped especially in Sparta, known for developing young boys into warriors from birth.

Some believe Ares was originally a death god, but the ancient Greek underworld became so filled with the bodies of the deceased that it required a full time guardian, to which Hades was appointed. Ares became the full time god of war.

Phobos is the root of our modern word phobia, obviously. He was often represented with a lion's head.
Phobos, Greco-Roman mosaic from Halicarnassus, 4th c. A.D., British Museum
Deimos is a little more complicated. 
Monument to the Greek general Leonidas at the Battle of Thermopylae, with a representation of Deimos on his shield
Most people translate it to demon, but a Deimon or Daimon is actually something different. All forms of this word derive from the Greek δαίμων, which refers to a spirit that operated as a link between the human and divine realms. During the Christian era this word came to mean a 'pagan god' or unclean spirit, and in the Bible it was later transformed and defined as a devil. A daimon is actually a guiding spirit. 

It's important to be careful with words that represent concepts such as these. The Christian period tended to demonize anything that had to do with the pagan world, as it feared that world. If we fear anything we don't understand, we run the risk of portraying it as wicked and threatening. 

I can't help but wonder about the psychological implications the ancient Greeks had in mind when they named Love the Mother of Fear and Terror. I'm sure Sigmund Freud would have a field day with that one.


It has often been said that love is the opposite of fear.  Perhaps an even more accurate explanation is that love is the source of all things, and God/Goddess, in his and her love for humankind, gave us the freedom to experience anything we wanted. With freedom of choice all is allowed, and we are permitted to experience all the rich emotions available to us, because ultimately they are a path to learning about our selves.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Postcards from the Underworld: Walk Like an Egyptian

 As the saying goes: when in Rome...

Do as the Romans do

When in Cairo...

Walk like an Egyptian (with a nod to Susannah Hoffs and the Bangles)







Monday, March 31, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: Journaling and Memory

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

I've been keeping a journal for decades, since I was in college. An entire row on my bookshelf is devoted to them.

Over the years, I've used different kinds of journals. When I lived in Greece during my junior year, I used the Greek schoolchildren's plastic blue books. 
  

When I lived on the island of Crete with a family, I used an old ring binder type journal,

which became filled with observations of my family's daily life, and my burgeoning understanding of the Greek language.

In graduate school, I switched once again to the standard hardcover journal that was offered at the University book store

For the past twenty years, I've pretty much exclusively used the classic black and white composition book (often earmarked with a dragon's scales of post-it notes for reference)

Journaling for me is therapy. I don't approach it as something in which I have to capture every aspect of my life, or every trip I take. More often than not, I journal when I'm inspired by something I read, or by some event in my life that provokes me. I write when I'm happy and when I'm sad. It's a place where I can confide my deepest feelings

and favorite quotes from authors
I hope for nothing
I fear nothing
I am free
-Nikos Katzanzakis

and sometimes quotes from unlikely sources

When I travel, I like the small Moleskine books. They remind me of classic adventurers, such as the writer Bruce Chatwin, and explorer Peter Beard


The little pages get filled with observations, notes and addresses

and the back pocket with all sorts of ephemera

Being an inveterate journal writer, I even keep a journal devoted exclusively to dreams. As you can imagine, it has its own special color

In Greek mythology, Mnemosyne is the goddess of memory and the mother of the Muses.
Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Mnemosyne, 1881
We have Memory to thank for The Odyssey and The Iliad, epic poems that existed for centuries before they were written down. In antiquity, the oral tradition ruled because poets had to carry their work in their memories.

Today with so many electronic devices, we don't need to rely so much on our memories. But I will continue to write in my journal, regardless. I see it as a form of meditation and way to communicate with myself. No matter how much technology rules our lives, it is soul-nourishing to take time to reflect on our lives, and there is something refreshingly analog - and physically reaffirming - about putting pen to paper to do so.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Postcards from the Underworld: Candles for our Ancestors

In the small village of Metlika, Slovenia 

is a church where my ancestors are buried

my cousin Maja tends to the grave of our great grandparents

and explains the history of the church


scattered around the grave sites are red glass candles


such as these 

In the marketplace of the capital city, Llubljana, vendors sells a colorful array

of the paraffin filled glass bottlelights, which are often used during All Saints and All Souls Days

I learned that these special candles sit by the gravesite and burn for many hours 

so that the departed can find their way home through the darkness