Goddesses in the Dirt: Crawling for a Miracle on Tinos

Unearthing the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time........

Issue #10: Crawling for a Miracle on Tinos

If you couldn't conceive and wanted a baby, would you crawl over a kilometer up a hill for a miracle?

On the Greek island of Tinos there is a strange ritual enacted every August 15th, the Orthodox festival of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. August 15th marks a day where, all over Greece, festivals are held in honor of the Virgin, such as the one I wrote about in this series on the island of Kefalonia, involving snakes. 

It seems it's not tortuous enough at the height of the blazing Greek summer to endure extreme heat and raging crowds, oh no: 

on this island women  - willingly - crawl on their hands and knees from the port where the ferry arrives, all the way to the main church, located at the top of a long hill. 

And why would they do this, you might ask? 

Like Lourdes, or any other holy place where miracles might be answered, pilgrims will flock in droves. Most of the pilgrims on this island are women, as it is well known across Greece that touching a holy icon - found in 1822 and known for its healing powers - at the church of the Panagia will help those who have had trouble conceiving become pregnant.

But first you must crawl uphill over a kilometer and then wait in line to do so.

One tourist site I researched proudly referred to this statue as depicting a "faceless woman."  Wow. I'm sure there's some religious reason for this statement, having to do with prostrating oneself to be worthy of a miracle, but it still bothers me nonetheless. Faceless woman? 

While I'm not a big fan of this statue, I realize the whole point of the crawling ritual is to give childless women hope....and I have a true story to tell about someone who visited this island for this very purpose: I will tell it in a post coming soon entitled Church Things. 

Until then, I never get tired of learning about wonderfully strange and mysterious rituals such as this. I love this stuff. I live for this stuff -- and the stranger, the better. 

I have yet to get to Tinos - let's just say that Greece in mid-August is not the best time to go. It's boiling hot and packed with tourists - many of them Greeks going on holiday themselves, so unless you're traveling on one of those deep freeze air-conditioned cruise ships, I don't recommend it. 

However -- I will make exceptions: 

anywhere there is a strange religious ritual involving women, snakes, Greek islands and goddesses in the dirt ---

sooner or later........

I'm going. 

Photos courtesy of Rick and Rory's, Travelpod and Google Images


  1. I have seen this myslef, I wrote about it some posts ago!
    A spiritual experience!

  2. i have a hard time with preconceived notions/acitons/dogma which lead to the divine. i believe it is within the person her/himself to draw forth any power, if there is power to be drawn forth. however, belief is an incredibly powerful thing in and of itself, and so if a woman believes and crawls in the tracks of thousands before and touches - what? a faceless statue, the act and the belief might amount to something. something indeed - in the least a profound experience. and so while it is not for me, i can see the value in it for others. and i am glad for such rites. i am glad there is room enough in this world for belief still.


  3. I have to agree, this is just so sad. For the women, but also the feeling of degradation on top of feeling less than worthy of a baby, something most take for granted. Maybe I'm just seeing this in the wrong way...

  4. Its strange,my first thought on the "Faceless Woman" was..its ALL women..reaching,like we all do,at one time or another.Perhaps not for this miracle,but for something else like..the answer,to that we seek.The women in my life are always seeking..always wanting to fill their cup..and me..I want to be overflowing with all I do not know and understand.Always reaching.Hugs,Cat

  5. I love ritual too...it brings an ancient depth to our every day life...but women crawling on their knees seems a little extreme. I wonder if a man decided that crawling all the way up the hill was important for this desire for a child? I would be excited to hear of women deciding for themselves to walk proudly upright and still feel engaged in the ancient ritual. My knees ache just thinking about it....

  6. To me it shows how a woman can become so desperate for a child she'll try anything, especially as she gets older. Very interesting Amanda. I never knew this.

  7. I'm having SUCH a hard time with this one.

    How can one think that any divine entity, especially the Virgin Mother, would ask that a woman suffer in order to conceive?

    I love many rituals, and the back stories of how they came to be, but not this. This is just sad.

    I don't care for the statue, either. Where is the divine in a faceless, begging woman?

  8. Very interesting, Amanda, and a bit troubling for women. I was in Greece one September and remember that the sun can burn the skin... I would love to be there in October or a month with fewer tourists.

    You are a true pioneer... "strange religious ritual involving women, snakes, Greek islands and goddesses in the dirt." Yep, my money's on you!


  9. I truly enjoyed reading this - I am with you, I too am drawn to anything mysterious and out of the ordinary.
    Crawling up a hill over 1km just to conceive - hmm, not sure about that.
    But I believe in the power of a prayer and a thought. I am sure if one truly believes in something, miracles can happen.
    I share you sentiments about the statue.;)

  10. I wonder if they sent their husbands/lovers to the doctor first? To find out if it is THEIR body who will not give what is needed? (And then exchange him, perhaps?)
    Are these unallowed thoughts? I also know that belief can miraculously heal a body, but I feel truly sorry for these women. And the Madonna surely does not ask for suffering.
    Interesting post nonetheless, Amanda! Sorry for your disappeared comments, too.

  11. I can't wait to hear about it,,, all your stories/tales have that "draw",,,

  12. Part of our life, beliefs, notions and perhaps understanding of life... Great pictures Amanda!

  13. Although, I love the beauty of many rituals, this one is quite sad. The faceless woman statue is so telling of the prejudices women have, and continue to face.

  14. It is amazing to what lengths humans will go to achieve something they want. And do they get what they ask for? Who knows. But they do say that faith can move mountains ...

  15. Considering what some women go through with infertility treatment, a climb up hill sounds easier. One question: why don’t the men crawl too? I’m with you on the fascination over odd rituals.

  16. A woman might have a baby after going through all this but her knees will be ruined for life!

  17. I am dumbfounded and humbled.

  18. That last photograph is particularly stunning. I love all of them. Such an interesting ritual. It's so great to come over here and learn something new, which happens to me every time.

    Thanks for stopping by Tuesday and congratulating me on my book launch That is so interesting that you think I look the same except for the hair color!

    May you sooner or later get to go to Tinos.
    Ann Best, Memoir Author

  19. ola - i will have to look for this post!

    erin - i am fascinated by ritual, but i also believe, ultimately, that we draw power from within. the location of the divine is different for each of us.

    nancy - i can see where it seems like a degrading process, to climb on one's hand and knees to feel worthy of something. the legend of this place is so strong for some people that they go into the ritual with a sense of hope, which is very powerful.

    cat - and as we know - a man's (and a woman's) reach should always exceed her grasp♡

  20. susan - some women don't wear knee pads so you can only imagine how creaky they must feel at the end of that climb..

    sonia - yes. desire can be a powerful thing.

    jo - you are right - i don't think this is a ritual designed by women.

    genie - september is still warm to be in greece, but such a lovely month....but october is very close behind!

  21. zuzana - i believe in the power of prayer and miracles as well ~ it's not always something that has to be associated with organized religion, either.

    geli - i think many of the women who ultimately go to tinos do so only after having visited the doctor with no luck. it is a kind of lourdes in that way~

    glenn- kind thanks ♡

    thank you philip ;-)

  22. tess - as i said to jo, this ritual was probably not designed by a woman, as with much of what has happened in the church's history. it shows such a lack of connection to the heart..

    loree - there are enough success stories to keep rituals such as these going -- i imagine malta has its share of them as well!

    sarah - the men walk alongside the women, or sit and drink coffee while they wait!

  23. dd - a true problem! once she has a baby, she can't crawl around on the floor to play with it!

    suze - what a powerful response - kind thanks for visiting my blog♡

    ann - many thanks! if i do get to tinos one day, i will likely write another post about it!

  24. Desperation drives men and women to do or believe anything - and the only humane reaction is to want to share the desperation and hope for the result that's needed so badly.

    But prayers simply do not work. There is no way physical laws are subverted on request. The times a result follows the prayer or ritual are natural, and fuel the lies of evil people - usually male priests - who will willingly crush a thousand with disappointment for the one natural remission that occurs.

    Such rituals as this one are not fascinating, there is no 'room' for this kind of 'mystery', when the world is so blessed with wonderful women who are slowly healing the damage done by religion and other forms of repression. WITHOUT the help of man-made gods.

    My personal life is daily lifted by the wonders and real mysteries of nature from my hovel overlooking the 'wine dark' Ionian sea. I don't need fictitious mysteries.

  25. beautifully said, bob. thank you for this insight — and i'm sorry it took me so long to publish your comment. if it's for an older post i don't see it unless i go into the comment archives.

    i am in greece now — working on our excavation in pylos. will travel to ithaka in a bit. hoping you are well ~


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