Monday, March 5, 2012

Goddesses in the Dirt: Santorini - Tranquil Surface.....Fiery Underworld

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

In the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Greece lies an island with an explosive history - literally. Called by many names, her latest is the most famous and recognized of them all: Santorini - a contraction of the name given her in the 13th century - Saint Irene or Santa Irini - named after a church dedicated to the saint in the small island village of Perissa.
Irene and Persephone have the Underworld in common: in the Catholic history of the saint it is said that Irene and her mother prayed in the catacombs of ancient Rome, often spending entire nights underground, praying for the souls of the departed martyrs. The Orthodox history of Irene states she was born a daughter of a prince and in her youth became a Christian. In her pious zeal she broke all the idols of her father, who ordered that she be trampled by horses as punishment. She remained unharmed but one of the horses reared up and killer her father instead. She endured many torments throughout her life but also worked many miracles through her faith in God. She died and was buried at the site of Ephesus in modern day Turkey in the 4th century A.D. Two days later her gravestone was found moved and her grave empty.

Santorini - or Thera as it is known in Greek - is one of the most photographed places on earth, its sheer beauty is both jaw-dropping and serene, as the name Irene - which is derived from the Greek Eirini, meaning peaceful - implies. The sheer cliffs rising straight from the sea are gorgeous, but the island's tranquility hides a devastating past: Santorini is actually a volcano that exploded in one of the earth's most powerful eruptions some 3500 years ago. At that time the Minoan civilization flourished on the island. Archaeologists discovered the site of Akrotiri in the 1960s, a city with houses, shops, staircases and pottery, along with fabulous frescoes depicting their daily life. Yet they found few skeletons, leading them to believe that the inhabitants fled due to powerful earthquakes that shook the island before the eruption. At the time the island had a ring-like shape, formed by the top of a submerged volcano. After the eruption, half of the island collapsed into the caldera, leaving behind the crescent moon shaped cliffs so often depicted in photographs. 

I've been fortunate to visit this island on many occasions, the latest last summer. Every time I sense an energy about the place, almost a nervous energy, as the island is subject to mudslides, rockslides as well as earthquakes that continue to affect the region. But mostly it's due to the fact that the volcano is still active. On a recent trip, a friend told me she sensed the presence of Pele. Known as the "She Who Shapes the Sacred Land", I understood her as the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. In Hawaiian mythology, erupting volcanoes were thought to be Pele's way of showing anger, throwing molten lava at her many lovers whom she thought deceived her.
But Pele is not confined to just the volcanoes of the Hawaiian islands. She is definitely here, among the burnt cone that is still smoking (on which my daughter and I stood)

the deep waters of the caldera heated by sulfur spewing into them from underground (in which we went swimming - it was really warm, even in November!)

and the sense that everywhere you go in this magical place



you are always 




on the edge



I feel very lucky that Pele allows us to trespass into her world. Her friend Irene may keep things serene in these parts, but you never know when the goddess of fire is going to shake things up once again...


Images of Saint Irene and Pele from Google, all other photos courtesy of author

20 comments:

  1. I am still dreaming about Santorini-the essence of Greek islands!
    very pretty there!

    Life and travelling
    Cooking

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  2. So many awesome photographs. Can't say which is my favorite!! I also LOVE your latest header photo. It's also awesome!!!
    Ann Best, Memoir Author of In the Mirror & Imprisoned

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  3. Your description of St. Irene's trials and travails made the hair on my arms stand up.

    Why does everything in Greece and the surrounding area seem a study in two colors, blue and white?

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    1. an adept observation, suze - that is because greece IS primarily those colors (hence the colors of their flag!) the only extra color i would throw in is green, as on occasion spiky cypress trees stud the horizon... but the whole place is a fluid superposition of blue and white, blue and white, blinking on and off....

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  4. Be careful! I want to shout! What a history, and Pele never sleeps. Yes, I admit it is beautiful, but your words and the pictures also let my hair stand up.
    Glad you are back home! Cheers from our rather cool island!

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  5. What an enchanting post. I have seen to many photos of Santorini and hear so much about it. It looks serene and beautiful, under which lies a font of hidden energy. Another one of those places that I long to see with my own eyes.

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  6. beautiful pictures that took me back a million years ago to when i visited....the lack of fresh water on the island was a pretty big concern back then....they were bringing fresh water in by boat. I wonder how they manage now....Pele would feel very powerful here....I found the vibe a bit unsettling for some reason....beautiful....but....somehow....not that inviting....

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    1. completely understand this, sue. santorini does have an unsettling vibe about it, which may be the reason it attracts people. something about that edge...

      and yes, so many greek islands import bottled water. ithaka had a desalination plant once but it broke down (due to not changing the filter, so i am told) i don't know if santorini has such a plant. it would save the landfills billions and billions of plastic water bottles.

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  7. As usual, amazingly beautiful pictures. You and your daughter are so cute! And, all that white with the blue caps... My gosh!
    I think I've told you this before but Greece or the islands are the only places I would suffer an international flight for.

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    1. rubye, if you were to fly all that way, i would hope you would not be disappointed. i am passionate about greece but i am always interested in how different people react to the country. many hate athens but love the islands. if you ever do go, please let me know...I would enjoy sharing all my favorite places and itineraries with you..

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  8. What delightful pictures, and fascinating story. The white and blue are so, well, um, Greek. And if you were standing on the top of a smoking volcano, you were living very dangerously. Much more dangerously than any Bear. But you're like that; living dangerously — America, Belize, Greece, in Persephone's underworld — wherever.

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    1. r-bear, strangely enough, one of my all time favorite movies is titled the year of living dangerously (peter weir film starring mel gibson, sigourney weaver and linda hunt in an oscar winning role)

      this last visit to santorini all i could think was - is this place going to blow again while i'm here? and how do people live, under the volcano so to speak? (or on top of it, in this case)

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  9. while stunning (and surely it is!) i could not help but have this question rise up into me, a woman from a country with great space, where do the children play? i laugh. children always find a way. all of that rock though and architecture! how it must impress directly into the fabric of the people who are born there, as all geography does, of course, with each of us. my god, my god, but i can not imagine what it must be like to be a person from there. how their heart must look different. how their legs must anticipate differently from mine. it is mind boggling but important to consider.

    xo
    erin

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    1. erin, kids do find a way to play anywhere, but you bring up a wonderful point. their play spaces on santorini are tight nooks and crannies and edges where one could fall at anytime. i've had friends visit the island with children, and while there are some flat spaces behind the caldera edge, most of the place is not kid friendly (and not knee and joint friendly either). the locals must have some of the strongest hearts in the world, with all that stair climbing. people can adapt to living anywhere, and here it is predominantly vertical.

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  10. Santorini has been on my 'must visit' list for awhile now which makes me even more ashamed to admit that I didn't know it was built on a volcano (what did they teach us in school anyway?!). But, I'm still anxious to visit and feel that 'edge'.

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  11. You make me want to visit Santorini too! I've never been to Greece. The colors are so intense. Interesting story about Irene too.

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  12. As always dear Amanda, it is joy to visit here. Indeed who does not recognize the images of Santorini, they are featured in calenders and posters. Never had the privilege to visit that island, but hope I will one day. I had no idea that the volcano was still active.;)) The white architecture against the black lava rocks with the sapphire blue in the background is a heavenly combination.
    Wonderful photography.
    Have a great weekend dear Amanda,
    xoxo

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  13. I want to GO!! I Do I dO!! Stamping feet now..holding breath until I turn blue...No? Ok,a girl can dream...Tonight I have a feeling I will be visiting sweet Santorini in my dreams..My feet up on that sandy color ledge,...aaah..Thank you friend for taking me away,letting my wings soar,yes yes,I can feel that glorious breeze and I can touch the cool white stone.
    By the way,I keep meaning to mention,that beautiful photo of you lying on the blue mat and ocean...well,its like a dream.xoxo

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    1. cat - that foto is actually of my daughter - the setting was incredibly dream like as you say - it was taken on a boat off the turkish coast ;-)

      p.s. did santorini turn up in your dreams? i actually dreamed of greece myself last night ;-)

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