From my journey today.
I won’t go into details about how it is used, it’s history and so on, as such information is readily available online. I will just tell a story.
Three or four years ago now, when I was “introduced” to Agios Paisios, Saint Paisios of Mount Athos, I asked him, in a prayer, to teach me how to pray.
On some level I know, these conversations a should be for God alone, not the ramblings of some ego, but its good to share also. But, on another level, these things are intertwined and inseparable.
In order to try to relate the story somehow, I must tell you some individual small stories. These stories are like infusions of the emotions, time and place, the situation as it was, the melting pot at that point, it holds a lot of meaning somehow. Everything is related but it is only in looking backwards on events in our lives that we can see how things become shaped and formed, linked and result in later understandings. At the time we can not see.
One story is, my good friend, when I first moved to Crete, told me of when his grandmother whom was dying and she asked, the moments before her death, for some bread. This she the chewed in her mouth, made into a ball, took it out of her mouth and squashed it onto my friends chest, just on his heart area. No words and she died.
Another story is from Jan 6th, every year, the day when the waters become holy. This day, in Orthodox Greek, the boys dive in the water for the cross, the priest blesses the people and the waters. That day, there is a special bread that is blessed, but you must drink the holy water before you eat the bread. The Elder ladies of the village, after the mass and everyone processes down to the sea for the throwing of the cross, the ladies throw bread crumbs into the water also. It seems that particular practice of throwing the breadcrumbs into the water was one that was dying out, only a few knew, soon to be forgotten as the elders pass away. It was as if they knew what they were doing, but they did it so very descreetly.
Another story is my own realisation that my life on Crete was a life within a life. It was my life in between lives.
The last story I will share within this post is the evening I took some of the “soul” food which is made by the women of the village for the day of the dead. We all ate some but I had a promoting to take some down and throw it as an offering into the sea. And so I did. At the time I wasn’t sure if it was appropreate but just after I had done this with a small prayer, lightning flashed way out to sea. There was no storm, no subsequent flashes. To me it was a sign that the offering had been accepted.
These small experiences, and there are many more, with all the crossings and weaving of others lives (matter or spirit) whom we meet on our individual paths, make up a prayer rope. How a prayer rope becomes *lived*, becomes an integral part and…how to say…experienced part of life. In a way like Lectio Divina, but of course, that is scripture in a prayerful visualisation way. What I speak of is the way the scripture is brought to life, in a way. The opposite. They are experiences, of one life, amongst a myriad of many, the people we meet, the myriad of encounters we have each with its own points of ingress, congress and egress, imparting lessons of Spirit and matter, all those “points” or “meeting” places along the way, each forming a knot, each crossroads a knot on the prayer rope, entwined with the myriad of others. The web.
But at the heart of all this is the “Christ.”
It must be an amazing feat, those who live out an asthetic life, like the monks on Mount Athos, who strive to fulfil this.
In order to do this my only conclusion is that one must *become* prayer. *Be* prayer. So that means, constant prayer in the inside, in the heart. Like the Jesus prayer. Like as Agios Paisios says, to be in constant prayer. But it must become a feeling…I dont know. A love, I think personally, its like an emptyness that its like bitter sweet. But very simply put, we become the prayer rope. It is a part of us, our heritage just as much as we are a part of it.
I could go into much more detail to explain this and illustrate, but I have left a lot out and unsaid, those musings are for another day and I shall let it here for now. Enjoy!
(Photos not my own.)
In memory of the sunken village of Σφεντυλι, a tribute in pictoral form, photographed in Summer 2014.
It was an amazing trip! A hot early summer’s (June I think) day, I was on my break and I had decided to take a scooter ride up to the mountains. I took a detour down the road to the village as it occured to me that I had never been there before and fancied a new experience, also to see the village before it dissapreared “forever” under the water.
The frogs chorus as I approached the lake was deafening! I got off the scooter and just sat there soaking up the atmosphere for a while before heading up the old road towards the village on foot.
It wouldn’t be long before the village would be lost under the resevoir that was being constructed. Just beyond the village of ποταμιες and before the beautiful village of Αβγού on the road to Καστελι lay this little village. It had been evacuated long ago, the local people paid to leave their homes. However it was not willingly they left. The loss of the village, the beloved streets and homes that had nurtured generations of people who had grown up and lived out their lives there. There were still at the time I visited sneaking around with my camera, a couple of people still living there, refusing to leave, their black flags gently fluttering in the breeze, their last stand of defiance against what would only be inevitable.
It was such an eerie feeling walking around the deserted streets and houses. It was like people had left in great haste, leaving their posessions behind. I felt the ghosts and spirits of the older generations and their ancestral dead swirling cooly around me, as if they knew what was about to befall the place. The air was cool but stifling with their presence. There were odd moments of absolute stillness, stifling in the heat, the sweat trickling down my neck and back along with the fingers of the ghosts, contrasted with old whispered memories tumbling down the empty streets, upon a fluttering leaf or a stirring breeze.
Today you see nothing there, just the lake. And that which is reflected back from its surface.
This line below sums up the experience for me perfectly:
“There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe
Rest in peace, Σφεντυλι.
Today I am featuring a new found friend in my current neigbourhood, Sweet Cicely. A beautiful fragranced and delicate plant. It has a gentle feel about it, for me anyway.
The Sweet Cicely is known by many folk names, British Myrrh, Sweet chervil, The Roman plant, Cow chervil, Shepherd’s needle, Smooth Cicely, Sweet bracken, Sweet fern, Sweet humlock. The plant has a flavour rather like anise with a scent like lovage and it is very attractive to bees. All parts of the plant are edible and were used for food in the old days. The old herbalist describes the plant as ‘so harmless you cannot use it amiss.’
The name Myrrhis odorata derives from the Greek word for perfume because of its myrrh-like smell. Odorata means sweet-scented. Sweet Cicely derives from the mountains in Central Europe where it is a wild plant. Today it is feral in northern Europe.
Apparently the plant was brought by monks to the North from Central Europe in the Middle Ages, and they used it as well for food as for medicine. Leaves and stalks are good in fruit soups and as a green sprinkle on food and as a spice in marmalade.
The stalks were candied, and they were also used in stewed rhubarbs since it lessened the strong taste. A drink can be made which resembles the Greek alcohol Ouzo. Essence can be made by the flowers, the seed, the root and the green leaves. Pour alcohol over and make it draw for some days. This gives a fine light green drink with a piquant taste of anise.
In medicine the monks used the plant for digestive problems and for anemia in elderly people. The leaves were used as an incense for asthma. Infusions were used for flatulence and coughs. The roots have antiseptic action and were used to cure the bites of mad dogs and snakes. Steeped in wine, they were a remedy for consumption. It can be eaten as a general tonic.
It seems to be fond of river banks and likes sunny/shady areas.
Magical properties of the plant:
“This is the herb of Alfheim, used to honor the alfar and the fey. It is a pair with Fennel – “felamihtigu twa”, the mighty two, and they are most often used in conjunction. Tea of Sweet Cicely and Fennel protects against elf-shot; tea to drink or salve rubbed on the afflicted area treats cases of it. Sweet Cicely also aids in the Gift of Sight, in this case the ability to see beauty beneath ugliness, power beneath simplicity, and possibility beneath limitation. It is a useful plant when faced with clients who are living in a swamp of negativity, and you have to find them some hope. Drink in tea or smoke it or eat the seeds (preferably six of them).” – Source:
What I loved about it was the way it interacted with me. We fell in love instantly. When I put the leaves in my mouth, it was like someone had sprinkled a dusting of anise flavoured icing sugar over my tongue both in the taste and the sensation. It sweetens the breath and sweetens the tongue. In turn it sweetens the heart, sweetening the air as it passes out over the tongue. It opens up the eyes and heart of the poet, inducing the flow of the sweet honeyed sap of the Muse, succured and nurtured by Beauty.
I have added a couple of my favourite sites for reference and further research:
I decided to include a category in my blog for the wonderful food I experienced and recipes I learned while living on Crete. Eating the Cretan way has become such an integral part of my lifestyle, I can’t imagine my life without it. So to kick off, a basic staple. Horta.
Here is a step by step guide to getting some wild greens into your system. So simple, so delicious and so healthy!
Find a patch of edible wild greens. Make sure you can fully identify the plants you are collecting. Simple examples are dandelions, nettles…here is a lovely list from this ladies web site:
De-bug and wash thoroughly.
Boil gently. When cooked, remove onto a plate and keep the juice to drink with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Add olive oil, lemon juice and salt.