RE: the Demetrian Well, Patras, Achaea, Pelopponese
Within the last 10 months I have traveled to 19 distinct oracular sanctuaries, several of them more than once. In traversing the territory between the Oracles, as well as the interiors of (so far) seventeen Sanctuaries, I’ve gathered fragments of a picture that challenges me on a number of levels. Some parts are perfectly clear, others are still coming into focus.
In no small part because of Quentin’s (privileged) despair, one of the questions flowing under these circuits has been “What detains humanity from the full expression of Its joyous nature in this world?” The follow-up question is “and how can we help undetain It?”
The answer coming into view is a multi-generational one, and I have a pretty good handle on what to do from that perspective. More puzzling is how much action to take, and what result to expect from a couple of decades or half-century? Or a few weeks. Hah.
For that I am seeking your good counsel.
To help you tune in to the motif, I’d like to share a couple of stories from this 2018 circuit of the Peripateo. The last one reveals our conundrum.
1 - Patras: This pilgrimage began in Patras, Achaea (Pelopponese). When I arrived here in December, I quickly gathered that this has been a healing area for millennia. Pausanias thought it was due to the sweet air, and I can’t disagree. Not even Patras’ 100,000 cars can foul it. I came here because there was rumor of an oracle at a wellspring, the only place where goddess Demeter gave medical --specifically ‘life or death?’— answers, based on a mirror lowered into the Spring. It was said to be on the southeast corner of a church square. I found the church --Agiou Andraeus Ekklesia-- on a map, but there are so many Orthodox churches here that I could not seem to triangulate it in person.
For a month I wandered around the city looking for this place. I began to fear the Diocese had buried it (that happens). Then, on my way to the dry-goods store Jumbo (aptly-named) there it was, like some kind of cosmic limerick:: “There was a yogini in Patras / Searching Jumbo for a mattress … On my left was the enormous –some might say ‘jumbo’-- Agious Andraeus. I parked the car and walked straight to the oracle -- just north of its rumored location. I found a gate that was locked, barred and locked again – with a Greek Orthodox palindrome carved over the entrance. “Whew,” I thought, “these boys know what they are doing.” It was an odd time, 3 p.m. or so on a Monday. Could I gain access earlier the next day?
Nope. Tuesday mid-morning, still locked: I sat down at the gate with my offerings, lit the incense and tapped in the codes (so to speak). In a few minutes I was met by the presence of a water nymph (naiad) who seemed a little skittish and sad. She accepted the offerings, said they were limited in what they could do or communicate there. I introduced the Peripateo, touched on its ambitions lightly, then mentioned that I would be coming back after going North ~ she perked up ~ but not as far as Dodoni ~ she spun down again.
We hung out for maybe an hour discussing the journey last Spring; I told her about the Waters and their reluctance to leave the country. Made her laugh. I took a few photographs of the stairway down to the well and we exchanged phone numbers…kiddingkidding… it was more like signatures. I then walked around the enveloping cathedral complex. Massive. Counterclockwise, of course, trying to feel out if there were any energetic openings. I found one little wobble, but nothing helpful.
2 - Nafpaktos:
Six days later I had made most of the circuit and came back to Nafpaktos, a small town just north of the bridge from Patras. I had not yet concluded the pilgrimage, there would be two more sanctuaries (three, including the Well again) before I returned the car and sealed the boundaries of the event.
I was exhausted, but I dragged myself into sitting position and started skrying the area. There was an Asklepion rumored to be in Nafpaktos, but not even the oracle hunter T. Curnow had tracked it down. He gestured broadly “It is somewhere on the eastern side of Nafpaktos […] but I never found it.” Oh, great. The night before I had driven through N. to see if it would reveal itself. Nope. I google-earthed the town, went through a dozen other literary sources, rummaged the regional and municipal webpages. Nothing. One blogger mentioned that she had stumbled across it in 2009, but failed to give any coordinates. The trail seemed as cold as my adrenals.
The car would be available for another 24 hours and now I needed to find food and cash. Cash is a little complicated as exchange rates vary wildly from bank to bank; Alphabank gave me the best rates. Googled ‘Alphabank.’ Yes, there was one in Nafpaktos. Off I went using Google’s navigation. Driving down an arterial road through town, I passed an enormous oak tree, trunk maybe 8 feet in diameter, with a wellspring right next to it. Recognizing a Venerable, I pulled over, drank some water and whooohooooo… there was the Asklepion! Right there, right here!! [. . .]
The punchline, finehearts: there was no Alphabank. Not a one anywhere in Nafpaktos. After visiting the Asklepion, I asked several people on the street where the bank was. Den yparkhi Alphabank edou. “There’s not an Alphabank here.”
This was one time when Google map’s shenanigans were welcome. “Alpha,”/‘A’ was for Asklepios.
1+ – Back at Patras:
As I rounded up the week of my pilgrimage, returning to Demeter’s Well was anticlimactic. It was Monday (again), much earlier than my first visit, but the Well was still locked. The church and grounds were overrun by a convocation of Orthodox deacons with their stovepipe hats and knee-beating beards.
I tried to catch the attention of four or five of the black cassocks; they cut their eyes away as if I were landscape.
It was a dreary day, cold and grizzled as those beards. I had to return the car within the hour, so sat down at the Well gate, wrapped in Quentin’s coat and listened into the rock-lined darkness. The feeling was bigger, more like a wide bosom, less nymph-maiden. But no sign, nothing except the regular rhythm of “here I am, here I am, here I am…” I made the offerings, visualized the journey to that point and promised I would return.
A few days later I went back to Patras on a grocery expedition. I like the town, its calm harbor and small-city hustle. Walking through the noisy townscape, I felt a shift, and a sudden sweetness twirled up. This freshness is sometimes how I register an unmapped oracle, but it could also be a little grove in the city or a wild spring. Within a half a block I was surprised to find an abandoned church. It was also dedicated to Saint Andrew, but was Anglican – first Protestant church I had seen in Greece! The tone of the place was affable, serene; had a distinctive ‘greenman’ vibe to it. I found out later that it was built in the 1870s of granite brought to Patras from Scotland.
The difference in the aura of the two churches made me look more carefully into the story of Saint Andrew. I discovered he died here in Patras; and that fact may have more than a few ramifications.
The eponymous Orthodox church is the third built on the site of his …‘martyrdom?’ All three structures are piled on top of the original Demetrian oracle and temple. The second church is still extant and sits next to Demeter’s well. The third is a massive basilica – largest in Greece, and possibly in all of the Balkans. It was finished in 1974 and encountered many obstacles in its construction, taking 66 years in the building.
It is said that the earliest church was built over Demeter’s temple because Andrew was killed there. Unlikely, as human sacrifice was not only prohibited in the Eleusinian Mysteries, but murder was the only thing that disqualified a Greek-speaker (slave or free, foreigner or citizen, woman or man) from Teletai/Initiation. No heiron of Demeter would have allowed murder in Her sanctuary, so this story was probably concocted to justify razing the temple.
Andrew was crucified, not on a cross, but rather on an X, the first letter of Xριστος. Ear-catching enough as propaganda, but what I find even more convenient is the story that he was suspended (tied, not nailed) from his X for three days -- and although he was redeemed from the Roman proconsul by his friends, he refused to dismount. He preferred (says the hagiography) to die like his Savior.
If this is true, he was less a martyr than a suicide. Death-by-cop, Hellenic-era style. But martyrdom creates just the right blend of terror and pity to drive people into compliancy, making this a useful fabula.
I shared with you the story of the Asklepion in Nafpaktos because it is consistent with most of my sanctuary experience. If a gate is locked, someone comes along and unlocks it. Or a hole appears in the fence, or a latch crumbles, or a gate swings open. Or there is no fence, no gate, no lock (and there is one, I find out later, just up the road).
The fact that I haven’t been able to get into this one is suggestive. I may have happened upon a ... hmm, what shall I call it? Stronghold? Maybe, but ‘stranglehold’ seems more accurate: the spot where a toxic patriarchy is energetically-anchored.
Signage over the stairway into the cave states that the ‘St. Andrew’s’ water once belonged to Demeter, and is merely ‘therapeutic.’ The well itself has been capped so that it cannot be consulted as an oracle.
Over the descending stair to the Demetrian Well is a palindrome carved in marble. A palindrome, as you probably know, can be a binding spell – used to retain what is desireable, to inhibit what is not. ΝΙΨΟΝ ΑΝΟΜΗΜΑΤΑ ΜΗ ΜΟΝΑΝ ΟΨΙΝ, with the hinge at the letter Tau (which only appears in that position). This uses the † to pin down the attention/energy in the center (the 13th letter!) of the palindrome, which was taken from the font at the Hagia Sofia in Istambul/Constantinople.
Then I discovered that this very slogan has been carved over virtually every spring that flows near Orthodox churches all over Greece. ‘Wash your sins, not just your face’ it scowls, placing the crucial «†» right over the tap. But these are drinking springs, so this message comes while slaking one’s thirst; as if the most primordial need of the body were a spiritual offense.
And while the Church couldn’t find all of them, many Orthodox cathedrals are built over powerful pagan sanctuaries, which usually came with a sentient spring. That is a lot of lockdown. Back at the Asklepion in Nafpaktos, there is a six-sided well that has been capped off; I had a hunch that the two wells were in sympathy, but that was just the first clue. If a substantial number of springs have been spellbound, that’s a problem.
More Signs of the Patriarch:
• ‘Andrew’ was Galilean, but given a Greek name at birth. Andrew/Aνδρας was the first apostle and his name literally means ‘Man’ ~ not as ‘human’ but as in ‘not-woman.’
• And shall I belabor the name of the town? Patras. I thought it might not be too sexist because it was named after an early founder named Patraeus, but 2800 years of being called ‘Daddy’ seems to have left a mark.
• And: All Those Cassocks. The city has the highest Pater:human ratio I’ve seen outside of Thessaloniki (which I chalk up to the proximity of Mount Athos). I found out that priests and deacons affect religious garb. No woman is allowed to celebrate the Liturgy (the principle Orthodox rite) nor have any other sacerdotal role. While we know that women are perfectly capable of suppressing their autonomy on behalf of male-domination, Greek Orthodoxy does not depend on this self-slavery to secure its authority. The institution is so vehemently embedded in the Law of the Father that it will not cede even the tiniest religious task to females.
Demeter’s naos was far from the only temple in classical and archaic Patras. The city was consecrated to Dionysius and there was also a temple to Isis, as well as the Apollonian Asklepion across the bay. It had a large trade in oracular services, with chance or ‘lot’ oracles at the Dionysian temple and a tradition of lamp oracles, which induced trance-states by firelight. These, unmediated by a mantic, were carried out by the inquirer him or herself.
I woke up one morning this week contemplating that milieu – how it brought the atmosphere of the unknowable/unknown into the enquirer, creating an ‘opening’ (a prajna, as it were) to answer the query. The question itself might be about paternity or whether to start a business or if a relative would heal, but the quality of attention to receive the answer was worlds away from what Xtianity would sanction. It would require an envagination, if not a vagina.
The widespread razing of temples and tendency to plop an ekklesia or cathedral on their footprints attests to Xtianity’s intention to eradicate polytheism. What I didn’t quite grasp until now was the maliciousness with which the campaign was carried out, particularly when it came to oracular practice; nor how persistently the Church(es) –East and West-- continue to prosecute that campaign. For an idea of the duration and intensity of that project see The Devil’s Tabernacle by Anthony Ossa-Richardson: “This book [. . .]provides a description of the most conventional view of the oracles in early modernity—namely, that they were the work of the Devil, and that they fell silent with the coming of Christ.”
In summary, Greece (as well as Anatolia and Magna Graecia) still has a vivacious community of elementals, daimons and demiurges – as well as gods/goddesses and titanic beings accessible through what is left of the sanctuary system here. In Patras, I seem to have found a critical node of a much larger network of obstructions. I believe the enthrallment of the energy called ‘goddess’ (or goddess & consort) is effected by locking down the region’s hydrology, especially water found in caves or grottos.
Now: what can I (we?) do about it? I am very much in long-game mode, keeping the interventions subtle and slow. But I don’t think I can roll this one by myself.
One of my guiding objectives was named at the beginning of this letter, but there are a number of subgoals to be explored as well, e.g., to locate and deactivate whatever interferes with a broad recalibration of human being. One idea for this area is to try to enlist the spiritual energy of Andrew himself. Another is to becalm the cringing hungers that so readily convert to anger and control. I am also spending time in the company of a large female python who is aware of both the Asklepion and the Well. Such actions may be carried out at the subtle levels first, then followed up (‘sealed’) by mooring activities in the day-world.
I am only here for a few more days, and am curious to hear if your intuition responds to any of this report. Your thoughts? You might want to read this again just before heading into the dream-world; then see what Oneiros has to add.
Addendum: Patras continued to be under Roman (then French, then Roman again) dominion for about 1300 years after the death of Andrew. In the 14th C. this area came under the administration of Venice, which seemed to reactivate the Dionysian strain in the Patras story, as the tradition of Carnival from that time is very well established here. So we have an ascetic religious presence, anchored by the largest church in Greece, but answered by a lively libertinage one month of the year. Each the shadow of the other, but neither representing the interests of the puissant and subtle community of the Ever-Living.
 Such as the fact that they are quite lively still – esp the Asklepion.
 the ‘polos’ was originally goddess Meter/Cybele’s headgear
3. I hope not to presume on your patience… we can parse the meaning of this phrase in another conversation or correspondence, but for now I hope we can agree that a ‘toxic patriarchy’ does exist, and for a very long time has perverted the Chrystic mysteries.
4. This is important for three reasons: a) because the Hagia Sofia (Byzantium) is on the site of the first Apostolic See, b) established (in first century) by none other than Andrew himself, and c) is geographically parked on Phrygia, the epicenter of the Cybele/Meter wisdoms.
5. They are far from silent, just selective.