Archive for category Ancient Places
The idea for this slide show came while I was walking the spaces of Apollo. These spaces were often, but not always, very tangible. At times I would be immersed in them and find myself wondering how could I possibly pass the experience. Truth is I can’t because sometimes you just have to be there. But I can hopefully offer a glimpse of what it might be like to follow the spaces of Apollo today in Turkey and Greece.
I have used mostly my own images. Images that were not mine were of Asclepius, the son of Apollo.
The format I chose was to firstly introduce the god Apollo, then other gods related in some way, usually also children of Zeus, and Zeus himself. Then to end I return to arguably the greatest of all Apollo temples that can be visited today, the temple at Didyma, Turkey. The spaces of the Didymaion are thick with the presence of the oracular functions and devotional practices.
What is especially good about all the ancient temples in Turkey is that you can walk through them. You can sit, stand, and wonder at the glory of the temple construction, and its remains. Greece is very different. All the temples I visited on mainlaind Greece were fenced off and you could only wander around them. It’s just not the same experience. Still wonderful, but everything is much more tangible in Turkey.
There were other ancient sites that I left out because the spaces were harder to capture from images and this slide show is already quite long – at almost 20 minutes.
Why Apollo? Because the space that I came to recognize as ancient devotion to this particular god just kept showing up. And it became unmistakable. This was a very enjoyable approach to mapping spaces of consciousness and fortunately I am trained to do just that from my many years of studies with the Clairvision School. (1)
Apollo’s twin sister Artemis is also always discernible at these ancient sites. My experience was that wherever there was a temple to Apollo, there was also a sanctuary to Artemis. And wherever there was a temple to Artemis, there was a sanctuary to Apollo.
The spaces overlap and at times become the same and at times they are different. It is a mystery to me. There is much written about Artemis temples and devotion to the goddess as being pre Greek.
It seems that often, but not always, the temples of the Artemis were located on the site of earlier temples to a Mother Goddess, from Phrygian (as at Ephesus) and also from Minoan temples. Of course that makes me wonder what gods the original the sites of Apollo temples had been devoted to, as the ancient layers of devotional spaces at particular sites were often apparent.
The slide show should speak for itself. To help with the experience, I have brought Apollo back into the end of each section about other gods, using images from the most beautiful statue I saw of the god, located at the Istanbul Archeology Museum. I was stunned by this statue and sat with it for probably 30 minutes.
The head of Zeus was also among the most beautiful statues I came across. I always see Elvis with a beard when I look at it. This statue was located at the Ephesus Museum. Sadly the most famous Zeus temple perhaps anywhere was ancient Pergamun at Bergama. I have not used images from the Zeus sanctuary and altar at Pergamun because it has been almost completely stripped and removed to the Berlin Museum of Pergamun. Sadly there is nothing much there now to meditate on.
I could not resist putting in a few slides about the evangelism of St Paul at Ephesus. It was unmissable in the space. St Paul challenged the Ephesians to leave their devotion to their Lady of Ephesus, the goddess Artemis, and they rose up loudly against him, and put him jail for the winter to cool him off. He must have been a brave man to go up against those Ephesians and their devotion to Artemis.
I hope you enjoy this slide show. After many views of it while preparing it, I still get butterflies each time I tune into these spaces.
(1) Clairvision School of Meditation www.clairvision.org
This visit to the Temple of Zeus located in Athens was during July 2010. I stayed in a typical Greek pension in Plaka which is the best possible location in Athens, being the ancient neighborhood of Athens. I had wonderful views of the Acropolis and surrounding areas.
My first taste of ancient Athens was the Zeus Temple which was 5 minutes walk from my pension. Just south of Syntagma Square, I turned the corner and marvelled at the Arch of Hadrian with the Zeus Temple behind. Happily I saw that the street running alongside the temple site named Vasilissis Olgas. I think that translates to Olga’s street. From this small photo you can see the temple site surrounded by the city of Athens.
Here is Hadrian’s Arch which once held the entrance to the temple. Unfortunately, it is not possible to walk through the arch and look towards the temple. I suspect there would have been the experience of quite a space when walking through that entrance. This view is looking back from the temple.
Emperor Hadrian completed the temple of Olympian Zeus in the 2nd century AD, 700 years after it was commenced. The construction of the temple had a number of stops and starts, changes in leadership and demolitions. (1) At its peak, there were 104 Corinthian marble columns and among the largest in Europe. The temple was 354 x 135 feet. Only 16 columns remain, 13 of which stand together.
This was the first time I had experienced a serious Zeus temple. The Zeus temples in Turkey I had come across were consistently raised to the ground, or in the case of Pergamon, removed to Berlin. Here is the Gateway to the Olympian.
My experience of this temple was unique among ancient temples I visited. I was in no doubt of the majesty of the temple space. I walked around and around the temple soaking up the force of the Zeus Temple. I imagine that this is what the space of the greatest of Olympians should feel like. Here are the images from walking around the temple.
I sat quietly meditating beside the temple and of course I caught the attention of the security. They kept a close eye on me during my stay there which was probably around 3 hours.
Another much smaller site with temple and other building remains sits alongside and below the Zeus Temple. Here I could sit very quietly as few people ventured this far off the beaten track. After an hour or so I was visited by security with 2 big dogs who sniffed my back pack. I was simply too blissed to leave and stayed quietly sitting until closing time, with the security guard and his dogs waiting patiently at the entrance to the adjoining temple area.
Here is what remains of the Law Court of the Delphinion. The large wall at the top of the photo surrounds the Zeus Temple. I found generally that temple sites with only remains of the base did not have spaces that could be discerned beyond interesting or pleasant or not. This one was more pleasant than most.
Adjacent to the Lawcourt was the remains of the Temple of Apollo Delphinios. I sat there meditating for some time, probably 45 minutes. I love the spaces of Apollo Temples and especially Apollo Delphinios temples.
The Zeus Temple of Athens is the perfect location for Vangelis to perform Chariots of Fire. The notion of chariots on fire seems ideal for this location. You can see the Acropolis and Parthenon in the background at the top of the screen. Tuning into the temple space together with this performance makes me cry.
The performance of the Mythodea by Vangelia at the Zeus Temple must be the most inspiring of all that have taken place here. I think that the gods must have been pleased with this performance.
I stayed in Cappadocia for just over a week in June 2010. There really are no words that adequately describe the place. I have not met anyone who was not stunned by the natural beauty of this place together with what many call the heavenly beauty of the centuries of Devotional practices that took place inside the fairy chimneys and caves and underground cities.
I could spend a long time in Cappadocia which should not really be surprising as for centuries that’s what those with spiritual inclinations did. They retreated from the world to Cappadocia. It is sometimes called the cradle of history and the cradle of Christianity, especially monasticism.
The region was formed from deposits erupted from ancient volcanoes approximately 9 to 3 million years ago. The literature says that lava from the volcanoes of Erciyes to the East and Hasan to the west covered the region to form Cappadocia. I hired a car and drove to Ericyes contrary to advice as some of the villages up that way are not friendly. The car didn’t break down so it was fine but I do understand why it is not good idea so I do not recommend it. For me Ericyes rivals Shasta and Lassen. These volcanoes are the northern plateaus of the Taurus Mountains and I so love those mountains. They are very special in the sense of land energies.
The rocks of Cappadocia near Goreme eroded into spectacular pillars and minaret-like forms, known as fairy chimneys. These soft rocks were used to carve out houses, churches and monasteries. Initially a hiding place for persecuted Christians during the early period of Christianity and from around 300 AD, becoming a monastic centre.
Everywhere I looked I was amazed and enthralled. Walking amongst the incredible landscapes is nothing less than inspirational. It is endlessly magnificent. The land energies defy description. I constantly wondered if it is the land energies* that pulled the monastics to that particular place.
The area boasts of 10,000 year old Neolithic settlements and more from settlements around 3500 BC. Hittite settlements have been found throughout this area. The Ancient Greeks were there and Alexander the Great occupied the southern part in 333 BC. Then came the Romans and then the Christian cults. It is said that the development of church and monastic buildings began here and I get that. Looking at the land formations makes me wonder if the church spire was inspired from Cappadocia. Maybe you will see that from pictures of fairy chimneys.
They say there are over 400 churches, chapels and hermitages dug into this area. Seems like more to me, they are everywhere you go. Even when not looking for them, you wander into a valley and see some cliff dugouts and look up and there is another chapel or church.
I landed in a wonderful location because a friend of a friend referred me to a hotel in the village of Cauvsin. Everyone in Turkey has a friend with a hotel or a carpet shop. After a while I got to understand better how Turkish networking works and it’s a combination of etheric and astral know-how. Very clever. The best place to see the Turkish network in operation is in Istanbul’s Grand Bizarre.
The hotel owner and staff were very friendly and there were many attempts to get me to smoke the water pipe and drink local wine. All of which the owner and his staff all did all night long. I did try the water pipe when a Dervish that came to meet me at the hotel, offered me his pipe. It tastes good but I am done with smoking. The tobacco is flavoured with various fruits. The boys at the hotel kept insisting that they only smoked tobacco but I seriously doubt that.
Marijuana is relatively freely available in Cappadocia and has quite a history with certain Sufi sects, especially the Bektashi Order (1) who are linked to Alevi Muslims and have a somewhat different interpretation of the Qur’an. For example they are said to conduct their religious practices without the usual Muslim separation of men and women. The tomb of a founder of the Bektashi Order, Hajji Bektashi, is located in the northern part of Cappadocia, Hajibektas. There are all kinds of stories about the Bektashi using substances to enhance their spiritual practices. They were quite a political force during the period of the Ottoman Empire and they were sometimes referred to as libertine dervishes.
I was introduced to a local Dervish by the friend of a friend, who referred me to the hotel in Cavusin. We arranged to meet me there later to discuss Sufism and specifically how I might learn more about Sufism while visiting Turkey. Unfortunately my friend’s friend forgot that I don’t speak Turkish and the Dervish did not speak English. He showed up for the meeting and we were able to say very little for over 30 minutes. His interpreter didn’t show up and we were going to try to meet again with the hotel owner as interpreter. I thought it best to let it pass by as despite the best intentions of the Dervish, the language barrier was very awkward and I suspect the hotel owner would not have been the ideal interpreter. So the Dervish smoked the water pipe and I smoked a little and there was not much else to say about the experience except he had a lovely presence.
The village where I stayed, Cavusin, is pronounced chawvushin. It is hardly mentioned on the guide books and internet info sites but it is a perfect base for getting around the must see locations in Cappadocia. But it is also somewhat sad. Its perfect because its smack in the middle of the Cappadocia triangle and some of the best hikes start at this village. The dugout cliff that is the centre of attraction was still occupied until the 1960s when there was a big collapse and people died. Its obvious that the village has about halved in activity since then. Lots of abandoned shops and pensions although maybe some of that is just due to the many recessions Turkey has had over past decades. That’s the sad part.
Cavusin is very poor here compared to the alternative places to stay such as Goreme (the party town) or Urgup (the trendy town) which are within a 10 km radius, but maybe there is a revival going on in Cavusin because there are many tour buses that arrive each day to see the cliff. Turkey is also the land of buses. At times it seems like there are more buses than cars on the road.
The day I arrived at Cavusin, I took one of the famous walks here to the Rose Garden (Turkey has roses everywhere during the warmer months) and quickly found my first church dugout. It wasn’t marked as many are not. It just showed itself. The cave had been painted with beautiful icon frescos there but they had been mostly ruined by vandals. Perhaps because this was my first dugout chapel and because it had good frescoes – it was a deeply moving space. There was no doubt for me that it was a place of very beautiful worship during its time.
My guess from the style of icon frescoes is that they were around 10-12th century AD. Most of the good frescoes found in Cappadocia are from this period. The main reason that dugout church frescoes have not been preserved from much before that time is the iconoclastic periods when frescoes were destroyed by the Christians because the worship of those images was outlawed. The first period was 730-787 and the second 814-842. A unimaginable number of icons and frescoes were destroyed during those periods. However some early church dugout frescoes do seem to have survived but they are rare. By contrast, the frescoes from the iconoclastic periods are obvious. They were typically red painted geometric symbols. (2)
The aspiration of the early Christian cults is profound at times in the less accessible valleys but not always. Sometimes the spaces are not good at all. Quite some distance away from the centre of Cappadoccia to the south is the Ilhara Valley and very much out of the way of everything. The terrain is very different. There were early Coptic dugout churches and monasteries in this area and those were the most profound spaces I encountered. I have some weird photos from there. Lots of different energies showing up. You could say the images were not focused but I saw this kind of image often enough and it comes from very unique spaces not bad photography. (3)
Descriptions of historical Christian locations always referred to Christianity as a cult in Turkey and in Cappadocia that really works. These communities were from the beginnings of Christianity (second century AD) and monasticism and yes they definitely feel like cults when you go from one church/chapel to another. Many different orders striving for something unique in their Devotion. There was something of a revival of monasticism around 11th C AD and again they headed for Cappadocia.
Regarding the fresco’s that can be found in dugouts – Turks have the most annoying thing going on about the evil eye. It seems to be one reason why so many of the dugout church fresco icons have been vandalised. The evil eye repellents are everywhere - in the streets and cafés and are favourite souvenirs. The Greeks have them too but I don’t think with the same kind of fervour. There are just a few things that really annoy me about Turkey and this is one of them.
It appeared to me that many frescoes had been shot at, especially aiming at the faces and the eyes and especially the icons of women. In a few churches, evil eye repellents have been painted into structures surrounding the icons and over icons. Sometimes it is done with great care and other times just ham fisted. Sometimes it appears that the icons are shot at and other times icons are randomly defaced probably with something sharp. So its not always about the evil eye. At first I wondered why the icons were not just painted over instead of painting on evil eye repellents.
Later I came across a beautiful Turkish novel “Birds without Wings” (4) which describes, among other things, the relationships between Muslims and Christians during the Ottoman period and it seemed that Muslims respected the icon images and often requested their Christian friends to light a candle for them in the church when they were experiencing difficulties in their lives. So perhaps that is why iconic images were not completely destroyed. Also the Ottoman Empire which conquered the Byzantine Empire and preceded the Turkish Republic, was generally considered religiously tolerant.
The fresco below has carefully painted evil eye repellents along the borders of the fresco and columns taking what seems great care to not harm the frescoes. The evil eyes are on both sides of the fresco and below it. This dugout basilica had perhaps the best of all frescoes in the Goreme open air museum, although the lighting was such that it is difficult to see just how fantastic they were from photos. Mostly it was not permitted to use camera flash inside dugouts. This dugout was very special and apparently appreciated by whoever painted on the evil eyes here.
Another odd thing is the absence of Christian graves. They are nowhere to be found. I found it puzzling until later reading ‘Birds without Wings” I discovered that both the Muslims and the Greeks went to great lengths to destroy graves during the long period of war that preceded the Turkish Republic. The only Christian graves I have seen in Turkey were dug outs and emptied but still feel like graves and at times held profound spaces and at other times very unpleasant spaces. It seems you can remove the bones but in the rock something of the grave remains.
Goreme was the short bus ride from where I stayed and is probably the most popular destination in Cappadocia. Goreme has a famous valley (the Goreme open air museum) that reminded me of Atlantean Secrets (5) because of its seemingly endless number of churches and chapels devoted to various saints and donors and built into a single valley complex. It was a network of dug out chapels and living and working quarters inside a wide valley. The dug outs seemed to be mostly from 10C AD and with some earlier, however at least half were closed to the public. Goreme is very special but still just one of many of this kind of religious settlement in Cappadocia. Valleys with many dugout churches and living quarters seem to found all over Cappadocia.
At a relatively small monastic complex of about 10 dugouts including a church, a chapel, study rooms, kitchen and wine and grain making. The space was overwhelmingly peaceful and I could sense the centuries of monks going about their daily business and it felt good.
In addition to the valleys, there are underground cities that seem to predate Christianity and one is still in use today for storage by locals. Cappadocia has something like 40 underground cities in the area. Mostly the underground cities were used to hide from a constant flow of invaders over many centuries. The fairy chimney and cliff dugouts were also hideouts from invaders but I wonder if there was more to it. You can always see where the dugouts are even if they are hard to get to. The entrances to the underground cities were also not difficult to find.
I like to think that the dugouts were chosen because of a certain space from the land energies. People visiting Cappadocia who have no references for land energies talk about them constantly without realizing it.
The retreat of St Symeon the Stylite was in the next valley from the village where I stayed, the Pasabag area. St Symeon had a chapel and retreat there in 2 separate fairy chimneys facing one another. Apparently he lived there for 30 years as a recluse. He obviously wasn’t hiding from invaders all that time and there was not a big monastic community in Pasabagli. But there was a huge community 3 km away in Zelve. So why did he choose Pasabagli? Maybe because of the land energies*?
The hike from Cavusin to Pasabagli where St Symeon’s retreat was located was the most thrilling of all the hikes I took in Cappadocia. It was about 5 km of goat track on the cliffside. There were times I wondered if I was nuts trying that hike alone as I inched along very very narrow tracks with sheer drop down one side. My anxiety was there only for the odd moment. Mostly my mouth just gapped open at the sights that opened up with every turn I took on the goat track.
Going in other direction to the south and outside the popular triangle, at the end of the Ihlara Valley, there was a monastery is a place called Selime that also had my jaw dropping. The best way to get there was to hire a car and driver. The drive was much too complicated for a visitor and the tours (known as the Green Tours) of the area were consistently bagged by people I talked with and I was very happy that I decided to hire the car and driver and it was just a little more in cost than the tour.
Selime Cathedral is found in a massive monastery (Kale Monastery) which is cut into an equally massive cliff with massive forces holding it. The frescoes had not been cut out or slashed as they often are but instead burnt in what seemed to be a raid of the location. The imprint violence was tangible but the centuries of monastic living was more apparent. It was a beautifully complex monastery with a huge dugout cathedral. There is a hint of the energies that remained in the cathedral photo. It was very still and much remained there to tune into.
Sometimes as I looked at so many damaged and beautiful frescoes I wondered if some could be restored then on my last day I visited an old Greek village called Mustafapasa and formerly Sinasos. When Turkey became a republic in the 1930s there was population exchange between Greece and Turkey so most of the Greeks were sent back to Greece and in this case most of the village was sent back to Greece. Outside of town was the church of St Basil that the guide books say is interesting. After visiting this church, I have to say that the guide books were being polite because the frescoes were blah. It was a dugout which went a whole level down into the rock and was supported by 4 columns. Sometime around the 1800’s or early 1900’s the walls were whitewashed and new frescoes painted and they simply don’t work. Maybe because they tried to impose a different style on the church. It was obvious to me then that you cant restore the ancient frescoes despite the best of intentions. They are part of history and should remain so.
* Land energies is a term used by Samuel Sagan of the Clairvision School, to describe how a location feels. www.clairvision.org
(4) Louis de Bernieres, “Birds without Wings”. Vintage Books, London. 2004
(5) Samuel Sagan, “Atlantean Secrets ” Vols 1-3. www.clairvision.org
I spent only 3 days in Konya during my stay in Turkey in 2010. Konya is in central Anatolia. I took the bus from Gazipasa. It was about 5 hours drive north from there. Buses in Turkey are the smart way to travel.
Arriving in Konya was an uncomfortable experience. It seemed that everyone I met bothered me in some way. I had had none of this nonsense from Turkish men in Gazipasa which made it even more annoying after a break from it since Istanbul.
By the evening of the first day I had decided that my Turkish friends were right when they said the Konya was not a great place to visit. Then in the morning I remembered another friend’s advice about my tendency to confront the meme and decided I would make friends with the city.
It worked. I paid my respects in a few specific ways and everything just got better. I visited the War Memorial, the oldest mosque and walked downtown holding an open space of communication with the meme of the city. By the time I left Konya I was sad to go because the city had become my friend. My relationship with the food street sellers was fantastic. I met some lovely people. I have a big soft spot for Konya now and will go back there sometime to explore the outlying areas and especially the archaeological digs.
It is said that Konya and the land immediately surrounding it – is the holiest place in Turkey. It is also the final resting place of Rumi (Mevlana). I tend to agree that there is something remarkable there although I could not quite get what it is. I am however not convinced it is the holiest place in Turkey. There are so many holy places in Turkey that it seems impossible to say which is holiest. I imagine that from the Muslim perspective, Konya is a very holy city. But there is some irony from that position. Konya celebrates the sainthood of Mevlana who was a Sufi and conservative Muslims often criticize Sufi practices.
The holy status of the city seems to go a very long way back so it seems that central Anatolia is abundant with sacred lands because Cappadocia is part of the same region. There is an archeological site about 30 km outside of the city that was not easy to visit so I missed it. It is an ancient Hittite site called Catalhoyuk and said to be one of the earliest findings of evidence of Hittite worship of a feminine god/goddess. It is a Neolithic period site going back 9000 years.
My first full day in Konya was a public holiday and the line up of Turkish tourists outside Mevlana’s (Rumi) museum was very long so I left Rumi to the second day. The Turks seem to love Mevlana andapparently everything Sufi. Instead I visited the mosque and tomb of Sems (Shams) the infamous teacher of Rumi who for me – has always eclipsed the spaces of Rumi. It is not simple to explain. For me, Rumi without Shams feels like an excellent scholar and teacher. With Shams, Rumi seems to transcend his scholarly self and becomes a saint. Surprisingly the Sems Mosque is very simple and located in a somewhat grubby and run down part of town. My impression was that the powers of Konya do not seem fond of Shams. I am sure that I have some imagination at work on these impressions because of the fantastic stories about Sems being murdered by the son of Rumi, nonetheless, tuning into Shams (Sems) from the city meme feels like tuning into the black sheep of the Mevlana story.
Shams Mosque was beautifully maintained, simple and intense. The mosque was not crowded outside of prayer time and I could just sit and meditate next to the tomb in the mosque with being disturbed. In the hour I sat there at least 15 or more Turkish pilgrims came to visit and pray to Sems. They have a particular ritual they do which was wonderful to tune into. Part of it is cupping their hands and holding them upwards in supplication, then praying and then bringing the cupped hands to their face as if washing their face from the space of the cupped hands.
My meditation spaces always got better when the pilgrims were into their ritual. Later I saw the same ritual at Rumi’s tomb and then again at Mary’s house in Ephesus. St Mary is mentioned in the Koran and highly regarded by Turks. My guess is that this is a way of praying and receiving from those who are considered saints and prophets. It works from my standpoint. The spaces were beautiful and I was often lost meditating in spaces of great reverence and magnitude.
The Seljucks who were dominant in central Anatolia after the fall of Byzantium, tended to obliterate the Byzantine buildings before them. I think that the Ottomans were less not so heavy handed at removing Byzantine buildings mostly because they found that the Greeks and other minorities that remained after the fall of Byzantium were useful in running a variety of administrations. However nothing is new about removing the religious structures of previous empires because the Christians obliterated a great many of the Ancient Greek and Roman buildings before them, especially those to the major gods including Zeus, Apollo and Artemis.
There were a few buildings in Konya that were clearly of Byzantine origin and I suspect Ancient Greek and Roman before that, but the Seljuck orientated literature I obtained from Konya tended to ignore that history, so unless I do lots of independent research it is impossible to know.
One place that seemed to have all these periods was the Alaeddin Mosque. It has none of the usual features of mosques seen in Istanbul and some of the columns seem very different from one another so may have been recycled from the ancients. I saw more of this in Selcuk so I am pretty sure it was a particular style of building a mosque that incorporated both a Byzantine and Ancient Greek/Roman site. I had another great meditation at the Alaeddin Mosque. The spaces were very very high and soft. I don’t think it was a co-oincidence when a Muslim woman came to sit near me to meditate, as she came out from behind the lattice barrier that separates local women from the men in the main part of the Mosque. We shared a glorious space. The locals seemed very happy with me at this mosque. I was given a copy of the Koran by the caretaker and when I left two women asked to have their photo taken with me. I didn’t really know why at the time but it was very nice. Later I decided it that the request for photos was part of the Facebook phenomenon in Turkey. They love it and love to post somewhat unique photos of themselves in their travels.
Mevlana’s tomb is of course the highlight of any visit to Konya but there is not much information about it available to the visitor. Also there are no photos allowed inside Movlana’s Mosque/Museum. This photo shows one of the adjoining buildings to the Museum. The green tower at the top is above Rumi’s tomb.
When I asked an official for more information, a young man volunteered to show me through and explain what was there. He was related to someone who ran the museum. In Turkey, it seems like everyone is related. I learnt more from him about Islam as well as about Sufi’s. He also worked in the family carpet business and showed me through one of their shops. It was mostly high end antique carpets and rugs. He showed me a series of jijims which are carpets that cover pillows. The word means ‘darling’. One of these really spoke to me. A handmade rug from the region which is obviously quite old. It has motifs which are meant to be dervish but I think they were symbols from earlier times. I have since seen the same or similar symbols painted on the outside of Cappadocia fairy-chimney and other cliff dugouts. I wonder if they have a shaman symbolism. Now I have a Turkish meditation rug and it supported great meditation spaces when I was in Turkey. I felt that after I left Turkey, the carpet did not have the same access to high spaces but it still a wonderful meditation carpet.
After leaving Mevlana’s tomb, and still inside the museum complex, I was asked again by young women to have my photo taken with them. BTW Turkish people are remarkably short so perhaps I stand out at 5’10″. The requests for photos continued to come during my stay in Turkey, especially from school children. I must be in countless Turkish Facebook albums by now. Even the school teachers escorting their students wanted to have a photo taken with me. They are fun.
This is a rose from a sultan’s garden in Konya. Turkey is a country of boundless roses and Konya was perhaps the most prolific of all with roses everywhere including the streets.
Our spiritual journey is at times greatly influenced by the places that we come to know, often through conscious exploration (1). I have found that history can be imprinted on the location itself, especially mysterious, esoteric and religious history.
Many of us have seen that sacred sites are special places where the physical world can provide a window to the spiritual world. Sometimes these are magnificent natural wonders which I describe as Land Energies in other postings on this blog. The postings in this section of my blog are concerned with sites that I have visited and perceived to be connected to gods, saints, heros, miraculous events and especially places of worship or ritual to honour the divine.
The ancient practice of pilgrimage continues today as we continue to seek out sacred or holy places. My personal pilgrimage to ancient places of worship was intensified recently with a journey to Turkey and later Greece. Turkey is often considered the cradle of civilisation as well as Christianity. I hope that my impressions and experiences will reveal to you something of the weaves and layers of the spaces that I refer to as Devotion, that have been laid down in these locations over many many centuries. Most of all I hope that the Devotion of the centuries past can resonate with something deeply held in all of us.
The photo here is the Tetrapylon, at the ancient city of Aphrodisias, Turkey. This is the monumental gateway that greeted pilgrims approaching the Temple of Aphrodite perhaps for centuries. The Tetrapylon connected the major street of Aphrodisias to the sacred way of the sanctuary to Aphrodite. For more information about this location see: http://www.aphrodisias.com/listingview.php?listingID=8&name=Tetrapylon
So far my impressions are that major ancient sites of Devotion consist of many layers from different times in history and traditions. In my view this site does not represent only one ancient cult or Devotion to one deity. This ancient site is likely to have once been connected with the Akkadian Nino - the goddess Astarte or Ishtar. There is great antiquity in the cult of the goddess of Aphrodisias with similarities to Kybele, Artemis of Ephesus and other Anatolian mother-goddesses. At the time of this tetrapylon, the Goddess Aphrodite took the form of an ancient idol-like figure, a nature goddess sovereign on earth, in heaven, the seas and the underworld – a symbol of life and fertility in all its aspects. (Akurgal, E. Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey. 2007 p. 171).
The ancient city of Ephesus had a strong trading link to the city of Alexandria, Egypt. The Temple of Serapis was probably built by Egyptian colonists. There is evidence of the rites of an Egyptian cult at this temple site and acknowledgement of the Egyptian god by the main god of Ephesus, Artemis. http://www.ephesus.us/ephesus/temple_of_serapis.htm
At Ephesus, just before the Gates of Hercules that led to the State Agora there is an avenue on the right where various temples and fountains honoring Roman emperor cults are located. My experience was that the Roman emperor cult temples often lacked any sense of sacred space. Here it was different but it seemed to me to be mixed up. Prior to the Romans, this location consisted of temples and monuments honoring Egyptian deities and to me it was obvious that there was something very different there and much more appealing than the Roman spaces. The Isis Temple has not been preserved and was largely used to construct a fountain nearby. http://www.ephesus.us/ephesus/temple_of_isis.htm
The ancient city of Pergamon also had a strong links with Alexandria, Egypt. I have to say that Pergamon had some of the worst spaces I visited in Turkey. The spaces of the Roman rituals at times felt disgusting with what seemed to me to be something like human sacrifices. But Pergamon was a huge city and beyond the acropolis there was a stunningly special Asklepieion and Temple of Serapis which was the largest building in ancient Pergamon.
The Temple of Serapis, the god of the underworld, faced west and was set apart for Egyptian religious practices, with pools for ritual ablutions and statues of two sided male-female figures. Egyptian religious practices were in fashion during the second century AD in the Roman world and I wonder how they differed in the Roman world from what was intended by the Egyptians.
The Pergamon site had been modified over the centuries and the main building of the Serapis temple had been converted to a basicalla dedicated to St John the Apostle during the Byzantine era and was known as one of the churches of the Revelation. Like much of Pergamon, this site also gave me very mixed feelings. Overall, my impression was that Pergamon was a sacred place with access to very intense spaces from below as sometimes described for Demeter, Persephone and Serapis. However for no other reason than I feel it this way – my sense is that the Roman idea of sacred at Pergamon was not consistent with my own.
Here is a shot of some of the ritual baths at the Temple of Serapis. The site was in the process of restoration. I would like to return there one day to put more vision on what might be the nature of the spaces below there. They were confronting to say the least.
(1) Refer to Samuel Sagan’s Lanuage to Map Consciousness for a systematic mapping of states of consciousness and non-physical levels of reality. It is a free download.
I spent about 3 weeks visiting ruins on the Aegean side of Turkey. I started with Pamukkale which is the ancient city of Hierapolis which peaked around 3C AD. I stayed there between 31 June and 7 July 2010.
Everyone I talked to in Turkey said don’t go to Pamukkale but the idea would not go away so I took a chance and stopped there before going on to Selcuk/ Ephesus. My three day plan became a week and people were generally amazed because no one stays more than 2 days. Even the hotel receptionist, an Australian, felt compelled to pull up a chair over dinner and ask was there a particular reason I wanted to extend my stay.
Pamukkale has been a dreadful tourist trap, trashed by tour bus visitors and in 1988 was taken over by UNESCO who seem to be doing great things with it. The accommodation in the town is very ordinary like the guidebooks say but in a sense the guidebooks are killing the accommodation by saying that.
The location is extraordinary. Pamukkale means ‘cotton fortress’. One side of Hierapolis is a truly beautiful natural wonder. The travertines are made from concentrated calcium which goes through various chemical reactions. The water comes from springs at 36C and contains high concentrated calcium hydro carbonate which when it contacts oxygen the calcium carbonate precipates which makes travertine while carbon monoxide is evaporating. The travertines are filled with water and also dried out according to a schedule to support the natural process. Walking on them is restricted to very limited areas to protect them. More on www.pamukkale.org.tr
There are 2 gates to the old city but the main access is through the travertines not the gates. Shoes are not permitted on the travertines which can be hard on the feet because you walk on hard wet calcium deposits and it’s a fairly long way up. There are travertine pools as you go up for wading. The sensation is like walking on a path made of wet smooth coral which stimulated my feet a certain way. After a long day wandering the ancient ruins I found it very difficult to walk back down. The hard rough surface really hurt my feet and it was obvious that I had hit something energetically related to my feet and legs because I struggled to walk back down to the town. Perhaps it was related to the healing forces of Hierapolis?
One of the fascinating attractions is the ancient pool that I think was once called the sacred pool. I was very skeptical about it but on my first day it was very hot and I simply could not walk the ruins any longer by the afternoon so I paid the 25 TL (around $20 AUD) to go in the pool with all the Russians, which seemed like a rip off at the time.
The pool population was 80% Russian mostly from the neighbouring republics that were former USSR states. The tourist signs at Pamukkale were in Turkish first, then Russian and then English. I did not see that arrangement anywhere else. The pool is heavily sprinkled with chunks of buildings and many parts of mostly Ionic columns from the ancient city and probably from Apollo’s temple as it was immediately above/behind the pool area.
The pool was shaped by a very severe earthquake in 8th C AD. It is warm from springs that emerge right beside the temple of Apollo. The experience is delightful. It is like sitting in warm champagne. Tiny bubbles attach themselves to your body, completely covering the immersed parts and everyone in the pool is calm and happy. After sitting there for 30 minutes, and I stayed 2 hours, I thought that everyone including myself must have been happily medicated by these delightful bubbles.
Heirapolis was a place where the Ancients (especially Romans) travelled to for healing and it seemed that lots died there because the Necropolis is 2 km wide and filled with very lavish tombs and sarcophagi. It was easy to see how the earthquake of 8thC AD had sent the sarcophagi and bits of tombs flying everywhere. This photo shows a sarcophagus landing on top of a tomb. I thought that was a very funny sight. Imagine watching these pieces flying about during an earthquake of great magnitude.
Hierapolis was one of the foremost places for Ancient Romans to go for healing. In addition, the temple of Apollo apparently rivaled Delphi with its oracular prowess. The plutonium accessed by the temple priests is still there and deadly. The source of the plutonium is sealed off for protection. It is possible to get pretty close to it and the space felt was very deep below.
I think it’s a happy coincidence that Hades is on the front of all the tourist literature for Pamukkale. There is a very special statue of Hades in the museum and that is the image used to promote the location along with the travertines.
At this and a number of other locations, I loved to work with the layers and spaces that were attached to the location to unravel what seemed to me to be a mystery of some kind. At Hierapolis I spent a lot of time walking around and going over the city landscape and structures that were not making make sense in the way they were described and I decided that the city was not just a place of healing but seemed to me to be a place to go for a good death. That would certainly explain the very large and very ornate necropolis. This was not an average necropolis.
The Martyrion of St Philip was located at the highest point of the city. Where you normally see the acropolis of the city. The church was said to have been built on the place where St Philip was crucified and buried. I don’t really buy that he was crucified there as the church is conveniently located on what would most likely be the most sacred precinct of the ancient city. It does however feel possible that Saint Philip was buried there but there is not much to go on regarding his crucifixion.
Unfortunately even my highly regarded and comprehensive text on Ancient Civilisations and Ruins of Turkey does not say much about the Hierapolis acropolis or lack thereof. Maybe the numerous earthquakes completely destroyed the sacred precinct of the city. The city was rebuilt a number of times following earthquakes. So I am wildly guessing here.
The church was a very unusual design. I spent hours there on three different visits trying to understand the space . It was a fascinating process of tuning into spaces and some things became obvious.
My perception was that the church was built on a more ancient temple high above the city, which I know often occurred but there was nothing in the general literature that indicated an earlier structure and usually there is a passing reference. Even as a Byzantine church the location seemed to fulfill the function as a place of rebirth as could be seen from the symbolism of the design and unusual crosses that the church is known for. Some research indicated that the symbols signified rebirth.
My best guess is that it was the site of a Christian cult, probably Gnostic, which the literature indicated was shut down by the Roman church when they removed St Philips relics to the Vatican. I am sure there were some serious rituals conducted in that church. There seemed to be two altars. There is an altar that might have been part of an earlier Ancient Greek or Roman structure on the site. The church altar seemed to have been added later. The different materials and shapes from different periods are apparent. There were also very extensive pathways, steps and bridges from the lower city to the church/temple at the top which were similar but more extensive than many of the sacred pathways that I saw later at other ancient sites. These pathways held spaces of many ritual processions and those spaces felt very high and clear.
There was another mystery at this ancient site but that one has me completely stumped and I hope that one day I will have an opportunity to return to it. It concerns the Apollo Temple. Apollo was said to be the main god of Hierapolis but his temple was not of the magnitude that you would expect from such a wealthy city. Perhaps the Roman’s dropped him but I think there is more to see about the plutonium and the sacred waters in relation to Apollo.
The best way to close this view of Hierapolis is from the travertines. The locals (and the Russians) still hold them as sacred places.
The beautiful Muslim bride was a wonderful bonus. She was stunning and her father in shot was very nice and pleased that I took the photos. They were both in a profoundly beautiful space.