Laura's Blog

Greek Fire 5. The Divine Mother gives birth! The dance circle as symbolic womb

Thursday, December 24, 2020
Last week, in Bread, birth, and the Píta of the Panayía, I wrote about the link between the life-giving power of women and the life-giving power of the earth in women's traditions of rural Greece. This week I explore these themes in relation to the Nativity, the moment of Christmas celebrated tonight and tomorrow, when the heavily pregnant Mother of God gives birth to the divine child.
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Greek Fire 4. Bread, birth, and the Píta of the Panayía

Thursday, December 17, 2020

This week, in the northern hemisphere, we are enjoying the last days of deepening darkness before the winter solstice brings the return of the light. As my friend Carol P. Christ writes, while the light is indeed to be celebrated, the dark is not to be feared: at this time of year we would be wise to celebrate the restful, welcoming darkness.

The rebirth of light at the winter solstice is mirrored in Christianity by the birth of love and wisdom symbolised by the cosmic Christ. In earlier times, the return of the sun was one phase in the balanced cycle of birth, death, and regeneration embodied by the Goddess. [1]

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Greek Fire 2. The fire of incense and the Tree of Life

Thursday, December 3, 2020

One of the things I love most about life in Greece is the way women burn incense to sanctify their homes and holy icons. With this tiny act of sacred offering, along with the lighting of the kandíli or olive-oil lamp, the lady of the house takes on the role of priestess, turning her home into a temple, a place of prayer, as women did in ancient times. Incense sticks are not used here. Chunks of pure frankincense or scented resins are placed on little charcoal disks called karvounákia, in a special burner, a thymiatírio. When money is scarce or shops are far, women burn olive leaves, as they have done in Greece and Cyprus for thousands of years.

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Greek Fire 3. The Womb of the Mother and the Life-Giving Spring

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Last week I wrote about the chalice-shaped incense burner, the thymiatírio, which in Orthodox belief is a symbol for the womb of the Divine Mother.

Today, on a December morning blessed with
life-giving rain, I light frankincense in my clay thymiatírio and sense the strong presence of the Divine Mother, She who will soon give birth to the light of the returning sun and the cosmic Christ. Inside this divine being, I also see the woman Maryam in her ninth month of pregnancy, facing difficult circumstances for the coming birth. Both of these images guide me strongly during this Advent time.

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Greek Fire 1. We give thanks for fire and food in lockdown

Thursday, November 26, 2020
Today is American Thanksgiving. This holiday is not really known or observed here in Greece, but finding ourselves housebound in lockdown, my husband and I decided to prepare a small celebration meal today, just for ourselves. The pandemic restrictions in Greece are fairly austere at the moment: you can only leave your house for 6 specific reasons, you have to send a text message to a government website and then wait for the response before you can set foot out the door. Luckily, exercise is considered a valid reason, and we are very fortunate to be able to walk by the sea daily – but we have to stick close to home, we can't drive off to have our daily walk someplace further afield. Essential shopping is also permitted, but we can only go to our local supermarket, not to the bigger one in the next town which has a much better selection of organic and whole foods. If any of Kostantis' family in and around Athens were unwell and needed us to take care of them, we would be permitted to go and do that, but again luckily, everyone remains in fairly good health, ftou ftou ftou – however, this means we are not allowed to see them at all. We can't go to them, and they can't come to us.