Friday, June 25, 2010

The Mysteries

The descent into the Peloponnese takes about one hour. This is mostly to get out of the city of Athens. Once you’re starting to see the coast on your left hand side and an industrial harbour, you’ve reached the port of Elefsina. It’s not an attractive site to the romantic eye. No charming kaikis (colorful fishing boats) or white houses, just blue and red steel jutting out of the waterways connected to the sky by chains and cranes. Imagine that you’re riding parallel to the Sacred Way, the road used by a cult thousands of years older than Christ that made the pilgrimage to Athens to walk the long road to Elefsina to the temple of Demeter. There they would participate in “The Mysteries,” which we know very little about. Should an initiate talk about what happened inside of the temple, they would be killed.

If we were to stitch that time on top of ours and look through the metal grid and green smog, we would see lush, green farmland and a clear view to the sea. People would be walking down the road wearing orange scarves while people on the sidelines hurled insults at them to humble them before entering the sacred space.

They believe that the thing driving this cult was the idea of life after death. It’s what the story of Demeter is all about, after all, the hope that Persephone will return from the underworld and the earth will make the crops grow so we’re not hungry anymore, the sun come out so we’re not cold.

They think there very well could have been some lusty, ritual love-making going on in that temple, but it’s just a hunch. The secret died out with the cult, and now Elefsina is what it is, a Chinese-owned industrial port with very little mystery, at least if you’re just looking at the surface.