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"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thais of Athens preview - Chapter V: The muse of the Neit temple

Having grown fond of the strange philosopher she rescued during a sandstorm, Thais returns to the Neit temple and is initiated in the secret ways of the Orphics.

The third night alone with the stars on the shore of a symbolic sea started differently. After two days spent in the dark, the stars appeared particularly bright. One of them attracted Thais’ attention. Its sharp beam penetrated her eyes and through them – her heart, spreading through her body in a blue fire of magical power. With her gaze fixed upon the star, focusing, she remembered the magical chants of ritual dances meant to help focus physical and emotional energies, and started repeating, “Gaia – Thais, Gaia – Thais, Gaia – Thais…” The disorderly flow of her thought slowed down, the soil under Thais rocked a little and she was carried forth smoothly, like a ship in the night sea.

Thais finally understood the purpose and the meaning of her trials. There, on the islands of the Inner Sea, a man left alone with the sea in the middle of the night had an easier time becoming absorbed in a primal connection with the natural forces of Gaia, dissolving himself in the eternal splashing of the waves.

The understated symbolism did not allow her to quickly assume the right mood and enter the flow of time, akin to the Akheloy-Argirodines (a river in ancient Sparta flowing from underground and disappearing underground), rolling its silvery waves from the unknown future into the dark caverns of the past. Had her intentions been sincere and strong from the beginning, then the focus and the spiritual rise could have been achieved even in this almost theatrical setting.


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On the sixth day – the symbolic number of life among the Pythagoreans – the old man told Thais in greater detail about the foremother of all religions – the Great Goddess. The preachers lied trying to prove that the male deity laid the beginning of it all. Thousands of years ago, all people worshiped the Great Goddess, and women were heads of households and families. The path had split when men became dominant. Ancient religions were wiped off the face of Gaia, or were preached against, calling woman a source of all things evil and impure.

In the east, at the immeasurable distance there lay an enormous Middle Empire that was contemporary to the demolished Cretan civilization. The yellow-skinned and slant-eyed people living there considered the male beginning Yang the essence of light, and the female beginning Ying – of darkness in heaven and on earth.
In the scorched valleys of Syria there lived another people – just as ancient and wise – that initially worshipped Rhea-Kibela, as Cretans did. Then the goddess’s female name turned into a male one – Jehovah. Only recently, there was a cult of Jehovah and two goddesses – his wives: Ashima-Betkhil and Anatkha-Betkhil – in Egypt. Then the wives disappeared and the god remained alone. In the east the combined worship of the great goddess Ashtoreth or Ishtar and Jehovah had split into two separate faiths. The former borrowed much from Crete, where women were deified, and from the Cretan colony of Gaza as well as the ancient city of wisdom Byblos. The famous temple of Solomon was constructed to resemble Cretan palaces with the help of the builders from Gebal-Byblos.

The faith of the Jehovah worshipers declared a woman impure and evil, and accused her of causing the eviction of people from the primeval paradise by her sins. A woman showing up nude even before her husband or entering a temple was punishable by death… The more awkward the faith, the more ignorant people clutched at it, the darker their souls became, the more fanatical they turned. Endless wars, bloodshed between closely related peoples were results of men’s ascent to the thrones of gods and kings. All things poetic, associated with the Muse, vanished, poets became the court singers of a menacing god, while the philosophers justified his actions, as his mechanics created new weapons.

And if a king became a poet and worshiped the Muse in the guise of a beautiful lover, then she was murdered. Such was the story of the Comagen king Solomon and Sulamyth. She was also killed because she violated the taboo and did not hide her nudity.

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