With fondest regards to all our readers. This is another guest post from Chris, featuring pics taken during his recent trip to Dodona, Greece, and the exciting tale of his adventures at this remote location. Take it away Chris.
This has been a place of the oracle for thousands of years. The oldest of the oracle sites by far. Its origins spring from the divine
feminine and Gaia millennia ago. I sat with my hands brushing the leaves of the sacred oak (long since gone of course but now replaced) as the wind rustled the tree. The oracle it seems spoke to the priestess in exactly this way.
The journey was its own tale. We set out the day before, following a straightforward route on good roads. One wrong turn will take a traveller onto boulder rivers that run for miles. And so for us. Here we collected two punctures. The car abandoned, we walked for miles without meeting a soul. Except one wild bearded man whose clothes seemed to be from a another age. He walked with bearing and indifference.
He reminded me of a Sarkatsan, as described by Patrick Leigh Fermor in his book ‘Roumeli’.
The wanderings of Patrick Leigh Fermor, have panache and romance and were always conducted with a deep respect for ancient peoples and cultures.
His first honour as a human being was bestowed upon him when he was expelled from Kings College Canterbury. At the age of 18, he walked from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul. From here various adventures in Macedonia and Greece, where in Athens he met Balasha Cantacuzène, a Romanian Phanariote noblewoman. They fell in love and set up home in an old watermill outside the city. The couple stayed together till he returned to England at the outbreak of war. He was sent to Crete during the war, and after the end of the war, continued travelling and writing.
Patrick Leigh Fermor’s travels are remarkable enough (and pretty much impossible now), but as a writer he was unsurpassed. He died in 2011. It was said in his obituaries, he was the best writer of his time.
Patrick Leigh Fermor spoke ancient and modern Greek and eventually learned Sarkatsan. That the Sarkatsans recognised him was unusual. Outside of a keen watchfulness of current ‘goings on’, enough to preserve their safety, Sarkatsans do not recognise or give attention to the values of modern Greece, modern living or the ways of foreigners. (Fermor was then writing of mid 20th century Greece). Sarkatsan rituals, dress code and nomadic way of life have remained unchanged for perhaps 3000 years and maybe longer. Well that’s how PLF described them in the 1940s and 50s. I have no idea how they have fared in the sixty odd years since. Our mountain route crossed areas that have fed and watered Sarkatsan animals for millennia. So I like to think the man we encountered was Sarkatsan.
We were blocked from Dodona that day, but the next day’s journey was error free and effortless. An air-conditioned tarmac smooth 90 minutes. Disgorging from a tin can is an odd way to encounter this place.
To show some perspective of the site, there is a photograph of me, leaning against one of the massive supporting walls that surround the amphitheatre. For the purpose of scale, note the man walking towards the front of the amphitheatre. The supporting wall (where I was photographed) is the second tier above him. You could not get a Euro note between those massive stones.
Yet the scale of the amphitheatre was no preparation for the energy at the place of the oracle and sacred oak. The smell of wild thyme, a warm breeze and the sound of bees. I did not want to leave this place. It is with me now.
As for Sarkatsans; these people have a living memory of Dodona as the preeminent oracle of the ancient world. Through their oral tradition and way of life, unchanged for millennia, Dodona breathes its spirit into the world.
Wasn’t that great? I hope you found it inspiring. Thanks are due again to Chris, and to all you good readers and followers. I have been very unwell again of late, If any kind soul wishes to say a little prayer for me, it will be truly appreciated. My sincere thanks in advance.
Until next time, may we know peace; and may we all come to enjoy the priceless blessing of possessing a clear conscience.
[I have] a heavenly vase full of autumn leaves.
They look so beautiful.
How much closer to God can one get?
Photography ©Christopher Hammond.