The Bronze Age sanctuary at Pigadhes dates back to about 1600 B.C. But we are exploring it at about 1300 B.C. At that time the eastern Mediterranean was being attacked by a confederation known as “People of the Sea.” They conquered North Africa, Crete, Asia Minor, and the Levant each in their turn. The Egyptians called that tribe Peleset; the Bible calls them Philistines. Only Egypt was able to fend them off.
About this time we see the introduction of the Horns of Consecration in Cyprus, at Pighades and elsewhere. The Horns of Consecration are prominent in Crete and it is reasonable to assume Cretan refugees fleeing the People of the Sea brought this religious symbol to Crete.
In the present day, you can walk through the foundations of the sacred courtyard with the well and the altar. The altar is about twelve feet high and is crowned with the Horns of Consecration.
Imagine, if you will, that you can hear the thoughts of a Priestess of the Great Goddess who was worshiped here, a refugee from Crete, as she prepares for a festival.
We are refugees here, far from our native Crete. We were able to bring only the clothes we were wearing, we priestesses of the Goddess and our townsfolk, those who believed our words and fled with us across the sea.
We fled from the People of Sea. One of their kings sits in the great palace at Knossos. His underlings and soldiers are in every other stronghold on the coast. Our people are enslaved in their own land. And I fear that soon, soon, People of the Sea will come here to Cyprus, our refuge.
But today the poppies bloom in sun-kissed fields. We were given this property, sacred from time immemorial, to be our sanctuary. We built a dormitory, a school, and a dancing ground.
We have marked out only this dancing ground as a sacred space. We gave it a low wall so that all may watch, but only believers may enter. There is a well, to quench our thirst as we practice the sacred dance in the heat of the day. There is a bench where believers sit and watch. In some places there are mementos of a believer who has died and gone back to the Goddess. In the center of our enclosure we built a tall tower, and on it, we put the horns of consecration.
The natives tell us this place is sacred to their goddess. We tell them the Goddess is one, ours and theirs. But they don’t quite believe that and neither do we.
At home, we would be on a hilltop. But the natives do not trust us to share a hilltop. They fear we might signal to strange ships, bring on a pirate attack. But we would signal no one. If more of our townsfolk remain, they will find us. And as for others, we dread their coming, even if they come from Crete.
For we have had enough of palaces and priests. We shall live here in our little house, sharing what we have with the people. We have healing, and writing, and we have the Goddess.
Today we will dance, slowly spinning, slowly turning around the altar. We will drink the new wine, the blood of the earth. We will turn and turn, our wide skirts flaring, our bells jingling. And as the drums beat faster and pipes play higher, She will come. She comes upon us as morning mist upon the fields. She is Mother, and Sister, and Daughter. And so are we. So are we.
From a corner of the bench comes the drumbeat. Now we begin, slowly, slowly. We stand with our arms out from our shoulders and bent at the elbow so our hands are up. One leg points out and we turn on the other, so our flounced skirts flare.
An old woman brings a flask of wine. We drink deeply. The beat heightens. The sun pours down on our head-dresses. They are heavy with gilt thread. They force us to keep our heads up—no looking at our feet.
We want the beat to go faster, faster to take us quickly to the Goddess. But it is slow, so slow. We are patient as trees in a storm, for she comes to trees. We are steady as rocks, for she comes to rocks.
More wine. The sun is in the west now. As we turn we have brightness in our eyes one moment and darkness the next. Without our years of training, we would surely stumble.
And now, at last, the beat of the drum lets us spin loose, faster, faster. There is no world but the flash of golden sun, then blackness, light and dark, light and dark, faster and faster.
She comes. We are lifted up and we fly around her as she stands there between the horns of consecration on the high altar. We are spinning like leaves in a whirlwind. And she is the still center of the universe standing in our midst.
It is forever, it is an instant. We cannot sustain this contact with the divine. We are but mortal. We sink to the ground. Were we really flying? Did we really see Her?