We are eight women ready for a spiritual adventure. We’ve come to the western coast of Turkey to hear the voice of the Divine Feminine and savor the delights of her holy places.
Our journey begins with a day of relaxation in the charming harbor town of Alacati, an hour from Izmir. We adapt to the pace, the language, and a delightful mix of new aromas and foods. Some of us browse the shops of the old village, stopping for a while at a street cafe, sipping apple tea and Turkish coffee (the first of many). A few of our group spend the day at the beach.
Next, we transfer to Selcuk – a quiet town sited near the ancient ruins of Ephesus. A common sight here are the storks who nest on rooftops and the flat tops of stone columns.
After a typical breakfast of bread, jams, honey, yogurt, eggs and Turkish coffee, we set off for the mountains overlooking Ephesus to visit Meryemana Evi – Mother Mary’s House. Most times this place is filled with tourists, but on this cool spring morning we find ourselves nearly alone. We take our time with the sacred spring and the little stone building where legend says Mary spent her last years.
The mood is incredibly tranquil. I pause to touch the door of the house. Stepping Inside, I am suddenly immersed in a flow of grace and pure love; enveloped in peace. I stand before a simple altar that holds a statue of Mary. The statue is missing its hands, yet Mother Mary’s embrace is real and palpable.
The presence of the spring tells me this was likely a sacred site dating back much earlier. Rivers, wells and springs have long been seen as belonging to or emanating from the Goddess.
I anoint myself at the spring, and collect some of the healing water to bring home. Then, I add my prayers to the prayer wall.
The tradition is reminiscent of the “clootie trees” near wells in Ireland. We each bring a small bit of cloth or ribbon to serve as a “thank you” for the water, and as a prayer. The cloth is tucked or tied next to the scores of others. As the cloth disintegrates over time, it is believed that illness is released, pain is eased, problems are resolved. I distinctly feel that any prayer made here is answered generously.
The afternoon is spent touring the ancient city of Ephesus.
Ephesus is considered the worlds best preserved classical city. A prosperous trade center, its luxuries included baths, public fountains, lighted streets, a library and a thriving marketplace. From the harbor, arriving visitors would have been met with a view of the monumental amphitheater that seated some 24,000 people.
Pilgrims traveled here to the Great Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The many-breasted Lady of Ephesus held attributes from both the Greek Artemis and the Anatolian Goddess Kybele. Bees adorned her statues, along with flowers, bulls and lions. Her priestesses may have had the title Melissa, signifying they were “bees” of the Goddess. The bee symbol is found on Ephesian coins and architecture.
The Library of Celsus is perhaps the most recognized monument of Ephesus.
Four statues stand at the doors of the great library. They are:
Sophia – Wisdom
Arete – Virtue
Ennoia – Intelligence
Episteme – Knowledge
Inside, was a statue of Athena.
The Terrace Houses are situated on the side of a hill. These excavated Roman villas offer a glimpse of columned courtyards, mosaic floors, and plastered walls with painted scenes.
Making our way to the Great Temple of Artemis, our tour guide explains that there isn’t much to see. He is making sure our expectations are not too high. But, I know there is more there than meets the eye – an ancient current of energy still pulses here.
At first, it seems there is nothing left. A single pillar stands among the ruins. A pool of water lays seemingly stagnant amid the foundation stones.
But, all around us, the land is abundantly alive with turtles, frogs, geese, bees and butterflies. Storks nest on top of the fluted column.
I recall Artemis in her role as “Mistress of Animals”. As a Goddess of nature and fertility, these were her symbols.
We feel her powerful presence and welcome her vital, nourishing strength.
We bring the temple to life with an altar and flower offerings.
Dinner at the Artemis Cafe seems a fitting choice. We share hummus, salads, stuffed grape leaves, chicken kabobs… all accompanied with wine and Efes beer. Delicious. But, here all the food is amazing!
The next day we tour two ancient cities – Priene and Miletus. We also visit the Hellenistic temple of Apollo at Didyma.
At Priene, forested hills rise up around the Temple of Athena. We take time here for private meditation. Athena arrives with a clear, insightful, no-nonsense way of communicating.
At the amphitheater, I take the opportunity to sing – something I’ve always wanted to try!
The following day, we explore one more ancient city – the artistic and graceful Aphrodisias. Dedicated to Aphrodite – who has been merged with symbolism of the Eastern Goddess Ishtar – this city attracted artisans and sculptors with creamy marble that was quarried in the nearby hills.
The landscape is utterly pastoral with rolling hills, tall grass and wildflowers punctuated with white marble columns and exquisite carvings. The soundtrack is a gentle breeze, chirping sparrows and songbirds. It is so joyful.
The majestic Ceremonial Gate stands perfect against a bright blue sky. It is the gateway to the Temple of Aphrodite which is just a short walk across a grassy meadow. Later in the day, we are drawn back here, sensing its importance as part of ritual processions in ancient times. We offer a ceremony of our own.
After a brief stop at Pamukkale to wade in the famed travertine pools we leave the southern countryside, heading for exotic Istanbul…