It is possible to find healing and spiritual guidance anywhere, if you are open to it. But, there is something wondrous about going to a place that has been imbued for thousands of years with the prayers of pilgrims. How exhilarating it is to visit legendary sacred sites where the energy has a special, healing quality. Some places touch your spirit forever, etching themselves onto your soul in the most beautiful ways.
Ephesus in Turkey was one of those places for me.
First, there was the quiet morning I spent at the ruined Temple of Artemis. Once it was one of the Seven Wonders of the World, a monumental temple that stood for centuries and drew pilgrims from all over the Mediterranean. Now only the foundation stones and one solitary pillar remain.
Sitting on a large slab of marble, I soaked in the energy of this place. At first, it seemed empty and abandoned. But, after a while longer, I began to notice how alive it was here. There were song birds and butterflies flitting in the tall grass. The ground was wriggling with caterpillars and a pool of water at the base of the foundation stones was dotted with hundreds of tadpoles. A pair of storks nested on the top of that stubbornly standing pillar.
It struck me as “of course!” These are all symbolic of the Goddess.
Artemis was originally a nature deity, fertile and fruitful. Her statues were decorated with bulls, bees, flowers, garlands of fruit and rows of breasts. Storks, swans and other water birds were also among her symbols.
Surrounded by the remnants of this magnificent temple, I could clearly sense her life-giving, creative power all around me. This was still holy ground and her presence was palpable. I wove a garland of flowers and laying it upon a marble remnant I offered my prayers to this mighty Goddess.
Later that day, I went up into the hills above Ephesus to visit another holy site – Meryem Ana Evi, “The House of Mother Mary”
My experience there took me by surprise. I was not expecting a deep spiritual encounter. Honestly, I thought it was going to be another typical tourist attraction. But, instead it was one of the most profound, moving spiritual experiences of my life.
This simple mountain shrine draws Christian and Muslim pilgrims who come hoping to receive the compassion of Mother Mary. Legend says this is the location where the Virgin Mary spent her last years, cared for by St. John. Locals say it was already an ancient site of worship, and a guide told me there had been an older shrine to Cybele or Artemis on this hill. Even with buses and visitors coming and going, there was an incredible feeling of serenity.
I entered the small stone house with a group of nuns and a few tourists. As I stood in the dim light of the chapel, I paused in front of the altar, gazing at the statue of Mother Mary.
For a moment, I closed my eyes, and suddenly a cascade of golden, liquid light poured over me. I stood unable to move as I was bathed in a flow of perfect grace and holy love. Tears streamed. I have no idea how long I stayed there, but when I opened my eyes, I was completely alone… alone except for the pure, exquisite essence of the Holy Mother.
Stepping outside, I approached the sacred spring. I reached out and touched the water with my fingers. With a prayer, I anointed my heart and my forehead. Pausing for a moment, I silently asked for Our Lady’s guidance and help, and instantly knew that I’d been taken under her protection. I felt purified and profoundly blessed.
I carry these experiences with me always. Ephesus will forever call to me – along with other sacred sites in Turkey. These places touched me in ways I can never forget.