A Jewel in the Aegean – Our much loved Island of Skiathos
Back in the mists of time, there was a small sun kissed island, a multi-faceted jewel of nature set midst the splendour of the Aegean Sea. On the Island was a Sacred Grove, planted with all manner of good things. The trees were abundant with olives, pomegranates, apples and oranges and lemons. In the centre of this fertile place was a Temple, a perfect oblong of pure white marble set with pillars all around. The temple was constructed on a raised dais and several steps led up to the entrance portal. Within the Temple, behind huge floor to ceiling golden doors, was an inner circle, a place where no man had ever stood. Within the inner circle a sacred eternal flame burnt brightly, marking the hours and days and seasons and years. The flame of eons burned and Incense blended from Frankincense, Sandalwood, Patchouli and Myrrh hung in the air, pungently sweet. Rose petals of purest white were scattered daily, in homage to The Great Mother, the Goddess of Light, Dark, Night and Day.
Her High Priestess, Lydia, knelt before the awe inspiring, pure white marble statue, in devotion and veneration to her Lady. Her gaze was fixed and intent on the cool, still beauty of the marble Goddess, draped in luxurious robes, spun from pure silk. The golden, silver and blue threads woven as if ‘She of a Thousand Names’ was draped in the fabric of the heavens above. With deep love and devotion the High Priestess brought offerings of fresh fruit and flowers and laid them before the Lady. Bowing in reverence she also brought prayers and supplications from those who sought the blessings and forgiveness the Goddess alone could provide.
The High Priestess had charge over the Temple Maidens and Eunuchs. To be in her Presence was admittance to the inner sanctum of the Temple. This was where the magic and mystery happened, and the High Priestess and the Eunuchs would perform the sacred rites and rituals, those things forbidden to those who were not initiates. The will of the Goddess was manifest, and her High Priestess was her will in motion. Attis loved passionately his role in the sacred rituals, and seeing the favour in Lydia’s’ beautiful pale blue eyes made him feel truly blessed, life for him was perfect. For Lydia, though, as much as she cherished and relished her elevated status, she had deep within her a hunger. It was not satiated by the adoration of the crowds who swarmed to see her perform sacred rites, or by the secret rituals performed with the eunuchs and her handmaidens. There was a hunger within her that could not be fed. She longed for something she did not have, but she knew not what the hunger was that gnawed like a hungry beast within her belly.
Lydia was very beautiful; her long white blonde hair was pulled back from her face, and plaited like a crown across her head, all the better to show her striking aquiline features. The beauty was a mask, an inscrutable countenance that was her public persona. Only the Goddess saw the true Lydia, and only the Goddess knew that the benevolent smile Her Priestess bestowed upon the Eunuchs hid her true feelings of revulsion for these men, who in her eyes, were but men in name only. And how beneath her cool exterior Lydia’s gaze fell favourably, too favourably, upon the men of influence who came to the Temple with their petitions. How they stirred the hunger in her belly. A hunger she could not satiate with any of them. She also had a jealous heart for the wives of the High born men.
It came to pass one day that a stranger and his entourage arrived at the Temple. He did not look like the people of the island. He was of stocky build, dark and swarthy, wrapped in billowing black robes, a bull’s horn inscribed with strange script hung from his thick neck. As he emerged from the olive grove, he caught sight of Lydia on the temple steps. Instantly the stranger was transfixed by her cool and elegant beauty. She stood tall and proud, her long white blonde hair wound and bound around her exquisite face. He beheld her and desired her.
Lydia, hearing a rustling sound looked up and saw Him, mysterious, swarthy and black. She saw the look of naked desire on his face. It awakened something in her and as her eyes looked into his black eyes, a crimson glow crossed her pallid face and the hunger stirred again in her belly. Something unspoken passed between them, recognition of an insatiable hunger.
With a huge stride he came towards her, announcing himself as a stranger in this land. He declared in a thunderous voice his name as Phobos, the sound of it made her shudder with fear and with anticipation of the unknown. His gaze was intense; he looked at her as a mere woman. To him she was not an elevated High Priestess; there was no respect in his gaze, just pure, unadulterated lust. Mesmerized by his Presence, it took some time for Lydia to realize that Phobos was not alone. Stepping out from the shadow of his cavernous black cloak was a frail and small woman. Her back hunched over as if she carried much weight upon it. Her eyes were sad, and her look very tired. The woman looked old and weary way beyond her years, dressed in a grey garment that was not the style of these parts and depicted her as a stranger. With a dismissive wave of his hand Phobos introduced his Handmaiden, Dolores. Eyes averted and not daring to look at Lydia, Dolores bobbed down in a gesture of subservience.
All of a sudden, Lydia was surrounded by her entourage of handmaidens and Eunuchs. Attis came towards Phobos, and speaking with authority he advised him that he was on sacred ground and disrespecting the Lady and her High Priestess. Lydia noted the fleeting flash of anger in Phobos’ dark eyes and the clenched fist. However, he immediately bowed his head in conciliatory fashion and pleading ignorance, begged their pardon. Phobos, pulled Dolores close to his side, and asked for sanctuary for him and his entourage and his wife.
‘We are strangers here, we have travelled from a land a far across the Ocean, we are strangers to your customs and have no desire to cause offence through our ignorance.’
As was the custom, sanctuary was given and Attis took Phobos and Dolores to a place of rest, set away from the temple. Food was served, and when satiated Phobos lay down on a couch to rest. Dolores lay on the floor at his feet as he had instructed her to do.
News of the arrival of the dark stranger spread to the village, and the Elder came to greet him in welcome. A feast was prepared in his honor, as Phobos had declared himself a Mage, a wise man of Magic from the Court of a powerful king in a far -away land. At the feast, Lydia consecrated and blessed the food. Offerings on behalf of the villagers were presented to the magnificent marble statue of their Lady, the Goddess first. With deep reverence Lydia went through the offerings and rituals, and a hushed silence fell upon the waiting crowd as their beloved High Priestess performed her duties.
At last it was time to Feast, to eat drink and be merry, dusk was falling, and Venus glowed brightly in the cobalt sky. A huge fire pit blazed. And there was the sweet sound of music pervading the air from the citharas, lyres and panpipes. The Elder declared that all should eat drink and be merry. Lydia sat on a raised diadem away from the throng, watching, watching, and watching. How many feasts had she observed, silently detached. But tonight something was different. She looked at the dark Mage, his very presence drew her like a magnet, but she could not go to him. He locked his black eyes on her deep blue gaze, with a look that said,
‘Yes, I know you want me’.
Embarrassed she turned her head, and her gaze fell upon Dolores and shocked she saw by the look on her face, she had witnessed the intensity of their look, and it was acknowledged with sad acceptance. The dark Mage, Phobos, as guest of honor held the floor. He regaled his audience with tales from his own country, of his deeds as a man of magic and healer. Everyone was entranced by him. Nobody took much notice of quiet little Dolores, sat like a loyal dog at his feet.
For seven nights Phobos stayed on the island. And for seven nights there was feasting and merriment and the islanders grew more and more entranced with their strange dark visitor. It was with absolute awe they watched him perform healing miracles on some of the afflicted amongst them. The crowds were spellbound by the magic feats he conjured. Such things had not been witnessed on their tiny island before. He had an aura of power of mystery and arcane knowledge. Such was their fascination, he even eclipsed their feelings for their beloved Lydia. Unlike the High Priestess who was blessed with clairsentience, they were oblivious to the source of his powers, that he was an adept of the dark arts. But, this mattered not to her for by now she too had fallen totally under his spell. Attis the Eunuch was the only one who saw her mask slip and the only one not beguiled by the dark Master. With sad disbelief Attis watched his beloved Lydia cast looks of desire he had longed to receive from her at another man….
Extract from ‘Torn From The Heart’ © Eily Nash 2012