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Alexis Masters

Goddess Mysteries for Today's Troubled World
by Alexis Masters

The Divine Lover

Held most dear from time immemorial as the Lover of Mortals, Aphrodite is a Goddess to whom human beings have long turned for unconditional Love and from whom, they say, we have always received it. Today the tragic events of September 11th loom large in our minds and remind us that we need Love in our world more than ever.

The Giuliana Legacy by Alexis Masters

In my novel, The Giuliana Legacy, protagonist Julia Giardani's destiny brings her "face to face" with her family's hereditary Goddess, Aphrodite. But Julia soon learns the family divinity is not the promiscuous and wily seductress we know from Greek myths. The Giardani Goddess is very different indeed. She survives from a much earlier epoch in human memory and is best described as a Divine Lover.

Although The Giuliana Legacy is an entirely fictional story, the Giardani Goddess is not fictional. Far from it. For seven years before finding my niche as a novelist, I researched and studied Aphrodite's prehistoric origins and historical development. Between 1982 and 1989, I traveled to more than fifty ancient sites associated with Her worship across the Mediterranean basin. As I gathered file drawers full of archaeological reports and scholarly articles and combined them with my experiences at Her ancient sanctuaries and temples, a complex sense emerged of how Aphrodite may well have been perceived among the people of Her times, from at least 2000 BC to about 600 AD.

Evidence unearthed at Aphrodite's sacred sites banishes our culture’s trivialized Love Goddess to the realm of the Classical Greek poets and playwrights and the idealized marble sculptures they inspired. It clarifies historical developments in Aphrodite's religious image, especially the influences from warlike cultures to the East that eventually masked or distorted her aboriginal meaning.

Votive statues and other gifts to the Goddess at Aphrodite's sites seldom indicate her association with the powers of erotic love and desire popularly ascribed to her. More often they testify to her association with a vast array of human concerns, including birth, maturation, marriage, child-bearing, motherhood, healing, community protection, crop fertility, death and rebirth. It seems clear that in spiritual practice throughout ancient times, this Goddess retained the broader powers of her pre-Hellenic Divine status and was invoked primarily by her people as the eternal power of Divine Love omnipresent in all creation.

A Place Called Sacred Mountain

High on the steep south face of Mount Dicta in Crete, an isolated sanctuary called Hieron Oros—Sacred Mountain—offers insights into Aphrodite's earliest worship. In use from the Minoan period to the early Christian era, the sanctuary shows unbroken continuity in the devotions practiced there. Over almost three millennia, the ritual objects and other elements of worship uncovered changed very little, and many of the artifacts from the earliest period of the sanctuary appear to have been reused throughout its long history until its very final years.

Sacred Mountain must have been a place of pilgrimage. It is too far removed from any known ancient city or town to have been a center of civic worship. A large oak shading its center, the site fills a sloping, rocky meadow that overlooks the southern Aegean, with faint traces of North Africa barely visible in the distance far beyond. It is silent and peaceful there, even today, a refuge for Divine contact and spiritual renewal beside a cool and ageless sacred spring.

But Sacred Mountain did not exist merely for the occasional lone pilgrim or retreatant. It obviously served a large community for much of its history. Excavations have revealed indications of large ritual gatherings and structures that suggest processions, group dancing and other forms of communal celebration. The artifacts found, charming stone offering tables, stone, pottery and bronze figurines, ritual chalices and vases, and numerous horned goat and bull bucrania are consistent with those offered throughout Minoan culture to the ages-old Goddess of Abundance and Beauty, the archetypal Lover of Mortals.

By the early 1990's, the site's archaeologists further study of the artifacts had revealed that the sanctuary was likely used primarily for seasonal 'maturation' or initiatory rites. While archaeology will never tell us precisely how people worshipped in deep antiquity, the work of these careful experts has given us many clues.

Mysteries of Love

When I visited Sacred Mountain in 1989, I sensed a forceful, almost tangible Power emanating from the core of the sanctuary. I knew the site held in its many layers a profound and numinous Mystery. Strong, clear impressions flooded my mind, that the spiritual focus of the sanctuary had been initiation, individual and communal, that Sacred Mountain was the seat of a spiritual tradition that could only be called the Mysteries of Love, that the Goddess of this place wanted to live again in the hearts of people everywhere—and wanted her Mysteries to be known to us once more, even celebrated in our time.

These impressions continued to grow in strength and clarity over the years. They drove me to turn from scholarly writing to fiction, where I could put my intuitions to work without the constraints of empirical proof. Eventually, it compelled me to develop the trilogy that begins with The Giuliana Legacy. In these stories, I could not only share my impressions of how the Mysteries of Love might once have been practiced, but also do my best to envision how they might be useful for our world today.

Empedocles, a Pre-Socratic philosopher and mystic sage offers an early explanation of our Cosmos that resonates with my intuitions about Aphrodite and her Mysteries of Love. In the surviving fragments of his writings Aphrodite is the primeval power of Love whirling in a eternal cyclical interplay with "destructive Strife," motivating change and growth within and through the four elements of creation and bringing them together “in her turn” into Golden Ages of harmony, peace, and abundance. He stated that Strife dominated his 5th century BC world and he looked longingly back toward an earlier era when Aphrodite—Love—reigned supreme.

I believe the age of which he writes encompassed the heyday of the Sacred Mountain sanctuary and the Mysteries practiced there. I also believe the great cycle of Love and Strife has turned and that Love again is on the increase in our world—destined to bring us together into an age of harmony, peace and abundance once more.

Seeing the huge outpouring of love washing through our global community in the wake of September 11th, I feel optimistic. The timing of Empedocles' Great Cosmic Cycle may not be ours to know, but I am not alone in my optimism, for spiritual teachers and intuitive healers the world over have predicted that we are entering a time of global initiation.

Attunement with Love

Initiation is a distinct stage in almost every Mystery tradition. By their very nature, initiations involve purification and testing, and we on this planet will doubtless be purged of our follies by whatever force necessary and tested to the extreme. "Destructive Strife" will not give up his ironclad grip on us without a mighty struggle.

In The Giuliana Legacy, Julia Giardani opens her reconstructed Mysteries of Love with this quote from Empedocles:

"She it is who is thought innate even in mortal limbs, because of her they think friendly thoughts and accomplish harmonious deeds, calling her Joy by name, and Aphrodite."

Love will indeed draw us together into another Golden Age especially if those of us who identify with her Divine power and wish to serve her remember to cultivate her in our own hearts, by our own will, and through our own "friendly" thoughts and "harmonious" actions. Though Aphrodite is "innate" in us, attunement is key—it is the very purpose of initiation.

Attunement grows as we turn our minds toward our goal, in this case, toward Divine Love. Dwell on the thought of Love. Let your mind be saturated with that thought, with that energy. Set aside time each day to deepen your practice. This is the meditative aspect of attunement. The other aspect requires action, sending out "friendly thoughts," performing "harmonious deeds," but also attuning our minds to her in the midst of activity. See Love in action, "in the whirl," to use Empedocles' phrase, where others may not. Keep your eye "single," focused, "gazing on Love with your understanding" and "drawing a circle of Love's energy all about you." And very importantly, use your will to turn away from Strife—and don’t permit your mind to follow the frightened crowd in his direction.

Prayer is a powerful method for attunement, too. Speaking to Divine Love in the language of your heart is easier today than it was before September 11th. We have countless things to pray for now, the souls who passed over during that tragic morning and those who survive them being only the most obvious. We need to pray for peace and for wisdom for our world's leaders as they endeavor to cope with the crisis at hand. And we must send out Love in our prayers to all who suffer on this planet today, from fear, illness, deprivation, ignorance, prejudice, and hatred, for only Love can draw them into Love's charmed and harmonious circle.

The need for prayer has never been greater. With heartfelt prayer focused by intention, miracles can happen. Believe it. And rest assured, the Lover of Mortals hears our prayers and is moved by them, too. We are not alone.

© Alexis Masters 2001.  All Rights Reserved.

Alexis Masters, lifelong mystic, scholar and kriya yoga practitioner, holds a bachelor of arts in transpersonal psychology from Antioch University, where she also pursued graduate work in feminist theology and comparative religion. A great lover of world travel, her research in ancient religion and Goddess spirituality has taken her to the far reaches of the Mediterranean. Alexis lives with her husband, Christopher Gilmore, in Northern California, where she is hard at work on her next novel, the sequel to The Giuliana Legacy. Envisioned as the second volume in a trilogy, Giuliana's Challenge chronicles more of the adventures of the Giardani family and the Goddess they serve.

Alexis is also the founding director of VisionaryFiction.com, the Internet community forum for readers, authors, booksellers and publishers of the emerging literary genre of visionary fiction. Created for all who share a passion for literature with spiritual themes and content, VistionaryFiction.com is the place to learn more about what is causing all the buzz in the publishing industry and to help insure that the new genre becomes the successful, thriving one needed to meet the demands of today's changing book market. The site contains interactive features for announcing new releases in the genre, for discussing genre standards and issues of craft, and for sharing promotional ideas and community contacts. Visit VisionaryFiction.com, cast your vote today for your favorite visionary fiction titles, and help shape the future of this exciting publishing trend.


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