Monday, 14 April 2014

Myths and Us

Myths and Us

My first trip to Greece was twelve years ago, and a very much younger me, and a much younger Takis, went to Rhodes to visit his brother and sister in law. While there I could not help but notice that we were never very far away from the ancient gods; hotels named Aphrodite, ships named Poseidon. We actually took a trip from Rhodes on a ship called Poseidon.

A Long Time Ago!

Sacred Numbers  

Takis left Egypt Sep 1955, on a P&O Oroton, arriving in Australia aged 21. He flew back to Greece after 50 yrs to begin work on The Project.

Julia flew from England to Australia on a ten-pound immigrants ticket in Jan, 1964 aged 23. She went to Greece in 2002, forty years later, and began the project with Takis in 2004.

Family Myths

Takis great grandfather George had left for Alexandria in Egypt in the mid 19C to work in a grocery store run by a Greek from his island. The family myth has it that he left the island as a bare foot young boy of twelve and worked for the grocer for a number of years, finally marrying the grocer’s daughter. The father gave his daughter a house in Lemnos as dowry when they married. The two had nine children and the family would come by boat every year to spend their summer on the island. The myth continues that they brought the children, maids, and two cows on the boat. And that when the boat was sighted by the locals they would run down to the short to accompany the household up the hill to their house. George had sailed from Lemnos around 1990 ages 12, and he returned to enlarge the house and build a chapel around 1920. He died when the youngest son was a baby, and leaving the family 200,000 gold sovereigns and the house in Lemnos.

(I often wonder what happened to all those gold sovereigns!)

Living a Greek Fantasy

It was in 2002 that Takis got the idea for our renovation project, and in 2004 we began work on his grandfather’s old house.

Hephaestus and Aphrodite were married, a marriage between of the god of practical technology and the goddess of beauty. We certainly hoped for a marriage between practical considerations and beauty when we began work on the house!

Living alongside these old myths you cannot help but sometimes slip into these other worlds. One mythic world for us was the world of the country squire on holiday in his country estate! Or we could switch that fantasy to the world of the returned merchant, living out his last days in his chosen exotic destination.

Of course the idea that I was Aphrodite and Takis Hephaestus is a complete Fantasy! 
But a fun one!!

The Project’s Mythic Cycles 

Ours was an adventure that was repeated each year. And like pilgrimages of old ours too involved a mythic cycle. We would leave Australia and arrive in Greece in Spring and return in Autumn to an Australian Spring. So it has been for us since 2002 when we began the project.

Destination Lemnos – A Mythic Island

‘What has happened to your boasting that you were the best? As you used to say once while in Lemnos... and while drinking sweet wine in overflowing glasses...promising that each of you would fight against a hundred Trojans, or was it only two?!’ The Iliad, Homer

Heroes of Yore

Jason needed riches to help fund a war against his uncle who had taken over his father’s lands. He decided to go into the Black Sea to a place where gold was to be found. Fifty young men joined him on his boat the Argo, among them was Hercules and Orpheus. The first port of call at the beginning of their journey was Lemnos,

As their boat neared the shore the sailors saw people coming out of the trees to meet them. The men held back at first thinking these were warriors as they were carrying bows and arrows, but then one shouted that he could only see women. They landed cautiously but the women greeted the men and invited them to stay.

There were only woman living on the island when Jason and his men arrived. The story is that the women had been so angry with their husbands, for taking new wives from among their slave girls that they had decided to take revenge and they killed their husbands.

The hospitality the men received was so agreeable that Jason’s men did not want to leave. Jason married the leader of the women, Hypsipili, and his men married other village women. Jason eventually had to remind them of their quest and they continued on their journey and had many adventures before returning to Lemnos and their families there.

Now, it so happens that our house stands close by this same bay; the bay where Jason and his Argonauts landed.

Takis, The Mythic Wanderer 

As the project to renovate his grandfather’s old house progressed I made links between Takis and the ancient heroes.

In my first blog I wrote that the stories that I’d like to share are repatriation stories, stories about ‘returning home’. And in particular I would be blogging about what it feels like for Greeks who decide to return to Greece – for various reasons.

Thus, I could not help but make a comparison with Odysseus.

That talkative, bald headed seaman came
(Twelve patient comrades sweating at the oar)
From Troy’s doom-crimson shore,
And with great lies about his wooden horse
Set the crew laughing, and forgot his course.’
 James Elroy Flecker

Another reason was that...

When Odysseus got home from his adventure Penelope could not believe that her husband had really returned—she feared that it was perhaps some god in disguise and she tested him by ordering her servant Euryclea to move the bed in their wedding-chamber. Odysseus protested that this could not be done since he made the bed himself and he knows that one of its legs is a living olive tree. Hearing this Penelope finally accepted that he truly was her husband.

As for me, well when we married Takis made us a bed. Our bed was also made out of a special wood. Takis had been able to acquire a special assignment of Huon Pine. Now this wood is hard to obtain nowadays but it is a wood that is soft to work with and hardens with time.

The Huon Pine is a tall pine straight tree and because of its qualities it was used for masts in early Australia sailing ships.

Takis, The Mythic Worker

Later there were times when I saw Takis working in his workshop and the god Hephaestus came to mind.

I once even wrote to my grandchildren. ‘I have a secret to tell you. I have a nickname for Grandpa; it is the name of the god of this island, Hephaestus. I call him that because, like Hephaestus, Grandpa loves to work hard in his workroom. He even has a helper that is a bit like Cedelion, Hephaestus’ helper. Anestis is Grandpa’s helper. He comes everyday and the two of them make new windows and doors for our old house. Maybe I’m a bit like the goddess Demeter who was the goddess of the fields, because the garden is where I spend most of my time.’ 

Another reason was… 

Hephaestus made a three-legged table, representing the three-seasoned year, and the three aspects of woman, maiden, mother and crone.

And it so happened that one of the small tables Takis made for us is a three-legged table. At first this was our breakfast table, then it became my writing desk. I once wrote…

I sit writing at my computer at a three-legged table. This is a table made by Takis for our breakfast nook. It is made of beautiful Jarra, a hard-wearing eucalyptus wood from Western Australian. When the surface is polished the warm red tones and dark grain of this wood really glows.

Unfortunately, with only three legs it was hard to position so that it always looked unbalanced, and as we found ourselves more often sitting at our larger dining room table I moved it. Now I, in my crone phase, sit at my three-legged table-desk in front of an east-facing window. Here I open my computer each morning to read my emails and commence writing.’ 

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