I knew, months before I set foot on her island home, that the chemistry between us would be off the charts. I knew that whatever might happen, the rewards far outweighed the risks – even if I didn’t survive the experience. I knew all this with such unaccustomed certainty that it actually scared me. But I never once hesitated.
Since my early childhood, I have been caught up in the romance of Greek mythology. I remember wishing I could be like Odysseus, Jason, Hercules, or Perseus, supra beings who bravely ventured where angels and mere mortals feared to tread, overcoming impossible odds to accomplish the tasks of which their legends are made. I have always believed that their spirit lies dormant within each of us and that if we only could overcome our fear of living too fully, we too might one day be invited to partake in an epic journey with the gods. I now know this is so, for I am here to speak of it – although I am sufficiently changed by the experience that some might argue that in fact I died and was reborn. If pressed, I would probably agree.
I knew for some time that I would be traveling to Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean (3,572 square miles), which long before the birth of Christ was the link between Europe and the Middle East. I also had no idea why I was so drawn to this unlikely part of the world. It was only a few months before leaving that a friend who had recently returned from the island filled in the gaps. According to the ancient writings, Cyprus is the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love. The story goes that she emerged fully grown from the sea (as depicted in Sandro Botticelli’s famous painting Birth of Venus – her Roman name), stepping out of the roiling foam (in Greek: aphros) caused when Cronus cast the severed genitals of his father, Uranus, down to Earth.
The moment I heard the story, I understood why Cyprus was calling me. I was destined to meet Aphrodite, and if I dared to surrender unconditionally, she would take me to Olympian heights to teach me lessons of love – lessons that easily eclipsed my adolescent fantasies forged long ago inside dog-eared volumes of Harold Robbins, Henry Miller, and Mickey Spillane. I went vowing to throw myself into an active volcano if that was what she asked of me. What actually happened was considerably more unexpected.
There is nothing subtle about Aphrodite’s presence on Cyprus. Virtually every road is dotted with brown-and-white government signs leading curious tourists to her shrines. I followed one to the cooling waters of the sacred bath where she cavorted with Adonis; another guided me to the beaches of the Petra tou Romiou (the Rock of the Greek) that looms like a watchful sentinel over the precise place where the goddess was born. There I selected several wondrously marbled stones that had been smoothed over the millennia by the churning sea and deposited onto the shore. Ultimately, the signs led me to her hallowed sanctuary at Palea Paphos, the very place where the ritual prostitution that played such a significant part in the cult of Aphrodite was practiced.
According to the stories of the past, it was to this sacred site that every young maiden, before she married, went once in her lifetime to give herself to a total stranger. When a man chose her, he would throw some money at her feet and say, “I invoke the goddess upon you.” If only men today could remember such holy words each time they encounter one of Aphrodite’s fair priestesses. I have come to realize that the goddess is present like dried kindling deep within the psyche of every woman, waiting only for the spark of recognition to ignite her into a consuming flame.
The energy of these ritualistic sexual encounters still lingers in the air inside the museum built on the ruins of the ancient temple. Little effort was needed to follow its palpable trail into the particular building that enshrined the focus of the cult’s adoration: a large, conical icon known as the Black Stone of Paphos, worshiped since ancient times as the representation of Aphrodite. A postcard sold at the museum office described it as a bethyl – a curious word derived from the ancient Greek baitylia, which finds even earlier roots in the Hebrew: bethel or beth-El: the house of God. Such stones were believed to be more than symbols; they were revered as the actual residences of deities.
The instant I entered the room, I knew I was standing before the very force that had commanded me to come to Cyprus. I approached slowly and, like so many adoring devotees before me, requested to be graced by her presence. I asked to be transported into the heavens where the goddess and I might merge in an ecstatic dance that would propel me beyond all extraordinary experiences of my previous lives. I stroked the rock and could sense the caresses of thousands of other hands – male and female – that had preceded mine. She was unmistakably present: waiting, attentive, and open to my brazen advances. I was being drawn fully into her essence, and no part of me wished to hold back. In that infinite instant in which we were joined, she became an irresistible black hole and I had already passed the event horizon.
Then she spoke words I will never forget. “I am all you seek and more. But you come to me like an impetuous youth seeking only the release of eros, and by settling for such a small part of me, you will have missed the far greater prize. I am much more than voluptuous flesh, fashioned for the pleasure of the moment. Long after memories fade and your lusting hormones recede like an ebbing tide, I will still remain untouched by your presence. If you would take me, then take me whole. For I am the totality of love, birthed in the loins of eros; rising through the realm of philos that binds friends in deepest regard; then expanding into the infinite domain of agape, where all creation is embraced in love. I am the nubile goddess you always imagined, and I am also Mother Teresa. What is it you intend to do with us?”
Of what use were the wettest dreams of my teenage years to me now? How should I begin to answer my goddess who had called me nearly half way around the world to stand at her side? Unable to frame even a secret, silent response in my mind, I quietly withdrew. I felt our time together was not over. I somehow knew we would meet again, and I was not wrong.
Several days later, I traveled to Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, where I delivered a series of talks at the Body, Mind, and Spirit Exposition. It was there that I met John McCarron, a British expatriate and highly skilled shaman who has access to the underworld where the wounds and contracts that bind us onto the wheel of karma are housed. I spent some time with John after the conference and a few days before leaving the island I arranged a private session, knowing that some important work needed to be done. Shortly after he placed his hands beneath my head, I fell into a deep altered state and witnessed the drifting away of the gossamer curtains that normally separate realities. Before me lay endless options, and there, among them, was my Lady of the Stone. She spoke once more and, in the process, wrenched me free of my former self. “You are an emissary of the Central Sun, a child of the galaxy, here to learn and teach love.”
I knew the words were meant not only for me but for all humankind. Aphrodite was reminding us all of our divine nature, inviting us to transcend our insufficient understanding of love and reclaim our true birthright. It was only then that I was able to answer her earlier question.
“I have come to take you home.”
Jean-Claude Gerard Koven is a writer and speaker based in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. He was a featured weekly columnist for the UPI (United Press International) Religion and Spirituality Forum and is the author of Going Deeper: How to Make Sense of Your Life When Your Life Makes No Sense, recipient of both the Allbooks Reviews Editor’s Choice Award and the USABookNews.com Award for the Best Metaphysical Book of the Year.
©2004 – 2021. Jean-Claude Gerard Koven / All Rights Reserved.