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Becoming Sacred

An evening walk reveals the origins of sacred space, sacrifice, sanctuary, a universal god, and the timeless spirituality of “paying it forward.”

Illustration Credit: Song of Poseidon by Richard Sheppard

Greece is a country of sacred places. I don’t mean the tens of thousands of little Orthodox chapels scattered over the landscape—though you will find one of those chapels on or near any sacred place you reach. Rather, places like a hidden shelf on the mountainside I climbed up to one recent sunset on the island of Paros. I was alone, with no one to mind my frequent backtrackings or the apologies I muttered to the spiders across my path.I was looking for the remains of an ancient sanctuary of Eileithyuia, a Greek goddess of childbirth. And indeed, she was where I expected her, lodged against a sheer rock face, now adorned with a whitewashed stone chapel (the key waiting trustfully in the door). From the adjoining terrace opened a cave, blocked by a water-loving fig tree too dense for me to pass. But the heart of the shrine was a smaller dark hole in the rock, just wide enough for me to enter, with three beautifully cut limestone steps down to a still pool. There a steady drip-drip from a mossy crack whispered that here on this parched hillside was living water for body and soul.Most such springs now are …

Brady Kiesling trained as an archaeologist and ancient historian, then was a U.S. Foreign Service officer from 1983 until his resignation in February 2003 to protest the Iraq war. He is the author of Diplomacy Lessons: Realism for an Unloved Superpower and Greek Urban Warriors, a history of modern Greek terrorism.

About the Author

Brady Kiesling trained as an archaeologist/ancient historian and is the creator of ToposText, a free app that links the ancient writings of Greece to their historical sites. 

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