Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Birth Candles

This is the Birth Candle I made for the baby, the purple gems for the Lady's Blessings and the blue ones for her (my daughter's) element's blessings - she is a little mermaid.

And this is the Birth Candle I made for myself, the red symbolizing the blood, the life and the female power in birth.

I called in the Lady before I began working on the candles, annointed them, decorated them, charged them with prayers and blessed them, and then dedicated them to the Lady. They are now sitting on my altar where they'll remain until the perfect day comes.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In the Cauldron/In the Stillness

I am now in my 33rd week. I am not working at the moment because the start of the next project keeps being postponed, and I'm quite happy about it. I am incredibly heavy and big by now, and I want to sleep 18hrs per day. I am very short of breath, I'm too hot most of the time and the smallest activity has me end up covered in sweat... Also my digestion is completely messed up. The last few weeks havn't been easy.
My nephew sadly has died in late November. He was a charming young man, with a very lovely heart energy, suffering from mucoviscidosis since his birth. He was only 23 years old when his spirit returned to the Source, and his funeral was one of the saddest things I have ever experienced in my life.
I have spent the weeks since trying to figure out what needs to be done bureaucracy-wise in order to receive maternal allowance and parental support once the little fairy is here, and I am not even going to talk about how stupid the people are at the office and how illogical and unfair the system is. I think I am there now, so I refuse to waste another thought on this.
With really strong tummy pains and the return of my headaches it was quite a difficult time in the Cauldron for me though.
In order to not lose myself in the Cauldron I kept myself busy connecting to the changing energy of the Lady as the Wheel turns to Yule. I have spent three days making Lebkuchen and they turned out LOVELY and I have also made another birth candle. Now that the placenta has moved and my gynaecologist said there is no reason not to have a home birth, I am quite looking forward to giving birth. The first birth candle I made was a blessing candle for the little mermaid, and this one now is blood red to give me strength and empower me, and it is quite strong. Also I am woring on a painting of Sheilagh na Gig which should be finished soon. But I tire quickly and then I go to bed, because my wise mother-friends have all told me to go and have a nap when I'm tired as long as I still can, so I don't feel bad about it at all :-)
The baby is healthy and happy, dancing and swimming around in Her womb sea and I am moving into the Stillness, into the Dreamtime and into hibernation.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Winter begins: Dia de Muertos, Frida Kahlo and Paper Lanterns

Winter is coming and the world seems to be becoming quieter. I have finished my painting of Keridwen. She looks different than I thought She would, not scary but mischieveous. I am having not such a bad Samhain time this year. I feel cosey and looked after and dealing with diffulties when I can and then letting them go and just trying to accept them when I can't.
Last Saturday Mitja and I went into town to get some groceries and stumbled across an exhibition of Dia de Muertos and La Catrina, the mexican tradition of honouring the Dead by setting up colourful altars for them. I was delighted at the sights, the tables were decorated with paperflowers in shining colours, photographs, food, alcohol, skulls, skeletons, sugar skulls, skull candles, bone shaped cakes and loads more. They even had an altar to honour Frieda Kahlo there, which made me quite happy because I admire her. Besides all of the things mentioned above it was decorated with lots of little photographs and prints of her paintings. A mexican lady explained all the decorations to me, how the Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico, how the sugar skulls are given to children, how nobody touches the food on the altars, because their scent is food to the Dead (there was one chicken dish wich they served their Deceased with a sauce made from hot chilies and chocolate!) and also how important Frida Kahlo ist to the mexican people until today. I loved the colours and the vivid energy of the altars. Such a different way from our celebrations at Samhain, Allerseelen and Totensonntag.

The trees have nearly lost their leaves now. When I crossed the Rhine a few days ago, the Seven Mountains were hidden in the mist, the water soft blue and the sky white, blue and pink. It looked totally enchanted. It was very quiet also, because many people who usually walk their dogs and go jogging by the Rhine had stayed in, because it was so cold.

Two days ago while I was working, I suddenly heard a marching band outside. We all left our descs and went to the window, and there were children walking candle-lit paper laterns through the streets. Here in this catholic place they claim it has to do with St. Martin, they even have somebody in a wannabe Roman uniform on horse, rding ahead. But I think it's a pagan thing, come down to us from Samhain lighting lanterns in the darkening season and possibly from making lanterns from beets to either scare away hostile presences or to light the way home to benign ones.
When I cycled home later I saw that many houses and shops had hung out illuminated paper lanterns outside their windows and placed candles in their flowerpots. It looked so beautiful and so pagan.

I love how this is living folklore, autumn is over, winter is beginning, and soon the Wheel will turn towards Yule. I have made fruit bread and christmas buiscuits and Bratäpfel, and in town they are putting up the Christmas decorations.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Samhain Blessings

Samhain is one of the most important festivals in the year of the Goddess. It is celebrated on the night of the 31st October. This is a night out of time, where the veils between this world and the Otherworld are thin and the gates are open. It is a night out of time. The old year has died and the new one hasn't yet begun. It is a time where spirits can travel between the worlds and our ancestors are among us. I always put a candle in the window, so my ancestors find their way to me. Samhain is the beginning of winter, of the dark season, a time of introspection and it is the season of the Dark Mother, when the Goddess takes on Her face of Crone and Bringer of Death. In Avalon we honour Keridwen, Keeper of the Cauldron of Transformation. It is good time to realease old things, that no longer serve us or Her. In Her cauldron everything is transformed.

I went to a Samhain celebration in Bonn. Mitja was lovely enough to drive me there. It is so sweet of him. We went in silence through the darkness until we came to an old cemetary set inside some woods. People had lit candles on the tombs and it looked beautiful. I was afraid there might be teenangers somewhere on the cemetary drinking beer, it was Halloween after all, but we encountered nobody. We then cast the circle, called the Goddess, the elements and the ancestors to be with us. We then remembered the loved ones we have lost since last Samhain and remembered all the nameless Deceased who have died in war and in nature catastrophes in the last 12 months. And then we gave them a blessing on their journey and sang for them to help their souls find their way onwards. I think that is such a lovely thing to do, to say goodbye to the ones you love and set them free to go, and also to sing for the ones that nobody sang for.

This is what I like to sing for them:
Buzzard call you back to the wild land
Heron fly you home
Journey to the soul of your own land
Where the Mothers wait for your return
Heron fly you home
Carolyn Hillyer

I hope when I die one day, I'll have a huge family, which sits around my bed and that they will sing this for me to help me on my journey back to the Source.

We then lit more candles for the Souls and then left in silence.
Back home we honoured our ancestors. First we did a meditation journeying into a cave to meet the heritage of our ancestors, seeing what was theirs and not ours, what had been insignificant to them but was meaningful to us, leaving and offering and receiving a gift. We travelled to the land of our ancestors and I firstly wondered whether I should go to eastern Germany or to western France. I found myself on a rocky coastland with grey skies above, and neolithic tombs. I knew I was in the West, to the East lay the whole of the continent, which was all the land of my ancestors and to the West lay many islands, which were also the home of my anceszors. When I pondered the islands I felt the wind and heard some keys of a harp. Then the baby started hopping around madly in my belly and I felt "Is this where you came from?" Am I having a celtic baby? I realise that there is no question whether the land of my ancestors is either France or Germany. It is all Europe, I've known that before, but the link that helped me see and understand them as really connected as one in this meditation, were the standing stones. I have visited so many standing stones in Brittany and Western France and loved them so much, and it never seemed to be meaningful to me that the Lüneburger Heide and the Altmark, the areas that surround my mum's house where I grew up are the areas of Germany with the most remaining megalithic formations.
Then we journeyed through the elements acknowledging the parts of our heritage we were proud of and the ones that made us cry. It was very powerful.
After a delicious feast we closed the circle.

It was a beautiful ceremony, I was really happy to keep the focus on the ancestors. In Avalon I think we might probably have focused on releasing and rebirthing, and that is very powerful and important as well, but I miss doing ceremonies to honour the elements or in this case the ancestors, without hoping for something for myself. We do so many ceremonies where we want a special outcome, a healing experience, or something similar, I feel serving is also just tending the elements, honouring the ancestors, the Moon, the Sun, anything really with maybe moving the focus away from ourselves and back to the practice.
Having said that, a day before I had already done my own ceremony to honour Keridwen, and to release my old destructive patterns and ways of thinking into Her cauldron. I'd feel very rude if I didn't honour Her apropriately. Since my birthday is merely 8 days gone I consider Her to be my special guardian.

Come and taste of the cauldron's brew
Magic She will give to you
You will dance in the eye of the storm
You're Keridwen's children
The cauldron-born
(Damh the Bard)

Mitja found the coin in the fairy cake. I had made special pumpkin fairy cakes for the occasion and baked a coin into one. That is a very good omen for our family abundance in the coming year. I found it very hard to articulate an intention for the coming year, seeing as I have no idea how becoming a mother will change my life. So I have just planted the seed of love. My intention is to spread the love, love my family and myself. Then I brought Mitja some hot spiced apple juice and read my belly the chapter on Keridwen and Morgen La Fey in Luna Moon Hare. And then the sun set, the day of Samhain ended and the new year began. Blessings of Love and Growth to all, may this new year be the best yet.

Come with your depth and your ageless wisdom
Come with a cake and a warming brew
Carolyn Hillyer

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Birthday Weekend

Last Sunday I turned 31. I think in the 31 years of my life this is the third time I can remember it being sunny on my birthday :-) And I had such a lovely time. Mitja took Freyas Day and Moon Day off and popped to the North for a very short trip to see my family on my birthday. We didn't do anything in particular on the Friday. Mitja offered to bake me an apple cake for my birthday, and because I couldn't decide which one I wanted he made me two. He is so incredibly loving.

Oh how lovely they were. We had one of them right then on the Friday.

On the Saturday my mum and I drove up to Magdeburg for a family celebration. My mum's cousin and his wife, my uncle and aunt, celebrated their 70th birthday. I don't get to see too much of my family so it was really lovely to be there. I even met some relatives I hadn't ever met before, only heard my mum talk about them. Her other cousin lives in Budapest with his son and lovely lovely wife. I liked them alot and Mama invited them over next year for her own 70th birthday. It's gonna be quite a big, international party!

On Sunday we had a lovely birthday breakfast. My older brother couldn't be there, but my younger was, and I was really glad to be with my family.

Where I sat at the breakfast table with the candle of the light of my life. Mama decorated my place with flowers and leaves from the garden. She does every year. I love it. That's why I go home. Nothing is as wonderful as having your mum look after you.

And this year I had my partner with me as well. How blessed am I.
We didn't have any lunch: We went for a walk instead. With my pregnancy it wasn't a very long walk, but the weather was so gorgeous we just enjoyed being out so much. We found the most beautiful apple tree by the side of a field and picked some apples and ate straight away. I wish we could have picked more to take home, they were delicious and I could have made them into yet another cake :-) I love apples. They are the sacred fruits of the Goddess and as I was born in the season when they are ripe they always make me feel extra blessed by the Lady. Also I can't think of any way in which apples aren't tasty. They are lovely in juice, in cider, fresh, cooked in compot, in apple sauce, in cakes, in pies, in pancakes, in savoury dishes, with pork or chicken, dried and in so many more ways! Thankyou Goddess for your wonderful fruit!

Then we had cake and coffee! Vally was there as well, and brought an other cake, this one with chocolate and nuts and creme and egg liqueur. So we enjoyed all!

My birthday cake. Mitja cut the central aple into the shape of a heart. Did I mention how much I love him?

And then we gathered by the fire place and spend some time chatting, reading and playing cards, while Mama had a little nap. But of course we weren't done eating! Mitja and I had cooked a pumpkin soup earlier in the day from one of the pumpkins from my mum's garden. She is the Green Goddess and harvests the most beautiful fruits and vegetables every year! The pumpkin was delicious.

The dinner table.

Vally couldn't stay for much longer after dinner, so we spent the rest of the day by the fire place, just the four of us: Mitja, Mama, Malte and I. And the little fairy in my womb who kept hopping and dancing, causing funny little bulges on the outside of my belly. Mama and I watched and felt her doing that for about an hour.
So, that was my birthday, very calm and quiet and more delicios food than we could manage!

The next day after two more meals with the family and a stroll through my mum's garden, Mitja and I went back to Bonn. We took the rest of the pumpkin with us to Bonn. It's huge. I have so far made another pumpkin soup, for when Mitja's step dad visited us on Wednesday, I have just made 7 glasses of super duper pumpkin marmelade, and there's still so much left that I'm planning to make a pumkin cake tomorrow for the Samhain ceremony on Moon Day evening. I don't know if I'll have used it up then. But I can't let the Mother's (Mother Earth's and Mama's) gifts go to waste! And I love cooking.

My lovely Mum and I in her garden.

I had such a lovely time in the North. It's about 7 weeks until Yule when I go back. Can't wait!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Ah I have had such a lovely quiet autumn! I have not been working for three weeks, but instead taken my time to reconnect with friends, to continue my studies about the Goddess and to be creative. Here is my Autumn Equinox Altar to Banbha/Nerthus the Mother of Earth:

I have been working on this painting for three years, She was very difficult to capture. The wonderful Dana and I have also completed another card which you can purchase on my etsy shop. It is a Yule Card showing Perchta the Shining One, but maybe you'd also like to check out my Samhain Card of Nolava the Crone

While I was painting Banbha I felt the energy change. It got really cold, crispy and clear, very wintery. The veil between the worlds thins, and Samhain is here, the beginning of winter. I made a few necklaces, this is the one I made for Keridwen, the Dark Mother, the Crone, the Great Transformer:

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Skydisc of Nebra and the Solar Observatory of Goseck

My mum and I went on a little pilgrimage into the past. For years I have been following the discovery and presentation to the public of the Skydisc of Nebra.

This Bronze Age disc dates back to 1600 BCE and shows the night sky viewed from Sachsen-Anhalt. It shows the full moon, the crescent moon and the Plejades, as well as 25 more stars. This depicts the points in the agricultural year of sowing and of the harvest. The two golden bands (one is lost) show the angle of the sun rise and sun set at the Winter and Summer Solstice. At the bottom there is a boat, which in Bronze Age mythology is quite often depicted. In mythology it often carries the sun across the sky.
I love this piece.
So on sunday we went to the Interpretation Centre, where there is a nice presentation in a planetarium about what secrets the skydisc holds, but apart from that it wasn't very interesting to me. It seems to be rather set up to entertain families with children, then to address a scientifically interested audience. I didn't mind though, since my mum and I have studied the skydisc and knew pretty much all about it before.
We then took a shuttle bus up to the top of the Mittelberg, where treasure hunters found the skydisc in 1999. It is a lovely place, we walked through a beautiful autumn forest for about 500 metres until we reached the summit. They have cleared the summit from trees when they excavated it, and there is a ring-shape earthen wall which was built in the Iron Age. We walked through an opening gap in the wall and visited the Skymirror, a little monument to mark the exact spot, where the disc was found. I like the connection, the Skydisc in the eart mirroring the nightsky above, and now that the disc is in the museum in Halle the Skymirror has taken it's place and mirrors the sky day and night.

The Sky Mirror

There is a really ugly tower which you can climb, and from the tower there are concrete markers lain out on the ground pointing you to where the sun sets and rises at various points of the year, several of them aligned with other sacred mountains and hills, like the Brocken and the Kyffhäuser. We didn't climb it, becauser we didn't have much energy left and were still to go to the solar observatory of Goseck!

This woodhenge monument consists of two concentric palisades with openings aligned, again, to the directions of the sunrise and sunset at the Winter Solstice, Summer solstice and other meaningful times. It is about 7000 years old and it is surrounded by a wall and a ditch.

Mama standing on the wall, overlooking the beautiful peaceful monument our ancestors created in neolithic times.

The wall and ditch

Sunset seen through one of the openings

It was lovely. Because it was so late when we arrived there was nobody there and we had the whole sacred space to ourselves. It is a wonderful place. It has only recently been discovered and excarvated, and it was ceremonially opened at the Winter Solstice 2007. I left an offering of dried rose petals, lavender and herbs, honoring the ancestors and saying a prayer. The sun was setting gloriously while my mum and I were inside the circle and exploring the surroundings.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Autumn Equinox

It seems the little person is making me turning back towards myself. I am very grateful for this. For so long I have spent my lif doing things, creating and manifesting things, scheming and working for things, also achieving things, but I have at the same time frighteningly forgotten to nurture myself. The upmost thing I did to treat myself, was lying in bed for a while reading a novel. For me this was a big improvement, since I havn't read any novels while I was in Uni, only books on my subject. I have now realised that I have not done any of the things I wanted to treat myself to. I havn't done the scuba diving course I wanted to do, I haven't gone back to dancing class, I have for several years not taken the singing classes I was going to take, and I have postponed taking up Yoga again for 12 years now! I can't believe I have actually for 12 years believed there were reasons why I couldn't go back to Yoga now, I was always going to do it sometime soon.
Now I'm doing Yoga for pregnant ladies, and I love it. It's so good to do Yoga again. Even though this is of course different from the Yoga I did when I was 18, I still find it exhausting. My beautiful friend Graell reminded me that I am growing a human inside, so I guess I'm ok. I'm loving the Yoga Class.

I have been struggling with severe headaches since the Goddess Conference and I know that these are drawing my attention to how imbalanced a life I have been leading. I love how I am taking time for myself again now, paying attention to a better diet and making sure that I give myself the time to be with the Lady in meditation, in song and in the dreamtime. Working with the energy of the autumn equinox I have realised which parts of my life need to be nourished more and my friend, the wonderful Elaria, has helped me a lot with this, sharing her wisdom as a mother with me, and elped me to truly understand, that this is not the time to work to achieve things, but to do things with curiosity and joy, and not because the serve a purpose.

I am so grateful for the gentle changes that are happening and all the healing I receive. Belinda facilitated a beautiful Mabon ceremony by the Rhine, where we were giving thanks for the harvest in our lives.

Harvest Altar at the Autumn Equinox

That evening really marked a home-coming for me, coming home to myself. I am so grateful to my baby, for pulling me back inside. She is now very active, dancing and hopping around a lot inside her happy ocean womb. I sing to her evryday and Mitja and I love feeling her little movements.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Mother at Lammas

As the Wheel turns and we are approaching the Festival of the Autumn Equinox, where we celebrate Banbha, the Mother of Earth, who is Hertha/Nerthus in Germany, and the Harvest Mother Tanfana, I realise I am somehow still waiting for the Lammas energy to arrive. It feels like we've gone straight from Domnu into Banbha. I was planning to paint the Great Mother Goddess in her season, when the days would be hot and golden, when the sunlight would seem endless and I'd go cycling through Her crop fields, watching Her golden hair spread over the land in the summer.
Instead ist's been cold and rainy and gray and dark.
So it is time to find the Mother not outside, but within. What a joy, since I am pregnant with my first child. At my beautiful Blessing Way ceremony in Avalon, facilitated by my friend, the wonderful Katinka Soetens, the women looked at me and they SAW the Goddess. What a humbling experience. I am now in my 18th week, can't yet feel my baby moving, but am showing very much. I love it. I can't wait to be a mother. I am so looking forward to having my baby. At the same time this seems to be a time of facing the fact that I will eventually have to let my own mother go, and that this is killing me. I want to be a mother, that doesn't mean I don't need to be my mother's daughter anymore. I need my own mum. I am very much walking a path of light and darkness at the same time right now. I can't do much except for sitting with what is and letting my baby and my mum know how much I love them. Maybe the Equinox will help me accept and find balance.
I am still planning to paint the Great Mother Goddess. And as my baby grows and as I change and experience the Mother Goddess on a whole new level the idea I have of this painting will change until I will eventually paint it.

The central altar at my Blessing Way Ceremony.

The ceremony was incredibly beautiful. It gave me so much strength and when the women sang a beautiful song by Sally Pullinger for me, I felt transformation happen.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Freya's Fire

Today I can feel life's energy stirring within. I am full of ideas. I want to paint Freya and also a painting of Mother Nolava is shaping up in the back of my head. I also want to facilitate a workshop on Isis and I want to plan and create right now. But I'm off to work, so it'll have to wait just a little longer. On the other hand I very often come up with some really good ideas during work, note them down and that is valuable progress also.
I am going to facilitate a Beltane Ceremony on Saturday evening though. On the actual eve of Beltane Mitja and I went camping, so we did a very beautiful ceremony together, calling in the Lover Goddess, honouring each other, sending love out into the world and sharing May Wine. The event on Saturday is open to everyone. We will be celebrating the Lover Goddess Freya, Loreley and Rhiannon. We'll be celebrating our own sensuality and sexuality, we'll be calling in the Lover Goddesses of the world, we'll find the Lover within, we'll walk the Labrynth and we'll give thanks for the Love in our lives. There'll be drumming and singing and jumping the fire!
We'll meet at the Bus Stop Casselsruhe at 5pm. Minimum donation is 12/15€. If you want to come please let me know here or on facebook (look for Freyas Feuer) so I can get an ideas of numbers. Blessings of the Lady of Beltane xxx

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Growth and Manifestation

I'm in a funny place. I feel how change is happening very deep down inside the core of things, while on the outside not much seems to be happening. I'm between trust and impatience, excitement and a feeling of failure, and at the same time I feel deeply connected to the Lady. I know that everything is in the flow, I see my life being full of love and joy and laughter, creativity, frienship and connection. And I know some of the things I want but haven't achieved yet, will manifest in time, and many more wonderful things I am not even dreaming of will come as a lovely surprise.
I've spent the last few weeks writing on the German Wheel of the Goddess, researching many of HER beautiful faces and names, connecting deeper to the Goddess heritage of my homeland. While the trees were blossoming in all their spring glory I lay on the meadow, reading and typing away. Mitja and I left some offerings of coloured eggs for Ostara on the day of the Spring Equinox, calling in fertility, growth and love.

We made Holle's plaits and and read the dialogues of Inanna and Dumuzi to each other. On the morning of Easter I went to the brook to drink some water in the morning sun, always calling in growth, creativity, fertility and abundance. Life is peaceful and quiet.

I'm hoping hoping hoping to get a positive response from one of the publishing houses soon. I love to write and it would be a dream fulfilling if I could one day live off being a writer. This is what I want.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Healing Process

The time is moving so quickly! I have had a very interesting time of Quickening with Bridie and of walking my truth with Skadi. When I had my Saturn Return I wanted to leave behind fear that causes me to make choices which don't support me on my own path to Truth and Happiness, but choices which seem to keep me safe, mostly following other people's fears and expectations. Having called in healing and liberation and change everyday I have at the same time tried to hold on to the same false security which suffocates me and takes my energy and makes me waste my time, living in fear, trying to fulfil expectations which don't nurture me. The fear to end up on the street and in poverty is so strong in me that I have never dared to be brave to live my dreams. And because all those plans which I try to follow to lead to safety and security never work out for me, because they were made by other people and for other people. They are like garments that just don't fit me.
So I struggle and I fail.
Goddess has such a strong way to draw attention to the things which aren't right for us. She has been telling me for six weeks to stop following somebody else's plan, and that I don't need a plan, that I just need to start living my life!
After a car accident, a break-in into the car I borrowed to use while the other car is at the garage, since repairing it seems to take forever, and investing a hell of an amount of money which I don't have I have now decided to give this job up. I have never so clearly experienced being kept from doing something (working at the school). I did enjoy it, but I'd rather get out before something worse happens to me.
So the message is clear. I am to believe in myself and to use the gifts I have been given, to listen to my own heart and to spend my life doing the things I love, instead of doubting myself and trying to be a person that I am not.
A huge and scary thing. I hope one day this prospect stops feeling scary, but natural.
So I love writing, painting, singing and the Goddess. I will do these things from now on without feeling guilty because they won't support me. I will do them because I feel half dead when I don't do them.

By the Rhine I did a ceremony today to let these old fears go and to be reborn, into my new life, to be reborn to truly be the woman and priestess I can be.
I ask for your blessings, Great Goddess, be with me on this path and help me. I feel deep gratitude for my partner and family who accept and love me the way I am. Bless my new life Lady, and let me be free!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The last days

I start to shop for souvenirs. I walk through the Souk everyday on my way to school, listening to my music and ignoring all that's being said to me. Eventually I manage to enjoy the colours and the scents of incence and of the spices again.

Two boys on a donkey on their way to the harvest in the sugar cane fields.

A well deseved break.


The school organizes a trip to Abydos and Dendera and I spend a lovely day with Hathor. The tour guide is not great. I know more about the gods and goddesses and the history of the pharaohs than he does, and I havn't even studied Egyptology. I leave Sofia, Alice and Paolo to talk to him and wonder of by myself. I see the kings list of Abydos and some beautiful depictions of Nut in Dendera. As I said before, I don't usually think much of anything later than 18th Dynasty, but I like the temple at Dendera. I know there is a relief of Kleopatra VII with her son Cesarion and I find it eventually. I have never been intrigued by Kleopatra before, but now that I stand before this testamony to the last great Queen I suddenly think that I want to know more about her. This will be a lovely subject to study when I'm back home. I also like the Sacred Lake. Other than the lake in Karnak this one is dry, it seems more like a palm tree garden, and it is very beautiful. The whole complex of Hathor's temple at Dendera is very beautiful. Currently there is conservatory work being done on it, and I can imagine, when everything is bright and clean again.

A beautiful Nut in Abydos.

With Isis outside the temple of Sethos I at Abydos.

I at one of Hathor's chapels in Dendera.

The Gang.

Back out in the sunlight.

In my last week I go back to the Theban Mountains on my own and spend a very happy day there exploring. I walk into Saff tombs and into other tombs, crouching down and crawling in through openings. I find bones and mummy wrappings, and bones with bitumen und resin and stuff on it, and cones. Nothing is worth anything, but I still leave everything in place. I'm a bit disappointed because I don't know whose tombs they are or which archaeological mission has the concession of them, but there's nothing I can do. I watch the sun set in Deir el-Bahari and say goodbye to Hatshepset. I'm very tired that evening, covered in dust and my shoes are beyond cleaning, but they weren't meant to come back home to Germany with me in the first place, and I am very happy. It was a great day in the Theban Mountains. As much as Luxor and modern day Egypt annoys me, as much do I love the Western Mountain and the timelessness there.

A ghafir at the mortuary temple of Sethos I in Dra' Abu el Naga pushed me up the ruins. I managed to tell him that I'm scared of heights in arabic!!! He wanted us to climb up even further, but I had enough.

Looking into one of the tombs.

I am told that there is going to be an exam on my last day in school and it amuses me, since I am doing the course just for fun and don't need the exam for anything. I study and at the same time I send out applications for jobs and prepare for interviews, which I hope to have when I'm back home. Sallam thinks I will have 100 per cent in my exam and I do, and I feel like I'm Hermione Granger. I hope I will manage to fit continuing to study Arabic into my busy schedule back home.
While I enjoy my last days in Luxor and count down the days to go home I hear about the uprising in Tunisia and the reactions in Cairo and Suez. I get emails from friends and family back home, asking me to be careful. I can see no reactions in Luxor, everything is as quiet and calm as always.
Of course I spend my last evening on the roof watching the sun set above the Theban Mountains, and the temple standing there, as grand and as silent as always.
I can't wait to come home to my lovely man.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cultural differences, studying and a day off in he Theban Mountains

One day during the teabreak I fix myself a cuppa and somehow manage to bang my head against the bookshelf in the corner. It isn't too bad. When the lesson ends and I leave the classroom the lovely Eugenia sits at the manager's desk holding a cold waterbottle against her face, cooling her eye. It turns out, she banged her head against the same bookshelf. While I only have a small lump on my forehead for a few days, Eugenia's eye turns dark purple and blank. We walk to the cash point together and the moment we leave school, a young Egyptian man materializes and starts: 'Hello. How arrrrrre you. What happened to your face?' 'I hit somebody who hussled me in the street', Eugenia answers, but sadly he doesn't believe us.
A few days later I lose my temper and raise my voice, telling a man in the street not to call me Sweety or Honey, that I am not his darling. He thinks I need to relax. I explain to him that he is being rude, but I leave it there, because they just don't get it and I'm just wasting my time.
The food at Affaf's is as good as it was at her sister's. The one thing I don't understand is that in the bathroom, there is neither any loo paper nor a suspicious looking tube. Yet I hear the family use the bathroom. I decide not to ponder too long on this. Since I have paid a lot of money to stay with a family I think they should provide loo paper, but I'm tired of asking for things. So I nick a role of loo paper from the school. I have my own loo paper now, and I'm not going to share it. The family can … do whatever they do in the bathroom.
Affaf has two very lovely daughters. The older one, Abla, speaks English very well. The younger one, Abia doesn't, but we still get by with smiles and single english and arabic words. She also wears a pyjama all day, and Affaf puts a nightgown on, when she gets in, even if she has to go out again a few hours later. Abia doesn't even get changed when she goes out to get some bread. Now I notice that all the little girls in the streets run around in their pyjamas all day. I ask Affaf, why they bother with long hair at all if they wrap themselves up all day. She explains to me that the women want to be beautiful for their husbands. „The most important person to like your hair is your husband“, she says. I disagree. I think the most important person to like her hair is she herself. But I realise I have given up on exchanging opinions.

Affaf and Abia

Sallam asks me, at what age women in Germany get pregnant, and why they don't have babies immediately after their wedding. I tell him women want to work. He doesn't understand that. He tells me so.'Why?', he asks. 'Because they enjoy it', I answer, 'they can chose what they want to work, who they want to marry, when they want to marry and when they want to have babies. They have choices.' He is convinced that women in Germany don't want to get married and don't want a family. 'That's not what I said', I answer, 'they do. Only they want other things as well. They want more.' 'That is very bad', Sallam says, 'I hope women here never think like that'. Of course you do, I think, but like so many times I stay silent. I wonder if he considers me a potential hazard now, who could wonder off and start putting dangerous ideas into their women's minds any time. I allow myself an evil smile by myself, but I know that I wouldn't achieve anything, even if I did want to put ideas into women's minds here. They think along the same lines like the men.

Many times I get annoyed. In this blog I don't write about the attitude of the Egyptian men and about how rude they are towards European women anymore, about the many run-ins I have with Sallam or about how it upsets me how Europeans are systematically being being ripped off, because I fear that this would turn into a very negative blog. My Arabic lessons become more and more demanding. I feel like a vessel that Sallam piles loads and loads of stuff into and even though I feel I'm full to the brim and can't take on any more, he still keeps pushing in more. I spend the afternoons with the Italian girls studying. We take the ferry to the westbank to sit in a garden café or we sit on the roof. It is very noisy up there and the smell of the Shisha that everybody around us seems to be smoking is not great. But the food and drinks are lovely and the view is so worth it, especially when the sunset paints the sky above the Theban Mountains pink. I love those mountains. The next Friday I take the Italian students onto a walk along the Western Mountains to help them make a connection to the land. We take the path up from Deir el-Medina and then along the ridge above the the tombs of the Nobles, take a peep into the Valley of the Kings and then come down around Hatshepsut's temple in Deir el-Bahari. It's good to spend a day in the sun, feeling the warmth and the dust on my skin and link in with Hatshepsut. I feel a strange connection to Hatshepsut, in a sort of female line/ancestorial way, and always have. I love her for her strength and her uniqueness, for her divineness, the daughter of Amun, who ruled as Pharao, and for her humanity, the woman who loved her country and her consort, Senmut. I love her temple and am very touched everytime I pass it.
I draw the attention of my friends to the beauty of the Theban Mountains, to all the tombs and to the fossilized shells from such a very long time ago, back when desert was an ocean. The immensity of the planet we live on, of life and of time makes me feel very much alive and connected to the whole world.

Paolo, Eugenia, I and Elisabeta

I at Deir el-Bahari, Hatshepsut's temple at the back

Moni and I at the restaurant after our landscape walk

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


One afternoon as I walk to school I feel something wet hit my face. I think I might be walking underneath somebody's balcony where they've put their washing out, but as I look up and check there is no balcony above me. All over town I ocasionally feel wet driplets on my face. There s nothing to be seen on the ground and I think, aha, so this is what you'd call rain in Egypt. In Germany I wouldn't even have noticed, but here it stands out, I think.
About one hour later I step onto the school's balcony. It is actually heavily raining! There are puddles in the street and I watch one clever Egyptian take the opportunity and wash his motorbike.
When I walk home after my belly dance class, the rain has stopped. It is quite cold and the streets are unusually empty. The town has changed. I see a few men still sitting outside cofee shops smoking their Shishas, but the usual crowd of people who just hangs out in the streets is gone, and so are the sweets sellers, the caleches, the taxis and the beggars. I take my time walking home, thoroughly enjoying being able to stroll down the streets without being hussled. The temple is still illuminated and I suspect that in the rain they might not have bothered switching the lights off which they usually do around nine. Maybe the rain has confused them so much that they forgot what they normally would have done. I can't believe my luck and take some spectacular shots of the pylon reflected in the puddle. At least I think they're spectacular. The stupid idea of this coffee table book is stuck in my head and I curse myself for it, because that's always how it starts... you have one good idea and then you end up organising a Conference... I shouldn't have thought that... now I'm thinking, surely putting together a coffee table book about Luxor temple must be a lot easier than that was?

Luxor Temple after the rain

After one week I move house. I don't want to leave, because I like Mona, Sayid and Zahwa, and at the same time I'm glad to go. At Affaf's, which is where I am staying now, there is a proper bathroom and I have my own bedroom. Sallam gives me a lot of homework everyday and it was too hard to keep up with things at Mona's. I couldn't study properly there, sharing a room where people kept going and out. Also because the family never went to bed before three o'clock in the mornings I also didn't sleep very well. It is very quiet at Affaf's. I spend the whole day on my homework and I don't know if this is because I am so tired or if I am so tired because I am studying all day. The first two nights I go to bed at 9:30 and sleep until 7:30. I'm amazed that I do manage to memorize all these words (or 'mommerize' as Sallam pronounces it) They either all sound the same and only differ in one letter, or they are so foreign to me that they are some meaningless syllables strung together and I go to lengths to find a suitable memory hook to remember them. But somehow my brain manages. I marvel at how my brain works, as if it wasn't part of me but something working on it's own accord, I have no idea how it does it, but I am thrilled that it does.

The Valley of the Queens

On Friday I rent a bike and cycle to the Valley of the Queens. It is a lovely warm sunny day and I am glad to be on my own. There are three tombs to be visited, two princes' and one queen's tomb, all 19th and 20th dynasty. The valley seems deserted, there are practically no visitors there and I take my time looking at the decorations. I am most interested in the depictions of the gods and goddesses. I see Sobek, Bastet, Thot, Osiris, Isis, Maat... and I have them all to myself. I am also getting really good at secretely taking photos. It's not allowed to take photos, but my conservator friend explained to me that there is no reason for this. The flash doesn't actually damage the decorations at all. I can't help myself though but think that the depictions of the goddesses are not as aesthetical and perfect as the ones of the 18th dynasty anymore. The proportions already start to look less graceful. I think that might be the heritage of the Armana style, when Akhenaton started to depict himself and his family a lot more natural then the pharaohs before him did. Or maybe this isn't my own clever conclusion, maybe I read that somewhere I can't remember. Anyway I think that the art of the ancient Egyptians had its peak in the 18th dynasty. Just look at the tombs of Ramose and Sennefer and at Hatshepsut's mortuary temple!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Abu El-Haggag Mosque

One evening Affaf takes us to visit the Abu El-Haggag mosque. It is the oldest mosque in Luxor, and it sits right on top of the Amun temple. It was built when the ruins of the temple were covered by Nile mud. There is a catholic church close to the temple, run by Italian franciscan monks. When Eugenia, Paolo and I visited it, the monk told us that the first franciscan church was also built on the temple ruins, without them knowing that there was a great temple of Amun Re beneath it. When the temple was excavated the catholic church was moved to where it is now. The mosque was allowed to stay. Since I frankly just cannot be interested in everything in the world, I never bothered finding out much about Abu El-Haggag, but I do know that he is some sort of patron of Luxor. So the mosque is still there. The coptic church however will probably have to move anytime soon.

The altar of the Franciscan church

The altar of the Coptic church Santa Maria

Weird looking nativity set and dirty bikes in some corner in front of the Coptic church

The out side of the Coptic church

It is situated behind the temple above the sphynged alley. The great temple complex of Karnak is about three kilometres from the Amun temple in Luxor. In pharaonic times the two temples were connected by an avenue of sphynxes. A few of them have been restored and set up before the temples, with human heads in luxor and rams in Karnak. The rest of them lie under the town: In the course of millenia Nile mud, sand, dust and litter have accumulated above them and thus formed what is the ground level of modern day Luxor. One or two years ago however it was decided that the Sphynx alley was to be excarvated to make Luxor more attractive to tourists. So far I haven't met anybody who was happy about it. After all, there is a town above it and in the course of the excarvations, everything that's built on the course of the Avenue ist simply being torn down, including houses, mosques and churches. And my archaeologist friends told me the excarvations aren't even conducted properly, but without the necessary documentations. Aparently, since they know where the avenue is, they simply clear away all that's above it and litterally dig the sphynxes up. And since the coptic church is on that course, it seems likely that it will have to go, too. I don't know who's in charge of this excarvation, but since they have the power to remove buildings, I guess it's the egyptian government. The lady giving us the tour was very upset about it. She kept saying „This building is 102 years old!“ I couldn't help thinking, „Well, that's 102 years against 4000... not a chance.“

The Sphynged Avenue leading up to the Amun Temple

When we come to the mosque, we have to cover our hair, so Affaf helps us wind our scarfs around our faces like the Arabian women. We all giggle and take photos. Later Affaf and her sister Mahida, who also teaches at the school, tell us how beautiful we look and again I smile, wondering by myself whether they think something along the lines of „Finally they are dressed decently“. Outside the mosque in a corner there is a group of maybe 30 men, singing. One of them is singing words on a tune, while the others rhythmically sing the name „Allah“ and clap their hands. Their eyes are closed and they sway from side to side. It sounds lovely and the men look blissed out. I wonder whether we could somehow work with that in the Goddess movement and start thinking about a song, which we could use for a sort of trancey experience like that. Meditiation through song, rhythm, movement... it works for me, to feel the divine in my body. I love it actually. We stay quite a while, sitting in a circle on the floor, watching them.
When Affaf takes us into the mosque we see the tomb of Abu El-Haggag. I am more interested in the bits of temple masonary that have been built into the mosque. I walk around and I see that the mosque actually sits on a much higher level than the temple, and I remember that Affaf told us it was built when the temple was hidden under Nile mud. In the men's prayer hall a fries of pharaos runs along the length of the wall, the women's prayer hall is built into the first court of papyrus pillars. I can actually touch the chapters and I love it. I love how the architecture of the new and the old blend into each other. I love seeing the cartouches of the pharaoh's names in this islamic house of prayer. I don't see many reliefs that have been chiselled out, and I wonder whether, if I could read hieroglyphs, I could find the name of Amun somewhere in the mosque. Or Isis even?
I like the mosque a lot. All the pharaoh's added to the temple in praise of Amun and at the same time securing their own immortality. To me the mosque is just like that. Amun and Allah are but different names for the one Source and Abu Al- Haggag added to the temple complex, ensuring his own memento in the process, just like Amenophis III, Hatschepsut, Tuthmosis III and all the others.
I'm having an utterly lovely time in the mosque. I take some photos of the pillars and the giant statues, only now my perspective standing by the mosque is that I'm looking down to them. It's fantastic. More photos of Luxor temple for my coffee book table.
When we leave the mosque the girls and I start a little experiment. We keep the scarfs on as we walk back to the school to see if we're still being hussled as much. There is singing and drumming in front of a photo studio and Affaf explains to us that it's a wedding, and the couple is having their picture taken inside. We stop and watch a little and suddenly four young girls come up to us, smiling. They want to talk to us, which has never happened before, the girls have never approached us before. They want to know our names and whether we're muslimas. I'm fascinated of how easy it is to set up a barrier between women, but also how easy it is to build a bridge. When we tell them that we're not they seem a bit disappointed, but still interested. They don't speak english though and my arabic is not yet fit for a conservation. So I give them a smile and wave at a taxi. I go home.

Monika, Elisabetta, Sophia, Alice and I

Top of one pillar of the temple integrated into the architecture of the mosque

View from the mosque down into the temple court