We are in Olympos, Turkey, looking at Lycian, Roman, and Byzantine ruins. We will also walk on the Lycian Way, an extensive hiking trail. We will talk about religion and history and will do rituals to help you on your spiritual path.
First, we ford a river to reach an area rarely visited by tour groups. Olympos was a Lycian city, full of riches and works of art. It was captured by pirates in the first century BC but the Romans took over in 78 BC. Pirates and Muslim raiders (7th century) reduced the city’s economic vitality until it was eventually abandoned around the 15th century. The Lycians worshiped a fertility/mother goddess (like Artemis) and a god of fire (Hephaestus). The pirates and some Romans worshipped Mithras, who probably evolved from Hephaestus.
Mithras is often portrayed killing a bull, accompanied by a dog, snake, raven, and scorpion. The Mithras cult teachings and practices were revealed only to male initiates. The cult attracted Roman soldiers, bureaucrats, and merchants. It reached its height in the 3rd century but declined with the growth of Christianity. It was one of various religions whose ideas seemingly shaped Christian theology. There is a strange correspondence between Christianity and the Mithras cult. Mithras was born on December 25 from a virgin. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger, and attended by shepherds. He had 12 companions/desciples, performed miracles, emphasized baptism, sacrificed himself for world peace, and ascended to heaven. His sacred day was Sunday. His cult advocated celibacy and used the term “father” for its priests. Specifics regarding the mystery cult practices are unknown (it’s a mystery!) and scholars argue about this. Mithras is a mythical figure rather than a historical person, like Jesus (Mithras is sometimes portrayed as being born from a rock, for example.)
We see the a ruins of the Roman theater, built in the 2nd century.
Archeologists believe the theater was used for rites of Dionysus because it is close to the Western necropolis. Like Jesus, Dionysus had a mortal mother and Divine father. He could bring back the dead and grant supernatural powers. His man/god quality granted him special status regarding death and the afterlife. But Dionysus was very different from Jesus. Dionysus represented wine, ritual madness, fertility, the theater, and religious ecstasy.
The idea of a man-god, sacrificed to save humankind, was not apparent in ancient Hebrew Scriptures. St. Paul’s writing about Jesus seems in harmony with Greek ideas rather than from the Old Testament. As a result, Gentiles, rather than Jews, accepted his ideas regarding Jesus.
We see the ruins of the Bath of Vesparsianos, built by the Romans around 70 CE.
“They say the baths were a center for political discussion and included a section for the physical education of children and teenagers,” I told Karen.
“I bet those teenagers learned a lot in the baths,” she replied.
We visit the ruins of the Christian basilica, completed perhaps in the 6th century. Christianity was growing rapidly at the expense of paganism.
“Why did Christianity do so well and the Mithras sect pass into oblivion?” Karen asked.
“The answer depends on your beliefs,” I replied. “Some Christians say their religion is the only true one and that God helped them succeed. Muslims make similar claims — their religion seemingly spread miraculously all the way to Spain within a short period of time. I favor Professor Rodney Stark’s theory that Christianity appealed to women during its formulative period — women raised their status by becoming Christians and Christianity protected them from being forced into undesirable marriages. The Mithras cult offered no similar incentive since it admitted only men. Christian women were allowed to marry non-Christian men and, in the end, the men tended to convert to the religion of their wives.”
“It’s like that these days,” Karen noted. “The wives drag their husbands to church.”
We walk past Lycian tombs — but there is intermingling. Roman tombs were used for Christian internment. I am familiar with African-American Rootlore (voodoo) and see a way it can be used to help you. The spirits around graves allow powerful magic. I pray that you gain insight regarding your spiritual path and that these spirits guide you. Seeing these images connects you to them. Merely watching each video gives you power.
The Alkestis Sarcophagus has, on its narrow side, a figure of the hero Herocles, son of Zeus and the mortal woman, Alcmene. Although he was great hero who performed many beneficial feats, he had many personal problems — which he overcame through heroic feats. For example, he rescued the veiled woman, Alkestis (whose image is on the tomb beside him) from the land of the dead.
The long side of the tomb shows Eros, god of sexuality and love (Eros is often portrayed with his lover, Psyche, who symbolizes self-searching and personal growth through learning, losing, and true love.)
Nike (goddess of victory) is portrayed on wreaths on the top corners of the grave. There are also male and female figures and two hands shaking (the sign of an important marriage). I ask these spirits to bless you with sexual satisfaction and marital harmony.
We see a tomb with the “Tree of life” decoration, prevalent in Sumaria since 3000 BC. May your life be fruitful; may the spirit of the one previously in this tomb let it be.
We walk through a place with hundreds of tombs, an area of immense power. I pray that the power of this place guide you on your inner path so that you will discover the one that you have always been.
We climb a hillside on the Lycian Way and encounter a tomb complex with a view over the valley. May the spirit in this tomb bring you peace of mind.
On the Lycian Way, we walk through the brush. Here I encounter reality, the place beyond discussion and words.
Lao tsu writes (chapter 64):
“What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is recent is easy to correct.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.
Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant pine tree grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.
Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.
Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He remains as calm at the end as at the beginning.
He has nothing, thus has nothing to lose.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He simply reminds people of who they have always been.
He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.”
We walk on the Lycian Way and I think about what we have seen.
The forms of religion that exist today will change over time. The names and characteristics attributed to our deities are always changing. Our ability to love, grieve, and touch the unseen will remain.
Here is what I ask: I want you to have the confidence to calmly glide past trouble so that you are victorious in achieving love and ecstasy. Whatever ritual, whatever belief, brings that to you — that is what I suggest for you.
That night there is a heavy rain, loud thunder, bright lightning, and flooding. I think the unseen would is telling me that my prayers are being answered.
Is there a connection between the seen and unseen world? The rituals are powerful. We touch the unseen. The unseen touches us.