Everyday people who experience events in the raw, in their archetypal poetry, to find the meaning that shines inextricable inside them.
The Sacred River is a magical trip from the psyche to the psyche. A trip to what is not visible.
The Sacred River has been translated into English.
“The rain would not stop, I was soaked, shaking,
but did not move. I was standing there, still, looking
at the sack with the bones that rattled strangely.
Small torrents on the ground were uprooting
Trees and shrubs and I was thinking about the
oracle “you will find them on the day it rains…”
A best selling novel
All translated into English
Extract: THE SACRED RIVER
The Chapter 5
His heart stood still. He waited to see her move to see all of her.
He imagined her in the white waters. In the white river. An erotic, ivory body. With the misty fog-like dress. Where did she come from?
She turned her head and looked at him. Their eyes met and he was blinded. And he knew that she, alone, was the girl of his dream. She was his fate. He felt a strong attraction. An unyielding desire to touch her. If love was that hot wind blowing within him and driving his mind to frenzy, then he was incurably in love with her.
Kosmas looked at him puzzled. He stood there for so long without saying a word. Only when the girl disappeared behind the door of the house did he speak.
He explained who he was, and Kosmas was thoughtful for a while. So this was the lost grandson! He looked him over from head to toe. Then he talked about his brother, the monk Avgoustinos, who had died one month before. He did not recall that his brother was inclined to the monastic life, he said, “something happened when I broke my hands... something strange, and he went into the desert to understand...”
He ran his fingers through the white beard that he was growing as a sign of mourning.
“He never spoke about it. He only said the truth is elsewhere, life is elsewhere, and he left.”
Narkissos shuddered to the bone. The same words. The same thought that occurred to him on the stone threshold of the cell. He felt an abyss under his feet. A sudden insecurity, a feeling of doubt that unsettled him. And he knew that this abyss opening under his feet was a giant snare, was the prearrangement of his own human adventure. He caught the thought vaguely and panicked. He could not escape. What was about to happen was fixed, awaiting him, lived perhaps in the unknown dimensions of time.
In those few moments he reflected on the conceit of his life. He thought that he was the chosen one because he had studied the science of the soul with the game of truth and illusion, the game of madness and death. Or because he had studied the luxury of fear as he had seen it in the eyes of his patients, the terror of the void on a level of doubt. And he believed that he possessed the luxurious privilege of existential questions. That is why in his own fantasies he preferred solitary creatures, those sensual creatures that experience the solitude of a personal madness—as he dreamed he would himself.
He realized that his life was bathed in arrogance. And he was ashamed.
He took the key. A huge, iron, rusty key. He held it in his hand for a few moments, weighing it. He thought that with it he would unlock the mystery.
The moment he was leaving he saw again the girl of his dream. Persephone. She was standing on the stone threshold and looking at him with the same insistent gaze. He felt magnetized. Never, never in his life had he felt this overwhelming attraction. Not even when he fell in love with Marian. It was as if his soul knew her centuries ago. He wanted to disrobe her and make love to her at that very moment. So ready was he for this love. Ready since he was eight years old.
And he was frightened.
He remembered that as he was driving by ancient Adonida he had seen a seaside hotel named Adyton. And he approached her. His body and voice were shaking. He felt fear draining his veins. Guilt piercing his brain. And when he said to her “I am staying at the Adyton...” he felt that he was playing the most insane scene in some metaphysical film.
She will come... she must come.
His teeth chattered from desire. He throws the bag with the computer on the bed and falls on it face down. It is the first time this is happening to him. He feels the dream rising up from the depths of his being, a fluid matter, archetypal, primordial that rules his senses, his brain, matter from the madness of the universe. And he experiences it with full alertness. As if this strange dream that has tortured him from his eighth year is suddenly conspiring with the most insane reality. As if it was granted to him to live time in all its secret dimensions.
She will come... she must come.
His body is shaking, defenseless. And the thought of Marian, the thought of infidelity, evaporates before this desire. It is not only the wavy hair and the ivory flesh. It is the attraction. An unconquerable attraction, the same one he felt each time in the dream when he ran to meet her. He would enter the river, against its current, and his senses felt pain from his desire. But he had never touched her—except for that first time. Whenever he approached her she disappeared. Sometimes there would remain a hand or a lock of hair on the water’s surface, sometimes a torn piece from her dress, and it drove him to frenzy. To the point that he believed she was a creature of the other world. That she came from the Asphodel Meadows of Hades, which were close by, a little beyond Adonida.
He gets up, his body still trembling. He looks out the window. The seagulls peck at the ocean sensually. Sensuality everywhere, in the half-light of the room, on the seaside road with the aged pines, the damp smells, saltiness and invisible buds struggling with spring, and birds’ wings.
A nervousness. Cigarette, coffee. She will come.
Now he reflects that he had never told Marian about the dream. Never. Out of defensiveness perhaps. Out of an inward need to keep secret his love for the girl. That was another world, pure, and he did not want to bring it into his everyday life. It would have lost the seductiveness it exercised over his soul.
A world inaccessible even to his science. Even though he had become a psychiatrist in order to explore it.
He turns on his computer and connects to the Internet. Three messages. Two from Marian. “I prefer to be with you rather than to have you missing me” was one. And the other “You have only to say the word and I will come.”
He was frightened. Not now. It was impossible to think of his wife now. Impossible to see her before him. This madness that had overwhelmed him was upsetting. Something more: it was beyond reason. “Please, I need to be alone for awhile,” he wrote to her. Even though he knew it was harsh. He could see the tears in her eyes. Yet at the same moment, a dark force that he was unable to check shifted his mind, freed him. That which his body was living, that which it sensed or prophesied, he was determined to experience with all his senses.
His body was quivering.
He runs his hands over different parts of his body. His limbs ache. A cold shudder. As if he does not control his shaking.
His body was the road that would lead him to his soul, he was certain. And now he sees it trembling alone, this body of his, trembling and sweating with desire. A desire which was also a fear that Persephone was indeed the girl in his dream, that ivory-skinned girl who came down in the clear water of the river, for years on end, wearing the same misty fog-like dress with her hair wrapped round her bare shoulder.
Desire and fear together.
She will come... she will stand at the door and look at him. Then she will lie next to him and he will feel the fresh water of the river flow sensuously over his body, smells hidden for centuries.
He reads the third message. From Ion. “I wish you would invite me. I am ready to leave Chrysa and to come. We’ll remember our youth.”
He read it again. Thought about it. He could talk with Ion. But no. This adventure of his mind was a personal one. Those paths that lead to the soul we must walk alone.
“When I am ready, I will invite you.”
It grew dark. He waited one entire day; his nerves were shattered. He had awakened before dawn and waited like a schoolboy. Coffee and cigarettes. He ordered a bottle of local wine to cloud his mind. This is foolish behavior, he thought. And if he had a drop of dignity, he would forget this fantasy and take up his life where he had left off.
He puts on his raincoat because he feels cold. Nothing to eat all day and with all the coffee he was exhausted. He wraps the coat around him and the solitude chills him. Suddenly his hand touches a letter that was neatly folded in the pocket. He is shaken.
He takes it out quickly and unfolds it. The letters dance before his eyes, Byzantine letters, calligraphic. His shock is stronger. Someone placed this strange letter in his pocket. He tries to read it.
Behold, I am a sparrow living alone in a chamber, bearing my worldliness to a faraway place; my blood is green metal and my foundations are the roots of mountains.
Yours is the message and the hour of light; desire is mine.
Behold I, ploughing the faraway places, am clothed in the rags of my worldliness and give you in return fear and mercy; for if you wished a sacrifice, I gave it.
Monk in God, Avgoustinos.
His fingers are shaking. They are holding the strange letter and shaking. He folds it quickly and places it in the pocket of the raincoat. He does not want to think about it. Not now. Someone is seeking to ensnare him. This place is full of snares. I will sell the house and leave... leave.
The monk Anastasios? Was it he who copied the passage from the prayer-book of Avgoustinos and placed it in his pocket?
His thought is suspended for a moment. His raincoat was in the car. A cold sweat covers him. He takes out the letter and looks at it again to see whether it is real. He turns the page over. There is another paragraph in the same calligraphic Byzantine letters.
You order and I struggle to decode the oracle with your sacred alphabet. Codes of the seven mysteries that sleep my sleep.
Do not be silent, Lord, for in you is my hope.
He looks outside to see how dark it is and whether he has time to return to the monastery, to ask the monk Anastasios. However it may be, he will know, he reflects, he will give me an answer. And then, I want to see if it is really from the prayer-book of the monk Avgoustinos.
No, he cannot travel the same rough road at this hour. Night is falling. In a while nothing will be discernible. A dark, moonless night.
He lies down on the hotel bed and curls up there, wrapping the raincoat around him. He did not even pull the blanket over him. Even though the cold is biting. He is hungry and frightened. He is alone. A mad fantasy is pushing his mind to frenzy.
In the morning I’ll make some decisions, he reflects. And he thinks sadly of the unfortunate day he spent, waiting for the girl.
But what girl? The girl of the dream or of reality? The same doubt. How much distance separates the one from the other? That is what he wanted to know. The distance. Perhaps his own time was centuries ago. Perhaps that was when he met the girl, a priestess in the temple of time.
He presses his palms to his head to stop the thoughts. But they flow into his mind with a vengeance. He gets up and pours a drink. He needs reality. Tactile, unrelenting reality. But the shoes bring him back. Those worn shoes with mud on the edges and dry blood. I must go..go to the monastery to learn the story, he reflects. And I must do it soon.
As he was picking up the key to go out, to see other human beings, there was a knock at the door. And he was speechless.
It was Persephone.
He had never expected this cursed irony of fate.
The girl is standing at the door of the room and he is looking at her awkwardly, wrapped in his raincoat. He is angry. Just a moment ago he was delirious in his erotic fantasy and now his piteous body is trembling still from the shock caused by that strange letter.
She’ll think I’m crazy... his first thought. And it’s as if that entire ivory daydream that kept his soul in a sensuous awakening was being demolished.
And his second thought: Is she real or has a piece of dream invaded the reality of my life?
“I came to tell you that the river passing through your property is going to bring down water...”
Her voice is calm and fluid. As if it arose from a stream of clear water.
His palms sweating; his heart breaking.
“And how do you know that?”
“From the smell. Recently there has been a smell of water on the banks, and even the subterranean flow of the river is audible. And the water-lilies are blooming in great profusion.
Her body erotic and her skin fine-grained: clear, jasmine skin.
“You know who I am?”
“The Twilight of Memory” is your best book.”
She feared the moment when she would meet him. Nor did she know how she would face him. She learned everything about him. Read all his articles, his books. Found that there was reference in them to a primordial memory. That memory the soul carries from the cycles of its pre-existence. She found that his writings had a fluid feeling, that everything was wrapped in a mist like the mist hovering over the water of the river. The river captivated her; that was what she was looking for behind his words. The river was binding her with him. She even knew his beautiful wife, had gone to the school where she taught and seen her.
And now for the first time, she is seeing him in person. He is the marked one. The one with the half-narcissus flower on his breast.
The day that the monk Avgoustinos revealed it to her she was very upset. Did not recover for days. And ever since it troubled her mind. There was another person in the world who had the other half-narcissus flower!
It was then that she told her uncle about the ancient god.
The statue was buried on the sandy bank of the river at the spot where it crossed the Mavroleon property, from the upper side, from the springs, she told him. And he was silent for a long time. A god of some other religion who was nevertheless tied to the myth of the place.
A god who had his own power.
It would have been simple for him to say that these were idols of another, faraway time, broken marble without memory and without any power in the present time.
What he heard upset him. “Next time perhaps I will talk to you about it,” he said, and grew silent again.
She was a first-year student in archaeology, when one day she went down with her fellow-student, Markos, to explore the area near ancient Adonida, where some broken marbles survived, relics of another worship. They drew a map, filled in the gaps with their imagination, and went on.
Following the path of the funerary offerings which were connected by a subterranean stone trench alongside the river, they reached the broken fence of the Mavroleon property and entered. This dry river was the ancient Hieros, they had no doubt, the same one that was now called Amilitos, Speechless.
Markos was excited, running ahead to see how far the strange signs extended, while she sat among the water-lilies in a strange widening formed by the river at that spot. She knew that he was in love with her and toyed with his desire.
Her hands sank into the soft sandy bank with a sensual feeling. This contact with the pure earth that carried inviolate centuries on its blonde back enchanted her. That was the reason she had chosen archaeology. She believed that her body, too, was a region with very ancient, primordial imprints. And it seemed to her that by exploring the outside space she was exploring her soul.
An erotic feeling. Everything there, damp smells that brought primordial memories, contact with the earth, ancient signs, everything lent itself to this erotic feeling. And as they were both barefoot, half-naked, caught up in the mystery of the place, in its strange magnetism, they lay down on the sandy banks, among the water-lilies. Their bodies gave off an erotic smell, a muffled moaning. But her body refused to surrender to him. The union she sought had been bred into her blood centuries before. And Markos’ body, so impetuous and uninitiated was a stranger to her. She shuddered as she rolled on the ground. But she knew that the time had not come for erotic surrender. And he was hurt. It was the erotic night that pained him. When her body shuddered alone among the water-lilies.
It was the mystery hidden in her silence.
When they rose, it was already dark. And it was at that moment that her hands, sunk into the soft riverbank, touched the body of the buried god.
The next day she went alone to look at her finding. The god was there. She freed his head and a part of his shoulder all the way down to the wrist. She said nothing to Markos. She wanted to keep this emotion for herself.
Nearby there was a huge narcissus plant full of flowers, whose roots almost touched the body of the god, loosening the soil. And with that plant she covered him, so that no one could see.
The next day she went again. She could hardly wait for the day to end, so that she could run there. Bit by bit she dug out the body and ran her fingers over it. She looked at him with her fingers. A goddess. It must be a goddess. The hair is tied in a knot at the back of the head and the well-proportioned breast filled her hand. Many breasts, one above the other. A woman. Her fingers touched the curves, the delicacy of the lines, the folds of the garment.
The goddess Demeter. It could be the goddess Demeter, she reflects. Or perhaps the goddess Artemis with the many breasts.
At dawn she set out on foot and by noon she had reached the monastery. She could have asked her father, Kosmas, to take her on horseback, but she did not want anyone to know.
Narkissos is still looking at her awkwardly. How did he dare to dream of her naked in his arms. A serious girl, so young that she seemed unreal. Her skin was fine-grained and clear and her hair spilled onto the fresh water of the river. Time had become an enormous hallucination. The dream was slipping into the reality of his life and drove him insane.
“Let me touch you...”, he said and pulled the raincoat tightly around him, as if he sought to hide inside this uncertain feeling. Inside the hallucination.
The girl smiled and put out her hand. His hand was sweaty and shaking.
That touch was the awakening of his eighth year. He sensed the same awe, the same erotic snare. But then he had his mother’s breast to lean on. Now he feels deserted. This hand he holds in his palms increases his solitude, widens it beyond all reason, beyond everything he has experienced in his life until now.
He is rootless.
He takes her hand and squeezes it to his chest, as he did in the dream. He squeezes it with unspeakable pain. And the girl says not a word. Her eyes turn away.
The monk Avgoustinos is sitting on the stone bench in the empty courtyard of the monastery, and she is in anguish. Euripides had told him about the half-narcissus flower on the chest of his grandson, and when he learned that Persephone was born with the same mark, he was troubled. So the ancient myth was alive. What was ordained centuries before would now come to pass. The convergence of time had reached its moment. And he prayed that he would not live to see what was to take place. The peace he had found in the monastery protected him.
“Tell me what you know... Tell me, tell me what frightened you.”
He told her only that the grandson of Mavroleon bore the same mark. The other half. He said nothing about the river. Or the martyrs. No one would believe the struggle between the old worship and the new one. What he knew he covered with silence.
But for Persephone, the one thing he told her was enough to fire her imagination. And she made it the goal of her life to learn about it. Along with archaeology, she began to study psychoanalysis. The one to learn about the worship at the site where her goddess was buried. And the other to be able to read the books of Narkissos, to find in them the river of worship.
She calmly withdrew her hand from his chest.
“I heard that you will sell the house...”
His feet are in the water. The white fresh water of the river. He is walking against the current to meet her. But the river is rising... filling with bands of blood... flows into the streets, covers the trees, the roofs of the houses... It will carry away the girl... drown her.
She reads his thoughts in his eyes and smiles. She is walking barefoot on the sandy riverbank in her short misty dress, and everything grows calm.
“Will you sell it?” her voice is cool, real.
He struggles to emerge from the hallucination. He calls on all his scientific knowledge, his cynicism, his genius. He who has learned so much about the soul cannot understand his present psychic condition.
He smiles. “That’s why I came... to sell it...”
As a strong wind comes off the mountain and sweeps away everything in its path, so did anger cross her face.
She slammed the door behind her and left without a word.
All translated into English
And part of it in Frenh