One of the inspirations for the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete was the spiritual power and energy I felt at the monastery of Paliani with its Sacred Myrtle Tree. The Panagia, She Who Is All Holy, is said to live in the tree, and the nuns who tend the tree follow customs far older than Christianity. When I first visited Paliani, I asked Her to heal my broken heart and help me find my true love.
Over the years, I have offered many other prayers: for my books and tours, for health, for citizenship that would enable me to stay in Greece. I tell other pilgrims that the Panagia of Paliani has performed many miracles and repeat the story of the doctors who desperately wanted to have a child, who had tried everything, and who had a son a year to the day after making a prayer at Paliani. I point to the many “tamas,” including gifts of precious jewelry, crutches and body braces that have been given in honor of the power of the Panagia of Paliani.
In the fall of 2012 one of our members prayed that a heavy flow of menstrual blood that often lasted for more than half of every month be stopped so that she would have the strength to participate fully in the pilgrimage. She had been bleeding for 5 weeks when she came on the tour, and her bleeding stopped the moment she touched the tree. A few weeks after the tour, a series of coincidences led her a doctor who performed minor surgery for free, that relieved her excessive flow.
When this friend spoke to me of the “miracle” that occurred at the tree, she said she understood she needed to “give a gift” in thanks. She asked if she had “done the right thing” when at another monastery dedicated to a Sacred Myrtle Tree, she left money “for the poor.” I could not shake the feeling that this was not “the right” offering.
I told my friend she needed to give something at Paliani because it was “the place” where she was healed. I added with an ironic smile that I had never had to make such an offering because “She did not answer my prayer to help me find my true love.” My friend responded, “She may not have given you that, but don’t you think you need to thank Her for all the things She has given you?” I was taken aback.
In the ensuing conversation we spoke about the reasons we did not want to give gold jewelry to an icon or a tree: it will go to the church in the end, so what is the point; I don’t wear gold (my friend); I don’t want to give expensive jewelry (me).
Before I left for Crete, my friend gave me a small packet that included a knotted pink bracelet made at Paliani that she had been wearing for a year, and 100 euros “for the nuns.” I still didn’t feel this was “the right” offering. I decided that if I found “the right” gift, I would spend part of the 100 euros on it.
I could not stop wondering if I had failed to make an offering to the Panagia of Paliani for the things that She had given me. I got out my jewelry box. I rejected most of the pieces I don’t wear (was it right to give something I didn’t want any more?) and was unwilling to part with the ones I do wear (was this ungenerous?). I picked up a small gold pendant of the Phaistos disk stamped with an undeciphered script which I had worn for many years “for luck with writing.” I added it to a necklace I was wearing, sensing I would know if it was the right gift.
In Crete, I looked for “the right” offerings. I wanted to give a heart, but rejected the gold pendants as too small or too expensive. Finally the jeweler pulled out a tray of silver pendants. A small silver heart with “diamonds and sapphires” would be my offering. A heart with a vulva shape in its center was perfect for my friend.
I emailed my friend a photo of the hearts, and she thanked me for knowing what to do.
At Paliani, nothing went as planned. My friend the Mother Superior was ill with flu, and the nuns had forgotten we were coming. I felt flustered. Finding an unfamiliar nun in the church, I handed her the offerings.
While reading a story from Odyssey with the Goddess about Paliani, I started to cry when I came to the words stating that the pain I brought to the tree had closed the wellspring of my creativity and stopped my writing. I understood that I needed to offer the Phaistos disk too.
When I left Paliani that day, I was unsettled. I am still pondering what it means to be generous to She Who Is All Holy.
What I know is that I have been healed, not once but many times, by the Panagia of Paliani, the Sacred Myrtle Tree, and the nuns who serve Her.
Carol P. Christ has just come back from the fall Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete which she led through Ariadne Institute. It is not too early to sign up for the spring or fall pilgrimages for 2014. Carol can be heard on a WATER Teleconference. Carol’s books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.