Out with the Old: In with the New by Carol P. Christ

A few days ago, a Greek friend told me she was going to bring holy water from a church so that we could bless my house. Ever since I moved to my new apartment in Heraklion, I have intended to do a house blessing, following rituals I learned from Z Budapest. But with unpacking and settling in interrupted by illness, I never got around to it. I did burn frankincense early on to clear out vibes left by the previous inhabitants of my space, but nothing more. I have slowly made the house a home, but I have been waiting for the renovations to be finished before doing a final blessing. As I still anticipate remodeling the kitchen island, I did not proceed.

Before my friend arrived, I incensed the house again, musing that now that I have finished my chemotherapy and am on the road to recovery, it is high time to clear out all the lingering feelings and memories of the time I was very ill. When my friend arrived bearing a small plastic bag filled with water from a church spring, she asked if she could water the plants on my balcony. I had watered them the day before, but I didn’t mention that.

Announcing that she loved to play with water, she doused the plants, then hosed the balcony tiles and sprayed the windows which were covered with dust following a recent dirty rain. As there are balconies surrounding all of my rooms, that completed the cleansing. Watering the plants signaled the renewal of life.

Continue reading “Out with the Old: In with the New by Carol P. Christ”

Sappho, Frankincense, and Female Spirituality by Stuart Dean


White Howjary Frankincense (photo: Trygve Harris (www.enfleurage.com))

Sappho is the first Greek author to attest to the usage of frankincense.  The word she uses to refer to it (libanos) is what comparative linguists call a ‘loan word,’ in this case from ancient South Arabic (the root meaning of which is ‘white’), the language spoken in the only region in the world still now, as then, where the trees grow that produce the resin that is frankincense (the finest being White Howjary from near Salalah Oman).

This was long before Amazon Same-Day Prime: that frankincense even made it to where Sappho was is astonishing given the thousands of miles of desert terrain that had to be covered.  That fact plus the fact that Sappho chose to use the Arabic word for frankincense suggests it must have been of special importance to her.  How important can be seen in the power she attributes to it.  In one prayer poem (S.2, composite translation and very brief notes here) she completes a stanza by referring to frankincense burning from Aphrodite’s altars; she completes the very next stanza with a reference to ‘sleep falling.’  The parallelism implies a reciprocity: the smoke goes up, the sleep comes down and a stanza later, there is Aphrodite. Continue reading “Sappho, Frankincense, and Female Spirituality by Stuart Dean”

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