The Great Goddess


By Ghanima

During September and October of 1992, two groups of travelers went to Turkey “On the Trail of the Great Goddess”. We were interested in first-hand experiences that might contribute to our personal perspectives on women’s spirituality. Most of us had never considered going to Turkey before; some had misgivings, expecting an oppressively patriarchal, Moslem conservative Middle Eastern country. To the surprise and delight of many of the travelers, we found a modern European-style secular democracy. Turkish women have certain kinds of equality still denied to American women, yet are deeply respected; women are far safer on Turkish streets than in most American cities.

Dancers Hoda and Ghanima sought and found opportunities to see Turkish dancers, and for themselves to perform as well. Everybody in Turkey enjoys bellydancing, so at a party or in a nightclub, American bellydancers fit right in.

What wonders were on the trail of the Great Goddess!

1. Çatal Höyük, the Neolithic city of temples to the Goddess in her triple form of Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

2. Museum displays with a careful reconstruction of a Çatal Höyük

house and shrine to the Goddess, and scores of images of the Goddess dated as long ago as 7000 B.C.

3. Konya, centuries-old home of the whirling dervishes and center of the mystical Sufi sect devoted to Divine Love.

4. Cappadocia, a region of spectacular natural beauty, where ancient underground cities, modern dwellings, early Christian monasteries, convents, and churches are carved into the deeply eroded landforms.

5. A nightclub in a cave with folklore troupe and an oriental dancer who clearly was having a lot of fun with her audience.

Aphrodisias, Gate of Ahrodite's Temple

6. Aphrodisias, the temple city sacred to Aphrodite, with excavations and reconstructions currently in progress.

7. The great city of Ephesus, a major center of the goddess religion during Greek and Roman times, and two stunning life-size images of Aphrodite that were buried there for safekeeping some eighteen centuries ago.

8. An active modern shrine to the Virgin Mary, a few miles from Ephesus.

9. The Asclepion at ancient Pergamon, where serpents and healing dreams were formerly invoked to restore health.

10. The ruins of the fabled city of Troy, site of the Trojan Wars, in which Amazons fought the invading Achaians in defense of a female-centered social order.

11. The huge Byzantine cathedral of Aya Sofia (Holy Wisdom), with a dazzling ceiling mosaic of Mary, Queen of heaven and Mother of God.

12. The sprawling Topkapi Palace, its lovely gardens, spectacular porcelain and jewelry collections, and the maze of corridors and rooms that was the harem, where the Sultan’s mother often directed the course of empires from behind carved screens.

13. Exhibitions of traditional women’s art forms, including carpets and kilims containing Goddess motifs thousands of years old similar to design elements seen in wall-paintings at Çatal Höyük.

14. The bustling Grand Bazaar, the world’s oldest and largest shopping mall, jammed with shops and stalls selling gold, jewels, textiles, leather goods, brass- and copperware, ceramics, glass, silks, spices, perfumes, and goods of every description.

In addition, we met interesting, vital travel companions, shopped for souvenirs and handicraft items, and savored a generous and varied menu of delicious Turkish food and drink. We swam in the warm Mediterranean, hiked over hills and ruins, visited a geothermal haman Turkish bath with natural hot water, cruised up the Bosporous, prowled bookstores, and had our own private adventures as well. Tour participants heard lectures on Turkish history, culture, economics, traditions, religion and politics. Some group members gave special presentations in their own areas of expertise, had lively discussions, and shared in rituals of their own devising. Many sought and found authentic museum reproductions of ancient sacred images of the Goddess for their personal altars.

As Ghanima, Melissa Miller has been dancing for over twenty years. She studied ballet for seven years, and has also studied movement and analysis (Labanotation), modern dance, tap, and traditional hula. Her other major obsessions are Balkan dance (35 years), Balkan music (25 years) and Scandinavian dance (15 years). She has taught a weekly Oriental dance class for over twenty years in the San Jose area, and has taught workshops around the United States. Ghanima was a member of Jamila Salimpour’s legendary Bal Anat Ensemble in the 1970s. She performs at restaurants, nightclubs, and private parties throughout the San Francisco Bay area, as well as around the U.S. and overseas. She has made several research trips to Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, and North Africa, and leads tours to Turkey, focused on women’s spirituality: “On the Trail of the Great Goddess.” She holds a BA in Russian from the University of California at Berkeley and a California Standard Secondary Teaching Credential. She graduated from Santa Clara University in June, 1995, with a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology; she currently works as a psychotherapy intern at a community mental health clinic, as well as at the EMDR Research Institute at MRI in Palo Alto.

Copyright © Habibi Publications 1992-2002, Shareen El Safy, Publisher.

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