Stephanie Anderson Ladd writes of her experience on this memorable trip. More about this trip Held in May/June and September/October each year.
As Carol Christ, our fearless leader, explained to us that first night in Crete, a pilgrimage is more than just a journey to a sacred place, it is a journey between states — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In a way, when you are on a pilgrimage you are without a country. In starting a pilgrimage, you cross a threshold into a liminal state, where you often experience a sense of timelessness, if not another place in time. Pilgrims are on their own personal odyssey as well as on a collective odyssey with other seekers.
This pilgrimage to the goddess of ancient Minoan culture was a journey that has continued to play out in my dreams and memories. It all started with a dream I had last year of standing on a Grecian cliff and noticing some undiscovered temple stones beneath my feet and realizing that I had found one of Aphrodite’s forgotten temples by the sea. To me, this symbolizes the rising of the goddess and the shift of consciousness that is slowly taking place that will include once again an embrace of the divine feminine. For all of us who shared this pilgrimage we truly came to know She is there for all who seek Her.
We met our sister travelers on the rooftop of our hotel in Heraklion under a full moon. There were 20 of us, including Carol and two sets of mother and daughter travelers. I knew my mother was a part of this journey in spirit, and felt her presence strongly at times as I continued to both grieve and celebrate our life together. My sister pilgrims and I shared a little about ourselves and why we were there, starting with the affirmation, which would become a familiar refrain, “I am whole, I am here, I am Stephanie.” And so began the pilgrimage on the beautiful island of Crete, where the ancient, yet advanced, Minoan civilization honored the goddess of earth, sea and sky.
The first stop was the palace or sacred center of Knossos, built around 2,000 BCE on sacred grounds where people had lived and worshipped since Neolithic times (6,000 BCE and before). We silently walked in procession through these ruins. This was where the snake goddesses, which I was thrilled to see in the Heraklion Museum, were found.
We were to visit many other sacred centers of Minoan culture throughout the two week pilgrimage. We would weave in and out of the stone passageways and crumbled foundations, imagining what it would have been like to live in these village centers where the people practiced sacred rituals as part of their everyday life. Virtually all of these sites had stone altars, many in the form of kernos stones, giant table-like slabs, with bowls carved into them for the placement of offerings.
The highlights of the pilgrimage for me were the rituals we performed at altars we created in various settings, from a Tholos, or rock tomb on the top of a hill, where we all took part in a ritual to honor our ancestors, to ones we performed in some of the caves we visited, which very much felt like being in the womb of the Great Mother, to those we built on mountaintops with panoramic views of Crete and the surrounding seas. We each bought a Minoan snake goddess to represent us on the altars. We would bring liquids for libations to pour onto them, including clear spring water, wine, and honey, as well as seeds, stones and talismans we wanted to bless.
Our arduous climb down into the depths of the first cave, Skoteino, which means “dark,” was a profound experience for me. As we entered the cave, I heard a fluttering of wings and a white dove, symbol of Aphrodite, flew out. She is an ancient mother goddess I have felt a strong connection to so I felt this was a sign of her presence
We created a beautiful altar and releasing ceremony, where I was able to not only let go of the hurt between my mother and me, but lifetimes of pain in my motherline that freed us all. We then descended two more levels and ten of us made our way down into Her womb. There we extinguished our lights and sat in complete darkness, meditating. I felt such peace and connection to the divine as I sat upon the moist, red Mother Earth and envisioned being held in her great lap.
In these two intense weeks of travel, we got to experience the beauty of Crete, from beaches to mountains, caves, gorges, lakes, and plains.
- We sang songs to the goddess on the bus as we zig-zagged across Crete.
- We rode donkeys to the cave of Zeus.
- We sat in the roots of a 2,000 year old tree that all 20 of us together could just wrap our arms around.
- We wandered the streets of many a town in search of treasures and adventure.
- We got to know the people who lived there, simply but happily close to the earth and her bounty, and those who ran small inns and tavernas.
- We feasted on many gorgeous meals of fresh vegetables, fruits, the most delicious homemade yogurt, feta, bread, local honey, and olives of every variety that most taverna owners harvested from their own orchards after the tourist season ended.
The weather was warm and clear as was the sea we swam in more days than not. There is nothing like eating and drinking at a seaside taverna and then plunging into the warm waters that lap at the shore.
- Information on the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete with Carol Christ
- Women Travel Retreats for Women
- Tours for Women With Retreat Themes
Stephanie Anderson Ladd is a psychotherapist, writer and facilitator of women’s sacred circles and SoulCollage®. She lives in Chapel Hill, NC and teaches online courses about the goddesses from all cultures and offers the New Moon Goddess Mystery School.