In Plato’s Timaeus and Critias, the island of Atlantis was Poseidon’s domain. The god of the sea, storms, earthquakes, and horses, the mighty brother of Zeus and according to some myths, he was also the son of the Minoan earth goddess Rhea. Today, the god remembered in Arcadian, Mycenean, and Minoan myth is all but forgotten. His priests and priestesses all having vanished millennium ago, the only power between heaven and the antagonists lies sleeping, reminiscing about what was and what might have been. Or so it seems.
“Nights through dreams tell the myths forgotten by the day.”
― C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
But what if there were a descendant of the last priest of Poseidon? What if the unlikely heir of Philistos, son of Demetrios were somehow reincarnated and delivered to the last vestiges of Atlantis? Philistos, you see, was the hereditary high priest of the Cult of Poseidon at Halicarnassus for 17 years. Like his father Demetrios, Philistos was a direct descendant of the god himself. Following the line of Telamon from the period before 900 B.C., the priests of this cult served as intermediaries between men and the god.
Etched into a stele found at Halicarnassus, the names of these hereditary priests were actually copied from a sanctuary near Korinthos (Corinth), on mainland Greece. But the search for the origins of Poseidon worship and cults goes much farther into pre-history. As a researcher, you would certainly venture past intricate intersections of this web of myth to find Teucer, the legendary Cretan archer of the Trojan War, was said to have migrated to the Troad from Crete but left the island during a great famine with a third of its inhabitants.
King Teucer, half brother of the Greek hero Ajax. Telamon is there, the elder brother of Peleus, who sailed alongside Jason as one of his Argonauts, and the web wraps around legends like that of Herakles, Medusa, and many more. And after hours, days, and months of study, you can find yourself no better off than when you began. Tracking down these myths is like the journey of Odysseus, an endless foray into a deep fog. I am now sure of the reason for our need for priests and spirit guides in the first place. For discovering pre-history and its truths is like wandering a miraculous wilderness with no real map. This is one reason I’ve departed into the ethereal realm and normative spiritual explorations.
Today, looking out onto the Cretan Sea, I took notice for the thousandth time the extraordinary colors offshore. I used to think the uniqueness of the waters off Crete had something to do with geology or light refraction, but I know now that I was wrong. Crete, or Keftiu as the Egyptians called it, is not just some geological formation anchoring flora and fauna amid a special climate. I am now convinced this place is somehow connected to, believe it or not, the dormant god Poseidon. But before you think me a lunatic, let me explain.
On our first visit to Crete, my wife Mihaela, me, and our little son Paul discovered together many unique characteristics of Crete. One of the most interesting, a visit to the famous Koules Fortress at Heraklion harbor, is one I shall never forget. It was March, the winds were strong from the North, and the fortress and the sea wall were taking a battering.
The three of us, having been far from the sea so many years, adventured out to embrace the crashing waves cresting over the top of the fortress. Something indescribable compelled us, though at the time I had no idea what. While the other sightseers and even the local fishermen retreated from the small maelstrom, we gravitated forward. Then it happened.
The sharp briny wind, that hint of salt titillating the tongue and stinging the eyes, the indescribably elemental nature of that place, and a mutual moment of awe and happiness – the freedom in my wife’s unbridled laughter – little Paul’s abandon – it is still indescribable. Unless it was the god, the presence and sentient action of the god. At the time I brushed off the feeling and the experience as enthusiasm at being on Crete and by the sea again. Then we drove to Chania the next day.
Crete in March is a paradise in transition. The mountains are still clad in a brilliant white, but the sea begins to soak up the blazing sun. Stiff winds dominate the northern shore, churning whitecaps and making a morning swim out of the question except for the stout of heart. On a chilly morn on the beach at Gerani just west of Chania, we had our second encounter with the god the Minoans called Poteidan. We were staying with friends at a country villa some meters away and were drawn as is normal to the seaside.
Deserted in early Spring, Gerani Beach is a crowded stretch of umbrellas, beach bars, families sunbathing and swimming, and lifeguards herding small children in early Summer. Not many people who visit realize, that this village was probably the original site of Ancient Kydonia. As we romped and played along on the beach that day, we had no idea the ancient river separating the tribe of Kydones from the Odyssey by Homer was a rock toss away. Funny, I had driven the car right beside the river, as if by some instinct. Again, an amazing spirit came over all three of us. We played like small children, Mihaela and Paul spelling out messages by jumping like birds in the sand, and me staring out onto a sea as smooth as crystal glass. Again, I wrote off our bliss and the magnetic moments as vacation enthusiasm. How could I have known this was part of a calling?
That visit years ago melted into our psyches, and when duty and another life called us back to Germany for three more years of cold callousness on the Mosel River of Rhineland Pfalz, we did our penance as best we could. Then, on our return to the island in 2017, it would not take long for Poseidon to call on us again. For some months the little village of Milatos had been stuck in my mind, and when our family visited the tiny fishing village for lunch and a swim that August, the god of the sea raised his head and hands out of the frothy deep.
Milatos is a beauty of a seaside village. If you take the mountain road in, by “accident,” you get an awe-inspiring introduction to this part of Crete. The village lies thin coastal plain overshadowed by the amazing Latsidiani Kefala Wildlife Refuge. It was at Taverna Akrogiali where to got made his first real contact. I was sitting at a table by the water’s edge when Paul and Mihaela got caught in the current and trapped on the rocks. Our little boy was still truly little then. So, when his little donut float deflated, and his Mom’s foot caught in the rocks, they were both in real peril as the swells pinned them to the high rocks just out of my reach. At moments like this, you feel impaled. Riveted in a moment of horror. Those who’ve experienced such, you know what I mean.
Suddenly, little Paul was literally lifted from the churning abyss and set gently onto the dry rocks beneath my feet. In one instant my little boy was in danger of being drowned or crushed, and in the next, the gentle embrace of the god plucked him from danger. Just like that. Only this time, I was unable to write off the moment as adventurous bliss, amazing happenstance, or the “coincidences” we humans are so often involved in. Mihaela suddenly freed her pinned foot. Paul would later say, in childish intuitiveness; “Poseidon rescued me.” Only Paul had never been introduced to the mythical god. No, I am not joking. And there’s another story here about gods, angels, and children. Yes, my son invoked Poseidon’s name the same way they say animals and small children see spirits manifested.
Island of the Eternal
Not three months later my heart stopped at the gym down the street from our apartment in Heraklion. It was an eternity in an ambulance headed for Pagni Hospital taught me once and for all of the existence of God. My friends, I was done for, and I knew it. The doctors said I actually died twice before they finally brought me back to stay. It was once of those experiences that cannot be expressed in words. What will serve to help the reader understand is what stands behind it all. The forces that rule the universe are so much greater than we can grasp, that heaven cannot even be understood in the least. And the gods with little “g”? Their role was once understood and accepted, even by early Christians. That’s another story.
Poseidon, or Poteidan if you prefer, guards this island. There is reason in this beyond some old guy’s fantasy. Never a recorder shark attack off her shores. No dangerous animals for humans to fear. The Garden of Eden aspects, and the capacity to grow anything. The Cretan Diet, rare plants, the tapestry of civilizations, legends of Atlantis and Utopia, supernatural beliefs, the animism of the Minoans, magnetic fields discovered all over the island. Stories of secret military projects. There is no end to the mythology and history of Crete island. No end. As for Poseidon and the other entities that seemingly passed into history, I can tell you one thing. The ruler of the lost utopia has relinquished all but a few of his powers. And those few are amazing.
About a year ago I paid a visit to some friends who own a seaside taverna which sits about 75 meters from a relatively obscure but magnificent Minoan site know as the Palace of Today (rough translation). To make a long story shorter, there’s this super nice young lady who works at the taverna, a girl who always quizzes me about Crete, antiquity, and the spiritual side of the Minoans. On this particular day she was asking me why I am here, and what I find so compelling about the island. What came next will either convince you I am truly batty or open up an interesting thought process for you.
Our Hidden Power
“Vera (let’s call her), do you see that band of color out to sea there?” I asked her. “Yes, the blue-green one the where the girl on the paddleboard is,” she replied. “Yes, that color came, born into me at birth, as a favorite I cannot even try to escape,” I told her. I went on to tell her, and others, how that blue-green was always the shortest crayon in my coloring box. I told her how 10,000 kid drawings contained sailboats sailing on that blend of aquamarine and azure, and that candy of that color always ends up in my pocket. Then, right then, out of some trancelike moment I never felt before I told the curious Vera, “Watch this.”
It must have been something about the way I said it. Vera was there with me, consumed in that moment, fully confidence something fascinating was about to happen. I stretched my arm and pointed past her toward a tapestry of the Cretan Sea past the rocks of Kokkini Hani toward Dia Island. At that instant, the water offshore was like painted multicolored bands. Far out the color was a deep blue like the clear Atlantic. Closer to shore a magnificent band of blue-green stretch along the shore from horizon to horizon. Close into the beach, the familiar crystal aquamarine caressed a throng of swimmers and paddleboarders. As I gestured, some strange confidence stirred inside me. It was as if what I was doing and saying was not actually “of” me but from somewhere else.
Then, with what I guess some would call a “stroke of the hand” I bid Vera to watch the sea turn full blue-green. “See Vera, if we speak of him he reacts. Watch him paint the sea my favorite color.” Vera’s eyes widened and a grin of amazement washed over her pretty face, as Poseidon’s blue-green coloring ink spread from that single thin band to transform our vision. It happened, just like that. It was as if the god had dipped his finger into the Aegean and my favorite color emanated from him to cover all we could see.
Priests of the Playful Gods
What I have shared with you is real. The interpretation of what all this means, that is the conundrum. There are many more instances I could share with you. Like the time Poseidon swiped my glasses off my face in the surf with a rogue wave. Or, the was he answers when I need a breaker to break for a killer photograph. And the voice on the wind off Itanos, the smell of fragrant flowers up at Amnissos, and the utter calm at Kommos, or Malia, or Monastiraki. Well, if I tell you about the voice of the dearly departed, you will simply freak out and call the psychiatrist on me. If you want to believe or to at least investigate, though…. They did not call this the “Island of the Dead” for no reason. And Poseidon is rumored to have sway in the afterlife, as well.
Speaking of Itanos, in the far east of Crete. My first trip there was with my dear friend Holger Eekhof, pictured below looking out to sea near Mochlos. Holger is Dutch-German, and one of the most stoic and hardnosed people I know. Normally a cool character, he was stricken by the spirit of this island. If ever there were a tough person to convince of the eternal, Holger is the one. There are places here that literally brought him to tears. And this cannot be the work of geology or geography.
Let’s pretend I touched “that” nerve in you that lights the fuse of wonder. You might ask me what I know of Poseidon or the other gods. You may even ask if I saw the “one” God when I died. Well, what I can tell you is that those we cannot see are a lot more playful than we are. And if you think about it, how could they not be? After all, it is the rest of us stuck here being all terrestrial and all. We seem to need a number or a weight to attach to everything. Or, it’s just not real. The gods do not measure or serve out time the way we do. And their play with us, though it may seem cruel at times, is a loving play as with children. We just are trained not to see them.
Something tells me that what we do not weigh or count can fit all the numbers, and formulas, and counterweights, and fractions every expressed by humans, on the tip of Poseidon’s trident.
At least this seems like a fervent prayer from the heart of the last priest of Poseidon. Until next time…