The sun has almost reached its zenith. I stand in the scorching heat, waiting for the ritual to start.
And then, a beautiful young woman appears, coming forth in a pleated white dress. She stands still on the porch of the fallen temple of Hera, and plays her flute in honor of the ancient mother of the Gods.
Answering her call, many more women gracefully make their way through the weathered columns and gather in front of the mirror. In silence, a tall priestess of chiseled features bends over the concave receptor of light, and seconds later, stands up triumphantly, a blazing torch in her hand.
This is ancient Olympia. April 20th 2016.
A few months ago, a strange synchronicity had me walking into the archeological site just moments before the famous lighting of the flame that would spark off this year’s Olympic games – the rehearsal, actually, as the public is not invited to the official ceremony.
Despite the thousands of people – mainly Greek schoolchildren – who had gathered for the occasion, braving the crowds and the heat, it was a surprisingly solemn and meaningful moment. A chance to experience the reenactment of a ritual that is almost three thousand years old.
The procession of women followed their fire-bearing leader through the famed stone arch, into the ancient stadium. And there, along with their male counterparts in short green tunics, they performed an elaborate dance evoking the ancient Olympic sports.
The ceremony concluded as a proud Greek athlete knelt before the Priestess to receive the fire of the Gods.
And this week, just moments before the flame reaches its destination in Rio de Janeiro, we too honored the fire, reenacting an ancient ritual. It is the time of the year when the Swiss build massive bonfires atop every mountain to celebrate our national holiday.
So let us honor the fire that travels the world. Rejoice before its purifying force of transformation. Re-kindle the ancient flame before the Goddess.
And remember the fire that burns within.
Photo Credit : (c) Peter Maerky 2016