Mythic Wisdom: A Greek Author’s Perspective

Connecting the past with the present has always been a powerful experience for me, maybe because I live in a land rich in history. In this blog I am going to explore a variety of topics, which I find deeply meaningful: women’s roles, gender and sexuality issues, activism, goddesses and gods, etc. By examining myths, symbols, and archetypal figures, I feel that we gain a fresh perspective on our lives and society. Ancient history, art, and literature can become amazing sources of inspiration. By learning from the wisdom of the past, we can transform ourselves and the world we live in.

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My Journey to Revolutionary Egypt


Much as my friends were trying to dissuade me from visiting a country in revolutionary turmoil, I decided to travel to Egypt, hoping to find an answer to the riddles in my mind. It was a burning hot desire, an obsessive thought born after the explosion of the Revolution.

It was November of 2011. The country was ruled by SCAF, the military council that had taken over after the dictator Hosni Mubarak had been ousted. The spirit of the Revolution was alive and well, so once again the people of Egypt organized massive mobilizations.

I was aware of the dangers in demonstrating in Egypt. For months I had been in touch with activists and had read lots of horror stories. Questions were pounding on my mind. What if the demonstration was attacked by security forces, armed thugs, and snipers, as had happened during the Revolution? What if I got arrested and ended up in one of the country’s notorious jails where political prisoners were routinely raped and tortured?

Yet, time and again I could hear a voice calling out: “Will you risk your life for me?” It could have been the voice of Isis, Egypt, or the Revolution. In my mind all three had merged into one. I wouldn’t miss this opportunity for anything in the world!

So, there I was, in Tahrir, whose name means “Liberation,” the iconic square of the Revolution. I had been there just a few days earlier to visit the world-famous Museum of Cairo. That first visit was a pilgrimage to the treasures of the past that have kept me under their spell for so long. Isis and Osiris were there, staring at me with their inlaid eyes, holding the key to secret longings.

The second visit to Tahrir was a pilgrimage too, but of a different nature. Demonstrating side by side with Egyptian revolutionaries felt like a dream come true. The place was overflowing with protesters, many of them women wearing the hijab, the Muslim scarf, on their heads. They were key figures, just like they had played a leading role during the Revolution.

The march was a huge success, as well as the rallies organized in other parts of the country. It was reported that three million people demonstrated that day all over the country. The atmosphere was almost festive. Protesters seemed proud and strong. The energy of the Revolution was palpable—and there’s nothing like a revolution if you want to raise energy!

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Sameh Naguib, an Egyptian sociologist at the American University in Cairo, gives his own eyewitness account of what Tahrir had been like during the days of January and February 2011:

Tahrir Square was turning into a massive commune of resistance and a “festival of the oppressed.” (…) An explosion of individual and group creativity was taking place. (…) The space in Tahrir was not simply occupied physically but spiritually. Harassment against women disappeared, tensions between Copts and Muslims evaporated. People shared food, water, cigarettes. Songs, music, poetry and chants filled the air. A new Egypt was being created.[1]

These memories were very much alive in November of the same year. But the joy of the demonstration did not last for long. The next day clashes started and went on and on, leaving dozens of people dead. More than forty Egyptians lost their lives. I froze in horror hearing that piles of dead bodies were being made near Tahrir. One of my close friends was wounded during those riots and ended up with a broken nose.

I had no choice but to leave Egypt at the time, but I vowed to come back. My presence there had no doubt been an initiation: a journey to the Underworld, a close encounter with the deities of death. It helps to remember that Osiris is actually the King of the Underworld. The initiation process involves the death of the old self and the birth of the new one.

For me activism has been an ongoing form of initiation. “We change ourselves by changing the world,” an activist friend told me 15 years ago. Time and again his words turned out to be true. Activism can be a powerful force for transformation of both the inner and the outer worlds. In some cases, it involves confronting the possibility of death. Not only does this confrontation help us realize the value of being alive, it reveals something we don’t normally see: in revolutionary times, people will often hold freedom dearer than life. Yes, revolutions sometimes turn ordinary people into heroes.

“Will you risk your life for me?” the voice insisted. Being an activist sometimes poses pressing questions. It forces you to ask yourself how much you’re willing to risk and why. How far are you willing to go to see your dreams come true? What is the price you’re willing to pay? At times you even have to ask what is worth living for—or dying for.

These are existential questions, challenging us to go beyond our limited day-to-day living and gain a wider view of our purpose in life. They also force us to face what we’re most afraid of. It’s said that if you can overcome the fear of death, you can deal with any other fear. To this day I consider my participation in the Tahrir demonstration as the bravest thing I’ve ever done. Whenever I’m struggling with tough situations, reminding myself of that choice gives me strength.

Surprising as it may sound, the conscious choice of risking one’s life can be tremendously empowering. Would I have the courage to put my safety at stake in a foreign land if it weren’t for my Goddess spirituality background? Much as I loved the Revolution, it was the special energy of Isis and Egypt that had the most profound effect on me.

The article is an adapted excerpt of the essay “The Revolution Remembered: Activism as a Sacred Path,” published in the Mago Books anthology She Rises: How Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality? Vol. 2, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016. You can read the first part of the essay here. To purchase the book click here.

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NOTE

[1] Sameh Naguib, The Egyptian Revolution: A Political Analysis and Eyewitness Account, London: Bookmarks, 2011, 19.

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Harita Meenee is a Greek independent scholar of classical studies and women’s history. Her graduate studies were in the field of archetypal and women’s psychology. She works as a writer, translator and editor while also being a human rights activist. Harita has presented cultural TV programs and has lectured at universities in Greece and the US. She is the author of five books, as well as of numerous articles and essays published in Hellenic and international anthologies and magazines.

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