These are the infamous cliffs of TaCenc, Gozo… We just got our rooms in a resort right here on the property where these cliffs live! Even though I thought I’d researched this trip fairly well, I still didn’t have an inkling of where this resort actually was. Clearly my research was not so thorough! I had no Idea that I was staying on such a gorgeous stretch of land…
We left Malta fairly early to jump on a short ferry ride from the island of Malta to her sister island, Gozo. Many people go the short distance for a simple day trip. Our plans were to stay here for a few nights and visit some amazing sites, have a sunset ceremony at the Ggantija Temple as well as some time for us to just relax.
Rather than go directly to our hotel, we all were taken to a beautiful church in Loreto where one of the approximately 500 Black Madonnas found in Europe resides. She and her infant child are at the main altar of the church, serenely gazing on those of us who come to see her. The Black Madonna is the patron saint of migrants, travelers and expectant mothers, who visit the shrine to pray for protection and blessings. We did just a bit more, in that we sang to her.
Not being a Christian at all, I am still in awe of the faith that people follow and share in the reverence found in places of worship. When religion starts being a part of politics or the dogma of it takes precedence over individual knowing, this is where I step aside. Spirit lives in these places because faithful people bring their hearts there, not because there is some authority that says it is so. This lovely church was one such place and we brought our hearts there to share in the sweetness of it all.
After a nice long time to sing and pray in this beautiful church, we got back in our little buses and headed to Joe Xuereb’s home and studio in Ghajnsielem, Gozo, where he and his family welcomed all of us into their home. Joe shared his process as an artist and his inspiration to create sculptures reminiscent of the megalith statues of the Neolithic era found on his island. The stone on Gozo and Malta is soft and pliable, as stone goes but the process of sculpting it was fascinating to see. The cool gardens and generosity of Joe and his family was lovely for us, who were mostly just plain hot and already a bit tired.
After some time listening to Joe’s process of sculpting, shopping for our own statues and enjoying some Maltese snacks, we said our goodbyes and made our way to the Ggantija Temples in Xaghra. One of the two temples are the oldest known stone structures in the world, predating the famous Stonehenge in the UK, by 1000 years!
For me, I was a bit giddy about this part of our trip. Unlike my previous pilgrimages to sacred sites dedicated to the Great Mother, the temples on these arid islands requires no imagination. Some of them are a mere a rubble of stone, many are largely intact… but these sites are not covered up with subsequent invading cultures’ temples or cities. Nothing is blocking the imagery or presence of the goddess here and I was excited to be able to go.
This day was exhausting, hot and long. First the ferry to Gozo, then Joe’s studio… finally we made our way to the temple and regardless of my tired, hot body protestations, I was blown away.
It’s perched on Xagħra plateau, facing towards the south-east like many of the temples of Malta and apparently one of the older Megalithic temples on these islands (circa 3600 B.C.E.). There are two temples here, both built in the shape of a woman (as far as I’m concerned).
Once you go through the area’s entrance, you have to walk a long path that snakes down and around the temples, bringing you to the forecourt of them. It overlooks the island and all the homes and buildings of our contemporary world.. fitting nicely next to a sports field, among other things. Frankly, all the temples are in and amongst Malta and Gozo’s numerous communities and simply a part of their daily lives.
To help keep the structures intact, there are a number of scaffold supports inside and outside the ancient structure. Many areas are mostly blocked off, as well. They are very fragile, but after all these years, the fact that they remain standing at all is remarkable.
The size of the rocks is breathtaking, especially since when they were built the builders didn’t have even the technology of the wheel to help them move these huge stone to the site! Tools were not made of metal, but bone, antler and obsidian rock. Truly an amazing feat of engineering, as well as ingenuity.
We stayed for a nice long time, moving in and out of the ruins and just feeling the sensation of it’s buzzing power. This was, for me, a tremendously soothing sensation. The sense of reverence was strong as well as something I would akin to familiar holiness. When I visit contemporary shrines and temples, churches or “man made” places of worship, there is a feeling of preciousness and spirit, but nothing tremendous. Nature is where I receive the depth of spirit and vast presence of Source. In this temple I felt that and was moved greatly.
Our day ended up driving to our resort lodging at Ta Cenc. A long time coming and a tiring but wonderful day spent with my new and amazing friends.
More on that in my next post.