Rachael Clyne visited Crete with Goddess Tours International in October 2009
It was back in 1986 when, grappling with lack of sense of myself as feminine, that I first visited Crete. I barely knew the word Goddess, but as I stepped from the aeroplane She swept me up with loving warmth and into a journey of discovery and profound past connection with Her. If you want to experience Goddess culture you cannot do better than Minoan Crete.
Last October I decided to return and join Cheryl Straffon and Lana Jarvis’ annual Goddess tour of Crete. Knowing Cheryl already, and of her long love of Crete, gave me confidence that I’d be in safe hands. I was wary of being in a large group and so was delighted to learn we would be a handful of women. This was for me one of the best features of the tour, it was personal, laid back and despite not knowing each other and spending all our meals and days together, we got on remarkably well. Five of us were from south-west England and one from the Netherlands. We toured in a small people carrier ably driven by Cheryl up and down narrow tracks. Far from being an impersonal tour, this was more like a holiday with friends and I felt surrounded and supported by wise and loving women.
We spent the first week on the north coast, in a hotel away from large resorts. Each morning was spent visiting sites, with time planned in the afternoon for R&R before dinner. We began with Knossos (“to get the touristy bit over with first”). Cheryl gave us a Goddess version guided tour through the palace temple. Despite tourist hordes, Knossos still has amazing impact. Being in the endless queue to peer through the bars of the fabulous, crimson throne room, I felt like a Minoan processing to pay homage to the High Priestess embodying the Snake Goddess once again. It was a wonderful moment of reconnection for me. And that was just the start.
Amongst the many sites we visited was the Minoan cemetery at Phourni, where we sang in a honey-limestone, beehive tholos tomb. On the peak of Mount Juctas we scrambled to the chasm where Minoans threw offerings and placed an offering on a ledge. We visited two of the incredible caves of Crete: Scotinou, dedicated to Aelathea, Goddess of childbirth, is 7.5 kilometres and on several levels. We couldn’t have done it alone; having to hand each other over ledges with torches to guide us. We sang in the dark surrounded by amazing goddess-shaped stalagmites. The Dictian Cave is where Europa reputedly hid to give birth to Zeus. Despite recent commercialisation and masses of visitors we found the same secreted niche where I’d had a life changing experience 23 years earlier and sang together. We saw Malia Palace temple (where the exquisite gold bee pendant was found) and Heraklion Museum, full of fabulous ceramics, Goddess statues and jewellery. We visited several wonderful, small out-of-the-way settlements where fragments of Minoan pottery still lie around your feet. Cheryl was able to put each site into historical context for us, weaving the story of a Goddess-based civilisation that valued creativity with beauty, skill and humour. We went deep into ourselves and with each other in spontaneous ceremony and embosomed in Her love. We celebrated the full moon on the beach and spent an unforgettable hour meditating with the five-thousand-year-old olive tree of Kavousi high up a mountain track.
The second week was spent in the quiet South-East resort of Makrigialos. We had self-catering apartments and dined in waterside tavernas. I really liked Makrigialos; backed by mountains and a gentle sandy beach fringed with tamarisk trees, crystal clear water and nice shops to browse in. The accommodation in both places was simple but fine for our purposes, though the hotel did have a mosquito problem. If you need soya milk, which I do, take some with you. The hotel said they’d supply it but weren’t too keen, as it’s pretty expensive there and we had to hunt around supermarkets in large towns for supplies.
Eating out was enjoyable and we got into the habit of sharing lots of starters, mezze style, for lunch. I found Cretan food very fresh, not oily, and with delicious home-cooked variations of well known dishes, like tzaziki flavoured with dill, courgette fritters flavoured with cumin and cinnamon. I hadn’t appreciated just how fertile the island is. Lunch generally cost around 5 euros and evening meals around 7-10, unless you have fish which, sadly, is very expensive. Cretans are hospitable and dessert just appears as a gift on the table, a cut-up pomegranate, a few fresh grapes or a few little honey cakes. The October weather was cool in the evenings, particularly on the North coast, but there were a couple of days which were much hotter than usual for the time of the year.
Cheryl was willing to adapt the programme and I know it’s hard to please everyone, but about half way through I did find myself flagging, particularly as some sites involved much longer journeys than others and I needed more rest time in the afternoons before eating. I also wanted time to be able to swim in the sea. A day to ourselves was scheduled for the last day, but one in the middle would have been welcome, to catch my breath, though I did rally towards the end. Of course I could have stepped out but I really wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of the visits.
Cheryl and Lana were knowledgeable, providing us with useful historical detail and Goddess interpretation of Minoan civilisation, whilst also standing back and allowing us space to experience places for ourselves. I particularly appreciated this as I need space to tune in, without being clouded by someone else’s vision. A handout summarising the different periods of Minoan civilisation would have been helpful and this suggestion has been noted. We supported and cared for each other and those less able to manage the more arduous outings felt cherished and able to step out if need be. I know there are bigger and fancier groups that do “Goddess in Crete”, but I relished the unpretentiousness, the absence of spiritual glamour and the personal touch that I experienced. The Cretan tourist industry has grown massively since my last visit but Cheryl and Lana were able to steer us to less commercial places. All in all it was an unmissable adventure that strengthened my relationship with Goddess and I would have no hesitation in recommending it.