12-19 April, 2012
From Goddess Temples to the Knights of the Temple
Journey to Malta with Freddy Silva
Seen from the air, the island of Malta, together with its bijou neighbour, Gozo, resemble two miniscule limestone leaves floating on the wide, blue Mediterranean Sea, and yet they contain more sacred places per square mile than perhaps anywhere in Europe.
Malta is also unusual in another respect. Its ancient temple culture is like no other: the temples often come in pairs, each representing the divine feminine and masculine, and each accompanied by underground temples that replicate those above in the negative. To say this small territory has been a prime focal point for honouring the ways of nature, the universe and the gods is an understatement.
When the apostle Paul inadvertently shipwrecked here and hid from persecution he was merely following in the footsteps of countless hermits whose caves dot the island, as though it provided shelter from the troublesome world and allowed for a closer, introspective experience of God. Perhaps it is the energy in this land that allows for such an experience, for it has drawn seers and visionaries to its soil from the Paleolithic right up to the 16th century. The original Knights Templar were founded on the same principles of devotion to the divine feminine and were drawn to places of solitude and introspection, so it almost comes as no surprise that one of their counterparts, the Knights Hospitallers, also decided to make this their home.
AND SO COMES THE VISION FOR THIS JOURNEY
In arranging this pilgrimage to Malta I hope to bring you on a passage through time, to experience the pendulum of worship from divine feminine to the masculine and back again, and the manner in which it was explored. In doing so we shall travel to some of the oldest temples in the world whose origins may precede a global flood that raised the level of the sea and made an island out of Malta. Their monolithic limestone blocks may bear the weathering of time but they still exert a powerful influence on the senses, particularly at Mnajdra, with its exceptional position on a vertiginous cliff and an uninterrupted view of the sea.
We will walk in the footsteps of the first Order of Knights Hospitallers in what is today the enchanting town of Vittoriosa, and look at the palace of their nemesis – the Holy Inquisition – who inevitably followed them here.
Given Malta’s proximity to Sicily, the presence of the Catholic Church now overwhelms the entire island, and we shall take in a couple of unique cathedrals to marvel at the architecture and discuss how this new religion is so derived from the older pagan tradition.
We shall experience a couple of remote chapels, and a cave where Homer is said to have hid – all places where the hermit inside us is granted the solitude to connect with the subtler forces of nature.
We will examine the mysterious ‘cart ruts’ that cross the entire island, and why they reach the edge of cliffs only to continue under the sea.
We shall certainly spend an afternoon walking in quiet contemplation along the vehicle-free labyrinthine streets of the 10th century arab walled city of Mdina, the Silent City, where the later Grand Masters of the Temple swore an oath.
In small groups of ten we will enter the underground temple of Hal Saflieni, one of the finest wonders of the world, a complete underground temple and marvel of the temple builder’s craft.
Finally, you will walk Valletta, quite possibly one of the world’s most enchanting cities (and mostly car-free), with its limestone walls and verandas, its cafes, its statues guarding every street corner, its luscious hill gardens and fountains. I have walked this city five times, and each time is like tasting it for the first time.
Malta may be one of the world’s remotest places but you will leave feeling much more connected to the earth than before.