Catherine R. Proppe
United States of America
Logline: Torchbearer is a drama in which Sophia, an elder ambassador in 4th century Eleusis, Greece, defends the city against the onslaught of Christianity while her daughter (stage director) rehearses the venerable Eleusinian Mysteries (Hymns of Orpheus) in a 20,000-seat ampitheatre. Meanwhile, Alaric's Christian army bears down, intent on destroying the city and the Mysteries of the Goddess.
Scene: Eleusis, Greece 396 CE
Sophia - grandmother, ambassador, elder
Agnas Eumolpas - mother, hereditary Director of Eleusinian Mysteries
Hellen - eldest daughter, training as torchbearer
Eirene – youngest daughter, learning the alphabet
Alaric – head of Christian army, destroys Eleusis
"Keep your arm up. Keep it up!"
Hellen is walking about ten yards ahead, her right arm extended straight up, holding an unlit torch.
"Tell her to drop her shoulders down and back," Sophia tells Agnas. But before Agnas can shout the directive, Hellen's shoulders melt down her back, as if by magic, and her arm extends higher than it has all afternoon. The two women scan the crowded marketplace. (Describe crowd here.)
Sure enough, taller than most boys his age, his face framed in dark curls, a young man’s eyes lock on Hellen, an unabashed smile on his face. Hellen's face turns ever-so-slightly toward him as they pass.
"And that works, too," says Sophia. The young man stands strong and proud, he stands with confidence. "She could do worse."
"She could do better," says Agnas.
The crowd parts before Hellen as they make their way to the theater.
"You must begin Eirene's grammar lessons tomorrow," murmurs Sophia.
"The festival commences in two weeks, Mother," says Agnas. “Dress rehearsals begin in a week. My Aphrodite is hobbling around on a twisted ankle. There are a million details with the costumes. My special effects crew wants to try something new this year that could blow up half the audience. It’s not the best time to teach my youngest daughter the alphabet!”
"She is seven now, and the new moon is tonight. It is best to begin on the new moon," says Agnas. She looks into her daughter's face. "What are you so worried about? I will teach her. You have too much to do. I am her grandmother. I will teach her. Look, Hellen's arm is sagging again."
"Keep it up!" Agnas shouts.
The women each pluck a single leaf from the eucalyptus tree outside the amphitheater, crush it between their fingers, and toss it onto the fire in the hearth on the circular stage, an offering to Hestia.
Hellen pantomimes lighting the hearth fire with the torch she carries and then poses at the foot of the stage, still holding the torch overhead.
Sophia sinks into a seat near the tenth row while Agnas scans the scene with a practiced eye.
Everyone looks busy, very busy, so busy that she suspects someone has alerted them to her approach, but that is okay. She has to inspire fear to get them to perform the heights of perfection required.
The chorus rehearses under the practiced eye of the choreographer, circling and stepping in the ancient steps passed down for generations. The orchestra has broken up into section drills, lyres in one section, flutes in another, percussionists in the stands. Carpenters hammer and saw away at scenery props, competing with the orchestra for dominance. The hymnists trill scales.
Agnas claps her hands twice. Instantly, the sounds fall away. The dancers cease. All eyes turn to her, all eyes but Hellen’s. She stands poised in front, center stage.
“That will do for now, Hellen,” Agnas says. Hellen relaxes visibly. She exits the stage to join her grandmother in the seating area. She rests her head on her grandmother’s shoulder. Sophia gently massages her granddaughter’s torchbearing arm.
“This is a disaster,” says Agnas, her clear voice carrying perfectly throughout the 20,000 seat amphitheater. “Nothing is right. Don’t plan on being home for dinner tonight. Let’s get on with it.”
Several stage managers approach her with reports and she disappears into her creation.
Sophia’s presence in the theater has not gone unnoticed. Slowly, gradually, the elders observing the rehearsals make their way toward Sophia. The most honored first, greeting her, commenting on the weather, asking after her health. Soon, Sophia’s circle includes some two dozen elders, inquiring of her and exchanging pleasantries.
Hellen quickly bores of their small talk and excuses herself to watch the dancers’ choreography. Eirene races up and down the stands with the other children.
“Presbis, Sophia Theia, there are rumors,” says the person seated closest to Sophia. His opening seems to unleash a floodgate.
(As they speak, images of the destruction and carnage flash.)
“They have destroyed the Museum in Alexandria.”
“They burned the Library at Alexandria to the ground.”
“500,000 scrolls. Destroyed.”
“They are torturing scholars in Egypt. Hypatia. She is dead. They dragged her from her chariot, they stripped her naked--
“They dragged her into their church, they threw her on the floor--
“They flogged her with broken bits of tile, flaying her until she was dead--
“They dragged her mutilated body and burned her in a bonfire in Kinaron--”
“Stop!” commands Sophia. “What is the source of these rumors?”
“There are many sources, Theia.”
Sophia looks from eye to eye. Sober faces. Fear.
“They say there is only one god, their god, their god and his son.”
“They say there is no divine mother. No daughter. Only a father and a son. They say the Goddess is evil. That Earth is evil.”
“Why would anyone believe such nonsense?!”
“They say there is only one book, their book. They say all other books are evil.”
“Sophia Theia, their message is dangerous.”
“No one would believe!” she protests.
“But, Sophia Theia. Their message. It is simple.”
Sophia’s eyes darken. “Simple.”
“You know the power of the simple message, Presbis.”
“Yes,” Sophia says solemnly. And then, “I built a career on it,” she says, almost unintelligibly, looking down into her lap.
Her chin snaps up. “We must summon our messengers,” she says.
Instantly, two dozen index fingers are raised and crooked. One by one, the children playing tag up and down the steps notice the signal and race over. One by one, each child receives a coin, a name, and instructions. The children run off, jostling to be first to return with their charge. The elders settle into a companionable but troubled silence.
Only the sounds of Agnas’ assistant barking stage directions, the saws and hammers of the scenery crew, and the tuneful reed break the silence in the vast amphitheater.
Sophia moves silently through the dark house before sunrise, making her way to Eirene’s small bed on the main floor. She gently strokes the girl’s face until the child wakes, eyes flickering, looking for meaning. This is how her own grandmother had woken Sophia so many years ago, in the hour before dawn on the first morning of the crescent moon of her seventh year. She pictures it as though it were yesterday.
“Maia?” says the child.
“Come, my sweet. Today you begin your lessons.” She wraps the child in a thick blanket and guides her through the house, the sounds of their footsteps barely making a sound on the polished floors.
They make their way through the dark streets, artisans and bakers greeting Sophia on their way to the shore. The child looks wide-eyed at the sights of the village at this early hour. So many people up before dawn.
When they reach the beach, they remove their sandals. The sand feels cool underfoot. The wind ripples the water’s surface. Sophia sinks to her knees about 20 feet from the water’s edge, pulling Eirene beside her.
“It’s cold, Maia,” the child says, snuggling her face into the space between her grandmother’s face and shoulder.
“Yes. That is right. It is cold,” Sophia states emphatically.
Sophia uses her hands to smooth a level space in the sand, a space large enough to begin the first day’s lesson.
“Look out there,” Sophia points toward the burgeoning sunrise. “What do you see, Eirene?” she asks.
“I see the water, Maia.”
“And what else?”
“Yes. That is right. You see the water and the sky.” Sophia draws a long horizontal line in the sand in the space she has just cleared. “This,” she says, “is the horizon line. It is the line that separates the sky from the earth, the sky from the sea. Now, you may draw some waves below the line to indicate the ocean.”
She watches as the child draws little squiggles in the sand to represent water. When she breaks through the horizon line she holds her breath and looks at her grandmother.
“It is fine. See? You can smooth it over and start again.”
The sky above the horizon glows yellow to orange.
“It’s so pretty,” the little girl says.
“That is Auge,” says Sophia.
“I know, Maia.”
“That is good. You know. Now, soon, what will happen?”
The child looks at her questioningly.
“Helios will arise over the horizon!” Sophia said, as though it is the most wonderful thing on earth. “Now, an easy question: Which way does the sun go in the morning, my meleema? Does it go up or down?”
“It goes up, Maia.”
“That is right. Everybody knows it. The sun comes from below the horizon and arises over it.” Sophia no sooner says the words than the first rays of sun break the horizon, as beautiful and perfect as every day since the beginning of time.
“Now,” she says, “draw an arrow pointing up.”
The child draws an arrow in the squiggly area of the sand indicating the sea.
“Draw another one in the sky.”
The child does as she is told.
“And now, draw an arrow that goes right through the horizon line.”
The child draws an arrow with its legs beneath the horizon line and its apex in the sky.
“You see? You have drawn the letter A. You have drawn the letter alpha!” Sophia claps her hands together and hugs her grandchild tight. “You have learned your first letter!”
Hellen, the eldest girl, a beauty, chats with her friends near the city fountain. She holds two loafs of bread in a market basket dangling from her forearm.
The handsome young man from the day before approaches her.
“Hellen,” he says. Her friends move away. “I know only one utterly beautiful thing,” he says. “My hungry eyes know only one thing.” [Meleager]
She smiles and touches his cheek gently with the back of the fingers of one hand. “In my dream the folds of a purple kerchief shadowed your cheeks,” she says to him. [Sappho]
He groans. “Come with me,” he urges. “To the cove?” he pleads.
“But, the bread for my family. The rehearsals,” she protests.
“Bread, rehearsals. What about us?”
“My mother . . .” she says.
He mouths the word “mother,” looking down at the ground and scowling. “Tonight?” he says. He cups Hellen’s face in his hands. “To everything else, I am blind,” he says. [Meleager]
She looks around and sees her group of friends watching them.
“I have to go,” she says.
“Tonight?” he says.
“I have to go.”
“Now, the letter beta.”
Sophia smooths out the sand once again. “Sit,” she tells her granddaughter.
The child sits down.
“When you sat down, where did you sit?”
“On the ground?”
“That is right. You sat on the ground. On Ge, the earth. But what part of your body sat on the ground?”
“That is right. Your butt!”
The child giggles.
“You sat on the ground with your butt. This what a butt looks like.” Sophia draws the letter beta in the sand. “Now, draw a butt,” she tells the child.
The child draws the letter beta.
“And when you take a step, what is that called? What is a step?”
“Yes, a basis. A basis is a step.”
“Everybody knows that, Maia.”
“That is right! Everybody knows it. And what is the base of a statue called?”
“Right. And ‘basagei,’ what does it mean?”
“Yes. The ‘base of Ge.’ Now, if I wanted to measure how deep the water is, the deepest point is called the ‘bathos.’ Do you know what ‘buthos’ means?”
“Very good. You are learning. Beta means the basis. That is why these words begin with the letter beta.
“On the night you were born, your father and I came here, right here, to this very beach. And we watched the sun set and we waited to see the stars, we wanted to know your basis, the sign rising at the time of your birth. Of course, we already knew that your sign was Leo, the Lion, but it is right and good on the night the child is born to watch for her sign on the horizon. We watched, we saw, we talked about your fate, your ‘bankon.’ Your ‘bankon’ is your destiny.”
“What is my destiny, Maia?”
Sophia grasps Eirene by her shoulders and looks into her eyes. “Your destiny is to be strong. Fierce. Stronger than anything. Stronger than a bull.”
“Am I strong, Maia?”
“Yes, you are strong. The Lion draws the carriage for the Divine Mother, that is why the sign of the Lion appears first, then the sign of the Mother. She rides in a chariot drawn by lions. Let me hear you growl.”
“Growl,” the child says in a mock fierce voice.
“I am a bull,” Sophia puts her index fingers above her head like horns. “I am going to attack the Divine Mother. I am charging toward her. My bull horns are lowered toward her, what do you do---“
“GROWL!” the child shouts, her hands hooked like claws.
Sophia laughs. “Yes. That is good.” She laughs and puts her arm around the child. “That is very good.”
“What is your basis, Maia?”
A shadow comes over Sophia’s animated expression. “On the night of my birth, my father did not come to see my sign on the horizon.”
“My mother did not survive my birth. It happens. It is the way of things. Sometimes with birth, comes death. With death, comes birth. The sun rises. It sets. It rises again.”
“So you don’t have a sign?”
“Of course I have a sign. Everyone has a basis. My eldest brother went to the beach with my Maia.”
“Great Uncle Tim?”
“Yes, Great Uncle Tim.”
“Did Great Uncle Max and ___ and ___ and ___ and___ and ___ go with him?”
“No, Great Uncle ___ and ___ were just little, they were bare-bottomed-babies! They were too little to go. Uncle Tim went to the shore with my Maia. They watched for the signs. My sign is Platigks, the Scales of Justice. Your mother was born under Capricorn, the horned pig.”
“Your sister’s basis is Karkinos.”
“Is that a good sign?”
“The crab? The crab?” Sophia crab walks a few steps. “Let me see you walk like a crab. Can you? Look at Maia, I walk like a crab.” Sophia crab-walks with a bit more dexterity than one would expect from an old woman. “Can you walk like a crab?”
The child crab-walks. Sophia sits on the sand, laughing and clapping. An aged fisherman walks up.
“I will catch that crab and use it for bait,” he teases, pretending to approach Eirene.
“Oh, no! Eirene! Come to Maia! Maia will protect you!”
The child runs into her grandmother’s arms and hugs her, not sure if she should be afraid or not. Sophia and the fisherman laugh.
“Kalimera,” Sophia says to the man.
“Kalimera, Theia,” he says. He continues down the beach toward the docks.
“And now, I have something for you,” says Sophia. She searches in the folds of her gown.
“A present? Yes. A gift. A gift from Ge, the Divine Mother. She gives us all gifts. All gifts.”
Sophia holds a small item wrapped in cloth and tied with flax. Her gnarled fingers struggle to untie the string.
“Here, Maia, I will do it,” says Eirene.
The child unties the string to reveal a very small ceramic pot filled with dirt. Her face falls. Not a toy.
“The pot, it is filled with Ge, with dirt, a small bit of earth. Inside the dirt I have placed a seed. When the mother plant gives up her seed, the seed must go to the earth, to the Divine Mother, to be nourished so that the seed can grow. The roots go down into the earth, the sprout goes up, toward the sun and the rain, toward Helios and Zeus. When your seed sprouts, it will look like this.”
Sophia smooths the sand near her with a sense of urgency. She draws the letter gamma. “What letter is that?” she asks.
“Yes. That is the letter gamma. That is what a sprout looks like when it comes out of Ge.” She draws the letter E to form the word “GE.”
“And now I will tell you one more story. This you must learn, and then we will go to the baker for treats.
“These are the words of Hesiod, from 1000 years ago. Say, ‘Hesiod.’”
“Now, listen and repeat:
“’Verily at the first Chaos came to be . . . “
The child repeats the words.
“’But next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundation . . .’”
“Now, again.” They repeat the exercise.
Sophia gets up from the sand, takes the little girl’s hand, and they walk back toward the town, continuing the repetition as they walk.
As soon as the old woman and her granddaughter near the city, walking hand in hand, it is clear that something big is amiss.
Trumpets are sounding. Drums are pounding at a deliberate beat. A procession of Roman soldiers in full regalia on horseback streams toward the marketplace.
Townspeople follow the line of soldiers. Something big is happening.
“What is it?” people say to Sophia when they see her.
Sophia pretends not to hear their inquiries. Stone-faced, she walks with Eirene to the town square, where a podium has been set up above the crowd. Pushed and shoved in the jostling for position in the crowd, Sophia stumbles.
The young man who had caught Hellen’s eye the day before sees them. “Sophia Theia! Eirene!” he calls. He hastens toward them. “Come with me,” he says.
He leads them up a staircase into a building with an open balcony where they can see the crowd and the podium.
Finally, a contingent of seven horsemen ride to the podium and one of the riders alights. A gong sounds. A hush falls over the crowd.
The herald stands at the podium, and with a clear and ringing voice, announces his authority with a string of epithets:
“On the authority of Flavius Theodosius Augustus
“Son of Valentinian
“Defeater of the Usurper Eugenius at the Battle of Frigidus
“Slayer of the Polis of Thessalonica
“Victor in the Battle of Maximus
“Defender of the Catholic Church
“Founder of the Capitol in Constantinople
“Emperor of Catholicism
“Sole Emperor of the Empire
“Champion of the Christian Faith
“Destroyer of the Serapeum at Alexandria
“Destroyer of the Temples of Syria
“Destroyer of the Temples of Carthage
“Destroyer of the Temple of Delphi
“Prohibitor of the Games of Olympus
“Hereby, let it be known that henceforth and forever more
“The Mysteries of Demeter are forbidden henceforth and forever more.
“The temples shall be closed henceforth and forever more.
A murmur sets up through the crowd. The gong is sounded again.
“Entrance to any temple is forbidden henceforth and forever more.
“Gazing upon a statue is forbidden henceforth and forever more.
“Offerings within any home are forbidden henceforth and forever more.
“All domestic shrines shall be destroyed henceforth and forever more.“
“By the power of the Roman Imperial Empire, champion of the One God, the True God:
“The Eleusinian Mysteries are forbidden henceforth and forevermore.”
The speaker jumps back onto his horse and the regalia of horsemen begin their parade through the center of the city and out of town.
Sophia looks out on the square.
“What does it mean, Maia?” her granddaughter asks.
“Sophia Theia?” says the young man.
Sophia looks out on the crowd, stone-faced and silent. Some people see her on the balcony. “Sophia Theia!” they cry. “Sophia Theia!” Many eyes turn to her. Slowly, she raises her right hand and extends her index finger and crooks it. The elders in the crowd do the same.
Sophia descends from the balcony and begins walking toward the theater, the elders and others in her wake. “Sophia Theia, let me carry you,” says a man with a carriage.
They arrive at the interior of the theater where Agnas is supervising the orchestra and dancers.
A stream of children, messengers, run to the farthest rows of the theater, and, unusually silent, await their instructions.
Agnas stops the rehearsal. “What is this?” she asks when her mother and more than a hundred elders settle into the seats of the theater.
“Bring us something to eat and to drink,” Sophia says.
“Let us honor our elders,” Agnas announces. Servants begin dispensing food and beverages to the elders.
Hellen comes running into the theater. “Mother, what shall we do?” she cries.
Agnas looks toward Sophia. “What is this all about?” she asks.
“The Emperor has outlawed The Mysteries,” Sophia says.
“We must send a delegation to the Senate,” she continues. She crooks her finger and the oldest boy messenger runs up. “Go to the Senate and tell the magistrate that a Council of Elders wishes to convene there tomorrow at 10 o’clock,” she tells the boy. She writes something on a piece of parchment and hands the boy a candle. “Light this,” she orders him. The boy lights the candle from the altar of Hestia and brings it back to Sophia. She folds the parchment, drips candle wax on the flap, blows on it, and seals the document with the insignia from her ring.
“We must prepare our arguments,” she says.
The elders begin to break up into smaller groups, parchment papers and pens in hand.
“Another foolish edict from Rome,” says Agnas, center stage. “As if these foreigners could ever bring an end to the Mysteries. Not on my watch,” she says.
“Play it again!” she says. The musicians begin a raggedy rendition. Agnas bangs her baton on a drum rim.
“And. We. Begin,” she says, holding both hands aloft in front of her. With a downstroke, the music commences.
Alaric processes into Athens in a grand spectacle. He is greeted by dignitaries in front of the Parliament. Politicians rush down the steps to greet him.
He waves and smiles at the cheering crowd.
Under the morning sun the marketplace of Eleusis is in full swing. Cartloads of corn and other grains rumble through the city. The threshing floor is covered with wheat.
The elders process through the crowded market, a boy with a drum goes before them to set the pace with his drumbeat. The crowd parts and bows.
The elders climb the stairs, past statues that have been covered with sheets, and process into the Senate Chambers, where the nine senators sit at the dais.
The boy with the drum cries out, “The Council of Elders, my lords.”
“The Council of Elders is so recognized,” says the president of the Senate.
“Presbis Sophia Eumolpas, daughter of Timaeus!” the boy announces.
Sophia stands up and begins her speech. “Honorable Senators, distinguished Hellenes.
“Yesterday morning, at sunrise, I began my granddaughter’s lessons in the alphabeta.
“She learned that gamma is the letter for our Mother Earth, Ge, our Mother who gives us all things.
“Today, she will learn the letter delta, the letter of direction. It is the letter of our Mother Demeter, the Directing Mother.
“Because of Mother Demeter we are born, we survive, we have the promise of eternal happiness after death.
“Of all the great cities of Greece, Demeter chose to make Eleusis her home.
“Every year, since the earliest meetings of the Amphictyonic Council, before records were kept, all Hellenes honor Queen Deo, the Director of Life and Law through her Mysteries at Eleusis.
“Even as I speak, delegations from the far corners of Greece arrive in Eleusis to deliver first fruit offerings to Queen Deo. To participate in her Divine Mysteries.
“Because of Mother Demeter, the grainary is near full to capacity.
“Because of Mother Demeter, the threshing floor groans with grain.
“Because of Mother Demeter, the Rarian Plains await the first tip of the plough pole.
“All of Greece looks to the great city of Eleusis to fulfill the sacred promise to honor Mother Demeter and her Divine Daughter, Kore.
“But, yesterday afternoon, a foreign delegation, a delegation of soldiers from Italy, under the command of an Emperor from Spain, made a foolish pronouncement and left, like cowards.
“Our obligation is to our Mother Demeter, to Eleusis, and to all the Hellenes, to all of Greece, to all of the world.
“Let the Romans have their Roman God.
“Eleusis must keep the torch of Liberty alive.”
Applause, shouts of approval.
The presiding Senator stands up, revealing a cross sewn into his robe.
“Honored elders, Sophia Theia, you have brokered many peace treaties and negotiated the terms to end many battles. Eleusis is indebted to your service.
“But a new dawn is upon us.
“Athens has opened its doors to Alaric’s Christian army. Athens is in concert with Emperor Theodosius. City upon city has cast aside the old ways---“
“Have been tortured into submission!” an elder man shouts.
The elder man is removed by guards while the President continues speaking.
“The old temples have been converted to worship of the God Jesus—“
“They have been destroyed by Christian armies!” the old man manages to shout before he is removed from the room.
“I will tolerate no more outbursts,” the President states grimly.
“Let it be known that today I will announce a new decree. No one shall worship the Goddesses and Gods within the home. Private worship is forbidden. Private altars shall be destroyed.
“All of Greece unites with Rome under the Father and the Son. All grains of Greece and Rome are consecrated to the Father and the Son.
“There is no place for the old ways of the Mother and the Daughter.
“The Eleusinian Mysteries are no more.”
He bangs his gavel.
A murmur crescendos in the hall.
“Ksi,” says Sophia, as she stands. The elders process out of the Senate hall. A crowd has gathered at the foot of the steps. The elders process through the crowd. They make eye contact with individuals in the crowd and say, “Ksi.” The crowd begins to repeat the word, “ksi, kisi.”
The Senate leaders look at one another, they don’t know what it means. A gong sounds. The presiding Senator steps forward at the top of the Senate steps.
“God, our heavenly father, has blessed us with an abundant harvest! Tomorrow, we will begin dispersing his grain to the citizens of Eleusis, and then, throughout the Empire. Praise be to Jesus!”
The other Senators echo, “Praise be to Jesus!” but the crowd begins to disperse as though nothing had been said, the murmur of “ksi” still present.
By the time the procession of elders reaches the theater, the theater seats are packed to capacity. A hymn to Demeter is being performed on the stage. The elders take seats on the stage.
At the completion of the hymn, the elders applaud, and the crowd follows suit.
Agnas takes center stage. Her mother says to her in a low voice, “The Senate is Ksi.”
Agnas announces in a clear voice, “The Senate is Ksi.”
“It is foreign,” says Sophia.
“It is foreign,” Agnas announces.
“They cannot be trusted,” says Sophia.
“They cannot be trusted,” Agnas repeats.
“They take Queen Deo’s grain and consecrate it to their god.”
“They take Queen Deo’s grain and consecrate it to their god.”
Agnas takes a torch and lights it in the altar fire and holds it high above her head.
"Burn the grain," Sophia says.
“Burn the grain!” announces Agnas.
“Torch the grain,” says Sophia.
“Torch the grain!” announces Agnas.
A row of actors and actresses dressed as Goddesses and Gods stand at the foot of the stage with a stack of unlit torches.
The crowd streams forward, and lights their torches. When every person holds a torch, the shout goes up, “To the grainary!”
When the mob arrives at the grainary they toss lit torches into the silos and set the walls on fire. A few guards try to stop them, but then the guards recognize people they know in the crowd, and call to them by name. The guards open the grainary doors and join in the uprising.
“Anassa! Anassa!” the crowd chants.
As the flames and smoke rise high into the sky the call goes up, “To the Senate!”
The mob surges through the marketplace to the Senate. When they storm the steps they find the Senate chamber empty. From a balcony someone cries, “There they go!” the dust of hoofprints is seen in the distance as the Senators flee the city.
“Eleusis is free!” The crowd cheers. They tear down the crosses in the Senate hall and remove the sheets that covered the statues of their Goddesses and Gods.
Sophia takes the podium.
“We have driven the ksi from our city. We have destroyed the grain consecrated to their god. Tonight, we build a new granary, and tomorrow we will consecrate it to our Mother, Demeter, and her Daughter, Kore. Let it be known throughout Greece, Eleusis is free, a beacon of Liberty to all!”
CUT TO ALARIC CHUMMING IT UP WITH THE GLITTERATI AT THE PARTHENON IN ATHENS
He hands out gold coins and crosses to each person he greets. The Parthenon’s statue of Athena lies in crumbled ruins on the floor, replaced by a huge cross.
A messenger whose uniform bears the sign of the cross rushes up to Alaric, out of breath.
“My lord, an urgent message.”
Alaric reads the message.
“An uprising in Eleusis. Well, my soldiers are hungry for bread. Assemble my commanders,” he says menacingly.
The elders mill about the Senate chambers. Sophia is the only woman.
“These provinces have already submitted their grain,” an elder man points to a parchment on the wall.
“They will re-submit their offering or be banned,” says Sophia.
“These provinces have ships in the harbor, waiting to unload their cargoes.”
“They will consecrate their cargoes to the Goddess or be confiscated.”
“These provinces are en-route.”
“They must consecrate their offerings to the Goddess before entering Her city. Consecrate or confiscate.”
A messenger bursts into the room, out of breath.
“What is it, boy?” says the elder man.
“The Christian army has claimed the Parthenon! All of Athens welcomes Alaric!” he shouts, near tears.
“Alaric is from the north,” says another elder.
“Athens leaves us defenseless,” says another.
“Athens has betrayed Athena. The warrior Goddess is without a home. We shall welcome Athena to Eleusis,” says Sophia. She points to the city of Athens on a map.
“Let Athens have its Christian god,” she draws a cross on the map to indicate Athens. “The pretty city on the hill won’t last long without food.”
Sophia shakes her grandchild’s shoulder. “Wake up,” she says, gruffly.
The elder woman and the child walk silently through the dark rooms of the house, emerging into the dim light of morning. The little girl starts heading down the path, toward the beach, but Sophia calls her back. “Today,” she says, “we go up, to the Temple.” She heads uphill.
As they near the temple region, they pass carpenters hard at work raising the roof on a new grainary and removing the charred remains of the grainary the people had torched the day before.
“Kalimera,” the workmen greet Sophia.
Sophia stops in front of a smoldering pile of charred wood. “Let the god of the ksi feed the ksi,” Sophia says to Eirene, loudly enough for the workmen to hear. She begins walking toward the temple. “Our grain belongs to Mother Deo,” she says more loudly.
They approach the colossal statue of a seated Demeter in front of the temple and bow.
Sophia takes the child’s hand and mounts the steps. The guards of the temple nod to them. They walk toward an engraving on an inner wall that faces the rising sun.
“These are the letters of our alphabet,” Sophia smooths her hand over the engravings. “27-letters. 3 groups of 9, you see?”
(The letters are engraved as follows:
Α Β Γ Δ Ε F Ζ Η Θ
Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο Π Q
Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω ϡ
“The first nine letters are single digits, 1 through 9.
“The next nine letters are double digits, 10 through 90.
“The final nine letters are triple digits, 100 through 900.
“So, ΦΙΔ, spells ‘feed.’ The number for feed is 514. You see? 500 (Sophia points to the letter Φ) plus 10 (she points to Ι) plus 4 (she points to Δ).
“The Romans, they steal our alphabet and destroy the letters that they fear. They make up a new alphabet, a Roman alphabet for their Roman god.
“Today, you will learn the letters that the Romans fear.”
A small group starts to gather, and Sophia projects her voice so they can all hear.
“They keep A and B, but they destroy Gamma, the letter for Ge, the generative Earth, our Mother. Because they hate our Mother.
“They destroy delta, our letter of direction, the letter for Demeter, our Directing Mother, the Director of growth and justice, because they covet our prosperity and despise our laws.
“They keep E and F and they keep Z, the letter for Zeus, but move it to the end of their alphabet. I don’t know why. Why move it to the end? Who knows?
“They keep H, but they destroy theta, our divine letter, the letter that means Goddesses and Gods because they hate our Goddesses and Gods. Theta, the sacred number nine, they destroy. Because they hate our sacred ways.
“Now: the double digits. They keep I and K and they destroy lambda, our letter for release, our symbol for freedom, because they hate our freedom. They keep M and N and destroy ksi, our symbol for the foreigner, the symbol for detachment, because we use this symbol against them.
“They keep O and destroy pi, our symbol for unity, for the PanHellenes, all the Hellenes. Remember this: the word for “all” begins with pi, you see? Under the same roof. They call us pagans, ‘all the rest.’ All the rest. Everyone but them. Because they hate us and fear our unity they destroy our letter pi, our symbol for unity.
“They keep Q, the number for 90.
“But they give an extra leg to rho, our letter for flow. They say that there is no flow. That everything is fixed, that everything is written down in one book. One book. One god. One government. Their book. Their god. Their government. Fixed. No flow.
“They destroy our letter sigma, our letter for synchronizing. See? It looks like the starting gates at a race track. Everyone starts at once. Sigma means the crescent moon. That is how we synchronize our calendars, on the kalends, the new moon. They don’t want us to be synchronized, so they destroy our letter sigma.
“They keep T and move Y to the second to last letter. I don’t know why they move it.
“Now, the letter phi. It is the letter for Phusis, for Physics, for Nature. It is a sacred letter. It combines I, the letter for divine power, with omicron, the letter for a whole entity, you see? ‘Divinely-powered,’ Sophia traces the vertical line of phi, ‘entity,’ she traces the circle in the letter phi. They hate Phusis and Physics and science.
“They keep X , the letter for ‘foundation,’ and assign it to their Jesus, they call him Chreestos, ‘oracle.’
“They destroy the letter psi, our letter for Psyche, the Goddess of the soul. They don’t believe we have souls! They claim all souls for their god. They hate our symbol for soul.
“They destroy the letter omega, the letter that means egg, that means “bring-forth” in travail. They lie and say it means 'the end' because it leads to the last letter of our alphabet, and they hate this last letter more than all the rest combined.
“Parakuisma, the letter for 900. Parakuisma. Having to do with pregnancy.
“Do they hate pregnancy, Maia?” asks Eirene.
“Yes. They hate pregnancy. This life is no good, they say. Happiness is in Heaven, they say. Do away with earthly things, they say. They hate Earth. They hate our Mother. They hate us. We must drive them from our lands. No more ksi.”
“No more ksi,” says Eirene.
“No more ksi,” says Sophia.
“No more ksi,” murmur some of the people who have gathered.
“We have driven out their politicians, but they will return,” says Sophia. “We must be prepared. We must gather our weapons. We must be ready to fight. My brothers sit now in the Senate Council preparing a plan. In the meantime, we will continue our harvest of Deo’s grains. We will dedicate our first fruits to Our Mother. And, on the full moon, we will welcome initiates to the Mysteries of the Divine Mother and Kore, Her Daughter, the way we have for a thousand years. Long live Eleusis.”
“Long live Eleusis,” the crowd repeats.
“Come, Eirene, we have much to do,” says Sophia.