Gods, Grain and Gold:
Mysteria and Theourgia in Thrace and Beyond
Leonard George, Ph.D.
The word “mystery” derives from an old Greek word meaning “closed” or “secret.” The ancient Mysteria were private gatherings for encountering the sacred, leading to self-transformation. Several divine beings with links to Thrace were featured in the Mysteries that spread through the ancient world – Dionysus, Orpheus, Hekate, Sabazios, and others. According to legend, the Thracian Eumolpos founded the EleusinianMysteries, most famous of them all. In Late Antiquity, a teaching called Theourgia (“divine action”), said to have been given by Hekate, revealed a self-transformative path that could be trodden by practitioners anywhere.
What Makes Music Orphic?
Joscelyn Godwin, Ph.D.
Tradition has it that the rocks, trees, and beasts charmed by Orpheus’s music were allegories of the human body and soul, and that the purpose of music is to have a beneficial effect on these. We will test the theory by listening, in relaxed conditions, to a variety of music. Combined with exercises of the imagination, and by placing awareness in the different centers of the body, we will then open the field to a free discussion of our experiences. The ideas and techniques that are sampled here may have a lasting effect on one’s relationship to music.
The Silk Road of Esotericism: From the Far East to the Balkans
Yuri Stoyanov, Ph.D.
The transcontinental routes linking the Mediterranean and East Asia known as the Silk Road gave birth to a succession of religiously and spiritually pluralist cultures. Heavily suppressed in early medieval Mediterranean Europe and the Near East, the “Religion of Light”, Manichaeism, expanded into Central Asia and China and interacted with Daoism and Buddhism, especially with their esoteric currents. Mounting evidence of the depth and range of this interaction, also extending to the ascetic and magical practices of secret Daoist and Buddhist sects, indicates that such esoteric traditions were transmitted into Eastern European and the Balkans. This workshop will present the recoverable patterns and traces of this transmission, as revealed by often enigmatic and intriguing pieces of evidence which have been uncovered only recently.
Traditional Bulgarian Folk Dance
Traditional folklore dance is an important, living, and most enjoyable part of Bulgarian culture. This workshop, open to all, will give a general overview of these dances and offer specific instructions in how to perform them. Participants will learn by dancing and feeling how the different steps, figures and rhythms – regular and irregular – interact with their bodies. The circle is the basic form of the Bulgarian horo-dance, so we will dance mainly hand-in-hand, usually counterclockwise but sometimes clockwise, according to the purpose of the dance within the ritual tradition of the region from which it comes.
Bulgarian Sacred Music and Chant
Christianity spread gradually amongst the population of Bulgaria and became the official state religion in 866 AD during the reign of King Boris I. When this occurred, the founders of the Bulgarian alphabet, together with their disciples, translated liturgical books into the Bulgarian language and rearranged ancient ecclesiastical melodies to comply with Bulgarian tonality. According to the ancient canons, church services were to be only vocal as the human voice was considered the most perfect instrument for the glorification of God. Until the present day, the entire Orthodox world knows only the vocal sonority of sacred music.
The Thracian Mysteries and Early Christianity
Diana Gergova, Ph.D.
The relationship of pagan mystery centers to early Christianity is a fascinating subject. In this workshop, we will explore Orphic ideas about the soul, and consider the relationship of Orpheus to early Christianity. In Bulgaria, we see the uninterrupted continuity of sacred places from the Thracian mystery centers to early Christian holy sites, and the continuation of the main Orphic burial practices in Christian rites. Elements of Thracian tomb architecture, originally part of the mystery rites of immortalization, were incorporated into early Christian buildings, and we can also see the evolution of the image of the main Thracian god - the horseman of the Roman period – into the figure of St. George.
The Golden Mean and the Esoteric Quest
Scott Olsen, Ph.D.
The Western Esoteric Tradition has always harbored an underlying mathematical key to the operation of nature and the cosmos. Bulgaria, at the Crossroads of the Mysteries, may hold a valuable part of the secret. Ancient gold measuring devices excavated at Varna, together with Neolithic petrospheres from Scotland, now suggest that this knowledge may be at least 2,000 years older than the pyramids of Egypt. This golden mean numbering system, endlessly employed in constructing tombs, temples, pyramids and cathedrals, is now unlocking deep secrets in physics, astronomy and biology. This workshop will address Bulgaria’s central role in this tradition, and the extraordinary architectural and scientific results of the golden mathematical key.
The Raven King and His Library
Malcolm Kennard, Ph.D.
The reign of Matthias Corvinus, the ‘Raven King’ of Hungary (1443-1490), was regarded as a ‘Golden Age,’ and he was considered one of the greatest of European monarchs. He was friends with Marsilio Ficino and Lorenzo de Medici, embraced Renaissance thought, and united wisdom and strength by emulating Plato’s ideas of the philosopher-king. His great accomplishment, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, held between 1500 and 2000 manuscripts on philosophy, history, science, and literature. Sadly, the library was destroyed by the Turks and has become the ‘Lost Library’ of legend. We will delve into his legendary library and what became of it.
Tarot as a Visual Compendium of Eastern and Western Esoteric Philosophy
Ellen Goldberg, M.A.
The Tarot is a living river into which many spiritual streams have flowed, and is primarily concerned with liberation and enlightenment. The archetypal images of the 22 Major Arcana can be considered sacred symbols that awaken ideas and states of being, previously unknown but latent within the viewer. We will examine and experience some of the Tarot’s universal themes including identification with the Anima Mundi, and the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.