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All Manner of Religion and Other Marvelous Legends

Updated: Jan 30

Celebrate with me! I just received notice that my PCC has been renewed. What is a PCC, you ask? Well lemme tell ya.

When I became a certified coach, I had performed over 100 hours of paid live coaching, and passed a written and oral exam. I was awarded a CPCC (Certified Professional Co-Active Coach) status, which never expires. Kind of like my PhD—it doesn’t expire.

It was a small hop from that (in 2004 or thereabouts I believe?) to join the International Coach Federation (ICF) as an ACC, or Associate Certified Coach. My CPCC requirements matched the ACC requirements, so all I needed was a couple of letters of recommendation, and I was IN! This felt important to have, since the ICF is the leading ethical body for coaching, which is an unregulated profession (anybody can call themselves a coach—and they do!). So it meant something to me in a moral sense.

I remember how it seemed as though I was neh-vah gonna earn enough hours to become a PCC (Professional Certified Coach), the next step up. I’ll never forget being at home in the backyard one day when my husband came outside and announced that I had accrued enough hours to be eligible for a PCC. I thought he was putting me on!

But he was telling the truth: I had in fact accrued enough hours of coaching to advance in rank to PCC. So in 2009 I moved up a rung to PCC.

Maintaining an ICF credential is not a walk in the park. They require you to log Continuing Education Units and to renew every couple of years—it’s a pain! It was especially a pain during eight years of grad school when I was focused on scholarship more than coaching. But I hung in there… (Side note: it turns out that my highest Strengthsfinder strength is “Learning,” which I still feel is kind of useless. But it held me in good stead for these twin challenges: coaching accreditation and academia.)

In the turmoil leading up to the holidays I had to hustle to acquire my remaining education units so my status wouldn't expire, and I submitted the paperwork mere days before the deadline. 

And then the line went dead and there was silence and I panicked that my email didn’t work or they didn’t get it on time or I overlooked something or their computer blew up or there was a technical glitch…. you know all the awfulizing that goes on in your head when your expectations are hanging out there in space.

Yet it finally came through!

I am thrilled to still be a PCC after all these years. (Maybe someday I’ll work on bumping it up to the next level.) The point is, when you book a coaching session with me, you know you’re engaging an experienced professional.

The weather here on Cyprus hasn’t improved. We had another wee earthquake in the early morning hours, and one recent evening was reputed to be the coldest Cyprus winter night on record! The ark idea is getting bigger in our mind as the rain continues pouring down. In fact, the power just came back a moment ago! And I’m hearing the wind kick up. Uh oh! 

I’m going to put that out of my mind and essentially pick up where I left off last week.

Near the quarries we explored during that outing we had noticed a heavily festooned centuries-old Terebinth (pistachio) tree. It turns out this is called a “wishing tree,” and it heralds the entrance to an ancient underground Christian catacomb carved out of limestone rock, and considered one of the main Christian shrines of Cyprus.

Alongside the tree is a set of stone stairs that lead downwards into a tiny open courtyard with several openings to five caves arranged around it, some gated off but visible(ish) inside, dating to the Hellenistic period.

Apparently these catacombs were originally used for burials, and later became a refuge for persecuted Christians, and during the 9-12th centuries the catacombs acted as a Christian Church.

The first room one encounters below is dedicated to Agia Solomoni, and the catacomb is formally named after her.

So who was Saint Solomoni? Various legends are told about her. 

Saint Solomoni was a Christian Jew from Judea and one of the first individuals on Cyprus to reject idolatry and convert to Christianity. She bore seven sons. 

The legend says that in the year 168, Antiochus Epiphanes, a Syrian king and ruler of Cyprus, wanted to humiliate Jews. He told her sons they must eat pork, which is forbidden in the Jewish religion, or they would die. 

Here is where the legend divides. One ending asserts that Solomoni and her sons fled their home so as to evade Roman persecution, but they were discovered hiding in the catacombs. Epiphanes killed the 7 boys in front of Solomoni and then killed her next. 

Another version claims that in reaction to the tragedy of losing her sons, Agia Solomoni threw herself into a fire and died there. 

In yet another version of the legend, it is said that Solomoni, attempting to hide from Epiphanes, took refuge alone in the catacombs to escape persecution and they walled her up alive inside them, condemning her to a slow death. But two hundred years later, when the door was opened once more, Solomoni miraculously walked out alive and healthy. 

Regardless of which story (if any) is true, Solomoni was declared a saint (one of earliest Christian martyrs), and the catacombs were named in her honor and considered sacred. 

One of the caves below leads down to a small fresh spring reputed to possess healing and rejuvenating properties, prolonging people’s lives and healing them from diseases of the eye. Naturally it is credited with keeping Solomoni alive for all those years.

Another cave (the largest) was obviously used as a church, and its altar is still visible, standing before the remnants of 12th century Christian frescoes and even 13th century graffiti left behind by the Crusaders. Unfortunately, that room is blocked by a grated and padlocked metal door so one can only peer through the gloom to try to make out these antiquities from a distance.

In medieval times this was a popular pilgrimage site, and the catacombs enjoy a variety of nicknames, including “Cave of the Martyrs,” “Cave of the Seven," “The Chapel of the Seven Sleepers,” and “The Seven Maccabees.”  

The colorful pieces of ribbon and cloth adorning the tree’s branches are not decorations. They are offerings to Saint Solomoni, left by visitors in hopes of curing myriad ailments. It is believed that leaving such an offering will help your wishes to come true.

And while I am on this religious theme, we celebrated a big win on Saturday. We finally got inside a church we’ve been curious about since we arrived. 

Panagia Theoskepasti is a Byzantine Church of Cyprus that is part of an area inscribed on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1980. 

Its history starts back in 10th century AD when the island of Cyprus was part of the Byzantine Empire. During Byzantine times Christianity prospered on the island and many monasteries and churches were built (yes, many!). 

One of these was Panagia Theoskepasti church, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was built within yards of the sea on a protruding rock and dominated the surrounding scenery.

By the end of the 11th century, Saracens began attacking Cyprus. Theoskepasti church, due to its position, could easily be spotted by invading Arabs during their raids, making it an obvious target. However, according to legend, the church was veiled with dark clouds of fog and rendered invisible whenever the Saracens approached it. Due to this legend the church was given the name “Theoskepasti” from the Greek words “Theos” and “skepazo,” which mean “God” and “to veil,” respectively. So the church’s name is “Hidden by God.” 

The present-day church was erected in 1923 on the foundations of the older Byzantine church, but the architecture of the previous church was preserved. A full restoration of the present church was completed in March of 2009. At the base of the Church it is possible to see part of the original rocks, an impressive sight!

Precious icons are kept at Theoskepasti Church. Among them is a miraculous silver-covered icon, believed to have been one of seventy icons painted by Evangelist Luke (I think it’s on the left side in the photo below—look for the shining silver).

The church interior was much smaller than we had imagined, and not as ornate as some of the other Byzantine churches we’ve visited on Cyprus. But I did love the stained glass and various wood carvings.

Since I’m on a religious roll (and Cyprus is a treasure house of religious structures and artifacts), I’ll show you this shrine mosaic to St. Peter we stumbled over in the middle of a Paphos suburb. 

I was taken with it because he looks so much like Jung’s paintings of Philemon—can you see the similarity? 

Alright, that’s enough religious sightseeing for one day.

I'll wrap up by mentioning how the review I wrote of James Hillman's book, Types Into Images, that was published in the Journal of Analytical Psychology last year (which I crowed about last year), has been made Open Access. 

You may read it for yourself (now for free) at this link: 

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/1468-5922.12742

More churches and religious artifacts are on the way! Prepare yourself for an onslaught!

Until next week, ciao.

warmly, -Dr. Vicky Jo


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