"Temple of Æsculapius," John William Waterhouse, 1877.
“Temple of Æsculapius,” John William Waterhouse, 1877.

Pilgrims on a wave-battered merchant ship, we
Sailed to Temple of Æscuapius, distant Isle of
Kos. Crowded amongst other followers, my family
Braved cresting seas for my daughter, Anjela, who
Suffered seizures, fever and chills, for in a trance-
Like state, she told of frightening visions, horrors
She could not know or understand.

On this heaving ship, some say Anjela was cursed,
Furies of Erebus had possessed her pliant mind.
Others insisted her visions were god-sent, messen-
Ger of Orphic hymns, enticing rocks and trees to
Dance, prophesies to save mankind, so concerned
That my family risked wracking seas to approach
The paean oracle for his healing touch.

Arriving at Kos sanatoria, priests prescribed that
Anjela sleep with non-venomous snakes slithering
On her dormitory floor. During drug-induced
Enkoimesis, her dream-visions emerged, terrors
She related, eliciting fears of volcanos erupting,
Thousands killed, death-encased victims buried
In depths of cemented ash.

Hearing this prophesy for coastal Roman Republic,
Priests realized Anjela was beyond cures of Willow
Oak tea, mud baths, or balancing phlegmatic
Humors. With my husband present, priests brought
Her to the Temple of Æscuapius for divine inter-
Vention, where we made simple burnt sacrifices for
God of Healing to excise apparent curse.

“What you see as divine punishment is a blessing
From the gods,” advised the oracle. “Anjela is our
Messenger, who in trembling trances, sees and
Speaks words of prophesy when she is closest to
The gods. To cure the seizures, Anjela must spend
One night upon the alter, with your offerings of
Grapes, figs, and wheat cakes.”

Placed into enkoimesis upon the alter, Anjela slept
Covered in purple drape, body and head concealed.
During dark of night, yellow serpents of Æscuapius
Slithered beneath the cloth, coiled about her head,
Licking her eyes and face. When snakes withdrew at
Dawn, Anjela awakened, transformed into a young
Woman, her disorder miraculously cured.

“We cannot leave Kos,” Anjela advised, her voice
Enlightened. “An unspoken truth the oracle could
Not disclose. You may venture upon nearby islands,
But my home is within these columned halls. Here,
You must remain and settle, weave silk, benefit
From higher learning, import goods for your wealth,
Attend beast-fights for pleasure.”

Who can fathom the machinations of the gods,
Blessings and demands they placed on us? We
Never returned to our home, an ocean villa left
Abandoned on Athens’ shores. We occasionally
Visit Anjela, to bring offerings of food and wine,
For we lost a young daughter who, in turn,
Gained a place amongst the gods.

“What else is Wisdom? What of man’s endeavor or God’s high grace, so lovely and so great?  To stand from fear set free, to breathe and wait; to hold a hand uplifted over Hate; and shall not Loveliness be loved for ever?” – Euripides, “Bacchae”

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