Posted by: Isidora | October 17, 2009

Pompeii & the Temple of Isis

Here are some impressions of our visit to the buried city of Pompeii and the Temple of Isis there.

Pompeii was buried in the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. There it remained until 1748, when a sign saying “Pompeii” was uncovered. Ever since, archeologists have been slowly excavating it. About 2/5 of it remains buried.

But what is unburied is, quite simply, astounding.

Having been underground so long, the whole place smells and feels rather like a cave. Most of the moveable artifacts—statues, housewares, all the things people left behind as they ran for their lives—have been taken to a variety of museums. Yet you can see paintings on the walls of buildings, mosaics in homes, fountains in courtyards. Here’s what a Pompeii street looks like:

A view down the main street of Via Abondanza in Pompeii

A view down the main street of Via Abondanza in Pompeii

Pompeii is much larger than you might imagine. In its heyday, it was home to about 20,000 people—a full 10% of which identified as Isiacs. That’s a lot of people, a lot of homes, a lot of civic buildings. There is simply no way to cover it in a day. We spent hours and hours walking, but really saw only the highlights, which for us, were the Temple of Isis and the Villa of the Mysteries.

Yet with all the accouterments of ancient life preserved for us at Pompeii, the place doesn’t feel very lively. Our impression was that all the energy has been well and thoroughly grounded by being beneath the earth for so long.

And, unfortunately, that was true even in the temples, including the Temple of Isis….

Inside the Temple of Isis at Pompeii

Inside the Temple of Isis at Pompeii

In this photo, we’re standing inside the walls of the temple. The walls you see on the far side of the pic are the walls that enclosed the temple. There is a walkway between the walls and the pillars you see in the foreground. There was probably a covering over that walkway. What you see in the center is the central shrine where the image of the Goddess stood and the “stage” for the main offerings and rites.

We spent quite a long time sitting in the temple, doing visionary daydreaming. I had some fleeting impressions of the priests and priestesses going about their daily worship, but frankly, nothing very strong; nothing that really whacked me upside the psychic head.

On the other hand, the temple is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Oh what I would give to be able to do ritual for Her there! I’m sure it would charge up in no time. Imagine this place with paintings on every wall, with decorative tile everywhere, with lamps burning, libations being poured, and incense smoking up from the altar.

Yet the temple isn’t huge by any means. You could probably get about 100 people in there as spectators. But just a dozen priestesses and priests would be pretty comfortable alone, too.

More to come next post….

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