Tina’s special holy water
Tinos with Tina Sparkles- part 1.
One miraculous healing icon of the Virgin Mary. One miraculous hangover. Welcome to the idyllic Greek island of Tinos – where your prayers are heard and hangovers incurred.
Not that long ago and after years of ‘discussions’ with Tina Sparkles (proudly Greek Australian), we finally took the plunge and took a trip with her to Tinos, her most favourite Greek Island of all. Who would have known what was about to happen? Who could have guessed just how much fun the joys and mysteries of the Greek Orthodox Church could be? And considering this week marks the birthdays of both head conspirators of the following events, Tina Sparkles and The Swedish Husband, I thought it was the perfect time to put on some good old fashioned montage music and reminisce. An ode to the both of them whom I love more than life and to stunning Greece, a country in turmoil but with the strength to see it through:
Tinos is a peaceful island of whitewashed villages situated in the Cycladic archipelago about five hours by ferry from Athens, the next door neighbour of party princess Mykonos. It’s an incredibly beautiful island covered with thyme-drenched mountains, terraced slopes and traditional villages. Dovecotes and windmills dot the arid landscape and views of crystal clear emerald waters are never far from sight. And small, private churches are also never far from sight either. Seven hundred of the them in fact, one for every family. It’s Greece’s most sacred island, famed for its beauty and special healing properties, the place where miracles often occurred. We arrived ready to be blessed.
10:30am: A sober religious experience
In June 1822, a nun by the name of Pelagia had a series of visions of the Holy Virgin. She was told of a buried painting and being a rather pro-active nun, Pelagia soon set about to find it. With help of the village elders and after months of digging, an image of the kneeling Virgin that dates back to the early Christian era was found. Construction of a sacred church began at once and reports of miraculous healings flooded in.
People were cured of this and that and word got out. Since then, pilgrims have travelled from all over Greece to worship at the Church of Annunciation, and today the sacred icon is the most venerated pilgrimage item of the Greek nation.
The Church sits atop the village of Tinos, nestled into the side of a small mountain. At any time of the day there are religious pilgrims – mostly women I noted – on hands and padded-knee, crawling up the main street towards the towering church. Along the road there is a rubberised strip, complete with sidelights for night-time crawling.
If you’re not crawling, metal trinkets featuring hearts, houses, babies and cars can be bought in the stalls all the way up to the church and are then placed in a small wooden box to the right of the icon.
After waiting in a long queue, we finally make it inside the church. Surprisingly, the famous icon stands in a small glass box to the left and is almost invisible. The silver frame is totally covered with gifts of gold, decorative ornaments and dazzling trinkets. I think I saw her left eye, I hope it’s enough. You’re allowed a short moment with the icon before you’re moved on.
Further in, scores and scores of silver lamps and trinkets hang from the tall ceiling; a foot, a hand, boats, houses and cars fill the space. Fish need blessing too. The air is heavy with a mixture of religious seriousness, incense, distant chanting, incredible heat and crowds. For someone whom is neither Greek nor Orthodox, it was still quite a moving experience. Holy water is at the bottom of the steps on the right as you go out.*
*At this time we were in the middle of multiple IVF rounds and were desperate for a baby. We took our miracle holy water back home and I’d rub it over my stomach at all stages of my cycle, for month and months, hoping for some magic. The blessed holy water would sit atop our vestibule and only I was allowed to touch it. When we moved apartments, it came too. I sprinkled it around the new place for good luck. Last year TS went back to Tinos and back to the church. And that’s when we got The Phone Call. Turns out she’d gotten it wrong. It wasn’t the holy water tap and that stuff was, well ain’t no miracle water. We’d been using regular Greek Island tap water and if that water had touched our lips,we would have needed our own miracle just to survive.
Have you ever owned holy water, only to find out that it wasn’t so holy and more likely filled with e-coli?