(My mother on the left in traditional Greek Folk garb in the 50’s)
Coming up on the 20th of April will be 30 years since my mother has passed to the west.
I still miss her and think about her often even though we have a bilocate connection as we were so close, truth be told, I am very much like her in most ways.
Looking through the remaining photos I have of her (most were destroyed in a house fire in the early 90’s) I remembered the things she taught me or used to say which has impacted on me throughout my life.
In life as in death she always moved with the utmost grace and has been the most influential person with respects to my character . I try my best to learn and evolve with her as a major influence – I just hope I can do her justice in honouring her memory and live my life the best way I can.
(My mother and me in the late 70’s when I was a baby)
My mother was a kitchen/folk/hermetic witch who also was a practising Greek Orthodox. Her name was Anastasia and she taught me all about herbalism, divination, various crafts and magick and I feel she was the main inspiration of me being so interested in the occult, spiritual practice and the Greek and Egyptian pantheons. She attended church every Sunday even though she didn’t really believe in the church as an institution. She would remark on how she thought it was disgusting that certain priests made huge personal profits from the congregation as well as had the arrogance to think they were the only ones who had a line to God. She always taught me to question authority and listen to my instincts but also showed me how to be a moral person with strong ethics. She helped build and was heavily involved in lots of volunteer work for the Westal Greek Orthodox church, which was more in line with the original teachings of Jesus (but at the same time she was also someone the local Greek community would come to if they needed help, especially when it came to esoteric healings and readings). At her funeral so many people came to mourn her passing that the church was full to capacity, as was the courtyard out front of the church and people had to line the footpath outside.
My mother was also extremely well read and educated even though she didn’t officially go past grade 4 (age 8) because of WW2. I remember her telling me stories of how she attended secret school that the local priest had set up in the basement of the church which would run in the middle of the night. They did this in order to avoid the prying eyes of the Nazi’s and she could read and write both modern and ancient Greek and was a wiz at mathematics. She loved reading books on female saints and held education in high regard, always pushing me to do my best. I remember she also loved the arts and was a great seamstress and would make all my costumes for the plays, variety shows, choir and dancing troupes I was part of, which she volunteered me for (I was a very shy kid and she did this to get me out of my head). I still remember the old songs of her homeland she taught me to sing and the traditional dances she taught me to dance as well as the fact she always wanted me to be proud of my heritage and would dress me up in traditional garb of her region whenever school had a nationality day.
My mother was an amazing cook and would make everything from scratch without recipes or measurements. Everyone would marvel on what wonderful pastries she made, as she could make paper thin pastry which would never break. She taught me to always offer guests food and drink when they were visiting and to ensure to cook enough for an army when preparing for a special occasion. She taught me, to always drink tea from a china cup and that it was best to steep real tea and herbs in a cast iron pot and serve it with either honey or a slice of lemon. I also remember that no matter where we were and what was going on, she always made time to make me a cake decorated with whipped cream and glazed cherries for my birthday. She would take me to picnics on the beach or at the park where we would eat specially prepared meals and although at the time I wanted normal sandwiches like the rest of the school kids she would practically pack a whole Greek deli into my lunch-boxes at school. In hindsight it was a way to show me how much she cared – these elaborate meals which she also prepared at home is what Greek women do and how she showed her love.
She was also an avid cross stitch, knitter and crocheter and I still have an armful of things she made. She loved tv especially anything historical and her favourite tv show was Prisoner (Bea Smith her favourite character). She would let me stay up past my bed time so we could watch it together and even though it was full of swearing, sex scenes and violence she never wavered. She also loved old black and white movies and I remember spending lots of evenings watching them with her where she would often highlight a song or location with great awe and adoration.
My mother was also someone who was immaculate in her presentation. She never left the house without her red lipstick on, nails painted red, hair set and neat and on-trend outfits. My cousins and some of her old friends used to always mention how she always looked and acted like the epitome of a 1950’s housewife even though it was decades later. My mother was from the silent generation (I was a menopause baby) but she was never silent and taught me the same.
Another thing I remember is that our house was always full of flowers, plants and herbs both inside and out of the house. She knew all about herbs and could propagate anything from the smallest of cuttings. Whenever I wasn’t feeling well she would take me into the garden and show me what I needed to get and how to use it in order to get me well again. She also was well versed in cupping which unfortunately I didn’t pick up as I was too young at the time to learn. She taught my dad how to remove the evil eye so he could teach me in front of her, as according to tradition that particular thing is always passed from male to female or female to male. She taught me how to read palms, playing cards and coffee and tea cups as I sat beside her..quite often during the times she gave readings to those who came to see her. Another thing I remember quite vividly was the day she realised I could see spirits and talk to them. Instead of freaking out and filling me with fear she encouraged me and guided me so much that I was never afraid with the exception of the first time it happened….to be fair I wasn’t really afraid more annoyed because the spirit wouldn’t leave and let me sleep.
Since my parents were working class and didn’t have a lot of money, my mother always saved up what she could to get me things that I really wanted. As a little girl I remember my first ring which copied hers – instead of ruby there was a red bead and instead of gold loop it was plated wire, the blue and green skipping rope she got me when she noticed I loved to skip, the gold dress with matching shoes and handbag for my first school dance – which she never got to see me in as the cancer had taken her by then and my Humphrey B Bear teddy I still have – albeit a missing nose, eye and hat. Those things sound insignificant but to a working class family with not much, it meant the world to me as it was given with true meaning and care.
Even though I have all these fond memories of her, I have come to admit that she was human and had undesirable traits like the rest of us. She had a Greek temper, was overtly pedantic when it came to presentation and pushed ahead without a backwards glance.
Funny thing is, all these things I’ve inherited too but I have worked hard to move them with graceful tact and I’m still a work in progress (like we all all are).