Saturday, 16 August 2014

Only God Can Judge Me


White, White Batumi.

You rise, shake off flint grey
Pebble sounds.
A shoreline of blue heartbeats that pause, skip,
to the majesty of
Your mountains,

A white spine upon which
You rest.

Do Priests bathe on their way to church?
Only God Can Judge Me’
Declares the tattoo across the
Back of the man who
Stands between two pebble shores.
Flesh sears  and the folding skin.
Signs of excess roll down
Paunchy atop tight red shorts.
Incense burning saints command attention but flinch
As shoulder blades burn,
and crave the cool dark interior of their
Cavernous vestments.
I have only ever had negative experiences of priests in Georgia. Both directly  and indirectly. I only have to think about the 10,000  black flocked men who converged on 50 LGBT  people who were marking the International Day against Homophobia May 17 2012 to shake my head in disbelief. I was not there but some of my friends were and their personal stories are harrowing. It came down to one of two things for the women that day. If they could not escape they knew they would be either killed or raped.  The ‘sin’ of homosexuality is an entirely western concept apparently, and one that has been invented by NGO groups in order to allow them to apply for funding. A lot of people are getting rich, I have been told, on the insidious cankerous lies perpetuated by Europe. There are no homosexuals in Georgia. Just as there are no issues around domestic violence.  This is another NGO myth perpetuated by Europhiles in order to get money for nothing.
On a personal level my relationship with the Georgian Orthodox church  is based on hours of conversations with  so called Georgian ‘intellectuals’ with good English, or through interpreters or translators. On my most recent trip I was shown around  the Martvili Monastery by a kind hearted priest who proudly told me that ‘nothing has changed since the birth of Christ’ in his monastery or indeed in all the churches in Georgia. The ‘traditions are   kept sacred – nothing has changed’  this crinkle eyed walnut brown faced priest  reassured me.  This was only after one of the numerous women, head bowed and tutting had wrapped a blue scarf around my already trouser'd hips, presumably so as not to offend the priest with any hint or suggestion that I have a  vagina.  A kind man this priest was, and one who looked on me with  pity disguised by attempts at empathy. He was very good at that and almost had me convinced. All this happened  whilst  checking a gold rolex watch, waving at his fellow priests who were driving the latest jeep and peering into the screen on his updated mobile phone. Black garbed women   swept  floors behind him with brooms made from twigs.
 This man on the Batumi Shore line, covered in religious tattoos got me thinking about my own tattoo.
 I have one on the back of my neck. It is the ancient Sanskrit symbol for Peace. It is directly linked to the third eye which is the second chakra point between the eyes that, when opened, allows a spiritual seeing. The nerve endings between these two places are linked so by having the tattoo placed there it was always my  intention  that any Reiki that flows through me will be make me a channel of peace.  I waited until I was 40 before having it done. It is a powerful but subtle statement that is, I guess, easily hidden by my hair much like the images of the saints on the man’s shoulder blades are hidden when he is dressed.
 When I first met him, the man I continually felt was lurking in the shadows and watching me even on a hot pebble beach in Batumi, he was frightened of it, my tattoo. He was also frightened of my power as a woman, and did not know how to deal with my independence.  He quickly began to try to undermine it. He spent  hours, usually when I was completely exhausted with the day to day organisation of the tours for his choir, explaining all about  God. How the church worked, how the holy fire worked, how people are called to the cause, how they are asked to make sacrifices, how he felt his mission was to bring Georgian Folk song back to Georgian people, how he wanted his own name to be remembered for all time for bringing this folk lore back to Georgia. Hours he talked, hours and hours in surprisingly articulate English. He had a great vocabulary and  was hungry to learn more. His favourite word was ‘rubbish’ which he started to use when referring to me and everything  I did that was not directly linked to his cause.  Allegedly the great grand son of the patriarch who ruled Georgia during the time of Stalin's purges, he told me on two separate occasions that the Georgian Church  taught that there could be only one chance to move into the light of the true faith and that it was not in their habit to put pressure on anyone to convert. I remember thinking that if this was not pressure I would hate to experience it when it was.
 I resisted. I am not into controlling people and felt an uneasiness that I could not, at that time, give words to.  My interest was in Celtic paganism and  I recognised and was impressed with the ancient connections the Georgian orthodox church, their use of ritual, of crystals, of food, of chants, of songs using pre-Christian words that had been lost in time but had lost no power, had with the ancient Celtic faith.  I was interested in the power of nature and how that had been incorporated into the Christian ritual and above all I was fascinated by his powerful rhetoric. I recognised on many levels that he was obsessive, almost sociopathic in his ability to charm others, including me.
Lying on that beach, under that umbrella, I was struck by how easily things can be covered up. The man in the tight red shorts, he could disguise, could charm, could seem reasonable whilst wearing a shirt, or a suit or a cassock but there, right across his back, not where he could see it but where everyone else could, was his ego, his protection and his excuse.
 ‘Only God can Judge Me’

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