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Phil Cousineau is a writer, teacher, independent scholar, documentary filmmaker, travel leader, storyteller and author of over 30 books including the national best-seller The Art of Pilgrimage, and scriptwriter of over 20 award-winning documentary films, including The Hero’s Journey: The Life and Work of Joseph Campbell. Currently, Cousineau is co-writer and host of Global Spirit (PBS), what John Cleese calls the first “internal travel series”.
Phil Cousineau will be leading “The Heart of Ancient Greece: An Odyssey with Phil Cousineau: The Myths, Heroes, Gods and Goddesses, and Sacred Sites of the Classical World, September 21 - October 1, 2014” for Sacred Earth Journeys. This will be a journey full of visits to sacred sites, culture, fine cuisine, storytelling and engaging conversation. For this blog post we caught up with Phil to hear what makes Greece such an appealing destination for him.
KB: What is it that particularly appeals to you about Greece as a destination?
Phil Cousineau: I have been fascinated by Greece since reading the classics out loud, especially Homer, as a boy growing up in Detroit in a house full of books. Ever since it has been in the forefront of my imaginative life because of work in mythology and history. It is the crucible of Western Civilization, as is often said, but also indispensable if anyone wants to understand the history of theatre, poetry, mythology, even sports. On the personal level, I find it one of the last affordable sites in Europe, offering the healthiest food in the world.
KB: What place or site are you most excited about taking participants to visit on this Greece Odyssey?
PC: Besides the usual sites in Athens, I plan to take the group to Eleusis, a rarely visited site near the capital that was a famous goddess pilgrimage site. I will lead the group to Delphi where we will visit the site of the famous oracle on one of the most dramatic mountains in the country, then down to Olympia, where the athletic spirit began and has been restoried. On the island of Crete one of the highlights will be visiting a 4500 year old goddess temple cave.
KB: One of the focal points of this journey will be the role of the Goddess. Why is the Goddess something you are focusing on and what will participants be taking away with them in respect to knowledge of the Goddess?
PC: If you read the Greek myths, the goddesses were as powerful and omnipresent as the gods. To only visit the sites of the gods and male heroes is to see only half of Greece.
KB: Your book The Olympic Odyssey: Rekindling the True Spirit of the Great Games explores the spiritual dimension of the Olympics, and in Olympia you will be leading a discussion on this topic. What fascinates you about this connection between sport and spirituality?
PC: For millennia people around the world, not only Greece, have played in the deepest sense of the word, and competed, not for bloodlust, but of the ancient Greek belief in arête, excellence. This aspect is mostly forgotten in modern play and modern sport where the emphasis is on winning at all costs. The Modern Olympics has been a first step in trying to revive the true spirit, the spirituality, underneath all athletic competition.
KB: What can participants expect from this journey to Greece that they wouldn’t find elsewhere?
PC: Everything is different. We will enjoy local speakers, but also write in our journals, sketch, and every evening have what I call a Long Conversation where we actually discuss in depth what we’ve encountered during the day.
KB: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers about this journey?
PC: Yes, I encourage people on my journeys to bring a gift or two or three to hand out to someone special that you meet along the way. Our way of saying thank you to the Greeks, who are known for coining the word xenophobia, the suspicion of strangers, but also coined its opposite, xenophilia, the love or affection of strangers.
Are you curious to learn more about this fabulous journey full of culture, sacred sites and conversation? You can read the full tour description on our website.
To learn more about Phil Cousineau, you can visit his website http://www.philcousineau.net/index.htm or follow him on Twitter: @PhilCousineau
~ Kim Bridgett