Photo & Essay #4: Mysterious Rites

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This weekend we once again set out to explore our region. Our mini-day-trips are almost always random, chosen on a whim on Sunday morning when the sun shines through the windows and we are all just longing to go revel in its warmth outside. And this time was no exception. My husband saw online that in a small town Saint-Ambroix, in the mountainous region of Cevennes, a small flea-market was organized. Since his uncle, whom we haven’t seen in a while, lives in the area – off we went to adventure.

The flea-market was small and felt like something organized by a small clique of locals for themselves. So we didn’t linger and went to explore the town. My husband said that the flea-market was most likely a lure for something else, a hidden message we were supposed to notice. The message turned out to be not so hidden, since moments later an old, talkative man stopped to say hello to us as we were walking. He shook my husband’s hand, told us a bit about an Evangelical organization that has accepted him and that offers free lunches to the lonely and the poor every Sunday. And before saying good bye, he said: “you know, we have a saying here. Throw the negative away with trash. Take all that negative stuff: negative thoughts, constant stress and worrying and just throw it all away”.  My husband nodded as I giggled in the background: “Well, there’s our message!”

As the man left we noticed an ancient-looking stair case by a yellow wall with painted flowers. The kids shouted “Secret passage!” and climbed up and away without giving it any second thought. The passage led to picturesque doors, night lights and roof tops. But at the very top sat a wonder: a small church built on an ancient sacred Celtic site, giving an overview of the whole town.


The site was used by the Celts in sacrificial ceremonies, however, it is unclear what kind of sacrifice was practiced there. An explanatory plate nailed to a rock brought up more mystery than explanation. While animal sacrifice was definitely practiced there, it also invoked the possibility of human sacrifice. This seems to be a controversial point in Celtic history. Both Roman and Greek sources talk of human sacrifice performed by Celtic tribes (which the Romans banned after they took over the region), but it is unclear whether it is propaganda made up by the colonizers to demonize the Celts or if it really took place. In any case, human remains have been found at such sacrificial sites, but the mystery remains: were they killed on the spot for some mystical rites or were the bodies already dead before rites were performed on them?

The kids climbed up and down and through all the corners and crevices of the site, but my husband didn’t feel comfortable with that so we left the Celtic ruins and explored the area below it. There we found some wild asparagus that my husband bravely gathered for his elderly uncle (bravely because he had to make his way through some dense vegetation, and when he came out he was scratching all over). On our way back I snapped some pictures of rocks and flowers. Since our nice camera has unfortunately decided to leave us (it won’t even turn on anymore), I kept asking my son for his camera (which used to be my camera, but I gave it to him after we got a newer and shinier one). He didn’t seem too happy about that, but he obliged without too much complaining since he’s a good boy after all.

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The last picture that I took was that of a snail shell. When tweaking the photos on my computer I realized that the snail has decided to peer out of its shell just as I pressed the button, which gave forth to the little marvel above. It was a nice way of saying good bye to Saint Ambroix, and may be till next time when another lure will bring us out of our modern cave to hear some message.


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