The Witch of Portobello
by Paulo Coelho
I need a whole month to finish this amazing story about a Lebanese woman named herself Athena — a name that she found better than her early name Sherine Khalil. The more time give me more time to understand about the New Ageism, the paganism, the spiritual movements in 1960 till 1970 just as a background knowledge to help me understand this novel.
Surely I agree with Athena (or Paulo Coelho himself), that in order to understand ourself, we should follow our own path. The path that is not dictated by our parents, our society, nor the world. Athena’s path leads her from dance to calligraphy and then to teach, from working in the bank to selling property in the dessert. Each step reveal one by one in her journey to find the truth… The truth about her real existence. Aren’t we all looking for the right answer from the same question: “why we were born in this world?”
Athena answers this question that her mission is preparing the way for the Mother to reign. And she had fulfilled her mission till the end. Through Athena and her protector Edda, we will be guided into the New Ageism or paganism about the female side of God. I found that as a plus point and a complete plot for this story.
Paulo Coelho really a bright writer who –instead of telling us about Athena directly using the old methods of narrative technique– creates the story from point of view Athena’ boyfriend who interview people around Athena to understand Athena better… and also to reveal the myth about her as The Witch of Portobello. The transcripts consist of her adoptive mother Shamira; her spiritual guru Edda or Diedre; her ex-husband Lukas Peter-Jensen, her prodigy Andrea Mc.Cain; a reporter who is in love with her Heron, and others. Somehow I found myself keep going and going to read each interview with more curiosity.
I enjoy so much the teaching about finding our own blank spaces. It really give aufklarung or enlightenment for my own spiritual journey and give me understanding what to do next. The same thing happened, as fas as I remember, when i read The Alchemist
5/5 for this lovely novel.
1. About the name Hagia Sophia:
Although mention in this novel, I found Hagia Sophia is not only a name of church in Istanbul and although there are non physical prove, but this it is said that Hagia Sophia was built on the site of an ancient pagan temple. Hagia Sophia underwent two phases of construction before attaining its present state. Documents indicate that the first Hagia Sophia was built by Emperor Constantius, son of Emperor Constantinos I, and was opened for services in 360 AD. Although very little is known about this Church, it is assumed that it was a basilica-type structure with a rectangular floor plan, circular apse and timbered roof. It was similar to St. Studios, a basilica in Istanbul, the ruins of which still exist. Ancient sources emphasize that the eastern wall was circular. Constantius donated gold and silver as well as religious objects to his Church, but these were vandalized by Arians during the Council of 381 AD.
Hagia Sophia was first named “Megale Ekklesia” (the Great Church) as it was the largest Church in Constantinople. The historian Socrates indicated that the Church was named Sophia during the reign of Emperor Constantius. The name given to the Church symbolized the second divine attribute of the Holy Trinity. Originally, Sophia, which means “Holy Wisdom”, was a name given to Christ by 4th century theologians. Both names, Megale Ekklesia and Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turks) are used today.
Somehow, I found this interesting … and I am quite sure, the name is not merely taken out of nowhere (as explicitly said by Athena in this novel)… but Paulo Coelho carefully and intentionally put this name on Athena.
2. About Sophia:
Sophia is not a female counterpart to God, but rather She is a great and holy emanated aspect (HYPOSTASIS) of God.