The Cumaean Sibyl is renowned in myths and legends as a prophetess delivering wisdom to emperors and kings, the wealthy and common people alike. They traveled far and wide to hear her predictions of the future. There were many sibyls in the ancient world, the Oracle of Delphi in Greece for example, but the Cumaean Sibyl became legend because of her close proximity to Rome. It is told that she spoke in riddles, and read leaves as part of her divination. She was a woman who held immense power in times when women rarely did.
To visit her cave became an obsession for me at one point but I put the notion aside. Then a couple of years later, I was in Naples, and picked up a tourist brochure and there was the Sibyl’s Cave just a train ride away! We took the local train down the Amalfi Coast and got off at Pozzuoli, a small village where the archeological park was. But once there, we could find no information about the site. Frustrated and tired we headed for a seaside cafe – (when in doubt, have a nice Italian meal.) I noticed a well-healed man with his family in a table nearby, and decided he could probably speak English. When I asked if he knew of the Sibyl’s Cave, he said yes, but you need a car to get there. (He was a shoe designer/manufacturer in Naples with a famous California client he thought I would know, Arnold Schwarzenegger.) This good man arranged for one of the cooks to drive us up the mountain to the site and told us how to get the bus back down.
Once there, I had the opportunity to walk the sacred cave, a long trapezoidal passageway cut out of volcanic stone, and enter her chamber alone. I sat in the space connecting with the energy and imagined her imparting her wisdom. “If these walls could talk”, I thought. This place is definitely not on the tourist radar – there were just a few others in this expansive park. I was awed.
Images stay with us and imprint on our consciousness. As an artist, I never know when they will emerge, ready for the canvas or paper. Here are three of my paintings that I feel echo the ancient passage of the Sibyl.