View over Sobral Pichorro

This project is spearheaded by Lizzie Daisley-Smith and her partner Tony Conway. Both from UK. It is focussed around a derelict “solar” (manor House) which has a small chapel attached - in the village of Sobral Pichorro. Above this is a mountainous hill covered with mixed forest which includes edible chestnuts and coppice fire wood. The valley below includes an abandoned undershot watermill in a large derelict mill building. Adjacent fields have been earmarked as building and food-growing plots for future eco-village residents.

The veggie Gardens

Vale das Lobas - the valley in which the project is situated - is high in the Beira Alta region, in the foothills of the Serra de Estrela (Star Mountains), the highest mountains in Portugal. It is at the eastern edge of the Dao wine region, and the main products are olive oil and wine. There is also an abundance of apples, pears, oranges, lemons, limes, figs, peaches, cherries, plums, persimmons, quinces, strawberries and more. Maize, rye and other grains are also traditionally grown here.

The seasonal river, the Muxagata, runs along the valley, between the villages of Aldea Nova, Fuinas, Maceira, Sobral Pichorro, Mata and Muxagata. Five kilometres upriver is a hot sulphur spring, still unexploited. From November to May, the mountains are filled with rainwater, and rivers and waterfalls cascade down the valley sides, and tumble towards the Rio Mondego. Above the valley is pure wilderness, there is no agriculture, no populations. The water and the air in here is free of pollution.

The whole region is dotted with dark granite boulders, balancing rocks and ancient dolmens. Views from the village are inspiring. The energy is high, and I saw a lot of silica and pure white quartz laying on the ground during my walk up the hill and into the chestnut forest.

The land which is being subdivided for future ‘buy-in eco-villagers’ is lower lying, by the river, though Tony told me there is also some land slightly higher, on the other side of the river.

The Old Mill

I explored the old water-powered  mill (small hidden undershot turbine)which was little more than a shell. It will take a lot of work to restore to their vision of a working mill plus craft workshops/centre. I traversed some of the land err-marked for the eco-village, but since I had no guide I did not know where any specific plots were. I did not feel as drawn to this low-laying land as much as I was to the higher land and the village. I did see a few derelict buildings in the village and one in particular interested me.

There is as yet, no habitable accommodation owned by Lizzie and Tony, so they rent two houses in the village. One for themselves plus Gary, a builder from London, and Bruno (architect) his wife and baby, and the other for volunteers and visitors. Another student architect and myself were camping in tents.

Personally I have had health problems for a while; chronic fatigue which I
am mostly on top of, and shortage of breath when walking up hill or climbing steps. Here, at Korashan, I had plenty of both – but I found my energy and lung capacity both increasing as the days passed, and I can say that I have not felt so energised for a long time!

Stairway to Heaven!

I liked Korashan very much. I felt very at home there – a sense of destiny even – a sense of “YES, this is where I am called to be.”

I worked with the two volunteers clearing overgrown drainage channels and undergrowth around the Solar building ready for scaffolding to go up to repair the roof. Gary, the builder, started knocking down an added-on long-drop toilet and its roof in preparation for accessing the main house roof. Large granite blocks lay strewn around so I amused myself in the late afternoon shade moving these aside using a special lever/hook I constructed and left for future block movers.

Shady Walk up the Chestnut Forest

I explored the chestnut forest way up the hill behind. It was very peaceful and had a lovely energy. Coppice groves provided shaded walkways from the hot sun. There are plans to build one or two retreat cabins up there. I’d love to live there! But the idea is that these will be for visiting retreatists.

Village sounds were minimal but never-the-less there were noises of the occasional car or motorbike, the three chiming church clocks, (all slightly out of sync!) twice daily van deliveries of bread and meat who hoot their horns and at night, until settled, distant dogs barking.

Topless Builder Gary, Architect student and Lizzie with hair in buns

Lizzie and Tony went off to Spain for three days to meet a man who is donating a collection of 5,000 esoteric books to the project. As they were leaving I shared an idea that I wanted to discuss when they got back - that rather than jump in and invest I would be happy to volunteer for two years. I don’t know why I said that and I later revised my offer to two months – so that we would have a chance to get to know each other before committing to a longer period or buying in to the project.

However, on their return, Lizzie and Tony made it clear to me that neither offer was what they are looking for
as they are looking for investors to buy plots on which to build their own eco-homes and grow their own food. They are also gathering skilled tradesmen and architects for an eco-building crew and Tony listed the people who are on their way, and by implication I felt he was saying that there were no openings for me there either. I got the impression that a decision had been made that I didn't fit and there was no opportunity given to discuss further what contribution I felt I could make. I actually felt that I have a lot of skills and wisdom to offer, and that the project is going to need a lot of these to bring to any state of fruition. My "inner" tells me that this is a powerful place with a significant future ahead for transformation at all levels, and my sense is that I will be back - even as I look at the picture below, I feel called to be there.......

The Toad Rock

The next morning, packed early, and with time on my hands I clambered up a track I had not been up before which led me to a ‘toad-like’ rock – a large rock with a flat slit cave underneath. I turned and looking down the hill between trees saw THE derelict house that I was interested in maybe purchasing directly below. This seemed somehow significant and as I thought to take out my camera to record the moment a cat meowed to my left. As I turned a black and white cat emerged from under a large vertical pill-shaped rock and jumped up onto the stone wall next to me. Shy at first, after a few moments was rubbing itself against my leg.

Before departure I had a good chat with Lizzie for half hour - which touched on things deeper to heart – since I had a strong sense that ‘other-worldly’ forces were at work there and somehow connected with this project. I went for a stroll up to the derelict house and back down the next lower road where I came upon a huge dark grey flat protruding rock with two rectangular holes carved in it and adjacent, on the rock, a 50 year old memorial/shrine, which, in its rear side behind metal bared door I spied a crucified Jesus and a large Black Madonna! (see * at bottom of page)

This was my last experience before departure to the train station….very interesting! I realised that the rock had undoubtedly been a ‘sacred site’ for aeons and at some point held a wooden structure which located in the rectangular post holes. I would love to dig deeper into the history of this rock and monument.

After thought

The only video I watched whilst there was
offered by Ricardo, a Portuguese volunteer. It was on Trepanation - the ancient art of boring a hole in the skull to improve pulsations of blood in the brain and supposedly increase consciousness. Hence the term, “I need this like I need a hole in my head!” – but some people find it beneficial! See: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x44l7z_a-hole-in-the-head-dvd-african-trep_shortfilms
Or Google “Trepanation” and be prepared to be shocked!

Not the actual black-Madonna,               One of the symbolic painted
but similar - less the crown.                     panels in the chapel

(*) Re The Black Madonna at Sobral Pichorro
The Queen of the south is the title of the Countess of Toulouse, city whose Black Virgin La Daurade, was originally the goddess of wisdom

"I am, black but beautiful" (Song of Solomon 1.5) We are told she is a Shulamite - one who has found peace, perhaps the counterpart of Solomon whose name also contains the word "shalom".

"The Black Madonna cult is central to the Priory of Sion. . .To them at least, there is no doubt about the significance of the Black Madonna. Pierre Plantard de Saint-Clair writes explicitly, 'The Black Virgin is Isis and her name is Notre Dame de Lumiere [Our Lady of the Lights]."

Roman Catholicism has reverted to the worship of the Black Madonna in many countries throughout the world. A Time Magazine article states that one of most-heavily visited shrines in the world is the shrine of the Black Madonna, in Czestochowa, Poland.

Of course, this Pope, John Paul II, is from Poland. Kathleen O'Hayes, of National Christian Research, states in her tape of the coming global Marion Apparition, that Pope John Paul II considers himself "the slave" of the Black Madonna. Kathleen further states that the Catholic Church placed Poland under the protection of this Black Madonna early in the 1950's.