During the first centuries A.D. a host of chapels were raised all over the mountaintops of continental and island Greece, called “xokleesia” (ξωκκλήσια). They were dedicated to the prophet Elijah who, as mentioned in the Old Testament has power over the natural elements. For many centuries thence, every year on the 20th of July, the prophet’s holy day, the priests of nearby settlements used to climb to the mountaintops to perform Mass at these small temples. Many of them set off before sunrise, before the other worshipers; and during their climb they kept hearing the bell of Elijah ringing, as if moved by an unknown hand. Though they couldn’t fathom it as anything other than a divine sign, a fear kept creeping upon them, and they had to murmur prayers and Gospel verses to continue their ascent.
The fact is that this fear originated in a point outside their faith proper. For, even though they or the worshipers knew it not, on this day they perpetuated an ancient religion, a faith as old as humanity – the worship of the divine father and the nourishing Sun. The church bells, rusted as they were from the mountain rain and cold, cast dissonant sounds which intertwined with the ringing of goat cowbells – for many a goat abandoned its herd to climb up to the church heights. The priests shooed the goats away with stone and cane, spitting and cursing the animals, holding especial contempt for the male ones. For they believed that by coming to such heights, these horned creatures brought with them something of earth and history’s burden. It was from these signs that the priests gathered that something exceptional was taking place upon the mountaintop, at Elijah’s churches.
According to tradition, every priest had to remain in the church until all worshipers had departed. Then, he was to spend the night there, alone, in order to honor the prophet. Until nightfall, the poor priest was tormented by the bell and cowbell sounds that were only silenced after sunset. Whenever he tried to ascertain the nature of these sounds that fleeted like shadows within the temple space, they would quickly dissipate like playing tricks with his hearing. The priest would emerge from the building to see if a goat had escaped his notice and was still roaming in the churchyard, or if the bell-rope had been loosened letting the bell be rung by the wind. Nothing of this sort did he ever discover: all was quiet outside. But still, the sounds kept coming and going.
Just before dawn the sounds would reemerge, this time clear and strong, like offerings to the firmament and the Sun god. It was then that the priest, terrified by the manifested powers, locked himself in the church, fell on his knees and started praying to all saints, pleading for the sounds to end. But the noises kept gaining in strength, they kept multiplying, peaking to a booming crescendo that coincided with the moment of the sun emergence from the eastern peaks, where the Bright Lord seemed to manifest his incessant presence throughout the years despite the transmutation of his worshipers’ ways.
At this point, some of the priests, deeply terrified by the otherworldly din, would abandon the chapel and run away from the peak, pleading for God to save them; they flew down the hill until they reached a plateau where they could ascertain that they were beyond the sound’s range. They never said a word to villagers or to other priests that had never performed Mass in an Elijah chapel. Until next year’s liturgy most of them tended to have rationalized their experience in order to reassure themselves, believing that they had been tricked by a gust of wind, and that this supposedly transcendental experience held no truth.
Some others, however, would not let it go. Throughout the rest of the year they kept thinking about the sounds born by the light that filled everything in the mountain peak. They prayed to God for any revelation concerning the nature of this experience; but in place of an answer, the same sounds kept reappearing, echoing in their empty rooms. The priests would flounce and cross themselves, at which point the sounds quickly dissipated, returning to the priests’ memory cells.
Gradually, these priests realized that the event would repeat every year on the 20th of July. But even among them only a few dared to accept the true meaning of this communion of St Elijah. Those few, drawing upon the son’s of Sun ancient name, baptized it Ayiastees: not a proper saint but almost equal to the one, he who stands next to Saint Elias and is akin to him. (Ayios-Άγιος is Greek for Saint) Still, their faith made them fear that the powers awakening in the beginning of Summer from these self-conceived sounds were in fact Satanic in origin, lending to the whole ritual a Luciferian hue.
The name of this particular, esoteric semi-Saint Elias was Faethon Ayiastees or Faethon Theoteekos, meaning the one who pertains to God (Theos-Θεός is God in Greek), to distinguish him from the old religion’s Faethon deity.