Sacred Blessings at Lalibela, Ethiopia

“Get up there! Get up there! Quickly, quickly! ” my guide Samarawhit (Sam) urged in a loud whisper. “What? What?” I questioned back just as urgently. Quick was not a speed I was able to do easily at the moment. I was moving very slowly because I had sprained my ankle at the beginning of a hike in the Simien Mountains the day before. The rock floors of the House of the Holy Saviors in Lalibela, while covered in carpet, were very uneven. I couldn’t rush too fast, and, plus, I didn’t know what I was rushing too.

I limped ahead to the white robed priest holding a staff and a cross. He was near the alter area of the rock church. The only light inside was provided by sunlight coming in through the second-story cross-shaped windows and some artificial flourescent lights.

Three Ethiopian men were standing with the priest taking pictures. I thought it was a ceremony of sorts, so started to snap away. I took about three pictures and headed back to Sam. “What’s happening? What did I just take pictures of?” Usually Sam would give me a full explantation of something we were seeing on our northern Ethiopian tour and then I’d snap photos.

The gold cross

“The cross! It’s the cross of King Lalibela, the one I was telling you about that was bought by the Belgians and then returned. It’s the pure gold cross.”
“You mean the cross we’d just seen a picture of in the museum?”
“Yes! In my 11 years of coming to Lalibela, I have never seen this here. This is very special, we are very lucky.”

As soon as the three men were gone, Sam took matters into her own hands and went forward to the priest and spoke in Amharic. He started to bless her. He placed the cross on her forehead, on her heart, and on her shoulders. She kissed it in between touchings. The priest started to pat it all over her back and belly. Sam is six months pregnant, the priest was blessing her baby with the sacred.

“Do you want to a blessing? You just have to give him a little something after.” I did want a blessing. I was raised Catholic, but do not practice religion any more. However, I still very much believe in God and think when one is in a sacred space and one is offered a blessing by a holy man bearing a cross of an ancient king, the answer has to be yes.

the blessing

He touched the cross to my forehead. I was trying to remember Sam’s prostrations. I didn’t kiss it, but he touched heart and then my shoulders, in the shape of the cross. On the third time he touched my chin and tears came to my throat and eyes. I wanted to cry. I heard a voice, my voice, in my head and it said, “Your are always taken care of.” I held back the tears, even though I wanted them to gush out and take with them any fears that didn’t believe this statement. “You are always taken care of.”

How many times in my life had I not believed this to be true? When fear had taken over my decisions and I let it keep me behind the prison door of beliefs around “that’s too much” “I don’t want to hurt anyone” and “I can’t.”? Certainly for the majority of my life, until about 2005 when I started to believe that on the other side of new and different choices on my heart’s path, I would be taken care. That everything would be OK. And it was.

And in the past year, I had believed this more and more. That when I needed help, help appeared. That when I needed a new direction, that new direction appeared. I took the initial steps, I asked for the help, I asked for the new direction. And when I felt a pull or saw an opportunity, almost in response, I worked hard and took it, walked through the doorway. I didn’t see an ending, just a direction and all the while moving forward. I believed, I would be taken care of. That everything would be OK.

Here I was in Lalibela. I had seen a picture of this ancient site when doing freelance work for GeoEx last July. I had never thought much about visiting Ethiopia or Africa. But then, around the same time, I read an article from 1994 in Conde Nast Traveler by Pico Iyer about his visit to Lalibela. He described a sacred and beautiful place. I did more research and I felt that familiar pull, the one that starts in my heart and weaves itself into a knowing. I had to go there.

The “how?” answered itself over the next 10 months as did a new career direction. I was spending so much time on this blog and Meet Plan Go that I decided that it was time to work in the travel industry, where it could be my day job. The 10 hours a week freelance for GeoEx turned into 30 and they are now my major client. I get to inspire people to live their travel dreams on a daily basis. Working for GeoEx and with the team feels so natural and easy – like Lalibela and travel, I was always meant to be there. And with the job, comes travel and this trip happened and here I am in Lalibela. I am always taken care of.

me at Lalibela

“We are so lucky to have seen that cross. So many times they tell me ‘it’s here, it’s here’ and it’s not here. Today it is. You are so lucky.” Sam went on as we exited the church, “I still feel that happy feeling, even now. We are so lucky.” Yes, we are. And we came to be here at this time, on this day to receive that blessing.

*Full disclosure: My trip is a “familiarization trip” that I am taking on behalf of my employer GeoEx, a high-end, adventure travel company. I am on a customized tour and experiencing the country through hotels, food, and activities as our guests would. These views on the blog are my own.

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3 Responses to “Sacred Blessings at Lalibela, Ethiopia”

  1. May 21, 2013 at 2:24 am #

    So happy for you!

  2. Kayleen Hair
    May 28, 2013 at 4:25 am #

    Glad to see you there, I wish I would be there, maybe next holidays.

  3. Mike M.
    July 9, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    Great job Kristin in explaining this truly religious & historic place in a way that anyone could relate to. Enjoyed getting to know you in Addis while I was visiting.

    Thank You,


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