‘the archæology of faith’

Daimon Xanthópoulos started his career as a freelance photojournalist and documentary maker. After working on news events like the tsunami on Aceh, earthquakes in Kashmir Pakistan, the war in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Afghanistan and Sudan he started to focus on long term documentary projects. His work is being published by many prominent magazines, newspapers and UN organisations. The documentaries on the human impact of the financial crisis in Detroit, the devastating war in Darfur and the secret societies of West-Africa have received a number of international awards. The last years he works mostly on the European continent for his most recent project Archeology of Faith.

“With this project I photograph the many historic places that are known from old beliefs, mythologies and sagas” explains Daimon. “These sacred places in nature are in many ways transferred or embedded into customs or our current religions, our cultural celebrations and rituals. I photograph these places after extensive research in old books and by talking to the communities who still use these places on specific lunar dates. I specially try to capture the unique atmosphere, visual referance to something spiritual and the experience found in these places with my LUMIX cameras. My aim is to create works that can translate the historic story of these places and most of all the feeling from these ancient beliefs translated into abstract images that I find during my search. Many of us don’t have the time to visit these places and we forget their importance. It is important to experience the sacredness of it, specially as they are within our own backyard. Capturing these places, it’s connected people and the ceremonies full of rituals gives me the opportunity to find unique moments that are like abstract elements in these landscapes but show a intriguing visual world between believe and reality. A visual world that elics in the mind and that seems closer to our daily life than we realise”.

Works from this project will be exhibited from February 9th till March 21st 2018
Noorderlicht / Huis van de Fotografie/ Akerkhof 12 / NL – 9711 JB Groningen

LUMIX GH5 with Leica 25mm f/1.4 shot at ISO 1600 1/25 sec f/1.4

River Tempe, known from the river God Piniós in the river valley of Tempe. The river with it’s holy cave and sacred waters are still visited by thousands people a year. Ancient myths are rooted in this river valley of Tempe. Poseidon, the earth shaker, would have split this gorge with it’s trident in order to provide the river God Piniós with a passage to the sea, says the Greek historian Herodotus. Another god, Apollon, would have purified himself in the river water after he killed the monster Python in Delphi. Here he caught sight of nymph Daphne, the beautiful daughter of the River God of the Piniós, and immediately fell madly in love with her. On the run for Apollon’s advances she changed into a laurel tree with the help of her father. Since then, this tree was considered sacred to Apollon, and regular delegates from Delphi came here to collect laurel branches for the sanctuary of Apollon.

LUMIX GX8 with Leica DG summilux 12mm f/1.4 shot at ISO 2000 1/100 sec f/1.4

Sparkels from a Walpurgis witches fire fly up in the sky and take the form of a dancing witch. The night of Walpurgis is known as the night of the witches and still celebrated in Germany and many other northern European countries with a fire ritual and other ceremonies. On Walpurgis night the modern witches and related pagan covens or groups perform rituals around big bonfires, hidden in dark forests and on mountain tops. The 17th-century German tradition of a meeting of sorcerers and witches on Walpurgis is influenced by the descriptions of Witches’ Sabbaths in 15th- and 16th-century literature. 

UMIX GX80 with LUMIX G Vario PZ 45-175mm f/4.0-f/5.6 shot at ISO 200 1/400 sec f/5.6

The Brocken, inside the Harz mountains, has always played a role in legends and has been connected with witches and devils. There are many witches-circles in the surrounding woods, devils stones and many special sites connected to witchcraft and ceremonies. The mountainous area is famous through history as a witches gathering-places and has many name references like the 100 km long Harz Witches’ Path, the “Bad Harzburg Devil’s Path”, the Teufelskanzel (Devil’s Pulpit) and the Hexenaltar (Witches’ Altar) among many less known locations. The witches mountain is also named in Gothe’s Faust. Then there is the Brocken spectre, a common phenomenon on this misty mountain, where a shadow casts upon fog and creates a series of optical effects

LUMIX GH4r with Leica DG summilux 12mm f/1.4 shot at ISO 200 60 sec f/1.4

In Greek mythology Mytikas was the home of the Twelve Olympian gods of the ancient Greek world. It is the setting of many Greek mythical stories. The Twelve Olympian gods lived in the gorges, where there were also their palaces. Pantheon (today summit Mytikas) was their meeting place and theater of their stormy discussions. The Throne of Zeus (today summit Stefani) hosted solely him, the leader of the gods. From there he unleashed his thunderbolts, expressing his godly wrath. On the picture you see the throne of Zeus today known as the Stefani and it’s highest peak is Mytikas.

LUMIX GX8 with LUMIX G Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 shot at ISO 2500 1.3 sec f/2.8

A contemporary druid full-moon ceremony at the Hill of Tara. The group comes together each full moon and performs a ‘Ritual of Protection’ on the hill itself, the continuation of the druid traditions. During this ritual based around a fire they call the spirits from all wind directions to join their circle. Other Celtic ceremonies are also taking place at the Hill of Tara  like the Summer Solstice, Samhain and Imbolc. 

LUMIX GX80 with Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 shot at ISO 200 1/1600 sec f/1.4

Modern witches meet in the German forests like in the Hartz mountain,  but also around Berlin. In these forest you find devils stones, hexentreppe (witches stairs) and witches dance circles. These circles are meeting points for the Witches’ Sabbath. A Sabbat is a meeting of those who practice witchcraft and other rites. They talk, eat and dance combined with bonfire and rituals. Witchcraft plays an important role in many European stories and beliefs. The witches covens vary in size and region but the numbers of followers are rising, specially amongst younger people.

LUMIX GH4 with Leica DG Noctricon 42.5mm f/1.2 shot at ISO 640 0.5 sec f/1.4

A nighttime sky formation at full moon near the historical place of the Dionysian Mysteries. The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece which used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques (like dance and music) to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state. By its nature as a mystery religion reserved for the initiated, many aspects of the Dionysian cult remain unknown and are lost or remain hidden.

Daimon Xanthópoulos has dedicated himself to documenting the stories he believes need to be told. Photography for him is a unique way to communicate allowing him to focus on social issues, injustice and human rights, and the plight of people, especially children, in the aftermath of conflict.