I am never sure whether to put my long-standing beliefs down to religious fervor or old-world superstition, both beliefs systems having an equal and opposite pull upon my behavior. Religious fervor is considerably easier to both understand and explain, supernatural beliefs are far harder to delineate as they tend to be woven into the very fabric of upbringing education and environmental factors. My religion no doubt stems from ritual, practice that like it or not seeps into the pores of the skin over hours, days, weeks and years of repetition, whether performed singularly and in concert with all whom were inclined to influence or hold sway over me as a developing individual. Supernatural transmission is for more subtle, often barely noticeable, yet unquestionably far more pervasive. Once that vague shape in the shadows in perceived and given nomenclature it exists forever within the mind’s eye. Traditional religions are inclined to emphasize the good, the positive, enlightenment as opposed to ignorance, presenting a personable and people-centric view on life, the universe and everything. The supernatural is less clearly delineated, often presenting existence exactly as it appears, chaotic, threatening and without easily understood avenues to follow. Religion appeals to humanities veneer of intellect, the supernatural to our underlying barbarianism. My universe combines both belief systems in a strange and highly personal filigree, as complex as finest Brussels lace, that allows for both to prosper independently yet act as codependent hosts and parasites.
Chasms of any enormity have ever fascinated me, much as they have the whole of humanity, recalling as they do the possibility of the existence of the Grecian underworld or indeed the generally imagined location of the Christian hell. Slovenia was never a region of particular wealth, but having a wonderfully conducive climate in both spring summer for the casual visitor and autumn winter for the more intrepid sporting type that ethnic enclave within the confederation of the Yugoslavians became quite the tourist trap, particularly and ironically for the Germanic peoples who had so recently overrun the country with quite terrible consequences for the large long settled Romany population. Being very much a manufactured assemblage the people’s socialist government under the authoritarian direction of Marshal Tito took great strides to highlight the natural wonders in each individual component as a way to bolster local pride and thereby national unity. The Postojna cave complex was just such an example, others being the wondrous white walled city of Dubrovnik and the arched bridge in Mostar. At over fourteen miles long the cave system is amongst the largest in Europe, contains several caverns large enough to accommodate football fields and stalactite and stalagmite enough to satisfy any aficionado of speleology.
I last lived in the Slovenian region some forty years ago, long before the unsurprising explosive events of the early nineties following Tito’s unwelcome demise. Postojna was ever a place of pilgrimage for me, somewhere that however many times visited would always inspire awe and a modicum of disquiet.
Imagine standing bound and blindfold on a narrow ledge upon above a seemingly endless drop. Slowly edge forward till the tips of your toes hang free of any support. Now you might conceptualize the effect Postojna can instill in the empathic.