Usually we talk about paranormal events taking place in the other side of the world, or generally in remote and inaccessible areas. But sometimes the truly mysterious lies quite near. Literally, it’s just around the corner.
The pavements of Athens –not only of central well-lit and crowded avenues but also of small remote alleys in distant neighborhoods as well- are full of some strange metallic lids. They were existing for many decades but they remained unnoticed -at least by the broad public. In the 1990s this changed after researcher George Balanos made a reference to them in his book The Shadow of Cthulhu and in a relative TV documentary. These lids are covering lots of things; tubes of the municipal water system, inputs for fuelling the central heating system of buildings, shafts of telecommunication nodes or similar utilities. These kinds of metallic covers exist in all the cities in the world. But, as far as we are concerned, the Athens lids have a strange and unique feature.
Many of them have strange and obviously occult symbols upon them. The main symbol is the well-known five-pointed star, in extremely numerous variations. There are five pointed stars within a circle (pentacles), pentacles with a circle inside them, five-pointed stars with the letter “A” inside, five-pointed stars inside a crescent moon, with a yin-yang symbol in their center, with four yin-yangs in the corners of the lid, with dots or rays around them, pentacles that are genuine pentagrams, single or double, small-sized pentacles, large-sized pentacles etc.
Besides the pentacles variations, there are others, less numerous lids bearing other occult symbols like six-pointed stars, solar symbols (a circle with a smaller circle inside etc) and other designs. There are also lids exactly like the pentacle bearing ones, but with the area where the symbol should be, obviously erased.
The lids bearing these occult symbols are different from the usual metallic covers used by municipal or national public service authorities. The latter are always bearing a stamp with the initials of the authority (e.g. OTE for the telecommunication lids, EEY/EYDAP, for the water etc) plus usually a date of placing or even the name and the phone of the manufacturer. But this is not the case for the strange lids –although sometimes they cover normal utilities networks.
Sometimes these lids cover nothing at all. There is just plain dirt under the metallic cover…
The frequency of the lids is higher in certain roads and/or neighborhoods. Unfortunately, and in spite of years of field investigation, there seems no evident pattern in their distribution. The only certain fact is that they seem to be plentiful in older neighborhoods and rare in the new ones that sprang the last decades, mainly in the suburbs north of Athens.
To make the story more complex, such lids do not exist in Athens roads only. Thessaloniki, the second most populous Greek city, has its own large population of pentacle-bearing lids. The lids are present also in many other cities and towns. Most puzzlingly, there are inappropriately large numbers of these mysterious metallic covers in some small Greek islands –with populations less than 1,000 huddled in just two or three main villages!
The lids seem to be quit old. Possibly they were laid down before WW 2 or even further in the past. Although they are solid and durable, the traces upon them demonstrate that many years have passed since they were initially placed.
Public authorities seem to be unaware or indifferent of their existence. In autumn 2000, after the publication of one article written by me in the large-circulation weekly magazine Tachydromos (Postman) EYDAP, the national public authority responsible for the maintenance of the water networks showed some interest –via its chairman- and declared that they had never used any such metal covers (even though the pentacle bearing lids were sometimes covering installations of EYDAP).
Many questions arise. Who designed these lids and for what purpose? Which pattern lies behind their distribution and arrangement? Why the pattern of the pentacle and its variations was chosen?
These questions remain unanswered. There is an arduous investigation in progress. When it will be finished, we hope that we would have something more concrete in our hands. However, until this moment comes, we can put forward some thoughts on the whole issue based on circumstantial evidence.
First of all, the mysterious symbols on the lids are of undoubtedly magical nature. Whoever designed them he or she surely must have had a profound knowledge of occult symbolism and/or other things. The possibility of coincidence is ruled out by the sheer number of lids all around Greece and the numerous variations that are always related to the main pattern: the five pointed star.
But why magical symbols in the Greek roads? For what purpose? What do they indicate or point out?
The five-pointed star (and all of its variations on the lids) is a typical protective symbol, not only in the lore of Western magic but in other dogmas as well. Pentacles and pentagrams are among the most frequently used of magical symbols and find their way into a wide variety of different occult and esoteric sources –from the Chaldaic Oracles to John Dee and from the Egyptian ancient murals to the notorious Aleister Crowley.
The magical quality of the pentacle/ pentagram represents the “spiritual form” of the human figure. Even today, fishermen in the Mediterranean (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Malta and elsewhere) paint elaborate five-pointed stars on their boats as protective symbols. The practice is quite widespread all over the entire area. (Photos taken from Magical Symbols, by Frederick Goodman, 1989).
The particular symbol can be found even on an ancient Greek vase (fifth century BC) in the Archeological Museum of Athens. One of the shields of the warriors depicted bears the clear image of the pentagram inside a circle, clearly intended as an amuletic device. Presumably the Greeks had taken the symbol from the ancient Egyptians while the fishermen who established the Mediterranean tradition of boat-symbols took the five-pointed star from the warrior’s shield devices.(Photo taken from Magical Symbols, by Frederick Goodman, 1989).
We can also remember that the symbol for the Pythagoreans was a five-pointed star. Pythagorean teachings were heavily influenced from Egyptian ones and Pythagoras himself was an Egyptian mysteries initiate.
Returning to the main enigma, the mapping of the lids distribution all around Athens and other cities and towns would have been useful. Unfortunately there are certain hurdles for that.
First of all, the lids are so numerous that their mapping over a wide area cannot yield any useful conclusions concerning the hidden pattern. Secondly, there are many technical difficulties in the classification of the variations of the lid designs; there are literally dozens or even hundreds of variations of the basic symbol or of the combinations of symbols. Thirdly, unbelievable as it seems, the positions of the lids are changing sometimes. Lids that were well-known to exist in a certain road are inexplicably replaced with other “normal” ones; in some rare cases, some lids are completely vanished among with their shafts…
Research work that has been done in small areas (like island towns for example) has shown that there is a concentration of the lids in certain places –or that the lids are “strategically placed” into or around some areas with special paranormal or occult interest.
Are the lids a kind of magical sigil placed intentionally, in the context of some greater “modus operandi”? Do the lids define certain “paths” interconnecting loci not necessarily in our plane of reality? In this case, is an “intradimensional” mapping possible?
Data concerning the weird case of the Greek lids marked by magical symbols are far from conclusive –and keep on changing in a strange kaleidoscope picture which becomes more and more nebulous as the years pass. To make things worse, the publicity that was given to the subject in some circles has resulted to the destruction of genuine evidence and plenty of disinformation dissipated by simple-minded or malevolent “investigators” or just pranksters and crooks.
We just hope that we will finally shed some light in one of the most persistent urban mysteries of modern Greece.