Neil Agius entered the world record books with his jaw-dropping 52-hour swim from Limosa to Gozo and the Olympian athlete has now revealed a spiritual dimension that helped him reach this feat.
Interviewed on Jon Mallia’s podcast Il-Podcast ta’ Jon, Agius said he feels a deep connection to Iemanjá, a Brazilian spirit of the sea. In fact, prior to his record-breaking swim, he and fiancée Lara Vella gave offerings to the spirit, including seashells and hapé, a traditional shamanic medicine.
“It was to show our appreciation of her so that she will keep me safe while I’m swimming,” he said. “Iemanjá is from the South American tradition, there are many spirits all around her, and I connect with her a lot while meditating and swimming.”
Agius said he feels the spirit channels him messages to keep himself strong while swimming.
“Before my Sicily-Malta swim last year, Iemanjá told me to use the sun as a source of energy and said it will bounce right back off to the bottom of the sea and back into my heart and give me energy.”
“Before the [Limosa-Gozo] swim, she told me to use the moon – she said the moonlight won’t go to the bottom of the sea but it will go directly into me. So when the moon was up I made sure the boat which accompanied me didn’t cover the line from me to the moon. You feel it empowering you – all the light and energy going right through you.”
Agius even credits Iemanjá for the extremely vivid hallucinations he saw under the sea while swimming this time around.
“I started seeing a soft toy ball with polka dots on it, but then it had a body of a fish and the wings of a parrot. There were so many of them everywhere and I was really concentrating to try and see them.”
“I saw them at the bottom of the sea; it wasn’t really the bottom but I thought I saw sand and these fish. After really concentrating, I thought that those aren’t really fish, those are people.”
“They had helmets on as aqualungs and it was a whole community, like Atlantis underneath me. There were people walking, holding hands, lying down on sunbeds, by a bar and waving to me.”
“The people on sun-beds covered themselves with sand when I approached them and I saw their eyes blinking through the sand like they were hiding from me.”
“I definitely think I passed the test of the spirit of the ocean – being in the sea so much, my deep connection with Iemanjá let me see what there really is.”
Agius also confirmed he visited a shaman, who unsurprisingly told him that the blue whale is his spirit animal and that it was Lara who introduced him to the world of spirituality.
“Lara was undergoing spirituality for a while, I saw her meditating and practicing certain things and let her be. Then I started sitting next to her and getting closer to her, with her guiding me through it each time.”
“It became our thing and our time for ourselves. Now it’s a bit difficult but we like to find a few times a week to meditate and then talk about our week and open up.”
Neil and Lara recently featured on Lovin Malta’s show Lovin Daily and you can follow the interview below.
Neil Agius also touched upon his connection with the South American ocean spirit in ‘The Long Swim Home’, a Lovin Malta documentary carried out after his Sicily-Malta swim last year.
Cover photo: Left: A statue of Iemanjá (Photo: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo, Flickr), Right: Neil Agius on Jon Mallia’s podcast
Do you practice this kind of spirituality?