Twelfth House:
The Journey of an Artist

“I am the center of my world;
there is a flame of light within me...”

By Katerina Georgiou

In Eleni Traganas’ debut novel, “Twelfth House,” this mantra lingers in the mind of protagonist Lara Sarrafi. A Greek-American concert pianist, she has relocated to Greece to perform and teach music only to find her good intentions thwarted by an unholy cast of characters.

Though the novel is a work of fiction, it isn’t hard to imagine this mantra being uttered by the author herself. Like Lara, Traganas discovered she was blessed with a musical gift around the age of three when she sat in front of the piano and discovered she could play.

For the child prodigy, the connection to a higher awareness is self-evident. And so it was with Traganas, who recalls looking out of her crib and being mesmerized by the warm light of the iconostasis, illuminating her bedroom with a distinct reddish glow.

“I remember staring at the light for hours on end and just being fascinated by it,” she said. “I would feel it expanding—just drawing me in.”

It was a pull so strong that just before entering New York’s legendary School of Performing Arts at the age of thirteen, she had her piano positioned directly beneath the beaming stand of icons. Later, as a student at Juilliard, she spent countless hours with her head bowed in reverent study. Her fingers gliding along the black and white keys, as she played in a “trance-like” state—filling the walls of her modest home with the ethereal music of another era.

Born in New York City to Greek immigrant parents, Traganas and her elder brother learned to speak Greek before English, and symbols of their Orthodox heritage decorated their home. But of all the reminders of her Faith, it was the ever-present light of the iconostasis that beckoned her with its luminous aura—anchoring her thoughts and igniting her heart.

“I feel that throughout my life I have been guided by that light—that it has illuminated me internally,” she said.

In Traganas’ case the inner light blazes brightly. She’s not only an accomplished pianist and composer, but an exhibited painter, published poet, and as of a few months ago, a novelist.

Set in Greece, “Twelfth House” tells the story of a young musician’s quest for self-awareness. The unseen and hidden forces of life are at the heart of the novel—a point emphasized by the title—an astrological reference that symbolizes the subconscious mind, karma and secret enemies. All of which are deftly woven into the plot.

“In Greece, you experience the full gamut of emotions—comedy, tragedy, serenity, hysteria,” said Traganas. “It’s enough to fill your life with memories that are going to be hard to forget.”

For Traganas, surrendering to the flow of inspiration is more than a way of life; it’s an obligation. Once she picked up her pen, she felt compelled to follow the muse without ever questioning where it was taking her. Her process was simple: observe, feel and write.

“There are instances when you know that there is no logical way to explain certain imagery that you had internally,” she says. “It leaps out at you and is so smell the fragrances, you see the colors—they’re so vibrant; the emotions so overpowering. You wonder: Where did this come from?”

In the novel, Lara explores similar metaphysical questions. Unusual dreams, challenging associations and not so random encounters all have her asking: Who am I? And why am I here?

What makes Lara so intriguing is that she struggles to cultivate the one quality common to all truth-seekers: a pure, child-like heart. But, in the material world, that’s also her greatest vulnerability. As a result, she’s repeatedly confronted with the dark side of humanity—jealous colleagues, spiteful neighbors, a dangerous landlord—until she starts to see the light behind the shadowy figures.

“Forgive everyone and shut your eyes to their petty transgressions,” Lara reminds herself. “Unfasten yourself from their grip. Rise above them all.”

But Lara’s story is most fascinating when she faces the personal demons that stand in the way of her enlightenment: judgments, criticism, pride.

Fortunately, the truism, “to whom much is given, much is expected,” isn’t lost on our heroine. Guided along by a well-developed sense of responsibility to a higher source, she strives to project divine love through music, despite the disharmonious individuals surrounding her.

Recognizing her musical ability as a God-given gift, her life is a constant struggle between the ego and her inner divinity. This inner battle is best illustrated in a poignant scene set in St. Basil’s church. Lara prays earnestly for a miracle to manifest but her inner voice interjects to tell her what she already knows: “only the humble were chosen.” A sentiment Traganas feels personally as evidenced by her dedication at the beginning of the book—echoing the motto of composer J.S. Bach, who signed all his work with the initials: SDG- -"Soli Deo Gloria"— "to God alone be the glory."

In many respects, the novel is more than a sweeping literary debut. It’s an esoteric study about life and the role of creative expression in discovering our higher purpose. Despite its intimidating reputation, a twelfth house journey promises great rewards—though its true gifts are reaped internally. As the veils of illusion drop, what was hidden is now exposed, including once “secret enemies” who when viewed through the lens of empathy and intuition are more clearly seen as teachers. And for Lara the path of inward evolution comes into focus: it is paved through forgiveness.

“It was as if a voice redounded from deep within its immense expanse like the burning candle flame of her iconostasis,” she said. “This is the only truth.”

To purchase “Twelfth House” and to see a list of upcoming book signings and concert performances by Ms. Traganas, please visit her website:


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