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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Underworld

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Whispering Hearth

The hearth has long been a place of power. We have already explored its position as a place of healing and protection. In many European cultures, it is also traditionally a place for communion with spirits, where offerings are left and knowledge from them can be gained. In Germany, the space between the back of the stove and the wall was called Hölle, “hell” (Lecouteux 70). It’s important to note that the words Hölle and hell originate not in Christianity but from a Proto-Germanic word meaning “a hidden place,” i.e. the underworld (Online Etymology Dictionary). People have long sought out the insight of the dead and other spirits regarding the future, and the hearth or stove was one common site for divination.

 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Dividing the Minoan World

We divide our world into all sorts of segments based on time and space: day and night; the four seasons; the ground, the air, and space. Organizing the world into understandable parts is a natural human inclination, and the Minoans did it, just like everyone else. So how did they divide their world?

I have a few ideas. The most obvious is the seasons. Crete lies in the sea just south of Greece and has a Mediterranean climate. That means that, instead of the spring-summer-autumn-winter cadence we're used to in most of North America and Europe, the year flows from the rainy season to the dry season and back again: only two major seasonal divisions. In Mediterranean climates, the dry season lasts from what we might call late spring, through summer, and into early autumn. On Crete, plant life turns crispy-brown and dry. All but the largest creeks dry up, and even the rivers diminish to a flow much smaller than their wet season. This is the dead time of year, the counterpart to winter in the northern temperate zone.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Secret Heart of Samhain

The god stands naked at the temple door.

Crowned with antler and autumn leaf, he leads us, also naked, out and down.

Into the Underworld. Into the cave. Into the belly of the Earth.

Darkness of darkness.

He kneels to her. He raises his flame.

It dies.

In darkness, we call out the names of the dead.

In darkness, we sing. Asking for life, we sing.

In darkness, the apple passes, and we eat. Life has a price.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Nergal is the next "graveyard" divinity that I am honoring.  I found his tales very interesting, especially that he was associated with Hercules.  Nergal was conceived in the underworld when his mother went to rescue her rapist from his punishment.  

b2ap3_thumbnail_Hatra_Nergal.gif

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Oh Hell

Oh, go to Heaven!”

(Witch Hazel [Mama Cass Elliot], Pufnstuf)

It is an altogether remarkable fact that the language of Christianity should so faithfully have preserved the name of the ancient Indo-European Underworld, and (just possibly) of its goddess.

Hell.

Both Old English hell and its Norse cognate hel derive from Common Germanic *haljô. This in turn comes from a verbal root meaning “cover, conceal.” (The same root gives us hall, hull, hold, helmet, and Valhalla.) Apparently Hell has been the “concealed [place]” for a long, long time: when Ulifilas translated the Bible into Gothic, he used the word halja to translate Greek Hades and Hebrew She'ol.

Like its Greek counterpart Hades, the Old Norse name does double duty, naming both the Underworld and its mistress, the goddess of death. Whether this was also the case among speakers of Old English, we do not know. It's certainly possible: the Old English noun is feminine in gender. It must be admitted, though, that the Hel of Norse literature has a pronouncedly “literary” feel to her; she strikes one as more a personification than as an actual personality.

So we can say for sure that the Hwicce, the Old English Tribe of Witches, knew of Hell as the Underworld. Whether they also knew of Hell as Lady of the Underworld we simply do not know.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Reclaiming Hell

Most of us grow up knowing about heaven and hell. Whatever our faith or place of birth, and by whatever names we might choose, the split of light and dark into above and below seems to be a fact of our heritage as human beings. It is reflected in myriad cultures ancient and modern, from indigenous peoples’ oral narratives, to the tales of Sumer and myths of Greece, to the Christian traditions where the realms of God and Devil, salvation and eternal torment, may haunt imaginations.  

And while this split is not inherently dangerous, we have been deluded for one reason or another (the Abrahamic faiths and colonialism are noteworthy for their influence) into equating the below and darkness with malevolence and the inimical—as in the Devil example just mentioned. This poses real challenges and hinders, I believe, our ability to fully honor the psycho-spiritual journey as well as the world in which we live.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Goddess Rising

One day the Goddess went away.

The Moon wanes away into darkness. The seed goes down into the soil. Summer descends into Winter.

Each Spring, we too descend. Into the Underworld we go. We seek Her, we find Her, and we bring Her back.

There was a time in history when it seemed that the Goddess had gone away.

So we descended into the Underworld. We sought Her, we found Her, and we brought Her back.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Chloe
    Chloe says #
    Very beautiful. As someone who reveres and adores Persephone, this speaks to my heart. Thank you!
  • tehomet
    tehomet says #
    Beautiful.

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