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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Underworld

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.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Minos the Moon God?

We call the people of ancient Crete Minoans thanks to the whim of the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, the man who excavated Knossos over a century ago. He knew the Hellenic Greek myth of King Minos of Crete, took it for historical fact, and named the civilization after the king: Minoan. The thing is, Minos is more likely a god than a historical king.

Of course, it’s possible that priests in ancient Crete took the name or title Minos when they took on certain governmental responsibilities. Some people call these men priest-kings, though I’m not sure the term is terribly accurate, since none of them ever ruled more than just a single Minoan city and its surrounding area; ancient Crete did not have a unified, island-wide government during Minoan times. And it’s probable that priestesses as well as priests took part in the governing of the temple complexes and the cities.

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  • Corvia Blackthorn
    Corvia Blackthorn says #
    Very interesting indeed, thank you!
  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    Very interesting!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Pentecost and the Underworld

Exactly three years after a Pentecost service helped me see that I was a Pagan, I descend into the underworld. I spent last weekend in ritual with a group of Witches, most of them oblivious to the fact that it was Pentecost in the Christian tradition. Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit fell upon the followers of Jesus, tongues of fire upon their heads. They were filled with courage and started preaching, they spoke in languages they didn’t know, sang in the tongues of angels, and prophesied. Pentecost is usually seen as the birthday of the Christian church.

 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Two Worlds of the Minoans

For us modern folks, it can be hard to understand the worldview of ancient people. They didn't know about outer space or the heliocentric view of the solar system, but they did their best to understand the world given the information they had at hand. In fact, the pre-Indo-European inhabitants of Europe didn't even think of the sky as a separate realm the way Indo-European cultures did. So what does that mean in terms of the way the Minoans viewed the cosmos?

You're probably familiar with the three-worlds cosmos that many pre-Christian Indo-European cultures had. The Norse version is especially popular, given that J.R.R. Tolkien adapted it for his own imaginary world. In the three-worlds view, the 'top' or upper world is the sky; the middle realm is the Earth and the area right above it where people and animals live; and the lower realm is beneath the Earth - the Underworld.

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  • Bruno
    Bruno says #
    I´m pretty sure that it is comparable. Like in egyptian mythology, symbols are not what they seem to be...
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    For more information about the timing of Minoan civilization versus Greek civilization (and other cultures worldwide) please see t
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    The worldview to which I am referring predates the Orphics by a good millennium (the Minoans flourished ca 2500-1450 BCE) and is n
  • Bruno
    Bruno says #
    "The upper half of the sphere (...) is the daylight world we all share" This is not quite correct. Like in the Allegory of the Cav

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
The Wisdom of the Underworld

Crackling leaves are burning
Transformed from life to death
The crow calls out relentlessly
To those unseen and life withers
In the blasting of its issue.

The Crone’s outstretched hand
Pulls me tightly to her breast
The air chills at her touch
Long icy fingers tapping out
The heart beat of life’s pulse within.

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