The Earth's Dark Underbelly
The Archetypal Underworld and the Psychogeography of Descent
As Above, So Below.
from The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus 1
‘Let me take you down, 'cos I'm going’ ....’
A surprisingly large number of people in the United States of America believe in the literal existence of Hell - 60% according to a Gallup Poll taken in the 1990's,rising to 69% in the most recent poll (May 2007). Of these, only 6% believed in a 2004 Poll that they were likely to go there, while 77% thought they had a good or excellent chance of going to Heaven. If they are right there’s still plenty of room below and Heaven will soon be bursting at the seams!2. Those of a scientific/materialist persuasion can put the persistence of these beliefs down to childish superstition and bewail the fact that such primitive ideas still hold sway in the 21st century. Or if we are of a spiritual bent, but drawn to less fundamentalist versions of spirituality, we can comfort ourselves with the notion that we have developed a more evolved cosmology that doesn't require a concept of Hell to understand our place in the universe.3 Either way, we can avoid looking down, wondering about the pull such beliefs exert on us, about the deep soul need people seem to have to sense themselves as existing in a mythological universe. But the findings of the Gallup Poll suggest that there is a psycho mythological need for a ' down there', that people want to locate themselves in relation to, even if the presence of such a location is negative. As we shall see, this need has a long history of expression, dating back to the dawn of humankind: the traditional Christian myth of Hell as a place of punishment and demonic persecution being a much later and one-sided development of an imagery that may be fundamental to the structure of consciousness.
The etymological roots of the English word 'Hell' - which help convey its present meaning - can be found in heel (as in that part of the foot hidden from above),4 hill, hole, whole, heal, hall, hull (as of a nut), hollow, holt (as in a low hill covered by trees), and hold (as in a ship ). They are all rooted in the Anglo-Saxon 'helan': to cover or hide.5 In The Dream and the Underworld,6 James Hillman points out that the Latin 'cella' (subterranean storeroom) is etymologically related to the old Irish 'cuile' (cellar) and 'cel' (death), which in turn relate to our word 'Hell'. The 'cel' is also present in the words celestial and ceiling, adding an intriguing heavenly dimension to a mythological territory otherwise associated with a downwards direction. Hidden within this verbal landscape we have here a whole imaginary world: that of a hidden place beneath the earth, connected with death which is a storehouse as well as a realm of wholeness and healing. But it is also related to the heavenly sphere. A holy hole! It is a realm resonant with 'imprisonment' (as in our word 'cell') as well as with 'secrets' (as in word ('occult'). It is worth noting that Hel or Hela, daughter of the Trickster Loki - a god whose eventual fate was imprisonment - was the Norse goddess of the Underworld, the equivalent of the Greek Persephone, the Sumerian Ereshkigal and the Black Madonna of the Christian tradition. 7 Words become keys that can unlock mysteries and point to forgotten realms of correspondence.
In traditions that predate the arrival of Christianity, this forgotten and devalued realm was known as the Underworld, abode of the ancestors and the spirits of the dead, and its mythological roots appear to travel back deeply into the mists of time. In a remarkable book, The Strong Eye of Shamanism, 8 Robert Ryan convincingly argues for the existence of initiatory rituals of descent involving early peoples' caves such as those in Lascaux, Les Trois Freres and Pech-Merle in France and the startlingly beautiful paintings that still survive there. Ryan suggests that the caves were in essence the first temples,9 which were simultaneously incubation chambers, places where initiates could experience visions in trance and undergo initiatory death and rebirth in the sacred body of the earth goddess. Alain Danielou, in a comment that links the imagery of descent into Hell with what we are referring to here, writes: "The myth of the descent into Hell also evokes a return
o the womb of Mother Earth”.10 Here womb and tomb are conceived of as being the same place. Sometimes the artist/shamans would literally have to put life and limb on the line, as there are paintings that could only have been completed at great personal risk. At the very least, the journey into the heart of the cave was arduous, involving squeezing through a narrow passage or opening. The caves are places that evoke altered states of consciousness in those who entered (an experience of what we would call ego death in psychological language) and thus moved the initiates closer to the sacred. We can imagine that they would have emerged cleansed, rejuvenated and reborn.
That this universal and archetypal journey of descent is largely hidden, due to ignorance as well as its own essential nature, does not mean it will disappear altogether. A theme common in literature and Jungian psychologyll alike, many references are made to it in myth and in fairy tale or in dreams and fantasies of modem people. Among some of the heroes and heroines, goddesses and gods most notably connected with the journey to the Underworld are Persephone, Inanna, Hermes, Dionysus, Orpheus, Odysseus, Aeneas, Gilgamesh, Hercules and Jesus. In people's dreams, as in fairy stories, the archetype shows up in images of passing beneath the earth, sea, lakes, wells or ponds. 12 Sometimes there is fire down there, sometimes ice,13 sometimes mists and shadows or sometimes even another world that seems to mirror this one. Cellars, basements, caves and crypts, or images of being swallowed by monsters, dragons or fierce beasts feature prominently, as do earthquakes or the collapse of buildings, images of dismemberment and death or dark alleys where unsavoury characters lurk. Sometimes beings or people who live beneath the earth are encountered, like the fairy folk of old, who were linked with the mounds and barrows (chambered tombs) of ancient Europe.14 As we shall see, it can be argued that the nightly process of dreaming is a trip we all take to the 'land below', willingly or not. From this perspective, 'psyche' is Underworld.15 Despite the persistence of this imagery and theme, modern Western culture doesn't hold with the notion of an Underworld anymore - at least not consciously. The tradition persists largely in the Christian imagination of Hell, and has also found a revival in followers of neo-pagan spirituality, though this can hardly be claimed to be a
mainstream cultural phenomenon. When the sacred is acknowledged in the West, it is more often associated with a movement upwards into the airy, heavenly realms 'above'. Our culture is obsessed with stories about angels and space aliens, with a fixation on spiritual practices which help us rise above our earthly limitations and purify our base concerns. Focus on the light, we are encouraged, and reject the dark, the depths.16Indeed, it can be argued that in our driven approach to life, in our restless search for novel highs or medications to fix our boredom and emotional lows, or in our hunt for the latest self-help facelift, we are primarily an 'ascensionist' culture. Perhaps, paradoxically, this is precisely why the stubborn belief in a 'down there' persists, since heaven and hell are inextricably linked archetypally and are indissoluble mirror images of each other, the Upperworld and Underworld of ancient shamanic tradition. 17 Or is it, to quote Hillman, that "The upward-downward polarity as conceptualised in the matter-spirit opposition seems to be an archetypal schema basic to the psyche"? In our time, earth is no longer approached as a sacred being and her psychic depths, her dark underbelly, 18 have long since been demonised and have come to represent all that is despised and rejected.
This rejection of the hidden, invisible realm beneath our feet can, among other ways, be traced back to a split that occurred many years ago between the gods and goddesses of the sky and earth. We can see this in the Greek myth of the battle between the Titans led by Cronus (Saturn) and the Olympians led by his son Zeus (Jupiter), after which the former were banished and imprisoned in the realm of Tartaros (the lower depths) - that part of the Greek Underworld (Hades) that was reserved for punishment. After this, Zeus reigned supreme and is depicted mainly as a god of the sky (although his sexual exploits with humans, often disguising himself in animal forms in order to achieve them, keep him in touch with the earthly dimension). 19 The myth of the Olympians has sometimes been interpreted, from a historical perspective, as the story of the struggle between the religion of the earth goddess and the followers of Indo-European sky-god cults. In the Norse pantheon, the same battle is depicted in the story of the struggle between the Aesir and the Vanir.20 From an entirely different perspective, we could imagine it describing the conflict between the ancient structures of the brain and the more recently developed cerebral ones.
Fascinatingly, when you begin to look at all of this a little closer and delve beneath the surface of the Greek stories, you discover that the figure of Zeus and the figure of Hades, his brother and the Greek god of the Underworld (to confuse us god and place carry the same name meaning 'unseen' or 'invisible'), were originally one person, or two aspects of one god. Hades is sometimes referred to as 'Zeus Cthonios' (Zeus of the depths), just as Zeus has an aspect known as 'Zeus Sabazius'. Sabazius is a barley god who appears to be an early version of the Greek god Dionysus and the Roman god Bacchus, and is described by Clement of Alexandria as being an orgiastic Zeus in the form of a serpent. Dionysus is openly acknowledged as being the same figure as Hades, in a more youthful aspect, both of whom were central players in the Mysteries celebrated at Eleusis in Greece for over two thousand years.21
What little we know of the Eleusian Mysteries appear too to have involved an initiatory immersion in the mysteries of the dark, perhaps involving a sacred, hallucinogenic potion,22 during which the initiates confronted annihilation in the form of Persephone,23 the dark lady of the Underworld, and thereafter so we are told, lost their fear of death. The connection with Zeus is confirmed in an early Orphic version of the myth, in which Persephone is seduced by her father Zeus, in his subterranean aspect in the form of a snake. The later myth depicts Hades as the abductor and rapist. Early portrayals of Persephone display her as a snake goddess. More on snakes later.
One of the few things we do know about the initiatory details of these Mysteries is that at the climax of their experience, the initiates were granted a vision of the light, associated with the light of the sun.24 I mention this because of an old tradition that refers to the light born in darkness, the initiatory descent as paradoxically a source of illumination and healing. R. J. Stewart refers to this tradition and the teaching that there is light in the darkness below, that if you go far enough into the depths you emerge among the stars.25 Or put another way, the stars are within the earth. He says that this theme can be found preserved in folktales, songs and ballads. Robert Ryan, in referring to the cave journey, writes that "the dark cave is paradoxically a source of illumination because it opens inwardly people's innate relationship with the source of their own experience and of the cosmos." He also mentions that this is reflected in the cave's luminescence and quotes Mircea Eliade: "Its [the cave's] celestial character is clearly emphasised by the luminosity of the initiation cave ... the cave is bright because it is covered with quartz crystals, that is, it ultimately partakes of the mystical nature of the sky.”26
In his electrifying book In the Dark Places of Wisdom,27 Peter Kingsley writes of the Greek god Apollo, lord of illumination, the bright and golden god of the sun, from a different angle to the one we're accustomed to.28 According to Kingsley, there are ancient traditions that connect Apollo with caves, dark places and initiatory incubations. He claims Apollo was always associated with darkness and night, with the Underworld and death.
This tradition, which links the light of the sun with the Underworld, springs in part from the notion that in its daily passage through the sky (from the vantage point of Earth) the sun appears to pass beneath the earth at sunset, only to be born anew at the dawning of the day. In imagery portrayed in other mythologies, the sun is carried through the Underworld on a barge or ship, just as the soul travels in a boat to reach the Underworld. We may remember here that the word 'helan' is the etymological root of the word 'hold' - as of a ship. A painting on the ceiling of King Rameses VI's (circa 1130BC) tomb shows the night voyage of the sun through the Underworld29 as the journey of the ram-headed sun god Ra standing in a long snake boat. According to this myth, the sun god had to battle with his arch-enemy, the snake Apep, throughout the night. In the last hours he enters the great snake- - from which he emerges rejuvenated and reborn at dawn. The same tradition can be discerned in the sol invictus (unconquered sun) of Mithraism, the sol niger (black sun) of the alchemists and the midnight sun of the Mysteries. In esoteric tantrism, a correspondence is drawn between midnight and the ‘condition of absolute repose in a state of beatitude’. Rene Guenon comments that this is because the spiritual sun is at its zenith at midnight, while the material sun is at its nadir. Initiation into the Mysteries was linked to the midnight sun. 30
From the perspective of this dark light or black sun, Apollo's Underworld connection can be understood as representing the spilt-off part of the archetype: the ' death/rebirth' aspect of a god who has come to be identified purely with his heroic, light-bringing, rational consciousness-affirming aspect, made, we might say, in the image of ego. But as the old song says: ' you can't have one without the other, or as Jung expressed it, the archetypes contain their own opposites. And so, at the Anatolian town of Hieropolis we are told, Apollo's temple was right above the cave believed to lead down to the Underworld.
Apollo's temples, like the one at Delphi31, were places of divination and healing, where postulants would go for the answer to questions from the source of Wisdom herself, the depths beneath. The priestess with the sacred snakes known as the Pythoness, after the serpent Python, was representative of these depths where Apollo reportedly killed the snake . In trance, the Pythoness would respond to questions brought to her, her oracle with its omphalos (navel stone) was considered to be the navel of the world.32 Incubatory temples named after Apollo's son Asclepius, the god of healing, were sanctuaries where people would go for healing which in this case occurred through the medium of sleep and dreams. Those seeking regeneration would lie in the darkness awaiting the presence of the god who would arrive in their dream taking the form of a snake33 if healing occurred. In fact, there seems to be a universal association of the journey into the Underworld involving an encounter with snakes.34 Chevalier and Gheerbrant write of the serpent who "is one of the most important archetypes of the human soul, 35 that he is an 'old god', "the first god to be found at the start of all cosmogenesis, before religions of the spirit dethroned him. He created life and sustained it. On a human level he is the dual symbol of soul and libido." In the Christian tradition, the angel called Lucifer, meaning ' light-bearer', becomes 'that old serpent' Satan, who is ' cast out into the earth' by God and banished from the throne of heaven into the depths of Hell.
Peter Kingsley describes how the ancient Greek accounts of incubation mention certain signs that mark the entry point into another world. One of these is a whistling, hissing sound that initiates of India associate with the awakening of kundalini energy, the serpent power, pictured lying coiled at the base of the human spine in the root chakra (muladhara, associated with the earth element). It is sometimes imaged as two snakes, one male, the other female, intertwining up the spine. This is similar to the Caduceus, the wand that belonged to Hermes and was carried by Asclepius, an image which remains, to this day, the emblem of healing and the sign by which the medical profession is recognised. Perhaps because of the shedding of its skin and its love for dark places, the snake is an archetype of death, rebirth and healing - the bringer of Wisdom from the depths.36 Speaking of the Hindu god Shiva, Alain Danielou writes, "it is the Nagas (snake gods) who preserve the wonderful knowledge of the ancient sages and the secrets of magical power". 37
The nightly ritual of dreaming, Hillman notes, is one of the few processes left that honours this archaic wisdom, the dream being viewed from this perspective as a nightly initiation into the mysteries of the Underworld, a dissolving of our dayworld ego into the imaginal, primordial waters of the dreamworld, a nightly dying to the image we have of ourselves, "The dream takes us downwards".38 Sometimes we might be awash with shocking and disturbing images that shatter our composure, but these are necessary to remake us in the image of the psyche. The journey into the Underworld is not a comfortable process: during her descent through seven portals the Sumerian goddess Inanna is forced to shed an item of clothing or jewellery at each stop. Naked and furious, having been stripped of all the insignia of her status (her identity), she finally confronts her dark sister Ereshkigal, goddess of the depths, only to be hung on a stake for three days before being allowed to return to the upperworld to work something out. Canny goddess that she is she manages to negotiate spending only half a year down there, sending her lover Dumuzi for the other six months.39
For us moderns, the decision to face the 'Great Below', as it's called in the Inanna story, is seldom one we entertain voluntarily (even Inanna doesn't realise what the cost is going to be). We ignore our dreams. More often, like Persephone in her Kore (maiden) aspect, we are grabbed by the hand of the underworld from below when we least expect it, through the traumas, depressions and addictions life throws in our path. There are no longer initiatory structures to mediate the
journey, like the Mysteries at Eleusius which honoured the dark. When archetypes are repressed, negative manifestations are more likely, both personally and socio-culturally. The journey to the Underworld, often encountered at midlife, is a confrontation with our impermanence, our mortality, a 'facing of loss.40 It is often a meeting with the Jungian ‘shadow', where resources often of great personal and cultural value, have, Jung has taught, been relegated. The Roman name for the god of the Underworld, Hades, is Pluto - from the Greek 'Plouton' (the Rich One) and aptly, the Christian mystic, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, writes "The Holy Spirit draws the soul into the cellar to take stock of its riches".41 It often takes hindsight to realise this!
So what of the magical snake energy, whether masculine or feminine, imprisoned in the cellar, in the caves and crypts of our imagination?42 How is it we have become so alienated from the depths of the primordial mind, that we can only seem to view it as a landscape of terror with its ancient divinity as our chief enemy and tormentor, rather than as a source of wisdom and healing? Are we that at war with our own reptilian roots, our instinctual heritage, are we so identified with masculine, heroic sun-first consciousness as a culture, that we must fight and fear anything that would loosen its hold on us, and lead us through a dying to ourselves to riches within? Is it a necessary alienation from the ground of being built into the structure of consciousness itself, part of the legacy of having developed a cortex, of being 'smart apes'? Are the images of devils and demons,43 the equivalent of what in the Tibetan tradition are called ' wrathful deities', the guardians of the threshold of the Western Mystery tradition, whose job it is to halt us from entering the realm of wholeness before we are ready? Are they the real healers, the purgers of guilt and shame? In our private 'nekyias' (descents) are we being broken by the imaginal world, dismembered psychically, so that what Buddhist scholar Tulstrim Allione calls "gaps in the fantasies of dualistic fiction”44 are created in us to help us see through our literal mindedness and systems of identification?
We human beings are so terrified of our archetypal dimensions, of our emptiness and the death of who we think we are and what we think a confrontation with our cosmic roots entails, that we demonise the very thing that is a manifestation of our primordial belonging - our embeddedness in matter - and the coiled energy that lies at its heart: the immanent divine.45 We remain in deep conflict about our material substance, our essential psychological androgyny, and the impermanence of our current identity that this reflects.
Nevertheless it can be argued that we dwell in the Underworld all the time. If the outer person represents the surface of existence, the inner you and me represents the depths which incorporate us, whether we know it or not. From this perspective, there is only an apparent descent that needs to take place, a reflection of our identification with the surface of things. We are only apparently separate from the place of our radical wholeness.46 Although we take our egos as real, it is paradoxically in non-existence that we are most real, with the Underworld journey as a descent through the levels of being into a reality Jung called the objective psyche', a journey into the ' interiority of things' .47
By looking and venturing down, I suggest, by following the pathways of our dreams and the labyrinths of our imaginings, by opening ourselves to the creative uncertainty that's involved in stepping into the unknown, we will recover the sacredness of matter and the healing that comes from below. We will be initiated into the unseen, realm of the Black Goddess.48 We will restore to the world and to the arena of soul, that sense of presence and of our place in the scheme of things which is so often sadly lacking in this speed driven, earth-denying, manic information-age, recovering that ' loss of soul' Jung has addressed in his own initiatory descent. 49
1. According to legend, The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, which became an important foundation for the development of Hermetic Philosophy in the 15th and 16th centuries, was discovered by Apollonius of Tyana, in the 1st century AD. He entered a hidden cave and took the tablet from the hands of dead Hermes himself. See Matthews, Caitlin and Matthews, John (1986). The Western Way: A Practical Guide to the Western Mystery Tradition. Arkana.
2. Study quoted in Turner, Alice K. (1995). The History of Hell. Harvest, and in online Gallup Poll results(2004 and May 10th-13th 2007).
3. See Hillman, James (1975). Re-Visioning Psychology. Harper Perennial, p. 154, Psyche and Myths on the inevitability of 'mythologizing'.
4. The Semang people believe that at death the soul leaves the body through the heel. The Greek hero Achilles was only vulnerable to death through his heel. See Chevalier, Jean & Gheerbrant, Alain (1994). The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. Penguin.
5. Quoted in J. W. Hanson (1888). The Bible Hel. Universalist Publishing House.
6. Hillman, James (1979). The Dream and The Underworld. Perennial.
7. The black madonnas and virgins of medieval Europe, still found in Christian churches to this day, are associated with crypts and often considered to represent a connection to a much older figure, both the great goddess Cybele, whose name is etymologically linked to the words for crypt and cave and was originally worshipped in the form of a black stone, and Isis, the Egyptian goddess, who is portrayed with dark skin and is associated with a ship festival held every year in the spring. The black virgin can be viewed as the Underworld aspect of the Great Goddess in her many forms (including the Virgin Mary in her Queen of Heaven aspect). Cybele is akin to Kali (Hindu), Hecate (Greek) and Cerridwen (Celtic) among others. According to Alan Bleakley the Black Goddess governs our night-time, our dreamworld, and our undiscovered potentials. For further reading see Begg, Ean (1985). The Cult of the Black Virgin. Arkana; Bleakley, Alan (1989). Earth's Embrace, Archetypal Psychology's Challenge to the Growth Movement. Gateway; Woodman, Marion & Dickson, Elinor (1996). Dancing in the Flames, The Dark Goddess and the Transformation of Consciousness. Shambhala; Whitmont, Edward C. (1984). Return of the Goddess. Crossroad. Bennett, James (1999). 'Beings From Outer Space'. Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture, No. 65, Lost Souls, Spring and Summer 1999.
8. Ryan, Robert (1999). The Strong Eye of Shamanism. Inner Traditions.
9. Compare Willetts: "The Cretan archaeological record confirms the Greek tradition that caves were ... the earliest shrines .... " Willetts, R. F. (1962). Cretan Cults and Festivals. New York. An examination of Mithraism, 'a religion of the crypt', is fascinating in terms of the notion of caves as places of worship. See Turcan, Robert (1996). The Cults of the Roman Empire. Blackwell.
10 .Danielou, Alain (1984). Gods of Love and Ecstasy - The Traditions of Shiva and Dionysus. Inner Traditions.
11.In literature, among other references, we think of Dante's Inferno, Lewis's Alice in Wonderland and her trip down the Rabbit Hole, Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and Doris Lessing's Briefing for a Descent into Hell. We may also think of the Bible tale of Jonah's sojourn in the belly of the whale. Jung's autobiographical account in Memories, Dreams and Reflections (Vintage, 1989), p. 158, of his 'big' dream of descent, on which he founded his theory of the Collective Unconscious is relevant. Among many fairy tales that deal with the theme are Sinbad the Sailor, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, King Kojata, The Nixie and the Pond and Mother Holle.
12. In The Dream and the Underworld, Hillman argues that the Night Sea-Journey and the Underworld Journey are essentially different in kind (see p. 168 on Ice and p.110, Hercules in the House of Hades). While agreeing with the importance of the distinction he makes between a downward journey made to initiate the traveller into the mysteries of death, in order to learn from the Underworld, and a journey made in order to bolster up the ego for more effective functioning in the dayworld, (which Hillman refers to Hercules and to what he calls the heroic ego), it seems that his distinction rests almost entirely on the example of Hercules and his dishonourable actions in the realm of Hades (which Hillman uses to illustrate the cultural and psychological denial of psychic depth). As Hillman himself acknowledges, he was the only one of the Greek heroes to behave so badly there, and certainly from a cross-cultural perspective, most participants, unlike Hercules, are transformed through their contact with the realm below. Whatever the entry point through which the traveller embarks on the journey down, and it seems there are different entrances and a variety of different regions once you arrive there, and therefore different initiations (perhaps one for each of the four elements), the hallmark of the journey is a radical transformation of the person involved, an emptying of the self (a death), and a 'return' as a changed being. Hillman argues that with the true Underworld journey there is no return, that the 'nekyia' (descent) takes the soul down for its own sake. This is consistent with the intent of his book which is I think, to perform an alchemical dissolution on dayworld consciousness. In my re-imagining of the Underworld, the journey is about going there and coming back (sometimes), albeit with an altered perspective that has nothing to do with ego. Perhaps the Sufi teaching 'Be in the world, but not of it' is helpful here.
13. With regard to Hillman's assertion that the Night Sea Journey connects only to a building of interior heat as opposed to a journey down into the icy zones beneath, (the building of internal fire as a defense against the icy depths), there are differing perspectives through the ages as to which of the four elements is fundamental to the realm of Hades (See Kingsley, Peter (1996). Ancient Philosophy - Mystery and Magic. Oxford University Press). It seems to me that the outcome of a fire initiation depends on the intention of the person undergoing the process. The Night Sea Journey doesn't have to be about strengthening the heroic ego. Perhaps it is significant that Hercules' final fate was to be consumed by fire and in many traditions fire has been conceived as an agent of purification and transformation (hellfire and the fires of Divine Love are sometimes seen as the same experience from a different point of view!). In the Hindu tradition, the fire element is associated with the 3rd chakra (manipura at the solar plexus), which has to do with dominance/submission and the use and abuse of power (the burning heat of the battle frenzy?). A transformation of our relationship to the warrior archetype whether in the form of the Herculean ego, or that of the military/industrial complex, is a major issue for our time. (see Von Franz, Marie-Louise (1986). The Transformed Berserk, her essay in Human Survival and Consciousness Evolution. SUNY).
14. See Chapter VI, Devereux, Paul (1992). Symbolic Landcapes - The Dreamtime Earth and Avebury's Open Secrets. Gothic Image. See also Miller, Hamish & Broadhurst, Paul (1989). The Sun and the Serpent. Pendragon Press, which is an exploration of 'the Serpent Power', associated with sites like barrows and stone circles.
15. This is a central theme of Hillman's groundbreaking book The Dream and the Underworld (Perennial, 1979).
16. "As our ideals fly higher into the sky, our reality is faced with a deeper abyss in the earth". Woodman, Marion & Dickson, Elinor (1996). Dancing in the Flames. Shambhala, p. 60.
17. See Eliade, Mircea (1972). Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Princeton. The worldview generally described in shamanism consists of three levels. Human beings live on the earth in a middle world, between an upperworld and lowerworld (associated with the sky and the Underworld respectively). These are linked by a vertical axis, sometimes referred to as the Axis Mundi (World Axis).
l8. In using the word 'her', I am not excluding the possibility that earth can be imagined as having masculine being in addition. For example see Geb and Nut in the Egyptian pantheon, an Earth god and Sky goddess respectively.
19. See Graves, Robert (1992). The Greek Myths. Penguin.
20. See Metzner, Ralph (1999). Green Psychology. Park Street Press. Especially Chapter VIII, 'Sky Gods and Earth Deities'.
21. See Kerenyi, Karl (1976). Dionysus - Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life. Princeton/Bollingen. See also Chapter VII of Turcan, Robert (1996). Cults of the Roman Empire and Graves, Robert (1966). The White Goddess. Noonday, p. 335. On the Eleusinian Mysteries see Kerenyi, Karl (1967). Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter. Princeton/Bollingen.
22. See Wasson, Gordon, Hofmann, Albert & Ruck, Carl (1978). The Road to Eleusis. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
23. The name Persephone literally means 'Bringer of Destruction' .
24. Karl Kerenyi comments "No distinction was made between the light of the Mysteries and the light of the Sun." (Kerenyi, Karl (1967). Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter, p. 98). In many traditions the light that springs from darkness is imaged as a Divine Boy Child. At Eleusis the Child was named Brimus or Iacchus or Ploutos, and was the son of Persephone and Hades (perhaps the result of a sacred marriage consummated during the ritual). The initiates cried out 'The lady bore a holy boy-child'. Dionysus was a Divine Child born in a cave. In Shivaism, Shiva, who shares many of the attributes of Dionysius has a son Skanda: god of Beauty. In Hinduism, he is called Kumara (The Boy). In the Celtic tradition he is known as Mabon, son of Modron, sometimes called Maponus, who is identified with Apollo. The Christ Child, born in a stable, sometimes called a cave, is in the same body of imagery.
25. See Stewart, R. J. (1985). The Underworld Initiation. Aquarian Press, 1985 and Stewart, R. J. (1992). The Power Within the Land. Element, 1992.
26. Ryan, Robert E. (1999). The Strong Eye of Shamanism. Inner Traditions.
27. Kingsley, Peter. In The Dark Places of Wisdom (Golden Sufi Center, 1999).
28. It is more usual to associate the Moon (Feminine) with the realm of darkness, dreams and death, and the Sun (Masculine) with consciousness and reason. While perfectly valid, these conventional associations tend to be one-sided and therefore lose some richness and relevance as a result.
29. See Willis, Roy (ed.), (1993). World Mythology. Henry Holt, p. 47, 'The Sun God, His Night Voyage and The Stars'.
30. Quoted in entry under 'midday/midnight' in Chevalier, Jean & Gheerbrant, Alain (1996). Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. Penguin. See also Marlan, Stanton (2005). The Black Sun: The Alchemy and Art of Darkness, Texas A & M, for a masterful exploration of the ‘sol niger’ and many of the other themes touched on in this article.
31. Delphi, from the Greek 'delphys' , means 'womb'.
32. See Willis, Roy (ed.), (1993). World Mythology. Henry Holt, p. 138, 'Delphi - The Centre of the World'. See also Graves, Robert (1992). The Greek Myths. Penguin, p. 76, 'Apollo's Nature and Deeds'.
33 .0n Asclepius and Incubation see Kingsley, Peter (1999). In The Dark Places of Wisdom. Golden Sufi Center.
34.See entries under Snake Myths in Willis, Roy (ed.), (1993). World Mythology. Henry Holt.
35.See Chevalier, 1. & Gheerbrant, A. (1996). Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. Penguin.
36.See Henderson, Joseph L. & Oakes, Maud (1990). The Wisdom of the Serpent - The Myths of Death, Rebirth and Resurrection. Princeton. See Section IV, 'Personal Encounter: The Wisdom of the Serpent'.
37.Danielou, Alain. Gods of Love and Ecstasy - The Traditions of Shiva and Dionysus. Inner Traditions.
38.Hillman, James (1979). The Dream and the Underworld. Perennial.
39.See Brinton Perera, Sylvia (1981). Descent to the Goddess - A Way of Initiation for Women. Inner City Books.
40.See Stein, Murray (1983). In Midlife. Spring.
41.Quoted in entry under 'cellar' in Chevalier, 1. & Gheerbrant, A. (1996). Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. Penguin.
42.The snake is one of the central images in alchemy (the great work of turning lead into gold), usually depicted in the form of the ouroboros, or snake biting its own tail. For the alchemists, this image expressed both the prima materia (the original matter) of the alchemical process, which the alchemists imaged as dark and chaotic, and the process itself, which Jung saw as a metaphor for the journey into wholeness (Jung called the ouroboros a basic mandala of alchemy). The salient point for our theme is that the gold is to be found in the muck, in the direction of what is generally thought to be beneath us! The ouroboros was also associated with Mercurius (Mercury), the guardian of the Work, who was simultaneously substance (quicksilver), process and goal, and thus represented both the beginning and end of the journey. Bachelard wrote of the ouroboros that it is "the material dialectic of life and death, death springing from life and life from death." The ouroboros is also associated with Cronus (Saturn) in alchemy, the god who was Zeus' father and was imprisoned in the depths along with the other Titans. Cronus is both Time and the principle of Eternal Return in this context. For further reading on alchemy, see Jung, C. G. (1944). Collected Works, Psychology and Alchemy. Princeton/Bollingen. Gilchrist, Cherry (1964). Alchemy - The Great Work. Aquarian Press. Ponce, Chales (1983). Alchemy - Papers Towards A Radical Metaphysics. North Atlantic Books. Roob, Alexander (1997). Alchemy and Mysticism. Taschen.
43.Our word 'demon' comes from the Greek 'daimon', as Hillman has pointed out in numerous places. They were considered to be divine or godlike figures with their own special powers and were seen as intermediaries between the world of the gods and humankind. A person's daimon was also identified with Divine will, and therefore with the fate of that person. Later the word was used for minor gods, and finally with the spread of Christianity, became synonymous with evil spirits. They have also been viewed as the souls of the dead. Each person had their own genius or guardian angel, who acted as a secret advisor, through giving the person intuitions and inspiration. See Hillman, James (1996). The Soul's Code. Random House, pp. 8-11. In some ways the whole book is a meditation on the image of daimons.
44.Allione, Tsultrim (1984). Women of Wisdom. Routledge and Kegan Paul, quoted in Marion Woodman, Marion & Dickson, Elinor (1996). Dancing in the Flames. Shambhala.
45.See Woodman, M. & Dickson, E. (1996). Dancing in the Flames.
46.By using the term 'radical wholeness' here I am, following Hillman, attempting to re-imagine wholeness as a quality that remains open to the notion of our ultimate emptiness, of each of us being made up of and dwelled in, by many different persons, which, paradoxically is what gives us our individuality. By moving to accept the multiplicity of our selves, we are taking a journey towards psyche (the images in the dreamworld), and therefore towards the Underworld, an emptying of our self-identification. In his book Imaginal Body (University Press of America, 1962), Roberts Avens writes of death as being "precisely that which constitutes the background and reality of our experience." Death and life cannot be separated without diminishing each and it is death that gives life its fullness. Hillman in Suicide and the Soul (Spring 1965), writes “Health, like wholeness, is completion in individuality and to this belongs the dark side of life as well: symptoms, suffering, tragedy and death. Wholeness and health therefore, do not exclude these ‘negative phenomena; they are requisite for health.”
47. Quote from Bleakley, Alan (1989). Earth’s Embrace. Gateway Books.
48. See Woodman, Marion & Dickson, Elinor (1996). Dancing in the Flames, Chapter 1, ‘The Fierce and Loving Goddess’.
49. Jung, C.G. (1933). Modern Man in Search of a Soul. Harcourt Brace. Murray Stein in Jung’s Map of the Soul (Open Court, 1998), refers loss of soul to the modern belief in ego-consciousness as the only reality – an inflation of self. There is an enormous hunger for soul in the world now, due to the loss of meaning and aridity that ensue from this attitude.