Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Five Rivers Past the Gates of Death

Last July, I wrote a post concerning death called Close the world, Open the Next: a Requiem for Life, a Soliloquy for Death (Blogger, Wordpress, LiveJournal).  Within it, in a small section concerning the Song Of Amergin, I made the following statement concerning the River Styx:
The Hawk, according to Graves and the myths he connects to the Cliff, is on the Cliffs of Nonacris, in Arcadia (because everything comes back to Arcadia).  From the Cliffs flows the headwaters of the River Styx, one of the rivers of the Underworld.  In some myths, it is the River Styx that Charon ferries the dead across.  Styx is firmly rooted in Death, and is where the gods go to make oaths, swearing them on the waters.  Styx is Hate, and it's followed by Sorrow, the Tear that the Sun lets fall.  Cochrane said, "A Crafter is born not made, or if one is to be made, then tears are spilt before the Moon can be Drawn."  Sorrow and Tears are necessary ingredients to Witch.  The Tears fall for the desolate world, the Wasteland.
To expand a bit on this statement, I'd like to discuss the five main rivers of the underworld discussed in Greek myth.

Styx, Στύξ, in Greek literally means "hate" or "detestation", that which we despise and reject, the abject.

The River Acheron is literally the River of Sorrow, or River of Woe.

The River Cocytus is literally the River of Cries, or River of Lamentation.

This leaves two other rivers, the River Phlegethon, the Flaming River, and the River Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness, or River of Oblivion, or River of Concealment.

It's said Styx loved Phlegethon, but his fire burned her and killed her, that's how she ended up in the Underworld.  Phlegethon is said to coil around the earth, much as Loki's son in Norse mythology does, then flows into the depths of Tartarus.  There, Styx and Phlegethon were allowed to unite, flowing together, fire and water.

The River Lethe is of course the river souls drink from to forget the pains and sorrows of life.  The Eleusinian Mysteries and a few others taught their initiates how to find the pool or river Mnemosyne, Memory, instead.

Styx (Hate) leads to Acheron (Sorrow).  Acheron leads to Cocytus (Tears).  Cocytus leads to Phlegethon (the fire that burns away the chaff).  And Phlegethon leads to Lethe (Forgetfulness) or Mnemosyne (Memory).

But this is easier to see when we think of Styx as the abject, the casting off of what we hate in ourselves, rather than the hate itself.

Through the Gates of Death, we first cast off that which we hated about ourselves in life.  Then we feel the loss of that which we loved in life, this is our sorrow.  This leads to tears, lamenting the loss of all we thought he had in life, after we've cast off both what we hated and what we loved, all our attachments.  But then we burn off even the sorrow and lamentation, leaving nothing but our unbiased memory of what came before.  We then stand at a crossroads.  Do we drink of forgetfulness and lose even the memory of things past, starting with a clean slate, but losing also that which we learned, or do we drink from memory and hold onto that last part of the life we lived before, remembering the lessons and wisdom, learning from them in that which we now enter?

This is paralleled in the Descent of Inanna, of course.

This is of course the course not of just physical death, but of all try initiation.  And it the path we take to fully realize what it is to be Witch.

~Muninn's Kiss

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