Ancient Origins IRAQ Tour

Pythagoras Emerging from the Underworld by Salvador Rosa (1662) Kimbell Art Museum (Public Domain)

Passage To Portals Of The Netherworld

A common cosmological theme within ancient cultures was the concept that the Netherworld, Underworld or afterlife was entered from this world through portals and these ancient gates were often built in stone. Gates and doorways in sacred settings are essentially thresholds and they lend themselves symbolically as entrances into other worlds and alternative realities. These ancient gates represented communications between this world and another world, between the living and the dead, and gates protected and guarded voyaging souls as they passaged from one realm to another.

Entrance to the Cave of the Sibyl, Cuma. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Entrance to the Cave of the Sibyl, Cuma. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In historian J.C. Cooper’s 1987 book An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols, the author states that in the ancient world gates represented “the protective, sheltering aspect of the Great Mother and were guarded by symbolic animals such as lions, dragons, bulls, dogs or fabulous beasts.” In the Christian world perhaps the most famous spiritual gate is the ‘pearly gates’, the threshold at the entrance to heaven and protected by Saint Peter. Thresholds symbolize guarded safe passages between outer profane spaces, to inner, more sacred environs and these boundaries between the natural world and the supernatural world appear in all genres of storytelling, where so often heroes pass through them as they make their symbolic journey’s into darkness.

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Ancient Origins Quotations