Journey to the Underworld
Journey to the Underworld

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Dionysian Initiation Home Page
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Triple goddess

Black and white photo of Mt. Vesuvius erupting in the 1940's.

Mt. Vesuvius' eruption in the 1940's.

[panel 3]  A young male satyr, plays the pan pipes. Another youthful androgynous satyr with pointy ears suckles a young goat.

 The distressed initiate has a glimpse of what awaits her in the inner sanctuary where the katabasis or journey to the underworld will take place. This is her last chance to avoid the terror of the unknown by running away. She may have also just been told by the old satyr:
 "I am going to kill you."


The initiate is being made aware of her close connection with nature. This move from human to nature represents a shift away from the conscious human world to our preconscious animal state. In many rituals, this regression, assisted by music, is requisite to achieving a psychological state necessary for rebirth and regeneration.
We must also remember that before Christianity the underworld was not the negative space it is considered today, for this was the unseen world where all souls rested.

Discover your tribe alive within you 4

The Silenus looks at the startled initiate as he holds up an empty silver bowl. A young satyr gazes into the bowl, as if mesmerized by seeing the mask reflected in the bowl. An assistant  holds a demon mask aloft at an angle that it may be reflected unknowingly into the silver bowl.
It has been suggested that the satyr-medium tells Silenos what he sees. Silenos then interprets it, as an oracle, to the girl; and it is by the content of this oracle that the girl  on their right is terrified. [panel4]

Only that day dawns to which we are awake.

The revelation of sacred and mysterious objects, the act of sexual union, the joining of hearts and souls in marriage, the incomprehensibility of death and rebirth cannot be communicated and understood except by invoking ritual, myth and a psychic connection with the regenerative powers of nature.
In the ritual of tribal initiation the older men are the initiators, and play the part of tribal ancestors. The use of a bowl to reflect an image different from that which the initiate expects to see as the moment of revelation is one of the secrets of the ancient initiation rituals.  

The Sacred Marriage of Dionysus and Ariadne 5

Dionysos is also, unlike most of the other gods, the son of a mortal woman, Semele. This means that by birth he is a native son of two realms, the mortal and the divine. This theme also shows in Dionysos' marriage to a mortal woman, Ariadne.
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As Campbell further explains the mythic journey common to all cultures:  At the center of the journey is "The Meeting with the Goddess" and "The Atonement with the Father," both symbolic stages in working out the Oedipal crisis for the boy making this journey. The girl also must make peace with her parents to move forward and reach the stage of Apotheosis. She will also become a possessor of the grace of the Gods, "the Ultimate Boon" which can restore her culture. This means she should have the confidence to rely on her own intuition about what is right, rather than what has been told is correct.

The initiatory process will now become more and more intense, as the successful initiate must plunge herself further into the mythic world shared by humanity. This mysterious world has been called many things; "Deep Mind", "World Soul" and most recently, the "collective unconscious" by the great founder of modern depth psychology C.J. Jung. These Greek gods and myths have been the main tool used by Western culture and higher learning to understand this world of symbols and soulful yearning.  The layers of our personal world must be dismembered so that this Mythic World becomes paramount in the initiate's consciousness and be experienced as real or even miraculous.  

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