Dialogue on the Threshold

Диалог на пороге

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The voices of the dust (2)

Me did he lead to the Dwelling of Darkness, the home of Irkalla,
Unto the Dwelling from which he who entereth cometh forth never!
(Aye), by the road on the passage whereof there can be no returning,
Unto the Dwelling whose tenants are (ever) bereft of the daylight,
Where for their food is the dust, and the mud is their sustenance:
                bird-like
Wear they a garment of feathers: and, sitting (there) in the darkness,
Never the light will they see.


R. Campbell Thompson, The Epic of Gilgamesh. A new translation from a collation of the cuneiform tablets in the British Museum rendered literally into English hexameters (1928).

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Lūji xum: homo infernus

The Sosva Voguls maintain that the Prince of the Underworld sends sickness and death. (...) In several areas xuḽ-ōtәr or kuḽ-noàjer is identified with the devil. On the upper Lozva, in fact, xuḽ-ōtәr is considered just below the 'World-overseeing Man' in the hierarchy of spirit forces. The Sosva Voguls say that kuḽ lives in a black lake called kuḽiŋ tūr. If one travels there even in the winter, one will be pulled down into the water. In other areas kuḽ is a forest spirit. At the creation of the world kuḽ asked God's permission to put animals into the world. The permission was not granted, so he asked that he might at least be allowed to make a hole. This request was granted. From this hole came forth lizards, snakes and wolves. While several curse words are also associated with kuḽ, another significant epithet on the Sosva is lūji xum (literally 'under man'), which means the man that lives under the river bed. This is another name for xuḽ-ōtәr, the Prince of the Underworld. The Prince also has the name jolixum, meaning 'under man', but with the connotation of 'the one found under the earth.' (...) On the Konda, there is jalqum ('under man' or 'the spirit of the underworld').

Otto J. von Sadovsky, Aspects of Vogul Religion (based on A. Kannistor, E. A. Virtanen, M. Liimola, Materialen zur Mythologie der Wogulen, MSFOu 113, Helsinki, 1958), in Vogul Folklore, collected by Bernát Munkácsi, selected and edited by Otto J. von Sadovsky and Mihály Hoppál, translated by Bálint Sebestyén, ISTOR (Internataional Society for Trans-Oceanic Research) Books 4, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1995, pp. 160-161.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Universality of the belief in hell (5)

Les fausses religions ont aussi leur enfer: celui des Païens, assez connu par les descriptions qu’en ont faites Homere, Ovide et Virgile, est assez capable d’inspirer de l’effroi par les peintures des tourmens qu’ils y font souffrir à Ixion, à Prométhée, aux Danaïdes, aux Lapythes, à Phlégias, etc. mais parmi les Païens, soit corruption du coeur, soit penchant à l’incredulité, le peuple et les enfans même traitoient toutes ces belles descriptions de contes et de rêveries (...) Cette persuasion des peines dans une vie future, universellement répandue dans toutes les religions, même plus fausses, et chez les peuples plus barbares, a toujours été employée par les législateurs comme le frein le plus puissant pour arrêter la licence et le crime, et pour contenir les hommes dans les bornes du devoir.



Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société de gens de lettres. Mis en ordre et publié par M. Diderot.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Universality of the belief in hell (4)

Xaca, dont la secte est très-répandue dans le Japon, enseigne que, dans le lieu du supplice que les méchants vont habiter après leur mort, il y a un juge sévere, nommé Jemma-o, qui regle la rigueur et la durée des châtiments, selon les crimes d'un chacun. Il a devant les yeux un grand miroir qui lui représente fidellement les actions les plus secrettes des hommes. (...) La pagode de Jemma-o est située dans un bois, à quelque distance de la ville de Méaco. Ce dieu redoubtable y est représenté ayant à ses côtés deux grands diables plus hideux encore que lui, dont l'un est occupé à écrire les mauvaises actions des hommes, tandis que l'autre semble les lui dicter. On voit sur les murailles du temple d'effrayants tableaux des tourments destinés dans les enfers aux âmes des méchants. Les peuples accourent en foule dans cette pagode. C'est la crainte, plutôt que la dévotion, qui les y conduit.

Delacroix, Dictionnaire historique des cultes religieux établis dans le monde depuis son origine jusqu'a présent, Paris, 1775

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Universality of the belief in hell (3)

Exotericam Xekiae disciplinam describunt Le Comte, La Loubere, Bernier, maxime vero Kaempferus, ex quorum narrationibus constat, ita hunc Indorum legislatorem ad populum praecepisse: (...) II. Animas homimum et brutorum esse immortales eiusdemque substantiae, et tantum ratione subiectorum, quibus insunt, differe. III. Animas hominum, a corporibus morte separatas, vel praemia accipere vitae bene actae, in sede felicitatis, vel poenas experiri in loco miseriarum. (...) IX. Homines omnes, et seculares et ecclesiasticos vitae iniquitate et actionum perversitate indignos factos vita beata, missum iri post mortem in locum miseriae, Dsigokf, ubi in carcere tormentorum cruciatus patientur, non tamen aeternos, sed ad certum tamen tempus licet indeterminatum. (...) X. Praesidem carceris squalidi et miseri, iudicemque esse Iemma O, qui actiones hominum omnes examinet, et in speculo cognitionis exploret. (...) XIII. Expiatis hunc in modum animis, remitti eas ex sententia praesidis infernalis in mundum, ut iterum corpora animent; ast non humana, sed animalia immundorum, quorum natura cum vitiis illis conspiret, quibus in mundo infectae erant.

Jacob Brucker, Historia critica philosophiae, De Philosophia exotica, De Philosophia gentium asiaticarum in genere, vol. 4.1, lib. 3, cap. 1 (Lepizig, 1766)

The exoteric doctrine of the Xekia [i.e. the Buddha] is described by Le Comte, La Loubere, Bernier, and especially Kaempfer, from whose accounts it can be seen that the legislator of the Indies passed down the following precepts to the people: (...) II. The souls of men and beasts are immortal and of the same substance, and differ only according to the subjects in which they are placed. III. Men's souls, having been separated from their bodies at the moment of death, are either rewarded in an abode of bliss for having led a good life or are punished in a place of torments. (...) IX. All men, both laymen and clerics, who through an iniquitous life and evil deeds have made themselves unworthy of the life of bliss are sent after their death to a place of misery, called Dsigokf, where they are imprisoned and endure torments, which are not eternal, but last for an undetermined time. (...)  X. The governor and judge of this foul and wretched prison is Jemma O, who weighs men's deeds and searches them out in the mirror of knowledge. (...) XIII. The souls having thus been cleansed, by the judgement of the infernal governor they are sent back into the world to become the souls of new bodies, not human ones, but those of unclean beasts, whose nature is in keeping with the sins with which they were tainted during their worldly life.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Universality of the belief in hell (2)

Les habitants de l'isle Formose croient que les hommes, après leur mort, passent sur un pont fort étroit, fait avec une sorte de roseau qu'on nomme bambou, sous lequel il y a une fosse profonde, pleine d'ordures. Le pont s'écroule sous les pas de ceux qui ont mal vécu; et ils sont précipités dans cette horrible fosse.

Delacroix, Dictionnaire historique des cultes religieux établis dans le monde depuis son origine jusqu'a présent, Paris, 1775

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Universality of the belief in hell (1)

Offenditur nationes omnes, quae modo in Universo sunt, conspirare cum antiquis in dogmate de misera impiorum post mortem conditione 

Satis iam constare arbitror communem fuisse apud nationes, quae olim invaluerunt eorumque celebriores Sapientes, persuasionem, superstites esse post mortem animos, eosque pro meritis vel praemio donari, vel plecti supplicio. Reliquum est ut videamus eamdem hodieque vigere apud nationes, quae universum orbem terrarum incolunt: ex quo et quid creditum antea fuerit firmius argumentum sumere licet, et de universali in ea veritate consensu, certius judicare.

 J. V. Patuzzi, De Futuro Impiorum Statu, 1748


Agreement with the ancients as to the dogma regarding the wretched state of sinners after death is to be met in all the nations that now exist in the world 

I think it is now sufficiently established that among the nations that were powerful of old and among their famous wise men there was a general belief that souls live on after death and are given recompense or punished with torment according to their merits. As we may see, the same belief still thrives among the nations that today inhabit all the lands in the world: whence it is justified to take as the stronger argument that which was formerly given credence, and to judge with more surety from the universal agreement in its verity.

De stultorum natura (2)

Chichikov himself is merely the ill-paid representative of the Devil, a travelling salesman from Hades, “our Mr Chichikov” as the Satan and Co. firm may be imagined calling their easy-going, healthy-looking but inwardly shivering and rotting agent. The poshlust [i.e. пошлость] which Chichikov personifies is one of the main attributes of the Devil, in whose existence, let it be added, Gogol believed far more serously than in that of God. The chink in Chichikov’s armour, that rusty chink emitting a faint but dreadful smell (a punctured can of conserved lobster tampered with and forgotten by some meddling fool in the pantry) is the organic aperture in the devil’s armour. It is the essential stupidity of poshlust.

Vladimir Nabokov, Nikolai Gogol, 1959, 2nd edition 1961

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Vogul eschatology

When a corpse is buried, the soul of the deceased descends into the underworld - called the 'lower land' or the 'lower world' in all Vogul dialects. (...) Among the Voguls this lower world is identified as being in the Arctic Ocean. The Northern Voguls speak of a 'Prince of the Underworld', xuḽ-ōtәr, who lives in the Arctic Ocean. When a Vogul dies, in fact, his or her soul travels down the Ob river to the Arctic Ocean. There is a particular hole through which the soul travels to reach the underworld. (...) The deceased continues life in much the same way as before his or her death. They reside with the same possessions and at the same age they had at the moment of death. (...) Punishment after death for evil deeds is occassionally mentioned among the Northern Voguls, but this idea is probably borrowed from the Russian - "Do not steal, you will be punished for it in the future life." But it should be noted that death itself is often referred to as 'gone to torment/agony' and the cemetery as 'the place of agony.' (...) An informant on the lower Konda reports that the 'place beyond' is always as dim as a summer night. The inhabitants live in subterranean huts and they are ruled by the Prince of the Underworld (...) There is also a folk poem about an underworld woman who lives at a 'goose-rich lake, a duck-rich lake' to whom the gods send the deceased.

Otto J. von Sadovsky, Aspects of Vogul Religion (based on A. Kannistor, E. A. Virtanen, M. Liimola, Materialen zur Mythologie der Wogulen, MSFOu 113, Helsinki, 1958), in Vogul Folklore, collected by Bernát Munkácsi, selected and edited by Otto J. von Sadovsky and Mihály Hoppál, translated by Bálint Sebestyén, ISTOR (Internataional Society for Trans-Oceanic Research) Books 4, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1995, pp. 160-161.

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Man Who Looks at the World (3)

One of the most significant protective spirits among the Northern Voguls is mir-susnē-xum 'the World Overseeing Man'. He is also called ali-xum 'the man above' (ali: the upper course of the river), or just simply ōtәr. In some areas, he has acquired the attributes of a local protective spirit. On the Sosva, he is thought to be the son of sōrńipos 'the Golden Light'. He has a winged horse, towlәŋ luw, which has such sharp eyes that he sees even the invisible and flies at the height of the clouds. (...) On the Sosva, they believe that while he wanders the forest feeding his horse, the blades of grass that fall from the horse's mouth become Calla palustris (German: Drachenwurz, Vogul xūs). This plant is then used as an offering to Mir-susnē-xum. (...) They also believe that if one laughs while eating it raw, it will surely bring death, and so it is always eaten cooked. One is also not even allowed to speak about the plant, fearing death. It is believed that the World Overseeing Man cures illnesses and lengthens life, in fact, some say this is his primary function. The Voguls often identify the World Overseeing Man with Jesus Christ. He is considered the mediator between humans and the lower guardian spirits.

Otto J. von Sadovsky, Aspects of Vogul Religion (based on A. Kannistor, E. A. Virtanen, M. Liimola, Materialen zur Mythologie der Wogulen, MSFOu 113, Helsinki, 1958), in Vogul Folklore, collected by Bernát Munkácsi, selected and edited by Otto J. von Sadovsky and Mihály Hoppál, translated by Bálint Sebestyén, ISTOR (Internataional Society for Trans-Oceanic Research) Books 4, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1995, pp. 161-162.

Calla palustris

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Des murs de papier


Le Feu que nous avons ici bas, quoique il ne soit qu'une image très imparfaite de celui de l'Enfer, abîme, détruit, dissout, et réduit en cendres toutes les choses sur lesquelles il exerce son activité. Maisons, Villes, Bois, Forêts, il dévore et consume tout. Rien de semblable dans le Feu Infernal. Quoique un million de millions de fois plus vif, et plus ardent, que tous ceux du Monde réunis ensemble, et que tous ceux même qu'on peut imaginer, sa vivacité, ni son ardeur, ne s'étendent point au-delà des Ames, qu'il brule sans les consumer, et qu'il doit bruler éternellement. Elles ne passent jamais cette borne, qui leur a été prescrite. La chose est si vraïe, et si incontestable, que, quoique le lieu que l"eglise Romaine apelle Purgatoire, dans lequel les Ames des gens de bien expient, dit-on, les souillures qu'elles emportent toujours de ce Monde; quoique le Purgatoire, dis-je, ne soit séparé de l'Enfer, selon certains Ecrivains de cette Communion, que par une grande Toile d'Aragnée, ou, selon d'autres, par des Murs de Papier, qui en forment l'enceinte et la Voute, néanmoins les Ames qui sont renfermées dans le premier, y sont dans une parfaite sécurité.

Eloge de l'Enfer. Ouvrage critique, historique, et moral, 1759

L'âge du papier

Le livre imprimé n'existe que depuis quatre cents ans tout au plus, et il s'accumule déjà dans certain pays de manière à mettre en péril le vieil équilibre du globe. La civilisation est arrivée à la plus inattendue de ses périodes, l'âge du papier.

Charles Nodier, L'Amateur de livres, 1841