Nov 222018
 

“Louis, I have seen and conversed with both, and I know I do not dream. Here, miserable that I am, I am bound to earth; my soul is imprisoned by the chains of force; I am compelled to minister to the insatiate curiosity of the spirits who cannot ascend beyond those mid-regions, and oh! the horror of that bondage would have bereft my soul of reason, had it not been redeemed by forgleams of the more holy and exalted destiny reserved for the soul in the blest sphere of immortality. My sweet brother, dearly, fondly loved by Constance! when I am an enfranchised spirit, I will come to thee, and prove my words by the very presence of an arisen, immortal soul. Remember!”

Ghost Land, Emma Hardinge Britten, William Britten

Oct 182010
 

“Tell me, Circe, who is to guide me on the way? No one has ever sailed a black ship into Hell.”

“Odysseus,” the goddess answered me, “don’t think of lingering on shore for lack of a pilot. Set up your mast, spread the white sail and sit down in the ship.

The North Wind will blow her on her way; and when she has brought you across the River of Ocean, you will come to a wild coast and to Persephone’s Grove, where the tall poplars grow and the willows that so quickly shed their seeds.

Beach your boat there by Ocean’s swirling stream and march on into Hades’ Kingdom of Decay. There the River of Flaming Fire and the River of Lamentation, which is a branch of the Waters of the Styx, unite round a pinnacle of rock to pour their thundering streams into Acheron.

This is the spot, my lord, that I bid you to seek out. Once there, dig a trench about a cubit long and a cubit in breadth. Around this trench pour offerings to all the dead, first with honey mixed with milk, then with sweet wine, and last of all with water. Over all this sprinkle white barley and then begin your prayers to the helpless ghosts of the dead. Promise them that once you are in Ithaca you will sacrifice in your place a barre heifer, the best that you have, and will heap the pyre with treasures and make Teiresias a separate offering of the finest jet black sheep to be found in your flock.

When you have finished your invocations to the glorious fellowship of the dead, sacrifice a young ram and a black ewe, holding their heads down towards Erebus while you turn your own aside, as though about to recross the River of Ocean. Then the souls of the dead and departed will come up in their multitudes and you must bid your men make haste to flay the sheep that that are lying slaughtered by your blade, and burn them up while they pray to the gods, to mighty Hades and august Persephone.

Sit still yourself, meanwhile, with your drawn sword in your hand, and do not let any of the helpless ghosts come near the blood till you have had speech with Teiresias. Presently the prophet himself will come to you, my lord king. And he will lay down for you your journey and the distances to be covered, and direct you home across the fish-delighting seas.”

Circe finished, and soon after the Dawn enthroned herself in gold.

Homer, The Odyssey

Aug 172010
 

The children and their companions were clinging to what was not even a ledge – just some lucky hand and footholds – on the edge of that abyss, and there was no way out except forwards, along the slope, among the shattered rocks and the teetering boulders which, it seemed, the slightest touch would send hurtling down below.

And behind them, as the dust cleared, more and more of the ghosts were gazing in horror at the abyss. They were crouching on the slope, too frightened to move. Only the harpies were unafraid; they took to their wings and soared above, scanning backwards and forwards, flying back to reassure those still in the tunnel, flying ahead to search for the way out.

Lyra checked: at least the alethiometer was safe. Suppressing fear, she looked around, found Roger’s little face, and said:

“Come now, we’re all still here, we en’t been hurt. And we can see now, at least. So just keep going, just keep on moving. We can’t go any other way than round the edge of this…” she gestured at the abyss. “So we just got to keep going ahead. I swear Will and me’ll just keep on till we do. So don’t be scared, don’t give up, don’t lag behind. Tell the others. I can’t look back all the time because I got to watch where I’m going, so I got to trust you to come on steady after us, all right?

The little ghost nodded. And so, in shocked silence, the column of the dead began their journey along the edge of the abyss. How long it took, neither Lyra nor Will could guess; how fearful and dangerous it was, they were never able to forget.

Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials, The Amber Spyglass