Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": THE INITIATES IN THE ORPHIC-PYTHAGOREAN BROTHERHOOD

TAUGHT THE ROAD TO THE LOWER WORLD


(The Funerary Gold Plates)

[Plate from Petelia, South Italy, fourth-third century B.C.]

Thou shalt find to the left of the House of Hades a spring,

And by the side thereof standing a white cypress.

To this spring approach not near.

But thou shalt find another, from the Lake of Memory

Cold water flowing forth, and there are guardians before it.

Say, 'I am a child of Earth and starry Heaven;

But my race is of Heaven (alone). This ye know yourselves.

But I am parched with thirst and I perish. Give me quickly

The cold water flowing forth from the Lake of Memory.'

And of themselves they will give thee to drink of the holy spring-

And thereafter among the other heroes thou shalt have lordship.

[Plate from Eleuthernai in Crete, second century B.C.]

I am parched with thirst and I perish-Nay, drink of me (or, But give me to drink of)

The ever-flowing spring on the right, where the cypress is.

Who art thou?.....

Whence art thou?-I am the son of Earth and starry Heaven.

[Plate from Thurii, South Italy, fourth-third century B.C.]

But so soon as the spirit hath left the light of the sun,

Go to the right as far as one should go, being right wary in all things.

Hail, thou who hast suffered the suffering. This thou hadst never suffered before.

Thou art become god from man.

A kid thou art fallen into milk.

Hail, hail to thee journeying the right hand road

By holy meadows and groves of Persephone.

[Three more tablets from Thurii, of roughly the same date as the previous One. ]

I come from the pure, pure Queen of those below,

And Eukles and Eubuleus, and other Gods and Daemons.

For I also avow that I am of your blessed race.

And I have paid the- penalty for deeds unrighteous,

Whether it be that Fate laid me low or the gods immortal

Or . . . with star-flung thunderbolt.

I have flown out of the sorrowful, weary circle.

I have passed with swift feet to the diadem desired.

I have sunk beneath the bosom of the Mistress, the Queen of the

underworld.

And now I come a suppliant to holy Persephoneia,

That of her grace she send men to the seats of the Hallowed.

Happy and blessed one, thou shalt be god instead of mortal.

A kid I have fallen into milk.


Translation by W. Y. C. Guthrie, in his Orpheus and Greek Religion (London, 1935). PP. 172-3

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