Around the world there are many entrances to the underworld. Most of these relate to ancient myths and local folklore which have since dissolved into nothing more than memories and places where ‘weirdos’ seek out. Fortunately, I am one of those weirdos.
In 2015 Abby and I went on a tour of Italy. After a few days around the Amalfi Coast, we were due to head back up north. On our last night looking at Mount Vesuvious, I knew that there was something more sinister lurking across the Bay of Naples.
On our way to Rome, I convinced Abby that we should swing by Lago d’Averno and the cave of Sibyl. After all, it’s not every day you’re in the same neck of the woods where Aeneas and Odysseus entered the underworld.
We were to cross the Phlegraean Fields, which I could only imagine included exploding geysers and streams of hot lava, and arrive at the fabled lake where birds cannot sing. We’d have a peak into the underworld, maybe high five a minotaur, and be on our way to the cave the housed an oracle for a millennium. The journey was not so easy.
Instead of the fields of Hades we found ourselves driving towards a boot fair. The closest we got to the heat of the underworld were fumes of traffic in a long, stifling tunnel. We caught a glimpse of the lake but were being drawn to the cave instead.
There was a peace at the cave. Not many tourists, not much life. Just a cool breeze and a sense of ancient significance. Trees populated the area. Presumably, they would have been the same ones that the Cumaen Sibyl wrote her prophesies on. If the wind blew them away, they would be lost forever.
The cave itself was cordoned off but it did not detract from the moment. It was a sanctuary from the madness of the seaside resort below. We absorbed the atmosphere and looked deep into the darkness beyond the stone doorway. It was modest, ancient and could easily have opened the way into the abyss.
As we stared a breeze carried dead leaves across the ground. More prophesies were forgotten and we had looked straight into the underworld.
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