Tuesday, February 9, 2010

ORPHIC NEOPHYTE/ Symbols of Initiation Into the Eleusinian Mysteries/ FIGURATIVE ABSTRACTION


              Orphic Neophyte
              by Eric Whollem
              earth paints, gouache and bronze powder in acrylic emulsion on paper
             Collection of the artist.
             17 7/8" x 14 1/8"
                 Copyright by the artist.
In the Abaton

The Abaton is the name given to the chamber of initiation in
the old cultures of the Mediterranean. It relates to terms
like the abyssos, or the sea. Much aquatic symbolism is
found in the Eleusinian Mysteries. Apollo, the Sun Fish,
was the chief hierophant. The neophyte was symbolically
taken into the abyssos in his descent into the Abaton,
which was also called the Pit.

Usually there are two hierophants in the rites: Eros is the
second hierophant.


In the image above there is a lion to one side of the
neophyte who lays on the ritual sarcophagus. This lion is
the Guardian of the Threshold.

The sarcophagus is a symbol of death and rebirth. This
is a major thread in rites of initiation found around the
world. In Phoenicia the sarcophagus idea was taken up
by the followers of Dagon, the merman god. Initiates
were holed up in an enclosure in the belly of a huge
statue of Dagon. This was called "the belly of the whale."
Dagon is the consort of Atargatis, the Starwhale. Much
conjecture has been written about the story of Jonah
and the Whale as a tale of initiation.

In New Guinea the initiate was enclosed in a wicker
figure called the Kaiaimunu, which was a fish-like
animal. It had a long nose like a dolphin. Interestingly
enough delphys means both womb and dolphin in Greek.

In my painting above to the right the hierophant raises
the rod of initiation over the aspirant to higher knowledge.

The Sloping Chamber

Above the central chamber we see an abstract image of
the Goddess, the goal of visualization. A sloping channel
to her right is the pathway of the astral body of the initiate.

Orpheus was the personnage who brought much of the
Egyptian mysteries into Greece. Some ideas in the painting
above are more Egyptian than Greek, especially the sloping
chamber which relates more to architectural ideas from the
great pyramids, which are believed by some to relate to
the processes of initiation.


Readers interested in the Greek mysteries of Poseidon and Aphrodite may want to see my posts of faux postage stamps from Amphitritionia--on this link:

My articles on Mythology can be accessed here:


Absract art, mixed media painting, the Eleusinian Mysteries, initiation, Abaton, Abyssos, mythology.

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