Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Gates of Hell - AKA The Gotthard Base Tunnel?

As you become more involved in an intercultural relationship, you tend to begin to pay attention to other cultures as well. Something about opening yourself up to new things tends to invite you to want more and more. I actually love learning so for me this has brought on a very intense desire to find new things to see and learn about.

One thing I find disturbing is just how many things in this world are dubbed "The Gates of Hell" or something very similar. The recent Gotthard Tunnel Ceremony being dubbed a satanic ritual has got be thinking on just this topic.

 Watch at your own risk!

I tried to avoid watching the videos of the tunnel ceremony because I really don't have time to care what some religion thumper has to say right now but with so many articles coming across my news feed, I was inevitably led in. And what I saw truly was bazaar to say the least.

Now, I know very little about Switzerland but I know nothing like this has ever made the news here to this extent, not even the Higgs Boson particle and that was supposedly the God particle that was going to teach us all how the world began.

As I watched the show I really couldn't figure out what exactly they were symbolizing or hoping to achieve. It was messy, not really entertaining and well, there's no other way to put it, it was weird! Ok so I did find it normal and somewhat interesting how they systematically tore down the rocks on the virtual wall but it looked like they were also simulating that many people died to get it done. Would that really make for a happy grand opening? The faces of the dancers sure didn't appear too happy.

The more I watched, the more I felt like this ceremony was definitely more grim and ritualistic than it was any type of interpretive dance show. There were no happy feelings coming from this at all. The horned beast-people who entered at min 9 surely didn't help the warm fuzzy feelings at all.

Would I call this the gates of hell? Absolutely not! It doesn't even meet the theological definition of where hell would be - no in longitude/latitude nor through the oral tradition in which hell is not actually a place on Earth. Not to mention I didn't see any demons flying out of the actual tunnel.

Here are some more likely candidates to be the actual Gates of Hell....if you're into that sort of thing. :)

Turkey: Pamukkale
Czech Republic: Blatce - Houska Castle

And there are many, many more out there.


9 comments:

  1. As a Swiss I can shed light on this. The ceremony was a reminder that just because humans have carved through a mountain, doesn't mean we have tamed it. There is a long history of respecting the elements and not taking them for granted. The Alps are the most treacherous. Mountain people in Switzerland are hardened people who know better than to trust Mother Nature, landslides, avalanches, days with no sun, snow storms, floods, they are all common occurrence and once upon a time, and still not so distant past, it was common for the mountain folks to be cut out from the world close to 6 months a year.

    Switzerland also still has a strong Roman mythology culture, Ceres, and Bacchus are two harvest deities that everybody still know about, even if they are no longer formally worshipped. They are still part of grape harvest festivals across the country.
    In the Alps, the devil is often mentioned. there are quite a few "Devil's bridge" in the Swiss Alps, bridge that were called so because only a pact with the devil was believed to grant the strength to the builders to pull it off and make it solid enough to be used. Traditionally these bridges were also subject to bizarre ceremonies where a goat or a sheep would be the first soul to cross as it was believed the devil would claim the soul of the first living thing to cross said bridge.

    This Gotthard tunnel has been a projects that spanned decades, I grew up hearing from it, seeing the work being flagged, the setbacks, aand all. It has been the most massive project in recent Swiss history. I actually find it interesting they kept with the "devil" thing in their opening in homage to all the past alpine projects involving dizzying bridges and tunnels :-)

    But yeah, as an outsider that must be quite hard to wrap your mind around it.

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    1. So I was right that it was somewhat ritualistic which makes perfect sense with you explaining the cultural view. We lost a significant portion of our ritualistic nature here in the US as in Christianity, anything like that would be considered satanic, regardless of what it was for. Oddly enough, most Christians here don't realize just how many rituals they actually perform regularly that are just not as grand.

      You're right, with me growing up in a strict Christian environment, it did clearly affect my view of the ceremony and elements of it. Luckily I've wised up enough to know they didn't actually open the gates of hell :)

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    2. The interesting part is that Switzerland is mostly Christian as culture go, the Alpine States are mostly Roman Catholic. I think the difference between US and Switzerland is how people are not as afraid of graphic representation of the Devil in Switzerland. I suspect it has to do with the fact that the country has deeper roots, like most of Europe we have traditions that still go as far as pagans time.
      Another insteresting tid bit is that Switzerland, still has people practicing things that many would actually describe as bordering on witchcraft. There are people who are said to have "The Gift" and practice as "fire cutters" or "Blood stoppers", it's a word of mouth network and these people do it from a distance, without renumeration. But if you get burned, calling a fire cutter to say a prayer will stop the pain and often the burning in its track.

      Science is not sure how to explain it, because the ritual has been applied to babies and unconscious people and they benefited from it, efficiently rulling the power of suggestion out of the equation. Many Hospitals in the country actually keep a list of those people's phone number and use them when a severely burnt patient come in.
      The blood stoppers work on haemorrhages the same way fire cutters work on burns.

      The Gifted people are fairly secretive about their practice, and it is said the gift usually runs in a family, and a person needs to be initiated. Those who spoke, did not reveal the essence of the prayer or spell, some said it did mention Christian saints, other said their prayer was more pagan in nature but accepted by the Church nonetheless.

      So yeah, hard to comprehend how Christianity means paganism and blend in Swiss culture, but it does.

      There are also many folks stories that speak of the devil, or ghosts or witches and how it is not always a clear cut "good and evil" thing but mostly a reflexion of whoever comes in the presence of such entities. Come with humility and good will and even the devil can soften and be clement. Come with arrogance and selfish needs and you will meet your doom.

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  2. Hmm......
    I'm not a big fan of modern dance but think putting the dance on a ramp didn't quite work. This looks a bit like trust us this is art" and Switzerland has a very vivacious modern art scene.

    Those figures you see with the long hair or fur all over them I've seen in Switzerland and Germany in traditional festivals. I recall seeing one such figure in Basel at a festival where one man was dressed like one of those long haired creatures while everyone in town threw rocks, beat him with sticks, chased him out of town. No one really remembers what the exact symbolism of this practice is but they've been doing it for a thousand years.

    I think we have to recall that as little as 100 yrs ago nature was thought of as a force of evil that must be conquered by humans. Forests & mountains where thought of as scary & dangerous places where evil things abide & can cause serious harm too. Look at the hex signs you'll still see on old barns to ward off evil spirits. By the way, "hex" means witch in German. The Harz mountains in Germany are another place you'll see a lot references to witches & devils.

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    1. I think the long haired man thing is representing the devil or an evil spirit that need to be chased away. You find it during the carnival period and it often symbolise darkness or Winter that need to be chased away.

      Swiss folklore is full of reference to mountains as places of beauty but danger and evil lurking within. The mountain always wins and men fear and respect it both.
      I sang in a folks Choir, which is a popular thing in Switzerland (more than church choirs) and there is a huge repertoire of songs dedicated to the mountain and it's magic and perils too.

      Switzerland has quite a modern art scene, and yes, this is very contemporary and as of late a bit puzzling too, but the whole message of the devil and respect of the mountain is definitely ancient tradition.

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    2. OOPS! So many mistakes. No more typing on my phone-
      Hmm......
      I'm not a big fan of modern dance but think putting the dance on a ramp didn't quite work. This looks a bit like "trust us this is art" and Switzerland does have a very vivacious modern art scene.

      Those figures you see with the long hair or fur all over them I've seen in Switzerland and Germany in traditional festivals. I recall seeing one such figure in Basel at a festival where one man was dressed like one of those long haired creatures while everyone in town threw rocks, beat him with sticks, and proceeded to chased him out of town. No one really remembers what the exact symbolism of this practice is but they've been doing it for a thousand years.

      I think we have to recall that as little as 100 yrs ago nature was thought of as a force of evil that must be conquered by humans. Forests & mountains were thought of as scary & dangerous places where evil things abide & can cause serious harm. Look at the hex signs you'll still see on old barns to ward off evil spirits. By the way, "hex" means witch in German. The Harz mountains in Germany are another place you'll see a lot of references to witches & devils.

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  3. I decided to Google it to see if I got it right, and it turns out I know my folks classics :-) This is indeed a VERY modern version of several Folks tales banishing the evil that exited for centuries in the Swiss Alps.

    Interesting to note that before this dance ceremony occured, the tunnel was officially blessed by a Christian priest, a Rabi, an Imam and an atheist.
    We really take mountains very seriously in my homeland :-)

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    1. Interesting indeed. Glad you cleared that up.

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  4. Looks like an interesting seamless combination of science, myth and dance. The performance was not the least frightening. You made it sound otherwise. Definately has its roots the pre christian pagan rituals. The audience too were looking sombre carrying various items which looked like totems.

    Apple

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