The other day I was out exploring Lisbon’s surroundings, namely Sintra. If you don’t know about this area, it’s a very interesting place. Not only it is surrounded by a fabulous natural park, but it also features intriguing pieces of architecture, many of them carrying symbols not yet fully understood. There is a castle on top of a mountain, The Castle Of Moors, and there’s the popular Palace of Pena, which you may see below.
But there is also another place, less spectacular in terms of tourist points, but way more interesting from an esoteric point of view. It’s called Quinta de Regaleira and it has a very interesting history.
First of all, all these places are within walking distance from each other (although this walking distance might be a bit too much for an untrained city dweller). This closeness in space gives them a certain vibe of connectedness, of land magic, as they are, most of the time, in direct sight – meaning there are points from where you can see at the same time Quinta de Regaleiro, Palacio de Pena and the Castle of Moors.
Second, Quinta was the residence of a wealthy Portuguese guy, born in 1848, which augmented his fortune in Brasil, from coffee trade. All this wealth was funneled into his residence, which is filled with strange architectural things, including a beautiful chapel, guardian gates, tennis courts, but also wells going down a few good stories and then connecting with the outside via a network of fascinating tunnels. Just imagine owning some land, and then building initiation wells connecting with the outside via tunnels – this guy must have been quite a character.
These wells don’t come with a user manual, but there are many stories about the owner and abut his preoccupation with alternative worlds, including masonry and tarot.
As I was visiting this place, I decided to go down the initiation well. You can see the picture of the entrance in the feature image of this post. Going down is not dangerous at all, but there are a few interesting changes. As you descend, it gets a bit colder and also more humid. There are drops of water falling down, so you must be careful not to slip. What’s surprising, though, is that the air doesn’t get thin, as you would expect. The reason for that is that right at the bottom, there is a tunnel going on. You can see a picture of it, slightly lit for tourists, in the picture below.
After a few dozens of meters and an intersection, you get out of the tunnel, in a completely different part of Quinta, close to the tennis court.
The entire descent and walk are not more than 10 minutes.
But the effect of it was interesting.
And, with that, we get to the topic of this blog post, which is merely a string a questions.
Why do we need to go “down” in order to be initiated? Why not going “up”? What’s the thing with descending into the abyss and then coming back up, reborn?
I don’t pretend I know the answer to this, but I think there might be some hints in mythology. Death is depicted as an “underworld” experience in pretty much all Western mythologies (at least in those I’m aware of). Hades is the master of death and the king of the underworld, also known as Pluto.
Many histories of rebirth are actually starting with a descent into this dark realm, ruled by Hades / Pluto.
Going “down” means dying. Because you can’t be reborn if you’re not dying first.
Every massive advancement in our lives is a story of loss and achievement, both happening at the same time. In order to become something (being it, this “something”, the person we want to become, the guy that gets that job, or the person that can create and take care of that family, etc) we need to lose something else. So the obstacle is often not the path to the new persona, but the obstruction generated by the remaining of our old identity.
Becoming is more a question of losing weight, identity and attachment, than acquiring skills or being magically empowered to overcome our limitations.
As I was sitting in the train back from Sintra, I was pondering all these things, all these questions, all these (incomplete) answers, and I was trying to understand how much I lost in that tunnel.
And what should I become now.