4 comments on “Caves and their stories

  1. I totally agree that caves as both a physical and metaphorical places have huge significance to people across the world. Caves are often associated with the underworld and the dead. I think there is often a strong association between caves and water. I think this is because the geological processes that create caves are often hydraulic in nature, and then also in my experience I have never visited a cave that did not have running or standing water through out it. This also strengthens the connection that we have observed in class across numerous cultures where bodies of water are entries to or a liminal place on the way to the underworld or land of the dead.
    I remember when I was younger going to visit Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. It was initially amazing simply because of its monumentality, and the complex beauty of the stalagtites and stalagmites that had been formed. But it was also amazing to see how the cave had been utilized over the years. It had been a semi-religious site for the Native Americans and in the Civil War it had been a mine for minerals essential to gun poweder production, and now it’s a National Park. The history of the cave is also closely tied with the history of the surrounding community.

  2. Looking back on our discussion of caves brought up memories of adventures when I was young. Caves, and lava tubes, always seemed to represent a private little unexplored world. I certainly understand the idea that they could be a portal to another world. I always felt a certain element of awe and at the same time fright when exploring new caves. A few times I would discover lava tubes in my back yard and when they were not large enough for me to enter, I wondered where they led. All caves that I have explored seems to fade off into the darkness. As the roof of the cave slowly gets lower and lower, you can never really see the end.

    There were also areas in the water that lead to secret pocket caves in the rocks. Often times when swimming next to cliffs, I would dive down to see if there were any openings that may lead somewhere. Sometimes the mysterious underwater tunnels would lead to private hideaways, and I would wonder who spent time there. In Hawaiian mythology, every cave was a home to a certain god or goddess.

    I definitely agree with Walker’s claim that each cave is tied closely to the history of the surrounding area. But there is certainly consistency is what caves symbolize. Caves will always be have a mysterious quality, an unknown end and access to an unknown world.

  3. I was looking back over the caves discussion and realized that I had a very unique experience with a cave, and a watery cave at that, when I was about nine years old. My uncle is a Rabbi and spent two summers on full sabbatical in Israel. We went to visit him one summer for a month during which point we explored many caves. We did an archaeological dig in a cave where I was able to find pieces of pots that fit together, a very unique and educational experience. However, the cave experience that I was reminded of recently was our journey through Hezekiah’s tunnel in Jerusalem.

    Hezekiah’s tunnel was built under the reign of Hezekiah the Judah around 700 BCE as a means of supplying the city of Jerusalem (the Old City) with water from the Gihon Spring. The tunnel was a secret network built underground as Hezekiah had shut off the main source of water due to the impending attack of the Assyrians, so as a means of keeping the city running, this secret passageway was built.

    Today, people can still walk the length of Hezekiah’s tunnel. When I experienced this journey we were the last ones in the tunnel for the day and I remember being frightened as the gates locked behind us, the water (at that point in my life) came up to my waste at certain points in the journey. To get through the whole tunnel one must wade in the dark, climb through larger cave areas along the way, and all of this travelling by flashlight (or in our case, candlelight). It was truly a memorable experience and an interesting way to connect with the past and the history of Jerusalem, being trapped in the tunnels with the water flow certainly made one feel the gravity of the situation for the people of Jerusalem. Furthermore, after our class discussions, it makes me look back on this experience with new light as to the true importance of water for the existence of life and city and how an this particular water was both being used to stop enemies and secretly keeping a city alive.

  4. I remember thinking as a child that caves could only be interesting viewed from a geological or zoological perspective, since at the time I found those features to be the most captivating, however now I find the cultural significance and symbolism of caves to be just as interesting in an entirely different way. Several years ago when I was living in Italy I went on a field trip with my class to various sites around the country that corresponded with literature we were reading at the time, one of the most memorable locations was our visit to lake Avernus in Campania, this lake is known for being the site associated with the source of the river Styx. A cave by the bank claims to be the entrance both Aeneas and Odysseus used to gain access to the underworld. Walking through the cave at night, lit only by torches, was a unique opportunity to imagine what it might have been like to enter through a gateway into Hades, since this experience I have always felt an affinity for the mythology of caves, nothing seems more fitting as a gateway into an unknown world, it wouldn’t have been such a powerful experience without the cultural significance behind it, the space became defined by the associated myths and stories, making it more than a simple geographical location. This concept is explored in literature from Virgil to Jules Verne, because caves possess qualities that often transform them into timeless concepts rather than simply geological formations.

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