(urth) Lake of Birds

Dave Lebling dlebling at hyraxes.com
Sun May 20 12:18:46 PDT 2012

I have always felt that the Cumaean is in fact the same as the Roman 
one, as literally as it is possible to be in an ostensibly different 
universe. It has been argued multiple times that she is an alien 
(cacogen/heirodule/...). In our history the Cumaean Sibyls were famous 
for holding the books of prophecies which she ("not a native of the 
country") offered to King Tarquin of Rome, with instructive results, 
then "disappeared." How SFnal can you get without an actual spaceship?

Given what goes on in the Botanic Gardens, the idea that the Cumaean and 
her cave might be a survival from a history not unlike our own seems an 
easy step.

As for the idea that the medieval belief that the Cumaean prophesied 
Christ, and that that is "the link," where does she do so in TBotNS? It 
is not all about Christ; TBotNS is not a Christian apologetic.

Dave Lebling
(aka vizcacha)

On 5/20/2012 11:38 AM, David Stockhoff wrote:
> On 5/20/2012 10:53 AM, David Stockhoff wrote:
>> On 5/20/2012 10:05 AM, Gerry Quinn wrote:
>>> *From:* Bruno de Albuquerque Furtado <mailto:meuemaildobruno at gmail.com>
>>> > Anyway, while searching for "avern" on google, I stumbled upon lake
>>> > Avernus, which is a real lake in Italy. In addition to "Avernus" 
>>> meaning
>>> > "birdless" (apparently due to ancient Romans' belief that birds that
>>> > flew over this lake would die), and to this lake being considered a
>>> > sort of gate to Hades (and therefore a place in which many dead
>>> > people lie), it is also the abode of the "mythological" Cumean Sibyl.
>>> > he "Lake of Birds" is thus obviously lake Avernus.
>>> >
>>> > This raises some questions. What are the gardens in the Botanical
>>> > Gardens - illusions, reconstructions of past landscapes, or, as I'm
>>> > more inclined to believe, those landscapes themselves? If the Lake
>>> > of Birds is Avernus itself, in which time period is it? Ancient Rome?
>>> > Or is it possible to experience many different periods of time in the
>>> > Lake of Birds, as it appeared to be in the Jungle Garden? What I
>>> > thought most interesting, though, was the part in which the old man
>>> > with the boat (Severian's grandfather?), says that there is a pipe 
>>> that
>>> > links the Lake of Birds to Gyoll, and that apparently that was the
>>> > reason why this lake does not dry up. Is that Wolfe giving us an
>>> > early clue that, in his world, the future can determine the past, and
>>> > not only the other way around? Would lake Avernus dry up in ancient
>>> > Rome, if the pipe that connects it to Gyoll would clog up in the 
>>> future?
>>> > Given the general theme of Wolfe's work, that would "make sense".
>>> I think you are certainly correct that Wolfe was inspired by the 
>>> Romans’ belief – perhaps the myth inspired not only the avern and 
>>> the Lake, but even in some part the Cumaean. But I think I would be 
>>> content to think of it as just inspiration with no direct 
>>> identification with the events of the story. There are no Roman 
>>> citizens wandering around after all, and the Romans did not pick 
>>> averns.
>>> And as Freud observed, sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.
>> The pipe still has to have a purpose. Surely Wolfe did not include it 
>> simply because he was worried his readers would complain if he didn't 
>> explain the lake, nor to demonstrate the builders' skill in hydrology.
>> The key is, as always, Christ. Getting a little further into the 
>> Wiki, you find:
>> [Cumaean Sibyl] In the Middle Ages, both the Cumaean Sibyl and Virgil 
>> were considered prophets of the birth of Christ, because the fourth 
>> of Virgil's Eclogues appears to contain a Messianic prophecy by the 
>> Sibyl. In it, she foretells the coming of a savior, whom Christians 
>> identified as Jesus.[4][5][6] and this was seized on by early 
>> Christians as such—one reason why Dante Alighieri later chose Virgil 
>> as his guide through the underworld in The Divine Comedy.
>> Many here already know about this. I also note, for those of you who 
>> are interested in the possible role of the Cumaean and Father Inire 
>> as "tutelary gods":
>> [Cumae] Cumae was the first Greek colony on the mainland of Italy 
>> (Magna Graecia), and the seat of the Cumaean Sibyl. It was the 
>> Cumaean alphabet that was adopted in Italy, first by the Etruscans 
>> (800 - 100 BC) and then by the Romans (300 - 100 BC), thus becoming 
>> the Latin alphabet, the world's most widely used phonemic script. The 
>> Cumaean alphabet was also used throughout the Greek island of Euboea.
>> And here's the clincher:
>> [Lake Avernus] It was linked by a canal to a nearby lake (Lucrinus 
>> Lacus) and from there to the sea. The lake shore was also connected 
>> to the Greek colony of Cumae by an underground passage known as 
>> Cocceio's Cave (Grotta di Cocceio) which was 1 km (0.62 mi) long and 
>> wide enough to be used by chariots. This was the world's first major 
>> road tunnel; it remained usable until as recently as the 1940s.
>> Damned if I knew about that! Anyway, the link is obscure, but you can 
>> almost see the Wolfean mind at work.
> I want to add that the BNS Cumaean is old and creepy, while the Sibyl 
> is portrayed as young and beautiful, even if she is the oldest and 
> least beautiful of the Four Sibyls. And then there is her serpentine 
> appearance. I don't know what to make of this, unless any presentiment 
> of Christ must naturally appear in Briah as a serpent, just as Satan 
> so appeared in Eden---whether as a matter of levels of the multiverse 
> or some other scheme.
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