(urth) Lake of Birds

Lee Berman severiansola at hotmail.com
Mon May 21 06:23:39 PDT 2012

>David Stockhoff: But I think BNS is all about existence before-Christ, as Lee has 

That is my view. I think Gene Wolfe sees pre-christian earth as a place filled with
gods, monsters, angels/demons and Christ precursors such as Dionysus, Alexander and the Cumaean 
Sibyl. He illustrates his view in SF/Fantasy form with BotNS. 
Thus he populates the story with characters such as Abaia, Father Inire, Typhon, Tzadkiel 
and of course the Cumaean. Gerry's urgings that we remember the narrative plot purpose 
of these characters are appropriate. But I find the pagan subtext to add depth and texture.
The idea that the Cumaean character represents the real Cumaean sybil from earth is a cool 
one. I suppose the evidence from the text could be debated on this but, like most other 
debates here, I think the conclusion would remain moot.
Good research in recognizing that the Cumaean Sybil did eventually become old and shrivelled
and was associated with snakes (and vampires) through the Pythian Oracle at Delphi and the 
lamia connection. 
I've long thought the Old Leech was the Cumaean in disguise. The Old Leech is connected to 
Vodulus as is the Cumaean (through Hildegrin). The lamia were snake-women who stole children 
to drink their blood (remembering the poor youth Mamas in the story).
I also think the Cumaean is in disguise as the necromancer, Ceryx. I tend to think all the encounters between the Cumaean and Severian, perhaps even the first in the Witches Tower were 
pre-arranged, not chance meetings. I think the (never fulfilled) purpose of the meetings was to wrest from Severian the secret of the one (christ-like) power the pagan deities (even Tzadkiel) 
did not possess: true resurrection, be it the life of a human being or a planet.
There are some interesting literary references in the wikipedia article on the Cumaean Sibyl.
There is Robert Graves, whose work many find to have a link with BotNS. There is Mary Shelley
who is rather explicitly referenced in BotNS. And there is the epigraph to Eliot's "The Waste Land":  
>"For I myself once saw with my own eyes the Sibyl hanging in her jar, and when the boys asked her, >'Sibyl, what do you want?' she answered 'I want to die.'
This would go along with Bruno's insight that The Cumaean might be associated with the Mandragora. That's a new idea/connection I'm very pleased has been unearthed. 		 	   		  

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