By walking men's reversèd feet
I chanced another world to meet;
Though it did not to view exceed
A phantom, 'tis a world indeed;
Where skies beneath us shine,
And earth by art divine
Another face presents below,
Where people's feet against ours go.
We were in Glasgow.
Walking through a town that looked to me like a remastered version of Birmingham.
With my daughter and James.
Down a street on our way to the Necropolis...
There were footprints high up on a wall.
James stopped and explained that such footprints are a local tradition...
"It's a Glasgow thing"
I said that it was the same for us.
I remembered school, kids jumping at pale walls to leave their shoe prints.
Kudos to he or she who leapt highest.
Perhaps it is a Scandinavian thing?
I thought of the drawings cut into the rock at Bohuslän: a Swedish province in Götaland.
You see the boats, the men..
You see the shields...
and the foot prints.
Some have shoes, some are shoe-less.
All of them carved, so not quite the same thing as the dusty boot marks on walls, but nevertheless, to my mind similar.
Most of the footprints lead down the rocks, from higher to lower ground.
Many seem to lead out of a barrow cemetery, and commence a silent march towards the pools and bog land, where water and land merge. It is possible that they were heading towards the sea once close by, now more distant.
Thus did I by the water's brink
Another world beneath me think;
And while the lofty spacious skies
Reversèd there, abused mine eyes,
I fancied other feet
Came mine to touch or meet;
As by some puddle I did play
Another world within it lay.
There, the dead would wait patiently on the beach for the ships.
Now so many will tell you that the Underworld was imagined to be under us, that the dead walk upside down, their feet pressed firm to the same land we walk.
The Epic of Gilgamesh makes it clear that the land of the dead is over there and not under anything...and yet in European myth the Otherworld coexists in the same time and space as this world. It is more complicated than a neat diagram, too big to fit within any map.
People of the The Ertebølle culture (ca 5300 BC – 3950 BC) fishermen and hunters grew healthy and strong on food from the sea, it is also said that they cracked open the jaws of their enemies to feast on the marrow within. They buried their dead with deer antlers and red ochre...sometimes...Both burial and cremation were practised.
But at Møllegabet in southern Denmark, an individual was buried in a canoe, which some see as the beginning of Scandinavian boat burials.
The journey into the Otherworld has a very long history.
The perilous journey over the celestial seas with the Sun down to the primal mound where Osiris waits, the ordeal of Ur Nammu as the boat sweeps him away from the battle field as he lies abandoned by his men are stories that do not tell of the others, silently waiting at the edges of this world..
Visio Godeschalci describes a journey to the underworld.
After death the traveller sees an immensely large and beautiful linden-tree hanging full of shoes, which were handed down to such dead travellers as had exercised mercy during their lives. When the dead had passed this tree they had to cross a heath two miles wide, thickly grown with thorns, and then they came to a river full of irons with sharp edges. The unjust had to wade through this river, and suffered immensely. They were cut and mangled in every limb; but when they reached the other strand, their bodies were the same as they had been when they began crossing the river...
|Nevada's landmark 'shoe tree'..now cut down.|