Entering the “Hypogeum”: A Method
Excerpted from “Cuatrian Remnants in Italic Folk-lore and Culture” by Edwin Palmer (1908)
There is, in the folk-lore of Siracusa and the surrounding regions, where echoes remain of the Cuatrian ways, a peculiar, yet efficacious, practice for those who wish to seek advice or visions from the so-called “Cusas,” or “Causes,” those strange entities so like, yet so unlike, deities or tutelary spirits. Referred to only as “li prucessu,” “the Process” or “the Method,” it is similar in some ways to the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in which the Mind’s Eye summons forth images from the greater Imagination, which are supposed to be as real as those seen during waking experience.
As Apuleius descended into the Cave of the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris and observed there, “…the sun glittering with a splendid light,” within the splendorous chthonic realms of Proserpine, so did the initiated within the Cult of Antuor enter the Hypogeic World.
It was only after gaining an almost familial trust that Chiara [ed. Palmer’s source for Quatrian folklore] one day described this Method to me, as it was considered of such great gravity within the Cuatrian community of Augusta that sharing it with the uninitiated could result in terrible social shame or even ostracization. I only reprint this Method here knowing that those members of Chiara’s community who would consider it a great offense will not likely avail themselves of this work, and, of course, as I will take Chiara’s true identity to my grave.
According to Chiara, the entrance to the Hypogeum must first be opened in an ‘in-between state’: dusk, dawn, half-way between sleep and wakefulness. Although a largely abstentatious people, the Cuatrians could also perform this Method after the imbibment of a quantity of the local wine. As a side note, the Cusas, who dwell within the Hypogeum, can emerge from their side according to their own rules, which, as a general case, humans are unable to comprehend.
The Cuatrian would lie on his back and picture an Opening to a Dark place. Each person’s entrance was different; Chiara herself envisioned a cave, but the imagining could be a temple, a closet, a ‘fairy house,’ or a fountain. As long as the opening leads below the surface of the world, it is acceptable.
Next, the seeker would listen closely until he began to hear a faint ringing noise: the “Voice of the Swallows,” who are sacred to Antuor. Eventually the would will become a two-syllable ‘word,’ similar to a Hindoo “mantra.” The Cuatrian would then begin repeating this word, internally, as though a chant.
As the word was repeated, the visionary would slowly be drawn into the darkness of the Hypogeum and a series of colors would begin to appear. This word and series of colors became the ‘key’ to the Hypogeum, through which he could access this state at any time. This key would only work for the individual Cuatrian. As was said, in the Italic, La porta dell’ipogeo si aprirà per tutti, ma ognuno di noi ha bisogno della propria chiave.
Finally, the seeker would drift into the Hypogeum and experience some kind of Vision. The exact nature of this Vision remains obscure; try as I might, I could never convince Chiara to expound upon the specifics of her internal journies, as these were considered entirely too personal and Mysterious for those who had not yet been initiated into the Mysteries of Antuor….