Wastes of Asphodel

I like the sound of it: Wastes of Asphodel in the poem in the last post. It is a deep dark place somewhere that I think of as cyberspace, removed yet connected to the world. As more and more people do their banking and blog about their day and so on, as cyberspace becomes more mundane with blinking banners urging us to buy, will these wastes become malls?

Sort of. But not quite. Land is land and dreams are dreams. For all the pixilated neon, it remains virtual. There is a dream world. In Dreams in Late Antiquity By Patricia Cox Miller (Google Amazon) shows how it is the other world, the world of dreams.

A passage from the book follows.

In Homer’s Odyse dreams were located spatially in an imaginal landscape that was in close proximity to the dwelling place of the dead. Book 24 of this Homeric text opens with a description of the journey taken by Penelope’s slain suitors, a journey that takes them from the concrete space of empirical reality through a fantastic geography.

[Hermes] led than down dank ways,
over grey Ocean tides, the Snowy Rock,
past shores of Dream [demos wire’s] and narrows of the sunset, in swift flight to where the Dead inhabit
wastes of asphodel at the world’s end.2

Also translated as “village of dreams” and “people of dreams,” the demos (“minim is located beyond Okeanos, the mythological river that encircled the “real” world.3 Described as “the land where reality ends and everything is fabulous,” the regions of Okeanos inscribe a boundary in cosmic spacc.4 Beyond that boundary is a realm of images and ghosts, a space that one interpreter has characterized as an “anticosmos,” “the reverse side of the cosmic order” that mirrors its other in fantastic, phantasmal ways.5 This, then, is the spatial location of dreams in the Homeric cosmos.
The fact that the word demos has been translated as “village,” an architectural construct, and as “people,” a race of living beings, provides an interesting (if unintentional) clue to two further features of the Homeric view of dreams that were to persist in late-antique characterizations of dreams.

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