Where is Aceso when we need her. . . not for atheists or biblical literalists

The River Acheron - for real!

The River Acheron – for real!

Somewhere in the Philippines is an oversized book copy of Dante’s Inferno. It is a spectacular copy illustrated with reprints of the well-known woodcut illustrations by Gustave Dore (1832-1883). I know the book is there because it was supposed to be mine.

I grew up with the book. Or, to be more precise, when I was a kid, I found the book in my father’s study and read Inferno because I could not imagine the story those pictures went with. Yes, read Inferno when I was in third or fourth grade. (How do you think I know which circle of Hell is reserved for eternity for the monster who invented fluorescent lights?) That I knew the book existed had to be a secret because that meant I had been sneaking into Dad’s study and reading books. We were not allowed in the study unless he was there working.

The book is in the Philippines because, when Dad was disposing of the “things” of his life to move into the assisted living section of the retirement community where my parents lived, he boxed up books to give to a Baptist seminary in the Philippines. Inferno was one of the books with a sticker bearing my name that was supposed to stay in Fresno until I could retrieve it. Someone put it in a seminary box, and I never saw it again.

Aceso by Dore

Acheron by Dore

It’s hard for me to imagine that any Baptist seminary student in the Philippines or anywhere else would read Divine Comedy seriously. Or perhaps they eat it up because, as anyone with any sense knows, it and Milton’s Paradise Lost—not the Bible or any other religious writing—are the source for Fundamentalist Christians’ (and nearly everyone else’s) ideas about the nature of the afterlife.

When I was in high school (we were living in Omaha, NE, in a house on 58th Street) my bedroom and Dad’s study were, for a while, in the same “finished” attic space, and Dad came up to work and found me reading Inferno (again) –or, rather, looking at the Dore illustrations. He told me to be careful to remember it was fiction, Dante’s creation, and not to be confused with Biblical theology of heaven and hell. Some Baptist preachers can discern the difference between a good yarn and religious faith.

Aceso - goddess of healing

Aceso – goddess of healing

All of this memory stuff came flooding back this morning because I was fiddling around trying to put together a cute little posting about my need for a visit from Apollo and/or his daughter Aceso, the goddess of healing of pain. In the process of my snooping around in Google, I came across an electronic copy of the Dore print of Charon ferrying dead souls across the River Acheron, the River of Pain, into Hell. We all think the River Styx is Charon’s bailiwick, but it’s only one of them.

My proposed cute little posting (yes, I’m supposed to be finishing the grades for the last of my four classes) was inspired by my waking up with the return of the pain in my hip. Not really pain, but uncomfortable awareness. I had thought earlier this week that my four-month ordeal was over. But it’s a good thing, I guess, I didn’t get rid of the cane.

My pain in the butt has been from time to time a sharper and longer-lasting pain than I ever wanted to feel. I know I’m a wuss (“a male person with low courage factor,” according to the Urban Dictionary), and what I’ve been experiencing is hardly pain by most people’s standards. But it’s been, well, a pain the butt for far too long.

So I woke up this morning wishing for a visit from Aceso, the minor deity assigned to helping those in pain, because I assumed my pain wouldn’t warrant a visit from Apollo, the head honcho god of healing. I was just getting ready to watch her duke it out with Lupe (not to be confused with the Virgin of Guadalupe), goddess of pain and suffering, when I came across the Dore etching of Charon on the Acheron, and I got hopelessly sidetracked.

A visit from the healer?

A visit from the healer?

And that got me to thinking (for perhaps the thousandth time) that, if we hadn’t gotten rid of all of those wonderful gods and goddesses in favor of the One True God, it would be much easier for me (and, I suspect, millions of other mere mortals) to give up our agnosticism (or outright atheism).

I mean, who wouldn’t like a visit from, a little chat with, a stroke of healing by Apollo?

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