To Other Worlds

Michael D. Winkle

Gates Encountered?

A GateAdmit it: You thought Gates opening onto other worlds or dimensions were something they made up for comic books and fantasy novels, didn't you? So did I, until I discovered a whole book devoted to Gates by Ernest Leslie Highbarger, The Gates of Dreams (1940). I assumed the mathematical concepts of higher dimensions and parallel universes had to appear before dimensional Gateways could be envisioned, but it seems that Gates very much like those of science fiction and fantasy novels are legitimate features of certain mythologies and ancient religions.

The most famous Gates in ancient writings were the Gates of Ivory and Horn from Greek Mythology. "These Gates were sometimes definitely localized and were then conceived as genuine physical entities, not merely metaphorical concepts," writes Highbarger [p. 4].

Let's see. . . Where are these Gates, so I can put them in my fantasy world?

I wanted there to be a Gate near the Ural Mountains in Russia. Why? I wanted the people who became the Proto-Indo-Europeans to come through a Gate from another world, colonizing Earth, or part of it, anyway. According to J. P. Mallory's In Search of the Indo-Europeans (1989), the oldest Proto-Indo-European artifacts date back to about 7,000 B.C., from north-central Russia.

Horn and Ivory

Maybe this Gate I hypothesize was the Ivory Gate. The Ivory Gate "was originally in the north, therefore; but we shall find that an attempt was made as early as Homer to locate it in the East, or Northeast." [p. 4] The Urals are both north and east of Greece. Also, in Egypt:

". . . the Pharaoh became identified with the sun (Re), and his station in the sky was sometimes said to be in the northeast quarter. . . it was necessary for him to follow a definite path in his journey to the (eastern) sky. He must first enter the double-door (or gate) of the sky." [pp. 10-11]

The Urals are also northeast of Egypt. Sounds good to me: The Gate of Ivory is in the Ural Mountains of Russia (this is very close to where Aristeas of Proconnesus located the Gryphons and the Arimaspians).

So how about the Gate of Horn, or Horns (as of a bull)? Highbarger identifies the Gate of Horns with the Gate of the Dead and the Gate of the West, "in the country of the Cimmerians," according to Homer. [p. 58] Not just the Greek poet, either; "in Egyptian thought and in Mesopotamian art we discover a 'Gate of Horns' and a 'Gate of the East.' It is equally clear that in Egypt, at least, this Gate of the Horns was located in the West." [p. 21]

The ancient Cimmerians, or Kimmerioi, have nothing to do with Robert E. Howard's Conan the Cimmerian. In The Odyssey, Odysseus must sail "to deep flowing Okeanos, the outer bound of the earth, where lie the land and city of the Kimmerioi." This is apparently the Atlantic coast. Sabine-Baring Gould, in his Curious Myths of the Middle Ages (1868), may have pin-pointed the area as Brittany, on the western extremity of France:

"'At the extreme coast of Gaul [France] is a spot protected from the tides of Ocean, where Odysseus by blood-shed allured forth the silent folk. There are heard wailing cries, and the light fluttering around of the shadows. And the natives there see pale, statue-like figures and dead corpses walking.' [Claudian, Rufin. I. 123-133] According to Philemon in Pliny, the Cimbri [Cimmerians?] called the Northern Ocean Morimarusa, i.e. mare mortuum, the sea of the dead." [Curious Myths, p. 533]

So the Gate of Horns may be in Brittany. Highbarger, by the way, writes that "in Mesopotamian art the bull was often represented as the guardian of gates." [p. 45] He suggests that the Minotaur's original duty, far from merely lumbering about in a maze, was to be a guardian of Gates. Maybe if you went through a Gate, you would meet a Minotaur! The term "Gate of Horn" or "the Horns" refers to the crescent-moon formed by a bull's horns.

Night and Day

According to the Greek poet Hesiod, there is a Gate of Night and a Gate of Day. Where might these be? Highbarger writes:

"Here, before the bronze threshold of Night's house, stands Atlas supporting Heaven with his head and hands . . . Before this region, where dwell Night, Ocean, and Tartarus, is a glistening Gate with bronze threshold." [pp. 50-51]

But I know where that is! The hero Perseus showed Atlas the hideous head of Medusa, and he turned into a mountain -- one of the Atlas Mountains, which straddle the border of Morocco and Algeria in northern Africa. So there we will find the Gate of Night, or, as I think I'll call it, the Gate of Bronze.

The Gate of Day, also called the Gate of the Sun, was far to the east, in Aethiopia, a name which in olden days referred to most of Africa [p. 57]. So it must be in eastern Africa. Since the Sun has always been associated with gold in most cultures, I'm tempted to call this the Gate of Gold, but that's too much like the Golden Gate Bridge.

Highbarger thinks that the Pharaoh Akhenaton, who worshiped a single supreme god, Aton [the Sun], had something to do with the Gate of the Sun. I always wanted to say that Akhenaton and his queen, Nefertiti, disappeared through a Gate; they both vanished rather strangely from history. As the Encyclopedia of Ancient Civilizations (ed. Arthur Cotterell, 1980) reports: "His city and temples were razed to the ground and his name and that of his god expunged . . . little has survived on which to base a reconstruction of events or to assess the characters and motives of the principle actors in the drama." [p. 29]

So little is known about what happened, maybe they did fall through a Gate with a few faithful followers. Akhenaton's city Akhetaten lay halfway between Memphis and Thebes. Maybe that is where the Gate of the Sun lies.

Even More Gates!

There is also the "Gate of Song or "Gate of the Muses", mentioned by Pindar and Bacchylides. This is apparently in Pieria, a district near Mt. Olympus. On Olympus itself is the Gate of Clouds, "through which the gods were thought to enter and leave Mount Olympus." [p. 47]

In Vergil's Aeneid, Aeneas visits the Gate of Orcus, or Gate of Sleep, near Avernus, which is a lake near Naples, Italy. "On the threshold, but within the open doors, were Centaurs, Scylla, Briareus, the Lerna Snake [hydra], the Chimaera, Gorgons, Harpies, and Geryon." [p. 73] Pretty crowded! Highbarger also mentions an Egyptian "gate of fire" in passing.

And what's this in Lucian of Samosata's The Isle of Dreams (2nd Century AD)? "There are not two Gates as Homer has said, but four. . . one made of iron, another of clay." So there's a Gate of Iron and a Gate of Clay ["Brick" in some translations]. Where might these be?

The Pillars of Hercules are often thought of as Gates; one set lies at the mouth of the Mediterranean, while the location of the other set is lost to history. The Gate of Horns is depicted as two simple columns on Mesopotamian cylinder seals; "pillars" and "gates" are therefore about the same. The Muddy Sea mentioned by Aristotle was a shallow, submerged plateau to the southwest of the Pillars of Hercules. The Carthaginian admiral Himilco, sent to explore the area in 509 B.C., reported "Many seaweeds grow in the troughs between the waves, which slow the ship like bushes . . . Here the beasts of the sea move slowly hither and thither, and great monsters swim languidly among the sluggishly creeping ships" [Rufus Festus Avienus, Description of the World]. In other words, this area greatly resembles the Sargasso Sea of Atlantic lore.

And, heck, one might make up a few Gates that sound appropriate: The Gate of Silver, or the Moon; the Gate of Diamonds, or Adamant; the Gate of Ice (good for Hyperborea and the North); the Gate of Stone (Stonehenge?). Highbarger mentions the importance of the Great Bear (the constellation) in these legends more than once, but what if you took the reference literally? A Gate of the Bear? Then why not of the Wolf, the Pard, the Horse, the Stag, the Unicorn, the Gryphon, the Dragon, the Phoenix, etc.?

Gates galore await us and our fantasy writings -- but once we pass beyond, we will have to describe whole new worlds. To some that thought is daunting -- to others, exciting.

The full title of the booklet that inspired this article is (are you ready?):

Highbarger, Ernest Leslie. The Gate of Dreams: An Archaeological Examination of Vergil, Aeneid VI, 893-899. John Hopkins University Studies in Archaeology, No. 30. Edited by David M. Robinson. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1940).

Gate Where on earth What might be on the other side
Ivory Ural Mountains Indo-Europeans, Gryphons, Arimaspi
Horn Brittany Zombies and ghosts. Minotaurs?
Bronze Atlas Mountains Atlanteans?
Gold Nile River, Egypt Akhenaton's followers?
Fire Egyptian myths and African legends
Song Mount Olympus; Greece Shepherds, Muses, Sirens?
Clouds Greek Gods?
Iron Near Atlantic? Iron Age Culture (plenty of swordplay)
Clay Less advanced than above
Sleep Naples, Italy Chimera, Gorgons, other monsters
Pillars of Hercules Entrance to Mediterranean Sargasso Sea
Moon Transylvania? Werewolves and vampires?
Diamond Mountain country Gem mines and workers (dwarves?)
Ice Arctic Yeti, Woolly Mammoths, Dire Wolves
Stone Salisbury Plain Celtic myth, Arthurian characters

Gates Encountered?

Have people run into Gates? A few anecdotes from mythology, legend, and the paranormal make one wonder. What would someone see, entering a Gate? What would an observer see?

The Lightning Gate

From Charles Fort's New Lands (1923):

Charleston News and Courier, Nov. 25, 1886 -- that, at Edina, Mo., November 23, a man and his three sons were pulling corn on a farm. Nothing is said of meteorologic conditions, and, for all I know, they may have been pulling corn in a violent thunderstorm. Something that is said to have been lightning flashed from the sky. The man was slightly injured, one son killed, the other seriously injured -- the third had disappeared. "What has become of him is not known, but it is supposed that he was blinded or crazed by the shock, and wandered away."

Or maybe the lightning opened a Gate -- a rather dangerous Lightning Gate!

The Mysterious Fog

A strange mist or fog, sometimes milky and sometimes described as green, may hide the presence of a Gate. "Manawydan, Son of Llyr," a tale found in The Mabinogion, tells the story of Manawydan, his new wife Rhiannon, her son Pryderi, and Pryderi's wife Kigva. Upon marrying Rhiannon, Manawydan becomes lord of Dyved in southwestern Wales. After riding out from their castle at Arberth, the foursome encounter a curious phenomenon:

As they were sitting on the mound they heard thunder, and with the loudness of the thunder a mist fell, so that no one could see his companions. When the mist lifted it was bright everywhere, and when they looked out at where they had once seen their flocks and herds and dwellings they now saw nothing, no animal, no smoke, no fire, no man, no dwelling. . . They returned to the hall, but no one was there; they searched the chambers and the sleeping quarters but found nothing. [Jeffrey Gantz translation, 1976]

A similar fate supposedly befell Romulus, the legendary co-founder [with his brother Remus] of Rome. Romulus mysteriously vanished in 714 BC. (The mention of a solar eclipse during the event would set the date as May 26 of that year.) The Roman author Livy (Livius Titus) wrote, in The Early History of Rome, that "One day while he was reviewing his troops on the Campus Martius near the marsh of Capra, a storm burst, with violent thunder. A cloud enveloped him, so thick that it hid him from the eyes of everyone present; and from that moment he was never seen again upon earth."


Gates may open for no rhyme or reason, or by following some pattern we can't predict. Thomas and Annie Cumpston, who spent the night (part of it, anyway) at the Victoria Hotel in Bristol (England) seem to have encountered a rogue Gate on December 9, 1873. According to The Bristol Daily Post:

About three or four o'clock they heard worse noises, but what they were they had no idea. The floor seemed to be giving way, and the bed also seemed to open They heard voices, and what they said was repeated after them. Her husband wished her to get out of the way. The floor certainly seemed to open, and her husband fell down some distance, and she tried to get him up.

The floor opened or vanished into a ghastly blackness from which echo-like voices came. The Cumpstons not only climbed out of the void, they jumped out the window, twelve feet from the ground, and fled to a nearby railroad station. If they had fallen through this Gate, they would have been two of the countless people who disappear every year.

D. J. West's "A Pilot Census of Hallucinations" (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research Vol. 57, Part 215, April 1990), carries the following account, sent in by a female student nurse:

"It was roughly 8.0 a.m. I was sat [sic] in my room having a cup of tea . . . Suddenly a large hole appeared in the floor -- it took up most of the floor and the edges looked as if it were a rocky formation. Although I couldn't see to the bottom of the hole I knew it was very deep. A voice [said] to me to 'jump in'. The hole and the voice disappeared. I've not had this experience again."

This case is similar to the Cumpstons' not only for its void in the floor but for the mysterious voice accompanying the phenomenon. One can only wonder what would have happened to the young nurse had she obeyed the command to jump.

Dream Houses

Finally there are the strange stories of the "Dream Houses", which might be buildings with Gates built into their very structure, for all I know.

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