Ruth M. Van Dyke
In the southwest United States, high altitudes, open vistas, and cloudless skies create a visual atmosphere where the light is legendary. I focus on the role of light for the people of Chaco Canyon—a 1,000-year-old pilgrimage centre in the San Juan Basin of northwest New Mexico. Here, worldviews and cosmologies involved the dualistic juxtaposition of light and dark, visible and invisible, sun and moon. The movements of celestial bodies in a clear sky, and the presence of open sightlines with distinctive peaks, contributed to the creation of a complex cosmography. Sun and moon, visibility and invisibility, light and darkness opposed one another and revolved around Chaco Canyon—the centre of the ancient Chacoan world.
In ancient Greek thought, Hades constitutes, inter alia, the incarnation of the invisible— an apparent contradiction of efforts to represent the dark kingdom of the lord of dead. After a brief review of the special vocabulary, imagery, and connotations associated with darkness in poetic and philosophical thinking, this chapter investigates the main devices used in mythic narratives as well as in real religious topography to insinuate darkness and invisibility. An astute use of natural landscape features and architectural elements, such as natural or artificial chasms, narrow passages, cloudy atmosphere, shadowing, and reflective effects tries to anticipate the features of the Otherworld and/or to permit a protected, although slightly distorted, view of the unseeable. Particular emphasis is given to the role of caves and ever-flowing rivers and streams, but also of still water of pools and lakes, an element which acquires an increasing importance from the classical period onwards.