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Observations placeholder

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili - Thorny Forest



Type of Spiritual Experience


The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili was written by Francesco Colonna, a Dominican friar in the 16th century.  The book describes the allegorical journey of Poliphili, and one of the features he has to traverse is the terrors of the forest with its thorns.

Polia has her own story to tell in the book and she also encounters the forest and sees Cupid driving two women who have scorned Love, been cold and heartless.  They are being made to suffer for their hard hearts – Cupid has turned nasty!

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili [The Strife of Love in a Dream]   - Francesco Colonna translated by Joscelyn Godwin
This made me suspect, not unreasonably, that I had arrived at the vast Hercynian Forest, where there was nothing but the lairs of dangerous bears and caverns full of noxious creatures and fierce monsters.  I was defenceless and terribly afraid of suddenly being mauled by a bristly boar, like Charidemus, or by a furious and hungry wild-ox, or by hissing serpents;  I imagined howling wolves falling upon me and devouring my dismembered flesh.  My fear made me waver, but I cursed my inertia and determined to lose no more time in finding an exit and escaping the imminent dangers.  I forced my hesitant and wandering paces to hurry on, often falling over roots protruding from the earth, seeking at random now this way, now that, now right, now left, now forwards, now back again, not knowing where I was going.  Thus I came to a woodland full of briars and brambles, a place of thorn bushes and prickly prunus whose rough berries scratched my face, while the sharp thistles and other spines tore my robe and held me back, delaying my attempted flight.  Seeing no indication of a viable footpath or trodden way, I was much confused and dismayed and went even faster.  Either my hurrying steps, or the south wind or the motion of my body made me hot, so that my chilled breast was bathed in sweat..
Obscurity was already invading my mind, and clouds enveloping my senses, so that I did not know which choice to make, would I meet a hateful death, or could I hope for rescue as I wandered in the opaque shadowed wood?  Coursing hither and thither, I put my utmost strength and ingenuity to work for my escape; but my search only took me deeper in, and ever darker.  I was becoming incapacitated by terror and fully expecting some wild beast to leap out of somewhere and begin to devour me; or else in my blindness I would stumble and fall into a deep ditch or trench, or into some vast cleft in the earth, then end my painful life like Amphiaraus and Curtius, swallowed up by the mephitic chasm and fall even further than mad Pyreneus.  Thus I wandered pointlessly and almost hopelessly with my mind in confusion as I sought an exit

I may have missed a few symbols here.  For you to search and find them in the symbol section!

A description of the experience

No track was to be seen in this thorny wood


The source of the experience

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps