Kerberos and Hercules
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
One example of a human who finds a way to enter the underworld is the story of Hercules. The myth of Hercules is really a shamanic journey retold – a ‘hero’s’ journey. But in the myth, Cerberos must be captured alive, without using weapons. This is thus a symbolic story of how guardians should not - indeed cannot normally - be killed. After having been given the task, Hercules goes to Eleusis to be initiated in the Eleusinian Mysteries [a place where trance states were used to induce visionary experiences], so that he could learn how to enter and exit the underworld alive.
During the shamanic journey, he finds the entrance to the underworld at Tanaerum. This was a frequently used portal. It was the route that Psyche used to retrieve a bit of Persephone's beauty for Aphrodite, and Orpheus went down to Hades through this portal when he tried to get back Eurydice.
Athena and Hermes help him to traverse the entrance in each direction. He passes Charon [the ferryman who takes souls across the Styx], with Hestia's assistance and in the underworld meets Hades, asking permission to bring Cerberus to the surface. Hades agrees if Hercules is able overpower the beast without using weapons. Hercules is able to overpower Cerberus and slinging the beast over his back, drags it out of Hades through a cavern entrance.