What Is A Pergus?

To the worshiper, a god; to the reasoner, a face; to the undone,
A blade of grass that even now is warmed with parting cry
Of love that fled into surpriséd earth…
- Pergus Prayer

"Hole with Rowan Leaves," Andy Goldsworthy

"Hole with Rowan Leaves," Andy Goldsworthy. One kind of earth pergus.

A Pergus is a spot on the earth that houses part of a soul. It is round, about twice the size of a manhole cover, and gives off a mild electric charge, like a small Van de Graaff generator. A beam of colored light extends from the pergus up into the sky; a similar one probably extends into the earth, as well, but this is conjecture. Some pergi have noises and scents. One that I know of smells like bread.

As tactile connections with the Infinite, pergi fall into three categories. A God Pergus is a particular piece of real estate, like Lourdes or Delphi, where God comes to visit on a fairly regular schedule. A Time Pergus is a place where a significant historical deed was done, either a struggle, a speech, or an act of creation, and is constantly being repeated. The most powerful, though, is the Death Pergus. Here a person we love has passed away, often quite suddenly, and the earth is marked by the passing.

 

The Meaning of a Pergus

“It is in vain to dream of a wildness distant from ourselves. There is none such.” — Henry David Thoreau

It may be the 21st Century, but we are not as far removed from Myth as we like to think, and our conscious focus on the stars is matched by the eternal chthonic pull of what’s under our feet. We still shudder at the right spot.

Although it gives off the same frisson that we might feel when standing too close to a headstone, a pergus is not a grave; there is nothing corporeal, much less eternally restful, about it. There is an acute sense of pending encounter that makes each visit to a pergus an experience of high drama. It is a quickening of life, a thrilling encounter between the pin-prick of a single human consciousness and the awful blankness of non-being.

"The Return of Persephone," Frederic Leighton

"The Return of Persephone," Frederic Leighton (1891) The play of forces within the pergus.

One would think that creation, death and time are large enough to encompass the universe, and that we are as close to our loved ones in one spot as we are in another, like in the Buddhist saying, “If it’s here it’s everywhere; if it’s not here it’s nowhere.” Yet we feel that somehow that’s not enough, that living among the Eternities is either impossible or unsatisfactory, or at any rate inhuman, and that our sympathies are rooted in the soil we know and rounded by the sensual world.

A pergus is the deus in the machina of the spheres, the human in the blur of the infinite that defines the Mythic encounter. Inside its intimate confines, the Void looks straight at us, and holds our face between Its hands.

"Medusa," Arnold Böcklin

"Medusa," Arnold Böcklin (1878). A picture or a mirror?

 

Why a Pergus is Round

“A poet knows that when a thing becomes isolated, it becomes round, assumes a figure of being that is concentrated upon itself.” — Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Tree always in the center
Of all that surrounds it
Tree fasting upon
Heaven’s great dome.

One day it will see God
And so, to be sure,
It develops its being in roundness
And holds out ripe arms to Him…
— Rainer Maria Rilke

“An attempt at visualizing the Fourth Dimension: Take a point, stretch it into a line, curl it into a circle, twist it into a sphere, and punch through the sphere.” — Albert Einstein

 

About the Name

“Pergus” is the name of a Sicilian lake that stands near the spot where Persephone, daughter of the goddess Demeter, was dragged into the Underworld by Hades. It is mentioned in Ovid’s Metamorphes:

Near Henna’s walls stands a deep pool of water, called Pergus:
not even the river Cayster, flowing serenely,
hears more songs from its swans; this pool is completely surrounded
by a ring of tall trees, whose foliage, just like an awning,
keeps out the sun and preserves the water’s refreshing coolness;
the moist ground is covered with flowers of Tyrian purple;
here it is springtime forever. And here Proserpina
was playfully picking its white lilies and violets,
and, while competing to gather up more than her playmates,
filling her basket and stuffing the rest in her bosom,
Dis saw her, was smitten, seized her and carried her off—

It should be noted that Persephone’s return, however tenuous, was on the same spot.

Lake Pergus

Lake Pergus in Sicily

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