The Dead Marshes


Back to the Lord of the Rings. This post will be about the Dead Marshes that Frodo, Sam and Gollum go through, but it will also show the true symbolism of swamps and marshes in myths and legends. Sam says “There are dead faces in the water”. Gollum replies “They are dead elves, men and orcs”. What are the myths and Lord of the Rings trying to show us with swamps and marshes?

I have seen researchers equate swamps and marshes with all bodies of water when they are trying to make sense of the myths. They do this because water was very important to the ancients in life and myth. As you will see the wet lands have a total different meaning than other bodies of water. For the most part, with bodies of water you have to know the culture to understand what they are trying to say. For example in Egyptian myths when they talk about the ocean or sea, most of the time it is the sky or the night sky. Swamps and marshes seem to have a universal meaning.

To understand what Tolkien and the myths are saying you have to realize they are talking about the swamp of human emotions. Humans do not let emotions flow through them, they bottle them up. The sign for emotions is water(see Magic). Water that does not flow becomes stagnate and rotten. We are expressive beings and when we hold those emotions in, mainly bad ones, we become very mean-spirited or spiritually dead. Because we are expressive beings, we want people to feel like us. When we are happy we want people to be happy or hang around other happy people. Because everyone is holding their emotions in they become grouchy or mean.  When they do something mean to someone, the first reaction is to be mean back. We do this consciously and subconsciously. “If I am miserable, everyone is going to be miserable.” Misery loves company, but every emotional state loves to be around the same emotional state.

This is what the myths are referring to when they have demonic and evil spirits in the swamp. They are talking about the negative emotions that are backed up in people. Being miserable, fearful, jealous, angry, hateful and just plain mean to other people. Each character is symbolizing one or more of these negative emotions. Most of them are trying to lure you into the swamp. Misery loves company. Some researcher will say they are just saying that a swamp or marsh is dangerous. As I have said many times before, the ancients were very intelligent. They knew not to go into a swamp especially at night. They just told people don’t go in there or you will get eaten by a crocodile or some other beast that makes the swamp their home. The ancients knew that nothing in nature is evil. “It is as it is.” Emotions are another story, they are very complex. So they embedded them in their fantastic stories.

In Lord of the Rings, you will notice that when they enter the Dead Marsh they are in a doom and gloom mindset. They are in the negative emotional mindset. As they make their way through the marsh, they see the dead faces in the water. This is symbolizing the dead masses in their swamp of backed up emotions. Gollum tells them “Don’t follow the lights”. Meaning don’t follow the light of the masses, follow your own light. He also tells them, “Be careful or you will fall in and become just like them”. Frodo falls in and the dead start surrounding him. This is his mind being overcome by negative emotions. Being in this environment will do that to you. Gollum pulling him out is him snapping out of it and leaving the environment. Remember every character in this story is an aspect of you. Gollum reminds him “Don’t follow their light”, follow your own light.

Now I will give you something in magic, so you can try to break this negative cycle(See Magic). This is another big reason why wizards and witches do not fit in with the masses. They don’t like the negative cycles of other people. When someone is negative toward you, don’t be reactive. Realize that they don’t really know what they are doing. Be the one to break the cycle. When you have someone who you don’t like or is negative towards you, make your magic a win-win situation. Visualize something good happening to them like a promotion that they have to move for or them meeting their soul mate, preferably in a different location. Not only is it positive for them it is positive for you, a win-win. Lifting them up will help them treat other people better and give them a chance to break the negative cycle themselves. I’m not saying they won’t slip back, they probably will, but it gives them a chance to become positive. When you practice your magic and end it with “Bless all involved and hurt no one”, you will start reaping the rewards of your cycle.

8 thoughts on “The Dead Marshes”

  1. I’ve never thought about what I do in my daily life as magic, by doing rituals, meditation and prayer. Of course it is! I do everything that I can do avoid getting into negative cycles. I love that we are writing about the same things but coming from different backgrounds, perspectives and aptitudes. What a beautiful thing it is to share.

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  2. I can tell you nothing about Egypt outside the slips I learned about from Markale and from your own comment boxes. But I might be able to tell you a little about Germanic and Celtic things.

    Water used to symbolise the primal life. Romans recorded that Celts used to hang out around marshes. We know votive offerings were given to (the) Goddess/es. Tacitus talks about The Goddess (Nerthus? Erce? Earth Herself? We know the English worshipped the Earth Mother in and of Herself, ergo Mother Earth.) The Goddess was lumped around on a wagon or litter and eventually everything of hers was ritually sacrificed to a spring. Including her thralls (servants.) If one reads Grønbech (I have some stuff on him) than reincarnation among the Teutonic people was a question of blood and soil, and there were complicated rituals for determining both. But I bet you here and now that the act of drowning the priests was to ensure they reincarnated with the Goddess. Kind of like how setting corpses on fire sent them to Father Heaven, or Odin.

    Bogs were where scum were sacrificed, and I think that’s why in the end the big became a bitter memory. But it wasn’t always. And to be fair, we have things like hucking quarters in wells, skipping stones and all manner of unconscious methods of directing energy back to the waters of life, which I think go back to “khaos” or Ginungagap being the Cosmic Womb.

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