Lamellae Orphicae Gold Foil Passports Discovered That Gave Ancient Greek Spirits The Keys To Elysium

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For ancient Greeks, getting into a heaven they called Elysium appeared to be as simple as making sure that they had gold foil passports with them when they died that was called Lamellae Orphicae, also known as Orphean tablets. These magical passports were also given the term of Totenpass in German and are roughly translated as passports for the dead.

Many of these Lamellae have since been recovered with some dating as far back as the 4th century BC, and the majority of those that have been discovered have been found inside graves throughout the Mediterranean and anywhere that would have been colonized by the ancient Greeks.

Four of these very special gold passports were discovered by archaeologists in the south of Italy in an ancient town called Thurii, where Herodotus is believed to have lived after he departed Athens in 443 BC.

The writing on these Lamellae Orphicae showed just how venerated their owners must have once been as one of the inscriptions speaks of how they “come from the pure,” something they felt compelled to tell those in charge of the Underworld which would have included Hades, Persephone, and others, according to Atlas Obscura.

One passport even claimed that the recently deceased individual was of such high standing that they could almost be classed in the same league as the gods themselves.

“I too claim to be of your blessed race, but Fate and other Immortal Gods conquered me, the star-smiting thunder.”

Another one of these Lamellae was found in the town of Petelia and reads almost like a set of directions in which the new spirit would have made their way past a beautiful flowing spring and cypress tree until they reached a place known as the Lake of Memories.

Upon reaching the lake, the individual spirit was then called upon to recite what was written upon the gold foil passport to gain entrance to Elysium. This was important as only the worst sorts of ancient Greeks would have been doomed to spend eternity in Tartarus, a punishing sort of Hell.

The Elysian Fields were where everyone aspired to go to after death, and so it was critically important that the owner of this tablet make certain to faithfully recite the lines prescribed for them.

“I am the child of Ge and starry Ouranos; this you yourselves also know. I am dry with thirst and am perishing. Come, give me at once cold water flowing forth from the Lake of Memory.”

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Interestingly, despite having been given the name of Orphean tablets by a group of archaeologists, Neoskosmos reported that out of the 30 to 40 passports discovered, none of these specifically talks about Orpheus. However, many of those who would have used the tablets would have been followers of him.

If you are interested in viewing one of these golden Lamellae Orphicae tablets that were guaranteed to usher ancient Greek spirits into Elysium, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles has an incredibly well preserved one dating from 4th century Thessaly and The British Museum also hosts the Petelia Gold Tablet.