In former times, Heaven and Earth, the two worlds symbolized by two riverbanks or seashores were integrated. Yet, once, as legends say, abysses and water appeared in between and separated them. Nonetheless, a single path remained, which connected the two sides, the mundane world and the heavenly world. The path is narrow and dangerous, but it’s the only one available, and it runs over a bridge.
The bridge image is similar to the image of an axial pillar or the world tree connecting heaven and earth and simultaneously maintaining their separation; thus it may also be regarded as a vertical or the axis mundi. A vertical bridge connects the earth not just with the higher world, but with the lower one, too. At the bridge leading to the lower world, a guard is often standing (e.g., a zoomorphic creature), who lets deceased (or living who have dared to visit the kingdom of death) pass, in exchange for a certain recompense, solution of a given riddle, or successful withstanding of a given test. At that, the downward bridge is one of rare images. There are more frequent images of the bridge along which souls of deceased get to paradise (the direction of such bridge is not always identified). In this respect, the bridge symbolism is identical to that of a ladder. Just like the world tree, ladder or axis mundi, the bridge connects different planes of existence. The side which the bridge runs from is our world, while the other side is the primordial world, the world of God, the world of genuine reality, the area of immortality.
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