Lake Floria and the Ancient Cistern

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“A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.” – William Wordsworth

Whether they take the form of ideas, locations, or human creations, the most worthwhile and respected things in life seem to embody complexity, layering, and mystery. These are the things that capture lifelong curiosity and contemplation, and that yield freshness through development. Like a painting that steals one’s breath in the spring of youth and that yields its layered secrets over the passing years, and is therefore better loved at the end of a life, The Legend of Zelda takes great pride in hiding locations within locations, and the unknown within the known, in order to engender this sense of appreciation and wanderlust. It is for this reason that a return to Faron Woods yields unto us not only new ledges, caves, and the interior of a tree, but an entirely new culture, ebbing and flowing beneath our feet. This hidden lake, Lake Floria, is located in the southeastern portion of Faron Woods, and lies under the protection of the Water Dragon Faron, a steward of the goddess Hylia.

As has been observed, this entire region is remarkably standardized in terms of its architecture, and the forms, designs, and motifs of the Old Forest School can all be found near the entrance to Lake Floria. The metal fences bear familiar leaves, and the stone columns near the gateway to the lake maintain this standardization. Upon the stone gate rests a large medallion into which Link must carve the symbol of Farore, protector of this land. Doing so reveals a long covered walkway of pale grey stone with light and airy arcades on either side, affording quieting views of the surrounding mountains and trees. At the end of this pathway, there is a large hangover that floats above the lake; it is bound by low railings, and affords incredible views of Lake Floria’s waterfalls, and the torrid pool of sky blue and white foam beneath. This region is fed by intensely powerful streams of uncertain origination, and these powerful cascades feed the underground river passages into which Link must journey.

Floria is likely a derivative of the Latin word florem, from which flower traveled to English from the flor of Old French. As Lake Floria teems with life, both aquatic and non-aquatic, even the namesake of this area carries the imagery of youth and blossom.

Carried by the unyielding current, Link emerges in a well-lit cavern of smooth, striated stone. Within, there is but a gentle flowing of water, and each room is a subterranean pool of aquamarine light whose reflections throw quavering light upon the ceiling and walls. This passage stretches for many such rooms, embodying the fluidity of water, yet etched in the hardness of stone. All surfaces are almost redolent of coral, or of marine stones, being of beryl, sapphire, and amethyst. Coral, algae, and other bioluminescent plants dot the floors of this waterway, and large, lazy bubbles emanate from small holes in the sediment below. Cuspate stalactites are suspended from the ceiling overhead, and offer a strange juxtaposition to the otherwise perfectly-smooth chambers. There are surprisingly few constructs to be found within this passageway, and they are largely functional in design, seamlessly blending with the natural stone which surrounds them. Several gates line this waterway, and these are likely to prevent large pieces of debris from flowing into the center of Parellan civilization. While these could be for defense, given the number of hostile creatures living in Lake Floria and its Ancient Cistern, it seems more likely that the Parella would depend upon the natural defenses of this subterranean lake than anything made by their hand. At the very end of this cave system lies the heart of their culture, and the seat of their protector. The great water dragon, Faron, resides under a large natural oculus in the cave ceiling, under which has been built an artistic dais. Petaled like a flower, six enormous stone arms reach upward from the hexagonal design and form a circle of stone overhead; these six arms are designed to blur the bounds of being any one thing in particular, and thus they can be viewed as tentacles, or as towering waves, nearly ready to break and submerge the platform. It is upon this dais that Link first meets the temperamental spirit, and is urged to revisit the forest sanctum in order to collect water from its sacred spring. Only this sacred water can heal the wounds of Faron, and upon his restoration, Faron reveals to Link the resting place of one of the Goddess Flames—the Ancient Cistern.

A cistern is defined as a reservoir or resting place of water. And, to the unobservant eye, perhaps that is all that the Ancient Cistern is. Yet, before the inside is revealed, the waterfall glade leading to this holy site proves that this place is far more than a simple basin. The dark pathway to the waterfall glade quickly opens up into an airy dell captured in the golden-orange rays of a mid-afternoon sun. This small valley within the cliffs is alive with the sound of soft water and birdsong, and these are magnified by the cool rock faces sheltering this place. A few trees cling to the surface of the crags, but most plant growth is below and upon the water. The real treasure in this shaded pool is the lotus—a plant not only beloved for its beauty, but for its rich and historied symbolism. Not only does the lotus augment the grace of this watery glen, but it portends the deep spirituality of the temple to come.

The lotus is a fascinating flower, upon which entire books have been written. It is generally held that the genus Nelumbo (whose members are called lotuses) consists of two species—Nelumbo lutea, the American lotus, and Nelumbo nucifera, the sacred lotus. It is this latter species, the sacred lotus or water lily, which is revered by cultures stretching back millennia, and from Persia to Japan. An aquatic perennial, the lotus is truly an extraordinary flower, possessive of many unique characters, including viability of seeds that can be over a millennium old.[i] Though respected for its medical and culinary properties and uses, its true significance comes from its religious symbolism, which is particularly rich within the traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. The lotus has long represented both purity and non-attachment, and its symbol attends not only the Buddha and his disciples in countless pieces of art in China and Japan, but also the emergence of Lakshmi from the sea within the religious lore of Hinduism. Its importance as a religious symbol simply cannot be overstated. And, perhaps its most central position within any religious tradition is the sutra which bears its name. The Lotus Sūtra is arguably the most important sutra within the Mahayana School of Buddhism, and it is upon this sutra that four sub-schools of Buddhism were founded. This sutra teaches that all people can attain Buddhahood in their present form, and it teaches “a compassionate and all-embracing Dharma.”[ii] What should become obvious is that the lotus embodies many virtues: “While the Lotus Sūtra is a text of dazzling opulence and dizzying dimensions, its main metaphor, the flower that embodies the law itself and blooms endlessly throughout its verses, was an easy things to grasp … Universal tolerance is its main message, and that goes for beliefs as well as living creatures.”[iii] Finally, the lotus itself can represent the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, which is ultimately a circumstance or illusion of the cosmos. Standing near a pool of crimson lotuses, the author of The Lotus Quest (cited above) poses a question to the head monk of the temple, inquiring as to the remains of a famous historical figure. He receives this answer. “If you mean Yasuhira himself, just look at the flowers around you. They are evidence of his, or anybody’s, or any living thing’s engagement in the great cycle of being and becoming. These, you might say, are samsara.”[iv] Because of perennial birth, growth, death, and revitalization, the lotus reflects this great wheel of transfiguration and transcendence. The seemingly innocuous flowers that dot this sunlit glade, then, in all their stages of growth, are subtly preparing us to enter into the Ancient Cistern, where their prominence and meaning will begin to truly show themselves.

A pathway of aquamarine, almost opalescent, stone leads to the temple entrance, and the midpoint of this bridge encases an etching of a flower within the sun, as golden as the air. At the far end of the valley, four massive columns skirt the rock walls, rising from deep below the still pool. These engaged columns swell toward the middle, perfectly echoing the fully-bloomed lotuses below in vibrant oranges and pinks. These columns surround a grandiose fish of orange and cream stone. With several pairs of symmetrical fins, bulging eyes, and an open mouth, it appears to be swimming through some form of deep-sea plant life, or through several pairs of human hands. Upon its pedestal of grey-green can once again be seen the leafy motif of Skyview Temple, tying together this sub-school into the greater Early Forest School. Two pillars flank the entrance, and these take the form of the lotus once again, with a long stem capped by an opening and flushed flower. As Link walks down the gently descending path into the Cistern, we notice that even the torch-stands within this temple are delicate replications of the sacred water lily. It appears that this symbol is inescapable.

The first chamber within this cistern is vast. Circular in layout (likely a further representation of samsara—the cycle of being and becoming), it is bounded by the flowered columns seen outside, with each bay holding a pink and white lotus in full bloom. These flowers are suspended in a sea of mist or cloud, and are separated from the lower wall by an interior string course of abstracted and geometric fish tracings; these fish are paired symmetrically, facing away from one another, and are done in gold set against the brown of the string course. The lowest segment of the walls is an aquatic blue-green with stylized pink lotus petals pointing upward. The center of the room houses a deeply crystalline pool, upon which many lotuses are found in all stages of life. It is strange that they should be in differing stages of growth, and this is once again a likely representation of birth, aging, declining, and death. The pool is set within the boundaries of a series of interlacing semicircular platforms, an echo of the flower petals found ubiquitously through this structure. In the distance, two koi heads emerge from the walls, and each channels water either to or from this room. Yet, the most prominent aspect of this room is the central figure—in fact a seated colossus of gems and stone. Seated in meditative posture, half submerged in the pool, this serene figure holds his hands in offering, while his torso, shoulders, and head reveal that this statue is in fact another structure. This figure, which likely derives its design and form from a Buddha, Bodhisattva, or other such mystic, is covered with a shawl, a full head of stylized hair, and is crowned by a lotus wheel of golden light above.

The next series of rooms reveals several more embellishments that build upon the initial airiness and light-focus of this place. Further columns are of billowing clouds, flowing and round, with blossoming capitals, there are lotus panels of glass in the ceiling to filter in soft light, and every distant impression is a water garden—hazy, misted, and held in light. Overall, this temple shows little sign of decay; very little of the stonework is damaged, and a sense of purity and cleanliness pervades every hollow and passage.

Places dedicated to water within these games often require the calculated movement of water, so that passage into further regions of these temples can be gained. This temple is no different, and interior of the colossus quickly provides Link with a series of levels stretching from the depths to the heights. Thus far, everything we have witnessed has been a part of these upper levels, which are both peaceful and beautiful. The color scheme is that of shallow water lit by a westering sun, and it is both quieting and refreshing. But, as in most religions, this rather halcyon area is paralleled by one as disturbing as this one is serene. We enter into what amounts to an Underworld twice during the course of this dungeon, and the first time is through a whirlpool. Fi tells us, with a scientific air, that purified water is released into the upper area of the facility, while the filtered impurities are processed in the lower area. This is but a functional parallel of this dichotomy. Link’s first journey through hell is but a warning of a potential future, and is quickly escaped. But, trapped within the karmic cycle of transfiguration, it is not long before Link undertakes a willing descent into the underworld. In the face of knowing what awaits him, his status as Hero of the Goddess, and as the vessel of Courage, is legitimized anew.

Hell is not always the Dantean Inferno that many imagine it to be; there are many interpretations of what the location of the afterlife will be for those who transgress moral law, and each has its particular horrors. This conceptualization of hell is one of disease, degeneration, and fading. Sickly, wan, and diseased purples cleave to the deteriorating stone of this place, and everywhere are jagged, tooth-like rocks embedded in the ground, as if this place is suspended in the lower jaw of a skull. Chains and bits of cloth give them impression of prison and purgatory, and clawing, demonic forms vomit forth stifling rivers of poisonous miasma in the darkness—a shadowy reflection of the still waters above. Even the music reflects these themes. It is not violent, nor is it filled with anguish; here, it sounds of slow emaciation—a death of wasting and fading with time in utter isolation, yet ignorant of this fact.

Yet, amidst the rivers of filth and the piles of skulls, there are symbols of hope. The large, cylindrical devices found herein are perhaps representations of Buddhist prayer wheels. Traditionally bearing the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, and filled with pieces of paper upon which are written the same, it is believed that each spin of a prayer wheel has the same meritorious effect for all sentient beings as repeating the mantra as many times as there are pieces of paper within the wheel. This mantra is meant to build good karma, and negate bad karma, but most critically it seeks to create bodhicitta, which is the mindset of a bodhisattva, or one that strives to help all sentient beings awaken and transcend the great wheel of rebirth.[v] That these wheels are constantly spinning in the underworld is symbolic of the actions and deeds committed by those living who aim to liberate all sentient beings.

By far the most inventive reading of the ascent from this underworld has been laid out by Robert at Zelda Dungeon. The rope that leads Link from this place of decay displays many parallels with a Japanese story from 1938 called The Spider’s Thread. “In this story, the Buddha Shakyamuni was strolling alone alongside a lotus pond in Paradise. Between two lotus leaves and through crystal clear celestial water, the Buddha peered into hell. Among the suffering he observed a man by the name Kandata, whose sole good deed in life was sparing the life of a spider while walking through the woods. Touched by this act of compassion, the Buddha lowered a string of silver thread, taken from a spider in Paradise, to save Kandata from damnation. Kandata, overjoyed by the thought of not having to drown in the Lake of Blood at the bottom of hell or chased up the mountain of Needles again, began climbing the thread to Paradise. When the shadows of hell began to fade and the light of Paradise was visible, he looked down at the other sinners. Terrified by the assembly of people climbing the thread, Kandata feared it may break under their weight – and began yelling, kicking, and screaming – telling them this fate belonged to him and him alone. At that moment, the thread broke, and Kandata was flung back into the lake of blood with the rest of the sinners. The Buddha shook his head in disappointment, and continued his morning stroll along the banks of the lotus pond. Even an eternity of punishment, he thought, could not instill an ounce of compassion in the man.”[vi] With this story as background, this temple yields yet another layer of complex, transcendent meaning. The initial pool becomes the pond by which the Buddha Shakyamuni was walking, and we know that hell rests under it. To escape from hell, a single strand of thread was lowered from above in order to provide a means of ascension, and it is this rope that Link must climb. And, like in the story where Kandata is pursued up this rope by other sinners, Link is pursued by cursed Bokoblins and will be dragged back into hell should he attempt to sever their hold on this one lifeline. To escape this level of hell (which, it should be mentioned, is not representative of eternity in Buddhism—it is but one spoke on the wheel of life), one must live through punishment in order to be given another chance. Such concepts of reincarnation may seem strange, but this story seeks to simplify arcane religious tenets, and the parallels within these two stories are simply too strong to be baseless.

The boss key recovered in hell is referred to as the Blessed Idol, and is a small, seated figure of the Buddha upon a lotus. Likewise, the keyhole is a lotus found within the head of the main statue, hearkening back to the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, which can be translated: The Jewel is in the Lotus. Indeed, the jewel of this sanctuary is the sacred lily, and this symbol unlocks physical locations, as well as levels of understanding within the mind.

The final battle of this temple, that which pits Link against the ancient construct, Koloktos, is a highly aesthetic experience. This hijacked guardian[vii] of the temple’s Flame is an ornate being of gold, held together not only by machinery, but by dark energy. The number of arms is perhaps a respectful nod toward the Hindu goddess Kali, who is often portrayed with four or more arms. Koloktos is housed within a sealed flower, whose purple leaves are rich near the floor while fading in color toward the ceiling. That the lotus should also feature here is not a strange thought, for this flower marks nearly every element of the Ancient Cistern. But, more important is what this flower symbolizes. And, for closure, we need to come back to examine the colossus that forms the heart of this temple. At this statue’s most complete stage of transformation, his feet are at rest deep in hell, and his head has extended to meet with the ring of light at the pinnacle of the central chamber. To me, this speaks to the transcendent nature of Buddhahood—that Buddhahood knows no limitations, and encompasses all levels of creation and extinction.

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[i] Griffiths, Mark. “In the Strong Room.” Foreword. The Lotus Quest: In Search of the Sacred Flower. New York: St. Martin’s, 2010. N. pag. Print.

[ii] Lowenstein, Tom, and Peter Bently. “The Glories of the Gupta." Treasures of the Buddha: The Glories of Sacred Asia. London: Duncan Baird, 2006. N. pag. Print.

[iii] Griffiths, Mark. "A Thousand Petals, A Million Prayers." The Lotus Quest: In Search of the Sacred Flower. New York: St. Martin’s, 2010. P. 162. Print.

[iv] Ibid., p. 315.

[v] Mitchell, Donald W. "The Tibetan Experience of Buddhism." Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. 189-90. Print.


[vii] Gombos, M. (2013). Ancient Cistern. In The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books.


Welcome to Derinkuyu, an underground city that once housed up to 20,000 people. In the Cappadocia region, famous for its cave dwellings and underground villages, Derinkuyu stands out for sheer size and complexity. Locals began digging in the 500s BCE. The city consists of over 600 doors, each of which can be closed from the inside. Each floor could be closed off as well. And just to make attacking completely impossible, the entire city was deliberately built without any logic. Its maze-like layout makes navigating the city nightmarish for unfamiliar invaders.


Moray -Peru

Unlike a number of the elaborate metropolis’ and statuary left behind by the Incan people the rings at Moray are relatively simple but may have actually been an ingenious series of test beds. Descending in grass-covered, terraced rings, the rings of rings vary in size with the largest ending in a depth of 30 meters (98 feet) deep and 220 meters (722 feet) wide. Studies have shown that many of the terraces contain soil that must have been imported from other parts of the region. The temperature at the top of the pits varies from that at the bottom of the ringed pits by as much as 15 degrees Celsius , creating a series of micro-climates that not coincidentally match many of the varied climate conditions among the Incan empire. It is now believed that the rings were used as a test bed to see what crops could grow where. This proto-America’s-Test-Kitchen is yet another example of the Incan ingenuity that makes them one of the most remarkable of declined societies in the planet’s history.

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By Anne Leader

Julius Caesar dedicated the Temple of Venus Genetrix in Rome on this day in 46 BCE. Caesar traced his ancestry to Aeneas, son of the Roman goddess of love and beauty. In dedicating the temple to Venus Genetrix, Caesar drew attention to her role as mother. Typical of Roman temples, the sanctuary was raised on a high podium and held a cult statue of Venus as well as portrait statues of Caesar himself. The original temple was destroyed by fire in 80 CE and was rebuilt by Emperor Domitian and restored by Trajan. Three columns survive from the second temple.

Temple of Venus Genetrix, rebuilt by Trajan 113 CE, Rome

Plan of Imperial Fora, Rome

Silver denarius of Julius Caesar, reverseAeneas carrying palladium and his father Anchises, 47-46 BCE. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Rogers Fund, 1908.170.80