During his first labor Heracles descended in the cave where resided the Nemean Lion; after killing it the hero fell into a sleep from which he awoke at the thirtieth day from the beginning of the labor and then he crowned himself with some celery. The ancient artists positioned both the lion and celery on graves to adorn them: Heracles is the child that goes inside the cave to face the initiation ritual, his awakening symbolizes his rebirth and he adorns himself with celery because he has “won” death.
Tír na nÓg (“land of the eternal young”) is the realm of death in the Celtic mythology, a place at the edge of the world, an isle located west, where the Sun sets, i.e. dies. It is difficult to reach it if not invited by one of the elves that reside there, that is to say if not invited by the spirit of one of your own ancestors. Oisín stays there for a year but on the way back finds out that a hundred years have actually passed in Ireland; it’s a reference to the fact that the mind and spirit of the ancestor are reborn in his descendant: many years have passed since the ancestor died but only one year since Oisín entered the cave or burial mound to accomplish the initiation ritual.
Romulus and Remus, the mythic founders of Rome, were born from Mars and of the vestal virgin Rea Silvia. After their birth they were placed in a basket and entrusted to the waters of the Tiber river: the basket ran aground in a puddle at the foot of a fig tree, the “Ficus Ruminalis” (from Latin “ruma”, “breast”), near a cave, the Lupercal, the two places where, according to the different versions of the tale, a she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus. The she-wolf was primordially a she-bear and the cave her lair, symbolically the womb of the earth (i.e. the realm of death), whereas the waters to which the twins are entrusted symbolize the amniotic fluid. Romulus and Remus should be seen as the embryos of the she-bear, that the latter nourishes so that they can develop and be born; the fig tree is the placenta, “ruminalis” (“breast”) because the placenta is in fact the “breast” of the fetus, since it nourishes him during all the pregnancy.