“Most traditional mythologies contain legends of living people who journeyed to the land of the dead; from the legends of Orpheus and Ishtar to Dante’s Divina Comedia, the image is a potent one, and rarely missed by the storytellers of any society.
Such tales have a tendency to follow similar lines, down to points of fine detail. These tales are closely paralleled, as well, by the experiences of shamans in their trance voyages to the Underworld–and by Cabalists venturing along the Path of Tau. Often–again, not universally, but often–there are ghosts and monstrous creatures along the way, caverns and narrow passages, the rush of underground water, the unnerving journey across a bridge as narrow as a sword’s blade; at times the traveler must give up something–anything from a small gift to the flesh on his or her bones–as the price of the descent. At the end of the journey comes the return to light and air, and very often the light is the light of stars.
One of the entities often met on this Path has a somewhat broader role: the Watcher of the Threshold, symbol of the fear that bars the way to transformation. Although the Watcher can makes its presence felt at any point, this Path is perhaps its most common lurking spot; Saturn’s involvement with time and death make the Path of Tau congenial ground.
It will sometimes happen that the Watcher will take concrete form in a working of this Path, appearing as a monster barring the way. While this can be unnerving, it usually marks a turning point in the work of the student. Once the Watcher is squarely faced on any level, its power dwindles.”
–John Michael Greer, Paths of Wisdom: The Magical Cabala in the Western Tradition, 1996, pg. 107.