The Religion of the Ancient Celts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 445 pages of information about The Religion of the Ancient Celts.

[1229] Carmichael, Carm.  Gadel. ii. 334; Rh[^y]s, CFL 602; Le Braz{2}, i. 179, 191, 200.

[1230] Mr. Nutt, Voyage of Bran, derived the origin of the rebirth conception from orgiastic cults.



The Celtic conception of Elysium, the product at once of religion, mythology, and romantic imagination, is found in a series of Irish and Welsh tales.  We do not know that a similar conception existed among the continental Celts, but, considering the likeness of their beliefs in other matters to those of the insular Celts, there is a strong probability that it did.  There are four typical presentations of the Elysium conception.  In Ireland, while the gods were believed to have retired within the hills or sid, it is not unlikely that some of them had always been supposed to live in these or in a subterranean world, and it is therefore possible that what may be called the subterranean or sid type of Elysium is old.  But other types also appear—­that of a western island Elysium, of a world below the waters, and of a world co-extensive with this and entered by a mist.

The names of the Irish Elysium are sometimes of a general character—­Mag Mor, “the Great Plain”; Mag Mell, “the Pleasant Plain”; Tir n’Aill, “the Other-world”; Tir na m-Beo, “the Land of the Living”; Tir na n-Og, “the Land of Youth”; and Tir Tairngiri, “the Land of Promise”—­possibly of Christian origin.  Local names are Tir fa Tonn, “Land under Waves”; I-Bresail and the Land of Falga, names of the island Elysium.  The last denotes the Isle of Man as Elysium, and it may have been so regarded by Goidels in Britain at an early time.[1231] To this period may belong the tales of Cuchulainn’s raid on Falga, carried at a later time to Ireland.  Tir Tairngiri is also identified with the Isle of Man.[1232]

A brief resume of the principal Elysium tales is necessary as a preliminary to a discussion of the problems which they involve, though it can give but little idea of the beauty and romanticism of the tales themselves.  These, if not actually composed in pagan times, are based upon story-germs current before the coming of Christianity to Ireland.

1. The sid Elysium.—­In the story of Etain, when Mider discovered her in her rebirth, he described the land whither he would carry her, its music and its fair people, its warm streams, its choice mead and wine.  There is eternal youth, and love is blameless.  It is within Mider’s sid, and Etain accompanies him there.  In the sequel King Eochaid’s Druid discovers the sid, which is captured by the king, who then regains Etain.[1233] Other tales refer to the sid in similar terms, and describe its treasures, its food and drink better than those of earth.  It is in most respects similar to the island Elysium, save that it is localised on earth.

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The Religion of the Ancient Celts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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