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.

In Irish accounts of the sid, Dagda has the supremacy, wrested later from him by Oengus, but generally each owner of a sid is its lord.  In Welsh tradition Arawn is lord of Annwfn, but his claims are contested by a rival, and other lords of Elysium are known.  Manannan, a god of the sea, appears to be lord of the Irish island Elysium which is called “the land of Manannan,” perhaps because it was easy to associate an oversea world “around which sea-horses glisten” with a god whose mythic steeds were the waves.  But as it lay towards the sunset, and as some of its aspects may have been suggested by the glories of the setting sun, the sun-god Lug was also associated with it, though he hardly takes the place of Manannan.

Most of the aspects of Elysium appear unchanged in later folk-belief, but it has now become fairyland—­a place within hills, mounds, or sid, of marvellous beauty, with magic properties, and where time lapses as in a dream.  A wonderful oversea land is also found in Maerchen and tradition, and Tir na n-Og is still a living reality to the Celt.  There is the fountain of youth, healing balsams, life-giving fruits, beautiful women or fairy folk.  It is the true land of heart’s desire.  In the eleventh century MSS. from which our knowledge of Elysium is mainly drawn, but which imply a remote antiquity for the materials and ideas of the tales, the sid-world is still the world of divine beings, though these are beginning to assume the traits of fairies.  Probably among the people themselves the change had already begun to be made, and the land of the gods was simply fairyland.  In Wales the same change had taken place, as is seen by Giraldus’ account of Elidurus enticed to a subterranean fairyland by two small people.[1302]

Some of the Elysium tales have been influenced by Christian conceptions, and in a certain group, the Imrama or “Voyages,” Elysium finally becomes the Christian paradise or heaven.  But the Elysium conception also reacted on Christian ideas of paradise.  In the Voyage of Maelduin, which bears some resemblance to the story of Bran, the Christian influence is still indefinite, but it is more marked in the Voyage of Snedgus and MacRiagla.  One island has become a kind of intermediate state, where dwell Enoch and Elijah, and many others waiting for the day of judgment.  Another island resembles the Christian heaven.  But in the Voyage of Brandan the pagan elements have practically disappeared; there is an island of hell and an island of paradise.[1303] The island conception is the last relic of paganism, but now the voyage is undertaken for the purpose of revenge or penance or pilgrimage.  Another series of tales of visionary journeys to hell or heaven are purely Christian, yet the joys of heaven have a sensuous aspect which recalls those of the pagan Elysium.  In one of these, The Tidings of Doomsday,[1304] there are two hells, and besides heaven there is a

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