Lawrence Durdin-Robertson - Life in the Next World
Cover design, Olivia Robertson. First edition, 1989
Life in the Next World
The Rev. Lawrence Durdin-Robertson M.A. (Dublin)
Priest of Isis
Clonegal Castle, Enniscorthy, Eire.
Printed by Newark Printers, Clogrennan, Carlow, Eire.
Anno Deae Cesara, Hiberniae Dominae, MMMCCCXXXI
On the spirits, ghosts, or manes of the departed Maspero (Dawn Civiln p. 689) writes "The dead man, or rather that part of which (Gds Chald. 72) survived - his ekimmu (footnote: equivalent to the Ka’ of the Egyptians and represents probably the same conception, although it is never seen represented like the ‘Ka’ on the monuments of later various ages) dwelt in the tomb and it was for his comfort that there was provided at the time of sepulchre or cremation, the provisions and clothing, the ornaments and weapons, of which he was considered to stand in need. With the faculty of roaming at will through space, and of going forth from and returning to his abode, he was transferred, or rather he transferred himself, into the Dark Land - the Araliu - situated very far away - according to some beneath the surface of the Earth; according to others in the Eastern or Northern extremities of the Universe. A river which opens into this region & separates it from the sunlit Earth, finds its sources in the primordial waters into whose bosom this world of ours is plunged. These are the ‘Waters of Death’ mentioned at the end of the poem of Gilgamesh. The dead man possesses recollection of what he had done upon Earth.
The Other World has many names in Babylonian. Generally it is spoken of as the Underworld, the Kur or Kiur, the Nether World, sometimes as the Pit, the Abyss, the Dark Land, the Deep, the Ditch of hell, the Desert, the River of Ocean, the House under the Mountain of the World.
Its maternal symbolism is shown in such descriptions as “the womb of Tiamat”, and ‘high in the belly of Tiamat’ (the Primordial Goddess).
As its symbolism is matriarchal, so as may be expected the rulership of Kur is feminine. Ereshkigal is one of the earliest queens: “There stands a house under the mountain of the world. A road runs down and here also lie the Rainbow Gardens of the Lady”. Ereshkigal, being the elder sister of Inanna, had later the Underworld for her portion. ‘Queen of Hell and the Dead’. Closely connected is the later Babylonian goddess Allat. ‘The lady of the Great Land, the Queen of Hell’. The land of Aralu has among its rulers the God Nergal and the Goddess Beltis Allat. The latter, usually referred to as Allat, is considered the actual sovereign of the country. According to descriptions as interpreted by Maspero. Allat passes through her empire, not seated, but standing on the back of a horse, which seems oppressed by her weight. Sometimes she goes on an expedition upon the river which communicates with the lighter countries, in order to meet the newly arrived souls ceaselessly being sent to her. A requirement is that those entering must show themselves subject to her authority.
Many kinds of beings have their home in these regions, including the zoomorphic beings. Enormous birds flutter around. Ethical requirements: are suggested. As Enlil walks about the Kiur, the Great Gods, the fifty of them, seize Enlil in the Kiur (saying) ‘Enlil, immoral one, get you out of the city’.
The Kur has a borderland (Gdds. Chald. 67):
“In the account by Maspero, of the journey of Gilgamesh to the underworld, “and by nightfall of the next day he reaches a ravine in the mountains. (Maspero. Dawn of Civil. p. 583). ‘I reached at nightfall a ravine in the mountain. I beheld lions and trembled’. “A vision from on high revealed to him the road he was to take; he reached the entrance of a dark passage leading into the mountain of Mash, whose gate is guarded day and night by supernatural beings. Gilgamesh learns that the guardians are not evilly disposed towards him. Gilgamesh proceeds through the depths of the darkness for long hours, and afterwards comes out in the neighborhood of a marvelous forest upon the shore of the ocean which encircles the world. Paradises are often mentioned in Chaldean literature:
(Kramer. Myth of Ancient worlds p. 101) Dolman is a land that is ‘pure’ ‘clean’ and ‘bright’, 'a land of the living’, which knows neither sickness nor death. The great Sumerian water god Enzi orders Ute, the sun-god, to fill it up with fresh water brought up from the earth. Dolman is thus turned into a divine garden, green with fruit - laden fields and meadows. Although it deals with a divine rather than human paradise it has numerous parallels with the biblical paradise story.
(Gds. Chald. p. 71). “In it Gilgamesh, having passed over the water of death rest for awhile The Happy Island appeared before them and Shamashnapistim stood upon the shore of the mysterious paradise. Gilgamesh was not however allowed to land. He then sleeps for six days and seven nights. He could now after these preparations land upon the shore of the Happy Island, where he was cured of his disease”.
(Prayer Book, Lesson from The Burial of the Dead, 1 Cor. XV 2O) “For some man will say, how are the dead raised up and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die. And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain; but God giveth it a body, as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. Howbeit, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural. As is the earthy; such are they that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. Now this I say brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption; then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory’. The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks to be God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be yet steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
(id., Collect) “O merciful God, who is the resurrection of the Life., who hath taught us, not to be sorry as men without hope, for them thost sleep in him. We meekly beseech thee to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we depart this life, as our hope is this our brother doth, that at the general resurrection on the last day, we may be found acceptable in thy sight."
(Layman’s Daily Missal Ritual) Collect. Mass for the Dead.
“Lord God of mercies, give to the soul of your servant, a place of happiness, a blest tranquillity and the glory of your light”.
(id. offertory chant) Lord Jesus Christ, our glorious king, free the souls of all the faithful departed from the throes of hell, from the fathomless pit, lest they sink down into darkness. May the holy standard-bearer Michael usher them into your holy light, thy gift in days gone by to Abraham and his descendants”.
(Layman Daily Missal) Collect. Mass for the Dead.
“Lord God of Mercies, give to the soul of our servant a place of happiness, and blest tranquillity and the glory of your light” (id., offertory chant)
Irish Hymnal, 442
Shall we gather at the river
When bright angel feet love trod
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?
Yes, we’ll gather at the river
The beautiful, the beautiful river
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God,
On the margin of the river
Dashing up its silver spray
We will walk and worship ever
All the happy golden day.
Ere we reach the shining river
Lay we every burden down
Grace our spirits will deliver
And provide a robe and crown
At the smiling of the river
Mirror of the Saviour’s race
Saints, whom death will never sever
Raise their songs of saving grace
Soon we’ll reach the silver river
Soon our pilgrimage will cease
There our happy hearts shall ever
Sing the joyful song of peace.
Jerusalem the golden
With milk and honey blest
Beneath thy contemplation
Sink heart and voice opprest.
I know not, O I know not
What joys await us there
What radiance of glory
What bliss beyond compare.
O sweet and blessed country
The home of God’s elect!
O sweet and blessed country
That eager hearts expect!
Jesus in mercy bring us
To that dear land of rest;
Who art with God the Father
And Spirit ever blest.
IRISH HYMNS 443
There is a happy land-far, far away
Where saints in glory stand
Bright bright as day
O how they sweetly sing
Worthy is our Saviour King
Praise, praise for aye.
Come to this happy land,
Come. Come away
Why will ye doubting stand,? Why still delay?
Lord, we shall live with thee Blest, Blest for aye.
Bright in that happy land beams every eye
Kept by a Father’s hand life cannot die,
On then to glory run, Be a crown and kingdom won,
And bright above the sun, Reign, reign for aye.
IRISH HYMNS 445
There is a land of pure delight
Where saints immortal reign
Where endless day excludes the night
And pleasures banish pain.
There everlasting spring abides
And never withering flowers
Death, like a narrow sea divides
That heavenly land from ours.
Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand dressed in living green
So to the Jews old Canaan stood
While Jordan rolled between
But timorous mortal start and shrink
To cross this narrow sea
And linger shivering on the brink
And feat to launch away.
O could we make our doubts remove
those gloomy doubts that rise
And see the Canaan that we love with unbeclouded eyes.
(Gdss. India, China, p. 359) ‘In China an important place is allotted to the household deities and the ancestral spirits; these include the former members of the household and previous inhabitants of the house. They are often considered as holding a semi-divine or sometimes divine rank. The attitude to these domestic deities is something more than veneration; they are seen as actually participating, in their own mysterious way, in the life of the family and the clan’.
(Gdss. India, China, From Waley, Monkey p. 303) ‘The messengers took the souls of Liu and his wife to the frontiers of the world of death’.
“The gale of dark wind blew through the gates of death when they were opened, and carried Liu and his wife, and the demon that escorted them, all the way to the city of Ch’ang-an. Liu’s soul was blown straight to the Imperial stores, but his wife's (Blue Lotus) was carried to the inner gardens”.
(Gdss India, China, p. 304, from Waley, Monkey) “Now Hsiang Liang was a water carrier, and his wife made a living selling pottery. They only spent on themselves what was necessary to keep them alive; all the rest they gave to priests, or spent on paper cash which they dedicated and burned. Consequently, though in this world they ranked as pious people, but very poor, in the world below they gradually accumulated a very considerable fortune. When Wei-ch’ih came to their door, laden with silver and gold, their astonishment knew no bounds, accompanied as he was by a numerous following of horsemen and coaches.
Wei-ch’ih declared, ‘I have merely come to repay the money that you were good enough to lend to his Majesty the Emperor’.
‘We have never lent money to anyone’ they stammered ‘and cannot possibly accept what does not belong to us’.
‘I am aware’ said he ‘that you are poor people, but owing to your constant alms and dedication of paper cash to the spirits of the world below, you have great sums to your credit in that world. Recently when the Emperor spent three days in the realms of death, he had occasion to borrow heavily from your account there, and now I have come to repay the debt’.
‘It is true’ they said, ‘that we have something in our account in that world. But what proof have we that his Majesty borrowed from us there? We could not dream of accepting’.
‘The loan’, said Wei-ch’ih, ‘was authorised by St’ui Chio one of the assessors there and he could bear testimony’.
‘That’s as may be’, they said ‘but nothing will induce us to accept’.
Finding that they were obdurate, Wei-ch’ih sent a report to the Emperor, who remarked on reading it, ‘such virtue is indeed rare among the rich! And he issued a rescript, that with the money a temple was to be built, and a shrine at the side of it, dedicated to the Hsiangs.
(Soymie, Larousse p. 280)
“Hsi-Wang-Mu, Royal Mother of the Western Paradise. Hsi-Wang-Mu’s palace of Khun-lun, the Mountain and the other world is in the far West. In this paradise known also the Land of setting Sun, she dispenses the herb of immortality”.
(Gdss. China, p. 337 from Birch, Chinese Myths and Practices) (Birch p. 44 ff)
It was still before dawn when Wei Ku arrived, and the moon was shining.
While he was waiting, he noticed an old man sitting reading a book by the light of the moon. On looking closer Wei Ku saw that the book was written in curious characters, neither Chinese nor Indian. The old man looked at the youth and said to him laughing, ‘This is no book from the world of men; it is the writing of the Underworld'.
“If that is so” said the youth, “then you yourself must belong to the Underworld. What are you doing here?”
‘I might ask the same question of you', said the old man. ‘We of the underworld have to arrange the affairs of mortal and how can we do so without visiting your world now and again? We are careful to come at times when no one is about. Either I have stayed too late this time or you are too early; anyway, we have met, and there is an end of it’.
Wei Ku, having considered the old man’s remark about the affairs of men being arranged in the Underworld, then asked him if he could give any information concerning his marriage.
The old man looked through the book until he found the place he wanted. “Your future wife is three years old at the moment”, he said. “You will marry her when she is seventeen”.
Just then Wei Ku noticed a bag lying on the steps; it was open at the top and seemed to contain reel upon reel of red thread. He asked the old man what it was for. The latter for a time gave no answer, appearing to be completely absorbed in the book; then he explained that the red thread was used to tie together a man and his destined wife. "Once tied”, he told him, “it does not matter whether they are a thousand miles apart, whether one is rich and one is poor, or whether their families are at enmity. At the appointed time, marry they must".
Dawn had now come, but the old man told the youth that before he left he would show him his future bride. He thereupon took the bag and Wei Ku followed h to the market-place. After a short time there came a peasant woman, dressed in rags, pushing a barrow filled with vegetables which she was offering for sale.. On her back, wrapped in a bundle of tattered and dirty clothes was a little girl of about three years old. “There is your bride”, said the old man, and with these words he disappeared.
Wei Ku, his mind in a turmoil, determined to escape from he considered to be a very unsuitable match. Finally he took a sharp knife, and called a servant; telling him that the little girl in the market-place was an evil spirit, he ordered him to kill her.
The servant as instructed went to the marketplace, and was about to strike when the little girl turned around and looked at him with wide open eyes. He then aimed deliberately to miss her, catching her a glancing blow above her eyebrow. He then returned to Wei Ku saying that he had acted on his orders. Wei Ku, however, while trying to put the remembrance of his crime from his mind, was long plagued with remorse.
Many years later Wei Ku was serving as assistant to the Governor of Hsian-chou. Being greatly impressed by Wei Ku’s industry, the governor suggested the desirability of his being a suitor of his niece a beautiful girl of seventeen. And so Wei Ku and the girl were duly married.
Not long after his marriage Wei Ku's attention was drawn to something unusual about his bride’s hair ornaments, According to the style then in fashion, she wore her hair elaborately arranged and kept it in place by means of hairpins skillfully worked and decorated with precious stones and kingfisher feathers. One of these pins was placed at her temple and the head of it covered her forehead just above her eyebrow. This ornament she never removed even when she went to bed at night.
After some time Wei Ku, unable to restrain his curiosity, asked her why she did this. The bride answered: “The ornament covers a scar on my forehead. When I was very small I was taken to market one day; and a man tried to stab me”.
Wei Ku then confessed his crime, and was forgiven, the matter being never again mentioned during the happy life they lived together.
(Budge, Book of Dead, lxvii) “Sekhet- hetepet, Fields of Aaru or the Elysian Fields, wherein the beatified were believed to lead a life of celestial happiness. At an early period in their history the Egyptians believed in a place wherein the blessed dead led a life of happiness, the characteristics of which much resemble those of the life which he had led upon earth; these characteristics are so similar that it is hard to believe that in the early times the one life was not held to be a mere continuation of the other. At all events, the delights and pleasures of this world were believed to be forthcoming in the next, and a life there in a state of happiness which depended absolutely upon material things was contemplated.
Such ideas date from the time when the Egyptians were in a semi-savage state and the preservation of them is probably due to their extreme conservatism in all matters connected with religion.. In a passage in the text of Unas, it is said of this King. ‘Unas hath come to his pools which are on both sides of the stream of the Goddess Meh-urt, and to the place of the verdant offerings, and to the fields which are on the horizon. He eateth with his mouth, he voideth water, he enjoyeth the pleasures of love’.
(Budge, id. lxix on the text of CXth chap.)
A large homestead or farm, intersected with canals is at once his paradise and home of the blessed dead. In the vignettes, we see the deceased sailing in a boat laden with offerings which he is bearing to the hawk-God. In the next division he is ploughing the land of Sekhet-Anru or Sekhet-Aaru, by the side of a stream of vast length and unknown breadth, which contains neither worm (serpent) nor fish. In one section of this division the deceased places the God of his city so that even in respect of his religious observances, his life might be as perfect as it was upon earth. His wishes in the matter of the future life are represented by the following prayer:- Let me be rewarded w thy fields..May I become a spirit therein, may I plough therein, may I reap therein, may I make love therein, may I never be in a state of servitude therein, but may I have authority therein’. In his new life even amusements are provided (but they are the amusements of earth).
In the Papyrus of the priestess Anhai (pp 325) we actually see the deceased lady in converse with two figures one of whom is probably her father and the other certainly her mother. ‘Let me live upon bread made from white barley and let my ale be from red grain’. Thus the deceased hoped to have food in the next world and to meet again his own god and his father and mother; as we see him frequently accompanied by his wife in several vignettes, we may assume that he would meet her again along with the children whom she bore him.
(Budge, Papyrus of Ani Chapter LIX p. 204) Vignette, “Ani kneeling beside a pool of water, wherein grows a sycamore tree; in the tree appears a goddess, Nut, pouring out for him a vessel with the left hand and giving him cakes with the right".
(Goddess Chald. p. 351) One of the divisions of Sekhet - Hetepet (Elysian Fields). Is Sekhet - Aaru or Sekhet Aanru, the fields of lilies, reeds or water plants. ‘Here the Khus are seven cubits and the wheat three cubits high’; these measurements vary in different accounts.
(Budge Funeral text of Takhurt - p Uru - Abt, pp. 698) “thy soul hovereth over thy dead body”.
(Gds. Chad pp. 344) “Among other activities of the inhabitants of this realm is the playing of draughts. There is a representation of the deceased and his wife playing what Maspero describes as ‘draughts, in their pavilion’.
(Budge Id Chap Cx p. 322) Vignette: 'Anhai seated in a boat with her husband, who is rowing it towards two gods who probably represent her father and mother. To the left is the Lady Anhai with her hair falling over her face, before two divine beings; and one of these is her mother Neferitu, the other is probably her father. Hence we may assume the Egyptians expected to meet and to know their relatives in the world beyond the grave. Behind Anhai is a male figure digging in a mound of earth; he is probably her husband. Anhai’s husband is reaping the wheat, and Anhai herself follows behind with what is apparently a rush basket or bag. In the text above, the deceased says ‘May I come therein and may my soul follow after me (and obtain) divine food. Even I the singer of Amen, Anhai triumphant’. (id. pp. 332) ‘O Unen - em hetepet (existence in peace) I have entered into thee. I would live without injury (being done) unto me. O grant to me, O do thou grant unto me joy of heart’.
The dead who attained to everlasting life became in every respect like the divine inhabitants of heaven and they ate the same meat and drank the same drink and wore the same apparel, and lived as they liked. According to some texts the abode of the dead was beyond Egypt to the north, but according to others it might be either above or below the earth. A later belief placed the abode of the departed away to the west or north-west of Egypt. It is impossible to reconcile all the conflicting statements concerning the abode of the dead, and the Egyptians themselves held different views about it at different periods.
“(repentance)” - Chapter XIV contains a prayer that the god who dwells among mysteries may remove from him sin, wickedness and transgressions, so that he may be at peace with him and feel no shame of him in his heart. On the food eaten by the departed, details are given by Maspero, (Dawn of Civiln p; 184) “Out of the foliage a goddess - Nuit, Hathor or Nit, half emerged and offered him a dish of fruit, leaves of trees and a jar of water. By accepting these he became the guest of the goddess and could never more retrace his steps without special permission”, and (Budge, Chap. clxxii pp. 585) ‘Thou eatest of the baked bread and of the hot meals of the storehouse’. and of drink (Budge id. p. 574) ‘Thou art made clean with the milk of the Hap cow and with the ale of the goddess Tenemit and with natron.'
The deceased also has a sense of smell (id. pp. 585) ‘Thou smellest the flowers' and (id. pp. 573) ‘There are cakes for thy body and water for thy throat and sweet breezes for thy nostrils’.
In general: (id. on Nesi - Khonsu p. 661): “And moreover she shall receive in abundance the choicest things of all that is good for her, even as do every man and every god who hath been deified and do journey unto every place as they please”.
(Budge. Gods of Egypt. I p. 156) The texts of all the periods are silent as to the exact position of heaven, but it is certain that the Egyptians assigned it to a place above the sky, and that they called it Pet. We must distinguish between the meanings of Pet and Nut; for the former means ‘heaven’ and the latter ‘sky’, and we may assume that the primitive Egyptians believed that each end of heaven rested on a support (i.e. two mountains); out of one came the sun every morning and into the other it entered every night. Chief among the dwellers in heaven was the god Ra. Round about Ra, whether walking or sitting, were the gods who were ‘in his train’, and these formed the nucleus of the inhabitants.
Next to these came certain companies of the gods, and as the whole universe was divided into three portions, namely heaven, earth, and the Tuat or underworld, and each portion had its own gods, we may assume that a place was reserved for them in the heaven of the Egyptians. The ‘Followers of Horus’ (Shemsu - Heru) who followed Horus, occupied a position of great importance among the celestial hosts, almost equal to the gods. The Henmemet or Hamemet, appear to have been a class of beings who are either to become or had already been, human beings. We therefore pass on to refer to the spirits and souls etc. of the righteous men and women who once lived upon the earth.
On the Borderland: (Budge, Gods. Egy. 1 p. 179) from book of pylons: “On the journey of the boat of Ra, through the Tuat. In the first division i.e. the First Hour, we have the mountain of the west divided into two portions, and along its lowest part which forms the entrance from this world to the Tuat.' (id. p. 205) The first hour of the night the place through which the god passes; is described an arrit i.e. a sort of ante-chamber of the Tuat. This god entereth from the earth into the arrit of the horizon of the west. The fact that this region is called a country, shows that it was regarded as part of this world. (id. p. 216) 'The Fourth Hour of the Night: the boat of Ra passes through a region the descriptive text says The hidden Circle of Amentet’ (id. p. 220) The Fifth Hour. ‘This great god is drawn along the actual roads of the Tuat (id. p. 232) ‘The boat of Ra has arrived at a shallow place in the celestial stream’. (id. p. 242) The Ninth Hour. 'The boat of Ra travels on as before’. The Eleventh Hour. 'The darkness fades away.' This Circle of the Tuat through which the god travels appears in the mountain of sunrise. When the shadows depart the winds which arise in the Tuat are diverted by the hands of the four goddesses. In this statement we seem to have an allusion to the keen, fresh winds of dawn. (id. p. 263) “If we examine the doctrine concerning the future life according to the priesthoods of Ra, we find still less room for a purgatory in their theological system. According to this the souls of the dead assembled in the Amentet. i.e. the ‘hidden’ region, the Egyptian Hades, and made their journey with him (Ra) through the Tuat”.
(Budge, Gods of Egypt Vol. 1 p. 189 resume of the Book of Pylons) “We must note the position of the sixth Division of the Tuat. Assuming that the Tuat was regarded as a nearly circular valley which curved round from the West, where the sun set, to the North and curved round from the North to the East, where the sun rose, it follows if all the twelve divisions of the Tuat be equal in length, that the Sixth Division would be very near the most northerly part of the Tuat.
(Kirby, Glossary) “Tuonela, Manala, Hades” Tuoni or Mana, the God of Hades (id. notes 326)
“These infernal damsels play various parts in the Kalevala as boat-women, death bringers, etc. and here we find them in the character of Furies”.
Death In The Finnish Conception of the World: (By Prof. Juha Pentikainen)
Christianity’s rise to power produced a revolution in the Finnish belief system, but it did not erase all pre-christian elements. Despite the efforts of the authorities and the church these elements did not disappear, but intermixed with the Christian teaching of death and afterlife. The fact that Finland was situated in the border of Catholic and Orthodox influence created a distinct character to this collision of the two views, for example the realm of the dead has various locations in Finnish folklore. Probably the oldest layer of these beliefs is represented by the idea that the soul of a deceased person dwells close to the dead body in the cemetery, where it eventually disappears with the body. Thus the cemetery is the dwelling of forefathers. A belief common to all arctic peoples is the Lapplandish underworld ‘Jabmeaivo’, situated under water or earth, the quite common descriptions of the river of underworld, linked Finland to the central Asian and Byzantine culture district. The Christian conception of hell is a rather late layer in the Finnish folk tradition.
(Kalevala II, Runo XVI 368H)
"Quickly then his shape transforming
And another shape assuming
To the gloomy lake he hastened,
Like an otter in the reed-beds Like an iron snake he wriggled
Like a little adder hastened
Straight across the stream of Tuoni
Safely through the nets of Tuoni
And he said the words which follow,
And in words like these expressed him:
Never, Jumala the Mighty
Never let another mortal
Make his way to Mana’s country
Penetrate to Tuoni’s kingdom!
Many there indeed have ventured
And indeed have wandered homeward
From the dread abode of Tuoni
From the eternal home of Mana
Afterwards these words he added,
And expressed himself in this wise,
To the rising generation,
And to the courageous people,
Sons of men, O never venture
In the course of all your lifetime
Wrong to work against the guiltless
Guilt to work against the sinless
Lest your just reward is paid you
In the dismal realms of Tuoni!
There’s the dwelling of the guilty
And the resting place of sinners
Under stones to redness heated
Under slabs of stone all glowing”.
(Eric. Brit. Heaven) The Pagans considered Heaven as the residence only of the celestial gods, into which no mortals were admitted after death, unless they were deified. As for the souls of good men, they were assigned to the Elysian fields. (id. Elysium) A place in the inferi or lower world, furnished with fields, meads, agreeable woods, groves, shades, rivers, etc.. ‘Some authors take the fable of Elysium to have been borrowed from the Phoenicians: as imagining the name Elysium formed from the Phoenician alaz, alatz or alas to rejoice or to be in joy’; the letter a being changed into e. On which footing, Elysium fields should signify the same thing as a place of pleasure. Others derive the word from the Greek lua: solvo ‘deliver’. Let loose or disengage, because here men’s souls are freed from the bondage of the body. Heroaldus and Hormius (Hist. Phil. Lib. iii, Chap. 2) takes the place to have derived its name from Elize, one of the first persons who came into Greece after the deluge.
The Elysian fields were, according to some, in the Fortunate Islands off the coast of Africa, in the Atlantic. Others place them in the Islands of Leuce, and, according to the authority of Virgil, they were situated in Italy. According to Lucian, they were near the moon; or in the centre of the earth, it we believe Plutarch; Olaus Wormius contends that it was in Sweden the Elysian fields were placed.
(Brewer, Dict of Phrase and fable) ‘Hades The place of Departed. It may be either Paradise or Tartarus’.
(id. Dict.) Paradise “The rabbins say there is an earthly or lower paradise under the equator, divided into seven dwellings, a twelve times ten thousand miles square."
(Syffert Dict.) Elysium in Homer: "Elysium is a beautiful meadow at Western extremity of the earth, on the banks of the river Oceanus. Thither the favoured of Zeus, such as Rhadamanthys his son, of his son-in-law Menelaus, are carried without having seen death. They live a life of perfect happiness. There is no snow, nor storm, nor rain, but the cool west wind breathes there forever where the earth produces her fruits three times in the year."
(Pindar Dirges p. 509) The progress of the soul through the future ages:
After death all receive their due reward, and the spirits of the just are purified, until they are free from all taint of evil. Elysium: For them the sun shineth in its strength in the world below, while here it is night. And in the meadows red with roses, the space before their city is shaded by the incense - tree, and is laded with golden fruits. Some of them delight themselves with horses and with wrestling; others with draughts, and with lyres, while beside them bloometh the fair flower of perfect bliss. And o’er that lovely land fragrance is ever shed, while mingle all manner of incense with the far shining fire on the altars of the gods. The survival of the soul: having, by happy fortune, culled the fruit of the rite that released from toil, and while the body of all men is subject to over-mastering death, the image of life remains alive, for if alone cometh from the deities.
The spirit of the just made perfect: But, as for those from whom Persephone shall exact the penalty of their pristine woe, in the ninth year she once more restored their souls to the upper sun-light..
Sir J.E. Sandys (on Pindar p. 592) Pindar’s belief appears to be as follows. After the death of the body, the soul is judged in Hades, and if accounted spotless in its life on earth, passes to the Elysium in Hades. It must, however, return twice again to earth and suffer two more deaths of its body. Finally Persephone releases it and it returns to earth to inhabit the body of a king, a hero, or a sage. It is now free from the necessity of further wanderings, and passes at once to the Islands of the Blest.
A few remain for ever there, regaining in time there original, but most of the souls must drink of the water of oblivion and then return to new bodies. (cf.713-7 15)
Larousse, World Mythology.
The ‘elect’ souls were sent to the Elysian Fields, a miraculous place of sojourn, where they continued to live a slower mode of existence, still full of pleasures, in meadows bedecked with asphodel.
(Homer, Odyssey bk xi 659)
‘Then striding large the spirit thence the hoary mead pacing’, (note) Asphodel was planted on the graves and round the tombs of the deceased, and hence the supposition that the Stygian plain was clothed with asphodel.
"Amid the gloom be warned ; learn ye to be just and not to slight the gods (id. 672 ff) “and to the Sibyl the hero thus made brief reply: ‘We dwell in shady groves, and live on cushioned river banks, and in meadows fresh with streams'."
(id. 786 ff) Thus through the whole region, they freely range, in the broad, misty plains. Roman
(Virgil. Culex 258 A) Across Elysium waters am I hurried: across Elysiums water I must swim, and thither I am borne.
(Homer, Odyssey xi) (Plato, Republic X615)
“The story of a brave man, Er, son of Armenius, a native of Pamphylia, killed in battle.. he was taken home and was to be buried on the twelfth day, and was already lying on the funeral pyre, when he came to life, he told the story of what he had seen in the other world. He said that when his soul left his body it travelled in company with many others till they came to a wonderfully strange place, where they were, close to each other, two gaping chasms in the earth, and opposite and above them two other chasms in the sky. Between the chasms sat judges, who, having delivered judgment on them ordered the just to take the right-hand road that led upwards through the sky and fastened their badge of judgment in front of them. While they ordered the unjust, who carried the badges and all that they had done behind them, to take the left-hand road that led downwards. When Er came before them, they said that he was to be a messenger to men about the other world, and ordered him to listen and watch all that went on in that place. He then saw the souls, when judgment had been passed on them, departing some by one of the heavenly and some by one of the earthly chasms, while by the other two chasms some rose out of the earth, stained with the dust of travel and others descended from heaven, pure and clean. And the throng of souls arriving seemed to have come from a long journey, and turned aside gladly into the meadow and encamped there as for a festival; acquaintances exchanged greetings, and those from earth and those from heaven inquired each other’s experiences. And those from earth told theirs with sorrow and tears as they recalled all that they had suffered and seen on their journey, which lasted a thousand years, while the others, of the delights of heaven and of the wonderful beauty of what they had seen. It would take a long time to tell you the whole story, Glaucon, but the sum of it is this: for every wrong he had committed, he must pay the penalty in turn, ten times for each, that is to say, once every hundred years, this being reckoned as the span of a man’s life. He pays therefore, tenfold retribution for each crime, and for instance those who have been responsible for many deaths... must pay tenfold in suffering for each offence. And those who have done good and been just and god-fearing are rewarded in the same proportion. He told me too about infants who died as soon as they were born and who lived only a short time, but what he said is not worth recalling.. These then, are the punishments and penalties and the corresponding rewards in the other world.
The whole of man’s present life is to be a preparation for his choice in life to come.. and so; adds Socrates, this Vision of Judgment vanished not, but was preserved for our instruction. By taking to heart its lessons, we may secure true happiness here or hereafter. The plain of oblivion is appropriately described as a barren wilderness, having nothing to remind us of this world. The wise seek to retain, if possible, some recollection of a former state of existence. This is the only allusion which occurs in the Republic of this doctrine of anamnesis, which, moreover, is rarely spoken of elsewhere - (chiefly in the earlier writings of Plato).
(Aristophanes, Ranae Act 1, old paraphrase) chorus of the initiated:
“Let us to flowery meads repair, with deathless roses blooming
Whose balmy sweets impregn the air, both hills and dales perfuming.
Since fate benign our choir joined we’ll trip in mystic measure,
In sweetest harmony combined we’ll quaff full draught of pleasure,
For us alone the power of day, a milder light dispenses
And sheds benign a mellow’d ray to cheer our ravished senses.”
From remarks by Plato and others, the privileged initiates were also enabled to witness souls returning through Devachan after their allotted time and preparing to go back to earth in a new physical body. Those who participated in the Mysteries in Greece and elsewhere lived in an age which it was assumed that life - in animals, humans, even the whole cosmos - existed not only on the physical, but also on the psychic, menial and spiritual planes. To intelligent initiates, therefore, Hades, as the abode of the Dead, represented but a phase in the human life.
After seven days spent in the meadows the souls set out again. On their arrival the souls had to go straight before Lachesis. And an interpreter first marshalled them in order and took from the lap of Lachesis a number and types of life and, mounting a high rostrum proclaimed: This is the word of Lachesis, Daughter of Ananke (Necessity).
Souls of a day, here you must begin another round of mortal life. No Guardian Angel will be allotted to you; you shall choose your own. And he on whom the lot falls shall be the first to choose the life which then shall of necessity be his. Goodness knows no master; a man shall have more or less of her according to the value he sets on her. The fault lies not with God, but with the soul that makes the choice. And when each had taken up his lot he knew what number had been drawn. Then the interpreter set before them on the ground the different types of life, at more in number than the souls who were to choose them. They were of every conceivable kind, animal and human...but wealth and poverty, health and disease were all mixed in varying degrees in the lives to be chosen..one can choose between the worse life and the better, calling the one that leads us to become more unjust the worse, and the one that leads us to become more just the better. Everything else we can let go, for we have seen that this is the last choice both for the living and the dead.. Yet it is true also that anyone who, during his earthly life, faithfully seeks wisdom may hope not only for happiness in this world but the next and back again, that will not lie over the stony ground of the underworld but along the smooth road of heaven. And it so happened that it fell to the soul of Odysseus to choose.. the memory of his former sufferings had cured him of all ambition and he looked for a long time to find the uneventful life of ordinary men; at last he found it lying neglected by the others, and when he saw it he choose it with joy and said that had his lot fallen first he would have made the same choice. And there were many other changes from beast to man and beast to beast, the unjust becoming wild animals and the just tame in every kind of interchange.
And when all the souls had made their choice they went before Lachesis in the order of their lots, and she allotted to each his chosen Guardian Angel, to guide it through life and fulfil his choice. And the Guardian Angel led it to Clotho, thus ratifying beneath her hand and whirring spindle the lot it had chosen.
(Jowett and Campbell, on this passage) Plato is accepting the old forms and trying to breathe a moral and intellectual life into them. His myth, consequentially, instead of being a mere fiction is supported by the strength of traditional belief.. Plato also has a limbus infantum, at which he hints.
“Earth is imagined as an inner sphere, concentric with this outer sphere is heaven, and connected with it by the column of light by which are fastened the chains of Heaven. In the centre of the column and attached to the ends of these chains is the spindle which the Fates are turning upon the knees of Necessity (Ananke). This together as the whorl which ‘governs’ it gives law to the movements of the heavenly bodies.. The thought of Plato seems to be that the whole circle of the Universe was held fast by the column, which, like the rope that fastened a trireme from stem to stern, passed through the midst of it.
(id) ‘Virtue is free to all’ or ‘is not the exclusive property of any’. In such abysmal terms does Plato assert the freedom of the human within a previous existence, as determining the condition of this.. in which the Deity is described as a consideration of their nature, placing living beings, in whom the connection of such a body is morally speaking not dissoluble, in a state of probation, and making their future character and dwelling-place depending on virtue or vice, and which one or other is to be chosen in an instant.
(Gds of Chaldea, Syria and Egypt p. 159) According to Hebrew scripture the word Shoel (a fem noun) refers to the underworld, the Abyss, the depth, the realm of departed spirits. The word may mean ‘the place of enquiry’ possibly hollow place. It is often the word used as a personification of the underworld, according to Hebrew thought. Sheol is situated beneath and within the earth and receives all departed spirits. Like the Chaldean Underworld there are entrance gates; “I shall go to the gates of Sheol”. A characteristic of this land is darkness and shadows “Where the light is as darkness”. There are regions in this Underworld of different depths and a reference is made of “the lowest hell”. Fire is mentioned in connexion with Sheol, burning down to the lowest depths.
A few details are given as to the kind of life led by the inhabitants of Sheol. ‘There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary be at rest. There the prisoners. .hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and the great are there and the servant is free from his master’. There is also some continuation of former activities, and some men are described as going down into Sheol with their weapons of war.
The method of entry into this realm of Sheol is not only through physical death. Korah and his associates are described as going down alive: “They and all that appertained to them went down alive into the pit”.
Thus the guests of the ‘clamorous woman” are already in “the depth of Sheol”; the steps of the strange woman lead to Sheol and her house is on the way. At the end of The Proverbs the words of Agur are recorded, in which he places together Sheol, the womb, earth and fire. These four all have a voracious appetite. From this passage Graves suggests that Sheol and the womb are sisters, both daughters of Alukah.
The close connexion between the Underworld and the womb is seen in the Second Book of Esdras. The angel Uriel tells Ezra: “The storehouses of souls in the world below are like the womb”. Another possible reference to this connexion is found in Ecclesiasticus, as follows: “work is the lot of every man., from the day when they come forth from their mother’s womb until the day of their return to the mother of all”.
Writing on the connexion between the lower worlds, the womb and the vagina, Neumann states: The underworld.. is always ‘symbolically feminine’ as the vessel that sucks in. “The opening of the vessel., is the womb, the gate, the gullet, which actively swallows..its sucking power is mythologically symbolised by its lure and attraction. .The yawning, avid character of the gullet and cleft represents in mythological apperception the unity of the Feminine, which as avid womb attracts. and draws in all living things.
"For this woman (i.e. the Dark Mother) who generates life and all living things on earth is the same who takes them back into herself."
The association of heat with the Underworld is seen in the Revelation of John in the passage referring to the bottomless pit. It is described how ‘there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. It appears that, connected with the Underworld, there is also ‘the lake of fire and brimstone’. In later Hebrew and Kabalistic cosmology, hell is described as being divided into seven regions, which are listed by Brewer as follows: “Hell, or Arka of the Jewish Cabalists, divided into seven lodges one under another: Gehennom, The Gates of Death, The Shadow of Death, The Pit, The Mire of Clay. Abaddon, Sheol”. Each one of these has its own particular intensity of heat.
(Veronica Ions. Indian Mythology p 37)
Elaborate theories about the after-life developed in the face of notions generally accepted by the more sophisticated philosophers in the Brahmanic period.
(Veronica Ions. Indian Mythology p. 32) Yama.. was the first to explore the hidden regions and discover the road which became known as the ‘path of the fathers’; this was the route which led the dead to heaven. At first, like Yama, the dead had to walk along this route, but later the path of the fathers (Manes or Pitris) was presided over by Agni, for when the dead were cremated this fire distinguished between the good and evil in them. The ashes that remained on earth represented all that was evil and imperfect while the fire carried aloft, the skin and the limbs of the deceased. There, brilliant like the Gods, and borne on wings or in a chariot, the purified soul rejoined its glorious body and was greeted by the forefathers who lived a life of festivity in Kingdom of Yama. The after-life was thus passed in a delectable abode and was perfect in every way. At first, however, the emphasis was on the pleasures of Yama’s heaven, a realm of light where life had no sorrows, nature was sweet and the air full of laughter and celestial music. There Yama as Pitripati (King of the fathers) was waited upon by servants who measured out the life span of mortals and was surrounded and worshipped by rishis and pitris, clad in white and decked with golden ornaments . ..Yama’s heaven was not, however, without rivals, and in particular it was challenged by the splendour and delights of the heavens of Varuna and Indra. The heaven, which was constituted within the sea had walls and arches of pure white, surrounded by celestial jewels which always bore blossom and fruit, birds sang elsewhere.
Indra's heaven was called Swarga and was situated on Mount Meru, but could be moved anywhere like a chariot. Like the other heavens it was adorned with celestial trees and filled with bird song and the scent of flowers. Indra sat enthroned, attended by the major gods and by sages and saints, whose pure souls without sin were resplendent as fire. This concept of lndra’s heaven is the one still held today. In it there is no sorrow, suffering or fear for it is inhabited by the spirits of prosperity, religion, joy, faith and intelligence. Also in Indra’s heaven are found the spirits of the natural world; wind, thunder. fire, water, clouds, plants, stars and planets. Recreation is provided by the singing and dancing of the Apsares and the Gandharvas, celestial spirits.
Yama’s role changed with the growth of these other heavens and the idea that heaven was the reward for virtue, rather than a place where most of the dead were received. At first the idea of going to the abode of the fathers was simply less desirable than that of being received with special honours by the gods; later this developed into the notion that Yama's Kingdom was not heaven but hell. These elaborate theories about the after-life developed in the fall of the notions generally accepted by the sophisticated philosophers in the Brahmanic period.
Vishnu’s heaven is called Vaikuntha and is sometimes said to be on Mount Meru, this is more often given on the location of lndra’s heaven. With a circumference of 80,000 miles Vaikuntha is made entirely of gold and precious jewels.
(Joyce. Social History of Ancient Ireland, Vol 1 p. 293)
'There was a belief in a land of everlasting youth and peace, beautiful beyond conception. Always inhabited by fairies, and called by various names; Tir na n-Og (Teornanogue), the ‘Land of the (ever) youthful people.' I-Breasail or I-Brazil the ‘Land of Bresal’:
Tir na mBeo (Tir-nam-Yo) The ‘Land of the (ever) living.'
Mag-Mell (Moy-Mell) the ‘Plain of Pleasures' (for which Ten-mhagh Tir Trogaighi pron. Ten-mhagh Trogaighi. (pron. Tenvah-trogee) was another name.) Mag-Mon ‘Plain of sports’.
Tir-Tairnghi the 'Land and Promise’ and Tir na Sorcha the ‘Land of Light'.
Sometimes is deep down under the sea or a lake or well.
Sometimes it is described as situated far out in the Western Ocean.
Sometimes in deep down under the sea or a lake or well. Sometimes it was in a hollow shee or fairy hill. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that there were many such happy lands situated in these various places. The inhabitants were the side (shee) or fairies who were immortal, and who lived in perfect peace in a perpetual round of sensuous, but harmless and sinless pleasures.
In nearly all the old accounts of this happy land, the absence of wickedness is expressly mentioned. The man from Tir-Tairnghi tells Cormac that it was a land where there is nought save truth, and there is neither age, nor decay, nor gloom, nor sadness, nor envy, nor jealousy, nor hatred, nor haughtiness. The absence of sin, and of such like characteristics, are of course additions by Christian scribes.
In ancient Irish romantic tales we find many descriptions of this pagan heaven, bearing a general resemblance to each other. One which pictures Mag Mon (‘Plain of Sports’) situated far out in the Western Ocean-the Land that called elsewhere. May Mell, or I Brazil may be read translated by Prof. Kuno Meyer, in Mr. Alfred Nott’s work, ‘The Voyage of Bran’ 1.4. This composition which is in poetry, is ascribed by scholars to the seventh Century. The following poetical description of the Fairy King Midir’s heavenly country, under the shee of Bri Leigh will give the reader an excellent idea of these happy abodes. It has been translated by O’Curry from the Book of the Dun Cow:
O Befind it thou come with me.
To a wonderful land that is mine,
Where the hair is like the blossom of the golden sobarche.
Where the tender body is as fair as snow.
There shall be neither grief nor care;
White are the teeth, black the eyebrows,
Pleasant to the eyes the number of our host,
On every cheek is the hue of the foxglove,
Crimson of the plain is each brake,
Delightful to the eye the blackbirds eggs,
Though pleasant to behold are the plains of
Rarely would’t thou think of them after frequenting
the Great Plain.
Though intoxicating thou deemest the ales of lnishfail
More intoxicating are the ales and the great land-
The wonderful land-the land I speak of,
Where youth never grows to old age.
Warm sweet streams traverse the land
The choicest of mead and of wine
Handsome people without blemish
Conception without sin, without stain.
We see everyone on every side
And no one seeth us;
The cloud of Adam
Has caused this concealment of us from them.
O Lady, if thou comest to my valiant people,
A diadem of gold shall be on thy head,
Flesh of swine, all fresh, banquets of new milk and ale,
Shall thou have with me there, O Befind.
(From an Ancient Irish Hymn on the world of Spirits.)
‘Delightful is the land beyond all dreams,
Fairer than aught thine eyes have ever seen,
There all the year the fruit is on tree,
And all the year the bloom is on the flower.
There with wild honey drip the forest trees,
The stores of mead and wine shall never fail.
Nor pain nor sickness knows the dweller there.
Death and decay come near him never more.
The feast shall cloy riot, nor the dance shall tire,
Nor music cease forever through the hall.
The gold and jewels of the Land of Youth
Outshine all splendours ever dreamed of man.
The name Tir Tairngiri is often found not only in the Tales but in Legends of the Saints; where St. Brendan has been praying for some secure, delightful land, remote from the haunts of men. And an angel said to him:
‘Arise. O Brendan, for God hath given to thee what than hast sought - Tir - Tairngire. After this the angel directs him how to find it; and it was in search of this promised happy land that Brendan went to his celebrated voyage out on to the Western Ocean. The name Tir-Tairngiri is a translation of the Scriptural name of the ‘Land of Promise’ it is of great antiquity, for it is found in the eighth and ninth century glosses of Zeuss: but the idea and the land itself is derived from the pagan legend of the happy fairyland.
This pagan heaven legend did not escape the notice of Giraldus Cambrensis. He tells the story of the Phantom Island as he calls it, off the western coast, and how, on one occasion when it appeared, some men rowed out towards it, and shot a fiery arrow against it, which fixed it. (Top. Hib. 11 xii)
To this day the legend remains as vivid as ever.
The happy land then was the abode of the spiritual and immortal fairy tale, but it was not for human beings, except a few individuals who were brought there by the fairies.
Immortality of the soul:- We know from Caesar, Diodorus Siculus, and other classical writers, that the ancient tales the Celts taught, as one of their tenets that the soul was immortal: and that after death it passed from one human body to another. And this it appears, applies to all human beings, but in Irish literature I cannot see anything to warrant the conclusion the pagan Irish believed that the souls of all men were immortal.
(A.E. The Candle of Vision. p. 35)
“One other vision I will tell because it bears on things the ancients taught us. Where I saw this I will not say. There was a hall vaster than any cathedral, with pillars that seemed built out of living and trembling opal, or from some starry substances which shone with every colour, the colours of eve and dawn. A golden air glowed in this place and right between the pillars were thrones which faded, glow by glow, to the end of the vast hall. On them sat the Divine kings. They were fire-crested. I saw the crest of the dragon on one, and there was another plumed with brilliant fires that jetted forth like feathers and flame. They sat shining and star like, mute as statues, more colourful than Egyptian images of their Gods, and at the end of the hail was a higher throne on which sat one greater than the rest. A light like the sun glowed behind him. Below on the floor of the hall lay a dark figure as it were in trance, and two of the Divine Kings made motions with their hands about it over head and body. I saw where their hands waved how sparkles of fire like the flashing of jewels broke out. There rose out of that dark body a figure as tall, as glorious, as shining as those seated on the thrones. As he awoke to the hall he became aware of his divine king and how lifted he up his hands in greetings. He had returned from his pilgrimage through darkness. But now an initiate, a master in the heavenly guild. While he gazed on them the tall golden figures from their thrones leaped up, they too with hands uplifted in greeting and they passed from me and faded swiftly in the great glory behind the throne."
(Joyce, Soc. Hist. of Ireland p. 296)
The Gauls taught that the spirits of those who died were rewarded or punished in the otherworid for their conduct in this. A few individuals became immortal in Fairyland, and some few lived on after death, appearing as other men, or in the shapes of animals. In this connection it is necessary to notice one Christian record, a remarkable expression in Trechan’s Life of St. Patrick, written in the seventh century. The pagan King Laegaire rejecting the teaching of St Patrick, and expressing a determination to be buried, standing up, armed in his grave, is made to say to the saint.
‘For the pagans are accustomed to be buried armed, with their weapons ready, face to face to the day Erdathe among the magi (druids). i.e. day of judgment.
(Petrie, Tara. 170) This would seem to imply that the druids had a judgment which again would indirectly imply that they held the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. But this is an isolated statement.
A few individuals are brought by fairies to the happy other world.
Thus, in Adamnan’s Vision though the Celtic otherworld has become ‘the land of Saints’, Its primal character is clearly discernible: to reach it a sea voyage is necessary, and it is a land in which there is no pride, falsehood, envy, disease or death, 'where in is delight of every goodness. In it there are singing birds’.
The Celtic Doctrine of Re-Birth: Among ourselves the doctrine may seem a strange one, though among the great nations of antiquity, among the Egyptians, the Indians, Greeks, and Celts - it was taught in the Mysteries and Priestly Schools.
The time passed there as obscurely and pleasantly that a whole century appeared only the length of a year or so. Once a person got to Fairy Land he could never return, except, indeed, on a short visit, always in a boat or horseback, merely to take a look at his native land; but if once he touched his mother earth, the spell of youth and immortality was broken, and he immediately fell the consequences. Ossian, son of Finn, after his 300 years sojourn in Tir-na-nogue which he thought only three years.. .in trying to lift a great stone, overbalanced himself, and had to sleep on the ground, where he instantly became a withered, bony, feeble old man, while his fairy steed galloped off and never returned. In some tales, however, mortals who are detained in the shee are represented as thoroughly miserable; Dian, who had been a young noble on earth among the Fena, comes to see Cailte out of the Fairy mound at Mullaghsher . . beside Ballyshannon. Cailte asked how it fares with him, on which Dian replies that though of food and raiment there was in abundance, yet he would rather be the lowest or most despised drudge among the servants of the Fena, than be the prince that he was in Fairyland. The foregoing observations regarding the pagan Irish notion of immortality after death apply in great measure to their ideas of metempsychosis. In our romantic life route there are legends of the rebirth of human beings. Thus Cuchulain was a reincarnation of the Dedanann hero - god. Lug of the long arms. Fintan, the nephew of Parthalon, survives the deluge, and lived in the shapes of various animals successively for many ages. Numerous stories of this kind are found in Irish romance.
(Fiona MacLeod, Winged Destiny p. 27) And when the world that we call the other world is become as open to the eyes as this world-in the veils that we call our own, one must either see too much, or one must be content to shroud his eyes and see only as others see:
“Peace be with you, good warriors”, he said.
“Michael put his gaze at her. It was no woman now he saw nor ever a Bandia (goddess), but a power or dominion, he thought. She had her feet far down among the roots of the sky on a night of frost.
‘Are you death?’ Michael sobbed, his knees shaking with the awe that was on him.
“I am older than Death,” she said. Her voice was beyond and above and below; but it put him in mind of a low wind in the dark.
“And the words that he heard were somewhat as these words, but remembered dimly they were, as in a dream:
“I am she who loveth loneliness
And Solitude is my breath.
I have the resurrection of the dead as my food.
And the dead rise as a vapour
And I breathe it as mist
As mist that is licked up of the wind.
I am she who stands at the pools:
I stand at the meeting of roads.
The little roads of the world
And the dark roads of life and death.
My lover is Immortality
For I am Queen
Queen of all things on earth and in the sea
And in the white palaces of the stars
Built on the dark walls of time
Above the Abyss”.
(Fiona MacLeod, Winged Destiny, p. 115)
That was many months ago. There is no one on the Island now; no sheep even, for the pastures are changed. When the wild geese flew north this year, the soul of Murlo Maclan went with them. Or if he did not go with them he went where Monann promises him he should go. For who can doubt it was Manca, in the body or vision, he the living prince of the waters, the son of the most ancient God, who, created as with snow-white canna with a blueness in it, a 4 foot circuit with cold curling flame. “Sometimes she is seen as the Washer of the Ford, chanting the seisbhais, the Death-Dirge, as she washes the shroud of him who sees her; and sometimes she may suddenly grow great and terrible and inhabit darkness and the end is come. Sometimes she is seen as the Nigheag Cheag a Chroim, the little washer of sorrow, perhaps singing low while she steps the stones of a ford, or moves along the dim banks where the dew is white on sorrel and meadowsweet, a leanaig cheag bhaisna lamh, her little shroud of death is her hand, the keen of sorrow in her mouth for him or her whose death is near.
“I heard once of a meeting with the Woman of Tears told:
“When high upon Donnusk Water he stopped; to see the stones of the weir, he said; though he knew the stones, and that the water was shallow, and was at low below them at that.
“‘He thought it was myself at first,
‘Is it you, John'? He said in the whisper that he thought would be the strong voice.
He saw then it wasn’t me; no, nor any man; but a woman, or a girl stooping over the water.
'Calasaidh'; he called, his voice falling like a splashing Stone.
‘Wilt that be you Cairstruic?’ he called again, but lower, and he looked behind him when he had spoken.
“Then he saw the woman or the girl look round. He has not heard her singing before, but heard it now. By that sorrowful lamentation, low and sweet foreby, and by the tears that glistened white on the grey face, he knew it was the Nigheach Cheag a Chroim."
(Evans Wents Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, 332)
‘In Ireland this world and world we go to after death are not far apart’
As it was necessarily a subjective world, poets could only describe in terms more or less vague; and its exact geographical location, accordingly, differed widely in the minds of scribes from century to century.
But this Western other world, if it is what we believed to be a paradise picture of the great subjective world - cannot be the realm of any one race of invisible beings to the exclusion of another. In it all abide gods. Tuatha De Danann, fairies, demons, Shades, and every sort of disembodied spirit find their appropriate abode. And that it is not an exclusive realm is certain from our old Irish manuscripts record concerning the Fomorian races.
"To enter the other world before the appointed hour marked by death, a passport was often necessary, and this was usually a silver branch of the Land of the Ever Living and Ever Young gives to those mortals whom she wishes for as companions; though sometimes it was a single apple without its branch. The queen’s gifts serve not only as passports, but also as food and drink for mortals who go with her. Often the apple branch produces music so soothing that mortals who hear it forget all troubles and even cease to grieve for those whom the fairy woman take. For there are no episodes more important than those in the ancient epics concerning these apple tree talismans, because in them we find a certain key which unlocks the secret of that world from which such talismans are brought, it proves it to be the same sort of place as the otherworld of the Greeks and Romans. Let us then use the key to make a few comparisons between the Silver Branch of the Celts and the Golden Bough of the Ancients excepting the two symbols naturally differ in their function, though not fundamentally.
It is evident at the outset that the Golden Bough was as much the property of the queen of that underworld called Hades as the Silver Bough was as much the property of the queen of that fairy realm and like the other world of the Ancients, which is called Hades, is with the Celtic other world located in the Northern Ocean, and is also like the Elysian Fields to the west, reserved by the Greeks and Romans for their gods and heroes; in the Happy other world and of Scandinavian, Iranian, and Indian mythologies. As a rule the Hades world or underground and underwave world, is unlike Manannan’s peaceful ocean world, being often described as a place of much strife.
"All the numerous variations of other worlds tales now extant in Celtic literature share a common pre-Christian origin. The combination of Christian and pagan ideas is well shown in the Voyage of Hui Corra. ‘Thereafter a wondrous island was shown to them. A psalm-singing venerable old man with fair hair builded churches and beautiful bright altars; beautiful green grass therein. A dew of honey on its grass. Little ever, lovely grass and fair, purple headed birds chanting music therein, so that (merely) to listen to them was enough to delight. But in another passage the Christian scribes describes other world birds as souls, some of them in hell, “of the land of Erin am I” quoth the bird “ and I am the soul of a woman, unto thee” she saith to the elder. “Come ye to another place” saith the bird, “to hearken to yon birds. The birds that you see are the souls that come on Sunday out of hell”. But not only was the Celtic world gradually changed into a Christian Heaven, or Hell, from the 7th century onward, but its divine inhabitants soon came to suffer the rationalisation commonly applied to their myths, and the transcribers began to set them down as actual personages of Irish history. The Tuatha De Danann were shorn of their immortality. This perhaps was a natural anthropomorphic process such as is met in all mythologies.
A few of the pagan legends, however, met very unfair treatment at the hands of poetical and patriotic Christian transcribers.
The Heaven - World of the ancient Celts, unlike that of the Christians, was not situated in some distant, unknown region of planetary space.
(“The Path to the Centre,” Prudence Jones p 8)
“An Irish tale tells of Conn, King of Tara, who visiting this other world came upon the spectre on high seated on a throne, accompanied by a maiden, the Sovereignty of Ireland, crowned with gold and seated on a crystal throne. A golden cup was at her feet, a silver cup with four gold corners, tilled with red beer before her, and a gold cup at her lips. On seeing Conn, she greeted him and gave him food and drink, hearing from on high that the red beer should be granted to Conn and his descendants. The vision then disappears, leaving Conn with the two lower vessels and the two Ogham staves on which his druid had written down the names of all his descendants.”
Koran. Part 111
'A likeness of the garden which the righteous are promised; there flow beneath it rivers, its fruits are perpetual and its plentiness. Surely thou who guard (against evil) shall be in the midst of gardens and fountains. Toil shall not afflict them in it, nor shall they be ever ejected from it." (1342, 1276) "The gardens of perpetual abode, which they will enter along with those who do good from among their parents and their spouses and their offspring; women entitled to blessings along with the men” (1276, 2109A) “A bowl shall be made to go round them from water running out of springs, white, delicious to those who drink, There shall be no trouble in it, nor shall they be exhausted therewith. Therein are rivers of water that does not after, and rivers of milk the taste whereof does not change, and rivers of wine, delicious to those who drink, and rivers of honey clarified." (2296) "The garden of the next life is the fruit of good deeds done here." (2356) "There are gardens, trees, rivers, milk, honey, fruits and numerous other blessings spoken of as being met with in paradise." The Holy Qur-an speaks of: ‘No soul knows what is hidden for it. Hence even the white-eyed, large-eyed, or the pure beautiful ones (the houris) are as much a blessing meant, for the righteous women as for the righteous men.' (Koran XX VII. LII) "Eat and drink pleasantly for what you did. Reclining on thrones set in lines and we will unite them to pure beautiful ones."
(2521) According to the Holy Qur-an, paradise is not only a place to enjoy the blessings and reap the rewards of one’s previous good deeds, but it is also the starting point of a never-ceasing spiritual advancement. Spiritual progress in that life will be endless.
(Enc. Brit. Paradise) "The paradise of the Mohammedans is said by them to be situated above the seven heavens, or in the seventh, and next under the throne of the god; to express the amenity of the place, they tell us that the earth of it is of the finest wheat flour, or of the purest musk, or of saffron; that its stones are pearls or jacinths, the walls of its building enriched with gold and silver, and the trunks of all its trees and gold; among which the most remarkable is the tree called tuba, or tree of happiness. They pretend that this tree stands in the palace of Mohammed, though a branch of it wilt reach to the house of every one, loaded with pomegranates, dates, grapes and other fruits of surprising bigness, and delicious tastes, unknown to mortals. If a man desires to eat of any particular kind of fruit, it will immediately be presented to him. They add, that this tree will supply the blessed, not only with fruit, but with silk garments also. Plenty of water being one of the greatest additions. The alcoran speaks of the rivers of paradise, as the principal ornament. Some of these rivers are said to flow with water, some with milk, some wine, and others with honey, and all of these have their source in the root of this tree of happiness. But all these glories with eclipsed by the resplendent and exquisite its beauty of the girls of paradise. These (they say) are not formed of clay, as mortal women, but of pure musk; being also of modesty. They keep themselves secluded in pavilions of hollow pearls. With these the inhabitants of paradise may taste pleasures in their height, and for this purpose will be endowed with extraordinary abilities, and enjoy a perpetual youth”.
(Maulvi Muhammad Ali on Koran)
The life after death: Belief in a future life, in one form or another, is also common to all religions of the world and is the third fundamental article of the Muslim’s faith. The mystery of the life after death was so obscure as late as the appearance of the Jewish religion, that not only is there very little found in the Old Testament, but an important Jewish sect actually denied any such state of existence. This fact, however, due to the lack of light thrown on the underdeveloped mind of man mistaking spiritual realities for physical facts. In Islam the idea reached its perfection, as did other fundamental principles of religion. This is an exaggeration to those who have been taught to look for nothing but sensuality in Islam; but the several points established by the Holy Qur-an with regard to a future life, while nothing is said about them, in the books of other religions bear ample testimony to the truth. Belief in a future life implies the accountability of man in another life for actions done in this life. The belief, if properly understood, is no doubt a most valuable teaching for the moral progress of the world. The holy Qur-an lays particular stress upon the following points:
The life after death is only a continuation of the life below: The gulf that is generally interposed between this life and the life after death is the great obstacle in the solution of the mystery of the hereafter. Islam makes the gulf disappear altogether; it makes the next life only a continuation of the present one. On this point the Holy Our-an is explicit. It says “and we will make every man’s actions cling to his neck and we will bring forth to him on the resurrection day a book, a book which he will find wide open" (17:13). And again it says: "whoever is blind in this, he shall also be blind in the hereafter." (17:12) "O soul that art at rest! return to your lord well pleased with him, well pleasing Him, so enter among my servants and enter my garden" (89:27-30). The first of these verses makes clear that the great fact which shall be brought to light on the day of the resurrection will not be anything new, but only a continuance of the life, bringing its hidden realities to light. The other two quotations show a hellish and a heavenly life both begin in this world.
The blindness of the next life is surely hell, but according to the verse quoted, only those who are blind here, shall be blind hereafter, thus making it clear that the spiritual blindness of this life is the real hell and from here it is taken to the next life. Similarly, it is the soul that has found perfect peace and rest that is made to enter into paradise, thus showing that the paradise of the next life is only a continuation of the peace and rest which a man enjoys spiritually in this life. Thus it is clear according to the Holy Qur-an the next life is a continuation of this life
(Gdss. China and Japan. p. 463) Yomi, the Japanese Hades or Sheol, a subterranean land of the dead. Yomi is consistently written with the isteographs ‘yellow spring’, a Chinese expression for the land beyond the grave. Motoori has the following interpretation of Yomi: it is the land in the nether regions; it appears to be a place of darkness, it is the land where men go to live when they die. The noble, the common, the good and the bad when they die all go this land of Yomi. (PhiIipp The Kojiki p 642) ‘It is a land in the nether regions. The body becomes a lifeless corpse, and plainly remains in the visible world, but the soul goes to the land of Yomi.’ (Hepburn, Jap Dict) Kosen, yellow fountain; Hades, the place of the dead, supposed to be situated in the centre of the earth, ‘The cuckoo, a bird that is supposed to cross the Shide mountain and come from the spirit land.
(Hepburn, Jap. Dict) “Shide-no-yama, a mountain in Hades over which passes the road that the souls of the dead must travel to reach Emmacho the place of judgment”. (Philippi, Kojiki p. 642) The mental picture of Yomi was birth simple and unstable. There was no idea of a final judgment or of retribution or reward after death. There were houses in Yomi, inhabitants were conscious, moved about and ate food, but in some respects the mode of existence of the dead differed from that of the living. Matsumura concludes that, in comparison with other ancient peoples the Japanese were almost completely indifferent to the details of the afterlife. The mental image of the land of Yomi is simple to the point of being astonishing. The optimistic this worldliness of the Japanese living in their mild and sunny islands made them indifferent to anything as uncertain and morbid as the life after death. Furthermore, since the main object of the Kojiki mythology was to explain the political and historical backgrounds for the much of the Yamato court, the afterlife is not described in great detail because it was irrelevant. The Japanese myth makers were interested in having their characters moving along quickly in chronological order, and they had little interest in philosophical concepts or descriptions of things or places unless these were absolutely necessary for the progress of the narrative.
(The Kojiki. ch. 9) “At this time lzanagi-no-Mikoto wishing to meet again his spouse, Izanami-no-Mikoto went after her to the land of Yomi, When she came forth out of the door of the halt to greet him, Izanagi said: 'O My beloved spouse, the lands which you and I were making have not yet been completed, you must come back'.
Then Izanami-no-Mikoto replied saying:
'How I regret you didn’t come sooner. I have eaten at the hearth of Yomi. O my beloved husband, how awesome is it that you have entered here. Therefore I will go and discuss for a while with the Gods of Yomi my desire to return. Pray do not look upon me'.
Thus saying, she went into the hail, but her absence was so long that lzanagi-no-Mikoto could no longer wait.
Thereupon he broke off one of the large end teeth of the comb he was wearing in his left hair bunch, lit one fire, and entered in to see.
At this time his spouse, said:
“He hath shamed me”.
Thereupon she dispatched the hags of Yomi to pursue him.
The Izanagi-no-Mikoto undid the black vine securing his hair, flung it down, immediately it bore grapes, while (the hags were picking and eating the grapes) he fled.
When again they pursued him, he next pulled out the comb he was wearing in his right hair bunch and flung it down, immediately bamboo shoots sprouted forth. While the hags were pulling up and eating the bamboo shoots, he fled.
The pursuit continued, and when (lzanagi-no-Mikoto had arrived) at the foot of the pass Yomi-to-pira-saka, he took three peaches which were there and waiting for his pursuers attacked them with the peaches. They all turned and fled.
Finally, his spouse Izanami-no-Mikoto herself came in pursuit of him. Then he pulled a tremendous boulder and closed the pass, Yoma-ta-pira-saka, with it.
They stood facing each other, one on each side of the boulder, and broke their troth.
The idea is that one may not return home, if he has eaten the food of any other world or society such as the world of the spirits, fames, or gods was also wide spread. In primitive thought eating or drinking together brings about a magical relationship."
(Gdss Japan & China) “Sanzukama no obaasan"
This goddess is described in the following account by Hepburn: “Yomiji; the road to Hades by which the souls of the dead, crossing the Shide mountain and the Sanzu river, travel to Emma cho, the place of judgment; from this place two roads branch off, one to gokuraku (paradise), the other to jigoku (hell). Before crossing the river they are stripped of their clothes by an old woman, called Sanzukama no obaasan”.
Yomi, according to the same author, is the place of the departed spirits, the Hades of the Shinto: Yomiji denotes the Buddhist Hades. The Shide-no yama is a mountain in Hades over which passes the road that the souls of the dead must travel to reach Emmacho. Emma or Emma-o, King of Hades, takes a part in judging the dead.
According to Saunders and Frank, death is often announced “by the apparition of infernal agents;” these take charge of the spirit or shade and guard him on his way to the Other World. In the “Journey of Intermediate Existence” he travels across a vast plain. At the entrance to hell is the Shide Mountain, veiled in darkness; and having groped his way over this he reaches the Mituse-kawa (River of Three Passages) also known as Sanzu no- kawa (River of Three Ways). On the far side is the woman Sanzu-no-baba, awaiting his arrival. His clothes are stripped from him and hung from branches of a tree. ‘Some traditions state that it she was given a coin she did not strip her victim bare and presumably that is why a few small coins were always placed in coffins”.
Gokuraku and Jogoku refers to the Buddhist Paradise and hells. Of the latter there are eight; these are each divided into sixteen, making in all one hundred and twenty-eight.
Hepburn also refers to the Johari-no-kagami, “A mirror in Hades, which reflects the good or evil deeds which those that look into it have done while in this world”.
Back to Lawrence Durdin-Robertson