Saturday, December 19, 2009

The world from a different angle

Reverse image

Seeing these trees so clearly reflected in the water set me thinking about the subterranean world of the Celts, the mythology of the underworld, which is not a place of death but of a happier life, where food, wine and song are the rewards of this mythical place called Elysium;

Reversing the photo upside down makes no change except that the water ripples through the trees and the snowy bank is above not below. This image, sometimes seen in a river, maybe in a well, would reflect back a parallel world, in which you could order the nature of all things to be beneficial. There is such a lot written in the Celtic tales, that it is difficult to know where to start when you describe this other land, maybe it was the monks when writing these tales that formed the myths of the pagan past, taking old folk tales and moulding them into shape to fit into the morality of the christian tales told, and the word Elysium was made up along the way, a bit like Utopia.

This mythical land called Elysium, has many forms and shapes, it can be found on the great plains of Ireland, or in the hills or sidhe barrows where the gods have retired, and you can enter through this 'portal' to the otherworld.. It could be a world below the waters, or a world co-existent with this and entered by through the mist. It is transitory, half-glimpsed, a place of the mind, a reward for hard service on this earth, and it has many names in Irish mythology.

The names of the Irish Elysium are sometimes of a general character--Mag Mór, "the Great Plain"; Mag Mell, "the Pleasant Plain"; Tír n'Aill, "the Other-world"; Tír na m-Beo, " the Land of the Living "; Tír na n-Og, "the Land of Youth"; and Tír Tairngiri, "the Land of Promise"--possibly of Christian origin. Local names are Tír 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,

The Celtic Irish tales tell of all these different lands for their heroes to find, sometimes to be entranced for hundreds of years by fair maidens, or to shape-shift into different animals,
Amergin's poem gives a taste of this.

"I am the wind which blows over the sea,
I am the wave of the ocean,
I am the bull of seven battles,
I am the eagle on the rock . .
I am a boar for courage
I am a salmon in the water."

The 'Celtic' Desborough Mirror - British Museum

The Celts seem to be a boastful race, and probably vain as well, for the mirrors found in graves, imitation of roman mirrors, were probably used by both sexes, recent finds of bog bodies show elegant hair styles on the male corpses. So what do we have with the 'mirrored' image of these people when they looked into the glassy waters of a river and see their own reflection; a warrior knight for a start, for there have been two beautiful bronze shields found in the Thames - The Chertsey and the Battersea, and a third found called the Witham Shield in Lincolnshire. These symbolic shields were no use in battle but dedicated to the river gods maybe.

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