Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Celtic conceptions of the realm of the dead are often close to but are not synonymous with those of the Otherworld. No detailed portrait of the realm of the dead is found in any Celtic tradition, although there is much in Celtic folklore to suggest a belief in the power of the dead to return to the world of the living. Named Celtic gods of the dead are rare. The Gaulish Sucellus has some funerary aspects. The observations of classical commentators on Celtic belief in the afterlife are tantalizingly incomplete. Celtic warriors were said not to fear death. The 6th-century Byzantine historian Procopius tells a curious story about the island of ‘Brittia’ (Britain?) where the souls of the dead might be ferried. Often in Celtic tradition the realm of the dead is thought to be in the west. In recent times in Brittany the ‘Bay of Souls’ was thought to be at Raz, at the extreme western point of the peninsula. In Britain also the most westerly point of the Island, off Land's End in Cornwall, was thought to belong to the dead, but in the pseudo-history Lebor Gabála [Book of Invasions], Spain may be the land of the dead. The realm of Donn (1), Tech Duinn [Donn's House], on a rocky island in south-west Ireland, is sometimes the home of the dead. The Welsh conception that may include the realm of the dead is Annwfn; a Welsh personification of death is Angau, corresponding to the Breton bringer of death, Ankou. The Breton religious festival known as pardon, of which there are many in honour of various saints and occasions, are perceived in learned opinion as Christianized celebrations of the dead; see Anatole le Braz, The Land of Pardons (New York, 1906). The Celtic deities most comparable to Hades or Pluto are the Irish figures Bile and Donn (1). The Chthonic Donn bears a closer relationship to Dis Pater. In the Mabinogi/Mabinogion, a magic cauldron can rejuvenate the dead. See also ANGAU; ANKOU; DEATH COACH; DIS PATER.

Subjects: Religion.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.