Celtic myth

In Echtrae Conli, Conn Cetchathach, the Irish high king, stands on the ramparts of Tara, surrounded by his Druids and sons. A thick mist descends, through which a horseman appears who invites the king and his retinue to follow him. They travel to a house on a plain. Inside is a girl, seated on a throne, who represents the sovereignty of Ireland. She is accompanied by the god Lugh, who is seated on another throne. The visitors are served food and drink, then the girl asks Conn the name of everyone in his party. The two deities then proceed to give Conn a list outlining the duration of his reign, and those of his successors. The gods and the house then disappear.

The mist in this story was the literary portal between one world and the next, and this device is used throughout Celtic Irish literature, such as in the account of Conn's grandson Cormac

Roquepertuse Shrine

and his encounter with the god Manannin. The god appears through a mist "from a land where there is only truth, and there is no old age, nor decay, nor sadness, nor envy, nor jealousy, nor hatred, nor arrogance." This is the perfect description of the Celtic supernatural world, or afterlife.

For the Celts, the afterlife was in%ariably portrayed as a land of perpetual youth, where the flowers are always in bloom and everyone lives in peace and harmony. This "land of the ever-young" also reflects pagan Norse and Saxon versions of the afterlife, so it is a popular theme in pre-Christian belief. Faced with the prospect of an eternity in this spiritual paradise, the ever-present prospect of an early death would have seemed less of a threat to the Celtic warrior or farmer.

Above: The Celtic sanctuary at Roquepertuse dates from the 2nd century bc. Warrior skulls decorate the columns and lie piled on the ground before the shrine.

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