Part 3 – The Otherworld – Who’s Who of Irish Mythology Series
Part 3 – Their World
I found a Book Proposal from 13 years ago, that I had agreed to write before life took a different turn for me – a ‘Who’s Who of Irish Mythology & How to Work with Them’.
I may or may not turn it into a book at some stage…?! But for now it may as well be out in world as sitting on my computer.
WARNING: It’s an unedited old photo of my thoughts and practice 13 years ago. So, be aware.
The Irish Otherworld
It is agreed far and wide by those who know of such things, that we mortals inhabit one world or plane of existence, and the Powers inhabit another.
An saol sin agus an saol eile (pron. On Sail shin O-guss on Sail ella). This world, and the Irish Otherworld.
There are many references to the Otherworld to be found peppered throughout Irish culture – in our literature, works of art, our history, the old stories, sayings, songs, traditional fairy tales and fables.
Yet none of the scholarly works in whose indexes the reference appears can completely characterise a singular definition for what this ‘Otherworld’ actually is.
There’s no simple answer, no uniform dictionary definition, and an awful lot of conflicting and contradictory information.
An Saol Eile (pron. On Sail Ella) or the Irish Otherworld, is the realm that lies adjacent to our more mundane world of here and now.
An Saol Eile is the realm that belongs to the Gods and to the spirits or Powers of the land. An Saol Eile is the realm of the Sidhe (pron. Shee), the Good People, the Fairies, to which comely maidens and sporting young men are enticed with dance and feast, where time runs differently – if they ever do return they may find that their 2 hours of fun has left them 20 years out of their own world.
An Saol Eile is where the soul may go when we finally shuffle off this mortal coil, the equivalent of the Underworld through the House of Donn, Lord of Death.
An Saol Eile is the Land of Promise, the Land of Youth, the Land of the Living, the Land of beauteous Women, the Land of Milk and Honey.
It is any of a series of mysterious islands which can be visited and explored through the Adventurous Eachtraí, or the Immrama, soul voyages. It could be heaven, or it could be hell. In my opinion, it is something in between.
The Otherworld is where those Powers with whom we wish to work reside.
Far from being distinctly divided however, the worlds often meet. There is crossover and intersection, although the modern mess of hustle and bustle, constant noise and distraction, and lack of observation in which we now dwell ensures that many of us remain closed to the possibilities.
In quieter times, people’s experiences of these natural points of intersection have lead to the many mentions of the Otherworld in the Irish tales.
There are particular times and places in which travel between the worlds was (and still is) not only possible but often seems to have been difficult to avoid. Oíche Shamhna (pron. Ee-ha How-na, meaning ‘Samhain night’), Bealtaine Eve, daily times of transition such as dawn or dusk, walking home after a Céilí dance, fairy raths or ring forts, deep pools, wells, certain caves, particular trees and forests, high and lonely hills, standing stone circles, passage tombs or cairns, and of course any old mist or fog that descends suddenly while you and your men are out hunting…
As we can see, there are many occasions throughout the land, and throughout the year, when the worlds meet.
Times and places at which they can come here, and we can go there.
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