celtic mythology

THE CELTIC OTHERWORLD

By , Author

Tallhwch  ~ The pursuit of history using the newest and most creative methods necessary

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

It is a common misperception that the Celts had an Underworld, a place of the dead. The fact is that the Celts believed in reincarnation, and that the time between lives was spent in the unpleasant Tech Duin. Those gods normally associated with the Underworld are nothing of the sort, nothing more than misperceptions based on our own views of the world. For instance, Pwyll of the Mabinogion seems to be no more than a king who travels from one world to the next. Manawydan, a Welsh god, is the eponym for part of Lothian and the island of Man. He is more closely related to the sea than the dead.

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The confusion is due to Celtic mythology’s complexity. The mythologies of Greece, Rome, and the Norse as they have come down to us have been simplified and systematized by the likes of Bulfinch and Snorri Sturlsson. The Celts had no one like that. As a result their mythology is more difficult to follow and often inconsistent. Irish myth held that their gods were only the second most recent of five invasions by supernatural beings, the Tuatha de Danaan. These beings had residences similar to the gods of other mythologies, on mountains, in the sea, and what not.

But the enemies of the Tuatha de Danaan responded differently. In Norse myth, the enemies of the gods were still active and needed to be constantly subdued. In Greek myth, the Titans were brought to Tartarus once they were beaten. The Irish believed that once defeated, the Tuatha de Danaan’s foes hid using their magic. Their sanctuaries were apart from the world the Celts knew, magical and hidden. It was these Other Worlds to which heroes often went, the realms of fairies and the other creatures of myth.

Because they were places of hiding, it comes as no surprise that the Otherworld had so many geographical locations. For the Celts they were the hills of the countryside, the islands to the west, and the darkest places in the forest. To get an idea of what the Celts imagined, think of a Guillermo del Toro movie such as Hellboy II or Pan’s Labyrinth. These mysterious, magical people lived in magical places that confounded the Celt’s concepts of space.

In the British Isles there dwelled leprechauns, fairies, elves, and dozens of other perfectly civilized beings of shrunken size. These all lived in worlds other than those humans could see. None of their worlds are actually named, so it’s impossible to know if they all lived in the same Otherworld or different ones.

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What I find fascinating is the make-up of the world or worlds themselves. The older stories about them always had rulers who gave opulent feasts and royal entertainment for guests that far outdid anything to be found in the human world. But what I’ve found interesting are the occasional hints at magic/superior technology. A mist conceals the entrance through which no human can see, occasionally a glass boat takes the knight there. Time moves at an accelerated pace. Fairies can fly. Otherwise there is the distinctive feel of something well beyond human abilities or technology, though nothing specific is said. For the Celts these were superior beings not to be trifled with in our world. To go into theirs was to court disaster.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

I want magic to be real. There is a deep, irrational well of longing in me that believes in magical places buried in woodland and mist. This is my favorite blog, my favorite website. It lets me feel close to the magic.

See on tallhwch.wordpress.com

Trapped, Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 5, by Kevin Hearne

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I got the notice from Amazon. Kevin Hearne’s latest new book in the series — HUNTED – was delivered to my Kindle today. I’m not going to have time to read it for a while. I have a long list of books to review and many pages to go read before I can read anything not on my “to read and review” list.

In honor of the new release, here’s my review of Book 5, TRAPPED.

This book was released November 27, 2012. I had it in hand the day of its release. I took several weeks to read it. It wasn’t terribly long, but I wanted it to last. Then, after I finished reading it, I got the audiobook and read it a twice more. Just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

I read the first three books Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered. I liked them. I wasn’t overwhelmed, but I enjoyed them enough so that when the fourth book came out, I bought it. I liked it better than the first three and when this most recent book was released, I was right on top of it. Each book has been better than the one before it and I can hardly wait for the next volume.

Trapped is the fifth installment of the Iron Druid series. It is wonderful. The writing has smoothed out, the characters have become more solid, three-dimensional, real. Atticus finally has a human companion. He’s always had a companion, of course, his faithful wolfhound Oberon. More about Oberon later. But now, it’s the beautiful Granuaile, his apprentice now about-to-be Druid.

One of the things I most like about Kevin Hearne‘s writing is the care with which he constructs his world. It has rules, axioms, standards. Within his world, his characters and nature obey. There is symmetry, logic and order. The world feels right. Although it’s a different reality than ours, but makes sense. Nothing falls up.

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The story has more than adequate action to satisfy any fantasy reader, but it is also graceful and elegant. Add to that a hefty dollop of wit, humor, historical tidbits and mythology. It scratches all my literary itches at the same time.

Many authors supposedly base stories on mythology, but really, they use names taken from mythology but that’s as far as it goes. Hearne’s gods, from whatever pantheon they are drawn, are remarkably true to their namesake. My very first literary crush was on Apollo via Bullfinch and I’ve come a long way since then, but my affection for gods and goddesses and their many descendants remains.

sausage-festThen there’s Oberon the wolfhound. If I had no other motivation, I think I’d read these books just for Oberon. He has a wonderful “dog’s eye view” of the world and human relationships. He is the first “talking dog” who is a dog, not a furry human. He thinks doggy thoughts, lusts after sausages and poodles. He has a big vocabulary and great communication skills, but he is a real dog. And funny.

I liked everything in this book: an intelligent plot, fully realized characters, lots of action, care for the details. Best of all,  the story is unpredictable — full of  surprises, plot twists and wonderful words.

I would not — as others have — compare Kevin Hearne to Jim Butcher. Although both write in the fantasy genre and I love both authors, the worlds about which they write are very different. I’m sure Harry and Atticus would like each other and enjoy a glass of brew, but they move in different circles. I’ve never liked comparing authors as if they were interchangeable parts. There’s more than enough room for everyone and plenty left for those who have yet to set pen to paper.  Atticus isn’t going to replace Harry or vice versa.

Should they find reason to join forces, that would be very cool. I bet Oberon and Mouse would get on  too … but if they never meet, I’m sure that both will do their part in saving this sad old world of ours.

The Iron Druid Chronicles — Hounded to Trapped — by Kevin Hearne

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The Iron Druid Chronicles includes (to date) five books: Hounded, Hexed, Hammered, Tricked, and Trapped. The books follow the adventures of the last of the Druids,a  2100-year-old survivor of the Roman massacre of the Druids back in the reign of Claudius (41 AD to 54 AD).

The Beginning: Hounded (May 2011)

Atticus O’Sullivan — not his real name, but we never find out what his real name is, though many hints are dropped — survived the long ago massacre by fleeing to North America which had not yet been discovered by the Old World. After many years, he has established a peaceful life in Arizona where he runs an occult bookshop, does a bit of  shape-shifting that lets him enjoy hunting with his Irish wolfhound, Oberon. Atticus’ shifted shape is also a Wolfhound and his friendship with Oberon goes far beyond dog and master or even dog and dog.

Atticus’ appearance suggests a young man in his early 20s, belying his two millennium life. Through his long years of survival Atticus has gained a great deal of power, drawn mostly from the earth to which he is bound.  Personally, he’s pleasant, witty and hyper aware of the forces of earth, air, water and other. He has not survived for so many centuries without gaining enough wisdom to know when to fight and when to run. He has power, but he is also a survivor, choosing his battles with great care.

In the course of ages, he has come to possess a magical sword — Fragarach, the Answerer. Fragarach is coveted by an ill-tempered and powerful god. Although Atticus initially prevails and keeps the sword, many wheels are set in motion by the battle for its possession and the scene is set for the next five books in the series.

From the Paperback edition

Hounded was recently reissued as a Mass Market Paperback.

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Most Recent: Trapped (November 2012)

I’ve followed the adventures of Atticus, Oberon, and more recently, the beautiful Granuaile, his apprentice who is now about to become a full Druid in Trapped, released November 27, 2012. I had Trapped in hand the day of its release. I finished reading it, then got the audiobook and read it a couple more times. Just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. That is a pretty fair indicator that I very much enjoyed the book.

Hounded was the first of the series and while I did enjoy it, I felt each subsequent book has been better than the one before it. Trapped was the best to date. With Hunted due to be released soon, I can hardly wait!

All of the books are rousing good fantasy yarns. Even better, Hearne has done his homework. His Pantheon(s) of Gods are pretty accurate, much more so than most fantasy books that call on various gods. The writing is intelligent, witty, fast-paced and original. Kevin Hearne‘s world is constructed with care. Within that world, the characters and nature itself are subject to natural law and logic. There is symmetry and order. The world feels right. It’s a different reality, but nothing ever falls upwards.

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Each story has more than enough action to satisfy any fantasy reader, but it is graceful and elegant.

sausage-festAtticus is the kind of character I’d love to hang with, but if I had to take my pick of one character with whom to spend some quality, it would have to be  Oberon the wolfhound. Oberon has a delightful “dog’s eye view” of the world and human relationships. He is the first “talking dog” who is a dog, not a furry human. He thinks doggy thoughts, lusts after sausages and poodles. He has a big vocabulary and exceptional communication skills, but he is a dog. And a funny dog at that. He has a thing for poodles which I have actually heard criticized as sexist. Folks, if this bothers you, perhaps you are taking life too seriously. Really.

The Iron Druid has it all: intelligent plots, fully realized characters, lots of action, great detail. Best of all,  the stories are never entirely predictable. There are enough surprises and plot twists to keep you hooked. The words are delightfully well crafted. For me, books are always about the words … and Kevin Hearne uses words beautifully.

I would not — as others have — compare Kevin Hearne to Jim Butcher. Although both write in the fantasy genre and I enjoy both authors, the worlds about which they write are significantly different as are the personalities and lifestyle of their protagonists. I’m sure Harry Dresden and Atticus O’Sullivan would appreciate each other and might enjoy a glass of brew together, but they move in different circles. I’ve never liked comparing authors as if all writers in the same genre are essentially interchangeable parts. There’s more than enough room for everyone and plenty left for those who have yet to set pen to paper.  Atticus isn’t going to replace Harry and Harry is unlikely to be at home in Atticus’ world.

And that is the way it ought to be. Should they find reason to join forces, that would be cool. I bet Oberon and Mouse would get on well … but if they never meet, I’m sure both will play their part in saving this old world of ours.

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