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Title: An Irish Precursor of Dante - A Study on the Vision of Heaven and Hell ascribed to the - Eighth-century Irish Saint Adamnán, with Translation of - the Irish Text
Author: Boswell, Charles Stuart
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Irish Precursor of Dante - A Study on the Vision of Heaven and Hell ascribed to the - Eighth-century Irish Saint Adamnán, with Translation of - the Irish Text" ***

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No. 18


[Uncial: (Fis Adamnáin)]

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    I. GEORGIAN FOLK-TALES. By M. WARDROP. _Out of print._

    II., III., V. THE LEGEND OF PERSEUS. A Study of Tradition and
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    LIVING. An old Irish Saga, now first edited, with Translation,
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    Vision of the Happy Otherworld, and the Celtic doctrine of
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    VOL. II. THE CELTIC DOCTRINE OF REBIRTH. 1897. xii, 352 pp.
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    VII. THE LEGEND OF SIR GAWAIN. Studies upon its Original Scope
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    ABERCROMBY. 2 vols. _Out of print._


    Origin, Development, and Position in the Arthurian Romantic
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    XIV. SOHRAB AND RUSTEM. The Epic Theme of a Combat between
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    XV. THE THREE DAYS’ TOURNAMENT. A Study in Romance and
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    XVI. THE CATTLE RAID OF CUALNGE (Táin bó Cuailnge). By L.
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    XVII. THE LEGEND OF SIR PERCEVAL. Studies upon its Origin,
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                      An Irish Precursor of Dante

       A Study on the Vision of Heaven and Hell ascribed to the
      Eighth-century Irish Saint Adamnán, with Translation of the
                              Irish Text

                             C. S. Boswell

                        Published by David Nutt
                       at the Sign of the Phœnix
                               Long Acre

                              H. M. H. B.



                                PART I


    Dante’s _Commedia_ preceded by a long series of Visions of the
    Otherworld--The Vision a favourite subject with Irish writers of
    the Middle Ages--Dante’s originality                                1-4

    2. THE SEER

    The Irish Church at the close of the seventh century--Its
    missionary activity--Irish scholars and clerics on the
    Continent--The authorities for Adamnán’s life--His birth
    and parentage--Meaning of his name--Enters the monastery of
    Iona--Becomes abbot--Missions to Northumbria--Intercourse with
    the Venerable Bede--The Paschal controversy--Adamnán adopts the
    Roman usage--His labours in the cause--Wins over Ireland except
    Iona--His death--His _Life of St. Colm Cille_--His treatise
    _De Locis Satutis_--Miscellaneous and apocryphal writings--His
    scholarship--Adamnán in the later annals--Anecdote of his
    student days--The Boruma Tribute--Remitted by Árd Rí Finnachta
    Fledach--Adamnán’s opposition thereto--Doubtful authenticity
    of the record--Further dissensions with the Árd Rí--Death
    of Finnachta--Adamnán’s legislation on behalf of the women
    of Ireland--Their previous status and liability to military
    service--The _Cáin Adamnáin_--Character of Adamnán--The _Fis
    Adamnáin_, why associated with his name--MSS. and editions of the
    _Fis Adamnáin_                                                     4-28


    1. Exordium--2. Enumeration of previous revelations of the
    Otherworld--3. Adamnán’s translation from the body--4-6. The Land
    of Saints--7-8. The Throne of the Deity--9. The Divine Presence
    enthroned, and 10. Pictured as a mystic omnipresent face--11. The
    Celestial City, its seven walls and its floor; 12. Its inhabitants;
    13. Its design, as of a Christian Church--14. Limbo of the
    excluded--15-18. The Soul’s progress through the seven Heavens;
    15. Their doors and porters; the first Heaven; 16. The second
    Heaven, Purgatorial pains; 17. The third and fourth Heavens; 18.
    The fifth and sixth Heavens--19. The Judgment of the Soul--20. The
    fate of the damned--21. Hell, a fiery glen--22-23. The Bridge of
    Doom--24. The half good, half wicked--25-29. Punishments of the
    wicked described; classification of crimes and punishments--27.
    The charitable but carnal--29. Fiery wall reserved until after the
    Last Judgment--30. Description of Hell; impatience of the damned
    for Judgment; respite on Sundays--31. Adamnán returns to Heaven;
    is restored to the body, and bidden report what he has seen--32.
    This the subject of his subsequent preaching; consonant with the
    doctrine of the Apostles and Saints--33. Enoch, Elias, and the
    Bird-flocks of Paradise--34. Peroration; L’Envoy--35. Rhapsodical
    description of Heaven                                             28-47

                                PART II


    Sources of the mediæval legend of the Vision of the
    Otherworld--The Classical Tradition--The Otherworld in
    the Greek poets--Influence of the Mysteries--The effect
    of initiation on the future life--Ethical teaching of the
    Mysteries--Plato’s _Vision of Er_--Plato’s opinion of the
    Mysteries--Description of Elysium in the _Axiochus_--The
    _Frogs_ of Aristophanes; visit to Hades by Dionysos;
    light thrown on the Greek views of the Mysteries of the
    next world--Plutarch’s _Vision of Thespesios_--Plutarch’s
    eschatology--Rebirth theory in Plato and Plutarch--The Vision
    in Latin literature--The _Somnium Scipionis_--Virgil’s
    description of the Otherworld--Literary character of his
    treatment--Composite nature of his eschatology--His authority
    in the Middle Ages                                                48-67


    Dante’s attitude towards Virgil--His scheme in the
    Commedia--Non-classical elements thereby necessitated--Process
    of accretion in the later Jewish Church--The Chaldæan
    eschatology--Visits to Hades of Ishtâr and Gisdubar--The
    Chaldæan Elysium--Arali, the Chaldæan Hades--Aristocratic
    conception of Elysium--The effect of the Median conquest--The
    Avestan eschatology--The soul after death--The Chinvât
    Bridge--Judgment--The Avestan Elysium--The Tree of Life and
    the World-Sea--The bird Karshipta--the Vara of Yima--Yima
    and the Indian Yama--Allegoric tendencies of the Avesta--Its
    adoption of earlier animism--The question of its influence
    on Judaism--Darmesteter on Neo-Platonic elements in the
    Avesta--Older elements in the Avestan theory of the Otherworld;
    Achæmenian, Indian and Chaldæan--The Amesha Spentas and the
    Philonic emanations--Their probable connection with the
    Chaldæan Spirits of Earth--Chaldæan and Persian influences
    upon Jewish speculation--Oriental conceptions present in the
    Vision of Adamnán: the seven Heavens, the mystical Bird, the
    Tree of Life, the World-Sea, the Bridge--Rebirth theory absent
    from the Avestan religion--Egypt and Neo-Judaism--The Jewish
    colony in Alexandria; its culture mainly Hellenic; interchange
    of ideas with the Egyptians--Egyptian cults in the Hellenic
    world--Egyptian eschatology; Judgment, the ‘Eater of the Dead,’
    Elysium--Purgatorial and kindred theories of the Rabbis and
    early Christians--Special treatment of half good, half wicked
    souls--Greek and Oriental influences on the Otherworld conceptions
    of the Christian Church--Rebirth rejected by the Jews, and by the
    ancient Egyptians                                                 67-94


    The Vision of the Otherworld a favourite subject in the Jewish
    apocryphal scriptures--The _Book of Enoch_--Parallels to Christian
    Visions--Care for topographical details--Dissertations as in
    Dante--Purgatorial theory--Descriptions of Hell and Heaven--The
    Celestial Mountain--Sheol--The Tree of Life--Judgment--The _Gospel
    of Nicodemus_--The _Vision of Esdras_ in the Old Testament
    Apocrypha--Another _Vision of Esdras_ in the Christian apocryphal
    books--The _Vision of Isaiah_--Little information respecting the
    Otherworld in the canonical books of the New Testament--Details
    in the Epistles of St. Jude and St. Peter and the
    Revelation--Græco-Roman speculations during the early ages of the
    Church--The Sibylline books--The ‘Harrowing of Hell’ legend--Spread
    of eschatological writings--The _Shepherd of Hermas_--An
    anticipation of Dante and Beatrice--Its scope rather anagogical
    than eschatological--The Apocalypse of St. Peter--The Revelation
    of St. Paul--Their influence apparent in the _Fis Adamnáin_--The
    _Transitus Mariæ_--Blending of Hebraic and Hellenic conceptions of
    the Otherworld--Persistence of the moral teaching in the Mysteries;
    and of the popular belief in Tartarus--The Vision legend little
    affected by Pagan cults or Neo-Platonic speculation--The Vision
    legend in the Western Church--Instances recorded by St. Augustine
    and St. Gregory--Minor importance of the legend in the West until
    developed by the Irish Church                                    94-113


    Relations of the Irish Church with Southern Gaul and the
    East--Irish Pilgrimages to Egypt--The Egyptian _Book of Adam and
    Eve_ preserved in Ireland only--Resemblances between the Irish
    and Oriental monastic systems--Irish knowledge of Greek writers
    and intercourse with the Greeks--The ecclesiastical conception of
    the Otherworld influenced by cognate ideas in Irish literature
    and mythology--Dignity of the Irish literary profession;
    its classifications--Categories of the Irish historical and
    romantic tales--Tolerance of the Irish clergy--Survival of
    the Imram and Fis, and their influence upon the literature of
    mediæval Europe--The Otherworld a favourite subject in Irish
    legend--Elysian realms of the Irish Gods; of the Dagda and
    Oengus Óg, of Mider, of Manannán Mac Lír--Poetic description
    in the _Voyage of Bran_--Tethra, king of the dead--His
    messengers to summon mortals to him--The story of Connla--The
    Orpheus myth in Ireland--The _Serglige Conchulaind_--No
    Tartarus in the Irish mythology--Malignant powers--Sinister
    aspects of the Otherworld--The realm of Scathach--The Bridge
    of the Cliff--Whether of Norse origin, or ecclesiastical, or
    native--Parallels in the Avesta and among primitive peoples--The
    _Adventures of Nera_--The legend in the Finn Cycle--Late
    survivals--The legend in the Conn Cormac Cycle--Conn’s visits to
    the Tír Tairngire--Christian redactions of Pagan stories--The
    adventures of Árt in the Tír Tairngire, and the courtship
    of Delbchaem--The visit of Cormac to the Tír Tairngire--The
    introduction of allegory--First rudimentary ethical conceptions
    in connection with the Otherworld--Whether original or due to
    clerical redactors--Interpolations by the redactors--Increasing
    prominence of eschatological ideas in the Christian Imrama--The
    chastity ideal existing side by side with its opposite in the
    Tír Tairngire--Cuchulainn and the children of Doel Dermait--The
    enchanted castle and its Otherworld origin--The _Voyage of
    Maelduin’s Curach_--Greek influences--Elysian islands--Infernal
    elements--The ‘Miller of Hell’--Picture of Elysium--Adaptation
    of the Phœnix legend to old Irish myths--Bird souls--Island
    hermits--The cook of Torach--The _Voyage of the Curach of
    the Ui Corra_--Eschatology in the ascendant--Influences of
    Nature--Purgatorial theory introduced into the Imram--The _Voyage
    of Snedgus and Mac Ríagla_--Transition from Pagan to Christian
    conceptions of the Otherworld--Visions of the Otherworld in
    Ireland--Visions of St. Colm Cille--St. Fursa; his Vision--Vision
    of Laisrén--The _Scél Lái Brátha_--The fourfold division of human
    souls--The _Dá Brón Flatha Nime_                                113-174


    Its structural and literary superiority to other Visions
    before Dante--The general plan--Indications of composite
    authorship--Authorities followed by the writer of the Vision--The
    guide to the Otherworld--The author’s use of old Irish
    imagery--His ecclesiastical treatment of the subject--Pictorial
    grouping and imagery--Parallels to the Imrama--The Cockayne
    idea and the ascetic idea--The state described to continue
    to the Last Judgment only--Deferred Judgment of certain
    spirits and their Limbo--The soul’s progress through the seven
    Heavens--The Purgatorial theory--Dante parallels--Judgment--The
    fate of the reprobate--Insistence on the spiritual side of
    their sufferings--The further description of Hell apparently
    interpolated--The Bridge incident--Fourfold division of the
    souls--The punishments of the reprobate--Increasing minuteness
    of these descriptions by successive Vision writers--Attempts
    at classification--Dante parallels--Temporary punishment of
    certain sinners--The region of the damned after the Last
    Judgment--Characteristics of northern and southern writers
    respectively--The four rivers of Hell--Adamnán’s message--Enoch
    and Elias with the Bird-flocks about the Tree of Life--Rhapsodical
    description of Heaven                                           174-206


    Irish influences upon Continental writers--Enduring effect of
    St. Brendan’s legend--The _Voyage of St. Brendan_--Old Irish
    incidents preserved therein--The Paradise of Birds and the
    rebel angels--Cessation of the Imram and continuance of the
    Fis--The _Vision of Tundale_--Great development of Purgatorial
    incidents--The Bridge episode--Hell described as the mouth of a
    dragon--Description of Hell--The half righteous--Converse with
    persons whom Tundale had known in life--King Cormac--Paradise--The
    Tree of Life and Bird-flocks--Blending in this vision of Irish
    and ecclesiastical elements--Influence of the result upon
    European literature--Relations to the _Fis Adamnáin_ and to
    the St. Patrick’s Purgatory legend--Dante probably acquainted
    with the Vision of Tundale--Comparison between the _Vision_
    and the _Commedia_--Prevalence of the Vision legend on the
    Continent--Foreign Visions derived from Irish sources--The
    _Vision of Drihthelm_--St. Patrick’s Purgatory--The Vision of
    Owen--Doubtful origin of the legend of St. Patrick’s Purgatory--Its
    popularity on the Continent--Treatment by Continental
    writers--The _Vision of Alberic_--Waning influence of the Irish
    school--Increased number but diminished importance of the
    Otherworld stories--Lack of originality                         206-241


    Recapitulation--No theory propounded as to Dante’s indebtedness
    to the Irish school--His probable acquaintance with the later
    Visions of that school--Probable nature and limitations of their
    influence--Tendency of each school to drop the more characteristic
    traits of its predecessors--Dante’s rejection of many conventional
    incidents--The literary qualities of the _Fis Adamnáin_--Irish
    susceptibility to the beauties of Nature and to music--Absence of
    dissertations from the _Fis Adamnáin_--Interruption of the Irish
    national literature--Modern renaissance                         242-249

    INDEX                                                               251




Few, if any, of the great masterpieces of literature, even of those
which bear the most unmistakable imprint of an original mind, are
‘original’ in the vulgar sense of being invented ‘all out of the
head’ of the author. Most frequently they are the development and
the sublimation of forms and subjects already current; for, as Dumas
_père_ truly said, it is mankind, and not the individual man, that
_invents_. The wagon of Thespis preceded the stage of Æschylus, while
Thespis himself had predecessors who did not even adopt the wagon. The
great dramatic schools of all periods took the greater and better part
of their themes from the myth, history, or fiction current in their
day. So it has been with most other kinds of literature, and to this
rule the _Commedia_ of Dante, though one of the most truly original
creations of the human mind, forms no exception. The main subject of
the poem, the visit of a living man, in person or in vision, to the
world of the dead, and his report of what he had seen and heard there,
belongs to a class of world-myths than which few are more widely
distributed in place or time, and none have been more fortunate in
the place won for them by the masters of literature. After occupying
an important place in several of the antique religions it afforded
subjects to the genius of Homer, Plato, and Virgil; it was then adopted
into the early Christian Church, and afterwards constituted one of the
favourite subjects in the popular literature of the Middle Ages, until,
finally, Dante exhausted the great potentialities of the theme, and
precluded all further developments.

The _Commedia_ is like a mighty river formed by the confluence of
several great tributaries, each of which is fed by innumerable springs
and streamlets, which have their rise in regions remote and most
diverse from each other, and are all tinged by the soil of the lands
through which they flow. It is with one of these tributary streams
that the following pages deal, and that not the least important among
them, for to it the Vision of the Otherworld, as current in the later
Middle Ages, owed much both of its popularity and its contents, not,
indeed, by way of direct derivation or suggestion--a view which several
circumstances forbid us to entertain--but as the result of an influence
which, in an earlier stage of culture, had determined the direction
which the Vision legend actually followed in its later developments.

The subject would appear to have possessed a special fascination for
the Irish writers at the time when Ireland was the chief intellectual
centre of Western Europe, and the constant flux and reflux of Irish
teachers and foreign students necessarily tended to spread abroad so
much, at any rate, of the compositions of the Irish schools as was in
harmony with the tastes and beliefs of Christendom at large.

By far the most important of the Apocalyptic writings which proceeded
from the Irish schools is the Vision which bears the name of St.
Adamnán, of which a translation is given in the present volume. It is
interesting to compare it with the later and greater work, and to mark
the numerous points of resemblance which may be discerned in works so
widely different. This and the like productions of a ruder, but not
ignorant nor uncultured, age, deserve no less attention than that which
we bestow upon the works of the primitive schools of art and letters,
before Giotto and his compeers had effected the release of painting
from the bonds of formalism, and had opened out the ways of Nature
and imagination, and before the immediate predecessors of Dante had
rendered possible his _dolce stil nuovo_.

At the same time it may be seen how the legend which received its
apotheosis in Dante’s immortal verse came into being upon the misty
heights of primitive myth, and after forming the theme of poets and
philosophers in classical antiquity, entered into the literature and
teaching of the early Christian Church; how the ecclesiastical legend,
as it had now become, was adopted into the Irish Church at the time of
its greatest activity, and there received the impress of the national
genius, and became blended with the national traditions; thence it
returned again to become a part of the general literature of Europe,
and received yet further elements from the newly popular romances of
chivalry, and still more from the revived classical tradition, until
the elixir of the great magician’s genius finally transmuted the
amalgam into gold to be a κτῆμα ἐς ἀεί.

To recognise these facts is not to disparage or limit the originality
of Dante’s genius; rather his true originality is thrown into higher
relief by a comparison with all other labourers in the same field
who had gone before him. Nothing but the study of these labours
will enable us to give him his due place in European literature and
thought, while such a study will explain and justify certain features
in his treatment of the theme which may be repugnant to modern
ways of thinking, but were not only justified, but necessitated,
by the beliefs and traditions universally accepted in his own day.
Dante himself always loved to acknowledge his indebtedness to his
literary progenitors, alike among the writers of antiquity and his
own contemporaries or immediate predecessors; and it seems fitting to
preserve the memory of a school of writers to whom, although he knew it
not himself, are largely due the actual character and scope of the work
by which he achieved immortality.

2. THE SEER[1]

By the close of the seventh century the Irish Church had almost reached
the period of its greatest prosperity and of its greatest influence
upon the culture of Western Europe. The Three Orders of Saints had
done their work, and although in Ireland, as throughout the rest of
Europe, Christianity had not entirely prevailed over the heathenism
of the more sequestered populations--the _pagani_--yet, through the
length and breadth of the country, the National Church was established
in close conjunction with the State, of which, indeed, it had come to
form an integral part; and wherever the Irish clergy prevailed, studies

The missionary zeal of the Irish clergy had made known the Gospel to
the courts of barbarian princes, and to the still pagan inhabitants of
North Britain and Germany, Gaul and Burgundy, Switzerland, Styria, and
Lombardy, and even carried it to the Faroe Isles and Iceland. At home,
what sparks of antique learning yet lurked beneath the ashes to which
the fires of civilisation had smouldered down were gathered into a
focus in schools where crowds of students from the surrounding nations
found hospitality and instruction; while abroad, the foundations of
Iona, Lindisfarne, and Malmesbury, Luxeuil, St. Gall, and Bobbio,
with many more of lesser fame, stood out like citadels erected to
maintain a peaceful conquest. And from the schools of Ireland were to
issue the men who were destined, during the next two centuries, not
merely to leave their mark upon the Church as theologians and founders
of monasteries, but, further, to play an important part in moulding
the new civilisation of the Frankish Empire, to lay the foundations
of modern philosophy, and to promote the study of natural science
and literature by lucubrations, crude, indeed, as compared with the
productions of more favoured ages, but standing out conspicuous above
the level of their own time.[2]

Meanwhile, though the Three Orders of the Irish Saints had come to an
end about the middle of the seventh century, they were succeeded by
many great Churchmen, who combined with their ecclesiastical duties
a lively interest in secular politics, in which they were wont to
intervene, most commonly, no doubt, with beneficial effect, though
occasionally with results nothing less than disastrous.

One of the foremost, if not the very foremost, among the Irish clerics
of this period was St. Adamnán, the reputed seer of the Vision which
bears his name. This great prelate is a striking figure both in the
ecclesiastical and secular history of his times; but the information
we possess concerning him, though not altogether scanty, is not all of
equal value. It consists partly of the evidences furnished by his own
writings and contemporary records, partly of the further particulars
which have been preserved in the annals compiled from the tenth to the
twelfth centuries, though these, no doubt, are derived in great measure
from earlier records.

Adamnán was of high birth, as were many of the leading Irish Churchmen,
the constitution of the National Church being thoroughly aristocratic,
in accordance with the civil society upon which it was moulded. His
father was Ronán, son of Tinne, a man of chiefly rank in the territory
of Sereth, or Tír Aedha, now the barony of Tirhugh, in south-west
Donegal, and the descendant of Conall Gulbán, the founder of a famous
house, various branches of which ruled Tír Conaill from the fifth
century until the fall of the O’Donnells at the beginning of the
seventeenth century. Adamnán’s mother, Ronat by name, was of the Cinel
Enda, a sept of West Meath.[3] The date of his birth is variously
stated, but he appears to have been born between the years 624 and 627
at Drumhome, in Tír Aedha.[4] The name Adamnán is a diminutive of Adam,
but through the tendency of Irish phonetics to elide the _d_ and _m_
in certain positions, it came to be written sometimes in the confusing
forms Eunan and Onan, and has even been travestied into Theunan and

Adamnán entered the great monastery of Iona as a novice, probably
about the year 650, as Segine (_ob._ 652) was then abbot. There he
was distinguished for his devotion and learning, and in the year 679,
soon after the death of Abbot Failbhe, was elected to succeed him,
being ninth in descent from St. Colm Cille, the founder, to whom he
was akin. Indeed, all Adamnán’s predecessors, and his successors for
several generations, were members of the same great family. In the
government of his house and of the ecclesiastical establishments
in the neighbouring islands, he displayed the qualities of an able
administrator, as well as those of saint and scholar; nor did he
confine his activities to matters ecclesiastical, but, like most of the
Irish saints, took an active part in public events.

About the year 684, King Ecgfrid of Northumbria made a descent upon
the Irish coast, between Magh Breg, the plain north of the Liffey,
and Belach Dúinn, now Castlekieran, north-west of Kells, and carried
away many captives. In the following year he invaded the Picts of
Scotland, and was slain at Dun Nechtan. His successor, Aldfrid (the
son, according to some accounts, of an Irish mother), had been driven
into exile in early youth, and taking refuge in Ireland was educated
in the schools of that country, to which he paid a grateful tribute
in after-life. He had sojourned for a while at Iona, and there became
acquainted with Adamnán, who now took advantage of this intimacy, and
came to Aldfrid’s court to plead the cause of the captives. He was
successful in this, and had the happiness to redeem from slavery sixty
of his countrymen, whom he brought back with him on his return. This
visit produced results of great importance to the Irish Church. During
his stay in Northumbria, Adamnán contracted a close intimacy with the
Venerable Bede--who strongly censured Ecgfrid’s unprovoked, aggression
(_Hist. Eccl._ iv. 26)--upon whom he made a strong and favourable
impression, as being _vir bonus, et sapiens, et scientia scripturarum
nobilissime instructus_. Their frequent colloquies during this, and,
apparently, a second mission of Adamnán to Northumbria, about two years
later, turned upon the two main points wherein the Irish usage differed
from that of Rome: _i.e._ the form of the tonsure, which, in Ireland,
was made crescent-wise across the head, and the time of keeping Easter.
In the latter respect, Ireland retained the older computation, founded
upon the Jewish method of calculating the Passover, which had been
adopted by Rome during the disputes on the subject with the East and
with Alexandria, and was in force at the conversion of Ireland. In
463 Pope Hilarius introduced an improved system of calculation, which
ultimately was generally adopted throughout the West, though not
without a struggle in those many parts of the Continent where Irish
influence was powerful. As a matter of course, the reformed system was
brought into England by Augustine, and contributed to widen the gulf
between the English and British Churches. The south of Ireland, or part
of it, appears to have accepted the change in the year 633, but it took
nearly another century to win over the rest of the country. Bede urged
upon Adamnán the propriety of conforming to the general rule of the
Church, and his arguments wrought such conviction in his hearer that
Adamnán devoted much of the latter portion of his life to the task of
inducing his countrymen to accept the Roman usage.

Indeed, the remainder of Adamnán’s life appears to have been divided
between his abbatial duties and long and frequent visits to Ireland,
in the course of which he is said to have taken that part in secular
politics to which we shall have to recur. The greater part of this
time, however, he appears to have spent in travelling about Ireland,
occupied with his favourite scheme for bringing the time of the
Easter celebration into conformity with the general practice of the
Western Church. His efforts were generally successful; Bede, in fact
(_Hist. Eccl._ v. 15), asserts that he succeeded in winning over to
the Catholic observance ‘almost all those who were not subject to the
rule of Iona.’ In the year 700, or shortly after, he returned to Iona,
and attempted to introduce his reform into his own monastery, but in
spite of his abbatial authority and of his great personal influence, he
found the conservatism of that great stronghold of the Irish Church too
much for him, and his monks refused to admit any innovation upon the
national practice. He died on the 23rd September 704, and was buried at
Iona. His relics were brought to Ireland in 727, but are said to have
been restored to his monastery in 730.

Adamnán earned well the epithet ‘High Scholar of the Western World,’
which is conferred upon him at the opening of his Vision. His most
celebrated work was the _Life of St. Colm Cille_, written in a Latin
which is generally admitted to be far superior to that commonly in use
at his day. The work suffers from the form in which it is cast; it does
not relate the events of the Saint’s life in chronological sequence,
but is divided into three books, the first being devoted to Colm’s
prophetical revelations, the second to his miracles, and the third to
his angelical visions. Nevertheless, it gives much information of great
interest, relating as well to the life and acts of St. Colm as to the
internal life of the Irish Church, while the prefaces contain important
biographical matter. The prominence given to the miracles, visions,
and the like, associated with Colm’s name, is merely what we find in
a large proportion of the hagiology of all periods of the Church’s
history, while the narrative possesses a character of its own, and a
human interest, which preserve it from the monotony and conventionality
often prevailing in writings of this class, and establish a certain
kinship with the _Fioretti_ of St. Francis. Altogether, the _Life_
is commonly accepted as the most important extant monument of the
Celtic Church, and also one of the most notable pieces of biography,
ecclesiastical or lay, produced by the early Middle Ages.

Another work proceeding from his pen was a treatise upon the Holy
Places of Palestine. This, too, was written in Latin, and is considered
by Dr. Reeves to be superior, in point of style, to the _Life of
Colm Cille_. He was instigated to undertake this task by Arculf, a
bishop of Gaul, who had travelled in Palestine, Syria, Constantinople,
Alexandria, and other parts of the East, and on his return had been
blown out of his course, and wrecked on some coast near to Iona. Here
he was hospitably entertained by Adamnán, and in the course of a
prolonged sojourn through the stormy winter months held much learned
converse with his host, to their mutual edification. Arculf had studied
the topography and history of the places he visited with a thoroughness
almost unique at that day, and had even preserved accurate
measurements and descriptions of buildings, etc. He freely imparted the
results of his investigations to Adamnán, who was himself possessed of
the learning which could be acquired from such books as were accessible
to him.

Several ecclesiastical works--a Rule, eight Canons, etc.--are
attributed to Adamnán; there have also been preserved a poem and
several devout _opuscula_ in Irish which have been ascribed to him,
without foundation.

It would appear that he had some knowledge of Greek, and even possessed
a certain acquaintance with, at any rate, the Hebrew vocabulary,
whether at first or second hand.

It now remains to be seen what further light is cast upon Adamnán’s
character by the later annals; and here we find a mixture of _Dichtung
und Wahrheit_, and no criterion whereby we may distinguish with any
certainty between the two. The additional particulars derived from
this source, if we except a few legends of miracles and visions of the
usual type, relate for the most part to Adamnán’s political activity
during the last decade of the seventh century. One episode, however,
of Adamnán’s schooldays gives the earliest recorded fact, if a fact,
of his career. It is a mere anecdote, unsupported by evidence, yet it
contains no inherent improbability, and is worth repeating, if only
as an authentic picture of one aspect of scholastic life in ancient
Ireland, and also as affording the first glimpse, probably, of the
‘beggar-student’ who figured so conspicuously in the later Middle
Ages, and in Ireland survived as the ‘poor scholar’ almost to our own
day. The students at the Irish centres of learning--Universities, as
they have been called, not without reason--used to dwell about their
teachers in huts of wattle, provision for their maintenance, education,
and books being made by the chiefs and ecclesiastical foundations.
So great, however, were the throngs of students, native and foreign,
who flocked to these schools, that many were compelled to eke out the
public allowance by having recourse to the charity of neighbours. Among
these was Adamnán, who was one of a company, or mess, of five students
and their tutor, the younger students taking it in turn to provide for
all. One day this task procured Adamnán an adventure, which introduced
him to the future monarch, Finnachta Fledach, his future relations
with whom, if truly related by the annals, were destined to be fraught
with momentous consequences to them both and to the whole of Ireland.
Finnachta, though of royal race, had once been so poor that his whole
worldly possessions consisted of a house, a wife, an ox, and a cow. At
the time of which we speak, he possessed a following, and one day, as
he and his retinue were travelling at full gallop, they came across a
young student laden with a pitcher of milk, who, in his haste to avoid
the horses, upset the pitcher and spilt the milk. This boy was Adamnán,
bringing home the day’s provision for himself and his messmates. He set
out to run by the side of the horsemen, and kept up with them until
they reached their destination. Finnachta took notice of the boy, and,
entering into conversation with him, was so well pleased, that he not
only made good the loss, but provided the five youths and their tutor
with a house and maintenance, receiving in return from the tutor a
prophecy that he, Finnachta, should one day become monarch of Ireland,
with Adamnán for his _anamchara_, or confessor. It does not appear that
this interview was immediately productive of any further consequences
to Adamnán, who, in due course, entered the monastic life, as before

The next incident of importance, not already mentioned, which the
annalists relate concerning Adamnán, is at once one of the most
momentous and most obscure portions of his career--namely, his action
in connection with the Boruma tribute. This was a heavy fine, in
cattle and various precious articles, which Tuathal Techtmar, Árd-Rí
of Ireland about the end of the first century A.D., had laid upon
Leinster in perpetuity (or, according to some authorities, for forty
years) to punish a grave crime committed by the king of that province.
The intermittent exaction of this tribute was not the least among the
many causes of discord which prevented the ideal polity of Ireland,
viz. a confederation of kingdoms and principalities--an Empire we might
call it--under the overlordship of the Árd-Rí, from ever becoming
realised in a permanently efficient form. This grievance St. Moling,
with the support of several other leading prelates, determined to
remove, and, it is said, induced Finnachta (who had become Árd-Rí in
673-4, having defeated and slain in battle his predecessor Cennfaelad)
to issue a decree for its abolition. This event is commonly dated in
the year 693, but Canon O’Hanlon, on the authority of O’Flaherty’s
_Ogygia_, thinks it must be earlier, and is inclined to place it in
692, the year of Adamnán’s visit to Ireland.[5] It is recorded in a
treatise on the Boruma, printed and translated by Mr. Standish Hayes
O’Grady in his _Silva Gadelica_; it is there told in narrative form,
with dialogues in the _oratio recta_, and intermingled with many
fictitious circumstances so as to make up a story; however, the main
incidents accord with a fragment of Irish annals given by Mr. O’Grady
in the same work, and with the Irish poem formerly ascribed to Adamnán.
The means by which St. Moling induced the king to grant his request
show all the symptoms of a folk-tale. By the promise of eternal life
immediately after death, he procured Finnachta’s promise to remit the
tribute until _Luan_, which in Irish properly means Monday, but was
also and still is a frequent term for the Day of Judgment--‘Black
Monday.’ The monarch, understanding the word in its literal sense,
thought the terms easy, and gave his promise; the saint, however,
insisted upon putting his own interpretation on it, and Finnachta had
to consent to the perpetual remission of the tribute. The measure
itself was most wise and statesmanlike; nevertheless, pernicious as
the tribute was, the abolition of it touched the pride of the Ui
Néill, the ruling race of Ireland. The organisation of the Church was
based upon the clan system which prevailed in the State; religious
communities were often composed of fellow-tribesmen, ecclesiastical
dignities passed from one generation to another of the same chiefly
family, and the head of an order was practically a clerical chieftain,
sharing with the lay princes that fatal tendency to prefer local
to national interests which has been fraught with consequences to
Ireland more dire than the Boruma itself. Adamnán is represented as
possessing his full share of this family or racial pride, and joined
with the clergy of his race in offering a bitter opposition to the new
measure. The narrative of his dealings with Finnachta is more graphic
than authentic. With an authority, to say the least of it, worthy
of a Hildebrand or Innocent III., he sent a clerk to Finnachta to
summon him to instant conference. The king was then playing at chess,
and declined to budge until his game was ended. Adamnán, informed of
this, sent back word that he would chant fifty psalms while waiting,
the effect of which would be to deprive the king’s whole race of the
kingdom for ever. This was announced to the king, but he had begun
a second game, and declined to stir until it was over. Adamnán then
sent word that he would chant another fifty psalms, which should bring
on the king shortness of life; but Finnachta, now engaged in a third
game, sent the same answer as before. Then Adamnán sent word that he
would chant yet another fifty psalms, which should deprive Finnachta
of the Lord’s peace. Then Finnachta hastily arose, quitted his chess,
and repaired to Adamnán’s presence. On being asked why he came, after
ignoring all previous messages, he explained that the exclusion of his
posterity from his kingdom troubled him but little, neither did he care
for a speedy death, seeing that Moling had promised him eternal life,
but he could not bear to be excluded from the Lord’s peace. However,
though Finnachta then made personal submission to Adamnán, the decree
remained, and God would not suffer Adamnán to deprive the king of the
reward which Moling had promised him.

It is obvious that this narrative, in point of form, is fiction pure
and simple; as fictitious as the speeches in Thucydides, or the
dialogues in Herodotus or Plutarch. For this reason, and because of
the discrepancy of dates, and the uncertainty attending the whole
question of the remission of the Boruma, some authorities are inclined
to call in question the entire story of Adamnán’s relations with
Finnachta, and to relegate it to the domain of fiction. This summary
method of cutting the knot appears to be somewhat arbitrary: if a
liberal admixture of fiction be sufficient absolutely to discredit the
chronicles into which it enters, we may be called upon to disbelieve
that there is any historic basis for Livy’s _History_, or the records
of Charlemagne, for instance. In the present case it seems most
doubtful whether any means exist for determining what, if any, basis
of fact underlies the narrative, but having regard to the attention
paid by the Irish writers to the record of past and contemporary
events--which by no means implies the strict accuracy of the record--it
seems improbable that the recorded acts, in matters of great public
interest, of such notable characters as Árd-Rí Finnachta and St.
Adamnán should not represent, in substance, the parts which they
actually played in the public life of their time.

About this time another cause of discord is said to have put a further
strain upon the relations subsisting between the Saint and the Árd-Rí.
Finnachta having excluded the lands belonging to the Order of St. Colm
Cille from the privileges accorded to the foundations of SS. Patrick,
Finian, and Ciaran, Adamnán again provoked, and this time apparently
with better reason, by this fresh infringement of the dignity of Ulad,
put a curse upon the king, and foretold that his life should be short,
that he should fall by a fratricidal stroke, and that the kingdom
should pass from his race for ever; which triple prophecy was fulfilled
when Finnachta and his son Bresal were slain by a cousin in the year

A few years after these events, according to the annals, Adamnán
acquired a more honourable distinction by means of the ecclesiastical
legislation embodied in his ‘Canons,’ and by the more famous
law, or code of laws, known as the _Cáin Adamnáin_. Each of these
was promulgated at a _Mórdáil_--‘Great Assembly’--the Diet or
States-General of Ireland. According to the more general account,
both were passed at a Mórdáil held in 697 at Tara, or, according to
others, at Ballyshannon, Derry, or Raphoe. Probably Tara was assumed
inadvertently to have been the place of meeting by some chronicler
who, bearing in mind the ancient custom, had forgotten that Tara had
been abandoned since the cursing of it by St. Ruadán. According to
the Four Masters and Tigernach, the last Feis of Tara was held in the
year 554 A.D. Or, possibly, there is a confusion between the general
Mórdáil of Éire and an ecclesiastical Synod which appears to have
been held at Tara about the time in question. In this uncertainty as
to which of the several Synods and Mórdála, held towards the close of
the seventh century, was the scene of Adamnán’s legislation, Canon
O’Hanlon suggests that the Synod of 694-5 would be the most likely
occasion of the enactment of the Canons, if it were certain that
Adamnán was present (_op. cit._ ix. 508 and 512), and that the _Cáin_
was passed at the Mórdáil of 696-7, in the reign of Árd-Rí Loingseach
mac Oengusa, according to the general account; this likewise agrees
with the treatise about to be mentioned, which, however, gives Birr as
the place of assembly. The most important article of the _Cáin_ was the
renewal of a law passed by St. Colm Cille at the Mórdáil of Druimceatt
in 590, but since fallen into desuetude, whereby women were exempted
from military service. The _Cáin Adamnáin_ is an Old Irish treatise,
probably of the tenth century, according to Professor Kuno Meyer, who
has published an edition of it, with notes, in _Anecdota Oxoniensia_
(_Mediæval and Modern Series_, pt. viii.). It is not the work of
Adamnán himself, but merely purports to give an account of the laws
which he passed, and the circumstances of his doing so. It is clearly
compounded of various elements, and it is worked up into a complete
story by dint of the employment of a number of fictitious details. It
opens with a melancholy picture of the status of women in Ireland in
Adamnán’s day, their home life being depicted as a state of abject
slavery, while they were further liable to military service. These
descriptions can only be accepted with very great limitations, for
the laws, the Church literature, and the romances of Ireland contain
abundant evidence to prove that the state of things here depicted, if
it existed at all, was not generally prevalent, the picture drawn in
the _Cáin_ being greatly exaggerated for the greater honour and glory
of Adamnán. At the same time there is no need to go to the opposite
extreme, and assume that the position accorded to women in ancient
Ireland realised in practice the theories of chivalry. It does not
follow that the author of the _Cáin_ invented the circumstances he
describes; indeed, there is evidence that a similar state of things
existed in Ireland so late as Tudor times at least, while parallels
might be found in the great cities of a much more recent date. But it
is the wont of those who treat of social and moral evils, whether as
reformers or satirists, or in a less worthy capacity--from Juvenal to
Zola, and from Salvian to Father Bernard Vaughan--to represent the
sporadic and occasional evils of society as its habitual condition.
As regards the military service of women, it appears certain that
women did, and probably were required to, serve in the wars to some
extent. Nevertheless, neither the annals nor the romances warrant the
conclusion that great troops of women swelled the Irish armies. It
seems probable that in the varied and complicated system of the Irish
land tenure, female tenants may have been obliged to render military
service _ratione tenurae_, instances of which practice occur in other
parts of Europe.

Whatever the nature or extent of the evil, it was greatly taken to
heart by Adamnán’s mother Ronat, and dutiful as her son was to her, she
counted his service as nought until he should effect the emancipation
of women. One day, as they were on a journey--Adamnán, after his usual
custom, carrying his mother on his back--they came to a battlefield,
where so great had been the slaughter that the women lay, the soles of
one touching the neck of another; but the most piteous sight of all was
a woman with her head in one place and her body in another, and her
baby lying on the breast of the corpse, with a stream of milk on one
cheek, and a stream of blood on the other. At his mother’s bidding,
Adamnán set the woman’s head upon the trunk, made the sign of the
cross with his staff, and she arose and related her experiences in the
next world between her death and resuscitation. Ronat, still further
confirmed in her purpose, imposed incredible austerities upon Adamnán
in order to coerce him into compliance. At the end of four years an
angel came to him and bade him rise, but he refused to do so until
he received a promise that women should be emancipated. He then came
forward with his proposals of reform, which offended several of the lay
princes, so that they combined to put Adamnán to death. At length terms
were agreed upon, and all parties pledged themselves that in future
women should be exempted from military service, and that no women
should be slain by men without full legal penalties being exacted. This
compact was solemnly sworn to by the contracting parties; the formula
of the oath was founded upon that whereby the kings in pagan times had
been wont to bind themselves in matters of great moment, and which
survived, with necessary modifications, for some centuries after the
introduction of Christianity. They took to witness the sun and moon,
and all the other elements of God; the Apostles, Gregory, the two
Patricks, and other Irish saints. The terms of the oath explain the
form of St. Patrick’s famous hymn.

The construction of the treatise is extremely loose; the form, in many
places, is that of the ecclesiastical legend, and the present redaction
was evidently made in the clerical interest. As a further instance
of its composite character, in c. 33 it makes a fresh start with the
words _Incipit sententia angeli Adamnano_, and relates how the angel,
after two previous punishments inflicted, came to Adamnán and smote him
on the side, bidding him go to Ireland and enact a law that no woman
should be slain with impunity. It also states that Adamnán’s law was
extended to clerical students and children, and further gives sundry
amendments of the laws relating to cases of assault, rape, slander of
chastity, etc. Women, in turn, were made liable for the crimes they
might commit; in particular, they were rendered punishable for poison,
arson, or undermining a church by the old Irish penalty of being set
adrift in a boat with a single paddle, and one vessel of meal and one
of water.

The accuracy of this treatise in point of detail hardly calls for
discussion. It is a specimen of the form in which we have received
much of our information concerning ancient Ireland; a form combining
fact and fiction in a manner which often renders it impossible to
distinguish between the two without extraneous evidence, which is
seldom to be had. Here we have as the substratum an account of
Adamnán’s actual legislation, set off with an abundance of fictitious
detail, in which a redactor has attempted to combine two different
accounts of the circumstances which brought about Adamnán’s action,
while he has added a quantity of other legislative reforms, more or
less connected with the subject, but only a part of which, if any,
can be due to Adamnán himself. Here, as in the case of the Boruma, it
is left for the most part to our subjective views of probability to
determine what amount of reliance is to be placed upon the historical
facts which form the main subject of the treatise. Despite the crudity
of the work, perhaps the evidence in favour is rather stronger in
this case, for not only is it natural to assume that the statements
of a legal nature would be tolerably in accordance with the facts,
which must have been known to many of the readers, but the ascription
of the reform to Adamnán--under the alternative name of the _lex
innocentium_--appears to have been accepted without hesitation by
several independent authorities, including the _Annals of Ulster_ and
the _Fis Adamnáin_.

The last action of Adamnán recorded by the annals, and one that seems
fairly well authenticated, is a sentence of excommunication pronounced
by him at Tara upon one Irgalach for murder. One of the annalistic
fragments preserves a report that Adamnán, at the close of his life,
was expelled from Iona by his own monks on account of his action in the
Easter controversy; this, however, appears to be without foundation,
for the fact of his death and burial at Iona seems certain. Another
rumour was that grief at the recalcitrance of his monks, for the same
reason, had brought about his death, for which no other explanation
seems needed than his seventy-seven years, mostly spent in strenuous
toil, though, of course, any vexation or distress of mind might well be
the immediate cause of death.

Our available information concerning Adamnán does not set a very vivid
picture of him before us. His own writings are of a somewhat impersonal
character, while the Irish annalists seldom bring to their portrayal
of historical persons that power of characterisation and description
constantly apparent in the romances. We have already seen Bede’s
testimony to Adamnán’s learning and high character; the Four Masters,
in their notice of Adamnán’s death (which they place in 703) refer to
that passage, and add that he was ‘tearful, penitent, given to prayer,
diligent, ascetic, temperate; for he never used to eat excepting on
Sunday and Thursday only; he made a slave of himself to these virtues;
and, moreover, he was wise and learned in the clear understanding of
the Holy Scriptures of God.’ And a few scattered notices of the kind
appear to comprise all that we have in the way of direct description.
Nevertheless, the authentic record of his actions, combined with
the more doubtful evidence of later annalists--which, at the very
least, serve to show what notion of him survived, and was transmitted
to posterity--may enable us to trace with tolerable accuracy the
more salient outlines of his character. That his was a striking and
commanding personality there is no doubt: he appears to have been
fashioned after the same type as so many of the leading Churchmen of
the Middle Ages, from Ambrose down; a type which combined a great
proficiency in learning, and a devotion to the virtues of the cloister,
with a strenuous activity which asserted itself alike in the diligent
administration of their ecclesiastical office, and in the exercise of
their influence upon secular affairs. In these last, their intervention
commonly made for righteousness, and aimed at putting a conscience into
politics, never a superfluous task. They often stood forward as the
champions of the wronged and oppressed, and in this cause, and, even
more, in defence of the claims and immunities of the Church, never
feared to encounter the temporal power; rather otherwise, in fact.
This side of Adamnán’s character appears in his mission to Northumbria
on behalf of the kidnapped Irishmen, and his alleged defence against
Finnachta of the privileges of his own order; above all, in his
amelioration of the lot of women--possibly, too, of students and
children--the records whereof, whatever the amount of historical fact
which they contain, reveal the estimation in which Adamnán was held.
At the same time, if the incident of the Boruma be either true in
fact, or true to his character, it is evident that he was as liable as
any of his great compeers, foreign or Irish--Colm Cille and Ruadán,
for instance--to allow his zeal to be enlisted in the cause of party
interest or personal sympathies, to the great public detriment. He
enjoyed a traditional reputation for filial piety, and, at least,
tribal patriotism. His recorded asceticism, however severe, does not
appear, save in some of the least credible passages of the _Cáin_, to
have been carried by him to the same lengths of self-torture, worthy of
a solitary of the Thebaid, or an Indian _yogi_, as it was by many of
the Irish saints. Indeed, his was mainly a life of action, and even
the learning for which he was famous is more apparent in the quality of
his work than in the quantity of it. The part of his career which left
the most enduring mark upon his Church and his country was the mainly
successful struggle which he carried on as the leading Irish champion
of Catholicism in the long contest, begun before his time, and only
finished by Malachi and Gelasius in the middle of the twelfth century,
between the respective partisans of national and of general usages in
the ritual of the Irish Church. That portion of his work which he left
unfinished, the submission of his own order, was completed within a
quarter of a century after his death, and the ties between the Churches
of Ireland and other countries of the West were drawn tighter by the
removal of the chief cause of separation.

The Vision which has come down to us under the name of Adamnán is not
to be included among his own works. The language and style, which
belong to a much later period, are conclusive as to this; while several
allusions in it, as that to the donation of Constantine, also point
to a later date. Dr. Whitley Stokes, indeed, considers that ‘it is
not older than the eleventh century,’ but Professor Windisch, in the
preface to his edition, demurs to this conclusion, and holds that it
was written in the tenth century, possibly even in the ninth (_Irische
Texte_, i. 167 _sqq._). Nevertheless, it is not to be classed among the
literary forgeries with which the Middle Ages teem, composed sometimes
_animo fraudandi_, sometimes, in the loose views then prevailing
as to literary property and literary fame, in order to secure the
prestige of a great name. The present work, however, never professes
to be Adamnán’s own composition. It invariably speaks of him in the
third person, terming him the ‘High Scholar of the Western World,’
and refers to his legislation at the Mórdáil, where he is said to
have first received his Vision, and to his subsequent preaching as
matters of past history. It remains, then, to be considered how this
Vision came to be associated with his name. We have seen that he
had become the hero of a saga-cycle, into which fiction had made an
entrance: whether we must class the doubtful episodes as historical
romance merely, or as facts set off by the aid of fiction. This,
however, brings us little further, for it is certain that this popular
reputation was earned by his actual achievements: again, therefore, we
are faced with the question how to distinguish fact from fiction. It
may be that the true author sought for his own teaching the authority
of so famous a saint; or he may have had before him an anonymous work,
and inserted the name of Adamnán from a like motive, or from a belief
in the fact; or, again, the work may be what it professes to be, and
may have for its basis a more or less accurate tradition of Adamnán’s
own teaching. A tradition, I venture to think, should be allowed a
certain weight where it is in conflict neither with ascertained fact
nor with probability; and here the probabilities appear to be rather
favourable than otherwise, which, perhaps, in the absence of further
evidence, is the nearest approach to a conclusion we can hope to make.
It is not a forgery; it is not a polemical work, where the author might
wish to shoot forth his darts from under the shield of some Ajax of
controversy. Neither is it a mere floating legend, ready to be tacked
on to any name indifferently; on the contrary, it is written with great
care, and with a literary and constructive skill rare at that day. It
makes no profession, and betrays no purpose, save to give the substance
of the Vision which Adamnán related to the Mórdáil, and of his
subsequent preaching. The fashion of the day renders it highly probable
that Adamnán’s teaching or preaching may have assumed this form. Then
his fame and authority, at the most active period of Irish letters,
might avail to preserve a work, thus widely published, for a longer
time than the 150 or 250 years which intervened between his death and
the composition of the Vision, even in its present form, while if
the reasons adduced in a later place (Part 11. Sec. 5, _post_) for
supposing it to be of a composite character be correct, it follows that
the latest author must have had before him--as in any case he probably
had--materials of an earlier date.

Thus the _Fis_ and the _Cáin_ appear to institute an exact parallel. We
have as the basis of the extant work, in the one case, a law enacted,
in the other, a Vision recited, by the saint, which a later writer has
worked up into literary form, while other details relating to the same
subject-matter, but entirely irrelevant, have been added later.

Two versions of the _Fis Adamnáin_ exist, in two mediæval MSS., now
in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy. Of these, the _Lebor na
h-Udri_, or ‘Book of the Dun’ (_sc._ ‘Cow’), is the oldest extant
Irish MS. which contains a collection of secular literature, being
copied about 1103 from another MS., probably about fifty years older,
which was itself compiled from various earlier writings. The other
MS., the _Lebor Brec_, ‘Speckled Book,’ was written towards the end
of the fourteenth century. Both versions have been edited and printed
by Professor Windisch in _Irische Texte_, vol. i. I believe that no
complete translation of either version has been published in a form
generally accessible, though O’Donovan made and translated extracts
from it, and Dr. Whitley Stokes has edited and translated it, with
notes, but printed fifty copies only for private distribution (Simla,
1870). I have had the advantage of referring to this edition, thanks
to the courtesy of Mr. Alfred Nutt, to whom I am indebted for several
valuable suggestions and corrections.

The following translation has been made from the L.U. version. There
is little difference in substance between the two versions, but the
L.U. is more attractive from a literary point of view, the L.B. being
somewhat overloaded in places with Latin quotations, while it wants the
concluding chapter, which the L.U. possesses.


1. Noble and wonderful is the Lord of the Elements, and great and
marvellous are His might and His power. For He calleth to Himself in
Heaven the charitable and merciful, the meek and considerate; but He
consigns and casts down to Hell the impious and unprofitable host
of the children of the curse. For upon the blessed He bestows the
hidden treasures and the manifold wages of Heaven, while He inflicts a
diversity of torments, in many kinds, upon the sons of death.

2. Now there are multitudes of the saints and righteous ones of the
Lord of Creation, and of the apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ,
unto whom have been revealed the secrets and the mysteries of the
Heavenly Kingdom, and the golden wages of the righteous; likewise the
divers pains of Hell, with them that are set in the midst thereof. For
unto the Apostle Peter was shown the four-cornered vessel, let down
from Heaven,[6] with four cords to it, and they with sound as sweet
as any music. Also, the Apostle Paul was caught up to Heaven,[7] and
heard the ineffable words of the angels, and the speech of them that
dwell in Heaven. Moreover, on the day of Mary’s death, all the apostles
were brought to look upon the pains and miserable punishments of the
unblest; for the Lord commanded the angels of the West[8] to open up
the earth before the face of the apostles, that they might see and
consider Hell with all its torments, even as Himself had told them,
long time before His Passion.

3. Finally, to Adamnán ua Thinne, the High Scholar of the Western
World, were revealed the things which are here recorded; for his
soul departed from out his body on the feast of John Baptist, and
was conveyed to the celestial realm, where the heavenly angels are,
and to Hell, with its rabble rout. For no sooner had the soul issued
from out the body, than there appeared to it the angel that had been
its guardian while in the flesh, and bore it away with him to view,
firstly, the Kingdom of Heaven.

4. Now the first land to which they come is the Land of Saints. A
bright land of fair weather is that country. In it are diverse and
wondrous companies, clad in cassocks of white linen, with hoods of
radiant white upon their heads. The saints of the Eastern world form
a company apart in the East of the Land of Saints; the saints of the
Western world are to the West of the same land; the saints of the
Northern world and of the South, in their great concourse, are to the
South and North. For every one that is in the Land of Saints may freely
listen to the music, and may contemplate the vault,[9] wherein are the
nine classes of Heaven, after their rank and order.

5. For one spell, then, the saints keep singing marvellous music in
praise of God; for another, they are listening to the music of the
heavenly host; for the saints have no other need than to listen to the
music that they hear, and to contemplate the radiance that they see,
and to sate themselves with the fragrance that there is in that land.
The wonderful Lord is face to face with them, in the South-east,[10]
and a crystal veil between; to the South is a golden portico, and
through it they discern the form and adumbration of the people of
Heaven. No veil, however, nor cloud is between the Host of Heaven and
the Host of the Saints, but those are ever manifest and present unto
these, in a place that is over against them. A circle of fire surrounds
this place, yet do they all pass in and out, and it does scathe to

6. Now, the Twelve Apostles and Mary the pure Virgin form a band
apart, about the mighty Lord. Next to the Apostles are the Patriarchs
and Prophets, and the disciples of Jesus. On the other side are holy
Virgins, at Mary’s right hand, and with no great space between. Babes
and striplings are about them on every side, and the bird-choirs of the
heavenly folk, making their minstrelsy. And amid these companies, bands
of angels, guardians of the souls, do perpetual suit and service in the
Royal presence. No man is there in this present life who may describe
those assemblies, or who may tell of the very manner of them. And the
bands and companies which are in the land of saints abide continually
in even such great glory as aforesaid, until the great Parliament[11]
of Doom, when the righteous Judge, on the Day of Judgment, shall
dispose them in their stations and abiding places, where they shall
contemplate God’s countenance, with no veil nor shadow between, through
ages everlasting.

7. But great and vast as are the splendour and the radiance in the
Land of Saints, even as hath been said, more vast, a thousand times,
the splendour which is in the region of the Heavenly Host, about the
Lord’s own throne. This throne is fashioned like unto a canopied
chair,[12] and beneath it are four columns of precious stone. Though
one should have no minstrelsy at all, save the harmonious music of
those four columns, yet would he have his fill of melody and delight.
Three stately birds are perched upon that chair, in front of the King,
their minds intent upon the Creator throughout all ages, for that is
their vocation. They celebrate the eight [canonical] hours, praising
and adoring the Lord, and the Archangels accompany them. For the birds
and the Archangels lead the music, and then the Heavenly Host, with the
Saints and Virgins, make response.

8. Over the head of the Glorious One that sitteth upon the royal throne
is a great arch, like unto a wrought helmet, or a regal diadem:[13] and
the eye which should behold it would forthwith melt away. Three circles
are round about it, separating it from the host, and by no explanation
may the nature of them be known. Six thousand thousands, in guise of
horses and of birds, surround the fiery chair, which still burns on,
without end or term.

9. Now to describe the mighty Lord that is upon that throne is not for
any, unless Himself should do so, or should so direct the heavenly
dignitaries. For none could tell of his vehemence and might, His
glow[14] and splendour, His brightness and loveliness, His liberality
and steadfastness, nor of the multitude of His Angels and Archangels,
which chant their songs to Him. His messengers keep going to and from
Him, ever and anon, with brief messages to each assemblage, telling
to the one host of His mildness and mercy, and to the other of His
sternness and harshness.

10. Whoso should stand facing about him, East and West, South and
North, would behold on each side of him a majestic countenance, seven
times as radiant as the sun. No human form thereto, with head or foot,
may be discerned, but a fiery mass, burning on for ever, while one and
all are filled with awe and trembling before Him. Heaven and earth are
filled full with the light of Him, and a radiance as of a royal star
encircles Him.[15] Three thousand different songs are chanted by each
several choir about Him, and sweeter than all the varied music of the
world is each individual song of them.

11. Furthermore, in this wise is the fashion of that city, wherein that
throne is set. Seven crystal walls of various hue surround it, each
wall higher than the wall that is before it.[16] The floor, moreover,
and the lowest base of that city, is of fair crystal, with the sun’s
countenance upon it(?), shot with blue, and purple, and green, and
every hue beside.

12. A gentle folk, most mild, most kindly, lacking in no goodly
quality, are they that dwell within that city; for none come there,
and none abide there ever, save holy youths, and pilgrims zealous for
God. But as for their array and ordinance, hard is it to understand
how it is contrived, for none turns back nor side to other, but the
unspeakable power of God has set, and keeps, them face to face,
in ranks and lofty coronels, all round the throne, circling it in
brightness and bliss, their faces all towards God.

13. There is a chancel rail[17] of silver between each two choirs,
cunningly wrought upon with red gold and silver, and choice rows
of precious stones, variegated with diverse gems, and against that
lattice are seats and canopies[18] of carbuncle. Between every two
chief companies are three precious stones, softly vocal with sweet
melody, and the upper halves of them are lighted lamps. Seven thousand
angels, as it were great candles, shine and illumine that city round
about; seven thousand others in the midst thereof are aflame for ever,
throughout the royal city. The men of all the world, if gathered into
one place, many as they are, would derive sustenance enough from the
sweet savour of any one of those candles.

14. Now, such of the world’s inhabitants as attain not to that city
after their life is spent, and to whom a dwelling-place therein is
allotted after the Words of Doom shall have been spoken, find a
restless and unstable habitation, until the coming of Judgment, on
heights and hill-tops, and in marshy places. Even so fare those hordes
and companies, with the guardian angel of every soul in their midst,
serving and tending them. In the main doorway of the city they are
confronted by a veil of fire and a veil of ice, smiting perpetually
one against the other. The noise and din of these veils, as they
clash together, are heard throughout the world, and the seed of Adam,
should they hear that din, would be seized thereat with trembling
and intolerable dismay. Faint and dazed are the wicked at that din;
howbeit, on the side of the Heavenly Host, nought is heard of that rude
discord, save a very little only, and that sweeter than any music.

15. Awful is that city, and wonderful to describe; for a little out
of much is that which we have told concerning its various orders, and
the wonders of it. Seldom indeed may a spirit, after its converse and
co-habitation with the body, in slumber and repose, in freedom and
luxury, win its way to the throne of the Creator, unguided of the
angels; for hard of essay are the seven Heavens, nor is any one of them
easier than the rest. Six guarded doors confront all those of mortal
race who reach the Kingdom. There sits a porter and warder of the
Heavenly Host, keeping guard over each door. At the door of that Heaven
which is nearest on the hither side sits the Archangel Michael, and
with him two youths,[19] with iron rods in their laps to scourge and
smite the sinners as they pass through this the first grief and torment
of the path they have to tread.

16. At the door of the next Heaven, the Archangel Ariel is warder, and
with him two youths,[20] with fiery scourges in their hands, wherewith
they scourge the wicked across the face and eyes. A river of fire, its
surface an ever-burning flame, lies before that door. Abersetus is the
angel’s name who keeps watch over that river, and purges the souls of
the righteous, and washes them in the stream, according to the amount
of guilt that cleaves to them, until they become pure and shining as
is the radiance of the stars. Hard by is a pleasant spring, flowery
and fragrant, to cleanse and solace the souls of the righteous, though
it annoys and scalds the souls of the guilty, and does away nought
from them, but it is increase of pain and torment that comes upon them
there. Sinners arise from out of it in grief and immeasurable sadness,
but the righteous proceed with joy and great delight to the door of the
third Heaven.

17. Above this, a fiery furnace keeps ever burning, its flames reaching
a height of twelve thousand cubits; through it the righteous pass
in the twinkling of an eye, but the souls of sinners are baked and
scorched therein for twelve years, and then their guardian angel
conveys them to the fourth door. About the entrance door of the fourth
Heaven is a fiery stream, like the foregoing. It is surrounded by a
wall of fire, in breadth twelve thousand measured cubits, through which
the souls of the righteous pass as though it were not there, while
the souls of the sinful tarry therein, amid pain and tribulation, for
another twelve years, until their guardian angel bears them to the door
of the fifth Heaven.

18. In that place is a fiery river, which is unlike all other rivers,
for in the midst of it is a strange kind of whirlpool, wherein the
souls of the wicked keep turning round and round, and there they abide
for the space of sixteen years; the righteous, however, win through it
straightway, without any hindrance. So soon as the due time cometh for
the sinners to be released thereout, the angel strikes the water with a
rod, hard as though it were of stone, and uplifts the spirits with the
end of that rod. Then Michael bears them up to the door of the sixth
Heaven; but no pain nor torment is meted out to the spirits at that
door, but there they are illumined with the lustre and the brilliancy
of precious stones. Then Michael cometh to the Angel of the Trinity,
and one on either side they usher the soul into the presence of God.

19. Infinite and beyond all telling is the welcome wherewith the Lord
and the Heavenly Host then receive the soul, if he be a pure and
righteous soul; if, however, he be an unrighteous and unprofitable
soul, harsh and ungentle is the reception of him by the Mighty Lord.
For He saith to the Heavenly Angels, ‘Take, O Heavenly Angels, this
unprofitable soul, and deliver him into the hand of Lucifer, that he
may plunge him and utterly extinguish him in Hell’s profound, through
ages everlasting.’

20. Thereupon that wretched soul is parted, fearfully, sternly,
awfully, from sight of the Heavenly Kingdom, and of God’s countenance.
Then utters he a groan, heavier than any groan, as he comes into the
Devil’s presence, after beholding the bliss of the Kingdom of Heaven.
He is then deprived of the guidance of the Archangels, in whose company
he had come unto Heaven. Twelve fiery dragons swallow up every spirit,
one after the other, until the lowest dragon lands him in the Devil’s
maw. There doth he experience the consummation of all evil, in the
Devil’s own presence, throughout all ages.

21. After that his guardian angel had revealed to Adamnán’s spirit
these visions of the Heavenly Kingdom, and of the first progress of
every soul after parting from its body, he brought him to visit the
nethermost Hell, with all its pains, and its crosses, and its torments.
Now, the first region whereunto he came was a land burnt black, waste
and scorched, but with no punishment at all therein. A glen, filled
with fire, was on the further side of it; huge the flame of it,
extending beyond the margin on either hand. Black its base, red the
middle, and the upper part thereof. Eight serpents were in it, with
eyes like coals of fire.

22. An enormous bridge spans the glen, reaching from one bank to the
other; high the middle of it, but lower its two extremities. Three
companies seek to pass over it, but not all succeed. One company find
the bridge to be of ample width, from beginning to end, until they win
across the fiery glen, safe and sound, fearless and undismayed. The
second company, when entering upon it, find it narrow at first, but
broad afterwards, until they, in like manner, fare across that same
glen, after great peril. But for the last company the bridge is broad
at first, but strait and narrow thereafter, until they fall from the
midst of it into that same perilous glen, into the throats of those
eight red-hot serpents, that have their dwelling-place in the glen.

23. Now the folk to whom that path was easy were the chaste, the
penitent, the diligent, they who had zealously borne a bloody testimony
to God. The band who found the path narrow at first, but afterwards
broad, were they who had hardly been constrained to do God’s will, but
had afterwards converted their constraint into the willing service of
God. They, however, to whom this way was broad at first, but strait
thereafter, were sinners who had listened to the precepts in God’s
word, and after having heard, fulfilled them not.

24. Furthermore, vast multitudes abide beyond, feeble and powerless,
upon the shore of perpetual pain, in the land of utter darkness. Every
other hour the pain ebbs away from them, and the next hour it returns
upon them again. Now these are they in whom good and evil were equally
balanced, and on the Day of Doom, judgment shall be passed between
them, and their good shall quench their evil on that day; and then
shall they be brought to the Haven of Life, in God’s own presence,
through ages everlasting.

25. Another great company is there, near to the last-named group, and
monstrous their torment. And this is their plight: they are fettered
to fiery columns, a sea of fire about them up to their chins, and
about their middle fiery chains, in the shape of vipers. Their faces
are aflame with agony. They who are tormented thus are sinners,
fratricides,[21] ravagers of God’s Church, and merciless Erenachs,[22]
who, in presence of the relics of the Saints, had been set over the
Church’s tithes and oblations,[23] and had alienated these riches to
their private store, away from the Lord’s guests and needy ones.

26. Great multitudes there are, standing in blackest mire up to their
girdles. Short cowls of ice are on them. Without rest or intermission,
through all time, their girdles are perpetually scorching them with
alternate cold and heat. Demon hosts surround them, with fiery
clubs[24] in their hands, striking them over the head, though they
struggle against them continually. These wretches all have their
foreheads to the North, and a rough, sharp wind blowing full upon their
foreheads, in addition to every other woe. Red showers of fire are
raining on them, every night and every day, and they cannot ward them
off, but must needs endure them throughout all ages, wailing and making

27. Some of them have streams of fire in the hollows of their visages;
some, fiery nails through their tongues; others, through their heads,
from side to side. They who are so punished are thieves and liars,
and they who have practised treachery, reviling robbery and rapine;
judges of false judgment and contentious persons; women who have dealt
in poison and spells, reivers,[25] and learned men who have practised
heresy. Another great throng is set upon islands, in the midst of the
fiery sea. About them is a silver wall [built] of the raiment and the
alms [which they had bestowed]. These are they who have practised
mercy without zeal,[26] and have remained in loose living, and in the
bonds of their sin, until the hour of their death; but their alms are
a bulwark unto them, amid the fiery sea, until the Judgment, and after
Judgment they shall be brought into the Haven of Life.

28. Another great multitude is there, clad in red and fiery mantles
down to their middle.[27] Their trembling and their outcries make
themselves heard, even unto the firmament. An unspeakable throng of
demons is throttling them, holding in leash the while raw-hided,
stinking hounds, which they incite to devour and consume them. Red
glowing chains[28] are constantly ablaze about their necks. Every
alternate hour they are borne up to the firmament, and the next hour
they are dashed down into Hell’s profound. Now they that are punished
in this wise are the regulars who have transgressed their rule,[29] and
become loathers of piety; also, impostors who have deceived and seduced
the multitude, and have undertaken miracles and wonders which they are
not able to perform. Moreover, the children that are tearing the men
in orders, are they who were committed to them for amendment, but they
amended them not, neither reproved them for their sins.

29. Thereafter, is another vast company; East and West they go,
unresting, across the fiery flagstones, at war with demon hosts.
Innumerable showers of red-hot arrows are rained upon them by the
demons. Running, they go on without stop or stay, making for a black
lake and a black river, that they may quench those arrows therein. A
weeping and wailing, truly miserable and piteous, do the sinners make
in those waters, for in them they only meet with augmentation of their
pain. Now they that are punished thus are cheating artificers, weavers,
and merchants; judges that judged falsely, both Jews, and others
likewise; impious kings, Erenachs of lewd and crooked ways, adulterous
women, and the panders that destroyed them by their evil practices.

Beyond the land of torment is a fiery wall; seven times more horrible
and cruel is it than the land of pain itself. Howbeit, no soul dwells
therein till Judgment, but it is the province of the demons only, until
the Day of Judgment.

30. At that time, woe unto him that shall dwell amid those pains, in
company with the Devil’s own tribe! Woe unto him that is not ware of
that tribe! Woe unto him over whom a vile and savage demon is set in
dominion! Woe unto him that shall be hearkening unto the spirits,
making moan and complaining unto the Lord, for the speedy coming of
the Day of Judgment, that they may know whether they shall find any
remission of their doom; for they get no respite ever, save only for
three hours on every Sunday. Woe unto him unto whom that land shall
be for a lasting inheritance, even for ever and ever! For this is the
nature of it: Mountains, caverns, and thorny brakes; plains, bare and
parched, with stagnant, serpent-haunted lochs. The soil is rough and
sandy, very rugged, icebound. Broad fiery flagstones bestrew the plain.
Great seas are there, with horrible abysses, wherein is the Devil’s
constant habitation and abiding-place. Four mighty rivers cross the
middle of it: a river of fire, a river of snow, a river of poison, a
river of black, murky water. In these wallow eager hosts of demons,
after making their holiday and their delight in tormenting the souls.

31. What time the holy companies of the Heavenly Host are singing the
eight hours with harmonious melody, praising the Lord with cheerfulness
and great gladness, then do the souls of the wicked utter piteous and
weary wailings, as they are buffeted unceasingly by the demon hordes.

Such then are the pains and torments which his guardian angel revealed
to the spirit of Adamnán, after his journey towards the Heavenly
Kingdom. After which he was borne in the twinkling of an eye through
the golden forecourt,[30] and through the crystal veil, to the Land of
Saints, whereunto he had been brought at first, after his departure
from the body. But when he bethought him to rest and tarry in that
land, he heard, through the veil, the angel’s voice enjoining him to
return again into that body whence he had departed, and to rehearse in
courts and assemblies, and in the great congregations of laymen and
of clerics, the rewards of Heaven and the pains of Hell, even as his
guardian angel had revealed them unto him.

32. This, then, was the doctrine that Adamnán continually taught to
the congregations, from that time forth, so long as he remained in
life. This, too, is what he preached in the great assemblies of the
men of Éire,[31] wherein the Constitution of Adamnán was imposed upon
the Gaels, and the women were emancipated by Adamnán and by Finnachta
Fledach,[32] King of Éire, and the princes of Éire, of one accord.
Such, too, were the tidings which Patrick, son of Calpurnius, at the
Gospel-dawn, was ever wont to proclaim--to wit, the rewards of Heaven
and the pains of Hell--to all them that would believe in the Lord,
through his teaching, and would accept his guidance of their souls.[33]
That, too, is the doctrine most constantly taught by Peter and Paul,
and the [other] apostles likewise, to wit, the enumeration of the
rewards and pains which had been revealed to them in like manner. And
so did Silvester, Abbot of Rome, teach Constantine, son of Helen, High
King of the World, in the General Synod when he offered Rome to Paul
and to Peter.[34] Even so did Fabian, successor to Peter, teach Philip,
son of Gordian, the King of Rome, whereby he believed in the Lord, and
many thousands beside believed in that hour.[35] For he was the first
King of Rome that believed in the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

33. And these are the tidings which Elias declares continually unto the
souls of the righteous, under the Tree of Life, which is in Paradise.
So soon as Elias opens his book in order to instruct the spirits,
the souls of the righteous, in form of bright white birds, repair to
him from every side. Then he tells them, first, of the wages of the
righteous, the joys and delights of the Heavenly Realm, and right glad
thereat are all the throng. After that he tells them of the pains and
torments of Hell, and the woes of Doomsday; and easy it is to mark the
look of sorrow that is upon his face, and upon the face of Enoch; and
these are the two sorrows of the Heavenly Kingdom. Then Elias shuts
his book, and thereupon the birds make exceeding great lamentation,
straining their wings against their bodies till streams of blood issue
from them, in dismay of the woes of Hell and of the Day of Doom.

34. Now, seeing that they who make this moan are the Saints to whom
have been allotted everlasting mansions in the Heavenly Realm, how much
more fitting were it for the men that are yet on earth to ponder, even
with tears of blood, upon the Judgment Day, and upon the pains of Hell.
For at that time will the Lord render due recompense to every one on
earth; that is to say, rewards to the righteous, and punishments to the
guilty. And at that very time shall the guilty be set in the abyss of
everlasting pain, and the book of the Word of God shall then be closed,
under the curse of the Judge of Doom, for ever. But the saints and the
righteous, the charitable and the merciful, shall be borne to the right
hand of God, to a lasting habitation in the Kingdom of Heaven, there to
abide without age or death, end or term, for ever and ever.

35. This, then, is the manner of that City: A Kingdom without pride,
or vanity, or falsehood, or outrage, or deceit, or pretence,[36] or
blushing, or shame, or reproach, or insult, or envy, or arrogance,
or pestilence, or disease, or poverty, or nakedness, or death, or
extinction, or hail, or snow, or wind, or rain, or din, or thunder,
or darkness, or cold,--a noble, admirable, ethereal realm, endowed
with the wisdom,[37] and radiance, and fragrance of a plenteous land,
wherein is the enjoyment of every excellence.




The legend which forms the ground-plan of the Vision of Adamnán and of
the _Commedia_ of Dante, can claim a pedigree of great antiquity that
may be traced back along several widely divergent lines. The principal
of these may be grouped roughly under the heads of the Classical
Tradition, the Eastern Tradition, the Ecclesiastical Tradition,
resulting from the fusion in the early Christian Church of Hellenic and
Oriental schools of thought; and the Irish Tradition, which last does
not so much represent an entirely independent growth of the legend, as
a new departure, whereby the Ecclesiastical Tradition, transplanted
to Ireland, and there coming into contact with certain cognate ideas
which were prominent in the native mythology and romantic literature,
acquired a fresh development, and reappeared in several forms which
became the most popular exponents of the mediæval theories of the
Otherworld, until the revival of classical learning, in the twelfth and
following centuries, enabled Dante to carry the leading idea, common to
all forms alike, to its culmination.

The Classical Tradition was preserved in the Middle Ages chiefly
through the sixth book of Virgil’s _Æneid_, which relates the visit of
Æneas to Hades; but this episode was itself suggested by the similar
adventure of Odysseus, told in the eleventh book of the _Odyssey_. The
fundamental conception, a visit paid to the Otherworld by a living man,
appears in many of the Greek myths: _e.g._ in the journey to Hades of
Demeter, in the course of her search after her daughter Persephone,
stolen away by Pluto; of Orpheus in quest of Eurydice; of Theseus and
Peirithoos in their attempt to abduct Persephone; of Herakles, Castor
and Pollux, and others. Like most of the myths that have contrived to
‘make their fortune’ by virtue of their strong appeal to the human
imagination, these legends, when the myth-making age had long departed
from the Hellenic peoples, and the age of creative imagination had
given place to one of literary culture, passed into the domain of
literature pure and simple. As such they entered upon a new life in the
writings of the Latin authors; for even in Virgil the literary aspect
of the legend predominates, though not to the exclusion of its more
serious elements. This merely literary character is yet more apparent
in the treatment of the legend by the tragic poets, and by Lucan and
Claudian, while Apuleius, the Perrault of antiquity, found in it a
theme for the play of his graceful fancy.

The early descriptions of the Otherworld, being originally myths
of spontaneous growth, and not composed to be the vehicles of
instruction or edification, contain little of eschatological or
ethical significance,[38] the few stock examples which they give
of the penalties attached to guilt being rather instances of the
private vengeance of Zeus upon those who had rebelled against him,
or had outraged the dignity of some member of the divine family of
which he was the head. In these accounts the abode of the departed
appears as a dreary region, wherein they lead a shadowy and undesirable
existence;[39] and although, side by side with this conception, another
theory subsisted, assigning to the happy dead a serene existence in
the Elysian plain, or in the enchanted isle of Leuke, this belief did
not go beyond the notion, vaguely, however beautifully, expressed,
of a bright and happy region of perpetual calm, where death or decay
or care was unknown, and the departed spirits dwelt in flowery and
fragrant meadows, beneath blossoming trees, beside calm seas or
smoothly flowing streams, while soft breezes were perpetually blowing.
The Greek poets, from Homer downwards, contain innumerable references
to this Elysium,[40] but although we sometimes find a hint, as in
Pindar and some of the tragic poets, that these joys are reserved for
those who have deserved them by a righteous life on earth, the later
instances show scarcely any advance upon the earlier in the direction
of a systematic eschatology, and consequently brought the Vision legend
little, if any, further on its way.[41]

Our legend, however, received fuller development in another school of
Hellenic thought. Simultaneously with the mythology of the Greeks,
and on one side distinct from it, though on the other side closely
connected with it, existed a tradition of a more essentially religious
character; religion being distinguished from philosophical speculation
on the one hand, and myth and legend on the other. Hence, apparently,
proceeded the Neo-platonising tendency in Greek philosophy--to adopt
the familiar and convenient name, though the thing is older than the
Neo-Platonists, or than Plato himself--the tendency to regard the old
myths as a repository of the ‘Wisdom of the Ancients,’ and to disengage
from the husk of fable the moral and scientific truths which it was
supposed to contain. In so doing, the philosophic schools were not
merely attempting to read their own notions into the traditions of
antiquity, but were also, to some extent, endeavouring to develop germs
which already existed in the best and most serious thought of their
own and earlier times. This side of the Hellenic religion would appear
to have existed in its purest and most highly developed form in the
Mysteries, especially those practised at Eleusis, and at other places
in which the Eleusinian rites prevailed.

Most questions relating to the Greek mysteries, their place of origin,
the date of their introduction, the relation of one school to another,
the rites practised therein, and the nature of the instruction imparted
to the neophytes, have given rise to many debates, and some of them
can hardly yet be regarded as entirely settled. Happily, our subject
does not call for discussion of these contested points, all that we are
concerned with being the significance of the mysteries to the spiritual
life of Greece at the time of their highest development. The general
result of investigation would seem to make it probable that the Greeks,
from a very early period, practised certain rites in honour of Demeter,
and that these rites were connected with agriculture, and with the
means whereby the unseen powers presiding over it might be rendered
propitious. These rites, as in many barbarous nations, were held to
confer certain privileges upon the participants, who could only obtain
access thereto by a secret initiation; and when the ideas of death and
renovation, which arose naturally out of the subject, proceeded by an
easy transition--partly by an inherent principle of growth, and partly
through the introduction of foreign elements[42]--to questionings
concerning man’s fate after death, the same rites were regarded as
efficacious in ameliorating his condition in the unseen world. At the
same time, as the doctrine of the effect of conduct upon the future
life gained ground, this side of the question likewise came within the
purview of the mystical schools, and an ethical as well as a theurgic
efficacy was ascribed to the initiation rite. This important step in
advance would appear to have been taken in the sixth century B.C. at
latest, when the theories of the Orphic-Pythagorean school became
widely diffused. M. Foucart, as we have seen in the last note, holds
that this movement was due to the Egyptian researches carried on by
the early Greek philosophers in the course of their travels; Rohde, on
the other hand, regards it as a strictly national movement, and denies
the late adoption of any alien faith of a highly developed character.
In any case, it is certain that the theories of which Pythagoras was
the most famous exponent assumed great prominence at this time. The
leading principle of these was the doctrine of the soul’s rebirth on
earth, in another body, after undergoing a process of purification in
the Otherworld. It was one of the primary objects of the mysteries to
ensure that the soul’s progress through the intermediate state should
be as easy, and the conditions of its rebirth as favourable, as could
be effected by the due performance of the mystical rites; and while the
great progress of ethics, which with the early philosophers went hand
and hand with philosophical speculation, effected a fuller recognition
of moral conduct in this life as one of the means most conducive to the
desired end, preference was still given, even among the righteous, to
those who had undergone the initiation ceremony.[43]

Professor Gardner even traces the Hades theory from the mystic rites
(_loc. cit._); probably this derivation would only apply to that
theory in its more fully developed form. He holds that the Orphic cult
‘occupies the background of religious life’ in Greece; that it was an
enthusiastic type of religion, and capable of ready association with
the ideals of such moral and political revivalists as Pythagoras and
Empedocles. According to this authority, there were two foci of the
Orphic cult: at Eleusis, and in the rites of Dionysos. M. Foucart,
it will be remembered, denies any connection between Eleusis and the
Orphic mysteries; in which contention he would appear to be supported
by Plato, who speaks slightingly of the latter, while several passages
in his writings testify to his respect for the mysteries of Eleusis.
Certainly the two were respectively connected, originally, with the
worship of two separate and widely different divinities, although,
both having to do with the earth as the source and the renewer of
life, they soon tended towards certain common developments. Perhaps we
may not greatly err if we assume that the Orphic mysteries, in their
most perfected form, were more especially concerned with the orgiastic
ritual and with the doctrine of reincarnation, now reduced to a
philosophical system, while in the Eleusinian school ritual became more
closely connected with personal morality, thus assuming an aspect more
strictly ‘religious,’ in the modern sense of the word.

M. Foucart, indeed, holds that the instruction imparted in the
Eleusinian mysteries was _essentiellement pratique; elle avait pour
objet de mettre l’homme en état de se tirer d’affaire lorsqu’il
arrivait dans la demeure d’Hades_ (_op. cit._, p. 63). By ‘practical’
M. Foucart would appear to refer exclusively to those automatic or
quasi-mechanical effects which are supposed, all the world over,
to result from the due performance of certain rites. However, the
testimony of the Greeks themselves, as appears from the examples
about to be cited in connection with our own subject, and from other
evidences that have come down to us, appears to be conclusive as to the
value attributed to the Eleusinian mysteries, at any rate, as an agent
of moral reformation. Sir W. M. Ramsay[44] distinguishes between the
mysteries which had in view the proficiency and advancement of morals,
and the mysteries which were of an exclusively ritual and orgiastic
nature, associating the former kind with Eleusis, and places where
kindred rites were celebrated. In support of this contention, he cites
a number of passages occurring in Greek writers from the fourth century
B.C. onwards, whence it plainly appears that the Greeks regarded a
moral regeneration as a natural concomitant of initiation into the
mysteries, and even as a condition of happiness in the future life.[45]

It is in connection with the mysteries, as representing the moral
and spiritual side of the Greek religion, whencesoever derived, that
the Vision legend becomes impressed with an epideictic character and
develops those elements which had barely existed in germ in the popular

In the Dialogues of Plato, the legend already appears as a vehicle of
religious instruction. Plato, indeed, merely gives literary form to
theories which had existed for at least two centuries before his time,
but as he is the first to employ the Vision legend in this connection,
and as it is in his hands that it first assumes its final type,
essentially identical with that of its successors in the Christian
Church, it is convenient to make him a point of departure.

In the tenth book of his _Republic_ (pp. 614 _sqq._) Plato records
the narrative of one Er, an Armenian, concerning his experiences in
the world of spirits. This Er had been killed in battle, and brought
away with the rest of the slain, but was restored to life. His soul,
upon issuing from the body, had been conveyed to a certain spiritual
(δαιμόνιον) place, where there were two openings leading down below
the earth, and two others leading up into heaven, over against one
another. Between these openings judges were stationed, who dismissed
the souls of the righteous to heaven by the upper and right-hand way,
having first impressed upon their foreheads the decree of absolution,
and despatched the wicked downward by the left-hand path, branded
behind with the record of their misdeeds. The judges commanded Er to
see and hear all that passed, that he might become the messenger of it
all to mankind. The souls of the departed, after a progress lasting
a thousand years, returned by the second openings from the celestial
and subterranean regions respectively. The return of the one company
was marked by joy and gladness, by reason of the delights which they
had enjoyed, and the spectacles of inconceivable beauty through which
they had passed, in the course of their heavenly journey; they then
entered for a while into a smiling meadow, there to hold converse with
others of the just, both those whom they had known while in the body,
and others whom they then met for the first time. The other company
appeared all parched and dusty from their journey, weeping and dismayed
at the remembrance of all they had seen and suffered during their
passage beneath the earth, for there each sinner was requited tenfold
for all the crimes that he had committed. Among these guilty ones,
special mention is made of homicides: of those who had betrayed cities
or armies, and brought them into captivity; of those who had committed
impiety towards the gods, or inflicted violence upon their parents;
all of whom were singled out for eximious penalties. Some indeed, such
as bloody tyrants, and certain private persons who were stained with
enormous crimes, lost their return entirely; these were dragged back
by wild-looking, fire-scathed men, fettered hand and foot, beaten down
and flayed, carded with carding-combs, and finally cast down into
Tartarus. With the exception, however, of this last and worst class
of criminals, the punishments allotted to all were but of temporary
duration, and the ‘souls of a day’ entered upon ‘another period of
mortal, death-fraught existence’ under conditions imposed by ‘the
Destinies, daughters of Necessity.’

This account agrees in principle, though not in detail, with _Phædo_,
p. 14. In the _Phædrus_, Plato speaks of the Eleusinian mysteries as a
means of salvation, and that, apparently, by means of the reformation
effected through a conscientious adherence to the instructions there
imparted to the initiate, rather than by any thaumaturgic virtues
inherent in the rites themselves; the true mystics, in his eyes, being
those whom he terms, in the passage of the _Phædo_ cited above, οἱ
φιλοσοφίᾳ ἱκανῶς καθηράμενοι.

In the _Axiochos_, a dialogue once ascribed to Plato, but written since
his time, Socrates is made to describe the abode of the righteous
as a country of flowery meadows beside clear streams, and full of
fruit-bearing trees. The light is full and radiant, the air soft and
pleasant, free from extremes of heat and cold. Fit places are provided
for philosophical discourse, and there are theatres where poets may
recite their verses. The most honourable place is allotted to the
initiated, who celebrate the sacred mysteries. This description,
which exhibits a naïve adaptation of the most primitive Elysium to
the intellectual requirements of a highly civilised society, is
interesting merely as affording additional evidence as to the Athenian
belief concerning the rewards of the righteous in a future life,
and the intimate connection between initiation into the mysteries,
righteousness of life, and bliss in the life to come.

In this connection, perhaps, we ought not to pass over the Hades
journey of Dionysos, as portrayed in the _Frogs_ of Aristophanes,
for, burlesque as it is, it repeatedly expresses views concerning the
Otherworld coinciding closely, in substance, with the description
contained in Plato’s Vision of Er. The _Frogs_ being prior in date
to the _Republic_, this coincidence affords an independent testimony
to the representative character of Plato’s eschatological theories,
the more so as Aristophanes, in his comedy, would naturally treat his
subject in a form that he knew to be familiar to the audience. In this
play, reference is made to a true Inferno for punishment of the graver
sins. In ll. 145-151, Herakles affirms that they who had violated the
laws of hospitality, beaten their mother, smitten their father on the
cheek, perjured themselves, etc. etc., are condemned to wallow in a
morass of mud and ordure, like the wrathful, the gloomy-minded, and the
flatterers, whom Dante consigns to a similar doom in Cantos 7 and 18 of
the _Inferno_.[46] On the other hand, ‘happy bands of men and women’
inhabit myrtle groves, ‘in the midst of fairest light’ (ll. 155-7),
in the dingles of well-flowering meadows (347-8), and fields blooming
with roses (448-9), in the enjoyment of dance and song and feast (369
_sqq._). These are they who have been initiated into the mysteries (l.
158); nor does this imply a merely ritual initiation, as may not only
be inferred from a comparison with the passages from Plato, quoted
above, and with the testimonies to the like effect cited by Sir W. M.
Ramsay, but, further, appears from the words of the beatified mystics
themselves: ‘For us alone the sun shines, and the light is cheerful;
for us, who are initiate, and have followed the way of righteousness
in all our dealings, alike with strangers and with our own folk’ (ll.

Four centuries later, Plutarch takes up the tale. His treatise ‘On the
tardy vengeance of God’ describes the vision of one Soleus, similar in
character to that of Plato’s Er, but, in many of its circumstances,
approximating far more closely to the Christian visions. This Soleus
had led a life of extreme wickedness, stained with all manner of
vice and debauchery; he had been violent, unjust, and fraudulent in
his dealings, and had squandered his patrimony by his extravagance.
Beginning, it would seem, to realise his condition, he sent to the
oracle of Amphilochus to inquire whether the remainder of his life
should be better than the earlier part: the oracle replied that it
should be better with him after his death. Sometime after this he fell
down a precipice, and was taken up for dead; but three days later,
having been carried out for burial, he came to himself just as he
was being lowered into the grave, and sat up. Thenceforth he became
a reformed character, and the remainder of his life was as exemplary
for virtue as the earlier part had been for wickedness. He explained
the reason of this conversion to his friends, by the story of his
experiences during his temporary demise. His first sensation was as of
a steersman swept into the sea by a sudden squall. Upon emerging, he
could discern, at first, nothing but stars of great magnitude, and very
far apart, emitting radiant beams, upon which the soul rode as though
in a chariot. Looking downward, he descried little fiery bubbles rising
through the yielding air, which, bursting, released aerial forms of men
and women, some of which mounted straight upward, with great velocity,
while others whirled and span rapidly about in all directions. Among
these latter he recognised several of his acquaintance, and tried
to accost them, but they all avoided him. He was more successful
with those spirits who mounted upright, among whom he recognised a
kinsman who had died young. This spirit saluted him by the name of
Thespesios, or Divine, saying that he must have come thither by order
of the gods, seeing that he was manifestly alive, for the spirits of
the dead neither cast shadows nor open and shut their eyelids.[47]
Under his kinsman’s guidance, Thespesios noted the various kinds of
souls, and observed that while all were of transparent substance, some
emitted a pure untroubled light, ‘like the full moon in her greatest
resplendence,’ others being marked with long streaks, and others,
again, repulsive with black splotches, like those on the skins of
vipers. His guide accounted for this diversity by expounding the laws
which regulate the condition of departed spirits. Adrasteia, daughter
of Zeus and Necessity, was charged with a general superintendence
over the punishments awarded to the guilty, and none of any rank or
kind might escape her vengeance; but guilt is of various degrees, so
Adrasteia deputed the chastisement of offences, after their several
kinds, to three Furies, or avenging spirits. The first of these, Poine,
is the minister of temporal penalties, whereby minor sinners are purged
of their guilt by their sufferings in this life. Those whose guilt
is not to be purged so easily are delivered over, after death, to
Dike, or avenging Justice, to be chastened in manner after described;
while the absolutely incurable are abandoned to Erinnys, who, after
pursuing them in their unavailing flight through countless torments,
plunges them, at last, into an abyss of unspeakable horror. The souls
which Dike takes in hand she first exposes naked to the gaze of their
kin, in order, if these were virtuous, that the guilty soul may be
stricken with the greater shame, or, if they too had been wicked, that
their mutual remorse may be augmented by the sight of one another’s
disgrace and sufferings. She then afflicts them with sufferings ‘as
far surpassing in sharpness and severity all torments of the body, as
reality surpasses an empty dream.’ These punishments leave upon the
soul stripes and scars which correspond to the gravity of the offences,
and gradually disappear as the soul recovers its proper temperament;
though certain souls, incapable of thorough reformation, are compelled
to complete their expiation by inhabiting the bodies of brutes for a
term. After this, the spirit conveyed Thespesios across a vast expanse
over which he was borne upon a ray of light, as easily and swiftly as
though upborne by an eagle, until he came to a yawning, unfathomable
chasm. Here the force which had hitherto sustained him failed; his
further course was stayed, and he, and several others in like case,
were left hovering about the mouth of the cavern, like birds that
desired to enter in, but dared not. The interior of the chasm was all
green with trees and grass, and adorned with flowers of every hue,
which emitted a fragrance sweeter than is the fragrance of wine to
them that love it, and amid all these dwelt the souls of the blest in
the utmost mirth and good fellowship. Ere long, Thespesios was carried
hence and brought to the place of punishment, and among the guilty he
recognised certain of his own kin. Here his kindly spirit guide quitted
him, and he was taken in charge by several grisly sprites, who thrust
him forward and made him observe the torments that were inflicted on
the wicked. In the enumeration of these, a quite Dantesque intention
‘to make the punishment fit the crime’ is apparent. For instance,
certain who had cloaked a vicious life with fine professions were
turned inside out, and compelled to wriggle onward in this guise;
hypocrites were flayed and gashed, so as to reveal their inner nature;
deadly enemies were twined together, and gnawed one another, as Ugolino
gnawed the Archbishop of Pisa in the _Inferno_. Furthermore, there were
three lakes--one of molten gold, one of lead, exceeding cold, and one
of iron; demons armed with tongs, like smiths, plunged the souls of the
avaricious into the lake of molten gold until they were heated through
and through; then into the leaden lake until they were congealed like
hail; and, finally, into the iron lake, where they were broken to
pieces; after which they were reintegrated, for a repetition of their
punishment. But most wretched was the case of them whose crimes had
communicated a taint to their posterity; for when they deemed that the
Divine justice had wrought its utmost upon them, they were met by the
scarred and distorted souls of their descendants, who, when their
parents in grief and shame tried to shirk away from them, would seize
and cling to them, sometimes, even in clusters like bees or bats, and
would hale them back to renewed torments. Finally, the souls who were
destined to return to earth in other bodies were wrought and forged
like iron to fit them for their new state.

Plutarch’s eschatology displays more system than is to be found in
his predecessors, or even in many of the Christian visions; however,
neither by Plutarch nor by Plato is the doctrine of the metempsychosis
made to fit in quite perfectly with that of a state of eternal rewards
and punishments which co-exists with it. Moreover, the purgatorial
scheme, though highly elaborated, is conceived entirely with reference
to the preparation of the soul for a renewed existence upon earth.

In following up the Greek development of the Vision legend to its
completest exposition in Plutarch, we have passed by the Latin
contributions to the subject, earlier than the Vision of Thespesios in
point of date, though not in manner of treatment. A generation before
the birth of Virgil, Cicero, in his _Somnium Scipionis_, had utilised
the Vision as a vehicle of instruction; he, however, took natural
philosophy for his theme, not eschatology.

Virgil, indeed, alone of Roman writers, made any contribution of real
importance to the development of the Vision legend in literature,
though that contribution is the flower and consummation of the legend
as it appears in the purely classical tradition. For Virgil, saturated
with the Hellenic culture, while remaining intensely Roman in his
political views and national sentiment, remains free from any tincture
of Oriental ideas. Earlier than Plutarch by more than a century, his
treatment of the subject is more modern in style and spirit, although,
in his pictures of the other world, he repeats and combines the ideas
which the ancients had held concerning it. His topography of the other
world and of the approaches thereto agrees so closely with the humorous
account in the _Frogs_ of Aristophanes, which, evidently, he has no
intention of copying, as to make it clear that both poets followed, in
the main, a generally accepted tradition. So, too, in his descriptions
of the Elysian Fields and of Tartarus, Virgil simply reproduces in
substance the many similar descriptions which occur in the Greek poets
and philosophers; and although he perfects these with many exquisite
touches of his own, such original contributions of his belong rather
to the domain of art than of eschatology. To take one instance, his
enumeration of those righteous ones who are admitted to the seats of
the blest, including, as it does,

    Inventas aut qui vitam excoluere per artes,
    Quique sui memores alios fecere merendo (_Æn._ vi. 663-4),

could only have been written in an age of self-conscious culture.

In his eschatology he is no less conservative than in his descriptions;
witness the judgment of the dead by Minos (431 _sqq._) and Rhadamanthus
(567-9); the Fate of the Giants (580 _sqq._), and other great
offenders against the persons of the gods (601 _sqq._), etc. etc.
Like Plutarch, he inflicts heavier penalties upon those who have
not expiated their guilt in this life (569). Moreover, he adopts,
without being able to reconcile, the two conflicting theories held
by his Grecian predecessors, and succeeds no better than Plato and
his followers in fusing into a consistent scheme the theory of
perpetual rewards and punishments, and the collateral theory of the
metempsychosis. In his treatment of the whole subject he betrays
the influence of several of the later schools of Greek philosophy,
and appears as a disciple of the Pythagoreans and Stoics as well as
of Plato. At the same time, he displays his modernity alike in this
eclectic and combining method, and in his general design, which is
mainly artistic and literary; the Vision legend is not introduced
with any hortatory or epideictic purpose, but, as in the earlier
epic, forms merely a part of the general machinery of the poem, the
several pictures and descriptive incidents of the Otherworld serving
as frescoes and statues and gargoyles to adorn the main body of the
edifice. An instance of this occurs in the picturesque grouping of the
monsters and personified abstractions about the gates of Hades (_Æn._
vi. 273-294), which is conceived in a purely artistic spirit, no less
than similar descriptions in Ariosto, Spenser, and Milton--we might
almost add the Rape of the Lock. The same may be said of the City of
Dis (548 _sqq._). In such passages as these, Virgil indulges the Roman
love of classification which appears in that tendency of the national
religion to apportion all phases of nature and humanity among countless
‘departmental deities,’ ridiculed by several of the early Christian
fathers, and notably by St. Augustine.[48]

In short, Virgil pressed into his service ideas, beliefs, and
speculations drawn alike from the popular creeds and traditions, and
from the philosophers of his own and earlier times. These he blended
with consummate art into one harmonious whole, uniting antiquity of
matter with modernity of treatment; and this completeness, aided by
the combination of circumstances which led him to be regarded, in after
times, as at once the epitome and the consummation of the Wisdom of
the Ancients, and as, moreover, the divinely inspired herald of the
coming transition from Paganism to Christianity, fitted him, at a time
when the higher achievements of the human intellect had to be sought
in classical antiquity, to become the _duce_, _maestro_, _guida_, that
Dante found in him.


To Dante, Virgil appeared as the _sacer vates_ in every sense of the
term. As a poet, he towered above all other masters of the craft with
whom Dante was acquainted; the testimony of ages had concurred in
pronouncing him to be the repository and the exponent of the wisdom and
learning of the ancient world, the only secular wisdom and learning
to which the Middle Ages could turn for instruction and guidance. His
fourth Eclogue had led the Church to acclaim him as one of those pagan
seers to whom, jointly with the Sibyls, a share in the preparation for
the Gospel had been committed by Divine appointment, while the sixth
Æneid directly associated him with the Sibyls themselves; finally,
his great poem expressed the very spirit of that Roman Empire, of
which the theory at least constituted the basis and framework of the
ecclesiastical and civil polity of Christendom.

However, the task which Dante had set himself was nothing less,
according to his own affirmation,[49] than to expound the scheme of
Divine Providence with respect to ‘man, in so far as by his merit
or demerit, by virtue of freewill, he is liable to remunerative or
punitive Justice’;[50] and by the moving picture of ‘the condition
of souls after death,’[51] ‘to withdraw those living in the present
life from the state of misery, and to conduct them unto the state of
bliss.’[52] Having no desire to innovate upon the accepted beliefs, but
rather to expound them in their utmost completeness, and in accordance
with the fulness of knowledge, he naturally, and necessarily, availed
himself of the materials preserved in Christian legend and popular
tradition. These materials, in great measure, were the product of a
fusion in the primitive Church of the speculations of the Hellenistic
schools with an abundant heritage of analogous conceptions, which had
been bequeathed to it by the earlier dispensation.

Long before the Christian era, a gradual process of accretion had been
going on within the Jewish Church. In the days of their freedom, the
people of Israel had addicted themselves but little to speculations
concerning the Otherworld; during the captivity, however, they had
come into contact with the richer mythology of the conquering nations,
and after the return they fell under the influence of the various
schools of philosophy, whose teaching, coloured with a theosophic tinge
of continually increasing depth, permeated Syria in common with all
other lands in which the Hellenistic culture prevailed. These various
influences combined to produce a more spiritual type of religion, and
a more elaborate eschatology, than had originally entered into the
national faith of Israel.

The legend of a Vision of the Otherworld, in the East as in Hellas,
had gradually developed from the most primitive beginnings, the first
appearance of it occurring at a very early stage of popular tradition.
The sacred books of Assyria, which themselves embodied much of the
mythology of the earlier Accadian race, record the descent into
Hades of the goddess Ishtâr, in quest of the waters of life, and of
the national hero Gisdubar, who, like Odysseus and Æneas, had gone
thither seeking counsel from the shades of his ancestors. The abodes
of the dead are approached through seven successive gates, guarded by
monsters, and at each sits a porter who strips the souls that enter of
some part of their raiment, until, after passing the last gate, they
enter the world of shades as naked as when they came into the world
they have just left. Gisdubar, who had been conveyed to the regions of
the dead by a ferry, wherein we see the prototype of Charon’s boat,
was met on his arrival by monsters, between man and scorpion in shape,
who directed him to the abode of the blest, situate ‘at the mouth of
the rivers.’ He accordingly reached a grove by the sea-shore, at the
estuary of a river, which was the Waters of Death. The trees in this
grove were laden with precious stones, and guarded by two maidens, who
shut the door against Gisdubar, because he bore the marks of the Divine
wrath upon him. The Chaldean Elysium is described as a mountain lying
beneath a sky of silver, and bearing crops without need of tillage.
Here the souls of heroes and great men dwell for ever, reclining
on couches, and drinking the waters of life.[53] These waters are
represented in the story of the descent of Ishtâr as proceeding from
under a golden throne, set in the midst of Hades, whereon sat the
Spirits of Earth. In the grove of Eridu stood a Tree of Life, which
appears to have been a World Tree, like Yggdrasil, and at the same time
to have possessed the property of restoring life and strength to the
individual. This tree was guarded by cherubim, whose heads were like
the heads of hawks or eagles. From this Elysium a way led to Arali, the
abode of the dead in general.

That abode is described as ‘a gloomy realm beneath the earth, wherein
the spirits of the dead flit about in darkness, with dust and mud for
their food and drink.’[54] No hint is there of reward or punishment;
the same dreary lot awaits the evil and the good alike so soon as they
have quitted the light of day. The only attempt at a differential
treatment is found in that aristocratic conception of Elysium which
provides a place there for heroes and great men alone; a conception
which the ancient inhabitants of Chaldæa shared with many races of very
different type and origin, including several of the peoples of Central
America and Polynesia, and, apparently, the early Aryans of Europe. In
fact, the whole Chaldæan theory of the future life is very rudimentary,
notwithstanding the great proficiency in several departments of culture
to which the Accadian and Assyrian races had attained.

The Median conquest of Assyria and Babylon introduced the Hebrew exiles
to the Zoroastrian religion, with its mythology richer than any which
the Semitic or Pre-Semitic races had evolved, and taught them an
eschatology more elaborate than their own. The Avesta inculcated an
ethic of high morality, and taught a very systematic theory of rewards
and punishments in the future life. The experiences of the soul after
death are described with great minuteness and copiousness of detail.

For three nights after death the soul sits by the head of the body,
and all this time, if a righteous soul, experiences the consciousness
of a delight as great as any that the whole living world together are
capable of enjoying. At the end of this time it becomes aware of a
sweet-scented wind blowing from the south, and feels a pleasant sense
of being borne into a place of fragrant trees and verdure. The evil
soul, on the contrary, experiences a corresponding amount of misery
during its vigil, at the close of which it is assailed by a foul wind
from the north. Its vigil ended, every soul, good or bad, had to cross
the narrow Chinvât Bridge (_cinvata peretush_, the ‘Accountant’s
Bridge’), where good and evil spirits struggled for possession of
it, as did the angels and devils for the soul of Goethe’s Faust, and
as Michael and Satan contended for Moses, according to the tradition
referred to in the Book of Jude (ver. 9). On reaching the bridge head,
the soul of ‘good thoughts, good deeds, good words, and good religion’
was met by a lovely maiden, who was his own conscience. By her he was
conducted to the place of Judgment,[55] and there a book was opened
wherein had been kept a record of all the good and evil he had wrought
in life. Upon his righteousness being admitted, he was received with
acclamation by the celestial powers, and a place was allotted to him
among their golden seats.[56] The Avestan Elysium is described as a
holy mountain, its summit clothed with everlasting light, whither
‘come neither night nor darkness, no cold wind and no hot wind, no
deathful sickness, no uncleanness made by the Daêvas [demons], and the
clouds cannot reach up to it.’ At the foot of the mountain was a vast
sea, a _mar del essere_, in the midst of which grew the White Haôma
(Indian _Soma_), the Tree of Life. ‘The waters stand there boiling,
boiling up in the heart of the sea Pûitika, and when cleansed therein
they run back from the sea Pûitika to the tree _boura-kasha_, towards
the well-watered tree, whereon grow the seeds of my plants of every
kind.’[57] A godlike bird sits on that tree; when he flies off a
thousand branches grow out of it, and when he alights upon it he breaks
off a thousand branches.[58] Of this mystical bird, the Bundehesh, one
of the later of the sacred books, says, ‘The bird Karshipta dwells
in the heavens; were he living on the earth, he would be the king of
birds. He brought the Religion into the Var of Yima, and recites the
Avesta in the language of birds.’[59] With this we may compare the
angel described in Rev. xiv. 6 as an _angel di Dio_, flying ‘in the
midst of Heaven, bearing the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them
that dwell on the earth.’

Distinct from the Elysium of the Gods, and from the abode of the dead,
is Yima’s Heaven of Light, a _Vara_, or _hortus conclusus_, which is
a reduplication of the realm over which he presided in the Golden
Age, before this world was created.[60] The Vara was constructed by
‘the fair Yima, the good shepherd,’ at the command of ‘the Maker,
Ahura Mazda,’ in view of the destruction that was to come upon the
material world, which had become corrupt, so that he might preserve
therein the seeds of men and all other living beings, of plants, ‘and
of red blazing fires,’ in order that the earth might be replenished.
Within this Vara Yima made a reservoir, the banks of which furnished
an unfailing supply of food, and were the haunt of birds. To this
happy region, as we have seen, the mystical bird Karshipta brought
the Avesta, and preached it to the denizens, whose life was one of
perpetual mirth and gladness, exempt from heat and cold, sickness, old
age, and death; ‘and there [was] no hump-backed, none bulged forward,
there; no impotent, no lunatic; no one malicious, no liar; no one
spiteful, none jealous; no one with decayed tooth, no leprous to be
pent up, nor any of the brands wherewith Angra Mainya stamps the bodies
of mortals.’[61]

It is impossible not to be struck with the resemblance which this
passage bears to chapter 35 of the _Fis Adamnáin_. This resemblance
must be purely accidental, but it is none the less worthy to be noted;
for there is reason to suspect that a careful record of the similitudes
and coincidences which so frequently occur where imitation or direct
derivation is impossible, might tend to discourage the arbitrary
assumption that derivation must needs exist, in cases where it may be
possible, but is not proved.

It will be noted that Yima’s Vara is not represented in the _Vendîdâd_
as the abode of the dead, or connected in any way with the Otherworld;
it there appears rather as a Platonic ideal world, containing the
forms, types, or ideas after which the material world is to be
created, or, rather, restored. Yima, too, far from being one of the
principal gods, appears only as a subordinate Demiourgos, subject to
‘the Maker,’ Ahura Mazda. Hence it might seem to be foreign to our
subject; in reality, however, it is not so. However the legend may
have been explained by later philosophic speculations--probably under
Greek influences, as to which later--there is no doubt that in its
original form it was meant for a picture of the world of the happy
dead. Internal evidence of itself might convince us of this. The whole
conception of a supernatural country, inhabited by human beings who
lead a happy life amid conditions which reproduce the present world,
but under a brighter and serener aspect--a country, moreover, which
reproduces a traditionary golden age--is entirely in accord with the
familiar Elysium of the Aryan peoples. But more than this, in the
ancient Persian mythology Yima is identical with the Indian Yama, the
ruler of the departed, who crossed the rivers, leading the fathers
after him, and now presides over the spirits of the dead in a land
beyond the sunset. Here, in a land of soft winds and cool rains,
traversed by perennial streams of milk and honey, and illumined by
unfailing light, he sits under the Tree of Life, drinking the Soma (the
Persian Haôma) from its branches, and surrounded by the souls of the
righteous, all whose desires are there accomplished.

The Persian religion, in the stage at which it is preserved in
the Avesta, spiritualised much of the primitive Aryan mythology,
allegorising many of its deities into personifications of good and
evil principles and qualities. This notwithstanding, many of the more
primitive elements of the older religion were retained, and were
reinforced with a number of animistic beliefs derived from the Turanian
peoples; and when the Zoroastrian religion experienced that process
of corruption which commonly affects all ‘Religions of the Book,’ in
greater or less degree, these lower and more ancient elements asserted
themselves, so that the practical side of the religion consisted in
great measure of Shamanistic practices designed to propitiate an
innumerable host of good and evil spirits.[62]

The question how far the eschatological conceptions of the later
Judaism may have been affected by contact with Zoroastrianism
obviously depends, in great measure, upon the date to be assigned to
the first appearance in the Persian religion of the foregoing theories
concerning the future life. The Avesta consists of several books of
different character and of different dates. Darmesteter[63] holds that
it was compiled, in its present form, during the first and second
centuries of our era, although a great part of the material embodied
was of much earlier date. He further considers that the Zoroastrian
belief received its ultimate form under the influence of the schools of
Greek philosophy, with which the Persians were in close contact in the
centuries following the conquests of Alexander, and more particularly,
that the final redaction of the Avesta was indebted for its more
spiritual and philosophic elements to ‘Neo-Platonism, that is to say,
that philosophic compound inspired by the spirit of Plato, which
permeated all the speculations of the centuries before Christ, and long
after, and which finds its first and most influential exponent in Philo
Judæus. In Philo is found, as far as I know, the first exact parallel
to the Avestan doctrine,’ etc. (p. lv.).

The pronouncements of such a scholar as Darmesteter upon any _matter of
fact_ belonging to a department of learning of which he was so weighty
an authority can only be accepted by us without reserve. At the same
time, it may be permissible to consider how far the above inferences
are supported by the author’s own arguments, or rather, the extent
to which those inferences may be held to apply. It is certain that
the Hellenic, or Hellenistic, philosophies exercised great influence
throughout the more civilised parts of Asia during the existence
of the Alexandrian Empire, and for long after its dissolution. It
will be observed, however, that Darmesteter, while assuming that the
Avesta was moulded by those Platonic doctrines ‘which pervaded all
the speculations of the centuries before Christ,’ goes on to say that
this speculation ‘finds its first … exponent in Philo Judæus.’ Now,
Philo Judæus flourished in the middle of the first century of our era,
and the other most celebrated founders, or rather precursors, of the
Neo-Platonic school were of later date; Plutarch of Chæronea belonging
to the latter part of the same century, Numenius to the second century
A.D. If, then, ‘in Philo is found … the first exact parallel to the
Avestan doctrine,’ it might conceivably be argued with regard to
those parts, at any rate, of the Avestan doctrine to which the author
ascribes a Neo-Platonic origin on the strength of their resemblance
to the system of Philo, that such resemblance should be explained by
a quite opposite derivation theory.[64] The further question also
presents itself, whether the views of Philo and his school obtained so
rapid an acceptance in the East, beyond the bounds of the Roman Empire,
as greatly to affect the substance of so ancient and important a creed
as Zoroastrianism, as expounded in a recension of the sacred books of
that religion made almost immediately after Philo’s death, if not then
actually in progress.

It is enough to suggest these questions, without attempting their
solution; we are only concerned to see whether Darmesteter’s theory, if
correct, is incompatible with the existence in the earlier form of the
Avestan religion of elements which may reasonably be presumed to have
affected the development of our legend through Hebrew channels.

Darmesteter himself does not attempt to set up any hard and fast theory
on the subject. In his own words: ‘Without pressing conclusions too
hard as to facts and dates, this much can be safely inferred … that
Platonic doctrines had found their way to Persia in the first centuries
of the Christian era’ (_loc. cit._). In particular, he traces Platonic
influences in the spiritual and allegorical manner in which the
creations of the old Aryan mythology are dealt with in the Avesta, and
in the prevalence of a similar tone in the Avestan cosmology. The most
notable instances of this mode of thought occur in the Var of Yima,
which is practically a Platonic world of Ideas,[65] and in the Amesha
Spentas, or Bountiful Immortals, who, we are told, first assume the
character in which they now appear in the Avesta under the influence of
Neo-Platonic theories.[66]

At the same time, Darmesteter points out that the ancient Achæmenian
religion already possessed the fundamental doctrine of the conflict
between the powers of good and evil, and the final triumph of the good,
and of those that had adhered to it. The duration of the universe is
already divided into four periods of 3000 years each,[67] in the last
of which Ahriman was to be subdued, and men were to ‘live happily,
needing no food, and casting no shadow.’[68] He further states, as we
have seen, that the Avesta was compiled from various works of different
dates; these would necessarily embody much matter of older date than
themselves--very much older, we are warranted in believing, alike
by the analogy of other religions, and by the nature of many of the
beliefs preserved in the Avesta. In speaking of the books of which
the Avesta is composed, Darmesteter gives it as his opinion that ‘the
Vendîdâd may be taken as the best specimen of the text imbued with the
pre-Alexandrian spirit’;[69] and it is precisely the Vendîdâd that
contains the greater part, though not all, of the doctrines concerning
the Otherworld, of which an abstract has been given above.

We are thus warranted in assuming that the Persians had developed a
tolerably complete theory of the Otherworld, and of the rewards and
punishments there meted out in recompense for man’s conduct in this
life, at a date early enough to influence Hebrew thought, before either
nation had come under Hellenic influences.

In some respects, Darmesteter’s conclusions even favour this
presumption, for if we can attribute to Neo-Platonic influences the
ideal character which Yima’s Vara bears in the Vendîdâd, we can
understand at how recent a date the Vara came to be divested of the
character of an Elysium, or abode of the happy dead, such as is the
realm of Yama, of which, in other respects, it is so complete a

In this connection, it should also be noted that the Avestan doctrine
of the Otherworld gives no place to the theory of Rebirth, which is a
principal article of the Platonic and Pythagorean schools, and might
have been expected to occupy a prominent place in the Zoroastrian
eschatology, had this been moulded to any great extent by Greek
philosophy. In holding the finality of man’s lot after death, the
Persian doctrine agrees with that of the Jews, and, apparently, of the

However much, moreover, the elaborate dæmonic system contained in
the Avesta may be indebted to Neo-Platonism for its more spiritual
elements, it is neither certain nor probable that the substance of it
can be derived from the same source. The eschatology of the Avesta
contains much that cannot be referred to Neo-Platonic ideas, even
if it must be admitted that these were widely enough accepted, in
a sufficiently systematised form, at the date when the Avesta was
completed, while many parts of it exhibit both Indian and Chaldæan
analogies. It is enough, in this place, merely to refer to the Tree of
Life and the Waters of Life, to both of which Indian, and yet closer
Chaldæan, parallels exist; the mystical bird Karshipta, which is an
Indian myth; the Elysium of the Gods, which is little more than an
improvement on the Chaldæan Elysium; Mount Elborz, as the Persian
Holy Mountain, corresponding to the Indian Mount Meru; the World Sea,
which renews and purifies all created things, and is akin to the
ocean out of which a new world was churned by the Hindu gods. The
Var of Yima, as we have already seen, is the same as Yama’s blissful
realm. The divine beings which appear in the Avesta in the guise of
personified abstractions, are the deities of Aryan mythology travestied
presumably, according to the hypothesis, under Neo-Platonic influences.
So, apparently, the Amesha Spentas, whatever tincture of philosophic
culture they may have acquired through contact with Hellenistic
thought, were originally identical with the ‘Seven Magnificent
Deities,’ who were the Chaldæan Gods of the Elements. We have already
seen that the Seven Spirits of Earth were said to have their seats
on golden thrones in the midst of the Chaldæan Elysium, even as the
Amesha Spentas in the Avestan Heaven. Indeed, it is not necessary to
have recourse to Neo-Platonism to account for the vast hierarchies of
good and evil spirits which are found in the Avesta, and still more in
the books of the Rabbis. The Chaldæan mythology, of which both Jews
and Persians had undergone the influence long before their contact
with Hellenistic culture, was abundantly supplied in this respect.
Besides the seven principal deities (to whom, according to Lenormant,
seven malignant deities were opposed), Professor Sayce[70] alludes
to 50 great gods, 300 spirits of heaven, and 300 spirits of earth,
beside countless minor spirits of many kinds; while the later Assyrian
authorities, he says, raised the number of _great_ gods of heaven and
earth to 65,000.

Now the district occupied by the Jews during the captivity had been
a focus of the religion of Chaldæa, both in the Accado-Sumerian and
in the Semitic periods, and afterwards became an important part of
the Persian empire. The canonical books and the Apocrypha of the Old
Testament alike prove that close relations subsisted between the Jews
and both their Persian and Assyrian rulers, and exhibit traces of the
influence exercised by the latter upon the Jewish writers. Thus it
appears no rash assumption, that it is to these sources we must ascribe
the substance, at least, of those doctrines enunciated by the later
Jewish writers, for which there is no authority in the earlier writings
of their nation, but which correspond to ideas already existing among
nations with which they lived in close and intimate contact.

We have been discoursing at somewhat tedious length upon points which
may not appear to be directly relevant to our subject, seeing that the
Vision legend receives no development later than the very primitive
legends of Ishtâr and Gisdubar. Nevertheless, it is in the Chaldæan and
Persian religions that we find many of the notions and images which
furnished material to Jewish and Christian authors alike, when, under
Hellenistic influences, they took up the Vision legend as a vehicle
of instruction. Many of these conceptions continued to subsist in all
subsequent versions of the legend, even in its latest forms. It is now
time to take stock of what we have gained, and to note what features
of the Vision of Adamnán, though immediately derived by the author, as
we shall see later on, from the tradition current in the Church from
the earliest days of Christianity, or before it, correspond to similar
conceptions which exist in the Oriental tradition, while they are not
represented in the classical tradition, or, if in some cases they
may be found there, it is in a form which presents fewer and fainter
analogies to the later developments.

In the first place, the earliest Chaldæan legends already exhibit the
rudiments of that sevenfold division of the Heavens which was generally
adopted by Jewish and Christian writers alike, and ultimately received
the sanction of the scholastic divines. The science, if it can be
so called, of numbers is one of the most fertile of the many fields
which a perverted ingenuity has devoted to the assiduous cultivation
of tares, and hardly any number has been accredited with a greater
variety of significance than the number seven, by reason, doubtless,
of the primitive astronomical theory of the seven planets. Dante,
indeed, raised the number of heavens to ten, in accordance with the
astronomical system that had come to be adopted in his day, on the
authority of the ancient cosmologists, introduced to the mediæval
students through Arab channels; to the original seven planetary heavens
he added three others--the Heaven of fixed stars, the crystalline
Heaven, and the Empyrean. We may remark, in passing, that the Samoan
cosmology agrees with Dante in this tenfold division of the Heavens.
In the Chaldæan mythology this conception of a sevenfold division
occurs in germ only, but the Seven Magnificent Deities--the precursors
of the seven Amesha Spentas, and the seven Archangels of the Hebrew and
Christian divines--who preside over the several powers of nature, lend
themselves easily to the attribution of separate territories in the
celestial domain. The beginning of this phase is apparent in the seven
portals, each guarded by a porter, through which Ishtâr had to pass on
her way to the abode of the gods and of the dead, even as the spirit
of Adamnán had to pass through seven ‘Heavens,’ so-called, the door of
each being kept by an angelic warder; while the symbolism embodied in
the gradual spoliation of Ishtâr of her earthly raiment is analogous
to the gradual purgation of the soul from its earthly stains in the
Christian legend.

The idea of a Tree of Life growing in the spirit world is of wide
diffusion, and appears at an early date in the mythologies of the
Aryans, Semites, and Turanians alike, and the Hebrews in particular
needed not to have recourse for it to the mythology of either the
Chaldæans or Persians. Nevertheless several of the Rabbinical legends,
as, for instance, that of the journey of Seth to Paradise in the
Legend of the Death of Adam, deal with the subject, associating
with it the Waters of Life, in a manner less in agreement with the
Scriptural account than with the Chaldæan myth, which must have been
made familiar to the Jews during the captivity, not merely by oral
and written tradition but through the medium of the pictorial art
which would meet their eyes on every side, and in which this was a
favourite subject. In Christian legend, moreover, the Tree of Life in
Paradise is constantly introduced in connection with a mystical bird,
or birds, as in Adamnán’s Vision. The frequency of this association
may be explained in part by the great popularity in early Christian
symbolism of the Phœnix legend, in connection with the palm-tree and
the Tree of Life; nevertheless the birds of Christian legend differ in
several conspicuous respects from the traditional notion of the Phœnix,
and approach far more closely to the Karshipta, the sacred bird of the
Persians, adopted by them from the old Indo-Aryan mythology. This bird,
as we have seen, perched upon the sacred tree in Heaven, and he brought
the Avesta to the Var of Yima and preached it there, even as the birds
of Adamnán and other Christian writers sang the Hours in Paradise;
where, moreover, they are constantly associated with the preaching
of the Gospel by Enoch and Elias, who themselves exhibit some faint
analogies to Yima.

The World Sea at the foot of the Holy Mountain in the Avestan Paradise,
wherein all things defiled are cleansed and made new, reminds us of
that Crystal Sea which appears in the literature of the Christian
Church, and, in particular, is introduced with such magnificent effect
in the Book of the Revelation.[71]

The Avestan eschatology already contains the idea, unassociated with
that doctrine of rebirth by which it is accompanied in the philosophies
of India and Hellas alike, of a special temporary provision for the
souls of those mingled characters who are not yet fitted for an
eternity of either bliss or bale--an idea in accordance with the
teaching of the later Hebrew and the Christian divines, including the
author of the _Fis Adamnáin_; and as in their writings, so in the
Avesta, is that provisional state made to last until the destruction
of the corrupt world and the final reign of the good principle.

The guardian angel which the Jewish and Christian divines agree in
assigning to each individual soul, resembles, if it does not wholly
coincide with, the Fravashi of the Persians, which would seem to have
been a kind of spiritual double of the man, distinct, apparently, from
his own soul, yet not so entirely separate from him as if it had been a
higher spirit intrusted with the charge of him.

Thus the Jewish writers of the centuries immediately preceding our era
found ready to their hands a rich store of traditions relating to the
lot of man in the Otherworld, formed by the combination of Oriental
dogmas with the classical tradition in the forms in which this was
preserved in the Hellenistic schools of Asia. Before, however, we
proceed to trace the manner in which these blended traditions entered
into subsequent versions of the legend, it may not be superfluous to
ask what, if any, contributions were made by the remaining great centre
of ancient religion and culture, Egypt.

To this question it is difficult to reply with certainty. While one of
the great centres of the Neo-Judaic learning was the School of Babylon,
set in the very focus of the ancient Oriental creeds, minor centres
existed in every city of Syria and Asia Minor, in each one of which
a thriving Jewish colony applied itself eagerly to the absorption of
Hellenistic ideas and culture; but the centre, _par excellence_, of
Jewish learning in the West was the flourishing and cultured Jewish
community at Alexandria. However, the intellectual life of this school
drew its nutriment from Greece, and the whole tone and character of
its speculative philosophy, as of its literary culture, so far as
it was not Hebraic, was Hellenistic, not Egyptian, and possibly more
Hellenistic than Hebraic. At one time it was customary to refer the
mystical speculations of the philosophic schools, Pagan, Jewish, and
Christian alike, of the centuries in question, to the ‘wisdom of the
Egyptians,’ and to regard Alexandria as the mart, so to speak, where
ideas of Egyptian growth were exchanged for others of kindred nature
imported from Greece and Asia. It has now long been recognised that
this theory is true to a very limited extent only, and that Alexandria
was, in the main, a Grecian city, and indebted to Greece for the
origins of its learning and culture, whatever new developments these
assumed in the fertile soil to which they had been transplanted.
During the rule of the Ptolemies, and, afterwards, of the Romans,
the prevailing attitude of the Greek colonists was not altogether
unlike that of the English in India; they held themselves as a class
apart, and intermixed but little with the native population, for whose
religion and institutions they would seem to have often manifested
a contempt, in which, doubtless, ignorance had its share. At the
same time, we might err in the opposite direction by concluding that
Egyptian ideas wholly failed to influence those who lived and wrote
in such close proximity to the chief centres of Egyptian life. Even
in our own day, the philosophy of the Upanishads, and the teaching of
the Buddha, in however distorted a form, have crossed the pale which
divides East from West, and the pale between Egypt and Hellas was far
more pervious. Both nations professed a complex polytheism, with so
great a resemblance between the two pantheons, that even before the
time of Herodotus certain deities in the one had come to be regarded
as identical with their counterparts in the other;[72] the traditions
of the Greeks claimed an Egyptian origin for several of the national
gods and heroes; a belief that the Hellenic religion was indebted for
some of its more esoteric elements to the same source was expressed
by Plato, and had been held by his successors, and we have seen that
some of the most authoritative modern scholars accept this opinion
as well founded, however much they may differ as to the amount of
the debt. These circumstances would necessarily predispose the more
inquiring minds among the Alexandrian Greeks and Hellenised Hebrews, in
an age when speculation concerning the hidden things of life, and of
the life after death, was a subject of paramount interest, to examine
the theories which had been held on that subject by the nations, the
orgiastic and magical side of whose religions was offering just then
so powerful an attraction to the vulgar of the Hellenic world. Nor
are we without direct evidence of contact between the two systems of
thought. Ptolemy I. (abdicated 285 B.C.), acting partly under the
inspiration of Timotheus, an authority on the Eleusinian mysteries,
attempted to fuse the Greek and Egyptian cults into one eclectic
system.[73] The poet Callimachus, who held the post of librarian
(_c._ 260-240 B.C.) to Ptolemy Philadelphus and his son Euergetes,
acquired for the Alexandrian library Egyptian as well as Greek and
Hebrew books; and his successor in office, Eratosthenes, the astronomer
and geometrician, was also addicted to Egyptian studies. Indeed, the
Plutarchian treatise ‘On Isis and Osiris’ is one instance out of many
of the interest felt by cultivated Greeks in Egyptian beliefs, which
had long taken their place as parts of the popular cult in many places
in Greece and Asia.[74] On the other hand, the initiation of even a few
cultured Egyptians into Hellenic learning would suffice to further an
interchange of ideas between the two races.

In any case, the Egyptian eschatology offers many points of resemblance
to certain of the later Jewish beliefs, and to Christian doctrine.
Among these is a belief in the judgment to be passed on every soul
after death, whereby the wicked were condemned to be devoured by the
‘Eater of the Dead,’ while the righteous were led through a series of
perilous adventures to a region of perpetual happiness, where, in a
place surrounded by a wall of steel, they led an existence which is the
reproduction of a happy life on earth, conceived in the usual terms of
a pagan Elysium, with a due allowance of even the grosser pleasures.[75]

This resemblance extends to several points of detail. Among the trials
through which the soul must pass are enumerated rivers and atmospheres
of fire, and the assaults of demons and monsters; it is even affirmed,
in agreement with the teaching of certain Jewish Rabbis, and of the
early Christian divines, that all departed souls, good and bad alike,
must undergo these trials, but the good passed through them speedily,
and without pain. This, we have seen, is the teaching of the _Fis
Adamnáin_, and occurs, as we shall see, in other of the Christian

Indeed, the Rabbinical schools developed the Purgatorial theory to a
considerable extent. Thus, we find mention of seven lodges of Hell, one
below another, through which the soul had to pass successively, being
tormented on its way by fire, scourging, showers of hail, exposure to
alternate heat and cold, etc., until all its guilt was purged away.
This process finds its exact counterpart in the _Fis Adamnáin_, save
that the Rabbis called the seven stages or lodges Hells, instead of
Heavens, with at least equal propriety. The fundamental conception, and
also the nature of the sufferings endured by the dead in the course of
their purgation, are capable of being referred either to an Egyptian
or a Hellenic origin, though probably the latter assumption would be
correct; the seven successive lodges are evidently the amplification of
a Rabbinical tradition borrowed from the Chaldæan mythology.

As to the ultimate fate of the wicked, opinions were divided; some
of the Rabbis taught the final redemption of all, after undergoing
the necessary Purgatorial discipline; the school of Shammai held that
at the Judgment mankind would be divided into three categories--the
good, the bad, and those of mixed character, and that the last would
be cleansed by Purgatorial sufferings.[76] The germs of this threefold
division are contained both in the Avestan and the Platonic doctrines.
The Kabbalists even had an inkling of the Treasury of Merits of the
Saints, to whom they accorded the privilege of covering with their
garments, and bringing up to Heaven with themselves, those sinners who
had repented before death, but too late to make expiation. Here, too,
we have a conception which recurs in the _Fis Adamnáin_ and elsewhere,
namely, the special provision for tardy penitents, though in the
Christian Visions the mode of their redemption is different.

It is thus difficult to assign with certainty to the Egyptian religion
any specific article of the eschatology of the later Jewish and
early Christian writers; nevertheless, it does not follow that their
contact with that religion was without effect in determining the shape
which their eschatology actually assumed. It must be remembered that
speculations of the kind which characterised the Orphic, Platonic,
Pythagorean, and Neo-Platonic schools were not the only forms in which
Greek thought entered into the intellectual evolution of that age. In
the prevailing welter of Eastern creeds and Western philosophies, all
the principal philosophic schools of Greece were represented, and, in
particular, the Stoics and Epicureans exercised an influence both wide
and deep.[77] If, then, the class of ideas to which it is convenient to
give the general name, Neo-Platonic, obtained so complete an ascendency
in the evolution of Judaic and Christian eschatology, the presumption
is that this result was largely owing to the affinity of Neo-Platonism
with the Oriental creeds with whose doctrines and mythology Neo-Judaic
speculation was so deeply imbued; and if, moreover, this speculation
differed from Neo-Platonism in certain fundamental points wherein it
agreed with the Oriental doctrines, the presumption is no less strong
that it owed its original trend in this direction to the forces by
which it was moulded in pre-Hellenistic times, and that such trend
would be confirmed by subsequent contact with any school of thought
in which similar views were prevalent.[78] The most important point
wherein the eschatology of the orthodox Rabbinical schools differed
from that of the Greek mythical philosophies was the rejection by the
former of the doctrine of rebirth, which predominated, though not to
the absolute exclusion of the doctrine of finality, in the teaching of
the mystical schools from the seventh century B.C. at latest.

In this respect, as we have seen, the philosophy no less than the
religion of the Jews was mainly in accord with the views held by
the Chaldæans, both Accadian and Semitic, and taught by the Avesta.
In this view they would be further confirmed if, in the Alexandrian
period, they fell under the influence of the native Egyptian religion,
as distinguished from the later syncretism wherein that religion had
become blended with allegories and orgiastic rites pertaining to
Asiatic myths and Greek theosophy. Egypt, indeed, was formerly regarded
as the very home of the doctrine of rebirth; it would appear, however,
that the doctrine of the ancient Egyptian religion was of a directly
contrary import. The idea of transformation, indeed, was familiar to
it, but this is a different thing from transmigration, and Mr. Le Page
Renouf states most emphatically that although the beatified spirit
received powers which enabled him to visit any part of the universe in
any form, the sentence pronounced at the judgment was final, and the
soul was neither purged nor punished by a renewed life on earth.[79]
This contradiction between the doctrine of rebirth which prevailed in
the Greek mysteries, and the Egyptian dogma of the eternity of man’s
lot after judgment, lends support to the contention, referred to in the
previous section, that the ethical and eschatological sides of Greek
religion were in great part of native development, however much the
mystical schools may have been indebted to foreign influences in their

Having thus got rid of a discussion which, however tedious, appeared
necessary in order to make us understand whence and of what kind
were the non-Hellenic and non-Scriptural elements which entered into
subsequent developments of the Vision Legend, we now come to the
concrete forms which that legend assumed in the Jewish and the early
Christian Churches. In tracing the progress of the legend in these two
Churches, it seems convenient to deal with the whole subject together
in the following section, for not only do the principal Jewish examples
which have reached us contain additions made to them in Christian
times, but the versions belonging respectively to the two eras are
practically homogeneous, alike in their fundamental doctrines, and, for
the most part, in their method of treatment.


A Vision of the Otherworld was a favourite subject with the writers of
the apocryphal books of the Jews. In the oldest of these, the so-called
Book of Enoch, which is also the oldest non-pagan book of this class
that has come down to us, the subject is treated at greater length and
with more elaborate detail than in any other contribution to the Vision
legend prior to the _Commedia_. The last quarter of the second century
B.C. has been assigned as the most probable date of the greater part
of it, though in its present form it evidently contains post-Christian
additions. Quoted in the Epistle of St. Jude (vv. 14-15), and known
to the early Christians, it was long believed to have disappeared
at a subsequent date, and was only recovered in recent times in an
Ethiopian version, from which it has been repeatedly translated with

It relates, with copious detail, how the seer was caught up by a
vehement wind and upraised to Heaven, where he was taken in charge
by the Archangel Michael, who revealed to him Hell and Paradise, the
mysteries of nature and of revelation, and the life to come. In the
general scope of his work the author anticipates Dante in several
particulars which are not common to the Vision writers in general. He
pays much attention to topographical detail in his descriptions of
Hell, for which he takes the Valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, as his
model; but although the accuracy of his description has been attested
by several travellers who have surveyed the valley, he is far from
manifesting the precision and visualising power of the Florentine. Like
Dante, moreover, he discusses various points of theology, and delivers
long dissertations upon natural philosophy and the physical scheme of
the universe. Here, too, he is vague and indistinct, as also in his
description of the future state of the lost, wherein he displays none
of Dante’s symmetry and orderly arrangement. We may note several points
of detail wherein the _Vision of Enoch_ resembles the _Fis Adamnáin_ or
other of the Christian Visions. The Archangel Michael already appears
as the guide to the other world (c. 71); the infernal regions are swept
by whirlwinds and traversed by rivers of fire, in one of which the
fallen spirits are immersed until the carnal lusts of all such as are
capable of redemption are burnt away (c. 67), though there is also a
place wherein the wicked are bound and punished eternally (c. 22).
Heaven is described as a city of crystal surrounded by a crystal wall,
a river of vibrating fire flowing round about it (c. 13).

Upon entering in, Enoch came to a spacious mansion, built of crystal
and with a crystal floor, surrounded by a flame as hot as fire and as
cold as ice.[81] After this, he came to another mansion, resembling
the first, but surpassing it in all respects. Rivers of fire issued
from out of it; in the midst of it a throne was set, whereon One sat
in glory, clad in a robe brighter than the sun, and whiter than the
snow (c. 14). Further, Enoch was instructed at length by his guide as
to the significance of many parts of the Old Testament record, and
was taken to view the several heavens, the heavenly bodies, and the
universe in general, the nature and motions of which were explained to
him by the Archangel. He was conducted to Sheol, the temporary abode of
departed souls until Judgment, which is situated in the West (c. 17),
and was shown a mountain which was reserved for the life that shall be
after God’s coming. Hereon stood the Tree of Life, which was to afford
sustenance to the righteous of its fruit and fragrance (cc. 24-5). In a
second vision, the last things and other divine mysteries were revealed
to him by means of parables. In his Vision of Judgment he beheld,
first, the spirits of the guilty stars condemned; after them, the
unfaithful shepherds that misled the sheep, and then the wicked sheep
themselves; after which he beheld a mansion greater than the former,
supported on ivory pillars, wherein were assembled the sheep that were
saved (c. 89).

Here we find the Vision legend brought to a high stage of development,
and containing many features which recur throughout the whole course of
the Vision literature. In several of these traces of an Oriental origin
are apparent. Similar creations of the Rabbinical imagination occur
in various writings belonging to the earlier centuries of our era,
which, though composed in Christian times, and in some cases claiming
a place among the sacred books of the Christian Church, embody Jewish
traditions. Of such was the tradition current in those centuries, and
quoted in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus (Part II. c. 19), relating
how Adam, when at the point of death, despatched Seth to the gate of
Paradise in quest of the oil of the Tree of Life, or ‘Tree of Mercy,’
wherein, as before noted, we have a variant of Ishtâr’s visit to Hades
in quest of the Waters of Life.

The Fourth Book of Esdras, as it is numbered in the Vulgate, the
Second in the Authorised Version, though included in the Biblical Old
Testament Apocrypha, was nevertheless composed in Christian times and
to some extent under Christian influences, being written probably in
the third quarter of the first century A.D., though by some it is dated
so late as the first quarter of the third century. The Vision of Esdras
therein contained is apocalyptic in character, being a prophecy of
the end of the world, the speedy coming of which was generally looked
for. It is therefore not properly an instance of our legend, but it
calls for mention in this place, as it contains certain conceptions
derived through Hebrew tradition from Chaldæan or Persian sources, and
transmitted to the eschatological literature of the Christian Church.
The angel Uriel[82] showed to Esdras a great multitude assembled
on Mount Sion, and told him that these were ‘they that have put off
the mortal clothing and have put on the immortal, and have confessed
the name of God; now are they crowned, and receive palms.’ Several
earlier passages furnish good examples of Persian or Babylonian myths
converted, so to speak, and since adopted into the conventional imagery
of Christian eschatology. ‘They shall have the Tree of Life for an
ointment of sweet savour’; ‘I have sanctified and prepared for them
twelve trees laden with divers fruits, and as many fountains flowing
with milk and honey, and seven mighty mountains whereon there grow
roses and lilies.’[83]

The name of Esdras is also attached to one of the apocryphal books
of the early Christian Church, the _Vision of Esdras_, which relates
how Esdras was led by Michael, Gabriel, and thirty-four other angels
through the realms of darkness, wherein the punishments meted out to
the wicked are revealed to him, and then to Paradise, where he sees
Enoch and Elias, Peter, Paul, Moses, the Evangelists and Patriarchs,
and all the righteous, assembled beneath the Tree of Life.

Another vision of Christian composition, but likewise fathered upon
an Old Testament prophet, is the _Vision of Isaiah_, the second part
of which, written in the third century A.D., relates a visit of that
prophet to the seven Heavens.

However, at an earlier date than that of the works just named, the
subject had already formed the theme of writings professedly Christian
in aim and origin. The spread of Christianity, which, of its very
nature, kept men’s thoughts bent upon the contemplation of the future
life, was naturally attended by an increased production of works
descriptive of the other world and of man’s lot therein. No very great
contributions to the subject are made by the Canonical Scriptures,
which vouchsafe us but little direct information concerning the future
life. St. Paul, indeed, relates how he was caught up to the third
Heaven, and there ‘heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful
for a man to utter’;[84] but no intimation concerning his experiences
there are given us, and although the passage quoted doubtless accounted
for his subsequent inclusion among those to whom the next world had
been revealed, all details of his vision are due to the legendary
narratives referred to hereafter. St. Jude (Ep. v. 6) refers to the
rebellious angels who are kept ‘in everlasting chains under darkness
unto the judgment of the great day’; and St. Peter (II. iii. 7-12),
speaks of a general purification by fire, but neither reveals anything
concerning the state of man in the life to come. Even the Revelation of
St. John, while standing far above the level of all other apocalyptic
writings, as in other respects, so in the grandeur of conception and
beauty of execution wherewith the author describes the celestial
kingdom, would appear to have made but slight impression, save by an
added richness of imagery, upon the subsequent course of the Vision
legend. This, possibly, may be because the author treats his subject
from the millennary point of view, taking for his theme rather the
tribulations which were coming upon the world, and the establishment of
a new heaven and a new earth in place of the old, than the condition
of individual souls after death, or the places of their eternal abode.
At the same time, he makes use of some of that Oriental imagery which
had already obtained a place in the Hebrew writings, canonical and
apocryphal alike, and thereby contributed to its naturalisation in the
eschatological writings of the Church.[85]

The earlier centuries of our era were for the Græco-Roman world a
period not merely of a general feeling of unrest, consequent upon the
collapse of the older religions, and the social changes resulting
from a long series of revolutions, but also of vigorous attempts at
reconstruction, in which both the ends aimed at, and the methods
adopted for their attainment--preaching, teaching, asceticism,
mystic symbolism, etc.--were closely akin to those of the Christian
propaganda; indeed, it was no uncommon thing for a seeker in religion,
drifting about from one sect or cult to another, to take Christianity
in his way, thus keeping open an additional channel by which Pagan and
Christian ideas were brought to bear upon one another. Throughout all
these ages speculations were rife, for which was claimed the authority
of Orpheus, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Heraclitus, or some other of the
ancient mystics or philosophers, and all of these, conjoined with
the similar beliefs held by the later Stoics in many varying forms,
tended to foster the Church’s expectation of the approaching end of the
world. This theory derived further support from the great authority
ascribed to the so-called Sibylline books, a long series of forgeries
extending, probably, from the end of the second century B.C. to the
fourth century of our era, if not later, containing a chaotic mass of
prophecies and oracles, to which Judaism, Christianity, and Hellenic
mysticism had all added their quota, and in which the proximate
destruction of the world by fire, and the renewal of things, is a
constantly recurring idea.

Another of the many causes which kept men’s minds directed towards the
Otherworld was the legend, current in the Church from the earliest
times, and surviving far into the Middle Ages,[86] of the ‘Harrowing
of Hell’ by Our Lord in the interval between the Burial and the
Resurrection. One of the earliest versions of this legend occurs in
Part II. of the so-called _Gospel of Nicodemus_, Greek text, which
relates how He ‘raised many of the dead, who appeared unto many in
Jerusalem,’ and then described Christ’s descent into Hades, which
had been preceded by a visit of St. John Baptist, who came to the
Old Testament prophets, among whom Enoch and Elijah are especially
mentioned, and expounded to them the Christian Revelation.

From the contemplation of the end of the world to speculation
concerning the world to come, and the state of the departed spirits
there, was but a step. Accordingly, as is but natural, many of the
teeming crop of apocryphal Gospels, Acts, and Revelations which sprang
up during the earlier ages of the Church are composed with a distinctly
eschatological purpose.

Midway between these apocryphal writings and the canonical books of
the New Testament stands the _Shepherd of Hermas_, which is commonly
placed among the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, and was formerly
ascribed to that Hermas to whom St. Paul sends greeting in his Epistle
to the Romans (xvi. 14), but is now regarded as a production of the
latter part of the second century, being the work, possibly, of Hermas,
brother of Pius, who occupied the see of Rome from 140 to 155 A.D.[87]
From an early date this work enjoyed a high repute in the Eastern
Church, being admitted by some writers, including the author of the
Canon of Muratori, to a place among the canonical books. Whether we
regard its general plan, or the machinery by which it is carried out,
it occupies a place by itself among the Christian Visions of the
Otherworld, and is peculiarly interesting to the Dante student as
affording a remarkably early instance, possibly an unique instance in
ecclesiastical literature, of that idea, perceived by Plato, and lying
at the root of the _Commedia_--to wit, the elevation of the human
spirit, through the highest form of human love, to the perception of
Divine truth.

In the opening of his narrative, Hermas tells how he had been
acquainted, in his earliest life, with a young slave girl, the property
of one by whom he himself had been brought up. Subsequently, this girl
was sold by her master in Rome, but Hermas met her again in after-life,
and conceived for her a fraternal affection, which ultimately, as one
day he saw her bathing in the Tiber, ripened into love, and he desired
her for his wife, ‘both for her beauty and for her disposition.’ Some
time after, as he was walking in a lonely place, ‘musing on these
thoughts, he began to honour this creature of God, thinking with
himself how noble and beautiful she was.’[88] While musing thus, he
was caught up by the spirit, and borne beyond a rocky place impassable
to man. Falling upon his knees he began to confess his sins, when he
saw the heavens open, and the object of his desire appear therein and
greet him. In reply to his questioning, she explained that she had been
brought thither that she might accuse him before the Lord on account
of the thoughts he had entertained concerning her, though these would
scarcely appear to have been such as to merit the reproaches she
bestowed on Hermas by reason of them. So Hermas thought, and maybe
the damsel thought so too, for after hearing his reply she smiled
upon him as she vanished. Thereupon the heavens closed, but, after a
while, Hermas saw before him a chair of whitest wool, in which an old
woman took her seat, having a book in her hand. She accosted Hermas,
and imparted to him certain moral admonitions, but these were mostly
confined in their application to himself and to the government of his

Other visions were subsequently vouchsafed to Hermas, making four in
all; the third of these contained a revelation of the building up
of the Church Triumphant, and the fourth announced the tribulations
which were to come upon the Church, and the final salvation of those
who should endure unto the end. The second part of the work consists
of ‘Commands,’[89] and the third of ‘Similitudes,’ all imparted to
Hermas by Divine revelation. Certain of the similitudes contain visions
wherein Hermas was shown the _corrective_ punishment of sinners, the
edification of the Church Triumphant, and the various classes into
which the guilty and the righteous are divided, together with the
diverse manner in which these fare respectively. All this, however, is
intended rather for an allegory of the soul’s progress through this
world, than for a picture of its state in the world to come; in fine,
the vision is more closely akin to the _Pilgrim’s Progress_ than to
the _Commedia_, though it deserves a place in our series, alike as
containing a curious anticipation of the most highly developed form
to which the legend afterwards attained, and as connecting the legend
with the familiar notion of the later Jewish and the early Christian
Churches, that when the other oracles of paganism were silenced, the
Sibyls were left to proclaim the advent of the Messiah, and the trials
and triumph of His Church. For it is impossible not to recognise in
the old woman with a book in her hand, in the first vision of Hermas,
the traits of an ancient Sibyl; and for such, indeed, Hermas took
her, until she told him that she was a personification of the Church.
The simple affection, not wanting in elevation, which the hero of the
opening story felt for the heroine--one at least being of the servile
class--is interesting as affording a glimpse of that kindly social
life of which there are many evidences during the first centuries of
the Empire, in all grades of society, from the aristocratic circles of
Pliny and Thrasea down to the slave community itself, however much
it is apt to be thrown into the background by the tyranny and crime,
vulgar ostentation and base lusts, that occupied the front of the scene
during that period.

Several of the apocryphal books show a great advance in the theory
of retributive justice in the future life. The so-called _Apocalypse
of St. Peter_ is known to have existed in Syria and Egypt before the
middle of the second century, and to have been admitted by several of
the Fathers into the Canon, side by side with the Book of Revelation.
Paradise is here described in much the same manner as the Greek
Elysium--as a radiant place, full of flowers, fruit, and sweet odours,
etc. The pains of Hell are set out with a more than common minuteness,
and with a greater attention to a kind of _lex talionis_, so to speak,
whereby the nature of the punishment is analogous to that of the crime,
than is found in most of the Christian descriptions prior to Dante.
Hell is represented as a place full of lakes of fire and burning mud,
over which those who had blasphemed ‘the way of righteousness’ are
suspended by their tongues, and adulterers by the hair, while in them
wallow the perverters of righteousness. Blasphemers gnawed their lips,
and had red-hot iron over their eyes; false witnesses had tongues of
fire in their mouths, which they kept on chewing; rich misers, in
filthy rags, rolled upon red-hot pebbles, sharper than sword or spit;
usurers stood up to their knees in pitch, blood, and boiling mire;
those guilty of unnatural crimes were hurled from a cliff and driven up
again, to be again cast down.

A similar vision of the Otherworld, though differing in plan and in
many details, is contained in the _Revelation of St. Paul_, written
about the year 380 A.D. Apparently the author of the _Fis Adamnáin_ had
this work in his mind when referring in ch. 2 to the Revelation that
had been vouchsafed to St. Paul, for the Apostle’s own mention of his
Vision of the Third Heaven contains no description of the Otherworld.
Moreover, it is impossible not to be struck by the resemblance between
the Irish author’s description of the manner in which the souls were
received upon their arrival at the seventh Heaven (ch. 19), and the
corresponding account in the _Apocalypse of St. Paul_: ‘And the good
angels who had received the soul of the righteous man saluted it, as
being well known to them,’ etc.[90] And so of the judgments passed upon
the sinners in like manner. There are also several details given by the
apocryphal writer concerning the pains of Hell, which are repeated in
a closely similar form in the _Fis Adamnáin_: _e.g._ the immersion of
some of the wicked in a murky river, the imprisonment of others in a
brazen wall wrapt in flames, etc.

The theme was treated, with more or less fulness, by several writers
of the Eastern Church, but our task does not involve the enumeration
of all the forms in which it appeared, and the versions already
quoted would seem to be those which treated it most elaborately, and
exercised the greatest influence upon later developments. Indeed the
two Visions last mentioned, being specially referred to by the author
of the _Fis Adamnáin_ among the instances of revelations formerly
vouchsafed to holy men, may be regarded as landmarks showing the course
of the tradition. For the same reason, some mention should be made
here of another of those instances, alluded to by the author in the
same place, though it really belongs rather to the apocalyptic than
to the Otherworld class of writings, namely, the group of apocryphal
books dealing with what is known as the _Transitus Mariæ_. The oldest
of these, the _Falling Asleep of Mary_, by John, Archbishop of
Thessalonica at the end of the seventh century, was formerly ascribed
to St. John the Evangelist, and Tischendorf thinks that it was really
derived from a treatise bearing the name of St. John, and written
in the fourth century at latest, which enjoyed a wide popularity in
both East and West, and was translated into several languages. The
several versions differ much in matters of detail, but the substance is
practically the same.[91]

It relates how it was the Virgin’s practice to frequent the Holy
Sepulchre, there to pray alone, until at length it was announced to
her in a vision that the time of her earthly life was accomplished.
Thereupon the apostles were all caught up from the most remote parts of
the earth, where they then were, even those who were dead being raised
from their graves and brought to Bethlehem, whence they proceeded to
the Virgin’s house in Jerusalem in time to be present at her death, and
to receive her benediction. They laid her in a new tomb in Gethsemane,
and witnessed her assumption, at which time the Heavenly Host appeared
to them, and the Holy Spirit prophesied to them concerning the last

In the descriptions of the Otherworld contained in the foregoing
visions, the imagery employed evinces a blending of Hebraic traditions
with materials obtained from Hellenic sources. The elements
attributable to the latter source pertain rather to the popular faith
and to the doctrines taught in the ancient mysteries--which, most
likely, were fundamentally identical--than to the speculations of the
Neo-Platonic schools, or to the cults which had been adopted from the
East. This, indeed, is what might have been looked for, from the fact
that Christianity received its earliest and most numerous recruits
from the people at large,[92] among whom the old beliefs continued to
exist. The moral teaching which, as mentioned in an earlier section,
was an important feature of the Eleusinian mysteries, retained its
importance long after Greece had ceased to be the centre of Hellenic
thought throughout the countries which had come under the sway of
Hellenic civilisation. In the last century of the Roman Republic Cicero
lauds the mysteries, which, by their refining influences, had civilised
minds previously rustical and savage, had imparted the true principles
of life, and had taught the way, not only to live with joy, but to die
with better hope.[93] In the first century of the Empire, Plutarch
reminds his wife of the instruction they had shared at their initiation
into the mysteries.[94] Indeed, at that period, it would seem to have
been looked upon as an impiety to withhold oneself from initiation,
that might even be visited with a criminal prosecution. The experiences
of Demonax, as related by Lucian, furnish a case in point.

Equally great, at least, was the vitality retained by the popular
belief in the Stygian river, and the pains of Tartarus that awaited
the wicked. There is evidence to show that in the classical and
post-classical ages of Greece it was accepted as an article of the
national creed. Its persistence at a later date is attested by the
vehemence of the onslaught which Lucretius made upon it, for, with due
allowance for exaggeration, he could scarcely regard it as an incubus,
an ever-present terror, weighing down and darkening men’s lives, an
Upas-tree which it was philosophy’s noblest work to uproot, unless it
had met with very general and very convinced acceptance in his day.
Seneca, indeed, states that in his time the belief was rejected even
by children, and herein he is corroborated by other writers; we must
conclude, however, that the children in question were exceptionally
enlightened--the Roman prototypes of Macaulay’s schoolboy--for in the
same century Plutarch, and in the following century Lucian, attests the
vigorous survival of the old doctrine.[95]

On the whole we may say that in the descriptions of Paradise, with the
Tree of Life, the companies of Old Testament worthies, etc., Hebrew
ideas generally predominated, while the Greek Tartarus furnished most
of the ideas of the Christian Hell. These ideas, however, did not
include the doctrine of rebirth, which was so prominent a feature in
the Greek mystic cults. Indeed, the literature of the Vision of the
Otherworld appears to have belonged, in the main, to the orthodox
portion of the Church, avoiding, on the one hand, everything pertaining
to the popular cults of Isis, Serapis, Mithra, the Magna Mater, and
other fashionable Oriental deities, and, on the other hand, taking
from Hellenic beliefs only such as were in harmony with the general
character of the Christian faith, little attracted by the Neo-Platonic
theories of emanations, æons, and the like, which did so much to mould
the Gnostic and other heresies.

It would seem that the Vision of the Otherworld never acquired the
same importance in the Western Church as in the East; nevertheless,
several of the Western fathers report similar cases, many of which,
it is probable, already existed in popular tradition. One of these,
related by St. Augustine, tells how a certain Curina, a native of
Hippo, died, but, as the condition of his body suggested that he was
merely in a trance, his friends delayed the burial for some days. At
length, however, the funeral was about to take place, when the corpse
returned to life, and told his friends that he had really died, but, as
he was being brought up for judgment, it was discovered that the Angel
of Death had mistaken him for another Curina, a blacksmith, who dwelt
in the same neighbourhood. Accordingly, after being favoured with a
vision of Paradise, our Curina was dismissed with a caution to mend his
ways, and present himself to St. Augustine for baptism, both of which
commands he obeyed.

The correspondence of St. Gregory the Great contains several instances
of a similar kind. One of these preserves the experiences of a man of
Constantinople, Stephen by name, which were much the same as those
of Curina, he having received the fatal summons in place of another
Stephen, who too was a blacksmith. Stephen, like Curina, was restored
to the body, after receiving a vision, in his case, of Hell.

A fundamental difference is apparent between the Visions just
recorded, and those composed in the Eastern Church, these constituting
a specific form of composition of which the primary object was to
present a picture of the next world, while the Western fathers
would appear merely to have introduced, by way of apologue, a
current religious folk-tale. If a folk-tale, it was probably widely
diffused, for both the above stories are evidently versions of one
original--the scene of the first being placed at Hippo, of the second
at Constantinople. Both have much in common with Plutarch’s story of
Thespesios, and nothing is more probable than that all were variants
of a folk-tale current in antiquity--long before Plato, as likely as
not, for he too introduces the story of Er as a floating tradition--and
receiving at the hands of Plutarch and the Christian fathers
embellishments proper to their respective creeds. Moreover, in both
stories the persons who ought to have died were blacksmiths, members of
a trade which, by an obvious association of ideas, has always appeared
in popular mythology in a somewhat sinister light. The blunder of the
Angel of Death in bringing the wrong person up for judgment, is one
of the motives which frequently recur in the innumerable comic tales
of Hell and Judgment which enjoyed much favour in the Middle Ages,
and some of which are enshrined in the _Ingoldsby Legends_ for the
delectation of late-born men.

Elsewhere, however, in another of his epistles, St. Gregory records
a vision which conforms more closely to the literary type. A certain
soldier fell into a trance, and saw a bridge spanning a foul, smoky,
stinking river, beyond which fair meadows lay, fresh and flowery,
and goodly companies of folk walking therein clad in white apparel.
Over the bridge a procession of the dead were passing, of whom the
righteous crossed successfully, and joined the companies that were
already in the _prata beata_ that lay beyond; the wicked fell into
the river. Then the soldier recognised the aforesaid Stephen, who had
since died finally, and was now endeavouring to cross the bridge; his
foot slipped, and as he was hanging over the edge, certain grisly
forms seized upon him, and endeavoured to drag him down, while white
and radiant beings strove to bear him up. The issue is left undecided.
The explanation of this incident was that Stephen had been liberal
in almsgiving, but was addicted to sins of the flesh. Here we have a
connecting link, passing on to the Irish school the bridge incident,
belonging to Oriental myth, having first appeared in Chinvât bridge
of the Avesta. St. Gregory likewise perpetuates the ‘tug of war’ for
possession of the doubtful soul, which also first appears in the
Persian books. Like St. Gregory, Adamnán’s chronicler shows the parlous
state of the kindly but carnal souls, though his robuster charity
pronounces decidedly for their ultimate redemption (_F. A._, c. 27).

In the land beyond the river were many fair mansions; one of these was
then in course of construction, being built of golden bricks, which
were the good works of the destined occupant; and they who brought the
bricks were the persons whom he had befriended.

St. Gregory also relates the case of one Peter, a Spanish monk, who
had died and gone to Hell, where he saw the torments of the wicked,
and among them many who had lived in this world in greatness and high
repute, and were then hanging in the flames. Peter was about to be
thrown in himself, when an angel rescued him and sent him back to the
body, with a caution.

It is certain that the earlier Middle Ages, as well as the later,
possessed many stories dealing with the Otherworld, alike in form
of the folk-tale and of the religious apologue. Probably, too, an
examination of the ecclesiastical writers of the period would disclose
examples of the treatment of the legend as a distinct class of literary
composition, like the foregoing instances. Nevertheless, no important
contribution to the subject appears to have been made, nor any new
departure taken, until the legend entered upon a fresh course on Irish


While the Christian Church of Teutonic England owed its existence,
in the main, to the missionary enterprise of Rome, the much older
Celtic Churches, and notably the Church of Ireland, were more closely
connected with Gaul and the East. It was to Gaul that Ireland was
mainly indebted for its original conversion, and the intercourse
between the two countries remained close and unbroken. But the Church
in the south of Gaul--and it was the south alone that preserved any
considerable culture, or displayed missionary activity, in the earlier
Middle Ages--had from the very first been closely in touch with the
Churches in the East. The great monastery of Lerins, in which St.
Patrick is said to have studied, was founded from Egypt, and for many
centuries the Egyptian Church continued to manifest a lively interest
in Gallic matters. Indeed, not only Lerins, but Marseilles, Lyons, and
other parts of Southern Gaul maintained a constant intercourse with
both Egypt and Syria, with the natural result that many institutions of
the Gallic Church, despite its increasing subjection to Rome, dating
from the year 244, bore the impress of Oriental influences.[96] Hence
the close relations with Gaul maintained by the Irish churchmen and
scholars necessarily brought them into contact with their Egyptian and
Syrian brethren, and with the ideas and practices which prevailed in
their respective Churches.

Nor was Ireland’s connection with the East confined to the intermediary
of Gaul. Irish pilgrimages to Egypt continued until the end of the
eighth century, and Dicuil records a topographical exploration of
that country made by two Irishmen, Fidelis and his companion.[97]
Documentary evidence is yet extant, proving that even homekeeping
Irishmen were not debarred from all acquaintance with the East. The
Saltair na Rann[98] contains an Irish version of the _Book of Adam and
Eve_, a work written in Egypt in the fifth or sixth century, of which
no mention outside of Ireland is known. Adamnán’s work, _De Locis
Sanctis_, already referred to, contains an account of the monastery
on Mount Thabor, which might stand for the description of an Irish
monastic community of his day. Indeed, the whole system both of the
anchoretic and the cœnobitic life in Ireland corresponds closely to
that which prevailed in Egypt and Syria; the monastic communities,
consisting of groups of detached huts or bee-hive cells, enclosed
within a general wall, the structure of the cells, and of the other
earliest examples of Irish ecclesiastical architecture, all suggest
a Syrian origin; and Dr. G. T. Stokes holds that ‘the Irish schools
were most probably modelled after the forms and rules of the Egyptian

But it was not only Egyptian and Syrian influences to which Ireland was
subjected by its intercourse with Southern Gaul. The civilisation of
that country was essentially Greek, and so remained for many centuries
after the Christian era; and this circumstance no doubt contributed to
the well-known survival of Greek learning in the Irish schools, long
after it had almost perished in the rest of Western Europe. It is not
to be supposed that this learning was characterised by accuracy of
scholarship, or by a wide acquaintance with classical literature; but
neither was it always restricted to a mere smattering of the language,
or to passages and quotations picked up at second-hand. Johannes Scotus
Erigena translated the works of the pseudo-Areopagite; Dicuil and
Firghil (Virgilius, Bishop of Salzburg), studied the Greek books of
science; Homer, Aristotle, and other classical authors were known to
some of the Irish writers; several of the Irish divines were acquainted
with the Greek fathers and other theological works. Nor were the Greeks
in person unknown to Ireland. Many Greek clerics had taken refuge
there during the Iconoclast persecution, and left traces which were
recognisable in Ussher’s day; and the old poem on the Fair of Carman
makes mention of the Greek merchants who resorted thither.

It is thus apparent that the Irish writers possessed ample means of
becoming acquainted with the traditions, both oral and written, of the
Greek and Eastern Churches. The knowledge thus acquired extended to the
Apocalyptic Visions referred to in the preceding section, as is proved
by internal evidence furnished by the Irish Visions, both by way of
direct reference, and by the nature of their contents. It remains to
see how far the predilection which the Irish writers manifested for
this class of literature, and the special characteristics which it
assumed in their hands, may have been determined by their familiarity
with analogous ideas already existing in their national literature.

At the period in question, the traditional literature of Ireland
would appear to have entered into the national life to no less a
degree than in Greece itself. Indeed, in certain respects, it was
still more closely interwoven with the habits of the people and the
framework of society than in Greece, for the literary profession
was provided for by a public endowment, something like that of an
established National Church, and its professors constituted a body
organised by law, and occupying a recognised position in the State.
One of the most marked characteristics of early Irish civilisation,
in its every branch, was an exaggerated tendency towards symmetrical
classification and multiplicity of detail. This tendency extended
to the social system, and the earliest records of ancient Ireland
that have come down to us show that society was arranged according
to a very elaborate scheme of ranks and classes,[100] among which
the literary profession was remarkable alike for the number of its
members, and for the consideration in which they were held. It was
divided into several distinct orders, each of which was specially
addicted to its own department of study, and of these the place of
greatest honour and dignity belonged to the Filid, who combined with
other functions the special duty of preserving and transmitting the
national traditions.[101] The order of the Filid was further subdivided
into seven ranks or degrees, graduated according to the attainments
which their respective members were required to possess. For all,
however, a knowledge of the romantic literature of their country was
an indispensable qualification--the Árd-Ollamh, the chief of the
order, being required to know two hundred and fifty _prím-scéla_,
or principal stories, and one hundred of secondary importance; and
so on in a descending scale through the inferior degrees of the
literary hierarchy. These tales, in turn, were likewise grouped,
with all the precision of a scientific classification, according to
their subject-matter.[102] Two lists are extant giving the titles of
the several kinds; the elder, preserved in the Book of Leinster, is
ascribed by M. d’Arbois de Jubainville to the seventh century, or, at
latest, the beginning of the eighth century. They are classed under the
headings of _Catha_, battles; _Longasa_, travels (in exile); _Imrama_,
voyages (voluntary); _Tógbála_, conquests; _Tóglasi_, destructions;
_Airgne_, slaughters; _Forbasa_, sieges; _Oitti_, tragic fates;
_Tána_, forays; _Tochmarca_, wooings; _Uatha_, [adventures in] caves;
_Eachtra_, deeds, adventures; _Sluaigheadha_, hostings or expeditions;
to which are to be added _Fessa_, banquets; _Aithidi_, elopements;
_Serca_, love-stories; _Tomadma_, irruptions or invasions (of recent
date); _Tocomlada_, colonies; _Físi_, visions. The subjects of these
tales were taken from the national history or mythology, or, oftener
still may be, from that traditionary lore which forms a debatable
ground between the two. Many of them were more esteemed as authorities
for tribal history or genealogy than upon their purely literary merit,
though in others the imaginative element is as frankly recognised as in
a historical novel by Scott or Dumas.

The romantic literature of Ireland reached its height about the time of
the greatest activity of the Irish Church, and the sacred and secular
schools did not fail to exercise a mutual influence, for the Irish
clergy by no means despised these relics of Paganism: they possessed
a large share of that wise tolerance which we find in many of the
great clerics of the Middle Ages, who did not desire the destruction
of all the associations that had twined themselves about the lives
of the people, but rather to enlist them into the service of the new
faith.[103] Two classes of the Irish tales were specially adapted for
ecclesiastical treatment, and being thus brought into contact with
the general literature of mediæval Europe, have left upon it a deep
and traceable impression. These were the _Imram_, or Voyage, and the
_Fis_, or Vision, species distinct in kind, but containing in practice
much that was common to both; for the course of the _Imram_ lay, for
the most part, among the enchanted lands of Celtic mythology, thinly
disguised, in later times, by a coating of Christian eschatology; and
the _Fis_, though more commonly of Christian origin, and often indited
expressly for edification, was indebted to the same source for most of
its _mise-en-scène_. Both types of narrative are represented among the
legends which recount the adventures met with by Cuchulainn, Cormac Mac
Áirt, and other ancient heroes in a purely pagan Otherworld. Starting
thence and proceeding through the travel tales, similar in many
respects to the foregoing, but more or less imbued with a Christian
tinge, which relate the Voyages of Maelduin, of Tadg Mac Céin, of the
Sons of Ua Corra, and the like, we reach, on the one hand, the Voyage
of St. Brendan, one of the most picturesque and popular legends of
the Middle Ages, and, on the other hand, the visions of the Irish
Saints, the stories of St. Patrick’s Purgatory, and similar legends
which pervaded Western Europe, and passing into Italy would appear
to have led up to the story of the wicked Marquis of Brandenburg, and
the opening of the _Tesoretto_ of Brunetto Latini, which last, again,
suggested to Dante the opening passages of the _Commedia_.

A visit to the Otherworld was one of the most frequent subjects of
Irish legend. Not that the region visited is always so described;
sometimes it is termed the realm of the Dagda, one of the most
primitive culture-deities in the Irish mythology, and, at the same
time, the counterpart of Yama and Yima;[104] sometimes, the island
paradise of Manannán Mac Lír, the Sea-God; at others, the palace of
Mider or of Oengus, both of whom shared with Lug many of the attributes
of the Greek Apollo. Very often it is merely the rath, or island, or
subaqueous abode, of some enchantress or fairy lady, but even then some
detail of the story will almost always make it clear that the spot is
to be identified with the land of departed spirits, although, in some
instances, the authors may have been no more aware than Ariosto in
describing the garden of Alcina, or, indeed, than Homer in his islands
of the Phæacians, of Circe and of Calypso, that all their imaginary
scenes alike had one common origin, the region where the κλυτὰ ἔθνεα
νεκρῶν have their dwelling.[105]

The conception which the Irish formed of their Happy Otherworld
resembled in substance the ideas which most other nations held upon
the subject; but their descriptions of it are frequently remarkable
for a poetry, a vivid sense of beauty--in short, for a _gusto_,
which are far less common. For all that, however, they do not always
reject the grosser--it would, perhaps, be more just to call them
the simpler--pleasures which would naturally appeal to the healthy
imaginations of a people addicted to a vigorous and somewhat rude way
of life. Thus in the subterranean palace of the Dagda (afterwards
usurped by his son, Oengus Óg), which was situate within the Brug na
Boinne, and is described as a place of unceasing delight, whither
death or sickness never came, the god sat beneath three fragrant
apple-trees, always laden with ripe fruit, beside an inexhaustible vat
of beer; two pigs were there, one alive and the other ready roasted,
turn and turn about, and a caldron brought by the Dé Danann from Murias
(‘Sealand’), which was never empty of food, and from which none ever
rose unsatisfied, for it gave to each one a portion corresponding to
his rightful claims. These gross enjoyments recur even in the truly
poetic lines which Mider sings to Béfind (or Etain), wife of King
Eochaid Airem, in the story of the Brudin Da Derga,[106] tempting her
to follow him to his realm of Magh Mór. This he describes as a wondrous
land, traversed by warm sweet streams; the people thereof are handsome,
without a blemish, conceived without sin or lust; their bodies are
like the snow, white of skin and black of brow, their hair like tufts
of primrose, their cheeks like the foxglove, and their eyes like the
blackbird’s eggs. But by way of additional attraction Mider promises
the lady a cap of gold for her head, fresh pork, soft new milk, wine
and mead of the choicest, and ale ‘headier than the ale of Ireland.’
We learn elsewhere that Mider also possessed a magic caldron[107]
like that of the Dagda, and three cows which never ran dry. So, too,
Manannán Mac Lír possessed among other highly desirable chattels seven
pigs that would suffice to feed all the world, and seven cows whose
milk would fill seven tubs, whence all the people of the world might
drink their fill. It is interesting to observe how this side of the
Irish Paradise received a twofold development; on the one hand, being
subjected to a refining process, as we shall see when considering the
_Fis Adamnáin_; on the other, developing into a veritable Cockayne, in
such humorous writings as the _Vision of Mac Conglinne_.[108]

Perhaps the fullest and most poetic account of the Tír Tairngire is
that contained in two poems of great beauty, which occur in the _Voyage
of Bran, Son of Febal_, before cited.[109] It must suffice, in this
place, to translate such portions as bear more immediately upon our

A lovely maiden appears to Bran, bearing in her hand an apple branch
with twigs of silver and golden fruit upon it; this she places in his
hand, and sings:--

     ‘An isle there is afar; round it sea-horses are flashing;
    a free stretch, against which white-sided surges swell; four
    pedestals sustain it. A delight of the eye, a glorious array,
    are the hosts that disport them in the heroes’ chariot strife,
    in the Southern plain of Findarggat (silver-white). Of white
    bronze are the pedestals beneath it; throughout the glorious
    ages, throughout the ages of the world, shines the lovely land,
    over-snowed with many blossoms. There is a stately tree in
    bloom; the birds chant responsive to the [canonical] hours;
    at every hour they sing in harmony. Jewels of every hue are
    gleaming throughout the soft-voiced plain; perpetuity of joy,
    with linked melody, is in the Southern plain of Silvercloud. No
    wailing is known, nor guile, in the land of perpetual tilth;
    nothing rough nor harsh, but only sweet music, strikes the
    ear. No sorrow, no gloom, no death, no sickness at all, nor
    feebleness,--that is the token of Emain, no rival to it exists.
    The beauty of the wondrous land, lovely of aspect, a land fair
    to look upon--never its like was found. Shouldst thou next look
    on Airctec, bestrewn with dragon-stones and crystals; Ocean
    strews upon the land crystal tresses from his mane. Moorlands,
    thickets of every hue, in [the land of] Calm; the beauty of
    freshness, the hearing of music in its sweetness, the drinking
    of wine the brightest. In Magh Réin [Plain of the Sea] the
    golden chariots come at flood-tide to meet the sun; in Magh Mon
    [Plain of Games] are chariots of silver and of bronze, without
    a blemish. A herd of horses like yellow gold is there on the
    strand; another herd, of purple hue; after them, yet another
    herd, of the hue of a pure grey pearl. At the sun’s uprising
    a fair man will come, who illumines the level lands; he rides
    over the fair plain whereon the sea beats, he tempers the ocean
    till it is [as] blood. The host will come across the pure sea;
    they show themselves, rowing towards the land; then they row
    to a flat rock, well in view, whence a hundred songs arise.
    It chants melody to the hosts, so that sorrow is not therein;
    the music swells from the choirs of hundreds, who look not
    for return or death. Emain of many forms by the sea, it may
    be near, it may be far; therein are women, many thousands, in
    chequered array, and the pure sea round about it. When he has
    heard the music’s sound, the note of the birds in Imchiúin, a
    little band of ladies will come down from the height to the
    field of games, whereon he stands. Freedom with health shall
    come to the land on which laughter is poured forth; ’tis on
    Imchiúin, at every season, that length of life with joy shall
    come. A day of serenity unending scatters silver on the land;
    a pure white cliff is on the seaboard range, drawing the sun’s
    heat from him. The multitude race their horses along Magh Mon,
    a glorious sport, not languid; in the chequered lea-land, all
    beauty excelling (?), they look not for return nor death.’

We may see at a glance how thoroughly pagan is the conception of the
happy region here depicted, though assuredly lacking neither in beauty
nor refinement, in which respects the Tír Tairngire need fear no
comparison with the Elysium of the Greek poets, which it so strongly
resembles. It is equally evident that the lord of this Island Paradise,
Manannán Mac Lír, is the Tuatha Dé Danann counterpart of the Fomorian
Tethra, king of the dead, who sends his messengers in the guise of
beautiful women--ἄγγελοι in all literalness--to call his subjects unto
him in his realm beyond the ocean. Indeed, Tethra himself appears
in a legend, exactly parallel to the foregoing in design, though of
more primitive structure, which relates the passing of Connla, son of
the famous Árd-Rí, Conn of the Hundred Battles. Connla, like Bran,
was visited by a beautiful damsel, who promised to confer upon him a
continuance of youth and beauty which should never fail or fade until
the Judgment. She then gave him an apple and left him. The virtue of
this apple was such that it afforded Connla nutriment enough for a
month, at the end of which time the damsel returned, and told him that
the ever-living ones had sent for him, having chosen him to become one
of the folk of Tethra, there to dwell for ever, in the companies of his
forefathers, in the midst of his acquaintance and friends.[110] And
Connla followed her to the sea-shore, where a ship of glass awaited
them, in which they embarked, while Conn followed them to the shore,
weeping, and watched them until they were out of sight.

By far the greater number of the visits which the heroes and heroines
of Irish tradition pay to the Otherworld are variations upon the same
theme: a supernatural visitant, smitten with love for chief or maiden,
induces him or her, by persuasion, guile, or force, to follow to fairy
rath or oversea Elysium; a theme which has survived to our own day in
the common legend of the _Leanamhán Sidhe_, or Fairy Lover. The story
of Mider and Etain, or Eithne, above referred to, is an instance of
this kind, Mider having won Etain of her husband, King Eochaid Airem,
at a game of chess. In many cases where a hero’s wife is thus abducted
the loss is but temporary, the husband, a more martial and more
successful Orpheus, winning back his Eurydice by force or stratagem.
To this also the modern Irish fairy tales contain many parallels. So
numerous are the examples of this type, that it is both impossible
and unnecessary to discuss them _seriatim_; it is enough to select
from each of the great tale cycles such instances as may best show the
persistence of the theme, and of the original Irish notions concerning
the Otherworld, some of which coloured the versions in which the legend
appeared in Christian times. The Elysian abodes of the Dagda, of Oengus
Óg, of Mider, and of Manannán Mac Lír, which have been described
already, pertain to the mythological cycle of Irish legend; similar
visits to the abodes of the Tuatha Dé Danann are recorded in many
stories belonging to the greatest of the heroic cycles, namely, the
Ultonian cycle.

One of the best and longest of these stories is the _Serglige
Conchulaind_[111] or Sick-bed of Cuchulainn, the principal hero of
the cycle in question. We have room only for a brief abstract of this
story, giving the details which relate more particularly to our subject.

Once, in dream, Cuchulainn was visited by two ladies of great beauty,
who, without vouchsafing any explanation of their conduct, kept smiting
him with whips as he lay until they left him speechless, in which
state he remained for nearly a year. At the end of that time Emer,
Cuchulainn’s wife, and those with her, saw one day a young man sitting
by his bedside, singing how he was Oengus, and the dream-ladies were
Fand and Liban, his sisters, of whom Fand, wife of Manannán Mac Lír,
having been deserted by her husband, had conceived a great love for
Cuchulainn, and promised that if he would visit her in the Tír Sorcha
(Land of Light), she would make him whole, and give him gold and silver
and wine _go leór_. Before complying with this message, Cuchulainn
sent Loeg, his charioteer, to inspect and report. Loeg returned with a
glowing account of the Tír Sorcha. He had been conducted to the house
of Labraid Luathlam-ar-Claideb--Quick Hand on Sword--husband of Liban,
where Fand was then residing. The rath was situate in the midst of ‘a
pure lake, whither companies of women resort’; before the door stood
three stately trees, pure purple, and the bird-flock singing upon the
branches of them without ceasing, ‘and in the eastern doorway of the
_lios_ a tree--not paltry the music thereon--of silver, on which the
sun shines with exceeding radiance, like gold.’ Within was the usual
good cheer, including an inexhaustible vat of mead. Tempted by this
account Cuchulainn repaired thither himself, and found that all Loeg
had said was true, and more. The beautiful Fand consented to be his, on
condition that he would aid her people in war against a rival god-clan;
this done, he brought her back to Ireland. The upshot of it all was
that Emer, whom Cuchulainn had always loved most fondly until Fand’s
spell was on him, became jealous of her rival, and sought to kill her.
Cuchulainn objected to this, but Emer’s devotion revived the unquenched
embers of his flame for her. At the same time, Manannán had found that
‘what our contempts do often hurl from us we wish it ours again,’ and
the piece concludes with the return of all to their _premiers amours_.

The Otherworld of the ancient Irish possessed no Tartarus. Malignant
powers, indeed, there were in plenty; not to speak of a multitude of
hags and witches, giants and ogres, goblins and spectres, the divine
personages themselves often display a very sinister side of their
character, while not uncommonly a brilliant chief or radiant lady
of the Tuatha Dé Danann would be brother or sister to a hideous and
savage hag or giant.[112] In like manner, the Irish Wonderland (Tír
na n-Iongnadh) could show, alongside of its enchanted raths and
Elysian pleasances, scenes of a widely different kind; seas and lakes
haunted by terrible monsters, weird forests, and gloomy, perilous
glens, although, it is true, this side of the picture is treated much
less fully than the other. Nevertheless, there is no strict line of
demarcation between the two, which exist side by side, as might the
desert and fertile regions of the same country.

One of the nearest approximations to the gloomy Hades of the early
Greeks is found in the realm of Scathach (The Shadowy) whither
Cuchulainn was sent by the wizard Forgall Monach, his prospective
father-in-law, in the hope of getting rid of him, but on pretext
of completing his military education--an instance of the universal
article of primitive belief that the ultimate arcana of knowledge
are only to be won from the powers of death and darkness.[113] The
approach to Scathach’s country lay across a plain, to the one half
of which the feet of whoso attempted to cross it would adhere, while
in the other half the ground would rise and impale the passenger on
the grass blades, like spear points, which grew thereon. Cuchulainn
was guided across the plain by the familiar agency of a wheel and an
apple, given him by a young man whom he found dwelling in a fairy rath,
at the outset of his journey, and who thus discharged the office of
_psychopompos_, which in one form or other--Sibyl, Michael, Virgil,
hag or damsel--almost always appears to be indispensable. The way
then led through a narrow glen, peopled by monsters, and over high
and perilous mountain passes. Finally, to reach his goal, he had to
cross the ‘Bridge of the Cliff,’ an enchanted bridge, low at the two
ends and high at the middle, of such kind that, so soon as one stepped
upon either end, the other would rise and throw him back. This, Miss
Hull says (_op. cit._, p. 291), is the earliest occurrence in Irish
legend of the bridge episode, which, as we have seen, had previously
been a prominent feature in pictures of the Otherworld, and afterwards
appears with almost equal frequency in the chivalrous literature of
the Middle Ages. Miss Hull suggests that the idea, in the present
case, is borrowed from the Norse; this, of course, is quite possible,
having regard to the prominence in Northern myth of the Bridge of
Giöll, crossed by Hermödr on his journey to the Shades in quest of the
dead Balder; while the Wonderland depicted in the Erik Saga and in the
Story of Gorm is likewise approached by a bridge.[114] However, without
entering into the difficult question of the epoch at which the Balder
myth assumed its present shape, or of the respective dates of the
Norse and Irish legends in their original forms, the hypothesis hardly
seems necessary to account for the introduction of so obvious and so
widespread an incident into the Cuchulainn legend, where, moreover, the
Bridge of the Cliff differs widely from the Rainbow bridge of Giöll
and from the more commonplace bridges of the Norse Sagas. As Miss Hull
herself observes, the idea recurs in another branch of Celtic story,
the Arthurian legend,[115] and ‘belongs to the Hell doctrine of nearly
all Oriental religions’ (_loc. cit._) Several of these we have already
examined, and have seen how the same idea passed into the eschatology
of the Western Church. Neither is it confined to the cultured races,
from Vedic India to Iceland; it occurs also among such primitive
nations as the Inoits of Aleutia and the Bagadas of the Nilghiris. From
them to Addison’s _Vision of Mirza_ is a long step in every sense.[116]

Another story connected with the same cycle, the _Echtra Nerai_,
Adventures of Nera, otherwise called the _Táin Bo Aingen_, Cattle
raid of Aingen,[117] may receive mention here as presenting a feature
which frequently recurs in the ecclesiastical visions, while the main
outlines of the story are preserved in modern folk-tales. As Ailill,
king of Connacht, was keeping the Samhain festival in his rath of
Cruachan, he offered to give his gold-hilted sword to any one who
should dare to put a withe on the foot of a newly hanged man, who was
swinging outside. Nera accepted the challenge, and after several vain
attempts (the withe springing off of its own accord) succeeded. The
corpse then spoke, and asked Nera for a drink, and Nera obligingly took
the corpse on his shoulders, and offered to take him to a house which
appeared hard by, standing amid a lake of fire. The corpse declined
this offer, which is hardly to be wondered at, and the rest of the
story follows the conventional lines of the ordinary folk-tale, but we
have here the moat of fire, as in the _Fis Adamnáin_ and elsewhere.

Visits to the enchanted abodes of the Tuatha Dé Danann--to the
Otherworld, that is--are common in the tales belonging to the third
great group of heroic tales, second in importance to the Cuchulainn
cycle above, namely, the Finn cycle, in which occurs the most
celebrated of them all--the visit of Oísin to Niamh Cinn Óir, which so
late as the eighteenth century inspired Michael Comyn with his fine
poem, the _Laoi Oisín ar dTír na n-óg_. Still, the tales of this cycle,
however ancient their materials, would appear to have undergone a
sogmewhat modernising influence, comparatively speaking, in receiving
artistic shape, in which last respect they betray more signs of a
deliberately literary treatment than their predecessors, while in their
treatment of the Otherworld they do not appear to have contributed
materially to the evolution of the legend.

Distinct from the Finn cycle, though dealing in part with the persons
and events of the period to which Finn has been assigned by tradition,
is a group of highly picturesque tales relating to the dynasty of Conn
Ced-cathach (of the Hundred Battles) Árd Rí of Ireland, according to
tradition, in the second century A.D. In the Conn cycle the Otherworld
legend figures prominently, the monarch himself, his sons Árt and
Connla, and his grandson Cormac, all having journeyed thither. These
tales, moreover, furnish certain links which connect the _Echtra_ with
the _Imram_ and _Fis_.

It is said to have been Conn’s daily wont to make the circuit of Temair
(Tara), in company of his Druids and poets, to see that none of the
Tuatha Dé Danann, or Daoine Sidhe, alighted thereon. One day, while
so engaged, he trod upon a flagstone, which shrieked so loud as to be
heard all over Temair and Magh Breg. Conn asked his chief Druid for an
explanation of this wonder, but the Druid required a respite of fifty
days before he could give it. At the end of that time the king and his
suite again repaired to the spot, and the Druid declared that the name
of the flag was Fál, and that it had been brought from Inis Fáil by the
Tuatha Dé Danann to remain at Temair for ever, and any year the Árd
Rí of Éire failed to look upon it, dearth would be on the land.[118]
And suddenly a mist fell upon them, and from out of the mist was heard
the sound of a horseman, who cast three darts at them. ‘Whosoever aims
at Conn in Temair will be violating the king’s majesty,’ exclaimed
the Druid; whereupon the horseman came forward and, greeting Conn,
invited him to his home. Conn followed, and soon reached a fair plain
in which stood a royal rath, and a great tree, as it were of gold, in
the doorway.[119] On entering, he saw a lovely damsel, a golden diadem
on her head, standing by a silver vat hooped with gold, full of red
ale, and a golden can and cup upon it. Beside it was a royal throne,
whereon sat a Scál (champion) of majestic stature, and of a beauty
never seen at Temair. Conn asked him who he was: he replied, ‘No living
champion am I, but one of Adam’s sons returned from death; I am Lugh
Mac Ceithlenn,[120] and I am come to reveal to thee the life of thine
own sovereignty, and the sovereignty of every king who shall be after
thee in Éire.’--‘And the maiden who was present to them in the house
was the sovereignty of Éire for ever.’ Then were revealed to Conn the
names of all the kings of his race who should succeed to him in Éire, a
cup of ale being borne to the name of each. The scene, which suggests
the similar revelation made to Macbeth in the witches’ cavern, closes
with a prophecy of St. Patrick--whom God should honour, and who should
kindle a torch that would illumine Éire from sea to sea--and of the
later races of kings that should rule over Ireland.

Here we have another instance of Christian embroidery upon a thoroughly
Pagan stuff; however, the identification of the Dé Danann Lugh as a son
of Adam returned from the dead was true in a fuller sense than the
author, probably, was aware.

Another visit of Conn to the Tír na n-Óg is related in a tale known as
the _Echtra Áirt_, or Adventures of Árt.[121] The Leanamhán Sidhe, who
figures in this story, bears a more sinister aspect than do most of her
order in Irish legend, and possesses affinities to the witch-lady or
Lamia. She was Bécuma Cneisgel (B. White-skin), wife of the Dé Danann
chief Labrad Luathlam-ar-Claideb (Swift Hand on Sword), and having been
found guilty of infidelity, had been banished from the Tír Tairngire.
Finding a curach on the shore, she stepped in; this ‘trim skiff’ of the
Wonderland ‘asked no aid of sail or oar,’ and Bécuma, ‘leaving it to
the heaving of wind over sea,’ reached Benn Edair, the Hill of Howth.
Here she found Conn, who had retired thither to mourn the recent death
of his wife, and introduced herself to him as Delbchaem (Fair-form),
daughter of Morgan (Sea-born), come to Ireland from the Tír Tairngire
for love of Conn’s son Árt. However, it was ultimately settled that she
should marry Conn himself, and she returned with him to Temair, having
first obtained a pledge from the king, according to the rules of Irish
chivalry, that he would grant her the boon she might ask of him, which
proved to be the banishment of Árt for a year. Henceforth, all went
wrong with the country; the land yielded neither corn nor milk, and
the Druids, on being consulted, affirmed that by reason of Bécuma’s
wickedness the land was under a curse, which could only be removed by
sacrificing the son of a sinless couple, and mingling his blood with
the soil of Temair. Conn set forth in quest of such a youth; at Benn
Edair he found a curach which bore him across the sea, through herds
of strange sea-monsters of fearsome aspect, while the waves rose and
the firmament trembled, until he came to a strange isle, ‘having fair
fragrant apple-trees, and many wells of wine, most beautiful, and a
fair bright wood, adorned with clustering hazel-nuts, surrounding those
wells, with lovely golden yellow nuts, and little bees, ever beautiful,
hovering over the fruits, which were dropping their blossoms and their
leaves into the wells’ (tr. Best, _loc. cit._). Hard by was a goodly
house, the dwelling of Daire Degamra; the thatch was of birds’ wings,
white, and yellow, and blue; the doors were of crystal, and the posts
of bronze. Inside was a crystal throne, whereon sat Segda Saerlabrad,
son of Daire. Conn was made welcome; his feet were washed by an
invisible hand, which likewise guided him to the hearth, wherefrom a
flame started up of its own accord. Tables laden with various kinds of
meat were set before him by invisible attendants, and a drinking horn
was set thereon. There was a vat, finely wrought, of blue crystal, and
three golden hoops about it, wherein Daire bade him bathe. Then he was
bidden fall to; but it was _geis_ to him to eat alone, whereas the
inmates told him that it was equally _geis_ to them to eat save alone;
however, Segda, to oblige the guest, consented to eat with him. Next
morning Conn asked permission to take Segda back with him, having heard
that he was that son of a sinless couple of whom he was in quest. His
parents admitted that this was so, for they had never come together
save at his conception, and so it had been with their own parents.
Conn did not divulge why he needed the youth; nevertheless, his parents
refused to let him go, but Segda proving resolute not to deny the king,
they consented, putting him under the protection of Conn, and Árt and
Finn, and the ‘men of art,’ for his safe return. The _dénouement_,
showing how Segda was preserved from sacrifice, is too long to relate
here, having nothing to do with our subject.

The story then goes on to Árt, whose adventures are the ostensible
subject of it. Bécuma behaved like the typical stepmother of the
folk-tale. In order to procure his absence from Ireland, she challenged
him to chess, and on winning--by foul play, being aided by spiritual
agencies at her command--put a _geis_ on him not to return to Ireland
without the before-mentioned Delbchaem, daughter of Morgan, who dwelt
in an isle in the sea. Árt, like his father, set out in a curach,
and reached an island wherein was a dún similar to that of Daire.
In it was a company of fair women, and among them Crede Firalaind
(Truly-beautiful). Árt was welcomed and feasted; he told his tale, and
Crede told him that his coming had long been decreed; she gave him a
‘variegated mantle, with adornments of gold from Arabia,’ and three
kisses, and showed him a crystal bower, wherein was an inexhaustible
vat, which straightway became full again, however often emptied. Here
Árt stayed a fortnight, and upon his leaving, Crede instructed him as
to the way he had to follow. This way was wild and difficult, full of
the dangers and obstacles which commonly waylay the hero of romance,
though they only call for mention here as constituting, with the realm
of Scathach before described, as near an approach to a Tartarus
myth as Irish legend contains. The terrors which Árt had to traverse
included stretches of ocean filled with sea-monsters that had to be
fought and overcome; a wood, where it was as though spear-points of
battle were under the feet, like leaves of the forest; a venomous icy
mountain, with a glen full of toads which lay in wait for passers-by;
an icy river, with a narrow bridge over, defended by a giant whom no
weapons would harm, fire burn, nor water drown. Of course, all ended
as it should, but the remainder of the story casts no light upon the

One of the best-known stories belonging to this cycle is that
which relates the adventures of Cormac, son of Árt, in the Tír
Tairngire.[122] At the dawn of a May morning Cormac was walking on the
ramparts of Temair, when he espied a dignified, grey-haired warrior
approaching him, bearing on his shoulder a branch of silver and three
golden apples on it; and the music which those apples made when shaken
would lull to rest sick folk, and wounded men, and women in the pains
of childbirth. After the two had exchanged greetings, Cormac asked the
stranger whence he had come. ‘From a land,’ he replied, ‘where there
is nought save truth, and there is neither envy, nor jealousy, nor
hate, nor haughtiness’ (tr. W. S.). They plighted their friendship,
and Cormac begged for the musical branch, which the other gave him,
exacting in return the promise of three boons which he should crave.
A year later the warrior returned, and claimed his first boon, which
was none other than Cormac’s own daughter Ailbe. Though loath, Cormac
submitted, bound by his promise,[123] and stilled the lamentations of
his household by shaking the branch, and casting them into a profound
sleep. After a month the warrior returned, and demanded Conn’s son,
and, finally, his wife. Cormac still felt himself bound to comply,
but he started off in pursuit, followed by all his people. Upon their
passing beyond the walls a dense mist fell upon them, and Cormac
found himself in the plain alone. Before him stood a great dún, with
a stockade of bronze about it, and within it a house of silver. The
thatch of this house was the wings of white birds. It was half thatched
only, and troops of fairy horsemen kept bringing other wings to
complete it, but the wind was always carrying them away. After this,
he saw a man feeding a fire with a great oak-tree, entire, and as soon
as one was consumed he would replace it with another. Then he came to
an enclosure also ramparted with bronze, and four houses therein; one
of these was a great palace, ‘with its beams of bronze, its wattling
of silver, and its thatch the wings of white birds. Then he sees in
the garth a shining fountain, with five streams flowing out of it, and
the hosts in turn a-drinking its waters. Nine hazels of Buan grow over
the well, the purple hazels drop their nuts into the fountain, and the
five salmon which are in the fountain sever them and send their husks
floating down the stream. Now the sound of the falling of those streams
is more melodious than any music that men sing’ (W. S. _loc. cit._).
In the house Cormac found a warrior of exceeding beauty, both in face
and figure, and a maiden, ‘the loveliest of the world’s women,’ with
a helmet of gold on her yellow hair. Her feet, Cormac noticed, were
washed by invisible hands, and within a partition was a bath, heated
without visible agency, and Cormac bathed there. In the afternoon a man
came in, bearing in one hand an axe and in the other a log of wood, and
followed by a pig. At the warrior’s bidding, the man kindled a fire
with the log, killed the pig, and put him in a caldron on the fire to
boil. After a while the damsel bade him turn the pig, but he replied
that it was useless, for that pig would never be done until a truth had
been told for every quarter. Thereupon each one told some truth; the
man how he had obtained the log and the pig, the properties of which
were such that after the log had been burnt out at night, and the pig
eaten, the pig would be found alive in the morning, and the log whole;
and one quarter of the pig was cooked. The warrior told how there was
a field outside the lios, which was found, at ploughing time, to be
ready ploughed, harrowed, and sown with wheat; at harvest time, ready
stacked, and so on, and they had been eating of that wheat ever since,
and it none the less; and another quarter was done. The girl said that
she had a herd of seven cows, whose milk sufficed for all the people of
the Tír Tairngire, and seven sheep whose wool furnished the garments of
them; and the third quarter was cooked. Then Cormac related the reason
of his coming, and the pig was cooked entirely. When Cormac’s portion
was set before him, he said that he never ate unless there were fifty
men in his company. Then the warrior sang a strain which sent him to
sleep, and on waking he beheld fifty men, and with them his wife, son,
and daughter. So they set to upon the food and ale in all mirth and
gladness. And a silver cup was placed in the warrior’s hand, who, as
Cormac admired the workmanship of it, told him that there was something
yet more wonderful about it, for when three lies were told under it
it would break into three pieces, while the utterance of three truths
would make it whole again. He then told three lies, and the cup broke,
even as he had said; then, to restore it, he declared that neither
had Cormac’s wife nor daughter seen a man, nor his son a woman, since
they had left him, and in proof that his words were true, the cup came
together, perfect as before. So Cormac received again his wife and son
and daughter; and with them the cup, that he might discern between
truth and falsehood in his judgments, and the bell-branch for music and
delight. And the warrior declared that he was Manannán Mac Lír, who
had allured Conn to the Tír Tairngire that he might behold the wonder
of it. And the men who had brought the wings to complete the thatch of
the house were ‘the men of art in Ireland, collecting cattle and wealth
which passed away into nothing’; the man burning oak-trees was a young
lord, paying out of his own husbandry for all that he consumed; the
fountain was the Fountain of Knowledge, and the five streams issuing
thereout the five senses, ‘And no man will have knowledge who drinketh
not a draught out of the fountain itself, and out of the streams. The
folk of many arts are those who drink of them both’ (W. S. _loc. cit._).

The foregoing group of stories from the Conn cycle probably represent
a very ancient legend, several of them being manifest variants of a
single original, which at some period became connected in turn with the
successive members of the dynasty. This is apparent even in several
minute points of detail: _e.g._ Conn’s first wife, for whom he mourned,
and Cormac’s wife, taken from him by Manannán, were both named Ethne
Taebfada (Long-side). The group represents a stage in the theory of
the Otherworld in advance of previous conceptions;[124] and although
the ideas which it contains fall far short of an eschatology, properly
so called, they yet contain materials which later writers were able to
employ in that sense. We can discern here the rudiments of an ethical
theory of the Otherworld. In the story of Connla, the land of Tethra
appears as a happy place whither the souls of famous chieftains and
warriors are borne across the sea, as Achilles was rapt away to the
isle of Leuke; and even this aristocratic Elysium--parallels to which
abound from Polynesia to Greece, and from Greece to America--contains
in germ a certain ethical idea. The favour of the immortals is reserved
for chieftains famous for their birth and qualities, and thus the
process is begun which first designates as a ‘gentleman’ the scion of
a noble _gens_, and then goes on to require in such an one qualities
worthy of his origin, and to

    ‘Loke who that is most vertuous alway,
    Privë and apert, and most entendeth ay
    To do the gentil dedes that he can,
    And take him for the gretest gentilman.’

Thus, in the Adventures of Cormac, Manannán describes the Tír
Tairngire as ‘a land where there is naught save truth, and there is
neither envy nor jealousy, hate nor haughtiness’; a description which
is applied in a greatly amplified form to Heaven, at the close of the
_Fis Adamnáin_, and in other Christian writings. It reminds us of
a passage already cited from the Avesta, descriptive of the Var of
Yima. Indeed, in Ireland as in Irân, ‘everything that maketh a lie’
is excluded from the ideal country, even as we have seen a want of
fidelity to plighted faith to be the vice most inconsistent with the
character of a king.

In the episode of Segda Saerlabrad, and again in the Adventures of
Cormac, occurs that idea of chastity in connection with the Tír
Tairngire to which, in its more developed form in the _Voyage of
Bran_, we shall have to refer. This group, moreover, is marked by
a tendency to conscious allegory which is foreign to the previous
cycles. The maiden whom Conn finds in the dún is a personification of
the sovereignty of Éire; and the dún visited by Cormac is a veritable
‘House of the Interpreter.’ The ethical significance of the wonders
seen by Cormac on the way thither, and there expounded to him, is
entirely symbolical of the life of this world, wherein the story
resembles not merely the _Shepherd of Hermas_ and the _Pilgrim’s
Progress_, but the _Tablet of Cebes_ and the _Choice of Herakles_ among
the Greeks, and countless moral apologues, Oriental and mediæval.

The Dé Danann chieftains, seated on their crystal thrones beside the
marvellous tree and the vat of ale, are an advance upon the Dagda,
seated beside his vat of ale and apple-trees, and display the legend in
a stage at which it is ready to coalesce with, and give native colour
to, the Hebraic imagery of the Throne and its Occupant.

The pleasantly told little apologue of the Fountain of Knowledge
and its five streams, which are the five senses, interprets a very
primitive Irish legend in the light of a simple but not shallow

The Irish heroic tales having passed through the hands of Christian
redactors, the question occurs whether we must ascribe to them any
ethical element that occurs therein. Although it is hard to pronounce
with certainty, where they contain no express reference to the
Christian faith, it would be rash, and probably a mistake, to reply in
the affirmative in all cases. Certain ethical ideas there must have
been in pre-Christian Ireland, and the places and the mode in which we
find them are often those in which they might most naturally appear. In
the instances referred to, there is nothing inconsistent with a system
of ethics far more primitive than that to which the ancient Irish
might conceivably have attained. Moreover, there is nothing about the
passages in question suggestive of an interpolation; they arise quite
naturally out of the narrative, and in one striking instance, that of
Segda Saerlabrad, are expressly bound up with the pagan idea of human
sacrifice in a manner that no Christian writer could or would have
invented. Neither does it seem likely that an ecclesiastical writer
who should make such interpolations in the interest of the Christian
religion would make no mention of that religion in connection with
them. The very tales in question show in what a clumsy and perfunctory
manner such interpolations were made, when it was found expedient
to bring an ancient legend into agreement with Christian doctrine.
Instances of this are furnished by the prophecies of Manannán Mac Lír
in the _Voyage of Bran_, and the reference to the Judgment in the
Adventures of Connla. The last-named story further contains a prophecy
of the coming of the law which shall destroy Druidism and its charms
‘upon the lips of black lying demons.’

As previously mentioned, there exists in these same stories a
connection between the Echtra and Imram classes of tales. In several of
them the hero departs in his curach in quest of a Wonderland that lies
oversea,[125] passing in the course of his voyage through the herds
of sea-monsters which beset the heroes of the Imrama, and beholding
marvels and visiting enchanted islands entirely similar to those which
occur in the latter.

In the Imrama proper we may note in an ascending scale the gradual
preponderance of Christian ideas, and the assimilation of the old
Irish conception of the Otherworld to a genuine eschatology. Some of
them, such as the _Voyage of Bran_, and Cuchulainn’s quest of the sons
of Doel Dermait, relate a purely pagan legend, though the clerical
redactors have sought to dissociate them from the paganism which was
scarcely forgotten in their day by the interpolation of a Christian
prophecy, or the like, as in Christian Rome the statues of the Olympian
deities were converted into the effigies of Christian saints by the
apposition of a nimbus to their heads. Then come a group written
from a Christian point of view, and enforcing a lesson in Christian
morals, although the framework of the story and most of the episodes
are derived from the older literature:[126] such are the Voyages of
Maelduin, of the sons of Ua Corra, and of Snedgus and Mac Ríagla.
Finally, there are the purely ecclesiastical Imrama, included in the
acts of one or other of the saints, of which class the Voyage of St.
Brendan is in every way the most important example.

We have been induced somewhat to anticipate the earliest of the Imrama,
and to give the greater part of the description of Manannán’s Elysium
contained in the Voyage of Bran, in order to present in a single view
the different forms in which the Otherworld was conceived by the
ancient Irish. The story goes on to relate how, the maiden’s song
ended, the branch leapt back again into her hand, and she vanished;
but the glamour was on Bran, and he set forth in his curach across
the sea. Here he meets Manannán Mac Lír, traversing the sea in his
chariot like a veritable Poseidon.[127] The god accosts Bran, and
sings to him a song concerning his Elysian realm beyond the sea. His
description adds but little to that contained in the maiden’s song;
one touch, however, we may note, by reason of its frequent occurrence
in subsequent writings. He speaks of a ‘charming delightful game,’ at
which the denizens play over their wine, ‘men and gentle women beneath
a bush, without sin, without transgression.’ This passage has been
accredited to Christian transcribers; however, the remarks previously
offered in relation to such interpolations in general would seem to
apply to the present case. The very poetical description of the Tír
Tairngire contained in this tale, while thoroughly in accord with the
more primitive legends, though amplified and drawn by a more masterly
hand, is marked by a refinement of imagination and execution more than
sufficient to account for the occurrence of the idea in question,
without any air of incongruity with the rest of the description.[128]
We may add that it seems most unlikely that a Christian scribe would,
if he could, introduce a touch of the kind, when he has not found it
necessary, in this and other legends where the old Irish conception
of the Otherworld has undergone an euhemerising and Christianising
process, to delete the episodes of enchanted dúns and islands where the
wayfarer is refreshed with delights akin to those of the Mohammedan
Paradise.[129] Manannán’s song in the present tale contains a palpable
interpolation of the usual kind, in the form of several stanzas
prophetic of the coming of Christ.

Another Imram belongs to the Cuchulainn cycle, and in its original form
was probably older than any other story of this class that has come
down to us, but it is only preserved in a later redaction. Cuchulainn
having overcome in battle the king of the Ui Maine, the king put a
spell on him that he should know no peace until he had ascertained why
the children of Doel Dermait had left their country. Cuchulainn could
find no one to tell him this, and became a prey to unrest. At length
he had occasion to fight a duel with the king of Alba’s son, whom he
vanquished and would have slain, but that the prince begged his life,
which Cuchulainn granted him on condition that he would solve the
riddle. This the prince could not do himself, but he promised to take
Cuchulainn to those who could. Cuchulainn accepted these terms, and
embarked on board the prince’s ship with his charioteer Loeg and his
comrade Lugaid. They first came to a fair island, wherein was a dún
surrounded by a wall of silver and a stockade of bronze upon it. They
received a cordial welcome, but upon propounding their question were
directed to another island, where dwelt Achtlann, daughter of Doel
Dermait and wife of Condla Coel Corrbacc, a kind of marine Enceladus,
who used to lie all across his island, and at every breath he drew
would send a great wave along the sea with the wind of it. Achtlann
guided them to a third island, where two great giants bore joint rule,
Corpre Cundail, a kinsman of Doel Dermait, and Eochaid Glas Corpre. The
former challenged Cuchulainn to fight, and, being overcome, treated
him hospitably, and told him of Doel Dermait’s children, who were held
captive in that island by Eochaid. Next day Cuchulainn attacked Eochaid
in his ‘Place of Torture,’ the Glenn; but the giant was so tall that
Cuchulainn could only reach him by jumping on to the rim of his shield,
from which Eochaid kept blowing him off each time. Cuchulainn, however,
by dint of one of those gymnastic feats for which he was famous, leapt
into the air over the giant and slew him from above. He then released
the captives, who straightway bathed in the giant’s blood, and being
thus healed of their tortures and sufferings, were enabled to return to
their own country. In this story, which assuredly bears small imprint
of Christian influences, we probably have the earliest form of that
episode of the release of the captives of some giant or wizard, which
recurs in the Graal romances, and is one of the most frequent incidents
of the romantic tales of chivalry.[130] Its meaning is clear, the
release of the dead from the powers of the lower world, a feat which
is no less frequently accomplished by different means, in mediæval
stories, by a saint or jongleur, according as the scope of the work is
religious or comic.

The earliest of the Christian Imrama that we possess is _The Voyage of
Maelduin’s Curach_, the composition of which Professor Zimmer refers
to the eighth century at latest, though it contains interpolations
which Mr. Nutt considers to have been made at the end of the tenth
century.[131] It relates a voyage undertaken by Maelduin, a young noble
of the Eoghanachta, in order to find the murderer of his father who
had been slain by a marauder of Leix. The tale is a remarkably fine
one of its kind, and its simple and picturesque prose is by no means
improved upon by Tennyson’s poem, the subject of which it suggested.
It is long, and contains a great variety of incidents, some of which,
it is very possible, may not belong to the original Celtic stock,
but may be due to classical sources. Certain it is that a great part
of them belong to that class of ‘ferlies’ which old writers used to
place in _terræ incognitæ_, and have their analogues in the writings
of Herodotus and Aelian, and, Mr. Stokes says, Megasthenes, to whom
we may add Lucian and Sinbad. The majority of them, however, are
variants, and often developments, of topics common in Irish legend. We
must content ourselves with giving a brief summary of those episodes
which most illustrate the development of the Otherworld legend in Irish
ecclesiastical literature.

As usual, the narrative mainly consists of the visits paid by the
wanderer to a number of enchanted islands, which are mostly of the
usual Wonderland pattern, though the present description of them
contains, in most cases, certain distinctive features of its own. The
wanderers are entertained in stately dúns, with walls and palisades of
the precious metals or of crystal; they are regaled with magic food;
there is the usual Calypso episode, etc. etc. One island is raised
above the sea upon a pedestal; in another is a river of fire; one is
encompassed with a wall of water; over another a stream rises on one
side and descends on the other, forming an arch like a rainbow; upon
another is a tall column with a mystical veil depending from it and
enshrouding the island,--all of which recall features of the Paradise
described in the _Fis Adamnáin_.

Some of the incidents bear a decidedly infernal significance. On one
island the voyagers beheld a horse-race, and heard the shouts of the
crowd; both jockeys and spectators were demons. It has been suggested
that this incident, for which no parallel exists, so far as I am aware,
in earlier narratives, may be of Norse origin; possibly it may be
one of those loans from classical literature before referred to, and
ecclesiastical influences may have depicted in Stygian colouring the
pagan Elysium in which departed heroes continue to ply their wonted
sports.[132] At the same time, it is possible that the writer may have
dealt in a like manner with the sports of Magh Mell, in Manannán’s
Elysium, described in the _Imram Bráin_. Of course, the question of
foreign importation turns upon the other question, whether horse-races,
as well as chariot-races, were known in Ireland at the date when the
_Voyage of Maelduin_ was written.

On another island they saw a party of demon smiths forging a mass of
glowing metal, which one of them threw after the curach, as Polyphemus
threw the rock after Odysseus.[133] On another they came to a huge,
hideous mill, and the miller, huge and hideous to match, told them
that the grist which he cast into his mill was all things that had
been begrudged on earth. This demon miller is rather a favourite
symbol in Irish legend, and is not confined to professedly religious
compositions. It occurs in the story of Mongán in a slightly different
form; in the Voyage of the sons of Ua Corra, who saw all manner of
precious things cast into the mill, and the miller told them, ‘I cast
into the mouth of the mill all things for which grudging has been made,
and ’tis the Miller of Hell I am’; and it survived in local tradition
as the _Muilleann Luprachán_ (Pixies’ Mill) near Tuam.[134]

There is something weirdly picturesque in this demon miller who casts
into his Mill of Vanities, and grinds down there, all the objects of
worldly covetise; the conception reminds us rather curiously of the
mystical Wheat-sieve in the carnival hymn of the Florentine Piagnoni,
_Il Trionfo del Vaglio_.

In striking contrast to these rude sketches of the infernal realm is
a short but vivid episode in which the subjects borrowed from the
primitive Elysium are rendered by a master’s hand. One island by which
the voyagers passed was surrounded by a wall of fire, which revolved
about the island continually. ‘There was an open doorway in the side of
that rampart. Now whenever the doorway would come (in its revolution)
opposite to them, they used to see (through it) the whole island and
all that was therein, and all its indwellers, even human beings,
beautiful, abundant, wearing adorned garments, and feasting, with
golden vessels in their hands. And the wanderers heard the ale-music.
And for a long space were they seeing the marvel they beheld, and
they deemed it delightful’ (trans. W. S., _loc. cit._).[135] Never
perhaps in sacred or profane literature has a passage of equal brevity
portrayed with equal vividness that Celestial Feast which, as fact
or symbol, enters into every creed; from the gross delights of that
‘humbler heaven’ which ‘kindly Nature’ has given to the hopes of
primitive man, to the imagery wherewith higher creeds seek to picture
the indescribable _ben dell’ intelletto_. There is no superfluous
detail, and none is needed, but the picture flashes out before the
reader’s eye as it did before Maelduin and his crew--that ideal region,
cut off from the wanderers by a fiery wall which forbids their access,
but grants them a fleeting vision before they pass on their way.

This tale contains a group of incidents which are largely represented
in the Acts of the Irish Saints. On one island an old hermit, fifteenth
in descent from St. Brenainn of Birr, dwelt beside a lake. Hard by,
a great eagle, very old, alighted, bearing in his beak a branch and
berries on it. Two other eagles came and picked off the vermin which
infested the plumage of the first; they then ate of the berries and
cast others into the lake, after which the old eagle plunged into the
water, and washed until his youthful vigour returned to him, after
which they all flew away. One of Maelduin’s crew bathed in the lake
wherein the berries had been cast, and lost neither tooth nor hair,
nor suffered from any infirmity until the day of his death. As we have
seen, mystical birds abound in Irish descriptions of the Otherworld,
but in the present curious episode we can easily recognise the
classical legend of the Phœnix. Mr. Nutt well develops this point in
the essay to which we have so often had occasion to refer, and gives an
interesting parallel in an Anglo-Saxon poem on the Phœnix. For this,
and the discussion thereon, we must refer the reader to Mr. Nutt’s
work. We may note the very characteristic way in which the Irish writer
adapts the foreign incident to the accepted forms of the national
literature. The rejuvenescence of the eagle is effected not by fire
but by water, which owes its properties to certain berries dropped
therein, these evidently belonging to the species which dropped from
the quicken-trees--a variant of the hazels of Buan--into the wells
where the Salmon of Knowledge consumed them, and thereby acquired his
supernatural virtues.

Another island was covered with trees, which were the resort of birds;
and here dwelt a man, clad with his own hair. This was a pilgrim from
Ireland who had been wrecked on the island, and the birds were his
children, with whom he was to abide there till Doomsday.

Another anchorite, likewise clad with his own hair, dwelt upon an
island surrounded with a golden rampart, and the ground of the island
was white as down.[136] He was fed by a fountain, which ran on
Wednesdays and Fridays with whey or water, on Sundays and the feasts of
Martyrs with good milk, and on High Days with ale or wine.

On yet another island dwelt a hermit covered with white hair, so
that he looked like a white bird. He had been cook at the monastery
of Torach, where he used to embezzle and sell the provisions of the
community, and hoard the proceeds, until he became exceeding rich,
and waxed proud. One day he was bidden bury a peasant; on digging the
grave, he was accosted by a corpse already buried on the spot, who
forbade him to lay that sinner’s corpse atop of him, a holy man. The
cook asked the corpse what boon he would grant him for compliance;
the corpse replied, ‘Eternal life’; and the cook found another
resting-place for the peasant. Some time later, the cook felt a desire
to quit the island, so he set forth in a curach, laden with all his
ill-gotten wealth. At sea he was hailed by a man seated upon a wave,
who told him that all the air about him was thick with demons, because
of his pride and thefts, and bade him fling all his riches into the
sea. He obeyed, reserving to himself only a little wooden cup. The
man gave him seven cakes and a cupful of whey-water, which the cook
carried to a rock, and this was his only food for seven years, after
which time he had lived on salmon which an otter had brought him
periodically.[137] In the man sitting upon the wave, it is impossible
not to recognise an adaptation of Manannán Mac Lír, who drove over the
waves in his chariot to meet Bran.

The prevalence of the island-hermit incident in Irish legend is
accounted for by the early history of the Irish Church. The pastoral
duties and missionary work of the early saints necessitated frequent
voyages to the Western Isles of Scotland, to Britain and to Gaul,
while that passion for solitude and retirement, which alternated in
them with an intense activity in their calling, and even a vehement
partizanship in public life, found full gratification on the small
islands which fringe the western coasts of Ireland. These islands
naturally became the scene of those miracles which in Ireland, as
elsewhere, clustered about the names of the saints; but here, as in
other things, a strong nationality asserted itself, and recollections
of the island Paradise of antiquity entered largely into the legends
of the saints, rendering easy the transition from the island retreat
to the Paradise where the saints dwelt with Enoch and Elijah, beside
the Tree of Life, amid the songs of the bird-souls of the righteous. No
doubt a certain number of these wandering saints would be blown out of
their course to strange lands, and bring back tidings of the wonders
they had actually seen, which would lose nothing in their passage from
mouth to mouth. One such case is reported by Adamnán himself, that
of one Baitan, who set out with several others in quest of an ocean
solitude, but returned after long wanderings.[138]

In the _Voyage of the Curach of the Ua Corra_,[139] the ethical and
eschatological element is entirely in the ascendant. Conall Dearg
ua Conaill Fhinn, a rich and hospitable noble of Connacht, being
discontented at having no children, entered into a compact with the
Devil, who undertook that Conall should have children, on condition
that they should belong to himself. In due time Conall’s wife bore him
triplets, who received ‘heathen baptism’ by the names of Lochan, Einne,
and Silvester. These grew up to be mighty men of valour; howbeit,
they considered that as they belonged to the Devil, it was hard if
they might not harry his enemies. Accordingly, they set themselves to
plunder and burn the churches and monasteries of Tuam, and of half
Connacht besides. Finally, they proposed to add the last touch to their
guilt by murdering the Erenach of Clogher, their mother’s father,
and burning his church on him. The better to effect their purpose,
they visited the Erenach and partook of his hospitality, and went to
sleep, awaiting the coming of night. Then Lochan had a dream, wherein
he saw Hell with its four rivers, one of them full of toads, another
of serpents, the third running fire, and the fourth ice. He also saw
the ‘Piast of Hell,’ ‘and abundance of heads and feet on it,’ ‘the
old Dragon’ often appears in Irish sacred legend. He was then taken
to Heaven, and saw ‘the Lord Himself on His throne, and bird-flocks
of angels making music to Him,’ the sweetest singer of all being
Michael, in form of a bird. On waking, he related his vision to his
brethren, and they all, moved to repentance, vowed thenceforth to serve
God instead of the Devil. Accordingly, ‘they made staves of their
spear-shafts,’ instead of beating their spears into pruning-hooks,
and betook themselves to St. Finden of Clonard, to whom they made
confession. He instructed them in religion for a year and a day, and
then bade them go and restore the churches which they had destroyed.
This they did; and then, ‘one day when they came forth over the edge
of the haven, they were contemplating the sun, as he went past them
westwards, and they marvelled much concerning his course. “And in what
direction goes the sun,” say they, “when he goes under the sea? And
what more wondrous thing,” say they, “than the sea without ice, and ice
on every other water?”’[140]

These reflections, so typical of the old Irish attitude towards Nature,
although to us they may seem to be more in keeping with the ideas of
much more recent times, awoke in the Ui Corra that spirit of wandering,
than which, perhaps, no other Leanamhán Sidhe casts more potent spells
on man. They got a friend, a wright, to build them a ship, wherein they
embarked, with a bishop, a priest, a deacon, a shipwright, a buffoon,
and a servant, being nine in all; then, at the bishop’s bidding, they
committed themselves to the guidance of the winds.

The incidents of the voyage and the lands they visited resemble those
described in the Voyage of Maelduin, several of the islands at which
they touched exhibiting the _mise en scène_ of pagan legend, adapted
in the usual manner to the Christian drama. Thus on one of these
islands they found an orchard of fair, fragrant apple-trees, and a most
beautiful river flowing through it; and ‘when the wind would move the
tree-tops of the grove, sweeter was their song than any music’ (trans.
W. Stokes, _loc. cit._). And the apples and the river, which was of
wine, cured all wounds and sickness. Many of the adventures belong to
the common stock of wonder voyages; here, as in the Voyage of Maelduin,
mention is made of the island uplifted above the sea by a pedestal,
whence the voices of the islanders could be heard, but the speakers not
seen; of the watery arch, the pillar and net, the demon smiths, etc. On
one island flowers were growing as big as tables, dropping honey, and
about them beautiful bright bird-flocks were singing. Here dwelt a ‘son
of the Church,’ Dega, a disciple of the Apostle Andrew, who had gone
on a pilgrimage across the ocean to expiate his having forgotten his
nocturn one night; he was awaiting Doomsday on that island, together
with the birds, who were the souls of holy human beings.

In these islands, the abode of pilgrims and hermits until Doomsday,
we have, in a pagan setting, the limbo of the _boni sed non valde_. A
little further on, we come to what is the first incident of a purely
Purgatorial nature occurring in this class of literature. One island
was divided into two parts--the one part inhabited by the living, the
other by the dead. Multitudes were lying there on red-hot flagstones,
with red-hot spits through them, howling terribly as a fiery sea sent
its billows of flame over them. These were they who had failed to make
expiation for their sins on earth, and were tormented in this manner
until Doomsday.

The voyagers also perceived flocks of birds rising from out of a river,
pursued by eels, otters, and black swans. These were the spirits of the
damned, let out of Hell for a day’s respite on Sundays, though they
were not allowed to enjoy this boon in peace, for the eels, etc., were
demons that kept pursuing them. One of these birds had three beautiful
rays on its breast; this was a woman who had forsaken her husband,
but had brought him food when sick and in want. This notion that the
damned were periodically allowed a day’s holiday[141] was generally
accepted by the early Church in Ireland, as elsewhere. Sometimes, as
here, this was believed to take place so often as every Sunday; by
some, only on the great festivals of the Church, as Christmas Day and
Easter. Our author, like several other of the Irish Churchmen, was
a strict Sabbatarian, and gives to violations of the Sunday a place
disproportionately large, visiting them with a severity that seems
excessive. For instance, a solitary rower was rowing with a fiery spade
upon a fiery river, the waves of which kept breaking over him; this was
a boatman who had plied his trade on Sunday. The lurid picturesqueness
of this figure, worthy of Dante, is spoiled by the disproportion
between crime and punishment. A horseman bestrode a fiery horse; he had
stolen his brother’s horse, and ridden him on a Sunday. There was also
a black, smoky giant, carrying an iron staff as big as a mill-shaft,
and flakes of fire, as big as fleeces, coming out of his throat. This
was no Typhoeus, nor heresiarch, nor conqueror, the scourge of nations,
but a man who had carried firewood on a Sunday; for this he now bore on
his back a bundle of faggots, the load of six oxen, which would blaze
up, ever and anon, when he would fling himself into the sea, ‘but it
was increase of pain to him.’

Reference has already been made to the demon miller, grinding the
world’s vain riches. One island was peopled by men wailing aloud as
they were mangled by the fiery red beaks and talons of sable birds,
while their tongues were aflame within their heads; these were
dishonest smiths.

Other islands which the Ui Corra visited were variants of the earthly
Paradise, being inhabited by pilgrims, solitaries, etc., like those
already described.

The _Voyage of Snedgus and Mac Ríagla_[142] is equally Christian in
conception, and in some respects approximates yet more closely to the
eschatology of the _Fis_. The men of Ross, unable to endure the tyranny
of Fiacha, their chief, killed him, thereby rendering themselves liable
to death. At the instance of St. Colm Cille, this doom was commuted
to the old Irish punishment of exposure on the sea; and they were
set adrift, sixty couples of them, in as many small boats, ‘for God
to judge them.’ It was Snedgus and Mac Ríagla that were sent to bear
this sentence to them, and shortly afterwards they embarked on their
own account to make a pilgrimage to the East. After visiting several
islands of the familiar type, they came to one whereon was a great
tree, and many beautiful birds perched thereon. And ‘melodious was the
music of those birds, singing psalms and canticles, praising the Lord.
For they were the birds of the plain of Heaven, and neither trunk nor
leaf of that tree decayed’ (trans. W. Stokes, _loc. cit._). On the top
of the tree sat a great bird, with a head of gold and wings of silver,
who told of the Creation of the World, of the Nativity, Baptism,
Passion, Resurrection, etc.; ‘and he tells tidings of Doom; and then
all the birds used to beat their sides with their wings, so that
showers of blood dropt out of their sides, for dread of the tidings of
Doom’ (_Ibid._).

After which they came to a land where they found the banished men of
Ross, who were to abide there until Judgment, for they were guiltless
in what they had done; Fiacha having apparently deserved his fate.
‘Good is this island,’ they said, ‘wherein we are, for in it are Elijah
and Enoch, and noble is the dwelling wherein is Elijah.’ And they
showed the voyagers a lake of water and a lake of fire, which should
long since have come over Éire, had not St. Patrick and St. Martin been
praying for the land. The travellers asked to see Enoch, but were told
that he was ‘in a secret place, until we shall all go to battle on the
Day of Judgment.’[143]

We might have expected to find Enoch and Elijah in the Terrestrial
Paradise, in company of the bird-flocks, as in other writings, but
the construction of the _Imram_ was commonly loose. The introduction
of them shows that the fusion of the national traditions with the
teaching of the Church was now complete. This is equally apparent in
the description of another island, on which they landed: ‘A great lofty
island, and all therein was delightful and hallowed. Good was the king
that abode in this island, and he was holy and righteous,’ etc. (trans.
W. Stokes, _loc. cit._). His dún had one hundred doors; at each door
was an altar, and at each altar a priest, celebrating the Eucharist.
This king and his dún again remind us of the castle of the Graal.

We have now traced, in outline, the development of the Otherworld
theory in Irish legend, from its primitive conception as a Land of
Cockayne, presided over by the Dagda, with his inexhaustible ale-vat
and ready-roasted pigs, to its identification with the Terrestrial
Paradise, though without losing its distinctive features. One step
only remained to be taken before the _Imram_, thus modified, should
pass beyond the country of its birth, and assume a prominent place in
the literature of mediæval Europe. This step was taken in the group
of stories--some legendary, others more or less historic, though
intermingled with legendary matter--which narrated the voyages of
the Irish Saints, or, rather, in that most famous example of its
class which purports to give an account of the travels of St. Brendan
of Clonfert, surnamed ‘the Voyager.’ So entirely does it surpass
all others in popularity and influence, and especially in those
circumstances which connect it with our subject, that it may be taken
as the representative of its class; as, however, it is later in date of
composition than the _Fis Adamnáin_, and even reproduces some passages
of the latter, it may be left for a later section.

The authors of the Voyages of the Ui Corra, and of Snedgus and Mac
Ríagla, had not only given an entirely Christian tone to the _Imram_,
but, without abandoning the imagery of the Otherworld handed down by
the national traditions, had blent therewith a number of conceptions
derived through the medium of the Apocalyptic literature of the early
Church from both classical and Hebraistic sources. Further, they
prepared the transition from the _Imram_ to the _Fis_.[144]

The Visions of the Saints figure prominently in the hagiology of
Ireland as of other countries; not all of them, however, related to the
Otherworld, or, in particular, treated the Otherworld as a subject in
itself, and not merely as the medium for conveying some moral lesson,
or for revealing the fate of an individual. Adamnán, in his _Life of
St. Colm Cille_, one of his authentic works, states that the saint
was often rewarded with angelic intercourse, and received frequent
revelations concerning the fates of the good and of the wicked.[145]
However, the most famous of these Visions, with the exception of that
of Adamnán, were those of St. Fursa (_c._ 570-_c._ 650 A.D.), which
derived additional celebrity from the mention made of them by Bede in
his _Ecclesiastical History_.[146]

The exact place of St. Fursa’s birth and race appear to be unknown,
though it seems that he was a Munsterman. The principal scene of his
early ministrations was the neighbourhood of Loch Orbsen (Corrib),
and he afterwards spent some time as a hermit upon an island in the
ocean. At a later date he visited England, probably about 633 A.D.,
as recorded by Bede, and won the favour and respect of Sigebert, King
of East Anglia. The monastery of Burghcastle, in Suffolk, was founded
under his auspices, and his labours were attended with many conversions
among the Saxons. He next passed over to Gaul, where he enjoyed a
great reputation, and exercised influence over King Clovis II. In Gaul
he founded the monastery of Lagny, and a branch of it at Perronne.

Fursa’s visions of the Otherworld must have appeared to him before his
visit to England, probably during the solitude of his ocean retreat.
However, he continued to see visions, of one sort or other, during the
latter part of his life. Indeed, it is probable that in his case, as in
so many others, the visions were largely produced by physical causes--a
constitutional tendency, stimulated by special circumstances--for we
read that the first of his visions came to him in a trance, during an
illness, and the rest after long fasting.

In the first vision, his soul was conveyed out of the body, and ‘he was
graced with the sight and the hearing of the praises of the Heavenly
Hosts.’ Three days later, he was again taken by three angels, who
represented the Trinity, and borne through clouds of hideous, misshapen
demons, who attempted to bar his progress, and cast at him showers of
fiery arrows, which the leading angel caught on his buckler.[147] On
their way they passed by Satan, who raised up his head, like that of a
serpent, and argued against Fursa’s acceptance into Eternal Life, by
reason of the sins to which he was prone, and among these, chiefly,
a vindictive spirit; but although he showed that ‘the Devil can cite
Scripture for his purpose,’ the angels answered his arguments, and
they passed on. Then Fursa, like Scipio in the ‘Dream,’ was bidden to
look back upon the world; and it appeared to him as it were a dark
valley, and in the air about it four fires were burning. These were the
fires that destroy the world; and the first fire was Neglect of the
Baptismal Vow to renounce the Devil and his works; the second fire was
Covetousness; the third Dissension, and the fourth Injustice. Fursa
descried a fire approaching, and was dismayed; but the angel said to
him, ‘What thou hast not kindled shall not consume thee’; for the fire
tried every one according to his works; and ‘as the body is consumed
by self-willed pleasure, so shall the soul burn with everlasting
punishment.’ The doctrine is as old as the Rabbis, but the moral lesson
is here finely conceived and forcibly conveyed. Seven times more did as
many demons in succession attempt to bar Fursa’s progress, contesting
his right to admittance with various eristic arguments, supported by
texts of Scripture. It is to be remarked that the obstacles which
commonly obstruct the hero’s access to the enchanted lands of fable,
and often survive in theological adaptations of the subject, have
here assumed an aspect almost purely intellectual and spiritual. All
objections having been satisfactorily answered by the angels, Fursa
found himself surrounded by a great brightness, and saw vast multitudes
of angels and saints flying with wings in motion. Among these Fursa
recognised several friends, with whom he held converse. He then
approached a region of serener air, where the angelic host, disposed
in four choirs, were singing the _Tersanctus_. Here he received long
instructions in theology and morals, which he was bidden to announce
to the princes and prelates of Ireland; he was then conducted back to
his body. On the way, a great fire approached in a threatening manner;
the angels diverted it, but from out of the midst of it demons shot
forth a sinner, aiming him at Fursa. The angels cast him back, but not
until he had struck Fursa’s shoulder and burnt it. This was a sinner
from whom Fursa had accepted a cloak, while ministering to him on his

Another of the Visions of the Irish saints, attributed to St.
Laisrén, has been made available for the first time by Professor Kuno
Meyer.[149] This Laisrén, he thinks, was probably the most celebrated
of the many saints bearing that name, the Abbot of Lethglenn (Leighlin)
in the Co. Carlow, who died in the year 638. From the mere fragment
that survives, it would seem that the complete Vision must have treated
the subject with great fulness, though a part of Laisrén’s visit to
Hell is all that is left. It is more in the style of Fursa’s vision
than that of Adamnán, though it differs from both in certain respects,
notably in the manner of the revelation to the seer of the vision.
Laisrén had gone to Cluain Cháin, in Connacht, to purify a church
there, and after nine days’ fasting fell asleep. In his sleep he heard
a voice say ‘Arise!’ and upon this command being repeated, he raised
his head, crossing himself. The church was all lighted up, and between
the chancel and the altar stood a shining figure, who said to him,
‘Come towards me!’ At this Laisrén was seized with a trembling, and in
some mysterious manner he became aware that his own spirit was parted
from the body, and was hovering over his head. The roof of the church
then opened, and two angels, taking Laisrén’s soul between them, bore
him aloft into the air, where a host of angels received him. Further
progress was opposed by three hordes of fiery demons, armed with fiery
spears and darts, one of whom preferred against Laisrén a long charge,
enumerating all the sins which he had committed since birth, and of
which he had failed to make confession; ‘and the demon said nothing
that was not true.’ However, ‘an angel of the great host’ succeeded in
answering all charges, and dismissed the demons; he then bade Laisrén’s
conductors take him to see Hell. The two angels let him down into a
glen lying towards the north, which seemed to be as long as from the
rising of the sun to his setting. They entered into a pit like a cave
between two mountains, and at length came to a lofty black mountain,
in the upper part of which was a glen, broad below and narrow above,
and this was the porch of Hell. In the midst of the glen Laisrén saw
very many of the people of Ireland, wailing; so many that he thought
a pestilence must have brought them thither, but the angel explained
that ‘whoever is under the displeasure of God after thee, here do
they behold (their) souls, and this is their certain fate, unless
they repent’ (tr. K. M., _loc. cit._). Laisrén would fain have spoken
to them, but the angel forbade it, ‘lest they despair.’ However, he
enjoined Laisrén to preach repentance to them, whereby they should
escape that evil. ‘And again, he who shall live in righteousness, he
sees life while he is in the body, and he shall be in life if he is
steadfast in righteousness. Tell them also,’ said the angel, ‘that he
who lives in righteousness be steadfast in it, for there is not much
time for them to consider, until death comes to them’ (_Ibid._).

They entered into Hell, and saw a wild and billowy sea of fire, and
the souls aflame therein, wailing, their heads above the surface. Some
had fiery nails through their tongues, others through the ears, or the
eyes; others, again, were being driven by demons with fiery forks.
Laisrén, asking what these different torments might mean, was told
that those with nails through their tongues had been less frequent in
worship and praise than in blasphemy, falsehood, prying, and boasting.
Here the fragment breaks off.

In his preface to the foregoing work, Professor Meyer appears to
anticipate further discoveries in this field of research; however,
of all the Irish Visions yet brought to light, the _Fis Adamnáin_
excels the rest in interest and importance even more completely than
the Voyage of St. Brendan excels all other members of its own class,
and may be regarded as the type of its _genre_, in its most highly
developed form.

Before proceeding to examine the contents of that _Fis_, we may glance
at two other works by Irish ecclesiastical writers which show that a
great part of the imagery and incidents contained alike in the sacred
_Imram_ and in the _Fis_ belonged to a common stock of ideas current in
the Irish eschatology of that period.

One of these is the _Scél Lái Brátha_ (‘Tidings of Doomsday’), a homily
ascribed to ‘Matthew, son of Alphæus,’ which is preserved in the
_Lebor na h-Udri_, and was therefore written in the eleventh century
at latest.[150] In it occurs the familiar distinction between the
_Mali sed non valde_ and the _Mali valde_, both of whom are condemned
in their several degrees; the _Boni sed non valde_, who are finally
saved by virtue of their almsgiving, and the _Boni valde_, who go
direct to Heaven. This classification, though not expressly made in
the _Fis Adamnáin_, lies at the root of the scheme of rewards and
punishments there set forth. Indeed, Professor Zimmer points out the
frequency of this division in works written by Irish authors or under
Irish influences.[151] The _Limbus patrum_, the _Limbus infantium_,
etc., represent similar attempts of the mediæval theologians to provide
for cases which do not seem to them to be adequately dealt with by the
broader distinctions. Dante, in effect, adopts an analogous fourfold
arrangement; the infernal regions inside and without the City of Dis
being allotted to sinners of greater or less degree of guilt, while the
system of Purgatory is adapted to the respective cases of the _Boni
valde_ and the _Boni sed non valde_ respectively.

In its descriptions of both regions of the Otherworld, the homily
presents several points of resemblance to the _Fis Adamnáin_. ‘In no
wise pleasant is the path of the sinful; they find not food nor drink,
but perpetual hunger, great thirst, and bitter cold. Then they are
conducted to the Devil’s house amid the sound of despair and heavy,
long-drawn moaning. Piteous are the crying and wailing, the weeping and
sighing, the mourning and smiting of hands of the sinners, as they are
dragged towards Hell’s torments. But theirs is the weariness of remorse
without avail; for their prayer is not heard there, seeing that they
had not hearkened aforetime while they were in this life, body and soul
dwelling together.’ Here, too, we have the simile of the closing of the
locks, which are here threefold: ‘to wit, the closing of Hell upon them
through ages everlasting; the closing of their eyes to the world upon
which they had set their love; and the closing of the Kingdom of Heaven
against them.’ The description of the torments of Hell is copious and
varied. Cold, gloomy tracts, abounding in dark, fœtid lakes, alternate
with regions of glowing though murky flames,[152] where the sinners
stand on red-hot flagstones. Herein swarm monsters of various kinds:
adders, toads, cats which rend the damned, demons who torment them and
hew them with swords, and, above all, the Piast, the old serpent--‘a
strange serpent,’ indeed, for he is depicted with one hundred necks,
and one hundred heads on each, and five hundred teeth in every mouth;
one hundred arms he has, one hundred hands on every arm, and one
hundred claws on every hand.[153]

There is little attempt made to discriminate between the penalties
accorded to different kinds of guilt.

Heaven is described in the same rhapsodical style as in the _Fis
Adamnáin_, the _Félire Oengusa_, etc.

Another moral treatise is the _Dá Brón Flatha Nime_, ‘The Two Sorrows
of the Kingdom of Heaven,’ _i.e._ the two sorrows referred to ch. 33
of the _Fis Adamnáin_. Here, too, Elias is represented as standing in
Paradise, the Gospels in his hand, and he preaching to the birds that
perch on the Tree of Life, eating its berries.[154]


The general plan of the _Fis Adamnáin_ is distinguished from that
of the other similar writings that have come down to us by an
architectonic character to which they can make no claim. The structure
proper to the _Imram_ was, in great measure, that of a framework into
which a greater or less number of incidents could be fitted, according
to the author’s taste, without impairing the general effect; the same,
in a somewhat less degree, may be said of the _Echtra_, which are more
nearly akin to the romance of adventure than to the epic. The early
Christian writers, again, solely intent upon edification, and being for
the most part men of little culture--for this species of composition,
after all, was but a by-way of ecclesiastical literature--were usually
content to repeat a few topics belonging to the common stock of ideas
prevalent in their day, and paid but little heed to literary effect,
or even to the clear conception, or orderly presentment, of their

Thus, in the _Fis Adamnáin_, we have the first serious attempt made
between the Vision of Enoch and the _Commedia_ of Dante, either to
think the subject thoroughly out, or to treat it in a literary spirit:
an attempt on the part of the author to construct in his own mind some
distinct idea of the Otherworld, and to present his conception to his
readers in a coherent form. In some respects, indeed, the construction
of it is superior to that of its early predecessor, for, with due
allowance made for the topographical minuteness displayed by the
author of the Book of Enoch in his reproduction, in the description of
Hell, of the details of his model, the _Fis_ manifests a more complete
grasp of the subject as a whole, while it gains by the omission of the
voluminous discussion of things celestial and sublunary, in which the
older writer indulges, and which can only encumber a work conceived
with less breadth and executed with less power than Dante, and he
alone, has brought to the task.

All the same, it cannot be denied that these architectonic qualities
are still at a rudimentary stage, and the very fact that so moderate an
exercise of constructive power should suffice to set this work, as a
literary achievement, so far above all other precursors of Dante, does
but enhance our appreciation of the height at which the stately edifice
of his creation towers above all previous efforts.

The structural imperfections of the _Fis Adamnáin_ are enhanced by the
appearance of composite design which the work bears in its present
form, being apparently made up from two distinct versions, or else
having been ‘perfected’ by some redactor by the addition of other
matter. The latter explanation seems to us most probable. The first
twenty chapters contain a complete and consistent account of the
soul’s progress from death to judgment, followed by his relegation
to the place which he has merited. It is this part of the work which
displays that care for construction already noticed; a great part of
the details, whether of native or foreign origin, which had come to be
accepted as conventional features of the _Fis_ or sacred _Imram_, is
here rejected, and the borrowings from the old romantic literature,
though still abundant, are made duly subservient to the general
design. This part, moreover, together with the peroration in chapter
32, bears testimony, by way of direct reference and otherwise, to the
author’s possession of a greater erudition, and a wider culture, than
were evinced by most of those who had treated of the same subject.
Thus, apparently, we are entitled to conjecture that chapters 1-20,
chapter 31 (probably), and chapter 32, may represent the work which
originally purported, not, indeed, to have been written by Adamnán, but
to contain the account of a vision seen and already related by him. If
this hypothesis be correct, then the evidences of superior culture and
erudition, apparent in this part of the work, and entirely consistent
with what we know of Adamnán, increase the probability that it is
founded upon some more or less accurate tradition of a vision actually
related by him. For, to repeat what has been said on an earlier page,
there is nothing but what is natural and probable in the tradition that
Adamnán beheld, or composed for spiritual edification, a vision of the
kind then so much in vogue, and took the occasion of a great concourse
of the chief men of Ireland in order to promulgate it; while it is
equally probable that a man of his culture and acquirements should have
expended upon his task an originality and executive skill previously
unknown, and altogether improbable that a work of one of the foremost
and most famous men of his day, after being thus publicly made known,
should have been left unrecorded save by the passing mention of a

To return to the structure of the _Fis_: at the end of the first
twenty chapters, all that was necessary, in order to complete the
design, was to bring Adamnán back into Paradise, and to dismiss him
with the admonition to communicate what he had seen and heard, as
in chapter 31, after which the peroration in chapter 32 naturally
follows, and forms a fitting conclusion to the whole. However, it
would seem that the redactor, following the example frequently set by
mediæval compilers, who knew not how often the half is better than the
whole, and were apt to look on perfection as consisting rather in the
abundance of matter than in the due disposition of it, has attempted
to supplement the design of the original author by the introduction of
additional details which had long ere then become matters of common
form in descriptions of the Otherworld. Even so, however, it must be
admitted that he has managed his transitions with more than common
skill. Although the wording of chapter 20 suggests that it was the
intention of the original author to represent the fate of the lost
in concise but impressive terms--a plan quite in keeping with the
general tone of restraint which pervades the work--it might yet have
been quite consistent with his design to insert the usual description
of the various torments with which the different kinds of sinners are
afflicted, and such a description would follow on quite naturally in
the place where it actually occurs in the existing text. But the author
of this part, whether the original author or a later editor, does
not rest content with such a description; he introduces what amounts
to a structural alteration of the work, and that in a style wholly
inconsistent with the design of the earlier part. For in that part the
road has been fully traced by which the departed spirits have already
reached their final habitations; now, however, their pilgrimage is
resumed anew, and the familiar bridge incident appears in chapter 21,
where it discharges its usual double function of an approach to the
Divine Presence, and of a sieve, or winnowing fan, as it were, for
separating the wheat from the chaff. Wholly consistent as this is with
mediæval eschatology, it is entirely inconsistent with the general
plan of the present work, whereby that separation is effected by quite
other means. Minor inconsistencies occur in the purgatorial nature of
several of the punishments described in this second part, for we might
expect that all requirements of the kind had been fulfilled during
the soul’s progress through the seven so-called Heavens. These small
inconsistencies, of themselves, would count for little, and might be
regarded as faults of construction on the author’s part, or as the
result of the imperfect development of the purgatorial theory, which
leads to similar inconsistencies in other writings of this class, where
a clear distinction is not often made between a normal process of
purgation in the intermediate state, and the postponement, in special
cases, of the final decision; occurring as they do, they acquire a
certain significance as tending to accentuate the divergence of plan in
the two parts of the work.

A similar addition, attributable to the same motives, would appear to
exist in the last three chapters of the work. As already suggested,
chapter 32 would bring the work to a satisfactory conclusion; however,
the mediæval compiler was commonly a simple-minded person; for him,
as for ‘honest Diggory,’ the ‘old grouse in the gunroom’ possessed an
infinite variety which age could not wither, nor custom stale, and,
like a child or peasant, he objected to a familiar tale being omitted
in its usual place, or being shorn of its proper incidents. The picture
of Enoch and Elijah beside the Tree of Life in Paradise, surrounded by
the bird-flocks of the righteous to whom Elijah preached the Gospel,
had become one of the most familiar and picturesque features of the
Irish Paradise; therefore a place must be found for it. The most
obvious place would be that part of Heaven where, as it is, the birds
are described as singing the hours in the Divine Presence, and there,
we can hardly doubt, the original author would have inserted it, had he
chosen to make use of the familiar image. However, it must, I think,
be admitted that he exercised a wise discretion in omitting it,
graceful and picturesque as it is; for he has constructed his scheme
of Heaven after what must seem to us the most obvious and appropriate
plan, though one which, strangely enough, found little favour with his
compeers: he has made the enthroned Deity the centre of all, so that
to have introduced a further group about a subordinate centre would
have been to break into the design. We may therefore be grateful to
the hypothetical redactor for appending the episode merely by way of
a _coda_, without obtruding it into what would have been its proper
place, but in which there was no room for it. In so doing, he may have
desired to give the work a devout and edifying termination, and to
close it, as it were, with a sacred voluntary.

We may now proceed to recapitulate some of the principal features of
the _Fis_, even at the risk of a certain amount of repetition, in order
to show at a glance the relation in which it stands to other writings
of the same class, both native and foreign.

The work opens with an exordium in praise of the Creator, regarded
chiefly in His capacity of Righteous Judge, and Dispenser of rewards
and punishments, the aspect of Him most pertinent to the subject
in hand. Already, in this formal opening, we seem to recognise
the existence of a deliberate plan, whereby the present work is
distinguished from others of its class, and this impression is
strengthened as the author goes on to cite, by way of precedent or
authority, similar revelations that had been vouchsafed to holy men
of earlier date than Adamnán. These authorities have already been
considered in Section 3 of the present part; apparently, however, the
account of the vision which the Apostles beheld upon the death of the
Virgin Mary, to which the author had access, must have been more ample
than in the group of apocryphal writings to which we have referred. We
may note that the revelation in question was made by the Angel of the
West, the conventional region of the departed. The citation of St. Paul
probably refers to the apocryphal revelation which bears the Apostle’s
name, rather than to his own words in his Epistles, for these neither
mention a visit to Hell, nor describe the state of the dead in either
place; though, indeed, neither did such a revelation form part of St.
Peter’s vision, as described in the Acts, though our author’s words
appear to imply that such was the case. The mention of St. Peter’s
vision affords a curious instance of the manner in which the imagery
belonging to the national literature was apt to give its own colour to
an Irish writer’s treatment of foreign matter. The musical properties
with which the author, apparently on his own responsibility, has
endowed the cords which let down the four-cornered vessel from Heaven,
recall the musical stones of the _Tír na n-Óg_, of which further
mention must be made later on.

It is noteworthy that the author, in his list of authorities, makes no
mention of earlier Irish visions, or, indeed, of any source which was
attributed to post-Apostolic times.

A similar vision, we are told, was vouchsafed to Adamnán on the Feast
of St. John the Baptist, when his soul was parted from his body, and
conducted by his guardian angel to view Heaven and Hell, with their
respective inhabitants. Even such a pilgrimage was set before Dante by
his guide,[156] and though Adamnán’s chronicler does not here make
mention of a separate region devoted to _color che son contenti, Nel
fuoco, perchè speran di venire, Quando che sia, alle beate genti_, we
have seen that the case of these spirits was dealt with by the Irish
as by the Italian writer, though the extent to which the purgatorial
theory was developed between their respective epochs caused them to
treat the subject with very different degrees of precision.

The selection of Adamnán’s guardian angel as _psychopompos_, rather
than Michael, or some other of the Heavenly Host,[157] may possibly be
ascribed to the preference which our author occasionally evinces of
an ecclesiastical to a legendary treatment. On the other hand, we may
note the analogy between the soul’s guidance through the Otherworld by
his guardian angel, and the like function ascribed by the Avesta to
the beautiful maiden ‘who was his own conscience,’ and was probably an
allegorising development of the Fravashi, or spiritual _alter ego_,
which was held to belong to every man.

We now begin to perceive the extent, hitherto unexampled, to which
conscious design and literary form enter into our author’s method.
The celestial country, indeed, is described in general terms as ‘a
bright land of fair weather,’ like Magh Mell, and all other pagan
Elysiums; but, as the theme develops, we perceive a wide divergence
alike from the material delights of the pagan Otherworld, and the
conventional amenities described in ecclesiastical legends. As befits
the Heaven of a creed which makes the _summum bonum_ to consist in
the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision, the Deity is represented as the
centre of the whole, and all persons and accessories are grouped with
direct reference to Him. In the Voyage of the Sons of Ua Corra, the
Lord is introduced, seated on the Throne, and bird-flocks of angels
making music to Him, and the idea as there presented might stand for
a development of the Dagda myth, where the god sits beside his magic
apple-trees and vat of ale, and the birds of the Tír Tairngire sing
to him.[158] In the present case, however, it seems evident that the
description contained in the Apocalypse was the author’s source of

Here again the author’s ecclesiastical proclivities appear in his
description of the abode of the blest in a manner recalling the
interior of a church, with chancel rails, and choir stalls wherein
the righteous stand, like monks, in cassocks and hoods of white,[160]
while the place was illumined by seven thousand angels, who stood round
about instead of candles. The separation from the Throne, by means
of a portico, of the saints to whom their final seats had not yet
been awarded, appears to have been suggested by the use in the early
churches of the narthex as the station for neophytes.[161]

The floor of Heaven, like ‘fair crystal, with the sun’s countenance
upon it,’ seems to have been suggested by the ‘sea of glass, mingled
with fire,’ in Rev. xv. 2, which, in turn, had been anticipated, in
some sort, by the Pûitika sea in the Avesta, beside which the Tree
of Life grew. The grouping of the saints about the Throne would
likewise appear to be an amplification of the description in the
Revelation.[162] The Apostles and the Blessed Virgin, we are told,
occupy a special place, next to the Lord Himself; the Apostles on
His left hand, and next to them the patriarchs and prophets, and on
His right the Virgin, and next to her holy maidens, ‘and no great
space between,’ a graceful and kindly touch. About them are babes and
striplings, and ‘bird-choirs of the heavenly folk’; further on, others
of the righteous stand ‘in ranks and lofty coronals about the Throne,
circling it in brightness and bliss, their faces all towards God.’ Here
we have, in essentials, the Celestial Rose of Dante’s Paradise (canto
31); the bird-choir, and, a little later, the guardian angels that
keep flitting to and fro among the several companies of the righteous,
remind us of the spirits which flitted in and out of the petals of the
Rose like bees.

Several other passages are impressed with the author’s ecclesiastical
turn of thought. The Throne stands in the south-east, probably
because the direction of Jerusalem; reference is made to the nine
degrees of Heaven, _i.e._ the Angels, Archangels, and Principalities;
Powers, Virtues, and Dominations; Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim;
the geographical distribution of the saints in accordance with the
four quarters of the world--a distribution distinct from the fourfold
division of mankind according to their merits, to which allusion has
been made--is probably of the same character.

The sevenfold wall surrounding Heaven appears to contain a reference
to the seven Heavens; the different colours of these walls may, as
suggested, be a reminiscence of the walls of Ecbatana, as described by
Herodotus, though it is quite possible that the idea may have occurred
to the author spontaneously.

In our author’s representation of the Court of Heaven we already find,
completely developed, that idea of the subject which was perpetuated
long afterwards by the masters of Italian art. His picture of the
enthroned Deity, with the Virgin beside Him, the Saints standing round
about Him, and the celestial choirs surrounding the whole, might well
be taken for the description of some painting by Fra Angelico; nor are
the gem-like radiancy of the angelical painter’s works, nor the august
blitheness which pervades them, entirely absent. Indeed, writings of
this class are not without value as a preface to the history of sacred
art, as indicating the origin of the stereotyped fashion in which the
masters treated certain religious subjects--which fashion was not
created by the arbitrary choice of the primitives, and perpetuated
through any want of inventive power on the part of their followers, but
represented their attempt to portray these subjects in accordance with
the traditional form with which legend had already invested them.

One very striking image, and, so far as I know, the offspring of our
author’s imagination, is the symbol whereby he has endeavoured to
represent the Divine Omnipresence--‘a majestic countenance, seven times
as radiant as the sun,’ gazing from out a fiery mass, and facing the
spectator, from whatever side he might regard Him. The _naïveté_ of
this attempt to represent the Inconceivable reminds us of the triple
orbs of iridescent fire in canto 33 of the _Paradiso_, whereby Dante
symbolised the Trinity. For pictorial effect, however, the preference
must, I think, be awarded to the Irish writer, whose image, at once
quaint and grandiose, might be the subject of some design by Blake.

At the same time, the author does not neglect the stores of imagery
contained in the national traditions, though he does not conform
blindly to his precedents; for he differs from the great majority of
his predecessors and successors alike in selecting his materials from
whatever source appears preferable to him, instead of heaping together
a greater or less quantity of matter taken at haphazard from the common
stock. The circle of fire which surrounds the midmost Heaven is a
familiar object in both the celestial and the infernal regions, and is
largely represented in Irish legends dealing with the Otherworld, or
with occurrences of a supernatural order. Besides the striking instance
in the Voyage of Maelduin, and other cases to which reference has
already been made, legends of the Finn cycle mention wizard warriors
who surrounded their camp every night with a rampart of fire.[163]

The crystal veil which partly hides the Throne in chapter 5 may be a
modification of the veil which often enshrouds a mystical island in the
_Imrama_; or, again, it may have been suggested by the veil hanging
before a shrine in a Christian church, or by the veil of the Temple,
which curtained off the Holy of Holies.

The Throne is supported by four pedestals, as was the island Paradise
of Manannán Mac Lír in the _Imram Braín_, in imitation of which an
island supported upon a pedestal, or pedestals, is introduced into
most of the Christian _Imrama_. The pedestals beneath the throne are
of precious stone, and from them sweet music proceeds, as from the
precious stones which separate the several companies of the celestial
choir in chapter 13. Vocal or musical stones are common in Irish
legend; instances occur in the description of Magh Mell, just quoted,
and elsewhere in similar circumstances, and we may compare the Lia
Fáil, which would shriek when pressed by the foot of a lawful king.
Parallels occur in the legends of other Celtic nations: _e.g._ in the
Breton story of the Groach (Irish _Gruagach_), it is said that every
step leading to the palace of that fairy lady sang like a bird when
trodden on.

The very words in which the _Fis_ attempts to express the beauty of the
celestial music are those of the old romances: ‘Though one should hear
no other minstrelsy besides, yet should he have his fill of melody and

The fiery arch above the Throne reminds us somewhat of the watery
arch over the enchanted islands of the _Imrama_, in spite of all
differences. Probably both were suggested by the rainbow, but it
may be that the author of the present passage had in his mind the
description in Rev. x. 1 of the ‘mighty angel … and a rainbow upon his
head.’ In a note to the translation of this passage, we suggested that
the comparison of the arch to ‘a wrought helm, or royal diadem,’ may
contain a reference to the picturesque and chivalrous custom of the
Irish Árdrí to wear his helmet on state occasions, reserving his crown
for the day of battle.

The triple circle surrounding the Throne may be intended to symbolise
the Trinity.[164] It is noteworthy that while the generality of
mediæval legends describing the Otherworld give little prominence to
the Triune nature of the Deity, the present Vision contains several
references to the Trinity, as do the Vision of Fursa, and several of
the later Visions composed by Irish writers or under Irish influences.

Our author does not fail to include among the delights of Heaven that
bird-music which is so dear to Irish writers of all ages. The birds of
Heaven are here presented in a twofold manner. In the first place, the
‘bird-choirs of the heavenly folk,’ who mingle with the multitudes who
surround the chosen band standing about the Throne, correspond to the
bird-souls whom the legends commonly place upon the Tree of Life, in
attendance on Enoch and Elijah. There are also the three birds perched
upon the Throne, where they sing the hours, after the usual fashion of
their congeners, beginning with the birds of Magh Mell, in the _Voyage
of Bran_, who, by the way, can only be made to discharge their pious
function at the cost of an anachronism. The birds now in question would
seem to occupy a middle place between the bird-choirs, of which we have
just been speaking, and the great sacred bird which appears in the
mythology of every race of mankind.[165] Similar birds are present in
the earliest and latest stages of Irish myth, from the Dagda’s palace
in the Brug na Boinne to the adaptation of the Phœnix legend which
figures in the Voyage of Maelduin. Probably our author’s choice of the
number three conveys another reference to the Trinity; nevertheless,
three was the number alike of the birds of Oengus in the Brug na
Boinne, and of the eagles seen by Maelduin.

Certain features of our author’s description of Paradise represent
the final stage in the before-mentioned process of refining upon that
conception of the happy Otherworld as a Land of Cockayne, which is
the most conspicuous feature in the primitive Elysium of every race.
In the fragrance of the heavenly land, upon which the blessed sate
themselves while hearkening to the music, and in the sweet savour of
the candles which illumine the city--the candles themselves being
angels in that guise--the old materialistic idea appears to be refined
and spiritualised almost beyond recognition; nevertheless every degree
in the descent--or ascent--from the pigs and apple-trees and ale-vat of
the Dagda can be distinctly traced.[166]

The present condition of the blessed, as manifested to the Seer, is
intended, it is said, to last until the Day of Judgment only, when,
and not before, their state will attain to its utmost perfection (ch.
6). Of like duration is the ‘restless and unstable habitation,’ ‘on
hill-tops and in marshy places,’ which is allotted, in ch. 14, to
those who find no place in the City, ‘after the words of Doom.’ By
these, apparently, the damned are not intended, or else the present
passage would be in contradiction with the following chapters, which
detail their progress to, and the manner of, their final doom, while
the abyss to which they are consigned answers neither in kind nor in
situation to the description of a wild and desolate region adjoining
the celestial city; neither can we suppose that the reprobate, in their
final abode, would continue to receive the ministrations of their
guardian spirits, as do the denizens of the region in question.[167] It
would rather seem that they are the mixed characters upon whom, at the
individual judgment immediately following death, no final sentence has
been passed. The reservation of a temporary abode for suchlike occurs
in the Avestan books, in certain Hebrew speculations--as shown by the
reference in the Book of Enoch to the mountain Sheol in the west, and
by the writings of several Rabbis--and in early Christian tradition.
Several instances occur in the Irish legends already reported: _e.g._
in the islands where hermits, in company with the flocks of bird-souls,
await the coming of Judgment, and the similar island inhabited by
the men of Ross, who had been banished for justifiable homicide. The
passage affords some confirmation of the view that the second part of
the work is an interpolation, for in that part the sinners who are
capable of redemption are dealt with in a different manner.

The veil of fire and the veil of ice, which separate this desolate
region from the City, resemble the flame which surrounds the crystal
mansion in the Book of Enoch, and is there said to be as hot as fire
and as cold as ice.[168] The clashing together of these veils in the
doorway which separates the two regions bears the appearance of a
remnant of some Symplegades myth, but I am not aware that any myth
of the kind exists in a form which could account for the image in
question. The anguish with which the guilty are filled by the din of
their collision is in keeping with that extreme susceptibility to
musical sounds which is everywhere apparent. The effect of pleasure to
the good and pain to the wicked proceeding from the same cause recurs
in many subsequent passages.

In chs. 15-19 is traced the course along which the soul proceeds on
its way from death to Judgment. The several stages of this journey
are made to correspond with the seven Heavens through which the soul
would naturally have to pass, each of those stages being attended with
some kind of punishment or suffering, which causes intense pain to the
wicked, while the good pass through it unharmed.

The theory of the Purgatorial fires, founded on 2 Peter iii. 7-13,[169]
was held by the early fathers, though, at first, without defining the
place or manner in which the purgation was effected. St. Augustine
was the first to establish Purgatory in the intermediate state, and
the doctrine was further developed by St. Gregory. The early fathers
held that the good and bad alike must pass through this stage, and
herein our author agrees with them; his theory, moreover, whencesoever
derived, agrees closely with that held by certain of the Jewish Rabbis,
who held that all, good and bad alike, must pass through the seven
lodges of _Hell_--at least as appropriate a term as that of the seven
_Heavens_, which our author applies to them, though the latter is
better suited to cosmological requirements--with the concomitants of
fire, scourging, hail-showers, the extremes of heat and cold, etc.,
through all of which the righteous passed unharmed;[170] all of which
is reproduced in the present work. It is remarkable how little advance
upon the early Chaldæan myth of the Otherworld is displayed by this
part of the subject, so far as regards the machinery or material
framework, so to speak, although, of course, the ideas of sin and
redemption which lie at the root of the Jewish and Christian doctrines
alike, constitute a fundamental difference between the two stages of
thought. The resemblance between the Irish and Chaldæan narratives
extends even to the porter who sat at each of the seven doors of the
Chaldæan Hades, where the passenger had to leave some part of his
earthly raiment; in the _Fis_ his counterpart exists in the person of
the angel who sits at the gate of each of the seven Heavens,[171] and
chastises the souls as they enter.

The second of these Heavens is the only one which appears to be
endowed with distinctly purgatorial functions: here the angel Abersetus
‘purges the souls of the righteous, and washes them in the [fiery
river], according to the amount of guilt that cleaves to them.’ Such,
in substance, had been the teaching of the Church for some ages prior
to Adamnán’s day, and such, too, the teaching of some of the Rabbinical
Schools--that of Shammai, for instance, which held that those in whom
good and evil were mingled were cleansed by purgatorial pains; in like
manner, the author of the Book of Enoch describes a fire wherein they
who are capable of redemption are cleansed of their carnal lusts.[172]

The flowery spring in which the purified souls of the righteous are
bathed for their solace, is a prototype, in some measure, of the
flowery stream of Lethe, in which, according to Dante, the spirits
whose purgation was accomplished were immersed in like manner.

Most of the trials endured in the first five Heavens have their
counterparts in the general literature of the Otherworld, down to and
including the _Commedia_.

The fiery river or moat before the gateways resembles the river of fire
which encircles Heaven in the Book of Enoch, and the similar river
about the infernal city in _Æneid_ vi. 549-50.

The fiery wall, of which many parallels have already been cited, again
appears in this place, where it may be compared, more aptly, with the
City of Dis, its iron walls and towers glowing red-hot, in c. viii. of
the _Inferno_. The fiery arch also recurs, the passage through which,
and through the fiery wall, is analogous to the similar trial for
the purgation of fleshly lusts in c. xxvii. of the _Purgatorio_. The
scourging of the spirits by the angelic warders is like the punishment
inflicted--though there by demons--in _Inf._ xviii.

The description of the whirlpool in the fiery river (ch. 18) is
thoroughly Dantesque in style, though none of Dante’s infernal rivers
or whirlpools exactly corresponds to it in details; equally Dantesque
is the realistic touch of the angel lifting out the souls on the end of
his rod, ‘hard as it were of stone.’

Hitherto all the souls, good and bad alike, have been conducted by
their guardian spirits. At the door of the sixth Heaven Michael
assumes his accustomed function of _psychopompos_ for the remainder
of the way. This Heaven is free from pain of any kind; apparently the
author’s intention is to convey the impression of a solemn pause,
before the soul is ushered into the awful presence of the Creator. The
manner of his reception there recalls the corresponding scene in the
Avestan account. This reception, and the Divine Judgment, are described
in the briefest possible terms, but not the less impressively for
that.[173] The fate of the reprobate is depicted in a manner at once
terse and complete, presenting a remarkable contrast to the rambling
enumeration of horrors in which most of the vision writers indulge. One
circumstance, indeed, is marked by the grotesque horror characteristic
of mediæval and Oriental imagery; namely, the twelve fiery dragons
which swallow the guilty soul in succession, until the lowest finally
lands him in the Devil’s maw, the destination reserved by Dante for the
worst of sinners.[174]

Upon the whole, however, our author seems to dwell, by preference,
upon the spiritual aspects of his subject. In his eyes, the essence of
the punishment consists in the forfeiture of the Beatific Vision by
those _chi hanno perduto il ben del intelletto_, a loss enhanced by the
previous glimpse of it which has been vouchsafed to them. This, indeed,
is a common feature of ecclesiastical pictures of the Inferno, where
the idea, sufficiently obvious in itself, is sanctified by the parable
of Dives and Lazarus, though there it is introduced with a special and
different purpose. Commonly, however, it is used merely to intensify
the sufferings of the lost by a Tantalus vision of the contrast between
their own pains and the pleasures of the blest. Our author would seem
to introduce it as essential for their full comprehension of the good,
otherwise inconceivable, which they have forfeited by their own wilful
default. Evidently he understood that in this life and the next--Dante
notwithstanding--there is a _maggior dolore_ than the remembrance, in
time of sorrow, of past happiness, and that is the comprehension of the
things that once might easily have been, but never have been, and never
can be.

Finally, the lot of the sinner--‘the perfection of all evil, in
the Devil’s own presence, throughout all ages,’--forms the exact
correlative of the Beatific Vision enjoyed by the elect.

This climax leaves nothing to be desired for completeness, and it seems
impossible to believe that the next ten chapters were the work of the
same hand. Nevertheless, the author of this second part, whether he be
the original author or a compiler, has treated his materials, trite as
these are, with more than common skill.

The approach to the land of eternal pain, to which the Seer is now
conveyed, leads across a desolate, fire-scathed region, on the farther
side of which lies a glen, filled with ‘flame, that extends beyond
the margin on either hand.’ Even this slight descriptive touch is an
instance of the imaginative, or visualising, faculty which is often
apparent throughout the work. This glen is spanned by the bridge which
serves to separate the bad from the good, in a manner quite consistent
with precedent, but entirely inconsistent with the earlier part of the
present work.

The description of that incident, as here given, differs from other
variants in several points of detail, and especially in the greater
literary skill with which it is related; but as much has been said upon
this subject as our present purpose demands. We have seen that the idea
of such a bridge existed previously in Irish tradition, but the guise
in which it appears in the present place leads us to suppose that the
author’s immediate source of inspiration was one of the ecclesiastical
legends, though we find the usual difficulty of assigning any given
item to some one specific source. It is possible that the author found
his immediate prototype in the writings of St. Gregory, with which he
was likely to be acquainted; equally possible that the idea was derived
from the traditions of the Eastern Church, with which it is probable,
both on _à priori_ grounds and from several internal indications,
that he had come in contact; or, again, from some floating popular
tradition, originally emanating from either of the above sources.
However this may be, the present is probably the best-told version of
the incident that we possess in any language; nevertheless, it fits in
as badly with what follows as with what goes before. The good--both the
more and the less good--pass over in safety, and the bad, of course,
fall off, but there is nothing to show how either sort reach their
ultimate habitations. The justified, in fact, are left to their own
devices, and we hear no more of them; the reprobate, indeed, as they
fall from the bridge, are received in the jaws of eight fiery dragons,
which await them in the fiery gulf, but there is nothing to show by
what means they are subjected to the specific torments mentioned
further on, nor yet how the redeemable sinners are brought to their
state of temporary punishment.

The classification of the three companies who attempt to cross the
bridge is not without interest. The virtues of the righteous who
pass with ease are the specially ecclesiastical virtues of martyrdom
and asceticism. Immediate access to Heaven had been regarded as the
peculiar reward of martyrdom so early, at least, as Tertullian,
whose authority was Revelation vii. 14, 15; although in the fourfold
classification in the Book of Enoch the like precedence is awarded to
the martyrs.[175] The association of the mortification of the flesh
with the pains of martyrdom is easily explicable.

Sinners that have been induced to see the errors of their ways and
to amend, find the bridge narrow and difficult at first, but easy
afterwards, while those fall off who have persevered in evil. We thus
have only three of the usual four categories which frequently occur in
Irish eschatology, as in the Book of Enoch: the _boni valde_, the _boni
sed non valde_, and the _mali valde_. However, the _mali sed non valde_
are represented, approximately, by those spirits of mingled qualities,
and those sinners that are redeemed by their good works, who are dealt
with specially in the sequel.

The torments meted out to evildoers are of the usual description,
though represented with that increasing fulness and terror which had
been perceptible for some time previously in the Irish visions, or
_Imrama_, the result, apparently, of increased familiarity with the
Continental writers of this kind, who, so early as the Apocalypses of
St. Peter and St. Paul, had devoted much ingenuity to this horrible
branch of their subject. We may also perceive an attempt at a more
accurate classification of crimes and punishments; in this respect,
too, those Apocalypses display more method than the visions of
subsequent writers. The classification adopted by our author, which
would seem to be his own, contains indications both of his nationality,
and of his acquaintance with foreign literature. Four categories of
evildoers are enumerated, in which, although they exhibit nothing of
Dante’s scientific precision, a certain system is apparent, in spite
of the several classes overlapping to a certain extent. In chapter
25 fratricides and sacrilegious persons are dealt with, including
fraudulent Erenachs--the guardians of the Church’s temporalities--who
had abused the considerable powers which the tribal constitution
of the Irish Church had given them. The class described in chapter
27 comprises, for the most part, those guilty of various kinds of
dishonesty or violence, though some of them, such as false judges,
sorcerers, and teachers of heresy, would seem to belong rather to
the two following classes, the one of which comprises renegade
ecclesiastics and heresiarchs (chapter 28), while the other, and last
deals with an apparently heterogeneous collection of crimes, all of
which, however, will be found to involve, somehow, a breach of faith on
the part of the offender.

The punishments described contain many striking points of similarity
to Dante, both in their kind, and in the vivid manner in which they
are portrayed. Of such are the icy cowls in chapter 26, which recall
the leaden copes worn by the hypocrites in _Inf._ xxiii. 61 _sqq._ The
sinners stand in black mire, like the _beletta negra_ where stand the
gloomy-minded in _Inf._ vii. 124.[176] The scourging by demons occurs
alike in the _Fis Adamnáin_(chapter 26), and in the _Inferno_ (xviii.
35). A cold wind from the north blows upon the foreheads of the damned,
as in the frozen regions of Dante’s Tolommea.[177] The fiery rain, and
the unavailing efforts of the sufferers to ward it off, anticipate
Dante’s vivid picture.[178] With the throngs of demons in chapter 28,
who assail the heresiarchs with flights of arrows, we may compare the
Centaurs in _Inf._ xii. 56.

The pictures of the sinners fettered to fiery columns by means of fiery
chains in the form of vipers (chapter 25), and of those clad in fiery
mantles, are entirely Dantesque in spirit. In the punishment of those
who are alternately borne up to Heaven, and then dashed down again to
the depth of Hell, our author appears to typify the tumultuous distress
and horrible restlessness which accompany hopeless suffering.

Two classes of sinners remain, who are dealt with in a manner wholly
alien from Dante’s scheme, though in accord with the earlier teaching
of the Church. Reference has been made already to those in whom good
and evil bear divided sway, and who, as in the Avesta, are reserved in
a place apart until the Day of Doom, when ‘judgment shall be passed
between them, and their good shall quench their evil on that day, and
then shall they be set in the Heaven of Life, in God’s own presence,
through ages everlasting.’ This merciful solution of their case affords
a strong contrast to the loathsome doom to which Dante consigns these
Laodiceans.[179] One passage Dante himself might have been willing to
own, had it not been so discordant with his doctrine: the picture of
those charitable, but sensual, persons who are set upon islands--an
echo of the _Imrama_--in the midst of a fiery sea, but protected from
its waves by a silver bulwark, built of their own almsgiving, until
Judgment, when they shall be delivered.

These two conceptions, though not peculiar to the Irish Church, having
been often promulgated, in various forms, by Jewish and Christian
doctors alike, are characteristic of that leaning towards mercy,
which, in one form or other, often appears in Irish ecclesiastical

Our author declares that the state of the blest and of the reprobate
alike, as revealed to him, is provisional only, and that after the Last
Judgment the happiness of the righteous will be infinitely augmented,
and the sufferings of the evil intensified in proportion,[181] when
they shall be consigned to the fiery wall, which until then is
inhabited by the demons only.[182]

Chapter 30 gives a vivid representation of the mental sufferings of the
lost in their mournful habitation, their own sufferings being augmented
by the company of others in like case, and by a restless longing for
the coming of Doom to end their suspense. Herein the author recognises
a truth, the opposite of that truth contained in Hamlet’s dictum,
though not less true; for often it is less tolerable to ‘bear the ills
we have, than fly to others that we know not of,’ even though the
change may surely be for the worse.[183]

Then follows a short description of the dolorous country, which is
depicted as a waste and desolate region of the kind traversed by
Cuchulainn on his journey to the realm of Scathach, and by Árt on his
way to the Tír na n-Óg. The general character of this description is
rather Miltonic than Dantesque.[184] Many instances appear to indicate
that, to the northern spirit, the extreme of terror is suggested
rather by the hauntings of wide and desolate spaces, than by the more
realistic--we might almost say materialistic--imagination apparent in
the intensive presentation of specific and concrete sufferings, which
Dante was led to adopt, alike by his racial and personal temperament,
and by his theory of the Otherworld.

Precedents for the Devil’s abode in the depths of the infernal seas are
furnished alike by the Scriptural Leviathan, and by the _Piast_, which
haunts almost every Irish loch of any depth, as also by the lake of
fire and brimstone in Rev. xx. 10, into which Satan is to be cast at
the end of the world.

The four rivers of Hell, which likewise occur in the Voyage of the
Ui Corra and in several Continental visions, have been supposed by
some authorities to be intended as a counterpart to the four rivers
of Paradise in Genesis ii. 10 _sqq._; this, however, seems doubtful,
having regard to the absence of any mention of the suggested prototype,
neither does it appear that the Scriptural Paradise was present to the
author’s mind. It seems more probable that the number has reference
to the fourfold division of the upper world; indeed, in some later
mediæval visions, these rivers are placed in accordance with the
cardinal points. They may possibly be due to a reminiscence of the
classical Styx, Acheron, Cocytus, and Phlegethon, as in Milton (_P. L._
ii. 575 _sqq._), and Dante (_Inf._ xiv. 115 _sqq._).

The tormenting of the spirits by the eager hosts of demons that infest
the infernal lakes may be compared to the sportive malice of the fiends
in _Inf._ xxii.-xxiii.

In chapter 31 Adamnán is re-conducted, by another skilfully managed
transition, to the Land of Saints. He desired to tarry there, but like
several of his predecessors, from Plato’s Er downwards, he heard a
voice which bade him return to earth and relate what had been revealed
to him, for the instruction of his countrymen: he was then restored to
the body.

Chapter 32 would provide the work with a symmetrical conclusion. As
in the exordium the author represents Adamnán as the last in a series
of holy men to whom analogous revelations had been vouchsafed, so in
this peroration he declares the identity of the doctrine preached by
Adamnán, respecting the world to come, with the teaching of other
saints and fathers of the Church. In designing his work with this
structural completeness, the author stands alone, so far as I am aware,
until Dante comes on the scene.

The episode of Enoch and Elijah standing under the Tree of Life,
surrounded by the bird-flocks, though well told, adds nothing to the
form in which it appears in other Irish legends of the period. We have
already given reasons for supposing that it is an excrescence upon the
original design.

The reflections there made upon the sorrow experienced by the righteous
on hearing of the sorrows of Doomsday,[185] remind us of a similar
passage in Dante:

    ‘Se di là sempre ben per noi si dice,
    Di quà che dire e far per lor si puote,
    Da quei, ch’hanno al voler buona radice?’

                                                     _Purg._ xi. 31-33.

The rhapsodical description of Heaven, which concludes the work as it
now stands, is likewise a matter of ‘common form.’ It may possibly be
an amplification of several passages in the Revelation (_e.g._ xxi. 4,
etc.), though we have seen that something of the kind existed, in a
rudimentary form, in some of the _Echtra_, when describing the Sidhe of
a Dé Danann chief. The curiously close parallel in the Avesta has been
noted already.

This chapter, as before mentioned, does not form part of the version
preserved in the Lebor Brec, and although that MS. is by far the
more recent, it is quite possible that the scribe followed a version
transcribed before the addition was made.[186]


The _Fis Adamnáin_ represents the culminating point to which the
Vision of the Otherworld was brought by writers of the Irish school:
henceforth the achievements of that school are principally apparent in
the influence which they exercised upon the course which the legend
took upon the Continent, and thus, indirectly, upon the development of
European literature. Enough has been said in an earlier part of this
work to show that abundant means existed for familiarising Continental
students with any branch of letters to which the Irish schools might
be addicted, and accordingly we now find the Irish legend of the
Otherworld disseminating itself through the medium as well of works
written upon Irish soil, as of the writings of Irish scholars in
Continental foundations, and similar works composed by foreign authors
more or less under Irish influences.

The first of these productions is the last of the great _Imrama_, and
by far the most famous, though not the best from a literary point
of view.[187] Not only did the legend of St. Brendan, of Clonfert,
surnamed the Voyager (483-574), become one of the most widely diffused
and most popular tales of the Middle Ages, but it even influenced, in
some slight degree, the course of the world’s history, for its account
of a land beyond the Atlantic fired the imagination, and directed the
course, of Spanish and Portuguese navigators many centuries after its
own date.[188]

At one period of his labours, St. Brendan appears to have been seized
with that _taedium vitae_ which is apt, at times, to weigh with special
force upon diligent workers for righteousness. In his case it asserted
itself, characteristically, in that impulse which even now urges so
many of his countrymen to follow his course across the Atlantic, but on
a voyage whence there is no return, and to another world which seldom
affords a vision of Paradise, at any rate. In this frame of mind he
prayed for a land, ‘secret, hidden, secure, delightful, apart from
men’; he then fell asleep, and, in a dream, was directed to repair
to Sliabh Daidche (now Brandon Hill, in the Co. Kerry). This he did,
and there met an angel, who bade him build three ships, and commit
himself to the ocean. The building and manning of the ships, and the
early stages of the voyage, wherein the old model of the _Imrama_ is
closely followed, are interesting, but cannot be given here. One day
the voyagers landed upon the back of a sleeping whale, taking it for an
island, until the monster, awaking, bore them off across the sea.[189]
Thus they journeyed for five years, being sustained the while by food
miraculously sent to them, as to the island hermits of the earlier
_Imrama_. At length St. Brendan espied the Devil approaching them
across the waves.[190] He hailed the demon, and questioned him, who
replied that he had come to seek his punishment ‘in the deep closes of
the black, dark sea.’ This roused the Saint’s curiosity, but the Devil
told him that none might see those things and live; he was prevailed
on, however, to guide the Saint to the gate of Hell. Here Brendan saw
‘a rough, hot prison, full of stench and filth and flame,’ and ‘the
camps of poisonous demons’; here were wailing and ‘handsmiting of the
sinful folk;[191] and a gloomy, mournful life in cores of pain, in
prisons of fire, in streams of the rows of eternal fire, in the cup
of eternal sorrow and death’ (tr. W. S.). The land was full of black
swamps, surrounding fiery forts, and fiery mountains, over which demons
were dragging the souls of the lost, without respite. Then follow long
and gruesome descriptions of the sufferings endured in that place;
these are of the usual type, including all the horrors of a wild and
desolate region, with inclement weather, combining the extremes of heat
and cold; foul, poisonous lakes; fierce winds; wild, rough brakes, and
mountains haunted by monsters, etc., etc. Proceeding on their way, they
visited various islands; round one of them, very lofty, they cruised
for twelve days, without finding a spot where they might land, though
they saw a noble church in it, and heard voices praising the Lord.
After visiting several islands, the Saint returned to Ireland.[192]

However, the spirit of wandering was not yet laid, and St. Brendan
set forth upon a second voyage. In this, as on the first voyage, the
Otherworld type of the lands which he visited is evident. In one
‘little, insignificant island,’ the harbour was ‘filled with devils in
the shape of dwarfs and pygmies, with their faces as black as coal.’
At length Brendan came to an island whereon was a pilgrim covered with
white hair, who directed him to the Tír Tairngire. Here he found an
old man, who bade him enter into possession of the land, for those
were ‘the plains of Paradise, and the delightful fields of the land,
radiant, famous, loveable, profitable,’ etc. ‘A land of odorous
flowers, smooth, bland. A land of many melodies, musical, shouts for
joy, unmournful’ (tr. W. S.). There were ‘health without sickness,
delight without quarrelling, union without wrangling, princedom without
dissolution, rest without idleness, freedom without labour, luminous
unity of angels, delights of Paradise, service of angels, feasting
without extinction,’ and so on, in the rhapsodical style of ch. 35
of the _Fis Adamnáin_. The old man was covered with white hair, like
a dove or sea-mew,[193] and had ‘almost the speech of an angel.’ At
the stroke of a bell tierce was celebrated, when ‘they sing thanks to
God, with their minds fixed on Him,’ a repetition of the words of the
_Fis Adamnáin_; indeed, a long passage at the conclusion of the voyage
coincides almost word for word with the _Fis_, of which, according to
Mr. Whitley Stokes, it is a copy, and not _vice versa_.[194]

The Latin narratives of St. Brendan’s voyages[195] differ widely from
the Irish account; on the whole, the Otherworld element is much less
prominent in them, though they contain several details of the kind.
Of such are the island standing on four pedestals, and an island with
a tall column on it, from which a veil or canopy like silver hung; a
volcanic isle with demon smiths at work, hammering upon their anvils
the souls of the wicked, who threw masses of glowing metal after
the ships; hermits fed with salmon by a cat, etc. There is also a
variant of the story told in the Voyage of Maelduin about the Torach

The Paradise of Birds appears with a new significance. The birds are
those angels who, upon the rebellion of Lucifer, _per sè foro_, and
fell without active guilt on their part, and were relegated to this
island, there to dwell until the general Resurrection, suffering no
pain, and celebrating the canonical hours; a happier lot than that
which Dante bestows upon them in canto iii. of the _Inferno_.

The story of Brendan, it will be seen, though somewhat later than
the _Fis Adamnáin_, is but an _Imram_ of the ordinary type, though
containing several original features, and richer in incident than
most of its predecessors. However, its chief claim to consideration
rests upon the work which it effected in securing for Irish legend a
permanent place in European literature.

With the Voyage of Brendan the _Imram_ type of romance culminates, and
ceases to occupy its former important place in Irish literature.[196]
Henceforth, the Otherworld tradition, whether in Irish or foreign
hands, is continued by means of the _Fis_, the form properly its own,
from the time of Plato downwards.

In this form it inspired a work which almost rivalled the Voyage of
Brendan in the popularity it achieved, and the influence it exercised
upon later writers. This was the Vision of Tundale, written at Ratisbon
by an Irish monk, a Munster man, named Marcus, apparently about the
year 1149, in which the vision is dated. It was written in Latin, and
immediately became widely popular, being translated in the course of
its own century, and several centuries following, into the languages of
most European countries, from Sweden to Spain and Italy.[197]

This Tundale, so-called--whose proper name Professor Kuno Meyer
conjectures to be Tnúthgal or Tnúdgal (_op. cit._, p. 91)--was a knight
of Cashel, said by the author to have been ‘noble of blood, but bloody
of deeds; fair as to body, but careless about his soul. Fierce and
terrible towards the Church, for he would endure none of the poor folk
of the Lord in his sight.’ Once, when on a visit to a friend in Cork,
he fell into a fit while sitting at table; he was taken up for dead,
but was not buried, as a slight warmth was perceptible in his left
side. He remained in a trance from the fourth hour on Wednesday until
the same time on Saturday, when he recovered slowly, partook of the
Sacrament, and gave thanks to God, after which he gave all his goods to
the poor, assumed the cross, and ‘turned his back on his former life.’
It was during this trance that he beheld the vision which he related to

Immediately after the departure of Tundale’s soul from his body, his
conscience expressed great dread by reason of the magnitude of his
sins. Fain to re-enter his body, he could not, but flitted unsteadily,
swiftly, to and fro, weeping and weary, in fear and lamentation. Great
hordes of demons surrounded him, who welcomed him, terming his soul
‘daughter of death and enemy of God, spouse of darkness and foe of
light,’ etc. They tore his face with their talons, and taunted him
with his sins. At length he saw a light, like a star, approaching; this
was his guardian angel who bade him ‘welcome from God.’

Tundale, between fear and joy, replied, ‘A sorry case, my lord; the
pains of Hell have surrounded me, and I am in the snare of death.’

The angel answered, ‘I have ever been with thee, yet never until now
hast thou called upon me thus.’ Then, pointing to the ugliest of
the demons, he added, ‘That is the deed and the counsel [devised]
independently of me.’ However, he promised that Tundale should receive
mercy, though he must suffer somewhat first. He then bade him follow,
and retain firmly in his memory whatever he should see.

Upon seeing Tundale escape them, the demons began to blaspheme God, and
to smite one another, and finally departed, leaving a foul smell behind.

For long Tundale journeyed on in darkness, lighted only by the radiant
garments of his guide. At length they came to a glen ‘darkened with
the mist of death,’ and filled with sparks of fire. An iron covering,
six cubits thick, was on it, hotter than the sparks themselves, and a
stench issued forth that was a more grievous torment than Tundale had
ever known. A huge multitude of wretched souls were sitting on that
lid, burning, ‘till they were melted, like garlic in a pan, with the
glow thereof.’ Others were strained through the lid, like wax through a
linen cloth, and then tempered in the sparks below for a repetition of
the infliction. These were parricides and slayers of their kin.

There was a vast and hideous mountain, one side of it all sulphur and
stench, fire and darkness, the other side covered with snow, and a
piercing wind blowing. Innumerable demons, armed with burning forks and
sharp tridents, would hale the souls of them that had been false and
treacherous from snow to fire and back again. Another glen was full of
darkness and fœtor, and ‘such was its depth that none could discern the
bottom of it, though he could hear the sound of streams, and [perceive]
the stench of ordure, and the outcry and wailing of the souls that
were in torment there,’ and a mist uprose from it. A plank stretched
across between the mountains that bounded the glen, a thousand feet
long and a single foot in breadth, and such as none would dare to tread
unless driven thereto by force. Tundale saw many souls falling from the
bridge, and a priest passing over it unscathed. Those who fell into the
glen were the proud and arrogant; nevertheless the angel bade Tundale
not to fear that trial, though he must bear other torments thereafter,
and he bore him safe across. Again they went on through dark and
tortuous ways, until, weary and wretched, Tundale espied an ‘uncouth,
intolerable monster,’ greater than the mountains which they had
crossed; his eyes were like hills of flame; his mouth, wide yawning,
might contain a legion of armed men. Two giants stood therein, huge as
the pillars of a church, reaching from the lower tooth to the upper.
Flames issued from its mouth, into which crowds of souls were pressing,
driven by the scourges of throngs of demons.[198] A sound of wailing
could be heard proceeding from the monster’s belly, for many thousands
of souls were in there already.

Tundale, in dismay, asked why they approached so near; the angel told
him that his visit was not complete unless he passed through the
monster, for none but a chosen few escaped. Acheron was the monster’s
name; it devoured the covetous, and the giants standing in its jaws
were they who had been false and without conscience. After bringing
Tundale to the monster’s mouth, the angel left him alone there, when
a horde of demons surrounded him, scourged him, and drove him into
the monster’s belly. Here he found himself in company of many other
souls, who were bitten by hounds, lions and vipers, scourged by demons,
suffering the while from the extremes of heat and cold, foul stenches,
etc. Here the soul accused himself of all the sins he had ever
committed, in grief and lamentation, tearing his face with his nails.

At length Tundale found himself outside the monster, and languidly
opening his eyes saw the angel, who bore him to a broad, stormy lake,
wherein were monsters innumerable, seeking to devour the wretched
souls.[199] A bridge spanned the lake, two thousand feet long by one
palm in width, studded with iron nails.[200] The beasts sought to
swallow and chew the souls that were on the bridge, each beast being
as great as a chariot, and a fiery mist issuing from their jaws, till
it seemed as though all the lake were ablaze. Tundale saw a man
attempting to cross with a burden on his back like a sheaf of corn. He
was told that all had to cross that bridge who had stolen anything,
great or small, bearing a burden proportionate to the magnitude of the
theft. Tundale had once stolen a cow; he had, indeed, made restitution,
but only because he had been forced to do so, therefore he had to cross
the bridge, carrying a wild cow on his back. On reaching the other
side, he pointed out to the angel that his feet were all bleeding from
the spikes; this was because he had been one of ‘those whose feet are
swift to shed blood.’

They went on their way through rough and gloomy places, till they came
to a house, great as a mountain, and round like an oven, whence flames
arose to the height of a thousand feet, and souls were burning therein.
On approaching, they saw executioners standing in the flames, armed
with axes, sharp razors, scythes, sickles, augers, hooks, ‘and all
instruments beside, which might serve for wounding, flaying, beheading,
or cutting.’ Tundale begged hard to be let off, but the angel told him
that he must endure it, and handed him over to the demons, who ‘applied
to him the instruments of torment we have before mentioned until they
made small fragments of him.’ ‘In that house were much moaning and
sighing, shrieking and wailing, weeping and gnashing of teeth, sharp
fire scorching the souls.’ At length Tundale confessed that he had but
suffered his deserts, after which he found himself standing alone in a
dark place free from pain.

Upon being rejoined by the angel, Tundale asked him--as well he
might--what was the meaning of the saying, _Misericordia Domini plena
est terra_. ‘That sentence,’ replied the angel, ‘has puzzled many
before you. Now thus is my King: though He is beneficent, yet is He
wont to do justice.’ And he proceeded to expound the necessity for
constraining man to follow his duty. None were entirely free from sin,
but even the righteous were brought to see those sufferings, in order
that they might see what they had escaped, and give thanks; ‘so were
sinners brought to see the joys of Heaven, that they might grieve the
more for their loss.’[201]

Another hideous monster there was, with two feet and two wings, and
many necks, beaks, and talons. An unquenchable fire issued from his
mouth; he sat upon a lake of ice, and swallowed the wretched souls,
melting them, and dipping them into the icy lake for a renewal of
their pains.[202] The beast became pregnant with these souls, who kept
biting and tearing him like a brood of mountain vipers, until the
time for delivery came. This gruesome conception is elaborated with a
number of fantastic details. Thus were punished monks, canons, nuns,
etc., who had broken their vows, who had tongues sharp as of vipers,
and refrained not themselves from evil speaking; also they who had
defiled themselves with inordinate lust. This punishment too had to be
endured by Tundale. After it their way led them by a dark and devious
glen, descending from mountain-tops into deep abysses, their path
lighted only by the radiance of the angel. Tundale asked whither their
road led. The angel replied, ‘This is the road which leadeth unto
death.’ Tundale expressed surprise, for he had heard that that way was
broad, and that many went by it; but the angel explained that the text
referred to this life only.

After a weary journey, they came to a valley wherein were several
smithies, and a great weeping and wailing in them. The smiths seized
Tundale with their tongs, and cast him into a furnace, glowing fiery
red; many souls were in it already, and the bellows were plied beneath
‘as though they were iron on the hearth, until they were reduced to
nought, until they were turned into water.’ They were again uplifted
with the tongs, and forged into one single mass, their pain exceeding
all other pain, and they calling for death, which they could not
obtain. After which they were passed on to the other smithies in

The angel explained that all the souls whom Tundale had yet seen were
destined finally to receive mercy; it still remained for them to see
those that were in the nethermost Hell. Suddenly Tundale was seized
with a great trembling, as he became aware of an intolerable cold
and stench, dense darkness, tribulation and anguish, while he saw
the foundations of the earth sinking. Turning to question his guide
he found himself alone. He heard the wailing and howling of wretched
souls, and terrible thunderings, but could perceive no face, nor
distinguish any voice. At length he discerned a vast four-cornered
cavern, in the midst of which a huge pillar towered up; fire and
vapour rose up against the pillar, and in the midst of the flame many
thousands of demons and souls flew up like sparks, and fell back.
Tundale strove to turn away, but could not, for his feet clave to the
floor; whereat, filled with frenzy, he began to tear himself with his
nails. Demons surrounded him, threatening and reviling, but the angel
rescued him and brought him to the gate of Hell. Here, he told him,
was no light small nor great, but he could see the inhabitants without
their seeing him. Tundale looked, and saw the Prince of Darkness, black
as a raven from head to foot, with more than a thousand hands on him,
each two hundred cubits long, and every finger one hundred palms in
length, with iron nails like warriors’ spears, and toes to match; he
had a long thick tail, covered with iron spikes. He lay on an iron
hurdle over fiery gledes, a bellows on each side of him, and crowds
of demons blowing it. Every limb was covered with chains of iron and
bronze. As he lay there roasting, tossing from side to side, filled
with rage and fury, he grasped the souls in his rough, thick hands,
bruising and crushing them, as a man would crush grapes to squeeze out
the wine. With his fiery, stinking breath he scattered the souls about
Hell, and as he drew in his breath again he swallowed them down with
it, and those whom his hands could not reach he lashed with his tail.
This, the angel explained, was Lucifer, whom God had created first of
all creatures, and of the rest some were angels of darkness, and some
of the race of Adam; ever since their damnation they sought to lead
others to deny Christ, and the greater the power of each, the greater
was his punishment.

Here Tundale saw numbers of his friends and kin, whom he had ever
rejoiced to see in this world, but now beheld with pain.

On leaving Hell, they entered into a great light, and came to a wall
whereon were multitudes of men and women. Rain and wind were beating
on them, but abundant light fell on them, and no foulness was there.
These had led a ‘variegated’ life, in which good and evil were equally
commingled, therefore they were exposed to wind and rain, hunger and
thirst, until the end, when they should enter into everlasting life.

They next came to a forest, and passing through an open door therein
found themselves in a goodly plain, covered with flowers and fragrant
herbs, and the Well of Life in the midst of it; here dwelt the good who
were not yet permitted to join the heavenly host. Tundale recognised
many whom he had known, including two Irish kings, Donnchad and
Concobar, between whom a feud had subsisted, but they had repented
and become reconciled. He also saw a house of stone, without door or
window, yet all might enter in who would, and it seemed as though
the sun were in every part of it. It had no foundations, but was all
set about with precious stones. In it was a golden throne, set with
jewels, and covered with fine silk, whereon a king sat, calm and mild,
while great numbers approached him, in gladness and rejoicing, bearing
jewels and great treasures. Tundale drew near to see, for in the king
he recognised Cormac, whose subject he had been. Great numbers of
priests and deacons were about him in rich vestments, as though for
the mass. The house was hung with choice drapery, and tables were set
out, covered with vessels of gold and silver and ivory, as though for
a royal banquet, so that they who saw that house would think that even
though there had been no glory nor wealth beside, this would suffice
for delight. All present fell on their knees and repeated, _Labores
manuum tuarum manducabis; beatus es, et bene tibi erit_. Tundale
wondered to see that none of those who were serving Cormac were the
king’s own people, but the angel said that he was served by the
poor and pilgrims of the Lord whom he had relieved, so that God had
delivered unto him the everlasting kingdom by their hands.[203]

Even as they watched, the house was suddenly darkened, and all within
it were thrown to the ground, and, lifting up their hands, said,
_Domine, Deus omnipotens, sicut vis, et sicut scis, miserere servi
tui!_ Then Cormac left the house, and Tundale, following, saw him enter
into a fire up to the waist, and a hair-shirt on him from the waist
upward. Thus he spent three hours of every day; the fire being the
expiation of a breach of his marriage vow, and the hair-shirt, of the
murder of a noble that was under the protection of Patrick, and of a
false vow, all other sins being freely remitted.

Proceeding on his way, Tundale saw women, and men, and elders, in
silken robes, and the countenance of each one was like the sun at
midday. Their hair was like gold, they wore golden crowns covered with
precious stones, and they sang _Alleluia_, giving praise, so that ‘if
one heard them but once, he would have no memory of the grief and care
he had known before.’ These were the saints ‘who had macerated their
bodies for God’s sake, and washed their robes in the blood of the
spotless Lamb, and turned their backs to the world, and crucified their
will in the service of God while in the body.’

He also beheld many castles, and pavilions of purple and byssus, gold
and silver, silk and other precious coverings, and in them organs and
timpans and harps, and every kind of music, were playing. Therein were
people of devotion, who had submitted their own will to God, and had
taken upon them humility and lowliness, without pride or vainglory, and
were submissive to their superiors, and found savour in spirituality,
and had bridled their tongues, not only from evil-speaking, but even
from good words.

A little further on they saw a wall, high and thick, all of silver,
and no door in it. Choirs of saints were there, clad in white raiment,
full of gladness and rejoicing, perpetually praising the Trinity.
The radiance of their apparel was like the snow of a single night
beneath the sun’s brightness. These had been faithful in wedlock, had
maintained their people after the will of God, and had distributed
their goods among the poor and the Church; to them will Christ say,
_Venite benedicti Patris mei, possidete regnum quod vobis partum est
ab origine mundi_. Another wall was of gold, and within it golden
seats innumerable, all set with precious stones--pearls and sapphires,
sardius and topaz, etc. Then they saw that, the like of which eye
had not seen, nor ear heard, neither had the heart of man conceived:
namely, the glory which God had prepared for them that loved Him. The
nine orders of angels, and the saints mingled with them, hearkened
to words exceeding sweet which none might record. In the presence of
that vision, Tundale could not only see the glory that was before him,
but also all the pain that he had left behind, for ‘to whomsoever
God giveth power to behold Himself, to him is power to see all other
creatures likewise.’ ‘From that time forth Tundale asked nothing of the
Angel, for to himself was given from God knowledge of what he desired
to know.’

He saw St. Patrick and several bishops, four of whom he had known: viz.
Celestine, Malachi (the celebrated primate of Ireland, and friend of
St. Bernard), Nemias (Gilla na Naemh Ua Muirchertach, bishop of Cloyne
and Ross), and Christian. He also saw a great tree laden with blossom,
and with fruit of every kind. Vast flocks of birds of many hues
were on the tree-tops, singing every kind of music, and no scent of
fragrant herb is known that was not about that tree. All round the tree
multitudes of men and women sat in chairs of gold and silver and ivory,
with golden crowns on their heads, and golden wands in their hands,
singing, and praising the King. This tree was the prop and stay of the
Church, and the people about it were they who had united to support and
defend the Church, turning their backs upon worldly things, and leading
a devout life.

The vision over, Tundale begged to be allowed to stay, but the Angel
told him that he must return to the body. He further bade him remember
what he had seen, that he might deliver it to the people of the world.
He engaged Tundale to eschew evil in future, and promised to protect
and counsel him.

For several reasons, it seemed advisable to relate Tundale’s vision
with some fulness of detail. In the first place, it can hardly be
that a work which so soon acquired, and long maintained, an immense
popularity throughout all Western Christendom, failed to exercise
great influence in the way of fixing, if not of determining, the views
generally held concerning the Otherworld. Further, as the work of an
Irish author, written in the centre of Europe, and almost immediately
adopted throughout the West; embodying, moreover, while continuing
and enlarging, the ideas currently held by members of the Christian
Church respecting the future life, and, at the same time, containing
many elements of distinctly Irish, and even pagan, origin, it reveals
beyond dispute the existence, the manner, and, partly, the extent of
the contribution which the legend made to the development of modern
literature, after quitting the soil upon which it had matured.

The Vision of Tundale has many points in common with the _Fis
Adamnáin_, _e.g._ the preference accorded to the martyrs and ascetics,
the special provision made for the charitable sinners, the nine
orders of Heaven, the episodes of the bridges and the Tree of Life,
etc. Like Adamnán, Tundale expressed a desire to remain in Paradise,
but was bidden return, and relate what he had seen. From a literary
point of view, the work is decidedly inferior to the _Fis_; it is
retrograde, too, in the absence of a definite scheme of the Otherworld;
historically, however, it marks a forward step in the development of
the purgatorial idea, of which, perhaps, it affords the most complete
example which religious fiction contains, prior to its final perfection
by Dante. It also prepares the way for the group of legends associated
with St. Patrick’s Purgatory, for it introduces the idea of the Seer
himself suffering the purgatorial pains, with a view to his own
redemption; Tundale’s vision, however, contains no suggestion of a
local purgatory in this world. In both these respects, he is followed
by Dante, to some extent, though the comparatively slight annoyances
endured by the latter during his ascent of the purgatorial mount--with
the exception of the fiery wall, for which there was a special
reason--were rather, so to speak, incidents of travel, necessitated by
the nature of the country through which he had to pass, than sufferings
inflicted on him for his purgation. In one respect, Marcus merits to be
raised to a bad eminence among his kind: we have marked already, in the
development of the Irish idea of the Otherworld, a growing tendency to
accumulate horrors, and to elaborate and multiply painful details; but
perhaps, in all the repulsive literature of the Christian Inferno,[204]
there is no instance equal to the present of the length to which the
mediæval imagination could go in its conception of the grotesque and
horrible, the cruel and obscene. It displays nothing of the higher
qualities which the author of the _Fis Adamnáin_ possessed: his devout
raptures, his sense of beauty, his strong moral feeling, and his pity
for the reprobate. At the same time, it shows how far Dante was from
deserving the reproach, so often made, of the wanton accumulation of
horrors; how much of the kind, in which his predecessors revelled, he
rejected, retaining only so much--and that, in all conscience, was no
little--as was necessary to enable him to represent the grim theory of
his day, in all the completeness and vividness with which it presented
itself to his imagination.

It is difficult to avoid making some comparison of the present work
with the _Commedia_, for of all the writings of its class it is,
perhaps, that which we have most reason to assume must have been known
to Dante, for not only does it seem improbable that so widely known a
work on his own subject should have escaped his notice, but there are
analogies between the two, deeper than mere similarities in detail.
Tundale, for instance, frequently applied to his angelic guide for the
interpretation of passages of Scripture which presented themselves to
his recollection, even as Dante had frequent recourse to Virgil, and
afterwards to Beatrice and Matilda, for the like purpose. So, too,
the sentences of Scripture which Tundale heard repeated in the region
of probation may be compared to the similar sentences which Dante
heard floating along the air in Purgatory. Tundale, moreover, met and
conversed in the world of shades not only with persons of his own
acquaintance and kin, as Thespesios and others had done before him,
but with a variety of historical personages of past and present times,
including semi-mythical Irish heroes like Fergus Mac Róig and Conall
Cernach, and sacred personages like St. Paul and St. Patrick. Like
Dante, too, he introduced incidents of contemporary history in which
he felt an interest, such as the strife between the princes Donnchad
and Concobar, and passed his own judgment upon the actors. The reward
bestowed upon King Cormac, in the shape of a little kingdom of his
own, is a curious instance of the same kind; it was probably due to
an excessively literal interpretation of the Scripture promises. It
recalls the aristocratic type of the more primitive Elysium. The vision
exhibits the usual agreement with Dante in the provision of a special
treatment for the ‘variegated,’ or half-and-half sinners, and the
usual contrast to him in the nature of that treatment. Marcus follows
precedents which had become inconsistent with the design of his work,
which expresses the more complete theory of Purgatory as a separate
state. Dante, apparently, was guided in his mode of dealing with this
class of persons by his own sense of moral and artistic fitness.
Marcus, in giving the name of Acheron to the flaming mouth of the
beast, betrays a slight tendency towards that importation of classical
ideas into Christian eschatology which Dante afterwards developed to
such an extent.

Coming to similarities existing between single incidents, there is, of
course, a general resemblance between the penalties, etc., enumerated
by both authors, as in the lakes of fire and ordure, the flames and
ice, the piercing winds, the scourging by demons, etc. etc.; there is
also a more special likeness in the nature of the conception, if not
in the details, between the grotesque transformations undergone by the
souls swallowed by Tundale’s monster, and the terrible metamorphoses
brought about by the serpents in cantos xxiii. and xxiv. of the
_Inferno_. Again, the demon on the ice, in Tundale’s Vision, devouring
the souls, resembles Dante’s Lucifer chewing the arch-traitors in
the icy centre of Hell. Tundale’s demon, indeed, is not Lucifer, who
is described later on as being roasted on a gridiron. We may note in
this place that the Irishman and the Italian have exchanged the ideas
commonly accepted by their respective countrymen on the subject: Dante
making the sufferings of the inmost core of Hell to consist in cold,
Marcus in heat. There are various touches besides in which the one
author reminds us of the other. Tundale’s rescue by the angel from
the demons,[205] and the strife between these in the fury of their
disappointment, present a curiously close parallel to the similar
incidents in _Inferno_ xxii. Tundale and his guide, after their rude
journey, looking down into the gulf of fire and ordure, recall Dante
and Virgil pausing in like manner upon the steep and rugged causeways
of the Inferno, to gaze into the abysses of the lower circles. As
Tundale was abandoned by his guide before entering into Hell, so
was Dante left to himself by Virgil upon reaching the Terrestrial
Paradise.[206] To Tundale, when in Heaven, it was shown that he could
look back, and view the regions through which he had passed; so Dante,
in Paradise, was bidden to look downward toward this world and its
ways.[207] Other resemblances exist, but these are the most striking.

Of course it is not to be supposed that the continuation and
development of the Vision legend at this period of the Middle Ages was
confined to the Irish school. It was still, and had been since the
earliest days of the Church, a favourite topic with monastic homilists
and biographers of the saints.[208] However, it has not been my object
to compile a history, or a summary, of this branch of literature, but
to select those examples of it which have either carried the subject
to a further stage of development, or, by reason of their popularity,
or of their accessibility to later writers, may have served as links
in the chain of transmission. Few, indeed, out of the whole mass
possess any interest either from originality of invention, or variety
of treatment, still less from any literary merit, and it is more than
probable that the vast majority of them never passed beyond the limits
of the community to which their author belonged, until they were
brought to light by the researches of modern antiquaries.

Nevertheless, of the Continental visions which belong to this epoch,
there is one which demands further notice, as well by reason of the
exceptionally elaborate manner in which it treats the subject, as of
the recognition accorded to it by later writers. This is the Vision
of Paul, or the Descent of Paul into Hell, a Latin work known in
the South of France before the middle of the eleventh century, and
translated into Anglo-Norman by Adam de Ros, and soon afterwards into
several modern languages. We have seen that the early Church produced
a work known as the Apocalypse of St. Paul, but this, apparently, was
not known to the later Middle Ages, at any rate at first hand, though
the terms in which St. Paul’s Vision is mentioned at the opening of
the _Fis Adamnáin_ suggest that at least the tradition survived, and
several passages in mediæval visions bear a strong resemblance to the
earlier work. It is probably to the eleventh-century vision that Dante
refers in _Inferno_ ii. 28 _sqq._;[209] evidently he does not refer to
the Apostle’s own words exclusively, for St. Paul in his Epistles makes
no mention of a visit to Hell, though it is also possible that Dante
had no other authority for this than the floating tradition.

In this Vision St. Paul was conducted by Michael to Hell, on the
threshold whereof stood a fiery tree, from the branches of which were
suspended by the tongue, leg, neck, or other peccant member, those who
had been guilty of rapacity, or had given false judgment _por confundre
la gente_. Near this was a fiery furnace, whereof _li feus est plus
neirs que mors_, and in it were plunged they who had loved not God.
They then came to a great and turbid river in which devils, in form of
lions, swam about like fishes. The river was spanned by a bridge, the
width of a single hair,[210] which had to be crossed in order to reach
God’s presence. The wicked fell off into the mouth of Beelzebub, which
stood wide open, vomiting flame, ready to receive them. Upon issuing
thence, all black and charred, they were plunged into the river, where
they stood immersed to different depths--to the knees, navel, eyes,
eyebrows, crown, etc.--in proportion to the degree of their guilt.[211]
These were hypocrites, adulterers, envious persons who had exulted in
the sight of others’ sorrow--_por ceo sunt ore dolereux_, etc. Those
who had made war upon the Church were submerged entirely. Faithless
virgins who had violated their vow of chastity, and had destroyed
their children, were clad in black garments smeared with pitch and
sulphur, and aflame, while they endured the embraces of serpents and
dragons.[212] Corrupt judges, who had abused the widow and orphan,
burnt like brushwood amid walls of ice. Priests who had known the law
of God, but failed to keep it, wore heavy collars about their necks.

St. Paul, like Tundale, exclaimed, and asked why man should be born
for such misery; but Michael replied that beneath those depths a still
greater depth remained. This was a well, covered, and sealed with seven
seals, whence proceeded such a stench that St. Paul started back.
Here were imprisoned such as had denied the articles of the Christian
faith.[213] These called upon St. Paul, St. Michael, _and the ‘twelve
peers,’_ to pray for them, and that so loudly that their cry reached to
Heaven; but God Himself replied that no pardon was possible for those
that had rebelled against Him; howbeit, He was prevailed upon by the
prayers of the Saints to grant them the usual Sunday respite, which was
made to last from none on Saturday to prime on Monday.

The authorship of this Vision is unknown, so that there is no saying
whether or not it was composed under the influence of the Irish
Visions. The date and other circumstances would admit of this, and
it has much in common with them; notably, the manner in which the
familiar bridge episode is treated is very similar to that of the _Fis
Adamnáin_; nevertheless, the greater part of it might quite as well
have been derived from other sources, and it bears at least as strong
a resemblance to the Apocalypses of St. Peter and St. Paul; like them,
but to a greater extent, it aims at the recompense of specific crimes
by the appropriate punishments. However, there is a considerable group
of Visions, the authors of which, though foreigners, have confessedly
drawn from Irish sources. This series dates back at least as far as
the time of Bede, to whom, likewise, we are indebted for the earliest
account of the visions of St. Fursa, and for several particulars of
the life of Adamnán. For Bede has recorded a vision seen by Drihthelm,
a Northumbrian monk, who related it to one Haemgils, then a hermit in
Ireland, from whom Bede received it.[214] The soul of Drihthelm, on
parting from the body, was taken in charge by an angel, who brought
him to a great valley in the north-east, which was Purgatory. One side
of the valley was covered with flames, the other with ice, with the
usual accompaniments of hail and snowstorms, filth, evil spirits, etc.
They afterwards came to a great pit and a fiery plain, where they saw
globes of fire rising and sinking, and in them the souls of men were
imprisoned.[215] Here Drihthelm was assailed by demons armed with fiery
forks, but the angel rescued him. They finally reached a wall in the
south-east,[216] wherein was no opening. They were conveyed to the top
of it, whence they could see a wide, flowery plain, and the light on
it was brighter than the sun at noon. People in shining raiment were
walking there; these were the _boni sed non valde_, who were to dwell
there until Judgment. Beyond this could be descried a yet brighter
region, whence fragrant odours and the singing of the saintly choirs
were borne to them. This narrative, commonplace as it is, proves the
early date of several features of some of the principal visions, which
were composed at a much later period.

By far the most famous of the present group of visions are those
associated with St. Patrick’s Purgatory, which attained to a popularity
which almost surpassed that of the Vision of Tundale or the Voyage of
St. Brendan.

It would seem that the earliest known version of this legend is the
vision seen in 1153 by the knight Owen, and written soon after the
middle of the twelfth century by Henry of Saltrey, a monk in the
Benedictine monastery of Huntingdon, who received the story from
Gilbert, Abbot of Louth. Owen was an Irishman in the service of King
Stephen, from whom he received knighthood. Like Tundale, he was a brave
soldier, but in the course of an ungoverned life had been guilty of
rapine, lust, sacrilege, and other crimes. In the course of time he
repented, and returned to Ireland, where he heard of an old tradition,
to the effect that once St. Patrick, when his preaching had failed to
move a pagan audience, wrought their conversion by causing a chasm to
open, through which the next world became visible to them. Tradition
gave out an island in Loch Derg, in the County Donegal, as the scene
of this miracle, and there a religious house was established. Owen
presented himself to the Abbot, and prevailed on him to allow him to
enter the cavern, which he did after being duly prepared by fasting
and prayer. He was conducted by a party of monks along a dark passage,
and then through a brightly lighted cloister. After this he was
left to himself, when he was assailed by a party of demons, from
whom he escaped by pronouncing the name of the Lord. Like Fursa, he
was exposed to repeated attempts of the kind, but always extricated
himself without need of angelic succour. He traversed various plains
set apart for the purgation of different offences. Among other
torments, mostly of the conventional kind, which seem to presuppose an
acquaintance with the visions already related, he beheld sinners of
various kinds suspended from trees by the members that had offended.
Others were plunged in molten metal to a depth corresponding to the
gravity of their offences,[217] while demons tore them with hooks
whenever they attempted to raise themselves therefrom.[218] Others
were congealed in ice,[219] buried in fiery trenches,[220] buffeted
by violent winds,[221] gnawed by serpents,[222] etc. Although the
Purgatory of Owen resembles the Inferno of Dante in so many respects,
it differs from it, and, indeed, from most of its predecessors, in not
distinguishing between the various crimes that are chastised there.
One instance of an idea common to the author and to Dante is very
suggestive: Owen passed several figures lying on the ground crucified,
like Dante’s Caiaphas.[223] Like Dante and Tundale, Owen recognised
several of his friends.

He came to the mouth of Hell, which here, again, assumes the form of
a demon’s wide-opened mouth, into which, each time he draws in his
breath, swarms of souls are drawn in with it, to be again puffed out as
he respires--an image already occurring in the Vision of Esdras before
referred to. There, too, was the usual bridge, spanning a foul flood,
wherein condemned spirits wallowed. At the far end of it was a crystal
wall, and in it a gate of gold and jewels, which led to the Terrestrial
Paradise, the halting-place of the spirits that were cleansed of sin,
and awaiting their final perfection; while, to render this anticipation
of Dante yet more striking, a multitude of these passed before Owen,
chanting psalms. Two archbishops met him, and conducted him to the
top of a mountain, whence he obtained a Pisgah view of the gate of
Paradise, ‘like gold refining in a glowing furnace.’ Then, with a flash
of fire from Heaven, the vision ended.

Nothing certain is known concerning the origin of this legend, though
it evidently existed long before Henry of Saltrey’s day. As we have
seen, it was accounted for by a legend connecting it with the Apostle
of Ireland; it is referred to by Joscelin, also a twelfth-century
writer, in his _Life of St. Patrick_, but there is no mention of it
in any of the earlier writings concerning that Saint. Indeed, some
chroniclers refer it to one Patrick, a hermit of the neighbourhood,
and this origin is given in the popular story of Fortunatus; and it
is unlikely that popular tradition would have had recourse to some
obscure and even hypothetical Saint, if the connection with the Apostle
had been generally recognised. Probably, the island may have been
the scene of some local pagan cult, taken over, with the necessary
modifications, by the Christian community established there, in
something the same manner as St. Brigid’s fire at Kildare. From the
resemblance which the practices there observed bore to those connected
with the Cave of Trophonius and the Eleusinian Mysteries, it seems
not unlikely that if the origin of the rites could be traced, some
analogies might be established between the ancient worship of Ireland,
and some of the more obscure Greek cults. However this may be, the
legend of St. Patrick’s Purgatory soon achieved an almost unexampled
popularity, and was speedily adopted into the popular fictions of
most European countries. Marie de France, in the early part of the
thirteenth century, made it the subject of a long poem, and was closely
followed by several Anglo-Norman writers, while it is recorded in the
learned collections of Jean de Vitry, Vincent de Beauvais, and Caesar
of Heisterbach, and by several of the leading chroniclers, such as
Giraldus Cambrensis, Matthew Paris, and Froissart. Meanwhile, the
island in Loch Derg became one of the recognised holy places to which
pilgrims even from remote parts of Europe, such as Italy, Hungary,
etc., resorted for the purpose of procuring the remission of past sins,
by undergoing the purgatorial discipline in this life, and the English
archives still contain records of certificates given by Edward III. and
Richard II. to several illustrious foreigners, testifying to their due
accomplishment of the pilgrimage and its attendant rites.[224] I do not
know to what authority it was intended that these certificates should
commend the recipients.

The institution never received the formal sanction, nor even the
approbation, of the Church, and in the year 1497 the purgatorial cavern
was closed by order of Pope Alexander vi. For some time to come,
however, the tradition lived on in various forms: in hagiology, as
in the _Aurea Legenda_ of Jacobus de Voragine; in such specimens of
popular literature as the story of Fortunatus; in Tassoni’s burlesque
poem, _La Secchia Rapita_, and in the tragedy of Calderon, to which it
furnished both title and subject. The two points in connection with it
that concern us, are the facts that the legend continued the Irish
school of the _Fis_, and that it achieved a popularity so widespread
and so enduring as to render it almost certain that it must, at least,
have come to Dante’s knowledge.

A few years before the Vision of Owen, a somewhat similar work had
been produced in Italy--the Vision of Alberic, the son of a Campanian
noble, and a monk of the famous Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino.
For the most part, this vision is constructed on the conventional
lines, but in several of its details it is in such close agreement with
Dante’s _Inferno_ as to call for some remark.[225] The commencement,
indeed, appears to be original. At the age of ten, Alberic fell into
a trance, which lasted for nine days. While in this state he was
visited by a dove, which put its bill within his mouth, and carried
him to St. Peter, who, in company with two angels, conveyed him to
the nether world. On his way thither he passed through the _Limbus
infantium_, which also is an unusual feature in works of this class.
Among the penalties of Hell which bear a more or less close resemblance
to Dante’s _Inferno_, are a valley where the unchaste stood in fire
and ice to a greater or less depth according to the gravity of their
offence; tyrants and infanticides were enclosed in masses of fire;
homicides were plunged in a lake of fire, like blood; breakers of
ecclesiastical vows were gnawed by serpents. One purgatorial infliction
resembles the punishment of suicides in _Inferno_ xiii.: the souls in
question were hunted by a demon, mounted on a dragon, through plains
full of thorns and briars, where they left scraps of their clothes and
flesh upon the thorns, until, being lightened of their superfluous
flesh, they escaped, and were thus purged. Several familiar features
reappear, and are, in some measure, reduplicated; thus, besides the
bridge, there is a red-hot ladder, which the wicked have to ascend
until they drop off; Hell’s mouth again appears as the mouth of a
serpent, drawing in and ejecting the souls with his breath, to which
are added a dog and a lion, who, by their breath, blow the souls to
their allotted stations. Alberic, like several of his predecessors, and
also like Dante, is assailed by demons armed with hooks. He crossed the
bridge to the Terrestrial Paradise, where the purified spirits dwell
until the Beatific Vision shall be revealed to them after Judgment.
This place is a flowery plain, from out of which rises the Mountain
of Paradise, surrounded by a wall, over which Alberic was permitted
to look, though he might neither enter, nor repeat what he saw there.
Alberic, too, received St. Peter’s instructions in cosmology--of a very
crude description--and as to the virtues of a monastic life, etc.; he
was then bidden to return and relate his vision.

As the influence of the Irish school upon European letters waned, and
gradually spent itself, a deterioration in the Vision literature became
apparent; it lost what little method and symmetry that school had
introduced into it, and reverted to the primitive amorphous type; we
can no longer trace any indication of original thought or invention;
little, even, of vividness or picturesque description is left. Not
that this deterioration of quality is attended by any diminution of
quantity: on the contrary, several causes combined to render the output
greater than ever. The rapid revival of ecclesiastical literature led,
as one of its results, to increased activity in this long-worked field,
and improved communications enabled the inmates of each monastery to
study and imitate the works of their fellows in other countries and
provinces. Moreover, the anticipation of a speedy end of this world,
which prevailed towards the close of the tenth century, directed the
trend of religious thought towards the world to come, and even after
the cause had ceased to be operative, the effect remained. Then came
the reform of several monastic orders, and the establishment of the
friars, resulting in a renewed activity in preaching and teaching,
which would naturally quicken the demand for subjects so well adapted
to moving exhortation and edification; while the rise of pictorial
art, which found attractive subjects in visions of Judgment, and
representations of the Divine Glory, at once fostered, and was fostered
by, the prevalence of those same subjects in popular literature. At the
same time, the rise of a literature in the vernacular tongues would
naturally co-operate with the development of a genuine theology to
diminish the importance of the Visions of the Otherworld as works of
imagination or vehicles of instruction, and to relegate them to the
domain of the homilist and fabliast.

Accordingly, the literature of the Middle Ages teems with stories
dealing with the Otherworld, and the lot of departed souls therein.
Some of them occur in the lives of Saints and Martyrs; others describe
a visit to Heaven or Hell, made either in vision, or _in propria
persona_, or else record some traveller’s temporary return from the
bourne, charged with a message for the living. Many were composed
with some particular end in view, in order to convey a warning to some
notorious sinner, or to instruct by the edifying fate of some one
remarkable for virtue or vice; often, again, with the practical object
of exacting restitution or reparation from the sinner or his heirs.

The subject was equally popular in sacred and profane literature,
appearing in homily and apologue, folk-tale and fabliau, in poems
serious and comic, tending to edification and otherwise.

In all this there was little enough of originality, or intrinsic merit
of any kind, save only when some aspect of the subject happened to fall
into the hands of a skilled _raconteur_. Nevertheless, it all served
to keep the subject present to the public mind, and thus to afford
that degree of preparation, which always appears necessary alike for
the production and reception of any great and novel work of art, and
likewise to amass a considerable store of material, ready for any hand
capable of dealing with it. At length, in Dante, the one poet arose
whose genius was sufficient to extricate from this heap of trivialities
the great dogmas of the Christian faith which lay at the bottom, and,
by his matchless constructive power, to give form and substance to
the theme, to illustrate it with all that his age could afford of
philosophy and learning, to animate it with the spirit of devotion and
sublime human passion, and to enrich it with all the resources of the
poetical imagination.[226]


In the foregoing pages it has been attempted to trace, from its
various sources, the progress of the legend which culminated in
Dante’s _Commedia_. It did not form a part of this design to collect
the corresponding traditions which abound in the folklore of many
times and peoples, nor even to give an exhaustive account of the forms
which the legend assumed in the several fields which have come within
our purview; rather to confine our examination to those examples
which may be regarded as its sources, or may have contributed to its
transmission, or determined the form which it assumed in later stages
of its development. We have seen that Dante’s poem had been led up
to by a long series of predecessors, like it in theme, if in nothing
else, and that it had already approved its fitness for a place in
the world’s literature, by the success which it had achieved, in
countless forms, among peoples of widely diverse stages of culture. We
have also seen how the Irish Church, in its palmy days, developed a
highly characteristic treatment of the theme, and while following, in
the main, the accepted traditions of the mediæval Church, introduced
certain modifications of a strongly individual and national type. Of
this class the Vision of Adamnán has been selected for a specimen,
as representing the highest level attained by the school to which it
belonged, and as being the most important contribution made to the
growth of the legend within the Christian Church prior to the advent of

I have purposely abstained from offering a conjecture as to any
possible indebtedness on the part of Dante to the Visions of the Irish
school, and to the _Fis Adamnáin_ in particular, further than as these,
by reviving, transmitting, and popularising the theme, placed ready
to his hand the subject which was, of all others, best adapted to
his genius, and, at the same time, best calculated to appeal to the
public of his day. The various topics into which this examination has
compelled the writer to enter--Dante literature, Celtic tradition,
folklore, mythology--are all favourite subjects with that type of
theorist who is wont to accompany a small modicum of the bread of fact
with an intolerable deal of the sack of hypothesis, to the no small
detriment of critical sobriety, so that one who approaches the subject
with no preconceived theory of his own to prove--unless, like those
present at a revival meeting, he be set a-prophesying by contagion--is
apt to become almost as sick of these shadows as was the Lady of
Shalott of those in her magic glass. I have therefore endeavoured to
present the author of the _Fis Adamnáin_ merely as a ‘precursor’ of
Dante, without attempting to prove him Dante’s ‘progenitor.’ All the
same, I do not think I am transgressing these limits by suggesting the
almost certainty that so omnivorous a reader as Dante must have been
acquainted with works so generally known at and prior to his day as the
Voyages of St. Brendan, the Vision of Tundale, and the legends of St.
Patrick’s Purgatory, all of which were more or less influenced by the
_Fis Adamnáin_, and were productions of the same school. There is no
ground to imagine that Dante was acquainted with the _Fis Adamnáin_,
nor can that supposition be entertained unless it can be shown that
there existed in his day a translation of it into Latin, or one of the
Romance languages, to which he might have had access. Indeed, pending
the results of future research, it is impossible to put forward any
work, or group of works, as the model which Dante followed. Probably
no such model will ever be discovered, for the simple reason that none
such ever existed. It is true that Dante availed himself freely of all
that the previous Vision literature could give him, just as he drew
copiously from every source at his command. But for the Latin classics,
and Virgil in particular; but for the Latin Fathers, Augustine, Jerome,
and Gregory; the Schoolmen, from Erigena to Thomas Aquinas; the Romance
poets of France and Italy, it is certain that Dante’s work, as we
have it, could never have come into being. So much may be claimed
for the Visions of the Irish school, and, apparently, no more, but
even this much is enough to entitle them to a place in the history of
modern literature. Indeed, independently of any such relation of cause
and effect between the two, the writings of the Irish school would
still constitute an interesting study, both as the fruits obtained by
previous labours in the same field under widely different conditions,
and even more for the light which they cast upon what is still one of
the darkest places in the intellectual life of Europe.

We have had occasion to remark before upon several particulars wherein
the analogy between the _Fis Adamnáin_--and, to a less extent, others
of the Irish Visions--and the _Commedia_ would appear to go deeper
than can be explained by their common subject, and their use in common
of the same general stock of ideas. However, it does not appear that
the influence exercised by the Irish school mainly consisted in the
introduction of novel ideas and incidents, though even these were not
entirely absent. Indeed, throughout the history of the Vision legend,
we may observe a continual tendency to drop any national or personal
characteristics which it may have acquired at a previous stage of
its evolution. For instance, we have seen to how great an extent the
popular Christian eschatology was modelled upon the classical Elysium
and Tartarus, yet even the earlier Church works upon the subject
contain no such references to classical personages and traditions as
were employed so copiously by Dante, and, in a slight and tentative
manner, by certain of his predecessors. The same may be said of the
Oriental myths which formed part of the Hebrew contributions to
the subject. So, in proportion as the late mediæval visions of the
Otherworld recede in date from those of the Irish school, they tend to
drop more and more of the structure and imagery which were peculiarly
characteristic of the latter, as owing great part of their form or
colour to the Irish national traditions. This process is carried still
further by Dante, who rejected many of the most familiar incidents of
the earlier visions: _e.g._ the bridge, the open mouth of the dragon
as symbolising Hell, Enoch and Elijah beside the Tree of Life, and the
bird-flocks about them, the special provisions for various kinds of the
half-righteous, etc.

Thus, while exercising a secondary influence by further enriching the
stock of material already in existence, the main function of the Irish
Visions was to set a literary fashion, so to speak, whereby the Vision
of the Otherworld came to be regarded as the most natural vehicle for
conveying men’s thoughts and imaginations, as in other ages the epic,
the drama, the dialogue, the pamphlet, the novel, and other forms of
composition, have been specially affected for the like purpose.

It remains to say a few words respecting the literary merits of the
_Fis Adamnáin_. Obviously there can be no rivalry, or even comparison,
in this respect, between it and the poem which stands high among the
supreme achievements of the human intellect. Noteworthy, rather, is
the degree of excellence to which the earlier writer attains, when we
consider what was the state of vernacular literature in the Europe of
his day. His style, like the style of most Irish writers of the best
period, is simple, picturesque, and forcible; the language is terse
and pregnant, without being bald or meagre. There are certain writings
of every age, differing much in merit, from which, as we read them, we
seem to be hearing the author’s voice proceeding; where this is so, the
style can hardly be other than good of its kind, however simple, and
even rude, it may be, and however little it may owe to technical skill.
This characteristic, I think, the work in question possesses; but this
is an evanescent quality which must needs disappear in translation,
especially such a translation as the present, where the aim has chiefly
been at literal accuracy.

Mention has been made already of the advantages which this Vision
possesses over most others of its class, by reason of its superiority
in construction, which is manifested alike in the general design
of the work, and in the superior grouping and visual presentment of
certain portions, such as the description of Heaven, and the righteous
assembled about the Throne. Our author, too, compares favourably with
his fellows as regards his general cast of thought, as particularly in
the stress which he lays upon the spiritual or emotional side of the
sufferings of the lost, and the grave pity with which the contemplation
of their fate repeatedly inspires him--a feeling wonderfully absent
from the generality of his class.

Other characteristics are shared by him with the Irish romantic
writers. One characteristic was common to both of them: there was
_life_ in what they wrote; the scene of their narrative became a
veritable _Tír na mbeo_. They possessed, moreover, that sensibility
to natural beauty, which is often, but most erroneously, assumed to
be the peculiar property of modern times. They were keenly alive to
the amenities of woods and meadows, flowers and birds, to the charm
of colour, of brightness and light of every kind. Above all, they
delighted in melodious sound, whether the music of strings or of the
human voice, the note of birds and bees, the wind in the leaves, or the
sound of falling water. Like Byron, they knew that ‘there’s music in
all things, if men had ears.’ Nor did this delight in Nature consist in
sensuous pleasure merely. They too were aware of ‘a something yet more
deeply interfused’; it was ‘the light of setting suns’ across the ocean
that wooed the Ui Corra to their quest of the Unknown; St. Brendan
yearned for that retreat, ‘secret, hidden, secure, delightful, apart
from men,’ which the ocean solitudes alone appeared to promise him.

This national susceptibility to beauty constantly asserts itself in
our author, in manner appropriate to his theme. He also manifests the
no less national capacity for vivid and picturesque description, and
this without being led into redundancy, or straining after effect, the
leading characteristic of his narrative being a simple earnestness
which is often very effective. It is needless to dwell upon individual
descriptions, most of which have been dealt with in their place. It is
enough just to refer in particular to the description of Heaven, of
the Throne, and the celestial choirs; the naïve but striking symbol
of Omnipresence; the waste and desolate places of Hell in c. 30; the
various kinds of penalties in cc. 25-29; the picture of the generous
but carnally minded souls protected from the fiery sea by a rampart of
the alms they had bestowed.

In two respects our author differs both from Dante and from several
writers of his own school. His work contains no dissertations upon
theology, morals, nor natural science; neither does he hold intercourse
in the world of spirits with his own contemporaries, or with historical
or mythical personages; hence we do not find in it even an anticipation
of the dramatic episodes, or the endless procession of lifelike
characters which render the _Commedia_ a veritable microcosm. We are
tempted to speculate upon the results which might have been obtained,
had our author brought to the treatment of his subject the dramatic
force, the vivid portraiture, and the narrative power, which are
displayed in the great romantic cycles of Irish story.

Soon after the time when our author wrote, the development of the
national literature, and, indeed, all other forms of national
development, were brought, by pressure of circumstances, to a stand.
Often since then the subjects and characters of Irish tradition have
furnished themes for masterpieces of European literature, but these
intellectual triumphs have been like the victories which Irish arms
have won for others, and under banners not their own. It is only in
our own day that any serious and well-directed attempt has been made
to resume the interrupted work upon truly national lines. Even within
the last few years the results obtained, and the promise shown, warrant
a belief that success may prove more speedy and complete than could
have been deemed possible a single decade ago; and with success may
come--who knows?--an infusion into modern literature of a new spirit
and new methods, of which it stands so grievously in need. Καλὸν γὰρ τὸ
ἆθλον, καὶ ἡ ἐλπὶς μεγάλη.

[Uncial: U ċríoċ annso, Buiḋeacas le Dia.]


[1] For further particulars of the life of Adamnán, see Dr. Reeves’s
introduction to his _Adamnán’s Life of St. Columba_, Dublin, 1857
(Irish Archæological Society); Dr. Healy’s _Ireland’s Ancient Schools
and Scholars_; Canon John O’Hanlon’s _Lives of the Irish Saints_, vol.

[2] Mr. Alfred Nutt has suggested that the above passage appears to
claim for the Irish scholars and clerics a monopoly of the educational
and missionary work of the age to the exclusion of the eminent
Anglo-Saxons who were labouring with success and distinction in the
same field. I had no intention to disparage either the original genius
nor the learning of Bede and Aldhelm, Caedmon and Cynewulf, Winifred
and Alcuin, nor their missionary and scholastic work, both at home and
in the Frankish Empire; only to point out that the position acquired
by the Irish scholars and clerics enabled them speedily to disseminate
through Western Europe the works of their compatriots. By recalling the
names of a few of the most eminent Irishmen who enjoyed a Continental
fame during the Middle Ages, we may perceive how wide was the area, and
how long the duration, of their influence.

Clement was the chief of a group of Irish scholars who took a leading
part in the educational reforms promoted by Charlemagne. Alcuin,
Clement’s great English rival at the Frankish Court, had been educated
at Clonmacnois. Joannes Scotus Erigena, in the reign of Charles the
Bald, founded the scholastic philosophy, and by his translation of the
pseudo-Areopagite, and his studies of the Neo-Platonists, bridged over
the chasm between ancient and modern thought. Dungal, in the first
half of the ninth century, was the first astronomer of his age; at
the mandate of Lothair, King of Lombardy, he founded a school which
afterwards developed into the University of Pavia, with branches
in several other cities, and laboured with success at the task of
civilising the Lombards. Add to these Dicuil, a geographer of the same
date, the most accurate topographer of the early Middle Ages; Firghil,
or Virgilius, Archbishop of Salzburg, who taught the rotundity of the
earth and the existence of antipodes; Sedulius, the ninth-century
grammarian; St. Donatus, Bishop of Fiesole (fl. _c._ 840), traveller,
topographer, and Scripture commentator; Marianus Scotus, one of the
leading chroniclers of the eleventh century; and many others, who
laboured with distinction in France, Italy, Germany, England, and
Flanders, down to the thirteenth century, when Frederick II., Emperor,
summoned Petrus Hibernicus to the University of Naples, where he
counted among his theological pupils no less a personage than Thomas

[3] There was also a Tír Enda, between L. Foyle and L. Swilly.

[4] Tigernach gives the date as 624, which Dr. Reeves is inclined
to accept, _op. cit._ Introduction, xl-xli. Lanigan is in favour of
627, which agrees with the reputed age of Adamnán, 77, at the time of
his death. Possibly the latter date is correct, the difference being
explicable by the different system of chronology adopted by Tigernach.

[5] _Lives of the Irish Saints_, vi. 708; and see _Ibid._, ix. 505.

[6] Acts x. 11.

[7] 2 Cor. xii. 2-4. Cp. also Galat. i. 12, 16; Ephes. i. 3; and the
_Apocryphal Acts of Paul_, Ante-Nicene Library, vol. xvi.

[8] With the ancient Irish, the abode of the departed was beyond the
Atlantic, towards the setting sun; so, in the Hindu mythology, Yama,
King of the Dead, crossed the stream towards the sunset, first showing
the way by which all men were to follow him. This natural idea has been
shared by many barbarous races.

[9] Vault; [Uncial: inna luinge], genitive of [Uncial: long], = ship.
_Qy._ here = ‘nave’?

[10] South-east, possibly because that is the direction of Jerusalem,
the Holy City.

[11] The word used is [Uncial: Mórdáil], the name of the Irish National
Assembly, or States-General. See _ante_, Sec. 2.

[12] Or, ‘a chair highly wrought,’ [Uncial: Inna ċaṫair ċumtaċta].

[13] The comparison of the arch above the head of the Heavenly King
to a wrought helmet or a regal diadem, may have been suggested by the
picturesque and chivalrous custom of the Irish kings recorded in the
ancient Irish poem upon the Fair of Carman, whence it appears that
their head-dress on ordinary state occasions was a wrought helmet, the
royal crown being reserved for the day of battle.

[14] ‘Glow,’ [Uncial: derge], lit. ‘redness,’ which, Mr. Whitley Stokes
suggests, ‘symbolises divine love, creative power, royalty.’ If so,
cp. Dante’s description of a ‘goodly crimson’ as ‘questo nobilissimo

[15] Or, _qy._ ‘comet’?

[16] Compare the description of the seven walls of Ecbatana, of
different hue, in Herodotus, Book I.

[17] So Windisch trans. [Uncial: Crand caingil], = _cancelli_.

[18] ‘Seats,’ or _qy._ stalls; the author appears to have in mind
the construction of a Christian church. Cp. note to ch. 31 _post._
‘Canopies,’ lit. ‘crowns.’

[19] Or ‘virgins,’ W. S.

[20] See last note.

[21] Or ‘parricides,’ [Uncial: fingalaċ], which O’Donovan translates
both as ‘a fratricide, one who has killed a tribesman,’ and
‘parricidal’ (Supplement to O’Reilly’s Dictionary).

[22] The Erenach, or [Uncial: aircindeċ], was the official guardian of
Church temporalities.

[23] [Uncial: Dánaib], which signifies ‘gifts,’ ‘arts,’ etc.

[24] [Uncial: pluic], which W. S. trans, ‘maces,’ or ‘clubs.’

[25] ‘Reivers,’ [Uncial: aiṫdibergaig], which W. S. trans. ‘men who
mark themselves to the Devil,’ but expresses doubt on the subject, and
cites authorities which seem to imply the sense of rapine or plunder.

[26] Or ‘without remission, but they,’ etc.

[27] [Uncial: Co lár], which W. S. trans. ‘down to the ground.’

[28] [Uncial: Roṫa], so Windisch from [Uncial: ruṫ]; W. S. trans,
‘wheels’ from [Uncial: roṫ].

[29] Or, ‘the ordained who have broken their vows.’

[30] [Uncial: Erdam], which, Mr. Whitley Stokes says, was the name
used by the Irish ecclesiastical writers as equivalent to the Greek
_pronaos_ or _narthex_. See notes 1 and 2 to Ch. 13, _ante_.

[31] Cp. _ante_, Sec. 2.

[32] The Mórdáil at which these laws were passed was apparently held
in the year 697, while Finnachta Fledach had been assassinated in 695.
This anachronism affords yet further evidence of the comparatively late
composition of our version of the Vision.

[33] [Uncial: Anmċairdine], ‘soul-friendship’; [Uncial: anmċara],
‘soul-friend,’ is the Irish name for a father-confessor.

[34] Professor Bryce considers that the first extant mention of the
Donation of Constantine is contained in the letter of Pope Hadrian 1.
to Charlemagne, dated A.D. 777 (_Holy Roman Empire_, ch. vii. p. 112
note, 4th ed.). If so, the allusion is couched in very general and
obscure terms. Döllinger, who dates the letter in question 775, holds
that it refers not to what is commonly understood by the Donation of
Constantine, but to gifts of land in various parts of Italy, afterwards
seized by the Lombards. The forgery of the Donation would appear to be
later than 750, but prior to 774, as it refers to the state of things
existing before the first Frankish settlement in Italy, which took
place in 774. In any case, it is later than the time of Adamnán.

[35] Philip succeeded to Gordian III. in 224, but was not his son,
being an Arab. He favoured the Christians, and corresponded with
Origen, whence arose a report, countenanced by Eusebius, that he had
embraced Christianity, but for this there is no authority.

[36] [Uncial: Taiṫleċ], so W. S.

[37] [Uncial: Suṫi]. So Windisch, though W. S. trans. ‘fruitfulness

[38] Mr. Alfred Nutt, in his _Essay on the Irish Vision of the Happy
Otherworld and the Celtic Doctrine of Rebirth_, appended to Prof. Kuno
Meyer’s _Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal_, 1895-7, points out that in
Greece and Ireland alone of Aryan nations the Elysium legend existed
devoid of any eschatological belief (i. 329).

[39] See _Odyssey_, xi. 36 _sqq._; 222, 391 _sqq._; 488 _sqq._ This
gloomy impression is little mitigated by mention of the ‘Asphodelian
meadow’ in which the dead reside (_Od._ xi. 539; xxiv. 13).

[40] See, in particular, Homer, _Odyssey_, iv. 563; Hesiod, _Works and
Days_, 110, 166; Pindar, _Olympiad_, ii. 68, 120, which last, perhaps,
contains the most finished picture of the Elysium drawn by the earlier

[41] It would be possible to cull from the Greek writers a great wealth
of allusions to the Otherworld; not only, however, do exigencies
of space forbid this, but they are hardly pertinent to the present
subject, for the reasons mentioned in the text. Still less need we
enter into the burlesque descriptions of an Otherworld, conceived as a
Land of Cockayne, several of which are preserved in fragments of the
comic poets.

[42] The Greeks themselves referred to a foreign origin most of their
mystical rites, and the deities worshipped therein. No doubt it is
often the case that peoples who observe in foreign nations practices
akin to those existing among themselves, are apt to derive these from
the former; nevertheless it appears certain that while the cults which
formed the basis of the mysteries existed, in a primitive form, in the
indigenous Greek religion, they received a great impetus, at several
distinct periods, through the importation of similar myths and rites
from abroad. Thus M. Paul Foucart (_Recherches sur l’origine et la
nature des Mystères d’Eleusis_, p. 75) accepts the Greek theory of
the Egyptian origin of the Demeter cult and the Eleusinian rites at
a date prior to the eleventh century B.C. These rites, he assumes,
were purely agricultural at first, but at a later day (seventh century
B.C.) became associated with the doctrine of a future life (pp.
75-9). He further holds that this doctrine was itself brought from
Egypt by the philosophers, Pythagoras and others, who are reported
by tradition to have travelled thither for instruction (p. 83). This
latter part of M. Foucart’s theory presents certain difficulties. The
name of Pythagoras is commonly associated with the Orphic mysteries,
to which M. Foucart denies any connection with Eleusis, while the
conception of a future life which prevailed both in the Orphic and
Eleusinian mysteries and in the teaching of Pythagoras, differed in
important points from the Egyptian doctrine, as will be pointed out in
a later place. Professor Rohde likewise holds that while the Dionysiac
mysteries existed in Greece in pre-Homeric times as a minor and local
cult, the Dionysos-Zagreus rites, which formed the basis of the Orphic
mysteries, were imported from Thrace at an early date; probably, Mr.
Nutt suggests (_op. cit._, ii. 141), during the period of change which
followed upon the Dorian invasion. Thrace, apparently, derived the
Zagreus myth from Phrygia. Prof. Percy Gardner (_Contemporary Review_,
March 1895) is also inclined to accept the Greek traditions as to the
derivation of many of their mystical rites and cults from Asiatic
sources, differing herein from Prof. Dieterich, who holds that these
were native developments. For a discussion by Mr. Alfred Nutt of these
various theories see _op. cit._, 1. ch. xi.

[43] The best authorities appear to be agreed that there are no grounds
for the views once held that the mysteries contained either some
esoteric creed of a religion purer than that held by the multitude, and
jealously guarded from the latter, or, according to others, a system of
occult philosophy or theosophy.

[44] See his article, ‘Mysteries,’ in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_ ed.
9, vol. xvii.

[45] Sir W. M. Ramsay further mentions a Rhodian inscription of the
fifth century B.C., which required the candidates for initiation at the
temple of Lindus to bring a pure heart and a conscience free from crime
(_loc. cit._).

[46] This may possibly represent the conception originally prevailing
in the mystic schools concerning the future life of mankind in general.
(See Mr. Nutt hereon, _op. cit._, i. 256.) If so, redemption from such
a lot would be one of the most important objects to be compassed by
the theurgic effects of initiation, until the growth of moral ideas in
connection with the mysteries converted this ‘place of filth and gloom’
into a place of punishment for the wicked.

[47] In like manner, the spirits were amazed to see that Dante’s
body cast a shadow, as the souls of the dead did not (_Purg._, iii.
88 _sq._), and that he breathed (_ib._, ii. 67-9). According to the
old Persian belief, the souls of the beatified dead were to cast no
shadows. See Sec. 2, _post._

[48] See Books iv. and vi. of his _De Civitate Dei_.

[49] See Dante’s Tenth Epistle, addressed to Can Grande della Scala,
_Oxford Dante_, pp. 414 _sqq._

[50] _Op. cit._, p. 416, ll. 173-5.

[51] _Ib._, l. 169.

[52] _Ib._, p. 417, l. 268.

[53] Lenormant, _Origines de l’Histoire_, vol. ii., cited by Ragozin,
_Chaldæa_, p. 276, which work gives a compendious account of the
subject. For fuller particulars see Sayce, _Hibbert Lectures_, 1887,
Lectures iv. and v., and his article ‘Chaldæa’ in the _Encyclopædia
Britannica_, ed. 9, vol. iii.

[54] Sayce, _Hibbert Lectures_, 1887, p. 364.

[55] ‘She makes the soul of the righteous one go up above the
Hara-berezaiti (Mount Elborz), above the Kinvad bridge she places it,
in the presence of the heavenly gods themselves.’--_Vendîdâd_, xix. 30;
in Darmesteter’s translation, _Sacred Books of the East_, iv. 219; and
see Ragozin, _Media_, c. iv.

[56] In the Avesta we meet with an idea which is prominent in Jewish
and Christian examples of the Vision legend. If, at the balance of any
soul’s account, when his good and evil deeds were weighed one against
the other, the scales were equally poised, he was reserved for the last
Judgment in a place set apart for his like.

[57] _Vendîdâd_, p. 55.

[58] _Loc. cit._, footnote.

[59] _Vendîdâd_, p. 20, note. A similar bird occurs frequently in the
Hindu mythology. The Accadian ‘divine storm-bird’ stole the lightning
from heaven, and was thereby enabled to impart to man the knowledge
of fire, and of divination by lightning flashes.--Sayce, _Hibbert
Lectures_, 1887, 293-4. The Babylonian Semites identified this bird
with their culture-god Zu, who, in form of a bird, robbed the gods
of the ‘tablets of destiny’ (_op. cit._, 295-7). All the world over,
the part of Prometheus has been played by a supernatural bird, such
as Yehl, the crane, of the Thlinkeets; Pundgel, the eagle-hawk, of
Australia, etc.

[60] _Vendîdâd_, vi. 15-16.

[61] _Op. cit._, p. 17.

[62] Speaking of the effects which the conquest of Babylon by the
Persians produced upon the religion of the latter, Professor Dill
remarks: ‘The conquerors, as so often happens, were to some extent
subdued by the vanquished. Syncretism set in; the deities of the
two races were reconciled and identified. The magical arts and the
astrolatry of the valley of the Euphrates imposed themselves on the
purer Mazdean faith and never released their hold, although they failed
to check its development as a moral system.’--_Roman Society from Nero
to Marcus Aurelius_, 1904, p. 587, where the author cites Cumont,
_Monuments relatifs aux Mystères de Mithra_, and Gasquet, _Le culte de

[63] _Vendîdâd_, Introduction, sec. v.

[64] The cult of Mithra, which, in the earlier ages of the Empire,
extended not only over the Mediterranean littoral, but throughout
all Europe so far as the Roman legions went, even to Yorkshire and
the forests of Pannonia, was full of symbolism, the meaning and even
the nomenclature of which are only to be explained by the Persian
religion, in which the cult originated, although it came to receive an
interpretation consonant with the Neo-Platonic theories.

[65] He further suggests that the original notion of the Var as a place
of refuge for the seeds of things from a coming destruction is borrowed
from the Judaic account of Noah. This would seem to be a very strained
inference from a slight analogy. The Biblical account finds much closer
parallels not only in the Chaldæan traditions, but in the Vedic account
of Manu and the Rishis being saved from the deluge in an ark containing
the seeds of things, not to speak of deluge myths in the East and in
the West, as the Thlinkeets, the Natchez, and other tribes of North
America; the Muyscas and Orinoco Indians of South America; the Samoans,
Tahitans, etc.

[66] He assumes that Vohu Mano (Good Thought) is the Neo-Platonic
Logos, and if so, that the other Amesha Spentas are of post-Alexandrian
development, and he goes on to find parallels for them too in the rest
of the seven emanations enumerated by Philo. However, even if the
parallels are so close as to compel the conclusion that the character
and functions ascribed to the Amesha Spentas in their latest form
are due to Neo-Platonic influences--and even this is not shown very
convincingly--it by no means follows that the very conception of the
seven celestial powers is due to the same source.

[67] We have here, in Persia, an anticipation of the Neo-Platonic æons
before the time of Plato himself--a conception which can hardly be
referred to the earlier theory of the kind propounded by Hesiod.

[68] _Vendîdâd_, Introduction, p. liv, and see p. lxi. For the dead
casting no shadow, cp. Plutarch’s Vision of Thespesios.

[69] _Op. cit._, p. lxv.

[70] Article ‘Chaldæa,’ in _Encyclopædia Britannica_, vol. iii.

[71] Revelation xv. 2, and cf. _Fis Adamnáin_, ch. II.

[72] Herodotus, _Euterpe_, ii. 156.

[73] Dill, _op. cit._, p. 561.

[74] Athenian colonists were settled in the Nile delta in the seventh
century B.C. at latest, and at an even earlier date intercourse had
been maintained between Greece and Egypt by the medium of Greek traders
to the Nile, and Greek mercenaries in the Egyptian service. The cult of
Isis was introduced into Attica, at the Peiraios, in the fourth century
B.C. (Foucart, _Associations réligieuses_, etc., p. 83), and extended
over the Grecian islands and the mainlands of Greece and Ionia.

[75] Budge, _Book of the Dead_, 1901, 1. lxv., and _Ib._ lxvii. _sqq._
Le Page Renouf, _Hibbert Lectures_, 1879, pp. 180-1.

[76] According to one Rabbi Leo, the wicked are tortured by fire and
otherwise, some without hope of remission, others for a time only.--E.
Cowper, _Apocryphal Gospels_, Introduction, lxviii.

[77] At a somewhat later date, the doctrine of the end of the world
by fire, held by many of the Stoics who, in the first century of the
Empire, represented the best and most serious side of Pagan thought,
would appear to have encouraged the bent of Christian teaching in that
direction rather by familiarising the subject to men’s minds than by
the contribution of any new matter.

[78] The speculative writings of the Rabbis belong to a time when the
Jewish schools of learning had fallen under the spell of Hellenism. So
preponderating was the influence of the latter that Professor Percy
Gardner appears inclined to trace the entire Hades theory to the Orphic
rites, and suggests a ‘great probability that the Christian doctrine of
the Descent into Hades, together with the imagery in which the future
world was presented to the early Christian imagination, was derived
neither from a Christian nor a Jewish, nor even a Hellenic source,
but from the mystical lore of Dionysos and Orpheus.’--_Contemporary
Review_, March 1895. So Mr. Alfred Nutt, speaking of the Elysium of the
Christian apocryphal writers, considers that the ‘source must be sought
for not in Jewish but in Greek conceptions,’ and that the Christian
Heaven derives immediately from the Hellenic one.--_Voyage of Bran_,
i. 256, and see ch. xi. generally. With all respect to these eminent
authorities, I would submit that it would be going too far absolutely
to exclude from those parts of late Jewish and early Christian
eschatology which deal with the theory of Hades, including the Descent
thither, and with the description of Elysium, all indebtedness to the
Oriental creeds which have contributed so much to that eschatology
in other respects. With this reservation, we may readily agree with
Mr. Nutt that ‘Christian eschatology, as so much else of Christian
doctrine, is emphatically a product of the fertilising influence of
Hellenic philosophy and religion upon Eastern thought and fancy’
(_op. cit._, p. 281); only contending that Eastern thought and fancy
contributed much of the raw material.

[79] Le Page Renouf, _op. cit._, p. 183.

[80] _The Book of Enoch_, translated from Dillman’s text, with notes,
by Charles. Oxford, 1893. See also _The Book of Enoch_, trans.
Lawrence. Oxford, 1821.

[81] Cp. the veil of fire and veil of ice in the doorway of Adamnán’s
celestial city.--_F. A._ 14.

[82] 2 Esdras iv.

[83] _L.c._ ii. 12, 18-19; and cp. Isaiah xxv. 6; Revelation xxii. 2.

[84] 2 Cor. xii. 2-4; and cp. Galatians i. 12, 16; Ephesians i. 3.

[85] _E.g._ in Revelation ii. 7. ‘To him that overcometh will I give to
eat of the Tree of Life, which is in Paradise’; and xxii. 2, ‘In the
midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there
the Tree of Life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her
fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of
the nations’; also the Throne and One seated thereon in ch. iv., xx.
11; the sea of glass mingled with fire in ch. xv.; the city built of
precious stones, etc.

[86] _Vide_ Dante, _Inferno_, canto iv.

[87] The fact that the work was most in repute in the Eastern Church,
and that several of the leading Western fathers wrote of it in
disparaging terms, may possibly be held to militate to some extent
against this ascription.

[88] This passage, so thoroughly Dantesque, reminds us curiously of
chapters 9 and 12 of the _Vita Nuova_. Indeed, the little episode might
almost be termed a painting of Dante and Beatrice executed by one of
the primitives. In like manner, the passage that ensues recalls the
reproaches which Beatrice addressed to Dante on meeting him in the
Earthly Paradise at the close of the _Purgatorio_.

[89] Herein the plan of the work accords to some extent with that of
the _Book of Enoch_.

[90] _Ante-Nicene Christian Library_, vol. xvi. p. 480.

[91] Two Latin versions, together with the account of the pseudo-John,
are translated in vol. xvi. of the _Ante-Nicene Christian Library_.

[92] Using the word ‘people’ in its wider sense, not as equivalent to
the _popolaccio_, for there were persons of rank and culture among
the early converts, but as distinguished from those who were in high
station, or were remarkable for learning.

[93] _De Legibus_, II. xiv. 36.

[94] See Plutarch’s Consolatory Epistle to his Wife.

[95] Plutarch: _On Superstition, On the Tardy Vengeance of God, On the
Impracticability of a Happy Life on Epicurean Principles._ Lucian:
_Philopseudes, De Luctu_.

[96] See _Ireland and the Celtic Church_, by Dr. G. T. Stokes; ed. 5,
1900, pp. 169-174.

[97] _Op. cit._, p. 229, and cp. pp. 215-16.

[98] Edited by Mr. Whitley Stokes in _Anecdota Oxoniensia_, _Mediæval
and Modern Series_, vol. i., part 3.

[99] G. T. Stokes, _op. cit._, pp. 228-9. For other points of
resemblance and instance of communication between the Irish and the
Eastern Churches, cited by the learned author, see pp. 105 _n._, 173-4,
186-7, 229, and Lecture x., _passim_.

[100] This classification, in theory at least, regulated the structure
of society from top to bottom. There were four ranks of kings, from the
_Árd Rí_, High King, or Emperor, of all Ireland, to the _Rí Tuatha_,
King of a Tribal Territory. The territories themselves were divided
according to a descending scale, analogous to the English division into
county, hundred, tithing, etc. There were six grades of princes under
the king, classified according to the extent of their lands. Society
was divided into nobles, freemen, and serfs, and each of these classes
was subdivided into a great number of minor grades. The family was
traced to the seventeenth degree, and was grouped into six classes,
whose rights and liabilities in matters of inheritance, in the receipt
or payment of fines and damages, etc., are defined with the utmost
minuteness. The land tenure, and the dues to be paid in respect of each
kind; the circumstances of crimes and civil injuries, and the fines or
damages to be paid for each; in short, all the details of public and
private life, were elaborated with similar minuteness. For particulars,
the reader may be referred to the ancient legal and customary
treatises, and the respective commentaries thereon, printed in the
Rolls Series, the _Lebor na g-Cert_, ed. O’Donovan, 1847, and O’Curry’s
_Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish_, ed. W. K. Sullivan, 3
vols., 1873.

[101] The _Filid_ must be distinguished from the _Bárd_, a name often
applied to the poetic and literary class promiscuously, but really the
title pertaining to a rank far below the _Filid_ in dignity. See Dr.
Douglas Hyde, _The Literary History of Ireland_, pp. 486, etc.

[102] It is not to be supposed that so elaborate a system ever existed,
or could exist, in its entirety, or that the population of Ireland was
ever sorted out into sets of social pigeon-holes with anything like
the completeness represented by the chroniclers. The old Irish writers
combined two characteristics, which may appear, at first glance,
contradictory, though reflection may enable us to see how compatible
they are on psychologic grounds, viz. a tendency to run riot in the
exuberance of fancy, and an equally excessive love of system and minute
detail. Nevertheless, writing as they did of the state of society
in which they lived, and for readers who were acquainted with the
facts which they described, they cannot be supposed to have invented
their systems and classifications, but rather to have idealised and
elaborated their picture of an existing state of things so as to
make it accord with their conception of the true significance of the
social scheme. Modern writers have often done much the same thing in a
different way, in their treatment of the Feudal System, the Imperial
Theory, the Renaissance, Reformation, and similar movements, etc.

[103] The Irish writers are further remarkable for not confining their
tolerance to traditional practices and the like, but extending it even
to the spiritual beings of the national faith. This point has been well
put by Mr. Nutt, _Voyage of Bran_, ii. 205: ‘And whereas in every other
European land the ministers of the new faith were as bitterly opposed
to the fanciful as to the business aspect of the older creed, in
Ireland it is the saint who protects the bard, the monk who transcribes
the myth, whilst the bird-flock of Faery, alike with the children of
Adam, yearn for and acclaim the advent of the Apostle.’ And even when
it has seemed necessary to regard these beings as demons, several tales
show priest or saint feeling for them the like regretful kindliness as
Origen, Burns, and Uncle Toby expressed for the chief of the demons. A
very striking instance of the eagerness shown by the Christian writers
to put the best possible construction upon their pagan predecessors,
occurs at the close of ‘The Irish Ordeals,’ etc., trans. by Mr. Whitley
Stokes, _Irische Texte_, III. i. 221: ‘The wise declare that when
any strange apparition was revealed of old to the royal lords … it
was a divine ministration that used to come in that wise, and not a
demoniacal ministration. Angels, moreover, would come and help them,
for they followed Natural Truth, and they served the commandment of the

[104] Most of the principal Irish deities include among their functions
that of ruler of the dead. One of the most pronounced examples of the
Yama type is Tethra, who is described in the legends as Chief of the
Fomorians, whereby his distinctly Chthonian character is asserted; and,
after the defeat of his people at the battle of Mag Tured, as ruler of
a land beyond the ocean, like Varuna, when overcome by Indra (and cp.
Hesiod, _Works and Days_, 168-9, and Pindar, _Olymp._ ii.). Thence,
from time to time, he would send beautiful maidens to summon to him the
chiefs and heroes of Éire.

[105] The subject of the Otherworld in Irish literature has been
treated very fully by Mr. Nutt in his _Essay on the Irish Vision of
the Happy Otherworld, and the Celtic Doctrine of Rebirth_, appended to
Professor Kuno Meyer’s _Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal_, 2 vols., 1895-7.

[106] Extracted from the _Lebor na h-Udri_, by O’Curry, _Manners and
Customs_, etc., vol. iii.

[107] A similar caldron was a favourite property of supernatural beings
in the heroic tales of Ireland as of Wales; indeed, so desirable a
possession enters into the folklore of most nations.

[108] _Aislinge Meic Conglinne_,‘The Vision of Mac Conglinne,’ edited,
with translation, notes, and glossary, by Prof. Kuno Meyer, 1892.

[109] _Ante_, note 3, p. 44. The work is edited, with translation,
notes, and glossary, by Prof. Kuno Meyer, who dates the composition of
the tale in its present form in the seventh century; Mr. Nutt suggests
the eighth century (_op. cit._, i. 141). Fragments of the tale exist in
the L.U. Prof. Rhys identifies Bran with Cernunnos, the divine ancestor
of the ancient Celts (_Hibbert Lectures_, pp. 85-95). Mr. Nutt further
suggests an identity with Brons, the Fisher King, and keeper of the
Graal (_Studies on the Legend of the Holy Graal_, 1888, p. 208).

[110] In the disputation between Neid and Fercertue which was to decide
which of them should be Árd Ollamh (Chief Doctor) of Ulster, Fercertue
put the riddling question, ‘What is it that thou traversest in haste?’
Neid replied, ‘The plain of age, the mountain of youth, the course of
the ages, in pursuit of the King in the house of earth and stones,
between the candle and its ending, between the combat and the hatred of
combat, amid the brave warriors of Tethra.’

[111] Transcribed into the L.U. before 1103 A.D. from the earlier
Book of Slane, now lost: edited (without a translation) by Professor
Windisch in _Irische Texte_, vol. i. pp. 197 _sqq._ Professor Windisch,
who states that the tale is composed of materials from several distinct
sources (_op. cit._, pp. 202-3), calls attention to the thoroughly
pagan character of it, despite the introduction of a passing allusion
to Adam on p. 219. Portions of the descriptions of the Tír Tairngire
contained in this tale and in the story of Mider have been rendered in
metre by Dr. Douglas Hyde, _Literary History of Ireland_, pp. 202-3.

[112] As Zeus was brother to Pluto, and as the strife between the
Olympian and Chthonian powers--the powers of light and darkness--are
typified, in most mythologies, by discord between a pair of divine
brothers; a conception surviving in such creations of the popular or
the lettered imagination as Valentine and Orson, Alcina and Logistilla,

[113] The episode is contained in the _Tochmarc Emere_, The Wooing of
Emer, dated eighth century, by Professor K. Meyer. Miss Eleanor Hull
translates the L.U. version in her _Cuchullin Saga_, pp. 56 _sqq._
Professor Meyer publishes a shorter version, with translation, in the
_Revue Celtique_, xi. 442 _sq._

[114] Mr. Nutt gives abstracts of these stories in the _Voyage of
Bran_, i. 297 _sqq._

[115] In the Perceval legend, a bridge of glass occurs in Gautier’s
continuation of the _Conte du Graal_ (Nutt, _Studies_, etc., p. 17).

[116] A similar ‘obstacle bridge’ occurs in other Irish Sagas. In
the _Voyage of Maelduin’s Curach_ is a bridge of glass, on which the
passenger kept falling backwards. Of this kind must have been the
bridge which the celebrated Irish M.P.--real or mythical--described as
‘separating’ two shores.

[117] Edited and translated by Professor K. Meyer in _Revue Celtique_,
x. 212 _sqq._, from the MSS. in T. C. D.--H. 2, 16 and Eg. 1782.

[118] This flagstone, the Lia Fáil, was endowed with the property
of shrieking whenever pressed by the foot of a lawful king. The
frequency of vocal stones in Irish legend will be referred to later on.
Popular tradition identifies the Lia Fáil with the stone now inside
the Coronation Chair at Westminster, stolen by Edward I. from Scone,
where the kings of Alban used to be crowned upon it, and whither
it was said to have been brought from Tara by the Dalriad Scots. I
believe, however, that the identity of the stone so taken to Scotland
by the Dalriada with that of Tara has been impugned. The practice of
inaugurating a king or chief upon a certain stone survived into late
historical times.

[119] The habitual presence of the great tree outside the raths of
the Tuatha Dé Danann is doubtless to be ascribed to the custom which
prevailed in Ireland of having in a similar position a public tree
of the tribe, round or beside which assemblies were held and games
celebrated. The Irish chronicles frequently report the cutting down of
such a tree by raiders as an insult to the invaded tribe. This practice
was exactly paralleled in the mediæval republics of Italy, where an
invading army would often put scorn and offence upon a city by cutting
down the public tree which stood outside the gates, and was the central
point in games and festivals.

[120] Cethlenn was the wife of Balor of the Mighty Blows, a Fomorian
chief, and therefore of the Chthonian race of Tethra. She has left her
name to Enniskillen, Inis Cethlenn, Cethlenn’s Island.

[121] _The Adventures of Árt, son of Conn, and the Courtship of
Delbchaem, Érin_, iii. 149 _sqq._ Edited and translated by Mr. R. I.
Best, from the _Echtra Áirt_, one of the _Prím-scéla_ of Ireland,
preserved in Early Modern Irish in the Book of Fermoy, R.I.A., a MS. of
the fifteenth century.

[122] Edited, with translation and notes, by Mr. Whitley Stokes,
_Irische Texte_, III. i. 183 _sqq._, from the Book of Ballymote,
R.I.A., and the Yellow Book of Lecan, T.C.D., both MSS. of the
fourteenth century.

[123] Another instance of the sacred character with which the Irish
code of honour invested a pledge, and which is apparent in the stories,
before quoted, of Mider, Conn, Árt, etc. So in the _Baile Mongáin_,
a story printed by Prof. K. Meyer as an appendix to his _Voyage of
Bran_, Mongán is obliged to surrender his wife Dubhlaca to the King of
Leinster (apparently an euhemerisation of Manannán, who figures in an
earlier version, also given by Prof. Meyer (_op. cit._)) in fulfilment
of a like promise.

[124] At the same time, it is perceptible that incidents of the
_märchen_ type are more numerous in this group than in the great heroic

[125] In the story of Cormac, Manannán’s Paradise, instead of lying
oversea, is placed within a dún, at which Cormac arrives by land.

[126] So the group of Carolingian romances, which long passed for the
work of Archbishop Turpin, retained the characteristics of a barbarous
society in their views concerning magic, superstition, morals, etc.,
though sanctified by the addition of ecclesiastical miracles, and other
matters of edification, which earned for it the formal approval of Pope
Calixtus II. in the year 1122.

[127] Manannán is presented in like fashion in the story of Mongán,
_op. cit._

[128] So in the tale of Mider, _ante_, where, as here, it is introduced
into the description of the pagan Elysium, Magh Mór; the ecclesiastical
interpolations, as here again, being brought in in the usual
incongruous manner.

[129] As in the _Voyage of Maelduin’s Curach_, an Imram of
substantially the original type, treated from a Christian point of
view. The trait is copied in the _Adventures of Tadg Mac Céin_, a late
mediæval romance composed in the archaic style, where it receives from
Tadg the characteristic comment, ‘’Tis queer, though charming’; he
evidently regarded it as an example intended rather for edification
than imitation. It is interesting to note how the idea recurs in modern
Irish poetry, as, indeed, practically, in Irish peasant life. In poor
Mangan’s beautiful _Love Ballad_, translated or imitated from the
Irish, the hero--

    ‘Sheltered by the sloe-bush black,
    Sat, laughed, and talked, while thick sleet fell,
         And cold rain.
    Thanks to God! no guilty leaven
      Dashed our childish mirth.
    You rejoice for this in Heaven,
      I not less on earth.’

[130] One of the most explicit instances occurs in the Graal series,
in the _Queste_, when Perceval is informed that the Castle of Maidens
is Hell, and the captives therein are the souls that await Christ’s
coming; the seven knights that defend the castle being the seven deadly
sins (Nutt, _Studies_, etc., p. 41).

[131] Edited and translated by Mr. W. Stokes in _Rev. Celtique_,
ix.-x., from a version contained in the L.U., parts being completed
from later versions. Cf. _Voyage of Bran_, i. 162-3.


    Pars in gramineis exercent membra palaestris;
    Contendunt ludo, et fulva luctantur arena, etc.

                                               VIRG., _Æn._, vi. 642-3.

[133] _Odyssey_, ix. 481 _sqq._

[134] David Fitzgerald, ‘Popular Tales of Ireland,’ _Rev. Celtique_,
iv. 189 _sqq._

[135] The root conception belongs to the common stock of Celtic
tradition. We shall see more of the fiery rampart later on; for the
revolving wall, cp. the castle in the Welsh story of Peredur, which
spun round faster than the winds.

[136] Probably a reminiscence of some hermit who had chosen a snowy
region in the North for his retreat.

[137] A similar miraculous provision by the agency of some animal
occurs in the legends of several of the Irish hermits. In Wolfram’s
_Parzifal_, the Grail appears as a ‘stone which yields all manner of
food and drink, the power of which is sustained by a dove, who every
week lays a Host upon it.’--Nutt, _Studies_, etc., p. 25.

[138] _Vita S. Columbæ_, I. xiv.

[139] _Iomram Churraig h-Ua g-Corra_, ed. and trans, by Mr. W. Stokes,
in _Rev. Celt._, xiv. 22 _sqq._, from the Book of Fermoy, a MS. of
the fourteenth century. The tale, in its present form, is later than
that of Maelduin, though Professor Zimmer considers that the original
was written early in the eighth century, the present being probably
‘a thirteenth-century _rifacimento_, save the opening portion, which
he (Zimmer) thus looks upon as being the earliest fragment of this
genre of story-telling.’--Nutt, _Voyage of Bran_, i. 162. Mr. Stokes,
however, regards the extant version as a work of the eleventh century,
_loc. cit._

[140] Here, again, the harp in the hands of a modern minstrel re-echoes
the ancient tune:

    ‘And, as I watch the line of light, that plays
      Along the smooth wave, tow’rd the burning west,
    I long to tread that golden path of rays,
      And think ’twould lead to some bright isle of rest.’--MOORE.

[141] A similar belief existed in the old Latin religion. Outside the
city gates of every town there used to be a pit, the ‘Mundus,’ which
was regarded as the receptacle of the souls of the dead. It was covered
with a flagstone, which was lifted on three days in the year, occurring
in August, October, and November, to give the imprisoned souls a
holiday. Cp. the belief, once prevalent all over Europe, and still
existing in many parts, that on All Souls’ Eve the spirits would go
through their towns in procession, and visit their former homes.

[142] _Imrum Snedghusa agus Mic Ríagla_, ed. and trans, by Mr. Whitley
Stokes, _Rev. Celt._, ix. 12 _sqq._, from the Yellow Book of Lecan,
before mentioned; and see O’Curry, _MS. Materials of Irish History_,
pp. 333 _sqq._ Mr. Stokes ascribes the tale to the middle of the
seventh century; Mr. Nutt, to the middle or latter part of the ninth
century.--_Voyage of Bran_, i. 231.

[143] The anticipation of a general battle immediately prior to the
Judgment, though an article of many religions (_e.g._ the Persian, the
Norse, etc.), is unusual in Irish writings of the present class; it
is probably suggested by the prophecies contained in the Revelations,
and in the prophetical books of the Old Testament, more especially
the mention of the Battle of Armageddon in Rev. xvi. The mention of
Enoch in connection with this battle is singular, and suggests the
legend of Enoch in the Talmud. The disappearance of a national hero,
and his seclusion until he shall appear to take part in some great
conflict, though common to the traditions of most races (some of the
most familiar being Arthur, Dietrich of Berne, Holger Danske, Frederick
II.--not Frederick I., Barbarossa), has always appealed to the Irish
imagination, and recurs in the modern folk-tales of Gearoid Iarla,
O’Sullivan, the MacMahon, etc. It will be remembered that on Mr.
Parnell’s death many believed that the Chief was not really dead, but
had only disappeared for a time.

[144] There is no intention to suggest that the _Echtra_, the _Imram_,
and the _Fis_, or the tales in each group, succeeded one another in
the order in which they are referred to in the text, either in their
present form or in their original composition, least of all as regards
the very ancient materials which are embodied in all of them. It has
been attempted to present them in such order as may best illustrate the
development of the eschatological idea, and the increasing fusion of
native traditions with the Church legends. A later writer, on account
of his subject, or for other reasons, might sometimes employ a more
archaic form of narrative than some of his predecessors.

[145] Sanctorum quoque angelorum dulces et suavissimas frequentationes
luminosas habere meruit. Quorumdam justorum animas crebro ab
angelis ad summa coelorum vehi, Sancto revelante Spiritu, videbat.
Sed et reproborum alias ad inferna a demonibus ferri saepenumero
aspiciebat.--_Vita S. Columbæ_, I. i. Part III. of the Life is largely
devoted to these visions, which, however, do not throw light upon our

[146] Bede, _Hist. Eccl._, III. xix., where the author relates St.
Fursa’s arrival in England from Ireland, and gives an account of his
visions. See, too, the Very Rev. Canon O’Hanlon, _Lives of the Irish
Saints_, under 16th January, where an account is given of several Acts,
Visions, etc., of St. Fursa, mostly of the usual mediæval type.

[147] Probably suggested by Ephesians vi. 16.

[148] This episode suggests the manner in which Virgil protected Dante
from the onset of Filippo Argenti (_Inf._ viii. 40 _sqq._), though the
latter passage does not contain any moral, in connection with Dante’s
own previous conduct, as is the case in Fursa’s vision, and in similar
moral legends of the Middle Ages.

[149] _The Vision of Laisrén_, in _Stories and Songs from Irish MSS._,
by Professor Kuno Meyer, _Otia Merseiana_, i. 1899; ed. and trans. with
notes from Rawlinson B. 512, a fifteenth-century MS. in the Bodleian.
Professor Meyer considers that the original was an O. I. work of the
late ninth or early tenth century (p. 112).

[150] Edited by Mr. Whitley Stokes, in _A Middle Irish Homily, Rev.
Celt._, iv. 245 _sq._

[151] Cited by Mr. Nutt, _Voyage of Bran_, i. 225, where it is
suggested that this circumstance may have arisen in the distinction
between the Pagan Elysium and Heaven, a provisional Hell being added
for the sake of symmetry. But it appears quite as probable that this
classification may be another instance of the acquaintance of the Irish
Church with Eastern writers, for the fourfold division already exists
in the _Book of Enoch_, c. 22, the several categories being: (1) The
martyrs, as in the _Fis Adamnáin_; (2) The rest of the righteous; (3)
Sinners who have been punished in this life; (4) Sinners who have not
made expiation.

[152] Cp. Milton, _Paradise Lost_, i. 61-3:--

    ‘A dungeon horrible on all sides round,
    As one great furnace, flamed; yet from those flames
    No light, but rather darkness visible.’

[153] Possibly this amplification of the usual description of the Piast
owes something to the picture of Rumour, in Book iv. of the _Æneid_.

[154] David Fitzgerald, _loc. cit._, pp. 192-3, where he cites from
Kuhn, _Die Herabkunft des Feuers_, a passage of the Vedas: ‘Two birds
sit on the top of the imperishable açvattha, one eating its figs, and
the other looking on.’ He also cites from the _Félire Oengusa_: ‘A
great tree that was in the Eastern world, and the heathens used to
worship it, so that the Christians fasted against all the Saints of
Europe that the tree might fall, _et statim cecidit_.’ This passage
contrasts curiously with the terms in which the ‘great tree’ is
described in other Irish writings. The _Félire_ also speaks of Elijah,
Gospel in hand, preaching to the spirits under the Tree of Life in
Paradise, while the bird-flocks come to eat the berries of it, which
are sweeter than honey and headier than wine; just as the ale of the
Tír Tairngire is described as headier than the ale of Éire.

The human souls in the form of birds are a variant of a belief of
world-wide extent. In Lithuania and the neighbouring countries the
belief still exists, or existed lately, that the souls of dead children
return as birds. Nearer to the present instance is the Mohammedan
belief that the martyrs for Islam feast on the fruits of Paradise in
the shape of beautiful green birds.

[155] Cp. hereon Professor Alessandro d’Ancona, _I Precursori di Dante_
(Firenze, 1874), pp. 29-30, 108, etc.

[156] Cp. _Inferno_, i. 144 _sqq._: ‘loco eterno Ove udirai le
disperate strida, Di quegli antichi spiriti dolenti, Chè la seconda
morte ciascun grida: E poi vedrai,’ etc.

[157] In nearly all the visions the seer is provided with a guide or
instructor, though there is a great variety in the persons invested
with this office. The earliest of these is the Archangel Michael in
the Book of Enoch, and he retains his functions in a large proportion
of the subsequent visions, and even in the conventional relations of a
visit to Hades in Renaissance and post-Renaissance literature. Dryden,
indeed, in his Essay on Epic Poetry, complains of the unfair share
of work in this department that is thrust upon him. In the Vision of
Esdras he is associated with Gabriel and thirty-four other angels. In
the Vision of Fursa he is conducted by three angels who represent the
Trinity. In other narratives St. Paul or St. Peter figures. In the
later mediæval visions the guardian angel appears in this capacity with
increasing frequency, and in particular in the Irish legends from the
time of St. Patrick, who received his revelations through the mouth
of his angel Victor. In the Shepherd of Hermas, the apparition of
the object of Hermas’s affection, followed by that of the sibyl-like
personification of the Church, is a very curious anticipation of
Beatrice instigating Virgil to undertake Dante’s guidance.

[158] Cp. the manner in which the Dé Danann chiefs are often
represented in the heroic romances, sitting in state in their dúns:
_e.g._ Lugh Mac Cethlenn, in the story of Conn, thus enthroned, with a
great tree in the doorway of his dún, and the birds singing on it.

[159] Revelation iv., xx., etc. Cp. the Book of Enoch, where One clad
in white robes sits in glory in the crystal mansion, whence a river of
fire issues.

[160] Revelation iv. 4; vi. 11, etc.

[161] A conception similar in kind, though different in form, is
apparent in the dún with a hundred doors, and at each of them an altar,
and a priest celebrating mass thereon, in the Voyage of Snedgus and
Mac Ríagla. Cp. the Castle of the Graal in the Perceval romances.
The accessories of Christian worship are frequently introduced into
the Heaven of mediæval legends, though seldom with such minuteness
as in our text. Cp. the seventh- or eighth-century legend of Saints
Theophilus, Sergius, and Hyginus, who came to a church built of crystal
and precious stones.--Ancona, _op. cit._, p. 32. This church, indeed,
was not meant to symbolise Heaven, but corresponds to the churches on
the mystical islands of the Irish _Imrama_. Praise and psalmody, as
among the joys of Heaven, of course have Scripture warrant; it remained
for Swedenborg to crown the bliss of his elect, who in other respects
_se réjouissent moult tristement_, with the privilege of listening to
sermons through all eternity.

[162] Cp. the Vision of Esdras, where the Apostles and Patriarchs and
all the righteous are arrayed about the Tree of Life.

[163] _Acallam na Sénórach_, in _Irische Texte_, IV. i., II. 6089 _sqq._

[164] Mr. Whitley Stokes aptly compares the three fiery orbs in
_Paradiso_, xxxiii. 114 _sqq._ However, these orbs represent the
visible manifestation of the Trinity, and do not appear as circles
encompassing the Divine seat.

[165] It is curious to note how Dante employs this symbol to represent
the Imperial eagle, in _Purg._ xxxii. 125 _sqq._, which, in its
onslaught upon the car of the Church, reminds us how the bird Karshipta
breaks off the branches of the Tree of Life in the Var of Yima. Surely
this coincidence, and also the frequency of the culture bird in the
myths of unconnected races, afford good examples of the independent
origin of similar ideas. In the branch covered with life-giving
berries, brought by the eagles in the Voyage of Maelduin, we may
possibly have a modification of the popular Irish tradition, further
influenced by the Phœnix legend, or, maybe, some Oriental tradition,
derived through intercourse with the Eastern Churches.

[166] In some Continental visions the Cockayne idea assumes a form more
accordant with the Scriptural imagery, the inhabitants of Paradise
renewing their youth by eating the fruit of the Tree of Life and
drinking the Waters of Life (Ancona, _op. cit._, p. 32). The last
item is evidently suggested by Revelation xxii. 1, when the Waters
of Life proceed from under the Throne, as in the Chaldæan myth. By
a certain meeting of extremes the Cockayne idea passes over into
asceticism; thus, in order to express the abundance and luxury of the
mythical Elysium, it is said that a single loaf, or the very scent of
the apple-trees, or the like, affords sufficient sustenance; in later
developments we find in the Persian Paradise one loaf suffices for so
many persons, Connla lives for a month on the apple brought him by the
_Leanamhán Sidhe_, the fragrance of the candles in Adamnán’s Heaven
yields sustenance enough, and so on.

[167] Thus, Tundale’s guardian angel quits him temporarily as he enters
into Hell. See _post_.

[168] The Irish legends of the Otherworld, and the _Fis Adamnáin_ in
particular, offer so many points of resemblance to the Book of Enoch
as to lead us to conclude that that work must have been known to the
Irish Church. This is likely enough in itself, having regard to the
close connection maintained by that Church with the Churches of Egypt
and Syria, referred to in a previous section, where a parallel case was
pointed out, viz. the preservation, in an Irish translation, of the
Book of Adam and Eve, the original text of which disappeared.

[169] And compare St. Paul, 1 Corinthians iii. 13.

[170] The close agreement of this theory with the Egyptian belief has
been pointed out in Section 2 _ante_.

[171] Cp. the angel at the door of Purgatory (_Purg._ ix. 103-4).

[172] Cp. the fire through which Dante had to pass in the seventh
circle of Purgatory (_Purg._ xxvii.).

[173] It is remarkable that several of the most impressive incidents
in the Apocalyptic description of the Last Judgment are omitted from
the present, as from most of the other mediæval visions; a circumstance
which may cause us to hesitate before concluding positively that our
author had as frequent recourse to the Book of Revelation as many
analogies would suggest.

[174] Mr. Whitley Stokes, in a note on this passage, aptly compares the
Egyptian demon Apap, which devoured the souls of the wicked. He also
cites an Old English homily, where a dragon swallows the wicked and
discharges them into the Devil’s maw. The fertile mediæval literature
on the subject furnishes several parallels, more or less close, both of
a serious and comic nature.

[175] This is probably one of the additions made to the Book of Enoch
in Christian times, cp. Rev. xx. 4-5, where precedence is given to the
martyrs, the other righteous not being permitted to live again until
after the lapse of one thousand years. Herein we have another form of
the doctrine of postponed redemption in certain cases, though not here,
to allow time for the purgation of sins.

[176] Cp. the similar fate of the flatterers (_Inf._ xviii. 113), and
the stinking Stygian lake in which the violent are immured (_Inf._ vii.

[177] We have seen that in Persia, as in Ireland, the ‘black north’ was
the region whence cold winds and malignant beings proceeded. It is a
well-known fact that cold no less than heat entered into the Hell of
the Irish, as of the Northern nations, wherein they are followed by
Dante, who, indeed, makes the sufferings of the inmost circle, devoted
to the worst of sinners, to consist in intense cold. Cp. Shakespeare,
_Measure for Measure_, III. i.:

                      ‘The delighted spirit
    To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
    In thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice.’

So Milton: ‘In fierce heat and in ice.’

[178] ‘Senza riposo mai era la tresca Delle misere mani, or quindi or
quinci Iscotendo da se l’arsura fresca’ (_Inf._ xiv. 40-42); and in
_Inf._ xvii. 47-48: ‘Di quà di là soccorrien con le mani, Quando a’
vapor, e quando al caldo suolo.’

[179] _Inf._ v., where Dante couples with them the angels who abstained
from taking either part on Satan’s revolt, but _per sè foro_. In like
manner the Irish writers, as in the story of St. Brendan, extended
their more merciful judgment to these spirits also. The popular
traditions of modern times identify them with the _Daoine Sidhe_, but
without agreeing as to their ultimate fate after the Judgment.

[180] Cp. the devices to which Christian redactors of Pagan legends
had recourse, in order to bring the national heroes within the pale
of salvation: _e.g._ Cuchulainn, Concobar, Finn Mac Cumhal, Caoilte,
Cormac Mac Áirt, Fintan, Tuan Mac Cairill, etc. The early Christian
writers dealt in like manner with Seneca, Trajan, Statius, Lucan, etc.;
to whom Dante, apparently on his own responsibility, added Rhipeus.

[181] This is the doctrine of St. Augustine, which Dante followed in
_Inf._ vi. 106 _sqq._

[182] Cp. the brazen wall wrapped in flame in the Revelation of St.

[183] Cp. Revelation ix. 6, upon the authority of which text a similar
passage is introduced into many of the mediæval descriptions of Hell.
Cp. the Book of Adam, where the damned ‘call aloud for the second
death, and the second death is deaf to their prayer’ (Ancona, _op.
cit._ 107). So Dante, ‘che la seconda morte ciascun gride’ (_Inf._ i.
115). Cp. too Dante, _Inf._ iii. 124-6, where the guilty are eager to
cross the river to their place of suffering: ‘Chè la divina giustigia
gli sprona Sì che la tema si volge in disio,’ when, however, Dante was
probably following Virgil, _Æneid_, vi. 313-14.

[184] See, especially, _Paradise Lost_, ii. 587 _sqq_.

[185] ‘Now seeing that they who make this moan are the Saints, to whom
are allotted everlasting mansions in the heavenly Kingdom, how much
more meet were it for men that are yet on earth,’ etc., ch. 34. Cp. the
similar passages in the _Félire Oengusa_ and the _Scéla Lái Brátha_
referred to in the preceding section.

[186] Verbal differences between the two versions are frequent
throughout, though generally the later copy is the fuller, owing to
the insertion of a certain amount of ‘padding.’ Far wider divergences
exist between the different versions of most of the mediæval legends,
_e.g._ the Vision of Paul, the Voyage of St. Brendan, and the Vision
of Tundale. This circumstance strengthens the internal evidence of
interpolations in the _Fis Adamnáin_. At the same time, it adds to
the difficulty of determining the relative priority of the incidents
contained in the several Visions.

[187] The Acts of St. Brendan, and the accounts of his voyages, have
often been translated by modern scholars. Besides the collections of
hagiologists and Church historians, standard works on the subject
are Jubinal, _La Légende latine de Saint Brendaines_, Paris,
1836; Schröder, _Sanct Brandan_, Erlangen, 1871; Moran, _Acta
Sancti Brendani_, Dublin, 1872. The Irish Life is edited, with a
translation and notes, by Mr. Whitley Stokes, in _Anecdota Oxoniensia_
(_Mediæval and Modern Series_, pt. 5). In the Rev. Denis O’Donoghue’s
_Brendaniana_ the subject is treated in an interesting and compendious
manner. The summary of the principal incidents of the voyages given in
the text, is taken, for the most part, from Mr. Stokes’s edition of the
Irish life.

[188] The imaginary island of St. Brendan was delineated in the maps
of the Middle Ages, and even of later periods. It was claimed by the
Portuguese, but afterwards ceded to Spain. Many voyages were undertaken
in quest of it, one so late as 1721.--Ancona, _op. cit._, p. 50.

[189] Father O’Donoghue points out that the whale episode appears too
early in mediæval churches to be due to an imitation of Sinbad. It
occurs in a mediæval life of St. Machutus, or Malo, which, however,
Father O’Donoghue considers an imitation of St. Brendan, into whose
legend the incident entered at a very early period, being mentioned in
a poem by St. Cumin, who lived in the seventh century (_Brendaniana_,
pp. 88-91), where the author refers to parallels occurring in the
Mediæval Bestiaries. Signer D’Ancona (_op. cit._) says that the episode
occurs in the Romance of Alexander, which is likely to be the origin
of the Western variants. However, the idea is one which may well have
presented itself spontaneously in several distinct quarters.

[190] Apparently a travesty of Manannán Mac Lír as he appeared to Bran
in the _Imram Bráin_, but _quantum mutatus_, or, literally, _diablement
changé en route_. Already have the Celtic deities followed the
Olympians, and become converted into demons.

[191] Cf. Virgil, _Æneid_, vi. 557-8, and Dante, _Inferno_, iii. 22-28.

[192] We may note one curious incident which illustrates the sympathy,
before mentioned, with which Irish Churchmen treated the beings who
pertained to that older faith which it was their mission to destroy.
One day St. Brendan came upon a maiden of vast stature and exceeding
beauty floating upon the sea, dead, and a spear through her. He
restored her to life, and asked her who she was: she replied that
she was one of the dwellers in the sea, who were praying for the
Resurrection. He baptized her, and gave her the choice--to die, and
go at once to Heaven, or to return to her own people. She chose to go
direct to Heaven, so he administered to her the last Sacrament, and she

[193] Mr. Whitley Stokes suggests that ‘his feathers may be a
reminiscence of some hermit’s dress of bird-skins’ (_op. cit._, p.
354). Or, maybe, of some anchorite who may have lived into extreme old
age, as doubtless many did, in the condition of King Nebuchadnezzar
after his fall, until his long white hair and beard suggested the
plumage of a white bird. Or, again, it is just possible that this
bird-like hermit, dwelling in an island Paradise, may be an attempt to
euhemerise one of the many avatars of the sacred bird.

[194] The influence of the _Fis Adamnáin_ likewise appears in the
opening portion of the Life, which cites precedents for the Saint’s
devout and holy life among the worthies of the Old and New Testaments.

[195] The principal Latin Life of St. Brendan, though later than the
Irish life, was written in the eleventh century. Both Lives, however,
contain elements which the Lives of other Irish saints prove to have
been of much earlier date.

[196] _Imrama_ still continued to be written, and the late mediæval
story of Tadg Mac Céin (published, with a translation, in Mr. Standish
Hayes O’Grady’s _Silva Gadelica_), presents a very admirable specimen
of its class. That work, however, is a more purely literary production,
consciously imitative, and deliberately archaic in style.

[197] The summary in the text follows the Irish version contained in
_La Vision de Tondale_, V. H. Friedel and Kuno Meyer (Paris, 1907),
which also contains two French versions in prose, and a fragment of an
Anglo-Norman version in verse. The Irish translation was made in 151-,
by Muirgheas Mac Páidin ui Maoilchanaire (_op. cit._, Introduction).
The original Latin has been edited by Scade, Halle, 1869, and A. Wagner
(with an O. G. version), Erlangen, 1882. For translations into modern
languages see _op. cit._, Introduction, and Ancona, _op. cit._, p. 53

[198] In Christian art, Hell was often symbolised by a picture of the
Dragon, his open mouth filled with flames, into which the wicked were
impelled. This image survived in book illustrations into the eighteenth
century at least. It occurs in many of the mediæval visions; possibly
the Vision of St. Paul may have been the immediate authority. It
appears so early as the Vision of Esdras, if not before.

[199] This lake corresponds to the sea haunted by strange monsters
which swarm about the hero’s curach in the early _Imrama_ and in the
modern romantic folk-tales.

[200] Signor D’Ancona (_op. cit._) suggests that the apologue of the
bridge in the _Fioretti_ of St. Francis (cxxvii.) is an imperfect
quotation from Tundale, as also a similar passage of Joachim of Flora.

[201] See the remarks in the preceding section upon a similar
conception in the _Fis Adamnáin_, and contrast the treatment of it by
the two authors.

[202] The destruction of the guilty soul, and its reintegration
for a renewal of its suffering, dates back to Plutarch’s Vision of
Thespesios. See Sect. I _ante_.

[203] Cp. the analogous ideas in the Shepherd of Hermas, and the vision
in St. Gregory’s Epistle.

[204] It is said that the Hells of the Oriental religions even surpass
those of mediæval Christendom in the morbid cruelty and obscenity, and
in the childish extravagance of their descriptions.

[205] The angel who came to Tundale’s rescue may also be compared to
the angel who came to the aid of Dante and Virgil when their entrance
into the City of Dis was opposed by the demons (_Inf._ ix.). Signor
D’Ancona (_op. cit._, p. 55 _n_.) compares the approach of Tundale’s
angel, ‘with a radiance as of a star,’ to the approach of the angel
in _Purgatorio_ xii. 89 _sq._, _nella faccia, quale Par tremolando
mattutina stella_, citing the passage from the Latin Tundale, where the
resemblance is still closer--_longe venientem velut stellam lucidam._

[206] _Purg._ xxvii. 130 _sqq._

[207] _Par._ xxii. 129 _sqq._ Dante evidently follows the corresponding
passage in the _Somnium Scipionis_, or the derivative passage in Book
ix. of Lucan’s _Pharsalia_. The manner in which the idea appears in
Tundale is not analogous. The doctrine--‘to whomsoever God giveth
power to behold Himself, to him is power to see all other creatures
likewise’--is precisely that of Dante. See _Paradiso_ ix. 61 _sq_. and
cp. viii. 90; ix. 73 _sq._; xi. 19 _sq._, etc.

[208] For many specimens of these visions, both of earlier and later
dates, see Ozanam, _Dante et la Philosophie catholique au treizième
Siècle_; Wright, _St. Patrick’s Purgatory_, 1844; Ancona, _op. cit._
The learned author of the last-named work has recorded several curious
and little-known examples, and, in his notes, gives references to many
works upon special branches of the subject.

[209] ‘Andovvi poi lo Vas d’elezione, Per recarne conforto a quella
fede,’ etc. (_Inf._ ii. 28-9).

[210] For this extreme tenuity, cp. Al Sirât, the Muslim equivalent of
the Chinvât Bridge, narrow as a razor’s edge; also the souls’ bridge of
the Inoits of Aleutia, which, as in several mediæval visions, is of the
thickness of a single thread.

[211] Cp. the fate of the violent in canto xii. of the _Inferno_.
The traitors also stand more or less completely congealed in the
ice, according to the circumstances of their treachery (_Inf._

[212] It is possible that this circumstance was suggested by similar
travel tales told of the serpents of India, and preserved by the
Greek naturalists. However, the idea is one which might well occur
spontaneously, as one of the usual Otherworld applications of the _lex

[213] Cp. the fiery sepulchres in _Inf._ canto xi., wherein, likewise,
infidels were immured.

[214] Northumbria, it will be remembered, was Christianised by Irish
monks, who planted monasteries at Lindisfarne and elsewhere, which long
maintained the connection between the two countries.

[215] Cp. Plutarch, Vision of Thespesios, _ante_, Sec. 1, where the
souls ascended contained in bubbles.

[216] In the _Fis Adamnáin_ Paradise is placed in the south-east.

[217] Cp. _Inferno_ xii. and xxxii.-xxxiv.

[218] _Inf._ xxi.-xxii.; and cp. the Centaurs in _Inf._ xii. 56.

[219] _Inf._ xxxii.-xxxiv.

[220] _Inf._ ix.

[221] _Inf._ v.

[222] _Inf._ xxiv.-xxv.

[223] _Inf._ xxiii. 111 _sqq._

[224] See a paper by M. Henri Gaidoz in _Revue Celtique_, ii. 482.

[225] Signor d’Ancona (_op. cit._, pp. 62-3) doubts whether this work
was ever known beyond its birthplace in the Abbey of Monte Cassino,
until its discovery less than a century ago, where Dante was not likely
to have seen it. In the absence of direct evidence on this point, I
leave the passage in the text as it stands, for the reader to form his
own conclusions.

[226] Perhaps a reference should be made to the Vision of the
Otherworld composed by Dante’s friend, the learned Jew Immanuel ben
Salamone, as the question might occur whether Dante may not, by his
means, have arrived at such part of his subject as relates to Old
Testament lore and Jewish tradition by a shorter cut than the usual
channels, which it has been here attempted to trace. Immanuel was born
at Rome in 1265, the year of Dante’s birth, and, like his friend,
was at once poet, scholar, theologian, philosopher, and exile, and,
probably, one of the most learned men of his day. It is possible that
Dante may have been indebted to him for stray pieces of information,
scraps of Hebrew, and the like, but the debt can hardly go further
than this. Immanuel’s vision of Hell and Paradise was not completed
till 1325, and is a manifest imitation of the _Commedia_; it has
been conjectured, even, that by Daniel, who served as his guide, as
Virgil did to Dante, he signified the latter. See Signor Seppelli’s
translation, with notes and introduction--_Inferno e Paradiso di
Emanuele di Salamone_, Ancona, 1874.


  Abersetus, 36, 194.

  Acallam na Sénórach, 187.

  Accadian survivals in Assyrian mythology, 69.

  Achæmenian elements in Avestan religion, 79.

  Acheron, 216.

  Achilles in Leuke, 143.

  Achtlann, 149.

  Adam, legend of death of, 84, 97;
    Book of, 203 _n._;
    Book of Adam and Eve, 114.

  Adam de Ros, 230.

  Adamnán, St., authorities for life, 4 _n._, 12;
    meaning of name, 7;
    birth and lineage, 7;
    anecdote of student days, 12, 13;
    at monastery of Iona, 8;
    Abbot, 8;
    missions to England, 8, 9;
    relations with Bede, 9;
    Paschal controversy, 9, 10;
    Boruma tribute, 15, 16, 17;
    relations with Árd-Rí Finnachta, 13 _sqq._;
    emancipation of women, 18 _sqq._, 45;
    death, 10, 22-3;
    character, 9, 12, 23-4;
    his learning, 10, 12, 25;
    his _Life of St. Colm Cille_, 10;
    cited, 157, 166;
    treatise _De Locis Sanctis_, 11, 114;
    his canons, 12, 18;
    apocryphal writings, 12;
    the _Cáin Adamnáin_, 18 _sqq._, 27.

  ---- The Vision of, date of, 25;
    MSS. and editions, 27;
    reasons of ascription to Adamnán, 25 _sqq._, 45, 177;
    Translation, 28 _sqq._;
    precedents and authorities, 28-9, 106-7, 180-1;
    contents discussed, 25 _sqq._, 174 _sqq._;
    structural design, 175 _sqq._;
    composite character, 176 _sqq._;
    literary characteristics, 174-6, 186, 246-8;
    ecclesiastical proclivities, 182-4;
    Purgatorial theory, 193-4;
    coincidences with Oriental eschatology, 83 _sqq._, 90, 193;
    compared with Dante’s _Commedia_, 181, 185, 187, 188 _n._, 189,
        193 _n._, 194-5, 200-4;
    relation to Dante, 243-6;
    cited, 3, 22, 96 _n._, 133, 144, 152, 171, 172, 174, 211, 212,
        218 _n._, 230, 232, 233.

  Addison’s _Vision of Mirza_ and Bridge episode, 132.

  Aelian, 151.

  Æons, early Persian, 79;
    of Philo Judæus, 79 _n._;
    of Hesiod, _ib._

  Ailill, 132.

  Alberic, Vision of, 238-9;
    cp. with Dante, _ib._

  Alcuin, 5 _n._

  Aldfrid, King of Northumbria, 8.

  Alexandria, Jewish colony in, 86;
    culture mainly Hellenic, 86-8;
    contact with Egyptian ideas, 88-9.

  Allegory, in the Avesta, 74-5, 182;
    in Virgil, 46;
    in the Shepherd of Hermas, 104;
    in Irish legends, 135, 142, 144-5.

  Amesha Spentas, the, and Philo’s Emanations, 78-9.

  Ancona, Prof. A. d’, _I Precursori di Dante_, 175 _n._, 184 _n._,
      190 _n._, 203 _n._, 208 _n._, 213 _n._, 216 _n._, 228 _n._,
      229 _n._, 238 _n._

  Angels, hierarchies, 30, 185, 223-4;
    guardian angels, 29, 86, 181-2, 191, 214;
    tending souls of dead, 35, 191 (and see art. ‘Guide’);
    porter in Otherworld, 35, 84, 193;
    fallen angels, 202 _n._, 211;
    angel of death, mistaken, 110, 111;
    angel giving light in Paradise, 34;
    in Hell, 214.

  Anglo-Saxon scholars and missionaries, 5 _n._

  Annals, Irish, see under Ireland;
    of Ulster, cited, 2 _n._

  Apap, Egyptian ‘Eater of the Dead,’ 89, 196 _n._

  Apocalypse of St. John, see ‘Revelations’ of St. Paul, St. Peter, etc.;
    see ‘Paul,’ ‘Peter,’ etc.

  Apocryphal Books, Christian, abundance of, 101;
    Jewish traditions in, 97.

  Apostles, Vision at death of B. V., 29, 107;
    in Paradise, 31, 98, 194-5.

  Apuleius, 49.

  Aquinas, Thomas, pupil of Petrus Hibernicus, 6 _n._

  Arali, 70.

  Arch, fiery, watery, etc., in legends, 32, 152, 160, 188.

  Arculf, 11, 12.

  Árd-Ollamh, the, 117.

  Árd-Rí, the Irish, 116 _n._

  Ariel, archangel, 36.

  Ariosto’s enchanted gardens, Otherworld origin of, 181.

  Aristophanes on the Otherworld, in the _Frogs_, 59 _sqq._;
    on the mysteries, _ib._

  Armageddon, 163 _n._

  Árt mac Cuinn, 133, 136, 138-9.

  Art, sacred, and the mediæval legends, 186, 215 _n._

  Ascetics, priority of, in Paradise, 39, 198.

  Assyrian eschatology, 69, 70, and see ‘Chaldæa.’

  Augustine, St., Vision of Curina, 110;
    purgatorial theory, 193;
    cited, 202.

  Avesta, eschatology, 71 _sqq._;
    animistic conceptions, 75;
    allegorising tendency, 74-5;
    date and composition, 76;
    Neo-Platonic influences, 76 _sqq._;
    early Persian elements, 79;
    Oriental elements, 81;
    influence on Hebrew thought, 70.

  Axiochos, pseudo-Platonic dialogue, 58.

  Bagadas, Bridge myth among the, 132.

  Baitan, 157.

  Ballyshannon, Mórdáil of, 18.

  Balor, the Fomorian champion, 135 _n._

  Bards, the Irish order, 117 _n._

  Battle at the end of the world, 163.

  Bécuma Cneisgel, 136, 138.

  Bede, Venerable, and Adamnán, 9, 10, 23;
    account of St. Fursa’s visions, 166 _sqq._;
    of Drihthelm’s vision, 233.

  Béfind, 122.

  Belach Dúinn, 8.

  Benn Edair, 136.

  Best, Mr. R. I., _Adventures of Árt, Son of Conn, and the Courtship
      of Delbchaem_, 136 _n._, 137.

  Birds, mystical, 32, 72, 73, 154-5, 163, 189;
    as divine messengers, 72, 73;
    as culture bringers, 72;
    human souls in, 46, 160, 174 _n._, 189, 191;
    singing the canonical hours, 32, 85, 179;
    choirs of, in Paradise, 31, 157-8, 163, 174, 185, 189;
    in island Elysium, 160.

  Birr, Mórdáil of, 18.

  Book of the Dead, Egyptian, 89 _n._

  Boruma Tribute, instituted, 14;
    remitted, 15 _sqq._;
    treatises on, 14.

  Bran, son of Febal, Voyage of, 122 _n._, 123 _sqq._, 146-8, 189.

  Brandenburg, Marquis of, legend, 121.

  Brenainn of Birr, St., 154.

  Brendan, St., Voyage of, 147 _sqq._, 202 _n._, 207 _sqq._;
    influence on European literature, 202, 207;
    his island, belief in, 207 _n._

  Bridge, in legends of the Otherworld, 38-9, 71, 111, 131, 132,
  139, 178, 197-8, 215-17, 231, 239;
    cognate traditions, 131-2.

  Brudin Da Derga, story of, cited, 12 _n._

  Brug na Boinne, Elysium in, 122, 189.

  Brunetto Latini, reference to his _Tesoretto_, 121.

  Bryce, Prof., on the Donation of Constantine, 45 _n._

  Buan, mystical hazels of, 140, 155.

  Budge, Dr. W., _Book of the Dead_, 89 _n._

  Bundehesh cited, 72.

  Burghcastle, monastery founded by St. Fursa, 166.

  Cáin Adamnáin, see ‘Adamnán.’

  Caldron, magic, 122-3, 141.

  Calixtus II., Pope, and Carolingian Romances, 147 _n._

  Callimachus, 88.

  Carman, poem on Fair of, cited, 32, 115.

  Carolingian Romances, 146 _n._

  Castle, enchanted, Otherworld origin of, 150;
    revolving, in romance of Peredur, 154.

  Castor and Pollux, 49.

  Cernunnos and Bran, 123 _n._

  Cethlenn, 135 _n._

  Chaldæa, eschatology of, 69, 70;
    Hades, 70;
    visits thereto, 69;
    Elysium, 69;
    multitudinous deities, 81-2;
    no Rebirth doctrine, 80.

  Charles, Rev. A. H., ed. of _Book of Enoch_, 95 _n._

  Chastity ideal in Irish Elysium, 144, 147-8.

  Chaucer cited, 143.

  Chinvât Bridge, 71, 112.

  Christ’s descent into Hades, 101.

  Christian interpolations in Irish tales, 145-8;
    ideas becoming predominant, 146-7.

  Chthonian side of Irish myths, 121, 129, 130, 135 _n._, 136, 138-9.

  Church, Paradise conceived as a, 34, 164, 184.

  Cicero, _Somnium Scipionis_, 64;
    approbation of the mysteries, 108.

  Cinel Enda, 7.

  City, celestial, 33, 35, 94.

  Classical ideas in mediæval eschatology, 227.

  Classification of departed spirits, 172, 198-9;
    of penalties in the Otherworld, 40 _sqq._, 105, 199 _sqq._

  Claudian, cited, 49.

  Clement of Ireland, 6 _n._

  Clovis II., 167.

  Cockayne element in Irish Elysium, 122-3, 135, 137, 141, 190;
    transition to higher conceptions, 144, 164-5, 171, 190.

  Colm Cille, St., 8, 11, 18, 24;
    visions of, 166;
    privilege of order, 17;
    Adamnán, _Life_ of, see ‘Adamnán.’

  _Commedia_, see ‘Dante.’

  Comyn, Michael, _Laoi Oisín ar dTír na n-Óg_, 133.

  Conall Gulbán, 7.

  Concobar, mediæval Irish king, 221.

  Condla Coel Corrbacc, 149.

  Conn Ced-cathach in Otherworld, 133 _sqq._, 143.

  Connla mac Cuinn in Otherworld, 126, 133, 143.

  Constantine, Donation of, 45.

  Cormac, King of Cashel, 221-2.

  Cormac mac Áirt in Otherworld, 120, 133, 139 _sqq._, 146 _n._

  Corpre Cundail, 149.

  Cuchulainn, in Otherworld, 120, 127 _sqq._, 130;
    and children of Doel Dermait, 146, 149, 150.

  Curina, Vision of, 110.

  _Dá Brón Flatha Nime_, 174.

  Dagda, Elysium of the, 121-3, 144, 183, 190.

  Daire Degamra, 137.

  Dante, antiquity of his theme, 1-3;
    his true originality, 3, 241;
    his design, 67-8, 181;
    Dante and Virgil, 67;
    non-classical sources, 68;
    how far indebted to the Irish legends, 243-6;
    Dante and Immanuel ben Salamone, 241 _n._;
    parallels to the _Fis Adamnáin_, 181, 185, 187, 188 _n._, 189,
        193 _n._, 194-5, 200-4;
    to the Vision of St. Paul, 230;
    to the Vision of Tundale, 225-9;
    to St. Patrick’s Purgatory, 235, 238;
    representation of the Trinity, 186, 188 _n._;
    mystical bird, 189;
    cited, 32 _n._, 101 _n._, 103 _n._, 169 _n._, 172, 181 _n._,
        193 _n._, 194-6, 209 _n._, 231.

  Darmesteter, trans. of _Vendîdâd_, 71 _n._;
    on Neo-Platonic ideas in the Avesta, 76 _sqq._

  Dead cast no shadows, 61, 79;
    nor move eyelids, 61.

  Dé Danann, see ‘Tuatha Dé Danann.’

  Delbchaem, 136, 138.

  Demeter, 49;
    and see ‘Mysteries.’

  Demonax and the Mysteries, 108.

  Demons, malice of, 43, 204;
    opposition to the seer’s progress, 167-8, 170, 213, 233, 234, 239.

  Derg, Loch, 234.

  Derry, Mórdáil at, 18.

  Dicuil, 6 _n._, 114, 115.

  Dietrich, Prof., on the Greek mysteries, 54 _n._

  Dill, Prof., _Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius_, 75 _n._,
      88 _n._

  Dionysos, in the mysteries, 59;
    in the _Frogs_ of Aristophanes, 59.

  Divinity, the, representation of, in Paradise, 32, 33;
    as a mystical face, 33.

  Doel Dermait, children of, and Cuchulainn, 146, 149, 150.

  Döllinger on the Donation of Constantine, 45 _n._

  Donatus, St., Irish bishop of Fiesole, 6 _n._

  Drihthelm, Vision of, 233.

  Druimceatt, Mórdáil of, 18.

  Drumhome, 7.

  Dumas _père_, quoted, 1.

  Dungal, 6 _n._

  Easter, time of celebrating, 9;
    and see ‘Paschal Controversy.’

  ‘Eater of the Dead,’ Egyptian, 89, 196 _n._

  Ecbatana, walls of, 33 _n._, 185.

  Ecgfrid, King of Northumbria, 8.

  Echtra, class of Irish romance, 118;
    E. Nerai, 132;
    E. Áirt, 136.

  Edward I. and Lia Fáil, 134.

  Egypt and the Greek mysteries, 52-3;
    early intercourse with Greece, 88-9;
    eschatology, 89, 93;
    relations to Alexandrian culture, 87-9;
    cults in the Hellenic world, 88-9;
    intercourse with Irish Church, 113-15.

  Elborz, Mount, 71, 81.

  Eleusis, see ‘Mysteries.’

  Elias in Paradise, 46, 85, 98, 157, 163, 174, 179, 205.

  Elysium, Greek, 49 _n._, 50, 58, 59, 63;
    Chaldæan, 69;
    Avestan, 72, 85;
    Egyptian, 89;
    Irish, 49 _n._, 121-6, 128-9, 135, 137, 138, 140-4, 146 _n._, 147;
    aristocratic theory of, 70, 143, 227.

  Emer, 128-9.

  End of world anticipated by early Church, 100-1.

  Enniskillen, derivation of name, 135 _n._

  Enoch, in Paradise, 46, 85, 98, 157, 179, 205;
    to reappear for final battle, 163;
    Book of, date, 94;
    cited by St. Jude, _ibid._;
    general character, 95;
    summary, 95 _sqq._;
    purgatorial theory, 194;
    whether known in Ireland, 192 _n._;
    compared with Dante, 95;
    cited, 183 _n._, 198, 199.

  Eochaid Airem, 122, 127.

  Eochaid Glas Corpre, 149.

  Epicurean school, influence of, in first century, 91.

  Er, Vision of, 56 _sqq._, 59.

  Eratosthenes, 88.

  Erenach, the Irish, 40.

  Eridu, 70.

  Erigena, see ‘Joannes Scotus E.’

  Erik Saga, 131.

  Esdras, Vision of, in O. T. Apocrypha, 97, 182 _n._, 215 _n._;
    in N. T. Apocrypha, 98.

  Etain, 122, 127.

  Ethne, wife of Mider, 127;
    E. Taebfada, 143.

  Fabian, Bishop of Rome, 45.

  Failbhe, Abbot of Iona, 8.

  Fand, 128-9.

  Félire Oengusa, 174, 205 _n._

  Fercertue, 126 _n._

  Fermoy, Book of, cited, 136 _n._, 157 _n._

  Ferry to Hades, 67.

  Fidelis, Irish traveller, 114.

  Fiery circles in Paradise, 30, 187;
    lakes, rivers, etc., of Otherworld, 36, 37, 96, 132, 133, 194;
    wall, 43, 153, 187, 194, 202.

  Filid, Irish literary order, 117.

  Filippo Argenti, 169 _n._

  Finnachta Fledach, Árd-Rí of Ireland, accession, 14;
    relations with Adamnán, 13 _sqq._;
    and Boruma tribute, 14 _sqq._;
    mentioned in connection with emancipation of women, 45;
    death, 17.

  Finn cycle, 133.

  Firghil, Irish bishop of Salzburg, 6 _n._, 115.

  Fis, class of Irish romances, 120;
    the Christian Fis, 165, 212;
    _Fis Adamnáin_, etc., see ‘Adamnán,’ Etc.;
    see also under ‘Vision.’

  Fitzgerald, David, _Popular Tales of Ireland_, 153 _n._, 174 _n._

  Fomorians, the, Chthonian powers, 121, 135 _n._

  Food, miraculous, 126, 155-6, 208, 210.

  Forgall Monach, 130.

  Foucart, M. P., on the Greek mysteries, 52-5;
    on the Isis cult, 89 _n._

  Four Masters, the, cited, 18.

  Fravashi, the, 86, 183.

  Frederick II., Emperor, and Petrus Hibernicus, 6 _n._;
    legend of disappearance of, 164 _n._

  Friedel, Dr. V. H., joint editor of _La Vision de Tondale_, 212 _n._

  Fursa, St., 166;
    Visions of, 167 _sqq._

  Gardner, Prof. P., on the Greek mysteries, 53 _n._, 54, 92 _n._;
    on Greek sources of Christian eschatology, 92 _n._

  Gelasius, 25.

  Gilbert, Abbot of Louth, 234.

  Giöll, Bridge of, 131.

  Gisdubar, 69.

  Good and evil, souls of mingled, fate of, 39, 72, 85, 112, 191, 201-2,

  Gorm and Bridge myth, 131.

  Graal legend, parallels to Irish legends, 124 _n._, 131, 150, 154, 156,
      184 _n._

  Greece, visits to Otherworld, 49;
    visions of Otherworld, 56 _sqq._;
    Greece and Alexandria, 86 _sqq._;
    intercourse with Egypt, 89 _n._;
    philosophic schools under early Empire, 91;
    influence on early Christian eschatology, 92 _n._;
    Greek learning in Ireland, 115;
    Greeks in Ireland, _ibid._;
    traces in Irish tales, 151;
    and see ‘Elysium,’ ‘Tartarus,’ ‘Mysteries,’ ‘Hades,’ ‘Plato,’
       ‘Plutarch,’ ‘Aristophanes.’

  Gregory I., Pope and Saint;
    vision of Stephen, 110;
    of a soldier, 111;
    of a Spanish monk, 112.

  Guide to Hades, 182;
    in _Book of Enoch_, 95;
    in _Vision of Esdras_, 98;
    in _Fis Adamnáin_, 29, 181-2, 195;
    in Irish legends, 121, 130, 167, 170, 214;
    in Continental legends, 230.

  Hades, the Greek, 50;
    Virgilian, 66;
    Chaldæan, 70;
    Christian, 92 _n._

  Haemgils, 233.

  Hara-berezaiti, Mount, 71 _n._

  Harrowing of Hell legend, 101.

  Healy, Dr., _Ireland’s Ancient Schools and Scholars_, 4 _n._

  Heaven, described: in the _Book of Enoch_, 96;
    in the _Fis Adamnáin_, 30 _sqq._, 183 _sqq._;
    in Irish legends, 158, 174, 223, 234;
    as a Christian Church, 34, 164, 184;
    the Seven Heavens, 35, 83, 84, 192;
    and see ‘Paradise.’

  Hebrews, see ‘Jews.’

  Hell, in the _Book of Enoch_, 95-6;
    Greek ideas in Christian, 109;
    _Apocalypse of Peter_, 105;
    _Paul_, 106;
    St. Gregory, 112;
    _Fis Adamnáin_, 38 _sqq._, 196 _sqq._;
    other Irish visions, 158, 170-1, 172-3, 209, 219 _sqq._, 233, 235;
    Continental legends, 231, 239;
    of Oriental religions, 226 _n._;
    as mouth of a monster, 215, 216, 235, 239;
    Northern and Southern conception contrasted, 200 _n._, 202, 228.

  Hellenism, in Persia, 76 _sqq._;
    Syria, 68;
    Egypt, 87-9;
    Jewish schools, 68, 86-7.

  Helmet of Irish Árd-Rí, 32 _n._, 188.

  Henry of Saltrey, 234.

  Herakles, visit to Hades, 49.

  Hermas, Shepherd of, 101 _sqq._;
    anticipations of Dante, 103, 182 _n._

  Hermits on islands, 154-7, 160, 191, 210, 211.

  Hermödr and Bridge myth, 131.

  Herodotus cited, 33 _n._, 87, 88 _n._, 151.

  Hesiod, Elysium, 50 _n._;
    æons, 79 _n._;
    cited, 121 _n._

  Hierarchies, nine celestial, 30, 185, 223-4.

  Hilarius, Pope, reforms calendar, 9.

  Homer, Elysium, 50;
    island Paradise, 121;
    _Odyssey_ cited, 152.

  Horse-races of demons, 152.

  Hull, Miss Eleanor, _Cuchullin Saga_, 130, 131.

  Hyde, Dr. Douglas, _Literary History of Ireland_, 117 _n._, 128 _n._

  Immanuel ben Salamone, 241 _n._

  Imram, class of Irish romance, 120;
    adopts Christian eschatology, 146, 157, 164;
    Christian Imrama, 147, 150;
    modern Imrama, 212;
    of Bran, Maelduin, the Ui Corra, Snedgus and Mac Ríagla, St. Brendan,
        Tadg Mac Céin; see ‘Bran,’ etc.

  Indian mythology, parallels in, 29 _n._

  Inferno, see ‘Dante.’

  Initiation, see ‘Mysteries.’

  Interpolations, Christian, in Irish heroic tales, 145-9.

  Iona, monastery founded by St. Colm Cille, 8;
    abbots of, 8;
    opposition to Adamnán’s reform, 10;
    apocryphal disputes with Adamnán, 22.

  Ireland: Church in seventh century, 4;
    three orders of saints, 4;
    asceticism, 24;
    tribal organisation, 7, 15;
    political activity, 6;
    learning in, 5, 115;
    connections with Gaul, 113;
    with the East, 113-15;
    intercourse with Greeks, 115;
    Oriental type of monasticism, 114;
    pilgrimages to Egypt, 114;
    missionary activity, 5;
    Irish scholars abroad, 5, 115;
    Irish monastic foundations in foreign countries, 5, 166, 233 _n._

  ---- Social ranks and classes, 116 _n._;
    position of women, 18 _sqq._

  ---- Political constitution, 14, 116 _n._;
    the Mórdáil, 18.

  ---- The literary class, 116-18;
    the annals, authority of, 16, 17.

  ---- Romantic literature: classification of stories, 118-19;
    pagan elements, 119, 120;
    ethical ideas, 144, 145, 147-8;
    tolerance of clergy, 119, 209 _n._;
    clerical interpolations, 145-9;
    transition to Christianity, 146-7, 157, 164-5;
    possible borrowings from the Norse, 131, 152;
    from classics, 151-2;
    loss of natural beauty, 247;
    of music, 124, 139, 141, 159, 181, 189, 191, 247.

  ---- Interrupted development of Irish literature and modern revival, 247.

  _Isaiah, Vision of_, 98.

  Ishtâr, 69, 97.

  Isis, cult of, in Græco-Roman world, 89 _n._;
    treatise on Isis and Osiris, 88.

  Island Paradise, 123, 151, 153-4, 157, 159, 160, 162-3, 184 _n._, 210.

  Israel, see ‘Jews.’

  Jews, contact with Oriental religions during captivity, 68, 82;
    Persian mythology, 70;
    Hellenic influences, 68, 86-7;
    colonies in Asia and Alexandria, 86;
    Egyptian ideas, 87-9;
    Rabbinical legends, 84;
    spiritism, 81;
    eschatology, 89, 90, 191;
    Purgatorial theories, 90;
    influence on Christian conception of Paradise, 109.

  Joannes Scotus Erigena, 6 _n._, 115.

  John of Thessalonica, 107.

  Jubinal, _La Légende latine de St. Brendaines_, 207 _n._

  Jude, St., Epistle of, cited, 71, 94, 99.

  Judgment: of individual on demise, 37, 38, 71, 106, 195;
    deferred till Last Judgment, 39, 40, 41, 191;
    Last, 31, 47, 72 _n._, 96;
    impatience of damned for, 43;
    intensification of bliss and woe after, 202.

  Karshipta, mystical bird of Avesta, 72, 73, 81, 85, 189.

  Labraid Luathlam-ar-Claideb, 128.

  Lagny, monastery, founded by St. Fursa, 167.

  Laisrén, St., Vision of, 169 _sqq._

  Lanigan cited, 7 _n._

  Lawrence, ed. of _Book of Enoch_, 95 _n._

  Leanamhán Sidhe stories, 127, 136.

  Lebor Brec, 27.

  Lebor na g-Cert, 117 _n._

  Lebor na h-Udri, 27, 122 _n._, 127 _n._

  Lenormant, _Origines de l’Histoire_, cited, 69 _n._, 82.

  Lerins, monastery of, 113.

  Leuke, 50, 143.

  _Lex innocentium_, 22.

  _Lex talionis_, in punishments of Otherworld, 63, 105, 171, 231, 238.

  Lia Fáil, 134, 187.

  Liban, 128.

  _Limbus infantium_, 172, 238;
    _Limbus patrum_, 172.

  Lindus, temple of, initiation at, 56 _n._

  Loeg, 128-9, 147.

  Loingseach mac Oengusa, Árd-Rí, 18.

  Lothair, King of Lombards and Dungal, 6 _n._

  Lucan cited, 49, 229 _n._

  Lucian cited, 108, 109, 151.

  Lucifer, in _Fis Adamnáin_, 38;
    in Vision of Fursa, 167;
    in Vision of Tundale, 220.

  Lucretius on Tartarus doctrine, 109.

  Lug, Irish god, 121.

  Lugh mac Cethlenn, dún of, 135, 183 _n._

  Lying excluded from Otherworld, 141-2, 143.

  Macbeth, parallel in Conn legend, 135.

  Machutus, St., and whale, 208 _n._

  Mac Conglinne, Vision of, 123.

  Maelduin’s Curach, Voyage of, 120, 150 _sqq._

  Magh Breg, 8;
    M. Mell, 152, 183, 187, 189;
    M. Mon, 125;
    M. Mór, 122, 148 _n._;
    M. Réin, 124.

  Malachi, St., 25.

  Malignant powers in Irish myth, 129, 130.

  Malo, St., see ‘Machutus.’

  Manannán mac Lír, 121, 123, 128, 143, 146, 147, 156;
    converted into the Devil, 208.

  Mangan, J. C, quoted, 148 _n._

  Marcus, author of _Vision of Tundale_, 212, 225.

  Marianus Scotus, 6 _n._

  Martyrs, precedence of, in Paradise, 39, 188.

  Mary, B. V., Vision at death of, 9, 107, 181;
    in Paradise, 31, 185.

  Median conquests, effects of, 70.

  Megasthenes, possible borrowings from, 151.

  Mercy, leaning of Irish divines towards, 201-2.

  Meru, Mount, 81.

  Metempsychosis, see ‘Rebirth.’

  Meyer, Prof. Kuno, ed. of the _Cáin Adamnáin_, 18;
    of the _Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal_, 49 _n._, 122 _n._, 123 _n._;
    of the _Tochmarc Emere_, 130 _n._;
    of the _Echtra Nerai_, 132 _n._;
    of the _Baile Mongáin_, 140 _n._;
    of the _Vision of Laisrén_, 169;
    of _La Vision de Tondale_, 212 _n._;
    of the _Vision of Mac Conglinne_, 123 _n._

  Michael, Archangel, 35, 95, 182, 195, 230.

  Mider, Irish god, 121, 122, 123, 128, 148 _n._

  Miller, Demon, 152-3, 162.

  Milton cited, 173 _n._, 201, 203, 204.

  Mithra cult in Roman Empire, 75 _n._

  Moling, St., and Boruma tribute, 14, 15.

  Mongán, 140 _n._, 147 _n._, 153.

  Moore, Thomas, quoted, 159 _n._

  Moran, Dr., _Ada Sancti Brendani_, 207 _n._

  Mórdáil of Ireland, 18;
    Adamnán at, _ib._

  Morgan, 136, 138.

  Moses, contest between Michael and Satan for, 71.

  Muirgheas mac Páidin ui Maoilchanaire, translator of _Visio Tundali_,
      213 _n._

  Mundus of Latin towns, 161 _n._

  Murias, 122.

  Music, Irish susceptibility to, 124, 139, 141, 159, 181, 189, 191, 247.

  Musical cords to St. Peter’s vessel, 29.

  Musical stones, 31, 125, 181, 187.

  Mysteries, Greek, 51 _sqq._;
    origin, 52-3;
    Eleusinian, 51-2, 54-6;
    Orphic Pythagorean, 52-4;
    orgiastic, 55;
    connected with Demeter, 52;
    Dionysos, 59;
    Pythagoras, 52-3;
    benefits of initiation, 52, 58-60;
    moral teaching, 51-2, 54-6;
    doctrine of future life, 52 _sqq._;
    of rebirth, 54;
    survival of, 108.

  Nature, Irish love of, 158-9, 247.

  Neid, 126 _n._

  Neo-Platonism and the East, 76 _sqq._;
    in interpretation of Greek myths, 51.

  Nera, adventures of, 132.

  Niamh Cinn Óir, 133.

  Nicodemus, gospel of, 97, 101.

  Norse, possible Irish loans from, 131, 152.

  North, region of evil powers, 200.

  Northumbria, Christianised from Ireland, 233 _n._

  Numenius, 77.

  Nutt, Mr. Alfred, _Essay on the Irish Vision of the Happy Otherworld
      and the Celtic Doctrine of Rebirth_, 49 _n._, 92 _n._, 119 _n._,
      122 _n._, 123 _n._, 131 _n._, 150, 155, 162 _n._, 172 _n._;
    _Studies on the Legend of the Holy Grail_, 124 _n._, 131 _n._,
        150 _n._, 156 _n._;
    on the Greek and Irish Elysium, 49 _n._;
    on the Greek mysteries, 53 _n._, 59 _n._;
    on the Greek sources of Christian eschatology, 92 _n._;
    on the Phœnix legend, 155;
    on the date of the voyage of Snedgus and Mac Ríagla, 162 _n._;
        5 _n._, 28.

  Oath of Irish Kings, 21.

  O’Curry, _Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish_, 117 _n._, 122 _n._;
    _MS. Materials of Irish History_, 162 _n._

  O’Donnells, the, of Tír Conaill, 7.

  O’Donoghue, Rev. Denis, _Brendaniana_, 207 _n._, 208 _n._

  Oengus Óg, 121, 122.

  O’Flaherty, _Ogygia_, 14.

  O’Grady, Dr. Standish Hayes, _Silva Gadelica_, 14, 15, 212 _n._

  O’Hanlon, Very Rev. Canon, _Lives of the Irish Saints_, 4 _n._, 14, 18,
      166 _n._

  Oisín, 133.

  Orpheus, 49, and see ‘Mysteries’;
    Orpheus myth in Ireland, 127.

  Otherworld, visits to, in Greek myths, 49;
    Chaldæa, 69;
    in Irish traditions, 121, 133;
    Connla, 126;
    Cuchulainn, 127 _sqq._;
    Conn, 134 _sqq._;
    Árt, 138 _sqq._;
    Cormac, 139 _sqq._;
    and see ‘Vision,’ ‘Imram.’

  ---- Descriptions, Chaldæan, 69, 70, 193;
    Avestan, 71 _sqq._;
    Greek, 49 _sqq._;
    in _Book of Enoch_, 96;
    in _Apocalypse of Peter_, 105;
    in ancient Ireland, 122-6, 128-30, 133-5, 137-44;
    and see ‘Elysium,’ ‘Paradise,’ ‘Hell,’ ‘Heaven,’ ‘Purgatory.’

  ---- Orthodox character of the ecclesiastical legend, 109;
    of minor importance in the Western Church, 110.

  Owen, Vision of, 234 _sqq._;
    Dante parallels, 235.

  Ozanam, _Dante et la Philosophie catholique_, 229 _n._

  Paradise, Hebrew ideas in Christian, 109;
    described in _Book of Enoch_, 96;
    _Vision of Esdras_, 98;
    _Revelation_, 100 _n._;
    _Apocalypse of Peter_, 105;
    by St. Gregory, 111;
    in _Fis Adamnáin_, 29, 30;
    in the Irish legendary, 157, 221, 233;
    Paradise of Birds, 211;
    Terrestrial Paradise in Irish legends, 153-4, 162-3, 210, 236;
    and see ‘Elysium,’ ‘Heaven.’

  _Paradiso_, see ‘Dante.’

  Parnell, Mr., and the return myth, 164 _n._

  Paschal controversy, 9, 10, 25.

  Patrick, St., 45, 113, 182 _n._, 223;
    pagan prophecy of his coming, 135;
    hymn of, 21.

  Patrick’s Purgatory, St., 120, 225, 234 _sqq._;
    closed, 237;
    doubtful origin, 236;
    popularity of legend, 234, 237;
    influence on European literature, 237;
    Dante parallels, 235, 238.

  Paul, St., Vision of, 29, 99;
    Revelation of, 106, 181;
    mediæval vision of, 202 _n._, 230 _sqq._;
    authority for Purgatory, 192 _n._;
    guide to the Otherworld, 182 _n._

  Pavia, University founded by Dungal, 6 _n._

  Perceval (Peredur) romances, parallels to Irish legends, 131, 150, 154,
      156, 184 _n._

  Persian eschatology, see ‘Avesta.’

  Peter, St., Vision of, 28, 181;
    on purification of the world by fire, 99;
    Apocalypse of, 105;
    authority for Purgatory, 192;
    guide to the Otherworld, 182 _n._

  Peter, Spanish monk, Vision of, 111.

  Petrus Hibernicus, 6 _n._

  Philip, Roman Emperor, 45, 46 _n._

  Philo Judæus, 76 _sqq._

  Phœnix legend, 85, 154-5, 189.

  Pillar on enchanted island, 151, 160, 210.

  Pindar on Elysium, 50 _n._;
    cited, 121 _n._

  Plato and the Otherworld legend, 56;
    Vision of Er, 56 _sqq._, 111;
    eschatology of, 57-8;
    on the mysteries, 58;
    rebirth, 57-8.

  Plutarch, Vision of Thespesios, 60 _sqq._, 111, 118 _n._, 233 _n._;
    eschatology of, 61 _sqq._;
    the mysteries, 108;
    Tartarus, 109;
    early Neo-Platonist, 77;
    _On Isis and Osiris_, 88.

  Porter of Hades, 35, 69, 84, 193.

  Promise, sacredness of, in Ireland, 140.

  Psychopompos, see ‘Guide to Otherworld.’

  Ptolemy I., 88;
    Philadelphia, _ib._;
    Euergetes, _ib._

  Pûitika sea, 72, 85, 184.

  Pundgel, Australian divine bird, 73 _n._

  Punishments in Otherworld, see ‘Hell,’ ‘Tartarus’;
    Purgatorial, see ‘Purgatory’;
    temporary, 35, 39, 40, 41, 49, 201-2;
    classified, 40 _sqq._, 105, 171, 174, 199 _sqq._, 231;
    respited periodically, 43, 160, 161, 232.

  Purgatory: idea in Plato, 57;
    in Plutarch, 61-4;
    theories of the Rabbis, 90, 193-4;
    in _Book of Enoch_, 194;
    development in the early Church, 192-4;
    in the _Fis Adamnáin_, 36, 178-9, 193-4;
    in Irish legends, 160, 215 _sqq._, 225, 227, 233, 235;
    in the _Vision of Alberic_, 239;
    St. Patrick’s, see ‘Patrick’s Purgatory, St.’

  Pythagoras and the mysteries, 52-3.

  Rabbis, see ‘Jews.’

  Ragozin, M. de, _Chaldæa_, cited, 69 _n._;
    _Media_ cited, 71 _n._

  Ramsay, Sir W. M., on the Greek mysteries, 55-6.

  Raphoe, Mórdáil at, 18.

  Rebirth doctrine, in Plato, 54, 57-8;
    Plutarch, 62, 64;
    Virgil, 65;
    rejected by the Persians, 80;
    Chaldæans, _ib._;
    Egyptians, 93;
    Jews, 92-3.

  Reeves, Bishop, ed. Adamnán’s _Life of St. Columba_, 4 _n._;
    cited, 7 _n._, 11.

  Renouf, M. Le Page, on the Egyptian theory of the future life,
      89 _n._, 93.

  Respite, periodical, of the damned, 43, 160, 161, 232.

  Return myth of departed heroes, 163.

  Revelation, Book of, 85, 98 _n._, 99, 100 _n._, 163 _n._, 183, 184,
      190 _n._, 195, 198, 205.

  Rhapsodical description of Paradise, 43, 73, 174, 205-6, 210.

  Rhys, Professor, on Bran, 123 _n._

  Rivers of Hell, 43, 151;
    four, 43, 204.

  Rohde, Professor, on the Greek mysteries, 53.

  Ronán, 7.

  Ronat, 7, 20.

  Ross, men of, 162-3, 191.

  Ruadán, St., 18, 24.

  Sabbatarianism in early Irish Church, 161.

  Saints, Land of, in _Fis Adamnáin_, 30;
    three orders of Irish, see ‘Ireland.’

  Saltair na Rann cited, 114.

  Samoan ten Heavens, 83.

  Satan, in _Fis Adamnáin_, 38;
    in Vision of Fursa, 167;
    in Vision of Tundale, 220;
    in Voyage of St. Brendan, 208.

  Sayce, Professor, on Chaldæan eschatology, 70 _n._, 72 _n._, 82.

  Scathach, realm of, 130.

  Scél Lái Brátha, 171, 205 _n._

  Schröder, _Sanct Brandan_, 207 _n._

  Scone, stone of, 134.

  Sedulius, 6 _n._

  Segda Saerlabrad, 137-8, 144-5.

  Segine, Abbot of Iona, 8.

  Seneca on Tartarus doctrine, 109.

  Seppelli, Signor, trans. Immanuel ben Salamone, 242 _n._

  Sereth, 7.

  _Serglige Conchulaind_, 127 _sqq._

  Seth, journey to Paradise, 84, 97.

  Seven, favourite mystic number, 83;
    Heavens, 35, 83, 84, 192;
    walls of Celestial City, 33, 185;
    of Ecbatana, 33;
    Hells of Rabbis, 90, 193;
    Chaldæan Spirits of Earth, 70, 81;
    Persian Magnificent Deities, 81;
    Amesha Spentas, 78, 81;
    Philonic emanations, 81;
    Archangels, 84.

  Shakespeare cited, 201.

  Shammai, school of, 90, 194.

  Sheol, 96, 191.

  Shepherd of Hermas, see ‘Hermas.’

  Sibylline books, 101.

  Sibyls, medium of revelation, 67, 104.

  Silvester, Pope, 45.

  Sinbad, 151, 208 _n._

  Sliabh Daidche, 208.

  Snedgus and Mac Ríagla, 147, 162 _sqq._, 184 _n._

  Soldier, St. Gregory’s vision of a, 111.

  Soleus, see ‘Thespesios.’

  _Somnium Scipionis_, 64, 229 _n._

  Sorrows, two, of Heaven, 46, 174, 205.

  Stephen, Vision of, 110.

  Stoics and early Empire, 91;
    destruction of world by fire, 91 _n._

  Stones, vocal and musical, 31, 125, 135, 181, 187-8.

  Stokes, Dr. G. T., _Ireland and the Celtic Church_, 114 _n._, 115.

  ---- Dr. Whitley, editor of _Fis Adamnáin_, 25, 32 _n._, 35 _n._,
      40 _n._, 41 _n._, 42 _n._, 44 _n._, 47 _n._, 188 _n._, 196 _n._;
    on date of, 25;
    _Saltair na Rann_, 114 _n._;
    _Adventures of Cormac_, 139 _n._;
    _The Irish Ordeals_, etc., 120 _n._;
    _Voyage of Maelduin’s Curach_, 151 _n._;
    _Voyage of the Sons of Ua Corra_, 157 _n._;
    _Imrum Snedghusa agus Mic Ríagla_, 162 _n._;
    _A Middle Irish Homily_, 173 _n._;
    Latin life of St. Brendan, 207 _n._, 210 _n._

  Sunday respite of the damned, 43, 160, 161, 231.

  Swallowing of guilty by demons, 38, 39, 89, 195-6, 198, 216, 218, 220,
      228, 231, 235.

  Syria, Hellenism in, 68;
    Jewish colonies, 86;
    and Irish Church, 113-15.

  Tadg mac Céin, adventures of, 120, 148 _n._, 212 _n._

  Táin Bo Aingen, 132.

  Tara, Synod of, 18;
    abandonment of, _ib._

  Tartarus, in Plato, 57;
    Aristophanes, 59;
    Plutarch, 62;
    Virgil, 65-6;
    under Roman Empire, 109;
    contribution to Christian Hell, _ib._;
    none in Pagan Ireland, 129;
    kindred conceptions, 129, 130, 139.

  Tertullian, precedence awarded to martyrs, 188.

  Tethra, god of Irish Underworld, 121, 126, 143.

  Theophilus, Sergius, and Hyginus, voyage of, 184 _n._

  Theseus, 49.

  Thespesios, Vision of, 60 _sqq._

  Throne of Deity, 31, 96, 158, 183 _sqq._;
    parallels in myths of Chaldæa, 70;
    Ireland, 122, 137, 183.

  Tigernach cited, 7 _n._, 18.

  Timotheus of Alexandria, 88.

  Tinne, 7, 29.

  Tír Aedha, 7 _n._

  Tír na n-óg, 133, 136;
    Tír Tairngire, 123 _sqq._, 126, 136, 139, 141, 142, 144, 148, 210.

  Tonsure, Irish, 9.

  Torach, cook of, 155.

  Tradition, historical value of Irish, 16, 17.

  _Transitus Mariæ_, 107.

  Tree of Life, 46, 70, 75, 84, 96, 98, 157, 163, 174, 179, 184, 189,
        190 _n._, 224;
    parallels in Irish myth, 124, 128, 134, 137, 140, 154-5, 190.

  Tree, public, in Ireland, 134;
    in the Italian republics, 135 _n._

  Trinity, the, in mediæval visions, 188;
    in Irish visions, 37, 167, 188.

  Trionfo del Vaglio, Il, cited, 153.

  Tuatha Dé Danann, 122, 126, 127, 129, 134, 136, 183 _n._

  Tuathal Techtmar, 14.

  Tundale, Vision of, 212 _sqq._;
    influence on foreign literature, 224;
    compared with _Fis Adamnáin_, 225;
    with Dante, 225-9.

  Turpin, Archbishop, 146 _n._

  Ua Corra, Voyage of the sons of, 120, 147, 157 _sqq._, 183.

  Ui Néill, the, 15.

  Vara of Yima, 72, 73, 85, 144, 189;
    suggested derivation from Deluge tradition, 78 _n._

  Varuna and Tethra, 121 _n._

  Veil before the Throne, 30, 187;
    over mystical islands, 152, 160, 187, 210.

  Vendîdâd cited, 71 _n._, 72 _n._, 73 _n._, 74, 76 _n._, 79 _n._, 80.

  Victor, St. Patrick’s angel, 182 _n._

  Virgil and the vision of the Otherworld, 48, 64 _sqq._;
    descriptions, 65 _sqq._;
    follows received authorities, 65;
    agreement with Aristophanes, _ib._;
    eclecticism, 66;
    artistic point of view, 66;
    received as prophet by the Church, 67;
    influence on development of the legend, _ib._;
    on Dante, _ib._;
    cited, 152, 173 _n._, 194, 203 _n._, 209 _n._

  Vision of Otherworld, wide diffusion of the legend, 1 _sqq._;
    in Greece, 56 _sqq._, 60 _sqq._;
    Rome, 48, 64 _sqq._;
    lines of development, 3, 48;
    popularity with post-captivity Jews, 94;
    in early Church, 98 _sqq._;
    survival in homilies, folk-tales, etc., 111, 114;
    special developments in Ireland, 23, 121;
    Irish acquaintance with earlier visions, 116;
    Irish vision-writers on the Continent, 206-7;
    their influence on European literature, 224, 242 _sqq._;
    on Dante, 243-5;
    tendency to increase in horror, 225-6;
    popularity in later Middle Ages, 229, 240;
    diminished importance and increased number, 239 _sqq._

  Visions of Adamnán, Er, Thespesios, Enoch, Esdras, Apostles, Hermas,
      St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Colm Cille, St. Fursa, St. Laisrén, Tundale,
      Drihthelm, Owen, Alberic, see ‘Adamnán,’ etc.

  Vohu Mano and Neo-Platonic Logos, 78 _n._

  Wagner, A., editor of Vision of Tundale, 213 _n._

  Waters of Life, 69, 84, 98, 190 _n._

  West, abode of the dead, 29, 96.

  Whale taken for island, 208.

  Windisch, Professor, editor of _Fis Adamnáin_, 27, 34 _n._, 47 _n._;
    date of _F. A._, 25;
    ed. _Serglige Conchulaind_, 127 _n._

  Women, status of, in Ireland, 19;
    military service, 18-20;
    emancipation, 18, 20-23;
    liability for crimes, 21.

  World-Sea, 72, 85.

  Wright, _St. Patrick’s Purgatory_, 229 _n._

  Yama, Indian god of dead, 29 _n._, 74, 121.

  Yehl, divine bird of Thlinkeets, 73 _n._

  Yima, Persian god of dead, 72 _sqq._, 85, 121.

  Zimmer, Professor, on date of the Voyage of Maelduin’s Curach, 150,
      157 _n._

  Zoroastrianism, see ‘Avesta.’

  Zu, Babylonian culture-bird, 73 _n._

Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty at the
Edinburgh University Press

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