Friday, January 23, 2009

Openings to the OTHERWORLD held a special place in the Celtic imagination. These were to be found in such liminal zones as BOGS and swamps; in land surrounded by water, such as seagirt ISLANDS; and in places that join different levels of the world, such as caves and MOUNTAINS. The parallelism of cave and mountain was reinforced when raths or HILLFORTS were built near natural caves. In Ireland the most mythologically significant cave was OWEYNAGAT, the Cave of the Cats, a natural underground gallery beneath MEDB’s rath at CRUACHAN in Co. Roscommon. Down its tiny entry, the great queen MÓRRÍGAN drove her Otherworldly cattle; within it, the great CAULDRON of abundance, once kept at Tara but later returned to the Otherworld, was stored. The cave, like other passages to the Otherworld, was considered especially powerful on SAMHAIN, when spirits rushed around it. Many of the epics set at Cruachan begin on Samhain, including the Adventure of NERA and the famous TÁIN BÓ CUAILNGE.


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