Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Elves and the Otherworld

The mythical Irish land of the elves was called Tír na nÓg, or the "land of eternal youth." This mystical place was an island that lay beyond the edges of any known maps, to the west of Ireland. Those who lived there were forever young, healthy, and happy.

Although it was sometimes compared with the Norse afterlife for warriors, Valhalla, Tír na nÓg was not a place where souls went after death. The island was only inhabited by fairies and elves, also called the sid he. In some Irish tales they are associated with the Tuatha Dé Danann--a magical people who lived in Ireland before the ancestors of the modern Irish-who were said to have moved to Tír na nÓg. Only a few mortals had even seen the island and a journey to it would often end unhappily. In one popular tale, a man named Oisin was visited by a fairy from Tír na nÓg, whose name was Niamh. She took him back to her island where they lived for three years and had two children. However, when Oisin became homesick for Ireland, he learned that only three years bad passed for him in Tír na nÓg, but 300 years had gone by at home. His family and friends were long dead.

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