Archeologist Neil Oliver sets off on a journey to reveal the sacred face of Britain, an ancient landscape of belief and ritual that lies hidden just below the surface of the modern world. From Britain’s remotest islands to the heart of its cities, Neil searches for clues that tell us how these wonders came to be. What was it about Britain’s rich and varied landscape that inspired people to express their beliefs by reshaping the world around them? What did they see that led them to deem some places more sacred than others? And why are we still drawn back to those places today? (Knowledge)
The Underworld, also known as the Otherworld or Netherworld, is featured in most mythologies around the world. It is a realm of the dead, where the souls of the recently departed go in their afterlife. Many versions of the Underworld are seen as places of abundance and joy, and reward for good work during their mortal life.
World mythologies call the Underworld by several names:
‘Hogmanay’ is celebrated in Scotland on the last day of the year, with festivities often extending until the first or second day of the New Year. Also known as Ne’erday (Netherday, New Year’s Day), Hogmanay is thought to be related to pagan celebrations such as the Winter Solstice and Yule. The origin of the term ‘Hogmanay’ is debated, but the festival has been an integral part of Scotland for centuries.
The Spiral is known as a symbol of the goddess, a symbol of life. A Spiral represents “death and rebirth as movement into the disappearing-point of formlessness, and out of it again, to a new world of form.” (The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets)
The Gundestrup Cauldron is a richly decorated silver vessel attributed to the late La Tène period or early Roman Iron Age (1st or 2nd century BCE). Its plates are etched with many mythological and ritual scenes from the pagan world. It was unearthed in a peat bog in 1891 near Gundestrup, in Himmerland, Denmark. The vessel had been dismantled into several pieces and deposited in the bog, most likely as a religious sacrifice.
Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn Mac Cool) was an Irish warrior hero who features in stories from the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology. He also features in the folklore of Scotland and the Isle of Man.
Fionn was the son of Cumhaill, the leader of the Fianna, and Muirne, daughter of the druid Tadg mac Nuadat. As Muirne’s father was against the match, a battle ensued which killed Cumhaill. Muirne, already pregnant, was spared, however her child Fionn was put under the protection of Fiacal mac Conchinn and his wife Bodhmall. A warrior woman, Liath Luachra, taught Fionn the arts of war, hunting and magic.
Ériu was a Queen and patron goddess of Ireland around the time of the Milesian invasion. She was seen as the Goddess of Irish Sovereignty along with her sisters, Banba and Fódla. Ériu’s name is thought mean ‘earth, soil’ or ‘plentiful’, as well as ‘fat land’ or ‘land of abundance’.