The Otherworld, The Underworld, The Sidhe

Otherworld Map

The Otherworld

From the dawn of religious thought there has been belief in an Underworld and/or an Otherworld. A place were we are trapped when we die disturbed or without resolution that sits upon our world, sometimes referred to as Limbo, Hades, The Waiting Place, and the Inbetween. Many believe in a Hell and a Heaven. Others believe in a Summerland. Others do not. Some believe in Reincarnation. But just about everyone has an opinion about where we go when we die. The Otherworld is one such place that many deduce is where human spirits reside after death. But its not just a place for ghosts and poltergeists, but is also often labelled as a place of residence for all of the undead and supernatural from zombies to vampires, from faeries to trolls, from Gods to Goddesses, and the elemental spirits of nature. Celtic mythology calls “The Otherworld” (Orbis Alia) as the “Realm of the Dead, the Home of the Deities, or the stronghold of other spirits, and the Mighty Sidhe.” Folklore depicts the Otherworld as existing over the western sea or underground such as in the Sidhe mounds of Ireland and the British Isles, or as a realm layered like a transparency over the world of the living but invisible to our physical sight. I’m more of an advocate to the belief that the Elemental and Faerie Realm, Realm of Deities, and the Land of the Dead are all ‘separate’ realms … layered on top of each other as transparency-like layers of an onion in the worlds within worlds that make up the cosmology of universes in which we live. The Irish described their Otherwold as being underground and sometimes on islands in the Western sea. I believe that they actually saw it as a separate realm from the land of Faeries and the Sidhe and scholars or folklorists not being very well versed in the different dimensions just lumped these worlds into one solitary world separate from the land of the living. There are many different references by the Irish to the these realms including Tir na mBeo (“the Land of the Living”), Mag Mell (“Delightful Plain”), and Tir na nog (“Land of the Young”), among other names. This is one of the reasons I believe the Irish truly believed them to be different places. Irish mythology talk of these places to be a country where the inhabitants never grew old, got sick, died, where they were eternally at peace and happiness, and one year of occupation in that realm would equate to 100 human years. The Greeks spoke of a similar place called the “Elysium” (Greek mythology). Of course the Greeks and the Irish may have a shared origin in ancient Proto-Indo-European religion, so that might make sense. There are many folktales in both of these cultures where a beautiful young woman often approaches the hero and sings to him of these happy lands often offering him an apple or the promise of her love in exchange for his assistance in battle. The myths have him following her for a journey over the sea and are never seen again. Mythological and folklore elements involve boats of glass, chariots, horses, food, drink, and lures of love. Sometimes the mortal man returns to the human realm to find his previous family and friends deceased for ages and while believing to have been gone for a few years were actually gone for hundreds of years. (ex: Tale of Oisin, Thomas the Rymer, Rip Van Winkle, Tale of Bran and Branwen, etc.) There are quests in the tales and a magical mist always seem to descend upon them. They are always changed and affected with their contact to the Otherworld. The means by which many of these individuals cross over from the human realm to the land of spirits or the dead are abundant in all of Indo-European folklore and stories. These seem to occur in liminal places, gateways, or on special days of the year. The Gaelic festival of Samhain (November 1st) as well as Beltane (May 1st) are believed to be dates when the boundaries between the worlds become even more permeable than usual, and visitors from both realms can travel inbetween the realms, sometimes on purpose other times accidentally. Folklore is obsessed with the concern about preventing the intrusion of spirits into the human world and the loss of humans to the Otherworlds. Many spells, charms, superstitions, and rituals exist through history to prevent the crossing over of humans and entities between these dimensions. Some believe that Irish folklore is a heaven of sorts. Interpreters of Irish poetry and story telling, claim the Otherworld is simply a land of paradise, happiness, and summer. I am of the opposite view that the realms those stories tell about is quite yet a completely different world than the land of the Dead. I believe that there is a land of Faeries (Sidhe, Faerieland or Faerieworld), a land of the Dead (Otherworld), a land of Demons (Underworld / Hades / Hell), a land of Deities (Summerland or Heaven). Land of the Dead is what I refer to when I discuss the Otherworld. Brittany sees this as an island someplace west of Great Britain. When the souls of the dead leave the human body, they go to the homes of fishermen and knock desperately on their doors for ferry to these islands. The fishermen would leave their homes and ferry the dead to these lands in ghostly ships called “Bag an Noz”. There are Christian beliefs on the British Isles that talk about a Galicia northern coastal village called ‘San Andres de Teixido’ where a little hermitage consecrated to Saint Andrew houses his bones. According to Tacitus this is where the ‘heavens, seas, and earth end’. It is believed by many that if you don’t visit this place when you are living, you must visit after you die in the form of a serpent or lizard, in order to take your journey to the land of the dead, according to words from Jesus to Andres. Many Spanish authors also claim that this is the starting place for the souls of the dead on their trip to the Other World. The Irish God of Gateways and of the Sea, Manannon Mac Lir, is often seen as a gatekeeper between these Isles of the Dead and the Lands of the Living. In modern fantasy, such as in the tales of the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” the gateway to the realms of the dead or the world of demons are referred to as “The Hellmouth”. This serves as a magical portal between the worlds. Supposedly as a place of increased supernatural energy and is a gate that attracts as a hot spot demons and other supernatural creatures. While completely created by the filmmakers, the concept is based off the gateways to the realm of the dead found in mythologies. The “Otherworld” as the “Spirit World” or “Land of the Dead” is seen as a habitation realm of spirits. The belief in spirits come from the theory that the Earth itself and all living things on the Earth have spirit counterparts that existed before the physical creation, and a living soul consists of a spirit body united with a physical body. The spirit existence is composed of organized and refined spirit matter that extends to all life, including plants, animals, and humans. Even the Christian bible refers to plant spirits as being created as spirits before they were created with physical bodies (Moses 3:5, 9). Under these beliefs, there are premortal and postmortal spirit worlds. Premortal spirits exist originally in “heaven” where monotheistic faiths believe their God lives. There is belief by many that the spirit after leaving the body from death, yet before resurrection, is taken by an angel or a reaper, to the home of God who gave them life, they are then often judged and/or assigned to a place of paradise or a place of hell and ‘outer darkness’. Postmortal spirits inhabit a world where they reside and converse together the same as what occurs in the human world. There is belief that they conduct similar activities, labor, and life as they did when they were living; it is a place where they learn and prepare for the next life as an extension of mortality. Those at unrest or unfinished with their mortal existence, often haunt or are trapped inbetween the human realm and the Otherworld or the Underworld. Some equate these realms to be located in Middle Earth or akin to Hollow Earth Theory.

Mythological Placenames

The Underworld

is often a realm that corresponds to what some refer to as ‘the Otherworld’. In the studies of religion and mythology, this is a generic term that applies to ‘the afterlife’ or any place where newly dead souls go. It is often seen as a nuetral or dystopic realm in the afterlife, instead of the Heaven or Hell so prophesized by the religion of Christianity. It is also believed to be by many as a realms that resides atop our own where the unrested / disturbed / or spirits reside until they can pass on to the land of the dead. To some it is a waiting place or a limbo. Others label the Underworld as Hell or Hades. The Underworld is referred to as Mctlan by the Aztec, Kurnugia by the Babylonians, Naraka or Niraya by the Buddhists, Annwn or Mag Mell by the Celts, Yum gan (??) by the Chinese, Aaru / Anubis / Duat / or Neter-khertet by the Egyptians, Toonela by the Estonians, Tuonela by the Finnish, Elysium / Asphodel Meadows / Hades / Tartaros by the Greeks, Sheol / Gehenna by the Hebrew, Naraka / Yamaloka by the Hindu, Uku Pacha by the Inca, Adlivun by the Inuit, Jahannam / Narr / Janna / Barzakh / Araf by the Islam, Yomi / Jigoku by the Japanese, “Ji-Ok” ?? ?? by the Koreans, Aizsaule by the Latvians, Hawaiki by the M?ori, Pellumawida / Degin / Wenuleufu / Ngullchenmaiwe by the Mapuche, Metnal / Xibalba by the Maya, Bulu / Burotu / Murimuria / Nabangatai / Tuma by the Melanesians, Gimle / Hel / Niflheim / Valhall / Vingolf by the Norse, Ekera by the Oromo, Kasanaan / Empiyerno by the Philippine, Avaika (and other names) by the Polynesians, Shipap by the Pueblo, Inferno / Avernus / Orcus / Hades / Pluto by the Romans, Podsvetie / Peklo / Nava by the Slavs, Dilmun / Kur / Irkalla by the Sumerians, Guinee by the Vodou, and Hiyoyoa by the Wagawaga. The Underworld is ruled by demons, spirits, veli, Cerberus, ghosts, and other supernatural guardians, as well as Baiame / Eingana by the Aboriginal, Allu / Anu / Anunnaku / Ereshkigal / Etemmu / Gallu / Humbaba / Mamitu / Nergal / Utnapishtim by the Akkadians, E Bukura e Dheut by the Albanians, Spandaramat by the Armenians, Mictlantecuhtli / Mictecacihuatl/ Chalmecacihuilt/ Chalmecatl by the Aztec, Erra / Nergal / Ninlil / Sursunabu / Ur-shanabi / Utnapishtim by the Babylonians, Batara Kala / Setesuyara by the Balinese, gNyan by the Bon, Yama / Emma-0- / Yanluo by the Buddhist, Mot by the Canaanites, Aed / Arawn / Cwn Annwn / Donn / Gwyn ap Nudd / Mannanon Mac Lire / Pwyll / Sluagh by the Celts, Gui / Yanluo by the Chinese, Demons / Devil / Satan / Lucifer by the Christians, Aken / Aker / Am-heh / Amunet / Ammit / Andjety / Anubis / Apep / Apis / Astennu / Ha / Imiut / Isis / Mehen / Naunet / Nehebkau / Nephthys / Nun / Nut / Osiris / Ptah / Seker / Thoth by the Egyptian, Jabru by the Elamites, Vanapagan by the Estonians, Charun / Culsu / Februus / Mania / Mantus / Nethuns / Tuchulcha / Vanth by the Etruscans, Kalma / Kipu-Tytti / Kivutar / Lovitar / Surma / Tuonen akka / Tuonetar / Tuoni / Vammatar by the Finnish, Cerberus / Charon / Hades / Keres / Persephone / Styx / Thanatos / Tartaros by the Greeks, Sasuleti by the Georgians, Ta’xet / Tia by the Haida, Yamaraja by the Hindu, Kachina by the Hopi, Ala by the Ibo, Supay / Vichama by the Incan, Dwi Shri / Ndara by the Indonesian, Pana / Sedna by the Inuit, Mala’ikah by Islam, Hisa-Me / Hotoke / Ika-Zuchi-no-Kami / Jikininki / Shiko-Me / Shiti Dama / Shi-Ryo / Yama by the Japanese, Dur by the Kassite, Preas Eyssaur by the Khmer, Veli / Velu mate / Zemes mate by the Latvian, Mot by the Levantine, Kalunga by the Lunda, Kewa by the Maori, Xibalba by the Maya, Egei / Ratumaibulu / Samulayo by the Melanesian, Chepi by the Narragansett, Estanatelhi by the Navajo, Mctanteot by the Niguiran, Garmr / Hel / Ran by the Norse, Angra Mainyu / Azhi Dahaka / Peri by the Persians, Bathala / Demonyo Demon / Lucifer / Dyablo Diablo / Satan / Diyos God by the Philippine, Horo by the Phoenicians, Men by the Phrygian, Hikuleo (and many others) by the Polynesians, Picullus by the Prussians, Iyatiku by the Pueblo, Cereberus / Dea Tacita / Dis Pater / Egestes / Fames / Inferi Dii / Larenta / Letum / Libitina / Mors / Orcus / Pluto / Proserpina / Viduus by the Romans, Dyavol / Satanaya by the Russians, Yambe-akka by the Saami, Amotken by the Salish, Chebeldei / Kul by the Siberians, Crnobog / Flins / Marzana / Nyia by the Slavs, Edimmu / Ekimmu, Urshanabi (and many others) by the Sumerians, Cur by the Tamil, Heros by the Thracian, Erlik by the Turkic, Baron Cimetiere / Baron La Croix / Baron Samedi / Ghede / Maman Brigitte / Marassa Jumeaux by the Vodoun, Tumudurere by the Wagawaga, Oya by the Yoruba, Nga by the Yurak, and Uhepono by the Zuni. [Retrieved from “”]Many believe the underworld is hidden within the depths of the Earth, some say the center of the Earth. According to Greek Mythology, it is the Kingdom of the Dead and ruled over by Hades (residing at the very depths) who is only concerned with increasing the population of the Underworld. It is surrounded by a series of rivers such as the Acheron (river of Woe), Cocytus (river of lamentation), Phlegethon (river of fire), the Styx (river of unbreakable oath), the Lethe (river of forgetfulness). Across the rivers lies the gate to the mortal realm which is guarded by Cerberus. Many believe the dead area ferried across the Acheron by Charon to Hermes who leads them to the gates. Only those who can afford fare, with coins placed on their lips or eyelids receive passage. The rest are trapped between the worlds. Once in the Underworld you cannot leave. At the Gates, those are judged by Rhadamanthus, Minos, and Aeacus who pass sentence – those who are good go to the Elysian Fields, the rest go through ordeals and often to the very depths of the Underworld. Many see the Underworld as an unpleasant realm of misery, death, despair, darkness, and shadow.

The Sidhe or the Lands of the Fae
Ireland and the British Isles talk of an underground dimension or lands across the western seas hidden by mists where the original inhabitants of Ireland now live. The Mighty Sidhe, the Tuatha De Danann, perhaps the Fomorians, were all driven to this Underworld by waves of invaders such as the Gaels who came from Spain led by chieftain Mil Espeine. It is believed they had no other choice but to take refuge under the sidhe which denotes ‘hills where the long barrows lay and which is used also to name a special kind of fairies in Ireland and in the Scottish Highlands, the daoine sidhe.’ There are believed to be Knocks (Irish cnoc) which are hollow hills inhabited by large communities of faeries often led by a Kind and/or Queen. The most common sites of which are located in Ireland and known as: Knockma (ruled by Finvarra of the Connaught fae); Knockany (ruled by Aine of the Munster Fae); and Newgrange in county Meath where the Angus og myth takes place and archaeological ruins still exist; and in Brittany the castro of Altamira led by Xana Mega, the Queen of the Fairies. Many believe that during certain times of the year, sidhe can be found by humans as the faeries can often be seen dancing under the moonlight. Others believe there are faerie gates or portals that connect these realms, from archways in trees, holes in stones, and fairie rings of mushrooms. The Sacred Isles of the Western Sea are known as Isles of Paradise where supernatural beings reside from Sirens, to Mer-folk, and the Lands of the Young. The waters surrounding these isles have magical properties. Sterile women perform rituals at La Lanzada Beach (Galicia) where nine successive waves wash over them to help them become pregnant in these lands. It is also on some of these Islands that the Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes reside. Anglesey (Min), located on the Northern Welsh Coast, is a sacred island of the druids of Britain; the Scilly islands, where archaeological remains of proto-historical temples have been found; and some of the Hebrides Islands, which were, in the Gaelic tradition, home of ghosts and demons: on one of them, Skye, the Irish hero Cuchulainn was educated by the war goddess Scathach. [wikipedia]

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