Watery gateways to the Otherworld

See my other post: Boand – Water Goddess of the Boyne

In the ‘Metrical Dindshenchas’ entries about Boand, the eponymous goddess/fairy woman of the River Boyne, there is explicit mention of a belief that all rivers run to the Otherworld which is also the world of Creation:

“…Sid Nechtain is the name that is on the mountain here, the grave of the full-keen son of Labraid, from which flows the stainless river whose name is Boand ever-full.

Fifteen names, certainty of disputes, given to this stream we enumerate, from Sid Nechtain away till it reaches the paradise of Adam…

….from paradise back again hither

to the streams of this Sid.”

The ancient Greeks believed exactly the same – all rivers ran into the ‘world river’ Okeanos (the great sea) which bordered the realm of Cronus-Atlantis (Ogygia)  and the Elysium. The Dindshenchas entry actually claims that the River circulates from the Otherworld, back to Sid Nechtain where it arises within the Sid as the magical spring or stream of Segais, before emerging back into the mundane world at the ‘pool of Mochua the cleric’.

This is an important piece of mysticism that explains much about the reincarnation beliefs of the Atlantic peoples, as promoted by Caesar’s Druids.

Boand is famous in the Irish Mythological Cycle as being the mother of Aengus Og, after an illicit coupling with the Stallion-Man-God known as the Daghda. The similarities between her Dindshenchas stories and those of Sinand are marked by allusions to the mystical origins and recirculation of rivers between this world and the next, and back again. Key to this are the mystical Otherworld/underworld wells from which the Boyne and the Shannon arise: described as ‘Connla’s Well’ (Sinand/Shannon) and Segais (Boann/Boyne) – both interchangeable motifs linked to fairy women at sacred hills (the usual site where springs arise). The Irish, ‘Arthurian’ British, Gallician, Germanic and Breton mythologies plus that of Gallia Aquitania and the Pays D’Oc, are full of the motifs of magical men and women riding horses, associated with spring pools, forests, hills and rivers and the Otherworld. They are connected by an important common thread of themes which defies the explanations of Roman and Greek religion and Roman and Greek understandings of Gaulish, German and British religion in the Iron Age.

All text © 2014 The Atlantic Religion, except where stated.

Moura Encantada and Mari

The southernmost Atlantean provinces (NW Spain, Portugal, the Basque Country and former Aquitania as well as part of Occitania) have a history and folklore rich in the traditions of the Atlantean Religion, and remember the Goddess in folk tradition as the ‘Moura Encantada’ in Portugal, Gallicia and Asturia, and as ‘Mari’ in the Basque Country. The Basques were late nominal converts to Christianity, probably being changed during the 10th and 11th centuries – the same time as the Scandinavians.

The Moura is remembered as the most prominent member of a race of ‘Mouros’ – equivalent to the fairy folk of the northern Atlanteans, said to inhabit the old Castros, barrows and megalithic structures of the region, as well as being associated with caves and springs – typical sites of veneration for pagans. She (Moura) is often portrayed as a frighteningly seductive fairy, who like her northern European counterparts is able to shape-shift. She is sometimes portrayed as being trapped in her haunts by a spell, and beseeches humans to free her in return for promises of treasure etc. She might sometimes show herself as a serpent, a horse, a goat or as a cat or dog. Traditional activities of the Moura include those also typical of (fairy) women in the northern Atlantean provinces – brushing her lovely hair, spinning and washing in particular. Although usually appearing as a young woman, some older tales portray her as elderly. In short, she has all of the attributes of an Irish, Scots, Welsh, Breton or Manx fairy woman and can be considered as representative of an identical idea – the Goddess.

In a 1998 paper, Gallician scholar Fernando Alonso Romero (University of Santiago de Compostella) wrote an account of the Moura (sometimes also called Orcabella at Fisterra) and her activities. He noted that local legends generally suggested that Dolmens and Standing stones as well as landscape features were deposited by the Moura, suggesting she was analogous to the Cailleach in Ireland,  Mann and Scotland as well as legendary giants of the atlantic coasts of France and England/Wales. Romero also noted that as well as carrying stones on their heads, Mouras (?Moirae?) carried a distaff for spinning – redolent of the Isle of Man’s mountainous ‘Red Woman’ (Ben Jiarg).  Sites Romero mentions include: Arca de Ogas, the Casa de Vella Troiriz, Casia de Arquela and Casa da Moura among others.

Mari, in the Basque country, is a similar character more often associated with particular caves and is said to travel periodically between different abodes in these caves in the mountains, for example between Anboto and Oiz. She is believed (like Manannan in the Isle of Man) to be responsible for weather phenomena. Like the Moura, she is sometimes linked to a tribe of beings whose collective name seems derived from hers – the Mairu – a name usually used in reference to the Lamia or Laminak*. Unlike Moura, she is sometimes associated in legend with a masculine consort figure or aspect – known s Sugaar or Maju, who has snake/dragon connotations. In this regard she shares legendary characteristics typical of ‘giants’ in other Atlantean districts – mountainous, cave-dwelling and chthonic, a controller of the weather, and often paired with a partner. In spite of this, she is still a representation of the Goddess – the form of her legends is simply typical of the geography and geology of the landscape where her tales were told. Although considered a separate entity to the other magical female species of the Basque country – the *Laminak – it is worth noting that Laminak bear a more specific resemblance to the Portuguese and Gallician Moura. They are considered more of a plural species, whereas ‘Mari’ is considered a more singular deity or ‘legendary place-holder’, but are probably representations of the same Goddess.