A FEW WORDS ON THIN PLACES
In Evangeline Walton’s imaginative retelling of the Welsh Mabinogion, Pwyll, Prince of Dyved, meets Annwnn, the Prince of Death. Through a series of events that can only make sense in dreams, fairy stories, or mythology, the two exchange places for one year. Pwyll takes on the form of Annwnn and descends into the underworld.
Which surprisingly seems much like the middle earth he descended from. He rules as the Prince of Annwnn, but out of courtesy, he refrains from sleeping with the Prince’s wife, who takes him as her husband (don’t cry for Pwyll: when he returns to his own world, he marries the Welsh horse goddess, Rhiannon, not a bad consolation prize).
Let’s skip over the twists in the plot. The important point is that our Celtic ancestors believed in other worlds (I think the Welsh reckoned it as seven other worlds), which overlapped with our own.
Think of the tale of the Irish Ossian, who went to Tir-nan-Og, the Country of the Young with his fairy lover.
Lady Gregory describes Tir-nan-Og: “it is under the ground or under the sea, or it may not be far from any of us.”
Not far from any of us.
The very un-Celtic Dostoevsky concludes The Brothers Karamozov with Alyosha declaring that paradise is all around us, if we would only open our eyes.
In her retelling of the Arthurian myth, Marian Zimmer Bradly revived the idea that Glastonbury is the same place as Avalon.
It’s only a matter of perception.