The Deep Is Dark

Beneath here, ornamental carp lurk... but, what else?

Beneath here, ornamental carp lurk... but, what else?

I’ve been reading Celtic Myths and Legends by Peter Berresford Ellis. From stories of skulls, coins, and swords thrown into the Thames by the ancient Celtic people to the actual myths referred to in the title — from the Isle of Man [“Island of the Ocean God”] and Cornwall [“An Lys-an-Qwyrs”] — there is a mythological darkness to water.

The darkness is present, even when it’s a myth that has been combined with Christianity, probably by the Christian priests and scribes who wrote them down. I wish I had the time to go and study how Christianity gets explained into the picture within some of these myths/legends. The “Island of the Ocean God” talks of how a descendant of the gods became a Christian saint; it feels creepily like there was something that didn’t fit with the original story (conversion to Christianity) and someone decided to make it the pearl of the story. This is a great story for the darkness of water, with the old gods relegated to an undersea city.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but it’s an interesting group of stories to read, after all the children’s stories about pookas and selkies. Celtic legends are totally not benign and mundane if they haven’t been bowdlerized further for children. Either that, or as a child I didn’t understand the darkness and shadow that give the stories nuance and menace. I appreciate the introduction by Ellis, where he explains which stories he tried to remove the Christian gloss put on by the scribes.

On a day filled with light and buzzing cicadas, I’m thinking about the tree shadows on the lawn and how they connect with the darkness of deep water. This is a thick book, and I won’t be done with it soon. It’s the perfect thing to read when shirking yard work and lazing in a hammock, in a mythological world where mosquitoes and black fly don’t exist.

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