Gentle Nature-Loving Medieval Celtic Spirituality Goes to Hell

From “Tidings of Doomsday”, a sermon in Middle Irish, translated by Whitley Stokes. (It’s a nice one, with lots of Jesus’ talk about those who found Him hungry and gave Him food, etc. In this case, you found Him in need of a guesthouse. Or they found Him in captivity, and they got tidings of Him and loosed Him. Heh! None of this visiting hours stuff for the Irish!)

Anyway, in this Irish writer’s scheme, this is what Hell is like:

Then will be shut the sinners’ three locks, to wit, shutting of Hell for ever on them, and shutting of their eyes on the world to which they gave love, and shutting of the heavenly kingdom on them.

Thereafter they will sit a merciless seat on glowing coals of great fire before the king of evil in the glen of tortures, wherein they shall have heavy punishments, to wit, death without life: dark fire: life woeful, sad, foul, unclean: a place wherein shall be many dogs, keen, greedy, gluttonous, broad-eared, longclawed, sharppawed, beside them. And toads, keen, rough, destroying one another. And adders poisonous, very swift, around the Devil’s city. And lions fierce, rending. And many in their dark mass and in their dark light. A place wherein shall be birds hideous, taloned, fearful, made of iron. And stinking lochs, stormy, cold, hellish. Fires dark, ever burning. Red flags under feet. Swords maiming. Cats scratching and furrowing. Fiends torturing. Wounds without healing. Flame without quenching. Gag on tongues. Strangling on throats. Vexing on heads. Yelling and gagging on voices. Fettering on soles. A place wherein beside every evil shall be the Monster, conspicuous, awful, manyheaded, with crowds of red glowing coals. Somewhat of his description, to wit: a hundred necks upon him and a hundred heads on each neck, and five hundred teeth in each head. A hundred hands upon him, and a hundred palms on each hand, and a hundred nails on every palm.

A place wherein existence is without lovingness, without friendship, in thirst, in hunger, in great cold, in great heat, in want of every good thing and in fulness of every evil thing, in union with the disunion of the fiends and the household of Hell.

Then will be there woe and lamentation, wail and crying, groan and scream of every mouth, and a curse without resting from the sinners on their abbot — to wit, on the Devil, for he it is that puts them in endurance of punishment for every evil they did through his temptation; and a curse, too, from him on monks about him — to wit, on the sinners, since the greater is his own punishment for every evil they did through his seduction of them, inciting every evil.

Awful, in sooth, and hideous is that prison which the Lord has made for the Devil with his fiends, to wit, Hell. Low, now, and deep is its place. For though a millstone were cast into Hell’s mouth, not sooner than at the end of a thousand years would it reach the bottom. The soul’s journey, now, after coming from the body, is for a space of thirty years from top to bottom thereof, as is the opinion of certain persons.

Strong is that prison’s surrounding: it is full of fear, dread, danger, lamentation. Dark, black, hideous is its open mouth. It is a rock for chastening every soul that is tortured. It is a flame for burning. It is a scourge for smiting. It is an edge for maiming. It is a night for blinding. It is a fog for smothering. It is a cross for torturing. It is a sword for vengeance. It is an awful weapon for slaying and for cutting. It is a howling of tortures. It is a crowd of punishments. It is a drowning, it is a plaguing. It is a breaking: it is a bruising, it is a pollution, it is an exhaustion, it is a consuming, it is a hacking, it is a burning, it is a swallowing: it is high, it is low, it is very cold: it is very hot, it is narrow, it is wide: great is the stench of the steam of its stewing flesh.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Gentle Nature-Loving Medieval Celtic Spirituality Goes to Hell

  1. Joy

    “Then will be there woe and lamentation, wail and crying, groan and scream of every mouth, and a curse without resting from the sinners on their abbot — to wit, on the Devil, for he it is that puts them in endurance of punishment for every evil they did through his temptation; and a curse, too, from him on monks about him — to wit, on the sinners, since the greater is his own punishment for every evil they did through his seduction of them, inciting every evil.”

    I never thought of this. I always picture the devil as happy when people sin, but here when they are in hell, he torments them because they make his own torment worse–hmm.

  2. Hell= the bads without any of the goods.

    Nice.

  3. +JMJ+

    It’s not as richly detailed as Dante’s Inferno, but it avoids what that great book cannot help, which is turning Hell into a spectacle. (Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge and its “Spectacular Spectacular” is coming to mind . . .)

    All the English Lit pretentiousness aside, what I’m really trying to say is . . . I like it! =D

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