The Celts used to consider the death as an interruption of a really long life, like a bridge between a life and another. So they believed in reincarnation but it was more than this. There was a metamorphosis, metempsychosis (a term in the Greek language referring to transmigration of the soul) and, in the end, the reincarnation. That time bewteen lives was spent in the reign of the King Tech Dunn, the Donn. Donn was ”The Land of the Young” or ”The land of the living”. This land was probably on or under Bulle Island or the Beara Peninsula. However, the Underworld was called by Celts ”Annwyn”. It was ruled by Arawn, later by Gwynn ap Nudd, and it was essentially a world of delihghts and eternal youth where there was no disease and the food was really abudant. No one could reach it, except when they died or when they found the door.
Middle Welsh sources suggest that the word was recognised as meaning ”very deep” or it could also mean ”underworld” according to the original term ”ande- dubnos”, a common Gallo- Brittonic word. In the Annwyn, according to the traditions, there were the descendants of the Goddes Danu, called Tùatha Dé Dannan. They were retreated into the Otherworld after they were defeated by the Milesians. The specifical Irish term for this is Aes Sidhe.
Sometimes, a lot of heroes fought in the Underworld and they could remain there forever, without getting older. About the entrance to the Underworld, we could talk about Bran (”The Journey of Bran”) who arrived on a boat through the sea, but someone could even get there through a cave or a lake. According to the religion, there were Paradises in the Avalon Island, also known as ”The western paradises”, where the Goddess lived. It was ruled by the nine sisters, including Morgana. These Paradises were described as gardens where apple trees of the eternal life grew. The Irish Kings received the apple of the immortality and they left the world at the sunset. During the Samhain was also possible to move from a world to another. Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the year. ( 31st October- 1st November). We can also remember the other parts of the year.
Celtic burial and funeral rites.
For a warrior, it’s not surprising that to the Celts, the most honorable death was to die in a battle. Depending on the time period and which tribe you were in, you might be buried, cremated or have your ashes buried. According to Caesar, dead people were burned on a pyre. Sheep and oxen were slain and their fat was placed on the body and their carcasses around it. Jars of honey and oil were placed around the body. The loved horses, dogs and slaves were slain, their bodies piled on top. Then it was set on fire and the ashes were taken out and laid in a gold urn. The body was washed and wrapped in a death shirt, called an Eslene. The body was laid out with burning candles in the home for seven days. People would keen over the dead or praise him or her. Three days after the body was laid out, a feast was organized in his/her honor. The body had a bowl placed on the chest where the people used to put food and coins for the dead to use in the next life.On the morning of the burial, the Druid came in the house and, using a rod, he misured the body for the resting place. Over time and with the diffusion of Christianity, the was changed and they assumed a Christian tone.