Here is Part Four of Balladeer’s Blog’s look at the various mythological works in Ireland’s Lebor na hUidre, The Book of the Dun Cow. For Part One click HERE.

adomnanTHE VISION OF ADOMNAN (Fis Adomnain) – This was a tale of the vision that Saint Adomnan supposedly had during his lifetime (c 679-704 A.D.). Several centuries before Dante’s Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso), The Vision of Adomnan depicted the future saint being conducted through Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell so that he could share this “vision” with others.

Dante was guided in a different order by the dead poet Virgil, but Adomnan is shown being guided by his Guardian Angel.

I. On the Feast of Saint John, Adomnan feels as if he has died and his Guardian Angel leads him through the Afterlife. The first stop in Heaven is the Land of the Saints, a realm of eternal fair weather, where dwell the saints, all of them clad in white cassocks with white hoods.

        Oddly, the saints are placed according to the four cardinal directions – those who were from the north when alive dwelt in the north of the Land of the Saints, those who were from the south when alive dwelt in the south of the Land of the Saints and so on.

        Positioned the closest to God in the center of the realm are the Virgin Mary and the Twelve Apostles, then come the other significant figures in Christian beliefs. Angels are all around, and the music of bird-choirs is always heard.

        The innermost circle is where sits God’s throne, formed like a canopied chair with four columns of precious stones supporting it. Three birds are perched on the throne, staring in adoration at God while they mark the 8 canonical hours. Along with birds, horses are also depicted in Heaven.

        God’s messengers come to and from the throne regularly. Seven crystal walls surround the Land of the Saints.

II. Purgatory feeds into Heaven in the sense that as souls pass through each of the six gates of Purgatory, certain of their sins are painfully purged from them. 

III. Newly arrived souls pass through a veil of fire and a veil of ice. At the first of the six gates stands the archangel Michael, flanked by two “youths” armed with iron rods. Those rods are used to “scourge and smite” the souls as they pass by.

        At the next gate stands the archangel Ariel, likewise flanked by two youths. These youths are armed with fiery whips, with which they strike the souls in the face and eyes.

        A river of fire is then reached, where the angel Abersetus casts the souls into the river to have their sins burned out of them. Each soul suffers according to their own level of guilt.

        After a time, the souls of the flawed but sinful emerge “pure and shining as is the radiance of the stars.” Next is a spring spouting flowery and fragrant water. This water soothes the cleansed, righteous souls but scalds and further torments the “guilty” souls.

        The third gate features a fire that rises 12,000 cubits into the sky. Souls that were already cleansed of all their sins pass through the fire quickly with no pain. Souls that are still tainted spend 12 years being scorched by those flames before moving on.

        Before the fourth gate is a fiery river, like the kind encountered earlier. This river of flame is 12,000 cubits wide, and once again, souls cleansed by the first few gates pass through immediately. Tainted souls spend 12 years crossing the river before moving on.

        Passing through the fifth gate, souls encounter a fiery whirlpool. Cleansed souls proceed immediately, but wicked souls spend 16 years spinning around in the whirlpool of flame. At the end of the 16 years the attending angel uses an iron rod to dredge up each soul like it is a piece of laundry.

        Michael appears again and takes each soul up to the sixth gate, where no more purging is done, and the souls are accompanied by Michael and the Angel of the Trinity into the presence of God. Worthy souls are welcomed into Heaven forever, but the irredeemably evil souls meet a different fate.

        God has the angels take that soul to Hell to face eternal damnation. Once there, souls are devoured and passed by 12 infernal dragons, one after the other. The final dragon passes the souls into the realm of Lucifer himself, to suffer with that fallen angel for all time.

IV. Next, Adamnon’s Guardian Angel shows him the various torments of Hell.

        In one section, a huge bridge spans a ravine at the bottom of which is a burning glen in which dwell eight great serpents with eyes like smouldering coals. Damned souls try to cross the bridge, which fluctuates in width according to the taint of each soul. 

               Next comes a plain on which lie suffering souls in eternal darkness. In that plain, souls whose virtue ultimately outweighs their evil will, during the Final Judgment passed by the returned Jesus Christ at the end of the world, be moved to Heaven. (But I thought all that was resolved by the assorted burning rivers?)

        Beyond that are souls bound standing up to fiery columns amid raging fires. These are fratricides, ravagers of churches, and clergy members who embezzled church funds for their own profit. 

        Next come souls standing up to their midsection in black mire. They wear cowls and girdles which torment them with alternate heat and cold. Demons armed with fiery clubs beat them about their heads all the while. Cold winds and rains of fire torment them, too, and some have burning nails through their tongues.

        These souls are liars, thieves, traitors, judges who abused their position, witches, poisoners and heretics.

        The next set of suffering souls are on islands amid a sea of flames, surrounded by silver walls made of the raiments of clergy members who were too forgiving of sinners during their lives. These, too, will be taken to Heaven at the end of the world during Jesus’ Final Judgment. (Again, I thought the rivers of fire sorted this out.)

        Beyond lie souls wearing burning, red-hot mantles. They are led around on flaming leashes by demons while Hell-Hounds gnaw at them constantly. Every other hour these souls are borne aloft, then cast back down into the depths of Hell to resume their torment. These are clergy members who perverted the teachings of Christ.

        Next, on a field of red-hot flagstones a host of souls are constantly attacked by demons shooting fiery arrows at them. The souls sometimes try to soothe their wounds in the black waters of a nearby lake only to feel the pain increase. These souls are counterfeiters, panderers, seducers, and clergy members who abused their position to get carnal favors. 

        Beyond this region lies a fiery land inhabited only by demons until the Final Judgment. After that, the worst souls in Hell will be subjected to existence in that awful region, tormented by the worst demons of Hell.

        The place is even more foreboding than the rest of Lucifer’s realm, filled with parching deserts, lakes full of serpents, and four rivers – one of fire, one of poison, one of snow and one of murky water.

V. From there, Adamnon’s Guardian Angel took him back to Heaven, where Adamnon learned that it was not yet time for him to die. God had revealed all this to him so that he could preach to the living about what he had seen. And this brought the Vision of Adamnon to a close.



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