Life after death in literature and legend
'This goes to the very heart of it,' said Miranda.
'In so far as what?' asked Quintin.
'In so far as making explicit what is alluded to by allegory and metaphor and other literary devices in everything else that we have been looking at,' she replied. 'Here it is all stated factually, in black and white. The dead are still alive. Go on, throw all the strata at me one by one and I'll show you.'
'Wrapping a dead body in bandages to heal it. And the Greek historian Herodotus tells us that the Egyptians believed in a life after death.
Communal tombs. Circular structures.'
'When Sir Gawain crosses over to a 'castle of maidens' in Chrétien de Troyes' story of the graal, he finds the mother of King Arthur living there, and his own mother as well, although both of them have been dead for many years.'
'Plato. In The Republic he tells the story of a man who returns from the grave and tells of the souls that he has seen returning into the sunlight from the underworld. And in another of his works, Phaedo, he has Socrates openly declare his belief in reincarnation.'
'The Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser finds a garden of Adonis in his search for the Faerie Qveene, where babies are sent off into the world from one gate and return again through a 'hinder gate' when they are buried and then sent off again through the first gate for another circular journey.'
'Cart burials. Ship burials.
'Well, obviously! But notice how frequently a nasty death and a quick revival into the same horror features in medieval Christian accounts of a visit to Purgatory, as though such a thing was to be avoided.'
'Euripides' Andromache. Achilles dies at Troy and is said to be living now on the island of Leuce near the northern shores of the Black Sea.'
'Julius Caesar said that the druids of Gaul believed in the transmigration of souls, which is another word for reincarnation.'
'The people of the goddess Danu, during the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh, had a natural pool into which the dead would be thrown in the evening and they would emerge fit and well again the next morning.
'A thirteenth century note by a copyist of the Poetic Edda: "There was a belief in the pagan religion, which we now reckon an old wives’ tale, that people could be reincarnated".'
'Hord broke into Soti’s barrow and found the dead Viking sitting in the prow of a ship, surrounded by all his treasure. They fight and grapple with one another before Hord steals all the wealth and even a gold ring from his adversary's arm.'
'More English poetry?'
'That's unfair. Chaucer. The House of Fame. He finds Orpheus and Simon Magus still alive in a palace in the sky where there is a goddess in charge.
'The Norse god Thor had a chariot pulled by goats which he would kill for food in the evening and they would be alive again in the morning.'
'Weight of allegory,' said Miranda. 'If you threaten to kill someone, send them off in a rudderless boat without any food or water and then they wash up on a distant shore and assume a new identity; or if someone spends seven years underground and then emerges into the world again pretending to be someone else… well, you don't have to be Einstein, do you? It's not rocket science. They simply weren't allowed to express it openly, or they would be tortured by the Inquisition and burnt alive at a stake or something.'