Fisi vs. Journeys into St. Patrick s Purgatory. Irish Psychanodias and Somanodias

Corin Braga


Early medieval Irish literature presents several types of voyages into the afterworld: echtrai (various adventures into Mag Mell), immrama (sea travels to the enchanted islands of the Ocean), fisi (ecstatic revelations of Christian eschatology), journeys into Saint Patrick s Purgatory. In this paper, we seek to contrast the fisi and the descents into the cave of Saint Patrick. From a morphological point of view, both have a great deal of topo in common, which describe the structure of the Christian other world: the waste land of pains, the infernal pit, the ordeal bridge, the land of the blessed, the celestial Kingdom of God, etc. However, between the two genres appear some major differences, such as the order in which these places are visited. The main distinction lies in the fact that the fisi are mainly ecstatic voyages (i.e. psychanodias), implying a raptus animae, while the voyages into Saint Patrick s Purgatory are physical expeditions (i.e. somanodias), during the actual life of the adventurers. Although many of the common themes of the two genres derive from the medieval Christian tradition (especially the apocryphal apocalypses and visiones), we argue that the differences may be due to the input of local Irish Celtic heritage.


Irish mythology; Christian eschatology; the fis genre; ecstatic voyages; Saint Patrick s Purgatory; psychanodia; somanodia

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