Moss Hill's Ankou, or grim reaper, tells all about the World Beyond.
October is a perfect time to write about the World Beyond, since many people believe that All Hallows' Eve marks the yearly thinning of the veils between worlds. In The Faerie Apothecary Mysteries, the ankou, or grim reaper, takes souls to the World Beyond when they lose their lives. But what do we know about this fae version of the spirit realm?
One theory on faerie origins is that the World Beyond is a place all souls, regardless of how good or bad they were in life, go when they die, much like the underworld described in several older world faiths. The ankou is said to be different in each community and all are the spirits of the dead. Each year, the last person to buried in a cemetery becomes the ankou for that town the following year. In the Faerie Apothecary Mysteries, the last druid to die becomes the ankou rather than just anyone becoming this important figure. While Alden is the ankou for Moss Hill until the next druid dies, the gates to the World Beyond is actually controlled by Manann MacLir.
Manann (or Manannan) MacLir was a Tuatha de Danann, a race of people who came "through the air and high air" to settle in Ireland and from which all modern faeries have descended. MacLir's father was a sea god and he himself had a powerful boat known as the Scuabtuinne, or wavesweeper, which sailed the seas as if it was a wave itself. He was also the guardian of the gates to the World Beyond.
In one myth, MacLir takes a man through the World Beyond. The land is described as beautiful, with five streams with clear waters and bright pink salmon. There are apple trees with silver branches bearing golden apples. And there are homes and a villages in which the spirits reside. Friendly spirits may offer foods cooked freshly over magical fires.
But the tour MacLir gives also includes people thatching a roof and a man cutting down an oak tree and burning the branches. MacLir explains these as "reap what you sow" type situations. The first group of people worked all their lives to become rich, which is a vain effort and are now spending the afterlife building a home never to be able to live in it. The man cutting the oak tree squandered the wealth he had and left nothing for his heirs, so now he spends eternity squandering that tree of wealth he wasted.
If this account is a good representation of the spirit realm of fae folklore, then the World Beyond is an intriguing place, indeed. There are no separate heaven/hell distinctions in the World Beyond, but this eternal embodiment of "get what you give" inspires the man on the tour, Cormac MacAirt, to live a good life after MacLir returns him to the land of the living. Back in his home in Ireland, Cormac becomes a prosperous and generous king.
Other than MacAirt, there aren't many stories of humans returning to the land of the living after being in the World Beyond. In The Faerie Apothecary Mysteries, we know Alden, the ankou of Moss Hill, is a descendant of MacAirt from his mother's side. Since his death, he returns from the World Beyond to collect souls every time a Mossie dies. But we don't see this world in books 1-6. We will, however, see the World Beyond in Book 7: Tonics and Turning Points. And we might find out more about the brooding Alden Everly and his mysterious death as well.
I won't say more about it, other than that the book comes out in December.
Thanks for reading!