Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Rowing Through The Antipodes

(From episode 27 of the Voyage of St. Brendan) It is hot and there is not a breath of wind. The ship has been becalmed for weeks, when a gust of wind blows it to a place of shallows. There the company hears all kinds of sounds: church bells ringing, the singing of priests, the sound of horns, horses, and cows, singing, dancing and the frolicking of men and women. The monks are surprised that the sounds are so close and yet they cannot see anything. Brendan does not know whether to make the ship go forward or backward. They decide to swing the lead; it hits bottom very quickly. Next they drop anchor. At once it is caught by someone or something under the surface. The sailors find it impossible to pull it back into the boat. The first mate is not sure what the best procedure is; if they cut the anchor rope, they will be without an anchor for the rest of the voyage. The monks pray to God and lower the sail.


This description of an invisible people which is located under the surface of the water was linked by Maartje Draak with a number of lines in the introduction to the Voyage. There is is said that, in the book which he will consign to flames, Brendan reads, “How there was a world/Here under the earth/And when it becomes day/It is night there.”


The main reason ... why theologians considered the existence of antipodes unacceptable was not the possible existence of an anitipodean continent, but the supposition that this continent was inhabited by human beings. It was inconceivable ((in the 12th century)) that the precetps of Christianity might not encompass all mankind.

-- Clara Strijbosch, The Seafaring Saint: Sources and Analogues of the 12th Century “Voyage of St. Brendan.”


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