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> Breton Ghosts, The Ankou
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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 08-Jun-2004, 09:57 AM
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Hello!

This morning I was interested in finding some ghost stories from Brittany. I didn't find any stories, but I did find several references to a type of Breton ghost called an Ankou. Here is what I found.

http://www.haunted-places.com/International.htm
At Euro Disney in France, a mysterious vortex of energy haunts the small children's section. Brittany, on the northwest tip of France, is haunted by Ankou, a ghostly grim reaper, and in the Monts d'Aree (Black Mountains), the French government built a nuclear reactor right on the spot locals call the Gates of Hell because of all the ghost sightings. Most of the sightings are of a demon dog and a little girl sacrificed by devil worshippers at the site. In Alais, France, a private residence is haunted by the voice and figure of Guy de Torno, who continues to keep a jealous eye on his widow. The ghost of Joan of Arc haunts the basilica at Domremy dedicated to her memory, and the entire court of Marie Antoinette appears in the gardens of Trianon in Versailles.

http://members.tripod.com/faerymenace/faery/abc.html
Ankou--The faerie version of the grim reaper. He originated in Brittany, and He is sometimes portrayed as a comforting figure. He is also a part of the fifth element(spirit). He drives a black cart, which is sometimes described as a hearse, drawn by 4 black horses in which he comes to collect the souls of those who have recently passed over, and escort them to the land of the dead.

This article is in reference to ghostly sightings in Brittany in general, not necessarily of the ankou in particular.

http://www.greenmanreview.com/alaspoorghosts.html
I wonder why Bennett does not look for links between today's experiences with dead relations and folklorist accounts from the 19th century, such as those reported by Evans-Wentz in The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, or Anatole le Braz's Celtic Legends of the Beyond from Brittany. Both of these works contain stories of dead loved ones, although in Brittany the dead seem to come back to help the living die, at least historically.

I'll try to find some more info and add it here later.



This post has been edited by WizardofOwls on 08-Jun-2004, 03:51 PM


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greenldydragon 
Posted: 08-Jun-2004, 02:33 PM
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I've never heard of the Ankou, but that is weird how it could be comforting but it is also a grim reaper figure.


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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 08-Jun-2004, 02:49 PM
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Hi greenldydragon!

While the first two articles describe the actual ankou, I think the third article is pretty much a discussion of ghosts in Brittany in general, not necessarily the ankou itslef. I should have made that clear in the original post! Sorry 'bout that! smile.gif
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greenldydragon 
Posted: 08-Jun-2004, 03:20 PM
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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 08-Jun-2004, 03:56 PM
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Hi again greenldy!

In reference to your comment, notice that the second article does indeed say that the ankou is "He is sometimes portrayed as a comforting figure. " Notice also that the third article says "in Brittany the dead seem to come back to help the living die, at least historically." So perhaps it is comforting in that it shows up at the time of death and aids the living in finding their way to the after-life (?)

This is only a guess. I will try to do a little more research on the the ankou and Breton ghosts in general when time permits, and will report my findings for you.
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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 08-Jun-2004, 04:55 PM
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I found gobs of info on the internet concerning the ankou. Here is just a sampling:

http://www.endicott-studio.com/forbrtn.html
(This whole document is an excellent read!)
The story of the Ankou was one of the most pervasive throughout Brittany. He was the spirit of death: tall, white-haired, in a black flat hat and a long black coat, dragging or riding a wooden cart in which he gathered his crop of souls. To hear the terrible creak of the Ankou's cart was a warning that death was near -- as was the knock of an owl at the window, a magpie on the roof, or a crow at the door.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/boh/boh13.htm
(Another good read)
The pagan belief that lasted the longest in Brittany, and is by no means dead yet, was the cult of the dead. Caesar said that the Celts of Gaul traced their ancestry from the god of death, whom he called Dispater. Now figures of l'Ankou, a
skeleton armed with a spear, can be seen in most villages of Brittany.

http://www.unsolvedmysteries.com/usm284054.htmlAnkou
Aka : Death, the Grim Reaper, Father Time
Origin : Brittany, Ireland, Cornwall and Wales
Element : Fire
Appearance : He is male dark, wearing a black-robed costume pulled up high about his head and a large hat that conceals his face. He drives a black cart, though some say it is really a small coach or even a hearse, drawn by four black horses. When there are two many patrons, he is assisted by two skelettons who hurl the copses into the cart. He is always preceded by a cold gust of wind.
Function : collect the souls of passed-over humans
Friends/Foes : Ankou shows neither emotion nor personal interest in humans or their lives.

http://www.tartanplace.com/faery/death1.html
ann Ankoù (The Worker of Death) Yn Baase (Grim Reaper) Dieu Père (Father Time)
(pron. ANG-koo, DOO PEAR) Brittany, France. Tall, thin man who wears a black coat, black brimmed felt hat, carries a scyth with a reversed blade and drives a cart (Wheelbarrow of the Dead) with two ghosts on foot to collect the souls of the dead. Has long white hair and is sometimes seen as a skeleton with a rotating head that can see in all directions.
In one story, Marie-Louise Daniel ?Ploumilliau, he comes on Christmas eve to collect a blacksmith who is still working after midnight. In another he is an uninvited guest at a party. He is god of the dead, ancestor of the Celts, and master of the cosmos. His white aspect is Father Time. In the Saga of Grettir the Strong he is Grim, the forest man, who catches fish, and decapitates Hallmund the god of rebirth with an axe. He stays at Arnarvatn Heath all winter after Hallmund?s death. (13, 176)

http://groups.msn.com/crystalswiccanarchiv...e/faeriesa.msnw
Ankou
Land Of Origin: Brittany
Other Origins: Ankou is also part of the faery lore of Cornwall and Wales, and is deeply a part of Irish Mythology.
Other Names: Death, the Grim Reaper, Father Time. A personified version of death is part of the folklore of many cultures, yet there is no evidence to suggest that any of these beings were ever worshipped as Death Gods.
Element: Ankou, like the deities, is part of all elements, including the elusive fifth element, spirit.
Appearance and Temperment: Ankou (ahn-koo) is the personification of death who comes to collect the souls of passed-over humans. He is male, dark, and rather Dickensian with his blackrobed costume pulled high about his head. No one living has ever seen his face, for to do so would be to die. Ankou shows no interest in humans or their lives; he merely does his job.
Time Most Active: All year.
Lore: Ankou came to Ireland from the Celtic lore of Brittany in northern France, where he has largely been forgotten. The Irish term for physical death, an bas (awn bays), is rarely used to refer to the entity of Death, but rather the state of death. Ankou drives a black cart, though some say it is really a small coach or even a hearse, drawn by four black horses in which he comes to collect the souls of those who recently passed over and escort them into the land of the dead. In Ireland's County Roscommon there is a documented story of a mother and daughter who would hear the coach pass by their cottage each night at around midnight accompanied by beautiful faery music, and though they could hear the music and the rattle of carriage wheels, they could never see a thing. An old Irish proverb says, "When Ankou comes, he will not go away empty." In Ireland, Ankou is always classified as a faery rather than a ghost or some sort of spirit, and he is given more of a personality that he is accorded in many other lands.
Where To Find Him: Unknown
How To Contact: Contact not advised!
Magical and Ritual Help: If you see him out on his travels, you need not fear. Stand away at a respectful distance and watch to help gain an understanding of the meaning of physical death.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/ffcc/ffcc126.htm
(Another good read)
The Dead and Fairies Compared.--Without setting down here in detail numerous other death-legends which we have collected, we may now note how much the same are the powers and nature of the dead and spirits in Brittany, and the power and nature of the fairy races in Celtic Britain and Ireland. Thus the Breton dead strike down the living just as fairies are said to do; the Ankou 1 who is a king of the dead, and his subjects, like a fairy king and fairies, have their own particular paths or roads over which they travel in great sacred processions; 2 and exactly as fairies, the hosts of the dead are in possession of the earth on November Eve, and the living are expected to prepare a feast and entertainment for them of curded-milk, hot pancakes, and cider, served on the family table covered with a fresh white table-cloth, and to supply music. The Breton dead come to enjoy this hospitality of their friends; and as they take their places at the table the stools are heard to move, and sometimes the plates; and the musicians who help to entertain them think that at times they feel the cold breath of the invisible visitors. Concerning this same feast of the dead (La Toussaint) Villemarqué in his Barzaz Breiz (p. 507) records that in many parts of Brittany libations of milk

From the same article:
In Ireland and Scotland there is the banshee, in Wales the death-candle, in Brittany the Ankou or king of the dead, to foretell a death. And as the banshee wails before the ancestral mansion, so the Ankou sounds its doleful cry before the door of the one it calls. 4There seems not to be a family in the Carnac region of the Morbihan without some tradition of a warning coming before the death of one of its members. In Ireland only certain families have a banshee, but in Brittany all families. Professor Le Braz has devoted a large part of his work on La Légende de la Mort to these Breton death-warnings or intersignes. They may be shades of the dead under many aspects--ghostly hands, or ghosts of inanimate objects. They may come by the fall of objects without known cause; by a magpie resting on a roof--just as in Ireland; by the crowing of cocks, and the howling of dogs at night. They may be death-candles or torches, dreams, peculiar bodily sensations, images in water, phantom funerals, and death-chariots or death-coaches as in Wales.

Also from the same article:
Every parish in the uncorrupted parts of Brittany has its own Ankou, who is the last man to die in the parish during the year. Each King of the Dead, therefore, never holds office for more than twelve months, since during that period he is certain to have a successor. Sometimes the Ankou is Death itself personified. In the Morbihan, the Ankou occasionally may be seen as an apparition entering a house where a death is about to occur; though more commonly he is never seen, his knocking only is heard, which is the rule in Finistère. In Welsh mythology, Gwynn ab Nudd, king of the world of the dead, is represented as playing a role parallel to that of the Breton Ankou, when he goes forth with his fierce hades-hounds hunting the souls of the dying. (Cf. Rhŷs, Arth. Leg., p. 155).

http://laydylynx.tripod.com/atod.html
Ankou: The ankou of Brittany in France is a tall, gaunt male faerie who drives a cart drawn by a pale, bony horse, accompanied by two silent figures who walk behind him. They appear at dusk, and their footsteps make no sound on the ground as they pass. Seeing them means that either he/she or someone they love will soon die.

http://cyberfae.com/library/fairyfaith/ffcc120.html
Some places seem to be almost given up to special beliefs. Any outsider, for instance, who may have read that powerful and grisly book, La Légende de la Mort, by M. Anatole Le Braz, in two large volumes, all about the awful appearances of Ankou (Death), who simply dominates the folk-lore of Brittany, will probably be very much astonished to know that, though I have been collecting Irish folk-lore all my life, I have never met Death figuring as a personality in more than two or three tales, and these mostly of a trivial or humorous description, though the Deaf Coach (Cóiste Bodhar), the belief in which is pretty general, does seem a kind of parallel to the creaking cart in which Ankou rides.

http://www.telepathicmedia.com/encyclopedia/frsae.html
Ankou : (a.k.a. Death, The Grim Reaper, Father Time)
This fairy is from Brittany but it also originates in the lore of Cornwall and Wales and is deeply a part of Irish mythology. This fairy gets to be part of all the elements including the fifth element spirit. This fairy is the personification of death and so he is male, dark and has on a black robe pulled high above his head. No one ever has seen his face, and those who have are dead. He really doesn't have in interest in humans, he pretty much does his job. He most active throughout all the year therefore he's rather busy. According to some lore, this fairy has a black cart drawn by four black horses in which he comes by to collect the souls of the dead. In some places he's not an actual fairy, in others that's all he is. Don't go looking for him and don't try to contact him. He so busy you can't know where to find him anyway. If you see him be respectful and give him a lot of space. -Shetoo

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