An Ankou

Brittany is not only the land of beautiful coastlines, Asterix and Obelix, menhirs and dolmen but also the land of An Ankou. Who? The Breton personification of death, derived from Celtic mythology and adopted by Breton Christianity.

An Ankou is a spirit that watches over graveyards to protect against intruders. An Ankou is the cemetery watchman! Some people see An Ankou as an ‘undead’, a ghost or demon. If An Ankou looks at you, then death is inevitable. An Ankou shows up in front of ill and old people, in various shapes and forms such as dreams and visions. The main manifestations are a skeleton with a scythe in his hand on a squeaky wagon, an animal or a big man in a dark cloak who loads the dead people on his wagon. In fact, An Ankou receives the dead and guides them to the Underworld. According to Breton tradition the cold and misty entrance to the Underworld is in Yeun Ellez. located in the mountains of the Monts d’Arrée in Brittany.
Did you know that you can find a ‘Ro’ch An Ankou’ (rock of death) near Gourin, in the department of Finistère? The rock is situated at an altitude of about 200 meters. From this point you have a panoramic view of the area. But why do we call this rock the ‘rock of death’? Well, this place is the subject of stories about strange unexplained accidents, people who have fallen down from the rock and… sounds of wagon wheels. Watch out here! An Ankou wants to take you with him!

We also know a Breton saga from Quimper about An Ankou. A wealthy person invites all the villagers for a large party. Invitations are distributed next to the church in the cemetery. Suddenly a voice of an invisible person asks whether he is invited … The party takes place and a smelly guest in rags arrives. He talks to nobody. When the party comes to an end the stranger shows his face. All the visitors see a skull. Terrifying! The man also throws off his cloak and … a skeleton is visible. He says that his name is An Ankou and that his host has just eight days to live. Why does he say this? Well, then the host has a few days to organize his earthly affairs so that he can die in peace. The rich host follows the advice of An Ankou and indeed eight days later he dies.

Well … is this fiction or truth? Nobody knows. Anyway, you are warned if you see and hear a squeaky wagon in Brittany. An Ankou could be near…

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