Suddenly, everything changed. In that moment, Nera realized he had left the Earth and entered a strange Other World — one that bordered the realm of the living.
To begin, it’s helpful to have some background on Samhain. In Celtic Ireland, around 2,000 years ago, Samhain represented the division between the lighter half of the year that was summer and the darker half that was winter. During the interim, ancient people believed that the line between the spirit world and the mortal one became so thin that the dead could pass through it and walk the earth once more.
“Nor did she deign to touch her food with her fingers, but would command her eunuchs to cut it up into small pieces, which she would impale on a certain golden instrument with two prongs and thus carry to her mouth. . . . this woman’s vanity was hateful to Almighty God; and so, unmistakably, did He take his revenge. For He raised over her the sword of His divine justice, so that her whole body did putrefy and all her limbs began to wither.”
Boudica and Dany both represent ruthless female leaders who rebelled against those who wronged them without mercy. They took no prisoners. It’s estimated that Boudica’s armies killed as many as 70,000–80,000 people.
Part of it is that he has a giving heart and empathy that runs deep, but another facet is his hatred for the gentry. He’s consistently appalled by their utter disdain for the poor and their tendency to prize animals, machinery, and other luxuries above them.
Eventually, an angel came to him in a dream and urged him to return home. “You have fasted well,” it said, “very soon you will return to your native country.” Thankfully, this helpful spirit also let Saint Patrick in on the latest ship departures and he was soon in pursuit of one that would take him back home. He trekked over 200 miles of forests, bogs, and brambles until at last, he reached a port that may have been Wexford.
There was nary a corpse that was sent to the other side without valuables and provisions in the form of objects, food, and wine. The assemblage was meant to sustain them on their celestial journey.
Giuliano showed up with a standard that bore the image of Pallas Athene, which was painted by Botticelli and likely modeled after Simonetta. Beneath it, the French inscription La Sans Pareille, or “The Unparalleled One” was written.
When they couldn’t be parted, Alfonso got desperate. Pedro and Inês had been happily in love for around ten years, living at Santa Clara Palace, in Coimbra, when the king reached his breaking point. He ordered three assassins — Pêro Coelho, Álvaro Gonçalves, and Diogo Lopes Pacheco — to murder his son’s beloved.
They exuded unparalleled toughness. Despite our romanticizing it, the ancient world was a hard, cruel place to live. Spartan mothers had to give up an infant to desertion if the state deemed it was too weak, and when she did have a strong son, she no longer lived with him once he turned seven and moved into the agoge. When she sent him off to war, it’s said that she did so with a warning: “return with your shield or on it.”