The seventh century St Brendan of Clonfart, also known as the Navigator, the Voyager and the Bold, is held as the patron saint of the Otherworld and the Rangers – and often the Parish Wardens, as well, due to their Otherworld role. Parades are held in the towns that host the Rangers quarters, now also the Unnatural Resources quarters, on his feast day of 16th May. He was adopted as patron saint of the Otherworld and its explorers in the medieval period due to the tenth century ‘Voyage of St Brendan the Abbot’ (Navigatio sancti Brendani abbatis) in combination with the Mortimer connections to Ireland extending his celebrity.
The Navigatio is essentially an Irish imram, or voyaging story, in Latin with a stronger Christian tradition, although many of the more pagan imrama were written down about the same time with all of them having been transcribed and rewritten numerous times. In fact, there is debate about whether the Navigatio is heavily influenced by the imram of Máel Dúin, which includes Brendan’s contemporary St Brendan of Birr, or vice versa.
In our reality, Brendan the Navigator is known to have visited the Isle of Man, numerous parts of the Hebrides, the Faireys and Iceland. Some academics have suggested the Navigatio matches locations in the Canary Islands, Greenland, Newfoundland and Maine. Tim Severin undertook a voyage between 1976 to 1978 in a curragh named the “Brendan” and showed that many locations in our reality have parallels with a route from Ireland to the Faireys, from there to Iceland, to Greenland and then finally to Newfoundland.
However, Ranger interpretations of the Navigatio suggest that many of of the descriptions of the islands he visited borrow from traditional tellings of the Otherworld, even if they have been applied to locations in our reality. In other words, whatever the actual journey Brendan undertook, the story has become embellished with Otherworld traditions.
Islands or places that may be in the Otherworld or use Otherworld imagery that are mentioned in the Navigatio include:
- An island with a dog and invisible hosts
- An island of large sheep
- Jasconius the sea monster disguised as an island, which appears to have been borrowed from the bible
- The Paradise of Birds
- An island with a well whose waters put men to sleep
- An island of grapes
- An island that is actually a whale – may be a repeat borrowing of the monster tradition, this time from another source, or may have been actual whales
- A silver pillar in the sea wrapped in a net
- Judas’ rock – may be a conflation of Christian traditions with an Otherworld location
- Paul the Hermit’s island, which he shared with an otter
- Island of Paradise / The Promised Land / The Land of Promise / Isle of St Brendan)