Legend of Ankou

Ankou is a powerful figure that dominates Breton folklore. It is a personification of death in Breton mythology as well as in Cornish (an Ankow in Cornish), Welsh (Anghau in Welsh) and Norman French folklore. In the Celtic folklore of Brittany, Ankou is a death omen that comes to collect the souls of the dead. The legends said to not mention of his name, for he might be listening. Traveled in an old cart accompanied by two skeletons that took the souls of the dead. The ankou, or King of the Dead, is the last person to die in a parish during a year. For the following year, he or she assumes the duty of calling for the dead. Every parish in Brittany has its own ankou.

In some countries there was the habit of sacrificing someone for every new cemetary build, so that the person would become an "Ankou" of the place.

The ankou is personified as a tall, haggard figure with long white hair, or a skeleton with a revolving head capable of seeing everything everywhere. It drives a spectral cart, accompanied by two ghostly figures on foot, and stops at the house of one who is about to die. There, it either knocks on the door—making a sound sometimes heard by the living—or gives out a mournful wail like the Irish Banshee. .

Occasionally it is reported to be seen as an apparition entering the house. It takes away the dead, who are placed in the cart with the help of the two companion ghosts.

Those who hear his cart will die shortly and those that see him will die within the year. There is a legend that on Christmas Eve L'Ankou touches those who will die that year with his cape at Christmas Eve Mass.




The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits by Rosemary Ellen Guiley


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