Mythical Ireland Blog | Myths & Legends

Scribes and kings: religion, politics and the medieval manuscripts of Ireland

It is a remarkable fact that a great deal of Ireland’s mythological material from past ages available to the student of mythology and fable today was written down in the Middle Ages by Christian scribes based in monasteries in different parts of the island.

 

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Oenach Oengusa: The games assembly of Newgrange – a hidden gem in the Dindshenchas

There is lots of mythology about Newgrange and Brú na Bóinne, but even myths which are ostensibly about other places can mention the great complex of the Boyne. I found one fascinating reference to the Brú in a passage in the Rennes Dindshenchas, and here I explore its significance.

 

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Newgrange and inbreeding: three ancient myths about the monuments of Brú na Bóinne refer to occurrences of incest

In this long-read blog post, Anthony Murphy identifies THREE myths about Newgrange and the Brú na Bóinne monuments which involve episodes of incest. All three of these myths feature kings who – wittingly or unwittingly – carry out acts of incest.

 

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Some old names for the town of Drogheda in Irish myths and place name lore

There are several ancient names for the town of Drogheda, on the river Boyne in county Louth. In this blog post, Anthony Murphy look at some of those old names and the myths behind them.

 

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The High Man: a giant hero warrior in a landscape steeped in myths and monuments

Ireland’s myths and legends speak of giants, gods, warriors and heroes. The Boyne Valley region is the heartland of many of these stories. The most important myths and monuments from the past are based in this area.

 

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Live Irish Myths & Legends: a new series from Anthony Murphy

To counteract the negativity and anxiety around the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak here in Ireland, I have started a new series of live broadcasts featuring readings and discussion of Irish myths and legends.

 

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Newgrange: a sunny bower for the maidens fostered by Oengus

I've been re-reading one of the old stories about Newgrange. It's called Altram Tíge Dá Medar, which means something like "the fosterage of the houses of the two drinking vessels". It There are some very interesting aspects of the story which may describe aspects of the monument.

 

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Mircea Eliade, Newgrange and the regeneration of time

In 'The Myth of the Eternal Return', Mircea Eliade writes about rites and beliefs from disparate traditions (e.g. Egyptian, Hebrew, Iranian, Babylonian, North American Indian, etc) concerning the "regeneration of time", especially with regard to the year, the new year and cosmogony. Anthony Murphy discusses some parallels with the mythology of Síd in Broga (Newgrange).

 

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Two myths about how the Rockabill islands were formed

Anthony Murphy takes a look at two myths about how the Rockabill islands were formed.

 

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St. Patrick's equinox journey - a precise alignment across Ireland

An investigation of some of the prominent places associated with Ireland's patron saint, Saint Patrick, and associated mythology, cosmology and alignments, throws up some very interesting surprises. Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland investigates some of the myths behind the man, and his journey across Ireland.

 

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Knowth: Cnó-guba, the nut lamentation - an insight by Helen McKay

This is a beautiful and yet heartbreaking insight into a possible meaning of the "nut lamentation" which is one of the stories from the Dindshenchas about how the great passage-tomb of Knowth got its name. It was contributed to the Irish-Stones group by Helen McKay.

 

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The division of Ireland - a mythic theme and historic reality

Ireland has long been divided. Today, there is an invisible border that separates the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland. In mythology, the division of Ireland into provinces began with the Lebor Gabála Érenn, the Book of the Takings of Ireland, a pseudo-historical cosmogonic narrative that was compiled in Christian times but which related to events which were said to have occurred in prehistory.

 

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Does the Cath Maige Tuired show us how megaliths were moved?

I've been reading the Cath Maige Tuired (The Second Battle of Moytura). I purchased Elizabeth Gray's translation a while back and it's a fascinating read. The text is featured with the original Irish on the left-hand pages and the English translation on the right.

 

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Dagda had two mounds - Newgrange and Mound B

Dagda Mór, the supreme deity of the Tuatha Dé Danann, was said to have been the one who built and owned Síd in Broga (Newgrange). He was later tricked out of ownership of Newgrange by his son, Oengus Óg. Afterwards, he retired to another, smaller mound. Here, I discuss which one he went to.

 

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The night stretches – Lughnasa brings a noticeable shortening of the days

The festival of Lughnasa, marking the beginning of the harvest and the end of summer, might well be a prehistoric celebration. One of the most noticeable aspects of this time of year is the noticeable contraction of the days, and the lengthening of night.

 

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The Meaning of Myth – Fintan mac Bóchra, the hawk and the flood

In a brand new episode of The Meaning of Myth, Anthony Murphy and Treacy O'Connor discuss the symbol of the hawk from Irish mythology, and how the myth of Fintan mac Bóchra inspired the novel The Cry of the Sebac.

 

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Tuatha Dé Danann - their origins in the old manuscripts

The Tuatha Dé Danann are the early gods of Ireland, associated with the great sídhe or passage-mounds of Brú na Bóinne. There is some debate about their original name, whether it was Tuatha Dé Danann or just Tuatha Dé, and attempts have been made to link them with the Tribe of Dan, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Anthony Murphy briefly investigates.

 

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The Song of Wandering Aengus by W. B. Yeats

The late Irish poet William Butler Yeats needs no introduction. He is probably Ireland's most famous poet, and is acknowledged as a significant figure in literary modernism and twentieth-century European letters. Here, I look at one of his poems (and one of my favourites), the Song of Wandering Aengus, and examine briefly some of its mythic and symbolic importance.

 

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Saint Patrick was married - his wife was Sheelah and her day was celebrated on March 18th

While the whole population of Ireland and people of Irish descent around the world celebrate Saint Patrick's Day this coming Saturday, not many people will know that the day after, March 18th, is dedicated to Patrick's wife, Sheelah. Yes, Saint Patrick was married, according to tradition!

 

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How Newgrange became known as Brug Mac Ind Oc

Newgrange was, in the early stories, known as Síd in Broga and Brug na Bóinne. It later became known as Brug Mac Ind Óc after its owner, Dagda, the chief of the Tuatha Dé Danann, was tricked out of ownership by his son.

 

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Lugh na Bua – Lugh the Deliverer – a wonderful new book

A new book retells an ancient myth about how the great god Lugh of the Tuatha Dé Danann defeated the Fomorian king, Balor of the Evil Eye. The story is beautifully retold from versions of the tale told in County Donegal.

 

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The Celtic Imagination and A.E.'s 'Kingdom of Light'

The following is taken from a chapter of Candle of Vision by A.E. (George William Russell), published in 1918. The chapter is called The Celtic Imagination.

 

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Buí, the smiling hag of Knowth, perhaps?

Many people look for meaning in the symbols carved in stone at the great monuments of the Boyne. Sometimes the most facile examination (and perhaps the most puerile too!) is to indulge in pareidolia. When I took this image at Knowth/Cnogba today, I was conscious of the image of the Cailleach, having been reading about her quite a lot lately. I will quote the lovely words of the late Patricia Monaghan, whose book 'The Red-Haired Girl From the Bog' I am currently reading:"Rock is the hag's prime element, her stony spine.... Cailleach time moves form moon to moon, harvest to harvest. It is pagan time, rooted in the eternal return rather than the once-off redemption."

 

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