Myths of Ireland
Myths of Ireland
Immerse yourself in the mythology of Ireland
A hazy fog descends silently on a tree-lined valley hidden amidst rolling hills. A piercing wail cuts through the gloom and echoes in the wood; the banshee is calling...
Myths and legends have long formed a key part in the history of Ireland. This folklore-rich land is dotted with ancient castles, mysterious ringforts (also known as fairy forts due to the belief they are imbued with Druid magic), and lonely monasteries that only add to a rich tapestry of Irish mythology. Tales tell of warriors in great battles, ghosts and other supernatural beings, and are handed down from generation to generation even to this day. Ireland may be famous for the elusive leprechaun, but seeking out the countless lesser known figures is one of the most fascinating things to do in Ireland.
Here are just some of the locations across the country steeped in folklore.
Bru na Boinne, or the Boyne Valley, in County Meath plays host to Newgrange, a World Heritage Site older than both the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge. This enormous mound of earth and stone is cut through by a dark central passage that leads to stone-slabbed chambers. These may have been used in ancient burials, or in religious ceremonies on the Winter Solstice. Bru na Boinne also holds the similar tomb mounds of Knowth and Dowth, and the Hill of Tara, which is home to the ancient seat of power of the high kings of Ireland. The area is associated with the ancient race of the Tuatha De Danann, thought to be descended from old Irish deities, who play a pivotal role in a number of Irish stories.
Better known is the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim. According to lore, these thousands of interlocking basalt columns are the result of Fionn MacCumhaill, a mythical hunter, and his wish to battle a Scottish giant. The legend goes that, having traded insults with a giant across the waters, Fionn constructed the Causeway to meet his foe in combat. A week of pushing the enormous pillars into the sea tired Fionn, and when the Scot crossed the new bridge Fionn’s wife had to disguise him as a baby to save his life. When the giant felt the strength of Fionn’s ‘baby’ he fled in terror back to Scotland, destroying the pillars behind so that he would never have to fight the adult Fionn. All that remains are the plateaus of stepping stones seen today.
The Children of Lir tells of four children transformed into swans when their stepmother grew jealous of the love they had for each other and their father. They were banished to spend 300 years on the Sea of Moyle, the narrowest point between Ireland and Scotland, another 300 years on the boggy Irrus Domnann, and whatever days were left to them on the remote white sands of Inishlora Island (both in North Mayo). It is said they were blessed by St. Patrick himself.
These are a mere snapshot of the many wonderful stories handed down through the history of Ireland to earn a place in the national psyche. Travel to any corner of the country and discover Ireland through fantastical stories and haunting legends just waiting to be retold, from pookas and changelings to the lurking banshee. Just hope you do not hear her wail before you take the stories the home...
This folklore-rich land is dotted with ancient castles, mysterious ringforts, and lonely monasteries
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