The University of Wisconsin Press

Irish Studies / Mythology / History


Legendary Ireland
A Journey Through Celtic Places and Myths
Eithne Massey


Irish sites steeped in history and legend

Haunting photographs and timeless engravings celebrate the marriage of Irish myth and landscape. Legendary Ireland visits twenty-eight richly atmospheric sites and tells their stories, including Tara, Newgrange, the Giant's Causeway, the Béara Peninsula, Ben Bulben, Dun Aengus, Killarney, Howth Head, and the Grianán of Aileach.

Legendary Ireland is a vivid and original journey through the Celtic places and myths of ancient Ireland, an island of gods and warriors, their stories intrinsically linked with the countryside. Woven into the Irish landscape are tales of love and betrayal, greed and courage, passion and revenge. It features the famous personalities of Celtic lore, such as Cú Chulainn and Queen Maeve, Diarmuid and Gráinne, the Children of Lir, Oisín and Fionn.

The book also reveals some of the less well known, but equally captivating, stories such as the Hag of Béara and Lí Ban the Mermaid of Lough Neagh.

Legendary Ireland introduces the reader to ancient stories covering the whole of the island of Ireland—more than a guide to the mythological sites and more than a collection of stories—giving practical information on dozens of sites linked to the great legends and an imaginative retelling of the story associated with each one.

Many of the people of Ireland, well into the twentieth century, believed that certain trees and wells and hills were under the guardianship of their local otherworld being and each of these enchanted places was protected accordingly. There was an element of fear as well as awe in this relationship, for at certain times, notably at Samhain (Halloween) and Bealtaine (May Eve), you could slip easily from one world into the other.”
—excerpt from Legendary Ireland

Eithne Massey works as a librarian in Dublin. Her interest in mythology has been a lifelong one, and she is often found traveling to old and secret places around the country. Previous publications include short stories and a study of Prior Roger, Outlaw of Kilmainham, who played a key role in the Kilkenny Kyteler witchcraft case. Photographer Jacques Le Geoff was born in Paris but has lived in Ireland for the past twelve years. Special effects photographer Pip Sides lends a ghostly romantic effect to his
studies of castles, stone circles, and natural landscapes.

Additional excerpts from book:

Outside the houses, cold air solidified into a mist when man or beast breathed out, mingling with the vapour that rose from the river. Inside the houses, there were great fires and feasts, and songs celebrating a king whose victories had brought all the tribes under his power, who had left dead bodies as countless as the leaves that fell from the trees, crushed underfoot into the earth. A tall, dark-haired man with a heavy beard and a searching eye, Muircheartach was generous and hospitable; his house at Cletty was always full of guests, of poets and musicians and brave warriors.”—excerpt from Legendary Ireland

The people loved and trusted their king; so although they whispered when the woman came to Cletty, they did not demur. However, when Muircheartach put his wife, Duaibhseach, and his own children out of the house, his people began to worry that he was under an enchantment that would bring evil to the realm. And while the woman, Sín, was indeed beautiful, with her slanted amber eyes and bronze hair, it was a strange, sly beauty, a beauty without gentleness, and her power over the king was such that he could do nothing but watch her while she moved or spoke or sang.”—excerpt from Legendary Ireland

Copublished with the O'Brien Press, Dublin

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the cover of Legendary Ireland is a misty copper black with a photo of some standing stones.

February 2004
240 pp.  7 x 9 3/4
37 b/w photos, 68 line drawings
Cloth ISBN 978-0-299-19800-8

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