Thursday, June 11, 2009
Each of us has a longing to find repose from the troubles and tribulations of the world. We dream of a sunny pasture, or a shaded glen, or a remote wood on the side of a mountain, some haven from the struggles of life. We imagine our own Garden of Eden, where trouble is absent, and where our spirit can find rest. This is an everlasting goal of mankind - to discover this one paradise where we will be removed from strife.
In coming to Ireland, the mythical invaders sought such sanctuary. Cessair, the granddaughter of Noah, thought Ireland would be safe from the coming flood because it was a place where man had not set foot and which would be free from sin and evil and monsters and demons.
The Milesians envisioned a heavenly land and sought to take it from the Tuatha Dé Danann. Their spiritual leader, Amergin, proclaimed Ireland as the "Island of the Setting Sun".
Even the Christian monks of Ireland, who saved the Christian heritage from utter destruction during the Dark Ages, sought refuge in the glens and valleys, along the rivers, on the hills and even on the remote islands of Ireland. Here, while they toiled to copy pre-Christian and Christian manuscripts and epics, they too sought that hideaway, that shelter from distress.
Ireland, too, has its own unique "island paradise" myth - that of the mysterious island in the Atlantic called Hy-Brasil. Supposed to be some sort of Eden-like utopia, shut off from the world of man, it was said to become visible off the coast of Connemara once every seven years. Such an island might actually have existed in reality, for Hy-Brasil can be found on several maps from as early as the 14th Century.
One 17th Century writer said of Hy-Brasil: "Whether it be real and firm land kept hidden by the special ordnance of God, or the terrestrial paradise, or else some illusion of airy clouds appearing on the surface of the sea, or the craft of evil spirits, is more than our judgments can pound out."
This is just a small taste of the material which will be explored in 'The Flood and The Fire - Creation and Apocalypse in Irish Myth and Prophecy' by Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore, to be published by Liffey Press in October 2009.