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Irish Mythology - Legends and Myths

Irish mythology comes to us through the great Irish myths and legends that were passed down by the druidic oral tradition until about the 7th century, when the Irish monks began recording them - a process which continued for centuries.

Due to the fact that Ireland was literate so early there are many surviving stories of Irish mythology. These tales are grouped into four chronologically based "cycles":

The Mythological Cycle - The oldest stories, these detail the conquest and settlement of Ireland by six distinct peoples (or races of gods) from earliest times until the arrival of the Celts (the Irish).

The Ulster Cycle - Popular and exciting, these stories of Ireland's early days include the exploits of Cuchulainn and his fellow warriors and the Tain (the Cattle Raid of Cooley), perhaps the most famous of all Irish tales.

The Fenian Cycle - Dated to just before the arrival of Christianity, the Fianna warriors, led by Finn mac Cumhal, roam Ireland and perform prodigious feats.

The Historical Cycle - Variety of stories about the Irish kings from the 3rd century BC up to Brian Boru around 1000 AD.

Buy Books about Irish Mythology
The Tain
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The Tain Translated from the Irish Epic Tain Bo Cuailnge
translated by Thomas Kinsella

Kinsella's translation is definitive and outstanding. Using various texts, he sets the stage for the great cattle raid and resultant war between Connacht and Ulster. Cuchulainn, the Hound of Ulster, rises to the challenge. Illustrations and maps.
Gods and Fighting Men
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Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha De Danaan Abd the Fianna of Ireland
by Isabella Gregory

Lady Gregory was among the first to translate these great stories at the beginning of the last century. Her retellings of Irish myths are still lively and fun. The Tuatha de Danaan were one of the early Irish peoples (or god-like races) inhabiting Ireland before the Celts.
Tales of the Elders of Ireland
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Tales of the Elders of Ireland: Acallam Na Senorach
edited by Ann Dooley, translated by Harry Roe

This is a complete translation of the 12th century text which tells the stories of the Fenians intermingled with later Christian myths and stories about St. Patrick and others. A fascinating blend of the pagan and Christian elements of Irish mythology.
Epics of Celtic Ireland
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The Epics of Celtic Ireland: Ancient Tales of Mystery and Magic
by Jean Markale

French historian Markale recaps and discusses ancient Irish mythology in light of his own interpretation of Celtic history and its impact on western civilization. Markale has written many interesting and well-respected books on the Celts. He is definitely high on Celtic influence on European history.
Mythic Ireland
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Mythic Ireland
by Michael Dames

Dames is an art historian and archeologist and writes books filled with illustrations and photographs, useful as travel guides or just to help us picture the places and artifacts we read about in the Irish myths and legends. Assumes a working knowledge of the Irish tales.
Myths and Folk Tales of Ireland
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Myths and Folk Tales of Ireland
by Jeremiah Curtin

At the end of the 19th century, Mr. Curtin traveled throughout western Ireland, on commission from the Smithsonian, collecting the folktales then current among the Gaelic-speaking peoples. Not only do we get Irish versions of well-known fairy tales, but the then-current oral versions of many of the Fenian tales. A wonderful way to gauge the evolution and/or faithfulness of the stories over time.
Celtic Heroic Age
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The Celtic Heroic Age
edited by John T. Koch and John Carey

This is college survey textbook with a huge selection of original celtic sources in translation, from roman references to welsh and irish myth. For the serious student who wants a wide sampling of the available texts.
Celtic Heritage : Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales
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Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales
by Alwyn Rees

This is a standard reference comparing the elements of celtic myth with those of ancient India. Rees strongly supports common Indo-european roots between druidic and vedic religion and myth, suggesting that many mythic elements pre-date the Celts' arrival in Ireland. There is a much stronger emphasis on Irish than on Welsh mythology.
Celtic Myths and Legends
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Celtic Myths and Legends
by T. W. Rolleston

A classic, originally published in 1917 (and not currently politically correct) surveying the ancient, particularly Irish, myths, in chronological order. Well worthwhile for an overview of the subject.