Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Island of Hy Brasil

The Island of Hy Brasil

Ireland lay on the edge of the known world until Columbus proved otherwise in 1493. The mysterious Atlantic was explored by sailors such as St. Brendan(†577). It is possible that he even went as far as America. In the Hiberno Latin Navigatio Sancti Brendani abbatis, written between the 8th and 10th century there is an account of a sea expedition to the north which took several years . The account proved to be a Medieval bestseller and was translated into sixteen langauges. In 1976 English explorer Tim Severin sailed from Kerry to Newfoundland in a replica currach, proving that such a journey would have been possible. By undertaking such a journey Tim Severin manged to plausibly expalin some of the more unusal hapenings.
The Island of Smiths for example where the smith throws fire at the monks as they try to land could have been Iceland as the monks bore witness to a volcano errupting.
One of the islands associated with Brendan was Hy Brasil. The island of Hy Brasil was a mythical island believed to be located in Galway Bay. Some people maintain that it was another name for Tír na nÓg or the Land of Eternal Youth. From 1325 it even began to appear on several maps, most notably a Catalan map from 1480 which makes reference to "Illa de Brasil", The island was regarded as a sort of paradise; circular in shape and enshrouded in mist. It only appeared for one day every seven years. St. Brendan is said to have visited the island and described it as the Promised Land. It is believed to be called after Bresal, a druid of the fir bolg. It has also been suggested that the country of Brazil was named after this myserious isle. It still appeared on maps until1865 and was also referred to as Bresal’s Rock. The last reported sighting of this mysterious island was in 1872. It still continues to inspire authors, most notably Peter Treymayne in his book of short stories, Aisling and Other Tales of Terror. In the poem below by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill the reader may get an idea of the emotions the island serves.

An Bhreasaíl

Cloisim tú
Ag glaoch orm
San oíche

Ar rá liom teacht
Go dtí do oileán

Fuaimníonnn do ghuth
Mar thoirneach
Thar an mbóchna.

Is mórthaibhseach
Do ghlór
Agus is naofa-

‘Tair chugam, tair
chugam éinne
atá traochta

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill


I hear you call
Out to me
In the night

Asking me to come
To the isle
Of Enchantement.

Your voice sounds
Like thunder
O’er the foam.

And worshipful
Is its boom-

‘Come to me,
come o me, all
who are tired.’

Translated by Paul Muldoon

The Voyage of Bran

The Voyage of Bran

“We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it is not meant that we should voyage far.”
H.P. Lovecraft

Bran son of Febal once held a gathering of chiefs in his dún. They had gathered to celebrate the feast of Bealtaine, which heralded the beginning of summer. They ate and drank their fill and together with the musicians the party atmosphere was complete. Bran left the dún to get some piece and quiet. Glad to have this he wandered along the plain enjoying the silence. He suddenly heard music, though instinct told him that it was not the music of mortals or it was much too sweet. He turned to see where the music was coming from, but it suddenly ceased. This was indeed strange and when his back was turned the music started again. He turned swiftly hoping to be quicker but their was again neither sight nor sound of the musicians. Realising that was among the Other World he became slightly afraid but drowsiness overcame his fear and he lay on the grass and before he knew it sleep had overcome him. When he awoke things were normal again. He did however; notice the branch of an apple tree in the grass beside him. This had not been there previously. He gazed upon it with a certain fascination. It appeared to be sliver in colour and the fruit gleamed as if it were made of glass. Taking the branch in his hand he rejoined his friends and when he recalled what he had just experienced they all listened intently. While he was recounting what he had experienced a woman suddenly appeared in the room. Her beauty and strange clothes immediately drew attention. The fact that she had also appeared out of nowhere made the assembled company realise that she was not of this world. She announced to the crowd gathered around that she was indeed one of the sí and sang to Bran:

The branch you hold is from a distant isle,
the playground of the horses of Manannán Mac Lir
On this isle music pleases the ear and colour delights the eye,
A hard and rough life here is unknown,
No sorrow and no treachery
Nor weakness nor illness
And no death
A group of strangers from over the wave will visit the isle
They too shall hear the sweet music
And shall suffer no death
Dear Bran
The isle is called the Isle of women
Do not waste time
But hurry and prepare your voyage across the sea!

As the song drew to a close the branch in Bran’s hand started to move and although he tightened his grip flew into the mysterious woman’s outstretched hand, who disappeared as suddenly as she had come.
Bran was fixated by her and told his friends that he must visit this island. He soon assembled a group of twenty-seven and the next day they set sail in two currachs. They rowed westwards for two days and nights. In this time they met no other boat, nor did they get a glimpse of any land. Heir fortunes changed however when they spotted a chariot coming over the waves to them. Inside the chariot was none other that the sea God Manannán Mac Lir and he sang to them:

Bran your boat skims the flatness of the sea
For me you ride along a grassy plain.
The waved you see are flowers
And the salmon are my animals
I am Manannán the son of Lir.
I appear to you in human shape.
Row steadily over my country Bran
And before the sun has set
You shall reach the isle of women!

When his song was finished he disappeared under the waves. Bran heeded his advice and not long after this they caught sight of land. Approaching the island Bran called out to the natives who had gathered on the shore.
“We’re looking for the isle of women,“ he shouted out.
The natives however did not answer his question but merely laughed at him and their laughter gradually got louder. Bran decided to send a man ashore to see if he could any sense of them but once he landed he too joined in their laughter and pointed at those in the boat. Despite all attempts to call him back on board the man stayed on the island, which they called The Island of laughter. They had no choice but to leave him and sailed on. Towards evening just as the sun was setting they reached another island and were greeted by a woman. This they took to be the Isle of women.
“You’re very welcome Bran, son of Febal,“ she announced. Bran did not ask her how she knew his name but it was obvious that he and his crew had been expected. Bran considered the possibility of danger but after days at sea their supplies had been greatly diminished and he and his crew urgently needed supplies. They would have to take the risk and followed the lady then. They came to a splendid building and inside a feast was prepared for them. They ate their fill that night and when they could not manage any more food most beautiful women who kept them company that night brought them to their beds. The following morning another feast awaited them and again they ate a very hearty meal. They amused themselves with sport and music after that and the evening was a repeat performance of the previous day. Time passed in this way and it was not long before they forgot their troubles and indeed that the land that gave them birth. All that mattered to them were the pleasures that they enjoyed on the Isle of women. A man called Nechtan however, suddenly felt homesick one day and expressed his desire to return home. The issue was discussed among Bran and the rest of the expedition. Not everyone was happy with Nechtan’s whinging.
“Are you mad?” some of the crew cried out, “haven’t we got everything we want here. What would you want to go back for?”
“We’ll have to go back sometime” Nechtan countered, “This can’t last forever. We can’t stay abroad forever.”
They saw certain logic to this and having discussed the matter amongst themselves they decided to return home. If they were not happy they could always return here. The women however convinced them that they should stay a little longer and their feminine charm won the day and so they stayed on. Homesickness however, is a very strong emotion that does not go away that easily and after some days had passed Nechtan expressed his wish to return once more. After all, how long was Bran planning on staying here? Bran saw the logic of this argument and in the end it was decided that they would return once more. They had seen what was to be seen and now it was time to move on.
On the eve of their return journey the queen approached Bran and begged him to reconsider his decision to return. If he returned to Ireland he would regret it for the rest of his life.
“Don’t go back to that place. There’s nothing there for you anymore. Can’t you stay here with me? This is your home!”
Bran was adamant however and he dragged himself away from the queen. If nothing else it was time for a break from her. She had become far too possessive and now her hysterical pleadings disturbed him. The sooner he got away from her the better. As the boat moved out she shouted out to him that whatever he did he was not to touch Irish soil. An odd thing to say he thought, if not a tad melodramatic and he dismissed it from his mind as he gave orders to set sail. They departed the island then and collected their friend from the Isle of Laughter. For his part he was glad to see them and seemed to have pulled himself together. After three days of rowing they finally reached Ireland at a place, which has since, been called Srub Brain. The homesick Nechtan was the first to jump ashore but as soon as his feet touched Irish soil he turned to dust. The others, visibly shocked did not follow suit but remained frozen in horror. The natives having seen the boat approach land now approached it and hailed to the crew asking them who they were. Bran responded to them by saying:
“I am Bran son of Febal and I have been at sea for one year!”
The people on land gasped at this. Looking at their astonished faces he addressed them further.
“Is there something wrong with that? Have you never been at sea yourselves?”
They looked at each other then, not knowing what to say and one of them spoke up,
“We have heard of Bran, son of Febal. He is part of our oldest stories. He left Ireland hundreds of years ago to seek the Isle of Women and was never seen again.”
When Bran heard this it was his turn to be shocked. Were they telling the truth? What had just happened to Nechtan advised him not to doubt their word and it was then that he recalled what the queen had told him. Nothing could have prepared him for this and she was right- he now regretted his decision to ever return. Had he stayed with her Ireland would still be a pleasant memory instead the nightmare reality had now unfolded before him. The home he had left would now be no more. The people dear to him and his crew were long since dead. He could never go home. He had lost everything!
A feeling of despair started to set it, which was echoed by the crew who let out shouts of pain as they too realised they could never return. They were damned to sail the seas for all eternity.
Eventually gathering himself together and accepting the situation he and his crew now had to face Bran told the people on the shore what had happened to them and their anguish was shared by all who heard him speak. A man who could write was present and he wrote Bran’s story down in ogham. When the story had come to an end with sadness in his voice Bran gave the order to row out to sea. The people watched them until they disappeared into the horizon and they have never been seen or heard of since.

THe Adventure of Conle

The Adventure of Conle

“You love simply because you cannot help it”
Kim Anderson

Conle the Red, son of Conn na Céad Catha , was standing one day on the hill of Uisnech with his father. As they spoke Conle saw a woman approach them and she was dressed in fine clothes.
“How are you and where do you come from?” Conle asked. He thought he knew all the good looking women in his father’s kingdom but he had never seen this one before.
The woman answered him and this is what she said:
I come from the land of the living,
a land that knows neither death, sin nor transgression.
We feast without preparing food
and never quarrel amongst ourselves.
We are called the people of peace.’
‘‘Who are you talking to son?’’ Conn interupted wondering why his son was talking to himself, for only Conle could see the woman.
The faerie woman answered him:
“He speaks to a woman of noble birth,
who is never threatened by death or old age.
I love Conle the Red and I call upon him
to come with me to a place
where he will retain his beauty and become immortal’’

Conn became greatly concerned and realising the sí were about and he called upon Corán, his druid to drive her away. The druid sang against her voice and his chanting was so powerful that she began to gradually disappear. Before she disappeared however, she threw Conle an apple which he automatically caught.
The next day Conle ate no food. Nor did any drink pass his lips. The only thing he would eat was his apple, which the fairy woman had given him and that remained whole, regardless of how much he ate of it. As time went by his longing for this strange woman increased. A month later as father ans son stood at the coast, looking out to sea, she appeared again and cried out to Conle:

“There Conle sits amongst the mortals and awaiting death.
The immortals invite you to their land.
Come and join us!”

Conn, who heard the voice, but still could not see anyone knew immediately who it was and called out in desperation for his druid, but she called out to him:

“Conn, your druid cannot help you for his powers are too weak!
Your charms won’t work against me this time!’’

Conle had been silent all this time. Conn asked him what was wrong.
“What’s wrong with you son? Why won’t you speak? Can’t you say something? Help me get rid of her. She’s up to no good!”
Conle did not respond for a while but succumbing to his father’s desperation swallowed hard and gathering his words together spoke earnestly to his father
’’It is not easy for me, for I love my people and it pains me to ever have to leave them but I long to be with this woman. She is the woman I love and I know that she cannot live here amongst us and because she cannot live here and I must go with her. I cannot live without her!’’
The woman encouraged him by saying:

You have a longing to go over the sea
and we shall go this very evening.
A glass boat and we will reach the land of Boadach,
a land that makes every man happy for it is only inhabited by girls.’’

It is not recorded how Conn reacted to this, but we can imagine that he reacted the same way any parent would when they realised they were going to lose their child for good. His druid could not help him and he himself was powerless to do anything. In any case he didn’t have any time for when she had finished speaking Conle jumped into the waiting boat and rowed with her into the sea. From this day on he was never seen again.

“Come away, o human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping
than you understand.”

W. B Yeats

Alte Irische Mythen und Legenden (Rezensionen)

Von Sebastian Stumpf (Galway) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen

Rezension bezieht sich auf: Alte irische Mythen und Legenden (Broschiert)

Sagen und Mythen, die von Begebnissen aus grauer Vorzeit berichten da der Mensch in seiner naiven, traumwandlerischen Verfassung noch nicht die Fähigkeit besaß, vollends zwischen Realität und Einbildung zu unterscheiden, sind, Dank ihrer mündlichen Überlieferung und den damit verbundenen Ausschmückungen durch viele Generationen von Erzählern, meist äußerst verwirrende Angelegenheiten von geradezu verzweiflungserregender Vielschichtigkeit, denen sodann in den Skriptorien frühmittelalterlicher Klöster zu allem Überfluß auch noch oftmals ein vollkommen aus der Luft gegriffenes christlich-ethisches Leitmotiv aufoktroyiert wurde.
Desto erfirschender ist es daher, zu wissen, dass zumindest einige wenige uralte Legenden die Neuzeit entweder intakt erreicht haben, oder aber in aufwendigen Restaurierungsprozessen vom bröckelnden Putz fehlgeleiteter Beschönigungsbestrebungen befreit worden sind, bis buchstäblich nichts übrigblieb als die nackte -und z.T. sehr blutige - Wahrheit. In diesem in jeder Hinsicht schlichten Band stellt uns Rónán Ó Dhomhnaill eine Auswahl bekannter und weniger bekannter Legenden Altirlands vor, und zwar in einer Sprache, die von wissenschaftlicher Akribie zeugt und jeglicher romantischer Verklärung entbehrt. Damit trägt er maßgeblich zu einer dringend notwendigen Korrektur des deutschen Irlandbildes bei, das bisher geprägt war von den etwas versponnenen- wenn auch gut gemeinten- Darstellungen der Lady Augusta Gregory und manch anderem Schöngeist des sogenannten 'Celtic Revival', die die keltisch-irische Kultur gewissermaßen durch Butzenscheiben betrachteten, sie aber immerhin vor dem sicheren Untergang retteten. Ó Dhomhnaills Texte hingegen zeigen uns die Welt der großen keltischen Helden, wie z.B. Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Fingal), Cuchullainn, Oisin (Ossian) und Conchobhar als eine von hochentwickelten Naturvölkern dominierte Sphäre, in deren Wertvorstellungen und Handlungsweisen sich sowohl die höchsten als auch die niedersten menschlichen Charaktereigenschaften mit derart kindlicher Unbefangenheit offenbarten, dass es aus heutiger Sicht schon fast wieder rührend erscheint. Urmenschliche Regungen wie Liebe, Treue, Ehre, Wollust, Trauer, Neid, Tücke, Haß und Habsucht kommen darin mit unschuldger Vehemenz zum Ausdruck und vermitteln ein Gefühl wilder Vitalität, die unserer Generation abhanden zu kommen scheint. Nirgends in diesem Band ist auch nur eine Spur von störender Moralinsäure anzutreffen und man merkt sogleich, dass hier ein gewissenhafter, auf Objektivität bedachter Historiker am Werk war, dessen Liebe zu seiner Kultur darin besteht, dass er sie mit aller gebührenden Ehrlichkeit ins Auge zu fassen sucht. Die ihrerseits unprätentiösen Tuschezeichnungen der Illustratorin Michaela Raß tragen erfolgreich zur ästhetischen Erfahrung bei und spiegeln den symbolhaften Charakter keltischer Kunst insofern wieder, als dass die Figuren schemenhaft -und somit hinreichend abstrakt- gehalten werden, indes der durch übermäßige Vervielfältigung leider etwas aus der Mode gekommenen Zierat der La Tène Phase nur spaerliche Verwendung findet.

Hier mag der geneigte Leser in aller Ruhe Geschichten wie "Oidhe Clainne Lir" (Das Schicksal der Kinder von Lir) oder "Bás Cuchulainn" (der Tod des Cuchulainn) in ihrem historischen Kontext erfassen und somit doppelt genießen, denn jede Sage erhält ihre eigene geschichtliche Erläuterung und wird zusätzlich mit hilfreichen Fußnoten versehen, was ich persönlich für sehr wichtig halte. Das Nichtmuttersprachlertum des Verfassers fällt hingegen kaum ins Gewicht und tut der Qualität des Gebotenen im großen-ganzen keinen Abbruch. Hie und da allerdings würde der Stil von einer höheren Quote an Genitivkonstruktionen profitieren, und auch die altehrwürdigen, in Märchen gebräuchliche formelle Anrede "Euch/Ihr" anstelle des etwas bürokratisch anmutenden "Sie" würde dem Gesamteindruck förderlich sein, aber diese unerheblichen Mängel könnten in einer zweiten Auflage ohne größeren Aufwand behoben werden. Ich zumindest kann diesen Stoff ohne Vorbehalte weiterempfehlen.

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17 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich:
4.0 von 5 Sternen Irische Mythen mit Erklärungen !, 23. November 2003
Von Christina Griessler (Österreich) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen

Rezension bezieht sich auf: Alte irische Mythen und Legenden (Broschiert)
Diese Buch ist eine Empfehlung für alle Irlandfans, die Hintergrundinformationen zu den irischen Mythen und Sagen erfahren wollen. Das Buch zeichnet sich dadurch aus, daß es Wörter in der irischen Sprache beläßt, diese aber mit Fußnoten erklärt. Die einzelnen Geschichten sind kurz gehalten und leicht verständlich geschrieben. Das Design ist sehr geschmackvoll gestaltet und die Illustrationen von Frau Raß wurde passend zu den Geschichten arrangiert.
Die Geschichten führen den Leser in die Welt der irischen Helden, starken schöner Frauen und Lebewesen aus der "Anderen Welt". Ein unterhaltsames und lehrsames Buch. Helfen Sie anderen Kunden bei der Suche nach den hilfreichsten Rezensionen
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15 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich:
5.0 von 5 Sternen Alte irische Mythen & Legenden, 24. November 2003
Von Ein Kunde

Rezension bezieht sich auf: Alte irische Mythen und Legenden (Broschiert)
Beim Lesen dieses Buches taucht man auf eine sehr faszinierende Art in die Welt der alten teilweise schon vergessenen irischen Könige, Druiden und Helden ein. Zauber, Feen und Hexen werden zu einem realen Bestandteil des damaligen Lebens.
Es spiegelt den mystischen Geist Irlands wider und läßt uns dadurch auch die Geschichte Irlands besser verstehen.