Getting started in the scholarly journey of understanding the Irish mytho-historical tradition can be extremely daunting. It is a world where nothing is what it seems and where things are and are not at the same time, a world that demands your attention, discipline and love if it is to reveal its life-enhancing knowledge to you.
So here you can find a list of suggested reading if you wish to delve into the depths of this wonderful, complex tradition. I’ve split the texts in 2 broad categories: 19th/20th Centuries (books written around and during the Celtic Revival times, which are greatly outdated but are a great way to know how THE STUDY of Gaelic Ireland’s traditions first developed); and 21st Century (modern research and interpretations – often times contradictory – and updated historical/archaeological information).
The important thing to remember is this: We know less than we think we know, and we will likely NEVER have enough data to put together a cohesive whole. To study this tradition seriously means accepting all that we will never know, and using knowledge and critical thinking to rescue what we can from the past and put it into the service of our present and future.
Modern Studies (late 20th & early 21st centuries)
While at times contradicting each other (and so they should), these are modern authors that have given me the most understanding of the tradition.
History / Archaeology / Nature
- JP Mallory, “In Search of the Irish Dreamtime” and “The Origin of the Irish”
- Murt MacGarraidhe, “Strangers at Home”
- Tomas Cahill, “How the Irish Saved Civilization”
- Edward Rutherfurd, “The Dublin Saga” (historical fiction)
- G. Frank Mitchell, “The Irish Landscape”
- Edel Bhreathnach, “Ireland in the Medieval World AD 400-1000: Landscape, Kingship and Religion”
- Fergal Tobin, “The Irish Difference”
- Kevin Corcoran, “Saving Eden: The Gearagh & Irish Nature”
Medieval Literature & Its Study
- John Minahane, “The Christian Druids: On the Filid of Philosopher-Poets of Ireland”
- Marie-Louise Sjoestedt, “Gods and Heroes of the Celts”
- Mark Williams, “Ireland’s Immortals”
- Bernardette Cunningham, “The Annals of the Four Masters”
Cosmovision & Spirituality
- Jan Fries, “Cauldron of the Gods”
- Peter Berresford Ellis, “The Fabrication of ‘Celtic’ Astrology” (article)
- Lar Dooley, “Out of the Darkness”
- Manchán Magan, “Thirty-Two Words for Field”
- John Moriarty, “Invoking Ireland”
- Peter O’ Connor, “Beyond the Mist: What Irish Mythology can Teach us About Ourselves”
Celtic Revival Times (late 19th & early 20th centuries)
Books written around the times that Celtology and Comparative Religion became academic disciplines and Anglo-Irish intellectuals rediscovered the tradition. Much of what they contain is nowadays deemed inaccurate by most modern scholars.
- T. W. Rolleston, “Celtic Myths and Legends”
- W. Y. Evans-Wentz, “The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries”
- Standish O’ Grady, “The Story of Ireland”
- Henry Arbois de Jubainville, “The Irish Mythological Cycle and Celtic Mythology”
- James Bonwick, “Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions”
- W.B. Yeats, “Fairy and Folk tales of the Irish Peasantry” and “The Celtic Twilight”
- Lady Gregory, “Gods and Fighting Men”
- Eugene A. Conwell, “The Discovery of the Tomb of Ollamh Fodhla”
- John Arnott MacCulloch, “The Religion of the Ancient Celts”