I thought about doing a bunch of research for this topic, but now that I no longer have a university library of peer-reviewed articles at my fingertips, I wasn’t really sure where to start looking. And honestly, half the fun in research is seeing what you find yourself!
When I was in my last semester at Western, I had a class that I needed to fill in order to hit my minimum hours to be considered a full-time student. I have a few friends who were history majors there and they told me to take a class with one of their favorite professors. Lo and behold, she had an 100 or 200 level class, so I signed up for it. The class was essentially mythology as history and learning how to examine the history that is tied up in mythology. It was a stupendous class.
Towards the end of the semester, we covered Irish mythology. Mythology in general is something I’ve always been fascinated with and Irish mythology happened to be one of the specialties of this professor. We read two books related to Irish mythology and early Irish culture: Early Irish Myths and Sagas from Penguin Classics and The History and Topography of Ireland by Gerald of Wales. If you’re really interested in learning more about Irish mythology, those two books are a good place to start.
Rather than expound on a lot of different characters, I’ll mention Cuchulainn (and that’s only one spelling of the name). Much like how the Norse had Thor, the Greeks had Achilles, and the Romans had Hercules, the Irish people had Cuchulainn. He was one of the greatest heroes they had and he performed many, many feats. He would fly into a battle rage where his hair would stand on end, one eye would bulge out and the other disappeared into his head, and his body would become so hot that it could melt ice and snow. His battle rages would do other things to him, but those are the things that stood out to me the most. He could only be calmed down by having water dumped on him (although I seem to remember something about seeing a naked woman calming him from his battle lust too). Cuchulainn has some bloody and terrible stories, but most Celtic and Irish myths are.
I attempted a couple of years ago to write an Irish version of my Norse mythology story, Utangard. I had the idea to create a series using different mythologies around one central villain (yes, kind of like the Percy Jackson series). I did some research and started writing the story, but hit a block quickly. I suspect I need to finish the Norse story before I can really move on to another mythology in the series.
I do have a few series and books that use Celtic and Irish mythology in their stories, but I’ll cover that in a separate post. Do you have any good recommendations for internet sources on mythology? I’d love to get some more reliable sources beyond Wikipedia and this intriguing mythencyclopedia.com.