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Mythic Ireland

by Michael Dames

Ireland, more than any other country in Europe, has retained its mythological heritage, which lives today in the oral tradition of folk tales, in literature, in place-names and language, in ceremonies and monuments. Mountains and loughs are the homes of gods and goddesses, of saints and monsters, and pattern, beauty and cyclical logic are revealed in their stories. Michael Dames, whose previous works have won him a wide and enthusiastic following, has walked through each of the four provinces of Ireland--Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht--visiting first a focal mythic site, such as St. Patrick's Purgatory on Lough Derg, then further sites that "spiral off". He also surveys the entire island from a fifth province, "Mide" or "center", which becomes its axis. Ireland's sacred locations unexpectedly take on contemporary relevance as we realize that the underlying concerns of myth--conservation and recurrence--are increasingly present concerns too. The rich, multi-layered and visionary text is complemented by a careful selection of photographs, engravings, maps and diagrams that reveal the sacred places of pagan and Christian legend.

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