Here is a list books I found helpful in giving a good overall background of the southwestern region or understanding the sites we’ll be traveling to on the Places of Resurrection tour. Some of them are specifically targeted at mindful travel, making the most of traveling to thin places.
A visit to a mystical site is powerful whether or not you have any understanding of the history or legends associated with that site. But the more understanding you have about a site or about the landscape, the greater the possibility for inner transformation.
Prepare by growing your understanding of earth energy, ancient local traditions and the people of the place and you will be less curious about the facts associated with the site, and more able to absorb the power each site generates. These books are simply suggestions that might help you prepare.
Every Ancient, Ever New, by Dolores Whelan – This is a short book with a little over 100 pages, but Dolores gives a solid perspective on how to use the understanding of ancient Celtic traditions to create a new way of seeing the world – of being in the world. This is one of the best books for understanding thin places and what they mean today.
NOTE: The price for this book on Amazon.com fluctuates based on their ability to get the inventory from Ireland. So try ordering directly from Dolores Whalen’s website ($23) of the Amazon price is high.
Ley Lines and Earth Energies, by David Cowan & Chris Arnold – This was the first book I read about the concept of earth energies and how the ancients may have been able to sense those pulsating movements when they built their stone circles, passage tombs and other monuments. We will be doing some dowsing on our tour, so an understanding of this concept will be very helpful.
Awakening to the Spirit World, by Sandra Ingerman & Hank Wesselman – This is one of the best and simplest books on understanding Shamanism and Shamanic practices, which are a way to “journey” to otherworlds in order to gain wisdom. It’s a great primer for understanding the “otherworld” concept and being sensitive to other realms as you move through thin places.
Walking With the Sin Eater, by Ross Heaven – This is a might lighter look at Shamanism and can be read in a few hours. It’s set as a personal memoir of journeying, but reveals some great truths about earth energies and spiritual transformation through journeying.
These books, written by local Irish and travelers to Ireland reveal the hidden landscape, culture, history, folklore and traditions of places in the southwest particularly Dingle, the Aran Island and the Beara Peninsula.
Peig, by Peig Sayers – This is out of print, but you can get used ones from Amazon for a good price. It’s an autobiographical account of a woman who grew on the Dingle peninsula in the early 20th century, but married and moved to the Great Blasket Island and lived a hard life. She only spoke Irish dictated her life’s story to her son who wrote down. It was later translated and is now considered one of the great publications in Irish literature. It also gives insight into the culture and landscape of Dingle, the Blaskets and southwest Ireland in general and the harsh life that formed much of the Irish perspective that we see today.
Twenty Years A-Growing, by Maurice O’Sullivan – First published in 1933, this book, like Pieg is a memoir of O’Sullivan’s life on the great Blasket Island. But this book has a much livelier slant. It’s rich in storytelling, folklore of the southwestern region, and impeccable at describing the landscape and our connection to it.
Climbing Brandon, by Chet Raymo – Raymo is a science writer out of Boston who spent summers on the Dingle. He writes about the holy mountain on Dingle named for St. Brendan the Navigator. His eloquent writing style alone makes the book worth the read, but he gives great insights on the Dingle Peninsula, its legends, culture and the conundrum of making sense of religion with such a strong background in science. His perspective is “in the portal between knowledge and mystery, between the commonplace and the divine.”
THE BEARA PENINSULA
At the Edge of Ireland, by David Yeadon – A travel writer’s perspective of the Beara Peninsula, which is the least traveled of all the southwestern peninsulas. Yeadon and his wife spent time on the Beara and he wrote a funny account of that travel which encompasses everything that is the Beara Peninsula – the villages, the ancient megaliths, the mountains, culture, music, bar scene and more. It’s a comprehensive view of what Leon Uris called “the Terrible Beauty.”
McCarthy’s Bar, by Pete McCarthy – a very fun book written by travel and screen writer Pete McCarthy who traveled from the west coast of Ireland from Cork to Donegal obeying one rule of travel – “Never pass a bar with your name on in.” The cover of this bestselling book shows McCarthy’s Bar in Castletownbere on the Beara. Lots of humor. An entertaining read that reveals the magic of Ireland and its people, but also a good account of the Beara Peninsula and the southwest coast.
THE ARAN ISLANDS
The Aran Islands, by John Millington Synge – Between 1898 and 1901, the great Irish literary figure, John M. Synge traveled to the Aran Islands to observe the landscape and culture of the islanders. This short, little book is a beautiful account of the old folklore, language and traditions that were once at the heart of all of Ireland. One can get a good sense of the Aran Island landscape and people – even the Aran of today by reading this book.
IRELAND IN GENERAL
Legendary Ireland, by Eithne Massey – This book focuses on the myths and legends of Ireland that are associated with places. While several of the sites listed such as the Hag of Beara and Áine of Knockainey but the book itself gives an understanding of how the Irish linked the landscape to the stories, and their perception of a mystical chord that knits that mystical world of myths and legends to our present world.
Let us know your favorite books that reveal the mystical nature of Ireland’s southwestern region including counties Cork, Kerry, Clare and Galway. Put your thoughts in the comments.
Here are more books to read before you travel to Ireland. This is the second post in a series and picks up from the first batch of book suggestions. These books will help you understand the Irish culture, history and landscape. They are especially helpful in discovering more about Irish mythology and the sacred landscape.
Ireland by Frank Delaney
In the winter of 1951, a storyteller, the last practitioner of an honored, centuries-old tradition, arrives at the home of nine-year-old Ronan O’Mara in the Irish countryside. For three wonderful evenings, the old gentleman enthralls his assembled local audience with narratives of foolish kings, fabled saints, and Ireland’s enduring accomplishments before moving on. But these nights change young Ronan forever, setting him on a years-long pursuit of the elusive, itinerant storyteller and the glorious tales that are no less than the saga of his tenacious and extraordinary isle.
Haunted Ground by Erin Hart
When farmers cutting turf in an Irish peat bog make a grisly discovery — the perfectly preserved head of a young woman with long red hair — Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire and American pathologist Nora Gavin must use cutting-edge techniques to preserve ancient evidence. Because the bog’s watery, acidic environment prevents decay, it’s difficult to tell how long the red-haired girl has been buried — two years, two centuries, or even much longer. Who is she? The extraordinary find leads to even more disturbing puzzles.
Sheela-na-gigs: Unravelling an Enigma by Barbara Freitag
Sheela-na-gig iconic figures depicting wild women displaying their genitalia is found throughout Europe, but very prevalent in Ireland. Here Barbara Freitag examines all the literature on the subject since their discovery 160 years ago, highlighting the inconsistencies of the various interpretations in regard to origin, function and name. By considering the Sheela-na-gigs in their medieval social context, she suggests that they were folk deities with particular responsibility for assistance in childbirth.
The Road Taken: A Guide to the Roads and Scenery of Mayo
by Michael Mullen
No one can describe the magic of thin places in County Mayo quite like Castlebar native and author, Michael Mullen. From the Nephin Beg range to Achill and the Céide Fields, this study travels through the gentle and rich landscape of Mayo. Author Michael Mullen shares his wide-ranging knowledge of the county in order to give travelers an understanding of Mayo’s rich history and varied landscapes while he guides them along its roads and through its historical and literary heritage. A driving guide, potted history, and miscellany, this is an invaluable companion for anyone wishing to explore the better and lesser-known attractions of the county and includes a beautiful selection of color photographs.
Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn
King, warrior, and lover Brian Boru was stronger, braver, and wiser than all other men-the greatest king Ireland has ever known. Out of the mists of the country’s most violent age, he merged to lead his people to the peak of their golden era.
Set against the barbaric splendors of the tenth century, this is a story rich in truth and legend-in which friends become deadly enemies, bedrooms turn into battlefields, and dreams of glory are finally fulfilled. Morgan Llywelyn has written one of the greatest novels of Irish history.
In Search of Ancient Ireland, by Carmel McCaffrey
This engaging book traces the history, archaeology, and legends of ancient Ireland from 9000 B.C., when nomadic hunter-gatherers appeared in Ireland at the end of the last Ice Age to 1167 A.D., when a Norman invasion brought the country under control of the English crown for the first time. So much of what people today accept as ancient Irish history—Celtic invaders from Euproe turning Ireland into a Celtic nation; St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland and converting its people to Christianity—is myth and legend with little basis in reality. The truth is more interesting. The Irish, as the authors show, are not even Celtic in an archaeological sense. And there were plenty of bishops in Ireland before a British missionary called Patrick arrived. But In Search of Ancient Ireland is not simply the story of events from long ago.
McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery In Ireland, Pete McCarthy
Despite the many exotic places Pete McCarthy has visited, he finds that nowhere else can match the particular magic of Ireland, his mother’s homeland. In McCarthy’s Bar, his journey begins in Cork and continues along the west coast to Donegal in the north. Traveling through spectacular landscapes, but at all times obeying the rule, “never pass a bar that has your name on it,” he encounters McCarthy’s bars up and down the land, meeting fascinating people before pleading to be let out at four o’clock in the morning. Written by someone who is at once an insider and an outside, McCarthy’s Bar is a wonderfully funny and affectionate portrait of a rapidly changing country.
Before traveling to Ireland it’s good to have some background on the country, its landscape, its heritage and its people. For our tours which focus on “thin places” or mystical sites, its also good to have an understanding of the legends, the lore and the rituals that compelled people to build cairns, stone circles, and mark sacred places.
Here are some books that helped me learn about mystical Ireland.
Red Branch by Morgan Llywellyn – this is the best book I’ve read that describes the Irish trilogy. It’s the story of Cuchulain, the Hound of Ulster and the Knights of the Red Branch that were based in Emain Macha – now Armagh, specifically the Navan Fort both of which are sites on our tour. It’s an entertaining saga and one that taught me a lot about Irish history and lore.
“Powerful . . . A lusty, poetic and legendary world based on Ireland’s mythical warrior-hero Cuchulain.” according to the New York Times Book Review. In a land ruled by war and love and strange enchantments, Cuchulain — torn between gentleness and violence, haunted by the croakings of a sinister raven — fights for his honor and his homeland and discovers too late the trap that the gods have set for him in the fatal beauty of Deirdre and the brutal jealousy of King Conor.
Finn Mac Cool by Morgan Llywellyn – another fictional account about the escapes of an Irish giant. He’s associated with many of the sites we’ll visit including the Giant’s causeway. Another great account of Ulster lore and legend.
Somewhere in the shadowy borderland between myth and history lies the territory of Finn Mac Cool. Mightiest of the Irish heroes, leader of the invincible army of Fianna, he was a man of many faces: warrior, poet, lover, creator, and destroyer. Finn Mac Cool is a man taken from one of the lowest classes of Irish society, driven by ambition and strength to rise above his birth and bring new respect and status to his people. He had it all and lost it all, but in the end he gained immortality. Finn Mac Cool is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and awesome adventure.
Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherford – gives a great account of Irish history starting with Cuchulain all the way to the Cromwellian invasion, Great Hunger and Eastern Uprising. It’s a long book, but it’s gives the reader a great background.
From the internationally bestselling author of London and Sarum — a magnificent epic about love and war, family life and political intrigue in Ireland over the course of seventeen centuries. Like the novels of James Michener, The Princes of Ireland brilliantly interweaves engrossing fiction and well-researched fact to capture the essence of a place.
A Traveler’s Guide to Sacred Ireland by Cary Meehan – my all-time favorite book on thin places in Ireland. This is a guide book to mystical sites, sacred places and their associations with the Irish legends, folklore and people. It’s divided by provinces and counties. Hundreds of sites are listed.
This amazing book is the result of years of research of historical and archeological detail, legend and folklore, and current information on earth energies for each sacred site. Before the author’s rediscoveries, most of the vast number of ancient sites were unknown or almost forgotten except by locals. Features: *Simple wells and stones *Local pilgrimage spots *Holy mountains, lakes and rivers *Sites created by the Auld Giants *Pre-Celtic Temples *Ancient churches and round towers
Legendary Ireland by Eithne Massey – an entertaining account of Ireland’s myths and legends. This is a book you’ll reach for time and time again. It addresses both the places and the myths behind them. Many of the sites we’ll be visiting are featured in this book.
This title visits 28 richly atmospheric sites and tells the mythological stories associated with them. Woven into these landscapes are tales of love and betrayal, greed and courage, passion and revenge, featuring the famous characters of Celtic lore, such as Cu Chulainn, the children of Lir and Queen Maeve. The historical and archaeological facts, and the folk traditions of each ancient site are explored. Some are famous such as Tara and Newgrange; others are less well known but equally captivating such as the Beara Peninsula in Cork. In a world where many have lost touch with the land and their past, the legendary Irish landscape still survives and the stories are never quite over as long as there are people to tell them.
Wisdom of the Celtic Saints by Edward Sellner – A quick study of some of Ireland’s greatest saints, their insights, their contributions and the benefit of being a pilgrim or traveler moving within the context of a story.
Faithfully presenting the lives and legacies of twenty Celtic saints of the sixth to ninth centuries, Edward Sellner reveals their wisdom in a way that can be understood and appreciated by contemporary readers. The stories recounted range from the well-known — Patrick, Brendan, Brigit — to those less likely to be familiar — Monesan, Samthann and Aidan. Vivid portrait illustrations by Susan McLean-Keeney add to the prayerful beauty of the book.
Goddess Alive! by Kris Waldherr – gives great insight into the Celtic and Norse goddesses and the sites they are associated with. This book also offers insight into what thin places are and ways to travel between the two worlds.
The changing of the seasons, phases of the moon, even our personal experiences-all are reflections of the Divine Feminine. Create a stronger connection to the sacred world and your own divinity by welcoming these thirteen powerful Celtic and Nordic goddesses into your life.
As you make your way through a transformative year, know that each goddess has a different energy and a unique lesson to teach you. Starting with the Winter Solstice, the eight seasonal Sabbats and five faces of the moon provide the guideposts along your path. Through ritual, invocation, guided meditations, and magical activities, you’ll explore each goddess’s unique mythology and discover her message for your life.