Irish Mythology

Tuatha de Danaan: The Land of Youth

pre-12th century—present. Old Irish | Modern Irish, folklore.

On the way to the Land of Youth, riding across the sea, Oisin sees a lady riding over the waves carrying an apple in her hand.

The Tuatha de Danaan inhabited a world beneath the hills, or beneath the waters of a lake, in the ancient Irish tales that have come down to us from a pagan world. But they also ruled over a land across the sea, sometimes known as the Land of Youth.

Maeldun sailed to an island of apples during his voyage around an enchanted sea, in a tale recounted in the early-twelfth century Irish Book of the Dun Cow. And he sailed to another island on which he saw an old eagle arrive, eat the berries that grew there, bathe in a lake on the island and then fly away again as a young eagle whence it was manifest to them that this had been its renewal from old age to youth. Perhaps the Land of Youth was, in this way, a land of regained youth.

Niam of the Golden Hair came to take Oisin away to the Land of Youth with her one day. It was the last day that his father, the legendary Fionn mac Cumhaill, was ever to see him. They were hunting, father and son, beside loch Lena on this particular day when they saw a beautiful maiden riding towards them. She tried to persuade Oisin to go with her. He took little in the way of persuading.

The end of the story is well known. Oisin spends three weeks in the Land of Youth and returns to Ireland to find that his father and all his friends have been dead for centuries. And the possibility that this journey was to be out of the ordinary might have suggested itself to Oisin as the horse on which he and Niam rode towards her father’s land began to gallop across the waves until Oisin did not know for sure whether it was the sea or the land they were riding over, and they saw strange buildings glide past them, then a deer being chased by a white hound with one red ear, and then a lady on a brown horse bearing a golden apple in her hand.

Story fragments from: Rolleston, Thomas, 1911. Myths of the Celtic Race. The Gresham Publishing Company. Reprinted 1998. Myths and Legends of the Celts. Senate, an imprint of Tiger Books International plc. Chapter VII. The Voyage of Maeldun, Island of the Eagle, pp 325–7. Chapter VI. Tales of the Ossianic Cycle, The Journey to Fairyland, p 270.

Apples and pomegranates

East London Line

halved pomegranates
apple blossom

Navigate the tunnel

See for yourself

Tuatha de Danaan - Wikipedia

Fionn mac Cumhaill - Wikipedia

Oisín – Wikipedia

Thomas W H Rolleston – Wikipedia

Gods and Fighting Men – ancient tales of Ireland put into English by Lady Augusta Gregory. 1904. Project Gutenberg.