Irish Mythology and Me

Main Building, University College Cork

So the news broke this morning on RTE1 that, yes, for the last two years I’ve been pursuing an online masters degree in Gaelic literature at UCC (University College Cork). Eventually, I plan to write about Irish mythology, but to do so, I first wanted to do my utmost to fill in the gaps of my knowledge and make sure I could do these wonderful stories justice. They are, after all, my own ancestral heritage, and I wanted to approach the mythology with respect and humility. The UCC program has been absolutely wonderful. I’m just finishing up my master’s thesis on the god Lug (along with everything else I’ve been doing). I have learned so much.  The great thing about the UCC program is that you can study from anywhere, and I got to interact with students from all over the world. The professors are outstanding. If you want to know more about the masters program, check it out here! Along with courses in mythology, folklore, and the history of the Irish language, I also got to start my own journey into learning Irish, which as some of you may remember included a two-week immersion course in the Waterford Gaeltacht last summer. (That’s not a part of the UCC program. I added that on my own because I got so into it!)

I will of course be only one of many authors who have written about and reinterpreted these stories over the years. Many fabulous Irish writers are doing amazing things with the mythology, and I don’t want to take anything away from them. In fact, I hope whatever my take on Irish myth will be, it will increase visibility, interest and awareness of what native Irish writers are doing. To start with, may I recommend Mythical Irish Beasts— a great illustrated compendium of monsters, by Mark Joyce from Connemara.

And if you want a primer on Irish, check out the great graphic novel version of An Táin, the epic tale of the hero Cú Chulainn, story as Gaeilge by Colmán O Raghallaigh.

I will share my recommendations as we go along. There are many great ones to choose from. If you want to get help from an Irish bookseller in picking some good reads, I highly recommend Charlie Byrnes Bookshop in Galway, with the caveat that right now, due to Coronavirus, they are not open. But let’s stay optimistic that these challenging times will pass!

It will be quite a while before my own take on Irish myth is ready. I have to write it first. I know, details, details! But I will keep you posted.

If you missed my interview with Ryan Tubridy this morning, you can access it below, compliments of the RTE1 website.

And here is a write-up from the Irish Examiner.

Go raibh maith agaibh!

Rick Riordan