Sacred Landscape and Water Mythology in Early Ireland and Ancient India

Séamus Mac Mathúna

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper investigates the manner in which sacred landscapes in early Ireland and ancient India were employed to effect the acceptance of new beliefs and the foundation of new kingdoms. Attention is drawn to traditions relating to the marking out and possession of these landscapes, including legends concerning the introduction of Christinaity to Ireland and Buddhism to India, with particular emphasis on Ireland, and the subjugation of chthonic forces, such as dragons and serpents. The examination of the legends and myths, may of which involve goddesses of fertility, leads to the identification of a number of linkages clustering around the concepts of water mythology and sacred kingship (cows, milk, horse sacrifice, wisdom, justice, poetic inspiration). The linkages are sufficiently pervasive to confirm that in both traditions there existed the belief in a watery underworld peopled by supernatural beings endowed with generative and fertile powers whose activities included, amongst other things, functioning as guardians of sacred kingship. They were called nagas and yakshas in India, and áes síde or Túatha Dé Danann in Ireland. The evidence also suggests that many of the qualities of Lord Varuna, the universal monarch and king of the nagas, are shared in the early Irish tradition not only by the god Lug but also by the sea god Manannán Mac Lir.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-53
    JournalJournal of Indo-European Studies Monograph Series: Sacred Topology in Early Ireland and Ancient India: Religious Paradigm Shift.
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 28 Feb 2010


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