Statement of purpose
What's the story?
Structure and policy
Irish policy recommendations
Research programmes
Principal Irish megalithic sites
Boyne Valley map
The Indigenous Peoples' connection
About Irish megalithic sites
Historical background
Ancient Irish Monuments Appeal
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Stone basin in the chamber of the Eastern passage at Knowth
said to be the Dagda's Cauldron brought to Ireland by the Tuatha Dé Danaan.
2000 Martin Byrne (click to enlarge)



The objective of this programme would be to carry out a systematic search for astronomical references in Irish mythological texts and related local folklore. (See the historical background page in the Context section for details.)

Scholarly analysis of mythological material from Sumer, Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Maya and other cultures appears to indicate the existence of overt and covert astronomical references in the adventures of Gods, Goddesses and heroes. These references are often related to calendrical cycles of growth and decay, and to the association of historical events (such as the founding of cities or the fall of civilisations) with particular astrological configurations. When interpreted in their proper mythological context, such references can shed light on the astronomical knowledge and interest of ancient peoples.

Since some of the Irish mythological material and local folklore is thought to include pre-Celtic Neolithic content, and the major dates of the Celtic calendar (Solstices, Equinoxes and cross-quarter days) are all astronomically-based, a systematic search for hidden astronomical references in the translated and untranslated Irish mythological texts might yield interesting clues about the astronomical interests and knowledge of the people who built the megaliths.

According to Spenser, "It is certain the Irish hath had the use of letters very anciently and long before England." St. Patrick alone is said to have destroyed hundreds of ancient Irish manuscripts dating from the pre-Christian period. Thousands more were destroyed by Christians up to the Norman period, when the surviving ones were collected by monks in the Norman monasteries. Many of these were, in turn, consigned to the flames by the native Irish who burned these monasteries of the new invaders. The earliest known surviving Irish MSS – said to date from the 5th to the 12th century – are written in variety of languages including Old Irish, Hiberno Latin, and Latin. While many of these now reside in the Dublin Museum and other Irish institutions, others are to be found in private hands, or scattered in the libraries of Europe, particulary (according to James Bonwick in 1894) in Paris, Spain, Copenhagen and the Vatican.


Please email your comments to Michael O'Callaghan at or contact him at this address.



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Updated 25 May 2001
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