Tír na nÓg

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In Irish mythology Tír na nÓg ([tʲiːɾˠ n̪ˠə ˈn̪ˠoːɡ]; "Land of the Young") or Tír na hÓige ("Land of Youth") is one of the names for the Celtic Otherworld, or perhaps for a part of it. Other Old Irish names for the Otherworld include Tír Tairngire ("Land of Promise/Promised Land"),[1][2] Tír fo Thuinn ("Land under the Wave"),[1] Mag Mell ("Plain of Delight/Delightful Plain"),[1] Ildathach ("Multicoloured place"),[3] and Emain Ablach (the Isle of Apple Trees). Similar myths in the northern Celtic cultures include these of Annwn, Fairyland, and Hy Brasil.

Tír na nÓg is depicted as a paradise and supernatural realm of everlasting youth, beauty, health, abundance and joy.[1][4] They enjoy a life of eating, dancing and loving and they never have to deal with death or dying.[5] Its inhabitants are the Tuatha Dé Danann, the gods of pre-Christian Ireland.[1] In the echtrae (adventure) and immram (voyage) tales, various Irish mythical heroes visit Tír na nÓg after a voyage or an invitation from one of its residents. They reach it by entering ancient burial mounds or caves, or by going under water or across the sea.[1] The mortals who visit the Otherworld are referred to as echtrai (adventures) and baili (visions, ecstasies).[6] The path across the sea is called Mag Mell (Plain of Honey). It is the golden path made by the sun on the ocean. The god that rules this region is said to be the first ancestor of the human race and the god of the dead.[7]

Oisín and Niamh[edit]

Oisín and Niamh travelling to Tír na nÓg, illustration by Stephen Reid in T. W. Rolleston's The High Deeds of Finn (1910)

Tír na nÓg is best known from the tale of Oisín and Niamh.[8] In the tale, Oisín (a human hero) and Niamh (a woman of the Otherworld) fall in love. She brings him to Tír na nÓg on a magical horse that can travel over water. After spending what seems to be three years there, Oisín becomes homesick and wants to return to Ireland. Niamh reluctantly lets him return on the magical horse, but warns him never to touch the ground. When he returns, he finds that 300 years have passed in Ireland. Oisín falls from the horse. He instantly becomes elderly, as the years catch up with him, and he quickly dies of old age.[3]

The story of Oisín and Niamh bears a striking similarity to many other tales, including the Japanese tale of Urashima Tarō.[9] Another version concerns King Herla, a legendary king of the ancient Britons, who visited the Otherworld, only to return some two hundred years later after the lands had been settled by the Anglo-Saxons. The "Seven Sleepers of Ephesus", a group of Christian youths who hid inside a cave outside the city of Ephesus around 250, purportedly awoke approximately 180 years later during the reign of Theodosius II.

Oisín in Tír na nÓg[edit]


There is a king of Tír na nÓg who held the crown for many years. The tradition of the land is that every seven years champions come to run against the king in order to rule. They run up a hill to a throne and the first person to sit on the throne becomes king until a champion replaces him. The king begins to fear that someone else will replace him as king. He visits a Druid and asks about his fate as a monarch. The Druid tells him that he will always be king unless his son-in law runs against him. Since the king's daughter is not yet married he decides to use the Druid's magic to turn his daughter's head into the head of a pig. The Druid then tells the king's daughter that she get her own head back if she marries a son of Fin MacCumhail. The king's daughter finds one of the sons, Oisin, and tells him what the Druid told her. They marry and she transforms back into herself. They then go back to Tír na nÓg and Oisin enters the challenge for the throne. He wins the throne and no one ever runs against him again.[10]

Symbols of Irish mythology[edit]


The princess is given a pig's head and pigs are a common symbol in Irish mythology. For the culture they were a vital meat source and they were smaller and fiercer than the modern domesticated pig. Early in Celtic culture, the pig was used as a funeral animal and pigs were an important aspect of trade between the Celts and Romans.They also represent a connection to the warrior class and are said to be good luck to the person who catches them.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Koch, John T. Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2006. pp.1671
  2. ^ James MacKillop (1998). A dictionary of Celtic mythology Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ a b Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Infobase Publishing, 2004. pp.358, 368
  4. ^ The Celts: history, life and culture, J. Koch general editor.
  5. ^ Monaghan, Patricia (2008). The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Checkmark Books.
  6. ^ Dillon, Myles (2003). The Celtic realms. Castle Books. ISBN 0760742847. OCLC 52527112.
  7. ^ Smyth, Daragh (1996). A guide to Irish mythology (2nd ed.). Dublin: Irish Academic Press. ISBN 0716526123. OCLC 36338076.
  8. ^ T.A. Rolleston (1990). Celtic Myths and Legends Courier Dover Publications.
  9. ^ Shah, Idries (1991). World tales : the extraordinary coincidence of stories told in all times, in all places. London: Octagon. p. 359. ISBN 978-0863040368.
  10. ^ Tatar, Maria. Beauty and the beast : classic tales about animal brides and grooms from around the world. New York. ISBN 9780143111696. OCLC 952384463.
  11. ^ Monaghan, Patricia (2008). The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Checkmark Books.
  12. ^ "Cells Of The Ever Young: Getting Closer To The Truth". ScienceDaily. June 2, 2003. Archived from the original on 2018-02-20. Retrieved 2018-02-19.