Cover image for Dictionary of Celtic mythology
Dictionary of Celtic mythology
MacKillop, James.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xxix, 402 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL900 .M445 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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This new work offers an exhaustive survey of one of the world's most fertile and exciting mythological traditions. It covers the persons, themes, concepts, places, and creatures of Celtic mythology, in all its ancient and modern traditions, in 4000 entries ranging from brief definitions to extended essays on major tale cycles. An introductory essay explains who the Celts were, explores the history of the Celtic revival, and examines the meaning and role of mythology and tradition. An invaluable pronunciation guide for the major Celtic languages, a topic index of entries, thorough cross-references within Celtic mythology and to other mythologies, such as Classical and Norse, enables the reader to see the relationship between Celtic mythology, later Irish literature, and other literary and mythological traditions.
The Dictionary of Celtic Mythology is the first place to turn for an authoritative guide to this colorful world of tragedy, revenge, honor, and heroism of Celtic myth.

Author Notes

James MacKillop is a former Professor of English at Syracuse University, New York.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

With the possible exceptions of the Arthurian legend and the saga of Tristan and Iseult, both of which can be traced to Celtic sources, the mythological world of the ancient Celts is not as familiar to most Americans as are the classical myths of Greece and Rome. This gap in our cultural literacy is unfortunate, for, as this dictionary reveals, the Celtic peoples developed a rich and fascinating tradition of legends and myths. In compiling this volume, MacKillop, an English professor who specializes in Celtic studies, drew not only upon texts written in Irish and Welsh but also on Breton, Cornish, Manx, and Scottish Gaelic sources and traditions. In addition to gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines, creatures, and other mythological figures, the approximately 4,000 entries cover real and imaginary places, archaeological sites, animals and plants, narrative cycles, and ideas. Entries, which frequently include variant spellings and etymologies, vary in length from a single identifying phrase to more than four pages, but the majority are one or two paragraphs. Asterisks within the text of an article indicate those terms that are treated further in separate entries, and numerous cross-references guide the user from alternate titles, names, and spellings to the forms used by MacKillop. Supplementing the dictionary portion of the work are a general guide to pronunciation of the various Celtic languages and a 13-page bibliography of selected sources pertaining to Celtic literature and culture. Especially helpful is a topical index that classifies entries under 36 broad categories, such as concepts, games, literary forms, monsters, rituals and curses, and saints. Although a number of dictionaries pertaining to Celtic myth have appeared in the last decade, none are as extensive as this work. For example, Peter Ellis' Dictionary of Celtic Mythology [RBB Ag 92] and its companion volume, Dictionary of Irish Mythology [RBB N 1 89], were designed for lay readers and therefore have far fewer, and generally less-detailed, entries. With only about one-tenth the number of entries, Miranda Green's Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend [RBB Ap 15 92] lacks the breadth of coverage of this work, but it is important for its illustrations and its links to archaeological evidence and to literary sources. Since each of these earlier works has unique entries or features, this new compendium does not supersede them but rather complements them by offering a more comprehensive approach. Supplementing the coverage of both The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature [RBB Ap 15 96] and The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales (Oxford, 1990), this scholarly dictionary should be a valuable addition to academic and large public libraries.

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Pronunciation Guide
How to Use This Book
Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
Select Bibliography
Subject Index