Cover image for Climbing Brandon : science and faith on Ireland's holy mountain
Climbing Brandon : science and faith on Ireland's holy mountain
Raymo, Chet.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Walker & Company, 2004.
Physical Description:
xi, 193 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA990.D5 R395 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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An acclaimed science writer celebrates an enduring symbol of Ireland's Celtic past, Christian tradition, and love of nature Mount Brandon is one of several holy mountains in Ireland that attract scores of believers and secular trekkers from around the world. For thirty-two years, Chet Raymo has lived part of each year on the Dingle Peninsula, near the foot of the mountain, and he has climbed it perhaps a hundred times, exploring paths that have been used for centuries by pilgrims in search of spiritual enlightenment. But the history and geography of Mount Brandon are what drew Raymo to it and offered him a lens through which to view the modern conflicts between science and religion. When Ireland converted from paganism, it became home to a kind of Christianity that was unique in Europe--intensely intellectual yet attuned to nature, skeptical yet celebratory, grounded in the here-and-now yet open to infinity. In this rich celebration of Mount Brandon, Raymo weaves together myth and science, folklore and natural history, spiritual and physical geographies. He takes us to a time on the wave-lashed edge of the Western world when Mediterranean Christianity ran up against Celtic nature worship and the Irish--with their fondness for ambiguity, double meanings, puns and riddles--forged a fusion of knowledge and faith that sustains us today.

Author Notes

Chet Raymo is the author of The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe, An Intimate Look at the Night Sky, Skeptics and True Believers, and other books on science and nature. He is also the author of the novel The Dork of Cork. His weekly column "Science Musings" appeared in the Boston Globe from 1983 until 2003. A part-time resident of Ireland's Dingle Peninsula, Raymo makes his home in North Easton, Massachusetts

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Mount Brandon is one of Ireland's highest and holiest mountains. Located in the far southwest, on the famous Dingle Peninsula of County Kerry, Brandon raises its gray head into seaside clouds. A pilgrim's path winding up the mountainside is traveled year-round by those searching for inspiration from nature and nature's creator. In late summer, near the Celtic feast of Lughnasa, the annual pattern of the area includes a ritual ascent of the mountain. In carefully wrought, short essays, philosopher and scientist Raymo uses his own decades-long knowledge of the mountain as a springboard for meditations on the juncture of science and spirituality. Raymo, longtime science columnist of the Boston Globe, shows how science, far from being in conflict with spirit, can inspire and illuminate the mystical mind. Not only for those interested in Ireland, this fine, short book should appeal to readers interested in earth spirituality as well. --Patricia Monaghan Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In The Path, Raymo told the stories of the places he passes on his daily walk from his home in North Easton, Mass., to his workplace at Stonehill College. Here the former Boston Globe science columnist treats us to a similar meditation on another locale he knows well: Mount Brandon, on the Dingle Peninsula in southwestern Ireland, where Raymo spends summer vacations. Brandon offers him an opportunity to explore "the nexus of several threads in Western thought-Celtic polytheism, Christian monotheism and scientific empiricism." He structures this intellectual journey by way of landmarks along the pilgrim path that ascends the holy Irish mountain. Vividly descriptive prose conveys a strong feeling of place and mood, as Raymo contemplates local geology, natural history and the interplay of climate and topography on the one hand and ancient Irish spirituality and literature on the other. Drawing on academic scholarship, Raymo introduces readers to such ancient seasonal festivals as Lughnasa, Somain and Bealtaine; to stories from Irish myth and folklore; to fragments of ancient Irish verse; and to biographies of Saint Brendan and Saint Patrick. Musing on the relation between scientific observation and what we call superstition, Raymo hovers at the thresholds where geology meets human history and pre-Christian Ireland meets contemporary Irish Catholicism, while dwelling on the significance of a God conceived of as immanent rather than transcendent. The result is an uplifting, though for some perhaps meandering, contemplation of Irish animistic traditions and the power of landscape in the land of "saints and scholars." (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

For many years, Raymo contributed essays of unusual deftness and lightness to the Boston Globe, and that same grace of mind and style illuminated his book-length writings (e.g., Honey from Stone). In his latest, he uses his frequent wanderings over Ireland's Mount Brandon, at the foot of which he now spends a part of every year, as a vehicle for his trademark musings on science, faith, natural history, and human experience. For Raymo, the unlikelihood of the faith that animated ancient Irish Christians is no reason to sacrifice the sense of wonder; his meditations close as he silently recites the names of native plants and writes: "Without any human form of speech, my heart had articulated a prayer to the hidden God." A splendid book from a reliable writer. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
1 Brandon: Between Heaven & Earthp. 1
2 Cloghane: Twilight of the Godsp. 21
3 Faha: Land of Milk & Honeyp. 43
4 Binn na Port: The Wild & the Holyp. 63
5 Coumaknock: Mountain Gloom, Mountain Gloryp. 83
6 Summit: Discovery of Ignorancep. 105
7 Atlantic: The New Storyp. 125
8 Gallarus: A Nest Beside Thy Altarp. 147
Acknowledgmentsp. 169
Notesp. 171
Indexp. 177