Green Isle of the West

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 Delightful is that land beyond all dreams,

    There all the year the fruit is on the tree.

 Nor pain nor sickness knows the dweller there,

    Death nor decay come near him never more.



Uncanny tales are told of the birth and lineage of Oisin, son of Fionn MacCumhail; for it is said that his mother, Saba, was of the people of the Sidhe.  But stranger yet is the story of his going from this world.

It was of a summer’s morning when Oisin, warrior, poet, and chief of Ireland’s bards, went to hunt by the shores of Lough Lena with his father and his father’s men, that bold band of heroes known as the Fianna.

Searching after game, Fionn became aware of a dark spot in the mist.  As he watched, the shadow grew and assumed the form of an approaching rider.  Then a window opened in the haze and a bright figure emerged:  a lovely golden-haired maiden on a tall white horse.  On her head she wore a circlet of gleaming gold, and in her hand she held a blossoming hawthorn branch.

“Do you know who I am, Fionn son of Cumhail?” she said, riding straight up to the Fianna.

“And how should I be knowing that?” answered Fionn.

“I am Niamh of the Golden Hair, daughter of the king of Tir-Na-nOg, the Land of Youth in the Green Isle of the West.  I have come a long way to find you.”

“There was little need,” said Fionn.  “What is it you want?”

She smiled.  “The love of your son.”  Then, turning to the young man, she said, “Will you come with me, Oisin, to my father’s country?”

Oisin could not speak.  Without so much as a glance at his father, he took her hand and swung up into the saddle behind her.  Then, as the Fianna watched, Niamh shook the bridle, wheeled the horse about, and dashed away.

It was the last time Fionn ever saw his son alive on earth.



Ever since Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden, their children and heirs have been wishing and hoping, working and striving, pouring out their hearts in an effort to find a way back to the Garden.  Somewhere, they are sure, there must be a homeland more perfectly suited to their longings and conformed to the inner landscape of their souls.  Indeed, they half remember it in dreams … and in the stories they tell.

Celtic lore tells of a verdant spot beyond the boundaries of this world, a place where time is not, where joys never end, and where youth, health, and abundant life fill every crack and cranny of the soul to overflowing.  It is called the Green Isle of the West.

In the haunting tale of Oisin and Niamh, a Person from that Green Isle – that Wood Beyond the World, that Well at the World’s End – emerges out of the eternal mist and invites a bewildered mortal to come away with her to a land of heartbreaking beauty and everlasting life.  When presented with this opportunity, Oisin – son of Ireland’s greatest hero, Fionn MacCumhail, and chief of the poets of Erin – never hesitates.  Eagerly he responds to the call of his otherworldly wooer.  His eyes fixed upon hers, he forsakes his father, leaves his friends behind, and ventures into the West with the golden-haired girl.

Who can blame him?

There is a Green Island in the West.  And though, since the shape of the world was changed, it has slipped below the horizon of human sight, we can and will reach it if, like Oisin, we respond to the call of the One who has come forth from that Isle to bid us return with Him.

He stands at the door and knocks.


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(Adapted from The Stone of Destiny and God of the Fairy Tale

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