Legends of Celtic Exploration in the Ancient Americas
Saints, Princes, & Red-Haired Gods
Presented by Dr. Sharonah Fredrick, Assistant Director, ACMRS
Open to the public ~ $10 at the door
Celtic literature in Ireland and Wales recounts mythical voyages to the West, sometimes blending, in a dream-space the stories of the Land of Youth, Tir Nan Og, with what could have been pre-Columbian contacts with the Americas. Native South American cultures, such as the Mapuche in Chile, remembers visitors across the seas in remote epochs, who gained and shared knowledge with them. What is the reality, if any, of these stories?
How did Irish literary and folkloric creation create a counter-narrative to the European-dominated vision of the New World? Did the power of legend influence the actions of genuinely historical Celtic figures, such as Captain Henry Morgan, Anne Bonny and South American liberator Bernardo O’Higgins? This lecture will delve into the power of myth as a force for shaping human events. From the early days of St. Brendan through the mythical journeys of the Welsh Prince Madoc, and down through the chronicles of Spanish Conquistadores and British imperial expeditions, tales of Irish and Welsh explorers in the ancient Americas have haunted the popular imagination. Native civilizations, such as the Chachapoya in Peru, and the Huron peoples of North America, recounted the exploits of these long-ago visitors. According to both Celtic and Native oral and written stories, they came not to conquer but to live, teach, and learn. These images of Celtic saints, princes, and red-haired gods contrasted with the brutal reality of the Age of Empire in the New World.