Links between Brazil & Ireland




The Celtic origin of the name Brasil


The Legend lives on: “O´BRAZIL, The Isle of Blest”


From Galway … Heart of the West (chapter 4)  by Peadar O´Dowd & Bendan Lawlor




The Sea Islands


On the ocean that hollows the rocks where ye dwell,


A shadowy land has appeared, as they tell,


Men thought it a region of sunshine and rest,


And they called it O’BRAZIL the isle of blest.



Long before man came to this land of Galway, long, it is said, before time itself was recorded, a strange island lay shimmering in the great western ocean.  As the mysteries of mythology dawned, some say the great Fir Bolg king, Breasal, bestowed his name on this unknown land across the waters.  It was a strange and magical place, and as history came to be written, various writers tell how this mysterious land continued to disappear at regular intervals, only to reappear again without warning.


In 1684, Roderic O’Flaherty, puzzled about this strange phenomenon in his great work, hlar Connaught: “From the Isles of Aran and the west continent (Connemara), often appears visible that enchanted island called O’Brasil, and in Irish Beg-ara or the Lesser Aran, set down in cards of navigation *.  Whether it be real and firm land, kept hidden by special ordinance of God, as the terrestrial paradise, or else some illusion of airy clouds appearing on the surface of the sea, or the craft of evil spirits, is more than our judgements can sound out”.


In footnotes provided to the book in 1845, James Hardiman, noted that the inhabitants of the Aran Islands expected O’Brazil to appear once every seven years.  It is not surprising, then, that this enchanted isle has occupied the minds and pens of many writers down through the ages.  Poets, too, have fallen under its spell, as has Gerald Griffin, whose lines introduce this chapter.  Despite such attention, however, it is rather startling to find this strange land still marked on British Admiralty maps in the 19th century.  Today, Brazil seems to have moved to South America for the sea is empty now west of Aran and only legend and fading charts suggest that County Galway has lost its most illustrious island.



Footnote.  The island is reported to have first appeared on a navigation map dated 1324, according to Professor Pedro Paulo A Funari, Department of History, UNICAMP – SP, in an article published in ‘Folha de São Paulo’ on 28/04/1997.  Prof. Funari also noted that Brasil was a Celtic name that stirred”. medieval imagination.  The name Brasil was originally written as Ho Brasile, O´Brasil and Hy Brasil.  This meant that the name originated in the Celtic languages.  According to Prof. Funari the meaning of the name Brasil would signify “land of the lucky ones”, “island of happiness” or  the promised land”, since in the Irish and Breton languages, the root “bres” means “noble, lucky, happy or enchanting.