The Lebor Gabála Érenn at a Glance: an Overview of the 11th Century Irish Book of Invasions

The Lebor Gabála Érenn at a Glance: an Overview of the 11th Century Irish Book of Invasions

Graham, Lloyd D.

Mary Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia (2005)


The LGE is one of the primary sources of information about the earliest period of Irish mythology, the so-called Mythological Cycle. All of the information in this guide has been abstracted from the Lebor Gabála Érenn – The Book of the Taking of Ireland Parts I-V, R.A.S. Macalister, D.Litt., Irish Texts Society, 1939-1954, reprinted 1993-1995. In general, Macalister provides three redactions of the text (essentially, R1 is from the Book of Leinster, R2 from the Stowe D Collection, and R3 from the Book of Ballymote) and this document provides a composite overview where greater weight has been given to the ‘orthodox’ or dominant versions. Alternative accounts or variant details are included only when they are deemed interesting or important to the larger context.

In the LGE, the details for figures in Macalister’s Section I (From the Creation to the Dispersal of the Nations) have their origins in the Old Testament book Genesis. LGE Section II (The Early History of the Gaedil) is a pseudohistory of the Gaels that seems to have been based on the wanderings of the Israelites in the Old Testament book Exodus. A version of the pseudohistory (in Latin) is found in Nennius’s 9th century Historia Brittanorum, and it features in the 9th century poem Can a mbunadas na nGaedel. This pseudohistory traces the lineage of the Gaels from Egypt to Scythia (and, in R2, back to Egypt), whence they travel to the Caspian, the Maeiotic Marshes, Spain, and finally to Ireland. R2 has Mil leading the expedition from the second departure of the Gaels from Egypt onwards. Irrespective of redactions, it is their final migration – from Spain to Ireland, under Mil – that forms the basis for LGE Section VIII (The Sons of Mil). The combined story (equivalent to LGE Sections II & VIII) was in circulation in late 11th century as the Liber Occupationis.


Click here to read this article from Mary Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia


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