Coire Sois – The Cauldron of Knowledge

Coire Sois**First published in Volume II Issue I of the CR Magazine Air n-Aithesc
Author: Tomás Ó Cathasaigh
Editor: Matthieu Boyd
Copyright: 2014
Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press ISBN: 978-0-268-03736-9
Pages: 618 including Further Reading, Notes, Bibliography, Works Cited and Index


Coire Sois: The Cauldron of Knowledge is made up of thirty-one essays that were previously published by Tomás Ó Cathasaigh at different times and in different places. Taken together, these essays are a very impressive survey of early Irish literature. All four of the mythological cycles are represented in the essays. The essays look at key terms, important characters, and recurring themes. The book also has an extensive notes section for each essay, and a further reading section at the very end.

I actually read this book three times. The first time was a quick read to write down my notes, thoughts, and questions as well as to note down which Irish sagas the book was going to be discussing. The second time I read the book was after I read the Irish sagas discussed in the book without distraction. The final time I read it, I read it along side the saga each essay was talking about so that I could see for myself what the subject matter it pertained to was, and this let me try and answer my questions for each essay.

I was going to write my review about the book by discussing each essay but then I realised that I would have to write a book on my feelings and thoughts about each

one so I decided to go a different route. The book was divided into two parts: themes and texts. The texts part was further divided into four sections, each one concerned with one of the Irish mythological cycles.

My favourite of the two sections was the texts section. In this section I was able to see the different layers of the myths that Ó Cathasaigh was talking about and how to go deeper into a myth with the analysis he provided for favourites like the Cath Mag Tuired, Ailill and Medb, The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne and Cú Chulainn.

Although the second section was my favourite for the reasons mentioned above, the first section concerned with themes was very important. I felt that when the editor divided the book this way he knew what he was doing. I took the ideas and themes discussed in the first section forward with me when I read the second section and it helped me in a very big way get what Tomás Ó Cathasaigh was trying to communicate to me as a reader.

There were some essays that bored me to death (The Sister’s Son in Early Irish Literature), others that I felt were going to be boring but ended up being so interesting (The Semantics of (Síd)), and others yet that had me wanting the essay to go on forever (Cath Mage Tuired As Exemplary Myth).

Putting all this together, I think this book should be read by anyone interested in Irish literature, after all it is described as a companion for it. I also think that reading the first section all together before reading the text section is a good idea. The text section could be read in chunks where you dip into and read individual essays that interest you at that moment in time. Coire Sois is another book in my library that I will probably be going back to time and again.


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