But it was 925 AD before Dicuil, an Irish monk, records that his brethren had been visiting Thule for many years. He gives a description of that barren land that leaves little doubt that he is referring to Iceland. Saint Brendan’s sixth century Atlantic shuttles are set down in the twelfth century Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbati. Even Farley Mowat’s latest speculation in his book, the Farfarers, of the westward trail of his fictitious Albans presents very plausible candidates for the white robed men of Vitramannaland, also known as Albania or Ireland the Great which lies somewhere near Vinland.
The earliest extant version of The Voyage of Saint Brendan was recorded around 900 AD. There are over 100 manuscripts of the story across Europe, as well as many additional translations. The Voyage of Saint Brendan is an overtly Christian narrative, but also contains narratives of natural phenomena and fantastical events and places, which appealed to a broad populace. The Voyage of Saint Brendan contains many parallels and inter-textual references to the Voyage of Bran and the Voyage of Máel Dúin.
Saint Barrid tells of his visit to the Island of Paradise, which prompts Brendan to go in search of the isle.
- Brendan assembles 14 monks to accompany him.
- They fast at three-day intervals for 40 days, and visit Saint Enda for three days and three nights.
- Three latecomers join the group. They interfere with Brendan's sacred numbers.
- They find an island with a dog, mysterious hospitality (no people, but food left out), and an Ethiopian devil.
- One latecomer admits to having stolen from the mysterious island, Brendan exorcises the Ethiopian devil from the latecomer, latecomer dies and is buried.
- They find an island with a boy who brings them bread and water.
- They find an island of sheep, eat some, and stay for Holy Week (before Easter).
- They find the island of Jasconius, have Easter Mass, and hunt whales and fish.
- They find an island that is the Paradise of Birds, and the birds sing psalms and praise the Lord.
- They find the island of the monks of Ailbe, with magic loaves, no aging, and complete silence. They celebrate Christmas.
- A long voyage after Lent. They find an island with a well, and drinking the water puts them to sleep for 1, 2, or 3 days based on the number of cups each man drank.
- They find a "coagulated" sea.
- They return to the islands of Sheep, Jasconius, and the Paradise of Birds. A bird prophesies that the men must continue this year-long cycle for seven years before they will be holy enough to reach the Island of Paradise.
- A sea creature approaches the boat, but God shifts the sea to protect the men. Another sea creature comes, chops the first into three pieces, and leaves. The men eat the dead sea creature.
- They find an island of 3 choirs of anchorites (monks), who give them fruit, and the second latecomer stays behind when the others leave.
- They find an island of grapes, and stayed for 40 days.
- They find a gryphon and a bird battle. The gryphon dies.
- To the monastery at Ailbe again for Christmas.
- The sea is clear, and many threatening fish circle their boat, but God protects them.
- They find an island, but when they light a fire, the island sinks; it is actually a whale.
- They pass a "silver pillar wrapped in a net" in the sea.
- They pass an island of blacksmiths, who throw slag at them.
- They find a volcano, and the third latecomer is taken by demons down to Hell.
- They find Judas sitting unhappily on a cold, wet rock in the middle of the sea, and discover that this is his respite from Hell for Sundays and feast days. Brendan protects Judas from the demons of Hell for one night.
- They find an island where Paul the Hermit has lived a perfect monastic life for 60 years. He wears nothing but hair and is fed by an otter.
- They return to the island of Sheep, Jasconius, and the Paradise of Birds.
- They find the Promised Land of the Saints.
- They return home, and Brendan dies.
NEARA Journal Vol 26, No 3&4 69-92
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