Hy Brasil - The Other Atlantis
When discussing underwater lore and legends, Atlantis is an obvious subject of interest. However, the lost island of Hy-Brasil is just as intriguing and has more first-person accounts.
Hy-Brasil is also spelled Hy-Breasal, Hy-Brazil, Hy-Breasil, Brazir and related variations. It may be the reason that the South American country, Brazil, was so named. The central image on the Brazilian flag, a circle with a channel across the center, is the symbol for Hy-Brasil on early maps.
Or, the name Hy-Brasil, also called the Fortunate Island, may originate with the old Irish word, breas, meaning noble or fortunate.
In folklore, this island country takes its name from Breasal, the High King of the World, in Celtic history.
(He may or may not be related to Bresal Echarlam mac Echach Baethlaim, from the stories of Lugh at Tara. He was not St. Breasal, although pre-Christian folklore may be the foundation for that saint’s legends.)
Hy-Brasil was noted on maps as early as 1325, when Genoese cartographer Dalorto placed the island west of Ireland. On successive sailing charts, it appears southwest of Galway Bay.
On some 15th century maps, islands of the Azores appear as Isola de Brazil, or Insulla de Brazil.
After 1865, Hy-Brasil appears on few maps since its location could not be verified.
Regardless of the name or location, the island’s history is consistent: It is the home of a wealthy and highly advanced civilization. Those who visited the island returned with tales of gold-roofed towers and domes, healthy cattle, and opulent citizens.
The lore of Hy-Brasil is equally fascinating. For example, it is shrouded in fog or perhaps beneath the ocean, and appears only briefly, once every seven years.
The island has been visited by many people for centuries. Both Saint Barrind and Saint Brendan found the island on their respective voyages, and returned home with nearly identical descriptions of Hy-Brasil, which they dubbed the “Promised Land.”
One of the most famous visits to Hy-Brasil was in 1674 by Captain John Nisbet of Killybegs, Co. Donegal, Ireland. He and his crew were in familiar waters west of Ireland, when a fog came up. As the fog lifted, the ship was dangerously close to rocks. While getting their bearings, the ship anchored in three fathoms of water, and four crew members rowed ashore to visit Hy-Brasil.
They spent a day on the island, and returned with silver and gold given to them by an old man who lived there. Upon the return of the crew to Ireland, a second ship set out under the command of Alexander Johnson.
They, too, found the hospitable island of Hy-Brasil and returned to Ireland to confirm the tales of Captain Nisbet and crew.
The last documented sighting of Hy-Brasil was in 1872, when author T. J. Westropp and several companions saw the island appear and then vanish. This was Mr. Westropp’s third view of Hy-Brasil, but on this voyage he had brought his mother and some friends to verify the existence of Hy-Brasil.
Researchers and archaeologists have searched in the most likely locations west of Ireland, and there is evidence that islands existed there. Shallow-water shells have been found at Porcupine Bank, somewhat northwest of the most likely location of Hy-Brasil. Even further north, similar shells were discovered at Rockhall.
So, there is evidence of land mass changes in that part of the Atlantic Ocean.
The most distinctive geographical feature of Hy-Brasil, is that it appears on maps as a perfect circle, with a semi-circular channel through the center. The circular perimeter of the island was confirmed by both Saints Barrind and Brendan, who separately walked the shore to determine where the island ended, but never found it. Most likely, they were walking in circles.
Although Hy-Brasil does not have the fame of Atlantis, outside role-playing games, it is a story worth exploring.
Other names for Hy-Brasil: Tir fo-Thuin (Land Under the Wave), Mag Mell (Land of Truth), Hy na-Beatha (Isle of Life), and Tir na-m-Buadha (Land of Virtue). Fourteeth and Fifteenth century maps spell Hy-Brasil as Ysole Brazil, Bracir, and Hy Breasail.
You may find other articles from Fiona at her website, Faerie Magick.
Hy Brasil - The Other Atlantis
It is undisputed that the most famous ‘lost island’ is Atlantis. But there is another island which is just as mysterious called Hy-Brasil.
The island is said to be located to the west of Ireland and is known as Hy-Brasil in Irish mythology.
Hy-Brasil (also spelled Hy-Breasal, Hy-Brazil, Hy-Breasil, Brazir) may also be responsible for the naming of the country we know today as Brazil.
According to legends of long ago, Hy-Brasil was a secret land once ruled by priests. These priests held the secrets to the universe and had access to ancient, but powerful knowledge. In folklore, this island country takes its name from Breasal, the High King of the World, in Celtic history.
The island is said to be cloaked in mist, except for one day each seven years, when it became visible but could still not easily be reached.
Over the centuries a number of maps have charted the position of the island. On maps, the island was shown as being circular, often with a central strait or river running east-west across its diameter.
A Catalan map from around 1480 labels two islands “Illa de brasil”, one to the south west of Ireland and the other south of “Illa verde” or what is now known as Greenland.
There have been numerous expeditions in the past to search for this mythical land. One expedition in 1497 was led by John Cabot. He reported that he had found the land and it had been “discovered in the past by the men from Bristol who found Brasil”.
Some historians note that the renowned navigator Pedro Alvarez Cabral also claimed to have reached the island during his voyages in the 1500′s.
The 1600′s had a wealth of reports about the island. In 1674 a Captain John Nisbet and his crew were in familiar waters off the west coast of Ireland. They were enshrouded in fog.
As the fog lifted, they saw that they were close to an island, so anchored in three fathoms of water.
According to reports, four crew members took a small boat and landed on the island. They spent a day there before returning laden with gold and silver. They claimed that an old man who lived on the island had given it to them as a gift.
When they returned to Ireland, a second ship under the command of Alexander Johnson set out to find the island. According to reports of the time, they too found an hospitable island and returned to confirm the previous report.
In 1684, in a book called ‘A Chorographical Description of West or H-Iar Connaught’ mentions an encounter with the island:
“There is now living, Morogh O’Ley (Murrough O Laoi), who imagins he was personally on O’Brasil for two days, and saw out of it the iles of Aran, Golamhead, Irrosbeghill, and other places of the west continent he was acquainted with.”
The last sighting of the island occured in 1872. Author T. J. Westropp and several companions claim to have seen the island appear and then vanish. According to reports this was the third time that the author had seen Hy-Brasil and had brought his mother and companions to witness it for themselves.
The island was once again brought into the public mind in late 2010 with a TV series revelation.
In 1980 Sgt Jim Penniston was stationed at Brentwaters military base. During the UFO incident in Rendlesham Forest, he claims that he touched a UFO and telepathically received a message in the form of binary code, which he wrote down in a small note book shortly after the incident, telling no one about it for three decades.
On the History Channel program ‘Ancient Aliens’ this binary was said to have been decoded by Internet programmer Nick Ciske.
Below the decoded message followed the navigational co-ordinates of an area off the west of Ireland which correlates to the site of Hy-Brasil.
The decoded message read:
Exploration of Humanity Continuous For Planetary Advance
52° 09′ 42.532″ N
13° 13′ 12.69″ W
So, did / does Hy-Brasil actually exist?
Some people claim that what people are acutally seeing is an area near Ireland called the Porcupine Bank.
Porcupine Bank is an area of the Irish shelf approximately 200 kilometers west of Ireland. The relatively raised area of seabed lies between the deep-water Porcupine Seabight and Rockall Trough.
The northern and western slopes of the bank feature species of cold-water corals.
Could it be possible that during times of extreme spring tides that this Bank is epxosed to the surface of the sea? As early as 1870 a paper was read to the Geological Society of Ireland suggesting this identification.
If so, this could explain the reports of land which subsequently disappear quite quickly.
Of course another possible theory is that Hy-Brasil is in fact the lost realm of Atlantis which was said to be situated beyond the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar).
The supposed location of Hy-Brasil is indeed beyond the Pillars and therefore fits into the Atlantis location as mentioned by Plato. Is this enough to say that they are one and the same? Certainly the location and the mythology would agree.
HY-BRASAIL, THE ISLE OF THE BLEST
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 Hy-Brasail, the isle of the blest.
From year unto year on the ocean’s blue rim,
The beautiful spectre showed lovely and dim;
The golden clouds curtained the deep where it lay,
And it looked like an Eden away, far away!
A peasant who heard of the wonderful tale,
In the breeze of the Orient loosened his sail;
From Ara, the holy, he turned to the west,
For though Ara was holy, Hy-Brasail was blest.
He heard not the voices that called from the shore–
He heard not the rising wind’s menacing roar;
Home, kindred, and safety he left on that day,
And he sped to Hy-Brasail, away, far away!
Morn rose on the deep, and that shadowy isle,
O’er the faint rim of distance, reflected its smile;
Noon burned on the wave, and that shadowy shore
Seemed lovelily distant, and faint as before;
Lone evening came down on the wanderer’s track,
And to Ara again he looked timidly back;
O far on the verge of the ocean it lay,
Yet the isle of the blest was away, far away! p. 248
Rash dreamer, return! O ye winds of the main,
Bear him back to his own peaceful Ara again,
Rash fool! for a vision of fanciful bliss,
To barter thy calm life of labor and peace.
The warning of reason was spoken in vain;
He never revisited Ara again!
Night fell on the deep, amidst tempest and spray,
And he died on the waters, away, far away!
From Tales of the Enchanted Isles by Dorothy P. Lathrop (1926)
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