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At the Mouth of the Western World:

Textuality and Myth in the Place-Making of Shannon – or Rineanna 

At the Mouth of the Western World is an exploration into the place-making and placeness of Shannon – an area of Ireland situated on the far Western Coast. For this exploration, I utilised various interdisciplinary methods, including mythology, textuality, spatial theory, philosophy, geography, creative writing, architectural history, and historiography. The interdisciplinary method aims to highlight the complex assemblage that constitutes Shannon’s core, and its identity. The site is separated into three distinct parts – the ancient Estuary, the supermodernised Airport and Free-Zone complex, and the Town – which make up the thesis’ framework of analysis.  

This extract concerns the roots of mythology and mythmaking – or mythopoesis – in the tradition of Irish place-naming. The chapter, titled “Estuary”, is concerned with the mythological, textual, and historiographic origins of placeness on the Shannon Estuary. The area has undergone various permutations in the formalisation of Shannon as place. This extract uses my own creative interpretation of the Shannon Estuary site, through poetics, site-observations, and images.  

On the bank, 

There heralds a tongue-tied sob – 

Grief stricken and diesel choked, 

Where the serpent, sating itself on sea-salt, 

Gores itself into that iron lung. 


Chewed breaths turn stiller yet, 

As the metallic chimera binds together – 

That stinging wail which sits thick in the air, 

Around the language of false proof. 


On the bank, 

That faceless tiger swallows whole 

Realm-Echoes of that witless girl, 

Drowned, reborn – 

















































This chapter begins with a textual entry into the land. Of a site riddled with tensions, of myths against myths in the formation of physical and cultural identity. A site of misplaced names and traditions, that fold and unfold in a constant territorial concertina. From notes taken through walking the estuary, a poem written to reflect the boundaries of Shannon, and an image taken at Illaumanagh cemetery, the creative entry marks an anchorage in space. This chapter unveils the process of mythmaking, textuality, and narrative in place-making.  

The importance of naming in the construction of places is historically and mythically integral to Ireland. To give a name to a place is to shape it. In Irish folkloric tradition, namesakes are tied to mythological narratives. The Dindsenchas represents this quality most attentively – as it is a collection of lore and legends compiled through various medieval Irish sources. The Dindsenchas was ‘rendered’ into a verse format between the ‘ninth and twelfth centuries’, and marks the etymological, historical, and mythological roots of placenames.[2] In direction translation, ‘Dindsenchas’ means ‘place-lore’.[3] Etymologically speaking, this term connects it to its modern Irish language counterpart, ‘Dinnseanchas’, which means ‘topography’.[4] Irish placeness is embedded in a tradition of orality and narrative.  

The area in which Shannon Town and its adjoining Airport sits upon, was in fact, not called Shannon. Historically, the area was known as Rineanna – which literally translates to ‘point of the marsh’.[5] In the airport’s first iteration, it was still named Rineanna – and then, without trace, Shannon Airport was baptised. At some period in the 1940s, between the dismantling of the temporary airfield and the construction of the fixed airport site, Rineanna dissolved and became Shannon. The subsequent town developed to house Airport and Free-Zone workers of the area, similarly named – Shannon Town.  

In the mythological place-naming, the River Shannon was named after the goddess Sínann, the granddaughter of the sea god Lir. Seeking knowledge from Connla’s Well – a well of eternal wisdom – Sínnan drank from its water. The well flooded over, carrying Sínann to sea, drowning her and birthing the Shannon.[6] It is common in Irish mythology, for the birth of rivers to be the product of the death of a goddess.[7] Places are named through their mythological counterpart. They are spoken into the land. The ancient verba concepta of the River Shannon speaks embedded life into Ireland. It represents flowage, connectivity, life, and reflexivity. 

It is important, in this discussion on myth, to understand that myths are ‘open’ and not closed sources of knowledge or information.[8] As shifts occur in societal structures, so too does the interpretation of mythic imagery.[9] The act of mythopoesis in the construction of the Shannon Estuary’s naming and contemporary importance speaks to this idea of the openness of mythic imagery and interpretation. Myths are built upon and against myths in the concretisation of identity and place-making. In the contemporary mythopoesis of the Shannon Estuary: 


‘The new world does not necessarily refute and replace the original myth, but it is alloyed with it so that it supports and affirms it, makes it more meaningful, and the new cosmopoesis – creating a new world and making a new universe of meaning – contains the old world’.[10]


So, in this – we can understand how the footprints of the historical-mythological imprints of the Shannon River, and by extension the estuary, becomes an integral element in formulating a “new world”, or a new mythological framework. Returning to the Dindsenchas, Toner notes that the verse mnemonic form, transferred orally, retained a linguistic and cultural effect of the preservation of memory.[11] Codifying and rendering placeness through oral poetic traditions was a method that bore witness to the past, to transfer the knowledge of place-lore and history.[12] The dissolution of Rineanna to Shannon is a form of mythopoesis.  

For, through the truths concretised through the process of naming, this process implies an authorship of the land. It implies that the site itself is bound to a mechanism of authoring that is constructed through narrative and language.  

Whilst, in the classic Irish tradition, namesakes are founded on narrative myths – the mythopoetic footprint of Rineanna is masked and obscured through the policy-oriented concretisation of new myths; of supermodernity, of globalisation, of extended capital and imperialism. The Shannon, as a geographic-historic splitting point between East and West, became a locus of industrious and modernist impulses after the concretisation of the Irish Free State in 1922.[13] Thus, in this process of naming, the mythological power of the River Shannon is sublimated into its technological power.  

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[1] Author, ‘THROUGH THE MOUTH’ (2022).  

[2] Gregory Toner, ‘Authority, Verse and the Transmission of Senchas’, Ériu 55 (2005) : 61, (Accessed 13.09.22). 

[3] Toner, ‘Authority, Verse and the Transmission of Senchas’, 61.   


[4] The Irish-English Dictionary, s.v. ‘Dinnseanchas’, accessed 13 September, 2022,  

[5] A Dictionary of British Place Names, A. D Mills (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), s.v. ‘Rineanna’, accessed 25 August, 2022,  

[6] Tricia Cusack, Riverscapes and National Identities (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2019), 166.  

[7] Patricia Monaghan, Encyclopaedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore (New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2004), 396.  


[8] Angela Bourke et. al, ‘Society and Myth c. 700-1300’, in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Volume IV: Irish Women's Writings and Traditions (Cork: Cork University Press, 2002), 250, accessed 24 August 2022,


[9] Bourke, ‘Society and Myth c. 700-1300’, 250.   

[10] Kieran Keohane and Carmen Kuhling, The Domestic, Moral and Political Economies of a post-Celtic Tiger Ireland (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014), 144. 

[11] Toner, ‘Authority, Verse and the Transmission of Senchas’, 62. 


[12] Toner, ‘Authority, Verse and the Transmission of Senchas’, 62.  

[13] Cuscack, Riverscapes and National Identities, 173.  

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