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The Irish Rose

The Shannons of Ireland: Storytellers or Mermaids?

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The Shannon Pot in County Cavan, IrelandIf you ask most Irish name researchers, the name Shannon comes from the word seanchaidh, which means “skilled storyteller.” The seanchaidh or seanchai, carried out the oral traditions of the Celts, creating, memorizing, sharing, passing on, and putting to song the legends and histories of those early people. Since storytelling is endemic to Ireland, it’s easy to believe that the name given to these important figures in Irish history is now practically synonymous with Ireland.

But, wait! There’s another story with a different origin for the Shannon name. In this old Celtic legend, Sionnan was the granddaughter of Manannán mac Lir, the god of the sea. Like so many princesses in fable, her curiosity got her into trouble. One version tells of her losing her life in an attempt to catch the Salmon of Knowledge by ticking its belly. The splash of the salmon’s great tail created the rivers that flow from the Shannon Pot, the Lug na Sionna, which is a deep pool in County Cavan that is the source for the River Shannon. In another version, legend says that she ate the forbidden fruit from a Tree of Knowledge planted by the Druids, and the Lug na Sionna rose up to claim her and pull her down into its bottomless depths. Both stories end with the River Shannon named for the luckless Sionnan.

It’s not surprising that the storytelling Shannons have more than one story in their family. We have more on the Shannons on the Shannon Name History page. Feel free to come to your own conclusions!

  • Shannon
  • County Cavan
  • River Shannon