The Fantastic Mythological Art of Jim Fitzpatrick

Jim Fitzpatrick in 1969.

In spite of Jim Fitzpatrick being probably the undisputed father of Celtic mythology in the realm of fantasy art there is very little information about him available on the web, to the point that I have not been able to even find out about his birth date, let alone about any other details concerning his long professional career (save for the little information he provides on his website).

Before anyone gets too excited about Mr. Fitzpatrick I have to say (to my dismay) that he is the same artist who created the iconic image of Che Guevara back in 1968 (that image featured in so many pieces of merchandise around the word, that is) to the point of him being famous in some circles only because of this ‘work’ (very reminiscent of Warhol to make matters worse). Even if I deduce the artist probably did it for the best of intentions (taking into account Fitzpatrick’s assumed Irish revolutionary spirit) I can’t really come to terms to the fact that such image has been exploited by all the Antifas of the world -ad nauseaum- up to this day and age; a very dubious honour if you ask me. We know what kind of ‘people’ these Antifas are, so there is no need to dwell on this disagreeable subject. All this said, and taking for granted that Fitzpatrick is a leftist, I wonder if he is aware of what Guevara had to say about negroes and homosexuals (but that is another subject for debate).

Leaving all these unsavory issues aside this article is focused solely on the art Jim Fitzpatrick is actually loved and appreciated for, the world of Irish/Celtic mythology and legend. I have taken the opportunity to delve into the deep waters of the gods, goddesses and lost epic stories of Ireland this time thanks to Fitzpatrick’s work, which by the way, extends itself over a period of practically four decades. The artist’s legacy is of very important cultural value since it speaks of the quasi-forgotten history and tradition of the ancient Celtic world, a task which the artist took upon himself to revive, via his peculiar artistic vision, back in the early 1970s. He did so before anyone gave a damn about it (at least on a popular culture level). I think for this very reason many Irish nationals interested in their own pre-Christian culture and history should be in gratitude towards Jim Fitzpatrick to a certain extent.

Suffice to say that the artist’s work has been very much appreciated in his native country. A few years ago the authorities of County Waterford in Ireland decided to use Fitzpatrick’s work for the interior designs of an educational amusement park, heritage interpretation centre, and tourist attraction infamously known as Celtworld. I say ‘infamously’ because (as it has been the case with these kinds of ‘amusement parks’ in other countries as well) the whole thing turned out to be a fiasco eventually. Celtworld operated only for three years (between 1992 and 1995) before closing doors due to ‘financial difficulties’. Even if the total start-up cost for the project was more than £4 million in Irish pounds at the time the place did not even have air conditioning facilities (!?).

Going back to the main subject of the article. Jim Fitzpatrick published a series of very successful books with the theme of Irish mythology and legend as their prime subjects. Among these books it is worth mentioning The Book of Conquests (1978), simply an artistic masterpiece in which every page is framed by intricate and colorful Celtic scrollwork and knotwork, usually intertwined with well depicted anthropomorphic designs. The story told by Fitzpatrick speaks of the coming of the Tuatha Dé Danann, their conflicts and war against the Fir Bolg and the great battle of Moy Tura. The story is a retelling of a cycle of Irish myths known as the Lebor Gabála Érenn. The follow-up for The Book of Conquests was The Silver Arm (1981), which retells further portions of Irish myth, this time based on the deeds of Nuada of the Silver Arm and the deeds of Lugh in their fight with the Fomorians. This time Fitzpatrick used a more elaborated graphic style. A third volume, ‘The Son of the Sun’, was listed as ‘in preparation’ as of 2004, but the artist declared that some editorial conflict precluded its appearance. There is also the book Erinsaga (Published 1985 by D Danann Press) which is basically a loose compilation of his work all over the years combined with some unreleased material.

Aside from his work on Irish mythology themes Fitzpatrick is well known for his ample collaboration with Irish hard rock band Thin Lizzy back in the 1970s. I have included a couple of his works for two record covers which I found relevant to show.


The art nouveau influence is clearly to be seen in Fitzpatrick’s illustrations and paintings, so much so that it almost makes me think of him as some kind of Irish Alphonse Mucha of sorts, as works such as Palu The Cat Goddess (1976), one of my favourite works by the artist, clearly shows. Another artist from the fin-de-siècle period I could compare Fitzpatrick with could be the German painter Hugo Reinhold Karl Johann Höppener, better known as ‘Fidus’. On a more technical level the use of colour, combined with the themes Fitzpatrick represents makes me think (in more than one occasion) of his British contemporary counterpart Roger Dean, though the latter was totally submerged in the realm of the fantastic. Fitzpatrick involvement with the popular culture of his time, back in the early 1970s, is clear to be felt in works such as Conan of The Fianna (1984) and Diarmuid and Grainne (1984) in which the artist plays with a very psychedelic usage of colour. In the second illustration he gives a hint of a certain Gustav Klimt influence in which the human figures get almost lost in an ocean of vibrantly combined patterned colours and all sorts of ornamental motives (mostly of Celtic inspiration of course).

Brief list of mythological and legendary Celtic figures featured in Fitzpatrick’s artworks

Ardoyne, Belfast. Queen Maeve: This image shows to what extent Jim Fitzpatrick’s artworks have been appreciated in his native Ireland. The image of the lady actually belongs to the Goddess ‘Palu’ but apparently it was adapted to Queen Maeve for this mural (Photo taken in 2007. No author mentioned)

To conclude my article on Jim Fitzpatrick I have considered fitting to give a brief list (with short descriptions) of some of the mythological and legendary figures of Celtic tradition featured in the artist’s artworks, just to give an overview of these fascinating stories and peoples and a glimpse of their intricate-sounding names. I have not been able to gather all the information about all characters represented since some of them seem to be pretty much ‘apocryphal’ (like in the case of ‘Palu The Cat Goddess’) but I hope this serves as a good introduction. The information sources come primarily from wikipedia and the Ancient Origins website.

Áine is an Irish goddess of summer, wealth and sovereignty. She is associated with midsummer and the sun, and is sometimes represented by a red mare. She is the daughter of Egobail, the sister of Aillen and/or Fennen, and is claimed as an ancestor by multiple Irish families. As the goddess of love and fertility, she had command over crops and animals and is also associated with agriculture.

In Irish mythology, Balor (modern spelling: Balar) was king of named Fomorians, a group of supernatural beings. He is often described as a giant with a large eye in his forehead that wreaks destruction when opened. He has been interpreted as a god or personification of drought and blight.

In Irish mythology, Bres (or Bress) was a king of the Tuatha Dé Danann. He is often referred to by the name Eochaid / Eochu Bres. His parents were Prince Elatha of the Fomorians and Eri, daughter of Delbaith. He was an unpopular king, and favoured his Fomorian kin. He grew so quickly that by the age of seven he was the size of a 14-year-old.

Brian Boru
Brian Boru (c. 941 – 23 April 1014) was an Irish king who ended the domination of the High Kingship of Ireland by the Uí Néill. Building on the achievements of his father, Cennétig mac Lorcain, and especially his elder brother, Mathgamain, Brian first made himself King of Munster, then subjugated Leinster, eventually becoming King of Ireland. He was the founder of the O’Brien dynasty.

Cessair or Cesair (spelt Ceasair in modern Irish; anglicized Kesair) is a character from the Lebor Gabála Érenn, a medieval Christian pseudo-history of Ireland. According to the Lebor Gabála, she was the leader of the first inhabitants of Ireland, before the Biblical Flood. The tale may be an attempt to Christianize an earlier pagan myth, but may alternatively be the product of post-conversion pseudohistory.

The Children of Lir
The Children of Lir is an Irish legend. The original Irish title is Clann Lir or Leanaí Lir, but Lir is the genitive case of Lear. Lir is more often used as the name of the character in English. The legend is part of the Irish Mythological Cycle, which consists of numerous prose tales and poems found in medieval manuscripts.

Cú Chulainn
Cú Chulainn is an Irish mythological hero who appears in the stories of the Ulster Cycle, as well as in Scottish and Manx folklore. He is believed to be an incarnation of the god Lugh, who is also his father. His mother is the mortal Deichtine, sister of Conchobar mac Nessa.

Culhwch and Olwen
Culhwch and Olwen (Welsh: Culhwch ac Olwen) is a Welsh tale that survives in only two manuscripts about a hero connected with Arthur and his warriors: a complete version in the Red Book of Hergest, ca. 1400, and a fragmented version in the White Book of Rhydderch, ca. 1325. It is the longest of the surviving Welsh prose tales. Certain linguistic evidence indicates it took its present form by the 11th century, making it perhaps the earliest Arthurian tale and one of Wales’ earliest extant prose texts. The title is a later invention and does not occur in early manuscripts.

Deirdre is the foremost tragic heroine in Irish legend and probably its best-known figure in modern times. She is known by the epithet ‘Deirdre of the Sorrows’ (Irish: Deirdre an Bhróin). Her story is part of the Ulster Cycle, the best-known stories of pre-Christian Ireland.

Emer, in Scottish Gaelic Eimhir in modern Irish Eimhear or Éimhear (Eimer and Éimear are also used as modern versions, though historically incorrect) daughter of Forgall Monach, is the wife of the hero Cú Chulainn in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. Emer was the queen of Ulster.

Eochaid mac Eirc
In Irish mythology Eochaid (modern spelling: Eochaidh), son of Erc, son of Rinnal, of the Fir Bolg became High King of Ireland when he overthrew Fodbgen. He was the first king to establish a system of justice in Ireland. No rain fell during his reign, only dew, and there was a harvest every year.

In Irish mythology Ériu is the daughter of Ernmas of the Tuatha Dé Danann, who was the eponymous matron goddess of Ireland. The English name for Ireland comes from the name Ériu and the Germanic (Old Norse or Old English) word ‘land’. Since Ériu is represented as goddess of Ireland, she is often interpreted as a modern-day personification of Ireland, although since the name ‘Ériu’ is the older Irish form of the word Ireland, her modern name is often modified to ‘Éire’ or ‘Erin’ to suit a modern form.

Fachtna Fáthach
Fachtna Fáthach (‘the wise’), son of Cas (or Ross), son of Rudraige, was, according to medieval Irish legend and historical tradition, a High King of Ireland. He came to power when he defeated the previous High King, Dui Dallta Dedad, in the battle of Árd Brestine. According to some stories he was the lover of Ness, daughter of Eochaid Sálbuide, king of Ulster, and the father of her son, Conchobar mac Nessa, the king of Ulster in the stories of the Ulster Cycle.

Fionn mac Cumhaill
Fionn mac Cumhaill sometimes transcribed in English as MacCool or MacCoul, was a mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology, occurring also in the mythologies of Scotland and the Isle of Man. The stories of Fionn and his followers the Fianna, form the Fenian Cycle (an Fhiannaíocht), much of it narrated in the voice of Fionn’s son, the poet Oisín.

Fir Bolg
In medieval Irish myth, the Fir Bolg (also spelt Firbolg and Fir Bholg) are the fourth group of people to settle in Ireland. They are descended from the Muintir Nemid, an earlier group who abandoned Ireland and went to different parts of Europe. Those who went to Greece become the Fir Bolg and eventually return to the now-uninhabited Ireland. After ruling it for some time, they are overthrown by the invading Tuatha Dé Danann.

Nuada Airgetlám
Nuada or Nuadu (modern spelling: Nuadha), known by the epithet Airgetlám (modern spelling: Airgeadlámh, meaning ‘silver hand/arm’), was the first king of the Tuatha Dé Danann. He is cognate with the Gaulish and British god Nodens. His Welsh equivalent is Nudd or Lludd Llaw Eraint. In Irish mythology, Nuada is known by many names such as Nuadu, Nuadha, the British Nodens or the Welsh Nudd or Ludd Llaw Eraint. In Norse mythology, he is associated with the god Tyr, a warrior god who also lost an arm to the Fenrir wolf.

Ler (meaning ‘Sea’ in Old Irish; Lir is the genitive form) is a sea god in Irish mythology. His name suggests that he is a personification of the sea, rather than a distinct deity. He is named Allód in early genealogies, and corresponds to the Llŷr of Welsh mythology. Ler is chiefly an ancestor figure, and is the father of the god Manannán mac Lir, who appears frequently in medieval Irish literature. Ler appears as the titular king in the tale The Children of Lir.

Lugh or Lug is an important god of Irish mythology. A member of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Lugh is portrayed as a youthful warrior hero, a king and saviour. He is associated with skill, crafts and the arts as well as with oaths, truth and the law. He is sometimes interpreted as a sun god, a storm god or a sky god. Lugh is also strongly associated with the harvest festival of Lughnasadh, which is named after him.

Macha is a goddess of ancient Ireland, associated with war, horses, sovereignty, and the sites of Armagh and Eamhain Mhacha in County Armagh, which are named after her. A number of figures called Macha appear in Irish mythology, legend and historical tradition, all believed to derive from the same deity. The name is presumably derived from Proto-Celtic *makajā denoting ‘a plain’. It was also said that Macha was called Grian Banchure, the ‘Sun of Womanfolk’.

Medb, Medbh or Maebh; sometimes Anglicised Maeve, Maev or Maive is the queen of Connacht in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. Her husband in the core stories of the cycle is Ailill mac Máta, although she had several husbands before him who were also kings of Connacht. She rules from Cruachan (now Rathcroghan, County Roscommon). She is the enemy (and former wife) of Conchobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster, and is best known for starting the Táin Bó Cúailnge (‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley’) to steal Ulster’s prize stud bull. Medb is a cunning female figure who represents the archetype of the Warrior Queen.

Nemed or Nimeth (modern spelling: Neimheadh) is a character in medieval Irish mythohistory. According to the Lebor Gabála Érenn (compiled in the 11th century), he is the leader of the third group of people to settle in Ireland, who are referred to as the Muintir Nemid (Muintir Neimhidh, ‘people of Nemed’), Clann Nemid (Clann Neimhidh, ‘offspring of Nemed’) or Nemedians. The word nemed means ‘privileged’ or ‘holy’ in Old Irish. They arrived thirty years after their predecessors, the Muintir Partholóin, had died out. After many years the Nemedians too were wiped out or forced to abandon the island.

Sadb ingen Chuinn
Sadb ingen Chuinn was a daughter of Conn of the Hundred Battles, a High King of Ireland. She married firstly Macnia mac Lugdach, prince of the Dáirine or Corcu Loígde, and was mother of Lugaid Mac Con, High King of Ireland. Upon the death of Macnia, she married secondly Ailill Aulom, king of southern Ireland, and was mother of Éogan Mór, ancestor of the Eóganachta. Her brother was Art mac Cuinn, also a High King of Ireland, while her sister Sáruit married Conaire Cóem of the Érainn, who was High King before him.

In Irish mythology, Sadhbh (or Saba) was the mother of Oisín by Fionn mac Cumhail. She is either a daughter of Bodb Derg, king of the Síd of Munster, or may derive in part from Sadb ingen Chuinn, daughter of Conn of the Hundred Battles.

In Irish mythology Sreng (often misinterpreted as Streng) was a champion of the Fir Bolg or Men of Bolg. In the first Battle of Magh Tuiredh he faced Nuada, king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and with one great blow he cut off half his shield and severed Nuada’s arm at the shoulder. Although nearing defeat, Sreng and the three hundred surviving Fir Bolg vowed to fight to the last man. The Tuatha Dé Danann invaders, however, considered them so noble that they offered them one fifth of Ireland. They agreed, and stood down from the conflict. The Fir Bolg chose Connacht, where men traced their descent from Sreng until the 17th century.

Tailtiu or Tailltiu is the name of a presumed goddess from Irish mythology. The goddess’s name is linked to Teltown (OI Óenach Tailten) in Co.Meath, site of the Óenach Tailten. A legendary dindsenchas ‘lore of places’ poem relates a myth connecting the presumed goddess Tailtiu with the site. However, linguistic analysis of the name reveals that Tailtiu as a place-name derives from a loan word of Brythonic origin represented by the Welsh telediw ‘well formed, beautiful’. The mythological character of Tailtiu likely derives her name from the place-name.

The Dagda
The Dagda (modern spelling: Daghdha) is an important god of Irish mythology. One of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Dagda is portrayed as a father-figure, chieftain, and druid. He is associated with fertility, agriculture, manliness and strength, as well as magic and wisdom. He is said to have control over life and death, the weather and crops, as well as time and the seasons.

The Morrígan
The Morrígan (‘phantom queen’) or Mórrígan (‘great queen’), also known as Morrígu, is a figure from Irish mythology. The name is spelled Morríghan or Mór-ríoghain in Modern Irish. The Morrígan is primarily associated with fate, especially with foretelling doom and death in battle. In this role she appears as a crow, flying above the battlefield. The Morrígan has thus been likened to the Valkyries and Norns of Norse mythology. She is also associated with sovereignty, and her connection with cattle may also suggest an association with wealth and the land. The Morrígan is often described as a trio of individuals, all sisters, called ‘the three Morrígna’. Although membership of the triad varies, the most common combination in modern sources is Badb, Macha and Nemain. However the primary sources indicate a more likely triad of Badb, Macha and Anand; Anand is also given as another name for the Morrígan. Other accounts name Fea and others.

Diarmuid and Gráinne
The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne (Irish: Tóraigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne or Tóraíocht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne in modern spelling) is an Irish prose narrative surviving in many variants. A tale from the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology, it concerns a love triangle between the great warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill, the beautiful princess Gráinne, and her paramour Diarmuid Ua Duibhne. Surviving texts are all in Modern Irish and the earliest dates to the 16th century, but some elements of the material date as far back as the 10th century.

Tuatha Dé Danann
The Tuatha Dé Danann usually translated as ‘people/tribe of the goddess Dana or Danu’, also known by the earlier name Tuath Dé (‘tribe of the gods’), are a supernatural race in Irish mythology. They are thought to represent the main deities of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland. The Tuath Dé dwell in the Otherworld but interact with humans and the human world. Their traditional rivals are the Fomorians (Fomoire), who seem to represent the harmful or destructive powers of nature. Each member of the Tuath Dé has been associated with a particular feature of life or nature, but many appear to have more than one association. Many also have bynames, some representing different aspects of the deity and others being regional names or epithets. Much of Irish mythology was recorded by Christian monks, who modified it to an extent. They often depicted the Tuath Dé as kings, queens and heroes of the distant past who had supernatural powers or who were later credited with them.

An interesting tidbit: Originally the fifth wave of Ireland’s conquerors were known simply as Tuatha Dé ‘People of God’ but this posed a problem for the Irish monks recounting their history because the Israelites were supposed to be the ‘People of God’. So the early inhabitants of Ireland became the Tuatha Dé Dannan ‘People of the goddess Danu’ after their primary deity.


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