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The mythical island of Hy Brasil has for centuries been part of the Irish imagination. It was presumed to be situated near the southwest coast of Ireland, almost always hidden by a dense fog that disappeared every seven years, revealing mountains and cities populated by supernatural beings.

Hy Brasil also represented a land of pure delight in Greek mythology and the island of the blessed, that São Brandão tried to find. The writer Lope García de Salazar, when rewriting the legend of the Holy Grail in the 15th century, replaced the island of Avalon with that of Hy Brasil, Arthur’s last home. From the 14th century onwards, the island was represented by illustrious cartographers, until it was reduced to a rock and, finally, excluded from the maps of the British High Admiralty in the 19th century.

More than one island with similar names was believed to exist. Jnsola de Braçil, whose name was derived from the word Brazil and referred to red-dyed wood, was said be located in the Azores. Another, close to Ireland, known as O’Brasil, Hy Brasil or Breasail, was said to be named in honor of St. Breasail, or St. Bresal, a venerated figure in Irish mythology.

Some of these legends partially call into question the origin of the name given by the Portuguese to the South American territory, said to come from pau-brasil wood. This idea was shared by Irishman Roger Casement, British Consul in Brazil for seven years. In his words,

strange as it may seem, Brazil does not owe its name to the abundance of certain Pau-Brasil wood, but to Ireland. I believe that the honor of naming the great South American country surely belongs to Ireland and an ancient Irish belief.

Interestingly, the description of a fabulous island – where there were games and music, and people were always happy and healthy – corresponds to characteristics commonly attributed to the vast nation today known as Brazil.