Legends and islands go hand in hand. Some say islands represent places of extremes, serving as utopias and purgatories. Others will say islands represent an ideal vacation destination. But when it comes to islands from mythology, we have everything you can think of.
Some of these islands exist in modern times under a different name. Others remain mysterious. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the legendary landmasses that pop up in legends.
How many mythical islands do you know?
Isle of Demons
According to legends, the location of this island is off the coast of Newfoundland. Some legends say the landmass is actually two islands. It first appeared on maps in 16th and 17th century.
Named for the mysterious cries and groans marines reported while passing through the mist, the island remains a mystery.
The legend of the island starts in 1542 when adventurer Jean-Francois Roberval tried to find settlements along the North Atlantic coast. He brought his niece, Marguerite with him on the voyage. During the voyage, she had an affair with one of the officers on the ship.
Annoyed by the act, Jean-Francois put her, the officer, and the nurse ashore on an otherwise unspecified island.
The legend goes that the girl gave birth there, and after getting rescued by fishermen, she reported “beasts or other shapes abominably and unutterably hideous” on the island.
The name “Atlantis” serves as part of legends, but also comic books. It is the home of Aquaman, a fictional hero in DC Comics.
Comics aside, the legend about Atlantis has drawn visitors in search of luxury for centuries. According to the legend, the picturesque oasis first appears in Plato’s work.
He speaks of Atlantis as a symbolic story of a utopian civilization of people who were half-human and half-god. They lived on an island filled with gold, silver, and many more luxuries. In his work, Plato says that Gods destroyed Atlantis after the civilization tried to attack Athens.
Modern authors say that Santorini, a place in Greece, probably served as inspiration for the story of Atlantis. Of course, that doesn’t mean Santorini is Atlantis.
If you read Irish mythology and folklore, you will stumble upon the story of Hy Brasil. It is an island where the legendary Breasal, the High King of the World held his court.
According to legends, the island was in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Ireland. The stories describe it as a paradise island where people lived in peace and happiness, with all good things in abundance.
The legend says the island was shrouded in mist, making it hard to find. People could see it only once every seven years when the mist lifted. That is when Breasal held his court on the island.
Similar to other mythological islands, explorers have tried to find the elusive island. But nobody has come close to it, despite all the claims.
Another name for this island is “Isle of Seven Cities”. This 15th century cartographic phenomenon lies far west of Spain and Portugal.
Legends about the existence of the island talk about an Iberian story. In the legend, seven Visigothic bishops and their parishioners fled Muslim conquerors in the 8th century, sailing west and eventually discovering an island. There, they founded seven settlements. Before they settled on the island, they burned their ships, so nobody could return to the former homeland.
Legends say that many people have visited the island, but nobody has come back.
Capri in Italy is an island famous for its rugged landscape and soaring sea stacks. That is why many view it as the alleged home of the deadly and irresistible sirens of Greek mythology.
In Greek mythology, sirens are creatures part woman, part bird, who lured traveling sailors using their songs.
They lived on an island called Sirenum scopuli, a series of three rocky stacks just off the shore of the island. And if you visit Capri, you will hear a couple of stories and legends about it.
Going back to Greek mythology, the island of Aeaea served as the floating home of Circe, the goddess of Magic. She spent most of her time on the island. Her father, the Sun, gave her the island as a gift. There, she waits for mortal sailors to land so she could seduce them.
The legends say she then turned them into pigs. Same as with other islands in mythology, explorers and scholars have tried to identify a modern place. In this case, that is the Cape Circeium peninsula on the western coast of Italy.
This hidden island makes its way into Slavic mythology. The legend goes that the island is invisible. Other stories say about an island that can disappear when approached. In any case, we have a hidden island.
But there is a good reason why the island remained hidden. According to the legend, the Sun and its three brothers, North Wind, East Wind, and West Wind, live on the island. Slavic mythology says that all weather in the world originates from this island. And the god Perun creates it.
There are other legends and gods and goddesses linked with the Island. Gagana, a bird with a beak of iron and claws of copper guards the island.
Scholars believe that the location of the island is in the Baltic Sea region.
The name translates to Island of the Dead. It is famous among indigenous Australians of the Yolngu culture.
In Yolngu cosmology, the island holds a central place. It is the place where their creator spirit Barnumbirr lives before rising into the sky as the planet Venus each morning.
According to their legends, the island lies to the east of Arnhem Land in Northern Australia.
Yolngu people believe their souls will return to the island after death.
Saint Brendan’s Isle
Called the Land of Promise, this mythical island appeared on many medieval maps. They show him in the North Atlantic Sea. Named after an Irish abbot, Brendan, he visited the island on an epic sea voyage.
The story about his voyages first got published in the 9th century. The legend describes the island as “Land of Promise”, where many travelers find a green and fertile place for flowers and fruits.
On the island, rivers were of pure water. Nowadays, many people see it as a type of Irish adventure tale.
Many people call it “The Isle of Apples”. Avalon has a special place in mythology, folklore, and legend of the British Isles. You can find Avalon in many traditions and legends about Britain.
For example, the legend of King Arthur starts on the Isle Avalon. According to the legend of King Arthur and his Excalibur sword, the sword got forged there. And Arthur was taken to the island to meet his death after getting wounded.
Other legends talk about the Lady of the Lake, the titular head of Avalon. While the location remains unknown, many places in Britain claim the title. For example, the most famous one is Glastonbury Tor, a place that was once an island.
Let’s talk about a mythical island that is now a famous place in the world. Did you know that between the 16th and 18th century, many Europeans considered California an island? They reported it as a “place of paradise”.
The name California first appears in a romantic novel by Spanish author Garci Ordonez de Montalvo. He describes it as an island filled with gold and precious gems. And the talks that Amazons live on the island, riding griffins.