Ten Thousand Saints

A Study in Irish and European Origins

By: Hubert Butler

Publication Date: 16 September 2011

(1 customer review)


“During the twenty years from the early 1950s to the [1972] publication of Ten Thousand Saints Hubert Butler amassed, by hand, every possible reference to every possible saint in the Irish corpus in Irish and Latin … His understanding of Ireland as part of the bigger picture of prehistoric Europe is refreshing and his ability to trace the traditions of the historical Irish back to that picture is exciting.” -from the introduction by Alan Harrison

When it was first published in 1972, Hubert Butler’s pioneering masterwork was received with scepticism by his contemporaries. He used linguistics to trace the origins of myths and saints back to pre-Celtic Ireland and Europe, and showed how these stories and names – ancestors of half-forgotten tribes – became absorbed by Christian mythology. The early Irish wove their stories, as did the Greeks, the Hebrews and all early peoples, from the migration of tribes and by wordplay with their time-battered, unstable names.

Ten Thousand Saints raises fascinating problems that take us beyond the frontiers of recorded history to the remote movements of European peoples, to the clash of tribes and tongues. As modern DNA sampling and genome-mapping, seen in the regional patterning of today’s Irish surnames, reinforce Butler’s findings, his methods and thesis are now gaining scholarly recognition.

This new edition, amplified and updated, demonstrates ingeniously coded histories – via place names, legends, hero-figures, saints and ancestors – that relate to the wanderings and minglings of all the great tribes of Europe’, extending back to Neolithic times.

This is a wonderfully scholarly and yet irreverent book.’ Hector McDonnell, Five Books


HUBERT BUTLER was born in Kilkenny on 23 October 1900. Educated in England at Charterhouse and St John’s College, Oxford, he travelled extensively throughout Europe during the twenties and thirties before returning in 1941 to Bennettsbridge, Co. Kilkenny, where he lived until his death on 5 January 1991. Market gardener, journalist, essayist and historian, his works include Escape from the Anthill, The Children of Drancy, Grandmother and Wolfe Tone and In the Land of Nod – all of which gained him international recognition.

Cover illustration by Timothy O Neill. Cover design by Niall McCormack

Also available as an ebook

1 review for Ten Thousand Saints

  1. Lilliput Press

    “In this second edition Butler further unravels fascinating Irish oral prehistory. He carefully examines the ingeniously coded druidic stories of place names, legends, heroes, ancestors and saints that puzzle us to this day. His linguistic analyses trace Irish origins from pre-Celtic bardic myths to their insertion into Christian legends. Like the Greeks, Hebrews and other early peoples, the Irish compiled stories from migration and merging of ancestral tribes. They used wordplay to hide time-battered unstable names, some of which descend to contemporary Irish surnames. The late Alan Harrison of Irish Studies, University College Dublin, affirmed Butler’s analytic “chain” from “ancestor to name to phonetic rationalization to variety of puns/wordplay to stories that explain the name”. Recent Irish genome-mapping and regional DNA patterns elucidated by Daniel Bradley’s genetics team at Trinity College Dublin confirm many of Butler’s findings and Harrison’s blueprint of how to approach them. Rory Brennan (Books Ireland, Feb 2012) summarizes this work best: “This fine new and greatly expanded edition is essential for all those with an interest in early Ireland, archaeology, religion, place names and indeed the independent and outstanding legacy of Hubert Butler”.”

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Weight 0.75 kg
Dimensions 136 × 215 mm
Publication Date

16 September 2011


Paperback, 368pp