Celtic History: A Rich Tradition To understand the basis of Celtic ritualism, or spirituality, it is necessary to know a bit about Celt history.
In no way does any member of this group profess to be expert in the traditions and cultures that comprise the Celts.
They are so rich in beauty and tradition, yet so diverse, in people and geography, that relatively little is actually left, or known, and factually the study of those things is not a mainstream course in the colleges of today.
Druid accounts too are minimal, since it was considered a form of heresy to put to paper the traditions of the Druids.
The majority of the writings left to us were those written by the conquerors, in the main, Roman, with most of the rest of historical detail given us by archeology and peat bog remains.
To quote a line from BraveHeart, "the history was written by those who hung the heroes"
We have each studied facets of the history and traditions, archeology and travels of the Celts and are comfortable at least, hosting a small compilation of facts and history, that we call, Celtic History 1/2, feeling our knowledge base does not permit a Celtic 101 class.
We hope the knowledge is a beginning base which you will broaden by further studies into a fascinating time and people.
They shared features, language and religious likenesses enough in the way of life to be termed as a distinct group.
The earlist history records the Celts is about 500 BCE, after they had already expanded from the original homelands of Germany and Bohemia.
They ranged from the Danube across France and Spain.
Archeologists date Celtic finds which confirm the writings of ancient Greeks who wrote of them, and also tell us of a prehistoric Celts, or Keltoi.
Toward the end of the fifth century BCE the Celts were already using iron for tools and weapons, expanding to other territories as well as encroaching on France and Rome.
The Celtic historical period of this time is known as the La Tene period, called so after a site in Switzerland where a true Celtic culture was uncovered by archeologists.From this period on the culture was known as Celtic, or Keltoi by the historians and writers of the day.
Basic societal structure in the Celt groups was the clan, or tribe, which was, for all intents and purposes a family, which expanded through marriage, fosterage and conquest.
The tribes developed a certain areas their own, and within that area bonded with the land, creating sacred spaces and grave sites and mounds which might bear generations of clan members.
Most of what is Britain had by this time been settled or conquered by the Celts. There are several passages of Keltoi into the British Isles, the first thought to be in the 5th century BCE, another in the third century, while the last would have been about the first century BCE.
Irelands Celtic population is not succinct in time period, however the fact that they were found there prior to the third century BCE is very clear. Irish Celts were called insular Celts, to separate them from those who were part of mainland Europe.
Celtic society was matriarchial as well as patriarchial, both men and women fought, could own property, and make decisions. The head of the tribal unit or clan was picked, usually by the Druid spiritualists, could be a King, Queen, Chieftain, or Chieftainess, and was seen by the group as a representative of the tribal Goddess or God. The right to inherit was both matrilinear and patrilinear, so male or female could inherit through the line.
Women and men were considered completely equal, with that equality, and the right of free will forming the basis of the Keltoi society.
The clan names, Gods and Goddesses, animal and herbal totems were all held in great reverence in society, and were seen as unifying forces. Celtic spirituality included love and reverence for the land, for the changing cycles of the earth, shamanism, and a connection to solar and lunar influences. They were respected and feared as fierce fighters, superbly talented horsemen, exemplary artisans and craftspersons, and were tireless in the pursuit of any activity for the land and peoples of the clans.
Throughout the Celtic nations, legalities, learning, literature and music were primarily the responsibility of an organization of three professional groups, known as druids, bards, and vates, or filidhs, in the Irish lands.
Druids were considered to be semi-divine, the representatives of the Gods and Goddesses here on earth. They were the officiators at religious rites, made and enforced legal decisions, as well as conducted systems of education, traveled, and were in fact, the makers of the chieftains, or chieftainess, or king and queens in most cases.
The Druids vates, carried out many of the smaller functions of the druid, and seem to have been a sort of assistant druid, while the bards were considered with music and literature, and were held in almost as high esteem as the druids themselves.
Before the Roman invasions of Britain and Gaul, the Druids were relatively free from outside influences of any kind. During the invasions they were killed on sight, by the soldiers of a more civilized and militarily structured Rome.
During the invasion, and after the Roman influences began to be felt, Roman Gods and Goddesses, were worshipped along side Celtic deities.
It was also during this period, Roman, and Celtic deities were crossed, sometimes names of the Celtic origin were Romanized, although the Gods and Goddesses of the pantheon were remarkably similar, such as Camulus, who became Camulus Mars.
Wealthy or noble Celtic Chieftains wore long thick mustaches, although some, usually those of lesser means were clean shaven.
They favored brightly colored clothing, and ornate gemstones and torques, a golden collar of sorts that was worn by the Chief or Chieftainess.
The typical Celt appears to have loved to display his or her wealth for the world to see, and those who could afford to, did so, importing for their use, gemstones, wines, silk thread and spices for cookery, as well as gold and silver for use in chalices and utensils
Celtic artists and craftsman produced some of the finest and most intricate jewelery, ornaments, and intricate adornments found in all early civilizations, as well as making supremely functional buckets, cauldrons, chariots and helmets and battlewear.
Clothing was embroidered, highly so, with silk or cotton threads. Trousers or skirts were worn usually with a cloak, that was fastened with ornate brooches or cloak clasps at the shoulder.
The tartan plaids, or designs worn were to designate from which clan or group they belonged, and has endured to this day, with particular clan tartans or colors still used in Ireland and Scotland.