Who Were The Celts?

Who Were The Celts?

 

The Celtic empire once ranged across Western Europe, and their armies eclipsed even those of Rome. Who were these mighty people, and what became of them?

The Celts (Kel’tz) were a diverse group of people whose empire once spanned the European continent.  Archeological digs from Halsted, Germany to the Orkney Isles of Scotland have uncovered evidence of Celtic settlements as far back as the late Bronze Age.  But where did  these brash, nomadic people come from, and what became of them?

Recent archeological digs in Eastern Europe and Asia Minor indicate the possibility that the Celts were not indigenous to Europe at all.  The fact that the original Celtic stock were primarily a dark haired people with swarthy complexions only verifies this new theory. This theory is the migratory theory;  when applied the Celtics sometime in the millennia of the Bronze Age entered Europe from somewhere in Asia Minor.  It wasn’t long before they settled in the region of the Danube River basin and soon began raiding and conquering their neighbors.  The Celtic conquest continued until their tribal lands covered most of Western Europe, from the Danube to Rome and westward as far as current-day Belgium.

Though their rise to power was quick, the Celtic domination of Europe was short, as empires go.  Over the centuries following the Celtic Golden Age seen at Halsted, the Celtic people were pushed farther west by new conquerors and empires, sprouting up in Athens, Macedonia, and, eventually, Rome.  To the North, the savage Goths pushed the Celts southward as well, condensing the majority of Celtic society into Gaul and Iberia, which today make up France and Spain.

If the origins of the Celts are historically dubious, the name they identified themselves with remains a mystery.  While historical accounts exist, as well as a few Celtic carvings referencing tribal names, Celtic writings don’t make any reference to a racial name.  The only surviving accounts to make reference to the Celtic people were written by Roman and Greek historians.  In fact, it is from Greek texts that the Celts received their ethnic name, Keltoi, a Greek word for “stranger” or “outsider.”  This identifier was altered by late Roman writers and eventually adopted by the Celts as a means of identification in trade and war.

Many historians and archeologists believe that the original people who entered European millennia before the birth of Christ had no name by which to identify themselves as a people.  They were nomadic, in many ways, and little more than a loose conglomeration of independent tribes and family groups.  If this theory is true, it adds a new dimension to the mystery of the Celts with a question that might never be truly answered: Who were the Celts?

Historical records and archeological evidence have much to say about Celtic culture and society.  Predominantly in Roman histories, reference is made to the deep racial pride of the Celts, and their stubborn refusal to be dominated or ruled.  According to Roman chroniclers, a Celt would choose suicide over surrender.  Nor was Celtic society a fluid structure like the Hellenic or Roman empires, but rather a loosely-linked group of autonomous tribes, each headed by a separate chieftain.  Within each tribe, the people were further divided into extended family units known as clans.  Each clan was subdivided into lineages, called “˜fine’, represented by the paternal kinship. Roman writers, examining this pastoral mind frame from their urban vantage point, no doubt found much to disdain as barbaric and primitive in Celtic society.

However, far from the barbarians with which they were often identified, the Celts had a highly developed society.  The basic structure of Celtic society divided the people into three classes:  the royal clans, the warrior aristocracy, and the common people, often referred to as Freemen.  And, though slaves did constitute a small percentage of the population, slavery was generally frowned upon in Celtic society. However, though Celtic social structure appeared loose and primitive to the Romans and Greeks, the Celts were by no means the “savage race” which the Roman scholars often slurred them by. Archeological evidence has shown the Celts to be an advanced race, for their era.  They made use of chain mail in battle and utilized machines for reaping grain.  There is also evidence that the Celts had begun extended roadways across Europe centuries prior to the Roman Empire’s much-lauded road system, and it is widely believed by historians that it was from the Celts that the Romans and Greeks first learned the use of soap.

However, regardless of their apparent advancements, the Celts were not an urbanized people, and their tastes ran to simple rather than extravagant.  Certain themes appear repetitively in reference to Celtic culture, including the predominance of rural settlements, the traditions governing hospitable feasts, and the evidence of fellowship drinking. Pork tended to be a primary item of diet, and clothing often followed a plaid design. However, though rural themes predominated their society and many settlements were merely farming communities, the Celts were far from uneducated. They placed high regard on thorough education and life-long study. The Druids, who are believed to be the Celtic scholars and priests, were required to undergo a period of training which lasted around twenty years. Also contrary to popular belief, historians have concluded that the Celts had a written language as early as the third century BCE, but made little use of it except on coinage and memorials, placing a higher value on the ability to remember vast quantities of information correctly.

Celtic society declined in the face of Rome’s advancing power, however.  As Roman culture stamped more of the face of world politics and trade, the Celts soon found themselves with no choice but to accept Roman rule. And, as Roman culture began dominating the Celtic tribes, the tribal culture was replaced by a racial identity.  By the withdrawal of Roman troops from Britain in approximately 340 CE, Celtic culture had waned nearly into oblivion.  It would enjoy a brief period of renewal with the fall of Rome, only to be quickly conquered by the Germanic culture advancing across Europe. And so, the proud people who had once dominated the European continent would be lost to myth and legend, leaving more unanswered questions than road signs to their once-golden culture.

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About the Celtic Tree Month Reed October 28 to November 24

Celtic Tree Month Reed

(Ngetal)

October 28 to November 24

Those Born Under This Sign:

Reed signs among the Celtic tree astrology signs are the secret keepers.  You dig deep inside to the real meaning of things and discover the truth hidden beneath layers of distraction.  When there is a need to get to the heart of the matter, most certainly the Reed sign will find the core.  You love a good story, and can be easily drawn in by gossip, scandals, legend and lore.  These tendencies also make you an excellent historian, journalist, detective or archeologist.  You love people because they represent a diversity of meanings for you to interpret.  You are adept at coaxing people to talking to you, and sometimes you can be a bit manipulative.  However, you have a strong sense of truth and honor so most of your scheming is harmless.  Reed people join well with other Reeds, Ash or Oak signs.

Celtic Meaning Of The Reed:

The Celtic meaning of the reed within the Ogham deals with:

  • Purpose
  • Protection
  • Purification
  • Clarification
  • Communication

Today we may not consider the reed a tree, but in the time of the ancient Celts their landscape held prolific reeds in swamp areas; some growing up to 20 feet tall.

The druids viewed any large plant like this with a woody stalk to be a tree, and the reed was considered very important.

All things of the natural world were honored by the Celts, and all things represented the connection with life.   In this way, the reed was highly revered for its usefulness in the day-to-day practices of the Celts.

The reed was used for many purposes by the Celts.  Specifically, they would weave reeds together to make thatched roofs on their homes – some of which (when properly constructed) last up to a decade or more.  This is where the reed obtains its symbolism of protection.  It is also a natural insulator, and the Celts honored it highly during cold, wet months.

Reed gives off a faint sweet smell when macerated, and so the Celts were known to lay out pressed reeds as flooring in their homes to deodorize.  This was also a practice for cleansing and purifying homes.

Reeds also made good candles, and were viewed as beacons of light during the dark nights.  This is another facet of the reed’s purposefulness in the life of the Celts.

The reed gets its symbolism of communication from several sources.  In the hands of a good craftsman (and there were many among the ancient Celts), a reed would make a fine whistle, flute or recorder.  These were highly prized amongst the people, particularly bards. Through these flutes and music the spiritually-minded Celts would communicate fantastic worlds of vision, heroism, and beauty.  

Secondly, if you are still enough, you can hear them sing a song when the wind blows through a field of reeds.  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing it, you know it is an eerie experience.  The Celts viewed this as an otherworld voice, and considered it a message of powerful importance.

Take the time to incorporate these symbolic meanings of the reed in your life.  Gather some up and bring them into the house to open up the energy and clear the air.  Or, try fashioning a flute from a reed and take it to your next drum circle to play!  Your Celtic ancestors will get such a kick out of that!

Reference:

Whats-Your-Sign.com

Welcome, Darkest Night

Welcome, Darkest Night

by Janice Van Cleve

 

I love this season of growing dark. The night starts earlier to cast its blanket of quiet and peace upon the land and calls me to wrap up what I am doing. Early darkness coaxes me to sit down to supper at six o’clock instead of nine, so I can digest properly before I go to sleep.  Longer nights delay the prodding light of morning, so I can grab a few more winks. It encourages me to work more efficiently with the daylight that I do have. The dark time of the year is a healthy time for me.

It is a healthy time for plants and animals as well. Perennials focus on building up their root systems during the dark time, and annuals spread their seeds. Leaves fall to the ground to be leached and composted into next year ‘s soil. Animals feast on the yield of crops and orchards and store up surplus to see them through the winter and spring. In the dark time, all nature refocuses on renewing itself, sloughing off that which is no longer necessary and nurturing the best for the new year.

For northern tribes who lived where night falls longest and deepest, the dark time of the year was a time of great creativity. Bards honed their songs and added new verses for the entertainment and education of their audiences. Farmers turned to woodworking to fashion furniture or to decorate the interiors of their homes. Tradespeople made cloth, tools, jewelry, clothes and other goods to sell the merchants when they returned in the spring. Cooks became more and more inventive as the darkness lingered and the variety in the larder grew more limited. Even today, most school and university classes are scheduled for the winter months. In the business world, new product releases from software to movies to automobiles are debuted during this time.

In short, the dark time of the year is a busy, industrious and very creative time for nature and for human activity. So why in modern society does it get such a bad rap? The ancients certainly figured out that spring followed winter every year, and they used their skills to create solstice calculators like Stonehenge to predict how much more winter they had left. Were they really immobilized in fear of the dark, waiting for solstice to give them hope of spring? Or, on the other hand, did they grumble at solstice that they only had a few more months to play, eat, sing and finish their carvings before they had to get back out and work the farm again? Ancient peoples, after all, did not create surpluses for profit or a year-round global economy. They simply raised enough to sustain themselves so they could devote their time to crafts and play.

Perhaps it was the new religion of Christianity that tried to separate light from dark, exalting the former and disparaging the latter. Perhaps it was Christians’ idea to create fear of the dark so they could make light seem like a sort of salvation. However, nature doesn’t seem to need saving from anything, except from human greed. Nature goes on, year after year, with summer and winter alternating appropriate to the latitude. Nature values the dark time as much as the light and uses both to its advantage. The dark time is healthy and wholesome. It is as necessary for life as rain and sun, decay and bacteria.

And so it is appropriate that our pagan new year starts with Samhain, the beginning of the darkest time of the year. We rest before we work. We focus inwardly before we focus on the wider world. We sleep, we feast, we meditate, and we renew ourselves so that when spring’s light returns and calls us to next year’s work we can respond with new health and strength. These are gifts of the dark time. We are fortunate to have them!

The Wicca Book of Days for June 19 – The Celtic Pantheon

The Wicca Book of Days for June 19

The Celtic Pantheon

The Gods and Goddesses venerated by the European Celtic people were local divinities identified with features of the landscape, the creatures and trees that inhabited it, and the tribes that lived there (Brigantia being the Goddess whom the Brigantes worshiped in Britain, for instance). Because the Celtic tradition was oral, the nature of these deities remain imprecise but something of their individual characters survived if they were subsequently fused with Roman divinities or Christian saints. Perhaps the best know Celtic God is Cernunnos, or the Horned God.

Circles and Spirals

Circles and spirals were important mystical symbols to the Celts, representing as they did the Sun and Fire, eternity, fertility and life itself. Wear jewelry bearing one or other of these dynamic symbols next to your skin today and become infused by the energy that it emits.

About The Rowan Tree, Current Celtic Astrology Sign

The Rowan Tree

 

Luis

 

January 21st – February 17th

 

The Fire Festival Of Brigantia

 

Celtic Symbol : The Green Dragon

 

Zodiac Degrees : 0º00` – 27º59` Aquarius

 

Ruling Planet : Uranus – Brigantia

 

Ancient Gods Associated With Uranus

:

Greek : Chaos, Aether And Hemera, Uranus

 

Celtic : Brigantia, Brigid

 

Character Reference Of The Rowan Tree Sign

 

Rowan tree people have visionary minds and well defined humanitarian principles. They remain, however, self contained individuals and their vision is not always shared by the rest of humanity. Their cool temperament disguises some passionate beliefs, for they need to argue their case against bigotry and ignorance. The new moon people born during the first two weeks tend to become impatient and frustrated in this struggle toward a greater awareness. Although they may be quite reticent on a personal level, they will, nevertheless, help pioneer great social changes with reforming zeal. Full moon people born in the last two weeks are less reticent all around, but are inclined to promise more than they can deliver. This will not negate their powerful influence and inspiration, and their response to all situations is primarily directed to asserting the rights of the individual.

 

Sometimes referred to as “the whispering tree,” the rowan’s tree’s magic was well known among the Celts. Its berry is shaped like a five-pointed star, first of all, the symbol of magical protection against spells, enchantments, and glamour’s. You, too, are a magical creature, able to use your intuition and higher understanding to both enchant and protect. Trust your insights, and act upon them – even if others see you as ‘unusual’ or ‘unpredictable’. Your ability to envision the future is priceless.

 

The Celtic Attic

Today We Honor The Goddess Danu

The Goddess Danu

As the mother of the gods, Danu has strong parallels with the Welsh literary figure (or goddess) Dôn, who is the mother figure of the medieval tales in the Mabinogion.

Danu was considered as the mythic mother goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Celtic tribes that first invaded Ireland. The Celts, also on the continent, had several goddesses, also of war. “Apart from these goddesses of war, there were other Amazonian figures who led armies into battle. Often they were also endowed with legendary sexual prowess…” “The Celts included the cult of the mother goddess in their rites, as archeological evidence testifies. Indeed, the Tuatha Dé were the descendants of the goddess Danu, and in some local instances, the ruler of the otherworld was a goddess, rather than a god, just as some folktales represented the otherworld as ‘the Land of Women’. Danu may be connected with Bridget, daughter of Kildare and of learning, culture and skills. She was known as Brigantia in northern England, and survived as St Bride in Christianity”