"The peoples known as the Celts are thought to have originated in central Europe, to the east of the Rhine in the areas
now part of southern Germany, Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. From around 3,400 years ago, these
proto-Celtic peoples expanded across the Continent, and eventually inhabited a large portion of central, western, and
northwestern Europe. During the Classical periosd of Greece and Rome, Celtic culture was predominiant to the north of the
Alps. Even today, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, Cumbria and Brittany are basically Celtic in character. Despite the
changes that time has brought, the influence of Celtic tradition is still fundamental."
From "The Sacred World of the Celts" by Nigel Pennick
The Celts migrated to the UK sometime in the 4th and 5th centuries from mainland
Europe and Scandinavia. However, they soon found themselves competing against
successive invasions of Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Romans (to name just a few) and were
gradually pushed towards the outer extremities of the UK, eventually settling in Scotland
(blue), Wales (red), Ireland (green), the Isle of Man (purple) and Cornwall. They spoke
variant forms of several Celtic languages but had no written language.
The Celtic Tribes had a common speech, customs and practises. Each tribe was
headed by a King and divided by class into priests, warrior nobles, and
commoners. They regarded the Earth as the property of divine forces not of
human kind, treating the land and all its creatures with respect and reverence -
their shamanistic religion was known as Druidism. The Celts regarded their
laws, genealogies and spiritual disciplines as sacred, and required them to be
transmitted orally. Their priests spent years learning their lengthy sacred texts
by heart to preserve and transmit knowledge.
The lands occupied by Celtic peoples, whose existence can be traced over more than 25 centuries, were vast. Celts occupied land
in modern day Eastern Europe, Greece, Spain, Northern Italy, Western Europe, England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Celtic
people have mystified anthropologists and historians for generations. They were a non literate culture whose history and
literature was preserved through oral tradition. The only written records of their civilization are the texts left by classical authors,
the first of which appear circa 500 BCE. These accounts, inaccurate as they may be, are important in that they demonstrate that
the Celts came into cultural contact, and sometimes competition, with the Greeks as well as the Romans.
The Celts impressed the Greeks and Romans with their bold dress and powerful appearance. Generally characterized by
classical observers as a people of fair hair, of red or gold, and fair complexions, (although the people of the British Isles were
described as small and dark-haired) most Celtic women apparently stood taller than the average Roman citizen. Celtic women,
upon reaching maturity, adopted a complex braided style for their hair, and wore dyed and embroidered dresses. Plaids, or
wrapped woven cloaks, were common for men and women alike, and gold and silver torques and armrills, as well as rings,
adorned wealthy Celts. Brooches that held closed the openings of dresses and plaids were another common feature of Celtic
dress. Gallic men commonly spiked their hair and bleached it to an almost white color with chalky water, and wore their beards
long, while the Bretons and Picts tattooed their arms and faces with blue. Many Danish and English bogs have yielded
archeological evidence of cloth and dress, and Roman historians such as Tacitus also document some of the customs of
everyday Celtic life.
Science has recently established their basic blood group as 'O', in
keeping with their modern descendants, which designates them as a
seperate race from the aboriginals of the sourthern Indian
subcontinent, where the 'B' blood group perdominates.
History tells us that there were two main Celtic groups, one of which
is referred to as the 'lowland Celts' who hailed from the region of the
Danube. These people left their native pastures around 1200 BC and
slowly made their way across Europe, founding the lake dwellings in
Switzerland, the Danube valley and Ireland. They were skilled in the
use of metals and worked in gold, tin and bronze. Unlike the more
familiar Celtic strain these people were an agriculturally oriented
race, being herdsmen, tillers and artificers who burned rather than
buried their dead. They blended peacefully with the megalithic people
among whom they settled, contributing powerfully to the religion, art,
and customs they encountered as they slowly spread westwards.
Their religious beliefs also differed from the next group, being
The second group, often referred to as the 'true'
Celts, followed closely behind their lowland cousins,
making their first appearance on the left bank of the
Rhine at the commencement of the sixth century BC.
These people, who came from the mountainous
regions of the Balkans and Carpathians, were a
military aristocracy. Reputed to love fighting for the
sake of it they were frequently to be found among the
mercenaries of the great armies of those early times.
They had a distinct class system, the observance of
which constituted one of their major racial features.
These were the warlike Celts of ancient history who
sacked Rome and Delphi, eventually marching
victoriously across much of Europe and the British
But in spite of their martial inclinations they were also known for their qualities of chivalry, courage and dauntless bravery, their
more aggressive tendencies being balanced out by a great sensitivity to music, poetry and philosophy. Unlike the lowland Celts
these people buried their dead, and their elaborate religious rituals held in honour of Lugh are well recounted in the pages of the
~From "Practical Celtic Magic" by Murry Hope
Clann is a Gaelic word that means children. A clan is a family, descended from some
notable individual, often bearing his name. The currant clan chief, who is the prime
descendant of the founder, is nominally the father of the whole clan, having moral
authority over all its members. Although the clan system is Celtic in origin, the
contemporary Scottish clans, who have maintained the systme in its most ancient form,
are of mixed ancestry. Some Scottish clans are descended from the ancient Scots who
emigrated eastward from Ireland from the sixth century onward. Others are descended
from Norman, English, and Viking notables.
The community structure of the clans was formerly universal among the Celts, but this structure was gradually eroded away
everywhere except in the highlands of Scotland. Strictly speaking, a clan consists of the chief's family and the branches that can
prove descent from the founder through the female line. Although this is the strict familial definition of a clan, it was rarely
interpreted so rigidly, and in practice the clan included every family that accepted the authority and protection of the local clan
Pagan Celtic Spirituality understood that all of existence has a cyclic nature, and that
there is a direct continuity between the material world and the otherworld. Druidic
teachings, that have come down to us through Welsh tradition, recognized that there is
an unseen world that interpenetrates and affects the visible world. Things are just not
what they seem. Everything exists on several simultaneous levels. Human beings can
understand things as having three levels: the physical, the spiritual, and the symbolic.
Thus, Celtic culture was integrated with nature, and expressed itself through the multiple
possibilities of life itself. Celtic religion taught the reincarnation of all individual souls,
and the appearance of divine beings on Earth.
"Both classical and native sources furnish us with some first class descriptions of the early Celts whom, it would seem, were
highly distinctive in both appearance and demeanor. It is generally agreed that they wer tall and powerfully built, with blue eyes
and blond or reddish hair. Diodorus Siculus describes the men as favouring moustaches to beards, while both sexes were highly
conscious of their appearance and anxoius to make the most of their natural good looks, Celtic women vying with their menfolk
in size and stature.
Overall we may safely say that the general impression from all sources of evidence designates the Celtic aristocratic society
as being tall, physically powerful men and women with fair or reddish hair, grey-blue eyes, light skins, oval faces, and fresh
~From "Practical Celtic Magic" by Murry Hope
"The Celts were a very clean people, using soap long before the Romans did.
The Celtic men and women of Britain sometimes wore swirling blue tattoos or
paintings on their bodies. All Clets played lyres and harps, loved song, music,
and recitation of legends and epic adventures. They used metal or ornamented
natural horns for drinking.
Children took their mother's name and daughters inheirited her possessions.
Virginity was not highly valued; twice the dowry was given for a woman
previously married or with children. Abortion and choice or change of mate was
a woman's right.
Both sexes loved jewelry: brooches decorated with gold filigree, cuttlefish shell,
garnets, lapis, and other stones; buckles of gold filigree and stones; pins and linked
pins with animal-style decoration; necklaces of amber, granulation and chip carving.
They wore torques, pendants, bracelets, pins and necklaces. The women sometimes
sewed little bells on the fringed ends of their tunics. The elaborate intertwinings of
their artwork was a guard against the evil eye or curses.
Celtic women painted their fingernails, reddened their cheeks with roan, darkened
their eyebrows with berry juice. They wore their hair long and braided or piled up on
the head. Their usual dress was a sleeved tunic tucked into a large, gathered, belted
skirt or simly an ankle-length tunic with a belt.
Celtic man on the continental mainland wore trousers with a tunic, but in Britain
and Ireland the men wore a thigh-high tunic and a cloak, the ever-present dagger
or sword, and leather or fur footgear tied around the legs. Mustaches were
common, and the hair shoulder length. A horned helmet indicated a powerful
warrior. In the early cultures, both men and women had huge rectangular cloaks
pinned at the right shoulder. These cloaks were generally woven in bright plaids,
checks or stripes. Later, they wore large hooded capes reaching to the knees.
~From "Celtic Magic" by D.J. Conway
The images are of a mixtue of original and the
reconstructed signs that the Celts have
left behind in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and
Cornwall to show their presence as the first to
place foot on these shores.
Stones, homes and burial mounds
Was the life of the Celts that of your ancestors ?
with the haplotype R1b1
or is your heritage that of the Norsemen of Scandinavia ?
with the haplotype l1c
This page last modified on Monday, July 07, 2008