Céad mile fáilte! Croeso i bawb yma. A hundred thousand welcomes! All are welcome here. I’ve embarked on a journey of discovery to distant lands and distant times and I hope you’ll join me.
To the ancient Celts, there existed another world – the Otherworld – alongside this one. Proinsias Mac Cana describes this nebulous realm thus: “This world transcends the limitations of human time….It also transcends all spatial definition. It may be situated under the ground or under the sea; it may be in distant islands or coextensive with the world of reality. It may be a house or a palace that appears and disappears with equal suddenness, or it may be a little grass-covered hill that encompasses a whole vast and variegated world with its peoples. It may be reached through a cave, through the waters of a lake, through a magic mist – or simply through the granting of sudden insight.” [Celtic Mythology. (1987). New York: Peter Bedrick Books, p. 125.] To the modern-day person, the past is equally steeped in mystery, veiled in the depths of time.
My fascination with Celtic culture began in my teens as, like most teenagers, I searched for my identity. I began by exploring my heritage – a genetic mixture that points predominantly to the British Isles. I briefly studied and passed over the Troubled Times of the modern era – the Easter Rising, the Potato Famine, and the Ulster Plantation in Ireland; the Jacobite rebellions and Highland Clearances in Scotland; and the devolution of Welsh culture and numerous revolts in Wales. I passed over the stagnant times of the high Middle Ages when Celtic culture was all but eclipsed by the Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Viking, and Danish invasions. I focused instead on the late Bronze Age and Iron Age culture of the Gaels of Ireland and Scotland and the Britons or Cymru of Britain. It was then that Celtic civilization experienced its Golden Age in the skill of its artisans, the heroic tales of the bards, and its sophisticated legal traditions.
Many of us in America (where I live) who claim Celtic ancestry are descendants of immigrants from the downtrodden sections of society. They left their ancient homelands in search of a better life – free of hunger, poverty, and persecution. Many of those immigrants – humiliated and shamed – left their old identities behind and never looked back.
But they should have looked back. Their descendants should look back – way back – to a time when the Celtic peoples gave the world some of its most beautiful art, inspiring song and story, and enlightened views regarding the rights of women, care of the sick, and inheritance.
Join me as I ponder what it means to be a modern-day career woman with a Celtic past. How can I connect with those ancient times in a world of smart phones and DVRs? Is there an app for that? Sometimes, I’ve found, it’s as simple as taking a walk in the woods.
DID YOU KNOW:
- The first case of copyright infringement took place in 6th-century Ireland?
- The largest prehistoric copper mine in the world, located on the Great Orme near Llandudno on the north coast of Wales, shipped its resources internationally on a super sea highway that stretched up and down the Atlantic seaboard?
- The oldest extant law tracts in Europe were developed by the Irish? The Welsh law codes are equally old but were written down later.
- Britain’s first center of learning was established by St. Illtud in the 5th century? St. Patrick may have been his pupil.
- “As the Roman Empire fell, as all through Europe matted, unwashed barbarians descended on Roman cities, looting artifacts and burning books, the Irish, who were just learning to read and write, took up the great labor of copying all of western literature – everything they could lay their hands on”? [Cahill, T. (1995). How the Irish Saved Civilization. New York: Nan A. Talese, Doubleday, p.3).
- The Anglo-Saxon conquest in the 6th century may have resulted in part from the weakened state of the Britons devastated by the plague of 549 AD?
- Wales provided several terms that are used by geologists worldwide? “Ordovician and Silurian refer to two tribes in Wales, the Ordovices and the Silures, and Cambrian is derived from the Roman word for Wales” [Keen, R. (2001). Wales. London: Cassell Paperbacks, p. 9).
There is much to think about here as we look back through the portal of time.