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Celtic. A Warm Welsh Welcome or "Croeso Cynnes Cymraeg!" This is an on-line source of free information about the old religion of Wales and Great Britain, and the story of the Celtic peoples.
story of the Celts begins in prehistory, the time before written records were kept.
Originating in what is now Eastern Europe, the celts appear to have moved west along the
main trading arteries of the time, especially the river Danube, into modern Germany,
Austria, Switzerland and France. By the beginning of the classical period (about 500 BC),
they were a large group of tribes and races spread over a wide area of Europe, from
Scotland and Ireland in the north-west to Russia in the east, and to the Mediterreanean in
By the time the existence of the celts was recorded by the Greek writer Ephorus in the fourth century B.C., they were so numerous that he named them as one of the four great barbarian peoples in the world. Their unity was not that of a nation or empire in the Greek or Roman sense, but was more cultural in nature, with no clear central authority. Celtic tribes dominated a huge area, and had their own individual identities, but they shared many common roots including similarities in language, religion, and lifestyle. They probably called themselves something similar to Celts, from which the Greeks got their word for 'stranger' - keltoi.
A note about pronunciation - Celtic is generally pronounced 'Keltic' when referring to the Celts and 'Seltic' when referring to the modern football team.)
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Much of what we know about the celtic
culture of this period comes from two great archeological sites - one near Lake Halstatt
in Austria, and the other at Lan Tene on the river Thielle in Switzerland. These sites
have been a rich source of artefacts, and have provided us with some of the most beautiful
artistic works of the Pagan celtic era.
It is around 800 BC, with the Halstatt culture, that we can see the emergence of a distinctive and highly developed culture of craft and decoration - the first Golden Age of celtic art. The decorations on the jewellery and other artefacts found at Halstatt had already developed the characteristics that we associate with Celtic art - spirals, animal designs (zoomorphs), knotwork and fretwork were all in evidence. Styles developed rapidly as the tribes and their chieftains became richer, sometimes through conquest, but also through trade. One German chief of around 550 BC was buried wearing a silk cloak which must have come originally from China.
From 500 BC to 100 AD, in what we now know as the La Tene period, the rate of stylistic development and innovation slowed, while the number of decorated items being produced increased greatly. This implies a small number of innovators and a lot of copiers, as the style became more popular and the general population wealthier. Oddly, the majority of artefacts are weapons, though this was not a time of great wars. Many of those which have survived were offerings, thrown into sacred wells and other shrines. This may mean that the weapons were not needed for real wars, especially if offering them to the gods kept the peace.
La Tène culture was profoundly affected, and in some areas completely displaced, by the advance of the Roman Empire. But the celtic tribes survived, and in some cases thrived, during the Roman occupation - while most tribes initially fought against the Roman incursion, most were quickly defeated, and their people assimilated into the new Roman society. But in the furthest reaches of the Empire, the celtic tribes resisted more firmly, especially in western areas of Britain and France, where the tribes retained much of their culture and independence. And despite subsequent invasions, occupations and population displacement, this continuity of celtic culture is maintained right through to the present day by the celtic languages, which are still spoken in these areas. This is why our modern perspective associates the term celtic with Wales, Ireland, Scotland, western England, and Brittany. It is also a major reason why the later Christian flowering of celtic art arose in the British Isles.
Celtic. A Warm Welsh celtic welcome or "Croeso Cynnes Cymraeg!" This is an on-line source of information about the Celts and Celtic religions. This celtic page in unique. The celtic information included in the page is the most comprehensive around.
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Originally by Taliesin einion Vawr, Revised by Celtic Church of Dynion Mwyn, Inc.
Copyright © 1977, 1992, 2003 by Celtic Church of Dynion Mwyn, Inc. All rights reserved.
Revised: 29 Mar 2010 15:06:25 -0500
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