The Celts

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Everyone knows the word‘Celtic’: Celtic crosses, Celtic religion, Celtic art, Celtic customs, Celtic mythology, the Celtic spirit, etc.There is a Celtic Garden on the outskirts of Derry. And, of course, there is the Celtic football team in Glasgow who do well at home, but who make a ‘Brexit’ year after year when they play in Europe. And don’t forget the late Celtic Tiger.

Everyone knows the word ‘Celtic’: Celtic crosses, Celtic religion, Celtic art, Celtic customs, Celtic mythology, the Celtic spirit, etc.

There is a Celtic Garden on the outskirts of Derry. And, of course, there is the Celtic football team in Glasgow who do well at home, but who make a ‘Brexit’ year after year when they play in Europe. And don’t forget the late Celtic Tiger.

But who were the Celts? They were groups of tribes who came to Ireland in the sixth century BC. It is generally thought that they came from central Europe, but according to one interesting theory, they came from north Africa, through the Mediterrranean. They brought their customs and their language with them - Irish is a Celtic language, of course. The influence of Celtic beliefs can be perceived in the language. For instance, we say in Irish ‘Fear is on me’, ‘Thirst is on me’: the Celts believed that forces were at work out there instead of feelings arising within us.

The Celtic influence can be observed in many aspects of life, including literature. This can be seen not just in the ancient tales, but also in contemporary writing. A book published recently by the Columba Press, ‘The Celtic Spirit and Literature’, shows how the Celtic spirit has made an impact on Irish writers. It does not surprise us that the likes of Yeats, Synge, Heaney and Friel are mentioned, but James Joyce’s name will come as a surprise to some people perhaps. The two authors, Grace Clunie and Doctor Tess Maginess, are from Northern Ireland. The collection of essays is about the history of the Celts, about how they regarded nature, their love of place, their creativity, their religion and other aspects of their culture. Both writers have a clear, readable style. The book is available in Veritas and in Eason’s, Letterkenny, and in independent bookshops throughout the country.