The celtic people they were the first civilized peoples in Europe, belonging to the Indo-European linguistic family that spread over most of the west of the continent from the second millennium BC. Its origins date back to the process of iron diffusion throughout Europe, a period called the Iron Age. According to historical records, the Celtic peoples were responsible for this diffusion of metal across the continent and, according to those same records, they were extremely skilled people with such materials. In addition, they influenced the sharing of a specific material culture through language.
The first literary reference to the Celtic peoples was made by the Greek historian Hecateus of Miletus, in the 6th century BC. In this period, part of Europe was occupied by people of Celtic ethnicity, who were later dominated by the Roman Empire. There were several Celtic groups made up of various tribes, including the Britons, the Gauls, the Scots, the Eburons, the Belgians, the Galatians, the Trinovantes and the Caledonians. Many of these groups gave rise to the name of the Roman provinces in Europe, which later baptized some of the medieval and modern nation-states on the continent.
Its domains extended to the region that, currently, are Germany, Holland, Denmark, Belgium, France and England. Among other territories that belonged to the Celtic peoples are Wales, Cornwall, Scotland, Ireland, Gaul and Galicia, most of which are part of the United Kingdom. In these places, Celtic culture is still present in its folklore.
Their family structure was based on villages and towns, where members of the same clan lived. In some cases, forts were built in these villages to house the local nobility. The economy of these peoples was basically the sale of metals, such as bronze, copper and tin, in addition to ceramics and slaves. The Celts were great traders in Europe.
Culturally, people of Celtic ethnicity were very wealthy. His art had four periods: Hallstatt’s Style of Culture (900-500 BC), La Tène’s Style of Culture (500 – 50 BC), Romanized Style – Continental and Island (1st to Vd.C.) and Medieval Style Island – Irish and Breton (5th to 10th centuries). Its mythology, on the other hand, is divided into three types: goidélica (Ireland and Scotland), British island and continental Celtic. Due to the particularity of each Celtic people, each mythology was unique, having divinities and beliefs totally different from each other. Thus, Celtic mythology is much more complex than that of peoples like the Greeks and the Romans.
The ancient Celtic religion was polytheistic, animistic, dualistic (male and female), naturalistic (in the sense of being very connected to nature and its changes), a religion linked to magic.
To better understand the Celtic people, read below 4 legends that are part of their rich and unique culture.
Check out 4 legends of the Celtic peoples
Princess Dechtiré was the sister of King Conchobar and once disappeared. While away, she received the solar god Lugh in a dream and became pregnant. Her son with the deity was born 3 years later and was baptized Setanta. The child grew up among the warriors of the Cycle of the Ulster kingdom and soon stood out for his speed and strength.
At the age of seven, he was invited by his uncle and King Conchobar to a banquet at the home of Master Blacksmith Culann. Setanta, however, ended up arriving late and Culann had already released his terrible watchdog. To hold the dog, three chains were needed, and to hold each chain, three men were needed. Released and watching Setanta approach, the animal runs to attack him. The boy, to defend himself, faces the animal and defeats it, shattering the dog.
Culann, the blacksmith and owner of the now-dead dog, lamented. How would your properties be safe now? Setanta, guilty of failing to measure his strength, stayed in the dog’s place until Culann got a new one, as terrible as the previous one. Thus, Setanta became Cuchulainn, Culann’s dog.
At seventeen, Cuchulainn was already known as one of Ulster’s greatest warriors. When Queen Medb tries to steal Cooley’s Cattle, the boy defeats his entire army.
His deeds were prophesied and, to become a great warrior, he gave up the longevity of his life. After the battles in which he fought to achieve greatness, he was named as the Dog of Ulster, and remembered as the bravest Celtic warrior.
One of the most recognized legends in the world, King Arthur has its origin in Celtic tales and legends. Britain’s greatest leader is also a Celtic leader in origin.
Arthur was the firstborn son of UtherPendragon and Duchess Ingraine, married to Garlois. Pendragon falls in love with Ingraine and, to win her over, asks Merlin to modify his appearance so that he resembles the husband of his new beloved, who was far away, in a battle. In return, Merlin asks that the child born from this union, be brought up by the magician.
The girl is deceived by Pendragon, and only discovers her husband’s true identity when Garlois’s body is taken to the castle. However, his marriage to the fake was already scheduled for the next day and nine months after the date, the result of this mistake would be born.
Arthur is born and taken to be raised at Sir Ector’s court, where his identity is unknown. Under Merlin’s guidance, Arthur grows up as a squire for Kay, Ector’s son. In a forest, there was a stone with the following inscription: “Anyone who draws this sword from this stone will be the king of England by birthright.”
Arthur’s story intersects with the legend on the stone, on the day that Kay is consecrated knight and his sword breaks, so young Arthur runs to find another weapon. He sees the sword embedded in the stone and does not hesitate to pick it up.
Upon handing the sword to Kay, his adoptive father recognizes the weapon and asks Arthur to take them where he found it. Upon arriving, he inserts the sword back into the stone and, once again, manages to take the sword out easily and is recognized as sovereign.
After becoming King, Arthur marries the young Guinevere to strengthen his alliances with feudal lords. Known for her beauty and piety, the queen, however, falls in love with the King’s best friend, the knight Lancelot.
Arthur and Guinevere failed to conceive heirs to the throne. The young queen believed that this was her punishment for loving another man who was not her husband and, for the king, it was her problem.
Arthur died at the Battle of Camelot, in which he was wounded by Mordred (Morgana’s son, Arthur’s half sister), legend has it that he was Arthur’s son, however, other versions claim he was his nephew. In this battle, both die wounded by each other’s sword. Arthur is handed over to Lady of the Lake, and the famous Excalibur sinks with him.
Arthur’s legend is long, his missions with the Knights of the Round Table are told around the world, being the most well-known Celtic legend globally.
The Fate of the Children of Lir
Kings BoadbhDearg and Lir of Sidhe Fionna were open enemies. To seal the peace between them, Lir, after his wife’s death, sought out Dearg to marry one of his daughters. The king had three young daughters, Niamh, Aoife and Albha, and Lir chose the oldest, Niamh, which he was delighted with.
After the wedding, they had four children: Finola, Aedh, Conn and Fiachra. But the queen did not live much longer, Niamh died shortly after the birth of her last two children, so Lir returned to the kingdom of Dearg to take the hand of his other daughter, Aoife, in marriage.
The new wife became the mother of the children and, for a long time, was a great mother. However, when the children got older, the stepmother and aunt became jealous of the relationship they had with her husband, she wanted Lir’s attention to her. So Aoife planned to get rid of the four nephews.
She took the children to a lake, planning to kill them all, but her heart was not all bad, she had already loved the children, so she bewitched them, turning them into white swans. He condemned them to spend 900 years wandering the waters of Ireland – 300 years in LochDerravaragh, 300 years in the Sea of Moyle and 300 years in the Bay of Erris, and the spell would only be undone when a new faith arrived in the country, and Prince Lairgnean if he married Princess Deichthe. With pity, he gave the swans the gift of speech.
Worried, Lir searched for his children and found them in a nearby lake. The king began to live on the banks of this lake, listening to the beautiful song of his children, until he perished.
The children lived in that form for 900 years, as the stepmother had said (who was punished by her father, King Dearg, becoming a spirit doomed to wander aimlessly across the land), and when the new faith arrived, Queen Deichthe found the creatures and was enchanted by them. She asked her husband Lairgnean to take the swans to their land. Upon arriving at the queen’s home, they resumed their human form, they were no longer children, they were elders. Shortly after the transformation, the four brothers passed away, and the queen ordered them to be buried side by side.
To this day, swans are not killed in Ireland in respect of the stories of Lir’s four children.
Boudicca – The Red Queen
Unlike the other legends mentioned above, Boudicca was a real character in Celtic history and is present in several historical archives. Furthermore, their legend is not influenced by the wonderful side of Celtic tales and legends, derived from the mythical side of this people.
Boudicca was the queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe, who inhabited Britain, present-day Britain. Her husband, Prasutagus, was the one who ruled his people. He made numerous agreements with the Romans, which compromised his leadership before many. King Prasutagus was killed by invaders and Queen Boudicca, along with her daughters, were abused and humiliated by the Romans. The legionaries plundered the entire kingdom and carried out an attack operation against the island of Mona, now known as Anglessey, where one of the most important centers of worship dedicated to Goddess Andraste was located.
King Prasutagus left in testament part of the power for the Romans and the other part for his wife and daughters, however, for the Roman State, such document was of no use and they took the power of the lands of Boudicca for good.
The news of the destruction of the cult center of the goddess Andraste associated with what happened to the queen and her daughters, resulted in a rather wild reaction among the Britons. A great rebellion was organized and, ahead of her, the Red Queen was put in charge.
Boudicca, then, with an army of 100,000 men, imposed heavy setbacks on the Roman legions. Their warlike actions were considered to be the bloodiest performed by the Celts. Several Roman cities were devastated and hundreds of women were beheaded in sacrifice to the Goddess Andraste, to whom all their victories were dedicated. However, in her last battle against the Roman army, led by Suetonius Pauline, the Red Queen was defeated. Roman victory became carnage.
Some say that the great warrior and Celtic queen was killed in that battle at the hands of Roman soldiers, others claim that she would have killed herself to maintain her glory and deliver a final victory to Goddess Andraste.
The death of the Red Queen, however, did not pacify the Britons, but served to calm the spirits of both peoples. Romans and Celts came to live in an armed peace.
Boudicca was a tall and imposing woman, with long, red hair, who sought justice for her and her people, destroying the Romans, in an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” law. According to popular legend, she was buried under one of the platforms at Kings Cross station.