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Barbara Zajączkowska, 2013-02-11

Język angielski, Artykuły

The Celts.

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2. The Celts.

The Celts are very important In British history because they are the ancestors of many of the people in today’s Scotland, Ireland and Wales today. (Mączka, 1999:86). Though it is now many centuries since their power declined, the influence of the Celtic language and culture remains.
Around 700 BC they arrived in the Isles. They were united not by a common ruler but by a common language and culture. The Celts were organized into different tribes and the tribal chiefs were chosen from each family or a tribe: “The chiefs wore rings and bracelets and necklaces of gold; and when these tall, fair-hair warriors rode forth to battle, with their helmets in the shape if some fierce beast’s head (…) they made a splendid show.” (Rollestone, 1996:32-34). Technically advanced they knew how to work with iron and made better weapons than people who used bronze. They were also highly successful farmers.
According to classical writes, the Celtic people showed a remarkable distinctness and consistency. They were believed to be primitive and illiterate but there remains so much to differentiate them among the race of people that if these ancient references to the Celts could be read aloud, everybody without hesitation would name the Celtic people as the subject of the description. (Rollestone, 1996:36). They were devoted to the art of war and subtlety of speech. They set a great store by language and poetry which the language conveyed. Their bards and poets were always in great esteem, trained for a long time. The Celic priests – Druids were important members of the Celic society as they memorized all the religious teachings, history and medicine. (Davis, 1999:50).
The ancient Celtic civilization shows a great variety of forms within common traditions. Thus, ancient Celtic religions filled with the supernatural, magic spells or curses which were a basis for rites and rituals “to constrain the magic powers”. (Davis, 1999:76). Their beliefs were often reflected in myths and legends as the religion had no theology in the conventional sense. Celtic myths and legends introduce an extraordinary world of imagination, the world that gains strength and credibility because it stems from the real life of the ancient Celts. Their Gods had more to do with beliefs of the Ancient Hindus than with the Greeks and the Romans. (Ellis, 1999:3-7). They very often changed into “shape shifters” to use their supernatural skills for evading the pursuit or disrupting an enemy.
In the Celic year there were many regular festivals like the festival of Samhain on 1 November, reflected in Halloween, the festival of Beltina on 1 May marked by fire ceremony and fumigation of cattle. Till the present times the Celic practice of healing almost every illness by taking some water from the holy well exists. So one can drink its water, says a prayer, and their headache, toothache or backache may disappear. (Harvey, 1997:22-23).
It is also worth mentioning the other Celtic custom – the head cult which was an essential element of their culture. The Celts believed that the essence of a person resided in the head. So they would keep “the heads of those people they respected, embalming them with cedar and thus paying reverence to great souls”. (Ellis, 1996:16).
It is said that Celtic art concentrated on design and decoration. The essential base was a few basic shapes including spirals , interlacing fretwork or swastikas. The original input came from Mediterranean inspiration and appearing mainly on metalwork and stonework. (Davis, 1999:79). Celtic art, has made a significant contribution to European art “Far from primitiveness and simplicity…..restless, puzzlingly ambiguous rational and irrational is the first great contribution of Barbarians to the European art.”. (Davis, 1999:79).
“Ancient Celtic literature is one of the marvellous of civilization”. (Davis, 1999:80). Tales, myths, legends, poetry concerning heroes and gods were conveyed in an oral way. They were deeply rooted in pagan prehistory. In the early Middle Ages they were written down by the Christian monks. They both contain elements from the pre-Celtic history and the Celtic history. They are an important source of knowledge about the Celts nowadays.
From all that is known, music was no less prominent in Celic life than art and poetry. Music was a central part of Celtic culture. Up to the sixteenth century all important chieftains, kings had their own resident harpist who enchanted them on long winter night. The ballads were composed to describe the deeds of brave warriors. Moreover, music was used as way of introducing the law by rhythm and simple melody. (Griffin, 2000:50).
After the conquest of the Celtic lands by the Romans many Celts adopted a Roman style of life. The Druids were suppressed and people were encouraged to practise other religions. They survived in the furtest corners of Western Europe in Ireland and Wales, trying to keep their own language, traditions, beliefs and music.
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