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Celts, a people who dominated much of western and central Europe in the 1st millennium BC, giving their language, customs, and religion to the other peoples of that area. In the 5th century Saint Patrick converted the Celts, the Iron Age invaders of Ireland, to Christianity, but many of the converts retained much of their Druidic religion. Each tribe was headed by a king and was divided by class into Druids (priests), warrior nobles, and commoners. The nobles fought on foot with swords and spears and were fond of feasting and drinking. Celtic mythology, which included earth gods, various woodland spirits, and sun deities, was particularly rich in elfin demons and tutelaries, beings that still pervade the lore of peoples of Celtic ancestry.
The Celtic cross near the Shannon River in Ireland, with its elaborate stylized relief of earth gods and woodland spirits, illustrates how the Celtic people preserved many of their Druidic beliefs. The Celtic style is marked by elliptical curves and opposing curves, spirals, and chevrons, also derived from steppe art. These elements were combined in dynamic yet balanced, intricate geometrical patterns carried out in relief, engraving, or red, yellow, blue, and green champlevé enamel on shields, swords, sheaths, helmets, bowls, and jewelry. The Celts of Ireland continued to work with traditional motifs, but, as Christianity took hold, they combined them with Christian motifs and employed their skills in the service of the church. Their carved stone crosses; intricate metal chalices, bells, and reliquaries; and magnificently illuminated liturgical books may more properly be considered Irish art.
Christine Narducci 1:47in the evenin' Jan 20
The Celts were an ancient, elusive people, who occupied the central stage of Europe and the British Isles for about 800 years, between 700 BC and their almost complete assimilation into the Roman Empire around 100 AD. The Celts built no cities, founded no empires and never developed a written language, but, although their world is now dead, their culture influenced a good part of the continent and spread all the way from Ireland to the shores of the Black Sea. Their name derives from the Greek 'Keltoi', meaning 'hidden people' -a reference to their lack of a written language and all tales were memorised and passed down through the generations by the Druids or 'wiseman' who studied long years to commit all their knowledge to memory. Although these learned men, who functioned as lawgivers as well as priests, could read and write Greek and Latin, they chose to pass on the chronicle of their people's existence orally in the form of verse. It wasn't until the 6th and 7th centuries AD that Irish monks began to transcribe Celtic history and law, and the famous collection of legends known as the Ulster Cycle which is thousands of years old, it is from them that we learn of the old traditions of law, the concepts of kingship, of truth and of the 'fitness of things' which held their society together.
The gods and goddesses of the ancient Celts were living forces in their imagination and worship, and although Victorian scholars thought their savage war-goddesses; their barbaric sea-gods and the mysteries of the Otherworld, quaint, barbaric and often incomprehensible, these myths reveal the beautiful and often profound beliefs of a passionate, resourceful and creative people. For the pagan Celt, the essence of the universe and all its creativity was female and they left permanent traces of a culture in which women were the spiritual and moral pivot. The mother goddess and all her personifications of fertility, sovranty, love and healing, was an essential basis of their very role in the world. Women feature prominently in Celtic myth and their goddesses occupied positions that represented women of practical, everyday Celtic life. They were free to bear arms, become Druids and engage in politics unlike their Greek sisters, who were highly idealised in myth but not representative of the reality governing the lives of Greek women.