Keltoi

There was a time when my roots were a fundamental part of my psyche. I grew out of it but still have a fascination for the artwork created by those who once walked the land where I was born. The geometric almost three dimensional knot work, Ogam writing and the use of colour in illuminated scriptures have all had an influence in my creation process.

As a child I wandered the savage wilderness of Scotland. Areas that have remained untouched for centuries and felt integrated in to its nature as I guess my ancestors would of felt. I’ve seen this reflected in stone. The weavings on tombs, symbolic of the roots of nature reclaiming our fallen, rising up to blossom in an eternal sunrise. A reminder that we are part of a cycle and not the cycle itself. A philosophy and culture that was perverted by the arrival of Romans and Christians. Yet part of this culture shines through in ancients books and architecture. Monks integrated knot work and other artistic styles of the Kelt in to their illuminated texts. Although a prevalent Christian doctrine fills the words, the roots of the Keltoi still shine through. Their presence remaining through the dark ages, reflected through the styling of churches and monasteries.

From what I could discover in my readings the arrival of the Roman Empire was the first damaging blow to the Keltoi. As it invaded what is now France, England and Wales under the reign of Julius Caesar, it singled out two powerful figures within Keltoi society and eliminated them. Tribe Chieftains and most importantly Druids were the backbone of the Kelts. They held their tribes together and made them strong. By executing the leadership and beliefs of a culture you effectively destroy it and so this was done mainly through manipulation and treachery. Invitations to parley that concluded in the mass slaughter of unarmed men were seen from Spain to Wales to the glory of the Roman Empire. Thus was built what we now call civilisation.

Over the centuries the Roman leadership lost its grip and turned to Christianity to maintain power. Missionaries were sent out to convert the masses and often did this by integrating local beliefs in to the Christian faith. Thus many Christian festivals correspond to Pagan ones. In a way this kept the old ways alive and it was the remnants of these old ways that first drew my interest in to studying religion and history.

It was through these studies that I lost the notion of cultural identity. From as far back as I can remember I was told that I was a Scot and part of the Celtic nations and I took great pride in this. I wanted to know more so I started reading old Celtic legends, travelled to Ireland, France, Spain and around Scotland. I felt like I belonged, that I was part of something so much bigger than me, a part of a giant family of fierce and just warriors and then I turned to history books and everything changed. From the Histories by Herodotus to the Gallic Wars by Caesar I found many flaws in my preconceptions. The first major point was the term Celtic. I couldn’t find what it actually meant and am still not enlightened on this subject. I found it interpreted as stranger but the ancient texts make a distinction between the Celt and other nations that were populated by whom would of been strangers to the Classic world at that time. Herodotus describes the Keltoi as populating what is now France, a part of Germany, northern Italy and Belgium. He also mentions an island off the coast of France as not being part of this culture. An area described some 600 years later as being populated by Britons. In other words: What is now the United Kingdom was not a Celtic nation.

I also came face to face with a petty argument on wether Celtic should written with a C or with a K. This was easy enough to solve as I was informed by a Greek friend that there is no letter C in the Greek alphabet and as the first reference to the Kelts are from a Greek in Greek the answer makes the question pointless.

This question was put forward at the University of Glasgow’s Celtic study department. I had signed on there to try and gain more information on the subject and was sorely disappointed by Doctors who couldn’t answer a straight question and laughable theories. During the first year of the program we were informed that a Celt was defined by their language and their artwork. In other words if you speak English and can paint like Jackson Pollock you’re an American. I left them to sell the books they had written to the other poor suckers who thought it was a good idea to join their course and turned to the Archaeology department. Here I got to see artefacts and get out on to the terrain. It was a very insightful time that broadened my way of research. I learned the importance of notebooks and spit balling ideas and had the notion reinforced that theory is nothing without practice.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: