Polemical topics for polytheists (part 16): The Celts and Celtic polytheism

First view: The Celts and their traditions are restricted to their current populations and languages in the British Isles, Ireland and France, and has been mostly replaced by Germanics.

Second view: The Celts and their tradition should be restored to its largest historical extent, which covered most of Europe.

Balanced view: The Celtic tradition and identity ought to find its historical places beyond current populations, but without repeating unnecessary imperialism. (see illustration of fair extent) 

mapexpansionThe Celtic peoples and traditions once had a plentiful and noble presence mainly in Central and Western Europe, but what remains of it is unfortunately little and often treated with contempt. Having been conquered first by the Romans and then again by Germanic tribes, the identity and culture of these peoples has suffered greatly, sometimes with deliberate persecution. Julius Caesar waged a bloody and unjust war in Gaul for 10 years, in order to increase his dwindling income and expand the territory of Rome for personal ambition. In doing so, he destroyed and colonized the Celtic heartland, which was only to be worsened by his despotic successors’ persecution of the druids. The excuse was ending human sacrifice, a hugely exaggerated practice that the Celts (among others) practiced, but the real purpose was to put an end to their warlike resistance, a noble example of which is well known. Through continuous colonization and attempted assimilation, the Celtic identities, cultures and languages began to wear off, and worse influence came after the Roman Empire adopted Christianity. The Celtic reputation for human sacrifice and war was very contrary to Christian (aka. intolerant Roman) “morality” and “civilized ways”, which placed a stigma on the speakers of the language as being uncivilized like the Germans. The Celts were dealt a final blow after the Germanic tribes, which had managed to escape Roman domination, expanded to conquer what remained of their colonized homelands and traditions in Britain, France, North West Spain and Central Europe. The beautiful old Celtic language (lately reconstructed), once spoken in many dialects, now became extinct except for isolated areas which are still shrinking today. It is extremely interesting (and at the same time very unfortunate) to observe that descendants of these marginalized peoples, who long had an inferiority complex about their identity, were (beginning from 1000 years later) mostly responsible for the colonization of the Americas. Settlers from Western Britain, Western France, Portugal, Western Spain, and later South Germany (central Europe) led the effort in obtaining a new future and settling new lands. It was these descendants of oppressed people who then oppressed others in a world that had long been oppressive; just as children who are bullied and humiliated, they grew up to do the same. This is the very sad story of the “white people” in the Americas, most of whom today are unaware of their Celtic identity, after having tragically lost it. It also saddens me to see so many people, whose ancestors were undoubtedly Celtic, choosing rather to follow the Roman and Germanic traditions of their colonizers. “I am an Anglo-Saxon/Heathen/Roman polytheist” a British or American person will tell you, and “I am a Heathen/Roman polytheist” a Gaulish* person will tell you. Then you have many Celtic people also extremely attracted to the Hellenic tradition, for reasons that can be understood but not quite justified. I know that the Celts have little mythology that is left, and I know it is such powerful stories that often bind us to a tradition. Yet ancestry is a much stronger claim that ought to overcome fascination or inclination. An ancestor that brought us life and whose image is stamped on our faces will always have a stronger and more natural claim that a foreign myth, however well written, that has struck our fancy. You noble Celts, do not succumb to the urge of following the Germans, for you are equally warlike; nor the Romans, for you are equally civilized; nor the Greeks, for you are equally wise**. Do not follow “Wicca” in order to make up for losses that are now being rediscovered and reconstructed. This is the perfect time in history, the first time since Late Antiquity, for a Celtic revival. May Ogmios give the druids the wisdom to reconstruct their mythology and their traditions ever more accurately and bind*** all those Celtic peoples unaware of their beautiful identity to their noble ancestors again!

 

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*France, anciently called Gaul, got its name from Germanic invaders called the “Franks”, much like Britain, which was called England after the Angles from South Denmark.

**Actually, I think the druids were far wiser than most Greek philosophers, in spite of appearances.

 ***Ogmios, the Celtic God of speech and eloquence, is depicted with chains, because of his power to bind people through his wisdom. See a list here of other Celtic Gods. 

12 thoughts on “Polemical topics for polytheists (part 16): The Celts and Celtic polytheism

  1. Jessica Triepel

    Great points, as usual! There is actually quite a lot of lore and knowledge of the Celtic and druidic tradition preserved in writing, and t isn’t took difficult to read between the lines ands filter out the christian taint, so there is no justification in supplementing another tradition in place of one’s own Celtic roots. For me, I fall into two categories, and feel drawn to both the Celtic and Nordic/Germanic pantheon. But in my defense, even to look at me and my entire family, we do not bear resemblance to the native Breton population, but rather to the Saxons who replaced so much of the old people. Nonetheless, I listen to my heart and soul and go where t leads, which is always to my ancestral roots on both predominant branches.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Thank you for the compliment and comment! You are right about the lore and knowledge, which is why I took care to provide links to Celtic mythology and reconstructionism. So many people must become aware of this growing and proud tradition. As for yourself, falling into two categories is not a problem! The Germanic and Celtic traditions are not too far apart and actually share much together, so that if you love both traditions because of ancestry, that is an excellent thing. Yet you bring up the interesting topic of ancestry and appearance. I have noticed that the most distinguishing feature between Celtic and Germanic peoples is the hair color; most of the former tend to have brown or darker shades (with a minority of blondism, varying from region to region), and the Germanics always have a majority of blondism. Another distinguishing feature of the Germans is having lighter eyes more often than Celts, including the non-Celtic grey. In other words, the true Germanic homeland is Low Germany, Scandinavia (including Iceland) and some Baltic areas. As you go farther from there to the South and West, the more Celtic admixture increases considerably. I wonder what story a DNA test would tell you; surely it would be interesting!

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      1. Jessica Triepel

        Exactly! Yes, I have all the Germanic/Scandinavian colouring, as does my entire family. Only my Scottish (ancestry) grandfather had dark hair, but other than that, he had fair skin, and pale eyes. If anything, he may have been more of Gaelic descent. I’d love to do a DNA analysis. Would be really interesting.

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  2. Jean-Pierre

    I know we had discussed paternal ancestry in a previous post of yours, and I wonder if there is a Celtic strand there. My paternal family name goes back to the French Basque Country, but it looks like there was a lot of overlap there according to the maps? I bring it up because our conversation got me thinking back to a time when I was first starting to explore neopaganism and experienced a bit of a connection with Lugh – or Lugus. I didn’t follow through on that, though, and I seem to have more of Odin and Hermes’s attention now, or at least I have a resonance with them. It’s weird in a fun way because all three of them would have been called Mercury by the Romans.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      An interesting point! The Basque region, including the Gallic portion, spoke an ancient indigenous language that preceded Celtic, but their paternal ancestry is very similar to other Western European Celts (vastly dominated by the R1b haplogroup). The origin of the Celts is somewhat mysterious, with a disagreement about whether they originated in central Europe (as the map shows) or (a newer theory) in West Europe. In either case, the distinguishing Celtic paternal ancestry is the R1b haplogroup, which differs from the Germanic I1 (which is the highest for Europe, but not dominant). I encourage you to reconnect with Lugus again, and not necessarily at the expense of Odin or Hermes.

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  3. K

    “The Celtic reputation for human sacrifice and war was very contrary to Christian (aka. intolerant Roman) “morality” and “civilized ways”, which placed a stigma on the speakers of the language as being uncivilized like the Germans.”

    Ever notice how academics and the like talk about all the Romans as if they were Christians while the “pagan” status of the Celts and Germans is always emphasized? And the Romans always sound like posh English people in historical programs and movies.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Yes, and I see it in Varg too. It’s significant and there’s a certain justification to it. I didn’t suggest to equate the Christians to Romans in the quote, but only to point out that the Christians were an intolerant (and therefore horrid) form of the imperialism the Romans had espoused. But the British (beginning from 16th c. nationalism), just like the French before them, fitted the imperial Roman character quite well and this continues as a literary phenomenon. It isn’t difficult to notice the reason why Celtic languages and speakers in the British isles were and still are frowned upon as being remnants of a “Barbarian” past. Some rascal of an English mayor in the West country a few months ago was in the news because he called Welsh road signs “visual clutter”. As for the Germans, however, they had better luck, because they weren’t conquered.

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