Celtic influence

Celtic influence
   The folklore of regions where Celtic languages are spoken (or were until recently) is particularly abundant and well documented; this is true of Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, Wales, and Cornwall. What is uncertain is whether this merely reflects the fact that they were less affected than England by 19th-century economic changes, and hence kept their traditions relatively stable, attracting more attention from folklore collectors; or whether it implies deep-rooted differences in ethnic culture going back to prehistoric times. Most Victorians, steeped in nationalist and racist assumptions, took for granted that Celtic-speaking Iron Age Britons differed sharply from the Germanic Anglo-Saxons in religious and artistic temperament, and that these differences persisted in their descendants. Contrasting stereotypes were established: Celts were mystical, poetic, and 'superstitious'; Anglo-Saxons pragmatic and unimaginative.
   This has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially among non-academic writers, to whom Celts seem mysterious and awe-inspiring in a way that other early peoples do not. Where similarities exist between a fairly localized custom or belief in England and a more widespread one in a Celtic area, many are tempted to see the former as inherited from native Britons rather than incoming Anglo-Saxons, or as due to contact with neighbouring Celts. The problem with this theory is not that the proposed Celtic parallels do not exist, for in most cases they do, but that the true distribution of the item under discussion may be much wider. Irish and Scottish folklore is easily available for comparison, whereas that of France, Germany, or Scandinavia is known only to specialists; what seems 'Celtic' when viewed from an English perspective may in fact be due to a wider inheritance of European traditions rather than to direct influence of Britons on Anglo-Saxons.
   The calendar custom most commonly claimed as Celtic is *Halloween, long celebrated in Ireland, Wales, and Highland Scotland, by a medieval combination of the ancient Irish festival *Samhain with the Christian *All Saints and *All Souls' Days. There are isolated allusions in Lancashire and Derbyshire (see *All Souls, Day and Halloween), but its spread in 19th- and 20th-century England was fostered by Scottish, literary, and American influences. Celtic origins are also claimed for *May Day and *Midsummer, which Bede does not list among Anglo-Saxon festivals; it is true that all Celts celebrated these dates, but so did the medieval French (whose influence on English culture was immense) and most other continental countries.
   In the sphere of belief and ritual, it has been argued that holy *wells and *wishing wells are updated versions of sacred healing waters venerated by the Britons, and their offerings made in shafts, pits, and wells; the similarities are strong, though on the Continent such practices were not limited to Celtic peoples, and could have been familiar to Anglo-Saxons too. Some think that when *skulls and stone *heads are regarded as luck-bringers, this derives from the way early Celts displayed severed heads and carved stone heads as magical protectors; others, that some bogeys such as *Black Annis are related to British divinities. A Celtic origin was long accepted for the *Uffington White Horse, which now turns out to be even older; the dating of hill figures at *Cerne Abbas and * Wilmington is currently under debate. It was long thought that the * sheela-na-gig was an archaic fertility charm with strong Irish connections, but modern research shows it belongs to the history of European church art. The idea that *circling to the *right (sunwise) brings good luck, but circling to the *left is linked to *witchcraft and *curses, is predominantly Scottish and Irish (Opie and Tatem, 1989: 383-6); the fact that it is now well known in England can count as a Celtic influence, albeit a recent one enhanced by popular books and films.
   One of the aims of this book is to contest the facile prejudice that 'the English have no folklore'; naturally, the authors, while not denying that Celtic influence is probable in certain cases, do not regard it as an automatic explanation for everything eerie, magical, or picturesque in this country.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Celtic studies — is the academic discipline occupied with the study of any sort of cultural output relating to a Celtic people. This ranges from archaeology to history, the focus lying on the study of the various Celtic languages, living and extinct. The primary… …   Wikipedia

  • Celtic rock — Infobox Music genre|color=goldenrod bgcolor=white name=Celtic rock (music) stylistic origins=Electric folk, Celtic music, Folk rock cultural origins=1970s: Ireland and other Celtic nations instruments= Guitar, Bass Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo, Tin… …   Wikipedia

  • Celtic Frost — live at Tuska Open Air Metal Festival 2006. Background information Origin Zurich …   Wikipedia

  • Celtic art — is art associated with various people known as Celts; those who spoke the Celtic languages in Europe from pre history through to the modern period, as well as the art of ancient people whose language is unknown, but where cultural and stylistic… …   Wikipedia

  • Celtic nations — are areas of modern northwest Europe which identify themselves with the Celtic cultures, specifically speakers of Celtic languages. Since the mid 20th century, people of many nations and regions have used modern Celticity to express their… …   Wikipedia

  • Celtic music — is a term utilised by artists, record companies, music stores and music magazines to describe a broad grouping of musical genres that evolved out of the folk musical traditions of the Celtic peoples of Northern Europe. As such there is no real… …   Wikipedia

  • Celtic knot — | | | | |Celtic knots are a variety of (mostly endless) knots and stylized graphical representations of knots used for decoration, adopted by the ancient Celts. Though Celtic knots were being created in Polytheistic Celtic times Fact|date=April… …   Wikipedia

  • Celtic anarchism — is a new tendency within the larger anarchist movement. It is not an ideology, but an attempt to bring together disparate aspects and tendencies within the existing anarchist movement and re envision them from a Celtic perspective. The tendency… …   Wikipedia

  • Celtic chant — is the liturgical plainchant repertory of the Celtic rite of the Roman Catholic Church performed in the British Isles and Brittany, related to but distinct from the Gregorian chant of the Sarum use of the Roman rite which officially supplanted it …   Wikipedia

  • Celtic Christianity — The Celtic Cross in Knock, Ireland. History of Celtic Christianity General Religion in England …   Wikipedia