Celtic Halloween Samhain

Oct 31, 2016 by

Have a Happy CELTIC Halloween!

Here are few memes and videos to get you into the spirit this Samhain eve.  Just be careful which spirits you let in the door on Celtic Halloween!

 

Celtic Halloween

Celtic Halloween, when the veil between worlds grows thin…

Celtic halloween witch

Beware the Celtic witch!

 

A history of Halloween in Ireland:

 

 

Make way for zombies from Wales! Welsh band Peasant’s King just released a tribute to the ultimate Halloween video, Michael Jackson’s Thriller–that  Danny has a dang good voice for a zombie:

 

 

 

Castle Ghosts of Ireland, an excellent BBC video, explores the bewitching castles of the Emerald Isle:

More castle ghosts for Celtic Halloween, rising out of Scotland’s bloody history:

Wales has its share of haunted castles, too:

For the ancient Celts, Samhain (sunset on October 31 through sunset on November 1) was a night when then the wall between our world and the Other World thinned, allowing their ancestors to walk among their descendants.

The thinning of the veil also allowed the fairies and fae to walk in the mortal world, though, so people took precautions to protect themselves. Guizing, or wearing masks to hide your identity, was one way to avoid the fairies.   Lighting bonfires, dancing, offering sacrifices from the harvest, all were ancient Celtic customs that have evolved over the centuries into the night we modern Celts now call Halloween.

As Loreena McKennitt sings, tonight is for fun, but also for remembering our Celtic past:

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Celtic Red Hair From Vikings?

Jun 11, 2015 by

If you have Scottish and/or Irish ancestry AND red hair, you probably also have VIKING ancestry, according to a new study.

The director for Nordic Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands says red hair is modern evidence of the influence of the ancient Vikings in Celtic lands.

Professor Donna Heddle is the director for both the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Centre for Nordic Studies. She is a leading expert on the Norse and has reached the conclusion that Scotland’s famous red hair is a vestige from the invading Vikings. If the compelling case which Heddle makes is true, it means the Vikings were very successful at spreading their DNA in this Northern kingdom.

Heddle explains that the perception that the invading Vikings were blond is a myth. The Vikings were likely red headed. Relatively few people in the world have red hair. Statistics are that only 0.6% of the population have that hair color. However, countries with the highest concentrations of red hair are all part of ancient Viking trading routes. Scandinavia, though long stereotyped for a high number blonds, has a high concentration of red haired people.

“The perception that the Norse were blond is nothing more than a prevalent myth,” she said. “Genetically speaking, the chances of them having blond hair weren’t that likely. The chances are that they would have had red hair. Interestingly, if you look at where red hair occurs in the world you can almost map it to Viking trading routes.”

Professor Heddle explains that in Ireland, the red hair concentrations are in the areas where the Vikings settled. She states that an observation of dispersal patterns shows a dark red spot in Scotland and a corresponding spot in Scandinavia. There is nothing similar to be found in Europe which lends further credence that the DNA gene for red hair had to have been imported from the Vikings and the Norse.

Source: Vikings Responsible for Scottish Red Hair Gene? | eCanadaNow

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Beltane, Celtic May Day

Apr 30, 2015 by

May 1st is traditionally celebrated in the Celtic countries as Beltane, an ancient feast honoring the beginning of the summer season.

It occurs midway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. For the ancient Gaelic speaking peoples, Beltane rituals were performed to protect their cattle, ensure fertility, and to ward off fairies known as the Tuatha Dé Danann.

Beltane welcome

The May Queen welcomes Beltane at Edinburgh’s festival. Original image by chrisdonia on Flickr

The name “Beltane” ( rhymes with airplane) is thought to have come from the ancient Irish: Bel from the ancient Celtic god Bel or Belenus, and the Old Irish word tene, meaning fire. In Irish, it is Bealtaine, in Scottish, Bealltainn and in Manx Gaelic, Boaltinn or Boaldyn.

My favorite Beltane song is Jethro Tull’s magical ” Beltane:

Have you ever stood in the April wood
And called the new year in?
And while the phantoms of three thousand years fly
As the dead leaves spin?

There’s a snap in the grass behind your feet
And a tap upon your shoulder
And the thin wind crawls along your neck
It’s just the old God’s getting older

And the kestrel drops like a fall of shot and
The red cloud hanging high a come, a Beltane
A come, a Beltane…

Beltane was celebrated in some form in all of the Celtic countries. Here’s a lovely Beltane song sung in Welsh:

Although not a traditional Beltane song, Wild Mountain Thyme is a wonderful song about the coming of summer. It’s been covered by many artists, including the Chieftains, Rod Stewart, The Corries and more.  Here’s the inimitable Van Morrison doing his stellar version, entitled Purple Heather:

In Scotland, Edinburgh holds a HUGE Beltane festival every year, complete with pagan fertility gods and fire. It is put on by the Beltane Fire Society  and is quite popular with tourists from around the world. The fest combines traditional Gaelic Beltane rituals with neo-paganism to create unique, rolling party/play. This video gives you an idea of how Edinburgh celebrates the arrival of summer–caution, includes pagan nudity:

In Cornwall, Beltane is celebrated with the Obby ‘Oss tradition, in which a dancer dressed as a stylized black horse dances through the streets, trying to “capture” young maidens under his black cape.  “Teasers” chase the horse through the street (albeit slowly, in parade fashion), towards the May pole, whereupon the ‘oss is returned to his stable til next year. The origins of this Cornish fertility fest are ancient, but somewhat obscure; it is definitely pre-Christian and Celtic, possibly connected to the worship of horse deities such as Epona.

 

 You don’t have to be pagan to enjoy Beltane. Just fire up the BBQ grill, crank up the Celtic music and invite all your rowdy friends over to party like a Celt.

Happy Beltane!

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Celtic Shock And Awe, With KILTS

Aug 16, 2014 by

Celtic shock and awe, using kilts, is usually a winning tactical move. Whether on ancient battlefields of old or in modern sports arenas, kilts have always provided maximum impact.

 

Celtic-shock-awe-kilt

Shock and awe, Celtic style

Just how effective is this type of Scottish “regimental” campaign on the field of battle? William Lawson’s Scotch answers in a popular and funny video featuring a traditional Celtic war challenge in response to a Maori haka rugby dance:

 

 That takes the Celtic intimidation factor to a whole ‘nuther level, ye ken.

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The Altar Wedge Tomb of Toormore Bay

Aug 7, 2014 by

On our second day in County Cork, we drove down to Mizen Head, and stopped along the way to see the Altar wedge tomb. This late Stone Age tomb is easily accessible from R592, about seven km west of Schull–just pull off into the well-marked parking area, walk a few feet and there it sits, facing out towards Ireland’s lovely Toormore Bay.

Altar wedge tomb

Altar Wedge Tomb on the Mizen Peninsula

The location of the tomb, facing southwest towards Mizen Peak, seems a bit like a Disney exhibit to some visitors because of the tomb’s carefully mown verge, its close proximity to a busy road and its endless stream of visitors. It is very much an ancient sacred site, however, with evidence showing it was used by Stone Age, Bronze Age and early Celtic peoples as a ritual site. Archaeological work in the mid-1990’s found burnt human remains dating back 2000-3000 years ago. Between 1250 and 500 BC, shallow pits were dug inside, probably to hold food offerings, and ancient Iron Age Celts filled a pit inside the tomb with seashells and whale bones, some time between 124 and 224 AD.

 

Altar Wedge tomb

Entrance to Altar Wedge Tomb, on Ireland’s Mizen Peninsula

The rise of Christianity in Ireland brought an end to the ritual use of the Altar wedge tomb site. In the 18th century, the tomb was used as a Mass altar by local priests who had been forbidden by English authorities from conducting Mass in a church, giving rise to the stone structure being called the Altar Tomb.

Altar Wedge Tomb view

View to Mizen Peak and Toormore Bay from the Altar Wedge Tomb in Ireland

If you’re in west Cork, you should consider a trip down to Mizen Head to see the Altar wedge tomb. It’s easy to find, easy to access and the views out to the bay are phenomenal– a marvelously megalithic moment in Irish history, preserved in stone for the ages.

 

For more info on the Altar wedge tomb and other ancient sites in Ireland, try Megalithic Ireland’s website HERE.

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Perusing Celtic Magazines

Jun 15, 2014 by

Much information about the Celtic countries is online these days, but I still enjoy having a Celtic-themed magazine to display on the coffee table for friends and families to peruse.  Those glossy mags are a good way to spark interest in my favorite topic, all things Celtic.   I can’t always convince friends to read a book about the Celts or a Celtic country, but they are usually happy to flip through a copy of the latest Irish America or Scottish Life, for example, while having a coffee or lounging at the pool.

Celtic magazine subscriptions make good gifts, also, especially for someone who is planning a trip to one of the Celtic countries or thinking about researching their family ancestry–most magazines are available now either in print form, online or both.  Additionally, after everyone has read the current issues,  the mags get a second life when I donate them to the local senior center.  Many senior citizens, like my mom, either don’t feel confident looking up information on the internet, or have vision problems that make it difficult for them to read on a computer monitor, thus browsing through a colorful magazine is a wonderful solution for them.

There are all kinds of magazines that touch on Celtic themes, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites for you to consider.  I’ve included a link to Amazon for each one, which will have rates and reviews, and remember–you can also read your subscription online, if you prefer.

 

Started in 1985, Irish America is a popular magazine that covers topics relevant to the Irish in North America including a range of political, economic, social, and cultural themes–one of my favorites. Click HERE for subscription  and reviews.

Scottish Life is a lovely magazine with loads of photos and tips about Scotland, her history and culture. Click HERE.

 

The Cornish Banner (An Baner Kernewek) is Cornwall’s longest running cultural magazine, and deals with contemporary events in Cornwall as well as  articles on its history, culture and the arts by the land’s leading writers. Amazon doesn’t have an image, but the magazine is available for purchase HERE.

 

Welsh Country is a lovely magazine chock full of stories about Welsh history, contemporary life, food, travel, art, music and more.  Click HERE.

 

History Scotland is more scholarly in content, but fascinating to read, especially if you love Scottish history and archaeology–well worth the price, in my opinion.  Click HERE.

 

 

Another scholarly magazine, Archaeology Ireland contains articles on recent research and excavations profiles of famous sites, with photos and maps for illustration.  A great mag if you want to explore ancient Irish sites that are off the beaten tourist path.  Click HERE.

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Dapper Shetland Ponies

Jun 12, 2014 by

If you asked the average person on the street to name an icon of Scotland, you can bet your bucket of oats that the Shetland pony would be in the top five.  What’s not to love?  These sturdy natives of the Scottish isle are small, cute, and cuddly looking–oh, and they wear sweaters and dance, too.

Ponies Fivla and Vitamin in their custom made Shetland wool cardigans

Ponies Fivla and Vitamin in their custom made Shetland wool cardigans Source: VisitScotland.com

 

Visit Scotland made international stars of two Shetland ponies in 2013 when the national tourism group used Fivla and Vitamin in an ad campaign. The oversized jumpers, or sweaters as we call them here in the US, were handcrafted by Shetland knitter Doreen Brown and made of Shetland wool sheared from Shetland sheep.  The equine ambassadors from Scotland even attracted the attention of television news network CNN:

http://www.thv11.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=2119250561001

 

As if the idea of Scottish ponies in sweaters wasn’t charming enough, a London ad agency took it to the next level by creating a 2013 video ad  for a UK mobile phone company, starring a dancing Shetland pony:

 

In describing the feel-good ad, the agency notes:

Shot against the dramatic backdrop of the Shetland Islands, the :60 spot follows the story of a stocky little pony. But this is no ordinary Shetland pony. With the scrape of a hoof and a flick of his Tina Turner-esque mane, he effortlessly moonwalks along to the sound of ‘Everywhere’ by Fleetwood Mac.

 

Needless to say, the prancing Shetland pony went viral and has, to date, over nine million views on YouTube.

 

 

Scottish tourism officials are always working on new campaigns, but I’m not sure the Shetland ponies can be topped–unless someone can dress a Clydesdale in a kilt.

 

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