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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Cornish Fairies: The Spriggans

Apr 15, 2014 by

Cornish Fairies

“It should be understood that there are in Cornwall five varieties of the fairy family, clearly distinguishable—

1. The Small People,
2. The Spriggans,
3. Piskies, or Pigseys,
4. The Buccas, Bockles, or Knockers,
5. The Browneys….”




“The Spriggans are quite a different class of beings. In some respects they appear to be offshoots from the family of the Trolls of Sweden and Denmark.  The Spriggans are found only about the cairns, coits, or cromlechs, burrows, or detached stones, with which it is unlucky for mortals to meddle.  A correspondent writes:  “This is known, that they were a remarkably mischievous and thievish tribe.   If ever a house was robbed, a child stolen, cattle carried away, or a building demolished, it was the work of the Spriggans.   Whatever commotion took place in earth, air, or water, it was all put down as the work of these spirits.

Wherever the giants have been, there the Spriggans have been also.  It is usually considered that they are the ghosts of the giants; certainly, from many of their feats, we must suppose them to possess a giant’s strength.

The Spriggans have the charge of buried treasure.”

Popular Romances of the West of England, Robert Hunt, 1871

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February’s Fury in Cornwall

Feb 6, 2014 by

February’s winter storms have been taking a heavy toll recently on the beautiful coastline of Cornwall, with forecasters saying the hurricane-force wind and waves will continue for at least two more days.   Here are pictures of the massive waves that have battered Cornwall in the past 24 hours, along with links to stories about the storm’s ongoing fury.



In Kingsand, a clock tower is in danger of collapsing after being battered by wavessource


Dramatic video from SkyNews of waves crashing along the walls of Mousehole, Cornwall:


Tiny houses versus giant waves in Cornwall

Tiny houses versus giant waves in Cornwall-source


Here’s video shot yesterday in Portleven:

In neighboring Devon (named for the Dumnonia Celts), the train tracks in Dawlish have been destroyed, effectively cutting off all rail links to Cornwall:


Railway collapse in Dawlish, Devon-source

Railway collapse in Dawlish, Devon-source

Video of Dawlish, taken yesterday:



For more pictures and information about these series of winter storms in Cornwall, try the following links:

Great blog with amazing pictures of stormy seas in Perranuthnoe and Porthleven:

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Top 10 Celtic Christmas Albums All Celts Should Own

Dec 4, 2013 by

Top 10 Celtic Christmas Albums All Celts Should Own

Here’s a joyful selection of traditional Celtic Christmas music for the holidays, featuring bagpipes and harps, carols and chants, Gaelic and Welsh and much more.  Click on the blue links for details about each album–most are available in CD and MP3 formats.


51qa4yUccoL._AA160_101 Welsh Carols & Christmas Songs

Welsh, like Cornish and Breton is a Brythonic/Brittonic language that is Celtic, but is not Gaelic, with a lilting, melodic quality that is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever hear.  This large collection of carols and songs in Welsh(most are just 1-2 minutes long) provides a rare  Christmas treat to all Celts, especially those with Welsh heritage.






Brittany Carols

The spirited L’Ensemble Choral du Bout (the Chorale Ensemble of the World’s End) formed in 1977 to preserve the Celtic musical heritage of Brittany, a Celtic region in northwest France. Comprised of two smaller regional choirs as well as singers from over 40 villages, the ensemble offers a lighter alternative to the slower, more solemn albums of Christmas church music. Recorded at Landévennec Abbey, this CD has an ancient, Celtic feel with instrumentation from flutes, claviers, bagpipes, guitar, and organ while often feeling contemporary during the livelier, melodious songs.





51t21lDygdL._AA160_The Virgin’s Lament

This album brings light and peace to my dark winter days every holiday season–Christmas and the Winter Solstice simply cannot be celebrated until I hear ” The Virgin’s Lament “.   Nóirín Ní Riain adds her lovely Irish soprano  to the monks of Glenstal Abbey in a collection of medieval Celtic religious songs in the sean nos or “old style” tradition–subtly varying enunciation and tempo. Singing in Gaelic and Latin Gregorian plainchant, Ní Riain’s voice delicately wavers and flies throughout Limerick’s Glenstal Abbey, creating an angelic and purely holy atmosphere.  Definitely one of the finest albums of sacred ancient Celtic music you will ever hear, and one you will want to share with friends and family.






51gKEP0Do5L._AA160_Duan Nollaig (A Gaelic Christmas)


A beautiful collection of Christmas songs, sung in Scots Gaelic by the talented singer songwriter Fiona MacKenzie, from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland.  It’s rare to get such a large collection of Scots Gaelic songs on an album–this one is a must-have for anyone who loves the native language of Scotland.




51BjyFlH2XL._AA160_Celtic Christmas Sampler

A Windham Hill collection that features holiday and winter songs by many well-known performers in the Celtic music genre. Fans who remember Planxty, the Bothy Band, Silly Wizard, and Capercaillie will embrace the performances here by individual members of those critically acclaimed and popular groups. Nightnoise singer Triona Ní Dhomhnaill, who was once described as one of the greatest voices of the century, sings a haunting piece called “Solus,” while her brother and former Bothy Band fiddler Kevin Burke create an enchanting place on “On a Cold Winter’s Day/Christmas Eve.”




51fDVo6uzQL._AA160_Chieftains Christmas

Probably the greatest Irish trad band of all time,  the Chieftains team up with rockers Jackson Browne and Elvis Costello, actor Burgess Meredith,  bluegrass musician Nanci Griffith and other celebs on this hugely popular and critically acclaimed  Christmas album.




41SVZKP4RYL._AA160_Wolcum Yule: Celtic and British Songs and Carols

Beautiful selection of 19 traditional songs from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, from ancient chants to more contemporary songs.  Featuring the group Anonymous 4, this disc includes a traditional Cornish wassail song, medieval chants, haunting numbers like “Flight into Egypt,” sung in Gaelic, and “Behold, here is the best morning,” sung in Welsh.






51JQ4SZ2VFL._AA160_  A Highland Christmas

A festive bagpipe extravaganza for those who love the sound of the Great Highland Pipes–and what Celt doesn’t?!




A Scottish Christmas

Fiddle virtuoso Bonnie Rideout,  Maggie Sansone, hammered dulcimer artist and  Eric Rigler, the Braveheart piper, join forces on this lovely collection of traditional Scottish carols, wassail tunes, strathspeys and reels.






414ZMF56QWL._AA160_Narada Presents: The Best of Celtic Christmas

A captivating double disc packed with fiddles, flutes, and Celtic music’s brightest stars! Ireland’s best-loved traditionalists sing their favorite Christmas carols on disc one (each tune features a different lead instrument or vocal): It Came upon a Midnight Clear Cathie Ryan; Get Me Through December Natalie MacMaster; The Snowy Path Altan; The Mummer’s Jig/Christmas Eve Boys of the Lough; Ding Dong Merrily on High Frankie Gavin & the Irish Chamber Orchestra; Christ Child’s Lullabye Kathy Mattea (yes, the American country singer!); Ceol NaNolag John Whelan, and more. Disc two highlights the award-winning Galway group Dordan with a collection of jigs and carols, many sung in Gaelic! 30 festive, thoughtful tunes in all.



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Top 5 Celtic Food Gifts Under $25

Dec 4, 2013 by

  • Top 5 Celtic Food Gifts Under $25

  • Looking for a Celtic food stocking stuffer or gift under $25? 

Click the blue links to find treats to satisfy any Celtic gourmand, without putting a dent in your holiday budget


1.  Scottish smoked salmon  St. James Scottish Reserve Gravelox- Unsliced Seasoned Smoked Salmon, Cured with Brandy, Fresh Chopped Dill, Salt & Sugar–smoked salmon with capers, cream cheese and cucumber slices are a New Year’s Eve tradition at our home–simple dee-vine!
2.  Irish Breakfast tea  Bewley’s Irish Breakfast Tea in decorative tin,  30 loose tea bags, no tags or strings.   Bewley’s is an old Irish company that has won numerous awards for its wonderful tea blends.  Their Breakfast Tea  is a deep golden brew that is a long-time favorite of mine.
3. Welsh Sea Salt Jar     Halen Môn Mon Pure Welsh Silver Finishing Sea Salt from Isle of Anglesey, Wales White, crunchy flaky crystals add an extra something to almost any food. Described by Henry Harris (former Head Chef at Harvey Nichols’ Fifth Floor Restaurant) as ‘…tasting of the cleanest oceans’, Halen Môn is a Soil Association Certified Product.
4. Cornish Gingerbread  Furniss Cornish gingerbreads in traditional old tube. These cookies are made to an original recipe from the company’s founder, John Cooper Furniss, dating back to 1886.   Crunchy, spicy and very, very tasty, it’s a gingerholic’s dream.
5.Breton Crepes  Gavottes Crispy Lace Crepes From France covered in Milk Chocolate–delicate, thin Breton lace crepes by Loc Maria are a fine crispy biscuit that has been made following a French traditional recipe handed down since 1920.  These crepes are covered in a fine layer of gourmet milk chocolate.They are perfect with coffee or tea.

5 Foods For Celts

5 Foods For Celts

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Halloween in Cornwall

Oct 29, 2013 by

Halloween in Cornwall is called Nos Kalan Gwav and is celebrated with both ancient Celtic traditions and newer Christian customs.

  October 31st is also known in Cornwall as Allantide (to English speakers), a festival linked to St Allen or Alanus, a minor Breton saint who may have come to Cornwall via Wales. Despite its Christianized name, however, Halloween in Cornwall  has ancient pagan origins.

The Cornish language name for the celebration is Kalan Gwav, meaning first day of winter, and Nos Kalan Gwav, meaning eve of the first day of winter, falls on October 31st, just like Samhain fests in other Celtic countries.


The most common symbol of Allantide is a large red apple.  Apples were given for good luck to everyone in the family, and to wish them good health as the cold winter days began. Apples were powerful symbols of fertility and bountiful harvests to the ancient Celts, so it’s not surprising that the fruit was appropriated by Christians for their Allan Day customs on October 31st:

THE ancient custom of providing children with a large apple on Allhallows-eve is still observed, to a great extent, at St Ives. “Allan-day,” as it is called, is the day of days to hundreds’ of children, who would deem it a great misfortune were they to go to bed on “Allan-night” without the time-honoured Allan apple to hide beneath their pillows. A quantity of large apples are thus disposed of the sale of which is dignified by the term Allan Market.

Popular Romances of the West of Britain, Robert Hunter, 1902.

Halloween in Cornwall sometimes included divination rituals using apples. Young girls wanting to know their future spouse would place the apple under their pillow, in hopes of dreaming about their Cornish prince.  As with other Celtic Samhain festivals, Halloween in Cornwall almost always included building fires.  Gathering around the local bonfire and offering apples to friends and visitors was customary, a tradition from a simpler time that has been lost in our modern era.  These days, I can’t imagine any parent letting a child accept an apple in lieu of wrapped Halloween candy.

Allan apples sometimes were used in games played during the celebrations.  In 19th century Penzance,  apples were hung from a wooden cross shape, decorated with lit candles, in a Cornish version of bobbing for apples:

A local game is also recorded where two pieces of wood were nailed together in the shape of a cross. It was then suspended with 4 candles on each outcrop of the cross shape. Allan apples would then be suspended under the cross. The goal of the game was to catch the apples in your mouth, with hot wax being the penalty for slowness or inaccuracy.

Folklore and Legends of Cornwall, M.A. Courtney, 1890


Why not grab some apples, sticks and candles and give this game a try on Nos Kalan Gwav? Be sure to buy large apples–your party guests will thank you. Besides, a little candle wax on the face seems a small price to pay to celebrate Halloween in true Cornish fashion.


One of my favorite Halloween songs is This is Halloween, from Tim Burton’s 1993 film The Nightmare Before Christmas. Here’s the song with CORNISH subtitles–Hemm yw Kalan Gwav!


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Apr 1, 2013 by

Waterfall in Cornwall (St Nectan’s Kieve)

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