What is Celtic Culture - J Craig Melia
Before we start to talk about `Celtic Culture` we ought to try to define what the term means.
A Culture is `the entire range of customs, social forms, beliefs, and material traits of a religious, social, or racial grouping.` That part is quite easy to understand.
Defining the other part is a little more tricky. The one definition that I can dismiss completely is the `Racial`. There is no such thing as a pure `Celtic` Racial grouping, Europe has spent all of recorded history becoming the most bastardized, inter-racial population in the world. Irish Grandparents don`t mean you`re Celtic.
Like most things in life the term `Celtic` is open to personal interpretation, and therefore a great deal of diversity in defining what the term means. On the whole though, the definitions fall into two main categories - that I term the `Historical`, and the `Linguistic'.
The first category describes the people who belonged to the vast number of tribes who in early historical times lived in western Europe, and their languages. Their religion is described as `Pagan`, and because of this, it is this category that attracts `New-Age` Pagans, Neo-Druids and Neo-Celts to `Celtic` Culture.
The second category refers to the language grouping `Celtic`, and its sub-groups, termed Celtic-P and Celtic-Q (Brythonic and Gaelic), and the people who speak or spoke those languages. Welsh, Gaelic (Scottish and Irish), Cornish, Manx, Brittainy and Galacian. The majority of Modern-day `Celtic` language speakers are Christian, however much of the mythology still lives in the folklore.
However, the two categories are quite obviously linked, indeed in reality they are one and the same. The only tangible factor that can be described as `Celtic` is the Linguistic Grouping, whether Ancient or Modern. But this causes huge problems when discussing an aspect of that culture as there is little commonality in space or time between this diverse grouping other that a basic root language.
This is why I think we need to find a consensus of what the term `Celtic` means. To the Academic mind the answer is simple, it is a term used to describe the peoples (Ancient or Modern) who spoke or speak a language belonging to a particular linguistic grouping. (Pause for breath!)
However there are many people out there who choose to use the term in a different light, whether racial, political, national or just as a nice peg to hang their beliefs on. The problem with this is that without any clear definition of what the term means, there is the danger of it becoming a useless word.
It does seem funny that we are trying to group people together, when they themselves would never have done so (though I can understand the academic reasons for doing so). The peoples whom we refer to as `Celts` would never have considered themselves as such (indeed, in the Academic sense the term has only been in use a few centuries) but as the `People of X` or the `Tribe of X`. If they thought of any sort of mass ethnic grouping they may have used the term `Arioi`.
The reason that the term has to be definable is so that we may make statements about a group of people who share a great many customs and traditions.
About the only term with which I personally would label myself would be `a human-being'. But then I`ve never liked labels! :)
J. Craig Melia - 1998