What is a Celtic? The Celtic society was mostly based on class and kingship with society revolving around 3 groups, warriors, intellectuals and poets, not including the ordinary layman Celt. In this culture they did not write anything down, so clues as to their society comes from artwork and accounts by other cultures.
Coinage used by the Celts probably consisted mostly of axe-heads, bells and rings, as well as other bronze items. The Celts were usually seen as great bareback horseback riders and very fit with blonde hair, due to repeatedly washing their hair in lime water and also using lime soap as a kind of hair gel.
Interestingly, the Celtic men were quite open about being gay and many Celtic men preferred male lovers instead of women in many cases, the Celtic men also preferred to sleep together, rather than with women. Celtic men were reported to offer themselves to complete strangers and annoyed if their advances were rejected. Other accounts say that male bonding rituals may have been mistaken for gay behaviour.
So what is a Celtic person’s religion?
The human head was held as sacred by the Celts and if you had a human head on the table in your home, your neighbours would have been especially impressed. The heads were thought to have supernatural powers from beyond. They would cut off the heads of their enemies and attach them to the reins of their horses before embalming them in cedar oil to preserve them and keep them as trophies.
For criminals, they would often construct wicker men and fill the huge wicker contraptions with their enemies and set it alight. It is said that some people would throw themselves into the flames voluntarily to offer themselves to the many gods that the Celts worshipped.
Halloween comes from Celtic religion, where they believed that spirits (usually with human bodies but with animal heads) would rise from under the ground to haunt people on that day.
The Celts were situated between lands stretching between the British Isles all the way to Gallatia. There were six Celtic languages spoken by the Celts in total, depending on the location of the tribe. The Celts were around way before Jesus and the arrival of Christianity and were mostly found in the Isle of Man, Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Cornwall and France.
The Celts were around in the ‘Iron Age’ and they usually lived in roundhouses made of daub (mud, straw and tail) with the roof being matted with straw. The centre of the roundhouse was where there was usually a fire for keeping warm and for cooking food.
The Celts would prefer to build their roundhouses on hill forts, which consisted of high walls and a deep ditch to fend off attackers more effectively.
Over 1000 Iron Age hill forts have been found to have existed in Wales alone.
The location would have been a place with good farmland and a reliable water source. The Celts main crop was corn and they kept pigs, goats, horses and sheep.
These hill forts didn’t do much in the way of keeping back the Roman invasion however. The Romans were more advanced in their knowledge of warfare. The Celts stuck together in their individual tribes, whereas the Romans fought together as a well organised team. The Romans had tactics that were way ahead of the fearsome all out charge with aggression that the Celts used.
The Celts loved brightly coloured clothes, and tartan from Scotland was probably born from Celtic fashion. They even painted their bodies with colourful paint to produce patterned decorations. If you happened to be an important member of the tribe, you would probably wear a gold, silver or iron torc, again decorated with patterns.
The Celtic soldiers would tie their hair back or sometimes spike their hair up. If you were a very important soldier you would probably be sporting a bronze helmet. Celtic soldiers would paint patterns on their shields. What the Celts lacked in writing systems they made up for in art. They were arguably one of the most artistic cultures around.
The Celts had multiple gods and goddesses and would offer sacrifices to the gods. They would even throw weapons and gifts into rivers or lakes or any place that they considered sacred. The Druids were the Celts’ priests and were very well respected.
Not much is known about the Druids, as the Romans tried to extinguish any power that the Druids had.
After Roman occupation the Celts and Romans often clashed as the two cultures were quite different. However, after a few generations, Celts began marrying Romans and many Celts adopted the Roman language, education system and lifestyle. The Romans built excellent road systems and ports, advanced the Celtic lifestyle and changed it in many ways.
So what is a Celtic now in modern times?
After 400 years of occupation by the Romans, it is nice to see that Celtic tradition still lives on in Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. Many people even still regard themselves as Celts, albeit mostly dreadlocked-haired, new age individuals playing acoustic guitars and wearing Bob Marley T-shirts 😉