The Natural Wonder of the Manx Glens


The Isle of Man is well known for its many glens. Glen is a word from the Celtic Goidelic language (gleann in Scottish and Irish Gaelic, glion in Manx).  There are many mountain and coastal glens spread around the Isle of Man (Manx Gaelic: Mannin), as many as 120. These beautiful ‘V’ and ‘U’-shaped and often wood sided valleys have been carved over millions of years by glacial erosion and the water that constantly flows toward the sea from the Manx mountains and hills. A series of these glens are known as the Manx National Glens that are preserved and maintained by a department of the Manx government; access is free to everyone. They are noted havens of peace and tranquillity with tumbling waterfalls, deep swirling rock pools and abundant vegetation. Particularly in the 19th century, paths were laid, bridges built, and extensive tree planting carried out that enhanced the natural beauty and gave easier access to those who visited these remarkable places.

Return Home of The Viking Lewis Chessmen

Lewis Chessmen

In 1831 a Viking hoard was discovered by Malcolm Macleod near Uig, Lewis (Scottish Gaelic: Leòdin) in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Leòdhas, Na h-Eileanan Siar, Alba) . This hoard contained 93 carvings: one buckle, 14 pieces of a game called tables and 78 medieval chess pieces. The chess pieces were found in a sand dune where they seem to have been placed in a small, drystone chamber. The Norse beautifully crafted chess pieces, found in near pristine condition except for some discolouration, were made from walrus tusks and whale teeth and date from sometime between 1150-1200 AD. There is some discussion about whether the set was made in Norway or Iceland.

Isle of Lewis

Nobody knows how the pieces came to be buried in the sand in the Isle of Lewis. However, we do know that at the approximate time the chessmen were made the Isle of Lewis belonged to the Kingdom of Norway. The Viking interventions in this area began in the 8th century AD. The Islands of Scotland and the Isle of Man formed the Northern and Southern Isles. The Northern Isles of Shetland and Orkney were known to the Norse as Norðreyjar. The Southern Isles forming the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles (sometimes known as The Kingdom of the Isles) consisting of the Hebrides, the islands in the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Man were known as Suðreyjar. Lewis was part of this Kingdom of Mann and the Isles and so the Lewis chessmen date from the time of Viking rule.

Redruth International Mining and Pasty Festival 2015

Redruth International Mining and Pasty Festival

The old Cornish mining town of Redruth in Cornwall once again celebrates its ever popular Mining and Pasty Festival with celebrations taking place from Friday 11th September until Sunday 13th September, 2015.

The Mining and Pasty Festival is a three day event celebrating the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Redruth through pasties, mining and music.  The event is focussed around the town centre and is completely free to attend.

Friday 11th, which is Miners’ Day, sees Murdoch House opened, the home of the Scottish engineer and inventor William Murdoch (21 August 1754 – 15 November 1839) with themed displays touching on Redruth’s close links with Real del Monte in Mexico where many Cornish miners made their home in search of mining work and with research material made available by the Cornish Global Migration Project.

Kresen Kernow - The Cornish Studies Centre is hosting events staged by the Trevithick Society highlighting the industrial trailblazers of Redruth and including a tour of the new multi million pound Cornish National Library and Archive Centre development currently under construction whilst the town centre will be alive with music and tales from the past including one of a miner who auctioned off his wife and emigrated!

The Importance Of The Hare In Celtic Belief And Our Duty To Protect All Wildlife

Hare on old Irish three pence

Landscape, seas and geographic location plays a pivotal role in Celtic peoples history, beliefs and recognition of themselves. Our culture tells us that we are part of and completely tied to the lands in which we live and the sea that surrounds us. Consequently, as might be expected, Celtic mythology and folklore place the natural world at centre stage. In these stories everything in nature possess a spirit and presence of their own, including mountains, rocks, trees, rivers and all things of the land and the sea. Also forming part of the landscape and stretching back into the mists of time are the cairns, mounds and standing stones that are to be found everywhere in the Celtic lands of northwestern Europe. So accepted as a natural feature that they are seen as creations not of man but of nature or even the supernatural entities that were thought to live alongside the world known to humans.

Cairn L

Megalithic monuments were not placed in a random way but were large ceremonial complexes constructed for specific purposes. We can deduce that astronomical alignments, both solar and lunar, were important factors in the positioning of these remarkable structures. Our ancestors thought the constellations gave a special meaning to the world. Stone circles, cairns, other types of ancient stone monuments and Neolithic carvings have shown the Celts to be advanced astronomers. Ancient stones and tombs are placed in a way that capture moments of astronomical importance. According to archeologists the ancient Irish were the first to record a solar eclipse 5,354 years ago. A geometric etching illustrating the eclipse is thought to lie inside the Cairn L. This is one of the two large focal monuments on Cairnbane West outside Kells in Ireland’s County Meath. The carving of concentric circles and lines is at the back of the chamber of the cairn. As reported in a recent article in the Irish Post:

Constance Markievicz - first woman elected as a British Member of Parliament (MP)

The first woman to be elected to the British House of Commons was Constance Georgine Markievicz, Countess Markievicz.  She was elected as a Sinn Féin representative for Dublin St Patrick's in December 1918. In 1918 the Irish general election was part of the United Kingdom general election and Sinn Féin won an overwhelming majority of Irish seats. Along with other Sinn Féin members she did not take her seat in the House of Commons. After their landslide victory (Sinn Féin having won 73 out of the 105 Irish seats) they went on to form Dáil Éireann. The 'First Dáil' was convened in January 1919 when the War of Irish Independence began. At that meeting on 21st January 1919 the 'Declaration of Independence' was adopted asserting the Dáil as the parliament for the sovereign state of the Irish Republic covering the whole of Ireland. Constance Markeivicz was one of a number of Sinn Féin representatives in prison at the time of the first Dáil session.

She was born Constance Georgine Gore-Booth on 4th February 1868 the daughter of Sir Henry Gore-Booth. He was an Anglo-Irish landlord who was noted for providing free food to his tenants during the Irish famine of 1879 (subsequent to the Great Famine 1845-1852). Informed by this stance Constance Gore-Booth developed a concern for the poor, social justice and the cause of Irish nationalism that had a profound impact on the rest of her life.

She married Polish Count Casimir Markeivicz in 1900 and became Countess Markeivicz.  Increasingly involved in the cause of Irish nationalism she joined Sinn Féin and then Inghinidhe na hÉireann (the radical Irish women's organisation). Constance Markeivicz was an active campaigner for women's suffrage. During these turbulent times in the struggle for Irish liberation her radical views drew her into new ventures and she was one of a small group who formed Fianna Éireann, a nationalist youth group giving paramilitary training. Constance Markeivicz also joined socialist James Connelly's Irish Citizens Army.

Lughnasa - The Celtic Harvest Festival

Celtic Symbol

The last Celtic Feast day of the year is Lughnasa, the harvest festival named after the Celtic God Lugh. God of the sun, light and harvests, Lugh was a great warrior. According to the Ulster Cycle he fathered the legendary Cú Chulainn and is linked to a number of sites in Ireland. Lugh spent part of his childhood in the Isle of Man where he was trained by Manannán mac Lir, said to be first ruler of the Isle of Man. Legend has it that Lir fostered and trained Lugh on Man before Lugh was sent back to Ireland. Lugh is always portrayed as youthful, handsome and athletic.

Traditionally celebrated on the first of August, Lughnasa is the fourth and last of the Feast days of the Celtic year. The three Celtic Feast days preceding Lughnasa include the Celtic New Year of Samhain (Halloween) on November 1st, Imbolg on February 1st which has become the Feast Day of St. Brigid but was originally the day of devotion to the Celtic Goddess of the same name and Beltane celebrated on 1st of May. Beltane is viewed by most scholars as being unique amongst the Celtic feast days in that Beltane observances have survived in essentially archaic form in to modern times due in part to its simplicity in that the celebrations historically included the lighting of bonfires.

Lughnasa is the least known of the four feast days and is described by James MacKillop in his “Dictionary of Celtic Mythology" as follows:

Lughnasa may be the least perceptible in the industrial, secular society, but we know more about its ancient roots than any of the other three. The significance of Lughnasa began to fade and the date on which the shadows of the ancient harvest festival was celebrated began to be moved to suit its connection with modern, often Christian, celebrations observed at about the same time of year. The Christian Church did not oppose the continuation of the festival marking the beginning of the harvest…..but the different names applied to it obscured its pagan origin.

Faeries, Fraud and Frenzies: The Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology by Dr James MacKillop

Book of Kells

Celtic Mythology is a foundation stone supporting, along with the language, music and dance, our collective Celtic identity.  “The Oxford “Dictionary of Celtic Mythology” by Dr. James MacKillop can be considered one of our primary reference texts. The author is a former Professor of English at Syracuse University, former visiting Fellow in Celtic Languages at Harvard University and is past president of the American Conference for Irish Studies.

Published by Oxford University Press in 1998, this work boasts over 4,000 alphabetised entries on deities, sacred places and the personalities associated with the Celtic revival and ancient texts. The entries are presented in a range from succinct definitions to comprehensive narratives. Included is a brief and lucid “Pronunciation Guide” to the modern Celtic languages. The modern Celtic tongues have branched  over the millennia in to two language groups.  This guide sets apart the Goidelic pronunciations of Manx, Scottish Gaelic and Irish versus that of the Brythonic pronunciations of Cornish, Breton and Welsh.

Celtic Mythology is rooted in the Oral traditions of the six Celtic nations and in surviving manuscripts.  Too few texts have survived the savagery and wanton destruction directed at the Celts over the centuries during the emergence of the modern nation states of England and France. The surviving written Celtic source documents are due to accidents of history and geography, mainly Irish and Welsh in origin.  The reasons for this are deftly placed into context by MacKillop in the introduction: “The phrase ‘Celtic texts’ in this volume refers primarily to those written in the Irish and Welsh languages.  Irish is the oldest written vernacular in Europe, with a literary tradition possibly beginning in the sixth century, with the coming of the Christian scribes, that has produced hundreds of narratives. Written Irish-language literary traditions survived the coming of the Anglo-Normans (1169), the flight of the native aristocracy (1607), Cromwellian pogroms (the 1650s) and in to the eighteenth century. Welsh literary traditions, for all its artistic splendour begins several centuries later, long after Christianity was well established and exists in much smaller volume.  A third, much more modest written tradition exists in Gaelic Scotland, related to old Irish...and continued by distinguished seventeenth and eighteenth century bards.”

The Thistle - Scotlands Proud Floral Emblem

Scottish thistle

The purple thistle has been Scotland's national emblem for centuries. Amongst the identifiable symbols of things associated with Scotland the thistle probably ranks alongside tartan. Heather is also thought of as a symbol of Scotland and wearing a sprig of heather is believed to bring good luck. However, the thistle is used by all kinds of organisations across Scotland as an emblem. It has also been seen as a royal symbol since James III used it on silver coins in 1470. James III (10 July 1451 – 11 June 1488) was proclaimed King of Scotland at the age of 8, following the death of his father James II. He was killed at the Battle of Sauchieburn in Stirlingshire on 11 June 1488. Common throughout the highlands, islands and lowlands of Scotland, the thistle has earned a special place in the heart of Scottish people.

The Isle of Man and Cornwall join forces for major presentation in Brittany this August

Festival Interceltique poster

Press Release from Culture Vannin:

It's a huge year for the Isle of Man at Europe’s largest Celtic festival, Festival Interceltique Lorient in Brittany this August. Sharing the status of ‘honoured nations’ with fellow Celtic nation, Cornwall, this is the first time that the Isle of Man has been the main focus of the 45 year old festival. Isle of Man volunteer delegate, Ealee Sheard, has been working with the main financial supporter on the Island, Culture Vannin, to prepare an impressive showcase of all things Manx. IOM Arts Council has also provided a grant to ensure that the presentation is of the highest quality. The majority of the funding for the performers is coming from the Festival’s own budget and the whole presentation is a partnership between the Isle of Man and Cornwall.

A delegation of over 100 musicians & dancers will represent the Isle of Man, including Barrule, Ny Fennee, Ruth Keggin, Rushen Silver Band, Caarjyn Cooidjagh, Russell Gilmour, Strengyn, Mec Lir and many others. Attracting over 800,000 visitors and 325 journalists from all over Europe, the 2015 festival will centre around a pavilion and stage presented by the Isle of Man and Cornwall. Key events are televised to millions across France. Peter Young from Event Management Solutions is managing the pavilion presentation for Culture Vannin, and has been working with the Cornish delegation to design a venue which will represent both the unique and shared qualities of our two nations through food and drink, culture, heritage, language, arts and crafts, and tourist information. The pavilion stage will have a packed schedule of Manx and Cornish acts, some of which will also be involved in officially programmed performances in other festival venues. There will be two major Manx/Cornish gala events in the Grand Theatre and Espace Marine, and a featured segment within the popular Nuits Interceltiques – an extravaganza of music, dance, film and fireworks. The Festival committee has also planned a TT themed event, which will attract riders from the region, so a really broad cross-section of Manx culture will be promoted. Angela Byrne, Head of Tourism, visited the festival last year:

Just walking around the festival, it’s the energy, it’s the whole eclectic mix of so many different nations that have come together under a common theme – it’s fantastic, I’ve never been to anything like it!


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