The Irish Vampire and Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’

Leannán sí

Talk of Vampires rarely makes you think of Ireland and the other Celtic nations. A Vampire is that creature, associated with the undead, who survives by feeding on the blood or life forces of living creatures. It is an entity that has survived in legend over centuries in many cultures.

However, such creatures in one form or another do exist in Gaelic folklore. There is the Irish leannán sí; known in Scottish Gaelic as leannan sìth and in Manx as lhiannan shee. This is a beautiful woman belonging to the Aos Sí which is the Otherworld community whose world was reached through mists, hills, lakes, ponds, wetland areas, caves, as well as the ancient Neolithic and Bronze Age burial sites, cairns and mounds found all over Celtic Northwestern Europe. The Aos Sí are associated with the Tuatha Dé Danann who are a significant feature in Irish, Scottish and Manx mythology and were Celtic pre-Christian gods with supernatural ability. The leannán sídhe was said to take human lovers and then inspired them to live gifted and artistically creative lives. But their lives were short as the leannán sídhe needed to live off their life force and the love of this beautiful creature resulted in them wasting away and meeting an early death.

Interview with Peter Berresford Ellis

By popular demand we have re-featured this exclusive interview with Peter Berresford Ellis, originally published on January 29, 2013.

Transceltic are delighted to interview Peter Berresford Ellis, the well renowed Celtic historian and author of the international bestselling Sister Fidelma historical mysteries under his pseudonym of Peter Tremayne. We put the following questions to Peter:

Peter Berresford Ellis

1. How do you see the future of the Celtic languages?

In spite of the achievements of the last decades, there is no room for complacency when examining the current situation and looking to the future. Coming from the 1960s perspective when Welshmen and women were going to jail in their campaign to gain status for Welsh; when the Cornish who proclaimed their Celticity were sneered at as fantasists dreaming of the second coming of King Arthur; when Scottish Gaelic speakers could not even register their children in the language … well – times have moved on. Since the 1960s there has been some legal recognition given to the Celtic languages and through this there is a more widespread knowledge of the languages and their historic, cultural and social value. But the fact remains, they are still endangered languages. Look at recent Census figures for Welsh as an example. There is no easy acceptable programme to ensure their salvation.  It comes down to hard work – we must publicise, educate and encourage. There is a pithy saying in each of the six Celtic languages – no language, no nation!

2.  What do you see as the future of the Pan Celtic movement?

Pan Celticism has its roots in the history of the Celtic peoples – links that can be identified even if, at the time, they were not articulated as a common identity. Remember how the Romans were aware of this? They asked the Celts of southern Gaul to contact the Celts of Galatia (modern central Turkey) to persuade them not to support Hannibal. But as a specific cultural movement linking the different Celtic peoples, this did not start until the 19th Century and (ironically) in the wake of the publication of a book by the Breton language poet Charles de Gaulle (1837-1880) the uncle of General de Gaulle.

Let's Rally to Save The Planet - Why It's Central to Our Celtic Soul

Raad ny Foillan, Mannin / Isle of Man

Numerous individuals and organisations around the world seek to protect nature and also alert the world to the grave environmental threats facing the planet. Protecting and caring for land, sea and freshwater environments has never been more important. This is a subject that applies wherever you live; and particularly for the Celtic peoples and those of Celtic descent. Our landscape, seas and geographic location has played a pivotal role in our history, beliefs and recognition of ourselves. For 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. We Celts cannot but be responsible for the protection of nature and the environment. Our ancestors demand it of us and if you delve into your Celtic soul you will hear that deep voice that says ‘protect the environment’. Wherever it is in the world in which you live or work, listen to that voice within and act upon it.

Celtic fish

That need to act is crucial because we have now reached a critical point in this planet's existence. You just have to open your eyes to the changes in climate and the major problems resulting from population growth to realise this. Evidence continues to build and there are a number of studies that point to the issues involved. For example there is the 2014 Living Planet Report by the World Wildlife Fund in regard to wildlife populations having halved in the last 40 years. The report states that "the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity globally comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by unsustainable human consumption". Humans are also on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans. This is according to a Study recently published in the journal Science. In regard to temperature changes a Center for Economic and Policy Research report warns that "an additional 1 per cent point of population growth through 2100 may coincide with an additional 2 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature". Global greenhouse gas emissions are also set to hit record levels in the coming period.

Brigid - Celtic Goddess To Christian Saint - The Feast of Imbolg

During the period of Christian conversion of Ireland in the 4th and 5th centuries, it was the strategy of monastic scholars to ensure an easy transition from Celtic to Christian belief. The disciples of Saint Patrick successfully deceived the Celts into thinking that the new faith of Rome was a mere extension of their traditional religion.

Christian missionaries incorporated elements of the peoples veneration of the Celtic Gods into Christian doctrine. The often used example of this religious shift is the fate of Brigid. Brigid was deftly transformed from a daughter of ‘The Dagda’ of the Tuatha Dé Danann into the Saint of the same name. In the early tales of the Christian Saint, Brigid is portrayed as the daughter of a Druidical household before her embrace of the new religion. The Druids were the priests of the pagan Celtic religion but were also akin to today’s upper middle classes: “The Druids were the professionals of pre Christian Celtic society. They comprised all the professions – doctors, lawyers, teachers, philosophers, ambassadors...(and priests of the Celtic Faith)” (Ellis). Thus with her conversion to Christianity, Brigid abandons the Celtic Gods and their priests, the Druids. To reinforce this transition the early church adopted the feast day of the Celtic Goddess Brigid, or Imbolg, to the feast day of the Christian saint.

Dydd santes dwynwen hapus - Happy St Dwynwen’s Day

St Dwynwen's Church

St Dwynwen’s Day (Welsh: Dydd Santes Dwynwen) falls on 25th January every year. People all over Wales celebrate St Dwynwen's Day, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. St Dwynwen is the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine. Dwynwen - whose names translates to "she who leads a blessed life" - still enjoys great popularity throughout Wales, particularly in her home of Anglesey (Welsh: Ynys Môn). Whilst the date is not widely known outside of Wales it has become increasingly popular in recent times. In Wales special events commemorating St Dwynwen’s day are held. Dydd santes dwynwen hapus (Happy St Dwynwen’s Day) to everyone celebrating on this special date.

It was said Dwynwen was the prettiest of Welsh King Brychan Brycheiniog's twenty-four daughters. Her father had arranged for her to marry, but she fell in love with another man; a prince named Maelon Dafodrill. Dwynwen knew she had to follow her father’s wishes and though it broke her heart prayed to God and asked for help to forget Maelon. She was visited by an angel as she slept who gave her a potion to erase her memory of feelings for Maelon and turn him into a block of ice.

Up Helly Aa 2015. A celebration of Shetland’s Viking Heritage

Burning Viking Ship

Shetland (Scottish Gaelic: Sealtainn), also called the Shetland Islands, lie to the north-east of Scotland. The islands are some 50 miles (80 km) to the northeast of Orkney and 170 miles (280 km) southeast of the Faroe Islands forming part of the division between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the North Sea to the east. This is also where Scotland meets Scandinavia.

In 2000/2001 DNA sampling  in Shetland and Orkney people were found to have a strong Viking genetic heritage with 60 per cent of the male population having DNA of Norwegian origin. The remainder of the area’s population was identified as similar to the Ancient Britons, with no evidence of Anglo-Saxon or Danish influences. It is also a place of great beauty where of the more than one hundred islands just 15 of them are inhabited; it is a noted haven for wildlife.

In Lerwick, the capital of Scotland's Shetland Islands, a fire festival named Up Helly Aa is held every January. Other smaller such festivals are also held on other parts of the Shetland Islands.

Illiam Dhône Commemoration 2015 - Mannin (Isle of Man)

Illiam Dhone

This years Illiam Dhône commemoration took place on 2nd January 2015. It was close to the location of Hango Hill that Manx National hero Illiam Dhône was shot on 2nd January 1663. Hango Hill is also possibly a prehistoric burial site with an artificial mound. Its name comes from the Norse 'Hanga-Haugr', meaning Gallows Hill. Illiam Dhône (14 April 1608 - 02 January 1663) was a Manx nationalist and politician, who was executed by firing squad at Hango Hill in the Isle of Man on 2nd January 1663 for his part in the Manx Rising of 1651. The name Illiam Dhône means "Brown William" in English, a name that was given to him because of his hair colour. His name in English was William Christian. Illiam Dhône was appointed Receiver General of the Isle of Man in 1648.

This years event was held on a very bright and cold winters day. The days proceedings were introduced by Bernard Moffatt, Director of Information for The Celtic League. The oration in Manx Gaelic was given by Cesar Joughin. Cesar is the son of well known Manx musicians Greg and Hilary Joughin. The oration in English was given by Alastair Kneale, President of Yn Cheshaght Vanninagh Lunnin (London Manx Society) and contributor. Mark Kermode of Mec Vannin (the Manx nationalist party) talked of the need for the Manx government to change course from the programme of austerity which they have followed for a number of years now and to act in the best interests of ordinary Manx people.

"That’s Just How It Was" by Mary Thorpe

We highly recommend "That’s Just How It Was" by Mary Thorpe. This deeply moving, personal account paints a vivid picture of what life was really like in Ireland during the late part of the Nineteenth Century and early part of the Twentieth Century. Mary writes about the struggles and determination of her grandmother Bridget O’Rourke, who overcame many difficulties during the turbulant times leading up to Ireland's independence. 

We feel that that Mary's book holds a particular interest for the descendants of those who left Ireland during this period.

Mary was interviewed recently about her book and you can watch it here on Youtube:

Cashtal Purt ny h-Inshey as yn Moddey Doo - Peel Castle and the Moddey Doo: A Manx Story of the Supernatural

Peel Castle

‘Ta scanjoon 'sy cashtal shen! Drogh - cur twoaie da (That castle is haunted! Evil - beware of it)!’ Jimmy, looked down at the old woman who was clasping his arm with her cold, boney, white purple veined hands. Bright blue intense eyes stared into his, piercing like shards of Nordic ice. Her warning in Manx Gaelic was clear and there could be no mistaking that the message was meant to be taken seriously. Not sure about how to respond, he watched as she walked away from the entrance of the castle and across the narrow breakwater that separates St Patrick's Isle (Manx: Ellan Noo Perick) on which Peel Castle (Manx: Cashtal Purt ny h-Inshey) stood from the town of Peel (Manx: Purt ny h-Inshey) on the Isle of Man (Manx: Mannin). 

Oh well! That was one thing about the Manx, superstition ran deep within them and always had. After all, he was a born and bred Manxman so he should know. This castle did have stories of ghosts attached to it. But then so did many of the sites they had visited in all of the Celtic lands. Manx views of supernatural entities should not have surprised him really. However, he had been off the Island for many years now and forgotten how deep they were embedded in peoples psyche here. Work had taken him abroad and he had spent the last ten years living in New Zealand. A place of outstanding beauty and perfect for his passion for photography. Mannin always drew him back though. It is the same with all Manx people; a connection to their homeland that could never be broken. Just like with all of the Celtic peoples he had met around the world; a sense of belonging to these ancient lands on the very edge of northwest Europe.

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