Celtic Culture & heritage

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.

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!

Glen Innes 2015 Australian Celtic Festival Resounding Success

Emmanuel College Pipe Band

This year saw the 23rd Australian Celtic Festival at Glen Innes. Record numbers flocked to the New South Wales town of Glen Innes to experience this very unique festival celebrating the music, song, dance and culture of all the Celtic Nations. The main events of the festival took place between the 30th April to 3rd May. Glen Innes is a town known for its friendly people and welcoming atmosphere. Celts from all over Australia celebrated along with locals and tourists from abroad. A street parade, concerts and events taking place all over Glen Innes demonstrate how much this warm hearted town has embraced this wonderful festival of all things Celtic. Each year there is a featured Celtic Nation and this year it was Wales (Cymru). Next year 2016 will celebrate the Isle of Man (Mannin).

Albannach: Scottish-Celtic Culture Warriors

Albannach

To celebrate the Scottish National Party's landslide victory in the UK's 2015 General Election, we are re-featuring some of our favourite Scottish articles. This is our 2013 article on the mighty Scottish band Albannach, including an exclusive interview with the band's leader Jamesie Johnston.

Transceltic attended the 2013 Saint Augustine Celtic Music & Heritage Festival in Florida. The organisers proudly announced to us that the Headline act was the Scottish band "Albannach". Being curious to see this band which was unfamiliar to me and sensing the excitement of the crowd eagerly awaiting Albannach's arrival on stage, I watched as the band set up as the first performance of the festival. The only way to describe the impact when the performance began is as an assault on the senses. The energy of the drums juxtaposed against expert piping of band member Donnie MacNeil was transfixing. Not to put too fine a point on it I was stunned and the 30 minute set seemed to pass in an instant and at the conclusion the crowd went nuts. Having always suffered from a genetic predisposition to becoming slightly unbalanced at the sound of the Pipes, the ricochet of the pulsing tribal drum beat against the soaring mastery of the Piper left me spellbound. The organisers had placed Albannach as the first and last act for each of the two days which I soon realised was a successful tactic to build the excitement into the evening hours and the keep the crowds to the last.

The Cornish people have walked the world!

"If there is a hole anywhere on earth, you're sure to find a Cornishman at the bottom of it." *

It is commonly said that the Cornish are inward looking. Cornwall has even been described by some ill informed folks as the 'insular peninsula'. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The photograph below shows a group of Cornish Miners in South Africa c. 1900. The gentleman in the centre middle row is my maternal Great Great Grandfather.

Photo A: Cornish miners great great grandfather

A tin miner, he left Redruth in Cornwall on one Tuesday bound for mining work overseas.

Leaving his wife, a Bal Maiden (a mine surface worker), and child behind, he mined gold in South Africa, was conscripted into a town guard battalion in the Boer War and saw action and thereafter headed to Venezuela where he mined diamonds.

Possession and Culture in the Goidelic Languages

Possession in English Language

Ny Ta Lhiams, S'lhiats as Ny Ta Lhiats, Ta S'lhiams.

What's with Me is with You and What's with You is with Me.

Possession forms an important part of modern life in many cultures. We are, on a daily basis, reminded to buy things for ourselves. Upon purchase, in the English speaking world, we say that we "have" those things, that they are "ours". However, possessive expressions differ across languages and may reflect differing aspects of cultural attitudes and practices. To take a specific example, by looking at how our Celtic ancestors in the Goidelic speaking regions expressed possession we may be able to understand how their philosophy differed to the philosophy of the modern English speaking world. What seems to emerge is a difference of permanence vs transience, of seizing vs approaching.

Kernow, a land apart - Kernow, tyr dyberthys

St Piran's Day 2015, Redruth

Yth eson-ny an le-ma.(1)

The Cornish and Welsh are the oldest peoples on this island and as a proud Welshman I look forward to seeing Saint Piran’s flag flying with extra Celtic pride on March 5 next year.

-Stephen Williams MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government at Westminster, 24th April, 2014 on the announcement of formal recognition of the Cornish.

Having recently witnessed some 6,000 people process through the streets of Falmouth in Cornwall in memory of a much respected local beat police officer, PC Andy Hocking, who suddenly and tragically died aged 52, it has become increasingly apparent that Cornwall is a very special place. The procession ended with the singing of that ever popular Cornish anthem 'Trelawny' written as 'The Song of the Western Men' in 1824 by the Reverend R.S. Hawker. I don't suppose many other places in the British Isles would see such a thing. They certainly would not have sung this song.  Andy was a local man and a fine Cornishman. The singing of what has become widely recognised as the Cornish National Anthem was entirely appropriate.

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.

Pages

Subscribe to Celtic Culture & heritage