The Hill of Tara

Tara started out as Neolithic site, with a Neolithic passage tomb, called The Mound of Hostages, built around 3200 BC and holding the graves of over 300 individuals. Then, in the early Bronze age, some thousand years later, a giant ‘woodhenge’ was built on the hilltop to surround the passage tomb. The Celtic period begins with the Iron Age, starting roughly around 500 BC. Several large enclosures were built on the hill, the largest of which, The Enclosure of the Kings, had a circumference of 1000 meters. Another two structures were built in a figure eight—one called Cormac’s house and a second that is the royal seat. It is at this point that Tara unites history and religion. In Celtic mythology, Tara was the capital of the Tuatha de Dannan, the Irish gods, and its Neolithic passage tomb was seen Read more…

The Celtic City of Glanum

The Celts in France were known to the Romans as Gauls, though in their own language they called themselves Celtae and are the origin of the name that came to be applied to all the peoples who shared their language and culture. The city of Glanum was established by the 6th century BC when the villagers built ramparts on the hills surrounding their village to protect themselves from invaders. The hallmark of the town was a sacred spring known for its healing powers and was dedicated to the Celtic water god, Glanis, one of several Celtic gods worshipped in the city. Archaeologists view the city as having a vibrant Celtic culture, using characteristic pottery, cooking utensils (boiling rather than frying), and a penchant for displaying the heads of their enemies at the city gate. As with the Britons, we know Read more…

The Celts in Wales

The Irish, Welsh, and Scots all have a Celtic ancestry, but they settled their respective regions before the Roman conquest of Britain.  There is an amazing amount of debate as to the origin of the Celts:  were they Phoenician?  stocky and dark?  tall and blonde?  as culturally cohesive as the label suggests?   The standard theory is that the Celts were an Indo-European group that gradually migrated across Europe and Asia, with an identifiable, distinct culture by 750 BC.  As a group, they were well-known to the Greeks and Romans.  The map to the right shows the migrations of the celtic (or proto-celtic) groups around 1000 BC.   Note the expansion of the Celts in particular between 500 and 200 BC into the British Isles.  The Welsh tribes in particular consisted of the Ordovices, the Deceangli, the Gangani, the Demetae, and the Silures. http://archaeology.suite101.com/article.cfm/archaeology_and_the_celts “History Read more…

Bwlch y Ddeufaen

Bwlch y Ddeufaen is the a pass along the ancient road from Caerhun to Aber. The topography of North Wales is such that no significant road could run along the coastline due to the cliffs that come right down to the Irish Sea. Thus, from ancient times, the people of Wales used a road that crossed the Conwy River at Caerhun and headed into the hills, reaching a pass marked by two standing stones on either side of the road. The road then descended out of the hills, arriving at Aber and was then able to follow the road west towards Bangor and Caernarvon. Even the Romans found the topography impossible and chose to improve the ancient British/Celtic road rather than build an entirely new one closer to the coast. 1000 years later, the Normans faced the same difficulties. It Read more…

The Sidhe

The Sidhe (pronounced shee), are the god-like beings of Celtic society.  Sometimes conflated with the Tuatha de Danaan, this site (http://www.shee-eire.com/magic&mythology/fairylore/Sidhe/page%201.htm) posits that they were a real people that were descended from the Tuatha de Danann.  “The people known as “The Sidhe” or people of the mounds, or “The Lordly Ones” or “The Good People” were descended from the “Tuatha de Danann” who settled in Ireland millennia ago .”  “Clearly the belief in the sidhe is part of the pre-Christian religion which survived for thousands of years and which has never been completely wiped out from the minds of the people. . . .The sons of Mil fought them in battle and defeated them, driving them ‘underground’ where it is said they remain to this day in the hollow hills or sidhe mounds . . . The sidhe of the Read more…

Welsh Faeries

The Welsh had a pantheon of gods and goddesses before the coming of the Romans.  With the defeat of the druids and the extermination of their sites on Anglesey, the druid religion in Wales went into decline–and perhaps that is the reason there are relatively few Welsh gods and goddesses compared to the Irish, whose religion flourished during the Dark Ages and also developed a unique form of Christianity alongside it. Within the belief system, faeries, or Tylwyth Teg, the modern designation, had a role, divisible into five classes:  the Ellyllon, or elves, the Coblynau, or mine fairies, the Bwbachod, or household fairies, the Gwragedd Annwn, or fairies of the lakes and streams; and the Gwyllion, or mountain fairies.  http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/wfl/wfl02.htm Ellyllon:  “The Ellyllon are the pigmy elves who haunt the groves and valleys, and correspond pretty closely with the English elves. Read more…

Demons of the Ancient World

The Dark Age Celts had their share of supernatural creatures within the various mythologies (Welsh/Brittany/Ireland/Scotland), in addition to the pantheon of actual gods and goddess (for Wales, see Children of Don; Children of Llyr:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-sidhe/). Here are some notable demons from Celtic mythology: Cwn Annwn (Welsh hellhounds):  Yes, they really do exist outside of the TV show, Supernatural (great show, by the way.  Watch it at Netflix).  The Cwn Annwn are the hunting dogs of Arawn, Lord of the Otherworld and are associated with the Welsh form of the Wild Hunt.  “The Cwn Annwn resemble small wolves. The pack leader, Fflyddmyr, is black while the other three hounds are white with red-tipped ears. Their abilities include super-speed and super-strength.”  http://otherworldseries.wikia.com/wiki/C%C5%B5n_Annwn The Fomori:  “In Celtic mythology, the Fomori are demons that live in the impenetrable darkness of the sea’s depths and in lakes and Read more…

The Pillar of Eliseg

The Pillar of Eliseg is a 9th century tribute to Eliseg, a king of Powys.  “The first mentioning is an indirect one: the Brut y Tywysogion mentions that the Abbey of Valle Crucis was founded in A.D. 1200 ‘near the old cross in Yale‘. This so-called fragmentary free-standing pillar-cross stands in a field overlooking the ruined Valle Crucis Abbey (SJ 2142), a few miles from Llangollen in Clywd (former Denbighshire), en route to Horse-Shoe Pass. … The Pillar inspired the name Valle Crucis (Valley of the Cross). It was once erected by Cyngen, Prince of Powys for his great-grandfather Elise or Eliseg. The cross was defaced, thrown down and broken by Cromwell’s troops in the 17th century, hence the ‘pillar-shape’ now. This pillar stands on a large artificial mound where it was re-erected in 1779. At that time the mound Read more…