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Patti Wigington

What is "Celtic"?

By September 19, 2013

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A year or two ago, I put up a blog post about a Celtic calendar henge which had been located in the Black Forest of Germany. Shortly afterwards, I got an email from a reader who chastised me for calling it Celtic, because -- according to the reader -- the Celts are Irish and not German at all, and I should know better.

Um, no.

The word "Celtic" is used to apply to a group of related languages, found on both the European mainland and in what are now Ireland and Britain. So yes, you can find Celtic stuff in places other than Ireland -- and if the person who emailed me had actually READ the article she was criticizing, she'd have understood that.

At any rate, it did occur to me that there are probably a lot of people who are under misconceptions about what the term "Celtic" really does mean, in an academic and anthropological sense, so I decided this might make a good glossary sort of piece. If you're prowling around here at About Pagan/Wiccan and you see the word "Celtic" appear, this is where its roots are: What Do We Mean By "Celtic"?

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November 7, 2011 at 9:09 pm
(1) Rowan ferch Gwynedd says:

As I have always understood it, the Keltic people started off in or around India a VERY long time ago. I don’t remember the article I read but it was from an archeological source. There are many tribes that are considered to be of Keltic origin. As to why I spell it with a K, the Keltic language had no C. They used the k and the s only. After the christianization of the Kelts in the british isles they changed the k to a c. I am not sure as to why as I have never found any reliable information about it. I personally believe that it may have had something to do with the fact that they changed a lot of words to reflect the new religion and the word christ. There were so many tribes that are part of the Keltic world. The Gauls of France, Germany, and Switzerland. Some of the tribes migrated from Spain, There is some evidence of them integrating with the Vikings. There is also a lot of other tribes along the route that have Keltic origins.

November 10, 2011 at 6:38 pm
(2) Crystal Dawn says:

Way of the Druid: Renaissance of a Celtic Religion and its Relevance for Today by Graeme K. Talboys is a great book to learn the history of the Celts and as well as the history of Druidry. Much of what you said is covered. I haven’t read anything about spelling Celt differently, though, using K instead of C makes sense if wanting to be historically accurate.

November 11, 2011 at 3:22 pm
(3) Rowan ferch Gwynedd says:

The K instead of C comes from a study of the language. Not mine, but I belong to a group called the Society for Creative Anachronism and a large part of the group recreates Keltic personas and thus study it extensively. I read some of their articles and sat in on some interesting discussion groups and that is where I learned it. The C is used extensively after the conversion of the Welsh to christianity as well as some of the other Keltic tribes (Irish, Brittanic, Scots, etc.) as well as the Romans. The actual reasoning is my own, but it seemed to fit with other similar spellings and their reasons.

November 15, 2011 at 7:33 pm
(4) William says:

Sort of right. The Celts stem from the Indo-Europeans who originated in either the Russian steppes/Caucasus mountains or India, depending on who you read. Changing from “k” to “c” probably had something to do with Latin being the dominant language of the educated, where there is no “k” and “c” is always hard.

November 15, 2011 at 8:36 pm
(5) Rowan ferch Gwynedd says:

I do know that the Welsh Kelts used the K up until they converted to Christianity. Why I do not know. Maybe because they rejected the Romans.

November 8, 2011 at 10:39 am
(6) Ariasna says:

Very helpful article Patti! I am able to better understand exactly what Celtic means.

However I have one question. Where does the Gaelic language come from? Is this related in any way to the Gauls? Is “Gaelic” simply another word for “Gallic?”

If another reader could help me out, that would be awesome. I would like to see sources though so I can verify the information for myself.

November 8, 2011 at 4:18 pm
(7) krissy says:

The Roman empire referred to Celts as Gauls and then it became synonymous with France. You see a similar etymology in the nw areas of Spain where the Galicia region refers to its celtiberian heritage. I heard once that it was a reference to caelea the agriculture and ale goddess.

November 8, 2011 at 4:04 pm
(8) krissy says:

so glad that this knowledge is getting more mainstream. Its empowering to recognize that europe was a celtic continent and that the celts fought the romans everywhere to preserve their way of life. These tribes were well connected across large distances and that put a wrench in the romans pillage plans. Check out the book “Celt and Roman”

November 11, 2011 at 1:40 am
(9) Solitaire says:

Patti, great article. I, for one, have always included Europe into the Celtic region. My personal heritage is all over the area where Celtic people were once prevalent. As a result generally when people ask, “What are you?” I simply reply, I am a Celt! Because there are too many countries to name. :) Blessed Be.

September 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm
(10) Lisa Spangenberg says:

The Gauls were speakers of a family of Continental Celtic languages. People mostly refer to these languages as Gaulish, but technically, there are several different kinds of Gaulish, used in several different regions. We have a fair amount of written Gaulish, ranging from prayers, to funerary inscriptions to curses, mostly written on lead but some on stone.

September 22, 2013 at 4:45 pm
(11) Wicca Priest says:

This information is very useful thanks so much

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