In Gaelic, the names of the four seasons date back to pre-Christian times: 1)
Earrach for "Spring," 2) Samhradh for "Summer," 3) Foghara for "Harvest" which
refers to Autumn, and 4) Geamhradh for "Winter."
The Druids, who were
occupied with magico-religious duties, were recruited from families of the
warrior class but ranked higher. Thus Caesar's distinction between Druides (man
of religion and learning), eques (warrior), and plebs (commoner) is fairly apt.
As in other Indo-European systems, the family was patriarchal.
Celtic Tree of Life
The basic economy of the Celts was mixed farming, and, except in times of
unrest, single farmsteads were usual.
Owing to the wide variations in terrain and climate, cattle raising was more
important than cereal cultivation in some regions.
CLOTHING - TEXTILES
Textiles in ancient times were fairly advanced. Weaving is a very basic
technology and was quite advanced as early as 5,000 BCE, and brightly colored
dyes were readily available. If we met our Celtic ancestors, they would probably
look as gaudy to us as they did to the Romans, since they were very fond of
bright colors and ornamentation.
There aren't a lot of textile remains found for Celtic clothing from
prehistoric times through the 16th century; we mostly have to rely on
manuscripts and descriptions of what was worn at various times. However, I will
make some educated guesses based on textile construction techniques from the few
Celtic finds available, as well as evidence from the bog finds in Denmark, which
could arguably be either Celtic or Teutonic. Obviously, fashions varied from
place to place and time to time, so Celtic clothing wasn't universally the same
in all places over the thousand or so years I'm spanning; however, similar
techniques of constructing and decorating clothing were used throughout Europe,
and results can be inferred from these.
Hill forts provided places of refuge, but warfare was generally open and
consisted of single challenges and combat as much as of general fighting.
ART - MUSIC
There are many modern 'politically correct' problems surrounding exactly what
is Celtic and what is not. The most common error is to talk of 'Celtic
knotwork', that complicated and elaborate interlacing of lines, curves and
geometric shapes which seems to be appearing everywhere nowadays.
This style of design and decoration was in fact brought to Britain in the 6th
century AD by Saxon Christian monks and was used exclusively to illuminate the
handwritten Christian Gospels. The Saxon people used some of the art for
personal decoration. Any of the knotwork that has animal shapes incorporated
shows influence from the Vikings. It is indeed a very attractive and distinctive
style of decoration - but it is not Celtic.
In Pre-Celtic Britain, there are many ancient places that were elaborately
and painstakingly decorated and carved with many different styles of spiral,
zig-zag, diamond, line and curve but nowhere do these separate symbols and
designs overlap or interlace and nowhere is there to be found an example of
knotwork. It should also be noted that these elaborate designs and symbols are
not Celtic either. They were carved into the rocks by an unknown race of
megalith builders thousands of years before the Celtic culture arrived.
It is also a common practice for modern day Celtic groups to employ various
symbols, such as the Crescent and V-Rod, the Switch, the Two Worlds etc, as part
of their Celtic regalia and ritual but, once again, these ancient symbols are
not Celtic they are Pictish. The Picts were a scandinavian people and the only
places where these symbols are to be found, carved on stones etc, are in the
North East of Scotland and they are, therefore, as foreign to the British tribes
as the 'Celtic' knotwork is.
Another modern addition to this confusing collection of symbolism is the
ubiquitous pentagram which is unquestionably non-Celtic - Jewish, from the seals
What, then, were the symbols used by the Celts? It is true that they greatly
admired all art-forms and decorative styles and that they used these to a great
extent on just about everything from household utensils to battle-chariots. But
the symbols they used are the ones that are still all round us today :-the
trees, the birds, the animals, the hills and lakes and all the other
manifestations of the life-force on Earth.
The Celts were a warlike, passionate people with a love of art. Truly, Celtic
art is distinguished for its extensive curves and intricate knot work which is
used to form complex decorations for weapons, jewelry and body tattooing. Along
with the extensive use of body tattooing the Celts highlighted their naturally
fair hair by washing it in lime-water. This fondness for art and personal
decoration was merged with acts of barbarism, such as beheading their enemies
and carrying the severed heads around the necks of their horses.