Celtic and Gaelic


I’ll bet you can’t read this translation of the Bible, unless of course you are a native of Ireland. Yep, that’s Gaelic which is a living, spoken language, and required to be learned in Irish schools. It’s their native tongue. It is a language that, with variations, was also spoken in Scotland and Wales and Brittany. And it has everything to do with all things Celtic, which is the culture. Americans, who don’t know any better, sometimes associate Celtic culture mainly with things in England, but in fact the Celts were a people who go all the way back to the Iron Age, and seem to have originated in central Europe and spread to the British Isles and to Ireland, and it is Ireland really which has retained the most Celtic culture, being the western most, and most isolated part of Europe, at least in ancient times. The great fascination with Celtic Christianity today often reflects little or no knowledge of the history of the Celts and their conversion to the faith, or of some aspects of their religious culture. The Celtic literary tradition in fact begins in Ireland in the 8th century, a tale about the ‘cattle raid of Cooley’. It was the expansion of the Roman Empire that sort of pushed the Celts into Ireland more exclusively, and into northern Scotland and western Wales as well. Eventually there were two groups of Celts, one of which we can call the Gaels (in Ireland, Scotland, and Manx) and the Briton Celts (involving Wales, Cornwell, and the Bretons in several places).

Here is a thumbnail description about the origins of Celtic Christianity from Wiki, accessed June 11th from their article on Celts…

“While the regions under Roman rule adopted Christianity along with the rest of the Roman empire, unconquered areas of Ireland and Scotland began to move from Celtic polytheism to Christianity in the 5th century. Ireland was converted by missionaries from Britain, such as Saint Patrick. Later missionaries from Ireland were a major source of missionary work in Scotland, Anglo-Saxon parts of Britain, and central Europe (see Hiberno-Scottish mission). Celtic Christianity, the forms of Christianity that took hold in Britain and Ireland at this time, had for some centuries only limited and intermittent contact with Rome and continental Christianity, as well as some contacts with Coptic Christianity. Some elements of Celtic Christianity developed, or retained, features that made them distinct from the rest of Western Christianity, most famously their conservative method of calculating the date of Easter. In 664, the Synod of Whitby began to resolve these differences, mostly by adopting the current Roman practices, which the Gregorian Mission from Rome had introduced to Anglo-Saxon England.” See also there article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_Christianity

St. Patrick of course was credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland, but actually it does not appear to have had any poisonous snakes to begin with. What made Celtic Christianity different was in part its isolation from other forms of the faith, including the Catholic form. They developed their own way of dating Easter, their own monetary system, their own approach to monasticism (involving tonsures), their own approach to doing penance, and more. There is of course as well the famous Celtic cross….
ie16. More on this anon.

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