Celts - Who Were They?


Author: Robert W. Penry @ 2021

The word “Celt” is pronounced as “Kelt”.  The only time we use it with a soft “C” or “S” sound is in “Celtics”, the name of a sports team in Scotland. Who were the Celts? According to an article published by History.com in 1997:
The Celts were a collection of tribes with origins in central Europe that shared a similar language, religious beliefs, traditions and culture. It’s believed that the Celtic culture started to evolve as early as 1200 B.C. The Celts spread throughout western Europe—including Britain, Ireland, France and Spain—via migration. Their legacy remains most prominent in Ireland and Great Britain, where traces of their language and culture are still prominent today.”
Most scholars agree that they culture known as Celtic originated in the upper Danube region about 13th Century B.C.  These people were called the “Urnfield people” and probably spoke a tongue that devolved into Celtic language.  This group then became the Hallstat Culture which evidently declined and another group became prominent.  This group was called the La Tène culture and spread throughout ancient France, Spain, and Central Europe.” (Source:  Ancient History Encyclopedia – 2016)
But where did they come from?  Who were they before they were Celts? They evidently were barbaric tribes.  We have no written history to tell us.  There are different opinions based on DNA.  Some believe they came from Azerbaijan, others believe they could be descendants of the Scythians from the Steppes of Russia.  The Romans around the eighth century B.C called them “Galli”, the root word for Gaul.
We know that the Celts split into two main language groups, the Brythonic and the Goidelic (Gaelic).  The Brythonic evolved into Welsh, Cornish, and Breton.  The Goidelic became Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Manx.
The Celts travelled and settled throughout most of Europe, constantly moving northward until they crossed the English Channel as separate tribes connected by cultural similarities.    The similarities were often pagan beliefs, language, clothing or social customs. Each tribe was independent – there was never a central Celtic government.
There are many books and web pages about Celts.  They were and are a fascinating people.  They live on in legends, historical fiction, even comic strips.  A Belgian-French comic strip “Asterik and Obelix” about the conflict between Celtic Gauls and Roman invaders is well known and has been running since 1959 and takes place in 50 B.C. Gaul.
King Arthur of legend was Celtic warrior who fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons, a Germanic people.
Celtic myths gave rise to many superstitions and customs that live on.  Example:  A rabbit’s foot will bring good luck.  Knock on Wood – Celtic good spirits lived in trees. Cross Your fingers – Celtic sign of the cross.  Four-Leaf Clover – Irish Celts.  Pooka – Irish Celtic folklore.
Celtic art is still popular.  Examples:  Celtic wedding bands, Celtic Crosses, Celtic design Gift Wrapping Paper, Celtic Knot, Celtic Tartans, Celtic Rose, etc.
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