Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Celts: The Complete Epic Saga

The Celts: The Complete Epic Saga (DVD)

The Celts were the first European people north of the Alps to rise from anonymity. Wild and ferocious, they were also romantics and mystics and they shared a family of languages that are now the oldest living tongues of Europe. Their story is one of survival, defiance and creativity often in the face of oppression.

Who were the Celts, and what made their culture so distinctive? The mysteries of the Celts are made more complex by the absence of ancient Celtic written records.

Celtic culture was to spread to cover an area stretching from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. Soon after 400 B.C. Celtic tribes erupted over the Alps and attacked Rome and Delphi.

The Celts are surrounded by an aura of romance and mysticism, and echoes of the past still resonate today. Many of the traditional feast dates of Western Civilization have their roots in the pagan Celtic past.

One man, Arthur, succeeded in repelling the Anglo-Saxon advance. But who was he, and did he even exist at all? The mystical Celtic world represented by Arthur is now linked with the Christian missionaries.

The year 1066 marks the coming of the Normans, the new enemies of the Celts. From the eleventh century the Celtic nations faced gradual absorption and assimilation by their powerful neighbors England and France.

The word ‘Celt’ first appeared in 1707, the year of the union of Scotland with England. Two conflicting forces drove the Celts wherever they settled to be absorbed or to retain their own identity .


The Celts is a 2-DVD set covering the development of pre-Celtic and proto-Celtic cultures, to the eventual integration of the Celts into Roman, Viking, Norman and Anglo-Saxon cultures.  It discusses the Halstatt and La Tène periods, the religious beliefs of the Celtic people, the Roman invasion, the rise of Christianity, the Viking invasions, the struggle for power in the British Isles, the decline of Celtic culture, and the modern Celtic revival.

This scholarly work features interviews with famous figures in Celtic Studies, such as Barry Cunliffe, Anne Ross, and Miranda Green.  However maintaining its historical accuracy, The Celts is also enjoyable and interesting, featuring scenes of stunning scenery and magnificent artwork.  Although long, this DVD set is definitely recommended.

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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Ogham (OH-am) is an ancient alphabet used to write Old Irish and other Brythonic/Brittonic languages (such as Pictish, Welsh) from about the 3rd century CE.  The Ogham alphabet is sometimes called the ‘Celtic Tree Alphabet’ as each letter is assigned a tree or plant name.  However, this was probably done after the initial creation of the Ogham script.

After about the 6th century CE, the Roman alphabet was used to write Old Irish, therefore the Ogham alphabet declined in popularity.  However, the 14th century Book of Ballymote (Leabhar Bhaile an Mhóta) contains genealogies, mythologies, and histories of Ireland written in Ogham script.

File:Book of Ballymote 170r.jpg

The Book of Ballymote also contains older manuscripts which contain Ogham script, such as the 11th century Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland) and the 7th century Auraicept na n-Éces (The Scholars’ Primer).  Another important document that contains detailed descriptions of Ogham is the 14th century In Lebor Ogaim (The Book of Ogams, The Ogam Tract), which is mentioned in Auraicept na n-Éces.

Several of these manuscripts describe how the Ogham alphabet was invented soon after the Tower of Babel (along with the Gaelic language) by the Scythian king Fenius.  However The Ogam Tract states that the alphabet was created by the Irish god of communication and writing, Ogma/Oghma (Ogmios in Gaul).

File:Kilmalkedar Ogham Stone.JPG

Ogham inscriptions have been found throughout Ireland and western Britain.  Most ancient inscriptions are found along the edges of large stone slabs and consist of personal names, such as ‘X son of Y’, probably as territorial markers or memorials.  It is thought that Ogham letters would have also been inscribed on sticks, stakes and trees.  Bilingual inscriptions have been found which aid in translation, such as Ogham and Latin, or Ogham and Old Norse (written in the Runic alphabet).

Originally there were 20 Ogham characters (feda), divided into four groups (aicmí) of five.  Each aicme was named after its first letter:

Aicme Beithe – “the B Group”
Aicme hÚatha – “the H Group”
Aicme Muine – “the M Group”
Aicme Ailme – “the A Group”

A fifth group, forfeda, was added after the 6th century, probably due to changes in the Irish language.

The Ogham alphabet (vertical)

The alphabet is generally written vertically from bottom to top, mostly found inscribed on stone slabs.  However horizontal script is also found, written from left to right, mostly in manuscripts.  The letters are linked together by a solid line.

In his book The White Goddess, Robert Graves discusses the Ogham alphabet in reference to Celtic religious beliefs and ceremonies.  He proposes that the order of Ogham letters form a calendar of tree magic, with each letter corresponding to a Celtic month.

  1. Beith (Birch)        December 24 to January 20
  2. Luis (Rowan)      January 21 to February 17
  3. Nion (Ash)           February 18 to March 17
  4. Fearn (Alder)      March 18 to April 14
  5. Saille (Willow)    April 15 to May 12
  6. Uath (Hawthorn) May 13 to June 9
  7. Duir (Oak)           June 10 to July 7
  8. Tinne (Holly)      July 8 to August 4
  9. Coll (Hazel)         August 5 to September 1
  10. Muin (Vine)        September 2 to September 29
  11. Gort (Ivy)            September 30 to October 27
  12. Ngetal (Reed)     October 28 to November 24
  13. Ruis (Elder)         November 25 to December 22

December 23 is not ruled by any tree, it is the traditional day in the “Year and a Day” in early courts of law. 

Robert Graves followed the older interpretation of ‘Beith-Luis-Nion’ as the first three Ogham letters.  However most modern scholars place the order of Ogham letters as ‘Beith-Luis-Fearn’.

Oghams are also used by Neopagans as divination tools, as mentioned in the Tochmarc Étaíne, from the Irish Mythological Cycle.  Ogham symbols are written on sticks or other pieces of wood and thrown on the ground, studying the symbolism of where they fell.

Witch of Forest Grove

Witch of Forest Grove

Wiki – Ogham
Omniglot – Ogham
Ancient Scripts – Ogham
Celtic Tree Calendar

© The Celtic Journey (2013)

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Nuada of the Silver Arm

Nuada Airgetlám, Nuadu, Nodens (Gaulish), Nudd / Ludd / Lludd Llaw Eraint (Welsh)

Nuada was the first king the Tuatha Dé Danann, equivalent to the Gaulish Nodens and Welsh Nudd/Ludd.  He was also called Nuada Airgetlám (Nuada of the Silver Hand/Arm) or Lludd Llaw Eraint (Lludd of the Silver Hand).

Nuada was the god of the sea, healing, and warfare, linked to the Roman gods Mars and Neptune, and also the Norse god Týr/Tir.  He is also associated with the sun, youth, beauty, writing, sorcery and magic.

Nuada is associated with the Invincible Sword, the Sword of Light, one of the Four Treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  It was crafted by the poet (fili) and wizard Uiscias/Uscias in Findias, one of the ancient great cities of the Tuatha Dé.  The sword was thought to only inflict mortal blows when drawn, cleaving its enemies in half.

Nuada was king of the Tuatha Dé Danann before they arrived in Ireland.  Upon reaching the emerald isle, they met the Fir Bolg, and challenged them to battle after unsuccessfully bargaining half the land for themselves.  This was the First Battle of Mag Tuired, in which Nuada lost his hand/arm to the Fir Bolg champion Sreng.  The Tuatha Dé Danann won the battle, and Sreng and the Fir Bolg were granted a quarter of the island, of which he chose Connacht.

Since Nuada lost an arm in battle, he was no longer allowed to rule, as Tuatha Dé Danann kings must be physically perfect and ‘unblemished’.  He was replaced by the half-Formorian Bres, who was quickly found unfit by rule by the Tuatha Dé people for his tyranny.

Nuada’s brother Dian Cecht and the wright Creidhne crafted a beautiful silver arm for Nuada that would allow him to once again be king.  Bres was removed from the throne, which led to the Second Battle of Mag Tuired.  By this time, Lugh had joined Nuada’s court, and was a fierce opponent to the Formorians.  During the battle, Nuada was killed by the Formorian Balor of the Evil Eye, however was avenged by Lugh who then killed Balor.  Lugh then took over as king of the Tuatha Dé Danann and reigned for many years.

Wiki – Nuada
Wiki – Tuatha De Danann
Wiki – Four Treasures
Pantheon – Nuada

© The Celtic Journey (2013)


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