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Published:August 13th, 2008 11:23 EST
Keltori: The Hidden People

Keltori: The Hidden People

By Sean Stubblefield

It is so difficult to define the elements of a Celtic philosophy, that an impression forms that maybe there isn`t one. In a way, they are a hidden people, becoming ambiguously ubiquitous. A definitive Celtic ideology, tradition or aesthetic seems to resist & defy summation or easy categorization. Because Celtic history and culture are not singular, but plural. Rather than uniformity into a consolidated whole, there is diversity. Instead of a merging of disparate parts, these aspects mingle concurrently but separately. If there is some disjointedness to Celtic history, it is only because it is comprised of jumbled and overlapping perspectives.


A long shared suffering of persecution and struggle has made the Celtic psyche a bit whimsical and temperamental. A spirit of community and rugged individualism co-developed as a response to this hardship.

The Celtic lands have endured migration, immigration, Vikings, invasions, wars, internal strife (political, familial and religious), famine, harsh winters, Christianity, The Romans, English conquest, Pax Americana, alcohol, and all manner of dissolution and reconfiguration so often, that they`ve hardly had a decent chance to settle enough to establish a distinctive identity. Life and death are considered intrinsically intertwined, as death is inevitable and ever present-- which makes them inclined to appreciate and enjoy life while they can. Celtic folk have been known to look for crack-- or craic, which is carefree fun, amusement, or lighthearted mischief.


By conditioning and necessity they`ve become of people of improvisation.

They don`t integrate or adapt cultural imports, they form a kind of hodge-podge patchwork of nuance.

Indeed, Ireland is currently divided into two factions of religion and geography, and the northern portion is virtually a province of England.

Perhaps their unifying trait is their inclusiveness. The Celts have their origin in egalitarianism, even as they are fiercely individualistic and prideful. Individualism and individual rights has always been an important factor of Celtic society, as reflected by the Labor Party concerns of Ireland. Celtic society began as a collection of tribes and clans; a nation without centralized government. Early Celtic culture was aural, not written; there is no ancient literature, and so most of its indigenous culture has been lost or corrupted by their history of external "contributions".


In a sense, Celtic culture does not exist. It is mostly intuitive and intuited, subtly passed on through the generation as habit more than tradition.

The Irish credo for tourists is Céad mile fáilte (pronounced `Kaid-Mee-la-Fawl-teh`) -- a hundred thousand welcomes.

The Celtic ingenuity of the Gordian knot may also be an extension and reflection of this principle of non-exclusion. Everywhere and nowhere, never ending, always beginning. Perhaps their cultural tradition can be found "hidden" in their art aesthetic and monistic spirituality demonstrated in their knot-work and crosses, typified by the triquetra: circles, interconnected and fluid lines. All are one and multiple.

There is an organic essence that signifies a oneness with and respect for nature. Wicca has adopted the triquetra as a representative symbol because of its Celtic associations with nature and spirituality.


One word I`d use to describe the Irish experience and temperament is Tragicomedy. Celtic music is generally characterized by a balanced blending of sardonic joy and sorrow-- both in lyrical content and in the emotional resonance of its tonal melody.

Even their dancing is an expression of separate but together, as each dancer can perform individually, and yet seamlessly mesh with other dancers also dancing individually, though harmoniously. Legend states that their armless style of dancing -- which is unique to this culture-- was created as a way to be inconspicuous (hidden) in their frivolity, for when conquering overlords looked down from the hills onto Celtic villages, the people would not appear to be dancing.  


The atmosphere in a Celtic pub is a kind of microcosm of their culture and disposition. A proper pub is not just a glorified bar, it is a community center of gathering, socializing and carousing. A community within a community, derived from that community. There is a communal sense of all for one and one for all... we`re all in this together.

But mind yer manners or ah might have ta hurt ye. Nothing personal.