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The Celts in Short     DNA Findings    Celtic Tales    Books

The Celts in Short

The Celts are a diverse group of people who use Celtic languages and share some cultural features. Story-telling is one such feature. Terms like "Celtic", "Irish", and "Scottish" are often mingled.

The Celts spread over much of Europe from the second millennium BC to the first century BC. Tribes and groups eventually ranged from the British Isles and northern Spain to as far east as Transylvania, the Black Sea coasts, and Galatia in Anatolia. Celts were in part absorbed into the Roman Empire as Britons, Gauls, Boii, Galatians, and Celtiberians.

Celtic languages survived in Celtic speakers of Ireland, Highland Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, and Brittany.


DNA Findings Meet Ancient History

It was taught earlier that the Irish were a Celtic people who had migrated from central Europe. Many people still refer to Irish, Scottish, and Welsh as Celtic culture, assuming that they were Celts who came from central Europe around 500 BCE. But DNA testing reveals that the blood in Irish veins is of more mixed origins than purely Celtic. That is true for Scottish DNA too (further down).

In some Irish legends, Ireland was not first settled by the Celts either: Irish "semi-mythical history" - the "Book of Invasions" - tells of the waves of people who settled in Ireland in earliest times. It says the first settlers to arrive in Ireland were a small dark people called the Fir Bolg, followed by a magical super-race called the Tuatha de Danaan (the people of the goddess Dana). Another group then came to Ireland and fully established itself as rulers of the island. They were the Milesians - the sons of Mil, a soldier from Spain -

Then what does meagre DNA tests indicate so far? The latest studies of Irish DNA and DNA testing of remains of ancient Irish people suggests that some of the earliest humans who lived on the island could have come from northern Spain and the Basque Country. In fact, the closest DNA match with the Irish in all Europe is with the Basque. Modern DNA research into male Y chromosomes has found that the R1b haplogroup reaches very high concentrations in Western Ireland and the Basque country in northern Spain.

From this: "The Irish . . . our earliest ancestors were the Basque people!" concludes Michael O'Laughlin in "Some tales of the "Celts" exposed by the science of DNA" (Irish Central, 8th May 2017).

Researchers at Trinity University in Dublin and Queens University consider at least two waves of migration to the island in past millennia.

Two ancient waves:

1. DNA in a woman farmer from ca. 3.200 BCE indicates that the population of Ireland at that time had a taste for snails (escargot), and was closely genetically related to the modern-day populations of southern Europe, such as northern Spain and Sardinia, and traced further back to the Middle East, that "cradle of agriculture."

2. Further, remains of three 4,000 year-old men from the Bronze Age revealed that another wave of migration to Ireland had taken place - from the edges of Eastern Europe. One third of their ancestry came from the Steppe region of Russia and Ukraine. These remains, found on Rathlin Island, also shared a close genetic affinity with the Scottish, Welsh, and modern Irish, unlike the earlier farmer (above).

So: Many people living in Ireland today have genetic links to people who were living on the island at least 4,000 years ago. Celts appeared only much later.

Mingled: A recent genetic study done on the Irish show that they have two main ancestral sources: a French component (mostly northwestern French) and West Norwegian from the Viking era. (Wikipedia, "Irish People, notes 34 and 35)

The Irish also share their DNA to a large extent with the Scottish and Welsh, and to a less extent with the British.

People in the north of Ireland are close genetic relatives of those living in Western Scotland, which is probably due to a long history of migration between the two regions.

(Radford, Tim, "Irish DNA originated in Middle East and eastern Europe". The Guardian > Science, 28th Dec. 2015; Marie McKeown. "Blood of the Irish: What DNA Tells Us About the Ancestry of People in Ireland." 19th Aug 2018.; Wikipedia, "Irish people")

Differences matter

The findings from a detailed DNA analysis of 2,000 mostly middle-aged Caucasian people across the United Kingdom indicate that there is not a unique Celtic group of people in the United Kingdom. But even though there is not a single Celtic group, there is a genetic basis for regional identities in the United Kingdom.

Details: According to DNA findings, those of Celtic ancestry in Scotland and Cornwall are more similar to the English than they are to other Celtic groups. There was not a uniform Celtic fringe from Cornwall through to Wales into Scotland, says Professor Mark Robinson at Oxford University. Celtic groups in Cornwall, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have different genetic patterns. Moreover, some archaeologists have long been arguing that Celts represent a tradition or culture rather than a genetic or racial grouping.

Implications: Invading Anglo Saxons did not wipe out the Britons of 1,500 years ago, but mixed with them: The native British populations lived alongside each other and intermingled with the Anglo Saxons to become the English. It is suggested that Britons and Saxons had separate communities to begin with, and then over time began to merge.

(Pallab Ghosh. "DNA study shows Celts are not a unique genetic group." BBC News > Science abd Environment. 18th March 2015)

Celts in Europe and Turkey between 800 BCE and 400 BCE
Where Celts once lived (approximation) in periods before they mingled and so on - The Hallstatt culture (green), 1200-750 BCE; La Tène culture (yellow). 450 BCE; Widest boundaries (brown) ca. 100 BCE.

A Bird's-Eye View on Celts

The Celts were not a unified group of people. Yet Plato considered Celts to be barbarious, drunken and combative. Had Plato met a lot of Celts, so that his opinions were well founded and representative? Opinions differ, particularly on folks living far away - [17]

The Celts spread in Continental Europe, waged successful wars, conquered Spain about 500 BC, and won Northern Italy. [21] From about 300 BC and onwards the Celts gave way to German tribes during much warfare. When it had setteled down, Gaul and the British Isles remained under Celtic law and leadership, and nowhere else. Neither the Celtic language nor the religion of Celts were handed over to German tribes who invaded Celtic tracts. [33]

Roman soldiers took over Gaul and the larger part of Britain. But Ireland was not visited. [34-35] Celtic customs and ways survived in Ireland.

Spencer: "I have heard some great warriors say . . . they never saw a more comely horseman than the Irish man . . . very vigilant and circumspect". [38n]

Celtic Names Abound in Europe

Names differ and have ancestry too. Names like Milan is derived from Mediolanum, a Celtic name. One may find Celtic names in Spain too. [21, 35] Names that Celts put on various places have survived to this day. "London" is one such name. Many names have been simplified or transformed too.

The Latin poet Vergil stemmed from Celts. [21]


Celtic Tales

Art expressions can be essential sources of insight into the sophistication of the people. So, societies may reveal themselves considerably through their art, because 'built-in' or shared understanding of such as central meanings of icons. common patterns and more.


Celtic peoples in Western Europe have left remnants of their mythologies (Matson 2010; Monaghan 2004). So, there are myths and mythic elements embedded in several Celtic stories. As with Greek myths and others, there can be differing versions and corrupted material. Some were put down in writing in the Middle Ages, but the surviving material is scarce.

During the 1800s and 1900s there was a resurgence of interest in the folklore of Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Many so-called Celtic folktales are stories told in a Celtic culture.

The arts of interpretation help, and there tends to be more than just one fit way of regarding handed-over tales.

Parts of common Celtic folklore today, has antecedents in Celtic myths and legends. It may be shared motifs and other parts.

. . . the old gods . . . still lived on in legend as kings of ancient Britain reigning in a fabulous past anterior to Julus Caesar - such were King Lud, founder of London . . . as well as many others. [Squire, xxxx Mtc 5]

Fairy faith

The term "the Good People," is applied to the fays in Ireland. In ancient times the Celts talked of gods and divine beings, but after Christianity arrived, gods and goddesses had to forego adoration and respect, and people were taught to look on them differently. As stories were altered, they lost a good deal of their beauty somehow. Many gods of old reappeared as fairies in the folklore.

Old and newer tales tend to transmit past and present enculturation parts, much as the late American cultural psychologist Jerome Bruner is into. There may even be a quite open-ended string of ideas of attainments to catch in apt tales so long as we allow metaphor-making as it pleases us.


Celtic folktales, fairy tales of Celts, Celtic folklore and folk tales, Literature  

The folktales in this collection are mainly from these books:

Lover, Samuel, and Croker, Thomas. 1998. Myths and Legends of Ireland. Twickenham: Tiger Books. ⍽▢⍽ The work consists of (a) Samuel Lover's Legends and Tales of Ireland (1831), a collection of tales that was originally retold for the collector's (Lover's) friends; and (b) Thomas Crofton Croker's Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland (1825-28). The first editions of these books are in the public domain.

Jacobs, Joseph: 1994. Celtic Fairy Tales. Twickenham: Senate/Tiger Books. ⍽▢⍽ Celtic Fairy Tales (1892) and More Celtic Fairy Tales (1894) are both edited by Joseph Jacobs. Several first editions of these too are in the public domain.


Briggs, Katharine. 1976. An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures. New York: Pantheon Books.

Ellis, Peter, Berresford. 2002. The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myth and Legends. Paperback ed. London: Robinson.

Henderson, George. 1910. The Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland. Glasgow: James MacLehose and Sons.

Jackson, Kenneth Hurlstone. 1971. A Celtic Miscellany: Translations from the Celtic Literatures. Rev. ed. London: Penguin Books.

Kennedy, Patrick, coll. 1891. Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan and Co.

Matson, Gienna. 2010. Celtic Mythology from A to Z. 2nd ed. Rev. by Jeremy Roberts. New York: Chelsea House.

Monaghan, Patricia. 2004. Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. New York: Facts On File.

Rhys, John. Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx. Vols 1 and 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901.

Young, Ella. 1910. Celtic Wonder-Tales. Dublin: Maunsel and Co.

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