Celtic Culture & heritage

The Natural Wonder of the Manx Glens

Tholt

The Isle of Man is well known for its many glens. Glen is a word from the Celtic Goidelic language (gleann in Scottish and Irish Gaelic, glion in Manx).  There are many mountain and coastal glens spread around the Isle of Man (Manx Gaelic: Mannin), as many as 120. These beautiful ‘V’ and ‘U’-shaped and often wood sided valleys have been carved over millions of years by glacial erosion and the water that constantly flows toward the sea from the Manx mountains and hills. A series of these glens are known as the Manx National Glens that are preserved and maintained by a department of the Manx government; access is free to everyone. They are noted havens of peace and tranquillity with tumbling waterfalls, deep swirling rock pools and abundant vegetation. Particularly in the 19th century, paths were laid, bridges built, and extensive tree planting carried out that enhanced the natural beauty and gave easier access to those who visited these remarkable places.

Return Home of The Viking Lewis Chessmen

Lewis Chessmen

In 1831 a Viking hoard was discovered by Malcolm Macleod near Uig, Lewis (Scottish Gaelic: Leòdin) in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Leòdhas, Na h-Eileanan Siar, Alba) . This hoard contained 93 carvings: one buckle, 14 pieces of a game called tables and 78 medieval chess pieces. The chess pieces were found in a sand dune where they seem to have been placed in a small, drystone chamber. The Norse beautifully crafted chess pieces, found in near pristine condition except for some discolouration, were made from walrus tusks and whale teeth and date from sometime between 1150-1200 AD. There is some discussion about whether the set was made in Norway or Iceland.

Isle of Lewis

Nobody knows how the pieces came to be buried in the sand in the Isle of Lewis. However, we do know that at the approximate time the chessmen were made the Isle of Lewis belonged to the Kingdom of Norway. The Viking interventions in this area began in the 8th century AD. The Islands of Scotland and the Isle of Man formed the Northern and Southern Isles. The Northern Isles of Shetland and Orkney were known to the Norse as Norðreyjar. The Southern Isles forming the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles (sometimes known as The Kingdom of the Isles) consisting of the Hebrides, the islands in the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Man were known as Suðreyjar. Lewis was part of this Kingdom of Mann and the Isles and so the Lewis chessmen date from the time of Viking rule.

Redruth International Mining and Pasty Festival 2015

Redruth International Mining and Pasty Festival

The old Cornish mining town of Redruth in Cornwall once again celebrates its ever popular Mining and Pasty Festival with celebrations taking place from Friday 11th September until Sunday 13th September, 2015.

The Mining and Pasty Festival is a three day event celebrating the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Redruth through pasties, mining and music.  The event is focussed around the town centre and is completely free to attend.

Friday 11th, which is Miners’ Day, sees Murdoch House opened, the home of the Scottish engineer and inventor William Murdoch (21 August 1754 – 15 November 1839) with themed displays touching on Redruth’s close links with Real del Monte in Mexico where many Cornish miners made their home in search of mining work and with research material made available by the Cornish Global Migration Project.

Kresen Kernow - The Cornish Studies Centre is hosting events staged by the Trevithick Society highlighting the industrial trailblazers of Redruth and including a tour of the new multi million pound Cornish National Library and Archive Centre development currently under construction whilst the town centre will be alive with music and tales from the past including one of a miner who auctioned off his wife and emigrated!

Lughnasa - The Celtic Harvest Festival

Celtic Symbol

The last Celtic Feast day of the year is Lughnasa, the harvest festival named after the Celtic God Lugh. God of the sun, light and harvests, Lugh was a great warrior. According to the Ulster Cycle he fathered the legendary Cú Chulainn and is linked to a number of sites in Ireland. Lugh spent part of his childhood in the Isle of Man where he was trained by Manannán mac Lir, said to be first ruler of the Isle of Man. Legend has it that Lir fostered and trained Lugh on Man before Lugh was sent back to Ireland. Lugh is always portrayed as youthful, handsome and athletic.

Traditionally celebrated on the first of August, Lughnasa is the fourth and last of the Feast days of the Celtic year. The three Celtic Feast days preceding Lughnasa include the Celtic New Year of Samhain (Halloween) on November 1st, Imbolg on February 1st which has become the Feast Day of St. Brigid but was originally the day of devotion to the Celtic Goddess of the same name and Beltane celebrated on 1st of May. Beltane is viewed by most scholars as being unique amongst the Celtic feast days in that Beltane observances have survived in essentially archaic form in to modern times due in part to its simplicity in that the celebrations historically included the lighting of bonfires.

Lughnasa is the least known of the four feast days and is described by James MacKillop in his “Dictionary of Celtic Mythology" as follows:

Lughnasa may be the least perceptible in the industrial, secular society, but we know more about its ancient roots than any of the other three. The significance of Lughnasa began to fade and the date on which the shadows of the ancient harvest festival was celebrated began to be moved to suit its connection with modern, often Christian, celebrations observed at about the same time of year. The Christian Church did not oppose the continuation of the festival marking the beginning of the harvest…..but the different names applied to it obscured its pagan origin.

The Thistle - Scotlands Proud Floral Emblem

Scottish thistle

The purple thistle has been Scotland's national emblem for centuries. Amongst the identifiable symbols of things associated with Scotland the thistle probably ranks alongside tartan. Heather is also thought of as a symbol of Scotland and wearing a sprig of heather is believed to bring good luck. However, the thistle is used by all kinds of organisations across Scotland as an emblem. It has also been seen as a royal symbol since James III used it on silver coins in 1470. James III (10 July 1451 – 11 June 1488) was proclaimed King of Scotland at the age of 8, following the death of his father James II. He was killed at the Battle of Sauchieburn in Stirlingshire on 11 June 1488. Common throughout the highlands, islands and lowlands of Scotland, the thistle has earned a special place in the heart of Scottish people.

The Isle of Man and Cornwall join forces for major presentation in Brittany this August

Festival Interceltique poster

Press Release from Culture Vannin:

It's a huge year for the Isle of Man at Europe’s largest Celtic festival, Festival Interceltique Lorient in Brittany this August. Sharing the status of ‘honoured nations’ with fellow Celtic nation, Cornwall, this is the first time that the Isle of Man has been the main focus of the 45 year old festival. Isle of Man volunteer delegate, Ealee Sheard, has been working with the main financial supporter on the Island, Culture Vannin, to prepare an impressive showcase of all things Manx. IOM Arts Council has also provided a grant to ensure that the presentation is of the highest quality. The majority of the funding for the performers is coming from the Festival’s own budget and the whole presentation is a partnership between the Isle of Man and Cornwall.

A delegation of over 100 musicians & dancers will represent the Isle of Man, including Barrule, Ny Fennee, Ruth Keggin, Rushen Silver Band, Caarjyn Cooidjagh, Russell Gilmour, Strengyn, Mec Lir and many others. Attracting over 800,000 visitors and 325 journalists from all over Europe, the 2015 festival will centre around a pavilion and stage presented by the Isle of Man and Cornwall. Key events are televised to millions across France. Peter Young from Event Management Solutions is managing the pavilion presentation for Culture Vannin, and has been working with the Cornish delegation to design a venue which will represent both the unique and shared qualities of our two nations through food and drink, culture, heritage, language, arts and crafts, and tourist information. The pavilion stage will have a packed schedule of Manx and Cornish acts, some of which will also be involved in officially programmed performances in other festival venues. There will be two major Manx/Cornish gala events in the Grand Theatre and Espace Marine, and a featured segment within the popular Nuits Interceltiques – an extravaganza of music, dance, film and fireworks. The Festival committee has also planned a TT themed event, which will attract riders from the region, so a really broad cross-section of Manx culture will be promoted. Angela Byrne, Head of Tourism, visited the festival last year:

Just walking around the festival, it’s the energy, it’s the whole eclectic mix of so many different nations that have come together under a common theme – it’s fantastic, I’ve never been to anything like it!

Glen Innes 2015 Australian Celtic Festival Resounding Success

Emmanuel College Pipe Band

This year saw the 23rd Australian Celtic Festival at Glen Innes. Record numbers flocked to the New South Wales town of Glen Innes to experience this very unique festival celebrating the music, song, dance and culture of all the Celtic Nations. The main events of the festival took place between the 30th April to 3rd May. Glen Innes is a town known for its friendly people and welcoming atmosphere. Celts from all over Australia celebrated along with locals and tourists from abroad. A street parade, concerts and events taking place all over Glen Innes demonstrate how much this warm hearted town has embraced this wonderful festival of all things Celtic. Each year there is a featured Celtic Nation and this year it was Wales (Cymru). Next year 2016 will celebrate the Isle of Man (Mannin).

Albannach: Scottish-Celtic Culture Warriors

Albannach

To celebrate the Scottish National Party's landslide victory in the UK's 2015 General Election, we are re-featuring some of our favourite Scottish articles. This is our 2013 article on the mighty Scottish band Albannach, including an exclusive interview with the band's leader Jamesie Johnston.

Transceltic attended the 2013 Saint Augustine Celtic Music & Heritage Festival in Florida. The organisers proudly announced to us that the Headline act was the Scottish band "Albannach". Being curious to see this band which was unfamiliar to me and sensing the excitement of the crowd eagerly awaiting Albannach's arrival on stage, I watched as the band set up as the first performance of the festival. The only way to describe the impact when the performance began is as an assault on the senses. The energy of the drums juxtaposed against expert piping of band member Donnie MacNeil was transfixing. Not to put too fine a point on it I was stunned and the 30 minute set seemed to pass in an instant and at the conclusion the crowd went nuts. Having always suffered from a genetic predisposition to becoming slightly unbalanced at the sound of the Pipes, the ricochet of the pulsing tribal drum beat against the soaring mastery of the Piper left me spellbound. The organisers had placed Albannach as the first and last act for each of the two days which I soon realised was a successful tactic to build the excitement into the evening hours and the keep the crowds to the last.

The Cornish people have walked the world!

"If there is a hole anywhere on earth, you're sure to find a Cornishman at the bottom of it." *

It is commonly said that the Cornish are inward looking. Cornwall has even been described by some ill informed folks as the 'insular peninsula'. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The photograph below shows a group of Cornish Miners in South Africa c. 1900. The gentleman in the centre middle row is my maternal Great Great Grandfather.

Photo A: Cornish miners great great grandfather

A tin miner, he left Redruth in Cornwall on one Tuesday bound for mining work overseas.

Leaving his wife, a Bal Maiden (a mine surface worker), and child behind, he mined gold in South Africa, was conscripted into a town guard battalion in the Boer War and saw action and thereafter headed to Venezuela where he mined diamonds.

Possession and Culture in the Goidelic Languages

Possession in English Language

Ny Ta Lhiams, S'lhiats as Ny Ta Lhiats, Ta S'lhiams.

What's with Me is with You and What's with You is with Me.

Possession forms an important part of modern life in many cultures. We are, on a daily basis, reminded to buy things for ourselves. Upon purchase, in the English speaking world, we say that we "have" those things, that they are "ours". However, possessive expressions differ across languages and may reflect differing aspects of cultural attitudes and practices. To take a specific example, by looking at how our Celtic ancestors in the Goidelic speaking regions expressed possession we may be able to understand how their philosophy differed to the philosophy of the modern English speaking world. What seems to emerge is a difference of permanence vs transience, of seizing vs approaching.

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