Ancient Celtic Culture - Tribes And Customs
Celtic culture is difficult to define. It's fair to say that the Celts weren't an ancient culture, in the same way that the Egyptians or Persians were. The easiest way of describing the Celts is by way of imagining various tribes, scattered across Europe, that were bonded (loosely) by a similar language, customs and traditions.
The Celtic culture was largely based upon tradition, handed down from generation to generation. Each tribe, or clan, had it's own way of retelling truths, myth and legend. So saying, modern day scholars have had to glean various facts from ancient scribes and articfacts unearthed during archelogical expeditions.
The Celts as a whole were not scribes or scholars. They were, in the main, warriors, metal-workers and farmers. The written word was something they paid little attention to, preferring instead to work their land, wage wars and observe the edicts of their pagan Gods - delivered by Druids and various other forms of leadership.
Celtic society was made up of clan leaders (usually a King), Druids, warriors, farmers and metal workers. Although Celtic women weren’t afforded an equal footing to the men of their tribe/s, they were given a certain freedom of choice in specific areas of tribal life.
The Celts observed four main religious periods during a twelve month period:
- Imbolc – related to Spring, probably the lambing season
- Beltaine – this was related to fire (or possibly heat) and fertility, celebrated at the start of the Summer season
- Lúnasa – celebrated at the start of Autumn and related to the harvesting of crops
- Samhain – no real evidence as to why this festival was celebrated (in November) but it may have been either viewed as the onset of the Winter period or perhaps the start of the Celtic new year
Celtic tribes lived in hill forts, often fortified by purposely dug earth walls (archaeological evidence supports this theory), with a collection of hut type buildings used for the purpose of housing individuals and/or families.
It was likely that they traded with other cultures, predominantly in various types of semi-precious and precious metals. Due to their distinct lack of the written word, much of the Celtic way of life either remains a mystery or the subject of much conjecture.