The Legacy of the Celts

Stonehenge in Wiltshire was probably designed as a huge cosmic amphitheatre from which the passage of the stars could be observed.

The culture and tradition of the Celts survives not only among their descendants in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and the Isle of Man – who each still speak their own distinct Celtic language – but spreads right around the globe. Music, story and song reconnect us all with the legends of the ancestral Celtic lands and their people.

From all over the world, visitors to the British Isles seek to reawaken memory by walking the ancient roads of their forebears in order to listen to the healing wisdom of springs and lakes, to be inspired by the hills, mountains and forests, and to read and listen to the myths and legends of the wise and warm-hearted people. The beliefs of the Celts, their traditions and rituals, their songs and poems, have affected the very way we think and feel, as well as how we react to the world around us.

The bardic traditions that have preserved the memory of these legends are still an important part of Celtic life. In Ireland, the government recognizes ‘the people of the gift’ – artists, storytellers and musicians – as cultural treasures. In every Celtic land today, there are competitions in which poets and musicians can be seen and acclaimed as the most accomplished of their people. These modern bards still keep open the Otherworldly doors of vision, singing and telling the myths and legends of their ancestors.

The tradition of respect for the land, its trees and animals, which was such an essential part of Celtic life, shows us that we can still learn from the past. The importance of recognizing our own connection with the land is now more urgent than ever as climatic and other environmental changes result from human neglect of nature. In this respect, the Celtic gods and the Faery people are not merely mythical archetypes but can also be interpreted as the living guardians of the land’s health. Thus the power of Celtic lore and tradition continues to hold us in the golden webs of its weaving, preserving an eternal, ever-changing pattern of thought, image and dream.

Celtic Myths & Legends by John Matthews, © Jarrold Publishing, 2002

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