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Home > Article Library > Miscellaneous > Celtic Studies Search

Celtic Studies for Beginners
by Stryder

This article was originally a pair of messages posted to The Cauldron's message board in response to a query for information on the Celts. Where possible, we've linked book titles to the page on the book at

Celtic Booklist for Beginners

Celtic History
· The Celts by T. G. E. Powell
· The Ancient Celts by Barry Cunliffe
· The Ancient World of the Celts by Peter Berresford Ellis

Ancient Pagan Celtic Religion
· The Druids by Peter Berresford Ellis
· The Druids by Stuart Piggott

Reconstructionist Pagan Celtic Spirituality
· A Circle of Stones: Journeys and Meditations for Modern Celts by Erynn Rowan Laurie
· Apple Branch by Alexei Kondratiev

· Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend by Miranda J. Green
· Early Irish Myths and Sagas by Jeffrey Gantz

There really is a lot of info on the Celts out there. Most of it isn't terribly easy to access, unfortunately. This is due, in part, to the disdain many English (and some American) scholars view anything Irish, Scottish, or Welsh, in part to the deluge of "Celtic, Fairy, Fluffy, Wicca-Druid" crap pouring into the local Barnes and Nobles and finally in part to the romanticism toward anything "Druid" during the 19th century (where we get those white-robed, white-bearded, mistletoe-toting folks milling about Stonehenge).

cover picture from The Ancient CeltsCeltic studies is mostly a 20th century phenomena with roots in the 19th century. Much of the break-through archeology has only been accomplished in the last 20-30 years. First off, the term "Celt" comes from the the Greek name "Keltoi" given the "barbarians" that invaded Asia minor. These Celts were also known by a tribal name: Galatia. Yes, that's right, Galatia as in Galatians, as in the city in Asia Minor that Paul the Evangel set up a Christian Church. What most modern scholars mean by "Celtic" is properly a family of related languages of common descent, like the related "Romance" languages (French, Italian, Romanian, Spanish, and Portuguese) descended from Latin.

Cover picture for Early Irish Myths and SagasThat's all "celtic" means in any real sense. However, "celtic" also is used to mean the often related cultures of the peoples who spoke/still speak celtic languages. The similarities in the cultures of celts are often not as striking as their differences. In fact, some have argued that, culturally, it isn't fair to separate the continental Celts and the Germans in the early centuries of the common era since the continental Celts have as many or more cultural traits in common with the Germanic Tribes as they do with the insular (i.e. British Isles) Celts. All Julius Caesar really said, in effect, was "Barbarians east of the Rhine are Germanii and west of the Rhine are Keltoi." The real difference between the Gauls (Celts) and the Germanii was the languages they spoke. It's also important to remember that all of this history spans hundreds and hundreds of years. The culture(s) aren't static and changed, often dramatically, over time.

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