<<<
>>>

The Religion of the Ancient Celts

Page: 9

Thus the Celts before setting out on their Wanderjahre may already have been a mixed race, even if their leaders were of purer stock. But they had the bond of common speech, institutions, and religion, and they formed a common Celtic type in Central and Western Europe. Intermarriage with the already mixed Neolithic folk of Central Europe produced further removal from the unmixed Celtic racial type; but though both reacted on each other as far as language, custom, and belief were concerned, on the whole the Celtic elements predominated in these respects. The Celtic migration into Gaul produced further racial mingling with descendants of the old palæolithic stock, dolichocephalic Iberians and Ligurians, and brachycephalic swarthy folk (Broca's Celts). Thus even the first Celtic arrivals in Britain, the Goidels, were a people of mixed race, though probably relatively purer than the late coming Brythons, the latest of whom had probably mingled with the Teutons. Hence among Celtic-speaking folk or their {14} descendants—short, dark, broad-beaded Bretons, tall, fair or rufous Highlanders, tall chestnut-haired Welshmen or Irishmen, Highlanders of Norse descent, short, dark, narrow-headed Highlanders, Irishmen, and Welshmen—there is a common Celtic facies, the result of old Celtic characteristics powerful enough so to impress themselves on such varied peoples in spite of what they gave to the Celtic incomers. These peoples became Celtic, and Celtic in speech and character they have remained, even where ancestral physical types are reasserting themselves. The folk of a Celtic type, whether pre-Celtic, Celtic, or Norse, have all spoken a Celtic language and exhibit the same old Celtic characteristics—vanity, loquacity, excitability, fickleness, imagination, love of the romantic, fidelity, attachment to family ties, sentimental love of their country, religiosity passing over easily to superstition, and a comparatively high degree of sexual morality. Some of these traits were already noted by classical observers.

Celtic speech had early lost the initial p of old Indo-European speech, except in words beginning with pt and, perhaps, ps. Celtic pare (Lat. præ) became are, met with in Aremorici, "the dwellers by the sea," Arecluta, "by the Clyde," the region watered by the Clyde. Irish athair, Manx ayr, and Irish iasg, represent respectively Latin pater and piscis. P occurring between vowels was also lost, e.g. Irish caora, "sheep," is from kaperax; for, "upon" (Lat. super), from uper. This change took place before the Goidelic Celts broke away and invaded Britain in the tenth century B.C., but while Celts and Teutons were still in contact, since Teutons borrowed words with initial p, e.g. Gothic fairguni, "mountain," from Celtic percunion, later Ercunio, the Hercynian forest. The loss must have occurred before 1000 B.C. But after the separation of the Goidelic group a further change took place. Goidels preserved the sound represented by qu, or more simply by c or ch, but this {15} was changed into p by the remaining continental Celts, who carried with them into Gaul, Spain, Italy, and Britain (the Brythons) words in which q became p. The British Epidii is from Gaulish epos, "horse," which is in Old Irish ech (Lat. equus). The Parisii take their name from Qarisii, the Pictones or Pictavi of Poictiers from Pictos (which in the plural Pidi gives us "Picts"), derived from quicto. This change took place after the Goidelic invasion of Britain in the tenth century B.C. On the other hand, some continental Celts may later have regained the power of pronouncing q. In Gaul the q of Sequana (Seine) was not changed to p, and a tribe dwelling on its banks was called the Sequani. This assumes that Sequana was a pre-Celtic word, possibly Ligurian. Professor Rh[^y]s thinks, however, that Goidelic tribes, identified by him with Cæsar's Celtæ, existed in Gaul and Spain before the coming of the Galli, and had preserved q in their speech. To them we owe Sequana, as well as certain names with q in Spain. This at least is certain, that Goidelic Celts of the q group occupied Gaul and Spain before reaching Britain and Ireland. Irish tradition and archæological data confirm this.27 But whether their descendants were represented by Cæsar's "Celtæ" must be uncertain. Celtæ and Galli, according to Cæsar, were one and the same,28 and must have had the same general form of speech.

The dialects of Goidelic speech—Irish, Manx, Gaelic, and that of the continental Goidels—preserved the q sound; those of Gallo-Brythonic speech—Gaulish, Breton, Welsh, Cornish—changed q into p. The speech of the Picts, perhaps connected with the Pictones of Gaul, also had this p sound. Who, then, {16} were the Picts? According to Professor Rh[^y]s they were pre-Aryans, but they must have been under the influence of Brythonic Celts. Dr. Skene regarded them as Goidels speaking a Goidelic dialect with Brythonic forms. Mr. Nicholson thinks they were Goidels who had preserved the Indo-European p. But might they not be descendants of a Brythonic group, arriving early in Britain and driven northwards by newcomers? Professor Windisch and Dr. Stokes regard them as Celts, allied to the Brythons rather than to the Goidels, the phonetics of their speech resembling those of Welsh rather than Irish.

The theory of an early Goidelic occupation of Britain has been contested by Professor Meyer, who holds that the first Goidels reached Britain from Ireland in the second century, while Dr. MacBain was of the opinion that England, apart from Wales and Cornwall, knew no Goidels, the place-names being Brythonic. But unless all Goidels reached Ireland from Gaul or Spain, as some did, Britain was more easily reached than Ireland by migrating Goidels from the Continent. Prominent Goidelic place-names would become Brythonic, but insignificant places would retain their Goidelic form, and to these we must look for decisive evidence. A Goidelic occupation by the ninth century B.C. is suggested by the name "Cassiterides" (a word of the q group) applied to Britain. If the Goidels occupied Britain first, they may have called their land Qretanis or Qritanis, which Pictish invaders would change to Pretanis, found in Welsh "Ynys Pridain," Pridain's Isle, or Isle of the Picts, "pointing to the original underlying the Greek [Greek: Pretanikai Nêsoi] {17} or Pictish Isles," though the change may be due to continental p Celts trading with q Celts in Britain. With the Pictish occupation would agree the fact that Irish Goidels called the Picts who came to Ireland Cruithne=Qritani=Pre-tani. In Ireland they almost certainly adopted Goidelic speech.

Whether or not all the Pictish invaders of Britain were called "Pictavi," this word or Picti, perhaps from quicto (Irish cicht, "engraver"), became a general name for this people. Q had been changed into p on the Continent; hence "Pictavi" or "Pictones," "the tattooed men," those who "engraved" figures on their bodies, as the Picts certainly did. Dispossessed and driven north by incoming Brythons and Belgæ, they later became the virulent enemies of Rome. In 306 Eumenius describes all the northern tribes as "Caledonii and other Picts," while some of the tribes mentioned by Ptolemy have Brythonic names or names with Gaulish cognates. Place-names in the Pictish area, personal names in the Pictish chronicle, and Pictish names like "Peanfahel," have Brythonic affinities. If the Picts spoke a Brythonic dialect, S. Columba's need of an interpreter when preaching to them would be explained.39 Later the Picts were conquered by Irish Goidels, the Scotti. The Picts, however, must already have mingled with aboriginal peoples and with Goidels, if these were already in Britain, and they may have adopted their supposed non-Aryan customs from the aborigines. On the other hand, the matriarchate seems at one time to have been Celtic, and it may have been no more than a conservative survival in the Pictish royal house, as it was elsewhere. Britons, as well as Caledonii, had wives in common.41 As to tattooing, it was practised by the Scotti ("the {18} scarred and painted men"?), and the Britons dyed themselves with woad, while what seem to be tattoo marks appear on faces on Gaulish coins. Tattooing, painting, and scarifying the body are varieties of one general custom, and little stress can be laid on Pictish tattooing as indicating a racial difference. Its purpose may have been ornamental, or possibly to impart an aspect of fierceness, or the figures may have been totem marks, as they are elsewhere. Finally, the description of the Caledonii, a Pictish people, possessing flaming hair and mighty limbs, shows that they differed from the short, dark pre-Celtic folk.


<<<
>>>