While historians do not always agree on who exactly the Celts were, or where exactly they came from, singers, storytellers and artists are unanimous in their delight with the rich and colourful lore, legend, art and music associated with these mysterious people. Indeed a closer look reveals that Celtic artistry has many roots and influences interwoven through the passage of millenia, but the great treasure chest of tunes, tales, spirituality and art remains a splendid resource for performers everywhere.
Mostly associated with Ireland, Scotland,Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and the Isle of Man, their presence is also embedded in the landscapes of Switzerland, Germany and Austria.
In a region, nowadays known as Switzerland already 450BC there was living a highly educated folk: The celts. They occupied the region of the British Isles, France, Northern Spain and all the way from central Europe to western Hungary, Slovenia and Northern Croatia and are thought to be the first advanced civilisation of Europe. For cultural reasons they only trusted oral tradition and therefore the only available written documents come from their enemies, namely the Greeks and the Romans. Most of the research about the celts is based on findings, out of which a notable number was made in Switzerland. This shows about the importance of the region. From ancient times far into the new age some of the best transport routes went along the natural water ways, which lead to littoral zones becoming places of settlement. This is why many of today’s findings of the Celts in Switzerland are located along rivers and lakes.
In the first century AD the dominant celtic tribes in the swiss region were defeated by Ceasars army, however around 600 AD the first Irish missionaries came back to Switzerland. The Celts stayed in Ireland until the 16th century whereas they disappeared in all other places, not seldom as a consequence of the dominance of the Romans and the Greeks. Nevertheless they form part of the cultural origin of many European countries, likewise Switzerland. Nowadays Ireland, Scottland, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Bretagne as well as Galicia are known as Celtic countries.
The Celtic culture was a naturalistic one and was tied to the wheel of the year, which oriented itself on the cycles of the sun and the moon. Eight holidays structured the year, which are still part of our calendar nowadays. Christmas for example
coincides with the Celtic holiday of the winter solstice. Another example is the Walpurgis Night on the 1st of May which was celebrated as Beltane (the beginning of summer) among the Celts. The equivalent to the winter solstice is the summer solstice on the 21st of June, which in the Christian calendar has been taken over as Johannisfeier. Even the American Halloween which at the end of October has its roots in the Celtic New Year Samhain and marks the celebration of All Hallows.
The Celts also left their trances in music and culture. The people were composed of different tribes that were united through a common language. The exact sound of the language remains unclear, however the welsh Cymric, the Gaelic in Ireland and Scotland as well as the Breton in France give indications of what it must have sounded like. According to research even the Swiss Romansh has Celtic roots. When it comes to music there are theories that the origins of the alpine yodelling lie in the Celtic culture. In Celtic countries the refusal of keeping written track of things has been kept up until the present day: All music is being played by ear and not by notations. Because of the great importance of oral traditions it only makes sense that the Celts are renowned to be masterful storytellers.