Saturday, October 28, 2006

Who's a Celt now? - 4

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

There is no gene for "Celtic," and, as we have seen (if you followed the links), "Celtic culture" is largely an invention of the late 18th and 19th centuries--created by the English and/or of Welsh, Irish, and other tradition-inventors who went to London to make the culture scene.

Those might include James Macpherson, creator of the allegedly ancient Scottish "Ossian" poems in the 1760s, and Edward "Iolo Morganwg" Williams, creator of allegedly ancient Welsh literature and key figure in the Druidic revial. (See also "fakelore".)

Williams' "Druidic" planes of existence--Annwn, Abred, Ceugant,and Gwynfyd--made it into Robert Cochrane's Witchcraft tradition, oddly enough.

Then you have the translators and "improvers" of ancient literature, such as Lady Charlotte Guest, who produced the version of the Mabinogion that most people know. Evangeline Walton's novelized version was on my first coven's reading list, and it was treated like holy scripture.

In 1890s Ireland, the Anglo-Irish poet William Yeats and his unrequited love, Maude Gonne, stoked themselves on translated Iron Age epic poems and even tried creating a magickal order based on "Celtic" themes as against the more Kabbalistic Golden Dawn, of which Yeats was a member.

By the 1920s, the Irish writer James Joyce would refer to the whole anti-modern and backward-looking "Celtic Twilight" literary renaissance as the "cultic twalette." Maude Gonne, of course, "took it to the streets" in the build-up to the 1916 Easter Rising and never went back to "Celtic" ceremonial magic.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The National Library of Ireland has an amazing new exhibition on Yeats with lots of info on the Golden Dawn, Gregory, Maud Gonne etc. They had an equally good one on Joyce too, but it was dismantled. More on the Yeats one here:

5:07 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

That exhibit would be interesting to see. So often Yeats is treated as a literary and political figure, while his magical work is totally ignored. Such was the csae in the literary seminar on his work that I took as an undergraduate. The attitude was, "Oh, and he wrote another book called A Vision, but no one can understand it."

9:21 AM  

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