|Mary Gillgannon in Wales.|
When I released my historical fantasy The Silver Wheel, I sub-titled it “A Novel of Celtic Britain”. Since then, I’ve had several people comment that they never thought of Britain as being Celtic. To them, Celtic refers to only the fringes of the British islands: Ireland, Scotland and Wales. But the fact is, before the Romans arrived, the whole of the British Isles was inhabited by native tribal groups who shared a culture most people today would recognize as "Celtic". They wore vividly-dyed garments of checked, plaid and patterned wool (which would eventually evolve into the tartan). They adorned themselves with jewelry in complex curvilinear patterns, often in animal motifs. They wore their hair long and often braided. The men were generally unshaven, although some tribes shaved their chins and had long mustaches. They lived in round dwellings in fortified settlements that were often on built on hilltops. They worshiped a variety of male and female deities that were strongly connected with animals and the natural world. Their religious leaders were an educated class who transferred their knowledge orally.
These religious leaders are often called druids, which probably means “from the oak”, and they held their ceremonies in oak groves. They possessed a strong belief in an afterlife and otherworld. They were also reputed to practice human sacrifice. In fact, the initial story idea for my book came from reading about a bog body found near Lindow, England. The body was of a healthy, aristocratic young man (his hands showed he'd done very little manual labor and was healthy and well-nourished). The man had been strangled, had his throat cut and been bludgeoned (the triple death) and was then pushed into the bog. Because the body dates from the time of the Roman conquest of Britain in the early first century A.D., some researchers have surmised that this man was offered as a sacrifice to petition the Celtic deities to aid the British in their struggle against the invading Romans. We know for certain the Celtic Britons made sacrifices of weapons, jewelry and even chariots, as caches of these items have been found in lakes and springs throughout the British Isles.
The Romans characterized the Celts as warlike, boastful and ostentatious, and described them as utterly fearless in battle. The Celts were also known for their love of music and poetry, feasting, drinking, and for constantly fighting among themselves. Throughout history, invading peoples used this Celtic propensity for tribal conflict to their advantage. It can be argued that if the Celts had put up a united front, none of the successive waves of invaders—Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse, Normans or English—would ever have been able to establish any control over this region. At the end of The Silver Wheel, when the Roman victory seems inevitable, my priestess heroine sets a spell on the highlands of Wales, calling upon the gods to protect her people from Roman influence and keep their Celtic spirit strong. If you visit Wales today, you will find little evidence of the Romans, while Celtic aspects are everywhere. They still speak Welsh, a Celtic language, and use Celtic patterns in their art and design. They retain a love of music, a strong independent spirit, a mystical connection to the land and a fondness for tales and storytelling, all things that were characteristic of their Celtic ancestors.
Based on that, I think you can say my heroine’s spell was successful!
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