Does the term 'Celtic' have any meaning in a British context?
General Discussions ( Anything Goes )
Now Ceri you're being naughty. You say you're going to consider "the vexed question of Welsh identity." but you don't do that. What you do is very capably visit Celticity, and British genetics, via Bryan Sykes. Not the same thing at all.
First, it's debatable whether the Welsh are Celts. Shock! Horror! No really. The concept of the Celt is under fire anyway but let's leave the extremists out and accept there was a society we can call Celtic. Well that was a European society, not a Brit one. All the records that refer to Celts are talking about folk in places like Gaul, not Britain.
You can make links like Tribes who had the same name on both sides of the Channel. Another one is continuity of La Tene art with mediaeval MSS styles. Some deities: Rigantona, Rhiannon; Lugos, Lleu for example. Epona mostly outside Britain but a bit inside. A structure of alliances and federations, rather than empire, found in both regions. This and more, but it's not a solid case. Howsumdever it's enough to leave an open question for those who like a Celtic continuity. There's a quite nice usage which speaks of Insular Celts - that's us Brits.
But let's get on to the juicy stuff. What is Welsh, apart from an impossible language chapels and rugby?
One thing I find fascinating is how the Welsh practice a microscopic hierarchy. (I should add I identify as Welsh or not as I fancy it so I say both' they' and 'we.')
My aunt by marriage, a grand family matriarch never left Pembrokeshire in her life. I was much honoured that she completely accepted me - after a lo-o-ong probation! as her niece, yet I'm a Londoner lady. I couldn't imagine a more Welsh lady than she was, so I was amazed when she said 'Oh I'm not really Welsh you know!'
The resulting discussion identified the problem: she had one non-Welsh grandmother. I had to stifle giggles because of course I'd have been a puddle on the floor with her Look if I'd been so rude.
Her nephew my beloved also advises me he is 'not considered really Welsh.' Whyever not?' I ask as he grew up here, only left to go to university, and then a second time to get a job for a year. Which is how he met me. He explains patiently to the dense incomer that he wasn't actually born here because his parents also had to 'follow the work' into England. This is beyond me as he was brought back here as a nappied bundle in arms, by two Welsh parents, and grew up here.
'Yes' he persists, 'but you see I left. I went to university, and then 10 years later I left again to take a temporary contract for a year.' Since it's him and not his formidable aunt, I can hoot with laughter, and he has a wry grin too.
So far I don't believe I've ever met anyone in Wales in 25 years who doesn't do this. There are a thousand fine grained statuses around being Welsh it seems.
How much Welsh you speak of course. Christine James the Archdruid solemnly explained to me she was, like me, a dysgu Cymraeg - a 'Welsh Learner.' For heaven's sake she began learning it when she was TWELVE, decades ago and she's now the top chief boss in the Gorsedd!
Then there's location, location, location. Diaspora might mean thousands live as Welsh who never yet set foot here. But then there's those who like my darling, dared to leave Wales for a bit to get an education or a job. Just don't leave your village or you risk losing all.
Genealogy? Apparently according to my aunt-by-marriage you trace your Welshness back to at least the fourth generation. Not surprising for a people who once paid bards highly to preserve their bloodline data. My poor son with an incomer mother has no chance. I think his grandchildren might make it if no one at all from now on budges over the boundary, or mates with outsiders. Oddly enough my researches show that the Welsh (in some sense) just love marrying out. I guess us non-Welsh are sexy and exotic. Maybe hybrid genetics contribute to the impressive vigour of the Cymru.
There is of course a bottom line in this. A certain kind of visitor to Wales arrives each summer, does a workshop or two, then wham bang we've got yet another 'Celtic shaman.' Never mind they can't say any place names, and don't even try. They mix Native American dreamweavers with a dash of knotwork, and season with a Gaelic god or two, until the potmess goes on the menu for good solid dollars. See 'Three Things there are ...' it's been called spiritual strip mining. (John Davies 1993)
With all this exquisite discrimination dance, I have rarely encountered a people so welcoming and kindly about me being an incomer. I have been told firmly by the local powers that I'm 'adopted,' to which I bobbed my head meekly and glowed. There are a few up north who don't want to extend Welsh privilege to anyone except their immediate relatives on that particular patch. Good luck to 'em say I let them build a sky high wall of spirit around their tight group. There's plenty of Wales and Wider wales for the rest of us.
So the rest of us are thoroughly enjoying all the 57 varieties of Welsh - including the fascinating fireside game of who holds the most points on the board. It seems to be all good clean fun.
As Wittgenstein warned us, any attempt to describe the world in language does not long outlast the onslaught of reality. It breaks, adn froths, splits and rejoins in different ptterns. Hmm, come to think being Welsh is remarkably like Celtic knotwork. Except didn't I say Celticity is a concept which shapeshifts as you look at it too? Shapeshifting now there's a helpful idea.
Oh well I'm going to count my points again to see if I've got any new ones.