Pan-Celticism is the name given to a variety of movements that espouse greater contact between the various Celtic nations.
Types of Pan-Celticism
Pan-Celticism can operate on the following levels:
- Linguistic — many organisations promote linguistic ties, notably the Gorsedd in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany, and the Irish government-sponsored Columba Initiative between Ireland and Scotland. Often, there is a split here between the Irish, Scots and Manx, who use Q-Celtic Goidelic languages, and the Welsh, Cornish and Breton who speak P-Celtic Brythonic languages.
- Cultural — the main organisation promoting cultural contacts is the Celtic Congress. It meets in the last week of July (Aberystwyth in 2008)
- Music — Inter-Celtic festivals are extremely fashionable now, some of the most notable including those at Lorient, Killarney/Kilkenny/Letterkenny and Celtic Connections in Glasgow. Smaller festivals give more prominence to the languages, eg Kann al Loar at Landerne, and the Fishguard Festival.
- Political — The Celtic League is a well known Pan-Celtic political organisation.Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party have co-operated at some levels in the Parliament of the United Kingdom and Plaid Cymru often asks questions in Parliament about Cornwall and cooperates with Mebyon Kernow The Breton Assembly has developed formal cultural links with the Welsh Senedd and there are frequent fact-finding missions. Political pan-Celticism can be taken to include everything from a full federation of independent Celtic states, to occasional political visits.
- Town twinning is extremely common between Wales - Britanny and Ireland - Britanny, covering hundreds of communities with exchanges of local politicians, choirs, dancers and school groups.
- Sporting — This is much less common, although Ireland and Scotland play each other at hurling/shinty internationals. There is also the Celtic League (Rugby Union), and teams from Cornwall and Brittany sometimes engage in wrestling matches. Wales have also played soccer against a putative Breton national team.
History of Pan-Celt relations
Relations among Celtic peoples have had high and low points over the last few hundred years. As recently as the 13th century, the Scottish élite was proud to claim Gaelic-Irish origins. The 14th century Scottish King Robert the Bruce
strongly asserted a common identity for Ireland and Scotland. However, in later medieval times, Irish and Scottish interests diverged for a number of reasons, and the two peoples grew estranged. The conversion of the Scots to Protestantism
was one factor. The stronger political position of Scotland in relation to England
was another. The disparate economic fortunes of the two was third; by the 1840s Scotland was one of the richest areas in the world and Ireland one of the poorest.
Over the centuries there continued to be considerable contact between Ireland and Scotland, first as Scots Protestants were transplanted into Ulster in the 17th century and then as Irish began to move to Scottish cities in the 19th century. Recently the field of Irish-Scottish studies has developed considerably, with the Irish-Scottish Academic Initiative (ISAI) founded in 1995. To date, three international conferences have been held in Ireland and Scotland, in 1997, 2000 and 2002.
The term 'Celtic'
There is great controversy surrounding this term for a variety of reasons. It is considered by some to be an inaccurate term to be applied to modern day peoples. However others believe there is sufficient evidence of a link between the ancient Celts and the new 'Celts'.
Organisations such as the Celtic Congress and the Celtic League use the definition that a 'Celtic nation' is a nation with recent history of a traditional Celtic language. By inference 'Celts' is used to mean inhabitants of these nations. This linguistic-based definition of Celticity is used by a number of pan-Celtic organisations and writers.
Atlantic Celts, while bearing little genetic similarity to modern peoples occupying the so called 'Celtic Homelands' of central Europe, do share remarkable genetic markers with each other. However the term 'Celtic' does not constitute a racial grouping.
The terms 'Celt' and 'Celtic' are used (or misused) in a number of other ways. For example Celtic music is used to describe traditional music from a Celtic country or modern music romantically inspired by the culture of such nations.
For further discussion on this matter see the Wikipedia articles on the ancient Celts and modern Celts.
The Celtic regions/countries
See also: Modern Celts
The Celtic Congress and Celtic League consider the following to be the Celtic nations -
However, in music festivals it is common to find bands from Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria (in Spain), Minho (Northern Portugal), Nova Scotia (Canada) and England.
The Aosta Valley and Friuli in Italy are sometimes claimed as Celtic regions, as are parts of England (other than Cornwall). See also article on the Modern Celts. In the last few years there has also been a process of "Celtic revival" in Northern Portugal and Galicia. Some would argue that the Iberian connection is not as tenuous as it may seem. While the languages of the area are largely Latinate and have been for many centuries, the people themselves are almost certainly partly descended of Celtiberian stock, and their musical traditions share a lot in common with those of Brittany, Wales and Cornwall. However it is generally claimed that the 'litmus test' of Celticness is a surviving Celtic language, and most Europeans have some Celtic ancestry.
In the Western Hemisphere there are notable Celtic enclaves in Atlantic Canada (which has produced a number of world-class bagpipers, and has a notable population of Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers), and the Patagonia region of Argentina, which has enough Welsh speakers to support a Welsh-language radio station. The Celtic diaspora in the Americas, as well as New Zealand and Australia, is significant and organized enough that there are numerous organizations, cultural festivals and university-level language classes available in major cities throughout these regions.
Irish and Scottish games and musical events, in particular, often draw thousands of participants, even in rural areas of the U.S., and are becoming increasingly pan-Celtic in tone. The annual San Francisco Celtic Music and Arts Festival runs for several days in a row, and fills a former military building larger than most aircraft hangars, to near capacity.
Even the far East evidence a vicarious pan-Celtic interest; the journal (mostly in Japanese) Studia Celtica Japonica is well regarded among scholars. (See Modern Celts)
Timeline of Pan-Celticism
- 1820: Celtic Society of Edinburgh founded
- 1838: First Celtic Congress, Abergavenny
- 1845: Tynwald recognised by the British government
- 1867: Second Celtic Congress, Saint Brieuc
- 1888: Pan-Celtic Society, Dublin
- 1899: Celtic Association formed at Cardiff eisteddfod
- 1900: First major Celtic Congress
- 1919–1922: Irish War of Independence, five-sixths of Ireland becomes independent, Northern Ireland gets devolved government
- 1922–1923: Irish Civil War
- 1923: Breton party 'Breizh Atao' adopts official pan-Celtic policy
- 1929: a Celtic League founded in Scotland
- 1939–1945: Second World War and German occupation of Brittany
- 1947: Irish government sponsors Celtic Congress
- 1949: Republic of Ireland formed, replacing Irish Free State.
- 1952: Collapse of Celtic Union. A new Celtic Association is also formed in London after a rally of 10,000 people.
- 1953: First Celtic Congress of Canada
- 1961: Modern Celtic League founded at Rhosllanerchrugog
- 1968: Welsh League of Youth holds inter-Celtic camps.
- 1971: Killarney pan-Celtic festival begins
- 1977: "Pan-Celtic News" founded
- 1985: Scrif Celtic, the Celtic book fair begins
- 1997: Columba Initiative began
- 1999: Scotland and Wales win devolution and the Cornish Constitutional Convention is created, finally collecting over 50000 signatures endorsing the call for a Cornish Assembly.
- Late 1990s: Irish and Scottish Youth parliaments begin
- 2000s: Exchanges between youth groups, such as Ógras (Éire), Urdd (Wales) and also from Comann na Gaidhlig.