Celtic Soul

Hebrides, Iona island. The Abbey. At right St Martin Cross.

 

Documentary, Travel Photographer and Journalist Enrico Martino is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this photo essay.  From the project ‘Celtic Soul’.  To see Enrico’s body of work, click on any image.

 

Sabucedo. Every year in summer Rapa das Bestas involves cutting the manes of the wild horses who live free at the mountains and that are performed in the curros (enclosed which retain the horses) in Galicia (Spain). The horses live in mountains owned by the villages and have several owners (private or the parish) and each year are marked and the adults shaved and deloused, and then freed again.

 

The small western village, the most important of the 2 hamlets of the island, where the population is not more than 120 people. After 1981-1982 heavy storms that isolated the island for many weeks the Irish government offered houses to the mainland but only half of the population accepted. Still today Tory is still a center of Gaelic culture.

 

“Long ago, beyond the misty space

Of twice a thousand years

In Erin old there dwelt a mighty race

Taller than Roman spears.”

The Celts, Thomas D’Arcy McGeeís

 

A journey through time and space looking for lost people of princes and druids. It seems difficult to find the Celts in the contemporary Scotland, Ireland, French Brittany, Wales and Spanish Galicia, the Celtic Ring, the nation that officially does not exists but relives in this intriguing sea thriller and political fiction by the Swedish writer Bjorn Larsson in a crescendo of windswept moors, initiatory societies, druids and conspiracies to free the Celtic people.

 

Penisola di Dingle

 

For the archaeologists the Celtic period is like a container where everyone can enter what he wants, but their heritage is made not of imposing monuments but mainly of breathing atmospheres, with the disquieting sensation of touching another world and another time. A rich heritage of traditions resisted until today mainly in places like gaeltachts, the small areas of West Ireland where Gaelic is still spoken. The Celts often utilized as sacred places the Neolithic stone circles and left a world of legends associated with every meter of territory. A lost world where the spirits assume hideous shapes to protect legendary treasures hidden in the round forts where the wind makes the walls sing like the music of old ballads played in the days of Samhain, the Halloween of the Anglo-Saxons.

 

Outer Hebrides. Harris Island, Scalpay Island where lives a fishermen community.

 

Aran Island: Inishmore. The islands attracted artists, writers and film makers. Robert Flaherty’s film Man of Aran (1934) made the islands known to a worldwide audience.

 

Llyn peninsula. Aberdaron. The graveyard.

 

In the lunar landscape of Irish Burren a refined Christian civilization with unique characteristics, preserving Celtic traditions and evangelizing half of Europe, that survived almost intact until when was swept away by the English Ironsides of Oliver Cromwell. A saint for every monastery, powerful spiritual stars of their time from St. Patrick to St Columba that “invented” Western monasticism.

The religion still plays an important part also on “Na h-Eileanan Siar”, the Gaelic name of the Scottish Western Isles, for centuries a stronghold of a Gaelic culture heir of the Celtic world, able to resist the assimilation policies of many European nations along the Gaelic Ring. Here the Wee Frees, the believers of the Free Church of Scotland still open the Holy Mass using the Gaelic language.

 

Outer Hebrides, Griamsaigh Island: Free Church Sunday service, the most traditional of the Hebrides.

 

In Spanish Galicia every summer rodeo the aloitadores, the fighters, gather the garranos, the wild horses who live free on the mountains, shave and brand them in a curro, an enclosed corral, using only their skill and body. For animal lovers is a barbaric ritual, for the aloitadores is the soul of many villages, but for the anthropologists the Rapa das Bestas is the survival of ancestral Celtic rituals celebrating man’s power over nature. Stories, legends, atmospheres in the bewitched atmosphere of landscapes recreated at every moment by the wind that shapes the grass of the moors.

 

Ardara, a popular destination in Ireland, hosts the annual Cup of Tae Festival, a traditional music festival, each May. Beehive traditional pub.

 

Outer Hebrides. Lewis Island: Standing Stones of Callanish erected around 2000 BC, one of the most spectacular megalithic monuments in Scotland. A tomb was later built into the site. The 13 primary stones form a circle about 13 m in diameter, with a long approach avenue of stones to the north.

 

All images and text © Enrico Martino

 

 

See also:

Italy, The Broken Mirror

By Enrico Martino

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Celtic Soul”

  1. Daily Poetry

    Great post! It was very informative. I didn’t know some parts of the Gaelic tradition had survived.

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