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Powell: The Celts

Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2013 12:16 am
by Comyn
Several years ago I had borrowed a copy of T.G.E. Powell's The Celts and typed up interesting sections of it for some reason. I found an old archive CD in my desk drawer yesterday with the original document on it. I've decided to include the notes in the library.
by TGE Powell

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from The Celts by T.G.E. Powell 1958 Thames and Hudson, London,
1989 Thames and Hudson, New York

note: the image on the cover of the book is of the Ragstone Head of Bohemia currently at the Narodni museum at Prague. Dating from the 1st to 2nd century BC, the face is obviously male. ┬ĘThe head has the typical attributes which characterize it as being Celtic: the spiral scrolls of the eyebrows and drooping mustaches, the triangular nose, and the torc. Unlike classical representations of the Celts, the head has a neat hairstyle which is combed back from his forehead and flows smoothly down the back of his head. The figure's eyes are wide and staring, the face is a flat plan with no definition to indicate cheekbones and has a relatively shapeless profile. The head has been reduced to its most important aspects making it recognizable as a human head but it is not meant to be a portrait. (from here)

concerning garb (pp. 68-69)

"...Irish aristocratic dress consisted of two garments, a tunic or shirt, in the earliest without sleeves, and a cloak. This costume was worn by both sexes. The tunic (l'eine) was made of linen, and was worn by men to the knee or below, by women to the ankles. It was gathered round the waist by a belt or girdle (criss). Over this was worn the cloak (brat), made of wool, and four cornered, so probably rectangular, but not oval as were those of the Danish Bronze age. The Irish cloak had no sleeves or hood, being held in position by a brooch. It's length probably depended on the wealth and status of the wearer...
"...Early texts consistently describe coloured cloaks chiefly of purple, crimson and green. Speckled and striped cloaks are also mentioned, and it would seem that ornamental fringes or braids were worked seperately and then sewn on...
"..."It is not known what word if any was used in Ireland for trousers prior to the introduction (through a teutonic medium) of the word bro'c. This, together with the fact that trousers are only mentioned in connection with the costume of servants (charioteers, however, included) would make it seem that either they never formed part of [what would be considered 'normal' garb] of migrant Celtic warriors in the west, or they were early abandoned in conformity perhaps with some existing fashion that still carried prestige in the islands.
"...leather shoes were certainly worn in Ireland.

social institutions (p. 78)
(The Tuatha)

"In Ireland, the community was embodied in the tu'ath, a word that originally meant 'the people' but which had aquired a territorial connotation. The tu'ath in population and in extent was quite small and normally conformed to an area with natural topographical boundaries.
"Social structure within the tu'ath was threefold: King, Nobles and Free Commoners. the king was elected from within the kin of his predecessor, but was not necessarily one of his sons. The king's family belonged to the noble grade, who were the warriors, but in pagan times the class of magician-sage, druid, seer or otherwise was accorded the highest status, although these did not form an hereditary caste. The freemen commoners were mainly farmers, but the grade also included certain catagories of craftsmen.
"...It is also important that the threefold system formed a social and ritual entity within which all were of free status (saor), and of sacred, or ritual qualification (nemed). There was also an unfree population, without status or claims to possession, formed of such subjugated communities, slaves, and degraded families as existed.

"Within the tu'ath, the effective social unit was the kin (fine)...the family within this kinship system was of the joint type: a householder with his wife, or wives, and children, including grown sons with their wives and offspring. It seems that marriages were contracted outside the kin, and perhaps in the case of the noble grade outside the tu'ath.
"The ownership of land was not held by an individual, even the head of a household, but by the kin from whom it could not be alienated.
"Small kingdoms, formed of a single tu'ath, can in no way be considered as States. There was no public administration or enforcement of law, and the procurement of redress, within the terms of the law, was the responsibility of the kin of the contending parties.
"The individual freeman, of whatever grade, possessed an honor-price (l'og n-enech) which was an assessment of his dignity or present weight in the community and this was directly related to his material wealth...but the honor-price fluctuated according to a man's fortunes, and this was an important matter as compensation for wrongs were directly related to it.

the celtic feast (p.135)

"The reward of warriors in all heroic societies was feasting and gifts provided by the king, and the Celts were no exception to this custom. "Beer was everywhere the drink of home production. Pork, either roast, or broiled in a great cauldron, was the favorite dish. In Ireland, a whole porker was reputedly the champion's portion par excellance...the champion's portion was often in dispute, and led to fighting on the spot, as Diodorus, and Athenaeus, report, and as is so well illustrated in the Irish stories of Bricriu's Feast (Fled Bricrend), and the story of MacDatho's Pig (Sc'ela Mucce Meic Dath'o). Everywhere the etiquette of precedence and hospitality was observed. Seating at the feast was according to rank and prowess, strangers were fed before their business was inquired, and everyone had his appropriate joint of meat. In Ireland it was a leg of pork for a king, a haunch for a queen, and a boar's head for a charioteer.
"...Athenaeus noted with approval [the Celts] cleanly, if voracious, way of eating, but the refinements of the banquet lay in the music and oral compositions of the bards, and on their praise or satire hung the reputation of a prince.

Diodorus Siculus - died after 21 B.C., Sicilian historian. He wrote in Greek, a world history in 40 books ending with Ceasar's Gallic Wars. His compilation is uncritical and unreliable.

Athenaeus - circa 200 A.D., Greek writer born in Egypt. His anthological work, the Deipnosophistae (Banquet of the Sophists), is valuble because of the wealth of information it contains on Greek manners and customs.