What is Celtic Ethic?

Today I had someone write to me for information of this subject so that he could complete his thesis.

I was a bit taken back by this question as I knew that anyone who attempted to answer it would really be a kind of false prophet and risks stirring controversy with students claiming I am attempting to destroy their work, witches casting spells to heal my warped spirit and druids shaking and waving their sacred sticks in horror and sweating the natural colours out of their robes.  

Despite these thoughts, I tried to answer and this is what I said.

“Unfortunately I think you fall down with the subject matter as the word "Celtic" is virtually a myth. For a long long time, its been a convenience word to wrap around a group of tribes, a culture that is partially described mythologically, a wrap-around for a modern re-working of a set of fragments of old traditions and even a wrap-around to create a genre of music and dance after Riverdance was released.

This is not to downplay what we all interpret and define differently as Celtic as I am in the "Celtic business". This brings a lot of joy and inspiration to myself and many others who embrace the "Celtic World". There is a lot called Celtic today that is on a cloud like the Jedi Faith yet has wonderful validity and sense of ethics to create a code for living today. However, like the Jedi Faith, one Celtic gathering is going to have a different code to another and each individual within a gathering amends that ethical code to their own life.  

That's another downfall, the difference of vision, definition and interpretation of what is and what is not Celtic. So I would say that the existence of "Celtic Ethic" does not exist and those who write about it are trying to establish some order to create ethic. This what has created cults, orders and religions in the past and even quite recently.

Maybe you could either write a dissertation on the attempts to create Celtic Ethic over the past 2000 years or look into the ethics of various tribes put into the Celtic genre such as the Gaels, Picts, Britons and even the Angles and compare their Ethics. If you go back deeper to Milesians, Formorians, Tuatha De Dannan etc. then you would be doing no better then the Gael scribes who had to guess content from the oral traditions stories fed to them by the individuals they interviewed. 

If you insist in finding the Celtic Ethic you would have to rub out all of the interpretations to find out what is common with them all. You’ll probably be left with one single sentence that describes how we apply ourselves with guidance from a greater spirit on how to be good stewards of this earth so that the fertility circle keeps turning.

I think many of us through time have called this the "trinity" or the "triskele".

If there is a Celtic Ethic it cannot shared with words but maybe through recognition of the message of this symbol.

Maybe the Ethic was planted here before we were born and it has been for us to discover how to serve it. Then, if you back off from my interpretation there we have something that may have been said by a Jedi.

I do feel that Celtic Ethic is something you can look into your “heart” and write about and it would be valid and honourable. However, the panel of people reading your thesis are probably not going to interpret it that way. They are looking for presented work that qualifies for the academic prize of a degree. Sadly you are likely to win that prize by proving how Celtic Myth does not exist because it does not have academic foundation.

However, when you look to your own future what is going to become most important to you, the ethic pouring from your heart or the letters after your name?  If you can answer that I believe, and I say “I”,……  you have discovered Celtic Ethic.”



  1. Being Celtic, I sense, is having an awareness of the 'streams' deep within, streams tied to a love of Ireland's music, language and story. My people come from all over Ireland, but the name I wear (my surname) comes from Cavan (the most loved of all of Ireland's counties on account of it being the most pretty - the most beautiful women come from there as well). All the best and many thanks for your interesting blog, and all the best in the future, Tim McCabe, from Perth, West Australia

  2. Tim, certainly a personal interpretation though I wonder if before the world Celtic became popularized during launch of Riverdance days you may have described yourself as being Irish rather than Celtic. Good to have that passion, though.

    Yes, I love Cavan, one of my favourite counties in ireland and overlooked by most tourists here. One of my favourite musicians, and form Australia, Lisa Goddard spends a few months a year at her home in Cavan, near Belturbet, for recordng. I guide many of our tour groups there, especially to Cavan's Burren and Shannon Pot, source of the Shannon. You must visit sometime. We do have a group coming from Australia next August but I do not think they are doing Cavan this time, but are travelling Ireland and Scotland, but we could make arrangements for you.


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