Satan does Stonehenge: Celtic Hucksters in the Global Spiritual Marketplace

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Published by Michael Newton

Michael Newton was awarded a B.A. in Computer Science from the University of California (San Diego) in 1990 and a Ph.D. in Celtic Studies from the University of Edinburgh in 1998. He is a leading authority on the literature and cultural legacy of Scottish Highland immigrant communities in America. He has written several books and numerous articles on many aspects of Highland tradition and history, and has given lectures at venues such as the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, Slighe nan Gaidheal in Seattle, and the Toronto Scottish Gaelic Learners' Association. He has also been creating digital content since the early 1980s in the form of computer games (having been on the FTL Games team that produced Dungeon Master in 1987), hypermedia (creating the Celtic History Museum in HyperCard in 1991), and on-line digital collaboratories (creating Finding the Celtic in 2008).

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  1. Wonderful article, thank you for your struggle against “marketplace” Celtic/Gaelic Culture. I would be interested in your impressions of the Outlander series, both on TV and in print. The books seem to pick up some actual cultural history, with — as to be expected — TV sort of going it;s own way on interpretation. The author is a historian, so it should indicate a fair amount of research, but just like many anglophone historians may also be loaded with preconceived stereotypes.

  2. But did you get her phone number? 😀
    (Surely everyone knows that the spawn of Satan speaks Estuary English?)

  3. The “daughter of Satan” might have been an opportunity to nudge some folks out of their misguided seeking and into something more real. You had the spirit of the land right there with you and it was thirsting for your song as much as the local folks. Indeed the misguided “New Age” Satanic folks seem to b acting from an real hunger for roots in the land, yet they have not even a candle that show them an alternative. Excellent scholarship and a continued involvement by folk like you will yet win the day.

  4. “the Celts are not and have never been a race. Not only is the idea of race inherently flawed, but the essence of Celticity is not race or ancestry, but language and culture.”

    It is true that there is not a single Celtic race, but there are Celtic races.

    Furthermore, to be fair R1b1 genetics and Celtic and proto-Celtic heritage are largely overlapping.

  5. Yes in many cases, but it is hard to find a place that was once Celtic where there aren’t at least some people who are proud of it.

    I can’t help but feel that the Celtic League and scholars like Peter Beresford Ellis have created a climate with the linguistic criterion that disenfranchises people like the Galicians who feel Celtic and identify as Celtic, but have no surviving Celtiberian language and are thus excluded from official Celtdom.

      1. To say that there is no official Celtdom is just as subjective as to say that there is. It is a matter of opinion.

        For many people recognition by the Celtic league by membership would certainly constitute a type of official Celtdom.

      2. ‘What does it mean to “feel Celtic and identify as Celtic” – this is just meaningless. ‘

        It would be equally silly to say…

        ‘What does it mean to “feel American and identify as American” – this is just meaningless. ‘

        People do feel this and if English is replaced by Spanish they still will have every right to be American if they have that heritage and culture.

        A Galacian who identifies and feels Celtic, descends from a Celtic culture has every bit as much right as an Irishman or a Breton to consider himself a Celt.

        Especially as most Irishmen, Welshmen, Corishmen, Manxmen, Scots and Bretons cannot speak any more of a Celtic language than he can.

      3. I don’t have time to address these issues on an individual basis, although I and others have written about them in detail, if you care to read about them.

        I’ve already pointed you to discussion of “Indian Wannabe-ism” which has very strong parallels. Another excellent article which addresses the invention / instrumentalization of Celticity in Iberia (Galicia, Austurias, etc etc) is here:

        I strongly encourage you to read up on these, and learn an actual Celtic language, and you’ll get a better sense of what these issues actually are in the concrete.

      4. ‘What does it mean to “feel American and identify as American” – this is just meaningless.’

        Yes, it is too vague to be meaningful. When people say this, the identity that they are referring to by default is the anglophone White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, which has enjoyed a dominant hegemony for centuries.

        Yet, in reality, the meaning of the term ‘American’ has not only changed over centuries, but it occludes the many, more grounded communities, cultures, and identities in America. Being a Cajun-American is not the same as being a Navajo-American or an African-American or a Swedish-American.

        Again, there are many parallel issues amongst other marginalised communities and these have been well documented and studied, and the results of that research can be read by anyone.

        Another relevant blog post I’ve written on this topic:

      5. I can see what you are saying but still there are many people who will never agree with this because they have their own definitions of identity that are based upon different criteria to your own.

        I think that many people still have that old blood, clan and land type of identity as is reflected in numerous places in the Brehon Laws, in the declaration of Arbroath’s appeal to Gaeldom and in such things as the traditions of Clan membership etc.

        Maybe it’s not quite fair to compare the claims of the Elizabeth Warren types to Native American heritage to those of the Galicians to Celtic Heritage. There is no doubt about the Galacian Celtic heritage and blood and their ongoing ties to other Celtic lands, only a disagreement over whether they can be Celts according the the linguistic criteria since their language is dead. We have to remember that Cornish was dead at one time.

        “I strongly encourage you to read up on these, and learn an actual Celtic language, and you’ll get a better sense of what these issues actually are in the concrete.”

        Thank you for the advice. I have known some Gaelic since childhood and a little Welsh since my teenage years and I had the benefit of spending a great deal of my childhood and young adulthood in the company of my grandmother who was not only a walking encyclopedia of Gaelic culture and traditional Gaelic history, but was also someone for whom this was a living tradition passed through generations, not something learned through books and seen through modern lenses.

        Anyway I will stop taking up your busy time. Thank you for the well thought out responses : )

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