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Story of the Celts: The Celts in Galicia, Spain

Author: John Patrick Parle

Copyright © 1999

The Celts in Galicia, Spain [26]

Galicia is a region located in the northwest corner of Spain, just above Portugal; Galicia is comprised of the following Spanish provinces: La Coruna, Lugo, Grense, and Ponteverde. In all, over 2.8 million people live in Galicia. The people of this region speak a language similar to Portuguese known as Galician, different from the official language of Spain, Castilian Spanish.

Galicia sends folk performers to the annual pan-Celtic festival in Lorient, Brittany. This festival celebrates everything Celtic, from every Celtic region of the world. The group from Galicia, Spain performs a typical Celtic-style step-dance (which they say is steeped in their local tradition) to the music of a Galician bagpipe.

The preponderance of knowledge is that the ancient Celts had a strong presence in Spain. This is reported by classical writers, and confirmed in archeological evidence. The quote below from the Encyclopedia Britannica tries to sum it up:

"Behind the seaboard fringe of Tartesso-Iberians, the high-lying interior was in the possession of a variety of indigenous peoples of whom we have no clear knowledge except that, along with Catalonia, they passed through an early Iron Age (or Hallstatt phase) associated with the invasion of Celtic tribes who, in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C., poured through the Pyrenees by the western passes and gained possession of large areas of the peninsula, submerging previous inhabitants. The chief Celtic zones today are Galicia and Portugal. The Celtic invasion may justly be called an historical event. We can date its successive waves within a few decades, define its sources, follow its spread and perceive its results."

(from article on "Spain," 1966 edition, emphasis added)

There is also an area of Spain around the Ebro River valley and the Castilian uplands that was referred to by ancient writers as being Celtiberian, because the invading Celts had begun to assimilate into the local Iberian cultures.

On another point, ancient traditions in Ireland have it that the early Celtic invaders there were from Iberia (now Spain)--they were thought to be Celtic seafarers from the northern portions of the Iberian peninsula. Writer Thomas Cahill contends that some of the early Irish Celts were from Britain, but the dominant Celts there were from what is now Spain.

Part II: The Ancient Celts

Part IV: The Celts in Britain

26. Material on Galicia, Spain from BBC, The Celts, and articles entitled "Spain" in the Encyclopedia Britannica and
the World Book Encyclopedia.

Claims of Irish Celt origins from Spain found in Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization (New York: Doubleday, 1995), pg. 79. Cahill believes that the Celts of Spain had a different language type than that of Celtic Britain, which explains how Irish Gaelic differs from the Brythonic Celtic languages of Great Britain.

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