A grovie recently brought a documentary on Hulu to my attention. It’s called “The Celts” and you’re able to watch it free online! With six fifty minute episodes, I decided to give it a go while marathon nursing my little one (growth spurt, I guess?). Narrated by John Morgan, it spans Celtic history from that civilization’s cradle to modern times. Because I am, admittedly, new to the Druid scene, I can’t claim this is the most accurate documentary ever made about the Celts. I will say, however, that nothing struck me as contrary to the historical reading I’ve been doing. There were even some fascinating tidbits that matched up with what others who have been studying longer have shared with me. For example, I learned a lot about the salt mines in the Hallstatt region – something Michael Dangler brought to my attention in past musings about the Celts, modern Druids, and natural resources.
The documentary also asks some compelling questions such as who are the Celts? What does it mean to be Celtic? This question is explored in the final installment – the episode I thought would be least interesting considering it was about the modern era*. There is no fluffiness about this series. It teeters between respecting modern Druidic practices in Celtic nations as revivals of national pride – a way to celebration cultural and linguistic heritage in a modern way – and as anachronistic nonsense that continues to confuse modern folk about the historical facts. Also questioned are kitschy elements that so many modern folk, especially the diaspora who make pilgrimages back to the old country, think represent the Celtic identity. The conclusions are that defining “Celticness” is difficult to do outside of the usual reliance on linguistic groups alone. I think all modern Druids and Gaelic polytheists who live outside of Celtic nations should check that episode out and think on it.
The best part of this production are the visuals. Not only were there the usual views of seaside cliffs, standing stones, and rolling green hills. I was able to delve into the aforementioned salt mines, visit a people in China who are believed to be descended from an ancient Celtic people, and examine a wide variety of artifacts in exquisite detail. Although the music was a bit odd at times, I think they were going for a Celtic sound that wasn’t obviously Irish. Otherwise, I enjoyed hearing different examples of Celtic languages spoken. The episodes about modern Celts also feature some very interesting stories about how those languages were suppressed – something we should not forget about when we go to honor our ancestors in ritual! I also really enjoyed seeing a carnyx for the first time. I had read about them in history books and saw them illustrated upon photos of artifacts in books. The Gundestrup Cauldron features some, for example. This show included a man who reconstructs and plays them. I had read of their sound and the belief that they brought fear into enemies. To hear one was truly wonderful! I don’t know why I never looked them up for more detail, but here’s a start**.
I definitely recommend this documentary. I believe it would be very accessible to people who are new to Celtic studies and Druidism, and after ten years of learning, I also got a lot out of it. I’m sure old hats would enjoy it just as much for all the beautiful footage!
*This is, of course, something I want to study more to have a better understanding and appreciation for my ancestors and the hearth culture I’ve embraced. It’s just sometimes difficult to get into because there are so many political and imperialistic aspects to wrap my head around. I’m more intrinsically motivated to learn about the ancient Celts, their religious practices, and their customs. I’m trying to learn more about Christian and modern Ireland in baby steps.
** Now how cool would it be for a Druid grove to have one during Lughnasadh games?