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Tag: Viking (Page 1 of 2)

The Fifth Direction: Sacred Centres in Ireland

Anyone who starts to take an interest in the medieval texts relating to Ireland quickly picks up the idea that the country was divided into ‘fifths’ or Sacred Centres. Indeed, the Gaelic word cuigeadh still means ‘fifths’ (singular coiced) and the modern-day Gaelic expression which translates literally as ‘the five fifths of Ireland’ refers to the political divisions of Ulster, Connacht, Leinster and Munster. Yes, you have counted correctly. There are only four ‘fifths’ in Ireland. The early legends subdivided Munster into east and west, but this is an artificial adjustment. The earliest clearly datable references to the cuigeadh relate to the kingdoms which emerged in the fifth and sixth centuries. At this date Ireland is considered to be divided into fifths but only four functional divisions are recognisable.

Ireland divided into four ‘fifths’ (adapted from Rees and Ress).

Location of Midhe, or Mide (modern Meath)

Location of Midhe, or Mide (modern Meath)

A region known as Midhe (perhaps meaning ‘middle’ or ‘neck’), which incorporated the royal centre at Tara, was regarded as having pre-eminent status and has for many centuries been popularly considered to be the fifth coiced. Yet, politically, from the iron age onwards, Midhe was under the domination of one or other adjoining kingdoms. Tara, with its impressive group of ditched earthworks and the Lia Fail (Stone of Density, used for the coronation of the High Kings of Ireland), indeed had enourmous prestige in the medieval literature yet, when the kings met annually (at Beltain), they did so at a natural outcrop known in recent years as Aill na Mireann, but probably traditionally as Carraig Choithrigi (the Stone of Divisions), which is situated near the less-impressive earthworks on the Hill of Uisnech. Furthermore, it is Uisnech, not Tara, which is the geographical mid-point of Ireland. For instance, it is claimed that a beacon fire on Uisnech can be seen over a quarter of Ireland [1].

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Are the Celts really Atlanteans?

Ishtar’s Gate is a website devoted to pushing the boundaries of scientific understanding by examining evidence and discussing theories that are not normally considered related. We are very proud to publish the questioning and stimulating article below written be Ishtar herself and urge you to visit her site and explore the very lively forum. Over to Ishtar:

Some of us Celts like to warm themselves by the fire at night with the knowledge that we’re really half-Atlantean. After all, are we not descended from Igraine, King Arthur’s mother, who, some myths tell us, was from an Atlantean bloodline? And in the alluring half light of those flickering flames, we dream about the mythical drowned island of Hy-Brasil, which is said to reappear every seven years off the west coast of Ireland, and other tales about sunken lands under the waters of Cardigan Bay. And so it is not an unlikely proposition that these lands were actually Atlantis and that we are half-Atlanteans.

But are we really descended from Atlanteans?

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Irish Viking trade centre unearthed

One of the Vikings’ most important trading centres has been discovered in Ireland.

The settlement at Woodstown in County Waterford is estimated to be about 1,200 years old.

It was discovered during archaeological excavations for a road by-pass for Waterford city, which was founded by the Vikings.

The news was announced by the BBC, and they say:

Almost 6,000 artefacts and a Viking chieftain’s grave have been discovered at the site, which was established by the year 860. The grave contains a sword, shield and silver mark.


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Iron Age world a lot smaller than we thought

Female Skull w Hairpin

Pic: Nat Geo

An ancient Dane with Arabian genes is part of a DNA study that suggests Scandinavians of 2,000 years ago were more genetically diverse than today reports the National Geographic back in 2008.

Researchers say the Iron Age man may have been a soldier serving on the Roman Empire’s northern frontier or a descendant of female slaves transported from the Middle East.

he Roman Empire at the time stretched as far as the Middle East, while Roman legions were based as far north as the River Elbe in northern Germany.

The study analyzed 18 well-preserved bodies from two burial sites dating from 0 to A.D. 400 in eastern Denmark. The sites were originally excavated some 20 years ago.

Mitochondrial DNA, which provides a genetic record of an individual’s maternal ancestry, was taken from teeth by a team led by Linea Melchior of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.

One skeleton had a type of DNA signature—known as a haplogroup—closely associated with the Arabian Peninsula, according to Melchior.

“It’s especially found among some Bedouin tribes, but it has also been found in the southern part of Europe,” the researcher said.

Iron Age Grave

The skeleton came from Bøgebjerggård, an Iron Age site on the southern part of the island of Sjælland (Zealand).

The bodies likely belonged to poor farmers, the team said.

Other unusual haplogroups were identified, including one representing a prehistoric European lineage which today is found in only about 2 percent of Danes, Melchior said.

Carry on to read the full story on the Nat Geo site.

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Win a chance to live like a Celt

EVER wondered what it was like to live like a Roman-Celt or a Viking? Defend your village on the battlefield? Or have a go at horn–blowing, cooking on a camp fire, weaving and felt-making?

Well you will soon get to experience all this and more when Martin Mere launches its newest attraction this month: Mere Tun, a traditional roundhouse village.

The Liverpool Echo is running a competition for schools all over Merseyside and Lancashire. Five family passes are up for grabs to those who can answer a simple question. Can you name two materials used in the construction of a Round House?

Over the forthcoming weeks, school groups from all over Merseyside and Lancashire will invade Martin Mere in Fish Lane, Burscough, to take part in Living History Days for an outdoor interactive day. They will leave behind everything modern and experience life as a Viking or Roman-Celt and learn traditional skills as well as find out about the history of the mere.

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The Viking Goat gets vandalised and burnt

Yule Goat
Pic: Wiki
Do you remember a post just recently in which we looked at some of the meanings of Yule, there was a picture of Well Father Christmas or Santa riding on a goat?, the Vikings must have some relationship to the more modern origins of Christmas because the most common symbol for Yule amongst the Swedish is the Julbock or Christmas Goat (see image below). In the town of Gävle, they erect an enormous goat (last year’s is pictured to the left, but the BBC reports that in the early hours of yesterday morning (26/12/2009):

A giant straw goat – the traditional Scandinavian yuletide symbol – erected each Christmas in a Swedish town has been burned to the ground yet again. The 13-metre (43-ft) high billy goat has been torched 24 times since it was first erected in Gävle in 1966.

The goat was set alight in the early hours of Wednesday morning in the city north of Stockholm. City spokeswoman Anna Ostman said the incident, which is being treated as serious vandalism, was “sad”.

We had really hoped that he would survive Christmas and New Year’s.

she said. As well as being burnt, the goat has over the years faced other acts of vandalism including being run over by a car, having its legs removed and being smashed.

The Goat’s History

  • 1966: The first goat is burned down – beginning the tradition
  • 1970: It is set on fire six hours after being erected
  • 1971: Schoolchildren build a miniature; it is smashed to pieces
  • 1976: A car crashes into the goat
  • 1979: Goat is burned down before it is finished
  • 1987: Goat is treated with fire-proofing, but is still burned down
  • 2001: Tourist from Cleveland, Ohio is jailed for burning goat
  • 2005: Two men dressed as Santa and Gingerbread Man torch goat

The Gävle Goat on the Internet

The city’s website offers a bilingual blog and Twitter feed, as well as webcams to allow fans to follow the beleaguered goat’s fate.

In one of its last entries, the goat writes:

Terrible night! Slept so well under my beautiful snow blanket, when it suddenly became awfully hot. It was fire!!! At 0300 someone managed to set me on fire and destroy the amazing Christmas spirit in Gavle.

You can follow the Goat @gavlebocken on Twitter.

Yule Goat
Pic: Swedish Christmas
Pictured left is the traditional Swedish Christmas Goat or Julbock that many homes have on display at Christmas time. The straw Julbock is a popular figure that Swedes like to place under their Christmas trees. It’s believed that these small Christmas Goats, were once made from the last shafts of the harvest crop and symbolized the power of rejuvenation and fertility. The Julbock, or Christmas Ram, preceded St. Nicholas as a Christmas figure in Sweden. You can also find Straw Ornaments hanging from the Christmas tree.

Go and see live what is happening on Goatcam 1 & Goatcam 2!

The webcams were closed on December 29th – I guess until next year.


[Gävle on Wiki]

[Official Gävle City website]


Viking Ship, the Sea Stallion, sails from Dublin

Photo: Werner Karrasch, Viking Ship Museum
The Irish Examiner reports that at three o’clock next Thursday afternoon Dubliners will be treated to an extraordinary spectacle. The Viking ship Sea Stallion, which has been on display at the National Museum in Collins Barracks, will be lifted 50 metres into the air by a giant crane. Then the huge vessel will be swung out over the three-storey museum building and deposited in the nearby Croppy’s Acre. In the middle of the night it will be moved to the River Liffey, prior to its long sea journey back to Denmark.

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Viking Blood Courses Through Veins of UK Northerners

Viking Warrior
Pic: Science Daily
The blood of the Vikings is still coursing through the veins of men living in the North West of England — according to a new study, reports Science Daily back in February 2008. Focusing on the Wirral in Merseyside and West Lancashire the study of 100 men, whose surnames were in existence as far back as medieval times, has revealed that 50 per cent of their DNA is specifically linked to Scandinavian ancestry.

The collaborative study, by The University of Nottingham, the University of Leicester and University College London, reveals that the population in parts of northwest England carries up to 50 per cent male Norse origins, about the same as modern Orkney.

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Ulfbehrt’s Swords – Let the buyer beware!

Vikings at Large!
Pic: Guardian
In December 2008, The Guardian carried news about a recent archaeological discovery that swords made by Ulfbehrt could snap in battle like blades made out of glass! They said: It must have been an appalling moment when a Viking realised he had paid two cows for a fake designer sword; a clash of blade on blade in battle would have led to his sword, still sharp enough to slice through bone, shattering like glass.

You really didn’t want to have that happen.

said Dr Alan Williams, an archaeometallurgist and consultant to the Wallace Collection, the London museum which has one of the best assemblies of ancient weapons in the world. He and Tony Fry, a senior researcher at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, south-west London, have solved a riddle that the Viking swordsmiths may have sensed but didn’t quite understand.

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Authentic Viking DNA retrieved from 10 skeletons

Sampling of teeth for aDNA analysis
Pic: Science Daily
Back in May 2008, Science Daily reported that authentic Viking DNA had been retrieved from a group of 10 skeletons on the Danish island of Funen. The article talks about the difficulties of obtaining genuine DNA and says: 


Jørgen Dissing and colleagues from the University of Copenhagen, investigated what went under the helmet; the scientists were able to extract authentic DNA from ancient Viking skeletons, avoiding many of the problems of contamination faced by past researchers.



Analysis of DNA from the remains of ancient humans provides valuable insights into such important questions as the origin of genetic diseases, migration patterns of our forefathers and tribal and family patterns.

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