The Celts: Rich Traditions and Ancient Myths (BBC 1986)

 


Documentary written and narrated by Frank Delaney. Music by Enya.


The Celts, a 6 hour series, aired on the BBC in 1986. It was apropos that the video release would coincide with St. Patrick’s Day 1998.

Part 1; The Man with the Golden Shoes begins in Hallstatt Austria, at one of the earliest archeological sites of Celtic civilization. The video shows the actual dig site and the artifacts from it. This section is full of beautiful scenes of the area around Halstatt and close examination of the artifacts, along with Delaney’s delightful explanations.

Part 2; The Birth of Nations follows the path of the Celts' migration toward Britain. It is wonderful to see a recreated Celtic village. The buildings and the people give a sense of what it may have been like to life in a clan-based community. Along the way we are shown various sites linked to the Celtic emigration across Western Europe. There is a strong emphasis on the tribal life and the intense spirituality of the Celts.

Part 3; Once Upon a Time continues the exploration of Celtic spirituality, focusing on their deep connection to nature and animals and how this symbolized the Celts' faith. One section discusses the “cult of the severed head”. Rather than portray the Celts as bloody and savage, the belief in the power of the head is explained in contextually.

Part 4; They Paint Horses, Don’t They explores Celtic influence in art and literature. This section brings us into modern times and traces the Celtic flavors in music, dance and festivals that are still enjoyed today in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

Throughout the entire series there are interviews with some of today’s leading Celtic scholars. Among them are Anne Ross, author of Pagan Celts, Miranda Green, author of Dictionary of Celtic Myths and Legends and Gods of the Celts, and Pronsias MacCana, author of Celtic Mythology. Each interview section is well-placed and helps further explain Delaney’s narrative. And last but not least is the beautiful music of Enya that sets the mood and carries each part to the next. Even if academic research and Enya’s music is not your cup of tea, the sheer beauty in photography and Delaney’s charismatic style make this three video set worth watching again and again.


[Rebecca Wright]