The Mystery of the Celtic Nations Around the World Unravelled

Celtic Cross Example Image

Updated On: April 07, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

The world is a prominent place to explore, with all the exciting cultures each place offers. There are numerous nations around the globe, including some that people usually get confused about.

Speaking of confusion, we are actually referring to the Celtic nations. This group of people, particularly, is usually confused with the Irish. While this is partially true, the Celtic nations are more than just Ireland. This category encloses a bunch of other countries that we will discuss in detail in this article.

Be ready to be introduced to an exciting culture that not everyone knows.

What are the Celtic Nations?

The Celtic nations are a group of people who embrace Celtic culture and speak the Celtic language. Among this group of people lie the Irish, who are the most likely to be referred to as the Celts. This is probably why people are confused between the two, thinking they’re synonyms.

However, there is more to the Celtic nations than just Ireland. To begin with, the Celtic territories all lie within Western Europe; they are all of European origin. These nations include six different countries, all Europeans, which share many similarities in terms of identity and characteristics.

These countries include Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, Brittany, and Cornwall. While all of them have evidence of the existence of Celtic languages, they have different ones.

The six of these nations speak Celtic, but all six languages are different types of Celtic languages. Hopefully, the picture is getting clearer.

For more elaboration, here is the name of the languages spoken in each country. Ireland speaks Irish, Scotland speaks Scottish Gaelic, the Isle of Man speaks Manx, Wales speaks Welsh, Brittany speaks Breton, and Cornwall speaks Cornish.

There is some evidence that more Celtic people exist outside the borders of those countries. Yet, the largest population of Celtic people reside in Scotland. After all, not all Irish people are of Celtic descent, and the same applies to other nations.

The Languages Used in the Celtic Nations

The Celtic language is not commonly used in modern times. Yet, there are some modern countries that still use it. Most, if not all, of the Celtic nations speak English; however, their English might slightly differ from that of England. Again, those six Celtic languages are divided into two different branches: Goidelic and Brythonic. Goidelic is spoken in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, while Brythonic is spoken in the other three nations.

Arguments over the Existence of a Seventh Celtic Nation

According to history, the Celts spread beyond Northern Europe. Many immigrated to different countries over the centuries, and bits of their culture have been spotted in different places around the world.

This has left many countries worldwide proclaiming themselves among the Celtic nations. That’s because some Celtic influence was observed. Yet, Galicia, in Spain, truly considers itself a Celt. In fact, its culture is heavily impacted by the Celtic heritage, especially the ancient region of Gallaecia.

But then again, the rest of the world doesn’t seem to digest this fact, especially the Celtic nations. Little do we see of the Celtic nations embracing Spain as part of their heritage.  Especially when there are no traces of any Celtic languages in Spain during modern times.

The population of the Celts found in Spain is even less than those in the smallest of the Celtic nations. While the whole world recognises only six Celtic nations, there are facts that are hard to ignore. These facts include the high impact of Celtic culture on the history, folklore, art, and music of Galicia. So, it’s an argument that will still hold strong with people claiming Galicia Celtic and others refusing to accept it as part of the Celtic nation.

Celtic Population outside Europe

We can find some evidence of Celtic populations in some regions outside Europe. Among these countries are Argentina, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Welsh people are the most existing Celtic nation in all of those countries, with Argentina on top. Historically, a large population of the Welsh resided in Patagonia since 1865.

The Flags of Each of the Celtic Nations and Their Significance

Every country has its flag; it is a worldwide notion. While most of us don’t give it that much thought, some elements make up the flags. In other words, there’s a significance to the flags of countries, and those of the Celtic nations are no different.

We will discuss the elements of the six Celtic nations in detail. This might help shed some light on their histories and heritages.

Flags of the Celtic Nations
Flags of the Celtic Nations

Ireland’s Flag

We will definitely start with Ireland on top of this list because it is the most popular among the Celtic nations. As we previously mentioned, people usually confuse Celtic culture with Ireland. They are not wrong anyway, but Celtic culture is not synonymous with Ireland only.

We are all familiar with how the flag of Ireland looks. The Tri-coloured flag has always been of great significance. In fact, those colours have been among the famous symbols of Ireland as well. Each of the three, green, white, and orange, bears connotations to the country’s history. Let’s break down the flag’s colours and describe the implications of each colour.

We will start with the green colour, as it is present on the left side. Green has always been associated with many symbols in Ireland. The colour has also been used during celebrations as part of the country’s identity. In Irish folklore, the green colour describes the shamrock leaves and the attires of the leprechauns.

No wonder we find people pulling off the colour during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. For that, the green colour in Ireland’s flag refers to the Irish people themselves. On the right side of the flag is the orange colour. This colour relates to the Protestant followers of William of Orange. The white comes in the middle as a symbol of peacefulness between the two communities. This historic flag became the official flag of Ireland during the French Revolution era.

Scotland’s Flag

The national flag of Scotland is the Saltire, one of the oldest flags in the world and one of the most recognised flags among the Celtic nations. Saltire actually means a diagonal cross that looks like an X. People also refer to the flag, occasionally, like the Banner of Scotland. There are two stories behind the making of the Scottish flag.

The first tale narrates that there was once a battle in which the Scots and Picts soldiers combined. It took place in the 9th century. King Angus led the soldiers of both the Scots and the Picts.

According to history, the sky was bright blue, and a white cross appeared up there. Thus, it inspired the soldiers and aided them in taking a victorious lead and winning the battle. The second reason was highly related to Saint Andrew. He was the patron saint of Scotland during ancient times. According to the legend, he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, hence the flag.

Isle of Man’s Flag

For those who don’t know, the Isle of Man is an island in the Irish Sea. Over the years, many countries have controlled this land. It also records the oldest Parliament in Europe ever. Among the countries that once had power over the island were Scotland, England, and Ireland.

Nowadays, the British Crown has authority over it. As one of the Celtic nations, it shares many similarities with its other Celtic counterparts, especially Scotland. Even the spoken language there, Manx, bears a great resemblance to Scottish Gaelic.

The flag of this nation is red, and one of the famous Celtic symbols is in the middle, the triskelion. This symbol is three interlocking spirals. This symbol has a significant implication, especially using the number three. This number has always been significant to the Irish and Celtic people. They deem it to be a luck-bringer. The three spirals come in different shapes, depending on what they represent. In this case, the flag of the Isle of Man features three armoured legs with golden spurs.

Wales’ Flag

The Celtic nations embraced various symbols that represented something valuable to their culture. To the Welsh, dragons were the symbol of Celtic victory. Every symbol has numerous stories behind its existence, making it hard to know what is real and what is not.

The flag of Wales represents not only the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr but also the Tudor colours—green and white. You are probably wondering who the Tudors were.

Well, they were the Welsh descendant kings of England. No wonder England has a lot to do with the Celtic culture. Returning to the flag, the symbol has existed for many years. According to legends, it may represent the Celtic victory in a battle where they invaded Saxon. But, some also believe the symbol is associated with either Roman-Britain Unity or Arthurian Legend.

Brittany’s Flag

The flag of the Bretons is not as old as the rest of the flags listed here. Although it dates back to only the 20th century, its elements are much older. This flag narrates the history of the Bretons through a simple design.

Back in time, the descendants of Celtic Britains left their island during the Romans’ attempt to invade it. They settled in France ever since. Throughout history, the French attempted to suppress any cultural distinctions of the fleeing Celtic Bretons. They even considered that having an independent flag was deemed rebellious. However, the Breton folks managed to keep their identity surviving through the centuries.

Let’s break down the elements that make up Brittany’s flag. For a starter, the flag is composed of nine horizontal stripes. These stripes supposedly represent the nine districts in which the Bretons stayed. They are divided into four white stripes and five black ones. The four white stripes represent the Breton-speaking regions. On the other hand, the five black stripes represent French-speaking areas. This implies that while the Bretons resided in France for so long, they still managed to keep their identity.

Cornwall’s Flag

Sadly, the Cornish language has long been silent, but the culture remains. The Cornish folks of the modern times still recognise their Celtic history even if they no longer speak the language. Cornwall sits on the low West Coast of England. Being that close, it attracts a wide range of English visitors. Their flag is usually called the Standard of Cornwall or the banner of St. Perran.

The White Cross in the middle of the flag represents the molten tin. St. Perran supposedly smelled the bright silver tin. On the other hand, the black background symbolises the surrounding black rocks, as legend claims.

The Pan-Celtic Movement

The Celtic countries have apparently created a movement that supports all Celtic-speaking nations. Some sides in the Pan-Celtic movement suggest having an independent federal state for their own. However, this suggestion existed long ago after the Celtic countries split from the UK and France.

George Buchanan started such a movement in the 16th century. He was a Scottish scholar who was fond of the idea of a Celtic people’s union.

Yet, the movement came to light in the 18th century under “the Celtic Revival.” Among its actions was establishing the Celtic Congress. The movement even incorporated the Celtic language into almost everything, including literature and the Bible. Since then, Celtic studies have become an academic field to pursue, like other languages.

We hope you enjoyed this blog about the Celtic Nations. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!


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