Celtic Culture

This Pathfinder is no longer being actively maintained by ipl2.


Whether you loved or hated Riverdance, Braveheart, and Rob Roy, you may have wondered where to begin learning more about the culture behind the music, dances, and stories. Celtic culture is quite a broad area of study, and sometimes the best way to learn about it is through wandering. Thus, this Pathfinder is by no means a comprehensive list of what is on the Web, but is rather intended to provide some direction to that wandering. Keep in mind that the best way to learn about a culture is often to get involved with it firsthand, and use the information in this pathfinder as a resource for finding ways you can do that, whether it be through finding a dance group in your area, borrowing recordings of Celtic music from your public library, attending traditional performances, or learning one of the languages spoken in the Celtic world.

Please note: there are more Celtic areas in the world than this Pathfinder covers directly. Because of space limitations, it focuses most heavily on Scotland and Ireland. Information about other geographic areas can be found in the general resources, under the Yahoo categories, or by searching other search engines or your local library catalog, combining words like Celt, Wales, Nova Scotia, Galicia, Galiza, Acadia, Brittany, Bretagne, Manx, or Newfoundland with words like dance, music, art, history, folktales, literature, food, or culture.

Celtic Culture Resources

This section contains information about both print and electronic/Web-based resources about Celtic culture. The general resources are included to help you discover what is "out there"; the subject-based resources (Art, Music and Dance, History and Literature, and Language) will contain more specific information, as well as information about how you can get involved in Celtic activities of one form or another.

General Resources

The Doras Directory (Doras: Gaelic for "door"), which is located at http://www.doras.ie/Doras.nsf, bills itself as "the world's most comprehensive directory of Irish and Irish-related websites." The sites listed under Doras' eighteen categories have been on the basis of content, functionality, style and innovation. If you are looking strictly for Irish information, this easy-to-use site is a good place to start; the site summaries give good information about the content and structures of the indexed pages.

The home page of the Dalriada Celtic Heritage Trust, found at http://www.dalriada.co.uk/, contains a great deal of information, but at the moment, the only way to access the majority of their Celtic pages is by clicking on "site search" and then typing a word describing what you are looking for into the box. Alternatively, you can browse the Trust's Archives, which are located at http://www.dalriada.co.uk/Visitorindex/Public_Archives/public_archives.html.

The Rampant Scotland Index is a subject-organized index of more than 5,000 webpages about Scotland. This site is found at http://www.rampantscotland.com/. There is a lot here and the site is very useful, though you may have to do some wading once you get past the initial headings and subheadings.

The Canadian Celtic Directory contains listings for Celtic businesses, venues, musicians, craftsmen, etc., in Canada. The directory is available from Porthole Press, 115-509 Commissioners Rd West, London, ON Canada N6J 1YS. See http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Venue/9126 for more information and some sample pages.

The page located at http://www.ibiblio.org/gaelic/Celts/lists.html gives information on how to subscribe to four listservs (CELTIC-L, IRTRAD-L, WELSH-L, and GAELIC-L). The first two of these focus on culture and music, respectively; the latter two focus on the Welsh and Gaelic languages, respectively, and are carried on in those languages.

Relevant Yahoo categories include:
Society and Culture: Cultures and Groups: Cultures: Celtic
Society and Culture: Cultures and Groups: Cultures: Celtic: Organizations

Don't forget to check your local library catalog for print resources. You may wish to look under the following Dewey Decimal numbers: 704.039 (Celtic Art); 781.5 (Music - Kinds of Music); 781.62 (Folk Music); 793.3 (Social, Folk, and National Dancing); 891.6 (Celtic Literature); 936.202 (Celtic Period - English History); and 491.6 (Celtic Languages). If your library is organized using the Library of Congress classification system, check the following subject headings: Art, Irish; Art, Scottish; Art, Celtic; Folk songs, Scots; Folk songs, Irish; Folk dancing, Irish; Folk dancing, Scottish; Folk literature, Irish; Folk literature, Scottish; Celtic Literature; and Celtic Languages.

Subject-Oriented Resources

  • Art

Yahoo categories:

Society and Culture: Cultures and Groups: Cultures: Celtic: Art
Business and Economy: Companies: Arts and Crafts: Cultures and Groups: Celtic


The Book of Kells is perhaps the most widely recognized piece of Celtic art; its designs have been copied for everything from Christmas cards to jewelry. Images from the Book of Kells can be found at http://www.dubois.ws/people/paul/kells/. Information about the Lindisfarne Gospels, less famous than the Book of Kells but decorated in the same style, can be found at http://www.bl.uk/collections/treasures/lindis.html. Three Oxford University Libraries have posted digitized versions of several Celtic manuscripts at http://image.ox.ac.uk/. These manuscripts date from the 9th to the 19th century.

If you would like to try your own hand at drawing Celtic knots, take a look at http://www.craytech.com/drew/knotwork/knotwork.html. This page gives instructions for beginners as well as a list of print resources you might want to consult.

The Celts were not only famous for their manuscript art, though. Photographs of other forms of Celtic art can be found at http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edu/~cmw/1995/HomePage.html, as part of Constanze Witt's dissertation proposal from the Unversity of Texas at Austin.

  • Music and Dance

Yahoo Categories:

Entertainment: Music: Artists: By Genre: Folk and Traditional: Celtic
Entertainment: Music: Genres: Folk and Traditional: Celtic
Arts: Performing Arts: Dance: Folk and Traditional: Irish
Arts: Performing Arts: Dance: Folk and Traditional: Scottish


See the information about the IRTRAD-L Irish traditional music mailing list on this pathfinder under "General Resources." To subscribe to the scottish-dance list, send an email message to mailbase@newcastle.ac.uk with "join scottish-dance [first name] [last name]" as the subject line and message body. The Flatheads listserv is for general discussion of all Celtic styles of dance. List information is located at http://tile.net/lists/flatheads.html.


The Ceolas Celtic Music Archive, located at http://www.ceolas.org/ceolas.html, is among the best resources for information about Celtic music and dance on the Web. It contains everything from artist profiles to information about instruments used in Celtic music to sound samples of hundreds of tunes. If you want to learn an instrument, the tunes database on Ceolas is a good place to get music, as traditional Celtic musicians often learn not by reading music, but by imitation.

Because written music and articles are considered an inferior way to learn about Celtic music, you might also want to look into purchasing some cds. Green Linnet, located at http://www.greenlinnet.com/, has a large catalog of Celtic music. If you have looked at artist sites through Angus Og's index, one of the other general resources, or Ceolas, you might want to search CDNow, at http://www.cdnow.com/, for the artist's recordings. Amazon, located at http://amazon.com/, has also recently begun selling cds. If you would like to attend a performance, check Pollstar (http://www.pollstar.com/), as well as Ceolas, for concerts in your area. If you play an instrument used in Celtic music, keep your eye out for local open sessions — groups of people playing informally together — that you might be able to join.

The Ceilidh Page (http://www.scottishdance.net/ceilidh/) gives directions on how to do some of the most common ceilidh dances.

  • History and Literature

Yahoo Categories:

Regional: Countries: Ireland: Arts and Humanities: Humanities: Literature


FREEDOM-L, a listserv dedicated to discussion of Celtic (especially Scottish) history. Information about the list and how to subscribe is located at http://members.aol.com/diobarach/index.html.


The site located at http://www.ibiblio.org/gaelic/Celts/celts.html offers a brief description of who the Celtic tribes were, with a little information about their languages.

The searchable Encyclopedia of the Celts found at http://celt.net/Celtic/celtopedia/indices/encycintro.html includes information on works of mythology, legend, fiction and history.

The Irish History on the Web site (http://wwwvms.utexas.edu/~jdana/irehist.html) includes a great deal of information about Irish history, as well as links to genealogy websites.

The site at http://www.clannada.org/timeline.htm gives a timeline of Celtic history.

Irish and Celtic Literature and Folklore can be found at http://www.luminarium.org/mythology/ireland/

  • Language

Yahoo Categories:

Social Science: Linguistics and Human Languages: Languages: Language Groups: Celtic Languages


See the information about the Welsh-L and Gaelic-L language mailing lists on this pathfinder under "General Resources." If you are learning Scots Gaelic and would like others to talk to, you might be interested in the Gaidhlig 4 U listserv. Information about the listserv is located at http://www.distantoaks.com/g4u/.


See the Language section of Angus Og's Every Celtic Thing on the Web, listed on this page under "General Resources." NTC Publishing makes a Teach Yourself Gaelic book and cassette available from http://amazon.com. Search for "gaelic course" (without quotes). [ISBN: 0844238619] Searching for "irish course" will bring up a similar resource entitled Irish : A Complete Course for Beginners [ISBN: 0844238651]

University Programs/Classes

Yahoo Categories:

Social Science: Area Studies: Celtic Studies


The Gaelic College (http://www.gaeliccollege.edu/) in Cape Breton, NS, works toward preserving Gaelic and Celtic arts.

The Boston College Irish Studies Program (http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/irish/) offers MA and Ph.D. degrees focusing on Irish history and literature.

Don't forget to check the webpages of universities in Celtic areas to find out whether they offer Celtic studies/Celtic arts programs; many do.

This pathfinder was created by Jennifer Schupska.

You may also wish to see IPL Online Texts: Celtic Literatures | IPL Reading Room Serials: Celtic