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'Do not miss out on a spectacle of Cornish heritage'

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: September 02, 2010

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"OMNIA Gallia in tres partes divisa est" read the opening words of Caesar's account of the Gallic War. It translates as, "All Gaul was divided in three parts".

Those three parts were the territory of the Belgae, in modern Northern France and, of course, Belgium, of the Aquitani, south of the Loire, and of those calling themselves Celts, lying between them the largest part of which was Armorica consisting of what is now Normandy and Brittany.

The three peoples spoke different languages, all of them Celtic. Caesar's account of Celtic Society is both biased and inaccurate. He talks of ritual human sacrifice, unrecorded elsewhere, as if it was commonplace and alien to the morality and ideology of Rome, who regularly sacrificed her captives in the arena in so-called games, an essential part of Roman religious practice.

This was certainly propaganda against the Gauls to help with the eventual conquest. Caesar describes the two classes ruling in Gaul as the Knights and the unarmed Druids, a class of philosopher priests and keepers of history, uniters of the tribes, and guardians of the culture. He explains that the Druids hold an annual ceremony on a fixed date, to organise both discussion and competitions in the arts. He notes that the heart and origin of this culture was Britannia, the Island of Britain.

The Gaulish Armies received reinforcements from Britain and this led, eventually, to its conquest and the destruction of the principal druidic headquarters, a century after the same thing was done to Gaul.

Why do I mention this ? Well, 400 years later, when Rome itself was contracting, people from the Isle of Britain migrated to Armorica in such large numbers that the peninsula there became known as little Britain, and they took with them the language of South West Britain, from which Breton developed. Speakers of Cornish and Breton can make themselves understood to each other easily. As Roman power faded in Britain, the Celtic languages of Welsh and Cornish became the main languages in their respective locations and the old traditions, which were implicit in the old Druidic Society, modified somewhat by Christianity, re-emerged and were expressed by the poets and bards in the new prosody of these developing languages.

More than 1,000 years passed before Iolo Morganwg linked this bardic tradition with the pre-Roman past and his Welsh present, by setting up the Welsh Gorsedd and creating the National Eisteddfod of Wales as an annual celebration of language, cultural and national continuity.

I attended this year's Eisteddfod as a guest of the Welsh, as did delegates from Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, The Isle of Man, and Y Wladfa (welsh-speaking Argentina).

In July, I was in Brittany for the Gorsedd, as was a Welsh delegation. On Saturday, guests from Wales and Britanny will attend the Cornish Gorsedd at 2.30pm, the Island, St Ives.

Be there, it is a spectacle rooted in our history and culture, you shouldn't miss it.

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