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Modern American culture thrives on the ancient religions of the Greeks and Romans. The Hellenistic myths are kept alive today in the popular culture of the western world. Yet little is commonly known of the religions and myths of the ancient people just to the north of the Romans; the Celts (7). The Celtic region spanned the British Isles, and the north western portion of the European continent from prehistoric times until the Roman invasion in the first century where the region shrunk to Ireland and Scotland (7). Though many conquered cultures managed to survive through Roman rule, the Celts did not (5). This essay explores the limitations of our knowledge of the Celtic religion, and ancient Irish culture, it details how we know what we know about Celtic beliefs, discusses the evolution of Irish culture from the early third century, up until the sixteenth century, and looks at the specific myths that have managed to survive to present day.
Though much is lost to history, we do still know a considerable amount about Irish Celtic cultures and practices. The records that we do have come from a variety of secondary sources including Roman records of the Celts, Catholic documents, Secular prose and poetry, and even a few primary ancient Irish texts (2, 6). The script of pre-christian Ireland is known as Ogam, the earliest examples of which date back as far as the fourth century (2). However, because early Irish mythology was a mostly oral tradition, more widespread literacy in Ireland did not begin until Christianity came to the island in the early 400s (2). Pope Palladius sent the first Catholic missionaries to Ireland in 431 C.E. (2). Their goal of spreading the Catholic gospel created the need for literacy among the newly establi...

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...Irish beliefs often adapt with ease to an encroaching culture, and as such, the ancient fairy-faith has survived in one form or another even past the 1900s (2,3). It was still common belief in the early 1900’s when Lady Gregory began recording folklore, that Ireland was occupied by the human descendants of the Celts, and a god race of fairy people known as the Sidhe (1). These beliefs still managed to coexist with Catholic doctrine (3). Often the Catholic monks would change native Irish legends to fit into the Christian canon (3). The goddess Dana, or Brigit, considered the mother of the fairy people who are believed to inhabit the island, became St. Brigit, one of the patron saints of Ireland (3). The druids of Ireland believed that the Sidhe were the third race of god-people who inhabited Ireland, the first two dying off from mysterious plagues after fighting the

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