It was a formidably successful culture, characterized by its own diaspora which was apparently fuelled by expanding tribal populations, a warrior ethos, and a culture of maintaining close links with its homelands. Celts seem to have started out east of the Rhine and expanded across huge areas, including much of Britain, Ireland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. They spread along the Danube towards the Black Sea, pressed on to Thrace and Macedonia and made contact with the Scythians. At the height of their expansion they crossed into Asia Minor, founded settlements in Galatia, in eastern Phrygia, and occupied the site of modern Ankara. What's remarkable is that they did this without financial systems, written records, or administrative centres. Instead, their cultural identity was expressed across vast territories by shared language, belief systems, customs, skills and art.
A few weeks ago I was asked if I’d take part in a Gathering 2013 events launch in Dingle town on New Year’s Eve. I was glad to. Here on the Dingle peninsula, an area that's suffered successive, crippling waves of emigration since the nineteenth century, The Gathering offers a practical boost to the tourist trade on which hundreds of families depend for employment. The same applies all across Ireland, where individuals and locals have come together with energy, creativity and wit to embrace the initiative as an expression of self-help and solidarity in recession. That in itself seems a valid reason to support it.