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Myths of British ancestry

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Republication from Prospect Journal

satellite(Image credit: Mapbox)

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Everything you know about British and Irish ancestry is wrong. Our ancestors were Basques, not Celts. The Celts were not wiped out by the Anglo-Saxons, in fact neither had much impact on the genetic stock of these islands

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The fact that the British and the Irish both live on islands gives them a misleading sense of security about their unique historical identities. But do we really know who we are, where we come from and what defines the nature of our genetic and cultural heritage? Who are and were the Scots, the Welsh, the Irish and the English? And did the English really crush a glorious Celtic heritage? Everyone has heard of Celts, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. And most of us are familiar with the idea that the English are descended from Anglo-Saxons, who invaded eastern England after the Romans left, while most of the people in the rest of the British Isles derive from indigenous Celtic ancestors with a sprinkling of Viking blood around the fringes.Yet there is no agreement among historians or archaeologists on the meaning of the words “Celtic” or “Anglo-Saxon.” What is more, new evidence from genetic analysis (see note below) indicates that the Anglo-Saxons and Celts, to the extent that they can be defined genetically, were both small immigrant minorities. Neither group had much more impact on the British Isles gene pool than the Vikings, the Normans or, indeed, immigrants of the past 50 years.The genetic evidence shows that three quarters of our ancestors came to this corner of Europe as hunter-gatherers, between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago, after the melting of the ice caps but before the land broke away from the mainland and divided into islands. Our subsequent separation from Europe has preserved a genetic time capsule of southwestern Europe during the ice age, which we share most closely with the former ice-age refuge in the Basque country. The first settlers were unlikely to have spoken a Celtic language but possibly a tongue related to the unique Basque language.

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The Return of Pan

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The god Pan. A fine artwork by Jim Colorex

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It’s still summertime, so I’m in the mood for something different today.
A few days ago I remembered an old, beloved song of the Waterboys (Michael Scott’s band), called ‘The Return Of Pan’. It’s a nostalgic song with references to the Irish island of Inisheer (Aran Islands) and the Greek district of Arcadia (actually Pan’s motherland and also my motherland).
Initially Pan was probably a local deity or agathodaemon of the Arcadians (a Hellenic people of Peloponnesus’ interior) before becoming a Pan-Hellenic god. Soon his cult was adopted by the Etruscans (who used to adopt unquestionably everything Greek!) and then by almost all the peoples of ancient Italy. At the same time Pan’s cult was spread to Western Asia Minor and during the Hellenistic and Roman Period, I suppose that it was spread in most of the Mediterranean regions.
I don’t know much about the ancient Celtic gods but from this song I suppose that there was a goat-like god of the Celts, similar enough to Pan, connected to Inisheer and the Aran Islands. And I do not mean Kernounos who was a deer-like god.

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A million Vikings still live among the British people

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 One in 33 men can claim to be direct descendants from the Norse warriors

  • Around 930,000 people can claim to be of direct Viking descent
  • A study compared Y chromosome markers to estimated Viking DNA patterns
  • The Viking DNA patterns are rarely found outside Scandinavia

Almost one million Britons alive today are of Viking descent, which means one in 33 men can claim to be direct descendants of the Vikings.

Around 930,000 descendents of warrior race exist today – despite the Norse warriors’ British rule ending more than 900 years ago.

A genetic study carried out by BritainsDNA compared the Y chromosome markers – DNA inherited from father to son – of more than 3,500 men to six DNA patterns that are rarely found outside of Scandinavia and are associated with the Norse Vikings.

Amateur Vikings process around their longboat during the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

Amateur Vikings process around their longboat during the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

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A Synopsis of the Anglo-Scottish Historico-political Interactions

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By Periklis Deligiannis

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Most of this article is actually a part of my published book The Celts, Athens 2008, unfortunately available only in Greek.
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At about the same time when the Anglo-Saxons and other Germanics were landing in Britain and beginning the conquest of the territories which later became England (5th cent. AD.), one of the strongest Irish tribes, namely the Scots, were migrating to the opposite coast of Caledonia (northern Britain), founding the kingdom of Dal-Riada (or Dal-Riata). It has been hypothesized that in reality this colonization involved Scottish mercenaries (a Scot dynasty) who were to be used by the Britons as a buffer against the Pict raiders, like the earlier migration of the Votadini. The Picts (the “painted ones” in Latin because they retained the ancient Celtic custom of using body tattoo before the battle) were a pre-Celtic people of Caledonia, who at that time was almost Celticized and had incorporated most of the other tribes of the region. Τhey were calling themselves the Cruthni. The Britons generally used the Roman doctrine of dealing with barbarian peoples by turning one against another.
In Ireland, which has never been threatened by the Romans, the local Celtic tribes and dynasties fought each other for power. Some warlords managed to greatly expand their influence and it became a custom to be enthroned on the sacred hill of Tara.
Until the early 20th century, most researchers believed that the Anglo-Saxons were the principal ancestors of the modern English nation and the English are basically a Germanic people, on the hypothesis that their ancestors exterminated the native Celts or expelled them to the periphery of the island. Since then, the sciences of archaeology, genetics, anthropology and others demonstrated that this is not true. The English originate mainly from the indigenous population of the British Isles (as the neighbouring modern Celtic peoples) who first adopted the Celtic language due to cultural interaction with the Continent, and then adopted the Anglo-Saxon language because of the Germanic conquest. The same applies to the origins of the modern French people, the Spanish, the Walloons and others, who originate mainly from the pre-Celtic population of each country, who was Celticized mainly through cultural interaction and later Latinized because of the Roman conquest. The majority of the population of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms from the 7th century onwards, consisted of Germanized Britons who spoke the language of the conquerors and now called themselves ‘Saxons’. Their leading class consisted mainly of genuine Anglo-Saxons and some Germanized ex-Celtic aristocrats. The original Saxons were the majority only in some small coastal enclaves where they originally landed.

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THE IRISH BRIGADE IN THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

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By  Periklis  Deligiannis

Irish Brigade at Gettysburg

The  Irish  Brigade  at  Gettysburg.  A  classic  artwork  by  Don  Troiani.


The  Irish  Infantry  Brigade  of  the  Federal  Army  (USA)  in  the  Civil  War  consisted  mainly  of  Irish  immigrants  and  Americans  of  Irish  descent,  Catholics  almost  entirely.  After  the  Civil  War,  the  69th  Infantry  Regiment  of  New  York  is  considered  to  be  the  descendant  unit  of  the  Brigade  (because  its  power  was  decreased  because  of  the  losses  and  the  demobilization  after  the  end  of  the  war).  Moreover,  the  69th  Regiment  which  goes  on  serving  the  U.S.  Army  was  the  original  core  of  the  Brigade.  The  Irish  Brigade  became  famous  for  the  high  aggressiveness  of  its  men  and  their  characteristic  Celtic  battle  cry  ‘Fag  an  bealach!’  (‘Open  the  way!’,  in  Gaelic  Celtic),  typical  of  its  risky  missions.
The  Celts  have  always  been  renowned  (already  from  Antiquity)  for  their  bravery  on  the  battlefield,  being  elite  combatants  (warriors  and  then  soldiers)  and  renown  mercenaries.  On  the  other  hand,  the  Celtic  soldiers  (expect  possibly  the  Highlander  Scots)  were  often  considered  to  be  expendable  by  the  Anglo-Saxon  political-military  leaderships  of  the  U.S.  and  Britain  until  the  end  of  World  War  I.  However,  the  heavy  losses  suffered  generally  by  the  Fed  Irish  soldiers  during  the  Civil  War  were  not  always  necessarily  due  to  this  mutual  antipathy  between  Anglo-Saxons  (‘natives’  as  they  called  themselves)  and  Celts  (usually  newcomer  immigrants),  which  in  this  period  often  ended  in  street  clashes  with  several  people  dead  in  major  American  cities  of  the  North  like  New  York,  Boston,  Philadelphia  etc.  Their  losses  in  the  war  were  due  to  a  significant  extent,  to  the  aforementioned  martial  reputation  of  the  Celts:  they  used  to  undertake  a  major  part  of  the  fighting,  thereby  they  had  such  heavy  losses.

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