The Iron Age

THE IRON AGE - 750 BC - 50 AD

The ancestor of the present Celtic languages is believed to have come into existence in central Europe early in the last pre-Christian millennium when people were peaceful. Like others of the language groups of Europe and southern Asia - the descendants of Teutonic, Slavonic, Italic and Sanscrit among them - Celtic evolved from the common ancestor known as Indo-European.

Unfortunately, they are the peoples who inflicted the warring mentality that we still have today. Before the massive invasions of the Indo-Europeans and their possessive mindset, members of the Goddess Agrarian cultures lived in peace and harmony. Unfortunately also, we Terrells are descendants of the Indo-European tribes that conquered the peaceful farming cultures - a gene that is built into us that can only be overcome by meditation and living in harmony with those around us.

On the European mainland there were probably at least four forms of Celtic –
1. the Gaulish of France,
2. the Lepontic of northern Italy,
3. the Celt-Iberian of Spain
4. and the language of the Celts of the Danube basin and of Anatolia. All these languages are now extinct although it is believed that elements of the Celtic of north-western Gaul can be traced in Breton. I have been able to trace our lineage to all three areas.

By the opening of the warring Christian era, the scant evidence suggests that there were two forms of insular Celtic - the Godelic of Ireland and the Brythonic of Britain - the latter a language which had close affinities with Gaulish. (The forms are often known as Q-Celtic and P-Celtic.)
By the fifth century AD, Brythonic had developed two forms, the western and the south-western. South-western Brythonic developed into Cornish; in addition, as a result of migration from Britain to Brittany, it is the main formative element of Breton. Western Brythonic developed into Welsh which was spoken not only in Wales but also in the Brythonic kingdoms of Elmet in the Pennines, Rheged in Cumbria and Dumfries, Strathclyde in the Clyde Valley and the lands of the Votadini along the Firth of Forth.

As a result of colonisation by the Irish, Irish became the language of communities in Cornwall, and in south-west and north-west Wales, but these communities proved to be short lived. Northerly migration by the Irish had more permanent linguistic consequences for it gave rise to the Manx of the Isle of Man and the Gaelic of the Scottish islands and Highlands.

Cornish ceased to have native speakers in the late 18th century as did Manx in the 1970s. Of the four other Celtic languages, there are no precise statistics about the number of Breton speakers for the French government refuses to conduct linguistic censuses in Brittany. It is believed, however, that there are about 450,000 Breton speakers although, because of slippage between the generations, the number is declining rapidly. Up to a million of the inhabitants of Ireland claim to have some knowledge of Irish, but the communities in which it is the everyday language have a population of only about 30,000. There are about 80,000 speakers of Gaelic in Scotland. Thus, at the opening of the twenty-first century, Welsh, which has some 550,000 speakers in Wales and large numbers in England and with a higher status than its fellows, is the strongest and the best-placed of the Celtic languages.

DISCOVERY OF IRON
The discovery of iron placed men and war in the forefront and replaced the peaceful ages of the Goddess. Acquisition, warring and conquering became the mode of the day and has lasted to our current era with great loss of lives and destruction to our planet – Mother Earth.

Iron is the most common of the metals of the earth and, although it is more complicated to produce than copper, the process, unfortunately once discovered, makes possible an almost inexhaustible supply of material for the making of tools, weapons and equipment. The metal is so useful that the Iron Age has lasted until today although the term is generally used to denote the last phase of prehistory. That phase ended in Wales in the first century AD, when the country tiptoes onto the stage of history with the written accounts of its conquest by the Romans.

Iron Age Wales seems to have been inhabited by five tribal groups:
1. the Deceangli of the northeast,
2. the Ordovicians of the northwest,
3. the Demetians of the southwest,
4. the Silurians of the southeast – from which the Tyrrell Clan is descended
5. and the Cornovii of the central borderlands. They produced metalwork of high distinction and, in building their most elaborate hillforts, they employed techniques of considerable sophistication. On the other hand, they made little use of pottery, the archaeologist's favourite artifact, a fact which hampers appreciation of their material culture and shows the shift from the Matriarchic Culture to the more violent Patriarchal.

The Lady of Llyn y Fan 750 BC - AD 48
 
 LLyn Y Fan Fach is a lake situated in some of the most beautiful scenery in Britain. Getting to it means a long walk off the Craig Y Nos - Usk road, following one of the roadside streams upward. It is at this spot that a well known version of the "Lady of the Lake" legend is based:
A the time of the wars with England, many centuries ago, a farmer Would often see a beautiful maiden near the shores of this lake. He fell in love with her and they were married. The girl, however, was a fairy whose true home was within the waters of Llyn Y Fan Fach. She agreed to marry the farmer but warned him: If he struck her three times, she would return to the waters from which she came.
In the spring of the following year, their first child was born. Hurrying to start the journey to church, the farmer gently patted his wife on the back as they went through the door: That was the first blow.
In the next spring, the fairy was awaiting birth of their next child. At that time the farmer’s cousin was to be married. During the ceremony, the fairy foresaw this marriage would end in tragedy when the new bride would soon fall and be killed, and so she wept. Anxious that his weeping wife would upset the ceremony, the farmer tapped her on the arm to stop her: this was the second blow.
The following year, after their third child had been born; the farmer's cousin died of a broken heart. At the burial the fairy could see the spirit of the farmer's cousin was now together with that of his dead wife; and so she smiled with happiness. The farmer was shocked to see her smiling at his cousin's funeral - and struck her on the cheek. The fairy turned and walked slowly out of the door of the church.
She walked slowly away, but however fast the farmer ran, he could not catch up. She returned to the waters of the lake. That however is not the end of the story. Although the farmer never saw her again, she regularly met her three sons. Using their mother’s fairy knowledge, they grew up to be physicians able to cure any illness: and were only the first of a well documented line of such practitioners from the area. This tale of the "Physicians of Myddfai" has been passed down since.

The lady of the lake is considered to be a Bronze Age dweller in a crannog - a primitive lake dwelling - and her fear of iron is symbolic of the mastery over Bronze Age people achieved by the warring wielders of iron weapons. Her white cattle, a symbol of great wealth in the Matriarchal societies, came to be seen as the ancestors of the cattle owned by the kings of Deheubarth (southwest Wales). After returning to the lake, the lady taught her sons the medicinal qualities of plants, a tradition preserved until the 18th century by the line of the Physicians of Myddfai in the Black Mountain.

The Druids 750 BC - AD 61
The fullest account of the druids and their religion is that given by Julius Caesar in his history of his wars in Gaul in 59-51 BC. Caesar is insistent that druidism originated in Britain, although there is no necessity to believe that all the features of the religion as it was practiced in Gaul were present in Britain.
The essence of druidism seems to have been a kind of pantheism, and links have been discerned between it and some aspects of Hinduism. The names of some 400 goddesses & gods are known, most of whom seem to have had a very localized cult. The correct performance of ritual was central to the religion, and the prescribed pattern of ceremonies presumably constituted the greater part of the 20-year training undertaken by a apprentice druid. Today these rituals are practiced by Pagans where the love of nature and the Earth Mother are kept alive. Skulls were particularly worshiped as the brain was seen as the holy center.
In AD 61the Romans attacked the Druids of Anglesey, underpinning British resistance to the Empire, they were determined to suppress it. In the 18th century, with the growing interest in natural religion and in 'the noble savage', druidism captured the imagination of the European intelligentsia. In Wales, the Welsh poetic tradition was believed to have been inherited from the Druids, and Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg) succeeded in 1820 in grafting Druidical ceremonies of his own devising upon the cultural festival, the Eisteddfod, an association which has lasted until today.
 
A view of Snowdonia where Iron Age communities built forts
The most remarkable remains of an Iron Age community in Wales are those at Tre'r Ceiri ('the town of fortresses') on the slopes of Yr Eifl mountain in Snowdonia. It consists of an elongated enclosure within which are the remains of over a hundred huts built of dry-stone walling. Some of the huts are square but the great majorities are round and have some of the characteristics of the houses of the castros of northern Spain. There is evidence that the village was occupied during the Roman period but it appears that its beginnings belong to the years around 200 BC. The huts, with their thick walls and turf roofs, were no doubt quite snug, but it is reasonable to assume - as Tre'r Ceiri is over 400 metres above sea-level - that the huts were the summer habitations of shepherds whose winter dwellings in the lowlands have long been obliterated.
Local tradition places Vortigern in Nant Gwrtheyrn (the 'Valley of Vortigern'), a rocky valley leading down from Yr Eifl to the west coast of the Lleyn peninsula. Vortigern was supposed to have once had his headquarters there.
Here we also find his 'city': Castel Gwrtheyrn, once so marked on Ordnance Survey maps, but now unlocated. The best candidate for this fortress surely is Tre'r Ceiri, which lies just on the other slope of Yr Eifl, very close to the valley. His grave, Bedd Gwrtheyrn, is also to be found somewhere around here, as there are several locations bearing names familiar to us, such as Carn Fadrun, or the 'fort of Modrun' (she was a granddaughter of Vortigern) further south.
 
Snowdonia - where Iron Age communities built forts
The most remarkable remains of an Iron Age community in Wales are those at Tre'r Ceiri ('the town of fortresses') on the slopes of Yr Eifl mountain in Snowdonia. It consists of an elongated enclosure within which are the remains of over a hundred huts built of dry-stone walling. Some of the huts are square but the great majority are round and have some of the characteristics of the houses of the castros of northern Spain. There is evidence that the village was occupied during the Roman period but it appears that its beginnings belong to the years around 200 BC. The huts, with their thick walls and turf roofs, were no doubt quite snug, but it is reasonable to assume - as Tre'r Ceiri is over 400 metres above sea-level - that the huts were the summer habitations of shepherds whose winter dwellings in the lowlands have long been obliterated.
Llyn Cerrig Bach 150 BC - AD 50
Evidence for the practice among Iron Age people of throwing votive objects into rivers and lakes may be found over much of Europe. Indeed, the artistic style of the objects found at La Tene on Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland provided the name for late Iron Age art. Over half the La Tene artifacts found in Wales consist of those discovered at Llyn Cerrig Bach (the gravel lake) in Anglesey in 1943, when an airfield was being built on the banks of the lake. Nearly 150 metal objects came to light, most of which are now in the National Museum at Cardiff.
Many of the objects are associated with horsemanship; others are weapons, and there are also chains believed to have been used to secure gangs of slaves. The artifacts are frequently decorated with the characteristic symbols of La Tene art, an art which employed sinuous, abstract, fantastical and curvilinear motifs in a manner which is very appealing to modern taste.
The Llyn Cerrig Bach artifacts are varied in their origins. They include the work of the craftsmen of Ireland, Yorkshire and southeastern England. The fact that objects with such distant origins were brought to Anglesey indicates that there were in the island in the years between c.150 BC and AD 50 figures of far-reaching influence. As documentary sources show that Anglesey was the chief centre of the druidical religion, it is likely that the deposits at Llyn Cerrig Bach were votive offerings by the followers of the druids.
 
The Isle of Anglesey today (Ynys Môn in Welsh) is situated off the north-west coast of Wales near the beautiful Snowdonia mountain range. It is separated from the mainland by the Menai Strait, which is spanned by two picturesque bridges, the Menai Bridge and the Britannia Bridge. Anglesey was known as Mam Cymru ('Mother of Wales') during the middle ages because its fertile fields formed the breadbasket for the north of Wales.
Today it has several thriving towns. The historic town of Beaumaris is the site of one of the castles built by Edward I after his defeat of the Welsh princes, as well as the historic mansion Henllys Hall, now a hotel (see their pages for more on the history of Anglesey and Wales). The town of Holyhead is the main ferry port for travel across the Irish Sea to Dublin and Llangefni, in the centre of the island, is the county town. Kovach Computing Services (the host of this site) is located in the village of Pentraeth.
Anglesey also has the village with the longest place name in Britain:
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (click here to hear it pronounced). The name, when translated into English, means "The church of St. Mary in a hollow of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and near St. Tysilio's church by the red cave". The name was actually coined in the nineteenth century to attract tourists to the Island. It is abbreviated to Llanfairpwll or Llanfair P.G. by the locals.

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