The Ancient Story of Britain
Who are the British, and where are their oldest stories found?
When the Romans arrived in Britain 1,969 years ago, they recorded that the people of the island were called Britons. Of course, this was recorded by the Romans in their own language. The British version of their name was something along the lines of Brythoni or Prytani.
The people of Britain at that time were mostly people who had been living in the Land for at least 6,000 years.
The Celts had arrived in Britain by then, and they seem to have been a minority elite who had a great deal of influence on the culture and language of the people, much like the Romans and later Normans did.
‘Celt’ or ‘Keltoi’ is from the Greek meaning barbarian, so 'Celt' is not what they would have called themselves.
It is not too clear when the Celts first came to Britain, there may have been several incoming waves of different Celtic tribes arriving during the Bronze and Iron Ages, and possbily even during the Neolithic. They brought wealth, metals, new skills and creative artistry, as well as their language and culture.
The modern development of this Celtic language still exists, amongst the Irish, (who speak Goidelic-Celt) and the Welsh (who speak Brythonic-Celt).
This identifies the Welsh as the living descendants of those Celtic tribes who came to Britain, and also of the majority indiginous British people who lived in the land at that time and took on the Celtic language.
At the time of the Roman arrival, Ancient Welsh was spoken throughout Britain. During the Roman occupation, names were 'Romanised', but the Brythonic-Celt language was retained.
We don’t know what languages were spoken in Britain before the Celts, or what cultural groups the Shamanic Hunter–Gatherers may have evolved from, but their descendants undoubtedly contributed to the Welsh gene pool and there seems to have been a smooth transition of ideas and beliefs.
The Celts, then, having a still existing language and a strong oral tradition, become our strongest link for finding nuggets of wisdom about the distant past in Britain. The ancient Welsh language written in early manuscripts has changed very little compared to the English language as it was spoken in Chaucer's time.
Naming the Land of Britain
In the Celt/Welsh language, P and B are radical and soft (mutated) versions of the same consonant, likewise, T and D.
The name of the land varied along the lines of Bryd, Pryd, Pridd, Bridd, Brid. This led to 'Prydain' which is the name of Britain found in early Arthurian stories.
So, as P becomes B and T becomes D, Prytani becomes Prydain, becomes Britain.
British names and especially place names connected to these are likely to be rooted in the name of the land itself. These include Priddy, Bridport, Bridlington.
The word ‘Pridd’ (pronounced 'preeth') means ‘earth’ in the Welsh language.
British Shamanism is not Celtic because of the time difference between Shamanism in Britain and the arrival of the Celts, but there is a probable evolution through Shamanic culture in Britain to the Celts.
If we think of the time differences from the paleolithic, or even the mesolithic, to the arrival of the Celts, even at the earliest possible dates that they could have arrived, we are talking about thousands of years, they are huge periods of time apart.
Based on the speed of change today, we might think a lot changed in that time. In my short lifetime, computers and mobile phones have been invented and technology has changed nearly everything.
However, time has been speeding up and back then, things changed very, very slowly comparatively.
Despite the onset of farming and the development of religions, much remained the same or similar for huge periods of time in the past and some fundamental beliefs, wisdoms and knowledge was 'coded' into early stories, beliefs, folk practices and song which have, in some cases, survived even into today.
Rituals like touching wood for good luck, for example, a very pagan ritual that comes from a time in the far and distant past
and is quite possibly Shamanic. It's just a question of remembering what it means, because, if we work that out, we learn a lot about our ancestors' relationship and understanding of trees, of
luck, of life. We find out that, as usual, it's all about understanding energy, how to store and how to access energy.
Medieval times are pretty 'modern' compared to paleolithic times but people in the Middle Ages were very supersticious and carried out a lot of 'pagan' rituals despite being Christianised, rituals involving beliefs that had roots in the very distant past. We have written records from this time, in fact we have written records that we know for a fact date back to events in the 300's AD. We can, furthermore, hypothesise that events in stories first written down between 1000 to 1200 AD are telling of events from hundreds, if not thousands, of years previously.
The Celts will have been influenced by the existing majority population upon arriving and settling in Britain, and the oral tradition supports the idea that the Celts may have arrived much earlier than we suppose.
The Celtic Druids show evidence of having practices that evolved from an earlier Shamanic tradition. Indeed, the Four Branches are themselves ancient stories that suggest a connection and progression from much earlier times to a Bronze Age culture.
So, it is to early Welsh mythology we shall turn to search for clues of even earlier times in Britain.