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Avalanche Press - Celtic Age - Roleplaying the Myths, Heroes and Monsters of the Celts by Azamor

Avalanche Press - Celtic Age - Roleplaying the Myths, Heroes and Monsters of the Celts by Azamor

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Published by Jonathan Azamor

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Published by: Jonathan Azamor on Apr 15, 2012
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03/29/2014

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The Celts have a recently-developed alphabet, a
concept given impetus by contact with the
Romans. The Ogham alphabet consists of 20
figures, each of which corresponds to a tree.
They are expressed as slashes, usually carved on
the edge of a standing stone. The 20 are
grouped into four families each of five
symbols: the first three are consonants,
followed by vowels.

According to legend, Ogma, the most learned
of the Tuatha de Danaan, invented the Ogham
script. Others attribute it to Ogmios, the
Celtic form of the Greek hero Herakles.

Ogham script is less useful for writing and,
like other early alphabets, is primarily used for
inscriptions. For the Celts, these are plain and

simple much like their buildings. The Celtic
landscape is dotted with the small monuments
that will later be known as standing stones:
plain stones, usually rectangular and stood on
their ends. They are polished smooth, and
often have Ogham inscriptions along their
edges. They serve as boundary markers
separating the territory of different clans or
tribes and also honor local gods. Some erect
standing stones to call on the gods for special
favors. The stones are held to have great
powers, but they are only stand-ins for trees.

Very few can read or write the Ogham script. It
is the province of druids for the most part,
though a few others can interpret the symbols.
This is not a language used to record events or
information; the Celts depend on the prodigious
memory of their bards and fili for that.

89

The rough exterior of the Celtic world, with its tumbledown buildings, simple clothing, and lack of towns
and cities, hides a sophisticated culture beneath the grime. The great stories of the Celtic gods and heroes are
passed down orally and are continually re-told by bards and fili. However, these traditions are not the
province of these specialized poets alone. In some cultures the poet classes are the repositories of a people’s
knowledge. They remember the past and repeat it on special occasions.
It is a given that Celtic poets have wide knowledge of these epics, but their function in society is not merely
to remember. It is also to create. The Celts consider themselves to be part of their culture’s Age of Heroes.
They honor the heroes of the past and acknowledge their great deeds, but the time for great bravery is not
over. New epics remain to be told.
The old tales are remembered by all. Warriors are expected to wield a sharpness of mind to match that of
their sword. The proper Celtic warrior can recite the epic poems of his or her people as well as any other
culture’s bard or storyteller might. In some cultures both in this time and two millennia hence, that might
be enough. But the Celts are not static antiquarians. It’s not enough to recite the old tales; their underlying
meanings must be understood as well. Celts will argue deep into the night over the subtext of their legends,
and, when the Celtic love of heavy drinking is thrown in, the outcome of such deconstruction is often settled
with swords. Later peoples will admire the Celts for this trait, imagining them holding graduate seminars
over meat and mead. But the Celtic warrior is no effete academic: the tales exist to instill honor and fighting
spirit in a person’s soul.

7
Celtic Learning

Gora McGahey (order #19251)

69.136.21.109

Outsiders claim that the druids use Ogham as a
secret language, passed down only among the
priesthood. This is not exactly true, though
neither is it entirely false. Few outside the
druids understand the script, because few
outside the druids have any use for written
language.

Rome’s Latin alphabet – ancestor of
this one – is far more useful for
everyday use. A number of Celtic
peoples who have had close contact
with Romans have adopted this form
of writing. Usually they use their
own language, writing it phonetically
just like the Romans do with Latin.
As in the rest of the world, the
number of literate people is very low.
Since Celts do not participate in
commerce on a very large scale, there
is no economic incentive
for literacy.

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