storytelling ceilidh

What are Traditional Scottish / Irish Storytelling and the Cèilidh?

Storytelling dragons Scot AnSgeulaiche dragons Is an ancient celtic art form (one of the "High Arts" formerly). It's important to realise the difference between oral storytelling and other forms of narrative: The ancient art commits all Tales to memory, in very exacting ways.

Storytelling has a multifacted history of use including, education of both children and adults, history keeping, law making, conflict resolution, community decision making and mental healing. Many of these uses are still applied by tellers today.

As such, storytellers were (up until the last 300 years) members of the elite class in many cultures including Celtic, where Brehons / Bards / Seanachaidhean / Storytellers were valuable advisors to the Clan Chiefs and leaders. The Scottish tradtition comes from our Irish ancestry. Tales and the culture were brought over in around 500AD with the Irish invasion. That said, there is something common to the storytelling from all of the Celtic nations.

A Highland Storyteller at Castle Stuart

The Cèilidh The old people had a way of coming together in the Celtic Lands - The Cèilidh (pron: "Kay-lee"). The Gàidhlig word means "a gathering of the people". They would collect, young and old, around the hearth of one of the villagers, or perhaps the hearth of a Chieftain's House. There would be songs sung and music to dance to. The oldest, or the Seanachaidh (storyteller) if present, would tell the Tales they had learned from their elders - Tales of their people, Tales of honour, of battles, of magic, of love, of sorrow. The Cèilidh and these Tales, older than the languages which now recall them, weave the people together, give the people a sense of who they are and where they come from.

Kilmartin Glen, Argyll

dragonsSeanachaidh In Scotland and Éireann (Ireland) in times past there were those known as Seanachaidh (Shan-ah-kee), tellers who carry the Traditional Tales and history of his people in a particular way. A Seanachaidh is a genealogist, a historian, a documenter of events and agreements, a walking library. In addition, the Seanachaidh carries the Folk Tales. These are non-historical Tales and are important for other social reasons. They are remembered with great precision, in quite a pure form, something precious, to be handed on intact to the next carrier of the oral tradition. And so it has been for hundreds of years, with apparently, very little evolution and change in each Tale (so cross cultural studies show us).

The Teller and the Ceilidh In this way of working with Tales the teller is a Weaver, a weaver of energy, people and words, and sometimes healing and something magical. This kind of storytelling is a highly interactive experience with the listener. I describe these gatherings (cèilidhean) that as "A ceremony of Tale", a sacred space of magic, words and peoples' hearts.

"There are many ways to come
to an understanding of ourselves.
The Tales are just one.
A powerful one"