Celteroticism: Male-to-Male Relationships Believed A Norm Amongst The Celts
Historical accounts state the ancient Celts are believed to have fought their battles naked, a notion that holds a certain erotic allure for many. What may not be widely known, mostly because of editing and revisionist history, is that it many historians have concluded that it was not uncommon in Celtic culture for the men to have sex with each other, even preferentially so. Some speculation suggests that life for Celtic warriors could have been a veritable hot-bed of male to male sex for pleasure - and to think people of the modern times have been worried about gays in the military! The Celts were known as some of the fiercest fighters in history strongly suggesting that there was nothing compromised about them.
Some critics say that the modern Irish as descendents of the Celts, had Christianity and its traditionally homophobic ethos forced upon them. Behind all the seemingly cultural anti-gay context that gets talked about around St. Patrick’s Day because some organizers haven’t allowed GLBT groups to march in the day’s celebratory parades (in the USA), is a history of a people who seem to have had a very active natural pleasure ethic and libido. They seem to have seen no problem with same-sex pleasure, affection or love.
The relationship between gender-variance, homeroticism, magic and mystery traditions has been, until fairly recently, a taboo subject for occultists, religionists and academics all. Over the last decade or so, interest in Celtic traditions has grown and has been romanticised to the point that it has spurred some to investigate the aspects of the culture which have been omitted by revisionists.
One offering of information is from Diodorus Siculus in 1 BCE who wrote “Although they have good-looking women, they pay very little attention to them, but are really crazy about having sex with men. They are accustomed to sleeping on the ground on animal skins and roll around naked with male bed-mates on both sides. Heedless of their own dignity, they abandon without qualm the bloom of their bodies to others. And the most incredible thing is that they do not find this shameful. When they proposition someone, they consider it dishonourable if he doesn’t accept the offer!”
From this piece and other information about gender variance amongst the Celts that is available, it seems same-sex relations between warriors were not unknown or for that matter, at all uncommon. There is evidence of homosexuality in Celtic warrior bands which were known as ‘Bleiden’ or ‘Wolf’. What is significant is that, despite similarities (such as shape-shifting & wilderness initiation rituals) there was a marked difference between Greek and Celtic homoeroticism in that unlike the Greeks, the Celts did not consider it shameful that males elected to take the so-called ‘passive’ role.
Three areas where evidence is found for gender-variance and homoeroticism include; hints on same-sex relationships in the life of Cuchullain, the story of the Men of Ulster and the myth of Gwydion and Gilvaethy.
While there are no sweeping statements promoting what today is termed homosexuality in ancient Celtic lore, there are multiple accounts from external observers who commented on the widespread practice of same gender sexuality among the Gaulish Celts. The Greek philosopher Posidonius, who traveled into Gaul to investigate the truth of the stories told about the Celtic tribes, put it rather bluntly: “The Gaulish men prefer to have sex with each other.” This is supported by some Aristotelian commentaries as well.
As far as we know, the ancient Celts had no laws or known prohibitions against homosexual behavior. To the contrary, there are tales and histories in which homosexuality is mentioned in a rather matter-of-fact way, as well as many other accounts which, while containing no explicit mention of any character’s sexual orientation, celebrate deep affectionate and even physical bonds between persons of the same gender. As Diodorus Siculus noted, often Roman and Greek accounts mention Celtic warriors who were deeply insulted if their offers of male-to-male sex were refused.
Celtic mythology is riddled with deities who do not fit neatly into rigid, stereotypical gender roles. There are Goddesses of war and battle and Gods of love and poetry. There is also a tradition of male praise-poets who wrote about the kings they served as a lover writes of their beloved. Many historical commentaries on warriors and monastics speak of devoted companions who shared a bed and often the love between these companions is celebrated in poetry and songs.
While some scholars believe that “gay identity” is a modern construct and may only exist in reaction to oppression or contemporary social aspects, there is indeed evidence that homosexuality and bisexuality have always existed and appeared most certainly a part of Celtic culture…