Irish and Celtic Culture and Art

Welcome. This page contains links to various Irish and Celtic sites on the WWW, as well as some information about some specific topics related to art, music, and dance.[1] For some general background, you can read a brief history of the Celts taken from The Gaelic Home Page which also gives a great deal detailed information about celtic languages.

Visual Art

Here is a quick summary of the various types of Celtic artwork independent of medium, based mostly on the writings of George Bain in his book, Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction © 1973.

Other Resources

Drew Ivan's Celtica page has a nice bibliography and information about how to draw your own Celtic knotwork. Please let me know if you know where this page has gone. (Formerly

Steven Abbot has written a computer program for MS Windows which draws Celtic knotwork. His site contains information for downloading and may eventually include an archive of knot definition files. In a similar vein, Robert Scharein, has a even more impressive site of Sorta Celtic Knots drawn on an SGI machine using a program he wrote and dubbed KnotPlot.

Ceolas has a page with some Celtic clip art. More Celtic clip art can also be found at the commercial site Celtic Art by the Celtic Lady.

Music and Dance

Irish Step Dancing

Recently been popularized by shows such as the Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, this is actualy a very old art form.

More Information

Her's a nice overview of all sort of Irish dancing.

The North American Feis Commission maintains a list of all Feissiana in North America; Feis Productions is a website which contains this list as well as the Commission's rules, lists of dancing schools, and some general information (including a glossary). Feis is the Gaelic word for an Irish step dancing competition. (The Gaelic word for dance is "rince." )

The O'Shea/Chaplin Irish Dance Academy teach Irish step dancing to children and adults in the greater Boston area. The current Senior Women's World Champion (1998 & 1999), Noel Curren, is a member of this schoool (and a Boston University student).

Ceili Dancing
Irish Set Dancing

Ceili dances bear some similarity to figure dances, but they are usually simpler and more repetitive. Typically, they involve two lines facing each other. Some are also progressive: couples move around the room dancing the same short sequence with successive other couple. Some ceili dances are "The Siege of Ennis," "The Walls of Limmerick," and "The Haymaker's Jig." Square dancers might find this dance looks strangely familiar; upon travelling to the United States with immigrants, it evolved into the "Virginia Reel."

Set dance are are similar to ceili dances. I have been told that they evolved from the French quadrilles, or were at least influenced by them. Indeed, they are sometimes referred to as "country dances" which are is a perversion of the French "contre dance" which refers to dancing in opposing lines. (So there may also be some relation between these and the ceili dances.) Both set and ceili dancing certainly have some relation to contra dancing and American square dancing.


There is an impressive Celtic music archive at Stanford called Ceolas which can probably give far more acurate informtation about all sorts of Celtic music than I. They also have information about a wide variety of current Celtic artists and groups, ranging from the very traditional (like Altan and Celtic Thunder) to Celtic derived artists (like Loreena McKennitt and Enya) to Irish rock (like Sinead O'Connor) to groups that span several catergories (like the Chieftans and Clannad).

My favorite traditional Irish instrument is the bodhran, a frame drum.

© Copyright 1997, 2000 Kathleen Mahoney
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