Free!

cropped-bookcase.jpgI just want to let everyone know that my book Raiding Cúailnge will be published on Wednesday 20 April 2016 as a multi-format ebook. As many of you may know, the book is an historical / fiction novel based on Old Irish manuscripts. I hope you’ll take time to take a look at

Smashwords:

where you can download the book for free with this coupon YR29P which is valid for one month, when you go to the check-out.

Could you also take a moment to spread the word about my book to everyone you know?

Thank you so much for your support!

Cheerio

Stephen

PS Of course besides being available (free) on Smashwords.com, my book is also available on

Amazon:

Apple iBooks:

Barnes & Noble:

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Beauty

cropped-img_0322_edited1.jpgIf the old story-tellers and later scribes can be believed, beauty was an essential attribute to the Celtic way of life with analogies drawn from nature and the language was rich with similes such as “Eyes bright as flowers” or; “eyebrows dark a s a beetle’s wings”; and “teeth white like pearls” and “cheeks pink like foxgloves”.

Women seemed to have had long hair in braids while men kept their hair short – about level with the ears.

Warriors preferred to have blond hair –often bleached with crushed and burnt limestone mixed with water used to bleach and stiffen the hair! Grease was added to make their hair stand up before a battle. This mode was often favoured by warriors who had adopted the horse as their totem. The hair piled on top of the skull also served to protect the head from blows. However, extensive use of lime burnt the scalp and caused premature baldness!

Soap was made from urine and woods (Whose job was that, I wonder? But why would you bother?)

A blue dye made from woad – a plant related to flax – was used to paint and decorate the skin much like modern henna “tattoos today

Celtic Weapons

cropped-img_0322_edited1.jpgCeltic Weapons

Let’s get down to a bit of nitty-gritty and look at Iron Age Celtic weapons.

The weapon of choice was, of course, the sword. Heavy iron swords were used for cutting and slashing. With the advance of smelting technology, high quality, flexible blades with a sharp cutting edge were developed. Swords forged from meteorite iron were rare and considered invincible.

Swords scabbards were made of bronze, wood or leather while highly decorated swords hilts were considered a sign of the high status warrior.

In addition to the sword, the spear, a large, heavy one used for thrusting, was the primary weapon used both in  hunting and in war . A smaller lighter one was used for throwing from horseback or chariot and for close quarters use. Spear blades were often serrated to lacerate the flesh on withdrawing. Note the extraordinary weapon Cú Chulainn used with such devastating effect, the Gae Bolga – a short stabbing spear, which opened up its thirty barbs when jerked back, making it impossible to withdraw it.  At one point in the epic, Cú Chulainn orders his charioteer to cut the weapon free from the body as the only way of retrieving the spear.

Kill shots with the spear would be to the face, the throat and groin. Against enemies with shields, often only the top of the head and shins are exposed.  Warriors would stand perpendicular to their enemy in one-on-one combat, their knees bent to lower their centre of gravity, aiming to provide a narrow target to their opponent.

celtic-shield-1520617Long rectangular shields, unlike the later round shields of the Viking era, were made of wood or leather with a central, external boss (a central hub) made of bronze to protect the hand on the inside.

Helmets were made of leather, soaked, salted and then covered with lacquer to harden it.

Iron mail shirts were first invented c 300BCE but were worn only by the noblest and most high status warriors.

Cloth and leather slings, bows and arrows were not considered to be a warrior’s weapons. The warrior’s goal was to engage the enemy in single combat and behead him. To kill from a distance and not to see the victims face, where was the honour in that?  Nevertheless, throughout the Táin, on which I based my novel, Raiding Cúailnge, Cú Chulainn, in his single handed defence of the north from the invading army of Connacht, relies on picking off Queen Medb’s forces with skilful, long distance sling shots, using river pebbles or hard-baked balls of clay.

 

Two Weeks to go!

cropped-bookcase.jpgI wrote a recent post somewhere  where I was almost gloating about having cracked this blog thingy and I wrote something just now, destined, I though, for the Book category and then I did something – probably not saved the bloody thing – and it all disappeared.  I know if that happened in Word or something like that, I could probably get it back but here, I am a mere suckling in the wilderness.

Anyway, what I had written about was that this day two weeks from now, my first novel , Raiding Cúailnge, will be published.  Published, is that the right term?.  My novel will be available as an Ebook at all major retailers.

Does that demean, diminish or belittle the work?  Does it open the floodgates to vapid twaddle if everyone has a “licence” to write?  What do the gatekeepers of traditional publishers feel about the inroads being made into the preserves of the privileged few who landed a contract with a publishers?  To tell you the truth, I don’t care.  I couldn’t care less about it but Iam just thrilled to have my novel, my brainchild, out there, available online to God knows how many countless millions if they could only just find it!

Celtic Clothes

cropped-img_0322_edited1.jpgIMG_0330_edited

Holy-Moly, I’ve been uploading bits of Celtic Trivia into what I though was an on-going bloggy thing on Celtic Trivia but it turns out,I think that it was one post, which I inadvertently opened and edited or added stuff to it and called it, each time, a new name, i.e. Celtic Trivia 2 and then later on Celtic Trivia 3, expecting them to be listed one under the other.  Instead I appear to have a single post.

But what, I’d like would be for each post, under the category of Celtic Trivia, to follow one after the other. So, here goes

This piece of Celtic trivia features Clothes.  Men wore a thigh length tunic (léine) over baggy trousers; brightly coloured. The léine was fastened at the waist with a sash. Wool was often dyed before being woven. The principle dyes were made from flowers, bark, berries, leaves or lichen boiled with salt or stale urine. The wool was first soaked, then boiled. Imported dyes, especially the scarlet from Parthia / Scythia, much favoured for its intensity, or the royal purple, the dye of the Phoenicians (made from the glands of the murex snails), were much sought after but were beyond the reach of most.

Women’s clothes were long and loose, made of linen or wool.- a sleeveless tunic over a long dress with a lightweight shift underneath. A shawl or cloak (brat) fastened at the shoulders with a brooch or pin completed the outfit.

Cloaks could have a small hood (cochall) with bands of decorative weaving and tasseled fringes round the lower edge but most were simple and unadorned.

Celtic Trivia – Who and When

cropped-img_0322_edited1.jpgCeltic Trivia  – when & who

Here’s a snippet of info about the Celtic Way of Life. I suppose I had better clarify what I mean by Celtic or rather when and who I refer to.

Late Bronze Age C1300 – 800 BCE (before the current era)
Iron Age 800 – 600 BCE (Hallstatt Iron Age C)
Late Iron Age 600 – 475 BCE (Halstatt iron Age D)

Now I am certainly not an expert or even particularly knowedable about much of these periods but, because of the novel I was writing, Raiding Cúailnge, I found my self adapting background details for my setting of the North East of Ireland circa 400 BCE and while much of the information and backropund information I collected was to do with the widely varying tribes of Celtic people roaming Europe, my tale is firmly set in Ireland during what is known among the manuscripts as the Ulster Cycle, which describe some episodes from the life of my main character, Setanta, aka Cú Chulainn.

Anyway, these are the original documents on which all the known translations  are based.

None of the manuscripts contain a complete account of the period so I hope my stitching together of events in my novel will be acceptable, even to the purists.

The Book of the Dun Cow Written in the 11th century. Thought to have been based on texts from the 9th century which in turn were based on texts from 7th century (texts no long extant)
The Yellow Book of Lecan Circa 14th century. Ditto re earlier texts
The Book of Lenister Late 12th century

That’s probably enough for now.