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THIS WEDNESDAY - Celtic New Year event at Cal State L.A.

by Humanist Association @ CSULA Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008 at 11:00 AM (323) 255-2010

"Lessons From A Silver Branch:" An examination of the endangered Celtic cultures, including spoken word, live music and free dance lesson. Happy Samhain, or Celtic New Year! ("Halloween" to the English)

Cead Mile Failte! The Humanist Association at Cal State L.A. would like to invite you to our Celtic New Year program on Wednesday, October 22 at 7:00 p.m. at the California State University at Los Angeles. There will be a spoken word artist, a jig line dance lesson and a live band.

The occasion is Samhain, or Celtic New Year, called “Hallowe’en” by the Anglo-Saxons. No, we won’t be lighting a bonfire, or extinguishing all nearby lights or tossing our prayer tokens in the fire, or receiving visitors from Beyond through the thin veil of reality, but it promises to be fun and educational.

This program will be in CSULA’s NEW Student Union in the Los Angeles Room (308B). Cal State L.A. is on the Eastside near the crossing of the San Bernardino (10) and Long Beach (710) freeways, and the recently-rebuilt University-Student Union is at the northern end of the Main Walkway (building 5 on the map). For better orientation and parking instructions, please see the map (or download it in .pdf) at .

The title of the program is “Lessons from a silver branch: The bardic tradition in Celtic cultures,” and the talk will examine what makes the Celtic cultural areas (Ireland, Wales, Scotland, French Brittany, Cornwall and Isle of Man) different from the Germanic and Latin-Romance areas that surround them, especially in terms of music, dance and storytelling. Questions of “highbrow” and “lowbrow” culture will also be examined.

Performer bio’s:

Spoken word artist TODD COVERT has taught workshops and seminars in Celtic culture and spirituality throughout the last decade at such venues and events as the Analytical Psychology Club at the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles, the Celtic Arts Center, and the annual PantheaCon conference in San Jose. Todd is the past president of the Celtic Arts Center and has served as executive director of the C.G. Jung Institute of L.A. He holds degrees in philosophy and theatre from the University of Wisconsin and Western Illinois University.

Dance teacher BIRD is a native Californian of “County Glendale” origin. He is the leader of the Wild Nights Company of Irish Dance, and has been associated with the Celtic Arts Center for the last 22 years, serving on the Board of Directors and in other capacities. For the last 12 of those years, he has given free Ceili dance lessons on Monday nights at the Center.

Acoustic Celtic/Folk/Bluegrass band BANNA BEAG MALL formed out of the Slow Players Session at the Celtic Arts Center (hence the Gaelic name, “Slow Little Band”) and has been playing in Los Angeles and the Valleys for the past four years. Besides Irish, Scottish and American music, they have also been known to perform in Spanish, French and Italian, for a total of six languages in their repertoire! They have played at innumerable street festivals, private and public fund-raisers, and have even performed in clubs such as Ireland’s 32 (Van Nuys) and Mr. T’s Bowl (Highland Park, Los Angeles). They greatly regret the title of their first CD, “Will Play For Food.”

WHY should the survival of Celtic culture concern anyone? Like most other languages in the world, the living Celtic languages (now constituted of Irish, Scots Gaelic, Welsh and Breton) are in danger of diminishing to the point of no return, to the point of no longer being used to say “hello” on the street. Like every other language, the Celtic languages bring something unique to the tapestry of humanity, and once they are gone, not only a language will be gone but also a rich literature and even a way of thinking.

For example, Irish is the oldest surviving written language in Western Europe, going back to the days of the early monks and their illuminated manuscripts. The language is very noun-centered, yet very other-oriented (the opposite of egocentric), and above all desirous of avoiding being hurtful to others. For example, instead of saying “I have a hat” or “I am happy,” the Irish would say “There is a hat at me” or “There is joy on me.” Instead of “I know it” or “I want it,” they would say “There is knowledge at me” or “It is from me.” Instead of “I love you,” they would say “There is love at me with you.” The subject “I” is very much diminished, a phenomenon of interest to some socialist scholars who have postulated that this shows that the Celts are naturally socialist.

Over the past few centuries, Celtic languages have been under assault from official repression, commercial and religious imperialism, the assimilationist policies of Great Britain and France and even from tourists buying vacation homes in Celtic-speaking regions. In Scotland in the 19th century, the wee kilties were not permitted to go to the bathroom unless they asked their teacher in English. In Wales, same period, any pupil caught speaking Welsh was given the “Welsh Not” stick, and whoever had the stick at the end of the day was beaten with it. In Ireland, the job was done with starvation, harsh laws and mass emigration. Also, many Celtic parents decided not to transmit their native language to their children in order to increase their chances for success in the colonizer’s world. Does any of this sound familiar? As a whole, Celtic languages are now as endangered as Euskara (Basque), Rhaetian-Romansch (Switzerland), Aramaic (Syria), Coptic (Egypt), Pennsylvania Dutch and Cajun French (United States), and the vast majority of indigenous American languages. Even the seemingly thriving languages of Navaho and Nahuatl, which now count more speakers than a century ago, have drastically diminished in their proportion of the population.

Therefore, we welcome one and all to participate in our FREE celebration of the Celtic cultures! Slainte mhaith!

Wednesday October 22, 7:00-9:00 PM

Los Angeles Room (308B), University-Student Union

California State University at Los Angeles

5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles 90032

Information: (323) 255-2010

THE CELTIC ARTS CENTER NEEDS YOUR HELP. This amazing non-profit organization, which for the past 25 years has brought plays, poetry, language lessons, dance, music and jam sessions to Southern California, is in need of a home. Do you know of a space with theater seats, wood floors and multiple annexes that we can use seven days a week and redecorate in Celtic style, for a reasonable rent or mortgage? To find out more, please go to or call 818-760-8322.

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