Very little is known about de early Celtic settlements in Spain and Portugal, believed to date from about 400 B.C., and these did not survive the Roman occupation as distinct political entitles, however there are two peoples in modern Spain claiming descendent from these Celts, the Galicians and the Asturians. The Iberian Celts’ sense of identity was very much eroded by the centuries of Spanish and Portuguese rule, but recently they have begun to assert themselves once more.
The myt than the Iberian Celts were not in fact Celts is mainly due to the fact the Iberian Celtic Language(s), much weakened by the longer period of Roman rule, died out comparatively early, the transition to Romance dialects being complete by about 7-800 A.D. This same transition to non-Celtic languages is very much evident in the rest of Ceilteadch however they are more fortunate in that where the original language is not still spoken it is at least fully documented and so can still be learned, this is not the case in the Iberian Ceilteadch. Some words of Iberian Celtic still survive in the vocabularies of Galician and Asturian languages (the present day languages of Galicia and Asturies) though how many items of vocabulary can be regarded as specifically Iberian Celtic is unclear as the Romance language in general adopted quite a few Celtic words , (mainly from Gaulish, this confuses the picture as Iberian Celtic was closely related to Gaulish, if not simply a Gaulish dialect) and the Celtic languages many Latin words. Galician and Asturian are themselves Romance languages though many linguists regard them as being dialects, Galician a dialect of Portuguese and Asturian a dialect of Spanish.
The cultures of Galicia and Asturies are very much Celtic in nature. In the literary sphere the indigenous poetry, usually in quantrain, is linked firmly in style and character with classical Celtic poetry.
Musically, the Iberian Celts are very similar to Insular Celts, having their own bagpipes, the “gaitas”, as well as the more usual tamborines and drums, these instruments being used for the rich body of traditional music and dance wich represents Celtic music at its best. Amongst other facets of Iberian Celtc culture the folk art of the two nations is definitely Celtic in origin, much of it being abstract in nature.
Despite the fact that it was in Galicia and Asturies that Christianity took refuge from the Moors (much as Christianity took refuge from the Anglo-Saxons in the British Ceilteachd) There are remains a deep-rooted Celtic subculture in the religion of the Iberian Celts wich their mafests itself in the large emphasis placed upon the souls, for example Galician and Asturian beggers plead for offerings on behalf on the souls. Though the Catholic faith is strong, beliefs in black and white magic still persist as do beliefs in the Evil Eye (this is still strong in certain regions of Alba), wichcraft and in powers of some herbs.
Politically the nationalist parties are not strong as (in Galicia at least) many of the more active nationalists have been forced to emigrate due to the poor economic climate, however the people of the two countries are growing more aware of their Celtic origins, for example there has been setting up of Celtic groups and movements in the Iberian Ceilteachd one of these being Lliga Celta d’Asturies (Celtic League of Asturies). Nationalism still has a long way to go but with the people of Spain now politically more aware, is certainly has great potential.
Iberian Celts, CARN 31, autum 1980; author: Paul Mosson.