Millions of people worldwide belong to the Celtic peoples of northwestern Europe, including the Irish, Scottish, Manx, Welsh, Bretons and Cornish. Celtic cultures and languages are undergoing a revival especially, but not entirely, in Ireland and throughout the global Irish Diaspora. If you yourself belong to a Celtic people, making Celtic letters can connect you with your ancestry. If you have another heritage, you still may be drawn to these lively and lovely scripts. Many resources now exist to help you learn how to make them.
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Teach yourself something about the different Celtic languages and the writing systems they have used throughout history. You do not have to become a fluent speaker and writer, let alone a scholar of linguistics and history. But you should know, for example, basics such as the distinctions and similarities between Ogham and Irish Uncial scripts. You can see both scripts on the Omniglot website. Dating from the fourth through seventh centuries, Ogham was inscribed on wood, trees, and stones. Its 25 letters are named for trees, which Celts have traditionally considered sacred. Irish Uncial has 18 letters, also named for trees. However, it evolved from medieval monks' variations on the Roman alphabet. It has primarily functioned as a print font, mostly between the late 16th and mid-20th centuries. The two scripts are quite visually distinct.
Choose the medium or media in which you want to create Celtic letters. You can simply use them in handwriting if you like. You also can use them in drawing, painting, stencilling, calligraphy, computerised typography, cross stitch or other textile art, metalworking and jewellery making and tattoo art, among other possibilities. Do not be shy about making Celtic letters in innovative ways and contexts. Their endless versatility is part of their beauty and appeal.
Find books and websites that can guide you in your chosen medium. For example, if you are taking up pen and ink, you can check out Calligraphylearn.com. Or perhaps the book "Celtic Cross Stitch" is the one that speaks most to you. Many resources on Celtic letter making can be adapted to diverse artistic media. Whatever your medium, the book "Draw Your Own Celtic Designs" may be a good place to start. It has step-by-step instructions on how to make and embellish letters. Before it even gets to letter making, it delves into Celtic history. It covers elements of Celtic visual arts that are frequently integrated with letters: stylised animals, spirals, key patterns, and knot work.
Tips and warnings
- Take formal classes if you want to go more deeply into Celtic languages, art forms and cultures as part of your Celtic letter making. You might find the courses you want at a college, university or Celtic heritage centre.
- Learning to make Celtic letters is about far more than simply knowing how to copy them. If you approach Celtic letter making as an art form in its own right, or as a kind of meditation practice, you will tap the most into your own creativity and imagination.
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- A Celtic Alphabet from the Book of Kells and Other Sources; Andrew Whitson; 1997
- Celtic Alphabet Laser-Cut Plastic Stencils; Mary Carolyn Waldrep; 2000
- Celtic Alphabets: With Borders and Motifs; Judy Balchin; 2010
- Celtic and Medieval Alphabets: 53 Complete Fonts; Dan X. Solo; 1998
- Evertype: Teangacha Ceilteacha-Celtic Languages
- Ready-to-use Decorative Celtic Alphabets: Seven Complete Alphabets; Mallory Pearce; 1992