Do teu verdor cinguido e de benignos astros, confín dos verdes castros e valeroso chan, non des a esquecemento da inxuria o rudo encono; esperta do teu sono Fogar de Breogan. -Himno de Galicia
With your girdled greenness and benign stars, borders of the green castros (Celtic settlements) and courageous land, don’t give to oblivion of injury the rude bitterness; awaken from your sleep Home of Breogan.
Irish Book of Conquests
The story contained in the Irish Book of Conquests or Gabála Érenn Lebor, as it is known in Gaelic, tells of the Galician Celts invading the island. Breogan, the Celtic king who ruled Galicia at that time, built a tower in Brigantia (currently A Coruña), called the Tower of Hercules, from which you could see the south of Ireland, where an expedition took place in which Ith, his son, was killed.
The legend says that as revenge, Mil, who was the grandson of the King, sailed back to the island and conquered its lands. Although no one knows what is true in these texts or in the regional anthem, which describes Galicia as the home of Breogan, studies like The Blood of the Isles, written by Bryan Sykes, have found genetic relationships among the people of Ireland and the United Kingdom and the Galicians. However, and despite all these connections, legendary or real connections, Galicia is today the great unknown region of the Celtic culture.
The seven Celtic nations
The Celtic League and the International Celtic Congress bring together Ireland, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man, the French Brittany and Conualles – nations united by languages with a Celtic origin, and that have become the most known and recognised heirs of the culture. Galicia, whose language, Galician, retains nothing more than place-names and single words originating from these civilisations, is excluded from the group despite its greenery and mountains which are riddled with countless forts, standing stones and symbols engraved on them, which have their origins stretching back over 3,500 years.
However, beyond the magic of the druids, spirits and witches that, as in Scotland, dominate Galician folklore, it would be nothing without the sound of tambourines, drums and bagpipes – an instrument that inevitably connects the seven Celtic nations.
Musical connections: Carlos Nunez and The Chieftains
In Galicia, bagpipes are the centre of all parties and celebrations, but musical links with the other Celtic nations go beyond this instrument.
The concert at the Jacobean 2004 in Vigo, where the Galician piper Carlos Nunez shared the stage with the famous traditional Irish music group The Chieftains, is a perfect example of many of the connections between music and dancing in this nation and Ireland.
On stage with two Celtic trisqueles, Nunez, who is internationally recognized as one of the best bagpipers in the world, presented to his fellow performers, The Chieftains - precisely those responsible for discovering the famous musician when he was only thirteen years old.
One of the touching pieces of his performance was the traditional Galician song “Muñeira of Chantada”. Nuñez took the stage with his trusty bagpipe, along with Paddy Moloney, the bandleader, who was in charge of the Irish pipe and other chieftains with their flutes and violins, as well as other Galician musicians with drums and tambourines. The scene was completed by two couples dancing the muñeira – a traditional Galician dance - and three River Dancers. The two different traditional dances seemed to be part of a common choreography. This concert is just one example of the work of Carlos Nunez and The Chieftains, both famous in due to their thorough investigation of the Celtic musical culture that is linked to their homelands. The Irish musicians have even published an album dedicated to Galicia, and the founder of the Cheiftans, Paddy Moloney, wrote that Galicia is an ‘unknown Celtic country the world.’
So it is that Galicia shares with Ireland not only bagpipe music, traditions and culture, but also the history of its people, accustomed to emigration, leaving behind their land but never their roots. That is why half the world is dyed green on 17th March, the day celebrating St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland – or the reason why Galicia houses and associations spread across the planet.
Maybe all these common links are the reason why the Galician people with their ingrained sense of nostalgia for the homeland feel comforted when they are in the "green island", where the warmth of its people, the likes of their cultures, climate and landscapes along with the occasional sound of bagpipes, make them feel closer to their homeland and very often rise a smile. After all, no matter how far they are from their land, everything takes them ‘back home.’