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> Brehon Law, Celtic libertarianism?
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Mailagnas maqqas Dunaidonas 
Posted: 27-Feb-2005, 07:50 PM
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Introduction to Brehon Law- Imagine if you will a system of law that prevailed for at least two or three thousand years on the Emerald Isle of Erin and Ulster, a system described as barbarous by the Anglo-Normans who finally stamped it out in Elizabethan times, after at least four centuries of trying, a system in which the equality of men--and women--was recognized, and under which a humane and cultured society existed for at least a millennium and likely for many centuries or even millennia before that. Such a legal system is not a fantasy--it is the Senchus Mor, more popularly known as the Brehon Law. Ironically, it was under a woman's reign--that of Queen Elizabeth I--that the Anglo-Normans were finally successful in destroying the legal system that gave medieval women rights very much on par with men.
The above is the description of a class I taught at the Barony of Thescorre's College of Three Ravens in an attempt to give an overview of what may well have been the most advanced jurisprudence ever.
Here is a list of resources I used in preparing for the class. From the entertaining to the scholarly.
Introduction to Brehon Law
as compiled by
Mailagnas maqqas Dunaidonas
Barony of Thescorre
Kingdom of Aethelmearc
Online Resources:
http://www.danann.org/library/law/law.html Compiled by Michael Ragan. Good layperson-oriented overview, with: strong emphasis on spiritual matters. May have too much emphasis on current relevance of Pagan ideals for some people?s taste.

http://ua_tuathal.tripod.com/testdefault.html Brehon Law Project, a loose coalition of individuals and organizations who are interested in the study of Brehon Law. A more scholarly approach to the subject.

http://www.ucc.ie/celt/index.html CELT, the Corpus of Electronic Texts, brings the wealth of Irish literary and historical culture to the Internet, for the use and benefit of everyone worldwide. It has a searchable online database consisting of contemporary and historical texts from many areas, including literature and the other arts.

http://image.ox.ac.uk/ Links to digital copies of early Celtic manuscripts.

A Guide to Early Irish Law. Fergus Kelly, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (School of Celtic Studies). Scholarly, authoritative summary intended for anyone interested in early Irish law, with emphasis on pre-Norman period. General account of main topics dealt with in surviving law-texts.

The Oxford History of Ireland. R.F. Foster, Oxford University of Press. Easy to read section on Law, Church, and Society gives good historical overview of Brehon Law context.

Red Branch. Morgan Llywelyn, Ballantine Books. Easy to read re-telling of the story of Cuchulain, the Hound of Ulster, which contains many illustrations of the pre-Christian Brehon Law in action.

Traditional Irish Laws. Mary Dowling Daley, Chronicle Books. Fragments of translated texts that seem to have selected as much for their entertainment value as to be enlightening.

In Search of Ancient Ireland. Carmel McCaffery and Leo Eaton, New Amsterdam Books. Good summary coverage of Brehon law, written in lay terms.

Example of Brehon Law

1. Ma be ri rofesser, If thou be a king thou shouldst know
2. recht flatho, the prerogative of a ruler,
3. fothuth iar miad, refection according to rank,
4. mesbada slog contentions of hostings,
5.  sabaid cuirmthige, sticks quarrels in an alehouse
6. cuir mescae; contracts made in drunkenness;
7. mess tire, valuations of lands,
8. tomus forrag, measurement by poles;
9. foberta diri, augmentations of a penalty,
10. dithle mesraid; larceny of tree-fruit;
11. mormain mrugrechto: the great substance of land-law:

An Early Legal Poem. Translated by D.A. Binchy
Example of Brehon Law, from http://ua_tuathal.tripod.com/law.html

Síochán leat,
Clan Donald USA
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Lyra Luminara 
Posted: 17-Apr-2005, 03:43 PM
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I love Brehon Law....we need more o' that today

If we could just stand here, without the words, would that be enough? ..Look at the sky now. What color is it? Or the way a hawk flies. Or you wake up and your ribs are bruised thinking so hard on somebody. What do you call that?

"Don't cross the street if you can't get out of the kitchen"
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Posted: 11-Jul-2008, 09:35 PM
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There are many things to be admired about Brehon law, but there are parts I question too. For instance, it's very class oriented, valuing certain people above others. This goes against our egalitarian values nowadays.

Plus, because of this value system, you could essentially get away with murder, proving you were willing and able to pay the eric.

What do you think?

I am a stag: of seven tines,
I am a flood: across a plain,
I am a wind: on a deep lake,
I am a tear: the Sun lets fall,
I am a hawk: above the cliff,
I am a thorn: beneath the nail,
I am a wonder: among flowers,
I am a wizard: who but I
Sets the cool head aflame with smoke?

I am a spear: that roars for blood,
I am a salmon: in a pool,
I am a lure: from paradise,
I am a hill: where poets walk,
I am a boar: ruthless and red,
I am a breaker: threatening doom,
I am a tide: that drags to death,
I am an infant: who but I
Peeps from the unhewn dolmen, arch?

I am the womb: of every holt,
I am the blaze: on every hill,
I am the queen: of every hive,
I am the shield: for every head,
I am the tomb: of every hope.
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