Sunday, December 11, 2005
Brehon Laws... Common sense
“The Story Of the Irish Race by Seumas Macmanus” I read this about 15 years ago - he was one of the last Sanachies of Ireland…One of his chapters was about the Brehon Laws… I was reminded on one of those excellent laws – called “A Blush Fine” – see below – and went hunting to see if it was on the net… Somebody beat me to it and I found it in this blog… Pour youself a good drink…some Christmas cake and enjoy…Shame we haven’t got some of these laws these a days.
By: Norbert Sykes
Re: Brehon Laws
I just wanted to post something that I consider relevant to the movement
in (I believe it was) Tennessee to force the posting of the Decalogue/10
Commandments of the Old Testament in public places, private houses, or
whatever. To me, if there was to be equal treatment under the law, then
we would have to post the laws of other cultures that contributed to
this country, religious or otherwise. That way, everyone would know how
to act. My contribution: the Brehon laws. They are the laws of what
became the Celts, and some of them are estimated to date to over 3,000
years before the Celts were invaded by the English. There are very many
of them, and I only have a short list, so here goes:
Every third year roads must be cleared of brambles, brush, weeds & water
to make ready for the great assembly, feast/fair [where every three
years the Brehons assembled to render judgement on matter of great
import rather than individual cases].
The creditor who holds your brooch, necklaces & rings as security for
your pledge must return them back to you to wear at the great assembly
[or be fined for your humiliation].
(freedom of) Speech is given to three: the Historian Bard for relating
tales, the Poet Bard for praise and satire, & the Brehon for rendering
The time allotted to each Brehon for rendering judgement is long or
short depending on his dignity [or status]. In determining the length
of speech he is allowed 18 breathings per minute [early filibuster
When a judge deviates from the truth a blotch will appear on his face.
For the best arable land the price is 24 cows. The price for dry,
course land is 12 dry cows.
How many thing add to the price of a piece of land? A wood, a mine,
site of a mill, a highway, a road, a great sea, river, mountain, river
falling into the sea, a cool pond for cattle. Add three cows to the
price if it's near a chieftian's house or monastery.
For stripping the bark off an oak tree, enough to tan a pair of
women's shoes, the fine is one cow-hide. The defendant must cover the
bruise with a mixture of wet clay, new milk, & cow dung.
If a man takes a woman off a horse, into the wood or on a boat and if
the family members are present they must object in writing within 24
hours or no fine will be paid.
If a woman makes an assignation with a man to come to her bed or
behind a bush the man is not guilt of rape even if she screams. If
she has not agree to the meeting, however, he is guilty as soon as
The groom shall pay a bride-price of cattle, land, horses, gold,
silver, to the Father of the bride. Husband and wife retain
individual rights to property, goods and possessions each bring to
If a pregnant women craves a morsel of food and her husband
withholds it through stinginess, meanness or neglect he must pay
The husband who, though listless, does not go to his wife in her bed
must pay a fine.
A fine of 6 cows for breaking a tribesman's two front teeth; 12
heifers for maiming a homeless man. For pulling off the hairs of a
virgin Bishop one yearling for each 20 hairs.
The doctor shall build his house over a running stream. His house
must not be slovenly or smeared with the tracks of snails. It must
have four doors that open out so the patient may be seen from every
No fools, drunks or female scolds are allowed in the doctor's house
when a patient is healing there. No bad news to be brought or
talking across the bed. No grunting pigs or barking dogs outside.
If the doctor heals your wound but breaks it anew because of
carelessness, neglect or lack of skill the doctor must return his
fee and pay damages if he has further wounded you.
Whoever comes to your house you must feed and care for him no
It is illegal to give someone food in which a dead weasel or mouse
has been found.
The Bard who over charges for his poem shall be stripped of half his
rank in society.
If your neighbor does not repay the debt he owes you, you may prevent
him form going about his daily business. A withe-tie (for all to
see) goes around the blacksmith anvil, carpenter's axe or
tree-fellers hatchet. He is on his honor to do no work until the
debt is settled or wrong righted. If a Bard or physician is the
debtor immobilize his horse whip for both ride their circuits. The
creditor may fast in front of the debtor's house to humiliate him
until the debt is paid. [a withe is a flexible strip of willow]
If a rational adult bring a simpleton into an ale house for
amusement and the simpleton injures a patron the adult who brought
him must make compensation.
The fine for killing a bond servant or slave held as pledge for a
debt is 21 cows, for a free farmer of Erin 42 cows, for a noble 42
cows plus an additional amount depending on his status. Fines are
doubled for malice aforethought.
Three days is the stay of your cattle in the pound for a quarrel in
the ale-house, injury of thy chief, overworking a valuable horse,
maiming their chained dog, disturbing a fair, great assembly,
striking or violating thy wife. Five days for satirizing a man
after his death.
A layman may drink 6 pints of ale with his dinner but a monk only
three so he is sober when prayer time arrives.
Blush fine are payable for insults or embarrassments to all persons
of every rank except the ne'er-do-well, squanderer, selfish man who
thinks only of himself, the buffoon who distorts himself before
crowds, & the professional satirist.
The blacksmith must rouse all sleeping customers before he puts the
iron in the fire to guard against injury from sparks. Those who
fall asleep again will receive no compensation.
If a chip of wood flies from carpenter's axe he is not held liable
unless he deliberately aimed the chip at the bystander.
The mill owner is exempt from liability for injury to persons caught
between the mill-stones.
. . . There, I think those should be posted on every Church around the
country myself. Some of them make an awful lot of sense, IMHO. };)”