Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Celtic Romance

I've written a lot of Celtic Romances, most of them are set in the Iron Age. And, since Valentine Day has us all thinking about romance, I thought I would share some fun facts about love and marriage among the ancient Celts. 

Love was so important to the Celts that they had more types of recognized marriages than any other culture. Under the Brehon (Brehoon) laws of Ireland, there were not one, but 10 types of marriage. I’ll list them.   

1. The man and wife contributed an equal amount of property or finances.
2. A woman moved to the man's property and contributed little or nothing financially but managed the housekeeping.
3. A man moved to the woman’s property and contributed little or nothing financially but managed her cattle and her fields.
4. The husband and wife both had property and managed their own
individually, but the children's rights were still safeguarded.
5. By mutual consent, the man and woman shared their bodies but lived under separate roofs. I call that the have your cake and eat it too marriage.
6. A man abducted the wife of a defeated enemy. So the woman came to that marriage as a spoil of war.
7.  The man and woman got together only for one night of sex. In modern times we have a slang expression for this relationship, we call it a one night stand. The Celts had an expression for it as well, they called it a soldier's marriage.
8. A man seduced a woman by lying to her or by taking advantage of her while she was drunk.
9. A union by forcible rape. 
10. Both the man and woman were either feeble-minded or insane. 

The Welsh, under the laws of Hywell (whowell) the Good, had the same types of marriages as the Irish, except for number 10. 

All kinds of banter must have taken place regarding these marriages. Instead of  Yo Mama, they might have said something like, “Oh, you must have been born from a number 10 marriage.” And they could have more than one spouse, so an ancient Celtic man or woman could have several combinations of marriages. Can you imagine meeting someone and asking not “are you married?”  But “what number marriage do you currently have?” They might reply, “Oh, I have a number 1 and a number 5 and of course a couple of number 7’s.” . . .  And I thought modern day dating was complicated.
To modern man, it seems silly or even cruel to refer to some of these unions as marriages. But it isn’t because these marriages were not for the benefit of the man or woman, they were for the protection of the children. 

By recognizing all these unions as legal marriages, the Celts insured there weren’t any illegitimate children. A child born of any of the 10 unions would inherit like any of their parents’ other children. Also, the land did not go to the eldest son. The estate was split between all children including the daughters. Though they didn’t usually inherit land, if a daughter had no brothers or if her husband had no land of his own, she would inherit land. 


Tina Donahue said...

Fascinating post! I'm amazed at how forward thinking they were on the first 3 or 4 items on the list. :)

jean hart stewart said...

Absolutely love this column. Had no no idea of the marriage types...think the ancients were much more sensible than we are. Thanks so much for all the new information....

Cornelia Amiri said...

Thank you so much Jean and Tina for your kind words. I appreciate your comments so much.