The Importance of Genealogy in Gaelic Society

  Tábhacht an Ghinealais sa Sochaí                               Ghaelach

 

Tuath

 

Gan amhras go bhfuil cairde agaibh a thagann anuas ó na Laighin, nó ón Dál Riata, ó na hEoghanachta, ón gCorcu Laoidhe, ó na Seacht Laois (cuid desna Cruithne), 7rl., 7rl., 7rl. B’fhéidir gur chuala tú faoi “Guinness”, deoch a ndéantar le Muintir Mheig Aonghusa a thagann anuas ó na hUí Eachach Cobha, a thagann anuas ón Dál nAraide, cuid eile desna Cruithne.

 

Bhí cearta agus pribhléidí éagsúla ag gach ceann desna tuatha sin, cearta agus pribhléidí gur thuill siad le linn stair luath na nGael in Éirinn, Albain, agus Manainn.  Tagaimse féin anuas ón gCinéal Chonaill ar thaobh m’athar agus ón gCinéal nAeda ar thaobh mo mháthar.  Seo daoibh samplaí de chearta agus phribhléidí mo shinsear de réir Féineachais, ar a dtugtar ‘Brehon Law’ as Sacsbhéarla.

 

Ar thaobh m’athar:

 

Fichi falach & fichi fichthell & fichi each do ríg Ceneóil Chonaill (ó Rí Theamhrach) & biathad mís ó Chenél Chonaill dó-som (do Rí Theamhair) & teacht lais i Tír nEógain. (1)

 

 

Ar thaobh mo mháthar:


Hua Briúin & Síl Muireadaig & Huí Fiachra & Cenél nAeda saorthuatha indsin & comsaera fri ríg (.i. Rí Chúige Chonnacht), & ní thiagat feacht na sluaiged  acht ar crod, & ní thiagat i cath la ríg acht ara lóg, & dia mbertar & curo marbtar, dligid in rí a n-éric do íc ón ríg (.i. ó Rí Chúige Chonnacht). (2)   

 

 

 

I bhfocail eile, bhí foirne ceart agus pribhléidí ag gach ceann agaibh faoi Fhéineachas in Éirinn, in Albain, nó ar an Oileán Mhanainn, agus bhraith bhur bhfoirne éagsúlacha ceart agus pribhléidí sin ar bhur mballraíocht i dtuath.  Ba é ginealas an chaoi chun cearta agus phribhléidí do thuaithe a dheimhniú agus a éileamh duitse, ar shon do mhuintire, agus ar shon do shleachta.

 

Lóg n-Enech (‘Luach Aghaidhe’)

 

Lig dúinn samhlú gurb é sé bhó mo ‘lóg n-enech’ (.i. céim i sochaí ar a dtugtar ‘honor-price’ as Sacsbhéarla), agus gurb é ocht mbó do lóg enech féin.  Dá rachfá go cuairt dlí i m’aghaidh, gheobhfá an bua faoi Fhéineachas toisc go mbeadh do fhocal geallta ní ba throime ná mo fhocal geallta toisc go bhfuil do lóg enech níos mó ná mo lóg enech. (3)  

 

Samhlaigh anois go maraíonn tú mé.  Caithfidh tú sé bhó a íoc do mo mhuintir “in éiric” (.i. i gcúiteamh) nó bheadh ceart ag mo mhuintir thú a mharú. (4)

 

Bhraith mo lóg n-enech i gcuid mhór ar mo ghinealach pearsanta.   Mar shampla, dá mbeinn i mo bhó-aire, agus dá mbaileoinn maoine go leor chun tacaíocht a thabhairt do chliaint, ní bheinn in ann an teidil ‘tiarna’ a éileamh, agus ní bheadh mo mhac in ann an teidil sin a éileamh cé go mbeadh cliaint aige freisin, ach bheadh mo gharmhac ina thiarna dá mbeadh cliaint aige mar a athair agus a sheanathair. (5)  

 

 

I bhfocail eile, bhí cumas ag na Gaeil céimeadh suas (nó síos) sa sochaí gach trí ghlúin.

 

Samhlaigh anois nach bhfuil lóg enech agam toisc nach bhfuil fios mo ghinealaigh agam.  Má mharaíonn tú mé, ní chaithfidh tú éiric a íoc toisc nach bhfuil lóg enech agam, agus ní féidir le mo mhuintir thú a mharú toisc nach bhfuil muintir agam. Gan ginealach, ní bheadh gnáth-chosaintí na sochaí Gaelaí agam. (6)

 

Achoimre

 

Mar a fheicimid, bhraith ár gcearta agus bpribhléidí ar éachta ár dtuatha i stair luath na hÉireann, na hAlban, nó na Manann. Bhraith ár lóganna enech fosta ar ár nginealaigh phearsanta. Chuireamar “Seanchas” ar ár dtraidisiúin staire, ghinealais, agus Fhéineachais fite fuaite le chéile, agus sholáthair Seanchas an creatlach iomlán don sochaí Ghaelach.

 

Sin iad cuid desna príomh-fháthanna go raibh ginealas chomh tábhachtach sin.  Agus mar aon traidisiúin chomh tábhachtach sin, bíonn an nós deacrach a bhriseadh.

 


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1.  http://celt.ucc.ie/published/G102900/index.html
http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T102900/index.html, p. 4, líne 35:
2.  http://celt.ucc.ie/published/G102900/index.html
http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T102900/index.html, p. 48, líne 686

 

 

 

  Importance of Genealogy in Gaelic                                  Society

 

Tuath (People or ‘Tribe’)

 

No doubt you have friends who descend from the Laighin, or the Dál Riata, the Eoghanachta, the Corcu Laoidhe, the Seven Laois (part of the Cruithne), etc., etc., etc.  Maybe you’ve heard of “Guinness”, a drink made by the Mag Aonghusa family who descend from the Uí Eachach Cobha, who descend from the Dál nAraide, another part of the Cruithne.

 

 

Each one of these tribes had rights and privileges which they earned during the early history of the Gaeil in Ireland, Scotland, or Man.  I descend from the Cinéal Chonaill on my father’s side and from the Cinéal nAeda on my mother’s side.  Here are examples of my ancestors’ rights and privileges according to Féineachas, called ‘Brehon Law’ in English.

 

  

 On my father’s side:

 

Twenty rings, twenty sets of chess, and twenty horses to the king of Cenél Conaill (from the King of Tara) and one month's refection from the king of Cenél Conaill to him (to the King of Tara), as he escorts him into Tír nEógain. (1)

 

On my mother’s side:

 

Ua Briúin and Síl Muiredaig and Uí Fiachrach and Cenél nAeda are free tuatha and of equal status with the king (i.e., the King of the Kingdom of Connacht), and they go not on an expedition or a muster save for a payment of cattle, and they go not into battle with the king save for pay; and if any such are brought and they happen to be killed, their king is entitled to their eric from the king (of the Kingdom of Connacht). (2)

 

In other words, each one of you had sets of rights and privileges under Féineachas in Ireland, Scotland, or Man, and those different sets of rights and privileges depended upon your membership in a tribe.  Genealogy was the way to demonstrate and claim your tribe’s rights and privileges for yourself, your family, and your descendants.

 

 

Lóg n-Enech – ‘Price of Face’ or ‘Honor-Price’

 

Let’s imagine that my ‘honor-price’ (i.e., my status in society) is measured as six cows, and your honor-price is eight cows.  If you should go to a court of law against me, you would win because under Féineachas your sworn word is better (i.e., more believable) than my sworn word because your honor-price is greater than my honor-price. (3)

 

Now imagine that you kill me.  You have to pay six cows to my extended family “in éiric” (i.e., in compensation) or my extended family would have the right to kill you. (4)

 

My honor-price depended in large part upon my personal genealogy.  For example, if I were a bó-aire or free husbandman (these were typically engaged in raising cattle), and if I assembled enough wealth to support clients, I wouldn’t have the right to claim the title of ‘lord’, and my son wouldn’t have the right to claim that title even if he also had clients, but my grandson would be a lord if he also had clients as I had and my son had. (5)

 

In other words, the Gaeil could step up (or down) in society every three generations.

 

Now imagine I don’t have an honor-price because I don’t know my genealogy.  If you kill me, you don’t have to pay an éiric because I don’t have an honor-price, and my family can’t kill you because I don’t have any family.  Without genealogy, I wouldn’t have the normal protections of Gaelic society. (6)

 

 

Summary

 

As we see, our rights and privileges depended upon the deeds of our tribes in the early history of Ireland, Scotland, or Man. Our honor-prices also depended upon our personal genealogies.  The combined, inter-woven, traditions of history, genealogy, and Brehon Law were called “Seanchas”, and Seanchas provided the entire framework of Gaelic society.

 

Those are some of the primary reasons why genealogy was so important.  And like any tradition of such importance, it’s been difficult to break the habit.

 


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3.  Kelly, Fergus.  A Guide to Early Irish Law.  Dublin:  Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1998,  p. 199
4.  Ibid.,  pps. 125-157
5.  Ibid.,  p. 12
6.  Ibid., pps. 5-6

 

 

Copyright © 2014 by Gerald A. John Kelly

All Rights Reserved - No reproduction without written permission of the author

 

 

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