Until the 17th century, Seanchas was the indivisible combination of Gaelic law, history, and genealogy, carefully conserved by each clan's hereditary scholars. It was the underpinning of our ancestors' lives, the very foundation of Gaelic society since the time of the first Celts in Ireland.
This is how Professor Daniel Binchy described ancient Irish society: "tribal, rural, hierarchical, and familiar (using the word in its oldest sense, to mean a society in which the family, not the individual, is the unit) – a complete contrast to the unitary, urbanised, egalitarian and individualist society of our time." Daniel Binchy was the Senior Professor of the School of Celtic Studies at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.
Celtic Tribes & Ancient Irish History
With this mindset, Ireland's ancient Celtic tribes created pre-Christian and early Christian Ireland. We know of the Cruithin, Bolg, Laighin, Connachta, Eoghanachta, Uladh, Féini, and more. We know the impact they had on Ireland's early history before the Crusades, even before the Fall of Rome. It is possible to trace some of their direct descendants to the modern day.
Kingship & Leadership
As a further demonstration of this mindset, men and women like Eochu Mugmheadhon, Niall Naoighiallach, and Gráinne Ní Mháille acted within and in cooperation with their kinships rather than as their dictators. Irish kings were elected and leaders were chosen. They were not arbitrarily imposed by concepts like divine right and primogeniture.
Rights & Privileges
Your ancestors' rights and privileges depended upon belonging to their particular kinship group. The rights and privileges of the Dál gCais were different from the rights and privileges of the Connachta. Those of the Connachta were different from those of the Eoghanachta, and so forth. Hence the importance of genealogy to the Irish for millennia. Without it, our ancestors could not claim their rights.
The Intertwining of Genealogy, Law, and History in Gaelic Society Genealogy identified kinship. Kinship determined rights and privileges. Competition for rights and privileges helped make history. Seanchas tracked it all.
Seanchas is a river of information about our ancestors, created by our ancestors, for our ancestors, and for us - their descendants.
Copyright (c) 2011 by Gerald A. John Kelly
All Rights Reserved - No Reproduction Without Written Permission of the Author