Celtic Snakes


Freemen owning property in Ancient Ireland

Laurence Ginnell

Sub-Section I.—Preliminary.

Celtic I
N pursuance of our plan we now proceed to consider the free clansmen who held property. Property, for the most part, meant land, the cattle fed upon land, and the crops grown upon land. Our ancestors all lived in the country and mainly by industries connected with land. They had numerous villages, the earliest of which are indicated by the still existing raths; but they had few towns so large: as to form distinct communities with life and interest different from those of the country. Our oldest maritime cities are of Danish origin. Hence the Brehon Laws are in the main applicable only to country life, and contain few rules specially applicable to town communities. The vast majority of freemen owning property were farmers, called céiles, and for simplicity of description we will take this class as the standard.

The contemporary institutions of any given country are always so interwoven that it is difficult to discuss them separately, and impossible to give a complete account of one without giving as part of it some account of others connected with it. This is emphatically true of a country where society is organised on the system of clan, sept, and fine. That system is as soil in which all other institutions, like trees, have their roots. I have already had to anticipate myself in some respects. In order not to do so to a confusing extent, and in order to turn from hence on subsequent matters all the light we can, it will be necessary to deal, however briefly, with the clan system before treating specially of the céiles, and to deal with the land system while discussing the Céiles.

Celtic Knotwork