Death and Burial in Ancient Ireland

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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SECTION 1. Wills.

Letter M
ANY passages in our ancient literature show that the custom of making wills at the approach of death existed among the Irish people from so early a period that we are not able to trace its beginning. Private property was disposed of in this way quite without restriction, though not with such strict legal formalities as are required at the present day. The ancient Irish designated a will by three terms:—Edoct or udhacht [ooaght], which is the word used at present; timne; and cennaite [kennite: 3-syll.].

There was, in the law, a merciful provision, called "The rights of a corpse," to save the family of a dead man from destitution in case he died in debt, namely:—"Every dead body has in its own right a cow, and a horse, and a garment, and the furniture of his bed; nor shall any of these be paid in satisfaction of his debts; because they are, as it were, the special property of his body." Of course this reserved property passed to the family, and could not be claimed by a creditor or any other outsider.

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