There is, of course, the additional question of how much influence
there was on the Irish of the Greek sexual mores, in which sexual relations
between men and boys were sanctioned under specific circumstances.
The question also arises as to the definition of "crime" and
"criminal," which come from within the society. In the US, for example,
affection and sex between men and boys was illegal but ignored for a very
long time, and in some cases, one of which I know about, accepted until the
local mores changed and the perpetrator was openly charged and arrested.
The danger in dealing with matters of sexuality and law is that we tend to
project current attitudes backwards and judge old accepted behaviors by our
present standards. That makes it difficult to pose the right questions
particularly when researching something as old as the Brehon Laws.
At 09:33 AM 9/11/2004, you wrote:
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Fhiona MacGhilleRhuadh" <[log in to unmask]>
>To: <[log in to unmask]>
>Sent: Saturday, September 11, 2004 5:12 AM
>Subject: and now for something completely different
> > Hi all
> > I am doing some research and am having some trouble
> > finding references...In Kelly's text, he mentions how
> > rape of a woman was dealt with in law. Does anyone
> > know where I might find references regarding the
> > status of children, obligations between parent and
> > child, and crimes against children- esp. sexual
> > crimes. Is there any mention of pedophilia and how it
> > was dealt with in the old law texts? Can anyone cite
> > precedents? The only one I can think of, is an
> > indirect reference, in which ( I think) Cuchullain
> > inadvertently ingests blood of a woman he has slept
> > with, and because his blood is now considered to have
> > mixed with hers, they cannot marry.
>I've found no specific idea of crimes against children in the Brehon Laws.
>Such things (and their dispensation under law) would have been determined by
>the type of "blemish" that they involved (i.e. for temporary distress, a
>lasting mark, a wound or death). The extent to which this could be proven
>and there was testimony that it was against the will of the individual,
>determined whether a body price or eraic was paid to the individual, their
>family or their mother's family. If the action caused one to not be able to
>perform one's duties, then "sick maintenance" was also required to be
>paid/provided until one was cured. In general, child were considered to be
>the property of their families, so what happened within families most
>probably was dealt with according to the justice of its chieftain. This
>would vary from person to person and from family to family. The tract that
>describes these arrangements (outside of families primarily) is known as
>"The Book of Achill." My copy of it is contained within a multivolume work
>known as _Ancient Laws and Institutes of Ireland_, Volume III.ISBN
>1-57588-572-7, William S. Hein & Co., Inc., Buffalo, New York, 2000. The
>organization of these volumes does not readily lend itself to a quick
>inspection for specific individual topics. Be forewarned.
>I note that one reason given for allowable divorce is when the husband
>chooses to sleep with the servant boys rather than cohabiting with his wife.
>This seems to imply that both homosexuality and sexual acts with youths were
>not considered to be a blemish in early Irish secular society. I've seen
>mention of penances for Churchmen who performed such acts. These were
>lumped in with all manner of sexual prohibitions mainly with women) by the
>Church for its pries, monks and church orders. You might be better served by
>looking in early Church penitential. I suspect that early Irish society did
>not do any better job of protecting children against predator adults that is
>currently done in modern society. I also suspect that more credence was
>placed on physical circumstances or damage than on emotional suffering or
>mental damages. That is to say, that people were expected to tolerate much
>more in these areas than is presently considered the case.