Now, as promised, I follow up with the first part of my treatment of
Celtic Social Structures. Once again, this will be a multi-part
message, but as I already have noted in the introduction to Celtic
Law I have learned from my errors in Celtic Religion, so I'll give the
subject once again at the beginning of the actual text together with
the number of the part of the message it is.
The same rules that I gave for the treatment of Celtic Religion are
also in place here: You may distribute this message freely as long as
it is not used for commercial purposes and you include my
email-adress <[log in to unmask]>.
This message is part of a series that have been and will be published
on the Celtic culture mailing list <[log in to unmask]>. The
titles of the series which already exist are:
Celtic Religion - what information do we really have (7 part message,
also available as a single .txt file)
Celtic Law - a short summary
Celtic Social Structures - a short summary
Now being finished here with the organisational stuff too I`ll tackle
the matter I want to talk about immediatly.
CELTIC SOCIAL STRUCTURES - A SHORT SUMMARY - PART 1
When looking at Celtic social structures the first thing that comes
to ones mind probably is either what one has heard about the Scottish
clan system. On the other hand, when thinking about it, one will
remember the famous words of Caesar in his Exkursus on the Gauls in
his De Bello Gallico: In all Gaul there are only two kinds of people
that are of any importance. This is because the ordinary people are
treated almost akin to slaves. ... However, to return to the two
important kinds of people: The one of them are the Druids, the others
the knights. (Caesar, De Bello Gallico VI, 13). If those two things
are considered and compared, one may wonder if the systems coming to
ones mind have any similarity at all. Or, so to say, can we talk
about Celtic Social Structures without describing various systems
that were completely different at different times?
Well, in my opinion, to a certain extent we can. I will try to show
the specifics of Celtic Social Structures that are at the basis of
both systems, and which stay almost the same for all the periods where
"free" Celts lived.
But first, we will, as you already will be used, take a look at the
sources available to us to reconstruct Celtic Social Structures.
THE SOURCES FOR CELTIC SOCIAL STRUCTURES
We have several kinds of different sources for Celtic Social
Structure analysis, all of which have some benefits but also some
To start with, the most detailed description of Celtic Social
Structures we find in the Irish (and to a certain extent also in the
Welsh) legal tradition. We already know that these sources however
have been mainly written down by christian monks, which had a certain
influence on how these structures were described and how they were
set up in detail. On the other hand they explicitly tell us the
social rank of most persons living in the Celtic World.
Additionally to this we have the Irish and Welsh tales, which also
tell us about social structures, even though only limited to the
upper class most often.
Third, there are the historical sources about Wales and Ireland,
which tell us little about actual social structures, but in some
contain some hints that may be interpreted to get a picture of how
Social Structures were influencing ones position in society.
Additionally, we have the ancient sources which, though not really
expanding very much on the lower social levels, give at one time or
the other some small hints towards the social situation in the Celtic
Fourth, there are the archaeological sources, which apart from being
our only direct source in prehistoric times also are of help when
interpreting the accuracy in life (or at least death) with which
legal proscriptions connected to a certain rank would be fulfilled
by members of the society.
This can then be compared to other social systems by Comparative
IE Studies, Comparative Linguistics and Comparative Sociology to
provide explanation models for certain aspects of Celtic Social
With that sources at hand it is possible to reconstruct a picture of
Celtic Social structures that can be expanded over at least the time
from the Middle La Te\ne Period up until the 17th century AD, with
modifications due to the size of the area controlled by the
respective social groupings. This is, what I will try to do in this
Now, the next step should once again be a mail on Celtic Law. I'm
still thinking of how to start this, so I can't promise you anything
To be continued ...