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Picts, Gaels, andd: the Dean of Lismore

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  • Sharon L. Krossa
    ... You can have a perfectly patriarchal society that uses matrilineal inheritance -- matrilineal inheritance doesn t mean the women rule (as in matriarchy).
    Message 1 of 10 , Apr 7, 2000
      At 2:39 PM -0800 3/25/2000, iain maciain wrote:
      >> Also, what in particular do you think was not
      >> Indo-European about the
      >> role of women? (Note that to support such a
      >> contention, you need to
      >> compare Gaelic practice with that across all Europe
      >> and other IE
      >> cultures. Whether or not early Gaelic culture in
      >> this area was
      >> significantly different from the other IE cultures,
      >> I doubt sincerely
      >> that sufficient study has been made to be able to
      >> make such a
      >> determination.
      >i was going largely from marijas
      >she makes a persuasive argument that the indoeuropean
      >cultures were almost totally patriarchial and that any
      >remenant of matriachy or matrilineal tradition is a
      >remenant of pre indo europeans.

      You can have a perfectly patriarchal society that uses matrilineal
      inheritance -- matrilineal inheritance doesn't mean the women rule
      (as in matriarchy). I'd be very wary of any study that doesn't make
      sufficient distinction between the two. Also, the evidence for
      matrilineal inheritance isn't necessarily all that convincing. Lloyd
      & Jenny Laing in _The Picts and the Scots_ sum it up neatly:

      -----begin quote-----
      In general terms, kings inherited their kingdoms from their fathers,
      but Bede seems to have believed that the Picts were matrilineal. This
      has caused extensive debate, yet to be resolved. The documentary
      sources for Pictish matriliny are twofold. There is first a late
      Irish tradition that the Picts acquired womenfolk from the Irish on
      condition that Pictish kingship should pass through the female line.
      The second source is Bede, who also gave the story that the Picts
      were allowed to take wives from the Irish on condition that, when the
      succession was in doubt, the Picts should choose their kings from the
      female rather than the male line. Various attempts have been made to
      substantiate this but, as Dr. A.P. Smyth has pointed out, Bede did
      not actually claim that succession was normally matrilinear, but only
      that it was employed in exceptional circumstances (a phenomenon found
      in other societies). Thus the legend could be seen as Irish
      propaganda that really related to Irish rights in the Pictish
      kingship and that Bede obtained his information from an Irish source.
      Smyth has argued that the names of the fathers of PIctish kings are
      given, which would be unlikely in a truly matrilinear society, and
      that the Picts took over from the Irish the formula <maqq> or <meqq>
      ('son of') in inscriptions. As things stand, the case for Pictish
      matriliny is not proven, and would not appear to be supported
      substantially by the evidence that survives, except in the very
      curious succession pattern.
      -----end quote-----

      Whether or not the Picts were matrilineal, it is pretty clear that
      they were patriarchal.

      Also, note that the whole debate about matrilineal succession
      concerns the Picts, not the Gaels, Cumbrians, Welsh, Cornish, etc.
      The weirdest thing you get among the Gaels is tanistry (which was
      patrilineal), though direct patrilineal succession was also used.

      >i've read a number of other theories from less
      >recognized sources. un fortunately the issue of a non
      >indoeuropean people there before the celts is
      >unsettling to many modern writers who are at least
      >tacitly nationalist.

      I have always gotten the impression that everyone agreed there was
      someone in Ireland and Britain before the Celts. The problem is that
      it is darn hard to tell exactly who they were when all you have is
      archeology for evidence. Since the "Indo-European" designation is so
      closely tied to language, and there is no way of knowing what
      language the earlier pre-Celtic inhabitants spoke...

      >the archeological evidence also makes a strong
      >argument that celts arrived in the pre-celtic isles
      >after the major megalith period. often this arrival is
      >dated to around 1000-to 700 bc, although i've seen
      >widly varing estimates. finally theie has been
      >linguistic analysis of the earlist oghams that seem to
      >show they are not an indoeuropean language. as the
      >celts were not literate at the time it is unuaualy to
      >invent a phoenitic script right off. most cultures
      >have a pictogroph stage. so it seems likely they
      >adopted the script used by the preceding, and possibly
      >more learned(ie druids)culture, and kept the religious
      >elements of that culture alive.

      What I have read and my professors have told me of ogam is that it
      came to Scotland from the Irish -- the earliest ogams are Gaelic and
      in Ireland. For example, in the entry on "Ogam stones and early
      Christian Latin inscriptions" in _The Companion to Gaelic Scotland_,
      ed. Derick Thomson, it says it was invented in Ireland in about the
      4th century and that the Scottish Pictish ogam stones date from the
      7th century and later (to the mid-9th). (The earliest Irish ogam
      stones date from the 5th century.)

      The Irish seem to have based ogam on the Latin alphabet (each ogam
      stroke corresponds directly to a letter of the Latin alphabet,
      including the five vowels but excluding a handful of Latin characters
      not needed for Gaelic), thus explaining how they leaped from no
      alphabet straight to a phonetic one, bypassing any pictographic
      stage. (And so too with the Picts, who got the ogam alphabet from the

      >all the continental record seem to show that druidry
      >was from the celtic isles, and although widely
      >recognized they didn't have native druidry. they sent
      >their sons to mona to be educated.

      Apparently Caesar thought druidry was originally from the British
      Isles, but I don't know how much weight should be put on this detail
      -- it wasn't the type of thing he was likely to have any way of
      knowing. (Consider that not only was he writing about these weird
      foreigners, but the origins of druidry probably pre-dated him by a
      considerably long time.) The significance of Caesar's comments seem
      to be that druidry was a common feature of Celtic cultures -- and
      thus no more evidence of a non-Indo-European cultural strata than any
      other feature of Celtic societies that was unique to Celtic societies.

      >now i'm speculating from a number of sources and my
      >degrees were in law and ecomomic history so this is
      >hardly my field. it just seems to add up. there is
      >even on guy who uses word lists to show that old irish
      >shares hlf it's vocabulary with basuqe. now word list
      >comparisons are the least popular among linguistic
      >archeologists but there it is. he has a net page--edo
      >nylander is his name. he also has some odd theoris
      >that are going too far even for me.

      Altogether, he doesn't sound like a very reliable source of
      information and theory ;-)

      >anyway the cruinthe were ,mentioned in the irish
      >chronicles as a separate people, and it seems
      >reasonable that they are candidates as the brythonics
      >in ireland and elsewere before the arrival of the
      >milesians. as such thay migh be the closest to the pre
      >indoeuropean roots of the culture.

      Milesians? It sounds to me that you (or rather your sources) may be
      confusing legend and myth with history. From "Early Irish Society
      (1st-9th century)" in _The Course of Irish History_:

      -----begin quote-----
      They [the poets] adapted the Latin alphabet to produce a native Irish
      literature and in colaboration with the Christian monks tried to
      provide Ireland with a history as respectable and ancient as that of
      Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The result was the <Lebor Gaba/la>,
      which related the successive invasions of Ireland by Parthal/on,
      Nemed, the Fir Bolg, the Tuatha De/ Danann, and the Milesians. It is
      possible that these stories may preserve some genuine traditions: for
      instance, the Fir Bolg may be the Belgae: but in general the <Lebor
      Gaba/la> is an extremely artificial compilation. The Tuatha De/
      Danann are in fact the Celtic gods worshipped by the Pagan Irish. The
      church tolerated Celtic mythology if it was disguised as history.
      -----end quote-----

      >to go into this deeper would take tons of space but
      >mstly i was hoping to find some one who knew more than
      >me. hey i'm a muscian now. i haven't written a paper
      >in a decade.

      Lucky you :-)

      Sharon (who has a paper and a dissertation awaiting finishing ;-)
      ska Eafric
      Sharon Krossa, krossa@...
      Medieval Scotland (including resources for names, clothing & history):
      The most complete index of reliable web articles about pre-1600 names:
      The Medieval Names Archive - http://www.panix.com/~mittle/names/
      Consultations about re-creating historically accurate pre-1600 names:
      Academy of Saint Gabriel - http://www.s-gabriel.org/
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