dragonhelmuk's Reviews > Cattle Lords and Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland

Cattle Lords and Clansmen by Nerys Thomas Patterson
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Jul 24, 11


** spoiler alert ** On the one hand he doesnt set my teeth on edge through most of this book (except in the admittedly commonly messed up ideas of ancient gods for the celtic festivals) but on the other hand.. most of this book is a bit boring. It brings together evidence from the law codes, mainly Crith Gabala with archaeological research to paint a picture of how Irish society really worked. Three quotes:

What really gave life to the rather forced idea that ancient Ireland resembled the India of the Rig-Veda was the convergence in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century of several strands of international scholarship and nationalist political ideology, all of which had a strong theoretical and comparative interest n the ancient Aryan culture of India.

Leaving conflict and turning to normal social interaction we can see that in almost every respect, honor-price governed the social capacity to interact with others beyond one’s domestic group. An important outcome was that social relations that were not inherently hierarchic (as were clientship and apprenticeship, for example) were confined to relations between peers. This produced a society that, in terms of sumptuary rules and general snobbishness, approached an almost caste-like condition—though lacking the rigidity of caste.

The patrilineal rule was ultimately a defence against the sister’s son’s connections with outsiders – principally his father’s people. As such, patrilineality was a counter to clientship, designed to limit the options that individuals had as to where to place their loyalties. It is therefore not surprising to find that the ingrained ambivalence expressed in early Irish literature towards the sister’s son had, as its counterpart, the suspicion levelled t the incoming wife—she too came trailing other ties and cherishing her own agenda. These bad-wife stories, in which the wife usually betrays her older husband with a younger man, who is either the husband’s son or close companion, cam e from a milieu which, though it cannot have been too happy, gave to literature (from the British Celtic tradition) the cycle of Arthurian romances in which is found ‘the only European myth of adultery’.
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