• 03 окт. 2010 г.
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Celtic Social Structure
Tuatha and finna
First of all we have to clarify the term tuath. In its contemporary usage tuath is often translated as tribe or clan. Both terms however suggest a common origin of its members and this feature only applied in the early years of the Celtic civilisation.
In the beginning each tuath had his own genesis and its members justifiably boasted about their shareddescent. The tuath was ruled by a chieftain, the Rí Tuath, or King of the Tribe. In time territory was conquered and lost, some tuatha vanished completely while others appeared out of nowhere. Apart from these territorial changes the composition of the population altered by expelling improper members on one hand, and adopting travelers, valuable craftsmen, clever warriors and other desirableflaiths, or nobles, on the other. Consequently the tuath gradually became merely a geographical and political entity, comparable to a state, whereas the tribe or clan remained the basic social structure based on shared ancestry. As this process developed the term fine, literally family, came into fashion to underline blood relationships.
The fine, determined to preserve its pedigree, was a neatlyarranged structure which consisted of seventeen males. The structure was not particularly hierarchical and is best described as concentric circles.
The inner circle, the geil fine, or inner family, consisted of the ceann fine, or the head of the family, and four members. The geil fine was enclosed by three other circles, representing three groups of four members each: the deirbh fine, or truefamily, iar fine, after family, and the inn fine, or end family. The structure was set in motion when a new male member was born. The newborn baby boy automatically entered the circle from which his father was a member and the eldest member of that circle moved outwards to a broader circle, on which the eldest member of that circle had to make way and so on. Consequently the birth of a male alwaysresulted in a senior member of the inn fine who moved out from this fine altogether. Depending on his age, wealth and merits he could establish his own fine, spent his remaining years as member of the sept or apply for the title flaith.
The details of this structure varied slightly during the years and there might have been regional differences in the execution, some finna for example are known toelect the members of the geil fine, but the main essences of the system remained relatively unharmed. A particular interesting aspect of this system was the trigger and the direction of the movement caused by it. In most similar family systems the death of a member caused a movement towards the title paterfamilias, whereas a birth triggered a movement away from that title in the fine system.
A bitof track perhaps, but too interesting to pass by without noticing, is the suggestion of some authors that the Red Hand of O'Neill somehow or the other reflects the fine system. According to one interpretation the five fingers refers to the five spheres of the fine, namely the ceann fine, geil fine, deirbh fine, iar fine and inn fine. Others drift towards the idea that the wrist represents the RíTuath and the fingers the five members of the gail fine.
If your interest in Ireland lasts a while you may have noticed that the name Niall, or Uí Niall, meaning descendants from Niall, and its Anglicised version O'Neill, frequently pops up every now and then in Irish history. This is not only because the O'Neill clan was extremely powerful, but also because it was a huge family and in fact itstill is. A study conducted at Trinity College in Dublin revealed that specific markers in the Y chromosome in one out of every twelve Irishman living in Ireland can be traced back to just one man: the fifth century Ard Rí Niall Noigíallach, better known as Niall of the Nine Hostages.
Social stratification in the Celtic society
As any society the Celtic Irish community was neatly arranged in...