Thursday, April 28, 2011

At His Father's Platter

A male child born in the kindred was described in the Welsh law books as follows:

"From when the son is born until he is fourteen years old, it is right for him to be at his father's platter, with his father as lord over him. And no punishment of him is right save his father's."

Thus, from birth, a male child was the responsibility of the father, and no other person was allowed to punish the male child.

"At the end of the fourteenth year, it is right for the father to take his son to the lord and to commend him to him. And then it is right for him to do homage to the lord, and to be dependent on his lord's status..."

"And his father is from then on no more entitled to strike him than a stranger..."

"And from that age on he will be of the same status as an innate bonheddig [ a Welshman of full free status, a man of known ancestry]

At fourteen, the male was to become essentially a ward of the gwlad (state). His status (social standing) was to be that of his lord who was usually a kinsman. This "lord" was most likely the kinsman of highest statue within the tribe.

Now before any of the above could happen, a "son" had to be "legally laid" to his father. This was done by the mother in the following way:

"Whatsoever woman wants to lay a son legally, thus it is for her to lay him: she and the son come to the church where his burial-place is, and she comes as far as the altar and puts her right hand on the altar and the relics, and her left hand on the son's head, and so swears, to God first, and to that altar and to the good relics which are on it, and to the son''s baptism, 'that no father created this son in a mother's heart save' (such-and-such man, naming him) 'in my heart'. And so it is right to lay a son to a Welshman."

The above quotes are taken from "Hywel Dda, The Law" tranlated as "The Law of Hywel Dda, Law Texts From Medieval Wales, Translated and Edited by Dafydd Jenkins, Gomer Press, Llandysul, Dyfed, 1986. The quotes are abstracted from pp. 130-133.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Church and State

Ancient history of the Welsh has been recorded by a couple of sources. The major source has been termed "The Annales Cambriae", compiled around 11oo AD from a number of older sources. Its entries are brief and to the point, describing events that have significance to the writers. Of course, the writers would be from the Church since they were the only ones who could write! I thought it would be of interest to see how much the Church and State interplayed among these early Welsh historians. These events have been analyzed by topics catigorized as "Church", "State", and "Nature". So here is my analysis.

There are 148 "events" recorded in the records. These are dated between 447 AD to 954 AD, a total of 507 years. The first event states: "Days as dark as night". This was classified as "Nature". The second event states: "Easter altered on the Lord's Day by Pope Leo, Bishop of Rome". This would be classified as "Church". In 516 AD there is a listing which states: "The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shield and the Britons were the victors." This was classified as both "Church" and "State". Each event was analyzed by content, and placed into the category(ies) that seemed to fit the best. Some events would fit into more than one category. Using this method, the following information was found:

1) The first 69 years (447-516) 100 percent were "Church" events [except for the very first date].

2) For the first 150 years (447-601), 67 percent were "Church" events, and 42 percent were "State" events. Only 8 percent were classified as "Nature".

3) The next 98 years (606-704) changed dramatically with only 21 percent "Church" and 72 percent "State". "Natural" events were listed at 24 percent.

4)The years 714 - 798 involved 20 percent "Church", 80 percent "State", and 10 percent "Nature".

5) "Church" and "State" events [the recording of these] remained fairly stable during the years 807 - 900 showing 18 percent "Church", 78 percent "State", and 13 percent "Nature".

6) The final years of record, 902 - 954, showed 19 percent "Church", but 92 percent "State", and no "Nature"!

Overall, for the 148 events recorded in "The Annales Cambriae, 23 [16%] were "Church" related; 96 [65%] were "State", and 15 [10%] were "Nature". Church to State, it seems to be the pattern.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Birth of a Nation

Divided by mountains, rivers, and the sea, it was their first two centuries [400 AD - 600 AD] that taught the Welsh a new speech and a new social order. After Rome pulled out, it was clear that the strongest organ of defence [thus survival] was the family unit. Building homes, rearing the young, weaving garments, and trading surpluses were all part of this life. Cattle became the key procession, tilling the earth became a key survival skill, and defending the home a key activity. To conquer the cold, the mountains, and the sea would soon convince all that survival was allowed by permission of this physical geography! Common descent, common language, and common culture melted these Celtic tribes into the Welsh. Authority and power were based in your descent, not in your political allegiance to a common elite. The kin-group shared a common great-grandfather, held land in common, was held responsible for offences of the family, and sought retribution in common for any grievances. Cherishing their differences and their Independence, the Welsh nation and tongue was born.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mountains to Ministers

Christianity probably reached Britain around 200 AD. Most likely brought to the island by Roman traders and settlers, many being persecuted by the Roman authorities. Over the centuries things changed, and The Edict of Milan gave religious toleration. By 378 AD, Christianity had become the State religion. The Church that had evolved in the islands was rooted in the monastic movement, and was to have profound impact upon the Celtic nations forming among the islands. It was to have its own special character and developed along its own teachings and customs. Through Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, this Celtic Church took its roots. After the fall of Rome, this Church was isolated from the Church at Rome until St. Augustine arrived in 597 AD. However, it was not until 768 AD that the Celtic Church conformed to the supremacy of Rome.

The Celtic Church in Wales began its history among the tribal territories that occupied the landscape. Once a religious centre was established, it was a "Llan", meaning an enclosure that centered around a local church. This was of course "family land" and the name of the head of the family often followed this term. In "A Gazetteer of Welsh Place-Names", the spelling "Llan...." is the most common occurring place name starting with "Llanaber" on page 57, and ending with "Llan-y-wern" some 14 pages later!

It was often the case that family members would become the ministers of these family churches. They would become part of the family heritage, and would be past down from generation to generation. The drawing above locates the four major "modern dioceses" of the Church of Wales. They began in the mountains and moved into the "Llan...". These four major dioceses are listed from their mountains, to Celtic tribe, to Welsh Kingdom, to the principle religious center: 1) Snowdona - Decangi - Gwynedd - Bangor, 2) Berwyn - Ordovices - Powys - St. Asaph, 3) Plinlimmon - Demetae - Dyved - St. David's, and 4) Black Mountains - Silures - Morgannwy - Llandaff. One of the earliest centers called Bangor-Is-Coed is also shown which was located along the Dee. Mountains to ministers, the Celtic Church was formed.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tribes to Territories

The Celtic tribes to have settled the lands on this most western side of the island, are shown on the figure to the right. They had settled among the hills and mountains centuries before those Latin writing Romans started to arrive. Their general geographic distribution is shown. These Celtic tribes were the foundation of the Welsh tribes which came to be organized around their family's land. They are shown in the figure above. The Royal and Noble tribes of Wales are shown. Each tribe has recorded a detailed genealogy in the families' of Wales, and give a foundation to many present day Welsh families. These tribal groups help settle the mountains and hills into what became called "gwlad" or states. The earliest gwlad's are shown in the figure to the right. These were view as the basic "kingdoms" of the Welsh nation before 700 AD. Using these three maps, you can begin to study the regional difference from the Celtic tribes, to Welsh tribes, to the earliest kingdoms of Wales. Tribes to territories, what a way to go.

Two figures have been taken from The Jones Genealogist, first published 1989, Library of Congress No. 6192-01064476.