Monday, March 24, 2014

Land and Earth

From the ancient tribal past, the laws that came to be called "The Law of Hywel Dda", was a foundation to the culture and society of Wales.  Certain basic concepts were contained within these laws that allowed social structure, and the survival of the folks who accepted them as their authority. [See last post which gives the first principle of their existence.] 

One basic concept was called "land and earth".  This concept had its origins from the belief that "In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth." [ Pentateuch - Genesis 1:1]  It was "God's Will" that was the ultimate authority within these spheres of existence.   Since God was in heaven, it was his will that man was placed upon earth.  Thus "man" was responsible for this land. 

In the laws, "land and earth" was a key sphere of existence.  No land was to exist that did not have a "proprietor".  This had meaning from Roman days which comes from the Latin privatus, meaning 'proper to a particular person'.  A "proprietor" had right to the land by "kindred and descent".  It is written:

"Whosoever wants to claim land by kindred and descent, let him show his pedigree as far as the stock from which he derives; and if he is there as fourth man he is a proprietor, for it is as fourth man that a person becomes a proprietor." [ from: Hywel Dda The Law, by Jenkins, p. 104.] 

Claim to land ownership was thus proved by giving a pedigree from the family tree.  Four generations of occupation by the family needed to be shown.   A deed to ownership was your family tree.  Wow...everyone needed to be a genealogist for this land and earth.

[The term "proprietor" is defined on p. 375 in the text by Jenkins.]

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Customary Principles

A living community changes over time.  From early family units, to larger tribal groups (clans) there is a common core of customs which develop.  These become the "laws" [spoke or unspoken] that begin to structure the obligations of the folks living within the community, and institute controls [often punishment] that establish authority within this cluster of folks trying to survive.  For the Welsh, this was well established by the mid-10th century.  This common core became associated with the name of Hywel Dda.

The figure above shows the cover of my copy, which was published by Gomer Press, 1990.  It contains a translation of the "Law Texts From Medieval Wales Translated and Edited by Dafydd Jenkins".  For the genealogist who wishes to understand the core principle of Welsh culture, this is a helpful test.

On page 71 it records:

"For the wise say that worldly law does not pursue any person (whether it is to heaven that he goes or to hell) save until he leaves the earth.  This is the reason for it:  Though there be law between persons and each other on this earth, there is no law between angels and each other, and there is no law between devils and each other, save the will of God."

Hum..."the will of God"...who would have guessed this would be a customary principle in the laws of Hywel Dda, around 942 AD.