Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Monday, February 13, 2012

Marriage Laws in Celtic Britain by Lily Dewaruile

Today on History Undressed, I'd like to introduce to you Lily Dewaruile, author of medieval romance. She has offered for us to repost her article on Marriage Laws in Celtic Britain (originally published on her blog May 14, 2011). Cheers!


Marriage Laws in Celtic Britain
by Lily Dewaruile

With the publication of Traitor's Daughter, this is the perfect opportunity to talk about the various Celtic marriage laws that are the premise of the book.
Depending on the tribe, there are nine laws that governed the marital status of a couple. Many of them are not allowed these days but were acceptable in the early Celtic civilizations. My sources for this information are Peter Berresford Ellis's book, Celtic Women, and Henrietta Leyser's Medieval Women. These nine forms are also to be found in the eight types of marriage in Hindu law.
Dwynwen rejects the
 attentions of her lover.
Polygamy was a commonplace occurrence in the earliest, war-torn times, in practicality, to provide for the many widows who otherwise would have starved to death along with their children. A warrior with many wives served the social needs of his tribe by taking responsibility for the families of his dead soldiers.
According to (at least) one Celtic woman, when chastised for her lack of chastity, "Why should we not enjoy the best of men. Roman women comingle with the worst."
As necessity waned, polygamy in Celtic society disappeared and, with the conversion to Christianity in Celtic countries by the 6th-7th centuries, was no longer acceptable. In Cymru, some monastic Celtic Church clergy continued to marry until the late 12th century. In Ireland, polygamy continued for some time after the conversion to the Christian church.
Marriage in antiquity was predominately a contract merger of property for the establishment of a family and household.
Hywel Dda codified the
marriage laws in Cymru.
The first degree of marriage was priodas (pree-O-das) – the partnership of a man and woman of equal financial position. This is how Heledd and Garmon are wed (eventually) in Traitor's Daughter. In this form of marriage, a catalogue of goods is made and shared between the partners for the good of the household. I have also used this form in the marriage of minor characters in Invasion, the first book in my Pendyffryn: The Conquerors.
The second form is agwedi (aG-WED-ee). The woman brings a lesser amount or no property to the partnership. Heledd is in this position when she believes she is to wed Huw.
The third form of marriage is caradas (car-A-das), from the word caru (car-ee) to love. In Cymru, this is when a man lives with a woman with her kin's consent. In Ireland, the third form is the man who has nothing to offer to the wealth of the household. (She must love him very much!) In Invasion, Gwennan Pendyffryn has no difficulty accepting Ieuan Emyr on the Irish grounds but it doesn't work out that way for them.
The fourth form of marriage in Cymru, deu lysuab (day lees-EE-ab), having no equivalent in Irish marriage law, is the union of two persons related only by the marriage of their respective parents, i.e., stepbrother and stepsister. The word llys (ll [an aspirated l] = llees) refers to a court of law; a legal relationship). Garmon is Huw's llysfab (stepson).
The fourth form in Ireland is l├ínamnas fir thathigthe (sorry, my limited Gaelic won't help with this pronunciation) – a man is given permission to live with a woman with her kin's consent. This is the same as the third form in Cymru.
The fifth type of marital union is called llathlut goleu (llAHth-leet go-lay) means 'open connection' – two people chose to live together openly without the consent of the woman's kin. I use this form of marriage in my forthcoming novel, Invasion.
Numbers six on the Celtic wedding hit parade is llathlut twyll (llATth-leet tOO-eell [aspirated l]). An independent-minded woman allows herself to be abducted by a man or is visited by a man in secret without the knowledge of her kin.
Beichogi twyll gwraig lwyn a pherth (bay-CHO[hard CH as in loch]-ee too-eell gur-eyeg loo-een ah phair-th) is number seven, literally "to impregnate a woman between loins and hedge". This is a double entendre as llwyn also means hedge. It can be taken to mean "to make love in the hedgerows".
In Traitor's Daughter, Elgan choses the eighth form, cynnywedi ar liw ac ar oleu, as well as the nineth, to take Heledd away from her lawful husband (cun-ee-WED-ee ahr loo ahk ahr O-lay), rough literal translation: "to join by color and by light", a union by abduction of a woman without her consent.
Twyll morwyn (tOO-eell MOR-ooeen) is the nineth form of marriage, leading on from the eighth, a marriage by rape. In Ireland, there was a different nineth form: l├ínamnas genaige – a union of two insane people.
So now you know but can you guess which form Garmon uses to make his initial claim on Heledd? If you are one of the first nineteen to guess correctly, you will win a copy of Traitor's Daughter in whichever ebook form you prefer. Please leave your answer and your email address in the Comments for this post.
*~*~*~*
Her honor or her life, her life or her love… His choice.

Blaentywi, Summer, AD927, in the reign of Hywel Dda
Always despised by her relatives, Heledd Ieuan expects worse now that she is of age. Since her father’s betrayal of his brother, she has been a prisoner of war, held hostage against the good behavior of survivors among his friends. Bruises, blisters and aching muscles are small prices to pay to avoid the nightmare of life as a warrior's whore.

A woman is the last diversion Garmon Dolwyddlan needs when he responds to an urgent message from his foster brother. Heledd Ieuan’s pride sears his soul as much as her fire-brand hair sears his senses. Obsessed with the desire to lower her arrogant chin, Garmon accepts her uncle’s offer to buy her bond. Six months in Llew Talgarth’s service seems a fair trade to own her – until he learns the truth. Claiming his property means breaking his word of honor but Garmon vows he will never abandon her to Meilor Gwesyn, the man who butchered her family.

A soldier’s whore – no fate would be worse for Heledd – until Garmon Dolwyddlan no longer wants her. When her bond is sold a second time to an old man in a distant region, Heledd lifts her chin higher to face a new life, hopeful she can escape the shame of her past but her uncle ensures that can never be.
About the Author:
An American writer of medieval Welsh fiction, lived in Wales for 30 years. Lily is a member of Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History and Celtic Hearts. She has written four novels: Traitor's Daughter and three in the Pendyffryn: The Conquerors series to be published in 2012. Visit Ms. Dewaruile at: http://lilydewaruile.wordpress.com/




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