Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Brehon Law

Brehon Law, the customary law of ancient Celtic Ireland, embodied in a number of text, books, of which the book of Aicill and the Senchus Mor are the best known, and which have been translated and published with a commentary, by the Irish Government, at intervals since 1865. Sir Henry Maine describes it as consisting of a pre-Christian element with a large admixture from the Scriptures, and in part from canon law, the whole being embodied in and extended by the dicta of famous Brehons or lawyers. These formed a separate literary and learned class, and may possibly be the successors of the sacerdotal order noticed in Gaul by Caesar, and popularly known as the Druids. With their pupils, who were treated as their adopted sons, they formed a sort of guild modelled on the family, which soon, of course, became connected by blood relationship. Both in origin and nature the law presents some analogy to Hindu law, and to the earliest codes of other Aryan peoples. Sanctions, except so far as it coincides with spiritual law, are conspicuously absent; but it was probably enforced, partly by custom and partly by the traditional respect entertained for the Brehons. While occasionally it exhibits advanced conceptions of equity, much of it is said to be fanciful and unreal. It was strongly condemned by Edmund Spenser in his Present State of Ireland, and by English observers generally from the 14th to the 19th centuries. The "historical method" in jurisprudence has caused a juster appreciation of it. See Sir Henry Maine's Early History of Institutions, c. 1, 2.