Jan 10, 2011
Author and Celtic historian Peter Berresford Ellis chronicles the role of Celtic Women in his book, Celtic Women, Women in Celtic Society and Literature. There are many examples in the book of law and customs in other Celtic regions besides Ireland. But it is in Ireland where much more is known because of the Brehon Laws.
In referring to the Isle of Man, he notes that even though ecclesiastical law existed, which put more restrictions in general on women, the main law of the land was “The Breast Law,” which allowed women equal property rights when separating from their husbands even if they had been convicted of crimes. Truly women’s rights were acknowledged and protected in Celtic society.
In contrast, women in Rome and Greece were not afforded many rights. In Greece in particular they were separated from men and not allowed to leave their living quarters. While Roman women were permitted more freedom, they too had no authority when it came to business matters.
Fortunately, times have changed, and even in the church women today hold positions of authority and respect. But what is now a modern standard has been long adhered to by the Celts. All people, all living beings, are of God. This is not to say that women were always treated well; we cannot say that even today. But in the ancient world Celtic women fared much better than in the rest of western civilization.