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The Ancient Celts — Interesting Celtic Facts, Part III

The Ancient Celts — Interesting Celtic Facts, Part III

In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher continues his list with four more interesting Celtic facts about the ancient Celts with Part III. (Click here for Part II.)

In no particular order, they are as follows:

9 – Slavery Was Common Among the Ancient Celts

As in all the ancient world, slavery was pervasive in Celtic society. In a previous post, I wrote:

“At the bottom of the social scale were slaves.  Slavery was very much a part of life in the ancient world. In fact the basic unit of currency in ancient Ireland was the cumal, or woman slave. You could end up a slave if you had overwhelming debts and sold yourself into slavery, or if you were taken in battle. The Irish often raided the coast of Britain, stealing slaves in the night from the rich Roman villas. Indeed, this was how St. Patrick made his first journey to the Emerald Isle—in chains.”

See: http://www.markfisherauthor.com/2016/04/social-classes-early-celtic-ireland/

10 – Bodies of Water Were Sacred

Bodies of Water Were Sacred

In the Celtic world of ancient Ireland, the druids were the means by which the people accessed the spirit world before St. Patrick. In a previous post, I wrote:

“The druids held that bodies of water—lakes, streams, and rivers—held healing properties. Bathing in or drinking from them might heal your ailment. Walking three times around certain wells, but always facing sunward, might also do the trick. As such, druids offered gifts to the gods inhabiting these waterways in hopes of obtaining their pleasure. They might carve wooden models of themselves or the injured part before a healing ritual.

Beyond the waterways, images of injured limbs, including a pair of sculptured breasts, have been found before the shrines of Celtic gods.

Waterfalls were seen as gateways to the Otherworld, where the spirits dwelt, and were to be avoided. A scene from my novel, The Bonfires of Beltane, dramatizes this taboo.”

11 – The Punishment for Crimes Was Often Payment of Property

In a previous post, I wrote:

“For wrongs committed against another person or fine, the offender (or his fine) would most likely have paid his penalty in property. This might include cumala (women slaves), cattle (highly prized), sheep, or pigs. If the person’s crime was indebtedness, with an inability to pay, the penalty might be that the debtor goes into bondage as a slave to pay off his debts. For offenses against the clan itself, the offender might be barred from sacrificial or group ceremonies. Or, if the penalty were severe enough, the criminal himself might be sacrificed in a public ceremony to the gods.”

See also: http://www.markfisherauthor.com/2016/05/druidic-justice-early-celtic-ireland/

12 – Ancient Lifespans Were Short

The dangers of living in the ancient world were legion: warfare, disease, childbirth, childhood itself, starvation and famine,  accidents and hunting, and travel. Given all that, ancient lifespans were short. This is what I wrote in a previous post:

“…what was the average life expectancy of a male child born in the Iron Age, the closest era providing us with statistics? The best guess, per Wikipedia, is 26 years. Childhood was an especially dangerous time. What were the odds you’d live to the age of fifteen? About 60%. But if you made it to fifteen, you might live another 37 years to the ripe old age of 55. There were a few who lived longer, of course.”

See also: http://www.markfisherauthor.com/2016/06/ancientcelticlifespans/

Next time, we’ll continue our list of interesting Celtic facts with Part IV.

Ancient Celtic Ireland is the setting for the Mark’s books of Christian historical fiction—one in publication, The Bonfires of Beltane, and The Amulet, now in the hands of beta readers. The same setting is also the basis for the author’s fictional world in a Christian fantasy trilogy. Book One, The Scepter of Elyon, is now seeking a publisher. Click on the link to learn more about The Bonfires of Beltane.

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Ancient, Celtic Lifespans and Their Enemies

Ancient, Celtic Lifespans in Early Ireland

In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher looks at ancient, Celtic lifespans in early Ireland and their enemies. What were the top seven enemies of a long life in the world of the ancient Celts?


An Iron Age, Celtic Funeral

Enemy #1: Warfare

For those of fighting age—both man and woman alike—it was a violent time to be alive. There were constant raids by other tuatha (clans). Mostly they came for your cattle. But you had to protect your livestock, for that was your wealth and your food. And that meant you engaged  in frequent small battles. People were injured. And injury often led to infection and death.

Enemy #2: Disease

Imagine living in a time without emergency rooms, doctors, and 911. You had your local druid healer, of course. He had his clay jars full of herbs, roots, and flowers that could help for certain diseases. He could even set bones. But his record of healing was spotty, and he tended to blame a lot of things on the spirits. And there was just no pleasing the angry pantheon of Celtic gods. Especially when sickness swept through your roundhouse where everyone slept in one big room in the middle of winter. Disease has to rank at the top of the list. (See my posts on ancient Celtic medicine.)

Enemy #3: Childhood

On infant mortality: “Infancy was particularly dangerous during the Middle Ages—mortality was terribly high. Based on surviving written records alone, scholars have estimated that 20–30 per cent of children under seven died, but the actual figure is almost certainly higher.” (This per http://www.historyextra.com/feature/medieval/10-dangers-medieval-)

Enemy #4: Starvation and Famine

Having enough to eat was always a concern, especially in winter when your tuath depended on what you stored in the fall. A hailstorm or wet weather could ruin the barley or wheat crops. Your fishing boats could fail to bring in enough fish to salt and store up for the winter months. A neighboring tribe could raid and steal your cattle, pigs, or sheep. Or disease could strike your livestock and sicken them. Then your clan might be in danger of starving. And people without enough to eat become susceptible to disease.

Enemy #5: Childbirth

Bearing a child was a risky business. A breech presentation could kill both mother and child. Even when the birth was successful, the mother could die from post-natal complications.

Enemy #6: Accidents and Hunting

Hunting was necessary to augment the food supply, but fraught with peril. Your hunting partners could shoot you with their arrows. You could fall off your horse and break a neck. Or you could be gored by a boar or stag. Even royalty were not immune. In 886, a stag hooked the belt of the Byzantine emperor Basil I and proceeded to drag him fifteen miles before he was freed.

Enemy #7: Travel

No doubt about it, travel was dangerous. You were separated from the protection of your clan. If you got sick, there was no druid healer to attend you. If you were caught in a snowstorm without shelter, you could freeze to death. When you came to a river, you could drown in the crossing. And once you left your home turf, you were fair game for capture, enslavement, or death.

So How Long Did People Live?

Given all that, what was the average life expectancy of a male child born in the Iron Age, the closest era providing us with statistics for the AD 400s? The best guess, per Wikipedia, is 26 years. Childhood was an especially dangerous time. What were the odds you’d live to the age of fifteen? About 60%. But if you made it to fifteen, you might live another 37 years to the ripe old age of 55. There were a few who lived longer, of course. But the odds were against you.

Next week, we’ll look at a tale from ancient, Celtic Ireland—a novel by this author, due to be released just over a week from now: The Bonfires of Beltane.