Brehon Law: Celtic Triads

In Celtic culture, the people were governed by civil law. The old Brehon Law of Ireland is still extant. Even Kings and Queens were subject to the Law; in fact, they ruled only by the will of the People. The people could both vote them in, and vote them out. Men and women both enjoyed this. The culture was egalitarian. It was only with the coming of Christianity that women began to lose their legal status. This is evidenced by their eventually becoming banned from the field of battle, and their loss of rights to property ownership and inheritance. They, in fact, lost equal protection under the law.

It is a proven fact that most of the old ways of the Celtic people were held onto. The old ways were simply hidden under a thin veneer of Christianity. With the Triads, it was simply a matter of having the context of one or two words changed; this then brought the old Pagan into line with the new Christian.

It must be understood that to our forebearers, knowledge was a sacred thing. Knowledge was a trust given by the Gods, a trust which must be passed from generation to generation. There are Triads which speak of the importance of knowledge, and for imparting knowledge. The Triads even go so far as to say that if one does not share their knowledge, that is, teach what they know, then they are accursed by divinity, however divinity might be described.

Triads:

Concerning three things that hide: an open bag hides nothing, an open door hides little, an open person hides something.

Three errors not acknowledged: fear of an enemy, torment of love, and a jealous persons’ evil suspicion of their mate.

Three possessions we value most take away pride from us: our money, our time, and our conscience.

Three things by nature cause their possessor to err: youth, prosperity, and ignorance.

Three things resemble each other: a bright sword which rusts from long staying in the scabbard, bright water which stinks from long-standing, and wisdom which is dead from long disuse.

Three things not easy to check: the stream of a cataract, an arrow from a bow, and a rash tongue.

Three things hard to catch: a stag on the mountain, a fox in the wood, and the coin of the miserly Scrooge.

There are three things each very like the other: an old blind horse playing the harp with his hoofs, a pig in a silk dress, and a merciless person prating about piety.

Three things as good as the best: bread and milk against hunger, a white coat against the cold, and a yeoman’s son in a breach.

Three things which are not hidden: a straw in the shoe, an awl in a bag, and a harlot in a crowd.

Three sweet things in the world: power, prosperity, and error in action.

Three strong things in the world: a lord, a fool, and the Void.

There are three things which move together as quickly as the other: lightning, thought, and the help of the Mighty Ones.

Three things not loved without each one it’s companion: day without night, idleness without hunger, and wisdom without reverence.

There are three whose full reward can never be given to them: parents, a good teacher, and the Mighty Ones.

Three glories of a gathering: a comely mate, a good horse, and a swift hound.

Three things which constitute a healer: a complete cure, leaving no blemish behind, and a painless examination.

Three false sisters: “perhaps”, “maybe”, and “I dare say”.

Three timid brothers: “Hush!” “Stop!” “Listen!”

Three youthful sisters: desire, beauty, and generosity.

Three aged sisters: groaning, chastity, and ugliness.

Three slender things that best support the world: the slender stream of milk from the cows dug into the pail, the slender blade of green corn upon the ground, the slender thread over the hand of a skilled woman.

Three keys that unlock thoughts: drunkenness, trustfulness, love.

Three in-breathing things paid for only with breathing things: An apple tree, a hazel bush, a sacred grove.

Photo: Newgrange entrance kerb stone (K1) with its famous triple spirals, Anthony Murphy Photography

Posted by

Stair na hÉireann is steeped in Ireland's turbulent history, culture, ancient secrets and thousands of places that link us to our past and the present. With insight to folklore, literature, art, and music, you’ll experience an irresistible tour through the remarkable Emerald Isle.

3 thoughts on “Brehon Law: Celtic Triads

Comments are closed.