A bit of bee history for a change

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jenkinsbrynmair

International Beekeeper of Mystery
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Hywel Dda (circa AD 880 - 950)


Hywel Dda (one of my ancestors) whose descendants also founded the Tudor dynasty was the greatest lawmaker Wales has ever seen - his laws were not only the first to give women recognition and rights but also showed the importance of bees, mead and therefore honey, and the reverence in which they were held in Wales.
Here is an extract from his laws dealing with the mead maker, bees and wax:
HOWEL the Good, son of Cadell, king of Cymru, enacted by the grace of God and fasting and prayer when Cymru was in his possession in its bounds, to wit, three score and four cantrevs of Deheubarth, and eighteen cantrevs of Gwynedd, and three score trevs beyond the Cyrchell, and three score trevs of Buallt; and within that limit, the word of no one [is] before their word, and their word is a word over all. There were bad customs and bad laws before his time. He therefore takes six men from every cymwd in Cymru and brings them to the White House on the Tav [Whitland]
; and there were present those who held croziers in Cymru including archbishops and bishops and abbots and good teachers; and of that number, twelve of the wisest laics were chosen, and the one wisest scholar who was called Blegywryd, to make the good laws and to abolish the bad ones which were before his time; and to place good ones in their stead and to confirm them in his own name. When they had finished making those laws, they placed the curse of God, and the one of that assembly, and the one of Cymru in general upon any one who should break those laws. And first they began with the Laws of a Court as they were the most important and as they pertained to the King and the Queen and the Twenty-four Officers who accompany them, namely, Chief of the Household. Priest of the Household, Steward. Judge of the Court, falconer, Chief Huntsman, Chief groom. Page of the Chamber. Steward of the Queen. Priest of the Queen. Bard of the Household. Silentiary. Doorkeeper of the Hall. Doorkeeper of the Chamber, Chambermaid. Groom of the Rein, Candlebearer. Butler. Mead brewer, Server of the Court, Cook, physician. Footholder. Groom of the Rein to the Queen.
A right of all the officers is to have woollen clothing from the king and linen clothing from the queen three times every year; at Christmas and Easter and Whitsuntide
A mead brewer has his land free, and his horse regularly from the king. One man’s share does he obtain of the gwestva silver, and a third of the wax taken from the mead vat; for the two parts are divided into three shares, the two shares for the hall and the third for the chamber.
The protection of the mead brewer is from the time he shall begin to prepare the mead vat until he shall cover it. The protection of the butler is from the time he shall begin to empty the mead vat until he shall finish.
The origin of bees is from paradise and because of the sin of man they came thence; and God conferred his grace on them, and therefore the mass cannot be sung without the wax. A mother-hive of bees is twenty-four pence in value. A first swarm is sixteen pence in value. A second swarm is twelve pence in value. A third swarm is eight pence in value. A mother-hive, after the first swarm has gone out of it, is twenty pence in value. After the second swarm has gone out of it, it is sixteen pence in value. After the third swarm has gone out of it, it is twelve pence in value. No swarm is of more value than four pence until it shall be three days on wing and continually [so]; a day to find a place to move to, and the second to move, and the third to rest. Whoever shall find a swarm on another person’s land upon a bough, receives four pence from the owner of the land if he wills to have the swarm, Whoever shall find a hive on another person’s land, receives a legal penny or the wax at the option of the owner of the land. The ninth day before August every swarm assumes the status of a mother-hive, and then it is twenty-four pence in value, excepting a wing-swarm, for such does not assume the status of a mother-hive until the calends of the following May; and then it is twenty-four pence in value like the rest
 

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Thanks for sharing that.

What is the term for the system of law in Wales at the time ? I'd be interested to compare with our Brehon code.

Brehon comes from the Irish for 'judge', and in a similar vein of progressiveness, women as well as men were 'brehons'.

Here's a taste of Brehon law as applied to bees...

The Brehon Law tract on "Bee-judgments," of which the printed Irish text occupies twenty pages, enters into much detail concerning the rights of the various parties concerned, to swarms, hives, nests, and honey: of which a few examples are given here. If a man found a swarm in the faithche [faha], or green surrounding and belonging to a house: one-fourth of the produce to the end of a year was due to the finder, the remaining three -fourths to the owner of the house. If he found them in a tree growing in a faithche or green: one-half produce for a year to the finder: the rest to the owner. If they were found in land which was not a green: one-third to the finder and two-thirds to the owner of the land. If found in waste land not belonging to an individual, but the common property of the tribe, bees and honey belonged to the finder, except one-ninth to the chief of the tribe. As the bees owned by an individual gathered their honey from the surrounding district, the owners of the four adjacent farms were entitled to a certain small proportion of the honey: and after the third year each was entitled to a swarm. If bees belonging to one man swarmed on the land of another, the produce was divided in certain proportions between the two. It is mentioned in "Bee-judgments" that a sheet was sometimes spread out that a swarm might alight and rest on it:

http://www.libraryireland.com/SocialHistoryAncientIreland/III-XVII-7.php
 
What is the term for the system of law in Wales at the time ? I'd be interested to compare with our Brehon code.

As far as I can see it was just 'Cyfraith Hywel Dda' - The law of Hywel Dda, later called Hywelian Law. There are English translations on the web.
 
Some old English tithes, just to balance the scales. Apparently the bee churl (or beekeeper) was rated as lower or equivalent status to the swineherd.

"In Edward the Confessor's reign (1042-66) tithes were payable on bees as a proportion of their produce, or one hive in ten. From very early in the same century comes a passage from Rectitudines Singularum Personarum which has been regarded as the most important Anglo-Saxon document referring to beekeeping.
It defined the duties and privileges of the various grades of people bound to the land, including those of the bee churl and swineherd who belonged to the lowest rank of free men. Similarly, on the estate of Tidenham, Gloucestershire, granted to the abbot of Bath, it was held (c. 1060) that 'The boor must
do what is due from him ... He shall give 6 pence after Easter and half a sester of honey'

The payment of rents in honey was recorded in Wessex in the laws of King Ine
(688-94), and in Surrey.*' In a charter of c. 832 from Mongeham [Mundlingham] in Kent, Lady Lufa, a nun, bequeathed various items including a 'mittan fulne huniges', that is a horseload of honey, as an annual rent to Canterbury Cathedral." A food rent paid annually from Offley, Hertfordshire, to St Alban's Abbey in the late 900s included one sester of honey;HS and a writ of 1066 issued to Wuduman, keeper of Queen Edith's horses, stated that 'for six years [he] has withheld her rent in honey and in cash'.

In a document dating from c. 883, Aethelred, aldorman of Mercia, freed the abbot of Berkeley from, among other items, a tax owed to the king which was payable in honey. A Wessex charter of c. 987 of Ealdorman Aethetmaer, son of Aethelwerd, stated: 'Tithes of honey [and other items] from his other lands are to go to Cerne Abbey with the produce of Cerne'.

Source, Eva Crane and Penelope Walker.
 
Hywel Dda (circa AD 880 - 950)
... A mother-hive of bees is twenty-four pence in value. A first swarm is sixteen pence in value. A second swarm is twelve pence in value. A third swarm is eight pence in value. A mother-hive, after the first swarm has gone out of it, is twenty pence in value. ...

That's interesting: He talks of a mother-hive when most of Britain, from what I read, believed a colony was ruled by a king, and this idea did not change until 1586 in Spain, or 1669 with Swammerdam. Perhaps this idea of a king wasn't necessarily so widespread or accepted by all.

Oops: The feminine monarchie, Charles Butler - 1609.
 
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To further emphasise the value placed on bees at 24 pence the following items were also given values in the same law system.

Calf in December 16 pence
Whetted sword 12 pence
Coracle 8 pence
Goose 2 pence
Hen 1 pence
 
That's interesting: He talks of a mother-hive when most of Britain, from what I read, believed a colony was ruled by a king, and this idea did not change until 1586 in Spain, or 1669 with Swammerdam. Perhaps this idea of a king wasn't necessarily so widespread or accepted by all.

Oops: The feminine monarchie, Charles Butler - 1609.

Was there a comparable Scottish code ?
 

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