Bee Judgements or Bech Breatha

Brehon Laws – Brehons were roving magistrates appointed by local kings and chieftains to arbitrate and settle disputes and help define the laws. They were written down around the 7th century but were much older. Some date from pre-Christian times. They were memorised and passed from Brehon to Brehon orally across the land for many centuries before that. Bechbreatha or Bee Jugements were a subset of Brehon Laws and concerned with the value and protection of the bees and honey. We can learn a lot from the importance they placed on these.

Bees were subject to laws of trespass, so a beekeeper had to give a certain amount of his honey to his neighbours where the bees foraged, depending on the quality of their meadows and orchards and abundance of nectar.

Bees that swarmed were subjected to similar rules . The original owner of the bees had rights over a certain portion of the honey. They were entitled to 1/3 of honey made in other people’s land for 3 years, depending on the ownership of the land where they were captured.

Bees were punished for stinging people . You were granted a “sufficiency” or a meal of honey if you swore an oath that you had not provoked the bees. The Brehon would draw lots on hives where they suspected the bee came from; the hive selected was forfeit or destroyed for the crime of the one bee.

Bee sting in the eye – this was brought in by King Congal the one eyed, one of our earliest High Kings who had been blinded by bees. He lost his kingship, because Kings were supposed to be perfect. But he did get to keep the forfeited hive and bees.