A look at some of the wider social and cultural factors that may have a bearing on the 9th century Irish poem I have been reading.
It charts the desires of a potential milk or butter theif. That this act is still at the stage of desire, locked in the private world of the individual and not yet fully undertaken, may have some significance.
Indiividual guilt has a role to play in the establishment of eccleesastical institutions, the deevelopment of pennance an example, but it is not the focus of early secular Irish law.
Punishment from crime here is collective, group rather than individual saction and punishment are the norm.
The collective here is kin. Irish kin groups were formed through marriage. The imediate family of both partners formed the kindred.
Its a practical form of organisation in a society with no police force. Proactive incentive to manage and monitor social relationships and emtional issues within the group before they spill out and effect the viability of the group.
Repeated legal issues could have a significant economic impact overtime. Sanction took the form of payment. Each individual had a value set by their rank and social status, a set price that had to be paid collectivly by the offending party in the case of offense.
Understanding and being able to monitor the emotional behaviour of individual group members was a familiar and vital activity.
To be free in Irish society you had to be able to hold land. Economic saction could lead to its loss and unfree status.
Maintianing land and free status was a significant pressure point in Irish society. Land was difficult to hold and maintian generationaly as it was prone to fragmentation and sub-division as kindreds reproduced and grew in size.
This downward pressure and the emotions and anxiety resulting from this enviroment would be familiar to all. Free and unfree.
Poem is not drawing a private detached world of an individual but a collective, conected one with a shared emotional life than can be related to.