In 685 AD, at the battle of Dun Nechtain, the Picts went to battle against the Northumbrians. Pictish warriors, both men and women, won a decisive victory, and the Northumbrian king was killed.
The deceased monarch had a half-brother, Aldfrith, who became the new king of Northumbria. A few years later, his wife, disheartened by the fact that women and children were often casualties of war, petitioned her husband to do something to solve this problem. Aldfrith went to his good friend, the Abbot of Ionia, to ask what the church could do. In response to a subsequent “angelic vision”, the Abbot penned “The Law of Innocents”, a document declaring women and children to be non-combatants, and promising grievous consequences to anyone who harmed them. At the Synod of Birr, in 697 AD, this document was ratified and signed by numerous clergy and kings, including Bridei, King of the Picts.
Was this “Lex Innocentium” (or “Cain Adomnan” as it is sometimes called) a noble endeavor, an inspired document that guaranteed safety for the unfortunate victims of war? Or was the Law of Innocents something altogether different; a first step down the path of stripping Celtic and Pictish women of the equality they had always previously known?
I will be publishing “Loss of Innocence” sometime in 2012.