What is a clan?

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Tuath, Cinel, and Clann, were the words used interchangeably to denote what we now call indifferently a clan or tribe. It resembled the Gens of ancient Rome in that all the members of it claimed descent from a remote fine, and from a common ancestor as head of that fine, and were therefore kinsfolk, were entitled severally to various rights dependent on the degree of relationship and other facts, and formed collectively a state, political and proprietorial, with a distinct municipal individuality and life, with a legislature of its own and an army in gremio; but in these two latter respects slightly subject to, and forming a member of, a superior state consisting of a federation of similar communities.

Each clan was composed of a number of septs, and each sept was composed of a number of fines. Kinship was the web and bond of society throughout the whole clan; and all lesser rights whatsoever were subject to those of the clan.

Theoretically it was a true kinship of blood, but in practice it may have been to some extent one of absorption or adoption. Strangers settling in the district, conducting themselves well, and intermarrying with the clan, were after a few generations indistinguishable from it. A chief or a flaith also occasionally wished to confer on a stranger the dignity and advantages of clanship—practically meaning citizenship—and when he had obtained the sanction of the clan assemblies, the stranger was adopted in the presence of the assembled clan by public proclamation. 

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