Bloodline stuff, etc.

From: Donald R. Oddy <>
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2000 21:47:03 GMT

>From: Alex Ferguson <>

>> [Warfare between clans of marriage partners]

>That would work, I guess. ;-) I was thinking more of one that
>would less equivocably align her with the clan she lives in, since
>a Vinga weaponthane you can't depend on to defend the clan against
>all-comers is a questionable asset.

I think that may be the answer, a person living with their spouses clan will _defend_ the clan and tula even against their relatives but will not get involved in _attacks_ on their own clan. This may also extend to close relatives of those who live with the clan being feuded with to avoid kinslaying.

>OTOH, Vingans are probably
>not married, and certainly not married _out_ all that often, so
>maybe not so much of an issue after all?

Indeed, but the same issue applies to men marrying out and even women who might take up a spear against attackers although belonging to the Ernalda cult.

>It's probably a rare stead that wouldn't have some cows, but I
>certainly don't see anything like a 'smooth' distribution of
>cattle across an entire clan. It makes a lot more sense for
>them to be correlated with the 'natural' (I hesitate to go so
>far as to say 'logical') distribution of land use between arable
>and pasture. If your stead is predominantly wheat-growing,
>you don't exactly need to rush out on a daily basis to get a
>new ox, do you? So I'm not convinced that each stead is really
>a closed micro-economy in such matters.

But you do use the same type of land for growing grain and fattening cattle. Indeed prior to modern fertilisers you rotate crops to maintain a decent yield. KoS suggests a two year rotation as a Carl receives as much land as he can plough in two seasons. OK there will be some small highland steads which don't grow grain and concentrate on sheep farming and growing vegetables but to them bread will be a luxury because they have to trade for the grain.

>It's also something of a leap to say that different work strongly
>implies different classes of people. Low-status or 'niche' work
>can certainly be done by younger members of a stead, where it's
>not the predominant activity. And while you may be right in
>saying it's unlikely to have a rich carl and a half-starving
>stickpicker of the same bloodline, in the same stead, I don't
>think the correlation between bloodline and status is _that_
>strong, either.

KoS is pretty clear about the different status of different occupations with Thanes, Carls, Half-Carls, Cottars and where applicable Thralls. Although I feel there is a missing group of freemen who have no land and work or assist others, particularly in tribes with no Thralls. Certainly Carls and Half-Carls will teach their sons the skills required for ploughing so to a significant extent status will be hereditary. That doesn't mean it is difficult to change status, just a tendency for sons to follow their fathers occupation and thus status. However the third or forth son of a Carl is unlikely to get enough wealth together to be a Carl himself but a well off cottar may get a chance to buy a share of an ox team becoming a Half-Carl even though his eldest son has to learn how to use it from another clan member. So changes in status usually occur gradually over generations by which time the bloodlines have separated.

>I think it's misleading to suggest that this involves 'trade', which
>implies a far greater degree of formality than seems likely. But
>traditional mutual obligations, clienteeism, informal dealings with
>your relatives, and outright micro-managing by supra-stead busy-bodies
>(such as bloodline highheidyins, on a very informal basis, and clan
>leaders on a more official one) all strike me as being likely
>conduits for your cheese ending up in my larder, my venison in
>John's, and John's bread in yours.

I was using trade to refer to all sorts of exchanges between steads rather than just straight forward buying, selling and barter. In a society which places a high value on hospitality and gifting such things become a matter of correctly balancing obligations - in effect a form of trade. I don't quite see Orlanthi putting up with micro-managing though. The examples you give though are precisely the sort of thing which will be exchanged within rather than between steads. If there isn't someone capable of making decent fresh bread in my stead someone's mother has failed badly. If there is why should I be interested in John's day or more old baking. There is the labour cost of moving all this stuff about as well, the nearest stead could easily be a days journey away by wagon which means a couple of days when someone and their team could be doing something more useful.

>What I'm saying is basically that IMO, the dominant means of small-scale
>organisation is the stead (or in larger steads, perhaps more practicably
>the hearth, even), rather than the bloodline. There's in fact if
>not in law 'stead property', simply because stead property is often
>_used_ by everyone on a particular stead (which isn't true of
>a bloodline). Steads will generally have in fact, though not in law,
>a single recognised leader (same again).

There may be some 'stead property' used by everyone but I think it will only be trivial items. Most property will be regularly used by a few people. Thus the plough and ox team will be used by the Carl himself and his grown sons, tools will be generally the responsibility of one person although frequently lent to others. Certainly there will be a stead leader but she (or he) isn't a manager with authority, more a person who's experience other defer to. It probably isn't even the same person on all matters.

>It has indeed disappeared, which is what makes it such a hard
>concept for us to get our heads around, in any sort of intuitive
>manner. Especially all these Orlanthi-playing Republicans John H.
>keeps warning us about, I imagine! But I'm not in any way
>disputing the 'communality' of property among the Orlanthi, just
>that it has any association with the bloodline.

Then what's the purpose of the bloodline? If it has no property, no formal head it becomes nothing more than a drinking game of who's got the best ancestors.

>OK, thanks for the reminder, and I take the point. I'm still not
>instantly enthralled of the idea that this is a sort of 'horizontal
>integration' of bloodlines, in the way you describe above, but I admit
>there are wrinkles I haven't fully worked through (to my own
>satisfaction, much less anyone else's).

I've been checking what I post carefully since you caught me out earlier. :) I'm sure I haven't worked though all the wrinkles myself but I think I have a mental image of a workable society based on clans, bloodlines, steads and hearths. Villages I can see as an extended clan chief's stead, but I'm not at all sure about towns - tribal chief's village ? That doesn't mean I've explained it all that well though. I might try and put together a few sample steads and show how they relate to and deal with one another.

>> If they are not of the
>> same bloodline then it becomes a matter for the clan lawspeakers and
>> potentially the clan chief
>Agreed. And/or the ring, in some manner that's by no means clear
>to me...

Well the Gaelic method was for the aggrieved party to get a patron (e.g. a bloodline head) to take the case forward with a lawspeaker to argue the case. Of course the respective patrons might choose to settle it between themselves or no lawspeaker might be prepared to take the case on.

>> At the same time it
>> defines a clear set of resources to collect fines from, with the
>> law being able to take the most convient bits to satisfy the
>> judgement and leave the bloodline head with the job of sharing
>> the penalty among the members. Certainly where the property is
>> on different steads and used by different people that's going
>> to be an awful headache.
>To the point of negating your claim that there's anything 'clear'
>about it, I'd suggest!

But the headache is now the bloodline head's rather than the clan chief's. Say the bloodline is fined five cows, its head has to produce five cows or the chief can sieze any five owned by the bloodline (probably the nearest ones). And maybe a sixth for the extra trouble.

>I think that this sort of business makes more sense at the _clan_
>level, as I attempted to argue in ye olde wergild dispute. (Is
>that where we came in?) Clans definitely have common property,
>and definitely have organised formal leadership, so if I get sued
>by the member of another clan, then my clan as a whole is the
>obvious unit of legal responsibility to take to task. How that's
>handled _internally_ is another matter...
>I think this is where several RW comparisons come a cropper. In
>none of the Generic Northern European Unwashed Hairy Barbarian
>cultures it's traditional to compare the Orlanthi with, is the
>clan such a socially dominant institution. Unless in the brave
>new revisionist world of HW <g> is there going to be _wholesale_
>back-pedalling from Report on the Orlanthi, the Orlanthi Player's
>Guide, and perhaps most of all (yes, and the devil will quote
>scripture if it suits his purposes!) KoDP.

Well I may be guilty of revisionism but I think the only property rights existing at clan level are land. In the case of inter-clan disputes the property of all clan members is treated as one pot rather like a partnership in English law. Any assets can be used to satisfy an external claim with the decision about how that should be split being an internal affair. I just can't get my head round the idea that a group of between 500 and 2000 humans can mutually own a wide variety of property without some form of allocation between them. Now dragonnewts on the other hand....

End of The Glorantha Digest V8 #4

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