Re: Heortling Marriage, Courtship, Bridewealth

From: KYER, JEFFREY <jeff.kyer_at_...>
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 2000 12:11:14 -0500

I knew if I floated my really bad (and poorly worked out) thoughts on Brideprices, something GOOD would come out of the woodwork...

Thanks, John. You rock.


John Hughes wrote:
> Jeff is exploring similar territory to me at the moment, Heortling
> bridewealth, dowry and courting.

Its called fishing....  

> > I'm more curious about brideprice/morning gift/dowry. As a rule of
> > thumb I am working with 1/4 or 1/3 of other spouse's weregild (using
> > the bride's father's price if need be)
> Values are obviously more than a bit abstract in Hero Wars, and things like
> actual bridewealth and dowry payments will obviously vary quite a bit from

Yes, I was looking for a rule of thumb or useful generalization. Even in Njalsaga the variance on the marriage customs is quite high and that was a relatively (extremely) homogeneous cultural example.

> campaign to campaign, clan to clan and marriage to marriage. I like the idea
> of tying payments to weregild, but personally would use the *full* weregild
> as a starting point in negotiations - what, after all, are your wife and

True. But it makes it VERY difficult for Joe Heortling to get married if he has to come up wtih 20-30+ cattle. Hmmm. But it WOULD mean that its easier for your father/mother/sinister old granny to arrange the marriage as they can 'loan' you the cattle you require.

Some good examples of dowry negotiation are found throughout Colleen McCullogh's Masters of Rome series -- at least they are mentally accessable and often hilarous to read. The marriage between Gaius Maris and Julia Ceasar is a wonderfully illustrative comedy of errors in marriage.

> children worth? Brideservice (see below) may be an important part of the
> agreement, especially for a relatively poor man, and it has the advantage of
> allowing the woman and her clan to get to know the suitor on their own
> terms.

I had forgotten about this -- this practice was often used in the time of the American pioneers! Very useful. And the husband might stay with the wife's family if need be...   

> Lets start with the basics. I'll concentrate on the "default" traditional
> patrilineal clan where most wives join their husbands, though of course with
> different tribal kinship systems and seven different types of marriage the
> variations can be enormous. (You may find it an interesting
> thought-experiment to follow through courtship and marriage in a matrilineal
> Heortling clan, or for a rich woman who plans an Esrolian marriage.)

Or better yet, inflict it on an amorous hero... Though the courtship rules from Pendragon Pass are interesting -- though at first glace it seems that the notion of courtly amour is somewhat misplaced in this genre. Then you look at the courting of Orlanth and Ernalda...   

> 2. Romantic love is a feature of Heortling courtship, but matchmaking and
> arranged marriages are also common. The role of matchmakers, who are usually
> chieftains and Ring members (for the clan) or Earth priestesses (for less
> strategically important individuals) cannot be overestimated. A man or women
> is always free to refuse a match, ("No one can make you do anything") but
> the practical pressures bought to bear upon them can be enormous.

As I recall, there is a subcult of Ernalda The Queen which deals with this important aspect of clan life -- matchmaking becomes lessimportant when the clan is in a more settled region and the alliances forged through marriage are less crucial.  

> 3. Though romance and passion are acknowledged and accepted, the mindset
> towards love and marriage is also pragmatic. "Why wait until the water is
> boiling before you place it on the fire?" (i.e. if your marriage works then
> love and affection will grow). Men (well, older men J) and women understand
> that love grows over time, and that practical matters such as kin, property,
> wealth and status all help to make a marriage successful. Young men of
> course, invariably fall hopelessly and passionately in love with the first
> cowgirl they meet who is not kin, and pledge undying devotion and eternal

Orlanth A's subcult of Nisskiss the Lover suits here. I can see it being a popular subcult until a hero marries -- if ever. Fortunately, he shows you how to outrun her brothers!

> love until some kind kinsman knocks them about the head to let some air in.
> Women are more practical and usually more reserved. (Of this, more below). is typical in Heortling society.  

> 4. All Heortlings take marriage partners from another clan. Beyond this,

This is to prevent incest, unwitting and otherwise.

> marriage customs may differ considerably. For example, clans in prescriptive
> alliances can only take husbands or wives from a single or narrow range of
> partner clans. "We are the Rich Pudding Clan, we take our wives from the
> Pickled Walnut Clan, and our daughters marry the Roast Turkey Clan." In the
> matrilineal clans, marriage is a different type of institution, as a man's
> interests lie more with his sisters' children (who are of his clan) than his
> own (who are not). In some clans, intermarriage or less formal arrangements
> with non-tribal Lunars means that the traditional customs may be in
> disarray.

This also collapses if one of the allied clans suffers disaster -- there are no men or women to marry. And if one goes outside such units, the ancestors are angered and the clan magic suffers... Most of these sorts of alliances have perished over the centuries as they are too vulnerable to misfortune (I think this is mentioned in KoS, however).  

> 6. It is never easy to court a Heortling woman. Nor should it be. There is a
> rich mythological stream showing how a man should properly court a woman.
> Orlanth's Courting of Ernalda involved many quests, gifts, and contests
> between suitors, and these inspirations are reflected in actual courting
> behaviours. The story is very popular, and celebrated in countless songs,
> verses and cattle boasts.

Such marriage contests often do not involve love -- often the woman looking for the best possible suitor. There are a few events of this nature in KoDP and the entire Melissande's Hand scenario from Sun County is built around this concept and stands the test of time very well when moved inoto the HW envirionent (Ian? Any ETA on that?).  

> 7. According to ROTO, Heortling marriage contracts involve a *two-way*
> exchange - both bridewealth (from husband's bloodline to his future wife's)
> and dowry (which the wife receives from her kin and retains: a kind of early
> inheritance). I don't know of any real world social structure that practices
> both bridewealth *and* dowry - if they cancel out then the exchange becomes
> purely ritual. However in Heortling society the wife's continuing control

Purely ritual but you have to have the gift in the first place.... Even if you lose nothing in the exchange, the exchange must be made. To do any less devalues the whole marriage and the value of the family you are marrying.

Such gifts often occured in Icelandic sagas, but only when the man was feelign particularly generous or there were non-economic reasons for the match -- such as the man wishing a powerful legal or military ally.

> over her dowry means that is more an early inheritance than a marriage
> payment. The wife's dowry remains her own, but because it is used to the
> common good of her new hearth, and because it reflects on both her and her
> new husbands' status, it is fiercely negotiated.

And is related to both the wealth of the husband as well as the bride --  

> 9. Courtship practice reflects the personality, priorities and values of
> young men and women. Upon initiation, a young man must concentrate on
> building his herds, his status, and his web of support and sponsors. A good

Your view of the Heortling society seems to be very client/patron intensive, more so than I recall similar earthly societies? I'd expect this sort of status for the more settled folks of Hendrikiland and demand it of the urbanized Dara Happans.

> marriage can assist all three. Young men are passionate, impulsive and
> hot-headed, and are given the freedom to make mistakes and hopefully to

And they can go off and raid for wealth -- since they are not married, their deaths are not as crucial to a bloodline as the loss of a powerful goddi or expert farmer would be.

> learn from them. They are notorious for their besotted idealisation of
> potential brides (however inappropriate), to the extent that the public
> singing of love songs is banned in the law codes of certain tribes.

This may have more to do with esthetics rather than prudence...  

> By contrast, women are colder and more calculating, and not often swayed by
> romance alone when it comes to choosing a husband. For a woman, marriage
> usually means leaving her tula and the protection of her family and kin for
> an uncertain future amidst strangers. It is not a decision to be taken
> lightly. Potential husbands must be bold (but not too bold), economically
> secure, and willing to listen. Equally important is that they must belong to
> a trustworthy bloodline and command enough respect to be listened to and
> heeded at their home stead.

By having the proper bride-price availble, the male bloodline demonstrates that they are a worthy home for the woman... But the gifts being exchanged means that neither home is impoverished at the expense of the other -- usually.  

> By contrast, marriage is monogamous and exclusive, a sacred bond upheld by
> law. Adultery will often result in divorce, and a loss of status for the
> offender, and fines for his or her bloodline. Heort taught that "Sex is
> easy, marriage is hard, and the gods bless the sworn bond."

All hail Niskiss. Mighty is his power...  

(Good example snipped)  

> Kandreya herself will inherit a hereditary cult title from her mother, so
> she knows she will attract a good deal of attention during courtship.

Most cult titles are non-hereditary among the Heortlings, I thought? Though amongst the Earth Tribe, it probably differs.  

> times a season can be cured only by a serious dedication to cattle raiding.

However, it makes him a name -- and probably gives him some status among the other young men.  

> perhaps visiting married sisters in other clans or attending tribal rituals.

Probably also learns a lot about the bloodlines -- blood will tell is an old adge. But in addition to rituals, there are also moots and so forth, especially if there is some legal reason for the family to go. Congrats -- you've just invented the Heortling Debutantte!

> With time, Braggi will gain a name or enough status and wealth to be a
> serious suitor (though a reputation as a murderous scourge of Lunar invaders
> will not necessarily assist him in the marriage market!) He will begin to

Unless the woman in question is suitably vengeful -- I seem to recall that Heortling womenfolk are as keen to egg on their men in this matter if they fail to take proper steps.

> of a matchmaker or a senior woman of his clan. Alternatively he may depend
> upon the good name of his bloodline, and ask his elders' support and
> guidance in choosing a match that will have political advantage to the clan.

Or he may go raiding some more... There's more than one saga that involves man 'kidnapping' a wife -- often with her conivance. Particuarly if there is no way for the clans to agree on this -- though this is considered foolish at best and grounds for a bloodfeud at worst.  

> Braggi will be informed of a young woman of appropriate wealth and blood
> (lets say its Kandreya), and will first spend some time with her brothers to

Often one's father or uncle will mention that such-and-so would make a suitable wife. There's quite a grapevine about who's available and who's suitable between clans -- all the more reason to go to those moots.

> to her beauty, and by vanquishing all of his unworthy, stickpicker,
> goat-humping, parasitic rivals in the various contests and quests set by his

Ahem. =) And of course these tasks conveniently help her family out (and some of those quern stealing chores might just end up with HIS family getting in trouble).

> beloved. He will proceed confidently, enjoying the encouragement and
> confidence of Kandreya's brothers. (Though he might wonder why they seem
> equally supportive of his rivals - perhaps they are merely displaying polite
> hospitality to the lesser men).
> (In some circumstances, a courtship may be private and the tests and quests
> largely symbolic, but every Heortling man and women wishes their marriage to
> be made in the same fashion as Orlanth and Ernaldas'.)
> in appropriate ways or to defend her reputation. None suffer, for in proving
> themselves the men add to their own status in deeds and story.

Besides, she may end up marrying one of them afterall -- the first husband could be unsutiable or perish at the hands of the Lunars. Its best not to irk powerful suitors, especially if they are _very_ good at raiding either.      

> Braggi returns to his own tula to smooth the contract with his own
> bloodline, and then, in company with his father and bloodline elders,
> returns to formally negotiate a marriage contract, brideprice and dowry with
> Kandreya's elder kin.

Possibly any lawspeaking kin are also dragooned into service to make sure that they get any advantage of precident brideprices and dowries.  

> are repaid. He may choose to pay part of the brideprice in service to
> Kandreya's parents - this labour may be given before or immediately after
> the wedding.

They may demand such service though I think Bragi _offering_ service might be construed as being 'too poor to marry'  


> (Given her relatively high status, Kandreya might conceivably demand an
> Esrolian or Underhusband pact, but realising the effect this would have on
> Braggi's status and potential for leadership in his own clan, she is happy
> to make contract as husband and wife). She then announces her decision to
> Braggi.

Also, as a noted raider, Braggi may have developed considerable status of his own as a warleader.  

> Kandreya then takes the final step, and for the first time allies herself
> with her husband-to-be against her own kin as she instructs him how he must
> bargain with her bloodline for a suitable dowry. (The brideprice paid by
> Braggi and his bloodline will remain with Kandreya's kin as compensation for
> losing her, while Kandreya's dowry will be her security in her new life on
> Braggi's tula).

Very important point -- she will tell her new husband just now to 'defeat' the folks who now bar her way to freedom. (And Uncle Torvald desperately needs a new plough. If you bargain when its rainy, Granny's arthritis will distract her from getting a promise for you to join in our bloodline's vow to burn the stead of the Black Oak clan chieftain)

> Two clans unite in joy and celebration. Gifts are exchanged, vows of eternal
> loyalty proclaimed, and joint sacrifice offered to the gods of wyrd and
> beauty.

Members of both Clan rings may inflict poetry of varying qualities praising either clan or whatever needs morale-boosting that season...  



> (Of course, if there is a woman from Kandreya's clan already living at the
> stead, her dislocation, loneliness and suffering will be lessened
> considerably. For this reason, sisters often marry into the same clan!)

A good point... One I shall have to keep to mind.    

> Surely that's enough for now. :) I'll also post this to the Glorantha
> Digest, as I suspect the discussion and feedback there will head off in a
> different direction.

No doubt.

If you like, I'll put this message on the website as a .txt form.

I also think it might make a good essay for the Issaries site.

Thanks for the great explanation!


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