Marriage Customs

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Laws and Philosophies regarding the possible Unions between men and women

The following is a transcript of Janur da Medican's lecture on marriage customs. It was held at the ATU in Mikona.


Now, I'm sure you all have read the title for today on the announcement: Laws and Philosophies regarding the possible Unions between men and women.

I'm the first to admit that this title is quite long, and overly complicated. But as you will see, it is only fitting. The topic I am about to talk right now, is often a long and complicated thing too: Marriage in all its forms.

Of course, the most known and also the most widespread form is obvious: A lifelong union between one man and one woman. But as straightforward this concept seems to be, as differently it is handled in most parts of southern Avlis.

Those of you, who have contact with the Warrior Maidens of Dre'Ana surely have heard of the Jechran custom of the Protector/Supporter relationship. On the other hand, you may know of the orcish customs, where men own their women, quite literally. Now, in the following lecture, I will try to give you a broad overview of the predominant mating forms and rituals.

A Couple for Life

Let me start with the predominant "one-couple-for-life" marriage. It is indeed a very widespread tradition, found in most countries and places, but you will find variations. These variations adress the rights and duties of the invovled parties.

M'Chekian Traditions

M'Chekian traditions, and I would like to start with these, are influenced mostly by the Romini. What we call civilization has changed their habits a bit, but in essence the Romini have only a hazy and rather ... blurry notion of permanent marriages. Couples are formed to conceive and raise children, or simply out of the desire for company, and later split up and reformed with other partners. Mikon's folk mostly keeps itself free from too restricting bounds, while still keeping close ties to each other. Mostly within one group, but there are also ties which spread to other groups.

Thus, the M'Chekian laws regarding marriage are rather lax. You will see though, that this is one of the great differences between the Romini and the Lords of the Kurathene:

M'Chekian law tries to reflect the fact that marriage is something that has different meanings to different couples. In essence, the law helps to formally recognize the union between two people. That is all.

The finer details to this union are left to be agreed upon between the involved parties. Often the tenets of the couple's faith provide a finer ruling, especially regarding the duration of the coupling, the rights of man and woman, and so on.

Not surprisingly, a couple can always decide to simply abandon such a wedding contract, should both agree to it. It is the expression of the personal freedom Mikon granted his beloved folk.

Now, Student V'heress mentioned the "financial aspect". Indeed, this is often regulated very finely in Mikona. But this is not a native M'Chekian custom which stems from its Romini roots. It has been spread by the Church of Valok, which is indeed quite present here in this city.

Nanshi Traditions

Now, let me show you a very contrasting example: T'Nanshi.

Here very different views are held: The basic concept of a union between two people is there too. But as T'Nanshi is mostly devoted to Dru'El, the Church of Dru'El influenced these customs heavily.

The equality of the two partners, and a vote to care for the other is deeply ingrained in the marriage customs and rules in T'Nanshi. Vows that the wedding couple gives to each other, and to their god, ensure that both are responsible for the welfare of themselves, and their surroundings.

The T'Nanshi place a responsibility for the whole society on everyone's shoulders. And when two marry, this responsibility is deepened. Thus, many seem to think elven individual autonomy equates too little responsibility.

This actually leads to a very curious tidbit in the T'Nanshi customs: Should the marriage endanger the welfare of the couple, due to internal strife for example, they are encouraged to split up again. The welfare of many outweighs the welfare of few, even extending to such a personal level.

If they have children, usually the elders decide then how to deal with this situation. Surprisingly, it isn't a common thing: It is more an emergency ruling, which isn't applied very often.

Jechran and the Protector/Supporter Relationship

Now, as remarkable this concept is, to our southerner eyes, it pales when compared to the customs found in Jechran. This nation of jungles and hostile environment has created a society dominated by the rule of women. And although we tend to think it's similar here, we find it isn't.

As per the teachings of Dre'Ana, women take up all important roles in society: Men are considered to be inferior, weak minded, and thus cannot be trusted with any vital tasks. This view actually also involves matters of the heart. So a Jechrani woman would never consider a male an equal partner, capable of loving her as she would love her partner.

It is a very strange concept, but Jechran society has lived with it successfully for quite some time. Now, as a consequence, women turn to other women to seek comfort and love. Men are cherished and loved, but by the whole tribe, and more as one would cherish a child.

Still, the women of Jechran do form personal relationships. In fact, they have a complex and intriguing system of Protectors and Supporters. Most often, all parties involved in this are women, although in some tribes men have been accepted as Supporters.

Depending on her tribe's actual customs, which always vary, a woman declares herself publicly as Protector of one or more others. These others in turn declare to be that woman's Supporter. Technically, and in the original sense, this Protector is the one who can actually defend the others, hunt for food, and is generally of great martial prowess. I say technically, because this can be watered down, depending on the actual tribe.

Those who live in safe and peaceful areas, don't need such martial prowess, so wealth, certain skills or other factors can make out the Protector. The Supporters are the ones who act as emotional support and advisor.

It is not uncommon that one given Protector can have more than one Supporter, if her martial prowess, or wealth can afford that.

But as this relationship is not only a formal one, but also an emotional one, the Supporters do have a say when it comes to adding new Supporters. If one dislikes the new addition she often has the opportunity to cast a veto. If this veto isn't heeded, she can withdraw her support, which essentially ends the formal relationship. It is interesting to know that this is often the only way out of the this "marriage" for the Supporter.

Now, despite their weakness when it comes to recognizing their men as equals, the Jechrani are a remarkably open and tolerant folk. Species is nearly always irrelevant, and the same applies to social hierarchy.

If it comes to actual mating, there is a point of ... compatibility. But regarding the Protector/Supporter relationships, it is indeed irrelevant.

Orcish Laws & Customs

Now, another extreme: Orcish culture in Brekon and Dubunat. Whereas the Jechrani focus on strong women, Brekon and Dubunat are patriarchal to the extreme. To our eyes, it is slavery: A woman belongs to her husband, period.

Once married, the man has nearly every right to his women, with only one drawback: As long as he can support her and her children.

It is interesting to see that despite this very frightening concept, orcish women are cherished by their men, and often cared for very tenderly. The orc male has every right to do what he pleases, but he rarely exercises it unless he wants to invite betrayal. Which can be lethal among orcs, especially in Brekon: An orc husband who can be successfully accused of not caring for his children faces numerous legal charges. And not a few of them end in death or poverty ... often both.

Still, humans and elves watching an orc male cherishing his wife will often still be appalled: Orcish customs do have a very rough aspect. One must bear in mind that orcs are rather robust.

So it's not surprising that the humans living in Brekon do not emulate their orcish countrymen in these things that diligently. It is another reason why coupling between orcs and humans are not very widespread. Simply put: The humans break too easily.

The interesting fact again is that orcish society does allow an orc man to have as many women as he can support. The intriguing thing is that the laws don't state that he has to support the women though, but only their children.

So, for an orc woman in Brekon, her future lies in her children. As long as she is a mother, they are cared for. Brekon law does another thing though: An orc man is responsible for his wife's actions. So he is well informed to treat her well: If she does want to hurt him, she could simply murder someone and tell the authorities who her husband is. It would be a desperate move, for her own life might be forfeit too, but it will indeed topple her husband's position.

It is a complex system of checks and balances.

Also, a woman has very specific rights should the man fail to care for her children. True to Valokian philosophy, these rights are far too numerous and complicated to be recounted here. I advise interested students to go to the second floor of the Great Library (of Mikona), and search for "Law on Children", Brekon, Volumes II to XII.

Kurathene Traditions

Close to Brekon, we find the remnants of what was once the great Kurathene Empire. Unlike as in Brekon, polygamy isn't supported by the law there. But, as often, we find that might makes right.

The general custom however, is that marriage is a lifelong thing, and one that joins one man to one woman. Both have broadly the same rights, although families are invariably traced through the male line. In fact, Kurathenes place great store on bloodlines, and the relations of families.

As opposed to the Romini customs, or the relationships in T'Nanshi, marriage in the Kurathene is a political tool. They confirm alliances, seal long and important business contacts with other duchies, or end blood feuds.

In the upper echelons of the Kurathene society, marriage is seldom an affair of the heart. This applies to a greater extent in the modern day ... where there's no central authority to oversee matters between families.

But this does not mean that the Kurathene are a heartless folk, devoid of any romantic notion. These things have often to happen outside the formal ties of a marriage. This leads us to the ever treacherous, and yet interesting field of mistresses, courtesans, gallants or gigolos.

It is not uncommon for married Lords or Ladies to have one or several lovers. The involvement with these range from platonic friendship, lust, to the close heart-to-heart relationship a T'Nanshi would think as basis for marriage. These things are normally tolerated. But a certain amount of decorum is always expected.

But don't be mistaken: This is a habit which is not covered by law, and not as widespread as you might think now. It is a habit that has evolved in the circles of those who have been regularly forced into unions due to political reasons.

Not surprisingly, for a nation that places such a great store on bloodlines, there is a tendency against unions which bring in foreign blood. This is less a matter of racial inferiority than political inferiority. If there is to be something to be gained with a union from, say, an orc in Brekon, or the Seven Cities, some families would gladly accept it.

Deglos and Galdos

The dwarves and gnomes don't have any prejudices against interspecies or interculture marriages. They just don't do it. One might answer that the first King of Deglos married a gnome and abdicated afterwards. As they view Fegall as their maker of things, Deglosians do realize that gnomes and dwarves differ, but not in terms of species or nation. It is clearly visible that the Deglosians are quite open minded, and usually their marriages are almost always love-inspired.

The concept of an arranged coupling is known, but frowned upon heavily. Given the nature of dwarves, any marriage tends to be a serious matter, which needs a serious handling. Gnomish customs set this off slightly, though. In the end, there aren't that many written marriage laws in Deglos, but many old and agreed upon customs.

One such custom for example is the crafting of the Bride Axe. It is not always an actual axe, but invariably an object that needs both partners to work on, in tribute to Fegall. Afterwards, it is given to the parents of the bride as a gift.

A similar custom is found in Ferrell too, although there it has a less martial ring to it, and the couple crafts garments or tools.

Galdosian dwarves generally agree with their cousins that a marriage is a serious thing. And love does often plays a strong role as a motivator. But arranged marriages do occur, if they serve some greater good.

Dwarves in general have no use for concept of divorce, and I haven't found it among gnomes or halflings either.

Odds and Ends

I'm nearly at the end of this lecture by now, but there are some tidbits still left to tell: Drotid for example encompasses quite different cultures, with vastly different approaches to this concept. The Lizardmen don't know anything of a lifelong or even temporal union. They do have a mass mating at certain times, and then return to their usual tasks

Astonishingly this does not amounts to in-breeding, aparently there is some mechanism at work that prevents that.

The Drangonari customs again are speaking volumes of their origin: Most of their rites regarding marriages are kept a close secret actually. But one interesting part is that the couple always shares "The Common Secret".

This secret is something only the two know, and thus share. It is supposed to strengthen the bond between them. It has to be something important, which, if revealed would have drastic effect on the couple. As the saying goes: Secrets are power. Part of the courtship is often the creating of this secret. It thus involves research, burying some treasure, or something entirely different.