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another proposed marriage custom

Posted Over 1 Year ago by chiarizio

I got this idea after reading a Robert Silverberg novel whose title* I can’t remember. [edit]*Probably “Time of Changes”.[/edit]
I don’t remember whether this was the system his conculture used or it just made me think of it.

Each parent P has contracts or alliances or agreements with two to four (usually four) other persons of about the same generation, that P’s sons or daughters can marry the daughters or sons of the ally.

P has an agreement with one man, M1, that P’s sons can marry M1’s daughters.
P also has an agreement with one woman, W1, that P’s sons can marry W1’s daughters.
Normally P won’t choose a married couple; that is normally M1 and W1 won’t be husband-and-wife to each other. They might be OK with that if each of M1 and W1 has a daughter by some other spouse.

P has an agreement with one man, M2, that P’s daughters can marry M2’s sons.
P also has an agreement with one woman, W2, that P’s daughters can marry W2’s sons.
Normally P won’t choose a married couple; that is normally M2 and W2 won’t be husband-and-wife to each other. They might be OK with that if each of M2 and W2 has a son by some other spouse.

The main purpose of the arrangement is that as soon as one of P’s children comes of age they’ll already have four pools of possible candidate spouses to court and perhaps betrothe.
Namely; suppose someone’s son S has just come of age.
He can date the daughters of his father’s male ally;
He can date the daughters of his mother’s male ally;
He can date the daughters of his father’s female ally;
And he can date the daughters of his mother’s female ally.

Ideally each one of those four pools will contain a girl who is not in any of the other pools.

I’m sure the reader can work out for themselves the analogous situation of someone’s daughter D who has just come of age.

....

There is a secondary purpose to the system; a person wants as many allies as possible, and maybe as wide a variety of allies as possible.

So ordinarily M1 and M2 won’t be the same guy; that is, the male ally whose daughters will accept courtship from P’s sons, won’t be the same male ally from whose sons P’s daughters will accept courtship.
Likewise W1 and W2 will ordinarily be different women.

Nothing I’ve said so far prevents M1 and W2 from being a married couple; nor M2 and W1.

.....

If a marriageable person doesn’t otherwise have a possible spouse to court, they will usually consider courting, or accepting courtship from, some appropriate child of one of the allies of one of their parents.
This might just as likely be because the marriageable person in question has taken too long to become betrothed, as because they have not been out in society long enough.
And of course there’s the possibility their spouse died, or their betrothed changed their mind.

....

There are several assumptions here.

  • People commonly marry someone other than a child of a parent’s ally. The parents’ allies’ children are available for first consideration and possible last chances. Lots of people marry the first person they ever date, but it’s probably more common to shop around a bit.

  • People commonly have more than one marriage in their lives. This may be “serial polygynandry” driven by widows and widowers; or by divorce; or there may be bigynandry.

  • People commonly have more than one son and more than one daughter.

    From this we can deduce that the world is probably not too crowded. Either society wants more people, or the mortality rate is high enough that to keep the population up people want many children or society wants many married couples.

    .....

    Well, what does anyone think?

  • There are 8 Replies


    I really think that the “allies” one chooses, one will prefer be neither each other’s spouse nor each other’s sibling.
    So say somebody P picks a man M1 and a woman W1 to agree that P’s sons can marry M1’s daughters and W1’s daughters;
    and picks a man M2 and a woman W2 to agree that P’s daughters can marry M2’s sons and W2’s sons.
    I think P will prefer not only that none of {M1, W1} nor {M1, W2} nor {M2, W1} nor {M2, W2} be a husband-wife pair,
    but also that none of them be a brother-sister pair;
    and also prefer that M1 and M2 not be each other’s brother, and that W1 and W2 not be each other’s sister.

    In other words P will prefer a variety of “allies”.

    P’s allies will prefer their own other allies to not be any of P’s spouses or siblings.

    P’s sons will have four pools of women to court as first and as last resort.
    Likewise P’s daughters will have four pools of men to court as first and as last resort.
    How often these arrangements might lead to a marriage of some child of P to some child of one of P’s “allies” might vary over time and place.

    P’s children’s other parent will have their own allies; P’s child might marry a child of their other parent’s ally.
    Or not marry any child of any ally of either parent, but instead marry someone completely different.
    However I expect that quite often someone will marry one of the children of one of the allies of one of their parents.
    In fact people who marry more than once will probably marry a parent’s ally’s child at least once, even if frequently not as a first spouse.

    A parent’s ally’s child probably won’t be a first-cousin. I have to think about it, but, maybe, a parent’s ally’s child will never be a first-cousin!

    Over 1 Year ago
    chiarizio
     

    I forgot to explicitly say;
    Nobody will want any of their own spouses or siblings to be their “ally” as described above.

    Over 1 Year ago
    chiarizio
     

    I think the novel was A Time Of Changes.
    I think the culture was that of the planet Borthan.

    Over 1 Year ago
    chiarizio
     

    It is probably considered a bad idea to choose as an ally any sibling or spouse or ex-spouse of one’s own sibling or spouse or ex-spouse.
    Likewise it is probably inadvisable to marry a sibling or spouse or ex-spouse of an ally;
    or an ally of one’s own sibling or spouse or ex-spouse.

    Maybe, however, this does in fact happen occasionally.

    I wonder whether there should be any hesitation to marry an ally of an ally? Seems like that might be disrespectful to the couple’s shared ally.
    Could it happen anyway, seldomly?

    11 Months ago
    chiarizio
     

    I think perhaps:
  • One should not ally oneself with any of one’s own parents or siblings or spouses or ex-spouses or children;
  • Nor with any ally or parent or sibling or spouse or ex-spouse of any of one’s allies or parents or siblings or spouses or ex-spouses or deceased spouses or children.

    And:
  • One should not marry any of one’s own allies or parents or siblings or children;
  • Nor any ally or parent or sibling or spouse or ex-spouse or child of any of one’s own allies or parents or siblings or spouse or ex-spouses or deceased spouses or children.
    CORRECTION: one must be permitted to marry the other parent of one’s own child.

    ….

    Note: I think, for purposes of the above rules, the life-status of the intermediate relative will not be relevant. That is, an ally is an ally whether alive or dead; a parent is a parent whether alive or dead; a sibling is a sibling whether alive or dead; a spouse is a spouse and an ex-spouse is an ex-spouse whether alive or dead; and a child is a child whether alive or dead.

    ….

    I am not sure all of those rules are good; and I’m not sure whether or not stricter rules might be even better.

    But we need people to be allowed to marry their parent’s ally’s child; hence we need people to be allowed to ally themselves with their child’s spouse’s parent.

    So I need to be careful not to be too strict about allying with or marrying third-degree relatives.

  • 11 Months ago
    chiarizio
     

    This sounds kind of like what goes on among aristocratic societies. Perhaps even an echo or a development of ancient Roman aristocratic society. Wealthy Romans, of course, actually had an overt system of alliances, the Patronage system. Also sounds similar to the aristocratic system of the Old South in the US.

    It certainly makes sense that one's siblings are not "allies" in the sense used by this system. They are certainly allies in terms of family bond or clan affiliation, but you probably don't want your son marrying your brother's daughter. Except perhaps in extremissimad. Also, making these kinds of non-familial alliances extends one's own influence & capacity beyond the family borders.

    I think the rules make sense in so far as "alliance" is understood to be a non-familial relationship; and it should function so long as sufficient quantities of "eligible allies" for newer generations to make.

    Do the people who practice this system attach any kind of status to alliances? Like wealth or land or money or magic or descent from certain bloodlines?

    10 Months ago
    elemtilas
     

    @elemtilas:
    Good gravy, it has been quite some time since I last heard from you on this group!

    In Silverberg’s novel this was all done among ruling families; so it probably was like the historical RL systems you mentioned.

    The protagonist was a son of a man who ruled a seven-region Union. As a youngster he went to work for the ruler of the smallest and least influential of those regions; but that ruler was the longest-ruling and most-prestigious of the current crop of heptarchs at that time. I think he met his eventual wife during that apprenticeship or internship.

    ….

    When I can’t think of a good English gloss for a term meaning child’s parent-in-law or child-in-law’s parent, and don’t want to figure out how to really type the Turkish word that’s not quite spelled <dugun>, I tend to use “ally”.

    Genealogical books tend to talk about, for instance, “Chappell, Dickye, and Allied Families of Virginia”, or titles like that.
    And sociological and anthropological works on marriage and kinship tend to use terms like “alliance” when talking about marriage. This seems especially true for works written in French, if I’m not mistaken.

    …..

    That’s why I called these contracts-or-accords-or-whatever “alliances”. I suppose perhaps the parties don’t truly become “true allies” until a child of one actually weds a child of the other?

    But there is a promise of a potential “alliance” in that sense.

    ….

    In Silverberg’s novels people really did appreciate their good fortune when their allies were prestigious or wealthy or powerful somehow. So maybe that answers your last question or two in the affirmative?

    [edit]Borthan people did believe in magic in the novel. I don’t have the impression Silverberg intended this belief to be factual.[/edit]

    ….

    I was not aware that the patronage system in Rome resembled this!

    10 Months ago
    chiarizio
     

    @elemtilas:
    You meant “in extremis”, not “in extremissima”, right?

    10 Months ago
    chiarizio
     

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