Thursday, May 17, 2012
Dr. Woody's Fabulous, Fascinating Factoid: Marriage
There has been a lot of noise out there in the mediated realities, lately, about marriage.
First, the vote in North Carolina to enshrine homophobic bigotry in the State's Constitution succeeded,
and then, in what might generously be seen as a "rebuke" to that act of incredible public hubris, there was the announcement of the President of the reversal of his previous opposition to and his "acceptance" of a right to same-sex marriage.
(Parenthetically, it would probably be thought ungenerous of me to ask, but generally, why as he was announcing his own epiphany, he didn't also announce that he, as the head of his party, had formally requested Sen. Reid and Congresscritter Pelosi to immediately introduce legislation which would overturn DOMA and rescind any and all discriminatory LGBT_exclusionary federal rules...but perhaps I quibble... )
In any case, since the subject's come up:, and since my own marital status is changing pretty soon, here's the gen on Marriage:
Marriage as an institution for any but the aristocracy and gentry did not become common until about the middle of the 18th century, as the peasantry slowly receded and the middle class slowly began to emerge.
Prior to the middle of the 16th Century, couples just sort of "joined up." There were no ceremonies, and no ratification. It was done by mutual pledge, called the "verbum."
Mostly, prior to that time, when actual "marriages" were made and publically recognized, it was done as an instrument of financial or political power arrangements among monarchs, and other feudal rulers, and was meant usually to cement familial relations between possible or former territorial competitors and/or rivals. When Henry VIII wed Katherine of Aragon, England married Spain. Henry abandoned Katherine, and a couple of decades later, Spain sent the Armada to pick up the dowry. It didn't work out that way, but still...
The point being: Marriage, being a contract before the State, was a means of ensuring the proper distribution of property. Since, before the mid-18th Century, most people didn't have a pot to shit in, there was no reason for documented or recorded marriages among the commoners...
Only when the "people" started having "property" (mainly as a consequence of the industrial revolution), and that property needed vouchsafing into the "proper," legitimate hands did the common man and woman start to actually formalize their arrangements, and record them with the Church. Previously, common-law and cohabitation were the norm, and sur-names were accorded on the basis of the father's trade.
Back in the old country/language, my 'family' name probably meant "Hempster," or something like it, because the surname is a local (Eastern European) cognate of the generic term of ancient lineage, 'cannabis.'
So for now, this is Dr. Woody Hempster, saying Smoke 'em if ya gott'em, hippies...See ya at the beach.