The Book of Kendring
This section discusses the marriage customs of the Heortlings.
The Heortling people are open about sex and sexual relations outside marriage are not frowned upon. However, the marriage bond is a significant commitment sealed by divine oath.
Marriage is a contract that explicitly lays out the property division of the couple and which clan the children belong to. The relative values of dowry and brideprice determine what kind of marriage is entered into.
Political marriages may also have treaties bound into the contract. Note that almost all marriages are political to some extent. Relations between allied clans are founded on the blood ties of marriage between those clans.
There are seven classes of marriage recognized:
- Husband and Wife. The couple have equal property, status and responsibility. The woman moves to her husband’s house and children belong to his clan.
- Husband and Underwife. As husband and wife, except the husband has greater status and say in decision-making.
- Wife and Underhusband. The wife has the greater status, property and say in decisions. The man moves to the wife’s house but children stay with his clan.
- Wife and Esrolian Husband. As Wife and Underhusband except the children stay with the wife’s clan.
- Year-Wife or Year-Husband. A variant on one of the other classes of marriage, except that the marriage lasts one year, though it is renewable.
- Bed-Wife or Bed-Husband. No property changes hands. The individual not named in the title raises the children.
- Love-Wife and Love-Husband. No property changes hands. A vow of monogamy for its own sake or for the sake of romantic love. Children go to the father’s clan.
Children born outside marriage go to the mother’s clan.
Courtship is a long and involved process between individuals, often involving a lot of interference from families. This article discusses Heortling courtship extensively.
Divorce is available to husband and wife. Traditionally, shared property is divided in a divorce, except where there has been a breach in the marriage. The woman recovers her dowry and the man his brideprice.
Adultery is a serious matter. If discovered there will likely be divorce, a major fine and possibly lesser outlawry, depending on the situation. The lawspeakers of two clans will be involved in most cases, resulting in extensive wrangling.
After marriage the woman will go to live with her husband and becomes a new member of the clan. However, her early life will be quite hard. She will have to form new friendships and fit into a strange community. It helps if other women from her birth clan have married into her new clan. It is not unknown for sisters to marry men from the same stead so that they may stay together.
In addition to the dislocation of living in a new home, the newlywed wife will find it hard to be accepted at first. She may find herself at the bottom of the social pecking order and treated like a drudge. She will often be given the dirty jobs to do. Only once she has had a child will she be fully accepted into the company of the other women and her duties will ease. This behaviour may seem cruel, but the reasoning is that until a wife has delivered a child to the clan she can divorce and leave at any time, taking her dowry and any shared property with her. As her children, by law, belong to the clan, having a child is a proof of commitment to the community.