more on mating patterns from deutschland (and switzerland)

well, i’m working on filling in the blanks for mating patterns amongst the germanics (and other european populations, too). it’s just a small gap from ca. 400 a.d. to … oh … 2011. (~_^) so, this is an ongoing project — i suggest you don’t hold your breath waiting for the final product.

the problem with the germanics and all the other protestant groups in europe is that, once they’d left the catholic church, no one kept any records of cousin marriages. dr*t! the catholic church kept records because cousin marriages were verboten; but as of the 1500s, cousin marriage was generally ok with protestant groups — not always, but generally — so they didn’t bother to record them anymore. at least that’s the picture i’ve gotten from what i’ve read so far, but see below.

the other major changes to marriages laws in the protestant churches were: 1) that the clergy no longer had to remain celibate (whew!), and 2) that persons wishing to marry also had to get permission from their parents. as of the twelfth century in the catholic church, permission to marry wasn’t required from anybody — just the consent of the two individuals marrying. the germanics changed that as of the 1500s.

now, from “Reordering marriage and society in Reformation Germany” [pgs. 85-86]:

“The canonical impediment system, harshly attacked from all sides, was the first part of the indissoluble definition to be put to the scriptural test. Most early Evangelicals initially proposed basing the entire marriage impediment system on Mosaic prohibitions, particularly Leviticus 18. The practical limitations of the relevant passages, however, and the need for extensive interpretation soon became apparent. Once again, reformers were presented with an opportunity — comparable with that of their twelfth-century predecessors — that might have resulted in a radical reformation of the entire marriage legal system; the fact that it did not is just one more sign of their conservatism.

“Rather, most theologians and jurists chose to treat impediments as ‘indifferent’ matters, rejecting only those restrictions explicitly in conflict with Scripture and otherwise rely on the discretion of the pastor or secular authority involved. Like their canonical predecessors, all the reformers accepted Leviticus’s second-degree [uncle-niece, first cousins] prohibition as absolute and indispensable. Many (including Luther, Melanchthon, and Osiander) also favored maintenance of the canonical third-degree [second cousins] limitation, while others, most notably Brenz and Calvin, even proposed keeping the traditional fourth-degree [third cousins] prohibition. Similarly, on the subject of affinity [in-laws] restrictions, few Protestant leaders eliminated all traditional impediments, and none but Luther mentioned reform of ‘public honesty’ and ‘illegitimate affinity….’

Forbidden degrees of consanguinity had in fact already returned to the fourth degree [third cousins] in the 1533 diet of the Swiss Confederation (Zurich, Bern, Basel, Schaffenhaussen, and Saint Gallen participating), with many other cities and principalities following suit. Kohler attributes the Confederation’s return to canonical consanguinity standards in 1533 to immediate Catholic political pressure, but throughout the rest of the century in Protestant Germany the unmistakable trend remained a return to the previous canonical standards. Some Protestant marriage codes, such as those of Zurich and Strasbourg, maintained the forbidden degree of consanguinity at the third [second cousins] or even second level [uncle-niece, first cousins], and eliminated affinity [in-laws] prohibitions altogether. Others, most notably Geneva and the Duchy of Wurttemberg, never deviated from the Canon law definition of either in the first place (at the urging of Calvin and Brenz, respectively). By the end of the sixteenth century, the only canonical impediments unanimously rejected by Protestant jurists and marriage codes were those of spiritual affinity [godparents] and public honesty (both simultaneously redefined by the Council of Trent and frequently dispensed in Catholic areas). Impediments of affinity [in-laws] in general were limited to the second degree [uncle-niece, first cousins-in-law] and consanguinity to the third [second cousins-in-law], with the remainder of pre-Reformation restrictions (condition, person, etc.) preserved intact.”

so, neither the germans nor the swiss really started inbreeding more immediately after the reformation. it seems that, generally, they kept on marrying beyond second cousins.

at some point those regulations were relaxed, but i don’t yet know when that happened. stay tuned!

as an aside, here’s a little note about the difficulties with the celibacy regulations before the reformation [pg. 35]:

“More sympathetic observers, usually clerics themselves, recounted the trials and tribulations of celibate life that led to such abuses. In ‘The Lamentations of seven pious but disconsolate priests whom no one can comfort’ (1521), one unhappy cleric relates his own unsuccessful attempts to conquer the sexual urge, resulting in masturbation, wet dreams, lechery (including an affair with the wife of a friend), and eventually a concubine who bears him seventeen children in twenty years. Though tolerated by his bishop (because of the ‘whore tax’) and his parishoners (‘like stableboys accustomed to dung’), the pastor himself is continuously tormented by his own conscience, regretting the moral harm done his flock almost as much as that done his own soul:

“‘Thus am I entagled: on the one hand, I cannot live without a wife; on the other, I am not permitted a wife. Thus, I am forced to live a publicly disgraceful life, to the shame of my soul and honor and to the damnation of many who have taken offense at me [i.e., who refuse to receive sacraments from his hands]. How shall I preach about chastity and promiscuity, adultery, and knavish behavior, when my whore goes to church and about the streets and my bastards sit before my eyes? How shall I read the Mass under such circumstance?'”

poor guy, but … SEVENTEEN CHILDREN?! whoa.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: whatever happened to european tribes? and inbreeding amongst germanic tribes and more on inbreeding in germanic tribes and what about the franks? and early medieval germans … again!

(note: comments do not require an email. yodelayheehoo!)

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8 Comments

  1. “but throughout the rest of the century in Protestant Germany the unmistakable trend remained a return to the previous canonical standards”

    I think that makes sense. The prohibition lasted such a long time it developed a cultural stigma separate to the religious one. Everyone i’ve ever known where it was mentioned in any context thought it was somehow a bad thing without really knowing why.

    I’d expect the exceptions to the trend would be in mountainous or other low population density areas.

    Reply

  2. Yeah, I agree w/ GW… it is legal to marry your first cousin in many states today, but even if you are non-religious, if your family is from a Christian background they will find it pretty weird. I know everyone in my family, even the atheists, would find it very strange

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  3. @g.w. & bleach – oh, yeah — absolutely. i’ve kinda gotten over all the squeamishness surrounding inbreeding after all the reading i’ve done about it. people marry their cousins — so what? (well, except for the social and medical problems!) but i’m still grossed out if i try to think about my own cousins as mates. ewwwwww!

    a lot of it is cultural i think. some of it, tho, in my case is westermarckian imprinting i think — i spent a lot of time in my childhood with some of my cousins, so they’re kinda like siblings to me. mate with them? ewwwwww! (^_^)

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  4. “i’ve kinda gotten over all the squeamishness surrounding inbreeding after all the reading i’ve done about it.”

    same. when you see it as a biological and cultural balance of competing forces and cost / benefit it all makes sense. genetic attraction as a simple mechanism for genetic level altruism. the sexual component of that attraction blocked for close relatives with a biological mechanism (one that could have led to a split between primates and proto-humans even?). the sexual component of that genetic attraction blocked for more distant relatives with a cultural mechanism in some cultures but not others.

    in particular if you assume x is the default and exceptions need explaining whereas in fact y is the default and there’s a separate mechanism to switch it off in some cases which then makes x *appear* to be the default then it becomes critical to make sure the blocking mechanism works. the westermarck effect might have worked very well in a hunter-gatherer band who lived and travelled together 24/7 but it might not work so well now especially in certain contexts e.g soldiers away at war, criminals in prison etc.

    it may be nonsense of course but i do wonder now if there’s been any research into whether there’s a connection between child abuse and a parent not being around much or at all when the child was a baby. if so then although i’m against conjugal visits in prison, if a man goes to prison for 3+ years when their wife/gf is pregnant then some kind of bonding visitation when the kid is born might do a lot of good.

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  5. @g.w. – “the sexual component of that attraction blocked for close relatives with a biological mechanism (one that could have led to a split between primates and proto-humans even?).”

    in many primates (chimps for instance) the males leave their natal troop and have to go join another troop (if they can manage), so i don’t think this avoidance for close inbreeding is a fundamental difference between us and the other primates. in fact, you even see it in other mammals like the meerkitties. robin fox talked about this quite a bit in “The Tribal Imagination” (and he wrote a book on incest, too, so he prolly talked about it at length there) — i.e. that’s there’s this constant struggle between inbreeding too much and outbreeding too much for all sorts of creatures. there’s a drive to mate with someone like yourself (maximize the chances of passing on your own genes), and yet there’s another drive to avoid too much inbreeding (and poss. inbreeding depression).

    @g.w. – “although i’m against conjugal visits in prison, if a man goes to prison for 3+ years when their wife/gf is pregnant then some kind of bonding visitation when the kid is born might do a lot of good.”

    well, if your theory is correct about abuse and bonding (and i think it may very well be), then yeah — familily visitations for men in prison should be maximized. i wonder if it would be enough, tho, ’cause all the bonding that goes on at home — it’s almost 24/7 (except for time spent at work). i wonder how much bonding for dads is optimal?

    actual conjugal visits don’t sound like a good idea at all, particularly if kids are produced. then you’re just exacerbating an already existing problem (we think).

    Reply

  6. @hbdchick
    “in many primates (chimps for instance) the males leave their natal troop and have to go join another troop (if they can manage), so i don’t think this avoidance for close inbreeding is a fundamental difference between us and the other primates”

    Ah that’s pretty much what i was wondering. i was thinking that if at some point in the past primates *didn’t* have the westermarck effect and therefore inbred all the time and consequently had depressed IQs etc and then one chimp developed it leading to them swapping troops to find a mate and the trait spreading among the local population then that could have led to an increased average IQ among the chimps who got the trait with one thing leading to another i.e “eve” as the first westermarck chimp.

    Anway so much for that theory :)

    .
    “i wonder if it would be enough, tho, ’cause all the bonding that goes on at home — it’s almost 24/7 (except for time spent at work). i wonder how much bonding for dads is optimal?”

    Yes, agreed. However if it was true that x is the default setting unless mechanism y switchs it off then research into the details of mechanism y might lead to figuring out how it worked. If for instance it was scent or pheromones or something like that then maybe fathers in prison could be given some kind of individualized patch like a nicotine patch.

    .
    “actual conjugal visits don’t sound like a good idea at all, particularly if kids are produced”

    yes it’s the potential offspring aspect i mind. prison should be partly stealth eugenics imo as it is mostly self-selecting. if prison authorities want to make prisoners less aggressive they should make them peel an onion every morning at breakfast :p

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  7. Clerical celibacy was not enforced in Switzerland until 1200, perhaps 1400. In any event, in a country that produced many more mouths than food, and sent significant parts of its surplus population to die on foreign battlefields as mercenaries, I don’t see why having people be celibate is so awful.

    Reply

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