trees and frisians

speaking of trees, i always found this to be quite shocking:

St. Boniface cuts down Thor’s Oak

i mean, wtf dude?! i’m surprised some of the chatti — who he was trying to convert via this display of strength — didn’t string him up from the next best nearest tree. but apparently he had charles martel covering his *ss (yeah, that charles martel), so i guess the chatti maybe felt that they were … you know … in no position to argue. some frisians “took care” of boniface later, tho.

the frisians are an interesting crew. did you know that they never had any feudalism or serfdom in frisia? or manorialism? [pgs. 41-41 & 76]:

“The area settled by the Frisians along the North Seas coast is an interesting case from within the Frankish Empire itself. Manorial estates had not been established there — not by the king, the church, or the nobility — although the imperial heartland lay very close by. The reason for this may well be the ecological conditions that determined the economy. The region was admirably suited for grazing, so that agriculture faded into the background…. Natural conditions were lacking for the cerealization that had been implemented by Frankish neighbors. That a region in the Frankish Empire specializing in animal husbandry did not even begin to come close to establishing the bipartite estate confirms, e contrario, the belief in a connection between increased grain production and the rise of the manorial system. Nor was the agricultural system in Frisian settlements shaped later on by manorial structures. Very strong rural communal groups were established instead, placing the local nobles dispensing high justice in a percarious position….

“Ecological conditions might well have blocked the [hide] system’s progress in Friesland and the North Sea coastal marshes. It is striking that those are precisely the areas where we find features — such as the clan system and most notably blood revenge — that typify societies strongly oriented toward lineage. Blood revenge is rooted in a concept of kinship in which all men of a group are treated almost like a single person. The agnates together are considered to be the bearers of honor — and guilt. That is why the guilt of one relative can be avenged on someone else who had utterly no part in the deed. The idea of blood revenge is completely incompatible with Christian views of guilt and innocence. Nevertheless, the institution of blood revenge was still alive in several European societies even after they were Christianized, those in the North Sea marshes among them.”

for a good part of the medieval period, then, frisian society continued to be based on clans rather than nuclear families. the frisians had been christianized, which is important in breaking down tribes and clans, but they weren’t manorialized, which seems to be another key in getting to an “atomized” society based on the individual and the nuclear family.

the hide system meant that the lord of the manor would lease out (on a long-term lease — like lasting a life-time) farms to married couples. not to extended families. not to clans. just to a married couple (and their kids). manorialism and the hide system, therefore, also broke down the clan connections, along with the loosening of the genetic ties via all the outbreeding. so in places where people converted to christianity (and, therefore, stopped inbreeding), but DIDN’T have manorialism, extended family systems and even clans could — and did — survive for longer, since the clan system wasn’t also broken down by the hide system.

at some point, tho, the frisian clans did break down. not sure exactly when or how or why, but never fear! i’ll be lookin’ in to it. maybe the outbreeding alone was enough to eventually turn frisian society from a clannish one to one based on nuclear families? dunno. here’s a bit from wikipedia:

“The basic land-holding unit, for assessment of taxes and military contributions, was the ploegg (cf. ‘plow’) or teen (cf. ‘hundred’), though it passed under other local names…. The ploegg or East Frisian rott was a compact holding that originated with a single lineage or kinship, whose men in early times went to war under their chief, and devolved in medieval times into a union of neighbors rather than kith and kin.

in more modern times, the frisians have been characterized as having “absolute nuclear families” (as defined by emmanuel todd) just like the english [image adapted from here — thnx, m.g.!]:

bonus – (in)famous frisian:

(note: comments do not require an email. friesian.)

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8 Comments

  1. Aha, Mata Hari… clever girl, you gotta give credit to her….

    Sadly there’s not much Frisian left in Friesland. I visited some friends in Leeuwarden some months ago and you could barely find any trace of Frisian signs. 99% are written in Dutch.

    Reply

  2. “The region was admirably suited for grazing, so that agriculture faded into the background”

    I wonder the same about Ireland where there was flatland but particularly suited to raising cattle so no incentive for the communal villages.

    .
    “Very strong rural communal groups were established instead, placing the local nobles dispensing high justice in a percarious position”

    Which as you linked later sounds like what happened in Eastern Europe. Nobles coexisting with powerful village communes, mir, so they got – whatever they got, food, soldiers etc – as a kind of tribute but didn’t have the same direct control over their day to day lives.

    .
    so that’s mata hari, she must be frisian in that dress (hyuck hyuck). i hadn’t seen a pciture of her before – from the expression i don’t think she was very well-behaved.

    Reply

  3. weird thing. no idea if true but it ties into the thought of generations of cousin marriage creating large strips of identical dna within the kin maximizing genetic recognition

    http://isteve.blogspot.com/2008/05/theory-of-history-of-everything.html

    “One suggestion is that the haplotype of lactose tolerance is 1million DNA units long, so huge that it could be a target of recognition in which people are pushed towards treating those who share it as relatives, cousins or otherwise much more closely related than they are for other genes. This would allow more large-scale cooperation without compulsion, more freedom from aggression”

    if this is true – the large size – it would be interesting to test mixed-race people who more or less identified with their white half and see if there’s a connection with lactose tolerance.

    Reply

  4. @the slitty eye – “Sadly there’s not much Frisian left in Friesland. I visited some friends in Leeuwarden some months ago and you could barely find any trace of Frisian signs. 99% are written in Dutch.”

    oh no! well, hope you had some good bier up there at least. (~_^)

    Reply

  5. @g.w. – “Nobles coexisting with powerful village communes, mir, so they got – whatever they got, food, soldiers etc – as a kind of tribute but didn’t have the same direct control over their day to day lives.”

    one of the things that the nobles got — one of the tributes — in eastern europe (russia, finland) until very late in the middle ages was animal pelts. fur. important source for fur, eastern europe. but, yeah, not controlling their daily lives — not ’til later (as compared to western europe).

    Reply

  6. @g.w. – “if this is true – the large size….”

    interesting. will have to look it up.

    i like this, too, from the comment:

    “Possibly a lactobacteria could induce this effect, tricking the kin recognition systems into falsely registering those who share only the one giant lactase haplotype, as much closer relations. This would benefit the lactobacteria as the spread of the whole-milk consuming culture gains vast acreage for the lactobacteria, which it could not otherwise gain.”

    that could be a whole other blog or two … how we’re just machines for the bacteria and other organisms living in/on us. eeek! (^_^)

    cool little gem of a comment! thnx!

    Reply

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