Archives for the month of: August, 2012

luke skywalker … and han and leia (we didn’t know she was luke’s sister in the first movie) and chewie and obi-wan and r2 and c-3po:

frodo baggins … and sam and merry and pippin and gandalf and strider and legolas and gimli and boromir:

harry potter … and ron and hermione and dumbledore and ginny and neville and luna:

robin hood … and little john and will scarlet and friar tuck and maid marian:


is this a western/anglo/post-early-medieval storyline? having a hero allied with a bunch of friends i mean? do other traditional hero stories from other cultures involve alliances with friends?

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Ancestral link places Mexican-Americans at greater risk for metabolic disease“Mexican-Americans with an ancestral link to Amerindian tribes were found to have higher insulin resistance levels, which is an indication of several chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes….”

Most mutations come from dad“Humans inherit more than three times as many mutations from their fathers as from their mothers, and mutation rates increase with the father’s age but not the mother’s….” see also Father’s Age Is Linked to Risk of Autism and Schizophrenia. and see also greg cochran (h/t jayman!).

Human responses to unfairness with primary rewards and their biological limits“[H]umans care about being treated fairly when bargaining with primary rewards, and, together with a broader literature suggest that such reciprocal altruism may be particularly prominent in humans.” – note that the study seems to have been conducted on “w.e.i.r.d.” students.

African National IQs, redux“The average for 40 African nations comes out to 75.” – from chuck.

Solutions, Again – jayman’s ideas for a better future!

Working memory training does not improve IQ – from the inductivist.

Male Circumcision and Health Care Costs – @the breviary.

A decade after Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate, why is human nature still taboo? – from ed west.

Hypergamy In China Cutting Fertility Of High Ranking Women – from parapundit.

Do Drivers Make Way In Your Country? – from anatoly.

Divergent Whole-Genome Methylation Maps of Human and Chimpanzee Brains Reveal Epigenetic Basis of Human Regulatory Evolution“Hundreds of genes exhibit significantly lower levels of promoter methylation in the human brain than in the chimpanzee brain…. Differentially methylated genes [in humans] are strikingly enriched with loci associated with neurological disorders, psychological disorders, and cancers.”

Dusting Off GOD“The implication — that religion is basically malevolent, that it ‘poisons everything,’ in the words of the late Christopher Hitchens — is a standard assertion of the New Atheists…. Before you can know for sure, you have to figure out what religion does for us in the first place.”

Planet of the apes“What we really know about our evolutionary past – and what we don’t” – nice review of a couple of human evolution books.

bonus: Octopuses Gain Consciousness (According to Scientists’ Declaration)

bonus bonus: The Racial Divide on … Sneakers

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from james brundage’s “E Pluribus Unum” in Regional Variations in Matrimonial Law and Custom in Europe, 1150-1600 we find out that peoples in the baltic regions were marrying close relatives (prolly close cousins) up until at least the 1200s. new converts on the “livonian frontier” were allowed to keep marrying their close relatives, just as the newly converted anglo-saxons had been, only the exemptions in the baltic case happened about six hundred years later [pgs. 37-39 – links and emphases added by me]:

“In practice, too, even substantive issues in matrimonial law could also be affected by local customs. Marriage impediments, especially those grounded on consanguinity or affinity, constituted one area of matrimonial law where custom sometimes influenced practice in a major way. Local customs in some places sought to mitigate some of the serious problems that arose from the long-standing canonical ban on marriages between persons related within seven degrees of consanguinity. Conscientious Christians who wished to marry might find it exceedingly difficult, if not utterly impossible, to do so legally under the seven-degree rule that prevailed prior to 1215. As Jean-Louis Flandrin showed, strict application of the law could literally rule out thousands of persons as potential marriage partners for a given individual. Someone living in a tiny village whose population consisted solely of the members of a dozen interrelated families literally might not know anyone at all whom he or she could legally marry. In real life, it was not unknown for couples to ignore the rules and knowingly to marry persons to whom they were related far more closely than the law allowed. When such a marriage was questioned those who could afford to do so could apply for a dispensation. Alexander III had permitted local bishops to grant these, but by the time of Innocent III (r. 1198-1216) this power was reserved to the pope, which made it more difficult, time-consuming, and costly to take advantage of this possiblity.

“Theologians and writers on pastoral concerns were keenly aware of these difficulties and on occasion complained vociferously about them. The twelfth-century Parisian theologian, Peter the Chanter (d. 1197) devoted a whole chapter of his widely-circulated ‘Verbum abbreviatum’ to a scathing criticism of the law on this matter. ‘The Lord,’ wrote Peter, ‘laid down certain immutable laws concerning marriage, according to which only twelve parties were excluded as marriage partners. To these we have added the fifth, sixth, and seventh degrees, in which we join some together and separate others who were joined together, just as we please.’

“At the beginning of his pontificate Innocent III rejected the view that customary usage could abridge the canonical rule that prohibited marriage within seven degrees of consanguinity. In 1199 he held that custom had no power to alter the existing consanguinity rules. Further experience with the difficulties that this policy created soon led him to modify his views. In 1201 Innocent received Theodric of Treiden (d. 1219), as envoy from Bishop Albert von Buxhoeveden of Riga (r. 1199-1229). Theodric presented the pope with a series of questions concerning problems that missionaries on the Livonian frontier were encountering. Two of these concerned marriage customs. One custom allowed marriage between persons related within the canonically prohibited degrees of blood relationship, while the other involved the practice of levirate marriage, whereby men were obliged to marry the widow of a brother who had died childless. In response to this query Innocent chose to follow the example of ‘Blessed Pope Gregory of holy memory’ by permitting prospective or recent converts to Christianity to observe both customs. By 1205, however, church authorities, including Innocent himself, were becoming acutely aware that the consanguinity rules frequently created intolerable problems for others than recent converts. A decade later he finally took the radical step of reducing the number of prohibited degrees from seven to four in the constitution ‘Non debet reprehensibile’ of the Fourth Lateran Council. Although this did not eliminate the problems that consanguineous marriage presented, it at least made them considerably less daunting and less common than they had previously been.”

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from sam worby’s Law and Kinship in Thirteenth-Century England [pgs. 1-2 – link and emphases added by me]:

Charles Donahue Jr’s magisterial comparative study of marriage in England, France and Belgium has confirmed a remarkable pattern of family interaction for England. His thorough and statistical analysis of the surviving records of cases before the archbishop of York’s consistory court in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and Ely consistory court between 1374 and 1381, incidentally seems to confirm that there was no clan or corporate kinship system operating in the areas covered, and, by inference, in England more widely (given the consistency of results between the two evidence sets). There was, he shows, even relatively low levels of parental involvement in marriage choice. Given the importance of marriage as a social institution and the potential consequences flowing from choice of partner — in property, alliance and social standing for example — it seems remarkable that an average of only 37 per cent of York cases showed evidence of parental involvement. While there was evidence for arranged marriages in the records of both courts, many couples appear to have acted independently. Whether this is qualified as ‘astonishingly’ or ‘unusually’ individualistic, the fact remains that many couples operated with relative freedom within the scope of the canon law marriage rules.

This individualistic pattern confirms a picture of family interaction for England found elsewhere, through evidence of marriage patterns, but also more broadly. From the Anglo-Norman nobility to later medieval peasants, the picture is of a limited family (although this book will not in fact focus on peasant kinship, but rather on kinship insofar as it was a general structure, transcending class and status). The extended kindred did not live together; the typical co-resident family appears to have been nuclear. There is evidence of kin interaction, particularly suggestive of closeness between siblings. There is a broad consensus about the narrowness of the operative kin group in England. It was rarely much larger than the immediate family, mostly the co-resident nuclear family, with some obligations and traceable contact extending out to cousins, and some closeness to siblings and occasionally to uncles and aunts. This pattern is unusual in comparison to other areas of Europe. It is suggestive to note that Franco-Belgian courts showed evidence for a higher level of family involvement in marriage arrangements. It is also striking to contrast the pattern of relatively informal clans able to act together in some European countries, such as Italy.

previously: english individualism and english individualism ii and invention of the modern world

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while anglo-saxon (and prolly other germanic groups’) mating patterns were shaken up starting as early the 600s, but definitely by the 800-900s, the irish carried on marrying their close relatives (close cousins and even uncle-nieces) until sometime well after the arrival of the normans in the twelfth century [pgs. 44-45 – links added by me]:

“But as far as the family and marriage were concerned, the wishes of the Church did not always prevail and resistance was often prolonged. The difference between ‘local custom’ and ecclesiastical law is nowhere stronger than in Ireland, even as late as the Norman period. It was then, during the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries, that English (or Norman) influence came to play a dominant role in reshaping the Irish Church. The archbishops of Canterbury, Lanfranc and Anselm, both protested against the Irish customs of marriage and divorce. From the seventh century Irish Church legislators had recognised only four degrees of kinship within which marriage was prohibited (and the law tracts fewer), whereas the papacy acknowledged seven…. ‘Native law’, comments Hughes (1966: 260), ‘triumphed over the stricter provisions of the church, to the disgust of the Anglo-Norman prelates, who were used to very different customs.’

“In theory, this state of affairs was altered by the first of the reforming synods, held at Cashel in 1101. However this conclave did not introduce the full requirements of the Roman Church, and, although it did forbid a man to marry his step-mother (or step-grandmother), or his sister or daughter, his brother’s wife, or any woman of similarly near kinship, it said nothing of the ‘Irish practices of concubinage and divorce.’ Even so, the legislation seems to have had little effect on social life, for some time later Pope Alexander III [pope from 1159 to 1181] was told that the Irish ‘marry their step-mothers and are not ashamed to have children by them; that a man may live with his brother’s wife while the brother is still alive; and that one many may live in concubinage with two sisters; and that many of them, putting away the mother, will marry the daughters’ (Sheehy 1962: I,21; Hughes 1966: 265).”

from the synod of whitby in 664 onwards, the anglo-saxons generally followed christian practices as they emanated from rome. the irish continued on with their own particular form of insular christianity until some 500 years later (same goes for some of the welsh, btw), and this affected their mating practices.

see also: The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe by jack goody.

previously: inbreeding in europe’s periphery and anglo-saxon mating patterns and more on anglo-saxon mating patterns

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it seems like the anglo-saxons were still marrying close relatives (prolly close cousins) in the 800s, at least in some areas of england. here from jack goody [pgs. 161-62 – links added by me]:

“In England, as in Ireland, popular resistance to the marriage rules had been felt as early as Anglo-Saxon times. Lancaster comments that the frequency of defections from ecclesiastical rulings on marriage with near kin was a constant cause of complaint during this period. In 874 Pope John VIII wrote to the King of Mercia saying that fornication was rife and that men ‘presume to marry women of their own kindred’. Some sixteen years later the Archibishop of Rheims wrote to King Alfred [king of wessex] in the same vein. Sermon and legislation continued to condemn and prohibit the widespread ‘incest’ (Lancaster 1958: 240).”

perhaps this is why in the 900s-1000s there were such strict secular laws prohibiting cousin marriage in at least some of the anglo-saxon kingdoms?

previously: anglo-saxon mating patterns

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pre-christian tribal anglo-saxons (and jutes, et al.) married their close cousins with some regularity (who knows what the actual frequencies were). this is evidenced by the fact that when the anglo-saxons in england converted to christianity in the 600s, they were given exemptions from the church’s cousin marriage bans (because they had married their cousins prior to converting). augustine of canterbury corresponded with pope back in rome regarding the whole issue of the cousin marrying anglo-saxons [pgs. 34-37]:

“Bede tells of some of the problems involved in converting the pagan English. He explains how after Augustine, the first archbishop of Canterbury, arrived in 597, he sent messengers back to Pope Gregory at Rome seeking advice on certain current questions, including ones relating to marriage….

“[T]he Letter of Gregory provides us with some very valuable evidence….

“Four of the nine questions on which Augustine asked advice from the Pope had to do with sex and marriage…. Augustine’s fifth question was more complicated and more revealing: ‘Within what degree may the faithful marry their kindred; and is it lawful for a man to marry a step-mother or a sister-in-law?’

“Pope Gregory’s reply clearly indicates the change that Christianity had brought to Rome and presumably to the other countries of western Europe. ‘A certain secular law in the Roman State allows that the son and daughter of a brother and sister [fzd/mbd marriage], or of two brothers [fbd marriage] or two sisters [mzd marriage] may be married. But we have learned from experience that the offspring of such marriages cannot thrive. Sacred law forbids a man to uncover the nakedness of his kindred. Hence it is necessary that the faithful should only marry relations three or four times removed, while those twice removed must not marry in any case, as we have said….’

“Since a special dispensation had to be given to those who had contracted such unions before conversion, it is clear that the practices of close marriage (presumably to cross-cousins, and possibly, as in Rome, to parallel cousins, at least to the father’s brother’s daughter) and of marriage to the widow of the brother or father (though not one’s own mother) must have been common in English, and indeed German, society. But they are now forbidden, the arguments against them being framed partly in physical terms (the likelihood of infertility) and partly in religious ones (on grounds of incest…).”

so, by the time they were all converted (700-800s?), the anglo-saxons in england shouldn’t have been marrying their close cousins anymore. the problem was, however, as it has always been — enforcement. who was going to enforce these rules, which emanated from rome, way up in yorkshire? or event kent?

because the thing was, early christian marriages didn’t necessarily have to happen in a church in front of a priest. they could do, but it was not actually required. all that was required was to abide by all the regulations (don’t marry your cousin, consent should be mutual, etc., etc.). eventually, however, over the course of the medieval period, the church did take control of marriage ceremonies, but it wasn’t until the early 1200s that marriage in a church with a priest was necessary to have a valid marriage [pgs. 146-150]:

‘In England between the seventh and the twelfth centuries the ecclesiastical authority in matrimonial questions was slowly established’ (Howard 1904: I,333). At first the Church appears only to have concerned itself with the nuptial mass but gradually it became involved both in the betrothal and in that gifta or handing over of the bride which was regarded as the essence of marriage. Finally, in the twelfth century, Peter Lombard’s annunciation of the ‘seven sacraments’ proposed that marriage be included among them….

“No public ceremony was needed [still in the 1100s] to make a marriage valid, but, in order to make it fully licit, certain procedures had to be followed….

“But while only this form of marriage was licit, other unions could be valid. The betrothal followed by intercourse became marriage, even without being solemnised in church. This being so, since men and women did not always get married in facie ecclesiae, some making their agreement at home, or in a field, a garden, or even in bed, problems often arose in proving to the satisfaction of the ecclesiastical judges that a marriage had taken place at all. Some 70 per cent of the marriages involved in cases heard in Ely between March 1374 and March 1382 took place in private surroundings. While it was doubtless the intention of most parties to follow the private with a public celebration, not in all cases did this occur….

“A better explanation of the Church’s attitude to such marriages [clandestine marriages] would seem to be based on the difficulties it experienced in imposing its will on the forms and patterns of marriage at all levels, whether that of the nobility as described by Duby, or in the more popular milieu of Ely. Only with the Council of Trent [1545-63] did the Catholic Church finally manage to impose its authority in this sphere by invalidating marriages that had not been performed in public before the parish priest, a notion that was later followed in Protestant circles….

“The Church had recognised the problems created by ‘private’ marriages long before the Council of Trent. From late in the twelfth century local attempts were made to ensure that the priest made a public proclamation of a proposed marriage sufficiently far in advance to allow anyone to make an open objection to the union. The procedure became generalised under canon 51 of the Fourth Lateran Council [1215] when the priest was required to announce the marriage and to investigate the possibility of impediments. In England the announcement took the form of reading the banns on three Sundays. In fact this procedure appeared to have more effect on the enforcement of the prohibitions than on the publication of the marriage itslef…. In his study of a register of court cases from fourteenth century Ely, Sheehan remarks that it was possible to get round the banns not only for ‘the large group that avoided religious ceremonies entirely’ (1971: 239), but even for many who wished to have the blessing of the Church; the latter simply went to a distant parish where people were not aware of any impediment to their marriage….

When a marriage was discovered to have taken place outside the parish, the parties were liable to punishment….. If a couple did not wish to run the risk, it did not have to undergo a church wedding at all. In Ely such uncelebrated marriages were frequent at this time. Out of 101 unions mentioned in the register, 89 were of this ‘irregular’ kind. Of course it was precisely these marriages that were likely to come before the court, for the large majority of disputes were not about divorce but were demands to recognise a marriage as valid; pleas of annulment were infrequent, as were references to parental consent….

[I]n general the impediments arising from ‘blood’ marriage and ‘spiritual’ ties, which according to many commentators, offered an easy way out of marriage, formed the basis of relatively few disputes in the medieval English courts (Helmholz 1974: 77ff). When the Fourth Lateran Council reduced the prohibited degrees from seven to four in 1215, it also tightened up the proof necessary to establish these ties for legal purposes. While we know that the nobility treated these restrictions with little concern, obtaining dispensations when they were needed, surviving court records give little indication that the prohibited degrees presented any major problem for the bulk of the population. Hemlholz argues that the actors accepted the rules, and sees evidence of this in the large percentage of marriages which were contracted outside the village (about 50 per cent)….

so, for four hundred years — from, say, 800 to 1200 — the enforcement of the close cousin marriage ban in england by the church was probably pretty patchy. the ban was there — and people obviously knew about it (since some of them tried to get around it) — but enforcement by the church was definitely not 100%.

still, helmholz apparently argues (i haven’t read him yet) that, by and large, ordinary englishmen and women largely abided by these regulations.


well, they might have done so for religious reasons — many may have simply wished to follow the church’s teachings in order to stay in god’s good books. but, there was also incentive from another direction — secular laws which backed up the church’s regulations.

in “Kinship and marriage among the Visigoths,” ausenda makes it clear that secular rulers (kings, prices) across northwest europe also issued decrees against cousin marriage, no doubt with an eye on breaking the social and economic power of clans (they weren’t the first — chinese rulers tried this as well, but they ran into the enforcement problem) [pg. 147-48]:

“Langobardic [Lombardian] laws concerning forbidden marriages also became stricter over time. Liutprand 33 [8th century] forbade marriage with the widow of a cousin, but no further prohibitions were reflected in the laws. We know, however, that more extended prohibitions were made compulsory by the Church….

This shows that both Church and State were interested in forbidding close kin marriages. Their common concern becomes clear when one bears in mind the recognized difficulty the Church had, from the fourth century onwards, in expanding into the countryside….

“In conclusion, the strenuous effort [by the Church] to penetrate the countryside entailed a long-drawn battle against traditional religion, whose vehicle was the kin group, and substituting the authority of the elders of the kin group with that of a religious elder, the presbyteros. At the same time the king’s rule was undermined by revolts on the part of the most powerful kin groups, clans or sections, whose conspiracies and murders menaced the power of the state. Thus Church and State became allies in trying to do aways with the political power of extended kin groups utilizing all manners of impositions. One of the most effective among them was to destroy their cohesiveness by prohibition of close kin marriage.” [more here.]

in parts of (all parts of?) anglo-saxon england, the secular laws prohibiting close cousin marriage were quite severe [pgs. 39-40]:

“[M]arriage to any close kin was forbidden by the Church and its proscriptions were given legal sanction by Christian monarchs. In Anglo-Saxon England the punishment for breaking these rules was very heavy, namely slavery (that is, according to the late text, Edward and Guthrum, 4, Whitelock et al. 1981), with the man passing into the ownership of the king and the woman into that of the bishop (Whitelock 1930: 111; 1981: I, 307).”

whitelock’s primary sources date to the 900-1000s, so we can say that from at least that point onwards, anglo-saxons had some powerful incentives to stay away from close cousin marriage. it’s difficult — probably impossible — to reconstruct what the actual close cousin marriage rates in anglo-saxon england were, but they must have been very low indeed after ca. 800-900s. especially when compared with other regions of europe/the world in which cousin marriage was encouraged rather than discouraged.

see also: The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe by jack goody.

*update 08/24: see also more on anglo-saxon mating patterns.

previously: inbreeding amongst germanic tribes and more on inbreeding in germanic tribes and but what about the english?

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