random notes: 03/06/15

oooooooohhhhhhhh! from Reimagining Europe: Kievan Rus’ in the Medieval World, 988-1146 [pgs. 58-60]:

“The medieval period pre-1215 was an especially interesting time in the history of consanguinity legislation because during this era the church stretched consanguinity to seven degrees, an increase from the four that was common in the late Roman world, and the degrees were calculated in a new manner. Instead of siblings being related in two degrees, as was held previously, the new method of calculation made siblings related in the first degree. This may at first appear to be a small change, but in fact it was enormous. The original method, and the one returned to after the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, was to count connections between people; thus, for siblings, one degree up to the shared parent, and one degree down to the sibling, for a total of two degrees. For first cousins, a more likely target for marriage than siblngs, it was one degree up to your parent, another degree up to your grandparent, a degree down to your uncle/aunt, and a degree down to your cousins, resulting in a relationship of four degrees.

“The new method of calculating consanguinity was based on degrees to a common ancestor, which resulted in a one-degree relationship for siblings (a common ancestor is one generation back) and two degrees for a cousin (a common ancestor is two generations back). When this concept was applied to seven generations of ancestors, it expanded the pool of consanguineous relations to anyone with whom one shared a great-great-great-great-great-grandparent….

“The Orthodox Church, like the church in Rome, also maintained a policy against consanguineous marriages. Marriages were also forbidden in the seventh degree, but the Orthodox Church never changed its method of calculating degrees, which created a much smaller pool of consanguineous relations.”

oooooooohhhhhhhh! why didn’t they say so in the first place?! =P

so, what this means is, all those cousin marriage regulations out to the “seventh degree” which we hear about from eastern europe (re. orthodox populations)…they’re just referring to SECOND cousins, not SIXTH the way that western european experienced it for a couple hundred years in the medieval period (from about 1000 to 1215). that’s not to say that most medieval western europeans somehow managed to obey the bans out to sixth cousins, but just that there’s apparently never been the same extreme push against close kin marriage in eastern europe. interesting.
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from “Marriage Causes in Late Medieval Sweden: The Evidence of Bishop Hans Brask’s Register (1522-27)” in Regional Variations in Matrimonial Law and Custom in Europe, 1150-1600 [pg. 240], on consanguineous marriage in sweden in the sixteenth century:

“Considering the number and type of cases, the Swedish may have been somewhere in between the ‘incestuous’ late-medieval Netherlands, discussed by Vleeschouwers-Van Melkebeek, the carefree Poles described by Brozyna and the English and Parisians who, according to the of Helmholz and Donaghue, had internalized the rules of incest better and did avoid matrimony with relatives. Perhaps ordinary Swedish peasants in the see of Linköping had easier access to dispensations. Possibly the control of the impediment of consanguinity before the voluntary ecclesiastical solemnization also managed to unearth the ties of kinship between fiances. Moreover, the children’s later loss of inheritance rights may have been a risk some couples were unwilling to take if they were discovered to have known about the impediement prior to their marriage. Swedish synodal statues stressed that children born to couples whose marriage was later discovered to be incestuous would only be considered legitimate if their parents had solemnized *in facie ecclesiae* and the banns had been read without opposition.”

most of this picture fits what i’ve been saying: that (some of) the french and english were the earliest adopters of outbreeding in europe (i posted about donahue’s studies here), the scandinavians came to the party a bit later, and eastern europeans (the example in the excerpt above, the poles) much later. i don’t know who these “‘incestuous’ late-medieval” netherlanders were — i’ve been under the impression that the dutch (minus the frisians) are some of the long-term outbreeders along with the french and english. the source for this is: “Incestuous Marriages: Formal Rules and Social Practice in the Southern Burgundian Netherlands” by monique vleeschouwers-van melkebeek in Love, Marriage, and Family Ties in the Later Middle Ages, which is not available on google books at the moment. (dr*t!) what’s not clear to me is whether vleeschouwers-van melkebeek looked at netherlanders in general or just the aristocracy (which these studies often do). i shall have to find out!
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from The Jews of Eastern Europe, 1772-1881 [pg. 48]:

The spread of Hasidim stopped only when it reached the invisible border that separated German Jewry from Eastern European Jewry — the boundary between the western central part of the Ashkenazi diaspora and its eastern part. With the exception of one quasi-Hasidic community established in Frankfurt, the Hasidic *tzaddikim* did not succeed in gaining a foothold in Germany as the movement spread.”

previously: historic mating patterns of ashkenazi jews
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from Jews Against Zionism: The American Council for Judaism, 1942-1948 [pg. 23]:

“Antagonism between the established, well-to-do German Jews and the new, working-class East European immigrants was unavoidable. To the East Europeans, the German Jews, whom they called *Yahudim*, were not authentic Jews; their Reform Judaism was a sham. They seemed to lack a feeling of closeness to fellow Jews. The native German Jews, on the other hand, frightened by the ‘Russian invasion,’ tended to regard the new immigrants as primitive, ‘medieval,’ clannish, Asiatic, unrefined, and radical. German Jews even coined the word *kikes* for the Eastern Europeans.”
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from The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb [pgs. 95-96]:

“The German Jews…embarked on an extensive program of financing and running a number of educational, health, and social-service institutions, mostly in the Maxwell Street areas. These proved very helpful to the poorer Eastern European immigrants. Socially, the German Jews kept apart from the newer immigrants, living separately and maintaining their own clubs, synagogues, fraternal organizations, and community centers, at which the Eastern European Jews were not welcomed. Later, as the Eastern European Jews progressed, they built a parallel set of their own institutions, such as a hospital, old peoples’ homes, charities, and orphanages. Although the distinction between the two groups was gradually blurred, for decades the social distance between the groups remained great. The German Jews, for example,

“‘did not wish to have these Jews to close to them. These Russians were all right — of that they were quite certain — but, like the southern Negro, they had to keep their place. All sorts of philanthropic enterprises were undertaken in their behalf, but in the management of these enterprises the beneficiaries were given no voice. Charity balls by the debutantes of the German-Jewish elite in behalf of the wretched West Side Jews were held at the splendid clubs of the German Jews, which by this time had increased to four, and charitably inclined young Jewish men and ladies-bountiful spent their leisure hours in alleviating the hardships of the Jewish slum dwellers.

‘But the Russians did not take altogether willingly to the American ways of dispensing *zdoko* (charity). They were accustomed to assisting one another in the Old Country in much more informal style. The Jewish communities they had known in Russia were self-sufficient large families. These German Jews of the ‘societies’ asked all sorts of embarassing questions before they dispensed their financial and other aid. They made investigations and kept records. Most of all, they did not understand — they did not know — their own people; in fact, they were only halfway Jews; they did not even understand *mama loshon* (the mother-tongue), or Yiddish.'”

(note: comments do not require an email. judische auswanderer.)

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early medieval church councils and canon law (and bunnies)

remember when i wondered whether or not the regulations (canon laws) promulgated by regional or “national” church councils in the early medieval period would’ve been binding throughout christendom? well, i was right to wonder. and the answer is: no, they were not.

from Women in Medieval Western European Culture [pgs. 143-144 – link added by me]:

“In the Byzantine Empire, canon law was more or less combined with Roman law, since the church was a wing of the government. In contrast, canon law in western Europe developed amid the great diversity of legal systems which characterized the medieval European experience. From the early fourth century, prominent members of the church met in council to discuss the changing needs of the Christian community as it moved from a position of powerlessness to one of domination in the later Roman empire. The rules devised by these church councils, as well as regular pronouncements by the pope and rulings in various papal and diocesan courts, formed the basis for medieval canon law. However, this was a legal system with no uniformity. Each bishop, each kingdom, each region within each kingdom all had their own particular sets of rules and regulations under which the church was governed. This meant that there was a wide disparity in canon law precepts during the early Middle Ages….

“The period between the late tenth and early twelfth centuries — that is, the great age of clerical reform in the West — was also a period of centralization of the authority of the church in the hands of the papacy. Along with the triumph of Benedictine monasticism over regional forms and the (partial) triumph of the papacy over the governing of the clergy came the triumph of a centralized system of canon law over regional variation. This development culminated in the work of an Italian legalist from Bologna named Gratian who, around the year 1140, compiled, collated, and organized the welter of canon law enactments into his ‘Concordance of Discordant Canons.’ After Gratian, all subsequent compilations of canon law (all integrated roughly into the system called the *corpus iuris canonici* — the body of canon law) began with his text and moved on from there. By the end of the thirteenth century, the canon law of the western church was a complex but relatively coherent body of law complete with extensive annotation and analysis.”

so, no, there was no — or little — rhyme or reason to all of the canon laws regarding impediments to marriage in the early medieval period. the first ban on cousin marriage in western europe of which i am aware came in 506 a.d., but that ban was issued by a regional church council in southern france (provence), and it very much didn’t apply elsewhere. a bishop in a diocese in italy or north africa could’ve ignored this regulation — in fact, perhaps they wouldn’t have heard about its issuance at all.

however, this idea to ban cousin marriage does seem to have crept northward from provence into the germanic kingdoms during the 500s. the council of epaone was held in the burgundian kingdom eleven years later in 517. from “To the limits of kinship: anti-incest legislation in the early medieval west (500-900)” [pg. 38 – pdf]:

“In 517 a gathering of bishops in Epaon decreed that sexual intercourse was forbidden with a brother’s widow, a wife’s sister, a stepmother, a first or second cousin, the widow of a paternal or maternal uncle, or stepdaughter….”

another council, the third national council of orleans held another twenty-one years later in 538, also dealt with impediments to marriage, but i haven’t been able to find out if cousin marriage was banned by that council.

however, de jong in “To the limits of kinship” says [pg. 39 – pdf]:

“[T]he real growth of the Frankish campaign against incest dates from the eighth century, when relations with Rome were strengthened by the Carolingian rulers. Papal decrees and letters began to circulate in the north; these also influenced legislation about incest.”

this would fit with what i blogged earlier this year about mating patterns among the early medieval franks:

“it sounds as though the franks may still have, in actuality, been regularly marrying close cousins into the early 700s….”

but…

“‘By the ninth century, a marriage in the third *generatio* [i.e. second cousins – h.chick] had become scandalous….'”

so, there seems to have been some delay in the adoption by the franks of the cousin marriage bans that had originated in neighboring kingdoms (which were eventually incorpated into francia) further to the south. how well the bans were ever enforced in provence or burgundy in the 500s, i have no idea.

to conclude, afaict, the earliest church ban on cousin marriage in western europe happened in southern france in 506 with bishop caesarius and his crew, but the ban would only have applied locally. we can trace a direct line between caesarius and st. augustine who had had strong ideas about the importance of encouraging the populace to marry out in order to create a good, christian society here on earth. and st. augustine seems to have gotten his ideas from st. ambrose — who was originally a gallo-roman. meanwhile, ambrose may have picked up the idea of avoiding cousin marriage from the romans. more on that another day.

all of this reminds me of the bunnies. yes, the bunnies. remember this?:

“Genetic changes transformed wild rabbits into tame bunnies, DNA study reveals”

“When humans domesticated wild rabbits and turned them into pet store favorites, they also changed their genome, a study has found…. The domestication of rabbits happened much more recently than that of cattle, sheep, pigs and dogs, which happened between about 15,000 and 9,000 years ago. Monks in monasteries in the south of France first domesticated northwestern europeans rabbits around 1,400 years ago….

so…religious dudes in the south of france were occupied with creating a better human society by tweaking people’s mating patterns right around the same time that some other religious dudes in the south of france were busy tweaking the nature of bunnies? presumably via artificial selection? is this a coincidence? did these monks and bishops hang out with each other and discuss…breeding practices? bunny eugenics perhaps? what did these guys know or think about domestication processes? i have no idea. maybe they didn’t know a thing. but i’d sure like to find out!

previously: happy council of agde day! and mating patterns of the medieval franks

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