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Ger-marriage-msg - 4/2/99


Period Germanic marriage customs.


NOTE: See also the files: p-marriage-msg, p-customs-msg, religion-msg, p-sex-msg, birth-control-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



[Submitted by: Hank Harwell <cleireac at juno.com>]

From: "JoAnn Abbott" <josco at theriver.com>

To: <perrel at egroups.com>

Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 08:18:00 -0700

Subject: [PerRel] Re: German Marriage customs


I have been digging through books I have not looked at in a long



The "mund" marriage; this was the most usual mode of marriage. The

bridegroom was responsible for concluding the contract, while the bride

was just an object of the contract between the groom and her family.  Her

consent carried no legal weight, although not infrequently her wishes

were taken into consideration.  The contract between the bridegroom and

the brides family, for which the term "Verlobung" (betrothal) is used in

later folk laws, committed the brides family to hand the woman over to

the bridegroom and gave him marital authority (mund) over her.  The

bridegroom was committed to take the bride home and set up a marital

community with her.


At the betrothal the groom had to pay a "bride-price" or at least a down

payment to the brides family.  This bride price later became the dowery,

and was later given by the bride herself, and served as the foundation

for her widows subsistance, which was not provided for in the law of

succession.  Breaking of the betrothal had legal consequences.

Infidelity of the bride during the betrothal period was considered as

adultery.  If the bridegroom or bride married another person, a fine was



The wedding ceremony gave the groom authority over the bride..  It took

place in ceremonial form, the bride being handed over to the husband by

symbolic actions such as setting her on his knee and other rites

customary at an adoption.  The marriage was consumated by the bride being

led to the grooms home, which was followed by the marriage repast and by

the couples repairing to the marriage bed in the presence of the

relatives (cohabitation).  The leading home and cohabitation made the

bride a wife with all that involved with respect to the family, house and

personal status.  On the morning following the first night, the husband

handed the wife the morning gift in recognition of her status as mistress

of the house; the morning gift mostly comprised cattle, a harnessed horse

and weapons.  In later times, it often consisted of other objects, which

again became part of her widows fund.


There was also marriage by capture, by consent and by unilateral

disposition, if anyone is interested?


Lady JoAnna S.T.



[Submitted by: Hank Harwell <cleireac at juno.com>]

From: Laura C Minnick <lainie at gladstone.uoregon.edu>

To: perrel at egroups.com

Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 02:51:43 -0800 (PST)

Subject: [PerRel] Re: German Marriage customs


I just wanted to point out that the Germanic marriage customs are by and

large pre-Christian, or in the post-conversion period where the Church

was still negotiating some concord with local customs.


        It is interesting to see some of the carry-over in customs. Dowries are

pretty universal, though in most of the cases in Western Europe, the

dowry goes right to the groom's family- most likely not refundable if the

marriage sours.  It is a different payment, called the _dower_ (or _dos_

in much of feudal France) that is set aside for widowhood. This payment

is made by the groom (or his parents) and while he lives he may manage

the properties and monies for his wife, but he may not sell them or

otherwise alienate them from her. And her name is on the title. It is

considered separate from a bbride-price, which goes to he father and is

not her.


        Interestingly, the _morgengaube_ is still as custom in some places (one

might argue that the honeymoon serves this purpose in the modern world-

Laura), and is generally held as the groom's acknowledgement that the

bride was sufficiently virginal to suit him. Quaint custom.



Father Abelard


Laura C. Minnick

University of Oregon

Department of English



[Submitted by: Hank Harwell <cleireac at juno.com>]

From: Janna G Spanne <janna.spanne at kansli.lth.se>

To: perrel at egroups.com

Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 17:33:37 +0200

Subject: [PerRel] Re: German Marriage customs


>       Interestingly, the _morgengaube_ is still as custom in some places

>(one might argue that the honeymoon serves this purpose in the modern

>world- Laura), and is generally held as the groom's acknowledgement that

>the bride was sufficiently virginal to suit him. Quaint custom.


Sweden is one such place.

In the modern world, of course, it has nothing to do with virginity:

couples here frequently marry when they are about to have their second

child and figure that being unmarried parents is too much of a

bureaucratic hassle. Basically, the "morning gift" today is a romantic

(and often quite expensive) way of saying "I'm glad I'm married to you",

and, of course, a nice marketing stunt for the jewelers.



(since Catrin has no concept of 20th century Sweden)



[Submitted by: Hank Harwell <cleireac at juno.com>]

From: "JoAnn Abbott" <josco at theriver.com>

To: <perrel at egroups.com>

Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 17:28:01 -0700

Subject: [PerRel] German Marriage customs


Marriage By Capture


The match-making effect of the capture of women can be explained as

follows: the folk laws made no distinction between capture and abduction.


According to the Lex Salica (486 A.D.to 506 A.D. estimated as being

written, the law of the Salian Franks), capture was any removal of a girl

from the power of her guardian (holder of authority) against his will,

without any importance being attached to the will of the captured girl.

Capture resulted in initiation of a feud by the womans family.  The folk

laws imposed a fine on the abductor, but initially did not require the

return of the woman to her family; this could only be impelled by the



If avenging action was not taken or was unsuccessful, the "marital

community" persisted because it was not the capture, but the manifestly

established conjugal community which created the marriage. In the case of

marriage by capture or abduction, the wife lost her right to inherit from

relatives.  The husband had no "mund" (Latin: manus) over her unless he

acquired it subsequently from the holder of authority. The marriage

resulting from abduction was more or less a marriage by consent.


Marriage By Consent

The marriage by consent (Friedlehe) was based on the free will and consent

of the man and woman.  In this case, in contrast to concubinage, the

marital community was established by publicly leading the bride home and

co-habitation.  There was no wedding ceremony, because the woman was not

under the mans control, nor was a bride-price paid.  But on the morning

following the first night, the wife received the morning gift.  The wife's

legal position relative to her husband was much stronger than in the "mund"

marriage.  For instance, she had the right to take unilateral action for

divorce.  Marriage by consent appears to have been chosen primarily by

women of rank who did not want to place themselves under the control of a

man who was possibly of lower rank, and when a man "married into" the house

of the womans father.  This marriage by consent permitted the practice of

polygyny by the nobles, since in addition to a mund marriage the man could

have any number of "free consorts" (Friedel).  A marriage by consent could

be transformed into a mund marriage if the hsband subsequntly paid the

mund-dowery.  This form of marriage by consent resembles the "morganatic

marriage" (:left-handed marriage") which made it possible well up into the

18th century to conclude marriages with a woman of different rank without

her being raised to the husbands rank or acquiring the right to inherit

from the husband.


Whew! Marriage by unilateral disposition and more commentaries later,

gotta cool my fingers!


JoAnna of the Singing Threads  (S.T., get it?)


PS- the teasers were because no one seemed to react to my missive about

blasphemy laws, so I wanted to be sure.



[Submitted by: Hank Harwell <cleireac at juno.com>]

From: "JoAnn Abbott" <josco at theriver.com>

To: <perrel at egroups.com>

Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 22:09:19 -0700

Subject: [PerRel] Re: German Marriage customs


And now the continuing saga of How Grandma Got Married.....

Unilateral Disposition!

(sounds exciting, no?)


Marriage by unilateral disposition was made possible by the fact that the

freeman was given control over the unfree woman by the law of property.

(See Laura, I found some more by myself!) This gave the lord control over

the conjugal relationships among his bondmen and bondwomen, which at

least in the Frankish era was regarded as marriage. Moreover, the

freeman could also take his own bondwoman, who was subject to his

authority also in sexual respects, as his consort.  This gave rise to

concubinage.  Originally it was certainly not a marriage, but where there

was suitable possibility of termination it could take on marriage-like

features.  Such marriages were based on the command of the man.


There was an earlier belief that the mund marriage was the only one

considered legitimate by the scholarly community, but this has been

recently disproved.  However, the mund marriage was the most important

legally.  The husband had full control over the wife.  He also had the

rights of punishment, including death, repudiation or sale in the case of

genuine need.  Only the wife was committed to monogamy and marital

fidelity and generally she also had no dispositive authority over the

children, had no legal capacity, and the husband took her property under

his control, administered it and enjoyed the benefits.  He was also

liable for any offence committed by his wife.


The rights that were vested in the husband, above all the right of

polygamy, were challenges to the church to intervene.  In point of fact,

the church should have recognized marriage by consent, which required the

consent of the woman to marriage, as the only legitimate type of

marriage.  But the church's degradation of marriage by consent to

concubinage and fornication had its origin in the structure of this form

of marriage, which was in contradiction to the Christian notion of

marriage.  Christ had raised monogamous marriage to the dignity of a

sacrament, i.e., an unbreakable bond between a man and a woman in a

physical and spiritual community.  Marriage by consent, on the other

hand, favored polygamy because in addition to his mund marriage the

husband could have any number of "free consorts" (like Charles the Great

and Himiltrude).  Also the ease with which it could be dissolved, the

frequent abstention in Frankish times from public conclusion of a

marriage, and the equal status of man and wife brought about by marriage

by consent were contrary to the Holy Scriptures according to the then

prevailing view.  All this explains the influence exerted by the church

on the recognition of the mund marriage as the only "right marriage"


Impediments to marriage

There were few impediments to marriage, among these were sexual

immaturity, peacelessness which made it impossible to take the bride home

in public; marriage among very close relatives (with a persons own

issue), and polygamy on the part of the woman.


     Over and above this, there were a number of countermeasures to

hinder marriages regarded as contraventions of the law or a disturbance

of community order.  The latter included marriage of the wife or bride to

another during his lifetime, marriage of a free woman and an unfree man

(only the freeman could take his bondwoman as consort), and occasionally

marriage between members of different tribes.


     In Frankish times there was a law introduced into the secular law

that forbade marriage of a woman without her consent.  (I guess it wasn't

too bad after a while) Marriage over time gradually became more of a

mutual desire, and women were given the right of self-betrothal.

Gradually the position of the holder of authority was taken over by a

chosen guardian, the "Trauvormund", who gave the couple to each other.

He became the one who asked if both parties consented.  He could be

either a layman or a member of the clergy.  In the 12th century church

regulations forbade marriage by a layman and made participation by a

priest and posting of banns obligatory.  The introduction of the consent

of the woman to marriage and the lack of any public form of concluding

marriage however, then resulted in declarations of consent to marriage

made informally and without witnesses being regarded as valid, which led

to considerable abuses despite threat of temporal and spiritual



The Tridentine Council of 1562, instigated by the Emperor Charles made

the validity of a marriage dependant on its publication by the church.

Braking a betrothal could only be done by act of council, and fines had

to be paid.


The couple had to wed within 3 months of the third posting of the banns,

and it had to be done in the church.  The couple was to remain celibate

before the marriage as well, and there are documents that show fines

being paid for having a child too soon after marriage (seven months or



Tomorrow- straw paiats for women and straw vests for men- find out what

they mean!


Lady JoAnna of the Singing Threads



[Submitted by: Hank Harwell <cleireac at juno.com>]

From: "JoAnn Abbott" <josco at theriver.com>

To: <perrel at egroups.com>

Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 14:27:47 -0700

Subject: [PerRel] Re: German Marriage customs


Shame, shame, shame!


It is the time of the thirty years war, and depite the repeated reading

of the marriage laws from the pulpit of the cathedral, and the

encouragement of the local priest to follow these laws and not fall into

licentiousness and fornication, you have been CAUGHT!.  If you are a

servent whose master has failed to provide seperate sleeping areas for

his male and female servants, he has to pay a hefty fine. But what are

we going to do with you?  First , the local tipstaff or nightwatchman who

was charged to seek out all dark corners which might  be a source of sin

drags you before the council with your lover. The permissive maiden then

had to stand before the church door wearing straw plaits on her head to

show her shame.  Her seducer has to come to service on three successive

Sundays wearing a straw coat.  Furthermore, the seducer has to push his

beloved through the streets of the town in a wheelbarrow while the

citizens throw garbage.  Next, accompanied by the jeers of the watchers,

you have to plow a certain area of farmland.


     Couples who had not practiced abstinence invariably landed in

prison.  If they were willing to marry, the additional church penance was

milder.  Instead of the traditional myrtle wreath, the bride had to wear

a wreath of straw, or, if the child was already born, it had to be held

in her arms during the ceremony.  If the wedding was held during

imprisonment, the tipstaff accompanied the couple to the church.  If the

bride had been convicted of several sexual offences, the wedding took

place in an inn or in prison.  If the couple wanted to avoid the shame of

"being coupled at an inn", the wedding could take place in the church,

but only as a "Whore's wedding".  Then, after the prison sentence had

been served, two tipstaff "wives" had to escort the harlot, adorned with

a straw wreath and straw plaits, to the marriage altar, not through the

bridal gate but through the side entrance (black gate). Under the

Prussian code of 1640, brides who unlawfully wore the bridal wreath had

their plaits cut off and nailed to the pillory


Ain't true love grand?


Lady JoAnna S.T.



[Submitted by: Hank Harwell <cleireac at juno.com>]

From: Maryann Olson <maryann.olson at csun.edu>

To: perrel at egroups.com

Date: Sun, 14 Mar 1999 15:54:36 -0800

Subject: [PerRel] Re: German Marriage customs


Greetings until all from Lady Gertraud von Wuerzburg.


These discussions of German marriage customs and marriage customs in

general have been very interesting to me.  May I add some information I

found some years back.


Source:  Erika Uitz, _The Legend of Good Women:  Medieval Women in Towns

& Cities_, 1988, pages 14-15


During the early Middle Ages, marriage was recognized only for the

nobility and freemen:


        Raubehe:  Robber Marriage or elopement if

                  the bride cooperated.


        Friedelehe:  No contract.  The husband was not the

                  guardian of the woman.  Voluntary for both

                  partners.  Dissolvable.  No dowry. Worked

                  well for traveling merchants.


        Muntehe:  Marriage contract.  Allowed wives of

                  nobility to be entrusted with ruling when

                  the men were at war or carrying out

                  official duties.  Husband assumed

                  guardianship of wife and administration

                  of her immobile property.  Wife received

                  the dowry.  Morning gift after first night

                  together was mandatory.


        Common Law:  Governed dependent peasant populations.

                  Required consent from the landowner/lord

                  to get married.  If from different land

                  areas, arrangements had to be made with

                  both lords so loss of service was not

                  experienced by either -- and disposition

                  of children had to be determined.


Uitz comments that early tribal laws excluded free women from public

office, as well as from representing themselves or appearing in court,

and administering their property.


        Munt:  Guardianship, including protection, representation,

               and authority over.


        Muntwalt:  The guardian, either father or husband, or the

               closest male relative in the line assuming

               guardianship.  Represented guardian in court,

               administered and disposed of property, determined

               punishments, give in marriage, and could even sell.


Uitz discusses the life of these women, especially within the towns and

the changes when "Stadtluft macht frei," town air makes free.


Mary Ann (Gertraud)


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org