Marriage Among Scholars in the Thomoraii Empire

I recently had to write a paper on marriage for school. This got me thinking about marriage customs and kinship systems, and so guess what happened? I ended up creating my own! Then I found myself facing the tricky question of how on earth such a structure could ever develop in a human society. Unfortunately, I first encountered this problem while trying to go to sleep and lost a good hour or two of sleep as a result. Fortunately, I did come up with an answer in the end. Here it is. By the way, feel free to skip the long paragraphs of introduction and just read the explanation of the system itself if you feel so inclined.

Traditional Thomoraii marriage and the evolution of pledge marriage

In the rainforest islands of Thomorai back in the days before civilization, when most people lived as part of wandering tribes, marriage was primarily done through a straightforward system of exogamy – marrying outside your group. Once a generation of young men from a tribe had reached adulthood, they would go into the jungle and live together for a while. They would travel around hunting and collecting food, and occasionally stay with other tribes to trade – and also look for wives. Once a young man had found a woman from another tribe that he wanted to marry, he would go through a ceremony of promising allegiance to her tribe. The couple would then live together in that tribe for the rest of their lives. Intermarriage like this generally worked out pretty well – for one, it helped to keep the tribes from killing each other in conflicts over land and resources, since if you started a war you would probably end up killing your own relatives.

However, some of the people from these tribes eventually began to settle down in towns. These settlements were initially trade hubs, places where members from lots of different tribes could meet together to exchange goods. But soon people staying in the towns began to do agriculture, too, planting particular valuable crops and raising animals, and they developed specialized crafts like carpentry to help in agriculture. In these towns, the tribes were all jumbled together or were split up with some members living in towns and some still living traditionally in the jungle. As members of different tribes got used to living in the same place, and as people got used to living separately from the rest of their tribe, the old tribal groups became less and less defined. It became less and less important for them to try to avoid conflict by allying with each other through intermarriage.

Meanwhile, what people were looking for in marriage was changing, too. In an old, traditional marriage (called a “house marriage” today in Thomorai), a person would choose a spouse out of attraction or some other romantic inclination. Then the man would pledge loyalty to the woman’s tribe and marry her. Following this, the wife and the husband would take on different roles – the wife would take care of children, cook, and do other jobs close to her home, and the husband would hunt, fight if need be, and do other jobs that were dangerous or farther away from his home. They would spend most of the day away from each other pursuing their different jobs, and each spouse was not expected to be involved or even take any interest in the other’s tasks. Any children would be expected to obey their parents until they were adults. At this point they would still be expected to respect their parents and other elders, but they could do pretty much whatever they wanted otherwise. Divorce was also fairly easy in a house marriage, though once a man had pledged allegiance to a tribe in a marriage ceremony, he was expected to stay within that tribe even if he got divorced. So if he wanted to remarry, he would need to marry another woman from that same tribe.

However, in the new towns and cities, women had many more opportunities to do business, run farms, or pursue other things, and they wanted more freedom from the traditional strict gender roles. Additionally, men now usually spent most of their time working at home running a farm or a business, and consequently had to spend a great deal more time in their wives’ company. So many of them wanted to find spouses that, for one, they genuinely enjoyed being around, but preferably also someone who could help them in their work. Also, in large towns without strong tribes where you had to look out for yourself, it became more and more important to have people that you could depend on – like a wife or a husband who worked well with you and who couldn’t easily divorce you.

And so a new type of marriage, which people (rather confusingly) called “pledge marriage”, developed. Instead of choosing someone for a spouse that you happened to be in love with, you would try to choose somebody whose temperament and personality worked well with yours. Romance was beside the point. Then, instead of having the husband promise loyalty to the woman’s tribe, both partners pledged loyalty to each other. After you were married, you were expected to work together and be thoroughly involved in each other’s lives. Yes, many of the old gender roles were still followed – women still usually worked at home and men still usually worked jobs that involved more interaction with people outside of the home. But husband and wife were expected to advise each other and help each other with their jobs. Additionally, the children of such a marriage were supposed to participate in their parents’ jobs, too. If you had a business, your children of a pledge marriage would all be expected to work in the business and inherit it after you died. Divorce was also much more difficult in a pledge marriage than in a house marriage – you could generally only leave your spouse if he or she was significantly unfaithful or abusive, much like a man could only be released from his pledge to a tribe if the tribe betrayed him or mistreated him badly.

This new type of marriage became very common among the middle and high classes in cities, even as house marriages continued at the same time. In fact, it was fairly common in rich families to have multiple marriages. You could only ever have one pledge marriage at a time, but you could have multiple house marriages at the same time. It was much more common for men to have multiple wives than for women to have multiple husbands – mostly since then there was the issue of figuring out who was the father of a child – but both did happen.

Scholarly societies and their role in marriage

Meanwhile, many of the members of these middle and high classes were joining scholarly societies to study history, philosophy, science and other subjects that were flourishing at the time. At this point technology like writing, papermaking, and even simple bookmaking had been developed. More and more families in the cities were getting rich, too, and so more and more of them could afford to let a child or two dedicate his or her life (because these people were often women) to study. At this time in history, these societies were usually quite small, as cities were still not that populous and most people were not interested in spending lots of money and effort getting an impractical education. This caused some problems when a member of a society wished to marry another scholar (as many did), but there weren’t very many people in his or her society to choose from. Also, people in scholarly societies were often related to each other, particularly in the early days when only a few rich families could let their children spend their days studying esoteric ideas.

So scholars began to travel to other cities and visit other societies looking for educated spouses. There had already been quite a bit of visiting of other scholarly societies in order to share ideas or get information from a particular authority, but when scholars started to visit different societies searching for marriage partners, it increased significantly. All this moving around and interaction between scholars of different societies and backgrounds led to wonderfully fruitful sharing and cross-pollination of ideas. Scholarly societies began to form connections with each other and exchange teachers and students so people could learn more. Those with knowledge shared it with more people, and scholars from different cities collaborated on projects. It was at this point, even before the formation of the Thomoraii empire, that Thomorai truly began its great tradition of study and research.

Soon many of these scholarly societies started to help arrange marriages between their members. Many societies had different strategies for finding potential spouses who could work well together, but who would also be able to exchange ideas and learn from each other. (In fact, some areas of Thomoraii psychology were first founded by people trying to figure out ways to match-make effectively.) By the time the Thomoraii empire was founded, virtually all scholars who wished to marry had marriages arranged for them by their societies.

Later on, the emperor Amjâi the Great combined all the scholarly societies in his empire (which now consisted of all of Thomorai except for Kafa Monica) into one huge organization, then formed an elected council to run it. This council eventually decided on one standard system for arranging marriages between scholars (though it determined other parts of their lives as well), which would be used for hundreds of years until the dissolution of the Thomoraii empire. Their system required a great deal of travel (they were hoping to encourage the exchange of ideas this way), which was reasonably easy in the peaceful and prosperous Thomoraii empire. The prosperity of the empire also gave plenty of people the opportunity to become scholars – people with lots of money could support scientists, writers, thinkers and so on that they liked, or they could pay for their own studies. Eventually, however, the Thomoraii empire fell apart after a long war with Unia and Santa Meluna, and the old system had to be given up. But remnants of it are still in use today.

The system

Here, finally, is the system of descent groups and marriage restrictions that was used by Thomoraii scholars in the days of the Thomoraii empire. As far as I can tell, it’s technically a “subsection system” – a societal structure where people are divided into different groups based on their ancestry, and then there are rules about what groups are allowed to intermarry. (The Wikipedia article on Australian Aboriginal kinship, a system which was part of the inspiration for this one, may be enlightening.) However, this kinship system determines a lot more than just who you can marry.

First of all, it determines where you’ll grow up, or at least where you’ll get a degree (I’ll discuss this more later). This place can be one of five Thomoraii islands – Ôbtobâi, Kishmorai, Kakabâi, Piskovǎi, or Alashtian. (There are another two Thomoraii islands, Alaqǎwai and Kafa Monica. But Alaqǎwai had no real scholarly tradition to work with when this system was developed, and Kafa Monica has always been considered thoroughly barbaric by most Thomoraiis.) Secondly, your place in the kinship system determines your general area of study. This can be one of five subjects:

1. Hoipiǎir, or philosophy. Religion, some kinds of psychology, and some branches of linguistics are also included in hoipiǎir – pretty much anything that has to do primarily with the mind, the soul, the heart, and other mushy, invisible, spiritual things.

2. Tôhǎqsiâ, or the study of people, though it’s usually translated as “history”. It includes history, anthropology, genealogy, politics and many other fields primarily studying human beings.

3. Jawâǎqsia, or technology. It includes engineering, physics, some kinds of public administration, and other fields that involve physical, human-created things. Many students of jawâǎqsia were involved in public service projects and the government, and they were also quite popular as advisors to politicians…why they were is a long story.

4. Shǐwinǎqsiǎ, or the study of speaking, though it’s usually translated “literature”. Shǐwinǎqsiǎ includes public speaking, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, and, of course, literature, among other fields.

5. Bêafuǎqsiâ, or natural science. This includes biology, chemistry, astronomy, medicine, etc., though many of the more practical aspects of these sciences were reserved for the lower classes. You would certainly have never found a well-educated Thomoraii scholar doing surgeries, for instance, or raising animals to study them.

And finally, your place in the system decides who you are allowed to marry.

Now how does this kinship system determine all this? Well, when you are born, you’re given what I call a “descent group signature”, which is determined by the descent group signatures of your parents. It has four parts: your future area of study, your same-gender parent’s area of study, the place where you will grow up (or get a degree – again, I’ll explain more later!), and the place where your different-gender parent grew up. Firstly, your future area of study is decided by those of your parents, according to this chart.

Father’s Subject

Mother’s Subject

Hoipiǎir

Tôhǎqsiâ

Jawâǎqsia

Shǐwinǎqsiǎ

Bêafuǎqsiâ

Hoipiǎir

jawâǎqsia

bêafuǎqsiâ

tôhǎqsiâ

shǐwinǎqsiǎ

Tôhǎqsiâ

bêafuǎqsiâ

shǐwinǎqsiǎ

hoipiǎir

jawâǎqsia

Jawâǎqsia

shǐwinǎqsiǎ

hoipiǎir

bêafuǎqsiâ

tôhǎqsiâ

Shǐwinǎqsiǎ

jawâǎqsia

bêafuǎqsiâ

tôhǎqsiâ

hoipiǎir

Bêafuǎqsiâ

tôhǎqsiâ

shǐwinǎqsiǎ

hoipiǎir

jawâǎqsia

(Those blank spaces will be explained later. Trust me.)

So, as the chart shows, your subject of study will always be different from that of your parents. The people who developed this system were hoping to keep families of scholars involved in lots of different areas this way, which would help different ideas and viewpoints to interact.

Then the subject of study of your same-gender parent also becomes part of your signature. So if you were a girl and your mother specialized in shǐwinǎqsiǎ, you’d take that as the second part of your descent group signature. If you were a boy and your father specialized in hoipiǎir, you’d take that as the second part of your signature. It will all…okay, it will mostly make sense later.

The place where you will grow up, much like your future subject of study, is decided by where your parents grew up. Here’s another chart showing how this works.

Father’s Country

Mother’s Country

Ôbtobâi

Kishmorai

Kakabâi

Piskovǎi

Alashtian

Ôbtobâi

Kakabâi

Alashtian

Kishmorai

Piskovǎi

Kishmorai

Alashtian

Piskovǎi

Ôbtobâi

Kakabâi

Kakabâi

Piskovǎi

Ôbtobâi

Alashtian

Kishmorai

Piskovǎi

Kakabâi

Alashtian

Kishmorai

Ôbtobâi

Alashtian

Kishmorai

Piskovǎi

Ôbtobâi

Kakabâi

And then you would also include the place where your opposite-gender parent grew up in your signature. So if you were a girl and your father grew up in Ôbtobâi, you’d have that in your signature.

In the end a girl might have a signature like Hoipiǎir/Jawâǎqsia Kakabâi/Ôbtobâi, showing that her future subject of study is hoipiǎir, her mother’s subject is jawâǎqsia, she will grow up in Kakabâi, and her father grew up in Ôbtobâi. You might put it like this:

My own

My parent’s

Subject

hoipiǎir

jawâǎqsia

Country

Kakabâi

Ôbtobâi

Marriage is then restricted this way: the attributes you took from your parents must be the same as your spouse’s, but your own attributes must be different from your spouse’s. So our girl above must marry a man whose father studied jawâǎqsia just as the girl’s mother did. But the man himself could specialize in shǐwinǎqsiǎ, in tôhǎqsiâ, in bêafuǎqsiâ, or in jawâǎqsia – anything that is not the girl’s own specialty, hoipiǎir. This man’s mother must also have grown up in Ôbtobâi just as the girl’s father did. But he himself could have grown up in Ôbtobâi, or Kishmorai, or Piskovǎi, or Alashtian – anywhere other than Kakabâi, where the girl did.

Why on earth would anybody restrict marriage this way?!

Well, the main idea here is to encourage the interaction of different ideas and areas of study, though this kinship system also has the added benefit of preventing incest. (This is, by the way, one of the main purposes of real-life kinship systems like this one.) This is why you have to marry somebody who studied something different and grew up somewhere different. But the people who developed this system also wanted spouses to work well with each other and be able to understand each other, and they believed that you are best able to understand somebody who came from a similar culture as you. The Thomoraiis who worked this system out figured that most of your personal culture came from your parents, and thus if you married somebody whose parents came from similar backgrounds, there would be a much greater chance of being able to understand and relate to him or her.

But then what about the weird same-gender, different-gender split there? Why not just always, say, take your father’s subject and your mother’s country, instead of having girls take their mother’s subject and boys take their father’s subject and girls take their father’s country and blah blah blah? Let me explain. The Thomoraii developers of this system believed that you have both a “casual culture”, meaning the way you think and act when you are just hanging out and relaxing, and an “academic culture”, which is how you think and act when working, or thinking through a problem, or doing something else brain-intensive. Now in most Thomoraii pledge-marriage-based families of this time, mothers would usually train their daughters and fathers would usually train their sons. All the members of the family would interact with each other, of course, but mothers and daughters, and sons and fathers, would have a more serious, work-focused, and, well, brain-intensive relationship. And so daughters would get most of their academic culture from their mothers, just as sons would get most of their academic culture from their fathers. And then daughters would get more of their casual culture from their fathers, who they had more casual relationships with, and sons would get more of their casual culture from their mothers.

Now these same clever developers of this kinship system also thought that your academic culture was influenced by your educational background as well as your same-gender parent, and that your casual culture was influenced by where you grew up as well as your different-gender parent. So the idea was that your same-gender parent’s academic culture would be strongly influenced by his/her educational background, and that then they would pass that culture on to you, and so you would in the end have an academic culture derived from your same-gender parent’s educational background. And so a spouse whose same-gender parent had the same educational background – e.g. who studied the same subject as your same-gender parent – would naturally have a similar academic culture. Similarly, your different-gender parent’s casual culture would be strongly influenced by the place that s/he grew up, and then they would pass that casual culture on to you, and you would have a casual culture developed from your different-gender parent’s country. And so a spouse whose different-gender parent grew up in the same place as your different-gender parent would have much the same casual culture. See?

Some examples

Let’s look at a few examples of how this kinship system might end up working. First, here’s a chart of a small family and their descent group signatures.

1

In this diagram, men are triangles and women are circles. For each person, I show his/her given name first (e.g. “Surila”), then his/her area of study, a slash, and his/her same-gender parent’s area of study (e.g. “Bêafuǎqsiâ/Tôhǎqsiǎ”), and then the place s/he grew up, a slash, and his/her different-gender parent’s country (e.g. “Alashtian/Kakabâi”). So you can see here how Kulas, a boy, took his father’s area of study but his mother’s country, and how Tibâ, a girl, did the reverse.

Let’s add a few generations and see how that would work out…

2

Now here’s a question. In this system, would you be able to marry your cousin? Let’s add a few people and find out…

3

Aha! See Tibâ and Nǎralǒi down there? (Feel free to click on the diagram to see it larger.) It could work. But if Jâihara had married someone who had studied something different…

4

…it wouldn’t work, since now the second part of Nǎralǒi’s signature, the subject taken from his father, is different from Tibâ’s. So it depends – sometimes you could marry your cousin, sometimes not.

Now here’s a super big diagram that you could study if you want, showing how a large family might end up.

5

Phew! I was really running out of names at the end there.

Numbers, probabilities and how you could possibly find a marriage partner

With any system that restricts marriage like this, it’s enlightening to see how likely you are to find somebody who’s eligible to marry. Let’s crunch some numbers and figure this out. First of all, let’s see how many possible combinations of attributes there can be in somebody’s descent group signature. The first attribute can be one of 5 subjects, then the second attribute, the subject taken from your same-gender parent, came be one of subjects, since it’s impossible for your first and second attributes to be the same. Then the third attribute can be one of 5 countries, and the fourth one of 4 countries, since again it’s impossible for the third and fourth to be the same.

5 x 4 x 5 x 4 = 400, so there are 400 possible combinations of attributes – 400 types of people that could be in this system. Wow.

Now let’s calculate how many possible combinations of attributes a person eligible for marriage could have. The first attribute could be one of 4 subjects, since your potential spouse can’t have the same first attribute as you. Then the second attribute can only be 1 thing – the same as yours. The third attribute could be one of 4 countries, and again the fourth attribute could only be 1 thing.

4 x 1 x 4 x 1 = 16, so there are 16 possible combinations of attributes that a person you could marry could have.

So then out of a pool of 400 different people with all the different combinations of attributes, 16 would be eligible for marriage (not considering gender!), or 4%, or 1 eligible to every 25 ineligible. If you do take gender into account, then only 2% of people would be available to marry, or 1 eligible to every 50 ineligible. Yikes!

How on earth could you ever find someone to marry?!

Here’s how. First of all, as you saw with the charts above, it’s often possible for cousins to marry. So your parents would probably keep track of the descent signatures of any cousins you might have, and if any were eligible for you to marry, they might try to prepare you both to marry each other from when you were young. This was quite common in the Thomoraii empire.

Also, if two friends of opposite genders grew up in the same place, it very often works out for their children to marry each other. Consider Firliǎir and Koslai at the top of the chart below.

6

They both grew up in Kakabâi, and so perhaps they were friends. They had to marry other people, of course, but because Firliǎir and Koslai had different subjects of study, and Firliǎir’s husband specialized in the same subject as Koslai’s wife, and Firliǎir’s husband and Koslai’s wife grew up in different places, their children Amjâi and Surila could marry each other. So your parents might keep tabs on old friends who grew up with them, and then perhaps try to arrange a marriage with any of their children who were eligible to marry you.

So you can see that often a Thomoraii scholar’s parents would be able to find somebody for him or her to marry from a family they already knew. However, they would probably also hire a matchmaker to search for an eligible marriage partner, and then the scholar in question might travel around visiting different people who might work…which encouraged more traveling, which was just fine by the people who developed this system! And so generally it was not too difficult for Thomoraii scholars to find good spouses.

How this system worked in practice

After getting married, if they were planning to have children (and most did), two Thomoraii scholars would generally move to the country that would be their children’s country so they could raise them there. This actually was not required – the country of a person in their descent group signature just says where s/he needs to get his/her degree, not where s/he needs to grow up. (Please do note that an empire-era Thomoraii academic degree was quite a bit different from the type we have on Earth. For instance, your final project was usually collecting a number of books about a very specific subject and then writing what was basically a glorified library catalog of them.) So you could grow up in any random country and then just move to “your” country to get your degree. But most parents chose to raise their children in their children’s country, mostly to make it easier for them when they did eventually study for a degree.

After getting a degree, if a scholar was female, she would probably try to get married right away through her parents, a matchmaker or both. This was because female scholars generally wanted to have children early while they were young and healthy, and then continue on in their studies and their work once their children had grown up. Men, however, generally kept studying and working for a while before seeking out a wife.

Here are some answers to some other questions you might have.

What if you didn’t like the subject decided for you by your descent group signature?

Well, the subject that your signature determines for you is quite broad. There are all kinds of different specialties you could go into within any of those subjects. For instance, take shǐwinǎqsiǎ. If you enjoyed stories, you could study literature. If you hated reading but enjoyed things like math and science, you could study logic. Or jawâǎqsia. If you liked math, you could go into one of the engineering branches of jawâǎqsia. If you hated math but enjoyed interacting with people, you could be involved in public administration. So you still would have a lot of choice. It would probably also help that your parents had been preparing for you to study this subject from before you were born, and that you were always expected to go into it.

That being said, it would still be possible to get a degree in the subject decided for you, then go and get another degree in something else you preferred. Or you could just leave the community of scholars and not get a degree at all.

What if you didn’t want to marry another scholar? E.g. you wanted to marry somebody from a different social class?

You could. But if this person was from a lower class, this would definitely hurt your reputation in the community of Thomoraii scholars, and any children of the marriage would have to re-enter the kinship system on their own (see below). If the person was from a higher class, on the other hand, then your fellow scholars would probably consider it that you were being promoted out of the restrictions of being a scholar and into that higher class – you were leaving the community of scholars and its restrictions for a more prestigious community

What if people outside of the system wanted to become scholars? How would they have joined it?

They would take on just the first and third attributes of a descent group signature – their subject and the place where they got their degree in it. They could then marry any people who had different subjects and places of study, and their children would have normal signatures. Do note that if they got any sorts of degrees from places other than the five places included in this kinship system, Thomoraii scholars wouldn’t consider them proper Thomoraii degrees. Our hypothetical person would have to get another degree in Ôbtobâi, Kishmorai, Kakabâi, Piskovǎi or Alashtian like a good Thomoraii.

Why did people do this to themselves, anyways?

For the high-up scholars who ran the system, it was worthwhile because it helped to encourage the interaction of ideas and established a structure for people to find fellow scholars to marry. For the rank and file, they had to follow the system in order to be part of the scholarly community, which gave them the opportunity to study and have a respected place in society. And many lower-rank scholars believed anyways in the value of forcing people to move around and interact with others in different areas of study.

What happened when the Thomoraii empire fell apart and people couldn’t keep using this system anymore?

At first many scholars still stubbornly tried to stick to their kinship system, but they soon started to relax the rules and eventually gave them up altogether. Many of them had to leave their scholarly pursuits anyways once the empire fell, since they needed to focus all their energy on keeping themselves and their families alive and well. Once Thomorai grew more stable, the scholarly community never revived the old system – it really was too much of a pain.

The system’s impact on society

Just as its founders intended, this crazy kinship system forced different people with different ideas to interact, which helped to generate new ideas and created a strong synthesis of learning. The scholarly community in the Thomoraii empire was incredibly prolific, doing huge amounts of research and producing many significant theories and ideas, and this kinship system probably contributed to its success. More practically, the system aided in the formation of a standard scholarly dialect of Thomoraii, which was used in the administration of the empire’s government and in trade all over Thomorai. This kinship system also made the scholarly class seem more exclusive and prestigious, which helped to give it more power. Today, this kinship system is no longer used, but scholars are still highly respected (thought many more Thomoraiis are educated these days – the scholarly class is much less exclusive than it used to be). Thomorai is still a center of education and research, drawing scholars from all over Sheesania. And a descendant of that scholarly dialect of Thomoraii is still used today as a lingua franca in Thomorai and parts of Fircudia.

There’s one more mark this kinship system has left on modern Thomorai. You see, scholars in the Thomoraii empire used to cite each other in their books and articles using each other’s names and descent group signatures, as Thomoraii names by themselves generally aren’t enough to identify one specific person. Today scholars still cite each other using a modified form of a descent signature. For instance, in the novel I’m currently writing, my academic protagonist puts this in at one point in a formal report:

…See Thesolaî Hualai H. Ô. Ô. pub. 13 “Silence in Traditional Thomoraii Religion”.

Thesolaî Hualai is the man’s name, and H. Ô. Ô. is an abbreviation for “Hoipiǎir Ôbtobâi Ôbtobâi”, showing that his field is hoipiǎir, he got his degree in Ôbtobâi, and his mother was from Ôbtobâi. The second attribute, the same-gender parent’s subject, is gone, and the fourth attribute now only indicates where your different-gender parent was from, not where s/he got his/her degree. But it’s still based on the descent group signatures of the old kinship system.

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