Ah marriage the union of two people coming together in love, combining families and to begin a new journey in their lives. Marriage is a very old and traditional aspect of our society its a ritual that tells the world “Hey, I’m in a commitment with this person”. However marriage like everything else has a history and marriage as it is seen to do wasn’t always about the love between bride and groom.
Marriage can traced to many ancients civilization like Mesopotamia. In this society marriages were arranged by the parents of both the bride and groom but mostly the father made the decision. A young female was considered fit for marriage as soon a she began her menstrual cycle; that is a bit young if you ask me. The groom then paid for the maiden’s hand and if the marriage did not produce children or if the wife died, the money had to be returned to the groom. The husband was allowed to keep a concubine, apart from the wife. But the position of a concubine was never equal to that of a wife. She always had an inferior status. So here in this archaic society we see that the institution of marriage is not about love and romance which won’t be introduce til the Middle Ages in Europe.
Now in biblical times marriage was also arranged as well, this is taken from Bible History
In the ancient Near East betrothal took place before the actual marriage and it was considered as binding as marriage. In ancient Israel a woman who was betrothed was considered the “wife” of the man she was betrothed to, and she was bound to be faithful. The betrothal (kiddushin) period lasted usually 6 months and sometimes 1 year, and it was a binding promise between the bridegroom and bride to marry. Deuteronomy 20:7 mentions the betrothal, stating that a man is exempt from military duty if he is betrothed. Once a woman was betrothed she was considered already married, and if she had sexual intercourse during this period she was considered an adulterer and was to be stoned to death. If she was not caught in the actual act and was found not to be a virgin, the husband could dissolve the marriage quietly and sign a bill of divorce. According to the civil law the virgin was purchased for a certain sum of money, this was paid to the bride’s father. Later in Israel’s history she was given a gold ring, or some other valuable thing, and the bridegroom would declare, “See by this ring (or token) thou art set apart unto me, according to the law of Moses and of Israel.” Many times the betrothed woman would not see her betrothed husband until the marriage ceremony began.
So here in the time of ancient Israel, the chosen people of God had laws of marriage. A woman nor her future husband had no clue to what their spouse even looked like. When is comes to premarital sex is was considered sinful and punishable by death especially if you were a woman. I noticed that in the Bible when it does speak of chastity there is a big focus on a woman’s sexuality like in the paragraph above. In the Middle Ages is when the idea of chivalry starts to form. Chivalry is a code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood which developed between 1170 and 1220. When examining medieval literature, chivalry can be classified into three basic but overlapping area.
- Duties to countrymen and fellow Christians: this contains virtues such as mercy, courage, valor, fairness, protection of the weak and the poor, and in the servant-hood of the knight to his lord. This also brings with it the idea of being willing to give one’s life for another; whether he would be giving his life for a poor man or his lord.
- Duties to God: this would contain being faithful to God, protecting the innocent, being faithful to the church, being the champion of good against evil, being generous and obeying God above the feudal lord.
- Duties to women: this is probably the most familiar aspect of chivalry. This would contain what is often called courtly love, the idea that the knight is to serve a lady, and after her all other ladies. Most especially in this category is a general gentleness and graciousness to all women
In other words, medieval literature was the romance novels of the time. Now as the ages roll on customs and traditions either change or stay the same. I brought this book from Walmart called The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs & Symbols and I had found it very helpful when writing my blog post or poetry. So in part nine of the book title Rites and rituals, customs and observances there is a section on Marriage and goes on to briefly talk about marriage and weddings in ancient times verses today. It mentions that the word ‘harlot’ originally meant the same as ‘shrine prostitute’ which for the ancient cultures of Greek,India, Egypt and the Orient there were temples of sacred prostitution which was part of fertility ritual so in other word’s a harlot was a holy woman. Now the symbolism of the veil represents the removal of a woman’s virginity and her introduction to a new state of being. The cutting of the cake is a phallic symbol and the ring is a symbol of eternity. Now why is there in a wedding ceremony so many allusions to the groom taking a woman’s virginity? its practically screaming ” He got first taste of the cherry” . So much focus on a woman’s sexuality that it makes my head hurt.
Marriage today is more about romance and of course a woman making it her special day from the dress to the wedding reception – weddings can cost you a lot of money. Also in this modern day and age gays and lesbians are pushing for legalizing marriage which has cause much debate from ‘Gays are redefining the tradition of marriage’ to ‘Gay parenting’ . Premarital sex & just sex in general is also a big deal along with the redefining of traditional roles of men and woman. I would end this just by saying every culture and religion and civilization has gone through a major change that has either help them prosper or aided in their downfall and what effect does this debate on which form of marriage is right will have on the future of our society?
More on Marriage History, Traditions & Customs