Why do we get married part 2, Better Advice: We Dig Into the History and Reasons of 'Why'
Updated: Apr 4, 2020
What is Marriage? And how did our 1950's ideal of marriage overshadow a much different truth to it's actual history? Over the past 10,000 years, what has marriage really been about? AND what does marriage look like today?
So I started my research. The findings were surprising: while every type of marriage we could think of ALREADY existed in a similar fashion previously, and a few others you might find hard to believe, socially the wider view of WHY we marry today in the 21st century is completely different to our timeline of the past.
Where marriage was once a necessity brought on for different reasons, it has now become something much different. And as such, fewer people are now choosing to marry.
Also surprising, the Western ideal of marriage is continuing to spread globally with some unintended and potentially dangerous consequences.
In this 3 part series we look at the very idea of marriage and the lost meanings behind it. We'll unravel a wedding tapestry of what marriage was, is, and where it might be going tomorrow. We'll look at the big moments in western history that changed our global view of marriage today, and we'll close this series with a recent experience in Mexico that unlocks a hidden truth. A realization lost in space.
WELCOME TO BETTER ADVICE.
Welcome to "Better Advice." In this new series we'll bake a deliciously layered mind cake filled with historical facts, trusted philosophies, my best friend science, real life experiences and ZERO hydrogenated fats - you know, the bad stuff that will kill you. It's a new blog format providing insights from a variety of sources and perspectives. The goal of this series is to dig deeper into the WHY, in a way that's educational AND fun. We'll provide some of the lessor known histories and stories we don't read every day, and we'll back it up with historical facts, fresh perspectives and of course, no preservatives.
As mentioned above, last week we also introduced a new term to the blogging lexicon - MIND CAKE! Oxford Dictionary hasn't called just yet. But anything is possible.
And now, time for Part 2 of our story...
In Part 1 we looked at the first known recorded ancient Egyptian marriage, Yuval Harari's interpretations of Sapiens and early companionship, the fraud of the Agricultural Revolution, the Naskapi Indians unique perspective of children, and how cooperating nomadic tribes transformed into competing family structures within cities once the Agricultural Revolution was in full bloom. Marriage, it turned out, was Darwinian in nature, with the strongest and most well defended ideas flourishing and evolving.
Part 1 also included these interesting facts on marriage within the Anglo-Saxon period of 410 to 1066 AD:
The lost definition of 'wife' as peace weaver.
Marriage predominantly was NOT something one did for love. It was far too valuable for something so trivial.
Marriage was actually about securing family ties. Parents played a major role in deciding marriages across all status levels - poor, middle class and the rich.
It simply took an informal 'I DO' anywhere, without a priest to get married. Insert roadside weddings here.
Marriages could take place virtually anywhere without a priest or any church or state involvement causing a lot of paperwork issues if things didn't work out.
And then finally an increasing influence of the Catholic Church in marriage. How people got married started to get formalized after 1066 AD.
In Part 2 of this 3 part mini series we'll look at:
The Rock Band POWER of the Catholic Church in marriage.
How Spring Cleaning started the Renaissance.
Ancient Greek ideas that may TOTALLY surprise you & are STILL in use today.
The impacts of the Renaissance on marriage today. And TWO major inventions.
How the Reformation & Enlightenment created the Woman's Rights Movement.
The Wild West Movement underway & Our New Ideas of Marriage.
Think of Part 2 today as the Empire Strikes Back addition. Things will get ugly. Sure it's the episode where Han and Leia kiss and a young Jedi starts his training, but in the process Luke looses his hand, finds out Vader is his father, Solo is frozen in carbonite, and the Rebel Alliance is almost wiped out.
Vader is taking no prisoners in this addition, so be sure to clean your room before reading this blog ...or there could be trouble.
**Cultural Blog Disclaimer!** Note: Our research in this 3 part series focuses on Western Culture, i.e. European and North American, for two very important reasons:
1. Whether you agree with it or not, Western Cultural ideals have been spreading globally for the past 500 years following colonization to 'new worlds' by europeans and now through North American and European soft power sources of news media, Hollywood films and tv, and the internet. So it's an important place to start in understanding global trends of today and potentially tomorrow.
2. My old english professor Mrs. Pain, yes that was her real name!, once said "Write what you know, and the rest will follow." Admittedly there are rich and equally ancient cultural meanings of marriage in Indian, Asian and Native cultures globally. But I grew up to humble Croatian immigrant parents in Western Canada, so I was surrounded with these versions of Western traditions for marriage. So that's what I know and that's the approach we're taking. And you can't argue with an English Professor if her name is Mrs. Pain! Mrs Pain, you rock by the way. The world needs more teachers like you.
Back to our story. Let's get started with a very big question:
What transformative events in Western Culture changed our view on marriage?**
Following the fun and free wheeling times of the Anglo-Saxon 410 to 1066 period where all you needed was a hammer and nails to let the church and town know you'd been married, a growing force in the galaxy was taking hold....
The Gospel of Matthew in the Lindisfarne Gospels from 700 A.D. A really ridiculously old book from Anglo-Saxon times.
THE RENAISSANCE ROCK BAND
The story of the 14th and 15th century renaissance is really a story about sex, drugs and rock and roll. And if you replace drugs and rock'n roll with power, control and stealing someone else's idea, you'd be correct. But it all certainly didn't start that way. Noble ideas and new found techniques in science and art somehow unfortunately led to - yup you guessed it - more power and control by a now rocking and rolling Catholic Church.
Surprisingly, the renaissance was not so much about new ideas, but rather it was a realization that some of the biggest and greatest ideas and philosophies had been almost completely forgotten. Insert Greek textbooks here. And imagine if you will, some Italian dusting off an old box filled with brilliant ideas over 1000 years old. At that moment, the early stages of the renaissance was born.
Yes you heard it here first: spring cleaning actually started the Renaissance - well sort of. Maybe biology is the answer
Ancient Greek philosophies were in fact an early incubator to concepts that we still harvest and grow with today. Ideas on cornerstone topics of existence, life's meaning, where we come from, and why were are here, were all formally discussed and documented by the Greeks. Sealed and preserved for future generations.
To be fair, it is possible the ancient peoples of Sumaria discussed some of these topics much earlier than the Greeks, but as far as we can tell the Greeks were the first to actually setup Universities based on these concepts. And many of the topics discussed are still relevant today.
"War"-panel of the Standard of Ur, c. 2600 BC, showing parading men, animals and chariots
So, here's a Greek philosopher short list of some of those top minds, and their many influences:
Pythagoras: Tired of all that math homework that calculates the length of a triangle? Well you can thank Pythagoras for it. His political and religious teachings were well-known in Magna Graecia and influenced the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and, through them, Western philosophy. From painting a wall, to buying a suitcase, Pythagoras's equations are still used today. Even more interesting, Pythagoras believed that woman should be taught in school alongside men. Unfortunately this one obvious today but revolutionary idea was not picked up during the Renaissance.
Illustration from 1913 showing Pythagoras teaching a class of women. Many prominent members of his school were women, and some modern scholars think that he may have believed that women should be taught philosophy as well as men.
Plato: Plato was a philosopher in Classical Greece and the founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. In Eckhart Tolle's Oprah recommended book A New Earth, Eckhart discusses a seemingly new idea - that us humans are all part of a greater whole and from a SINGLE source. But this concept was actually first introduced by Plato in 400 BC. Plato also believed in the abolishment of traditional marriage between Man and Woman as it reduced maximizing eudaemonia, i.e. reaching ones maximum potential, because of the confines created through marriage.
Aristotle: Considered the "Father of Western Philosophy", which inherited almost its entire lexicon from his teachings, including problems and methods of inquiry, so influencing almost all forms of knowledge. Did you know Aristotle, who was an understudy and eventual good friend of Plato, actually turned down the Directorship position of Plato's Academy after Plato's death? Turns out they didn't agree on everything. Later Aristotle would open his own Academy and introduced the walking lecture, where students were forced to walk behind Aristotle who preferred to walk during his classes.
Actual School of Aristotle in Mieza, Macedonia, Greece.
Parmenides: The frontrunner of Biocentrism before we even knew what it was. In "the way of opinion", he explains the world of appearances, in which one's sensory faculties lead to conceptions which are false and deceitful. Take our vision for instance. The human eye can see only a small faction of the spectrum available for view. What would our perception of reality be like if we could see x-rays, radio waves, gamma waves or microwaves? Our view of life and ourselves would like be different. As such, Parmenides is considered to be the founder of metaphysics or ontology, which explores the nature of being, existence, and reality. Some ancient ideas we're still working on today.
The School of Athens by Rafael. Painted as a fresco in the Vatican in 1511. A romanticized view with Plato and Aristotle in the middle. Cave sold separately.
These 'borrowed' Greek ideas took hold again culturally during the height of the renaissance, but there were two other game changing elements in play.
The Printing Press + Renaissance ART = Ideas for the masses
HOW information was communicated allowed the transfer of knowledge to reach and educate cultures in the masses.
THE PRINTING PRESS
For the first time, the printing press allowed ideas to be shared and read by wider audiences. Books that were once only reserved for the wealthy now began to trickle down to the poor thanks to an advancement in printing techniques.
"Sometime in the 13th century, paper money and playing cards from China reached the West. They were "block-printed," that is, characters or pictures were carved into a wooden block, inked, and then transferred to paper. Since each word, phrase or picture was on a separate block, this method of reproduction was expensive and time-consuming."
By the middle of the 15th century printing masters found a way to help circulate books in cheaper and faster ways. The printing press was born. And so was the mass production and circulation of Bibles and other religious materials to start.
Recreated Gutenberg press at the International Printing Museum, Carson, California. And some guy who is probably an expert in mid-sentence.
In fact, the first book ever mass produced was the Gutenburg Bible. This two volume series used small movable metal type faces which allowed for information to easily be adjusted for prints, revisions and reprints. And while the technology was intended to be kept a secret, the idea was 'borrowed' across Western Europe.
Gutenberg Bible of the New York Public Library.
So, what started as educational religious materials soon quickly spread to all types of knowledge areas:
"Although most of the earliest books dealt with religious subjects, students, businessmen, and upper and middle class people bought books on all subjects. Printers responded with moralizing, medical, practical and travel manuals. Printing provided a superior basis for scholarship and prevented the further corruption of texts through hand copying. By giving all scholars the same text to work from, it made progress in critical scholarship and science faster and more reliable."
As such the birth of MASS INFORMATION was born.
Ideas localized in one place could now be produced and spread quickly through books. And as ideas spread, so too did culture and notions of social rules. Moving from single sources of information, such as the church, to multiple sources such as literature on science. And slowly, a levelling of the information playing field took shape.
But, this spreading of ideas was an evolution which would take time. And the Vatican Church was not about to go quietly. They had acquired another tool up their gold encrusted sleeves to slow the growing influence of information from other sources.
Former Pope Francis with former President of the United States George Bush Jr. A modern day view of the power and influence of the Vatican and Roman Catholic Church.
ART AND POWER IN THE RENAISSANCE
Hollywood actors didn't exist in the 14th and 15th century but something almost equivalent did - The Renaissance Artist. Leveraging the talents of the greatest artists of their time, the Catholic Church understood that if they could control the messages coming from the Superstar Artists brush, they could build on the churches already growing power in Western Europe. And invest they did.
The Ghent Altarpiece: The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (interior view), painted 1432 by van Eyck. Considered one of the world's treasures in Renaissance art.
According to TIME magazine, in a recent article on the Roman Catholic Churches wealth, the prolific commissioning of art became not just a tool for communication, it also helped create staggering wealth for the Vatican. A wealth that would be redistributed into a variety of different industries:
"Bankers' best guesses about the Vatican's wealth put it at $10 billion to $15 billion. Of this wealth, Italian stockholdings alone run to $1.6 billion, 15% of the value of listed shares on the Italian market. The Vatican has big investments in banking, insurance, chemicals, steel, construction, real estate."
THE ARTIST + PILGRIMS = IF YOU BUILD IT THEY WILL COME
New techniques in oil painting and frescos allowed art to not just be painted, but to stand the test of the season. Commissioned works became the standard of new Pope's as a way for them to strengthen the power of Rome and leave their legacy while still preserving and spreading the churches message.
"Though Rome had agricultural strength, it was not a commercial or banking center. The prosperity of the papacy depended, therefore, on its home markets, which was comprised of thousands of church bureaucrats and visiting pilgrims. More than 100,000 pilgrims flooded the city in some Jubilee years. (These special years, when one could receive a full pardon for sins during a visit to Rome, occurred once every twenty-five years, starting with the reign of Pope Paul II [r. 1464–71].) To secure Rome and its Papal States—the territories that the papacy controlled in central and northern Italy and southern France—popes became heavily involved in temporal matters, even leading armies, as was the case with the very worldly Pope Julius II (r. 1503–13)."
"During these years, popes strove to make Rome the capital of Christendom while projecting it, through art, architecture, and literature, as the center of a Golden Age of unity, order, and peace"
THE RENAISSANCE MAN?
Advances in techniques in artwork, perspective, structure, created almost 3D images on 2D surfaces never seen before. The artists who mastered these abilities, were seen as geniuses. Or if you will, as the Kanye Wests of their time - but in a good way. And none of them, as far as anyone can tell, badmouthed Taylor Swift in the process or thoroughly confused a nation watching Ellen DeGeneres.
Note: I was going to link to the video where Kanye West takes the mic away from Taylor Swift and tells the world Beyonce should have won...but then I saw this video...and well, see for yourself.
"But enough about Kanye!" Woah. I never thought I would actually write that in one of my blogs. If you'd like a more relevant, highly informative, but unfortunately slightly annoying three minute music video created on the Renaissance see below:
When hipsters teach history: https://www.history.com/topics/renaissance-art
OK THIS IS ALL GREAT - BUT WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO IT MARRIAGE?
As the church attempted to squeeze its rules into the foundations of every day life, new ideas formed that would lead to the enlightenment movement and our modern day views of marriage. In the end a striking conclusion took place:
Science found love, and eventually made it a priority in marriage
Advances in geography, astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, manufacturing, anatomy and engineering all became important elements of the Scientific Renaissance.
The art of this period also mirrored not only religious messages, myths and decrees, but also scientific ones. Artists such as Brunelleschi, Rafael, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Jan van Eyck did not just conform to religious notions of the time, they challenged them.
Leonardo's study of a foetus in the womb (c. 1510) Royal Library, Windsor Castle
A revolution was growing. A scientific one. But the Roman Catholic church was ready to battle it out. Insert The Council of Trent.
With advances in science also came a strengthening of power by the Catholic Church. Add in the ball buster decree: The Council of Trent. Canons 1 - 12 were some ridiculously long winded rules that highlighted in detail what marriage was, what it wasn't and how it should be done.
The Council of Trent = Formal religious marriage RULES were officially born. So was the modern day bureaucracy
The Council, depicted by Pasquale Cati (Cati da Iesi)
More so, the Council of Trent forbid hidden, private or secretive marriages, also known as a clandestine marriage. The church now HAD to know if you were getting married. It was not just a Holy Sacrament, it was religious law.
So guess what happened...
THE FIRST MIDDLE FINGER OF RENAISSANCE ART
So, what would any talented and slightly rebellious painter of the time do with such heavy handed rules? Well, you guessed it, they'd raise their middle finger at it, and make it publicly known.
In Jan van Eyck's famous portrait the Arnolfini Marriage, we bare witness to a very forbidden clandestine marriage in action. This apparent double self portrait of a wealthy and well known merchant, and his soon to be upper crust wife holding hands in a wedding ceremony is seen by many historians as the documented proof of marriage without the approval, consent or awareness of the catholic church. And to paint a picture of it for the world to see, was well, rebellious to say the least.
Van Eyck - Arnolfini Portrait. 1434. Oil on oak panel of 3 vertical boards
To have a clandestine marriage was sinful enough. To paint and exquisite peace of revolutionary art on the topic was shear blasphemy in the making.
As such, this world famous painting in the National Museum of London may be one of the best middle finger examples of artwork from the renaissance. Ironically this counter culture work created at the height of the Vatican's power, along the many hidden and reinterpreted meanings of the painting, caused it to become one of the most celebrated and talked about portraits of all time.
The Arnolfini Marriage portrait by Jan van Eyck was a middle finger to growing control of the Roman Catholic Church and their rules of marriage.
Curiously, Jan van Eyck also added his signature at the top of the portrait signing it "Jan Van Eyck was Here." Not something you'd typically see an artist do at the time, if ever. This signature to many gave additional proof that the painter was poking fun at the rules of the Church, and thus signing the painting as a form of legal documentation. Yup, Eyck was there, and he was the witness.
FINAL SCORE Jan van Eyck: 1 - Roman Catholic Church: 0
SOMEONE GET A NEW RULER
While Jan van Eyck was poking fun at the Catholic Church another artist and inventor was taking on even bigger ideas. Leonardo Da Vinci, inventor, artist and futurist of his time, helped develop or at least build on the idea that 'Man' was actually the measure of all things. Not kingdoms, gods or the Church.
Leonardo Da Vinci challenged the Catholic Church in their beliefs that God was at the centre, and instead placed man there. A new ruler, in more ways than one, was born. Science was unravelling the nature of the world around us and the very make up, the anatomy of humans itself.
Thus for the first time publicly, at a social scale, the sacred institutions were open for some level of debate. But more time would pass until these ideas fully opened and changed the way we viewed marriage.
Before we go further, lets do a bit of a baseline on what women's rights were during this time in Western Europe. Lets just say it wasn't great.
WARNING: Entering the darker side of the Renaissance. Black masks and new hands not included.
THE BAD NEWS - LIMITED RIGHTS FOR WOMEN
While all this great philosophical talk was taking place a stark reality remained during the 1500's and 1600's - and that was the right of women. Here are some of the startling rights of women during this time:
Women were only allowed to learn basic knowledge, once basic knowledge was learned they were no longer allowed to attend school. Exceptions included being born of a wealthy family.
If parents gave permission, girls were allowed to marry at the young age of 12.
Women were considered property if they were born into wealthy elite families. So being born rich might have actually provided you with less rights.
Women COULD own property and did work alongside men in business, and in harvesting their fields.
Theft of money or property was considered a more serious crime than rape.
Women were required to bring a dowry to the marriage. A dowry is a small amount of money or goods.
Child birth death, as in infant mortality was a staggering 10% so women were expected to have many children during this time.
Women could NOT live with a man or have sex unless they were married.
MORE BAD NEWS
In addition, the laws around woman were strict and limiting during the 15th and 16th centuries:
While women could work in some businesses and industries, they were not allowed into most major professions such as law, medicine, or politics.
Women were able to write works of literature. Providing the subject was suitable for women, but they this work was mainly translations or religious works.
Some women perused art, such as Levina Teerlinc.
Women were not allowed to ACT on the public stage.
Women were not allowed to WRITE for the public stage.
Acting was considered dishonorable for women in that time. Women finally appeared on stage in England in the seventeenth century.
Roles of women in plays were played by boys since there voices weren't fully matured.
Women, regardless of social position, were not allowed to vote.
Women could not inherit their fathers title's. With one exception - the crown could be passed down to the daughter, and that daughter would be invested with all the power and Majesty of any king.
Women could also be heiress to property, and some women, especially if they were the only child of a great noble man, could be very affluent heiresses.
The miniature artwork of Levina Teerlinc
The rights of women was limited. Something needed to give. And it did.
THE ENLIGHTENMENT - A BALANCE OF POWER
An important deconstruction of culture, values and myths was about to take place. Following The Reformation which saw a reduction of power and beliefs in the Catholic church, 18th century Europe opened its mind to question all things. The Enlightenment was born, unintentionally changing what modern marriage would become through a new and powerful voice. This was a time not just for male philosophers, but for female minds too. A cultural awakening was slowly unfolding. One that demanded equal rights for women.
The evolution of marriage was caused by one thing: A Balance of Power. Or in other words, more rights and powers to women.
For the first time during the 18th century debating societies welcomed women to speak publicly about their concerns and about their lack of rights. Women were also writing and publishing books on a variety of topics. A women's rights movement was born.
First page of Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen. was written on 5 September in 1791by French activist, feminist, and playwright Olympe de Gouges
Need to brush up on your favourite female authors of the Enlightenment? I'm glad you asked!
Major Female Authors from the 17th - 18th Centuries:
Fanny Burney, 1752-1840.
Elizabeth Carter, 1717-1806.
Elizabeth Robinson Montagu, 1720-1800.
Hester Lynch Thrale Piozzi, 1741-1821.
Sarah Scott, 1723-1795.
Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797.
Portrait of future femme du général Alexandre d'Arblay (elle n'épouse cet émigré français qu'en 1793), Frances, alias 'Fanny' Burney (1752-1840), British writer, par son frère.
So, while we've all likely heard of THESE names during that time - Locke, Newton, Voltaire, Kant, Paine - we probably and collectively don't know much about the lost women of the Enlightenment.
The 'other' Brilliant minds of the Enlightenment:
Marie Paulze Lavoisier (1758-1836)
Caroline Herschel (1750-1848)
Mary Somerville (1780-1872)
Anne Conway (1631-79)
Margaret Cavendish (1623-73)
Sophie Germain (1776-1831)
Maria Sybilla Merian (1647-1717)
Portrait of M. and Mme Lavoisier, by Jacques-Louis David, 1788 (Metropolitan
To be fair, LOST sounds a bit harsh. But forgotten might not be. Ask yourself how many of these names above have you heard of before? How many of these great female minds have you seen referenced in your High School or University textbooks? We should ask ourselves why these names are also not referenced more often in modern day popular culture, covering their contributions and achievements?
But before we get down on ourselves on what still hasn't changed in our modern world, lets focus on the good news and what HAS changed.
A pendulum in motion tends to stay in motion. And the balance of power is still in play. While we haven't equalized that power just yet, much has changed in the world of marriage.
Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurstcampaigning for women's suffrage.
A NEW SOCIAL ORDER IS BORN
We all know what eventually happened next. First in Western Cultures, the women's rights movement grew empowering women with free will to choose who they married, what education they received, and what they did for a living. The right not just to vote but to run their nations highest office became not an exception or possibility but a new political standard. If the wife before was a peace-weaver, forced into marriages to appease and build family ties and security, what was a wife now? And why was the wife choosing to marry?