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Marriage

Confucian Practices in the Han Dynasty

Confucian Practices in the Han Dynasty

Confucianism impacted the lives of Han people in many ways, but mainly through the practices such as marital expectations, rituals and inheritance laws. Coupled with the booming economy and technology during the Han Dynasty, the lifestyles of the Han Chinese were nothing like previous dynasties had experienced before. This blog delves further into certain key Confucian practices that the Han Chinese carried out in their times…

EROTIC, CHAOTIC, DRAMATIC

We bet you’ve all heard of Zeus, even if you may not know exactly who he is. Well, if you already knew who Zeus is, you’re still in for a treat because the number of people he slept with and the measures he took to achieve his amorous desires will serve as an eye-opener for you!

WHO ON EARTH IS ZEUS?

Well, technically, he isn’t on earth because he is the Greek god of sky! Not only that, he also ruled as the King of the Olympus gods after disposing his father, Cronus. Zeus was seen as unfaithful as he was notorious for sleeping around. However, most of his romantic pursuits weren’t consensual. He had the habit of transforming himself into animals to rape the women he was attracted to!

Statue of Zeus. By Riccardo Botta / EyeEm via Getty Images

THE SEVEN OFFICIAL MARRIAGES

Zeus’ official wife and queen was his sister, Hera, the goddess of marriage. He succeeded in bestowing that title upon her when he violated her in his real form after disguising himself as an injured cuckoo to receive Hera’s pity. Truly embarrassed by this incident, Hera had no choice but to wed Zeus to mask her shame.

Hera was notorious for her jealous and vengeful nature (also known as Hera’s wrath). She was always seen meddling in Zeus’ countless affairs and exacting revenge on her love rivals. In fact, Hephaestus, one of Hera's offspring, was her virgin-born child whom she bore in a fit of anger as she could not stand watching Zeus sleep around with other women!

Greek Gods Zeus and Hera were the rulers of Olympus. Their roman equivalents are Jupiter and Juno, By Cristian Baitg via Getty Images

Zeus’ first wife, Metis, the goddess of wisdom did not share a long union with him. Threatened by the knowledge of being overthrown by a second child, Zeus tricked Metis into turning herself into a fly and swallowed her before the birth of their firstborn, Athena. Nine months after swallowing Metis, Zeus had a terrible headache and ordered to have his forehead split open with an axe, from which Athena sprang out. (“The Goddess Athena”, loc. 16-19) Fun fact: Zeus became wiser after swallowing Metis and it was said that the goddess of wisdom was giving him advice from his tummy!

After Zeus’ marriage with Metis ended with her in his stomach, he married Themis and they had several children. Zeus also fathered the Three Graces with his third wife, Eurynome.

Zeus wanted it all, family or not. In fact, before Zeus wedded Hera, the sister he was first attracted to was Demeter! Despite Demeter’s resistance, Zeus successfully violated her by disguising himself as a bull. Zeus’ next wife was his aunt, Mnemosyne, who gave birth to the nine Muses after she slept with him for nine solid nights.

Zeus wedded Hera while his sixth wife, Leto, was pregnant with his child. Hera was incredibly jealous of Leto hence she gave Leto an incredibly hard time during her pregnancy. Thankfully, Leto managed to birth two children who grew up fast and protected their mother.

THE AFFAIRS

Aside from his marriages, Zeus had numerous affairs as well. In fact, he also slept with our Mother Earth, Gaia! Gaia was his grandmother and they bore two children together.

Zeus’ taste in women was far from exclusive. Divine or mortal, Zeus was unstoppable (imagine Hera’s rage). Zeus had an affair with a mortal woman, Semele, and when Hera came to know of this affair, she disguised herself before Semele and convinced her to ask Zeus to present himself in the same grandeur that he would before Hera. Zeus granted Semele’s wish although it meant her death as she was a mortal incapable of withstanding the grandeur in which Zeus appeared. 

Hera’s wrath also extended to another mortal whom Zeus had an affair with — Io, who was well-known for her long persecution by Hera. Zeus seduced Io under a cloud to prevent Hera from finding out. Fun fact: Io was a priestess at one of Hera’s temples so if Zeus and Io were caught red-handed in bed, Io would be damned! Zeus turned Io into a cow before Hera confronted him about the two of them. However, he was outsmarted by Hera as she knew that the cow was Io and demanded Zeus to gift it to her. When Zeus asked for Io to be delivered back to him, Hera sent a gadfly (no, not Socrates!) to chase after Io who was still in her cow form. Io ultimately escaped the clutches of Hera and the gadfly at Nile, where she transformed back to human form and gave birth to Zeus’ son.

The famous Helen of Troy was also fathered by Zeus when he visited Leda in the form of a swan which resulted in Leda giving birth to an egg from which came Helen and her twin, Clytemnestra. However, the exact paternity of Helen and Clytemnestra was questionable as Leda slept with a mortal man shortly after she was visited by Zeus. Leda also had another pair of twins who were supposedly fathered by the mortal man. Well, they didn't have the technology to run a DNA test back then!

 

THE MALE LOVER

Homosexuality wasn’t uncommon among the Greeks as we’ve discussed in class. Zeus’ erotic escapades certainly weren’t restricted to the female gender only! He was attracted to Ganymede, a Troy Prince and had him abducted to Olympus to serve as a cupbearer to the gods. Although not many cultures today approve of such behaviour, the Greeks practiced pederastyAs such, even though Zeus was perceived as being lustful and lecherous by raping women repeatedly, he assumed a more mature and responsible role of a mentor when he introduced an innocent boy into the ways of adult society. *Click here for more information on pederasty!

Zeus’ amorous escapades were difficult to track. Apart from his numerous erotic and incestuous relationships, he also had many children whose mothers were unknown, hence the genealogy of the gods could be really confusing and baffling! Oh well, guess we just have to . . .

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The Big Fat Indian Wedding!!!

In the previous blog we talked about the rites and rituals at the birth of the child. In this blog, we will talk about the Hindu marriage rituals. “Marriages are made in heaven” is one of the most common proverb said in India during marriages. Since ages marriage in Hinduism is considered as a very pure and pious union of the mind and soul of two individuals not only for a lifetime but might stretch up to seven lifetimes. Marriage also called the Vivaah Sanskar is a step from the first stage of a person’s life which he or she devotes to learning and education, to the second stage of life, devoted to having a household with their family. The married couple has to follow Dharma, doing all the right deeds; Artha, the way of acquiring money for their family for a living and Karma or Kama, how they end up fulfilling their natural longings. In Vedic scriptures, marriage is a ceremony with strong moral and ethical values with various steps and rituals involved in it. According to the Hindu culture, there are thirteen steps involved in this ceremony:-

Vara Satkaarah (Welcoming the Groom And his family) - It is the welcoming of the groom, his family and friends at the entrance of the wedding venue by the bride’s family with Aarati, Sweets, Garlands and tilak of vermilion and turmeric powder. This ceremony signifies the importance of shaping strong family bonds as the counterparts of each family meet and greet each other over Milni offerings.

Madhuparka Ceremony – The bride’s father bestows the groom with presents at the altar (mandap).

Kanya Dan (giving away of the bride) – Kanya’ means daughter and ‘daan’ means giving away. This is an important ritual in a Hindu ceremony, the bride’s father happily approves of giving away his daughter to the groom in the presence of relatives and the loved ones. The priest chants the mantras (in the Rig veda) and the father puts his daughter’s hand over the groom’s hands to willingly approve her of being the groom’s better half also called ‘ardhangani’.

Vivah-Homa (sacred fire ceremony) - This sacred fire serves as a witness of the nature signifying that all auspicious events of the marriage will begin in front of the fire God, Agni.

Pani-Grahan (acceptance of the hand) – The bride keeps her right hand on top of the grooms left hand, accepting her as his legally wedded wife.

Pratigna-Karan - The couple walks around the fire with the bride leading the groom making solemn vows of life-long trust, love and faithfulness to each other.

Shila Arohan - The bride is asked to step on a stone by her mother, where the mother advices her daughter for the new beginning in her new life. The stone signifies strength and trust. A married couple is likely to face certain ups and downs, prosperity, joy, sorrow, etc. during the course of their life. Despite of all the difficulties they face they are entitled to remain dedicated and true to each other. The bride has to place her right foot on the stone, while the priest chants a Mantra from the Atharva Veda.

Laja-Homah – Laja means parched rice or popcorn. The bride and groom offer rice into the sacred fire with the brides hand laid on top of the groom three times making promises to God for the bond they are going to share.

Parikrama or Pradakshina or Mangal Fera (circumambulation of the sacred fire) - This is an auspicious and important part of the marriage ceremony. The couple has to take seven circles around the sacred fire. This signifies that the marriage will be legalized according to the Hindu Marriage Act as well as the Hindu customs because they have eye-witnesses for the rounds that the bride and groom take. In this the bride’s parents ties a knot from one end of the groom's stole with the bride's dress.

Saptapadi – The couple takes seven steps representing sustenance, strength, wealth, happiness, offspring, long life and harmony and understanding, respectively.                                                                                   

First step, we will provide for and support each other.

Second step, we will develop mental, physical & spiritual strength.

Third step, we will share the worldly possessions.

Fourth step, we will acquire knowledge, happiness and peace.

Fifth step, we will raise strong and virtuous children.

Sixth step, we will enjoy the fruits of all seasons.

Seventh step, we will always remain friends and cherish each other.

Abhishek - The couple offer water while meditating to the sun and the pole star.

Anna Praashan - In this the couple offer food into the sacred fire and then a small piece to each other expressing their love and affection.

Aashirvadah – This is the last ritual of the marriage, the newly wedded couple bow down and touch the feet of the elders of the family to take their blessings for their new life married life.

In Hinduism marriage is considered the best way of continuing their family and practicing Dharma. Not only humans but the Gods have also followed this divine ritual of marriage in the same manner and lead it the same way humans have. Therefore, marriage in Hinduism is not just considered a mutual contract between a man and a woman but a social, physical and mental bond that they have to share for their rest of their life.

In our next blog, we will take you through the rites and rituals duting and after death in Hinduism.

When I was 13, I had my first love

This is our fictional account of a Mesopotamian marriage. The story depicts a young Sumerian girl who was subjected to a marriage transaction. It provides some insight on the process and customs of a Sumerian wedding, from which it is evident that there was little regard for female rights and the prevalence of gender inequality.

          It was the time of the year again - when the marriage market opens and buzzes with crowd. Hili’s aunts dressed her up in a long white gown that embraced her curves and braided her hair into a neat crown so her face could be seen clearly. They were very detailed, making sure that every inch of her was groomed and proper. Hili stared at herself in the mirror, and although she looked beautiful, she sighed. She was not at all excited; in fact, there was a sinking feeling within her. Hili had just ended puberty and would be someone’s wife in just a moment, when her father brings her to the marriage market for sale. Anyone’s wife. She dreaded the thought of it, but knew she couldn’t say anything.

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         At the marriage market, all the young women sat behind a podium, while men of all ages gathered in front of it - and it begins. A herald steps onto the podium to calm everyone down, then starts calling up the young women one by one. As usual, he began with the most beautiful one - Hili. Her flawless features and perfect physique caught the attention of many men. Everyone bidded furiously for Hili and so her bidding went on for a long time, with each bid going higher and higher. Eventually, a rich and handsome man named Estan won with an extremely high bid. He immediately offered to pay the deposit (betrothal gift) and bride-price to Hili’s father, who stood right beside her.

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        Soon after, both Hili and Estan’s families proceeded to write a legal marriage contract. The contract stated that during the marriage, if Hili did not produce children or in the case that she dies, the bride-price sum would be returned to Estan. In the case that Estan dies, Hili would marry one of his brothers or another male relative. Apart from owning Hili, the Hammurabi’s Code gave the right to husbands like Estan to keep a concubineHowever, the concubine would never be seen equal to Hili, and would always hold an inferior status. The contract also spelled out the duties for each spouse, and the penalties Estan was liable for if he decides to divorce Hili. Most importantly, in accordance to the Hammurabi’s Code, should Hili ever be accused of infidelity, she would have to kill herself if she was not proven guilty, because of the shame she would impose on her family. If she was guilty of it, she would have to be thrown into the river. Though the terms were mostly to Hili’s disadvantage, the two families agreed and sealed the marriage.

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            At the wedding, Estan veiled Hili in presence of witnesses to symbolize that she is now his. He also poured perfume on her, and they proceeded with a feast to legitimize their marriage. Two of Estan’s servants waited on the couple while other servants brought a slaughtered animal, alcohol, and other sides for the feast. Barley, wheat and meat dishes such as beef, poultry, and even turtles were served. To add to the festivities, they had musicians and dancers to entertain them and their guests.

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         Once Hili was officially part of Estan’s family, she was given a choice to move in with her in-law or return to her house. If she chose the latter, she will receive dumaki from Estan, which refers to a sum of money for maintenance. However, choosing the former allows her to bring home a dowry called sherigtu, and perhaps even nudunnu, a special gift added onto gold and silver. Hili understood that the marriage was to help her family out financially and thus, without hesitation, chose the latter.

         As part of the process of the wedding, Hili and Estan engaged in sexual intercourse on their wedding night, as newlyweds are expected to conceive quickly. They anticipated the possibility of having a child, as the first child of the family would signify a higher status for Estan as the head of the family. Unfortunately, Hili did not get pregnant even after some time, and as a result, their marriage was not being validated. Estan was furious and accused Hili of being barren. He told his father that he was going to return Hili back to her family and demand for his bride-price.

Hili overheard the conversation and was indignant. She could not believe how Estan treated their marriage as if it was nothing. In an attempt to spite him, she attempted to get close to the gardener.

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        However, Estan found out about her plan and accused her of adultery even though she had not done him wrong. Hili was flustered as she was aware of her following fate - death. She wailed profusely and begged Estan to let her off, but it was to no avail. Estan ordered his servants to prepare a bowl of poison and demanded that Hili finished it. Hili knew that it was pointless to fight against Estan, and so she drank the poison. Slowly but surely, she felt weaker by the second. The next thing she knew, she had already departed for the afterlife.

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A fictional account of Ekdosis: A Journey to the Marital Home

As we travel in the night on my ekdosis, my legs tremble ceaselessly. I silently wonder if it is caused by my fear of being wed, or the motions of the chariot beneath my feet. Pushing aside the thought, I decide to be more productive.  

I tip-toe to peek over the mule dragging my chariot, in an attempt to gauge how long more I have to stand. In the distance, I spot my new oikos. Made of stone and illuminated by torches, it will be the new place I am to live. I crane my neck to further inspect it, but the translucent veil across my face obscures all details. The soft fabric annoys me to no end, but I have been taught not to remove it, lest my new family thinks of me as impure. Giving up, I take a glance behind me.

 

The first person I spot is Pablo, a name suited for his petite size. In my eyes, he was the most important element of my Ekdosis, the epitome of symbols for my fertility. He has had many roles to play, the first being the bread distributor at the banquet that preceded my ekdosis held at my old oikos. Traditionally, the bread signifies my future child, and the basket represents his (hopefully) cradle.

 

He was also the child chosen by tradition to accompany me on this journey to my new oikos, for he had both living parents. As a symbol of my future child with Achilles (my soon-to-be husband), Pablo is my good luck charm. For if I am unable to fulfill my societal duties of having a child, Achilles may bar me from the house and return my family's dowry, effectively divorcing me. Or perhaps he will take on a legal concubine who is able to take on the task, as wealthy men do. Mama tells me neither choice is shameful, for they run rampant in our society, but I still do not like either one.

 

As my eyes attunes to Pablo's silhouette, I spot the crown of thorns and nuts around his head, which symbolizes how Greek culture aids Man's ascent into civilization from wildness. Although it is not my place to speak of politics, I can tell that we Greeks are proud of our culture.

 

I then divert my attention to the crowd stringing along behind him, which consists of friends and my beloved family members. I lock eyes with the woman who holds the flickering torch. Although the glow of the torches light the way, they also have a symbolic meaning. The warm fire serves to ward off evil spirits that may try to do me harm. Gazing into the woman's eyes, however, I catch a glint in her eye. Mama had been tough during the banquet dinner while my sisters bawled their eyes out, but I think she can no longer hold it in.

 

I am so thankful for Mama's help the past years, teaching me how to perform sacrificial rituals long before I menstruated. With her guidance, I was able to offer protelia to the Gods and Goddesses during the banquet and attain various blessings - healthy children from Aphrodite, smooth transition into wifehood from Artemis, and a divine quality of marriage from Hera.

 

We finally arrive at my new oikos. With one effortless motion, I am lifted off the chariot by Achilles, a stranger twice my age. All at once, I am greeted by a woman who I had never seen before. But by carrying torches, she revealed that when I become a married nymphe, she will be my new Mama. She handed me a torch and I burned the axle of my chariot, signifying that I can no longer return to my old oikos.

 

As I watch the flames lick the axle, it finally hit me that once I am married, I will no longer be a parthenos Achilles will soon be my new kyrios, my new master.