Monday, August 27, 2007

Brotherly Love

You may be wondering why I haven't been more forthcoming with the blog posts recently. Why it's because my laptop has been sent away for repairs again! This time it's because the buttons on the mouse pad weren't working. So far I've been without the laptop for a little over a week. The fact that I am posting at all -- using my slow but undependable old home desktop -- is a testament to how dedicated I am to you, blog readers.

Or something like that.

Anyway, I read an interesting piece today from In an article to be published in September's Journal of Modern History entitled "Same-Sex Couples Creating Households in Old Regime France: The Uses of the Affrèrement," Professor Allan Tulchin of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania (I'd never heard of it either) claims to have uncovered evidence of a sort of same-sex civil union which was sanctioned by law in France and other European nations over 600 years ago.

An affrèrement (which the article renders in English as "brotherment") was a civil contract executed before witnesses and a notary in which two men would swear to live as brothers and share "un pain, un vin, et une bourse" ("a bread, a wine, and a purse"). This meant that the two men would live as part of the same household and that they would jointly own property much like the community property of a married couple.

This contract may have originated when two or more brothers jointly inherited their father's estate and would continue to live together under the same roof. But Tulchin points out that there were also affrèrements recorded between two non-related men. One can only speculate as to the nature of these " brothers' " friendship but Tulchin suggests that some of these relationships were probably romantic/sexual in nature. He concludes that there is significant evidence that men in medieval France used affrèrement to formalize "same-sex loving relationships."

Similar to affrèrement, is a religious ceremony performed in Eastern Orthodox Churches from the early Christian era through to the present called adelphopoiesis (αδελφοποίησις) in which two members of the same sex are joined together as brothers or sisters. In his controversial book Same-sex Unions in Premodern Europe, Yale Professor John Boswell asserts that these are essentially same-sex unions sanctioned by the church and he even goes so far as to suggest that perhaps Christian hostility to homosexual unions is not so ancient as one might think.

Critics of Boswell's scholarship point out that adelphopoiesis was probably more akin to a "blood brotherhood" or a spiritual brotherhood between monks and that there is no implication these quasi-fraternal relationships would be sexual in nature let alone that the church was blessing such sexual activity. I found one response to the book, rejecting Boswell's assertion, in which a female professor relates the interesting story about how she and a colleague were bonded in such a ceremony presided over by a Syriac archbishop at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. After wrapping their arms together using part of his robe and reciting prayers over their heads, the archbishop declared that they were united as sisters and that they should never quarrel.

I believe that Boswell's critics are most certainly correct when they state that this sacrament was envisioned as creating spiritual, platonic siblings, but that doesn't mean that there was no messin' going on between any of the recipients.

In closing, I just think that affrèrement is a fun word to say, and I don't know why gay people today don't use it. I also want everyone to know that I got an 8 out of 10 on's sex quiz.

1 comment:

Josie said...

i got 8 out of 10 as well :)