What is a Family?


What is a family? This seems like a question to which every child knows the answer: a father, a mother and a child or children. Yet the question is one of the most basic of any study of race or history, for that answer applies only to the modern West. Even animals do not follow this structure, as much as children would like them to! The basic family might be named a woman and her child or children, for that father, although we know played a part in the mixing of the genes and the fertilization of the eggs of the mother, is usually off the scene, protecting his territory. The variations of family among primates and humans is wide, wider than most people imagine. Much of human law involves how families are structured. Not only who may marry, but whose children are produced from the marriage, which goods go to which party at the wedding, at the divorce, or at the death of a family member. Adoption, wills, marriage licenses, death taxes, parental visiting rights, the courts are filled with all kinds of arguments about family.

In Anieth, this was women's law, the queen's law. The queen's court decided the rights of family, marriage binding, exchange of goods, ownership, parentage, and a host of other problems concerning families. But let us back up a little and take a look at our own families here in the Modern West. Bear with me as I start with the obvious.

Basic Family

This is every child's understanding of family, although a child might include pets in this model. As a child grows a bit, so does the family.

Basic Family

This family as three generations. A generation is separated by age in our culture, but also by parentage. A child learns that other children have parents and grandparents; the parents are adults and the grandparents are old adults.

Main Families

And this is where most people want to stop understanding all the relationships. They know that each child of their grandparents is a sibling of their own parents and each aunt or uncle might have married and produced cousins. They know that the sibling's children are nieces or nephews depending on their genders. And that's enough! However, in Germany, male and female cousins have different names and often a father's sister is different from a mother's sister. Yet most people are happy with this model and may add in great grandparents or great grandchildren if family members live long enough. Rarely do many of us know great-aunts or great-nephews.

Main Families

If you go to a family reunion, you may get involved in discussions like "what kind of cousins are we?" "How are we related?" The rule is to count how far back your ancestors were siblings. If your grandparents were siblings then you are first cousins. If your great-grandparents were siblings, you are third cousins. If you are different generations, you count the generation back to the siblings of the oldest generation and then say, "once removed" for every generation between you. Thus, the blue cousin in this diagram has parents that were related to your grandparent. That's only one generation back for them, but there is a generation difference between you. In the United States, first cousins may not marry, yet in Britain, they can.

Main Families

Something more common to our children, is the step-family, half-siblings and the complex relationships of widowhood, divorce and re-marriage. What is lacking are terms for your son's step-siblings, your daughter's half-brother, step-grandparents, and etc. These complex diagrams start looking a bit like ancient Europe and like Anieth. In Ancient Europe, two basic family structures existed. A woman and her children and grandchildren and a man and his children and grandchildren. What is odd is that they were a bit exclusive in that each system discounted the role of the other parent. Thus, in the patrilineal system, it mattered who one's father was, and one's mother was often a slave or a concubine, or a wife, but one did not inherit through the mother. In the matrilineal system, it was the opposite with many children not knowing or needing to know who their fathers were.

In the patrilineal system, women left their birth families. If the woman was noble, her loss to her family was compensated with a bride price. In the matrilineal system, the men left their birth families and the family was compensated with a dowry. It was only when the two systems mixed that dowries became associated with brides who would leave their homes, as if the husband was compensated for taking the bride off the hands of the bride's family! This custom tended toward abuse which huge pieces of land being traded off with a bride. The same happened among the Zelosians who acquired native brides.

Among the Horse People, men left their families when they came of age. Yet many men were fostered into other families at young ages, usually between seven and ten. The dowry practice was practiced only among the wealthy, but it was usually an exchange of gifts between the families arranged by the older women of the family. Land, slaves, animals and many household goods were owned by the family, not by individuals, thus a marriage was between families, not between individuals. No one person could sell a slave or a cow for personal gain. The richer the families, the more involved the marriage contracts. Yet, among commoners, it was common to practice the trial marriage of a "year and a day" so common among the Celtic countries of Earth. If children resulted, a longer marriage was arranged or some other form of parentage arrangement was made. Usually a man joined into a woman's family to help take care of the flocks and herds as a paid guard and often stayed if he bonded with a female within that group.


The laws of marriage were very complex, yet among the Horse People, the laws of interitance were very simple. Children inherited from their mothers and a man gave his possessions, not to his children, but to his sister's children, or to someone else in his mother's family. The reason for this is because a person always knew who their mother was, but a father's identity might be in dispute. Fathers could adopt children, often take them into their own families, but those children could not inherit the father's goods, for those were the goods of his family. Only in the case of very personal possessions, such as weapons, clothing and some jewelry, was a man able to gift these where he willed. However, a woman was not allowed any more leeway. The family goods moved through her to her children, yet they did not belong to any one child, but to the family as a whole. In the matter of her personal goods, she could gift as she willed.

Most of the Tree Clans followed this pattern. It made sense for a pastoral people, for the men did not want to be tied down to goods and children when they felt it was their job to act as guards around the perimeter of the family's territory. A family among the Horse People was more extensive than that of Earth.


A family was defined as a "fine", said "FEEN ya". This group was the extent of relation of which a person was liable and the extent of relation that a person could NOT bring lawsuit. These people owned everything in common with you and they also shared fiscal responsibility. If one of them was sued, all of the others had to contribute to the payment. If one of these people murdered your child or you, restitution could not be asked. This was the legal unit and the definition of a family. A Nation was anywhere from five to fifty of these families.

This is very similar to structures that lasted well into the Middle Ages in Europe. One of the most important things a child could learn was the name of their great-great grandmother and their direct ancestors leading to that relative. This was announced to strangers within the group in order to establish relationship, for you did not want to attack, rob or insult anyone outside of your fine, or suffer the consequences for your entire family. Conversely, you could not do much to anyone who was your fourth cousin. This was very nearly half or more of the people you might know. Families, because of responsibility tended to severely chastise their own within the fine. This system, even if it encouraged clannish behavior, also insured the peace and worked extremely well in practice. In combination with complicated inter-marriage deals between the Nations, this kept the peace among the Nine Nations and the Wood Clans for over two hundred years.

© 2015, A.R. Stone

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