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Which Gloranthan cultures have godparents, and what do they call them?


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Just read a blog by Laura Perry over on witchesandpagans.com about godparents in Modern Minoan Paganism.  The blog reads in part:


I was in the middle of writing a child blessing ritual for the upcoming second edition of Ariadne's Thread (release date: May 15) and realized I needed a term for Modern Minoan Paganism folx to use, a word for the kind of person Christians call godparents: the close family friend who will have a special place in the life of a child as they grow up.

A number of traditions and cultures have their own term for this special person in a child's life. Some Pagans have "polytheisized" the Christian term to godsparents. Humanists use the word guideparents. Native Americans and some Asian cultures have aunties

But I didn't want to appropriate a marginalized culture's term. And the variants on "godparent" felt a little awkward, like they didn't really fit the "extended family" vibe we want for this kind of relationship in MMP. After some poking around online and in dictionaries and some helpful discussion with the folx of Ariadne's Tribe, we now have a term that we'll be using.

The word? Amia.

It's the Latin-alphabet spelling of the Greek word άμια, pronounced AH-mee-ah. In Greek tradition, the word is used for grannies, aunts, and any beloved elderly woman, relative or not.

The word has an interesting history. It was borrowed into Greek from Venetian (an Italian dialect), where it was used the same way. Ultimately, it derives from the Latin word amicus, meaning "friend."

In the same way that we consider our pantheon to be a family of deities, we also consider our extended families - blood relatives and chosen family - to be important parts of our spiritual lives. So we'll be using the term amia to refer to our dear friends (of any gender) who will play an important role in a child's life as they grow up. And we'll acknowledge them at our child blessing ceremonies so everyone knows how much we value their presence."

So, which cultures do have a godparent tradition and what do they call them?

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Excellent question.  I have no idea.  But it's a good roleplaying question for characters.

My soon to be Colymar mother of twins picked Joreen (Pegasus Plateau, she befriended her and they teamed up for the final climb) and, as I recall, the male leader of the Eleven Lights whose name I've forgotten - need to verify, and maybe rethink that choice (made a while ago)

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  • 6 months later...

So, there'ssome things to unpack here. Most societies have some kind of mechanism by which children taken care of in the case of their parents' death or disability. This, however, is generally the role of relatives in general in a clan-based society. Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents. Or in a village setting it might be a neighbor. This doesn't really need to be formalised because the social pressures are so strong that it's a bit of a given, or ideally it is, in reality you obviously end up with great disparities. 

This also ties into societies where one addresses every older member of the community as "uncle" or "auntie". Sometimes it's just an honorific, but in some cases it's an acknowledgement of the expected relations people have in a close-knit clan or band society. "It takes a village to raise a child" in a somewhat literal sense.

However, different societies have particular rituals that involve designating one or more particular relatives, family friends, or local notables as being particularly important to the child, and contributing certain things towards their upbringing or taking certain interests or responsibilities. This can for example be helping out with naming ceremony gifts, or babysitting, or providing ritual guidance during a later coming of age ceremony, or tutoring them in certain skills, or helping out with dowries or bride price upon marriage. It varies A LOT. In return this person receives prestige, respect and enters into bonds of reciprocity where the chances of their own children getting this treatment increases, etc. Some practical help from the child might also be involved.

"Sponsor" can be a fairly generic term to describe this type of relation: it might involve helping arming a young warrior or putting in a good word for them with an educational instruction, religious cult or whatever. 

But as you see, the Christian concept of godparent isn't really just one thing, but multiple roles, and the parental aspect isn't necessarily that important in a clan-based society, whereas the construction of wider networks of trust, mutuality, prestige and material gain beyond subsistence might be more important.

I can imagine that this role is frequently taken by clan thanes and ring members in relation to their carl/cottar (free/semi-free) compatriots. It's a good way to build up a support base in intraclan politics, for example.

Presumably similar dynamics exist in similar-scale societies in Glorantha, and you might also see cases where a "sponsor" hosts their "godchild", similar to medieval European hostage traditions, or apprenticeship, or servant service (ie. a young person from a client family serving in the household of a patron family in return for eventual support for marriage costs or setting up a new household, this isn't a mere transactional relationship like wage-labor, it involves lifelong obligations or familiarity.). I can imagine this occurring in Pelorian or Malkioni urban or manorial contexts.

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