Shining Tea Room

Chelani and Melini Family Structures

This topic contains 9 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Petite Sorcière 3 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #1066



    After reading the Heart of Water from my copy of The Gospel of Our Mother God a couple of nights ago, I began to ponder the familial structure of a Herthelan family. I know that here we don’t believe in equality as espoused by modernist Tellurian gender norms, but I was wondering if it had any similarities with the obedience of the wife to the husband as correlated to patriarchal Telluria, or is it something entirely different?

    I don’t believe anything about the relations between chelani and melini were specifically mentioned in the Heart of Water, but it is still an interesting contemplation considering that every family member has a role!

  • #1071

    Yuriko Rill

    (forgive me, as I am a bit new to this, so I seem to have made a bit of a mess of this topic when merging, and even more of a mess when I tried to fix the first mess)

    I am adding Elefarya-chei’s response in front of my own, because that was the order it should be in:

     Rosamunda Elefarya, Setsuna Chandrick said:


    Rayati Miss Carmilla,

    Actually, there are a variety of family structures in the Motherland. Generally, however, the melini will obey the chelana in spiritual matters, the chelana will obey the melini in practical matters, and both will obey their collective mothers and grandmothers and aunts – you don’t really outgrow that in the Motherland.

    In Kadoria, the chelana will obey the melini in public, but privately is usually the one in charge. In one corner of Mayashrai, anything to do with the household is the undisputed domain of the chelana, to the extent that only chelani can own or inherit land. These are the places I know of. Other ways of doing things exist.

    However, *someone* is always in charge in a given situation, and whether it is stated or not, it is always understood.

    I said:
    This is actually a rather complex question, I think.  I will do my best to tackle it, but, please understand, I may not get it exactly right.

    There are a few points to start off with before I get to the meat of the question.  The first is that the Heart of Water has only limited applicability in West Telluria, except to make it clear that those who claim power in West Telluria do not have any real authority.  The Heart of Water describes a full society, where those at the very top, such as the Empress and a High Priestess are completely obedient to Dea.  Indeed, any basis for command requires obedience to someone higher…the disobedient may not command.

    The next point is that in the Motherland, marriage is a vocation that some maids enter into, but not all, or even most, I do not think.  One the other hand, all maids are bound in some way in the Golden Chain.

    The third point is that I *think* that the answer to your specific question may vary according to where in the Motherland one is.  In my own waftings, I seem to recall some differences between the country and the city, so I am sure that there are differences among the nations here.

    From my waftings, I think it was rare, if not unheard of, for one’s mistress in thamë to be one’s spouse.  In North Arkadya, melini and chelani operated in very different spheres, even if married.  In the households of those of higher Estate, it was not uncommon to have an courtyard inner garden that melini did not enter and areas near the outside of the house that chelani did not enter.  There were areas where both genders could go as well.

    In the country, generally one’s mistress(es) in thamë would be an older relative of the same gender (by birth or marriage), and a maid would owe respectful obedience to all of her older relatives.  The head(s) of the extended family would owe obedience to the priestess(es).

    In the city, often Guilds or other such organizations would take the place of the extended family, and one’s mistress(es) in thamë would be someone senior in the organization.  Of course, everyone owed obedience to city officials and other such maids in authority.

    Within a marriage, I think that melini were generally in charge of more practical matters and anything that involved interaction outside of the home.  High born chelani often did not handle money at all.  Chelani would be in charge of the home itself, I think, and were certainly in charge of any ritual matters regarding the household (although often melini would supervise and instruct chelani regarding more worldly aspects of maintaining the household).  For example, chelani would perform the house rituals and purification on Sai Herthe Day.  The central Hearth was *always* the responsibility of the senior chelan in the household, and anything involving it would be under her supervision!

    The hestia, itself, was considered of much greater importance in the Motherland, so it was a privilege and an honor for a chelan to be able to maintain the home without being burdened with earning a living in the agora.  Magdalan chelani might have to help maintain the family trade, but that was considered to be a burden to be avoided if it was not necessary.

    Again, this is how things were in North Arkadya, I believe.  They are likely different elsewhere in the Motherland.

    Now, in my Tellurian household, my spouse is an outlander, so while I try to be harmonious with her and I do defer to her in practicalities (mostly because she is much, much better at them than I am).  On the other hand, she is not in the Golden Chain (at all), so the question of obedience (as such) does not really arise.

    I hope that helped somewhat.


  • #1074


    I think the question of spousal obedience is quite unconnected with the Heart of Water (the confusion may come about because some Outaland versions have re-written it to bring in schizomorphic spousal obedience). There is no mention of it in the Authorized Version.

    What it is about is the Golden Chain, which is embedded in the life and polity of the Motherland.

    32. Let the maid obey the mistress, let the mistress obey the countess, let the countess obey the duchess, let the duchess obey the rayin.

    33. Let the rayin obey the empress, let the empress give obedience unto Me.

    As Honored Rill-san says, this is hardly applicable to Telluria. It continues:

    34. Let the younger sister obey the elder, let the child obey the mother, let the mother obey the priestess, let the priestess give obedience unto Me. Let the pupil obey the ranya, let the scholar obey the rani. Thus shall all things be in harmony and harmony be in all things.

    “Let the younger sister obey the elder” as a principle is something one really does not find in West Telluria at any time, and it is interesting to look at it in the light of the Confucian-influenced culture of Japan. There, even a small child has a Function. If she has younger sisters she is referred to as Oneechan (honored elder sister).

    I have seen this at close quarters and can say that I have never heard an elder sister addressed by name by a younger sister. It is always Oneechan. Along with this, from the earliest age, go rights and responsibilities, and yes, the younger sister is expected to obey her. Not all the time in everything, but essentially if she exercises her authority it should be accepted, and she will attempt to exercise it properly.

    The whole tenor of family life is influenced by this concept. It is another interesting analogy between the Japanese and the Motherland outlook on life.

    It is also worth noting that the direction of this chain is vertical. In all cases obedience is owed because the Function to be obeyed is the next link upwards (elder sister is nearer to mother in age and precedence). The whole notion of someone being above merely by gender and not because of a vertically higher position in the chain would be out of place in this structure.

    Whether chelani or melini are superior depends entirely on context. In some areas chelani take precedence, in others melini do and in others again it is not a factor.

  • #1075

    Yuriko Rill

    Actually, as I am thinking about it, the only context that I can even imagine a spouse being one’s mistress-in-thamë would be a rare situation where both spouses were a part of the same Guild or Club and one spouse was otherwise senior in the Guild or Club.  I suppose it could happen that way in theory, but one’s mistress-in-thamë generally tended to be of the same gender.  I do not have any waftings of a situation in which that actually occurred.  Even in that situation, I do not know how much that would extend to the household itself.

    Such a situation would be rather difficult, I would think…as generally in cases where there were difficulties in a marriage (they did happen on rare occasions, even in the Motherland), the couple would go to their mistresses-in-thamë to help sort them out…and if that relationship existed between the couple, that could be really awkward, I think.

  • #1083

    Hm, that’s true. When I refer to obedience within a marriage I mean of course that each spouse has her sphere in family life that she is the acknowledged expert on and responsible for, and for the sake of family harmony she is therefore listened to and followed in that sphere. It isn’t the same thing as a mistress-in-thame at all, really.

  • #1098


    It probably needs hardly to be said that Nevrayapurh is very different from North Arkadya in these matters. The Temple Maidens of the Fire Temple are very cloistered, but many blondes are out and about in the city, often living away from the family home in residential clubs or lay colleges (very few single blondes or brunettes live in individual apartments, though they do often have their own apartments in club or college). Both sexes perform a variety of jobs and functions and while there are many that are traditionally one gender or the other many are performed by both.

    Estate is less of a factor than in more traditional areas (such as North Arkadya or the Novaryan Dacherthas). The term “obey” as used in the Gospel may be a little misconstrued by West Tellurians, I think. It can indeed mean obey in the sense of “do what they say”, but it has much less to do with individual will than it would in West Telluria. I think even in Japan (which is part of modern Telluria) there is more instinctive sense of what is one’s individual will and what is one’s function, even in children who are in the role of elder-sister (oneechan).

    It is a little hard to explain. The concept is one of “being above” (meue – higher-eye) in the golden chain. It does not have to do with imposing individual will (which the gospel defines as “tyranny”), but with performing one’s part as an upper or lower link in the chain.

    Even in matters where the strictest obedience would be assumed in Telluria – that is, in the political structure of Countess, Princess (Duchess), Queen, Empress it is actually much less centered on what Tellurians think of as “obedience”. That is, in Telluria, the structure of government is absolutely based on laws and edicts that are enforced ultimately by physical force. People are dragged to jails for not obeying. One tier of government has ultimately absolute force-authority over its lower tiers.

    This isn’t the way things work in the Motherland. Very few actual laws are passed, and the means of enforcing them are really quite limited. Imposing laws against the will of people is considered rude – and “rude” (enormate) is a serious matter. Not doing what is expected of one is also enormate. People follow the Way because just about no one wishes not to. Being a “we” people no one really wants to stand out as a non-fitting “I”.

    This can sound maybe more super-uniform than it is. Of course there are individual variations within the structure. In Goldenhead (which has some nice scenes from Nevrayapurhi life), Latala-chei is very katte-ni by Nevrayapurhi standards (insanely katte-ni by North Arkadyan standards), but very, very different from the kind of katte-ni one finds in post-Eclipse West Telluria.

    Fiction, I think is useful in this respect as it shows how things actually work rather than explaining abstract principles, which can be confusing, especially to people who only know a very different kind of society.

  • #1099

    Yuriko Rill

    That is really one of the things that is actually quite interesting.  For all West Telluria says that they embrace “diversity,” it really seems like a place with very little room for actual differences in people.  Under the guise of embracing “equality,” there does not seem to be much room for people to have different abilities or desires.

    Of course, what I described was the norm, and how most people did things.  But, really, the Estate System and the acknowledgement of the differences in genders was a way that people could be who they were.  Did it happen that someone might not “fit” the roles expected of their gender and/or Estate?  Yes…it was not common, but it did happen.  Usually, if it were clear that a child was born in the wrong Estate, the child would be adopted into the proper Estate.  I do not know if anyone went so far as being “katte ni,” but there were those who were a bit eccentric in the city, and well, mostly they were just allowed to be who they were.  If a high born chelan wanted to handle money and be in the marketplace, I doubt anyone would stop her.  It was just mostly, well…it was assumed that chelani would not want to be burdened with such material, practical matters if they did not have to be.

    We certainly did not have the type of bullying and ridiculing that I have seen in Telluria regarding these things.  A maid that was different might be looked upon a bit strangely, but she was part of the community and the extended family.  Heee…every family has some eccentric cousins, I think.  We would just make allowances for the maid, because we knew and loved her, and that was just who she was.

    Also, to be clear, we did not view these things like they are viewed in Telluria.  It was nothing like the patriarchal equivalent of these things.  This were just the way things were done.  As Sushuri-chei said, there was no force…why would there be?  Everyone knew how things were done, and they had been done in the same way for as far back as anyone could remember.

    Oh dear…I do not know that I have said things right.  It is so hard to really explain.

  • #1100

    Petite Sorcière

    There is really no room at all for eccentricity in the Pit. Of course every fool and her dog claims to be “different” (does anyone claim to think inside the box any more?) But being “different” just means pushing one or more of the idiocies of the Pit a little further than it is currently pushed by most people. Being “different” outside an extremely narrow corridor of approved “differentnesses” is absolutely hated.

    I am reminded of people thrown to the lions in ancient Rome. Apparently they were instructed to wave about gently. If they didn’t move at all the lions wouldn’t take any notice of them. If they moved too much the brutalized captive lions would be afraid of them. They had to move just the right amount.

    So with the Pit. If a person is not “different” at all she is despised for being “conventional”. If she is different in even slightly the wrong way she scares the daylights out of the Telluri and they hate her.

  • #1068


    (removed duplicate post and merged replies)

  • #1070

    Rayati Miss Carmilla,

    Actually, there are a variety of family structures in the Motherland. Generally, however, the melini will obey the chelana in spiritual matters, the chelana will obey the melini in practical matters, and both will obey their collective mothers and grandmothers and aunts – you don’t really outgrow that in the Motherland.

    In Kadoria, the chelana will obey the melini in public, but privately is usually the one in charge. In one corner of Mayashrai, anything to do with the household is the undisputed domain of the chelana, to the extent that only chelani can own or inherit land. These are the places I know of. Other ways of doing things exist.

    However, *someone* is always in charge in a given situation, and whether it is stated or not, it is always understood.

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