Modern anthropology went a long way toward revealing the mysteries of the primeval past, so we know a lot about how our ancestors dealt with the challenges of living in nature in Paleolithic and Neolithic times. The record of their bones and artifacts doesn’t tell us enough about their erotic lives and relationships, but fortunately there’s a document from the time when the Roman Empire coexisted with the Neolithic peoples to the north: Germania by the Roman historian Tacitus.
The Germans as portrayed by Tacitus seem primitive in many ways: they dressed mostly in animal skins, were illiterate, and preferred war and plunder to tilling the soil. There were some positive advantages to this, as revealed in the passage: “All the children are reared naked and nasty; and thus grow into those limbs, into that bulk, which with marvel we behold.” For indeed the Romans never succeeded in conquering Germania, despite centuries of relentless campaigns.
Might we expect such barbarians to be promiscuous or licentious in their sexual habits? If we did we would be wrong, for Tacitus informs us: “Slow and late do the young men come to the use of women, and thus very long preserve the vigor of youth. Neither are the virgins hastened to wed. They must both have the same sprightly youth, the like stature, and marry when equal and able-bodied. Thus the robustness of the parents is inherited by the children.” Furthermore: “The laws of matrimony are severely observed…. This they esteem the highest tie, these the holy mysteries, and matrimonial Gods…. The very first solemnities of the wedding serve to warn the bride that she comes to her husband as a partner in his hazards and fatigues, that she is to suffer alike with him, to adventure alike, during peace or during war.”
Married couples “live in a state of chastity well secured; corrupted by no seducing shows and public diversions…. Amongst a people so numerous, adultery is exceeding rare; a crime instantly punished, and the punishment left to be inflicted by the husband. Having cut off her hair, he expels her from his house naked, in presence of her kindred, and pursues her with stripes throughout the village. For, to a woman who has prostituted her person, no pardon is ever granted. However beautiful she be, however young, however abounding in wealth, a husband she can never find.
“Since none but virgins marry, all their views and inclinations are confined to a single marriage. Thus, as they have but one body and one life, they take but one husband, that beyond him they may have no thought, no further wishes. They love him not only as their husband but as the God of Marriage. To restrain generation and the increase of children is esteemed an abominable sin, as also to kill infants newly born. And more powerful with the Germans are good manners, than with other people are good laws.”
What are we to make of the mating customs of the ancient Germans, as described by Tacitus? First of all, his detailed picture of primeval love cuts through the dichotomy which exists in the postmodern mind, imagining that a culture must be either hedonistic or sexually repressed. This view is a historical consequence of centuries of dogmatic religious repression followed by the relatively sudden opening of the sensual floodgates in the twentieth century. These opposite extremes can find middle ground and balance only in a society following the way of nature.
Religious morality serves the purpose of restraint in the matrix of civilization, which is always artificial in the sense of being removed from nature; thus even the high religions are responsible for imprinting the masses with distortions and useful falsehoods. Up until the late twentieth century, almost everyone took for granted that sex was inherently dirty ~ even those who heartily approved and reveled in it ~ and that there was an instinctive moral sense which found it shameful. Modesty was therefore conceived as a religious virtue which could be cultivated by piety. Of course this has a measure of validity, but the true nature of the virtue is misconceived if it’s not first understood from the bottom up.
The primeval Germans certainly viewed sex as a natural function and didn’t find anything “nasty” about it, even if civilized commentators on their lifestyle might use that word. By the same token, they were well aware of the natural dynamics of sexual energy. The young men did not “come late to the use of women” because they thought it was immoral, but because they knew that indulgence would impair their masculine vigor ~ a crucial consideration in a society where the physical survival of every man is dependent on his strength and ability to fight. Training and honing of martial skills must have been a big part of the men’s daily routine. Likewise if a married man declined to make love with his wife too often, it wasn’t because he was repressed or felt ashamed, but because he wished to improve his odds for victory and survival in the constant round of battle vs. neighboring tribes and the Roman Legions.
The opposite side of the same dynamic worked for the women: modesty and moderation arose not from morality but primality. Flagrant display and flaunting behavior will bring dramatic consequences when it’s done unto primal men, a drastically different interface from the metrosexual Matrix. There was no artificial power-structure to intervene between a man and his wife, nor between a father and the law he laid down for his daughters. So from an early age a girl would form imprints that made modesty and fidelity second nature ~ or perhaps we should say first nature, certainly more basic than what civilized and religious people call “morality”.
Women also had a first-person stake in conservation of sexual energy, in that they needed it not for war but for the equally demanding tasks of motherhood. Virtually every woman was a mother from the beginning of her marriage until the coming of age of her last child after menopause. The burden, however, was mitigated by a factor that’s little known today. Even though the Germans and other primeval people did not artificially “restrain generation and the increase of children”, this is done by nature herself, whose way is for mothers to nurse their children up through the age of three. Lactation tends to prevent conception, to assure that every child gets the full share of their rightful bounty. Thus a woman in a sexually active marriage for the full length of her fertile years with no miscarriages might bear a total of seven or eight children. This is a far cry from the modern era in our own civilization, where families of 12, 14, or even 18 children were not uncommon. Now we can see that this is a totally unnatural state of affairs.
Our last quote from Tacitus was that good manners were more powerful for the Germans than good laws. This means that the shared sense of communal values rooted in tribal tradition stretching back into a timeless past was so potent and all-encompassing that the people had as little use for formal laws as they did for written language. Their law was written in their hearts, the philia (familial love) of a bonded kindred, which all understood and held sacred.
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