A few days ago, I received an email from a friend entitled “Interesting Marriages,” containing four links.
The first link told the 2007 story of a Sudanese man who was caught copulating with a goat. Since the Sudanese tribal custom requires that a man must marry a woman whom he sexually violated (in order to preserve her family’s honor), the village leaders decided to publicly embarrass the man who had violated the goat, forcing him to pay a dowry to the goat’s owner before “marrying” the goat. The story, which was first reported in a light-hearted way on the website of a British newspaper, drew worldwide attention, as did the subsequent report that the man was left a widower when the goat died after choking on some plastic it had swallowed.
The second link, from the Jakarta Globe in 2010, gave the unfortunate account of a young Balinese man who was caught copulating with a cow (but only, he explained, after the cow, which he believed to be a young, beautiful woman, had flirted with him). He was then forced to participate in a public marriage ceremony with the cow, during which he passed out. After the ceremony, the cow was drowned in the ocean, as were the young man’s clothes, in a purification ritual.
The third link, dating to 2005, was entitled, “Charmed woman marries cobra in India,” the story reporting that, “A woman who fell in love with a snake has reportedly married the reptile at a traditional Hindu wedding celebrated by 2,000 guests in India's Orissa state.” The woman, who was 30 years old, explained, “Though snakes cannot speak nor understand, we communicate in a peculiar way.”
The fourth link, from 2008, was perhaps the most bizarre of all, telling the story of a German woman who had been married to the Berlin Wall for 29 years. The woman, then 54, and whose “surname means Berlin Wall in German, wed the concrete structure in 1979 after being diagnosed with a condition called Objectum-Sexuality.”
Aside from the tragicomic nature of these stories, what they all have in common is that none of these unions were, in any sense of the word, “marriages,” despite the rituals and ceremonies performed. Marriage, we all know, is between human beings, not between a human being and an animal or reptile (or wall!).
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.
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