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Worldbuilding

Wergeld clubs! And wergeld and bloodwite

Posted 1 Month ago by chiarizio

I have a conworlding idea I don’t have a conculture for yet;
Wergeld clubs!
A special kind of life-insurance mutual association.

Men (and later women) who have money but not relatives, or aren’t good fighters, or have no friends (other than themselves) who are good fighters, could band together into wergeld clubs.
If one of them is murdered, mercenaries and detectives hired by the dues or premiums the members have paid in, could track down the murderer; and, unless that person (and their relatives and their own wergeld club if they have any of either) pays the bloodwite and wergeld, kill the murderer in a legal duel.
The wergeld association might get a share of the wergeld so collected. The government might get most of the bloodwite but they might give some of it to the wergeld club for helping solve the murder. Most of the wergeld would be distributed to the victim’s surviving kin according to the traditional formula; or perhaps to whatever charities the victim’s will specifies if the victim has no surviving relatives close enough.

The wergeld club might also contribute to paying the wergeld (and possibly also the bloodwite?) their member owes, if he (or later, she) should be found guilty of a murder he couldn’t afford to pay all of himself; and of defending him against a false murder charge.

.....

You might ask “what is this ‘traditional formula’ you mentioned?”

The victim’s worth was determined to be some value I’ll call X.
Every first-degree male kinsman of the victim was entitled to 0.5 X.
Every first-degree female kinswoman of the victim was entitled to 0.25 X.

Every first-degree male kinsman of a first-degree kinsman was entitled to 0,25 X.
Every first-degree kinswoman of a first-degree kinsman was entitled to 0.125 X.
Every first-degree kinsman of a first-degree kinswoman was entitled to 0.125 X.
Every first-degree kinswoman of a first-degree kinswoman was entitled to 0.0625 X.

A 1st-degree kinsman of a 1st-degree kinsman of a 1st-degree kinsman was entitled to 0.125 X.
A kinsman of a kinsman of a kinswoman;
A kinsman of a kinswoman of a kinsman;
A kinswoman of a kinsman of a kinsman; would each be entitled to a sixteenth share, that is 0.0625 X.
A kinsman of a kinswoman of a kinswoman;
A kinswoman of a kinsman of a kinswoman;
A kinswoman of a kinswoman of a kinsman; would each be entitled to a thirty-second share, that is 0.03125 X.
A kinswoman of a kinswoman of a kinswoman would be entitled to nothing.

A kinsman of a kinsman of a kinsman of a kinsman would get a sixteenth share, ie 0.0625 X.
A kinsman of a kinsman of a kinsman of a kinswoman;
A kinsman of a kinsman of a kinswoman of a kinsman;
A kinsman of a kinswoman of a kinsman of a kinsman;
A kinswoman of a kinsman of a kinsman of a kinsman; would each get a thirty-second share, that is 0.03125 X.
Any fourth-degree or further relative with two or more females in the shortest path of connecting relatives would get nothing.

A fifth-degree kinsman would get a thirty-second share provided all the connecting relatives were male. Otherwise they would not be entitled to a share.

.....

The murder’s kin would have a similar system for sharing the burden of the bloodwite and wergeld.

The murderer would be on the hook for X.
All his male first-degree kin would be on the hook for half that;
All his female first-degree kin would be on the hook for a quarter that.

Second-degree male kin would be on the hook for half what the connecting relative owed;
Second-degree female kin should be on the hook for a quarter what the connecting relative owed.
So a kinsman’s kinsman would owe a quarter;
A kinsman’s kinswoman or a kinswoman’s kinsman would owe an eighth;
And a kinswoman’s kinswoman would owe a sixteenth.

Third-degree male kin would owe half what the connecting relative owed;
Third-degree female kin would owe a quarter what the connecting relative owed.
So a third-degree male relative through an all-male chain of connecting relatives would owe an eighth;
A third-degree female relative thru an otherwise-all-male chain, or a third-degree male relative thru a chain with exactly one of the connecting relatives being female, would each owe a sixteenth;
A third-degree female relative thru a chain with exactly one other female relative, or a third-degree male relative thru an otherwise-all-female chain, would each owe a thirty-second.
This traditional system doesn’t assign shares smaller than a thirty-second; so a third-or-more-degree female relative thru a chain also containing at least two other females, is excused from any share of the wergeld or bloodwite.

Fourth-degree male kin through all-male chains owe a sixteenth.
Fourth-degree female kin through otherwise-all-male chains owe a thirty-second.
So do fourth-degree male kin through chains containing exactly one female.
Fourth-or-more-degree kin through chains containing two or more females are excused.

Fifth-degree male kin through chains containing only males owe a thirty-second.

Fifth-or-more-degree female kin are excused.
Fifth-or-more-degree kin through a chain containing a female are excused.
Sixth-or-more-degree kin are excused.

....

As I understand it the bloodwite is equal to the wergeld.
The bloodwite is owed to the sovereign government (originally the king), but is payable to whoever has soke and sake in the district in which the murder took place, or otherwise has soke and sake over the murder.
Traditionally that entity gets to keep part of the bloodwite; whatever part their arrangement with the sovereign government is.

If the murderer can’t or won’t pay the bloodwite, and they either are not killed in a duel with whoever they owe wergeld to, or there’s no such surviving relative of the victim, or they have payed the wergeld, then their life is in the hands of the government, who may execute them or otherwise punish them or show them mercy, as they see fit.

If a murderer shows remorse and repents and pays wergeld and bloodwite, traditionally they should at least be allowed to continue to live.
Supporting the victim’s survivors sometimes counts as wergeld; contributing an appropriate (often that means “similar”) amount to approved charities often counts as bloodwite. The murderer needs to dedicate the rest of their lives to those survivors and those charities or government service, for these substitutes to be accepted in place of traditional wergeld and traditional bloodwite.

.....

Obviously, without the wergeld clubs, a poor man, or a man with few or no close male relatives or close rich relatives or male relatives who are good at fighting duels, needs to be extra-careful not to murder anyone who is rich or has many close male relatives who are good at duels.
He also might have to take extra care not to get murdered.
By joining a wergeld club and keeping up-to-date on dues and premiums he buys the kind of protection a rich man with lots of rich uncles and scary brothers and strong sons has.

.....

Ok, what does anyone think?

There are 1 Replies


As for emperors and popes and kings and princes and grand dukes and arch dukes and archbishops, the wergeld system is extended.
In two ways.
The simplest to explain is anyone who will get as much as 1/128 share can legally hunt down the murderer and kill him if he doesn’t pay up.
The second is, not only the victim’s relatives, but also their vassals and lords, and relatives’ vassals and lords, and vassaks’relatives and lords’ relatives, get shares.

A male vassal or male lord of the victim, who is military rather than clergy, gets a half-share;
a vassal or lord who is clergy (regardless of sex), or a female vassal or “lord” (whether clergical or military), gets a quarter share.

From there it goes like before. Any male relative or male military vassal or lord of a share taker takes half as big a share as that share taker; any clergical vassal or lord or female vassal or lord or relative of a share taker takes a quarter as much as that share taker.
“Vassal” runs out when you get below knights and dames for military vassals; it runs out when you get below chorepiscopus or Monsignor or Abbott or abbess or prior or prioress or rector for clergical vassals or lords.
And nobody gets a share smaller than 1/128.

In effect if you kill an emperor, pope, king, prince, grand duke, archduke, or archbishop, you’ll probably have a whole kingdom and a whole church hunting for a piece of your hide; with no hope of buying them off unless you can get your own kingdom and own church, as well as your own family, to commit to helping you.
Even “ordinary” bishops, and “ordinary” dukes and counts and barons, are pretty much immune to murder, in that the murderer probably has no chance of paying the wergeld or bloodwite.
Not sure about baronets and viscounts and other low-ranking lords, though. And theoretically if a count kills a knight the count might get away with it at quite severe cost.

Some people hold high positions both in the church and in the feudal aristarchy.
One might be a Cardinal Duke, for instance, if one were a Crown Prince’s brother. Or a combination Archbishop/ Royal Duke.
Such a person might be as protected as a King.

3 Weeks ago
chiarizio
 

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