Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Same-sex unions in Earthsea

An interesting excerpt from "A Description of Earthsea" in Ursula Le Guin's Tales from Earthsea :
"Women who work magic may practice periods of celibacy as well as fasting and other disciplines believed to purify and concentrate power, but most witches lead active sexual lives, having more freedom than most village women and less need to fear abuse. Many pledge "witch-troth" with another witch or with an ordinary woman. They do not often marry men, and if they do, they are likely to choose a sorcerer."
I wonder if this aspect of Earthsea was inspired by some Native American societies, considering that Le Guin's parents were anthropologists who studied Native Californians.
  • Masahai, a 19th century shaman and witch of the Mohave Tribe (whose reservation is in California, Nevada and Arizona), was serially married to 3 women and also had male lovers.1
  • A report from the 1890s mentions a Quechan kwe'rhame (female-bodied person with non-cisgendered status) married to a woman. The Quechan live on Fort Yuma reservation in present day California and Arizona.2
  • An anthropologist recorded reports of a lesbian couple among the Apache imprisoned at Fort Sill, Alabama in the late 19th century.3
For more on two-spirits in indigenous North America, check out