There is a quiz that you might have taken entitled “How many goats am I worth”. It’s a cute thing, tweaked and repeated across the net and while it is fun, is it accurate? Well, dowry and bride-price (both of which we will explain in this article) can vary quite a bit in the ‘haggling’ stage of determining what will be traded and in many modern cases, goats and other livestock have been dropped in lieu of cold, hard cash. In today’s article we are going to discuss this tradition in a bit more detail so that you can better understand this tradition and if you feel that your ‘goat value’ was incorrect from that time that you took the quiz then you can criticize it with the impunity of a quick education. Let’s talk about the seemingly- odd combination of marriage, livestock, and bringing families closer!
The prevalence of this custom
So, how widespread is the concept of bartering goods in order to secure a desired marriage? Try worldwide. Pretty much every culture has had or still has some serious customs when it comes to marriage that are designed to strengthen family bonds, increase wealth and prosperity, and to prepare a couple for success in a new life ahead. The practice is known to have dated back as far as 3000 years B.C.E., with examples from ancient cultures such as Incans, Aztecs, Egyptians, Hebrews, and more. In some cases the man’s family or the man was expected to pay for the bride and in others, the bride’s family would pay the groom. In many cases the marriage wasn’t considered to even be valid if the practices were ignored. These ‘marriage payments’ were generally broken down into two types, called ‘Bride price’ and ‘Dowry’ and they are both quite different.
What is a dowry?
A dowry is a set of assets which are given to the groom or to the grooms parents in order for the desired marriage. The bride doesn’t have any rights to it and it may be given before or after the prospective wedding takes place. The idea behind it is antiquated but basically it was intended to be used to help to set up the new home and derived culturally from the perspective that the woman would not be working or earning money. If no children resorted from the marriage then the dowry was traditionally returned. A dowry also provided a certain amount of financial security should the woman find herself widowed, though this was really the only scenario where the bride controlled the dowry (and even then it would likely be in the hands on the groom’s parents), though the dowry could be inherited by the children.
What is a bride price?
A bride price, by contrast, was money paid by the grooms parents or the groom himself to the family of the woman he is marrying. Often this was seen as ‘paying for her virginity’, though it also served the purpose of protecting her in widowhood and was also seen as compensation for loss of her labor for the family.
How do you know who pays who?
In some cases bride price would be paid and no dowry, whereas in other cases it would be the opposite. Sometimes both a bride price and a dowry is paid. It would typically just depend on the families involved as well as their economic status, though WHERE the marriage was occurring was the strongest determining factor and while the practices are worldwide the customs can vary greatly from country to country.
How was the dowry or bride price determined?
Typically this would be discussed between families until an agreed upon value could be reached. With some families the custom might be skipped altogether if both families were stricken with poverty though with wealthier families the custom would almost always be adhered to. That said, wealth wasn’t
“Virginity was another factor that could affect it.”
as much of a factor as the perceived ‘rights’ being exchanged were. For instance, if the woman was expected to bear many children then this warranted a larger bride price. Virginity was another factor that could affect it. A woman who reached puberty early would fetch a higher bride price whereas a divorced woman who already has children might receive a lower one.
Is it always goats?
Dowry and bride price can still be livestock in some countries, although cows are often used in lieu of goats in many places but above all cold, hard cash has always been the preference and is the general form of exchange in the modern day. With cultures that still practice dowry and bride price, in general you can expect that cash will be paid and a fine meal provided as a way of respecting this cultural practice if you are marrying someone from a country where it is still a tradition.
So, how many goats am I worth?
While we cannot condone the idea of placing a worth on another human being but for humor’s sake we would simply say ‘all of the goats!’.
Why not try taking the official quiz, getting your result, and then factoring in some of the determining variables which we’ve mentioned? This should give you an idea of how to inflate the numbers (or to decrease them if you are humble and feel that your value in goats has been exaggerated). Alternately, you could insist on cows, because a good steak is always a bonus! Keep in mind that it is all in good fun!
Some final words
In today’s article we have discussed how many goats you might expect to receive or be compelled to give in order to secure the marriage of your dreams. We’ve tried to be as comprehensive as possible in this limited space but we hope that we have shed a little light on the ‘moving parts’ of the famous quiz that you’ve likely taken if you are reading this. Until next time, we wish you the best and don’t forget… you and your mate are worth no less than ALL of the goats!