how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

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Sharad9
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how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

Post by Sharad9 » Sun 09 Sep 2018, 02:02

In my story's world, witchcraft is a respected institution, with the most powerful practitioners being at the top echelons of society. Due to this, society traces its lineage through matrilineal lines. Witchcraft is exclusive to the female line. Ritual magic involves using the mana of the world and directing it in a way to suit you (altering terrain, changing the weather, erecting barriers, etc). It requires chanting, numerous ingredients, and a group of people depending on the spell. Society is divided up into covens, with the most powerful witches being top leaders in their coven. Ritual magic is essential to society, so logically the more witches a coven has, the more powerful and influential it would be. However, this matriarchal system has more males than females in these covens, due to the fact that girls take longer to gestate.

There is a spell that allows one to choose the sex of their offspring. This is a simple spell requiring only the individual , some incantations, and a number of ingredients. This has led to a practice in cultural tradition that considers sons to be "sons of society" and daughters to be "daughters of their mother". Basically a society has a lot of structures to teach boys in bulk for their unskilled labor, while the girls are kept with their mother for proper training.

How would this tradition affect the hierarchical power structure in this world?
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Re: how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

Post by elemtilas » Sun 09 Sep 2018, 02:46

Sharad9 wrote:
Sun 09 Sep 2018, 02:02
In my story's world, witchcraft is a respected institution, with the most powerful practitioners being at the top echelons of society. Due to this, society traces its lineage through matrilineal lines. Witchcraft is exclusive to the female line. Ritual magic involves using the mana of the world and directing it in a way to suit you (altering terrain, changing the weather, erecting barriers, etc). It requires chanting, numerous ingredients, and a group of people depending on the spell. Society is divided up into covens, with the most powerful witches being top leaders in their coven. Ritual magic is essential to society, so logically the more witches a coven has, the more powerful and influential it would be. However, this matriarchal system has more males than females in these covens, due to the fact that girls take longer to gestate.

There is a spell that allows one to choose the sex of their offspring. This is a simple spell requiring only the individual , some incantations, and a number of ingredients. This has led to a practice in cultural tradition that considers sons to be "sons of society" and daughters to be "daughters of their mother". Basically a society has a lot of structures to teach boys in bulk for their unskilled labor, while the girls are kept with their mother for proper training.

How would this tradition affect the hierarchical power structure in this world?
Honestly, I don't see why the ability to choose a child's sex would affect the hierarchical power structure. At least not in the short term. Two scenarios come to mind:

1. The leadership of one of the more powerful covens wishes to destabilise the power of a rival coven. They train some eager young witches to be secret agents whose goal is to infiltrate the other coven and make use of a particular spell they have devised that will counter the female-choosing spell that the other coven's young women are using when they want to bear a girl. Over time, fewer girls are born, thus lessening the power and influence of that coven slightly. Families who might want for their girls to join that coven will now think twice and perhaps choose a different coven for their girls to seek entry.

2. The leadership of a powerful coven decides it's time to declare their preeminence. Apart from the usual methods of attracting young witches to join their coven, the leadership of this coven determines that a rigorous programme of female-choice must be implemented. Women who join this coven, or who are already members, are propagandised and perhaps even coerced into using a female-making spell, even if they really wanted a son. (Perhaps part of the coercive nature of the programme could be a "produce three healthy girls, get one boy free" scheme.) These girls would then be brought into close contact with the coven through a youth farming programme that propagandises these young girls towards choosing to seek entry into their mothers' coven rather than another. In this way, a powerful coven increases its own female population steadily and also creates an almost guaranteed two-source influx of new inductees.

A third possibility also comes to mind:

3. A very powerful witch rises to power over all (or most) of the other covens and is able to set herself up as dictator, perhaps with other yes-women witches of her own coven as key members of the political apparatus. Apart from introducing a pro-her-own-coven education curriculum in the schools, because this is where you farm your future supporters and weed out your future detractors, she will also enact laws that illegalise all other covens. A one-party system is far more efficient than a multiparty system. As she determines which covens are the most resistant, she will eventually have to solve that Question as well. It will be the young girls raised up as witches in this new society that seal the power of the dictator's hierarchy.
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Re: how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

Post by Lambuzhao » Sun 09 Sep 2018, 13:38

Sharad9 wrote:
Sun 09 Sep 2018, 02:02
However, this matriarchal system has more males than females in these covens, due to the fact that girls take longer to gestate.

There is a spell that allows one to choose the sex of their offspring. This is a simple spell requiring only the individual , some incantations, and a number of ingredients.
For some reason, your post reminds me of this video I saw recently:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3dCWxxVhVc

I don't know how much it has to bear on a species/culture where the gestation is different for different sexes.
:?: :wat:

BTW, how much of a difference in gestation period between sexes are we talking about? One would have to take into account the reproductive stress of the birth mother if the gestation were say, a month longer.
Normally in humans it seems that it's the males that gestate up to a few days longer than females, on average.
That's according to Wikipuddlia.
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Re: how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

Post by Sharad9 » Sun 09 Sep 2018, 14:45

For males it's the traditional 9 months, for females it is 12 months. The mother also loses her magic during the process.
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Re: how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

Post by alynnidalar » Mon 10 Sep 2018, 18:47

In the process of pregnancy, in the process of giving birth to a female child, or in the process of using the sex-changing magic? Additionally, does the mother have to cast the sex-changing spell, or can any witch cast it on a mother?

If the mother has to cast the sex-changing spell and loses her magic in the process of giving birth, then you can generally only use it once--if you lose magic during pregnancy, then you'd only be able to use it for your first pregnancy. If you lose your magic while giving birth to a female child, then you can use it to guarantee you always have boys (and will never lose your magic), but if you refrain from using it and end up with a girl--or use it to guarantee a girl--then you'd lose your magic. If you lose it as a result of using the sex-changing magic, then you basically get one chance to guarantee a child (and I suspect they'd always go for a girl, so as to guarantee they have at least one daughter to carry on the family magic/line/inheritance) and the rest are random.

But regardless of circumstances, losing your magic would be a pretty serious thing, and would certainly severely depress the birth rate. Maybe I'm biased because I'm a childless woman with little desire to have children, but if you offered me the option of a) having a kid or b) having a high and respected place in society (due to my magic) and being able to radically shape the world around me through magic, I would take the magic. To be straightforward: what is the value of having children in this culture (or using the sex-changing magic, if that's what makes you lose your magic), unless you're already very weak in magic? I can't imagine that any powerful witches would ever take the risk!
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Re: how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

Post by Micamo » Wed 12 Sep 2018, 07:24

I personally would stay far the fuck away from any story that tried to sell me on its world working this way, because it unthinkingly replicates a lot of really ugly ideas about gender that our society unfortunately subscribes to. Some questions:

- What about trans men?
- What about trans women?
- What about non-binary people?
- What about intersex people?

If your answers to these questions are "I don't know" or "They don't exist in this setting" then I strongly advise you to throw this premise away and work on something less fraught.
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Re: how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

Post by elemtilas » Wed 12 Sep 2018, 18:04

Micamo wrote:
Wed 12 Sep 2018, 07:24
I personally would stay far the fuck away from any story that tried to sell me on its world working this way, because it unthinkingly replicates a lot of really ugly ideas about gender that our society unfortunately subscribes to.
Perhaps all the more reason to tackle it! To say that Sharad9 is "unthinkingly replicating" some wonky ideas seems to me a bit off base. After all, they're here seeking opinions on the matter! You can hardly get more thinking than that!
Some questions:

- What about trans men?
- What about trans women?
- What about non-binary people?
- What about intersex people?

If your answers to these questions are "I don't know" or "They don't exist in this setting" then I strongly advise you to throw this premise away and work on something less fraught.
I concur with you on the first part. Not knowing is not good enough. This is a pretty major concept in Sharad's world and needs exploring. As for the latter, I disagree with you on that. There is no reason why these other categories must exist. But there is also no reason why other categories still may not exist. We'll just have to wait and see what Sharad9 says about this before pronouncing whether or not the premise must be thrown away.

Also, how the magic works in its fundamental nature will also come into play. If magic is a natural non-personal force, it won't care if you call yourself "trans" anything. If you're a "trans" man, you're still a man and therefore will not count. If you're a "trans" woman, you're still a woman and thus within the hierarchy of magic users. Even if Magic is a personal force with its own intelligence and will, there is no reason to assume it will go along with human cultural norms of Earth rather than whatever world this is taking place on. At this point, I would think we just don't know enough to judge!
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Re: how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

Post by Micamo » Thu 13 Sep 2018, 03:12

If they reproduce sexually, then intersex individuals exist. Sexual characteristics and endocrinal development are extremely complex and multi-modal and it's simply not possible for a species to exist where all of its members fit cleanly and naturally into strict male/female categories.

If they have a concept of assigning individuals into a gender category at birth, then trans people exist, because not everyone will be assigned into the correct gender, regardless of what method of assignment is used.

If they have a concept of a finite number of gender categories, or assume that people can only be one gender, then non-binary people exist.

The problem with this kind of worldbuilding is that, by tying sex, gender, and power together, you cannot avoid the issues raised by the existence of people who violate the assumptions of the society you have built.
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Re: how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

Post by elemtilas » Thu 13 Sep 2018, 04:42

Micamo wrote:
Thu 13 Sep 2018, 03:12
If they reproduce sexually, then intersex individuals exist. Sexual characteristics and endocrinal development are extremely complex and multi-modal and it's simply not possible for a species to exist where all of its members fit cleanly and naturally into strict male/female categories.
For the primary world, perhaps. No doubt that these things are terribly complex, however, it's really not for any of us out here to say "it's simply not possible". It's not our world. I can speak for mine (and I dó have some ideas along the lines you're getting at within that work), and you can speak for yours. It may well be Sharad9 will agree with you and throw the whole thing away as nonsensical. Let's let them speak for their own world one way or the other!
If they have a concept of assigning individuals into a gender category at birth, then trans people exist, because not everyone will be assigned into the correct gender, regardless of what method of assignment is used.
Gender is a social construct. I know it's an important topic for you, and you feel very strongly about it. But again, it's up to the Sharad9 whether and how many gender categories exist. Also, whatever categories may exist, some of them may not matter as far as magic is concerned. Obviously, the male category does not matter. The female does. I take from that statement that not all genders are able to work it: perhaps only actual females can!
If they have a concept of a finite number of gender categories, or assume that people can only be one gender, then non-binary people exist.
Again, it's not for you to say how these things work for someone else's world! We can discuss how these things work in our own worlds, and we can (carefully!) discuss how we understand them to work in the primary world, but, to speak for other people's work, well, I'd say that's not good practice.
The problem with this kind of worldbuilding is that, by tying sex, gender, and power together, you cannot avoid the issues raised by the existence of people who violate the assumptions of the society you have built.
And I'd say that is not a "problem" at all! If those social categories and biological realia do not exist, there is no issue. (A possibility!) If certain such social categories and such biological realia exist, and magic seems somehow selective, then far from being a problem, this is simply an interesting factoid of every day life in this particular world. Just like in the real world: not everybody can inseminate, and not everybody can gestate. Those are powers belonging to one sex or the other. Those of neither sex are left out. Way of life on planet Earth. On the third hand, if those categories and realia exist and become mixed within society with issues of power, authority, hierarchy, ambition and the abuses of people, especially the weak and powerless, then, Micamo, you have got a powerful brew from which to tell some interesting stories! Lots of potential there, if done well. The potential is strong in this kind of scenario because it gets right at the heart of human failure, human evil.
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Re: how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

Post by Micamo » Thu 13 Sep 2018, 06:40

It is highly unimaginative and lazy at best to copy/paste the cissexist assumptions of our own society without examination, and assert them as literally true in your own world. At worst, it is complicity in something evil.

It may be tempting to say "Ah, but those assumptions really are true in this world, because of factors X, Y, and Z", but the opposite is actually the case. You actually make things vastly more complicated for yourself, and if you don't actually understand the issues involved and you try to do this then you're just setting yourself up for embarrassment.

And even if you actually succeeded at this somehow, you aren't really accomplishing anything except closing off story possibilities for yourself, for no reason except that you want to keep us icky, icky trans and intersex folks out of your work.


Look, either follow my advice, or don't. I've done my due diligence here.
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Re: how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

Post by elemtilas » Thu 13 Sep 2018, 07:05

Micamo wrote:
Thu 13 Sep 2018, 06:40
It is highly unimaginative and lazy at best to copy/paste the cissexist assumptions of our own society without examination, and assert them as literally true in your own world. At worst, it is complicity in something evil.
If that were the case, you may be right! Then again, lazily copying anything from primary world society without thought and reworking is, well, a kind of social plagiarism! That is, not good worldbuilding.
It may be tempting to say "Ah, but those assumptions really are true in this world, because of factors X, Y, and Z", but the opposite is actually the case. You actually make things vastly more complicated for yourself, and if you don't actually understand the issues involved and you try to do this then you're just setting yourself up for embarrassment.
Possibly. That's one good reason for asking the opinions of others! Also a good reason to thìnk about these things rather than just lazily copy. The geopoet needs to understand the implications and potential outcomes of her work while in process of discovery.

If we say those assumptions are true in the secondary world, then we need to work out how those assumptions got that way. The factors "X, Y, &, Z". There will be considerations of biology and evolution and magic and theology and history and sociology and all sorts of things that play into it. It may blow up in our faces; but then again, we'll try not to let that happen! If by "the opposite is actually the case", you mean "in the primary world, the opposite is actually the case", then okay. Of course, we're not talking about the primary world, but rather an invented world. And one thing most of us do very well indeed is make things complicated for ourselves! Ah, the life of the historical fantasist is so much easier! Just plop your characters in the middle of 15th century Paris & let the story run from there! But no, for us, we have to discover impossible worlds and peoples whose biologies and physics have to differ as radically as we can imagine! And we have to try and make those things comprehensible to our fellow humans!
And even if you actually succeeded at this somehow, you aren't really accomplishing anything except closing off story possibilities for yourself,
In that culture, I agree, very possible! But then again, if we take humans as we be, we also close off many story possibilities!
for no reason except that you want to keep us icky, icky trans and intersex folks out of your work.
Whoah, friend! Please don't let your emotions get in the way of reasoned (and exciting, in my opinion!) discussion! You just stepped across the line of taking this way too personally! I don't see any evidence of what you're accusing here either in Sharad9's question or my interaction with you!
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Re: how can offspring affect the hierarchical power structure among witches?

Post by sangi39 » Thu 13 Sep 2018, 17:04

Okay, a post here was reported, and I can see why, but it's tricky ground to walk on. On the one hand, I think Micamo is right in regards to asking certain questions about how this process might affect trans/binary/intersex people, either in terms of whether they can exist (and if they can't exist, then why can't they exist?), and how they might be affected if they do exist.

However, I do think there's an assumption that's been made as to Sharad's intentions ("to keep us icky, icky trans and intersex folks out of your work") that I don't see any explicit evidence for. Sure, maybe a lack of thought towards them (which could be something, but that would best be discussed elsewhere, since it will likely involve, as has happened, discussions about current attitudes towards trans/binary/intersex people in the modern Western world).

Constructive criticism is fine, but, as we've stated dozens of times elsewhere, don't assume the OP's intentions and don't put words in their mouths.

(of course, maybe I missed something else in some other part of the board where Sharad did say "icky, icky trans and intersex folks", but I haven't seen it here)
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