The Gossamer Years

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Aristocratic marriage and family during the mid-Heian period was very different than the traditional marriage that we are accustomed to today. The Gossamer Years is a diary about an aristocratic marriage of a mid-Heian Fujiwara noblewoman known today as “ the mother of Michitsuna ” and her unhappy marriage with her kinsman, Fujiwara Kaneie. The Gossamer Years shows how the process of getting married was different back then and how family was close between the wife and her mother and father, but as not close between the wife, her husband, and their children. These customs today would not be accepted in today’s society around the world.

The process of marriage in the mid-Heian period began with the exchange of notes that were in the form of short poems. This was absolutely mandatory if you wanted to start communication with a marriageable girl. The first several requests for meeting the girl would be rejected, but eventually the girl would answer back in her own writing (p. 33.) If you did get a meeting, you were expected to sneak in after dark and you had to leave before dawn (p. 58.) Permission to visit though would only be extended only after discussion with the family, with the mother usually making the final decision. If the nocturnal visit were repeated three times then the girl’s family would approach the man before leaving the third dawn and they would invite the man to join them and from that point on he would be considered the husband. The nature of marriage during the mid-Heian period was traditional for their time period but not customary for what people today are used to. Family was close between the wife and her mother and father, but not as close between the wife, her husband, and their children. In The Gossamer Years, the noblewoman is very sad when her father had to depart, saying, “ He was unable to hold back his tears, and my own grief I find quite impossible to describe.” (p. 36.) The noblewoman is also sad when her mother dies, she said...
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