Homosexuality in the middle ages

One thing came up today. I helped a new player create a character, as he's new to Ars Magica. And we came up with the idea of his character being gay. He plays a Tremere with the Damphir virtue. Anyway, I know that homosexuality was seen as a sin in the middle ages (and for some people, it still is a sin, it seems). But how severe was the Church's view on this? How about Islam and among the Jews? I havn't been able to find alot about this.

Also, should it be a Flaw? Since this character is very proud, and won't hide it from anyone, I was thinking Social Handicap, but I'm not sure. Any thoughts on this?


I'd expect the church to take a literal view of the bible which says homosexuals should be put to death

Seriously, is that in the bible? I didn't know... :open_mouth:

But do we know of any specific example of treatment of homosexuals in this time period?


With a humble apology..
no offense intended..


The Term "faggot" is sometimes referred to Homosexuals. People like to think the term originally meant "Bundle of sticks"...well it did...sort of.

When the church used to catch and burn a witch, they would also find a bunch of homosexual folk to add to the fire. This of course was both efficient and useful (not my opinion here). First, it was done to insult the Witch. Second it was done to eliminate the homosexuals(faggots). This was common. When burning at the stake, it was also helpful to throw on a bundle of sticks... Hence the stick bundle became "Faggot". Thereafter, "faggot" has a dual meaning, but really originated with throwing the homosexual on to insult the witch.

But are there any specific places in the bible that goes against homosexuality?
Anyone know how this is seen in Islam and Judaism?


That story seems to me to have the ring of modern mythology rather than historical accuracy. Where did you hear it?

This seems like a decent place to start:

Paul Halsall 1988, The Experience of Homosexuality in the Middle Ages




Thanks, this is very useful. But what flaw would be suitable for the character?


ooooh...where...hmmm Let me get back to on that one...
I remember it because years ago a kid in school used the term and. of course the teacher gave it to him...he defended himself with the defense of..."Bundle of Sticks".
When I heard the contradictory meaning, it stuck...but I don't remember where I heard it...(a book IIRC)...if I remember I will pass it along.

Both www.wordorigins.com and wikipedia characterize your version as a popular urban myth that often appears on the Internet. :wink: They also both have it that 'faggot' meant mean old woman, and came to mean gay man in the same way that 'sissy' and other feminine words did.

Leviticus 20:13 says: "If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they should surely be put to death...." Check out whosoever.org/bible/ for more of the passages often quoyed in this context. Many of them are from the Old Testament/Torah, so they're Jewish, as well.

Koran 4:16 says: "If two men among you is guilty of lewdness, punish them both...," and Koran 27:55 says: "Would ye really approach men in your lusts rather than Women? Nay, ye are a people (grossly) ignorant!"

Homosexuality in a stylised medieval Mythic Europe being viewed as sodomy* and thus very sinful, you might even consider making him a flaw related to the infernal. That might also somewhat provoke you players.. Which to a certain degree can be an useful way to prod a troupe to bigger immersion in the setting.

*(disclaimer: not my words nor anything I condone! I don't believe in the concept of sin nor the alienation of minorities :exclamation: )

Some interesting points have been raised here, but you haven't addressed:
*How would REAL wizards feel about homosexuality?
*What would happen if two REAL dragons mated in a same-sex coupling?
*Given that REAL Mercurian magic could change someone's gender (vide: caduceus), would the victim of such a spell (violation of the Law of Essential Nature or no) be considered a homosexual if he had sex with... well, anyone?

...anyone see what I'm driving at here? You're trying to add 'authenticity' to a fantasy game. It's rooted in history, but it's rooted more firmly in myth. The worldview on sexuality should be about the same as the worldview on gender, race, or religion; appropriate to your setting. If your players want homosexuality swept under the table, that's fine. If it's common among the faerie but taboo among the magi, cool. If sitting in the same coach as another dude gets you burned, it's your saga.

5th edition has made great strides in acknowleding the prejudice that existed in our world in the year 1220 without it dragging the feel of the whole game down. Any addressing of similar subject matter should be in a similar vein.

Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
I have not read this book , so i cannot say how useful it might be.
You could also check some of the other book links on the same page.

You could make being Gay (and male) a Story Flaw ,
depending on how much impact it has as to major or minor.
It would combine well with Blessing or Curse of Venus.

Well, I think a story flaw would be best, but he already got one of those (relating to his Damphir virtue). But anyway, we want to make the view on this as historically accurate as possible in the mundane society. True, it's a fantasy setting, but it's one that's rooted in real history. This varies a great deal from campaign to campaign, I'm sure, but in my campaign, we're calling it a historical campaign with fantasy elements added. :slight_smile:


What Furion said about actions making you subject to infernal, remember to divide the churches opinion from what the divine would want. The bible is contradictory and full of anarchronistic views even in the middle ages some things would be outdated. When the church views something as sinful, that is not the same as god. The important thing to look for as far as does it damn you to the infernal is is it breaking the commandments?

If I ran the game, then if one of the partners was married to a woman as well then that would come under adultery, so yes. If neither partner was married then it is just lustful activity and not too sinful as long as confessed the next time you see your priest. Of course the priest would see things differently.

As far as a flaw for the character, if the homosexuality is openly known then why not the general minor flaw - infamous. He gets a minus 4 reputation. If he conceals it then it would have to be a story flaw -dark secret.

Or if you wanted to be generous then look at it in game mechanics, he would be immune to venus blessings/curses from women and be vulnerable to them from men, and a social interaction penalty if he tries to conceal his feelings. The closest flaw to that type of thing would be transvestite, which is a minor personality flaw.

In my campaign, God himself (or herself, or itself) is a mysterious source of positive energy, not some white bearded guy on a cloud :laughing:
Different cultures filter this energy through what they think is right, and more often than not, religion is made up by powerful people wanting to control weaker ones. That's one of the reasons I like how the game uses True Faith. One can hate the Church, but still have True Faith, since it goes directly to God.
So I don't think God would have anything against homosexuality in my campaign, the Church would.

"I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of God. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness."
-Hospitalier (Dawid Thewlis), Kingdom of Heaven


If I have offended please excuse me. That was never my intention.

I do think that many of the acts and worldview of a majority of medieval Europeans is not somthing you cannot suffice to call prejudice (of many other groups as well) - much of it was discrimination and downright prosecution of minorities and deviants. This is a broad generalisation, on some issues they might have been more liberal than most people are today, and to some extent we haven't improved as much as we would like to think.

If I chose to include any such topic in a story it's never been to mock nor trivialise it, but because I there find it to add to the role play in a significant way. We do have a gay charachter (only flaw he has related to it is Dark Secret - whether he would be ostracised, discriminted against or not, should people know, he doesn't feel like sharing it) and no infernality has been included in that, but it has given us interesting and memorable scenes.

I fully agree with you, but this is exactly a question related how you want your setting to be - I've never felt that Mythic Europe had to be some authentic-striving setting. People can off course do whatever the prefer, which should go without saying. I myself just happen to prefer to draw a heavily inspiration from the (non-mythic) medieval Europe, but I abuse and change whatever historic facts as well as I like to make better stories, but others I use as stands.

And I also like to provoke my players, who really aren't that easy to provoke, with some of the differences between our daily life and the ones lived by people before us. Why? Using so much time on a loved hobby I don't mind if it also happens to broaden your perceptions or your knowledge of history.

But foremost I do it because it is interesting. Both the provoking with strange views on things and the research involved in finding tidbits on medieval culture and beliefs.

What about making the Homosexuality a Supernatural Merit or Flaw?
(The player is a Dhampir)
Minor flaw would give the same social penalties as "The Gift"
Major flaw would be as the Blatant Gift.
Reverse the bonus if taken as a Merit.

What this could mean is that some men will find the character attractive ,
even if they would not normally be inclined that way.
(they are unaffected by any negative social penalty)
As a flaw , this leads to trouble
as anyone affected will be inclined to violence or acts of revenge.

Well, the point is that this character is homosexual, plain and simple. Nothing supernatural about it. The human element is very important in my campaign, and it is more firmly rooted in history than myth. Of course, it's Ars Magica, so magic exists, but it's not what you could call a high fantasy campaign.
It's a difficult theme to tackle, but it would seem that the guy who's most relaxed about it is the player himself, being gay himself. So I think this will be a very interesting character in a campaign, as we will play on all those extreme opinions (that is, extreme today, quite common in the middle ages) about homosexuality.

So we now know how it would be seen in the eyes of the Church and regular people. But how would the Order of Hermes see it? I guess my own character (we two Storyguides, so I get to play too :smiley: ) wouldn't mind it at all, being an Otter Bjornaer with the Pagan flaw. The Merinita in the group would not mind either. His father was a Satyr, and his mother was a hedge magician. The Criamon in the group, I'm not so sure about. He's working on the Path of the Body..
But what of the Order as a whole?


I think that might be taking it too far....