Wikipedia, intersex and an unexpected ‘tree of affinity’

Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 262.f71v

Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 262, fol. 71v.

I happened to look up the Wikipedia entry on ‘Intersex in history’ (, and first the first time noted that it has an illustration that has nothing to do with intersex, showing a lovely arbor iuris, a diagram illustrating the marriage prohibitions on ground of consanguinity and (as in this case) affinity, thus known as ‘tree of affinity’. It tells you, for example, whether you can marry your deceased brothers’s widow (no). Always good to see some medieval canon law, but what your deceased brother’s widow have to do with intersex?

As it turned out, the only link seems to be this blog.

How come? Some times ago, in October 2015, I wrote a short post ( on a medieval chronicle which mentions how an episcopal court in 1388 uphelp a contested marriage between a man with double genitalia (a ‘male hermaphrodite having both sexes’, as premodern scholars would have said) and his wife. It was one of the first narrative sources that made me realize that medieval canon law contained very many marriage prohibitions but no prohibitions for a person ‘having both sexes’ to marry either as a man or as a woman. So when I thought about an illustration for the blogpost, I chose an image of an arbor iuris, the one you see to the left (or above) in this post.

What happened next can be inferred from the well-documented changes of the Wikipedia entry (the ‘revision history’ is one of the things I really like about Wikipedia!). Almost a year after I had published the above-mentioned post, in late August 2016, the Wikipedia entry was added to from some sources mentioned in my 2013 Leeds papers; a few days later, the image mentioned above was added, apparently after someone had had a look at this blog. So if Wikipedia has an irrelevant illustration on intersex in history, blame me if you like.

Suggested citation: Christof Rolker, Wikipedia, intersex and an unexpected ‘tree of affinity’, in Männlich-weiblich-zwischen, 09/02/2017, Lizenz: CC BY-SA 4.0 []. Letzter Aufruf: 21/05/2022.

Christof Rolker

Prof. Dr. Christof Rolker, Historiker an der Universität Bamberg.

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Christof Rolker

Prof. Dr. Christof Rolker, Historiker an der Universität Bamberg.

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