Not all roles among the Flamebringers are divided according to gender, and when they are divided, the divisions are not always strict. For example, all young men are expected to hunt, but young women are allowed to hunt, too. Men can cook and forage, but women are expected to do so.
But when it comes to horses and lodges, the gender divisions are strict.
Only men can own horses. A man is expected to provide horses for his wife and all his unmarried daughters. If his brother dies, he must provide horses for his brother’s wife and children as well.
Only women can own lodges. Daughters make their own lodges when they are ready to marry. Sons sleep in the lodge until they are old enough to be scouts. Then they must sleep outside (at least in summer) until they marry.
At the spring and autumn gatherings, young women who are ready to marry wear their hair in a certain way. Those who wish to stay in their band wear one braid on the left side. Those who wish to leave wear one braid on the right side. A woman with two braids is signaling that she is willing to leave her band or to stay.
One tale tells of a girl who cut her sister’s hair while she was sleeping, either so that her sister could not leave or so that her sister could not stay, depending on who tells the story.
A woman can indicate that she has her own lodge by tying the braid up in a loop. Those with looped braids are deemed most serious about marriage, but that does not stop young men from courting the others.
A woman who has her heart set on a certain young man may wear a single braid down the back to ward off other suitors and loop the end to indicate that she hopes to be married by the end of the gathering. Some women, however, will continue to wear the two looped braids, as an indication that the young man should hurry up and make his claim more permanent.
By tradition, the spring gathering is a time for flirtation and courtship. Young people who feel especially serious about each other may ask their parents for a “spring marriage”. This is a six-month trial marriage during which they can discover if they are making the right decision about whom to marry and which band to travel with.
Marriages at the autumn gathering are considered permanent.
Even an autumn marriage can be ended if things are not working out, however. To effect a divorce, the wife simply puts her husband’s belongings outside the lodge. Women can only divorce in the summer (between spring and autumn meetings) because they are obligated to provide a lodge in winter. Similarly, men can only divorce (remove belongings from the village house) in winter, because they are obligated to provide horses in summer.
A “blue moon divorce” is when the husband divorces shortly before the village packs up to move to the spring gathering. This is technically legal, but the taishrefis frown on it, because it leaves the woman with little time to acquire a horse from her male relatives. A man who abandons a woman in this way will be unlikely to find a taishrefi who will perform rites for a new marriage.