I have already written about family and friends in the set of articles I am writing as basic content about legacy in the first month of this site being live, so why would I also write about other words for family and friends, kin and kith?
In the earlier article, about Family and Friendship in Legacy, I said:
We take bits of the stories and lives of all those people we meet and incorporate them into our selves. When we give of ourselves to others, we give them a bit of all the souls who have touched us up until that time. When I view legacy this way it conjures up an image of a web of interconnection, of life energy and information that stretches out between the past and future the world touching a person and interweaving all the lives that have influenced another life in some small way.
The words kith and kin hearken back to a time in what is now Europe when a Germanic people used these words to refer to neighbors and family, or in other words, the people of their village.
It meant more than simply a friend. As a fellow villager there probably would be family ties or ties of marriage if not actual ties of blood and kinship. These would be the people with whom you were born, raised, with whom you worked in the fields and granaries, and with whom you would grow old and die. I am not so sure that the situation and relationship to which kith referred actually exists in more than a handful of remote locales in the world today.
And kin implies a much larger and more complex group of relations that might only be found at large, old-fashioned family reunions. An extended kin network could be called upon to act when there was a social need such as a political, economic or defense needs.
The phrase “kindred spirit” evokes for women who grew up reading the stories of the adventures and misadventures of Anne Shirley a young woman, an orphan, who desperately wants to have a shared relationship that is a true and lasting connection between people as deep as a connection of kin but as individually affirming as friendship.
The connecting thread within these three terms is in the lasting, immutable nature of bonds described by each term. Friends and family as terms are just not as descriptive as kith and kin, and the nuances of connections beyond simple friendship that kindred spirit or soul mate can evoke when used to describe the way people relate rather than using simple generic terms.
I wonder if the word “friend” has lost some of its power with the way it’s used in social media. You’re right in that kith and kin seems to have a deeper meaning.
I think you are spot on, Tamara, with social media’s overuse of the word.