Open main menu

Page:A book of folk-lore (1913).djvu/244

This page needs to be proofread.


or else the women of a tribe belonged to the entire tribe, and no child could say who was his father. Indeed, the woman could not identify the father of her child. Consequently there was a stage in society in which the children were related to their mother only. M'Lennan says of the Australian aborigines: "It is not in quarrels uncommon to find children of the same father arrayed against one another, or, indeed, against the father himself, for by their peculiar law the father can never be a relative to his own children." This can arise only out of a still earlier stage of society, when the women were the common property of the tribe, so that the fathers of the children were not known. The institution of the couvade marks a revolt against this horrible condition of affairs, and indicates a moral change, when the father was resolved to insist on his own parentage and property in the child. It was, in a word, the rebellion against promiscuity and the beginning of the family.

But how was the father to assert his paternity? Only by pretending to be confined of the babe, showing by every possible exhibition of debility, and exhaustion, and by solicitude in eating and drinking only such things as could not hurt the child, as if