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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/415

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395
KINSHIP IN POLYNESIA.

seizing whatever may take his fancy, regardless of its value or the owner's inconvenience in its loss. Resistance is not thought of, and objection only offered in extreme cases. Thokonauto, a Rewa chief, during a quarrel with an uncle, used the right of Vasu, and actually supplied himself with ammunition from his enemy's stores."[1]

It can not be denied that this great power of the sister's son is very remarkable, and at the first glance it seems only possible to explain it by assuming that there was a peculiar sanctity in the tie of kinship between the man and his sister's son. The extent of the claim is astonishing—a claim which no son would venture to put forward; and this is the more remarkable since the sister's son is not the uncle's heir. In all other cases in which the female line divides father and son, in order to tighten the bond between the mother's brother and sister's son, the analogy with the male line is maintained; that is, the uncle exerts his authority over the sister's son, whereas in this instance their positions are reversed. This arouses a suspicion that ideas unconnected with the female line may have produced the Vasu rights.

On examining more closely the whole institution of the Vasu, we are first struck by the fact that no legitimate rights belong to the common Vasu. These claims can only be made by the Vasu whose mother's brother possesses people and land. It may be assumed that the power of the Vasu in its extreme development was first directed against the mother's brother after it had become an integral part of the political machinery of Fiji, since we are told that the Vasu right becomes an instrument in the king's hand for ruthlessly plundering the land. The king makes use of the Vasu, and shares the plunder with him.[2] There can be no doubt that the institution of Vasu arose out of the natural reverence with which the subjects regarded the king's sister's son when he visited his uncle. They honored the king through his kinsfolk. The king and his sons ruled after no gentle fashion, and the ruler was entitled to commit all sorts of acts of violence. In this way the honor paid to the king's sister's son enabled him to rob the people freely. The Vasu right was gradually transformed into a fundamental institution, and that which was at first serviceable to the king was now turned against him. It certainly affords no indications of a mystical and religious belief in any special sacred bond between the mother's brother and sister's son.

 


 
The Russian observers of the solar eclipse of August 19, 1887, have expressed the conclusion that the corona has a real existence, and is not merely an optical phenomenon; it having maintained its shape during the whole of the eclipse at each spot where it was observed, and also at spots as far as six thousand miles apart.
  1. Williams and Calvert, p. 27.
  2. Ibid., p. 27. Appendix xxviii.