Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/796

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
778
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

lets his hair grow as he desires to wear it. The girls cease to play and laugh with the boys, observe a more strict and graver walk, and more usually keep to the house.

Betrothals take place, in the presence of both families, one or two years before the marriage. They consist of a repast participated in in common by all the connection, and in the proclamation of the engagement which the two families have made to unite their children. As the diviners have named the most favorable day for the betrothal, they also designate the most suitable one for the celebration of the marriage. This ceremony takes place, like the former one, in the presence of both the contracting families, the kindred, and the neighbors. It includes presents made by the groom to the parents of the bride, the offer of betel and areca nuts, the invocation of ancestors, and the chang day or binding of the wrists, a curious ceremony which all the parents perform by attaching cotton threads around the left wrist, in token, I suppose, of the bonds which will hereafter exist between the members of the two families. Besides this a present of sampots, silver bars, or money is made by the friends of the groom to the mother of the bride, in consideration of the care she bestowed on her daughter in her infancy. This has been improperly, perhaps, styled the price of the girl; if not a proof of her purchase by the groom, it is certainly a relic of the customs of a period when the woman was bought by the one who married her, and the price paid to the mother. I say to the mother, not to the father, because the present is in reality made to her, and not to the head of the family; a very important fact, which with others that I shall adduce attests to the existence in the past of the matriarchate among the Khmers.

I find traces of this state of society in this fact, that the price of the "nursing milk," as it is called, is paid to the mother; and also in the much more lasting and profound respect had by the son for his mother, and in the general and uncontested principle that the woman put away by her husband has the right to take her children with her. I might add, too, in support of this view that it is the custom, always observed, for the father not to consent to a marriage which the mother opposes, and not to pledge a child without the consent of its mother; then there is the instinctive horror, much more marked than when the father is the victim, which Cambodians feel at the thought of a child beating its mother. One of the most conclusive proofs appears in the word for cousin-german, which when analyzed means brother-grandmother, or brother by the same grandmother, but never brother by the same grandfather. This affords an almost incontestable trace of an ancient social régime when relationship followed the female line.