Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/250

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CHAPTER XIV.

BIRTH. CHILDHOOD. MARRIAGE.

In attempting to trace the course of a Melanesian life from birth to burial we soon meet with practices connected with the Couvade. A proper Couvade has perhaps been observed in San Cristoval alone, when the young father was found lying in after the birth of his child; and it should be observed that this was where the child follows the father's kindred. There is much however which approaches this. At Saa it is not only the expectant mother who is careful what she eats, the father also both before and after the child's birth refrains from some kinds of food which would hurt the child. He will not eat pig's flesh, and he abstains from movements which are believed to do harm, upon the principle that the father's movements affect those of the child. A man will not do hard work, lift heavy weights, or go out to sea; he keeps quiet lest the child should start, should over-strain itself, or should throw itself about as he paddles. In the Banks' Islands also, both parents are careful what they eat when the child is born, they take only what if taken by the infant would not make it ill; before the birth of her first child the mother must not eat fish caught by the hook, net, or trap. After the birth of the first child, the father does no heavy work for a month; after the birth of any of his children, he takes care not to go into those sacred places, tano rongo, into which the child could not go without risk. It is the same in the New Hebrides; the expectant Araga father keeps away from sacred places, ute sapuga, before the