Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/253

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Ceremonies in infancy. Dress.

the kin of the father and therefore not kin of the infant, on that day perform a certain ceremony called huhuni; they lay upon the infant's head mats and the strings with which pigs are tied, and the father tells them that he accepts this as a sign that hereafter they will feed and help his son. There is clearly in this a movement towards the patriarchal system, a recognition of the tie of blood through the father and of duties that follow from it. Another sign of the same advance of the father's right is to be seen in the very different custom that prevails in the Banks' Islands on the birth of a first-born son; there is raised upon that event, a noisy and playful fight, vagalo, after which the father buys off the assailants with payment of money to the other veve, to the kinsmen that is of the child and his mother. It is hardly possible to be mistaken in taking this fight to be a ceremonial, if playful, assertion of the claim of the mother's kinsfolk to the child as one of themselves, and the father's payment to be the quieting of their claim and the securing of his own position as head of his own family.

As children grow they remain in their tender years in the women's care within the house. They are commonly weaned when they can crawl. Their first advance in life when they are boys depends very much upon the custom of the place concerning clothing. In the Banks' Islands, where males of any age wore nothing, boys as they grew bigger were sent to sleep in the gamal, the public club-house; the parents said 'He is a boy, it is time to separate him from the girls.' They took their meals at home until sooner or later they had their place bought for them in the Suqe Club. In the Torres Islands the nose is bored on the third day for the future ornament. In Florida and its neighbourhood boys of six or seven put on the little wrapper worn by males, and are very particular about it. At Santa Cruz the boys go at first to the chief's mandai, canoe-house and public hall, in the daytime and go home to sleep; after a while they cease to return at night. Before dress in that island comes the indispensable nose-ring; the hole for this is made in infancy and a little ring inserted. When the ears are bored it is a great