Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/267

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Polygamy. Polyandry.

is already in the family. It is a rare thing that a woman should remain a widow long, but there is a period and sign of mourning. In San Cristoval men and women wear large tassels of grey shells as ear-rings for a mark of widowhood; to cut the hair short and daub the person with soot and ashes is very common. In the Banks' Islands the widow or widower refrains from some article of food, such as yam, for a year or lesser time, and wears a rope round the neck, a ganaro, as a sign of it. To val or naro in this way is a sign of mourning for any loss.

Polygamy is the rule, though a considerable number of wives is found only with rich and elder men. One wife is commonly enough for a Florida man, who says that he can neither manage nor afford more than one. When a great man like Takua had seven it was thought a great many. At Visale in Guadalcanar Tekaunga has, or had, sixty wives; in Florida a wife costs much, in Guadalcanar but little. At Saa ordinary men have two wives, great men eight or ten. In the Banks' Islands a well-to-do man has ordinarily two wives, and may have three. A Vanua Lava man was not long ago believed to have thirty. As a man advances in life and survives his maternal uncles, his brothers, and his cousins, the widows of these tend to accumulate around him; they are called his wives, live in houses round him and work for him, but he lives practically with two or three younger women whom he has taken for himself. In Lepers' Island, where men generally have two wives, a singular arrangement is approved of, whereby a man who has a young wife takes an elder woman, a widow, for a second, to look after the first. Some men there have three or four wives; a great man lately had fifty wives, and his son and successor has already thirty; a chief inland is credited with a hundred. Polygamy in all the islands is a fruitful cause of quarrels and bloodshed.

Anything properly called Polyandry is unknown, nor is it easy for natives to conceive of it as a possible marriage state. Still cases are known in the Banks' Islands where two