Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/49

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27
Question of Communal Marriage.

took a tuber of qevu, a kind of yam, and threw it at the other, who at once turned into a woman, and cried with a loud voice that many men should die because of women. This woman had two daughters, who fell out; and from one of these sprang one waivung, and from the second the other. In case of the adoption of a child by a foster-mother who is of the other 'bunch,' the secret of the kindred is carefully kept; the true state of the case is never mentioned by those who know it, until the time for marriage comes. This is done out of consideration for the feelings of the adopting parents; but the repugnance to marriage within the kin is too great to allow of permanent concealment.

The system of the division of the people into strictly exogamous kins is no doubt best seen and considered where the division is simple and separates the whole population on the one 'side of the house' and the other. Two questions may here therefore be suitably raised; the first, whether in this division there are traces of a communal system of marriage; the second, whether the system is sufficient to prevent that which it seems intended or maintained in order to prevent, namely, the marriage of persons too closely allied in blood. In regard to the first question it must be said, on the one hand, that the people have no memory of a time when all the women of one side were in fact common wives to the men of the other side, and that there is no occasion on which the women become common to the men who are not of their kin. The license of a gathering at a feast is confessed to be great, but it is disorderly and illegitimate, and is not defended on the ground of prescription. If a great man making a feast gives it to be understood that he will not allow the harmony of the gathering to be spoilt by jealous quarrelling about women, it is taken as a festive concession; if he gives out that people are to behave well, they know that any one who takes liberties will have to answer for it, not only, as on ordinary occasions, to the injured husband, but to the powerful master of the feast. The stories also of the creation of mankind, and particularly of woman, represent individual marriage.