When Qat wove Iro Lei with pliant rods and made her live, it was to be his own wife; his brothers tried to carry her off for themselves, one woman among eleven of them, but they are said to be stealing her, not claiming a right. When he made men, male and female, he assigned to each man his wife. On the other side is to be set the testimony, the strong testimony, of words. This is given by the plural form in which the terms for 'mother' and 'husband' or 'wife' are expressed. In the Mota language the form is very clear; ra is the plural prefix; the division, side, or kin, is the veve, and mother is ra veve; soai is a member, as of a body, or a component part of a house or of a tree, and ra soai is either husband or wife. To interpret ra as a prefix of dignity is forbidden by the full consciousness of the natives themselves that it expresses plurality. The kin is the veve, a child's mother is 'they of the kin,' his kindred. A man's kindred are not called his veve because they are his mother's people; she is called his veve, in the plural, his kindred, as if she were the representative of the kin; as if he were not the child of the particular woman who bore him, but of the whole kindred for whom she brought him into the world. By a parallel use to this a plural form is given to the Mota word for child, reremera, with a doubled plural sign; a single boy is called not 'child' but 'children,' as if his individuality were not distinguished from the common offspring of his veve. The same plural prefix is found in other Banks' Island words meaning mother; rave in Santa Maria, retne in Vanua Lava, reme in Torres Islands. The mother is called ratahi in Whitsuntide, and ratahigi in Lepers' Island, that is the sisters, the sisterhood, because she represents the sister members of the waivung who are the mothers generally of the children. Similarly the one word used for husband or wife has the plural form. In Mota a man does not call his wife a member of him, a component part of him, but his members, his component parts; and so a wife speaks of her husband. It is not that the man and his wife make up a composite body between them, but that the men on the one side and the women on the other make up a
Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/50
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