Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/65

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Reserve and Avoidance.

singular reserve is strongly shewn, as it is in Fiji, by brothers and sisters, and also by mothers and sons; but this reserve, though its existence and its cause may well throw light upon that exercised between those connected by marriage, has no proper place here. In Florida, in the Solomon Islands, there is no difficulty about meeting, or mentioning the name of, father- or mother-in-law, or any of a wife's kindred, and no extraordinary marks of respect are shewn. It is the same at Saa. The extraordinary separation of the sexes in Santa Cruz and the neighbouring islands, however instructive to observe in this connexion, does not follow on relation by marriage. In the Banks' Islands the rules of avoidance and reserve are very strict and minute. As regards the avoidance of the person, a man will not come near his wife's mother; the avoidance is mutual; if the two chance to meet in a path, the woman will step out of it and stand with her back turned till he has gone by, or perhaps if it be more convenient he will move out of the way. At Vanua Lava, in Port Patteson, a man would not follow his mother-in-law along the beach, nor she him, until the tide had washed out the footsteps of the first traveller from the sand. At the same time a man and his mother-in-law will talk at a distance. A man does not avoid his father-in-law, nor a woman hers. A man does not avoid his wife's brother, but will not sleep with him; he does not avoid his son's wife, or his own wife's sister. Boys and girls who are engaged generally avoid one another, but through shyness, not by rule. Where the persons above mentioned do not avoid one another, they are careful to shew respect in not taking anything from above the head or stepping over the legs of a father-in-law or wife's brother. It is disrespectful at all times for a young man to take anything from above an elder man's head, for there is something naturally sacred, rongo, about the head, and no one will take the liberty of stepping over the legs of any but a brother or intimate friend. To avoid the mention of a name shews a lower degree of respect than to avoid a person. A man who sits and talks with his wife's father will not mention his name, much less his