Popular Science Monthly/Volume 39/June 1891/Survivals from Marriage by Capture

889118Popular Science Monthly Volume 39 June 1891 — Survivals from Marriage by Capture1891Alfred Burdon Ellis


By Lieutenant-Colonel A. B. ELLIS.

AMONG those races of man which have made the least progress in civilization we find that the men of a group or community are in the habit of procuring wives by seizing and carrying off the women of other groups or communities. It is the practice, for instance, among the Fuegians, the Australians, the tribes of the Amazon, some of the aborigines of the Deccan, several of the Malay peoples of the Indian Archipelago, many African tribes, and other peoples too numerous to be here given in detail. Shortly summarized, it may be said that the practice is caused by the scarcity of women, which results from female infanticide, which in its turn is due to the struggle for existence, necessarily hard among savage races who trust wholly to the chase and the spontaneous fruits of the earth for their supply of food. Wherever man lives under such precarious conditions each extra mouth to fill becomes a matter for serious consideration, and as male infants, future hunters and braves, are of more value to the group than female, the latter are slain in a larger proportion. As man emerges from these conditions and cultivates the soil or domesticates animals, the struggle for existence becomes less hard, infanticide diminishes, and the sexes become more equally balanced. But the former condition lasts long. It is probably within the mark to say that several centuries passed away before man commenced to till the soil, and many more before he began to domesticate animals; and during the whole of this time, to judge the past by the present, he probably obtained wives by capture from his neighbors.

Now, after man had for a great number of generations been in the habit of associating marriage with a violent abduction of women, he would inevitably come to regard the two as necessary complements of each other. Man is a creature of habit, and continually perseveres in old customs when their necessity has long passed away, and when even their meaning and intention have been forgotten. Hence, as he has been in the habit of seizing women for wives, he would, even when the necessity for violence no longer existed, still continue to preserve at least the form of it; regarding the acquisition of a wife without some semblance of force as improper, because unusual, and at variance with old custom. As time passed on, this form, or rite, of capture would necessarily become disintegrated, passing from an actual capture to a symbolic capture, and finally dwindling away into a variety of minor ceremonies. These, which we may call forms of survival from marriage by capture, it is the purpose of this paper to classify. They are numerous, examples being forthcoming from every part of the world, and from peoples in every phase of civilization. This, however, is as might be expected, for it is certain that almost every race of man must have passed through the initial stages which gave rise to the practice. The marriage by capture de facto, it must be observed, is a violent abduction, regarded as an act of hostility. With this class it is not proposed to deal. The hostile abduction is the actuality; and what we are now about to inquire into are the ceremonial abductions, and practices derived therefrom, the symbols of the former reality.

The different forms of survival so blend one into another, and two are so frequently found combined together, that it is impossible to make a classification that will meet every case; but what it is here proposed to do is to group the forms under general heads, from which the more disintegrated varieties may be traced. For this purpose it will be convenient to divide them into two groups, viz.: (1) Forms which precede the consummation of the marriage; (2) forms which follow it. These two groups may again be divided, the first into (a) forms symbolizing a conflict between opposing parties or clans; (b) forms symbolizing a capture of a woman, either by a party or by an individual; and (c) bride-racing; and the second into (d) forms symbolizing an escape or attempt to escape from the husband; and (e) forms limiting social intercourse between the young couple and their relatives by marriage.

The form which approaches nearest to the reality, and which is therefore probably the most archaic, is that in which the bridegroom, assisted by his friends, attempts to seize and carry off the bride, the seizure being resisted by her friends. There is a good deal of violence, and the bridegroom is not always successful. We find a good example of this form in Captain Johnstone's Maoria.[1] Among the New Zealanders an indispensable preliminary to every description of tawa, or expeditio—whether a tawa muru, a tawa to confiscate, a tawa tango, a tawa for carrying off a woman, or a tawa toto, a tawa to kill or destroy—was to send and give notice, otherwise it would have been stigmatized as a koharu, a murder, or act of treachery. The notice once given, the march of the raiding party might follow immediately, or be delayed for an indefinite time, which was sometimes done with the view of throwing the enemy off his guard. In the tawa tango described by Captain Johnstone, a young man of the Ngatiroa tribe had fallen in love with a girl of the Mania tribe, and, as there was no reason to hope that a demand for the hand of the lady would prove successful, the chief of the Ngatiroa was induced, through the influence of a new wife, the sister of the suitor, to proclaim a tawa tango. An ambassadress was sent to give notice to the Mania tribe, and two large canoes full of men accompanied her. The ambassadress saw the tawa received at a friendly village, where it was arranged it should remain for a day or two, and then went on to the settlement of the Mania. There she was received with great respect and distinction, nor was there the slightest change made in the manner of her hosts when she announced that a tawa would arrive the next day or the day after to carry off a certain maiden. "Of whom did the tawa consist?" she was asked; and when the Mania learned that it was only composed of about one hundred and sixty men in two canoes, they felt rather offended at so small a tawa coming to attempt the abduction of one of their maidens. However, in the mean time, and without the knowledge of the ambassadress, who would have been obliged by custom to declare the true strength of the party, the tawa had been reenforced by seven more canoes full of men, which had started a few hours after the first two. The warriors in these canoes reached the Mania settlement and hid in a gully close below the pa, or stockaded fort, leaving the two original canoes to approach alone. When the Mania saw only these two canoes, they opened the gates of their pa, and the chiefs, having marshaled their men, performed the customary dance of welcome. The Ngatiroa who had landed below the pa, formed in a long, oblong phalanx, the rear of which rested upon the gully in which their friends lay concealed, and, upon the conclusion of the dance of the Mania, commenced their share in the performance. The oblong wedge, the Maori order of battle, advanced singing in a low tone, and gesticulating in what they would have called a mild manner. On they advanced, the movement raising no suspicion in the breasts of their adversaries, it being part of the customary ritual of the war dance, until the thin end of the phalanx overlapped the Mania, and stood between them and the gates of the pa. Suddenly a change was visible in the antics of the Ngatiroa; their gesticulations became violent, their eyes protruded, their heads were thrown back, and their throats uttered a mighty shout. As the cry passed their lips, a stream of warriors rushed up the banks of the gully and joined the cluster of their comrades, now swollen to a compact mass of six hundred men. When the Mania realized the ruse practiced upon them, they never for a moment thought of giving up the fair cause of the incursion without a struggle. Into the pa poured both parties—the Mania to rally round the girl; the Ngatiroa, except the small party expressly told off to carry away the lady, seeking every man an opponent to wrestle with. Each party was anxious to avoid bloodshed, both being "Tribes of the River." The uproar was therefore greater than had they been engaged in actual warfare, it being more difficult to master a man by strength of muscle than to knock a hole through him. At length superior numbers prevailed. Those who fought around the lady were dragged away; she was roughly seized, and such a tugging and hauling ensued that, had she not been to the manner born, she must have been rent in pieces. At last but one young man, a secret admirer of the lady, retained his hold. An active young fellow, he had so twisted his hands and arms into the girl's hair, and fought so vigorously with his legs, that he could not be removed until he was knocked down senseless. The contest ended, and the bride being borne in triumph to the canoes, both parties proceeded to pick up their weapons and smooth their feathers. Everything had been conducted in the most honorable and satisfactory manner. The Ngatiroa had duly declared their intention, and, if they had surprised the Mania, the latter had learned a lesson, and had only succumbed to superior numbers. No lives had been lost; only a few bones broken, which would soon mend, and it would be their turn next time. In the mean time their own characters required them to fulfill the duties of hospitality, and the tawa was requested to remain until food was cooked and placed before it,

The Wa Kamba (Africa) observe a form of capture very similar to the foregoing. Among them the bridegroom is required to carry off his bride by force after the preliminaries are completed. This is attempted by the help of all the friends and relatives that the man can muster, and resisted by the friends and relatives of the woman, and the conflict now and then terminates in the discomfiture of the unlucky husband, who is reduced to the necessity of waylaying his wife when she may be alone in the fields or fetching water from the well.

In these examples resistance is offered by both the men and women of the bride's party, even to the extent of causing a failure of the marriage, at all events for a time. The first disintegration, therefore, appears to be when such resistance is still offered, but where, if it be successful, the bride is finally produced and given up to the party of the bridegroom.

This form is observed by the Kookies of the northeastern frontier of India, of whom Colonel McCulloch says: "When they go to bring away the bride, after having paid for her, they usually receive more kicks than halfpence from the village—that is, they usually get well beaten. But, after the fight is over, the woman is quietly brought from her home and given to the party that came for her, outside the village gate." The custom of the Karens (Burmah), mentioned by Sir John Bowring, is a survival, in a disintegrated condition, of this or of the foregoing form. He says, "A candidate for the hand of a virgin must escalade her cabin, and is expected to overthrow a strong man placed in her defense."[2] A still more disintegrated form is found in Turkey, where the bridegroom is chased by the guests, who slap him on the back and pelt him with their slippers. A curious variation of this ceremony survives among the Arab tribes of Upper Egypt, where, at the marriage feast, "the unfortunate bridegroom undergoes the ordeal of whipping by the relations of his bride." Sometimes the punishment is exceedingly severe, it being administered with a whip of hippopotamus-hide; but, if the bridegroom wishes to be considered a man of gallantry, he must receive the chastisement with an expression of enjoyment. After the flogging, the bride is led to the bridegroom's residence.[3]

The next disintegration appears in those cases in which resistance is offered only by the women of the bride's party, the men remaining passive. This form prevails among the Khonds in the hill tracts of Orissa (India). The bridegroom, assisted by a party of twenty or thirty young men, carries off the bride, in spite of the desperate attacks of her female friends, who hurl stones and bamboos at the head of the devoted bridegroom, until he reaches the confines of his own village. The same form is observed by the Kolams of the Pindi Hills (India), by the Mosquito Indians (Central America), and by the Eskimos of Cape York. A variation is found in the kingdom of Futa, Senegal, West Africa, where the bridegroom and party come to the house of the bride by night and endeavor to carry her off. In this they are resisted by all the girls of the village. A very disintegrated form of this variety seems to have been in vogue at royal marriages in Ceylon. Dr. Davy tells us that the king and queen threw perfumed balls and squirted scented water at each other. In this the wives of the chiefs took part, and were at liberty to pelt and bespatter even royalty itself as much as they pleased.[4]

We pass now from cases in which actual violence is offered to those in which violence is merely simulated. The first of these is that in which there is a sham fight between the opposing parties. This form is very widely distributed. Colonel Dalton mentions that, among the Kols of central India, when the price of a girl has been arranged, the bridegroom and a large party of his friends of both sexes enter with much singing and dancing and sham fighting into the village of the bride, where they meet the bride's party, and are hospitably entertained.[5] The Malays of the Strait of Macassar have first a sham, fight outside the town, then a feigned resistance at the gates, and afterward, from point to point, a show of disputing the advance of the bridegroom and his party, until they have made their way to the bride's house.[6] In Abyssinia, the party of the bridegroom go through a sham fight outside the bride's house, then enter it, and the bridegroom, taking the bride, hurries her out and hands her over to some of his friends. Returning to the house again, he then takes part in the deball, or war-dance, which is a simulated combat with guns, spears, and swords, and in which the parties of the bridegroom and bride are ranged on opposite sides.[7] "In New Zealand," says the Rev. R. Taylor,[8] "even in the case when all were agreeable, it was still customary for the bridegroom to go with a party, and appear to take her away by force, her friends yielding her up after a feigned struggle." In Berry, France, the house of the bride is barricaded, and a sham assault of it takes place. After some parley the bridegroom's party is admitted, and a struggle for the possession of the hearth is then simulated. In Little Russia, in peasant weddings, when the bride's tresses have been unplaited and the cap is being put on her head, she is bound to resist with all her might, and even to fling her cap angrily on the ground. Then the groomsmen, at the cry of "Boyars to your swords!" pretend to seize their knives and make a dash at the bride, who is thereupon surrounded by her friends, who come rushing as if to her rescue.[9]

It is interesting to note that this form survived among the Celtic inhabitants of the British Isles until very recent times. Lord Karnes describes it as it existed in his day among the Welsh, as follows: "On the morning of the wedding-day the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends on horseback, demands the bride. Her friends, who are likewise on horseback, give a positive refusal, on which a mock scuffle ensues. The bride, mounted behind her nearest kinsman, is carried off, and is pursued by the bridegroom and his friends with loud shouts. It is not uncommon on such an occasion to see two or three hundred sturdy Cambro-Britons riding at full speed, crossing and jostling, to the no small amusement of the spectators. When they have fatigued themselves and their horses, the bridegroom is suffered to overtake the bride. He leads her away in triumph, and the scene is concluded with feasting and festivity."[10] Sir Henry Piers's description of it, as observed by the Irish, is: "On the day of bringing home, the bridegroom and his friends ride out and meet the bride and her friends at the place of meeting. Being come near each other, the custom was of old to cast short darts at the company that attended the bride, but at such a distance that seldom any hurt ensued. Yet it is not out of the memory of man that the Lord of Hoath on such an occasion lost an eye. The custom of casting darts is now obsolete."[11] Among the Highlanders of Scotland it was the custom for the parties of the bride and bridegroom to go in procession to a point of meeting midway between their dwellings, and, when they came near each other, to fire volleys at one another from pistols and muskets.

The next disintegration seems to be found in those cases in which all show of resistance to the party of the bridegroom is limited to closing the house against it. Several varieties of this form occur among the southern Slavs. In Croatia, the bride and her friends being assembled, all the doors of the house are closed to prevent a surprise by the bridegroom's party. The assembled guests are on the alert, and, as soon as they hear the party approaching, all the lights are put out and all keep silence. The visitors knock repeatedly without getting any answer, but at length they advance various pretexts to get admission, and at last, after a long parley, are admitted. In Dalmatia and Bulgaria the door is similarly closed against the bridegroom's party, and admission only obtained on payment. In Transylvania the doors are closed, and the bridegroom must, as best he can, climb over into the court, open the door from within, and admit his companions.

We now come to those forms in which no resistance, either real or feigned, is offered by the party of the bride, who merely simulate grief or terror, and it is the party of the bridegroom alone which makes a show of violence. This was the form observed by the Romans in plebeian marriages, and a full description of it is given in the Golden Ass of Apuleius, in the story of the Captive Damsel, where the bride, describing how she was carried off, says that a band of men, armed with swords, rushed in, and, without meeting with any resistance from the inmates, tore her from her mother. The Circassians have the same ceremony, it being the custom to give a feast, in the midst of which the bridegroom rushes in and, with the help of some companions, carries off the bride by force. This form, in a very disintegrated condition, is found in the isle of Skye and the west Highlands of Scotland, in the ceremony known as "stealing the bride." It occurs in the middle of a reel. The groomsman and bridesmaid slip into the place in the dance of the bridegroom and bride, while the bridegroom suddenly jerks the bride out of the room.

The foregoing are the general types of the forms of survival in which the party of the bride is represented. We have traced the various stages of disintegration from actual resistance offered by both the men and women of the bride's party, to the offering of such resistance terminated by a surrender of the bride, and then to resistance being offered by the women only. Thence, from feigned resistance evinced by a sham fight, it passed to the mere closing of the house, and finally to the form in which no resistance is simulated. The semblance of hostility to the party of the bride gradually dwindles away till it is reduced to merely tapping the father and mother of the bride on the shoulder with a small stick, as is done by the Samoyeds, or to the pretense of tearing the bride from the arms of her mother, as is the custom in Sardinia. To come down to ourselves, it is very probable that the practice of throwing an old shoe after the departing bride and bridegroom is a last surviving relic of the form of a struggle between opposing parties.

It is difficult to say to what class such ceremonies as that observed by the Mundaris of Bengal, where an arrow is fired through the loophole formed by the arm of the bride as she holds a pitcher of water on her head, and by the Romans, where the bride's hair was parted with a spear, belong; but the use of weapons seems to justify us in regarding them as very disintegrated survivals of our subhead (a). Perhaps the custom observed in Anglo-Saxon marriages, where the father delivered the bride's shoe to the bridegroom, and the latter tapped her on the head with it, is also one.

We come now to our subhead (b). The forms of capture of this class seem to be symbolic of a capture of a woman by surprise or stratagem. In these, though the bride is carried off with real or pretended violence, her friends offer no opposition and feign no grief. It is no longer a struggle between clans, and there is no longer a party supporting the bride.

First of this class is that form in which the girl is carried off nolens volens. The consent of the parents to the marriage has been obtained, and all the preliminaries settled, but in most cases the girl has received no warning of what is about to take place. Sometimes, of course, she may have received a hint, but in this form she is not necessarily a consenting party, and her resistance is violent. Among some peoples it is usual for the bridegroom to be assisted by one or two friends; among others he carries out the abduction alone. The first represents capture by a war party, the second by an individual, but the latter form is comparatively rare.

Of cases in which the bridegroom is assisted by his companions we find examples—1. Among the Mandingo tribes settled along the banks of the river Gambia, in West Africa, where, after the "head" or purchase money has been paid to the parents, the bridegroom, aided by two or three friends, seizes the girl while she is engaged in her ordinary domestic vocations, and, in spite of her frantic struggles, carries her off. 2. Among the Bedouin Arabs of the Sinai Peninsula, where, after all the arrangements have been made with the parents, the bridegroom, assisted by two friends, seizes and carries off the bride. "If she entertains any suspicion of their designs," says Burckhardt, "she defends herself with stones, and often inflicts wounds on the young men, even though she does not dislike the lover; for, according to custom, the more she struggles, bites, kicks, cries, and strikes, the more she is applauded ever after by her own companions."[12] 3. Among the Indians of the Amazon Valley, of whom Wallace says: "When a young man wishes to have the daughter of another Indian, his father sends a message to say he will come, with his son and relations, to visit him. The girl's father guesses what it is for, and, if he is agreeable, makes preparations for a grand festival. This lasts, perhaps, two or three days, when the bridegroom's party suddenly seize the bride and hurry her off to their canoes. No attempt is made to prevent them, and she is then considered as married."[13] Of cases in which the bridegroom is unaided we have an example among the Fijians, with whom it is clear that the consent of the girl is not first obtained, for, says Mr. Williams, "on reaching the home of her abductor, should she not approve of the match, she runs to some one who can protect her; if, however, she is satisfied, the matter is settled forthwith."[14]

The first disintegration of this form is seemingly when the bride is a consenting party, knows well enough what is about to take place, and merely offers a feigned resistance. This appears to be the form observed by the southern tribes of Tierra del Fuego, where, according to Captain Fitzroy,[15] the youth, having obtained the consent of the girl's relations, and having provided himself with a canoe, watches an opportunity and carries off the bride. If she is unwilling, she hides herself in the woods until her admirer is heartily tired of looking for her and gives up the pursuit. The Spartans also observed this form. In most cases the bride is carried to the house of the bridegroom, but among the Indians in the neighborhood of Concepcion, the bridegroom carries off the bride to the woods, the happy pair returning home after a day or two. Among the Tangutans (Mongolia) wives may be abducted. Lieutenant-Colonel Prejevalsky says: "They have a curious custom of stealing their neighbors' wives, of course not without their secret assent. In such cases the stolen wife belongs to her ravisher, who pays the husband a good sum as compensation."[16]

The next disintegration is, perhaps, to be found in those cases in which the women seize the bride and drag her to her suitor's house. This form occurs among the Greenlanders.

The next is where the violence, or feigned violence, takes the form of tearing the bride's clothes. This form is found among the Tunguses and Kamchadales, of whom Ernan says a matrimonial engagement is not considered as definitely concluded till the lover has got the better of his bride "and has torn her clothes."[17] A variety of this form is found in Circassia, where an important part of the marriage ceremony consists in the bridegroom drawing his dagger and cutting open the bride's corset.

The next is where the appearance of violence is still further eliminated, and custom only requires the bridegroom to carry his bride to his house. This form is observed by the Indians of Canada, where the bridegroom takes his wife on his back, and, amid the plaudits of the spectators, carries her to his tent.[18] The Western tribes of North America "regard it as an important part of the marriage ceremony that the bride should be carried to her husband's dwelling. In Mexico, also, the husband took the bride on his back and carried her a short distance. Bruce, in Abyssinia, observed an identical custom."[19] Speke witnessed a similar ceremony at Karague, East Africa, and this form is also observed by the Susus, West Africa, with whom, however, the bride is sometimes carried on the back of a woman.

From carrying the bride on the back, to simply lifting or forcing her over the threshold of the bridegroom's house, the transition is easy. In the patrician marriages of the Romans the bridegroom had to carry the bride over the threshold of the house, and among the Bedouin Arabs it is necessary for the bridegroom to force the bride to enter his tent. A similar custom existed among the French, at least in some provinces, in the seventeenth century. At Sparta, after the actual carrying off of the bride had fallen into desuetude, the bridegroom had to take up the bride and carry her from one room to another. In China, before the bridal procession starts, the young sisters and female friends of the bride come and weep with her till it is time to leave the house of her parents; and when the procession reaches the bridegroom's house the bride is carried into the house by a matron, and lifted over a pan of charcoal at the door. A variation of this form is found in North Friesland, where a young man, called the bride-lifter, lifts the bride upon the wagon in which the married couple are to travel to their house. The last stage is reached in the form seen by Denham at Sockna, North Africa. The bride is taken on a camel to the bridegroom's house, and, upon arriving there, "it is necessary for her to appear greatly surprised, and refuse to dismount; the women scream, the men shout, and she is at length persuaded to enter."[20]

Finally, an affectation of grief on the part of the bride is the sole demonstration of a feigned compulsion. Such a case was witnessed by Mrs. Atkinson, in Siberia,[21] It is there the custom for the bride to be taken to the bath on the eve of her wedding-day by her young companions, and in this case the road to the bath led past the house where Mrs. Atkinson was stopping. Startled by most heart-rending sobs, that lady hastened to the gate and found a bride being supported by her young friends to the bath. She thought it was a case in which a girl had been forced to accept an unwelcome suitor, and was filled with compassion. When the girl returned from the bath she was still sobbing and quite bowed down with grief. An hour or two later, Mrs. Atkinson went to the bride's cottage and found the damsel eating supper, her face radiant with joy. She asked if she had done it well, and Mrs. Atkinson then learned, to her great surprise, that the weeping was part of the ceremony.

We now come to that form of survival which has been termed "bride-racing," and which we have placed under subhead (c). The least disintegrated variety of this form of capture is that in which there is a bona fide chase, out of doors, and which does not always end in favor of the lover.

We find this form among the Calmucks, with whom, says Dr. Clarke, the ceremony of marriage is performed on horseback. "A girl is first mounted, who rides off in full speed. Her lover pursues; if he overtakes her she becomes his wife, and the marriage is consummated on the spot; after this she returns with him to his tent. But it sometimes happens that the woman does not wish to marry the person by whom she is pursued; in this case she will not suffer him to overtake her. We were assured that no instance occurs of a Calmuck girl being thus caught, unless she have a partiality to the pursuer."[22] This is slightly varied among the Kirghiz, the young woman, who is pursued by all her suitors, being armed with a formidable whip, which she does not hesitate to use if overtaken by a lover who is disagreeable to her. Among the Turkomans the bride carries in her lap the carcass of a sheep or goat, which the pursuer has to snatch from her. The Malays, who are eminently an aquatic people, carry out this ceremony on the water. The bride is given a canoe and a double-bladed paddle, and allowed a start of some distance; the suitor, similarly equipped, then follows in chase. If he succeeds in overtaking her, she becomes his wife; if not, the match is broken off.[23] Among the wild tribes of the Malay Peninsula the chase takes place in the forest, on foot.

The first modification of this form is when the chase takes place in a set race-course, instead of in the open country. This is done by the Malays when there is no stream suitable for the boat-chase near at hand. A circle of a certain size is formed, the damsel, stripped of all but a waistband, is given a start of half the circle, and, if she succeeds in running three times round before her suitor catches her, the marriage is off. Among the Koriaks (northeastern Asia) the race takes place in a large tent, containing numerous separate compartments, called pologs, arranged in a continuous circle around its inner circumference; and the girl is clear of the marriage if she can run through the series of pologs without being caught. In this case the women of the encampment throw every obstacle in the way of the bridegroom—try to trip him up, and strike him with switches; so that here we have a combination of bride-racing with that form of capture in which resistance is offered by the women of the bride's party. A man has scarcely any chance of succeeding unless the woman wishes it. In a chase witnessed by Mr. Kennan[24] the bride distanced the lover, but waited for him in the last polog.

From this variety the form passes through various stages of disintegration. Among the Aenezes (Arabs) the girl runs from the tent of one friend to another. Here, however, she is caught by the women, and conducted to the tent of the bridegroom, who stands at the entrance and forces her in. Among the Oleepa Indians of California the girl runs away and hides herself. "The lover searches for her, and, should he succeed in finding her twice out of three times, she belongs to him. Should he be unsuccessful, he waits a few weeks and then repeats the performance. If she again elude his search, the matter is decided against him."[25] Among the Ahitas, or Aetas, the Negrito race of the Philippine Islands, the girl is sent away into the forest, by her parents, before sunrise. She has an hour's start, after which the lover goes in search of her. If he finds her before sunset, the marriage is acknowledged; if not, the affair is at an end. Among the Wateita (eastern Africa) the bride hides with distant relatives. Finally, the form becomes merely an elopement of the happy pair, as among the Soligas (India), where the girl and her lover run away to some neighboring village.

The survivals which follow are in such a disintegrated condition that it is impossible to decide to which class they may properly be referred. It will have been observed that, in all the ceremonies that have been described, the bridegroom is pretended to be regarded as an enemy, a person to be avoided. Hence we can understand the Abyssinian custom described by Mr. Mansfield Parkyns,[26] who says that, as soon as a young man has become betrothed to a girl, he may not see her face. If he should chance to see her by stealth, she covers her face, screams, runs away, and hides; and this though the greatest intimacy may have prevailed between them before the betrothal. A modification of this custom is found in Ceylon, where, if a young man wishes to see the bride whom his father has selected for him, he must go clandestinely. If he enters the house it must be under a feigned name, and if he sees his intended he must not address her.[27]

If the bridegroom is to be regarded as hostile to the bride, he must, by a similar fiction, be regarded as hostile to her family also; and hence the many cases in which proposals for marriage must be made through the intervention of third parties, a custom which has neither utility nor convenience to recommend it. Among the Turkomans "the young man does not dare to breathe his wishes to the parents of his beloved, for such is not etiquette, and would be resented as an insult."[28] In Siam marriages are the subject of much negotiation, undertaken not directly by the parents, but by "go-betweens," nominated by those of the proposed bridegroom, who make proposals to the parents of the intended bride.[29] Davis says the same of the Chinese,Chinese, vol. i, p. 266. and that the two persons principally interested never see each other. In Dahomey it is the custom for a suitor to dispatch two emissaries, a man and a woman, to open negotiations with the family of the girl he wishes to marry. In Samoa, Mr. Pritchard says,[30] a man never personally woos his lady-love, and, in the case of a chief, it is the privilege of his attendants to do the courting for him.

These customs are evidently disintegrations of that observed by Caillié in the western Soudan. There, as soon as the suitor has declared himself, he is not allowed to see the father and mother of his future bride. He takes the greatest care to avoid them, and if by chance they perceive him they cover their faces, as if all ties of friendship were broken. The custom extends beyond the relations; for, if the lover is of a different camp, he avoids all the inhabitants of the lady's camp, except a few intimate friends, whom he is permitted to visit. A little tent is generally set up for him, under which he remains all day, and if he is obliged to come out, or to cross the camp, he covers his face.[31]

We now pass to the second group of survivals, namely, those which follow the consummation of the marriage. Our first sub-head of this group symbolizes an escape, or attempted escape, from the husband.

The least disintegrated example appears to be that which occurs in Zululand, where custom requires that the bride should make three attempts to run back to her old home, but the last attempt, made on the second day, and after she has been installed in her position as wife, is the only serious one. Should she succeed in escaping, the whole marriage ceremony has to be gone through again.[32]

The first modification of this is when the bride simply returns to her parents' house for a certain time. There is no appearance of flight, but there is a complete rupture of cohabitation. This custom is found among the Ewe-speaking tribes of the Slave Coast (West Africa), the wife, after a week's cohabitation with her husband, returning to her old home for a week. In Chittagong, husband and wife are on no account permitted to sleep together until seven days after marriage.

The next modification is where the bride returns to her former home, but sees her husband by stealth. This form is observed by some of the Turkoman tribes, the bride returning to her father's house, "where, strange to say, she is retained for six months or a year, and sometimes two years, according, as it appears, to her caprice or the parents' will, having no communication with her husband, unless by stealth."[33]

According to Plutarch, the Spartans had the same custom, and some husbands even had children by their wives before they could see them otherwise than clandestinely.[34] Among the Fijians husband and wife do not usually pass the night together, except as it were by stealth; and Lafitau says the same of some of the North American Indians. In Crete it was the custom for married people to see each other clandestinely for some time after the wedding, and a similar custom is said to have existed among the Lycians.

A variation of these forms exists among the Arabs of the Mezeyne tribe (Sinai Peninsula), where the bride runs away to the mountains every evening, being followed by her husband, and returns to her mother's tent every morning. This is done for several days, after which she returns to her mother, and she does not go to live with her husband till she is far advanced in pregnancy. If she does not become pregnant, she may not live in her husband's tent till a full year from the wedding-day.[35]

Our second subhead of this group comprises those forms in which social intercourse between the husband and the tribe, relations, or parents of the wife is forbidden. He is pretended to be regarded as an enemy who has robbed them of one of their number.

An example of the most complete form of this custom, occurring before marriage, has already been quoted from Caillie[36], and, apparently, the restrictions remain in force after marriage, at all events for a time. In most cases, however, the restriction is limited to the relations of the bride. This, according to Rochefort,[37] was the case with the Caribs. He says: "All the women talk with whom they will, but the husband dares not converse with his wife's relatives, except on extraordinary occasions." Baegert describes a similar custom among the Indians of California, with whom the son-in-law was not allowed to look in the face of his mother-in-law, or his wife's nearest relations, but had to step on one side, or to hide himself when they were present.[38] In Florida, the parents-in-law did not enter the son-in-law's house, nor he theirs, nor his brothers-in-law, and, if they met by chance, they went a bow-shot out of their way, with their heads down and eyes fixed on the ground, for they held it a bad thing to see or speak to one another.[39]

Among other peoples the restriction is limited to the mother-in-law, and this form is very wide-spread. It is, or was, observed by the Indians of North America generally, and by many tribes in South America. In Africa the custom is found among the tribes of the Gold Coast, the Mpongwe of the Gaboon, and the Bushmen. The Zulu and his mother-in-law may not mention one another's names, nor look in one another's faces. If they chance to meet they pretend not to see each other, the man hiding his face with his shield. "In Australia" it is compulsory on the mothers-in-law to avoid the sight of their sons-in-law, by making the mothers-in-law take a very circuitous route on all occasions to avoid being seen, and they hide the face and figure with the rug which the female carries with her." The custom which, among the Banyai of South Africa, compels a man to sit with his knees bent in presence of his mother-in-law, and forbids him to put out his feet toward her, has perhaps something to do with this form, as, no doubt, has also the proverbial hostility between men and their mothers-in-law of which modern humorists make so much.

That a similar series of prohibitions should exist, limiting the social relations of the wife with the family of her husband, is what we might expect to find; the husband's relatives being of the party of the feigned abductor, and so enemies. Among the Calmucks the daughter-in-law must not speak to her father-in-law, nor sit in his presence. In China, the father-in-law, after the wedding-day, never sees the face of his daughter-in-law again; he never visits her, and, if they chance to meet, he hides himself. With the Ostiaks of Siberia and the Basutos of South Africa the young wife must not look in the face of her father-in-law, and must avoid him as much as possible, till she has borne a child. The Armenian wife must conceal her face from her husband's father and mother. A more archaic form of these varieties is found among the Kaffirs of South Africa, with whom a married woman is cut off from all intercourse, not only with her father-in-law, but with all her husband's male relations in the ascending line. "She is not allowed to pronounce their names, even mentally; and whenever the emphatic syllable of either of their names occurs in any other word, she must avoid it, by either substituting an entirely new word, or at least another syllable in its place."[40]

This terminates our collection of examples, though we might probably add to those which follow the consummation of the marriage the widely distributed custom which forbids husband and wife to eat together. The numerous cases we have given show how very universal marriage by capture de facto must have been, and also, since it has left such enduring traces, for what a long period of time it must have been practiced. Among ourselves it influenced public opinion until comparatively recent times, for it was not until the reign of Henry VII that the violent seizure of a woman was made a criminal offense, and even then the operation of the statute was limited to the abduction of women possessed of lands and goods. A man might still carry off a girl, provided she was not an heiress; but in spite of the law and its severe penalties, the abduction of heiresses continued to be a common occurrence, especially in Ireland, down to the close of the last century, and to be regarded by the general public as but a venial offense at most.

  1. Pp. 126 et seq.
  2. Kingdom and People of Siam, vol. ii, p. 45.
  3. Sir S. Baker, Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia, p. 125.
  4. Account of Ceylon, p. 166.
  5. Ethnology of Bengal.
  6. Moore's Marriage Customs, p. 196.
  7. Life in Abyssinia, p. 51.
  8. Te Ska Amani, p. 163.
  9. Ralston's Songs of the Russian People, pp. 284, 285.
  10. History of Man, p. 449.
  11. Description of Westmeath.
  12. Notes, vol. i, p. 263.
  13. Travels on the Amazon, p. 497.
  14. Fiji and the Fijians, p. 174.
  15. Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, vol. ii, p. 182.
  16. Mongolia, vol. ii, p. 121.
  17. Siberia, vol. ii, p. 442.
  18. Carver's Travels, p. 274.
  19. Origin of Civilization, p. 88.
  20. Travels in Africa, vol. i, p. 39.
  21. Tartar Steppes, pp. 218, 219.
  22. Vol. i, p. 433.
  23. Cameron's Malayan India, p. 116.
  24. Tent Life in Siberia.
  25. Bancroft's Native Races of the Pacific States, p. 389.
  26. Life in Abyssinia, vol. ii, p. 41.
  27. Account of Ceylon, p. 285.
  28. Fraser's Journey, vol. ii, p. 372.
  29. Bowring, vol. i, p. 118.
  30. Polynesian Reminiscences, p. 134.
  31. Travels to Timbuctoo, vol. i, p. 94.
  32. Eraser's Journey, loc. cit.
  33. Leslie's Among the Zulus, pp. 116-118.
  34. Lycurgus, c. 15.
  35. Burckhardt, vol. i, p. 269.
  36. Tylor, Early History of Mankind, p. 289.
  37. Hist. Nat. des ties Antilles, p. 545.
  38. Lubbock, p. 14.
  39. Smithsonian Reports, 1863-'64, p. 368.
  40. Maclean, Compendium of Kaffir Laws and Customs.