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Early Marriage Customs


thor remarking that “a common test of a people's culture is the treatment of their women, and in this respect the Australians must, as Prof. R. Semon shows, be ranked below the Bushman and on a level with the Fuegians.”

"A man having a daughter of thirteen or fourteen years of age,” says Mr. Smith in his description of the marriage customs in vogue among the Victorian tribes, “arranges with some elderly person for the disposal of her; and, when all are agreed, she is brought out and told that her husband wants her. Perhaps she has never seen him but to loathe him. The father carries a spear and a waddy, or tomahawk, and, anticipating resistance, is thus prepared for it. The poor girl, sobbing and sighing, and muttering words of complaint, claims pity from those who will show none. If she resists the mandates of her father, he strikes her with his spear; if she rebels and screams, the blows are repeated; and if she attempts to run away, a stroke on the head from the waddy or tomahawk quiets her. The mother screams and scolds and beats the ground with her kan-nan (fighting-stick); the dogs bark and whine; but nothing interrupts the father, who, in the performance of his duty, is strict and mindful of the necessity of not only enforcing his authority, but of showing to all that he has the means to enforce it. Seizing the bride by her long hair he drags her to the home prepared for her by her new owner. Further resistance often subjects her to brutal treatment. If she attempts to abscond, the bridegroom does not hesitate to strike her savagely on the head with his waddy, and the bridal screams and yells make the night hideous.":

op. cit., i., p. 76.




T has seemed necessary to dwell thus at length

on the conditions among the Papuans and

allied tribes as it appeared to me important that the very beginnings of the family should be understood. The general agreement of ethnologists as to the low standing of the Papuans justifies, I believe, our assuming them to be as near the point of culture of our neolithic (or paleolithic) ancestors as it is possible to come.

From now on the course is upward.. Strange as it may seem, the lowest tribes are less "human," both in the matter of offspring and in the matter of sentiment of love for women, than some of the beasts and birds, but having touched that depth, the next step brings us in contact with feelings that, in a way, begin to approximate our own.

In the stages above the Papuans there is some affection for the woman; her position is nearer to that of wife and less that of captive. In consequence there is a more kindly regard for the child*D. G. Brinton, Races and Peoples, pp. 53 and 54.

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ren that she bears. Now begins the development of the parental affection. It is, however, confined to the female at first; "to this fact, rather than to doubt of paternity, should we attribute the very common habit in such communities of reckoning ancestry in the female line only.":

Man, no longer relying on his own cannibalistic brute force to do with his progeny as he wishes, invents reasons for doing away with his burdensome offspring

We have already seen that the Papuans restricted their families to two children, when it was possible. As late as the middle of the seventeenth century, Dapper reported that in Benin no twins were found, as it was regarded as a sign of dishonour for a woman to have twins. ?

Among the Arunta tribes in Central Australia, twins are “immediately killed as something which is unnatural.”'3 Among northern tribes they are usually destroyed as something uncanny. With the Kaffirs, it was found that “when twins are born, one is usually neglected and allowed to die."'s Of the western Victorian tribes we learn that “twins are as common among them as among Europeans; but as food is occasionally very scarce and a large family troublesome to move about, * D. G. Brinton, Races and Peoples, p. 55. Dapper, L'Afrique, p. 309. Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia, p. 52. • Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p.

s Joseph Shooter, Kafirs of Natal, p. 88.


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