Special messengers, of high social rank, are despatched to mate the proposal and convey presents in ratification of the contract; but the betrothed child usually remains in the custody of its parents, now and then paying a visit to the other parties with much ceremony and under proper guardianship.

Marriage never occurs by force or capture. Sometimes a fallen tribe or family would endeavour to resuscitate its fortunes by giving in marriage the flower of the tribe to some disagreeable but powerful old chief.

The pet daughter of a chief often married into an inferior or fallen tribe, the parent intending thereby to swell the ranks of his own warriors by the welcome addition of this inferior or unlucky clan. In times of peace this servile son-in-law is expected to be at the beck and call of his father-in-law. There is, properly speaking, no such thing as sale or barter of wives in the Hervey Group.
Exogamy was the universal rule of the olden time. Should a tribe be split up in war, the defeated portion was treated as an alien tribe. I have known comparatively near relatives to marry with the approbation of the elders of the victorious portion of the tribe, expressly on the ground that the sanctity of the clan law had been wiped out in battle.

Distant cousins sometimes (though rarely) marry; but must be of the same generation, i.e., be descended in the same degree (fourth or fifth, or even more remotely) from the common ancestor. That the male branch should thus invade the female is a far more pardonable offence than the converse, but even then, should misfortune or disease overtake these related couples, the elders of the tribe would declare it to be the anger of the clan-god (kua kai te angai). It is the duty of parents to teach their growing children whom they may lawfully marry, the choice being extremely limited. The correct thing in the native mind undoubtedly is exogamy.
The nuptial ceremony consisted merely in a feast, when bride and bridegroom, seated together on a piece of the finest white native cloth,* ate together in the presence of their friends, and received gifts from them, the good things of the bridegroom's friends going to the bride, and vice versa.

A remarkable ceremony obtained on Mangaia in families of distinction on the marriage of the first-born. Gaily dressed, he walked from his own door-way to the house of the father-in-law over a continuous pathway of living human bodies, members of the wife's clan. On reaching the goal, three elderly females enveloped in the finest cloth, so prostrate themselves as to form a living scat for the bridegroom. A fish is now brought forward, and, with the aid of a bit of sharp bamboo, cut up into dice upon a human body. It is now presented to the bridegroom, who cats it raw. Tiles of native cloth and food are then formally presented to the happy man. All parties partake of the feast, and afterwards the road of living bodies is again formed for the distinguished son-in-law to go back, as he came, to his home.

In due time (a few months later on) the husband's friends return the compliment to the bride, only it in understood that (unless of inferior social status) the second exhibition should surpass the first

Polygamy has been entirely done away with by Christianity. In the olden time it was wry common, and was not restricted to chiefs. As women were rarely slain in war, superilous females were divided out amongst the victorious warriors. The famous ArekAvc, of Mangaia, had ten wives, Parima six, others two apiece. In general, if a man of position married the oldest girl of a slave-family, the younger sisters became his as a matter of course, being only too glad to have a protector. Even amongst those of equal rank, a man often had two or three sisters to wife at the same time. Even now, in Christian times, a woman feels herself to be deeply injured if her brother-in-law does not, on the death of his wife, ask her to become a mother to his children.

Children, unless distinctly adopted into another clan, always follow the father. The name of the god pronounced at the severance of the funis umbilicus really determines the clan of the infant, ;is before stated. In war they usually follow the father's kin ; but the duty of an adopted son would be to fight alongside of his adopted father. Sometimes serfs, forgetting the claims of blood, followed their lord to battle.

Land is the property of the tribe, and must on no account be alienated. The adopted son possesses land only so long as he goes with the clan, obeys the commands of the elders, and fights (if need be) against his nearest of kin for the tribe into which he has been adopted. A woman, in general, owns not an inch of soil, lest she carry away the right to it into another family. Usually she gives up one child at least to her own tribe, the rest going to the father's. When her husband dies, she lives on with the tribe as slave to her children. She weeds, plants, and eats because of them. If they die, she goes back to her tribe as she originally came-empty-handed.

When a chief has only a daughter, and that daughter is married (by the father's arrangement) to a man of inferior (/.?., slave) rank, the husband lives with her on land given to her for their mutual support (or, as the phrase runs, "land given to her to feed her hushand"). In all points she rules the household and lands ; but should war break out, he may elect to fight by the side of his father-in-law, and if victory incline to their side, he is no longer counted a slave. Should he go with his own clan to fight against his father-in-law's tribe, the wife may or may not go with him. Sometimes the wife, with her children, will stay on with her own clan ; so that, if Tictorious, the children will share the good things of the mother's tribe, whilst the unhappy father, if not slain in battle, becomes a homeless, hunted

fugitive. In no case may a woman take into another clan any portion of the ancestral lands of her own tribe. The reason of this is obvious ; these lands were originally won and subsequently kept by the bravery of the entire tribe. Rarely did women fight; their part was to stand a little behind the husband, to carry baskets of stones and weapons with which to supply the warriors. Heavy tikoru clothes were thrown by the wives over these spears to turn their points aside from the mark.

At Rarotonga, &c, the soil was the sole property of the high chiefs (ariki) and under-chiefs. These distributed the land in accordance with their own wishes.
I do not consider that orphans were in general ill-treated ; the uncles, as a matter of course, looked after their welfare. In the native language there is but one word for " father " and " uncle." It was of the last importance to the tribe- that their numbers should be kept up ; hence the care taken of the children, and their careful education in mimic war.

There are no restrictions as to converse, but as to kissing [" rubbing of noses"] plenty. The rule is to "kiss" only near relatives on either side. The elders of the tribe settle these knotty points. Many a quarrel have I had to compose, the ground of the dispute being that the lady had no right to permit So-and-so to kiss her. The usual defence is, " it was done openly, and therefore could bear no ill significance." Half the troubles in native life arise from this source; the other half from land-grabbing, or, as the natives phrase it, " land-eating."

Woman is the slave of man in heathen society. She plants, carries home the food, collects the firewood and succulent oven-leaves, cooks her lord's meal, spreads out supper on hibiscus leaves (in lieu of plates, and of the same size), never omitting the sea-water, used as sauce and salt. Torch-fishing is woman's occupation only. Whenever she gets home, often in the small hours of the morning, a special oven for these dainties must be prepared by her for her husband and children. The wife is expected not only to feed but to clothe her husband. She strips off the bark of the paper-mill berry (Broussonetia papyri fern), steeps it in running water, beats it out with a square iron-wood mallet, pastes the strips together, stains the cloth, or, with the aid of leaves, makes designs on it, glazes the outer side, that /her lord may strut about in his new clothes. Ills duty is to defend land and life, to plant and weed, and to fish with hook or net or spear. The wife, in her torchlight fishing, simply grabs sleepy fish, or puts her hand in holes which they haunt (often to her cost), but never uses either canoe, hook, or net.

But as their children (girls) grow up, all the duties of the mother are performed by the daughters. And the strange thing is, that they are perfectly content with their lot. To see a, woman emerge from the mud of a taro-patch (up to her waist), in which she has been planting taro-tops (no man at Mangaia plants a taro-patch), and then go to the stream to wash herself, excites pity. But she does not think herself to need pity.

At Rarotonga, and some other islands, men plant and bring home the " taro," but the women weave mats and baskets. After all, despite the horny hands of Mangaian women, their lives are pleasant, so long as Christianity secures immunity from the cruel bloodshed of heathen times. Even in the old time they enjoyed their dances and semi-dramatic performances. In general, it was the young women and girls who took part in these diversions, the middle-aged prompting or clapping hands or looking after the feast to follow.

The model Rarotongan warrior never (like other natives) allowed his wife to sleep on his arm, lest his spirit should become enervated. After slaying a foe, lie became " tapu," so that he might, for a certain period, only kiss his

wife and children. On no account might he cohabit with his wife until the "tapu " had been removed. During this period of " tapu," all the warriors of the same tribe lived together, receiving immense presents of food. When a sufficient interval had elapsed, in preparation for the removal of the " tapu," they would go unitedly to fish. If, while fishing, a warrior happened to be bitten by an " aa " (conger eel), or get his legs clasped by an octopus, he regarded this as a sure presage of a violent death. If he, that day, caught only a miserable fish, such as the poisonous " no'u," it plainly indicated that in his next battle he would only kill a wretched sort of person, not a chief or a warrior. On the other hand, if he caught a really fine fish, it was evident that he would hereafter conquer and kill some person of distinction, and thus enhance the fame of his tribe !

Published by:
Institute of Pacific Studies,
University of the South Pacific,

Back to the top


Introduction General Mithology Culture Language Islands Pictures Videos Pacific Links Other