Kinship Organisations and Group Marriage in Australia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about Kinship Organisations and Group Marriage in Australia.

[178] Cf.  Curr, III, 546.

[179] Cf. Journ.  Anthr.  Inst. XX, 73.

[180] Journ.  Anthr.  Inst. XX, 56.

CHAPTER XIV.

TEMPORARY UNIONS.

Wife lending.  Initiation ceremonies. Jus primae noctis. Punishment for
     adultery. Ariltha of central tribes.  Group marriage unproven.

It has been mentioned above that the pirrauru custom, so far from being an extension of the recognised practice of Australian tribes, is in some respects a limitation of it.  We may now proceed to illustrate this.  Even among the Dieri the tribal festival on the occasion of an inter-tribal marriage is marked by free intercourse between the sexes without regard to existing sexual unions[181] (? either tippa-malku or pirrauru).  In the same way the Wiimbaio tribal gatherings were accompanied by regulated promiscuity, the class rules being the only limitation.  At others wives could be lent or temporarily exchanged by the husbands[182].  The Geawe-gal held festivals at which wives were lent to young men, subject to class laws[183].  In other cases the exchange was limited to brothers or men of the same totem[184].  Among the Kamilaroi a wife was lent to friendly visitors but only with her consent.  In all these cases we see a state of things similar to or not unlike the relations of the Dieri pirrauru spouses, and it should be noted that it is at tribal gatherings that the latter can claim to exercise their rights.  From this it appears that the Dieri custom amounts to an ear-marking of certain women for the use of certain men, and is consequently a limitation of the common custom; in consideration of the fact that the pirrauru men protect them in the absence of their husbands, they are permitted at the same time to exercise marital rights, provided their own primary spouses are absent.

Among the Wiimbaio, when sickness was believed to be coming down the Murray[185], and among the Kurnai, when the Aurora australis was seen[186], an exchange of wives was ordered by the old men to avert the threatened evil[187].  This is explained by Dr Howitt as a reversion to the ancient custom of group marriage.  It is however not quite clear on what grounds it is necessary to treat it as a survival at all.  If a day of prayer and fasting is ordered in order to avert national calamities, it does not follow that the nation in question was in the habit of perpetual prayer and fasting at some previous stage of its existence.  Moreover, if the magical rite was formerly the universal practice we may well ask what induced the tribes which believe in its efficacy to adopt a new form of marriage. Ex hypothesi, it is pleasing to Mungan, or good against disease; knowing this, they have not hesitated to abolish group marriage, but apparently without incurring Mungan’s wrath, or bringing any epidemic upon them.

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