Kinship Organisations and Group Marriage in Australia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 199 pages of information about Kinship Organisations and Group Marriage in Australia.

According to Dr Frazer’s 1905 theory, phratries were introduced to prevent brother and sister marriage and exogamous bars began in the female line[110].  Against this hypothesis may be urged not only the objections first stated but also the fact that for Dr Frazer the Arunta are primitive and yet reckon descent (of the class) in the male line.  If, as he conceives, conceptional totemism was transformed in the central tribes into patrilineal totemism, I fail to see why the phratries or classes should descend in the female line.

If in the third place, it was proposed to prevent children of sisters or of brothers from intermarrying, it is completely mysterious why children of brothers and sisters should not only not have been prevented in the same way, but absolutely be regarded as the proper mates for each other.  Even if a single community reformed itself on these lines, it is hardly conceivable that many should have done so, even if we suppose that the advantages of prohibition were preached from tribe to tribe by missionaries of the new order of things. Ex hypothesi, cousin marriage was not regarded as harmful; and it is highly improbable that any people in the lower stages of culture should have discovered that in-and-in breeding is harmful, for the results, especially in a people which contained no degenerates, would not appear at once, even if they appeared at all.

On this point therefore the probabilities are wholly on the side of development as against reformation.

An additional reason against the reformation theory is found in the fact that phratries, on this theory, would never exceed two in number, but in practice there are, as shown in Chapter II, wide variations.


[107] Secret of the Totem, pp. 31, 91 sq.

[108] Mr Lang’s view is that the women from the first retained their original group names wherever they went. Letter of July 27th, 1906.

[109] See pp. 31, 50.

[110] Fortn.  Rev. LXXVIII, 459.



Classes later than Phratries.  Anomalous Phratry Areas.  Four-class
     Systems.  Borrowing of Names.  Eight-class System.  Resemblances and
     Differences of Names.  Place of Origin.  Formative Elements of the
     Names:  Suffixes, Prefixes.  Meanings of the Class Names.

The priority of phratries over classes is commonly admitted and it is unnecessary to argue the question at length.  The main grounds for the assumption are:  (1) that it is a priori probable that the fourfold division succeeded the twofold division, exactly as the eightfold division has succeeded, and apparently is still gaining ground, at the expense of the four-class system. (2) Over a considerable and compact area phratries alone are found without a trace

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