The Mafulu eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 290 pages of information about The Mafulu.

As regards government, the chiefs in informal consultation with the sub-chiefs and prominent personages deal with important questions affecting the community or clan or village as a whole, such as the holding of big feasts and important ceremonies, the migrations or splitting-up or amalgamation of villages, and warlike operations; but events of this character are not frequent.  And as to justice, neither the chiefs nor any other persons have any official duties of settling personal disputes or trying or punishing wrongdoers.  The active functions of the chiefs, in fact, appear to be largely ceremonial.

Concerning the question of justice, it would seem, indeed, that a judicial system is hardly requisite.  Personal disputes between members of a village or clan, or even of a community, on such possible subjects as inheritance, boundary, ownership of property, trespass and the like, and wrongful acts within the village or the community, are exceedingly rare, except as regards adultery and wounding and killing cases arising from acts of adultery, which are more common.

There are certain things which from immemorial custom are regarded as being wrong, and appropriate punishments for which are generally recognised, especially stealing, wounding, killing and adultery; but the punishment for these is administered by the injured parties and their friends, favoured and supported by public opinion, and often, where the offender belongs to another clan, actively helped by the whole clan of the injured parties.

The penalty for stealing is the return or replacement of the article stolen; but stealing within the community, and perhaps even more so within the clan or village, is regarded as such a disgraceful offence, more so, I believe, than either killing or adultery, that its mere discovery involves a distressing punishment to the offender.  As regards wounding and killing, the recognised rule is blood for blood, and a life for a life.  The recognised code for adultery will be stated in the chapter on matrimonial matters.

Any retribution for a serious offence committed by someone outside the clan of the person injured is often directed, not only against the offender himself, but against his whole clan.

There is a method of discovering the whereabouts of a stolen article, and the identity of the thief, through the medium of a man who is believed to have special powers of ascertaining them.  This man takes one of the large broad single-shell arm ornaments, which he places on its edge on the ground, and one of the pig-bone implements already described, which he places standing on its point upon the convex surface of the shell.  To make the implement stand in this way he puts on the point, and makes to adhere to the shell a small piece of wild bees’ wax, this being done, I was told, surreptitiously, though I cannot say to what extent the people are deceived by the dodge, or are aware of it.  The implement stands on the

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The Mafulu from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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