The Mafulu eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 349 pages of information about The Mafulu.

There does not appear to be any system of special matrimonial relationship between any communities; and the mode described below, by which a youth will by lighting a fire decide in which direction he must travel to seek a wife, would be hardly consistent with any such system.

They have their prohibitive rules of consanguinity; but these are based merely upon the number of generations between either party and the common ancestor.  The number of degrees within which prohibition applies in this way is two, thus taking it to the grandparent; and the result is that no man or woman may properly marry any descendant of his or her paternal or maternal grandfather or grandmother, however distant the actual relationship of the persons concerned may be. [79] Marriages within the prohibited degree do in fact occur; but they are discountenanced, and are rare.

Polygyny is usual, and is largely practised.  A man will often have two or three, or sometimes even four, wives; and a chief or rich man may have as many as six.  In the case of an ordinary person the wives all live with their husband in the same house; but a chief or rich person may have two or more houses.  A man who is already married, and then marries again, goes through a formality, if it may be so called, similar to that of a first marriage.  Opposition from the first wife sometimes occurs, but this is unusual.

Infant betrothals are common; but they are quite informal, and not the subject of any ceremony.  The parents in such cases, whether of the same or different communities, are usually intimate friends, and are thus led to offer their children to each other for intermarriage.  There is a known case of a girl of 16 or 17 years of age, who was what I can only call betrothed to the unborn son of a chief.  A curious element in this case was that at the date, prior to the birth of the proposed husband, of what I call the betrothal, the price for the girl was actually paid—­a thing which is never done till the marriage—­and that, as I was most solemnly assured, the living girl and the unborn boy were in fact regarded, not merely as betrothed, but as actually married, and that, when the boy died, which he did in infancy, long before marital relationship between them was possible, the girl was regarded as being a widow.  I could not ascertain what happened as regards the price which had been paid for the girl.  A couple betrothed in childhood are not subject to any restrictions as to meeting and mutual companionship, nor is there any mutual avoidance, nor any increased probability, based on their betrothal, of immorality between them; though in the more usual case of betrothal between children of different communities they in ordinary course are not likely to be constantly seeing each other.

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The Mafulu from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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