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The Fijians: A Study of the Decay of Custom

Chapter X — the marriage system 1

page 182

Chapter X
the marriage system 1

There are two systems of kinship nomenclature current among Fijians, one indicating consanguinity, and the other kinship in relation to marriage. This latter system radiates from the central idea of Concubitancy, and it is this system that is now to be discussed. The word "Concubitant" is adopted because, besides being a fair translation of the Fijian word vei-ndavolani (vei = reciprocal affix, ndavo = to lie down), it expresses the Fijian idea that persons so related ought to cohabit.

In order to understand the system it is necessary to free the mind from the ideas associated with the English terms of relationship, and to adopt the native terms, which are as follows:—

Tama—Father, or paternal uncle.

Tine—Mother, or maternal aunt.

Tuaka—Elder brother, sister, or cousin (not concubitant).

Tathi—Younger brother, sister, or cousin-german (not concubitant).






Ngane (reciprocal form, vei-nganeni)—The relationship

1 The information in this chapter was collected by the Commission on the Native Decrease (1891), of which the author was a member.

page 183of a male and female of the same generation between whom marriage is forbidden, i. e. brother and sister, both real and artificial.

Ndavola (reciprocal form, vei-ndavolani)—The relationship of males and females of the same generation between whom marriage is right, and even obliga-tory—consequently sister-in-law.

Tavale (reciprocal form, vei-tavaleni)—Male cousins who would be concubitant if one were a female, consequently a man's brother-in-law.

Ndauve (reciprocal form, vei-ndauveni)—Female cousins who would be concubitant if one were a male—consequently a woman's sister-in-law.

Vungo—Nephew, i.e. son of a man's sister or woman's brother, also son-in-law or daughter-in-law, also used reciprocally.

Ngandina—Maternal uncle or father-in-law; vocative form in the case of father-in-law, is ngandi or momo.

Nganeitama—Paternal aunt or mother-in-law; vocative form in the case of mother-in-law, is nganei.

Besides these there are compound names for some of the more remote relationships, and names for certain connections, such as karua (i. e. "the second," reciprocal form, vei-karuani), used of wives of a bigamous household, and also of children of the same father by different mothers.

I propose to call the Ngane (reciprocal form, vei-nganeni) tabu, because marriage between them is forbidden. Vein-davolani I call "concubitants," because marriage between them is right and proper.

The tabu relationship occurs—
(1)Between the son and daughter of the same parents.
(2)Between children respectively of two brothers or the children respectively of two sisters, such children being male and female.

From a Fijian point of view, in both these cases the relationship is exactly the same. The father's brother and the mother's sister share with the father and the mother an almost equal degree of paternity. Thus a man or a woman, referring page 184to his or her father's brother calls him Tamanku (my father), and if he is asked Tamamu ndina? (your real father?) he will answer A Tamanku lailai (my little father). The same applies to the mother's sister. The tabu relationship also occurs artificially between the children respectively of concubitants who have broken through the system, and have not married, but to this I will refer in its proper place.

Concubitants.—This relationship occurs between persons whose parents respectively were brother and sister. The opposition of sex in parents not only breaks down the barrier of consanguinity, but even constitutes the child of the one a marital complement of the child of the other. The young Fijian is from his birth regarded as the natural husband of the daughters of his father's sister and of his mother's brother. The girls can exercise no choice. They were born the property of their male concubitant if he desire to take them. Thus the custom, if generally followed, would enclose the blood of each family within itself, and obstruct the influx of a new strain at every third generation. The natural tendency towards the renovation of the blood would be checked, and its stagnation be continued. Thus—

A. and B. were concubitants, their children tabu. G. and H. being the children of tabu relations are concubitants. They marry, and of course their children being brother and sister are again tabu. But if D. had been a male who had married F. a female, G. and H. would have been tabu. It will thus be seen that the concubitant and the tabu alternate generation after generation. The children of concubitants must be tabu, and the children respectively of tabu must be concubitant.

It must of course happen that persons who are concubitant have a mutual dislike to one another and do not marry, or, since a man cannot marry all his concubitants, or a woman page 185all her concubitants, the system is dislocated by some of them marrying persons who are in no way related to them. Thus—

G. and H. are concubitant, born husband and wife, as were their grandparents A. and B., but they grow up and take a dislike to one another and each marries some one else. Yet the system takes no account of such petty interruptions as likes and dislikes. They were born married, and married they must be so far as their children are concerned. They have each married outside the tribe, yet their children L. and J. are tabu just as much as if G. and H. had married and they were the offspring of the marriage. G. and H. have in fact dislocated the system for all posterity, but the system goes on, refusing to admit the injury done to it. The most striking feature in the system is this oppressive intolerance. It is so indifferent to human affections that if a man dares to choose a woman other than the wife provided for him his disobedience avails him nothing. His concubitant is still his wife, and her children are his children. It will, it is true, give way so far as to recognize as his wife the woman he has chosen, but only on the condition that she becomes his fictitious concubitant, and that all her relatives fall into their places as if she had actually been born his concubitant.

This brings us to a fresh starting-point from which the concubitous relationship is established. Since a man who is the concubitant of a woman is necessarily also the concubitant of all her sisters, by a natural evolution, if he marries a woman unrelated to him by blood, and ipso facto makes her his concubitant, all her sisters become his concubitants also. In the past they would have been his actual wives, for a man could not take one of several sisters—he was in honour bound page 186to take them all. In the same way a woman and her sisters became the concubitants of all her husband's brothers, and upon his death, she passed naturally to her eldest brother-in-law if he cared to take her. This does not imply polyandry or community among brothers, but rather what is known to anthropologists as Levirate, a woman's marriage to her brother-in-law being contingent on her husband's death.

Tabu Relationships.—Hitherto we have dealt with persons sprung from the respective marriages of a brother and sister, and have not touched upon the offspring respectively of two brothers or two sisters. These are tabu to one another, being, as I have said, regarded as being as closely consanguineous as actual brothers and sisters.

C. and D., being the offspring of two brothers, are tabu. They marry respectively their concubitants, and their offspring G. and H. are concubitant. Thenceforward the concubitant and tabu relationships occur in alternate generations. It must not be understood, however, that in these remote occurrences the tabu relationships are always strongly tabu, or that the concubitant relationships always entail marriage. The fact is remembered, that is all. "They are vei-nganeni!" "But they are married!" "Yes, but their vei-nganeni-ship is remote." (Ia ka sa yawa nondrau vei-nganeni)

It will be well at this point to examine the exact nature of the obligation existing between concubitants. The relationship seems to carry with it propriety rather than obligation, Concubitants are born husband and wife, and the system assumes that no individual preference could hereafter destroy that relationship; but the obligation does no more than limit the choice of a mate to one or the other of the females who are concubitants with the man who desires to marry. It is thus true that in theory the field of choice is very large, for the concubitant relationship might include third or page 187even fifth cousins, but in practice the tendency is to many the concubitant who is next in degree—generally a first cousin—the daughter of a maternal uncle. A very good illustration of this occurred a few years ago among the grandchildren of the late king Thakombau. The concubitant of his granddaughter Audi Thakombau was Ratu Beni, chief of Naitasiri, but for various rascalities he had been deported to the island of Ono. Meanwhile her relations proposed an alliance with the powerful chief family of Rewa, and she was formally betrothed to the young chief Tui Sawau. But just before the marriage Ratu Beni was liberated, returned home, and at once laid claim to his concubitant. The claim was allowed by her relatives, the match broken off, and for some time the relations between Mbau and Rewa were so strained that the chiefs went in bodily fear of one another.

I have always been assured by the natives that the practice of concubitancy has greatly decreased since the introduction of Christianity and settled government. From the fact that thirty per cent. still marry their concubitants, it may be guessed how universal the custom must formerly have been. Now that free communication exists between the islands, and men have a far larger field of selection, they are said to choose rather not to marry their concubitants. Ratu Marika explained this by saying: "One has no zest for one's ndavola. She is too near. When you hear man and wife quarrelling, one says, 'What else? Are they not vei-ndavolani?'" The result is curious. They do not marry as they did formerly, but they commit adultery either before or after marriage. No sooner is a girl married than her concubitant comes and claims her, and so strong is custom that she seldom repulses him. It is said that about fifty per cent. of the adultery cases brought before the criminal courts of the colony are offences between concubitants, but a number never come before the courts because the husband does not care to prosecute. There are few prosecutions for fornication between concubitants, because the complainants, the parents of the girl, do not feel themselves to be aggrieved.

Vei-tavaleni.—It is natural to expect some peculiarity in page 188the relations between males, who would, if they were male and female, be concubitants. This relationship is called vei-tavaleni. To break through for once the rule of not using European terms, I may remark that vei-tavaleni must of necessity mean both cousin and brother-in-law, and the reason is sufficiently obvious. Your tavale is a brother of the woman to whom you were born married; ergo, your brother-in-law. The fact that you do not marry her makes no difference. She is your natural wife, and he is your natural brother-in-law. Even if your tavale has no sister, he is still your brother-in-law, because, potentially, a sister might be born to him, who would be your wife. At this point I thought that I had found an inconsistency in the logic of the system. As the children of vei-ndavolani (concubitants) are tabu, I supposed, naturally, that the children of vei-tavaleni would be tabu also; but I found, to my surprise, that this was not so. Their children became vei-ndavolani (concubitants). It seemed illogical, but I supposed that it was done as a compensation. The parents could not marry because they were of the same sex; therefore, to compensate the system for the loss of a concubitant marriage, their children were made to repair the accident by being concubitants.

I pointed this out to Mr. Fison, and he, looking at the system purely from the point of view that it was a development of group marriage, when the entire tribe was divided into two exogamous marrying classes, said that he saw no inconsistency at all. We worked the problem out on paper, and discovered that, with the class marriage as a clue, this fact became perfectly consistent and logical— Let us suppose the population to be divided into two great classes, X. and O. Descent, in Fiji, follows the father, there-page 189fore the two vei-tavaleni D. and E. belong to opposite classes. D. O. marries an X. woman. E. X. marries an O. woman. Their children obviously belong to two opposite classes. They cannot therefore be tabu, and, through their relationship, they become concubitant. We thus stumbled upon an analogy that goes far to uphold the theory that concubitancy is merely a development of exogamous group marriage.

Vei-ndauveni.—Let us now consider the relations between females who would have been concubitants had they been of opposite sexes. They are called vei-ndauveni, which, according to our phraseology, would mean cousin and sister-in-law, for in the concubitant system these terms are one and the same thing. As in the case of the concubitants, the veindauveni is curiously stretched to cover the case of a man marrying a stranger woman unrelated to him. She becomes vei-ndauveni to his sister as a logical deduction from the fiction that she is concubitant with him, and as the children of vei-ndauveni must be concubitant, so her children and her sister-in-law's children are concubitants.

Ngandina.—The system extends even to the earlier generations. The ngandina means in our phraseology both mother-in-law and uncle and father-in-law, for since your wife is the daughter of your mother's brother, it is obvious that he must stand to you in both those relations. A man may marry a woman unrelated to him, yet his father-in-law becomes forthwith his uncle (ngandina), for by the marriage he has constituted his wife concubitant with him, and this entails the fiction that her father was tabu to his mother (i. e. her brother), and therefore his uncle.

Vungo.—Nephew, i.e. son of a man's sister or woman's brother, also son-in-law or daughter-in-law, used reciprocally, as vei-vungoni.

My mother's brother is my vungo; my sister's son is my vungo; my daughter's husband is my vungo. Under our system there seems little akin between these three relationships, but in the Fijian system they are one and the same.

page 190


A.'s mother's brother, A.'s vungo, has a daughter B., who is concubitant with A. Whether she marries him or not, A was born her husband, and he is therefore her father's vungo, son-in-law and nephew. It is to be remembered that marriage is never permitted between relations of different generations. Under no circumstances must vei-vungoni marry, though under the rules of exogamous marrying classes they would, unless specially forbidden, have been permitted to marry. In the above table, A. being an X., his mother's brother is an O. On no account must the latter marry G., A.'s sister, who is an X., but if A.'s vungo has a daughter B. O., the marriage between A. and B. at once becomes obligatory. Here is to be found a reason for the curious custom of the avoidance of a mother-in-law among the Australians and other tribes. Many theories have been advanced for this, but, with the exception of Mr. Fison, I believe that no one has propounded the true explanation. It is that in uterine descent a man's mother-in-law belongs to the class from which he must take his wife. But she, being of a different generation, is tabu to him; hence he must avoid her absolutely, lest he be tempted by her charms to break through the law of the system.

This marriage system is practised generally through-out the Fiji Islands, with the following exceptions and modifications:—

In the province of Namosi the descendants of two brothers or of two sisters are regarded as tabu throughout as many generations as their parentage can be remembered, and are strictly forbidden to intermarry. The children of concubitants who have neglected to intermarry do not, as in Mbau, become tabu, but are made to repair their parents' default by themselves becoming concubitants.

In Lau, Thakaundrove, and in the greater portion of Vanualevu, the offspring of a brother and sister respectively do not become concubitant until the second generation. In the first generation they are called tabu, but marriage is not page 191actually prohibited. The children of two brothers or of two sisters are, as in Mbau, strictly forbidden to intermarry.

Inquiries that have been made among the natives of Samoa, Futuna, Rotuma, Uea, and Malanta (Solomon Group), have satisfied me that the practice of concubitant marriage is unknown in those islands; indeed, in Samoa and Rotuma, not only is the marriage of cousins-german forbidden, but the descendants of a brother and sister respectively, who in Fiji would be expected to marry, are there regarded as being within the forbidden degrees as long as their common origin can be remembered. This rule is also recognized throughout the Gilbert Islands, with the exception of Apemama and Makin, and is there only violated by the high chiefs. In Tonga, it is true, a trace of the custom can be detected. The union of the grandchildren (and occasionally even of the children) of a brother and sister is there regarded as a fit and proper custom for the superior chiefs, but not for the common people. In Tonga, other things being equal, a sister's children rank above a brother's, and therefore the concubitant rights were vested in the sister's grandchild, more especially if a female. Her parents might send for her male cousin to be her takaifala (lit., "bedmaker") or consort. The practice was never, however, sufficiently general to be called a national custom. So startling a variation from the practice of the other Polynesian races may be accounted for by the suggestion that the chiefs, more autocratic in Tonga than elsewhere, having founded their authority upon the fiction of their descent from the gods, were driven to keep it by intermarriage among themselves, lest in contaminating their blood by alliance with their subjects their divine rights should be impaired. A similar infringement of forbidden degrees by chiefs has been noted in Hawaii, where the chief of Mau'i was, for reasons of state, required to marry his half-sister. It is matter of common knowledge that for the same reason the Incas of Peru married their full-sister, and that the kings of Siam marry their half-sisters at the present day.

Origin of the custom.—I venture to offer here three possible explanations of the origin of this custom, leaving it to the page 192acknowledged authorities upon the history of marriage to point out what in their opinion is the true explanation:—

1. It may be a survival of an earlier custom of group-marriage and uterine descent such as is to be found in the Banks Islands, where the entire population is divided into two groups, which we will call X. and O. A man of the X. group must marry an O. woman, and vice versâ. The children, following the mother, are O.'s, and are, therefore, kin to their mother's brother rather than to their own father. Their mother's brother, an O., marries an X. woman, whose children are X.'s, and are potential wives to their first cousins; although in the Banks group the blood relationship is not lost sight of, and close marriages are looked upon as improper, whilst in Fiji such a union would be obligatory.1 The children of two brothers of the X. group, following their mothers, would be O.'s, and therefore forbidden to marry; and so also would be the children of two sisters. Thus far the results of the two customs are the same; but in the Banks group consanguineous marriage is checked by public opinion, which in Fiji favours such marriages. Group-marriage on precisely the same lines has been noticed in Western Equatorial Africa2 and among the Tinné Indians in North-West America.3

In Fiji, agnatic has generally taken the place of the uterine descent (although in some parts of Vanualevu traces of the custom still appear to linger), but the existing system of vasu, which gives a man extraordinary claims upon his maternal uncle, may be an indication that concubitant marriage is a survival of the more ancient custom. The vasu system is found to some extent among all peoples who trace descent through the mother. Tacitus, speaking of the ancient Germans, says that the tie between the maternal uncle

1 Thus, John X. marries Mary O. They have two children, male O. and female O. (belonging to the mother's group). These marry female X. and male X. (father's group). Their children would be X.'s and O.'s respectively, following their mothers, and, if of opposite sex, could intermarry, although public opinion regards the union as improper in consequence of the near relationship of the parents.

2 Du Chaillu, Trans. Ethn. Soc., N.S., Vol. 1, p. 321.

3 Smithsonian Report, 1866, p. 315.

page 193and his nephew was a more sacred bond than the relation of father and son.1

2. It is also possible that concubitant marriage is a relaxation of the stricter prohibition in force amongst the Polynesians. The origin of these prohibitions may, perhaps, be found in some such occurrence as that described in the "Murdu" legend of Australia, quoted by Messrs. Fison and Howitt in Kamilaroi and Kurnai

"After the Creation brothers and sisters and others of the closest kin intermarried promiscuously, until, the evil effects becoming manifest, a council of the chiefs was assembled to consider in what way they might be averted."

Some such crisis must have been reached in every group of islands that was peopled by the immigration of a single family, and the natural solution in every case would have been to prohibit the marriage of both classes of cousinsgerman. But, little by little, the desire for alliances among chief families, for the restoration of the claims of vasu, and for the restoration of an equivalent of the tillage rights given in dowry, may have chafed against the prohibitions until these were so far relaxed as to allow the marriage of cousins in the degree most effective for promoting an interchange of property. For a similar reason Moses ordered the daughters of Zelophehad to marry men of their father's tribe, in order that their property should not pass out of the tribe, and "their inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father" (Numbers xxxvi. 12).

3. A third solution may be found in the transition from uterine to agnatic descent, a change that came about gradually as social development prompted the sons to seize on the inheritance of their father to the exclusion of the nephew (vasu). With the admission of the father's relationship to his son grew the idea that he was the life-giver and the mother the mere vehicle for the gestation of the child, and the child came to be regarded as related to his father instead of to his mother.2

1 De Mor., Germ., XX., quoted by Sir John Lubbock.

2 We find it stated by Dr. Codrington that there is a remarkable tendency throughout the islands of Melanesia towards the substitution of a man's own children for his sister's children and others of his kin in succession to his property; and this appears to begin where the property is the produce of the man's own industry.

page 194

Thus Orestes,1 arraigned for the murder of his mother, Clytemnestra, asks the Erinyes why they did not punish Clytemnestra for slaying her husband Agamemnon; and, upon their answer that she was not kin to the man she slew, he founds the plea that by the same rule they cannot touch him, for he is not kin to his mother. The plea is admitted by the gods. By this rule, a man is not kin to his father's sister's daughter, she being kin to her father only; but her affinity to him would render their marriage convenient as regards the family possessions. From long usage a sense of obligation would be evolved, and such cousins come to be regarded as concubitant. The children of sisters would still be within the forbidden degrees, for, although not kin through their mothers, their fathers, being presumably the concubitant cousins of their mothers, would be near kin.

I incline to accept the first explanation—that the custom of concubitancy has been evolved from an earlier system of group-marriage and uterine descent. I think that it dates from the remote period when there was indiscriminate intercourse between the members of two exogamous marrying classes, when it was impossible to say who was the actual father of the children born. Under such a system the reputed offspring of two brothers might in reality be the children of only one of them, and the children of two sisters might have a common father, and their union be incestuous. But the children of a brother and sister respectively could not possibly have a common parent, and their intercourse was therefore innocuous, For the same reason the children of concubitants who were not known to have cohabited were still held to be tabu to each other, for the male concubitant had a right of cohabitation with the female of which he might at any time have availed himself, and their offspring reputed to be by their other partners might in reality be half brother and sister without their knowledge.

1 Quoted by Sir John Lubbock, Origin of Civilization.

page 195

Though the Fijian system of relationships is closely allied to those of the Tamils in India and the Two-mountain Iroquois, and the Wyandots in North America, none of these, except the Tamils, I believe, recognize the principle of concubitant cousinship. The custom must be regarded, I think, as being one of limited range, evolved from marriage laws of far wider application. It undoubtedly exercises upon the Fijians a marked influence in promoting consanguineous marriages— an influence from which the other races in the Pacific are comparatively free, if we except the inhabitants of the island of Tanna in the New Hebrides and possibly some other islands not yet systematically investigated.

Concubitancy in practice—. The fact of a race of men habitually marrying their first cousins promised to exhibit such remarkable features in vital statistics that we did not stop short at investigating the theory alone. We caused a census to be taken of twelve villages, not selected from one province, but chosen only for convenience of enumeration in the widely separated provinces of Rewa, Colo East, Serua, and Ba. I am indebted to the late Mr. James Stewart, C.M.G., for the analysis of the returns which follows:—

In the twelve villages there were 448 families. The couples forming the heads of these families have had born to them as children of the marriage 1317 children, an average of 2.94 to each marriage. But of these 1317 children only 679 remain alive, 638 being dead. The heads of these families therefore do not replace themselves by surviving children, for only 51.5 per cent. survive, while 48.5 are lost.

We divided the married couples into four classes—

Concubitant relations who have married together. These we found to be on inquiry in nearly every case actual first cousins. They formed 29.7 per cent. of the total number of families.


Relations other than concubitant cousins who have intermarried. Two-fifths of these are near relations, uncle and niece, and non-marriageable cousins-german, brother and sister according to the Fijian ideas. But the remaining three-fifths are more distantly related than are the concubi-page 196tants. These form 12.3 per cent, of the total number of families.


Fellow villagers-natives of the same village, but not otherwise related-who have married together. These form 32.1 of the total number of families.


Natives of different villages, not being relations who have intermarried. These form 25.9 of the total number of families.

Thus it will be seen that the concubitant and other relations who have intermarried number over two-fifths of the people, while one-third of the married people have been brought up together in the same village, and only one-fourth, not being relations, have come from different villages.

When we examined the relative fecundity of these divisions the result was not a little startling—

133 concubitant couples have had 438 children, or 3.30 children per family.

55 families of relations have had 168 children, or 3.06 children per family.

144 families of fellow-villagers have had 390 children, or 271 children per family.

116 families of natives of different villages have had 321 children, or 2.77 children per family.

It will thus be seen that as regards fecundity, concubitant marriages are greatly superior to any of the other classes.

But since fecundity does not necessarily mean vitality, the question is, how many of the children born to these respective divisions have survived? and we find the unexpected result that whereas the other classes have changed places, the concubitants again show themselves to be superior.

Of 133 families of concubitants, there were 438 children, of whom 232 survive, and 206 are dead.

Of 55 families of relations, not concubitants, there were 168 children, of whom 72 survive, and 96 are dead.

Of 144 families of townspeople, there were 390 children, of whom 212 survive, and 178 are dead.

Of 116 families of natives of different villages, there were 321 children, of whom 163 survive, and 158 are dead.

page 197

The concubitants with an average surviving family of 1.74 show, therefore, not only a higher birth-rate, but far the highest vitality of offspring.

The relations other than concubitants show, it is true, the highest fecundity next to the concubitants, but their rate of vitality is the lowest of the four classes, since more of their children have died than are now living.

Second in point of vitality come the fellow-villagers, but they are far behind the concubitants.

From our preconceived ideas of the advantages of outbreeding we should expect to find that the offspring of natives of different villages would have shown, if not the highest fecundity, at least the highest vitality, for this is the class in which the parents are not related. On the contrary, we find that the families of these unrelated people are only third in point of vitality.

In view of the unfavourable position which the "relations other than concubitants" hold in this analysis, it is well to divide the group into two sub-classes. Of the fifty-five families of "relations," thirty-three are stated to be kawa vata (i. e. of the same stock, but not necessarily of the same family or generation). The remaining twenty-two families, on the other hand, consist of such unions (incestuous from the Fijian point of view) of vei-nganeni or vei-tathini, that is to say, brother and sister, or cousins not concubitant; vei-vungoni,
Divisions.Number of Families.Children of the Marriage.
Relations (distant)334961110
Average per family1.481.853.33
Relations (specified)22233558
Average per family1.051.592.64
Average per family1.311.753.6
page 198 uncle and niece, or aunt and nephew; vei-tamani, father and daughter, or paternal uncle and niece; and vei-luveni or vei-tinani, maternal aunt and nephew, or mother and son. We have therefore, for purposes of identification, divided the group into—first, relations distant; second, relations specified.
The fecundity of these distant relations thus appears to be much higher than that of the specified relations, and a little higher even than that of the concubitants-the highest of the four groups. The comparative figures are as follows—
Average Family.
Vei-ndavolani (concubitants)1.741.563.30
Relations (distant)1.481.853.33

The vitality therefore is much less in the case of relations distant than among the children of the concubitants.

The fecundity of the division, "relations specified," is lower than that of any of the four groups, and the vitality of their progeny is greatly inferior to any of the other classes.

For the last twenty years the Fijians have been either stationary, slightly increasing, or decreasing, according to the prevalence of foreign epidemics, the balance being in favour always of decrease. The different figures show that no class of the population replaces itself by surviving children of the marriage. But the deficiency is made up by the children of former marriages, and illegitimate children, who form a large portion of the population, but whose case it was not necessary to consider for the purposes of this chapter. But we find the startling fact that the class that most nearly succeeds in replacing itself is that of the concubitants, which, consisting of 133 families, or 266 individuals, have, out of a total number of children born to them of 438, a surviving progeny of 232. If we add the surviving step-children of these individuals, their total surviving progeny becomes 317, thus replacing the heads of existing families, and leaving 51 children to replace the parents of the step-children. In every respect the con-page 199cubitants appear to be the most satisfactory marriage class. They amount to only 297 per cent. of the population, but they bear 33.3 per cent. of the children born, and they rear 34.2 of the children reared; and, including step-children, they rear 34.7 of the children who survive.

It is not a little remarkable that the two extremes of vitality should occur in the two classes in which in-breeding prevails. The larger class of the concubitants (in which class also is found the highest fecundity) shows the highest vitality of the four groups. The smaller class, the relations other than concubitants, second in point of fecundity, discloses the lowest vitality, and yet the proportion of these marriages which would be regarded as incestuous by our system is small. It is not to be forgotten, however, that in marriages which are regarded by the people as socially right and proper, more care may be bestowed upon the offspring both by the relations of the parents who nurse the mother and child and by the parents themselves. By the same reasoning it is probable that the offspring of marriages regarded as incestuous are neglected by the relations of the parents, and, as a consequence, that less pride is taken in them by the parents themselves.

It has not been found that concubitants marry either earlier or later in life than the members of the other classes, and it is to be remembered that concubitants are very often natives of different villages, which may tend to prevent the relations attending upon the mother in her confinement. One of our native witnesses assured us, moreover, that the union of concubitants was seldom a happy one. Quarrels between husband and wife would certainly outweigh any advantages in favour of child-bearing which the social propriety or fitness might be held to create. But even supposing that the influences at work to make concubitancy so satisfactory a procreative element in the population are of a moral nature, the difference is so marked that there is a balance over to be accounted for by some other explanation. That they rear a larger proportion of their children may be partly or wholly due to the fact that their relationship to each other gives page 200them a higher sense of responsibility, but that they bear more children capable of being reared argues a superior physical fitness for procreation. I am aware that the figures are far, too small to allow of any generalization from them, but at the same time it is to be remembered that the inhabitants of these twelve villages represent a fair sample of the population, and also that we found the relative positions of the married classes to be generally the same in each village taken individually.

We have here a phenomenon probably unique in the whole range of anthropology—a people who for generations have married their first cousins and still continue to do so, and among whom the offspring of first cousins were not only more numerous but have greater vitality than the children of persons unrelated. Nay more, the children of concubitants—of first cousins whose parents were brother and sister—have immense advantages over the children of first cousins who were the children of two brothers or two sisters respectively. In no other part of the world does there exist so favourable material for investigating the phenomena of in-breeding among human beings. Is it possible that we have stumbled upon an important truth in our physical nature? Through-out Europe there is a widespread prejudice against the union of first cousins, a prejudice that must have arisen from the observation of chance unions. Two French scientists, MM. Lagneau and Gueniot, have lately attempted to combat this prejudice that marriage of first cousins is in itself productive of evil in the offspring. By classifying the people of Batz, who, they affirm, are the offspring of generations of consanguineous marriages, they found the population to be comparatively free from the morbid characteristics usually attributed to consanguinity, and they traced the cases of scrofula and similar morbid taints back to its origin in the parents and grandparents. From this they argued, that if scrofulous or rickety children are born of parents nearly related, it is due to the fact that hereditary taint of disease on one or both of them has not been diluted by marriage with a person unrelated to them. It is a pity that in their investigapage 201tions they did not trace the exact tie of consanguinity between the parents. It might have been seen, whether in Europe as in Fiji, the union of the children respectively of a brother and sister is innocuous, while that of the children of two brothers or two sisters respectively produces evil effects upon the offspring.

The point at issue, therefore, is this. Is the classificatory system of relationships after all more logical in an important respect than our own? Is there really a wide physical difference between the relationship of cousins who are offspring of a brother and sister respectively and that of cousins whose parents respectively were two brothers or two sisters? Ought marriage in the one case to be allowed or even encouraged, and in the other case as rigidly forbidden as if it were incestuous? More complete and detailed statistics than it is possible to give within the limits of this chapter are at the service of any one who will attempt to answer these questions by going more deeply into the subject.

Due allowance being made for local variations, the marriage customs of Fijians of the middle class in heathen times may be thus summarized.

The man's parents, having ascertained that their overtures would be acceptable, sent betrothal gifts (ai ndunguthi) to the parents of the girl. The token of acceptance was sometimes a miniature liku (apron). If vei-ndavolani (concubitants), they were often betrothed in early childhood; sometimes, however, a girl child was thus promised to a man old enough to be her grandfather. In either case the girl's parents kept strict watch over her, for any lapse on her part would cover them with shame and dishonour. If the betrothed whom she thus dishonoured was a man of rank her own relations would not scruple to put her to death, as was done by the great chief Ritova in 1852, when his sister thus disgraced him. While the girl is growing up her friends were supposed to "nurse" (vei-mei) her, or they might take her to the bridegroom's parents to be cared for till the marriage. When she reached puberty the bridegroom's friends prepared a quantity of property, consisting of mats and bark-cloth, and called the page 202yau-ni-kumu, or the solevu, and presented it formally to the parents of the girl, and marriages were often delayed for years when the bridegroom's family were too poor to acquire property commensurate with their pride. It was this pecuniary element, and also the custom of vasu, which gave every Fijian a lien over the property of his mother's family, that made each clan so jealous in counting the interchange of wives. "Veka!" they would exclaim when a fresh proposal was made, "they have had already five women from us, and we but three from them, and now they ask us for a sixth!"

The actual ceremony varied very much with the rank of the parties to the marriage. There was no religious element, and the priests took no part in it. But however humble the couple there were two indispensable ceremonies—the wedding feast, provided by the bridegroom, and the vei-tasi, or clipping of the bride's hair. I have failed to discover the author of the fiction, quoted by so many anthropologists, that marriage in Fiji was consummated in the bush. This was never the case. On the night of the feast the bride was taken to her husband's house, which had been either built specially for her, or was lent by the groom's parents. There the marriage was consummated, without any ceremony except in the case of high chiefs, when the announcement was made by a great shouting. On the morrow was the feast of the clipping, when the long tresses (tombe) grown behind each ear as a token of virginity were cut off.1 In the inland districts the girl's head was shorn, and she entered forthwith upon her labour as a hewer of wood and a drawer of water, ugly enough by this disfigurement to discourage any admirer. The old women of the bridegroom's family had ascertained meanwhile whether the bride had had a right to wear these love-locks, and if the result of their inquiries was unsatisfactory, the feast was made the occasion for putting her friends to shame. By a slash of a knife the carcasses of the pigs, which were presented whole to the visitors in the village square, were so mutilated as to intimate in the grossest imagery that the bride had had a history. The

1 In these degenerate days the tombe are worn by many unmarried girls who have no right to them.

page 203Fijians, however, always preserved a delicacy in these matters which was strangely wanting in the Samoans and Tongans. In Samoa the innocence of the bride was tested in the sight of the whole village by a sort of surgical operation performed by a third person (digito intruso); in Tonga the nuptial mat was paraded from house to house.1

There was, in some parts of the group, an occasional "marriage by capture" that would have gladdened the heart of Maclennan, but it was ceremonial, and I doubt whether it ever could be described as a custom. The betrothal gifts having been accepted some time before, the girl was waylaid and carried off. If she was unwilling she ran away to some one who could protect her; if she was content the marriage feast was made on the following morning.

Though as a rule the wishes of the bride were not consulted, there were certainly matches of vei-ndomoni (mutual affection), and young people sometimes eloped with one another to the bush. But the flame of passion soon burnt itself out; the couple soon settled down into the comfortable relations of mutual convenience; there was never a trace of idealizing sentiment between lovers.

The ndunguthi-ni-alewa has now given place to the vola-ni-alewa, and the former phrase is obsolete. Vola-ni-alewa (writing to a woman) includes both the betrothal gift and the letter which accompanies it. Very artless and business-like are some of these proposals. "If you love me I love you, but if you love me not, never mind, neither do I love you; only let us have certainty." Sometimes the women write the letter. One that came into my hands soared to a poetic height. "Be gentle like the dove, and patient like the chicken," but concluded somewhat lamely with, "When you have read this my letter, throw it down the drain."

In September 1875, a few months after the cession of the group, the Council of Chiefs recommended the prohibition of

1 I remember a high chief in Fiji, who had married a Tongan girl, complaining bitterly of the invasion of his privacy by the bride's aunt, who insisted upon officiating as a witness, and relating with glee how, in the small hours, he had forcibly bundled the old lady out into the night.

page 204betrothal gifts on the ground that they tended to infant betrothals, and consequently to the compulsory marriage of ill-assorted couples, who separated immediately without consummating it; that girls should be free to marry whom they chose on attaining the age of sixteen; that the licence should be granted by native magistrates after due inquiry; and that the ceremony should be performed either by a European magistrate or by a minister of religion. These recommendations, liberal enough when one considers how recently those who framed them had been freed from the bonds of custom, were embodied in a native regulation, to which was added three years later the sensible provision that the bridegroom should first be provided with a house of his own. But as the betrothal gifts, which were of no great value, seemed on consideration to be less objectionable than was at first supposed, a Regulation was afterwards passed to make them legal.

The real obstacle to marriage proved to be the yau-ni-kumu. While it consisted only of native manufactures there were few men who could not provide it with the help of their relations, but as soon as it became fashionable to give knives, print, etc., for which money was required, there were difficulties. The unhappy bridegroom, knowing how lightly a Fijian girl may change her mind, had the ceremony performed on the understanding that the marriage should not be consummated until he was able to pay for his bride. While he was accumulating the property to redeem her, the bride lived with her parents. Months passed, and in many cases a prosecution for adultery took the place of the promised festivities, though the marriage had never been consummated. This state of things appeared to be more common on the north-east coast of Vitilevu than elsewhere.

In 1892, therefore, a Regulation was passed again prohibiting betrothal gifts, and making it illegal to keep married people apart because the yau-ni-kumu had not been presented, and provided a penalty for enticing married women from their husbands. There still remained the magistrate's power to refuse a licence if the relations advanced "reasonable objections," for by the law of custom objections to interpage 205marriage with a tribe of traditional enemies were reasonable. The native chiefs, mindful of their own feelings if their daughters were to make a mésalliance, clung to this power of veto, and without their co-operation it was useless to attempt more legislation. And, since there is probably no community in which poverty, or class distinctions, are not obstacles to marriages of inclination, the Fijians have little to complain of.