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Custom and Myth

Page: 85

vera causa—it is capable of producing the effects.’ {249} Mr. M’Lennan collected a very large mass of testimony to prove the wide existence of this cause of paucity of women. Till that evidence is published, I can only say that it was sufficient, in Mr. M’Lennan’s opinion, to demonstrate the wide prevalence of the factor which is the mainspring of his whole system. {250a} How frightfully female infanticide has prevailed in India, everyone may read in the official reports of Col. M’Pherson, and other English authorities. Mr. Fison’s ‘Kamilaroi and Kurnai’ contains some notable, though not to my mind convincing, arguments on the other side. Sir Henry Maine adduces another cause of paucity of women: the wanderings of our race, and expeditions across sea. {250b} This cause would not, however, be important enough to alter forms of kinship, where the invaders (like the early English in Britain) found a population which they could conquer and whose women they could appropriate.

Apart from any probable inferences that may be drawn from the presumed practice of female infanticide, actual ascertained facts prove that many races do not now live, or that recently they did not live, in the patriarchal or modern family. They live, or did live, in polyandrous associations. The Thibetans, the Nairs, the early inhabitants of Britain (according to Cæsar), and many other races, {251} as well as the inhabitants of the Marquesas Islands, and the Iroquois (according to Lafitau), practise, or have practised, polyandry.

We now approach the third and really important problem—(3.) Is there any reason to suppose that the stronger peoples, like the Aryans and the Semites, ever passed through a stage of culture in which female, not male, kinship was chiefly recognised, probably as a result of polyandry?

Now the nature of the evidence which affords a presumption that Aryans have all passed through Australian institutions such as polyandry, is of extremely varied character. Much of it may undoubtedly be explained away. But such strength as the evidence has (which we do not wish to exaggerate) is derived from its convergence to one point—namely, the anterior existence of polyandry and the matriarchal family among Aryans before and after the dawn of real history.

For the sake of distinctness we may here number the heads of the evidence bearing on this question. We have—

1. The evidence of inference from the form of capture in bridal ceremonies.

2. The evidence from exogamy: the law which forbids marriage between persons of the same family name.

3. The evidence from totemism—that is, the derivation of the family name and crest or badge, from some natural object, plant or animal. {252} Persons bearing the name may not intermarry, nor, as a rule, may they eat the object from which they derive their family name and from which they claim to be descended.

4. The evidence from the gens of Rome, or yενος of ancient Greece, in connection with Totemism.


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