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Custom and Myth

Page: 86

5. The evidence from myth and legend.

6. The evidence from direct historical statements as to the prevalence of the matriarchal family, and inheritance through the maternal line.

To take these various testimonies in their order, let us begin with

(1.) The form of capture in bridal ceremonies. That this form survived in Sparta, Crete, in Hindoo law, in the traditions of Ireland, in the popular rustic customs of Wales, is not denied.

If we hold, with Mr. M’Lennan, that scarcity of women (produced by female infanticide or otherwise) is the cause of the habit of capturing wives, we may see, in survivals of this ceremony of capture among Aryans, a proof of early scarcity of women, and of probable polyandry. But an opponent may argue, like Mr. J. A. Farrer in ‘Primitive Manners,’ that the ceremony of capture is mainly a concession to maiden modesty among early races. Here one may observe that the girls of savage tribes are notoriously profligate and immodest about illicit connections. Only honourable marriage brings a blush to the cheek of these young persons. This is odd, but, in the present state of the question, we cannot lean on the evidence of the ceremony of capture. We cannot demonstrate that it is derived from a time when paucity of women made capture of brides necessary. Thus ‘honours are easy’ in this first deal.

(2.) The next indication is very curious, and requires much more prolonged discussion. The custom of Exogamy was first noted and named by Mr. M’Lennan. Exogamy is the prohibition of marriage within the supposed blood-kinship, as denoted by the family name. Such marriage, among many backward races, is reckoned incestuous, and is punishable by death. Certain peculiarities in connection with the family name have to be noted later. Now, Sir Henry Maine admits that exogamy, as thus defined, exists among the Hindoos. ‘A Hindoo may not marry a woman belonging to the same gotra, all members of the gotra being theoretically supposed to have descended from the same ancestor.’ The same rule prevails in China. ‘There are in China large bodies of related clansmen, each generally bearing the same clan-name. They are exogamous; no man will marry a woman having the same clan-name with himself.’ It is admitted by Sir Henry Maine that this wide prohibition of marriage was the early Aryan rule, while advancing civilisation has gradually permitted marriage within limits once forbidden. The Greek Church now (according to Mr. M’Lennan), and the Catholic Church in the past, forbade intermarriages ‘as far as relationship could be known.’ The Hindoo rule appears to go still farther, and to prohibit marriage as far as the common gotra name seems merely to indicate relationship.

As to the ancient Romans, Plutarch says: Formerly they did not marry women connected with them by blood, any more than they now marry aunts or sisters. It was long before they would even intermarry with cousins.’ Plutarch also remarks that, in times past, Romans did not marry συyyενιδας, and if we may render this ‘women of the same


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