Sacred-Texts Native American South American Index Previous Next
Puberty Ordeals (267): fasting (268); exposure to ant bites (269); scarification (270); flogging (271); other inconveniences in connection with isolation, water, fire, cooking, and the hair (272); conclusion of ceremony (273). Similar ordeals at subsequent menstruations (274).
Courtship: Tokens of accepted proposals (275).
Marriage Ordeals: Similar to those at puberty (276), but additional trials of skill, etc., for males (277-278). Family Restrictions on Marriage (278A).
Childbirth Ordeals: Pre-natal, for one or both parents (279); Post-natal—fasting, scarification, flogging (280), isolation and couvade (281); Male as parturient parent (281A); Miscellaneous restrictions (282, 283); Destruction of new-born child, Twins (284). Asexual genesis of children (284A). Birth marks (284B).
267.* In many of the tribes, as the Warraus and the Caribs, the young people of both sexes can not enter into permanent sexual partnership until they have successfully undergone the puberty ordeals (Cr, 612); in others, the betrothal or perhaps even the consummation of the marriage follows as a direct consequence of such ordeals. The result has been that some authors have referred certain marriage customs to puberty ceremonies, while occasionally the reverse has happened. As a matter of fact they would seem to be more or less identical. The puberty ordeals include (a) more or less rigid fasting, combined with (b) exposure to the bites of ants, etc., (c) severe scarification, or (d) sound flogging—all to be borne without visible signs of suffering. A careful study of these leads one to the conviction that with both sexes the effect is to ensure the young people being healthy and strong, willing to work, skilful, and industrious. In the case of the female, the general tenor of the facts points to a belief in her being possessed by some Spirit prone to evil, whose influence so far as practicable, has to be counteracted and destroyed. Hence the piai blows on (Sect. 85) and mutters over the [Makusi] girl and her more valuable belongings so as to disenchant her and everything she has come into contact with (ScR, II, 316) Some of the ordeals may be repeated, though in a less degree, at the second, perhaps at the third menstrual period.
268.* To account for this enforced abstinence from sufficient food on the part of the women at times of menstruation, a cacique on the Orinoco told Gumilla: "Our ancestors observed that wherever the women, during their monthly periods, happened to tread, there p. 309 everything dried up, and that if any man trod where they had placed their feet, his legs would swell: having studied the remedy, they ordered us to starve them, so that their bodies should be free from the poison" (G, I, 159). So with the Pomeroon Caribs, it was essential that when the girl was carried from her hammock to the place where the scarification had been effected, and back again, her feet must not touch the ground (ScR, II, 431). Among the Pomeroon Arawaks, at the puberty ceremony of first menstruation the girl is allowed no meat, but a little fish (and these must be only of small size), together with small cassava cakes, of which she must eat only the center, and a modicum of water in a very small calabash. For the next six months or so, according to circumstances, the young woman does not eat any meat of large animals, or fish which has much blood in it, as flesh of the tapir, yarau, turtle, etc. With the Warraus the girl must not speak or laugh or eat during the two or three days of the period. Were she to do so, she would lose all her teeth when she grew into a big woman. The first thing she is allowed to eat is a little cassava flour wrapped in a leaf. The Pomeroon Carib girl who, for the space of three days had to do without food or water, was not allowed to utter a word. She was subsequently starved for a month on a diet of roots, cassava bread, and water (ScR, II, 431). Girls may die under this treatment.
269.* In order that the Arawak girl, now become a woman, may henceforth have strength and willingness to work, some old stranger whose character is known to be strong and good, and a willing worker, is chosen to place an ant-frame on the young woman's forehead, hands, and feet. The ants are attached at their middles in the interstices of the plaited strands forrning the framework, the frame itself being applied on the side from which all the little heads are projecting. In Cayenne, Pitou (II, 267) describes the ant-frame as being applied by the girl's mother. Among the Warraus, as with the Caribs, the young people of both sexes cannot marry until they have gone through the ordeal of the ants. Among the Warraus [mouth of Orinoco], the sufferer is put in his hammock; they apply the tari-tari ants to him; if he cries out he is condemned to celibacy (Cr, 612), My Warrau friends on the Moruca recognize the above-mentioned insects as their natatari. They tell me that long ago the same practices were carried on here. If the girl cried it meant that she could not work, and was therefore not deserving of a husband. The Roucouyenne (Cayenne Carib) would-be bridegroom has to submit to a corresponding ordeal at the hands of the piai: the latter applies ants to the chest and wasps on the forehead, the whole of the body being subsequently stung with ants and wasps (Cr, 245-50). According to Coudreau, the Ojanas believe that the wasp ordeal undergone by the men renders them p. 310 skilful, clever, and industrious; and certainly the obligation of publicly braving severe bodily suffering has an assured intrinsic value (Go, 21). If the parents had not previously submitted themselves to these ant and wasp tests and other ordeals the Cayenne Apaläis and Roucouyennes believe that "only emaciated and sickly children would be born to them" (Cr, 307). It is noteworthy that in both Surinam and Cayenne the insects above referred to "are held in frames of bizarre shapes fringed with feathers, representing quadrupeds and birds (Cr, 245-50). In such cases it certainly seems a very fair question to inquire whether it is the properties and qualities of the particular quadruped or bird represented in the shape of the frame, or those of the old stranger, piai, or other individual applying it, that are supposed to be impressed on the young person's character; unfortunately the evidence thus far collected is insufficient to furnish a satisfactory answer. But in the following example the object of applying the ants at all would seem to be—though the suggestion after all may be wrong—to obtain the personal characteristics and qualities of the European traveler: "On entering the Apaläi village—a custom we did not find among the Ouayanas—they brought me a framework of palm leaves to which were attached at their centers, some big black ants. All the people of the tribe, irrespective of age or sex, presented themselves for me to apply it to their bodies, loins, thighs, etc." (Cr, 300).
270.* The Warrau boys had to undergo at initiation greater ordeals than the girls, to demonstrate their strength and manly prowess. These ordeals consisted principally in the infliction of painful wounds upon the breast and arms with the tusk of the wild boar or the beak of the toucan. If the boy endures all this without showing signs of pain, he can rank thenceforth with the men; if not, he has to submit to the ordeal on another occasion (ScR, I, 168). The Carib girl of the Pomeroon is operated on by the piai, who with the incisors of the Dasyprocta [acouri] makes deep incisions down her back, and from shoulder to shoulder; he then rubs pepper into these wounds, without the poor tortured creature daring to utter one cry of pain (ScR, II, 431). So also in Cayenne, a number of bloody incisions are made in her body, and it is only subsequent to this that she is allowed to wear the apron-belt (kewé-yo): the young man is allowed to wear the lap-cloth only after having passed the necessary ordeals (PBa, 225). In Cayenne again, the girl is said to have her teeth filed down by the piai at her puberty initiation (LAP, II, 267).
271.* On returning from her first bath [after the first menstrul period] the Makusi girl must during the night sit upon a stool or stone, to be whipped by her mother with thin rods without raising the slightest cry to wake the sleeping occupants of the hut, an occurrence which would prove daugerous for her future welfare. The p. 311 whipping takes place also at the second menstrual period, but not subsequently (ScR, II, 316). Among the Puinavis Indians of the Ynirida [upper Orinoco], the "Devil" who three days before has been making terrible music in the forest at last enters the house of the poor young girl, who tries to take to flight. A piai at this moment runs up and, binding her eyes (Sect. 255), leads her through the village while the Devil all by himself is making a frightful hubbub. Now is the time for the festival of the beating with the sticks, when the men strike the unfortunate girl, who dares not complain. At last a young man, admiring her courage, takes her place, and exposes himself to the blows of the company; if he bears the pain without murmuring she chooses him for her husband (Cr, 532). [Compare Sect. 276.] With the Uaupes River Indians, "all relatives and friends of the parents are assembled, bringing, each of them, pieces of sipó (an elastic climber); the girl is then brought out, perfectly naked, into the midst of them, when each person present gives her five or six severe blows with the sipó across the back and breast till she falls senseless, and it sometimes happens, dead. If she recovers it is repeated four times at intervals of six hours, and it is considered an offence to the parents not to strike hard. During this time numerous pots of all kinds of meat and fish have been prepared, when the sipós are dipped in them and given to her to lick1 and she is then considered a woman and allowed to eat anything, and is marriageable. The boys undergo a somewhat similar ordeal [at puberty, as the girls] but not so severe, which initiates them into manhood, and allows them to see the Jurupari music" (ARW, 345).
272.* What may be regarded as remaining puberty ordeals to which the young girl has to submit at her first menstruation, and to a minor degree at all her subsequent ones, are certain procedures connected with her isolation, with water, fire, cooking, and cooking apparatus, and with the hair. In the "old days" of the Pomeroon Arawaks, the girl would remain with her mother in a separate logie, or in a specially constructed compartment of the house. The former would be distinguished by hanging from the posts waste shreds of the ite (Mauritia) palm, that is, the leaves from which the outer fibrous layer, for making twine, has already been removed. The specially constructed room was called the aibona-léhi. The Warraus are said to have used a separate closed house. With the Makusis, at the first signs, the girl is separated from all intercourse with the occupants of the hut; her hammock is taken from its usual place and slung in the highest part of the hut, where the poor creature is exposed to all the smoke which, if that be possible, is now increased. For the first few days she must not leave her hammock at all during the daytime. When the most active p. 312 and striking of the symptoms have passed she can come down from her height, and occupy a small place partitioned off in the darkest corner of the hut (ScR, II, 315). So also in Cayenne, the girl's hammock was slung high up to the ridge of the karbet (PBa, 225). On the upper Amazon, she is similarly banished to the girao [an overhead staging inside the oblong hut] under the smoky and filthy roof (HWB, 383). She must not go near water until when the period is past; her mother bathes her in the closed room. If, during the day, the Arawak girl wishes to micturate she must do so into a goblet, which she empties after dark in the bush. When she thus similarly goes to ease herself, she must be accompanied by her mother, and must take with her a lighted fire-stick, which otherwise would not be used. The Makusi girl uses a fire which she herself has to light, and alone gets the benefit of. For ten days she cooks her cassava meal in her own pot at her own fire. Pots and drinking vessels that she has used are broken, and the chips buried (ScR, II, 316). The Arawak girl must not comb her hair but must let it hang loose until such time as her mother combs it after bathing her when the event is over. The Warrau matron (or the father sometimes) crops her (or his) daughter's hair; the Carib girl has hers burned off (ScR, II, 431). On the Aiary River (Rio Negro), the hair cut from a girl at menstruation is used for head and dance ornaments by the men (KG, I, 181; II, 253).
273.* As a rule the puberty ordeal is brought to a conclusion with drink-and-dance party, in which the girl herself neither drinks nor dances, though she constitutes of course the central object of attraction. If an Arawak, she is brought out of the closed room by a middle-aged man, and shown in her decorations to the assembled guests; she then takes her seat on a stool especially made for her, shaped like a crocodile or a "tiger." Previous to these festivities her brother or father has killed a hummingbird, dried it, and cut it up into very small pieces. Every visitor, male or female, now gets a bit of this on a small piece of cassava, the idea being that when the girl grows older she will obtain her share of any of the good things that the other people may possess. The Warrau young woman is decked with beads and the white feather-down of various birds, as Crax and Ardea, apparently stuck with some gummy substance to the smooth head [the hair having been cut], and the arms and legs (ScR, I, 168). The Caribs paint her red all over. In place of the stool they would seem to have employed a stone or (?) plate (ScR, II, 431).
274.* The following are the ordeals regularly undergone by Arawak women at subsequent menstruations, and which I understand are undergone, to a greater or less extent, by women of other tribes also, for example, the Warraus. The girl takes up her quarters in a separate logie or banab, distinguishable from all other structures by the suspended bunches of waste ite shreds. She lies in a smaller hammock p. 313 than usual. She must not eat meat from any big animal (as tapir and turtle), or fish which contains much blood. The flesh of any game hunted by dogs is strictly forbidden her; otherwise the dogs would be permanently spoiled for hunting. On no account may she cook, bake, or prepare drink, for other men or women. She must not cross water, travel in a corial, or bathe in a river or a pond; if she wishes to wash she may pour water out of a calabash over herself. Using a separate fire for herself, it is imperative that she never blows one out. She has to cook in a smaller pot, and employ a smaller fan, goblet, etc., all especially made for the purpose. In this connection I would suggest that many of the "toy vessels," described by im Thurn as being "seen in and about almost every Indian house" (IT, 278), are in reality the pottery-ware used specially during the periods of menstruation. Finally, the girl must not comb her hair but must let it hang loose.
In addition to the bathing prohibition, the Makusi women during these times must not go into the forest, where they would be exposed to the embraces of snakes (ScR, II, 316). On the lower Guaviar the Piapoco husband is said to bring the wife her food during the few days that she remains isolated in the special hut (Cr, 526).
275.* In matters of courtship the would-be benedict knows that the acceptance of an offering of food or of other objects is the token of a favorable, the rejection, that of an unfavorable issue. The Arawak lover, after making sure beforehand through the girl's relatives that he will not meet with a refusal, pays a visit to her parents, tells them how poor he is, that he has no wife, etc. At the conclusion of these preliminaries the young woman puts before him something to eat (SR, II, 459). He knows that the path of true love is going to run smooth. So again in the same tribe if a father wants some well-known person for son-in-law, he lets his daughter place food before the latter during the course of a visit; if he partakes of it, the union is assured; if not, the old man knows that their wishes do not agree (ScR, II, 459). At the present day, on the Pomeroon, when the Arawak young man returns on the appointed day to receive an answer from the father, he takes care to leave his hammock at the waterside, or on the pathway. If the girl brings this in, he knows that his prospects are favorable, any doubt being clinched by the father telling his daughter to give the young man cassava, pepper-pot, beltiri, or anything else that may be on hand. In Surinam, it is sufficient for the man anxious to marry, to take to the girl all the game and fish that he has caught during the day; if she accepts this present it is a sign that she is willing to have him (Fe, 38). In Cayenne, with the Galibis, as soon as a girl has taken a fancy to an Indian she will offer him drink, together with firewood to light near p. 314 his hammock; if he refuses the offer it means that he does not want her (PBa, 220).
276.* In none of the tribes is any sexual union publicly recognized as permanent—the closest correspondence I can find to our idea of marriage—prior to the advent of womanhood. Certain of the ordeals of puberty are closely paralleled: indeed, as at puberty, the candidates for matrimony have to submit to a rigid fast with or without exposure to ants, wasps, etc., a sound flogging (KG, II, 144), or a severe scarification. It is only the males on whom something additional is imposed in the way of trials of skill and the like. Among the Makusis the man, for some time before marriage, abstains from meat (IT, 221-3), which was apparently the case with the Guiyquirie and Mapoye females of the Orinoco. Concerning the latter tribes Gumilla says: For forty days before marrying, their girls are locked up to a continuous and rigid fast: three seeds of the Murichi, three ounces of cassava with a pitcher of water is their daily ration; and so, on the day of the nuptials, they are more like corpses than brides (G, I, 159). No reasons for this abstention are given, though it was asserted for the Carib girls on the Islands, who were treated similarly, that the idea of the fasting was to prevent them becoming sluggards, not likely to work when married (BBR, 250). The young Apaläi males on the Parou River, Cayenne, have to undergo the maraké (the ant and wasp ordeal) prior to attempting the trials of skill. Among the Guahibos of the Vichada River (Orinoco) on the occasion of the marriage of a widow, after having covered her husband's remains with earth, they put her on the grave, and remove the rag which, for the time being covers her chest: she then holds her hands above her head: a man comes forward and strikes her breasts with a switch—this is her future husband: the other men hit her on the shoulders, and she receives the flagellation without a groan: her fiancé in his turn is struck with the switch, his hands joined above his head and without a murmur (Cr, 548). [Compare Sect. 271.] After the above ceremony, they place another woman on the grave and pierce the extremity of her tongue with a bone: the blood runs down her chest, and a sorcerer besmears her breasts with it (Cr, 548).
277.* In most of the tribes there were certain trials of skill (Sect. 30), certain marriage ordeals, which the would-be suitor had successfully to surmount before gaining permanent possession of his wife, in addition to the puberty ordeals that had previously to be passed. These marriage ordeals at the same time may be admittedly regarded as omens or tokens of what the father-in-law or his daughter might reasonably expect from the husband in the future. The Uacarras Indians, a tribe on the River Apaporis, a branch of the Uaupes, of the Rio Negro, have a trial of skill at shooting with the bow and arrow, and if the young man does not show himself a p. 315 good marksman, the girl refuses him on the ground that he will not be able to shoot fish and game enough for the family (ARW, 346). On the Orinoco, he had to kill a bush-hog all by himself and bring it to his future father-in-law's house to show that he was indeed a man (G, II, 285). The young Apaläi Indians on the Parou River, Cayenne, after submitting to the maraké (ant and wasp ordeal) must now "go through the target test: with their backs turned, they have to throw cassava pellets (boulettes) at a piece of wood upon which a circle has been traced, and must hit it three times running, etc." (Cr, 307). In its most complete form, however, the shooting ordeal seems to have been carried out by the Arawaks, and it is from the very old people of this people that I have been able to gather the following facts concerning what used to take place in bygone days. When the youth went to his future father-in-law and asked for the girl, the old man would consult his wife and daughter, as a rule, and if everything were satisfactory would say "yes," but would not give him actual possession of her until he had performed certain deeds, the first and foremost of which was to shoot into a certain woodpecker's nest. He would accordingly ask the suitor whether he were ready or whether he wished to wait a few days. The latter would of course say he was quite ready, so impetuous is youth, and would give a minute description of the situation of the particular tree, usually one close to the water-side, into which he proposed shooting the arrow. The girl's father, however, would invariably plead some excuse to put him off, say to the next day, and in the meantime would get ready a big corial—big enough to carry 10 or 12 men—and engage his crew. When next morning the young man turned up again, the old man had everything ready and would get them all into the boat, he himself steering. The girl herself had to sit on the left of her would-be husband in the bows. When within a comparatively short distance from the tree wherein the woodpecker's nest lay concealed, the old man would call upon the crew to pull with all their strength—and the young man to draw his bow. Before, however, the arrow had sped, and while yet the bow was fully stretched, the woman had to touch his left side with her hand signifying that if his arrow reached its mark she agreed to be his. If he missed, the performance had to be postponed to another occasion, he having the right to try as many times as he liked until he succeeded and in the meantime he might continue practising on his own account. Luck might assist him on the first occasion, sometimes on the second, third, or fourth, or he might have to make the trial so many times that he would give up the attempt as well as all thoughts for the girl, and proceed to some other settlement where the woodpecker's nests were situated to better advantage. Without shooting his arrow into the nest the wooer would certainly never get possession of the girl—neither father nor mother p. 316 would give way on that particular point. On the other hand, supposing his aim to have been finally suceessful, the girl would be as wife to him, and he would take up residence in his father-in-law's house. The next thing was for the old Arawak paterfamilias to mark out a piece of ground, which within so many days the young man to whom he presented an ax for the purpose, had to cut and clear for a provision field. The time specified was usually short, the young man having to work with might and main, starting early and returning late, but finally completing the task. A similar ordeal was exacted among the Makusis and other tribes (ScR, II, 316). But there was still something else for the Arawak would-be bridegroom to do. For during the time occupied in cutting the field, the old man had busied himself in collecting a large number of crab quakes (baskets), and subsequently he would accompany the lad out to sea, and would himself watch to see that within the one day the youngster really filled all the baskets through his own exertions, and did not obtain the assistance of friends. This completed, the youth became henceforth one of the legal heirs of the house. Should, however, the lad not have cut the field nor filled the requisite number of quakes within the allotted period he would have been laughed and jeered at when attending subsequent paiwarris. The two ordeals, just described, however, were never so essential as that of the shooting of the arrow into the woodpecker's nest.
278.* A WARNING TO WIVES (A)
You must remeinber that in the days of long ago we Arawaks would never accept a suitor for our daughter unless he gave us some proof that he was skilful in the chase, and able to support a wife. Among such tests were those of shooting into a woodpecker's nest from off the bows of a swiftly paddled corial, the filling of so many baskets with crabs during the course of a single tide, and the clearing of a field within a certain specified period. The first of these was a severe test, it is true, and gradually fell into disuse, though the others were long retained. It was just about the time when the first-mentioned ordeal had been done away with, that a young man, courting a girl, thought he would have no difficulty in gaining permanent possession of her now that all he had to do for his father-in-law was to catch some crabs (Sect. 365) and cut a field. So when he went and asked the old man for his daughter and obtained his consent, he had no compunction in settling down at his new quarters, for with us a husband always lives with his bride before he completes the tests: on their fulfilment, however, will depend his fate—whether he retains permanent possession of her. Two or three weeks having been spent on the honeymoon, the old man talked to the lad about going to sea, after the usual manner, to catch crabs, and advised him to get his quakes (baskets) ready for a certain day. The youth went into the bush with his companions to cut the necessary mukru [the Creole term applied to the material used in weaving baskets], and, on his return, sat down to prepare it (that is, to split it into strands, and to tie them into bundles). As a matter of fact, he did not know what else to do with them! And when his comrades, who were already weaving baskets for themselves, saw that he had stopped operations, they inquired the cause, and were told that he intended making his when he p. 317 got out to sea. (He was ashamed to expose his ignorance of their manufacture.) "You must be very quick at it," they said. "Not at all!" he replied, "there is no difficulty whatever in the matter. Indeed, I bet that I will make my quakes and catch crabs while you are catching yours, and that I will even then beat you." They then all made a start: in the corial were the would-be husband, his new wife, the old father-in-law, and some five or six other young men. When they reached the sea, they anchored their boat at a little distance from the shore, all except the honeymoon couple getting out, each with a basket, to hunt for crabs. After they had gone, the young man told his bride to jump out also, and drive all the little "four-eye" fish [Tetrophthalmus sp.] toward the boat. And while he was there squatting on the bench, with the mukru strands in his hands trying to make his basket, the fish all passed by.1 As might have been expected, he realized that he was making no progress, so he made the woman surround the shoal a second time, and drive the fish back again, thus allowing him to have another look. She thus continued driving the fish backward and forward, and still he made no progress. She finally became very angry, and picking up one of the quakes out of the corial, waded on to shore: he called out to her to come back, but she took no heed of him. Now the particular quake which she had taken belonged, as she well knew, to one of the other men who had accompanied them on the expedition and who was an old lover of hers; it was this same man whom she proceeded to join when she reached shore. She came close to him, and saying that she wanted to help him, lent her assistance in the usual manner: as he dragged the crabs out of their holes, he would every now and then jerk one near her, and she would gather it up into her basket. Her husband now came over and joined them, and though he would drag out a crab, and throw it toward her, she took not the slightest notice. Although he repeatedly shouted, "Look out! It is escaping. Put it into your basket," she would not even recognize him. With her old lover, on the other hand, it was quite different: they soon filled their quakes, and went back to the boat for two more baskets; and these were soon filled. Back to the boat for two more, and so on, backward and forward, until all the quakes were full. When the husband realized that the others had gathered almost all the crabs that they could possibly carry home with them, he became desperate, and taking his hammock, wrapped within its folds as many of the crustaceans as he could gather. It was now time for them to start on their return journey, but getting into the boat the bride squatted, not on her husband's bench as was the proper thing for a recently married young woman to do, but on that of her old lover. The would-be husband said, "Come here: you are sitting in the wrong place;" but she and the old man took no notice of the remark, and simply snubbed him. Furthermore, when they reached home, all the men turned into their hammocks, while the wife busied herself over the cooking. This did not take very long, as she was only roasting the crabs, so she was soon able to announce, "Father! It is quite ready now." Getting out of his hammock, the old man called the young men up one after another, giving each one his name, and then called Satchi! Now, on hearing this term of endearment, the husband thought he was intended, and accordingly replied, Wangj [i. e. Yes, thanks, etc:]. "No, no!" said the old father, "I mean the son-in-law whom I brought in the boat back with me today. He knows how to make quakes. You don't." Naturally, the erstwhile husband was put to shame, and immediately wended his steps over to his mother's place, carrying with him his hammock and the few crabs it contained. His mother was indeed a dear old soul, and after cooking the crabs, and giving him a real square meal, consoled him as only a mother p. 318 can, advising him at the same time that he must wait a while, and be patient, because she was sure the girl would make up to him again. A few days later she took her son away to visit an old friend of hers, a man who was very wise in his way. She told this man all her son's troubles, and begged that he would teach him not only how to hunt, but also how to make quakes, pegalls, matapis, sifters, and fans, because it was due only to her boy's ignorance of these matters that he had lost his wife. The old man agreed, for friendship's sake, and mother and son remained with him for more than a year, the latter finally becoming quite as proficient in all the manly arts as his teacher. The result of all this instruction was that when the two of them, after leaving the old man's place, returned to their own little house, they never experienced those pangs of hunger that they did in the old times. Each day her son brought home something, and the babracote was almost groaning under the load of dried meat that it now carried. It happened that a woman passing that way called in one afternoon, noticed all the smoked game, and accepted a choice piece which the old woman offered her when she was leaving. Of course, woman-like, she must needs straightway go and show this very piece of meat to all the inmates of the house where the faithless wife of a year ago was residing, telling her and all her people that her late husband was not such a fool as they had thought: did she not with her own eyes see all the game that he has killed, and all the quakes and matapis that he had made? Of course, conversation of this nature, and lots more of it, only made the late wife more and more anxious to visit the spouse whom she and her father had spurned. And there was good reason for it too. The past year's experience had been a sad one for her: she had discovered too late that her second husband was not only worthless, but in addition lazy, and that all he was now bent on doing was to lie in his hammock all day, and make her work for him. So next morning, she and her mother, telling their people that they were going for a walk, set out in the direction that led to the house where lived the master of whose prowess and skill they had heard so much about the day before. They arrived there. The man was lying in his hammock, but his mother received them, placed stools, asked them to be seated, and put cassava with peppers before them. She also took pains to apologize that there was nothing else to offer them, notwithstanding that the babracote with its load of meat was, as it were, staring at them. The visitors gave a significant look at one another, at the babracote, and at the pepper-pot with the cassava and peppers: they now felt so ashamed of themselves at having treated the young man so badly a little more than a year ago that they could not even eat the cassava, and without even touching it, told their hostess to "take the pot away."1 The elder of the two visitors rose to leave, and expected her daughter to do the same, but the latter said, "No! I intend staying here, with my first husband; whether he beats me or not, I don't care. He has turned out far better than my second one!" So when her mother had got out of sight, she went up to the hammock where the man was resting, and climbed in, saying, "I have come back to you, my sweetheart." He, however, immediately pushed her out, saying, "I don't want you. I am the lazy, ignorant, and worthless man whom you scorned a year ago." She tried again to climb into his hammock, but he would not have her: she spoke "sweet-mouth" to him; but he would not listen: crestfallen, she left him, to return to her own people and her second husband, but the first one remained alone in his hammock and was glad to hear her go.
278A.* I have been un able to confirm Brett's statement as to the members of the Demarena, a particular family group, being restricted to connubium only with those of the Korobohana family group (BrB, 179); otherwise, all the Guiana Indian tribes are exogamous p. 319 and trace descent exclusively through the mother. Certainly among the Arawaks and Warraus, sexual union between persons of certain degrees of cousinship is regarded in the same light as is incest by Europeans. (See Sect. 131.)
279.* An analysis of the pre-natal and post-natal ordeals undergone by father and mother bring into prominence the fact that they bear remarkably strong resemblance to those submitted to at puberty (by both sexes) and at menstruation (Sect. 267 et seq.). In the main, these ordeals consist of food restrictions; the tolerance of severe physical pain without visible signs of suffering; and procedures connected with isolation, with water, fire, and cooking. The proper performance of the childbirth ordeals insures that nothing will go amiss with the baby. With regard to the food restrictions, before the child's birth, these may be imposed on both parents.
Some of the men of the Akawai and Carib nations, when they have reason to expect an increase of their families, consider themselves bound to abstain from certain kinds of meat, lest the expected child should, in some very mysterious way, be injured by their partaking of it. The acouri (or agouti) is thus tabooed lest, like that little animal, the child should be meager; the Haimara also, lest it should be blind, the outer coating of the eye of that fish suggesting film or cataract; the labba, lest the infant's mouth should protrude like the labba's, or lest it be spotted like the labba, which spots would ultimately become ulcers. The marudi is also forbidden, lest the infant be still-born, the screeching of that bird being considered ominous of death. [Br, 355.]
Among the Pomeroon Arawaks, though the killing and eating of a snake during the woman's pregnancy is forbidden to both father and mother the husband is allowed to kill and eat any other animal. The cause assigned for the taboo of the snake is that the little infant might be similar, that is, able neither to talk nor to walk. Neither parent, however, when carrying a piece of cassava cake, may either turn it over in the hand, or curl it up at the sides; otherwise, the ears of the child, when born, will be found curled over. Any game hunted by dogs is strictly forbidden the pregnant woman of this tribe, just as it is at her menstruation; otherwise the dog would be spoiled for hunting purposes, permanently in the latter circumstances, temporarily in the former, the dog recovering its powers only when the baby was born. Hence, when a man brings home any animal that has been hunted by a dog, it is his wife's business to see that it is not partaken of by any woman in either of the states named. An interesting reference to this belief will be found in Timehri (vol. II, 1883, p. 355), in which report is made of a woman's wages being stopped because, while weeding, she partook of the game caught by a hunting dog and so rendered the dog useless. She is forbidden to eat when pregnant any "big meat," as turtle or tapir, or fish that has much blood in it, as at menstruation; she can now eat only the tail portion of a fish. Infringement of any of these rules will result p. 320 in something being amiss with the child when born. The Indians of the Uaupes River, Rio Negro, "believe that if a woman, during her pregnancy, eats of any meat, any other animal partaking of it will suffer; if a domestic animal or tame bird, it will die; if a dog, it will be for the future incapable of hunting; and even a man will ever after be unable to shoot that particular kind of game" (ARW, 349); hence, meat has to be avoided by her. A Pomeroon Arawak female will beget twins through eating any double fruit during the period of her pregnancy. The Saliva husband, however (G, I, 189), regarding such a result as a sure sign of his wife's disloyalty, believing that only one of the twins could possibly be his. Another pregnancy restriction on the Pomeroon is that the Arawak woman must not laugh, and must not grieve; neither may she look at the face of a dead person though it is permissible for her to gaze on the body.
280.* And even when the baby does put in an appearance, the mother's troubles, like the father's, are far from over; for until her youngster is able to walk well, the Arawak mother on the Pomeroon must eat neither deer, turtle, nor iguana, animals which, for some days after birth, creep or crawl very slowly, in contradistinction, for instance, from the bush-hog, that will start to run directly it has littered. The idea is that by eating such flesh the mother will cause her infant to walk too slowly. On the islands, the Carib mother abstained from female crabs, which would give the child stomachache, while the father had to avoid certain animals for fear of the youngster participating in their natural faults. If a father ate turtle, the child would be heavy, and have no brains; if he ate a parrot, the child would have a parrot nose; if a crab, the consequence would be long legs (BBR, 248-9). The mainland Caribs of Cayenne (Galibis) avoided deer, hog, and other large game (PBa, 223-4). Brett, in a quotation apparently from McClintock, says that the Akawai, Carib, and Warrau husband abstains from venison after his wife's delivery for the same reason that the Arawak mother shuns it (Br, 356). The Roucouyenne father must eat no fish or game that has been caught with an arrow, but must content himself with cassava and with small fish that have been poisoned with the "nicou" plant; should he disregard this taboo the child will either soon die or develop vicious propensities. For the Carib Islander, paternity must undoubtedly have proved somewhat trying; for ten or twelve days he had "to take to his bed," and subsist on a little cassava and water; he ate only of the insides of the cassava cakes, leaving the outsides for the subsequent feasting; for from 6 to 10 or 12 months later he had to abstain from several meats, as manati, turtle, hog, fowl, and fish, for fear of hurting his infant, but such extreme fasting was carried out only at the birth of the first male child. p. 321 When the fasting period was approaching its conclusion, he had to submit to a scarification, by means of agouti teeth, upon his shoulders without a murmur, and the better he bore this infliction the more valiant would his son prove; the blood thus made to flow was not allowed to fall onto the ground, but was smeared on the child's face to make it courageous (généreux) (RoP, 550). The actual termination of the fast must here have been celebrated more or less ceremoniously: "Placed on a red-painted seat, the women bring him food, which the old men put in his mouth, as they would do to a child, the cassava and the fish being in small pieces; he eats the cassava, but ejects the fish after chewing it. He would become sick if he began to eat too well at once; he is made to drink by being held by the neck" (BBR, 249). The scarification and flogging ordeals of puberty are repeated on the Carib father, both island and mainland, after his wife's delivery of either boy or girl: the reputed idea is "to transfer his courage (muth) to the children" (ScR, II, 431). In the former case, after a course of very limited diet he is "brought to a public place, looking like a skeleton, and standing upright on two large flat cakes of cassavas. The sponsors then begin to scratch and cut his skin with very sharp agouti teeth. They first begin on the sides, then the shoulders, from the arm to the elbow, from elbow to wrist, and from the thighs to the ankles. . . . He is then painted and rubbed with roucou leaves, pepper seeds and tobacco juice, and placed on a red-painted seat" (BBR, 248-9), and fed, as already mentioned. The Mainland Carib, the Galibi of Cayenne, after some weeks' subsistence on a stinted diet, is "scarified on various parts of the body with fish-bones or agouti teeth: very often even he is given several lashes with a whip" (PBa, 223-4).
281.* After the birth of the baby come the various procedures connected with the isolation of one or both parents; in the case of the father, his so-called "lying-in" is spoken of as the couvade, and is met with in many tribes, for example, Arawaks, Warraus, Caribs (who call the practice kenonimáno), Makusis, and Wapisianas. In the case of the mainland Caribs (Cayenne) "when their wives are confined for the first time, the newly married husband has to sling his hammock high up to the ridge of the house" (PBa, 223-4). With the Island Caribs, if the child is a firstborn male, the husband, as soon as the woman is delivered, goes to bed, complains and acts as though he had been delivered (BBR, 248), and submits to a restricted diet, etc. As with the Caribs, so with the Arawaks and Warraus, it is practically the husband who is isolated, and does the "lying-in." Indeed, in these three tribes, the woman is isolated only during actual delivery, which takes place either out in the bush, in a separate shelter, or in a compartment specially partitioned off from p. 322 the rest of the house. With the bath that she takes within a comparatively few hours after the interesting event has occurred, her isolation, and with it any dangerous influence of her recent condition ceases. The woman is her own accoucheuse; even during the night and in wet season she will leave the house and retire to a secluded spot near by. She occupies herself with her daily affairs until the last moment: she may come home with a quake containing the baby instead of the usual cassava; and "on the morrow she is prepared to undertake all the indoor work of the household" (Da, 248). Confinement takes place either in the forest or in some little hut; she is always alone unless some difficulty presents itself, when an old woman will attend (PBa, 226). With the Makusis and Wapisianas, both parents engage in a "lying-in" for a shorter or longer period after the appearance of baby. The Makusi father takes to his hammock placed near that of his wife, until the navel-string falls off; but before doing this, if he has no separate building, he will prepare a palm-leaf partition in the hut (ScR, II, 314). When the partition was finished the [Wapisiana] husband hung up in it both his own and his wife's hammock, and therein they lay to "take to bed" (die Wochen zu halten) like the Makusis (ScR, II, 389). During the lying-in of the mother, or couvade of the father, they are considered equally unclean, such uncleanness being occasionally regarded as persisting for long afterward. Thus, the Mainland Carib (in Cayenne) is obliged to devote himself to the service of an old Indian and to leave his wife for some months; during this period he has to be submissive and regard himself as a real slave (PBa, 223-4). When in couvade a visitor enters his house, that visitor's dogs will soon die (Cr, 241). The Arawaks and Warraus say that if a man during the period he ought to remain in couvade indulges in sexual relations with any woman other than his wife, the infant will die through inability to exert its emunctory powers. After lighting her fire and supplying her with drinking cups it is the duty of the female Wapisiana population to keep as far away from the lying-in woman as possible for the few days that she is deemed unclean (ScR, II, 389). With the completion of the couvade, on the upper Tiquie River, among the Tuyuka and other Indians, the grandmother "smokes" the pathway leading from the maloka to the water as well as the water itself, before the parents have their first bath (KG, I, 312). With the Uaupes River (Rio Negro) Indians, when a birth takes place in the house, everything is taken out of it, even the pans and pots, and bows and arrows, till the next day (ARW, 345).
281A.* In connection with this question of couvade, it is of interest to note that from among the Caribs I obtained a trace of an idea of the male acting as the parturient parent.
*THE BROKEN EGG (C)
Uraima once had in his possession a bird's egg, which he kept in a calabash; he took great care of it until it should hatch out. He met two girls on the road: they saw the egg and asked him to let them have it. "No!" he said, "I can not." They worried and even followed him, but he still refused. So they seized the egg, and in the course of the scuffle broke it. Uraima then spoke to the women as follows: "Since you have done this, trouble will follow you from now onward. Up to the present, the egg has belonged to man. For the future it will belong to woman and she will have to hatch it." It is only the female that lays eggs nowadays.
282.* There seem to be some curious restrictions concerning water, so far as the father is concerned, both previous and subsequent to birth. R. L. Kingston gives the following interesting pre-natal example: "While some (True) Caribs were poisoning the upper Pomeroon with haiari for fish, I saw one of them rub his shins with the beaten and washed-out haiari. Asking why he did this, he told me his wife was with child, and that he could not therefore go into the water without first rubbing his legs with haiari, lest all the fish should sink to the bottom" [instead of floating narcotized on the surface] (Ti, II, 1883, p. 355). It was said to be a custom of the Island Caribs that "they often deliver near the fire, and the child is bathed at once; but a funny precaution is, that if it is born at night, the men who are sleeping in the house go and bathe so that the child may not catch cold" (BBR, 248-9). It is curious that the Pomeroon Arawak women will not bathe their infants until such time as the navel-string heals, for fear of the same contingency happening. On the other hand, his usual bath is forbidden the Makusi father (ScR, II, 314) during his time of couvade. Strange to say, it is the bath which in most tribes constitutes the final purification of the mother, at the end of her lying-in period, whether such period be of a few hours' or several days' duration. Beyond what has already been mentioned concerning fire—how some women (Island Caribs) will often deliver near a fire and how others will apparently have one lighted for them—I have found no further references to childbirth in connection with fire, except one in connection with the navel-string. Bancroft is the only author who speaks of the division of "the umbilic vessels, which they do with a brand of fire, which cauterizes their orifices, and renders a ligature unnecessary" (Ba, 330). Two old Arawak women are my authority for saying that in the old days the cord was burned off with a heated nail. Cooking for a man is strictly prohibited to a pregnant woman: she may however "clean" the meat, but in cleaning any animal or fish she must not cut off the ears, nails, or fins. In this latter connection there is a curious prohibition concerning fingernails in force among the Makusis: neither men nor women at times of couvade or lying-in must scratch their bodies or heads p. 324 with their nails. A piece of the midrib of the kokerite palm is specially employed for the purpose (ScR, II, 314).
283.* In many of the tribes during the couvade, and often for long afterward, the husband is prohibited from engaging in certain of his ordinary occupations. The Pomeroon Arawak must neither smoke, lift any heavy weight, use a fish-hook, nor have intimate relations with any woman. The Mainland Carib of Cayenne was not allowed to cut any big timber with an ax (PBa, 223-4). The Makusi must not touch his weapons (ScR, II, 313). Should these and similar prohibitions be not observed, some evil would be sure to befall the child. There is another interesting example recorded of a man (? Arawak) during couvade lying in his hammock and twisting a new bowstring; baby began to scream, with the result that the father had to undo the whole line (Ti, II, 1883, p. 355).
When one realizes what the Indian conception of child-life is, the explanation of the above otherwise extraordinary customs becomes comparatively simple. In its material as well as in its spirit nature the baby is believed to be part and parcel of both parents, and even at birth is not considered to have an independent existence. Its material dependence on the father ceases only when the navel-string is finally detached, the signal for the male parent to conclude his "hatching" or couvade. The baby's spirit nature does not, however, usually free itself from the mother until the lapse of many months, when it begins to crawl or walk (an occasion which in some tribes seems to have been celebrated by a festival, with hair cutting and other features); hence, all this time, whatever can affect the mother in the way of food, or otherwise, exerts a corresponding influence on the child. On the other hand, its spirit nature may occasionally tend to wander all on its own account. Thus, when a Moruca River woman is carrying her very young infant along a pathway and happens to meet a cross path, she will break off a leaf or two from an adjoining bush, and throw it on the latter; baby's Spirit must follow her and not go off in another direction. On the conclusion of the couvade the baby's spirit nature, though physically freed from the Spirit of the father, and in that sense independent of it, nevertheless accompanies the father for a similar period, that is, until it can crawl, and can be influenced by it so long as the companionship, so to speak, is retained. When the infant begins to crawl, its hair is cut for the first time. Rev. Mr. Dance was, I believe, among the first to appreciate fully the true signification of these facts in connection with, presumably, the Arawaks. I myself have had opportunities for studying them among Arawaks as well as Warraus.
The infant Spirit clings to the father, gazes upon him, follows him wherever he goes, and for the time being is as intimate and familiar with the father, as he is with his own infant body with which the infant Spirit is only recently associated. How p. 325 then can the father . . . go out to the forest or field to use an ax or cutlass, when the Spirit of the child which follows him as a second shadow might be between the ax and the wood? How climb a tree, if the infant spirit is also to essay the climbing, and fall, perhaps to the injury of the infant lying in the hammock? How hunt when the arrow might pierce the accompanying spirit of the child, which would be death to the little mortal at home? If, traveling through the woods you happen to meet a tairu leaf, which is formed very much in shape of a corial, floating on a stream or pond of water, and furnished with a tiny wooden seat and paddle, cut out and placed therein: or should you, in stepping over a fallen tree discover two sticks each placed from the ground to the trunk of the tree, disturb them not. . . . When the father wades through the water, the toddling spirit . . . must paddle over in the tairu-leaf boat: and when his sire crosses over the stump, the little temporary bridge enables the infantile Spirit to climb over. . . . But notwithstanding the greatest vigilance, the little Spirit is sometimes lost, and then the body pines and dies if the Piai doctor is not fortunate enough to recover it. [Da, 249.]
For my own part, I am very much inclined to believe that this little Baby Spirit is identical with the Familiar Spirit (Sect. 93A).
284.* In view of the facts mentioned throughout this chapter it is as well to note that, on the Orinoco, when an infant (male or female) was born with any defect or monstrosity it was put to death (G, II, 60). Similar procedure was in vogue in Cayenne (PBa, 227), while Schomburgk states that "the shocking practice of destroying deformed children is not so general among the savages of Guayana as has been supposed" (ScF, 219). On the Amazon there was the curious custom of killing all the first-born children among the Ximánas and Cauxanas, tribes met with between the Iça and Japura Rivers (ARW, 355). Among the Zaparos of the Napo River (upper Amazon), when a mother having a very young child dies, the child is sometimes buried alive (Sect. 76) with her (AS, 175). On the Orinoco, among the Salivas, twins were considered a sign of dishonor.
They call the mother nicknames; some say that she is of the rodent family, which bear little rats four at a time, etc. Directly a Saliva savage gives birth to a baby and feels that still another remains, she will bury the first rather than put up with the jokes and chaffing of her neighbors, or merit the frown with which her husband regards it. The husband's view is that only one of those twins can possibly be his; the presence of the other is a sure sign of his wife's disloyalty. One of the Indian captains gives his wife a whipping in public for having dared to bring forth twins; and warns the other women as to the serious beating he will give them if they do the same. [G, I, 189.]
The same thing takes place on the River Cuduiary, among the Kobéwas, at the present day, the second-born of the twins being killed, but if of different sexes, the girl is sacrificed (KG, II, 146).
284A.* There are certainly traces of a belief in sexual relationships having no necessary connection with the production of children. Even at the present day women can cohabit with Water Spirits without disastrous consequences resulting (Sect. 186). On the other hand women can get babies if they want them, by eating certain binas, plant or animal (Sects. 237, 238); in a case of this kind the p. 326 child is already in existence, its body being attached to, and by some mysterious means passing into, the body of the mother. As to the origin of such babies, all I can gather is that they arrive in the water of in the bush, and hence may make their appearance in our mundane world either as a gift from the Water Spirits (Sect. 186), or at the instigation of the Spirits of the Forest (Sects. 117, 302), with or without the agency of the piai. The following is a Warrau story bearing on this subject:
*THE LITTLE BUSH CHILD (W)
A long time ago it was customary for a woman, when she yearned for a child, to wander about in the forest until she found one. It so happened that a certain woman, Yaburawáko, in going to her field found a little child on the road—a pretty boy he was—and she brought him home. She minded him, and he had sense enough to call her "Mama." By and by, however, the child got mischievous, and made her vexed. She said, "You have really nothing to do with me; so why should you annoy me?" The husband remonstrated with her, expressing himself to her somewhat as follows: "You must not be angry with the child, but must mind him carefully." She continued, however, to be cross with the boy, and finally ill-treated him. "I am not going to be bothered with you any more," she exclaimed. "You have nothing to do with me. You are not mine. You don't belong to me." With this, the child disappeared, whereupon the husband said: "Well, he's gone now, but he will come back again, and this time enter your body, and you will have trouble enough to get rid of him." Sure enough, after a time the child did enter her womb, and, oh! the trouble and the pains she suffered before she was delivered of him. Women ever since have borne children in this manner just because Yaburawáko was so unkind to the little bush child.
284B.* Arawaks believe that birth-marks and moles (namarakan) are due to the failure of the mother, during pregnancy, to get what she wanted. She may have said, "Oh! how I should like to have just a bit of marudi!" thoughtlessly placing her hand on her face, breast, body, or thigh; her baby, will be born with a corresponding mark on the particular part touched. The "Mongolian spot" is regarded by the women as due to the position of the afterbirth being near the surface in the corresponding part of the mother's body. The Moruca River Arawaks call this spot tu-tebe, but as it begins to fade it is known as anakwarro.
1 For the various charms connected with sexual matters, love and affection, see Sects. 237-238.
1 Compare the licking of the stick by the Kanaima devotee to obtain purification (Sect. 329).
1 The pattern of the weft of these crab-quakes is known to the Arawaks as the kassaroa, or "four-eye fish," from the manner in which the starting strads are arranged, like so many "eyes." The idea intended to be conveyed here is that as the man in question did not really know how to make these baskets, he was anxious to get a full view of the fish, so as to serve him for a model which he could copy.
1 Whenever a visitor comes to a house, he is offered something to eat or drink; to express his satisfaction at having had enough, he informs his hostess accordingly in this terse manner.