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Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga


page 42


Among junior branches of families which had come to form the mass of the people, it is probable that matings took place without much ceremony. Young people who wished to prolong love affairs and to continue to live together probably did so without much ado. The cohabitation was soon noticed by their respective parents and perhaps ratified at a small feast by the two families. The couple might also obtain the consent of their parents beforehand, and the mutual consent of both families would ratify the marriage.

For children of senior and chiefly families, marriage arrangements were much more formal. Males in the line of succession to the titles of ariki, tukuwhare, and to leading positions in subtribes, and girls of chiefly family who had been subjected to the whakapu ceremony, were public characters in whom the greatest interest was taken by the families and social groups to which they belonged. Any loose alliance conducted in a common way was not conducive to the maintenance of family and group prestige. Marriages of those of high rank were thus of public concern.

Marriage alliances were discussed at meetings called for the purpose. When the parents or elders of the family came to a preliminary decision, they discussed the matter with the leaders of the families within the group or groups concerned. The decision was made at a public meeting, and carried the support of the group. Most decisions were quickly arrived at by those most intimately concerned, but the longer course of submitting matters to the group was necessary in order to give them a share in discussion and, by their public ratification, to obtain their hearty support in providing the food and property necessary to the marriage ceremony. Objections raised by parents to what they considered unsuitable marriages have, on occasion, led to romantic marriages in which the parental wrath was braved.

The marriage having been consented to by all concerned, the members of the two family groups set to work to plait garments and mats for a marriage dowry. The dowry is termed takahinga (takahi, to stand on), as the mats form the material on which either party will stand in the house of the other. The women prepare the garments and mats, and the men collect and prepare food to accompany the takahinga. The bride's tribe (matakeinanga) escorts the girl in procession to the house of the groom's father, carrying dowry and food, to the accompaniment of singing and dancing. The takahinga and the food is formally presented to the bridegroom's family. The bride's people then retire to their own part of the village to await the reciprocal part of the ceremony.

The bridegroom's tribe now escorts the bridegroom to the house of the bride's father. They, in turn, take a takahinga of garments and mats and page 43 also food, which is presented to the bride's family with the appropriate speeches. In this manner both tribes share equally in the expenses, and each tribe contributes the food for the feasting of the other. The dowries are also distributed in the two groups, and though some may not receive as much as they gave, all get an ample share of the food to which they have contributed. The principle governing such ceremonies is one of public contribution followed by public redistribution. From the public speaking, singing, dancing, and feasting, the groups derive much pleasure. The exchange of gifts and accompanying speeches and reciprocal feasts give the alliance public recognition and constitute the main features of the marriage complex among the upper classes.

Later, the husband is escorted back to his father's house, where the parents of both parties weep loudly and even cut themselves as a sign of grief that their direct authority over their children has ceased. This public demonstration of removal of parental control indicates that the married couple can now set up a household.