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Mangaian Society


page 154


Although relationships between the unmarried were governed by fewer inhibitions and restrictions than in Western culture, the tapus that applied to married people were equally if not more strict. Adultery was termed 'akaturi, a term which had a wider connotation but which in ordinary speech held the specific signification.

The punishment of adultery, which was condemned by public opinion, depended on the possibility of its application. A powerful chief might like the wife of a serf or a commoner, and the injured husband would be unable to exact redress. A chief might be so powerful that a weaker chief would deem it expedient not to attempt active reprisal.

Ngauta, Lord of Mangaia, carried on a love affair with the wife of Ngoengoe, son of Akaina. Akaina, who lay sick to death, had been Ngauta's main support (toko) in his military campaigns. The injured husband complained to his father, who wept over his son's wrongs and coached his son to restrain his grief for his death and to wait until Ngauta came to pay his respects to his dead comrade-in-arms, when the son was to lie on the body of his father, and, wailing, was to repeat the words, "Ah, the teaching of my father Akaina, I also am from Tonga!" Tonga was the locality in which Ngoengoe and his wife lived. After Akaina's death the plan was duly carried out. Ngauta heard, and after pressing his nose against that of the corpse, he said, "So he is of the tribe of Akaina!" Thus at a time when Ngauta was deeply stirred, he learned that the husband of the woman with whom he was having a liaison was the son of his old comrade. The Lord of Mangaia was shamed before the dead and ceased his attentions to the wife of Ngoengoe.

The usual form of punishment ('akatea) was the confiscation of movable goods. The family of the injured husband raided the correspondent's property. All such possessions as bark cloth were confiscated, the taro of the cultivation was dug up, and the fruit trees were denuded. The corespondent was left with a bare hut and bare land. The food supplies were so drastically dealt with that the punishment was keenly felt.

A more severe punishment was the actual confiscation of land. The death penalty was sometimes inflicted if the injured husband felt his tribe strong enough to withstand the war that was bound to follow.

Vaarua, a junior collateral relative of Koroa, Lord of Mangaia, influenced by jealousy of his senior cousin who held more power and a greater number of women attendants, stole one of Koroa's wives. As Koroa was the chief of the district in which Vaarua lived, Koroa drove him out of the district and gave his land to others.

Te-uanuku, while Lord of Mangaia, carried on a liaison with the wife of an Ngariki chief named Raei. Raei could not kill the offender, as they were both worshipers of Motoro, so he intrigued with the Tongaiti tribe for the murder of Te-uanuku.

It is not clear whether injured wives had any customary redress. They seem usually to have vented their wrath in words and returned to the homes of their parents.

In Mangaia, if a fish dropped from the hook once as it was being lifted page 155out of the water by a fisherman it was merely annoying, but if it dropped more than twice it was a sign of marital infidelity ashore.