Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/402

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


366 Correspondence.

years among the children who play about together. Among the Chukchi, children are often reared together with a view to marriage, and such marriages are considered to be tlie strongest. The Yakut do the same, and, where a sister goes away on marriage, her brothers never allow her to depart a virgin. These are samples only, the first that occur to me. The noisome list might easily run to a great length.

In the last case the sanctity of near kinship is disregarded. Nor is it solitary. The samples given by Dr. Westermarck himself in his History of Huma7i Marriage show that opinion on the subject of incest varies with the race and people, and does not conform to any one standard. On the other hand, so far from nearness in blood being an obstacle to sexual union in very remote times, the difficulty of accounting for the existence of so many and such strongly marked varieties of mankind is enormously great, unless we are prepared to admit a very considerable amount of inbreeding, lasting for generations, and resulting in each case in fixing a durable type. It is true that modern savages usually account for their exogamy and prohibited degrees by reference to "the same blood." Their idea of blood-relationship differs from ours. It tends, however, on the whole, to approximate to ours ; and the recognition of kinship through both parents slowly growing up has produced a table of prohibited degrees to supplement clan-exogamy and, in Australia and elsewhere, the marriage classes. But whether the objection to marriage with "the same blood " originated clan-exogamy is another question.

That it resulted from a natural instinct of aversion to sexual contact with those with whom the candidates for matrimony had been accustomed to quite different relations, I know of no real evidence to warrant us in believing. Where the requirement to resort to another camp, or another village, for a mate exists at the present day, there will often, — I think I may say, generally, — be found underlying it a presumption that the population of the same camp or village is all related by blood. Among the Australian tribes who practise local exogamy it is "chiefly where the clan-system has been weakened, or has become almost extinct, that the local organization has assumed such overwhelming pre- dominance." So Dr. Westermarck reports Howitt's summing up