Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/230

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

kept in readiness for such occasions, and for a certain time hides her face by means of a piece of thin, soft skin attached to the front of the "casque," which she can raise or let fall in much the same manner as a curtain.

Polygamy is practiced to a great extent, and, as has been said elsewhere, women are bargained for like merchandise, the price varying according to the circumstances of the husband. Yet, though a man may have as many wives as he likes, I never knew one to have more than twenty!—a pretty good supply, however, it must be admitted.

The favorite wife always takes precedence of the rest, and, if she should have a son, he succeeds to his father's possessions and authority.

Each wife builds for herself a hut of a semicircular form, the walls of which consist of boughs, sticks, &c., the whole being plastered over.

Twins are not uncommon with the Damaras, Children are, generally speaking, easily reared. During infancy, sheep's milk constitutes their chief diet. Their heads are more or less deprived of hair; the boys are shaved, but the crown of the head of the girls is left untouched. Even grown-up females follow this custom. To the hair thus left they attach—not very unlike the Ovambo—thin strings, made from some fibrous substance.

All males are circumcised, but no particular period of life is prescribed for this operation, which usually takes place when any event of national interest occurs.

Children are named after great public incidents; but, as they grow up, should any circumstance arise of still greater importance to the community, they are renamed, retaining, however, the original appellation; and, since there may be no limit to remarkable transactions, it follows that an individual may have more names than any Spanish hidalgo can boast.

Between the age of fifteen and twenty, both sexes chip a