Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/456

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impostors, whom they first adore, then curse, and lastly destroy."

Polygamy exists to an almost unlimited extent. A man may have as many wives as he chooses, provided he can pay for such privilege the usual fees, which vary according to the wealth of the husband.

Like the Damaras, the Bechuanas practice circumcision. From an early age upward, even to manhood, the males are circumcised. Children, however, born of parents previously to their having been operated upon, can not inherit regal power. The ceremony being performed, the youth is anointed, and at once assumes the character, air, and dress of a man. He is also considered fit to carry arms.

The females have also their "religious" festival about the same age as the boys, and, for a certain period, are under the tuition of matrons, who indoctrinate them in all the duties of wives—passive obedience being especially inculcated. As a last ordeal, they are made to carry a piece of heated iron, in order to show that their hands are fit for labor. They are then lubricated with grease; the lower part of their hair is shaven off, and the remainder profusely bedaubed with a paste of butter and sebilo (dark, shining ochre). They now adopt the usual female dress. "Raised thus from comparative infancy to what they consider womanhood, they view themselves with as much complacency as if they were enrobed in the attire of a daughter of an Eastern potentate. They have reached nearly to a climax in their life, for they expect soon to be married; to be a mother they consider the chief end of a woman's existence."

The Bechuanas generally bury their dead. The ceremony of interment, &c., varies in different localities, and is influenced by the rank of the deceased; but the following is a fair specimen of the way in which these obsequies are managed.

On the approaching dissolution of a man, a skin or net