The History of Human Marriage - Vol. 1

By Edward Westermarck | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
CELIBACY

SIDE by side with the idea that marriage is highly desirable or obligatory for all ordinary men and women we find the opposite notion, according to which celibacy in extraordinary cases commands more respect than marriage or is even looked upon as a stringent duty.

The Tuhoe, a Maori tribe, had the custom of making the first-born daughter of a chief, but nobody else, a puhi. This implied that she was rendered tapu--that "she was not allowed to have sexual connection with any man, nor to perform any work except such as the weaving of the betterclass garments. . . . The idea was to make her an important person in the tribe, a lady of rank, to be treated with respect and looked up to. If a puhi were detected in illicit intercourse with any man she was degraded and the tapu taken off her."1

We are told that the Shawnee Indian had a great respect for certain persons who observed celibacy.2 Among other North American tribes certain effeminate men who assumed the dress and habits of women were looked upon as wizards or supernatural beings and held in repute.3 Among many peoples persons whose function it is to perform religious or magical rites must be celibates.4 The Tlingit believe that if a shaman does not observe continuous chastity his

____________________
1
Best, "'Maori Marriage Customs,'" in Trans. and Proceed. New Zealand Institute, xxxvi. 34.
2
Ashe, Travels in America, p. 250.
3
See Westermarck, Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas, ii. 472sq.
4
Some instances of this are stated by Landtman, Origin of Priesthood, p. 156sq.

-395-

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