Finery - A Wife Who Must Run Away if Possible
There is much etiquette about marriage in Zululand. The preliminaries consist chiefly in settling the number of cattle to be given the bride's father in exchange for his daughter and in obtaining the girl's consent. The ceremonial begins with the slaughter of an ox, in order to make provision for a banquet. At this feast the bride does not appear. Her presents are of a very useful kind-household utensils, blankets, etc. The Zulu bride reverses the order of weddings in China and Japan. She goes to fetch the bridegroom.
According to her rank is the number of young men who accompany her, and with her also goes a chief, or leader, whose business it is to see that she is married according to rule. A number of her girl and women friends complete the party.
A stringent rule of etiquette forbids the party to enter the bridegroom's house in daylight. They wait, therefore, till darkness, and then dance into the kraal, singing and laughing. No one must look at them from the doorway of the bridegroom's house. The party sleep in huts prepared for them, and early the following morning they go to the nearest brook, where they wash, dress, and consume refreshments left ready for them.
At eleven o'clock the bridegroom is supposed to be-and usually is-ready for them, in the spot where the marriage ceremony is to take place, and the young men of the bride's party come to him, dancing and singing and circling round the group many times.
When they halt, the spokesman tells a falsehood-expected of him-saying, perhaps, "We are a party of Amaswazi travelling through the country, and have just called to see how you are."
They dance away again, then halt once more, and the head man says, " The young man lied. We are a marriage party, and have come to you from So-and-so, who has sent his daughter to be married to you. She is a very good, clever girl"-adding many recommendations of the young woman. Again the party makes off, returning with the bride hidden away in the middle of them.
She is clad in a single garment, a petticoat of rough skin, which reaches to her knees. Feathers stand upright in her hair. Her other ornaments are necklets, armlets, and anklets made of teeth and claws, or sometimes of fibre only. The bridal veil is a fringe of bead or worsted hanging down from the forehead over her face. She may possibly have smeared herself with red clay.
At sight of her the men lay aside their shields and assegais, and again the bride's party begin to dance. The bridegroom also gets up, and skips about to show his agility. Two or three old women then walk up and down between the two parties, wailing and moaning for the loss of the bride and depreciating the bridegroom.
While this is going on the bride creeps up to the bridegroom's wives-if he has any-and to his mother, asking them to be good and kind to her. If not, she says, she will return at once to her parents' home.
The women answer that they will first see how she behaves herself. Whereupon, dissatisfied with this non-committal response -but strictly according to precedent and etiquette-she makes a simulated attempt to run away, but one of her own party, a girl, seizes her and brings her back.
A Wifely Privilege
On her entering her future home the ceremonial ends. But in the evening she issues forth, acting the part of being unhappy, and without her veil. A crowd of girls follow her and prevent her escaping to her girlhood's home, the whole thing being part of an already arranged programme.
Next day the festivities recommence, and the bridegroom having killed an ox, there is much feasting. A curious little episode happens when the bride comes on the scene in the afternoon, forsaking the privacy that custom has enjoined upon her during the forenoon. The near relatives of the bridegroom sit on the ground when she approaches with her girl friends. She puts beads and water in a large gourd spoon, and then throws them over one of the seated group, then breaks a spear which she has held in her left hand. Next she throws some water over a female relative of the bridegroom and strikes her with a stick, to indicate that from that moment she assumes authority as a wife.
Finally, she makes a dash for the gate of the kraal, her final attempt, according to ceremonial, to fly from her husband.
But his men friends are expecting this, and head her off. If she should elude them, it is regarded as a disgrace to the bridegroom and his party, and the entire ceremony has to be repeated.