National Geographic : 1954 Nov
or a horse, each owner promptly leading his ritually proffered animal back home. If a promised son or daughter dies before the wedding, Kazakh law requires that the relatives of the de ceased provide a substitute from their own kinship group. (There must be no blood ties between bride and groom closer than seven an cestors back.) When a wedding was celebrated during the migration, much of the traditional ritual and adornment had to be dispensed with. But the bride was bedecked in whatever finery remained. As tradition demanded, the women threw pieces of bread at the groom, who placed in his tall hat the owl feathers symbolic of good luck. A mullah married the young peo ple in a simplified ceremony, read ing prayers from the Koran. Fill ing a bowl with water, he placed in it some silver trinkets, blew over the bowl, and passed it to bride and groom, who drank from it in turn, an action symbolizing comple tion of the wedding. Relatives from both families then drank from the bowl. A customary fixture of wedding entertainment is a singing contest opposing a pair of women and two men. "My hero, you are strong and tall," sings a woman. "You, sweetling, are loveliest of them all," replies a man. "Your feet and ears are bigger than your wit," the second woman mocks. "Your eyes are twisted and your nose is split," adds the other man. So, switching nimbly from flattery to ridicule, the battle of nasal yodel ing continues until one contestant fails to invent a rhyming rejoinder and the competition breaks up in laughter. Wrestling matches, games of tag, horse races, and dancing to the twanging dombras round out the 638 wedding festivities (page 634). Girls in Tandem Haul Water to Camp During the flight from Sinkiang Kazakh custom decrees these 13-year-olds ready for marriage, the defending warriors were not Boys wait until 15 years of age. the only heroes.