National Geographic : 1899 Jun
SAMOA : NA VIGA TORS ISLANDS 215 Among the men of these islands the practice of tattooing is quite general. This is a dangerous as well as painful opera tion, and many deaths have ensued from it, blood-poisoning frequently occurring as a result of the methods practiced. A sharp piece of human bone, secured to the end of a long spear shaped piece of wood, is the instrument employed, and, as the same one is used indiscriminately, disease is very easily trans mitted. The tattooed area extends from just above the knee to a point approximately on a horizontal line with the navel, the effect being that of a tight-fitting suit of light-blue undercloth ing. The tattooing is only applied when the youth attains his majority, and usually takes several weeks to complete. Many women are also tattooed, but not so elaborately as the men. Sometimes there is only a line or two on the arms or across the breasts. In other cases the girl's name will be seen indelibly fixed on the right arm. Unlike many other nations and tribes of tropical origin, the Samoans do not marry until they have reached the age of ma turity. The marriage ceremony is of the simplest, the main point being that the mutual consent of the man and woman shall be witnessed by as many members of their respective families as possible. The dowry, consisting of mats, tapa, personal adorn ments, and the few household utensils employed, is supplied by the bride, and becomes the property of the groom as soon as the formal meal following the wedding ceremony is eaten. There are many marriages, however, without any ceremony whatever, a simple expression of willingness to live together filling the re quirements. Divorce is not uncommon, and immemorial cus tom provides that all young children shall go with the mother. Polygamy was at one time practiced, but of recent years this has almost ceased. An old Samoan tradition has it that in the be ginning their fathers had no houses, but were " housed by the heavens." A native house resembles a gigantic beehive thirty or forty feet in diameter, and raised from the ground on a number of short posts placed at regular intervals. The thatching is laid with great care, and consists of the long dry leaves of the sugar cane, which here grows wild, secured in place by the picturesque branches of the cocoa palm. The thatching, if well done, is rain tight, and lasts a number of years. In the center of the house, as shown in the illustration, there are two, and sometimes three, posts, twenty feet long, sunk into the ground three feet or more.