It is quite probable that, among primitive peoples, no such thing as a wedding ceremony was known. Whatever of contract existed was in the form of mere verbal agreement between the parties concerned. When a couple had lived together for a certain length of time, without any discord, or opposition on the part of themselves or friends, they were considered husband and wife;4 and the form of agreement between them, being told to their friends, came, very naturally, to be imitated by those friends in their marriages; from which circumstance it is easy to trace the rise of the marriage ceremony.4 Then, too, as marriage, through the growth of society, and the broader recognition of the principle of expediency in such unions, came to be endowed with a higher degree of importance, it was only natural that it should be invested with greater form and ceremony, chief of these of course being in primitive times the wedding feast. In fact, among a great many savage tribes this constitutes the entire ceremony; and continues, as it did among the Jews at the beginning of the Christian era, from one or two days to the same number of weeks.1
The marriage ceremony frequently indicates, or symbolizes in some way, sexual intercourse. Sometimes, as among the Navajos, it typifies simply cohabitation, in the domestic sense,3 and sometimes, as among some of the Bengalese tribes,3 the first meal the boy and girl eat together is the most important part of the marriage ceremony, since by that act the girl renounces forever her father's tribe, and becomes a member of her husband's.
Eating together is a part of marriage in the Philippines and the Malay Archipelago generally; as it is also in Ermland, in Prussia, and in Sardinia.4 In Japan the bride and groom drink a specified number of cups of wine together, as part of the ceremony;5 and the Brazilians adopt the same custom, but with a stronger beverage.'
The joining of hands, an important adjunct in all Indo-European marriages,7 although not explained by any writer I have present access to, doubtless had its origin in the idea of "taking" and "giving;" although, among the Orang-Sakai, the right little finger of the man is joined to the left corresponding finger of the woman.' Among the Gonds and Korkus, marriage consists in part of "eating together, tying the garments together, dancing round a pole, being half drowned with a douche of water, and the interchange of rings—all of which are supposed to symbolize the act of union." 9 In many parts of India, the bride and groom are marked with one another's blood, a relic, possibly, of the prehistoric "blood-pact," which Scott speaks of as being practised among the Gallic chiefs,10 which is alluded to by Edersheim as a custom among the early Jews, and by Lucien, in the Toxaris,n as a bond of most sacred union between friends.
Among the Narrinyeri of Australia, the woman signifies her consent by carrying fire to her husband's hut;" in Dahomey, she presents her future lord with a glass of rum;" in Croatia the groom boxes the bride's ears, to betoken his mastership;14 and in Russia, the father took a new whip, and, after striking his daughter gently with it, handed it to the new husband, to indicate that the right of its use henceforth belonged to the latter.1
10 Sir Tristram, p. 289, note, Connor and Cooke Ed. New York, 1835. See also "The Blood Covenant," H. Clay Trumbull; and "Guide to Health in Africa," p. 37, T. H. Parke; the latter for instances of the blood-pact in Equatorial Africa.
Many of the marriage usages of both savage and civilized races—such as the use of the veil, and the custom in several countries of the bride wearing her hair hanging down over her shouldera—seem to be expressive of that feeling of all men, and sentiment of all nations, which, though it may be weakened "can never be wholly effaced,"* that sexual gratification is something to be veiled and hidden from view.
It is hard to account for such an instinct on any rational ground—that feeling, innate and intuitive, which associates with impurity and indecency a peculiar ordinance of God; but none can deny its existence.