Bernice P. Bishop Mus., Bull.


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Temporary or occasional cohabitation only was allowed to father- or mother-in-law with son- or daughter-in-law (motunoai with hunona). Permanent mating was not allowed on the part of these, even if the formally affianced (tuia) husband or wife were dead. What is meant by temporary or occasional cohabitation is what is expressed in native parlance by the phrase e koana i te kamo, literally "to be permissible to steal," the sense being, apparently, that one could snatch such temporary relationship if occasion offered. The occasion was usually the absence of the regular husband or wife. A man had the right to sleep with his brothers’ wives or with his wife’s sisters with the consent of their husbands, but such permission appears to have been given only when the ahana [husband] was absent.2

A further feature of primitive behavior is the relaxation of inhibitions and the release of tensions periodically—on occasions of stress and excitement, during and following painful ceremonies, as conciliatory approaches to others in critical situations, in connection with death, during routine collective labor, and even as stimulant of the interest and activity of spirits. Stealing, sexual orgies, disregard of incest barriers, and obscenity accompany these temporary conventionalizations of license.

The most general background of the relaxation of tabus is the psychological necessity of the periodic relief of tension as mildly seen in the alternation of work days and rest days, expressed in the German saying,

Tages Arbeit, Abends Gäste,

Saure Wochen, frohe Feste,

but in a perseverative way primitive groups have developed extreme expressions of the tendency in several directions. The disorder is a social pattern substituted temporarily for the conventional one, and in some cases the periodic release of tension may be regarded as a physiological relaxation preparatory to the resumption of the state of sustained tension.

2Handy, E.S. C.n/an/an/an/a, "The Native Culture in the Marquesas," , 9: 99.


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Chicago: "Bernice P. Bishop Mus., Bull.," Bernice P. Bishop Mus., Bull. in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed December 6, 2023,

MLA: . "Bernice P. Bishop Mus., Bull." Bernice P. Bishop Mus., Bull., Vol. 9, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 6 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: , 'Bernice P. Bishop Mus., Bull.' in Bernice P. Bishop Mus., Bull.. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 6 December 2023, from