From J. Stanley Gardiner (1898), "The Natives of Rotuma," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 27:477-481.
Until a girl was married, she was practically free to form what connections she desired, but she was not allowed to sleep in any other house than her parents'. It was considered no disgrace if she bore children, and it would not operate in any way to prevent her getting married. Indeed, a child acted in the other way if she wanted to marry into another hoag, as it proved her fertility. As soon as she reached a suitable age, usually about 15 years, she was given a screen in her parents' house to herself. Here she might be visited nightly by the men, and all the courtship took place; a door for their entrance was usually left unfastened. Fornication is said to have been exceptional. The parents were supposed to be ignorant of any visits to her. No violence was ever offered; to escape she simply left the screen and entered that of her parents. Men were valuable to the hoag, and her duty was to attract a man, who would enter her hoag. The marriage was arranged by the parents, all overtures coming in most cases from those of the girl. Having fixed on a suitable man, they then visited his parents, taking with them a cooked pig and some taro as a present. In the case of big chiefs or owners of the family name, or if the man belonged to a very rich hoag, matters were usually arranged the other way, so that the girl would enter the man's hoag; his parents then made the overtures. In all cases the consent of the pure of the several hoag had to be obtained; marriage in the hoag was forbidden, and also that between first cousins. A grandchild of a man and wife might marry his or her hoisasiga, second cousin, if he or she was descended from the seghoni, the man's sister, or the segvevene, the woman's brother, but not, it was distinctly stated, if the descent was from the man's brother or the woman's sister, both of which relationships are expressed by the term sosoghi. The same terms I understand to have been used of first cousins to one another, in accordance with the relationships of their parents. The term oifa applies to the father or uncle, and oihoni to the mother or aunt.
The affair being settled, the relations and friends of each party meet, and make arrangements as to the date and what each shall bring to the feast. Every one who is in the least degree a relation or a friend is invited, and a portion allotted to them. Thus, at a small wedding hundreds will be present, while at a large one there may be more than half the island, and as every one has to bring something, the quantity of food, etc., is often very great. All is ready cooked, and consists of pigs, taro, yams, dahrolo, and roots of kava, while the women bring mats.
At a wedding between two Noatau people, and this by no means a large one, in front of the bride's parents' house was erected an awning of cocoanut leaves, while similar ones were placed some yards away at right angles to the right and left. In the right-hand one sat Marafu, the chief of the district, while under the opposite awning to him were the near male relations of the pair. In the centre of the awning between was a pile of mats, and round these were sitting the women and girls, to the number of about 250. In their midst sat the mapiug, the woman who weaned the bride, and also her sighoa, or namesake. The former directed every ceremony of the feast, while the latter had under her charge an the arrangements and divided out the food after the feast. The bride and bridegroom presently arrived from the religious ceremony, and seated themselves on the pile of mats. At once a procession from the man's hoag, which had been sitting down a short distance away, came forward; they brought an immense pig, carried between two poles by eight men, a bullock with four carriers, three pigs with the same, three pigs with two carriers, an immense root of kava with four carriers, and, lastly, came about twenty men and boys each with a couple of baskets of food or roots of kava on a stick on one shoulder. These were placed down in a heap on the right, and the bearers at once retired to join the men, who were sitting under the trees at some distance. A small heap had been previously placed in the centre; this, and this alone, was cut up and distributed in the feast, which at once followed. The mapiug now ordered the feast to be served; the kava was chewed, and, when it was ready, the first bowl was handed to her. She did not drink it at once, but suddenly rising, snipped a pair of scissors two or three times over the left temple of the girl. This is the sole survival of the ufaga supu, or "the clipping of the supu." Among the women one lock of hair, the supu was always kept separate and never cut; it fell from the left side of the head over the left breast. It was only cut, when the girl was married, or if she had a child. Now, no lock of hair is thus kept, and there is only the pretence of what was probably once the important part of the ceremony. [fn. It was suggested to me by the late Mr. George Peat, of Rotuma, that this lock was a kind of guarantee of virginity.]Kava was then brought to the bride and bridegroom, and the feast commenced, the bride and bridegroom eating off the same banana leaf. The feast at a marriage differs from all others: the men almost entirely serve it to the women, and man and wife eat off the same leaf. After the feast, more processions of food arrived, and were placed either with the man's pile, on the right, or the woman's, on the left. There were in all two bullocks, thirty-seven pigs, about one hundred and fifty baskets of taro, fifty baskets of yams, and fifty roots of kava. The sighoa now proceeded to direct the division of this, so that each should return home with a share; the mats, too, were similarly divided, anything given by the woman's side being handed over to the man's side, and vice versa..
During the next six days the pair are fed about once every hour, and continually watched. For the first three days, they remain in the woman's house, but on the fourth are decked out in big mats and flowers and brought in procession to the man's house. After the sixth day they go to whichever hoag they are going to live in; a usual arrangement at the present day is for them to live half the year in each. In the old days there was no procession to the man's house, if he was to live with the girl's hoag. Of course such a method now often leads to the separation of the pair, the wife going back to her old home. The husband then cooks some taro and a pig, which he takes to her, after which she is bound to let him remain with her, or go with him, for one night. Adultery of the man or woman was punishable by club law, but apparently only on the man in fault. Herbs to procure abortion are not unknown, but the more usual method used to be for the woman to go into the water and deliver herself there.
Most parents take great pride in and care of their children. In cases of illness, they would do more for another man's child than for their own parents, if old. When a child is born, the mother is at once washed and smeared over the breasts and abdomen with turmeric; the plaited top of an old taktakoi, or man's dress, was generally used as a bandage around the abdomen, which was bound up very tight. The child is washed as soon as it is born in cold water and smeared with turmeric, especially over the head, to make the bones join properly; the head is indeed constantly smeared for the first year. There is no difficulty about parturition, and miscarriages are almost unknown. I have seen the mother bathe in the sea in the evening, when she had been only that morning confined. The operation was formerly performed by priestesses, but now by any old woman, very likely the woman's mother. The next few days the mother remains at home and is visited by all her relations and friends, each of whom has to bring a present, the only occasion when one is given and not returned. More than one child at a birth is rare. A few years ago a woman had triplets; such a thing was quite unheard of before. In reference to this case, Albert believed that there must have been three different fathers, one for each child. The sighoa's (or namesake's) house is to the child as the mother's house; often it used to lead to adoption. On the fifth day a feast is held for those present at the birth. The mother suckles the child for a year (two Rotuman years), during which her husband used to leave her at night. Then a great feast is held, most of the food and mats being given to the sighoa. The mapiug now takes the child to her own house for one Rotuman year, and weans it. At six years old sere, or circumcision, was performed by one of the priests in the bush, the prepuce being simply split by a limpet shell, its full removal generally being performed later. The tattooing of the boy followed at the age of thirteen, and, when it was completed, he became a man; if a chief, however, as soon as it was commenced he was systematically taken in hand by the women and taught fornication. As different parts of the tattooing were completed, there were feasts, accompanied by various religious ceremonies, in the course of which an the atua (pp. 466-8) who had anything to do with the boy's hoag were called upon; they were in no way accompanied by scenes of unnatural vice.
The remarks on Polynesia of Professor Letourneau [fn. "The Evolution of Marriage," 1891] will not apply in any way to this island. The women do no field work, and could not be regarded in any way as among the chattels of a man. The language is not chaste according to our ideas, and there is a great deal of freedom in speaking of immoral vices. In this connection a man and his wife will speak freely to one another before their friends, and perhaps indulge in a little chaff. I am informed, though, by European traders well conversant with the language, that there are grades of language, and that certain coarse phrases would never be used to any decent woman, so that probably, in their way, they have much modesty, only we cannot appreciate it. Their dances in the old day s would have been, I believe, scarcely immoral or indecent in our sense. Of a Tongan dance, recently introduced, Marafu told me that he had never seen a Rotuman one as bad. According to the old men, married people used to be exceedingly faithful to and jealous of one another; I have constantly been told, in referring to divorces, that "it was not so in the old days." I was given to understand that divorce could only be brought about then by the one, who desired the separation, buying off the other with great presents of food and mats.