Link #160: Ancient Fiji Widows Were Strangled By Their Brothers!

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Ancient Fiji Culture
Image credit: twm1340/CC BY-SA 2.0

 

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Link #160: Ancient Fiji Widows Were Strangled By Their Brothers!

Ancient Fiji Culture
Image credit: twm1340/CC BY-SA 2.0

Throughout human history, when brothers come together, great things have happened. The Wright Brothers invented the Flyer whose piece were taken to the Moon by Neil Armstrong as explained in our last post. Other examples of brotherly greatness include the Lumiere Brothers who invented the motion picture camera that sparked and the Duryea Brothers who invented the first commercial car powered by gasoline.

Historically, brothers may have achieved a lot in the rest of the world but the same was not true in Fiji. In earlier times, brothers in Fiji were required to strangle their sisters the moment they lost their husbands. This is no great feat by today’s standards but a brother who could do this was honoured in that culture. Want to know more about this horrifying piece of information? Read on.

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What Was The Widow Strangling Custom In Fiji?

Before everyone in Fiji became a Christian, wives of dead chiefs were required to be sacrificed if the chiefs died. If this weren’t enough the brother of the woman was expected to do this task.

In fact, such was the culture in those days that the women whose husbands died would run to their brothers and request to be strangled! Sometimes, the brother didn’t have to do the task with his own hands but could supervise the act being done.

Fortunately, when the Fijians were converted to Christianity, this practice stopped. It is non-existent right now.

Were Fijian Widows Always Killed Like This?

While the custom was and still is horrifying, there was an alternative way that the events could take. This was when someone related to the dead husband came to the defence of the widow against her brother. In such a scenario, the brother faced off with the defender.

When this would happen, the fate of the widow would be decided by the winner of the battle. If the brother lost the battle, then he would lose respect in his community so such battles were always hard fought.

Why Did Fijians Want Widows To Die?

While this Fijian custom may seem barbaric and downright savage, the Fijians had their own logic and reasoning behind it. The most obvious explanation given for this custom is that the Fijians believed that the dead husband needed his wife or wives to be with him in the afterlife.

They believed that if the wife or wives didn’t follow the chief into the afterlife, he wouldn’t reach heaven and would face innumerable difficulties along the way. However, there was a more practical reason for this strange Fijian custom as well.

Most Fijian chiefs had multiple wives. Some even had wives in the region of 50! Since each wife had her children to worry about, there was always danger of some kind of a political manipulation.

This means that there was danger that one or more of the wives would look to kill the Fijian chief so that they can further their children’s future. The custom of widows being strangled would be a deterrent to this kind of an act.




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Sources:

http://www.masseiana.org/fison.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_sacrifice
http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-HenFiji-t1-body-d6.html
http://www.omgfacts.com/lists/10315/Fiji-used-to-not-have-widows-Why
http://inventors.about.com/od/dstartinventors/a/DuryeaBrothers.htm
http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1891/06/02/page/5/article/widow-strangling-in-fiji

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