Mayer, Philip. Gusii bridewealth law and custom

Table of Contents

Publication Information


Political And Judicial Organization

Bridewealth And The Family

Chapter I Customary Procedure Of The Bridewealth Transfer

A. The Transfer Of Ownership

1. The Opening Of Negotiations

2. Okomana: The Selection Of Cattle

3. Legal Significance Of The Cattle-view (okomana)

B. The Transfer Of Possession

1. Orthodox Custom: Highland Areas

2. Custom Of Lowland Areas

3. Enyangi

C. Irregular Marriages

D. Significance Of Customary Mode Of Bridewealth Transfer

Chapter Ii The Marriage Outlay: Bridewealth Proper And Marriage Gifts

A. The Composition Of The Bridewealth Proper

B. The Customary Gifts, Sacrifices And Entertainments

1. Egechabero Cycle

2. Enyangi Cycle

C. Functions Of Customary Gifts And Entertainments

Chapter Iii Assembly And Distribution Of Bridewealth

Interrelation Of ‘assembly’ And ‘distribution’

A. Rules Of Allotment Of Bridewealth Within The Family

1. The Rules Of Priority

2. Restrictions On The Exercise Of Bridewealth Rights

B. Remaining Aspects Of Assembly And Distribution

I. Assembly

Ii. Distribution

1. Portion Of Bridewealth To Be Kept ‘at Home’

2. Return Of Animal To Donor's Group

3. Distribution Among Paternal And Maternal Kin

Chapter Iv The Maintenance Of Equilibrium: Replacement And Recompense


A. Replacement Of Bridewealth Animals By The Donor

1. Procedure For Claiming Replacement

2. Natural Replacement

3. Type Of Animal Accepted As Replacement.

4. Responsibility For Loss

B. Recompense For Loss Of A Wife

1. Grounds For Recompense

2. Responsibility For The Debt

3. Recompense In Case Of Death

4. Specific Rules Governing Number Of Cattle Returned

5. Partial Recompense

6. Recompense In Case Of Divorce

Chapter V Legal Implications Of The Bridewealth Transfer

A. The Bridewealth Principle In Family Law

1. Bridewealth And Man's Status

2. Bridewealth And Woman's Status

3. Bridewealth And Child's Status

B. The Bridewealth Principle In The Law Of Inheritance

1. Allotment Between Houses

2. Division Within The House

Publication Information

Paragraph Subjects (OCM)

Publication Information


Title: Gusii bridewealth law and custom

Published By: Cape Town ; New York: Published for the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute by G. Cumberlege, Oxford University Press, 1950. iv, 67 p.

By line: by Philip Mayer

HRAF Publication Information: New Haven, Conn.: HRAF, 2000. Computer File

Culture: Gusii (FL08)

Subjects: Sociocultural trends (178); Domesticated animals (231); Acquisition and relinquishment of property (425); Borrowing and lending (426); Inheritance (428); Gift giving (431); Mode of marriage (583); Arranging a marriage (584); Nuptials (585); Termination of marriage (586); (592602); Lineages (613);

Abstract: This is a detailed study of bridewealth among the Gusii (Kisii) people of South Kavirondo District, Republic of Kenya, East Africa, during the the author's first fieldwork tour as sociologist for the Kenya Government in 1946-1947. In his discussion Mayer describes the processes involved in arranging the initial marriage, then various aspects of the bridewealth itself, including data on its composition, associated sacrifices and entertainments, additional customary gifts, assembly of goods by members of the family, and replacement and recompense in case of divorce or death of the wife.

Document Number: 2

Document ID: fl08-002

Document Type: Monograph

Language: English

Field Date: 1946-1947

Evaluation: Sociologist-5

Analyst: John Beierle ; 2005

Coverage Date: 1946-1947

Coverage Place: South Kavirondo District, Republic of Kenya, East Africa

LCSH: Gusii (African people)


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