Marriage. Clan membership is important in regulating marriage and succession. Marriage with a person of one's own paternal clan is prohibited (although permissible for the king) but allowed with a woman of the maternal clan. At one time, a preferred form of marriage was the sororate, in which a man married his wife's sister, who became the subsidiary wife ( inhlanti ) . A woman retains her paternal clan name upon marriage, but her children acquire at birth their father's clan name. Paternal rights are acquired by the man's family through the transfer to the woman's family of bride-wealth ( lobola )—valuables such as cattle (and, in modern times, possibly cash). Bride-wealth varies with the rank and education of the bride. Marital residence is virilocal; the bride goes to live with her husband and in-laws. In contemporary Swaziland, several forms of marriage are found: traditional marriages—"love" matches, arranged marriages, and marriage by capture, the latter being uncommon and not always involving the exchange of bride-wealth—as well as Christian marriages. More individuals are eloping or remaining single. The marriage ceremony, particularly for high-ranking couples, involves numerous and sometimes protracted ritualized exchanges between the families of the man and the woman, including singing, dancing, wailing, gift exchange, and feasting. Divorce, which is discouraged in association with traditional marriages, although permissible in situations of adultery, witchcraft, and sterility, proceeds according to a variety of arrangements.
Domestic Unit. Within a complex homestead are households, each household ( indlu ) generally consists of one nuclear family (a man, his wife and their children) whose members share agricultural tasks and eat from one kitchen. When there are several households on the homestead, each consists of a simple polygynous family, an extended agnatic family, or a complex family grouping. Sometimes a wife has an attached co-wife ( inhlanti ), who, along with her children, forms part of the same "house." A married son and his wife and dependents occasionally form another house within the wider "house" of his mother.
Inheritance. Upon the death of a homestead head (umnumzana), the family council of agnates (including full and half-brothers of the head, his own and brothers' senior sons, etc.) meet to discuss the disposal of his estate. The council primarily considers the household divisions prevailing within the homestead group during the life of the head as well as the land allocations made by him during his life. In monogamous families, the largest land allocation and administrative responsibilities usually go to the oldest son, whereas in large polygynous families, the largest land allocation and administrative responsibilities usually go to the oldest son of the senior wife who is named the general heir ( inkosana ) and acts as guardian over the special heirs of each wife's house's estate. When a woman dies, her property (e.g., her pots, mats, and implements) goes, by tradition, to the wife of her eldest son, who resides in the same homestead or village, unlike her married daughters. In contemporary Swaziland, traditional rules of inheritance are not applicable when a Christian marriage, which disallows polygyny and which is governed by Roman-Dutch law, is contracted.
Socialization. Preadolescent girls play and help their mothers with minor domestic chores and child care, whereas preadolescent boys play and run errands around the homestead until they are old enough to accompany their age mates to the fields with the herds. Fathers sometimes play a small role in child rearing, particularly if they are employed at distant locations within Swaziland or in South Africa. The Swazi have not circumcised males since King Mswati's reign in the mid-nineteenth century, but both boys and girls traditionally had their ears cut ( ukusika tindlebe ). By custom, a boy who has reached puberty is tended by a traditional healer, and a girl who has had her first menstruation is isolated in a hut for several days and instructed by her mother about observances and taboos. A boy learns about manhood and service to the king when he joins his age (warrior) regiment ( libutfo ).