The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead Volume I Part 41

If you are looking for The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead Volume I Part 41 you are coming to the right place.
The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead is a Webnovel created by James George Frazer.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

_Internationales Archiv fur Ethnographie_, ii. (1889) pp. 254-266), and Mr. Basil Thomson (_The Fijians_, pp. 146-156). As to the interval between the initiatory ceremonies Mr. Fison tells us that it was normally two years, but he adds: “This period, however, is not necessarily restricted to two years. There are always a number of youths who are growing to the proper age, and the length of the interval depends upon the decision of the elders. Whenever they judge that there is a sufficient number of youths ready for admission, a _Nanga_ is appointed to be held; and thus the interval may be longer or shorter, according to the supply of novices” (_op. cit._ p. 19). According to Mr.

Basil Thomson the rites were celebrated annually. Mr. Fison’s evidence as to the gross license which prevailed between the s.e.xes after the admission of the women to the sacred enclosure is confirmed by Mr. Basil Thomson, who says, amongst other things, that “a native of Mbau, who lived for some years near the _Nanga_, a.s.sured me that the visit of the women to the _Nanga_ resulted in temporary promiscuity; all tabus were defied, and relations who could not speak to one another by customary law committed incest” (_op. cit._ p. 154).]

[Footnote 695: Rev. Lorimer Fison, “The Nanga, or Sacred Stone Enclosure, of Wainimala, Fiji,” _Journal of the Anthropological Inst.i.tute_, xiv. (1885) pp. 14 _sqq._; Basil Thomson, _The Fijians_, pp.

147, 149.]

[Footnote 696: Rev. Lorimer Fison, _op. cit._ p. 30.]

[Footnote 697: Rev. Lorimer Fison, _op. cit._ pp. 15, 17, with Plate I.; Basil Thomson, _The Fijians_, pp. 147 _sq._ Mr. Fison had not seen a _Nanga_; his description is based on information received from natives.

Mr. Basil Thomson visited several of these structures and found them so alike that one description would serve for all. He speaks of only two inner compartments, which he calls the Holy of Holies (_Nanga tambu-tambu_) and the Middle Nanga (_Loma ni Nanga_), but the latter name appears to imply a third compartment, which is explicitly mentioned and named by Mr. Fison. The bell-shaped hut or temple to the west of the sacred enclosure is not noticed by Mr. Thomson.]

[Footnote 698: Rev. Lorimer Fison, _op. cit._ p. 17.]

[Footnote 699: Basil Thomson, _The Fijians_, p. 147.]

[Footnote 700: As to these monuments see Sir John Lubbock (Lord Avebury), _Prehistoric Times_, Fifth Edition (London, 1890), p. 127.]



[Sidenote: Worship of ancestors in Fiji.]

In the last lecture I described the rites of ancestor worship which in certain parts of Fiji used to be celebrated at the sacred enclosures of stones known as _Nangas_. But the worship of ancestral spirits was by no means confined to the comparatively small area in Fiji where such sacred enclosures were erected, nor were these open-air temples the only structures where the homage of the living was paid to the dead. On the contrary we are told by one who knew the Fijians in the old heathen days that among them “as soon as beloved parents expire, they take their place amongst the family G.o.ds. _Bures_, or temples, are erected to their memory, and offerings deposited either on their graves or on rudely constructed altars–mere stages, in the form of tables, the legs of which are driven into the ground, and the top of which is covered with pieces of native cloth. The construction of these altars is identical with that observed by Turner in Tanna, and only differs in its inferior finish from the altars formerly erected in Tahiti and the adjacent islands. The offerings, consisting of the choicest articles of food, are left exposed to wind and weather, and firmly believed by the ma.s.s of Fijians to be consumed by the spirits of departed friends and relations; but, if not eaten by animals, they are often stolen by the more enlightened cla.s.s of their countrymen, and even some of the foreigners do not disdain occasionally to help themselves freely to them. However, it is not only on tombs or on altars that offerings are made; often, when the natives eat or drink anything, they throw portions of it away, stating them to be for their departed ancestors. I remember ordering a young chief to empty a bowl containing _kava_, which he did, muttering to himself, ‘There, father, is some _kava_ for you. Protect me from illness or breaking any of my limbs whilst in the mountains.'”[701]

[Sidenote: Fijian notion of divinity. Two of G.o.ds, namely, G.o.ds strictly so called, and deified men.]

“The native word expressive of divinity is _kalou_, which, while used to denote the people’s highest notion of a G.o.d, is also constantly heard as a qualificative of any thing great or marvellous, or, according to Hazlewood’s Dictionary, ‘anything superlative, whether good or bad.’…

Often the word sinks into a mere exclamation, or becomes an expression of flattery. ‘You are a _kalou_!’ or, ‘Your countrymen are G.o.ds!’ is often uttered by the natives, when hearing of the triumphs of art among civilized nations.”[702] The Fijians distinguished two of G.o.ds: first, _kalou vu_, literally “Root-G.o.ds,” that is, G.o.ds strictly so called, and second, _kalou yalo_, literally, “Soul-G.o.ds,” that is, deified mortals. G.o.ds of the first cla.s.s were supposed to be absolutely eternal; G.o.ds of the second cla.s.s, though raised far above mere humanity, were thought nevertheless to be subject to human pa.s.sions and wants, to accidents, and even to death. These latter were the spirits of departed chiefs, heroes, and friends; admission into their number was easy, and any one might secure his own apotheosis who could ensure the services of some one to act as his representative and priest after his death.[703] However, though the Fijians admitted the distinction between the two of G.o.ds in theory, they would seem to have confused them in practice. Thus we are informed by an early authority that “they have superior and inferior G.o.ds and G.o.ddesses, more general and local deities, and, were it not an obvious contradiction, we should say they have G.o.ds _human_, and G.o.ds _divine_; for they have some G.o.ds who were G.o.ds originally, and some who were originally men. It is impossible to ascertain with any degree of probability how many G.o.ds the Fijians have, as any man who can distinguish himself in murdering his fellow-men may certainly secure to himself deification after death. Their friends are also sometimes deified and invoked. I have heard them invoke their friends who have been drowned at sea. I need not advert to the absurdity of praying to those who could not save themselves from a watery grave.

Tuikilakila, the chief of Somosomo, offered Mr. Hunt a preferment of this sort. ‘If you die first,’ said he, ‘I shall make you my G.o.d.’ In fact, there appears to be no certain line of demarcation between departed spirits and G.o.ds, nor between G.o.ds and living men, for many of the priests and old chiefs are considered as sacred persons, and not a few of them will also claim to themselves the right of divinity. ‘I am a G.o.d,’ Tuikilakila would sometimes say; and he believed it too. They were not merely the words of his lips; he believed he was something above a mere man.”[704]

Writers on Fiji have given us lists of some of the G.o.ds of the first cla.s.s,[705] who were supposed never to have been men; but in their account of the religious ritual they do not distinguish between the worship which was paid to such deities and that which was paid to deified men. Accordingly we may infer that the ritual was practically the same, and in the sequel I shall a.s.sume that what is told us of the worship of G.o.ds in general holds good of the worship of deified men in particular.

[Sidenote: The Fijian temple (_bure_).]

Every Fijian town had at least one _bure_ or temple, many of them had several. Significantly enough the spot where a chief had been killed was sometimes chosen for the site of a temple. The structure of these edifices was somewhat peculiar. Each of them was built on the top of a mound, which was raised to the height of from three to twenty feet above the ground and faced on its sloping sides with dry rubble-work of stone.

The ascent to the temple was by a thick plank, the upper surface of which was cut into notched steps. The proportions of the sacred edifice itself were inelegant, if not uncouth, its height being nearly twice as great as its breadth at the base. The roof was high-pitched; the ridge-pole was covered with white (_Ovula cypraea_) and projected three or four feet at each end. For the most part each temple had two doors and a fire-place in the centre. From some temples it was not lawful to throw out the ashes, however much they might acc.u.mulate, until the end of the year, which fell in November. The furniture consisted of a few boxes, mats, several large clay jars, and many drinking vessels. A temple might also contain images, which, though highly esteemed as ornaments and held sacred, were not worshipped as idols. From the roof depended a long piece of white bark-cloth; it was carried down the angle so as to hang before the corner-post and lie on the floor. This cloth formed the path down which the G.o.d was believed to pa.s.s in order to enter and inspire his priest. It marked the holy place which few but he dared to approach. However, the temples were by no means dedicated exclusively to the use of religion. Each of them served also as a council-chamber and town-hall; there the chiefs lounged for hours together; there strangers were entertained; and there the head persons of the village might even sleep.[706] In some parts of Viti Levu the dead were sometimes buried in the temples, “that the wind might not disturb, nor the rain fall upon them,” and in order that the living might have the satisfaction of lying near their departed friends. A child of high rank having died under the charge of the queen of Somosomo, the little body was placed in a box and hung from the tie-beam of the temple. For some months afterwards the daintiest food was brought daily to the dead child, the bearers approaching with the utmost respect and clapping their hands when the ghost was thought to have finished his meal just as a chiefs retainers used to do when he had done eating.[707]

[Sidenote: Worship at the temples.]

Temples were often unoccupied for months and allowed to fall into ruins, until the chief had some request to make to the G.o.d, when the necessary repairs were first carried out. No regular worship was maintained, no habitual reverence was displayed at the shrines. The principle of fear, we are told, seemed to be the only motive of religious observances, and it was artfully fomented by the priests, through whom alone the people had access to the G.o.ds when they desired to supplicate the favour of the divine beings. The prayers were naturally accompanied by offerings, which in matters of importance comprised large quant.i.ties of food, together with whales’ teeth; in lesser affairs a tooth, club, mat, or spear sufficed. Of the food brought by the worshippers part was dedicated to the G.o.d, but as usual he only ate the soul of it, the substance being consumed by the priest and old men; the remainder furnished a feast of which all might partake.[708]

[Sidenote: The priests.]

The office of priest (_mbete_, _bete_) was usually hereditary, but when a priest died without male heirs a cunning fellow, ambitious of enjoying the sacred character and of living in idleness, would sometimes simulate the convulsive frenzy, which pa.s.sed for a symptom of inspiration, and if he succeeded in the imposture would be inducted into the vacant benefice. Every chief had his priest, with whom he usually lived on a very good footing, the two playing into each other’s hands and working the oracle for their mutual benefit. The people were grossly superst.i.tious, and there were few of their affairs in which the priest had not a hand. His influence over them was great. In his own district he pa.s.sed for the representative of the deity; indeed, according to an early missionary, the natives seldom distinguished the idea of the G.o.d from that of his minister, who was viewed by them with a reverence that almost amounted to deification.[709]

[Sidenote: Oracles given by the priest under the inspiration of the G.o.d.

Paroxysm of inspiration.]

The duty of the priest was to reveal to men the will of the G.o.d, and this he always did through the direct inspiration of the deity.

The revelation was usually made in response to an enquiry or a prayer; the supplicant asked, it might be, for a good crop of yams or taro, for showers of rain, for protection in battle, for a safe voyage, or for a storm to drive canoes ash.o.r.e, so that the supplicant might rob, murder, and eat the castaways. To lend force to one or other of these pious prayers the worshipper brought a whale’s tooth to the temple and presented it to the priest. The man of G.o.d might have had word of his coming and time to throw himself into an appropriate att.i.tude. He might, for example, be seen lying on the floor near the sacred corner, plunged in a profound meditation. On the entrance of the enquirer the priest would rouse himself so far as to get up and then seat himself with his back to the white cloth, down which the deity was expected to slide into the medium’s body. Having received the whale’s tooth he would abstract his mind from all worldly matters and contemplate the tooth for some time with rapt attention. Presently he began to tremble, his limbs twitched, his features were distorted. These symptoms, the visible manifestation of the entrance of the spirit into him, gradually increased in violence till his whole frame was convulsed and shook as with a strong fit of ague: his veins swelled: the circulation of the blood was quickened. The man was now possessed and inspired by the G.o.d: his own human personality was for a time in abeyance: all that he said and did in the paroxysm pa.s.sed for the words and acts of the indwelling deity. Shrill cries of “_Koi au! Koi au!_” “It is I! It is I!” filled the air, proclaiming the actual presence of the powerful spirit in the vessel of flesh and blood. In giving the oracular response the priest’s eyes protruded from their sockets and rolled as in a frenzy: his voice rose into a squeak: his face was pallid, his lips livid, his breathing depressed, his whole appearance that of a furious madman. At last sweat burst from every pore, tears gushed from his eyes: the strain on the organism was visibly relieved; and the symptoms gradually abated. Then he would look round with a vacant stare: the G.o.d within him would cry, “I depart!” and the man would announce the departure of the spirit by throwing himself on his mat or striking the ground with his club, while blasts on a sh.e.l.l-trumpet conveyed to those at a distance the tidings that the deity had withdrawn from mortal sight into the world invisible.[710] “I have seen,” says Mr. Lorimer Fison, “this possession, and a horrible sight it is. In one case, after the fit was over, for some time the man’s muscles and nerves twitched and quivered in an extraordinary way. He was naked except for his breech-clout, and on his naked breast little snakes seemed to be wriggling for a moment or two beneath his skin, disappearing and then suddenly reappearing in another part of his chest. When the _mbete_ (which we may translate ‘priest’ for want of a better word) is seized by the possession, the G.o.d within him calls out his own name in a stridulous tone, ‘It is I! Katouviere!’ or some other name. At the next possession some other ancestor may declare himself.”[711]

[Sidenote: Specimens of the oracular utterances of Fijian G.o.ds.]

From this last description of an eye-witness we learn that the spirit which possessed a priest and spoke through him was often believed to be that of a dead ancestor. Some of the inspired utterances of these prophets have been recorded. Here are specimens of Fijian inspiration.

Speaking in the name of the great G.o.d Ndengei, who was worshipped in the form of a serpent, the priest said: “Great Fiji is my small club.

Muaimbila is the head; Kamba is the handle. If I step on Muaimbila, I shall sink it into the sea, whilst Kamba shall rise to the sky. If I step on Kamba, it will be lost in the sea, whilst Muaimbila would rise into the skies. Yes, Viti Levu is my small war-club. I can turn it as I please. I can turn it upside down.” Again, speaking by the mouth of a priest, the G.o.d Tanggirianima once made the following observations: “I and k.u.mbunavannua only are G.o.ds. I preside over wars, and do as I please with sickness. But it is difficult for me to come here, as the foreign G.o.d fills the place. If I attempt to descend by that pillar, I find it pre-occupied by the foreign G.o.d. If I try another pillar, I find it the same. However, we two are fighting the foreign G.o.d; and if we are victorious, we will save the woman. I _will_ save the woman. She will eat food to-day. Had I been sent for yesterday, she would have eaten then,” and so on. The woman, about whose case the deity was consulted and whom he announced his fixed intention of saving, died a few hours afterwards.[712]

[Sidenote: Human sacrifices in Fiji.]

Ferocious and inveterate cannibals themselves, the Fijians naturally a.s.sumed that their G.o.ds were so too; hence human flesh was a common offering, indeed the most valued of all.[713] Formal human sacrifices were frequent. The victims were usually taken from a distant tribe, and when war and violence failed to supply the demand, recourse was sometimes had to negotiation. However obtained, the victims destined for sacrifice were often kept for a time and fattened to make them better eating. Then, tightly bound in a sitting posture, they were placed on hot stones in one of the usual ovens, and being covered over with leaves and earth were roasted alive, while the spectators roared with laughter at the writhings and contortions of the victims in their agony. When their struggles ceased and the bodies were judged to be done to a nicety, they were raked out of the oven, their faces painted black, and so carried to the temple, where they were presented to the G.o.ds, only, however, to be afterwards removed, cut up, and devoured by the people.[714]

[Sidenote: Human sacrifices offered when a king’s house was built or a great new canoe launched.]

However, roasting alive in ovens was not the only way in which men and women were made away with in the service of religion. When a king’s house was built, men were buried alive in the holes dug to receive the posts: they were compelled to clasp the posts in their arms, and then the earth was shovelled over them and rammed down. And when a large new canoe was launched, it was hauled down to the sea over the bodies of living men, who were pinioned and laid out at intervals on the beach to serve as rollers on which the great vessel glided smoothly into the water, leaving a row of mangled corpses behind. The theory of both these modes of sacrifice was explained by the Fijians to an Englishman who witnessed them. I will quote their explanation in his words. “They said in answer to the questions I put respecting the people being buried alive with the posts, that a house or palace of a king was just like a king’s canoe: if the canoe was not hauled over men, as rollers, she would not be expected to float long, and in like manner the palace could not stand long if people were not to sit down and continually hold the posts up. But I said, ‘How could they hold the posts up after they were dead?’ They said, if they sacrificed their lives endeavouring to hold the posts in their right position to their superior’s _turanga kai na kalou_ (chiefs and G.o.d), that the virtue of the sacrifice would instigate the G.o.ds to uphold the house after they were dead, and that they were honoured by being considered adequate to such a n.o.ble task.”[715] Apparently the Fijians imagined that the souls of the dead men would somehow strengthen the souls of the houses and canoes and so prolong the lives of these useful objects; for it is to be remembered that according to Fijian theology houses and canoes as well as men and women were provided with immortal souls.

[Sidenote: High estimation in which murder was held by the Fijians.]

Perhaps the same theory of immortality partially accounts for the high honour in which the Fijian held the act of murder and for the admiration which he bestowed on all murderers. “Shedding of blood,” we are told, “to him is no crime, but a glory. Whoever may be the victim,–whether n.o.ble or vulgar, old or young, man, woman, or child,–whether slain in war, or butchered by treachery,–to be somehow an acknowledged murderer is the object of the Fijian’s restless ambition.”[716] It was customary throughout Fiji to give honorary names to such as had clubbed to death a human being, of any age or either s.e.x, during a war. The new epithet was given with the complimentary prefix _Koroi_. Mr. Williams once asked a man why he was called _Koroi_. “Because,” he replied, “I, with several other men, found some women and children in a cave, drew them out and clubbed them, and then was consecrated.”[717] Mr. Fison learned from another stout young warrior that he had earned the honourable distinction of _Koroi_ by lying in wait among the mangrove bushes at the waterside and killing a miserable old woman of a hostile tribe, as she crept along the mudflat seeking for sh.e.l.lfish. The man would have been equally honoured, adds Mr. Fison, if his victim had been a child. The hero of such an exploit, for two or three days after killing his man or woman, was allowed to besmear his face and bust with a mixture of lampblack and oil which differed from the common black war-paint; decorated with this badge of honour he strutted proudly through the town, the cynosure of all eyes, an object of envy to his fellows and of tender interest to the girls. The old men shouted approval after him, the women would _lulilu_ admiringly as he pa.s.sed by, and the boys looked up to him as a superior being whose n.o.ble deeds they thirsted to emulate. Higher t.i.tles of honour still were bestowed on such as had slain their ten, or twenty, or thirty; and Mr. Fison tells us of a chief whose admiring countrymen had to compound all these t.i.tles into one in order to set forth his superlative claims to glory. A man who had never killed anybody was of very little account in this life, and he received the penalty due to his sin in the life hereafter. For in the spirit land the ghost of such a poor-spirited wretch was sentenced to what the Fijians regarded as the most degrading of all punishments, to beat a heap of muck with his bloodless club.[718]

[Sidenote: Ceremony of consecrating a manslayer. The temporary restrictions laid on a manslayer were probably dictated by a fear of his victim’s ghost.]

The ceremony of consecrating a manslayer was elaborate. He was anointed with red oil from the hair of his head to the soles of his feet; and when he had been thus incarnadined he exchanged clubs with the spectators, who believed that their weapons acquired a mysterious virtue by pa.s.sing through his holy hands. Afterwards the anointed one, attended by the king and elders, solemnly stalked down to the sea and wetted the soles of his feet in the water. Then the whole company returned to the town, while the sh.e.l.l-trumpets sounded and the men raised a peculiar hoot. Custom required that a hut should be built in which the anointed man and his companions must pa.s.s the next three nights, during which the hero might not lie down, but had to sleep as he sat; all that time he might not change his bark-cloth garment, nor wash the red paint away from his body, nor enter a house in which there was a woman.[719] The reason for observing these curious restrictions is not mentioned, but in the light of similar practices, some of which have been noticed in these lectures,[720] we may conjecture that they were dictated by a fear of the victim’s ghost, who among savages generally haunts his slayer and will do him a mischief, if he gets a chance. As it is especially in dreams that the naturally incensed spirit finds his opportunity, we can perhaps understand why the slayer might not lie down for the first three nights after the slaughter; the wrath of the ghost would then be at its hottest, and if he spied his murderer stretched in slumber on the ground, the temptation to take an unfair advantage of him might have been too strong to be resisted. But when his anger had had time to cool down or he had departed for his long home, as ghosts generally do after a reasonable time, the precautions taken to baffle his vengeance might be safely relaxed. Perhaps, as I have already hinted, the reverence which the Fijians felt for any man who had taken a human life, or at all events the life of an enemy, may have partly sprung from a belief that the slayer increased his own strength and valour either by subjugating the ghost of his victim and employing it as his henchman, or perhaps rather by simply absorbing in some occult fashion the vital energy of the slain. This view is confirmed by the permission given to the killer to a.s.sume the name of the killed, whenever his victim was a man of distinguished rank;[721] for by taking the name he, according to an opinion common among savages, a.s.sumed the personality of his namesake.

[Sidenote: Other funeral customs based on a fear of the ghost.]

The same fear of the ghost of the recently departed which manifested itself, if my interpretation of the customs is right, in the treatment of manslayers, seems to have imprinted itself, though in a more attenuated form, on some of the practices observed by Fijian mourners after a natural, not a violent, death.

[Sidenote: Persons who have handled a corpse forbidden to touch food.

Seclusion of grave-diggers.]

Thus all the persons who had handled a corpse were forbidden to touch anything for some time afterwards; in particular they were strictly debarred from touching their food with their hands; their victuals were brought to them by others, and they were fed like infants by attendants or obliged to pick up their food with their mouths from the ground. The time during which this burdensome restriction lasted was different according to the rank of the deceased: in the case of great chiefs it lasted from two to ten months; in the case of a petty chief it did not exceed one month; and in the case of a common person a taboo of not more than four days sufficed. When a chief’s wife did not follow him to the other world by being strangled or buried alive, she might not touch her own food with her hands for three months. When the mourners grew tired of being fed like infants or feeding themselves like dogs, they sent word to the head chief and he let them know that he would remove the taboo whenever they pleased. Accordingly they sent him presents of pigs and other provisions, which he shared among the people.

Then the tabooed persons went into a stream and washed themselves; after that they caught some animal, such as a pig or a turtle, and wiped their hands on it, and the animal thereupon became sacred to the chief. Thus the taboo was removed, and the men were free once more to work, to feed themselves, and to live with their wives. Lazy and idle fellows willingly undertook the duty of waiting on the dead, as it relieved them for some time from the painful necessity of earning their own bread.[722] The reason why such persons might not touch food with their hands was probably a fear of the ghost or at all events of the infection of death; the ghost or the infection might be clinging to their hands and might so be transferred from them to their food with fatal effects.

In Great Fiji not every one might dig a chief’s grave. The office was hereditary in a certain clan. After the funeral the grave-digger was shut up in a house and painted black from head to foot. When he had to make a short excursion, he covered himself with a large mantle of painted native cloth and was supposed to be invisible. His food was brought to the house after dark by silent bearers, who placed it just within the doorway. His seclusion might last for a long time;[723] it was probably intended to screen him from the ghost.

[Sidenote: Hair cropped and finger-joints cut off in mourning.]

The usual outward sign of mourning was to crop the hair or beard, or very rarely both. Some people merely made bald the crown of the head.

Indeed the Fijians were too vain of their hair to part with it lightly, and to conceal the loss which custom demanded of them on these occasions they used to wear wigs, some of which were very skilfully made. The practice of cutting off finger-joints in mourning has already been mentioned; one early authority affirms and another denies that joints of the little toes were similarly amputated by the living as a mark of sorrow for the dead. So common was the practice of lopping off the little fingers in mourning that till recently few of the older natives could be found who had their hands intact; most of them indeed had lost the little fingers of both hands. There was a Fijian saying that the fourth finger “cried itself hoa.r.s.e in vain for its absent mate”

(_droga-droga-wale_). The mutilation was usually confined to the relations of the deceased, unless he happened to be one of the highest chiefs. However, the severed joints were often sent by poor people to wealthy families in mourning, who never failed to reward the senders for so delicate a mark of sympathy. Female mourners burned their skin into blisters by applying lighted rolls of bark-cloth to various parts of their bodies; the brands so produced might be seen on their arms, shoulders, necks, and b.r.e.a.s.t.s.[724] During the mourning for a king people fasted till evening for ten or twenty days; the coast for miles was tabooed and no one might fish there; the nuts also were made sacred.

Some people in token of grief for a bereavement would abstain from fish, fruit, or other pleasant food for months together; others would dress in leaves instead of in cloth.[725]

[Sidenote: Men whipped by women in time of mourning for a chief.]

Though the motive for these observances is not mentioned, we may suppose that they were intended to soothe and please the ghost by testifying to the sorrow felt by the survivors at his decease. It is more doubtful whether the same explanation would apply to another custom which the Fijians used to observe in mourning. During ten days after a death, while the soul of a deceased chief was thought to be still lingering in or near his body, all the women of the town provided themselves with long whips, knotted with, and applied them with great vigour to the bodies of the men, raising weals and inflicting b.l.o.o.d.y wounds, while the men retorted by flirting pellets of clay from splinters of bamboo.[726] According to Mr. Williams, this ceremony was performed on the tenth day or earlier, and he adds: “I have seen grave personages, not accustomed to move quickly, flying with all possible speed before a company of such women. Sometimes the men retaliate by bespattering their a.s.sailants with mud; but they use no violence, as it seems to be a day on which they are bound to succ.u.mb.”[727] As the soul of the dead was believed to quit his body and depart to his destined abode on the tenth day after death,[728] the scourging of the men by the women was probably supposed in some way to speed the parting guest on his long journey.

Leave a Comment