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Title: The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead, Volume I (of 3) - The Belief Among the Aborigines of Australia, the Torres Straits Islands, New Guinea and Melanesia
Author: Frazer, Sir James George
Language: English
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WORSHIP OF THE DEAD, VOLUME I (OF 3)***


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THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AND THE WORSHIP OF THE DEAD

by

J. G. FRAZER, D.C.L., LL.D., Litt.D.

Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
Professor of Social Anthropology in the University of Liverpool.

VOL. I

The Belief Among the Aborigines of Australia, the Torres Straits
Islands, New Guinea and Melanesia

The Gifford Lectures, St. Andrews 1911-1912



MacMillan and Co., Limited
St. Martin's Street, London
1913


    _Itaque unum illud erat insitum priscis illis, quos cascos
    appellat Ennius, esse in morte sensum neque excessu vitae sic
    deleri hominem, ut funditus interiret; idque cum multis aliis
    rebus; tum e pontificio jure et e caerimoniis sepulchrorum
    intellegi licet, quas maxumis ingeniis praediti nec tanta cura
    coluissent nec violatas tam inexpiabili religione sanxissent,
    nisi haereret in corum mentibus mortem non interitum esse omnia
    tollentem atque delentem, sed quandam quasi migrationem
    commutationemque vitae._

    Cicero, _Tuscul. Disput._ i. 12.



TO
MY OLD FRIEND

JOHN SUTHERLAND BLACK, LL.D.

I DEDICATE AFFECTIONATELY

A WORK

WHICH OWES MUCH TO HIS ENCOURAGEMENT



PREFACE


The following lectures were delivered on Lord Gifford's Foundation
before the University of St. Andrews in the early winters of 1911 and
1912. They are printed nearly as they were spoken, except that a few
passages, omitted for the sake of brevity in the oral delivery, have
been here restored and a few more added. Further, I have compressed the
two introductory lectures into one, striking out some passages which on
reflection I judged to be irrelevant or superfluous. The volume
incorporates twelve lectures on "The Fear and Worship of the Dead" which
I delivered in the Lent and Easter terms of 1911 at Trinity College,
Cambridge, and repeated, with large additions, in my course at St.
Andrews.

The theme here broached is a vast one, and I hope to pursue it hereafter
by describing the belief in immortality and the worship of the dead, as
these have been found among the other principal races of the world both
in ancient and modern times. Of all the many forms which natural
religion has assumed none probably has exerted so deep and far-reaching
an influence on human life as the belief in immortality and the worship
of the dead; hence an historical survey of this most momentous creed and
of the practical consequences which have been deduced from it can hardly
fail to be at once instructive and impressive, whether we regard the
record with complacency as a noble testimony to the aspiring genius of
man, who claims to outlive the sun and the stars, or whether we view it
with pity as a melancholy monument of fruitless labour and barren
ingenuity expended in prying into that great mystery of which fools
profess their knowledge and wise men confess their ignorance.

J. G. FRAZER.
Cambridge,
_9th February 1913._



CONTENTS


Dedication

Preface

Table of Contents

Lecture I.--Introduction

Natural theology, three modes of handling it, the dogmatic, the
philosophical, and the historical, pp. 1 _sq._; the historical method
followed in these lectures, 2 _sq._; questions of the truth and moral
value of religious beliefs irrelevant in an historical enquiry, 3 _sq._;
need of studying the religion of primitive man and possibility of doing
so by means of the comparative method, 5 _sq._; urgent need of
investigating the native religion of savages before it disappears, 6
_sq._; a portion of savage religion the theme of these lectures, 7
_sq._; the question of a supernatural revelation dismissed, 8 _sq._;
theology and religion, their relations, 9; the term God defined, 9
_sqq._; monotheism and polytheism, 11; a natural knowledge of God, if it
exists, only possible through experience, 11 _sq._; the nature of
experience, 12 _sq._; two kinds of experience, an inward and an outward,
13 _sq._; the conception of God reached historically through both kinds
of experience, 14; inward experience or inspiration, 14 _sq._;
deification of living men, 16 _sq._; outward experience as a source of
the idea of God, 17; the tendency to seek for causes, 17 _sq._; the
meaning of cause, 18 _sq._; the savage explains natural processes by the
hypothesis of spirits or gods, 19 _sq._; natural processes afterwards
explained by hypothetical forces and atoms instead of by hypothetical
spirits and gods, 20 _sq._; nature in general still commonly explained
by the hypothesis of a deity, 21 _sq._; God an inferential or
hypothetical cause, 22 _sq._; the deification of dead men, 23-25; such a
deification presupposes the immortality of the human soul or rather its
survival for a longer or shorter time after death, 25 _sq._; the
conception of human immortality suggested both by inward experience,
such as dreams, and by outward experience, such as the resemblances of
the living to the dead, 26-29; the lectures intended to collect evidence
as to the belief in immortality among certain savage races, 29 _sq._;
the method to be descriptive rather than comparative or philosophical,
30.

Lecture II.--The Savage Conception of Death

The subject of the lectures the belief in immortality and the worship of
the dead among certain of the lower races, p. 31; question of the nature
and origin of death, 31 _sq._; universal interest of the question, 32
_sq._; the belief in immortality general among mankind, 33; belief of
many savages that death is not natural and that they would never die if
their lives were not cut prematurely short by sorcery, 33 _sq._;
examples of this belief among the South American Indians, 34 _sqq._;
death sometimes attributed to sorcery and sometimes to demons, practical
consequence of this distinction, 37; belief in sorcery as the cause of
death among the Indians of Guiana, 38 _sq._, among the Tinneh Indians of
North America, 39 _sq._, among the aborigines of Australia, 40-47, among
the natives of the Torres Straits Islands and New Guinea, 47, among the
Melanesians, 48, among the Malagasy, 48 _sq._, and among African tribes,
49-51; effect of such beliefs in thinning the population by causing
multitudes to die for the imaginary crime of sorcery, 51-53; some
savages attribute certain deaths to other causes than sorcery, 53;
corpse dissected to ascertain cause of death, 53 _sq._; the possibility
of natural death admitted by the Melanesians and the Caffres of South
Africa, 54-56; the admission marks an intellectual advance, 56 _sq._;
the recognition of ghosts or spirits, apart from sorcery, as a cause of
disease and death also marks a step in moral and social progress, 57
_sq._

Lecture III.--Myths of the Origin of Death

Belief of savages in man's natural immortality, p. 59; savage stories of
the origin of death, 59 _sq._; four types of such stories:--

(1) _The Story of the Two Messengers_.--Zulu story of the chameleon and
the lizard, 60 _sq._; Akamba story of the chameleon and the thrush, 61
_sq._; Togo story of the dog and the frog, 62 _sq._; Ashantee story of
the goat and the sheep, 63 _sq._

(2) _The Story of the Waxing and Waning Moon_.--Hottentot story of the
moon, the hare, and death, 65; Masai story of the moon and death, 65
_sq._; Nandi story of the moon, the dog, and death, 66; Fijian story of
the moon, the rat, and death, 67; Caroline, Wotjobaluk, and Cham stories
of the moon, death, and resurrection, 67; death and resurrection after
three days suggested by the reappearance of the new moon after three
days, 67 _sq._

(3) _The Story of the Serpent and his Cast Skin_.--New Britain and
Annamite story of immortality, the serpent, and death, 69 _sq._; Vuatom
story of immortality, the lizard, the serpent, and death, 70; Nias story
of immortality, the crab, and death, 70; Arawak and Tamanchier stories
of immortality, the serpent, the lizard, the beetle, and death, 70
_sq._; Melanesian story of the old woman and her cast skin, 71 _sq._;
Samoan story of the shellfish, two torches, and death, 72.

(4) _The Story of the Banana_.--Poso story of immortality, the stone,
the banana, and death, 72 _sq._; Mentra story of immortality, the
banana, and death, 73.

Primitive philosophy in the stories of the origin of death, 73 _sq._;
Bahnar story of immortality, the tree, and death, 74; rivalry for the
boon of immortality between men and animals that cast their skins, such
as serpents and lizards, 74 _sq._; stories of the origin of death told
by Chingpaws, Australians, Fijians, and Admiralty Islanders, 75-77;
African and American stories of the fatal bundle or the fatal box, 77
_sq._; Baganda story how death originated through the imprudence of a
woman, 78-81; West African story of Death and the spider, 81-83;
Melanesian story of Death and the Fool, 83 _sq._

Thus according to savages death is not a natural necessity, 84; similar
view held by some modern biologists, as A. Weismann and A. R. Wallace,
84-86.

Lecture IV.--The Belief in Immortality among the Aborigines of Central
Australia

In tracing the evolution of religious beliefs we must begin with those
of the lowest savages, p. 87; the aborigines of Australia the lowest
savages about whom we possess accurate information, 88; savagery a case
of retarded development, 88 _sq._; causes which have retarded progress
in Australia, 89 _sq._; the natives of Central Australia on the whole
more primitive than those of the coasts, 90 _sq._; little that can be
called religion among them, 91 _sq._; their theory that the souls of the
dead survive and are reborn in their descendants, 92 _sq._; places where
the souls of the dead await rebirth, and the mode in which they enter
into women, 93 _sq._; local totem centres, 94 _sq._; totemism defined,
95; traditionary origin of the local totem centres (_oknanikilla_) where
the souls of the dead assemble, 96; sacred birth-stones or birth-sticks
(_churinga_) which the souls of ancestors are thought to have dropped at
these places, 96-102; elements of a worship of the dead, 102 _sq._;
marvellous powers attributed to the remote ancestors of the _alcheringa_
or dream times, 103 _sq._; the Wollunqua, a mythical water-snake,
ancestor of a totemic clan of the Warramunga tribe, 104-106; religious
character of the belief in the Wollunqua, 106.

Lecture V.--The Belief in Immortality among the Aborigines of Central
Australia (_continued_)

Beliefs of the Central Australian aborigines concerning the
reincarnation of the dead, p. 107; possibility of the development of
ancestor worship, 107 _sq._; ceremonies performed by the Warramunga in
honour of the Wollunqua, the mythical ancestor of one of their totem
clans, 108 _sqq._; union of magic and religion in these ceremonies, 111
_sq._; ground drawings of the Wollunqua, 112 _sq._; importance of the
Wollunqua in the evolution of religion and art, 113 _sq._; how totemism
might develop into polytheism through an intermediate stage of ancestor
worship, 114 _sq._; all the conspicuous features of the country
associated by the Central Australians with the spirits of their
ancestors, 115-118; dramatic ceremonies performed by them to commemorate
the deeds of their ancestors, 118 _sq._; examples of these ceremonies,
119-122; these ceremonies were probably in origin not merely
commemorative or historical but magical, being intended to procure a
supply of food and other necessaries, 122 _sq._; magical virtue actually
attributed to these dramatic ceremonies by the Warramunga, who think
that by performing them they increase the food supply of the tribe, 123
_sq._; hence the great importance ascribed by these savages to the due
performance of the ancestral dramas, 124; general attitude of the
Central Australian aborigines to their dead, and the lines on which, if
left to themselves, they might have developed a regular worship of the
dead, 124-126.

Lecture VI.--The Belief in Immortality among the other Aborigines of
Australia

Evidence for the belief in reincarnation among the natives of other
parts of Australia than the centre, p. 127; beliefs of the Queensland
aborigines concerning the nature of the soul and the state of the dead,
127-131; belief of the Australian aborigines that their dead are
sometimes reborn in white people, 131-133; belief of the natives of
South-Eastern Australia that their dead are not born again but go away
to the sky or some distant country, 133 _sq._; beliefs and customs of
the Narrinyeri concerning the dead, 134 _sqq._; motives for the
excessive grief which they display at the death of their relatives, 135
_sq._; their pretence of avenging the death of their friends on the
guilty sorcerer, 136 _sq._; magical virtue ascribed to the hair of the
dead, 137 _sq._; belief that the dead go to the sky, 138 _sq._;
appearance of the dead to the living in dreams, 139; savage faith in
dreams, 139 _sq._; association of the stars with the souls of the dead,
140; creed of the South-Eastern Australians touching the dead, 141;
difference of this creed from that of the Central Australians, 141; this
difference probably due in the main to a general advance of culture
brought about by more favourable natural conditions in South-Eastern
Australia, 141 _sq._; possible influence of European teaching on native
beliefs, 142 _sq._; vagueness and inconsistency of native beliefs as to
the state of the dead, 143; custom a good test of belief, 143 _sq._;
burial customs of the Australian aborigines as evidence of their beliefs
concerning the state of the dead, 144; their practice of supplying the
dead with food, water, fire, weapons, and implements, 144-147; motives
for the destruction of the property of the dead, 147 _sq._; great
economic loss entailed by developed systems of sacrificing to the dead,
149.

Lecture VII.--The Belief in Immortality among the Aborigines of
Australia (_concluded_)

Huts erected on graves for the use of the ghosts, pp. 150-152; the
attentions paid by the Australian aborigines to their dead probably
spring from fear rather than affection, 152; precautions taken by the
living against the dangerous ghosts of the dead, 152 _sq._; cuttings and
brandings of the flesh of the living in honour of the dead, 154-158; the
custom of allowing the blood of mourners to drip on the corpse or into
the grave may be intended to strengthen the dead for a new birth,
158-162; different ways of disposing of the dead according to the age,
rank, manner of death, etc., of the deceased, 162 _sq._; some modes of
burial are intended to prevent the return of the spirit, others are
designed to facilitate it, 163-165; final departure of the ghost
supposed to coincide with the disappearance of the flesh from his bones,
165 _sq._; hence a custom has arisen in many tribes of giving the bones
a second burial or otherwise disposing of them when the flesh is quite
decayed, 166; tree-burial followed by earth-burial in some Australian
tribes, 166-168; general conclusion as to the belief in immortality and
the worship of the dead among the Australian aborigines, 168 _sq._

Lecture VIII.--The Belief in Immortality among the Natives of the Torres
Straits Islands

Racial affinities of the Torres Straits Islanders, pp. 170 _sq._; their
material and social culture, 171 _sq._; no developed worship of the dead
among them, 172 _sq._; their fear of ghosts, 173-175; home of the dead a
mythical island in the west, 175 _sq._; elaborate funeral ceremonies of
the Torres Straits Islanders characterised by dramatic representations
of the dead and by the preservation of their skulls, which were
consulted as oracles, 176.

Funeral ceremonies of the Western Islanders, 177-180; part played by the
brothers-in-law of the deceased at these ceremonies, 177 _sq._; removal
of the head and preparation of the skull for use in divination, 178
_sq._; great death-dance performed by masked men who personated the
deceased, 179 _sq._

Funeral ceremonies of the Eastern Islanders, 180-188; soul of the dead
carried away by a masked actor, 181 _sq._; dramatic performance by
disguised men representing ghosts, 182 _sq._; blood and hair of
relatives offered to the dead, 183 _sq._; mummification of the corpse,
184; costume of mourners, 184; cuttings for the dead, 184 _sq._;
death-dance by men personating ghosts, 185-188; preservation of the
mummy and afterwards of the head or a wax model of it to be used in
divination, 188.

Images of the gods perhaps developed out of mummies of the dead, and a
sacred or even secular drama developed out of funeral dances, 189.

Lecture IX.--The Belief in Immortality Among the Natives Of British New
Guinea

The two races of New Guinea, the Papuan and the Melanesian, pp. 190
_sq._; beliefs and customs of the Motu concerning the dead, 192; the
Koita and their beliefs as to the human soul and the state of the dead,
193-195; alleged communications with the dead by means of mediums, 195
_sq._; fear of the dead, especially of a dead wife, 196 _sq._; beliefs
of the Mafulu concerning the dead, 198; their burial customs, 198 _sq._;
their use of the skulls and bones of the dead at a great festival,
199-201; worship of the dead among the natives of the Aroma district,
201 _sq._; the Hood Peninsula, 202 _sq._; beliefs and customs concerning
the dead among the natives of the Hood Peninsula, 203-206; seclusion of
widows and widowers, 203 _sq._; the ghost-seer, 204 _sq._; application
of the juices of the dead to the persons of the living, 205; precautions
taken by manslayers against the ghosts of their victims, 205 _sq._;
purification for homicide originally a mode of averting the angry ghost
of the slain, 206; beliefs and customs concerning the dead among the
Massim of south-eastern New Guinea, 206-210; Hiyoyoa, the land of the
dead, 207; purification of mourners by bathing and shaving, 207 _sq._;
foods forbidden to mourners, 208 _sq._; fires on the grave, 209; the
land of the dead, 209 _sq._; names of the dead not mentioned, 210;
beliefs and customs concerning the dead among the Papuans of Kiwai,
211-214; Adiri, the land of the dead, 211-213; appearance of the dead to
the living in dreams, 213 _sq._; offerings to the dead, 214; dreams as a
source of the belief in immortality, 214.

Lecture X.--The Belief in Immortality among the Natives of German New
Guinea

Andrew Lang, pp. 216 _sq._; review of preceding lectures, 217 _sq._

The Papuans of Tumleo, their material culture, 218-220; their temples,
220 _sq._; their bachelors' houses containing the skulls of the dead,
221; spirits of the dead as the causes of sickness and disease, 222
_sq._; burial and mourning customs, 223 _sq._; fate of the human soul
after death, 224; monuments to the dead, 225; disinterment of the bones,
225; propitiation of ghosts and spirits, 226; guardian-spirits in the
temples, 226 _sq._

The Monumbo of Potsdam Harbour, 227 _sq._; their beliefs concerning the
spirits of the dead, 228 _sq._; their fear of ghosts, 229; their
treatment of manslayers, 229 _sq._

The Tamos of Astrolabe Bay, 230; their ideas as to the souls of the
dead, 231 _sq._; their fear of ghosts, 232 _sqq._; their Secret Society
and rites of initiation, 233; their preservation of the jawbones of the
dead, 234 _sq._; their sham fights after a death, 235 _sq._; these
fights perhaps intended to throw dust in the eyes of the ghost, 236
_sq._

Lecture XI.--The Belief in Immortality among the Natives of German New
Guinea (_continued_)

The Papuans of Cape King William, pp. 238 _sq._; their ideas as to
spirits and the souls of the dead, 239 _sq._; their belief in sorcery as
a cause of death, 240 _sq._; their funeral and mourning customs, 241
_sq._; the fate of the soul after death, 242.

The Yabim of Finsch Harbour, their material and artistic culture, 242
_sq._; their clubhouses for men, 243; their beliefs as to the state of
the dead, 244 _sq._; the ghostly ferry, 244 _sq._; transmigration of
human souls into animals, 245; the return of the ghosts, 246; offerings
to ghosts, 246; ghosts provided with fire, 246 _sq._; ghosts help in the
cultivation of land, 247 _sq._; burial and mourning customs, 248 _sq._;
divination to discover the sorcerer who has caused a death, 249 _sq._;
bull-roarers, 250; initiation of young men, 250 _sqq._; the rite of
circumcision, the novices supposed to be swallowed by a monster, 251
_sq._; the return of the novices, 253; the essence of the initiatory
rites seems to be a simulation of death and resurrection, 253 _sqq._;
the new birth among the Akikuyu of British East Africa, 254.

Lecture XII.--The Belief in Immortality among the Natives of German New
Guinea (_continued_)

The Bukaua of Huon Gulf, their means of subsistence and men's
clubhouses, pp. 256 _sq._; their ideas as to the souls of the dead, 257;
sickness and death caused by ghosts and sorcerers, 257 _sq._; fear of
the ghosts of the slain, 258; prayers to ancestral spirits on behalf of
the crops, 259; first-fruits offered to the spirits of the dead, 259;
burial and mourning customs, 259 _sq._; initiation of young men, novices
at circumcision supposed to be swallowed and afterwards disgorged by a
monster, 260 _sq._

The Kai, a Papuan tribe of mountaineers inland from Finsch Harbour, 262;
their country, mode of agriculture, and villages, 262 _sq._;
observations of a German missionary on their animism, 263 _sq._; the
essential rationality of the savage, 264-266; the Kai theory of the two
sorts of human souls, 267 _sq._; death commonly thought to be caused by
sorcery, 268 _sq._; danger incurred by the sorcerer, 269; many hurts and
maladies attributed to the action of ghosts, 269 _sq._; capturing lost
souls, 270 _sq._; ghosts extracted from the body of a sick man or
scraped from his person, 271; extravagant demonstrations of grief at the
death of a sick man, 271-273; hypocritical character of these
demonstrations, which are intended to deceive the ghost, 273; burial and
mourning customs, preservation of the lower jawbone and one of the lower
arm bones, 274; mourning costume, seclusion of widow or widower, 274
_sq._; widows sometimes strangled to accompany their dead husbands, 275;
house or village deserted after a death, 275.

Lecture XIII.--The Belief in Immortality among the Natives of German New
Guinea (_continued_)

The Kai (continued), their offerings to the dead, p. 276; divination by
means of ghosts to detect the sorcerer who has caused a death, 276-278;
avenging the death on the sorcerer and his people, 278 _sq._;
precautions against the ghosts of the slain, 279 _sq._; attempts to
deceive the ghosts of the murdered, 280-282; pretence of avenging the
ghost of a murdered man, 282; fear of ghosts by night, 282 _sq._;
services rendered by the spirits of the dead to farmers and hunters,
283-285; the journey of the soul to the spirit land, 285 _sq._; life of
the dead in the other world, 286 _sq._; ghosts die the second death and
turn into animals, 287; ghosts of famous people invoked long after their
death, 287-289; possible development of ghosts into gods, 289 _sq._;
lads at circumcision supposed to be swallowed and disgorged by a
monster, 290 _sq._

The Tami Islanders of Huon Gulf, 291; their theory of a double human
soul, a long one and a short one, 291 _sq._; departure of the short soul
for Lamboam, the nether world of the dead, 292; offerings to the dead,
292; appeasing the ghost, 292 _sq._; funeral and mourning customs,
dances in honour of the dead, offerings thrown into the fire, 293 _sq._;
bones of the dead dug up and kept in the house for a time, 294 _sq._

Lecture XIV.--The Belief in Immortality among the Natives of German and
Dutch New Guinea

The Tami Islanders of Huon Gulf (continued), their doctrine of souls and
gods, pp. 296 _sq._; dances of masked men representing spirits, 297;
worship of ancestral spirits and offerings to them, 297 _sq._; life of
the souls in Lamboam, the nether world, 299 _sq._; evocation of ghosts
by the ghost-seer, 300; sickness caused by ghosts, 300 _sq._; novices at
circumcision supposed to be swallowed and disgorged by a monster, 301
_sq._; meaning of the bodily mutilations inflicted on young men at
puberty obscure, 302 _sq._ The natives of Dutch New Guinea, 303-323; the
Noofoors of Geelvink Bay, their material culture and arts of life,
303-305; their fear and worship of the dead, 305-307; wooden images
(_korwar_) of the dead kept in the houses and carried in canoes to be
used as oracles, 307 _sq._; the images consulted in sickness and taken
with the people to war, 308-310; offerings to the images, 310 _sq._;
souls of those who have died away from home recalled to animate the
images, 311; skulls of the dead, especially of firstborn children and of
parents, inserted in the images, 312 _sq._; bodies of young children
hung on trees, 312 _sq._; mummies of dead relatives kept in the houses,
313; seclusion of mourners and restrictions on their diet, 313 _sq._;
tattooing in honour of the dead, 314; teeth and hair of the dead worn by
relatives, 314 _sq._; rebirth of parents in their children, 315.

The natives of islands off the west coast of New Guinea, their wooden
images of dead ancestors and shrines for the residence of the ancestral
spirits, 315 _sq._; their festivals in honour of the dead, 316; souls of
ancestors supposed to reside in the images and to protect the house and
household, 317.

The natives of the Macluer Gulf, their images and bowls in honour of the
dead, 317 _sq._

The natives of the Mimika district, their burial and mourning customs,
their preservation of the skulls of the dead, and their belief in
ghosts, 318.

The natives of Windessi, their burial customs, 318 _sq._; divination
after a death, 319; mourning customs, 319 _sq._; festival of the dead,
320 _sq._; wooden images of the dead, 321; doctrine of souls and of
their fate after death, 321 _sq._; medicine-men inspired by the souls of
the dead, 322 _sq._; ghosts of slain enemies driven away, 323.

Lecture XV.--The Belief in Immortality among the Natives of Southern
Melanesia (New Caledonia)

The Melanesians in general, their material culture, p. 324; Southern
Melanesia, the New Caledonians, and Father Lambert's account of them,
325; their ideas as to the spirit land and the way thither, 325 _sq._;
burial customs, 326; cuttings and brandings for the dead, 326 _sq._;
property of the dead destroyed, 327; seclusion of gravediggers and
restrictions imposed on them, 327; sham fight in honour of the dead, 327
_sq._; skulls of the dead preserved and worshipped on various occasions,
such as sickness, fishing, and famine, 328-330; caves used as
charnel-houses and sanctuaries of the dead in the Isle of Pines,
330-332; prayers and sacrifices to the ancestral spirits, 332 _sq._;
prayer-posts, 333 _sq._; sacred stones associated with the dead and used
to cause dearth or plenty, madness, a good crop of bread-fruit or yams,
drought, rain, a good catch of fish, and so on, 334-338; the religion of
the New Caledonians mainly a worship of the dead tinctured with magic,
338.

Evidence as to the natives of New Caledonia collected by Dr. George
Turner, 339-342; material culture of the New Caledonians, 339; their
burial customs, the skulls and nails of the dead preserved and used to
fertilise the yam plantations, 339 _sq._; worship of ancestors and
prayers to the dead, 340; festivals in honour of the dead, 340 _sq._;
making rain by means of the skeletons of the dead, 341; execution of
sorcerers, 341 _sq._; white men identified with the spirits of the dead,
342.

Lecture XVI.--The Belief in Immortality among the Natives of Central
Melanesia

Central Melanesia divided into two archipelagoes, the religion of the
Western Islands (Solomon Islands) characterised by a worship of the
dead, the religion of the Eastern Islands (New Hebrides, Banks' Islands,
Torres Islands, Santa Cruz Islands) characterised by a worship of
non-human spirits, pp. 343 _sq._; Central Melanesian theory of the soul,
344 _sq._; the land of the dead either in certain islands or in a
subterranean region called Panoi, 345; ghosts of power and ghosts of no
account, 345 _sq._; supernatural power (_mana_) acquired through ghosts,
346 _sq._

Burial customs in the Western Islands (Solomon Islands), 347 _sqq._;
land-burial and sea-burial, land-ghosts and sea-ghosts, 347 _sq._;
funeral feasts and burnt-offerings to the dead, 348 _sq._; the land of
the dead and the ghostly ferry, 350 _sq._; ghosts die the second death
and turn into the nests of white ants, 350 _sq._; preservation of the
skull and jawbone in order to ensure the protection of the ghost, 351
_sq._; human heads sought in order to add fresh spiritual power (_mana_)
to the ghost of a dead chief, 352.

Beliefs and customs concerning the dead in the Eastern Islands (New
Hebrides, Banks' Islands, Torres Islands), 352 _sqq._; Panoi, the
subterranean abode of the dead, 353 _sq._; ghosts die the second death,
354; different fates of the souls of the good and bad, 354 _sq._;
descent of the living into the world of the dead, 355; burial customs of
the Banks' Islanders, 355 _sqq._; dead sometimes temporarily buried in
the house, 355; display of property beside the corpse and funeral
oration, 355 _sq._; sham burial of eminent men, 356; ghosts driven away
from the village, 356-358; deceiving the ghosts of women who have died
in child-bed, 358; funeral feasts, 358 _sq._; funeral customs in the
New Hebrides, 359 _sqq._; the aged buried alive, 359 _sq._; seclusion of
mourners and restrictions on their diet, 360; sacrifice of pigs, 360
_sq._; the journey of the ghost to the spirit land, 361 _sq._;
provisions made by the living for the welfare of the dead, 362.

Only ghosts of powerful men worshipped, 362 _sq._; institution of the
worship of a martial ghost, 363 _sq._; offerings of food and drink to
the dead, 364 _sq._; sacrifice of pigs to ghosts in the Solomon Islands,
365 _sq._

Lecture XVII.--The Belief in Immortality among the Natives of Central
Melanesia (_concluded_)

Public sacrifices to ghosts in the Solomon Islands, pp. 367 _sq._;
offering of first-fruits to ghosts, 368 _sq._; private ghosts as
distinguished from public ghosts, 369 _sq._; fighting ghosts kept as
spiritual auxiliaries, 370; ghosts employed to make the gardens grow,
370 _sq._; human sacrifices to ghosts, 371 _sq._; vicarious and other
sacrifices to ghosts at Saa in Malanta, 372 _sq._; offerings of
first-fruits to ghosts at Saa, 373 _sq._; vicarious sacrifices offered
for the sick to ghosts in Santa Cruz, 374; the dead represented by
stocks in the houses, 374; native account of sacrifices in Santa Cruz,
374 _sq._; prayers to the dead, 376 _sq._; sanctuaries of ghosts in the
Solomon Islands, 377-379; ghosts lodged in animals, birds, and fish,
especially in sharks, 379 _sq._

The belief in ghosts underlies the Melanesian conception of magic, 380
_sq._; sickness commonly caused by ghosts and cured by ghost-seers,
381-384; contrast between Melanesian and European systems of medicine,
384; weather regulated by ghosts and spirits and by weather-doctors who
have the ear of ghosts and spirits, 384-386; witchcraft or black magic
wrought by means of ghosts, 386-388; prophets inspired by ghosts, 388
_sq._; divination operating through ghosts, 389 _sq._; taboos enforced
by ghosts, 390 _sq._; general influence which a belief in the survival
of the soul after death has exercised on Melanesian life, 391 _sq._

Lecture XVIII.--The Belief in Immortality among the Natives of Northern
and Eastern Melanesia

The natives of Northern Melanesia or the Bismarck Archipelago (New
Britain, New Ireland, etc.), their material culture, commercial habits,
and want of regular government, pp. 393-395; their theory of the soul,
395 _sq._; their fear of ghosts, 396; offerings to the dead, 396 _sq._;
burial customs, 397 _sq._; preservation of the skulls, 398; customs and
beliefs concerning the dead among the Sulka of New Britain, 398-400,
among the Moanus of the Admiralty Islands, 400 _sq._ and among the
natives of the Kaniet Islands, 401 _sq._; natural deaths commonly
attributed to sorcery, 402; divination to discover the sorcerer who
caused the death, 402; death customs in the Duke of York Island, cursing
the sorcerer, skulls preserved, feasts and dances, 403; prayers to the
dead, 403 _sq._; the land of the dead and the fate of the departed
souls, hard lot of impecunious ghosts, 404-406.

The natives of Eastern Melanesia (Fiji), their material culture and
political constitution, 406-408; means of subsistence, 408; moral
character, 408 _sq._; scenery of the Fijian islands, 409 _sq._; the
Fijian doctrine of souls, 410-412; souls of rascals caught in scarves,
412 _sq._; fear of sorcery and precautions against it, 413 _sq._;
beneficial effect of the fear in enforcing habits of personal
cleanliness, 414; fear of ghosts and custom of driving them away, 414
_sq._; killing a ghost, 415 _sq._; outwitting grandfather's ghost, 416;
special relation of grandfather to grandchild, 416; grandfather's soul
reborn in his grandchild, 417 _sq._

Lecture XIX.--The Belief in Immortality among the Natives of Eastern
Melanesia (Fiji) (_continued_)

Indifference of the Fijians to death, p. 419; their custom of killing
the sick and aged with the consent of the victims, 419-424; their
readiness to die partly an effect of their belief in immortality, 422
_sq._; wives strangled or buried alive to accompany their husbands to
the spirit land, 424-426; servants and dependants killed to attend their
dead lords, 426; sacrifices of foreskins and fingers in honour of dead
chiefs, 426 _sq._; boys circumcised in order to save the lives of their
fathers or fathers' brothers, 427; saturnalia attending such rites of
circumcision, 427 _sq._; the _Nanga_, or sacred enclosure of stones,
dedicated to the worship of ancestors, 428 _sq._; first-fruits of the
yams offered to the ancestors in the _Nanga_, 429; initiation of young
men in the _Nanga_, drama of death and resurrection, sacrament of food
and water, 429-432; the initiation followed by a period of sexual
licence, 433; the initiatory rites apparently intended to introduce the
novices to the ancestral spirits and endow them with the powers of the
dead, 434 _sq._; the rites seem to have been imported into Fiji by
immigrants from the west, 435 _sq._; the licence attending these rites
perhaps a reversion to primitive communism for the purpose of
propitiating the ancestral spirits, 436 _sq._; description of the
_Nanga_ or sacred enclosure of stones, 437 _sq._; comparison with the
cromlechs and other megalithic monuments of Europe, 438.

Lecture XX.--The Belief in Immortality among the Natives of Eastern
Melanesia (Fiji) (_concluded_)

Worship of parents and other dead relations in Fiji, pp. 439 _sq._;
Fijian notion of divinity (_kalou_), 440; two classes of gods, namely,
divine gods and human gods or deified men, 440 _sq._; temples (_bures_)
441 _sq._; worship at the temples, 443; priests (_betes_), their
oracular inspiration by the gods, 443-446; human sacrifices on various
occasions, such as building a house or launching a new canoe, 446 _sq._;
high estimation in which manslaughter was held by the Fijians, 447
_sq._; consecration of manslayers and restrictions laid on them,
probably from fear of the ghosts of their victims, 448 _sq._; certain
funeral customs based apparently on the fear of ghosts, 450 _sqq._;
persons who have handled a corpse forbidden to touch food with their
hands, 450 _sq._; seclusion of gravediggers, 451; mutilations,
brandings, and fasts in honour of the dead, 451 _sq._; the dead carried
out of the house by a special opening to prevent the return of the
ghost, 452-461; the other world and the way thither, 462 _sqq._; the
ghostly ferry, 462 _sq._; the ghost and the pandanus tree, 463 _sq._;
hard fate of the unmarried dead, 464; the Killer of Souls, 464 _sq._;
ghosts precipitated into a lake, 465 _sq._; Murimuria, an inferior sort
of heaven, 466; the Fijian Elysium, 466 _sq._; transmigration and
annihilation, the few that are saved, 467.

Concluding observations, 467-471; strength and universality of the
belief in immortality among savages, 468; the state of war among savage
and civilised peoples often a direct consequence of the belief in
immortality, 468 _sq._; economic loss involved in sacrifices to the
dead, 469; how does the savage belief in immortality bear on the truth
or falsehood of that belief in general? 469; the answer depends to some
extent on the view we take of human nature, 469-471; the conclusion left
open, 471.

Note.--Myth of the Continuance of Death

Index



LECTURE I

INTRODUCTION


[Sidenote: Natural theology, and the three modes of handling it, the
dogmatic, the philosophical, and the historical.]

The subject of these lectures is a branch of natural theology. By
natural theology I understand that reasoned knowledge of a God or gods
which man may be supposed, whether rightly or wrongly, capable of
attaining to by the exercise of his natural faculties alone. Thus
defined, the subject may be treated in at least three different ways,
namely, dogmatically, philosophically, and historically. We may simply
state the dogmas of natural theology which appear to us to be true: that
is the dogmatic method. Or, secondly, we may examine the validity of the
grounds on which these dogmas have been or may be maintained: that is
the philosophic method. Or, thirdly, we may content ourselves with
describing the various views which have been held on the subject and
tracing their origin and evolution in history: that is the historical
method. The first of these three methods assumes the truth of natural
theology, the second discusses it, and the third neither assumes nor
discusses but simply ignores it: the historian as such is not concerned
with the truth or falsehood of the beliefs he describes, his business is
merely to record them and to track them as far as possible to their
sources. Now that the subject of natural theology is ripe for a purely
dogmatic treatment will hardly, I think, be maintained by any one, to
whatever school of thought he may belong; accordingly that method of
treatment need not occupy us further. Far otherwise is it with the
philosophic method which undertakes to enquire into the truth or
falsehood of the belief in a God: no method could be more appropriate at
a time like the present, when the opinions of educated and thoughtful
men on that profound topic are so unsettled, diverse, and conflicting. A
philosophical treatment of the subject might comprise a discussion of
such questions as whether a natural knowledge of God is possible to man,
and, if possible, by what means and through what faculties it is
attainable; what are the grounds for believing in the existence of a
God; and, if this belief is justified, what may be supposed to be his
essential nature and attributes, and what his relations to the world in
general and to man in particular. Now I desire to confess at once that
an adequate discussion of these and kindred questions would far exceed
both my capacity and my knowledge; for he who would do justice to so
arduous an enquiry should not only be endowed with a comprehensive and
penetrating genius, but should possess a wide and accurate acquaintance
with the best accredited results of philosophic speculation and
scientific research. To such qualifications I can lay no claim, and
accordingly I must regard myself as unfitted for a purely philosophic
treatment of natural theology. To speak plainly, the question of the
existence of a God is too deep for me. I dare neither affirm nor deny
it. I can only humbly confess my ignorance. Accordingly, if Lord Gifford
had required of his lecturers either a dogmatic or a philosophical
treatment of natural theology, I could not have undertaken to deliver
the lectures.

[Sidenote: The method followed in these lectures is the historical.]

But in his deed of foundation, as I understand it, Lord Gifford left his
lecturers free to follow the historical rather than the dogmatic or the
philosophical method of treatment. He says: "The lecturers shall be
under no restraint whatever in their treatment of their theme: for
example, they may freely discuss (and it may be well to do so) all
questions about man's conceptions of God or the Infinite, their origin,
nature, and truth." In making this provision the founder appears to have
allowed and indeed encouraged the lecturers not only to discuss, if they
chose to do so, the philosophical basis of a belief in God, but also to
set forth the various conceptions of the divine nature which have been
held by men in all ages and to trace them to their origin: in short, he
permitted and encouraged the lecturers to compose a history of natural
theology or of some part of it. Even when it is thus limited to its
historical aspect the theme is too vast to be mastered completely by any
one man: the most that a single enquirer can do is to take a general but
necessarily superficial survey of the whole and to devote himself
especially to the investigation of some particular branch or aspect of
the subject. This I have done more or less for many years, and
accordingly I think that without being presumptuous I may attempt, in
compliance with Lord Gifford's wishes and directions, to lay before my
hearers a portion of the history of religion to which I have paid
particular attention. That the historical study of religious beliefs,
quite apart from the question of their truth or falsehood, is both
interesting and instructive will hardly be disputed by any intelligent
and thoughtful enquirer. Whether they have been well or ill founded,
these beliefs have deeply influenced the conduct of human affairs; they
have furnished some of the most powerful, persistent, and far-reaching
motives of action; they have transformed nations and altered the face of
the globe. No one who would understand the general history of mankind
can afford to ignore the annals of religion. If he does so, he will
inevitably fall into the most serious misconceptions even in studying
branches of human activity which might seem, on a superficial view, to
be quite unaffected by religious considerations.

[Sidenote: An historical enquiry into the evolution of religion
prejudices neither the question of the ethical value of religious
practice nor the question of the truth or falsehood of religious
belief.]

Therefore to trace theological and in general religious ideas to their
sources and to follow them through all the manifold influences which
they have exerted on the destinies of our race must always be an object
of prime importance to the historian, whatever view he may take of their
speculative truth or ethical value. Clearly we cannot estimate their
ethical value until we have learned the modes in which they have
actually determined human conduct for good or evil: in other words, we
cannot judge of the morality of religious beliefs until we have
ascertained their history: the facts must be known before judgment can
be passed on them: the work of the historian must precede the work of
the moralist. Even the question of the validity or truth of religious
creeds cannot, perhaps, be wholly dissociated from the question of their
origin. If, for example, we discover that doctrines which we had
accepted with implicit faith from tradition have their close analogies
in the barbarous superstitions of ignorant savages, we can hardly help
suspecting that our own cherished doctrines may have originated in the
similar superstitions of our rude forefathers; and the suspicion
inevitably shakes the confidence with which we had hitherto regarded
these articles of our faith. The doubt thus cast on our old creed is
perhaps illogical, since even if we should discover that the creed did
originate in mere superstition, in other words, that the grounds on
which it was first adopted were false and absurd, this discovery would
not really disprove the beliefs themselves, for it is perfectly possible
that a belief may be true, though the reasons alleged in favour of it
are false and absurd: indeed we may affirm with great probability that a
multitude of human beliefs, true in themselves, have been accepted and
defended by millions of people on grounds which cannot bear exact
investigation for a moment. For example, if the facts of savage life
which it will be my duty to submit to you should have the effect of
making the belief in immortality look exceedingly foolish, those of my
hearers who cherish the belief may console themselves by reflecting
that, as I have just pointed out, a creed is not necessarily false
because some of the reasons adduced in its favour are invalid, because
it has sometimes been supported by the despicable tricks of vulgar
imposture, and because the practices to which it has given rise have
often been in the highest degree not only absurd but pernicious.

[Sidenote: Yet such an enquiry may shake the confidence with which
traditional beliefs have been held.]

Thus an historical enquiry into the origin of religious creeds cannot,
strictly speaking, invalidate, still less refute, the creeds themselves,
though it may, and doubtless often does weaken the confidence with which
they are held. This weakening of religious faith as a consequence of a
closer scrutiny of religious origins is unquestionably a matter of great
importance to the community; for society has been built and cemented to
a great extent on a foundation of religion, and it is impossible to
loosen the cement and shake the foundation without endangering the
superstructure. The candid historian of religion will not dissemble the
danger incidental to his enquiries, but nevertheless it is his duty to
prosecute them unflinchingly. Come what may, he must ascertain the facts
so far as it is possible to do so; having done that, he may leave to
others the onerous and delicate task of adjusting the new knowledge to
the practical needs of mankind. The narrow way of truth may often look
dark and threatening, and the wayfarer may often be weary; yet even at
the darkest and the weariest he will go forward in the trust, if not in
the knowledge, that the way will lead at last to light and to rest; in
plain words, that there is no ultimate incompatibility between the good
and the true.

[Sidenote: To discover the origin of the idea of God we must study the
beliefs of primitive man.]

Now if we are indeed to discover the origin of man's conception of God,
it is not sufficient to analyse the ideas which the educated and
enlightened portion of mankind entertain on the subject at the present
day; for in great measure these ideas are traditional, they have been
handed down with little or no independent reflection or enquiry from
generation to generation; hence in order to detect them in their
inception it becomes necessary to push our analysis far back into the
past. Large materials for such an historical enquiry are provided for us
in the literature of ancient nations which, though often sadly mutilated
and imperfect, has survived to modern times and throws much precious
light on the religious beliefs and practices of the peoples who created
it. But the ancients themselves inherited a great part of their religion
from their prehistoric ancestors, and accordingly it becomes desirable
to investigate the religious notions of these remote forefathers of
mankind, since in them we may hope at last to arrive at the ultimate
source, the historical origin, of the whole long development.

[Sidenote: The beliefs of primitive man can only be understood through a
comparative study of the various races in the lower stages of culture.]

But how can this be done? how can we investigate the ideas of peoples
who, ignorant of writing, had no means of permanently recording their
beliefs? At first sight the thing seems impossible; the thread of
enquiry is broken off short; it has landed us on the brink of a gulf
which looks impassable. But the case is not so hopeless as it appears.
True, we cannot investigate the beliefs of prehistoric ages directly,
but the comparative method of research may furnish us with the means of
studying them indirectly; it may hold up to us a mirror in which, if we
do not see the originals, we may perhaps contemplate their reflections.
For a comparative study of the various races of mankind demonstrates, or
at least renders it highly probable, that humanity has everywhere
started at an exceedingly low level of culture, a level far beneath that
of the lowest existing savages, and that from this humble beginning all
the various races of men have gradually progressed upward at different
rates, some faster and some slower, till they have attained the
particular stage which each of them occupies at the present time.

[Sidenote: Hence the need of studying the beliefs and customs of
savages, if we are to understand the evolution of culture in general.]

If this conclusion is correct, the various stages of savagery and
barbarism on which many tribes and peoples now stand represent, broadly
speaking, so many degrees of retarded social and intellectual
development, they correspond to similar stages which the ancestors of
the civilised races may be supposed to have passed through at more or
less remote periods of their history. Thus when we arrange all the known
peoples of the world according to the degree of their savagery or
civilisation in a graduated scale of culture, we obtain not merely a
comparative view of their relative positions in the scale, but also in
some measure an historical record of the genetic development of culture
from a very early time down to the present day. Hence a study of the
savage and barbarous races of mankind is of the greatest importance for
a full understanding of the beliefs and practices, whether religious,
social, moral, or political, of the most civilised races, including our
own, since it is practically certain that a large part of these beliefs
and practices originated with our savage ancestors, and has been
inherited by us from them, with more or less of modification, through a
long line of intermediate generations.

[Sidenote: The need is all the more urgent because savages are rapidly
disappearing or being transformed.]

That is why the study of existing savages at the present day engrosses
so much of the attention of civilised peoples. We see that if we are to
comprehend not only our past history but our present condition, with all
its many intricate and perplexing problems, we must begin at the
beginning by attempting to discover the mental state of our savage
forefathers, who bequeathed to us so much of the faiths, the laws, and
the institutions which we still cherish; and more and more men are
coming to perceive that the only way open to us of doing this
effectually is to study the mental state of savages who to this day
occupy a state of culture analogous to that of our rude progenitors.
Through contact with civilisation these savages are now rapidly
disappearing, or at least losing the old habits and ideas which render
them a document of priceless historical value for us. Hence we have
every motive for prosecuting the study of savagery with ardour and
diligence before it is too late, before the record is gone for ever. We
are like an heir whose title-deeds must be scrutinised before he can
take possession of the inheritance, but who finds the handwriting of the
deeds so fading and evanescent that it threatens to disappear entirely
before he can read the document to the end. With what keen attention,
what eager haste, would he not scan the fast-vanishing characters? With
the like attention and the like haste civilised men are now applying
themselves to the investigation of the fast-vanishing savages.

[Sidenote: Savage religion is to be the subject of these lectures.]

Thus if we are to trace historically man's conception of God to its
origin, it is desirable, or rather essential, that we should begin by
studying the most primitive ideas on the subject which are accessible to
us, and the most primitive ideas are unquestionably those of the lowest
savages. Accordingly in these lectures I propose to deal with a
particular side or aspect of savage religion. I shall not trench on the
sphere of the higher religions, not only because my knowledge of them is
for the most part very slight, but also because I believe that a
searching study of the higher and more complex religions should be
postponed till we have acquired an accurate knowledge of the lower and
simpler. For a similar reason the study of inorganic chemistry naturally
precedes the study of organic chemistry, because inorganic compounds are
much simpler and therefore more easily analysed and investigated than
organic compounds. So with the chemistry of the mind; we should analyse
the comparatively simple phenomena of savage thought into its
constituent elements before we attempt to perform a similar operation on
the vastly more complex phenomena of civilised beliefs.

[Sidenote: But only a part of savage religion will be dealt with.]

But while I shall confine myself rigidly to the field of savage
religion, I shall not attempt to present you with a complete survey even
of that restricted area, and that for more reasons than one. In the
first place the theme, even with this great limitation, is far too large
to be adequately set forth in the time at my disposal; the sketch--for
it could be no more than a sketch--would be necessarily superficial and
probably misleading. In the second place, even a sketch of primitive
religion in general ought to presuppose in the sketcher a fairly
complete knowledge of the whole subject, so that all the parts may
appear, not indeed in detail, but in their proper relative proportions.
Now though I have given altogether a good deal of time to the study of
primitive religion, I am far from having studied it in all its branches,
and I could not trust myself to give an accurate general account of it
even in outline; were I to attempt such a thing I should almost
certainly fall, through sheer ignorance or inadvertence, into the
mistake of exaggerating some features, unduly diminishing others, and
omitting certain essential features altogether. Hence it seems to me
better not to commit myself to so ambitious an enterprise but to confine
myself in my lectures, as I have always done in my writings, to a
comparatively minute investigation of certain special aspects or forms
of primitive religion rather than attempt to embrace in a general view
the whole of that large subject. Such a relatively detailed study of a
single compartment may be less attractive and more tedious than a
bird's-eye view of a wider area; but in the end it may perhaps prove a
more solid contribution to knowledge.

[Sidenote: Introductory observations. The question of a supernatural
revelation excluded.]

But before I come to details I wish to make a few general introductory
remarks, and in particular to define some of the terms which I shall
have occasion to use in the lectures. I have defined natural theology as
that reasoned knowledge of a God or gods which man may be supposed,
whether rightly or wrongly, capable of attaining to by the exercise of
his natural faculties alone. Whether there ever has been or can be a
special miraculous revelation of God to man through channels different
from those through which all other human knowledge is derived, is a
question which does not concern us in these lectures; indeed it is
expressly excluded from their scope by the will of the founder, who
directed the lecturers to treat the subject "as a strictly natural
science," "without reference to or reliance upon any supposed special
exceptional or so-called miraculous revelation." Accordingly, in
compliance with these directions, I dismiss at the outset the question
of a revelation, and shall limit myself strictly to natural theology in
the sense in which I have defined it.

[Sidenote: Theology and religion, how related to each other.]

I have called natural theology a reasoned knowledge of a God or gods to
distinguish it from that simple and comparatively, though I believe
never absolutely, unreasoning faith in God which suffices for the
practice of religion. For theology is at once more and less than
religion: if on the one hand it includes a more complete acquaintance
with the grounds of religious belief than is essential to religion, on
the other hand it excludes the observance of those practical duties
which are indispensable to any religion worthy of the name. In short,
whereas theology is purely theoretical, religion is both theoretical and
practical, though the theoretical part of it need not be so highly
developed as in theology. But while the subject of the lectures is,
strictly speaking, natural theology rather than natural religion, I
think it would be not only difficult but undesirable to confine our
attention to the purely theological or theoretical part of natural
religion: in all religions, and not least in the undeveloped savage
religions with which we shall deal, theory and practice fuse with and
interact on each other too closely to be forcibly disjoined and handled
apart. Hence throughout the lectures I shall not scruple to refer
constantly to religious practice as well as to religious theory, without
feeling that thereby I am transgressing the proper limits of my subject.

[Sidenote: The term God defined.]

As theology is not only by definition but by etymology a reasoned
knowledge or theory of a God or gods, it becomes desirable, before we
proceed further, to define the sense in which I understand and shall
employ the word God. That sense is neither novel nor abstruse; it is
simply the sense which I believe the generality of mankind attach to the
term. By a God I understand a superhuman and supernatural being, of a
spiritual and personal nature, who controls the world or some part of it
on the whole for good, and who is endowed with intellectual faculties,
moral feelings, and active powers, which we can only conceive on the
analogy of human faculties, feelings, and activities, though we are
bound to suppose that in the divine nature they exist in higher degrees,
perhaps in infinitely higher degrees, than the corresponding faculties,
feelings, and activities of man. In short, by a God I mean a beneficent
supernatural spirit, the ruler of the world or of some part of it, who
resembles man in nature though he excels him in knowledge, goodness, and
power. This is, I think, the sense in which the ordinary man speaks of a
God, and I believe that he is right in so doing. I am aware that it has
been not unusual, especially perhaps of late years, to apply the name of
God to very different conceptions, to empty it of all implication of
personality, and to reduce it to signifying something very large and
very vague, such as the Infinite or the Absolute (whatever these hard
words may signify), the great First Cause, the Universal Substance, "the
stream of tendency by which all things seek to fulfil the law of their
being,"[1] and so forth. Now without expressing any opinion as to the
truth or falsehood of the views implied by such applications of the name
of God, I cannot but regard them all as illegitimate extensions of the
term, in short as an abuse of language, and I venture to protest against
it in the interest not only of verbal accuracy but of clear thinking,
because it is apt to conceal from ourselves and others a real and very
important change of thought: in particular it may lead many to imagine
that the persons who use the name of God in one or other of these
extended senses retain certain theological opinions which they may in
fact have long abandoned. Thus the misuse of the name of God may
resemble the stratagem in war of putting up dummies to make an enemy
imagine that a fort is still held after it has been evacuated by the
garrison. I am far from alleging or insinuating that the illegitimate
extension of the divine name is deliberately employed by theologians or
others for the purpose of masking a change of front; but that it may
have that effect seems at least possible. And as we cannot use words in
wrong senses without running a serious risk of deceiving ourselves as
well as others, it appears better on all accounts to adhere strictly to
the common meaning of the name of God as signifying a powerful
supernatural and on the whole beneficent spirit, akin in nature to man;
and if any of us have ceased to believe in such a being we should
refrain from applying the old word to the new faith, and should find
some other and more appropriate term to express our meaning. At all
events, speaking for myself, I intend to use the name of God
consistently in the familiar sense, and I would beg my hearers to bear
this steadily in mind.

[Sidenote: Monotheism and polytheism.]

You will have observed that I have spoken of natural theology as a
reasoned knowledge of a God or gods. There is indeed nothing in the
definition of God which I have adopted to imply that he is unique, in
other words, that there is only one God rather than several or many
gods. It is true that modern European thinkers, bred in a monotheistic
religion, commonly overlook polytheism as a crude theory unworthy the
serious attention of philosophers; in short, the champions and the
assailants of religion in Europe alike for the most part tacitly assume
that there is either one God or none. Yet some highly civilised nations
of antiquity and of modern times, such as the ancient Egyptians, Greeks,
and Romans, and the modern Chinese and Hindoos, have accepted the
polytheistic explanation of the world, and as no reasonable man will
deny the philosophical subtlety of the Greeks and the Hindoos, to say
nothing of the rest, a theory of the universe which has commended itself
to them deserves perhaps more consideration than it has commonly
received from Western philosophers; certainly it cannot be ignored in an
historical enquiry into the origin of religion.

[Sidenote: A natural knowledge of God can only be acquired by
experience.]

If there is such a thing as natural theology, that is, a knowledge of a
God or gods acquired by our natural faculties alone without the aid of a
special revelation, it follows that it must be obtained by one or other
of the methods by which all our natural knowledge is conveyed to us.
Roughly speaking, these methods are two in number, namely, intuition and
experience. Now if we ask ourselves, Do we know God intuitively in the
same sense in which we know intuitively our own sensations and the
simplest truths of mathematics, I think most men will acknowledge that
they do not. It is true that according to Berkeley the world exists only
as it is perceived, and that our perceptions of it are produced by the
immediate action of God on our minds, so that everything we perceive
might be described, if not as an idea in the mind of the deity, at least
as a direct emanation from him. On this theory we might in a sense be
said to have an immediate knowledge of God. But Berkeley's theory has
found little acceptance, so far as I know, even among philosophers; and
even if we regarded it as true, we should still have to admit that the
knowledge of God implied by it is inferential rather than intuitive in
the strict sense of the word: we infer God to be the cause of our
perceptions rather than identify him with the perceptions themselves. On
the whole, then, I conclude that man, or at all events the ordinary man,
has, properly speaking, no immediate or intuitive knowledge of God, and
that, if he obtains, without the aid of revelation, any knowledge of him
at all, it can only be through the other natural channel of knowledge,
that is, through experience.

[Sidenote: The nature of experience.]

In experience, as distinct from intuition, we reach our conclusions not
directly through simple contemplation of the particular sensations,
emotions, or ideas of which we are at the moment conscious, but
indirectly by calling up before the imagination and comparing with each
other our memories of a variety of sensations, emotions, or ideas of
which we have been conscious in the past, and by selecting or
abstracting from the mental images so compared the points in which they
resemble each other. The points of resemblance thus selected or
abstracted from a number of particulars compose what we call an abstract
or general idea, and from a comparison of such abstract or general ideas
with each other we arrive at general conclusions, which define the
relations of the ideas to each other. Experience in general consists in
the whole body of conclusions thus deduced from a comparison of all the
particular sensations, emotions, and ideas which make up the conscious
life of the individual. Hence in order to constitute experience the mind
has to perform a more or less complex series of operations, which are
commonly referred to certain mental faculties, such as memory,
imagination, and judgment. This analysis of experience does not pretend
to be philosophically complete or exact; but perhaps it is sufficiently
accurate for the purpose of these lectures, the scope of which is not
philosophical but historical.

[Sidenote: Two kinds of experience, the experience of our own mind and
the experience of an external world.]

Now experience in the widest sense of the word may be conveniently
distinguished into two sorts, the experience of our own mind and the
experience of an external world. The distinction is indeed, like the
others with which I am dealing at present, rather practically useful
than theoretically sound; certainly it would not be granted by all
philosophers, for many of them have held that we neither have nor with
our present faculties can possibly attain to any immediate knowledge or
perception of an external world, we merely infer its existence from our
own sensations, which are as strictly a part of our mind as the ideas
and emotions of our waking life or the visions of sleep. According to
them, the existence of matter or of an external world is, so far as we
are concerned, merely an hypothesis devised to explain the order of our
sensations; it never has been perceived by any man, woman, or child who
ever lived on earth; we have and can have no immediate knowledge or
perception of anything but the states and operations of our own mind. On
this theory what we call the world, with all its supposed infinitudes of
space and time, its systems of suns and planets, its seemingly endless
forms of inorganic matter and organic life, shrivels up, on a close
inspection, into a fleeting, a momentary figment of thought. It is like
one of those glass baubles, iridescent with a thousand varied and
delicate hues, which a single touch suffices to shatter into dust. The
philosopher, like the sorcerer, has but to wave his magic wand,

  "And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
  The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
  The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
  Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
  And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
  Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
  As dreams are made on, and our little life
  Is rounded with a sleep."

[Sidenote: The distinction rather popular and convenient than
philosophically strict.]

It would be beyond my province, even if it were within my power, to
discuss these airy speculations, and thereby to descend into the arena
where for ages subtle dialecticians have battled with each other over
the reality or unreality of an external world. For my purpose it
suffices to adopt the popular and convenient distinction of mind and
matter and hence to divide experience into two sorts, an inward
experience of the acts and states of our own minds, and an outward
experience of the acts and states of that physical universe by which we
seem to be surrounded.

[Sidenote: The knowledge or conception of God has been attained both by
inward and by outward experience.]

Now if a natural knowledge of God is only possible by means of
experience, in other words, by a process of reasoning based on
observation, it will follow that such a knowledge may conceivably be
acquired either by the way of inward or of outward experience; in other
words, it may be attained either by reflecting on the processes of our
own minds or by observing the processes of external nature. In point of
fact, if we survey the history of thought, mankind appears to have
arrived at a knowledge, or at all events at a conception, of deity by
both these roads. Let me say a few words as to the two roads which lead,
or seem to lead, man to God.

[Sidenote: The conception of God is attained by inward experience, that
is, by the observation of certain remarkable thoughts and feelings which
are attributed to the inspiration of a deity. Practical dangers of the
theory of inspiration.]

In the first place, then, men in many lands and many ages have
experienced certain extraordinary emotions and entertained certain
extraordinary ideas, which, unable to account for them by reference to
the ordinary forms of experience, they have set down to the direct
action of a powerful spirit or deity working on their minds and even
entering into and taking possession of their bodies; and in this excited
state--for violent excitement is characteristic of these
manifestations--the patient believes himself to be possessed of
supernatural knowledge and supernatural power. This real or supposed
mode of apprehending a divine spirit and entering into communion with
it, is commonly and appropriately called inspiration. The phenomenon is
familiar to us from the example of the Hebrew nation, who believed that
their prophets were thus inspired by the deity, and that their sacred
books were regularly composed under the divine afflatus. The belief is
by no means singular, indeed it appears to be world-wide; for it would
be hard to point to any race of men among whom instances of such
inspiration have not been reported; and the more ignorant and savage the
race the more numerous, to judge by the reports, are the cases of
inspiration. Volumes might be filled with examples, but through the
spread of information as to the lower races in recent years the topic
has become so familiar that I need not stop to illustrate it by
instances. I will merely say that among savages the theory of
inspiration or possession is commonly invoked to explain all abnormal
mental states, particularly insanity or conditions of mind bordering on
it, so that persons more or less crazed in their wits, and particularly
hysterical or epileptic patients, are for that very reason thought to be
peculiarly favoured by the spirits and are therefore consulted as
oracles, their wild and whirling words passing for the revelations of a
higher power, whether a god or a ghost, who considerately screens his
too dazzling light under a thick veil of dark sayings and mysterious
ejaculations.[2] I need hardly point out the very serious dangers which
menace any society where such theories are commonly held and acted upon.
If the decisions of a whole community in matters of the gravest
importance are left to turn on the wayward fancies, the whims and
vagaries of the insane or the semi-insane, what are likely to be the
consequences to the commonwealth? What, for example, can be expected to
result from a war entered upon at such dictation and waged under such
auspices? Are cattle-breeding, agriculture, commerce, all the arts of
life on which a people depend for their subsistence, likely to thrive
when they are directed by the ravings of epilepsy or the drivellings of
hysteria? Defeat in battle, conquest by enemies, death by famine and
widespread disease, these and a thousand other lesser evils threaten the
blind people who commit themselves to such blind guides. The history of
savage and barbarous tribes, could we follow it throughout, might
furnish us with a thousand warning instances of the fatal effects of
carrying out this crude theory of inspiration to its logical
conclusions; and if we hear less than might be expected of such
instances, it is probably because the tribes who consistently acted up
to their beliefs have thereby wiped themselves out of existence: they
have perished the victims of their folly and left no record behind. I
believe that historians have not yet reckoned sufficiently with the
disastrous influence which this worship of insanity,--for it is often
nothing less--has exercised on the fortunes of peoples and on the
development or decay of their institutions.

[Sidenote: The belief in inspiration leads to the worship of living men
as gods. Outward experience as a source of the idea of God.]

To a certain extent, however, the evil has provided its own remedy. For
men of strong heads and ambitious temper, perceiving the exorbitant
power which a belief in inspiration places in the hands of the
feeble-minded, have often feigned to be similarly afflicted, and trading
on their reputation for imbecility, or rather inspiration, have acquired
an authority over their fellows which, though they have often abused it
for vulgar ends, they have sometimes exerted for good, as for example by
giving sound advice in matters of public concern, applying salutary
remedies to the sick, and detecting and punishing crime, whereby they
have helped to preserve the commonwealth, to alleviate suffering, and to
cement that respect for law and order which is essential to the
stability of society, and without which any community must fall to
pieces like a house of cards. These great services have been rendered to
the cause of civilisation and progress by the class of men who in
primitive society are variously known as medicine-men, magicians,
sorcerers, diviners, soothsayers, and so forth. Sometimes the respect
which they have gained by the exercise of their profession has won for
them political as well as spiritual or ghostly authority; in short, from
being simple medicine-men or sorcerers they have grown into chiefs and
kings. When such men, seated on the throne of state, retain their old
reputation for being the vehicles of a divine spirit, they may be
worshipped in the character of gods as well as revered in the capacity
of kings; and thus exerting a two-fold sway over the minds of men they
possess a most potent instrument for elevating or depressing the
fortunes of their worshippers and subjects. In this way the old savage
notion of inspiration or possession gradually develops into the doctrine
of the divinity of kings, which after a long period of florescence
dwindles away into the modest theory that kings reign by divine right, a
theory familiar to our ancestors not long ago, and perhaps not wholly
obsolete among us even now. However, inspired men need not always
blossom out into divine kings; they may, and often do, remain in the
chrysalis state of simple deities revered by their simple worshippers,
their brows encircled indeed with a halo of divinity but not weighted
with the more solid substance of a kingly crown. Thus certain
extraordinary mental states, which those who experience and those who
witness them cannot account for in any other way, are often explained by
the supposed interposition of a spirit or deity. This, therefore, is one
of the two forms of experience by which men attain, or imagine that they
attain, to a knowledge of God and a communion with him. It is what I
have called the road of inward experience. Let us now glance at the
other form of experience which leads, or seems to lead, to the same
goal. It is what I have called the road of outward experience.

[Sidenote: Tendency of the mind to search for causes, and the necessity
for their discovery.]

When we contemplate the seemingly infinite variety, the endless
succession, of events that pass under our observation in what we call
the external world, we are led by an irresistible tendency to trace what
we call a causal connexion between them. The tendency to discover the
causes of things appears indeed to be innate in the constitution of our
minds and indispensable to our continued existence. It is the link that
arrests and colligates into convenient bundles the mass of particulars
drifting pell-mell past on the stream of sensation; it is the cement
that binds into an edifice seemingly of adamant the loose sand of
isolated perceptions. Deprived of the knowledge which this tendency
procures for us we should be powerless to foresee the succession of
phenomena and so to adapt ourselves to it. We should be bewildered by
the apparent disorder and confusion of everything, we should toss on a
sea without a rudder, we should wander in an endless maze without a
clue, and finding no way out of it, or, in plain words, unable to avoid
a single one of the dangers which menace us at every turn, we should
inevitably perish. Accordingly the propensity to search for causes is
characteristic of man in all ages and at all levels of culture, though
without doubt it is far more highly developed in civilised than in
savage communities. Among savages it is more or less unconscious and
instinctive; among civilised men it is deliberately cultivated and
rewarded at least by the applause of their fellows, by the dignity, if
not by the more solid recompenses, of learning. Indeed as civilisation
progresses the enquiry into causes tends to absorb more and more of the
highest intellectual energies of a people; and an ever greater number of
men, renouncing the bustle, the pleasures, and the ambitions of an
active life, devote themselves exclusively to the pursuit of abstract
truth; they set themselves to discover the causes of things, to trace
the regularity and order that may be supposed to underlie the seemingly
irregular, confused, and arbitrary sequence of phenomena. Unquestionably
the progress of civilisation owes much to the sustained efforts of such
men, and if of late years and within our own memory the pace of progress
has sensibly quickened, we shall perhaps not err in supposing that some
part at least of the acceleration may be accounted for by an increase in
the number of lifelong students.

[Sidenote: The idea of cause is simply that of invariable sequence
suggested by the observation of many particular cases of sequence.]

Now when we analyse the conception of a cause to the bottom, we find as
the last residuum in our crucible nothing but what Hume found there long
ago, and that is simply the idea of invariable sequence. Whenever we say
that something is the cause of something else, all that we really mean
is that the latter is invariably preceded by the former, so that
whenever we find the second, which we call the effect, we may infer that
the first, which we call the cause, has gone before it. All such
inferences from effects to causes are based on experience; having
observed a certain sequence of events a certain number of times, we
conclude that the events are so conjoined that the latter cannot occur
without the previous occurrence of the former. A single case of two
events following each other could not of itself suggest that the one
event is the cause of the other, since there is no necessary link
between them in the mind; the sequence has to be repeated more or less
frequently before we infer a causal connexion between the two; and this
inference rests simply on that association of ideas which is established
in our mind by the reiterated observation of the things. Once the ideas
are by dint of repetition firmly welded together, the one by sheer force
of habit calls up the other, and we say that the two things which are
represented by those ideas stand to each other in the relation of cause
and effect. The notion of causality is in short only one particular case
of the association of ideas. Thus all reasoning as to causes implies
previous observation: we reason from the observed to the unobserved,
from the known to the unknown; and the wider the range of our
observation and knowledge, the greater the probability that our
reasoning will be correct.

[Sidenote: The savage draws his ideas of natural causation from
observation of himself. Hence he explains the phenomena of nature by
supposing that they are produced by beings like himself. These beings
may be called spirits or gods of nature to distinguish them from living
human gods.]

All this is as true of the savage as of the civilised man. He too
argues, and indeed can only argue on the basis of experience from the
known to the unknown, from the observed to the hypothetical. But the
range of his experience is comparatively narrow, and accordingly his
inferences from it often appear to civilised men, with their wider
knowledge, to be palpably false and absurd. This holds good most
obviously in regard to his observation of external nature. While he
often knows a good deal about the natural objects, whether animals,
plants, or inanimate things, on which he is immediately dependent for
his subsistence, the extent of country with which he is acquainted is
commonly but small, and he has little or no opportunity of correcting
the conclusions which he bases on his observation of it by a comparison
with other parts of the world. But if he knows little of the outer
world, he is necessarily somewhat better acquainted with his own inner
life, with his sensations and ideas, his emotions, appetites, and
desires. Accordingly it is natural enough that when he seeks to discover
the causes of events in the external world, he should, arguing from
experience, imagine that they are produced by the actions of invisible
beings like himself, who behind the veil of nature pull the strings that
set the vast machinery in motion. For example, he knows by experience
that he can make sparks fly by knocking two flints against each other;
what more natural, therefore, than that he should imagine the great
sparks which we call lightning to be made in the same way by somebody up
aloft, and that when he finds chipped flints on the ground he should
take them for thunder-stones dropped by the maker of thunder and
lightning from the clouds?[3] Thus arguing from his limited experience
primitive man creates a multitude of spirits or gods in his own likeness
to explain the succession of phenomena in nature of whose true causes he
is ignorant; in short he personifies the phenomena as powerful
anthropomorphic spirits, and believing himself to be more or less
dependent on their good will he woos their favour by prayer and
sacrifice. This personification of the various aspects of external
nature is one of the most fruitful sources of polytheism. The spirits
and gods created by this train of thought may be called spirits and gods
of nature to distinguish them from the human gods, by which I mean the
living men and women who are believed by their worshippers to be
inspired or possessed by a divine spirit.

[Sidenote: In time men reject polytheism as an explanation of natural
processes and substitute certain abstract ideas of ethers, atoms,
molecules, and so on.]

But as time goes on and men learn more about nature, they commonly
become dissatisfied with polytheism as an explanation of the world and
gradually discard it. From one department of nature after another the
gods are reluctantly or contemptuously dismissed and their provinces
committed to the care of certain abstract ideas of ethers, atoms,
molecules, and so forth, which, though just as imperceptible to human
senses as their divine predecessors, are judged by prevailing opinion to
discharge their duties with greater regularity and despatch, and are
accordingly firmly installed on the vacant thrones amid the general
applause of the more enlightened portion of mankind. Thus instead of
being peopled with a noisy bustling crowd of full-blooded and
picturesque deities, clothed in the graceful form and animated with the
warm passions of humanity, the universe outside the narrow circle of our
consciousness is now conceived as absolutely silent, colourless, and
deserted. The cheerful sounds which we hear, the bright hues which we
see, have no existence, we are told, in the external world: the voices
of friends, the harmonies of music, the chime of falling waters, the
solemn roll of ocean, the silver splendour of the moon, the golden
glories of sunset, the verdure of summer woods, and the hectic tints of
autumn--all these subsist only in our own minds, and if we imagine them
to have any reality elsewhere, we deceive ourselves. In fact the whole
external world as perceived by us is one great illusion: if we gave the
reins to fancy we might call it a mirage, a piece of witchery, conjured
up by the spells of some unknown magician to bewilder poor ignorant
humanity. Outside of ourselves there stretches away on every side an
infinitude of space without sound, without light, without colour, a
solitude traversed only in every direction by an inconceivably complex
web of silent and impersonal forces. That, if I understand it aright, is
the general conception of the world which modern science has substituted
for polytheism.

[Sidenote: But while they commonly discard the hypothesis of a deity as
an explanation of all the particular processes of nature, they retain it
as an explanation of nature in general.]

When philosophy and science by their combined efforts have ejected gods
and goddesses from all the subordinate posts of nature, it might perhaps
be expected that they would have no further occasion for the services of
a deity, and that having relieved him of all his particular functions
they would have arranged for the creation and general maintenance of the
universe without him by handing over these important offices to an
efficient staff of those ethers, atoms, corpuscles, and so forth, which
had already proved themselves so punctual in the discharge of the minor
duties entrusted to them. Nor, indeed, is this expectation altogether
disappointed. A number of atheistical philosophers have courageously
come forward and assured us that the hypothesis of a deity as the
creator and preserver of the universe is quite superfluous, and that all
things came into being or have existed from eternity without the help of
any divine spirit, and that they will continue to exist without it to
the end, if end indeed there is to be. But on the whole these daring
speculators appear to be in a minority. The general opinion of educated
people at the present day, could we ascertain it, would probably be
found to incline to the conclusion that, though every department of
nature is now worked by impersonal material forces alone, the universe
as a whole was created and is still maintained by a great supernatural
spirit whom we call God. Thus in Europe and in the countries which have
borrowed their civilisation, their philosophy, and their religion from
it, the central problem of natural theology has narrowed itself down to
the question, Is there one God or none? It is a profound question, and I
for one profess myself unable to answer it.

[Sidenote: Whether attained by inward or outward experience, the idea of
God is regularly that of a cause inferred, not perceived.]

If this brief sketch of the history of natural theology is correct, man
has by the exercise of his natural faculties alone, without the help of
revelation, attained to a knowledge or at least to a conception of God
in one of two ways, either by meditating on the operations of his own
mind, or by observing the processes of external nature: inward
experience and outward experience have conducted him by different roads
to the same goal. By whichever of them the conception has been reached,
it is regularly employed to explain the causal connexion of things,
whether the things to be explained are the ideas and emotions of man
himself or the changes in the physical world outside of him. In short, a
God is always brought in to play the part of a cause; it is the
imperious need of tracing the causes of events which has driven man to
discover or invent a deity. Now causes may be arranged in two classes
according as they are perceived or unperceived by the senses. For
example, when we see the impact of a billiard cue on a billiard ball
followed immediately by the motion of the ball, we say that the impact
is the cause of the motion. In this case we perceive the cause as well
as the effect. But, when we see an apple fall from a tree to the ground,
we say that the cause of the fall is the force of gravitation exercised
by the superior mass of the earth on the inferior mass of the apple. In
this case, though we perceive the effect, we do not perceive the cause,
we only infer it by a process of reasoning from experience. Causes of
the latter sort may be called inferential or hypothetical causes to
distinguish them from those which are perceived. Of the two classes of
causes a deity belongs in general, if not universally, to the second,
that is, to the inferential or hypothetical causes; for as a rule at all
events his existence is not perceived by our senses but inferred by our
reason. To say that he has never appeared in visible and tangible form
to men would be to beg the question; it would be to make an assertion
which is incapable of proof and which is contradicted by a multitude of
contrary affirmations recorded in the traditions or the sacred books of
many races; but without being rash we may perhaps say that such
appearances, if they ever took place, belong to a past order of events
and need hardly be reckoned with at the present time. For all practical
purposes, therefore, God is now a purely inferential or hypothetical
cause; he may be invoked to explain either our own thoughts and
feelings, our impulses and emotions, or the manifold states and
processes of external nature; he may be viewed either as the inspirer of
the one or the creator and preserver of the other; and according as he
is mainly regarded from the one point of view or the other, the
conception of the divine nature tends to beget one of two very different
types of piety. To the man who traces the finger of God in the workings
of his own mind, the deity appears to be far closer than he seems to the
man who only infers the divine existence from the marvellous order,
harmony, and beauty of the external world; and we need not wonder that
the faith of the former is of a more fervent temper and supplies him
with more powerful incentives to a life of active devotion than the calm
and rational faith of the latter. We may conjecture that the piety of
most great religious reformers has belonged to the former rather than to
the latter type; in other words, that they have believed in God because
they felt, or imagined that they felt, him stirring in their own hearts
rather than because they discerned the handiwork of a divine artificer
in the wonderful mechanism of nature.

[Sidenote: Besides the two sorts of gods already distinguished, namely
natural gods and living human gods, there is a third sort which has
played an important part in history, namely, the spirits of deified dead
men. Euhemerism.]

Thus far I have distinguished two sorts of gods whom man discovers or
creates for himself by the exercise of his unaided faculties, to wit
natural gods, whom he infers from his observation of external nature,
and human gods or inspired men, whom he recognises by virtue of certain
extraordinary mental manifestations in himself or in others. But there
is another class of human gods which I have not yet mentioned and which
has played a very important part in the evolution of theology. I mean
the deified spirits of dead men. To judge by the accounts we possess not
only of savage and barbarous tribes but of some highly civilised
peoples, the worship of the human dead has been one of the commonest and
most influential forms of natural religion, perhaps indeed the commonest
and most influential of all. Obviously it rests on the supposition that
the human personality in some form, whether we call it a soul, a spirit,
a ghost, or what not, can survive death and thereafter continue for a
longer or shorter time to exercise great power for good or evil over the
destinies of the living, who are therefore compelled to propitiate the
shades of the dead out of a regard for their own safety and well-being.
This belief in the survival of the human spirit after death is
world-wide; it is found among men in all stages of culture from the
lowest to the highest; we need not wonder therefore that the custom of
propitiating the ghosts or souls of the departed should be world-wide
also. No doubt the degree of attention paid to ghosts is not the same in
all cases; it varies with the particular degree of power attributed to
each of them; the spirits of men who for any reason were much feared in
their lifetime, such as mighty warriors, chiefs, and kings, are more
revered and receive far more marks of homage than the spirits of common
men; and it is only when this reverence and homage are carried to a very
high pitch that they can properly be described as a deification of the
dead. But that dead men have thus been raised to the rank of deities in
many lands, there is abundant evidence to prove. And quite apart from
the worship paid to those spirits which are admitted by their
worshippers to have once animated the bodies of living men, there is
good reason to suspect that many gods, who rank as purely mythical
beings, were once men of flesh and blood, though their true history has
passed out of memory or rather been transformed by legend into a myth,
which veils more or less completely the real character of the imaginary
deity. The theory that most or all gods originated after this fashion,
in other words, that the worship of the gods is little or nothing but
the worship of dead men, is known as Euhemerism from Euhemerus, the
ancient Greek writer who propounded it. Regarded as a universal
explanation of the belief in gods it is certainly false; regarded as a
partial explanation of the belief it is unquestionably true; and perhaps
we may even go further and say, that the more we penetrate into the
inner history of natural religion, the larger is seen to be the element
of truth contained in Euhemerism. For the more closely we look at many
deities of natural religion, the more distinctly do we seem to perceive,
under the quaint or splendid pall which the mythical fancy has wrapt
round their stately figures, the familiar features of real men, who once
shared the common joys and the common sorrows of humanity, who trod
life's common road to the common end.

[Sidenote: The deification of dead men presupposes the immortality of
the human soul, or rather its survival for a longer or shorter time
after death.]

When we ask how it comes about that dead men have so often been raised
to the rank of divinities, the first thing to be observed is that all
such deifications must, if our theory is correct, be inferences drawn
from experience of some sort; they must be hypotheses devised to explain
the unperceived causes of certain phenomena, whether of the human mind
or of external nature. All of them imply, as I have said, a belief that
the conscious human personality, call it the soul, the spirit, or what
you please, can survive the body and continue to exist in a disembodied
state with unabated or even greatly increased powers for good or evil.
This faith in the survival of personality after death may for the sake
of brevity be called a faith in immortality, though the term immortality
is not strictly correct, since it seems to imply eternal duration,
whereas the idea of eternity is hardly intelligible to many primitive
peoples, who nevertheless firmly believe in the continued existence, for
a longer or shorter time, of the human spirit after the dissolution of
the body. Now the faith in the immortality of the soul or, to speak more
correctly, in the continued existence of conscious human personality
after death, is, as I remarked before, exceedingly common among men at
all levels of intellectual evolution from the lowest upwards; certainly
it is not peculiar to adherents of the higher religions, but is held as
an unquestionable truth by at least the great majority of savage and
barbarous peoples as to whose ideas we possess accurate information;
indeed it might be hard to point to any single tribe of men, however
savage, of whom we could say with certainty that the faith is totally
wanting among them.

[Sidenote: The question of immortality is a fundamental problem of
natural theology in the wider sense.]

Hence if we are to explain the deification of dead men, we must first
explain the widespread belief in immortality; we must answer the
question, how does it happen that men in all countries and at all stages
of ignorance or knowledge so commonly suppose that when they die their
consciousness will still persist for an indefinite time after the decay
of the body? To answer that question is one of the fundamental problems
of natural theology, not indeed in the full sense of the word theology,
if we confine the term strictly to a reasoned knowledge of a God; for
the example of Buddhism proves that a belief in the existence of the
human soul after death is quite compatible with disbelief in a deity.
But if we may use, as I think we may, the phrase natural theology in an
extended sense to cover theories which, though they do not in themselves
affirm the existence of a God, nevertheless appear to be one of the
deepest and most fruitful sources of the belief in his reality, then we
may legitimately say that the doctrine of human immortality does fall
within the scope of natural theology. What then is its origin? How is it
that men so commonly believe themselves to be immortal?

[Sidenote: If there is any natural knowledge of immortality, it must be
acquired either by intuition or experience; it is apparently not given
by intuition; hence it must be acquired, if at all, by experience.]

If there is any natural knowledge of human immortality, it must be
acquired either by intuition or by experience; there is no other way.
Now whether other men from a simple contemplation of their own nature,
quite apart from reasoning, know or believe themselves intuitively to be
immortal, I cannot say; but I can say with some confidence that for
myself I have no such intuition whatever of my own immortality, and that
if I am left to the resources of my natural faculties alone, I can as
little affirm the certain or probable existence of my personality after
death as I can affirm the certain or probable existence of a personal
God. And I am bold enough to suspect that if men could analyse their own
ideas, they would generally find themselves to be in a similar
predicament as to both these profound topics. Hence I incline to lay it
down as a probable proposition that men as a rule have no intuitive
knowledge of their own immortality, and that if there is any natural
knowledge of such a thing it can only be acquired by a process of
reasoning from experience.[4]

[Sidenote: The idea of immortality seems to have been suggested to man
both by his inward and his outward experience, notably by dreams, which
are a case of inward experience.]

What then is the kind of experience from which the theory of human
immortality is deduced? Is it our experience of the operations of our
own minds? or is it our experience of external nature? As a matter of
historical fact--and you will remember that I am treating the question
purely from the historical standpoint--men seem to have inferred the
persistence of their personality after death both from the one kind of
experience and from the other, that is, both from the phenomena of their
inner life and from the phenomena of what we call the external world.
Thus the savage, with whose beliefs we are chiefly concerned in these
lectures, finds a very strong argument for immortality in the phenomena
of dreams, which are strictly a part of his inner life, though in his
ignorance he commonly fails to discriminate them from what we popularly
call waking realities. Hence when the images of persons whom he knows to
be dead appear to him in a dream, he naturally infers that these persons
still exist somewhere and somehow apart from their bodies, of the decay
or destruction of which he may have had ocular demonstration. How could
he see dead people, he asks, if they did not exist? To argue that they
have perished like their bodies is to contradict the plain evidence of
his senses; for to the savage still more than to the civilised man
seeing is believing; that he sees the dead only in dreams does not shake
his belief, since he thinks the appearances of dreams just as real as
the appearances of his waking hours. And once he has in this way gained
a conviction that the dead survive and can help or harm him, as they
seem to do in dreams, it is natural or necessary for him to extend the
theory to the occurrences of daily life, which, as I have said, he does
not sharply distinguish from the visions of slumber. He now explains
many of these occurrences and many of the processes of nature by the
direct interposition of the spirits of the departed; he traces their
invisible hand in many of the misfortunes and in some of the blessings
which befall him; for it is a common feature of the faith in ghosts, at
least among savages, that they are usually spiteful and mischievous, or
at least testy and petulant, more apt to injure than to benefit the
survivors. In that they resemble the personified spirits of nature,
which in the opinion of most savages appear to be generally tricky and
malignant beings, whose anger is dangerous and whose favour is courted
with fear and trembling. Thus even without the additional assurance
afforded by tales of apparitions and spectres, primitive man may come in
time to imagine the world around him to be more or less thickly peopled,
influenced, and even dominated by a countless multitude of spirits,
among whom the shades of past generations of men and women hold a very
prominent, often apparently the leading place. These spirits, powerful
to help or harm, he seeks either simply to avert, when he deems them
purely mischievous, or to appease and conciliate, when he supposes them
sufficiently good-natured to respond to his advances. In some such way
as this, arguing from the real but, as we think, misinterpreted
phenomena of dreams, the savage may arrive at a doctrine of human
immortality and from that at a worship of the dead.

[Sidenote: It has also been suggested by the resemblance of the living
to the dead, which is a case of outward experience.]

This explanation of the savage faith in immortality is neither novel nor
original: on the contrary it is perhaps the commonest and most familiar
that has yet been propounded. If it does not account for all the facts,
it probably accounts for many of them. At the same time I do not doubt
that many other inferences drawn from experiences of different kinds
have confirmed, even if they did not originally suggest, man's confident
belief in his own immortality. To take a single example of outward
experience, the resemblances which children often bear to deceased
kinsfolk appear to have prompted in the minds of many savages the notion
that the souls of these dead kinsfolk have been born again in their
descendants.[5] From a few cases of resemblances so explained it would
be easy to arrive at a general theory that all living persons are
animated by the souls of the dead; in other words, that the human spirit
survives death for an indefinite period, if not for eternity, during
which it undergoes a series of rebirths or reincarnations. However it
has been arrived at, this doctrine of the transmigration or
reincarnation of the soul is found among many tribes of savages; and
from what we know on the subject we seem to be justified in conjecturing
that at certain stages of mental and social evolution the belief in
metempsychosis has been far commoner and has exercised a far deeper
influence on the life and institutions of primitive man than the actual
evidence before us at present allows us positively to affirm.

[Sidenote: The aim of these lectures is to collect a number of facts
illustrative of the belief in immortality and of the customs based on it
among some of the lower races.]

Be that as it may--and I have no wish to dogmatise on so obscure a
topic--it is certain that a belief in the survival of the human
personality after death and the practice of a propitiation or worship of
the dead have prevailed very widely among mankind and have played a very
important part in the development of natural religion. While many
writers have duly recognised the high importance both of the belief and
of the worship, no one, so far as I know, has attempted systematically
to collect and arrange the facts which illustrate the prevalence of this
particular type of religion among the various races of mankind. A large
body of evidence lies to hand in the voluminous and rapidly increasing
literature of ethnology; but it is dispersed over an enormous number of
printed books and papers, to say nothing of the materials which still
remain buried either in manuscript or in the minds of men who possess
the requisite knowledge but have not yet committed it to writing. To
draw all those stores of information together and digest them into a
single treatise would be a herculean labour, from which even the most
industrious researcher into the dusty annals of the human past might
shrink dismayed. Certainly I shall make no attempt to perform such a
feat within the narrow compass of these lectures. But it seems to me
that I may make a useful, if a humble, contribution to the history of
religion by selecting a portion of the evidence and submitting it to my
hearers. For that purpose, instead of accumulating a mass of facts from
all the various races of mankind and then comparing them together, I
prefer to limit myself to a few races and to deal with each of them
separately, beginning with the lowest savages, about whom we possess
accurate information, and gradually ascending to peoples who stand
higher in the scale of culture. In short the method of treatment which I
shall adopt will be the descriptive rather than the comparative. I shall
not absolutely refrain from instituting comparisons between the customs
and beliefs of different races, but for the most part I shall content
myself with describing the customs and beliefs of each race separately
without reference to those of others. Each of the two methods, the
comparative and the descriptive, has its peculiar advantages and
disadvantages, and in my published writings I have followed now the one
method and now the other. The comparative method is unquestionably the
more attractive and stimulating, but it cannot be adopted without a good
deal of more or less conscious theorising, since every comparison
implicitly involves a theory. If we desire to exclude theories and
merely accumulate facts for the use of science, the descriptive method
is undoubtedly the better adapted for the arrangement of our materials:
it may not stimulate enquiry so powerfully, but it lays a more solid
foundation on which future enquirers may build. It is as a collection of
facts illustrative of the belief in immortality and of all the momentous
consequences which have flowed from that belief, that I desire the
following lectures to be regarded. They are intended to serve simply as
a document of religious history; they make no pretence to discuss
philosophically the truth of the beliefs and the morality of the
practices which will be passed under review. If any inferences can
indeed be drawn from the facts to the truth or falsehood of the beliefs
and to the moral worth or worthlessness of the practices, I prefer to
leave it to others more competent than myself to draw them. My sight is
not keen enough, my hand is not steady enough to load the scales and
hold the balance in so difficult and delicate an enquiry.

[Footnote 1: Matthew Arnold, _Literature and Dogma_, ch. i., p. 31
(Popular Edition, London, 1893).]

[Footnote 2: For a single instance see L. Sternberg, "Die Religion der
Giljaken," _Archiv für Religionswissenschaft_, viii. (1905) pp. 462
_sqq._, where the writer tells us that the Gilyaks have boundless faith
in the supernatural power of their shamans, and that the shamans are
nearly always persons who suffer from hysteria in one form or another.]

[Footnote 3: As to the widespread belief that flint weapons are
thunderbolts see Sir E. B. Tylor, _Researches into the Early History of
Mankind_, Third Edition (London, 1878), pp. 223-227; Chr. Blinkenberg,
_The Thunderweapon in Religion and Folklore_ (Cambridge, 1911); W. W.
Skeat "Snakestones and Thunderbolts," _Folk-lore_, xxiii. (1912) pp. 60
_sqq._; and the references in _The Magic Art and the Evolution of
Kings_, ii. 374.]

[Footnote 4: Wordsworth, who argues strongly, almost passionately, for
"the consciousness of a principle of Immortality in the human soul,"
admits that "the sense of Immortality, if not a coexistent and twin
birth with Reason, is among the earliest of her offspring." See his
_Essay upon Epitaphs_, appended to _The Excursion_ (_Poetical Works_,
London, 1832, vol. iv. pp. 336, 338). This somewhat hesitating admission
of the inferential nature of the belief in immortality carries all the
more weight because it is made by so warm an advocate of human
immortality.]

[Footnote 5: For instance, the Kagoro of Northern Nigeria believe that
"a spirit may transmigrate into the body of a descendant born
afterwards, male or female; in fact, this is common, as is proved by the
likeness of children to their parents or grand-parents, and it is lucky,
for the ghost has returned, and has no longer any power to frighten the
relatives until the new body dies, and it is free again" (Major A. J. N.
Tremearne, "Notes on some Nigerian Head-hunters," _Journal of the R.
Anthropological Institute_, xlii. (1912) p. 159). Compare _Taboo and the
Perils of the Soul_, pp. 88 _sq._; _The Dying God_, p. 287 (p. 288,
Second Impression).]



LECTURE II

THE SAVAGE CONCEPTION OF DEATH


[Sidenote: The subject of these lectures is the belief in immortality
and the worship of the dead.]

Last day I explained the subject of which I propose to treat and the
method which I intend to follow in these lectures. I shall describe the
belief in immortality, or rather in the continued existence of the human
soul after death, as that belief is found among certain of the lower
races, and I shall give some account of the religion which has been
based upon it. That religion is in brief a propitiation or worship of
the human dead, who according to the degree of power ascribed to them by
the living are supposed to vary in dignity from the humble rank of a
mere common ghost up to the proud position of deity. The elements of
such a worship appear to exist among all races of men, though in some
they have been much more highly developed than in others.

[Sidenote: Preliminary account of savage beliefs concerning the nature
and origin of death.]

But before I address myself to the description of particular races, I
wish in this and the following lecture to give you some general account
of the beliefs of savages concerning the nature and origin of death. The
problem of death has very naturally exercised the minds of men in all
ages. Unlike so many problems which interest only a few solitary
thinkers this one concerns us all alike, since simpletons as well as
sages must die, and even the most heedless and feather-brained can
hardly help sometimes asking themselves what comes after death. The
question is therefore thrust in a practical, indeed importunate form on
our attention; and we need not wonder that in the long history of human
speculation some of the highest intellects should have occupied
themselves with it and sought to find an answer to the riddle. Some of
their solutions of the problem, though dressed out in all the beauty of
exquisite language and poetic imagery, singularly resemble the rude
guesses of savages. So little, it would seem, do the natural powers even
of the greatest minds avail to pierce the thick veil that hides the end
of life.

[Sidenote: The problem of death is one of universal interest.]

In saying that the problem is thrust home upon us all, I do not mean to
imply that all men are constantly or even often engaged in meditating on
the nature and origin of death. Far from it. Few people trouble
themselves about that or any other purely abstract question: the common
man would probably not give a straw for an answer to it. What he wants
to know, what we all want to know, is whether death is the end of all
things for the individual, whether our conscious personality perishes
with the body or survives it for a time or for eternity. That is the
enigma propounded to every human being who has been born into the world:
that is the door at which so many enquirers have knocked in vain. Stated
in this limited form the problem has indeed been of universal interest:
there is no race of men known to us which has not pondered the mystery
and arrived at some conclusions to which it more or less confidently
adheres. Not that all races have paid an equal attention to it. On some
it has weighed much more heavily than on others. While some races, like
some individuals, take death almost lightly, and are too busy with the
certainties of the present world to pay much heed to the uncertainties
of a world to come, the minds of others have dwelt on the prospect of a
life beyond the grave till the thought of it has risen with them to a
passion, almost to an obsession, and has begotten a contempt for the
fleeting joys of this ephemeral existence by comparison with the
hoped-for bliss of an eternal existence hereafter. To the sceptic,
examining the evidence for immortality by the cold light of reason, such
peoples and such individuals may seem to sacrifice the substance for the
shadow: to adopt a homely comparison, they are like the dog in the fable
who dropped the real leg of mutton, from his mouth in order to snap at
its reflection in the water. Be that as it may, where such beliefs and
hopes are entertained in full force, the whole activity of the mind and
the whole energy of the body are apt to be devoted to a preparation for
a blissful or at all events an untroubled eternity, and life becomes, in
the language of Plato, a meditation or practising of death. This
excessive preoccupation with a problematic future has been a fruitful
source of the most fatal aberrations both for nations and individuals.
In pursuit of these visionary aims the few short years of life have been
frittered away: wealth has been squandered: blood has been poured out in
torrents: the natural affections have been stifled; and the cheerful
serenity of reason has been exchanged for the melancholy gloom of
madness.

  "Oh threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
  One thing at least is certain--_This_ Life flies;
    One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;
  The Flower that once has blown for ever dies."

[Sidenote: The belief in immortality general among mankind.]

The question whether our conscious personality survives after death has
been answered by almost all races of men in the affirmative. On this
point sceptical or agnostic peoples are nearly, if not wholly, unknown.
Accordingly if abstract truth could be determined, like the gravest
issues of national policy, by a show of hands or a counting of heads,
the doctrine of human immortality, or at least of a life after death,
would deserve to rank among the most firmly established of truths; for
were the question put to the vote of the whole of mankind, there can be
no doubt that the ayes would have it by an overwhelming majority. The
few dissenters would be overborne; their voices would be drowned in the
general roar. For dissenters there have been even among savages. The
Tongans, for example, thought that only the souls of noblemen are saved,
the rest perish with their bodies.[6] However, this aristocratic view
has never been popular, and is not likely to find favour in our
democratic age.

[Sidenote: Belief of many savages that they would never die if their
lives were not cut short by sorcery. Belief of the Abipones.]

But many savage races not only believe in a life after death; they are
even of opinion that they would never die at all if it were not for the
maleficent arts of sorcerers who cut the vital thread prematurely short.
In other words, they disbelieve in what we call a natural death; they
think that all men are naturally immortal in this life, and that every
death which takes place is in fact a violent death inflicted by the hand
of a human enemy, though in many cases the foe is invisible and works
his fell purpose not by a sword or a spear but by magic. Thus the
Abipones, a now extinct tribe of horse Indians in Paraguay, used to
allege that they would be immortal and that none of them would ever die
if only the Spaniards and the sorcerers could be banished from America;
for they were in the habit of attributing every death, whatever its
cause, either to the baleful arts of sorcerers or to the firearms of the
Spaniards. Even if a man died riddled with wounds, with his bones
smashed, or through the exhaustion of old age, these Indians would all
deny that the wounds or old age was the cause of his death; they firmly
believed that the death was brought about by magic, and they would make
careful enquiries to discover the sorcerer who had cast the fatal spell
on their comrade. The relations of the deceased would move every stone
to detect and punish the culprit; and they imagined that they could do
this by cutting out the heart and tongue of the dead man and throwing
them to a dog to be devoured. They thought that this in some way killed
the wicked magician who had killed their friend. For example, it
happened that in a squabble between two men about a horse a third man
who tried to make peace between the disputants was mortally wounded by
their spears and died in a few days. To us it might seem obvious that
the peacemaker was killed by the spear-wounds which he had received, but
none of the Abipones would admit such a thing for a moment. They stoutly
affirmed that their comrade had been done to death by the magical arts
of some person unknown, and their suspicions fell on a certain old
woman, known to be a witch, to whom the deceased had lately refused to
give a water-melon, and who out of spite had killed him by her spells,
though he appeared to the European eye to have died of a spear-wound.[7]

[Sidenote: Belief of the Araucanians.]

Similarly the warlike Araucanians of Chili are said to disbelieve in
natural death. Even if a man dies peaceably at the age of a hundred,
they still think that he has been bewitched by an enemy. A diviner or
medicine-man is consulted in order to discover the culprit. Some of
these wizards enjoy a great reputation and the Indians will send a
hundred miles or more to get the opinion of an eminent member of the
profession. In such cases they submit to him some of the remains of the
dead man, for example, his eyebrows, his nails, his tongue, or the soles
of his feet, and from an examination of these relics the man of skill
pronounces on the author of the death. The person whom he accuses is
hunted down and killed, sometimes by fire, amid the yells of an enraged
crowd.[8]

[Sidenote: Belief of the Bakaïri.]

When the eminent German anthropologist was questioning a Bakaïri Indian
of Brazil as to the language of his tribe, he gave the sentence, "Every
man must die" to be translated into the Bakaïri language. To his
astonishment, the Indian remained long silent. The same long pause
always occurred when an abstract proposition, with which he was
unfamiliar, was put before the Indian for translation into his native
tongue. On the present occasion the enquirer learned that the Indian has
no idea of necessity in the abstract, and in particular he has no
conception at all of the necessity of death. The cause of death, in his
opinion, is invariably an ill turn done by somebody to the deceased. If
there were only good men in the world, he thinks that there would be
neither sickness nor death. He knows nothing about a natural end of the
vital process; he believes that all sickness and disease are the effects
of witchcraft.[9]

[Sidenote: Belief of the Indians of Guiana in sorcery as the cause of
sickness and death.]

Speaking of the Indians of Guiana, an English missionary, who knew them
well, says that the worst feature in their character is their proneness
to blood revenge, "by which a succession of retaliatory murders may be
kept up for a long time. It is closely connected with their system of
sorcery, which we shall presently consider. A person dies,--and it is
supposed that an enemy has secured the agency of an evil spirit to
compass his death. Some sorcerer, employed by the friends of the
deceased for that purpose, pretends by his incantations to discover the
guilty individual or family, or at any rate to indicate the quarter
where they dwell. A near relative of the deceased is then charged with
the work of vengeance. He becomes a _kanaima_, or is supposed to be
possessed by the destroying spirit so called, and has to live apart,
according to strict rule, and submit to many privations, until the deed
of blood be accomplished. If the supposed offender cannot be slain, some
innocent member of his family--man, woman, or little child--must suffer
instead."[10] The same writer tells us that these Indians of Guiana
attribute sickness and death directly to the agency of certain evil
spirits called _yauhahu_, who delight in inflicting miseries upon
mankind. Pain, in the language of the Arawaks (one of the best-known
tribes of Guiana), is called _yauhahu simaira_ or "the evil spirit's
arrow."[11] It is these evil spirits whom wicked sorcerers employ to
accomplish their fell purpose. Thus while the demon is the direct cause
of sickness and death, the sorcerer who uses him as his tool is the
indirect cause. The demon is thought to do his work by inserting some
alien substance into the body of the sufferer, and a medicine-man is
employed to extract it by chanting an invocation to the maleficent
spirit, shaking his rattle, and sucking the part of the patient's frame
in which the cause of the malady is imagined to reside. "After many
ceremonies he will produce from his mouth some strange substance, such
as a thorn or gravel-stone, a fish-bone or bird's claw, a snake's tooth,
or a piece of wire, which some malicious _yauhahu_ is supposed to have
inserted in the affected part. As soon as the patient fancies himself
rid of this cause of his illness his recovery is generally rapid, and
the fame of the sorcerer greatly increased. Should death, however,
ensue, the blame is laid upon the evil spirit whose power and malignity
have prevailed over the counteracting charms. Some rival sorcerer will
at times come in for a share of the blame, whom the sufferer has
unhappily made his enemy, and who is supposed to have employed the
_yauhahu_ in destroying him. The sorcerers being supposed to have the
power of causing, as well as of curing diseases, are much dreaded by the
common people, who never wilfully offend them. So deeply rooted in the
Indian's bosom is this belief concerning the origin of diseases, that
they have little idea of sickness arising from other causes. Death may
arise from a wound or a contusion, or be brought on by want of food, but
in other cases it is the work of the _yauhahu_"[12] or evil spirit.

[Sidenote: Some deaths attributed to sorcery and others to evil spirits:
practical consequence of this distinction.]

In this account it is to be observed that while all natural deaths from
sickness and disease are attributed to the direct action of evil
spirits, only some of them are attributed to the indirect action of
sorcerers. The practical consequences of this theoretical distinction
are very important. For whereas death by sorcery must, in the opinion of
savages, be avenged by killing the supposed sorcerer, death by the
action of a demon cannot be so avenged; for how are you to get at the
demon? Hence, while every death by sorcery involves, theoretically at
least, another death by violence, death by a demon involves no such
practical consequence. So far, therefore, the faith in sorcery is far
more murderous than the faith in demons. This practical distinction is
clearly recognised by these Indians of Guiana; for another writer, who
laboured among them as a missionary, tells us that when a person dies a
natural death, the medicine-man is called upon to decide whether he
perished through the agency of a demon or the agency of a sorcerer. If
he decides that the deceased died through the malice of an evil spirit,
the body is quietly buried, and no more is thought of the matter. But if
the wizard declares that the cause of death was sorcery, the corpse is
closely inspected, and if a blue mark is discovered, it is pointed out
as the spot where the invisible poisoned arrow, discharged by the
sorcerer, entered the man. The next thing is to detect the culprit. For
this purpose a pot containing a decoction of leaves is set to boil on a
fire. When it begins to boil over, the side on which the scum first
falls is the quarter in which the supposed murderer is to be sought. A
consultation is then held: the guilt is laid on some individual, and one
of the nearest relations of the deceased is charged with the duty of
finding and killing him. If the imaginary culprit cannot be found, any
other member of his family may be slain in his stead. "It is not
difficult to conceive," adds the writer, "how, under such circumstances,
no man's life is secure; whilst these by no means unfrequent murders
must greatly tend to diminish the number of the natives."[13]

[Sidenote: Among the Indians of Guiana death is oftener attributed to
sorcery than to demons.]

However, it would seem that among the Indians of Guiana sickness and
death are oftener ascribed to the agency of sorcerers than to the agency
of demons acting alone. For another high authority on these Indians, Sir
Everard F. im Thurn, tells us that "every death, every illness, is
regarded not as the result of natural law, but as the work of a
_kenaima_" or sorcerer. "Often indeed," he adds, "the survivors or the
relatives of the invalid do not know to whom to attribute the deed,
which therefore perforce remains unpunished; but often, again, there is
real or fancied reason to fix on some one as the _kenaima_, and then the
nearest relative of the injured individual devotes himself to retaliate.
Strange ceremonies are sometimes observed in order to discover the
secret _kenaima_. Richard Schomburgk describes a striking instance of
this. A Macusi boy had died a natural death, and his relatives
endeavoured to discover the quarter to which the _kenaima_ who was
supposed to have slain him belonged. Raising a terrible and monotonous
dirge, they carried the body to an open piece of ground, and there
formed a circle round it, while the father, cutting from the corpse both
the thumbs and little fingers, both the great and the little toes, and a
piece of each heel, threw these pieces into a new pot, which had been
filled with water. A fire was kindled, and on this the pot was placed.
When the water began to boil, according to the side on which one of the
pieces was first thrown out from the pot by the bubbling of the water,
in that direction would the _kenaima_ be. In thus looking round to see
who did the deed, the Indian thinks it by no means necessary to fix on
anyone who has been with or near the injured man. The _kenaima_ is
supposed to have done the deed, not necessarily in person, but probably
in spirit."[14] For these Indians believe that each individual man has a
body and a spirit within it, and that sorcerers can despatch their
spirits out of their bodies to harm people at a distance. It is not
always in an invisible form that these spirits of sorcerers are supposed
to roam on their errands of mischief. The wizard can put his spirit into
the shape of an animal, such as a jaguar, a serpent, a sting-ray, a
bird, an insect, or anything else he pleases. Hence when an Indian is
attacked by a wild beast, he thinks that his real foe is not the animal,
but the sorcerer who has transformed himself into it. Curiously enough
they look upon some small harmless birds in the same light. One little
bird, in particular, which flits across the savannahs with a peculiar
shrill whistle at morning and evening, is regarded by the Indians with
especial fear as a transformed sorcerer. They think that for every one
of these birds that they shoot they have an enemy the less, and they
burn its little body, taking great care that not even a single feather
escapes to be blown about by the wind. On a windy day a dozen men and
women have been seen chasing the floating feathers of these birds about
the savannah in order utterly to extinguish the imaginary wizard. Even
the foreign substance, the stick, bone, or whatever it is, which the
good medicine-man pretends to suck from the body of the sufferer "is
often, if not always, regarded not simply as a natural body, but as the
materialised form of a hostile spirit."[15]

[Sidenote: Belief of the Tinneh Indians in sorcery as the cause of
death.]

Beliefs and practices of the same general character are reported to have
formerly prevailed among the Tinneh or Déné Indians of North-west
America. When any beloved or influential person died, nobody, we are
told, would think of attributing the death to natural causes; it was
assumed that the demise was an effect of sorcery, and the only
difficulty was to ascertain the culprit. For that purpose the services
of a shaman were employed. Rigged out in all his finery he would dance
and sing, then suddenly fall down and feign death or sleep. On awaking
from the apparent trance he would denounce the sorcerer who had killed
the deceased by his magic art, and the denunciation generally proved the
death-warrant of the accused.[16]

[Sidenote: Belief of the Australian aborigines in sorcery as the cause
of death.]

Again, similar beliefs and customs in regard to what we should call
natural death appear to have prevailed universally amongst the
aborigines of Australia, and to have contributed very materially to thin
the population. On this subject I will quote the words of an observer.
His remarks apply to the Australian aborigines in general but to the
tribes of Victoria in particular. He says: "The natives are much more
numerous in some parts of Australia than they are in others, but nowhere
is the country thickly peopled; some dire disease occasionally breaks
out among the natives, and carries off large numbers.... But there are
two other causes which, in my opinion, principally account for their
paucity of numbers. The first is that infanticide is universally
practised; the second, that a belief exists that no one can die a
natural death. Thus, if an individual of a certain tribe dies, his
relatives consider that his death has been caused by sorcery on the part
of another tribe. The deceased's sons, or nearest relatives, therefore
start off on a _bucceening_ or murdering expedition. If the deceased is
buried, a fly or a beetle is put into the grave, and the direction in
which the insect wings its way when released is the one the avengers
take. If the body is burnt, the whereabouts of the offending parties is
indicated by the direction of the smoke. The first unfortunates fallen
in with are generally watched until they encamp for the night; when they
are buried in sleep, the murderers steal quietly up until they are
within a yard or two of their victims, rush suddenly upon and butcher
them. On these occasions they always abstract the kidney-fat, and also
take off a piece of the skin of the thigh. These are carried home as
trophies, as the American Indians take the scalp. The murderers anoint
their bodies with the fat of their victims, thinking that by that
process the strength of the deceased enters into them. Sometimes it
happens that the _bucceening_ party come suddenly upon a man of a
strange tribe in a tree hunting opossums; he is immediately speared, and
left weltering in his blood at the foot of the tree. The relatives of
the murdered man at once proceed to retaliate; and thus a constant and
never-ending series of murders is always going on.... I do not mean to
assert that for every man that dies or is killed another is murdered;
for it often happens that the deceased has no sons or relatives who care
about avenging his death. At other times a _bucceening_ party will
return without having met with any one; then, again, they are sometimes
repelled by those they attack."[17]

[Sidenote: Belief of the natives of Western Australia in sorcery as a
cause of death. Beliefs of the tribes of Victoria and South Australia.]

Again, speaking of the tribes of Western Australia, Sir George Grey
tells us that "the natives do not allow that there is such a thing as a
death from natural causes; they believe, that were it not for murderers
or the malignity of sorcerers, they might live for ever; hence, when a
native dies from the effect of an accident, or from some natural cause,
they use a variety of superstitious ceremonies, to ascertain in what
direction the sorcerer lives, whose evil practices have brought about
the death of their relative; this point being satisfactorily settled by
friendly sorcerers, they then attach the crime to some individual, and
the funeral obsequies are scarcely concluded, ere they start to revenge
their supposed wrongs."[18] Again, speaking of the Watch-an-die tribe of
Western Australia, another writer tells us that they "possess the
comfortable assurance that nearly all diseases, and consequently deaths,
are caused by the enchantments of hostile tribes, and that were it not
for the malevolence of their enemies they would (with a few exceptions)
live for ever. Consequently, on the first approach of sickness their
first endeavour is to ascertain whether the _boollia_ [magic] of their
own tribe is not sufficiently potent to counteract that of their foes.
Should the patient recover, they are, of course, proud of the
superiority of their enchantment over that of their enemies: but should
the _boollia_ [magical influence] within the sick man prove stronger
than their own, as there is no help for it, he must die, the utmost they
can do in this case is to revenge his death."[19] But the same writer
qualifies this general statement as follows: "It is not true," he says,
"that the New Hollanders impute _all_ natural deaths to the _boollia_
[magic] of inimical tribes, for in most cases of persons wasting visibly
away before death, they do not entertain the notion. It is chiefly in
cases of sudden death, or when the body of the deceased is fat and in
good condition, that this belief prevails, and it is only in such
contingencies that it becomes an imperative duty to have revenge."[20]
Similarly, speaking of the tribes of Victoria in the early days of
European settlement among them, the experienced observer Mr. James
Dawson says that "natural deaths are generally--but not
always--attributed to the malevolence and the spells of an enemy
belonging to another tribe."[21] Again, with regard to the Encounter Bay
tribe of South Australia we read that "there are but few diseases which
they regard as the consequences of natural causes; in general they
consider them the effects of enchantment, and produced by
sorcerers."[22] Similarly of the Port Lincoln tribes in South Australia
it is recorded that "in all cases of death that do not arise from old
age, wounds, or other equally palpable causes, the natives suspect that
unfair means have been practised; and even where the cause of death is
sufficiently plain, they sometimes will not content themselves with it,
but have recourse to an imaginary one, as the following case will
prove:--A woman had been bitten by a black snake, across the thumb, in
clearing out a well; she began to swell directly, and was a corpse in
twenty-four hours; yet, another woman who had been present when the
accident occurred, stated that the deceased had named a certain native
as having caused her death. Upon this statement, which was in their
opinion corroborated by the circumstance that the snake had drawn no
blood from the deceased, her husband and other friends had a fight with
the accused party and his friends; a reconciliation, however, took place
afterwards, and it was admitted on the part of the aggressors that they
had been in error with regard to the guilty individual; but nowise more
satisfied as to the bite of the snake being the true cause of the
woman's death, another party was now suddenly discovered to be the real
offender, and accordingly war was made upon him and his partisans, till
at last the matter was dropped and forgotten. From this case, as well as
from frequent occurrences of a similar nature, it appears evident that
thirst for revenge has quite as great a share in these foul accusations
as superstition."[23]

[Sidenote: Other testimonies as to the belief of the natives of South
Australia and Victoria.]

However, other experienced observers of the Australian aborigines admit
no such limitations and exceptions to the native theory that death is an
effect of sorcery. Thus in regard to the Narrinyeri tribe of South
Australia the Rev. George Taplin, who knew them intimately for years,
says that "no native regards death as natural, but always as the result
of sorcery."[24] Again, to quote Mr. R. Brough Smyth, who has collected
much information on the tribes of Victoria: "Mr. Daniel Bunce, an
intelligent observer, and a gentleman well acquainted with the habits of
the blacks, says that no tribe that he has ever met with believes in the
possibility of a man dying a natural death. If a man is taken ill, it is
at once assumed that some member of a hostile tribe has stolen some of
his hair. This is quite enough to cause serious illness. If the man
continues sick and gets worse, it is assumed that the hair has been
burnt by his enemy. Such an act, they say, is sufficient to imperil his
life. If the man dies, it is assumed that the thief has choked his
victim and taken away his kidney-fat. When the grave is being dug, one
or more of the older men--generally doctors or conjurors
(_Buk-na-look_)--stand by and attentively watch the laborers; and if an
insect is thrown out of the ground, these old men observe the direction
which it takes, and having determined the line, two of the young men,
relations of the deceased, are despatched in the path indicated, with
instructions to kill the first native they meet, who they are assured
and believe is the person directly chargeable with the crime of causing
the death of their relative. Mr. John Green says that the men of the
Yarra tribe firmly believe that no one ever dies a natural death. A man
or a woman dies because of the wicked arts practised by some member of a
hostile tribe; and they discover the direction in which to search for
the slayer by the movements of a lizard which is seen immediately after
the corpse is interred."[25] Again, speaking of the aborigines of
Victoria, another writer observes: "All deaths from natural causes are
attributed to the machinations of enemies, who are supposed to have
sought for and burned the excrement of the intended victim, which,
according to the general belief, causes a gradual wasting away. The
relatives, therefore, watch the struggling feet of the dying person, as
they point in the direction whence the injury is thought to come, and
serve as a guide to the spot where it should be avenged. This is the
duty of the nearest male relative; should he fail in its execution, it
will ever be to him a reproach, although other relatives may have
avenged the death. If the deceased were a chief, then the duty devolves
upon the tribe. Chosen men are sent in the direction indicated, who kill
the first persons they meet, whether men, women, or children; and the
more lives that are sacrificed, the greater is the honour to the
dead."[26] Again, in his account of the Kurnai tribe of Victoria the
late Dr. A. W. Howitt remarks: "It is not difficult to see how, among
savages, who have no knowledge of the real causes of diseases which are
the common lot of humanity, the very suspicion even of such a thing as
death from disease should be unknown. Death by accident they can
imagine; death by violence they can imagine; but I question if they can,
in their savage condition, imagine death by mere disease. Rheumatism is
believed to be produced by the machinations of some enemy. Seeing a
Tatungolung very lame, I asked him what was the matter? He said, 'Some
fellow has put _bottle_ in my foot.' I asked him to let me see it. I
found he was probably suffering from acute rheumatism. He explained that
some enemy must have found his foot track, and have buried in it a piece
of broken bottle. The magic influence, he believed, caused it to enter
his foot.... Phthisis, pneumonia, bowel complaints, and insanity are
supposed to be produced by an evil spirit--Brewin--'who is like the
wind,' and who, entering his victims, can only be expelled by suitable
incantations.... Thus the belief arises that death occurs only from
accident, open violence, or secret magic; and, naturally, that the
latter can only be met by counter-charms."[27]

[Sidenote: Belief of the aborigines of New South Wales in sorcery as the
cause of sickness and death.]

The beliefs and practices of the aborigines of New South Wales in
respect of death were similar. Thus we are told by a well-informed
writer that "the natives do not believe in death from natural causes;
therefore all sickness is attributed to the agency of sorcery, and
counter charms are used to destroy its effect.... As a man's death is
never supposed to have occurred naturally, except as the result of
accident, or from a wound in battle, the first thing to be done when a
death occurs is to endeavour to find out the person whose spells have
brought about the calamity. In the Wathi-Wathi tribe the corpse is asked
by each relative in succession to signify by some sign the person who
has caused his death. Not receiving an answer, they watch in which
direction a bird flies, after having passed over the deceased. This is
considered an indication that the sorcerer is to be found in that
direction. Sometimes the nearest relative sleeps with his head on the
corpse, which causes him, they think, to dream of the murderer. There
is, however, a good deal of uncertainty about the proceedings, which
seldom result in more than a great display of wrath, and of vowing of
vengeance against some member of a neighbouring tribe. Unfortunately
this is not always the case, the man who is supposed to have exercised
the death-spell being sometimes waylaid and murdered in a most cruel
manner."[28] With regard to the great Kamilaroi tribe of New South Wales
we read that "in some parts of the country a belief prevails that death,
through disease, is, in many, if not in all cases, the result of an
enemy's malice. It is a common saying, when illness or death comes, that
some one has thrown his belt (_boor_) at the victim. There are various
modes of fixing upon the murderer. One is to let an insect fly from the
body of the deceased and see towards whom it goes. The person thus
singled out is doomed."[29]

[Sidenote: Belief of the aborigines of Central Australia in sorcery as
the cause of death.]

Speaking of the tribes of Central Australia, Messrs. Spencer and Gillen
observe that "in the matter of morality their code differs radically
from ours, but it cannot be denied that their conduct is governed by it,
and that any known breaches are dealt with both surely and severely. In
very many cases there takes place what the white man, not seeing beneath
the surface, not unnaturally describes as secret murder, but, in
reality, revolting though such slaughter may be to our minds at the
present day, it is simply exactly on a par with the treatment accorded
to witches not so very long ago in European countries. Every case of
such secret murder, when one or more men stealthily stalk their prey
with the object of killing him, is in reality the exacting of a life for
a life, the accused person being indicated by the so-called medicine-man
as one who has brought about the death of another man by magic, and
whose life must therefore be forfeited. It need hardly be pointed out
what a potent element this custom has been in keeping down the numbers
of the tribe; no such thing as natural death is realised by the native;
a man who dies has of necessity been killed by some other man, or
perhaps even by a woman, and sooner or later that man or woman will be
attacked. In the normal condition of the tribe every death meant the
killing of another individual."[30]

[Sidenote: Belief of the natives of the Torres Straits Islands and New
Guinea in sorcery as the cause of death.]

Passing from Australia to other savage lands we learn that according to
the belief of the Torres Straits Islanders all sickness and death were
due to sorcery.[31] The natives of Mowat or Mawatta in British New
Guinea "do not believe in a natural death, but attribute even the
decease of an old man to the agency of some enemy known or unknown."[32]
In the opinion of the tribes about Hood Peninsula in British New Guinea
no one dies a natural death. Every such death is caused by the evil
magic either of a living sorcerer or of a dead relation.[33] Of the
Roro-speaking tribes of British New Guinea Dr. Seligmann writes that
"except in the case of old folk, death is not admitted to occur without
some obvious cause such as a spear-thrust. Therefore when vigorous and
active members of the community die, it becomes necessary to explain
their fate, and such deaths are firmly believed to be produced by
sorcery. Indeed, as far as I have been able to ascertain, the Papuasian
of this district regards the existence of sorcery, not, as has been
alleged, as a particularly terrifying and horrible affair, but as a
necessary and inevitable condition of existence in the world as he knows
it."[34] Amongst the Yabim of German New Guinea "every case of death,
even though it should happen accidentally, as by the fall of a tree or
the bite of a shark, is laid at the door of the sorcerers. They are
blamed even for the death of a child. If it is said that a little child
never hurt anybody and therefore cannot have an enemy, the reply is that
the intention was to injure the mother, and that the malady had been
transferred to the infant through its mother's milk."[35]

[Sidenote: Belief of the Melanesians in sorcery as the cause of sickness
and death.]

Again, in the island of Malo, one of the New Hebrides, a Catholic
missionary reports that according to a belief deeply implanted in the
native mind every disease is the effect of witchcraft, and that nobody
dies a natural death but only as a consequence of violence, poison, or
sorcery.[36] Similarly in New Georgia, one of the Solomon Islands, when
a person is sick, the natives think that he must be bewitched by a man
or woman, for in their opinion nobody can be sick or die unless he is
bewitched; what we call natural sickness and death are impossible. In
case of illness suspicion falls on some one who is supposed to have
buried a charmed object with intent to injure the sufferer.[37] Of the
Melanesians who inhabit the coast of the Gazelle Peninsula in New
Britain it is said that all deaths by sickness or disease are attributed
by them to the witchcraft of a sorcerer, and a diviner is called in to
ascertain the culprit who by his evil magic has destroyed their
friends.[38] "Amongst the Melanesians few, if any, are believed to die
from natural causes only; if they are not killed in war, they are
supposed to die from the effects of witchcraft or magic. Whenever any
one was sick, his friends made anxious inquiries as to the person who
had bewitched (_agara'd_) him. Some one would generally be found to
admit that he had buried some portion of food or something belonging to
the sick man, which had caused his illness. The friends would pay him to
dig it up, and after that the patient would generally get well. If,
however, he did not recover, it was assumed that some other person had
also _agara'd_ him."[39]

[Sidenote: The belief of the Malagasy in sorcery as a cause of death.]

Speaking of the Malagasy a Catholic missionary tells us that in
Madagascar nobody dies a natural death. With the possible exception of
centenarians everybody is supposed to die the victim of the sorcerer's
diabolic art. If a relation of yours dies, the people comfort you by
saying, "Cursed be the sorcerer who caused his death!" If your horse
falls down a precipice and breaks its back, the accident has been caused
by the malicious look of a sorcerer. If your dog dies of hydrophobia or
your horse of a carbuncle, the cause is still the same. If you catch a
fever in a district where malaria abounds, the malady is still ascribed
to the art of the sorcerer, who has insinuated some deadly substances
into your body.[40] Again, speaking of the Sakalava, a tribe in
Madagascar, an eminent French authority on the island observes: "They
have such a faith in the power of talismans that they even ascribe to
them the power of killing their enemies. When they speak of poisoning,
they do not allude, as many Europeans wrongly suppose, to death by
vegetable or mineral poisons; the reference is to charms or spells. They
often throw under the bed of an enemy an _ahouli_ [talisman], praying it
to kill him, and they are persuaded that sooner or later their wish will
be accomplished. I have often been present at bloody vendettas which had
no other origin but this. The Sakalava think that a great part of the
population dies of poison in this way. In their opinion, only old people
who have attained the extreme limits of human longevity die a natural
death."[41]

[Sidenote: Belief of African tribes in sorcery as the cause of sickness
and death.]

In Africa similar beliefs are widely spread and lead, as elsewhere, to
fatal consequences. Thus the Kagoro of Northern Nigeria refuse to
believe in death from natural causes; all illnesses and deaths, in their
opinion, are brought about by black magic, however old and decrepit the
deceased may have been. They explain sickness by saying that a man's
soul wanders from his body in sleep and may then be caught, detained,
and even beaten with a stick by some evil-wisher; whenever that happens,
the man naturally falls ill. Sometimes an enemy will abstract the
patient's liver by magic and carry it away to a cave in a sacred grove,
where he will devour it in company with other wicked sorcerers. A
witch-doctor is called in to detect the culprit, and whomever he
denounces is shut up in a room, where a fire is kindled and pepper
thrown into it; and there he is kept in the fumes of the burning pepper
till he confesses his guilt and returns the stolen liver, upon which of
course the sick man recovers. But should the patient die, the miscreant
who did him to death by kidnapping his soul or his liver will be sold as
a slave or choked.[42] In like manner the Bakerewe, who inhabit the
largest island in the Victoria Nyanza lake, believe that all deaths and
all ailments, however trivial, are the effect of witchcraft; and the
person, generally an old woman, whom the witch-doctor accuses of having
cast the spell on the patient is tied up, severely beaten, or stabbed to
death on the spot.[43] Again, we are told that "the peoples of the Congo
do not believe in a natural death, not even when it happens through
drowning or any other accident. Whoever dies is the victim of witchcraft
or of a spell. His soul has been eaten. He must be avenged by the
punishment of the person who has committed the crime." Accordingly when
a death has taken place, the medicine-man is sent for to discover the
criminal. He pretends to be possessed by a spirit and in this state he
names the wretch who has caused the death by sorcery. The accused has to
submit to the poison ordeal by drinking a decoction of the red bark of
the _Erythrophloeum guiniense_. If he vomits up the poison, he is
innocent; but if he fails to do so, the infuriated crowd rushes on him
and despatches him with knives and clubs. The family of the supposed
culprit has moreover to pay an indemnity to the family of the supposed
victim.[44] "Death, in the opinion of the natives, is never due to a
natural cause. It is always the result either of a crime or of sorcery,
and is followed by the poison ordeal, which has to be undergone by an
innocent person whom the fetish-man accuses from selfish motives."[45]

[Sidenote: Effect of such beliefs in thinning the population by causing
multitudes to die for the imaginary crime of sorcery.]

Evidence of the same sort could be multiplied for West Africa, where the
fear of sorcery is rampant.[46] But without going into further details,
I wish to point out the disastrous effects which here, as elsewhere,
this theory of death has produced upon the population. For when a death
from natural causes takes place, the author of the death being of course
unknown, suspicion often falls on a number of people, all of whom are
obliged to submit to the poison ordeal in order to prove their
innocence, with the result that some or possibly all of them perish. A
very experienced American missionary in West Africa, the Rev. R. H.
Nassau, the friend of the late Miss Mary H. Kingsley, tells us that for
every person who dies a natural death at least one, and often ten or
more have been executed on an accusation of witchcraft.[47] Andrew
Battel, a native of Essex, who lived in Angola for many years at the end
of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century, informs us
that "in this country none on any account dieth, but they kill another
for him: for they believe they die not their own natural death, but that
some other has bewitched them to death. And all those are brought in by
the friends of the dead whom they suspect; so that there many times come
five hundred men and women to take the drink, made of the foresaid root
_imbando_. They are brought all to the high-street or market-place, and
there the master of the _imbando_ sits with his water, and gives every
one a cup of water by one measure; and they are commanded to walk in a
certain place till they make water, and then they are free. But he that
cannot urine presently falls down, and all the people, great and small,
fall upon him with their knives, and beat and cut him into pieces. But I
think the witch that gives the water is partial, and gives to him whose
death is desired the strongest water, but no man of the bye-standers can
perceive it. This is done in the town of Longo, almost every week
throughout the year."[48] A French official tells us that among the
Neyaux of the Ivory Coast similar beliefs and practices were visibly
depopulating the country, every single natural death causing the death
of four or five persons by the poison ordeal, which consisted in
drinking the decoction of a red bark called by the natives _boduru_. At
the death of a chief fifteen men and women perished in this way. The
French Government had great difficulty in suppressing the ordeal; for
the deluded natives firmly believed in the justice of the test and
therefore submitted to it willingly in the full consciousness of their
innocence.[49] In the neighbourhood of Calabar the poison ordeal, which
here consists in drinking a decoction of a certain bean, the
_Physostigma venenosum_ of botanists, has had similar disastrous
results, as we learn from the testimony of a missionary, the Rev. Hugh
Goldie. He tells us that the people have firm faith in the ordeal and
therefore not only accept it readily but appeal to it, convinced that it
will demonstrate their innocence. A small tribe named Uwet in the
hill-country of Calabar almost swept itself off the face of the earth by
its constant use of the ordeal. On one occasion the whole population
drank the poison to prove themselves pure, as they said; about half
perished, "and the remnant," says Mr. Goldie, "still continuing their
superstitious practice, must soon become extinct"[50] These words were
written a good many years ago, and it is probable that by this time
these poor fanatics have actually succeeded in exterminating themselves.
So fatal may be the practical consequences of a purely speculative
error; for it is to be remembered that these disasters flow directly
from a mistaken theory of death.

[Sidenote: General conclusion as to the belief in sorcery as the great
cause of death.]

Much more evidence of the same kind could be adduced, but without
pursuing the theme further I think we may lay it down as a general rule
that at a certain stage of social and intellectual evolution men have
believed themselves to be naturally immortal in this life and have
regarded death by disease or even by accident or violence as an
unnatural event which has been brought about by sorcery and which must
be avenged by the death of the sorcerer. If that has been so, we seem
bound to conclude that a belief in magic or sorcery has had a most
potent influence in keeping down the numbers of savage tribes; since as
a rule every natural death has entailed at least one, often several,
sometimes many deaths by violence. This may help us to understand what
an immense power for evil the world-wide faith in magic or sorcery has
been among men.

[Sidenote: But some savages have attributed death to other causes than
sorcery.]

But even savages come in time to perceive that deaths are sometimes
brought about by other causes than sorcery. We have seen that some of
them admit extreme old age, accidents, and violence as causes of death
which are independent of sorcery. The admission of these exceptions to
the general rule certainly marks a stage of intellectual progress. I
will give a few more instances of such admissions before concluding this
part of my subject.

[Sidenote: Some savages dissect the corpse to ascertain whether death
was due to natural causes or to sorcery.]

In the first place, certain savage tribes are reported to dissect the
bodies of their dead in order to ascertain from an examination of the
corpse whether the deceased died a natural death or perished by magic.
This is reported by Mr. E. R. Smith concerning the Araucanians of Chili,
who according to other writers, as we saw,[51] believe all deaths to be
due to sorcery. Mr. Smith tells us that after death the services of the
_machi_ or medicine-man "are again required, especially if the deceased
be a person of distinction. The body is dissected and examined. If the
liver be found in a healthy state, the death is attributed to natural
causes; but if the liver prove to be inflamed, it is supposed to
indicate the machinations of some evil-intentioned persons, and it rests
with the medicine-man to discover the conspirator. This is accomplished
by much the same means that were used to find out the nature of the
disease. The gall is extracted, put in the magic drum, and after various
incantations taken out and placed over the fire, in a pot carefully
covered; if, after subjecting the gall to a certain amount of roasting,
a stone is found in the bottom of the pot, it is declared to be the
means by which death was produced. These stones, as well as the frogs,
spiders, arrows, or whatever else may be extracted from the sick man,
are called _Huecuvu_--the 'Evil One.' By aid of the _Huecuvu_ the
_machi_ [medicine-man] throws himself into a trance, in which state he
discovers and announces the person guilty of the death, and describes
the manner in which it was produced."[52]

Again, speaking of the Pahouins, a tribe of the Gaboon region in French
Congo, a Catholic missionary writes thus: "It is so rare among the
Pahouins that a death is considered natural! Scarcely has the deceased
given up the ghost when the sorcerer appears on the scene. With three
cuts of the knife, one transverse and two lateral, he dissects the
breast of the corpse and turns down the skin on the face. Then he
grabbles in the breast, examines the bowels attentively, marks the last
muscular contractions, and thereupon pronounces whether the death was
natural or not." If he decides that the death was due to sorcery, the
suspected culprit has to submit to the poison ordeal in the usual manner
to determine his guilt or innocence.[53]

[Sidenote: The possibility of natural death admitted by the
Melanesians.]

Another savage people who have come to admit the possibility of merely
natural death are the Melanesians of the New Hebrides and other parts of
Central Melanesia. Amongst them "any sickness that is serious is
believed to be brought about by ghosts or spirits; common complaints
such as fever and ague are taken as coming in the course of nature. To
say that savages are never ill without supposing a supernatural cause is
not true of Melanesians; they make up their minds as the sickness comes
whether it is natural or not, and the more important the individual who
is sick, the more likely his sickness is to be ascribed to the anger of
a ghost whom he has offended, or to witchcraft. No great man would like
to be told that he was ill by natural weakness or decay. The sickness is
almost always believed to be caused by a ghost, not by a spirit....
Generally it is to the ghosts of the dead that sickness is ascribed in
the eastern islands as well as in the western; recourse is had to them
for aid in causing and removing sickness; and ghosts are believed to
inflict sickness not only because some offence, such as a trespass, has
been committed against them, or because one familiar with them has
sought their aid with sacrifice and spells, but because there is a
certain malignity in the feeling of all ghosts towards the living, who
offend them by being alive."[54] From this account we learn, first, that
the Melanesians admit some deaths by common diseases, such as fever and
ague, to be natural; and, second, that they recognise ghosts and spirits
as well as sorcerers and witches, among the causes of death; indeed they
hold that ghosts are the commonest of all causes of sickness and death.

[Sidenote: The possibility of natural death admitted by the Caffres of
South Africa.]

The same causes of death are recognised also by the Caffres of South
Africa, as we learn from Mr. Dudley Kidd, who tells us that according to
the beliefs of the natives, "to start with, there is sickness which is
supposed to be caused by the action of ancestral spirits or by fabulous
monsters. Secondly, there is sickness which is caused by the magical
practices of some evil person who is using witchcraft in secret.
Thirdly, there is sickness which comes from neither of these causes, and
remains unexplained. It is said to be 'only sickness, and nothing more.'
This third form of sickness is, I think, the commonest. Yet most writers
wholly ignore it, or deny its existence. It may happen that an attack of
indigestion is one day attributed to the action of witch or wizard;
another day the trouble is put down to the account of ancestral spirits;
on a third occasion the people may be at a loss to account for it, and
so may dismiss the problem by saying that it is merely sickness. It is
quite common to hear natives say that they are at a loss to account for
some special case of illness. At first they thought it was caused by an
angry ancestral spirit; but a great doctor has assured them that it is
not the result of such a spirit. They then suppose it to be due to the
magical practices of some enemy; but the doctor negatives that theory.
The people are, therefore, driven to the conclusion that the trouble has
no ascertainable cause. In some cases they do not even trouble to
consult a diviner; they speedily recognise the sickness as due to
natural causes. In such a case it needs no explanation. If they think
that some friend of theirs knows of a remedy, they will try it on their
own initiative, or may even go off to a white man to ask for some of his
medicine. They would never dream of doing this if they thought they were
being influenced by magic or by ancestral spirits. The Kafirs quite
recognise that there are types of disease which are inherited, and have
not been caused by magic or by ancestral spirits. They admit that some
accidents are due to nothing but the patient's carelessness or
stupidity. If a native gets his leg run over by a waggon, the people
will often say that it is all his own fault through being clumsy. In
other cases, with delightful inconsistency, they may say that some one
has been working magic to cause the accident. In short, it is impossible
to make out a theory of sickness which will satisfy our European
conception of consistency."[55]

[Sidenote: The admission that death may be due to natural causes, marks
an intellectual advance. The recognition of ghosts or spirits as a cause
of disease, apart from sorcery, also marks a step in intellectual,
moral, and social progress.]

From the foregoing accounts we see that the Melanesians and the Caffres,
two widely different and widely separated races, agree in recognising at
least three distinct causes of what we should call natural death. These
three causes are, first, sorcery or witchcraft; second, ghosts or
spirits; and third, disease.[56] That the recognition of disease in
itself as a cause of death, quite apart from sorcery, marks an
intellectual advance, will not be disputed. It is not so clear, though I
believe it is equally true, that the recognition of ghosts or spirits as
a cause of disease, quite apart from witchcraft, marks a real step in
intellectual, moral, and social progress. In the first place, it marks a
step in intellectual and moral progress; for it recognises that effects
which before had been ascribed to human agency spring from superhuman
causes; and this recognition of powers in the universe superior to man
is not only an intellectual gain but a moral discipline: it teaches the
important lesson of humility. In the second place it marks a step in
social progress because when the blame of a death is laid upon a ghost
or a spirit instead of on a sorcerer, the death has not to be avenged by
killing a human being, the supposed author of the calamity. Thus the
recognition of ghosts or spirits as the sources of sickness and death
has as its immediate effect the sparing of an immense number of lives of
men and women, who on the theory of death by sorcery would have perished
by violence to expiate their imaginary crime. That this is a great gain
to society is obvious: it adds immensely to the security of human life
by removing one of the most fruitful causes of its destruction.

It must be admitted, however, that the gain is not always as great as
might be expected; the social advantages of a belief in ghosts and
spirits are attended by many serious drawbacks. For while ghosts or
spirits are commonly, though not always, supposed to be beyond the reach
of human vengeance, they are generally thought to be well within the
reach of human persuasion, flattery, and bribery; in other words, men
think that they can appease and propitiate them by prayer and sacrifice;
and while prayer is always cheap, sacrifice may be very dear, since it
can, and often does, involve the destruction of an immense deal of
valuable property and of a vast number of human lives. Yet if we could
reckon up the myriads who have been slain in sacrifice to ghosts and
gods, it seems probable that they would fall far short of the untold
multitudes who have perished as sorcerers and witches. For while human
sacrifices in honour of deities or of the dead have been for the most
part exceptional rather than regular, only the great gods and the
illustrious dead being deemed worthy of such costly offerings, the
slaughter of witches and wizards, theoretically at least, followed
inevitably on every natural death among people who attributed all such
deaths to sorcery. Hence if natural religion be defined roughly as a
belief in superhuman spiritual beings and an attempt to propitiate them,
we may perhaps say that, while natural religion has slain its thousands,
magic has slain its ten thousands. But there are strong reasons for
inferring that in the history of society an Age of Magic preceded an Age
of Religion. If that was so, we may conclude that the advent of religion
marked a great social as well as intellectual advance upon the preceding
Age of Magic: it inaugurated an era of what might be described as mercy
by comparison with the relentless severity of its predecessor.

[Footnote 6: W. Martin, _An Account of the Natives of the Tonga
Islands_, Second Edition (London, 1818), ii. 99.]

[Footnote 7: M. Dobrizhoffer, _Historia de Abiponibus_ (Vienna, 1784),
ii. 92 _sq._, 240 _sqq._ The author of this valuable work lived as a
Catholic missionary in the tribe for eighteen years.]

[Footnote 8: C. Gay, "Fragment d'un Voyage dans le Chili et au Cusco,"
_Bulletin de la Société de Géographie_ (Paris), Deuxième Série, xix.
(1843) p. 25; H. Delaporte, "Une visite chez les Araucaniens," _Bulletin
de la Société de Géographie_ (Paris), Quatrième Série, x. (1855) p. 30.]

[Footnote 9: K. von den Steinen, _Unter den Naturvölkern
Zentral-Brasiliens_ (Berlin, 1894), pp. 344, 348.]

[Footnote 10: Rev. W. H. Brett, _The Indian Tribes of Guiana_ (London,
1868), p. 357.]

[Footnote 11: W. H. Brett, _op. cit._ pp. 361 _sq._]

[Footnote 12: Rev. W. H. Brett, _op. cit._ pp. 364 _sq._]

[Footnote 13: Rev. J. H. Bernau, _Missionary Labours in British Guiana_
(London, 1847), pp. 56 _sq._, 58.]

[Footnote 14: (Sir) E. F. im Thurn, _Among the Indians of Guiana_
(London, 1883), pp. 330 _sq._ For the case described see R. Schomburgk,
_Reisen in Britisch-Guiana_, i. (Leipsic, 1847) pp. 324 _sq._ The boy
died of dropsy. Perhaps the mode of divination adopted, by boiling some
portions of him in water, had special reference to the nature of the
disease.]

[Footnote 15: (Sir) E. F. im Thurn, _op. cit._ pp. 332 _sq._]

[Footnote 16: Father A. G. Morice, "The Canadian Dénés," _Annual
Archaeological Report, 1905_ (Toronto, 1906), p. 207.]

[Footnote 17: Albert A. C. Le Souëf, "Notes on the Natives of
Australia," in R. Brough Smyth's _Aborigines of Victoria_ (Melbourne and
London, 1878), ii. 289 _sq._]

[Footnote 18: (Sir) George Grey, _Journals of two Expeditions of
Discovery in Northwest and Western Australia_ (London, 1841), ii. 238.]

[Footnote 19: A. Oldfield, "The Aborigines of Australia," _Transactions
of the Ethnological Society of London_, N.S. iii. (1865) p. 236.]

[Footnote 20: A. Oldfield, _op. cit._ p. 245.]

[Footnote 21: J. Dawson, _Australian Aborigines_ (Melbourne, Sydney and
Adelaide, 1881), p. 63.]

[Footnote 22: H. E. A. Meyer, "Manners and Customs of the Aborigines of
the Encounter Bay Tribe," _Native Tribes of South Australia_ (Adelaide,
1879), p. 195.]

[Footnote 23: C. W. Schürmann, "The Aboriginal Tribes of Port Lincoln in
South Australia," _Native Tribes of South Australia_, pp. 237 _sq._]

[Footnote 24: Rev. G. Taplin, "The Narrinyeri," _Native Tribes of South
Australia_ (Adelaide, 1879), p. 25.]

[Footnote 25: R. Brough Smyth, _The Aborigines of Victoria_ (Melbourne
and London, 1878) i. 110.]

[Footnote 26: W. E. Stanbridge, "Some Particulars of the General
Characteristics, Astronomy, and Mythology of the Tribes in the Central
Part of Victoria, Southern Australia," _Transactions of the Ethnological
Society of London_, New Series, i. (1861) p. 299.]

[Footnote 27: Lorimer Fison and A. W. Howitt, _Kamilaroi and Kurnai_
(Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane, 1880), pp. 250 _sq._]

[Footnote 28: A. L. P. Cameron, "Notes on some Tribes of New South
Wales," _Journal of the Anthropological Institute_ xiv. (1885) pp. 361,
362 _sq._]

[Footnote 29: Rev. W. Ridley, _Kamilaroi_, Second Edition (Sydney,
1875), p. 159.]

[Footnote 30: Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen, _Native Tribes of
Central Australia_ (London, 1899), pp. 46-48.]

[Footnote 31: _Reports of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to
Torres Straits_, v. (Cambridge, 1904) pp. 248, 323.]

[Footnote 32: E. Beardmore, "The Natives of Mowat, British New Guinea,"
_Journal of the Anthropological Institute_, xix. (1890) p. 461.]

[Footnote 33: R. E. Guise, "On the Tribes inhabiting the Mouth of the
Wanigela River, New Guinea," _Journal of the Anthropological Institute_,
xxviii. (1899) p. 216.]

[Footnote 34: C. G. Seligmann, _The Melanesians of British New Guinea_
(Cambridge, 1910), p. 279.]

[Footnote 35: K. Vetter, _Komm herüber und hilf uns! oder die Arbeit der
Neuen-Dettelsauer Mission_, iii. (Barmen, 1898) pp. 10 _sq._; _id._, in
_Nachrichten über Kaiser-Wilhelms-Land und den Bismarck-Archipel, 1897_,
pp. 94, 98. Compare B. Hagen, _Unter den Papuas_ (Wiesbaden, 1899), p.
256; _Verhandlungen der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie,
Ethnologie, und Urgeschichte, 1900_, p. (415).]

[Footnote 36: Father A. Deniau, "Croyances religieuses et moeurs des
indigènes de l'Ile Malo," _Missions Catholiques_, xxxiii. (1901) pp. 315
_sq._]

[Footnote 37: C. Ribbe, _Zwei Jahre unter den Kannibalen der
Salomo-Inseln_ (Dresden-Blasewitz, 1903), p. 268.]

[Footnote 38: P. A. Kleintitschen, _Die Küstenbewohner der
Gazellehalbinsel_ (Hiltrup bei Münster, N.D.), p. 344. As to beliefs of
this sort among the Sulka of New Britain, see _P._ Rascher, "Die Sulka,"
_Archiv für Anthropologie_, xxix. (1904) pp. 221 _sq._; R. Parkinson,
_Dreissig Jahre in der Südsee_ (Stuttgart, 1907), pp. 199-201.]

[Footnote 39: G. Brown, D.D., _Melanesians and Polynesians_ (London,
1910), p. 176. Dr. Brown's account, of the Melanesians applies to the
natives of New Britain and more particularly of the neighbouring Duke of
York islands.]

[Footnote 40: Father Abinal, "Astrologie Malgache," _Missions
Catholiques_, xi. (1879) p. 506.]

[Footnote 41: A. Grandidier, "Madagascar," _Bulletin de la Société de
Géographie_ (Paris), Sixième Série, iii. (1872) pp. 399 _sq._ The
talismans (_ahouli_) in question consist of the horns of oxen stuffed
with a variety of odds and ends, such as sand, sticks, nails, and so
forth.]

[Footnote 42: Major A. J. N. Tremearne, _The Tailed Head-hunters of
Nigeria_ (London, 1912), pp. 171 _sq._; _id._, "Notes on the Kagoro and
other Headhunters," _Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute_,
xlii. (1912) pp. 160, 161.]

[Footnote 43: E. Hurel, "Religion et vie domestique des Bakerewe,"
_Anthropos_, vi. (1912) pp. 85-87.]

[Footnote 44: Father Campana, "Congo Mission Catholique de Landana,"
_Missions Catholiques_, xxvii. (1895) pp. 102 _sq_.]

[Footnote 45: Th. Masui, _Guide de la Section de l'État Indépendant du
Congo à l'Exposition de Bruxelles--Tervueren en 1874_ (Brussels, 1897),
p. 82.]

[Footnote 46: See for example O. Lenz, _Skizzen aus Westafrika_ (Berlin,
1878), pp. 184 _sq._; C. Cuny, "De Libreville au Cameroun," _Bulletin de
la Société de Géographie_ (Paris), Septième Série, xvii. (1896) p. 341;
Ch. Wunenberger, "La mission et le royaume de Humbé, sur les bords du
Cunène," _Missions Catholiques_, xx. (1888) p. 262; Lieut. Herold,
"Bericht betreffend religiöse Anschauungen und Gebräuche der deutschen
Ewe-Neger," _Mittheilungen aus den deutschen Schutzgebieten_, v. (1892)
p. 153; Dr. R. Plehn, "Beiträge zur Völkerkunde des Togo-Gebietes,"
_Mittheilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprachen zu Berlin_, ii.
Dritte Abtheilung (1899), p. 97; R. Fisch, "Die Dagbamba,"
_Baessler-Archiv_, iii. (1912) p. 148. For evidence of similar beliefs
and practices in other parts of Africa, see Brard, "Der
Victoria-Nyanza," _Petermann's Mittheilungen_, xliii. (1897) pp. 79
_sq._; Father Picarda, "Autour du Mandéra," _Missions Catholiques_,
xviii. (1886) p. 342.]

[Footnote 47: Rev. R. H. Nassau, _Fetichism in West Africa_ (London,
1904), pp. 241 _sq._]

[Footnote 48: "Strange Adventures of Andrew Battel," in John Pinkerton's
_Voyages and Travels_, xvi. (London, 1814) p. 334.]

[Footnote 49: _Gouvernement Général de l'Afrique Occidentale Française,
Notices publiées par le Gouvernement Central à l'occasion de
l'Exposition Coloniale de Marseille, La Côte d'Ivoire_ (Corbeil, 1906),
pp. 570-572.]

[Footnote 50: Hugh Goldie, _Calabar and its Mission_, New Edition
(Edinburgh and London, 1901), pp. 34 _sq._, 37 _sq._]

[Footnote 51: Above, p. 35.]

[Footnote 52: E. R. Smith, _The Araucanians_ (London, 1855), pp. 236
_sq._]

[Footnote 53: Father Trilles, "Milles lieues dans l'inconnu; à travers
le pays Fang, de la côte aux rives du Djah," _Missions Catholiques_,
xxxv. (1903) pp. 466 _sq._, and as to the poison ordeal, _ib._ pp. 472
_sq._]

[Footnote 54: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_ (Oxford, 1891), p.
194.]

[Footnote 55: Dudley Kidd, _The Essential Kafir_ (London, 1904), pp. 133
_sq._]

[Footnote 56: In like manner the Baganda generally ascribed natural
deaths either to sorcery or to the action of a ghost; but when they
could not account for a person's death in either of these ways they said
that Walumbe, the God of Death, had taken him. This last explanation
approaches to an admission of natural death, though it is still mythical
in form. The Baganda usually attributed any illness of the king to
ghosts, because no man would dare to practise magic on him. A
much-dreaded ghost was that of a man's sister; she was thought to vent
her spite on his sons and daughters by visiting them with sickness. When
she proved implacable, a medicine-man was employed to catch her ghost in
a gourd or a pot and throw it away on waste land or drown it in a river.
See Rev. J. Roscoe, _The Baganda_ (London, 1911), pp. 98, 100, 101
_sq._, 286 _sq._, 315 _sq._]



LECTURE III

MYTHS OF THE ORIGIN OF DEATH


[Sidenote: Belief of savages in man's natural immortality.]

In my last lecture I shewed that many savages do not believe in what we
call a natural death; they imagine that all men are naturally immortal
and would never die, if their lives were not cut prematurely short by
sorcery. Further, I pointed out that this mistaken view of the nature of
death has exercised a disastrous influence on the tribes who entertain
it, since, attributing all natural deaths to sorcery, they consider
themselves bound to discover and kill the wicked sorcerers whom they
regard as responsible for the death of their friends. Thus in primitive
society as a rule every natural death entails at least one and often
several deaths by violence; since the supposed culprit being unknown
suspicion may fall upon many persons, all of whom may be killed either
out of hand or as a consequence of failing to demonstrate their
innocence by means of an ordeal.

[Sidenote: Savage stories of the origin of death.]

Yet even the savages who firmly believe in man's natural immortality are
obliged sorrowfully to admit that, as things are at the present day, men
do frequently die, whatever explanation we may give of so unexpected and
unnatural an occurrence. Accordingly they are hard put to it to
reconcile their theory of immortality with the practice of mortality.
They have meditated on the subject and have given us the fruit of their
meditation in a series of myths which profess to explain the origin of
death. For the most part these myths are very crude and childish; yet
they have a value of their own as examples of man's early attempts to
fathom one of the great mysteries which encompass his frail and
transient existence on earth; and accordingly I have here collected, in
all their naked simplicity, a few of these savage guesses at truth.

[Sidenote: Four types of such stories.]

Myths of the origin of death conform to several types, among which we
may distinguish, first, what I will call the type of the Two Messengers;
second, the type of the Waxing and Waning Moon; third, the type of the
Serpent and his Cast Skin; and fourth, the type of the Banana-tree. I
will illustrate each type by examples, and will afterwards cite some
miscellaneous instances which do not fall under any of these heads.

[Sidenote: I. The tale of the Two Messengers. Zulu story of the
chameleon and the lizard. The same story among other Bantu tribes.]

First, then, we begin with the type of the Two Messengers. Stories of
this pattern are widespread in Africa, especially among tribes belonging
to the great Bantu family, which occupies roughly the southern half of
the continent. The best-known example of the tale is the one told by the
Zulus. They say that in the beginning Unkulunkulu, that is, the Old Old
One, sent the chameleon to men with a message saying, "Go, chameleon, go
and say, Let not men die." The chameleon set out, but it crawled very
slowly, and it loitered by the way to eat the purple berries of the
_ubukwebezane_ tree, or according to others it climbed up a tree to bask
in the sun, filled its belly with flies, and fell fast asleep. Meantime
the Old Old One had thought better of it and sent a lizard posting after
the chameleon with a very different message to men, for he said to the
animal, "Lizard, when you have arrived, say, Let men die." So the lizard
went on his way, passed the dawdling chameleon, and arriving first among
men delivered his message of death, saying, "Let men die." Then he
turned on his heel and went back to the Old Old One who had sent him.
But after he was gone, the chameleon at last arrived among men with his
glad tidings of immortality, and he shouted, saying, "It is said, Let
not men die!" But men answered, "O! we have heard the word of the
lizard; it has told us the word, 'It is said, Let men die.' We cannot
hear your word. Through the word of the lizard, men will die." And died
they have ever since from that day to this. That is why some of the
Zulus hate the lizard, saying, "Why did he run first and say, 'Let
people die?'" So they beat and kill the lizard and say, "Why did it
speak?" But others hate the chameleon and hustle it, saying, "That is
the little thing which delayed to tell the people that they should not
die. If he had only brought his message in time we should not have died;
our ancestors also would have been still living; there would have been
no diseases here on the earth. It all comes from the delay of the
chameleon."[57] The same story is told in nearly the same form by other
Bantu tribes, such as the Bechuanas,[58] the Basutos,[59] the
Baronga,[60] and the Ngoni.[61] To this day the Baronga and the Ngoni
owe the chameleon a grudge for having brought death into the world, so
when children find a chameleon they will induce it to open its mouth,
then throw a pinch of tobacco on its tongue, and watch with delight the
creature writhing and changing colour from orange to green, from green
to black in the agony of death; for thus they avenge the wrong which the
chameleon has done to mankind.[62]

[Sidenote: Akamba story of the chameleon and the thrush.]

A story of the same type, but with some variations, is told by the
Akamba, a Bantu tribe of British East Africa; but in their version the
lizard has disappeared from the legend and has been replaced by the
_itoroko_, a small bird of the thrush tribe, with a black head, a
bluish-black back, and a buff-coloured breast. The tale runs thus:--Once
upon a time God sent out the chameleon, the frog, and the thrush to find
people who died one day and came to life again the next. So off they
set, the chameleon leading the way, for in those days he was a very
important personage. Presently they came to some people lying like dead,
so the chameleon went up to them and said, _Niwe, niwe, niwe_. The
thrush asked him testily what he was making that noise for, to which the
chameleon replied mildly, "I am only calling the people who go forward
and then came back again," and he explained that the dead people would
come to life again. But the thrush, who was of a sceptical turn of mind,
derided the idea. Nevertheless, the chameleon persisted in calling to
the dead people, and sure enough they opened their eyes and listened to
him. But here the thrush broke in and told them roughly that dead they
were and dead they must remain. With that away he flew, and though the
chameleon preached to the corpses, telling them that he had come from
God on purpose to bring them to life again, and that they were not to
believe the lies of that shallow sceptic the thrush, they obstinately
refused to pay any heed to him; not one of those dead corpses would
budge. So the chameleon returned crestfallen to God and reported to him
how, when he preached the gospel of resurrection to the corpses, the
thrush had roared him down, so that the corpses could not hear a word he
said. God thereupon cross-questioned the thrush, who stated that the
chameleon had so bungled his message that he, the thrush, felt it his
imperative duty to interrupt him. The simple deity believed the thrush,
and being very angry with the chameleon he degraded him from his high
position and made him walk very slow, lurching this way and that, as he
does down to this very day. But the thrush he promoted to the office of
wakening men from their slumber every morning, which he still does
punctually at 2 A.M. before the note of any other bird is heard in the
tropical forest.[63]

[Sidenote: Togo story of the dog and the frog.]

In this version, though the frog is sent out by God with the other two
messengers he plays no part in the story; he is a mere dummy. But in
another version of the story, which is told by the negroes of Togoland
in German West Africa, the frog takes the place of the lizard and the
thrush as the messenger of death. They say that once upon a time men
sent a dog to God to say that when they died they would like to come to
life again. So off the dog trotted to deliver the message. But on the
way he felt hungry and turned into a house, where a man was boiling
magic herbs. So the dog sat down and thought to himself, "He is cooking
food." Meantime the frog had set off to tell God that when men died they
would like not to come to life again. Nobody had asked him to give that
message; it was a piece of pure officiousness and impertinence on his
part. However, away he tore. The dog, who still sat watching the
hell-broth brewing, saw him hurrying past the door, but he thought to
himself, "When I have had something to eat, I will soon catch froggy
up." However, froggy came in first and said to the deity, "When men die,
they would like not to come to life again." After that, up comes the
dog, and says he, "When men die, they would like to come to life again."
God was naturally puzzled and said to the dog, "I really do not
understand these two messages. As I heard the frog's request first, I
will comply with it. I will not do what you said." That is the real
reason why men die and do not come to life again. If the frog had only
minded his own business instead of meddling with other people's, the
dead would all have come to life again to this day.[64] In this version
of the story not only are the persons of the two messengers different,
the dog and the frog having replaced the chameleon and the lizard of the
Bantu version, but the messengers are sent from men to God instead of
from God to men.

[Sidenote: Ashantee story of the goat and the sheep.]

In another version told by the Ashantees of West Africa the persons of
the messengers are again different, but as in the Bantu version they are
sent from God to men. The Ashantees say that long ago men were happy,
for God dwelt among them and talked with them face to face. For example,
if a child was roasting yams at the fire and wanted a relish to eat with
the yams, he had nothing to do but to throw a stick in the air and say,
"God give me fish," and God gave him fish at once. However, these happy
days did not last for ever. One unlucky day it happened that some women
were pounding a mash with pestles in a mortar, while God stood by
looking on. For some reason they were annoyed by the presence of the
deity and told him to be off; and as he did not take himself off fast
enough to please them, they beat him with their pestles. In a great huff
God retired altogether from the world and left it to the direction of
the fetishes; and still to this day people say, "Ah, if it had not been
for that old woman, how happy we should be!" However, after he had
withdrawn to heaven, the long-suffering deity sent a kind message by a
goat to men upon earth to say, "There is something which they call
Death. He will kill some of you. But even if you die, you will not
perish completely. You will come to me in heaven." So off the goat set
with this cheering intelligence. But before he came to the town he saw a
tempting bush by the wayside and stopped to browse on it. When God in
heaven saw the goat thus loitering by the way, he sent off a sheep with
the same message to carry the glad tidings to men without delay. But the
sheep did not give the message aright. Far from it: he said, "God sends
you word that you will die and that will be an end of you." Afterwards
the goat arrived on the scene and said, "God sends you word that you
will die, certainly, but that will not be the end of you, for you will
go to him." But men said to the goat, "No, goat, that is not what God
said. We believe that the message which the sheep brought us is the one
which God sent to us." That was the beginning of death among men.[65]
However, in another Ashantee version of the tale the parts played by the
sheep and the goat are reversed. It is the sheep who brings the tidings
of immortality from God to men, but the goat overruns him and offers
them death instead. Not knowing what death was, men accepted the seeming
boon with enthusiasm and have died ever since.[66]

[Sidenote: II. The story of the Waxing and Waning Moon. Hottentot story
of the Moon, the hare, and death.]

So much for the tale of the Two Messengers. In the last versions of it
which I have quoted, a feature to be noticed is the perversion of the
message by one of the messengers, who brings tidings of death instead of
life eternal to men. The same perversion of the message reappears in
some examples of the next type of story which I shall illustrate, namely
the type of the Waxing and Waning Moon. Thus the Namaquas or Hottentots
say that once the Moon charged the hare to go to men and say, "As I die
and rise to life again, so shall you die and rise to life again." So the
hare went to men, but either out of forgetfulness or malice he reversed
the message and said, "As I die and do not rise to life again, so you
shall also die and not rise to life again." Then he went back to the
Moon, and she asked him what he had said. He told her, and when she
heard how he had given the wrong message, she was so angry that she
threw a stick at him and split his lip, which is the reason why the
hare's lip is still split. So the hare ran away and is still running to
this day. Some people, however, say that before he fled he clawed the
Moon's face, which still bears the marks of the scratching, as anybody
may see for himself on a clear moonlight night. So the Hottentots are
still angry with the hare for bringing death into the world, and they
will not let initiated men partake of its flesh.[67] There are traces of
a similar story among the Bushmen.[68] In another Hottentot version two
messengers appear, an insect and a hare; the insect is charged by the
Moon with a message of immortality or rather of resurrection to men, but
the hare persuades the insect to let him bear the tidings, which he
perverts into a message of annihilation.[69] Thus in this particular
version the type of the Two Messengers coincides with the Moon type.

[Sidenote: Masai story of the moon and death.]

A story of the same type, though different in details, is told by the
Masai of East Africa. They say that in the early days a certain god
named Naiteru-kop told a man named Le-eyo that if a child were to die he
was to throw away the body and say, "Man, die, and come back again;
moon, die, and remain away." Well, soon afterwards a child died, but it
was not one of the man's own children, so when he threw the body away he
said, "Man, die, and remain away; moon, die, and return." Next one of
his own children died, and when he threw away the body he said, "Man,
die, and return; moon, die, and remain away." But the god said to him,
"It is of no use now, for you spoilt matters with the other child." That
is why down to this day when a man dies he returns no more, but when the
moon dies she always comes to life again.[70]

[Sidenote: Nandi story of the moon, the dog, and death.]

Another story of the origin of death which belongs to this type is told
by the Nandi of British East Africa. They say that when the first people
lived upon the earth a dog came to them one day and said: "All people
will die like the moon, but unlike the moon you will not return to life
again unless you give me some milk to drink out of your gourd, and beer
to drink through your straw. If you do this, I will arrange for you to
go to the river when you die and to come to life again on the third
day." But the people laughed at the dog, and gave him some milk and beer
to drink off a stool. The dog was angry at not being served in the same
vessels as a human being, and though he put his pride in his pocket and
drank the milk and the beer from the stool, he went away in high
dudgeon, saying, "All people will die, and the moon alone will return to
life." That is the reason why, when people die, they stay away, whereas
when the moon goes away she comes back again after three days'
absence.[71] The Wa-Sania of British East Africa believe that in days
gone by people never died, till one unlucky day a lizard came and said
to them, "All of you know that the moon dies and rises again, but human
beings will die and rise no more." They say that from that day people
began to die and have persisted in dying ever since.[72]

[Sidenote: Fijian story of the moon, the rat, and death. Caroline
Islands story of the moon, death, and resurrection. Wotjobaluk story of
the moon, death, and resurrection. Cham story of the moon, death, and
resurrection.]

With these African stories of the origin of death we may compare one
told by the Fijians on the other side of the world. They say that once
upon a time the Moon contended that men should be like himself (for the
Fijian moon seems to be a male); that is, he meant that just as he grows
old, disappears, and comes in sight again, so men grown old should
vanish for a while and then return to life. But the rat, who is a Fijian
god, would not hear of it. "No," said he, "let men die like rats." And
he had the best of it in the dispute, for men die like rats to this
day.[73] In the Caroline Islands they say that long, long ago death was
unknown, or rather it was a short sleep, not a long, long one, as it is
now. Men died on the last day of the waning moon and came to life again
on the first appearance of the new moon, just as if they had awakened
from a refreshing slumber. But an evil spirit somehow contrived that
when men slept the sleep of death they should wake no more.[74] The
Wotjobaluk of south-eastern Australia relate that, when all animals were
men and women, some of them died and the moon used to say, "You
up-again," whereupon they came to life again. But once on a time an old
man said, "Let them remain dead"; and since then nobody has ever come to
life again except the moon, which still continues to do so down to this
very day.[75] The Chams of Annam and Cambodia say that the goddess of
good luck used to resuscitate people as fast as they died, till the
sky-god, tired of her constant interference with the laws of nature,
transferred her to the moon, where it is no longer in her power to bring
the dead to life again.[76]

[Sidenote: Cycle of death and resurrection after three days, like the
monthly disappearance and reappearance of the moon.]

These stories which associate human immortality with the moon are
products of a primitive philosophy which, meditating on the visible
changes, of the lunar orb, drew from the observation of its waning and
waxing a dim notion that under a happier fate man might have been
immortal like the moon, or rather that like it he might have undergone
an endless cycle of death and resurrection, dying then rising again from
the dead after three days. The same curious notion of death and
resurrection after three days is entertained by the Unmatjera and
Kaitish, two savage tribes of Central Australia. They say that long ago
their dead used to be buried either in trees or underground, and that
after three days they regularly rose from the dead. The Kaitish tell how
this happy state of things came to an end. It was all through a man of
the Curlew totem, who finding some men of the Little Wallaby totem
burying a Little Wallaby man, fell into a passion and kicked the body
into the sea. Of course after that the dead man could not come to life
again, and that is why nowadays nobody rises from the dead after three
days, as everybody used to do long ago.[77] Although no mention is made
of the moon in this Australian story, we may conjecture that these
savages, like the Nandi of East Africa, fixed upon three days as the
normal interval between death and resurrection simply because three days
is the interval between the disappearance of the old and the
reappearance of the new moon. If that is so, the aborigines of Central
Australia may be added to the many races of mankind who have seen in the
waning and waxing moon an emblem of human immortality. Nor does this
association of ideas end with a mere tradition that in some former age
men used to die with the old moon and come to life again with the new
moon. Many savages, on seeing the new moon for the first time in the
month, observe ceremonies which seem to be intended to renew and
increase their life and strength with the renewal and the increase of
the lunar light. For example, on the day when the new moon first
appeared, the Indians of San Juan Capistrano in California used to call
together all the young men and make them run about, while the old men
danced in a circle, saying, "As the moon dieth and cometh to life again,
so we also having to die will again live."[78] Again, an old writer
tells us that at the appearance of every new moon the negroes of the
Congo clapped their hands and cried out, sometimes falling on their
knees, "So may I renew my life as thou art renewed."[79]

[Sidenote: III. Story of the Serpent and his Cast Skin. New Britain
story of immortality, the serpent, and death. Annamite story of
immortality, the serpent, and death. Vuatom story of immortality, the
lizard, the serpent, and death.]

Another type of stories told to explain the origin of death is the one
which I have called the type of the Serpent and his Cast Skin. Some
savages seem to think that serpents and all other animals, such as
lizards, which periodically shed their skins, thereby renew their life
and so never die. Hence they imagine that if man also could only cast
his old skin and put on a new one, he too would be immortal like a
serpent. Thus the Melanesians, who inhabit the coast of the Gazelle
Peninsula in New Britain, tell the following story of the origin of
death. They say that To Kambinana, the Good Spirit, loved men and wished
to make them immortal; but he hated the serpents and wished to kill
them. So he called his brother To Korvuvu and said to him, "Go to men
and take them the secret of immortality. Tell them to cast their skin
every year. So will they be protected from death, for their life will be
constantly renewed. But tell the serpents that they must thenceforth
die." But To Korvuvu acquitted himself badly of his task; for he
commanded men to die and betrayed to the serpents the secret of
immortality. Since then all men have been mortal, but the serpents cast
their skins every year and are immortal.[80] In this story we meet again
with the incident of the reversed message; through a blunder or through
the malice of the messenger the glad tidings of immortality are
perverted into a melancholy message of death. A similar tale, with a
similar incident, is told in Annam. They say that Ngoc hoang sent a
messenger from heaven to men to say that when they had reached old age
they should change their skins and live for ever, but that when serpents
grew old they must die. The messenger came down to earth and said,
rightly enough, "When man is old, he shall cast his skin; but when
serpents are old, they shall die and be laid in coffins." So far, so
good. But unfortunately there happened to be a brood of serpents within
hearing, and when they heard the doom pronounced on their kind they fell
into a fury and said to the messenger, "You must say it over again and
just the contrary, or we will bite you." That frightened the messenger
and he repeated his message, changing the words thus: "When he is old,
the serpent shall cast his skin; but when he is old, man shall die and
be laid in the coffin." That is why all creatures are now subject to
death, except the serpent, who, when he is old, casts his skin and lives
for ever.[81] The natives of Vuatom, an island in the Bismarck
Archipelago, say that a certain To Konokonomiange bade two lads fetch
fire, promising that if they did so they should never die, but that if
they refused their bodies would perish, though their shades or souls
would survive. They would not hearken to him, so he cursed them, saying,
"What! You would all have lived! Now you shall die, though your soul
shall live. But the iguana (_Goniocephalus_) and the lizard (_Varanus
indicus_) and the snake (_Enygrus_), they shall live, they shall cast
their skin and they shall live for evermore." When the lads heard that,
they wept, for bitterly they rued their folly in not going to fetch the
fire for To Konokonomiange.[82]

[Sidenote: Nias story of immortality, the crab, and death. Arawak and
Tamanachier stories of immortality, the serpent, the lizard, the beetle,
and death.]

Other peoples tell somewhat different stories to explain how men missed
the boon of immortality and serpents acquired it. Thus the natives of
Nias, an island off the coast of Sumatra, say that, when the earth was
created, a certain being was sent down by God from heaven to put the
last touches to the work of creation. He should have fasted for a month,
but unable to withstand the pangs of hunger he ate some bananas. The
choice of food was most unlucky, for had he only eaten river-crabs
instead of bananas men would have cast their skins like crabs and would
never have died.[83] The Arawaks of British Guiana relate that once upon
a time the Creator came down to earth to see how his creature man was
getting on. But men were so wicked that they tried to kill him so he
deprived them of eternal life and bestowed it on the animals which renew
their skin, such as serpents, lizards, and beetles.[84] A somewhat
different version of the story is told by the Tamanachiers, an Indian
tribe of the Orinoco. They say that after residing among them for some
time the Creator took boat to cross to the other side of the great salt
water from which he had come. Just as he was shoving off from the shore,
he called out to them in a changed voice, "You will change your skins,"
by which he meant to say, "You will renew your youth like the serpents
and the beetles." But unfortunately an old woman, hearing these words,
cried out "Oh!" in a tone of scepticism, if not of sarcasm, which so
annoyed the Creator that he changed his tune at once and said testily,
"Ye shall die." That is why we are all mortal.[85]

[Sidenote: Melanesian story of the old woman who renewed her youth by
casting her skin.]

The natives of the Banks' Islands and the New Hebrides believe that
there was a time in the beginning of things when men never died but cast
their skins like snakes and crabs and so renewed their youth. But the
unhappy change to mortality came about at last, as it so often does in
these stories, through an old woman. Having grown old, this dame went to
a stream to change her skin, and change it she did, for she stripped off
her wizened old hide, cast it upon the waters, and watched it floating
down stream till it caught on a stick. Then she went home a buxom young
woman. But the child whom she had left at home did not know her and set
up such a prodigious squalling that to quiet it the woman went straight
back to the river, fished out her cast-off old skin, and put it on
again. From that day to this people have ceased to cast their skins and
to live for ever.[86] The same legend of the origin of death has been
recorded in the Shortlands Islands[87] and among the Kai of German New
Guinea.[88] It is also told with some variations by the natives of the
Admiralty Islands. They say that once on a time there was an old woman
and she was frail. She had two sons, and they went a-fishing, and she
herself went to bathe. She stripped off her wrinkled old skin and came
forth as young as she had been long ago. Her sons came home from the
fishing, and very much astonished were they to see her. The one said,
"It is our mother," but the other said, "She may be your mother, but she
shall be my wife." Their mother heard them and said, "What were you two
saying?" The two said, "Nothing! We only said that you are our mother."
"You are liars," said she, "I heard you both. If I had had my way, we
should have grown to be old men and women, and then we should have cast
our skin and been young men and young women. But you have had your way.
We shall grow old men and old women and then we shall die." With that
she fetched her old skin, and put it on, and became an old woman again.
As for us, her descendants, we grow up and we grow old. And if it had
not been for those two young men there would have been no end of our
days, we should have lived for ever and ever.[89]

[Sidenote: Samoan story of the shellfish, two torches, and death.]

The Samoans tell how the gods held a council to decide what was to be
done with men. One of them said, "Bring men and let them cast their
skin; and when they die, let them be turned to shellfish or to a
coco-nut leaf torch, which when shaken in the wind blazes out again."
But another god called Palsy (_Supa_) rose up and said, "Bring men and
let them be like the candle-nut torch, which when it is once out cannot
be blown up again. Let the shellfish change their skin, but let men
die." While they were debating, a heavy rain came on and broke up the
meeting. As the gods ran for shelter to their houses, they cried, "Let
it be according to the counsel of Palsy! Let it be according to the
counsel of Palsy!" So men died, but shellfish cast their skins.[90]

[Sidenote: IV. The Banana Story. Poso story of immortality, the stone,
the banana, and death. Mentra story of immortality, the banana, and
death.]

The last type of tales of the origin of death which I shall notice is
the one which I have called the Banana type. We have already seen that
according to the natives of Nias human mortality is all due to eating
bananas instead of crabs.[91] A similar opinion is entertained by other
people in that region of the world. Thus the natives of Poso, a district
of Central Celebes, say that in the beginning the sky was very near the
earth, and that the Creator, who lived in it, used to let down his good
gifts to men at the end of a rope. One day he thus lowered a stone; but
our first father and mother would have none of it and they called out to
their Maker, "What have we to do with this stone? Give us something
else." The Creator complied and hauled away at the rope; the stone
mounted up and up till it vanished from sight. Presently the rope was
seen coming down from heaven again, and this time there was a banana at
the end of it instead of a stone. Our first parents ran at the banana
and took it. Then there came a voice from heaven, saying: "Because ye
have chosen the banana, your life shall be like its life. When the
banana-tree has offspring, the parent stem dies; so shall ye die and
your children shall step into your place. Had ye chosen the stone, your
life would have been like the life of the stone changeless and
immortal." The man and his wife mourned over their fatal choice, but it
was too late; that is how through the eating of a banana death came into
the world.[92] The Mentras or Mantras, a shy tribe of savages in the
jungles of the Malay Peninsula, allege that in the early days of the
world men did not die, but only grew thin at the waning of the moon and
then waxed fat again as she waxed to the full. Thus there was no check
whatever on the population, which increased to a truly alarming extent.
So a son of the first man brought this state of things to his father's
notice and asked him what was to be done. The first man said, "Leave
things as they are"; but his younger brother, who took a more Malthusian
view of the situation, said, "No, let men die like the banana, leaving
their offspring behind." The question was submitted to the Lord of the
Underworld, and he decided in favour of death. Ever since then men have
ceased to renew their youth like the moon and have died like the
banana.[93]

[Sidenote: Primitive philosophy in the stories of the origin of death.]

Thus the three stories of the origin of death which I have called the
Moon type, the Serpent type, and the Banana type appear to be products
of a primitive philosophy which sees a cheerful emblem of immortality in
the waxing and waning moon and in the cast skins of serpents, but a sad
emblem of mortality in the banana-tree, which perishes as soon as it has
produced its fruit. But, as I have already said, these types of stories
do not exhaust the theories or fancies of primitive man on the question
how death came into the world. I will conclude this part of my subject
with some myths which do not fall under any of the preceding heads.

[Sidenote: Bahnar story of immortality, the tree, and death. Rivalry for
the boon of immortality between men and animals that cast their skins,
such as serpents and lizards.]

The Bahnars of eastern Cochinchina say that in the beginning when people
died they used to be buried at the foot of a tree called Lông Blô, and
that after a time they always rose from the dead, not as infants but as
full-grown men and women. So the earth was peopled very fast, and all
the inhabitants formed but one great town under the presidency of our
first parents. In time men multiplied to such an extent that a certain
lizard could not take his walks abroad without somebody treading on his
tail. This vexed him, and the wily creature gave an insidious hint to
the gravediggers. "Why bury the dead at the foot of the Lông Blô tree?"
said he; "bury them at the foot of Lông Khung, and they will not come to
life again. Let them die outright and be done with it." The hint was
taken, and from that day the dead have not come to life again.[94] In
this story there are several points to be noticed. In the first place
the tree Lông Blô would seem to have been a tree of life, since all the
dead who were buried at its foot came to life again. In the second place
the lizard is here, as in so many African tales, the instrument of
bringing death among men. Why was that so? We may conjecture that the
reason is that the lizard like the serpent casts its skin periodically,
from which primitive man might infer, as he infers with regard to
serpents, that the creature renews its youth and lives for ever. Thus
all the myths which relate how a lizard or a serpent became the
maleficent agent of human mortality may perhaps be referred to an old
idea of a certain jealousy and rivalry between men and all creatures
which cast their skin, notably serpents and lizards; we may suppose that
in all such cases a story was told of a contest between man and his
animal rivals for the possession of immortality, a contest in which,
whether by mistake or by guile, the victory always remained with the
animals, who thus became immortal, while mankind was doomed to
mortality.

[Sidenote: Chingpaw story of the origin of death. Australian story of
the tree, the bat, and death. Fijian story of the origin of death.]

The Chingpaws of Upper Burma say that death originated in a practical
joke played by an old man who pretended to be dead in the ancient days
when nobody really died. But the Lord of the Sun, who held the threads
of all human lives in his hand, detected the fraud and in anger cut
short the thread of life of the practical joker. Since then everybody
else has died; the door for death to enter into the world was opened by
the folly of that silly, though humorous, old man.[95] The natives about
the Murray River in Australia used to relate how the first man and woman
were forbidden to go near a tree in which a bat lived, lest they should
disturb the creature. One day, however, the woman was gathering firewood
and she went near the tree. The bat flew away, and after that death came
into the world.[96] Some of the Fijians accounted for human mortality as
follows. When the first man, the father of the human race, was being
buried, a god passed by the grave and asked what it meant, for he had
never seen a grave before. On learning from the bystanders that they had
just buried their father, "Do not bury him," said he, "dig the body up
again." "No," said they, "we cannot do that. He has been dead four days
and stinks." "Not so," pleaded the god; "dig him up, and I promise you
that he will live again." Heedless of the divine promise, these
primitive sextons persisted in leaving their dead father in the grave.
Then said the god to these wicked men, "By disobeying me you have sealed
your own fate. Had you dug up your ancestor, you would have found him
alive, and you yourselves, when you passed from this world, should have
been buried, as bananas are, for the space of four days, after which you
should have been dug up, not rotten, but ripe. But now, as a punishment
for your disobedience, you shall die and rot." And still, when they hear
this sad tale told, the Fijians say, "O that those children had dug up
that body!"[97]

[Sidenote: Admiralty Islanders' stories of the origin of death.]

The Admiralty Islanders tell various stories to explain why man is
mortal. One of them has already been related. Here is another. A Souh
man went once to catch fish. A devil tried to devour him, but he fled
into the forest and took refuge in a tree. The tree kindly closed on him
so that the devil could not see him. When the devil was gone, the tree
opened up and the man clambered down to the ground. Then said the tree
to him, "Go to Souh and bring me two white pigs." He went and found two
pigs, one was white and one was black. He took chalk and chalked the
black pig so that it was white. Then he brought them to the tree, but on
the way the chalk fell off the black pig. And when the tree saw the
white pig and the black pig, he chid the man and said, "You are
thankless. I was good to you. An evil will overtake you; you will die.
The devil will fall upon you, and you will die." So it has been with us
as it was with the man of Souh. An evil overtakes us or a spirit falls
upon us, and we die. If it had been as the tree said, we should not have
died.[98] Another story told by the Admiralty Islanders to account for
the melancholy truth of man's mortality runs thus. Kosi, the chief of
Moakareng, was in his house. He was hungry. He said to his two sons, "Go
and climb the breadfruit trees and bring the fruit, that we may eat them
together and not die." But they would not. So he went himself and
climbed the breadfruit tree. But the north-west wind blew a storm, it
blew and threw him down. He fell and his body died, but his ghost went
home. He went and sat in his house. He tied up his hair and he painted
his face with red ochre. Now his wife and his two sons had gone after
him into the wood. They went to fetch home the breadfruits. They came
and saw Kosi, and he was dead. The three returned home, and there they
saw the ghost of Kosi sitting in his house. They said, "You there! Who's
that dead at the foot of the breadfruit tree? Kosi, he is dead at the
foot of the breadfruit tree." Kosi, he said, "Here am I. I did not fall.
Perhaps somebody else fell down. I did not. Here I am." "You're a liar,"
said they. "I ain't," said he. "Come," said they, "we'll go and see."
They went. Kosi, he jumped into his body. He died. They buried him. If
his wife had behaved well, we should not die. Our body would die, but
our ghost would go about always in the old home.[99]

[Sidenote: Stories of the origin of death: the fatal bundle or the fatal
box.]

The Wemba of Northern Rhodesia relate how God in the beginning created a
man and a woman and gave them two bundles; in one of them was life and
in the other death. Most unfortunately the man chose "the little bundle
of death."[100] The Cherokee Indians of North America say that a number
of beings were engaged in the work of creation. The Sun was made first.
Now the creators intended that men should live for ever. But when the
Sun passed over them in the sky, he told the people that there was not
room enough for them all and that they had better die. At last the Sun's
own daughter, who was with the people on earth, was bitten by a snake
and died. Then the Sun repented him and said that men might live always;
and he bade them take a box and go fetch his daughter's spirit in the
box and bring it to her body, that she might live. But he charged them
straitly not to open the box until they arrived at the dead body.
However, moved by curiosity, they unhappily opened the box too soon;
away flew the spirit, and all men have died ever since.[101] Some of the
North American Indians informed the early Jesuit missionaries that a
certain man had received the gift of immortality in a small packet from
a famous magician named Messou, who repaired the world after it had been
seriously damaged by a great flood. In bestowing on the man this
valuable gift the magician strictly enjoined him on no account to open
the packet. The man obeyed, and so long as the packet was unopened he
remained immortal. But his wife was both curious and incredulous; she
opened the packet to see what was in it, the precious contents flew
away, and mankind has been subject to death ever since.[102]

[Sidenote: Baganda story how death came into the world through the
forgetfulness and imprudence of a woman.]

As these American Indians tell how death came through the curiosity and
incredulity of one woman, the Baganda of Central Africa relate how it
came through the forgetfulness and imprudence of another. According to
the Baganda the first man who came to earth in Uganda was named Kintu.
He brought with him one cow and lived on its milk, for he had no other
food. But in time a woman named Nambi, a daughter of Gulu, the king of
heaven, came down to earth with her brother or sister, and seeing Kintu
she fell in love with him and wished to have him for her husband. But
her proud father doubted whether Kintu was worthy of his daughter's
hand, and accordingly he insisted on testing his future son-in-law
before he would consent to the marriage. So he carried off Kintu's cow
and put it among his own herds in heaven. When Kintu found that the cow
was stolen, he was in a great rage, but hunger getting the better of
anger, he made shift to live by peeling the bark of trees and gathering
herbs and leaves, which he cooked and ate. In time his future wife Nambi
happened to spy the stolen cow among her father's herds and she told
Kintu, who came to heaven to seek and recover the lost animal. His
future father-in-law Gulu, Lord of Heaven, obliged him to submit to many
tests designed to prove his fitness for marriage with the daughter of so
exalted a being as the Lord of Heaven. All these tests Kintu
successfully passed through. At last Gulu was satisfied, gave him his
daughter Nambi to wife, and allowed him to return to earth with her.

[Sidenote: The coming of Death.]

But Nambi had a brother and his name was Death (_Walumbe_). So before
the Lord of Heaven sent her away with her husband he called them both to
him and said, "You must hurry away before Death comes, or he will wish
to go with you. You must not let him do so, for he would only cause you
trouble and unhappiness." To this his daughter agreed, and she went to
pack up her things. She and her husband then took leave of the Lord of
Heaven, who gave them at parting a piece of advice. "Be sure," said he,
"if you have forgotten anything, not to come back for it; because, if
you do, Death will wish to go with you, and you must go without him." So
off they set, the man and his wife, taking with them his cow and its
calves, also a sheep, a goat, a fowl, and a banana tree. But on the way
the woman remembered that she had forgotten the grain to feed the fowl,
so she said to her husband, "I must go back for the grain to feed the
fowl, or it will die." Her husband tried to dissuade her, but in vain.
She said, "I will hurry back and get it without any one seeing me." So
back she went in an evil hour and said to her father the Lord of Heaven,
"I have forgotten the grain for the fowl and I am come back to fetch it
from the doorway where I put it." Her father said sadly, "Did I not tell
you that you were not to return if you had forgotten anything, because
your brother Death would wish to go with you? Now he will accompany
you." The woman fled, but Death saw her and followed hard after her.
When she rejoined her husband, he was angry, for he saw Death and said,
"Why have you brought your brother with you? Who can live with him?"

[Sidenote: The importunity of Death.]

When they reached the earth, Nambi planted her garden, and the bananas
sprang up quickly and formed a grove. They lived happily for a time till
one day Death came and asked for one of their daughters, that she might
go away with him and be his cook. But the father said, "If the Lord of
Heaven comes and asks me for one of my children, what am I to say? Shall
I tell him that I have given her to you to be your cook?" Death was
silent and went away. But he came back another day and asked again for a
child to be his cook. When the father again refused, Death said, "I will
kill your children." The father did not know what that meant, so he
asked Death, "What is that you will do?" However, in a short time one of
the children fell ill and died, and then another and another. So the man
went to the Lord of Heaven and complained that Death was taking away his
children one by one. The Lord of Heaven said, "Did I not tell you, when
you were going away, to go at once with your wife and not to return if
you had forgotten anything, but you let your wife return to fetch the
grain? Now you have Death living with you. If you had obeyed me, you
would have been free from him and not lost any of your children."

[Sidenote: The hunt for Death.]

However, the man pleaded with him, and the Lord Heaven at last consented
to send Death's brother Kaikuzi to help the woman and to prevent Death
from killing her children. So down came Kaikuzi to earth, and when he
met his brother Death they greeted each other lovingly. Then Kaikuzi
told Death that he had come to fetch him away from earth to heaven.
Death was willing to go, but he said, "Let us take our sister too."
"Nay," said his brother, "that cannot be, for she is a wife and must
stay with her husband." The dispute waxed warm, Death insisting on
carrying off his sister, and his brother refusing to allow him to do so.
At last the brother angrily ordered Death to do as he was bid, and so
saying he made as though he would seize him. But Death slipped from
between his hands and fled into the earth. For a long time after that
there was enmity between the two brothers. Kaikuzi tried in every way to
catch Death, but Death always escaped. At last Kaikuzi told the people
that he would have one final hunt for Death, and while the hunt was
going on they must all stay in their houses; not a man, a woman, a
child, nor even an animal was to be allowed to pass the threshold; and
if they saw Death passing the window, they were not to utter a cry of
terror but to keep still. Well, for some days his orders were obeyed.
Not a living soul, not an animal, stirred abroad. All without was
solitude, all within was silence. Encouraged by the universal stillness
Death emerged from his lair, and his brother was just about to catch
him, when some children, who had ventured out to herd their goats, saw
Death and cried out. Death's good brother rushed to the spot and asked
them why they had cried out. They said, "Because we saw Death." So his
brother was angry because Death had again made good his escape into the
earth, and he went to the first man and told him that he was weary of
hunting Death and wished to return home to heaven. The first man thanked
him kindly for all he had done, and said, "I fear there is nothing more
to be done. We must only hope that Death will not kill all the people."
It was a vain hope. Since then Death has lived on earth and killed
everybody who is born into the world; and always, after the deed of
murder is done, he escapes into the earth at Tanda in Singo.[103]

[Sidenote: In the preceding story Death is distinctly personified. Death
personified in a West African story of the origin of death. Death and
the spider and the spider's daughter.]

If this curious tale of the origin of death reveals no very deep
philosophy, it is at least interesting for the distinctness with which
Death is conceived as a personal being, the son of the Lord of Heaven,
the brother of the first man's wife. In this personification of Death
the story differs from all the others which we have examined and marks
an intellectual advance upon them; since the power of picturing abstract
ideas to the mind with all the sharpness of outline and vividness of
colour which are implied by personification is a faculty above the reach
of very low intelligences. It is not surprising that the Baganda should
have attained to this power, for they are probably the most highly
cultured and intellectual of all the many Bantu tribes of Africa. The
same conception of Death as a person occurs in a story of the origin of
death which is told by the Hos, a negro tribe in Togoland, a district of
West Africa. These Hos belong to the Ewe-speaking family of the true
negroes, who have reached a comparatively high level of barbarism in the
notorious kingdom of Dahomey. The story which the Hos tell as to the
origin of death is as follows. Once upon a time there was a great famine
in which even the hunters could find no flesh to eat. Then Death went
and made a road as broad as from here to Sokode, and there he set many
snares. Every animal that tried to pass that way fell into a snare. So
Death had much flesh to eat. One day the Spider came to Death and said
to him, "You have so much meat!" and she asked if she might have some to
take home with her. Death gave her leave. So the Spider made a basket as
long as from Ho to Akoviewe (a distance of about five miles), crammed it
full of meat, and dragged it home. In return for this bounty the Spider
gave Death her daughter Yiyisa to wife. So when Death had her for his
wife, he gave her a hint. He said, "Don't walk on the broad road which I
have made. Walk on the footpath which I have not made. When you go to
the water, be sure to take none but the narrow way through the wood."
Well, some time afterwards it had rained a little; the grass was wet,
and Yiyisa wished to go to the watering-place. When she tried to walk on
the narrow path through the forest, the tall damp grass wet her through
and through, so she thought to herself, "In future I will only go on the
broad road." But scarce had she set foot on the beautiful broad road
when she fell into a snare and died on the spot. When Death came to the
snare and saw his wife in it dead, he cut her up into bits and toasted
them on the fire. One day the Spider paid a visit to her son-in-law
Death, and he set a good meal before her. When she had eaten and drunk
her fill and had got up to go home, she asked Death after her daughter.
"If you take that meat from the fire," said Death, "you will see her."
So the Spider took the flesh from the fire and there, sure enough, she
found her dead daughter. Then she went home in great wrath and whetted
her knife till it was so sharp that a fly lighting on the edge was cut
in two. With that knife she came back to attack Death. But Death shot an
arrow at her. She dodged it, and the arrow whizzed past her and set all
the forest on fire. Then the Spider flung her sharp knife at Death, but
it missed him and only sliced off the tops of the palms and all the
other trees of the wood. Seeing that her stroke had failed, the Spider
fled away home and shut herself up in her house. But Death waited for
her on the edge of the town to kill her as soon as she ventured out.
Next morning some women came out of the town to draw water at the
watering-place, and as they went they talked with one another. But Death
shot an arrow among them and killed several. The rest ran away home
and said, "So and so is dead." Then Death came and looked at the bodies
and said, "That is my game. I need go no more into the wood to hunt."
That is how Death came into the world. If the Spider had not done what
she did, nobody would ever have died.[104]

[Sidenote: Death personified in a Melanesian story of the origin of
death.]

Again, the Melanesians of the Banks Islands tell a story of the origin
of Death, in which that grim power is personified. They say that Death
(_Mate_) used to live underground in a shadowy realm called Panoi, while
men on earth changed their skins like serpents and so renewing their
youth lived for ever. But a practical inconvenience of immortality was
that property never changed hands; newcomers had no chance, everything
was monopolised by the old, old stagers. To remedy this state of things
and secure a more equitable distribution of property Death was induced
to emerge from the lower world and to appear on earth among men; he came
relying on an assurance that no harm would be done him. Well, when they
had him, they laid him out on a board, covered him with a pall as if he
were a corpse, and then proceeded with great gusto to divide his
property and eat the funeral feast. On the fifth day they blew the conch
shell to drive away the ghost, as usual, and lifted the pall to see what
had become of Death. But there was no Death there; he had absconded
leaving only his skeleton behind. They naturally feared that he had made
off with an intention to return to his home underground, which would
have been a great calamity; for if there were no Death on earth, how
could men die and how could other people inherit their property? The
idea was intolerable; so to cut off the retreat of the fugitive, the
Fool was set to do sentinel duty at the parting of the ways, where one
road leads down to the underworld, Death's home, and the other leads up
to the upper world, the abode of the living. Here accordingly the Fool
was stationed with strict orders to keep his eye on Death if he should
attempt to sneak past him and return to the nether world. However, the
Fool, like a fool as he was, sat watching the road to the upper world,
and Death slipped behind him and so made good his retreat. Since then
all men have followed Death down that fatal path.[105]

[Sidenote: Thus according to savages death is not a necessary part of
the order of nature. A similar view is held by some eminent modern
biologists.]

So much for savage stories of the origin of death. They all imply a
belief that death is not a necessary part of the order of nature, but
that it originated in a pure mistake or misdeed of some sort on
somebody's part, and that we should all have lived happy and immortal if
it had not been for that disastrous blunder or crime. Thus the tales
reflect the same frame of mind which I illustrated in the last lecture,
when I shewed that many savages still to this day believe all men to be
naturally immortal and death to be nothing but an effect of sorcery. In
short, whether we regard the savage's attitude to death at the present
day or his ideas as to its origin in the remote past, we must conclude
that primitive man cannot reconcile himself to the notion of death as a
natural and necessary event; he persists in regarding it as an
accidental and unnecessary disturbance of the proper order of nature. To
a certain extent, perhaps, in these crude speculations he has
anticipated certain views of modern biology. Thus it has been maintained
by Professor August Weissmann that death is not a natural necessity,
that many of the lowest species of living animals do in fact live for
ever; and that in the higher animals the custom of dying has been
introduced in the course of evolution for the purpose of thinning the
population and preventing the degeneration of the species, which would
otherwise follow through the gradual and necessary deterioration of the
immortal individuals, who, though they could not die, might yet sustain
much bodily damage through hard knocks in the hurly-burly of eternal
existence on earth.

[Sidenote: Weissmann's view that death is not a natural necessity but an
adaptation acquired in the course of evolution for the advantage of the
race.]

On this subject I will quote some sentences from Professor Weissmann's
essay on the duration of life. He says, "The necessity of death has been
hitherto explained as due to causes which are inherent in organic
nature, and not to the fact that it may be advantageous. I do not
however believe in the validity of this explanation; I consider that
death is not a primary necessity, but that it has been secondarily
acquired as an adaptation. I believe that life is endowed with a fixed
duration, not because it is contrary to its nature to be unlimited, but
because the unlimited existence of individuals would be a luxury without
any corresponding advantage. The above-mentioned hypothesis upon the
origin and necessity of death leads me to believe that the organism did
not finally cease to renew the worn-out cell material because the nature
of the cells did not permit them to multiply indefinitely, but because
the power of multiplying indefinitely was lost when it ceased to be of
use.... John Hunter, supported by his experiments on _anabiosis_, hoped
to prolong the life of man indefinitely by alternate freezing and
thawing; and the Veronese Colonel Aless. Guaguino made his
contemporaries believe that a race of men existed in Russia, of which
the individuals died regularly every year on the 27th of November, and
returned to life on the 24th of the following April. There cannot
however be the least doubt, that the higher organisms, as they are now
constructed, contain within themselves the germs of death. The question
however arises as to how this has come to pass; and I reply that death
is to be looked upon as an occurrence which is advantageous to the
species as a concession to the outer conditions of life, and not as an
absolute necessity, essentially inherent in life itself. Death, that is
the end of life, is by no means, as is usually assumed, an attribute of
all organisms. An immense number of low organisms do not die, although
they are easily destroyed, being killed by heat, poisons, etc. As long,
however, as those conditions which are necessary for their life are
fulfilled, they continue to live, and they thus carry the potentiality
of unending life in themselves. I am speaking not only of the Amoebae
and the low unicellular Algae, but also of far more highly organized
unicellular animals, such as the Infusoria."[106]

[Sidenote: Similar view expressed by Alfred Russel Wallace.]

A similar suggestion that death is not a natural necessity but an
innovation introduced for the good of the breed, has been made by our
eminent English biologist, Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace. He says: "If
individuals did not die they would soon multiply inordinately and would
interfere with each other's healthy existence. Food would become scarce,
and hence the larger individuals would probably decompose or diminish in
size. The deficiency of nourishment would lead to parts of the organism
not being renewed; they would become fixed, and liable to more or less
slow decomposition as dead parts within a living body. The smaller
organisms would have a better chance of finding food, the larger ones
less chance. That one which gave off several small portions to form each
a new organism would have a better chance of leaving descendants like
itself than one which divided equally or gave off a large part of
itself. Hence it would happen that those which gave off very small
portions would probably soon after cease to maintain their own existence
while they would leave a numerous offspring. This state of things would
be in any case for the advantage of the race, and would therefore, by
natural selection, soon become established as the regular course of
things, and thus we have the origin of _old age, decay, and death_; for
it is evident that when one or more individuals have provided a
sufficient number of successors they themselves, as consumers of
nourishment in a constantly increasing degree, are an injury to their
successors. Natural selection therefore weeds them out, and in many
cases favours such races as die almost immediately after they have left
successors. Many moths and other insects are in this condition, living
only to propagate their kind and then immediately dying, some not even
taking any food in the perfect and reproductive state."[107]

[Sidenote: Savages and some men of science agree that death is not a
natural necessity.]

Thus it appears that two of the most eminent biologists of our time
agree with savages in thinking that death is by no means a natural
necessity for all living beings. They only differ from savages in this,
that whereas savages look upon death as the result of a deplorable
accident, our men of science regard it as a beneficent reform instituted
by nature as a means of adjusting the numbers of living beings to the
quantity of the food supply, and so tending to the improvement and
therefore on the whole to the happiness of the species.

[Footnote 57: H. Callaway, _The Religious System of the Amazulu_, Part
i. pp. 1, 3 _sq._, Part ii. p. 138; Rev. L. Grout, _Zululand, or Life
among the Zulu-Kafirs_ (Philadelphia, N.D.), pp. 148 _sq._; Dudley Kidd,
_The Essential Kafir_ (London, 1904), pp. 76 _sq._ Compare A. F.
Gardiner, _Narrative of a Journey to the Zoolu Country_ (London, 1836),
pp. 178 _sq._, T. Arbousset et F. Daumas, _Relation d'un voyage
d'Exploration au Nord-Est de la Colonie du Cap de Bonne-Espérance_
(Paris, 1842), p. 472; Rev. J. Shooter, _The Kafirs of Natal and the
Zulu Country_ (London, 1857), p. 159; W. H. I. Bleek, _Reynard the Fox in
South Africa_ (London, 1864), p. 74; D. Leslie, _Among the Zulus and
Amatongas_, Second Edition (Edinburgh, 1875), p. 209; F. Speckmann, _Die
Hermannsburger Mission in Afrika_ (Hermannsburg, 1876), p. 164.]

[Footnote 58: J. Chapman, _Travels in the Interior of South Africa_
(London, 1868), i. 47.]

[Footnote 59: E. Casalis, _The Basutos_ (London, 1861), p. 242; E.
Jacottet, _The Treasury of Ba-suto Lore_, i. (Morija, Basutoland, 1908),
pp. 46 _sqq._]

[Footnote 60: H. A. Junod, _Les Ba-Ronga_ Neuchâtel (1898), pp. 401
_sq._]

[Footnote 61: W. A. Elmslie, _Among the Wild Ngoni_ (Edinburgh and
London, 1899), p. 70.]

[Footnote 62: H. A. Junod and W. A. Elmslie, _ll.cc._]

[Footnote 63: C. W. Hobley, _Ethnology of A-Kamba and other East African
Tribes_ (Cambridge, 1910), pp. 107-109.]

[Footnote 64: Fr. Müller, "Die Religionen Togos in Einzeldarstellungen,"
_Anthropos_, ii. (1907) p. 203. In a version of the story reported from
Calabar a sheep appears as the messenger of mortality, while a dog is
the messenger of immortality or rather of resurrection. See "Calabar
Stories," _Journal of the African Society_, No. 18 (January 1906), p.
194.]

[Footnote 65: E. Perregaux, _Chez les Achanti_ (Neuchâtel, 1906), pp.
198 _sq._]

[Footnote 66: E. Perregaux, _op. cit._ p. 199.]

[Footnote 67: Sir J. E. Alexander, _Expedition of Discovery into the
Interior of Africa_ (London, 1838), i. 169; C. J. Andersson, _Lake
Ngami_, Second Edition (London, 1856), pp. 328 _sq._; W. H. I. Bleek,
_Reynard the Fox in South Africa_ (London, 1864), pp. 71-73; Th. Hahn,
_Tsuni-Goam, the Supreme Being of the Khoi-Khoi_ (London, 1881), p. 52.]

[Footnote 68: W. H. I. Bleek, _A Brief Account of Bushman Folk-lore_
(London, 1875), pp. 9 _sq._]

[Footnote 69: W. H. I. Bleek, _Reynard the Fox in South Africa_, pp. 69
_sq._]

[Footnote 70: A. C. Hollis, _The Masai_ (Oxford, 1905), pp. 271 _sq._]

[Footnote 71: A. C. Hollis, _The Nandi_ (Oxford, 1909), p. 98.]

[Footnote 72: Captain W. E. H. Barrett, "Notes on the Customs and
Beliefs of the Wa-Giriama, etc., British East Africa," _Journal of the
R. Anthropological Institute_, xli. (1911) p. 37.]

[Footnote 73: Th. Williams, _Fiji and the Fijians_, Second Edition
(London, 1860), i. 205.]

[Footnote 74: _Lettres Édifiantes et Curieuses_, Nouvelle Édition, xv.
(Paris, 1781) pp. 305 _sq._]

[Footnote 75: A. W. Howitt, _Native Tribes of South-East Australia_
(London, 1904), pp. 428 _sq._]

[Footnote 76: Antoine Cabaton, _Nouvelles Recherches sur les Chams_
(Paris, 1901), pp. 18 _sq._]

[Footnote 77: Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen, _Northern Tribes of
Central Australia_ (London, 1904), pp. 513 _sq._]

[Footnote 78: Father G. Boscana, "Chinigchinich," in _Life in
California, by an American_ [A. Robinson] (New York, 1846), pp. 298
_sq._]

[Footnote 79: Merolla, "Voyage to Congo," in J. Pinkerton's _Voyages and
Travels_, xvi. (London, 1814) p. 273.]

[Footnote 80: P. A. Kleintitschen, _Die Küstenbewohner der
Gazellehalbinsel_ (Hiltrup bei Münster, N.D.), p. 334.]

[Footnote 81: A. Landes, "Contes et Légendes Annamites," _Cochinchine
française, Excursions et Reconnaissances_, No. 25 (Saigon, 1886), pp.
108 _sq._]

[Footnote 82: Otto Meyer, "Mythen und Erzählungen von der Insel Vuatom
(Bismarck-Archipel, Südsee)," _Anthropos_, v. (1910) p. 724.]

[Footnote 83: H. Sundermann, "Die Insel Nias und die Mission daselbst,"
_Allgemeine Missions-Zeitschrift_, xi. (1884) p. 451; E. Modigliani, _Un
Viaggio a Nías_ (Milan, 1890), p. 295.]

[Footnote 84: R. Schomburgk, _Reisen in Britisch-Guiana_ (Leipsig,
1847-1848), ii. 319.]

[Footnote 85: R. Schomburgk, _op. cit._ ii. 320.]

[Footnote 86: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_ (Oxford, 1891), p.
265; W. Gray, "Some Notes on the Tannese," _Internationales Archiv für
Ethnographie_, vii. (1894) p. 232.]

[Footnote 87: C. Ribbe, _Zwei Jahre unter den Kannibalen der
Salomo-Inseln_ (Dresden-Blasowitz, 1903), p. 148.]

[Footnote 88: Ch. Keysser, "Aus dem Leben der Kaileute," in R.
Neuhauss's _Deutsch Neu-Guinea_ (Berlin, 1911), iii. 161 _sq._]

[Footnote 89: Josef Meier, "Mythen und Sagen der Admiralitätsinsulaner,"
_Anthropos_, iii. (1908) p. 193.]

[Footnote 90: George Brown, D.D., _Melanesians and Polynesians_ (London,
1910), p. 365; George Turner, LL.D., _Samoa_ (London, 1884), pp. 8
_sq._]

[Footnote 91: See above, p. 70.]

[Footnote 92: A. C. Kruijt, "De legenden der Poso-Alfoeren aangaande de
erste menschen," _Mededeelingen van wege het Nederlandsche
Zendelinggenootschap_, xxxviii. (1894) p. 340.]

[Footnote 93: D. F. A. Hervey, "The Mêntra Traditions," _Journal of the
Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society_, No. 10 (December 1882), p.
190; W. W. Skeat and C. O. Blagden, _Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula_
(London, 1906), ii. 337 _sq._]

[Footnote 94: Guerlach, "Moeurs et Superstitions des sauvages Ba-hnars,"
_Missions Catholiques_, xix. (1887) p. 479.]

[Footnote 95: (Sir) J. G. Scott and J. P. Hardiman, _Gazetteer of Upper
Burma and the Shan States_, Part i. vol. i. (Rangoon, 1900) pp. 408
_sq._]

[Footnote 96: R. Brough Smyth, _The Aborigines of Victoria_ (Melbourne
and London, 1878), i. 428. On this narrative the author remarks: "This
story appears to bear too close a resemblance to the Biblical account of
the Fall. Is it genuine or not? Mr. Bulmer admits that it may have been
invented by the aborigines after they had heard something of Scripture
history."]

[Footnote 97: Th. Williams, _Fiji and the Fijians_, Second Edition
(London, 1860), i. 204 _sq._ For another Fijian story of the origin of
death, see above, p. 67.]

[Footnote 98: Josef Meier, "Mythen und Sagen der Admiralitätsinsulaner,"
_Anthropos_, iii. (1908) p. 194.]

[Footnote 99: Josef Meier, _op. cit._ pp. 194 _sq._]

[Footnote 100: C. Gouldsbury and H. Sheane, _The Great Plateau of
Northern Rhodesia_ (London, 1911), pp. 80 _sq._ A like tale is told by
the Balolo of the Upper Congo. See _Folk-lore_, xii. (1901) p. 461; and
below, p. 472.]

[Footnote 101: J. Mooney, "Myths of the Cherokee," _Nineteenth Annual
Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology_, Part i. (Washington, 1900)
p. 436, quoting "the Payne manuscript, of date about 1835." Compare
_id._, pp. 252-254, 436 _sq._]

[Footnote 102: _Relations des Jésuites_, 1634, p. 13 (Canadian reprint,
Quebec, 1858).]

[Footnote 103: Sir Harry Johnston, _The Uganda Protectorate_ (London,
1904), ii. 700-705 (the story was taken down by Mr. J. F. Cunningham);
Rev. J. Roscoe, _The Baganda_ (London, 1911), pp. 460-464. The story is
briefly told by Mr. L. Decle, _Three Years in Savage Africa_ (London,
1898), pp. 439 _sq._]

[Footnote 104: J. Spieth, _Die Ewe-Stämme_ (Berlin, 1906), pp. 590-593.]

[Footnote 105: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_ (Oxford, 1891), pp.
265 _sq._]

[Footnote 106: A. Weissmann, _Essays upon Heredity and Kindred
Biological Problems_, vol. i. (Oxford, 1891) pp. 25 _sq._]

[Footnote 107: A. R. Wallace, quoted in A. Weissmann's _Essays upon
Heredity_, i. (Oxford, 1891) p. 24 note.]



LECTURE IV

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE ABORIGINES OF CENTRAL AUSTRALIA


[Sidenote: Proposed survey of the belief in immortality and the worship
of the dead, as these are found among the various races of men,
beginning with the lowest savages.]

In previous lectures we have considered the ideas which savages in
general entertain of death and its origin. To-day we begin our survey of
the beliefs and practices of particular races in regard to the dead. I
propose to deal separately with some of the principal races of men and
to shew in detail how the belief in human immortality and the worship of
the dead, to which that belief naturally gives rise, have formed a more
or less important element of their religion. And in order to trace as
far as possible the evolution of that worship in history I shall begin
with the lowest savages about whom we possess accurate information, and
shall pass from them to higher races until, if time permitted, we might
come to the civilised nations of antiquity and of modern times. In this
way, by comparing the ideas and practices of peoples on different planes
of culture we may be able approximately to reconstruct or represent to
ourselves with a fair degree of probability the various stages through
which this particular phase of religion may be supposed to have passed
in the great civilised races before the dawn of history. Of course all
such reconstructions must be more or less conjectural. In the absence of
historical documents that is inevitable; but our reconstruction will be
more or less probable according to the degree in which the corresponding
stages of evolution are found to resemble or differ from each other in
the various races of men. If we find that tribes at approximately the
same level of culture in different parts of the world have approximately
the same religion, we may fairly infer that religion is in a sense a
function of culture, and therefore that all races which have traversed
the same stages of culture in the past have traversed also the same
stages of religion; in short that, allowing for many minor variations,
which flow inevitably from varying circumstances such as climate, soil,
racial temperament, and so forth, the course of religious development
has on the whole been uniform among mankind. This enquiry may be called
the embryology of religion, in as much as it seeks to do for the
development of religion what embryology in the strict sense of the word
attempts to do for the development of life. And just as biology or the
science of life naturally begins with the study of the lowest sorts of
living beings, the humble protozoa, so we shall begin our enquiry with a
study of the lowest savages of whom we possess a comparatively full and
accurate record, namely, the aborigines of Australia.

[Sidenote: Savagery a case not of degeneracy but of arrested or rather
retarded development.]

At the outset I would ask you to bear in mind that, so far as evidence
allows us to judge, savagery in all its phases appears to be nothing but
a case of arrested or rather retarded development. The old view that
savages have degenerated from a higher level of culture, on which their
forefathers once stood, is destitute alike of evidence and of
probability. On the contrary, the information which we possess as to the
lower races, meagre and fragmentary as it unfortunately is, all seems to
point to the conclusion that on the whole even the most savage tribes
have reached their low level of culture from one still lower, and that
the upward movement, though so slow as to be almost imperceptible, has
yet been real and steady up to the point where savagery has come into
contact with civilisation. The moment of such contact is a critical one
for the savages. If the intellectual, moral, and social interval which
divides them from the civilised intruders exceeds a certain degree, then
it appears that sooner or later the savages must inevitably perish; the
shock of collision with a stronger race is too violent to be withstood,
the weaker goes to the wall and is shattered. But if on the other hand
the breach between the two conflicting races is not so wide as to be
impassable, there is a hope that the weaker may assimilate enough of the
higher culture of the other to survive. It was so, for example, with our
barbarous forefathers in contact with the ancient civilisations of
Greece and Rome; and it may be so in future with some, for example, of
the black races of the present day in contact with European
civilisation. Time will shew. But among the savages who cannot
permanently survive the shock of collision with Europe may certainly be
numbered the aborigines of Australia. They are rapidly dwindling and
wasting away, and before very many years have passed it is probable that
they will be extinct like the Tasmanians, who, so far as we can judge
from the miserably imperfect records of them which we possess, appear to
have been savages of an even lower type than the Australians, and
therefore to have been still less able to survive in the struggle for
existence with their vigorous European rivals.

[Sidenote: Physical causes which have retarded progress in Australia.]

The causes which have retarded progress in Australia and kept the
aboriginal population at the lowest level of savagery appear to be
mainly two; namely, first, the geographical isolation and comparatively
small area of the continent, and, second, the barren and indeed desert
nature of a great part of its surface; for the combined effect of these
causes has been, by excluding foreign competitors and seriously
restricting the number of competitors at home, to abate the rigour of
competition and thereby to restrain the action of one of the most
powerful influences which make for progress. In other words, elements of
weakness have been allowed to linger on, which under the sterner
conditions of life entailed by fierce competition would long ago have
been eliminated and have made way for elements better adapted to the
environment. What is true of the human inhabitants of Australia in this
respect is true also of its fauna and flora. It has long been recognised
that the animals and plants of Australia represent on the whole more
archaic types of life than the animals and plants of the larger
continents; and the reason why these antiquated creatures have survived
there rather than elsewhere is mainly that, the area of competition
being so much restricted through the causes I have mentioned, these
comparatively weak forms of animal and vegetable life have not been
killed off by stronger competitors. That this is the real cause appears
to be proved by the rapidity with which many animals and plants
introduced into Australia from Europe tend to overrun the country and to
oust the old native fauna and flora.[108]

[Sidenote: In the centre of Australia the natural conditions of life are
most unfavourable; hence the central aborigines have remained in a more
primitive state than those of the coasts, where food and water are more
plentiful.]

I have said that among the causes which have kept the aborigines of
Australia at a very low level of savagery must be reckoned the desert
nature of a great part of the country. Now it is the interior of the
continent which is the most arid, waste, and barren. The coasts are
comparatively fertile, for they are watered by showers condensed from an
atmosphere which is charged with moisture by the neighbouring sea; and
this condensation is greatly facilitated in the south-eastern and
eastern parts of the continent by a high range of mountains which here
skirts the coast for a long distance, attracting the moisture from the
ocean and precipitating it in the form of snow and rain. Thus the
vegetation and hence the supply of food both animal and vegetable in
these well-watered portions of the continent are varied and plentiful.
In striking contrast with the fertility and abundance of these favoured
regions are the stony plains and bare rocky ranges of the interior,
where water is scarce, vegetation scanty, and animal life at certain
seasons of the year can only with difficulty be maintained. It would be
no wonder if the natives of these arid sun-scorched wildernesses should
have lagged behind even their savage brethren of the coasts in respect
of material and social progress; and in fact there are many indications
that they have done so, in other words, that the aborigines of the more
fertile districts near the sea have made a greater advance towards
civilisation than the tribes of the desert interior. This is the view of
men who have studied the Australian savages most deeply at first hand,
and, so far as I can judge of the matter without any such first-hand
acquaintance, I entirely agree with their opinion. I have given my
reasons elsewhere and shall not repeat them here. All that I wish to
impress on you now is that in aboriginal Australia a movement of social
and intellectual progress, slow but perceptible, appears to have been
setting from the coast inwards, and that, so far as such things can be
referred to physical causes, this particular movement in Australia would
seem to have been initiated by the sea acting through an abundant
rainfall and a consequent abundant supply of food.[109]

[Sidenote: Backward state of the Central Australian aborigines. They
have no idea of a moral supreme being.]

Accordingly, in attempting to give you some account of the belief in
immortality and the worship of the dead among the various races of
mankind, I propose to begin with the natives of Central Australia,
first, because the Australian aborigines are the most primitive savages
about whom we have full and accurate information, and, second, because
among these primitive savages the inhabitants of the central deserts are
on the whole the most primitive. Like their brethren in the rest of the
continent they were in their native condition absolutely ignorant of
metals and of agriculture; they had no domestic animals except the dog,
and they subsisted wholly by the products of the chase and the natural
fruits, roots, and seeds, which the ground yielded without cultivation
of any sort. In regard to their intellectual outlook upon the world,
they were deeply imbued, as I shewed in a former lecture, with a belief
in magic, but it can hardly be said that they possessed any religion in
the strict sense of the word, by which I mean a propitiation of real or
imaginary powers regarded as personal beings superior to man: certainly
the Australian aborigines appear to have believed in no beings who
deserve to be called gods. On this subject Messrs. Spencer and Gillen,
our best authorities on these tribes, observe as follows: "The Central
Australian natives--and this is true of the tribes extending from Lake
Eyre in the south to the far north and eastwards across to the Gulf of
Carpentaria--have no idea whatever of the existence of any supreme being
who is pleased if they follow a certain line of what we call moral
conduct and displeased if they do not do so. They have not the vaguest
idea of a personal individual other than an actual living member of the
tribe who approves or disapproves of their conduct, so far as anything
like what we call morality is concerned. Any such idea as that of a
future life of happiness or the reverse, as a reward for meritorious or
as a punishment for blameworthy conduct, is quite foreign to them.... We
know of no tribe in which there is a belief of any kind in a supreme
being who rewards or punishes the individual according to his moral
behaviour, using the word moral in the native sense."[110]

[Sidenote: Central Australian theory that the souls of the dead survive
and are afterwards reborn as infants.]

But if the aborigines of Central Australia have no religion properly so
called, they entertain beliefs and they observe practices out of which
under favourable circumstances a religion might have been developed, if
its evolution had not been arrested by the advent of Europeans. Among
these elements of natural religion one of the most important is the
theory which these savages hold as to the existence and nature of the
dead. That theory is a very remarkable one. With a single exception,
which I shall mention presently, they unanimously believe that death is
not the end of all things for the individual, but that the human
personality survives, apparently with little change, in the form of a
spirit, which may afterwards be reborn as a child into the world. In
fact they think that every living person without exception is the
reincarnation of a dead person who lived on earth a longer or shorter
time ago. This belief is held universally by the tribes which occupy an
immense area of Australia from the centre northwards to the Gulf of
Carpentaria.[111] The single exception to which I have referred is
furnished by the Gnanji, a fierce and wild-looking tribe who eat their
dead enemies and perhaps also their dead friends.[112] These savages
deny that women have spirits which live after death; when a woman dies,
that, they say, is the end of her. On the other hand, the spirit of a
dead man, in their opinion, survives and goes to and fro on the earth
visiting the places where his forefathers camped in days of old and
destined to be born again of a woman at some future time, when the rains
have fallen and bleached his bones.[113] But why these primitive
philosophers should deny the privilege of immortality to women and
reserve it exclusively for men, is not manifest. All other Central
Australian tribes appear to admit the rights of women equally with the
rights of men in a life beyond the grave.

[Sidenote: Central Australian theory as to the state of the dead.
Certain conspicuous features of the landscape supposed to be tenanted by
the souls of the dead waiting to be born again.]

With regard to the state of the souls of the dead in the intervals
between their successive reincarnations, the opinions of the Central
Australian savages are clear and definite. Most civilised races who
believe in the immortality of the soul have found themselves compelled
to confess that, however immortal the spirits of the departed may be,
they do not present themselves commonly to our eyes or ears, nor meddle
much with the affairs of the living; hence the survivors have for the
most part inferred that the dead do not hover invisible in our midst,
but that they dwell somewhere, far away, in the height of heaven, or in
the depth of earth, or in Islands of the Blest beyond the sea where the
sun goes down. Not so with the simple aborigines of Australia. They
imagine that the spirits of the dead continue to haunt their native land
and especially certain striking natural features of the landscape, it
may be a pool of water in a deep gorge of the barren hills, or a
solitary tree in the sun-baked plains, or a great rock that affords a
welcome shade in the sultry noon. Such spots are thought to be tenanted
by the souls of the departed waiting to be born again. There they lurk,
constantly on the look-out for passing women into whom they may enter,
and from whom in due time they may be born as infants. It matters not
whether the woman be married or unmarried, a matron or a maid, a
blooming girl or a withered hag: any woman may conceive directly by the
entrance into her of one of these disembodied spirits; but the natives
have shrewdly observed that the spirits shew a decided preference for
plump young women. Hence when such a damsel is passing near a plot of
haunted ground, if she does not wish to become a mother, she will
disguise herself as an aged crone and hobble past, saying in a thin
cracked voice, "Don't come to me. I am an old woman." Such spots are
often stones, which the natives call child-stones because the souls of
the dead are there lying in wait for women in order to be born as
children. One such stone, for example, may be seen in the land of the
Arunta tribe near Alice Springs. It projects to a height of three feet
from the ground among the mulga scrub, and there is a round hole in it
through which the souls of dead plum-tree people are constantly peeping,
ready to pounce out on a likely damsel. Again, in the territory of the
Warramunga tribe the ghosts of black-snake people are supposed to gather
in the rocks round certain pools or in the gum-trees which border the
generally dry bed of a water-course. No Warramunga woman would dare to
strike one of these trees with an axe, because she is firmly convinced
that in doing so she would set free one of the lurking black-snake
spirits, who would immediately dart into her body. They think that the
spirits are no larger than grains of sand and that they make their way
into women through the navel. Nor is it merely by direct contact with
one of these repositories of souls, nor yet by passing near it, that
women may be gotten with child against their wish. The Arunta believe
that any malicious man may by magic cause a woman or even a child to
become a mother: he has only to go to one of the child-stones and rub it
with his hands, muttering the words, "Plenty of young women. You look
and go quickly."[114]

[Sidenote: As a rule, only the souls of persons of one particular
totemic clan are thought to congregate in one place.]

A remarkable feature in these gathering-places of the dead remains to be
noticed. The society at each of them is very select. The ghosts are very
clannish; as a rule none but people of one particular totemic clan are
supposed to for-gather at any one place. For example, we have just seen
that in the Arunta tribe the souls of dead people of the plum-tree totem
congregate at a certain stone in the mulga scrub, and that in the
Warramunga tribe the spirits of deceased persons who had black snakes
for their totem haunt certain gum-trees. The same thing applies to most
of the other haunts of the dead in Central Australia. Whether the totem
was a kangaroo or an emu, a rat or a bat, a hawk or a cockatoo, a bee or
a fly, a yam or a grass seed, the sun or the moon, fire or water,
lightning or the wind, it matters not what the totem was, only the
ghosts of people of one totemic clan meet for the most part in one
place; thus one rock will be tenanted by the spirits of kangaroo folk
only, and another by spirits of emu folk only; one water-pool will be
the home of dead rat people alone, and another the haunt of none but
dead bat people; and so on with most of the other abodes of the souls.
However, in the Urabunna tribe the ghosts are not so exclusive; some of
them consent to share their abode with people of other totems. For
example, a certain pool of water is haunted by the spirits of folk who
in their lifetime had for their totems respectively the emu, rain, and a
certain grub. On the other hand a group of granite boulders is inhabited
only by the souls of persons of the pigeon totem.[115]

[Sidenote: Totemism defined.]

Perhaps for the sake of some of my hearers I should say a word as to the
meaning of totems and totemism. The subject is a large one and is still
under discussion. For our present purpose it is not necessary that I
should enter into details; I will therefore only say that a totem is
commonly a class of natural objects, usually a species of animals or
plants, with which a savage identifies himself in a curious way,
imagining that he himself and his kinsfolk are for all practical
purposes kangaroos or emus, rats or bats, hawks or cockatoos, yams or
grass-seed, and so on, according to the particular class of natural
objects which he claims as his totem. The origin of this remarkable
identification of men with animals, plants, or other things is still
much debated; my own view is that the key to the mystery is furnished by
the Australian beliefs as to birth and rebirth which I have just
described to you; but on that subject I will not now dwell.[116] All
that I ask you to remember is that in Central Australia there is no
general gathering-place for the spirits of the departed; the souls are
sorted out more or less strictly according to their totems and dwell
apart each in their own little preserve or preserves, on which ghosts of
other totems are supposed seldom or never to trespass. Thus the whole
country-side is dotted at intervals with these spiritual parks or
reservations, which are respected by the natives as the abodes of their
departed kinsfolk. In size they vary from a few square yards to many
square miles.[117]

[Sidenote: Traditionary origin of the local totem centres
(_oknanikilla_) where the souls of the dead are supposed to assemble.
The sacred sticks or stones (_churinga_) which the totemic ancestors
carried about with them.]

The way in which these spiritual preserves originated is supposed to be
as follows. In the earliest days of which the aborigines retain a
tradition, and to which they give the name of the _alcheringa_ or dream
times, their remote ancestors roamed about the country in bands, each
band composed of people of the same totem. Thus one band would consist
of frog people only, another of witchetty grub people only, another of
Hakea flower people only, and so on. Now in regard to the nature of
these remote totemic ancestors of the _alcheringa_ or dream times, the
ideas of the natives are very hazy; they do not in fact clearly
distinguish their human from their totemic nature; in speaking, for
example, of a man of the kangaroo totem they seem unable to discriminate
sharply between the man and the animal: perhaps we may say that what is
before their mind is a blurred image, a sort of composite photograph, of
a man and a kangaroo in one: the man is semi-bestial, the kangaroo is
semi-human. And similarly with their ancestors of all other totems: if
the particular ancestors, for example, had the bean-tree for their
totem, then their descendants in thinking of them might, like the blind
man in the Gospel, see in their mind's eye men walking like trees and
trees perambulating like men. Now each of these semi-human ancestors is
thought to have carried about with him on his peregrinations one or more
sacred sticks or stones of a peculiar pattern, to which the Arunta give
the name of _churinga_: they are for the most part oval or elongated and
flattened stones or slabs of wood, varying in length from a few inches
to over five feet, and inscribed with a variety of patterns which
represent or have reference to the totems. But the patterns are purely
conventional, consisting of circles, curved lines, spirals, and dots
with no attempt to represent natural objects pictorially. Each of these
sacred stones or sticks was intimately associated with the spirit part
of the man or woman who carried it; for women as well as men had their
_churinga_. When these semi-human ancestors died, they went into the
ground, leaving their sacred stones or sticks behind them on the spot,
and in every case some natural feature arose to mark the place, it might
be a tree, a rock, a pool of water, or what not. The memory of all such
spots has been carefully preserved and handed down from generation to
generation by the old men, and it is to these spots that down to the
present day the souls of all the dead regularly repair in order to await
reincarnation. The Arunta call the places _oknanikilla_, and we may call
them local totem centres, because they are the centres where the spirits
of the departed assemble according to their totems.[118]

[Sidenote: Every living person has also his or her sacred stick or stone
(_churinga_), with which his or her spirit is closely bound up.]

But it is not merely the remote forefathers of the Central Australian
savages who are said to have been possessed of these sacred sticks or
stones: every man and woman who is born into the world has one of them,
with which his or her spirit is believed to be closely bound up. This is
intelligible when we remember that every living person is believed to be
simply the reincarnation of an ancestor; for that being so he naturally
comes to life with all the attributes which belonged to him in his
previous state of existence on earth. The notion of the natives is that
when a spirit child enters into a woman to be born, he immediately drops
his sacred stick or stone on the spot, which is necessarily one of what
we have called the local totem centres, since in the opinion of the
natives it is only at or near them that a woman can conceive a child.
Hence when her child is born, the woman tells her husband the place
where she fancies that the infant entered into her, and he goes with
some old men to find the precious object, the stick or stone dropped by
the spirit of the infant when it entered into the mother. If it cannot
be found, the men cut a wooden one from the nearest hard-wood tree, and
this becomes the sacred stick or _churinga_ of the newborn child. The
exact spot, whether a tree or a stone or what not, in which the child's
spirit is supposed to have tarried in the interval between its
incarnations, is called its _nanja_ tree or stone or what not. A
definite relation is supposed to exist between each individual and his
_nanja_ tree or stone. The tree or stone and any animal or bird that
lights upon it is sacred to him and may not be molested. A native has
been known earnestly to intercede with a white man to spare a tree
because it was his _nanja_ or birth-tree, and he feared that evil would
befall him if it were cut down.[119]

[Sidenote: Sanctity of the _churinga_.]

Thus in these Central Australian tribes every man, woman, and child has
his or her sacred birth-stone or stick. But though every woman, like
every man, has her sacred birth-stone or stick, she is never allowed to
see it under pain of death or of being blinded with a fire-stick. Indeed
none but old women are aware even of the existence of such things.
Uninitiated men are likewise forbidden under the same severe penalties
ever to look upon these most sacred objects.[120] The sanctity ascribed
to the sticks and stones is intelligible when we remember that the
spirits of all the people both living and dead are believed to be
intimately associated with them. Each of them, we are told, is supposed
to be so closely bound up with a person's spirit that it may be regarded
as his or her representative, and those of dead people are believed to
be endowed with the attributes of their former owners and actually to
impart them to any one who happens to carry them about with him. Hence
these apparently insignificant sticks and stones are, in the opinion of
the natives, most potent instruments for conveying to the living the
virtues and powers of the dead. For example, in a fight the possession
of one of these holy sticks or stones is thought to endow the possessor
with courage and accuracy of aim and also to deprive his adversary of
these qualities. So firmly is this belief held, that if two men were
fighting and one of them knew that the other carried a sacred
birth-stone or stick while he himself did not, he would certainly lose
heart and be beaten. Again, when a man is sick, he will sometimes have
one of these sacred stones brought to him and will scrape a little dust
off it, mix the dust with water, and drink it. This is supposed to
strengthen him. Clearly he imagines that with the scrapings of the stone
he absorbs the strength and other qualities of the person to whom the
stone belonged.[121]

[Sidenote: Sacred store-houses (_ertnatulunga_) of the _churinga_.]

All the birth-stones or sticks (_churinga_) belonging to any particular
totemic group are kept together, hidden away from the eyes of women and
uninitiated men, in a sacred store-house or _ertnatulunga_, as the
Arunta and Unmatjera call it. This store-house is always situated in one
of the local totem centres or _oknanikilla_, which, as we have seen,
vary in size from a few yards to many square miles. In itself the sacred
treasure-house is usually a small cave or crevice in some lonely spot
among the rugged hills. The entrance is carefully blocked up with stones
arranged so artfully as to simulate nature and to awake no suspicion in
the mind of passing strangers that behind these tumbled blocks lie
concealed the most prized possessions of the tribe. The immediate
neighbourhood of any one of these sacred store-houses is a kind of haven
of refuge for wild animals, for once they have run thither, they are
safe; no hunter would spear a kangaroo or opossum which cowered on the
ground at one of these hallowed spots. The very plants which grow there
are sacred and may not be plucked or broken or interfered with in any
way. Similarly, an enemy who succeeds in taking refuge there, is safe
from his pursuer, so long as he keeps within the sacred boundaries: even
the avenger of blood, pursuing the murderer hot-foot, would not dare to
lift up his hand against him on the holy ground. Thus, these places are
sanctuaries in the strict sense of the word; they are probably the most
primitive examples of their class and contain the germ out of which
cities of refuge for manslayers and others might be developed. It is
instructive, therefore, to observe that these rudimentary sanctuaries in
the heart of the Australian wilderness derive their sacredness mainly,
it would seem, from their association with the spirits of the dead,
whose repose must not be disturbed by tumult, violence, and bloodshed.
Even when the sacred birth-stones and sticks have been removed from the
store-house in the secret recesses of the hills and have been brought
into the camp for the performance of certain solemn ceremonies, no
fighting may take place, no weapons may be brandished in their
neighbourhood: if men will quarrel and fight, they must take their
weapons and go elsewhere to do it.[122] And when the men go to one of
the sacred store-houses to inspect the treasures which it contains, they
must each of them put his open hand solemnly over the mouth of the rocky
crevice and then retire, in order to give the spirits due notice of the
approach of strangers; for if they were disturbed suddenly, they would
be angry.[123]

[Sidenote: Exhibition of the _churinga_ to young men.]

It is only after a young man has passed through the severe ceremonies of
initiation, which include most painful bodily mutilations, that he is
deemed worthy to be introduced to the tribal arcana, the sacred sticks
and stones, which repose in their hallowed cave among the mountain
solitudes. Even when he has passed through all the ordeals, many years
may elapse before he is admitted to a knowledge of these mysteries, if
he shews himself to be of a light and frivolous disposition. When at
last by the gravity of his demeanour he is judged to have proved himself
indeed a man, a day is fixed for revealing to him the great secret. Then
the headman of his local group, together with other grave and reverend
seniors, conducts him to the mouth of the cave: the stones are rolled
away from the entrance: the spirits within are duly warned of the
approach of visitors; and then the sacred sticks and stones, tied up in
bundles, are brought forth. The bundles are undone, the sticks and
stones are taken out, one by one, reverently scrutinised, and exhibited
to the novice, while the old men explain to him the meaning of the
patterns incised on each and reveal to him the persons, alive or dead,
to whom they belong. All the time the other men keep chanting in a low
voice the traditions of their remote ancestors in the far-off dream
times. At the close the novice is told the secret and sacred name which
he is thenceforth to bear, and is warned never to allow it to pass his
lips in the hearing of anybody except members of his own totemic
group.[124] Sometimes this secret name is that of an ancestor of whom
the man or woman is supposed to be a reincarnation: for women as well as
men have their secret and sacred names.[125]

[Sidenote: Number of _churinga_ in a store-house. Significance of the
_churinga_. Use of the _churinga_ in magic.]

The number of sacred birth-stones and sticks kept in any one store-house
naturally varies from group to group; but whatever their number, whether
more or less, in any one store-house they all normally belong to the
same totem, though a few belonging to other totems may be borrowed and
deposited for a time with them. For example, a sacred store-house of the
honey-ant totem was found to contain sixty-eight birth-sticks of that
totem with a few of the lizard totem and two of the wild-cat totem.[126]
Any store-house will usually contain both sticks and stones, but as a
rule perhaps the sticks predominate in number.[127] Time after time
these tribal repositories are visited by the men and their contents
taken out and examined. On each examination the sacred sticks and stones
are carefully rubbed over with dry and powdered red ochre or charcoal,
the sticks being rubbed with red ochre only, but the stones either with
red ochre or charcoal.[128] Further, it is customary on these occasions
to press the sacred objects against the stomachs and thighs of all the
men present; this is supposed to untie their bowels, which are thought
to be tightened and knotted by the emotion which the men feel at the
sight of these venerated sticks and stones. Indeed, the emotion is
sometimes very real: men have been seen to weep on beholding these
mystic objects for the first time after a considerable interval.[129]
Whenever the sacred store-house is visited and its contents examined,
the old men explain to the younger men the marks incised on the sticks
and stones, and recite the traditions associated with the dead men to
whom they belonged;[130] so that these rude objects of wood and stone,
with the lines and dots scratched on them, serve the savages as
memorials of the past; they are in fact rudimentary archives as well as,
we may almost say, rudimentary idols; for a stone or stick which
represents a revered ancestor and is supposed to be endowed with some
portion of his spirit, is not far from being an idol. No wonder,
therefore, that they are guarded and treasured by a tribe as its most
precious possession. When a group of natives have been robbed of them by
thoughtless white men and have found the sacred store-house empty, they
have tried to kill the traitor who betrayed the hallowed spot to the
strangers, and have remained in camp for a fortnight weeping and wailing
for the loss and plastering themselves with pipeclay, which is their
token of mourning for the dead.[131] Yet, as a great mark of friendship,
they will sometimes lend these sacred sticks and stones to a
neighbouring group; for believing that the sticks and stones are
associated with the spiritual parts of their former and present owners,
they naturally wish to have as many of them as possible and regard their
possession as a treasure of great price, a sort of reservoir of
spiritual force,[132] which can be turned to account not only in battle
by worsting the enemy, but in various other ways, such as by magically
increasing the food supply. For instance, when a man of the grass-seed
totem wishes to increase the supply of grass-seed in order that it may
be eaten by people of other totems, he goes to the sacred store-house,
clears the ground all around it, takes out a few of the holy sticks and
stones, smears them with red ochre and decorates them with birds' down,
chanting a spell all the time. Then he rubs them together so that the
down flies off in all directions; this is supposed to carry with it the
magical virtue of the sticks or stones and so to fertilise the
grass-seed.[133]

[Sidenote: Elements of a worship of the dead. Marvellous powers
attributed by the Central Australians to their remote ancestors of the
_alcheringa_ or dream time.]

On the whole, when we survey these practices and beliefs of the Central
Australian aborigines, we may perhaps conclude that, if they do not
amount to a worship of the dead, they at least contain the elements out
of which such a worship might easily be developed. At first sight, no
doubt, their faith in the transmigration of souls seems and perhaps
really is a serious impediment to a worship of the dead in the strict
sense of the word. For if they themselves are the dead come to life
again, it is difficult to see how they can worship the spirits of the
dead without also worshipping each other, since they are all by
hypothesis simply these worshipful spirits reincarnated. But though in
theory every living man and woman is merely an ancestor or ancestress
born again and therefore should be his or her equal, in practice they
appear to admit that their forefathers of the remote _alcheringa_ or
dream time were endowed with many marvellous powers which their modern
reincarnations cannot lay claim to, and that accordingly these ancestral
spirits were more to be reverenced, were in fact more worshipful, than
their living representatives. On this subject Messrs. Spencer and Gillen
observe: "The Central Australian native is firmly convinced, as will be
seen from the accounts relating to their _alcheringa_ ancestors, that
the latter were endowed with powers such as no living man now possesses.
They could travel underground or mount into the sky, and could make
creeks and water-courses, mountain-ranges, sand-hills, and plains. In
very many cases the actual names of these natives are preserved in their
traditions, but, so far as we have been able to discover, there is no
instance of any one of them being regarded in the light of a 'deity.'
Amongst the Central Australian natives there is never any idea of
appealing for assistance to any one of these Alcheringa ancestors in any
way, nor is there any attempt made in the direction of propitiation,
with one single exception in the case of the mythic creature called
Wollunqua, amongst the Warramunga tribe, who, it may be remarked, is
most distinctly regarded as a snake and not as a human being."[134] Thus
far Messrs. Spencer and Gillen. From their testimony it appears that
with a single possible exception, to which I will return immediately,
the Central Australian aborigines are not known to worship any of their
dead ancestors; they indeed believe their remote forefathers of the
_alcheringa_ age to have been endowed with marvellous powers which they
themselves do not possess; but they do not regard these ancestral
spirits as deities, nor do they pray and sacrifice to them for help and
protection. The single possible exception to this general rule known to
Messrs. Spencer and Gillen is the case of the mythical water-snake
called Wollunqua, who is in a sense revered and propitiated by the
Warramunga tribe. The case is interesting and instructive as indicative
of an advance from magic towards religion in the strict sense of the
word. Accordingly I propose to consider it somewhat fully.

[Sidenote: The Wollunqua, a mythical water-snake, one of the Warramunga
totems.]

The Wollunqua is one of the many totems of the Warramunga tribe. It is
to be borne in mind that, though every Australian tribe has many totems
which are most commonly animals or plants and more rarely other natural
objects, all the totems are not respected by all the members of the
tribe; each totem is respected only by a particular group of men and
women in the tribe, who believe themselves to be descended from the same
totemic ancestor. Thus the whole tribe is broken up into many groups or
bodies of men and women, each group knit together by a belief in a
common descent from the totem, by a common respect for the totemic
species, whether it be a species of animals or plants, or what not, and
finally by the possession of a common name derived from the totem. Thus,
for example, we have a group of men and women who believe themselves
descended from an ancestor who had the bandicoot for his totem; they all
respect bandicoots; and they are all called bandicoot people. Similarly
with all the other totemic groups within the tribe. It is convenient to
have a name for these totemic groups or tribal subdivisions, and
accordingly we may call them clans, provided we remember that a totemic
clan in this sense is not an independent political community such as the
Scottish Highland clans used to be; it is merely a subdivision of the
tribe, and the members of it do not usually keep to themselves but live
more or less interfused with members of all the other totemic clans
which together compose the tribe. Now amongst the Warramunga the
Wollunqua or mythical water-snake is the totem of such a clan or tribal
subdivision, the members of which believe themselves to be descended
from the creature and call themselves by its name. So far, therefore,
the Wollunqua is merely a totem of the ordinary sort, an object of
respect for a particular section of the tribe. Like other totemic
ancestors the Wollunqua is supposed to have wandered about the country
leaving supplies of spirit individuals at various points, individuals
who are constantly undergoing reincarnation. But on the other hand the
Wollunqua differs from almost all other Australian totems in this, that
whereas they are real objects, such as animals, plants, water, wind, the
sun and moon, and so on, the Wollunqua is a purely mythical creature,
which exists only in the imagination of the natives; for they believe it
to be a water-snake so huge that if it were to stand up on its tail, its
head would reach far up into the sky. It now lives in a large pool
called Thapauerlu, hidden away in a lonely valley of the Murchison
Range; but the Warramunga fear that it may at any moment sally out and
do some damage. They say that it actually killed a number of them on one
of its excursions, though happily they at last succeeded in beating it
off. So afraid are they of the creature, that in speaking of it amongst
themselves they will not use its proper name of Wollunqua but call it
instead _urkulu nappaurinnia_, because, as they told Messrs. Spencer and
Gillen, if they were to name it too often by its real name they would
lose control over the beast and it would rush forth and devour
them.[135] Thus the natives do not distinguish the Wollunqua from the
rest of their actually existing totems, as we do: they have never beheld
him with their bodily eyes, yet to them he is just as real as the
kangaroos which they see hopping along the sands, as the flies which
buzz about their heads in the sunshine, or as the cockatoos which flap
screaming past in the thickets. How real this belief in the mythical
snake is with these savages, was brought vividly home to Messrs. Spencer
and Gillen when they visited, in company with some natives, the deep and
lonely pool among the rocky hills in which the awful being is supposed
to reside. Before they approached the spot, the natives had been talking
and laughing freely, but when they drew near the water their voices were
hushed and their demeanour became solemn. When all stood silent on the
brink of the deep still pool, enclosed by a sandy margin on one side and
by a line of red rocks on the other, two old men, the leaders of the
totemic group of the Wollunqua, went down to the edge of the water and,
with bowed heads, addressed the Wollunqua in whispers, asking him to
remain quiet and do them no harm, for they were mates of his, and had
brought two great white men to see where he lived and to tell them all
about him. "We could plainly see," add Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, "that
it was all very real to them, and that they implicitly believed that the
Wollunqua was indeed alive beneath the water, watching them, though they
could not see him."[136]

[Sidenote: Religious character of the belief in the Wollunqua.]

I need hardly point out what a near approach all this is to religion in
the proper sense of the word. Here we have a firm belief in a purely
imaginary being who is necessarily visible to the eye of faith alone,
since I think we may safely assume that a water-snake, supposed to be
many miles long and capable of reaching up to the sky, has no real
existence either on the earth or in the waters under the earth. Yet to
these savages this invisible being is just as real as the actually
existing animals and men whom they perceive with their bodily senses;
they not only pray to him but they propitiate him with a solemn ritual;
and no doubt they would spurn with scorn the feeble attempts of shallow
sceptics to question the reality of his existence or the literal truth
of the myths they tell about him. Certainly these savages are far on the
road to religion, if they have not already passed the Rubicon which
divides it from the common workaday world. If an unhesitating faith in
the unseen is part of religion, the Warramunga people of the Wollunqua
totem are unquestionably religious.

[Footnote 108: On the zoological peculiarities of Australia regarded as
effects of its geographical isolation, see Alfred Newton, _Dictionary of
Birds_ (London, 1893-96), pp. 317-319. He observes (p. 318) that "the
isolation of Australia is probably the next oldest in the world to that
of New Zealand, having possibly existed since the time when no mammals
higher than marsupials had appeared on the face of the earth."]

[Footnote 109: For details see _Totemism and Exogamy_, i. 314 _sqq._]

[Footnote 110: Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen, _Northern Tribes of
Central Australia_ (London, 1904), p. 491.]

[Footnote 111: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, p. xi.]

[Footnote 112: Spencer and Gillen, _op. cit._ p. 545.]

[Footnote 113: Spencer and Gillen, _op. cit._ p. 546.]

[Footnote 114: Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen, _Native Tribes of
Central Australia_ (London, 1899), pp. 119-127, 335-338, 552; _id.,
Northern Tribes of Central Australia_, pp. 145-153, 162, 271, 330 _sq._,
448-451, 512-515. Compare _Totemism and Exogamy_, i. 188 _sqq._]

[Footnote 115: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, p. 147.]

[Footnote 116: See _Totemism and Exogamy_, i. 155 _sqq._, iv. 40 _sqq._]

[Footnote 117: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 123, 126.]

[Footnote 118: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 119-127, 128 _sqq._, 513; _id., Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 145 _sqq._, 257 _sqq._]

[Footnote 119: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 132-135; _id._, _Northern Tribes of Central Australia_, pp. 258, 268
_sqq._]

[Footnote 120: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 128, 134.]

[Footnote 121: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 134 _sq._]

[Footnote 122: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 133, 135; _id._, _Northern Tribes of Central Australia_, p. 269.]

[Footnote 123: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, p. 267.]

[Footnote 124: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 139 _sq._]

[Footnote 125: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, p. 273.]

[Footnote 126: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
p. 141.]

[Footnote 127: Spencer and Gillen, _op. cit._ p. 140]

[Footnote 128: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes_, pp. 144, 145.]

[Footnote 129: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes_, pp. 164, _sq._;
_id._, _Northern Tribes_, pp. 261, 264.]

[Footnote 130: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes_, p. 145.]

[Footnote 131: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes_, p. 136.]

[Footnote 132: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes_, pp. 158 _sq._]

[Footnote 133: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes_, pp. 271 _sq._]

[Footnote 134: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 490 _sq._]

[Footnote 135: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 226 _sq._ Another mythical being in which the Warramunga
believe is _the pau-wa_, a fabulous animal, half human and somewhat
resembling a dog. See Spencer and Gillen, _op. cit._ pp. 195, 197, 201,
210 _sq._ But the creature seems not to be a totem, for it is not
included in the list of totems given by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen (_op.
cit._ pp. 768-773).]

[Footnote 136: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 252 _sq._]



LECTURE V

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE ABORIGINES
OF CENTRAL AUSTRALIA (_continued_)


[Sidenote: Beliefs of the Central Australian aborigines concerning the
reincarnation of the dead. The mythical water-snake Wollunqua.]

In the last lecture we began our survey of the belief in immortality and
the practices to which it has given rise among the aboriginal tribes of
Central Australia. I shewed that these primitive savages hold a very
remarkable theory of birth and death. They believe that the souls of the
dead do not perish but are reborn in human form after a longer or
shorter interval. During that interval the spirits of the departed are
supposed to congregate in certain parts of the country, generally
distinguished by some conspicuous natural feature, which accordingly the
natives account sacred, believing them to be haunted by the souls of the
dead. From time to time one of these disembodied spirits enters into a
passing woman and is born as an infant into the world. Thus according to
the Central Australian theory every living person without exception is
the reincarnation of a dead man, woman, or child. At first sight the
theory seems to exclude the possibility of any worship of the dead,
since it appears to put the living on a footing of perfect equality with
the dead by identifying the one with the other. But I pointed out that
as a matter of fact these savages do admit, whether logically or not,
the superiority of their remote ancestors to themselves: they
acknowledge that these old forefathers of theirs did possess many
marvellous powers to which they themselves can lay no claim. In this
acknowledgment, accordingly, we may detect an opening or possibility for
the development of a real worship of ancestors. Indeed, as I said at the
close of last lecture, something closely approaching to ancestor worship
has actually grown up in regard to the mythical ancestor of the
Wollunqua clan in the Warramunga tribe. The Wollunqua is a purely
fabulous water-snake, of gigantic dimensions, which is supposed to haunt
the waters of a certain lonely pool called Thapauerlu, in the Murchison
Range of mountains. Unlike the ancestors of the other totemic clans,
this mythical serpent is never reborn in human form; he always lives in
his solitary pool among the barren hills; but the natives think that he
has it in his power to come forth and do them an injury, and accordingly
they pray to him to remain quiet and not to harm them. Indeed so afraid
of him are they that speaking of the creature among themselves they
avoid using his proper name of Wollunqua and call him by a different
name, lest hearing himself called by his true name he should rush forth
and devour them. More than that they even endeavour to propitiate him by
the performance of certain rites, which, however childish and absurd
they may seem to us, are very solemn affairs for these simple folk. The
rites were witnessed by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, whose description I
will summarise. It offers an interesting and instructive example of a
ritual observed by primitive savages, who are clearly standing on, if
they have not already crossed, the threshold of religion.

[Sidenote: Wanderings of the Wollunqua. Dramatic ceremonies in honour of
the Wollunqua.]

Like all other totemic ancestors the Wollunqua is said to have arisen at
a particular spot, to have wandered about the country, and finally to
have gone down into the ground. Starting from the deep rocky pool in the
Murchison Range he travelled at first underground, coming up, however,
at various points where he performed ceremonies and left many spirit
children, who issued from his body and remained behind, forming local
totemic centres when he had passed on. It is these spirit children who
have formed the Wollunqua clan ever since, undergoing an endless series
of reincarnations. Now the ceremonies which the clan perform in honour
of their mythical ancestor the Wollunqua all refer to his wanderings
about the country. Thus there is a particular water-hole called
Pitingari where the great old water-snake is said to have emerged from
the ground and looked about him. Here, accordingly, two men performed a
ceremony. Each of them was decorated with a broad band of red down,
which curved round both the front and the back of the performer and
stood sharply out from the mass of white down with which all the rest of
the upper part of his body was covered. These broad red bands
represented the Wollunqua. Each man also wore a tall, conical helmet
adorned with a curved band of red down, which, no doubt, likewise
symbolised the mythical serpent. When the two actors in the little drama
had been attired in this quaint costume of red and white down, they
retired behind a bush, which served for the side scenes of a theatre.
Then, when the orchestra, composed of adult men, struck up the music on
the ceremonial ground by chanting and beating boomerangs and sticks
together, the performers ran in, stopping every now and then to shake
themselves in imitation of the snake. Finally, they sat down close
together with their heads bowed down on a few green branches of
gum-trees. A man then stepped up to them, knocked off their
head-dresses, and the simple ceremony came to an end.[137]

[Sidenote: Ceremony in honour of the Wollunqua.]

The next ceremony was performed on the following day at another place
called Antipataringa, where the mythical snake is said to have halted in
his wanderings. The same two men acted as before, but this time one of
them carried on his head a curious curved bundle shaped like an enormous
boomerang. It was made of grass-stalks bound together with human
hair-string and decorated with white down. This sacred object
represented the Wollunqua himself.[138] From this spot the snake was
believed to have travelled on to another place called Tjunguniari, where
he popped up his head among the sand-hills, the greater part of his body
remaining underground. Indeed, of such an enormous length was the
serpent, that though his head had now travelled very many miles his tail
still remained at the starting-point and had not yet begun to take part
in the procession. Here accordingly the third ceremony, perhaps we may
say the third act in the drama, was performed on the third day. In it
one of the actors personated the snake himself, while the other stood
for a sand-hill.[139]

[Sidenote: Further ceremony in honour of the Wollunqua: the white mound
with the red wavy band to represent the mythical snake.]

After an interval of three days a fourth ceremony was performed of an
entirely different kind. A keel-shaped mound was made of wet sand, about
fifteen feet long by two feet high. The smooth surface of the mound was
covered with a mass of little dots of white down, except for a long wavy
band of red down which ran all along both sides of the mound. This wavy
red band represented the Wollunqua, his head being indicated by a small
round swelling at one end and his tail by a short prolongation at the
other. The mound itself represented a sand-hill beside which the snake
is said to have stood up and looked about. The preparation of this
elaborate emblem of the Wollunqua occupied the greater part of the day,
and it was late in the afternoon before it was completed. When darkness
fell, fires were lighted on the ceremonial ground, and as the night grew
late more fires were kindled, and all of the men sat round the mound
singing songs which referred to the mythical water-snake. This went on
for hours. At last, about three o'clock in the morning, a ring of fires
was lit all round the ceremonial ground, in the light of which the white
trunks of the gum-trees and the surrounding scrub stood out weird and
ghastly against the blackness of darkness beyond. Amid the wildest
excitement the men of the Wollunqua totem now ranged themselves in
single file on their knees beside the mound which bore the red image of
their great mythical forefather, and with their hands on their thighs
surged round and round it, every man bending in unison first to one side
and then to the other, each successive movement being accompanied by a
loud and simultaneous shout, or rather yell, while the other men, who
were not of the Wollunqua totem, stood by, clanging their boomerangs
excitedly, and one old man, who acted as a sort of choregus, walked
backwards at the end of the kneeling procession of Wollunqua men,
swaying his body about and lifting high his knees at every step. In this
way, with shouts and clangour, the men of the totem surged twice round
the mound on their knees. After that, as the fires died down, the men
rose from their knees, and for another hour every one sat round the
mound singing incessantly. The last act in the drama was played at four
o'clock in the morning at the moment when the first faint streaks of
dawn glimmered in the east. At sight of them every man jumped to his
feet, the smouldering fires were rekindled, and in their blaze the long
white mound stood out in strong relief. The men of the totem, armed with
spears, boomerangs, and clubs, ranged themselves round it, and
encouraged by the men of the other totems attacked it fiercely with
their weapons, until in a few minutes they had hacked it to pieces, and
nothing was left of it but a rough heap of sandy earth. The fires again
died down and for a short time silence reigned. Then, just as the sun
rose above the eastern horizon, the painful ceremony of subincision was
performed on three youths, who had recently passed through the earlier
stages of initiation.[140]

[Sidenote: The rite aims both at pleasing and at coercing the mythical
snake.]

This remarkable rite is supposed, we are informed, "in some way to be
associated with the idea of persuading, or almost forcing, the Wollunqua
to remain quietly in his home under the water-hole at Thapauerlu, and to
do no harm to any of the natives. They say that when he sees the mound
with his representation drawn upon it he is gratified, and wriggles
about underneath with pleasure. The savage attack upon the mound is
associated with the idea of driving him down, and, taken altogether, the
ceremony indicates their belief that, at one and the same time, they can
both please and coerce the mythic beast. It is necessary to do things to
please him, or else he might grow sulky and come out and do them harm,
but at the same time they occasionally use force to make him do what
they want."[141] In fact the ritual of the mound with its red image of
the snake combines the principles of religion and magic. So far as the
rite is intended to please and propitiate the mythical beast, it is
religious; so far as it is intended to constrain him, it is magical. The
two principles are contradictory and the attempt to combine them is
illogical; but the savage is heedless, or rather totally unaware, of the
contradiction and illogicality: all that concerns him is to accomplish
his ends: he has neither the wish nor the ability to analyse his
motives. In this respect he is in substantial agreement with the vast
majority of mankind. How many of us scrutinise the reasons of our
conduct with the view of detecting and eliminating any latent
inconsistencies in them? And how many, or rather how few of us, on such
a scrutiny would be so fortunate as to discover that there were no such
inconsistencies to detect? The logical pedant who imagines that men
cannot possibly act on inconsistent and even contradictory motives only
betrays his ignorance of life. It is not therefore for us to cast stones
at the Warramunga men of the Wollunqua totem for attempting to
propitiate and constrain their mythical serpent at the same time. Such
contradictions meet us again and again in the history of religion: it is
interesting but by no means surprising to find them in one of its
rudimentary stages.

[Sidenote: Thunder the voice of the Wollunqua.]

On the evening of the day which succeeded the construction of the
emblematic mound the old men who had made the emblem said they had heard
the Wollunqua talking, and that he was pleased with what had been done
and was sending them rain. What they took for the voice of the Wollunqua
was thunder rumbling in the distance. No rain fell, but a few days later
thunder was again heard rolling afar off and a heavy bank of clouds lay
low on the western horizon. The old men now said that the Wollunqua was
growling because the remains of the mound had been left uncovered; so
they hastily cut down branches and covered up the ruins. After that the
Wollunqua ceased to growl: there was no more thunder.[142]

[Sidenote: Ground drawings of the Wollunqua.]

On the four following days ceremonies of an entirely different kind from
all the preceding were performed in honour of the Wollunqua. A space of
sandy ground was smoothed down, sprinkled with water, and rubbed so as
to form a compact surface. The smooth surface was then overlaid with a
coat of red or yellow ochre, and on this coloured background a number of
designs were traced, one after the other, by a series of white dots,
which together made up a pattern of curved lines and concentric circles.
These patterns represented the Wollunqua and some of his traditionary
adventures. The snake himself was portrayed by a broad wavy band, but
all the other designs were purely conventional; for example, trees,
ant-hills, and wells were alike indicated by circles. Altogether there
were eight such drawings on the earth, some of them very elaborate and
entailing, each of them, not less than six or seven hours' labour: one
of them was ten feet long. Each drawing was rubbed out before the next
one was drawn. Moreover, the drawings were accompanied by little dramas
acted by decorated men. In one of these dramas no fewer than eight
actors took part, some of whom wore head-dresses adorned with a long
wavy band to represent the Wollunqua. The last drawing of all was
supposed to portray the mythical snake as he plunged into the earth and
returned to his home in the rocky pool called Thapauerlu among the
Murchison Ranges.[143]

[Sidenote: Religious importance of the Wollunqua.]

I have dwelt at some length on these ceremonies of the Wollunqua totem,
because they furnish a remarkable and perhaps unique instance in
Australia of a totemic ancestor in the act of developing into something
like a god. In the Warramunga tribe there are other snake totems besides
the Wollunqua; for example, there is the black snake totem and the deaf
adder totem. But this purely mythical water-snake, the Wollunqua, is the
most important of them all and is regarded as the great father of all
the snakes. "It is not easy," say Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, "to
express in words what is in reality rather a vague feeling amongst the
natives, but after carefully watching the different series of ceremonies
we were impressed with the feeling that the Wollunqua represented to the
native mind the idea of a dominant totem."[144] Thus he is at once a
fabulous animal and the mythical ancestor of a human clan, but his
animal nature apparently predominates over his semi-human nature, as
shewn by the drawings and effigies of him, all of which are in serpent
form. The prayers offered to him at the pool which he is supposed to
haunt, and the attempt to please him by drawing his likeness can only be
regarded as propitiatory rites and therefore as rudimentary forms of
worship. And the idea that thunder is his voice, and that the rain is a
gift sent by him in return for the homage paid to him by the people,
appears to prove that in course of time, if left to himself, he might
easily have been elevated to the sky and have ranked as a celestial
deity, who dwells aloft and sends down or withholds the refreshing
showers at his good pleasure. Thus the Wollunqua, a rude creation of the
savage Australian imagination, possesses a high interest for the
historian of religion, since he combines elements of ancestor worship
and totem worship with a germ of heaven worship; while on the purely
material side his representation, both in plastic form by a curved
bundle of grass-stalks and in graphic form by broad wavy bands of red
down, may be said in a sense to stand at the starting-point of that long
development of religious art, which in so many countries and so many
ages has attempted to represent to the bodily eye the mysteries of the
unseen and invisible, and which, whatever we may think of the success or
failure of that attempt, has given to the world some of the noblest
works of sculpture and painting.

[Sidenote: Possible religious evolution of totemism.]

I have already pointed out the difficulty of seeing how a belief in the
reincarnation of the dead, such as prevails universally among the
aborigines of Central Australia, could ever be reconciled with or
develop into a worship of the dead; for by identifying the living with
the dead, the theory of reincarnation seems to abolish that distinction
between the worshipper and the worshipped which is essential to the
existence of worship. But, as I also indicated, what seems a loophole or
mode of escape from the dilemma may be furnished by the belief of these
savages, that though they themselves are nothing but their ancestors
come to life again, nevertheless in their earliest incarnations of the
_alcheringa_ or dream times their ancestors possessed miraculous powers
which they have admittedly lost in their later reincarnations; for this
suggests an incipient discrimination or line of cleavage between the
living and the dead; it hints that perhaps after all the first
ancestors, with their marvellous endowments, may have been entirely
different persons from their feebler descendants, and if this vague hint
could only grow into a firm conviction of the essential difference
between the two, then the course would be clear for the development of
ancestor worship: the dead forefathers, viewed as beings perfectly
distinct from and far superior to the living, might easily come to
receive from the latter the homage of prayer and sacrifice, might be
besought by their descendants to protect them in danger and to succour
them in all the manifold ills of life, or at least to abstain from
injuring them. Now, this important step in religious evolution appears
to have been actually taken by the Wollunqua, the mythical water-snake,
who is the totem of one of the Warramunga clans. Unlike all the other
totems he is supposed to exist only in his invisible and animal form and
never to be reincarnated in a man.[145] Hence, withdrawn as he is from
the real world of sense, the imagination is free to play about him and
to invest him more and more with those supernatural attributes which men
ascribe to their deities. And what has actually happened to this
particular totemic ancestor might under favourable circumstances happen
to many others. Each of them might be gradually detached from the line
of his descendants, might cease to be reincarnated in them, and might
gradually attain to the lonely pre-eminence of godhead. Thus a system of
pure totemism, such as prevails among the aborigines of Central
Australia, might develop through a phase of ancestor worship into a
pantheon of the ordinary type.

[Sidenote: Conspicuous features of the landscape associated with
ancestral spirits.]

Although none of the other totemic ancestors of the Central Australian
aborigines appears to have advanced so far on the road to religion as
the Wollunqua, yet they all contain in germ the elements out of which a
religion might have been developed. It is difficult for us civilised men
to conceive the extent to which the thoughts and lives of these savages
are dominated by the memories and traditions of the dead. Every
conspicuous feature in the landscape is not only associated with the
legendary doings of some ancestors but is commonly said to have arisen
as a direct result of their actions. The mountains, the plains, the
rivers, the seas, the islands of ancient Greece itself were not more
thickly haunted by the phantoms of a fairy mythology than are the barren
sun-scorched steppes and stony hills of the Australian wilderness; but
great indeed is the gulf which divides the beautiful creations of Greek
fancy from the crude imaginings of the Australian savage, whose
legendary tales are for the most part a mere tissue of trivial
absurdities unrelieved by a single touch of beauty or poetry.

[Sidenote: A journey through the Warramunga country.]

To illustrate at once the nature and the abundance of these legends I
will quote a passage in which Messrs. Spencer and Gillen describe a
journey they took in company with some Warramunga natives over part of
their country:--"For the first two days our way lay across miserable
plain country covered with poor scrub, with here and there low ranges
rising. Every prominent feature of any kind was associated with some
tradition of their past. A range some five miles away from Tennant Creek
arose to mark the path traversed by the great ancestor of the Pittongu
(bat) totem. Several miles further on a solitary upstanding column of
rock represented an opossum man who rested here, looked about the
country, and left spirit children behind him; a low range of remarkably
white quartzite hills indicated a large number of white ant eggs thrown
here in the _wingara_[146] by the Munga-munga women as they passed
across the country. A solitary flat-topped hill arose to mark the spot
where the Wongana (crow) ancestor paused for some time to pierce his
nose; and on the second night we camped by the side of a waterhole where
the same crow lived for some time in the _wingara_, and where now there
are plenty of crow spirit children. All the time, as we travelled along,
the old men were talking amongst themselves about the natural features
associated in tradition with these and other totemic ancestors of the
tribe, and pointing them out to us. On the third day we travelled, at
first for some hours, by the side of a river-bed,--perfectly dry of
course,--and passed the spot where two hawks first made fire by rubbing
sticks together, two fine gum-trees on the banks now representing the
place where they stood up. A few miles further on we came to a
water-hole by the side of which the moon-man met a bandicoot woman, and
while the two were talking together the fire made by the hawks crept
upon them and burnt the woman, who was, however, restored to life again
by the moon-man, with whom she then went up into the sky. Late in the
afternoon we skirted the eastern base of the Murchison Range, the rugged
quartzite hills in this part being associated partly with the crow
ancestor and partly with the bat. Following up a valley leading into the
hills we camped, just after sunset, by the side of a rather picturesque
water-pool amongst the ranges. A short distance before reaching this the
natives pointed out a curious red cliff, standing out amongst the low
hills which were elsewhere covered with thin scrub. This, which is
called Tjiti, represents the spot where an old woman spent a long time
digging for yams, the latter being indicated by great heaps of stones
lying all around. On the opposite side of the valley a column of stone
marks the spot where the woman went into the earth. The water-hole by
which we were camped was called Wiarminni. It was in reality a deep pool
in the bed of a creek coming down from the hills. Behind it the rocks
rose abruptly, and amongst them there was, or rather would have been if
a stream had been flowing, a succession of cascades and rocky
water-holes. Two of the latter, just above Wiarminni, are connected with
a fish totem, and represent the spot where two fish men arose in the
_alcheringa_, fought one another, left spirit children behind, and
finally went down into the ground. We were now, so to speak, in the very
midst of _mungai_ [i.e. of places associated with the totems], for the
old totemic ancestors of the tribe, who showed a most commendable
fondness for arising and walking about in the few picturesque spots
which their country contained, had apparently selected these rocky
gorges as their central home. All around us the water-holes, gorges, and
rocky crags were peopled with spirit individuals left behind by one or
other of the following totemic ancestors:--Wollunqua, Pittongu (bat),
Wongana (crow), wild dog, emu, bandicoot, and fish, whose lines of
travel in the _alcheringa_ formed a regular network over the whole
countryside."[147]

[Sidenote: Dramatic ceremonies to commemorate the doings of ancestors.]

Similar evidence could be multiplied, but this may suffice to teach us
how to the minds of these Central Australian savages the whole country
is haunted, in the literal sense, not merely by the memories of their
dead, but by the spirits which they left behind them and which are
constantly undergoing reincarnation. And not only are the minds of the
aborigines preoccupied by the thought of their ancestors, who are
recalled to them by all the familiar features of the landscape, but they
spend a considerable part of their time in dramatically representing the
legendary doings of their rude forefathers of the remote past. It is
astonishing, we are told, how large a part of a native's life is
occupied with the performance of these dramatic ceremonies. The older he
grows, the greater is the share he takes in them, until at last they
actually absorb the greater part of his thoughts. The rites which seem
so trivial to us are most serious matters to him. They are all connected
with the great ancestors of the tribe, and he is firmly convinced that
when he dies his spirit will rejoin theirs and live in communion with
them until the time comes for him to be born again into the world. With
such solemnity does he look on the celebration of these commemorative
services, as we may call them, that none but initiated men are allowed
to witness them; women and children are strictly excluded from the
spectacle. These sacred dramas are often, though by no means always,
associated with the rites of initiation which young men have to pass
through before they are admitted to full membership of the tribe and to
participation in its deepest mysteries. The rites of initiation are not
all undergone by a youth at the same time; they succeed each other at
longer or shorter intervals of time, and at each of them he is
privileged to witness some of the solemn ceremonies in which the
traditions of the tribal ancestors are dramatically set forth before
him, until, when he has passed through the last of the rites and
ordeals, he is free to behold and to take part in the whole series of
mystery plays or professedly historical dramas. Sometimes the
performance of these dramas extends over two or three months, during
which one or more of them are acted daily.[148] For the most part, they
are very short and simple, each of them generally lasting only a few
minutes, though the costumes of the actors are often elaborate and may
have taken hours to prepare. I will describe a few of them as samples.

[Sidenote: Ceremony of the Hakea flower totem.]

We will begin with a ceremony of the Hakea flower totem in the Arunta
tribe, as to which it may be premised that a decoction of the Hakea
flower is a favourite drink of the natives. The little drama was acted
by two men, each of whom was decorated on his bare body by broad bands
of pearly grey edged with white down, which passed round his waist and
over his shoulders, contrasting well with the chocolate colour of his
skin. On his head each of them wore a kind of helmet made of twigs, and
from their ears hung tips of the tails of rabbit-bandicoots. The two sat
on the ground facing each other with a shield between them. One of them
held in his hand some twigs representing the Hakea flower in bloom;
these he pretended to steep in water so as to brew the favourite
beverage of the natives, and the man sitting opposite him made believe
to suck it up with a little mop. Meantime the other men ran round and
round them shouting _wha! wha!_ This was the substance of the play,
which ended as usual by several men placing their hands on the shoulders
of the performers as a signal to them to stop.[149]

[Sidenote: Ceremony of a fish totem.]

Again, to take another Arunta ceremony of a fish totem called
_interpitna_. The fish is the bony bream (_Chatoessus horni_), which
abounds in the water-holes of the country. The play was performed by a
single actor, an old man, whose face was covered with a mass of white
down contrasting strongly with a large bunch of black eagle-hawk
feathers which he wore on his head. His body was decorated with bands of
charcoal edged with white down. Squatting on the ground he moved his
body and extended his arms from his sides, opening and closing them as
he leaned forwards, so as to imitate a fish swelling itself out and
opening and closing its gills. Then, holding twigs in his hands, he
moved along mimicking the action of a man who drives fish before him
with a branch in a pool, just as the natives do to catch the fish.
Meantime an orchestra of four men squatted beside him singing and
beating time with a stick on the ground.[150]

[Sidenote: Ceremony of a plum-tree totem.]

Again, another Arunta ceremony of the plum-tree totem was performed by
four actors, who simply pretended to knock down and eat imaginary plums
from an imaginary plum-tree.[151] An interesting point in this very
simple drama is that in it the men of the plum-tree totem are
represented eating freely of their totem, which is quite contrary to the
practice of the present day, but taken along with many similar
ceremonies it goes far to prove that in the ancient days, to which all
these dramatic ceremonies refer, it was the regular practice for men and
women of a totem to eat their totemic animals or plants. As another
example of a drama in which the performers are represented eating their
totem we may take a ceremony of the ant totem in the Warramunga tribe.
The legendary personages who figure in it are two women of the ant
totem, ancestresses of the ant clan, who are said to have devoted all
their time to catching and eating ants, except when they were engaged in
the performance of ceremonies. The two men who personated these women in
the drama (for no woman is allowed to witness, much less to act in,
these sacred dramas) had the whole of the upper parts of their bodies,
including their faces and the cylindrical helmets which they wore on
their heads, covered with a dense mass of little specks of red down.
These specks stood for the ants, alive or dead, and also for the stones
and trees on the spots where the two women encamped. In the drama the
two actors thus arrayed walked about the ground as if they were
searching for ants to eat. Each of them carried a wooden trough and
stooping down from time to time he turned over the ground and picked up
small stones which he placed in the trough till it was full. The stones
represented the masses of ants which the women gathered for food. After
carrying on this pantomime for a time the two actors pretended to
discover each other with surprise and to embrace with joy, much to the
amusement of the spectators.[152]

[Sidenote: In these ceremonies the action is appropriate to the totem.
Ceremony of the witchetty grub totem.]

In all these ceremonies you will observe that the action of the drama is
strictly appropriate to the totem. In the drama of the Hakea flower
totem the actors pretend to make and drink the beverage brewed from
Hakea flowers; in the ceremony of the fish totem the actor feigns to be
a fish and also to catch fish; in the ceremony of the plum-tree totem
the actors pretend to knock down and eat plums; and in the ceremony of
the ant totem the actors make believe to gather ants for food.
Similarly, to take a few more examples, in a ceremony of the witchetty
grub totem of the Arunta tribe the body of the actor was decorated with
lines of white and red down, and he had a shield adorned with a number
of concentric circles of down. The smaller circles represented the bush
on which the grub lives first of all, and the larger circles represented
the bush on which the adult insect lays its eggs. When all was ready,
the performer seated himself on the ground and imitated the grub,
alternately doubling himself up and rising on his knees, while he
extended his arms and made them quiver in imitation of the insect's
wings; and every now and then he would bend over the shield and sway to
and fro, and up and down, in imitation of the insect hovering over the
bushes on which it lays its eggs.[153] In another ceremony of the
witchetty grub totem, which followed immediately the one I have just
described, the actor had two shields beside him. The smaller of the
shields was ornamented with zigzag lines of white pipe-clay which were
supposed to indicate the tracks of the grub; the larger shield was
covered with larger and smaller series of concentric circles, the larger
representing the seeds of a bush on which the insect feeds, while the
smaller stood for the eggs of the adult insect. As before, the actor
wriggled and flapped his arms in imitation of the fluttering of the
insect when it first leaves its chrysalis case in the ground and
attempts to fly. In acting thus he was supposed to represent a
celebrated ancestor of the witchetty grub totem.[154]

[Sidenote: Ceremony of the emu totem.]

The last example of such ceremonies which I shall cite is one of the emu
totem in the Arunta tribe. The body of the actor was decorated with
perpendicular lines of white down reaching from his shoulders to his
knees; and on his head he supported a towering head-piece tipped with a
bunch of emu feathers in imitation of the neck and head of an emu. Thus
arrayed he stalked backwards and forwards in the aimless fashion of the
bird.[155]

[Sidenote: These dramatic ceremonies were probably at first magical
rites intended to supply the people with food and other necessaries.]

What are we to think of the intention of these little dramas which the
Central Australian aborigines regard as sacred and to the performance of
which they devote so much time and labour? At first sight they are
simply commemorative services, designed to represent the ancestors as
they lived and moved in the far-past times, to recall their adventures,
of which legend has preserved the memory, and to set them dramatically
before the eyes of their living descendants. So far, therefore, the
dramas might be described as purely historical in intention, if not in
reality. But there are reasons for thinking that in all cases a deeper
meaning underlies, or formerly underlay, the performance of all these
apparently simple historical plays; in fact, we may suspect that
originally they were all magical ceremonies observed for the practical
purpose of supplying the people with food, water, sunshine, and
everything else of which they stand in need. This conclusion is
suggested first of all by the practice of the Arunta and other Central
Australian tribes, who observe very similar ceremonies with the avowed
intention of thereby multiplying the totemic animals and plants in order
that they may be eaten by the tribe, though not by the particular clan
which has these animals or plants for its totem. It is true that the
Arunta distinguish these magical ceremonies for the multiplication of
the totems from what we may call the more purely commemorative or
historical performances, and they have a special name for the former,
namely _intichiuma_, which they do not bestow on the latter. Yet these
_intichiuma_ or magical ceremonies resemble the commemorative ceremonies
so closely that it is difficult to suppose they can always have been
wholly distinct. For example, in the magical ceremonies for the
multiplication of witchetty grubs the performers pretend to be the
insects emerging from their chrysalis cases,[156] just as the actors do
in the similar commemorative ceremony which I have described; and again
in a magical ceremony for the multiplication of emus the performers wear
head-dresses to represent the long neck and small head of the bird, and
they mimic its gait,[157] exactly as the actors do in the commemorative
ceremony. It seems reasonable, therefore, to conjecture that the
ceremonies which now are, or seem to be, purely commemorative or
historical were originally magical in intention, being observed for the
practical purpose of multiplying edible animals and plants or supplying
other wants of the tribe.

[Sidenote: Among the Warramunga these dramatic ceremonies are avowedly
performed as magical rites.]

Now this conjecture is strongly confirmed by the actual usage of the
Warramunga tribe, amongst whom the commemorative or historical dramas
are avowedly performed as magical rites: in other words, the Warramunga
attribute a magical virtue to the simple performance of such dramas:
they think that by merely acting the parts of their totemic ancestors
they thereby magically multiply the edible animals or plants which these
ancestors had for their totems. Hence in this tribe the magical
ceremonies and the dramatic performances practically coincide: with
them, as Messrs. Spencer and Gillen say, the _intichiuma_ or magical
ceremonies (called by the Warramunga _thalamminta_) "for the most part
simply consist in the performance of a complete series representing the
_alcheringa_ history of the totemic ancestor. In this tribe each totemic
group has usually one great ancestor, who arose in some special spot and
walked across the country, making various natural features as he did
so,--creeks, plains, ranges, and water-holes,--and leaving behind him
spirit individuals who have since been reincarnated. The _intichiuma_
[or magical] ceremony of the totem really consists in tracking these
ancestors' paths, and repeating, one after the other, ceremonies
commemorative of what are called the _mungai_ spots, the equivalent of
the _oknanikilla_ amongst the Arunta--that is, the places where he left
the spirit children behind."[158] Apparently the Warramunga imagine that
by imitating a totemic ancestor at the very place where he left spirit
children of the same totem behind him, they thereby enable these spirit
children to be born again and so increase the food supply, whenever
their totem is an edible animal or plant; for we must always remember
that in the mind of these savages the idea of a man or woman is
inextricably confused with the idea of his or her totem; they seem
unable to distinguish between the two, and therefore they believe that
in multiplying human beings at their local totemic centres (_mungai_ or
_oknanikilla_) they simultaneously multiply their totems; and as the
totems are commonly edible animals and plants, it follows that in the
opinion of the Warramunga the general effect of performing these
ancestral plays is to increase the supply of food of the tribe. No
wonder, therefore, that the dramas are sacred, and that the natives
attribute the most serious significance to their performance: the
neglect to perform them might, in their judgment, bring famine and ruin
on the whole tribe. As Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, speaking of these
ceremonies, justly observe: "Their proper performance is a matter of
very great importance in the eyes of the natives, because, not only do
they serve to keep alive and hand down from generation to generation the
traditions of the tribe, but they are, at least amongst the Warramunga,
intimately associated with the most important object of maintaining the
food supply, as every totemic group is held responsible for the
maintenance of the material object the name of which it bears."[159]

[Sidenote: General view of the attitude of the Central Australian
natives towards their dead.]

To sum up the attitude of the Central Australian natives towards their
dead. They believe that their dead are constantly undergoing
reincarnation by being born again of women into the world, in fact that
every living man, woman, and child is nothing but a dead person come to
life again, that so it has been from the beginning and that so it will
be to the end. Of a special world of the departed, remote and different
from the material world in which they live and from the familiar scenes
to which they have been accustomed from infancy, they have no
conception; still less, if that is possible, have they any idea of a
division of the world of the dead into a realm of bliss and a realm of
woe, where the spirits of the good live ineffably happy and the spirits
of the bad live unspeakably miserable. To their simple minds the spirits
of the dead dwell all about them in the rocky gorges, the barren plains,
the wooded dells, the rustling trees, the still waters of their native
land, haunting in death the very spots where they last entered into
their mothers' wombs to be born, and where in future they will again
enter into the wombs of other women to be born again as other children
into the world. And so, they think, it will go on for ever and ever.
Such a creed seems at first sight, as I have pointed out, irreconcilable
with a worship of the dead in the proper sense of the word; and so
perhaps it would be, if these savages were strictly consistent and
logical in their theories. But they are not. They admit that their
remote ancestors, in other words, that they themselves in former
incarnations, possessed certain marvellous powers to which in the
present degenerate days they can lay no claim; and in this significant
admission we may detect a rift, a real distinction of kind, between the
living and the dead, which in time might widen out into an impassable
gulf. In other words, we may suppose that the Central Australians, if
left to themselves, might come to hold that the dead return no more to
the land of the living, and that, acknowledging as they do the vast
superiority of their remote ancestors to themselves, they might end by
worshipping them, at first simply as powerful ancestral spirits, and
afterwards as supernatural deities, whose original connexion with
humanity had been totally forgotten. In point of fact we saw that among
the Warramunga the mythical water-snake Wollunqua, who is regarded as an
ancestor of a totemic clan, has made some progress towards deification;
for while he is still regarded as the forefather of the clan which bears
his name, it is no longer supposed that he is born again of women into
the world, but that he lives eternal and invisible under the water of a
haunted pool, and that he has it in his power both to help and to harm
his people, who pray to him and perform ceremonies in his honour. This
awful being, whose voice is heard in the peal of thunder and whose
dreadful name may not be pronounced in common life, is not far from
godhead; at least he is apparently the nearest approach to it which the
imagination of these rude savages has been able to conceive. Lastly, as
I have pointed out, the reverence which the Central Australians
entertain for their dead ancestors is closely bound up with their
totemism; they fail to distinguish clearly or at all between men and
their totems, and accordingly the ceremonies which they perform to
commemorate the dead are at the same time magical rites designed to
ensure an abundant supply of food and of all the other necessaries and
conveniences which savage life requires or admits of; indeed, we may
with some probability conjecture that the magical intention of these
ceremonies is the primary and original one, and that the commemorative
intention is secondary and derivative. If that could be proved to be so
(which is hardly to be expected), we should be obliged to conclude that
in this as in so many enquiries into the remote human past we detect
evidence of an Age of Magic preceding anything that deserves to be
dignified with the name of religion.

That ends what I have to say at present as to the belief in immortality
and the worship of the dead among the Central Australian aborigines. In
my next lecture I propose to pursue the enquiry among the other tribes
of Australia.

[Footnote 137: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 228 _sq._]

[Footnote 138: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 229 _sq._]

[Footnote 139: Spencer and Gillen, _op. cit._ pp. 230 _sq._]

[Footnote 140: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 231-238.]

[Footnote 141: Spencer and Gillen, _op. cit._ p. 238.]

[Footnote 142: Spencer and Gillen, _op. cit._ pp. 238 _sq._]

[Footnote 143: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 239-247.]

[Footnote 144: Spencer and Gillen, _op. cit._ p. 248.]

[Footnote 145: "On the other hand there is a great difference between
the Wollunqua and any other totem, inasmuch as the particular animal is
purely mythical, and except for the one great progenitor of the totemic
group, is not supposed to exist at the present day" (Spencer and Gillen,
_Northern Tribes of Central Australia_, p. 248).]

[Footnote 146: The _wingara_ is the equivalent of the Arunta
_alcheringa_, that is, the earliest legendary or mythical times of which
the natives profess to have knowledge.]

[Footnote 147: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 249 _sq._]

[Footnote 148: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 33 _sq._, 177 _sq._]

[Footnote 149: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 297 _sq._]

[Footnote 150: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 316 _sq._]

[Footnote 151: Spencer and Gillen, _op. cit._ p. 320.]

[Footnote 152: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 199-204.]

[Footnote 153: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 179 _sq._]

[Footnote 154: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 179 _sq._]

[Footnote 155: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 358 _sq._, and p. 343, fig 73.]

[Footnote 156: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
p. 176.]

[Footnote 157: Spencer and Gillen, _op. cit._ pp. 182 _sq._]

[Footnote 158: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, p. 297.]

[Footnote 159: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, p. 197.]



LECTURE VI

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE OTHER ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA


[Sidenote: Customs and beliefs concerning the dead in the other tribes
of Australia.]

In the last lecture I concluded my account of the beliefs and practices
of the Central Australian aborigines in regard to the dead. To-day I
propose to consider the customs and beliefs concerning the dead which
prevail among the native tribes in other parts of Australia. But at the
outset I must warn you that our information as to these other tribes is
far less full and precise than that which we possess as to the tribes of
the centre, which have had the great advantage of being observed and
described by two highly qualified scientific observers, Messrs. Spencer
and Gillen. Our knowledge of all other Australian tribes is
comparatively fragmentary, and accordingly it is impossible to give even
an approximately complete view of their notions concerning the state of
the human spirit after death, and of the rites which they observe for
the purpose of disarming or propitiating the souls of the departed. We
must therefore content ourselves with more or less partial glimpses of
this side of native religion.

[Sidenote: Belief in the reincarnation of the dead among the natives of
Queensland. The _ngai_ spirits.]

The first question we naturally ask is whether the belief in the
reincarnation of the dead, which prevails universally among the Central
tribes, reappears among tribes in other parts of the continent. It
certainly does so, and although the evidence on this subject is very
imperfect it suffices to raise presumption that a similar belief in the
rebirth or reincarnation of the dead was formerly universal among the
Australian aborigines. Unquestionably the belief is entertained by some
of the natives of Queensland, who have been described for us by Mr. W.
E. Roth. Thus, for example, the aborigines on the Pennefather River
think that every person's spirit undergoes a series of reincarnations,
and that in the interval between two reincarnations the spirit resides
in one or other of the haunts of Anjea, a mythical being who causes
conception in women by putting mud babies into their bodies. Such spots,
haunted by the fabulous being Anjea and by the souls of the dead
awaiting rebirth, may be a tree, a rock, or a pool of water; they
clearly correspond to the local totem centres (_oknanikilla_ among the
Arunta, _mungai_ among the Warramunga) of the Central Australian tribes
which I described in former lectures. The natives of the Pennefather
River observe a ceremony at the birth of a child in order to ascertain
the exact spot where its spirit tarried in the interval since its last
incarnation; and when they have discovered it they speak of the child as
obtained from a tree, a rock, or a pool of water, according to the place
from which its spirit is supposed to have passed into its mother.[160]
Readers of the classics can hardly fail to be reminded of the Homeric
phrase to be "born of an oak or a rock,"[161] which seems to point to a
similar belief in the possibility of human souls awaiting reincarnation
in the boughs of an oak-tree or in the cleft of a rock. In the opinion
of the Pennefather natives all disembodied human spirits or _choi_, as
they call them, are mischief-makers and evildoers, for they make people
sick or crazy; but the medicine-men can sometimes control them for good
or evil. They wander about in the bush, but there are certain hollow
trees or clumps of trees with wide-spreading branches, which they most
love to haunt, and they can be heard in the rustling of the leaves or
the crackling of the boughs at night. Anjea himself, who puts babies
into women, is never seen, but you may hear him laughing in the depths
of the forest, among the rocks, in the lagoons, and along the mangrove
swamps; and when you hear his laugh you may be sure that he has got a
baby.[162] If a native happens to hurt himself near a tree, he imagines
that the spirit of some dead person is lurking among the branches, and
he will never cut that tree down lest a worse thing should befall him at
the hands of the vengeful ghost.[163] A curious feature in the beliefs
of these Pennefather natives is that apart from the spirit called
_choi_, which lives in a disembodied state between two incarnations,
every person is supposed to have a spirit of a different sort called
_ngai_, which has its seat in the heart; they feel it beating within
their breast; it talks to them in sleep and so is the cause of dreams.
At death a man's _ngai_ spirit does not go away into the bush to await
reincarnation like his _choi_ spirit; on the contrary, it passes at once
into his children, boys and girls alike; for before their father's death
children are supposed not to possess a _ngai_ spirit; if a child dies
before its father, they think that it never had a _ngai_ spirit at all.
And the _ngai_ spirit may leave a man in his lifetime as well as at
death; for example, when a person faints, the natives think that he does
so because his _ngai_ spirit has departed from him, and they will stamp
on the ground to make it return. On the other hand the _choi_ spirit is
supposed never to quit a man during life; it is thought to be in some
undefined way related to the shadow, whereas the _ngai_ spirit, as we
saw, manifests itself in the beating of the heart. When a woman dies,
her _ngai_ spirit goes not into her children but into her sisters, one
after the other; and when all the sisters are dead, the woman's _ngai_
spirit goes away among the mangroves and perishes altogether.[164]

Thus these savages explain the phenomena of birth and death, of
conscious and unconscious life, by a theory of a double human spirit,
one associated with the heart and the other with the shadow. The
psychology is rudimentary, still it is interesting as an attempt to
solve problems which still puzzle civilised man.

[Sidenote: Beliefs of the natives of Cape Bedford in Queensland.]

Other Queensland aborigines associate the vital principle not with the
heart but with the breath. For example, at Cape Bedford the natives call
it _wau-wu_ and think that it never leaves the body sleeping or waking
till death, when it haunts its place of burial for a time and may
communicate with the living. Thus, like the ghost of Hamlet's father, it
will often appear to a near kinsman or intimate friend, tell him the
pitiful tale how he was done to death by an enemy, and urge him to
revenge. Again, the soul of a man's dead father or friend may bear him
company on a journey and, like the beryl-stone in Rossetti's poem _Rose
Mary_, warn him of an ambuscade lurking for him in a spot where the man
himself sees nothing. But the spirits of the dead do not always come
with such friendly intent; they may drive the living distracted; a
peculiar form of mental excitement and bewilderment is attributed to
their action. Further, these aborigines at Cape Bedford, in Queensland,
believe that all spirits of nature are in fact souls of the dead. Such
spirits usually leave their haunts in the forests and caves at night.
Stout-hearted old men can see and converse with them and receive from
them warnings of danger; but women and children fear these spirits and
never see them. But some spirits of the dead, when they have ceased to
haunt their places of burial, go away eastward and are reincarnated in
white people; hence these savages often look for a resemblance to some
deceased tribesman among Europeans, and frequently wonder why it is that
the white man, on whom their fancy has pitched, remembers nothing about
his former life as a black man among blacks.[165]

[Sidenote: Beliefs of the natives of the Tully River in Queensland.]

The natives of the Tully River in Queensland associate the principle of
life both with the breath and with the shadow. It departs from the body
temporarily in sleep and fainting-fits and permanently in death, after
which it may be heard at night tapping on the top of huts or creaking in
the branches of trees. It is everlasting, so far as these savages have
any idea of eternity, and further it is intangible; hence in its
disembodied state it needs no food, and none is set out for it. The
disposition of these disembodied spirits of the dead is good or bad,
according to their disposition in life. Yet when a man is alone by
himself, the spirit even of one of his own dead kinsfolk will sometimes
come and do him a mischief. On the other hand it can do nothing to
several people together; there is safety in numbers. They may all see
and hear the ghost, but he will not attack them. Hence these savages
have been taught from childhood to beware of going alone: solitary
people are liable at any moment to be assailed by the spirits of the
dead. The only means they know of warding off these ghostly assailants
is by lighting good fires.[166]

[Sidenote: Belief of the Australian aborigines that their dead are
reborn in white people.]

I have mentioned the belief of the Cape Bedford natives that the spirits
of their dead are sometimes reincarnated in white people. A similar
notion is reported from other and widely separated parts of Australia,
and wherever it exists may be taken as evidence of a general belief as
to the rebirth or reincarnation of the dead, even where such a belief is
not expressly recorded. This superstition has sometimes proved of
service to white people who have been cast among the blacks, for it has
ensured them a hospitable and even affectionate welcome, where otherwise
they might have encountered suspicion and hostility, if not open
violence. Thus, for example, the convict Buckley, who escaped from the
penal settlement on Port Phillip Bay in 1803, was found by some of the
Wudthaurung tribe carrying a piece of a broken spear, which he had
abstracted from the grave of one of their people. So they took him to be
the dead man risen from the grave; he received the name of the deceased,
was adopted by his relations, and lived with the tribe for thirty-two
years without ever conversing with a white man; when at last he met one,
he had forgotten the English language.[167] Again, a Mr. Naseby, who
lived in the Kamilaroi country for fifty years, happened to have the
marks of cupping on his back, and the natives could not be persuaded
that he was not one of themselves come to life again with the family
scars on his body,[168] for the Australian aborigines commonly raise
scars on the bodies of young men at initiation. The late Sir George Grey
was identified by an old Australian woman as her dead son come to life
again. It may be worth while to quote his account of this unlooked-for
meeting with his long-lost mother; for it will impress on you, better
than any words of mine could do, the firmness of the faith which these
savages repose in the resurrection of the body, or at all events in the
reincarnation of the soul. Grey writes as follows:--

[Sidenote: Experience of Sir George Grey.]

"After we had tethered the horses, and made ourselves tolerably
comfortable, we heard loud voices from the hills above us: the effect
was fine,--for they really almost appeared to float in the air; and as
the wild cries of the women, who knew not our exact position, came by
upon the wind, I thought it was well worth a little trouble to hear
these savage sounds under such circumstances. Our guides shouted in
return, and gradually the approaching cries came nearer and nearer. I
was, however, wholly unprepared for the scene that was about to take
place. A sort of procession came up, headed by two women, down whose
cheeks tears were streaming. The eldest of these came up to me, and
looking for a moment at me, said,--'_Gwa, gwa, bundo, bal_,'--'Yes, yes,
in truth it is him'; and then throwing her arms round me, cried
bitterly, her head resting on my breast; and although I was totally
ignorant of what their meaning was, from mere motives of compassion, I
offered no resistance to her caresses, however disagreeable they might
be, for she was old, ugly, and filthily dirty; the other younger one
knelt at my feet, also crying. At last the old lady, emboldened by my
submission, deliberately kissed me on each cheek, just in the manner a
Frenchwoman would have done; she then cried a little more, and at length
relieving me, assured me that I was the ghost of her son, who had some
time before been killed by a spear-wound in his breast. The younger
female was my sister; but she, whether from motives of delicacy, or from
any imagined backwardness on my part, did not think proper to kiss me.
My new mother expressed almost as much delight at my return to my
family, as my real mother would have done, had I been unexpectedly
restored to her. As soon as she left me, my brothers, and father (the
old man who had previously been so frightened), came up and embraced me
after their manner,--that is, they threw their arms round my waist,
placed their right knee against my right knee, and their breast against
my breast, holding me in this way for several minutes. During the time
that the ceremony lasted, I, according to the native custom, preserved a
grave and mournful expression of countenance. This belief, that white
people are the souls of departed blacks, is by no means an uncommon
superstition amongst them; they themselves never having an idea of
quitting their own land, cannot imagine others doing it;--and thus, when
they see white people suddenly appear in their country, and settling
themselves down in particular spots, they imagine that they must have
formed an attachment for this land in some other state of existence; and
hence conclude the settlers were at one period black men and their own
relations. Likenesses, whether real or imagined, complete the delusion;
and from the manner of the old woman I have just alluded to, from her
many tears, and from her warm caresses, I feel firmly convinced that she
really believed I was her son, whose first thought, upon his return to
earth, had been to re-visit his old mother, and bring her a
present."[169]

[Sidenote: In South-eastern Australia the natives believed that the
souls of the dead were not reborn but went up to the sky.]

On the whole then we may conclude that a belief in the reincarnation of
the dead has not been confined to the tribes of Central Australia, but
has been held by the tribes in many, perhaps at one time in all, other
parts of the continent. Yet, if we may judge from the imperfect records
which we possess, this faith in the return of the dead to life in human
form would seem to have given way and been replaced to some extent by a
different creed among many tribes of South-eastern Australia. In this
part of the continent it appears to have been often held by the natives
that after death the soul is not born again among men, but goes away for
ever to some distant country either in the sky or beyond the sea, where
all the spirits of the dead congregate. Thus Lieutenant-Colonel Collins,
who was Governor of New South Wales in the early days of the colony, at
the end of the eighteenth century, reports that when the natives were
often questioned "as to what became of them after their decease, some
answered that they went either on or beyond the great water; but by far
the greater number signified, that they went to the clouds."[170] Again,
the Narrinyeri tribe of South Australia believed that all the dead went
up to the sky and that some of them at least became stars. We possess an
excellent description of the beliefs and customs of this tribe from the
pen of a missionary, the Rev. George Taplin, who lived among them for
many years. His account of their theory of the state of the dead is
instructive. It runs thus:--

[Sidenote: Beliefs of the Narrinyeri concerning the dead.]

"The Narrinyeri point out several stars, and say that they are deceased
warriors who have gone to heaven (_Wyirrewarre_). There are Wyungare,
and Nepalle, and the Manchingga, and several others. Every native
expects to go to _Wyirrewarre_ after death. They also believe that the
dead descend from thence, and walk the earth; and that they are able to
injure those whom they dislike. Consequently, men who have been
notorious in life for a domineering and revengeful disposition are very
much dreaded after death. For instance, there is Karungpe, who comes in
the dead of night, when the camp fire has burned low, and like a rushing
wind scatters the dying embers, and then takes advantage of the darkness
to rob some sleeper of life; and it is considered dangerous to whistle
in the dark, for Karungpe is especially attracted by a whistle. There is
another restless spirit--the deceased father of a boy whom I well
know--who is said to rove about armed with a rope, with which he catches
people. All the Narrinyeri, old and young, are dreadfully afraid of
seeing ghosts, and none of them will venture into the scrub after dark,
lest he should encounter the spirits which are supposed to roam there. I
have heard some admirable specimens of ghost stories from them. In one
case I remember the ghost was represented to have set fire to a _wurley_
[hut], and ascended to heaven in the flame. The Narrinyeri regard the
disapprobation of the spirits of the dead as a thing to be dreaded; and
if a serious quarrel takes place between near relatives, some of the
friends are sure to interpose with entreaties to the contentious parties
to be reconciled, lest the spirits of the dead should be offended at
unseemly disputes between those who ought to be at peace. The name of
the dead must not be mentioned until his body has decayed, lest a want
of sorrow should seem to be indicated by the common and flippant use of
his name. A native would have the deceased believe that he cannot hear
or speak his name without weeping."[171]

[Sidenote: Narrinyeri fear of the dead. Mourning customs.]

From this account it would appear that the Narrinyeri have no belief in
the reincarnation of the dead; they suppose that the souls of the
departed live up aloft in the sky, from which they descend at night in
the form of ghosts to haunt and trouble the living. On the whole the
attitude of the Narrinyeri towards their dead kinsfolk seems to be
dominated by fear; of affection there is apparently little or no trace.
It is true that like most Australian tribes they indulge in extravagant
demonstrations of grief at the death of their kinsfolk. A great
lamentation and wailing is made by all the relations and friends of the
deceased. They cut off their hair close to the head and besmudge
themselves with oil and pounded charcoal. The women besmear themselves
with the most disgusting filth. All beat and cut themselves and make a
violent show of sorrow; and all the time that the corpse, rubbed over
with grease and red ochre, is being dried over a slow fire in the hut,
the women take it by turns to weep and wail before it, so that the
lamentation never ceases for days. Yet Mr. Taplin was persuaded "that
fear has more to do with most of these exhibitions than grief"; and he
tells us that "for one minute a woman will appear in the deepest agony
of grief and tears; a few minutes after, the conventional amount of
weeping having been accomplished, they will laugh and talk with the
merriest."[172] The principal motive, in fact, for all this excessive
display of sorrow would seem to be a fear lest the jealous ghost should
think himself slighted and should avenge the slight on the cold-hearted
relatives who do not mourn sufficiently for the irreparable loss they
have sustained by his death. We may conjecture that the same train of
thought explains the ancient and widespread custom of hiring
professional mourners to wail over the dead; the tears and lamentations
of his kinsfolk are not enough to soothe the wounded feelings of the
departed, they must be reinforced by noisier expressions of regret.

[Sidenote: Deaths attributed by the Narrinyeri to sorcery.]

But there is another powerful motive for all these violent
demonstrations of grief, into the secret of which we are let by Mr.
Taplin. He says that "all the relatives are careful to be present and
not to be wanting in the proper signs of sorrow, lest they should be
suspected of complicity in causing the death."[173] In fact the
Narrinyeri, like many other savages, attribute all, or most, natural
deaths to sorcery. When a person dies, they think that he or she has
been killed by the evil magic of some ill-wisher, and one of the first
things to be done is to discover the culprit in order that his life may
be taken in revenge. For this purpose the Narrinyeri resort to a form of
divination. On the first night after the death the nearest relation of
the deceased sleeps with his head on the corpse, hoping thus to dream of
the sorcerer who has done the mischief. Next day the corpse is placed on
a sort of bier supported on men's shoulders. The friends of the deceased
gather round and call out the names of suspected persons to see whether
the corpse will give any sign. At last the next of kin calls out the
name of the person of whom he has dreamed, and if at the sound the
corpse makes a movement towards him, which the bearers say they cannot
resist, it is regarded as a clear token that the man so named is the
malefactor. It only remains for the kinsfolk of the dead to hunt down
the culprit and kill him.[174] Thus not only the relations but everybody
in the neighbourhood has the strongest motive for assuming at least an
appearance of sorrow at a death, lest the suspicion of having caused it
by sorcery should fall upon him.

[Sidenote: Pretence made by the Narrinyeri of avenging the death of
their friends on the guilty sorcerer.]

It deserves to be noted, that while the Narrinyeri nominally
acknowledged the duty of killing the sorcerer who in their opinion had
caused the death of their friend, they by no means always discharged the
duty, but sometimes contented themselves with little more than a
pretence of revenge. Mr. Taplin's account of the proceedings observed on
such an occasion is instructive. It runs thus: "The spirit of the dead
is not considered to have been appeased until his relatives have avenged
his death. They will kill the sorcerer who has caused it if they can
catch him; but generally they cannot catch him, and often do not wish
it. Most probably he belongs to some other tribe of the Narrinyeri.
Messengers pass between the tribes relative to the affair, and the
friends of the accused person at last formally curse the dead man and
all his dead relatives. This constitutes a _casus belli_. Arrangements
are forthwith made for a pitched battle, and the two tribes meet in
company with their respective allies. The tribe to which the dead man
belongs weep and make a great lamentation for him, and the opposing
tribe sets some fellows to dance about and play antics in derision of
their enemies. Then the whole tribe will set up a great laugh by way of
further provocation. If there is any other cause of animosity between
the tribes besides the matter of avenging the dead there will now be a
pretty severe fight with spears. If, however, the tribes have nothing
but the dead man to fight about, they will probably throw a few spears,
indulge in considerable abuse of each other, perhaps one or two will get
slightly wounded, and then some of the old men will declare that enough
has been done. The dead man is considered to have been appeased by the
efforts of his friends to avenge his death by fighting, and the two
tribes are friendly again. In such a case the fight is a mere
ceremony."[175] Thus among the Narrinyeri the duty of blood revenge was
often supposed to be sufficiently discharged by a sham fight performed
apparently for the satisfaction of the ghost, who was supposed to be
looking on and to be gratified by the sight of his friends hurling
spears at the author of his death. Merciful pretences of the same sort
have been practised by other savages in order to satisfy the vengeful
ghost without the effusion of blood. Examples of them will come before
us later on.[176]

[Sidenote: Magical virtue ascribed to the hair of the dead.]

However, the attitude of the Narrinyeri towards their dead was not
purely one of fear and aversion. They imagined that they could derive
certain benefits from their departed kinsfolk, and the channel through
which these benefits flowed was furnished by their hair. They cut off
the hair of the dead and spun it into a cord, and this cord was commonly
worn by the men as a head-band. They said that thereby they "smelled the
dead," and that the smell made their eyes large and their sight keen, so
that in a fight they could see the spears coming and could parry or
avoid them.[177] Similar magical virtues are ascribed to the hair of the
dead by the Arunta. Among them the hair of a dead man is cut off and
made into a magic girdle, which is a valued possession and is only worn
when a man is going out to engage in a tribal fight or to stalk a foe
for the purpose of destroying him by witchcraft. The girdle is supposed
to be endowed with magic power and to impart to its possessor all the
warlike qualities of the dead man from whose hair it was made; in
particular, it is thought to ensure accuracy of aim in the wearer, while
at the same time it destroys that of his adversary.[178] Hence the
girdle is worn by the man who takes the lead in avenging the death of
the deceased on his supposed murderer; the mere sight of it, they think,
so terrifies the victim that his legs tremble under him, he becomes
incapable of fighting, and is easily speared.[179]

[Sidenote: Belief that the souls of the dead go up to the sky.]

Among the tribes of South-eastern Australia the Narrinyeri were not
alone in holding the curious belief that the souls of the dead go up
into the sky to live there for ever, but that their ghosts come down
again from time to time, roam about their old haunts on earth, and
communicate with the living. This, for example, was the belief of the
Dieri, the Buandik, the Kurnai, and the Kulin tribes.[180] The Buandik
thought that everything in skyland was better than on earth; a fat
kangaroo, for example, was compared to a kangaroo of heaven, where, of
course, the animals might be expected to abound.[181] The Kulin imagined
that the spirits of the dead ascended to heaven by the bright rays of
the setting sun.[182] The Wailwun natives in New South Wales used to
bury their dead in hollow trees, and when they dropped the body into its
place, the bearers and the bystanders joined in a loud whirring sound,
like the rush of the wind. They said that this represented the upward
flight of the soul to the sky.[183]

[Sidenote: Appearance of the dead to the living, especially in dreams.]

With regard to the ghosts on earth, some tribes of South-eastern
Australia believe that they can be seen by the living, can partake of
food, and can warm themselves at a fire. It is especially the graves,
where their mouldering bodies are deposited, that these restless spirits
are supposed to haunt; it is there that they shew themselves either to
people generally or to such as have the second sight.[184] But it is
most commonly in dreams that they appear to the living and hold
communication with them. Often these communications are believed to be
helpful. Thus the tribes of the Wotjobaluk nation thought that the
ghosts of their dead relations could visit them in sleep to protect
them. A Mukjarawaint man told Dr. Howitt that his father came to him in
a dream and warned him to beware or he would be killed. This, the man
believed, was the saving of his life; for he afterwards came to the
place which he had seen in his dream; whereupon, instead of going on, he
turned back, so that his enemies, who might have been waiting for him
there, did not catch him.[185] Another man informed Dr. Howitt that his
dead uncle appeared to him in sleep and taught him charms against
sickness and other evils; and the Chepara tribe similarly believed that
male ancestors visited sleepers and imparted to them charms to avert
evil magic.[186]

[Sidenote: Savage faith in the truth of dreams. Association of the stars
with the souls of the dead.]

Such notions follow naturally from the savage theory of dreams. Almost
all savages appear to believe firmly in the truth of dreams; they fail
to draw the distinction, which to us seems obvious, between the
imaginary creations of the mind in sleep and the waking realities of the
physical world. Whatever they dream of must, they think, be actually
existing; for have they not seen it with their own eyes? To argue that
the visions of sleep have no real existence is, therefore, in their
opinion, to argue against the plain evidence of their senses; and they
naturally treat such exaggerated scepticism with incredulity and
contempt. Hence when they dream of their dead friends and relations they
necessarily conclude that these persons are still alive somewhere and
somehow, though they do not commonly appear by daylight to people in
their waking hours. Unquestionably this savage faith in the reality of
dreams has been one of the principal sources of the widespread, almost
universal, belief in the survival of the human soul after death. It
explains why ghosts are supposed to appear rather by night than by day,
since it is chiefly by night that men sleep and dream dreams. Perhaps it
may also partly account for the association of the stars with the souls
of the dead. For if the dead appear to the living mainly in the hours of
darkness, it seems not unnatural to imagine that the bright points of
light which then bespangle the canopy of heaven are either the souls of
the departed or fires kindled by them in their home aloft. For example,
the Central Australian aborigines commonly suppose the stars to be the
camp-fires of natives who live on the banks of the great river which we
civilised men, by a survival of primitive mythology, call the Milky Way.
However, these rude savages, we are told, as a general rule "appear to
pay very little attention to the stars in detail, probably because they
enter very little into anything which is connected with their daily
life, and more especially with their food supply."[187] The same
observation which Messrs. Spencer and Gillen here make as to the natives
of Central Australia might be applied to most savages who have remained
in the purely hunting stage of social development. Such men are not much
addicted to star-gazing, since the stars have little or nothing to tell
them that they wish to know. It is not till people have betaken
themselves to sowing and reaping crops that they begin to scan the
heavens more carefully in order to determine the season of sowing by
observation of the great celestial time-keepers, the rising and setting
of certain constellations, above all, apparently, of the Pleiades.[188]
In short, the rise of agriculture favours the rise of astronomy.

[Sidenote: Creed of the South-eastern Australians touching the dead.]

But to return to the ideas of the Australian aborigines concerning the
dead, we may say of the natives of the south-eastern part of the
continent, in the words of Dr. Howitt, that "there is a universal belief
in the existence of the human spirit after death, as a ghost, which is
able to communicate with the living when they sleep. It finds its way to
the sky-country, where it lives in a land like the earth, only more
fertile, better watered, and plentifully supplied with game."[189] This
belief is very different from that of the Central Australian natives,
who think that the souls of the dead tarry on earth in their old
familiar haunts until the time comes for them to be born again into the
world. Of the two different creeds that of the south-eastern tribes may
be regarded as the more advanced, since it admits that the dead do not
return to life, and that their disembodied spirits do not haunt
perpetually a multitude of spiritual parks or reservations dotted over
the face of the country.

[Sidenote: The creed seems to form part of a general advance of culture
in this part of the continent.]

But how are we to account for this marked difference of belief between
the natives of the Centre and the natives of the South-east? Perhaps the
most probable explanation is that the creed of the south-eastern tribes
in this respect is part of a general advance of culture brought about by
the more favourable natural conditions under which they live as compared
with the forlorn state of the rude inhabitants of the Central deserts.
That advance of culture manifests itself in a variety of ways. On the
material side it is seen in more substantial and permanent dwellings and
in warmer and better clothing. On the social side it is seen in an
incipient tendency to the rise of a regular chieftainship, a thing which
is quite unknown among the democratic or rather oligarchic savages of
the Centre, who are mainly governed by the old men in council.[190] But
the rise of chieftainship is a great step in political progress; since a
monarchical government of some sort appears to be essential to the
emergence of mankind from savagery. On the whole, then, the beliefs of
the South-eastern Australian aborigines seem to mark a step on the
upward road towards civilisation.

[Sidenote: Possible influence of European teaching on native beliefs.]

At the same time we must not forget that these beliefs may have been
influenced by the lessons which they have learned from white settlers
with whom in this part of Australia they have been so long in contact.
The possibility of such a transfusion of the new wine of Europe into the
old bottles of Australia did not escape the experienced Mr. James
Dawson, an early settler in Victoria, who has given us a valuable
account of the natives of that region in the old days when they were
still comparatively little contaminated by intercourse with the whites.
He describes as follows the views which prevailed as to the dead among
the tribes of Western Victoria:--"After the disposal of the body of a
good person, its shade walks about for three days; and although it
appears to people, it holds no communication with them. Should it be
seen and named by anyone during these three days, it instantly
disappears. At the expiry of three days it goes off to a beautiful
country above the clouds, abounding with kangaroo and other game, where
life will be enjoyed for ever. Friends will meet and recognize each
other there; but there will be no marrying, as the bodies have been left
on earth. Children under four or five years have no souls and no future
life. The shades of the wicked wander miserably about the earth for one
year after death, frightening people, and then descend to Ummekulleen,
never to return." After giving us this account of the native creed Mr.
Dawson adds very justly: "Some of the ideas described above may possibly
have originated with the white man, and been transmitted from Sydney by
one tribe to another."[191] The probability of white influence on this
particular doctrine of religion is increased by the frank confession
which these same natives made of the religious deterioration (as they
regarded it) which they had suffered in another direction through the
teaching of the missionaries. On this subject, to quote again from Mr.
Dawson, the savages are of opinion that "the good spirit, Pirnmeheeal,
is a gigantic man, living above the clouds; and as he is of a kindly
disposition, and harms no one, he is seldom mentioned, but always with
respect. His voice, the thunder, is listened to with pleasure, as it
does good to man and beast, by bringing rain, and making grass and roots
grow for their benefit. But the aborigines say that the missionaries and
government protectors have given them a dread of Pirnmeheeal; and they
are sorry that the young people, and many of the old, are now afraid of
a being who never did any harm to their forefathers."[192]

[Sidenote: Vagueness and inconsistency of native beliefs as to the state
of the dead. Custom or ritual as the interpreter of belief.]

However, it is very difficult to ascertain the exact beliefs of savages
as to the dead. The thought of the savage is apt to be vague and
inconsistent; he neither represents his ideas clearly to his own mind
nor can he express them lucidly to others, even if he wishes to do so.
And his thought is not only vague and inconsistent; it is fluid and
unstable, liable to shift and change under alien influence. For these
and other reasons, such as the distrust of strangers and the difficulty
of language, which often interposes a formidable barrier between savage
man and the civilised enquirer, the domain of primitive beliefs is beset
by so many snares and pitfalls that we might almost despair of arriving
at the truth, were it not that we possess a clue to guide us on the dark
and slippery way. That clue is action. While it is generally very
difficult to ascertain what any man thinks, it is comparatively easy to
ascertain what he does; and what a man does, not what he says, is the
surest touchstone to his real belief. Hence when we attempt to study the
religion of backward races, the ritual which they practise is generally
a safer indication of their actual creed than the loudest profession of
faith. In regard to the state of the human soul after death the beliefs
of the Australian aborigines are clearly reflected in many of the
customs which they observe at the death and burial of their friends and
enemies, and it is accordingly with an account of some of these customs
that I propose to conclude this part of my subject.

[Sidenote: Burial customs of the Australian aborigines as evidence of
their beliefs concerning the state of the soul after death. Food placed
on the grave for the use of the ghost and fires kindled to warm him.]

Now some of the burial customs observed by the Australian savages reveal
in the clearest manner their belief that the human soul survives the
death of the body, that in its disembodied state it retains
consciousness and feeling, and can do a mischief to the living; in
short, they shew that in the opinion of these people the departed live
in the form of dangerous ghosts. Thus, for example, when the deceased is
a person of importance, the Dieri place food for many days on the grave,
and in winter they kindle a fire in order that the ghost may warm
himself at it. If the food remains untouched on the grave, they think
that the dead is not hungry.[193] The Blanch-water section of that tribe
fear the spirits of the dead and accordingly take steps to prevent their
resurrection. For that purpose they tie the toes of the corpse together
and the thumbs behind the back, which must obviously make it difficult
for the dead man to arise in his might and pursue them. Moreover, for a
month after the death they sweep a clear space round the grave at dusk
every evening, and inspect it every morning. If they find any tracks on
it, they assume that they have been made by the restless ghost in his
nocturnal peregrinations, and accordingly they dig up his mouldering
remains and bury them in some other place, where they hope he will sleep
sounder.[194] The Kukata tribe think that the ghost may be thirsty, so
they obligingly leave a drinking vessel on the grave, that he may slake
his thirst. Also they deposit spears and other weapons on the spot,
together with a digging-stick, which is specially intended to ward off
evil spirits who may be on the prowl.[195] The ghosts of the natives on
the Maranoa river were also thirsty souls, so vessels full of water were
sometimes suspended for their use over the grave.[196] A custom of
lighting a fire on the grave to warm the poor shivering ghost seems to
have been not uncommon among the aboriginal Australians. The Western
Victorians, for example, kept up large fires all night for this
purpose.[197] In the Wiimbaio tribe two fires were kept burning for a
whole month on the grave, one to the right and the other to the left, in
order that the ghost might come out and warm himself at them in the
chill night air. If they found tracks near the grave, they inferred,
like the Dieri, that the perturbed spirit had quitted his narrow bed to
pace to and fro in the long hours of darkness; but if no footprints were
visible they thought that he slept in peace.[198] In some parts of
Western Australia the natives maintained fires on the grave for more
than a month for the convenience of the ghost; and they clearly expected
him to come to life again, for they detached the nails from the thumb
and forefinger of the corpse and deposited them in a small hole beside
the grave, in order that they might know their friend at his
resurrection.[199] The length of time during which fires were maintained
or kindled daily on the grave is said to have varied, according to the
estimation in which the man was held, from a few days to three or four
years.[200] We have seen that the Dieri laid food on the grave for the
hungry ghost to partake of, and the same custom was observed by the
Gournditch-mara tribe.[201] However, some intelligent old aborigines of
Western Victoria derided the custom as "white fellow's gammon."[202]

[Sidenote: Property of the dead buried with them.]

Further, in some tribes of South-eastern Australia it was customary to
deposit the scanty property of the deceased, usually consisting of a few
rude weapons or implements, on the grave or to bury it with him. Thus
the natives of Western Victoria buried all a dead man's ornaments,
weapons, and property with him in the grave, only reserving his stone
axes, which were too valuable to be thus sacrificed: these were
inherited by the next of kin.[203] The Wurunjerri also interred the
personal property of the dead with him; if the deceased was a man, his
spear-thrower was stuck in the ground at the head of the grave; if the
deceased was a woman, the same thing was done with her digging-stick.
That these implements were intended for the use of the ghost and not
merely as headstones to mark the situation of the tomb and the sex of
the departed, is clear from a significant exception to the custom. When
the departed brother was a man of violent temper, who had been
quarrelsome and a brawler in his life, no weapons were buried with him,
obviously lest in a fit of ill-temper he should sally from the grave and
assault people with them.[204] Similarly the Turrbal tribe, who
deposited their dead in the forks of trees, used to leave a spear and
club near the corpse "that the spirit of the dead might have weapons
wherewith to kill game for his sustenance in the future state. A
yam-stick was placed in the ground at a woman's grave, so that she might
go away at night and seek for roots."[205] The Wolgal tribe were very
particular about burying everything that belonged to a dead man with
him; spears and nets, though valuable articles of property, were thus
sacrificed; even a canoe has been known to be cut up in order that the
pieces of it might be deposited in the grave. In fact "everything
belonging to a dead man was put out of sight."[206] Similarly in the
Geawe-gal tribe all the implements and inanimate property of a warrior
were interred with him.[207] In the Gringai country not only was all a
man's property buried with him, but every native present at the burial
contributed something, and these contributions were piled together at
the head of the corpse before the grave was filled in.[208] Among the
tribes of Southern Victoria, when the grave has been dug and lined with
fresh leaves and twigs so as to make a soft bed, the dead man's property
is brought in two bags, and the sorcerer shakes out the contents. They
consist of such small articles as pieces of hard stone suitable for
cutting or paring skins, bones for boring holes, twine made of opossum
wool, and so forth. These are placed in the grave, and the bags and rugs
of the deceased are torn up and thrown in likewise. Then the sorcerer
asks whether the dead man had any other property, and if he had, it is
brought forward and laid beside the torn fragments of the bags and rugs.
Everything that a man owned in life must be laid beside him in
death.[209] Again, among the tribes of the Lower Murray, Lachlan, and
Darling rivers in New South Wales, all a dead man's property, including
his weapons and nets, was buried with his body in the grave.[210]
Further, we are told that among the natives of Western Australia the
weapons and personal property of the deceased are placed on the grave,
"so that when he rises from the dead they may be ready to his
hand."[211] In the Boulia district of Queensland the things which
belonged to a dead man, such as his boomerangs and spears, are either
buried with him, destroyed by fire, or sometimes, though rarely,
distributed among his tribal brothers, but never among his
children.[212]

[Sidenote: Intention of destroying the property of the dead. The
property of the dead not destroyed in Central Australia.]

Thus among certain tribes of Australia, especially in the south-eastern
part of the continent, it appears that the custom of burying or
destroying a dead man's property has been very common. That the
intention of the custom in some cases is to supply the supposed needs of
the ghost, seems to be fairly certain; but we may doubt whether this
explanation would apply to the practice of burning or otherwise
destroying the things which had belonged to the deceased. More probably
such destruction springs from an overpowering dread of the ghost and a
wish to sever all connexion with him, so that he may have no excuse for
returning and haunting the survivors, as he might do if his property
were either kept by them or deposited in the grave. Whatever the motive
for the burial or destruction of a dead man's property may be, the
custom appears not to prevail among the tribes of Central Australia. In
the eastern Arunta tribe, indeed, it is said that sometimes a little
wooden vessel used in camp for holding small objects may be buried with
the man, but this is the only instance which Messrs. Spencer and Gillen
could hear of in which any article of ordinary use is buried in the
grave. Far from wasting property in that way, these economical savages
preserve even a man's personal ornaments, such as his necklaces,
armlets, and the fur string which he wore round his head; indeed, as we
have seen, they go so far as to cut off the hair from the head of the
deceased and to keep it for magical uses.[213] In the Warramunga tribe
all the belongings of a dead man go to the tribal brothers of his
mother.[214]

[Sidenote: Property of the dead hung up on trees, then washed and
distributed. Economic loss entailed by sacrifices to the dead.]

The difference in this respect between the practice of the Central
tribes and that of the tribes nearer the sea, especially in Victoria and
New South Wales, is very notable. A custom intermediate between the two
is observed by some tribes of the Darling River, who hang up the
weapons, nets, and other property of the deceased on trees for about two
months, then wash them, and distribute them among the relations.[215]
The reason for hanging the things up and washing them is no doubt to rid
them of the infection of death in order that they may be used with
safety by the survivors. Such a custom points clearly to a growing fear
of the dead; and that fear or reverence comes out still more clearly in
the practice of either burying the property of the dead with them or
destroying it altogether, which is observed by the aborigines of
Victoria and other parts of Australia who live under more favourable
conditions of life than the inhabitants of the Central deserts. This
confirms the conclusion which we have reached on other grounds, that
among the aboriginal population of Australia favourable natural
conditions in respect of climate, food, and water have exercised a most
important influence in stimulating social progress in many directions,
and not least in the direction of religion. At the same time, while we
recognise that the incipient tendency to a worship of the dead which may
be detected in these regions marks a step forward in religious
development, we must acknowledge that the practice of burying or
destroying the property of the dead, which is one of the ways in which
the tendency manifests itself, is, regarded from the side of economic
progress, a decided step backward. It marks, in fact, the beginning of a
melancholy aberration of the human mind, which has led mankind to
sacrifice the real interests of the living to the imaginary interests of
the dead. With the general advance of society and the accompanying
accumulation of property these sacrifices have at certain stages of
evolution become heavier and heavier, as the demands of the ghosts
became more and more exacting. The economic waste which the belief in
the immortality of the soul has entailed on the world is incalculable.
When we contemplate that waste in its small beginnings among the rude
savages of Australia it appears insignificant enough; the world is not
much the poorer for the loss of a parcel of boomerangs, spears, fur
string, and skin rugs. But when we pass from the custom in this its
feeble source and follow it as it swells in volume through the nations
of the world till it attains the dimensions of a mighty river of wasted
labour, squandered treasure, and spilt blood, we cannot but wonder at
the strange mixture of good and evil in the affairs of mankind, seeing
in what we justly call progress so much hardly earned gain side by side
with so much gratuitous loss, such immense additions to the substantial
value of life to be set off against such enormous sacrifices to the
shadow of a shade.

[Footnote 160: W. E. Roth, _North Queensland Ethnography, Bulletin No.
5, Superstition, Magic, and Medicine_ (Brisbane, 1903), pp. 18, 23, §§
68, 83.]

[Footnote 161: Homer, _Odyssey_, xix. 163.]

[Footnote 162: W. E. Roth, _ll. cc._]

[Footnote 163: W. E. Roth, _North Queensland Ethnography, Bulletin No.
5_ (Brisbane, 1903), p. 29. § 116.]

[Footnote 164: W. E. Roth. _op. cit._ p. 18, § 68.]

[Footnote 165: W. E. Roth, _op. cit._ pp. 17, 29, §§ 65, 116.]

[Footnote 166: W. E. Roth, _op. cit._ p. 17, § 65.]

[Footnote 167: J. Dawson, _Australian Aborigines_ (Melbourne, Sydney,
and Adelaide, 1881), pp. 110 _sq._; A. W. Howitt, _Native Tribes of
South-East Australia_ (London, 1904), p. 442.]

[Footnote 168: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 445.]

[Footnote 169: (Sir) George Grey, _Journals of Two Expeditions of
Discovery in North-West and Western Australia_ (London, 1841), i.
301-303.]

[Footnote 170: Lieutenant-Colonel David Collins, _An Account of the
English Colony in New South Wales_, Second Edition (London, 1804), p.
354.]

[Footnote 171: Rev. G. Taplin, "The Narrinyeri," in _Native Tribes of
South Australia_ (Adelaide, 1879), pp. 18 _sq._]

[Footnote 172: Rev. G. Taplin, "The Narrinyeri," _op. cit._ pp. 20
_sq._]

[Footnote 173: Rev. G. Taplin, _op. cit._ p. 20.]

[Footnote 174: Rev. G. Taplin, _op. cit._ pp. 19 _sq._, 21.]

[Footnote 175: Rev. G. Taplin, _op. cit._ p. 21.]

[Footnote 176: See below, pp. 235 _sqq._, 327 _sq._]

[Footnote 177: Rev. G. Taplin, _op. cit._ p. 21.]

[Footnote 178: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 538 _sq._]

[Footnote 179: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 544 _sq._]

[Footnote 180: A. W. Howitt, _Native Tribes of South-East Australia_,
pp. 434, 436, 437, 438. Compare E. J. Eyre, _Journals of Expeditions of
Discovery into Central Australia_ (London, 1845), ii. 357.]

[Footnote 181: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 434.]

[Footnote 182: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 438.]

[Footnote 183: Rev. W. Ridley, _Kamilaroi_ (Sydney, 1875), p. 160.]

[Footnote 184: A. W. Howitt, _Native Tribes of South-East Australia_,
pp. 434, 438, 439; J. Dawson, _Australian Aborigines_, p. 50.]

[Footnote 185: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 435.]

[Footnote 186: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 437.]

[Footnote 187: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, p. 628.]

[Footnote 188: As to the place occupied by the Pleiades in primitive
calendars, see _Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild_, i. 309-319.]

[Footnote 189: A. W. Howitt, _Native Tribes of South-East Australia_,
pp. 439 _sq._]

[Footnote 190: See _Totemism and Exogamy_, i. 314 _sqq._]

[Footnote 191: J. Dawson, _Australian Aborigines_, p. 51. A man of the
Ta-ta-thi tribe in New South Wales informed Mr. A. L. P. Cameron that
the natives believed in a pit of fire where bad men were roasted after
death. This reported belief, resting apparently on the testimony of a
single informant, may without doubt be ascribed to the influence of
Christian teaching. See A. L. P. Cameron, "Notes on some Tribes of New
South Wales," _Journal of the Anthropological Institute_, xiv. (1885)
pp. 364 _sq._]

[Footnote 192: J. Dawson, _Australian Aborigines_, p. 49.]

[Footnote 193: A. W. Howitt, _Native Tribes of South-East Australia_, p.
448.]

[Footnote 194: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._. p. 449. Compare E. M. Curr,
_The Australian Race_, i. 87: "The object sought in tying up the remains
of the dead is to prevent the deceased from escaping from the tomb and
frightening or injuring the survivors."]

[Footnote 195: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 451.]

[Footnote 196: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 467.]

[Footnote 197: J. Dawson, _Australian Aborigines_, p. 50.]

[Footnote 198: A. W. Howitt, _Native Tribes of South-East Australia_, p.
452.]

[Footnote 199: R. Salvado, _Mémoires historiques sur l' Australie_
(Paris, 1854), p. 261; _Missions Catholiques_, x. (1878) p. 247. For
more evidence as to the lighting of fires for this purpose see A. W.
Howitt, _op. cit._ pp. 455, 470.]

[Footnote 200: A. Oldfield, "The Aborigines of Australia," _Transactions
of the Ethnological Society of London_, New Series, iii. (1865) p. 245.]

[Footnote 201: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 455.]

[Footnote 202: J. Dawson, _Australian Aborigines_, pp. 50 _sq._]

[Footnote 203: J. Dawson, _op. cit._ p. 63.]

[Footnote 204: A. W. Howitt, _Native Tribes of South-East Australia_, p.
458.]

[Footnote 205: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 470.]

[Footnote 206: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ pp. 461 _sq._]

[Footnote 207: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 464.]

[Footnote 208: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 464.]

[Footnote 209: R. Brough Smyth, _The Aborigines of Victoria_, i. 104.]

[Footnote 210: P. Beveridge, "Of the Aborigines Inhabiting the Great
Lacustrine and Riverine Depression of the Lower Murray, Lower
Murrumbidgee, Lower Lachlan, and Lower Darling," _Journal and
Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales_, xvii. (1883) p.
29.]

[Footnote 211: A. Oldfield, "The Aborigines of Australia," _Transactions
of the Ethnological Society of London_, New Series, iii. (1865) p. 245.]

[Footnote 212: W. E. Roth, _Ethnological Studies among the
North-West-Central Queensland Aborigines_ (Brisbane and London, 1897),
p. 164.]

[Footnote 213: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 466, 497 _sq._, 538 _sq._ See above, p. 138.]

[Footnote 214: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, p. 524.]

[Footnote 215: F. Bonney, "On some Customs of the Aborigines of the
River Darling, New South Wales," _Journal of the Anthropological
Institute_, xiii. (1884) p. 135.]



LECTURE VII

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA
(_concluded_)


[Sidenote: Attention to the comfort of the dead. Huts erected on graves
for the use of the ghosts.]

In the last lecture I shewed that in the maritime regions of Australia,
where the conditions of life are more favourable than in the Central
deserts, we may detect the germs of a worship of the dead in certain
attentions which the living pay to the spirits of the departed, for
example by kindling fires on the grave for the ghost to warm himself at,
by leaving food and water for him to eat and drink, and by depositing
his weapons and other property in the tomb for his use in the life after
death. Another mark of respect shewn to the dead is the custom of
erecting a hut on the grave for the accommodation of the ghost. Thus
among the tribes of South Australia we are told that "upon the mounds,
or tumuli, over the graves, huts of bark, or boughs, are generally
erected to shelter the dead from the rain; they are also frequently
wound round with netting."[216] Again, in Western Australia a small hut
of rushes, grass, and so forth is said to have been set up by the
natives over the grave.[217] Among the tribes of the Lower Murray, Lower
Lachlan, and Lower Darling rivers, when a person died who had been
highly esteemed in life, a neat hut was erected over his grave so as to
cover it entirely. The hut was of oval shape, about five feet high, and
roofed with thatch, which was firmly tied to the framework by cord many
hundreds of yards in length. Sometimes the whole hut was enveloped in a
net. At the eastern end of the hut a small opening was left just large
enough to allow a full-grown man to creep in, and the floor was covered
with grass, which was renewed from time to time as it became withered.
Each of these graves was enclosed by a fence of brushwood forming a
diamond-shaped enclosure, within which the tomb stood exactly in the
middle. All the grass within the fence was neatly shaved off and the
ground swept quite clean. Sepulchres of this sort were kept up for two
or three years, after which they were allowed to fall into disrepair,
and when a few more years had gone by the very sites of them were
forgotten.[218] The intention of erecting huts on graves is not
mentioned in these cases, but on analogy we may conjecture that they are
intended for the convenience and comfort of the ghost. This is confirmed
by an account given of a native burial on the Vasse River in Western
Australia. We are told that when the grave had been filled in, the
natives piled logs on it to a considerable height and then constructed a
hut upon the logs, after which one of the male relations went into the
hut and said, "I sit in his house."[219] Thus it would seem that the hut
on the grave is regarded as the house of the dead man. If only these
sepulchral huts were kept up permanently, they might develop into
something like temples, in which the spirits of the departed might be
invoked and propitiated with prayer and sacrifice. It is thus that the
great round huts, in which the remains of dead kings of Uganda are
deposited, have grown into sanctuaries or shrines, where the spirits of
the deceased monarchs are consulted as oracles through the medium of
priests.[220] But in Australia this development is prevented by the
simple forgetfulness of the savages. A few years suffice with them to
wipe out the memory of the deceased and with it his chance of developing
into an ancestral deity. Like most savages, the Australian aborigines
seem to fear only the ghosts of the recently departed; one writer tells
us that they have no fear of the ghost of a man who has been dead say
forty years.[221]

[Sidenote: Fear of the dead and precautions taken by the living against
them.]

The burial customs of the Australian aborigines which I have described
betray not only a belief in the existence of the ghost, but also a
certain regard for his comfort and convenience. However, we may suspect
that in most, if not in all, cases the predominant motive of these
attentions is fear rather than affection. The survivors imagine that any
want of respect for the dead, any neglect of his personal comforts in
the grave, would excite his resentment and draw down on them his
vengeance. That these savages are really actuated by fear of the dead is
expressly affirmed of some tribes. Thus we are told that the Yuin "were
always afraid that the dead man might come out of the grave and follow
them."[222] After burying a body the Ngarigo were wont to cross a river
in order to prevent the ghost from pursuing them;[223] obviously they
shared the common opinion that ghosts for some reason are unable to
cross water. The Wakelbura took other measures to throw the poor ghost
off the scent. They marked all the trees in a circle round the place
where the dead man was buried; so that when he emerged from the grave
and set off in pursuit of his retiring relations, he would follow the
marks on the trees in a circle and always come back to the point from
which he had started. And to make assurance doubly sure they put coals
in the dead man's ears, which, by bunging up these apertures, were
supposed to keep his ghost in the body till his friends had got a good
start away from him. As a further precaution they lit fires and put
bushes in the forks of trees, with the idea that the ghost would roost
in the bushes and warm himself at the fires, while they were hastening
away.[224] Here, therefore, we see that the real motive for kindling
fires for the use of the dead is fear, not affection. In this respect
the burial customs of the tribes at the Herbert River are still more
significant. These savages buried with the dead man his weapons, his
ornaments, and indeed everything he had used in life; moreover, they
built a hut on the grave, put a drinking-vessel in the hut, and cleared
a path from it down to the water for the use of the ghost; and often
they placed food and water on the grave. So far, these measures might be
interpreted as marks of pure and disinterested affection for the soul of
the departed. But such an interpretation is totally excluded by the
ferocious treatment which these savages meted out to the corpse. To
frighten the spirit, lest he should haunt the camp, the father or
brother of the deceased, or the husband, if it was a woman, took a club
and mauled the body with such violence that he often smashed the bones;
further, he generally broke both its legs in order to prevent it from
wandering of nights; and as if that were not enough, he bored holes in
the stomach, the shoulders, and the lungs, and filled the holes with
stones, so that even if the poor ghost should succeed by a desperate
effort in dragging his mangled body out of the grave, he would be so
weighed down by this ballast of stones that he could not get very far.
However, after roaming up and down in this pitiable condition for a time
in their old haunts, the spirits were supposed at last to go up aloft to
the Milky Way.[225] The Kwearriburra tribe, on the Lynd River, in
Queensland, also took forcible measures to prevent the resurrection of
the dead. Whenever a person died, they cut off his or her head, roasted
it in a fire on the grave, and when it was thoroughly charred they
smashed it in bits and left the fragments among the hot coals. They
calculated that when the ghost rose from the grave with the view of
following the tribe, he would miss his head and go groping blindly about
for it till he scorched himself in the embers of the fire and was glad
to shrink back into his narrow bed.[226]

Thus even among those Australian tribes which have progressed furthest
in the direction of religion, such approaches as they have made towards
a worship of the dead appear to be determined far more by fear than by
affection and reverence. And we are told that it is the nearest
relations and the most influential men whose ghosts are most
dreaded.[227]

[Sidenote: Cuttings and brandings of the flesh of the living in honour
of the dead.]

There is another custom observed by the Australian aborigines in
mourning which deserves to be mentioned. We all know that the Israelites
were forbidden to make cuttings in their flesh for the dead.[228] The
custom was probably practised by the heathen Canaanites, as it has been
by savages in various parts of the world. Nowhere, perhaps, has the
practice prevailed more generally or been carried out with greater
severity than in aboriginal Australia. For example, with regard to the
tribes in the central part of Victoria we are told that "the parents of
the deceased lacerate themselves fearfully, especially if it be an only
son whose loss they deplore. The father beats and cuts his head with a
tomahawk until he utters bitter groans. The mother sits by the fire and
burns her breasts and abdomen with a small fire-stick till she wails
with pain; then she replaces the stick in the fire, to use again when
the pain is less severe. This continues for hours daily, until the time
of lamentation is completed; sometimes the burns thus inflicted are so
severe as to cause death."[229] It is especially the women, and above
all the widows, who torture themselves in this way. Speaking of the
tribes of Victoria, a writer tells us that on the death of her husband a
widow, "becoming frantic, seizes fire-sticks and burns her breasts,
arms, legs, and thighs. Rushing from one place to another, and intent
only on injuring herself, and seeming to delight in the self-inflicted
torture, it would be rash and vain to interrupt her. She would fiercely
turn on her nearest relative or friend and burn him with her brands.
When exhausted, and when she can scarcely walk, she yet endeavours to
kick the embers of the fire, and to throw them about. Sitting down, she
takes the ashes in her hands, rubs them into her wounds, and then
scratches her face (the only part not touched by the fire-sticks) until
the blood mingles with the ashes which partly hide her cruel
wounds."[230] Among the Kurnai of South-eastern Victoria the relations
of the dead would cut and gash themselves with sharp stones and
tomahawks until their heads and bodies streamed with blood.[231] In the
Mukjarawaint tribe, when a man died, his kinsfolk wept over him and
slashed themselves with tomahawks and other sharp instruments for about
a week.[232] In the tribes of the Lower Murray and Lower Darling rivers
mourners scored their backs and arms, sometimes even their faces, with
red-hot brands, which raised hideous ulcers; afterwards they flung
themselves prone on the grave, tore out their hair by handfuls, rubbed
earth over their heads and bodies in great profusion, and ripped up
their green ulcers till the mingled blood and grime presented a ghastly
spectacle. These self-inflicted sores remained long unhealed.[233] Among
the Kamilaroi, a large tribe of eastern New South Wales, the mourners,
and especially the women, used to cut their heads with tomahawks and
allow the blood to dry on them.[234] Speaking of a native burial on the
Murray River, a writer says that "around the bier were many women,
relations of the deceased, wailing and lamenting bitterly, and
lacerating their thighs, backs, and breasts, with shells or flint, until
the blood flowed copiously from the gashes."[235] In the Boulia district
of Queensland women in mourning score their thighs, both inside and
outside, with sharp stones or bits of glass, so as to make a series of
parallel cuts; in neighbouring districts of Queensland the men make much
deeper cross-shaped cuts on their thighs.[236] In the Arunta tribe of
Central Australia a man is bound to cut himself on the shoulder in
mourning for his father-in-law; if he does not do so, his wife may be
given away to another man in order to appease the wrath of the ghost at
his undutiful son-in-law. Arunta men regularly bear on their shoulders
the raised scars which shew that they have done their duty by their dead
fathers-in-law.[237] The female relations of a dead man in the Arunta
tribe also cut and hack themselves in token of sorrow, working
themselves up into a sort of frenzy as they do so; yet in all their
apparent excitement they take care never to wound a vital part, but vent
their fury on their scalps, their shoulders, and their legs.[238]

[Sidenote: Cuttings for the dead among the Warramunga.]

In the Warramunga tribe of Central Australia Messrs. Spencer and Gillen
witnessed the mourning for a dead man. Even before the sufferer had
breathed his last the lamentations and self-inflicted wounds began. When
it was known that the end was near, all the native men ran at full speed
to the spot, and Messrs. Spencer and Gillen followed them to see what
was to be seen. What they saw, or part of what they saw, was this. Some
of the women, who had gathered from all directions, were lying prostrate
on the body of the dying man, while others were standing or kneeling
around, digging the sharp ends of yam-sticks into the crown of their
heads, from which the blood streamed down over their faces, while all
the time they kept up a loud continuous wail. Many of the men, rushing
up to the scene of action, flung themselves also higgledy-piggledy on
the sufferer, the women rising and making way for them, till nothing was
to be seen but a struggling mass of naked bodies all mixed up together.
Presently up came a man yelling and brandishing a stone knife. On
reaching the spot he suddenly gashed both his thighs with the knife,
cutting right across the muscles, so that, unable to stand, he dropped
down on the top of the struggling bodies, till his mother, wife, and
sisters dragged him out of the scrimmage, and immediately applied their
mouths to his gaping wounds, while he lay exhausted and helpless on the
ground. Gradually the struggling mass of dusky bodies untwined itself,
disclosing the unfortunate sick man, who was the object, or rather the
victim, of this well-meant demonstration of affection and sorrow. If he
had been ill before, he was much worse when his friends left him: indeed
it was plain that he had not long to live. Still the weeping and wailing
went on; the sun set, darkness fell on the camp, and later in the
evening the man died. Then the wailing rose louder than before, and men
and women, apparently frantic with grief, rushed about cutting
themselves with knives and sharp-pointed sticks, while the women
battered each other's heads with clubs, no one attempting to ward off
either cuts or blows. An hour later a funeral procession set out by
torchlight through the darkness, carrying the body to a wood about a
mile off, where it was laid on a platform of boughs in a low gum-tree.
When day broke next morning, not a sign of human habitation was to be
seen in the camp where the man had died. All the people had removed
their rude huts to some distance, leaving the place of death solitary;
for nobody wished to meet the ghost of the deceased, who would certainly
be hovering about, along with the spirit of the living man who had
caused his death by evil magic, and who might be expected to come to the
spot in the outward form of an animal to gloat over the scene of his
crime. But in the new camp the ground was strewed with men lying
prostrate, their thighs gashed with the wounds which they had inflicted
on themselves with their own hands. They had done their duty by the dead
and would bear to the end of their life the deep scars on their thighs
as badges of honour. On one man Messrs. Spencer and Gillen counted the
dints of no less than twenty-three wounds which he had inflicted on
himself at various times. Meantime the women had resumed the duty of
lamentation. Forty or fifty of them sat down in groups of five or six,
weeping and wailing frantically with their arms round each other, while
the actual and tribal wives, mothers, wives' mothers, daughters,
sisters, mothers' mothers, sisters' husbands' mothers, and
grand-daughters, according to custom, once more cut their scalps open
with yam-sticks, and the widows afterwards in addition seared the scalp
wounds with red-hot fire-sticks.

[Sidenote: Cuttings for the dead strictly regulated by custom.]

In these mourning customs, wild and extravagant as the expression of
sorrow appears to be, everything is regulated by certain definite rules;
and a woman who did not thus maul herself when she ought to do so would
be severely punished, or even killed, by her brother. Similarly with the
men, it is only those who stand in certain relationships to the deceased
who must cut and hack themselves in his honour, and these relationships
are determined by the particular exogamous class to which the dead man
happened to belong. Of such classes there are eight in the Warramunga
tribe. On the occasion described by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen it was a
man of the Tjunguri class who died; and the men who gashed their thighs
stood to him in one or other of the following relationships: grandfather
on the mother's side, mother's brother, brother of the dead man's wife,
and her mother's brother.[239]

[Sidenote: The cuttings and brandings which mourners inflict on
themselves may be intended to convince the ghost of the sincerity of
their sorrow.]

We naturally ask, What motive have these savages for inflicting all this
voluntary and, as it seems to us, wholly superfluous suffering on
themselves? It can hardly be that these wounds and burns are merely a
natural and unfeigned expression of grief. We have seen that by
experienced observers such extravagant demonstrations of sorrow are set
down rather to fear than to affection. Similarly Messrs. Spencer and
Gillen suggest that at least one motive is a fear entertained by the
native lest, if he does not make a sufficient display of grief, the
ghost of the dead man will be offended and do him a mischief.[240] In
the Kaitish tribe of Central Australia it is believed that if a woman
does not keep her body covered with ashes from the camp fire during the
whole time of mourning, the spirit of her deceased husband, who
constantly follows her about, will kill her and strip all the flesh from
her bones.[241] Again, in the Arunta tribe mourners smear themselves
with white pipeclay, and the motive for this custom is said to be to
render themselves more conspicuous, so that the ghost may see and be
satisfied that he is being properly mourned for.[242] Thus the fear of
the ghost, who, at least among the Australian aborigines, is commonly of
a jealous temper and stands very firmly on his supposed rights, may
suffice to explain the practice of self-mutilation at mourning.

[Sidenote: Custom of allowing the blood of mourners to drip on the
corpse or into the grave.]

But it is possible that another motive underlies the drawing of blood on
these occasions. For it is to be observed that the blood of the mourners
is often allowed to drop directly either on the dead body or into the
grave. Thus, for example, among the tribes on the River Darling several
men used to stand by the open grave and cut each other's heads with a
boomerang; then they held their bleeding heads over the grave so that
the blood dripped on the corpse lying in it. If the deceased was highly
esteemed, the bleeding was repeated after some earth had been thrown on
the body.[243] Among the Arunta it is customary for the women kinsfolk
of the dead to cut their own and each other's heads so severely with
clubs and digging-sticks that blood streams from them on the grave.[244]
Again, at a burial on the Vasse River, in Western Australia, a writer
describes how, when the grave was dug, the natives placed the corpse
beside it, then "gashed their thighs, and at the flowing of the blood
they all said, 'I have brought blood,' and they stamped the foot
forcibly on the ground, sprinkling the blood around them; then wiping
the wounds with a wisp of leaves, they threw it, bloody as it was, on
the dead man."[245] With these Australian practices we may compare a
custom observed by the civilised Greeks of antiquity. Every year the
Peloponnesian lads lashed themselves on the grave of Pelops at Olympia,
till the blood ran down their backs as a libation in honour of the dead
man.[246]

[Sidenote: The blood intended to strengthen the dead.]

Now what is the intention of thus applying the blood of the living to
the dead or pouring it into the grave? So far as the ancient Greeks are
concerned the answer is not doubtful. We know from Homer that the ghosts
of the dead were supposed to drink the blood that was offered to them
and to be strengthened by the draught.[247] Similarly with the
Australian savages, their object can hardly be any other than that of
strengthening the spirit of the dead; for these aborigines are in the
habit of giving human blood to the sick and the aged to drink for the
purpose of restoring them to health and strength;[248] hence it would be
natural for them to imagine that they could refresh and fortify the
feeble ghost in like manner. Perhaps the blood was intended specially to
strengthen the spirits of the dead for the new birth or reincarnation,
to which so many of these savages look forward.

[Sidenote: Custom of burying people in the place where they were born.
The custom perhaps intended to facilitate the rebirth of the soul.]

The same motive may possibly explain the custom observed by some
Australian tribes of burying people, as far as possible, at the place
where they were born. Thus in regard to the tribes of Western Victoria
we are informed that "dying persons, especially those dying from old
age, generally express an earnest desire to be taken to their
birthplace, that they may die and be buried there. If possible, these
wishes are always complied with by the relatives and friends. Parents
will point out the spot where they were born, so that when they become
old and infirm, their children may know where they wish their bodies to
be disposed of."[249] Again, some tribes in the north and north-east of
Victoria "are said to be more than ordinarily scrupulous in interring
the dead. If practicable, they will bury the corpse near the spot where,
as a child, it first drew breath. A mother will carry a dead infant for
weeks, in the hope of being able to bury it near the place where it was
born; and a dead man will be conveyed a long distance, in order that the
last rites may be performed in a manner satisfactory to the tribe."[250]
Another writer, speaking of the Australian aborigines in general, says:
"By what I could learn, it is considered proper by many tribes that a
black should be buried at or near the spot where he or she was born, and
for this reason, when a black becomes seriously ill, the invalid is
carried a long distance to these certain spots to die, as in this case.
They apparently object to place a body in strange ground." The same
writer mentions the case of a blackfellow, who began digging a grave
close beside the kitchen door of a Mr. Campbell. When Mr. Campbell
remonstrated with him, the native replied that he had no choice, for the
dead man had been born on that very spot. With much difficulty Mr.
Campbell persuaded him to bury his deceased friend a little further off
from the kitchen door.[251] A practice of this sort would be
intelligible on the theory of the Central Australians, who imagine that
the spirits of all the dead return to the very spots where they entered
into their mothers' wombs, and that they wait there until another
opportunity presents itself to them of being born again into the world.
For if people really believe, as do many Australian tribes, that when
they die they will afterwards come to life again as infants, it is
perfectly natural that they should take steps to ensure and facilitate
the new birth. The Unmatjera and Kaitish tribes of Central Australia do
this in the case of dead children. These savages draw a sharp
distinction between young children and very old men and women. When very
old people die, their bodies are at once buried in the ground, but the
bodies of children are placed in wooden troughs and deposited on
platforms of boughs in the branches of trees, and the motive for
treating a dead child thus is, we are informed, the hope "that before
very long its spirit may come back again and enter into the body of a
woman--in all probability that of its former mother."[252] The reason
for drawing this distinction between the young and the old by disposing
of their bodies in different fashions, is explained with great
probability by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen as follows: "In the Unmatjera
and Kaitish tribes, while every old man has certain privileges denied to
the younger men, yet if he be decidedly infirm and unable to take his
part in the performance of ceremonies which are often closely
concerned--or so at least the natives believe them to be--with the
general welfare of the tribe, then the feeling undoubtedly is that there
is no need to pay any very special respect to his remains. This feeling
is probably vaguely associated with the idea that, as his body is
infirm, so to a corresponding extent will his spirit part be, and
therefore they have no special need to consider or propitiate this, as
it can do them no harm. On the other hand they are decidedly afraid of
hurting the feelings of any strong man who might be capable of doing
them some mischief unless he saw that he was properly mourned for.
Acting under much the same feeling they pay respect to the bodies of
dead children and young women, in the hope that the spirit will soon
return and undergo reincarnation. It is also worth noticing that they do
not bury in trees any young man who has violated tribal law by taking as
wife a woman who is forbidden to him; such an individual is always
buried directly in the ground."[253] Apparently these law-abiding
savages are not anxious that members of the criminal classes should be
born again and should have the opportunity of troubling society once
more.

[Sidenote: Different modes of disposing of the dead adopted in the same
tribe.]

I would call your attention particularly to the different modes of
burial thus accorded by these two tribes to different classes of
persons. It is too commonly assumed that each tribe has one uniform way
of disposing of all its dead, say either by burning or by burying, and
on that assumption certain general theories have been built as to the
different views taken of the state of the dead by different tribes. But
in point of fact the assumption is incorrect. Not infrequently the same
tribe disposes of different classes of dead people in quite different
ways; for instance, it will bury some and burn others. Thus amongst the
Angoni of British Central Africa the corpses of chiefs are burned with
all their household belongings, but the bodies of commoners are buried
with all their belongings in caves.[254] In various castes or tribes of
India it is the custom to burn the bodies of married people but to bury
the bodies of the unmarried.[255] With some peoples of India the
distinction is made, not between the married and the unmarried, but
between adults and children, especially children under two years old; in
such cases the invariable practice appears to be to burn the old and
bury the young. Thus among the Malayalis of Malabar the bodies of men
and women are burned, but the bodies of children under two years are
buried, and so are the bodies of all persons who have died of cholera or
small-pox.[256] The same distinctions are observed by the Nayars,
Kadupattans, and other castes or tribes of Cochin.[257] The old rule
laid down in the ancient Hindoo law-book _The Grihya-Sutras_ was that
children who died under the age of two should be buried, not burnt.[258]
The Bhotias of the Himalayas bury all children who have not yet obtained
their permanent teeth, but they burn all other people.[259] Among the
Komars the young are buried, and the old cremated.[260] The Coorgs bury
the bodies of women and of boys under sixteen years of age, but they
burn the bodies of men.[261] The Chukchansi Indians of California are
said to have burned only those who died a violent death or were bitten
by snakes, but to have buried all others.[262] The Minnetaree Indians
disposed of their dead differently according to their moral character.
Bad and quarrelsome men they buried in the earth that the Master of Life
might not see them; but the bodies of good men they laid on scaffolds,
that the Master of Life might behold them.[263] The Kolosh or Tlingit
Indians of Alaska burn their ordinary dead on a pyre, but deposit the
bodies of shamans in large coffins, which are supported on four
posts.[264] The ancient Mexicans thought that all persons who died of
infectious diseases were killed by the rain-god Tlaloc; so they painted
their bodies blue, which was the rain-god's colour, and buried instead
of burning them.[265]

[Sidenote: Special modes of burial adopted to prevent or facilitate the
return of the spirit.]

These examples may suffice to illustrate the different ways in which the
same people may dispose of their dead according to the age, sex, social
rank, or moral character of the deceased, or the manner of his death. In
some cases the special mode of burial adopted seems clearly intended to
guard against the return of the dead, whether in the form of ghosts or
of children born again into the world. Such, for instance, was obviously
the intention of the old English custom of burying a suicide at a
cross-road with a stake driven through his body. And if some burial
customs are plainly intended to pin down the dead in the earth, or at
least to disable him from revisiting the survivors, so others appear to
be planned with the opposite intention of facilitating the departure of
the spirit from the grave, in order that he may repair to a more
commodious lodging or be born again into the tribe. For example, the
Arunta of Central Australia always bury their dead in the earth and
raise a low mound over the grave; but they leave a depression in the
mound on the side which faces towards the spot where the spirit of the
deceased is supposed to have dwelt in the intervals between his
successive reincarnations; and we are expressly told that the purpose of
leaving this depression is to allow the spirit to go out and in easily;
for until the final ceremony of mourning has been performed at the
grave, the ghost is believed to spend his time partly in watching over
his near relations and partly in the company of its _arumburinga_ or
spiritual double, who lives at the old _nanja_ spot, that is, at the
place where the disembodied soul tarries waiting to be born again.[266]
Thus the Arunta imagine that for some time after death the spirit of the
deceased is in a sort of intermediate state, partly hovering about the
abode of the living, partly visiting his own proper spiritual home, to
which on the completion of the mourning ceremonies he will retire to
await the new birth. The final mourning ceremony, which marks the close
of this intermediate state, takes place some twelve or eighteen months
after the death. It consists mainly in nothing more or less than a ghost
hunt; men armed with shields and spear-throwers assemble and with loud
shouts beat the air, driving the invisible ghost before them from the
spot where he died, while the women join in the shouts and buffet the
air with the palms of their hands to chase away the dead man from the
old camp which he loves to haunt. In this way the beaters gradually
advance towards the grave till they have penned the ghost into it, when
they immediately dance on the top of it, beating the air downwards as if
to drive the spirit down, and stamping on the ground as if to trample
him into the earth. After that, the women gather round the grave and cut
each other's heads with clubs till the blood streams down on it. This
brings the period of mourning to an end; and if the deceased was a man,
his widow is now free to marry again. In token that the days of her
sorrow are over, she wears at this final ceremony the gay feathers of
the ring-neck parrot in her hair. The spirit of her dead husband, lying
in the grave, is believed to know the sign and to bid her a last
farewell. Even after he has thus been hunted into the grave and trampled
down in it, his spirit may still watch over his friends, guard them from
harm, and visit them in dreams.[267]

[Sidenote: Departure of the ghost supposed to coincide with the
disappearance of the flesh from his bones.]

We may naturally ask, Why should the spirit of the dead be supposed at
first to dwell more or less intermittently near the spot where he died,
and afterwards to take up his abode permanently at his _nanja_ spot till
the time comes for him to be born again? A good many years ago I
conjectured[268] that this idea of a change in the abode of the ghost
may be suggested by a corresponding change which takes place, or is
supposed to take place, about the same time in the state of the body; in
fact, that so long as the flesh adheres to the bones, so long the soul
of the dead man may be thought to be detained in the neighbourhood of
the body, but that when the flesh has quite decayed, the soul is
completely liberated from its old tabernacle and is free to repair to
its true spiritual home. In confirmation of this conjecture I pointed to
the following facts. Some of the Indians of Guiana bring food and drink
to their dead so long as the flesh remains on the bones; but when it has
mouldered away, they conclude that the man himself has departed.[269]
The Matacos Indians of the Gran Chaco in Argentina believe that the soul
of a dead man does not pass down into the nether world until his body is
decomposed or burnt. Further, the Alfoors of Central Celebes
suppose that the spirits of the departed cannot enter the spirit-land
until all the flesh has been removed from their bones; for until that
has been done, the gods (_lamoa_) in the other world could not bear the
stench of the corpse. Accordingly at a great festival the bodies of all
who have died within a certain time are dug up and the decaying flesh
scraped from the bones. Comparing these ideas, I suggested that
they may explain the widespread custom of a second burial, that is, the
practice of disinterring the dead after a certain time and disposing of
their bones otherwise.

[Sidenote: Second burial of the bones among the tribes of Central
Australia. Final burial ceremony among the Warramunga.]

Now so far as the tribes of Central Australia are concerned, my
conjecture has been confirmed by the subsequent researches of Messrs.
Spencer and Gillen in that region. For they have found that the tribes
to the north of the Arunta regularly give their dead a second burial,
that a change in the state of the ghosts is believed to coincide with
the second burial, and apparently also, though this is not so definitely
stated, that the time for the second burial is determined by the
disappearance of the flesh from the bones. Amongst the tribes which
practise a second burial the custom is first to deposit the dead on
platforms among the branches of trees, till the flesh has quite
mouldered away, and then to bury the bones in the earth: in short, they
practise tree-burial first and earth-burial afterwards.[270] For
example, in the Unmatjera and Kaitish tribes, when a man dies, his body
is carried by his relations to a tree distant a mile or two from the
camp. There it is laid on a platform by itself for some months. When the
flesh has disappeared from the bones, a kinsman of the deceased, in
strictness a younger brother (_itia_), climbs up into the tree,
dislocates the bones, places them in a wooden vessel, and hands them
down to a female relative. Then the bones are laid in the grave with the
head facing in the direction in which his mother's brother is supposed
to have camped in days of old. After the bones have been thus interred,
the spirit of the dead man is believed to go away and to remain in his
old _alcheringa_ home until such time as he once more undergoes
reincarnation.[271] But in these tribes, as we saw, very old men and
women receive only one burial, being at once laid in an earthy grave and
never set up on a platform in a tree; and we have seen reason to think
that this difference in the treatment of the aged springs from the
indifference or contempt in which their ghosts are held by comparison
with the ghosts of the young and vigorous. In the Warramunga tribe, who
regularly deposit their dead in trees first and in the earth afterwards,
so long as the corpse remains in the tree and the flesh has not
completely disappeared from the bones, the mother of the deceased and
the women who stand to him or her in the relation of tribal motherhood
are obliged from time to time to go to the tree, and sitting under the
platform to allow its putrid juices to drip down on their bodies, into
which they rub them as a token of sorrow. This, no doubt, is intended to
please the jealous ghost; for we are told that he is believed to haunt
the tree and even to visit the camp, in order, if he was a man, to see
for himself that his widows are mourning properly. The time during which
the mouldering remains are left in the tree is at least a year and may
be more.[272] The final ceremony which brings the period of mourning to
an end is curious and entirely different from the one observed by the
Arunta on the same occasion. When the bones have been taken down from
the tree, an arm-bone is put carefully apart from the rest. Then the
skull is smashed, and the fragments together with all the rest of the
bones except the arm-bone, are buried in a hollow ant-hill near the
tree. Afterwards the arm-bone is wrapt up in paper-bark and wound round
with fur-string, so as to make a torpedo-shaped parcel, which is kept by
a tribal mother of the deceased in her rude hovel of branches, till,
after the lapse of some days or weeks, the time comes for the last
ceremony of all. On that day a design emblematic of the totem of the
deceased is drawn on the ground, and beside it a shallow trench is dug
about a foot deep and fifteen feet long. Over this trench a number of
men, elaborately decorated with down of various colours, stand
straddle-legged, while a line of women, decorated with red and yellow
ochre, crawl along the trench under the long bridge made by the
straddling legs of the men. The last woman carries the arm-bone of the
dead in its parcel, and as soon as she emerges from the trench, the bone
is snatched from her by a kinsman of the deceased, who carries it to a
man standing ready with an uplifted axe beside the totemic drawing. On
receiving the bone, the man at once smashes it, hastily buries it in a
small pit beside the totemic emblem of the departed, and closes the
opening with a large flat stone, signifying thereby that the season of
mourning is over and that the dead man or woman has been gathered to his
or her totem. The totemic design, beside which the arm-bone is buried,
represents the spot at which the totemic ancestor of the deceased
finally went down into the earth. When once the arm-bone has thus been
broken and laid in its last resting-place, the soul of the dead person,
which they describe as being of about the size of a grain of sand, is
supposed to go back to the place where it camped long ago in a previous
incarnation, there to remain with the souls of other men and women of
the same totem until the time comes for it to be born again.[273]

[Sidenote: General conclusion as to the belief in immortality and the
worship of the dead among the Australian aborigines.]

This must conclude what I have to say as to the belief in immortality
and the worship of the dead among the aborigines of Australia. The
evidence I have adduced is sufficient to prove that these savages firmly
believe both in the existence of the human soul after death and in the
power which it can exert for good or evil over the survivors. On the
whole the dominant motive in their treatment of the dead appears to be
fear rather than affection. Yet the attention which many tribes pay to
the comfort of the departed by providing them with huts, food, water,
fire, clothing, implements and weapons, may not be dictated by purely
selfish motives; in any case they are clearly intended to please and
propitiate the ghosts, and therefore contain the germs of a regular
worship of the dead.

[Footnote 216: E. J. Eyre, _Journals of Expeditions of Discovery into
Central Australia_ (London, 1845), ii. 349.]

[Footnote 217: A. Oldfield, "The Aborigines of Victoria," _Transactions
of the Ethnological Society of London_, N.S. iii. (1865) p. 245.]

[Footnote 218: P. Beveridge, in _Journal and Proceedings of the Royal
Society of New South Wales_, xvii. (1883) pp. 29 _sq._ Compare R. Brough
Smyth, _Aborigines of Victoria_, i. 100 note.]

[Footnote 219: (Sir) G. Grey, _Journals of Two Expeditions of
Discovery_, ii. 332 _sq._]

[Footnote 220: Rev. J. Roscoe, _The Baganda_ (London, 1911), pp. 109
_sqq._]

[Footnote 221: E. M. Curr, _The Australian Race_ (Melbourne and London,
1886-1887), i. 87.]

[Footnote 222: A. W. Howitt, _Native Tribes of South-East Australia_, p.
463.]

[Footnote 223: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 461.]

[Footnote 224: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 473.]

[Footnote 225: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit._ p. 474.]

[Footnote 226: F. C. Urquhart, "Legends of the Australian Aborigines,"
_Journal of the Anthropological Institute_, xiv. (1885) p. 88.]

[Footnote 227: E. M. Curr, _The Australian Race_, i. 87.]

[Footnote 228: Leviticus xix. 28; Deuteronomy xiv. 1.]

[Footnote 229: W. Stanbridge, "Tribes in the Central Part of Victoria,"
_Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London_, N.S. i. (1861) p.
298.]

[Footnote 230: R. Brough Smyth, _Aborigines of Victoria_, i. 105.]

[Footnote 231: A. W. Howitt, _Native Tribes of South-East Australia_, p.
459.]

[Footnote 232: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit_. p. 453.]

[Footnote 233: P. Beveridge, in _Journal and Proceedings of the Royal
Society of New South Wales_, xvii. (1883) pp. 28, 29.]

[Footnote 234: A. W. Howitt, _op. cit_. p. 466.]

[Footnote 235: E. J. Eyre, _Journals of Expeditions of Discovery into
Central Australia_ (London, 1845), ii. 347.]

[Footnote 236: W. E. Roth, _Studies among the North-West-Central
Queensland Aborigines_ (Brisbane and London, 1897), p. 164; compare p.
165.]

[Footnote 237: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
p. 500.]

[Footnote 238: Spencer and Gillen, _op. cit._ p. 510.]

[Footnote 239: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 516-552.]

[Footnote 240: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes_, p. 510.]

[Footnote 241: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes_, p. 507.]

[Footnote 242: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes_, p. 511.]

[Footnote 243: F. Bonney, "On some Customs of the Aborigines of the
River Darling," _Journal of the Anthropological Institute_, xiii. (1884)
pp. 134 _sq._]

[Footnote 244: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 507, 509 _sq._]

[Footnote 245: (Sir) G. Grey, _Journals of Two Expeditions of
Discovery_, ii. 332, quoting Mr. Bussel.]

[Footnote 246: Scholiast on Pindar, _Olymp._ i. 146.]

[Footnote 247: Homer, _Odyssey_, xi. 23 _sqq._]

[Footnote 248: _The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings_, i. 91 _sq._]

[Footnote 249: J. Dawson, _Australian Aborigines_, p. 62.]

[Footnote 250: R. Brough Smyth, _Aborigines of Victoria_, i. 108.]

[Footnote 251: J. F. Mann, "Notes on the Aborigines of Australia,"
_Proceedings of the Geographical Society of Australasia_, i. (Sydney,
1885) p. 48.]

[Footnote 252: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, p. 506.]

[Footnote 253: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes_, p. 512.]

[Footnote 254: R. Sutherland Rattray, _Some Folk-lore Stories and Songs
in Chinyanja_ (London, 1907), pp. 99-101, 182.]

[Footnote 255: F. Fawcett, "The Kondayamkottai Maravars, a Dravidian
Tribe of Tinnevelly, Southern India," _Journal of the Anthropological
Institute_, xxxiii. (1903) p. 64; Captain Wolsley Haig, "Notes on the
Rangari Caste in Barar," _Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal_,
lxx. Part iii. (1901) p. 8; E. Thurston, _Castes and Tribes of Southern
India_ (Madras, 1909), iv. 226 (as to the Lambadis), vi. 244 (as to the
Raniyavas); compare _id._, _Ethnographic Notes in Southern India_
(Madras, 1906), p. 155.]

[Footnote 256: E. Thurston, _Ethnographic Notes in Southern India_, p.
207.]

[Footnote 257: L. K. Anantha Krishna Iyer, _The Cochin Tribes and
Castes_ (Madras, 1909-1912), ii. 91, 112, 157, 360, 378.]

[Footnote 258: _The Grihya Sutras_, translated by H. Oldenberg, Part i.
p. 355 (_Sacred Books of the East_, vol. xxix.). Compare W. Crooke,
_Popular Religion and Folk-lore of Northern India_ (Westminster, 1896),
i. 245.]

[Footnote 259: Ch. A. Sherring, _Western Tibet and the British
Borderland_ (London, 1906), pp. 123 _sq._]

[Footnote 260: P. N. Bose, "Chhattisgar," _Journal of the Asiatic
Society of Bengal_, lix., Part i. (1891) p. 290.]

[Footnote 261: E. Thurston, _Ethnographic Notes in Southern India_, p.
205.]

[Footnote 262: S. Powers, _Tribes of California_ (Washington, 1877), p.
383.]

[Footnote 263: Maximilian Prinz zu Wied, _Reise in das Innere
Nord-America_ (Coblenz, 1839-1841), ii. 235.]

[Footnote 264: T. de Pauly, _Description Ethnographique des Peuples de
la Russie, Peuples de l'Amérique Russe_ (St. Petersburg, 1862), p. 13.]

[Footnote 265: E. Seler, _Altmexikanische Studien_, ii. (Berlin, 1899)
p. 42 (_Veröffentlichungen aus dem Königlichen Museum für Völkerkunde_,
vi. 2/4).]

[Footnote 266: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
p. 497; _id._, _Northern Tribes of Central Australia_, p. 506.]

[Footnote 267: Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central Australia_,
pp. 503-508. The name of the final mourning ceremony among the Arunta is
_urpmilchima_.]

[Footnote 268: _The Golden Bough_, Second Edition (London, 1900), i. 434
_sq._]

[Footnote 269: A. Biet, _Voyage de la France Equinoxiale en l'Isle de
Cayenne_ (Paris, 1664), p. 392.]

[Footnote 270: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 505 _sqq._]

[Footnote 271: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 506-508.]

[Footnote 272: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, p. 530.]

[Footnote 273: Spencer and Gillen, _Northern Tribes of Central
Australia_, pp. 530-543.]



LECTURE VIII

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE NATIVES OF THE TORRES STRAITS
ISLANDS


[Sidenote: The Islanders of Torres Straits. The Cambridge
Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits.]

In the last lecture I concluded my account of the belief in immortality
and worship of the dead, or rather of the elements out of which such a
worship might have grown, among the aborigines of Australia. To-day we
pass to the consideration of a different people, the islanders of Torres
Straits. As you may know, Torres Straits are the broad channel which
divides Australia on the south from the great island of New Guinea on
the north. The small islands which are scattered over the strait fall
roughly into two groups, a Western and an Eastern, of which the eastern
is at once the more isolated and the more fertile. In appearance,
character, and customs the inhabitants of all these islands belong to
the Papuan family, which inhabits the western half of New Guinea, but in
respect of language there is a marked difference between the natives of
the two groups; for while the speech of the Western Islanders is akin to
that of the Australians, the speech of the Eastern Islanders is akin to
that of the Papuans of New Guinea. The conclusion to be drawn from these
facts appears to be that the Western Islands of Torres Straits were
formerly inhabited by aborigines of the Australian family, and that at a
later time they were occupied by immigrants from New Guinea, who adopted
the language of the aboriginal inhabitants, but gradually extinguished
the aboriginal type and character either by peaceful absorption or by
conquest and extermination.[274] Hence the Western Islanders of Torres
Straits form a transition both geographically and ethnographically
between the aborigines of Australia on the one side and the aborigines
of New Guinea on the other side. Accordingly in our survey of the belief
in immortality among the lower races we may appropriately consider the
Islanders of Torres Straits immediately after the aborigines of
Australia and before we pass onward to other and more distant races.
These Islanders have a special claim on the attention of a Cambridge
lecturer, since almost all the exact knowledge we possess of them we owe
to the exertions of Cambridge anthropologists and especially to Dr. A.
C. Haddon, who on his first visit to the islands in 1888 perceived the
urgent importance of procuring an accurate record of the old beliefs and
customs of the natives before it was too late, and who never rested till
that record was obtained, as it happily has been, first by his own
unaided researches in the islands, and afterwards by the united
researches of a band of competent enquirers. In the history of
anthropology the Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits in 1898 will
always hold an honourable place, to the credit of the University which
promoted it and especially to that of the zealous and devoted
investigator who planned, organised, and carried it to a successful
conclusion. Practically all that I shall have to tell you as to the
beliefs and practices of the Torres Straits Islanders is derived from
the accurate and laborious researches of Dr. Haddon and his colleagues.

[Sidenote: Social culture of the Torres Straits Islanders.]

While the natives of Torres Straits are, or were at the time of their
discovery, in the condition which we call savagery, they stand on a far
higher level of social and intellectual culture than the rude aborigines
of Australia. To indicate roughly the degree of advance we need only say
that, whereas the Australians are nomadic hunters and fishers, entirely
ignorant of agriculture, and destitute to a great extent not only of
houses but even of clothes, the natives of Torres Straits live in
settled villages and diligently till the soil, raising a variety of
crops, such as yams, sweet potatoes, bananas, sugar-cane, and
tobacco.[275] Of the two groups of islands the eastern is the more
fertile and the inhabitants are more addicted to agriculture than are
the natives of the western islands, who, as a consequence of the greater
barrenness of the soil, have to eke out their subsistence to a
considerable extent by fishing.[276] And there is other evidence to shew
that the Eastern Islanders have attained to a somewhat higher stage of
social evolution than their Western brethren;[277] the more favourable
natural conditions under which they live may possibly have contributed
to raise the general level of culture. One of the most marked
distinctions in this respect between the inhabitants of the two groups
is that, whereas a regular system of totemism with its characteristic
features prevails among the Western Islanders, no such system nor even
any very clear evidence of its former existence is to be found among the
Eastern Islanders, whether it be that they never had it or, what is more
likely, that they once had but have lost it.[278]

[Sidenote: Belief of the Torres Straits Islanders in the existence of
the human spirit after death.]

On the other hand, so far as regards our immediate subject, the belief
in immortality and the worship of the dead, a general resemblance may be
traced between the creed and customs of the Eastern and Western tribes.
Both of them, like the Australian aborigines, firmly believe in the
existence of the human spirit after death, but unlike the Australians
they seem to have no idea that the souls of the departed are ever born
again into the world; the doctrine of reincarnation, so widespread among
the natives of Australia, appears to have no place in the creed of their
near neighbours the Torres Straits Islanders, whose dead, like our own,
though they may haunt the living for a time, are thought to depart at
last to a distant spirit-land and to return no more. At the same time
neither in the one group nor in the other is there any clear evidence of
what may be called a worship of the dead in the strict sense of the
word, unless we except the cults of certain more or less mythical
heroes. On this point the testimony of Dr. Haddon is definite as to the
Western Islanders. He says: "In no case have I obtained in the Western
Islands an indication of anything approaching a worship of deceased
persons ancestral or otherwise, with the exception of the heroes shortly
to be mentioned; neither is there any suggestion that their own
ancestors have been in any way apotheosized."[279]

[Sidenote: Fear of the ghosts of the recently departed.]

But if these savages have not, with the possible exception of the cult
of certain heroes, any regular worship of the dead, they certainly have
the germ out of which such a worship might be developed, and that is a
firm belief in ghosts and in the mischief which they may do to the
living. The word for a ghost is _mari_ in the West and _mar_ in the
East: it means also a shadow or reflection,[280] which seems to shew
that these savages, like many others, have derived their notion of the
human soul from the observation of shadows and reflections cast by the
body on the earth or on water. Further, the Western Islanders appear to
distinguish the ghosts of the recently departed (_mari_) from the
spirits of those who have been longer dead, which they call
_markai_;[281] and if we accept this distinction "we may assert,"
according to Dr. Haddon, "that the Torres Straits Islanders feared the
ghosts but believed in the general friendly disposition of the spirits
of the departed."[282] Similarly we saw that the Australian aborigines
regard with fear the ghosts of those who have just died, while they are
either indifferent to the spirits of those who have died many years ago
or even look upon them as beings of higher powers than their
descendants, whom they can benefit in various ways. This sharp
distinction between the spirits of the dead, according to the date at
which they died, is widespread, perhaps universal among mankind. However
truly the dead were loved in their lifetime, however bitterly they were
mourned at their death, no sooner have they passed beyond our ken than
the thought of their ghosts seems to inspire the generality of mankind
with an instinctive fear and horror, as if the character of even the
best friends and nearest relations underwent a radical change for the
worse as soon as they had shuffled off the mortal coil. But among
savages this belief in the moral deterioration of ghosts is certainly
much more marked than among civilised races. Ghosts are dreaded both by
the Western and the Eastern tribes of Torres Straits. Thus in Mabuiag,
one of the Western Islands, the corpse was carried out of camp feet
foremost, else it was thought that the ghost would return and trouble
the survivors. Further, when the body had been laid upon a stage or
platform on clear level ground away from the dwelling, the remains of
any food and water of which the deceased might have been partaking in
his last moments were carried out and placed beside the corpse lest the
ghost should come back to fetch them for himself, to the annoyance and
terror of his relations. This is the reason actually alleged by the
natives for what otherwise might have been interpreted as a delicate
mark of affection and thoughtful care for the comfort of the departed.
If next morning the food was found scattered, the people said that the
ghost was angry and had thrown it about.[283] Further, on the day of the
death the mourners went into the gardens, slashed at the taro, knocked
down coco-nuts, pulled up sweet potatoes, and destroyed bananas. We are
told that "the food was destroyed for the sake of the dead man, it was
'like good-bye.'"[284] We may suspect that the real motive for the
destruction was the same as that for laying food and water beside the
corpse, namely, a wish to give the ghost no excuse for returning to
haunt and pester his surviving relatives. How could he have the heart to
return to the desolated garden which in his lifetime it had been his
pride and joy to cultivate?

[Sidenote: Fear of the ghosts of the recently departed among the Murray
Islanders.]

In Murray Island, also, which belongs to the Eastern group, the ghost of
a recently deceased person is much dreaded; it is supposed to haunt the
neighbourhood for two or three months, and the elaborate funeral
ceremonies which these savages perform appear to be based on this belief
and to be intended, in fact, to dismiss the ghost from the land of the
living, where he is a very unwelcome visitor, to his proper place in the
land of the dead.[285] "The Murray Islanders," says Dr. Haddon, "perform
as many as possible of the necessary ceremonies in order that the ghost
of the deceased might not feel slighted, for otherwise it was sure to
bring trouble on the relatives by causing strong winds to destroy their
gardens and break down their houses."[286] These islanders still believe
that a ghost may feel resentment when his children are neglected or
wronged, or when his lands or goods are appropriated by persons who have
no claim to them. And this fear of the wrath of the ghost, Dr. Haddon
tells us, no doubt in past times acted as a wholesome deterrent on
evil-doers and helped to keep the people from crime, though now-a-days
they look rather to the law than to ghosts for the protection of their
rights and the avenging of their wrongs.[287] Yet here, as in so many
places, it would seem that superstition has proved a useful crutch on
which morality can lean until it is strong enough to walk alone. In the
absence of the police the guardianship of law and morality may be
provisionally entrusted to ghosts, who, if they are too fickle and
uncertain in their temper to make ideal constables, are at least better
than nothing. With this exception it does not appear that the moral code
of the Torres Straits Islanders derived any support or sanction from
their religion. No appeal was made by them to totems, ancestors, or
heroes; no punishment was looked for from these quarters for any
infringement of the rules and restraints which hold society
together.[288]

[Sidenote: The island home of the dead.]

The land of the dead to which the ghosts finally depart is, in the
opinion of the Torres Straits Islanders, a mythical island in the far
west or rather north-west. The Western Islanders name it Kibu; the
Eastern Islanders call it Boigu. The name Kibu means "sundown." It is
natural enough that islanders should place the home of the dead in some
far island of the sea to which no canoe of living men has ever sailed,
and it is equally natural that the fabulous island should lie to
westward where the sun goes down; for it seems to be a common thought
that the souls of the dead are attracted by the great luminary, like
moths by a candle, and follow him when he sinks in radiant glory into
the sea. To take a single example, in the Maram district of Assam it is
forbidden to build houses facing westward, because that is the direction
in which the spirits of the dead go to their long home.[289] But the
Torres Straits Islanders have a special reason, as Dr. Haddon has well
pointed out, for thinking that the home of the dead is away in the
north-west; and the reason is that in these latitudes the trade wind
blows steady and strong from the south-east for seven or eight months of
the year; so that for the most part the spirits have only to let
themselves go and the wind will sweep them away on its pinions to their
place of rest. How could the poor fluttering things beat up to windward
in the teeth of the blast?[290]

[Sidenote: Elaborate funeral ceremonies observed by the Torres Straits
Islanders.]

The funeral ceremonies observed by the Torres Straits Islanders were
numerous and elaborate, and they present some features of special
interest. They succeeded each other at intervals, sometimes of months,
and amongst the Eastern Islanders in particular there were so many of
them that, were it not that the bodies of the very young and the very
old were treated less ceremoniously, the living would have been
perpetually occupied in celebrating the obsequies of the dead.[291] The
obsequies differed somewhat from each other in the East and the West,
but they had two characteristics in common: first, the skulls of the
dead were commonly preserved apart from the bodies and were consulted as
oracles; and, second, the ghosts of the recently deceased were
represented in dramatic ceremonies by masked men, who mimicked the gait
and gestures of the departed and were thought by the women and children
to be the very ghosts themselves. But in details there were a good many
variations between the practice of the Eastern and the Western
Islanders. We will begin with the customs of the Western Islanders.

[Sidenote: Funeral ceremonies observed by the Western Islanders. Removal
and preservation of the skull. Skulls used in divination.]

When a death had taken place, the corpse was carried out of the house
and set on a staging supported by four forked posts and covered by a
roof of mats. The office of attending to the body devolved properly on
the brothers-in-law (_imi_) of the deceased, who, while they were
engaged in the duties of the office, bore the special title of _mariget_
or "ghost-hand." It deserves to be noticed that these men were always of
a different totem from the deceased; for if the dead person was a man,
the _mariget_ were his wife's brothers and therefore had the same totem
as the dead man's wife, which, on account of the law of exogamy, always
differed from the totem of her husband. And if the dead person was a
woman, the _mariget_ were her husband's brothers and therefore had his
totem, which necessarily differed from hers. When they had discharged
the preliminary duties to the corpse, the brothers-in-law went and
informed the relations and friends. This they did not in words but by a
prescribed pantomime. For example, if the deceased had had the crocodile
for his totem, they imitated the ungainly gait of crocodiles waddling
and resting, if the deceased had the snake for his totem, they in like
manner mimicked the crawling of a snake. The relations then painted
their bodies with white coral mud, cut their hair, plastered mud over
their heads, and cut off their ear ornaments or severed the distended
lobe of the ear as a sign of mourning. Then, armed with bows and arrows,
they came out to the stage where the corpse was lying and let fly arrows
at the men who were in attendance on it, that is, at the brothers-in-law
of the deceased, who warded off the shafts as best they could.[292] The
meaning of this sham attack on the men who were discharging the last
offices of respect to the dead comes out clearly in another ceremony
which was performed some time afterwards, as we shall see presently. For
five or six days the corpse remained on the platform or bier watched by
the brothers-in-law, who had to prevent certain large lizards from
devouring it and to frighten away any prowling ghosts that might be
lured to the spot by the stench. After the lapse of several days the
relations returned to the body, mourned, and beat the roof of the bier,
while they raised a shout to drive off any part of the dead man's spirit
that might be lingering about his mouldering remains. The reason for
doing so was, that the time had now arrived for cutting off the head of
the corpse, and they thought that the head would not come off easily if
the man's spirit were still in the body; he might reasonably be expected
to hold on tight to it and not to resign, without a struggle, so
valuable a part of his person. When the poor ghost had thus been chased
away with shouts and blows, the principal brother-in-law came forward
and performed the amputation by sawing off the head. Having done so, he
usually placed it in a nest of termites or white ants in order that the
insects might pick it clean; but sometimes for the same purpose he
deposited it in a creek. When it was thoroughly clean, the grinning
white skull was painted red all over and placed in a decorated basket.
Then followed the ceremony of formally handing over this relic of the
dead to the relations. The brothers-in-law, who had been in attendance
on the body, painted themselves black all over, covered their heads with
leaves, and walked in solemn procession, headed by the chief
brother-in-law, who carried the skull in the basket. Meantime the male
relatives were awaiting them, seated on a large mat in the ceremonial
ground, while the women grouped themselves in the background. As the
procession of men approached bearing the skull, the mourners shot arrows
over their heads as a sign of anger at them for having decapitated their
relation. But this was a mere pretence, probably intended to soothe and
flatter the angry ghost: the arrows flew over the men without hurting
them.[293] Similarly in ancient Egypt the man who cut open a corpse for
embalmment had no sooner done his office than he fled precipitately,
pursued by the relations with stones and curses, because he had wounded
and mangled the body of their kinsman.[294] Sometimes the skull was made
up to resemble the head of a living man: an artificial nose of wood and
beeswax supplied the place of a nose of flesh; pearl-shells were
inserted in the empty eye-balls; and any teeth that might be missing
were represented by pieces of wood, while the lower jaw was lashed
firmly to the cranium.[295] Whether thus decorated or not, the skulls of
the dead were preserved and used in divination. Whenever a skull was to
be thus consulted, it was first cleaned, repainted, and either anointed
with certain plants or placed upon them. Then the enquirer enjoined the
skull to speak the truth, and placing it on his pillow at night went to
sleep. The dream which he dreamed that night was the answer of the
skull, which spoke with a clappering noise like that of teeth chattering
together. When people went on voyages, they used to take a divining
skull with them in the stern of the canoe.[296]

[Sidenote: Great death-dance of the Western Islanders. The dead
personated by masked actors.]

The great funeral ceremony, or rather death-dance, of the Western
Islanders took place in the island of Pulu. When the time came for it, a
few men would meet and make the necessary preparations. The ceremony was
always performed on the sacred or ceremonial ground (_kwod_), and the
first thing to do was to enclose this ground, for the sake of privacy,
with a screen of mats hung on a framework of wood and bamboos. When the
screen had been erected, the drums which were to be used by the
orchestra were placed in position beside it. Then the relations were
summoned to attend the performance. The ceremony might be performed for
a number of recently deceased people at once, and it varied in
importance and elaboration according to the importance and the number of
the deceased whose obsequies were being celebrated. The chief
differences were in the number of the performers and the greater or less
display of scenic apparatus. The head-dresses or leafy masks worn by the
actors in the sacred drama were made secretly in the bush; no woman or
uninitiated man might witness the operation. When all was ready, and the
people were assembled, the men being stationed in front and the women
and children in the background, the disguised actors appeared on the
scene and played the part of the dead, each one of them mimicking the
gait and actions of the particular man or woman whom he personated; for
all the parts were played by men, no woman might act in these
ceremonies. The order in which the various ghosts were to appear on the
scene was arranged beforehand; so that when the actors came forward from
behind the screen, the spectators knew which of the dead they were
supposed to have before them. The performers usually danced in pairs,
and vanished behind the screen when their dance was finished. Thus one
pair would follow another till the play was over. Besides the actors who
played the serious and solemn part of the dead, there was usually a
clown who skipped about and cut capers, tumbling down and getting up
again, to make the spectators laugh and so to relieve the strain on
their emotions, which were deeply stirred by this dance of death. The
beat of the drums proclaimed that the sacred drama was at an end. Then
followed a great feast, at which special portions of food were assigned
by the relatives of the deceased to the actors who had personated
them.[297]

[Sidenote: Intention of the ceremonies.]

As to the intention of these curious dramatic performances we have no
very definite information. Dr. Haddon says: "The idea evidently was to
convey to the mourners the assurance that the ghost was alive and that
in the person of the dancer he visited his friends; the assurance of his
life after death comforted the bereaved ones."[298]

[Sidenote: Funeral ceremonies observed by the Eastern Islanders. The
soul of the dead carried away by a masked actor.]

In the Eastern Islands of Torres Straits the funeral ceremonies seem to
have been even more numerous and elaborate. The body was at first laid
on the ground on a mat outside the house, if the weather were fine.
There friends wept and wailed over it, the nearest relations, such as
the wife and mother, sitting at the head of the corpse. About an hour
after the sun had set, the drummers and singers arrived. All night the
drums beat and the people sang, but just as the dawn was breaking the
wild music died away into silence. The wants of the living were now
attended to: the assembled people breakfasted on green coco-nuts; and
then, about an hour after sunrise, they withdrew from the body and took
up a position a little further off to witness the next act of the drama
of death. The drums now struck up again in quicker time to herald the
approach of an actor, who could be heard, but not seen, shaking his
rattle in the adjoining forest. Faster and faster beat the drums, louder
and louder rose the singing, till the spectators were wound up to a
pitch of excitement bordering on frenzy. Then at last a strange figure
burst from the forest and came skipping and posturing towards the
corpse. It was Terer, a spirit or mythical being who had come to fetch
the soul of the departed and to bear it far away to its place of rest in
the island beyond the sea. On his head he wore a wreath of leaves: a
mask made of the mid-ribs of coco-nut leaves or of croton leaves hid his
face: a long feather of the white tern nodded on his brow; and a mantle
of green coco-nut leaves concealed his body from the shoulders to the
knees. His arms were painted red: round his neck he wore a crescent of
pearl-shell: in his left hand he carried a bow and arrows, and in his
mouth a piece of wood, to which were affixed two rings of green coco-nut
leaf. Thus attired he skipt forwards, rattling a bunch of nuts in his
right hand, bending his head now to one side and now to another, swaying
his body backwards and forwards, but always keeping time to the measured
beat of the drums. At last, after a series of rapid jumps from one foot
to the other, he ended his dance, and turning round fled away westward
along the beach. He had taken the soul of the dead and was carrying it
away to the spirit-land. The excitement of the women now rose to the
highest pitch. They screamed and jumped from the ground raising their
arms in air high above their heads. Shrieking and wailing all pursued
the retreating figure along the beach, the mother or widow of the dead
man casting herself again and again prostrate on the sand and throwing
it in handfuls over her head. Among the pursuers was another masked man,
who represented Aukem, the mother of Terer. She, or rather he, was
dressed in dried banana leaves: long tufts of grass hung from her head
over her face and shoulders; and in her mouth she carried a lighted
bundle of dry coco-nut fibre, which emitted clouds of smoke. With an
unsteady rickety gait the beldame hobbled after her rapidly retreating
son, who turned round from time to time, skipping and posturing
derisively as if to taunt her, and then hurrying away again westward.
Thus the two quaint figures retreated further and further, he in front
and she behind, till they were lost to view. But still the drums
continued to beat and the singers to chant their wild song, when nothing
was to be seen but the deserted beach with the sky and the drifting
clouds above and the white waves breaking on the strand. Meantime the
two actors in the sacred drama made their way westward till their
progress was arrested by the sea. They plunged into it and swimming
westward unloosed their leafy envelopes and let them float away to the
spirit-land in the far island beyond the rolling waters. But the men
themselves swam back to the beach, resumed the dress of ordinary
mortals, and quietly mingled with the assembly of mourners.[299]

[Sidenote: Personation of ghosts by masked men.]

Such was the first act of the drama. The second followed immediately
about ten o'clock in the morning. The actors in it were twenty or thirty
men disguised as ghosts or spirits of the dead (_zera markai_). Their
bodies were blackened from the neck to the ankles, but the lower part of
their faces and their feet were dyed bright red, and a red triangle was
painted on the front of their bodies. They wore head-dresses of grass
with long projecting ribs of coco-nut leaves, and a long tail of grass
behind reaching down to the level of the knees. In their hands they held
long ribs of coco-nut leaf. They were preceded by a curious figure
called _pager_, a man covered from head to foot with dry grass and dead
banana leaves, who sidled along with an unsteady rolling gait in a
zigzag course, keeping his head bowed, his red-painted hands clasped in
front of his face, and his elbows sticking out from both sides of his
body. In spite of his erratic course and curious mode of progression he
drew away from the troop of ghosts behind him and came on towards the
spectators, jerking his head from side to side, his hands shaking, and
wailing as he went. Behind him marched the ghosts, with their hands
crossed behind their backs and their faces looking out to sea. When they
drew near to the orchestra, who were singing and drumming away, they
halted and formed in two lines facing the spectators. They now all
assumed the familiar attitude of a fencer on guard, one foot and arm
advanced, the other foot and arm drawn back, and lunged to right and
left as if they were stabbing something with the long ribs of the
coco-nut leaves which they held in their hands. This manoeuvre they
repeated several times, the orchestra playing all the time. Then they
retreated into the forest, but only to march out again, form in line,
stand on guard, and lunge again and again at the invisible foe. This
appears to have been the whole of the second act of the drama. No
explanation of it is given. We can only conjecture that the band of men,
who seem from their name (_zera markai_) to have represented the ghosts
or spirits of the dead, came to inform the living that the departed
brother or sister had joined the majority, and that any attempt to
rescue him or her would be vain. That perhaps was the meaning of the
solemn pantomime of the lines of actors standing on guard and lunging
again and again towards the spectators. But I must acknowledge that this
is a mere conjecture of my own.[300]

[Sidenote: Blood and hair offered to the dead.]

Be that as it may, when this act of the drama was over, the mourners
took up the body and with weeping and wailing laid it on a wooden
framework resting on four posts at a little distance from the house of
the deceased. Youths who had lately been initiated, and girls who had
attained to puberty, now had the lobes of their ears cut. The blood
streamed down over their faces and bodies and was allowed to drip on the
feet of the corpse as a mark of pity or sorrow.[301] The other relatives
cut their hair and left the shorn locks in a heap under the body. Blood
and hair were probably regarded as offerings made to the departed
kinsman or kinswoman. We saw that the Australian aborigines in like
manner cut themselves and allow the blood to drip on the corpse; and
they also offer their hair to the dead, cutting off parts of their
beards, singeing them, and throwing them on the corpse.[302] Having
placed the body on the stage and deposited their offerings of hair under
it, the relatives took some large yams, cut them in pieces, and laid the
pieces beside the body in order to serve as food for the ghost, who was
supposed to eat it at night.[303] This notion seems inconsistent with
the belief that the soul of the departed had already been carried off to
Boigu, the island of the dead; but consistency in such matters is as
little to be looked for among savages as among ourselves.

[Sidenote: Mummification of the corpse.]

When the body had remained a few days on the stage in the open air,
steps were taken to convert it into a mummy. For this purpose it was
laid in a small canoe manned by some young people of the same sex as the
deceased. They paddled it across the lagoon to the reef and there rubbed
off the skin, extracted the bowels from the abdomen and the brain from
the skull, and having sewed up the hole in the abdomen and thrown the
bowels into the sea, they brought the remains back to land and lashed
them to the wooden framework with string, while they fixed a small stick
to the lower jaw to keep it from drooping. The framework with its
ghastly burden was fastened vertically to two posts behind the house,
where it was concealed from public view by a screen of coco-nut leaves.
Holes were pricked with an arrow between the fingers and toes to allow
the juices of decomposition to escape, and a fire was kindled and kept
burning under the stage to dry up the body.[304]

[Sidenote: Garb of mourners. Cuttings for the dead.]

About ten days after the death a feast of bananas, yams, and germinating
coco-nuts was partaken of by the relations and friends, and portions
were distributed to the assembled company, who carried them home in
baskets. It was on this occasion that kinsfolk and friends assumed the
garb of mourners. Their faces and bodies were smeared with a mixture of
greyish earth and water: the ashes of a wood fire were strewn on their
heads; and fringes of sago leaves were fastened on their arms and legs.
A widow wore besides a special petticoat made of the inner bark of the
fig-tree; the ends of it were passed between her legs and tucked up
before and behind. She had to leave her hair unshorn during the whole
period of her widowhood; and in time it grew into a huge mop of a light
yellow colour in consequence of the ashes with which it was smeared.
This coating of ashes, as well as the grey paint on her face and body,
she was expected to renew from time to time.[305] It was also on the
occasion of this feast, on or about the tenth day after death, that
young kinsfolk of the deceased had certain patterns cut in their flesh
by a sharp shell. The persons so operated on were young adults of both
sexes nearly related to the dead man or woman. Women generally operated
on women and men on men. The patients were held down during the
operation, which was painful, and they sometimes fainted under it. The
patterns were first drawn on the skin in red paint and then cut in with
the shell. They varied a good deal in shape. Some consisted of
arrangements of lines and scrolls; a favourite one, which was only
carved on women, represented a centipede. The blood which flowed from
the wounds was allowed to drip on the corpse, thus forming a sacrifice
or tribute to the dead.[306]

[Sidenote: The Dance of Death. The nocturnal dance.]

When the body had remained some time, perhaps four or six months, on the
scaffold, and the process of mummification was far advanced, a dance of
death was held to celebrate the final departure of the spirit for its
long home. Several men, seldom exceeding four in number, were chosen to
act the part of ghosts, including the ghost of him or her in whose
honour the performance was specially held. Further, about a dozen men
were selected to form a sort of chorus; their business was to act as
intermediaries between the living and the dead, summoning up the shades,
serving as their messengers, and informing the people of their presence.
The costume of the ghosts was simple, consisting of nothing but a
head-dress and shoulder-band of leaves. The chorus, if we may call them
so, wore girdles of leaves round their waists and wreaths of leaves on
their heads. When darkness had fallen, the first act of the drama was
played. The chorus stood in line opposite the mummy. Beyond them stood
or sat the drummers, and beyond them again the audience was crowded on
the beach, the women standing furthest from the mummy and nearest to the
sea. The drummers now struck up, chanting at the same time to the beat
of the drums. This was the overture. Then a shrill whistle in the forest
announced the approach of a ghost. The subdued excitement among the
spectators, especially among the women, was intense. Meantime the
chorus, holding each other's hands, advanced sidelong towards the mummy
with strange gestures, the hollow thud of their feet as they stamped on
the ground being supposed to be the tread of the ghosts. Thus they
advanced to the red-painted mummy with its grinning mouth. Behind it by
this time stood one of the ghosts, and between him and the chorus a
dialogue ensued. "Whose ghost is there?" called out the chorus; and a
strident voice answered from the darkness, "The ghost of so and so is
here." At that the chorus retreated in the same order as they had
advanced, and again the hollow thud of their feet sounded in the ears of
the excited spectators as the tramp of the dead. On reaching the
drummers in their retreat the chorus called out some words of uncertain
meaning, which have been interpreted, "Spirit of so-and-so, away at sea,
loved little." At all events, the name of a dead person was pronounced,
and at the sound the women, thrilled with excitement, leaped from the
ground, holding their hands aloft; then hurled themselves prone on the
sand, throwing it over their heads and wailing. The drums now beat
faster and a wild weird chant rose into the air, then died away and all
was silent, except perhaps for the lapping of the waves on the sand or
the muffled thunder of the surf afar off on the barrier reef. Thus one
ghost after another was summoned from the dusty dead and vanished again
into the darkness. When all had come and gone, the leader of the chorus,
who kept himself invisible behind the screen save for a moment when he
was seen by the chorus to glide behind the mummy on its stage, blew a
whistle and informed the spectators in a weird voice that all the ghosts
that had been summoned that night would appear before them in broad day
light on the morrow. With that the audience dispersed. But the men who
had played the parts of the ghosts came forward and sat down with the
chorus and the drummers on mats beside the body. There they remained
singing to the beat of the drums till the first faint streaks of dawn
glimmered in the east.

[Sidenote: The noonday dance. The ghosts represented by masked actors.]

Next morning the men assembled beside the body to inspect the actors who
were to personate the ghosts, in order to make sure that they had
learned their parts well and could mimick to the life the figure and
gait of the particular dead persons whom they represented. By the time
that these preparations were complete, the morning had worn on to noon.
The audience was already assembled on the beach and on the long stretch
of sand left by the ebbing tide; for the hour of the drama was always
fixed at low water so as to allow ample space for the spectators to
stand at a distance from the players, lest they should detect the
features of the living under the masks of the dead. All being ready, the
drummers marched in and took up their position just above the beach,
facing the audience. The overture having been concluded, the first ghost
was seen to glide from the forest and come dancing towards the beach. If
he represented a woman, his costume was more elaborate than it had been
under the shades of evening the night before. His whole body was painted
red. A petticoat of leaves encircled his waist: a mask of leaves,
surmounted by tufts of cassowary and pigeon feathers, concealed his
head; and in his hands he carried brooms of coco-nut palm leaf. If he
personated a man, he held a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other,
and his costume was the usual dress of a dancer, with the addition of a
head-dress of leaves and feathers and a diamond-shaped ornament of
bamboo, which he held in his teeth and which entirely concealed his
features. He approached dancing and mimicking the gestures of the person
whom he represented. At the sight the women wailed, and the widow would
cry out, "That's my husband," the mother would cry out, "That's my son."
Then suddenly the drummers would call out, "Ah! Ah! Ai! Ai!" at which
the women would fall to the ground, while the dancer retreated into the
forest. In this way one ghost after the other would make his appearance,
play his part, and vanish. Occasionally two of them would appear and
dance together. The women and children, we are told, really believed
that the actors were the ghosts of their dead kinsfolk. When the first
dancer had thus danced before the people, he advanced with the drummers
towards the framework on which the mummy was stretched, and there he
repeated his dance before it. But the people were not allowed to witness
this mystery; they remained wailing on the beach, for this was the
moment at which the ghost of the dead man or woman was supposed to be
departing for ever to the land of shades.[307]

[Sidenote: Preservation of the mummy.]

Some days afterwards the mummy was affixed to a new framework of bamboo
and carried into the hut. In former times the huts were of a beehive
shape, and the framework which supported the mummy was fastened to the
central post on which the roof rested. The body thus stood erect within
the house. Its dried skin had been painted red. The empty orbits of the
eyes had been filled with pieces of pearl-shell of the nautilus to
imitate eyes, two round spots of black beeswax standing for the pupils.
The ears were decorated with shreds of the sago-palm or with grey seeds.
A frontlet of pearl-shell nautilus adorned the head, and a crescent of
pearl-shell the breast. In the darkness of the old-fashioned huts the
body looked like a living person. In course of time it became almost
completely mummified and as light as if it were made of paper. Swinging
to and fro with every breath of wind, it turned its gleaming eyes at
each movement of the head. The hut was now surrounded by posts and ropes
to prevent the ghost from making his way into it and taking possession
of his old body. Ghosts were supposed to appear only at night, and it
was imagined that in the dark they would stumble against the posts and
entangle themselves in the ropes, till in despair they desisted from the
attempt to penetrate into the hut. In time the mummy mouldered away and
fell to pieces. If the deceased was a male, the head was removed and a
wax model of it made and given to the brother, whether blood or tribal
brother, of the dead man. The head thus prepared or modelled in wax,
with eyes of pearl-shell, was used in divination. The decaying remains
of the body were taken to the beach and placed on a platform supported
by four posts. That was their last resting-place.[308]

[Sidenote: General summary. Dramas of the dead.]

To sum up the foregoing evidence, we may say that if the beliefs and
practices of the Torres Straits Islanders which I have described do not
amount to a worship of the dead, they contain the elements out of which
such a worship might easily have been developed. The preservation of the
bodies of the dead, or at least their skulls, in the houses, and the
consultation of them as oracles, prove that the spirits of the dead are
supposed to possess knowledge which may be of great use to the living;
and the custom suggests that in other countries the images of the gods
may perhaps have been evolved out of the mummies of the dead. Further,
the dramatic representation of the ghosts in a series of striking and
impressive performances indicates how a sacred and in time a secular
drama may elsewhere have grown out of a purely religious celebration
concerned with the souls of the departed. In this connexion we are
reminded of Professor Ridgeway's theory that ancient Greek tragedy
originated in commemorative songs and dances performed at the tomb for
the purpose of pleasing and propitiating the ghost of the mighty
dead.[309] Yet the mortuary dramas of the Torres Straits Islanders can
hardly be adduced to support that theory by analogy so long as we are
ignorant of the precise significance which the natives themselves
attached to these remarkable performances. There is no clear evidence
that the dramas were acted for the amusement and gratification of the
ghost rather than for the edification of the spectators. One important
act certainly represented, and might well be intended to facilitate, the
final departure of the spirit of the deceased to the land of souls. But
the means taken to effect that departure might be adopted in the
interests of the living quite as much as out of a tender regard for the
welfare of the dead, since the ghost of the recently departed is
commonly regarded with fear and aversion, and his surviving relations
resort to many expedients for the purpose of ridding themselves of his
unwelcome presence.

[Footnote 274: S. H. Ray, in _Reports of the Cambridge Anthropological
Expedition to Torres Straits_, iii. (Cambridge, 1907) pp. 509-511; A. C.
Haddon, "The Religion of the Torres Straits Islanders," _Anthropological
Essays presented to E. B. Tyler_ (Oxford, 1907), p. 175.]

[Footnote 275: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
iv. 92 _sqq._, 144 _sqq._, v. 346, vi. 207 _sqq._]

[Footnote 276: A. C. Haddon, in _Anthropological Essays presented to E.
B. Tylor_, p. 186.]

[Footnote 277: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
vi. 254 _sq._]

[Footnote 278: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
vi. 254 _sqq._]

[Footnote 279: A. C. Haddon, in _Anthropological Essays presented to E.
B. Tylor_, p. 181.]

[Footnote 280: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
v. 355 _sq._, vi. 251; A. C. Haddon, in _Anthropological Essays
presented to E. B. Tylor_, p. 179.]

[Footnote 281: For authorities see the references in the preceding
note.]

[Footnote 282: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
vi. 253.]

[Footnote 283: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
v. 248, 249.]

[Footnote 284: _Id._, p. 250.]

[Footnote 285: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
vi. 253; A. C. Haddon, in _Anthropological Essays presented to E. B.
Tylor_, p. 180.]

[Footnote 286: A. C. Haddon, _l.c._]

[Footnote 287: A. C. Haddon, _op. cit._ pp. 182 _sq._; _Cambridge
Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_, vi. 127.]

[Footnote 288: A. C. Haddon, _op. cit._ p. 183.]

[Footnote 289: T. C. Hodson, _The Naga Tribes of Manipur_ (London,
1911), p. 43.]

[Footnote 290: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
v. 355 _sq._, vi. 252. In the former passage Dr. Haddon seems to
identify Boigu with the island of that name off the south coast of New
Guinea; in the latter he prefers to regard it as mythical.]

[Footnote 291: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
vi. 127.]

[Footnote 292: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
v. 248 _sq._]

[Footnote 293: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
v. 250 _sq._]

[Footnote 294: Diodorus Siculus, i. 91.]

[Footnote 295: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
v. 258.]

[Footnote 296: _Id._, p. 362.]

[Footnote 297: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
v. 252-256.]

[Footnote 298: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
v. 256.]

[Footnote 299: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
vi. 129-133.]

[Footnote 300: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
vi. 133 _sq._]

[Footnote 301: _Id._, pp. 135, 154.]

[Footnote 302: (Sir) George Grey, _Journals of Two Expeditions of
Discovery in North-West and Western Australia_ (London, 1841), ii. 335.]

[Footnote 303: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
vi. 135.]

[Footnote 304: _Op. cit._ p. 136.]

[Footnote 305: _Op. cit._ pp. 138, 153, 157 _sq._]

[Footnote 306: _Op. cit._ pp. 154 _sq._]

[Footnote 307: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
vi. 139-141.]

[Footnote 308: _Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,
vi. 148 _sq._ As to divination with skulls or waxen models, see _id._,
pp. 266 _sqq._]

[Footnote 309: W. Ridgeway, _The Origin of Tragedy, with special
reference to the Greek Tragedians_ (Cambridge, 1910), pp. 26 _sqq._]



LECTURE IX

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE NATIVES OF BRITISH NEW GUINEA


[Sidenote: The two races of New Guinea, the Papuan and the Melanesian.]

In my last lecture I dealt with the islanders of Torres Straits, and
shewed that these savages firmly believe in the existence of the human
soul after death, and that if their beliefs and customs in this respect
do not always amount to an actual worship of the departed, they contain
at least the elements out of which such a worship might easily be
developed. To-day we pass from the small islands of Torres Straits to
the vast neighbouring island, almost continent, of New Guinea, the
greater part of which is inhabited by a race related by physical type
and language to the Torres Straits Islanders, and exhibiting
approximately the same level of social and intellectual culture. New
Guinea, roughly speaking, appears to be occupied by two different races,
to which the names of Papuan and Melanesian are now given; and it is to
the Papuan race, not to the Melanesian, that the Torres Straits
Islanders are akin. The Papuans, a tall, dark-skinned, frizzly-haired
race, inhabit apparently the greater part of New Guinea, including the
whole of the western and central portions of the island. The
Melanesians, a smaller, lighter-coloured, frizzly-haired race, inhabit
the long eastern peninsula, including the southern coast from about Cape
Possession eastward,[310] and tribes speaking a Melanesian language are
also settled about Finsch Harbour and Huon Gulf in German New
Guinea.[311] These Melanesians are most probably immigrants who have
settled in New Guinea from the north and east, where the great chain of
islands known as Melanesia stretches in an immense semicircle from New
Ireland on the north to New Caledonia on the south-east. The natives of
this chain of islands or series of archipelagoes are the true
Melanesians; their kinsmen in New Guinea have undergone admixture with
the Papuan aborigines, and accordingly should rather be called
Papuo-Melanesians than Melanesians simply. Their country appears to be
wholly comprised within the limits of British and German New Guinea; so
far as I am aware, the vast area of Dutch New Guinea is inhabited solely
by tribes of the Papuan race. In respect of material culture both races
stand approximately on the same level: they live in settled villages,
they practise agriculture, they engage in commerce, and they have a
fairly developed barbaric art. Thus they have made some progress in the
direction of civilisation; certainly they have far outstripped the
wandering savages of Australia, who subsist entirely on the products of
the chase and on the natural fruits of the earth.

[Sidenote: Scantiness of our information as to the natives of New
Guinea.]

But although the natives of New Guinea have now been under the rule of
European powers, Britain, Germany, and Holland, for many years, we
unfortunately possess little detailed information as to their mental and
social condition. It is true that the members of the Cambridge
Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits visited some parts of the
southern coasts of British New Guinea, and several years later, in 1904,
Dr. Seligmann was able to devote somewhat more time to the investigation
of the same region and has given us the results of his enquiries in a
valuable book. But the time at his disposal did not suffice for a
thorough investigation of this large region; and accordingly his
information, eked out though it is by that of Protestant and Catholic
missionaries, still leaves us in the dark as to much which we should
wish to know. Among the natives of British New Guinea our information is
especially defective in regard to the Papuans, who occupy the greater
part of the possession, including the whole of the western region; for
Dr. Seligmann's book, which is the most detailed and systematic work yet
published on the ethnology of British New Guinea, deals almost
exclusively with the Melanesian portion of the population. Accordingly I
shall begin what I have to say on this subject with the Melanesian or
rather Papuo-Melanesian tribes of south-eastern New Guinea.

[Sidenote: The Motu, their beliefs and customs concerning the dead.]

Amongst these people the best known are the Motu, a tribe of fishermen
and potters, who live in and about Port Moresby in the Central District
of British New Guinea. Their language conforms to the Melanesian type.
They are immigrants, but the country from which they came is
unknown.[312] In their opinion the spirits of the dead dwell in a happy
land where parted friends meet again and never suffer hunger. They fish,
hunt, and plant, and are just like living men, except that they have no
noses. When they first arrive in the mansions of the blest, they are
laid out to dry on a sort of gridiron over a slow fire in order to purge
away the grossness of the body and make them ethereal and light, as
spirits should be. Yet, oddly enough, though they have no noses they
cannot enter the realms of bliss unless their noses were pierced in
their lifetime. For these savages bore holes in their noses and insert
ornaments, or what they regard as such, in the holes. The operation is
performed on children about the age of six years; and if children die
before it has been performed on them, the parents will bore a hole in
the nose of the corpse in order that the spirit of the child may go to
the happy land. For if they omitted to do so, the poor ghost would have
to herd with other whole-nosed ghosts in a bad place called Tageani,
where there is little food to eat and no betelnuts to chew. The spirits
of the dead are very powerful and visit bad people with their
displeasure. Famine and scarcity of fish and game are attributed to the
anger of the spirits. But they hearken to prayer and appear to their
friends in dreams, sometimes condescending to give them directions for
their guidance in time of trouble.[313]

[Sidenote: The Koita or Koitapu.]

Side by side with the Motu live the Koita or Koitapu, who appear to be
the aboriginal inhabitants of the country and to belong to the Papuan
stock. Their villages lie scattered for a distance of about forty miles
along the coast, from a point about seven miles south-east of Port
Moresby to a point on Redscar Bay to the north-west of that settlement.
They live on friendly terms with the Motu and have intermarried with
them for generations. The villages of the two tribes are usually built
near to or even in direct continuity with each other. But while the Motu
are mainly fishers and potters, the Koita are mainly tillers of the
soil, though they have learned some arts or adopted some customs from
their neighbours. They say to the Motu, "Yours is the sea, the canoes,
the nets; ours the land and the wallaby. Give us fish for our flesh, and
pottery for our yams and bananas." The Motu look down upon the Koita,
but fear their power of sorcery, and apply to them for help in sickness
and for the weather they happen to require; for they imagine that the
Koita rule the elements and can make rain or sunshine, wind or calm by
their magic. Thus, as in so many cases, the members of the immigrant
race confess their inability to understand and manage the gods or
spirits of the land, and have recourse in time of need to the magic of
the aboriginal inhabitants. While the Koita belong to the Papuan stock
and speak a Papuan language, most of the men understand the Motu tongue,
which is one of the Melanesian family. Altogether these two tribes, the
Koita and the Motu, may be regarded as typical representatives of the
mixed race to which the name of Papuo-Melanesian is now given.[314]

[Sidenote: Beliefs of the Koita concerning the human soul.]

The Koita believe that the human spirit or ghost, which they call _sua_,
leaves the body at death and goes away to live with other ghosts on a
mountain called Idu. But they think that the spirit can quit the body
and return to it during life; it goes away, for example, in dreams, and
if a sleeper should unfortunately waken before his soul has had time to
return, he will probably fall sick. Sneezing is a sign that the soul has
returned to the body, and if a man does not sneeze for many weeks
together, his friends look on it as a grave symptom; his soul, they
imagine, must be a very long way off.[315] Moreover, a man's soul may be
enticed from his body and detained by a demon or _tabu_, as the Koita
call it. Thus, when a man who has been out in the forest returns home
and shakes with fever, it is assumed that he has fallen down and been
robbed of his soul by a demon. In order to recover that priceless
possession, the sufferer and his friends repair to the exact spot in the
forest where the supposed robbery was perpetrated. They take with them a
long bamboo with some valuable ornaments tied to it, and two men support
it horizontally over a pot which is filled with grass. A light is put to
the grass, and as it crackles and blazes a number of men standing round
the pot strike it with stones till it breaks, whereat they all groan.
Then the company returns to the village, and the sick man lies down in
his house with the bamboo and its ornaments hung over him. This is
supposed to be all that is needed to effect a perfect cure; for the
demon has kindly accepted the soul of the ornaments and released the
soul of the sufferer, who ought to recover accordingly.[316]

[Sidenote: Beliefs of the Koita concerning the state of the dead.
Alleged communications with the dead by means of mediums.]

However, at death the soul goes away for good and all; at least there
appears to be no idea that it will ever return to life in the form of an
infant, as the souls of the Central Australian aborigines are supposed
to do. All Koita ghosts live together on Mount Idu, and their life is
very like the one they led here on earth. There is no distinction
between the good and the bad, the righteous and the wicked, the strong
and the weak, the young and the old; they all fare alike in the
spirit-land, with one exception. Like the Motu, the Koita are in the
habit of boring holes in their noses and inserting ornaments in the
holes; and they think that if any person were so unfortunate as to be
buried with his nose whole and entire, his ghost would have to go about
in the other world with a creature like a slow-worm depending from his
nostrils on either side. Hence, when anybody dies before the operation
of nose-boring has been performed on him or her, the friends take care
to bore a hole in the nose of the corpse in order that the ghost may not
appear disfigured among his fellows in dead man's land. There the ghosts
dwell in houses, cultivate gardens, marry wives, and amuse themselves
just as they did here on earth. They live a long time, but not for ever;
for they grow weaker and weaker and at last die the second death, never
to revive again, not even as ghosts. The exact length of time they live
in the spirit-land has not been accurately ascertained; but there seems
to be a notion that they survive only so long as their names and their
memories survive among the living. When these are utterly forgotten, the
poor ghosts cease to exist. If that is so, it is obvious that the dead
depend for their continued existence upon the recollection of the
living; their names are in a sense their souls, so that oblivion of the
name involves extinction of the soul.[317] But though the spirits of the
dead go away to live for a time on Mount Idu, they often return to their
native villages and haunt the place of their death. On these visits they
shew little benevolence or lovingkindness to their descendants. They
punish any neglect in the performance of the funeral rites and any
infringement of tribal customs, and the punishment takes the form of
sickness or of bad luck in hunting or fishing. This dread of the ghost
commonly leads the Koita to desert a house after a death and to let it
fall into decay; but sometimes the widow, or in rare cases a brother or
sister, will continue to inhabit the house of the deceased. Children who
play near dwellings which have been deserted on account of death may
fall sick; and if people who are not members of the family partake of
food which has been hung up in such houses, they also may sicken. It is
in dreams that the ghosts usually appear to the survivors; but
occasionally they may be seen or at least felt by people in the waking
state. Some years ago four Motuan girls persuaded many natives of Port
Moresby that they could evoke the spirit of a youth named Tamasi, who
had died three years before. The mother and other sorrowing relatives of
the deceased paid a high price to the principal medium, a young woman
named Mea, for an interview with the ghost. The meeting took place in a
house by night. The relations and friends squatted on the ground in
expectation; and sure enough the ghost presented himself in the darkness
and went round shaking hands most affably with the assembled company.
However, a sceptic who happened to assist at this spiritual sitting, had
the temerity to hold on tight to the proffered hand of the ghost, while
another infidel assisted him to obtain a sight as well as a touch of the
vanished hand by striking a light. It then turned out that the supposed
apparition was no spirit but the medium Mea herself. She was brought
before a magistrate, who sentenced her to a short term of imprisonment
and relieved her of the property which she had amassed by the exercise
of her spiritual talents.[318] It is hardly for us, or at least for some
of us, to cast stones at the efforts of ignorant savages to communicate
by means of such intermediaries with their departed friends. Similar
attempts have been made in our own country within our lifetime, and I
believe that they are still being made, in perfect good faith, by
educated ladies and gentlemen, who like their black brethren and sisters
in the faith are sometimes made the dupes of designing knaves. If New
Guinea has its Meas, Europe has its Eusapias. Human credulity and vulgar
imposture are much the same all the world over.

[Sidenote: Fear of the dead.]

The fear of the dead is strongly marked in some funeral customs which
are observed by the Roro-speaking tribes who occupy a territory at the
mouth of the St. Joseph river in British New Guinea.[319] When a death
takes place, the female relations of the deceased lacerate their skulls,
faces, breasts, bellies, arms, and legs with sharp shells, till they
stream with blood and fall down exhausted. Moreover, a fire is kindled
on the grave and kept up almost continually for months for the purpose,
we are told, of warming the ghost.[320] These attentions might be
interpreted as marks of affection rather than of fear; but in other
customs of these people the dread of the ghost is unmistakable. For when
the corpse has been placed in the grave a near kinsman strokes it twice
with a branch from head to foot in order to drive away the dead man's
spirit; and in Yule Island, when the ghost has thus been brushed away
from the body, he is pursued by two men brandishing sticks and torches
from the village to the edge of the forest, where with a last curse they
hurl the sticks and torches after him.[321]

[Sidenote: Ghost of dead wife feared by widower.]

Among these people the visits of ghosts, though frequent, are far from
welcome, for all ghosts are supposed to be mischievous and to take no
delight but in injuring the living. Hence, for example, a widower in
mourning goes about everywhere armed with an axe to defend himself
against the spirit of his dead wife, who might play him many an ill turn
if she caught him defenceless and off his guard. And he is subject to
many curious restrictions and has to lead the life of an outcast from
society, apparently because people fear to come into contact with a man
whose steps are dogged by so dangerous a spirit.[322] This account of
the terrors of ghosts we owe to a Catholic missionary. But according to
the information collected by Dr. Seligmann among these people the dread
inspired by the souls of the dead is not so absolute. He tells us,
indeed, that ghosts are thought to make people ill by stealing their
souls; that the natives fear to go alone outside the village in the dark
lest they should encounter a spectre; and that if too many quarrels
occur among the women, the spirits of the dead may manifest their
displeasure by visiting hunters and fishers with bad luck, so that it
may be necessary to conjure their souls out of the village. On the other
hand, it is said that if the ghosts abandoned a village altogether, the
luck of the villagers would be gone, and if such a thing is supposed to
have happened, measures are taken to bring back the spirits of the
departed to the old home.[323]

[Sidenote: Beliefs of the Mafulu concerning the dead.]

Inland from the Roro-speaking tribes, among the mountains at the head of
the St. Joseph River, there is a tribe known to their neighbours as the
Mafulu, though they call themselves Mambule. They speak a Papuan
language, but their physical characteristics are believed to indicate a
strain of Negrito blood.[324] The Mafulu hold that at death the human
spirit leaves the body and becomes a malevolent ghost. Accordingly they
drive it away with shouts. It is supposed to go away to the tops of the
mountains there to become, according to its age, either a shimmering
light on the ground or a large sort of fungus, which is found only on
the mountains. Hence natives who come across such a shimmering light or
such a fungus are careful not to tread on it; much less would they eat
the fungus. However, in spite of their transformation into these things,
the ghosts come down from the mountains and prowl about the villages and
gardens seeking what they may devour, and as their intentions are always
evil their visits are dreaded by the people, who fill up the crevices
and openings, except the doors, of their houses at night in order to
prevent the incursions of these unquiet spirits. When a mission station
was founded in their country, the Mafulu were amazed that the
missionaries should sleep alone in rooms with open doors and windows,
through which the ghosts might enter.[325]

[Sidenote: Burial customs of the Mafulu.]

Common people among the Mafulu are buried in shallow graves in the
village, and pigs are killed at the funeral for the purpose of appeasing
the ghost. Mourners wear necklaces of string and smear their faces,
sometimes also their bodies, with black, which they renew from time to
time. Instead of wearing a necklace, a widow, widower, or other near
relative may abstain during the period of mourning from eating a
favourite food of the deceased. A woman who has lost a child, especially
a first-born or dearly loved child, will often amputate the first joint
of one of her fingers with an adze; and she may repeat the amputation if
she suffers another bereavement. A woman has been seen with three of her
fingers mutilated in this fashion.[326] The corpses of chiefs, their
wives, and other members of their families are not buried in graves but
laid in rude coffins, which are then deposited either on rough platforms
in the village or in the fork of a species of fig-tree. This sort of
tree, called by the natives _gabi_, is specially used for such burials;
one of them has been seen supporting no less than six coffins, one above
the other. The Mafulu never cut down these trees, and in seeking a new
site for a village they will often choose a place where one of them is
growing. So long as the corpse of a chief is rotting and stinking on the
platform or the tree, the village is deserted by the inhabitants; only
two men, relatives of the deceased, remain behind exposed to the stench
of the decaying body and the blood of the pigs which were slaughtered at
the funeral feast. When decomposition is complete, the people return to
the village. Should the coffin fall to the ground through the decay of
the platform or the tree on which it rests, the people throw away all
the bones except the skull and the larger bones of the arms and legs;
these they bury in a shallow grave under the platform, or put in a box
on a burial tree, or hang up in the chief's house.[327]

[Sidenote: Use made of the skulls and bones at a great festival.]

The skulls and leg and arm bones of chiefs, their wives, and other
members of their families, which have thus been preserved, play a
prominent part in the great feasts which the inhabitants of a Mafulu
village celebrate at intervals of perhaps fifteen or twenty years. Great
preparations are made for such a celebration. A series of tall posts,
one for each household, is erected in the open space which intervenes
between the two rows of the village houses. Yams and taro are fastened
to the upper parts of the posts; and below them are hung in circles the
skulls and arm and leg bones of dead chiefs, their wives, and kinsfolk,
which have been preserved in the manner described. Any skulls and bones
that remain over when all the posts have been thus decorated are placed
on a platform, which has either served for the ordinary exposure of a
chief's corpse or has been specially erected for the purpose of the
festival. At a given moment of the ceremony the chief of the clan cuts
down the props which support the platform, so that the skulls and bones
roll on the ground. These are picked up and afterwards distributed,
along with some of the skulls and bones from the posts, by the chief of
the clan to the more important of the invited guests, who wear them as
ornaments on their arms in a great dance. None but certain of the male
guests take part in the dance; the villagers themselves merely look on.
All the dancers are arrayed in full dancing costume, including heavy
head-dresses of feathers, and they carry drums and spears, sometimes
also clubs or adzes. The dance lasts the whole night. When it is over,
the skulls and bones are hung up again on the tall posts. Afterwards the
fruits and vegetables which have been collected in large quantities are
divided among the guests. On a subsequent morning a large number of pigs
are killed, and certain of the hosts take some of the human bones from
the posts and dip them in the blood which flows from the mouths of the
slaughtered pigs. With these blood-stained bones they next touch the
skulls and all the other bones on the posts, which include all the
skulls and arm and leg bones of all the chiefs and members of their
families and other prominent persons who have been buried in the village
or in any other village of the community since the last great feast was
held. These relics of mortality may afterwards be kept in the chief's
house, or hung on a tree, or simply thrown away in the forest; but in no
case are they ever again used for purposes of ceremony. The slaughtered
pigs are cut up and the portions distributed among the guests, who carry
them away for consumption in their own villages.[328]

[Sidenote: Trace of ancestor worship among the Mafulu.]

This preservation of the skulls and bones of chiefs and other notables
for years, and the dipping of them in the blood of pigs at a great
festival, must apparently be designed to propitiate or influence in some
way the ghosts of the persons to whom the skulls and bones belonged in
their lifetime. But Mr. R. W. Williamson, to whom we are indebted for
the description of this interesting ceremony, was not able to detect any
other clear indications of ancestor worship among the people.[329]

[Sidenote: Worship of the dead among the natives of the Aroma district.]

However, a real worship of the dead, or something approaching to it, is
reported to exist among some of the natives of the Aroma district in
British New Guinea. Each family is said to have a sacred place, whither
they carry offerings for the spirits of dead ancestors, whom they
terribly fear. Sickness in the family, death, famine, scarcity of fish,
and so forth, are all set down to the anger of these dreadful beings,
who must accordingly be propitiated. On certain occasions the help of
the spirits is especially invoked and their favour wooed by means of
offerings. Thus, when a house is being built and the central post has
been erected, sacrifices of wallaby, fish, and bananas are presented to
the souls of the dead, and a prayer is put up that they will be pleased
to keep the house always full of food and to prevent it from falling
down in stormy weather. Again, when the natives begin to plant their
gardens, they first take a bunch of bananas and sugar-cane and standing
in the middle of the garden call over the names of dead members of the
family, adding, "There is your food, your bananas and sugar-cane; let
our food grow well, and let it be plentiful. If it does not grow well
and plentifully, you all will be full of shame, and so shall we." Again,
before the people set out on a trading expedition, they present food to
the spirits at the central post of the house and pray them to go before
the traders and prepare the people, so that the trade may be good. Once
more, when there is sickness in the family, a pig is killed and its
carcase carried to the sacred place, where the spirits are asked to
accept it. Sins, also, are confessed, such as that people have gathered
bananas or coco-nuts without offering any of them to their dead
ancestors. In presenting the pig they say, "There is a pig; accept it,
and remove the sickness." But if prayers and sacrifices are vain, and
the patient dies, then, while the relatives all stand round the open
grave, the chief's sister or cousin calls out in a loud voice: "You have
been angry with us for the bananas or the coco-nuts which we have
gathered, and in your anger you have taken away this child. Now let it
suffice, and bury your anger." So saying they lower the body into the
grave and shovel in the earth on the top of it. The spirits of the
departed, on quitting their bodies, paddle in canoes across the lagoon
and go away to the mountains, where they live in perfect bliss, with no
work to do and no trouble to vex them, chewing betel, dancing all night
and resting all day.[330]

[Sidenote: The Hood Peninsula. The town of Kalo.]

Between the Aroma District in the south-east and Port Moresby on the
north-west is situated the Hood Peninsula in the Central District of
British New Guinea. It is inhabited by the Bulaa, Babaka, Kamali, and
Kalo tribes, which all speak dialects of one language.[331] The village
or town of Kalo, built at the base of the peninsula, close to the mouth
of the Vanigela or Kemp Welch River, is said to be the wealthiest
village in British New Guinea. It includes some magnificent native
houses, all built over the water on piles, some of which are thirty feet
high. The sight of these great houses perched on such lofty and massive
props is very impressive. In front of each house is a series of large
platforms like gigantic steps. Some of the posts and under-surfaces of
the houses are carved with figures of crocodiles and so forth. The
labour of cutting the huge planks for the flooring of the houses and the
platforms must be immense, and must have been still greater in the old
days, when the natives had only stone tools to work with. Many of the
planks are cut out of the slab-like buttresses of tall forest trees
which grow inland. So hard is the wood that the boards are handed down
as heirlooms from father to son, and the piles on which the houses are
built last for generations. The inhabitants of Kalo possess gardens,
where the rich alluvial soil produces a superabundance of coco-nuts,
bananas, yams, sweet potatoes, and taro. Areca palms also flourish and
produce the betel nuts, which are in great demand for chewing with
quick-lime and so constitute a source of wealth. Commanding the mouth of
the Vanigela River, the people of Kalo absorb the trade with the
interior; and their material prosperity is said to have rendered them
conceited and troublesome.[332]

[Sidenote: Beliefs and customs concerning the dead among the natives of
the Hood Peninsula. Seclusion of the widow or widower.]

The tribes inhabiting the Hood Peninsula are reported to have no belief
in any good spirit but an unlimited faith in bad spirits, amongst whom
they include the souls of their dead ancestors. At death the ghosts join
their forefathers in a subterranean region, where they have splendid
gardens, houses, and so forth. Yet not content with their life in the
underworld, they are always on the watch to deal out sickness and death
to their surviving friends and relations, who may have the misfortune to
incur their displeasure. So the natives are most careful to do nothing
that might offend these touchy and dangerous spirits. Like many other
savages, they do not believe that anybody dies a natural death; they
think that all the deaths which we should call natural are brought about
either by an ancestral ghost (_palagu_) or by a sorcerer or witch
(_wara_). Even when a man dies of snake-bite, they detect in the
discoloration of the body the wounds inflicted upon him by the fell art
of the magician.[333] On the approach of death the house of the sick man
is filled by anxious relatives and friends, who sit around watching for
the end. When it comes, there is a tremendous outburst of grief. The men
beat their faces with their clenched fists; the women tear their cheeks
with their nails till the blood streams down. They usually bury their
dead in graves, which among the inland tribes are commonly dug near the
houses of the deceased. The maritime tribes, who live in houses built on
piles over the water, sometimes inter the corpse in the forest. But at
other times they place it in a canoe, which they anchor off the village.
Then, when the body has dried up, they lay it on a platform in a tree.
Finally, they collect and clean the bones, tie them in a bundle, and
place them on the roof of the house. When the corpse is buried, a
temporary hut is erected over the grave, and in it the widow or widower
lives in seclusion for two or three months. During her seclusion the
widow employs herself in fashioning her widow's weeds, which consist of
a long grass petticoat reaching to the ankles. She wears a large
head-dress made of shells; her head is shaved, and her body blackened.
Further, she wears round her neck the waistband of her deceased husband
with his lower jaw-bone attached to it. The costume of a widower is
somewhat similar, though he does not wear a long grass petticoat.
Instead of it he has a graceful fringe, which hangs from his waist half
way to the knees. On his head he wears an elaborate head-dress made of
shells, and on his arms he has armlets of the same material. His hair is
cut off and his whole skin blackened. Round his neck is a string, from
which depends his dead wife's petticoat. It is sewn up into small bulk
and hangs under his right arm. While the widow or widower is living in
seclusion on the grave, he or she is supplied with food by relations. At
sundown on the day of the burial, a curious ceremony is performed. An
old woman or man, supposed to be gifted with second-sight, is sent for.
Seating herself at the foot of the grave she peers into the deepening
shadows under the coco-nut palms. At first she remains perfectly still,
while the relations of the deceased watch her with painful anxiety. Soon
her look becomes more piercing, and lowering her head, while she still
gazes into the depth of the forest, she says in low and solemn tones, "I
see coming hither So-and-So's grandfather" (mentioning the name of the
dead person). "He says he is glad to welcome his grandson to his abode.
I see now his father and his own little son also, who died in infancy."
Gradually, she grows more and more excited, waving her arms and swaying
her body from side to side. "Now they come," she cries, "I can see all
our forefathers in a fast-gathering crowd. They are coming closer and
yet closer. Make room, make room for the spirits of our departed
ancestors." By this time she has worked herself up into a frenzy. She
throws herself on the ground, beating her head with her clenched fists.
Foam flies from her lips, her eyes become fixed, and she rolls over
insensible. But the fit lasts only a short time. She soon comes to
herself; the vision is past, and the visionary is restored to common
life.[334]

[Sidenote: Application of the juices of the dead to the persons of the
living.]

Some of the inland tribes of this district have a peculiar way of
disposing of their dead. A double platform about ten feet high is
erected near the village. On the upper platform the corpse is placed,
and immediately below it the widow or widower sleeps on the lower
platform, allowing juices of the decaying body to stream down on her or
him. This application of the decomposing juices of a corpse to the
persons of the living is not uncommon among savages; it appears to be a
form of communion with the dead, the survivors thus in a manner
identifying themselves with their departed kinsfolk by absorbing a
portion of their bodily substance. Among the tribes in question a
widower marks his affection for his dead wife by never washing himself
during the period of mourning; he would not rid himself of those
products of decomposition which link him, however sadly, with her whom
he has lost. Every day, too, reeking with these relics of mortality, he
solemnly stalks through the village.[335]

[Sidenote: Precautions taken by man-slayers against the ghosts of their
victims.]

But there is a distinction between ghosts. If all of them are feared,
some are more dreadful than others, and amongst the latter may naturally
be reckoned the ghosts of slain enemies. Accordingly the slayer has to
observe special precautions to guard against the angry and vengeful
spirit of his victim. Amongst these people, we are told, a man who has
taken life is held to be impure until he has undergone certain
ceremonies. As soon as possible after the deed is done, he cleanses
himself and his weapon. Then he repairs to his village and seats himself
on the logs of sacrificial staging. No one approaches him or takes any
notice whatever of him. Meantime a house is made ready, in which he must
live by himself for several days, waited on only by two or three small
boys. He may eat nothing but toasted bananas, and only the central parts
of them; the ends are thrown away. On the third day a small feast is
prepared for him by his friends, who also provide him with some new
waistbands. Next day, arrayed in all his finery and wearing the badges
which mark him as a homicide, he sallies forth fully armed and parades
the village. Next day a hunt takes place, and from the game captured a
kangaroo is selected. It is cut open, and with its spleen and liver the
back of the homicide is rubbed. Then he walks solemnly down to the
nearest water and standing straddle-legs in it washes himself. All young
untried warriors then swim between his legs, which is supposed to impart
his courage and strength to them. Next day at early dawn he dashes out
of his house fully armed and calls aloud the name of his victim. Having
satisfied himself that he has thoroughly scared the ghost of the dead
man, he returns to his house. Further, floors are beaten and fires
kindled for the sake of driving away the ghost, lest he should still be
lingering in the neighbourhood. A day later the purification of the
homicide is complete and he is free to enter his wife's house, which he
might not do before.[336] This account of the purification of a homicide
suggests that the purificatory rites, which have been observed in
similar cases by many peoples, including the ancient Greeks, are
primarily intended to free the slayer from the dangerous ghost of his
victim, which haunts him and seeks to take his life. Such rites in fact
appear designed, not to restore the homicide to a state of moral
innocence, but merely to guard him against a physical danger; they are
protective, not reformatory, in character; they are exorcisms, not
purifications in the sense which we attach to the word. This
interpretation of the ceremonies observed by manslayers among many
peoples might be supported by a large array of evidence; but to go into
the matter fully would lead me into a long digression. I have collected
some of the evidence elsewhere.[337]

[Sidenote: Beliefs and customs concerning the dead among the Massim of
south-eastern New Guinea. Hiyoyoa, the land of the dead. Mourners bathe
and shave their heads. Food deposited in the grave. Dietary restrictions
imposed on mourners.]

We now pass to that branch of the Papuo-Melanesian race which occupies
the extreme south-eastern part of British New Guinea, and to which Dr.
Seligmann gives the name of Massim. These people have been observed more
especially at three places, namely Bartle Bay, Wagawaga, and Tubetube, a
small island of the Engineer group lying off the south-eastern extremity
of New Guinea. Among them the old custom was to bury the dead on the
outskirts of the hamlet and sometimes within a few yards of the houses,
and apparently the remains were afterwards as a rule left undisturbed;
there was no general practice of exhuming the bones and depositing them
elsewhere.[338] At Wagawaga the name for the spirit or soul of a dead
person is _arugo_, which also signifies a man's shadow or reflection in
a glass or in water; and though animals and trees are not supposed to
have spirits, their reflections bear the same name _arugo_.[339] The
souls of the dead are believed to depart to the land of Hiyoyoa, which
is under the sea, near Maivara, at the head of Milne Bay. The land of
the dead, as usual, resembles in all respects the land of the living,
except that it is day there when it is night at Wagawaga, and the dead
speak of the upper world in the language of Milne Bay instead of in that
of Wagawaga. A certain being called Tumudurere receives the ghosts on
their arrival and directs them where to make their gardens. The souls of
living men and women can journey to the land of the dead and return to
earth; indeed this happens not unfrequently. There is a man at Wagawaga
who has often gone thither and come back; whenever he wishes to make the
journey, he has nothing to do but to smear himself with a magical stuff
and to fall asleep, after which he soon wakes up in Hiyoyoa. At first
the ghosts whom he met in the other world did not invite him to partake
of their food, because they knew that if he did so he could not return
to the land of the living; but apparently practice has rendered him
immune to the usually fatal effects of the food of the dead.[340] Though
Hiyoyoa, at the head of Milne Bay, lies to the west of Wagawaga, the
dead are buried in a squatting posture with their faces turned to the
east, in order that their souls may depart to the other world.[341]
Immediately after the funeral the relations who have taken part in the
burial go down to the sea and bathe, and so do the widow and children of
the deceased because they supported the dying husband and father in his
extremity. After bathing in the sea the widow and children shave their
heads.[342] Both the bathing and the shaving are doubtless forms of
ceremonial purification; in other words, they are designed to rid the
survivors of the taint of death, or perhaps more definitely to remove
the ghost from their persons, to which he may be supposed to cling like
a burr. At Bartle Bay the dead are buried on their sides with their
heads pointing in the direction from which the totem clan of the
deceased is said to have come originally; and various kinds of food, of
which the dead man had partaken in his last illness, are deposited,
along with some paltry personal ornaments, in the grave. Apparently the
food is intended to serve as provision for the ghost on his journey to
the other world. Curiously enough, the widow is forbidden to eat of the
same kinds of food of which her husband ate during his last illness, and
the prohibition is strictly observed until after the last of the funeral
feasts.[343] The motive of the prohibition is not obvious; perhaps it
may be a fear of attracting the ghost back to earth through the savoury
food which he loved in the body. At Wagawaga, after the relatives who
took part in the burial have bathed in the sea, they cut down several of
the coco-nut trees which belonged to the deceased, leaving both nuts and
trees to rot on the ground. During the first two or three weeks after
the funeral these same relatives may not eat boiled food, but only
roast; they may not drink water, but only the milk of young coco-nuts
made hot, and although they may eat yams they must abstain from bananas
and sugar-cane.[344] A man may not eat coco-nuts grown in his dead
father's hamlet, nor pigs and areca-nuts from it during the whole
remainder of his life.[345] The reasons for these dietary restrictions
are not mentioned, but no doubt the abstinences are based on a fear of
the ghost, or at all events on a dread of the contagion of death, to
which all who had a share in the burial are especially exposed.

[Sidenote: Funeral customs at Tubetube. The fire on the grave. The happy
land.]

At Tubetube, in like manner, immediately after a funeral a brother of
the deceased cuts down two or three of the dead man's coco-nut trees.
There, also, the children of the deceased may not eat any coco-nuts from
their father's trees nor even from any trees grown in his hamlet; nay,
they may not partake of any garden produce grown in the vicinity of the
hamlet; and similarly they must abstain from the pork of all pigs
fattened in their dead father's village. But these prohibitions do not
apply to the brothers, sisters, and other relatives of the departed. The
relations who have assisted at the burial remain at the grave for five
or six days, being fed by the brothers or other near kinsfolk of the
deceased. They may not quit the spot even at night, and if it rains they
huddle into a shelter built over the grave. During their vigil at the
tomb they may not drink water, but are allowed a little heated coco-nut
milk; they are supposed to eat only a little yam and other vegetable
food.[346] On the day when the body is buried a fire is kindled at the
grave and kept burning night and day until the feast of the dead has
been held. "The reason for having the fire is that the spirit may be
able to get warm when it rises from the grave. The natives regard the
spirit as being very cold, even as the body is when the life has
departed from it, and without this external warmth provided by the fire
it would be unable to undertake the journey to its final home. The feast
for the dead is celebrated when the flesh has decayed, and in some
places the skull is taken from the grave, washed and placed in the
house, being buried again when the feast is over. At Tubetube this
custom of taking the skull from the grave is not regularly followed, in
some instances it is, but the feast is always held, and on the night of
the day on which the feast takes place, the fire, which has been in some
cases kept burning for over a month, is allowed to burn out, as the
spirit, being now safe and happy in the spirit-land, has no further need
of it."[347] "In this spirit-land eternal youth prevails, there are no
old men nor old women, but all are in the full vigour of the prime of
life, or are attaining thereto, and having reached that stage never grow
older. Old men and old women, who die as such on Tubetube, renew their
youth in this happy place, where there are no more sickness, no evil
spirits, and no death. Marriage, and giving in marriage, continue; if a
man dies, his widow, though she may have married again, is at her death
re-united to her first husband in the spirit-land, and the second
husband when he arrives has to take one of the women already there who
may be without a mate, unless he marries again before his death, in
which case he would have to wait until his wife joins him. Children are
born, and on arriving at maturity do not grow older. Houses are built,
canoes are made but they are never launched, and gardens are planted and
yield abundantly. The spirits of their animals, dogs, pigs, etc., which
have died on Tubetube, precede and follow them to the spirit-land.
Fighting and stealing are unknown, and all are united in a common
brotherhood."[348]

[Sidenote: The names of the dead not mentioned.]

In the south-eastern part of New Guinea the fear of the dead is further
manifested by the common custom of avoiding the mention of their names.
If their names were those of common objects, the words are dropped from
the language of the district so long as the memory of the departed
persists, and new names are substituted for them. For example, when a
man named Binama, which means the hornbill, died at Wagawaga, the name
of the bird was changed to _ambadina_, which means "the plasterer."[349]
In this way many words are either permanently lost or revived with
modified or new meanings. Hence the fear of the dead is here, as in many
other places, a fertile source of change in language. Another indication
of the terror inspired by ghosts is the custom of abandoning or
destroying the house in which a death has taken place; and this custom
used to be observed in certain cases at Tubetube and Wagawaga.[350]

[Sidenote: Beliefs and customs concerning the dead in the island of
Kiwai.]

Thus far I have dealt mainly with the beliefs and practices of the
Papuo-Melanesians in the eastern part of British New Guinea. With regard
to the pure Papuan population in the western part of the possession our
information is much scantier. However, we learn that in Kiwai, a large
island at the mouth of the Fly River, the dead are buried in the
villages and the ghosts are supposed to live in the ground near their
decaying bodies, but to emerge from time to time into the upper air and
look about them, only, however, to return to their abode beneath the
sod. Nothing is buried with the corpse; but a small platform is made
over the grave, or sticks are planted in the ground along its sides, and
on these are placed sago, yams, bananas, coco-nuts, and cooked crabs and
fish, all for the spirit of the dead to eat. A fire is also kindled
beside the grave and kept up by the friends for nine days in order that
the poor ghost may not shiver with cold at night. These practices prove
not merely a belief in the survival of the soul after death but a desire
to make it comfortable. Further, when the deceased is a man, his bow and
arrows are stuck at the head of the grave; when the deceased is a woman,
her petticoat is hung upon a stick. No doubt the weapons and the garment
are intended for the use of the ghost, when he or she revisits the upper
air. On the ninth day after the burial a feast is prepared, the drum is
beaten, the conch shell blown, and the chief mourner declares that no
more fires need be lighted and no more food placed on the grave.[351]

[Sidenote: Adiri, the land of the dead, and Sido, the first man who went
thither. The fear of ghosts.]

According to the natives of Kiwai the land of the dead is called Adiri
or Woibu. The first man to go thither and to open up a road for others
to follow him, was Sido, a popular hero about whom the people tell many
tales. But whereas in his lifetime Sido was an admired and beneficent
being, in his ghostly character he became a mischievous elf who played
pranks on such as he fell in with. His adventures after death furnish
the theme of many stories. However, it is much to his credit that,
finding the land of the dead a barren region without vegetation of any
sort, he, by an act of generation, converted it into a garden, where
bananas, yams, taro, coco-nuts and other fruits and vegetables grew and
ripened in a single night. Having thus fertilised the lower region, he
announced to Adiri, the lord of the subterranean realm, that he was the
precursor of many more men and women who would descend thereafter into
the spirit world. His prediction has been amply fulfilled; for ever
since then everybody has gone by the same road to the same place.[352]
However, when a person dies, his or her spirit may linger for a few days
in the neighbourhood of its old home before setting out for the far
country. During that time the spirit may occasionally be seen by
ordinary people, and accordingly the natives are careful not to go out
in the dark for fear of coming bolt on the ghost; and they sometimes
adopt other precautions against the prowling spectre, who might
otherwise haunt them and carry them off with him to deadland. Some
classes of ghosts are particularly dreaded on account of their
malignity; such, for example, are the spirits of women who have died in
childbed, and of people who have hanged themselves or been devoured by
crocodiles. Such ghosts loiter for a long time about the places where
they died, and they are very dangerous, because they are for ever luring
other people to die the same death which they died themselves. Yet
another troop of evil ghosts are the souls of those who were beheaded in
battle; for they kill and devour people, and at night you may see the
blood shining like fire as it gushes from the gaping gashes in their
throats.[353]

[Sidenote: The path of the ghosts to Adiri. Adiri, the land of the
dead.]

The road to Adiri or deadland is fairly well known, and the people can
point to many landmarks on it. For example, in the island of Paho there
is a tree called _dani_, under which the departing spirits sit down and
weep. When they have cried their fill and rubbed their poor
tear-bedraggled faces with mud, they make little pellets of clay and
throw them at the tree, and anybody can see for himself the pellets
sticking to the branches. It is true that the pellets resemble the nests
of insects, but this resemblance is only fortuitous. Near the tree is a
rocking stone, which the ghosts set in motion, and the sound that they
make in so doing is like the muffled roll of a drum. And while the stone
rocks to and fro with a hollow murmur, the ghosts dance, the men on one
side of the stone and the women on the other. Again at Mabudavane, where
the Mawata people have gardens, you may sometimes hear, in the stillness
of night, the same weird murmur, which indicates the presence of a
ghost. Then everybody keeps quiet, the children are hushed to silence,
and all listen intently. The murmur continues for a time and then ends
abruptly in a splash, which tells the listeners that the ghost has
leaped over the muddy creek. Further on, the spirits come to Boigu,
where they swim in the waterhole and often appear to people in their
real shape. But after Boigu the track of the ghosts is lost, or at least
has not been clearly ascertained. The spirit world lies somewhere away
in the far west, but the living are not quite sure of the way to it, and
they are somewhat vague in their accounts of it. There is no difference
between the fate of the good and the fate of the bad in the far country;
the dead meet the friends who died before them; and people who come from
the same village probably live together in the same rooms of the long
house of the ghosts. However, some native sceptics even doubt whether
there is such a place as Adiri at all, and whether death may not be the
end of consciousness to the individual.[354]

[Sidenote: Appearance of the dead to the living in dreams.]

The dead often appear to the living in dreams, warning them of danger or
furnishing them with useful information with regard to the cultivation
of their gardens, the practice of witchcraft, and so on. In order to
obtain advice from his dead parents a man will sometimes dig up their
skulls from the grave and sleep beside them; and to make sure of
receiving their prompt attention he will not infrequently provide
himself with a cudgel, with which he threatens to smash their skulls if
they do not answer his questions. Some persons possess a special faculty
of communicating with the departing spirit of a person who has just
died. Should they desire to question it they will lurk beside the road
which ghosts are known to take; and in order not to be betrayed by their
smell, which is very perceptible to a ghost, they will chew the leaf or
bark of a certain tree and spit the juice over their bodies. Then the
ghost cannot detect them, or rather he takes them to be ghosts like
himself, and accordingly he may in confidence impart to them most
valuable information, such for example as full particulars with regard
to the real cause of his death. This priceless intelligence the
ghost-seer hastens to communicate to his fellow tribesmen.[355]

[Sidenote: Offerings to the dead.]

When a man has just died and been buried, his surviving relatives lay
some of his weapons and ornaments, together with presents of food, upon
his grave, no doubt for the use of the ghost; but some of these things
they afterwards remove and bring back to the village, probably
considering, with justice, that they will be more useful to the living
than to the dead. But offerings to the dead may be presented to them at
other places than their tombs. "The great power," says Dr. Landtman,
"which the dead represent to the living has given rise to a sort of
simple offering to them, almost the only kind of offering met with among
the Kiwai Papuans. The natives occasionally lay down presents of food at
places to which spirits come, and utter some request for assistance
which the spirits are supposed to hear."[356] In such offerings and
prayers we may detect the elements of a regular worship of the dead.

[Sidenote: Dreams as a source of the belief in immortality.]

With regard to the source of these beliefs among the Kiwai people Dr.
Landtman observes that "undoubtedly dreams have largely contributed in
supplying the natives with ideas about Adiri and life after death. A
great number of dreams collected by me among the Kiwai people tell of
wanderings to Adiri or of meetings with spirits of dead men, and as
dreams are believed to describe the real things which the soul sees
while roaming about outside the body, we understand that they must
greatly influence the imagination of the people."[357]

That concludes what I have to say as to the belief in immortality and
the worship of the dead among the natives of British New Guinea. In the
following lectures I shall deal with the same rudimentary aspect of
religion as it is reported to exist among the aborigines of the vast
regions of German and Dutch New Guinea.

[Footnote 310: C. G. Seligmann, _The Melanesians of British New Guinea_
(Cambridge, 1910), pp. 1 _sq._]

[Footnote 311: See below, pp. 242, 256, 261 _sq._, 291.]

[Footnote 312: A. C. Haddon, _Headhunters, Black, White, and Brown_
(London, 1901), pp. 249 _sq._ As to the Motu and their Melanesian or
Polynesian affinities, see Rev. W. Y. Turner, "The Ethnology of the
Motu," _Journal of the Anthropological Institute_, vii. (1878) pp. 470
_sqq._]

[Footnote 313: Rev. J. Chalmers, _Pioneering in New Guinea_ (London,
1887), pp. 168-170. Compare Rev. W. Y. Turner, "The Ethnology of the
Motu," _Journal of the Anthropological Institute_, vii. (1878) pp. 484
_sqq._; Rev. W. G. Lawes, "Ethnological Notes on the Motu, Koitapu and
Koiari Tribes of New Guinea," _Journal of the Anthropological
Institute_, viii. (1879) pp. 370 _sq._]

[Footnote 314: A. C. Haddon, _Headhunters, Black, White, and Brown_, pp.
249 _sq._; C. G. Seligmann, _The Melanesians of British New Guinea_, pp.
16, 41. As to the Koita (or Koitapu) and the Motu, see further the Rev.
W. Y. Turner, "The Ethnology of the Motu," _Journal of the
Anthropological Institute_, vii. (1878) pp. 470 _sqq._; Rev. W. G.
Lawes, "Ethnological Notes on the Motu, Koitapu and Koiari Tribes of New
Guinea," _Journal of the Anthropological Institute_, viii. (1879) pp.
369 _sq._]

[Footnote 315: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ pp. 189-191.]

[Footnote 316: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ pp. 185 _sq._]

[Footnote 317: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ p. 192.]

[Footnote 318: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ pp. 190-192. As to the
desertion of the house after death, see _id._, pp. 89 _sq._]

[Footnote 319: The territory of the Roro-speaking tribes extends from
Kevori, east of Waimatuma (Cape Possession), to Hiziu in the
neighbourhood of Galley Reach. Inland of these tribes lies a region
called by them Mekeo, which is inhabited by two closely related tribes,
the Biofa and Vee. Off the coast lies Yule Island, which is commonly
called Roro. See C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ p. 195.]

[Footnote 320: V. Jouet, _La Société des Missionaires du Sacré Coeur
dans les Vicariats Apostoliques de la Mélanésie et de la Micronésie_
(Issoudun, 1887), p. 30; Father Guis, "Les Canaques: Mort-deuil,"
_Missions Catholiques_, xxxiv. (1902) pp. 186, 200.]

[Footnote 321: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ pp. 274 _sq._]

[Footnote 322: Father Guis, "Les Canaques: Mort-deuil," _Missions
Catholiques_, xxxiv. (1902) pp. 208 _sq._ See _Psyche's Task_, pp. 75
_sq._]

[Footnote 323: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ p. 310.]

[Footnote 324: R. W. Williamson, _The Mafulu Mountain People of British
New Guinea_ (London, 1912), pp. 2 _sq._, 297 _sqq._]

[Footnote 325: R. W. Williamson, _op. cit._ pp. 243 _sq._, 246,
266-269.]

[Footnote 326: R. W. Williamson, _op. cit._ pp. 245-250.]

[Footnote 327: R. W. Williamson, _op. cit._ pp. 256-258, 261-263.]

[Footnote 328: R. W. Williamson, _op. cit._ pp. 125-152.]

[Footnote 329: R. W. Williamson, _op. cit._ pp. 270 _sq._]

[Footnote 330: J. Chalmers and W. Wyatt Gill, _Work and Adventure in New
Guinea_ (London, 1885), pp. 84-86.]

[Footnote 331: R. E. Guise, "On the Tribes inhabiting the Mouth of the
Wanigela River, New Guinea," _Journal of the Anthropological Institute_,
xxviii. (1899) p. 205.]

[Footnote 332: A. C. Haddon, _Headhunters, Black, White, and Brown_, p.
213.]

[Footnote 333: R. E. Guise, _op. cit._ pp. 216 _sq._]

[Footnote 334: R. E. Guise, _op. cit._ pp. 210 _sq._]

[Footnote 335: R. E. Guise, _op. cit._ p. 211.]

[Footnote 336: R. E. Guise, _op. cit._ pp. 213 _sq._]

[Footnote 337: _Psyche's Task_, pp. 52 _sqq._; _Taboo and the Perils of
the Soul_, pp. 167 _sqq._]

[Footnote 338: C. G. Seligmann, _The Melanesians of British New Guinea_,
p. 607.]

[Footnote 339: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ p. 655.]

[Footnote 340: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ pp. 655 _sq._]

[Footnote 341: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ p. 610.]

[Footnote 342: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ p. 611.]

[Footnote 343: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ pp. 616 _sq._]

[Footnote 344: C. G. Seligmann. _op. cit._ p. 611.]

[Footnote 345: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ pp. 618 _sq._]

[Footnote 346: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ pp. 613 _sq._]

[Footnote 347: The Rev. J. T. Field of Tubetube (Slade Island), quoted
by George Brown, D.D., _Melanesians and Polynesians_ (London, 1910), pp.
442 _sq._]

[Footnote 348: Rev. J. T. Field, _op. cit._ pp. 443 _sq._]

[Footnote 349: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ pp. 629-631. Dr. Seligmann
seems to think that the custom is at present dictated by courtesy and a
reluctance to grieve the relatives of the deceased; but the original
motive can hardly have been any other than a fear of the ghost.]

[Footnote 350: C. G. Seligmann, _op. cit._ pp. 631 _sq._]

[Footnote 351: Rev. J. Chalmers, "Notes on the Natives of Kiwai Island,
Fly River, British New Guinea," _Journal of the Anthropological
Institute_, xxxiii. (1903) pp. 119, 120.]

[Footnote 352: G. Landtman, "Wanderings of the Dead in the Folk-lore of
the Kiwai-speaking Papuans," _Festskrift tillägnad Edvard Westermarck_
(Helsingfors, 1912), pp. 59-66.]

[Footnote 353: G. Landtman, _op. cit._ pp. 67 _sq._]

[Footnote 354: G. Landtman, _op. cit._ pp. 68-71.]

[Footnote 355: G. Landtman, _op. cit._ pp. 77 _sq._]

[Footnote 356: G. Landtman, _op. cit._ pp. 78 _sq._]

[Footnote 357: G. Landtman, _op. cit._ p. 71.]



LECTURE X

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE NATIVES OF GERMAN NEW GUINEA


[Sidenote: Andrew Lang.]

I feel that I cannot begin my second course of lectures without
referring to the loss which the study of primitive religion has lately
sustained by the death of one of my predecessors in this chair, one who
was a familiar and an honoured figure in this place, Mr. Andrew Lang.
Whatever may be the judgment of posterity on his theories--and all our
theories on these subjects are as yet more or less tentative and
provisional--there can be no question but that by the charm of his
writings, the wide range of his knowledge, the freshness and vigour of
his mind, and the contagious enthusiasm which he brought to bear on
whatever he touched, he was a great power in promoting the study of
primitive man not in this country only, but wherever the English
language is spoken, and that he won for himself a permanent place in the
history of the science to which he devoted so much of his remarkable
gifts and abilities. As he spent a part of every winter in St. Andrews,
I had thought that in the course on which I enter to-day I might perhaps
be honoured by his presence at some of my lectures. But it was not to
be. Yet a fancy strikes me to which I will venture to give utterance.
You may condemn, but I am sure you will not smile at it. It has been
said of Macaulay that if his spirit ever revisited the earth, it might
be expected to haunt the flagged walk beside the chapel in the great
court of Trinity College, Cambridge, the walk which in his lifetime he
loved to pace book in hand. And if Andrew Lang's spirit could be seen
flitting pensively anywhere, would it not be just here, in "the college
of the scarlet gown," in the "little city worn and grey," looking out on
the cold North Sea, the city which he knew and loved so well? Be that as
it may, his memory will always be associated with St. Andrews; and if
the students who shall in future go forth from this ancient university
to carry St. Andrew's Cross, if I may say so, on their banner in the
eternal warfare with falsehood and error,--if they cannot imitate Andrew
Lang in the versatility of his genius, in the variety of his
accomplishments, in the manifold graces of his literary art, it is to be
hoped that they will strive to imitate him in qualities which are more
within the reach of us all, in his passionate devotion to knowledge, in
his ardent and unflagging pursuit of truth.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Review of preceding lectures.]

In my last course of lectures I explained that I proposed to treat of
the belief in immortality from a purely historical point of view. My
intention is not to discuss the truth of the belief or to criticise the
grounds on which it has been maintained. To do so would be to trench on
the province of the theologian and the philosopher. I limit myself to
the far humbler task of describing, first, the belief as it has been
held by some savage races, and, second, some of the practical
consequences which these primitive peoples have deduced from it for the
conduct of life, whether these consequences take the shape of religious
rites or moral precepts. Now in such a survey of savage creed and
practice it is convenient to begin with the lowest races of men about
whom we have accurate information and to pass from them gradually to
higher and higher races, because we thus start with the simplest forms
of religion and advance by regular gradations to more complex forms, and
we may hope in this way to render the course of religious evolution more
intelligible than if we were to start from the most highly developed
religions and to work our way down from them to the most embryonic. In
pursuance of this plan I commenced my survey with the aborigines of
Australia, because among the races of man about whom we are well
informed these savages are commonly and, I believe, justly supposed to
stand at the foot of the human scale. Having given you some account of
their beliefs and practices concerning the dead I attempted to do the
same for the islanders of Torres Straits and next for the natives of
British New Guinea. There I broke off, and to-day I shall resume the
thread of my discourse at the broken end by describing the beliefs and
practices concerning the dead, as these beliefs are entertained and
these practices observed by the natives of German New Guinea.

[Sidenote: German New Guinea.]

As you are aware, the German territory of New Guinea skirts the British
territory on the north throughout its entire length and comprises
roughly a quarter of the whole island, the British and German
possessions making up together the eastern half of New Guinea, while the
western half belongs to Holland.

[Sidenote: Information as to the natives of German New Guinea.]

Our information as to the natives of German New Guinea is very
fragmentary, and is confined almost entirely to the tribes of the coast.
As to the inhabitants of the interior we know as yet very little.
However, German missionaries and others have described more or less
fully the customs and beliefs of the natives at various points of this
long coast, and I shall extract from their descriptions some notices of
that particular aspect of the native religion with which in these
lectures we are specially concerned. The points on the coast as to which
a certain amount of ethnographical information is forthcoming are, to
take them in the order from west to east, Berlin Harbour, Potsdam
Harbour, Astrolabe Bay, the Maclay Coast, Cape King William, Finsch
Harbour, and the Tami Islands in Huon Gulf. I propose to say something
as to the natives at each of these points, beginning with Berlin
Harbour, the most westerly of them.

[Sidenote: The island of Tumleo.]

Berlin Harbour is formed by a group of four small islands, which here
lie off the coast. One of the islands bears the name of Tumleo or
Tamara, and we possess an excellent account of the natives of this
island from the pen of a Catholic missionary, Father Mathias Josef
Erdweg,[358] which I shall draw upon in what follows. We have also a
paper by a German ethnologist, the late Mr. R. Parkinson, on the same
subject,[359] but his information is in part derived from Father Erdweg
and he appears to have erred by applying too generally the statements
which Father Erdweg strictly limited to the inhabitants of Tumleo.[360]

[Sidenote: The natives of Tumleo, their material and artistic culture.]

The island of Tumleo lies in 142° 25" of East Longitude and 3° 15" of
South Latitude, and is distant about sixty sea-miles from the
westernmost point of German New Guinea. It is a coral island, surrounded
by a barrier reef and rising for the most part only a few feet above the
sea.[361] In stature the natives fall below the average European height;
but they are well fed and strongly built. Their colour varies from black
to light brown. Their hair is very frizzly. Women and children wear it
cut short; men wear it done up into wigs. They number less than three
hundred, divided into four villages. The population seems to have
declined through wars, disease, and infanticide.[362] Like the Papuans
generally, they live in settled villages and engage in fishing,
agriculture, and commerce. The houses are solidly built of wood and are
raised above the ground upon piles, which consist of a hard and durable
timber, sometimes iron-wood.[363] The staple food of the people is sago,
which they obtain from the sago-palm. These stately palms, with their
fan-like foliage, are rare on the coral island of Tumleo, but grow
abundantly in the swampy lowlands of the neighbouring mainland.
Accordingly in the months of May and June, when the sea is calm, the
natives cross over to the mainland in their canoes and obtain a supply
of sago in exchange for the products of their island. The sago is eaten
in the form both of porridge and of bread.[364] Other vegetable foods
are furnished by sweet potatoes, taro, yams, bananas, sugar-cane, and
coco-nuts, all of which the natives cultivate.[365] Fishing is a
principal industry of the people; it is plied by both sexes and by old
and young, with nets, spears, and bows and arrows.[366] Pottery is
another flourishing industry. As among many other savages, it is
practised only by women, but the men take the pots to market; for these
islanders do a good business in pots with the neighbouring tribes.[367]
They build large outrigger canoes, which sail well before the wind, but
can hardly beat up against it, being heavy to row. In these canoes the
natives of Tumleo make long voyages along the coast; but as the craft
are not very seaworthy they never stand out to sea, if they can help it,
but hug the shore in order to run for safety to the beach in stormy
weather.[368] In regard to art the natives display some taste and skill
in wood-carving. For example, the projecting house-beams are sometimes
carved in the shape of crocodiles, birds, and grotesque human figures;
and their canoes, paddles, head-rests, drums, drum-sticks, and vessels
are also decorated with carving. Birds, fish, crocodiles, foliage, and
scroll-work are the usual patterns.[369]

[Sidenote: The temples (_paraks_) of Tumleo.]

A remarkable feature in the villages of Tumleo and the neighbouring
islands and mainland consists of the _paraks_ or temples, the high
gables of which may be seen rising above the bushes in all the villages
of this part of the coast. No such buildings exist elsewhere in this
region. They are set apart for the worship of certain guardian spirits,
and on them the native lavishes all the resources of his elementary arts
of sculpture and painting. They are built of wood in two storeys and
raised on piles besides. The approach to one of them is always by one or
two ladders provided on both sides with hand-rails or banisters. These
banisters are elaborately decorated with carving, which is always of the
same pattern. One banister is invariably carved in the shape of a
crocodile holding a grotesque human figure in its jaws, while on the
other hand the animal's tail is grasped by one or more human figures.
The other banister regularly exhibits a row of human or rather ape-like
effigies seated one behind the other, each of them resting his arms on
the shoulders of the figure in front. Often there are seven such figures
in a row. The natives are so shy in speaking of these temples that it is
difficult to ascertain the meaning of the curious carvings by which they
are adorned. Mr. Parkinson supposed that they represent spirits, not
apes. He tells us that there are no apes in New Guinea. The interior of
the temple (_parak_) is generally empty. The only things to be seen in
its two rooms, the upper and lower, are bamboo flutes and drums made out
of the hollow trunks of trees. On these instruments men concealed in the
temple discourse music in order to signify the presence of the
spirit.[370]

[Sidenote: The bachelors' houses (_alols_) of Tumleo.]

Different from these _paraks_ or temples are the _alols_, which are
bachelors' houses and council-houses in one. Like the temples, they are
raised above the ground and approached by a ladder, but unlike the
temples they have only one storey. In them the unmarried men live and
the married men meet to take counsel and to speak of things which may
not be mentioned before women. On a small stand or table in each of
these _alols_ or men's clubhouses are kept the skulls of dead men. And
as the temple (_parak_) is devoted to the worship of spirits, so the
men's clubhouse (_alol_) is the place where the dead ancestors are
worshipped. Women and children may not enter it, but it is not regarded
with such superstitious fear as the temple. The dead are buried in their
houses or beside them. Afterwards the bones are dug up and the skulls of
grown men are deposited, along with one of the leg bones, on the stand
or table in the men's clubhouse (_alol_). The skulls of youths, women,
and children are kept in the houses where they died. When the table in
the clubhouse is quite full of grinning trophies of mortality, the old
skulls are removed to make room for the new ones and are thrown away in
a sort of charnel-house, where the other bones are deposited after they
have been dug up from the graves. Such a charnel-house is called a
_tjoll páru_. There is one such place for the bones of grown men and
another for the bones of women and children. Some bones, however, are
kept and used as ornaments or as means to work magic with. For the dead
are often invoked, for example, to lay the wind or for other useful
purposes; and at such invocations the bones play a part.[371]

[Sidenote: Spirits of the dead thought to be the causes of sickness and
disease.]

But while the spirits of the dead are thus invited to help their living
relations and friends, they are also feared as the causes of sickness
and disease. Any serious ailment is usually attributed to magic or
witchcraft, and the treatment which is resorted to aims rather at
breaking the spell which has been cast on the sick man than at curing
his malady by the application of physical remedies. In short the remedy
is exorcism rather than physic. Now the enchantment under which the
patient is supposed to be labouring is often, though not always,
ascribed to the malignant arts of the spirits of the dead, or the _mõs_,
as the natives of Tumleo call them. In such a case the ghosts are
thought to be clinging to the body of the sufferer, and the object of
the medical treatment is to detach them from him and send them far away.
With this kindly intention some men will go into the forest and collect
a number of herbs, including a kind of peppermint. These are tied into
one or more bundles according to the number of the patients and then
taken to the men's clubhouse (_alol_), where they are heated over a
fire. Then the patient is brought, and two men strike him lightly with
the packet of herbs on his body and legs, while they utter an
incantation, inviting the ancestral spirits who are plaguing him to
leave his body and go away, in order that he may be made whole. One such
incantation, freely translated, runs thus: "Spirit of the
great-grandfather, of the father, come out! We give thee coco-nuts,
sago-porridge, fish. Go away (from the sick man). Let him be well. Do no
harm here and there. Tell the people of Leming (O spirit) to give us
tobacco. When the waves are still, we push off from the land, sailing
northward (to Tumleo). It is the time of the north-west wind (when the
surf is heavy). May the billows calm down in the south, O in the south,
on the coast of Leming, that we may sail to the south, to Leming! Out
there may the sea be calm, that we may push off from the land for home!"
In this incantation a prayer to the spirit of the dead to relax his hold
on the sufferer appears to be curiously combined with a prayer or spell
to calm the sea when the people sail across to the coast of Leming to
fetch a cargo of tobacco. When the incantation has been recited and the
patient stroked with the bundle of herbs, one of his ears and both his
arm-pits are moistened with a blood-red spittle produced by the chewing
of betel-nut, pepper, and lime. Then they take hold of his fingers and
make each of them crack, one after the other, while they recite some of
the words of the preceding incantation. Next three men take each of them
a branch of the _volju_ tree, bend it into a bow, and stroke the sick
man from head to foot, while they recite another incantation, in which
they command the spirit to let the sick man alone and to go away into
the water or the mud. Often when a man is seriously ill he will remove
from his own house to the house of a relation or friend, hoping that the
spirit who has been tormenting him will not be able to discover him at
his new address.[372]

[Sidenote: Burial and mourning customs in Tumleo.]

If despite of all these precautions the patient should die, he or she is
placed in a wooden coffin and buried with little delay in a grave, which
is dug either in the house or close beside it. The body is smeared all
over with clay and decked with many rings or ornaments, most of which,
however, are removed in a spirit of economy before the lid of the coffin
is shut down. Sometimes arrows, sometimes a rudder, sometimes the bones
of dead relations are buried with the corpse in the grave. When the
grave is dug outside of the house, a small hut is erected over it, and a
fire is kept burning on it for a time. In the house of mourning the
wife, sister, or other female relative of the deceased must remain
strictly secluded for a period which varies from a few weeks to three
months. In token of mourning the widow's body is smeared with clay, and
from time to time she is heard to chant a dirge in a whining, melancholy
tone. This seclusion lasts so long as the ghost is supposed to be still
on his way to the other world. When he has reached his destination, the
fire is suffered to die down on the grave, and his widow or other female
relative is free to quit the house and resume her ordinary occupations.
Through her long seclusion in the shade her swarthy complexion assumes a
lighter tint, but it soon deepens again when she is exposed once more to
the strong tropical sunshine.[373]

[Sidenote: Beliefs of the Tumleo people as to the fate of the human soul
after death.]

The people of Tumleo firmly believe in the existence of the human soul
after death, though their notions of the disembodied soul or _mõs_, as
they call it, are vague. They think that on its departure from the body
the soul goes to a place deep under ground, where there is a great
water. Over that water every soul must pass on a ladder to reach the
abode of bliss. The ladder is in the keeping of a spirit called _Su asin
tjakin_ or "the Great Evil," who takes toll of the ghosts before he lets
them use his ladder. Hence an ear-ring and a bracelet are deposited with
every corpse in the grave in order that the dead man may have
wherewithal to pay the toll to the spirit at the great water. When the
ghost arrives at the place of passage and begs for the use of the
ladder, the spirit asks him, "Shall I get my bracelet if I let you
pass?" If he receives it and happens to be in a good humour, he will let
the ghost scramble across the ladder to the further shore. But woe to
the stingy ghost, who should try to sneak across the ladder without
paying toll. The ghostly tollkeeper detects the fraud in an instant and
roars out, "So you would cheat me of my dues? You shall pay for that."
So saying he tips the ladder up, and down falls the ghost plump into the
deep water and is drowned. But the honest ghost, who has paid his way
like a man and arrived on the further shore, is met by two other ghosts
who ferry him in a canoe across to Sisano, which is a place on the
mainland a good many miles to the north of Tumleo. A great river flows
there and in the river are three cities of the dead, in one of which the
newly arrived ghost takes up his abode. Then it is that the fire on his
grave is allowed to go out and his widow may mingle with her fellows
again. However, the ghosts are not strictly confined to the spirit-land.
They can come back to earth and roam about working good or evil for the
living and especially for their friends and relations.[374]

[Sidenote: Monuments to the dead in Tumleo. Disinterment of the bones.]

It is perhaps this belief not only in the existence but in the return of
the spirits of the dead which induces the survivors to erect monuments
or memorials to them. In Tumleo these monuments consist for the most
part of young trees, which are cut down, stripped of their leaves, and
set up in the ground beside the house of the deceased. The branches of
such a memorial tree are hung with fruits, coco-nuts, loin-cloths, pots,
and personal ornaments, all of which we may suppose are intended for the
comfort and convenience of the ghost when he returns from deadland to
pay his friends a visit.[375] But the remains of the dead are not
allowed to rest quietly in the grave for ever. After two or three years
they are dug up with much ceremony at the point of noon, when the sun is
high overhead. The skull of the deceased, if he was a man, is then
deposited, as we saw, with one of the thigh bones in the men's
clubhouse, while of the remaining bones some are kept by the relations
and the others thrown away in a charnel-house. Among the relics which
the relations preserve are the lower arm bones, the shoulder-blades, the
ribs, and the vertebra. The vertebra is often fastened to a bracelet; a
couple of ribs are converted into a necklace; and the shoulder-blades
are used to decorate baskets. The lower arm bones are generally strung
on a cord, which is worn on solemn occasions round the neck so that the
bones hang down behind. They are especially worn thus in war, and they
are made use of also when their owner desires to obtain a favourable
wind for a voyage. No doubt, though this is not expressly affirmed, the
spirit of the departed is supposed to remain attached in some fashion to
his bones and so to help the possessor of these relics in time of need.
When the bones have been dug up and disposed of with all due ceremony,
several men who were friends or relations of the deceased must keep
watch and ward for some days in the men's clubhouse, where his grinning
skull now stands amid similar trophies of mortality on a table or shelf.
They may not quit the building except in case of necessity, and they
must always speak in a whisper for fear of disturbing the ghost, who is
very naturally lurking in the neighbourhood of his skull. However, in
spite of these restrictions the watchers enjoy themselves; for baskets
of sago and fish are provided abundantly for their consumption, and if
their tongues are idle their jaws are very busy.[376]

[Sidenote: Propitiation of the souls of the dead and other spirits.]

The people think that if they stand on a good footing with the souls of
the departed and with other spirits, these powerful beings will bring
them good luck in trade and on their voyages. Now the time when trade is
lively and the calm sea is dotted with canoes plying from island to
island or from island to mainland, is the season when the gentle
south-east monsoon is blowing. On the other hand, when the waves run
high under the blast of the strong north-west monsoon, the sea is almost
deserted and the people stay at home;[377] the season is to these
tropical islanders what winter is to the inhabitants of northern
latitudes. Accordingly it is when the wind is shifting round from the
stormy north-west to the balmy south-east that the natives set
themselves particularly to win the favour of ghosts and spirits, and
this they do by repairing the temples and clubhouses in which the
spirits and ghosts are believed to dwell, and by cleaning and tidying up
the open spaces around them. These repairs are the occasion of a
festival accompanied by dances and games. Early in the morning of the
festive day the shrill notes of the flutes and the hollow rub-a-dub of
the drums are heard to proceed from the interior of the temple,
proclaiming the arrival of the guardian spirit and his desire to partake
of fish and sago. So the men assemble and the feast is held in the
evening. Festivals are also held both in the temples and in the men's
clubhouses on the occasion of a successful hunt or fishing. Out of
gratitude for the help vouchsafed them by the ancestral spirits, the
hunters or fishers bring the larger game or fish to the temples or
clubhouses and eat them there; and then hang up some parts of the
animals or fish, such as the skeletons, the jawbones of pigs, or the
shells of turtles, in the clubhouses as a further mark of homage to the
spirits of the dead.[378]

[Sidenote: Guardian spirits (_tapum_) in Tumleo.]

So far as appears, the spirits who dwell in the temples are not supposed
to be ancestors. Father Erdweg describes them as guardian spirits or
goddesses, for they are all of the female sex. Every village has several
of them; indeed in the village of Sapi almost every family has its own
guardian spirit. The name for these guardian spirits is _tapum_, which
seems to be clearly connected with the now familiar word _tapu_ or
taboo, in the sense of sacred, which is universally understood in the
islands of the Pacific. On the whole the _tapum_ are kindly and
beneficent spirits, who bring good luck to such as honour them. A hunter
or a fisherman ascribes his success in the chase or in fishing to the
protection of his guardian spirit; and when he is away from home trading
for sago and other necessaries of life, it is his guardian spirit who
gives him favour in the eyes of the foreigners with whom he is dealing.
Curiously enough, though these guardian spirits are all female, they
have no liking for women and children. Indeed, no woman or child may set
foot in a temple, or even loiter in the open space in front of it. And
at the chief festivals, when the temples are being repaired, all the
women and children must quit the village till the evening shadows have
fallen and the banquet of their husbands, fathers, and brothers at the
temple is over.[379]

On the whole, then, we conclude that a belief in the continued existence
of the spirits of the dead, and in their power to help or harm their
descendants, plays a considerable part in the life of the Papuans of
Tumleo. Whether the guardian spirits or goddesses, who are worshipped in
the temples, were originally conceived as ancestral spirits or not, must
be left an open question for the present.

[Sidenote: The Monumbo of Potsdam Harbour.]

Passing eastward from Tumleo along the northern coast of German New
Guinea we come to Monumbo or Potsdam Harbour, situated about the 145th
degree of East Longitude. The Monumbo are a Papuan tribe numbering about
four hundred souls, who inhabit twelve small villages close to the
seashore. Their territory is a narrow but fertile strip of country, well
watered and covered with luxuriant vegetation, lying between the sea and
a range of hills. The bay is sheltered by an island from the open sea,
and the natives can paddle their canoes on its calm water in almost any
weather. The villages, embowered on the landward side in groves of trees
of many useful sorts and screened in front by rows of stately coco-nut
palms, are composed of large houses solidly built of timber and are kept
very clean and tidy. The Monumbo are a strongly-built people, of the
average European height, with what is described as a remarkably Semitic
type of features. The men wear their hair plaited about a long tube,
decorated with shells and dogs' teeth, which sticks out stiffly from the
head. The women wear their hair in a sort of mop, composed of countless
plaits, which hang down in tangle. In disposition the Monumbo are
cheerful and contented, proud of themselves and their country; they
think they are the cleverest and most fortunate people on earth, and
look down with pity and contempt on Europeans. According to them the
business of the foreign settlers in their country is folly, and the
teaching of the missionaries is nonsense. They subsist by agriculture,
hunting, and fishing. Their well-kept plantations occupy the level
ground and in some places extend up the hill-sides. Among the plants
which they cultivate are taro, yams, sweet potatoes, bananas, various
kinds of vegetables, and sugar-cane. Among their fruit-trees are the
sago-palm, the coco-nut palm, and the bread-fruit tree. They make use
both of earthenware and of wooden vessels. Their dances, especially
their masked dances, which are celebrated at intervals of four or five
years, have excited the warm admiration of the despised European.[380]

[Sidenote: Beliefs of the Monumbo concerning the spirits of the dead.
Dread of ghosts.]

With regard to their religion and morality I will quote the evidence of
a Catholic missionary who has laboured among them. "The Monumbo are
acquainted with no Supreme Being, no moral good or evil, no rewards, no
place of punishment or joy after death, no permanent immortality....
When people die, their souls go to the land of spirits, a place where
they dwell without work or suffering, but which they can also quit.
Betel-chewing, smoking, dancing, sleeping, all the occupations that they
loved on earth, are continued without interruption in the other world.
They converse with men in dreams, but play them many a shabby trick,
take possession of them and even, it may be, kill them. Yet they also
help men in all manner of ways in war and the chase. Men invoke them,
pray to them, make statues in their memory, which are called _dva_
(plural _dvaka_), and bring them offerings of food, in order to obtain
their assistance. But if the spirits of the dead do not help, they are
rated in the plainest language. Death makes no great separation. The
living converse with the dead very much as they converse with each
other. Time alone brings with it a gradual oblivion of the departed.
Falling stars and lightning are nothing but the souls of the dead, who
stick dry banana leaves in their girdles, set them on fire, and then fly
through the air. At last when the souls are old they die, but are not
annihilated, for they are changed into animals and plants. Such animals
are, for example, the white ants and a rare kind of wild pig, which is
said not to allow itself to be killed. Such a tree, for example, is the
_barimbar_. That, apparently, is the whole religion of the Monumbo. Yet
they are ghost-seers of the most arrant sort. An anxious superstitious
fear pursues them at every step. Superstitious views are the motives
that determine almost everything that they do or leave undone."[381]
Their dread of ghosts is displayed in their custom of doing no work in
the plantations for three days after a death, lest the ghost, touched to
the quick by their heartless indifference, should send wild boars to
ravage the plantations. And when a man has slain an enemy in war, he has
to remain a long time secluded in the men's clubhouse, touching nobody,
not even his wife and children, while the villagers celebrate his
victory with song and dance. He is believed to be in a state of
ceremonial impurity (_bolobolo_) such that, if he were to touch his wife
and children, they would be covered with sores. At the end of his
seclusion he is purified by washings and other purgations and is clean
once more.[382] The reason of this uncleanness of a victorious warrior
is not mentioned, but analogy makes it nearly certain that it is a dread
of the vengeful ghost of the man whom he has slain. A similar fear
probably underlies the rule that a widower must abstain from certain
foods, such as fish and sauces, and from bathing for a certain time
after the death of his wife.[383]

[Sidenote: The Tamos of Astrolabe Bay. Mistake of attempting to combine
descriptive with comparative anthropology.]

Leaving Potsdam Harbour and the Monumbo, and moving still eastward along
the coast of German New Guinea, we come to a large indentation known as
Astrolabe Bay. The natives of this part of the coast call themselves
Tamos. The largest village on the bay bears the name of Bogadyim and in
1894 numbered about three hundred inhabitants.[384] Our principal
authority on the natives is a German ethnologist, Dr. B. Hagen, who
spent about eighteen months at Stefansort on Astrolabe Bay.
Unfortunately he has mixed up his personal observations of these
particular people not merely with second-hand accounts of natives of
other parts of New Guinea but with discussions of general theories of
the origin and migrations of races and of the development of social
institutions; so that it is not altogether easy to disentangle the facts
for which he is a first-hand witness, from those which he reports at
second, third, or fourth hand. Scarcely anything, I may observe in
passing, more impairs the value and impedes the usefulness of personal
observations of savage races than this deplorable habit of attempting to
combine the work of description with the work of comparison and
generalisation. The two kinds of work are entirely distinct in their
nature, and require very different mental qualities for their proper
performance; the one should never be confused with the other. The task
of descriptive anthropology is to record observations, without any
admixture of theory; the task of comparative anthropology is to compare
the observations made in all parts of the world, and from the comparison
to deduce theories, more or less provisional, of the origin and growth
of beliefs and institutions, always subject to modification and
correction by facts which may afterwards be brought to light. There is
no harm, indeed there is great positive advantage, in the descriptive
anthropologist making himself acquainted with the theories of the
comparative anthropologist, for by so doing his attention will probably
be called to many facts which he might otherwise have overlooked and
which, when recorded, may either confirm or refute the theories in
question. But if he knows these theories, he should keep his knowledge
strictly in the background and never interlard his descriptions of facts
with digressions into an alien province. In this way descriptive
anthropology and comparative anthropology will best work hand in hand
for the furtherance of their common aim, the understanding of the nature
and development of man.

[Sidenote: The religion of the Tamos. Beliefs of the Tamos as to the
souls of the dead.]

Like the Papuans in general, the Tamos of Astrolabe Bay are a settled
agricultural people, who dwell in fixed villages, subsist mainly by the
produce of the ground which they cultivate, and engage in a commerce of
barter with their neighbours.[385] Their material culture thus does not
differ essentially from that of the other Papuans, and I need not give
particulars of it. With regard to their religious views Dr. Hagen tells
us candidly that he has great hesitation in expressing an opinion.
"Nothing," he says very justly, "is more difficult for a European than
to form an approximately correct conception of the religious views of a
savage people, and the difficulty is infinitely increased when the
enquirer has little or no knowledge of their language." Dr. Hagen had,
indeed, an excellent interpreter and intelligent assistant in the person
of a missionary, Mr. Hoffmann; but Mr. Hoffmann himself admitted that he
had no clear ideas as to the religious views of the Tamos; however, in
his opinion they are entirely destitute of the conception of God and of
a Creator. Yet among the Tamos of Bogadyim, Dr. Hagen tells us, a belief
in the existence of the soul after death is proved by their assertion
that after death the soul (_gunung_) goes to _buka kure_, which seems to
mean the village of ghosts. This abode of the dead appears to be
situated somewhere in the earth, and the Tamos speak of it with a
shudder. They tell of a man in the village of Bogadyim who died and went
away to the village of the ghosts. But as he drew near to the village,
he met the ghost of his dead brother who had come forth with bow and
arrows and spear to hunt a wild boar. This boar-hunting ghost was very
angry at meeting his brother, who had just died, and drove him back to
the land of the living. From this narrative it would seem that in the
other world the ghosts are thought to pursue the same occupations which
they followed in life. The natives are in great fear of ghosts (_buka_).
Travelling alone with them in the forest at nightfall you may mark their
timidity and hear them cry anxiously, "Come, let us be going! The ghost
is roaming about." The ghosts of those who have perished in battle do
not go to the Village of Ghosts (_buka kure_); they repair to another
place called _bopa kure_. But this abode of the slain does not seem to
be a happy land or Valhalla; the natives are even more afraid of it than
of the Village of Ghosts (_buka kure_). They will hardly venture at
night to pass a spot where any one has been slain. Sometimes fires are
kindled by night on such spots; and the sight of the flames flickering
in the distance inspires all the beholders with horror, and nothing in
the world would induce them to approach such a fire. The souls of men
who have been killed, but whose death has not been avenged, are supposed
to haunt the village. For some time after death the ghost is believed to
linger in the neighbourhood of his deserted body. When Mr. Hoffmann went
with some Tamos to another village to bring back the body of a fellow
missionary, who had died there, and darkness had fallen on them in the
forest, his native companions started with fear every moment, imagining
that they saw the missionary's ghost popping out from behind a
tree.[386]

[Sidenote: Treatment of the corpse. Secret Society called _Asa_.]

When death has taken place, the corpse is first exposed on a scaffold in
front of the house, where it is decked with ornaments and surrounded
with flowers. If the deceased was rich, a dog is hung on each side of
the scaffold, and the souls of the animals are believed to accompany the
ghost to the spirit-land. Taros, yams, and coco-nuts are also suspended
from the scaffold, no doubt for the refreshment of the ghost. Then the
melancholy notes of a horn are heard in the distance, at the sound of
which all the women rush away. Soon the horn-blower appears, paints the
corpse white and red, crowns it with great red hibiscus roses, then
blows his horn, and vanishes.[387] He is a member of a secret society,
called _Asa_, which has its lodge standing alone in the forest. Only men
belong to the society; women and children are excluded from it and look
upon it with fear and awe. If any one raises a cry, "_Asa_ is coming,"
or the sound of the musical instruments of the society is heard in the
distance, all the women and children scamper away. The natives are very
unwilling to let any stranger enter one of the lodges of the society.
The interior of such a building is usually somewhat bare, but it
contains the wooden masks which are worn in the ceremonial dances of the
society, and the horns and flutes on which the members discourse their
awe-inspiring music. In construction it scarcely differs from the
ordinary huts of the village; if anything it is worse built and more
primitive. The secrets of the society are well kept; at least very
little seems to have been divulged to Europeans. The most important of
its ceremonies is that of the initiation of the young men, who on this
occasion are circumcised before they are recognised as full-grown men
and members of the secret society. At such times the men encamp and
feast for weeks or even months together on the open space in front of
the society's lodge, and masked dances are danced to the accompaniment
of the instrumental music. These initiatory ceremonies are held at
intervals of about ten or fifteen years, when there are a considerable
number of young men to be initiated together.[388] Although we are still
in the dark as to the real meaning of this and indeed of almost all
similar secret societies among savages, the solemn part played by a
member of the society at the funeral rites seems very significant. Why
should he come mysteriously to the melancholy music of the horn, paint
the corpse red and white, crown it with red roses, and then vanish again
to music as he had come? It is scarcely rash to suppose that this
ceremony has some reference to the state of the dead man's soul, and we
may conjecture that just as the fruits hung on the scaffold are
doubtless intended for the consumption of the ghost, and the souls of
the dogs are expressly said to accompany him to the spirit-land, so the
painting of the corpse and the crown of red roses may be designed in
some way to speed the parting spirit on the way to its long home. In the
absence of exact information as to the beliefs of these savages touching
the state of the dead we can only guess at the meaning which they attach
to these symbols. Perhaps they think that only ghosts who are painted
red and white and who wear wreaths of red roses on their heads are
admitted to the Village of the Ghosts, and that such as knock at the
gate with no paint on their bodies and no wreath of roses on their brows
are refused admittance and must turn sorrowfully away, to haunt their
undutiful friends on earth who had omitted to pay the last marks of
respect and honour to the dead.

[Sidenote: Burial customs of the Tamos. Removal of the lower jawbone.]

When the corpse has lain in all its glory, with its ornaments, its paint
and its flowers, for a short time on the scaffold, it is removed and
buried. The exposure never lasts more than a day. If the man died in the
morning, he is buried at night. The grave is dug in the house itself. It
is only about three feet deep and four feet long. If the corpse is too
long for the grave, as usually happens, the legs are remorselessly
doubled up and trampled in. It is the relations on the mother's side who
dig the grave and lower the body, shrouded in mats or leaves, into its
narrow bed. Before doing so they take care to strip it of its ornaments,
its rings, necklaces, boar's teeth, and so forth, which no doubt are
regarded as too valuable to be sacrificed. Yet a regard for the comfort
of the dead is shewn by the custom of covering the open grave with wood
and then heaping the mould on the top, in order, we are told, that the
earth may not press heavy on him who sleeps below. _Sit tibi terra
levis!_ After some months the grave is opened and the lower jaw removed
from the corpse and preserved. This removal of the jaw is the occasion
of solemnities and ceremonial washings, in which the whole male
population of the village takes part. But as to the meaning of these
ceremonies, and as to what is done with the jawbone, we have no exact
information.[389] According to the Russian traveller, Baron N. von
Miklucho-Maclay, who has also given us an account of the Papuans of
Astrolabe Bay,[390] though not apparently of the villages described by
Dr. Hagen, the whole skull is dug up and separated from the corpse after
the lapse of about a year, but only the lower jawbone is carefully kept
by the nearest kinsman as a memorial of the deceased. Baron
Miklucho-Maclay had great difficulty in inducing a native to part with
one of these memorials of a dead relation.[391] In any case the
preservation of this portion of the deceased may be supposed to have for
its object the maintenance of friendly relations between the living and
the dead. Similarly in Uganda the jawbone is the only part of the body
of a deceased king which, along with his navel-string, is carefully
preserved in his temple-tomb and consulted oracularly.[392] We may
conjecture that the reason for preserving this part of the human frame
rather than any other is that the jawbone is an organ of speech, and
that therefore it appears to the primitive mind well fitted to maintain
intercourse with the dead man's spirit and to obtain oracular
communications from him.

[Sidenote: Sham fight as a funeral ceremony at Astrolabe Bay.]

The Russian traveller, Baron Miklucho-Maclay, has described a curious
funeral ceremony which is observed by some of the Papuans of Astrolabe
Bay. I will give the first part of his description in his own words,
which I translate from the German. He says: "The death of a man is
announced to the neighbouring villages by a definite series of beats on
the drum. On the same day or the next morning the whole male population
assembles in the vicinity of the village of the deceased. All the men
are in full warlike array. To the beat of drum the guests march into the
village, where a crowd of men, also armed for war, await the new-comers
beside the dead man's hut. After a short parley the men divide into two
opposite camps, and thereupon a sham fight takes place. However, the
combatants go to work very gingerly and make no use of their spears. But
dozens of arrows are continually discharged, and not a few are wounded
in the sham fight, though not seriously. The nearest relations and
friends of the deceased appear especially excited and behave as if they
were frantic. When all are hot and tired and all arrows have been shot
away, the pretended enemies seat themselves in a circle and in what
follows most of them act as simple spectators." Thereupon the nearest
relations bring out the corpse and deposit it in a crouching position,
with the knees drawn up to the chin, on some mats and leaves of the
sago-palm, which had previously been spread out in the middle of the
open space. Beside the corpse are laid his things, some presents from
neighbours, and some freshly cooked food. While the men sit round in a
circle, the women, even the nearest relatives of the deceased, may only
look on from a distance. When all is ready, some men step out from the
circle to help the nearest of kin in the next proceedings, which consist
in tying the corpse up tightly into a bundle by means of rattans and
creepers. Then the bundle is attached to a stout stick and carried back
into the house. There the corpse in its bundle is fastened under the
roof by means of the stick, and the dead man's property, together with
the presents of the neighbours and the food, are left beside it. After
that the house is abandoned, and the guests return to their own
villages. A few days later, when decomposition is far advanced, the
corpse is taken down and buried in a grave in the house, which continues
to be inhabited by the family. After the lapse of about a year, the body
is dug up, the skull separated from it, and the lower jawbone preserved
by the nearest relation, as I have already mentioned.[393]

[Sidenote: The sham fight perhaps intended to deceive the ghost.]

What is the meaning of this curious sham fight which among these people
seems to be regularly enacted after a death? The writer who reports the
custom offers no explanation of it. I would conjecture with all due
caution that it may possibly be intended as a satisfaction to the ghost
in order to make him suppose that his death has been properly avenged.
In a former lecture I shewed that natural deaths are regularly imagined
by many savages to be brought about by the magical practices of enemies,
and that accordingly the relations of the deceased take vengeance on
some innocent person whom for one reason or another they regard as the
culprit. It is possible that these Papuans of Astrolabe Bay, instead of
actually putting the supposed sorcerer to death, have advanced so far as
to abandon that cruel and unjust practice and content themselves with
throwing dust in the eyes of the ghost by a sham instead of a real
fight. But that is only a conjecture of my own, which I merely suggest
for what it is worth.

Altogether, looking over the scanty notices of the beliefs and practices
of these Papuans of Astrolabe Bay concerning the departed, we may say in
general that while the fear of ghosts is conspicuous enough among them,
there is but little evidence of anything that deserves to be called a
regular worship of the dead.

[Footnote 358: P. Mathias Josef Erdweg, "Die Bewohner der Insel Tumleo,
Berlin-hafen, Deutsch-Neu-Guinea," _Mittheilungen der Anthropologischen
Gesellschaft in Wien_, xxxii. (1902) pp. 274-310, 317-399.]

[Footnote 359: R. Parkinson, "Die Berlinhafen Section, ein Beitrag zur
Ethnographie der Neu-Guinea-Küste," _Internationales Archiv für
Ethnographie_, xiii. (1900) pp. 18-54.]

[Footnote 360: See the note of Father P. W. Schmidt on Father Erdweg's
paper, _op. cit._ p. 274.]

[Footnote 361: Erdweg, _op. cit._ p. 274.]

[Footnote 362: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 277 _sq_. The frizzly character of
the hair is mentioned by Mr. R. Parkinson, _op. cit._]

[Footnote 363: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 355 _sqq._]

[Footnote 364: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 342-346.]

[Footnote 365: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 335 _sqq._]

[Footnote 366: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 330 _sqq._]

[Footnote 367: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 350 _sqq._]

[Footnote 368: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 363 _sqq._]

[Footnote 369: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 374.]

[Footnote 370: R. Parkinson, "Die Berlinhafen Section, ein Beitrag zur
Ethnographie der Neu-Guinea-Küste," _Internationales Archiv für
Ethnographie_, xiii. (1900) pp. 33-35. Father Erdweg speaks of the
_parak_ as a spirit-temple or spirit-house in which the deities of the
Tumleo dwell (_op. cit._ p. 377): he tells us that as a rule each
village has only one _parak_. As to the spirits which dwell in these
temples, see below, pp. 226 _sq._]

[Footnote 371: R. Parkinson, _op. cit._ pp. 35, 42 _sq._; Erdweg, _op.
cit._ pp. 292 _sq._, 306.]

[Footnote 372: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 284-287.]

[Footnote 373: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 288-291.]

[Footnote 374: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 297 _sq._]

[Footnote 375: Erdweg, _op. cit._ p. 291.]

[Footnote 376: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 291-293.]

[Footnote 377: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 298, 371.]

[Footnote 378: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 295 _sqq._, 299 _sq._, 334 _sq._]

[Footnote 379: Erdweg, _op. cit._ pp. 295-297.]

[Footnote 380: P. Franz Vormann, "Dorf und Hausanlage beiden Monumbo,
Deutsch-Neuguinea," _Anthropos_, iv. (1909) pp. 660 _sqq._; _id._, "Zur
Psychologie, Religion, Soziologie und Geschichte der Monumbo-Papua,
Deutsch-Neuguinea," _Anthropos_, v. (1910) pp. 407-409.]

[Footnote 381: P. Franz Vormann, in _Anthropos_, v. (1910) pp. 409
_sq._]

[Footnote 382: P. Franz Vormann, in _Anthropos_, v. (1910) pp. 410,
411.]

[Footnote 383: P. Franz Vormann, _ibid._, p. 412.]

[Footnote 384: B. Hagen, _Unter den Papua's_ (Wiesbaden, 1899), pp. 143,
221.]

[Footnote 385: For the evidence see B. Hagen, _op. cit._ pp. 193 _sqq._
As to barter he tells us (p. 216) that all articles in use at Bogadyim
are imported, nothing is made on the spot.]

[Footnote 386: B. Hagen, _Unter den Papua's_ (Wiesbaden, 1899), pp.
264-266.]

[Footnote 387: B. Hagen, _op. cit._ pp. 258 _sq._]

[Footnote 388: B. Hagen, _op. cit._ pp. 270 _sq._ As to the period and
details of the circumcision ceremonies see _id._, pp. 234-238.]

[Footnote 389: B. Hagen, _op. cit._ p. 260.]

[Footnote 390: N. von Miklucho-Maclay, "Ethnologische Bemerkungen über
die Papuas der Maclay-Küste in Neu-Guinea," _Natuurkundig Tijdschrift
voor Nederlandsch Indie_, xxxv. (1875) pp. 66-93; _id._, xxxvi. (1876)
pp. 294-333.]

[Footnote 391: N. von Miklucho-Maclay, _op. cit._ xxxvi. (1876) p. 302.]

[Footnote 392: Rev. J. Roscoe, _The Baganda_ (London, 1911), pp. 109
_sqq._; _Totemism and Exogamy_, ii. 470.]

[Footnote 393: N. von Miklucho-Maclay, _op. cit._ xxxvi. (1876) pp.
300-302.]



LECTURE XI

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE NATIVES OF GERMAN NEW GUINEA
(_continued_)


[Sidenote: The Papuans of Cape King William.]

In my last lecture I gave you some account of the beliefs and practices
concerning the dead which have been recorded among the Papuans of German
New Guinea. To-day I resume the subject and shall first speak of the
natives on the coast about Cape King William, at the foot of Mount
Cromwell. We possess an account of their religion and customs from the
pen of a German missionary, Mr. Stolz, who has lived three years among
them and studied their language.[394] His description applies to the
inhabitants of two villages only, namely Lamatkebolo and Quambu, or
Sialum and Kwamkwam, as they are generally called on the maps, who
together number about five hundred souls. They belong to the Papuan
stock and subsist chiefly by the cultivation of yams, which they plant
in April or May and reap in January or February. But they also cultivate
sweet potatoes and make some use of bananas and coco-nuts. They clear
the land for cultivation by burning down the grass and afterwards
turning up the earth with digging-sticks, a labour which is performed
chiefly by the men. The land is not common property; each family tills
its own fields, though sometimes one family will aid another in the
laborious task of breaking up the soil. Moreover they trade with the
natives of the interior, who, inhabiting a more fertile and
better-watered country, are able to export a portion of their
superfluities, especially taro, sweet potatoes, betel-nuts, and tobacco,
to the less favoured dwellers on the sea-coast, receiving mostly dried
fish in return. Curiously enough the traffic is chiefly in the hands of
old women.[395]

[Sidenote: Propitiation of ghosts and spirits. The spirit Mate. Spirits
called _Nai_.]

With regard to the religion of these people Mr. Stolz tells us that they
know nothing of a deity who should receive the homage of his
worshippers; they recognise only spirits and the souls of the dead. To
these last they bring offerings, not because they feel any need to do
them reverence, but simply out of fear and a desire to win their favour.
The offerings are presented at burials and when they begin to cultivate
the fields. Their purpose is to persuade the souls of the dead to ward
off all the evil influences that might thwart the growth of the yams,
their staple food. The ghosts are also expected to guard the fields
against the incursions of wild pigs and the ravages of locusts. At a
burial the aim of the sacrifice is to induce the soul of the departed
brother or sister to keep far away from the village and to do no harm to
the people. Sacrifices are even offered to the souls of animals, such as
dogs and pigs, to prevent them from coming back and working mischief.
However, the ghosts of these creatures are not very exacting; a few
pieces of sugar-cane, a coco-nut shell, or a taro shoot suffice to
content their simple tastes and to keep them quiet. Amongst the spirits
to whom the people pay a sort of worship there is one named Mate, who
seems to be closely akin to Balum, a spirit about whom we shall hear
more among the Yabim further to the east. However, not very much is
known about Mate; his worship, if it can be called so, flourishes
chiefly among the inland tribes, of whom the coast people stand so much
in awe that they dare not speak freely on the subject of this mysterious
being. Some of them indeed are bold enough to whisper that there is no
such being as Mate at all, and that the whole thing is a cheat devised
by sly rogues for the purpose of appropriating a larger share of roast
pork at their religious feasts, from which women are excluded. Whatever
may be thought of these sceptical views, it appears to be certain that
the name of Mate is also bestowed on a number of spirits who disport
themselves by day in open grassy places, while they retire by night to
the deep shades of the forest; and the majority of these spirits are
thought to be the souls of ancestors or of the recently departed. Again,
there is another class of spirits called _Nai_, who unlike all other
spirits are on friendly terms with men. These are the souls of dead
villagers, who died far away from home. They warn people of danger and
very obligingly notify them of the coming of trading steamers. When a
man dies in a foreign land, his soul appears as a _Nai_ to his sorrowing
relatives and announces his sad fate to them. He does so always at
night. When the men are gathered round the fire on the open square of
the village, the ghost climbs the platform which usually serves for
public meetings and banquets, and from this coin of vantage, plunged in
the deep shadow, he lifts up his voice and delivers his message of
warning, news, or prediction, as the case may be.[396]

[Sidenote: The creator Nemunemu. Sickness and death often regarded as
the effects of sorcery.]

However, ghosts of the dead are not the only spiritual beings with whom
these people are acquainted. They know of a much higher being, of the
name of Nemunemu, endowed with superhuman power, who made the heaven and
the earth with the assistance of two brothers; the elder brother
constructed the mainland of New Guinea, while the younger fashioned the
islands and the sea. When the natives first saw a steamer on the horizon
they thought it was Nemunemu's ship, and the smoke at the funnel they
took to be the tobacco-smoke which he puffed to beguile the tedium of
the voyage.[397] They are also great believers in magic and witchcraft,
and cases of sickness and death, which are not attributed to the
malignity of ghosts and spirits, are almost invariably set down to the
machinations of sorcerers. Only the deaths of decrepit old folks are
regarded as natural. When a man has died, and his death is believed to
have been caused by magic, the people resort to divination in order to
discover the wicked magician who has perpetrated the crime. For this
purpose they place the corpse on a bier, cover it with a mat, and set it
on the shoulders of four men, while a fifth man taps lightly with an
arrow on the mat and enquires of the departed whether such and such a
village has bewitched him to death. If the bier remains still, it means
"No"; but if it rocks backward and forward, it means "Yes," and the
avengers of blood must seek their victim, the guilty sorcerer, in that
village. The answer is believed to be given by the dead man's ghost, who
stirs his body at the moment when his murderer's village is named. It is
useless for the inhabitants of that village to disclaim all knowledge of
the sickness and death of the deceased. The people repose implicit faith
in this form of divination. "His soul itself told us," they say, and
surely he ought to know. Another form of divination which they employ
for the same purpose is to put the question to the ghost, while two men
hold a bow which belonged to him and to which some personal articles of
his are attached. The answer is again yes or no according as the bow
moves or is still.[398]

[Sidenote: Funeral and mourning customs.]

When the author of the death has been discovered in one way or another,
the corpse is decked with all the ornaments that can be collected from
the relatives and prepared for burial. A shallow grave is dug under the
house and lined with mats. Then the body is lowered into the grave: one
of the sextons strikes up a lament, and the shrill voices of the women
in the house join in the melancholy strain. When he lies in his narrow
bed, the ornaments are removed from his person, but some of his tools,
weapons, and other belongings are buried with him, no doubt for his use
in the life hereafter. The funeral celebration, in which the whole
village commonly takes part, lasts several days and consists in the
bringing of offerings to the dead and the abstinence from all labour in
the fields. Yams are brought from the field of the departed and cooked.
A small pot filled with yams and a vessel of water are placed on the
grave; the rest of the provisions is consumed by the mourners. The next
of kin, especially the widow or widower, remain for about a week at the
grave, watching day and night, lest the body should be dug up and
devoured by a certain foul fiend with huge wings and long claws, who
battens on corpses. The mourning costume of men consists in smearing the
face with black and wearing a cord round the neck and a netted cap on
the head. Instead of such a cap a woman in mourning wraps herself in a
large net and a great apron of grass. While the other ensigns of woe are
soon discarded or disappear, the cord about the neck is worn for a
longer time, generally till next harvest. The sacrifice of a pig brings
the period of mourning to an end and after it the cord may be laid
aside. If any one were so hard-hearted as not to wear that badge of
sorrow, the people believe that the angry ghost would come back and
fetch him away. He would die.[399] Thus among these savages the mourning
costume is regarded as a protection against the dangerous ghost of the
departed; it soothes his wounded feelings and prevents him from making
raids on the living.

[Sidenote: Fate of the souls of the dead.]

As to the place to which the souls of the dead repair and the fate that
awaits them there, very vague and contradictory ideas prevail among the
natives of this district. Some say that the ghosts go eastward to Bukaua
on Huon Gulf and there lead a shadowy life very like their life on
earth. Others think that the spirits hover near the village where they
lived in the flesh. Others again are of opinion that they transmigrate
into animals and prolong their life in one or other of the bodies of the
lower creatures.[400]

[Sidenote: The Yabim and Bukaua tribes.]

Leaving Cape King William we pass eastward along the coast of German New
Guinea and come to Finsch Harbour. From a point some miles to the north
of Finsch Harbour as far as Samoa Harbour on Huon Gulf the coast is
inhabited by two kindred tribes, the Yabim and the Bukaua, who speak a
Melanesian language. I shall deal first with the Yabim tribe, whose
customs and beliefs have been described for us with a fair degree of
fulness by two German missionaries, Mr. Konrad Vetter and Mr. Heinrich
Zahn.[401] The following account is based chiefly on the writings of Mr.
Vetter, whose mission station is at the village of Simbang.

[Sidenote: Material and artistic culture of the Yabim.]

Like the other natives of New Guinea the Yabim build permanent houses,
live in settled villages, and till the ground. Every year they make a
fresh clearing in the forest by cutting down the trees, burning the
fallen timber, and planting taro, bananas, sugar-cane, and tobacco in
the open glade. When the crops have been reaped, the place is abandoned,
and is soon overgrown again by the rank tropical vegetation, while the
natives move on to another patch, which they clear and cultivate in like
manner. This rude mode of tillage is commonly practised by many savages,
especially within the tropics. Cultivation of this sort is migratory,
and in some places, though apparently not in New Guinea, the people
shift their habitations with their fields as they move on from one part
of the forest to another. Among the Yabim the labour of clearing a patch
for cultivation is performed by all the men of a village in common, but
when the great trees have fallen with a crash to the ground, and the
trunks, branches, foliage and underwood have been burnt, with a roar of
flames and a crackling like a rolling fire of musketry, each family
appropriates a portion of the clearing for its own use and marks off its
boundaries with sticks. But they also subsist in part by fishing, and
for this purpose they build outrigger canoes. They display considerable
skill and taste in wood-carving, and are fond of ornamenting their
houses, canoes, paddles, tools, spears, and drums with figures of
crocodiles, fish, and other patterns.[402]

[Sidenote: Men's clubhouses (_lum_).]

The villages are divided into wards, and every ward contains its
clubhouse for men, called a _lum_, in which young men and lads are
obliged to pass the night. It consists of a bedroom above and a parlour
with fireplaces below. In the parlour the grown men pass their leisure
hours during the day, and here the councils are held. The wives cook the
food at home and bring it for their husbands to the clubhouse. The
bull-roarers which are used at the initiatory ceremonies are kept in the
principal clubhouse of the village. Such a clubhouse serves as an
asylum; men fleeing from the avenger of blood who escape into it are
safe. It is said that the spirit (_balum_) has swallowed or concealed
them. But if they steal out of it and attempt to make their way to
another village, they carry their life in their hand.[403] Among the
Yabim, according to Mr. Zahn, religion in the proper sense does not
exist, but on the other hand the whole people is dominated by the fear
of witchcraft and of the spirits of the dead.[404] The following is the
account which Mr. Vetter gives of the beliefs and customs of these
people concerning the departed.

[Sidenote: Beliefs of the Yabim concerning the state of the dead. The
ghostly ferry.]

They do not believe that death is the end of all things for the
individual; they think that his soul survives and becomes a spirit or
ghost, which they call a _balum_. The life of human spirits in the other
world is a shadowy continuation of the life on earth, and as such it has
little attraction for the mind of the Papuan. Of heaven and hell, a
place of reward and a place of punishment for the souls of the good and
bad respectively, he has no idea. However, his world of the dead is to
some extent divided into compartments. In one of them reside the ghosts
of people who have been slain, in another the ghosts of people who have
been hanged, and in a third the ghosts of people who have been devoured
by a shark or a crocodile. How many more compartments there may be for
the accommodation of the souls, we are not told. The place is in one of
the islands of Siasi. No living man has ever set foot in the island, for
smoke and mist hang over it perpetually; but from out the mist you may
hear the sound of the barking of dogs, the grunting of swine, and the
crowing of cocks, which seems to shew that in the opinion of these
people animals have immortal souls as well as men. The natives of the
Siasi islands say that the newly arrived ghosts may often be seen
strolling on the beach; sometimes the people can even recognise the
familiar features of friends with whom they did business in the flesh.
The mode in which the spirits of the dead arrive at their destination
from the mainland is naturally by a ferry: indeed, the prow of the
ghostly ferry-boat may be seen to this day in the village of Bogiseng.
The way in which it came to be found there was this. A man of the
village lay dying, and on his deathbed he promised to give his friends a
sign of his continued existence after death by appearing as a ghost in
their midst. Only he stipulated that in order to enable him to do so
they would place a stone club in the hand of his corpse. This was done.
He died, the club was placed in his cold hand, and his sorrowing but
hopeful relations awaited results. They had not very long to wait. For
no sooner had the ghost, armed with the stone club, stepped down to the
sea-shore than he called imperiously for the ferry-boat. It soon hove in
sight, with the ghostly ferryman in it paddling to the beach to receive
the passenger. But when the prow grated on the pebbles, the artful
ghost, instead of stepping into it as he should have done, lunged out at
it with the stone club so forcibly that he broke the prow clean off. In
a rage the ferryman roared out to him, "I won't put you across! You and
your people shall be kangaroos." The ghost had gained his point. He
turned back from the ferry and brought to his friends as a trophy the
prow of the ghostly canoe, which is treasured in the village to this
day. I should add that the prow in question bears a suspicious
resemblance to a powder-horn which has been floating about for some time
in the water; but no doubt this resemblance is purely fortuitous and
without any deep significance.

[Sidenote: Transmigration of human souls into animals.]

From this veracious narrative we gather that sometimes the souls of the
dead, instead of going away to the spirit-land, transmigrate into the
bodies of animals. The case of the kangaroos is not singular. In the
village of Simbang Mr. Vetter knows two families, of whom the ghosts
pass at death into the carcases of crocodiles and a species of fabulous
pigs respectively. Hence members of the one family are careful not to
injure crocodiles, lest the souls of their dead should chance to be
lodged in the reptiles; and the members of the other family would be
equally careful not to hurt the fabulous pigs if ever they fell in with
them. However, the crocodile people, not to be behind their neighbours,
assert that after death their spirits can also roam about the wood as
ghosts and go to the spirit-land. In explanation they say that every
human being has two souls; one of them is his reflection on the water,
the other is his shadow on the land. No doubt it is the water-soul which
goes to the island of Siasi, while the land-soul is free to occupy the
body of a crocodile, a kangaroo, or some other animal.[405]

[Sidenote: Return of the ghosts.]

But even when the ghosts have departed to their island home, they are by
no means strictly confined to it. They can return, especially at night,
to roam about the woods and the villages, and the living are very much
afraid of them, for the ghosts delight in doing mischief. It is
especially in the first few days after a death that the ghost is an
object of terror, for he is then still loitering about the village.
During these days everybody is afraid to go alone into the forest for
fear of meeting him, and if a dog or a pig strays in the wood and is
lost, the people make sure that the ghost has made off with the animal,
and the aggrieved owners roundly abuse the sorrowing family, telling
them that their old father or mother, as the case may be, is no better
than a thief. They are also very unwilling to mention the names of dead
persons, imagining that were the ghost to hear his name pronounced he
might fancy he was being called for and might accordingly suspend his
habitual occupation of munching sour fruits in the forest to come and
trouble the living.

[Sidenote: Offerings to ghosts.]

Hence in order to keep the short-tempered ghost in good humour by
satisfying his wants, lest he should think himself neglected and wreak
his vexation on the survivors, the people go a-fishing after a death, or
they kill a pig or a dog; sometimes also they cut down a fruit-tree. But
it is only the souls of the animals which are destined for the
consumption of the ghost; their bodies are roasted and eaten by the
living. On a grave you may sometimes see a small basket suspended from a
stick; but if you look into it you will find nothing but a little soot
and some fish scales, which is all that remains of the fried fish.

[Sidenote: Ghosts provided with fire.]

The Yabim also imagine that the ghost has need of fire to guide him to
the door of the man who has done him to death by sorcery. Accordingly
they provide the spirit with this necessary as follows. On the evening
of the day on which the body has been buried, they kindle a fire on a
potsherd and heap dry leaves on it. As they do so they mention the names
of all the sorcerers they can think of, and he at whose name the
smouldering leaves burst into a bright flame is the one who has done the
deed. Having thus ascertained the true cause of death, beyond reach of
cavil, they proceed to light up the ghost to the door of his murderer.
For this purpose a procession is formed. A man, holding the smouldering
fire in the potsherd with one hand and a bundle of straw with the other,
leads the way. He is followed by another who draws droning notes from a
water-bottle of the deceased, which he finally smashes. After these two
march a number of young fellows who make a plumping sound by smacking
their thighs with the hollow of their hands. This solemn procession
wends its way to a path in the neighbouring forest. By this time the
shades of night have fallen. The firebearer now sets the fire on the
ground and calls on the ghost to come and take it. They firmly believe
that he does so and that having got it he hies away to cast the glowing
embers down at the door of the man who has done him to death. They even
fancy they see the flickering light carried by the invisible hand
retreating through the shadows into the depth of the forest; and in
order to follow it with their eyes they will sometimes climb tall trees
or launch a canoe and put out to sea, gazing intently at the glimmering
ray till it vanishes from their sight in the darkness. Perhaps the gleam
of fire-flies, which abound in these tropical forests, or the flashing
of a meteor, as it silently drops from the starry heaven into the sea,
may serve to feed this superstitious fancy.[406]

[Sidenote: Ghosts thought to help in the cultivation of the land.]

But the spirits of the dead are supposed to be able to help as well as
harm the living. Good crops and a successful hunt are attributed to
their influence. It is especially the spirits of the ancient owners of
the land who are credited with the power of promoting the growth of the
crops. Hence when a clearing has been made in the forest and planted
with taro, and the plants are shewing a good head of leaves,
preparations are made to feast the ghosts of the people to whom the land
belonged in days gone by. For this purpose a sago-palm is cut down,
sago-porridge made, and a wild boar killed. Then the men arrayed in all
their finery march out in solemn procession by day to the taro field;
and the leader invites the spirits in a loud voice to come to the
village and partake of the sago-porridge and pork that have been made
ready for them. But the invisible guests content themselves as usual
with snuffing up the fragrant smell of the roast pork and the steam of
the porridge; the substance of these dainties is consumed by the living.
Yet the help which the ghosts give in the cultivation of the land would
seem to be conceived as a purely negative one; the offerings are made to
them for the purpose of inducing them to keep away and not injure the
growing crops. It is also believed that the ghosts of the dead make
communications to the living in dreams or by whistling, and even that
they can bring things to their friends and relations. But on the whole,
Mr. Vetter tells us, the dominant attitude of the living to the dead is
one of fear; the power of the ghosts is oftener exerted for evil than
for good.[407] The ghost of a murdered man in particular is dreaded,
because he is believed to haunt his murderer and to do him a mischief.
Hence they drive away such a dangerous ghost with shouts and the beating
of drums; and by way of facilitating his departure they launch a model
of a canoe, laden with taro and tobacco, in order to transport him with
all comfort to the land of souls.[408]

[Sidenote: Burial and mourning customs among the Yabim.]

Among the Yabim the dead are usually buried in shallow graves close to
the houses where they died. Some trifles are laid with the body in the
grave, in order that the dead man or woman may have the use of them in
the other world. But any valuables that may be deposited with the corpse
are afterwards dug up and appropriated by the survivors. If the deceased
was the householder himself or his wife, the house is almost always
deserted, however solidly it may be built. The reason for thus
abandoning so valuable a piece of property is not mentioned; but we may
assume that the motive is a fear of the ghost, who is supposed to haunt
his old home. A temporary hut is built on the grave, and in it the
family of the deceased take up their abode for six weeks or more; here
they cook, eat, and sleep. A widower sits in a secluded corner by
himself, invisible to all and unwashed; during the period of full
mourning he may not shew himself in the village. When he does come forth
again, he wears a mourning hat made of bark in the shape of a cylinder
without crown or brim; a widow wears a great ugly net, which wraps her
up almost completely from the head to the knees. Sometimes in memory of
the deceased they wear a lock of his hair or a bracelet. Other relations
wear cords round their necks in sign of mourning. The period of mourning
varies greatly; it may last for months or even years. Sometimes the
bodies of beloved children or persons who have been much respected are
not buried but tied up in bundles and set up in a house until the flesh
has quite mouldered away; then the skull and the bones of the arms and
legs are anointed, painted red, and preserved for a time. Mr. Vetter
records the case of a chief whose corpse was thus preserved in the
assembly-house of the village, after it had been dried over a fire. When
it had been reduced to a mummy, the skull and the arm-bones and
leg-bones were detached, oiled, and reddened, and then kept for some
years in the house of the chief's eldest son, till finally they were
deposited in the grave of a kinsman. In some of the inland villages of
this part of New Guinea the widow is sometimes throttled by her
relations at the death of her husband, in order that she may accompany
him to the other world.[409]

[Sidenote: Deaths attributed by the Yabim to sorcery.]

The Yabim believe that except in the case of very old people every death
is caused by sorcery; hence when anybody has departed this life, his
relations make haste to discover the wicked sorcerer who has killed
their kinsman. For that purpose they have recourse to various forms of
divination. One of them has been already described, but they have
others. For example, they put a powder like sulphur in a piece of bamboo
tube and kindle a fire under it. Then an old man takes a bull-roarer and
taps with it on the bamboo tube, naming all the sorcerers in the
neighbouring villages. He at the mention of whose name the fire catches
the powder and blazes up is the guilty man. Another way of detecting the
culprit is to attach the feather of a bird of paradise to a staff and
give the staff to two men to hold upright between the palms of their
right hands. Then somebody names the sorcerers, and he at whose name the
staff turns round and the feather points downwards is the one who caused
the death. When the avengers of blood, wrought up to a high pitch of
fury, fall in with the family of the imaginary criminal, they may put
the whole of them to death lest the sons should afterwards avenge their
father's murder by the black art. Sometimes a dangerous and dreaded
sorcerer will be put out of the way with the connivance of the chief of
his own village; and after a few days the murderers will boldly shew
themselves in the village where the crime was perpetrated and will
reassure the rest of the people, saying, "Be still. The wicked man has
been taken off. No harm will befall you."[410]

[Sidenote: Bull-roarers (_balum_). Initiation of young men.]

It is very significant that the word _balum_, which means a ghost, is
applied by the Yabim to the instrument now generally known among
anthropologists as a bull-roarer. It is a small fish-shaped piece of
wood which, being tied to a string and whirled rapidly round, produces a
humming or booming sound like the roaring of a bull or the muttering of
distant thunder. Instruments of this sort are employed by savages in
many parts of the world at their mysteries; the weird sound which the
implement makes when swung is supposed by the ignorant and uninitiated
to be the voice of a spirit and serves to impress them with a sense of
awe and mystery. So it is with the Papuans about Finsch Harbour, with
whom we are at present concerned. At least one such bull-roarer is kept
in the _lum_ or bachelors' clubhouse of every village, and the women and
uninitiated boys are forbidden to see it under pain of death. The
instrument plays a great part in the initiation of young men, which
takes place at intervals of several years, when there are a number of
youths ready to be initiated, and enough pigs can be procured to furnish
forth the feasts which form an indispensable part of the ceremony. The
principal initiatory rite consists of circumcision, which is performed
on all youths before they are admitted to the rank of full-grown men.
The age of the candidates varies considerably, from four years up to
twenty. Many are married before they are initiated. The operation is
performed in the forest, and the procession of the youths to the place
appointed is attended by a number of men swinging bull-roarers. As the
procession sets out, the women look on from a distance, weeping and
howling, for they are taught to believe that the lads, their sons and
brothers, are about to be swallowed up by a monster called a _balum_ or
ghost, who will only release them from his belly on condition of
receiving a sufficient number of roast pigs. How, then, can the poor
women be sure that they will ever see their dear ones again? So amid the
noise of weeping and wailing the procession passes into the forest, and
the booming sound of the bull-roarers dies away in the distance.

[Sidenote: The rite of circumcision; the lads supposed to be swallowed
by a monster (_balum_). The sacred flutes.]

The place where the operation is performed on the lads is a long hut,
about a hundred feet in length, which diminishes in height towards the
rear. This represents the belly of the monster which is to swallow up
the candidates. To keep up the delusion a pair of great eyes are painted
over the entrance, and above them the projecting roots of a betel-palm
represent the monster's hair, while the trunk of the tree passes for his
backbone. As the awe-struck lads approach this imposing creature, he is
heard from time to time to utter a growl. The growl is in fact no other
than the humming note of bull-roarers swung by men, who are concealed
within the edifice. When the procession has come to a halt in front of
the artificial monster, a loud defiant blast blown on shell-trumpets
summons him to stand forth. The reply follows in the shape of another
muffled roar of the bull-roarers from within the building. At the sound
the men say that "Balum is coming up," and they raise a shrill song like
a scream and sacrifice pigs to the monster in order to induce him to
spare the lives of the candidates. When the operation has been performed
on the lads, they must remain in strict seclusion for three or four
months, avoiding all contact with women and even the sight of them. They
live in the long hut, which represents the monster's belly, and their
food is brought them by elder men. Their leisure time is spent in
weaving baskets and playing on certain sacred flutes, which are never
used except at such seasons. The instruments are of two patterns. One is
called the male and the other the female, and they are supposed to be
married to each other. No woman may see these mysterious flutes; if she
did she would die. Even if she hears their shrill note in the distance,
she will hasten to hide herself in a thicket. When the initiatory
ceremonies are over, the flutes are carefully kept in the men's
clubhouse of the village till the next time they are wanted for a
similar occasion. On the other hand, if the women are obliged to go near
the place where the lads are living in seclusion, they beat on certain
bamboo drums in order to warn them to keep out of the way. Sometimes,
though perhaps rarely, one of the lads dies under the operation; in that
case the men explain his disappearance to the women by saying that the
monster has a pig's stomach as well as a human stomach, and that
unfortunately the deceased young man slipped by mistake into the wrong
stomach and so perished miserably. But as a rule the candidates pass
into the right stomach and after a sufficient period has been allowed
for digestion, they come forth safe and sound, the monster having kindly
consented to let them go free in consideration of the roast pigs which
have been offered to him by the men. Indeed he is not very exacting, for
he contents himself with devouring the souls of the pigs, while he
leaves their bodies to be consumed by his worshippers. This is a kindly
and considerate way of dealing with sacrifice, which our New Guinea
ghost or monster shares with many deities of much higher social
pretensions. However, lest he should prove refractory and perhaps run
away with the poor young men in his inside, or possibly make a dart at
any women or children who might be passing, the men take the precaution
of tying him down tight with ropes. When the time of seclusion is up,
one of the last acts in the long series of ceremonies is to cast off the
ropes and let the monster go free. He avails himself of his liberty to
return to his subterranean abode, and the young men are brought back to
the village with much solemnity.

[Sidenote: The return of the novices to the village.]

An eye-witness has described the ceremony. The lads, now ranking as
full-grown men, were first bathed in the sea and then elaborately
decorated with paint and so forth. In marching back to the village they
had to keep their eyes tightly shut, and each of them was led by a man
who acted as a kind of god-father. As the procession moved on, an old
bald-headed man touched each boy solemnly on the chin and brow with a
bull-roarer. In the village preparations for a banquet had meanwhile
been made, and the women and girls were waiting in festal attire. The
women were much moved at the return of the lads; they sobbed and tears
of joy ran down their cheeks. Arrived in the village the newly-initiated
lads were drawn up in a row and fresh palm leaves were spread in front
of them. Here they stood with closed eyes, motionless as statues. Then a
man passed behind them, touching each of them in the hams with the
handle of an axe and saying, "O circumcised one, sit down." But still
the lads remained standing, stiff and motionless. Not till another man
had knocked repeatedly on the ground with the stalk of a palm-leaf,
crying, "O circumcised ones, open your eyes!" did the youths, one after
another, open their eyes as if awaking from a profound stupor. Then they
sat down on the mats and partook of the food brought them by the men.
Young and old now ate in the open air. Next morning the circumcised lads
were bathed in the sea and painted red instead of white. After that they
might talk to women. This was the end of the ceremony.[411]

[Sidenote: The essence of the initiatory rites seems to be a simulation
of death and resurrection; the novice is supposed to be killed and to
come to life or be born again. The new birth among the Akikuyu of
British East Africa.]

The meaning of these curious ceremonies observed on the return of the
lads to the village is not explained by the writer who describes them;
but the analogy of similar ceremonies observed at initiation by many
other races allows us to divine it with a fair degree of probability. As
I have already observed in a former lecture, the ceremony of initiation
at puberty is very often regarded as a process of death and
resurrection; the candidate is supposed to die or to be killed and to
come to life again or be born again; and the pretence of a new birth is
not uncommonly kept up by the novices feigning to have forgotten all the
most common actions of life and having accordingly to learn them all
over again like newborn babes. We may conjecture that this is why the
young circumcised Papuans, with whom we are at present concerned, march
back to their village with closed eyes; this is why, when bidden to sit
down, they remain standing stiffly, as if they understood neither the
command nor the action; and this, too, we may surmise, is why their
mothers and sisters receive them with a burst of emotion, as if their
dead had come back to them from the grave. This interpretation of the
ceremony is confirmed by a curious rite which is observed by the Akikuyu
of British East Africa. Amongst them every boy or girl at or about the
age of ten years has solemnly to pretend to be born again, not in a
moral or religious, but in a physical sense. The mother of the child,
or, if she is dead, some other woman, goes through an actual pantomime
of bringing forth the boy or girl. I will spare you the details of the
pantomime, which is very graphic, and will merely mention that the
bouncing infant squalls like a newborn babe. Now this ceremony of the
new birth was formerly enacted among the Akikuyu at the rite of
circumcision, though the two ceremonies are now kept distinct.[412]
Hence it is not very rash to conjecture that the ceremony performed by
the young Papuans of Finsch Harbour on their return to the village after
undergoing circumcision is merely a way of keeping up the pretence of
being born again and of being therefore as ignorant and helpless as
babes.

[Sidenote: The mock death of the novices as a preliminary to the mock
birth.]

But if the end of the initiation is a mock resurrection, or rather new
birth, as it certainly seems to be, we may infer with some confidence
that the first part of it, namely the act of circumcision, is a mock
death. This is borne out by the explicit statement of a very good
authority, Mr. Vetter, that "the circumcision is designated as a process
of being swallowed by the spirit, out of whose stomach (represented by a
long hut) the release must take place by means of a sacrifice of
pigs."[413] And it is further confirmed by the observation that both the
spirit which is supposed to operate on the lads, and the bull-roarer,
which apparently represents his voice, are known by the name of _balum_,
which means the ghost or spirit of a dead person. Similarly, among the
Tugeri or Kaya-Kaya, a large Papuan tribe on the south coast of Dutch
New Guinea, the name of the bull-roarer, which they call _sosom_, is
given to a mythical giant, who is supposed to appear every year with the
south-east monsoon. When he comes, a festival is held in his honour and
bull-roarers are swung. Boys are presented to the giant, and he kills
them, but brings them to life again.[414] Thus the initiatory rite of
circumcision, to which all lads have to submit among the Yabim, seems to
be closely bound up with their conception of death and with their belief
in a life after death; since the whole ceremony apparently consists in a
simulation of dying and coming to life again. That is why I have touched
upon these initiatory rites, which at first sight might appear to have
no connexion with our immediate subject, the belief in immortality and
the worship of the dead.

[Sidenote: General summary as to the Yabim.]

On the whole we may say that the Yabim have a very firm and practical
belief in a life after death, and that while their attitude to the
spirits of the departed is generally one of fear, they nevertheless look
to these spirits also for information and help on various occasions.
Thus their beliefs and practices contain at least in germ the elements
of a worship of the dead.

[Footnote 394: Stolz, "Die Umgebung von Kap König Wilhelm," in R.
Neuhauss's _Deutsch New-Guinea_ (Berlin, 1911), iii. 243-286.]

[Footnote 395: Stolz, _op. cit._ pp. 252-254.]

[Footnote 396: Stolz, _op. cit._ pp. 245-247.]

[Footnote 397: Stolz, _op. cit._ pp. 247 _sq._]

[Footnote 398: Stolz, _op. cit._ pp. 248-250.]

[Footnote 399: Stolz, _op. cit._ p. 258.]

[Footnote 400: Stolz, _op. cit._ p. 259.]

[Footnote 401: K. Vetter, in _Komm herüber und hilf uns! oder die Arbeit
der Neuen-Dettelsauer Mission_, Nos. 1-4 (Barmen, 1898); _id._, in
_Nachrichten über Kaiser Wilhelms-Land_, 1897, pp. 86-102; _id._, in
_Mitteilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft zu Jena_, xi. (Jena, 1892)
pp. 102-106; _id._, in _Mitteilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft zu
Jena_, xii. (Jena, 1893) pp. 95-97; H. Zahn, "Die Jabim," in R.
Neuhauss's _Deutsch Neu-Guinea_, iii (Berlin, 1911) pp. 287-394.]

[Footnote 402: K. Vetter, _Komm herüber und hilf uns!_ ii. (Barmen,
1898) pp. 6-12.]

[Footnote 403: K. Vetter, _op. cit._ ii. 8; H. Zahn, "Die Jabim," in R.
Neuhauss's _Deutsch Neu-Guinea_, iii. 291, 308, 311.]

[Footnote 404: H. Zahn, _op. cit._ iii. 291.]

[Footnote 405: K. Vetter, _Komm herüber und hilf uns!_ iii. 21 _sq._
According to Mr. H. Zahn (_op. cit._ p. 324) every village has its own
entrance into the spirit-land.]

[Footnote 406: K. Vetter, _Komm herüber und hilf uns!_ iii. 19-24;
_id._, in _Mitteilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft zu Jena_, xii.
(1893) pp. 96 _sq._]

[Footnote 407: K. Vetter, _Komm herüber und hilf uns!_ ii. 7, iii. 24;
_id._, in _Nachrichten über Kaiser Wilhelms-Land und den
Bismarck-Archipel_, 1897, p. 94.]

[Footnote 408: K. Vetter, in _Nachrichten über Kaiser Wilhelms-Land_,
1897, p. 94.]

[Footnote 409: K. Vetter, in _Nachrichten über Kaiser Wilhelms-Land_,
1897, pp. 94 _sq._; _id._, _Komm herüber und hilf uns!_ iii. 15-19.
Compare H. Zahn, "Die Jabim," in R. Neuhauss's _Deutsch Neu-Guinea_,
iii. 320 _sq._]

[Footnote 410: H. Zahn, "Die Jabim," in R. Neuhauss's _Deutsch
Neu-Guinea_, iii. 318-320.]

[Footnote 411: K. Vetter, in _Nachrichten über Kaiser Wilhelms-Land und
den Bismarck-Archipel_, 1897, pp. 92 _sq._; _id._, in _Mitteilungen der
Geographischen Gesellschaft zu Jena_, xi. (1892) p. 105; _id._, _Komm
herüber und hilf uns!_ ii. (1898) p. 18; _id._, cited by M. Krieger,
_Neu-Guinea_, pp. 167-170; O. Schellong, "Das Barlum (_sic_)-fest der
Gegend Finsch-hafens (Kaiserwilhelmsland), ein Beitrag zur Kenntniss der
Beschneidung der Melanesier," _Internationales Archiv für Ethnographie_,
ii. (1889) pp. 145-162; H. Zahn, "Die Jabim," in R. Neuhauss's _Deutsch
Neu-Guinea_, iii. 296-298.]

[Footnote 412: W. S. Routledge and K. Routledge, _With a Prehistoric
People, the Akikuyu of British East Africa_ (London, 1910), pp. 151
_sq._ Compare _Totemism and Exogamy_, iv. 228; C. W. Hobley, "Kikuyu
Customs and Beliefs," _Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute_,
xl. (1910) pp. 440 _sq._]

[Footnote 413: K. Vetter, in _Nachrichten über Kaiser Wilhelmsland und
den Bismarck-Archipel_, 1897, p. 93.]

[Footnote 414: R. Pöch, "Vierter Bericht über meine Reise nach
Neu-Guinea," _Sitzungsberichte der mathematisch-naturwissenschaftlichen
Klasse der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften_ (Vienna), cxv.
(1906) Abteilung 1, pp. 901, 902.]



LECTURE XII

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE NATIVES OF GERMAN NEW GUINEA
(_continued_)


[Sidenote: The Bukaua of German New Guinea.]

In the last lecture I described the beliefs and practices concerning the
dead as they are to be found among the Yabim of German New Guinea.
To-day we begin with the Bukaua, a kindred and neighbouring tribe, which
occupies the coast lands of the northern portion of Huon Gulf from
Schollenbruch Point to Samoa Harbour. The language which the Bukaua
speak belongs, like the language of the Yabim, to the Melanesian, not to
the Papuan family. Their customs and beliefs have been reported by a
German missionary, Mr. Stefan Lehner, whose account I follow.[415] In
many respects they closely resemble those of their neighbours the Yabim.

[Sidenote: Means of subsistence of the Bukaua. Men's clubhouses.]

The Bukaua are an agricultural people who subsist mainly on the crops of
taro which they raise. But they also cultivate many kinds of bananas and
vegetables, together with sugar-cane, sago, and tobacco. From time to
time they cut down and burn the forest in order to obtain fresh fields
for cultivation. The land is not held in common. Each family has its own
fields and patches of forest, and would resent the intrusion of others
on their hereditary domain. Hunting and fishing supply them with animal
food to eke out the vegetable nourishment which they draw from their
fields and plantations.[416] Every village contains one or more of the
men's clubhouses which are a common feature in the social life of the
tribes on this coast. In these clubhouses the young men are obliged to
sleep, and on the platforms in front of them the older men hold their
councils. Such a clubhouse is called a _lum_.[417]

[Sidenote: Beliefs of the Bukaua concerning the souls of the dead.
Sickness and disease attributed to ghostly agency.]

The Bukaua have a firm belief in the existence of the human soul after
death. They think that a man's soul can even quit his body temporarily
in his lifetime during sleep or a swoon, and that in its disembodied
state it can appear to people at a distance; but such apparitions are
regarded as omens of approaching death, when the soul will depart for
good and all. The soul of a dead man is called a _balum_. The spirits of
the departed are believed to be generally mischievous and spiteful to
the living, but they can be appeased by sacrifice, and other measures
can be taken to avert their dangerous influence.[418] They are very
touchy, and if they imagine that they are not honoured enough by their
kinsfolk, and that the offerings made to them are insufficient, they
will avenge the slight by visiting their disrespectful and stingy
relatives with sickness and disease. Among the maladies which the
natives ascribe to the anger of ghosts are epilepsy, fainting fits, and
wasting decline.[419] When a man suffers from a sore which he believes
to have been inflicted on him by a ghost, he will take a stone from the
fence of the grave and heat it in the fire, saying: "Father, see, thou
hast gone, I am left, I must till the land in thy stead and care for my
brothers and sisters. Do me good again." Then he dips the hot stone in a
puddle on the grave, and holds his sore in the steam which rises from
it. His pain is eased thereby and he explains the alleviation which he
feels by saying, "The spirit of the dead man has eaten up the
wound."[420]

[Sidenote: Sickness and death often ascribed by the Bukaua to sorcery.]

But like most savages the Bukaua attribute many illnesses and many
deaths not to the wrath of ghosts but to the malignant arts of
sorcerers; and in such cases they usually endeavour by means of
divination to ascertain the culprit and to avenge the death of their
friend by taking the life of his imaginary murderer.[421] If they fail
to exact vengeance, the ghost is believed to be very angry, and they
must be on their guard against him. He may meet them anywhere, but is
especially apt to dog the footsteps of the sorcerer who killed him.
Hence when on the occasion of a great feast the sorcerer comes to the
village of his victim, the surviving relatives of the dead man are at
particular pains to protect themselves and their property against the
insidious attacks of the prowling ghost. For this purpose they bury a
creeper with white blossoms in the path leading to the village; the
ghost is thought to be filled with fear at the sight of it and to turn
back, leaving his kinsfolk, their dogs, and pigs in peace.[422]

[Sidenote: Fear of the ghosts of the slain.]

Another class of ghosts who are much dreaded are the spirits of slain
foes. They are believed to pursue their slayers to the village and to
blind them so that sooner or later they fall an easy prey to their
enemies. Hence when a party of warriors has returned home from a
successful attack on a village, in which they have butchered all on whom
they could lay their hands, they kindle a great fire, dance wildly about
it, and hurl burning brands in the direction of the battlefield in order
to keep the ghosts of their slaughtered foes at bay. Phosphorescent
lights seen under the houses throw the inmates into great alarm, for
they are thought to be the souls of the slain. Sometimes the vanquished
in battle resort to a curious ruse for the purpose of avenging
themselves on the victors by means of a ghost. They take the
sleeping-mat of one of the slain, roll it up in a bundle along with his
loin-cloth, apron, netted bag, or head-rest, and give the bundle to two
cripples to carry. Then they steal quietly to the landing-place of their
foes, peering warily about lest they should be observed. The bundle
represents the dead man, and the cripples who carry it reel to and fro,
and finally sink to the ground with their burden. In this way the ghost
of the victim, whose things are carried in the bundle, is supposed to
make their enemies weak and tottery. Strong young men are not given the
bundle to carry, lest the ghost should spoil their manly figures;
whereas if he should wound or maim a couple of poor cripples, no great
harm is done.[423]

[Sidenote: Ghosts of ancestors appealed to for help, especially in the
cultivation of the ground. First-fruits offered to the spirits of the
dead.]

However, the Bukaua also look on the ghosts of their ancestors in a more
amiable light as beings who, if properly appealed to, can and will help
them in the affairs of life, especially by procuring for them good
crops. Hence when they are planting their fields, which are formed in
clearings of the forest, they take particular care to insert shoots of
all their crops in the ground near the tree stumps which remain
standing, because the souls of their dead grandfathers and
great-grandfathers are believed to be sitting on the stumps watching
their descendants at their work. Accordingly in the act of planting they
call out the names of these forefathers and pray them to guard the field
in order that their living children may have food and not suffer from
hunger. And at harvest, when the first-fruits of the taro, bananas,
sugar-cane, and so forth have been brought back from the fields, a
portion of them is offered in a bowl to the spirits of the forefathers
in the house of the landowner, and the spirits are addressed in prayer
as follows: "O ye who have guarded our field as we prayed you to do,
there is something for you; now and henceforth behold us with favour."
While the family are feasting on the rest of the first-fruits, the
householder will surreptitiously stir the offerings in the bowl with his
finger, and will then shew the bowl to the others as a proof that the
souls of the dead have really partaken of the good things provided for
them.[424] A hunter will also pray to his dead father to drive the wild
pigs into his net.[425]

[Sidenote: Burial and mourning customs of the Bukaua.]

The Bukaua bury their dead in shallow graves, which are sometimes dug
under the houses but more usually in front of or beside them. Along with
the corpses are deposited bags of taro, nuts, drinking-vessels, and
other articles of daily use. Only the stone axes are too valuable to be
thus sacrificed. Over the grave is erected a rude hut in which the
widower, if the deceased was a married woman, remains for a time in
seclusion. A widow on the death of her husband remains in the house.
Widow and widower may not shew themselves in public until they have
prepared their mourning costume. The widower wears a black hat made of
bark, cords round his neck, wicker work on his arms and feet, and a torn
old bracelet of his wife in a bag on his breast. A widow is completely
swathed in nets, one over the other, and she carries about with her the
loincloth of her deceased husband. The souls of the dead dwell in a
subterranean region called _lamboam_, and their life there seems to
resemble life here on earth; but the ideas of the people on the subject
are very vague.[426]

[Sidenote: Initiation of young men among the Bukaua. Lads at
circumcision supposed to be swallowed by a monster.]

The customs and beliefs of the Bukaua in regard to the initiation of
young men are practically identical with those of their neighbours the
Yabim. Indeed the initiatory ceremonies are performed by the tribes
jointly, now in the territory of the Bukaua, now in the territory of the
Yabim, or in the land of the Kai, a tribe of mountaineers, or again in
the neighbouring Tami islands. The intervals between the ceremonies vary
from ten to eighteen years.[427] The central feature of the initiatory
rites is the circumcision of the novices. It is given out that the lads
are swallowed by a ferocious monster called a _balum_, who, however, is
induced by the sacrifice of many pigs to vomit them up again. In spewing
them out of his maw he bites or scratches them, and the wound so
inflicted is circumcision. This explanation of the rite is fobbed off on
the women, who more or less believe it and weep accordingly when their
sons are led away to be committed to the monster's jaws. And when the
time for the ceremony is approaching, the fond mothers busy themselves
with rearing and fattening young pigs, so that they may be able with
them to redeem their loved ones from the belly of the ravenous beast;
for he must have a pig for every boy. When a lad bleeds to death from
the effect of the operation, he is secretly buried, and his sorrowful
mother is told that the monster swallowed him and refused to bring him
up again. What really happens is that the youths are shut up for several
months in a house specially built for the purpose in the village. During
their seclusion they are under the charge of guardians, usually two
young men, and must observe strictly a rule of fasting and chastity.
When they are judged to be ready to undergo the rite, they are led forth
and circumcised in front of the house amid a prodigious uproar made by
the swinging of bull-roarers. The noise is supposed to be the voice of
the monster who swallows and vomits up the novice at circumcision. The
bull-roarer as well as the monster bears the name of _balum_, and the
building in which the novices are lodged before and after the operation
is called the monster's house (_balumslum_). After they have been
circumcised the lads remain in the house for several months till their
wounds are healed; then, painted and bedizened with all the ornaments
that can be collected, they are brought back and restored to their
joyful mothers. Women must vacate the village for a long time while the
initiatory ceremonies are being performed.[428]

[Sidenote: Novices at circumcision supposed to be killed and then
restored to a new and higher life.]

The meaning of the whole rite, as I pointed out in dealing with the
similar initiatory rite of the Yabim, appears to be that the novices are
killed and then restored to a new and better life; for after their
initiation they rank no longer as boys but as full-grown men, entitled
to all the privileges of manhood and citizenship, if we can speak of
such a thing as citizenship among the savages of New Guinea. This
interpretation of the rite is supported by the notable fact that the
Bukaua, like the Yabim, give the name of _balum_ to the souls of the
dead as well as to the mythical monster and to the bull-roarer; this
shews how intimately the three things are associated in their minds.
Indeed not only is the bull-roarer in general associated with the souls
of the dead by a community of name, but among the Bukaua each particular
bull-roarer bears in addition the name of a particular dead man and
varies in dignity and importance with the dignity and importance of the
deceased person whom it represents. The most venerated of all are
curiously carved and have been handed down for generations; they bear
the names of famous warriors or magicians of old and are supposed to
reproduce the personal peculiarities of the celebrated originals in
their shape and tones. And there are smaller bull-roarers which emit
shriller notes and are thought to represent the shrill-voiced wives of
the ancient heroes.[429]

[Sidenote: The Kai tribe of Saddle Mountain in German New Guinea. The
land of the Kai. Their mode of cultivation. Their villages.]

The Bukaua and the Yabim, the two tribes with which I have been dealing
in this and the last lecture, inhabit, as I have said, the coast about
Finsch Harbour and speak a Melanesian language. We now pass from them to
the consideration of another people, belonging to a different stock and
speaking a different language, who inhabit the rugged and densely wooded
mountains inland from Finsch Harbour. Their neighbours on the coast call
these mountaineers by the name of Kai, a word which signifies forest or
inland in opposition to the seashore; and this name of the tribe we may
adopt, following the example of a German missionary, Mr. Ch. Keysser,
who has laboured among them for more than eleven years and has given us
an excellent description of their customs and beliefs. His account
applies particularly to the natives of what is called Saddle Mountain,
the part of the range which advances nearest to the coast and rises to
the height of about three thousand feet. It is a rough, broken country,
cleft by many ravines and covered with forest, bush, or bamboo thickets;
though here and there at rare intervals some brown patches mark the
clearings which the sparse inhabitants have made for the purpose of
cultivation. Water is plentiful. Springs gush forth everywhere in the
glens and valleys, and rushing streams of crystal-clear water pour down
the mountain sides, and in the clefts of the hills are lonely tarns, the
undisturbed haunts of wild ducks and other water fowl. During the wet
season, which extends from June to August, the rain descends in sheets
and the mountains are sometimes covered for weeks together with so thick
a mist that all prospect is cut off at the distance of a hundred yards.
The natives are then loth to leave their huts and will spend the day
crouching over a fire. They are a shorter and sturdier race than the
tribes on the coast; the expression of their face is less frank and
agreeable, and their persons are very much dirtier. They belong to the
aboriginal Papuan stock, whereas the Yabim and Bukaua on the coast are
probably immigrants from beyond the sea, who have driven the indigenous
population back into the mountains.[430] Their staple foods are taro and
yams, which they grow in their fields. A field is cultivated for only
one year at a time; it is then allowed to lie fallow and is soon
overgrown with rank underwood. Six or eight years may elapse before it
is again cleared and brought under cultivation. Game and fish abound in
the woods and waters, and the Kai make free use of these natural
resources. They keep pigs and dogs, and eat the flesh of both. Pork is
indeed a favourite viand, figuring largely in the banquets which are
held at the circumcision festivals.[431] The people live in small
villages, each village comprising from two to six houses. The houses are
raised on piles and the walls are usually constructed of pandanus
leaves, though many natives now make them of boards. After eighteen
months or two years the houses are so rotten and tumble-down that the
village is deserted and a new one built on another site. Assembly-houses
are erected only for the circumcision ceremonies, and the bull-roarers
used on these occasions are kept in them. Husband and wife live
together, often two couples in one hut; but each family has its own side
of the house and its own fireplace. In times of insecurity the Kai used
to build their huts for safety among the spreading boughs of great
trees. A whole village, consisting of three or four huts, might thus be
quartered on a single tree. Of late years, with the peace and protection
for life introduced by German rule, these tree-houses have gone out of
fashion.[432]

[Sidenote: Observations of a German missionary on the animistic beliefs
of the Kai.]

After describing the manners and customs of the Kai people at some
length, the German missionary, who knows them intimately, proceeds to
give us a very valuable account of their old native religion or
superstition. He prefaces his account with some observations, the fruit
of long experience, which deserve to be laid to heart by all who attempt
to penetrate into the inner life, the thoughts, the feelings, the
motives of savages. As his remarks are very germane to the subject of
these lectures, I will translate them. He says: "In the preceding
chapters I have sketched the daily life of the Kai people. But I have
not attempted to set forth the reasons for their conduct, which is often
very peculiar and unintelligible. The explanation of that conduct lies
in the animistic view which the Papuan takes of the world. It must be
most emphatically affirmed that nobody can judge the native aright who
has not gained an insight into what we may call his religious opinions.
The native must be described as very religious, although his ideas do
not coincide with ours. His feelings, thoughts, and will are most
intimately connected with his belief in souls. With that belief he is
born, he has sucked it in with his mother's milk, and from the
standpoint of that belief he regards the things and occurrences that
meet him in life; by that belief he regulates his behaviour. An
objective way of looking at events is unknown to him; everything is
brought by him into relation to his belief, and by it he seeks to
explain everything that to him seems strange and rare."[433] "The
labyrinth of animistic customs at first sight presents an appearance of
wild confusion to him who seeks to penetrate into them and reduce them
to order; but on closer inspection he will soon recognise certain
guiding lines. These guiding lines are the laws of animism, which have
passed into the flesh and blood of the Papuan and influence his thought
and speech, his acts and his omissions, his love and hate, in short his
whole life and death. When once we have discovered these laws, the whole
of the superstitious nonsense falls into an orderly system which compels
us to regard it with a certain respect that increases in proportion to
the contempt in which we had previously held the people. We need not
wonder, moreover, that the laws of animism partially correspond to
general laws of nature."[434]

[Sidenote: The essential rationality of the savage.]

Thus according to Mr. Keysser, who has no theory to maintain and merely
gives us in this passage the result of long personal observation, the
Kai savages are thinking, reasoning men, whose conduct, however strange
and at first sight unintelligible it may appear to us, is really based
on a definite religious or if you please superstitious view of the
world. It is true that their theory as well as their practice differs
widely from ours; but it would be false and unjust to deny that they
have a theory and that on the whole their practice squares with it.
Similar testimony is borne to other savage races by men who have lived
long among them and observed them closely;[435] and on the strength of
such testimony I think we may lay it down as a well-established truth
that savages in general, so far as they are known to us, have certain
more or less definite theories, whether we call them religious or
philosophical, by which they regulate their conduct, and judged by which
their acts, however absurd they may seem to the civilised man, are
really both rational and intelligible. Hence it is, in my opinion, a
profound mistake hastily to conclude that because the behaviour of the
savage does not agree with our notions of what is reasonable, natural,
and proper, it must therefore necessarily be illogical, the result of
blind impulse rather than of deliberate thought and calculation. No
doubt the savage like the civilised man does often act purely on
impulse; his passions overmaster his reason, and sweep it away before
them. He is probably indeed much more impulsive, much more liable to be
whirled about by gusts of emotion than we are; yet it would be unfair to
judge his life as a whole by these occasional outbursts rather than by
its general tenour, which to those who know him from long observation
reveals a groundwork of logic and reason resembling our own in its
operations, though differing from ours in the premises from which it
sets out. I think it desirable to emphasise the rational basis of savage
life because it has been the fashion of late years with some writers to
question or rather deny it. According to them, if I understand them
aright, the savage acts first and invents his reasons, generally very
absurd reasons, for so doing afterwards. Significantly enough, the
writers who argue in favour of the essential irrationality of savage
conduct have none of them, I believe, any personal acquaintance with
savages. Their conclusions are based not on observation but on purely
theoretical deductions, a most precarious foundation on which to erect a
science of man or indeed of anything. As such, they cannot be weighed in
the balance against the positive testimony of many witnesses who have
lived for years with the savage and affirm emphatically the logical
basis which underlies and explains his seeming vagaries. At all events I
for one have no hesitation in accepting the evidence of such men to
matters of fact with which they are acquainted, and I unhesitatingly
reject all theories which directly contradict that evidence. If there
ever has been any race of men who invariably acted first and thought
afterwards, I can only say that in the course of my reading and
observation I have never met with any trace of them, and I am apt to
suppose that, if they ever existed anywhere but in the imagination of
bookish dreamers, their career must have been an exceedingly short one,
since in the struggle for existence they would surely succumb to
adversaries who tempered and directed the blind fury of combat with at
least a modicum of reason and sense. The myth of the illogical or
prelogical savage may safely be relegated to that museum of learned
absurdities and abortions which speculative anthropology is constantly
enriching with fresh specimens of misapplied ingenuity and wasted
industry. But enough of these fantasies. Let us return to facts.

[Sidenote: The Kai theory of the soul.]

The life of the Kai people, according to Mr. Keysser, is dominated by
their conception of the soul. That conception differs greatly from and
is very much more extensive than ours. The Kai regards his reflection
and his shadow as his soul or parts of it; hence you should not tread on
a man's shadow for fear of injuring his soul. The soul likewise dwells
in his heart, for he feels it beating. Hence if you give a native a
friendly poke in the ribs, he protests, saying, "Don't poke me so; you
might drive my soul out of my body, and then I should die." The soul
moreover resides in the eye, where you may see it twinkling; when it
departs, the eye grows dim and vacant. Moreover, the soul is in the foot
as much as in the head; it lurks even in the spittle and the other
bodily excretions. The soul in fact pervades the body just as warmth
does; everything that a man touches he infects, so to say, with his
soul; that mysterious entity exists in the very sound of his voice. The
sorcerer catches a man's soul by his magic, shuts it up tight, and
destroys it. Then the man dies. He dies because the sorcerer has killed
his soul. Yet the Kai believes, whether consistently or not, that the
soul of the dead man continues to live. He talks to it, he makes
offerings to it, he seeks to win its favour in order that he may have
luck in the chase; he fears its ill-will and anger; he gives it food to
eat, liquor to drink, tobacco to smoke, and betel to chew. What could a
reasonable ghost ask for more?[436]

[Sidenote: Two kinds of human souls.]

Thus, according to Mr. Keysser, whose exposition I am simply
reproducing, the Kai believes not in one nor yet in many souls belonging
to each individual; he implicitly assumes that there are two different
kinds of souls. One of these is the soul which survives the body at
death; in all respects it resembles the man himself as he lived on
earth, except that it has no body. It is not indeed absolutely
incorporeal, but it is greatly shrunken and attenuated by death. That is
why the souls of the dead are so angry with the living; they repine at
their own degraded condition; they envy the full-blooded life which the
living enjoy and which the dead have lost. The second kind of soul is
distinguished by Mr. Keysser from the former as a spiritual essence or
soul-stuff, which pervades the body as sap pervades the tree, and which
diffuses itself like corporeal warmth over everything with which the
body is brought into contact.[437] In these lectures we are concerned
chiefly with the former kind of soul, which is believed to survive the
death of the body, and which answers much more nearly than the second to
the popular European conception of the soul. Accordingly in what follows
we shall confine our attention mainly to it.

[Sidenote: Death thought by the Kai to be commonly caused by sorcery.]

Like many other savages, the Kai do not believe in the possibility of a
natural death; they think that everybody dies through the maleficent
arts of sorcerers or ghosts. Even in the case of old people, we are
told, they assume the cause of death to be sorcery, and to sorcery all
misfortunes are ascribed. If a man falls on the path and wounds himself
to death, as often happens, on the jagged stump of a bamboo, the natives
conclude that he was bewitched. The way in which the sorcerer brought
about the catastrophe was this. He obtained some object which was
infected with the soul-stuff or spiritual essence of his victim; he
stuck a pile in the ground, he spread the soul-stuff on the pile; then
he pretended to wound himself on the pile and to groan with pain.
Anybody can see for himself that by a natural and necessary
concatenation of causes this compelled the poor fellow to stumble over
that jagged bamboo stump and to perish miserably. Again, take the case
of a hunter in the forest who is charged and ripped up by a wild boar.
On a superficial view of the circumstances it might perhaps occur to you
that the cause of death was the boar. But you would assuredly be
mistaken. The real cause of death was again a sorcerer, who pounded up
the soul-stuff of his victim with a boar's tooth. Again, suppose that a
man is bitten by a serpent and dies. A shallow rationalist might say
that the man died of the bite; but the Kai knows better. He is aware
that what really killed him was the sorcerer who took a pinch of his
victim's soul and bunged it up tight in a tube along with the sting of a
snake. Similarly, if a woman dies in childbed, or if a man hangs
himself, the cause of death is still a sorcerer operating with the
appropriate means and gestures. Thus to make a man hang himself all that
the sorcerer has to do is to get a scrap of his victim's soul--and the
smallest scrap is quite enough for his purpose, it may be a mere shred
or speck of soul adhering to a hair of the man's head, to a drop of his
sweat, or to a crumb of his food,--I say that the sorcerer need only
obtain a tiny little bit of his victim's soul, clap it in a tube, set
the tube dangling at the end of a string, and go through a pantomime of
gurgling, goggling and so forth, like a man in the last stage of
strangulation, and his victim is thereby physically compelled to put his
neck in the noose and hang himself in good earnest.[438]

[Sidenote: Danger incurred by the sorcerer.]

Where these views of sorcery prevail, it is no wonder that the sorcerer
is an unpopular character. He naturally therefore shrinks from publicity
and hides his somewhat lurid light under a bushel. Not to put too fine a
point on it, he carries his life in his hand and may be knocked on the
head at any moment without the tedious formality of a trial. Once his
professional reputation is established, all the deaths in the
neighbourhood may be set down at his door. If he gets wind of a plot to
assassinate him, he may stave off his doom for a while by soothing the
angry passions of his enemies with presents, but sooner or later his
fate is sealed.[439]

[Sidenote: Many hurts and maladies attributed by the Kai to the action
of ghosts. In other cases the sickness is traced to witchcraft.
Capturing a lost soul.]

However, the Kai savage is far from attributing all deaths without
distinction to sorcerers.[440] In many hurts and maladies he detects the
cold clammy hand of a ghost. If a man, for example, wounds himself in
the forest, perhaps in the pursuit of a wild beast, he may imagine that
he has been speared or clubbed by a malignant ghost. And when a person
falls ill, the first thing to do is naturally to ascertain the cause of
the illness in order that it may be treated properly. In all such
enquiries, Mr. Keysser tells us, suspicion first falls on the ghosts;
they are looked upon as even worse than the sorcerers.[441] So when a
doctor is called in to see a patient, the only question with him is
whether the sickness is caused by a sorcerer or a ghost. To decide this
nice point he takes a boiled taro over which he has pronounced a charm.
This he bites, and if he finds a small stone in the fruit, he decides
that ghosts are the cause of the malady; but if on the other hand he
detects a minute roll of leaves, he knows that the sufferer is
bewitched. In the latter case the obvious remedy is to discover the
sorcerer and to induce him, for an adequate consideration, to give up
the magic tube in which he has bottled up a portion of the sick man's
soul. If, however, the magician turns a deaf ear alike to the voice of
pity and the allurement of gain, the resources of the physician are not
yet exhausted. He now produces his whip or scourge for souls. This
valuable instrument consists, like a common whip, of a handle with a
lash attached to it, but what gives it the peculiar qualities which
distinguish it from all other whips is a small packet tied to the end of
the lash. The packet contains a certain herb, and the sick man and his
friends must all touch it in order to impregnate it with the volatile
essence of their souls. Armed with this potent implement the doctor goes
by night into the depth of the forest; for the darkness of night and the
solitude of the woods are necessary for the success of the delicate
operation which this good physician of souls has now to perform. Finding
himself alone he whistles for the lost soul of the sufferer, and if only
the sorcerer by his infernal craft has not yet brought it to death's
door, the soul appears at the sound of the whistle; for it is strongly
attracted by the soul-stuff of its friends in the packet. But the doctor
has still to catch it, a feat which is not so easily accomplished as
might be supposed. It is now that the whip of souls comes into play.
Suddenly the doctor heaves up his arm and lashes out at the truant soul
with all his might. If only he hits it, the business is done, the soul
is captured, the doctor carries it back to the house in triumph, and
restores it to the body of the poor sick man, who necessarily
recovers.[442]

[Sidenote: Extracting ghosts from a sick man.]

But suppose that the result of the diagnosis is different, and that on
mature consideration the doctor should decide that a ghost and not a
sorcerer is at the bottom of the mischief. The question then naturally
arises whether the sick man has not of late been straying on haunted
ground and infected himself with the very dangerous soul-stuff or
spiritual essence of the dead. If he remembers to have done so, some
leaves are fetched from the place in the forest where the mishap
occurred, and with them the whole body of the sufferer or the wound, as
the case may be, is stroked or brushed down. The healing virtue of this
procedure is obvious. The ghosts who are vexing the patient are
attracted by the familiar smell of the leaves which come from their old
home; and yielding in a moment of weakness to the soft emotions excited
by the perfume they creep out of the body of the sick man and into the
leaves. Quick as thought the doctor now whisks the leaves away with the
ghosts in them; he belabours them with a cudgel, he hangs them up in the
smoke, or he throws them into the fire. Such powerful disinfectants have
their natural results; if the ghosts are not absolutely destroyed they
are at least disarmed, and the sick is made whole.

[Sidenote: Scraping ghosts from the patient's body.]

Another equally effective cure for sickness caused by ghosts is this.
You take a stout stick, cleave it down the middle so that the two ends
remain entire, and give it to two men to hold. Then the sick man pokes
his head through the cleft; after that you rub him with the stick from
the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. In this way you
obviously scrape off the bloodsucking ghosts who are clinging like flies
or mosquitoes to his person, and having thus transferred them to the
cleft stick you throw it away or otherwise destroy it. The cure is now
complete, and if the patient does not recover, he cannot reasonably
blame the doctor, who has done all that humanly speaking could be done
to bring back the bloom of health to the poor sick man.[443]

[Sidenote: Extravagant demonstrations of grief at the death of a sick
man.]

If, however, the sick man obstinately persists in dying, there is a
great uproar in the village. For the fear of his ghost has now fallen
like a thunderclap on all the people. His disembodied spirit is believed
to be hovering in the air, seeing everything that is done, hearing every
word that is spoken, and woe to the unlucky wight who does not display a
proper degree of sorrow for the irreparable loss that has just befallen
the community. Accordingly shrieks of despair begin to resound, and
crocodile tears to flow in cataracts. The whole population assemble and
give themselves up to the most frantic demonstrations of grief. Cries
are raised on all sides, "Why must he die?" "Wherefore did they bewitch
him?" "Those wicked, wicked men!" "I'll do for them!" "I'll hew them in
pieces!" "I'll destroy their crops!" "I'll fell all their palm-trees!"
"I'll stick all their pigs!" "O brother, why did you leave me?" "O
friend, how can I live without you?" To make good these threats one man
will be seen prancing wildly about and stabbing with a spear at the
invisible sorcerers; another catches up a cudgel and at one blow shivers
a water-pot of the deceased into atoms, or rushes out like one demented
and lays a palm-tree level with the ground. Some fling themselves
prostrate beside the corpse and sob as if their very hearts would break.
They take the dead man by the hand, they stroke him, they straighten out
the poor feet which are already growing cold. They coo to him softly,
they lift up the languid head, and then lay it gently down. Then in a
frenzy of grief one of them will leap to his feet, shriek, bellow, stamp
on the floor, grapple with the roof beams, shake the walls, as if he
would pull the house down, and finally hurl himself on the ground and
roll over and over howling as if his distress was more than he could
endure. Another looks wildly about him. He sees a knife. He grasps it.
His teeth are set, his mind is made up. "Why need he die?" he cries,
"he, my friend, with whom I had all things in common, with whom I ate
out of the same dish?" Then there is a quick movement of the knife, and
down he falls. But he is not dead. He has only slit the flap of one of
his ears, and the trickling blood bedabbles his body. Meantime with the
hoarse cries of the men are mingled the weeping and wailing, the shrill
screams and lamentations of the women; while above all the din and
uproar rises the booming sound of the shell trumpets blown to carry the
tidings of death to all the villages in the neighbourhood. But gradually
the wild tumult dies away into silence. Grief or the simulation of it
has exhausted itself: the people grow calm; they sit down, they smoke or
chew betel, while some engage in the last offices of attention to the
dead.[444]

[Sidenote: Hypocritical character of these demonstrations, which are
intended to deceive the ghost.]

A civilised observer who witnessed such a scene of boisterous
lamentation, but did not know the natives well, might naturally set down
all these frantic outbursts to genuine sorrow, and might enlarge
accordingly on the affectionate nature of savages, who are thus cut to
the heart by the death of any one of their acquaintance. But the
missionary who knows them better assures us that most of these
expressions of mourning and despair are a mere blind to deceive and
soothe the dreaded ghost of the deceased into a comfortable persuasion
that he is fondly loved and sadly missed by his surviving relatives and
friends. This view of the essential hypocrisy of the lamentations is
strongly confirmed by the threats which sick people will sometimes utter
to their attendants. "If you don't take better care of me," a man will
sometimes say, "and if you don't do everything you possibly can to
preserve my valuable life, my ghost will serve you out." That is why
friends and relations are so punctilious in paying visits of respect and
condolence to the sick. Sometimes the last request which a dying man
addresses to his kinsfolk is that they will kill this or that sorcerer
who has killed him; and he enforces the injunction by threats of the
terrible things he will do to them in his disembodied state if they fail
to avenge his death on his imaginary murderer. As all the relatives of a
dead man stand in fear of his ghost, the body may not be buried until
all of them have had an opportunity of paying their respects to it. If,
as sometimes happens, a corpse is interred before a relative can arrive
from a distance, he will on arrival break out into reproaches and
upbraidings against the grave-diggers for exposing him to the wrath of
the departed spirit.[445]

[Sidenote: Burial and mourning customs of the Kai. Preservation of the
lower jawbone.]

When all the relations and friends have assembled and testified their
sorrow, the body is buried on the second or third day after death. The
grave is usually dug under the house and is so shallow that even when it
has been closed the stench is often very perceptible. The ornaments
which were placed on the body when it was laid out are removed before it
is lowered into the grave, and the dead takes his last rest wrapt in a
simple leaf-mat. Often a dying man expresses a wish not to be buried. In
that case his corpse, tightly bandaged, is deposited in a corner of the
house, and the products of decomposition are allowed to drain through a
tube into the ground. When they have ceased to run, the bundle is opened
and the bones taken out and buried, except the lower jawbone, which is
preserved, sometimes along with one of the lower arm bones. The lower
jawbone reminds the possessor of the duty of blood revenge which he owes
to the deceased, and which the dying man may have inculcated on him with
his last breath. The lower arm bone brings luck in the chase, especially
if the departed relative was a mighty hunter. However, if the hunters
have a long run of bad luck, they conclude that the ghost has departed
to the under world and accordingly bury the lower arm bone and the lower
jawbone with the rest of the skeleton. The length of the period of
mourning is similarly determined by the good or bad fortune of the
huntsmen. If the ghost provides them with game in abundance for a long
time after his death, the days of mourning are proportionately extended;
but when the game grows scarce or fails altogether, the mourning comes
to an end and the memory of the deceased soon fades away.[446] The
savage is a thoroughly practical man and is not such a fool as to waste
his sorrow over a ghost who gives him nothing in return. Nothing for
nothing is his principle. His relations to the dead stand on a strictly
commercial basis.

[Sidenote: Mourning costume. Widows strangled to accompany their dead
husbands.]

The mourning costume consists of strings round the neck, bracelets of
reed on the arms, and a cylindrical hat of bark on the head. A widow is
swathed in nets. The intention of the costume is to signify to the ghost
the sympathy which the mourner feels for him in his disembodied state.
If the man in his lifetime was wont to crouch shivering over the fire, a
little fire will be kept up for a time at the foot of the grave in order
to warm his homeless spirit.[447] The widow or widower has to discharge
the disagreeable duty of living day and night for several weeks in a
hovel built directly over the grave. Not unfrequently the lot of a widow
is much harder. At her own request she is sometimes strangled and buried
with her husband in the grave, in order that her soul may accompany his
on the journey to the other world. The other relations have no interest
in encouraging the woman to sacrifice herself, rather the contrary; but
if she insists they fear to balk her, lest they should offend the ghost
of her husband, who would punish them in many ways for keeping his wife
from him. But even such voluntary sacrifices, if we may believe Mr. Ch.
Keysser, are dictated rather by a selfish calculation than by an impulse
of disinterested affection. He mentions the case of a man named Jabu,
both of whose wives chose thus to attend their husband in death. The
deceased was an industrious man, a skilful hunter and farmer, who
provided his wives with abundance of food. As such men are believed to
work hard also in the other world, tilling fields and killing game just
as here, the widows thought they could not do better than follow him as
fast as possible to the spirit land, since they had no prospect of
getting such another husband here on earth. "How firmly convinced," adds
the missionary admiringly, "must these people be of the reality of
another world when they sacrifice their earthly existence, not for the
sake of a better life hereafter, but merely in order to be no worse off
there than they have been on earth." And he adds that this consideration
explains why no man ever chooses to be strangled at the death of his
wife. The labour market in the better land is apparently not recruited
from the ranks of women.[448]

[Sidenote: House or village deserted after a death.]

The house in which anybody has died is deserted, because the ghost of
the dead is believed to haunt it and make it unsafe at night. If the
deceased was a chief or a man of importance, the whole village is
abandoned and a new one built on another site.[449]

[Footnote 415: Stefan Lehner, "Bukaua," in R. Neuhauss's _Deutsch
Neu-Guinea_, iii. (Berlin, 1911) pp. 395-485.]

[Footnote 416: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ pp. 399, 433 _sq._, 437 _sqq._]

[Footnote 417: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ p. 399.]

[Footnote 418: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ p. 414.]

[Footnote 419: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ p. 466, 468.]

[Footnote 420: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ p. 469.]

[Footnote 421: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ pp. 462 _sqq._, 466, 467, 471
_sqq._]

[Footnote 422: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ p. 462.]

[Footnote 423: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ pp. 444 _sq._]

[Footnote 424: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ pp. 434 _sqq._; compare _id._, pp.
478 _sq._]

[Footnote 425: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ p. 462.]

[Footnote 426: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ pp. 430, 470, 472 _sq._, 474 _sq._]

[Footnote 427: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ p. 403.]

[Footnote 428: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ pp. 402-410.]

[Footnote 429: S. Lehner, _op. cit._ pp. 410-414.]

[Footnote 430: Ch. Keysser, "Aus dem Leben der Kaileute," in R.
Neuhauss's _Deutsch Neu-Guinea_, iii. 3-6.]

[Footnote 431: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 12 _sq._, 17-20.]

[Footnote 432: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 9-12.]

[Footnote 433: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 111.]

[Footnote 434: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 113.]

[Footnote 435: Compare Ch. Hose and W. McDougall, _The Pagan Tribes of
Borneo_ (London, 1912), ii. 221 _sq._: "It has often been attempted to
exhibit the mental life of savage peoples as profoundly different from
our own; to assert that they act from motives, and reach conclusions by
means of mental processes, so utterly different from our own motives and
processes that we cannot hope to interpret or understand their behaviour
unless we can first, by some impossible or at least by some hitherto
undiscovered method, learn the nature of these mysterious motives and
processes. These attempts have recently been renewed in influential
quarters. If these views were applied to the savage peoples of the
interior of Borneo, we should characterise them as fanciful delusions
natural to the anthropologist who has spent all the days of his life in
a stiff collar and a black coat upon the well-paved ways of civilised
society. We have no hesitation in saying that, the more intimately one
becomes acquainted with these pagan tribes, the more fully one realises
the close similarity of their mental processes to one's own. Their
primary impulses and emotions seem to be in all respects like our own.
It is true that they are very unlike the typical civilised man of some
of the older philosophers, whose every action proceeded from a nice and
logical calculation of the algebraic sum of pleasures and pains to be
derived from alternative lines of conduct; but we ourselves are equally
unlike that purely mythical personage. The Kayan or the Iban often acts
impulsively in ways which by no means conduce to further his best
interests or deeper purposes; but so do we also. He often reaches
conclusions by processes that cannot be logically justified; but so do
we also. He often holds, and upon successive occasions acts upon,
beliefs that are logically inconsistent with one another; but so do we
also." For further testimonies to the reasoning powers of savages, which
it would be superfluous to affirm if it were not at present a fashion
with some theorists to deny, see _Taboo and the Perils of the Soul_, pp.
420 _sqq._ And on the tendency of the human mind in general, not of the
savage mind in particular, calmly to acquiesce in inconsistent and even
contradictory conclusions, I may refer to a note in _Adonis, Attis,
Osiris_, Second Edition, p. 4. But indeed to observe such contradictions
in practice the philosopher need not quit his own study.]

[Footnote 436: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 111 _sq._]

[Footnote 437: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 112.]

[Footnote 438: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 140. As to the magical tubes
in which the sorcerer seals up some part of his victim's soul, see
_id._, p. 135.]

[Footnote 439: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 140 _sq._]

[Footnote 440: Mr. Keysser indeed affirms that in the mind of the Kai
sorcery "is regarded as the cause of all deaths" (_op. cit._ p. 102),
and again that "all men without exception die in consequence of the
baneful acts of these sorcerers and their accomplices" (p. 134); and
again that "even in the case of old people they assume sorcery to be the
cause of death; to sorcery, too, all misfortunes whatever are ascribed"
(p. 140). But that these statements are exaggerations seems to follow
from Mr. Keysser's own account of the wounds, sicknesses, and deaths
which these savages attribute to ghosts and not to sorcerers.]

[Footnote 441: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 141.]

[Footnote 442: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 133 _sq._]

[Footnote 443: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 141 _sq._]

[Footnote 444: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 80 _sq._, 142.]

[Footnote 445: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 142.]

[Footnote 446: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 82, 83.]

[Footnote 447: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 82, 142 _sq._]

[Footnote 448: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 83 _sq._, 143.]

[Footnote 449: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 83.]



LECTURE XIII

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE NATIVES OF GERMAN NEW GUINEA
(_continued_)


[Sidenote: Offerings to appease ghosts.]

In the last lecture I gave you some account of the fear and awe which
the Kai of German New Guinea entertain for the spirits of the dead.
Believing that the ghost is endowed with all the qualities and faculties
which distinguished the man in his lifetime, they naturally dread most
the ghosts of warlike, cruel, violent, and passionate men, and take the
greatest pains to soothe their anger and win their favour. For that
purpose they give the departed spirit all sorts of things to take with
him to the far country. And in order that he may have the use of them it
is necessary to smash or otherwise spoil them. Thus the spear that is
given him must be broken, the pot must be shivered, the bag must be
torn, the palm-tree must be cut down. Fruits are offered to the ghost by
dashing them in pieces or hanging a bunch of them over the grave.
Objects of value, such as boars' tusks or dogs' teeth, are made over to
him by being laid on the corpse; but the economical savage removes these
precious things from the body at burial. All such offerings and
sacrifices, we are told, are made simply out of fear of the ghost. It is
no pleasure to a man to cut down a valuable palm-tree, which might have
helped to nourish himself and his family for years; he does it only lest
a worse thing should befall him at the hands of the departed
spirit.[450]

[Sidenote: Mode of discovering the sorcerer who caused a death.]

But the greatest service that the Kai can render to a dead man is to
take vengeance on the sorcerer who caused his death by witchcraft. The
first thing is to discover the villain, and in the search for him the
ghost obligingly assists his surviving kinsfolk. Sometimes, however, it
is necessary to resort to a stratagem in order to secure his help. Thus,
for example, one day while the ghost, blinded by the strong sunlight, is
cowering in a dark corner or reposing at full length in the grave, his
relatives will set up a low scaffold in a field, cover it with leaves,
and pile up over it a mass of the field fruits which belonged to the
dead man, so that the whole erection may appear to the eye of the
unsuspecting ghost a heap of taro, yams, and so forth, and nothing more.
But before the sun goes down, two or three men steal out from the house,
and ensconce themselves under the scaffold, where they are completely
concealed by the piled-up fruits. When darkness has fallen, out comes
the ghost and prowling about espies the heap of yams and taro. At sight
of the devastation wrought in his field he flies into a passion, and
curses and swears in the feeble wheezy whisper in which ghosts always
speak. In the course of his fluent imprecations he expresses a wish that
the miscreants who have wasted his substance may suffer so and so at the
hands of the sorcerer. That is just what the men in hiding have been
waiting for. No sooner do they hear the name of the sorcerer than they
jump up with a great shout; the startled ghost takes to his heels; and
all the people in the village come pouring out of the houses. Very glad
they are to know that the murderer has been found out, and sooner or
later they will have his blood.[451]

[Sidenote: Another way of detecting the sorcerer.]

Another mode of eliciting the requisite information from the ghost is
this. In order to allow him to communicate freely with his mouldering
body, his relations insert a tube through the earth of the grave down to
the corpse; then they sprinkle powdered lime on the grave. At night the
ghost comes along, picks up the powdered lime, and makes off in a bee
line for the village where the sorcerer who bewitched him resides. On
the way he drops some of the powder here and there, so that next
morning, on the principle of the paper-chase, his relatives can trace
his footsteps to the very door of his murderer. In many districts the
people tie a packet of lime to the knee of a corpse so that his ghost
may have it to hand when he wants it.[452]

[Sidenote: Cross-questioning the ghost by means of fire.]

But the favourite way of cross-questioning the ghost on subject of his
decease is by means of fire. A few men go out before nightfall from the
village and sit down in a row, one behind the other, on the path. The
man in front has a leaf-mat drawn like a hood over his head and back in
order that the ghost may not touch him from behind unawares. In his hand
he holds a glowing coal and some tinder, and as he puts the one to the
other he calls to the ghost, "Come, take, take, take; come, take, take,
take," and so on. Meantime his mates behind him are reckoning up the
names of all the men near and far who are suspected of sorcery, and a
portion of the village youth have clambered up trees and are on the
look-out for the ghost. If they do not see his body they certainly see
his eye twinkling in the gloom, though the uninstructed European might
easily mistake it for a glow-worm. No sooner do they catch sight of it
than they bawl out, "Come hither, fetch the fire, and burn him who burnt
thee." If the tinder blazes up at the name of a sorcerer, it is flung
towards the village where the man in question dwells. And if at the same
time a glow-worm is seen to move in the same direction, the people
entertain no doubt that the ghost has appeared and fetched the soul of
the fire.[453]

[Sidenote: Necessity of destroying the sorcerer who caused a death.]

In whichever way the author of the death may be detected, the avengers
of blood set out for the village of the miscreant and seek to take his
life. Almost all the wars between villages or tribes spring from such
expeditions. The sorcerer or sorcerers must be extirpated, nay all their
kith and kin must be destroyed root and branch, if the people are to
live in peace and quiet. The ghost of the dead calls, nay clamours for
vengeance, and if he does not get it, he will wreak his spite on his
negligent relations. Not only will he give them no luck in the chase,
but he will drive the wild swine into the fields to trample down and
root up the crops, and he will do them every mischief in his power. If
rain does not fall, so that the freshly planted root crops wither; or if
sickness is rife, the people recognise in the calamity the wrath of the
ghost, who can only be appeased by the slaughter of the wicked magician
or of somebody else. Hence the avengers of blood often do not set out
until a fresh death, an outbreak of sickness, failure in the chase, or
some other misfortune reminds the living of the duty they owe to the
dead. The Kai is not by nature warlike, and he might never go to war if
it were not that he dreads the vengeance of ghosts more than the wrath
of men.[454]

[Sidenote: Slayers dread the ghosts of the slain.]

If the expedition has been successful, if the enemy's village has been
surprised and stormed, the men and old women butchered, and the young
women taken prisoners, the warriors beat a hasty retreat with their
booty in order to be safe at home, or at least in the shelter of a
friendly village, before nightfall. Their reason for haste is the fear
of being overtaken in the darkness by the ghosts of their slaughtered
foes, who, powerless by day, are very dangerous and terrible by night.
Restlessly through the hours of darkness these unquiet spirits follow
like sleuth-hounds in the tracks of their retreating enemies, eager to
come up with them and by contact with the bloodstained weapons of their
slayers to recover the spiritual substance which they have lost. Not
till they have done so can they find rest and peace. That is why the
victors are careful not at first to bring back their weapons into the
village but to hide them somewhere in the bushes at a safe distance.
There they leave them for some days until the baffled ghosts may be
supposed to have given up the chase and returned, sad and angry, to
their mangled bodies in the charred ruins of their old home. The first
night after the return of the warriors is always the most anxious time;
all the villagers are then on the alert for fear of the ghosts; but if
the night passes quietly, their terror gradually subsides and gives
place to the dread of their surviving enemies.[455]

[Sidenote: Seclusion of man-slayers from fear of their victims' ghosts.]

As the victors in a raid are supposed to have more or less of the
soul-stuff or spiritual essence of their slain foes adhering to their
persons, none of their friends will venture to touch them for some time
after their return to the village. Everybody avoids them and goes
carefully out of their way. If during this time any of the villagers
suffers from a pain in his stomach, he thinks that he must have
inadvertently sat down where one of the warriors had sat before him. If
somebody endures the pangs of toothache, he makes sure that he must have
eaten a fruit which had been touched by one of the slayers. All the
refuse of the meals of these gallant men must be most carefully put away
lest a pig should devour it; for if it did do so, the animal would
certainly die, which would be a serious loss to the owner. Hence when
the warriors have satisfied their hunger, any food that remains over is
burnt or buried. The fighting men themselves are not very seriously
incommoded, or at all events endangered, by the ghosts of their victims;
for they have taken the precaution to disinfect themselves by the sap of
a certain creeper, which, if it does not render them absolutely immune
to ghostly influence, at least fortifies their constitution to a very
considerable extent.[456]

[Sidenote: Feigned indignation of a man who has connived at the murder
of a relative.]

Sometimes, instead of sending forth a band of warriors to ravage, burn,
and slaughter the whole male population of the village in which the
wicked sorcerer resides, the people of one village will come to a secret
understanding with the people of the sorcerer's village to have the
miscreant quietly put out of the way. A hint is given to the scoundrel's
next of kin, it may be his brother, son, or nephew, that if he will only
wink at the slaughter of his obnoxious relative, he will receive a
handsome compensation from the slayers. Should he privately accept the
offer, he is most careful to conceal his connivance at the deed of
blood, lest he should draw down on his head the wrath of his murdered
kinsman's ghost. So, when the deed is done and the murder is out, he
works himself up into a state of virtuous sorrow and indignation, covers
his head with the leaves of a certain plant, and chanting a dirge in
tones of heart-rending grief, marches straight to the village of the
murderers. There, on the public square, surrounded by an attentive
audience, he opens the floodgates of his eloquence and pours forth the
torrent of an aching heart. "You have slain my kinsman," says he, "you
are wicked men! How could you kill so good a man, who conferred so many
benefits on me in his lifetime? I knew nothing of the plot. Had I had an
inkling of it, I would have foiled it. How can I now avenge his death? I
have no property with which to hire men of war to go and punish his
murderers. Yet in spite of everything my murdered kinsman will not
believe in my innocence! He will be angry with me, he will pay me out,
he will do me all the harm he can. Therefore do you declare openly
whether I had any share whatever in his death, and come and strew lime
on my head in order that he may convince himself of my innocence." This
appeal of injured innocence meets with a ready response. The people dust
the leaves on his head with powdered lime; and so, decorated with the
white badge of spotless virtue, and enriched with a boar's tusk or other
valuable object as the price of his compliance, he returns to his
village with a conscience at peace with all the world, reflecting with
satisfaction on the profitable transaction he has just concluded, and
laughing in his sleeve at the poor deluded ghost of his murdered
relative.[457]

[Sidenote: Comedy acted to deceive the ghost of a murdered kinsman.]

Sometimes the worthy soul who thus for a valuable consideration consents
to waive all his personal feelings, will even carry his self-abnegation
so far as to be present and look on at the murder of his kinsman. But
true to his principles he will see to it that the thing is done decently
and humanely. When the struggle is nearly over and the man is down,
writhing on the ground with the murderers busy about him, his loving
kinsman will not suffer them to take an unfair advantage of their
superior numbers to cut him up alive with their knives, to chop him with
their axes, or to smash him with their clubs. He will only allow them to
stab him with their spears, repeating of course the stabs again and
again till the victim ceases to writhe and quiver, and lies there dead
as a stone. Then begins the real time of peril for the virtuous kinsman
who has been a spectator and director of the scene; for the ghost of the
murdered man has now deserted its mangled body, and, still blinded with
blood and smarting with pain, might easily and even excusably
misunderstand the situation. It is essential, therefore, in order to
prevent a painful misapprehension, that the kinsman should at once and
emphatically disclaim any part or parcel in the murder. This he
accordingly does in language which leaves no room for doubt or
ambiguity. He falls into a passion: he rails at the murderers: he
proclaims his horror at their deed. All the way home he refuses to be
comforted. He upbraids the assassins, he utters the most frightful
threats against them; he rushes at them to snatch their weapons from
them and dash them in pieces. But they easily wrench the weapons from
his unresisting hands. For the whole thing is only a piece of acting.
His sole intention is that the ghost may see and hear it all, and being
convinced of the innocence of his dear kinsman may not punish him with
bad crops, wounds, sickness, and other misfortunes. Even when he has
reached the village, he keeps up the comedy for a time, raging, fretting
and fuming at the irreparable loss he has sustained by the death of his
lamented relative.[458]

[Sidenote: Pretence of avenging the ghost of a murdered sorcerer.]

Similarly when a chief has among his subjects a particular sorcerer whom
he fears but with whom he is professedly on terms of friendship, he will
sometimes engage a man to murder him. No sooner, however, is the murder
perpetrated than the chief who bespoke it hastens in seeming indignation
with a band of followers to the murderer's village. The assassin, of
course, has got a hint of what is coming, and he and his friends take
care not to be at home when the chief arrives on his mission of
vengeance. Balked by the absence of their victim the avengers of blood
breathe out fire and slaughter, but content themselves in fact with
smashing an old pot or two, knocking down a deserted hut, and perhaps
felling a banana-tree or a betel-palm. Having thus given the ghost of
the murdered man an unequivocal proof of the sincerity of their
friendship, they return quietly home.[459]

[Sidenote: The Kai afraid of ghosts.]

The habits of Kai ghosts are to some extent just the contrary of those
of living men. They sleep by day and go about their business by night,
when they frighten people and play them all kinds of tricks. Usually
they appear in the form of animals. As light has the effect of blinding
or at least dazzling them, they avoid everything bright, and hence it is
easy to scare them away by means of fire. That is why no native will go
even a short way in the dark without a bamboo torch. If it is absolutely
necessary to go out by night, which he is very loth to do, he will hum
and haw loudly before quitting the house so as to give notice to any
lurking ghost that he is coming with a light, which allows the ghost to
scuttle out of his way in good time. The people of a village live in
terror above all so long as a corpse remains unburied in it; after
nightfall nobody would then venture out of sight of the houses. When a
troop of people go by night to a neighbouring village with flaring
torches in their hands, nobody is willing to walk last on the path; they
all huddle together for safety in the middle, till one man braver than
the rest consents to act as rearguard. The rustling of a bush in the
evening twilight startles them with the dread of some ghastly
apparition; the sight of a pig in the gloaming is converted by their
fears into the vision of a horrible spectre. If a man stumbles, it is
because a ghost has pushed him, and he fancies he perceives the
frightful thing in a tree-stump or any chance object. No wonder a Kai
man fears ghosts, since he believes that the mere touch of one of them
may be fatal. People who fall down in fits or in faints are supposed to
have been touched by ghosts; and on coming to themselves they will tell
their friends with the most solemn assurance how they felt the
death-cold hand of the ghost on their body, and how a shudder ran
through their whole frame at contact with the uncanny being.[460]

[Sidenote: Services rendered to the living by ghosts of the dead.]

But it would be a mistake to imagine that the ghosts of the dead are a
source of danger, annoyance, and discomfort, and nothing more. That is
not so. They may and do render the Kai the most material services in
everyday life, particularly by promoting the supply of food both
vegetable and animal. I have said that these practical savages stand
towards their departed kinsfolk on a strictly commercial footing; and I
will now illustrate the benefits which the Kai hope to receive from the
ghosts in return for all the respect and attention lavished on them. In
the first place, then, so long as a ghost remains in the neighbourhood
of the village, it is expected of him that he shall make the crops
thrive and neither tread them down himself nor allow wild pigs to do so.
The expectation is reasonable, yet the conduct of the ghost does not
always answer to it. Occasionally, whether out of sheer perverseness or
simple absence of mind, he will sit down in a field; and wherever he
does so, he makes a hollow where the fruits will not grow. Indeed any
fruit that he even touches with his foot in passing, shrivels up. Where
these things have happened, the people offer boiled taro and a few crabs
to the ghosts to induce them to keep clear of the crops and to repose
their weary limbs elsewhere than in the tilled fields.[461]

[Sidenote: Ghosts help Kai hunters to kill game.]

But the most important service which the dead render to the living is
the good luck which they vouchsafe to hunters. Hence in order to assure
himself of the favour of the dead the hunter hangs his nets on a grave
before he uses them. If a man was a good and successful hunter in his
lifetime, his ghost will naturally be more than usually able to assist
his brethren in the craft after his death. For that reason when such a
man has just died, the people, to adopt a familiar proverb, hasten to
make hay while the sun shines by hunting very frequently, in the
confident expectation of receiving ghostly help from the deceased
hunter. In the evening, when they return from the chase, they lay a
small portion of their bag near his grave, scatter a powder which
possesses the special virtue of attracting ghosts, and call out,
"So-and-so, come and eat; here I set down food for you, it is a part of
all we have." If after such an offering and invocation the night wind
rustles the tops of the trees or shakes the thatch of leaves on the
roofs, they know that the ghost is in the village. The twinkle of a
glow-worm near his grave is the glitter of his eye. In the morning, too,
before they sally forth to the woods, one of the next of kin to the dead
huntsman will go betimes to his grave, stamp on it to waken the sleeper
below, and call out, "So-and-so, come! we are now about to go out
hunting. Help us to a good bag!" If they have luck, they praise the
deceased as a good spirit and in the evening supply his wants again with
food, tobacco, and betel. The sacrifice, as usually happens in such
cases, does not call for any great exercise of self-denial; since the
spirit consumes only the spiritual essence of the good things, while he
leaves their material substance to be enjoyed by the living.[462]

[Sidenote: Ill-treatment of a ghost who fails to help hunters.]

However, it sometimes happens that the ghost disappoints them, and that
the hunters return in the evening hungry and empty-handed. This may even
be repeated day after day, and still the people will not lose hope. They
think that the ghost is perhaps busy working in his field, or that he
has gone on a visit and will soon come home. To give him time to do his
business or see his friends at leisure, they will remain in the village
for several days. Then, when they imagine that he must surely have
returned, they go out into the woods and try their luck again. But
should there still be no ghost and no game, they begin to be seriously
alarmed. They think that some evil must have befallen him. But if time
goes on and still he gives no sign and the game continues scarce and
shy, their feelings towards the ghost undergo a radical alteration.
Passion getting the better of prudence, they will even reproach him with
ingratitude, taunt him with his uselessness, and leave him to starve.
Should he after that still remain deaf to their railing and regardless
of the short commons to which they have reduced him, they will discharge
a volley of abuse at his grave and trouble themselves about him no more.
However, if, not content with refusing his valuable assistance in the
chase, the ghost should actually blight the crops or send wild boars
into the fields to trample them down, the patience of the long-suffering
people is quite exhausted: the vials of their wrath overflow; and
snatching up their cudgels in a fury they belabour his grave till his
bones ache, or even drive him with blows and curses altogether from the
village.[463]

[Sidenote: The journey of ghosts to the spirit land.]

Such an outcast ghost, if he does not seek his revenge by prowling in
the neighbourhood and preying on society at large, will naturally
bethink himself of repairing to his long home in the under world. For
sooner or later the spirits of the dead congregate there. It is
especially when the flesh has quite mouldered away from his bones that
the ghost packs up his little traps and sets out for the better land.
The entrance to the abode of bliss is a cave to the west of Saddle
Mountain. Here in the gully there is a projecting tree-stump on which
the ghosts perch waiting for a favourable moment to jump into the mouth
of the cavern. When a slight earthquake is felt, a Kai man will often
say, "A ghost has just leaped from the tree into the cave; that is why
the earth is shaking." Down below the ghosts are received by Tulmeng,
lord of the nether world. Often he appears in a canoe to ferry them over
to the further shore. "Blood or wax?" is the laconic question which he
puts to the ghost on the bank. He means to say, "Were you killed or were
you done to death by magic?" For it is with wax that the sorcerer stops
up the fatal little tubes in which he encloses the souls of his enemies.
And the reason why the lord of the dead puts the question to the
newcomer is that the ghosts of the slain and the ghosts of the bewitched
dwell in separate places. Right in front of the land of souls rises a
high steep wall, which cannot be climbed even by ghosts. The spirits
have accordingly to make their way through it and thereupon find
themselves in their new abode. According to some Kai, before the ghosts
are admitted to ghost land they must swing to and fro on a rope and then
drop into water, where they are washed clean of bloodstains and all
impurity; after which they ascend, spick and span, the last slope to the
village of ghosts.

[Sidenote: Life of ghosts in the other world.]

Tulmeng has the reputation of being a very stern ruler in his weird
realm, but the Kai really know very little about him. He beats
refractory souls, and it is essential that every ghost should have his
ears and nose bored. The operation is very painful, and to escape it
most people take the precaution of having their ears and noses bored in
their lifetime. Life in the other world goes on just like life in this
one. Houses are built exactly like houses on earth, and there as here
pigs swarm in the streets. Fields are tilled and crops are got in;
ghostly men marry ghostly women, who give birth to ghostly children. The
same old round of love and hate, of quarrelling and fighting, of battle,
murder and sudden death goes on in the shadowy realm below ground just
as in the more solid world above ground. Sorcerers are there also, and
they breed just as bad blood among the dead as among the living. All
things indeed are the same except for their shadowy unsubstantial
texture.[464]

[Sidenote: Ghosts die and turn into animals.]

But the ghosts do not live for ever in the nether world. They die the
second death and turn into animals, generally into cuscuses. In the
shape of animals they haunt the wildest, deepest, darkest glens of the
rugged mountains. No one but the owner has the right to set foot on such
haunted ground. He may even kill the ghostly animals. Any one else who
dared to disturb them in their haunts would do so at the peril of his
life. But even the owner of the land who has killed one of the ghostly
creatures is bound to appease the spirit of the dead beast. He may not
cut up the carcase at once, but must leave it for a time, perhaps for a
whole night, after laying on it presents which are intended to mollify
and soothe the injured spirit. In placing the gifts on the body he says,
"Take the gifts and leave us that which was a game animal, that we may
eat it." When the animal's ghost has appropriated the spiritual essence
of the offerings, the hunter and his family may eat the carcase. Should
one of these ghostly creatures die or be killed, its spirit turns either
into an insect or into an ant-hill. Children who would destroy such an
ant-hill or throw little darts at it, are warned by their elders not to
indulge in such sacrilegious sport. When the insect also dies, the
series of spiritual transformations is at an end.[465]

[Sidenote: Ghosts of persons eminent for good or evil in their lives are
remembered and appealed to for help long after their deaths. Prayers to
ghosts for rain, a good crop of yams, and so forth.]

The ghosts whose help is invoked by hunters and farmers are commonly the
spirits of persons who have lately died, since such spirits linger for a
time in the neighbourhood, or rather in the memory of the people. But
besides these spirits of the recent dead there are certain older ghosts
who may be regarded as permanent patrons of hunting and other
departments of life and nature, because their fame has survived long
after the men or women themselves were gathered to their fathers. For
example, men who were bold and resolute in battle during their life will
be invoked long after their death, whenever a stout heart is needed for
some feat of daring. And men who were notorious thieves and villains in
the flesh will be invited, long after their bodies have mouldered in the
grave, to lend their help when a deed of villainy is to be done. The
names of men or women who were eminent for good or evil in their lives
survive indefinitely in the memory of the tribe. Thus before a battle
many a Kai warrior will throw something over the enemy's village and as
he does so he will softly call on two ghosts, "We and Gunang, ye two
heroes, come and guard me and keep the foes from me, that they may not
be able to hurt me! But stand by me that I may be able to riddle them
with spears!" Again, when a magician wishes to cause an earthquake, he
will take a handful of ashes, wrap them in certain leaves, and pronounce
the following spell over the packet: "Thou man Sâiong, throw about
everything that exists; houses, villages, paths, fields, bushes and tall
forest trees, yams, and taro, throw them all hither and thither; break
and smash everything, but leave me in peace!" While he utters this
incantation or prayer, the sorcerer's body itself twitches and quivers
more and more violently, till the hut creaks and cracks and his strength
is exhausted. Then he throws the packet of ashes out of the hut, and
after that the earthquake is sure to follow sooner or later. So when
they want rain, the Kai call upon two ghostly men named Balong and Batu,
or Dinding and Bojang, to drive away a certain woman named Yondimi, so
that the rain which she is holding up may fall upon the earth. The
prayer for rain addressed to the ghosts is combined with a magical spell
pronounced over a stone. And when rain has fallen in abundance and the
Kai wish to make it cease, they strew hot ashes on the stone or lay it
in a wood fire. On the principle of homoeopathic magic the heat of the
ashes or of the fire is supposed to dry up the rain. Thus in these
ceremonies for the production or cessation of rain we see that religion,
represented by the invocation of the ghosts, goes hand in hand with
magic, represented by the hocus-pocus with the stone. Again, certain
celebrated ghosts are invoked to promote the growth of taro and yams.
Thus to ensure a good crop of taro, the suppliant will hold a bud of
taro in his hand and pray, "O Mrs. Zewanong, may my taro leaves unfold
till they are as broad as the petticoat which covers thy loins!" When
they are planting yams, they pray to two women named Tendung and Molewa
that they would cause the yams to put forth as long suckers as the
strings which the women twist to make into carrying-nets. Before they
dig up the yams, they take a branch and drive with it the evil spirits
or ghosts from the house in which the yams are to be stored. Having
effected this clearance they stick the branch in the roof of the house
and appoint a certain ghostly man named Ehang to act as warden. Again,
fowlers invoke a married pair of ghosts called Mânze and Tâmingoka to
frighten the birds from the trees and drive them on the limed twigs. Or
they pray to a ghostly woman named Lâne, saying, "In all places of the
neighbourhood shake the betel-nuts from the palms, that they may fall
down to me on this fruit-tree and knock the berries from the boughs!"
But by the betel-nuts the fowler in veiled language means the birds,
which are to come in flocks to the fruit-tree and be caught fast by the
lime on the branches. Again, when a fisherman wishes to catch eels, he
prays to two ghosts called Yambi and Ngigwâli, saying: "Come, ye two
men, and go down into the holes of the pool; smite the eels in them, and
draw them out on the bank, that I may kill them!" Once more, when a
child suffers from enlarged spleen, which shews as a swelling on its
body, the parent will pray to a ghost named Aidolo for help in these
words: "Come and help this child! It is big with a ball of sickness. Cut
it up and squeeze and squash it, that the blood and pus may drain away
and my child may be made whole!" To give point to the prayer the
petitioner simultaneously pretends to cut a cross on the swelling with a
knife.[466]

[Sidenote: Possible development of departmental gods out of ghosts.]

From this it appears that men and women who impressed their
contemporaries by their talents, their virtues, or their vices in their
lifetime, are sometimes remembered long after their death and continue
to be invoked by their descendants for help in the particular department
in which they had formerly rendered themselves eminent either for good
or for evil. Such powerful and admired or dreaded ghosts might easily
grow in time into gods and goddesses, who are worshipped as presiding
over the various departments of nature and of human life. There is good
reason to think that among many tribes and nations of the world the
history of a god, if it could be recovered, would be found to be the
history of a spirit who served his apprenticeship as a ghost before he
was promoted to the rank of deity.

[Sidenote: Kai lads at circumcision supposed to be swallowed by a
monster. Bull-roarers.]

Before quitting the Kai tribe I will mention that they, like the other
tribes on this coast, practise circumcision and appear to associate the
custom more or less vaguely with the spirits of the dead. Like their
neighbours, they impress women with the belief that at circumcision the
lads are swallowed by a monster, who can only be induced to disgorge
them by the bribe of much food and especially of pigs, which are
accordingly bred and kept nominally for this purpose, but really to
furnish a banquet for the men alone. The ceremony is performed at
irregular intervals of several years. A long hut, entered through a high
door at one end and tapering away at the other, is built in a lonely
part of the forest. It represents the monster which is to swallow the
novices in its capacious jaws. The process of deglutition is represented
as follows. In front of the entrance to the hut a scaffold is erected
and a man mounts it. The novices are then led up one by one and passed
under the scaffold. As each comes up, the man overhead makes a gesture
of swallowing, while at the same time he takes a great gulp of water
from a coco-nut flask. The trembling novice is now supposed to be in the
maw of the monster; but a pig is offered for his redemption, the man on
the scaffold, as representative of the beast, accepts the offering, a
gurgling sound is heard, and the water which he had just gulped descends
in a jet on the novice, who now goes free. The actual circumcision
follows immediately on this impressive pantomime. The monster who
swallows the lads is named Ngosa, which means "Grandfather"; and the
same name is given to the bull-roarers which are swung at the festival.
The Kai bull-roarer is a lance-shaped piece of palm-wood, more or less
elaborately carved, which being swung at the end of a string emits the
usual droning, booming sound. When they are not in use, the instruments
are kept, carefully wrapt up, in the men's house, which no woman may
enter. Only the old men have the right to undo these precious bundles
and take out the sacred bull-roarers. Women, too, are strictly excluded
from the neighbourhood of the circumcision ground; any who intrude on it
are put to death. The mythical monster who is supposed to haunt the
ground is said to be very dangerous to the female sex. When the novices
go forth to be swallowed by him in the forest, the women who remain in
the village weep and wail; and they rejoice greatly when the lads come
back safe and sound.[467]

[Sidenote: The Tami Islanders of Huon Gulf.]

The last tribe of German New Guinea to which I shall invite your
attention are the Tami. Most of them live not on the mainland but in a
group of islands in Huon Gulf, to the south-east of Yabim. They are of a
purer Melanesian stock than most of the tribes on the neighbouring coast
of New Guinea. The German missionary Mr. G. Bamler, who lived amongst
them for ten years and knows the people and their language intimately,
thinks that they may even contain a strong infusion of Polynesian
blood.[468] They are a seafaring folk, who extend their voyages all
along the coast for the purpose of trade, bartering mats, pearls, fish,
coco-nuts, and other tree-fruits which grow on their islands for taro,
bananas, sugar-cane, and sago, which grow on the mainland.[469]

[Sidenote: The long soul and the short soul.]

In the opinion of these people every man has two souls, a long one and a
short one. The long soul is identified with the shadow. It is only
loosely attached to its owner, wandering away from his body in sleep and
returning to it when he wakes with a start. The seat of the long soul is
in the stomach. When the man dies, the long soul quits his body and
appears to his relations at a distance, who thus obtain the first
intimation of his decease. Having conveyed the sad intelligence to them,
the long soul departs by way of Maligep, on the west coast of New
Britain, to a village on the north coast, the inhabitants of which
recognise the Tami ghosts as they flit past.[470]

[Sidenote: Departure of the short soul to Lamboam, the nether world.]

The short soul, on the other hand, never leaves the body in life but
only after death. Even then it tarries for a time in the neighbourhood
of the body before it takes its departure for Lamboam, which is the
abode of the dead in the nether world. The Tami bury their dead in
shallow graves under or near the houses. They collect in a coco-nut
shell the maggots which swarm from the decaying corpse; and when the
insects cease to swarm, they know that the short soul has gone away to
its long home. It is the short soul which receives and carries away with
it the offerings that are made to the deceased. These offerings serve a
double purpose; they form the nucleus of the dead man's property in the
far country, and they ensure him a friendly reception on his arrival.
For example, the soul shivers with cold, when it first reaches the
subterranean realm, and the other ghosts, the old stagers, obligingly
heat stones to warm it up.[471]

[Sidenote: Dilemma of the Tami.]

However, the restless spirit returns from time to time to haunt and
terrify the sorcerer, who was the cause of its death. But its threats
are idle; it can really do him very little harm. Yet it keeps its
ghostly eye on its surviving relatives to see that they do not stand on
a friendly footing with the wicked sorcerer. Strictly speaking the Tami
ought to avenge his death, but as a matter of fact they do not. The
truth of it is that the Tami do a very good business with the people on
the mainland, among whom the sorcerer is usually to be found; and the
amicable relations which are essential to the maintenance of commerce
would unquestionably suffer if a merchant were to indulge his resentment
so far as to take his customer's head instead of his sago and bananas.
These considerations reduce the Tami to a painful dilemma. If they
gratify the ghost they lose a customer; if they keep the customer they
must bitterly offend the ghost, who will punish them for their
disrespect to his memory. In this delicate position the Tami endeavour
to make the best of both worlds. On the one hand, by loudly professing
their wrath and indignation against the guilty sorcerer they endeavour
to appease the ghost; and on the other hand, by leaving the villain
unmolested they do nothing to alienate their customers.[472]

[Sidenote: Funeral and mourning customs of the Tami.]

But if they do not gratify the desire for vengeance of the blood-thirsty
ghost, they are at great pains to testify their respect for him in all
other ways. The whole village takes part in the mourning and lamentation
for a death. The women dance death dances, the men lend a hand in the
preparations for the burial. All festivities are stopped: the drums are
silent. As the people believe that when anybody has died, the ghosts of
his dead kinsfolk gather in the village and are joined by other ghosts,
they are careful not to leave the mourners alone, exposed to the too
pressing attentions of the spectral visitors; they keep the bereaved
family company, especially at night; indeed, if the weather be fine, the
whole population of the village will encamp round the temporary hut
which is built on the grave. This watch at the grave lasts about eight
days. The watchers are supported and comforted in the discharge of their
pious duty by a liberal allowance of food and drink. Nor are the wants
of the ghost himself forgotten. Many families offer him taro broth at
this time. The period of mourning lasts two or three years. During the
first year the observances prescribed by custom are strictly followed,
and the nearest relations must avoid publicity. After a year they are
allowed more freedom; for example, the widow may lay aside the heavy
net, which is her costume in full mourning, and may replace it by a
lighter one; moreover, she may quit the house. At the end of the long
period of mourning, dances are danced in honour of the deceased. They
begin in the evening and last all night till daybreak. The mourners on
these occasions smear their heads, necks, and breasts with black earth.
A great quantity of food, particularly of pigs and taro broth, has been
made ready; for the whole village, and perhaps a neighbouring village
also, has been invited to share in the festivity, which may last eight
or ten days, if the provisions suffice. The dances begin with a gravity
and solemnity appropriate to a memorial of the dead; but towards the
close the performers indulge in a lighter vein and act comic pieces,
which so tickle the fancy of the spectators, that many of them roll on
the ground with laughter. Finally, the temporary hut erected on the
grave is taken down and the materials burned. As the other ghosts of the
village are believed to be present in attendance on the one who is the
guest of honour, all the villagers bring offerings and throw them into
the fire. However, persons who are not related to the ghosts may snatch
the offerings from the flames and convert them to their own use.
Precious objects, such as boars' tusks and dogs' teeth, are not
committed to the fire but merely swung over it in a bag, while the name
of the person who offers the valuables in this economical fashion is
proclaimed aloud for the satisfaction of the ghost. With these dances,
pantomimes, and offerings the living have discharged the last duties of
respect and affection to the dead. Yet for a while his ghost is thought
to linger as a domestic or household spirit; but the time comes when he
is wholly forgotten.[473]

[Sidenote: Bones of the dead dug up and kept in the house for a time.]

Many families, however, not content with the observance of these
ordinary ceremonies, dig up the bodies of their dead when the flesh has
mouldered away, redden the bones with ochre, and keep them bundled up in
the house for two or three years, when these relics of mortality are
finally committed to the earth. The intention of thus preserving the
bones for years in the house is not mentioned, but no doubt it is to
maintain a closer intimacy with the departed spirit than seems possible
if his skeleton is left to rot in the grave. When he is at last laid in
the ground, the tomb is enclosed by a strong wooden fence and planted
with ornamental shrubs. Yet in the course of years, as the memory of the
deceased fades away, his grave is neglected, the fence decays, the
shrubs run wild; another generation, which knew him not, will build a
house on the spot, and if in digging the foundations they turn up his
bleached and mouldering bones, it is nothing to them: why should they
trouble themselves about the spirit of a man or woman whose very name is
forgotten?[474]

[Footnote 450: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 142 _sq._]

[Footnote 451: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 143.]

[Footnote 452: Ch. Keysser, _l.c._]

[Footnote 453: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 143 _sq._]

[Footnote 454: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 62 _sq._]

[Footnote 455: Ch. Keysser, pp. 64 _sqq._, 147 _sq._]

[Footnote 456: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 132.]

[Footnote 457: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 148.]

[Footnote 458: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 148 _sq._]

[Footnote 459: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 149.]

[Footnote 460: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 147.]

[Footnote 461: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 145.]

[Footnote 462: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ p. 145.]

[Footnote 463: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 145 _sq._]

[Footnote 464: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 149 _sq._]

[Footnote 465: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 112, 150 _sq._]

[Footnote 466: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 151-154. In this passage the
ghosts are spoken of simply as spirits (_Geister_); but the context
proves that the spirits in question are those of the dead.]

[Footnote 467: Ch. Keysser, _op. cit._ pp. 34-40.]

[Footnote 468: G. Bamler, "Tami," in R. Neuhauss's _Deutsch Neu-Guinea_,
iii. (Berlin, 1911) p. 489; compare _ib._ p. vii.]

[Footnote 469: H. Zahn, "Die Jabim," in R. Neuhauss's _Deutsch
Neu-Guinea_, iii. 315 _sq._]

[Footnote 470: G. Bamler, _op. cit._ p. 518.]

[Footnote 471: G. Bamler, _l.c._]

[Footnote 472: G. Bamler, _op. cit._ pp. 518 _sq._]

[Footnote 473: G. Bamler, _op. cit._ pp. 519-522.]

[Footnote 474: G. Bamler, _op. cit._ p. 518.]



LECTURE XIV

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE NATIVES OF GERMAN AND DUTCH NEW
GUINEA


[Sidenote: The Tami doctrine of souls and gods. The Tago spirits,
represented by masked men.]

At the close of the last lecture I dealt with the Tami, a people of
Melanesian stock who inhabit a group of islands off the mainland of New
Guinea. I explained their theory of the human soul. According to them,
every man has two distinct souls, a long one and a short one, both of
which survive his death, but depart in different directions, one of them
repairing to the lower world, and the other being last sighted off the
coast of New Britain. But the knowledge which these savages possess of
the spiritual world is not limited to the souls of men; they are
acquainted with several deities (_buwun_), who live in the otherwise
uninhabited island of Djan. They are beings of an amorous disposition,
and though their real shape is that of a fish's body with a human head,
they can take on the form of men in order to seduce women. They also
cause epidemics and earthquakes; yet the people shew them no respect,
for they believe them to be dull-witted as well as lecherous. At most,
if a fearful epidemic is raging, they will offer the gods a lean little
pig or a mangy cur; and should an earthquake last longer than usual they
will rap on the ground, saying, "Hullo, you down there! easy a little!
We men are still here." They also profess acquaintance with a god named
Anuto, who created the heaven and the earth together with the first man
and woman. He is a good being; nobody need be afraid of him. At
festivals and meat markets the Tami offer him the first portion in a
little basket, which a lad carries away into the wood and leaves there.
As usual, the deity consumes only the soul of the offering; the bearer
eats the material substance.[475] The Tami further believe in certain
spirits called Tago which are very old, having been created at the same
time as the village. Every family or clan possesses its own familiar
spirits of this class. They are represented by men who disguise their
bodies in dense masses of sago leaves and their faces in grotesque masks
with long hooked noses. In this costume the maskers jig it as well as
the heavy unwieldy disguise allows them to do. But the dance consists in
little more than running round and round in a circle, with an occasional
hop; the orchestra stands in the middle, singing and thumping drums.
Sometimes two or three of the masked men will make a round of the
village, pelting the men with pebbles or hard fruits, while the women
and children scurry out of their way. When they are not in use the masks
are hidden away in a hut in the forest, which women and children may not
approach. Their secret is sternly kept: any betrayal of it is punished
with death. The season for the exhibition of these masked dances recurs
only once in ten or twelve years, but it extends over a year or
thereabout. During the whole of the dancing-season, curiously enough,
coco-nuts are strictly tabooed; no person may eat them, so that the
unused nuts accumulate in thousands. As coco-nuts ordinarily form a
daily article of diet with the Tami, their prohibition for a year is
felt by the people as a privation. The meaning of the prohibition and
also of the masquerades remains obscure.[476]

[Sidenote: The superhuman beings with whom the Tami are chiefly
concerned are the souls of the dead. Offerings to the dead.]

But while the Tami believe in gods and spirits of various sorts, the
superhuman beings with whom they chiefly concern themselves are the
souls of the dead. On this subject Mr. Bamler writes: "All the spirits
whom we have thus far described are of little importance in the life and
thought of the Tami; they are remembered only on special occasions. The
spirits who fill the thoughts and attract the attention of the Tami are
the _kani_, that is, the souls of the departed. The Tami therefore
practise the worship of ancestors. Yet the memory of ancestors does not
reach far back; people occupy themselves only with the souls of those
relatives whom they have personally known. Hence the worship seldom
extends beyond the grandfather, even when a knowledge of more remote
progenitors survives. An offering to the ancestors takes the form of a
little dish of boiled taro, a cigar, betel-nuts, and the like; but the
spirits partake only of the image or soul of the things offered, while
the material substance falls to the share of mankind. There is no fixed
rule as to the manner or time of the offering. It is left to the caprice
or childlike affection of the individual to decide how he will make it.
With most natives it is a simple matter of business, the throwing of a
sprat to catch a salmon; the man brings his offering only when he needs
the help of the spirits. There is very little ceremony about it. The
offerer will say, for example, 'There, I lay a cigar for you; smoke it
and hereafter drive fish towards me'; or, 'Accompany me on the journey,
and see to it that I do good business.' The place where the food is
presented is the shelf for pots and dishes under the roof. Thus they
imagine that the spirits exert a tolerably far-reaching influence over
all created things, and it is their notion that the spirits take
possession of the objects. In like manner the spirits can injure a man
by thwarting his plans, for example, by frightening away the fish,
blighting the fruits of the fields, and so forth. If the native is
forced to conclude that the spirits are against him, he has no
hesitation about deceiving them in the grossest manner. Should the
requisite sacrifices be inconvenient to him, he flatly refuses them, or
gives the shabbiest things he can find. In all this the native displays
the same craft and cunning which he is apt to practise in his dealings
with the whites. He fears the power which the spirit has over him, yet
he tries whether he cannot outwit the spirit like an arrant
block-head."[477]

[Sidenote: Crude motives for sacrifice.]

This account of the crude but quite intelligible motives which lead
these savages to sacrifice to the spirits of their dead may be commended
to the attention of writers on the history of religion who read into
primitive sacrifice certain subtle and complex ideas which it never
entered into the mind of primitive man to conceive and which, even if
they were explained to him, he would in all probability be totally
unable to understand.

[Sidenote: Lamboam, the land of the dead.]

According to the Tami, the souls of the dead live in the nether world.
The spirit-land is called Lamboam; the entrance to it is by a cleft in a
rock. The natives of the mainland also call Hades by the name of
Lamboam; but whereas according to them every village has its own little
Lamboam, the Tami hold that there is only one big Lamboam for everybody,
though it is subdivided into many mansions, of which every village has
one to itself. In Lamboam everything is fairer and more perfect than on
earth. The fruits are so plentiful that the blessed spirits can, if they
choose, give themselves up to the delights of idleness; the villages are
full of ornamental plants. Yet on the other hand we are informed that
life beneath the ground is very like life above it: people work and
marry, they squabble and wrangle, they fall sick and even die, just as
people do on earth. Souls which die the second death in Lamboam are
changed into vermin, such as ants and worms; however, others say that
they turn into wood-spirits, who do men a mischief in the fields. It is
not so easy as is commonly supposed to effect an entrance into the
spirit-land. You must pass a river, and even when you have crossed it
you will be very likely to suffer from the practical jokes which the
merry old ghosts play on a raw newcomer. A very favourite trick of
theirs is to send him up a pandanus tree to look for fruit. If he is
simple enough to comply, they catch him by the legs as he is swarming up
the trunk and drag him down, so that his whole body is fearfully
scratched, if not quite ripped up, by the rough bark. That is why people
put valuable things with the dead in the grave, in order that their
ghosts on arrival in Lamboam may have the wherewithal to purchase the
good graces of the facetious old stagers.[478]

[Sidenote: Return of the ghosts to earth, sometimes in the form of
serpents.]

However, even when the ghosts have succeeded in effecting a lodgment in
Lamboam, they are not strictly confined to it. They can break bounds at
any moment and return to the upper air. This they do particularly when
any of their surviving relations is at the point of death. Ghosts of
deceased kinsfolk and of others gather round the parting soul and attend
it to the far country. Yet sometimes, apparently, the soul sets out
alone, for the anxious relatives will call out to it, "Miss not the
way." But ghosts visit their surviving friends at other times than at
the moment of death. For example, some families possess the power of
calling up spirits in the form of serpents from the vasty deep. The
spirits whom they evoke are usually those of persons who have died quite
lately; for such ghosts cannot return to earth except in the guise of
serpents. In this novel shape they naturally feel shy and hide under a
mat. They come out only in the dusk of the evening or the darkness of
night and sit on the shelf for pots and dishes under the roof. They have
lost the faculty of speech and can express themselves only in whistles.
These whistles the seer, who is generally a woman, understands perfectly
and interprets to his or her less gifted fellows. In this way a
considerable body of information, more or less accurate in detail, is
collected as to life in the other world. More than that, it is even
possible for men, and especially for women, to go down alive into the
nether world and prosecute their enquiries at first hand among the
ghosts. Women who possess this remarkable faculty transmit it to their
daughters, so that the profession is hereditary. When anybody wishes to
ascertain how it fares with one of his dead kinsfolk in Lamboam, he has
nothing to do but to engage the services of one of these professional
mediums, giving her something which belonged to his departed friend. The
medium rubs her forehead with ginger, muttering an incantation, lies
down on the dead man's property, and falls asleep. Her soul then goes
down in a dream to deadland and elicits from the ghosts the required
information, which on waking from sleep she imparts to the anxious
enquirer.[479]

[Sidenote: Sickness caused by a spirit.]

Sickness accompanied by fainting fits is ascribed to the action of a
spirit, it may be the ghost of a near relation, who has carried off the
"long soul" of the sufferer. The truant soul is recalled by a blast
blown on a triton-shell, in which some chewed ginger or _massoi_ bark
has been inserted. The booming sound attracts the attention of the
vagrant spirit, while the smell of the bark or of the ginger drives away
the ghost.[480]

[Sidenote: Tami lads supposed to be swallowed by a monster at
circumcision; the monster and the bull-roarer are both called _kani_.]

The name which the Tami give to the spirits of the dead is _kani_; but
like other tribes in this part of New Guinea they apply the same term to
the bull-roarer and also to the mythical monster who is supposed to
swallow the lads at circumcision. The identity of the name for the three
things seems to prove that in the mind of the Tami the initiatory rites,
of which circumcision is the principal feature, are closely associated
with their conception of the state of the human soul after death, though
what the precise nature of the association may be still remains obscure.
Like their neighbours on the mainland of New Guinea, the Tami give out
that the novices at initiation are swallowed by a monster or dragon, who
only consents to disgorge his prey in consideration of a tribute of
pigs, the rate of the tribute being one novice one pig. In the act of
disgorging the lad the dragon bites him, and the bite is visible to all
in the cut called circumcision. The voice of the monster is heard in the
hum of the bull-roarers, which are swung at the ceremony in such numbers
and with such force that in still weather the booming sound may be heard
across the sea for many miles. To impress women and children with an
idea of the superhuman strength of the dragon deep grooves are cut in
the trunks of trees and afterwards exhibited to the uninitiated as the
marks made by the monster in tugging at the ropes which bound him to the
trees. However, the whole thing is an open secret to the married women,
though they keep their knowledge to themselves, fearing to incur the
penalty of death which is denounced upon all who betray the mystery.

[Sidenote: The rite of circumcision. Seclusion and return of the newly
circumcised lads.]

The initiatory rites are now celebrated only at intervals of many years.
When the time is come for the ceremony, women are banished from the
village and special quarters prepared for them elsewhere; for they are
strictly forbidden to set foot in the village while the monster or
spirit who swallows the lads has his abode in it. A special hut is then
built for the accommodation of the novices during the many months which
they spend in seclusion before and after the operation of circumcision.
The hut represents the monster; it consists of a framework of thin poles
covered with palm-leaf mats and tapering down at one end. Looked at from
a distance it resembles a whale. The backbone is composed of a betel-nut
palm, which has been grubbed up with its roots. The root with its fibres
represents the monster's head and hair, and under it are painted a pair
of eyes and a great mouth in red, white, and black. The passage of the
novices into the monster's belly is represented by causing them to
defile past a row of men who hold bull-roarers aloft over the heads of
the candidates. Before this march past takes place, each of the
candidates is struck by the chief with a bull-roarer on his chin and
brow. The operation of circumcising the lads is afterwards performed
behind a screen set up near the monster-shaped house. It is followed by
a great feast on swine's flesh. After their wounds are healed the
circumcised lads have still to remain in seclusion for three or four
months. Finally, they are brought back to the village with great pomp.
For this solemn ceremony their faces, necks, and breasts are whitened
with a thick layer of chalk, while red stripes, painted round their
mouths and eyes and prolonged to the ears, add to the grotesqueness of
their appearance. Their eyes are closed with a plaster of chalk, and
thus curiously arrayed and blindfolded they are led back to the village
square, where leave is formally given them to open their eyes. At the
entrance to the village they are received by the women, who weep for joy
and strew boiled field-fruits on the way. Next morning the newly
initiated lads wash off the crust of chalk, and have their hair, faces,
necks, and breasts painted bright red. This ends their time of
seclusion, which has lasted five or six months; they now rank as
full-grown men.[481]

[Sidenote: Simulation of death and resurrection.]

In these initiatory rites, as in the similar rites of the neighbouring
tribes on the mainland of New Guinea, we may perhaps detect a simulation
of death and of resurrection to a new and higher life. But why
circumcision should form the central feature of such a drama is a
question to which as yet no certain or even very probable answer can be
given. The bodily mutilations of various sorts, which in many savage
tribes mark the transition from boyhood to manhood, remain one of the
obscurest features in the life of uncultured races. That they are in
most cases connected with the great change which takes place in the
sexes at puberty seems fairly certain; but we are far from understanding
the ideas which primitive man has formed on this mysterious subject.

[Sidenote: The natives of Dutch New Guinea.]

That ends what I have to say as to the notions of death and a life
hereafter which are entertained by the natives of German New Guinea. We
now turn to the natives of Dutch New Guinea, who occupy roughly speaking
the western half of the great island. Our information as to their
customs and beliefs on this subject is much scantier, and accordingly my
account of them will be much briefer.

[Sidenote: Geelvink Bay and Doreh Bay. The Noofoor or Noomfor people.
Their material culture and arts of life.]

Towards the western end of the Dutch possession there is on the northern
coast a deep and wide indentation known as Geelvink Bay, which in its
north-west corner includes a very much smaller indentation known as
Doreh Bay. Scattered about in the waters of the great Geelvink Bay are
many islands of various sizes, such as Biak or Wiak, Jappen or Jobi, Run
or Ron, Noomfor, and many more. It is in regard to the natives who
inhabit the coasts or islands of Geelvink Bay that our information is
perhaps least imperfect, and it is accordingly with them that I shall
begin. In physical appearance, expression of the face, mode of wearing
the hair, and still more in manners and customs these natives of the
coast and islands differ from the natives of the mountains in the
interior. The name given to them by Dutch and German writers is Noofoor
or Noomfor. Their original home is believed to be the island of Biak or
Wiak, which lies at the northern entrance of the bay, and from which
they are supposed to have spread southwards and south-westwards to the
other islands and to the mainland of New Guinea.[482] They are a
handsomely built race. Their colour is usually dark brown, but in some
individuals it shades off to light-brown, while in others it deepens
into black-brown. The forehead is high and narrow; the eye is dark brown
or black with a lively expression; the nose broad and flat, the lips
thick and projecting. The cheekbones are not very high. The facial angle
agrees with that of Europeans. The hair is abundant and frizzly. The
people live in settled villages and subsist by agriculture, hunting, and
fishing. Their large communal houses are raised above the ground on
piles; on the coast they are built over the water. Each house has a long
gallery, one in front and one behind, and a long passage running down
the middle of the dwelling, with the rooms arranged on either side of
it. Each room has its own fireplace and is occupied by a single family.
One such communal house may contain from ten to twenty families with a
hundred or more men, women, and children, besides dogs, fowls, parrots,
and other creatures. When the house is built over the water, it is
commonly connected with the shore by a bridge; but in some places no
such bridge exists, and at high water the inmates can only communicate
with the shore by means of their canoes. The staple food of the people
is sago, which they extract from the sago-palm; but they also make use
of bread-fruit, together with millet, rice, and maize, whenever they can
obtain these cereals. Their flesh diet includes wild pigs, birds, fish,
and trepang. While some of them subsist mainly by fishing and commerce,
others devote themselves almost exclusively to the cultivation of their
gardens, which they lay out in clearings of the dense tropical forest,
employing chiefly axes and chopping-knives as their instruments of
tillage. Of ploughs they, like most savages, seem to know nothing. The
rice and other plants which they raise in these gardens are produced by
the dry method of cultivation. In hunting birds they employ chiefly bows
and arrows, but sometimes also snares. The arrows with which they shoot
the birds of paradise are blunted so as not to injure the splendid
plumage of the birds. Turtle-shells, feathers of the birds of paradise,
and trepang are among the principal articles which they barter with
traders for cotton-goods, knives, swords, axes, beads and so forth. They
display some skill and taste in wood-carving. The art of working in iron
has been introduced among them from abroad and is now extensively
practised by the men. They make large dug-out canoes with outriggers,
which seem to be very seaworthy, for they accomplish long voyages even
in stormy weather. The making of pottery, basket-work, and weaving,
together with pounding rice and cooking food, are the special business
of women. The men wear waistbands or loin-cloths made of bark, which is
beaten till it becomes as supple as leather. The women wear petticoats
or strips of blue cotton round their loins, and as ornaments they have
rings of silver, copper, or shell on their arms and legs.[483] Thus the
people have attained to a fair degree of barbaric culture.

[Sidenote: Fear of ghosts. Ideas of the spirit-world.]

Now it is significant that among these comparatively advanced savages
the fear of ghosts and the reverence entertained for them have developed
into something which might almost be called a systematic worship of the
dead. As to their fear of ghosts I will quote the evidence of a Dutch
missionary, Mr. J. L. van Hasselt, who lived for many years among them
and is the author of a grammar and dictionary of their language. He
says: "That a great fear of ghosts prevails among the Papuans is
intelligible. Even by day they are reluctant to pass a grave, but
nothing would induce them to do so by night. For the dead are then
roaming about in their search for gambier and tobacco, and they may also
sail out to sea in a canoe. Some of the departed, above all the
so-called _Mambrie_ or heroes, inspire them with especial fear. In such
cases for some days after the burial you may hear about sunset a
simultaneous and horrible din in all the houses of all the villages, a
yelling, screaming, beating and throwing of sticks; happily the uproar
does not last long: its intention is to compel the ghost to take himself
off: they have given him all that befits him, namely, a grave, a funeral
banquet, and funeral ornaments; and now they beseech him not to thrust
himself on their observation any more, not to breathe any sickness upon
the survivors, and not to kill them or 'fetch' them, as the Papuans put
it. Their ideas of the spirit-world are very vague. Their usual answer
to such questions is, 'We know not.' If you press them, they will
commonly say that the spirit realm is under the earth or under the
bottom of the sea. Everything there is as it is in the upper world, only
the vegetation down below is more luxuriant, and all plants grow faster.
Their fear of death and their helpless wailing over the dead indicate
that the misty kingdom of the shades offers but little that is
consolatory to the Papuan at his departure from this world."[484]

[Sidenote: Fear of ghosts in general and of the ghosts of the slain in
particular.]

Again, speaking of the natives of Doreh, a Dutch official observes that
"superstition and magic play a principal part in the life of the Papuan.
Occasions for such absurdities he discovers at every step. Thus he
cherishes a great fear of the ghosts of slain persons, for which reason
their bodies remain unburied on the spot where they were murdered. When
a murder has taken place in the village, the inhabitants assemble for
several evenings in succession and raise a fearful outcry in order to
chase away the soul, in case it should be minded to return to the
village. They set up miniature wooden houses here and there on trees in
the forest for the ghosts of persons who die of disease or through
accidents, believing that the souls take up their abode in them."[485]
The same writer remarks that these savages have no priests, but that
they have magicians (_kokinsor_), who practise exorcisms, work magic,
and heal the sick, for which they receive a small payment in articles of
barter or food.[486] Speaking of the Papuans of Dutch New Guinea in
general another writer informs us that "they honour the memory of the
dead in every way, because they ascribe to the spirits of the departed a
great influence on the life of the survivors.... Whereas in life all
good and evil comes from the soul, after death, on the other hand, the
spirit works for the most part only evil. It loves especially to haunt
by night the neighbourhood of its old dwelling and the grave; so the
people particularly avoid the neighbourhood of graves at night, and when
darkness has fallen they will not go out except with a burning brand....
According to the belief of the Papuans the ghosts cause sickness, bad
harvests, war, and in general every misfortune. From fear of such evils
and in order to keep them in good humour, the people make provision for
the spirits of the departed after death. Also they sacrifice to them
before every important undertaking and never fail to ask their
advice."[487]

[Sidenote: Papuan ideas as to the state of the dead.]

A Dutch writer, who has given us a comparatively full account of the
natives of Geelvink Bay, describes as follows their views in regard to
the state of the dead: "According to the Papuans the soul, which they
imagine to have its seat in the blood, continues to exist at the bottom
of the sea, and every one who dies goes thither. They imagine the state
of things there to be much the same as that in which they lived on
earth. Hence at his burial the dead man is given an equipment suitable
to his rank and position in life. He is provided with a bow and arrow,
armlets and body-ornaments, pots and pans, everything that may stand him
in good stead in the life hereafter. This provision must not be
neglected, for it is a prevalent opinion that the dead continue always
to maintain relations with the world and with the living, that they
possess superhuman power, exercise great influence over the affairs of
life on earth, and are able to protect in danger, to stand by in war, to
guard against shipwreck at sea, and to grant success in fishing and
hunting. For such weighty reasons the Papuans do all in their power to
win the favour of their dead. On undertaking a journey they are said
never to forget to hang amulets about themselves in the belief that
their dead will then surely help them; hence, too, when they are at sea
in rough weather, they call upon the souls of the departed, asking them
for better weather or a favourable breeze, in case the wind happens to
be contrary."[488]

[Sidenote: Wooden images of the dead (_korwar_).]

In order to communicate with these powerful spirits and to obtain their
advice and help in time of need, the Papuans of Geelvink Bay make wooden
images of their dead, which they keep in their houses and consult from
time to time. Every family has at least one such ancestral image, which
forms the medium whereby the soul of the deceased communicates with his
or her surviving relatives. These images or Penates, as we may call
them, are carved of wood, about a foot high, and represent the deceased
person in a standing, sitting, or crouching attitude, but commonly with
the hands folded in front. The head is disproportionately large, the
nose long and projecting, the mouth wide and well furnished with teeth;
the eyes are formed of large green or blue beads with black dots to
indicate the pupils. Sometimes the male figures carry a shield in the
left hand and brandish a sword in the right; while the female figures
are represented grasping with both hands a serpent which stands on its
coiled tail. Rags of many colours adorn these figures, and the hair of
the deceased, whom they represent, is placed between their legs. Such an
ancestral image is called a _korwar_ or _karwar_. The natives identify
these effigies with the deceased persons whom they portray, and
accordingly they will speak of one as their father or mother or other
relation. Tobacco and food are offered to the images, and the natives
greet them reverentially by bowing to the earth before them with the two
hands joined and raised to the forehead.

[Sidenote: Such images carried on voyages and consulted as oracles. The
images consulted in sickness.]

Such images are kept in the houses and carried in canoes on voyages, in
order that they may be at hand to help and advise their kinsfolk and
worshippers. They are consulted on many occasions, for example, when the
people are going on a journey, or about to fish for turtles or trepang,
or when a member of the family is sick, and his relations wish to know
whether he will recover. At these consultations the enquirer may either
take the image in his hands or crouch before it on the ground, on which
he places his offerings of tobacco, cotton, beads, and so forth. The
spirit of the dead is thought to be in the image and to pass from it
into the enquirer, who thus becomes inspired by the soul of the deceased
and acquires his superhuman knowledge. As a sign of his inspiration the
medium shivers and shakes. According to some accounts, however, this
shivering and shaking of the medium is an evil omen; whereas if he
remains tranquil, the omen is good. It is especially in cases of
sickness that the images are consulted. The mode of consultation has
been described as follows by a Dutch writer: "When any one is sick and
wishes to know the means of cure, or when any one desires to avert
misfortune or to discover something unknown, then in presence of the
whole family one of the members is stupefied by the fumes of incense or
by other means of producing a state of trance. The image of the deceased
person whose advice is sought is then placed on the lap or shoulder of
the medium in order to cause the soul to pass out of the image into his
body. At the moment when that happens, he begins to shiver; and,
encouraged by the bystanders, the soul speaks through the mouth of the
medium and names the means of cure or of averting the calamity. When he
comes to himself, the medium knows nothing of what he has been saying.
This they call _kor karwar_, that is, 'invoking the soul;' and they say
_karwar iwos_, 'the soul speaks.'" The writer adds: "It is sometimes
reported that the souls go to the underworld, but that is not true. The
Papuans think that after death the soul abides by the corpse and is
buried with it in the grave; hence before an image is made, if it is
necessary to consult the soul, the enquirer must betake himself to the
grave in order to do so. But when the image is made, the soul enters
into it and is supposed to remain in it so long as satisfactory answers
are obtained from it in consultation. But should the answers prove
disappointing, the people think that the soul has deserted the image, on
which they throw the image away as useless. Where the soul has gone,
nobody knows, and they do not trouble their heads about it, since it has
lost its power."[489] The person who acts as medium in consulting the
spirit may be either the house-father himself or a magician
(_konoor_).[490]

[Sidenote: Example of the consultation of an ancestral image.]

As an example of these consultations we may take the case of a man who
was suffering from a painful sore on his finger and wished to ascertain
the cause of the trouble. So he set one of the ancestral images before
him and questioned it closely. At first the image made no reply; but at
last the man remembered that he had neglected his duty to his dead
brother by failing to marry his widow, as, according to native custom,
he should have done. Now the natives believe that the dead can punish
them for any breach of customary law; so it occurred to our enquirer
that the ghost of his dead brother might have afflicted him with the
sore on his finger for not marrying his widow. Accordingly he put the
question to the image, and in doing so the compunction of a guilty
conscience caused him to tremble. This trembling he took for an answer
of the image in the affirmative, wherefore he went off and took the
widow to wife and provided for her maintenance.[491]

[Sidenote: Ancestral images consulted as to the cause of death.
Offerings to the images.]

Again, the ancestral images are often consulted to ascertain the cause
of a death; and if the image attributes the death to the evil magic of a
member of another tribe, an expedition will be sent to avenge the wrong
by slaying the supposed culprit. For the souls of the dead take it very
ill and wreak their spite on the survivors, if their death is not
avenged on their enemies. Not uncommonly the consultation of the images
merely furnishes a pretext for satisfying a grudge against an individual
or a tribe.[492] The mere presence of these images appears to be
supposed to benefit the sick; a woman who was seriously ill has been
seen to lie with four or five ancestral figures fastened at the head of
her bed. On enquiry she explained that they did not all belong to her,
but that some of them had been kindly lent to her by relations and
friends.[493] Again, the images are taken by the natives with them to
war, because they hope thereby to secure the help of the spirits whom
the images represent. Also they make offerings from time to time to the
effigies and hold feasts in their honour.[494] They observe, indeed,
that the food which they present to these household idols remains
unconsumed, but they explain this by saying that the spirits are content
to snuff up the savour of the viands, and to leave their gross material
substance alone.[495]

[Sidenote: Images of persons who have died away from home.]

In general, images are only made of persons who have died at home. But
in the island of Ron or Run they are also made of persons who have died
away from home or have fallen in battle. In such cases the difficulty is
to compel the soul to quit its mortal remains far away and come to
animate the image. However, the natives of Ron have found means to
overcome this difficulty. They first carve the wooden image of the dead
person and then call his soul back to the village by setting a great
tree on fire, while the family assemble round it and one of them,
holding the image in his hand, acts the part of a medium, shivering and
shaking and falling into a trance after the approved fashion of mediums
in many lands. After this ceremony the image is supposed to be animated
by the soul of the deceased, and it is kept in the house with as much
confidence as any other.[496]

[Sidenote: Sometimes the head of the image is composed of the skull of
the deceased.]

Sometimes the head of the image consists of the skull of the deceased,
which has been detached from the skeleton and inserted in a hole at the
top of the effigy. In such cases the body of the image is of wood and
the head of bone. It is especially men who have distinguished themselves
by their bravery or have earned a name for themselves in other ways who
are thus represented. Apparently the notion is that as a personal relic
of the departed the skull is better fitted to retain his soul than a
mere head of wood. But in the island of Ron or Run, and perhaps
elsewhere, skull-topped images of this sort are made for all firstborn
children, whether male or female, young or old, at least for all who die
from the age of twelve years and upward. These images have a special
name, _bemar boo_, which means "head of a corpse." They are kept in the
room of the parents who have lost the child.[497]

[Sidenote: Mode of preparing such skull-headed images.]

The mode in which such images are prepared is as follows. The body of
the firstborn child, who dies at the age of years or upwards, is laid in
a small canoe, which is deposited in a hut erected behind the
dwelling-house. Here the mother is obliged to keep watch night and day
beside the corpse and to maintain a blazing fire till the head drops off
the body, which it generally does about twenty days after the death.
Then the trunk is wrapped in leaves and buried, but the head is brought
into the house and carefully preserved. Above the spot where it is
deposited a small opening is made in the roof, through which a stick is
thrust bearing some rags or flags to indicate that the remains of a dead
body are in the house. When, after the lapse of three or four months,
the nose and ears of the head have dropped off, and the eyes have
mouldered away, the relations and friends assemble in the house of
mourning. In the middle of the assembly the father of the child crouches
on his hams with downcast look in an attitude of grief, while one of the
persons present begins to carve a new nose and a new pair of ears for
the skull out of a piece of wood. The kind of wood varies according as
the deceased was a male or a female. All the time that the artist is at
work, the rest of the company chant a melancholy dirge. When the nose
and ears are finished and have been attached to the skull, and small
round fruits have been inserted in the hollow sockets of the eyes to
represent the missing orbs, a banquet follows in honour of the deceased,
who is now represented by his decorated skull set up on a block of wood
on the table. Thus he receives his share of the food and of the cigars,
and is raised to the rank of a domestic idol or _korwar_. Henceforth the
skull is carefully kept in a corner of the chamber to be consulted as an
oracle in time of need. The bodies of fathers and mothers are treated in
the same way as those of firstborn children. On the other hand the
bodies of children who die under the age of two years are never buried.
The remains are packed in baskets of rushes covered with lids and
tightly corded, and the baskets are then hung on the branches of tall
trees, where no more notice is taken of them. Four or five such baskets
containing the mouldering bodies of infants may sometimes be seen
hanging on a single tree.[498] The reason for thus disposing of the
remains of young children is said to be as follows. A thick mist hangs
at evening over the top of the dense tropical forest, and in the mist
dwell two spirits called Narwur and Imgier, one male and the other
female, who kill little children, not out of malice but out of love,
because they wish to have the children with them. So when a child dies,
the parents fasten its little body to the branches of a tall tree in the
forest, hoping that the spirit pair will take it and be satisfied, and
will spare its small brothers and sisters.[499]

[Sidenote: Mummification of the dead.]

In some parts of Geelvink Bay, however, the bodies of the dead are
treated differently. For example, on the south coast of the island of
Jobi or Jappen and elsewhere the corpses are reduced to mummies by being
dried on a bamboo stage over a slow fire; after which the mummies, wrapt
in cloth, are kept in the house, being either laid along the wall or
hung from the ceiling. When the number of these relics begins to
incommode the living inmates of the house, the older mummies are removed
and deposited in the hollow trunks of ancient trees. In some tribes who
thus mummify their dead the juices of corruption which drip from the
rotting corpse are caught in a vessel and given to the widow to drink,
who is forced to gulp them down under the threat of decapitation if she
were to reject the loathsome beverage.[500]

[Sidenote: Restrictions observed by mourners. Tattooing in honour of the
dead. Teeth of the dead worn by relatives.]

The family in which a death has taken place is subject for a time to
certain burdensome restrictions, which are probably dictated by a fear
of the ghost. Thus all the time till the effigy of the deceased has been
made and a feast given in his honour, they are obliged to remain in the
house without going out for any purpose, not even to bathe or to fetch
food and drink. Moreover they must abstain from the ordinary articles of
diet and confine themselves to half-baked cakes of sago and other
unpalatable viands. As these restrictions may last for months they are
not only irksome but onerous, especially to people who have no slaves to
fetch and carry for them. However, in that case the neighbours come to
the rescue and supply the mourners with wood, water, and the other
necessaries of life, until custom allows them to go out and help
themselves. After the effigy of the dead has been made, the family go in
state to a sacred place to purify themselves by bathing. If the journey
is made by sea, no other canoe may meet or sail past the canoe of the
mourners under pain of being confiscated to them and redeemed at a heavy
price. On their return from the holy place, the period of mourning is
over, and the family is free to resume their ordinary mode of life and
their ordinary victuals.[501] That the seclusion of the mourners in the
house for some time after the death springs from a fear of the ghost is
not only probable on general grounds but is directly suggested by a
custom which is observed at the burial of the body. When it has been
laid in the earth along with various articles of daily use, which the
ghost is supposed to require for his comfort, the mourners gather round
the grave and each of them picks up a leaf, which he folds in the shape
of a spoon and holds several times over his head as if he would pour out
the contents upon it. As they do so, they all murmur, "_Rur i rama_,"
that is, "The spirit comes." This exclamation or incantation is supposed
to prevent the ghost from troubling them. The gravediggers may not enter
their houses till they have bathed and so removed from their persons the
contagion of death, in order that the soul of the deceased may have no
power over them.[502] Mourners sometimes tattoo themselves in honour of
the dead. For a father, the marks are tattooed on the cheeks and under
the eyes; for a grandfather, on the breast; for a mother, on the
shoulders and arms; for a brother, on the back. On the death of a father
or mother, the eldest son or, if there is none such, the eldest daughter
wears the teeth and hair of the deceased. When the teeth of old people
drop out, they are kept on purpose to be thus strung on a string and
worn by their sons or daughters after their death. Similarly, a mother
wears as a permanent mark of mourning the teeth of her dead child strung
on a cord round her neck, and as a temporary mark of mourning a little
bag on her throat containing a lock of the child's hair.[503] The
intention of these customs is not mentioned. Probably they are not
purely commemorative but designed in some way either to influence for
good the spirit of the departed or to obtain its help and protection for
the living.

[Sidenote: Rebirth of parents in their children.]

Thus far we have found no evidence among the natives of New Guinea of a
belief that the dead are permanently reincarnated in their human
descendants. However, the inhabitants of Ayambori, an inland village
about an hour distant to the east of Doreh, are reported to believe that
the soul of a dead man returns in his eldest son, and that the soul of a
dead woman returns in her eldest daughter.[504] So stated the belief is
hardly clear and intelligible; for if a man has several sons, he must
evidently be alive and not dead when the eldest of them is born, and
similarly with a woman and her eldest daughter. On the analogy of
similar beliefs elsewhere we may conjecture that these Papuans imagine
every firstborn son to be animated by the soul of his father, whether
his father be alive or dead, and every firstborn daughter to be animated
by the soul of her mother, whether her mother be alive or dead.

[Sidenote: Customs concerning the dead observed in the islands off the
western end of New Guinea.]

Beliefs and customs concerning the dead like those which we have found
among the natives of Geelvink Bay are reported to prevail in other parts
of Dutch New Guinea, but our information about them is much less full.
Thus, off the western extremity of New Guinea there is a group of small
islands (Waaigeoo, Salawati, Misol, Waigama, and so on), the inhabitants
of which make _karwar_ or wooden images of their dead ancestors. These
they keep in separate rooms of their houses and take with them as
talismans to war. In these inner rooms are also kept miniature wooden
houses in which their ancestors are believed to reside, and in which
even Mohammedans (for some of the natives profess Islam) burn incense on
Fridays in honour of the souls of the dead. These souls are treated like
living beings, for in the morning some finely pounded sago is placed in
the shrines; at noon it is taken away, but may not be eaten by the
inmates of the house. Curiously enough, women are forbidden to set food
for the dead in the shrines: if they did so, it is believed that they
would be childless. Further, in the chief's house there are shrines for
the souls of all the persons who have died in the whole village. Such a
house might almost be described as a temple of the dead. Among the
inhabitants of the Negen Negorijen or "Nine Villages" the abodes of the
ancestral spirits are often merely frameworks of houses decorated with
coloured rags. These frameworks are called _roem seram_. On festal
occasions they are brought forth and the people dance round them to
music. The mountain tribes of these islands to the west of New Guinea
seldom have any such little houses for the souls of the dead. They think
that the spirits of the departed dwell among the branches of trees, to
which accordingly the living attach strips of red and white cotton,
always to the number of seven or a multiple of seven. Also they place
food on the branches or hang it in baskets on the boughs,[505] no doubt
in order to feed the hungry ghosts. But among the tribes on the coast,
who make miniature houses for the use of their dead, these little
shrines form a central feature of the religious life of the people. At
festivals, especially on the occasion of a marriage or a death, the
shrines are brought out from the side chamber and are set down in the
central room of the house, where the people dance round them, singing
and making music for days together with no interruption except for
meals.[506]

[Sidenote: Wooden images of the dead.]

According to the Dutch writer, Mr. de Clercq, whose account I am
reproducing, this worship of the dead, represented by wooden images
(_karwar_) and lodged in miniature houses, is, together with a belief in
good and bad spirits, the only thing deserving the name of religion that
can be detected among these people. It is certain that the wooden images
represent members of the family who died a natural death at home; they
are never, as in Ansoes and Waropen, images of persons who have been
murdered or slain in battle. Hence they form a kind of Penates, who are
supposed to lead an invisible life in the family circle. The natives of
the Negen Negorijen, for example, believe that these wooden images
(_karwar_), which are both male and female, contain the souls of their
ancestors, who protect the house and household and are honoured at
festivals by having portions of food set beside their images.[507] The
Seget Sélé, who occupy the extreme westerly point of New Guinea, bury
their dead in the island of Lago and set up little houses in the forest
for the use of the spirits of their ancestors. But these little houses
may never be entered or even approached by members of the family.[508] A
traveller, who visited a hut occupied by members of the Seget tribe in
Princess Island, or Kararaboe, found a sick man in it and observed that
before the front and back door were set up double rows of roughly hewn
images painted with red and black stripes. He was told that these images
were intended to keep off the sickness; for the natives thought that it
would not dare to run the gauntlet between the double rows of figures
into the house.[509] We may conjecture that these rude images
represented ancestral spirits who were doing sentinel duty over the sick
man.

[Sidenote: Customs concerning the dead among the natives of the Macluer
Gulf.]

Among the natives of the Macluer Gulf, which penetrates deep into the
western part of Dutch New Guinea, the souls of dead men who have
distinguished themselves by bravery or in other ways are honoured in the
shape of wooden images, which are sometimes wrapt in cloth and decorated
with shells about the neck. In Sekar, a village on the south side of the
gulf, small bowls, called _kararasa_ after the spirits of ancestors who
are believed to lodge in them, are hung up in the houses; on special
occasions food is placed in them. In some of the islands of the Macluer
Gulf the dead are laid in hollows of the rocks, which are then adorned
with drawings of birds, hands, and so forth. The hands are always
painted white or yellowish on a red ground. The other figures are drawn
with chalk on the weathered surface of the rock. But the natives either
cannot or will not give any explanation of the custom.[510]

[Sidenote: Burial and mourning customs in the Mimika district.]

The Papuans of the Mimika district, on the southern coast of Dutch New
Guinea, sometimes bury their dead in shallow graves near the huts;
sometimes they place them in coffins on rough trestles and leave them
there till decomposition is complete, when they remove the skull and
preserve it in the house, either burying it in the sand of the floor or
hanging it in a sort of basket from the roof, where it becomes brown
with smoke and polished with frequent handling. The people do not appear
to be particularly attached to these relics of their kinsfolk and they
sell them readily to Europeans. Mourners plaster themselves all over
with mud, and sometimes they bathe in the river, probably as a mode of
ceremonial purification. They believe in ghosts, which they call
_niniki_; but beyond that elementary fact we have no information as to
their beliefs concerning the state of the dead.[511]

[Sidenote: Burial customs at Windessi.]

The natives of Windessi in Dutch New Guinea generally bury their dead
the day after the decease. As a rule the corpse is wrapt in mats and a
piece of blue cloth and laid on a scaffold; few are coffined. All the
possessions of the dead, including weapons, fishing-nets, wooden bowls,
pots, and so forth, according as the deceased was a man or a woman, are
placed beside him or her. If the death is attributed to the influence of
an evil spirit, they take hold of a lock of hair of the corpse and
mention various places. At the mention of each place, they tug the hair;
and if it comes out, they conclude that the death was caused by somebody
at the place which was mentioned at the moment. But if the hair does not
come out, they infer that evil spirits had no hand in the affair. Before
the body is carried away, the family bathes, no doubt to purify
themselves from the contagion of death. Among the people of Windessi it
is a common custom to bury the dead in an island. At such a burial the
bystanders pick up a fallen leaf, tear it in two, and stroke the corpse
with it, in order that the ghost of the departed may not kill them. When
the body has been disposed of either in a grave or on a scaffold, they
embark in the canoe and sit listening for omens. One of the men in a
loud voice bids the birds and the flies to be silent; and all the others
sit as still as death in an attitude of devotion. At last, after an
interval of silence, the man who called out tells his fellows what he
has heard. If it was the buzz of the blue flies that he heard, some one
else will die. If it was the booming sound of a triton shell blown in
the distance, a raid must be made in that direction to rob and murder.
Why it must be so, is not said, but we may suppose that the note of the
triton shell is believed to betray the place of the enemy who has
wrought the death by magic, and that accordingly an expedition must be
sent to avenge the supposed crime on the supposed murderer. If the note
of a bird called _kohwi_ is heard, then the fruit-trees will bear fruit.
Though all the men sit listening in the canoe, the ominous sounds are
heard only by the man who called out.[512]

[Sidenote: Mourning customs at Windessi.]

When the omens have thus been taken, the paddles again dip in the water,
and the canoe returns to the house of mourning. Arrived at it, the men
disembark, climb up the ladder (for the houses seem to be built on piles
over the water) and run the whole length of the long house with their
paddles on their shoulders. Curiously enough, they never do this at any
other time, because they imagine that it would cause the death of
somebody. Meantime the women have gone into the forest to get bark,
which they beat into bark-cloth and make into mourning caps for
themselves. The men busy themselves with plaiting armlets and leglets of
rattan, in which some red rags are stuck. Large blue and white beads are
strung on a red cord and worn round the neck. Further, the hair is shorn
in sign of mourning. Mourners are forbidden to eat anything cooked in a
pot. Sago-porridge, which is a staple food with some of the natives of
New Guinea, is also forbidden to mourners at Windessi. If they would eat
rice, it must be cooked in a bamboo. The doors and windows of the house
are closed with planks or mats, just as with us the blinds are lowered
in a house after a death. The surviving relatives make as many long
sago-cakes as there are houses in the village and send them to the
inmates; they also prepare a few for themselves. All who do not belong
to the family now leave the house of mourning. Then the eldest brother
or his representative gets up and all follow him to the back verandah,
where a woman stands holding a bow and arrows, an axe, a paddle, and so
forth. Every one touches these implements. Since the death, there has
been no working in the house, but this time of inactivity is now over
and every one is free to resume his usual occupations. This ends the
preliminary ceremonies of mourning, which go by the name of _djawarra_.

A month afterwards round cakes of sago are baked on the fire, and all
the members of the family, their friends, and the persons who assisted
at the burial receive three such cakes each. Only very young children
are now allowed to eat sago-porridge. This ceremony is called _djawarra
baba_.

[Sidenote: Festival of the dead. Wooden images of the dead.]

When a year or more has elapsed, the so-called festival of the dead
takes place. Often the festival is held for several dead at the same
time, and in that case the cost is borne in common. From far and near
the people have collected sago, coco-nuts, and other food. For two
nights and a day they dance and sing, but without the accompaniment of
drums (_tifa_) and gongs. The first night, the signs of mourning are
still worn, hence no sago-porridge may be eaten; only friends who are
not in mourning are allowed to partake of it. The night is spent in
eating, drinking, smoking, singing and dancing. Next day many people
make _korwars_ of their dead, that is, grotesque wooden images carved in
human form, which are regarded as the representatives of the departed.
Some people fetch the head of the deceased person, and having made a
wooden image with a large head and a hole in the back of it, they insert
the skull into the wooden head from behind. After that friends feed the
mourners with sago-porridge, putting it into their mouths with the help
of the chopsticks which are commonly used in eating sago. When that is
done, the period of mourning is at an end, and the signs of mourning are
thrown away. A dance on the beach follows, at which the new wooden
images of the dead make their appearance. But still the drums and gongs
are silent. Dancing and singing go on till the next morning, when the
whole of the ceremonies come to an end.[513]

[Sidenote: Fear of the ghost.]

The exact meaning of all these ceremonies is not clear, but we may
conjecture that they are based in large measure on the fear of the
ghost. That fear comes out plainly in the ceremony of stroking the
corpse with leaves in order to prevent the ghost from killing the
survivors. The writer to whom we are indebted for an account of these
customs tells us in explanation of them that among these people death is
ascribed to the influence of evil spirits called _manoam_, who are
supposed to be incarnate in some human beings. Hence they often seek to
avenge a death by murdering somebody who has the reputation of being an
evil spirit incarnate. If they succeed in doing so, they celebrate the
preliminary mourning ceremonies called _djawarra_ and _djawarra baba_,
but the festival of the dead is changed into a memorial festival, at
which the people dance and sing to the accompaniment of drums (_tifa_),
gongs, and triton shells; and instead of carving a wooden image of the
deceased, they make marks on the fleshless skull of the murdered
man.[514]

[Sidenote: Beliefs of the natives of Windessi as to the life after
death. Medicine-men inspired by the spirits of the dead.]

The natives of Windessi are said to have the following belief as to the
life after death, though we are told that the creed is now known to very
few of them; for their old beliefs and customs are fading away under the
influence of a mission station which is established among them.
According to their ancient creed, every man and every woman has two
spirits, and in the nether world, called _sarooka_, is a large house
where there is room for all the people of Windessi. When a woman dies,
both her spirits always go down to the nether world, where they are
clothed with flesh and bones, need do no work, and live for ever. But
when a man dies, only one of his spirits must go to the under world; the
other may pass or transmigrate into a living man or, in rare cases, into
a living woman; the person so inspired by a dead man's spirit becomes an
_inderri_, that is, a medicine-man or medicine-woman and has power to
heal the sick. When a person wishes to become a medicine-man or
medicine-woman, he or she acts as follows. If a man has died, and his
friends are sitting about the corpse lamenting, the would-be
medicine-man suddenly begins to shiver and to rub his knee with his
folded hands, while he utters a monotonous sound. Gradually he falls
into an ecstasy, and if his whole body shakes convulsively, the spirit
of the dead man is supposed to have entered into him, and he becomes a
medicine-man. Next day or the day after he is taken into the forest;
some hocus-pocus is performed over him, and the spirits of lunatics, who
dwell in certain thick trees, are invoked to take possession of him. He
is now himself called a lunatic, and on returning home behaves as if he
were half-crazed. This completes his training as a medicine-man, and he
is now fully qualified to kill or cure the sick. His mode of cure
depends on the native theory of sickness. These savages think that
sickness is caused by a malicious or angry spirit, apparently the spirit
of a dead person; for a patient will say, "The _korwar_" (that is, the
wooden image which represents a particular dead person) "is murdering
me, or is making me sick." So the medicine-man is called in, and sets to
work on the sufferer, while the _korwar_, or wooden image of the spirit
who is supposed to be doing all the mischief, stands beside him. The
principal method of cure employed by the doctor is massage. He chews a
certain fruit fine and rubs the patient with it; also he pinches him all
over the body as if to drive out the spirit. Often he professes to
extract a stone, a bone, or a stick from the body of the sufferer. At
last he gives out that he has ascertained the cause of the sickness; the
sick man has done or has omitted to do something which has excited the
anger of the spirit.[515]

[Sidenote: Ghosts of slain enemies dreaded.]

From all this it would seem that the souls of the dead are more feared
than loved and reverenced by the Papuans of Windessi. Naturally the
ghosts of enemies who have perished at their hands are particularly
dreaded by them. That dread explains some of the ceremonies which are
observed in the village at the return of a successful party of
head-hunters. As they draw near the village, they announce their
approach and success by blowing on triton shells. Their canoes also are
decked with branches. The faces of the men who have taken a head are
blackened with charcoal; and if several have joined in killing one man,
his skull is divided between them. They always time their arrival so as
to reach home in the early morning. They come paddling to the village
with a great noise, and the women stand ready to dance in the verandahs
of the houses. The canoes row past the _roem sram_ or clubhouse where
the young men live; and as they pass, the grimy-faced slayers fling as
many pointed sticks or bamboos at the house as they have killed enemies.
The rest of the day is spent very quietly. But now and then they drum or
blow on the conch, and at other times they beat on the walls of the
houses with sticks, shouting loudly at the same time, to drive away the
ghosts of their victims.[516]

That concludes what I have to say as to the fear and worship of the dead
in Dutch New Guinea.

[Footnote 475: G. Bamler, "Tami," in R. Neuhauss's _Deutsch Neu-Guinea_,
iii. (Berlin, 1911) pp. 489-492.]

[Footnote 476: G. Bamler, _op. cit._ pp. 507-512.]

[Footnote 477: G. Bamler, _op. cit._ pp. 513 _sq._]

[Footnote 478: G. Bamler, _op. cit._ pp. 514 _sq._]

[Footnote 479: G. Bamler, _op. cit._ pp. 515 _sq._]

[Footnote 480: G. Bamler, _op. cit._ p. 516.]

[Footnote 481: G. Bamler, _op. cit._ pp. 493-507.]

[Footnote 482: J. L. van Hasselt, "Die Papuastämme an der Geelvinkbai
(Neu-guinea)," _Mitteilungen der geographischen Gesellschaft zu Jena_,
ix. (1890) p. 1; F. S. A. de Clercq, "De West en Noordkust van
Nederlandsch Nieuw-Guinea," _Tijdschrift van het Kon. Nederlandsch
Aardrijkskundig Genootschap_, Tweede Serie, x. (1893) pp. 587 _sq._]

[Footnote 483: J. L. van Hasselt, _op. cit._ pp. 2, 3, 5 _sq._; A.
Goudswaard, _De Papoewa's van de Geelvinksbaai_ (Schiedam, 1863), pp. 28
_sqq._, 33 _sqq._, 42 _sq._, 47 _sqq._]

[Footnote 484: J. L. van Hasselt, "Die Papuastämme an der Geelvinkbai
(Neu-guinea)," _Mitteilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft zu Jena_,
ix. (1891) p. 101.]

[Footnote 485: H. van Rosenberg, _Der Malayische Archipel_ (Leipsic,
1878), p. 461.]

[Footnote 486: H. van Rosenberg, _op. cit._ p. 462.]

[Footnote 487: M. Krieger, _Neu-Guinea_ (Berlin, N.D., preface dated
1899), pp. 401, 402.]

[Footnote 488: A. Goudswaard, _De Papoewa's van de Geelvinksbaai_
(Schiedam, 1863), p. 77. Compare O. Finsch, _Neu-Guinea und seine
Bewohner_ (Bremen, 1865), p. 105.]

[Footnote 489: F. S. A. de Clercq, "De West- en Noordkust van
Nederlandsch Nieuw-Guinea," _Tijdschrift van het Kon. Nederlandsch
Aardrijkskundig Genootschap_, Tweede Serie, x. (1893) p. 631. On these
_korwar_ or _karwar_ (images of the dead) see further A. Goudswaard, _De
Papoewa's van de Geelvinksbaai_, pp. 72 _sq._, 77-79; O. Finsch,
_Neu-Guinea und seine Bewohner_, pp. 104-106; H. von Rosenberg, _Der
Malayische Archipel_, pp. 460 _sq._; J. L. van Hasselt, "Die Papuastämme
an der Geelvinkbaai (Neu-Guinea)" _Mitteilungen der Geographischen
Gesellschaft zu Jena_, ix. (1891) p. 100; M. Krieger, _Neu-Guinea_, pp.
400 _sq._, 402 _sq._, 498 _sqq._ In the text I have drawn on these
various accounts.]

[Footnote 490: J. L. van Hasselt, _l.c._]

[Footnote 491: A. Goudswaard, _De Papoewa's van de Geelvinksbaai_, pp.
78 _sq._; O. Finsch, _Neu-Guinea und seine Bewohner_, pp. 105 _sq._]

[Footnote 492: A. Goudswaard, _op. cit._ p. 79; O. Finsch, _op. cit._ p.
106.]

[Footnote 493: J. L. van Hasselt, _op. cit._ p. 100.]

[Footnote 494: A. Goudswaard, _op. cit._ p. 78.]

[Footnote 495: F. S. A. de Clercq, _op. cit._ p. 632.]

[Footnote 496: F. S. A. de Clercq, _op. cit._ p. 632.]

[Footnote 497: F. S. A. de Clercq, _op. cit._ p. 632.]

[Footnote 498: A. Goudswaard, _De Papoewa's van de Geelvinksbaai_, pp.
70-73; O. Finsch, _Neu-Guinea und seine Bewohner_ pp. 104 _sq._; M.
Krieger, _Neu-Guinea_, p. 398.]

[Footnote 499: J. L. van Hasselt, in _Mitteilungen der Geographischen
Gesellschaft zu Jena_, iv. (1886) pp. 118 _sq._ As to the spirit or
spirits who dwell in tree tops and draw away the souls of the living to
themselves, see further "Eenige bijzonderheden betreffende de Papoeas
van de Geelvinksbaai van Nieuw-Guinea," _Bijdragen tot de Taal- Landen
Volkenkunde van Neêrlandsch-Indië_, ii. (1854) pp. 375 _sq._]

[Footnote 500: A. Goudswaard, _De Papoewa's van de Geelvinksbaai_, p.
73; J. L. van Hasselt, in _Mitteilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft
zu Jena_, iv. (1886) p. 118; M. Krieger, _Neu-Guinea_, pp. 398. _sq._]

[Footnote 501: A. Goudswaard, _De Papoewa's van de Geelvinksbaai_, pp.
75 _sq._]

[Footnote 502: J. L. van Hasselt, in _Mitteilungen der Geographischen
Gesellschaft zu Jena_, iv. (1886) 117 _sq._; M. Krieger, _op. cit._ pp.
397 _sq._]

[Footnote 503: A. Goudswaard, _op. cit._ pp. 74 _sq._]

[Footnote 504: _Nieuw Guinea ethnographisch en natuurkundig onderzocht
en beschreven_ (Amsterdam, 1862), p. 162.]

[Footnote 505: F. S. A. de Clercq, "De West- en Noordkust van
Nederlandsch Nieuw-Guinea," _Tijdschrift van het Kon. Nederlandsch
Aardrijkskundig Genootschap_, Tweede Serie, x. (1893) pp. 198 _sq._]

[Footnote 506: F. S. A. de Clercq, _op. cit._ p. 201.]

[Footnote 507: F. S. A. de Clercq, _op. cit._ pp. 202, 205.]

[Footnote 508: F. S. A. de Clercq, _op. cit._ p. 211.]

[Footnote 509: J. W. van Hille, "Reizen in West-Nieuw-Guinea,"
_Tijdschrift van het Kon. Nederlandsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap_,
Tweede Serie, xxiii. (1906) p. 463.]

[Footnote 510: F. S. A. de Clercq, _op. cit._ pp. 459 _sq._, 461 _sq._ A
German traveller, Mr. H. Kühn, spent some time at Sekar and purchased a
couple of what he calls "old heathen idols," which are now in the
ethnological Museum at Leipsic. One of them, about a foot high,
represents a human head and bust; the other, about two feet high,
represents a squat sitting figure. They are probably ancestral images
(_korwar_ or _karwar_). The natives are said to have such confidence in
the protection of these "idols" that they leave their jewellery and
other possessions unguarded beside them, in the full belief that nobody
would dare to steal anything from spots protected by such mighty beings.
See H. Kühn, "Mein Aufenthalt in Neu-Guinea," _Festschrift des
25jährigen Bestehens des Vereins für Erdkunde zu Dresden_ (Dresden,
1888), pp. 143 _sq._]

[Footnote 511: A. F. R. Wollaston, _Pygmies and Papuans_ (London, 1912),
pp. 132 _sq._, 136-140.]

[Footnote 512: J. L. D. van der Roest, "Uit the leven der bevolking van
Windessi," _Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal- Landen Volkenkunde_, xl.
(1898) pp. 159 _sq._]

[Footnote 513: J. L. D. van der Roest, _op. cit._ pp. 161 _sq._]

[Footnote 514: J. L. D. van der Roest, _op. cit._ p. 162.]

[Footnote 515: J. L. D. van der Roest, _op. cit._ pp. 164-166.]

[Footnote 516: J. L. D. van der Roest, _op. cit._ pp. 157 _sq._]



LECTURE XV

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE NATIVES OF SOUTHERN MELANESIA (NEW
CALEDONIA)


[Sidenote: Melanesia and the Melanesians.]

In the last lecture I concluded our survey of the beliefs and practices
concerning death and the dead which are reported to prevail among the
natives of New Guinea. We now pass to the natives of Melanesia, the
great archipelago or rather chain of archipelagoes, which stretches
round the north-eastern and eastern ends of New Guinea and southward,
parallel to the coast of Queensland, till it almost touches the tropic
of Capricorn. Thus the islands lie wholly within the tropics and are for
the most part characterised by tropical heat and tropical luxuriance of
vegetation. Only New Caledonia, the most southerly of the larger
islands, differs somewhat from the rest in its comparatively cool
climate and scanty flora.[517] The natives of the islands belong to the
Melanesian race. They are dark-skinned and woolly-haired and speak a
language which is akin to the Polynesian language. In material culture
they stand roughly on the same level as the natives of New Guinea, a
considerable part of whom in the south-eastern part of the island, as I
pointed out before, are either pure Melanesians or at all events exhibit
a strong infusion of Melanesian blood. They cultivate the ground, live
in settled villages, build substantial houses, construct
outrigger-canoes, display some aptitude for art, possess strong
commercial instincts, and even employ various mediums of exchange, of
which shell-money is the most notable.[518]

[Sidenote: The New Caledonians.]

We shall begin our survey of these islands with New Caledonia in the
south, and from it shall pass northwards through the New Hebrides and
Solomon Islands to the Bismarck Archipelago, which consists chiefly of
the two great islands of New Britain and New Ireland with the group of
the Admiralty Islands terminating it to the westward. For our knowledge
of the customs and religion of the New Caledonians we depend chiefly on
the evidence of a Catholic missionary, Father Lambert, who has worked
among them since 1856 and has published a valuable book on the
subject.[519] To be exact, his information applies not to the natives of
New Caledonia itself, but to the inhabitants of a group of small
islands, which lie immediately off the northern extremity of the island
and are known as the Belep group. Father Lambert began to labour among
the Belep at a time when no white man had as yet resided among them. At
a later time circumstances led him to transfer his ministry to the Isle
of Pines, which lies off the opposite or southern end of New Caledonia.
A comparative study of the natives at the two extremities of New
Caledonia revealed to him an essential similarity in their beliefs and
customs; so that it is not perhaps very rash to assume that similar
customs prevail among the aborigines of New Caledonia itself, which lies
intermediate between the two points observed by Father Lambert.[520] The
assumption is confirmed by evidence which was collected by Dr. George
Turner from the mainland of New Caledonia so long ago as 1845.[521]
Accordingly in what follows I shall commonly speak of the New
Caledonians in general, though the statements for the most part apply in
particular to the Belep tribe.

[Sidenote: Beliefs of the New Calendonians as to the land of the dead.]

The souls of the New Caledonians, like those of most savages, are
supposed to be immortal, at least to survive death for an indefinite
period. They all go, good and bad alike, to dwell in a very rich and
beautiful country situated at the bottom of the sea, to the north-east
of the island of Pott. The name of the land of souls is Tsiabiloum. But
before they reach this happy land they must run the gauntlet of a grim
spirit called Kiemoua, who has his abode on a rock in the island of
Pott. He is a fisherman of souls; for he catches them as they pass in a
net and after venting his fury on them he releases them, and they pursue
their journey to Tsiabiloum, the land of the dead. It is a country more
fair and fertile than tongue can tell. Yams, taros, sugar-canes, bananas
all grow there in profusion and without cultivation. There are forests
of wild orange-trees, also, and the golden fruits serve the blessed
spirits as playthings. You can tell roughly how long it is since a
spirit quitted the upper world by the colour of the orange which he
plays with; for the oranges of those who have just arrived are green;
the oranges of those who have been longer dead are ripe; and the oranges
of those who died long ago are dry and wizened. There is no night in
that blessed land, and no sleep; for the eyes of the spirits are never
weighed down with slumber. Sorrow and sickness, decrepitude and death
never enter; even boredom is unknown. But it is only the nights, or
rather the hours corresponding to nights on earth, which the spirits
pass in these realms of bliss. At daybreak they revisit their old home
on earth and take up their posts in the cemeteries where they are
honoured; then at nightfall they flit away back to the spirit-land
beneath the sea, there to resume their sport with oranges, green,
golden, or withered, till dawn of day. On these repeated journeys to and
fro they have nothing to fear from the grim fisherman and his net; it is
only on their first passage to the nether world that he catches and
trounces them.[522]

[Sidenote: Burial customs of the New Calendonians.]

The bodies of the dead are buried in shallow graves, which are dug in a
sacred grove. The corpse is placed in a crouching attitude with the head
at or above the surface of the ground, in order to allow of the skull
being easily detached from the trunk, at a subsequent time. In token of
sorrow the nearest relations of the deceased tear the lobes of their
ears and inflict large burns on their arms and breasts. The houses,
nets, and other implements of the dead are burnt; his plantations are
ravaged, his coco-nut palms felled with the axe. The motive for this
destruction of the property of the deceased is not mentioned, but the
custom points to a fear of the ghost; the people probably make his old
home as unattractive as possible in order to offer him no temptation to
return and haunt them. The same fear of the ghost, or at all events of
the infection of death, is revealed by the stringent seclusion and
ceremonial pollution of the grave-diggers. They are two in number; no
other persons may handle the corpse. After they have discharged their
office they must remain near the corpse for four or five days, observing
a rigorous fast and keeping apart from their wives. They may not shave
or cut their hair, and they are obliged to wear a tall pyramidal and
very cumbersome head-dress. They may not touch food with their hands. If
they help themselves to it, they must pick it up with their mouths alone
or with a stick, not with their fingers. Oftener they are fed by an
attendant, who puts the victuals into their mouths as he might do if
they were palsied. On the other hand they are treated by the people with
great respect; common folk will not pass near them without
stooping.[523]

[Sidenote: Sham fight as a mourning ceremony.]

A curious ceremony which the New Caledonians observe at a certain period
of mourning for the dead is a sham fight. Father Lambert describes one
such combat which he witnessed. A number of men were divided into two
parties; one party was posted on the beach, the other and much larger
party was stationed in the adjoining cemetery, where food and property
had been collected. From time to time a long piercing yell would be
heard; then a number of men would break from the crowd in the cemetery
and rush furiously down to the beach with their slings and stones ready
to assail their adversaries. These, answering yell with yell, would then
plunge into the sea, armed with battle-axes and clubs, while they made a
feint of parrying the stones hurled at them by the other side. But
neither the shots nor the parries appeared to be very seriously meant.
Then when the assailants retired, the fugitives pretended to pursue
them, till both parties had regained their original position. The same
scene of alternate attack and retreat was repeated hour after hour, till
at last, the pretence of enmity being laid aside, the two parties joined
in a dance, their heads crowned with leafy garlands. Father Lambert, who
describes this ceremony as an eye-witness, offers no explanation of it.
But as he tells us that all deaths are believed by these savages to be
an effect of sorcery, we may conjecture that the sham fight is intended
to delude the ghost into thinking that his death is being avenged on the
sorcerer who killed him.[524] In former lectures I shewed that similar
pretences are made, apparently for a similar purpose, by some of the
natives of Australia and New Guinea.[525] If the explanation is correct,
we can hardly help applauding the ingenuity which among these savages
has discovered a bloodless mode of satisfying the ghost's craving for
blood.

[Sidenote: Preservation of the skulls of the dead.]

About a year after the death, when the flesh of the corpse is entirely
decayed, the skull is removed and placed solemnly in another
burying-ground, or rather charnel-house, where all the skulls of the
family are deposited. Every family has such a charnel-house, which is
commonly situated near the dwelling. It appears to be simply an open
space in the forest, where the skulls are set in a row on the
ground.[526] Yet in a sense it may be called a temple for the worship of
ancestors; for recourse is had to the skulls on various occasions in
order to obtain the help of the spirits of the dead. "The true worship
of the New Caledonians," says Father Lambert, "is the worship of
ancestors. Each family has its own; it religiously preserves their name;
it is proud of them and has confidence in them. Hence it has its
burial-place and its pious hearth for the sacrifices to be offered to
their ghosts. It is the most inviolable piece of property; an
encroachment on such a spot by a neighbour is a thing unheard of."[527]

[Sidenote: Examples of ancestor-worship among the New Caledonians.]

A few examples may serve to illustrate the ancestor-worship of the New
Caledonians. When a person is sick, a member of the family, never a
stranger, is appointed to heal him by means of certain magical
insufflations. To enable him to do so with effect the healer first
repairs to the family charnel-house and lays some sugar-cane leaves
beside the skulls, saying, "I lay these leaves on you that I may go and
breathe upon our sick relative, to the end that he may live." Then he
goes to a tree belonging to the family and lays other sugar-cane leaves
at its foot, saying, "I lay these leaves beside the tree of my father
and of my grandfather, in order that my breath may have healing virtue."
Next he takes some leaves of the tree or a piece of its bark, chews it
into a mash, and then goes and breathes on the patient, his breath being
moistened with spittle which is charged with particles of the leaves or
the bark.[528] Thus the healing virtue of his breath would seem to be
drawn from the spirits of the dead as represented partly by their skulls
and partly by the leaves and bark of the tree which belonged to them in
life, and to which their souls appear in some manner to be attached in
death.

[Sidenote: Prayers for fish.]

Again, when a shoal of fish has made its appearance on the reef, a
number of superstitious ceremonies have to be performed before the
people may go and spear them in the water. On the eve of the fishing-day
the medicine-man of the tribe causes a quantity of leaves of certain
specified plants to be collected and roasted in the native ovens. Next
day the leaves are taken from the ovens and deposited beside the
ancestral skulls, which have been arranged and decorated for the
ceremony. All the fishermen, armed with their fishing-spears, repair to
the holy ground or sacred grove where the skulls are kept, and there
they draw themselves up in two rows, while the medicine-man chants an
invocation or prayer for a good catch. At every verse the crowd raises a
cry of approval and assent. At its conclusion the medicine-man sets an
example by thrusting with his spear at a fish, and all the men
immediately plunge into the water and engage in fishing.[529]

[Sidenote: Prayers for sugar-cane.]

Again, in order that a sugar plantation may flourish, the medicine-man
will lay a sugar-cane beside the ancestral skulls, saying, "This is for
you. We beg of you to ward off all curses, all tricks of wicked people,
in order that our plantations may prosper."[530]

[Sidenote: Prayers for yams.]

Again, when the store of yams is running short and famine is beginning
to be felt, the New Caledonians celebrate a festival called _moulim_ in
which the worship of their ancestors is the principal feature. A staff
is wreathed with branches, apparently to represent a yam, and a hedge of
coco-nut leaves is made near the ancestral skulls. The decorated staff
is then set up there, and prayers for the prosperity of the crops are
offered over and over again. After that nobody may enter a yam-field or
a cemetery or touch sea-water for three days. On the third day a man
stationed on a mound chants an invocation or incantation in a loud
voice. Next all the men go down to the shore, each of them with a
firebrand in his hand, and separating into two parties engage in a sham
fight. Afterwards they bathe and repairing to the charnel-house deposit
coco-nut leaves beside the skulls of their ancestors. They are then free
to partake of the feast which has been prepared by the women.[531]

[Sidenote: Caverns used by the natives as charnel-houses in the Isle of
Pines.]

While the beliefs and customs of the New Caledonians in regard to the
dead bear a general resemblance to each other, whether they belong to
the north or to the south of the principal island, a special feature is
introduced into the mortuary customs of the natives of the Isle of Pines
by the natural caves and grottoes with which the outer rim of the
island, to the distance of several miles from the shore, is riddled; for
in these caverns the natives in the old heathen days were wont to
deposit the bones and skulls of their dead and to use the caves as
sanctuaries or chapels for the worship of the spirits of the departed.
Some of the caves are remarkable both in themselves and in their
situation. Most of those which the natives turned into charnel-houses
are hidden away, sometimes at great distances, in the rank luxuriance of
the tropical forests. Some of them open straight from the level of the
ground; to reach others you must clamber up the rocks; to explore others
you must descend into the bowels of the earth. A glimmering twilight
illumines some; thick darkness veils others, and it is only by
torchlight that you can explore their mysterious depths. Penetrating
into the interior by the flickering gleam of flambeaus held aloft by the
guides, and picking your steps among loose stones and pools of water,
you might fancy yourself now in the great hall of a ruined castle, now
in the vast nave of a gothic cathedral with its chapels opening off it
into the darkness on either hand. The illusion is strengthened by the
multitude of stalactites which hang from the roof of the cavern and,
glittering in the fitful glow of the torches, might be taken for burning
cressets kindled to light up the revels in a baronial hall, or for holy
lamps twinkling in the gloom of a dim cathedral aisle before holy
images, where solitary worshippers kneel in silent devotion. In the
shifting play of the light and shadow cast by the torches the fantastic
shapes of the incrustations which line the sides or rise from the floor
of the grotto appear to the imagination of the observer now as the
gnarled trunks of huge trees, now as statues or torsos of statues, now
as altars, on which perhaps a nearer approach reveals a row of blanched
and grinning skulls. No wonder if such places, chosen for the last
resting-places of the relics of mortality, have fed the imagination of
the natives with weird notions of a life after death, a life very
different from that which the living lead in the glowing sunshine and
amid the rich tropical verdure a few paces outside of these gloomy
caverns. It is with a shiver and a sense of relief that the visitor
escapes from them to the warm outer air and sees again the ferns and
creepers hanging over the mouth of the cave like a green fringe against
the intense blue of the sky.[532]

[Sidenote: Sea-caves.]

While this is the general character of the caves which are to be found
hidden away in the forests, many of those near the shore consist simply
of apertures hollowed out in the face of the cliffs by the slow but
continuous action of the waves in the course of ages. On the beach
itself sea-caves are found in which the rising tide precipitates itself
with a hollow roar as of subterranean thunder; and at a point, some way
back from the strand, where the roof of one of these caves has fallen
in, the salt water is projected into the air in the form of intermittent
jets of spray, which vary in height with the force of the wind and
tide.[533]

[Sidenote: Prayers and sacrifices offered to the dead by the New
Caledonians.]

With regard to the use which the natives make of these caves as
charnel-houses and mortuary chapels, Father Lambert tells us that any
one of them usually includes three compartments, a place of burial, a
place of skulls, and a place of sacrifice. But often the place of skulls
is also the place of sacrifice; and in no case is the one far from the
other. The family priest, who is commonly the senior member of the
family, may address his prayers to the ancestors in the depth of the
cavern, in the place of skulls, or in the place of sacrifice, whenever
circumstances call for a ritual of unusual solemnity. Otherwise with the
help of his amulets he may pray to the souls of the forefathers
anywhere; for these amulets consist of personal and portable relics of
the dead, such as locks of hair, teeth, and so forth; or again they may
be leaves or other parts of plants which are sacred to the family; so
that a wizard who is in possession of them can always and anywhere
communicate with the ancestral spirits. The place of sacrifice would
seem to be more often in the open air than in a cave, for Father Lambert
tells us that in the centre of it a shrub, always of the same species,
is planted and carefully cultivated. Beside it may be seen the pots and
stones which are used in cooking the food offered to the dead. In this
worship of the dead a certain differentiation of functions or division
of labour obtains between the various families. All have not the same
gifts and graces. The prayers of one family offered to their ancestral
ghosts are thought to be powerful in procuring rain in time of drought;
the prayers of another will cause the sun to break through the clouds
when the sky is overcast; the supplications of a third will produce a
fine crop of yams; the earnest entreaties of a fourth will ensure
victory in war; and the passionate pleadings of a fifth will guard
mariners against the perils and dangers of the deep. And so on through
the whole gamut of human needs, so far as these are felt by savages. If
only wrestling in prayer could satisfy the wants of man, few people
should be better provided with all the necessaries and comforts of life
than the New Caledonians. And according to the special purpose to which
a family devotes its spiritual energies, so will commonly be the
position of its oratory. For example, if rain-making is their strong
point, their house of prayer will be established near a cultivated
field, in order that the crops may immediately experience the benefit to
be derived from their orisons. Again, if they enjoy a high reputation
for procuring a good catch of fish, the family skulls will be placed in
the mouth of a cave looking out over the great ocean, or perhaps on a
bleak little wind-swept isle, where in the howl of the blast, the
thunder of the waves on the strand, and the clangour of the gulls
overhead, the fancy of the superstitious savage may hear the voices of
his dead forefathers keeping watch and ward over their children who are
tossed on the heaving billows.[534] Thus among these fortunate islanders
religion and industry go hand in hand; piety has been reduced to a
co-operative system which diffuses showers of blessings on the whole
community.

[Sidenote: Prayer-posts.]

As it is clearly impossible even for the most devout to pray day and
night without cessation, the weakness of the flesh requiring certain
intervals for refreshment and repose, the New Caledonians have devised
an ingenious method of continuing their orisons at the shrine in their
own absence. For this purpose they make rods or poles of various
lengths, carve and paint them rudely, wind bandages of native cloth
about them, and having fastened large shells to the top, set them up
either in the sepulchral caves or in the place of skulls. In setting up
one of these poles the native will pray for the particular favour which
he desires to obtain from the ancestors for himself or his family; and
he appears to think that in some way the pole will continue to recite
the prayer in the ears of the ghosts, when he himself has ceased to
speak and has returned to his customary avocations. And when members of
his family visit the shrine and see the pole, they will be reminded of
the particular benefit which they are entitled to expect from the souls
of the departed. A certain rude symbolism may be traced in the materials
and other particulars of these prayer-posts. A hard wood signifies
strength; a tall pole overtopping all the rest imports a wish that he
for whose sake it was erected may out-top all his rivals; and so
on.[535]

[Sidenote: Religion combined with magic in the ritual of the New
Caledonians. Sacred stones endowed with special magical virtues. The
"stone of famine."]

We may assume with some probability that in the mind of the natives such
resemblances are not purely figurative or symbolic, but that they are
also magical in intention, being supposed not merely to represent the
object of the supplicant's prayer, but actually, on the principle of
homoeopathic or imitative magic, to contribute to its accomplishment. If
that is so, we must conclude that the religion of these savages, as
manifested in their prayers to the spirits of the dead, is tinctured
with an alloy of magic; they do not trust entirely to the compassion of
the spirits and their power to help them; they seek to reinforce their
prayers by a certain physical compulsion acting through the natural
properties of the prayer-posts. This interpretation is confirmed by a
parallel use which these people make of certain sacred stones, which
apart from their possible character as representatives of the ancestors,
seem to be credited with independent magical virtues by reason of their
various shapes and appearances. For example, there is a piece of
polished jade which is called "the stone of famine," because it is
supposed capable of causing either dearth or abundance, but is oftener
used by the sorcerer to create, or at least to threaten, dearth, in
order thereby to extort presents from his alarmed fellow tribesmen. This
stone is kept in a burial-ground and derives its potency from the dead.
The worshipper or the sorcerer (for he combines the two characters) who
desires to cause a famine repairs to the burial-ground, uncovers the
stone, rubs it with certain plants, and smears one half of it with black
pigment. Then he makes a small hole in the ground and inserts the
blackened end of the stone in the hole. Next he prays to the ancestors
that nothing may go well with the country. If this malevolent rite
should be followed by the desired effect, the sorcerer soon sees
messengers arriving laden with presents, who entreat him to stay the
famine. If his cupidity is satisfied, he rubs the stone again, inserts
it upside down in the ground, and prays to his ancestors to restore
plenty to the land.[536]

[Sidenote: Stones to drive people mad.]

Again, certain rough unhewn stones, which are kept in the sacred places,
are thought to possess the power of driving people mad. To effect this
purpose the sorcerer has only to strike one of them with the branches of
a certain tree and to pray to the ancestral spirits that they would
deprive so-and-so of his senses.[537]

[Sidenote: Stones to blight coco-nut palms. Stones to make bread-fruit
trees bear fruit.]

Again, there is a stone which they use in cursing a plantation of
coco-nut palms. The stone resembles a blighted coco-nut, and no doubt it
is this resemblance which is supposed to endow it with the magical power
to blight coco-nut trees. In order to effect his malicious purpose the
sorcerer rubs the stone in the cemetery with certain leaves and then
deposits it in a hole at the foot of a coco-nut tree, covers it up, and
prays that all the trees of the plantation may be barren. This ceremony
combines the elements of magic and religion. The prayer, which is no
doubt addressed to the spirits of the dead, though this is not expressly
affirmed, is purely religious; but the employment of a stone resembling
a blighted coco-nut for the purpose of blighting the coco-nut palms is a
simple piece of homoeopathic or imitative magic, in which, as usual, the
desired effect is supposed to be produced by an imitation of it.
Similarly, in order to make a bread-fruit tree bear fruit they employ
two stones, one of which resembles the unripe and the other the ripe
fruit. These are kept, as usual, in a cemetery; and when the trees begin
to put forth fruit, the small stone resembling the unripe fruit is
buried at the foot of one of the trees with the customary prayers and
ceremonies; and when the fruits are more mature the small stone is
replaced by the larger stone which resembles the ripe fruit. Then, when
the fruits on the tree are quite ripe, the two stones are removed and
deposited again in the cemetery: they have done their work by bringing
to maturity the fruits which they resemble. This again is a piece of
pure homoeopathic or imitative magic working by means of mimicry; but
the magical virtue of the stones is reinforced by the spiritual power of
the dead, for the stones have been kept in a cemetery and prayers have
been addressed to the souls of the departed.[538]

[Sidenote: The "stone of the sun."]

Again, the natives have two disc-shaped stones, each with a hole in the
centre, which together make up what they call "the stone of the sun." No
doubt it is regarded as a symbol of the sun, and as such it is employed
to cause drought in a ceremony which, like the preceding, combines the
elements of magic and religion. The sun-stone is kept in one of the
sacred places, and when a sorcerer wishes to make drought with it, he
brings offerings to the ancestral spirits in the sacred place. These
offerings are purely religious, but the rest of the ceremony is purely
magical. At the moment when the sun rises from the sea, the magician or
priest, whichever we choose to call him (for he combines both
characters), passes a burning brand in and out of the hole in the
sun-stone, while he says, "I kindle the sun, in order that he may eat up
the clouds and dry up our land, so that it shall no longer bear fruit."
Here the putting of fire to the sun-stone is a piece of pure
homoeopathic or imitative magic, designed to increase the burning heat
of the sun by mimicry.[539]

[Sidenote: Stones to make rain.]

On the contrary, when a wizard desires to make rain, he proceeds as
follows. The place of sacrifice is decorated and enclosed with a fence,
and a large quantity of provisions is deposited in it to be offered to
the ancestors whose skulls stand there in a row. Opposite the skulls the
wizard places a row of pots full of a medicated water, and he brings a
number of sacred stones of a rounded form or shaped like a skull. Each
of these stones, after being rubbed with the leaves of a certain tree,
is placed in one of the pots of water. Then the wizard recites a long
litany or series of invocations to the ancestors, which may be
summarised thus: "We pray you to help us, in order that our country may
revive and live anew." Then holding a branch in his hand he climbs a
tree and scans the horizon if haply he may descry a cloud, be it no
larger than a man's hand. Should he be fortunate enough to see one, he
waves the branch to and fro to make the cloud mount up in the sky, while
he also stretches out his arms to right and left to enlarge it so that
it may hide the sun and overcast the whole heaven.[540] Here again the
prayers and offerings are purely religious; while the placing of the
skull-shaped stones in pots full of water, and the waving of the branch
to bring up the clouds, are magical ceremonies designed to produce rain
by mimicry and compulsion.

[Sidenote: Stones to make or mar sea-voyages.]

Again, the natives have a stone in the shape of a canoe, which they
employ in ceremonies for the purpose of favouring or hindering
navigation. If the sorcerer desires to make a voyage prosperous, he
places the canoe-shaped stone before the ancestral skulls with the right
side up; but if he wishes to cause his enemy to perish at sea, he places
the canoe-shaped stone bottom upwards before the skulls, which, on the
principles of homoeopathic or imitative magic, must clearly make his
enemy's canoe to capsize and precipitate its owner into the sea.
Whichever of these ceremonies he performs, the wizard accompanies the
magical rite, as usual, with prayers and offerings of food to the
ancestral spirits who are represented by the skulls.[541]

[Sidenote: Stones to help fishermen.]

The natives of the Isle of Pines subsist mainly by fishing; hence they
naturally have a large number of sacred stones which they use for the
purpose of securing the blessing of the ancestral spirits on the
business of the fisherman. Indeed each species of fish has its own
special sacred stone. These stones are kept in large shells in a
cemetery. A wizard who desires to make use of one of them paints the
stone with a variety of colours, chews certain leaves, and then breathes
on the stone and moistens it with his spittle. After that he sets up the
stone before the ancestral skulls, saying, "Help us, that we may be
successful in fishing." The sacrifices to the spirits consist of
bananas, sugar-cane, and fish, never of taros or yams. After the fishing
and the sacrificial meal, the stone is put back in its place, and
covered up respectfully.[542]

[Sidenote: Stones to make yams grow.]

Lastly, the natives of the Isle of Pines cultivate many different kinds
of yams, and they have a correspondingly large number of sacred stones
destined to aid them in the cultivation by ensuring the blessing of the
dead upon the work. In shape and colour these stones differ from each
other, each of them bearing a resemblance, real or fanciful, to the
particular species of yam which it is supposed to quicken. But the
method of operating with them is much the same for all. The stone is
placed before the skulls, wetted with water, and wiped with certain
leaves. Yams and fish, cooked on the spot, are offered in sacrifice to
the dead, the priest or magician saying, "This is your offering in order
that the crop of yams may be good." So saying he presents the food to
the dead and himself eats a little of it. After that the stone is taken
away and buried in the yam field which it is designed to fertilise.[543]
Here, again, the prayer and sacrifice to the dead are purely religious
rites intended to propitiate the spirits and secure their help; while
the burying of the yam-shaped stone in the yam-field to make the yams
grow is a simple piece of homoeopathic or imitative magic. Similarly in
order to cultivate taros and bananas, stones resembling taros and
bananas are buried in the taro field or the banana grove, and their
magical virtue is reinforced by prayers and offerings to the dead.[544]

[Sidenote: The religion of the New Caledonians is mainly a worship of
the dead tinctured with magic.]

On the whole we may conclude that among the natives of New Caledonia
there exists a real worship of the dead, and that this worship is indeed
the principal element in their religion. The spirits of the dead, though
they are supposed to spend part of their time in a happy land far away
under the sea, are nevertheless believed to be near at hand, hovering
about in the burial-grounds or charnel-houses and embodied apparently in
their skulls. To these spirits the native turns for help in all the
important seasons and emergencies of life; he appeals to them in prayer
and seeks to propitiate them by sacrifice. Thus in his attitude towards
his dead ancestors we perceive the elements of a real religion. But, as
I have just pointed out, many rites of this worship of ancestors are
accompanied by magical ceremonies. The religion of these islanders is in
fact deeply tinged with magic; it marks a transition from an age of pure
magic in the past to an age of more or less pure religion in the future.

[Sidenote: Evidence as to the religion of the New Caledonians furnished
by Dr. G. Turner.]

Thus far I have based my account of the beliefs and customs of the New
Caledonians concerning the dead on the valuable information which we owe
to the Catholic missionary Father Lambert. But, as I pointed out, his
evidence refers not so much to the natives of the mainland as to the
inhabitants of certain small islands at the two extremities of the great
island. It may be well, therefore, to supplement his description by some
notes which a distinguished Protestant missionary, the Rev. Dr. George
Turner, obtained in the year 1845 from two native teachers, one a Samoan
and the other a Rarotongan, who lived in the south-south-eastern part of
New Caledonia for three years.[545] Their evidence, it will be observed,
goes to confirm Father Lambert's view as to the general similarity of
the religious beliefs and customs prevailing throughout the island.

[Sidenote: Material culture of the New Caledonians.]

The natives of this part of New Caledonia were divided into separate
districts, each with its own name, and war, perpetual war, was the rule
between the neighbouring communities. They cultivated taro, yams,
coco-nuts, and sugar-cane; but they had no intoxicating _kava_ and kept
no pigs. They cooked their food in earthenware pots manufactured by the
women. In former days their only edge-tools were made of stone, and they
felled trees by a slow fire smouldering close to the ground. Similarly
they hollowed out the fallen trees by means of a slow fire to make their
canoes. Their villages were not permanent. They migrated within certain
bounds, as they planted. A village might comprise as many as fifty or
sixty round houses. The chiefs had absolute power of life and death.
Priests did not meddle in political affairs.[546]

[Sidenote: Burial customs; preservation of the skulls and teeth.]

At death they dressed the corpse with a belt and shell armlets, cut off
the nails of the fingers and toes, and kept them as relics. They spread
the grave with a mat, and buried all the body but the head. After ten
days the friends twisted off the head, extracted the teeth to be kept as
relics, and preserved the skull also. In cases of sickness and other
calamities they presented offerings of food to the skulls of the dead.
The teeth of the old women were taken to the yam plantations and were
supposed to fertilise them; and their skulls were set up on poles in the
plantations for the same purpose. When they buried a chief, they erected
spears at his head, fastened a spear-thrower to his forefinger, and laid
a club on the top of his grave,[547] no doubt for the convenience of the
ghost.

[Sidenote: Prayers to ancestors.]

"Their gods," we are told, "were their ancestors, whose relics they kept
up and idolised. At one place they had wooden idols before the chiefs'
houses. The office of the priest was hereditary. Almost every family had
its priest. To make sure of favours and prosperity they prayed not only
to their own gods, but also, in a general way, to the gods of other
lands. Fishing, planting, house-building, and everything of importance
was preceded by prayers to their guardian spirits for success. This was
especially the case before going to battle. They prayed to one for the
eye, that they might see the spear as it flew towards them. To another
for the ear, that they might hear the approach of the enemy. Thus, too,
they prayed for the feet, that they might be swift in pursuing the
enemy; for the heart, that they might be courageous; for the body, that
they might not be speared; for the head, that it might not be clubbed;
and for sleep, that it might be undisturbed by an attack of the enemy.
Prayers over, arms ready, and equipped with their relic charms, they
went off to battle."[548]

[Sidenote: "Grand concert of spirits."]

The spirits of the dead were believed to go away into the forest. Every
fifth month they had a "spirit night" or "grand concert of spirits."
Heaps of food were prepared for the occasion. The people assembled in
the afternoon round a certain cave. At sundown they feasted, and then
one stood up and addressed the spirits in the cave, saying, "You spirits
within, may it please you to sing a song, that all the women and men out
here may listen to your sweet voices." Thereupon a strange unearthly
concert of voices burst on their ears from the cave, the nasal squeak of
old men and women forming the dominant note. But the hearers outside
listened with delight to the melody, praised the sweet voices of the
singers, and then got up and danced to the music. The singing swelled
louder and louder as the dance grew faster and more furious, till the
concert closed in a nocturnal orgy of unbridled license, which, but for
the absence of intoxicants, might compare with the worst of the ancient
bacchanalia. The singers in the cave were the old men and women who had
ensconced themselves in it secretly during the day; but the hoax was not
suspected by the children and young people, who firmly believed that the
spirits of the dead really assembled that night in the cavern and
assisted at the sports and diversions of the living.[549]

[Sidenote: Making rain by means of the bones of the dead.]

The souls of the departed also kindly bore a hand in the making of rain.
In order to secure their co-operation for this beneficent purpose the
human rain-maker proceeded as follows. He blackened himself all over,
exhumed a dead body, carried the bones to a cave, jointed them, and
suspended the skeleton over some taro leaves. After that he poured water
on the skeleton so that it ran down and fell on the leaves underneath.
They imagined that the soul of the deceased took up the water, converted
it into rain, and then caused it to descend in refreshing showers. But
the rain-maker had to stay in the cavern fasting till his efforts were
crowned with success, and when the ghost was tardy in executing his
commission, the rain-maker sometimes died of hunger. As a rule, however,
they chose the showery months of March and April for the operation of
rain-making, so that the wizard ran little risk of perishing a martyr to
the cause of science. When there was too much rain, and they wanted fine
weather, the magician procured it by a similar process, except that
instead of drenching the skeleton with water he lit a fire under it and
burned it up,[550] which naturally induced or compelled the ghost to
burn up the clouds and let the sun shine out.

[Sidenote: Execution of maleficent sorcerers. Reincarnation of the dead
in white people.]

Another class of magicians were the maleficent sorcerers who caused
people to fall ill and die by burning their personal rubbish. When one
of these rascals was convicted of repeated offences of that sort, he was
formally tried and condemned. The people assembled and a great festival
was held. The condemned man was decked with a garland of red flowers;
his arms and legs were covered with flowers and shells, and his face and
body painted black. Thus arrayed he came dashing forward, rushed through
the people, plunged from the rocks into the sea, and was seen no more.
The natives also ascribed sickness to the arts of white men, whom they
identified with the spirits of the dead; and assigned this belief as a
reason for their wish to kill the strangers.[551]

[Footnote 517: F. H. H. Guillemard, _Australasia_, II. _Malaysia and the
Pacific Archipelagoes_ (London, 1894), p. 458.]

[Footnote 518: J. Deniker, _The Races of Man_ (London, 1900), pp. 498
_sq._ As to the mediums of exchange, particularly the shell-money, see
R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_ (Oxford, 1891), pp. 323 _sqq._; R.
Parkinson, _Dreissig Jähre in der Südsee_ (Stuttgart, 1907), pp. 82
_sqq._]

[Footnote 519: Le Père Lambert, _Moeurs et Superstitions des
Néo-Calédoniens_ (Nouméa, 1900). This work originally appeared as a
series of articles in the Catholic missionary journal _Les Missions
Catholiques_.]

[Footnote 520: Lambert, _Moeurs et Superstitions des Néo-Calédoniens_,
pp. ii., iv. _sq._; 255.]

[Footnote 521: George Turner, LL.D., _Samoa a Hundred Years Ago and long
before_ (London, 1884), pp. 340 _sqq._]

[Footnote 522: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 13-16.]

[Footnote 523: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 235-239.]

[Footnote 524: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 238, 239 _sq._]

[Footnote 525: Above, pp. 136 _sq._, 235 _sq._]

[Footnote 526: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 24, 240.]

[Footnote 527: Lambert, _op. cit._ p. 274.]

[Footnote 528: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 24, 26.]

[Footnote 529: Lambert, _op. cit._ p. 211.]

[Footnote 530: Lambert, _op. cit._ p. 218.]

[Footnote 531: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 224 _sq._]

[Footnote 532: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 275 _sqq._]

[Footnote 533: Lambert, _op. cit._ p. 276.]

[Footnote 534: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 288 _sq._]

[Footnote 535: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 290, 292.]

[Footnote 536: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 292 _sq._]

[Footnote 537: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 293 _sq._]

[Footnote 538: Lambert, _op. cit._ p. 294.]

[Footnote 539: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 296 _sq._]

[Footnote 540: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 297 _sq._]

[Footnote 541: Lambert, _op. cit._ p. 298.]

[Footnote 542: Lambert, _op. cit._ p. 300.]

[Footnote 543: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 301 _sq._]

[Footnote 544: Lambert, _op. cit._ pp. 217 _sq._, 300.]

[Footnote 545: George Turner, LL.D., _Samoa a Hundred Years Ago and long
before_ (London, 1884), pp. 340 _sqq._]

[Footnote 546: G. Turner, _op. cit._ pp. 340, 341, 343, 344.]

[Footnote 547: G. Turner, _op. cit._ pp. 342 _sq._]

[Footnote 548: G. Turner, _op. cit._ p. 345.]

[Footnote 549: G. Turner, _op. cit._ pp. 346 _sq._]

[Footnote 550: G. Turner, _op. cit._ pp. 345 _sq._]

[Footnote 551: G. Turner, _op. cit._ p. 342.]



LECTURE XVI

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE NATIVES OF CENTRAL MELANESIA


[Sidenote: The islands of Central Melanesia. Distinction between the
religion of the Eastern and Western Islanders.]

In our survey of savage beliefs and practices concerning the dead we now
pass from New Caledonia, the most southerly island of Melanesia, to the
groups of islands known as the New Hebrides, the Banks' Islands, the
Torres Islands, the Santa Cruz Islands, and the Solomon Islands, which
together constitute what we may call Central Melanesia. These groups of
islands may themselves be distinguished into two archipelagoes, a
western and an eastern, of which the Western comprises the Solomon
Islands and the Eastern includes all the rest. Corresponding to this
geographical distinction there is a religious distinction; for while the
religion of the Western islanders (the Solomon Islanders) consists
chiefly in a fear and worship of the ghosts of the dead, the religion of
the Eastern islanders is characterised mainly by the fear and worship of
spirits which are not supposed ever to have been incarnate in human
bodies. Both groups of islanders, the Western and the Eastern, recognise
indeed both classes of spirits, namely ghosts that once were men and
spirits who never were men; but the religious bias of the one group is
towards ghosts rather than towards pure spirits, and the religious bias
of the other group is towards pure spirits rather than towards ghosts.
It is not a little remarkable that the islanders whose bent is towards
ghosts have carried the system of sacrifice and the arts of life to a
higher level than the islanders whose bent is towards pure spirits; this
applies particularly to the sacrificial system, which is much more
developed in the west than in the east.[552] From this it would seem to
follow that if a faith in ghosts is more costly than a faith in pure
spirits, it is at the same time more favourable to the evolution of
culture.

[Sidenote: Dr. R. H. Codrington on the Melanesians.]

For the whole of this region we are fortunate in possessing the evidence
of the Rev. Dr. R. H. Codrington, one of the most sagacious, cautious,
and accurate of observers, who laboured as a missionary among the
natives for twenty-four years, from 1864 to 1887, and has given us a
most valuable account of their customs and beliefs in his book _The
Melanesians_, which must always remain an anthropological classic. In
describing the worship of the dead as it is carried on among these
islanders I shall draw chiefly on the copious evidence supplied by Dr.
Codrington; and I shall avail myself of his admirable researches to
enter into considerable details on the subject, since details recorded
by an accurate observer are far more instructive than the vague
generalities of superficial observers, which are too often all the
information we possess as to the religion of savages.

[Sidenote: Melanesian theory of the soul.]

In the first place, all the Central Melanesians believe that man is
composed of a body and a soul, that death is the final parting of the
soul from the body, and that after death the soul continues to exist as
a conscious and more or less active being.[553] Thus the creed of these
savages on this profound subject agrees fundamentally with the creed of
the average European; if my hearers were asked to state their beliefs as
to the nature of life and death, I imagine that most of them would
formulate them in substantially the same way. However, when the Central
Melanesian savage attempts to define the nature of the vital principle
or soul, which animates the body during life and survives it after
death, he finds himself in a difficulty; and to continue the parallel I
cannot help thinking that if my hearers in like manner were invited to
explain their conception of the soul, they would similarly find
themselves embarrassed for an answer. But an examination of the Central
Melanesian theory of the soul would lead us too far from our immediate
subject; we must be content to say that, "whatever word the Melanesian
people use for soul, they mean something essentially belonging to each
man's nature which carries life to his body with it, and is the seat of
thought and intelligence, exercising therefore power which is not of the
body and is invisible in its action."[554] However the soul may be
defined, the Melanesians are universally of opinion that it survives the
death of the body and goes away to some more or less distant region,
where the spirits of all the dead congregate and continue for the most
part to live for an indefinite time, though some of them, as we shall
see presently, are supposed to die a second death and so to come to an
end altogether. In Western Melanesia, that is, in the Solomon Islands,
the abode of the dead is supposed to be in certain islands, which differ
in the creed of different islanders; but in Eastern Melanesia the abode
of the dead is thought to be a subterranean region called Panoi.[555]

[Sidenote: Distinction between ghosts of power and ghosts of no
account.]

But though the souls of the departed go away to the spirit land,
nevertheless, with a seeming or perhaps real inconsistency, their ghosts
are also supposed to haunt their graves and their old homes and to
exercise great power for good or evil over the living, who are
accordingly often obliged to woo their favour by prayer and sacrifice.
According to the Solomon Islanders, however, among whom ghosts are the
principal objects of worship, there is a great distinction to be drawn
among ghosts. "The distinction," says Dr. Codrington, "is between ghosts
of power and ghosts of no account, between those whose help is sought
and their wrath deprecated, and those from whom nothing is expected and
to whom no observance is due. Among living men there are some who stand
out distinguished for capacity in affairs, success in life, valour in
fighting, and influence over others; and these are so, it is believed,
because of the supernatural and mysterious powers which they have, and
which are derived from communication with those ghosts of the dead gone
before them who are full of those same powers. On the death of a
distinguished man his ghost retains the powers that belonged to him in
life, in greater activity and with stronger force; his ghost therefore
is powerful and worshipful, and so long as he is remembered the aid of
his powers is sought and worship is offered him; he is the _tindalo_ of
Florida, the _lio'a_ of Saa. In every society, again, the multitude is
composed of insignificant persons, '_numerus fruges consumeri nati_,' of
no particular account for valour, skill, or prosperity. The ghosts of
such persons continue their insignificance, and are nobodies after death
as before; they are ghosts because all men have souls, and the souls of
dead men are ghosts; they are dreaded because all ghosts are awful, but
they get no worship and are soon only thought of as the crowd of the
nameless population of the lower world."[556]

[Sidenote: Ghosts of the great and of the recently dead are chiefly
regarded. Supernatural power (_mana_) acquired through ghosts.]

From this account of Dr. Codrington we see that it is only the ghosts of
great and powerful people who are worshipped; the ghosts of ordinary
people are indeed feared, but no worship is paid to them. Further, we
are told that it is the ghosts of those who have lately died that are
deemed to be most powerful and are therefore most regarded; as the dead
are forgotten, their ghosts cease to be worshipped, their power fades
away,[557] and their place in the religion of the people is taken by the
ghosts of the more recently departed. In fact here, as elsewhere, the
existence of the dead seems to be dependent on the memory of the living;
when they are forgotten they cease to exist. Further, it deserves to be
noticed that in the Solomon Islands what we should call a man's natural
powers and capacities are regarded as supernatural endowments acquired
by communication with a mighty ghost. If a man is a great warrior, it is
not because he is strong of arm, quick of eye, and brave of heart; it is
because he is supported by the ghost of a dead warrior, whose power he
has drawn to himself through an amulet of stone tied round his neck, or
a tuft of leaves in his belt, or a tooth attached to one of his fingers,
or a spell by the recitation of which he can enlist the aid of the
ghost.[558] And similarly with all other pre-eminent capacities and
virtues; in the mind of the Solomon Islanders, they are all supernatural
gifts and graces bestowed on men by ghosts. This all-pervading
supernatural power the Central Melanesian calls _mana_.[559] Thus for
these savages the whole world teems with ghostly influences; their minds
are filled, we may almost say, obsessed, with a sense of the unseen
powers which encompass and determine even in its minute particulars the
life of man on earth: in their view the visible world is, so to say,
merely a puppet-show of which the strings are pulled and the puppets
made to dance by hands invisible. Truly the attitude of these savages to
the universe is deeply religious.

We may now consider the theory and practice of the Central Melanesians
on this subject somewhat more in detail; and in doing so we shall begin
with their funeral customs, which throw much light on their views of
death and the dead.

[Sidenote: Burial customs in the Solomon Islands. Land burial and sea
burial. Land-ghosts and sea-ghosts.]

Thus, for example, in Florida, one of the Solomon Islands, the corpse is
usually buried. Common men are buried in their gardens or plantations,
chiefs sometimes in the village, a chief's child sometimes in the house.
If the ghost of the deceased is worshipped, his grave becomes a
sanctuary (_vunuhu_); the skull is often dug up and hung in the house.
On the return from the burial the mourners take a different road from
that by which they carried the corpse to the grave; this they do in
order to throw the ghost off the scent and so prevent him from following
them home. This practice clearly shews the fear which the natives feel
for the ghosts of the newly dead. A man is buried with money, porpoise
teeth, and some of his personal ornaments; but, avarice getting the
better of superstition, these things are often secretly dug up again and
appropriated by the living. Sometimes a dying man will express a wish to
be cast into the sea; his friends will therefore paddle out with the
corpse, tie stones to the feet, and sink it in the depths. In the island
of Savo, another of the Solomon Islands, common men are generally thrown
into the sea and only great men are buried.[560] The same distinction is
made at Wango in San Cristoval, another of the same group of islands;
there also the bodies of common folk are cast into the sea, but men of
consequence are buried, and some relic of them, it may be a skull, a
tooth, or a finger-bone, is preserved in a shrine at the village. From
this difference in burial customs flows a not unimportant religious
difference. The souls of the great people who are buried on land turn
into land-ghosts, and the souls of commoners who are sunk in the sea
turn into sea-ghosts. The land-ghosts are seen to hover about the
villages, haunting their graves and their relics; they are also heard to
speak in hollow whispers. Their aid can be obtained by such as know
them. The sea-ghosts have taken a great hold on the imagination of the
natives of the south-eastern Solomon Islands; and as these people love
to illustrate their life by sculpture and painting, they shew us clearly
what they suppose these sea-ghosts to be like. At Wango there used to be
a canoe-house full of sculptures and paintings illustrative of native
life; amongst others there was a series of scenes like those which are
depicted on the walls of Egyptian tombs. One of the scenes represented a
canoe attacked by sea-ghosts, which were portrayed as demons compounded
partly of human limbs, partly of the bodies and tails of fishes, and
armed with spears and arrows in the form of long-bodied garfish and
flying-fish. If a man falls ill on returning from a voyage or from
fishing on the rocks, it is thought that one of these sea-ghosts has
shot him. Hence when men are in danger at sea, they seek to propitiate
the ghosts by throwing areca-nuts and fragments of food into the water
and by praying to the ghosts not to be angry with them. Sharks are also
supposed to be animated by the ghosts of the dead.[561] It is
interesting and instructive to find that in this part of the world
sea-demons, who might be thought to be pure spirits of nature, are in
fact ghosts of the dead.

[Sidenote: Burnt offerings in honour of the dead.]

In the island of Florida, two days after the death of a chief or of any
person who was much esteemed, the relatives and friends assemble and
hold a funeral feast, at which they throw a bit of food into the fire
for the ghost, saying, "This is for you."[562] In other of the Solomon
Islands morsels of food are similarly thrown on the fire at the
death-feasts as the dead man's share.[563] Thus, in the Shortlands
Islands, when a famous chief named Gorai died, his body was burnt and
his relatives cast food, beads, and other property into the fire. The
dead chief had been very fond of tea, so one of his daughters threw a
cup of tea into the flames. Women danced a funeral dance round the pyre
till the body was consumed.[564] Why should the dead man's food and
property be burnt? No explanation of the practice is given by our
authorities, so we are left to conjecture the reason of it. Is it that
by volatilising the solid substance of the food you make it more
accessible to the thin unsubstantial nature of the ghost? Is it that you
destroy the property of the ghost lest he should come back in person to
fetch it and so haunt and trouble the survivors? Is it that the spirits
of the dead are supposed to reside in the fire on the hearth, so that
offerings cast into the flames are transmitted to them directly? Whether
it is with any such ideas that the Solomon Islanders throw food into the
fire for ghosts, I cannot say. The whole question of the meaning of
burnt sacrifice is still to a great extent obscure.

[Sidenote: Funeral customs in the island of Florida. The ghostly ferry.]

At the funeral feast of a chief in the island of Florida the axes,
spears, shield and other belongings of the deceased are hung up with
great lamentations in his house; everything remains afterwards untouched
and the house falls into ruins, which as time goes on are thickly
mantled with the long tendrils of the sprouting yams. But we are told
that the weapons are not intended to accompany the ghost to the land of
souls; they are hung up only as a memorial of a great and valued man.
"With the same feeling they cut down a dead man's fruit-trees as a mark
of respect and affection, not with any notion of these things serving
him in the world of ghosts; he ate of them, they say, when he was alive,
he will never eat again, and no one else shall have them." However, they
think that the ghost benefits by burial; for if a man is killed and his
body remains unburied, his restless ghost will haunt the place.[565] The
ghosts of such Florida people as have been duly buried depart to
Betindalo, which seems to be situated in the south-eastern part of the
great island of Guadalcanar. A ship waits to ferry them across the sea
to the spirit-land. This is almost the only example of a ferry-boat used
by ghosts in Melanesia. On their way to the ferry the ghosts may be
heard twittering; and again on the shore, while they are waiting for the
ferry-boat, a sound of their dancing breaks the stillness of night; but
no man can see the dancers. It is not until they land on the further
shore that they know they are dead. There they are met by a ghost, who
thrusts a rod into their noses to see whether the cartilage is pierced
as it should be; ghosts whose noses have been duly bored in life follow
the onward path with ease, but all others have pain and difficulty in
making their way to the realm of the shades. Yet though the souls of the
dead thus depart to Betindalo, nevertheless their ghosts as usual not
only haunt their burial-places, but come to the sacrifices offered to
them and may be heard disporting themselves at night, playing on pipes,
dancing, and shouting.[566]

[Sidenote: Belief of the Solomon Islanders that the souls of the dead
live in islands. The second death.]

Similarly at Bugotu in the island of Ysabel (one of the Solomon Islands)
the ghosts of the dead are supposed to go away to an island, and yet to
haunt their graves and shew themselves to the survivors by night. In the
island of the dead there is a pool with a narrow tree-trunk lying across
it. Here is stationed Bolafagina, the ghostly lord of the place. Every
newly arrived ghost must appear before him, and he examines their hands
to see whether they bear the mark of the sacred frigate-bird cut on
them; if they have the mark, the ghosts pass across the tree-trunk and
mingle with the departed spirits in the world of the dead. But ghosts
who have not the mark on their hands are cast into the gulf and perish
out of their ghostly life: this is the second death.[567] The same
notion of a second death meets us in a somewhat different form among the
natives of Saa in Malanta, another of the Solomon Islands. All the
ghosts of these people swim across the sea to two little islands called
Marapa, which lie off Marau in Guadalcanar. There the ghosts of children
live in one island and the ghosts of grown-up people in another; for the
older people would be plagued by the chatter of children if they all
dwelt together in one island. Yet in other respects the life of the
departed spirits in these islands is very like life on earth. There are
houses, gardens, and canoes there just as here, but all is thin and
unsubstantial. Living men who land in the islands see nothing of these
things; there is a pool where they hear laughter and merry cries, and
where the banks are wet with invisible bathers. But the life of the
ghosts in these islands is not eternal. The spirits of common folk soon
turn into the nests of white ants, which serve as food for the more
robust ghosts. Hence a living man will say to his idle son, "When I die,
I shall have ants' nests to eat, but then what will you have?" The
ghosts of persons who were powerful on earth last much longer. So long
as they are remembered and worshipped by the living, their natural
strength remains unabated; but when men forget them, and turn to worship
some of the more recent dead, then no more food is offered to them in
sacrifice, so they pine away and change into white ants' nests just like
common folk. This is the second death. However, while the ghosts survive
they can return from the islands to Saa and revisit their village and
friends. The living can even discern them in the form of dim and
fleeting shadows. A man who wishes for any reason to see a ghost can
always do so very simply by taking a pinch of lime from his betel-box
and smearing it on his forehead. Then the ghost appears to him quite
plainly.[568]

[Sidenote: Burial customs in Saa. Preservation of the skull and jawbone.
Burial customs in Santa Cruz. Burial customs in Ysabel.]

In Saa the dead are usually buried in a common cemetery; but when the
flesh has decayed the bones are taken up and heaped on one side. But if
the deceased was a very great man or a beloved father, his body is
preserved for a time in his son's house, being hung up either in a canoe
or in the carved effigy of a sword-fish. Very favourite children are
treated in the same way. The corpse may be kept in this way for years.
Finally, there is a great funeral feast, at which the remains are
removed to the common burial-ground, but the skull and jawbone are
detached from the skeleton and kept in the house enclosed in the hollow
wooden figure of a bonito-fish. By means of these relics the survivors
think that they can secure the aid of the powerful ghost. Sometimes the
corpse and afterwards the skull and jawbone are preserved, not in the
house of the deceased, but in the _oha_ or public canoe-house, which so
far becomes a sort of shrine or temple of the dead.[569] At Santa Cruz
in the Solomon Islands the corpse is buried in a very deep grave in the
house. Inland they dig up the bones again to make arrow-heads; also they
detach the skull and keep it in a chest in the house, saying that it is
the man himself. They even set food before the skull, no doubt for the
use of the ghost. Yet they imagine that the ghosts of the dead go to the
great volcano Tamami, where they are burnt in the crater and thus being
renewed stay in the fiery region. Nevertheless the souls of the dead
also haunt the forests in Santa Cruz; on wet and dark nights the natives
see them twinkling in the gloom like fire-flies, and at the sight they
are sore afraid.[570] So little consistent with itself is the creed of
these islanders touching the state of the dead. At Bugotu in the island
of Ysabel (one of the Solomon Islands) a chief is buried with his head
near the surface and a fire is kept burning over the grave, in order
that the skull may be taken up and preserved in the house of his
successor. The spirit of the dead chief has now become a worshipful
ghost, and an expedition is sent out to cut off and bring back human
heads in his honour. Any person, not belonging to the place, whom the
head-hunters come across will be killed by them and his or her skull
added to the collection, which is neatly arranged on the shore. These
ghastly trophies are believed to add fresh spiritual power (_mana_) to
the ghost of the dead chief. Till they have been procured, the people of
the place take care not to move about. The grave of the chief is built
up with stones and sacrifices are offered upon it.[571]

[Sidenote: Beliefs and customs of the Eastern islanders concerning the
dead. Panoi, the subterranean abode of the dead.]

Thus far we have been considering the beliefs and practices concerning
the dead which prevail among the Western Melanesians of the Solomon
Islands and Santa Cruz. We now turn to those of the Eastern Melanesians,
who inhabit the Torres Islands, the Banks' Islands, and the New
Hebrides. A broad distinction exists between the ghosts of these two
regions in as much as the ghosts of the Western Melanesians all live in
islands, but the ghosts of all Eastern Melanesians live underground in a
subterranean region which commonly bears the name of Panoi. The exact
position of Panoi has not been ascertained; all that is regarded as
certain is that it is underground. However, there are many entrances to
it and some of them are well known. One of them, for example, is a rock
on the mountain at Mota, others are at volcanic vents which belch flames
on the burning hill of Garat over the lake at Gaua, and another is on
the great mountain of Vanua Lava. The ghosts congregate on points of
land before their departure, as well as at the entrances to the
underworld, and there on moonlight nights you may hear the ghostly crew
dancing, singing, shouting, and whistling on the claws of land-crabs. It
is not easy to extract from the natives a precise and consistent account
of the place of the dead and the state of the spirits in it; nor indeed,
as Dr. Codrington justly observes, would it be reasonable to expect full
and precise details on a subject about which the sources of information
are perhaps not above suspicion. However, as far as can be made out,
Panoi or the abode of the dead is on the whole a happy region. In many
respects it resembles the land of the living; for there are houses there
and villages, and trees with red leaves, and day and night. Yet all is
hollow and unreal. The ghosts do nothing but talk and sing and dance;
there is no clubhouse there, and though men and women live together,
there is no marrying or giving in marriage. All is very peaceful, too,
in that land; for there is no war and no tyrant to oppress the people.
Yet the ghost of a great man goes down like a great man among the
ghosts, resplendent in all his trinkets and finery; but like everything
else in the underworld these ornaments, for all the brave show they
make, are mere unsubstantial shadows. The pigs which were killed at his
funeral feast and the food that was heaped on his grave cannot go down
with him into that far country; for none of these things, not even pigs,
have souls. How then could they find their way to the spirit world? It
is clearly impossible. The ghosts in the nether world do not mix
indiscriminately. There are separate compartments for such as died
violent deaths. There is one compartment for those who were shot, there
is another for those who were clubbed, and there is another for those
who were done to death by witchcraft. The ghosts of those who were shot
keep rattling the reeds of the arrows which dealt them their fatal
wounds. Ghosts in the nether world have no knowledge of things out of
their sight and hearing; yet the living call upon them in time of need
and trouble, as if they could hear and help. Life, too, in the kingdom
of shadows is not eternal. The ghosts die the second death. Yet some say
that there are two such kingdoms, each called Panoi, the one over the
other; and that when the dead die the second death in the upper realm
they rise again from the dead in the nether realm, where they never die
but only turn into white ants' nests.[572]

[Sidenote: Distinction between the fate of the good and the fate of the
bad in the other world.]

It is interesting and not unimportant to observe that some of these
islanders make a distinction between the fate of good people and the
fate of bad people after death. The natives of Motlav, one of the Banks'
Islands, think that Panoi is a good place and that only the souls of the
good can enter it. According to them the souls of murderers, sorcerers,
thieves, liars, and adulterers are not suffered to enter the happy land.
The ghost of a murderer, for example, is met at the entrance by the
ghost of his victim, who withstands him and turns him back. All the bad
ghosts go away to a bad place, where they live, not indeed in physical
pain, but in misery: they quarrel, they are restless, homeless,
pitiable, malignant: they wander back to earth: they eat the foulest
food, their breath is noisome: they harm the living out of spite, they
eat men's souls, they haunt graves and woods. But in the true Panoi the
souls of the good live in peace and harmony.[573] Thus these people
believe that the state of the soul after death depends on the kind of
life a man led on earth; if he was good, he will be happy; if he was
bad, he will be miserable. If this creed is of purely native origin, and
Dr. Codrington seems to entertain no doubt that it is so, it marks a
considerable ethical advance among those who accept it.

[Sidenote: Descent of the living to the world of the dead.]

The Eastern Melanesians think that living people can go down to the land
of the dead and return alive to the upper world. Sometimes they do this
in the body, but at other times only in the spirit, when they are asleep
or in a faint; for at such times their souls quit their bodies and can
wander away down to Panoi. When the living thus make their way to the
spirit land, they are sometimes cautioned by friendly ghosts to eat
nothing there, no doubt lest by partaking of ghostly food they should be
turned to ghosts and never return to the land of the living.[574]

[Sidenote: Disposal of the dead among the Eastern islanders. Burial
customs of the Banks' Islanders.]

We will now consider the various modes in which the Eastern Melanesians
dispose of their dead; for funeral customs commonly furnish some
indication of the ideas which a people entertain as to the state of the
soul after death. The Banks' Islanders generally buried their dead in
the forest not far from the village; but if the deceased was a great man
or died a remarkable death, they might inter him in the village near the
men's clubhouse (_gamal_). A favourite son or child might be buried in
the house itself; but in such cases the grave would be opened after
fifty or a hundred days and the bones taken up and hidden in the forest,
though some of them might be hung up in the house. However, in some
places there was, and indeed still is, a custom of keeping the
putrefying corpse unburied in the house as a mark of affection. At Gaua,
in Santa Maria, the body was dried over slow fires for ten days or more,
till nothing but skin and bones remained; and the women who watched over
it during these days drank the juices of putrefaction which dripped from
the decaying flesh. The same thing used formerly to be done in Mota,
another of the Banks' Islands. The corpses of great men in these islands
were adorned in all their finery and laid out on the open space in the
middle of the village. Here bunches of coco-nuts, yams, and other food
were heaped up beside the body; and an orator of fluent speech addressed
the ghost telling him that when he had gone down to Panoi, the spirit
land, and the ghosts asked him after his rank, he was to give them a
list of all the things heaped beside his dead body; then the ghosts
would know what a great man he was and would treat him with proper
deference. The orator dealt very candidly with the moral character of
the deceased. If he had been a bad man, the speaker would say, "Poor
ghost, will you be able to enter Panoi? I think not." The food which is
piled up beside the body while the orator is pronouncing the eulogium or
the censure of the departed is afterwards heaped up on the grave or
buried in it. At Gaua they kill pigs and hang up the carcases or parts
of them at the grave. The object of all this display is to make a
favourable impression on the ghosts in the spirit land, in order that
they may give the newly deceased man a good reception. When the departed
was an eminent warrior or sorcerer, his friends will sometimes give him
a sham burial and hide his real grave, lest people should dig up his
bones and his skull to make magic with them; for the relics of such a
man are naturally endowed with great magical virtue.[575]

[Sidenote: Ghosts driven away from the village. Expulsion of the ghosts
of persons who suffered from sores and ulcers.]

In these islands the ghost does not at once leave the neighbourhood of
his old body; he shews no haste to depart to the nether world. Indeed he
commonly loiters about the house and the grave for five or ten days,
manifesting his presence by noises in the house and by lights upon the
grave. By the fifth day his relations generally think that they have had
quite enough of him, and that it is high time he should set out for his
long home. Accordingly they drive him away with shouts and the blowing
of conch-shells or the booming sound of bull-roarers.[576] At
Ureparapara the mode of expelling the ghost from the village is as
follows. Missiles to be hurled at the lingering spirit are collected in
the shape of small stones and pieces of bamboo, which have been charmed
by wizards so as to possess a ghost-expelling virtue. The artillery
having been thus provided, the people muster at one end of the village,
armed with bags of enchanted stones and pieces of enchanted bamboos. The
signal to march is given by two men, who sit in the dead man's house,
one on either side, holding two white stones in their hands, which they
clink together. At the sound of the clinking the women begin to wail and
the men to march; tramp, tramp they go like one man through the village
from end to end, throwing stones into the houses and all about and
beating the bamboos together. Thus they drive the reluctant ghost step
by step from the village into the forest, where they leave him to find
his own way down to the land of the dead. Till that time the widow of
the deceased was bound to remain on his bed without quitting it for a
moment except on necessity; and if she had to leave it for a few minutes
she always left a coco-nut on the bed to represent her till she came
back. The reason for this was that her husband's ghost was believed to
be lingering in the house all these days, and he would naturally expect
to see his wife in the nuptial chamber. At Motlav the people are not so
hard upon the poor ghosts: they do not drive away all ghosts from their
old homes, but only the ghosts of such as had in their lifetime the
misfortune to be afflicted with grievous sores and ulcers. The expulsion
of such ghosts may therefore be regarded as a sanitary precaution
designed to prevent the spirits from spreading the disease. When a man
who suffers severely from sores or ulcers lies dying, the people of his
village, taking time by the forelock, send word to the inhabitants of
the next village westwards, warning them to be in readiness to give the
ghost a warm reception. For it is well known that at their departure
from the body ghosts always go westward towards the setting sun. So when
the poor man is dead, they bury his diseased body in the village and
devote all their energies to the expulsion of his soul. By blowing
blasts on shell-trumpets and beating the ground with the stalks of
coco-nut fronds they chase the ghost clean away from their own village
and on to the next. The inhabitants of that village meantime are ready
to receive their unwelcome visitor, and beating their bounds in the most
literal sense they soon drive him onwards to the land of their next
neighbours. So the chase goes on from village to village, till the ghost
has been finally hunted into the sea at the point of the shore which
faces the setting sun. There at last the beaters throw away the stalks
which have served to whack the ghost, and return home in the perfect
assurance that he has left the island and gone to his own place down
below, so that he cannot afflict anybody with the painful disease from
which he suffered. But as for his ulcerated corpse rotting in the grave,
they do not give a thought to it. Their concern is with the spiritual
and the unseen; they do not stoop to regard the material and
carnal.[577]

[Sidenote: Special treatment of the ghosts of women who died in
childbed.]

A special treatment is accorded to the ghosts of women who died in
childbed. If the mother dies and the child lives, her ghost will not go
away to the nether world without taking the infant with her. Hence in
order to deceive the ghost, they wrap a piece of a banana-trunk loosely
in leaves and lay it on the bosom of the dead mother when they lower her
into the grave. The ghost clasps the bundle to her breast, thinking it
is her baby, and goes away contentedly to the spirit land. As she walks,
the banana-stalk slips about in the leaves and she imagines it is the
infant stirring; for she has not all her wits about her, ghosts being
naturally in a dazed state at first on quitting their familiar bodies.
But when she arrives in deadland and finds she has been deceived, and
when perhaps some heartless ghosts even jeer at her wooden baby, back
she comes tearing to earth in grief and rage to seek and carry off the
real infant. However, the survivors know what to expect and have taken
the precaution of removing the child to another house where the mother
will never find it; but she keeps looking for it always, and a sad and
angry ghost is she.[578]

[Sidenote: Funeral feasts.]

After the funeral follows a series, sometimes a long series, of funeral
feasts, which form indeed one of the principal institutions of these
islands. The number of the feasts and the length of time during which
they are repeated vary much in the different islands, and depend also on
the consideration in which the deceased was held. The days on which the
feasts are celebrated are the fifth and the tenth after the death, and
afterwards every tenth day up to the hundredth or even it may be, in the
case of a father, a mother, or a wife, up to the thousandth day. These
feasts appear now to be chiefly commemorative, but they also benefit the
dead; for the ghost is naturally gratified by seeing that his friends
remember him and do their duty by him so handsomely. At these banquets
food is put aside for the dead with the words "This is for thee." The
practice of thus setting aside food for the ghost at a series of funeral
feasts appears at first sight, as Dr. Codrington observes, inconsistent
with the theory that the ghosts live underground.[579] But the objection
thus suggested is rather specious than real; for we must always bear in
mind that, to judge from the accounts given of them in all countries,
ghosts experience no practical difficulty in obtaining temporary leave
of absence from the other world and coming to this one, so to say, on
furlough for the purpose of paying a surprise visit to their sorrowing
friends and relations. The thing is so well known that it would be at
once superfluous and tedious to illustrate it at length; many examples
have incidentally met us in the course of these lectures.

[Sidenote: Funeral customs in Vaté or Efat. Old people buried alive.]

The natives of Vaté or Efat, one of the New Hebrides, set up a great
wailing at a death and scratched their faces till they streamed with
blood. Bodies of the dead were buried. When a corpse was laid in the
grave, a pig was brought to the place and its head was chopped off and
thrown into the grave to be buried with the body. This, we are told,
"was supposed to prevent disease spreading to other members of the
family." Probably, in the opinion of the natives, the pig's head was a
sop thrown to the ghost to keep him from coming and fetching away other
people to deadland. With the same intention, we may take it, they buried
with the dead the cups, pillows, and other things which he had used in
his lifetime. On the top of the grave they kindled a fire to enable the
soul of the deceased to rise to the sun. If that were not done, the soul
went to the wretched regions of Pakasia down below. The old were buried
alive at their own request. It was even deemed a disgrace to the family
of an aged chief if they did not bury him alive. When an old man felt
sick and weak and thought that he was dying, he would tell his friends
to get all ready and bury him. They yielded to his wishes, dug a deep
round pit, wound a number of fine mats round his body, and lowered him
into the grave in a sitting posture. Live pigs were then brought to the
brink of the grave, and each of them was tethered by a cord to one of
the old man's arms. When the pigs had thus, as it were, been made over
to him, the cords were cut, and the animals were led away to be killed,
baked, and eaten at the funeral feast; but the souls of the pigs the old
man took away with him to the spirit land, and the more of them he took
the warmer and more gratifying was the reception he met with from the
ghosts. Having thus ensured his eternal welfare by the pig strings which
dangled at his arms, the old man was ready; more mats were laid over
him, the earth was shovelled in, and his dying groans were drowned amid
the weeping and wailing of his affectionate kinsfolk.[580]

[Sidenote: Burial and mourning customs in Aurora, one of the New
Hebrides. Behaviour of the soul at death.]

At Maewo in Aurora, one of the New Hebrides, when a death has taken
place, the body is buried in a grave near the village clubhouse. For a
hundred days afterwards the female mourners may not go into the open and
their faces may not be seen; they stay indoors and in the dark and cover
themselves with a large mat reaching to the ground. But the widow goes
every day, covered with her mat, to weep at the grave; this she does
both in the morning and in the afternoon. During this time of mourning
the next of kin may not eat certain succulent foods, such as yams,
bananas, and caladium; they eat only the gigantic caladium, bread-fruit,
coco-nuts, mallows, and so forth; "and all these they seek in the bush
where they grow wild, not eating those which have been planted." They
count five days after the death and then build up great heaps of stones
over the grave. After that, if the deceased was a very great man, who
owned many gardens and pigs, they count fifty days and then kill pigs,
and cut off the point of the liver of each pig; and the brother of the
deceased goes toward the forest and calls out the dead man's name,
crying, "This is for you to eat." They think that if they do not kill
pigs for the benefit of their departed friend, his ghost has no proper
existence, but hangs miserably on tangled creepers. After the sacrifice
they all cry again, smear their bodies and faces all over with ashes,
and wear cords round their necks for a hundred days in token that they
are not eating good food.[581] They imagine that as soon as the soul
quits the body at death, it mounts into a tree where there is a bird's
nest fern, and sitting there among the fronds it laughs and mocks at the
people who are crying and making great lamentations over his deserted
tabernacle. "There he sits, wondering at them and ridiculing them. 'What
are they crying for?' he says; 'whom are they sorry for? Here am I.' For
they think that the real thing is the soul, and that it has gone away
from the body just as a man throws off his clothes and leaves them, and
the clothes lie by themselves with nothing in them."[582] This estimate
of the comparative value of soul and body is translated from the words
of a New Hebridean native; it singularly resembles that which is
sometimes held up to our admiration as one of the finest fruits of
philosophy and religion. So narrow may be the line that divides the
meditations of the savage and the sage.

When a Maewo ghost has done chuckling at the folly of his surviving
relatives, who sorrow as those who have no hope, he turns his back on
his old home and runs along the line of hills till he comes to a place
where there are two rocks with a deep ravine between them. He leaps the
chasm, and if he lands on the further side, he is dead indeed; but if he
falls short, he returns to life. At the land's end, where the mountains
descend into the sea, all the ghosts of the dead are gathered to meet
him. If in his lifetime he had slain any one by club or arrow, or done
any man to death by magic, he must now run the gauntlet of the angry
ghosts of his victims, who beat and tear him and stab him with daggers
such as people stick pigs with; and as they do so, they taunt him,
saying, "While you were still in the world you thought yourself a
valiant man; but now we will take our revenge on you." At another point
in the path there is a deep gully, where if a ghost falls he is
inevitably dashed to pieces; and if he escapes this peril, there is a
ferocious pig waiting for him further on, which devours the ghosts of
all persons who in their life on earth omitted to plant pandanus trees,
from which mats are made. But the wise man, who planted pandanus
betimes, now reaps the fruit of his labours; for when the pig makes a
rush at his departed spirit, the ghost nimbly swarms up the pandanus
tree and so escapes his pursuer. That is why everybody in Maewo likes to
plant pandanus trees. And if a man's ears were not pierced in his life,
his ghost will not be allowed to drink water; if he was not tattooed,
his ghost may not eat good food. A thoughtful father will provide for
the comfort of his children in the other world by building a miniature
house for each of them in his garden when the child is a year old; if
the infant is a boy, he puts a bow, an arrow, and a club in the little
house; if the child is a girl, he plants pandanus for her beside the
tiny dwelling.[583]

[Sidenote: Only ghosts of powerful men are worshipped.]

So much for the fate of common ghosts in Central Melanesia. We have now
to consider the position of the more powerful spirits, who after death
are believed to exercise great influence over the living, especially
over their surviving relations, and who have accordingly to be
propitiated with prayer and sacrifice. This worship of the dead, as we
saw, forms the principal feature in the religion of the Solomon
Islanders. "But it must not be supposed," says Dr. Codrington, "that
every ghost becomes an object of worship. A man in danger may call upon
his father, his grandfather, or his uncle: his nearness of kin is
sufficient ground for it. The ghost who is to be worshipped is the
spirit of a man who in his lifetime had _mana_ [supernatural or magical
power] in him; the souls of common men are the common herd of ghosts,
nobodies alike before and after death. The supernatural power abiding in
the powerful living man abides in his ghost after death, with increased
vigour and more ease of movement. After his death, therefore, it is
expected that he should begin to work, and some one will come forward
and claim particular acquaintance with the ghost; if his power should
shew itself, his position is assured as one worthy to be invoked, and to
receive offerings, till his cultus gives way before the rising
importance of one newly dead, and the sacred place where his shrine once
stood and his relics were preserved is the only memorial of him that
remains; if no proof of his activity appears, he sinks into oblivion at
once."[584]

[Sidenote: Worship paid chiefly to the recent and well-remembered dead.]

From this instructive account we learn that worship is paid chiefly to
the recent and well-remembered dead, to the men whom the worshippers
knew personally and feared or respected in their lifetime. On the other
hand, when men have been long dead, and all who knew them have also been
gathered to their fathers, their memory fades away and with it their
worship gradually falls into complete desuetude. Thus the spirits who
receive the homage of these savages were real men of flesh and blood,
not mythical beings conjured up by the fancy of their worshippers, which
some legerdemain of the mind has foisted into the shrine and encircled
with the halo of divinity. Not that the Melanesians do not also worship
beings who, so far as we can see, are purely mythical, though their
worshippers firmly believe in their reality. But "they themselves make a
clear distinction between the existing, conscious, powerful disembodied
spirits of the dead, and other spiritual beings that never have been men
at all. It is true that the two orders of beings get confused in native
language and thought, but their confusion begins at one end and the
confusion of their visitors at another; they think so much and
constantly of ghosts that they speak of beings who were never men as
ghosts; Europeans take the spirits of the lately dead for gods; less
educated Europeans call them roundly devils."[585]

[Sidenote: Way in which a dead warrior came to be worshipped as a
martial ghost.]

As an example of the way in which the ghost of a real man who has just
died may come to be worshipped Dr. Codrington tells us the story of
Ganindo, which he had from Bishop Selwyn. This Ganindo was a great
fighting man of Honggo in Florida, one of the Solomon Islands. He went
with other warriors on a head-hunting expedition against Gaeta; but
being mortally wounded with an arrow near the collar-bone he was brought
back by his comrades to the hill of Bonipari, where he died and was
buried. His friends cut off his head, put it in a basket, built a house
for it, and said that he was a worshipful ghost (_tindalo_). Afterwards
they said, "Let us go and take heads." So they embarked on their canoe
and paddled away to seek the heads of enemies. When they came to quiet
water, they stopped paddling and waited till they felt the canoe rock
under them, and when they felt it they said, "That is a ghost." To find
out what particular ghost it was they called out the names of several,
and when they came to the name of Ganindo, the canoe rocked again. So
they knew that it was he who was making the canoe to rock. In like
manner they learned what village they were to attack. Returning
victorious with the heads of the foe they threw a spear into the roof of
Ganindo's house, blew conch-shells, and danced round it, crying, "Our
ghost is strong to kill!" Then they sacrificed fish and other food to
him. Also they built him a new house, and made four images of him for
the four corners, one of Ganindo himself, two of his sisters, and
another. When it was all ready, eight men translated the relics to the
new shrine. One of them carried Ganindo's bones, another his betel-nuts,
another his lime-box, another his shell-trumpet. They all went into the
shrine crouching down, as if burdened by a heavy weight, and singing in
chorus, "Hither, hither, let us lift the leg!" At that the eight legs
went up together, and then they sang, "Hither, hither!" and at that the
eight legs went down together. In this solemn procession the relics were
brought and laid on a bamboo platform, and sacrifices to the new martial
ghost were inaugurated. Other warlike ghosts revered in Florida are
known not to have been natives of the island but famous warriors of the
western isles, where supernatural power is believed to be stronger.[586]

[Sidenote: Offerings to the dead.]

Throughout the islands of Central Melanesia prayers and offerings are
everywhere made to ghosts or spirits or to both. The simplest and
commonest sacrificial act is that of throwing a small portion of food to
the dead; this is probably a universal practice in Melanesia. A morsel
of food ready to be eaten, for example of yam, a leaf of mallow, or a
bit of betel-nut, is thrown aside; and where they drink kava, a libation
is made of a few drops, as the share of departed friends or as a
memorial of them with which they will be pleased. At the same time the
offerer may call out the name of some one who either died lately or is
particularly remembered at the time; or without the special mention of
individuals he may make the offering generally to the ghosts of former
members of the community. To set food on a burial-place or before some
memorial image is a common practice, though in some places, as in Santa
Cruz, the offering is soon taken away and eaten by the living.[587]

[Sidenote: Sacrificial ritual in the Solomon Islands.]

In the Solomon Islands the sacrificial ritual is more highly developed.
It may be described in the words of a native of San Cristoval. "In my
country," he wrote, "they think that ghosts are many, very many indeed,
some very powerful, and some not. There is one who is principal in war;
this one is truly mighty and strong. When our people wish to fight with
any other place, the chief men of the village and the sacrificers and
the old men, and the elder and younger men, assemble in the place sacred
to this ghost; and his name is Harumae. When they are thus assembled to
sacrifice, the chief sacrificer goes and takes a pig; and if it be not a
barrow pig they would not sacrifice it to that ghost, he would reject it
and not eat of it. The pig is killed (it is strangled), not by the chief
sacrificer, but by those whom he chooses to assist, near the sacred
place. Then they cut it up; they take great care of the blood lest it
should fall upon the ground; they bring a bowl and set the pig in it,
and when they cut it up the blood runs down into it. When the cutting up
is finished, the chief sacrificer takes a bit of flesh from the pig, and
he takes a cocoa-nut shell and dips up some of the blood. Then he takes
the blood and the bit of flesh and enters into the house (the shrine),
and calls that ghost and says, 'Harumae! Chief in war! we sacrifice to
you with this pig, that you may help us to smite that place; and
whatsoever we shall carry away shall be your property, and we also will
be yours.' Then he burns the bit of flesh in a fire upon a stone, and
pours down the blood upon the fire. Then the fire blazes greatly upwards
to the roof, and the house is full of the smell of pig, a sign that the
ghost has heard. But when the sacrificer went in he did not go boldly,
but with awe; and this is the sign of it; as he goes into the holy house
he puts away his bag, and washes his hands thoroughly, to shew that the
ghost shall not reject him with disgust." The pig was afterwards eaten.
It should be observed that this Harumae who received sacrifices as a
martial ghost, mighty in war, had not been dead many years when the
foregoing account of the mode of sacrificing to him was written. The
elder men remembered him alive, nor was he a great warrior, but a kind
and generous man, believed to be plentifully endowed with supernatural
power. His shrine was a small house in the village, where relics of him
were preserved.[588] Had the Melanesians been left to themselves, it
seems possible that this Harumae might have developed into the war-god
of San Cristoval, just as in Central Africa another man of flesh and
blood is known to have developed into the war-god of Uganda.[589]

[Footnote 552: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_ (Oxford, 1891), pp.
122, 123, 124, 180 _sq._]

[Footnote 553: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_ (Oxford, 1891), pp.
247, 253.]

[Footnote 554: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ p. 248.]

[Footnote 555: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 255 _sqq_., 264 _sqq_.]

[Footnote 556: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ 253 _sq_.]

[Footnote 557: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 254, 258, 261; compare
_id._, pp. 125, 130.]

[Footnote 558: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 120, 254.]

[Footnote 559: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 118 _sqq._]

[Footnote 560: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 254 _sq._]

[Footnote 561: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 258 _sq._]

[Footnote 562: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ p. 255.]

[Footnote 563: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ p. 259.]

[Footnote 564: G. Brown, D.D., _Melanesians and Polynesians_ (London,
1910), pp. 214, 217.]

[Footnote 565: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ p. 255.]

[Footnote 566: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 255 _sq._]

[Footnote 567: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 256 _sq._]

[Footnote 568: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 260 _sq._]

[Footnote 569: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 261 _sq._]

[Footnote 570: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 263 _sq._]

[Footnote 571: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ p. 257.]

[Footnote 572: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 264, 273 _sq._,
275-277.]

[Footnote 573: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 274 _sq._]

[Footnote 574: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 266, 276, 277, 286.]

[Footnote 575: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 267-270.]

[Footnote 576: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ p. 269.]

[Footnote 577: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 270 _sq._]

[Footnote 578: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, p. 275.]

[Footnote 579: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 271 _sq._]

[Footnote 580: G. Turner, _Samoa a Hundred Years Ago and long before_
(London, 1884), pp. 335 _sq._ This account is based on information
furnished by Sualo, a Samoan teacher, who lived for a long time on the
island. The statement that the fire kindled on the grave was intended
"to enable the soul of the departed to rise to the sun" may be doubted;
it may be a mere inference of Dr. Turner's Samoan informant. More
probably the fire was intended to warm the shivering ghost. I do not
remember any other evidence that the souls of the Melanesian dead ascend
to the sun; certainly it is much more usual for them to descend into the
earth.]

[Footnote 581: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 281 _sq._]

[Footnote 582: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 278 _sq._]

[Sidenote: Journey of the ghost to the other world.]

[Footnote 583: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 279 _sq._]

[Footnote 584: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 124 _sq._]

[Footnote 585: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, p. 121.]

[Footnote 586: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 125 _sqq._]

[Footnote 587: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 127, 128.]

[Footnote 588: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 129 _sq._]

[Footnote 589: Rev. J. Roscoe, "Kibuka, the War God of the Baganda,"
_Man_, vii. (1907) pp. 161-166; _id._, _The Baganda_ (London, 1911), pp.
301 _sqq._ The history of this African war-god is more or less mythical,
but his personal relics, which are now deposited in the Ethnological
Museum at Cambridge, suffice to prove his true humanity.]



LECTURE XVII

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE NATIVES OF CENTRAL MELANESIA
(_concluded_)


[Sidenote: Public sacrifices to ghosts in the Solomon Islands.]

At the close of last lecture I described the mode in which sacrifices
are offered to a martial ghost in San Cristoval, one of the Solomon
Islands. We saw that the flesh of a pig is burned in honour of the ghost
and that the victim's blood is poured on the flames. Similarly in
Florida, another of the Solomon Islands, food is conveyed to worshipful
ghosts by being burned in the fire. Some ghosts are known by name to
everybody, others may be known only to individuals, who have found out
or been taught how to approach them, and who accordingly regard such
ghosts as their private property. In every village a public ghost is
worshipped, and the chief is the sacrificer. He has learned from his
predecessor how to throw or heave the sacrifice, and he imparts this
knowledge to his son or nephew, whom he intends to leave as his
successor. The place of sacrifice is an enclosure with a little house or
shrine in which the relics are kept; it is new or old according as the
man whose ghost is worshipped died lately or long ago. When a public
sacrifice is performed, the people assemble near but not in the sacred
place; boys but not women may be present. The sacrificer alone enters
the shrine, but he takes with him his son or other person whom he has
instructed in the ritual. Muttering an incantation he kindles a fire of
sticks, but may not blow on the holy flame. Then from a basket he takes
some prepared food, such as a mash of yams, and throws it on the fire,
calling out the name of the ghost and bidding him take his food, while
at the same time he prays for whatever is desired. If the fire blazes up
and consumes the food, it is a good sign; it proves that the ghost is
present and that he is blowing up the flame. The remainder of the food
the sacrificer takes back to the assembled people; some of it he eats
himself and some of it he gives to his assistant to eat. The people
receive their portions of the food at his hands and eat it or take it
away. While the sacrificing is going on, there is a solemn silence. If a
pig is killed, the portion burned in the sacrificial fire is the heart
in Florida, but the gullet at Bugotu. One ghost who is commonly known
and worshipped is called Manoga. When the sacrificer invokes this ghost,
he heaves the sacrifice round about and calls him, first to the east,
where rises the sun, saying, "If thou dwellest in the east, where rises
the sun, Manoga! come hither and eat thy _tutu_ mash!" Then turning he
lifts it towards where sets the sun, and says, "If thou dwellest in the
west, where sets the sun, Manoga! come hither and eat thy _tutu_!" There
is not a quarter to which he does not lift it up. And when he has
finished lifting it he says, "If thou dwellest in heaven above, Manoga!
come hither and eat thy _tutu_! If thou dwellest in the Pleiades or
Orion's belt; if below in Turivatu; if in the distant sea; if on high in
the sun, or in the moon; if thou dwellest inland or by the shore,
Manoga! come hither and eat thy _tutu_!"[590]

[Sidenote: First-fruits of the canarium nuts sacrificed to ghosts.]

Twice a year there are general sacrifices in which the people of a
village take part. One of these occasions is when the canarium nut, so
much used in native cookery, is ripe. None of the nuts may be eaten till
the first-fruits have been offered to the ghost. "Devil he eat first;
all man he eat behind," is the lucid explanation which a native gave to
an English enquirer. The knowledge of the way in which the first-fruits
must be offered is handed down from generation to generation, and the
man who is learned in this lore has authority to open the season. He
observes the state of the crop, and early one morning he is heard to
shout. He climbs a tree, picks some nuts, cracks them, eats, and puts
some on the stones in his sacred place for the ghost. Then the rest of
the people may gather the nuts for themselves. The chief himself
sacrifices the new nuts, mixed with other food, to the public ghost on
the stones of the village sanctuary; and every man who has a private
ghost of his own does the same in his own sacred place. About two months
afterwards there is another public sacrifice when the root crops
generally have been dug; pig or fish is then offered; and a man who digs
up his yams, or whatever it may be, offers his private sacrifice
besides.[591]

[Sidenote: Sacrifice of first-fruits to ancestral spirits in Tanna.]

In like manner the natives of Tanna, one of the Southern New Hebrides,
offered the first-fruits to the deified spirits of their ancestors. On
this subject I will quote the evidence of the veteran missionary, the
Rev. Dr. George Turner, who lived in Tanna for seven months in 1841. He
says: "The general name for gods seemed to be _aremha_; that means a
_dead man_, and hints alike at the origin and nature of their religious
worship. The spirits of their departed ancestors were among their gods.
Chiefs who reach an advanced age were after death deified, addressed by
name, and prayed to on various occasions. They were supposed especially
to preside over the growth of the yams and the different fruit trees.
The first-fruits were presented to them, and in doing this they laid a
little of the fruit on some stone, or shelving branch of the tree, or
some more temporary altar of a few rough sticks from the bush, lashed
together with strips of bark, in the form of a table, with its four feet
stuck in the ground. All being quiet, the chief acted as high priest,
and prayed aloud thus: 'Compassionate father! here is some food for you;
eat it; be kind to us on account of it.' And, instead of an _amen_, all
united in a shout. This took place about mid-day, and afterwards those
who were assembled continued together feasting and dancing till midnight
or three in the morning."[592]

[Sidenote: Private ghosts. Fighting ghosts kept as auxiliaries.]

In addition to the public ghosts, each of whom is revered by a whole
village, many a man keeps, so to say, a private or tame ghost of his own
on leash. The art of taming a ghost consists in knowing the leaves,
bark, and vines in which he delights and in treating him accordingly.
This knowledge a man may acquire by the exercise of his natural
faculties or he may learn it from somebody else. However he may obtain
the knowledge, he uses it for his own personal advantage, sacrificing to
the ghost in order to win his favour and get something from him in
return. The mode of sacrificing to a private ghost is the same as to a
public ghost. The owner has a sacred place or private chapel of his own,
where he draws near to the ghost in prayer and burns his bit of food in
the fire. A man often keeps a fighting ghost (_keramo_), who helps him
in battle or in slaying his private enemy. Before he goes out to commit
homicide, he pulls up his ginger-plant and judges from the ease or
difficulty with which the plant yields to or resists his tug, whether he
will succeed in the enterprise or not. Then he sacrifices to the ghost,
and having placed some ginger and leaves on his shield, and stuffed some
more in his belt and right armlet, he sallies forth. He curses his enemy
by his fighting ghost, saying, "Siria (if that should be the name of the
ghost) eats thee, and I shall slay thee"; and if he kills him, he cries
to the ghost, "Thine is this man, Siria, and do thou give me
supernatural power!" No prudent Melanesian would attempt to commit
manslaughter without a ghost as an accomplice; to do so would be to
court disaster, for the slain man's ghost would have power over the
slayer; therefore before he imbrues his hands in blood he deems it
desirable to secure the assistance of a valiant ghost who can, if need
be, overcome the ghost of his victim in single combat. If he cannot
procure such a useful auxiliary in any other way, he must purchase him.
Further, he fortifies himself with some personal relic, such as a tooth
or lock of hair of the deceased warrior, whose ghost he has taken into
his service; this relic he wears as an amulet in a little bag round the
neck, when he is on active service; at other times it is kept in the
house.[593]

[Sidenote: Garden ghosts.]

Different from these truculent spirits are the peaceful ghosts who cause
the garden to bear fruit. If the gardener happens to know such a ghost,
he can pray and sacrifice to him on his own account; but if he has no
such friend in the spirit world, he must employ an expert. The man of
skill goes into the midst of the garden with a little mashed food in his
left hand, and smiting it with his right hand he calls on the ghost to
come and eat. He says: "This produce thou shall eat; give supernatural
power (_mana_) to this garden, that food may be good and plentiful." He
digs holes at the four corners of the garden, and in them he buries such
leaves as the ghost loves, so that the garden may have ghostly power and
be fruitful. And when the yams sprout, he twines them with the
particular creeper and fastens them with the particular wood to which
the ghost is known to be partial. These agricultural ghosts are very
sensitive; if a man enters the garden, who has just eaten pork or cuscus
or fish or shell-fish, the ghost of the garden manifests his displeasure
by causing the produce of the garden to droop; but if the eater lets
three or four days go by after his meal, he may then enter the garden
with impunity, for the food has left his stomach. For a similar reason,
apparently, when the yam vines are being trained, the men sleep near the
gardens and never approach their wives; for should they tread the garden
after conjugal intercourse, the yams would be blighted.[594]

[Sidenote: Human sacrifices to ghosts.]

Sometimes the favour of a ghost is obtained by human sacrifices. On
these occasions the flesh of the victim does not, like the flesh of a
pig, furnish the materials of a sacrificial banquet; but little bits of
it are eaten by young men to improve their fighting power and by elders
for a special purpose. Such sacrifices are deemed more effectual than
the sacrifices of less precious victims; and advantage was sometimes
taken of a real or imputed crime to offer the criminal to some ghost.
So, for example, within living memory Dikea, chief of Ravu, convicted a
certain man of stealing tobacco, and sentenced him to be sacrificed; and
the grown lads ate pieces of him cooked in the sacrificial fire. Again,
the same chief offered another human sacrifice in the year 1886. One of
his wives had proved false, and he sent her away vowing that she should
not return till he had offered a human sacrifice to Hauri. Also his son
died, and he vowed to kill a man for him. The vow was noised abroad, and
everybody knew that he would pay well for somebody to kill. Now the Savo
people had bought a captive boy in Guadalcanar, but it turned out a bad
bargain, for the boy was lame and nearly blind. So they brought him to
Dikea, and he gave them twenty coils of shell money for the lad. Then
the chief laid his hand on the victim's breast and cried, "Hauri! here
is a man for you," and his followers killed him with axes and clubs. The
cripple's skull was added to the chief's collection, and his legs were
sent about the country to make known what had been done. In Bugotu of
Ysabel, when the people had slain an enemy in fight, they used to bring
back his head in triumph, cut slices off it, and burn them in sacrifice.
And if they took a prisoner alive, they would bring him to the sacred
place, the grave of the man whose ghost was to be honoured. There they
bound him hand and foot and buffeted him till he died, or if he did not
die under the buffets they cut his throat. As they beat the man with
their fists, they called on the ghost to take him, and when he was dead,
they burned a bit of him in the fire for the ghost.[595]

[Sidenote: Sacrifices to ghosts in Saa.]

At Saa in Malanta, one of the Solomon Islands, sacrifices are offered to
ghosts on various occasions. Thus on his return from a voyage a man will
put food in the case which contains the relics of his dead father; and
in the course of his voyage, if he should land in a desert isle, he will
throw food and call on father, grandfather, and other deceased friends.
Again, when sickness is ascribed to the anger of a ghost, a man of skill
is sent for to discover what particular ghost is doing the mischief.
When he has ascertained the culprit, he is furnished by the patient's
relatives with a little pig, which he is to sacrifice to the ghost as a
substitute for the sick man. Provided with this vicarious victim he
repairs to the haunt of the ghost, strangles the animal, and burns it
whole in a fire along with grated yam, coco-nut, and fish. As he does
so, he calls out the names of all the ghosts of his family, his
ancestors, and all who are deceased, down even to children and women,
and he names the man who furnished the pig for the ghostly repast. A
portion of the mixed food he preserves unburnt, wraps it in a dracaena
leaf, and puts it beside the case which contains the relics of the man
to whose ghost the sacrifice has been offered. Sometimes, however,
instead of burning a pig in the fire, which is an expensive and wasteful
form of sacrifice, the relatives of the sick man content themselves with
cooking a pig or a dog in the oven, cutting up the carcase, and laying
out all the parts in order. Then the sacrificer comes and sits at the
animal's head, and calls out the names of all the dead members of the
ghost's family in order downwards, saying, "Help, deliver this man, cut
short the line that has bound him." Then the pig is eaten by all present
except the women; nothing is burnt.[596]

[Sidenote: Sacrifices of first-fruits to ghosts in Saa.]

The last sort of sacrifices to ghosts at Saa which we need notice is the
sacrifice of first-fruits. Thus, when the yams are ripe the people fetch
some of them from each garden to offer to the ghosts. All the male
members of the family assemble at the holy place which belongs to them.
Then one of them enters the shrine, lays a yam beside the skull which
lies there, and cries with a loud voice to the ghost, "This is yours to
eat." The others call quietly on the names of all the ancestors and give
their yams, which are very many in number, because one from each garden
is given to each ghost. If any man has besides a relic of the dead, such
as a skull, bones, or hair, in his house, he takes home a yam and sets
it beside the relic. Again, the first flying-fish of the season are
sacrificed to ghosts, who may take the form of sharks; for we shall see
presently that Melanesian ghosts are sometimes supposed to inhabit the
bodies of these ferocious monsters. Some ghost-sharks have sacred places
ashore, where figures of sharks are set up. In that case the first
flying-fish are cooked and set before the shark images. But it may be
that a shark ghost has no sacred place on land, and then there is
nothing for it but to take the flying-fish out to sea and shred them
into the water, while the sacrificer calls out the name of the
particular ghost whom he desires to summon to the feast.[597]

[Sidenote: Vicarious sacrifices for the sick.]

Vicarious sacrifices for the sick are offered in San Cristoval to a
certain malignant ghost called Tapia, who is believed to seize a man's
soul and tie it up to a banyan tree. When that has happened, a man who
knows how to manage Tapia intercedes with him. He takes a pig or fish to
the sacred place and offers it to the grim ghost, saying, "This is for
you to eat in place of that man; eat this, don't kill him." With that he
can loose the captive soul and take it back to the sick man, who
thereupon recovers.[598]

[Sidenote: Sacrifices to ghosts in Santa Cruz. The dead represented by a
stock.]

In Santa Cruz the sacrifices offered to ghosts are very economical; for
if the offering is of food, the living eat it up after a decent
interval; if it is a valuable, they remove it and resume the use of it
themselves. The principle of this spiritual economy probably lies in the
common belief that ghosts, being immaterial, absorb the immaterial
essence of the objects, leaving the material substance to be enjoyed by
men. When a man of mark dies in Santa Cruz, his relations set up a stock
of wood in his house to represent him. This is renewed from time to
time, till after a while the man is forgotten or thrown into the shade
by the attractions of some newer ghost, so that the old stock is
neglected. But when the stock is first put up, a pig is killed and two
strips of flesh from the back bone are set before the stock as food for
the ghost, but only to be soon taken away and eaten by the living.
Similar offerings may be repeated from time to time, as when the stock
is renewed. Again, when a garden is planted, they spread feather-money
and red native cloth round it for the use of the ghost; but his
enjoyment of these riches is brief and precarious.[599]

[Sidenote: Native account of sacrifices to ghosts in Santa Cruz.]

To supplement the foregoing account of sacrifices to ghosts in Santa
Cruz, I will add a description of some of them which was given by a
native of Santa Cruz in his own language and translated for us by a
missionary. It runs thus: "When anyone begins to fall sick he seeks a
doctor (_meduka_), and when the doctor comes near the sick man he
stiffens his body, and all those in the house think a ghost has entered
into the doctor, and they are all very quiet. Some doctors tell the sick
man's relatives to kill a pig for the ghost who has caused the sickness.
When they have killed the pig they take it into the ghost-house and
invite some other men, and they eat with prayers to the ghost; and the
doctor takes a little piece and puts it near the base of the ghost-post,
and says to it: 'This is thy food; oh, deliver up again the spirit of
thy servant, that he may be well again.' The little portion they have
offered to the ghost is then eaten; but small boys may not eat of
it."[600] "Every year the people plant yams and tomagos; and when they
begin to work and have made ready the place and begun to plant, first,
they offer to the ghost who they think presides over foods. There is an
offering place in the bush, and they go there and take much food, and
also feather money. Men, women, and children do this, and they think the
ghost notices if there are many children, and gives much food at
harvest; and the ghost to whom they offer is named Ilene. When the
bread-fruit begins to bear they take great care lest anyone should light
a fire near the bole of the tree, or throw a stone at the tree. The
ghost, who they think protects the bread-fruit, is called Duka-Kane or
Kae Tuabia, who has two names; they think this ghost has four
eyes."[601] "The heathen thinks a ghost makes the sun to shine and the
rain. If it is continual sunshine and the yams are withering the people
assemble together and contribute money, and string it to the man with
whom the rain-ghost abides, and food also, and beseech him not to do the
thing he was doing. That man will not wash his face for a long time, he
will not work lest he perspire and his body be wet, for he thinks that
if his body be wet it will rain. Then this man, with whom the rain-ghost
is, takes water and goes into the ghost-house and sprinkles it at the
head of the ghost-post (_duka_), and if there are many ghost-posts in
the house he pours water over them all that it may rain."[602]

[Sidenote: Combination of magic with religion.]

In these ceremonies for the making of rain we see a combination of magic
with religion. The appeal to the rain-ghost is religious; but the
pouring of the water on the ghost-post is magical, being an imitation of
the result which the officiating priest or magician, whichever we choose
to call him, desires to produce. The taboos observed by the owner of the
rain-ghost so long as he wishes to prevent the rain from falling are
also based on the principle of homoeopathic or imitative magic: he
abstains from washing his face or working, lest the water or the sweat
trickling down his body should mimick rain and thereby cause it to
fall.[603]

[Sidenote: Prayers to the dead.]

The natives of Aneiteum, one of the Southern New Hebrides, worshipped
the spirits of their ancestors, chiefly on occasions of sickness.[604]
Again, the people of Vaté or Efat, another of the New Hebrides,
worshipped the souls of their forefathers and prayed to them over the
_kava_-bowl for health and prosperity.[605] As an example of prayers
offered to the dead we may take the petition which the natives of
Florida put up at sea to Daula, a well-known ghost, who is associated
with the frigate-bird. They say: "Do thou draw the canoe, that it may
reach the land; speed my canoe, grandfather, that I may quickly reach
the shore whither I am bound. Do thou, Daula, lighten the canoe, that it
may quickly gain the land and rise upon the shore." They also invoke
Daula to help them in fishing. "If thou art powerful, O Daula," they
say, "put a fish or two into this net and let them die there." After a
good catch they praise him, saying, "Powerful is the ghost of the net."
And when the natives of Florida are in danger on the sea, they call upon
their immediate forefathers; one will call on his grandfather, another
on his father, another on some dead friend, calling with reverence and
saying, "Save us on the deep! Save us from the tempest! Bring us to the
shore!" In San Cristoval people apply to ghosts for victory in battle,
health in sickness, and good crops; but the word which they use to
signify such an application conveys the notion of charm rather than of
prayer. However, in the Banks' Islands what may be called prayer is
strictly speaking an invocation of the dead; indeed the very word for
prayer (_tataro_) seems to be identical with that for a powerful ghost
(_'ataro_ in San Cristoval). A man in peril on the sea will call on his
dead friends, especially on one who was in his lifetime a good sailor.
And in Mota, when an oven is opened, they throw in a leaf of cooked
mallow for a ghost, saying to him, "This is a lucky bit for your eating;
they who have charmed your food or clubbed you (as the case may be),
take hold of their hands, drag them away to hell, let them be dead." So
when they pour water on the oven, they pray to the ghost, saying, "Pour
it on the head of him down there who has laid plots against me, has
clubbed me, has shot me, has stolen things of mine (as the case may be),
he shall die." Again, when they make a libation before drinking, they
pray, saying, "Grandfather! this is your lucky drop of kava; let boars
come in to me; the money I have spent, let it come back to me; the food
that is gone, let it come back hither to the house of you and me." And
on starting for a voyage they will say, "Uncle! father! plenty of boars
for you, plenty of money; kava for your drinking, lucky food for your
eating in the canoe. I pray you with this, look down upon me, let me go
on a safe sea." Or when the canoe labours with a heavy freight, they
will pray, "Take off your burden from us, that we may speed on a safe
sea."[606]

[Sidenote: Sanctuaries of ghosts in Florida.]

In the island of Florida, the sanctuary of a powerful ghost is called a
_vunuhu_. Sometimes it is in the village, sometimes in the
garden-ground, sometimes in the forest. If it is in the village, it is
fenced about, lest the foot of any rash intruder should infringe its
sanctity. Sometimes the sanctuary is the place where the dead man is
buried; sometimes it merely contains his relics, which have been
translated thither. In some sanctuaries there is a shrine and in some an
image. Generally, if not always, stones may be seen lying in such a holy
place. The sight of one of them has probably struck the fancy of the man
who founded the worship; he thought it a likely place for the ghost to
haunt, and other smaller stones and shells have been subsequently added.
Once a sanctuary has been established, everything within it becomes
sacred (_tambu_) and belongs to the ghost. Were a tree growing within it
to fall across the path, nobody would step over it. When a sacrifice is
to be offered to the ghost on the holy ground, the man who knows the
ghost, and whose duty it is to perform the sacrifice, enters first and
all who attend him follow, treading in his footsteps. In going out no
one will look back, lest his soul should stay behind. No one would pass
such a sanctuary when the sun was so low as to cast his shadow into it;
for if he did the ghost would seize his shadow and so drag the man
himself into his den. If there were a shrine in the sanctuary, nobody
but the sacrificer might enter it. Such a shrine contained the weapons
and other properties which belonged in his lifetime to the man whose
ghost was worshipped on the spot.[607]

[Sidenote: Sanctuaries of ghosts in Malanta.]

At Saa in Malanta, another of the Solomon Islands, all burial-grounds
where common people are interred are so far sacred that no one will go
there without due cause; but places where the remains of nobles repose,
and where sacrifices are offered to their ghosts, are regarded with very
great respect, they may indeed be called family sanctuaries. Some of
them are very old, the powerful ghosts who are worshipped in them being
remote ancestors. It sometimes happens that the man who used to
sacrifice in such a place dies without having instructed his son in the
proper chant of invocation with which the worshipful ghost should be
approached. In such a case the young man who succeeds him may fear to go
to the old sanctuary, lest he should commit a mistake and offend the
ghost; so he will take some ashes from the old sacrificial fire-place
and found a new sanctuary. It is not common in that part of Malanta to
build shrines for the relics of the dead, but it is sometimes done. Such
shrines, on the other hand, are common in the villages of San Cristoval
and in the sacred places of that island where great men lie buried. To
trespass on them would be likely to rouse the anger of the ghosts, some
of whom are known to be of a malignant disposition.[608]

[Sidenote: Sanctuaries which are not burial-grounds.]

But burial-grounds are not the only sanctuaries in the Solomon Islands.
There are some where no dead man is known to be interred, though in Dr.
Codrington's opinion there are probably none which do not derive their
sanctity from the presence of a ghost. In the island of Florida the
appearance of something wonderful will cause any place to become a
sanctuary, the wonder being accepted as proof of a ghostly presence. For
example, in the forest near Olevuga a man planted some coco-nut and
almond trees and died not long afterwards. Then there appeared among the
trees a great rarity in the shape of a white cuscus. The people took it
for granted that the animal was the dead man's ghost, and therefore they
called it by his name. The place became a sanctuary; no one would gather
the coco-nuts and almonds that grew there, till two Christian converts
set the ghost at defiance and appropriated his garden, with the
coco-nuts and almonds. Through the same part of the forest ran a stream
full of eels, one of which was so big that the people were quite sure it
must be a ghost; so nobody would bathe in that stream or drink from it,
except at one pool, which for the sake of convenience was considered not
to be sacred. Again, in Bugotu, a district of Ysabel, which is another
of the Solomon Islands, there is a pool known to be the haunt of a very
old ghost. When a man has an enemy whom he wishes to harm he will obtain
some scraps of his food and throw them into the water. If the food is at
once devoured by the fish, which swarm in the pool, the man will die,
but otherwise his life may be saved by the intervention of a man who
knows the habits of the ghost and how to propitiate him. In these sacred
places there are stones, on which people place food in order to obtain
good crops, while for success in fishing they deposit morsels of cooked
fish. Such stones are treated with reverence and seem to be in a fair
way to develop into altars. However, when the old ghost is superseded,
as he often is, by younger rivals, the development of an altar out of
the stones is arrested.[609]

[Sidenote: Ghosts in animals, such as sharks, alligators, snakes,
bonitos, and frigate-birds.]

From some of these instances we learn that Melanesian ghosts can
sometimes take up their abode in animals, such as cuscuses, eels, and
fish. The creatures which are oftenest used as vehicles by the spirits
of the dead are sharks, alligators, snakes, bonitos, and frigate-birds.
Snakes which haunt a sacred place are themselves sacred, because they
belong to or actually embody the ghost. Sharks, again, in all these
islands are very often thought to be the abode of ghosts; for men before
their death will announce that they will appear as sharks, and
afterwards any shark remarkable for size or colour which haunts a
certain shore or coast is taken to be somebody's ghost and receives the
name of the deceased. At Saa certain food, such as coco-nuts from
particular trees, is reserved to feed such a ghost-shark; and men of
whom it is known for certain that they will be sharks after their death
are allowed to anticipate the posthumous honours which await them by
devouring such food in the sacred place, just as if they were real
sharks. Sharks are very commonly believed to be the abode of ghosts in
Florida and Ysabel, and in Savo, where they are particularly numerous;
hence, though all sharks are not venerated, there is no living creature
so commonly held sacred by the Central Melanesians as a shark; and
shark-ghosts seem even to form a class of powerful supernatural beings.
Again, when a lizard was seen frequenting a house after a death, it
would be taken for the ghost returning to its old home; and many ghosts,
powerful to aid the mariner at sea, take up their quarters in
frigate-birds.[610]

[Sidenote: The belief in ghosts underlies the Melanesian conception of
magic.]

Again, a belief in powerful ghosts underlies to a great extent the
Melanesian conception of magic, as that conception is expounded by Dr.
Codrington. "That invisible power," he tells us, "which is believed by
the natives to cause all such effects as transcend their conception of
the regular course of nature, and to reside in spiritual beings, whether
in the spiritual part of living men or in the ghosts of the dead, being
imparted by them to their names and to various things that belong to
them, such as stones, snakes, and indeed objects of all sorts, is that
generally known as _mana_. Without some understanding of this it is
impossible to understand the religious beliefs and practices of the
Melanesians; and this again is the active force in all they do and
believe to be done in magic, white or black. By means of this men are
able to control or direct the forces of nature, to make rain or
sunshine, wind or calm, to cause sickness or remove it, to know what is
far off in time and space, to bring good luck and prosperity, or to
blast and curse. No man, however, has this power of his own; all that he
does is done by the aid of personal beings, ghosts or spirits."[611]

[Sidenote: Illness generally thought to be caused by ghosts.]

Thus, to begin with the medical profession, which is a branch of magic
long before it becomes a department of science, every serious sickness
is believed to be brought about by ghosts or spirits, but generally it
is to the ghosts of the dead that illness is ascribed both by the
Eastern and by the Western islanders. Hence recourse is had to ghosts
for aid both in causing and in curing sickness. They are thought to
inflict disease, not only because some offence, such as trespass, has
been committed against them, or because one who knows their ways has
instigated them thereto by sacrifice and spells, but because there is a
certain malignity in the feeling of all ghosts towards the living, who
offend them simply by being alive. All human faculties, apart from the
mere bodily functions, are supposed to be enhanced by death; hence the
ghost of a powerful and ill-natured man is only too ready to take
advantage of his increased powers for mischief.[612] Thus in the island
of Florida illness is regularly laid at the door of a ghost; the only
question that can arise is which particular ghost is doing the mischief.
Sometimes the patient imagines that he has offended his dead father,
uncle, or brother, who accordingly takes his revenge by stretching him
on a bed of sickness. In that case no special intercessor is required;
the patient himself or one of his kinsfolk will sacrifice and beg the
ghost to take the sickness away; it is purely a family affair. Sometimes
the sick man thinks that it is his own private or tame ghost who is
afflicting him; so he will leave the house in order to escape his
tormentor. But if the cause of sickness remains obscure, a professional
doctor or medicine-man will be consulted. He always knows, or at least
can ascertain, the ghost who is causing all the trouble, and he takes
his measures accordingly. Thus he will bind on the sick man the kind of
leaves that the ghost loves; he will chew ginger and blow it into the
patient's ears and on that part of the skull which is soft in infants;
he will call on the name of the ghost and entreat him to remove the
sickness. Should all these remedies prove vain, the doctor is by no
means at the end of his resources. He may shrewdly suspect that
somebody, who has an ill-will at the patient, has set his private ghost
to maul the sick man and do him a grievous bodily injury. If his
suspicions are confirmed and he discovers the malicious man who is
egging on the mischievous ghost, he will bribe him to call off his
ghost; and if the man refuses, the doctor will hire another ghost to
assault and batter the original assailant. At Wango in San Cristoval
regular battles used to be fought by the invisible champions above the
sickbed of the sufferer, whose life or death depended on the issue of
the combat. Their weapons were spears, and sometimes more than one ghost
would be engaged on either side.[613]

[Sidenote: Diagnosis of ghosts who have caused illness.]

In Ysabel the doctor employs an ingenious apparatus for discovering the
cause of sickness and ascertaining its cure. He suspends a stone at one
end of a string while he holds the other end in his hand. Then he
recites the names of all the people who died lately, and when the stone
swings at anybody's name, he knows that the ghost of that man has caused
the illness. It remains to find out what the ghost will take to relax
his clutch on the sick man, it may be a mash of yams, a fish, a pig, or
perhaps a human substitute. The question is put and answered as before;
and whatever the oracle declares to be requisite is offered on the dead
man's grave. Thus the ghost is appeased and the sufferer is made
whole.[614] In these islands a common cause of illness is believed to be
an unwarrantable intrusion on premises occupied by a ghost, who punishes
the trespasser by afflicting him with bodily pains and ailments, or it
may be by carrying off his soul. At Maewo in Aurora, one of the New
Hebrides, when there is reason to think that a sickness is due to
ghostly agency, the friends of the sick man send for a professional
dreamer, whose business it is to ascertain what particular ghost has
been offended and to make it up with him. So the dreamer falls asleep
and in his sleep he dreams a dream. He seems to himself to be in the
place where the patient was working before his illness; and there he
spies a queer little old man, who is really no other than the ghost. The
dreamer falls into conversation with him, learns his name, and winning
his confidence extracts from him a true account of the whole affair. The
fact is that in working at his garden the man encroached, whether
wittingly or not is no matter, on land which the ghost regards as his
private preserve; and to punish the intrusion the ghost carried off the
intruder's soul and impounded it in a magic fence in his garden, where
it still languishes in durance vile. The dreamer at once tenders a frank
and manly apology on behalf of his client; he assures the ghost that the
trespass was purely inadvertent, that no personal disrespect whatever
was intended, and he concludes by requesting the ghost to overlook the
offence for this time and to release the imprisoned soul. This appeal to
the better feelings of the ghost has its effect; he pulls up the fence
and lets the soul out of the pound; it flies back to the sick man, who
thereupon recovers. Sometimes an orphan child is made sick by its dead
mother, whose ghost draws away the soul of the infant to keep her
company in the spirit land. In such a case, again, a dreamer is employed
to bring back the lost soul from the far country; and if he can persuade
the mother's ghost to relinquish the tiny soul of her baby, the child
will be made whole.[615] Once more certain long stones in the Banks'
Islands are inhabited by ghosts so active and robust that if a man's
shadow so much as falls on one of them, the ghost in the stone will
clutch the shadow and pull the soul clean out of the man, who dies
accordingly. Such stones, dangerous as they unquestionably are to the
chance passer-by, nevertheless for that very reason possess a valuable
property which can be turned to excellent account. A man, for example,
will put one of these stones in his house to guard it like a watch-dog
in his absence; and if he sends a friend to fetch something out of it
which he has forgotten, the messenger, on approaching the house, will
take good care to call out the owner's name, lest the ghost in the
stone, mistaking him for a thief and a robber, should pounce out on him
and do him a mischief before he had time to explain.[616]

[Sidenote: Contrast between Melanesian and European medicine.]

Thus it appears that for a medical practitioner in Melanesia the first
requisite is an intimate acquaintance, not with the anatomy of the human
frame and the properties of drugs, but with ghosts, their personal
peculiarities, habits, and haunts. Only by means of the influence which
such a knowledge enables him to exert on these powerful and dangerous
beings can the good physician mitigate and assuage the sufferings of
poor humanity. His professional skill, while it certainly aims at the
alleviation of physical evils, attains its object chiefly, if not
exclusively, by a direct appeal to those higher, though invisible,
powers which encompass the life of man, or at all events of the
Melanesian. The firm faith in the spiritual and the unseen which these
sable doctors display in their treatment of the sick presents a striking
contrast to the procedure of their European colleagues, who trust
exclusively to the use of mere physical remedies, such as drugs and
lancets, now carving the body of the sufferer with knives, and now
inserting substances, about which they know little, into places about
which they know nothing. Has not science falsely so called still much to
learn from savagery?

[Sidenote: The weather believed to be regulated by ghosts and spirits.
Weather-doctors.]

But it is not the departments of medicine and surgery alone, important
as these are to human welfare, which in Melanesia are directed and
controlled by spiritual forces. The weather in those regions is also
regulated by ghosts and spirits. It is they who cause the wind to blow
or to be still, the sun to shine forth or to be overcast with clouds,
the rain to descend or the earth to be parched with drought; hence
fertility and abundance or dearth and famine prevail alternately at the
will of these spiritual directors. From this it follows that men who
stand on a footing of intimacy with ghosts and spirits can by judicious
management induce them to adapt the weather to the varying needs of
mankind. But it is to be observed that the supernatural beings, who are
the real sources of atmospheric phenomena, have delegated or deputed a
portion of their powers not merely to certain material objects, such as
stones or leaves, but to certain set forms of words, which men call
incantations or spells; and accordingly all such objects and formulas
do, by virtue of this delegation, possess in themselves a real and we
may almost say natural influence over the weather, which is often
manifested in a striking congruity or harmony between the things
themselves and the effects which they are calculated to produce. This
adaptation of means to end in nature may perhaps be regarded as a
beautiful proof of the existence of spirits and ghosts working their
purposes unseen behind the gaily coloured screen or curtain of the
physical universe. At all events men who are acquainted with the ghostly
properties of material objects and words can turn them to account for
the benefit of their friends and the confusion of their foes, and they
do so very readily if only it is made worth their while. Hence it comes
about that in these islands there are everywhere weather-doctors or
weather-mongers, who through their familiarity with ghosts and spirits
and their acquaintance with the ghostly or spiritual properties of
things, are able to control the weather and to supply their customers
with wind or calm, rain or sunshine, famine or abundance, at a
reasonable rate and a moderate figure.[617] The advantages of such a
system over our own blundering method of managing the weather, or rather
of leaving it to its own devices, are too obvious to be insisted on. To
take a few examples. In the island of Florida, when a calm is wanted,
the weather-doctor takes a bunch of leaves, of the sort which the ghost
loves, and hides the bunch in the hollow of a tree where there is water,
at the same time invoking the ghost with the proper charm. This
naturally produces rain and with the rain a calm. In the seafaring life
of the Solomon Islanders the maker of calms is a really valuable
citizen.[618] The Santa Cruz people are also great voyagers, and their
wizards control the weather on their expeditions, taking with them the
stock or log which represents their private or tame ghost and setting it
up on a stage in the cabin. The presence of the familiar ghost being
thus secured, the weather-doctor will undertake to provide wind or calm
according to circumstances.[619] We have already seen how in these
islands the wizard makes rain by pouring water on the wooden posts which
represent the rain-ghosts.[620]

[Sidenote: Black magic working through personal refuse or rubbish of the
victim.]

Such exercises of ghostly power for the healing of the sick and the
improvement of the weather are, when well directed and efficacious,
wholly beneficial. But ghostly power is a two-edged weapon which can
work evil as well as good to mankind. In fact it can serve the purpose
of witchcraft. The commonest application of this pernicious art is one
which is very familiar to witches and sorcerers in many parts of the
world. The first thing the wizard does is to obtain a fragment of food,
a bit of hair, a nail-clipping, or indeed anything that has been closely
connected with the person of his intended victim. This is the medium
through which the power of the ghost or spirit is brought to bear; it
is, so to say, the point of support on which the magician rests the
whole weight of his infernal engine. In order to give effect to the
charm it is very desirable, if not absolutely necessary, to possess some
personal relic, such as a bone, of the dead man whose ghost is to set
the machinery in motion. At all events the essential thing is to bring
together the man who is to be injured and the ghost or spirit who is to
injure him; and this can be done most readily by placing the personal
relics or refuse of the two men, the living and the dead, in contact
with each other; for thus the magic circuit, if we may say so, is
complete, and the fatal current flows from the dead to the living. That
is why it is most dangerous to leave any personal refuse or rubbish
lying about; you never can tell but that some sorcerer may get hold of
it and work your ruin by means of it. Hence the people are naturally
most careful to hide or destroy all such refuse in order to prevent it
from falling into the hands of witches and wizards; and this sage
precaution has led to habits of cleanliness which the superficial
European is apt to mistake for what he calls enlightened sanitation, but
which a deeper knowledge of native thought would reveal to him in their
true character as far-seeing measures designed to defeat the nefarious
art of the sorcerer.[621]

[Sidenote: Black magic working without any personal relic of the victim.
The ghost-shooter.]

Unfortunately, however, an adept in the black art can work his fell
purpose even without any personal relic of his victim. In the Banks'
Islands, for example, he need only procure a bit of human bone or a
fragment of some lethal weapon, it may be a splinter of a club or a chip
of an arrow, which has killed somebody. This he wraps up in the proper
leaves, recites over it the appropriate charm, and plants it secretly in
the path along which his intended victim is expected to pass. The ghost
of the man who owned the bone in his life or perished by the club or the
arrow, is now lurking like a lion in the path; and if the poor fellow
strolls along it thinking no evil, the ghost will spring at him and
strike him with disease. The charm is perfectly efficient if the man
does come along the path, but clearly it misses fire if he does not. To
remedy this defect in the apparatus a sorcerer sometimes has recourse to
a portable instrument, a sort of pocket pistol, which in the Banks'
Islands is known as a ghost-shooter. It is a bamboo tube, loaded not
with powder and shot, but with a dead man's bone and other magical
ingredients, over which the necessary spell has been crooned. Armed with
this deadly weapon the sorcerer has only to step up to his unsuspecting
enemy, whip out the pocket pistol, uncork the muzzle by removing his
thumb from the orifice, and present it at the victim; the fatal
discharge follows in an instant and the man drops to the ground. The
ghost in the pistol has done his work. Sometimes, however, an accident
happens. The marksman misses his victim and hits somebody else. This
occurred, for example, not very many years ago in the island of Mota. A
man named Isvitag was waiting with his ghost-shooter to pop at his
enemy, but in his nervous excitement he let fly too soon, just as a
woman with a child on her hip stepped across the path. The shot, or
rather the ghost, hit the child point-blank, and it was his sister's
child, his own next of kin! You may imagine the distress of the
affectionate uncle at this deplorable miscarriage. To prevent
inflammation of the wound he, with great presence of mind, plunged his
pocket pistol in water, and this timely remedy proved so efficacious
that the child took no hurt.[622]

[Sidenote: Prophecy inspired by ghosts.]

Another department of Melanesian life in which ghosts figure very
prominently is prophecy. The knowledge of future events is believed to
be conveyed to the people by a ghost or spirit speaking with the voice
of a man, who is himself unconscious while he speaks. The predictions
which emanate from the prophet under these circumstances are in the
strictest sense inspired. His human personality is for the time being in
abeyance, and he is merely the mouthpiece of the powerful spirit which
has temporarily taken possession of his body and speaks with his voice.
The possession is indeed painfully manifest. His eyes glare, foam bursts
from his mouth, his limbs writhe, his whole body is convulsed. These are
the workings of the mighty spirit shaking and threatening to rend the
frail tabernacle of flesh. This form of inspiration is not clearly
distinguishable from what we call madness; indeed the natives do not
attempt to distinguish between the two things; they regard the madman
and the prophet as both alike inspired by a ghost or spirit, and a man
will sometimes pretend to be mad in order that he may get the reputation
of being a prophet. At Saa a man will speak with the voice of a powerful
man deceased, while he twists and writhes under the influence of the
ghost; he calls himself by the name of the deceased who speaks through
him, and he is so addressed by others; he will eat fire, lift enormous
weights, and foretells things to come. When the inspiration, or
insanity, is particularly violent, and the Banks' Islanders think they
have had quite enough of it, the friends of the prophet or of the madman
will sometimes catch him and hold him struggling and roaring in the
smoke of strong-smelling leaves, while they call out the names of the
dead men whose ghosts are most likely to be abroad at the time, for as
soon as the right name is mentioned the ghost departs from the man, who
then returns to his sober senses. But this method of smoking out a ghost
is not always successful.[623]

[Sidenote: Divination by means of ghosts.]

There are many methods by which ghosts and spirits are believed to make
known to men who employ them the secret things which the unassisted
human intelligence could not discover; and some of them hardly perhaps
need the intervention of a professional wizard. These methods of
divination differ very little in the various islands. In the Solomon
Islands, for instance, when an expedition has started in a fleet of
canoes, there is sometimes a hesitation whether they shall proceed, or a
doubt as to what direction they should take. Thereupon a diviner may
declare that he has felt a ghost step on board; for did not the canoe
tip over to the one side? Accordingly he asks the invisible passenger,
"Shall we go on? Shall we go to such and such a place?" If the canoe
rocks, the answer is yes; if it lies on an even keel, the answer is no.
Again, when a man is sick and his friends wish to know what ghost is
vexing or, as they say, eating him, a diviner or wizard is sent for. He
comes bringing an assistant, and the two sit down, the wizard in front
and the assistant at his back, and they hold a stick or bamboo by the
two ends. The wizard then begins to slap the end of the bamboo he holds,
calling out one after another the names of men not very long deceased,
and when he names the one who is afflicting the sick man the stick of
itself becomes violently agitated.[624] We are not informed, but we may
probably assume, that it is the ghost and not the man who really
agitates the stick. A somewhat different mode of divination was
occasionally employed at Motlav in the Banks' Islands in order to
discover a thief or other criminal. After a burial they would take a
bag, put some Tahitian chestnut and scraped banana into it, and tie it
to the end of a hollow bamboo tube about ten feet long in such a way
that the end of the tube was inserted in the mouth of the bag. Then the
bag was laid on the dead man's grave, and the diviners grasped the other
end of the bamboo. The names of the recently dead were then called over,
and while this was being done the men felt the bamboo grow heavy in
their hands, for a ghost was scrambling up from the bag into the hollow
of the bamboo. Having thus secured him they carried the imprisoned ghost
in the bamboo into the village, where the roll of the recent dead was
again called over in order to learn whose ghost had been caught in the
trap. When wrong names were mentioned, the free end of the bamboo moved
from side to side, but at the mention of the right name it revolved
briskly. Having thus ascertained whom they had to deal with, they
questioned the entrapped ghost, "Who stole so and so? Who was guilty in
such a case?" Thereupon the bamboo, moved no doubt by the ghost inside,
pointed at the culprit, if he was present, or made signs as before when
the names of the suspected evildoers were mentioned.[625]

[Sidenote: Taboo based on a fear of ghosts.]

Of the many departments of Central Melanesian life which are permeated
by a belief in ghostly power the last which I shall mention is the
institution of taboo. In Melanesia, indeed, the institution is not so
conspicuous as it used to be in Polynesia; yet even there it has been a
powerful instrument in the consolidation of the rights of private
property, and as such it deserves the attention of historians who seek
to trace the evolution of law and morality. As understood in the Banks'
Islands and the New Hebrides the word taboo (_tambu_ or _tapu_)
signifies a sacred and unapproachable character which is imposed on
certain things by the arbitrary will of a chief or other powerful man.
Somebody whose authority with the people gives him confidence to make
the announcement will declare that such and such an object may not be
touched, that such and such a place may not be approached, and that such
and such an action may not be performed under a certain penalty, which
in the last resort will be inflicted by ghostly or spiritual agency. The
object, place, or action in question becomes accordingly taboo or
sacred. Hence in these islands taboo may be defined as a prohibition
with a curse expressed or implied. The sanction or power at the back of
the taboo is not that of the man who imposes it; rather it is that of
the ghost or spirit in whose name or in reliance upon whom the taboo is
imposed. Thus in Florida a chief will forbid something to be done or
touched under a penalty; he may proclaim, for example, that any one who
violates his prohibition must pay him a hundred strings of shell money.
To a European such a proclamation seems a proof of the chief's power;
but to the native the chiefs power, in this and in everything, rests on
the persuasion that the chief has his mighty ghost at his back. The
sense of this in the particular case is indeed remote, the fear of the
chiefs anger is present and effective, but the ultimate sanction is the
power of the ghost. If a common man were to take upon himself to taboo
anything he might do so; people would imagine that he would not dare to
make such an announcement unless he knew he could enforce it; so they
would watch, and if anybody violated the taboo and fell sick afterwards,
they would conclude that the taboo was supported by a powerful ghost who
punished infractions of it. Hence the reputation and authority of the
man who imposed the taboo would rise accordingly; for it would be seen
that he had a powerful ghost at his back. Every ghost has a particular
kind of leaf for his badge; and in imposing his taboo a man will set the
leaf of his private ghost as a mark to warn trespassers of the spiritual
power with which they have to reckon; when people see a leaf stuck, it
may be, on a tree, a house, or a canoe, they do not always know whose it
is; but they do know that if they disregard the mark they have to deal
with a ghost and not with a man,[626] and the knowledge is a more
effectual check on thieving and other crimes than the dread of mere
human justice. Many a rascal fears a ghost who does not fear the face of
man.

[Sidenote: The life of the Central Melanesians deeply influenced by
their belief in the survival of the human soul after death.]

What I have said may suffice to impress you with a sense of the deep
practical influence which a belief in the survival of the human soul
after death exercises on the life and conduct of the Central Melanesian
savage. To him the belief is no mere abstract theological dogma or
speculative tenet, the occasional theme of edifying homilies and pious
meditation; it is an inbred, unquestioning, omnipresent conviction which
affects his thoughts and actions daily and at every turn; it guides his
fortunes as an individual and controls his behaviour as a member of a
community, by inculcating a respect for the rights of others and
enforcing a submission to the public authorities. With him the fear of
ghosts and spirits is a bulwark of morality and a bond of society; for
he firmly believes in their unseen presence everywhere and in the
punishments which they can inflict on wrongdoers. His whole theory of
causation differs fundamentally from ours and necessarily begets a
fundamental difference of practice. Where we see natural forces and
material substances, the Melanesian sees ghosts and spirits. A great
gulf divides his conception of the world from ours; and it may be
doubted whether education will ever enable him to pass the gulf and to
think and act like us. The products of an evolution which has extended
over many ages cannot be forced like mushrooms in a summer day; it is
vain to pluck the fruit of the tree of knowledge before it is ripe.

[Footnote 590: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 130-132.]

[Footnote 591: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 132 _sq._; C. M.
Woodford, _A Naturalist among the Head-hunters_ (London, 1890), pp.
26-28.]

[Footnote 592: G. Turner, LL.D., _Samoa a Hundred Years Ago and long
before_ (London, 1884), pp. 318 _sq._ Yams are the principal fruits
cultivated by the Tannese, who bestow a great deal of labour on the
plantation and keep them in fine order. See G. Turner, _op. cit._ pp.
317 _sq._]

[Footnote 593: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 133 _sq._]

[Footnote 594: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, p. 134.]

[Footnote 595: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 135 _sq._]

[Footnote 596: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 137 _sq._]

[Footnote 597: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, p. 138.]

[Footnote 598: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 138 _sq._]

[Footnote 599: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ p. 139.]

[Footnote 600: "Native Stories of Santa Cruz and Reef Islands,"
translated by the Rev. W. O'Ferrall, _Journal of the Anthropological
Institute_, xxxiv. (1904) p. 223.]

[Footnote 601: "Native Stories from Santa Cruz and Reef Islands," _op.
cit._ p. 224.]

[Footnote 602: "Native Stories from Santa Cruz and Reef Islands," _op.
cit._ p. 225.]

[Footnote 603: Compare _The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings_, i.
269 _sqq._]

[Footnote 604: G. Turner, _Samoa a Hundred Years Ago and long before_
(London, 1884), p. 326.]

[Footnote 605: G. Turner, _op. cit._ p. 334.]

[Footnote 606: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 145-148.]

[Footnote 607: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 175 _sq._]

[Footnote 608: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 176 _sq._]

[Footnote 609: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ pp. 177 _sq._]

[Footnote 610: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 178-180.]

[Footnote 611: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ p. 191.]

[Footnote 612: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ p. 194.]

[Footnote 613: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 194-196.]

[Footnote 614: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ p. 196.]

[Footnote 615: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 208 _sq._ As to
sickness supposed to be caused by trespass on the premises of a ghost
see further _id._, pp. 194, 195, 218.]

[Footnote 616: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, p. 184.]

[Footnote 617: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, p. 200.]

[Footnote 618: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 200, 201. The
spirit whom the Florida wizard appeals to for good or bad weather is
called a _vigona_; and the natives believe it to be always the ghost of
a dead man. But it seems very doubtful whether this opinion is strictly
correct. See R. H. Codrington, _op cit._ pp. 124, 134.]

[Footnote 619: R. H. Codrington, _op. cit._ p. 201. The Santa Cruz name
for such a ghost is _duka_ (_ibid._ p. 139).]

[Footnote 620: Above, p. 375.]

[Footnote 621: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 202-204.]

[Footnote 622: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 205 _sq._]

[Footnote 623: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 209 _sq._,
218-220.]

[Footnote 624: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 210.]

[Footnote 625: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 211 _sq._]

[Footnote 626: R. H. Codrington, _The Melanesians_, pp. 215 _sq._]



LECTURE XVIII

THE BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY AMONG THE NATIVES OF NORTHERN AND EASTERN
MELANESIA


[Sidenote: Northern Melanesia. Material culture of the North
Melanesians.]

In the last lecture I concluded my account of the belief in immortality
and the worship of the dead among the natives of Central Melanesia.
To-day we pass to what may be called Northern Melanesia, by which is to
be understood the great archipelago lying to the north-east of New
Guinea. It comprises the two large islands of New Britain and New
Ireland, now called New Pomerania and New Mecklenburg, with the much
smaller Duke of York Island lying between them, and the chain of New
Hanover and the Admiralty Islands stretching away westward from the
north-western extremity of New Ireland. The whole of the archipelago,
together with the adjoining island of Bougainville in the Solomon
Islands, is now under German rule. The people belong to the same stock
and speak the same language as the natives of Central and Southern
Melanesia, and their level of culture is approximately the same. They
live in settled villages and subsist chiefly by the cultivation of the
ground, raising crops of taro, yams, bananas, sugar-cane, and so forth.
Most of the agricultural labour is performed by the women, who plant,
weed the ground, and carry the produce to the villages. The ground is,
or rather used to be, dug by sharp-pointed sticks. The men hunt
cassowaries, wallabies, and wild pigs, and they catch fish by both nets
and traps. Women and children take part in the fishing and many of them
become very expert in spearing fish. Among the few domestic animals
which they keep are pigs, dogs, and fowls. The villages are generally
situated in the midst of a dense forest; but on the coast the natives
build their houses not far from the beach as a precaution against the
attacks of the forest tribes, of whom they stand greatly in fear. A New
Britain village generally consists of a number of small communities or
families, each of which dwells in a separate enclosure. The houses are
very small and badly built, oblong in shape and very low. Between the
separate hamlets which together compose a village lie stretches of
virgin forest, through which run irregular and often muddy foot-tracks,
scooped out here and there into mud-holes where the pigs love to wallow
during the heat of the tropical day. As the people of any one district
used generally to be at war with their neighbours, it was necessary that
they should live together for the sake of mutual protection.[627]

[Sidenote: Commercial habits of the North Melanesians. Their
backwardness in other respects.]

Nevertheless, in spite of their limited intercourse with surrounding
villages, the natives of the New Britain or the Bismarck Archipelago
were essentially a trading people. They made extensive use of shell
money and fully recognised the value of any imported articles as mediums
of exchange or currency. Markets were held on certain days at fixed
places, where the forest people brought their yams, taro, bananas and so
forth and exchanged them for fish, tobacco, and other articles with the
natives of the coast. They also went on long trading expeditions to
procure canoes, cuscus teeth, pigs, slaves, and so forth, which on their
return they generally sold at a considerable profit. The shell which
they used as money is the _Nassa immersa_ or _Nassa calosa_, found on
the north coast of New Britain. The shells were perforated and threaded
on strips of cane, which were then joined together in coils of fifty to
two hundred fathoms.[628] The rights of private property were fully
recognised. All lands belonged to certain families, and husband and wife
had each the exclusive right to his or her goods and chattels. But while
in certain directions the people had made some progress, in others they
remained very backward. Pottery and the metals were unknown; no metal or
specimen of metal-work has been found in the archipelago; on the other
hand the natives made much use of stone implements, especially adzes and
clubs. In war they never used bows and arrows.[629] They had no system
of government, unless that name may be given to the power wielded by the
secret societies and by chiefs, who exercised a certain degree of
influence principally by reason of the reputation which they enjoyed as
sorcerers and magicians. They were not elected nor did they necessarily
inherit their office; they simply claimed to possess magical powers, and
if they succeeded in convincing the people of the justice of their
claim, their authority was recognised. Wealth also contributed to
establish their position in the esteem of the public.[630]

[Sidenote: The Rev. George Brown on the Melanesians.]

With regard to the religious ideas and customs of the natives we are not
fully informed, but so far as these have been described they appear to
agree closely with those of their kinsfolk in Central Melanesia. The
first European to settle in the archipelago was the veteran missionary,
the Rev. George Brown, D.D., who resided in the islands from 1875 to
1880 and has revisited them on several occasions since; he reduced the
language to writing for the first time,[631] and is one of our best
authorities on the people. In what follows I shall make use of his
valuable testimony along with that of more recent observers.

[Sidenote: North Melanesian theory of the soul. Fear of ghosts,
especially the ghosts of persons who have been killed and eaten.]

The natives of the archipelago believe that every person is animated by
a soul, which survives his death and may afterwards influence the
survivors for good or evil. Their word for soul is _nio_ or _niono_,
meaning a shadow. The root is _nio_, which by the addition of personal
suffixes becomes _niong_ "my soul or shadow," _niom_ "your soul or
shadow," _niono_ "his soul or shadow." They think that the soul is like
the man himself, and that it always stays inside of his body, except
when it goes out on a ramble during sleep or a faint. A man who is very
sleepy may say, "My soul wants to go away." They believe, however, that
it departs for ever at death; hence when a man is sick, his friends will
offer prayers to prevent its departure. There is only one kind of soul,
but it can appear in many shapes and enter into animals, such as rats,
lizards, birds, and so on. It can hear, see, and speak, and present
itself in the form of a wraith or apparition to people at the moment of
or soon after death. On being asked why he thought that the soul does
not perish with the body, a native said, "Because it is different; it is
not of the same nature at all." They believe that the souls of the dead
occasionally visit the living and are seen by them, and that they haunt
houses and burial-places. They are very much afraid of the ghosts and do
all they can to drive or frighten them away. Above all, being cannibals,
they stand in great fear of the ghosts of the people whom they have
killed and eaten. The man who is cutting up a human body takes care to
tie a bandage over his mouth and nose during the operation of carving in
order to prevent the enraged soul of the victim from entering into his
body by these apertures; and for a similar reason the doors of the
houses are shut while the cannibal feast is going on inside. And to keep
the victim's ghost quiet while his body is being devoured, a cut from a
joint is very considerately placed on a tree outside of the house, so
that he may eat of his own flesh and be satisfied. At the conclusion of
the banquet, the people shout, brandish spears, beat the bushes, blow
horns, beat drums, and make all kinds of noises for the purpose of
chasing the ghost or ghosts of the murdered and eaten men away from the
village. But while they send away the souls, they keep the skulls and
jawbones of the victims; as many as thirty-five jawbones have been seen
hanging in a single house in New Ireland. As for the skulls, they are,
or rather were placed on the branch of a dead tree and so preserved on
the beach or near the house of the man who had taken them.[632]

[Sidenote: Offerings to the souls of the dead.]

With regard to the death of their friends they deem it very important to
obtain the bodies and bury them. They offer food to the souls of their
departed kinsfolk for a long time after death, until all the funeral
feasts are over; but they do not hold annual festivals in honour of dead
ancestors. The food offered to the dead is laid every day on a small
platform in a tree; but the natives draw a distinction between offerings
to the soul of a man who died a natural death and offerings to the soul
of a man who was killed in a fight; for whereas they place the former on
a living tree, they deposit the latter on a dead tree. Moreover, they
lay money, weapons, and property, often indeed the whole wealth of the
family, near the corpse of their friend, in order that the soul of the
deceased may carry off the souls of these valuables to the spirit land.
But when the body is carried away to be buried, most of the property is
removed by its owners for their own use. However, the relations will
sometimes detach a few shells from the coils of shell money and a few
beads from a necklace and drop them in a fire for the behoof of the
ghost. But when the deceased was a chief or other person of importance,
some of his property would be buried with him. And before burial his
body would be propped up on a special chair in front of his house,
adorned with necklaces, wreaths of flowers and feathers, and gaudy with
war-paint. In one hand would be placed a large cooked yam, and in the
other a spear, while a club would be put on his shoulder. The yam was to
stay the pangs of hunger on his long journey, and the weapons were to
enable him to fight the foes who might resist his entrance into the
spirit land. In the Duke of York Island the corpse was usually disposed
of by being sunk in a deep part of the lagoon; but sometimes it was
buried in the house and a fire kept burning on the spot.[633]

[Sidenote: Burial customs in New Ireland and New Britain. Preservation
of the skull.]

In New Ireland the dead were rolled up in winding-sheets made of
pandanus leaves, then weighted with stones and buried at sea. However,
at some places they were deposited in deep underground watercourses or
caverns. Towards the northern end of New Ireland corpses were burned on
large piles of firewood in an open space of the village. A number of
images curiously carved out of wood or chalk were set round the blazing
pyre, but the meaning of these strange figures is uncertain. Men and
women uttered the most piteous wailings, threw themselves on the top of
the corpse, and pulled at the arms and legs. This they did not merely to
express their grief, but because they thought that if they saw and
handled the dead body while it was burning, the ghost could not or would
not haunt them afterwards.[634] Amongst the natives of the Gazelle
Peninsula in New Britain the dead are generally buried in shallow graves
in or near their houses. Some of the shell money which belonged to a man
in life is buried with him. Women with blackened bodies sleep on the
grave for weeks.[635] When the deceased was a great chief, his corpse,
almost covered with shell money, is placed in a canoe, which is
deposited in a small house. Thereupon the nearest female relations are
led into the house, and the door being walled up they are obliged to
remain there with the rotting body until all the flesh has mouldered
away. Food is passed in to them through a hole in the wall, and under no
pretext are they allowed to leave the hut before the decomposition of
the corpse is complete. When nothing of the late chief remains but a
skeleton, the hut is opened and the solemn funeral takes place. The
bones of the dead are buried, but his skull is hung up in the taboo
house in order, we are told, that his ghost may remain in the
neighbourhood of the village and see how his memory is honoured. After
the burial of the headless skeleton feasting and dancing go on, often
for more than a month, and the expenses are defrayed out of the riches
left by the deceased.[636] Even in the case of eminent persons who have
been buried whole and entire in the usual way, a special mark of respect
is sometimes paid to their memory by digging up their skulls after a
year or more, painting them red and white, decorating them with
feathers, and setting them up on a scaffold constructed for the
purpose.[637]

[Sidenote: Disposal of the dead among the Sulka of New Britain.]

Somewhat similar is the disposal of the dead among the Sulka, a tribe of
New Britain who inhabit a mountainous and well-watered country to the
south of the Gazelle Peninsula. When a Sulka dies, his plantation is
laid waste, and the young fruit-trees cut down, but the ripe fruits are
first distributed among the living. His pigs are slaughtered and their
flesh in like manner distributed, and his weapons are broken. If the
deceased was a rich man, his wife or wives will sometimes be killed. The
corpse is usually buried next morning. A hole is dug in the house and
the body deposited in it in a sitting posture. The upper part of the
corpse projects from the grave and is covered with a tower-like
structure of basket-work, which is stuffed with banana-leaves. Great
care is taken to preserve the body from touching the earth. Stones are
laid round about the structure and a fire kindled. Relations come and
sleep for a time beside the corpse, men and women separately. Some while
afterwards the soul of the deceased is driven away. The time for
carrying out the expulsion is settled by the people in whispers, lest
the ghost should overhear them and prepare for a stout resistance. The
evening before the ceremony takes place many coco-nut leaves are
collected. Next morning, as soon as a certain bird (_Philemon
coquerelli_) is heard to sing, the people rise from their beds and set
up a great cry. Then they beat the walls, shake the posts, set fire to
dry coco-nut leaves, and finally rush out into the paths. At that
moment, so the people think, the soul of the dead quits the hut. When
the flesh of the corpse is quite decayed, the bones are taken from the
grave, sewed in leaves, and hung up. Soon afterwards a funeral feast is
held, at which men and women dance. For some time after a burial taro is
planted beside the house of death and enclosed with a fence. The Sulka
think that the ghost comes and gathers the souls of the taro. The ripe
fruit is allowed to rot. Falling stars are supposed to be the souls of
the dead which have been hurled up aloft and are now descending to bathe
in the sea. The trail of light behind them is thought to be a tail of
coco-nut leaves which other souls have fastened to them and set on fire.
In like manner the phosphorescent glow on the sea comes from souls
disporting themselves in the water. Persons who at their death left few
relations, or did evil in their life, or were murdered outside of the
village, are not buried in the house. Their corpses are deposited on
rocks or on scaffolds in the forest, or are interred on the spot where
they met their death. The reason for this treatment of their corpses is
not mentioned; but we may conjecture that their ghosts are regarded with
contempt, dislike, or fear, and that the survivors seek to give them a
wide berth by keeping their bodies at a distance from the village. The
corpses of those who died suddenly are not buried but wrapt up in leaves
and laid on a scaffold in the house, which is then shut up and deserted.
This manner of disposing of them seems also to indicate a dread or
distrust of their ghosts.[638]

[Sidenote: Disposal of the dead among the Moanus of the Admiralty
Islands. Prayers offered to the skull of a dead chief.]

Among the Moanus of the Admiralty Islands the dead are kept in the
houses unburied until the flesh is completely decayed and nothing
remains but the bones. Old women then wash the skeleton carefully in
sea-water, after which it is disjointed and divided. The backbone,
together with the bones of the legs and upper arms, is deposited in one
basket and put away somewhere; the skull, together with the ribs and the
bones of the lower arms, is deposited in another basket, which is sunk
for a time in the sea. When the bones are completely cleaned and
bleached in the water, they are laid with sweet-smelling herbs in a
wooden vessel and placed in the house which the dead man inhabited
during his life. But the teeth have been previously extracted from the
skull and converted into a necklace for herself by the sister of the
deceased. After a time the ribs are distributed by the son among the
relatives. The principal widow gets two, other near kinsfolk get one
apiece, and they wear these relics under their arm-bands. The
distribution of the ribs is the occasion of a great festival, and it is
followed some time afterwards by a still greater feast, for which
extensive preparations are made long beforehand. All who intend to be
present at the ceremony send vessels of coco-nut oil in advance; and if
the deceased was a great chief the number of the oil vessels and of the
guests may amount to two thousand. Meantime the giver of the feast
causes a scaffold to be erected for the reception of the skull, and the
whole art of the wood-carver is exhausted in decorating the scaffold
with figures of turtles, birds, and so forth, while a wooden dog acts as
sentinel at either end. When the multitude has assembled, and the
orchestra of drums, collected from the whole neighbourhood, has sent
forth a far-sounding crash of music, the giver of the feast steps
forward and pronounces a florid eulogium on the deceased, a warm
panegyric on the guests who have honoured him by their presence, and a
fluent invective against his absent foes. Nor does he forget to throw in
some delicate allusions to his own noble generosity in providing the
assembled visitors with this magnificent entertainment. For this great
effort of eloquence the orator has been primed in the morning by the
sorcerer. The process of priming consists in kneeling on the orator's
shoulders and tugging at the hair of his head with might and main, which
is clearly calculated to promote the flow of his rhetoric. If none of
the hair comes out in the sorcerer's hands, a masterpiece of oratory is
confidently looked forward to in the afternoon. When the speech, for
which such painful preparations have been made, is at last over, the
drums again strike up. No sooner have their booming notes died away over
land and sea, than the sorcerer steps up to the scaffold, takes from it
the bleached skull, and holds it in both his hands. Then the giver of
the feast goes up to him, dips a bunch of dracaena leaves in a vessel of
oil, and smites the skull with it, saying, "Thou art my father!" At that
the drums again beat loudly. Then he strikes the skull a second time
with the leaves, saying, "Take the food that has been made ready in
thine honour!" And again there is a crash of drums. After that he smites
the skull yet again and prays saying, "Guard me! Guard my people! Guard
my children!" And every prayer of the litany is followed by the solemn
roll of the drums. When these impressive invocations to the spirit of
the dead chief are over, the feasting begins. The skull is thenceforth
carefully preserved.[639]

[Sidenote: Disposal of the dead in the Kaniet Islands. Preservation of
the skull.]

In the Kaniet Islands, a small group to the north-west of the Admiralty
Islands, the dead are either sunk in the sea or buried in shallow
graves, face downward, near the house. All the movable property of the
deceased is piled on the grave, left there for three weeks, and then
burnt. Afterwards the skull is dug up, placed in a basket, and having
been decorated with leaves and feathers is hung up in the house. Thus
adorned it not only serves to keep the dead in memory, but is also
employed in many conjurations to defeat the nefarious designs of other
ghosts, who are believed to work most of the ills that afflict
humanity.[640] Apparently these islanders employ a ghost to protect them
against ghosts on the principle of setting a thief to catch a thief.

[Sidenote: Death attributed to witchcraft.]

Amongst the natives of the Bismarck Archipelago few persons, if any, are
believed to die from natural causes alone; if they are not killed in war
they are commonly supposed to perish by witchcraft or sorcery, even when
the cause of death might seem to the uninstructed European to be
sufficiently obvious in such things as exposure to heavy rain, the
carrying of too heavy a burden, or remaining too long a time under
water. So when a man has died, his friends are anxious to discover who
has bewitched him to death. In this enquiry the ghost is expected to
lend his assistance. Thus on the night after the decease the friends
will assemble outside the house, and a sorcerer will address the ghost
and request him to name the author of his death. If the ghost, as
sometimes happens, makes no reply, the sorcerer will jog his memory by
calling out the name of some suspected person; and should the ghost
still be silent, the wizard will name another and another, till at the
mention of one name a tapping sound is heard like the drumming of
fingers on a board or on a mat The sound may proceed from the house or
from a pearl shell which the sorcerer holds in his hand; but come from
where it may, it is taken as a certain proof that the man who has just
been named did the deed, and he is dealt with accordingly. Many a poor
wretch in New Britain has been killed and eaten on no other evidence
than that of the fatal tapping.[641]

[Sidenote: Burial customs in the Duke of York Island. Preservation of
the skull.]

When a man of mark is buried in the Duke of York Island, the masters of
sorcery take leaves, spit on them, and throw them, with a number of
poisonous things, into the grave, uttering at the same time loud
imprecations on the wicked enchanter who has killed their friend. Then
they go and bathe, and returning they fall to cursing again; and if the
miscreant survived the first imprecations, it is regarded as perfectly
certain that he will fall a victim to the second. Sometimes, when the
deceased was a chief distinguished for bravery and wisdom, his corpse
would be exposed on a high platform in front of his house and left there
to rot, while his relatives sat around and inhaled the stench,
conceiving that with it they absorbed the courage and skill of the
departed worthy. Some of them would even anoint their bodies with the
drippings from the putrefying corpse for the same purpose. The women
also made fires that the ghost might warm himself at them. When the head
became detached from the trunk, it was carefully preserved by the next
of kin, while the other remains were buried in a shallow grave in the
house. All the female relatives blackened their dusky faces for a long
time, after which the skull was put on a platform, a great feast was
held, and dances were performed for many nights in its honour. Then at
last the spirit of the dead man, which till that time was supposed to be
lingering about his old abode, took his departure, and his friends
troubled themselves about him no more.[642]

[Sidenote: Prayers to the spirits of the dead.]

The souls of the dead are always regarded by these people as beings
whose help can be invoked on special occasions, such as fighting or
fishing or any other matter of importance; and since the spirits whom
they invoke are always those of their own kindred they are presumed to
be friendly to the petitioners. The objects for which formal prayers are
addressed to the souls of ancestors appear to be always temporal
benefits, such as victory over enemies and plenty of food; prayers for
the promotion of moral virtue are seemingly unknown. For example, if a
woman laboured hard in childbirth, she was thought to be bewitched, and
prayers would be offered to the spirits of dead ancestors to counteract
the spell. Again, young men are instructed by their elders in the useful
art of cursing the enemies of the tribe; and among a rich variety of
imprecations an old man will invoke the spirit of his brother, father,
or uncle, or all of them, to put their fingers into the ears of the
enemy that he may not hear, to cover his eyes that he may not see, and
to stop his mouth that he may not cry for help, but may fall an easy
prey to the curser and his friends.[643] More amiable and not less
effectual are the prayers offered to the spirits of the dead over a sick
man. At the mention of each name in the prayer the supplicants make a
chirping or hissing sound, and rub lime over the patient. Before
administering medicine they pray over it to the spirits of the dead;
then the patient gulps it down, thus absorbing the virtue of the
medicine and of the prayer in one. In New Britain they reinforce the
prayers to the dead in time of need by wearing the jawbone of the
deceased; and in the Duke of York Island people often wear a tooth or
some hair of a departed relative, not merely as a mark of respect, but
as a magical means of obtaining supernatural help.[644]

[Sidenote: North Melanesian views as to the land of the dead.]

Sooner or later the souls of all the North Melanesian dead take their
departure for the spirit land. But the information which has reached the
living as to that far country is at once vague and inconsistent. They
call it _Matana nion_, but whereabout it lies they cannot for the most
part precisely tell. All they know for certain is that it is far away,
and that there is always some particular spot in the neighbourhood from
which the souls take their departure; for example, the Duke of York
ghosts invariably start from the little island of Nuruan, near Mioko.
Wherever it may be, the land of souls is divided into compartments;
people who have died of sickness or witchcraft go to one place, and
people who have been killed in battle go to another. They do not go
unattended; for when a man dies two friends sleep beside his corpse the
first night, one on each side, and their spirits are believed to
accompany the soul of the dead man to the spirit land. They say that on
their arrival in the far country, betel-nut is presented to them all,
but the two living men refuse to partake of it, because they know that
were they to eat it they would return no more to the land of the living.
When they do return, they have often, as might be expected, strange
tales to tell of what they saw among the ghosts. The principal personage
in the other world is called the "keeper of souls." It is said that once
on a time the masterful ghost of a dead chief attempted to usurp the
post of warden of the dead; in pursuance of this ambitious project he
attacked the warden with a tomahawk and cut off one of his legs, but the
amputated limb immediately reunited itself with the body; and a second
amputation was followed by the same disappointing result. Life in the
other world is reported to be very like life in this world. Some people
find it very dismal, and others very beautiful. Those who were rich here
will be rich there, and those who were poor on earth will be poor in
Hades. As to any moral retribution which may overtake evil-doers in the
life to come, their ideas are very vague; only they are sure that the
ghosts of the niggardly will be punished by being dumped very hard
against the buttress-roots of chestnut-trees. They say, too, that all
breaches of etiquette or of the ordinary customs of the country will
meet with certain appropriate punishments in the spirit land. When the
soul has thus done penance, it takes possession of the body of some
animal, for instance, the flying-fox. Hence a native is much alarmed if
he should be sitting under a tree from which a flying-fox has been
frightened away. Should anything drop from the bat or from the tree on
which it was hanging, he would look on it as an omen of good or ill
according to the nature of the thing which fell on or near him. If it
were useless or dirty, he would certainly apprehend some serious
misfortune. Sometimes when a man dies and his soul arrives in the spirit
land, his friends do not want him there and drive him back to earth, so
he comes to life again. That is the explanation which the natives give
of what we call the recovery of consciousness after a faint or
swoon.[645]

[Sidenote: The land of the dead. State of the dead in the other world
supposed to depend on the amount of money they left in this one.]

Some of the natives of the Gazelle Peninsula in New Britain imagine that
the home of departed spirits is in Nakanei, the part of the coast to
which they sail to get their shell money. Others suppose that it is in
the islands off Cape Takes. So when they are sailing past these islands
they dip the paddles softly in the water, and observe a death-like
stillness, cowering down in the canoes, lest the ghosts should spy them
and do them a mischief. At the entrance to these happy isles is posted a
stern watchman to see that no improper person sneaks into them. To every
ghost that arrives he puts three questions, "Who are you? Where do you
come from? How much shell money did you leave behind you?" On his
answers to these three questions hangs the fate of the ghost. If he left
much money, he is free to enter the realm of bliss, where he will pass
the time with other happy souls smoking and eating and enjoying other
sensual delights. But if he left little or no money, he is banished the
earthly paradise and sent home to roam like a wild beast in the forest,
battening on leaves and filth. With bitter sighs and groans he prowls
about the villages at night and seeks to avenge himself by scaring or
plaguing the survivors. To stay his hunger and appease his wrath
relatives or friends will sometimes set forth food for him to devour.
Yet even for such an impecunious soul there is hope; for if somebody
only takes pity on him and gives a feast in his honour and distributes
shell money to the guests, the ghost may return to the islands of the
blest, and the door will be thrown open to him.[646]

[Sidenote: Fiji and the Fijians.]

So much for the belief in immortality as it is reported to exist among
the Northern Melanesians of New Britain and the Bismarck Archipelago. We
now pass to the consideration of a similar belief among another people
of the same stock, who have been longer known to Europe, the Fijians.
The archipelago which they occupy lies to the east of the New Hebrides
and forms in fact the most easterly outpost of the black Melanesian race
in the Pacific. Beyond it to the eastward are situated the smaller
archipelagoes of Samoa and Tonga, inhabited by branches of the brown
Polynesian race, whose members are scattered over the islands of the
Pacific Ocean from Hawaii in the north to New Zealand in the south. Of
all the branches of the Melanesian stock the Fijians at the date of
their discovery by Europeans appear to have made the greatest advance in
culture, material, social, and political. "The Fijian," says one who
knew him long and intimately, "takes no mean place among savages in the
social scale. Long before the white man visited his shores he had made
very considerable progress towards civilisation. His intersexual code
had advanced to the 'patriarchal stage': he was a skilful and diligent
husbandman, who carried out extensive and laborious agricultural
operations: he built good houses, whose interior he ornamented with no
little taste, carved his weapons in graceful and intricate forms,
manufactured excellent pottery, beat out from the inner bark of a tree a
serviceable papyrus-cloth, upon which he printed, from blocks either
carved or ingeniously pieced together, elegant and elaborate patterns in
fast colours; and, with tools no better than a stone hatchet, a pointed
shell, and a firestick, he constructed large canoes capable of carrying
more than a hundred warriors across the open sea."[647]

[Sidenote: Political superiority of the Fijians over the other
Melanesians.]

Politically the Fijians shewed their superiority to all the other
Melanesians in the advance they had made towards a regular and organised
government. While among the other branches of the same race government
can hardly be said to exist, the power of chiefs being both slender and
precarious, in Fiji the highest chiefs exercised despotic sway and
received from Europeans the title of kings. The people had no voice in
the state; the will of the king was generally law, and his person was
sacred. Whatever he touched or wore became thereby holy and had to be
made over to him; nobody else could afterwards touch it without danger
of being struck dead on the spot as if by an electric shock. One king
took advantage of this superstition by dressing up an English sailor in
his royal robes and sending him about to throw his sweeping train over
any article of food, whether dead or alive, which he might chance to
come near. The things so touched were at once conveyed to the king
without a word of explanation being required or a single remonstrance
uttered. Some of the kings laid claim to a divine origin and on the
strength of the claim exacted and received from their subjects the
respect due to deities. In these exorbitant pretensions they were
greatly strengthened by the institution of taboo, which lent the
sanction of religion to every exertion of arbitrary power.[648]
Corresponding with the growth of monarchy was the well-marked gradation
of social ranks which prevailed in the various tribes from the king
downwards through chiefs, warriors, and landholders, to slaves. The
resulting political constitution has been compared to the old feudal
system of Europe.[649]

[Sidenote: Means of subsistence of the Fijians. Ferocity and depravity
of the Fijians.]

Like the other peoples of the Melanesian stock the Fijians subsist
chiefly by agriculture, raising many sorts of esculent fruits and roots,
particularly yams, taro, plantains, bread-fruit, sweet potatoes,
bananas, coco-nuts, ivi nuts, and sugar-cane; but the chief proportion
of their food is derived from yams (_Dioscorea_), of which they
cultivate five or six varieties.[650] It has been observed that "the
increase of cultivated plants is regular on receding from the Hawaiian
group up to Fiji, where roots and fruits are found that are unknown on
the more eastern islands."[651] Yet the Fijians in their native state,
like all other Melanesian and Polynesian peoples, were entirely ignorant
of the cereals; and in the opinion of a competent observer the
consequent defect in their diet has contributed to the serious defects
in their national character. The cereals, he tells us, are the staple
food of all races that have left their mark in history; and on the other
hand "the apathy and indolence of the Fijians arise from their climate,
their diet and their communal institutions. The climate is too kind to
stimulate them to exertion, their food imparts no staying power. The
soil gives the means of existence for every man without effort, and the
communal institutions destroy the instinct of accumulation."[652] Nor
are apathy and indolence the only or the worst features in the character
of these comparatively advanced savages. Their ferocity, cruelty, and
moral depravity are depicted in dark colours by those who had the best
opportunity of knowing them in the old days before their savagery was
mitigated by contact with a milder religious faith and a higher
civilisation. "In contemplating the character of this extraordinary
portion of mankind," says one observer, "the mind is struck with wonder
and awe at the mixture of a complicated and carefully conducted
political system, highly finished manners, and ceremonious politeness,
with a ferocity and practice of savage vices which is probably
unparalleled in any other part of the world."[653] One of the first
civilised men to gain an intimate acquaintance with the Fijians draws a
melancholy contrast between the baseness and vileness of the people and
the loveliness of the land in which they live.[654]

[Sidenote: Scenery of the Fijian islands.]

For the Fijian islands are exceedingly beautiful. They are of volcanic
origin, mostly high and mountainous, but intersected by picturesque
valleys, clothed with woods, and festooned with the most luxuriant
tropical vegetation. "Among their attractions," we are told, "are high
mountains, abrupt precipices, conical hills, fantastic turrets and crags
of rock frowning down like olden battlements, vast domes, peaks
shattered into strange forms; native towns on eyrie cliffs, apparently
inaccessible; and deep ravines, down which some mountain stream, after
long murmuring in its stony bed, falls headlong, glittering as a silver
line on a block of jet, or spreading like a sheet of glass over bare
rocks which refuse it a channel. Here also are found the softer features
of rich vales, cocoa-nut groves, clumps of dark chestnuts, stately palms
and bread-fruit, patches of graceful bananas or well-tilled taro-beds,
mingling in unchecked luxuriance, and forming, with the wild
reef-scenery of the girdling shore, its beating surf, and far-stretching
ocean beyond, pictures of surpassing beauty."[655] Each island is
encircled by a reef of white coral, on which the sea breaks, with a
thunderous roar, in curling sheets of foam; while inside the reef
stretches the lagoon, a calm lake of blue crystalline water revealing in
its translucent depths beautiful gardens of seaweed and coral which fill
the beholder with delighted wonder. Great and sudden is the contrast
experienced by the mariner when he passes in a moment from the tossing,
heaving, roaring billows without into the unbroken calm of the quiet
haven within the barrier reef.[656]

[Sidenote: Fijian doctrine of souls.]

Like most savages, the Fijians believed that man is animated by a soul
which quits his body temporarily in sleep and permanently at death, to
survive for a longer or a shorter time in a disembodied state
thereafter. Indeed, they attributed souls to animals, vegetables,
stones, tools, houses, canoes, and many other things, allowing that all
of them may become immortal.[657] On this point I will quote the
evidence of one of the earliest and best authorities on the customs and
beliefs of the South Sea Islanders. "There seems," says William Mariner,
"to be a wide difference between the opinions of the natives in the
different clusters of the South Sea islands respecting the future
existence of the soul. Whilst the Tonga doctrine limits immortality to
chiefs, _matabooles_, and at most, to _mooas_, the Fiji doctrine, with
abundant liberality, extends it to all mankind, to all brute animals, to
all vegetables, and even to stones and mineral substances. If an animal
or a plant die, its soul immediately goes to Bolotoo; if a stone or any
other substance is broken, immortality is equally its reward; nay,
artificial bodies have equal good luck with men, and hogs, and yams. If
an axe or a chisel is worn out or broken up, away flies its soul for the
service of the gods. If a house is taken down, or any way destroyed, its
immortal part will find a situation on the plains of Bolotoo; and, to
confirm this doctrine, the Fiji people can show you a sort of natural
well, or deep hole in the ground, at one of their islands, across the
bottom of which runs a stream of water, in which you may clearly
perceive the souls of men and women, beasts and plants, of stocks and
stones, canoes and houses, and of all the broken utensils of this frail
world, swimming or rather tumbling along one over the other pell-mell
into the regions of immortality. Such is the Fiji philosophy, but the
Tonga people deny it, unwilling to think that the residence of the gods
should be encumbered with so much useless rubbish. The natives of
Otaheite entertain similar notions respecting these things, viz. that
brutes, plants, and stones exist hereafter, but it is not mentioned that
they extend the idea to objects of human invention."[658]

[Sidenote: Reported Fijian doctrine of two human souls, a light one and
a dark one.]

According to one account, the Fijians imagined that every man has two
souls, a dark soul, consisting of his shadow, and a light soul,
consisting of his reflection in water or a looking-glass: the dark soul
departs at death to Hades, while the light soul stays near the place
where he died or was killed. "Probably," says Thomas Williams, "this
doctrine of shadows has to do with the notion of inanimate objects
having spirits. I once placed a good-looking native suddenly before a
mirror. He stood delighted. 'Now,' said he, softly, 'I can see into the
world of spirits.'"[659] However, according to another good authority
this distinction of two human souls rests merely on a misapprehension of
the Fijian word for shadow, _yaloyalo_, which is a reduplication of
_yalo_, the word for soul.[660] Apparently the Fijians pictured to
themselves the human soul as a miniature of the man himself. This may be
inferred from the customs observed at the death of a chief among the
Nakelo tribe. When a chief dies, certain men who are the hereditary
undertakers call him, as he lies, oiled and ornamented, on fine mats,
saying, "Rise, sir, the chief, and let us be going. The day has come
over the land." Then they conduct him to the river side, where the
ghostly ferryman comes to ferry Nakelo ghosts across the stream. As they
attend the chief on his last journey, they hold their great fans close
to the ground to shelter him, because, as one of them explained to a
missionary, "His soul is only a little child."[661]

[Sidenote: Absence of the soul in sleep. Catching the soul of a rascal
in a scarf.]

The souls of some men were supposed to quit their bodies in sleep and
enter into the bodies of other sleepers, troubling and disturbing them.
A soul that had contracted this bad habit was called a _yalombula_. When
any one fainted or died, his vagrant spirit might, so the Fijians
thought, be induced to come back by calling after it. Sometimes, on
awaking from a nap, a stout man might be seen lying at full length and
bawling out lustily for the return of his own soul.[662] In the windward
islands of Fiji there used to be an ordeal called _yalovaki_ which was
much dreaded by evil-doers. When the evidence was strong against
suspected criminals, and they stubbornly refused to confess, the chief,
who was also the judge, would call for a scarf, with which "to catch
away the soul of the rogue." A threat of the rack could not have been
more effectual. The culprit generally confessed at the sight and even
the mention of the light instrument; but if he did not, the scarf would
be waved over his head until his soul was caught in it like a moth or a
fly, after which it would be carefully folded up and nailed to the small
end of a chief's canoe, and for want of his soul the suspected person
would pine and die.[663]

[Sidenote: Fijian dread of sorcery and witchcraft.]

Further, the Fijians, like many other savages, stood in great terror of
witchcraft, believing that the sorcerer had it in his power to kill them
by the practice of his nefarious art. "Of all their superstitions," says
Thomas Williams, "this exerts the strongest influence on the minds of
the people. Men who laugh at the pretensions of the priest tremble at
the power of the wizard; and those who become christians lose this fear
last of all the relics of their heathenism."[664] Indeed "native agents
of the mission who, in the discharge of their duty, have boldly faced
death by open violence, have been driven from their posts by their dread
of the sorcerer; and my own observation confirms the statement of more
than one observer that savages not unfrequently die of fear when they
think themselves bewitched."[665] Professed practitioners of witchcraft
were dreaded by all classes, and by destroying mutual confidence they
annulled the comfort and shook the security of society. Almost all
sudden deaths were set down to their machinations. A common mode of
effecting their object was to obtain a shred of the clothing of the man
they intended to bewitch, some refuse of his food, a lock of his hair,
or some other personal relic; having got it they wrapped it up in
certain leaves, and then cooked or buried it or hung it up in the
forest; whereupon the victim was supposed to die of a wasting disease.
Another way was to bury a coco-nut, with the eye upward, beneath the
hearth of the temple, on which a fire was kept constantly burning; and
as the life of the nut was destroyed, so the health of the person whom
the nut represented would fail till death put an end to his sufferings.
"The native imagination," we are told, "is so absolutely under the
control of fear of these charms, that persons, hearing that they were
the object of such spells, have lain down on their mats, and died
through fear."[666] To guard against the fell craft of the magician the
people resorted to many precautions. A man who suspected another of
plotting against him would be careful not to eat in his presence or at
all events to leave no morsel of food behind, lest the other should
secrete it and bewitch him by it; and for the same reason people
disposed of their garments so that no part could be removed; and when
they had their hair cut they generally hid the clippings in the thatch
of their own houses. Some even built themselves a small hut and
surrounded it with a moat, believing that a little water had power to
neutralise the charms directed against them.[667]

[Sidenote: The fear of sorcery has had the beneficial effect of
enforcing habits of personal cleanliness.]

"In the face of such instances as these," says one who knows the Fijians
well, "it demands some courage to assert that upon the whole the belief
in witchcraft was formerly a positive advantage to the community. It
filled, in fact, the place of a system of sanitation. The wizard's tools
consisting in those waste matters that are inimical to health, every man
was his own scavenger. From birth to old age a man was governed by this
one fear; he went into the sea, the graveyard or the depths of the
forest to satisfy his natural wants; he burned his cast-off _malo_; he
gave every fragment left over from his food to the pigs; he concealed
even the clippings of his hair in the thatch of his house. This
ever-present fear even drove women in the western districts out into the
forest for the birth of their children, where fire destroyed every trace
of their lying-in. Until Christianity broke it down, the villages were
kept clean; there were no festering rubbish-heaps nor filthy
_raras_."[668]

[Sidenote: Fijian dread of ghosts. Uproar made to drive away ghosts.]

Of apparitions the Fijians used to be very much afraid. They believed
that the ghosts of the dead appeared often and afflicted mankind,
especially in sleep. The spirits of slain men, unchaste women, and women
who died in childbed were most dreaded. After a death people have been
known to hide themselves for a few days, until they supposed the soul of
the departed was at rest. Also they shunned the places where people had
been murdered, particularly when it rained, because then the moans of
the ghost could be heard as he sat up, trying to relieve his pain by
resting his poor aching head on the palms of his hands. Some however
said that the moans were caused by the soul of the murderer knocking
down the soul of his victim, whenever the wretched spirit attempted to
get up.[669] When Fijians passed a spot in the forest where a man had
been clubbed to death, they would sometimes throw leaves on it as a mark
of homage to his spirit, believing that they would soon be killed
themselves if they failed in thus paying their respects to the
ghost.[670] And after they had buried a man alive, as they very often
did, these savages used at nightfall to make a great din with large
bamboos, trumpet-shells, and so forth, in order to drive away his spirit
and deter him from loitering about his old home. "The uproar is always
held in the late habitation of the deceased, the reason being that as no
one knows for a certainty what reception he will receive in the
invisible world, if it is not according to his expectations he will most
likely repent of his bargain and wish to come back. For that reason they
make a great noise to frighten him away, and dismantle his former
habitation of everything that is attractive, and clothe it with
everything that to their ideas seems repulsive."[671]

[Sidenote: Killing a ghost.]

However, stronger measures were sometimes resorted to. It was believed
to be possible to kill a troublesome ghost. Once it happened that many
chiefs feasted in the house of Tanoa, King of Ambau. In the course of
the evening one of them related how he had slain a neighbouring chief.
That very night, having occasion to leave the house, he saw, as he
believed, the ghost of his victim, hurled his club at him, and killed
him stone dead. On his return to the house he roused the king and the
rest of the inmates from their slumbers, and recounted his exploit. The
matter was deemed of high importance, and they all sat on it in solemn
conclave. Next morning a search was made for the club on the scene of
the murder; it was found and carried with great pomp and parade to the
nearest temple, where it was laid up for a perpetual memorial. Everybody
was firmly persuaded that by this swashing blow the ghost had been not
only killed but annihilated.[672]

[Sidenote: Dazing the ghost of a grandfather.]

A more humane method of dealing with an importunate ghost used to be
adopted in Vanua-levu, the largest but one of the Fijian islands. In
that island, as a consequence, it is said, of reckoning kinship through
the mother, a child was considered to be more closely related to his
grandfather than to his father. Hence when a grandfather died, his ghost
naturally desired to carry off the soul of his grandchild with him to
the spirit land. The wish was creditable to the warmth of his domestic
affection, but if the survivors preferred to keep the child with them a
little longer in this vale of tears, they took steps to baffle
grandfather's ghost. For this purpose when the old man's body was
stretched on the bier and raised on the shoulders of half-a-dozen stout
young fellows, the mother's brother would take the grandchild in his
arms and begin running round and round the corpse. Round and round he
ran, and grandfather's ghost looked after him, craning his neck from
side to side and twisting it round and round in the vain attempt to
follow the rapid movements of the runner. When the ghost was supposed to
be quite giddy with this unwonted exercise, the mother's brother made a
sudden dart away with the child in his arms, the bearers fairly bolted
with the corpse to the grave, and before he could collect his scattered
wits grandfather was safely landed in his long home.[673]

[Sidenote: Special relation of grandfather to grandchild. Soul of a
grandfather reborn in his grandchildren.]

Mr. Fison, who reports this quaint mode of bilking a ghost, explains the
special attachment of the grandfather to his grandchild by the rule of
female descent which survives in Vanua-levu; and it is true that where
exogamy prevails along with female descent, a child regularly belongs to
the exogamous class of its grandfather and not of its father and hence
may be regarded as more closely akin to the grandfather than to the
father. But on the other hand it is to be observed that exogamy at
present is unknown in Fiji, and at most its former prevalence in the
islands can only be indirectly inferred from relics of totemism and from
the existence of the classificatory system of relationship.[674] Perhaps
the real reason why in Vanua-levu a dead grandfather is so anxious to
carry off the soul of his living grandchild lies nearer to hand in the
apparently widespread belief that the soul of the grandfather is
actually reborn in his grandchild. For example, in Nukahiva, one of the
Marquesas Islands, every one "is persuaded that the soul of a
grandfather is transmitted by nature into the body of his grandchildren;
and that, if an unfruitful wife were to place herself under the corpse
of her deceased grandfather, she would be sure to become pregnant."[675]
Again, the Kayans of Borneo "believe in the reincarnation of the soul,
although this belief is not clearly harmonised with the belief in the
life in another world. It is generally believed that the soul of a
grandfather may pass into one of his grandchildren, and an old man will
try to secure the passage of his soul to a favourite grandchild by
holding it above his head from time to time. The grandfather usually
gives up his name to his eldest grandson, and reassumes the original
name of his childhood with the prefix or title _Laki_, and the custom
seems to be connected with this belief or hope."[676]

[Sidenote: A dead grandfather may reasonably reclaim his own soul from
his grandchild.]

Now where such a belief is held, it seems reasonable enough that a dead
grandfather should reclaim his own soul for his personal use before he
sets out for the spirit land; else how could he expect to be admitted to
that blissful abode if on arriving at the portal he were obliged to
explain to the porter that he had no soul about him, having left that
indispensable article behind in the person of his grandchild? "Then you
had better go back and fetch it. There is no admission at this gate for
people without souls." Such might very well be the porter's retort; and
foreseeing it any man of ordinary prudence would take the precaution of
recovering his lost spiritual property before presenting himself to the
Warden of the Dead. This theory would sufficiently account for the
otherwise singular behaviour of grandfather's ghost in Vanua-levu. At
the same time it must be admitted that the theory of the reincarnation
of a grandfather in a grandson would be suggested more readily in a
society where the custom of exogamy was combined with female descent
than in one where the same custom coexisted with male descent; since,
given exogamy and female descent, grandfather and grandson regularly
belong to the same exogamous class, whereas father and son never do
so.[677] Thus Mr. Fison may after all be right in referring the
partiality of a Fijian grandfather for his grandson in the last resort
to a system of exogamy and female kinship.

[Footnote 627: G. Brown, D.D., _Melanesians and Polynesians_ (London,
1910), pp. 23 _sq._, 125, 320 _sqq._]

[Footnote 628: G. Brown, _op. cit._ pp. 294 _sqq._; P. A. Kleintitschen,
_Die Küstenbewohner der Gazellehalbinsel_ (Hiltrup bei Münster, N.D.),
pp. 90 _sqq._ The shell money is called _tambu_ in New Britain, _diwara_
in the Duke of York Island, and _aringit_ in New Ireland.]

[Footnote 629: Rev. G. Brown, _op. cit._ pp. 307, 313, 435, 436.]

[Footnote 630: Rev. G. Brown, _op. cit._ pp. 270 _sq._, compare pp. 127,
200.]

[Footnote 631: Rev. G. Brown, _op. cit._ pp. v., 18.]

[Footnote 632: G. Brown, _op. cit._ pp. 141 _sq._, 144, 145, 190-193.]

[Footnote 633: G. Brown, _op. cit._ pp. 142, 192, 385, 386 _sq._]

[Footnote 634: G. Brown, _op. cit._ p. 390. The custom of cremating the
dead in New Ireland is described more fully by Mr. R. Parkinson, who
says that the life-sized figures which are burned with the corpse
represent the deceased (_Dreissig Jahre in der Südsee_, pp. 273 _sqq._).
In the central part of New Ireland the dead are buried in the earth;
afterwards the bones are dug up and thrown into the sea. See Albert
Hahl, "Das mittlere Neumecklenburg," _Globus_, xci. (1907) p. 314.]

[Footnote 635: R. Parkinson, _Dreissig Jahre in der Südsee_ (Stuttgart,
1907) p. 78; P. A. Kleintitschen, _Die Küstenbewohner der
Gazellehalbinsel_ (Hiltrup bei Münster, N.D.), p. 222.]

[Footnote 636: Mgr. Couppé, "En Nouvelle-Poméranie," _Les Missions
Catholiques_, xxiii. (1891) pp. 364 _sq._; J. Graf Pfeil, _Studien und
Beobachtungen aus der Südsee_ (Brunswick, 1899), p. 79.]

[Footnote 637: R. Parkinson, _op. cit._ p. 81.]

[Footnote 638: _P._ Rascher, _M.S.C._, "Die Sulka, ein Beitrag zur
Ethnographic Neu-Pommern," _Archiv für Anthropologie_, xxix. (1904) pp.
214 _sq._, 216; R. Parkinson, _Dreissig Jahre in der Südsee_, pp.
185-187.]

[Footnote 639: R. Parkinson, _Dreissig Jahre in der Südsee_, pp.
404-406.]

[Footnote 640: R. Parkinson, _op. cit._ pp. 441 _sq._]

[Footnote 641: G. Brown, _op. cit._ pp. 176, 183, 385 _sq._ As to the
wide-spread belief in New Britain that what we call natural deaths are
brought about by sorcery, see further _P._ Rascher, _M.S.C._, "Die