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the priests. When they were wanted, a stone was, at the request of the priest, sent by the king to the chief of the district from which the victims were required. If the stone was received, it was an indication of an intention to comply with the requisition. It is a singular fact, that the cruelty of the practice extended not only to individuals, but to families and districts. When an individual
family to which he
had been taken as a sacrifice, the belonged was regarded as tabu or devoted; and when another was required, it was more frequently taken from that family than any other: and a district from which sacrifices had been taken, was, in the same way, considered as devoted; and hence, when it was known that any ceremonies were near, on which human sacrifices were usually offered, the members of tabu families, or others who had reason to fear they were selected, fled to the mountains, and hid themselves in the dens and caverns till the ceremony was over. At a public meeting in Raiatea, Paumoana, a native chieftain, alluded to this practice in terms resembling these:-How great our dread of our former gods! Are there not some here who have fled from their houses, to avoid being taken for sacrifices? Yes! I know the cave in which they were concealed.
In general, the victim was unconscious of his doom, until suddenly stunned by a blow from a club or a stone, sometimes from the hand of the very chief on whom he was depending as a guest for the rights of hospitality. He was usually murdered on the spot-his body placed in a long basket of cocoa-nut leaves, and carried to the temple. Here it was offered, not by consuming it with fire, but by placing it before the idol. The priest, in dedicating it, took out one of the eyes, placed it on a
plantain leaf, and handed it to the king, who raised it to his mouth as if desirous to eat it, but passed it to one of the priests or attendants, stationed near him for the purpose of receiving it. At intervals during the prayers some of the hair was plucked off, and placed before the god; and when the ceremony was over, the body was wrapped in the basket of cocoa-nut leaves, and frequently deposited on the branches of an adjacent tree, After remaining a considerable time, it was taken down, and the bones buried beneath the rude pavement of the marae. These horrid rites were not unfrequent, and the number offered at their great festivals was truly appalling.
The seasons of worship were both stated and occasional. The latter were those in which the gods were sought under national calamities, as the desolation of war, or the alarming illness of the king or chiefs. In addition to the rites connected with actual war, there were two that followed its termination. The principal of these, Rau ma ta vehi raa, was designed to purify the land from the defilement occasioned by the incursions or devastations of an enemy, who had perhaps ravaged the country, demolished the temples, destroyed or mutilated the idols, broken down the altars, and used as fuel the unus, or curiously carved pieces of wood, marking the sacred places of interment, and emblematical of their tii's or spirits. Preparatory to this ceremony, the temples were rebuilt, new altars reared, new images, inspired or inhabited by the gods, placed in the maraes, and fresh unus erected.
At the close of the rites in the new temples, the parties repaired to the sea-beach, where the chief priest offered a short prayer, and the people dragged a small net of
cocoa-nut leaves through a shallow part of the sea, and usually detached small fragments of coral from the bottom, which were brought to the shore. These were denominated fish, and were delivered to the priest, who conveyed them to the temple, and deposited them on the altar, offering at the same time an ubu or prayer, to induce the gods to cleanse the land from pollution, that it might be pure as the coral fresh from the sea. It was now supposed safe to abide on the soil, and appropriate its produce to the purposes of support; but had not this ceremony been performed, death would have been anticipated.
The maui fata, altar-raising, was connected with the preceding rites. No human victim was slain, but numbers of pigs, with abundance of plantains, &c. were placed upon the altars, which were newly ornamented with branches of the sacred mero, and yellow leaves of the cocoa-nut tree. These rites extended to every marae in the island, and were designed to secure rain and fertility for the country gained by conquest, or recovered from invasion.
Besides these, the chief occasional services were those connected with the illness of their rulers. This was supposed to be inflicted by the gods for some offence of the chiefs or people. Long and frequent prayers were offered, to avert their anger, and prevent death. But, supposing the gods were always influenced by the same motives as themselves, they imagined that the efficacy of their prayers would be in exact proportion to the value of the offerings with which they were accompanied. Hence, when the symptoms of disease were violent and alarming, if the sufferer was a chief of rank, the fruits of whole fields of plantains, and a hundred or more pigs, have been taken to the marae, and frequently, besides these, a
number of men, with ropes round their necks, have been also led to the temple, and presented before the idol. The prayers of the priests have often been interrupted by the ejaculatory addresses of the men, calling by name, and exclaiming "Be not angry, or let thy wrath be appeased; here we are: look on us, and be satisfied," &c. It does not appear that these men were actually sacrificed, but probably they appeared in this humiliating manner, with ropes about their necks, to propitiate the deity, and to shew their readiness to die, if it should be required.
While these ceremonies were observed, the progress of the disease was marked, by the friends of the afflicted, with intense anxiety. If recovery followed, it was attributed to the pacification of the deities; but if the disease increased, or terminated fatally, the god was regarded as inexorable, and was usually banished from the temple, and his image destroyed.
Religious rites were connected with almost every act of their lives. An ubu or prayer was offered before they ate their food, when they tilled their ground, planted their gardens, built their houses, launched their canoes, cast their nets, and commenced or concluded a journey. Numerous ceremonies were performed at the birth of any child of rank, at marriages, and interments. The first fish taken periodically on their shores, together with a number of kinds regarded as sacred, were conveyed to the altar. The first-fruits of their orchards and gardens were also taumaha, or offered, with a portion of their live-stock, which consisted of pigs, dogs, and fowls, as it was supposed death would be inflicted on the owner or the occupant of the land, from which the god should not receive such acknowledgment.
The bure arii, a ceremony in which the king acknowledged the supremacy of the gods, was one attended with considerable pomp and show; but one of the principal stated festivals was the pae atua, which was held every three moons.. On these occasions all the idols were brought out from their sacred depository, and meheu, or exposed to the sun; the cloth in which they had been kept was removed, and the feathers in the inside of the hollow idols were taken out. The images were then anointed with fragrant oil; new feathers, brought by their worshippers, were deposited in the inside of the hollow idols, and folded in new sacred cloth: after a number of ceremonies, they were carried back to their dormitories in the temple. Large quantities of food were provided for the entertainment, which followed the religious rites of the pae atua.
The most singular of their stated ceremonies was the maoa raa matahiti, ripening or completing of the year. This festival was regularly observed in Huahine: although I do not know that it was universal, vast multitudes assembled. In general, the men only engaged in pagan festivals; but men, women, and children, attended at