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this; the females, however, were not allowed to enter the sacred enclosure. A sumptuous banquet was held annually at the time of its observance, which was regulated by the blossoming of reeds.
Their rites and worship were in many respects singular, but in none more so than in the ripening of the year, which was regarded as a kind of annual acknowledgment to the gods. When the prayers were finished at the marae, and the banquet ended, a usage prevailed much resembling the popish custom of mass for souls in purgatory. Each individual returned to his home, or to his family marae, there to offer special prayers for the spirits of departed relatives, that they might be liberated from the po, or state of night, and ascend to rohutunoanoa, the mount Meru of Polynesia, or return to this world, by entering into the body of some inhabitant of earth.
They did not suppose, according to the generally received doctrine of transmigration, that the spirits who entered the body of some dweller upon earth, would permanently remain there, but only come and inspire the person to declare future events, or execute any other commission from the supernatural beings on whom they imagined they were constantly dependent.
Description of Polynesian idols-Human sacrifices-Anthropophagism— Islands in which it prevails-Motives and circumstances under which it is practised-Tradition of its existence in Sir Charles Sanders' Island -Extensive prevalence of Sorcery and Divination-Views of the natives on the subject of satanic influence-Demons-Imprecations-Modes of incantation-Horrid and fatal effects supposed to result from sorcery— Impotency of enchantment on Europeans—Native remedies for sorcery— Native oracles-Means of inspiration-Effects on the priest inspiredManner of delivering the responses-Circumstances at Rurutu and Huahine-Intercourse between the priest and the god-Augury by the death of victims-Divination for the detection of theft.
THE system of idolatry, which prevailed among a people separated from the majority of their species by trackless oceans, breathing a salubrious air, inhabiting a beautiful and fertile country, and possessing the means, not only of subsistence but of comfort, in an unusual degree, presents a most affecting exhibition of imbecility, absurdity, and degradation. Whether we consider its influence over the individual, the family, or the nation, through the whole period of life-its oppressive exactions, its frequent and foolish rites, its murderous sacrifices, the engines of its power, and the objects of its homage and its dread-it is impossible to contemplate it without augmented thankfulness for the blessings of revelation, and increased compassion for those inhabiting the dark places of the earth.
The idols of the heathen are in general appropriate emblems of the beings they worship and fear; and if we contemplate those of the South Sea Islanders, they present to our notice all that is adapted to awaken our pity. The idols of Tahiti were generally shapeless pieces of wood, from one to four feet long, covered with finely braided cinet of cocoa-nut fibres, ornamented with scarlet feathers. Oro was a straight log of hard casuarina wood, six feet in length, uncarved, but decorated with feathers. The gods of some of the adjacent islands exhibit a greater variety of form and structure. The accompanying plate contains several of these.
The two figures in the centre, No. 1. exhibit a front and profile view of Taaroa, the supreme deity of Polynesia; who is generally regarded as the creator of the world, and the parent of gods and men. The image from which these views were taken, is nearly four feet high, and twelve or fifteen inches broad, carved out of a solid piece of close, white, durable wood. In addition to the number of images or demigods forming the features of his face, and studding the outside of his body, and which were designed to shew the multitudes of gods that had proceeded from him; his body is hollow, and when taken from the temple, in which for many generations he had been worshipped, a number of small idols were found in the cavity. They had perhaps been deposited there, to imbibe his supernatural powers, prior to their being removed to a distance, to receive, as his representatives, divine honours. The opening to the cavity was at the back; the whole of which, as shewn in the profile view, might be removed. The image to the right, No. 3. is another representation of Taaroa. No. 5. is Terongo, one of the principal gods, and his three sons. No. 2. is
an image of Tebuakina, three sons of Rongo, a principal deity in the Harvey Islands. The name is probably analogous to Orono in Hawaii, though distinct from Oro in Tahiti. No. 6. exhibits a sacred ornament of a canoe from the island of Huahine. The two figures at the top, are images worshipped by fishermen, or those frequenting the sea. The two small idols at the lower corners of the plate, No. 7. are images of oramatuas, or demons. The others are gods from the Harvey Islands. The gods of Rarotogna were some of them much larger; Mr. Bourne, in 1825, saw fourteen about twenty feet long, and six feet wide.
Such were the objects the inhabitants of these islands were accustomed to supplicate; and to appease or avert the anger of which, they devoted not only every valuable article they possessed, but murdered their fellow creatures, and offered their blood. Human victims were sacrificed to Taaroa, Oro, and several others. It has been supposed, that the circumstance of the priests' offering the eye, the most precious part of the victim, to the king, who appeared to eat it, indicated their having formerly devoured the men they had sacrificed. I do not regard this fact as affording any very strong evidence, although I have not the least doubt that the inhabitants of several of the South Sea Islands have eaten human beings.
From the many favourable traits in their character, we have been unwilling to believe they had ever been cannibals; the conviction of our mistake has, however, been impressed by evidence so various and multiplied as to preclude uncertainty. Their mythology leads them to suppose, that the spirits of the dead are eaten by the gods or demons; and that the spiritual part of their
sacrifices is eaten by the spirit of the idol before whom it is presented. Birds resorting to the temple, were said to feed upon the bodies of the human sacrifices and it was imagined the god approached the temple in the bird, and thus devoured the victims placed upon the altar. In some of the islands, 66 man-eater" was an epithet of the principal deities; bably in connexion with this, that the king, who often personated the god, appeared to eat the human eye. Part of some human victims were eaten by the priests.
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The Marquesans are known to be cannibals; the inhabitants of the Palliser or Pearl Islands, in the immediate neighbourhood of Tahiti, to the eastward, are the same. A most affecting instance of their anthropophagism is related by recent visitors; who state that a captive female child, pining with hunger, on begging a morsel of food from the cruel and conquering invaders of her native island, was supplied by a piece of her own father's body!
The bodies of prisoners in war, or enemies slain in battle, appear to have been eaten by most of the Harvey Islanders, who reside a short distance to the west of the Society group. There were several inducements to this horrid practice. The New Zealanders ate the bodies of their enemies, that they might imbibe their courage, &c. Hence, they exulted in their banquet on a celebrated warrior; supposing that, when they had devoured his flesh, they should be imbued with his valiant and daring spirit. I am not certain that this was the motive by which the eastern Polynesians were influenced, but one principal design of their wars was to obtain men to eat. Hence, when dwelling in their encampment, and clearing the brushwood, &c. from the place in which they expected