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any of the prayers, they have always recited them in these tones.
Nothing can exceed the horror they have of their former worship. An instance of this kind occurred at Parea with an old blind priest of the fisherman's temple there. When the majority of the inhabitants embraced Christianity, he declared he would not abandon the idols, nor unite in the worship of the God of the Christians; and in order to shew his determination, on the Sabbathday, when the people went to the chapel, he went out to work in, I think, a part of the ground belonging to his temple: while thus engaged in mending a fence, a bough struck his eyes, and not only inflicted great pain, but deprived him of his sight, and, like Elymas, he was obliged to be led home. This circumstance deeply affected his mind; he became a firm believer in the true God, maintained an upright and resigned frame of mind, and, when baptized, adopted the name of Paul, from the similarity in the means employed in humbling and converting him, and those used to bring the apostle to a sense of the power and mercy of the Saviour. He died in 1824. Two or three years before this, I visited his residence; and, in company with others, attended him to the temple of which he had been priest. After examining its ruins, we requested him to recite, simply for our information relative to the nature of the former worship, one of the prayers he had been accustomed to offer there. After great persuasion, he consented, and, assuming the crouching position, or sitting as it were on his heels, he commenced, in a shrill, tremulous tone, to repeat the names of the gods, &c., but he was soon seized with a violent trembling and evident alarm, and declared he durst not, he could not proceed. Corresponding appre
hensions have often been manifested by others, and we have seldom induced any to recite their idolatrous prayers.
Their offerings included every kind of valuable property: the fowls of the air, the fishes of the sea, the beasts of the field, and the fruits of the earth, together with their choicest manufactures, were presented. The sacrifice was frequently called Taraehara, a compound term, signifying disentangling from guilt; from tara, to untie or loosen, and hara, guilt. The animals were taken either in part or entire. The fruits and other eatables were generally, but not always, dressed. Portions of the fowls, pigs, or fish, considered sacred, dressed with sacred fire within the temple, were offered; the remainder furnished a banquet for the priests and other sacred persons, who were privileged to eat of the sacrifices. Those portions appropriated to the gods were deposited on the fata or altar, which was of wood. Domestic altars, or those erected near the corpse of a departed friend, were small square wicker structures; while those in the public temple were large, and usually eight or ten feet high. The surface of the altar was supported by a number of wooden posts or pillars, often curiously carved, and highly polished. The altars were covered with sacred boughs, and ornamented with a border or fringe of rich yellow plantain leaves. The pigs, &c. when presented alive, received the sacred mark, and ranged the district at liberty; when slain, they were exceedingly anxious to avoid breaking a bone, or disfiguring the animal. One method of killing them was by holding the pig upright on its legs, placing a strong stick horizontally under its throat, and another across upon its neck, and then pressing them together until the animal was strangled. Another plan was, by bleeding
the pig to death, washing the carcase with the blood, and then placing it in a crouching position on the altar. Offerings and sacrifices of every kind, whether dressed or not, were placed upon the altar, and remained there, until by decomposition they were consumed. The heat of the climate, and frequent rain, accelerated this process, yet the atmosphere in the vicinity of the maraes was frequently most offensive.
Animals, fruits, &c. were not the only articles presented to their idols; the most affecting part of their sacrificing was the frequent immolation of human victims. These sacrifices, in the technical language of the priests, were called fish. They were offered in seasons of war, at great national festivals, during the illness of their rulers, and on the erection of their temples. I have been informed by several of the inhabitants of Maeva, that the foundation of some of the buildings, for the abode of their gods, was actually laid in human sacrifices; that every pillar, supporting the roof of one of the sacred houses at Maeva, was planted upon the body of a man, who had been offered as a victim to the sanguinary deity about to be deposited there. The unhappy wretches selected were either captives taken in war, or individuals who had rendered themselves obnoxious to the chiefs or
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