Images de page

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.

[merged small][graphic]

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

[blocks in formation]

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 sorceryImpotency of enchantment on Europeans-Native remedies for sorcery— Native oracles-Means of inspiration—Effects on the priest inspired— Manner 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.

« PrécédentContinuer »