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transit from the shoulders of one to those of another, at the termination of an ordinary stage, was accompanied with much greater despatch than the horses of a mail-coach are changed, or an equestrian could alight and remount. On these occasions, their majesties never suffered their feet to touch the ground; but when they wished to change, what to them answered the purpose of horses, they called two of the men, who were running by their side; and while the man, on whose neck they were sitting, made little more than a momentary halt, the individuals who were to take them onward fixed their hands upon their thighs, and bent their heads slightly forward: when they had assumed this position, the royal riders, with apparently but little effort, vaulted over the head of the man on whose neck they had been sitting, and, alighting on the shoulders of his successor in office, proceeded on their journey with the shortest possible detention.
This mode of conveyance was called amo or vaha. It could not have been very comfortable even to the riders, while to the bearers it must have been exceedingly laborious. The men selected for this duty, which was considered the most honourable post next to that of bearers of the gods, were generally exempted from labour, and, as they seldom did any thing else, were not perhaps much incommoded by their office; and although the seat occupied by those they bore was not perhaps the most easy, yet as it was a mark of the highest dignity in the nation, and as none but the king and queen, and occasionally their nearest relatives, were allowed the distinction it exhibited, they felt probably a corresponding satisfaction and complacency in thus appearing
before their subjects, whenever they left their hereditary district. The effect must have been somewhat imposing, when, on public occasions, vast multitudes were assembled, and their sovereign, thus elevated above every individual, appeared among them. Of the dignity it conferred, the natives themselves appear to have formed no inferior idea. It is said that Pomare II. once remarked, that he thought himself a greater man than king George, who only rode a horse, while he rode on a man.
In our different journeys and voyages among the islands, where there have been but few means of crossing a stream without fording it, or of landing from a boat or canoe without wading some distance in the water, we have often been glad to be carried, either across a river, or from the boat to the shore. On these occasions they have requested us to mount in ancient regal style. Though we generally preferred riding on their backs, and throwing our arms round their necks, we have, nevertheless, when the river has been deep, seated ourselves upon their shoulders, and in this position have passed the stream, without any other inconvenience than that which has arisen from the apprehension of losing our balance, and falling headlong into the water. The inhabitants of Rurutu have a singular and less pleasant method of conveying their friends from a boat, &c. to the shore. On the arrival of strangers, every man endeavours to obtain one as a friend, and carry him off to his own habitation, where he is treated with the greatest kindness by the inhabitants of the district; they place him on a high seat, and feed him with abundance of the finest food. After an arrival from a strange island, when a man sees his
neighbour carrying a friend or a new-comer on his shoulders, he attacks him—a fight ensues, for the possession of the prize-if the man who formerly possessed it is victorious, he goes home with his man on his shoulders, receives a hearty welcome, and is regarded by the whole district as a brave fellow; whereas if he loses the prize, he is looked upon by all his friends as a coward.
I am not aware that the highest rulers in the Society Islands received at any time the same kind of homage which the Hawaians occasionally paid to those chiefs who were considered to have descended from the gods. When these walked
out during the season of tabu, the people prostrated themselves, with their faces touching the ground, as they passed along. A mark of homage, however, equally humiliating to those who rendered it, and probably as flattering to the individuals by whom it was received, was in far more extensive and perpetual use among the Tahitians. This was, the stripping down the upper garments, and uncovering the body as low as the waist, in the presence of the king. This homage was paid to the gods, and also to their temples. In passing these, every individual, either walking on the shore, or sailing in a canoe, removed whatever article of dress he wore upon the shoulders and breast, and passed uncovered the depository of the deities, the site of their altars, or the temples of their worship.
Whenever the king appeared abroad, or the people approached his presence, this mark of reverence was required from all ranks; his own father and mother were not excepted, but were generally the first to uncover themselves. The people inhabiting the district through which he
passed, uncovered as he approached; and those who sat in the houses by the road-side, as soon as they heard the cry of te arii, te arii, "the king," the king," stripped off their upper garments, and did not venture to replace them till he had passed. If by any accident he came upon them unexpectedly, the cloth they wore was instantly rent in pieces, and an atonement offered. Any individual whom he might pass on the road, should he hesitate to remove this part of his dress, would be in danger of losing his life on the spot, or of being marked as a victim of sacrifice to the gods.
This distinguishing mark of respect was not only rendered at all times, and from every individual, to the person of the king, but even to his dwellings, wherever they might be. These houses were considered sacred, and were the only habitations, in any part of the island, where the king could alight, and take refreshment and repose. The ground, for a considerable space on both sides, was in their estimation sacred. A tii, or carved image, fixed on a high pedestal, and placed by the road-side, at a short distance from the dwelling, marked the boundary of the sacred soil. All travellers passing these houses, on approaching the first image, stripped off the upper part of their dress, and, whether the king was residing there or not, walked uncovered to the image at the opposite boundary. After passing this, they replaced their poncho, or kind of mantle, and pursued their journey.
To refuse this homage would have been considered not only as an indication of disaffection towards the king, but as rebellion against the government, and impiety towards the gods, exposing the individuals to the vengeance of the supreme powers in the visible and invisible worlds. Such
was the unapproachable elevation to which the superstitions of the people raised the rulers in the South Sea Islands, and such the marked distinction that prevailed between the king and people, from his birth, until he was superseded in title and rank by his own son!
The ceremony of inauguration to the regal office, which took place when the king assumed the government, being one of considerable moment, was celebrated with a rude magnificence, though, like every other observance, it was marked with disgusting abominations, and horrid cruelty. There was no fixed period of life at which the youth were said to have arrived at years of manhood. Unaccustomed to keep even traditionary accounts of the time of their birth, there were but few whose age was known. The period therefore when the young king was formally invested with the regalia, and introduced to his high office, was regulated by his own character and disposition, the will of his father and guardians, or the exigences of the state; it generally took place some years before he had reached the age of twenty-one.
As it was one of the most important events to the nation, great preparation was made for its due celebration; and whatever could give effect to the pageant was carefully provided. The gods indicated the interest they were supposed to take in the transaction, by the miraculous events that occurred at this time. Among those might be mentioned the sacred aoa, a tree resembling the banian of India, that spread over the Faa-ape. This was said to have shot forth a new fibrous branch at his birth, and this branch or tendril reached the ground when he was to be made king. Taneua, a bamboo used on the occasion, was said