« ForrigeFortsæt »
formally dedicated to the god of arms. The spirit of the sanguinary deity was said to be “caught,” and imparted to the suckling as before ; and the ceremony was concluded by offerings, sacrifices, and prayers. At New Zealand, stones were thrust down the throats of the little boys, to give them firm hearts, and render them fearless combatants.
It is remarkable that the practice of human sacrifice did not prevail at the Navigators' Islands, though, in those a little farther east, it was felt as one of the greatest scourges to which savage life is ever exposed. When, for example, an invading enemy had desecrated a marai or temple, no fewer than seven victims were required to effect the purification, to restore the holy place to its wonted sanctity, and to reconcile the offended god to his former dwelling.
With notions so gross in regard to the objects of their worship, it was not to be expected that the ideas of the Polynesians, on a future state, could be either pure or exalted. Entertaining the general belief of an hereafter, they could hardly fail to conclude that there must also be reward and punishment; but being strangers to all intellectual joy, they fixed their hopes on a paradise whose flowers never fade, and amidst which the favoured spirits, enjoying perpetual youth, spend their days in boundless festivity and merriment. This was their heaven; and the pains of hell were believed to arise from a distant view of that happiness, which tortured the condemned sinner with vehement desires never to be gratified and never to cease.
In order to secure the admission of a soul into future happiness, the corpse was dressed in the best manner the relatives could afford, the head being wreathed with flowers and other decorations, according to the profession or character of the departed. A pig was then baked whole and placed on the body, surrounded with a suitable quantity of vegetables. “Go, my friend,” says the chief mourner, “ when you were alive I treated you with kindness, and when you were ill I did my best to restore you to health ; and now you are dead, there is your last gift.
Go then, and with that gain an entrance into the palace of Tiki, and do not come to this world again to disturb and alarm us."
The Fijee Islanders present much more costly sacrifices, in order to obtain repose or solace in the regions beyond the tomb. There the chiefs, according to their rank, have from twenty to thirty wives; and when one of these great men dies, the body is laid in state under the open sky, in the presence of a vast number of spectators. The principal lady, after being adorned in the most sumptuous manner, walks forth and takes her seat near the deceased, where she is immediately strangled, by means of a rope passed round her neck and pulled with the utmost violence. This process is continued until four of the females have been put to death ; after which they are all buried in the same grave with their husband, to cheer his passage into the invisible world, and to serve him in that distant land with their wonted zeal and submissiveness.
In the first stage of their conversion, and before the veil was entirely removed from their faces when reading the Scriptures, they took a great interest in the ceremonies of the Mosaical Law, as bearing some resemblance to the usages to which they themselves had been accustomed. On this ground they were naturally led to inquire whether their contrition would not be more acceptable unto God, were they to rend their garments and cover their heads with ashes, than by uttering a simple expression of sorrow for their offences. They frequently adverted, also, to the history of our first parents, wishing to be informed whether, after their fall and expulsion from paradise, they had, through a sincere repentance, obtained forgiveness. Upon being told it was probable. they had received pardon, and were now in heaven, one of them inquired how Adam's offence could possibly affect his posterity, after the guilt contracted by it had been removed even from the perpetrators of the crime. With the curiosity
66 You say
of children, they asked, whether the devil would have tempted Eve, and thereby brought sin into the world, if God had not forbidden the fruit of the tree of knowledge. On another occasion, one of them expressed a desire to learn what caused the angels in heaven to sin, or Satan to become a wicked spirit. He was told that pride was the cause of his fall, but that revelation was silent as to the origin of the undutiful emotion which first prompted disobedience in the heart of the rebellious demon.
In the course of his teaching, a missionary had to sustain the following retort, which is much after the form of those arguments that every mother hears from the mouths of her children at a certain age. God is a holy and a powerful being, and that the devil is the cause of a vast increase of moral evil in the world, by exciting or disposing men to sin. If, then, Satan be only a dependent creature, and the cause of so much evil, which is displeasing in the eye of the Almighty, why does he not kill him at once, and thereby prevent all the wickedness and suffering of which he is the author ?"
The duration of sufferings inflicted on the wicked in the future state was occasionally introduced ; and the poor natives asked, with great earnestness, if none of their ancestors, or the former inhabitants of the islands, had
gone to heaven? To this question the missionaries could not possibly give a satisfactory reply ; and we allude to these inquiries, on the part of their catechumens, merely because they afford a proof of reflection, and also of such a degree of acuteness as must, when properly directed, lead to the most happy results. Their depth of thought is farther manifested by their reasoning respecting the resurrection of the body. Of another world, and the existence of the soul in a separate state after the dissolution of the earthly frame, they appear to have at all times entertained a certain obscure belief; but the reanimation of the mouldering dust never seems to have occurred to them as a thing either likely or desirable. There were, besides, points of difficulty in the doctrine peculiar to themselves. Many of their relatives or countrymen had been devoured by sharks, which, in their turn, were also caught and eaten by other men, who might afterwards be devoured by similar voracious fishes. Cannibalism, again, is known to have been practised in some islands, and to have prevailed universally in others; and it cannot be considered improbable, that many of their kindred have been eaten, after being taken in war, or cast ashore by shipwreck. Upon stating these facts, of which unfortunately there is no room for doubt, they have asked whether, admitting all the processes of new combination involved in their statement, the original parts of every human body will be reunited at the resurrection.
In some of the islands the natives are found to reason on the principles of an absolute fatalism. All suffering, whether in this world or the next, is referred to the determination of a fixed destiny, altogether irrespective of character or conduct. The judicial functions of their deities were not understood to extend to virtue and vice in the ordinary acceptation of the terms; the only sins which they visited with their displeasure being neglect of some ceremony, or refusal to present an appointed offering.
There has not been observed among them any trace of the metempsychosis or transmigration of souls, although they believed that hogs have in them a spark of immortality, and that there is a distinct place whither their spirits repair at death. The same doctrine was extended to plants and flowers, which were imagined to possess not only a sensitive principle, but a soul in the proper meaning of the term. Generally speaking, their metaphysical researches were not profound; but the more inquisitive amongst them not unfrequently entered into discussions respecting the source of the intellectual energies in man, and the seat of the affections. They denied that the ain is, in any degree, the spring or instrument of thought. On the contrary, when speaking
of mental exercises or moral sentiments, they invariably employed terms, the import of which is best expressed by the word “bowels” as it is used in the sacred writings. It is admitted that in some instances the original phrase might be translated“ heart;" and on this ground, their mode of speaking would approach more nearly to our own idiom, as, when we say, the thoughts, or the desires, or the imaginations of the heart. For soul and spirit, as we have seen, they have distinct terms; but it does not appear that they considered either of these as sharing in the emotions, whether physical or moral, which occasionally agitate the body. In short, to the head they attributed nothing in connexion with intellect, nor to the heart with respect to sentiment. To the latter organ, separately considered, they ascribed no susceptibilities beyond those which are common to the bodily frame at large. Hence they contended that the seat of thought and sensation was in the abdominal viscera generally, and neither in the heart nor in the brain ;-and in proof of the soundness of their opinion, they referred to the agitations produced in the internal parts by desire, fear, joy, surprise, and all strong affections of the mind.
It is remarked by Mr Ellis that, though the mental capacity of the inhabitants of Eastern Polynesia has been but very partially developed, they possess good abilities. They are extremely curious and inquisitive; and, compared with those of the western islands, they may be said to display considerable ingenuity and mechanical invention. Unacquainted as they were with the use of letters, it need not be observed that their intellectual powers had not been improved by any regular culture; but the principles of their civil polity, the observances of their complicated ritual, the legends of their gods, the historical songs of their bards, the beautiful and impassioned eloquence sometimes displayed in their national assemblies, and, above all, the copiousness, variety, and precision of their language, together with their knowledge of numbers, warrant the conclusion